Monday, July 31, 2006

Living Scared

Don't ask me why, but chatting with Tara, we somehow began talking about fear. Actually, I brought it up, telling her how it would be so easy, after moving to a foreign country, to just give in to the fear of all those things unknown, let yourself be paralyzed by alienation, and end up doing nothing with your days save nervously figuring out what maybe you could be doing with your life if only you weren't here.

I felt it strongly the first six months of living here. There it was in how I would tell myself in the supermarket to hurry, hurry, hurry, pack those groceries into those plastic bags quick, you don't want to annoy the other people waiting in line behind you, make them think you're an inefficient foreigner, because you can't explain that back in the Philippines where labor is cheap, young men hired by the store and called baggers would do this for you, so you never had to think before of such things as, do the canned vegetables go on top of the bags of fruits or below them?

There it was, too, in how, even if in my head I knew the foreign words, I could open my mouth but wouldn't let them escape past my lips. Pieces of uncertainty choking me: I'm not sure it's the correct conjugation. I wouldn't be able to pronounce the Rs the properly. Do I use vous or tu? Wanting to get it all exactly right, not wanting to sound stupid, I ended up sounding nothing at all.

Fear invaded my home, made me too demanding. Can you fill up these papers for me, Pierre? Can you make a phone call? Too clingy. What time are you coming home from work tonight? What time exactly? It also isolated me. I'm sorry, but I don't want to go to that party, it's going to be filled with, well, French people.

Now I'm afraid that this is going to start sounding like a "Go, Girl" kind of piece. Empowering, enlightening, oh-so-fit for Cosmopolitan Philippines. It can't be helped.

I don't know how it happened, but it did. I got tired of my own timidity. As I told Kala and Makis the day we met in Arles and they were surprised that I was haggling at the market when they don't think it's acceptable practice over here, I don't look French anyway, so why should I insist too hard on acting like one. I'll be a Pinay, who happens to be living in France, take my time packing my groceries, roll my Rs, give my husband space but still insist he opens doors and pulls chairs out for me. And, yep, continue making tawad at the markets too.

P.S. If any of you reading this happen to work for Cosmopolitan Philippines, please remind Ianne Evangelista to send me a jpeg file of the article I actually wrote for the magazine. I e-mailed her twice, but it's bouncing back, so help, please. Merci!


decorator said...

ill tell ianne tomorrow atih...

i honestly don't know how to react at your entry. it is so not you... i miss the chuckle at the end.

you take good care of yourself there. mwah!!!


A said...

Mamu I just read your article the other day! Kaso I was in a wine shop, so baka magalit yung owner kung ninenok ko yung mag. Woohoo!

Anonymous said...

Ati, I completely agree with you. I think that there is nothing wrong with you embracing your culture while trying to come up with your own flavor/method/personal touch towards assimilation in the French culture. I must say that this is a breakthrough in your cross cultural process! I remember that a professor talked about it in class. The moment wherein you are no longer trying everything/paralyzing yourself to fit in completely, at the same time keeping everything about your culture close to your heart, then you become a person with a multicultural identity! I am going to look for the textbook and send it to you! Love and kisses!
P.S. I'll call you this weekend, I am having my own paralyzing fears from the past!

apol said...

Naku, GWYN, ano ito, slight repackaging. Nagsasawa na ako writing with a "chuckle at the end." Nakaka-limit! Minsan, serious naman tayo, see where the blog goes that way. But, if you read the entry again, not look for the chuckle, you'll see that I'm superfine! The best I've ever been actually :) We'll have to chat about it.

ABI, hee, pa-deep ba? Wine shop? Para ba yan sa blog party natin?

KAT, please do send it to me. Cultural identity is a subject that I currently find very interesting. Call me, yes!

Anonymous said...

Apol, I found the book. I think it says that you are in the throes of cultural empathy (having warm fuzzies about your culture while learning and living another) and working your way towards a multicultural identity. I will scan the pages and send them to you para mabasa mo agad. I think you will find it very interesting.

decorator said...

atih, i know you are going to be fine... eh fita the fighter ka eh... or is it bonakid, batang may laban?


pero lukring ang buong idea ng cultural identity... kung nasa labas ka ng bansa (a eh, tulad mo), kailangan mo syang yakapin para lubusang maintindihan. kailangan mo syang yakapin kasi wala kang choice really...

pero grabe atih, may mga days na naka-upo ako sa office at naaalala kita... na sobrang namimiss... as in.

Jun Ramirez said...

Actually, I was in a salon when I read about your blogs in Cosmo, it made me cry, don't worry, nagpapagupit po ko ako at 'di ko nanggugupit, hehehe! I miss you Apol, it has been ages since I saw you in Greenbelt, where else, haha! I wanted to steal the cosmo mag, pero nakakahiya, libre na nga gupit, may libre pa ba mag?

