Calamansi is one of those fruits that was just there, always there – on the table, in the fridge, in the backyard, in the markets, in restaurants. I used it in my dipping sauces, especially the ones with patis (i.e. fish sauce) or toyo (i.e. soy sauce). I used it to marinade meats – pork, chicken, beef, fish. I used it in tea – both hot and iced. I made a juice of it, sweetened by local honey. I squeezed the juice over a plateful of pancit (i.e. noodles). I couldn’t live without it….at least in the Philippines. But when I left the country, I had to learn how to live without it.
My name is Didi, a Filipino expat based in the United States. And in my country, there are thousands…No, let me correct that. There are millions of other overseas Filipinos workers and migrants, who clap and even cheer when the captain announces that plane is approaching the Manila airport. The decibel levels of glee increase by a hundred fold, especially when the plane screeches, shakes, creaks and finally stops to complete the landing. I’m sure that, apart from clapping and cheering, they also restrain themselves from giving a standing ovation, averting a possibly disastrous reprimand from the seatbelt nazis, a.k.a. the flight attendants, especially ones who are not Filipino, ones who most probably won’t understand their uninhibited euphoria.
Maybe someone like you.
The billboards that dotted the Interstate 40 called to The Husband and I. “Free 72. oz” steak it said. Its not that I was hungry (or maybe I was). Maybe The Husband was. But it said the magic word: “FREE” Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that?
And so we droned through hundreds of miles from Albuquerque, drove through the Cadillac Ranch and arrived at THE Big Texan, home of the free 72. oz. steak made infamous by them billboards and the show, Man vs. Food.
Over the few months we’ve been here, The Husband and I have learned that just as the seasons change, so do the products that line the shelves of supermarkets. At the height of Autumn, there came an invasion of all things pumpkin flavored. Apart from pumpkin pies, you had pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin spice ice cream, pumpkin spiced cream cheese, pumpkin spiced carrot cheese cakes and pumpkin spiced Chinese egg rolls and instant ramen…I kid. Unfortunately, The Husband and I have not taken a liking for these pumpkin fiends; some products we’ve tried remain untouched in our refrigerator, gathering errrrrm microscopic friends, which hopefully do enjoy the carby, mildly sweet, cinnamon and nutmeg laced flavors. Though we did enjoy spiced apple cider, another autumn seasonal product, this post is not about that because pumpkin and apple season is so OVER.
Our new year’s eve didn’t come in with a big bang. We barely had a glimpse of the spectacle of the Big D’s fireworks. It was an evening accompanied by the steely echoes from a dated karaoke machine and craggy bathroom singing, dotted with flutes of champagne, a shot of Tequila and glasses of beer. Our Christmas didn’t come with the bedecked towering tree, the sparkly lights, the mountain of gifts and the over booked social calendar filled with family get-togethers and reunions with friends from various days of yore. It was an evening of Texas sized portions of steak, fresh greens, platters of home cooked Filipino food and endless conversation on our expat lives – past in our home country (and previous location for The Husband and I) as well the present and future plans in this great country.
After three years of an expat, I’ve found out that the holidays abroad were simpler: just a table of good food, a handful of friends and The Husband and I together. Void of all the holiday trimmings and hoopla, it was actually more special, bringing us back to the core of the holiday season: thanksgiving and togetherness.
This is the expat life I am extremely thankful for and have finally embraced.
I don’t miss being in the Philippines during the holidays. And when the time comes that I would want to come home, I will never, ever be home during the holidays…
There I said it! I finally got it out of my chest and into the open.
Do I see dagger looks from you guys at me, the girl who Grinch-ed the most important get-together season of the year? Please hear me out first.
The bootlicking rice fiend in me finally submitted, fallen onto my knees in worship and rolling on the floor in pure nirvana, to the lip-smacking, bread crumb picking goodness of a sandwich as the sole star of a complete meal. The Husband and I had this particular sandwich thrice in a single day. Three sandwiches, three complete meals, two Filipinos and NO RICE?!? What blasphemy! An abomination! “Hindi talaga kumpleto ang kainan kapag walang kanin (A meal is not a complete meal without rice)” or “Hindi ko kaya na mabuhay na walang kanin (I cannot live without rice)”, most Filipinos would murmur in obedience and devotion to the beloved daily grain.
But hear me out first, as I tell you why this sandwich, which actually replaced and can replace rice, is the best in the world…
Here I am typing away, leg enveloped in the warmth of two blankets, thoughts rhythmically swaying to the clickety-clack of my keyboard and an overtone of the pitter-patter of ice melting from our apartment’s roof, hitting the muddy ground. It’s been a week since the peak of winter storm Cleon hit North Texas and yet we are still at the mercy of the cold: air conditioner blowing dry heat, faucets dripping and The Husband recovering from feverish days, nursing the colds and a noisy cough.
At the onset of the winter storm, The Husband and I were as excited as little children opening gifts on Christmas day, as we’ve never experienced the biting cold and the pristine, sparkling cover that comes with it. Armed with wool gloves, a hoodie, a winter coat, winter boots, Halloween pajamas and a camera, I ventured outside carefully threading on alien ground that crunched and crackled with every step. The Husband? Well, he was even more excited, diving head first into the winter wonderland in a cotton shirt and shorts. Can you now guess how he got sick?
Anyways, here are some photos of the beautiful harshness of our 1st brush with winter:
Who would think that there would be art on the Interstate? Good thing The Husband stumbled upon the famous Cadillac Ranch, which was on the way back to the DFW metroplex from Arizona. Check out how cool it is!
We (particularly The Husband) are teeming with excitement for our first winter: our first touch (and perhaps taste) of real snow, the chilly winter air and the rich winter fare. But we never expected to get some harsh winter weather this early on. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will be (or rather, as of press time, is already in the middle of) hit by a winter storm.
We’ve experienced loads of tropical and desert storms, and now will be going through another first of its kind storm, one that involves below freezing temperatures and, naturally ice. So being the winter storm rookie that I am, I did my homework, asking family and friends and, of course, the Internet (Thanks to warnings from the US National Weather Service powered by The Weather Channel, Wunderground and Google), for some tips that we need to consider in preparation for this extreme change in weather.
Here are useful tips and notes that are good to now if you’re a winter storm virgin like I am: