Musings over an imaginary bowl of homemade tomato sauce

I was idly browsing the delicious recipes of Smitten Kitchen in a few moments of uninspiration from writing. And all of a sudden I just wanted to stop by the nearest supermarket. I wanted to buy a big basket of tomatoes. I wanted to make myself a delicious pot of homemade tomato sauce to eat over steamed black rice or roasted potatoes.

Sadly, I may not be able to do this. In less than 24 hours I will need to jump on a plane and go to Yolanda/Haiyan-affected areas for a psychosocial mission. In between that, I will have to move all my stuff to my new desk, attempt to finish some articles and pack my stuff, among other things.

I just miss cooking for myself so much. I used to make homemade pitas, sushi rolls, French omelettes or garlicky fried rice for lunch. As a treat for myself I’d make potato and apple salad or bicol express or onion soup. If I want something really homey, I’d whip up sinigang or adobo.

And as I browsed through delicious-looking photographs today, I started to wonder when I stopped having time to cook for myself. I think it has something to do with the fact that I have to travel often. (If only I could ALWAYS stay at places where they have their very own kitchen.) And, maybe, with the fact that I’m a bit of a workaholic. (I get anxious if I’m not working on anything – for my career or one of my personal projects. Or videogames.)

I’ve been travelling all my life. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had to go places. My family travelled to see relatives at least once a year, and school has also brought me places. I haven’t gone very far or, at least, not out of the country yet.

But because I had to do it so often, my mother sat down with me before a trip when I was in second grade to teach me how to pack my bags in an organized way. I’m usually shy around people, but during travels I somehow lose my inhibition and open up because how else do you expect to find out where you’re going without asking? When I did decide not to ask, it was deliberate. I wanted to explore these places, to get to know them. It was always interesting, learning new places, meeting new people and eating new food. And, of course, scouring every bookstore in sight.

On one of my first solo trips to Iligan City, I woke up early in the morning, got out of the hotel, and just started walking with the objective of stopping at the very first coffeeshop I find for an early morning latte. Perhaps about five kilometers later, I realized that perhaps most of the people in Iligan just aren’t really into coffee. Or, at least, not into goingto coffeeshops early in the morning. I had to settle for a cuppa at McDonald’s. I then headed back to the hotel but got lost because I found a sign that said “Iligan City Market”. My eyes lit up right away. (The market is THE first place you want to get to know when you’re travelling.) But somehow, I couldn’t find the market. (Perhaps it was another ten kilometers away, and I was just walking.) I took a taxi and went back to my hotel room, dejected. But moments later, I was all high again because I found out on google maps that there was another market just within walking distance of the hotel. (I should also note here that my idea of “walking distance” largely differs with that of the general population.) Later that evening, I had a twelve-inch pizza all to myself in my hotel room. (I meant to save half of it for breakfast the next day. I just couldn’t.)

As a general rule, the only thing you really need to do when travelling is to make sure you are able to go back to where you started. You can just wing everything else from there.

Travel has been such a major part of my identity that one time, when I told my brother that I was going with our father on fieldwork to Bukidnon his reply was “that job suits you better”. At the time, I was working a hospital job that kept me from travelling without at least a month’s notice.

I do still enjoy travel and it will forever be a part of me. In many ways, it is still part of giving meaning to my work and my existence. But even the eagle can’t keep its wings spread all of the time.

Quite some time ago, I realized that my life’s dream doesn’t involve anything grand like lots of money, or high honors, or even seeing the world. When you’ve been away from home for far too long, one of the things you just really crave for is stability.

Stability may seem like a boring word. The adventurous will shudder at the thought of an endless cycle of days and nights that are all the same. (Bullshit, I say. If you’re bored, it’s your own fault. If you never thought of making paper mache sculptures or writing a series of short stories or carving vegetables into funny shapes in your moments of idleness, then I feel very sorry for you indeed. Everyday is not the same. Any physicist will tell you that.)

But I also crave time to dwell in my sleep, to get to know my dreams. Or time to read a big, fat novel. Or work on that comic book I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate. Or start a vegetable garden. Or, yes, even cook spicy tomato sauce to eat over steamed black rice or roasted potatoes.

I can find adventure any time, but every person needs at least a little bit of sameness. A little bit of stability.

Sometimes you have to learn to do the same thing over and over again, because you never get better at anything if everything always new. (I’d like to back that statement up with an explanation of the nervous system, but that would make this entry way too long.) Sometimes you have to learn to give the same, constant kind of love and care to those around you, because love is better when you take your time and build it up. Sometimes you need to see the things you have created and nurtured grow before your very eyes. Not fleet this way and that, not knowing if the seeds you sow have actually taken root or not. Sometimes you need to get to know a place with more than one crazed walk in search of a coffeeshop and a market.

I’d like a little bit of that right now.

You know, people ask me why I don’t go abroad to work. I’m a nurse, they say. I have the opportunities. I could probably pass all the tests, at that. I have a decent command of English, too. I’m also used to adjusting to new places so it should be a piece of cake.

There are many answers to that question. First of all, I really don’t need to. Second, there is still work to do right here. Third, I was already born in one of the most damn beautiful and abundant countries in the whole wide world; there is really no reason I can’t be happy here. This list goes on and on.

But the major answer to that is this: I’m still finding my way home.

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