Right Decision

Ten years ago, me and my wife made a decision that have changed our lives. We chose to live in Iowa.

Where? Iowa what? Why?

After residing in New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, we finally settled in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa. It was a decision that was questioned by friends and family, and we may have second guessed if it was the right decision at that time as well. But after 10 years here, we have never looked back.

When we are vacationing or visiting other states, we still get a ‘funny’ look if we tell them where we’re from. Ohio? Idaho? No. Iowa.

I am glad though that some experts are confirming what we and others who have moved here have discovered. Here’s a recent feature of Des Moines, Iowa, in Today show.

But I guess, I don’t need others’ opinion (expert or not) to tell me what I already knew. Moving to Iowa was the right decision all along.

Now excuse me, I got to go. I have to clear the snow in my driveway. And about the cold and the snow? It builds character, you know.

In Search of Paradise

(Someone close to me requested me to translate in English the article “Hinahanap na Paraiso, ” that I recently posted. Nothing against Google Translate, but it just did not gave it justice.)

As I peek outside our window, my morning was greeted with freshly fallen snow that blanketed our surrounding all-white. Because of the numbing cold, I pulled up the thick blanket over myself and dreamed of a much warmer paradise…..

our first snowfall this year

A paradise where the sun kisses the prancing ocean waves. Where the eternal summer breeze caresses the dancing palm trees. Where the proud mountains are always lush and green, and where mighty trees boast their broad and dense canopies. Where visitors are welcomed by hanging leis around their neck, while beautiful smiling women with flowers in their ears greet “Aloha”.

Not so long ago, my family were blessed to visit the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Here, we jaunted through the island and witnessed the enchanting places and scenery. Here we waded and played in its warm seawater. Here, we laid and unwind in its alluring beach. Truly this place is like a paradise, so it’s not a wonder it is one of the happiest places* on earth.

photo taken at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii

However this place is not totally free of its own problems and difficulties. The traffic jam can be terrible at times. There are beggars and homeless people who wanders around and sleep in the parks. And the local residents whine that the price of commodities are so high and the cost of living here is so expensive, that they say this place is only for tourists. Even on this “happy” place, there is no shortage of people who are forlorn in love.

If we would be familiar with its history, this paradise is the place of such vicious tragedy, a site of awful bloodshed, when the Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II. Thousands of lives were lost, and some are still entombed in their watery grave up to this day.

My point only is that even in a paradise-like place, it has still its own troubles. In fact, even in a perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden, it still became a place of temptation, disobedience, and fall from grace. This has caused all of the misery of mankind.

Is there really a place of paradise? To me, a paradise is not a location. It is not a place that can be seen in a map. For me, it is a state or condition in life. A state in life where you are happy and contented. A state in life where your dreams are realized. A state in life where you are free to love and is freely loved. In paradise – love reigns.

I looked around where I am now. My wife and my kids were still fast asleep. They transcend happiness and peace in their faces. It is true that even in such a frigid place like this, a place buried in snow, can be a paradise.

my frozen paradise

(*According to the recent Gallup poll, Hawaii is the happiest state among the 50 states of USA. Iowa though, made it to the top 10 too.)

I’m a Father of a Teenager

It seems like yesterday…….

When you arrived into our world and I held you for the first time, in a hospital room that overlooks the New York’s Central Park.

When I danced with you in the middle of the night, as you would not sleep, while the Number 7 train roars from a distant track.

When I pushed you on a swing, in a crowded playground in the middle of hustle and bustle of upper Manhattan.

In our New York Apartment (Number 7 train in the distance)

Was it only yesterday…….

When you ran in your swimsuit on the grass, with the sprinkler on, as you gleefully soaked in water under Florida sun.

When you played and dug in the dirt beside our apartment, with the nearby fragrant orange groves in sight.

When I pushed your stroller as we walked in Downtown Disney, to watch the fireworks in the humid Orlando night.

It was like yesterday……

When you first stomped on the freshly fallen snow and scooped it up with your bare hands, in the dead of Des Moines winter.

When you roamed in our yard picking dandelions, while the distant fields of corn swayed in the breeze of Midwest summer.

When I held and steadied your bike as you first learn to ride, in the driveway of our home here in Iowa.

me and my daughter in our backyard, here in Iowa

It was like yesterday, that you came into my life, and I became a father.

