Friday, August 6, 2010

First impressions

In the weeks when you are preparing for your first overseas assignment, it’s hard to imagine what it will really be like when you finally arrive. You research what others say about the area, but you also keep yourself open so that you can come into the experience without prejudices.

It’s also important to keep an open mind during your first few weeks, when everything is different and you and your body are adjusting to being in a (non-western) foreign country. For example, I am refraining from making any assessments because I have been sick since our third day here. First a horrible cold, and now some kind of stomach thing. My impression of our med unit is very positive.

Our second day here was great. Our sponsors drove us around the area surrounding our apartment, and we were able to see the incredible contrast that is common in Manila. First we drove around the local community market, which was very much what one might expect to find in a developing country. Then we went to the Mall of Asia, which, with its indoor skating rink, can be compared to the Mall of America. It was a very familiar--and very western--experience. Even in the most expensive areas of town you see evidence of poverty when you see the people who live immediately outside the community's walls.

I eagerly await the arrival of our truck, internet access in our home, and to be healthy again. My first impression of Manila is that it would be easy to surround oneself with things that are familiar--malls, IMAX theater, American grocery store brands (including Florida’s Natural orange juice), but then what would be the point of living on the other side of the planet? It’s comforting to have these things available but ... I look forward to having opportunities to explore.

The dogs arrived healthy, happy, and energetic last Saturday morning. We were so relieved to see them, and I highly recommend KLM as a pet shipper. Grace’s ear continues to heal, and Julie is loving the grassy dog park at the foot of our building.

Healing nicely

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