This past semester, in an attempt to narrow down my future career options, I volunteered at a hospital, expecting an experience that would be clinical, in more than one definition of the word. To my surprise, the medical professionals I met were warm and welcoming, with one particular nurse standing out.
Gerald, who has opted for a pseudonym, currently works as a registered nurse at a hospital in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. However, this city is not the first place he has lived in outside of his home country, the Philippines. He had first immigrated to Canada under a work visa, and he stayed there for nearly two years, experiencing four seasons for the first time. The Philippines has a wet and tropical climate. He was compelled to move out of the Philippines, because he could earn a higher wage. Growing up, he lived a “tough but blessed life,” he described. His mother was a full-time stay-at-home mom, and his father worked as a schoolteacher, which did not earn quite enough to support Gerald and his two siblings. However, family members already in America sent money that helped them with their “everyday living,” he said. For example, the money from his mother’s siblings sent him to school.
He followed in his family’s footsteps after college and went to Canada to work when he was in his early twenties, occasionally crossing the border to the United States. At first, he visited New York as a tourist, and he stayed at the home of his ex-girlfriend at the time. His first impression of New York was that everything moved quickly. “Everything seemed so fast-forward,” he said. “People looked like they were rushing all the time.” He remembered the city, with “busy streets and crazy drivers.” He was amazed by the pace on the streets and the grandiose buildings and towered over them. He recalled that the people were multicultural, a slight contrast to the population of the Philippines, which is more homogenous in culture and religion, with the country being the only in Asia to be officially a Christian nation and over 90 percent of the population practicing Christianity, most popularly Roman Catholicism. After experiencing New York as a tourist, he decided to stay for good.
Ultimately, the reason why he chose New York was because he would be better financially compensated for his work as a nurse. He already had friends and relatives living and working in the United States, and they urged him to move for a better salary. This incentive, along with the fact that his ex-girlfriend lived in the city, convinced him to change locations. He had dated this woman in the Philippines, where they were classmates in college, but when she moved to New York and thus “separated our lives between two different continents,” he said, the relationship ended. When he moved to Canada, he opened up communications again, and restarting the relationship with her played a role in his decision-making.
When he arrived in the United States, Gerald lived with his ex-girlfriend, now girlfriend. He spent the first few days visiting New York City landmarks, and the next several weeks job-searching. He looked for a company or hospital that was willing to sponsor him as a nurse. As he searched, he got his first job at a computer consulting company, despite his very limited knowledge in computers. He worked as a recruiter, and his responsibility was to look for consultants that matched positions of the needs of the clients. “I had totally no clue what I was doing there,” he confessed. He believed he was hired only because his girlfriend’s mother was one of the company’s clients. Eventually, he found a job at a hospital in Long Island.
Outside of struggling to become sponsored, he also struggled with assimilating. Because he already had a support system here of friends and family, Gerald adjusted without much trouble. In the Philippines, he had learned English. The official languages of the country are Filipino and English. However, during his first year here especially, he struggled with having confidence. Although he knew the English words, he couldn’t form them without an accent, and he was very self-conscious of that. Because of his accent, he was easily intimidated by native English speakers. Years later, he still still sensitive about his speaking voice to a degree; he doesn’t like to hear his voice on tape.
Now, Gerald lives in the suburb of Westchester, similar to the environment he lived in in Canada, with the same laid-back vibe, must different from the hustle and bustle of the city. However, he commutes to Manhattan three to four times a week, so he can still awe at the amazing architecture structures that stunned him his first days here. He has since married the girl he moved to New York for and is the father of three children. He’s happy with his current living situation, since “the cost of living in the city is ridiculously high,” he said.
Yet, he is still close enough to New York, which he deems as “the place to be.” This is where the latest technology is, along with the newest research studies in health science, amazing doctors, and the best hospitals. And yet, it isn’t lost on him that this city is a top target of terrorism, so the fact that his family is situated in the suburbs perhaps gives him some peace of mind.
Despite moving to a different continent, Gerald still keeps many aspects of home with him, with his marriage to his college sweetheart just one example. He still practices the Christian faith, and he and his family goes to church every Sunday. He is passionate about his faith, evidenced by a conversation I had with him during some downtime at the hospital, during which he educated me, who is non religious, about what his religion preaches. He continues the Filipino tradition of living with extended family, and he takes care of his aging mother the best he can, rather than sending her to a home. He still chooses to speak Filipino to his co-workers, rather than English. And though he is embarrassed by his accent, his culture lives on through his voice.
To him, New York reflects the United States, because they are both lands of opportunity. There are options for success that are not available in other countries. Citing the right to practice different cultures and beliefs, “[the United States] is indeed the land of the free,” he said.
Religion in the Philippines. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018. Retrieved from https://asiasociety.org/education/religion-philippines
Hernandez, C. G., & Cullinane, M. Philippines. Retrieved May 18, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Philippines/Plant-and-animal-life#ref23729
Worldpopulationreview.com. (2018). Retrieved 19 May 2018. Retrieved from http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/philippines-population