Thursday, July 17, 2014

Literally going up in the world

I keep having to re-learn the lesson that comfortable living requires spending at least a little of the money I'm defensively hoarding. It goes against my instincts, since saving money is supposed to be one of the few silver linings I get from living in this place. You've already taken the libraries and basic human courtesy, don't take the savings away from me too.

It is possible to a rent a small 'house' in Davao City for the equivalent of £22.73 per month (1,700 pesos). I know, I did it. But that arousing price tag required making so many sacrifices to comfort and hygiene that it was hardly 'living' at all, at least through the spoiled perspective of my first world upbringing, all la-de-da with indoor toilets and a reliable water supply.

Compared to that, the studio apartment we moved on to seemed like Wayne Manor. It was just the one room and right next to an inappropriately noisy car repair yard, but it was at least close to a supermarket and the water came out of the tap about 70% of the time, so for £160.50 (12,000 pesos, including bills) I was sold. But then the bugs came, and the rat/s, and the afternoon-long power cuts, and I could no longer shelter myself from the hardships of this country by spending 99% of my existence indoors. The Philippines had got in.

When we escaped to Thailand for a month and visited friends in their properly nice condominium in Koh Samui, I couldn't face going back to the bugs.

So my girlfriend found us a nice place in another part of Davao without any of these annoyances (so far), where I can finally enjoy peace and quiet (by Philippines standards anyway) and actually feel like I'm on a tropical island when I look out of the window (admittedly, one of the spoiled, urban bits). I knew they were hiding the trees somewhere. Most surprisingly of all, I've learned that it's possible for the human body to be a comfortable temperature indoors without having to run air conditioners and powerful fans 24 hours a day, thanks to a modern invention called fresh air. That's good news for the environment, even better news for my electricity bill.

It would be inelegant to tell you how much this My First Condo starter kit costs. It's £200.67 per month (15,000 pesos), which is the going rate in my preferred high-end-of-budget bracket, though that's without the monthly Wi-Fi and utility bills that will bring it closer to what I was paying a few years ago to share a similarly utilitarian flat with two other people in Edinburgh. But I did get to live in Edinburgh, so that was fair enough.

Maybe now the quality of my day-to-day life has been taken up a notch I'll finally be able to find other things to like about this country too, beyond the moderate savings. I heard that disparaging grunt! Don't spoil this rare window of optimism for me. I stayed in a lousy hotel on my first couple of nights back and at one low point made a list of the numerous things that had already pissed me off in the 48 hours since landing, I'll spare you that.

I know a suburban condo next to a petrol station isn't exactly the height of luxury, but until we work out what exactly we're doing with our lives, and I invest in a nice subdivision house here or we relocate to another part of the world, I'm perfectly content to be a number in a vertical human storage unit. I'm climbing the property ladder one step at a time, even if this time it involved ascending several storeys in the non-metaphorical real world. The minor earthquakes are more enjoyable from this height, and if the pests and power cuts do catch up with me, at least there's a convenient suicide window.

Since I'm probably not going to write any blogs for a while, I should clarify that last bit was a joke. Don't worry, I'm probably fine. As fine as I get.


  1. Looks nice! Is the pool always nice and empty like that or do you get it spoiled by kids? By pools have gone rubbish -- a Korean (guess) family have moved in with a squadron of kids taking over the first one and a constantly drunk/high Englishman (the worst) has decided to always use the other. Yesterday he asked where we were from (repeat questions from the day before, seemingly having no idea he'd already spoken to us) then offered us pills/lines and started going on about 'them Muslims' and 'them Jews'.

    1. Can't believe I missed the chance to meet your buddy.

      I've only seen people in the pool a couple of times, it's been quiet outside (so far). Jackie was here at the weekend and it apparently gets busy then, maybe that's when I'll shut the window and plug in the air con. I have no desire to use the pool and be in the centre of a vast arena of hundreds of potential eyes, probably only if my niblings visit.

      I've seen a few Americans around (this means white foreigners like me) and Chinese (whatever), all grey so far and fortunately not interested in opening communication. I think the party people stay away from this boring city.