Sunday, February 14, 2016

A girl from abject poverty goes first world, part two

I previously wrote about my wifes journey from a developing country, their basic ways to here.
There were some unaswered questions so without writing a book, which I would rather do :P I will attempt to fill in some gaps.

As my wife says, she was poor, but not poor. Never was this more blatantly obvious than when she first came here and I tried to feed her some rice, which is of course the staple food for people in Poverty in much of the world and of Orientals everywhere.
I had run of the mill boxed rice, known to the common person as Uncle Bens. Upon eating this I was promptly informed this was unfit for human consumption, say what?
I would go to the store and buy a bag of rice, which she would then call poor people rice. Yea I know, apparently there are levels of poor people even in a Developing country, go figure. Her father would refuse to buy his family cheap rice, saying they were above eating badly, good for him.
I would have to take her with me rice shopping, there she would sniff bags of rice for the aroma, which apparently is important, as well as feeling the type of rice grains. Seems like some weird voodoo shit to me, but I am here to say the rice she picks out, does taste miles better.

Running water is of course something the west takes for granted, at the flip of our wrist we have water available at our whim within our house, hot and cold even!
Not so for the wife, who was raised without running water in her apparent mid level poverty home. Outside there was a spicket of running water, where she would fill up a big bucket of water. Mind you she would not fill it all the way full, their water bill just for that service was 10 dollars a month. Think about that for minute, the average American income is 35k a year with a sub 40 a month water bill, while the income in the Philippines is 400 dollars a year! No wonder they struggle
Later on they would have running water only in the kitchen as Mom would win the lottery, Literally! No not crazy insane lottery like you are thinking, but enough to get them a water line into the house.
Bathing as I mentioned before was far different for them, so a running shower/bathtub is not something they ever had. The wifes first experience with an actual bathtub would be while staying in a nice hotel when I was sick. Most decent hotels in the Philippines have at least a walk in shower, this one had a nice big bathtub as well. The wife wanted to try it so I let her have at it. A few minutes later I still heard the shower running so I went to see what was going on. The shower curtain was outside of the tub, water all over the floor and she was standing knee deep in water under the shower! I’m like this is not how it is done, you need to sit down and soak in the water after its filled.
I then went out into the room to watch some TV, a minute later she followed me out proudly proclaiming her real first bath was done. I explained to her in the future to soak in the tub until the water started to cool :P
It is not uncommon to see hand pump water sources still, nor is it uncommon to see someone packing whatever plastic containers they can find full of water taken from a spring or creek someplace, sometimes for miles back home, such as this kid packing water home using what can only be described as a butt board so he can roll down a hill that is insanely steep.

Microwave, this was an area I really lucked out in. An old friend had brought a wife over from the Philippines as well, she had trouble with the no metal rule in the microwave, and three microwaves later she got it.
Fortunately mine picked up on the Microwave right off, being fascinated by how easy it was to put food inside for safe storage away from flies. :O She still does not cook in it much, which I prefer, not a big microwave food fan myself, oh yea, no metal ever went into the use of this magical device. She never even tried to cook an egg, something my father tried for some time back when we got our first.

Education, this is a tough one but one they take seriously. Many kids cannot even afford pencils or notepads for school. Aid organizations help to supply kids with what they need, but that is a limited lucky few. Books are a serious shortage as well and computers in public school? Forget about it. In order to work most jobs, even fast food one must have a college degree. This is usually obtained from money sent back home from family working abroad. My wifes oldest aunt while working abroad in Japan would put three of her sisters through college as well as my Wife and her cousin, talk about selfless!
To overcome their shortage of educational material teachers will take workshops on how to be creative.
Schools often cannot afford a janitor, so kids are required to clean up after class, I think this is a wonderful Idea we should adopt in the west, Japan does this as well.

Shopping; There is no Walmart in the Philippines, nor in every country in the world :P Which is somewhat surprising as seeing American or western based food chains is actually quit common. Try to visit a mall without seeing Wendys, Pizza Hut, Mcdonalds etc is nearly impossible and sadly takes away from their magnificent traditional food traded for western slop. You will find something else which is very much lacking in Merican society today, small stores, they are everywhere. Malls there are busy bustling places filled with every kind of store you can Imagine, big boxed stores are less common than here and that really ads to the shopping experience. Women are usually cashiers as they are considered more responsible than men :P. Men will often simply work the floor, or ironically enough, will be the managers of stores, go figure.
Everyone wears a uniform in these places and it has always amazed me how someone could live in a small shack, yet come out with spotless clothes neatly pressed looking absolutely amazing.
Buying in bulk is not something which is common there, so when you make you way to a food mart, which is usually at the bottom of a mall (your big ones) you will buy bottled water individually as well as anything else.
Local grocery shopping is done in what is called Sari Sari stores, which are huts which sell a few oddities. Usually they have soda, soap, rice, toothbrush and well just Imagine what it was like at our corner stores when we were younger, cept cram it all into a tiny room and you have the Sari Sari store.

Next up, getting around, eating local food, and the challenges of finding modern conveniences in a near toilet paper free society.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A young lady from abject poverty goes first world.

For those of us in the western world, it is often impossible to associate with those less fortunate than ourselves. Often in a discussion I bring up that my other half came from abject poverty. I realize however that most people do not know what that means, so I shall do my best to give you an Idea with her story.

