It came like a tornado. I always dreamed of living abroad and having an adventure. Holding an iced latte, walking to work in an unfamiliar town with unfamiliar faces. Within just a week after getting the offer, poof! I was on a flight to Singapore. I didn’t have time to process this big change in my life. Hell, I didn’t even have a proper farewell party. I told myself buti na lang it’s only three hours away. I can always go home if it doesn’t work out.
I felt brainless. The first few weeks were overwhelming. So many new things. So many things to figure out. What should I wear to work? What do they wear here? What’s smart casual here? How do I pronounce my team’s names? Is Lah his name? Are they still speaking in English? Where do people go for lunch? Where is my bus stop? Mag-taxi na lang kaya ako? Where can I buy toiletries? Wow, these are expensive! Abot pa kaya Sing dollars ko this week?
The most overwhelming thing about moving abroad is finding a place to live.
Then there’s that added challenge of not being familiar with the place. Is it near the office or far? Public transport accessible? Are there places to eat? Groceries nearby? And then, knowing if the place is sulit or mahal. It's just that sometimes, you really just want a place to call home.
My house hunting experience was definitely an adventure. I initially moved in with my sister and her two housemates. During my first week, we found out we had to move out. So I returned a newly purchased Ikea cabinet and spent my second week in town looking for a new house. To cut the long story short, after three months of jumping on that plane, I had lived with six different people that included a beer-loving Spaniard, a suit-loving Barney Stinson Chinoy, a sarcastic Belgian, an Indonesian party girl lawyer, a tapa-loving Morrocan and a Russian Buddhist MMA fighter.
The tinman in me finds a heart. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned living abroad is that you forge such strong friendships in a short amount of time.
I’m a reserved person. My friends back home were people I’ve known since we were playing jackstone or friends from college theater where our shared passion bonded us together. We’d hang out just like any other barkada but I was also perfectly happy spending my Saturdays at home binging on Gossip Girl.
I don’t know if it was because I still felt like a tourist? I wasn’t used to being alone? I mean after all even if I was just at home in Manila, my parents and the maids were in the other rooms so I'd never really be totally alone. Pero hindi ako mapakali. Basta may magyaya, go!
And then tada! I had a crew that I was always with. A crew that I may have only been hanging out with for less than six months. A crew that I can’t even name five things that we shared passion over except food and Facebook memes. Yet we were family. They were the kind of friends that made you a bridesmaid after only one year of hanging out; pretended to be the main tenant because it stressed you out to chase the other tenant on rent or jumped on a plane with you for a 24-hour trip to Malaysia because you’ve been having a shitty week. A crew where you can be both the old and new version of yourself.
A lion rediscovers courage.
Being in a place where no one cares about who you are is liberating.
We experiment when we’re in our teens and settle with who we are in our 20s. Or so I thought. Hey! I was happy with myself and what I had accomplished before I moved to Singapore. But living away from the comfort of who I thought I was made me brave.
I don’t like physical activities, clubbing, doing things alone and keeping in touch with people I don’t see. Yet being thrown without a safety net of my own predispositions, I started to think, Why not?! Hindi ko ikamamatay yan.
And there, I found myself organizing bubble football, joining clay pigeon shooting, partying on a yacht, watching concerts alone, traveling other countries alone and even found myself traveling all the way to New York to enter a long distance relationship. (We’re together in Singapore now <3).
Nothing could have prepared me for this journey. Inisip ko lang noon parang fun to work in another city and meet new people. But I never expected how it would change me.
So if ever you do come across a tornado of your own, embrace it.
Ride it. And you will have the adventure of a lifetime.