Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tales about overcoming the weather and yearning for a house help

There are things that I really miss from home. Yeah, I still call the Philippines home even if I live here in Holland and have become partly Dutch.

Overcoming the Dutch weather

The sun and the stable warm temperature back home I have missed for a looooong time. How could one not?

The weather played a large part on the first few years adjustment phase of my expatriated life in the Netherlands. I have somehow developed a fervent love and hate relationship with the Dutch weather --- I struggled through sticks and stones my first dark Dutch winter. It was a complete nightmare. I wished I was transplanted back then back to the warm islands. I wanted so bad to escape the sinister of events that unfolded before my very eyes: Sitting across me in the hospitals’ pristine white-walled clinic is a specialist. He just diagnosed me of having a mysterious allergy towards cold weather. The only cure available he said is to move to a warmer-stabler climate country, or hope, that in the next couple of years, my system will learn to voluntarily adapt to the unreliable Dutch weather.

But alas, it was not just the cold really...

The allergy could have been manageable if not because of: (a) wind, and (b) erratic change in temperature. Because of these two, the allergy became worse, thus my first dark Dutch winter awakening, about 4 years ago... :-(

I believe that if it’s just the cold, adaptation would have come easier, but with the zany wind in this country, and the temperature change resembling like a woman in her almost menopausal PMS state – 10C in the morning and 18C during mid-day, 13C today and 22C tomorrow, my whole system was stretched to a blinking red alert. It malfunctioned.

Its plain genetic, it sits in my blood, and sadly, there is no known cure to man. (I know, how strange, its like having some scary disease, lol)

Yeah, that’s how it was, looking back. Now, its quite amazing, how I have almost become immune to the crazy weather in this flat country.

My system, my blood and my skin has slowly adapted, not fully, yet – I still have allergies when the temperatures kicks in at 15C and below, when there is wind, and when there is a sudden change, drop or high, of temperature, but all in all, it was not as worse as my first 2 years.

So Dutch weather, I have almost overcome you. The physical acceptance of my body, the positive mentality despite the cold, gloomy, rainy, windy and erratic Dutch weather, and not giving in into this allergy struggle and turning into (far be it from me) a bitter individual --- I finally can say, hey, I have triumphed over!

We may get inflicted with psychological and physical stress in our journeys to adaptation, but like what many of us would always say - it’s just a mind over matter thing. There is actually some truth in this.

But... there are still a few things that I really miss back home in the Philippines... like, for example... having someone to help with the mundane chores at home.

The yearning for a house help

I recently asked Dutchman this question, “What would be the thing that you want changed in me?” (I know, a difficult question for men, that if wrongly answered, would definitely get a haughty sneer, ha-ha)

His reply,
“That, you can at least learn how to clean the house.”

I personally think *sigh* I have a handicap for cleaning. And, before anyone thinks our house is as filthy as the city sewers of rat land, our house is actually livable. It’s just that I hate cleaning and I would rather hire someone to do it!

Perhaps this is the consequence of growing up with helpers that clean your trails at home as you go. The result: I have never developed the habit of cleaning up, and when I left home to start my own life, I became a cleaning handicap. As I don’t like the idea of someone else living with me (privacy), hiring a call-in maid was the way to go.

In a culture where women are highly emancipated to work fulltime, time became a luxury to spend it at home carrying out domestic chores. They must be outsourced, period. The practice of many middle to upper class Filipino households (actually most Asian households) is to employ a live-in helper, a gardener and most importantly, nannies for the children. My parents, my mother that is, she worked fulltime and she had the 3 of us kids. We grew up with nannies and helpers around us. I have always thought it was the norm.

But hah, in family-centric conservative Netherlands (I see some shocked eyeballs rolling lol), this is just totally unthinkable. Unless you come from the real upper class here, the mainstream culture in this country is to raise your kids by your own two bare hands. Thus, in order for women to securely mobilize at home and anchor the family-centric values on their kids, they become by choice: housewives, or, they work part-time. Even the women in very upper class Holland prefer to raise their children themselves and would only employ a house help, but seldom a nanny.

Well, I don’t have children and I don’t think I would ever want to be bothered by this, but what I just miss is having more time for myself at home and not having to do the boring stuff of household chores.

The Dutchman actually does half of the chores at home so I should be more than happy to indulge, but wait... in the Philippines, I wouldn’t be doing any chores, anyway, right?

And oh, I don’t really call cooking a chore though. It’s probably the only domestic activity that I totally liked, and enjoyed.

I know, I can probably insist my stubborn ways and personally pay for someone to do the cleaning at home (the Dutchman will definitely reel in shock with this) but reflecting objectively on the whole situation, I think it is just not the same as it used to be or what I was used to. I am now living in a country where getting your hands dirty at home is like breathing or having sex. Plus the idea of hiring someone will put me into the ridiculous, spoiled brat, and high maintenance category - which I am not.

Should I just say I don’t freaking care? Should I just switch on to the monkey see, monkey hear, monkey speak no evil mode? Or, should I try to adapt this (cultural) reality, after 4 long years of struggle(!)? Perhaps I should just become sober and shut up.

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