Where did time go? Now, I am a father of a teenager.

Yes, a teenager! But’s that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it is a wonderful thing.

My baby, is now a young lady. And I’m looking forward to more happiness you will bring.

Wayfaring Pinoy Transplant is Home

I find it hard to believe that it has been 7 years since I moved here in Iowa. After leaving Manila, which had been the cradle of my childhood, and after short stints in New Jersey, New York, California and Florida, I now have settled here in Iowa and have accepted to call it home.

Truly, my world have changed from the one I was reared into. I transitioned from the congested streets of Manila to the wide open fields of Iowa. Our neighborhood in Sampaloc was so crowded that if I open my window and ask our neighbor to lend me some salt, they can literally hand it to me through the window. Now, where I live, if I open my window and shout to my neighbor to pass the salt, he should have a very good arm to throw it that strong so I can catch it. That is if he can hear me shouting for the salt first.

Manila skyline (photo from the net)

Consider this: the state of Iowa (145,000 sq. km.) is bigger than the total land area of Luzon (105,000 sq. km.). But the population of Iowa is only 3 million. Yes, 3 million! That’s only the population of Quezon City! Can you imagine scattering the people from Quezon City alone, throughout the whole island of Luzon, and that will still be more dense than Iowa.

You may be able to drive for miles after miles here without seeing people. But you cannot go very far without seeing the handiwork of people, as stretches of cornfields, soybean fields, cattle and hog farms are the constant scenery here. Only a very small portion of produced corn here is used for human consumption, as most of them are for processing ethanol for fuel and other industrial use. There’s so much corn, that it is just considered cattle and hog feeds. The cattle population (almost 4 million) is more than its people. And hogs? We have 20 million. There is plenty of steak and pork chop to go around.

typical Iowa scene

(photo from here)

I remember when I told my friends that I will be moving from Florida to Iowa. Their first question was, “Where is Iowa?” The next question was, “Are you nuts?” And when I told my family in the Philippines that I will move to Iowa, their question was, “Is that still in the US?” Many people, even Americans cannot locate Iowa in the map. I admit that I had no idea where the heck Iowa was, or knew that it even exist, until a good friend of mine years ago invited me to consider moving here.

This friend is a classmate of mine from pre-med to medical school in Manila. Then we both did our post-graduate training in New York City. He moved to Iowa while I went to Florida, after our training. And for some reason he was very satisfied of the way of living and his practice in Iowa, while I was not in Florida. Besides, this is the man who was the best of our batch in medical school and was the top-notcher of the Philippines’ Medical Board of our time. If it was good enough for him, then there must be a very sound reason.

downtown Des Moines

(photo from here)

As a matter of fact, Des Moines, Iowa is always in the top 10 cities in the US for raising family, for business and career, and a place to relocate. (No, I’m not making those up, but perhaps I need to hear those reports to convince myself that I made the right decision.) But what I like most here is its people. They are friendly, laid-back, simple and are family oriented. Moreover, people here still like their doctors, as the rate of medical malpractice lawsuits is not that high compared to other states. (The states where I lived before were among the high risk states for malpractice lawsuits.)

Seven years and counting. So far I have no regrets. Except when I am freezing while shoveling snow in my driveway, that moving somewhere warm (like the Bahamas) crosses my mind. But winter is almost gone now and spring is on its way. I will soon forget about the bone-chilling cold, at least until the next winter.

Will I stay here for good? Only time can tell. But for now, this wayfaring Pinoy transplant has found his home.

Not Cold? My Ears are Frozen!

Last weekend we shared a lazy Sunday brunch with our neighbors (yes, the same one who borrowed Voltes V). They have just moved from Minnesota to Iowa last summer, and as good neighbors we befriended them. They did fit in quickly to our neighborhood, and have settled in pretty much in their lovely new home.

Trying to know people with very different background than us is always interesting. They were curious how we who grew up in another country ended up here in Iowa. We told them of our experiences and what it was like back home. We were happy to inform them that the Philippines have more than 7100 islands (and that some of them disappear during high tide), and that our country’s land area is only twice as big as Iowa, but our population is about 92 M, compared to 3 M here in Iowa.

