When we first came to Manila I wrote a post about adjusting to life in this big, foreign city. I was overwhelmed by the Filipino driving, the street vendors, and the sheer amount of people all around me, speaking a language I couldn’t understand. Every time I stepped outside our apartment I was reminded of what a strange and different place I was in.
But as we prepared to leave the city two months later, I realized I had come to see it very differently.
The realization came in short bursts. When I was crowding into an elevator and realized I hadn’t even noticed everyone staring at me. When I was surrounded by people speaking Tagalog and wasn’t phased at all by not understanding what they were saying. When I ushered my kids onto a jeepney and passed the money from my husband to the next person on the bench without a second thought. It was all becoming comfortable and familiar for me.
I also grew accustomed to the dangers of the city and learned how to avoid them. And by dangers I mostly mean the obstacle course sidewalks that could easily take out a clumsy person, such as myself.
Walking around the streets of Manila I focused less on the differences with America, and more on the beauty that surrounded me. I quickly learned to identify coconut, banana, avocado, and mango trees. Then there were trees like this one that I never could name, but loved anyway.
Not to mention the gorgeous flowers.
We bought this pretty, natural air freshener from a woman on the side of the road. It’s not uncommon for people to stand near traffic lights and sell food and trinkets when cars stop.
I also became familiar with the rhythm of the people who live there. There was this group of kids that was always playing in the street next to the grocery store where we did our shopping.
I loved seeing fruit stands like this one, which were common, even outside of the local palengke (outdoor market).
We also had our favorite shops, like the bakery down the street that sold sweet breads.
Or the fruit shake stands everywhere, including the lobby of our building. If you’ve never had a fresh buko (young coconut) shake, you’ve never lived.
I loved taking in the city’s beautiful architecture and art while riding the train, or driving our rental car.
Manila is a truly wonderful city, with so much to see and experience. I’m so glad we were there long enough for me to stop seeing it as strange, and starting seeing it as home.