An Uneventful Flight
Right after loading all our furniture and other belongings into a 20-foot container and shipping it, we took a Cathay Pacific flight from Vancouver, Canada to Hong-Kong and then another flight from Hong-Kong to Cebu. The flight from Vancouver to Hong-Kong
took 13 hours and both kids were still wide awake when we took off at 2 am on February 25th. Fortunately, both Kristin (5) and Careu (4) were both fast asleep during most of that grueling flight.
My wife and I took turns taking the third seat in an economy class row where the kids slept. It was a very uncomfortable seat because whoever sat there also had to have Careu’s head on her lap. To make the kids sleep comfortably, we lifted all handrests, and we
had both kids lay down on all three seats with their legs tangled together in the middle seat. Kristin’s head was on the first seat by the window, while Careu’s head was on the lap of whoever sat in the third seat by the aisle.
The one-hour changeover in Hong-Kong was just enough for us to navigate to the next flight and go through all security checks.
Nutcracker in March
We arrived in Cebu on a Thursday, February 26th, 2009. The hotel we stayed in was called "Alpa City Suites", a new, medium-sized, extended-stay type hotel designed for businessmen located right in the heart of Cebu City. The rooms were spartan but very clean, and the service was excellent.
It took us only a week to find a place to live and also choose a used car to buy. There are many houses and townhomes for rent, and there are also many cars for sale.
We signed the lease for a townhouse on the first Thursday of March. I wanted to check out of the hotel as soon as possible because, although it was relatively cheap, at 2,880 Pesos (US$59) a day, it was still a considerable expense. By Friday we had bought a refrigerator, a stove, and a portable air conditioner from Ace Hardware in SM City Mall. We also had two window-type air conditioners removed from my mother-in-law’s house and installed in the townhouse by Saturday. On Sunday, March 8th, we moved in.
That same Sunday we even had time to watch some Nutcracker dances at the Ayala Mall Terrace. My half-brother Jeff is a member of the dance company (Ballet
Center Cebu) and he made sure we came to see it. It was an exhilirating performance in a beautiful garden of a place. The Terrace in Ayala Mall is an
elongated park shaped liked the island of Cebu: lush tropical plants and several water fountains adorn its many walkways. On one side is a stage that is
visible from all the big verandas surrounding the park. It felt strange watching several Nutcracker numbers in a hot place in March, but it was certainly
worth much more than the free price of admission. The dancers were all sweaty from the heat, but their smiles were as happy as their performance was
Above: Kristin and Careu pose with a Terrace fountain in the background.
Left: Ballet Center Cebu dancers performing a Nutcracker number in the Ayala Mall Terrace.
Danger just around the Corner
The tourism bureau of Cebu claims (in a cable channel dedicated to tourism) that the city of 3.7 million has a lower crime rate than Hong-Kong. We felt safe during our first week, in the hotel. But the tabloids tell a different story: last month three call center employees were either killed or harmed by robbers who then got away scot free on motorcycles.
Call centers are a big business in Cebu: they mostly receive thousands of calls a day from customers of U.S. companies. From the standpoint of call center employees, the pay, at about 12,000 Pesos per month, is very good; but from the standpoint of the U.S. companies, it’s a huge bargain (about U.S.$247 per month). Most employees work at night because most calls come in during U.S. daytime. It is when the night shift ends, on payday, that most attacks occur.
My wife’s relatives have helped us a lot. Two of them picked us up at the airport in an SUV and a pickup truck, so we had no problem with our luggage consisting of 7 large boxes and a suitcase each weighing about 50 pounds. Another lent us a car for our exclusive use for two weeks. Almost all relatives we have come into contact have warned us of the dangers and advised us of precautions to take. We were told of stories like house maids being used by criminals to gain entry into homes, and of whole families getting killed when there was no cash stored in the house. Just this week the big grocery store (Foodarama) where some of my wife’s friends work was robbed at gunpoint.
The good news is that Cebu City has a much lower crime rate than either Hong-Kong or Manila, according to the tourism bureau.
At times, specially when I am tired, I feel like going back to the U.S. After all, I have a family to feed and ensure the future for. Did I make the right decision? I have my doubts, but what keeps me going is my belief in happy endings. Statistically, the odds are against me: the competition for survival is stiff from the standpoint of millions of sperms that don’t make it to the egg, of millions of salmon that die during a life-long trek across the Pacific and back to their nesting grounds in the U.S. Northwest, of millions of entrepreneurs who try and fail. However, it’s not really a binary world. There is a whole range of possibilities from failure to success. At the moment, I’d be happy just to recoup the large initial expense.
Philosophically, my belief in happy endings is grounded on the fact that we, the human race, exist at all. It’s very, very, very long story from the Big Bang to the present, and that story seems to culminate in us. It’s a story with a very happy ending indeed.
There’s a reason why stories with happy endings sell, and tragedies don’t. We are programmed to hope for the best. Hope is a necessity for human action. A lot of University-educated folks pretend to dislike happy endings, saying that such stories are "contrived". I say that a tragedy is even more contrived. The whole plot of a tragedy is designed such that the protagonist fails.
I plan to track my own happy ending plot, and I will not allow us to fail.