Whoops

It’s really all I can say.

When I first envisioned this blog as a sophomore, I knew I wanted it to be a record of my college experience. I saw myself writing at least once a week, providing a digest of various happenings in my life, the lessons I learned, struggles–you know.

Part of my resolutions for 2015 was to improve my writing and write more, as I feel that my skills have waned thanks to the bland research papers I pen for class. Achieving that would naturally call for deeper reflection than what is normal for me, and so I hoped for a heightened acuity for introspection. A couple of my friends were engaging in posting pictures or recording seconds of their lives at least once a day, and so I figured to myself, “Why not write a daily blog?”

And so that was the plan. But, as you can see from scrolling down my homepage, you’ll realize that I didn’t keep up. I’m wracking my brain to remember why, and all I’ve mustered is a shameful excuse that it became tedious or nothing happened that was interesting enough to write about.

Forward the end of summer 2015. Days before my senior year, I’m packing and stressing over moving to Geneva, Switzerland for the semester. Studying abroad was always part of the plan in a serious effort to acquaint myself even more with international affairs, European culture, and the uncomfortable. I planned to go on as many adventures as my bank account allowed, so documenting the whole 3 and 1/2 month experience was a priority. I even bought a Canon Rebel T5 (I’ve always wanted a DSLR) to accompany me on my travels. Aside from photography, I knew I wanted to keep a travel blog. Why not? A journal I can look back on to remind me of my journeys. An open diary to let people know of the moments when I thrived and when I stumbled. It was going to be great.

But of course, scroll down again and laugh. It never happened either.

Now, I’m writing this in my penultimate week of my time abroad. My plane leaves in ten days. Certainly this day would come, but just how nearly four months in a new continent filled with adventures and surprise flew by so quickly remains a mystery to me.

A small part of my conscience is scolding me for doing a poor job (or lack thereof) at recording this semester. While I’ve taken hundred of photos, I never really wrote about them.

Despite that, I’m very content with how I utilized my time in Europe. My lack of blog posts don’t account for a lack of reflection. In fact, this whole semester can be summed up under the theme of introspection.

I knew I needed a break from the hustle of Boston, and Geneva’s striking quietude and calm mode of life was the perfect antithesis. I’ve spend a lot of my time in planes, trains, and on foot en route to new destinations. To pass the time, I’m pulled into a state of reflection. As clouds, trees, and people speaking languages I don’t understand buzz past, I can’t help but feel proud but humbled at the same time. I’m here. I’m going, but I’m here.

Switzerland, Italy, Milan, England, Greece, France. Never would have guessed that I’d be stepping foot in these cities a year ago or even two years ago when I created this blog.

Even though I haven’t stayed true to sitting down and writing about my life as often as I promised myself, I don’t mark this down as a failure.

Maybe I was lazy. Or maybe I didn’t have time. Maybe I felt uninspired.

Or perhaps I was just living life, and decided for myself, subconsciously, that I didn’t care whether or not I spent a portion of my time writing about my day, week, or month.

I’ll be honest though: At first, I really wish that I did. I wish I took ten minutes a day to write down a small blurb so that I’d have an archive of memories to look back on and share with the world. I wish I collected postcards. I wish I bought maps from the souvenir shops of the cities and towns I explored.

In all of this regret, I forgot that my memories are simply stored with me, in my mind. I longed for the physical; and in my search and failed attempts, I forgot that I have the intangible. While I don’t have small trinkets to remind me of those times I hiked and traipsed through storybook locations, I have my memories of them. I can’t pull them out on a whim like I can do on a camera roll or blog, though. I won’t be able to tell you where I went or what I ate if you picked a random day on a calendar. Despite that, I know that what I do have in my head is more potent than a keychain.

So I’ll wait for those triggers to extract memories I forgot I had when I least expect them. I know that when I smell the putrid stench of fondue, I’ll be taken back to Gruyéres where I first had my experience of dipping vegetables into melted cheese. When I find sand in my shoes, I’ll hear the waves of the Mediterranean crashing on the shores of Barcelona under the moonlight. When I see some geyser, broken hose or fire hydrant, or some mechanism shooting out water, I’ll think of the Jet d’Eau, its refreshing mist on my face on a hot September afternoon, and all those hours I spent marveling at its grandeur–both in awe and of fear of being in such an unfamiliar territory–while promising myself that I will make the most out of this adventure, and that I will write about it one day.

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Adventures on the West Coast

I’m enjoying my stay in California.

