I must forewarn you, this post is a big ramble and a bit of a rant.
The time arrived for our move from the Philippines back to Hong Kong.
Our furniture, household items, and bits and 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 was the case. 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 legitimate 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’ve pitied in the past. Passengers who are pulled aside to bend over their bags, digging through and pulling “nonessentials” out to throw away or 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.
My photo was taken and the process was repeated for my daughter. We received another stamp in our passports. Though the immigration officer 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 had to dig deep to get 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. 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, the terminal fee booth, 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, “Why am I doing this again?!” and “Where is home for me?!”
I’ve been a traveler since 1987 when I first left the US for Shanghai, China with my husband and one-year-old daughter. Along with my son, born in 1988, we have been on the road ever since. I’ve heard numerous times the saying “Home is where the heart is.” The truth of this sentiment makes a lot of sense to me. 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. Home is where love is and where warm and happy memories are built.
“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here.” (Leo Tolstoy)
Just like the fellow-wanderers I’ve met along the way, I have many homes. I know from time to time my family and friends around the world 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 resides with the people I have come to care about. Home was created there.
Earlier in the week, days before heading off to the airport, we said our farewells to friends we had made. Not saying goodbye but instead saying “see you later” to help 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 made me so disgruntled. It was 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 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.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” (CS Lewis)
Until then, the journey continues. Taking a deep breath, I boarded the plane, left the Philippines, and landed 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 I’m glad to be back.
The move is over, the bags are unpacked and put away, and the dust has settled. For now, I will enjoy my home in Hong Kong and see where life takes me as the journey continues on.