She had grown up in what we would call a hut, to her it was a house. The entire house was small, only the size of what we would consider a living room. In this living room sized house she would live with her four brothers and parents. They would all have their own rooms, well sort of, they were basically small closets just large enough for a blanket to lay on. My wife would stay in their actual living room, where she would sleep on a little bamboo bench about three foot long. There she would curl up night after night as she grew, sleeping on that little bamboo bench.
The house does have a kitchen, but no stove, in place of a stove is a mud oven which of course uses only wood. There is no refrigerator, but there is electricity, which of course is dim by our standards. They have a light bulb in the kitchen and living room, but that is all. There is also a TV and Stereo.
The bathroom just has a toilet which those of us in the west would consider child size, there is no seat over the toilet as they would squat and hover like a frog as my wife would put it. No toilet paper, as most of the world does not use such nonsense, instead they would use a bucket of water with a pale inside, the pale was used to splash upon their bum to clean it. The bucket is also where you would wash your hands, no soap :P

From the time I met her things were different, she would make sure I understood that her father was a good dad, as he always provided food and they always had clothes as well as a roof over their head. That sounds like something our grandparents would say,I guess at one point it rang true. Her father worked primarily in construction, a skilled tradesmen he could earn 2 dollars a day, and sometimes a bit more, which is actually pretty good considering most outside of the city only make 1.25 USD per day. He also would use his motorcycle as a cab, rain or shine he would be out looking for a fair.

She would walk with the other kids to school, sometimes in ankle deep mud during the rainy season. What makes this bad is sewage runs down gutters along the road, so if there is flooding, guess what happens.
The school does not have much, it is short on books and even pencils and paper to write on, so all the kids have to share. I would like you right now to stop and think what it would be like to have to share even a pencil when you attended school, let that sink in. The one part of their school I think is something the west should take up, the kids would have to clean after school, as the school of course could not afford a custodian.

Food is of course scarce, and something as a large American I cannot truly comprehend either.
Rice is of course their staple food, along with dried fish. If you have never seen dried fish you are not missing out on much. Just picture what a fish that has been laying out on a rock in the sun for a week would look like, and you now have dried fish.
Sometimes they are fortunate and get a little chicken too. Eating dogs is not something they do, it happens, but usually only from drunkards and drug users. Dogs are pets there, and the dogs get to eat the bones from the fish.
The wife would talk about having to chase a cat who had stole her fish. Now keep in mind that of she lost a meal that means she would not get to eat, unlike in the west where we can just go and grab something else, she never had that option. She was quick to point out however that she always had three meals a day, most were lucky to have one, and many never had a full meal. Although as a westerner I would challenge their Idea of a full meal.

Laundry is something else, and arguably one of the worst things you can imagine. A hard and aguarius task they would use a concrete slab to hand wash their laundry. There with a bar of soap and lots of scrubbing they would sit with others and chat as they washed away. As repulsive as this indeed is, I am here to say your clothes will never feel cleaner.

Ohh you think you have it all now don’t you? well almost, lets talk about bathing.
She would always talk about taking a bath to me, however as it turns out they do not have baths, not in our sense, nor in the sense of our great grandparents who at least had a big tub an bucket. In the Philippines they would only have a bucket and a pale again, not sure if its the same one used in the bathroom to be honest. Anyhow no separate room for this and bathing is done outside. The girls wear a shirt, and the men wear shorts, then out in the public, or sometimes behind a clothes line, they will bath, splashing the water from the bucket on themselves.

I think by now, you have a pretty good Idea what life is like, so without writing a entire book lets move into her transition to the western world.

Like most in Abject poverty she had never seen an Aeroplane in person, only on TV. Her first exposure would be flying to another island for her visa process, no it is not an easy thing, so consider that the next tie you talk about immigration. She would pack all of her belongings into a small back pack I had bought her, and off she would go.
Upon landing in Japan I would encourage her to find her next connecting gate immediately, she said she was hungry and would find it later. We are only chatting on the kindle I had bought her and I was of course anxious to say the least. Like most well travelled people the minute I landed I would always look for my next gate, then I would go and find something to eat, or maybe browse the shops, the fact she was not doing this was unconscionable! As it turns out she used google to see the layout of the airport, so knew where and how long it would take her to find her next gate. Your mind blown? Yea mine was too.
Ok so nothing more in this regard, now on to the ride home.

I would pick her up from the airport in a Newer Toyota Tundra, why is this significant? Well for two reasons, like most in abject poverty, she never got to ride in auto mobiles, other than their Jeepny which is a bus transport system I will explain in another blog. She would of course be blown away with the immense size of my truck, and the automatic windows, wow wee!

Now walking into my house was a bit striking for her of course, now mind you I live a solid Montana middle class, nothing fancy, just a nice old rustic home, which to her was huge. Learning to use the features within the house is where this entire story comes to.
I would have to show her right off how to use the stove, an electric stove of course so it does not get any easier than that. She was fascinated. THe washer and dryer? well all you do is place the clothes inside,dump a little bit of soap within, push the button and go have some lunch. Then the hard task of transferring clothes to the dryer came about, she was gob smacked.
The vacuum cleaner, woo wee, after two demonstrations on how to use this handy gadget I realized I was being hoodwinked into cleaning the house in its entirety uhgg!
What she really was interested in, would be the toaster, she was amazed that simply pushing a button was all that was required to cook bread.

And there you have it, the journey of a girl from abject poverty to modern amenities. I hope it makes you appreciate what you have even more. I really hope it gives you a better understanding of what two thirds of the world lives like.