Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Angst of an OFW

A lot of articles were already written, printed, reprinted, told, and retold about stories of the life of being an OFW. These stories rarely end up in happily ever after. Even the beginning didn't start off as exciting as a fairy tale does. But this is the life, this is the reality of being an Overseas Filipino Worker.

Working abroad, as I bitterfly discovered is not for the faint hearted. Placing a thousand miles of distance between you and your loved ones is one herculean sacrifice in the hope of providing a better future for yourself, for your family and for your relatives.

Movies are filmed and stories are written about the life of every Filipino all over the world. Their life, their work and how they deal with the realities of actually being on their own.

I admit there are horror stories everywhere. Every country where Filipinos worked their butt off for a good amount of money has feed the media stream, but sometimes, it doesn't deliver the exact message.

I can only say my piece on the countries I have lived and worked at. I had a short stint in Singapore, but life there for the Filipinos is acceptable. They can earn even a low salary of SGD 1200 and still be able to send some money to their family and save enough for themselves.

In Abu Dhabi, I am lucky I am living a reasonable life. My husband and I can afford to rent a room on our own. Privacy in Abu Dhabi is quite expensive. And some people would rather not have any of those just to be able to save enough and fill that Balikbayan box before they get home. What's in a balikbayan box? It's basically ordinary grocery goods we find in every grocery store in the world. Every payday, this box is filled with whatever is on sale at the grocery store. Thinking not only of the immediate family who will be benefitting from it but also the neighbors who are undoubtedly be doing housecalls by the second day of your vacation.

Most Filipinos think that working abroad makes any OFW rich. And that they can afford any luxury and indulgences in the Philippines. LIttle do they know that, some would just skip eating meals to have enough savings. Or resort to bank loans to have enough money to feed the entire barangay when they get home. Some even go with taking boyfriends so somebody could sponsor their groceries. OFWs would do all sorts of unspeakable things just to provide for the family.

I hope the people back at home knows the horror that OFW's have to resort to in order to stay longer in a country of sand and sun.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coffee Break!

What is a day without a coffee break? People from all working class would probably end up loopy before the week ends. Most people can't live without their caffeine fix. For most it became the energy drink to start off the day. And some its the morning slap that wakes them up. Its intoxicating. Its addictive. Its coffee.

After a year and few months of living in Abu Dhabi, you would understand the importance of coffee in their culture. Its like every hour they need to sip a cup of caffeine. I used to be a coffee monster. I could finish off 2-3 cups of coffee in a day. Plus this coffee is loaded with creamer and sugar, imagine my horrific reaction when I learned about the total calories I am chugging down with just a cup of coffee. So I stopped. Occasionally I reward myself with lattes but not as often as I want.

Abu Dhabi is home for coffee connoisseur. If Italy have their espresso that shoots up caffeine straight into your brain (well, that's how my father described it) UAE have their Turkish and Arabic coffee. If you prefer to drown yourself with strong coffee while inhaling endless cigarette smoke then Turkish coffee would be the perfect blend for you. For experimental purposes, I asked our office boy to give me the lowdonw on turkish coffee. The coffee is served in small portion. They used small cups that looks like small china tea cups. The coffee is prepared using the cezve. It is a small pot directly placed on top of the electrical stove. First hot water is put inside and let it boil for a few minutes. Then put 2 spoonful of that powdered coffee bean and sugar. After a minute or two it is poured on the glass. No Need to stir. Boil and serve.

In our office we have a lot of cezve, because many of the employees request for Turkish coffee. According to our office boy, they can't prepare another turkish coffee using the left over of the first batch. It is haram as he said it or not allowed in their religion. One batch is only good for one drink also.

I tried tasting this and I must admit it tasted ok. Like bitter and sweet combine in one but the smell is definitely a stinker. It smelled like feet. No offense meant.

The arabic coffee is not for the faint hearted. If Turkish coffee was strong Arabic coffee is way stronger. I didn't dare to sample it. But the taste of the Turkish coffee is enough proof that its probably stronger.

