Thursday, November 02, 2006

is it just me?

flying ice
Originally uploaded by ten-nine.

or is it cold in here?

three mornings a week, 4 times a day, the kids are bundled up and we walk a handful of blocks (twice downhill and twice uphill) to and from the paloma's preschool.

this morning, i open the door and a strong gust of wind blows right through me. it felt like dull metal scraping against a cold dry hollow bone.

since then, i've been trying in vain to get warm. i have the space heater on, as well as a sweater and some socks (ok, they're holey). but, i’m still cold.

lots of stuff leaves me cold lately.

i worry about this war, and all the constant "us v them" conflicts in real life and online - whether its the democrats vs the republicans, white people v poc, poc v poc, sahm v. wohm, childfree v. the parents, the mommybloggers v. the mommyblogger haters...

most of the time i want to say something... i want to enagage in the dialogue. but i never feel like i have enough information about an issue which makes me feel like an idiot so i'll just keep trying to get more educated about something. i need to see all the sides, all the shades of grey. i just keep reading and reading… but i don’t have enough time in a day nor enough brain cells to read and process all this information, but i obsess and do it anyway… i don’t get any smarter about any issues… don’t even get me started on voting.

for example, i know TOO much about melinda duckett. among many things, i just recently found out that she and her sister were adopted from korea. i keep wondering about her sister and how she's coping. i also found out that melinda kept a myspace account under what people speculate was her korean name, mee kee ong lee. i wonder what she was like and who she was and how brave she was to become a parent at 21. i hope and pray that trenton is alive and well.

on a related note, since the celebrity adoption of angelina jolie’s zahara, i’ve been reading a lot of transracial adoptee blogs. so, madonna’s adoption of david banda has been on my mind a lot recently as well.

i saw the madonna interview last night on dateline nbc with meredith viera. there are links to the interview videos here. in the interview, madonna said something like, “in american orphanages, children get all their basic needs met. they have clothes. they have food. they have medicine. they have adults that look after them. there is nothing like this in africa... it’s a state of emergency....”

so, i reluctantly click on the video of david’s orphanage, home of hope. i expect to see footage like this heartbreaking 45 min video of homeless children from north korea. instead, i see smiling children who are clothed, who have what looks like a lot of food (not necessarily food that an unadventurous american would eat, i suppose) and though most of the footage is of the children, you see adults in the background caring for them. so, of the thousands of malawi orphans who truly live in dire straits, who are in need of basic things for survival - immediate medical attention, clothing, food, shelter, love - she chooses david - a child who isn’t an orphan, who isn’t ill and is cared for?

granted i don't know squat about malawi. it wouldn't surprise me if home of hope was the only orphanage of its kind in malawi. i guess what bothers me most of all is the portrayal of developing or newly industrialized countries as incapable of providing the necessities that define a “good” life. compared to what? life in america? don’t get me wrong – my life in america has been a blessing. thank you God! *knock on wood* but, it’s not perfect. whatever that is... the last time i saw "the third world" i was living in san francisco.

how would i know? well, i’ve lived “over there”too. and i’ll let you in on a secret – it ain’t all that bad. sometimes i think there's a note on maps that says "here be savages" instead of "here be dragons" anywhere that isn't "a first world".

back in the philippines, near manila, where my family lives, i think we were/are considered middle class. anyway, in the 70s, i remember that the kitchen was the only room with running water. there was an outhouse in the back with a porcelain toilet - no seat, no tp. next to it, there was a large plastic barrel of water with a small plastic bowl floating in it – used for flushing and washing. there was also a large cement room with a green plastic roof. in the middle of that room there was a steel pan, maybe three or four ft in diameter that looked like a giant bottle cap, crimped edges and all. there was another large plastic barrel of water with another small plastic bowl in there too – used for washing. there were two bedrooms. my parents had one and the kids (four of us) slept in the same room - my oldest sister had a hammock. my brother had a bed and my youngest sister and i slept on the floor on a mat.

