On First Crushes

Foreign Service LifePeruPhilippines
June 8, 2012

I am trying so, so hard NOT to compare everything here to the Philippines.  And the harder I try not to, the more I miss the Phils.  The funny thing is, I really like Lima.  It’s just not Manila (Um…DUH Sarah).

Let me try and explain, okay?  Metaphorically, Manila is the equivalent of my first high school crush.  It will always be more perfect in my head than it was in reality.  Time has a way of blurring memories (for the better, I think, or no one would have a second child).  So I’m pretty sure that no matter how awesome Peru is, it’ll always fall short of my first overseas experience.  Let’s call this phenomenon the “Manila Nostalgia Factor” (MNF for short).

Here’s how the cycle works… I go out to do something in Peru that I did in Manila.  I tell myself in advance that it’s going to be different than Manila (but in my head I’m secretly hoping it will be just that old, familiar thing I used to have).  I know this is a bit of a contradiction because in my life I’m constantly choosing new experiences over staying with something old and familiar, but let’s be honest – in the tough first weeks of adjustment to something new, I’m often longing for a touch of the familiar.  Sorry, off track…back to the explanation of the cycle.  Said activity ends up disappointing me and costing me twice what it did in Manila, which in turn ups my MNF.  It’s a vicious cycle people.

Take today for example, where I had two MNF moments.  So I book a massage at one of the top spas in town.  I decide to try my favorite massage from the Philippines, the Lymphatic Drainage Massage.  For baseline comparison, in the Phils this massage cost me $30 and went for 90 minutes.  Here I’m paying $70 for 50 minutes, so I’m expecting it to be at least as good (if not better) than what I’ve had before.  Guess if it lived up to my expectations?  NOPE.  It wasn’t anything like the dreamy massage I remembered from the past – especially the God-awful part where she kneaded my stomach for 15 minutes!  I leave disappointed and the MNF is in full effect.  Note: the only semi-redeeming part was the paper panties and bra that they had me wear (try not to be jealous).  

Next up, the dentist.  I go to a fancy pants dentist that the Embassy recommends.  They scrape my teeth for an hour and we have a jolly old time right up until the part where it’s time to pay.  In Manila a basic cleaning set me back $30 and the DENTIST did the entire cleaning himself along with an assistant whose only real job was to hold the spit sucker.  In Peru I get a US-style cleaning complete with a 5 minute Dentist visit and a Peruvian hygienist who didn’t speak English and made ME hold the spit sucker.  I’m expecting a bill around $30 or $40.  What do I get instead?  A US-worthy bill of $100.  Not cool.  Once again, the MNF kicks in.

I’m not trying to be a complainer and I definitely don’t want to be known as one of those people who goes on and on about their old post all the time.  That being said, I think it’s fair to acknowledge my disappointment.  I’m getting poorer service for MORE MONEY!  I know that in 2 years’ time I’ll have found plenty of things to love about this place, but today was one of those days when all I did was dream about my ‘first crush’.

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  1. bfiles says:

    I think this phenomenon is totally normal! You can’t help comparing. But I know you will fall in love w Lima, too.

  2. Sarah Novak says:

    I appreciate you saying that… I feel kinda guilty right now!

  3. jordan says:

    i love this post. it’s one proof of filipino genuine tlc (tender, love and care)-customer service-orientation.

    it really felt good. i definitely understand how u feel. :) you are not complaining. it’s your way to let them know where to better their service. it’s for their own good.

    im following your blog

  4. rolly says:


    This is not to add to your MNF. Just saying it to let you know I sincerely appreciate you.

    Mabuhay ka.

  5. Sarah Novak says:

    And I appreciate you, Filipino friend!

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