We Must be an Endangered Species!
When our nephew shows up to cut our grass and wash the car and do other things that my wife says I have no business doing (you don’t hear me complaining!), I know it is either Saturday or Sunday. It also provides me with an opportunity (50/50 chance) to correctly guess the correct day of the week. Yes, when you are fully retired and have no commitments, it is easy to forget which day of the week it is. Ask any retired expat living here. It feels sometimes like everyday is a Saturday (many times because the kids are not in school again, for some untold reason).
While the nephew is working around the house all day, we usually feed him well, and during sit-downs with him, it gives me the opportunity to explore the latest tsismis (gossip) and/or “current” events. I usually have to pry information from him however, last week he offered up some interesting information on his own. He volunteered that many people, most likely his friends, have been inquiring lately what it is that we (his tito and tita) do inside our house all day, everyday. Because our house is surrounded externally by our compound walls, we can walk about inside the compound all day and rarely be seen. And unless I actually peer over the wall at someone, I may never get noticed. So, it seems to most villagers that we might be true hermits…cave dwellers. That might be because we are living some “secret” lifestyle. I can spend a half-day in the garden or on the patio, messing with my tools, throwing darts, sweeping, etc., and nobody would be aware of my presence. Teri works out most mornings on the patio with music blaring, but nobody seems to notice that either. Then there are those days when we just take off on the bike or the car, and return home late. To an outsider, we might simply appear to be an endangered species…of the foreigner kind!
It’s not that we don’t venture out much, we do. We are just rarely seen apparently. Actually, I get out on the streets almost daily. I don’t “hang out” on the streets, but I might be en route to somewhere like down to the sea wall, to the sari-sari store, or into Calbayog City.
Here is what most villagers do not understand – while they mostly live outside their simple bahay (house), most westerners live inside theirs. The Filipinos that live around us are hard-working types who fish, farm, grow rice, wash laundry by hand, fetch water, bathe at community wells, cook outdoors, raise pigs, roosters or pigeons, and so on. We on the other hand, live in air-conditioned comfort, in an upscale home (relatively speaking) filled with all the amenities (aircon, cable TV and internet). Therein lies the difference. We don’t live outdoors and hang out on the street like the majority here do. Filipinos in general are communal dwellers, and with large extended families, everyone eats and sleeps in a closed and cramped environment. There is not much of anything inside their homes to keep them inside! Getting out of the house and out into the streets is a refreshing escape for many…a little more space and fresh air (notice I didn’t mention anything about privacy – it just doesn’t exist, mostly).
Even when friends and family visit us, the tendency is to visit with us comfortably indoors, not outside (unless it is “tactically” too cold inside). We cook, eat, play games, visit or watch TV in aircon comfort. Because we also have many things in the house to keep us busy (cleaning and maintenance included), like many westerners we spend more time indoors than outside – most days. When I elect to do anything outside, it will always be early morning or late in the afternoon when it is not excessively sultry. Once I come back inside to aircon comfort, you can count on me being finished for the day.
So in the end, I did manage to ask my nephew how he responded to the many curious questions he fielded about our supposedly secluded lifestyle of secrecy. He gave a little pause and said “I just told them you take naps Uncle!” I told him “That works for me and we’ll just leave it at that!” So now the tsismis goes like this – “The foreigner, he sleeps a lot.” I’m almost sure of it.