Would you find it strange if I told you as I fly back to the states that I feel like I’m leaving home and now heading to a foreign country? Because I think I would if roles were reversed. How could I not find it odd? The thing is I’ve had the same feeling that I was already home since I first boarded my flight on Korean Air bound for the Philippines.
They say home is where the heart is. I believe that to be true to the last word. And although I know it is time for me to return “home” once again, my heart is in Tacloban. It was there days before I first arrived. What I did not know then that I do now is that I was coming to find it, and meet it on its own terms. Sometimes you have to travel far to find what you had all along. Now that I have, I just hope I can bring it back with me.
At home in the states, my life is filled with many ordinary moments mixed in with a few of those that are inspired. It was the complete reverse during my trip to the Philippines. Extraordinary events happened regularly to the point that they became the ordinary occurrence. “Oh, you got an entire evac center water?” was on the same level as asking “How was your day, dear?” And that was an impressive thing to witness as it occurred day in and night out.
During my 9 days at Ground Zero, there was an energy, a passion, a “way” that I have never before experienced. The concepts of life and death are all too real there. One of the True Manila team members said that this devastation is worse than war. In war, there is collateral damage but people have the opportunity to leave. With Typhoon Yolanda, there was little warning, no real opportunity for people to exodus the islands.
Here there exists a sense of urgency and action to fulfill the demands that must be met. Deeds are done in the now because waiting may have detrimental consequences to the lives of the people around you. It’s not always to that serious of a degree but in some cases it very much is. And that, if nothing else along the way, changes you.
“Every day is probably amazing if you look in the right place,” said a good friend of mine. There’s no probably to it, pal. The days are filled with such experience that one sunrise to subsequent sunrise might as well be an entire lifetime. Thankfully I am reincarnated each day (usually by that damn rooster at 4am!) to begin anew. Each day is different in feel and nature. It requires me to be different, to rely on my skills, some of which I possess and others that are acquired on the go. My life has Mr. Miyagi prepared me well for this.
Another person commented that it must be like being a celebrity here. People smile, call out to you, ask you questions, vie for your attention. You have a choice what you do with that. I used it to try to make lives a little bit better.
I met people who were giving the best parts of themselves to the world and asking for nothing in return. If they happened to ask why I’m here doing “this,” it only took a few words before they understood, never needing for me to finish the first sentence. Many didn’t even have to ask. They all knew why. It was the same reason for us all. When you can look someone in the eye and understand them fully without saying a word, it is truly a beautiful thing.
An extremely positive result of this trip is that I don’t feel alone anymore. I have found an inner peace that has eluded me for such a very long time. Ít is because, in part, I now see and know that there are like-hearted people in life and purpose. And many of them were right before my eyes all along. I just didn’t know how to see them.
So I guess the looming question is “what now?” The answer: I have no idea. I have been home for three days now. The majority of my thoughts do center around Tacloban and although I thought that transitioning back to what my life was would be difficult, as of yet it has not been. This concerns me. Although I don’t know what “this” will mean for my future, I do know that I don’t want to return to the monotony where the days are only separated by a date on the calendar. I guess that it is very much up to me to change those pieces of my life and make it what I want it to be, as is true for all of us. Every moment of every day.
But one thing I said to a friend the night before I left for this adventure is that there are some choices that change you and there’s no going back to who you once were. And if you think you can just reinsert yourself into your old life as the version you are now and expect it to be a nice, snug fit, then you’re kidding yourself. You are changed and that means your life, the output of you, will as well. I hope I was right.
The anger and suffering that I brought with me halfway around the world found a home there. I hope that they have run their course. I didn’t have room for them on the plane ride back. As I said in a previous post, I like to travel light. Yet I also left just wanting my world to be safe. It is a naive, childish dream but it is a Dream nonetheless and I do my best to not give up on them no matter what.
To my friends and family, I look forward to seeing you once again. I didn’t come here to observe. I came here to experience. And you can’t “tell” experience, but I will do my best. Know that I bring back (hopefully) the best parts of myself. Take care though, for the days to come may be in many ways some of the hardest I have yet to face. I may be more fragile than I appear. Then again, aren’t we all?
So to bring this full circle, I have to address what you first said, Magina — the quote on CNN that in many ways brought me to Tacloban. Is it truly “…Worse Than Hell”?
I have to say that with everything I’ve seen, experienced and been blessed enough to be a part of — the answer is a resounding NO.
It may have been once upon a time but it is no longer. It’s now closer to the other side. There is hope here, with good people willing to put in a hard day’s work over and over again to rebuild their homes and their lives for a land that will rise once again to its former beauty. It is a place that I now name home if but only in spirit.
You called me here, Magina, and I hope I did you proud. So now I’m telling you to come on home. It’s time. And do not worry if you get lost along the path. I’ll show you the way.
Until next we meet, my friends, be safe and Dream well.