Lizzie and I have been back in the US, up to our old tricks here in Green Bay, for over a week now. In fact, we're coming up on two weeks.
And it seems to me as if our time in Manila is becoming a fast fading dream, something I cooked up in my brain to pass a lazy Sunday afternoon (instead of vacuuming or raking leaves).
But I do run into people daily who do a double take when they see me, and say, "Hey, you're back. How WAS it?"
I need to come up with a one word answer--because that's all they're looking for, in the midst of their everyday busyness. "Good" might suffice, or even the ubiquitous "Great."
Of course the truth is much more complicated, and unraveling. "Good, over all," I end up saying. "There were challenges, of course. It was frustrating and elevating and terrifying and--" I launch into an extended disquisition, covering our technological frustrations, the horrifying weather, the language barrier, the feeling of disconnection from the department at UP, the deep relationship that Lizzie and I forged (and banked against the whittling and withering energies of her adolescence), our abiding joy now that we're home.
By now, whoever was stupid enough to ask me how it went is sitting behind his desk, glazed, vaguely unhappy, like a man caught in the wrong conversation at the cocktail party, his glass nearly empty and the bar oh so far across the crowded room. And yet I can barely wrench myself away from the topic, even as part of me hovers over my head and bemoans my inability to stop the tidal wave.
The short answer is that our trip was, overall, productive and positive. Lizzie and I learned what's important in life: love, human relationships, the connectedness of life on this planet. To learn that lesson, we had to suffer fear and boredom and disconnection. We made wonderful friends. We enjoyed radical hospitality--our friends who had less than us shared everything with us. We tuned into and out of what was going on here in the U. S. Sometimes our forced radio silence--the downed internet, the dearth of cable TV, the thirteen hour time gap--allowed us to take deep breaths, to calm down, not to get snarled up in the usual (and mostly invented) white noise of day to day living here.
And now we're back, and I find myself knit up into the often ridiculous chatter of a first world country, where we worry about prime time line ups and bonus checks and Christmas vacations and job search duties and who dissed whom at the last faculty meeting rather than about those clouds massing out over the ocean and threatening our shorelines or a corrosive bout of cancer caught too late or the return of martial law or losing our houses and our children in a sudden flood.
In short, I feel safe. And safety leads to a kind of mental or emotional dissolution that I suspect is as toxic, at times, as its opposite.
How was my trip? It was awesome, in every sense of the word.