Janet and I are just about at our one year anniversary. No, not our wedding anniversary which happens in September, but the one year anniversary of Janet arriving here in Portland and the United States. It’s been a great adventure and we’ve learned a lot, not only about each other but about our respective countries. Here’s a few things we’ve learned:
There are poor, homeless people in the U.S. Yes, it’s true. Coming from the Philippines, where Filipinas are taught that all Americans are rich, it shocked Janet that there are homeless, hungry, and very poor people living here. How can a country as rich as ours have people living on the streets? Frankly, it baffles me too and I can’t explain it to her. It’s outside my scope of experience.
OK, there was the time when I was young and homeless in Santa Cruz, CA, but I was crashing on the beach so that sort of doesn’t count. At least I had the ocean to bathe in.
Why does a hard working girl like Janet earn less than 1/10th of what her lazy-assed husband makes? With no real knowledge of Keynesian economics I can’t explain the relationship between work and compensation. Maybe if I were Milton Friedman…but then I’d be dead. So instead of trying to explain it, we’ve just decided to spend it.
Labor is just a tad bit more expensive here. In our backyard we have the largest oak tree in our neighborhood. It needed extensive trimming and I’d procrastinated the past couple years. Finally I bit the bullet and had the guy I’ve used before come and bid the job, including chipping and hauling away a massive amount of wood. He bid it at $800 which I thought was a bargain. Janet was appalled! This week three laborers wailed away at the tree for an entire day. She simply could not understand why her crazy husband would spend $800 on such an effort, particularly when for the same money we could have bought 80 dresses at H&M. In the Philippines we would have paid 3 laborers 300 pesos each ($7) to do the work. Of course we’d have to provide them with lunch too. At least I didn’t have to spring for that here.
The cold causes massive cramps. After a few months here I noticed that Janet constantly had muscle cramps. OK, it was fun massaging her but it baffled me. I Goggled it and figured it was some kind of potassium deficiency or something. Finally, we figured it out. Once the fall hit and the temperature went below 60, Janet, unused to anything involving the word cold, would tense up her muscles, like a body builder posing, and by the end of the day she’d cramp up. I would remind her that as the old geezer of the couple, I should be the one requiring daily massages, but that didn’t fly.
What does a real estate agent in the Philippines do? I contacted a real estate agent in Cebu before our April trip. Told him we were just beginning the process of looking, just wanted to see how things worked in the Philippines and were not ready to buy. We set a day to meet and see a few properties in Janet’s home town. The guy shows up with the owner of the properties. The owner, a middle aged Filipina, was what in my culture used to be referred to as a “character.” Of course in the U.S. it’s totally verboten to bring the property owner, but in the Philippines she ran the show and the agent just sat back, said and did nothing. She showed us several properties that were quite nice and in the end asked up which one we wanted to buy. Obviously the agent hadn’t communicate our wishes to her in the least and we found out that…
A firm price is a fluid concept in the Philippines. Of all the houses we saw, one stood out above the rest. 2800 sq. ft., European construction, large yard and pool, Janet really liked it. Truth be told so did I. Since I have gotten very good at converting pesos to dollars in my head I knew that the “firm” price of 6.5 million pesos was about $150,000. She informed us of several different ways that we could finance the house with no interest. I was a bit annoyed since I was not in buying mode which had clearly been communicate to the agent. Finally to quiet her I said, “If I ever get to the point of buying, I will pay cash.” “Only six million if cash,” she immediate announced.
After we were done we received constant texts from the woman: which house did we like the best, did we want to meet again to discuss, when were we leaving, etc. Finally it was the morning we were leaving Alcoy, heading for Cebu City and our flight home. We were standing on the side of the national highway, waiting for the bus and another text came in. I rolled my eyes. “Just tell her five million,” Janet said. “See what she says. It’ll be fun.” I texted the lady that sorry we were leaving and that Janet runs our finances and reminded me that our budget was no more than five million ($116,000). I figured that would keep her quiet till we got on the plane or she’d counter offer and I’d ignore her. Nope. Within five minutes the text came in; she’d take the five million. Course I still wasn’t buying but it was an interesting experience.
It became even more interesting a few days later when I exchanged correspondence with an online UK friend living in Alcoy, who had coincidentally rented the very same house we saw two years before. He said that she had tried to sell the property to him and his partner, but that maybe she didn’t completely own the land that the house stood on. Something to be careful of if we ever buy property in the Philippines.
Be careful about what you blog about. Janet has been incredibly supportive of this effort and hasn’t objected to anything I’ve written, which is pretty amazing if you go back and read all my blogs. On the other hand just today I got on the elevator at work and there was my manager’s manager’s manager. A nice guy he immediate mentioned he read a few of my postings. I quickly searched my memory to see if I’d said anything disparaging about my job or employer. Hopefully he realizes that any comment I made about being ridiculously overpaid was a joke 🙂