Perks and Complications of Living on a Rock



"Everything was going wrong!" I screamed out of frustration, from lack of sleep and worry. My 2 y.o. caught a bacterial infection that sent her fever shooting through the roof. This is exactly the last thing anyone deserves while living on an island with very limited specialists and medical facilities.

My husband and I were tempted to brave the 1-hour boat ride and 3-hour bus trip in pursuit of top hospital care from any of the reputable medical centers in the city, but we weren't sure my baby girl can physically handle the long journey.

In fact, this was the final piece after a seemingly domino effect of crazy events. It blew my lid off when I thought the digital thermometer accurately measuring her fever nearly broke.

Right. When it rains, it pours. Take that, El Nino! 


{This is going to be a long read. Feel free to grab a cup of coffee or tea}

In my previous post, we spent blissful 3 weeks in a low budget beach front resort. Here we met fellow travelers who came and went, some we didn't get along with, while some became good friends.The time spent there made us learn more about ourselves while interacting with strangers.



My baby girl celebrated her 2nd birthday with the help of the resort family and some fellow guests. They sourced the freshest seafood directly from the fishermen's fresh catch of the day and the yummiest birthday cake from a local baker.  She had great fun and so did we.

Much as we would have wanted to stay in that resort, we had to move to a private apartment with our own kitchen for the real experience of living on the island. We knew being away on our own is the best way to gauge, if we are really suited to this island life.

House Hunting

Weeks prior to our move, we have made arrangements with an island based foreign gentleman that I will refer to as Mr. Guy (not his real name), to take over his 2 bedroom rental bungalow for a month. While he is off for his summer vacation in his home country, we will cover his rent for the month while we have a cheaper fully-furnished accommodation.

Yohann, my husband went for a quick ocular visit. He found it to be rough on the edges. Yet,we all assumed that we could adjust. Mr. Guy asked us to give an answer immediately since his ad online landed him several inquiries.

Having just arrived on the island then, we still had the mentality that there might be a shortage of monthly to long term apartment rentals. Needless to say, we gave in despite being offered a nicer looking 2 bedroom house further away from town.

It was only when we confirmed taking Mr. Guy's apartment that we found a better and fair priced accommodation that is best suited to our family's needs and standards.

We definitely felt a pang of regret. We didn't want to offend one of the future friends we consider having on the island by canceling.  Yet, we kept that "ideal accommodation" in mind and pre - booked it for the time our promised rental period lapses. 

Moving In

It was supposed to be a win - win right?  

Absolutely not. 

That was the beginning of the domino of seemingly hilarious but not so funny at that time episodes. As we dragged our backpacks through the dilapidated bamboo fence that looked like it was going to collapse completely anytime, I found myself in one of the dustiest houses  I have stayed in after a really long time. I wasn't born with a golden spoon. This comes from a girl who spent summers at my grandparents' house situated in a densely populated urban jungle. I also spent vacations in rural huts in small villages where toilets are situated away from the house.

I suppose my many years living abroad, I was accustomed to a certain standard of cleanliness and our mistake was, my husband and I assumed that staying in a foreigner ' s home means easily meeting our expectations.

OCD Much?

I don't mean to rant, it was also our fault for not checking thoroughly, the we- should-have-ran-our-fingers-on-each- surface-kind. I also won't deny that we can be perfectionists with an obsession for order and cleanliness.

Still, I found my Bambang child within frowning with disgust and frustration.

The Gigantic House Guest

Anaïs started napping in the bedroom. We moved the other bed closer to hers to prevent her from falling. I shrieked when we found a gigantic spider larger than the size of my phone! I didn't know whether I should hit it with my size 6 flip flop. These things move really fast!


I grabbed the house keys to walk a couple of kilometers under a scorching 2 pm heat to look for  an insect killer spray. Once I reached the mini mart which seemingly felt countries away, I was drenched with sweat. Who cares if I could knock down anyone who's lucky enough to smell my tropical odor? Lol.