I have to give it to my family here, who have gone out of their way to make sure I am comfortable and occupied. Whether it be a short drive down to the city to show me the sights or a short trip to Las Vegas so that I can walk down the busy strip and watch the fountains of the Bellagio spring alive to Andrea Bocelli, or buying me my first bowl of pho to treating me to my longed-for Filipino dishes that I can’t get in Boston, they never fail to ensure that not a single day goes by that I don’t try or see anything new. Missing them immensely is guaranteed when my time here is up.

I can recount what I’ve done every day since I landed in San Diego and look back with a smile at what I’ve experienced so far. Tomorrow we head north to Los Angeles so we can visit Universal Studios. Needless to say, I’m pumped for tomorrow and shamelessly cannot sleep because I am way too excited. Let’s hope I get enough rest for what will be a draining experience.

I didn’t expect such a fulfilling winter break and I’m only at the midpoint. Less than two weeks until I head back to Boston.

Pacifier

Usually with the turn of the new year, my family and I spend it celebrating at home or with friends elsewhere. It would be a small, but nevertheless fun occasion with food and company.

This is the third year in a row that I spent the holiday season away from my immediate family. The past two I celebrated with extended family in Florida. This time, I’m in California with another branch.

Today was a bit different. While we did stuff ourselves with food and conversation until the dawn of 2015, we went out to town this afternoon. I’ve had my first bite of In-N-Out; explored an old landmark, Mission San Luis Rey; and visited my a military base where my uncle works. The day went by fairly quickly. I sometimes forget that days are shorter in the winter, but the sun setting at four in the afternoon reminded me of that.

And so, with the sun sinking on the horizon, my uncle and aunt drove my two cousins and me to the best possible location to view the sunset: the beach.

Since flying back to Boston from Guam in August 2013, I have not gone further west from the east coast than New York, which isn’t even very far. This would be my first time seeing the Pacific in nearly a year in a half.

When my uncle pulled the brakes on the car on the sandy lot, the sun was already halfway down, and I only had about a minute or two to book it to the shore. Thankfully I wore my running shoes today.

To describe how I felt as I waded in the water, smelled the brine, and touched the icy waves as they foamed ashore is difficult. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sentimentality towards the ocean and the sun it was engulfing. Back home, I took scenes like these for granted and so I rarely ever paid much attention to them. I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun set in Guam and watched the day become night.

Perhaps my homesickness has reached its peak. Or perhaps I got all emotional because for years I’ve always considered the Pacific an obstacle, a vast boundary that kept me away from the rest of the world, kept me a boy on the island with dreams of bigger lands. But now that I’m on the other side and know firsthand what lay beyond it, I now long for home, for the island I considered my cage, my platform. Ironically, what used to instill me with such despair I now consider soothing.

The salty breeze. The sand in my shoes. The spray of the water on my face. The crashing of the waves. The Pacific.

Maybe we’re not fragmented by oceans at all, but bound by them instead.

Fueling the habit

Without the threat of exams or essays to slave over looming above my shoulders for the next few weeks, I’m appalled at myself for drinking this much coffee. While about 2-3 cups of straight-up black coffee may seem negligible or unworthy of its own blog entry to many, it’s more than I’ve ever drunk during my most stressful weeks in college. My uncle and aunt here are quite fond of the beverage–there’s always a hot pot of it brewing on the kitchen counter at any given moment of the day. I’m always offered a mug even when I don’t have the appetite, to which I’d accept, because to refuse a warm cup would be sinful at least on my terms.

Not that I’m complaining.

Onwards

It’s my final night on Guam, possibly the last one I’ll have in years because I’m planning to stay in Boston indefinitely to save money that would otherwise have been used on airfare to Guam. Because flying is not inexpensive, more so when booking trips that span nearly half the entire perimeter of the globe, I want to put that money away and save it for when my family comes to visit me for graduation. Hopefully we’ll conserve enough cash to bring both my parents and my two siblings here to Boston. With the exception of my mother who dropped me to Boston my freshman year, my father, sister, and brother have never been to the city which I’ve learned to call my new home. All of us are excited for when that day comes.

But until then, I must leave again for Boston–this time alone. I’ve had such an amazing time back on Guam and an equally wonderful trip to my home country, the Philippines. I never would have thought that I’d learn so much about myself in three short months. I have a better sense of what I want to achieve in life; the path made clearer by my experiences at work on Guam and my travels in the Philippines.

Onwards I go but before I leave, here is a poem that a friend of mine shared with our Filipino club at BU. It is entitled “Kailangan Nating Maghiwalay” by Ron Capinding.

