On community and isolation; camel burgers and bourgeois happy feelings

Posted on July 6, 2014

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Thoughts from a fresh grad far away from home.

Sooo here I am. In a rich nation my countrymen flock to so their families back home can get better lives. In a swanky-ass flat with my awesome aunt and uncle and their three precociously adorable daughters. In a couch that is much, much comfier than the one we have back home. Here I am. In my head.

It’s been three months since graduation and I’m still here figuring out what I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m pretty sure school gave me a minute or ten years to contemplate on that but three months out of college, here I am still trying to make sense of the puzzle. Should I stay here? Should I go back? Do I take the journalistic path or do I move towards the corporate world? Should I keep reaching out to people or should I reach out to myself for a while? What diet and skin care regime should I adapt? Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements?

Pseudo-philosophical ramblings. Sorry. I guess that’s the kind of stuff that happens to me late at night, after way too many cups of tea. I’ve been having these internal debates with myself during my 2-hour flight to Hong Kong and then again on my 7-hour(?) flight to Dubai. Lipton should probably start making me their brand ambassador. Drink *insert tea brand here* and you too can be bothered with internal conflict and regret!

Ugh why do I even bother with this blog post. The only reason why I’m writing this is because I need to start writing again. But the thing is, there are way too much stuff happening and I forgot how to writer. The most philosophical, profound stuff I’ve written recently are tweets involving hashtags like #ShesDatingTheGangster. Haha. Kidding. LAUGH AT MY WIT, EVERYBODY.

Still not leaving? Wow. I think you better start walking away before I get attached to you. Anyway, I should probably proceed to the laundry list of stuff I’ve been thinking about these past few days. So you won’t get bored or something.

Laundry list of stuff that Andrea’s been thinking about these past few days:

1. UP is getting crappier and crappier. STS? Beach House? REALLY?!

2. I really miss my friends back home

3. For an only child, it feels really good to live with a bunch of kids. And not just a regular bunch of kids – my cousins are really cool. They’re really not like the other kids once you get to know them.

4. I feel closer and closer to the pleasures of the first world every day I spend here

5. My home country is a hellhole

6. It’s hot in here

7. But a different kind of hot, like oven-toaster hot

8. Wow football players are hot

9. Journ or PR? 

10. Am I being too reclusive or have I been just faking it all along?

11. Camel meat tastes good

12. I really want to see a camel

13. Should I change my Facebook profile picture? I still want a selfie with a camel

14. I WANT TO SEE A CAMEL.

15. Social networking is connecting us all, at the same time disconnecting us from each other. I’m starting to hate it.

16. I missed the taste of Arabic bread

17. Wow this place is luxurious

18. Camels

Is a camel selfie too much to ask guys huhu. Anyway, that’s basically some of the stuff that’s going on in my head. I alternate between shallow and profound every now and then but I’m at my most sentimental self during car rides and night walks. Did I mention that people are basically alive and kickin’ here even if it’s 2 or 3 AM? This made it easier for my body clock to adjust. I can go all “Lost In Translation” 24 hours a day. Also, their weekend starts on a Friday. Ramadan season is a bit of a downer, though. I can’t drink water or wear shorts outside at certain times in a day. That is, if I don’t want to get jailed only to be let out after Ramadan. I think the safe time is called iftar where places like gas stations and hotel cafes offer free food, water, and dates. The fruit, not the person.

See, this is the reason why I refused to take a certain job offer back home – I wanted to travel after graduation. There’s nothing quite like leaving everything you grew up with behind and finding yourself again. The thrill of living in an entirely different culture is probably the best graduation gift I’ve ever received. A change of scenery is definitely what I needed after a year (no, n years) of drama and stress. I needed to reset everything. Leave everything that was holding me back. Maybe after a lengthy recharge I can get back up again.

As I walk through the clean streets of Dubai, I see people from my country everywhere – it’s almost like I never left home. They’re assisting shoppers at a Louis Vuitton store. They’re behind counters at the local Carrefour. They’re crossing streets, Arab children in tow. A conversation starter of “tiga-saan ka?” (where are you from?) gives one a sense of community – something unspoken that assures us that in some way, we are not alone.

