Got a call from an old friend
We used to be real close
Said he couldn’t go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house
Bought a ticket to the West Coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.
Those of you who are of a certain age will recognize those lyrics. They’re from Billy Joel’s famous song “My Life”. Most of you who recognize the lyrics also know that the next line is: “I don’t need you to worry for me ’cause I’m alright”.
Those lines about sum up my feelings as I sit here at the computer, nearly a month after our relocation to the Davao, Philippines. In our case, the “old friend” is me. I closed up shop in the form of resigning my position with my former company. We then sold the condo and bought two tickets to the south-central coast of Mindanao. I’m not giving a stand-up routine here in Davao but people shouldn’t worry for me, ’cause I’m alright.
It was a giant leap from Seattle to Davao but, as the song says, I couldn’t go on the American way. Things just seem to be going the wrong way in my homeland. People who work their whole lives and still can’t retire at the ridiculous retirement age the Congress set to receive Social Security. (Sixty-seven? Really? Just in time for the nursing home!) People get to that magic number 67 only to find their pensions are worthless because the bankers have played games with the vehicles they’re pensions are invested in. Add to this what I perceive to be harsh changes in American culture, politics and jurisprudence away from the progress made in the country over the last few decades and the US. no longer seemed to be the country we were promised.
Besides, since we had gotten married Menchu and I had been trying to simplify our lives. We started our married life together in a tiny basement studio apartment and we were happy to have each other and not a lot else. We had tried to move away from mass-produced and processed foods. We had stopped buying “stuff” just to have it. We had begun to turn our attention to the Philippines where the meat, vegetables and fruits are fresh and varied and where a little bit of “stuff” goes a really long way. It was a case of trying to gain control over “my life”, just like the song.
After a couple of years we looked at the little condo I had inherited and the nest egg its sale could provide and we decided to do just that: sell it and use the money to build a little house in the city of Davao.
So last month we arrived here and “made house”. We’re in a subdivision near to the property we hope to build on. Even though I talked a lot about wanting to live like a “real” Filipino and not behind some gated wall with armed security, I had a pretty rough couple of weeks in “my life”. There were barking dogs, crowing roosters, power outages, indoor waterfalls when it rains, the malodor from the upwind piggery, and cold water showers to make peace with. There was jet lag, a broken toe, and a chest cold to put the “f” in “frustration”.
Once things settled down into a sort-of routine, life smoothed out for me. I’m not assimilated just yet but being able to have fresh papaya for breakfast and fresh mangoes for afternoon snack, along with the local taho and sweet corn the vendors bring through the neighborhood helps remind me why I came here. And although I sweat like a bull moose in a parka in a sauna on a hot day, there is nothing quite like early morning when the sun is just peeking over the horizon or late in the evening after a rain when the breeze is going. Good food and magical times. Those are two of the things that compelled me to change “my life”.
I don’t need you to worry for me ’cause I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home…
Lyrics from “My Life” borrowed from BillyJoel.com.