Yay! Spider, I am coming for you. Sorry animal conservationists, I just can't sleep next to them and I know they always come back even if you drive them away.

I promised I would never ride one while I was back in Manila, but I succumbed to hailing a pedicab, a bicycle with a passenger side seat. I cringed at the thought of walking back to the apartment and risking sunburn and dehydration.

Et voila, only to find out that I couldn't open the main door because I have lost my keys. The only available set of house keys .

Dumdum me, lost keys

"You must be kidding me," my husband growled. He was obviously not happy. My dreaded moments under the torturous tropical sun  became a reality. It left me no choice but to retrace my steps from every sandy alley, nook and crevice that I passed. I also perused each aisle of the mini mart. No one there saw the keys after asking each of them.

Luckily, I spotted the same pedicab driver. He smiled and he was kind enough to hand me the house keys before I finished my sentence.  The keys fell out of my pocket during my ride.

A huge sigh of relief, indeed.


The Real Deal

Honestly, it seemed like the place hasn't been cleaned for a year. The sticky ant infested tiled flooring made our feet charcoal black. There were gigantic cobwebs. A centipede traversed the kitchen towards the bathroom like an illegal immigrant crossing the border. A swarm of mosquitos attacked us through the open eaves at night under a ceiling-less living area with the traces of afternoon heat  penetrating the galvanized roofing. There were blankets of dust on every furniture. The television wasn't working with the poor reception. We had to find space in the packed fridge.

Don't get me started on the dusty sofa with smaller breed of spiders and other insects that I dare not know but believes to be a great addition to an entomologist's insect collection.

In fairness, the separate toilet and bathroom were clean. However, judging by the look of the place, we would spend 2 weeks cleaning it and we would need to invest in good cleaning stuff in order to turn this place around.

I felt bad for my baby girl because it was definitely not a place for a toddler. Everywhere she turned, we were screaming, "Don't go there, don't touch that, that's dirty!"  We spent more time preventing her from everything in the flat instead of just settling in. 

Later that evening, Yohann boiled potatoes and prepared to make an omelette only to find out that the only pan available was not properly washed. It was covered with remnants of the previous meal (s) . 

With intense frustration, my husband and I looked at each other and unanimously  called it, "F*ck it, we're going out for dinner."  (Oops, pardon my french. )

Over our meal, weighing both pros and cons, we realized there was no way we  could live there for a month.  "No way in h*ll, " I protested.  Maria, my assertive alter ego gave me a mental high five.

Moving Out. Again?

We had a sleepless night of being bitten by imaginary or un-imaginary insects. Did I mention that an identical looking spider that we killed reappeared in the shower? I was feeling extremely bothered about staying there.

The next morning, Anais started having fever.  At 7 AM, we went straight to the "ideal accommodation" to ask whether there were any available units.  We knew that they're fully booked during that week.  

The only available one they had was a studio apartment without a kitchen.  Since a kitchen is a non negotiable need of ours, we turned to leave with drooped shoulders.  

As we were leaving the property, the care taker called us back and suggested that they can switch the studio to our preferred apartment since we are staying for a long period. 

Imagine our elation when that happened. We started packing and moving again. Doing that with a sick child is not a laughing matter.

We spent half a day of moving and clearing up everything from the dirty apartment, while looking after our daughter. We were pleased to stay in the quaint one bedroom unit facing a landscaped garden. 


Sick Baby Girl

Anais' fever started rising, her eyes were puffy and watery with pus-like discharge and worsening colds. That evening, we spent researching and asking friends on medications online while nursing her back to health. 

The next morning, her fever spiked at 39- 40 degrees.  Her eyes were sealed shut and she was in pain. Alarmed, my husband and I asked around for the nearest pediatrician.  We were given unclear name and location of the doctor in town. As expected, we were unable to locate the clinic.  Nevertheless, we drove off towards the direction of the town proper where the island's biggest drug store is.  At 8AM, we were there, begging to order eye medication that requires a doctor's prescription. 

