We woke up at the ass crack of dawn to catch a flight to Coron, Palawan. It was a last minute decision that turned out to be an amazing experience.
We got to the airport super early. I got to use their wireless to make a phone call home. The boys were still at school so I had a great chat with Mom. It sounds like everything is really going great, but I am starting to get that pit in my stomach symbolizing the need to hug my boys. We are only a few days away, so I will forge ahead on this journey to reboot and recharge. We had leisurely coffee and breakfast and naturally ended up almost missing our flight. They were literally calling us over the main loud speaker and there we were running through the airport at 6:00 am like freaking crazy people. We made it to the plane.
Speaking of the plane, it was a turbo prop plane. Oh, like seriously, this must be how I will die!! Like seriously!! We arrived on the island of Coron and caught a shuttle to the port to catch a boat for an island tour. Derrick was kinda side-eyeing my 2 bags I brought for the overnight trip. I laughed and said that one could never be too prepared. On cue, he kills a mosquito with his hands and has a minor Zika freak out. I calmly unzip one of my bags and produce a wet wipe. Thank you world! Point made!! Victory!!
The island tour was spectacular. The scenery was breathe taking and I had moments I wanted to just freeze in time so I would not forget a single detail. The one I won't let myself forgot was floating in a crystal blue lagoon on my back with the sun on face watching the breeze through the tree lined cliffs above. Everyone needs a happy place during hard times and that moment will forever be mine.
We went on the trip with Derrick's brother, Dennis, and his sister, Del, who took time off work to go with us. It was so heart-warming to be around these 3 siblings. I don't think they had been on a trip together in many years. Everyone has jobs, kids, and many responsibilities, so the trip provided them a chance to just relax and reconnect. Del was so zen and relaxed taking cat naps everywhere. Dennis was like an excited kid again, snorkeling with a huge smile on his face. Derrick was the happiest I had seen him in a very long time.
We visited beaches and swam in the ocean all day. We had lunch on a remote island and drank and ate fresh coconut right off the tree.
We kept encountering this really ridiculous Filipino lady in a purple one piece at every stop. Instead of having her guide actually guide her through the stops, she made him her personal photographer. She would pose for like 20 minutes a time, almost always from the back, which was so weird! She was wearing a one piece. She had a flat ass. Her husband was there. Why wasn't he taking the pictures? What does it all mean? She became my minor obsession, until we were in the cove with the chilly water. Derrick and I waited out some German teenagers for a nice flat rock. As soon we settle down to warm up, who should appear but the purple bathing suit lady. Derrick said "oh she is here to take pictures" as she settled down next to us. I whispered "don't you dare move". We sat for 10 minutes making the girl wait for the next set of flat ass pictures. She finally turned around and mouthed something to the guide (why not the husband, what does it all mean!!) who then finally asked us to move. We were ready to head back to the boat anyway, but I took my damn time getting off the rock and threw plenty of stink eye at her and her pervy guide.
The hotel we were staying at turned out to be super sketchy. The owners were super nice, but the place was a little shady. Derrick noticed we were staying next to at hotel called 2 Seasons and joked our hotel should be called The Half Season Hotel!! LoL! I, of course, chose the bed underneath the window, which we found out later doesn't lock! Oh great, so this is how I will die!!!
We went for a lobster dinner and actually did the whole "pose with the lobster before they cook it" picture. I felt bad. Mine seemed to be really fighting for his life. I was so freaked out trying to hold him but like a true millennial will do anything for a good social media pic!! Guilty. If it is any solace to my lobster, he was delicious, but I woke up in the middle of the night with an upset stomach so jokes on me. I spent the rest of the morning visiting the bathroom in what I am calling Lobster's Revenge.
Manila is overwhelming, so it was nice to leave the city today. We went hiking at the Masungi Georeserve outside of the city limits. It was pretty awesome. It was a hike with lots of rope ladders, rope brides (oh, so this is how I die then?), giant hammocks and amazing views. It was a truly beautiful day. It is so easy to forget the beauty of the Philippines when you are in Manila. It is an extraordinary country with so much to offer. I really enjoyed the day. I made video of it below. Enjoy!!
We also had the final dinner of Derrick's reunion. It was a lot of fun and I became the unofficial photographer for the Class of 91!! Yay!! They really are great people. I am so glad I got to meet many of them. We got back to the room around 12:00 and had to be up by 4:00 to go to our outer island trip, so I haven't solved the sleep problem at all, but at least my stomach behaved and I didn't poop myself on a rope ladder.
