The Prodigal Daughter Returns. I am back, friends and countrymen! I arrived in Manila on the first few hours of the 23rd. After more than an hour of delay and two offers of HK$800 if I boarded a later flight (which we both declined), I finally reached home (which is not really that far away considering it’s a 1.5 hour flight). My mom kept asking me if it feels surreal that I’m back and the truth is, I wasn’t exactly sure. Well, until I read what my friend Bernie posted in facebook, “Feels like I never left Austria!” I realized I felt exactly the same way. It’s really quite strange though. After talking to my parents for around an hour in the living room, I went up our stairs, switched on the lights in the stairs, switched off the dining room light then went on straight up (I am the only one who does this at home because I don’t like moving in a dark place even though I know it by heart). I brushed my teeth, fixed my pillows and teddy bears, locked my door, turned on my speaker then lied down to sleep. This is my routine every night and it’s amazing how naturally I did them again without thinking. I know I’ve only been away for four months but it was four months I dropped these routines! It made me think maybe I’m such a walking schedule of events that the only thing that kept me from doing these routines was simply that I couldn’t. I didn’t have the same stairs, the same lights and the same speakers in my dorm. I know I am not the most spontaneous person on Earth (I’m really rarely spontaneous) but still, this was pretty strange for me – unexpected, really.
And so the next day, I found myself alone at home because everyone in my family was working already. (A first!) I spent the day figuring out how to work the digibox on our TV and again, despite these changes, it didn’t feel like I spent the past four months in another place in another country. It felt like one of those lazy days I have during long breaks. We went to attend Mass in Gesu, which I always look forward to during Christmas, and again, I felt like I’ve been attending Simbang Gabi in this place since the beginning. I suddenly felt as if my Hong Kong memories were years ago, when in fact, I was just there a few hours ago. And I didn’t know what to think about that, which is why I was so relieved when I saw that Bernie felt the same way.
Sneezing and Escalators. However, we spent the day of Christmas Eve in a mall because my mom and uncle were getting their phones and while we were waiting in the store, I sneezed. Aside from the fact that I am frequently sneezing again (I stopped sneezing when I was in HK), my first impulse was to say “Gesundheit!” and “A tes souhaits!” And finally, the hit I’ve been expecting since I got back, landed on my face, figuratively. I was finally convinced, yes Timmy, your exchange semester has just ended and it is still very fresh in your mind. I will miss saying these phrases and even more, the people I said it to. The second and third hit involved the escalators. When we were going down to eat, my brother and uncle went to the right escalator as I was walking to the left one. Again, I realized I’ve gotten used to the way escalators are in most of the malls in HK. And it really made me laugh. I think I spent at least half of my stay there getting used to the way the escalators were there and here I was, unthinkingly moving to the left: HK style. Haha. And so, when I finally stepped on the escalator, I stepped on the left side and again unaware, moved to the right. I was talking to my brother there and I couldn’t figure out why I was so uneasy. Then I realized it was because he was on the left and did not ‘Keep Right’. I laughed again and explained to my brother why. And then again, in my head, yes I’m back and yes you have lived in another country long enough to care about keeping right.
And so as I notice new stores along Katipunan and inside Trinoma plus new houses built in our subdivision, my brother’s new shoes, and my mom’s increased work things, I realize that I have indeed been gone for quite a while but not long enough to make anything even the slightest bit alien to me. Well maybe there’s no time period long enough to make home alien to anyone who lived there. Maybe that’s how home works. I wouldn’t know, four months is the longest I’ve been away and before that the longest I’ve gone was a week (when I was in Singapore). I have bits and pieces of Hong Kong flashbacks when I hear some songs or when someone talks about the MRT here or simple things like the escalator scenario; but on top of all those, it is a relief to be waking up from my own bed, watching shows in a language I can understand and using a bathroom I completely trust. (Long story, I have a thing for bathrooms.) After three days of being back and one day after Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, I can confidently say: There really is no place like home.
On other things, I will try and write about everything I want to about Hong Kong. There are many many things I still want to share and of course I now need to edit my short description on my sidebar since I’m not an exchange student anymore (huhu). I know I will miss HK more in the coming days and months but I know it’s just a few hours away and there’s always the hope of coming back there soon. Til then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
We fell in love in a hopeless place.