Desperate, I pleaded with the kind lady at the counter if she could guide us to a doctor in town. Apparently, there is a pediatrician from Cebu City that comes to the island once a month for 2 weeks. We were in luck, she was still on the island and was due to leave 2 days later.  Her clinic was just a block away.

To cut the long story a tad shorter, Anais got the medical treatment she needed and we were able to purchase the same eye drops and meds at the drug store.

Slowly, Anais' health improved, despite the worrying level of her temperature.  Lukewarm sponge bath, compress and care kept us preoccupied for the last 5 days. A traditional healer or what we call, "manghihilot" also came to see her to help her with her colds and cough through traditional "hilot" massage.  She's getting better and now as I am typing this, it has become my turn to get sick. 



Reading the Signs

Thinking back, I'm glad we immediately left the dirty apartment, not even a day later. The very thing that made my husband and I decide to cut our losses were the series of unfortunate signs while we were staying in that apartment. I can hardly imagine nursing a sick child there. We have always believed in following our gut feeling. Writing this post made me realize that despite the series of frustrating moments, we gratefully had luck on our side as well. We also met a few wonderful people we like on the island that we enjoy spending more time with. 

Lesson Learned

Insect sprays are my best friend? A vacuum cleaner is in my non-negotiable needs list?
Kidding aside, I actually re-edited this post to delete a part about someone. I think it is unfair to write negatively about a person, despite his antagonistic contribution to this story, that I never even mentioned here. The law of karma is something I truly respect so I chose not to write about him. 

Nevertheless, I want to add that a lesson I learned here is that life is too short to be bothered by people who show no interest in making friends, who were mean, and/ or who simply do not appreciate us. Since then, I've learned to tame my people pleasing side by pretending they don't exist. In this way, they don't feel obliged to elicit any response to hellos. I stop feeling bad at the same time if they don't return pleasantries. 38 years of pleasing people can be very tiring. I'm now retiring from that. Unknown to them, I send a little prayer of good wishes to them instead and this, makes me feel better. 


In spite of all the mishaps, both fortunate and unfortunate accidents,
we are happy where we are today.

Love & light,
Arni




You Might Also Like

33 comments

  1. Seriously, I could never live on a tropical island! Unless I owned a huge tea plantation and an army of minions... which is highly unlikely :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A tea plantation with an army of minions sounds like a dream, where do I sign up? 😊

      Delete
  2. When it rains it pours indeed but I am glad that after all the mishaps, your daughter is already fine. I came from a not-so-pleasant place myself (Sampaloc, Manila) and I grew up seeing insects and rodents in our house, but when I moved out from our house and have been to places where those animals do not thrive, I no longer want to go back to where I've come from.
    Anyway, it's a good thing that you guys moved out to a better place and that everything turned for the better in the end. I wish I could live on an island too, it's one of my dreams.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marge, recovery is sweet. When I think about my childhood spent at my grandparents' , I had a blast playing street games with playmates who became lifetime friends. I can't imagine I got away with playing hide and seek in scary abandoned buildings.
      I will always treasure them. I wish my daughter gets to play those games here (not the abandoned bldg one though). Speaking of rodents, yes I can do without them. :)
      Since you've declared your dream out loud, I won't be surprised if one day you are writing about your new island home.

      Delete
  3. I have OCD too when it comes to rodents and insects. Who can blame us? They are so so dirty!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lesson we learned, we are going to stock up on repellents and sprays and will make pest control and exterminations a must. A proper vacuum cleaner is a necessity but I see a lot of homes here without them. The brooms don't clean much at all.

      Delete
  4. I have OCD too when it comes to rodents and insects. Who can blame us? They are so so dirty!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lesson we learned, we are going to stock up on repellents and sprays and will make pest control and exterminations a must. A proper vacuum cleaner is a necessity but I see a lot of homes here without them. The brooms don't clean much at all.

