My experience of the Philippines improved considerably when I got to Davao and met Jackie.
Contrary to what may be implied by my flight schedule and some of the dubious guesthouses I've accidentally ended up staying in recently, I'm not a sex tourist. A combination of empathy, respect, disgust and fear keep me safe from even considering the prospect of (ab)using a prostitute or trying to get a genuine massage (even when I went for a haircut here, the barber whispered in my ear and it turned out to be a thinly camouflaged brothel), so I'm free to be disgusted by the haggard old men with their young travel-companions-with-a-tip without any nagging sense of hypocrisy that I'm similarly taking advantage and being taken advantage of.
True, most of the girls I've got close to while I've been travelling have ended up using me as a bank, much as the guy I shared a flat with in Scotland did, but in these situations we were all looking for a potential long term partner in each other (the Scottish guy excepted). It usually took around six months or £12,000 for me to realise there was no hope of salvaging things.
Like most people, I'd be happy to share my life with one great person, but having been subjected to enough aspirational propaganda over the years, and not being burdened by the social obligation of Korean women to settle down with the least worst thing that comes along before I reach the freedom deadline of 30, I have to keep trying for as long as necessary or die alone having given it my best shot. I have a good feeling about Jackie.
I'm not on a mission to sleep my way around the world or tick off nationalities on some sort of horribly chauvinistic international girls score board (but if you really need to know it's five, not that I'm counting apart from just then), but I do like the idea of being in an interracial relationship. Maybe it's the challenge, the change or just the fact that I've always been attracted to short, cute, dark haired girls (the entire female population of Sweden sighs in dismay), and I'm more likely to find that in Asian countries. Where they often conveniently prefer people who look like me and my daft witches nose is an object of admiration rather than ridicule.
Even when I've tried to convince myself about a girl in the past, something would usually stop me from plastering this affection all over my website. A mixture of taste and the nagging sense that things probably weren't going to work out. When I travelled for a few months with someone last year I started to think that maybe we could have something, to the point that I forced myself to publish a long-postponed (now deleted) blog post about it, but my enthusiasm would always be curbed when I remembered she had kids and there was an impending deadline of her needing to get a job and settle down, instead of relying on my increasingly reluctant donations to support her large, work-shy family.
I tried not to just think about myself, for the first time in my life, but when she admitted that she'd seriously thought about breaking up with me several times after I'd got stressed by taxi drivers, fallen over in public and caused her mild embarrassment or had the audacity to question whether I should really be the one paying for the funeral of a distant member of her family I'd never even met, I realised she wasn't putting herself under similar altruistic stress and I gave myself permission to put my own happiness first.
As an extreme introvert who's content with his own company, I don't get particularly lonely when I'm single, though travelling in countries where I don't know anyone and where I don't talk to fellow travellers because there's a good chance they'll be dicks (two of the three terrible tourists I've met on my travels were in the Philippines - the American making a customer service complaint about a prostitute and the Canadian who tried to recruit me in his project to exploit a maid), the loneliness does get more pronounced. I'm like the guy in Doctor Who in that respect, I go a little crazy and misanthropic when I'm not accompanied by an attractive young woman of a different species (and in the respect that our initials are both DW. Yes, I know that isn't his actual name, you pedantic bastard). So I was happy to meet Jackie in Davao after talking over email for a few weeks, and not only because it stopped me watching quite so much Doctor Who in my spare time.
There isn't much else to do in Davao
Not only does Jackie not have family baggage or dystopian financial obligations, but she speaks English practically as a native language, so
She also made the decision to convert from mainstream Catholicism to the obscure Tabernacle of David church at some point in her life, and the Jewish faith has always seemed like one of the more fun ones to me (admittedly this is largely thanks to people like Larry David), and means I don't have to be sensitive when broaching the subject of 'you do know what those priests get up to, right?' I just get to treat the burden of having to learn foreign words for pork and other non-kosher ingredients when we travel as a fun challenge. This is what I'm saying in week one anyway...
Don't worry, that doesn't mean this blog will become a sickly romance novel or lose its cynical edge when we start travelling together, though if things keep going well I might have to start manufacturing annoyances to keep the stress quotient up. Like going to Cambodia next, that ought to do the trick!