The Strange Me

Oftentimes I feel I’m strange.

This might be because I’m a 23-year-old college student and can’t say I’m thrilled to still be in school with very young people from an almost totally different culture from where I grew up in. 

You see, I lived in Hong Kong for almost 10 years and I spent almost the entirety of my teen years there. Life in a foreign land may sound exotic to some, but let me tell you that it isn’t all that fun. I lived in a place where I don’t speak the language and most of the time, I felt that I was just an observer to things that were happening. I was a two-fold stranger, first was because I was a foreigner, and second, because I couldn’t communicate very well at all. I felt out of place, no matter how hard I tried to “fit-in”. 

And in the first place, I’m not all that “social”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m antisocial, but you could probably call me “a very strong-willed person”. I don’t mind being alone. I don’t like “conforming” or “changing” who I was just so that I’d have “friends”. I am of the opinion that a real friend accepts you for who you are and doesn’t force you to be a certain way. But, having said that, I also don’t mind being with other people. It’s way more fun if you can celebrate success with others you deem as friends. I’m all about quality. 

Now my early high school years were very fun indeed. I didn’t have a care in the world! I was smart enough to not need to study for tests and still be among the top 5 of the class and I was very active in extracurricular activities such as track-and-field (100m, 200m, long jump, triple jump) and I always placed. If you didn’t know already, I was very competitive–and still am. I was also very involved with volunteer work like volunteering for the Hong Kong Community Chest, Hong Kong Red Cross, and other non-profit organizations. Other less strenuous competitive activities I participated in were Chess competitions, where I had the opportunity to play a real live Grand Master (and loss in 28 moves) , or the participating in the Hong Kong Music and Speech Festival, where I would compete in the Solo-verse Speaking category (usually, we’re given a poem or a verse to memorize, and we were to DRAMATIZE it in front of judges) which I usually won. Maybe that’s why I seem to have a “bubbly” personality even though I more of an introvert. In any case, my high school life was a blast, all seven years of them.

I also started working at the bright ripe age of 14. Coming from a family whose income isn’t all that fixed (the reality of being a missionary pastor’s kid), I wanted to help out. So I started working jobs I could do like tutorials for English, Math, and Science. Also, I “volunteered” for university experiments which paid quite a bit. I also did some thesis proofreading jobs, tried my hand at handing out flyers, clerical office work like data-entry and data-verification which were the most boring and tedious thing anyone could ever do for a living. But it paid. My parents didn’t need to give me allowance and I also chipped in a bit for my studies, which are quite costly in Hong Kong. 

But, here I am in the Philippines for college, a decision I ultimately made as it was not financially feasible for me to go pursue tertiary education in Hong Kong without burdening myself with ENORMOUS debt, but more importantly I wanted a chance to live away from my parents. I wanted to be truly independent.

So here I am, in the Philippines, going through college alone. It was a big leap from first-world Hong Kong, to third-world Philippines. I wasn’t used to so much pollution, flooding, and danger. Having lived in such an affluent place as Hong Kong, the stark contrast of much of the Philippines opened my eyes to the plight of my fellow countrymen. Oddly enough, I grew to love it here.

I love it enough to want to make a difference. 

So, that’s why I feel strange. Strange that I, unlike many of my friends who also came here to study but scooted back to Hong Kong right after, would choose to stay. I feel in my heart that it was divine providence that lead me to come here and study at the University of the Philippines Diliman. I used to see the Philippines as a backwater country, full of corrupt officials and gullible people who keep on making the same mistake voting for these crooks and was doomed to be that way for all eternity. Honestly, I still do think it’s that way. The difference is, I’m no longer hopeless. 

Because I’ve realized that I wasn’t about to conform to the norm of apathy towards the Philippines, nor was I afraid to go on it alone if I had to. I am part of the hope of our nation, and I will not surrender it easily.

Thank God I am strange. 

[This is NOT an endorsement for any political party, nor a confession of an affiliation or affinity towards any one political belief. TL;DR: Not a communist. NOT an activist. I’LL DO IT MY WAY.]