Learning To Live With Others

 

It’s been sixteen days so far–two weeks–and just yesterday I’ve already pissed off one of my flatmates. Twice.

Here’s how it went:

There wasn’t anything incriminating in the photos. But I understood (now more than ever before) how photographs are personal property, and are extremely private. We have since made up and things were cool between us. For a few days.

The second incident happened a few days later at the university.

Hobgoblin font by David Kherkoff (hanodedfonts.com).

On both instances I had crossed an invisible line, one that many people can see, and which I, for some reason, am at times, painfully blind to. On both instances, I had invaded Masha’s right to privacy. First, by looking through her photos, and second, by looking through her bag. She was right to be pissed off at me.

I’ve made it up to her since then (a story for another day), but the two incidents made me think about how my notions regarding privacy and boundaries are not only woefully inadequate, not to mention very different from others, but also how growing up, the right to privacy was not something that was fiercely upheld in my home. It’s no secret among my friends back home that I tend to disregard other people’s property, especially when it comes to food.

In the Spanish Apartment–as I’ve taken to calling our flat–it’s more than just ownership. It’s about trust. And it is essential if we are to survive the next nine months. There are no locks on any of the doors for one thing. Not even the bathrooms. But this doesn’t seem to concern any of my flatmates, who have clear notions about privacy. I actually made signs for the bathroom doors–but for the most part, we haven’t really needed them.

My cardboard bed came in handy
Yes, I made them in Spanish, but believe me, my Spanish sucks.

As reality TV has so gleefully proven, bringing complete strangers under one roof for an extended period of time oftentimes results in conflict. In my case, not only am I living with four other people whom I’ve never met before, they are from different cultures and backgrounds as well.

For this reason, I thought it would be good to write down some guidelines on Living With Others (Harmoniously).

Go to page 2 to continue reading.

The Year of Living Dangerously

 

In less than a week I will be saying goodbye to my family, my friends, my country, and all that I know so well.  Goodbye to the familiar food, sights, sounds, currency, routes, weather, and smells.

It won’t be the first time I’ve gone abroad to study. When I was in secondary school I was a YFU (Youth For Understanding) exchange student to Norway where I was hosted by several families. When I left the Philippines for Norway in 1996, the Internet was still a novelty in those parts of the world. Letters were sent through the post instead of through email, and I remember my father giving me $2500 as pocket money for one year. It was the most money I had ever had , and by the end of the year, I hadn’t  even spent all of it.

The wacky pose was already in Oslo but didn't become a phenomenon until much later. Hartvig-Nissen Skole, Oslo 1996
Spot the odd man out. Hartvig-Nissen Skole, Oslo 1996

Seventeen years later I am once again heading out into the great unknown, but this time on my own. After weeks of gathering the necessary paperwork I have taken all my savings, liquidated my investments, made a downpayment on the tuition fee, and bought a one-way ticket to Spain. I don’t have a place to stay when I arrive, and since my funds aren’t enough to cover living expenses, I plan to work in order to support myself during my studies.

This is a chronicle of my journey, a life experiment if you will, and perhaps, it may serve as a guide to any of you out there who dream of venturing outside your comfort zone. Of making mistakes, of falling flat, so many times that you become immune to the pain, and become very good at dusting yourself off.

See you out there.

For a theme song, I thought This Year from the Mountain Goats’ The Sunset Tree album would be appropriate.