I woke up pissed that no matter what freaking time zone I am in I still always wake up at 6:00 a.m.!! I even closed the black out curtains last night to no avail. I was awake like clock work!! Ugh!!
I have left out that we have already had like 4 gigantic Chinese meals at this point and my stomach was like "F-You!!!!" However, most Asians bathrooms are equipped with bidets. So even though it was coming out of me like hot lava, I still managed to stay squeaky clean.
Today was ladies day out. Derrick, his sister Del, his Mom, and I went shopping. It was at an Asian market where all prices are negotiable, which mean we had to play "hide the white tourist" to get any kind of deal. I would have to walk by a booth on my own. I would then meet Derrick and describe what I wanted. He would then casually stroll over sans me and negotiate. It was fun. However, my stomach did not share my enthusiasm and I kept having to go the restroom. They had free bathrooms (seriously like a murder scene) and paid bathrooms. I quickly learned that 25 pesos is a totally acceptable amount to spend on a bathroom visit.
Del and Derrick took his Mom to salon and we took her to lunch. Her knees are failing and she is now in a wheelchair so it was nice to get her out and about. She was very happy. At the end of lunch, we all shared a banana spilt and Derrick snapped a picture of her with the biggest smile on her face.
I was able to catch the boys on FaceTime after school and the were so cute. We have come a long way in the past 7 months since taking in Jerry and I am anxious to get all the feedback I can from my parents. I am proud of my boys and glad they are having a blast with their grandparents.
We were having dinner with Derrick's family tonight at a Japanese restaurant (yay Japanese and not another gigantic Chinese meal) and we had to walk to his Mom's house through his neighborhood at night. Yes, the gritty neighborhood I mentioned in another post. There are cars, tricycles, buses, scooter, motorcycles flying by and there is no sidewalk. I was totally thinking "so this is how I die" as we crossed the streets. It was a madhouse and I might as well have been wearing a "mug me" shirt as I strutted with my new cute shirt and man bag. We survived and had a lovely Japanese dinner.
The Japanese keep very Zen, clean restrooms just so you know, which I noticed on my many visits.
Derrick went to spend some QT with his mom and family. I stayed in the hotel all morning and combated my fatness and jet-lag. Ok, maybe just the jet-lag but I am still pissed about shopping yesterday. Naturally, Derrick and I decided to go shopping again. I had better (read = more realistic) expectations and found some cute stuff.
We decided to get a facial! WTF!! Facials are like torture. I am not freaking kidding. I was in so much pain I was about to share national secrets (we all secretly love The Kardashians) and confess to some sort of terrorist activity (does not using my turn signal count) because I was in freaking pain. The extractions are bullshit. After spending what felt like 5 hours on my nose, she proudly showed me all the nasal debris (what do you call it exactly?) she extracted and it sure as hell looked like skin to me!! Never again people!! Never!!
We decided to give the massage parlor downstairs another shot and these dudes were more aggressive than the last ones. Did he actually just blatantly grab it? Was I just violated? Is this like "pussy grabbing"? I just didn't react and pretended to sleep which seemed to help. Derrick was full on snoring so he obviously wasn't buying any "extra services"!!
It has been hard to connect with the boys with the weird time difference, but it sounds like my parents are enjoying their time with them. I am starting to miss them, but I am determined to not get all emo and enjoy myself!!
We shopped a lot today, which is my favorite part of visiting Manila!! The exchange rate is awesome right now, so I was ready!! However, I have gained weight since our last trip which is not a good thing when shopping in stores geared toward Asians!! Seriously, how the fuck can this be a large, it feels like spandex :) So I combated my growing depression by drinking boba and eating every Filipino dessert and treat we encountered!! Productive Jake!! They also have the cutest shoes but never in my size. Ugh!
Tonight, we attended Derrick's 25th high school reunion. Derrick's mom worked hard to send her children to private schools. She sold Christmas hams to pay for tuition and was determined to have her children be educated and successful. For as rough around the edges as she seems, I have nothing but respect for her. The reunion solidified this because I was able to see the quality education Derrick received because of her determination. St. Jude's is an awesome school and Derrick's "batch" is full of love, laughter, enthusiasm. Their happiness was infectious and the night was awesome.
