Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dual mode

I just got back from an almost-weeklong business trip, and this blog topic came to me sometime in the middle of my stay in Guangzhou, as I lay in bed wide awake (thanks to the very strong milk tea I had had during dinner) listening to the disconcertingly loud croaking of the frogs populating the pond outside our family friend's condo. If any of my thoughts come across as incoherent, please blame it on the sleep deprivation.

* * *

Whenever I'm out of the country, I always get this odd feeling of polarity, like my brain can't decide on being fully here or there. It's almost as if I've left part of myself back home. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about homesickness-- even though I complain about how travel has lost its glamour due to the frequency with which I jet to different countries,
I actually enjoy it in spite of the fatigue. But no matter how much I'm having fun on a vacation or getting caught up in work on a business trip, there is an acute awareness of my being AWAY.

The polarity of which I speak manifests itself in different ways. For example, I find it refreshing to be in a city where no one really knows me, so I don't have to give a damn if I'm dressed frumpily or acting stupid. But at the same time little things remind me of family and friends, and I wish for them to be around. On some trips, though it's only been a few days I sometimes miss my sibs so badly, I feel an almost actual tug on my heart. True story.

Another illustration of my bisected behavior: on the one hand, I'm always searching for free WiFi spots so I can check my email and Multiply inboxes, as well as update my Twitter. I can't bear being out of touch for an extended period of time (i.e. more than 2 days). On the other hand, there is a certain sense of freedom in being unwired: I don't feel obliged to reply to messages and/or comments, nor pressured to come up with a new blog post every other day. And it is such a blessed relief not to be checking my cellphone every 5 minutes for text messages or missed calls.

And when I'm traveling with my mom, there's this strange kind of shift that happens, a role reversal of sorts. Here at home, it's her taking care of me and my sibs. Abroad, when it's just the 2 of us, I find myself taking care of her more than she does me. Part of me enjoys the responsibility and the opportunity to give back to my mother, but another part of me wants to return to being the charge, and not the one in charge.

I suppose this is why I feel aptly torn whenever I find out I'm scheduled for another trip. The curious combination of anticipation and dread pulls me toward different emotions, and this internal tug-of-war doesn't end until I step foot on Philippine soil again. Only when I'm back home do I feel settled, whole. Away from here, I'm Odysseus at sea, both hearing the Sirens' song and seeing Ithaca on the horizon. And like my favorite Greek guy, I love the journey, but I love home even more.


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