Aboard Korean Air bound for Canada, I met Benjamin reluctantly after reading Dickens and seeing everything on the video list. As I had thought earlier, he'd be the most incredible character ever created. Indeed he was... Nevertheless, some of his lines struck me and forced me to make a connection with him. Here are the top three lines I'd like to remember about Benjamin (and me):
"It's a funny thing about comin' home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You'll realize what's changed is you."
I've crossed the seas and have always come home to the most familiar sights and sounds (which are not always to my liking). I still see the apartments we lived in since the 1960s and the same jeepney drivers plying the same routes and smoking the same cigarette brands. The Pasig River still smells the same (maybe worse), but people are braver such that they ride the fully air-conditioned ferry to avoid the usual traffic on Manila's roads. Everything feels the same, more or less. Some hearts grow cold with distance while others grow fonder; I simply respond accordingly. It does feel good seeing the same people or new ones: newly born, grown, aged. And it's the time to visit the departed and apologize for my absence... How much I have changed I can't tell. After an Easter by the Black Sea, a walk at the ruins of Troy, an autumn by the Carpathians, a week by the Danube, a weekend with the Lumbees, midnight on a moonless prairie... through discrimination, harassments, cultural conflicts, dangers and close calls (not to forget the lines in my face) I should be a better me.
"Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life. Some people get struck by lightning. Some are born to sit by a river. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim the English Channel. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people can dance."
Some strangers interpreted for me in Russia, Moldova and Romania. Some landlords treated me as if I were their own child. A tutor picked herbs from the forest for my tea. Some friends made sure I was warm during my first winter and kept me company at Christmas. A "big brother" reprimanded me for being so naive sometimes. Some men thought they could be my lovers. Some taxi drivers asked me about Imelda's shoes. Some students said, "I love you" every day. Some colleagues hugged me tight I thought my bones would crush. Some motorists stopped to offer help when I was in distress... From strangers to friends or friends to strangers, they all helped me through difficult times or made my life away from home more bearable and very colorful. I should be thankful for being so blessed with these wonderful people.
"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."
For those who haven't stopped inquiring about my age, here are some clues: I stopped my life at 29 when I left for my first taste (literally) of snow, at 36 when I thought I could leave teaching for good, at 41 when I discovered the realities in the land of milk and honey, and at 44 when I embarked on a journey of endless possibilities. Whether this is my last stop, I can't tell for I am not yet in acquaintance with the wonders of every wildflower, every tree, every mountain, or every soul on this road I've taken. Should there be a need to start all over again, time will tell if I have the strength to do so. For now, I promise to make the best of everything and to regret nothing. I know that those who know me so well will agree and continue to walk with me no matter how often I stop my life and challenge time. Jamison/04/17/09