Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wide Awake in the American Dream

I'm in Illinois right now. I sort of babysat my 12-year old cousin on his way home here. Sneaked in a little vacation too.

It's been nine months since their family migrated here and life here was way harder than they expected. My two cousins at 18 and 19 had to work at least two jobs this summer. What they earn goes to their credit card and car bills.

The 18-year old girl had her debut last December at Chucky Cheese. I had mine at Club Filipino complete with the 18 Roses and 18 Candles.

My 19-year old guy cousin works at a grocery store. In the Philippines he was a UP baseball scholar. If he stayed he would've graduated already.

My Aunt and Uncle barely see each other because of their weird work schedule. My Aunt doesn't even have days off. She'd rather work overtime and get paid than stay at home and rest.

They couldn't wait to leave Philippines to live the American Dream. My parents believed my cousins have a better future here.

It was a rude awakening for them, especially for my young cousins, that life here is all work. Living the dream means sacrificing a lot of yourself. I feel my cousins' pain of not having the luxuries they have been used to. They're transfering to a big university next spring. True, they'll be getting a good education... in exchange of a student loan or a four-year stint in the US Army. Relationships here are also different. It's not like at home that you and your officemates can just go out and grab some drinks. After work people have families to tend to and homes to take care of.

I'm grateful that our life in the Philippines is better than the average pinoy. It gave us the opportunity to live a good life back home and visit US at least once a year. I get to do my own laundry here and I also cook my own food whenever I'm hungry. I do some chores whenever I'm here but then after a few days or a couple of months, I go back home and leave those chores to our helpers. I know I can handle life here but I'd rather not. I don't want to be a Wal-Mart cashier with an MBA degree. Snobbish of me but true.

I remember when we were in Davao a few weeks ago my cousin was whining that he'd rather stay in the Philippines. My parents replied what a great future he'll have here. And I agreed that he'll have a great future here... never mind he hates it here... never mind he's away from his eldest brother... never mind if they're all lonely... never mind they have to work their butts off everyday... and never mind that he didn't actually choose to be here but was forced by his parents.

Some dreams are so easy to reach. And then there are some that can turn into nightmares.

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