It was 2008. I had lost my job as a long haul trucker. I had caught a blood clot in my leg and lungs. US Department of Transportation regulations required that I stay off the road for six months. As it turned out, I would be out of work for four months and underemployed for two more years.
Marlyn, my wife of over 30 years still had a good job with a strong 401k and plenty of vacation time. But we had grown dependent on our two incomes, and our emergency savings were gradually being used up. My employment prospects were looking grim. One day, I casually mentioned to Marlyn that, if we could find a place where I could raise a few head of livestock, I would be perfectly happy to move to the Philippines. To my surprise, she said “Well, let’s look around.” She had plenty of vacation saved up, and I had no job commitments. We booked a flight and did just that. After looking at several places, we found one that met all our requirements. Clear title, year round water, plenty of grass and arable ground. It was also in the rolling hills we like for drainage, cool breezes, and aesthetics. That was 2009. We anticipated that we could move by 2015, and began acting accordingly.
Mostly, we began by choosing what of our possessions we would want, or need in the Philippines that we could do without for a few years. These things were put into balikbayan boxes until they were full enough to ship. Things were padded out with clothes and such, mostly bought second hand, and intended as pasalubong. Some boxes ended up more pasalubong than items for our own use. These were stored at the student boarding house jointly owned by my wife and her sister. To avoid petty squabbles and jealousies, folks there had strict instructions not to open the boxes until we were there to supervise the distribution.
This worked fairly well. Marlyn was making an annual trip, and I got out about every other year. We distributed pasalubong, and consolidated our own stuff. As our target date drew closer, we shipped more and more boxes of stuff. We soon saw the folly of sending so many second hand clothes and began padding the boxes with our own oversized wardrobe.
Then, we were delayed. And delayed again. I was working steady by then, so we weren’t in any financial bind. The delays gave us time to save up more money for the move. And to send more boxes. I think you can see where this is going.
We arrived to find our boxes had filled one of the rooms intended for rent in the boarding house. Others were stacked against the wall in the kitchen. In our first month, we made a start at sorting through them. The ones with farm supplies were marked. But for the others, we must rely on memory. We’ve distributed a truck load of pasalubong from the ones we’ve opened. Other stuff has been consolidated and labeled. Some boxes remain unopened as of yet.
The smaller number of boxes now fill one of the private rooms in the house. The group room is once again generating income. We eat in a kitchen again, rather than a warehouse. Much of the stuff in the boxes is awaiting the construction of Marlyn’s dream house. That won’t be until early 2019. So that stuff, along with other things we had planned on using, will say tucked away until we have another round of “sort the boxes”.
I’ve taken a lesson from this. That is, that the Western sense of needing a lot of “stuff” does not fit very well in an Asian sense of space.