Posted in bloggers, family, Filipino, relationships

Eight Things I Learned From My Best Friend’s Wedding

 

Some people’s weddings are worth travelling five hundred miles for.

Christine is one of my oldest friends. Like I said in my wedding speech, there aren’t a lot of people I’d hop on a plane for but she’s one of them. I don’t have enough words for how extraordinary a friend and person she is, but the mere fact that there were people who travelled from almost all seven continents of the world to come to this wedding is a testament to her character.

One must not eat Jolibee Chickenjoy mere hours before one must fit into a bridesmaid dress that barely fits when your stomach WASN’T FULL.

Apparently, one MUST sacrifice things like comfort and the ability to breathe for the sake of looking good in one’s dress. Apparently, letting the dress out so that one doesn’t feel one’s lungs being slowly crushed is secondary to the threat of ruining the aesthetic of the design, so one must simply NOT EAT to fit into one’s dress. Ah, the Philippines’ obsession with image and being skinny continues to amuse me. Lol

There is power in female friendships, not to mention friendships that were borne out of the excruciatingly hard journey of studying Nursing in Velez College.

This wedding was also a chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen since I graduated from college. The nostalgia and the rehashing of memories made what was already a poignant wedding even more special.

Ah, that darn bouquet toss.

Throughout the years people have come up with several ingenious alternatives to throwing the bouquet and garter, and single girls everywhere have come up with just as many ways to avoid the embarrassment of being the chosen one who gets to go up in front of strangers and make nice with some random guy.

Of course, none of that matters when your friend and the host almost seem to contrive to have you be the last female standing. So…

One must always expect to be kissed because kisses can happen when you least expect it.

I am pretty sure there are still photographic evidences floating around of that EPIC bouquet toss but I am thankfully ignorant of their existence and I’d like to keep it that way. Lol

Family is everything.

I am of the opinion that weddings aren’t really for the couple but for the couple’s family, and that is as it should be. At the wedding reception, Ray and Christine had a tea ceremony as a symbolic gesture of respect to their respective parents.

The traditional father-daughter dance was extremely significant to everyone there who knew the story and the journey towards those tentative steps. I still tear up thinking about it.

I’ve always said that there’s no rush towards marriage, because its a once in a lifetime decision that should not be taken lightly. But I’ve also thought about how my Papa is getting on in age and how I’d really like for him to walk me down the aisle because, out of necessity, he’s missed a lot of milestones in my life.

I’d like my mum to be there blubbering through the ceremony like she always does, and I’d like my aunts and uncles who have helped raise me to be part of that special day. I can’t picture who I’ll end up marrying, but I can picture my family coming together to send me off to my new adventure as a married woman.

Ah, well. To everything there is a season, I suppose.

Love is everything.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this idea about how my own love story will go. I scoffed at people who did online dating because is that really the kind of story you want to tell your grandkids someday about how you and your partner met? SHUDDER. 

But that wedding got me thinking about how shallow and superficial my idea of love is, despite my claims of being a hopeless romantic. All that talk has been mostly lip service because I’ve never understood that its not the hows and why’s that are important, its not how you met or where you went on your first date, what’s important is that the love exists.

I was surrounded by couples all throughout the day, and while I’m not rushing into anything because of wedding fever, I think that this wedding was the last puzzle piece that needed to fall into place to make me realise that I’m ready for something real. I’m done with the endless dating and the mind games of will he won’t he, or the people who are only after a good time.

I want a partnership, and I want a marriage. I know its a lifelong commitment, and as someone who’s never really been able to finish the things she starts, it is kind of daunting. But looking at the love that surrounded the entire ceremony during the wedding, well, its not big a leap to say that love…well, it simply makes everything worth it.

Posted in Books, family, Reviews

Book Review: Washington Black – Esi Edugyan

My colleagues gave me a Waterstones gift card as a leaving present when I left our department after having worked there for five years. I went to the bookshop confident that I would be able to stay within the limits of the gift card, despite past experience of just the opposite happening.

After about an hour of shopping, I was on my way to the till, confident in my choice of books and ready to make the purchase, when I came across this beautifully bound book that had been long listed for the Man Booker Prize this year. It had a picture of some kind of flying contraption on the cover, and a synopsis that would draw in any reader claiming to have a sense of adventure.

So of course I spent an extra 15 pounds on top of the gift card that I had already been given, but after finishing this incredible book I am of the opinion that it was absolutely, no-doubt-about-it money well spent.

