Monday, December 8, 2008

Culture Shock

Near the Recto transit station in Manila

We've read about reverse culture shock, that is when you are overwhelmed with the affluence of your own country, but I never thought this would occur while in a developing country. While in Manila we have spent more time in malls, fast food outlets and traffic than we ever have at home. In this city of 13 million people they have every luxury store you can imagine. There are more Starbucks than in Vancouver. Four of the world’s 20 largest malls are located here in Manila. At least two of them have skating rinks! Being Canadians and missing some of our favourite winter sports, we went ice skating at the Mall of Asia.

Pretty groovy boots and sports socks, eh?
John had a bit of trouble adjusting to figure skates. (Think "flying camel")

We've certainly seen poverty alongside affluence before but the differences here seem so much more extreme. In the Philippines over 30 million people (a third of the population) live on less two dollars a day. It seems like Disney World gone bad when we sit in a well -run, spotless, Light Rail Transit and see pockets of crowded, make-shift houses and apartment buildings. Our CRWRC hosts have shared with us the multiple economic and political factors that contribute to this disparity. One that really stood out for us is the fact that 60% of the country`s GDP is money sent back from overseas workers. That is, you may be a ``have`` or ``have not`` depending on whether someone from your family has a job overseas. A thriving (and spending) middle class can be an effective method of economic growth for a country to develop over time but the associated commercialism is hard to swallow.

We are just about to settle into a smaller community and begin volunteering with Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). They are working with various local non-governmental agencies to address issues of justice, food security and education. CRWRC is working to address the disparity here and hopefully working alongside them will help us deal with our culture shock.


  1. Pam, John, Simon, and especially, Danielle: I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you, Danielle, and that scary fall you had. I pray that everything will be ok and I am thankful that you weren't seriously injured.

    Sorry that I haven't posted before this. I have been off for quite some time following surgery and am now just getting back at it. I faithfully and eagerly read your blog, and am excited to follow along with your adventures.

    My kids would like me to tell you that the zip cord video clip with John and his "Whoa's" is their very favourite. We have watched it over and over again. Very gripping stuff!! :-)

    I continue to pray for all of you. Blessings as you continue this amazing experience, and thanks so much for sharing it with us!!
    take care


  2. Hey Pam and John,
    I have heard a little about Danielle loosing teeth but not the whole story....what happened?
    Is there a way to get in contact with you right now other than email? I would love to talk with you.
    What about a mailing address?

    Tell Danielle and Simon we said hello and that we are enjoying their enteries on the BLOG.

    You are going to miss my dramatic debute....I am in a candle dance on Christmas Eve as well as a skit.

    We think of you everyday and pray for you all.
    Love you guys


  3. Great stories you guys...thanks again for keeping us all posted on your events. Many blessings to you over the Christmas Season while your working with the CRWRC..