So I found myself in the UK last month. It still seems like something out of the Twilight Zone , me actually getting there(Millenials, see here). After two weeks of preparation, I found myself in the freezing early winter in the UK for a week and a half. I never feel like I’m fully prepared for a trip. I never pack the right amount of clothes, either it’s too much or too little. This trip fully left me with a sense of panic. This was evident as I was waiting for my aunt to pick me up at the train station in Newcastle, wearing layers entirely too thick for the country I left, and pathetically thin for the country I was in.
I have lived my whole life in a tropical country. Our average temperature is around 25-30 degrees Celsius even in the coldest of months. Our humidity is 75% up and smog adds to the thickness of the metro. Knowing this, I had bought and packed parka type jackets and thick coats that in the heat of the weather where I bought them, seemed enough, even too much for where I was going to. Through the advice of my significant other, and (sort of) cousin I packed mostly in dark colors, mainly black, so as not to literally stick out of the crowd in my usually loud colors. I brought (thermal) layers, scarves, headgear, and thick socks.
I was smug and thought for once I had packed quite enough for the weather. I was happy with my monochrome wardrobe, knowing I had survived with significantly less in the thick of winter at the Bay Area, with temperatures at 8-11 degrees Celsius during my stay.
I was wrong. This is what happens when you’re overconfident. I knew I got cold easily since I usually get cold here, but when I got there, I was miserably freezing. After a few hours, a family friend came over and brought over a suitcase (literally, a roller bag full) full of winter things for me to wear. Things I would actually buy if I knew how much I was in for, and how cold I would really feel.
That whole UK trip (Scotland, NewCastle, York, Sunderland, London, Maidenhead), 90% of what I wore was from that suitcase. I switched out some things and did laundry, but the average -1 to 3 in the north, 2 to 11 degrees in London was a lesson to me on humility and gratitude. Humility that I did not know what i was doing even if I thought I had enough research and prepared, gratitude to the people around me that understood what it means to be from a country so different.
I certainly felt like I was going to a foreign territory, but found myself feeling quite at home because of the community I dropped in on. Those who I was related to by blood, but also those who I knew since I can remember. One thing I’m grateful for is for the warmth of the welcome, the degree of hospitality, and the generosity of the people that I saw when I was there. I never could have enjoyed myself without their help, and have seen the country for what it meant to them and their families for them to be there.
They say the Filipino spirit is waterproof, I say it’s lifeproof. However far we are from each other, how different our lives are, how hard the obstacles, we still find a way to smile through tough days, months, years. I admire each person who leaves our country to work for their families and loved ones, because it is exhausting to be in a place that’s not “home”, and to be apart from the ones you love for months or years at a time is an immense sacrifice. Of course it is also great fun to explore, see another place, find your way around and get to travel the other side of the world, but in the end, home is where our hearts are, and if we’re not there for most of our lives, it’s forfeiting time spent with the ones you love.
Suffice to say I am learning more the farther I get from my home base. And I am loving that I get the opportunity to do so.