      Delete
  5. I am so glad the little one is feeling better and I hope you're recovering as well. I would have just burned that place to the ground on finding that spider - YIKES. Thank you for sharing the uglier side of island living (we all need the reminder that everything isn't rainbows and butterflies, even in paradise)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Rooth, I quite suck at half glass full. Lol. I am thankful though for the health recovery. True, it doesn't stop at coconut trees and white sand beaches. I need to toughen up and develop more skills in living out here.

      Delete
  6. Hi Arni, good thing baby anais is ok now. I can relate to being super OCD and the truth is we have to be OCD for the toddlers. I hope you'll be able to settle well. Good luck to your family Arni! Prayers for your baby. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tin, warm greetings from the Philippines.Thank you so much and regards to you and your family too. God bless you always.

      Delete
  7. Oh my gosh... all I remember is the gigantic spider!!! I am terrified of them! Even in pictures! D:

    Glad to know that your little girl is ok now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jane, spiders are at the top of my freak out list. They're in the same spot as flying cockroaches. :)

      Delete
  8. oh Arni! That spider alone would have done me in. I am so glad your little one is okay. :( :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so relieved and thankful it all worked out in the end. Though those spiders are really present throughout the island. We see them in dark alleys sometimes. Luckily they're harmless.

      Delete
  9. Great read! This really gives idea to people wanting to be hermits for atleast a little while to enjoy vacation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, thanks :) The experience definitely changed my romantic view of living on an island. Though I hope I didn't turn the readers off because sometimes the perks are worth the complications.

      Delete
  10. Oh wow that spider looks HUGE! Glad to hear you found a great spot in the end. Island living is love <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were so glad to hear the next day that those spiders are harmless. Thank God, the other days spent on the island brought us special and wonderful moments. :)

      Delete
  11. Insects? Rodents? Ekkkk!! I cant deal haha. Always a nightmare when your little one is sick, glad she's feeling much better! 💙

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was such a relief to have her back to her healthy self.

      Delete
  12. I can imagine the situation that you went through. I also cannot bear to stay in an unclean house with many unknown companions around especially if we are with out little one. We deserve to stay somewhere safe and comfortable. I am glad to know that you daughter got better already and you are now in a happy place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After that experience, we are now very careful in selecting our accommodation. We select based on good online reviews from travelers and then we personally check each recommended place out first, before booking anything.

      Delete
  13. Oh my gosh Arni. I had goosebumps while reading your post. especially that spider! I am deathly afraid of them. I'm no way an OCD when it comes to cleanliness but what you experienced was really dreadful. I don't think I could last there too for a day. Good thing you guys went with your gut. Kudos to you for braving to live in an island!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Darlene, this experience taught us so much. I don't think I'll ever get used to those big spiders.

      Delete
  14. I was really happy to read the happy ending! As a mom, I can say that there is nothing worse than having to nurse a sick child when it seems like everything is against you. I am so glad you found better accommodations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Christina, this experience made us realize that good accessible medical facility is a top priority and criteria in selecting a place to live.

      Delete
  15. Happy to see that the baby is well, but sorry to note that you are catching the infection, hope you get well soon and are none the worse for it. I think these are the hazards of living far away from the urban centre. But then probably we need to balance it out somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Balancing it out is a great point. It reminds me of what another friend said recently, we can't have everything so we need to figure out the pros and cons and choose from there.

      Delete
  16. I am mot really afraid of spiders, but if the spiders is that big, I'll go kill it myself, too. Happy you found a better spot. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe, yay to insect repellent :) Thanks Randolph.

      Delete
  17. You're adventurous family to do this. It's good to know that your baby is okay. It made me feel concern about her. I hope next time you will check the place if it will fit your little baby. Still I'm glad that everything is now okay. Keep safe always :)

    ReplyDelete

Flickr Images