Washington Black tells the story of a young boy who grew up as a slave on a plantation in Barbados. His fate changes when he meets scientist, inventor and abolitionist Christopher ‘Titch’ Wilde, brother to the owner of the plantation. Titch takes him under his wing, which sets off a turn of events that will take Wash on an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

I have never heard of Esi Edugyan before but after reading this book I’m sure I will be looking out for more of her work in the future. There is something so effortless and melodic about her writing. She kept me so engrossed in Washington’s adventures – and misadventures – that I finished this book in A DAY.

The plotting was so seamless, and she managed to keep the narrative at an even pace despite the many twists and turns the story took. She took her time and allowed the story to unfold organically, and it paid off in the form of a book so well-rounded and – I don’t know – the best word I can used to describe it is FULL.

It is so full and rich in imagery that you will immediately feel yourself transported to wherever it is that Washington’s fate had brought him. You can feel the salty breeze of the West Indies, the icy climes of the Arctic, and – this last one I’m quite familiar with – the smoky, foggy air that is unique to the city of London.

Her characters also came alive under the expert strokes of her pen. It is very hard not to feel empathy for Washington Black. You never really think about how miraculous it is to be free to make your own choices until you realise that some people were born not having any choice at all.

I am not well-versed in the history of slavery or how it eventually came to be abolished, but all the same I am grateful to the men and women who made it all possible. I can’t even conceive of a world where my time is not my own, where personal freedom is only a nebulous concept. Its hard to believe that it was once the only way of life that people like Washington Black knew.

Despite all of that, you can’t help but cheer Wash on as he struggles to rise above his station, as he starts to come to terms with what being free means to him. It was an absolute gem to see his journey come full circle, as he realises that the world is his oyster – at least that’s the conclusion I drew from that incredibly ambiguous ending.

Freedom, Wash, is a word with different meanings to different people

– Titch

He was supported by a cast of characters that were as colourful and diverse as they were complex. I like how Esi painted them in shades of grey, how she showed that even with the best of intentions, human beings get it wrong more often than they get it right. The best we can hope for is that we do a little bit of good and leave the world a better place than when we found it.

This is a beautiful tale of personal strength, friendship and love. It paints a beautiful picture of the ties that bind us to another human being, and that no amount of time or distance or separation will ever be able to severe those ties.

Apart from all that, it was just one hell of a great ride. I absolutely loved it. 

Get your own copy from Waterstones now, you won’t regret it!

Posted in bloggers, family

Thank You For The Music

My sister and I went to watch Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again over the weekend and while I don’t usually do movie reviews, I can’t help but feel obligated to write a blog about how watching this film made me feel.

mm2poster

You see, I grew up listening to ABBA. My cousin recently tweeted that she is of the opinion that ABBA has a song for everything, and I absolutely agree. Apart from maybe Taylor Swift, I can’t think of any other artist/s whose music instantly transports me back to a time of my life that, for lack of a better description, feels like its perpetually in hazy sepia.

ABBA always makes me feel nostalgic for a much more simpler time when I used to spend summers with my family in the province. For two whole months in April and May, I lived in a place where time almost seemed to stop. Technology was minimal, at the time I don’t think we even had a mobile network up and running, and we had to find a way to entertain ourselves during those hot summer nights.

It was a time before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when you actually get to have conversations with people. We would ride on cars and motorcycles and go to the beach, have barbecues and do karaoke, laugh with friends and flirt with boys that our fathers would not necessarily approve of. 

Our family used to own an old Mitsubishi L200 that only took cassette tapes, and for some reason the only tape we used to have for those summer road trips was an ABBA Gold Album, a favourite of my dad, my grandfather, and uncles.

I can still remember singing Chiquitita and Fernando while feeling the breeze in my hair as we drove with the windows down (because the other thing that L200 did not have was a working air conditioner).

When summer ended, we would ride that beat-up L200 to the port where the ship would take us back to the city, and back to reality. I would always play “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)” while trying to hide my tears from my parents and my siblings (I’ve always been careful to hide how emotional leaving the province made me feel from my family, I don’t know why).

Hearing that song still makes me think of those long ago summers (and those long ago summer loves). 

In 2008, when the first Mamma Mia film came out, I had just graduated from university and was waiting for a job application to come through. It was a point in my life where I was at the cusp of adulthood, but felt like clinging to my childhood for just a little while longer.

