A Travellerspoint blog



You, too, are getting jaded. You meet travelers everyday. You strike up easy conversations. It doesn't mean anything. Just killing time. Or gleaning information. It gets easier each time--you have a retinue of questions, a retinue of answers. The only one you can't figure out is your profession. Sometimes you say you are unemployed, with a laugh, but then it sounds too mysterious, and afterwards their eyes are full of question marks. Actually, it doesn't matter what you say, as long as you say something. A job doesn't define you out here. You are only where you've been and where you're going. Or where you hail from. Everyone assumes your job is just what you do to earn money to travel. Unless they're young, in grad school, haven't worked much yet and think they will like it. It's a long journey to find out you don't--but a different kind of journey.

When you think of going back home for good your stomach seizes up with that distantly familiar ache. You realize this is stress, and you give a wry smile because it took some time to recognize. At home is all the comfort in the world, and all the weight, too. You remember what shifty ground your house is built on. You used to believe you'd wait it out, but recently you're not so sure.

Still, you're stronger now, and that came from some kind of love.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Apo Island

It's easy to lose track of where we are and what happens next. As usual, when we are enjoying ourselves, we don't think about the future. We build a makeshift wall behind which the future grows larger and more mysterious because we haven't our attentions to focus it or pick away at it. Eventually the wall falls away, and we stare at the future in dismay. Why didn't we do something about this earlier? But we know perfectly well it's because we didn't want to.

On Apo Island we allow ourselves to dive and eat and sleep and read and play basketball and snorkel and conduct desultory conversations to our hearts' content. A gentle sea breeze sloughs away the heat, but somewhere outside of the shade is a hot, frazzled world that we can't bear to bother about.

I love our room here. Windows facing three directions, a deep, tiled balcony, and expansive room full of light and air. If we could extend our stay week by week, we might end up living here forever.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Mario and Maria

When he reached high school age he had to build his own sailboat to sail across the channel to the mainland as there was no high school on the island then. The sail he constructed from sewn together rice bags, and in the years that he made the weekly trip back and forth he never once flipped over. Sometimes his father, the lighthousekeeper, would keep him from going because of bad weather, and then he missed schoo. His great-grandfather was the first settler on the island, and almost all the land belongs to his descendants.

Now, he has seen a good many of us. He must have dual perspectives--to know us and know himself when we can never know him. We all just have our cultural sensitivities and bend over backwards to be "understanding." He spoke of when they used to dynamite fish, with no judgment in his voice, though he has become such a proponent of sustainable management and environmental education. The tone is different from Galapagos Maria's who, despite her utopian vision, displayed an edge of cynicism and severity in everything she said. She was a fighter who cared too much. You couldn't see her shrugging her shoulders--she'd find a way, and it'd be likely against societal norms, which would only reinforce the cynic and fighter in her. They are two of the most generous people I've ever met.

These are people finding a way to live their lives thoughtfully. Sometimes it's a bitter, joyful struggle (Maria), and sometimes it's a spark turned into a flame (Mario). I, too, am trying to live thoughtfully. Much to learn. Much yet left to imagine.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Sick Again

View Teenie Travels Around the World on chschen's travel map.

In a while here will be nothing left of us but bones and hair, but while spirits animate our bodies we have to somehow live within the confines of our flesh. This is difficult.

Chris is sick again with a high fever. My cold sores have broken out, and I have a rash-like infection on my knee. We don't seem the healthiest of people, though we eat our fruits and vegetables when we can. (And then we also play three games of basketball in our fatigue.) Are our bodies failing us, or are we failing our bodies? Rest, water, time cure most ailments, though sometimes we lack all three. Luckily we have another day in Manila, but I fear it won't be enough given his flushed face and difficult exhalations. We should break ourselves less often.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Not Crazy

Our second room is directly above the water, whose sulfurous odor seeps in between the cracks in the floorboards. I gaze at the green murk, unable to decide if our location is enchanting or disturbing. Well, it is what it is.

Last day in Coron, and what a full day it was. We spent so long snorkeling that I sunburned my ass for the second time in three days. Didn't much care, though--too busy hopping from snorkeling site to lake to beach to lagoon. We rented our own boat this time and were, as usual, awkward customers, shy of asking for anything and then incomprehensible when we did. Still, we managed through nervous laughter and overeager smiles and not a small amount of trepidation. All that gone, though, when we were in the water, kicking about, mesmerized by uncurled, snake-shaped sea horses or underwater limestone formations in the shape of fanciful castles. It was freeing and luxurious to have the time to explore to our curiosity's satisfaction, without worrying that others were waiting or that we would be left behind. It was thus we swam nearly the entire circumference of Kayangan Lake and discovered our castles, which we had completely to ourselves as the other tourists kept to a swimming pool-sized area near the entrance.

In traveling, though, it's difficult to avoid the assumption that your experience was the best, that everyone else missed out. The other side of that coin is the feeling that you're doing it all wrong, and everyone else is embarked on amazing, story-worthy adventures. Diving the other day, a young Swede asked us, after regaling us with his own tale, for the craziest thing we'd done. We gave an embarrassed laugh, and I had to say, We're not that crazy I guess... He gracefully changed the subject.

I feel completely beyond the age of crazy. If something crazy were to happen to us, Chris would likely agonize over it for days and make several plans for preventing crazy from ever appearing in our lives again. Crazy is what can happen if you let go, and we never let go. Why? I suspect it's well-worn history. Maybe so, maybe it's justified. Still, I wuld like to see us say yes more often.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

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