In the weeks leading up to it, my co-workers would come by my office and inquire about my ten-day vacation to the Philippines to visit my family. They all seemed giddy and excited for me. I can't help but be suspicious about all this goodwill. Why are they so happy? It's not like there is a temp to cover for me. A couple of them will have to take on my duties while I am away. If I were them, I think I would give me the finger.
I felt weird about charging this time to "Vacation," although technically, that's what it is; it is time off from work. I wish Human Resources had a category called "Self-Inflicted Torture."
The ideal vacation for me is staying at home, with a stack of books, DVDs and porn. And take-out Chinese. Ok ok ok, if pushed, I would probably say that I'd like to go to France--with my stack of books, DVD and porn. I'll learn to say "Moo Goo Gai Pan" in French.
I am worried about what to expect. It's been a very long time since my last visit. The occasional photo I receive from home show only glimpses. Everybody seems to be a little greyer, a little heavier. Nothing too radical. Yet, I am afraid that I may find my aging parents, who are picking me up at the airport, shrunken to little garden gnomes. I am afraid that my Louis Vuitton luggage won't fit in the wheelbarrow they now travel in.
I have prepared no agenda. I am arriving in the Philippines with absolutely no plans.
When I de-plane, I will let my body go limp and be swept away by the tide that is my family: my father, my mother, my brother, my sister and her brood. At the end of ten days, all that's left will be bits of me clinging to a coral reef: a shoelace, a button, a false eyelash. A thin, oily sheen of bronzer will be floating on the sea water where my body would've been.
I have lived in Chicago for fifteen years. I have built a life here. This is where my heart lives.
This other home is 10,000 miles, eighteen hours and thirty-four minutes away. It is in a concrete house my father built up from raw determination, from long hours driving cabs; where my mother founded four children and lost a marriage. This other home--this is where my soul lives. This is my pilgrimage; my trip to Mecca. I am doing this as a dutiful son.
It is a very long way home.
This is part of a series of posts about my vacation in February of '06 in the Philippines. Read the rest here: