Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve 2008

Will come up with my list of goals for the new year soon enough. And will post a timeline of events that brought us from the Philippines to/back to the US too. That, and the obligatory gratitude blog for the year that was.

But for now, as I sit in my aunt's quiet living room with the TV competing for my attention (why I cannot turn it off is fodder for another blog), I'm missing the chaos of Manila's New Year's Eve. Firecrackers going off around the neighborhood as early as... 7AM; the busy kitchens abuzz with the clash and clang of pots and pans; the squeals of happy children in the streets; the busy driveways filled with guests; radios at full blast; heavy traffic at open air fireworks venues.

I miss it all and then some.

As the Style Network lures me away from this blog to put me in a numbed state, my eyes will soon glaze over from non-stop channel surfing. At least, I won't feel the sadness of missing the madness we have left behind.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

18 Candles

8AM on December 28, 1989 I underwent a C-Section to deliver a healthy, 6.15 1/2 lb, 19 inch baby girl. It was an anti-climactic delivery to the preparation I had put into the nine months I was infanticipating - child birth classes, Lamaze books, Leboyer books, active birth books - you name it, I knew it.

But a visit to my OB-GYN coupled with a possible miscalculation on my part - plus a nervous mother who didn't want anything bad to happen to her daughter (me) or grandchild (Kyera) - left me and my then-husband with no choice but to agree to the expensive operation.

Seeing that we were twenty, both unemployed at the time, and living under my mother's roof, we didn't have much of a say in the matter. So we went home to pick up my and the baby's diaper bag, said good-bye to our bedroom, and promised it we would return with a baby. I turned to my husband and said, "Our lives will never be the same again. The next time we come home, we'll be parents."

You don't really no how much your parents love you until you have your own children. And the revelation doesn't end at birth. Here I am eighteen years into parenthood - sixteen as a single mom - and I still find myself profoundly grateful for my parents, albeit they are both dead now.

A former boss summarized it perfectly. "Becoming a parent ruins you. You are done for. You don't know how much you can love another human being until you have a child."

Welcome to the most joyful destruction of life.

Now that Kyera's eighteen, it's only a matter of time before I will happily gloat over watching her ruin herself. She's been warned that her children will be spoiled.

I can only hope that when that time comes, she will have been well-prepared. The one thing I know she will always know, is how well-loved she has always been.

Aaah, parenting. I've loved every second.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Library Lovin'

Today I'm sitting through three levels of Photoshop. I can only crop and do basic photo alterations like playing with brightness, colors, etc., but when it comes to the more complex stuff like working with layers, brushes, etc., my eyes glaze over. Hopefully after today, I'll know what ALL the tools and tricks are. Or at least, MORE than what I know, which is very little.

We just applied for K's SSN yesterday so as soon as it arrives, I'm having her sign up for library classes too. That, and get a part-time job.

I have a feeling she'll get one sooner than me.

If that's the case, at least one of us will be working. The other one can stay at the library. Everyday.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, Passport

We're at Casa Magpantay for Christmas Eve Filipino Style with fellow recently transplanted Filipinos from Victory Christian Fellowship Philippines. The Duque's are coming and the visiting Gutierrezes will be here too.

Today, Kyera's US Passport arrived via Fedex! I wasn't expecting a delivery on Christmas Eve but lo and behold, it arrived. Her misspelled name, corrected.

Though the temptation to pack our bags and go home is strong, we resist, and clip our wings for the time being and call Orlando home. For now.

If everything goes according to plan, we'll be in New Jersey or New York in two to three years. Maybe. One never knows what the future holds.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Meeting Myself in Fifteen Years

I started taking classes at the library to curb boredom. I don't like being idle so I figured the best way to make use of my time is to take advantage of a free service. Besides, one can only take so much TV in a day.

So one day while I was surfing the library website, I found a list of classes offered at different branches. It had everything from Computer Classes to Arts & Crafts to Meet the Author guest visits. I signed up.

Yesterday was three levels of MS Excel. My love affair with spreadsheets and all things mathematical has been in need of serious rekindling, or beginning, to be more exact. I arrived early and sat outside the classroom and met a nice middle-aged woman who had also signed up for all three levels. She had an accent that sounded like she was from the Caribbean.

During the break, we walked out together, intending to eat at separate places, but she changed her mind and went with me to Burger King. While waiting in line to order, she got a phone call that sounded like it was from a loved one. I was right. It was her daughter.

She went on to say that they're very close, that she's a single parent, that her daughter just married and moved to the West Coast, that they moved to Orlando twenty-three years ago from the Caribbean, and that she is now adjusting to life without her daughter.

We spent the rest of lunch making small talk about our other countries, our daughters, and the things we're looking forward to in 2008.

I couldn't help but think that some day, I too will be in an empty house and on the phone with Kyera who is off living her own life somewhere.

I hope there will be more classes at the library by then. And maybe a young single mom who's trying to find her way around a new life that I can share lunch with.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Days 85 to 90 of 90: The End is Here

One recent Sunday afternoon, as I was washing dishes and listening to Coldplay on Kyera's iPod, for some strange reason, this thought came to me: "At least in the Philippines, even if I didn't have all this food in the ref (refrigerator) and a TV set, I had a job and lots of friends. I even had freelance voicing gigs that paid me extra money!" Right after which, I heard this: "You sound like an Israelite wandering in the desert, Thelma."

