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My dad is now officially on the long fight against the Parkinson’s disease. He’s been struggling to keep control of his limbs for the past few years but was never given any conclusive diagnosis.

I’ve seen so many families who struggle to stay afloat after one member succumbed to an illness. I’ve talked with so many that feel helpless and despair. Not only are they losing the joy of living, they’re also burdening others. It has helped me tremendously to sympathize with my dad.

Since I was small, we’ve always said I’m my daddy’s girl. But even though my dad and I are each other’s favorite, we don’t communicate well verbally. We bond through unspoken acts. I was that little girl that proudly rode on the gas tank of my dad’s motorbike. In one of my few girly acts, I insisted on dabbing nail colors on my his toes. He bought me my first coffee and showed me how to make it Vietnamese style with the filter. He stocked up instant noodles and cooked chicken rice congee so that I had something to snack in the wee hours when I was up to watch soccer games on TV on mute to avoid getting caught by my mom. And yet, we don’t talk. He knows so little about my life that I feel guilty. Even now when I call to check on him, I still end up talking and gossiping away with my mom.

With my mom it’s an entirely different story. We joke and tease each other but our personalities and philosophies clash. She loves me fiercely and unconditionally. It took me a long time to finally realize that I love her too, especially for all the things that she went through to raise and provide for me. She started working when she was a few years old. She wove bamboo conical hats, raised chicken and pigs. She sold rice at the train station and peddled bread loaves. I could never have the physical and mental strength to do a third of what she has done. I am beyond grateful and feel a strong sense of duty. It tears at my heart and brings so much guilt as I have to come to term with the fact that my mom does not support me to become who I am. She wants me to have ambitions and to succeed. My mom is fascinated by glamor. She loves watching movies about the old European aristocracy to revel at the grand castles and their luxurious lifestyle. She admires the glittering skyscrapers. To her, life is never not a competition: it’s always about getting higher each day. And me, I feel too lucky and am already complacent with life. I can’t race to the top because I think it will destroy my soul. I still hope one day my mom will  say: It’s ok, as long as you’re a good person, as long as you do not harm others, I’m proud of you.

So far the internship in Mexico is the best after-graduation option for me: the job seems stimulating, the commitment is not long, and I get paid, not much, but enough to get by on a budget. Normally I’d jump up at the chance to go anywhere, and I’ve started the paperwork – and it might not go through – but I’m actually not that thrilled this time.

This is my second bout of travel guilt. I distinctly remember the first one. I was in Hawai’i; I had hardly started traveling back then, but I was at the high of my idealist militancy, and I felt like I should have gone home and got myself integrated in some kind of social movement, started building network, etc. instead of bumming around. All of this was weighing down my mind until I met an old hobo from Cali on a bus ride in the Big Island. I confided in him and he gave me his words of wisdom: it’s ok – you’re going to places and meeting people and learning; it will enrich you as a person and you will be more of help to others later in life.
His assurance has helped me got through the past few years with few moments of doubt. I’ve constantly told myself: I’m young, I want to see the world, I want to learn from other people. And it’s true. I owe so much to the relationships that I’ve built and/or kept while being away from home: old friends that stay with me, new ones that I’ve made, strangers that take me in, feed me, look out for me. They encourage, inspire, essentially shape me into who I am. I’ve learned tremendously.
But at this moment, I really don’t know if I can use the same “excuse” to justify spending 5 months in Mexico City, doing something that I’m interested in but not as a career. I just feel like once I graduate, I should head-dive right into the chosen path, learning more skills in either a social service or a policy setting. But maybe 5 months is not terribly long, summer will come and I’ll head home? Maybe I can afford some procrastination?

Summer thunderstorm, the kind that you’d have to bend you back under its weight, heaven and earth white washed into one.
Inside:
Dad: And they still have to load the tailings under this rain and wind.
Mom: Yet they would never fall sick, unbelievable, while we who stay inside all the time would end up coughing non-stop.
Me:…
took out the camera, and didn’t dare to use the flash and ended up with this.

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