It’s inevitable that I compare my experiences to my life in Metro Manila, I realize.— JM Ibanez (@jmibanez) March 2, 2019
Also, my brain is struggling to spell English words. THANKS AUSTRALIA.
I haven’t lived here long enough for everything to be background noise, so inevitably, I’ve found myself compare things to my 30+ years of living in Metro Manila. Every time the mercury hovers near 30°C and humidity gets close to 90%, I am strongly reminded of the sweltering heat in summer, where your clothes stick to your skin, and you feel every pore of your skin clogged with the grime of the metropolis. Or in how every line of cars piling on to Pitt Street in the CBD during rush hour brings to mind EDSA traffic.
But in those times I draw comparisons with my life back in the Philippines, I am also keenly aware of how different things are: how the vast sea of people at rush hour do not have my skin tone, or that every snatch of conversation I overhear is in an accent I had only heard on TV and the movies, if not in languages completely foreign to me. And that every interaction with a shopkeeper I am constantly reminded of how awkward I am, where things go off-script (so to speak), and I need to rely on social cues and niceties still a little foreign to me.
There are things I definitely miss about Metro Manila. There’s an energy that I miss from living in a densely packed metropolitan area, where you can grab a bite to eat late at night, even in the suburbs: I miss the coffee shops, open until 11pm or even midnight, where I would spend my nights writing code in my freelance days; I miss my favorite late-night shawarma place, where I would drop by in the wee hours of the morning, if I so craved a good wrap.
That said, living here is different.
There’s a sense that public infrastructure works, even if I’ve occasionally come across some whinging about the trains: I mean, seriously – if you’ve never ridden the MRT in Manila on a rush hour during typhoon season, you have no reason to complain about train delays in my book.
Queues remind me of Manila, in a bad way pic.twitter.com/btCoYYc3NG— JM Ibanez (@jmibanez) December 31, 2018
And when I do see vehicles queueing due to heavy traffic, I am also reminded of how vastly different it is to the carmaggedon that I have seen EDSA devolve into.
I have not yet lived here long enough to see its seedy underbelly, so I am still seeing things with rose-colored glasses. In comparing my six months of life here, I am inevitably comparing the best of Sydney with some of the worst of Metro Manila – that I am also aware of.
All in all, however, I do believe in taking it all in: the good and the bad. Eventually, maybe, I’ll see myself as a denizen of this city.
Until then: I’ll probably sound like a broken record, comparing everything to Manila.