Friday, October 19, 2007

In search of Home

From my journal of 2006 - when I was in Cebu

After a long and agonizing flight from Dallas, I landed at Hongkong airport with a renewed energy. I say agonizing because when I left Dallas I was sad leaving behind friends, a boyfriend and my 30-year old daughter who was bawling after she dropped me off at the airport. On my lay over in San Francisco waiting for my flight to Hongkong, I contemplated on canceling the Asia leg of my flight and just turn around and go back home. But where is home? All my earthly possessions were in storage and some are on the belly of the Boeing 747. The sadness I felt was paralyzing but there is no looking back, I have let go of my apartment in Dallas to travel around Southeast Asia and try living as a female nomad then eventually settle down in my country of birth; the Philippines.
We landed ahead of schedule in Hongkong so I had more time to roam around but the only place that was open was Starbucks. I was glad to see it but after considering a cup of regular coffee which costs as much as feeding a family of 15 in Cebu, I decided to exercise my legs instead. I then took pictures of the planes against the backdrop of early morning sunlight beaming the cap of the mountains. A Filipino man approached me and offered to take the camera from me and took my picture with the planes and the mountains behind me. I asked where he came from. He would not tell me; all he would say is that he is a nomad. I did not like him already because of his evasive answer. A Filipino vagabond? I don’t know of a Filipino vagabond except the ones’ roaming around the streets in Cebu in tattered clothes and sleeps on the sidewalk. Proudly, I told him I live in the US even without him asking me.

The flight from Hongkong to Cebu takes less than three hours and after flying for 13 hours from the United States; this feels like a skip and a jump. An American friend of mine who now lives in Malaysia told me once that he feels like kissing the ground every time he lands in Asia from a trip abroad. This is how I feel everytime I land in Cebu. But this time I had mixed emotions; I was not happy nor was I sad. The ambivalence bothered me. I hold an American passport but I don’t feel American when I am in America, yet as soon as I land in Cebu, I could not wait to hand my passport to the immigration officer so he would see that I am an American. And that I am proud to be an American. This makes me realize that I don’t know who I am anymore. In Texas where I have lived the last 20 years, I always say, “ I want to go home” every time I think of going back to Cebu for a visit. But once in Cebu, I don’t feel I am home. When I see the word “Balikbayan –1 year” (returning Filipino permitted to stay 1 year) stamped on my passport I don’t know what to think. Should I be glad that I am permitted to stay that long? Or should I be mad that I am now told how long I can stay in my native country?

My friend Julie married an Australian and lives in Australia; she comes back to the Philippines every year. Her husband retired from Qantas Airlines and has travel privileges with the airline, he complains that Julie does not want to travel to other places but comes back to Cebu every year then complains about everything when she is in Cebu. I asked her where she considers home. She shrugged her shoulders, “I wish I know.” We talked about the pollution and population explosion in the island. The island is dirty, the politicians corrupt and the vehicular congestion topped off by the Filipinos affinity to diesel-powered vehicles. So why come back? The answer reminds me of what this actress said when asked where she likes best, Dallas or New York. (She was from Dallas and now lives in New York) “ Dallas is like, you have to go there because your mother lives there,” she says.
Connie married an American and has lived in so many countries because her husband worked for an oil company that makes him travel all over the world. She now lives in Malaysia for the last 15 years where I visited her recently. She owns a beautiful and spacious home there, one of the very few homes I would like to have. She makes this home for her husband Ron; she gets involved in every community affairs and knows almost everyone in the island. Her sister and son lives with them and yet, she is building another home in her hometown in the Philippines, with the intent of “one day going home.” Ron wants to be buried in the Philippines because he said that he wants to be where Connie will be; he is certain that is where Connie will live once he dies.

Don is buried in Cebu with the thought that Cebu will be most likely the place where I would ultimately park my old bones and I want him close by me. But Chat is in the US, and I don't feel I should be anywhere but near her. depresses me.

So where is home? Jesus said He is preparing a place for those who trusts Him and that one day He will come back to welcome us to Himself. There's the answer-thank God.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Enriched and Hollowed out

I watched Anthony Bourdain as he was leaving a jungle village in Malaysia and he said something that reverberated in my bones. " I don't feel like I belong here, but I also don't feel like I belong back in New York anymore-- is it possible to be enriched and hollowed out at the same time?" He said that with this look in his eye that seem to say he was deeply pained. Or was it just my imagination, knowing that it is me who was pained by the statement.

I want to live in Spain, in Malaysia, in Cebu or wherever just as long as it is different. I say that all the time, but when I think about moving to another apartment outside of the same area I am used to, I dread and I fear. Confused? yes. Restless? yes.

When I travel, I travel alone and that's the way I prefer it unless it is with a boyfriend or husband. I have no problem getting on a plane( alone) and go to another totally foreign country but at home, I go to the same gas station, same restaurant, same grocery store. Outside of that familiarity, I don't venture out because I don't do well if I do. I have tried to analyze myself on why I do what I do. I could come up with an acceptable excuse but not a valid answer. I don't think a psychiatrist is necessary because I feel that as long as I want to analyze myself, then I must still be ok. I need a psychiatrist to write prescriptions to knock me out of my lunacy sometimes but even that I am hesitant to do, because someone said (was it Willie Nelson) that he is glad to be crazy because "it keeps him from going insane."

This question of "sense of belonging" has haunted me constantly. I know that God created us with this need to be needed, the need to feel wanted and the need to belong. When we don't feel any one of these needs, then we are in trouble. Hardness and bitterness will set in if we lose the right perspective on these things. God has granted me the favor of being well liked by most people, but I have to tell you, before I developed a personal relationship with Jesus, I did not accept this favor, this gift from God. So I walked around with this chip on my shoulder, feeling sorry for myself, unwanted and mad at everyone. I do not want to go back there, but every once in a while, I feel the old self resurfacing and this happens mostly when I feel trapped by financial restrictions. I only have 2 vices -travel and spa treatments, oh and food. As long as I am able to do these things, I don't feel trapped, thus I am happy.

So let me go back to whatever my point of this rant was; being enriched and hollowed out at the same time. Yes, it is possible to feel both at the same time. But right now, I am only feeling hollowed, so I better drive over to some market and be enriched. At least, temporarily.