Okay, time for a rant. It's been one month since my last confession, and although this particular sentiment has been brewing inside of me for a while now, I was hoping the negative feelings would subside, and that I could come and spew another happy-happy-rainbow-joyful-butterflies post onto these here 'intrawebz', as my friend Rob used to call them.
It hasn't gone away.
Being a Spectacle is no fun at all. (Yes, yes - I can hear you all laughing at the irony of hearing THAT statement coming from MY lips, but there you have it.)
I didn't want to write this blog. I realize it makes me sound like a colossal bitch to say these things. But it's how I FEEL. And one of the main reasons that I decided to start a blog was so that I could one day have a record of my experiences and feelings and thoughts. I also don't want anyone to overreact to this blog (Family - I'm talking to you in particular here). I am not depressed, I am not devastated, my life is not terrible. I am annoyed. That is all. There is nothing which is not within my power to control. I'm just irked, and venting. That is all. So here we go:
It is NOT EASY living in the suburbs of a small town (nay, village) where there seem to be no other people who look like you. I LOOK different. I AM different. I can never hide, I can never blend, I can never fit it. When I do anything outside in the garden - mundane tasks like playing with the puppy, or hanging up laundry - little schoolkids will congregate at the fence and stare at me. Sometimes they ask me my name, but that's usually the extent of their English capabilities. Sometimes they ask me for money. I ask them for money back. Such is our interaction. Sometimes when they walk past our house on their way to and from school, and I'm inside, the ones who know my name call me to come to the fence. They stand outside yelling 'Tita (Aunt) Honey!!! Tita Honey!!!' at the top of lungs. I come out. They smile. They stare. I go back inside.
This is still tolerable. Little kids are okay. They get excited just by a wave or a smile, I can still handle that graciously. It's the adults that bother me the most, really. It's the experience of being STARED at - all the time, everywhere I go - that I am finding the most daunting.
I tried my hand (or legs, as it were) at jogging, for about a month. Every single person that passed me STARED as I went by. People in cars, people on motorbikes, people on foot. The stood on the side of the road and just stared. Sometimes, they'd run into their houses or into the stores in front of which they stood, and call their friends and family-members to come outside and stare too.
I am not making this up.
Imagine: you try to go shopping - you have an audience. You try to nip out to the corner store for an ice-cream, You are a spectacle. A quiet walk in solitude is impossible. Relaxing on the beach - impossible. Privacy - impossible. Unfortunately, most people do not speak English, so they cannot speak to me. So they stare. Those who can, ask all manner of personal question. I know it's being done out of genuine interest, fascination, even - I'm probably the first Westerner whom many of them have ever seen, nevermind actually spoken to. I try to remain polite and kind throughout the interrogations: where are you from, why are you here, who is your husband, what work do you do, what work does your husband do, where do you live, how long have you been here, how long will you stay here, who is your husband's family, how old are you, why do you not have children yet... and so on. It gets exhausting after a while though. Always the same questions. Always the prying from strangers. I try to see it from their point of view, and so I comply with their questions.
Sometimes people yell "'cano!" as we walk by. This is short for 'Americano'. Sometimes they yell out (usually to my hubby or his buddy D - the menfolk) "Hey Joe!". I'm guessing it's a reference to GI Joes (American soldiers) - the American military presence in the Philippines has left a resounding impact on the social culture.
This is a small town, a conservative town. I second-guess whatever I'm wearing when we go out, to make sure I'm not offending anyone's sensibilities, and also to avoid drawing even more undesired attention to myself. The men can be rather lecherous, truth be told. It reminds me a little of my time in India sometimes - the big-bootied, large-breasted, voluptuous white woman, significantly larger than the dainty little Asian women, trying to hide herself under layers of clothing to avoid the unwelcome stares of the shameless local menfolk. (This is a generalisation, of course. Some people are perfectly polite, and do not stare. But the generalisation is warranted, I assure you.)
This experience is not unlike the ones I had when I was traveling, particularly in India. The difference is: when you're a tourist/ traveler, you expect it. You know you're just passing through, you know it's temporary, and so you resign yourself to the interim awkwardness. But when you are trying to build a life somewhere, and make a place feel like home... well, enough said.
Tomorrow the Kiteboard Tour of Asia event begins here in our small town - a feat that my hubby and D managed to secure in record time. I'm excited for many of my friends to come and visit me here, but I'm also excited about the mass influx of foreigners to this small town. I'm hoping it'll be a kind of shock therapy to the locals - that suddenly seeing so many foreigners milling about en masse will quickly begin to bore them, and that as a result of this, I too will become instantly less interesting to my fellow townsfolk (village people).
Here's hoping... ;)