Friday, August 13, 2010

Finding Home Again

Within 48 hours of landing in Manila everyone, including the dogs, was sick--our house was full of coughing dogs and sniffling, feverish, and generally unhappy humans. In addition, I was scared to eat. This being our first post and my first time in a developing country, I did not know what to do when told that I couldn't drink the water outside of our house, bleaching vegetables was recommended, and getting amoebic dysentery was a way of life. At the end of our first week I started experiencing stomach pains, which I was sure meant that I was going to die of an amoeba attack, but it turns out that I likely brought it on myself by taking too much Vitamin C on an empty stomach. A week ago I was questioning our decision to join the Foreign Service for the first time. Why would I want to live somewhere that made me sick?

However, over the weekend I started feeling better and had the opportunity to explore the city, and both my health and my outlook improved. Our sponsors took me to a wonderful plant market, where I bought seven healthy plants, including an orchid, for $14. I made sure to get several spider plants, which help clean the air. And our neighbors took me to the Legaspi Market, where I was overjoyed to find good quality organic produce. Finding houseplants and a good place to go grocery shopping are important steps in my nesting process.

This week has been completely different. I am enjoying my job, found a great yoga studio, and our newly hired part-time helper/aso ya ya is wonderful. We have trips out of the city planned, we've made new friends, and we've renewed friendships with old(er) friends. I have yet to die of an amoeba attack--always a plus.

Last week I knew better than to make judgments about Manila based on what I had been experiencing thus far. My initial emotional response to feeling sick, overwhelmed, and isolated was normal, and I was fairly sure that things would improve. We didn't expect to feel so confined by not having a vehicle, but there's very little we can walk to from our house, and the air quality does not make walking a pleasant experience--at least not if you're anywhere near a large street. Fortunately there is a dog park next to our building where Julie and Grace can run, and my new air filtering mask works very well. I am even no longer particularly bothered by the smell of frying palm oil, and in fact, recognize it as a sign that I should avoid that restaurant.

Settling in to our new home will have its ups and downs, and I know that cultivating flexibility and living in the present will help us adjust. It's hard to be worried about the future when you're busy absorbing what's going on right now. We still look forward to having our car, but after a couple of taxi rides and getting to know our new friends and neighbors, we no longer feel isolated, just inconvenienced.

 All settled in


  1. sorry your first week or so was rough! Being sick is no fun even when you're in a familiar home. Glad you are adjusting now. I'm sure it will be a wonderful tour.

  2. Yep, Nathan got dysentery when he was there but I was fine (although I completely sympathize about feeling afraid to eat anything - which is no way to live!). I'm sure vigilance will just become routine after a while. It will get better, even if there are some bumps now and then. Good for you for challenging yourselves and finding your happiness in a new place. It's not easy.

  3. Diane,

    Remember the first couple of months are the worst. It would be that way in the U.S., it's just a tad worse in a developing country. But there's no way to go but "up"! Hang in there, Susan

  4. Thank you for sharing. Good luck with continuing adjusting and enjoy your time. We have a feeling you will stay away from an amoeba attack ;)

  5. I included some information from your blog on the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup for this week:

    If you would rather not have me mention your blog or use your words or photos, please leave a comment on the post and I'll remove the info. Thanks--