Almost Paradise

It’s hard to define paradise. Such utopian concepts are delivered to us in Hollywood stories and the dreams that grace us in the night but the realization of such a place is typically far from us. After all, we can only hope for that which we do not have and thus paradise becomes to us the unattainable. Perhaps this is an intentional upset; we need something to strive for that is always just out of our reach. Occasionally though, paradise becomes a reality and we can only stand in awe at the existence.

It’s six thirty am Sunday morning. The sun has risen just above the palm trees and the birds keep a distant chirp in the background. We are all sitting on the bamboo benches outside the nipa. Papa sharpens his machete and Jennifer sweeps the yard while tossing an occasional glance in my direction.

The Beach in Suwa

The Beach in Suwa

We all sip upon our coffee while laughing about anything…laughing about everything. The small radio blares greatest hits from a decade ago in what is a silent observance that, in this place, time stands still. Paradise may be a utopian concept but I am fairly certain it doesn’t come any closer than this.

I imagine it is difficult for some to see through the poverty. Crumbling nipa huts with homemade outhouses do little to offer anything in the way of modern convenience and comfort. Pumping your own water? Yes, people still do that. Surprisingly, dirt floors and tin-metal roofs are more than sufficient for the necessities of life. It may be poor and rudimentary but it is all one needs. How surreal it is to know that less than a few months ago I was surrounded by those who dreamed of bigger houses and faster cars and now I am surrounded by those who dream of concrete floors and a better rice harvest!

Despite the shortage of everything, God has given this place something economy has stolen from America and that is family. It’s a strange dichotomy at work in this place: the less you have in material things, the more value you have in each other. I wonder if America knew the trade she was making: Anger, social frustration, incessant greed and children with automatic weapons; the more the government attempts to resolve the symptoms, the problem becomes worse and worse. She is a grand ship no different from the Titanic and like that sinking vessel, there are not enough life rafts to go around. She would do well to change her motto from ‘In God We Trust’ to ‘In God We Lust’. I do suppose that if it’s all you’ve ever known, it is only natural to keep believing in it. What a sad existence.

I take another sip of my coffee and watch one of the little lizards dart past. “Each to his own”, I think to myself. I wouldn’t begin to suggest that everyone move to the Philippines. I’m sure many would be miserable here. I would however highly suggest that you leave the comfort of everything you know and go experience something new. What you learn might just surprise you.

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