Home

I don’t know the formula for creating a Home. I don’t know how long it takes for an apartment, a familiar street or a city to move beyond the physical to the comfortable and the safe. There are hooks near the door where I hang my keys. But those hooks could be anywhere, on any wall, waiting for any keys to give their existence purpose. 

A man yelled profanities from his seat on the 6 train, heading downtown. He wore socks, no shoes, and had draped an American flag towel over his face and body. I couldn’t see his face but I imagined the world from his eyes, light and blurred movement from the other side of his cotton curtain. The repetition of his words-such angry words-scarred me and I hurried off the train, leaving my high heels behind. I was going home. Was he? 

Nostalgia as a Home. At brunch on Sunday, I sat across from three people who I’ve known and loved since I was 16 years old. Each of them are living dramatically different lives from the nights of summer bonfires and drive-in theaters. We don’t speak often, me and these three people, but time melted with each cup of steaming coffee until I saw them again as the people who knew me best. Despite all those years. I left the restaurant and felt a sense of longing as if I’d forgotten something but couldn’t remember what it was. Shoes on a train. 

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As migrants and refugees continue to bleed over the borders of their own lands into a watercolor of checkpoints and fading hope, I wonder about Home. Leaving Home. I imagine these people saying goodbye to every familiar Home they have ever known. Will the immune system of foreign government accept or reject these transplants? 

As long as they have each other…I traveled soundly knowing my parents were thinking about me, were wondering about me, were keeping my Home safe inside their love.

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming Home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic.”

Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks), Sleepless in Seattle

On my daily commute, I see the same people sitting on the same sidewalk and standing near the same Starbucks entrance with their cardboard signs. I see them every morning having left my apartment for the day’s activities. I wonder about these people, wonder about their definition of Home. I do not pretend for a moment to imagine how it must feel to lack a roof over my head or a space to unwind from the world. A private place to call my own. Nor do I know the stories of these people as they kept their eyes focused on the ground in front of them.

Homesick (def): the sickness caused by the perceived lack of or longing for Home. We have a human understanding to help those who suffer from such an illness, never knowing when we might fall victim to such a disease. 

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Cheshire Cat in Space

The first day of my internship with LNF, Atty. Oposa informed me that I needed to learn how to SCUBA dive. ASAP. There are local fishing villages, he said, who upon seeing the coral reefs and marine life below the surface of the water realized the tragedy of devastation caused by dynamic and cyanide fishing. Scuba diving would be my way to see the environment I would be fighting to protect.

Bedroom view

So I contacted Stu (see earlier post) and weeks later I arrived in Granada near Boljoon on the island of Cebu. Their property consists of their main house and the resort–a beautiful property built on a mountain with steps down to the resort pool, other buildings, and the beach front. I arrived at night and in the darkness I could just barely make out the mountains and the sea.

In the morning, I opened my eyes and thought I had gone to warm, tropical heaven. The windows in my room opened out onto rolling green hills with palm trees, song birds and pink flowers. I walked downstairs, through the open living room and kitchen to the veranda for breakfast. The giant papayas were picked from the trees along the house and the taste was sweet and delicious.

Papaya Tree

I jumped into my swimsuit and grabbed my mask before making my way down to the resort’s pool for my first diving lesson. Down and to my left was the ocean, eggshell blue melting into navy and sparkling in the morning light. I stopped multiple times to gaze through the tree branches toward the islands dotting the near horizon. Small fishing boats moved through the water and men with wide brimmed hats paddled or motored with the hopes of the day’s catch. This is where I will learn to dive, I thought. Life could be worse.

I spent almost two hours that morning learning the basics of diving. I tried on the bulky equipment and practiced breathing underwater with the regulator, BDC and tank. I felt like a fish–a big, unbalanced, awkward fish–and clearing my mask took a number of times before I felt comfortable removing my mask and clearing it using air from my nose. I listened to Stu’s instructions and tried to replicate them as my mind wandered to the memories my father had of diving with Stu long ago. I was swimming in my father’s wake with the same man by my side.

Hours later, after lunch and a cup of coffee, Stu and I were floating in the sea with our gear on ready to go for a dive. A real dive for the first time ever. I put the regulator in my mouth and took a few breaths. Don’t freak out, I told myself, What’s so scary about breathing under 30 feet of water for 45 minutes? Stu gave me the OK sign and we began to let the air out of our BCD’s, sinking slowly beneath the surface. I kicked my fins behind me and told myself to breathe.

Sea life appeared beneath my body and in front of my mask almost instantly. Black and white stripped fish danced between hard pink coral branches and long blue arms of sea stars hung onto the rock walls. I left like Alice falling into Wonderland and Neil Armstrong exploring the moon. There were creatures I had never seen before, organisms I could not create in my mind and there they were, living life as they had for generations. It was a sight to behold.

Skype

I skyped with my Filipino family for the first time. In the Philippines, nicknames are huge. My Filipino mother is Eileen, my father is Heaven, and my younger brothers are Happy (age 10) and Jolly (age 7).

Yes, I going to live with Heaven. Life is good.

From my computer I could see all their smiling faces jammed together in the Skype box. Jolly, the youngest, sat in the middle and giggled the whole time. He and his brother like Lego’s and video games. And they have an iPad. I told the family that I was trying to learn the national language (Tagolog) but it was difficult for me.

Jolly: Sometimes it’s hard. Google translate works all the time.

I love my new family.

9 days and counting.