Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just like when I was new.

Written in: Poblacion, Town of Sta. Maria, Province of Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu.
Previous Post: Arrival In Vancouver

I think her name was Miriam. She was an older stout lady of no more than 5 feet 2 inches in height. Perhaps no less than 45 years old but no more than 50. She wore an elegant ladies' blouse with business pants - would have made for a powerful figure had it not been for the tacky running shoes she wore in anticipation of a long flight.

I introduced myself to her when it was apparent that the wait for my Vancouver-HongKong flight was going to take far longer than I had initially anticipated. I had two choices: keep occupied one way or another, or nap. I was too wired from caffeine and excited to do the latter despite not having slept at all the night prior.

The conversation was in Tagalog (National Philippine Language), and finding out where we came from, what we do, and other generalities regarding our current status was easy enough. We were after all, migrants to Canada, who came from the same nation, and are about to visit that very nation.


Easily and smoothly the conversation may have started, but it is with the same relative ease that it died.

To be frank it turns out we had nothing in common. Nothing particularly surprising about this - one can only relate to so many people one meets at random.

But what struck me was that this reminds me too much of when I was new to Canada.

I was 15 when we moved from Sta. Maria, Bulacan, Philippines to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I had just finished my 3rd year of High School. This was a crucial age where I was already starting to form an identity, a network of friends, and a personal dream (never mind that it was still hazy and skeletal at this point)

This was an age where relocating would probably be somewhat traumatic for my social life.

And it was.

Canadians are friendly, especially to newcomers. Too friendly in fact that I left the impression that I was aloof, secretive, and even perhaps a little defensive when it came to making new friendships at the new school I was put on.

I needed time to adjust and be left alone. Moving to Calgary was thrust upon me. It wasn't my idea. I needed time for all of it to sink in. Whenever someone would try to get to know me, I consciously and subconsciously blocked them one way or another. I felt vulnerable from having been yanked from familiar sorroundings and thrown right into the deep end of the school system of a foreign land.

As well, there were the usual bullies, cliques, and holier than thou browbeaters. But they were relatively easy to deflect and handle compared to the myriad of emotional stresses one encounters when being around the new and unfamiliar.

But there was at least the Filipino community to take me in. They were nice, and I already knew the culture. Pakikisama (relating to) was not a problem. We already shared the culture, the mannerisms, the humour, the euphemisms, and social tendencies.

As time went by however, it became apparent that I shared nothing more with them than common roots. The only thing I had in common was that, I too was a Filipino.

That was it.

It is for this reason, I think, that I became somewhat of a loner - a social hermit - for the remainder of my secondary education in St. Mary's High School, Calgary.

I talked and hung out with the Filipinos, but left large part of myself hidden, and a few other parts suppressed. I forced myself to get along. The Canadian-born cliques already thought I was a xenophobe loner; I had no choice but to at least try and belong to something, despite the fact that if I ever really let my true self loose, I wouldn't get along with most of them (or they wouldn't get along with me, however you see it)

I realized that Miriam had long since picked up her book when the conversation had died down.

I decided to do the same and dug a book that I stuck in my hand carried baggage, titled: The Alchemist, written by the Brazilian Paulo Coelho.

This book was given to me many months ago by my 2nd cousin, Ate Mireille. In the four months I've had it, I've only read the introduction. To be perfectly honest, this is not the type of book that I normally read.

But what the heck I thought, easy reading for a long flight.

Next Post: Cousin Mireille

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