Then we talked about the Philippines’ climate where the temperature varies between 70′s to 90′s F all year through, unlike the very wide range of -20 (below 0) to 100 F here in Iowa.

As we were sharing stories, they told us that their friends have called them earlier that day and told them that they should be thankful, for there was so much snow and it was so much colder there in St.Paul/Minneapolis (Twin Cities) where they use to lived, than what we were experiencing here in Des Moines.

This couple grew up in Minnesota and spent most of their lives there, and they are very accustomed to cold. They claimed that in Minnesota, they can have up to 6 months of snow in a year. (Half a year of snow?!!) They have learned to embrace the cold weather and enjoy activities in snow. To them, Iowa winter is considered mild. (What do you mean not cold? My ears are already frozen!)

I find it funny that we have such different perspective of what cold is. I guess, to each his own.

Should I be thankful then, for it is warmer here than in Minnesota? I went out and checked the temperature outside: 8 F. Yeah, right.

Up up and away

Last week we went to National Balloon Classic, an annual hot-air balloon festival, held in Indianola, Iowa. It was a neat experience watching them take off and land. Maybe next time, we’ll have the opportunity to ride them too.

The green flag is on. Fire-up the balloons.

Almost ready for take off.

Lift off!

More balloons are fired up.

“Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.” – The Fifth Dimension

When all the departing balloons from our area took off, we saw other balloons from afar. They are arriving for a landing.

The balloons have landed.

Time to party.

Goodnight balloons…..

Go fly into the sunset.

“Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Mula Palayan Hanggang Maisan (From Ricefields to Cornfields)

Nagsimula sa isang malawak na palayan sa probinsiya ng Norzagaray, Bulacan. Ay  may isang batang nangarap. Habang ang kanyang pastol na kalabaw ay nagpapahinga sa ilalim ng puno ng kawayan at ang mga magsasaka nama’y abalang nagtatanim ng palay. Duon siya nangarap, na makapag-aral, makapagtapos ng kolehiyo, at tapos ay makipagsapalaran sa Maynila. Maraming taon ang lumipas….. at ang pangarap niya ay natupad. Ang batang ito, ay ang aking tatay.

Sa isang masikip na kalye ng Sampaloc, Manila. Ay may isang batang nangarap. Habang mga traysikel ay umamarangkada at ang mga tambay ay nag-iinuman duon sa harap ng maliit na tindahan . Dito siya’y nangarap, na makatapos ng pag-aaral, magpakadalubhasa, at pagkatapos  ay marahil makarating sa ibang bansa. Maraming taon ang lumipas……..ang pangarap niya’y natupad din. Ang batang ito’y walang iba, kundi ako.

Nakarating sa Amerika.  Tumira sa isang magulo at maingay na kalsada ng New York City. Dumudungaw sa bintana, habang umaalingawngaw ang serena ng pulis at ambulansiya, at dumadagundong naman ang nagdaraang subway train (Subway line 7, sa Queens). Sa magulong mundong ito ako’y muling nangarap, na mamuhay at magpalaki ng aking pamilya sa tahimik at mas mapayapang mundo. Ilang taon ang lumipas…..ang pangarap ko’y muling natupad.

Sa isang matahimik na lugar ng Iowa. Ay may mga batang  nangangarap. Sila’y nakatanaw sa malawak na bukid ng mga mais. Habang ang mga ibong ligaw ay naghaharana, at ang mga tanaw na magsasaka, sakay ng kanilang traktora, ay nag-aani ng mais. Ang mga batang ito, ay ang aking mga anak. Ano naman kaya ang kanilang mga pangarap? Saan naman kaya sila dadalhin ng kanilang mga pangarap? Alam kong sa paglipas ng maraming taon…….ito ay matutupad rin.

(*all photos from internet)

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

One of the movies I remembered seeing while I was still in Manila is the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, that starred Kevin Costner. In one of the scene the script went like this:

John Kinsella: “Is this heaven?”

Ray Kinsella: “It’s Iowa.”

John Kinsella: “Iowa? I could have sworn this is heaven.”

Ray Kinsella: “Is there a heaven?”

John Kinsella: “Oh yeah. It’s a place where dreams come true.”

Ray Kinsella: “Maybe this is heaven.”

Now that I moved here and I am living my dreams here in Iowa, maybe this is really heaven.