When I was in college, I thought, to work abroad was the last option for my professional career. In conclusion, I realized I’m both right and wrong. I’m right; I did everything in my hand to have a decent earning in my home country. And yes, it was my last option at the time. Hence, I became part of the statistics of Overseas Filipino Workers. On the other side, I was wrong; as this is my short-term last option. In my heart of hearts, I am now part of my greater journey in the future. And see life in a perspective of gratitude and faith. Only time can tell if I speak empty words.

I’m not promoting or romanticizing the life of an expatriate in Saudi Arabia. No rainbows and unicorns here. In the grateful eye, though it is hard sometimes, this is still a good life.

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Why Filipinos Spend Ten Years or More Working Abroad?

But, first things first. I’m not putting down people here; I’m just asking important questions. Why are there so many expatriates here in Saudi Arabia mainly Filipinos? Why are they already working for more than ten years? Didn’t they have enough savings all this time to go back for good? Are they supporting their families for that long? Are they more comfortable here? Didn’t they believe for better opportunities in the Philippines? Some told me they’re already working for more than twenty years. Why it took that long?

I’m not condemning anyone. I make myself hypocrite to point a finger as I’m also part of these expatriates. I’m just afraid. Because every time someone told me they’re already working at the time I’m barely starting in college; I’m deeply worried. I can’t help to see myself taking the same path. There must be some other options.

Though, we can’t deny the fact some Filipinos in dangerous situations. Yes, some don’t have enough savings. Yes, they’re old enough to think of a better option other than here. I’m grateful to hear and learn from their stories. At the same time, I’m sad for them and scared for myself.

On the other side, I saw some who have great reasons to stay. Some have already established their families here. Some are Muslims who enjoyed the Islamic environment.

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Saudi Arabia as a Great Learning Place

My first reason I work abroad is I know I need this. I’m self-aware of my insecurities and immaturities. I’m always shy. I can’t look in the eye of the people I’m talking. I don’t have the backbone to pursue this particular woman leading to inconsistencies. I’m a chronic people-pleaser, a horrible yes-man seeking nonsense approval. I’m always thinking of what other people are thinking (I’m Professor X, shhh…) of me. I sinned in shameful repetition for the same temptations. No enough courage to speak up for the faith I believe. I also can’t speak up to protect the people I care. I can’t show my true self to people for fear of rejection.

You might ask, “Huh? Why Saudi Arabia? Are there other options?”

Of course, there are other options; I just pick one of the good ones. Besides, my family needs immediate financial assistance. I found it the best choice for me at that point of my competency and maturity. I’m throwing two flappy birds in one pebble.

These are the unlikely laundry lists from a likely unnoticeable guy like me. Outside, I looked quite normal, hiding inside is a person confused with his life.

Perhaps this is the same old story of someone looking for himself. Not literally. I will be terrified if I found my other self wandering here. If you can relate to me, you know what I mean.

Hmmm….  Enough. 🙂

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Not About Self-Pity

My goal is not to spread an epidemic of self-pity to you. But,  to tell you those negative things about my life to make a point. Like the “before and after” commercial of whitening lotion. Or the “Brand X and Brand Y” comparison of powder detergents. I can’t believe how can a two-year international job contract can change my life.

After work, I need to cook for my food for dinner. I don’t know how to cook. I just learned from other Filipinos and YouTube videos. On some days after cooking and eating dinner, I do the laundry with my hands. The sameness and sadness of living life on my own toughen my backbone to take responsibilities with ownership.

The Changes in My Life After Two Years of Working Abroad

In Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of restrictions. Most of life here is about finding yourself any form of entertainment. There are still plenty of choices from watching movies, shopping, online chatting, gossiping (this is not good though still entertaining), exercising and playing sports. The number of options depends on your resourcefulness, place of work and job title. In my case, the almost daily work-eat-sleep lifestyle made me more grateful for the smallest of things.

Office politics are part of the game. But, the bad mouthing and unfair criticisms taught me how to stand up for myself.

In my first project, I experience working in freezing temperature. Because of that, I go to Jizan Province where there are only two seasons – hot summer and hotter summer. Not to mention, the humidity. Up to now, I’m still within Jizan, only changing different construction sites. The brutal cold and hot weather conditioned my body to endure more physical challenges.

I improved my social skills through exposure to people with different walks of life and nationalities. Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalis, Chinese, Koreans, fellow Filipinos, Americans, British Nationals, Lithuanians, Egyptians, Saudi Nationals, Lebanese, Syrians, etc. I can’t remember them all. But, I’m privileged to talk to them at least once. Suddenly, I became fascinated with different culture and world history. We lived in a beautiful world.

The most critical change in my life was my faith. It is amazing to think and humbling as well to still have Catholic Faith in an Islamic country. My God-given faith and hope saved me from misery. The grace of the Lord was enough to fill my heart with His love. I might sound preachy; I do it anyway. I’ll preach the joy of the Gospel in this blog post.

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Everyone Needs Their Own Bitter Medicines

I’d gone far enough that I’m happy to see what kind of person am I becoming. I’m still financially broke. As a result, some of the debris of my past was still in my heart. I almost not call, text or chat online my friends. And I talk online my siblings not more than once a month. I only call my parents once a week (sometimes more seldom). Yep, I got a long way to go. I’m still in the process, and I’m enjoying it. Two years without going back to my home country is tough. At least for me.

Unless you’re a masochist, we all hate hardships in life. But, we need them to grow. And to feel we are making progress. We know not all medicines are delightful to chew.  Many potent medications are too bitter to take. But, the brave take them anyway. They returned to life from the grave of denial.  Some don’t, and their sickness comes to worse.

Either we embrace hardships or not; we will have them sooner or later. Same like the bitter medicine, you can take it or ignore it. Appreciate its value or abhor its taste.

Choose wisely. Or make the first bad choice.