I realize that I have been remiss in writing timely updates to this blog. I would say that I have a good reason to simply ignore any updates and all but fall of the edge of the world. I am painfully aware that my readers often include people I know well, people I work with, and people I do not know at all. I have attempted to keep my stories jovial and appropriate for this wide audience. Granted, the number of readers I have is not large, but the swath I am covering is large. All of this pretext to say that the last several weeks back in the Philippines has challenged me quite a bit, and I have not had the emotional energy to distill the often interesting stories into something that I can post here.
This is the point in the story where the main character has been firmly established, and the rising action of the story begins. This portion of the story will shape the climax of the story, and ultimately how the story will end. The interesting part of all of this is that not even I know how this story will end.
I was in a meeting the other day with one of my colleagues, and he asked me the very pointed question of how was I doing. I had to pause for a moment and try to find the right words to convey how to encapsulate my being in a meaningful way, being cautious of my audience. My response: I'm lonely.
This phrase has captured several dimensions of my current state of being. I have found myself more isolated from people around me, very heavily driven by differences in language and culture. The people that work for me purposely keep me at arms length, because of the nature of boss/subordinate relationships. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to have people open up to me on a personal or a professional level. What I end up with are people telling me one thing to my face, and saying/doing things completely opposite when I am away. For the two people in the office that do not report to me, I find them constantly offering to help me out with just about anything. However, what goes through my head there are two things- first off one of these folks is of the female persuasion and around my age. I want to watch myself around her to ensure that I am not giving off any weird signals to anyone in the office here... This may sound odd, but given that I learn something new about the culture here and how it relates to relationships and sexuality, the only thing I can do is play it safe and just keep her at a relative distance. The second of which is being constantly dependent on these two people. They have helped me out in my acclimation thus far... more than words can explain. However, this can only go so far. Even mothers eventually have their young leave the nest to go out into the world. I cannot be constantly dependent on these two people for all of my needs (personal and professional). I have to figure things out for myself.
This is a funny area. I know to some extent I have been writing about the lack of Internet here, and how difficult this has been for me. From a work perspective, this means that I have to spend more time in the office to sat on top of things. In addition, my contact to family in the US is also severely limited. General suck. I was given a temporary workaround in the form of a USB key designed to connect me to the 3G Wireless Data network. This barely held a voice call, and was all but useless. My conversations with the team at work to help me out with this indicated to me that resolving this would require a significant amount of time. Two weeks into waiting for an ETA, I took it upon myself to try and get the ball rolling myself. After trips to both Globe and PLDT, I found that neither company would interface with me for several reasons. The first of which is because I could not prove that I lived where I did. I had a copy of the lease agreement, but because it was not notarized, it didn't count. Secondly, my lease term was only six months. The companies did not want to sign a contract with me because both had minimum term lengths of 1 year. Finally, I still do not officially have legal status here in the Philippines. At best, I have visa extensions, which allow me to stay in the country for periods longer than the typical 3 week tourist visa. I have been told that a special work permit is being applied for, but I have zero visibility into this, and as such I cannot establish any utilities.
The other option was to go through the lessor. The lessor has been nothing short of a nightmare- not having my apartment ready when I returned. I wrote about this already on Day 46, so I won't rehash here again.
Through this whole process, I kept trying to do things for myself only to continually run into these resistant points. I kept going back to some of the folks at work who help me out, only to be somewhat laughed at for trying to navigate the system, and almost indicating that I should just leave it be. However, with no lifeline to my family, waiting with no end in sight was not a very realistic option for me. I finally found a company, Wi-Tribe, that would extend me a contract for six months given I pay the entire term up front. I ended up going this route, only after two weeks of pain and suffering.
This second point then leads me into another area where I find myself further alone. I have known from the beginning of this assignment that this would not be a long term mission. In that realm, I have purposely refrained from trying to meet new people and form friendships. This is for two reasons - the first of which is trying to find out how to form these relationships. From what I can gather, the popular form of entertainment is to go out and booze it up, followed by nights with girls. I cannot do the latter, so this prevents me from trying to start the former. The short term nature of my stay also prevents me from trying other avenues of meeting people (social clubs, bowling, whatever), so I am stuck.
The entire experience has been encapsulated to me verbally. For this example, I'll use Utility as a unit of measure. I was told that my relative utility with the Philippines would be high when I first got here, slowly decline into a zero or negative value, and then gradually incline into below average level. This initial point, the excitement, would be as I experience everything new and interesting. As I learn more about how things work, the utility would decline until the point where I became upset or angry about how things are and how they work, and then eventually I would adapt. I can very much attest to the fact that I am at the bottom of that gulch.
I am at a loss. The bottom line is that I feel very much like I've lost the ability to speak and use my hands. I'm somewhat disabled, and every day is a pain and struggle to get up and attack it again. It has been nothing shirt of emotionally challenging and debilitating.
For the last week, I have been with my wife visiting a nice tropical island called Boracay. It has been a nice respite, but I will have to return to the above challenges. To make matters worse, a few events have transpired at work while I have been gone that are out of my control, but may lengthen my time here. Knowing that I am going back makes my time off a little difficult to enjoy unless copious amounts of alcohol are involved.
I somewhat fear writing all of this, knowing the audience that I have consists of work people, and this puts me in a light of vulnerability. My boss may even be reading this. However, in all of this, I am resolved to win. If anything, I am one stubborn son of a bitch - I just have to figure out how to make it all work. I will readily admit that I may be in over my head here, but I'm also not a quitter.
Here's hoping the next few chapters of this voyage will be a little more positive.