The perfect way of enjoying this cofee is with a hookah/shisha, but that would have to wait for another blogging day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Night at the Desert

You have never been to Duabi/ Abu Dhabi if you haven't done dune bashing. Seriously. This is the ultimate adventure when you are visiting Middle East.

I have been living in UAE for almost 2 years now, and I just recently bashed the dunes. And I must say it was totally awesome! Is this too much? I actually don't care. I was really fun. Ok, to the business - let me tell you about Desert Safari.

Unlike Africa, the safari here in UAE is not about observing and taking photagraphs of animals in the wild, but instead, you take a ride on a 4 x 4 wheel drive SUV's and drive along the sand dunes.

Once inside, you'll probably end up being tossed around during the whole trip. But it was a shake worth taking. After 15-20 minutes of dipping and climbing sand, we are dropped off in the middle of the desert where an enclosed area is set up. Outside the enclosed area is a long queue for tourists to take a ride with the camel. Another queue for those who want to do sand boarding and another for those who would like to try the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). The ATV is not for free, it will cost you AED 100 for an hour of bashing the sand.

I took a short ride on the camel. I must say it was weird and exciting at the same time. Weird because I was expecting it would feel hard and solid and it won't be that high. When I sat on its rump, I could actually feel it breathing and when it stood up I realized I am 4 meters above the ground. Skittish me, had my eyes shut the entire time.

After the camel ride, we went inside and tables on carpet everywhere. A barbecue was going on the left side of the enclosed area. A queue for the henna was at the right side. Another side of the enclosed area, was a queue for the welcome drinks and welcome snack. We roam for a bit to look for a perfect spot. There were so many people too difficult to grab a table with a good strategic location.

The welcome drinks were all soda and water. You can drink all you want. Beers are sold for AED 30.00 if you want to get wasted before the belly dancing performance.

The snack consisted of a vegetable samosa and some fried eggplant. It was good. The main dinner will start after the belly dancing show, which was around 8:00 pm. The belly dancer was not that interesting. I've seen better dancers and sexier. But it was ok.

The dinner was good. There plenty of briyani rice and some grilled chicken and lamb. It was filling. enough for everybody. During the dinner another dancer performed. A guy wearing this huge skirt. He was twirling and doing a lot of pretty nifty tricks. I loved that show.

After that, we were already summoned by our driver. It was already late, around 10:30 pm when we reached the drop-off point. We even had trouble finding the bus that will take us back to Dubai downtown area.

The trip back to the city proper took almost half an hour. Despite the long trip and sand everywhere. It was fun. I would definitely do it again and again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Undas Abroad

Among the festive public holidays in the Philippines, I always look forward for undas. Undas in vernacular simply refers to the two public holidays of November - All Saints Day and All Souls Day. People all over the country flock the cemetery to visit departed love ones and spend the entire day and sometimes overnight with the rest of the family.

I never get the chance to do the overnight thing. Strict parental rules. But that's ok. I remember way back during undas at the cemetery the festive air usually start the day before. October 31 is the day when you set up the tents, mark your property line (that is if you don't have your own mausoleum) then the electrical lines, the furniture and other portable appliances that you could squeeze into your tent. Also, the day before the big undas day is the time when wives and girls of different ages will prepare picnic food to take. Whether it would be for a meal or just for pica-pica. Kakanin or the native deliassies are a big hit during this time.

The sort of 'party' start at dusk. When the sun sets and all prayers have been said and candles lit, people with good vantage locations will take their position and start people watching. Or sometimes, will go roam around the area and visit friends and acquantances grave. Booths are set up on some free areas of the cemetery where food are sold even toys are also a big hit specially the ones with the lights.

I miss this. I miss the noise and and I miss the food. But let us not forget the reason for this day. This is the day we particularly celebrate for out departed love ones. Though we visit them and include them in our payers any day and any time of the year, this is their special day.

A thousand miles away from all of this, my husband and I attended the mass and lit candles for our loved ones in celeration of this special day. Minus the usual raucous activity of the cemetery, the church was also packed with church goers, canlde lighters and even kakanins are sold outside.

I guess undas can be anywhere you want it to be. For our dear departed, they will always be in our prayers.