the balance sheet so far

Recently, people have been writing me and asking advice on whether they should move to Australia or not. To be honest, that is such a hard question to answer even if generally, my blog entries about OZ since we moved have been quite positive. The fact is, what may work for me may not work for anyone else. That’s just how it is.

Besides, I don’t want to be blamed later on if things do not work out for anyone. If somehow, I may have given the impression that it is nothing but heaven here, read on. To all long-time Filos reading this, if I write anything not to your liking, don’t feel personally attacked. I know your take on life here may be vastly different from mine, and I say good for you. This is my take on this place after close to four months of living here. And a take based on such a short time might as well be as accurate or inaccurate as a snapshot of, say, a plane above (as I wrote on my article in Newsbreak). You don’t know if it is landing or taking off.

Life here is generally quite pleasant and there are a lot of things to be thankful for. OK, I may sound so parochial and petty after you read this list, but I AM grateful that there are:

-no tricyles. That means I do not wake up to the sound of motorcycle roaring which is getting more and more commonplace in Manila.

-no jeepneys.

-no out and out idiocy in the political scene (at least hindi lantaran dito pero I’m sure meron din)

-not too many grizzly murders, rapes, acts of cruelty and violence in the news (so far wala pa akong nakikita. But then, I only got a TV a month ago and hardly watch).

-No OA delivery of the news ala Mike Enriquez or TV Patrol complete with sirens and highly dramatic musical scoring. Sometimes I wonder though that maybe the reason why crime reporting seems so much more disturbing back home is because it is in the vernacular. Iba pa rin kapag sa sariling wika natin nadinig. If you don’t believe me, try saying the words describing your private parts in both english and Tagalog. O, ano ang mas ‘shocking’?.

-no TV station wars

-no debilitating traffic (OK, this is arguable if you’re coming from the city at rush hour)

-walang nagsisiga sa garden

-no pollution

-no long queues at government offices. Kung meron man, mabilis ang movement.

-no bumps or potholes on the road

-free health benefits (great!!)

-free tuition (fabulous! PET, CAP you can all go to hell!!). OK, it’s free unless you opt for private school. And yes, I know that college has to be repaid later on, but coming from the Philippines, the perks they offer to get educated are BIG DEALS.

-quiet neighborhood.

-nice to drive around.

-garbage is collected religiously

-I get to hang laundry and do the dishes (I love it. Believe it or not, these can be spiritual practices).

-prices though expensive, are stable

-friendly people

-strong showers

-a huge country to explore.

-a very family centered society.

-soccer fever!! I never thought I’d get into it.

Some of the things I miss

-our maids. Over here, if you don’t cook, you don’t eat. Much as I don’t like it, I actually (though grudgingly) respect it. It’s quite an admirable set-up. di ba?

If you don’t clean up, you live like a pig. But having said that, I still miss our kusinera and maids who keep our house clean.

-no great intellectual stimulation so far. I have not seen a really big bookstore like the Barnes and Noble outlets in the US. If there are, they aren’t that many. But luckily, I have discovered the Ken Wilber readers group here and I have attended meetings last June and this July. I still have to find the schedules and venues of authors, intellectuals, and teachers giving talks and workshops around here.

-too few bargains on things. Except for veggies and fruits at Park Lea at 4PM on Sundays, you don’t encounter really great buys the way you do in the Philippines. Maybe I just have to discover them.

-friends in Manila. Man, if I could just bring them all here.

-the party town atmosphere of Manila. People here are just not as fun as we are back home.

Some of the things that baffle me.

-When I applied for a business license, I scrolled on the possible descriptions that come closest to what I was applying for and saw “brothel’. (No, I wasn’t applying for a brothel permit, it was one of the businesses listed). Yes, prostitution is legal and there are cat houses everywhere. Television late at night can be quite racy including ads for meeting dates, and escort services and all that.

By itself, this does not baffle me since I have been to other countries that have this. What makes me scratch my head is that I find Aussies quite innocent and even quite conservative compared to many nationalities, and yet, they allow this. Hey, I’m not complaining!! It’s just a curious thing for me.

Some of the things I am not too crazy about

-Too many rules on everything (well, I appreciate it for some things, to be honest, but many of them are too rigid for my taste).

-Too many certifications for everything. You have to be certified to be, say, a tourist guide, pet trainer, a librarian, car painter, etc..I know people who had to repeat the training they got back home even if it was superior only because they were not certified locally. What a total waste of time and resources.

-Really long distances between places.

-Winter. Am a T-shirt and shorts guy. It’s getting harder and harder to dress like this lately.