I gasped as I saw the condition of my heart. Despite God parting the Red Sea for me - from the abundant, miraculous provision of bringing me back to the US, to the favor upon Kyera getting her Immigrant Visa, plane ticket, and US Passport yesterday, to the Turner's treating me like family, to my long, lost biological aunt opening her home to us, to connecting with VCF friends the Duques and Magpantays and HighPoint and OWOC families, I still had the nerve to whine about not having a job.

Something inside me broke that afternoon and each day since has been filled with humbled amazement at how God could love me so much. I say with all honesty, that though my self-esteem has taken blows during this season, I am experiencing God like never before. I am re-learning that nothing is owed us and that everything is a gift.

Here, where I am seemingly alone at times as a stranger in my former land, where I know no one other than the small community that is church, I sense God's presence more than ever.

This morning I was at the ER again for my recurring ear problem. As I lay in pain from the needle on my wound, I thought about how much Jesus loves me and I was reminded that He was with me throughout my many trips to hospitals in Manila, and here in Orlando, and that He was with me at every airport, and every second of the six weeks that Kyera and I were apart. That for all the times in my life that I have felt like the orphan and only child that I am, Jesus has always been with me, holding me. That I never was alone. Never am alone.

Here, half way around the world from where He found me in the Philippines in 1991, I feel Him in deeper ways than I ever have.

I started to sob softly in the ER as I thought of His love. The doctor thought it was because of my ear. "Would you like me to give you something for the pain...?"

I smiled. "No, thank you. I'll be fine."

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that all will be. Job search applications at 33 and $ 20 left in my pocket, God's got us. That's all that matters.

Thank you for stopping by and reading about our journey. I'll continue my US and third culture musings here, but will no longer cross-post entries to Multiply.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Days 82 to 84 of 90: Tales from the 408

Once upon a time in the Philippines, I used to tinker with sites like Google Maps and Mapquest. They were totally useless for me, of course. But since moving back to the US as an adult, they are indispensable if you do not have GPS in your car. Since I don't happen to have an extra $ 400 laying around to buy one, I use GPS ("Gamit Papel Sulat" or Use Pen and Paper).

All it takes is one click to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B.

But the one thing these sites don't take into account, is the road construction detours. (Newer model GPS devices do give up to date traffic and road information.) I've gotten more confident finding my way around Orlando, and driving on the highways at 60 mph, so today I had no doubts I would know how to get to a job interview after taking down the directions.

(The Toll Plazas are different from the Philippines because they allow you to throw coins into a basin that magically knows exactly how much you've paid! And then there's the E-Pass-like device. You simply stay on the expressway without having to slow down! Then there's the old-fashioned teller. They actually anticipate the amount you're going to pay and already have change in hand! Well, sort of. I handed over a dollar to cover the $ .75 fare and the attendant simultaneously handed me my change of $ .25 (or a quarter).

And motorists stay in their lanes! Even when turning, or merging, or veering, people stay in their lanes. The lines on the roads actually follow every curve, turn and bend in the road. Having driven in Manila for nineteen years, I'm un-learning bad driving habits.)

So there I was today on the 408 (kind of like the South Super Expressway in the Philippines), when my exit was hidden behind massive concrete construction material. I didn't even know it was my exit until two stops later when I saw I was approaching Exit 16. Exit 14 was where I was supposed to go!

I panicked and got off the highway immediately and found a gas station to ask how to find my way back. A nice Indian man gave me directions and off I went. I made it to my interview and screening with twenty minutes to spare.

It feels good figuring out how to get around my new city. I'll be ready for when people come to visit us. (Insert coughing sounds)

As for the interview, it was with a staffing agency. I'm hoping they find me work soon. After all, one needs money to drive and take said visitors around.

I'm hoping that by then I will know not just the 408, but the I-4, the 526, the 409...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Days 72 to 81 of 90: Trips to the ER

In between my daily job hunting routine, my right ear preauricular sinus managed to get infected... again, after a year.

Since I don't have work - and medical insurance - I didn't know what to do since I couldn't afford a doctor. And then my aunt explained that I could go to the ER without a cent in my wallet and they would treat me.

So I did and a procedure was done. I'll spare you the details of the incision-making and injections, but overall it was an interesting experience.

Here's how:
  • There's valet parking for all vehicles at the ER entrance for non-ambulance arrivals. Good idea for people like me who normally go to the hospital alone, and more importantly, it's so much easier to not have to walk from a parking garage or a spot on the street. It's $ 5 per visit.
  • Nurses behind a counter get your preliminary information - Name, Address, Social Security Number, Chief Complaint - and then you sit in the waiting area until your name is called.
  • A nurse calls you into a small room to get your vitals and then you go back to the waiting area.
  • Depending on the number of patients, you have to wait for an... undetermined length of time.
  • You then get called inside the Examination Area and... wait again.

Six hours later, I drove myself home. And while I only spent $ 5 on my parking, I am expecting a monthly bill to arrive at home so I can pay off the treatment. Since I don't have insurance, I got plain generic prescriptions and spent $ 42. If I did, it would have been around $ 10.

I went back for a follow up 24 hours later and had to wait almost as long. This time I was in a different area that had a bed that came with a small TV.

Of course, this is just one hospital and one experience out of millions of patients. The one thing I'm certain of is that I am so overwhelmingly grateful for this billable medical treatment. I don't know what I would have done without it.

Hopefully, if I do ever end up needing to go to the hospital again, I'll have medical insurance.