The Change Direction Blog is about the joys, and practical impacts, of working from home online. It is about online businesses and techniques for internet marketing, traffic building. It is also about what it is like to work from home, working with family around, and all the practicial issues that arise on a day to day basis for someone working from home. Plus, an ex pat view of an English guy living in Palawan, a tropical paradise in the Philippines.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tropical Christmas

I can recall from my days in England, watching tv at Christmas and seeing how others celebrated across the world. At one time I used to think about those in Australia: "it's not like Christmas, hot weather and going to the beach". Why I used do think like that I really don't know. I did not like the cold once I got past the age of about 30. Or was it 35? Who cares, I hate the cold now. That's one of the many reasons I live in what many call paradise: Palawan.

So, here I am for my 4th Christmas on this beautiful tropical island I call home. I actually live in about the noisiest place in the province, which is large, very sparcely populated and mostly quiet. During the day there is a constant flow of traffic outside, mostly tricycles but cars and some very noisy lorries too. We will be moving to somewhere a little bit quieter soon, but still here in the city of Puerto Princesa, the Philippines cleanest and greenest city. In fact, just around the corner, but with no through traffic to disturb my concentration and throw up dust.

I am confined to the city (which to me is really a small, green town) because of the limited access to broadband internet. I now "work" online pretty much the whole time, so it is essential. But it's still a novelty living here. Life is totally different. There is very little that is the same as England, and that includes the weather of course.

Being a predominantly Christian country, Christmas is a big occasion. It is also still a religious occasion, which of course it should be. Only a tiny % of people can afford gifts, so the emphasis is on family holidays, time together, and going to church. Very few families have anything special for Christmas lunch, they just don't have the money. Anyway, I've not seen any turkeys here, so that's a non starter.

Despite the lack of money in most families, Christmas starts early in the stores, around August. One thing they go in for in a big way here is Christmas lights. Sometimes even the poorest homes will be adorned with fairy lights, some having quite spectacular displays. Even in early November, I travelled back from the jungle's edge about 90km south just as it was getting dark, and it was quite magical to see the Christmas lights as we got near the city.

My first Christmas in the country was memorable. I was invited to a girlfriend's house Christmas Eve, a very poor but very friendly neighbourhood with mostly small timber houses cramped next to each other, intimate to say the least. Outside in the garden (tiny yard) there were lights everywhere, set up for the party that would last all evening and into the night. I remember sitting there as they got everything organised around me, how magical and special it all was. Just a few months earlier I had been a resident in England and had only experienced Christmas in England. Now I was sitting outside on a hot Christmas eve, the sound of tropical insects a prelude to the modern disco music that was to follow later. I loved it.

As with most occasions in this country, there were loads of children. Neighbours came and went, people went from one party to another, there was a constant flow through of people and especially children. Children's games were followed later by adult versions of children's games, most of which had come from Western influence, but Filipinos always put their own stamp on the foreign habits they adopt. Alcohol would not have been a part of the occasion, but the adults were delighted when I offered to buy beer and rum.

At midnight, I was advised to go inside. I soon saw why. All hell broke lose with fireworks as midnight approached, exploding from every tightly packed, confined little garden in the neighbourhood. Fireworks that would have been banned in the UK, but they were pretty loud and impressive. I was amazed, as nobody had warned me of this tradition beforehand.

It is only this year that I have started settling into working online mode, and my preparations for next year are very much based on that. Much of this year I have been researching online business opportunities and continued from last years research into online marketing. I go into 2005 with a clear idea of what I will be doing to further my online business.

But however it turns out, one thing I know for sure is that I will be happy. My change of direction has brought me a life that is very contented at a personal level, with a wonderful wife and our baby daughter who passed 1 year on December 1. They are my inspiration to have a successful year.


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