I must forewarn you, this post is a big ramble and a bit of rant in parts.
The time arrived for our move from the Philippines back to Hong Kong.
Our furniture, household items, and bits & bobs were given away. Our personal belongings, knick-knacks, and toiletries were stuffed into suitcases, which were so full we had to sit on them to zip them up. There is a real art in getting as much as possible into a suitcase without going over the airline’s allotted weight allowance. I’ve spent years perfecting this art. Well, I thought I had. My husband left the Philippines three weeks earlier to get us set up in Hong Kong.
On the day we left, my daughter and I lugged our stuffed bags from the front door to a taxi, which took us to the pier, where we caught a ferry. The ferry was almost two hours delayed, but at least it wasn’t canceled that day as often happened. We boarded the boat and traveled two hours through choppy water, bouncing our way to another city. On wobbly legs, we disembarked, unloaded our bags, and queued up for a taxi at the chaotic ferry terminal where we stayed for nearly an hour. While waiting, the sun went down. The terminal is a dodgy part of the city, men came by every few minutes to lean in much too close and ask if we wanted a ride.
It was a relief to load our heavy bags into a taxi and make our way across the city. Arriving at the airport, we dragged our luggage through the concourse. Checking in at the airline counter, we found out our luggage was grossly overweight. We became one of those people I used to pity. Passengers who are pulled aside to bend over their bags, digging through and pulling “nonessentials” out to throw away or heavy items to covertly stuff into their hand-carry bags (the patient airport attendant seeing our distress said we could).
After three weigh-ins, two separate times of shuffling through our bags, and one overweight luggage bill paid, we were checked in. Waiting in yet another long line to pay our “terminal fees,” I wanted to scream. It had been a long day. At immigration, our documents were checked and rechecked. I’m not sure why you need a visa to LEAVE a country, but nonetheless, we did. As the officer looked from my papers to my passport, to my face and back again and again, I struggled to think happy thoughts. “Stay calm!”My photo was taken and the process was repeated for my daughter. We received another stamp in our passports. Though the immigration officer actually was very efficient; I was reaching the end of my tether for the day. We had transferred the “overweight” of the check-in luggage to our carry-ons, so we felt quite frazzled getting them on and off the conveyor belt for our final security check.
More transition! It was all so familiar and I felt disgruntled. I’ve been through this more times than I can count (literally I’ve lost count). We move a lot. I know I shouldn’t complain. But in these moments my “should” meter fades into the background and I no longer hear it. I forget that I “should” be thankful. After all, I can move freely and travel around. So many people can’t. Once through check-in, terminal fees paid, cross immigration, and the final security check we found a place to sit. Lowering myself onto the hard plastic chair with a sigh and a sore back, sweating and breathing heavily, we waited to board the plane, which was delayed, for our final phase of the trip.
Feeling displaced and frazzled, I asked myself questions like “Why am I doing this again?!” and deeper questions like “Where is home for me?!” This last question is one I’ve asked many times in my adult life. Stepping off an airplane in Shanghai, China back in 1987 with my husband and one-year-old daughter was my first big transition. It was like jumping into the deepest part of the ocean without a raft. I felt so small and scared. I had traveled all the way from the peaceful cornfields of Ohio, USA where I grew up, and the beautiful rolling hills of Virginia where I spent the first few years of my married life, to the crowded chaotic streets of Shanghai. My shiny new passport was stamped and the adventure began. I didn’t think I would survive … but I did (a story for another time). I not only survived but thrived and fell in love with the people there. We have been on the road ever since.
I’ve heard numerous times the saying “Home is where the heart is.” I’ve not paid much attention to it, just skimmed over it. Upon further reflection, the truth of this sentiment makes a lot of sense to me. Especially in this transient world. It’s easy to travel and that’s what many of us do … travel the world. We become displaced and unsure “where is home?” “Do I have a home?”
Though at times I forget, I have learned that home implies a feeling, not a specific place. Home truly exists where our heart is. It’s where I have the feeling of home. Love produces this feeling. A deep healing and satisfying feeling. Feeling love brings out the best in all of us. Being loved is one of the greatest experiences we will ever enjoy on this earth. However, there are many who don’t ever get to enjoy this experience.
To help create this feeling of home within someone else, the feeling of being loved, is a meaningful gift to give. I remember a little girl who lived in the children’s home we ran in India. One morning, she watched an interaction between my son and me in wonder. It was a simple gesture of kissing him on the forehead one morning to wake him up. For her, it was so much more. In her village, she woke with the sun each morning and jumped out of bed. Her job was to tend the goats before going to school and her father beat her for lingering in bed. That day at the home, after witnessing this simple exchange between my son and me, she expressed a deep longing for that kind of love.
While she lived with us, she became by far the most affectionate of all the children. She was also the brightest child we had. We nicknamed her “Cat” because she was like a snuggly cat, always wanting physical contact. She soaked up every bit of love she could get. Even when walking by, she would gently graze against us as if to say “see me” and to simply feel the connection.
What a humbling responsibility we all have … to love.
Just as “fellow-wanderers” that I’ve met along the way, I have many homes. I know from time to time my family and friends shake their heads and maybe even roll their eyes when they receive yet another change of address from me. I have left pieces of my heart all around the globe. The Philippines is no exception. A part of my heart still resides with the people I have come to care about. Home was created there.
Earlier in the week, before heading off to the airport, we said tearful farewells to friends we had made. Not saying goodbye but instead saying “see you later” to make the parting more bearable. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Sitting in the taxi for that final turn around and wave, the ladies and children were wiping their eyes and the waterworks began for me.
Maybe it wasn’t the overloaded bags or the chaotic trip to the airport that day that made me so disgruntled. The once again saying goodbye to people I’d come to care about. The loving and then leaving. The goodbyes that are painful.
So many goodbyes. So many tears. All this said the yearning that is within all of us for just one place to call home is a God-given desire for that one last true home. My eternal heavenly home where my heart truly lives. Where my God will be. Where true love resides. Where there will be no more pain, suffering, disgruntled-ness, tears, or goodbyes and those I’ve loved along the way will be together … in one place.
Taking a deep breath, I boarded the plane and left the Philippines, landing in Hong Kong. “See you later” to my friends in the Philippines for now. I’ll see you again sometime soon. “Hello” to my home in Hong Kong, it’s been a while and so good to be back.
The move is over, the bags unpacked and put away, and the dust settled. The journey goes on. The adventure continues.