Life is much different here.
It’s been a while since I last travelled, and it’s a long overdue refresher on how lucky I really am.
My relative wealth provides a needed reality check. Back home, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing that well, when in reality you are. It’s funny to think that almost everyone back home has a car, and fairly nice ones at that. Here, having a car is a true luxury. Being able to take a cab is a luxury. Almost everyone just gets around by shared Jeepneys and walking.
The exchange rate here is about 45 pesos to the dollar. Some things like fish and a cup of coffee are much cheaper. Services are cheaper. But luxury items like cars and TV’s are more expensive. There are lots of stores selling the same things, but their supplies are often much more limited and of poor quality.
But I’ve stumbled into another perspective on the exchange rate that I hadn’t considered. I earn in dollars, what an average Philipino might earn in pesos. This gives an interesting perspective in which to walk around the markets. How might my life be different if an egg cost $5? If a coffee cost $30? It helps me understand how lavish it is to be staying in a $2500/night hotel. And that boat we’re buying… that’s like a whole year’s income for many people.
But regardless of wealth, people still live and have fun. Some of the sailors I’ve met may live in a thatched house and live on much more modest incomes, but they also live on a beach and get to go fishing in the morning. They have kids that are cute, and they work hard to send them to school, and to good schools. They have family, and friendships, and they laugh and have fun. I dare say that they seem to laugh and have more fun.
The kids also seem to have a great life. They can wander freely from their houses from a young age, and they are able to play naturally with other kids all the time. There are no play dates or soccer practices to attend. They get to play anytime they want. They don’t have playrooms stuffed with toys, and they don’t seem to be any worse for it. And they’re all very well behaved. In the six hour minivan ride to Iloilo, I heard almost no fussing from the six kids stuffed in with us in the van – and that’s without movies and ipads to subdue them.