The future was uncertain, I had no clue where I would eventually end up and how my life would turn out. To say I was at loose ends would be a massive understatement.

In the middle of all that, this utterly glorious, shamelessly sentimental and wonderfully senseless film came out. My family being a generation of ABBA fans, we all piled into one car and went to the cinema to watch it together. Uncle, aunts, cousins, parents, brother and sister,  it was the only time I could ever remember us all watching a film together. ABBA did that.

So yes, I am pre-disposed to love ABBA. I am unashamed to say I know the words to most of the songs and I would listen to it every now and again when I feel like reminiscing. I know its not cool, but what the heck. I don’t think there’s such a thing as being too cool for ABBA. I defy anyone to not sing along whenever someone plays Dancing Queen.

I read the review for Mamma Mia 2 and I feel like the critics mostly agree with me. We are at a point in our lives when we all need a little of the optimism that ABBA’s music can give us.  While at the cinema, people were laughing, singing along and just generally having a good time.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when the movie ultimately reached its climactic and emotional ending.

The truth is, you just have to put aside the question of taste and accept the movie and ABBA for what it is: unabashed sentimentality and the need to just feel good about life in general. If only for that, this band deserves our unequivocal appreciation.

So as a girl who grew up listening to these well-known songs, thank you ABBA, thank you for the music. 

Posted in bloggers, family, Moving to London, relationships

Bad Dreams and Irrational Fears

Yesterday I had a long shift at work that eventually ended in me sprawled on the couch at 9pm trying to decide whether I’m more tired or hungry, and whether it was worth giving up being horizontal to prepare dinner. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods.

In the middle of all this, my mum FaceTimed me from the Philippines – as she usually does around that time. She gets up early every morning to go to church (every morning without fail! Now that is a woman who does not feel conflicted about her faith) and she makes a point of ringing my sister and I before she leaves. Maybe so she’ll know if anything’s come up in our lives that necessitates her praying for our eternal souls.

Anyway, I’m ashamed to say that I was too tired last night to bring myself to have a decent conversation with my mother. I was so self-absorbed and cranky that my dad eventually told her to just let me off the phone and rest because I seemed so tired.

I felt incredibly guilty after that. I mean, I so seldom see my parents because I live abroad and these phone calls are their only means of ensuring we stay connected. I’m very lucky that my mum makes an effort to call every day despite the 8 hour time difference; its gotten me through the worst of homesickness when I first got here and through tough times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. They made me feel supported and loved.

Of course my neurotic subconscious chose to express my guilt in the form of a nightmare where my mum was on a ship that had problems at sea and everyone on it has been now been declared missing and presumed dead. I woke up at 2am still in the grips of emotional upheaval and thinking that the last thing I ever said to my mother was that I was too tired to FaceTime her.

I of course rang her telling her about this nightmare and she laughed in my face and told me I was crazy. I probably AM but that’s beside the point. The point is I’ve always had this irrational fear about phone calls. I don’t like receiving missed calls because you never know who was trying to ring you and whether or not it was something catastrophic. Especially missed calls in the middle of the night. Or missed calls from work or your boss.

My mum once rang me in the middle of a working day (London time) and when she couldn’t get a hold of me proceeded to leave the most serious voicemail in the world asking me to call her back when I can. I thought someone in the family had died. It turned out she was just testing whether her new sim card for international calls worked. I nearly had a coronary. I told her never to do that again.

I also sometimes think about how life can suddenly throw curveballs at you. This may seem fatalistic but we never know when a certain conversation with someone we love may be our last. And if you think about it, we take so much for granted that we sometimes forget to even say ‘I love you’ at the end of a conversation with our parents or siblings or partners. This really gets to me, the fact that you never know. So you have to make the most out of it, out of every moment.

I guess what I’m just trying to remind myself is that you should never get to the point where you’re too busy to make time for the ones you love. You have to learn to prioritise, see the bigger picture and remember what’s important. In addition, just because it appears to be ordinary doesn’t mean its not important. Life is made up of small ordinary moments; its what you do with it and who you do it with that makes it extraordinary.

Now that I’ve done this little self-talk, I’m going to ring my mother again and hope I can now sleep better tonight. Lol

Cheers!