I loved that they did the reunion right in the school. Although I heard it changed a lot, it really helped me picture a young, ambitious Derrick going to school there from preschool through high school. I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the night when we started with a 1 hour Catholic mass!! This is expected because it is a Catholic school, but I was like "this is going to be a long night!" However, a very "fabulous" friend of Derrick's from high school was in charge of the actual program, and let's just say girlfriend brought his "A" game people!! It was the gayest thing I had ever seen! There was Madonna (the pop star not the Virgin Mary) dance routines and a trans comedian doing a spin of Dear Abby. The trans comedian also came out and did a whole Q&A session with the audience as Miss Universe! It was fantastic and I couldn't even understand 75% of it because it was in Tagalog! Lol!!
It was awesome night!!
We left Honolulu midday Thursday and just over 9 hours later we arrived in Manila on Friday evening just in time for gigantic Chinese dinner #1 at Derrick's mom's house. The spread at these dinners are huge and I have to approach each meal with a determined appetite as not to offend Derrick's mom. We are at a point where Derrick's mom accepts the marriage mostly because I keep visiting and have most likely proven that I am not going anywhere. The path of least resistance is to clearly just smile and feed the white husband. The path of least resistance for me is to put on my big girl eating panties and scarf down as much food as I can. See we have a nice little dance don't we?
The other thing that is so crazy in the Philippines is the amount of maids people have!! Seriously, Derrick's mom's place is staffed with 3 maids to cook and clean. In the U.S. this would be a sign of wealth, but in the Philippines it is totally common. Derrick's mom totally plays the role of helpful, yet critical, Chinese "woman of the house" well. At one point, she was telling me how one of the maids was a great cook but really had no brain because she had forgotten a serving spoon. In her defense, I think she is really trying to help these girls learn how to do their job well, but let's just say her delivery is pretty blunt and is one utterance of "bless her heart" away from being a southern debutant. His mom works her ass off and hasn't always had it easy, so I think a little leeway in this area is completely warranted.
Holy crap, I forgot to mention that Derrick seriously got pick pocketed at the Manila airport. It was crazy. Luckily, my hubby, who was born and raised in a gritty neighborhood in Manila, only had 2 credit cards and some U.S. dollars in there. He kept our Filipino pesos and passports in his bag. Phew, but still crazy!! We were able to cancel cards before anything was charged.
We ended the night by getting massages in our room from the new place in the lobby of hotel we stay at in Manila. We were excited, but clearly the massage therapists were determined to up their rate by providing us "extra services". I mean it was very clear what they were going for, but all we wanted to do was sleep. The exotic-ness of it was kinda hot. Just not hotter than sleep after a long day of travel. Besides the "extra services" they were offering could easily be satisfied for free during a nice hot shower after a great night's sleep!!!!
Inspired by the thoroughly entertaining book by Andy Cohen (inspired by Andy Warhol), I have decided to journal about a year in my life, a life a totally think is worth noting. I might not be a celebrity but I live what I feel is a totally modern 21st century life. I am 33 (almost 34...shit!). I am gay and legally married to my husband, who is Chinese but raised in Manila. We have adopted two boys out of foster care who are 5 and 7. They are crazy, amazing, loving, challenging, strong, infuriating, demanding, but CUTE, little maniacs.
I am currently on a plane on the way to Manila for Derrick's 25th high school reunion! One might think the reunion is the amazing part of the trip, but one would be mistaken! The amazing thing is that we are traveling sans children! Like Holy Shit! What the hell am I going to do with myself! Well, I plan to sleep a lot- that beautiful, uninterrupted, no creepy bedside child staring at me at 5 am kind of sleep!! Like seriously, I am planning for epic sleep, oh and meals! I get to eat like an actual adult. I will actually get to take over 3 bites without having to turn into angry, diva Dad who is doing their best Nene Leakes impression while attempting to get their children to just shut up and take a damn bite of food!!
My parents are watching the boys which means my children will fall off the non-tech wagon and enjoy hour and hours of uninterrupted, binge watching of God knows what. I picture my older child Dillon writing a similar post to this celebrating his own freedom from his fascist father who deprives him the 21st century basic needs Netflix, soda, Xbox, and non-matching clothing (matching is important dammit, what is this, the Stone Age?).
I love my parents and am so grateful they are watching out boys. I am very excited. Now, off to watch a movie that doesn't include a freaking princess or animated character whose parents died setting off a series of events where the main characters "find themselves".