Anonymous said...

I think cultural identity is a maarte concept, but when you try to make a life for yourself in a country where nothing is familiar, mahirap magpaka Pinoy. Especially when there's nothing in the new country that reminds you of being Pinoy.

Apol, did you know that native food is the most important to a person who is not in his own country? Kasi malakas yung connection between food and emotion. That's why you buy toyo for two euros.

apol said...

Hahahahahaha!!! KAT, we just had chicken adobo with rice for dinner last night. And I bought TWO big bottles of toyo this time. May discount, three euros fifty cents na lang :)

Hay, GWYN and JUN, ganyan talaga effect ng pheromones ko sa mga bading! Namimiss ko din kayo no. Na-scare ako sa dalawang bading na na-meet ko dito, George Michael in his WHAM days ang fashion!

decorator said...


btw, told na ianne. e-mail nya raw sayo.

Katrina said...

Apol, I'm sure you've read David Sedaris. He was HERE in Manila last week for a reading/signing, and he was absolutely hilarious, not to mention extremely friendly! One of the essays he read from was about living in France and not knowing much more French than "d'accord." While laughing at his misadventures, I couldn't help thinking of you, going through your own Pinay-in-Provence experience. I really enjoy your witty, yet so very HUMAN, take on your life transplant. Especially considering the Filipino diaspora, I bet if you compiled your blog entries and published a book, it'd sell very well. Attention, Summit Books! ;-)

apol said...

KAT, did you try to call me last night? I was in some French version of Enchanted kingdom, so I didn't hear the ringing. Call again, ha.

GWYN, salamat. Chat tayo soon.

KATRINA, I'm very flattered. Somebody else is urging me to do that, but I only really started writing this blog last September, so I've not nearly enough material. Let's see after six more months. It's unfair, though, you read up on my life, but I don't know what's going on with you! How's the work? the parties? Felipe? Uy, they have some pretty dumb TV shows here din. I'll blog about it soon and dedicate it to you :)

Katrina said...

How I wish I actually had time to write a blog! I'm busy at work, but doing all right. Felipe's practice is doing very's ABOUT TIME! ;-) We don't go out half as often as we used to, mostly because there are hardly any places left that we like going to. But we still do enjoy the occasional night of partying. :-)

Ayayay, Pinoy TV...don't even get me started! Did you hear about the "Wowowee" debacle? The horror, the horror!!!

Makis said...

Never even thought about being French while in France. Oi, I also used to haggle at markets before pero I stopped na after 6 years ;-) I-tuloy ang pag wagayway ng pagiging Pinoy sa Pransya!

apol said...

You must know what I'm talking about, MAKIS. That trying SO HARD to live by their rules that you become uncomfortable in your own skin? Just so they don't judge you as, well, inferior. I felt it anyway, still sometimes do, although am getting better and better at getting over it. Baka ito yung root nung sinasabi mong personal change mo? From spontaneous loka girl who can get away with packing just a toothbrush to somebody who has to know the location even of gas stations on the way?

Makis said...

I also stopped caring about what they think long ago & I thought that the root of my personal change was a mix of already adopting to their boring way of life & of just getting older :) Naku, like losing spontaneity. Let's talk about it more when we meet up!

lb said...

fear fear fear. to live in a country that is so familiar--we have the same language, the same celebrities, the same mcdonalds, starbucks, walt disney--you think it would be easier.
yes, here the nuances are subtle, but not any less daunting then the wrong verb conjugation, the way you hold up a supermarket line.

here the fear it this: i know everything already. so it should be so easy. yet, it is not.

when i got sick with acid in my stomach my officemate gave me medicine. "Ahh, Mah-ah-lox! Thank god." I said. She raised an eyebrow and said, "Maylox, you mean?"

Um, yeah. Maylox.

Everyone apologizes when you don't get shotgun, but really "I prefer sitting in the backseat. I'm used to it." Who sits with the driver, anyway?

And there's Poker nights. And TV shows like "Saved By The Bell." And homecoming events like tailgating. And all these other things that everyone takes for granted, but since I'm not different enough ("how can you not know this? didn't you grow up here?) it makes it more jarring when i'm reminded that I am really, deep in my heart, a continent away.

it's better, obviously, when i celebrate it (i never have to talk to guys who hit on me if they're ugly and i say "NO SPEEKEE ENGLISS") and pronounce the difference so that everyone knows who i am, who i am not.

still, there goes another fear: who am i now? who am i not anymore? usually, i don't know.

apol said...

That is so honest, LB. Na-touch ako :) Come back and tell me more.