Henry's Asylum
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I’ll Be Back!

I’m planning to begin updating my blog again, on my birthday (August 26th). I’m tired of paying for something that I don’t want to lose – but I’m not using!

I Found the Perfect Solution!

Yes, indeed. Instead of stressing out over not having enough time to attend to my blog, I acquired a really interesting oDesk assignment. This new assignment allows me to write blog entries, that I would normally post on this blog and I get to post them on my client’s blog (under my own name, no less). But here’s the best part – I’m paid my normal oDesk rate! So I lose no money and I get to express myself in a wider venue. Here’s the link. See you there…

(Click here for my new posts)

On Hiatus

Hi, everyone – Alma and I are fine. I’m just on a temporary hiatus due to my writing schedule with oDesk. I should be back 0n August 26th, my birthday. See you then!

Four Years!

Well, after a number of months away from my blog, I finally decided to place a new post (!) Why? Well,  today (June 5th) happens to be my four-year anniversary in the Philippines. And what a “long strange trip” it’s been. I’ve finally gotten out of the mode that prompted me to habitually write about my experiences here. It’s, for the most part, “home” now. I feel comfortable out here in the provinces (Zambales) and, as we head into the rainy season, all is well. (now, after saying that, watch me get swept away in the next typhoon) Anyway, my writing assignments on oDesk are going well (Click here). However, I’m just not motivated to write anything extra after spending the whole day writing. Hence, my neglecting my blog. Oh well.

The longer that I live in this country, the less I have to write about. Everything seems so routine, now. I live on a large property with six dogs (Candy, Ondai and four young black dogs – one with a blue tongue), my wife and a maid/servant (the maid works here six days a week for $23.25 per week – I’m told that we’re overpaying). Beyond that, everything is routine. I had a great Christmas and New Years. There was a nice party at the town hall (Alma and I sat at the barangay captain’s/town major’s table). I got to see some local dances with music in a language that even Alma couldn’t translate (there are about 175 dialects in the Philippines). LOTS of insects flying around, however. Sheesh. I swear, there must have been some unidentifiable species that would make a Harvard-trained entomologist go “What the hell was THAT?” Anyway, some of the locals are REALLY poor. For example, they dumped a pile of used clothes on the ground and most of the locals ran to the pile to get what they wanted/needed. Alma and I sponsored a few of the holiday games that offered cash prizes, so that was nice.

So, I guess you can say that things are going well for me and Alma. Things say very consistent. Boring, actually. I couldn’t ask for better.

Woah!!! Guess what? WordPress RESTORED all of my original posts for this blog (!!!) Check THIS out : (click here)

If I sell this, I can buy those designer jeans

If I sell this, I can buy those designer jeans

Happy 55th Birthday!!

I’ve been too busy to post as of late. I’ll get back to it soon. Until then, I’m wishing myself a Happy Birthday for August 26th…

Waiting For the Storm

To be honest with you, there hasn’t been all that much to write about, over the past few weeks. This is not a bad thing, to say the least. However, I suspect that this will change with the advent of the rainy season (which started sometime last week, I think). Currently, we’re preparing for a rather large tropical storm that has folks a bit concerned. This is my first rainy season out in the Provinces. Unfortunately, this is where most folks meet their demise during typhoons and whatnot. But that’s mostly due to mudslides and such in the more remote, outlying areas. I live near the resort town of Subic and the house I currently live in is 20 years old – so no major worries. In any case, I’m told that typhoon conditions are a bit milder in this area, due to the mountainous borders. No matter how you slice it, I can’t imagine anything worse than the typhoon that flooded my home, in Pasig. That one forced us to stay with relatives where I was subsequently attacked by giant flying cockroaches. Lovely.

But, I still need to work and a power outage is almost assured. So, today, we ordered a gas-powered generator that we’re scheduled to pick up in the morning. It’s nothing fancy – just enough to run the computer, a fan and the fridge. We’ll see how that works out.

Living in the Philippines will make you do some interesting assessments of your ability to adapt. I guess that’s why I see so few foreigners out here. I’m told they live all around, but I have come to doubt the perceptions of the locals. If you took 20 foreigners (from Europe and the U.S.) and placed them in one of the nearby towns, they would probably consider it an “invasion”. My next door neighbor is German – but he spends a lot of time on the road (he’s currently in South America – no jokes, please). Every now and again, I’ll see some aging foreign guy over in Subic (which caters to tourists) – but that’s about it. One may find this odd, since it’s so cheap to live here. But everything has its price. Sure, you can get a live-in servant for eighty bucks a month. But it’s a bit tough to tell your maid to clean up the house by candlelight. I’m exaggerating, of course. The power only goes out two or three times a week.

