I can’t live in one place for too long. My limit is six years living in the same place. After that, I get bored. I yearn for change. The nomad in me wants to move, she gets restless; she wants to be on the road, to another city, another state, another place…
Moving is in my blood. I was born a nomad, always moving, from one unfinished nipa hut to the next; from one barrio to another; from one island to another. By the time I was six, we have moved more than 6 times.
The fifth house we lived in was by the seashore. A house my dad built but never finished as he has repeatedly done all his life. But this house was different. It was bigger and better than any other house we’ve had before. It had wooden floor instead of bamboo like we’ve always had. I was very young then, not even in school yet. I remember waking up in the morning and running on the white sandy shore, blanketed with fire red crabs. I would run after them, but the crabs were a little too fast for my little feet. Just when I was closing in on them, they would run back to their little dug holes and hide.
And then one afternoon, in this same house, I woke up from my nap, my clothes soaking wet, like I had just bathed in the sea. I bolted onto my feet screaming, calling my mom: “Nay… Nay… Nay! (mom), waah-whooaah…waahh… Naaaahnaaay!” I stopped crying, and slowly opened my tear filled, swollen eyes. I looked around but no one answered. The floor was covered with water five inches deep. Everything in the house was floating: clothes, pillows, plates, pots and pans. I ran and looked out the window; our chickens were quacking while floating on the water. The pigs were floating too! The dog was standing on top of a wooden plank, quietly observing the commotion between the chickens and the pigs. The tide was high that day and our house wasn’t built high enough above the ground to sustain the high tide. While I was asleep, my mom thought it was a perfect time for her to run up the hill to collect some sweet potatoes we were having for dinner that night. I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I stood by the window frozen, and motionless… wondering where everyone had gone…
After this incident, we moved again.
We moved inland into another nipa hut, only a stone throw away from my maternal aunt and grandparents’ huts. We did not live here long. We had to move again. And here’s why:
One day my dad came home, from a plowing job where he was offered coconut wine (tuba), which he happily accepted and drank. And when he’s drank, bad things happened. He was half a mile away from our nipa hut, already we could hear him belching out screams, the same loud, animalistic scream that he does when he is pissed off. He has had enough of my grampa and gramma’s insult, and this day seems to be the perfect day to let them know his feelings. As he was closing into my grandparents’ house, he pulled out his long knife and started striking, cutting and slicing everything on his path. He was only 10 feet from my grandparents’ porch, after he had cut all the banana trees in the front yard, when grampa and gramma jumped out the window, rolled down the green grassy hill to escape my dad and ran to the Barangay Captain 5 miles away.
Few days later, he was tipped off by a friend that several police men are on their way to arrest him. So he hid in the cave all day, and that night he boarded a small motor boat and escaped to Leyte. Few years later, my grandparents dropped the charges against him and they moved to Mindanao.
It would be three months before we join him. During this time, he’s been living with his relatives, moving from one relative to the next. When we came, my dad wasn’t ready for us. His uncle gave him permission to cultivate and live in his land up in the mountains, very far away from the barrio. It would take us from sunrise ’til sundown, by foot, to get there. We lived here a few years before my dad decided that we need to live closer to the barrio so my brother and I could go to school. And so we moved again, and again, and again. From when I attended first grade up until I graduated sixth grade, we have moved five more times.
For most people, moving is a dreadful thing to do. And YES, there are things involve in moving that is not fun – like packing all your household goods and belongings, and then unpacking when you get to your new place. And between all the packing, shipping, and unpacking, your things will get broken. Of course when I was a little girl, we didn’t own much of anything other than a few old clothes which we rolled and tuck into the rice sack and off we went. So moving was effortless. But when I met my husband, an American, he had already accumulated things, and accumulated more things once we were married. By then, moving then became a bit of a task. The furniture we had custom made lasted 17 years, some didn’t even last that long. We learned not to become emotionally attached to our possessions. Because these things come and go.
Each time we moved, we filled a Goodwill truck with books, furniture, clothes, and everything else that seem too bulky to take with us. (My husband is a firm believer of donating to Goodwill or Salvation Army. He believes that the universe will bless him many times over more than what he gives.) When we decided to leave Las Vegas, we had a beautiful, black old Mercedes Benz we gave away to a guy who worked as a mechanic at car shop. His family could use an extra car, and it was far too expensive for us to ship it, and even more expensive to maintain it.
