By : Anchit Som
It’s a different life I said to a privileged friend of mine living in the posh Lohas Park Complex in Hong Kong. “Show me your homestay” she said on the phone and in the spirit of Jagna I decided to oblige. The weak internet connection could not support a full video tour of the house, so I settled with my new phone’s shitty camera (for context, read Emma’s blog). As I captured the house on a little screen, the balcony, the windows, the living room all seemed too familiar. The pictures didn’t feel as special as a sunset on the beach because I felt like all this was always there, and I have always been living in Tubud Mar.
As I look into the depths of my short term memory, I distinctly remember the first time I landed at Myrna’s house. It was dark, and professor Beau left me at the house with a “this is going to be fun” smile. I was greeted by a total of 5 dogs, jumping onto me as soon as I entered the house. My entire lifetime has been spent around humans, I was enthralled by this opportunity to spend time with these simpler animals. A cute white dog licked my feet and a black dog played actively with my hand. Jax my roommate greeted me as a local Hong Konger from HKU would and I was suddenly thrown into a double cultural exchange. In essence the dinner table was a juxtaposition of ethnicity, with one Indian, one Chinese and 6 Filipinos. With the passage of time, the conversations on the dinner table got more lucid and frank with topics ranging from the music they liked and the interesting websites they liked to visit. The dinner table continues to be the most enriching aspect of the stay as we get to identify the contrast in our thinking along with the similarities in interests.
As I take pictures of the photos hanging on the wall, a 21-year old me gets insights into how important family is to people. Looking back at all the tantrums I threw as a young one, I wonder how does Myrna raise all the five children. However, the supermom does a perfect job in handling them with a philosophy that dictates “Let the kids be and they will find a way”. The youngest and cutest Kean, walks into my room speaking Visaya, with a toy stethoscope to check my heartbeat. I give him a piggyback ride back to the living room saying Hi to the girls Angel and Ashley. Emma and Si Eun enter the courtyard in the morning to pick my lazy bum up for work, but also end up turning the heads of the boys Arby and Erin in glee. The slow pace of life catches on in the routine and becomes an exciting adventure every day. The little inconveniences of not having an AC turns into the bigger joy of a rotating fan touching you like the wind breeze. My smelly clothes from the sweat and stain of the day are hung on the porch in front after the soapy laundry of my strained hands. A visit to the church with the boys on a lazy Sunday, an NBA match with the family on a Tuesday afternoon. There are innumerable little experiences like these that make me realize that the people may be different here but the emotions are the same. As my photo session ends Myrna offers me a gallon of Tuba to have with the family and I willingly decline as that’s an experience I’ve already had at Kumar’s Shack.
As the night draws in further my cellphone beeps with Kumar’s message “Scene tonight?”. The Shack is the part of the night where I get to know all the other people in Tubud Mar a little more. I walk a lonely dark road to his place among the forests waiting for witches to grab me and sacrifice me to the gods. I can hear distinctly Zoya chattering away with her family, it’s not a secret that she likes to talk, the barking dogs are testament to how much energy she brings to the shack. We while away the night discussing the beautiful starry night sky and everything under it. The local boys of Tubud Mar come in one by one in the blaring noise of their motorbikes and as soon as there are 20 people in the shack, it’s a party. We bond with them on the English songs they know, the life they live and sometimes math riddles too. The night ends in dancing to a cheap laptop speaker and all the locals exchanging comments in Visaya, telling us the meaning of funny words. The funniest word for sure in all of Jagna would be Hubog Naka, you say it anywhere, anytime and point to a friend, you’ll have Filipinos laughing in splits.
While I enjoy the little joys of life here, I still say to my privileged friend in Hong Kong, it’s a different life here in Tubud Mar, living it all in Myrna’s house and Kumar’s shack.