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An Ice maker in the sky

Majela Zuidelma, Manila, Philippines

Interviewed by Lariez San Gabriel

"I never experienced the true meaning of being a kid or a teenager because of my mother. That’s why I wanted to go to America, to get away from her (laughs) just kidding"

I grew up in Manila, Philippines from a small family consisting of me, my dad, my mom, and my sister. We are just an ordinary family. We got to church every Sunday, my dad’s a bread winner, and my mom is a stay at home mom that takes care of me and my sister.

My mom is very strict, [she] won’t let me or my sister go anywhere without her or my dad. We are not allowed to play with other kids because of the social status differences and socializing is not allowed in the family unless it’s close relatives, but both my parents are very supportive when it comes to our education. I can’t remember a time my mom bought my sister and I toys or dolls. She thinks those are just a distraction to our education. It’s all about school and household chores. My dad works in the city far away from where we are at, so I’m stuck with my stern mother all the time.

Every morning after breakfast I have to help my mom open up the small store adjacent to our house and stock some goods on the shelves. If it’s cold days, I go to school and most of the time I’m late because I have to finish my chores before I’m allowed to attend any of my classes, I have to walk three to four miles just to get to school. The path I usually take to go to school is surrounded with trees. The air is fresh and the scent of eucalyptus leaves fills the whole area but the ground is almost always muddy and full of puddles, so by the time I get to school my shoes and school uniform have mud stains all over them.

I stay at school until three in the afternoon and had to take the same path I take going from home to school. Once I get home I have to head straight to the store and help my mom again. I do inventory, packing, repacking goods, and counting the sales for the day. When the store closes is the only time I can do my home works and by the time I’m finished with everything, I’m already exhausted and ready to go to bed. It’s the same routine the following day.

So back then I used to say to myself; when I grow up I’m going to become a nurse. I want to have a nice house, and I want to see the world. All of it came true except for the nurse part (laughs).

I heard so many good stories about America and I was fascinated about how it looks like when I saw it in the movies. I was curious how snow looks like and feel like and how come my country doesn’t have an ice maker in the sky like America. But being a Filipino, it’s not easy to get a Visa to allow you to migrate here. I have to go through a lot with the U.S. Embassy’s requirements which I have to spend a large amount of money on, and even if you do have money, there’s no assurance that they will actually grant you the Visa.

Leaving my homeland, I felt sadness, reluctance and fear mainly because I’m going to leave my family, friends, experiences, and memories both good and bad behind. But the thought of moving into a land completely foreign to me made me feel excited and also frightened cause I didn’t know what to expect and what kind of life I’m going to have once I get to America because of the cultural differences and beliefs or if I’ll be accepted by their society because I came from a different country, and not just any country, a third world country. It’s somewhat funny because some Americans do not know where and what the Philippines is.

America is so much better than what I was expecting. It is so different from my country, Philippines is so tropical while America has four seasons, food here have better qualities and are cheaper unlike in the Philippines, if you want to eat good food [then] you have to pay the price which is not affordable by many. The people here are nicer, I made lot of friends here and some of them are from different ethnic groups, the culture is very easy to adapt to, you acquire lots of freedom, and rules are followed by people most of the time. America is a land of opportunities and I look at myself as a greener pasture. 

The culture here is almost the same as the culture in the Philippine because Filipinos are highly influenced by Americans years ago during WWII when American soldiers visited our country and along with them they brought their culture which they had taught to many Filipinos. In return, Filipino soldiers and guerillas helped the Americans with their war against the Japanese.

     Even though I easily adapted to the culture here, transition is not very easy, I have to familiarize [myself] with the rules and regulations. Going from point A to point B is sometimes a problem because I’m