YES, moving is a BIG decision and not an easy thing to do for most people. It’s even more daunting if you have to pay for the move because it is expensive and you are more likely to get ripped off. Like what happened to us when we moved from Las Vegas to South Carolina six years ago.
This was our first move on our own, without the military; therefore, we had to pay. So I shopped around for a moving company we can afford. I found one called Nationwide Moving Company. Their price was several hundred dollars less than the other, more nationally known company, so we decided to hire them. BIG MISTAKE! Lesson #1: Trying to save a buck could cost a lot more money in the long run and a lot more headaches than necessary. It’s better to pay extra if it meant dealing with a more recognized, and more reliable moving company. The key is to ask for references – people who have used them before and find out what they have to say. Another thing to do is research the internet for customer reviews. Back then, internet reviews weren’t as readily available as they are today. You have to invest a lot of time in research.
I sometimes wonder… that maybe it was just because our move got complicated. Our household goods were scheduled to be shipped and delivered to South Carolina, but things did not work out for us in there. In a short turn around, we had to move to Texas. So we had our household goods diverted – shipped and delivered to Texas. This is where the problem came in. Lesson #2: Do not rush into shipping your household goods to your destination. Instead, rent a storage space to store them. You can always get them later once you are stable and firmly rooted in your new location. Nationwide, the moving company, charged us few thousand dollars more to have our stuff delivered to Texas. I was confused and puzzled by this. Commonsense tells me, our household goods were still in Las Vegas, and Texas is several hundred miles closer to Las Vegas than to South Carolina. But Nationwide had the upper hand in this situation. If we weren’t willing to pay the additional money they demanded, they weren’t going to deliver our household goods. They had us by the neck; our stuff held hostage. We if we had to do the whole thing over, we would have just let them keep our stuff and started over. But there were a lot of things that were very sentimental to us. So we coughed up the money and paid. Lesson #3: Don’t let your emotions get in the way because it is going to cost you. Be ready to say: Fuck it and cut your losses while you’re ahead.
When my husband was in the military, the military paid for all the moving expenses, including our travel and temporary lodging. We didn’t have to worry about choosing a mover; the military took care of that. And then when he retired, we could choose a place – another city, or another state where we want to move and retire and the military would move us one last time… But life outside the military is different. Very different.
Years ago, I used to wonder why a lot of people move themselves. This was back when the military paid for our move. We’ll be on the road driving to another state, our new military base, and we’d see people driving huge U-Haul or Penske trucks, sometimes, towing a car in the back. Or the wife drives the family car and follows the husband. We’d say to ourselves: Why can’t this people just hire a mover and ship their household goods? It’s certainly much easier to just drive to your destination, in your car. And when you reached your destination, your new home, your stuff would be there waiting for you, instead of going through all this trouble driving a big U-Haul or Penske truck. Well… now we certainly know why. At minimum, it is $3,000 – $5,000 difference on your pocket, maybe more. And if you move yourself, at least you are guaranteed to have your household goods, in fair shape, when you get to your destination. So moving in a U-Haul or Penske truck with our household goods is now our preferred method. And this is even more so if you have a limited moving expense budget, and cannot afford to ‘pay an arm and a leg’ to the unscrupulous, shadowy moving companies. It’s cheaper and fewer headaches.
Despite of all these factors… moving can be a life changing event. It takes you out of your rut and of stagnation.
From all the moving we’ve done throughout the years, we learned plenty of valuable lessons that could save you money, headaches and pain. Learn from our mistakes. Consider these things before you move:
- Research a place, a city, or a state where you are more likely to find a job. The bigger the city the better.
When we were in Las Vegas, a city with over 1.8 million populations, we had a dream of living in a small town. Thinking that living in small town would be so much cheaper and better. WRONG!
