Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past
I had gotten home after a seven hour flight to find a bombardment of e-mails from family and friends basically asking if I was OK.
I was living in the Arabian Peninsula, working as a flight attendant, and I had just returned from a one-week layover in Singapore and the Cebu Island in the Philippines. On Christmas Eve, I was at the hotel lobby in Cebu, sipping eggnog with the cabin crew from different parts of the world. During the four days of the layover we got to spend in Cebu, we had taken a river cruise where I watched kids jump into the river from branches on huge trees, where the water seemed brown with mud yet reassuringly clear and inviting, where it was impossible to see what was next on our route due to the dense foliage, where despite the hot and humid weather, the voyage felt relaxing with a soft breeze caressing my fingers sweetened with mangoes and papaya.
The next day, we went to the city center and visited a church with Hispanic names inherited during the Spanish colonization. I was astounded to see a place of worship with no glass on its windows. That is when I realized that this place was warm throughout the year and that nature was not an enemy. The people were in peace with nature. They were friendly welcoming people, ready to accept and deal with whatever the world might surprise them with.
When we went to higher lands, to a restaurant on a mountain, I had a chance to watch trees that smelled of exotic tastes I had never tried in my home country swaying lightly under my feet as I sat at the terrace of this small secret eatery and savored the delicious food served by the delightful staff. While watching the tree tops and the ocean further down the island I thought of the breeze on hot summer days when I was a child. The days when I could lie down in a garden and hear ants passing through the grass staring deep into my eyes trying to figure out if I am a living being or a rock it has to walk around.
On the last day, on our way back to the hotel I got a chance to peek at the lives led in between the towering trees. Some were residing in between walls made of what seemed like tin plates. Imagining myself living in one of these homes, I could hear flies buzzing outside my bedroom. I could feel the wind through the cracks on the tin plates. Unlike my life in major city centers constricted by cement structures, I could still have a bond with nature, making use of the plants I was seeing for the first time to feed as well as heal myself. Life there invoked peace of mind in me and helped me befriend the wind.
At home, when the anxious mails greeted me on my screen, I found out that Sri Lanka and Maldives had been hit by a tsunami wave caused by a quake in the Indian Ocean. These were two countries I had flown to the week before. Singapore and the Philippines had been spared from the major disaster of 2004 but it was recorded as one of the greatest disasters in human history.
A few days ago, I found myself thinking about the Christmas that had left such serene memories and the news of misery that had followed afterwards on lands nearby. It made me wonder about how the people of Cebu were spending their Christmas when they had been hit by a terrible typhoon only two months ago. I wondered how many had survived the typhoon in their tin homes and among the survivors, how many were able to enjoy their Christmas beverages. I wondered about the soft breeze in Cebu that had carried me to moments of my childhood devoid of any concern and asked myself how many had to feel the wind in their fingers because they had no home to go to and how many had to chase away flies as they had to sleep without a shelter. I wondered about what I could do but to wonder and asked myself what could be done if all stopped wondering and started acting.
Here is a chance to act: World Food Programme