When we first arrived in the Philippines I spent the first week thinking I had made a horrible mistake. Bucket and ladle showers? Washing laundry by hand? Rice for EVERY meal?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Now that we’ve been here a while, I have one piece of advice for anyone traveling to the other side of the world. Don’t judge a country by the jet lag. It took a solid week to feel like day was day and night was night again.
On top of that we had to adjust to the climate, the culture, and the food. It took all of two days for our whole family to get sick. Not malaria or parasite sick, just the run of the mill, new place, new germs, lack of sleep sick that goes around at holidays and reunions. Still, a setback when your washing machine is a large bucket and a spigot.
Luckily, we thought ahead. Back when Jake was first trying to convince me this was a good idea he looked in to what it would cost to hire house help. After asking around and scouring the internet we realized that, with a little skimping in other areas, we could pay someone a fair rate to live with us and help with the chores.
One of the benefits of Jake’s mission and having in-laws from the Philippines is we have insider information. After asking around, and doing some vetting, we found the perfect katulong!
On her first day I asked her to shop and cook for us like she does her own family. This has really helped us keep costs down, since American foods, like dairy, are ridiculously expensive here. Also, we don’t have an oven, or microwave, or a real stove in our apartment, so that limits our options (we do have a “hot plate” appliance and a rice cooker). Turns out, she’s an amazing cook, so it worked out great for us.
Besides cooking she does laundry, cleaning, and helps watch the kids. Not to mention evening out the adult/child ratio when we’re out exploring the city. I don’t know what I would do without her. She really helped me get through those first couple of weeks, and has become a very good friend.
After the first two weeks we got the bugs out of our system, felt confident going out and exploring the city, and I even got used to eating rice for breakfast. Some things just take time.
Life in the Philippines is not something I fell in love with over night. I spent a lot of time at first dreaming of hot showers and chocolate chip cookies. But stepping outside your comfort zone (or being shoved), can show you a different side of the world, and yourself.