Philippines · Third-Culture Thoughts

The Stresses (and Joys) of Uprooting

I suppose it would be more accurate to call it re-uprooting. Just as Australia was becoming a welcome and familiar place, the time came ’round to relocate once again–this time at a week’s notice.

So there you are, with your hunky Australian boyfriend (What you see on the oatmeal billboards is real, ladies!) packing all of your worldly possessions into two pieces of carry-on luggage each.

A lot has happened in the past year and though the notice is short and the timing less than ideal, you’ve never been more ready to do this together.

He’s leaving everything behind: his family and friends, his band, his income. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and at the same time it means you’re carrying him around now. Literally, too: when he’s sick, you have to carry all the heavy bags.

The Joys of Packing

How do you sneak all of that stuff onto your budget flight with no free checked bags? Well, you put all the heavy items in your backpack (this is your laptop bag, you always get one of those in addition to the standard carry-on piece) and walk around like it weighs nothing at all.

As long as the airline staff only see you facing them head on and not at a side angle, they’ll have no idea how far on that rucksack goes behind you.

Pack the light stuff in your trolley so it doesn’t exceed the 7kg limit if they ask to weigh it. You can swap it around later but realistically, who wants to repack their bags at the airport?

Pro Tip: For those travelers who don’t already have one, a luggage scale is a worthy investment. You won’t realize how much you’ve needed it until you have it.

Ignore the fact that the bag almost pulls you to the floor with it when you put it down and feel empowered by how strong and free you are now that you’re carrying everything that matters to you on your own two shoulders.

The Joys of Househunting during the Holidays

You land in another country, in search of a new home. For the first few weeks, you’re hopping from place to place, scouting out different parts of the city and hunting for a less temporary stay.

Once you find one, you look to get set up–knowing that in a matter of months you’ll be relocating all over again.

Yes, life does this to you sometimes and it raises all sorts of existential questions.

What cutlery do you choose? Perhaps you can go without and eat with your hands for a few months. Or can you eat everything with a pair of chopsticks?

Will these dish towels match the kitchen tiles? (The answer is no.) Do you opt to wait impatiently every time you need the electric stove element to heat up or to subject your cooking to the whims of a fast-functioning induction cooker?

These and other critical questions must be answered before the checkout ailse gets cluttered by holiday shopper. And every purchase you make must meet give a satisfactory answer to the most important question of all: can you use it in at least three ways?

The Joys of Getting Sick while Househunting during the Holidays

Then you get sick. Normally, being sick is pretty alright: you take a day off work and spend it in bed with hot beverages and all the Netflix your eyes can tolerate.

When relocating, you’re lucky to have a kettle but Netflix is a definite no-go because you’re still waiting for the internet to be installed and now that the holidays have come, the chances of that happening this year are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

As are the chances of having that washing machine you’ve been dreaming of since you hit the road. Indeed, when you finally moved from Couchsurfing, Airbnb’s, and short-term condo rentals to an actual home with what you assume is a functioning washer of its own, you couldn’t be more excited to throw in all your dirty travel clothes. Then you found out it was broken.

Indeed, instead of wash, rinse, and spin, the machine gave you a tub full of dirty soapy water out of which to fish your garments.

Fortunately, the landlord–who has been quite a gem–is right on it and has technicians over the next day. Unfortunately, they have discovered a large coin–a gift left by the former tenant–buried in the inner workings of the machine and blocking all water from draining. The company will have to send a team to pick it up, and this won’t happen before Christmas either.

The Joys of Celebrating the Holiday Season

So you get over being sick, reload your phone at the sari-sari store every day so you can use your data hotspot for work, and handwash your clothes. Christmas comes around and you’re celebrating all the little miracles:

Of all the condos you’ve looked at, this is the only one where the gym has a pull-up bar. Booyah! Boyfriend is thrilled, and you are too, of course. Plus, after getting sweaty in the gym, you can rinse off and dive right into the pool. Yes, life can be so beautiful sometimes.

By the time you make it out for grocery shopping, it’s after 9 o’clock in the evening but the supermarket is open one hour later than usual. Yes! The night will feature vegetables and alcohol after all. Nutrition score, raised! Relaxation mode activated.

You’ve even made it out to buy pillows. Goodbye neck pain!

You pass a peanut vendor and get a delicious bag of spicy mani –your new favorite Filipino snack–for ten pesos. Protein boost!

You pass countless billboards for facials. New series of Instagram posts scored!

You go back to your new home, eat your vegetables, drink your alcohol, and have yourselves a very merry Christmas.

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