This entry is a “bits-and-pieces”: summarizing my week and looking back on things I have learnt since I’ve moved across the globe. It seems that I am now at a bit of a standstill, taking in this crazy adventure so far. Part of this probably has to do with the fact that the last few weeks have been slower then usual. Meaning, I’ve just had an organic pause allowing me to process. I think an other part to my current headspace is that I am just hitting that sweet spot between newness of this expat experience, and truly settling in; i’m at a turning point and parts of me are resisting this change which no longer feels thrilling but inching towards the realization that this is a more permanent and real experience then it first appeared.
An overview of the week
This week I am back from San Juan . I had a slow couple of days again. Anytime I am not off on some new adventure can prove disappointing. More precisely, those weeks feel more difficult to tackle relative to adventurous weeks. My life in Montreal was very 9-5, stable, regular, so particularly exciting days were seldom and I was usually too tired to even fully appreciate them. Boring days or uneventful days were plentiful and therefore a non-thing. But now, everything is flipped upside down. Uneventful days feel tragic and drag me down, whereas adventurous days are feeling increasingly normal. But more about this later.
Le Point Bar-Oh my heart.
We left San Juan on Wednesday night late, arriving home in Manila (did you see that? I called it home! This is a thing now). Wednesday evening in San Juan, I made a final attempt to catch up with the owners of the Le Point Bar. It’s probably my favourite spot in San Juan. A new up and coming bar-eatery, it’s got hand made “totems” in front, on the beach, and eerie mobiles hanging every where. The owners are a lovely couple, one Filipina and one french man who did most of his growing up in Manila. Being able to speak french, definitely gives Le Point Bar an added sense of home for me, but it wonderful beyond that. They were supposed to be closed but Rolland, the French man in question, saw me and they invited me “in” for a drink. Did I mention Le Point Bar is a totally open concept bar right on the beach? It’s got a tin roof Held up by a beautiful wooden structure but for the rest, it’s an open space where you can feel the ocean breeze on your face and view the sunset without any distorting barrier. The food is AMAZING (I mean, it’s run by a French man) and the drinks are great too. After a magical time with these warm friendly folks, I headed home packed up and took it easy until it was time to leave. If you are ever in San Juan check them out! I bet you’ll find home away from home at Le Point Bar (attached to the MonaLiza hotel) : https://www.facebook.com/lepointbar
Back in Manila
Back in Manila, it’s business as usual: dishes need washing, clothes unpacking and things left in suspension during our 1 week away need catching up. So, I did just those things.
Friday, however, was one of the Philippines’ many, many statutory holidays. So Fred had the day off and we went exploring the city. We haven’t really explored a lot of the city, on account of the traffic and the vast urban sprawl: there are neat places in Manila but they tend to be spread out and hard to find. Over time, our motivation to find these spots has dwindled. Case and point, we travelled about 4 hours total on Fred’s day off only to find this nifty cafe I found digging through the internets, has closed down. It was disappointing but we still had a lovely end of the afternoon, stopping at one of the many Korean restaurants in Malate and having a huge kimchi based soup and getting out of the pouring rain. It was also my first experience of getting around on foot, trying to out-manoeuvre the seriously flooded streets.
The weekend was gloriously slow and uneventful, I hid out from the nasty stormy rain at home; made the room squeaky clean and read yummy books. I got through Empress Orchid and began The Jane Austen Book club, both of which I got from an obscure used book store on my trip to Baguio. What a lovely discovery!
A review of my time here (so far)
As this week marks the completion of four months living in the Philippines, I thought I might use this weekly entry as a way of reflecting back on some of the things I have learnt/some highlights since I have left Montreal.
As I mentioned earlier, I also seem to have organically hit a “processing-wall”. That is to say, I am seem to be stuck in my own head, taking stock of my time in the Philippines so far, in an somewhat-ruminating loop. I have learned a lot, some things that were hard have gotten easier, some things can’t cease to amaze me. I thought I would share with you/ put down on paper some of these musings. For you expats/travellers out there, have you experienced any of this? What have your long term trips taught you? How did you grapple with some of the challenges facing me?
