The One

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I ask myself sometimes – “What if I were alone in these trips?” “What if I did all these back when I was single and free?”

Then, I remember. I did. Six years ago. That’s how I met her. And she took me to even more places since then.

So who says you can’t meet the one on a trip?

Who knows? He could be that guy who bought you that tequila shot at that hole in the wall bar in Oaxaca. She could be that girl who borrowed your charger at Gate L while waiting for your flight to Lisbon. It could be anyone on that tourbus you’re currently at. And he/she might “ask” for directions to Pham Ngu Lao even if he/she surely has been there, being a backpacker and all.

It could be anyone.

Question is, are you ready to find out?

Babysitting

After more than two years, Mrs. Sulit and I will finally get back on that banana pancake bucket list next week. Our friends have probably had enough of our stories about our adventure from Saigon to Bangkok (with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in between, of course), so we have to go out there again, in the same worn out backpack, with passports eager to be stamped, to come back with new tales to tell.

There’s one major challenge though, which I am sure is relatable to many – the kids. It’s the same reason why we cannot do 3-month-long sabbaticals to complete the trail (apart from budget). We can only do long weekends on neighboring islands, which is not entirely a bad thing if you live in a tourist spot. Besides, there’s no rush. 

Good thing I have the most amazing in-laws (Thanks Papa and Mama!) who are willing to babysit for a week.

 

Although…

 

We are travelling with my parents.

 

Along with my two brothers (and one of their girlfriends).

 

And it will be their first time to travel outside the country.

 

So I guess were babysitting too (We still love you, Mom and Dad!).

I have travelled international by myself. I discovered that I am capable of being an introvert. I have done the same with Mrs. Sulit. Three countries, by land, on backpacks. I discovered how much I really love my wife and how much patience we had for each other. I even tried it with office friends and discovered shady parts of a seemingly idyllic town. But never with my folks. And I wonder: what would I discover this time?

This would be interesting.

Jared Ryan meets Ryan John

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Credits to my wife, BJ, who wrote this a few years ago.

Dear Jared Ryan,

I can’t wait for the day when you ask me, “Mom, how did I get my name?” It’ll be the day when you’ll get to know your uncle. As for your first name, you’ll have to ask Dad, that’s a totally different story. It’s actually very interesting. It won’t bore you, I promise! 😉

It’s unfortunate that you won’t ever get to meet your uncle in person. He’s on a life-long trip with Jesus. You see son, your uncle was an adventurer by heart. He loved to try new things & explore new places. Did I mention he was a nature lover too? I think that’s how I became a hippie by heart. 🙂 Don’t google hippie. The definitions provided online are so overrated. I’ll explain it to you some other time. 😉

When you’re old enough to ride a bike, you’re uncle would prolly show off his daredevil tricks to you. In which I’d prolly have a heart attack if you ever attempt to imitate it. Don’t even think about it buddy! If you don’t want to be grounded for the rest of your puberty. But, if you can imitate how your uncle saved most of his allowance & assembled his bike all by himself, then by all means please do, son. 🙂

When you get home from your first day of school & you’ll have all sorts of stories, he’ll tell you his own story on his first day in first grade. He got home with a black eye & his school uniform, dirty & torn up. He was adamant that he only stood up for himself against injustice & infliction. Son, I am all for freedom & individualism but absolutely not violence. I definitely don’t want to be called in by your school principal. They are the scariest people in the planet. Next to the boogeyman. ;-p Not cool! It isn’t at all hippie-like. Again, please do not google the word. 🙂

When you’d wanna learn a sport, and you’re choice of sport is baseball, he’d prolly show you his tiny scar on his lower lip where he had to be rushed to the emergency room for some stitches. He played baseball on his 5th grade. He & a teammate bumped into each other while trying to catch the same ball. Don’t laugh. It was very scary. But surprisingly, when your uncle went home from the hospital, he was all smiles. Showing off his stitches, yet again. OK. Maybe it’s a little funny. 🙂

And if you’ll develop an interest for nature & camping, he’ll tell you that sustenance is of utmost significance. Even if it means drinking & cooking rice with water that’s full of bat droppings, from a cave where they had to spend the night since it was already getting too dark. This is yet one of his “survival” methods. Please be smart enough to know the difference between survival and sanitary. 😉

So you see Jared, when people ask you of your second name, say it with pride & with the biggest smile. Did I mention your uncle had a killer smile? Forgive me if mom cries by this time, know that it is only because she misses your uncle so much. And regrets that you & ate Sam won’t hear wonderful stories from him. But still, learn a lot from him, be inspired by his vigor, free-spirit & enthusiasm to live life to the fullest. And most importantly, take comfort that he will always look after the both of you. Always. 🙂

Love,
Mom

Fear

Fear. I could barely dog-paddle to keep my head above water. The waves were unforgiving and my calves were cramped. I was never scared of open waters, but that time I was almost sure I would not make it back.

I looked around and saw the woman of my dreams. There she was, struggling as much as I did. She was fighting for many reasons but I was sure, most of all, it was for her daughter. She’s turning seven in three weeks. She will miss her birthday. I will miss her birthday. My fears quadrupled. I was never that way scared about losing someone. She was the one. I was going to love her for eternity. Yet it is all about to end.

Some friends at shore saw us and, with the help of two skillful boatmen and their improvised flippers made of old flip-flops and driftwood, we were rescued. We later found our backs lying on the sand. I didn’t even feel how the sun pierced through my eyes, or how my limbs were stiff and painful. I was just thankful that I was still alive.

It was only a few weeks later when I found out, no matter how much in denial I was, that I was traumatized. I went snorkeling with my brothers in a place I have already been to, and I found myself wearing a lifejacket and holding on to the outrigger.

Fear. In the years that followed, I tried to overcome it. It started with the seemingly simplest of all things — getting in the water. It took a while, and we have had many trips to the beach wherein my feet never touched the seawater. But soon I found myself back there. First in shallow waters. Then in deeper waters with a lifejacket. And then without. I wore snorkels again and went back underwater. Then I cliff dived.

Last week, I went back to the same place, with the same woman that I thought I would lose that day. This time it’s swimming with whale sharks. I’m definitely going underwater. Cringe.

I dove in. I had a lifejacket and I held on to that dear outrigger. I peeked underwater. At least 150 feet. And there it was, the majestic butanding, swimming towards me with mouth wide open. A mouth big enough to swallow me. I felt uneasy, but I knew it wasn’t because I was afraid of the creature. It was something else.

I was scared of the deep dark blue abyss below. I was scared of getting cramps. Of losing air. Of sinking. Of losing her and more.

And that’s when I realized. I have always been afraid. When I took my first swim. When I jumped off that seacliff. When I asked her out for the first time. While waiting in the delivery room for Jared. When Sam needed to be injected for the first time. I have always been a frightened chicken-shit scaredy-cat. Yet I’m still here.

So I unbuckled my lifejacket and let go of the dear outrigger.

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