In all, I’ve come to the realization that no matter where you live – there’s always the good and the bad. Here, I think the best part is being able to slow down and look at all the fruit trees on the property while eating dinner on the porch and watching the sunset. Eventually, I guess I will come to understand the workings of this culture and the completely different way that the people think. But that’s okay – I have all the time in the world. Unless, of course, I’m listening to Harold Camping (or the Mayans)…

According to MY calendar - you'll lose power 12 hours before you get your generator

According to MY calendar - you'll lose power 12 hours before you get your generator

Slowing Down a Bit

So, what does it all add up to? I find myself sitting at my computer, no longer confined to a closed, air-conditioned room reminiscent of a medium security prison. The windows are open and the breeze is strangely strong – coming in from the direction of the mountains. This really saves on the electric bill since electricity, in the Philippines, is surprisingly expensive. But with the windows open, I get a sense of being outdoors. I have a view and the sounds that echo in the wind confirm that I’m in some far off land.

I’m surrounded by trees of all types. I count ten varieties of edibles beginning with a huge avocado tree that is already providing its bounty. Others will soon follow suit as we head into the summer months. Alma and Rita (our maid/helper) are planning on setting up a garden and that will be nice, too. It’s no problem to do this on a tropical island, of course, and they’re talking about planting corn, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables that grow so easily, here. The locals do this, as well, which makes for low prices when you want to purchase something for dinner. And, of course, there is an abundance of cashew trees which we pick from and then roast (far more than you may imagine – this property also has a cashew grove on the opposite side of the road). It’s interesting, the cashews taste more like pistachios (which I really like) – and watching the roasting process is an experience (see photos below).

Last week, we went into the town of Subic and shopped at the duty free market (click here). Subic was once a U.S. military base, but it’s mostly for tourists, now. My brother-in-law’s friend drove us out there. It takes about 45 minutes – but the drive is pleasant and quite picturesque. There are a lot of good restaurants in Subic and we had lunch at one that specializes in steaks and ribs. I was surprised at how good my babyback rib plate was – especially since it only cost about $6. Alma and I stocked up at the duty free store which resembles a Wal-Mart Supercenter. We plan on making the trip once a month.

Other than that, I’m in the process of getting healthy. My diet has almost no sugar in it and contains fresh fruit and locally grown produce. I consume a good amount of filtered water each day in order to get rid of toxins and I set up a daily exercise program. The exercises harken back to my martial arts days (performed twice, daily) with upcoming trips to the local resort pool beginning this week. I have the equipment to monitor my blood sugar each morning and that’s been doing well (as you would expect with a proper diet and exercise). Best of all, I feel better than I’ve felt for a while.

Work is steady and I enjoy my dinners on the porch at sunset with Alma and Rita. This weekend, we’re having company for dinner (not in the Hannibal Lecter sense). It’s our way of saying “thank you” to the relatives who helped us to move. Our local relatives live in a “compound” just down the road, consisting of several houses. Our next door neighbor (not the water buffalo) is an engineer from Germany and seems like a very nice guy.

Anyway, I need to finish out the day’s work and relax at dinner time. I can honestly say that I feel myself slowing down to meet my peaceful surroundings. Go figure…

Roasting Cashews

Roasting Cashews

Roasted Cashews Before Peeling

Roasted Cashews Before Peeling

"Hey - I smell cashews roasting."

"Hey - I smell cashews roasting."

Settling In

So, it’s been quite a while since my last blog post. Not a very effective use of my monthly expenditure for web hosting – but, in this case, it really couldn’t be helped. As luck would have it, I ended up back in the hospital just before my scheduled move. This time, it was a long-existing pre-diabetic condition that managed to bloom into a wonderful diabetic episode, complete with enlarged pancreas. Though, not to worry. It’s been controlled via medication, diet, etc. In some ways, this turned out to be a fortunate event, since it has prompted me to look after such things as diet, exercise and blood sugar monitoring. Such is the silver lining behind every cloud.

Speaking of silver linings, Alma and I managed to complete the move a week later. We now live in a large, gorgeous house on a pretty big lot. Here, we’re just a stone’s throw from the beach and within walking distance from the same resort pool that we visited during the Zambales family reunion (!!) The next town over is the resort town of Subic. The property we’re on is complete with mango, avocado, papaya and various other fruit trees. The lot across the road (still a part of this property) contains an abundance of cashew trees.

I’ll go into more detail as time goes on. But still, the best part is the slower peaceful lifestyle that one would expect on a tropical island. For that, I’m really thankful…


The House

The View

The View

A Neigbor

A Neighbor

It’s About Time (Part Two)

As I mentioned before, I’m finally making my way to the place that I’ve wanted to be for all of my life. Most things have already been put into place. I’ve married into a really good family that is not kind to me based on what I have.  I know this, because I performed my research on this culture, prior to my decision to move here. My assumptions were born out when I broke my leg. You see, at that point, I had no good job prospects and I appeared to be some poor old guy who left the United States to marry a Filipina and stay in this country. Yet, the family went out of their way to look after me and my dear wife stayed by my side the whole time I was in the hospital (no such thing as nurses looking after you – you better have family if you need to stay in a hospital, here). She took care of my every need to the point where I was just astonished. After three years, she still holds my hand when we walk down the street and shows me affection that I would never expect from a wife who was raised in the U.S. The rest of the family shows me consideration that I find almost startling. So I know that I will live out the rest of my life with dignity, respect and love. So my decision to come here was, by far, the smartest move that I have ever made in my life.