Rainy season is just as, or nearly as gloomy as winter in Canada
One reason why I might be stuck in my own head these days is the weather. Rainy season is in full effect here. It’s grey, it’s wet and the streets are constantly filthy and flooded (I don’t even want to think about all the fecal matter gracing my feet as a walk through the city). The absence of the sun rays in combination with the constant humidity make it hard for me to keep motivate. In Montreal, I have always struggled with seasonal lows that come with being snowed-in and cold all the time. I had assumed that in the Philippines I’d be spared seasonal fluctuations in my mood. Of course, a tropical climate comes with it’s own challenges. And, it would seem, the constant rain makes me feel nostalgic and has me nesting hardcore. I struggle between guilt (that is, I’m in a new place, I should be taking full advantage, travelling, exploring, etc.) and pure delight (I am not working! It’s crumby outside, I can do whatever I want!). Worst comes to worst, I’ll spend this season breaking my own book reading records, sitting in bed all day swallowing books whole. I doubt that’d be good for my moral in the long run, though. I hope I can turn this feeling into good writing habits, using this glumness as fodder for my idle creativity. I’ll keep you posted on that.
I need an occupation, a purpose
Tied to the latter, I have noticed how quickly I can become demotivated when the number of obligations in my life dwindle (aka, when i am unemployed). On the flip side, I have so much more energy to do the things I am passionate about these days. And, I do have a purpose, long term. This is obvious if you have read my”about” section. I have a number of clear, middle-term goals that I am absolutely pumped to bring to fruition. I have what I feel is an EPIC three year plan (1 year in south Asia writing, 1 year planning and completing a hike across the U.S, one year building a tiny home). That being said, I’m struggling with temporal distance of these plans. Next year, I am planning on hiking the Continental Divide. Fine. I run six days a week and do yoga almost as regularly. But that part, I must admit gets repetitive and boring. I’ve managed to pack the last four months with once-in-a-lifetime hiking experiences, such as climbing mount Amuyao and hiking through endless, whimsical, mountainous rice patty ridges. But the training boredom and the few cancellations of hikes due to bad weather has me down. There is an embodied learning experience somewhere in there, but my mind is not privy to what that lesson is.How do you work through your ruts? How do you stay disciplined with minimal external structure when self-employed/working on creative projects?
Just about anything can become your normal.
This self-reflective, inward-turning mood, also comes from the relative boredom of my last few weeks, in relation to what has become my “normal”. In the last four months, adventure, change, movement and regular breath taking outdoor activities have become the norm. A slow week, by comparison, feels stagnant and unproductive, irrespective of all the regular, every day tasks I accomplish. But one thing is for certain, it is absolutely amazing to see myself become comfortable with uncertainty and risk in completely unexpected ways. The potential for near constant excitement surrounding me. It also forces me towards a kind of discipline: if I want to accomplish any one of these adventures available to me, I have to zero in, pick it, over others, and, keep my eyes on the prize. oN the other hand, dishes still need to get done, so I can let adventure get in the way of meanial tasks that really do make my life more pleasant. Ultimately, in writing this, I am sensing that what I need most right now, is set short term goals so that I can feel like I am accomplishing things, even though my longer term goals don’t necessarily feel closer to being met, day by day. I am always impressed by those travel-bloggers who seem to always be on the go, never in one place for long and still seem to manage to keep their life afloat. Tell me, constant-travel-blogger, how do you do that thing you do?
One key thing I hope to take home with me after this year is increased humility. I am surrounded by humble people who I see as teachers. Teachers, in the buddhist sense of the word, someone leading by example/by doing, unknowingly providing life lessons to an other. This is an experience in embodied learning that feels new. My body, my heart are incorporating new experiences and their meaning/feeling, but my brain isn’t totally privy to the information, so I’d have a hard time describing that particular lesson in words. It’s clear to me that I could work on my humility and on not taking things so personally. So, I’m going to do just that. Maybe that means practicing detachment?
Next week, I’ll hiking Mount Ugo over the weekend. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. More hiking here I come! (FINALLY!)