The Observed Other (that’s me)*

Delving deep into my undergraduate past I keep on repeating the term ‘Othering’ in my mind these days.

For those of you who didn’t do a Bugger All degree or spent that lecture at the uni bar, Othering theory of identity creation asserts that identity is formed only through the establishment of a boundary recognised by other groups (Deloria I believe, or Derrida … meh, some po-mo wanker). In other words, you are you because you are not ‘them’.

Filipino culture possesses a fascination for outsiders, particularly Americans, but at the same time that friendly fascination is based on misunderstanding and marginalisation fuelled by mass media images of the ideal Westerner.

The smiling children saying ‘Hey Joe’ and asking me where I am going is understandable. I am an oddity here and children don’t have a social filter yet, in short kids are kids and they say the darn’est things.

But it is rare that I go a day without someone telling me I am beautiful, rich and can I help them get a job/husband/send money to them from Australia/America (often being one and the same place). Or my favourite request, can they touch my pointy nose?

This marginalisation and idealism of ‘me’, the great rich White saviour is creating a disturbing effect in my own mind. The terms ‘they, them, those’ slip into my vocabulary creating an additional barrier. I have appropriated some Pinoy-isms and love the Philippines but at the same time draw a boundary around my self-constructed ideal of ‘me’.

Although I am put on a pedestal for being different they (them, those urgh, I hate that term) expect me to be the same. At 29 with no husband, no children, no church and only one brother (explaining that I have step-siblings oh my god…) I don’t fit the social construct and shock many locals with my lack of concern not having a husband at this age.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

With the constant gaze of the town upon me, it also brings to mind Observation theory. I now have a slightly inhibited gait when I walk, overanalysing the swing my arms and movement of my chest. The mere fact that I am even
cognisant of the way that I walk is crazy and would only ever happen at home if I walked past a group of men at night.

I leave in November, just before the next batch of Peace Corps arrives. I hope the real ‘Joes’ are not too precious about their personal space, have robust egos that can take personal comments and most importantly have a good sense of humour.

*Warning: this is my most self indulgent, wanky and whimsical post yet – you have been warned

Bits and pieces of existence in Samar

If you are looking for profound cultural insights and keen observations you’re at the wrong corner of cyberspace (why does no one use that term anymore?)

I think I’m running low on go-go juice and I ain’t talking about the always obtainable Tanduay Rum which is cheaper than water.

My family has come and gone and they gave me a much needed break from blackouts, work and flushing my ta-e away with buckets of water. And for those of wondering the fate of porky, she feed the neighbourhood and my father was incredibly impressed. What better way can a daughter show her love and gratitude to her Dad’s tolerance and understanding over all these years? Get the man a pig; a tasty, dead pig.

It’s funny the information that you absorb in your surroundings without even realising. Although Dad was well pleased, I was very unimpressed with my lechonerro. I thought to myself when he was cooking, “That is too hot and he is turning too quickly.”

Like when I watch sport during the Olympics and I’m suddenly an expert in synchronised diving or table tennis; I’m now an authority on cooking whole pigs.

Two months of trabaho left and I gripped by two diametrically opposed states of mind, “Oh crap” and “F’k yeah!” The latter is the side of me that is sick of the same conversations (“Where is your companion?”, “You’re a Mormon ma’am?”, “Where are you going?”); the multiple sets of eyes that are constantly on me where ever I go and whatever I do; and the shittiest music played on repeat for hours (My my my myyy Poker face … Umbrella ella ella eh eeh eh…).  And I miss the amazing bunch of freaks I call my friends and family back home, sometimes I’d kill for a Margaret River shiraz, perving on boys with scruffy hair at the Courtie and a crumpet dripping in butter.

But the “Oh crap!” is I still have so much to see and do here and the clock now has an audible tick. I doubt I’ll have time to see the stunning rock formations of Biri or go spelunking in Western Samar. More importantly I can see so many marketing opportunities for SPPI that I just don’t have time to get off the ground. Hopefully another AYAD can carry the torch.

My suggestion to the next intrepid volunteer that ventures here, bring the mother of all ipod docking stations to blast any tropical depressions away.