Thursday, March 15, 2012
It was during the year 2002 that I emersed myself in that chatroom. My fascination turned into infatuation.
Let me add some perspective to all this. I began enduring a divorce, in my early thirties, about fifteen years before. With a BA in Bible, I was hardly qualified to do anythng besides church work. My world, my dreams, my confidence in the things I trusted most all came to a crashing halt. That's another story, but it, no doubt, is relevant. My concern was earning enough money to help support children I had sired and build (from the ground up) a life of my own. My mind's eye saw no other way to do that other than to return to college and qualify myself for another career. I chose "Home Economics" as my major, because it seemed simple enough. I could teach cooking and sewing long enough to get the kids launched off on their own. I began my teaching career in fall of 1995. By 2003, I was feeling fairly settled in my new career, and I was able to afford my first desktop computer. Internet was young, and I was so ready to start making good friends again.
Bear in mind that I spent the first twenty years of my life growing up during my father's US Air Force career during which we moved from Georgia, to Texas, to Maryland, to Alaska, to South Carolina, to Oklahoma, and to Georgia. Going places, making new friends with people from all over, moving after every few years was a way of life for me. During my first college career, I attended five colleges in four states.
Navigating my way though the internet, discovering and taking advantage of Yahoo Messenger, Connexion, Friendster, and etc., was welcomed recreational activity for me. Eventually, webcams were available. What a time to begin making new friends! In 2003, I met several individuals with whom I began making very satisfying and long lasting friendships. Though each of us has lived his own life working his own job in his own location, each of us has remained connected ever since. Several have been living in California. One has been living in Germany (although he is from the Philippines). Several have been living in the Philippines.
Getting from 2003 to my first trip to the Philippines in 2004 was a complicated ride in life. Maybe I'll say more about that later. Maybe I won't. Maybe I should just not even go there. Whatever, I'll just say a few more things for now. I didn't have a camera of my own to take with me, so I borrowed a small pocket camera -- which could only hold a few pictures (so I've not had many to share). Also, my passport allowed me to stay there for up to twenty-one days. I had planned to meet a half-dozen friends from different places and was brand new to traveling abroad, so every moment of the venture, though precious and exhilarating, was hectic.
Well, back in 2003, Yahoo Messenger allowed people to create their own chat rooms. One was, apparently, created by people in the Philippines. Given that English is used so much -- taught in school, used in business and legal documents -- all over the Philippines, and given that many islands and neighborhoods in the Philippines are very small and very rural, it should be no surprise the Filipinos from all over would want to reach out and make friends with people all over the English speaking world. Not only that, but many, many, many Filipino sons, daughters, husbands, wives, etc, ... perhaps in as much as half the Filipino work force (I'm guessing), work abroad, not only in the USA, but in Germany, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Central America, Africa, South America, Japan, China, and etc. It makes perfect sense that Filipinos would use the internet as a major means of communication and, even, socializing. And, it should be no surprise that English speaking people would end up chatting at length with Filipinos. That I did.
I knew NOTHING about the Philippines. I knew NOTHING about life there. I knew NOTHING about immigration procedures and problems. That's not to say I never saw anything on TV nor read anything about the Philippines. I had had friends in the USA who had lived a few years there, as families in the US Air Force. My father had been there. But now, I was chatting with real live Filipinos living in real places in the Philippines. That openned a door to a whole new world and gave birth to a whole new journey, a journey upon which I had never imagined myself embarking.
In the picture above, I am standing next to a friend I met in that chatroom. To this day (March 16, 2012) we have remained good friends.