French Mum, humanitarian, restless explorer and doer on sabbatical in Cebu (Philippines): one Attila in each arm, I am exploring the “toddlers safe” corners of the region, while trying to keep some room for Me.
Early January: The compulsory ritual of the screening of the passing year, what we did well and what we could do better.
Expatriating your family is a selfish choice: You are dragging your kids in countries they have not chosen, they must make new friends, learn new ways of life. After almost a year in Cebu, I am wondering: Is Philippines a Wise choice for my Attilas ? or should we consider heading back to Europe ?
Those poor kids have no idea of what Autumn means, its colors, its tastes, the warmth of its pashminas. Here in the Philippines, there is no season: It’s either hot and dry. Or hot and humid.
Options are limited : the Attilas can only play by the beach, explore the sea life and know how to swim like fishes before they they can walk or do a bit of trekking by the rice paddies. What kind of life is that?!
No winter shoes, No cold red nose, not even a little subway. Just flip flops, sun screen and a hat, and we are set for the day!
I just read that breathing Paris’ air equals living in a 20 sq m2 room with 8 smokers. And I am depriving my kids of my hometown, bad bad Mum!!!
Where did their French etiquette go? The baguette has long been replaced with the rice they love to eat wrapped in seaweeds. I almost feel ashamed for letting them eating their rice with their hand. Will they ever forgive me for letting them behaving like proper toddlers?
2. They will always remain “the white” and their self confidence might be at stake
My kids are the only blond heads in their school. No teacher, let alone their classmates can pronounce their name correctly, l. No way to hide in the crowd. To feel they belong to the community.
Yes but: in Asia in general and in Cebu in particular, being a white kiddo, with Big eyes and blond hair equals being a pop star. Flashes everywhere, the world pauses for endless selfies with the Attilas and any pose they would strike is worth a dozen pictures. Per fan. And they have many, many fans!
Confidence at stake? After a couple of months in the Philippines, my son would naturally answer “guapito” each time he was asked for his name. Both Attilas can sing and dance at the drop of a hat. They are so immersed into the Filipino lifestyle that they totally disagree with me when I swear that of all the martial arts, Karaoké inflicts the most pain.
What did we turn them into? They sing all the time, the loudest the merrier and are always rewarded by tons of claps of and “beautifuuuul babies! you dance very good! another song!”. Our neighbors don’t even complain, they really seem to like them…For half the noise in Europe, we would have been graced by a good dozen visits of the police and the social services 😛
3. They get confused which language to speak
They speak French with me, Swiss German with their Dad, English at school and with their friends. Ms Attila rehearses her songs in Mandarin with her brother. And they melt the hearts of the cab drivers and the guards when they show off with their few words of Cebuano.
I am always amazed each time I catch them switching from one language to another, with such easiness. No, they don’t end up mixing the languages, because we don’t. Children model what they see and hear, so if your children live in an environment in which mixing languages is NOT the norm, then they won’t.
Did I tell you that they can speak all Filipinos languages without even opening their mouth? They greet by raising their eyebrows or tossing their head, can convey a good 10 messages just by their facial expressions and already know how to perfectly point with their lips! I just wished they would not answer to all the “hoy!” and “pssst” in the crowd.
4. They don’t have a big car to drive them to school
We take the jeepney. The most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines, mostly known for their crowded seating and kitsh decorations. No, there is no air con, no room to stretch your legs (hence its nickname jeep knee!). You pass the coins to your neighbor who passes it to the next until it reaches the driver. And the change comes back to you the same way. 1 ride is 8 pesos (20 US cents) and kids don’t pay as long as they are on your laps. The Attila love riding the jeepney, because there’s no window (hence fresh air) and the other passengers are always very friendly to them, helping them in jumping in and out, squeezing to the human limits to offer them a bit of space. Want to jump out ? Just pssssssst (the universal Filipino call) or do something like sounds like a kiss to the driver . I can’t do the kiss sound, I am far too French for that, so I only knock on the roof.
5. We don’t have a TV
No Disney Channel. No cartoons for hours. The poor kids certainly miss this essential social monument. Given the terrible Filipino weather, they can only spend the day outside, by the beach, the playground, the pool. Even when it rains, it is never cold, perfect weather for muddy puddles.
No plastic Chinese toy either. I am afraid exploring the neighborhood is much more fascinating to them..
Yeah… they should be able to endure the Philippines for another year…
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