We discovered this by living in Abilene, Texas, a city with population just a little over 120,000. The housing – single family homes and apartments are expensive, and not much to choose from. Restaurant prices are no cheaper if not more expensive than the ones located in major cities. Though we found that one of the reasons why small town like this is expensive is because of the military base present here. The businesses – real estate developers and apartment owners knows that the military personnel receive a monthly housing allowance of between $771 – $1,134 depending on rank, for enlisted without dependents (no wife and children), and significantly more – $1,005 – $1,485 if you are married with with children; even more – $946 – $1,824 per month if you are a commissioned officer. So the housing and apartment rental rates in this town are based on these allowances. If you are not in the military and are living in a small town like Abilene, you are pretty much resigned to living in poor areas with the only housing you can afford. My advice? Do not live in a small town with military base. You are better off living in a big city with more job opportunities. Don’t feel like you are stuck. MOVE!
- If possible, it would be very beneficial to visit and survey the city a few months ahead before your pending move. This is called “reconnaissance mission” in the military. While there, make note of important information i.e., nice and safe temporary housing or extended stay hotels and suites, proximity to major interstate highways, parks, shopping center, etc. Anything that will make yours and your family’s life a little easier and convenient in a new city. If you don’t have the time and money to visit the place in advance, it’s OK. Just make sure you do as much research about the place before you move. You can do the rest once you get there.
- Assess your resources. How much money – cash in hand or in the bank do you currently have? What’s your available credit limit? With the money you currently have, how long can you survive with that money before you need to have money to start coming in? Meaning. how long can you afford to not have a job? With the advent of online banking, where you can access your money virtually anywhere, anyplace and anytime, people can now live anywhere in the United States or any country in the world for that matter.
- How are you going to move? If you’ve sold most of your belongings i.e., extra car, furniture, and other household items, then there’s not that much to take with you. You could just rent a U-Haul and fill it with what you’ve decided keep and your most valuable possessions. Tow your car in the back if you have to. If you are married and have kids, and you own two vehicles, you’re wife can drive the other car with your children aboard. If you are single and moving alone then you have less to worry about.
- Decide where you are going to stay. If you are new to a city, your best bet would be to find an extended stay hotel with full kitchen. There are plenty out there to choose from: Homewood Suites, Candlewood Suites, Residence Inn by Marriott, Budget Suites of America, Homestead Suites, Extended Stay Hotels and Suites, and etc. The whole point of this is to find a place where you can settle temporarily, while you are looking for a job and getting to know the city. So that when you do find a job, you can then find an ideal place for you and your family. I would not buy a house right away. Staying in an apartment with a 3 – 6 six month lease keeps you mobile in case your new job doesn’t work out and you have to move someplace else.
Depending on what city you are moving into, most extended stay hotels will allow you to pay affront, for the whole month, to avoid paying taxes which can range between 12 – 16% or more. But I would suggest paying weekly during the first week or two so you can move to another hotel if you are not happy. And if you are happy with the hotel, you can always ask for their monthly rate. Though keep in mind that once you pay upfront, most extended stay hotels may not be willing to refund your money if you decide to check out sooner.
With extended stay hotels and suites, all utilities are covered. They may charge a small one-time fee to use the internet. Housekeeping may or may not be included; in some cases the hotel will charge you a small amount for a full housekeeping service once a week. Most extended stay hotels and suites have full kitchen with full refrigerator, stove with four burners and ovens (in some places), microwave ovens, kitchen utensils such as pots and pans, plates, forks and spoons, etc. They also have on-site coin laundry. I don’t like to their towels. So I bring my own. NOTE: Be sure to ask if you could see the room before you pay. And check for the items listed above. You do not want to get stuck in a place you don’t like for a whole month.
Before you start searching for an apartment, make a checklist of what’s important to you and your family. For me my checklist usually looks like this:
• 2 large, deep sinks
• Plenty of cabinet space
• Plenty of counter space
• Good ventilation
• Good oven and stove – not old and rusty
• Good dishwasher
• Large tub OR strong, good flowing shower
• Large counter space
• Good amount of drawers and cabinets
• Full size toilet – enough room around it
• Good sink and faucet
• Full size washer and dryer connection
• Linen/towel closet
Apartment MUST have good reviews:
1. Good, responsive maintenance
2. Friendly staff
3. Safe environment – Low crime area – In addition to seeing the apartment complex during the day, it is also best to drive by at night to see what type activities going on in the area.
Covered parking and plenty of parking space
4. The newer the apartment, the better. Apartments must not be older than 15 years! Old apartments mean somethings are going to break more often than not. And unless the apartment leasing employ a responsive efficient staff, it might be too much headache and frustration living here. Also, old apartments are not energy efficient. Which means your electric bill is going to be very expensive.
