nearly useless jobs I’m good for


another of my skills, finding our way back after getting lost, esp great considering I got us lost in the first place 🙂

ALL OVER THE WORLD, Filipinos, whether as OFWs or migrants, distinguish themselves by their resourcefulness (maparaan), resilience (matiyaga) and improvisational ability (maabilidad). We thrive under the most trying circumstances, we conjure practical solutions for challenging problems, and what we lack in material wherewithal we make up for in out-of-the-box thinking.

I’d like to say I’m typically competent and capable in this regard, but since joining me in New Zealand, Mahal my wife has made me about as useful as a Sony Betamax video player.  She learns how to operate gadgets intuitively, has embraced the DIY culture of our Kiwi hosts like a native, and has the energy and enthusiasm of any male twice her size.

Which leaves me, her prince consort, in the awkward position of being her decoration, outdated appendage if you want, holding her tools and implements and wiping her brow in her difficult moments, and knowing even less than she does when she can’t make head or tail of the User’s Manual for the newest whatchmacallit (does anybody still use that word?) bought on sale from that giant department store chain.

Rarely though I find a chore or two that I’m good at, and surprisingly, Mahal lets me do it because there’s not much more I can do around the house. Literally. I try to focus on the things I can do and stick to them, leaving the heavy lifting and major tasks to Mahal.  I know this is a role reversal of sorts and it certainly sounds like I’m emasculating myself, but I’m a realist:

for copyright reasons, this pic might disappear anytime. 🙂

Folding laundry. This is by far the task Mahal pretty much leaves for me, because, after all, she does the washing, does the drying (via sampayan or clothesline drying, no less) so I should at least be able to ready the shirts, pants and underwear before they return to the closet, fresh, crisp, fragrant and clean. It would be the height of selfishness for me to do my clothes only, so I do hers right after I do mine. Her clothes are actually easier to sort, just get out the hangers and hang her dresses, office wear and blouses. I can actually do these while watching my favorite sports and quiz shows on TV, but it slows me down, as if I weren’t slow enough. (Actually I don’t care, as long as I don’t look totally useless around the house.)

Killing flies and slapping mosquitoes. It being summer, our temperate Wellington is filled with the buzzing sound of unwanted visitors who hover around sweet-smelling nilagang saba, ginataan and other tasty treats. At night, there are mosquitoes, gnats and sand flies that suck the hard-earned blood off our sweaty skin. Yes, this part of New Zealand is chilly-windy the rest of the year, but for a few weeks it’s just like the Philippines with its humid afternoons and rainy-yet-sticky weekends.

Because no one else is up to it, and I have lots of idle time while Mahal cooks, cleans and does the laundry, I pick up the battle-scarred fly swatter and swat, swat swat away at the winged demons that frequent our kitchen and bedroom during the hot days and nights. I even count said microbe-carriers and bloodsuckers, all the better to justify to Mahal my existence.

Thawing frozen food. Yes, there is no limit to the depths I will descend in pretending to actually do something. Mahal always has a razor-sharp sensor for any frozen food on sale, and likes to defrost these at the very last minute. Because our work schedules frequently complement each other, meaning I am at home when she’s at work, I am very conveniently able to bring out the chicken nibbles with plenty of time to naturally melt the ice, so that it’s just right for cooking by the time she comes home. All because of me.

Return dried dishes to cupboard. It’s simple enough, the post-meal ritual. Wash dishes, dry the same, and return them to the drawer. Since it’s my only participation in the whole process of preparing dinner and cleaning up after, I do my best to do all these properly. The washing must be thorough, no stain spots and greasy spoons. No smudge marks on glasses. and wash everything, including pots and pans. And after the washing and drying comes the icing on the cake:  putting, and arranging said dishes and utensils in their proper place.

If it all seems trivial and mundane, it’s because drying and storing dishes is comparatively less crucial than cooking, though according to Mahal, no less important.  She inspects my handiwork, and would do the dishwashing and drying herself (one of her favorite chores) if I wasn’t going to be completely left out of doing anything except eat.

I’m glad I do these little things and get better at them, day by day. Still not that useful, but getting there.

Thanks for reading!

 

4 wackiest things Kiwis have said to me


Note : Sorry for the long absence, a combination of filling in for those using up their annual leaves, extra few days of night shift, and I almost forgot about you Precious Reader. Anytime you see a highlighted phrase, it’s actually a link that leads to previous blogs, if you’ve got the time to visit 2010 Noel, 2012 Noel, and 2013 Noel. Thanks for reading! ]

POOR POSTURE  while lifting heavy loads, lower back pain and getting enough sleep are the things this OFW worries most about, day-to-day or oftener. The rest, or 99% of it, are minor details I can’t worry about too much or just don’t have enough time to dwell on, like (not that I just thought about it) getting offended or hearing things that offend lots of Asians like me.

