|Celebrating One Year In La Lanka! (ganda lang ng background eh noh?)|
Close to midnight, exactly a year ago, I landed to live in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A lot has definitely happened since then and I am thankful for the gifts living in Sri Lanka have given me. Sri Lanka will always have a special place in my heart because this is where hubby and I started our marriage, the foreign country I’ve been living in for the longest time, where I experienced being a housewife, where I am experiencing working in a totally different culture, where I got pregnant, where I’m spending my very first pregnancy, and until the time we leave, the list goes on. So below are 12 things (one for every month!) that captures my adventures and misadventures, learning and realizations while Livin’ La Vida Lanka:
#1: Living abroad requires a little (to a lot) of “dying to self.” You have to be willing to “let go” of where you lived before (and to some extent, who you are) to embrace where you are now. It was hard for me at first because I thought I could “pick up where I left off” only this time in a different country. But no, I had to learn to be a housewife, which in as much as it was a “dream” for me (who doesn’t like the so-called fabulous life of an expat wife?), it was a difficult transition to make from working and earning and basically being her own person. But it was what I needed to do and be at that time. At the end of the day, it was a glorious couple of months and I welcome that kind of lifestyle again - given some application of a few learnings here and there and especially with baby around! Haha! But really, it is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Check out the Interview With The Housewives Series for more of this!
#2: Where there are no friends or family – you just have to “put yourself out there!” Even if there are, living in a foreign land is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends! I have met most of my friends from either school or work so I decided to make most of opportunities like that and enrolled in a Sinhala class! I’ve also met a lot of wonderful people along the way even outside of Sinhala class and even outside of work! People make the difference! Yes, your friends back “home” or even your life-long friends from around the globe will not compare with new friendships you are still developing. But be aware that making friends is a process and you have to work on it as well.
#3: Learning the local language disarms people. It signals you are opening up yourself to them and they in turn open themselves to you. But do not rely on your knowledge of the language unless you’ve mastered it! Beware because many things can still be lost in translation and language will continue to be a frustrating barrier. Ergo, patience is an important virtue. Partly because of the language, partly because of the culture (e.g. they may seem disrespectful even when they are not), partly because you also don’t have it figured out. Learning IS painful. That’s why, again, patience is key.
#4: As my dad always says, expect the unexpected. Apparently, managing your own household (moreover in a foreign country) is not a smooth ride. Before my mom or dad will take care of everything so that left me with the ability (in hindsight, more of luxury) to focus on work and my own life. But now, I have to deal with things albeit not on my own (hubby and I are a team!) but still being responsible for things such as having broken appliances fixed, etc. is still such a hassle!
#5: To deal with the unexpectedness of things such as the above, do not be afraid to ask. Most probably what you needed to know, someone in your circle of friends (or hubby’s for that matter) would know the answer! It’s as easy as that really. What I’m grateful for are our drivers who have an awesome network to find out what we needed to know. They are also a great resource for delegation!
#6: Things can get expensive. We haven’t even gone out of Asia and both Philippines and Sri Lanka are both developing countries. But apparently what you’re used to at home may be more expensive here so you really have to develop your financial acumen to budget accordingly. You may also choose to let go of comforts of home or if you absolutely can’t, be ready to be able to swallow its price. What I realized that, you will really stand out (no matter how you feel at home or even try to blend in – hello we really look different, who was I kidding!) you would really be treated as a “foreigner” and get ripped off. Our plumbing works has cost us 2.5 times more expensive than how much it would cost us in Manila! Our maid is being paid almost thrice as more than hubby’s tenured and trusted maid. Craaaazy!
#7: No one is immune to home sickness! So know how to cook your comfort food or how to bring about what brings you comfort. For hubby and I, it is food we grew up in. Thank God for Kulinarya and Kabayan (a local Filipino restaurant). Filipino food has literally saved me from packing up and going home. You see, my homesickness was exacerbated by pregnancy cravings and hormones! It was also nice to meet Pinoys in La Lanka! At least my Filipino is not just exclusive to conversing with hubby! Hahaha!
#8: To combat homesickness, staying connected is not only possible, it is “free” and accessible! Facebook and Skype have saved me from utter detachment from people I love – back home and even in other parts of the globe! But social networking has also connected me with my local community! Especially for my pregnancy-related questions, a local community of moms (or mums as they say it here!) on Facebook has made me feel like I am not alone.
#9: I also had to re-learn the hard way that life is not all about work. You see when you get assigned to a foreign country you’ll have the tendency to solely focus on work. I mean, what else is there to do right? Wrong! Being in a new place is an opportunity to do things – old or new and get more involved in your passions and yes, they may be non-work-related. In my time in Sri Lanka, I’ve re-discovered Yoga and the many wonders it has brought my life, my body and our baby.
#10: There are more similarities than you ever imagined between the Philippines and Sri Lanka. For one, since the Portuguese colonized Sri Lanka way back, we actually have quite a few similar words (Portuguese and Spanish have similar words right?). For example, Mesa (table) = Mese and Pusa (cat) = Pusa to name a few. Another is about some old wives’ tales: our driver and maid were looking at some black ants outside our door. I went to them and told them, in the Philippines, black ants are ok because they say they “bring” money. What do you know, our maid told me it is the same in Sri Lanka!
#11: You don’t really need much to be happy. You see, pleasures that we are used to in Manila such as watching a movie in a really nice movie house, abundance of malls and the like are not exactly present here. So our life is pretty much “simplified” here. But I realized that I really didn’t need these things to enjoy life. Yeah I miss going to Eastwood or Rockwell here and there but I can survive without it!
#12: At the end of the day, being with hubby, wherever that may be, is all that matters. And that is why we’re Livin’ La Vida Lanka.