brownouts were common. so, we did our best to do most things without electricity. we didn’t have air conditioning. very little was kept in the refrigerator where it could spoil. our clothes were cleaned by hand. out on the street, sewers were open but somehow we all avoided getting sick. often my parents tried "alternative medicine" to help with my cystic hygroma. nothing worked. but my grandfather lived many years on these "alternatives". and there were mosquitos everywhere. but, that’s what mosquito nets and caladryl are for. we kept pigs and chickens and roosters in nearby pens. and we had dogs. AS PETS. i remember a man would come down our street with a huge ox covered in beautiful shiny pots and pans for sale. i always wanted to stop him so i could touch the ox.

we ate almost every meal together. the only canned good we had was powdered milk. everything else was purchased fresh from the market (see refrigerator). my papa built our home over his hvac business. so we would often eat together with extended family and the workers. my father was around the office or the house whenever he wasn't at a job site. i did without so many luxuries we take for granted here. we lived very happily with very little. it was not a sacrifice. it was not pitiful. it was a very full good life. it's insulting to hear that that just isn't good enough in the eyes of the industrialized world.

of course, the philippines has its overwhelming share of poverty and corruption. i saw that too. i remember getting stuck in traffic over a bridge. it felt as if we moved an inch or so a minute. the bridge straddled a thin black river. on either side of the river bank, there were cardboard shacks. people were in the river washing clothes. there was a big pothole in the bridge near the shoulder. as we got closer to it i noticed the sky was getting darker and that soon it would rain. and it did. within a few moments a little girl had made her way to the pothole with a towel and a bowl and began to take a bath with her clothes on. i've never forgotten that girl and i wonder if she's still alive and if she's ok.

anyway, i continued my search for something warm and i finally found something. i just read this really inspiring story at harlow's monkey about an american family who lived in africa for a short time and during their stay adopted a sick baby boy. they cared for him in africa, until he was well and could be returned to his extended family. decades later, after they returned home to america, they were reunited with him and they continue to help him and still consider him their adopted son.

why doesn't this happen more often? why isn't this considered just as viable an option as surrendering a child to an orphanage or transracial adoption (not that i'm against either or that these things are bad) but couldn't this have been an option for david banda and his family as well?

ok. i think i'm done now... somehow, i just lost my train of thought...


Anonymous said...

nice post at

Angela said...

Great post Mamazilla! I also read the post on Harlow's Monkey and commented, I totally agree with you. Thank you for sharing your experiences. People in the Western world have to stop being so arrogant and thinking that we have all the answers or that our part of the world is so perfect and we have to "rescue" all the children from the rest of the world.

Max said...

Amazing post! More thoughtful than anything the major media has had to say.
Thanks for sharing!

Barb said...

I don't have anything insightful to add because I don't know a whole lot about current events. I don't watch the news (except when forced to at the gym), and I only skim the top CNN headlines on my Google page.

Still, this is a post I can appreciate, particularly your experience living in the PI. I should write about mine some time--thanks for the inspiration.

Other than that, all day yesterday, I was wearing a sweatshirt, stocking cap, scarf, and gloves--yes, gloves, even as I typed--because it's frickin' A cold in here. And the radiators are even on! I turned the know to try to make it hotter, but maybe I turned it the wrong way. Project this weekend: remove window A/C units.

Bert said...

That's such a wonderful story about your life in another country. I think a lot of Americans (and others) judge a standard of living only in comparison with their own.

You make a very good point that different is not always worse. It certainly can be, but it's not implied.

mamazilla said...

anonymous - thanks!

angela - hi there! i almost cried when i read that story at harlow's monkey. thanks for stopping by, reading and for the positive reinforcement! :)

barb - hey girl, you inspire me all the time - right back atcha! i don't envy you taking down the ACs dude. yaaar! i hear you can adopt a child from malawi to help you. KIDDING!!!!

bert - hey bertiful! thanks for stopping by and spending some time with me... y'know - i don't often get to read your other blog (see: "under the mosquito net" at left) but when i do it's GREAT. your memories are vivid and funny and poignant and make me nostalgic for the PI. i miss you kiddo! life looks like its going well for you too by the by... :)

eatmisery said...

That was a wonderful post, Mamazilla. A "good life" among Hollywood celebrities is a far cry from a "good life" in the rest of the U.S. and other countries, too. A good life doesn't always require lots of money.

And you brought up such a great point. Why DID Madonna pick David when she could've picked another child in a far worse situation?

mamazilla said...

eat misery - hey there! thanks! i have to stop by the peanut gallery and see what's up with you!


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