Posted in bloggers, family, Parenting, women

Blabbaholic and Baby

For the first time in my life I finally had a productive Valentine’s Day this year; not in the romantic sense unfortunately but at least its the first year since hitting puberty that I’ve not been sat at home moaning about the state of my love life.

No, this year I agreed to babysit one of my closest friend’s beautiful baby boy so that she can take her mum to Cirque de Soleil. Let me tell you, I was terrified as hell. When she asked if anyone was available, I agreed without hesitation AND without giving full thought to what I was actually agreeing to do.

Now its not like babies hate me. I’m not as bad as others who make babies cry if they so much as stand within 3 feet of them. I get on well with babies and I’m a nurse for crying out loud, I’ve spent numerous shifts earlier in my career in the neonatal and paeds unit (not voluntarily, always because I had no choice but hey, I did it). Its just that no one has ever shown so much faith and trust in my ability to care for another individual before.

Fortunately, my friend Cat also agreed to be my partner in crime for the night so I at least had back-up. And it turned out alright – he was the most behaved baby boy in the world – but I have to say I now have so much more respect for mothers the world over and my own mum. These people should be sainted, given awards, lauded, recognised for their silent contribution to humanity for more than just that one day a year.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of the few things I learned while babysitting.

Babies are heavy.

I don’t know why I’m just realising this now when part of our responsibilities as nurses in the delivery room is to weigh the cute tiny humans. They weigh something like 8-10 lbs when they’re born and they become exponentially heavier as the months pass. And when they cry, carrying and rocking them is just about the only thing that will calm them down – apart from feeding them of course. I truly felt like I had a workout the day after.

I can change diapers like a champ.

This totally surprised me. I was amazed at myself. I changed the baby’s nappies for a grand total time of 5 minutes and I only had to take a second to figure out which way was up. And really, I don’t know how or why but babies just don’t smell. Even when they should. Babies have world-class pheromones.

I can feed myself but apparently not babies

I had a moment of panic an hour into babysitting duties. My friend was running late and I had to take care of Caleb on my own for the first hour or so. I was feeling so smug because I got him to sleep and I was just sitting there chilling and watching The Night We Met on Netflix (predictable but fun, no need for brain cells – perfect for babysitting night lol). And then inevitably the baby becomes hungry and I had to feed him with the expressed breastmilk his mum so helpfully prepared before she left.

And he wouldn’t suck.

I couldn’t believe it. I must be the only person in the world who can’t feed a baby. I tried everything, every position I knew, but he just wouldn’t take the milk. He was crying and I wanted to cry because I was feeling like such an idiot. I knew instinctively that he was hungry but I didn’t know how to get him to take the milk. Thankfully, my friend Cat arrived just in time. I buzzed her in and handed the baby over in record time and she had him drinking in minutes. Clap, clap, clap, CLAP.

It takes a village.

On the heels of the feeding incident I now realise how difficult it must be to do that on your own, raising kids I mean. We only babysat for three hours but Cat and I knew that we couldn’t have done it without the other. Forget about the fact that we needed to take turns carrying and feeding the baby so that the other can have dinner or a bit of a rest, I think that goes without saying. But no, I think its just the comfort that comes with knowing that there’s another person in the room, another pair of eyes, someone else to help you make the important decisions; it’s a big comfort to simply know you’re not alone.

I now understand why couples with babies will think carefully about where they want to settle; some will probably move closer to home because you really need that support system. If I’m ever blessed with a child, I’ll also be adopting my mum who is a champ at all things babies. I now have so much more respect for single mothers – they truly are unsung heroes. Kudos to you guys.

Babies will make you realise your capacity to care for another individual

I don’t know if it was just because it was V-day and I was feeling more maudlin than usual, but caring for Caleb that night genuinely made me feel like there was nothing I wouldn’t do for this baby. And whenever he smiled because I was putting Aveeno cream on his cute little face, I felt like I hung the moon on the sky. I guess that’s why I always think that having a baby is a big decision and you have to be sure you’re ready and you’re at the right state of mind for it. Because having one means losing your right (and desire) to only think about yourself. There’s lots of challenges, lots of sacrifices, but the rewards must be amazing.

Anyway, it was an awesome night. Thanks Katie for trusting me with your beautiful baby boy. As I said, I’m available for babysitting duties anytime. And I promise to get better at the feeding thing.

Now I’m going to call my mum and tell her how much I love her.

