Home is where the heart is.

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This entry was suggested by Jenipur Aranaydo.)

Barcelona – I grew in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. The city, also known as the City of Golden Friendship, is located in the northern part of Mindanao, south of the country. Before I turned 21, I have only left the island twice to Cebu (my mom’s annual checkup and our class’ trip). Summers were then spent at home with my siblings and travels to my father’s town called Nasipit, Agusan del Norte. A year later I decided to try my luck in Manila but I had to cut short my stay because my father died. It wasn’t until I turned 24 that I left my city to be in Manila on my own.

Now that I am 43 years old, I could say that half of my life was spent at home (in Cagayan de Oro, that is) and the other half somewhere else. I spent more than a decade in Manila, almost six months in the US, and now almost seven years in Spain.

What’s the difference between home and abroad (or away from that is)? Are there really differences to begin with? I would say there are a lot of differences between waking up to my mom’s early morning rants and eating breakfast in the dead of winter.

First difference is total independence. At home, I am surrounded by people who are always at my command. I don’t need any Genie for things to be done. And I can demand more than three wishes in a day’s time. Someone prepares my breakfast. Or better yet, walking to the nearest café for a quick bite is always cheap. Someone fixes my bed. Someone washes my clothes. Someone cleans my room. There´s always someone to do almost all things for me. If they are paid help, it’s always cheaper.

Being away means I have to do all things. I have to do the cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing of clothes, grocery shopping, and so on. It means that I have to earn my keep and spend it wisely.I just have to make sure that I take good care of my body. Otherwise, I would end up spending a lot for my medical consultation and meds.

Another difference is responsibility. Staying with my family meant I have to inform almost everyone of my whereabouts. I have to go home early then. I have to call if I would come very late at night. Abroad, I am not responsible to anyone except myself. No more asking of permission. No more scolding. But then I have to see myself home safe and sound.

Homesickness is one thing that makes one long for home once in awhile. The company of family is the best. Nothing beats the laughter shared among siblings and the endless chatters at the day’s end. But thanks to the latest technology, home now is an internet connection away. Skype. Facebook. Messenger. But then if you are adventurous type, who needs to be home if you can entertain yourself with the endless sights and sites that your host city or country can offer. The first time I arrived in Spain in 2004, I had two bouts of homesickness. First, when my maternal grandfather died. This happened during my first weeks in Madrid. I really couldn’t tell anyone in the dorm that time as I was a recluse then. I knew that I had so many in the dormitory but no one really measured enough to be a shoulder to cry on. Second was when my niece texted me that she was three months pregnant. I didn’t know what to do then except cry myself in the wee hours of one very cold autumn morning.

Retail buying is another. In the Philippines, I can buy a ten-peso worth of vegetable oil. Or one egg. A piece of dried fish. Or a half a pack of cigarettes.Or shampoo and conditioner in sachets. Bar soaps in sachets.  Or even ask the neighbor for lemon grass. Or even use their telephone for local calls. But then again, buying bulk means less visits to the grocery store or the market. I save a lot of time and I can do other things.

Sense of time is a difference that is truly felt every time I go home for vacation. Time tends to go very slow at home. I have this tendency to get bored after my first week. I would tell my mom then I want to go back to Manila immediately for no apparent reason but boredom. Time runs so fast in the big city.

But wherever we may be in this world, human nature tell us to adapt fast in order to avoid boredom and homesickness. This is almost true to all first time travellers. But once settled down and with full adjustment then home becomes where the heart is.