I’ve never lived anywhere that felt right immediately. San Diego was the most depressing place I’d ever been for the first year or so, and I don’t need to go into my poor record of feet-finding in London. I think I speak for both Chris and myself when I say that it’s been no different here…the only difference is that, since we have such a small space of time to go through all the stages of settling, they’ve kind of been on fast forward.
And in the interests of maintaining a modicum of interest in what I’ve got to say, I’ll follow suit with this post, in which I intend to take you on our residential journey since we arrived.
First, there was Manila. Of course, we knew from the outset that we’d only be there a few days, but they were a miserable four days in many ways residentially (yes, I realize that is not a word. It is now.) speaking. It wasn’t just the horrendous state of the place we stayed – it was more that I knew 12 years ago that place had been a sparkly, wonderful, commune of a pension house, resplendent with musicians and artists wedged into every corner of the modest and earthy cafe. As the few guys I’m still in contact with in Manila no longer frequent the place, and haven’t for years, there’s no telling when it fell apart, but I know there’s been at least one tragedy in the family…anyway, it was a bummer.
We then arrived in Cagayan de Oro, where Chris has since worked. We knew that we wanted to find something situated between Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, where I would work, but for the first few weeks, until that materialized, we lived in a little sort of studio flat, sans kitchen, on property owned by the family of one of Chris’ colleagues at the university. It was super central – ten minutes’ walk to the market, five minutes by motorella to the uni – and while not particularly quiet, very pleasant, with lots plants and flowers. Alas, it was quite expensive for what it was (we had to use the “dirty kitchen” – which just means that it’s outside – to cook…this one kind of took the term a bit too literally for our liking), and while we are both quite happy in this relationship, sharing a space that was roughly 16 square meters (172 sq ft) was a sure fire way to test that happiness.
So after about 3 weeks we were able to move into the place we’d agreed to rent, pending a few renovations were carried out (dirty kitchen put in, HUGE hole in bathroom ceiling fixed). Of course, in true Pinoy style, it wasn’t quite finished when we arrived, and in fact, the kitchen wouldn’t be truly complete until we’d lived there for 3 weeks, and we had to personally pay to have a light installed in our kitchen. There was quite a lot of drama within the family who owned the property; our “bathroom” was just a room with tiles on the wall and floor, a spout, and a hole knocked into one corner out of which water would drain (and roaches would enter…and once even a crab…); any part of the house that even looked like it might be made out of wood was termite-ridden, and we personally blessed every house lizard that made its way into our abode in the hopes that it might be encouraged to eat more of the giNORmous roaches that flew in if we left the front door open for more than 1.3 milliseconds at night. We were attacked by ants of various species virtually every day, and this wouldn’t have been so bad if most of them hadn’t been feasting on our flesh at night.
It was stressful.
But it was on the beach, which was good. That’s about where the “good” part ended. While Chris and I had originally thought that it would be best to live between our two places of work, we didn’t realize that the commute would be anywhere from 2-3 hours each way, which meant that of our limited time here, we were spending up to six hours a day in transit, and not in a situation whereby we could bust out some work on our laptops – no, this was a jeepney-bus-jeepney-motorella kind of scenario. That did not make things any better. But it was an interesting and compelling experience: one of the things that kept us sane was a good relationship with the head of housekeeping there, B, who lived with her two daughters and son, aged 6, 8, and 13 respectively. Her eldest daughter also worked on the premises, and while her mother worked 7 days a week, A only worked the two that she wasn’t in school. All four of them shared a room smaller than our afore-mentioned temporary abode in Cagayan de Oro, which boasted a single double-sized bed on which all three kids slept, while their mom occupied the floor. B looked after us as best she could, although the owner of the place was about the most inconsiderate and selfish person I’ve ever come across.
Around the middle of December – about 2 1/2 weeks into living there – we realized it wasn’t working. We decided to move back to Cagayan de Oro: while my work was quite a ways away, I had the option of sleeping over in Iligan, and we decided that if we were going to a – get anything done here, and b – keep our sanity, we’d have to find a way to cut the transport time down. A colleague of Chris’ from Germany was going home to visit, so asked if we could stay in his place a couple of nights…this couldn’t have been better timing, since we were now feverishly looking for a place to stay, having given two weeks’ notice to our landlord. And we saw places…not as many as I’d have liked – probably around 7 or 8 – and they were all wrong, wrong, wrong. For a variety of reasons.
I had to go to Bohol for work stuff, so Chris was on his own, and visited a place he thought I’d like. When I came back we visited it together, but the amazing thing was this: upon learning that Chris would come from work and I’d come from home, the landlord decided it would be easier if he just picked us both up! The price was way out of our budget, but he brought it down A LOT for us. And when we did finally move in, he brought his van over to help us move! That’s right – our landlord helped us move. He’s a really great guy for a lot of reasons. We’ve been seriously comfortable here, to say the least.
The place is called Gran Europa, and it’s one of a number of really posh-looking housing divisions that sparkle on the outside, but are very quickly and cheaply constructed (I’m pretty sure we’ve got similar constructs in California). But it’s quiet, and we’re in the hills so there’s a lovely breeze. Our favorite neighbors have moved now, so we are pretty isolated, although I did go power-walking the other day with a beautiful, wealthy, late-40-something mom in the ‘hood in true Desperate Housewives fashion. An excellent feature is that we have four bedrooms, which function as our bedroom, a guest room, the office, and the laundry room/Earthquake room respectively. We – especially I – work from home a lot, so the comfort is priceless. There’s a communal pool, but we’ve never swum in it…there’s a basketball court, but we’ve not yet shot any hoops…Earthquake’s comfy, though, and so are we.