Leaving Home: Chapter 2

Adjustments & Surprises

The long journey behind them, the six Filipinos set out separately and at different times of their lives to make this new place their home. It would of course take some adjusting. Dee said that the most difficult thing to adjust to was “the weather and people.” Joy also voiced this concern, citing the winter weather of New York that proved very harsh for her after coming from a tropical country. She remembered being so excited to see snow for the very first time. She loved it for the first half hour and then hated it as soon as she could no longer feel her hands or feet.

Nina, on the other hand, was dealing with the challenges that come along with restarting a career. Her prior work experience in the Philippines wouldn’t count when she applied for jobs; employers were interested in prospects with local experience. Getting her foot in the door in the first place would prove difficult. Ultimately, she managed to not only find a job but prove to her employer after two weeks that she had what it took to keep the job.

The most difficult thing to adjust to was the feeling of being homesick, otherwise I loved it. A little culture shock but nothing I [couldn’t] handle. [Ironically,] I had culture shock when I went to visit the Philippines about 8 years later.” – Vivic

Language was challenging for most of the six. English was taught as a second language in the Philippines but it’s very different learning it in a school setting versus having to use it as a dominant language. Joy recounts how difficult it was for her; she could speak English well, but understanding and listening comprehension were almost impossible because of how quickly everyone spoke.

New York is so diverse that there’s so many accents to get use to. It took me a while to get use to talking to them.  I remember trying not to make eye contact in public places so they won’t talk to me.” – Joy

One interesting thing that came up was Vivic’s surprise at how it also becomes dusty here in America. In the Philippines, there was an almost urban legend that the U.S. was so clean that there was no dust. She admits she was naive back then and now of course knows better. (Oh, how wonderful it would be if that turned out to be true.)

Thankfully, of the challenges these six had to face, racism and discrimination were not among them. This may be in part to how Asians typically tend to be seen as the “model minority.” Filipinos in particular are often viewed as very hard workers. These notions seemed to help the six not have to deal with the adversities some immigrants from other countries would have had to face. However, even if they were to meet someone who didn’t take too kindly to Filipinos, these six would not let that get to them.

I’m one person who is strong willed, very determined, [have] solid accounting knowledge [and] strong analytical skills, [and am] super confident of myself. [I] hold a Bachelors Degree in Commerce, major in accounting, [and] passed the CPA board [which] only 17% passed when I took it. [I had] work experience in the oldest and largest private bank in the Philippines. … I don’t intimidate people but I will never be intimidated.” –  Nina

Now, years later and after officially becoming U.S. citizens, do they have any regrets about their decision to move? Five of the six said a resolute “no.” One said “I know that by coming here we’ve open[ed] our family to more opportunities than if we [had] stayed in the Philippines.” Another stated that they love it here, while a third said they would do it again in a heartbeat. The sixth person, however, didn’t say “no” but didn’t say “yes” either, instead answering with a very candid and unsure “I don’t know…”

Messages to their past selves

Q: If you could send a message to your past self before they boarded the plane to America, what would you tell them?

A: 

If I [was] asked what I want[ed] to change, I would say nothing. I want the way my life with my family has been, with all the big and small experiences before and after the plane ride. The perfect life is just a hallucination for me[;] it is something that no one in my opinion can achieve. The perfect life is a life lived happily with or without problems. Life is good, as it is like the shaky plane ride, it goes up and down, there is a start and finish, but in the end we still get to our destinations.” – Dee

I would tell my past self to go easy on the credit card usage [because] you need to pay them at the end of the day.” – Vivic

Make sure that you’re doing it for the right reason and the decision was all yours, so you only have yourself to blame if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.” – Nina

Stay strong!!! It will be hard, but it will be worth it!” – Joy

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Camera imagery courtesy of Pixabay.

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