Today is Jan. 11, 2017, my 140th day in Myanmar.
I’ve always been one who’s unwilling and reluctant to call a new place “home.” As opposed to some of my college dorm mates who called their shared dorm rooms “the H word” merely two weeks into freshman year, for me, it was only two years, three apartments, a handful of solid friends and tons of struggles later, did I start to feel comfortable enough referring my college town as my “home.”
As atheist as I currently am, the concept of home resembles that of a religious institute. It’s sacred, thus distant. It’s beyond physical, but spiritual. It’s a sanctuary, where you delve into your deepest fears and insecurities, where you make mistakes, cry uncontrollably and grow from those tears. It’s a place you feel familiar with, sure, but it’s also a place you ache to go back, for the unwanted connectedness and the memories it holds forever. But you’d still go back nonetheless. Because if not, what else is there to do?
I’m a third culture kid. “Home” in turn becomes a goal that’s even harder to grasp. It requires too many elements working cohesively together: a physically comfortable (enough) space, a nearby restaurant that opens till late and delivers. The owner there knows your regulars and feeds you food that you can’t grow tired of. You know the prettiest street and the quietest spot, the bar to go when you are with 10 others and the bar to go when you are alone, and the right folks to go to all these places with.
And that’s the most important part of all: you know several good people, whom you care about a lot and who care about you equally much. You toss around the word “love” with them, not often, just sometimes (I’m Asian, after all). But you do things for each other that makes that obvious: you stand up for them, fight their fight and pain their pain. You bring back presents upon coming back, because you simply think about them wherever you go. They are your shield, your rock, your dignity walking around this world and your comfort for deeming any back corner, “home.”
Having come in and out of Yangon for a few times now, I’ve found familiarity and serenity in the humid and heated air of this city. Maybe it’s just me getting older and craving for a stronger sense of belonging, who knows. But Yangon was, in its own way, welcoming and has become friendlier as time went on. This is likely why after spending four days hiking in Shan State recently, I caught myself letting out a relieved sigh when the bus rolled back into the bustled Yangon bus station.
A couple days after I returned from trekking, a friend from college reached out. Last time we talked was last April. She shared the news of her engagement. No date for wedding yet, but it’s soon, she said. When she asked how I was doing, I, for the first time during a conversation with someone else, verbalized a thought that’s been circling my head for a while:
“Right now, I’m having the most fun in my life here.”
It felt real having that come out.
But somehow I realized I started calling Yangon home long before this exchange.
Three months ago, I typed out the following words in this very blog:
But now, in the office at 7:30 p.m., Delta region seems like a world away, and the still brand new Yangon seems oddly familiar.
I guess somehow, this is home now. This is where my life is and will be.