Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last Sunday we went to the Biltmore house in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a wonderful place. It’s the type of house that one read about in novels or watches in movies. In the past, I would often think that these types of houses do not exist, as it’s just a Hollywood set or a figment of the writer’s imagination. But walking through the enormous halls and rooms, I realize the true extent of wealth in America. Of course, I have visited the enormous palaces in Thailand, China and India. But I attributed them as something that is part of history, where it’s a normal consequence of ancient kingdoms, empires and monarchies.

Only here in the Biltmore house was I able to see the incredible wealth of private individuals that match and even surpass the ancient royalties. It’s the naked display of wealth and power in a manner that is acceptable and welcomed by the public. In fact, it was a brilliant conversion of private magnificence into a public tourist park. The conversion into a public business concern from a private estate was a sort of allowance to today’s frowning upon of conspicuous wealth. And what an enormous wealth it is. Long ago, about 18 years ago, I had wanted to see the Hearst castle in California but it was closed when we drove up. It would be interesting to compare and make the comparison. The only comparisons I can think of are the castles in India especially in Rajasthan that seems similar.

The drive to Asheville was pleasant and took less than 2 hours. The drive was through the mountains and pleasant country side, with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The view of the North Carolina hills was great from the Biltmore house too and I was reminded of those movies on English royalty in their country homes. Movies like ‘Remains of the Day’ or even ‘The Queen’ come to mind. After the house, my sons and I took a walk in the extensive gardens, the Bass pond and the conservatory. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Afterward we drove to the winery and I tasted the wines which were quite good.

Driving home I was amazed that we have come this far; like it was something that we have been doing for a long time. Or rather it seemed that we have been living here for many years already. I guess it is because the move here is the second time my family has transferred to another country: the first one was from Philippines to Singapore and the 2nd move was from Singapore to USA. I am glad to have completed most of the tasks like buying a house and car and settling everything down within 3 months. But I think it will take a year at least for everything else like my kids assimilation into local college, acquiring the habit and lifestyle to drive and be independent. Perhaps, also my wife will get bored at home and look for work. I think these are still the coming adaptations that will play itself out in the coming months.

I dare say I like my job, the place here and the decision to move. Initially some trepidation at the back of my mind but things seemed to have turned out well. We invited our friends over last Saturday during lunch and they told us about the news in the Singapore office. It seems like our department will be there until the end of 2010. But there also other news like promotion of a friend which is also good. So change is moving along and I am glad to have decided to transfer here. The people are great and the way of life here is just to my liking. I have more time to spend with my kids who are at a growing stage that needs more participation from the parents. The move has made me closer to them as they mature in their teenage years.

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