- While you are on temporary housing or living in an extended stay hotel, you could rent a storage space to store your belongings so you can return the U-Haul truck. Unless you’ve left them in storage back at your old hometown and would retrieve them later once you are settled.
- Make sure your computer and printer are easily accessible. You are going to need these equipments while you are staying in an extended stay hotel. In addition to updating your resume, writing thank you and follow up letters, it is much easier to get around if you have a printed map of the local places you need to go such as banks, grocery stores, public parks and recreation areas , etc. Getting maps and detailed directions to local places are readily available from Google Maps.
- Have computer games or PlayStation game console and games, and extra monitor available for your kids to play with. This should keep them entertained and busy so they won’t be bored out of their minds.
- Bring several interesting books for you, your spouse and your children to read.
- Bring plenty of bath and kitchen towels. I do not like the towels in some of these hotels so I bring enough for the whole family.
- Two weeks before you move, fill out a change of address form at the U.S. Post Office. And then rent a mailbox at Mail Boxes Etc. or UPS Stores and have your mail sent here. For additional fees, Mail Box Etc. (MBE) can hold and forward your mail and packages wherever you are. So this way you don’t ever have to ask favors from your relatives and friends, and you’ll get your mail.
Below is a list of food items to buy and cook when you are on a budget:
- rice – white or brown rice. I like to cook my rice the old fashioned way, and I prefer Jasmine rice.
- ramen noodles (known to be staples for young adults who don’t have much money and who don’t know how to cook
- baked beans
- Campbell Chunky Stew and Soups
- canned chili
- canned fruit
- microwavable vegetables (Birdseye Steamfresh is good and in expensive
- frozen and microwavable beef and bean burritos
- bottled water (it’s cheaper to buy them by the case at Sam’s Club)
- Panda Express Chinese food – If I’m going to eat fast food, I would rather eat Panda Express. They are available in most big cities. You can have a good satisfying meal, with 2 entrees plus chowmein, fried rice or noodles for only $6.48
This is just a list to get you going. You could add your favorite foods on this list.
I usually make this chili with my own blend of spices and seasoning. But when I’m with Ramon, I don’t have access to my varied spices that I have at home. So… I use the good ole McCormick chili seasoning mix. And then very recently, I have been serving my chili with Indian bread called Naan. A bread made from tandoori oven. It taste slightly sweet and chewy. I now prefer to eat my chili like this instead of eating it with corn tortilla chips. Again, I always cook a lot. So this recipe serves six people or more.
Hot Kickin’ Chili Too!
2 pounds ground beef – 96% lean
6 TBSPs. Olive oil – divided
5 garlic cloves – minced
1 large red or yellow onion – diced
3 large jalapeno peppers – seeded and chopped
2 packets McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix (I like the HOT one.)
2 tsps. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 TBSP. coarse sea salt (adjust according to taste)
1 – 28 ounces can crushed tomatoes
2 – 15 ounces can dark red kidney beans – undrained
Juice of 1 large lime
½ cup firmly packed chopped cilantro
4 stalks green onions
Garnish: grated cheddar cheese and sour cream
Brown ground beef in 3 tablespoons olive in an 8 quart pot. Drain meat and set aside.
Using the same pot, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and sauté onions until translucent. Stir the garlic and jalapeno peppers and sauté a few minutes.
Add ground beef into the sautéed onions, garlic and jalapeno mixture. Stir to blend. Add the two packets of chili seasoning mix, dried oregano, ground black pepper, and dried bay leaves. Stir to combine.
Add the crushed tomatoes, undrained kidney beans,and sea salt.
Stir and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, while stirring occasionally to avoid scorching the bottom. Lower the heat and simmer chili for about 30 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
Taste for additional salt and black pepper.
Add chopped cilantro and chopped green onions a few minutes before serving.
Top each serving with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream if you like.
Serve chili with warm Naan bread or tortilla corn chips and Fritos corn scoops or chips on the side.
NOTE: Follow the heating instruction on the package for Naan bread. Naan bread is available at Wal-Mart in their bakery section, and in other supermarkets. It cost $2.50 per pack at Wal-Mart and slightly more at other supermarkets.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!