It’s just too good, my gig here as blue-collar worker working in clean and green New Zealand. I have enough common sense to know that I’ve got a good deal going, and might as well make the proverbial hay while the sun shines.

But I still have ears that hear, skin that’s not always thick, and feelings that get hurt, from time to time. If not for my Pinoy sense of humor and easy-going personality, I would surely raise hell from some of these remarks, but mostly I just laugh it off and make an equally cutting remark to my colleague/s :

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What the eff are you heating in the microwave? it’s making my eyes water!  Some context here. Filipinos heat anything in the microwave oven, often not knowing that the resultant fumes and odor can be overpowering to people who are not used to the same. Examples are heating tuyo, daing, other dried food, spicy food, strong-smelling deep-fried stuff, etc. Factors like the relatively confined space of the lunch room, the spices and vegetables in the dish that when desiccated and re-fried sometimes magnify the smells and pungentness are sometimes overlooked by our kabayan. But when we are caught unawares we sometimes get surprised and offended that our hosts talk about our food this way. Personally I’ve allowed this to happen to me. While I get taken aback, I shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. If I’m feeling maharot (saucy or salty), I say something like it’s dog meat, wanna taste? which leads me to the next wackiest item…

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Why do you guys (Filipinos) eat dog meat? The roughest, scariest Kiwi would cringe and shrink like a makahiya if I admitted to them that in some parts of the Philippines and among the very politically incorrect (that includes the hungry and starving, who don’t care), Man’s Best Friend is fair game not just as meat for a meal or meals but as finger food (pulutan) when enjoying a round of drinks. This is why I avoid such reality, but somehow or somewhere, when people gather round for tea or coffee and somebody else talks about weird eating, somebody suddenly remembers that this deplorable activity is still done in the Motherland.

Kahit anong paliwanag ko at pagpilit na it’s hardly done in certain places (if at all) anymore, my workmates just can’t believe we do it. Remember, in here (NZ) a lot of people treat their pets better than fellow human beings, cats and dogs are scrupulously and meticulously fed, better (again) than many human counterparts, and in cold weather during autumn and winter, it would be unthinkable to leave you animal companions outside the door, at the very least cat people (what cat owners are called as opposed to “dog people”) leave a “cat entrance” or holes in back doors for their feline friends to use after their nocturnal adventures outside.

Imagine these people, who love their dogs probably more than anyone else, learning that our kabayan EAT dog meat. It’s no big deal, since I would never do it myself, but you can imagine the fun I have explaining why it’s normal back home.

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Do you (or your wife) have a sister / cousin / niece you could introduce ? This is no exaggeration, but after the home grown Kiwi ladies, Filipinas / Pinays are indisputably THE most popular choice as life partners, wives or girlfriends of New Zealanders. There’s not enough room in this post for the reasons, but as a result, despite the proliferation of dating sites and electronic / social media methods, Kiwis are always looking for ways to get to know our kabayan Pinays. Word of mouth, informal introductions, any sneaky way of finding a Pinay are used as effective tools for these love-struck and love-hungry men.

All I can say is, I can’t blame them. I do find the question above from time to time, still startling and funny when it’s actually asked to me. And, as long as I know anyone available back home, why not ?

And lastly …

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You guys speak English quite well. How come? Well, duh. First of all, white guys, namely those from the USA, Canada, UK, and the rest of the British Commonwealth, DON’T HAVE the monopoly on speaking English. After all, it’s been spread far and wide first by the British Empire, and second by the great American project of education and expansion, as far as the Four Winds have taken the latter. So it’s no big surprise that your little brown brothers (or yellow, or black) speak English all over the globe.

But Filipinos have an extra edge. Our experience as an American colony, and then as part of the American Commonwealth, then as a US ally the last century has given us not just Americanization but also a facility in English far beyond any of our regional and continental neighbors.

Honestly, take away our cute accent and our insistence on speaking English our way, and we might even be better English speakers than our gracious Kiwi hosts. We don’t mangle our vowels, we don’t shorten our syllables, and we actually write English better than we speak it! So to all our Kiwi friends, please don’t be surprised if we match your English, word for word, phrase for phrase if not thought for thought. In English, as well as Cebuano, Ilokano, and of course, Tagalog.

Happy New Year, Happy Waitangi Day, and thanks for reading!