Saturday, December 15, 2012

We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends

As an American expat, I'm pretty much resigned to spending the rest of my life here in the Philippines.  In fact it's unlikely that I'll even be in a position or have the desire to visit the U.S. for quite some time to come, if ever. Yet, I've always felt that it's really too bad that my wife Lydia and I had to leave the States in the first place. However, based on our income as senior citizens, there's no way that we could have afforded to retire there as opposed to being able to enjoy a modest but comfortable lifestyle in this country for the same amount of

So when we think back on our lives in America (Southern California to be exact where we married and and spent 35 years of our lives together) it's with decidedly mixed emotions. Like most couples, we've experienced both good and hard times. But what makes it easy to for us to reminisce about the former are, of all things, the home furnishings that we brought with us to the Philippines, some of which we've had for many years and that have (for us anyway) enjoyable stories behind the way and places that we acquired them. Further, Lydia has arranged them so artistically that they more than compensate for our having to downsize to a small condo here vs. our roomy former apartment in California. 

But what makes our unit especially attractive this time of the year and fires up our recollections of days of old are the holiday decorations that Lydia bought years ago and insisted on taking with us and which she arranges in a beautiful display each December. Some of these items were very expensive and others Lydia made herself out of cardboard, wood,and plastic remnants but which look as intricate as the pricey ones that she purchased back in the 1970's at such places as Bullocks Wilshire, one of Los Angeles' erstwhile premier department stores. 

So if you're planning to move abroad, along with packing the necessities, don't hesitate to also include some of your treasured belongings even if they're nonessential items but ones that you consider to be part of your history. These possessions are of course no substitute for a personal willingness and ability to adjust to new surroundings and culture, and shipping them may entail additional freight costs. But the familiarity and fond memories that they provide can give emotional comfort and a sense of continuity during and after you settle in your new environment that will be well worth it.


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

It's always nice to see things that have a meaning in your life, especially in both your case, as a couple, bringing furniture with you to the Philippines that you both acquired during your 35 years of marriage.

My wife, Aida, and I, are not so long married (24 years), but when we moved here in the Philippines, we did bring 41 large Balikbayan boxes with us (including many, many photo albums), but we sold or gave away all furniture in Canada before we moved here. The moving companies in Canada (Western Canada) - in Calgary, discouraged us to send our furnitures to the Philippines, due to the high costs and possibly high import duties, but it could have been done.

We lived in Calgary in a small apartment since 2003, (moved here in 2006) after we moved out of our house there, so we already did some scaling back on the furnitures.

We bought most furniture we have now in Metro-Manila, and they tend to be a lot cheaper than in Canada, so we are content with this.

We do however miss a few items, as they were very much treasured, but we had to leave them behind. We did bring with us most of our paintings, but only the canvas of it, and gave away or sold the frames in Canada.

We did frame them here, as framing paintings are also a lot cheaper than in Canada. They do ask an arm and a leg for this work over there. High labor costs, I suppose.

I can imagine, you are very happy that you have kept and brought over your furniture and now see history and many, many happy moments together with your wife behind every item.

Merry Christmas!!


Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your response. I should clarify that the furnishings and accessories that we brought with us were not the large items but only those that would fit in Balikbayan boxes (of which we had over 50). Like you, we (well Lydia anyway) then purchased the main portion of our big ticket furniture here in Metro-Manila.