Posted in Books, family, relationships, Reviews, romance

Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

I will try my best for this review to do justice to this beautiful story of courage, hope and the power of love to endure all things, but I just don’t think I’m a good enough writer to express how much this book has touched me.

My sister has always wondered why I’m so morbidly fascinated with everything related to the Holocaust. She looked at me with horror when I suggested we watch Schindler’s List for Christmas morning last year (okay, that may have been too depressing a choice for what’s supposed to be a joyous occasion) or when I spent the entire holiday reading The Final Solution by David Cesarani the year before that.

For me it all started with a visit to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. I was well-versed with the history of the holocaust and the events of World War II of course, but in an almost detached kind of way. Like it was something I knew had happened but it never really touched me in a personal way – until I arrived at 263 Prinsengracht. While there, I was compelled to read the diary of a young girl and was able to see those events through her eyes and that, THAT made it personal.

You see, at 14 I was in high school; I did well academically, I had a huge circle of friends, a family who loved me and the exhilarating knowledge that life was only just beginning for me; I had dreams, and I knew I could go anywhere and be whoever I want to be if I only work hard enough for it. The world was my oyster. At 14, Anne Frank was desperately trying to survive, hidden in the secret annexe and praying to God that she will live to see another day.

I’ve visited a lot of memorials, have read a lot of book related to the holocaust – both fiction and non-fiction – and its always the accounts of the ordinary people who lived through that nightmare that always struck me to the core. This book is one of those accounts; it tells the extraordinary story of Lale Sokolov, who worked as the tattooist for Auschwitz during the war. He marked men and women, young and old alike, and inadvertently helped to decide their inevitable fate.

Lale made a promise to himself upon entering Auschwitz that he would survive the dreaded death camp; not only that, but he will bloody well live his life to the fullest even amidst such horror. But even he faltered at times when faced with the utterly senseless waste of life that he saw during his three years of imprisonment. He also could not help but feel like a Nazi collaborator because of what he allowed himself to do in order to survive. For Lale had friends and contacts in higher places, and he used a combination of charm, wiles, cunning and sometimes just plain dumb luck to cheat death over and over again.

Of course Lale had a very strong motive for wanting to stay alive: during his time in Auschwitz he fell in love with a young woman from Block 29 named Gita. Now I am usually not a fan of insta-love, but under those circumstances it was not only understandable but somehow appropriate that two people would grab at the chance for love where they can. I challenge any world-weary cynic who has stopped believing in the power of love to read this and not believe in love again.

This book is incredibly uplifting. Apart from the obvious love story, its mainly a story of hope. One of Lale’s favourite things to say was that “If you wake up in the morning, its a good day”. He, and Gita along with him, got through those horrible years by always putting one foot in front of the other (literally and figuratively) and by always believing that there will come a time when they will be free to be together, “to make love whenever and wherever they want”. Simple freedoms that we take for granted during our everyday lives.

This book also about the startling glimpses of human kindness in a place where you don’t expect kindness to exist anymore. I think its meant to tell you that there is hope for mankind if one prisoner can still manage to willingly share his meagre extra rations so that his block mates can also have a tiny piece of sausage or chocolate.

I won’t deny that this book had me in tears for most of it. Its the little things that got me: how earlier in the book, Lale’s mum – not knowing where he was headed and if they’ll ever see each other again – packed her favourite books in his suitcase instead of clothes so that they’d give him comfort when she no longer can; its how prisoners mourned the loss of suitcase and personal belongings as soon as they entered the camp, not for any materialistic reason, but because of the memories those belongings held, the sentimental value of some of the items, and perhaps because they know that that loss is a metaphor for what they will soon lose: their identities, their individuality, heck, their very humanity will soon be taken from them as they become just another  number in Auschwitz.

Through it all Heather Morris wrote with such simplicity so as not to take away anything from the story that she was writing. Her words were clear, plain and straightforward. The narrative flowed and was easy to follow. It delivered on so many levels, and was such a page-turner that I finished this book within a day.

I still struggle to understand how anyone could have allowed murder and carnage on such a large scale to happen on their watch. I still can’t find any discernible reason for that huge wave of anti-semitism and for why a single group was targeted for genocide. I expressed all that and more when I reviewed The Final Solution on my Goodreads account, and I still stand by everything that I said. We should never forget the events of the holocaust. It makes me wonder how many more lives have to be lost and how many more wars need to be fought before we understand that – even though we’re divided by race, religion and culture – we are all simply human beings. As naive as it sounds, why can’t we just live and let live?