With that said, let’s take a look at my upcoming move in less than a month. It’s scheduled for around April 10th – 11th. We’re in the process of packing and the relatives are preparing our place of residence in the new location. If you haven’t already guessed where we moving to – it’s the province of Zambales! I’ll talk more about Zambales, as time goes on – but here’s the deal. After careful consideration, I knew that I wanted to get out of Pasig City (Metro Manila) and move out to the provinces. So, my brother-in-law suggested that I check out two houses for potential relocation. The first house was a small two bedroom place located on his family’s compound (several houses and a small sari-sari store). It was okay. But the next place was amazing.

We’re talking a large 3-bedroom house with two bathrooms – actual bathrooms with tubs and hot water (!!!).  It has a huge yard in front and a substantial yard in back. But, get this – the back yard has a splendid view of green fields and multi-colored mountains (!!!). At the end of my work day, I can sit outside and watch the sunset as the entire area goes completely dark. The air is clean (I didn’t have to clean my glasses once over the two days that we were there – in Pasig, I have to clean my glasses every day – even if I’m inside the house all day). The market is only ten minutes down the road – so is the beach. There is also a duty-free store nearby. Within a five-minute walking distance is the same resort and pool that we used for our family reunion. Because it’s a resort location, banks and all the amenities are present. The Internet is faster (due to the fact that fewer people are on it) and cable TV has all the channels you could want. Both the Internet and TV costs are cheaper than Pasig, as well. There will also be a maid arranged for us. But, get this – rent for the house is 7,000 pesos a month (!!!) – less than half of what I’m paying now. This means that we can save up for our own home in the future. By the way, this house is owned by the sister-in-law of my brother-in law’s wife – with no three months to pay, in advance – just two. This means a cost of 14,000 pesos to move in vs. the 45,000 pesos it cost to move into my present home.  It’s also just five minutes down the road from my brother-in-law’s compound  and the family promises to visit us every day – until we buy our own transportation.

So that’s the size of it. Yours truly is finally doing something that many of us can only dream of doing – moving to a tropical island near the beach with mountains and an abundance of mango trees – complete with modern conveniences and a loving family. It really doesn’t get better than that. More to come…

It’s About Time (Part One)

I originally attempted to post something to my blog – but I just didn’t have anything to say. Now I know why. There was a change a comin’ and I needed to be handed that piece of info (directly from God, I might add) before I could sit down and actually have something worthwhile to say. What change? – might you ask. Is it good? Is it bad? Pray tell – what could make you resort to such antiquated terms as “pray tell”?

As you can see, I’m in a good mood. There’s a very good reason for this. I could prattle on for decades, but I’ll try to keep things succinct. Here’s the deal regarding my experience, so far, in the Philippines. I’ll try to directly relate it to the places I have lived in since I arrive on June 5th, 2008. Here we go:

  • Home #1 – The ironically named “Greenwoods Executive Village – Phase IV – a small, one bedroom, two story apartment with plumbing that was damaged by construction next door. As a result, the bottom floor flooded and I slipped coming off the stairs, in the poor lighting, (while getting ready for work) and broke my leg. And trust me, you don’t want to break your leg in a Third World Country. Prior to that, I worked in three call centers for about 18,000 pesos a month (minus taxes, etc.). Transportation was just short of horrendous (and expensive to boot). Rent was 5,000 pesos a month.
  • Home #2 – Still in Greenwoods, Phase IV – but a larger home with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (no actual “bath” – just the standard cold shower). This was when the flood hit (from Typhoon Ondoy). After being rescued by the Philippine military, we spent about a month with relatives in Kapasigan (This included my encounter with the flying cockroaches – don’t ask). We came back once the flood waters receded but I couldn’t work at the call center anymore since I had surgery on my leg. However, this was when I discovered oDesk and I could make more with my writing than at a call center. Much more. At this point, the roof was coming apart and it rained inside the cooking area of the house. Rent = 11,000 pesos. Time to leave.
  • Home #3 – Greenwoods, Phase VI. A much nicer sub-division where attorneys, bank executives, basketball players and actors live. Nice looking house with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Too bad there’s all this construction going on – so it’s noisy. Plus, the water pressure is not good during the day. I could go on. Not to mention the fact that we are still living in Pasig City (Metro Manila). A “less than clean”, third world country-type city. Polluted with no exhaust limitations on the vehicles. But I’m now working at home on oDesk for about 16,000 – 21,000 pesos per week. This is the equivalent of what two neuro-surgeons make together (seriously – I checked). Rent is considered cheap for my place at 15,000 pesos per month. Add in the cable TV and broadband Internet connection, maid, etc. Not too shabby, but still…
  • Now for the GOOD stuff. Home #4 coming up on April 10th – 11th. The place that I have always wanted to live (you’ll see why, later). I will go into this, in detail, in my next post. But to give you a clue – this is SO nice that it actually brought tears to my eyes as I looked around. Finally- Peace.

Stay tuned…

Just waiting for Henry

Just waiting for Henry