Naku, ‘pag nabunot ako uuwi talaga ako,” (if I get picked, I would definitely go home) the woman I was chatting to the other day said. She’s from Candelaria, Quezon who like so many others came here for a sales job that pays more. We were talking about a certain raffle from church wherein lucky people whose names get picked out get to be admitted into the the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena for the centennial celebration of the church. Weeks before the said celebration, a lot of Filipinos here have already booked flights home. I can see the excitement in their eyes as they talk about their friends in Laguna and two-year-olds in Bulacan. Sometimes I wonder, did they even want to work here in the first place?

Here I am given that chance. I have an aunt who has the connections and abilities. I can get a job here (I think). The question is, do I want to stay in it for the long run?

Countless times I have told myself that I will only work here for the experience, nothing else. Something to add to my trying-hard, spit-shined resume. I will not stay here for the long run. But making these sort of decisions is hard when you’re staring at clean streets and glimmering towers you can only hope for in your home country. What has my dirty, corrupt, Manila-centric country got in comparison to this place?

My cousins like the Western stuff that kids here are into. They talk like Westerners. They hate mainstream Filipino shows and music. They think they’re tacky and tasteless. God knows what they’ll say about mainstream Filipino movies. I want to introduce them to the Filipino indie scene just to show them that not everything from the Philippines is crappy. Even though things here are better, I really want them to get to know mother Philippines.

I find it easier to talk to my cousins and to foreigners and sometimes that just makes me sad. It’s as though I’m still attached to a country I did not belong in. I feel closer to my cousin who didn’t have a lot of Filipino friends (or didn’t have a wide circle of friends in general) than to my own friends back home (some of them, sorry guys that’s the truth). Sometimes I wonder how she will cope if she lived in the Philippines. I feel connected to her more than anyone else, and I’m already a misfit back home. Community and isolation – feeling alone within a group you’re supposed to belong in, and feeling less alone in a place you came to alone.

Okay. As you wrap your head around that, I was thinking about what else to put in my CV and request letter for some paid internship my aunt was telling me about months ago. Public relations. Corporate communications. As much as I cringe at the thought of high-rise office work and “power” guys in suits, I know that I need to work in this sort of environment if I want to earn some cash. I mean, hello, journalism major here. Let’s face it, people in journalism do it for the passion, not the money. If I was heiress-rich with a powerful daddy I’d go into hardcore journalism. Oh wait, maybe still not so. It is not safe to be a hardcore journalist. It really isn’t. And come on, who are we kidding, I won’t survive in it with my so-called “skills”, if there are any.

Once I get home (that is, if I decide to go home) I’ll apply to jobs in PR and corporate communications because survival. If I get the internship gig here, I’ll get the proper PR training and it will be easier for me to land a job back home fo sho. I can. If I want it enough.

There is a part of me that wants to tell people’s stories without any BS. There is a special place in my heart for writing and deadlines and editing and pitching stories. Journalism will always have a room in my heart. I am seriously considering magazine journalism since I have interned in a magazine publishing company before. And, I can live out my childhood journalistic dreams. Mildly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love PR too. I’ve always loved working on our PR projects in school and I can see myself in that profession. I’m actually passionate about it. But, like most girls, I am not just one thing. I love to write, that’s a fact. Right now I’m in a que sera sera mode – it will come. I have my whole life ahead of me, and I’m in no rush. I just want to know that I’m not fooling myself into thinking that the career I’m going for is really the career for me. God, I feel like I’m choosing a boyfriend here.

Office work. Ugh. As much as I want to act out my major, the need to gain cash really makes you think twice. It will be easier for me to decide to go home if the only thing they’re making me write are office memos. But hey, gotta start somewhere, right? Countless viewings of “The Devil Wears Prada” might have prepared me for this. Might.

I remember when I got stalled at immigration back in Manila. I was waiting to be interviewed when this girl in boho chic apparel beside me asked, “san ka papunta?” (where are you going?) She was with a British companion. Husband, I think. They missed their flight to Bangkok by a few minutes.

Dubai po,” I said.

Dun ka magwowork?” (are you going to work there?)

I contemplate for a while. No matter how much better life abroad would be, no matter how much of a misfit I feel back home, there will always be something pulling me back. But isn’t this what I’ve been waiting for all my life? A chance to leave? I want to leave. I’ve always wanted to leave.

Baka po hindi. Bahala na,” (maybe not, whatever) I say with a smile. The immigration officer calls her in and I wait for my turn.

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