Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Conversation with an American - Part 3
Paul went back to the Philippines. For ten straight months this 43 year old American had to put up with things that no man should put up with. He had snakes drop from the ceiling while he slept. Crazed turkeys trapped him in the bathroom. Many of his friends ended up on the dinner table. And oh yeah, after nearly a year of waiting, his Filipina wife still do not have her immigrant visa.
"I don't ever want to see rice again for as long as I live" Paul laments. "I miss my crappy American diet. I miss my barbecue chicken cooked over the black jack oak. I miss my big refrigerator with thousands of snacks. I miss my cable TV, my aircon, the toilet that flush, all my appliances that work." The biggest assault on his sanity, however, was the lack of anything to do.
He was so bored that he became close to many of the village animals, spending hours watching their silly antics and conversing with them. But the problem with this was that many of his friends ended up on the dinner table, which upset Paul greatly. And it was not that he was constantly losing his friends to the evening's menu, it was the way he lost them.
Being an admittedly spoiled Westerner, Paul's idea of grabbing meat was to go to the refrigerator section of the supermarket and make a neatly packaged selection. In Tapaz, however, if meat was on the menu for dinner, they would just grab a turkey or a chicken from the backyard and slit it's throat right in the kitchen sink. Paul's favorite turkey used to chase people around the house and sometimes trap them in the bathroom. Because of their high-brow attitude, Paul named one turkey Tough Guy and the other Tough Guy Jr. Upon their gastronomical demise, however, Paul became rather unhappy.
In Manila, he thought they were ready for the climactic interview with the official of the US embassy who wields the ever elusive visa stamp. The embassy, however, threw him another curve when it suddenly asked for a Singapore police clearance for his wife. "I'm very frustrated with the process," Paul said. "The length, the time, the expense. And after you go through the entire process, they can still say no. In Cuba, they were handing out US passport to any Cuban that wanted one," Paul said frustratingly. "I am an American citizen, this is my wife. It's absolutely ridiculous!"
The ordeal had it's bright side though. "I liked the fact that it has been a massive learning experience in my lifetime, something most American will not experience. They don't realize how hard life is here. I respect these people very much. But I'll admit, I'm a spoiled Westerner. I like not having to worry about spider crawling into bed with me. I like not having to slaughter animals in the kitchen sink."
But at least Paul Burns now has a loving wife and a lifetime full of stories. Thanks to an old magazine and a $2 gamble.