“This is the life!”
Ten minutes into the boat ride, soaked in wet clothes, I was left alone with my thoughts. The other three stayed at the rear, carrying on with their conversation in a dialect I have to learn quickly. The assimilation process would be difficult but with the knowledge on how to understand and be understood, my transition would go smoother.
“You know, it’s my birthday today,” I announced, louder than the engine’s noise.
Manong, our host, approached me, leaving his friend and Rolly behind.
“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday? I could have bought chickens we could roast.”
I smiled, grateful for his generous thought. In the city, we usually buy retail dressed meat but here I was offered not only one but several.
“I don’t usually celebrate my birthday,” I confessed. “I always believe that only children are entitled to a feast.”
“For a man of the city, you are so different. When I asked Rolly about you, he simply laughed and said, ‘Tell me who he is.’ That reply was not I expected.”
I thought for a while, looking for words to simplify my explanation.
“I am a very private person. If you ask ten people who knew me personally, I am very sure they would describe me in ten various ways.”
“You mean, you’re a role player?”
“No, I am not,” I laughed at the term, contradicting the misinterpretation. “People misunderstood me a lot. In some way, they don’t understand how simple I live my life.”
“You have to be more specific. You’re losing me.”
“When I told Rolly I want to relocate here, you should have seen his face. He asked, ‘are you crazy? That place is in the middle of nowhere. Did you consult your family about this?’ He agreed to accompany me for a vacation. Not emigration.”
“I think he is correct,” Manong laughed, nodding repeatedly, But then he asked, “are you crazy?”
“Am I?” I asked back, waiting for his opinion. “Why do you live here? Are you crazy, too?”
“Of course, not.”
“Precisely,” I agreed, leading him to understand on how I think.
His thick lips cracked a smile, telling me that he was starting to follow my logic.
“I think Rolly did not want you to leave the easier life of the city. That’s why your idea sounded weird for him.”
“My cousin, Rolly’s wife, understood my reasons. She, too, wishes to leave the city because her two children suffer from asthma attacks. Too much pollution worsens their conditions. Also, their medication costs eat much of what he earns.”
“So you think that by moving here, you will not only save a lot from your daily expenses, you will have better living conditions.”
“Is that a crazy idea or what?” I winked.
Manong, who admitted early on that he finished only grade school, was enlightened to the simplicity of my motives. He was living the life that I wanted, which to him was just a normal life.
Not that difficult to understand at all.