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From Mountains to Mahboula

April 22, 2011

* I wrote half of this blog during Spring Break on our Thai/Cambodia trip.  Sat down today and wrote the rest of it.  So some parts might seem kind of contradictory…again, I’m just grappling with an idea.

The longer I’m away, the harder it is to see myself moving back home.  How can I leave this all behind?  The travel, salary benefits, job experience, friends, etc.  The other question is, How much has Silverdale and Seattle really felt like home in recent years.  I almost consider Bellingham more of my hometown.  These towns just feel like…places I’ve lived.  I don’t have expansive histories or extended families or taxed property there to call my own.  I long for my friends, but not particularly for the places I’ve been.

One of my favorite books is A Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  It was the first book that got me thinking on an “international/global level”.  I was 22 when I first had the idea to go abroad, and I read this book at 23, helping to crystalize that idea.

The title of Vonnegut’s book refers to his life as a German-American growing up in Illinois, and that he often felt like a….man without a country.  Naturally, I relate to this by growing up in Washington State as a first gen. Filipino-American.  My roots in America – if I’m really trying to stretch it – go back less than 4 decades when my father was stationed in Bremerton, WA sometime in the mid-70’s.  My roots in the Philippines seem detached, primarily because I’ve never lived there, nor had a desire to.  Maybe I’m just trying to relate myself to a literary great like Vonnegut, but I can somewhat relate to the feeling of being a man without a country.

The Pacific NW is the closest thing I have to a home, despite not having an expansive familial history there.  And the longer I’ve been away the more I associate with it.  I meet new people — I tell them I’m from Seattle.  I visit a new place–I compare it to the Northwest.  I picture an ideal home–I see trees, mountains, and blue waters.  But Mahboula, Kuwait can be just as formative as Bellingham or Bremerton, I think.  Amidst my thoughts of home this year – their fluctuating – and amidst the seasonal inspiration of a new Spring, my brain is currently caught thinking, out of sight, out of mind.  Seattle is only two months away…there’s no use in pining over it now.

But it surprised me when I didn’t feel a longing for home when I was listening to a sad folk/bluegrass song by Doc Watson called “Blueridge Mountain Blues”.  He longs for home in such a way, and I find myself being jealous of just how much he misses his…home.  He sings:

When I was young and in my prime

I left my home in Caroline

Now all I do is sit and pine

for all those folks I left behind.  

My grip is packed with travel

and I’m scratching gravel for that 

Blue Ridge faraway

I listen to similar old folk/blues songs that wail for home and the images they miss and the people, and I want to feel that same intensity of emotion as them.  Do I feel guilt for not feeling that way about home? (now)  Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind”?

Regardless of the place you’re from, the office where you work, the dorm you live, or the team you’re on, it’s the people you share those experiences with that embroider definitive memories.  It’s not that I don’t miss the Pacific Northwest, I do.  But I miss my friends and family more.

I long for the relationships with my friends, but not particularly for the places I’ve been.  I long for many things that are not so much in a particular place, but instead in a specific state of mind.  Natural and beautiful things.  A dog on her walk; the hen resting on her eggs; the cow chewing its cud.

Live for enlightening human relationships and profound life experiences.  I am happiest when the two intersect.

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