There’s an idiom saying home is where the heart is. Another states that home is a feeling, not a place.
I agree with both, but the funny thing is I can equally think of reasons supporting the opposite. 😀
I am writing about home again because I am back to my country after almost four years of staying in France. For a time, my neighborhood was the 16th district of Paris and my daily walks were along the Seine, around the Tower, along Allée des Cygnes, the Passy Area, the Jardin de Ranelagh and the grand and small lake in Bois de Boulogne. Or if my feet carried me farther away, I’d even be on Pont Alexandre III, walk around the huge grassy area in front of the Invalides, then go to the Champs-Élysées quarter. I miss my almost daily two-hour evening walks more than the pain au chocolat and croissant from my favorite boulangerie.
In fact, I felt a sense of detachment in my first weeks as I scanned my new neighborhood–there were no sidewalks in the subdivision; the street lights were too dim; there were no small parks or benches where people could sit on under the shade of trees when they get tired, there were no small cafes; also missing were boulangeries/bakeries selling an array of breads and pastries. It’s not because I was being unrealistic and looking for something that isn’t there.
It may be because I was away for some years and went home not to our old family home in the province where I knew the streets and the neighbors, nor to our rented house in Quezon City where I knew all the other four (4) families in the compound, but to a new area where I do not have any affinity yet such that even the trees and street corners and sari-sari stores, the nearby establishments, and even our own gate didn’t have any familiarity.
That is not to say that I am not happy to be back. I am. It feels good to be back with my my family. It feels heartwarming to eat Filipino food daily and to have my mom insist on preparing breakfast for her grown-up daughter. It heartwarming great to reconnect with old friends even virtually. Just yesterday, I received a lot of “You’re-really-back-let’s-meet-soon/-when-possible” messages after posting about attending the ManilART2021 exhibit. And the past weeks, my friends and acquaintances talked of trips near and far, excited about the remotest possibility of travelling or even going to some bulalohan, lugawan , lomihan or isawan.
Even riding Manila’s MRT yesterday for the first time again after years felt new, even if I had been to these stations hundreds of time before my foreign posting. It was quite different from the previous because of the safety/health apps to be accomplished, less number of people in the coaches and workers in their distinct colorful coveralls manning the stations. It was less lively than the previous times when I rode the train stations to and from work in a train crowded with people.
Going to the wet market in Bacoor, Cavite was a new experience too. So far, it’s the only wet market that I visited since I got back to the Philippines in September. Like many markets, there’s a main covered market, but street stalls line the sidewalks. The prices of fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables obviously increased since the last time. There were too many vendors, many selling similar items in a row and I wondered if all of them had buyers and what the vendors do with their items if they had no buyers. There were also the usual beggars, asking people for alms–a thin, toothless, barefoot woman who had tattooed eyebrows and blackish lipstick; a man with medium height who with one missing arm; and an old woman wearing a long skirt and a bandanna, who startled me when she poked my arm. There were cheerful market workers, exchanging good-natured jokes, and several morose and apathetic vendors looking at the passers-by either with sad or absent eyes.
Now, things here seem more vivid than before– the movement of people, the facade of establishments, the scenes on the road as I go to work and go back home. Even the events happening online such as the election fever in the country bringing with it a promise of a more progressive Philippines, the news here and abroad of nations’ triumphs and failures, and so on appear to grab my attention more.
At this moment, being back home for over a month, I feel that my body clock has readjusted, I have more or less adjusted to the very warm temperature, my work has started, I have communicated with most family members and I have exchanged messages with friends I met in Paris. But I feel that the transition period is an ongoing process–looking at a new place with fresh eyes, meeting new challenges at the work place, meeting new friends and acquaintances, and looking forward to the future while reflecting about the past. It feels like being here and there at the same time.
All these being said, I am glad to be home. ❤