These men and women, these survivors, they weren’t at the battle front. They didn’t help to win the war, I don’t think they fired a single gun shot nor did they contribute to any strategic sessions; all they did was live each day hoping that they will still live to see the next. To me, that makes them heroes. Thank you Lale Sokolov, for sharing your incredible story with the world. I hope you’re happy and at peace with your Gita, I could not think of two people who deserve it more.

Overall: 5 stars. You can get a good deal for this book on Amazon when you click on the image below.

Happy Sunday everyone! xx

Posted in family, Filipino, relationships

Goodbye, Lolo.

Yesterday was the 3rd death anniversary of my grandfather. I remember so distinctly the moment I found out that he had passed away. I was on leave from London for the first time since getting my work permit. My father’s side of the family was having a reunion in one of the beach resorts in Cebu and we had just finished a scrumptious breakfast buffet.

I was trying to burn a few calories by doing my own version of swimming in the ocean (I can’t swim to save my life) when my uncle hailed us to come back to shore. I thought he was telling us we needed to check out soonish, but then he said that my grandfather (Lolo) had died that morning.

I went up to our suite to find my mother barely keeping it together. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to travel with them back to Samar (another island in the Philippines) so we can lay my Lolo to rest. I had a moment of self-absorption to be honest, because I had my holiday all planned out and that changed everything. But all my plans paled in comparison to the fact that my mum needed my support.

I did not have a great relationship with my grandfather. Because they live in such a remote area of the country I rarely had time to visit them when I started college. I was also quite a spoiled, judgmental teenager who could not wait to go back to the city every time we visited.

His drinking, and the attitude that came with it, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I was 16 when I first started making it clear that I did not approve of it and I started to pull away. I might, in a fit of adolescent tantrum, have even said all this to his face.

I didn’t realise the value of family until I was much older and living in a city where I didn’t have them. Its only now that I know enough to be ashamed of my actions and to regret never cultivating a better relationship with my Lolo.

When I was 16 all I could see was the drinking and the person he became when he was drunk; I’d forgotten about how, when we were younger and could visit for much longer, he would make every effort to make sure we enjoyed our stay.

He’d catch fish for us, slaughter his chicken and pigs for us (sorry, I know this is crude), introduce us to everyone in the small town and tell everyone how smart we were; he’d sing karaoke with us, take us swimming in the nearby river and watch out for us. Back when we were young and able to appreciate the simple things in life more, we were able to appreciate him more.

My brother and sister were better with him than I was. You see, I went through a phase when I was so full of my own hubris that I thought I was better than everyone else. I had a holier-than-thou attitude that makes me cringe when I think about it now. London has been good for me in so many ways and in a way, living independently has made me more grounded and more appreciative of my family.

I never got to say goodbye. I thought I would have more time. We always think we have more time until we don’t. I can’t even remember when I saw him last (it must have been in 2011 shortly before I left the country), what I said, whether I was able to say I loved him or able to apologise for my shitty attitude towards him growing up, or to tell him that I understand about the drinking.

I visited his grave with my mum, my sister and my aunt and uncle yesterday. We organised a mass for him and said our prayers. It was raining and I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes but I was determined not to complain and to see it through. We then visited our grandma afterwards and we sat around while my uncle reminisced about his last day. It was a sort of catharsis for them all to relive it and to be relieved that he went so peacefully.

He inspired devotion in his children, despite everything. I’m sure they also found him challenging but they loved him so much that they’d travel from afar every year, even after his death, just to visit. He took care of them and made sure that they had good lives and a good future. That’s the minimum that you can ask of a parent and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not everyone is so lucky.

He was a good man.

There’s no one on earth who can say that they’ve lived a life with no regrets; this is one of mine. I can’t go back and change the past but I can be better and do right by my remaining family in the future.

I think this is one of the reasons why I’m home this month rather than off exploring the world. You never really know how much time you have with the people you love. With my sister also home on leave, we’re a complete family for the first time in 3 years. That’s more important to me than climbing Machu Pichu.

Its ironic but I don’t actually come from a family where its easy to express words of affection. Words are wind anyway, its our actions that speak volumes. I will try to be a better person than I was to my grandfather but I also just wanted to write this blog as a love letter to tell him the things I never said and to say goodbye.

Rest in peace, Lolo.