My trip to get Jerry is nearing it's end. I have spent two and a half weeks in New Mexico, where I was born and raised. The focus of this trip was to bond and love Jerry while we prepare to bring him home to Hawaii. Home. It is funny how that word has evolved as I have grown into adulthood. Until the end of college, home was at my parent's house in Artesia, New Mexico. As I wrote in an early post, Artesia will always represent a portion of the word home for me. But for a journeyman like me, home continues to evolve. I am a firm believer of taking every chance life gives you and that belief has taken me across the country and now an ocean. Home evolved from childhood memories and comforts to tiny apartments tucked away in New York City. Home becomes lifelong friends I have met along my journey who all represent and hold different memories and pieces of my heart. Home is the first house Derrick and I lived into together. Home is Dillon, Jerry and the love I have for them and their siblings. Home is now on old Hawaiian style home in Manoa Valley. My journeys have taken me everywhere, but I will forever be grateful that Jerry's journey led me back to my New Mexico home.
The trip was just what I needed. Rarely in my fast-faced, hustle and bustle life do I get an extended period to decompress and reflect on the journey I have led in my life thus far. I arrived in New Mexico two and half weeks ago pretty manic and wound up. I could physically feel it in my body and my mind refused to relax. The comfort of my parents and the comfort of New Mexico are just what I needed. I needed the chance to reflect on the journey that led our family to Jerry. As the weeks passed, I could feel my body and mind relax which allowed me to bond with Jerry while beaming with pride and gratitude for my husband and son back home. I am very proud of Dillon, Derrick, and myself. We are all journeymen and all our journeys have led us into our new home, The Lee Home. The Lee Home is filled with love, passion, dedication, and laughter. I cannot wait to get Jerry there this weekend.
But for the first time in a long time, as the plane circles the Sandias and heads West, I will miss New Mexico while appreciating the comfort it provided me during this powerful trip.
New Mexico will always be my "true" home.
We needed to leave my parent's house because the house cleaners were coming. Spring had finally arrived in southern New Mexico and the weather was perfect. We decided to drive to Roswell, an hour drive, to take Jerry to the zoo and pick up some things at Target. Our village only has a Wal-Mart ;)
As we approached the truck route on the west side of Roswell, nostalgia filled the car. If we turned right and headed south, we would be in my hometown of Artesia. We started sharing memories and I calculated that I hadn't visited Artesia in nearly 12 years. My parents moved from Artesia nearly a decade ago while I was in college and I had no need to visit once they left.
Artesia is a town of about 10,000 people. While the politics are scary to an open-minded, gay, liberal such as myself, the town will always hold a place in my heart. It is such a child-focused, family-oriented, wholesome place. As I have grown older, lived a life, and began a family, I have become very aware of how much of Artesia has stuck with me. I will forever be a small town boy at heart. I will always fiercely love football and will always yearn for long country drives listening to music.
The memories flowed as we drove into town. Some things have changed, but most of the town remains the same. We ate at my favorite restaurant. We drove by my favorite places, my elementary school, and my friend's houses. We stopped by my childhood home that sits behind the church my dad preached at for over 30 years.
The thing I loved most is that I was there with Jerry. When I left Artesia, I hadn't "come out of the closet" and I felt that I was running from a place I knew would never accept me. I came out 1 year later, at the age of 19, and set off on my life journey. 12 years after my last visit, I am in Artesia with my new son. We are playing in the same parks that I did when I was Jerry's age. We are eating at the same restaurants and taking pictures on the porch of my childhood home where I came out to my parents 14 years ago. Next week, I will return home to my husband and reunite my two sons. It was a surreal experience to see how far I have come.
Life is truly a remarkable journey and I was so happy we turned left on the truck route that led me back to my childhood home.
He is so much like his brother! His personality. His laugh. His smile! He has his brother's kind heart and optimistic view on life. He is helpful, respectful, and ridiculously independent. I am absolutely in love with this boy.
My heart aches for Dillon and Derrick back home, but the vision and images I have of their reunion help bay the homesickness.
This was meant to happen. Jerry is the final piece of the Lee puzzle. This was certainly a chance worth taking...
FaceTime is my new favorite technology. Watching our boys build a relationship thousands of miles apart is truly remarkable. It shows just how powerful technology is at building connections. I wish I could record every conversation so we all can remember just how amazing this process has been.
Right when we brought Dillon (our oldest son) we quickly realized we needed to think of what he would call us! He quickly named my husband Daddy and upon hearing his 2 year old friend call one of his 2 dads "Doda", Dillon decided on Dodie. After years of constantly lobbying for "Papa", I have grown to love and adore my name Dodie Here is a blog about my journey as Dillon and Jerry's Dodie!
My son Dillon was in foster care for 1,377 Days. We finalized our adoption of this firecracker boy in March of 2015 a few months before his 6th birthday. We are now in the process of adopting Dillon's younger brother "Jerry" from foster care! This blog will help paint a picture of two gay men raising two boys in this every changing world.