Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lingua Diaspora

My Haitian friends and colleagues at the hotel I work all fluently speak Creole. Of course, you're probably saying to yourself, what else would they be speaking? People who migrate, carry with them their language and culture, right? I thought so myself. One day at the lounge, I asked my fellow concierge what life is like in Haiti. His reply? "I've never been there!" This elicited a "Really?!" from my lips. "But you speak Creole so well. Is this what you speak at home?"

"Yeah. Our parents use it at home on us. Why?" He found my question amusing.

"Wow," I defended myself. "Filipinos born and raised here hardly ever learn how to speak Pilipino…"


"Seriously. Most of them can understand bits and pieces of it but for the most part they can't speak it to save their lives; they just understand it a little bit. In all honesty, I have yet to meet a Filipino who was born and raised here in the US who knows how to speak Pilipino fluently. Could be I just haven't met any yet, too. But the ones I have, don't."

Our conversation got me thinking about the veracity of my hypothesis. And made me wish I had paid attention many years ago as a freshman at De La Salle University in my LANGSOC class.

I learned Pilipino only when my mother moved us back to the Philippines when I was twelve. My childhood was conducted entirely in English simply because my American father didn't want me learning any other language. He thought it would confuse me. Or give me a Filipino accent. Eventually, I did learn, I never got confused, and I speak English like I'm from the Midwest, devoid of regionalism. (Fairly recent studies though suggest that the Midwest accent may not be neutral, but I digress…)

My Pilipino though is another story. As a VO in Manila, Tagalog ads were always a challenge. "It's too twangy." A producer would say to me from the other side of the sound booth. So I would do several more takes before walking out of the studio with a sore tongue and mouth from exerting different muscles (It's a linguistic fact).

Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I would always feel embarrassed when my mom would accidentally let out a Tagalog curse word or yell out a part of the female body as an exclamation from either A) a surprise, B) pain, or C) anger. It made me feel that my skin was as brown as hers and that no matter how white I sounded, my complexion would always make people think I "talked funny" like my mom.

For the most part, my childhood was colorblind. Sure, kids thought I was Chinese because I looked "oriental" but I was always accepted as just a regular American kid who happened to have a nice permanent tan. Only once, was my "difference" ever put on display.

It was the fourth grade and a new kid had just enrolled at Peninsula Elementary. He was a boy from Cebu named Arthur who had just migrated to Portland, OR. Unlike me who spent my whole life – up until that time – in the US, Arthur had an accent. Kids wondered out loud, "Why does he have an accent and you don't?" Neither of us understood why but there was an attempt to have us two Filipino kids "communicate in our native language".

"Come on, you guys! Say something to each other in your language!"

"Um, my language is English. What am I supposed to say, 'hello'?" I was irked.

"I'm from a different place in the Philippines. I'm from Cebu. She doesn't speak my language. It's different." Arthur explained.

"Just say anything! Like 'hi' or you know, whatever you use to greet each other in your language!"

Our teacher joined the class in prodding us. "Do you have a basic phrase at least to share so everyone can hear?"

I was uncomfortable but turned to Arthur questioningly. He asked me if I knew how to say 'how are you'.

"'Koo-moo-stah' is all I know," I said.

"She really doesn't know how to speak," Arthur concluded. "All she knows is 'how are you'."

"I told you guys!" I exclaimed.

I tried hard to avoid Arthur because I didn't want to be labeled like him, "different", "speaks with an accent", or "funny looking". My seven year-old mind cruelly didn't want to be friends with the one person whose complexion I shared in a sea of white and black. Here and now though, thirty years later, I am constantly looking for a Filipino face in the crowd. Whenever I do, more than just 'kumusta' comes from my mouth. And if for some reason, God decides to give me a husband and more kids, I'll make sure they grow up speaking both their parents' tongues.

written at the park while waiting for kyera's class to end

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fay's Gray, Diva Gloves and Banana Bombs

We were rained on and blown on by Fay last week, making us feel like we were home in our beloved Manila at the height of a typhoon, sans the flooded streets, long lines for buses, jeepneys, and tricycles, and butt-numbing traffic.

My life these days seems to be about cleaning both at work and at home. It's been my biggest adjustment - life without my maid - but I seem to be getting good at it. All I need is a pretty pair of dishwashing gloves.

An ice cream truck drives around our apartment complex in the afternoon while playing really loud, ice cream truck music. Kind of like the Pied Piper I guess. Kids are supposed to come running out of their homes as music and truck roll by. It reminds me of an ice cream truck from a year in my childhood when we lived in Vancouver, WA. Our house was at the end of a long cul-de-sac but my sharp six year-old ears could hear the truck a block away. Ever since moving in, I have been wanting to complete the memory by stopping the truck and buying myself a cold treat. I finally did. It tasted just like the banana-chocolate ice cream from my youth.

posted while watching anthony bourdain's no reservations in egypt

Sunday, August 24, 2008

She Bought Us Lunch

The tables have turned. I'm enjoying this while I can.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We Hauled

Now that my best friend and her son have headed to the West Coast and we Orlandoans are settling back into our quiet, best friend-less existence. I'm trying to play catch up with this blog more consistently. Once this is back full steam ahead, I'll start poking around my other neglected web presence lairs. Whenever that will happen...

