My kind of holiday
HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s been a long while since I had the luxury of resting after practically doing nothing. 

I’m ending a short vacation in Sydney and I’m starting to realize that three weeks is not enough to shake off the aggravation of living in the Philippines in this day and age.

When I left, Senator  Antonio Trillanes was still holed up in the Senate, awaiting the decision of one of two courts on the hare-brained charges filed against him by the Justice department.  The peso-dollar exchange rate was teetering at 53.25. The president had just confessed to his “only sin” of ordering extra judicial killings. There were few vegetables in the market and they cost an arm and a leg, and the traffic was as toxic as ever.

I’m going back to a country that hasn’t changed much. The news is still generally upsetting, from GMA’s Leni-less version of presidential succession, to higher inflation, to rotting tomatoes in Laguna, to name a few. But there have been a couple of felicitous developments at home that I need not spell out.  

Meanwhile, I am relishing the last of my slow days here with my daughter, having long, intimate conversations at the kitchen counter where she whips up her cakes, cookies, even ice cream on a whim, and binge-watching the hilarious Netflix series Grace and Frankie about two women in their Seventies who develop a deep friendship when their husbands fall in love — with each other.  

I cook sometimes, but it is school holidays in Australia and my son-in-law, a teacher, is an aspiring chef who likes to surprise us with his culinary creations. So, I am happy to be the creator of salads in this land of plenty, where I wept with joy and envy in the supermarket when I saw its display of lush green veggies, plump tomatoes, perfect mushrooms, giant red, green and yellow sweet peppers, and juicy strawberries, lemons and oranges. Even the fresh ginger drips with juice. 

I also am the companion of choice of my only granddaughter and roommate Maya, who just turned eight and is quick as a whip. We have great conversations at bedtime and upon waking where we tackle a wide array of topics like how to survive childhood and strict parents, the books she reads and why at her age, she mustn’t read so many what I call “kikay” books, and why she cannot watch certain shows and movies that the rest of the family enjoys because she’s only eight.  One morning she asked if the reason I enjoy Grace and Frankie so much is because they talk a lot about vaginas!

I have experienced too many scorching summers in Sydney when I have come for Christmas, so I was looking forward to the cooler climes of spring. It was a pleasantly warm and sunny spring day when I landed three weeks ago, but spring can be chilly — and rainy. I have spent a lot of time indoors cooped up by the weather. I sleep under two thick blankets, a cotton sheet and a comforter. I also wear socks all day and all night. Every rainy morning, Maya asks me if the farmers are getting enough water, after the long drought that badly affected agricultural production here. I guess the rain is needed hereabouts, but it has gotten in the way of the long walks I had envisioned with Maya and Monica around the neighborhood.

Today, after a particularly wet day yesterday, I was happy to wake up to blue skies and warm sunshine. So I did my last load of laundry before my departure for Manila and hung them up to dry, but two hours later, I had to rescue my laundry from the rain that fell in big drops!  That’s Aussie weather for you.

But I don’t really mind being homebound and rained-in on this visit. I love the ordinariness of our days — sleeping late and getting up later, sharing stories, doing chores, getting to know my grandchildren better, especially the boys, who are almost 17 and 20 years old. This is my least eventful visit in terms of tourism activities, but the most fulfilling.  

Oh, I watched a play in the city, but that was it.  Otherwise, we did everyday humdrum things like grocery shopping,  saying goodbye to Miggy, a grandnephew who left for Spain to pursue his soccer dreams, seeing the family doctor, having my blood tests, getting my pneumonia and shingles vaccine shots, and updating my coverage against osteoporosis.  Mainly, we just vegged at home where I relished my mental health break from the aggravation of deadlines and politics at home.

It’s been a long while since I had the luxury of resting after practically doing nothing.  Such a humdrum homebound holiday is an indulgence that I’ve needed to a long time.

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