It is a poem about bittersweetness of separation. It does a great job in assuaging my worries and fears that stem from leaving my family for school. The best part of the poem are these two verses:

“At dahil bilog nga ang mundo,
magkakasalubong muli tayo kung hindi tayo titigil sa pag-usad.”

Translated in English, it reads “Because the world is round, we will eventually meet again if we keep moving forward.”

In a world as diverse as ours, we are bound to separate from those we love in pursuit of our own interests. We may not know when or where our reunions with our loved ones may be, but I’d like to believe that serendipity will prevail. Because college proves itself a boisterous chapter in virtually anyone’s life, feelings of confusion, regret, and loneliness often arise. Capinding’s quote is the perfect palliative to our qualms. Despite these hardships or any other hardships we face or will eventually have to face, it is vital to remember never to give up and to keep moving forward because we never know what good we might suddenly run into.

“Kailanan Nating Maghiwalay” by Rob Capinding

Kailangan nating maghiwalay
upang malaman natin kalaunan kung mayroon nga tayong pinagsamahan,
kung buo pa rin tayong dalawa kahit wala na ‘yung isa,
kung mabibitbit ba natin ang pinagsaluhan nating mga sarap kahit tapos na ang salu-salo,
kung magaling nga tayong magtanim ng mga halamang hindi habambuhay na aasa sa hardinero,
at kung maisasakatuparan ba natin
at mapalalaganap nang libong doble pa
ang mga sarili at pangarap na magkasabay nating hinubog.

“Hindi ang isa’t isa ang tinitingnan ng mga nagmamahalan,
kundi ang kanilang iisang hantungan.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Sa mundong bilog, maghihiwalay tayo,
palayo sa isa’t isa,
at magsisikap umabot sa pinakamalayo nating maaabot.

At dahil bilog nga ang mundo,
magkakasalubong muli tayo kung hindi tayo titigil sa pag-usad.
At dahil marami na tayong pinagdaanan sa pagkakataong ito,
mas mayaman na ang mga babaunin nating mapagsasaluhan.

At dahil hindi natin binitawan ang tamis ng dating ugnayan,
parang pag-uwi ang muli nating pagkikita,
magbabatian tayo sa lumang paraang nakagawian,
magkakamayan dahil sa kani-kaniyang naging kapalaran,
magkukumustahan upang makahabol sa mga bagay na ‘di na natin nasubaybayan,
at saka tayo mahigpit na mahigpit,
tigib ng pangungulila at pag-ibig
at parang kahapon lamang, na magyayakapan.

Hanggang sa muli…

Hiwalayan lang ito, hindi paalaman, at kay tamis ng pangako ng hiwalayan!

Home but still homesick

I’ve been back home in Guam for a little over a month now. Traveling was dreadful; I’m thankful the plethora of movies, tv shows, and music that were provided on my flight from Washington, DC to Narita, Japan. Yes, you read that right. Fourteen hours of sitting, minimum leg room, and cramped seats. But hey, I did however catch up with a few good movies in that long, protracted flight (Looper and Smashed). Looper’s cinematography was phenomenal and so was Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance in Smashed. You should definitely see them if you haven’t already. I won’t be surprised if you already have.

Being home definitely has its perks. After nine months of separation, I’m finally reunited with my family. I’ve never been so far away from them for so long a period of time. Oh and the food. Oh man. Guam food is next to godliness. Food here on the island is influenced by an infusion of external cultures that made their way to Guam–Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish–and of course by its very own tradition: Chamorro. Couldn’t find Chamorro-style empanadas, red rice, kelaguen, and fina’denne’ in Boston. Want to make bank? Open a Chamorro-inspired restaurant on the east coast.

Food and family aside, it’s great to see my friends again. I’ve only had a few opportunities to meet up with some of them–and I’ll admit that my meetings with them were mostly run-into’s at malls or elsewhere. A majority of them are either spending their summer in the states, attending summer school, or working. Hopefully I’ll get to hang out with them before the end of the summer, because I’ve decided that this would be my last summer on Guam as I’m planning to stay in Boston for subsequent summers to get internships and/or jobs to get my name out there.

It was a difficult decision to make. It means that the next time I’d see my family after saying goodbye to them at the airport en-route to Boston would be my college graduation. Can I really take nearly three years of being apart from them? Nine months was bad enough. As hard as it is to plan for this separation, I understand that this is an intrinsic rite of passage. My leaving home was bound to happen one day–and it did, when I flew to Boston for school. But this may possibly be permanent. After graduation, I plan to begin a career in the states or abroad. Of course, there’s always the likelihood of returning to Guam after graduation to kickstart a career here since I already have established connections and much knowledge of the island, its economy, problems, and people.

Who knows?