Kyera and I are no strangers to moving. In fact, we are veterans at it. We moved twelve times in our last ten years in the Philippines. From our home in Paranaque, to condos and apartments in Pasig, Marikina, the Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong and Paranaque again, we managed to go from a five-bedroom house when my mom was alive, to a two-bedroom townhouse before moving to Florida. In the process, we've lost things, had things stolen from us, and given away more than we owned, all with the help of a beloved house helper. Twelve times was a cinch because of Coni, Jenny, Jerome, and Mary Ann. They each worked with us at different times but without any of them, we would not have been able to keep our sanity through each round of packing and unpacking.

My part was easy. Call the movers, book the movers, pay the movers, and make several trips hauling what I could in my car. I told the girls what to pack, they packed what I wanted and unpacked where I wanted things to go. That, and still making sure K and I were fed and had clean clothes to wear.

Now that I am in their shoes and then some, I can't help but laugh that this is payback time. In a karmic way, the combined exhaustion of all my helpers seems to have been collected from me in just one move here in the US. One official move, that is, from my aunt's house to an apartment. (DC to Tally to Orlando in two months doesn't count since I was living out of two suitcases.) We would have had just two suitcases each to move were it not for my aunt emptying the entire contents of her house onto our laps! We moved into our two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with more than what we actually needed – a washer/dryer, a bed, a couch, kitchen chairs, two TVs and millions of spoons, plates and mixing bowls. My Turners from Tally came to visit and bought us a kitchen table and other essentials. Then my pastor gave us a bed, a coffee table and a TV. Three TVs and no cable and two laptops and no internet (We got online starting last Saturday!). But still!

Ten months later back in the US and I'm learning new things about everything at every turn.

Utilities are connected after a phone call or internet payment. Not so in the Philippines. Electricity and water is already available when you move in unless you live in an area that requires a water delivery service. Cable and internet require applications and waiting periods.

Here, applications, credit, background and rental history checks are needed before moving in. In the Philippines, you see a place, you like a place, you pay a reservation fee or a full down payment and the place is yours. After you give a down payment though, a Philippine landlord lets you have the keys to the place to give you time to move in at your leisure. Not so the case here. You only get the key when all documentation has been signed and a move-in date has been decided.

So many differences but the one thing that is the same is the exhaustion that comes with moving. Our muscles were pushed to their limits. I think that's bound to happen no matter where in the world you are unpacking. Unless, of course, you have your own live-in maid to do it for you. If not, welcome to the club.

Here are some scenes of the fun we call, "Moving House":

Oh the lovely boxes that filled our shared room in my aunt's house.

It often felt like we lived inside a huge box within a box. But it was home for us for seven months.

We never imagined the day to move out would come so soon. Or that we would have seven-foot pastoral help carrying our furniture.

We were pretty sure our old car would be our trusty workhorse.

And that we would have to make another trip a week later to pick up more stuff.

And ultimately, become a present resident where we had once been a future one.

posted from our dining room in the newly connected $ 20.00 monthly internet subscribed abode

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Bestie and Her Son

We haven't seen each other in almost a year, so K and I are ecstatic to have them stay with us before they head to San Francisco.

Another Alabang breath of fresh air is in Orlando.

taken at panera at mall at millenia where wifi is free

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, August 4, 2008

Getting Back Into the Groove

Since my last post, life got in the way and I found myself caught up in the daily-ness of living. While I'm not one to shy away from the internet, I am one to find myself kept away from it for lack of internet connection and/or lack of computer. You'd think that since getting my $ 50 BlackBerry, complete with data plan, that I'd be updating and uploading away everyday! Ever organized me certainly has a blog or networking site for any occasion or… mood. Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku for mini-blogging; WordPress for work; Multiply for my Victory Christian Fellowship, Every Nation Churches and Philippine networks; Vox for randomness; tumblr for cyberfinds and picture stories; spock,, iLike and facebook for everything else. The goal was to update everything at the touch of my mobile BlackBerry fingers.

But the road of blogging intentions has blocks known as "waking up at 4:45AM to be at work by 6", and "getting off of work at 2:30PM to take the bus to Kyera's office to go home together at 4PM" and "getting home at 4:40PM to clean the house, do laundry, dishes and cook dinner", and "falling asleep the second my head hits the pillow at 11PM".

Before you accuse me of whining, please know that I spent the last twenty-seven years of my life in a country where having maids is the norm. While my parents did raise me in the US without household help, moving to a country where you don't have to do any of this does make it hard when you move back to a country where you do. Sure, I don't have to do laundry by hand (which I am proud to say my mother did teach me) and I have all these toys – vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, hardcore bathroom cleansers, etc. – to make having to do all these things easier, but the cold fact is that I still have to do these things myself. My chores won't magically get done without my fairy dust a.k.a. sweat.

So, in between all these fun activities, we managed to move into our own place, Kyera managed to get hired part-time by her eye doctor, we got another laptop care of something called "Credit Limit Increase", and Rocco became part of our family.

We're not connected to the internet yet but now that I have my laptop all to myself, I am re-managing my time by spending my Sunday afternoons at home blogging and posting through the magic of time stamping. Free Wi-Fi at the library is an amazing thing. And so's the one at Panera at the Mall at Millenia.

Let's see how this goes.

song playing in my head: madonna's get into the groove