-Cleaning the car. Cutting the grass.

-Getting out of a warm shower during winter.

-The dreariness of suburbia.

The houses look the same in many towns. Depending on one’s mood, this can elicit different reactions. The uniform ‘coiffured lawn and model home look’ everywhere can be disarmingly charming, or it can drive you nuts. Too much conformity everywhere for this artist. It’s hard to live in a right hand world if you are left-handed, ika nga.

-The so-called ‘local experience’ that employers look for before they hire you.

It’s the chicken and egg thing. They won’t hire you unless you have local experience but how do you get local experience unless you are hired? I know many qualified people having to undersell themselves so that they can get work. Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief. Oh, if the local people only knew that many of the foreigners they are hesitant to hire are actually better than them–Clark Kents waiting to show their talents like Superman.

I’ve always felt that rich countries like the US, parts of Europe and even Aus should do more in encouraging their citizens to be more well-traveled, learn other languages and expose themselves to foreign cultures and customs. This way, they can be better judges or at least understand the background, character and capacity of immigrants within their ranks. Also, they can have a better, more enlightened take on the rest of the world. America is hardly waking up to the fact that with the way they are raising their kids without discipline and addicted to instant gratification, they will lose their superpower status in less than a generation. (Read Time Magazine). Their self-absorption and vanity is making them less likely to want to understand the rest of the world. Too many kids are dropping out of school. They have much to learn from Asians who go out of their way to understand the world..

-the super strict driving test.

I know there are virtues as to why this is so and one of them is that it saves lives. Having said that, it seems rather hypocritical though to demand such rigid compliance while doing the test (including matching OA head turning when you turn, and left turn signals when you leave the roundabout) when right outside the RTA and everywhere, licensed people on the road are not doing it.

-the super strict ID system.

If you have a ‘Maria’ before your name in one ID (say a passport)and none in another ID (say a license), you are inviting BIG TROUBLE. Sometimes, a little common sense could help in making things easier for everyone without sacrificing security. The spirit of the law should prevail over the letter of the law. But it’s not so in this country.

What I wish they could have here

-More commercial areas that are compact but exciting enough for young people to hang around in especially in the suburbs. Parks are nice but an Eastwood or Greenbelt type of setup, say, in areas like Norwest would be fabulous.

-More accessibly priced software and DVDs. OK, I know royalties have to be paid but can’t they find a way to bring down prices without resorting to piracy?

What I wish will not happen here

-that Australia becomes too much like the US in its economic policies, and its political world view. I was talking with some people and they expressed fear that in fact it is becoming so not just with its support of the US in Iraq and with the new laws on employment. In a similar article I read on the legacy of the Howard years, the Aussie writer pointed out that Australians have stopped thinking of themselves as ‘classless’, and have actually changed their view about how compassionate they are. They now look at themselves as ‘meaner’. If that is true, then it is sad.

-that multi-culturalism, a proud legacy of the pre-Howard years becomes a dirty word.I love SBS! There is much to learn from other cultures, and I salute SBS for continuing to promote this.

-that Australia abandons environmental protection for ‘progress’. Right now, Australia is the biggest exporter of coal in the world, which happens to be quite a dirty technology. And Australia still has to sign the Kyoto Protocol that will put a cap on its emissions. While this country has clean air and a well-cared for ecological system, the environment inevitably respects no national borders. Look at Chernobyll. If we dirty any part of the world, it will eventually get back to us. As they say, what goes around comes around!

103 thoughts on “the balance sheet so far”

  1. welcome to australia, mr jim paredes.
    a bit of advice: do everything touristy while you still feel like a tourist. touch the tiles of the opera house; cross the harbour bridge; see the view from the centrepoint tower; check out the aquarium and taronga zoo; take photos of interesting people on the streets; visit the botanical gardens.
    things like these you will tend to take for granted after a while and will only get to see and do when friends from overseas come for a visit.

  2. This thread rocks!! I enjoy reading eloquent exchanges of feelings and ideas about my dear Philippines.

    To MAB: just a little bit irked on what you insinuate about Americans “when it comes to the subject of being well-travelled”. This is another case of American bashing at it’s best. I’m now a New York transplant after coming out of Melbourne’s Swinburne Uni and Manila’s San Beda and I know that travelling overseas is a way of life down there. But I may have to add that Americans too are keen to go abroad and learn what is in the other side of the world. This summer alone my 12 year old boy and his friends were in Europe for that needed jaunt.. yun lang po and you all have a good one.

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