Life in a far and foreign country

With amazement I read posts on blogs for expats. Where can I find a good hairdresser near my place? Where can I buy this and this brand of breakfast grains. All concrete and understandable questions. We are all far away from home, a lot of things are different and adjustment is needed. 


For me, having been staying in a foreign country by myself, with my meagre savings amount on my bankaccount. My background is totally different than the average expat. I never actually considered myself an expat, since I have read the definition of expat, I know I am one. As Wikipedia says: An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing.


I went to the Philippines, all by myself, volunteering for a local non governmental organisation (NGO). I stayed at least my first two years as far as possible from the capital of the country (Manila) and expats, expat communities and “normal” life. Life what seems to be normal to me. My personal drive was to go to the Philippines to meet locals, interact and to make a difference. 


Making a difference is another topic for another time. I got my own backpack, my own savings and went to a far and foreign country. I had to pump water by hand, or didn't even have fresh water. Electricity was limited, the food on the market without a fridge was already done on fridays, before the next market on tuesdays. I adapted or tried to understand another way of living.


Another way which is for most western people crazy and strange. Okay, perhaps a little strange, but it has been very important for me to go through. I will give you some examples. In the Philippines a lot of people live below the poverty border. How can I throw away left overs, knowing that somebody outside is hungry? That is very visible here in the Philippines, if you don’t live in a gated community, but perhaps a far away concept, while cooking in my former kitchen in the Netherlands.  That makes a huge impact on every day life and the way life is led.


It is what is around you what has an effect on your life and the way we deal with things. If you decide to go away for a while and stay somewhere for a while, it is a totally different thing than travelling. While travelling you gain a lot of new experiences. When you stay somewhere else for a while, you will gain a lot of new experiences, with the depth of understanding.


Seven years later, after my move, I call the Philippines my home. I have more and more need to see my fellow country men, to talk and to share experiences. Talking without having to be insecure if you say the right thing, the right way. Dutch people can be very direct and it can be very scary to others. Often it is nice to just speak in your mother tongue, when you talk and do not have to wonder or ask yourself if it is the right thing being said. Most important is, enjoy your stay, enjoy the choice you made, look back, set expectations and test yourself. It is still a choice being somewhere else. Go back to those basics, analyse, evaluate and adjust if needed. I am sure you will be totally fine!


Follow the author: juliettekwee
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