July 20-26, 2020. The first half of last week was spent contemplating on and preparing last minute necessities for my impending departure from Manila. I made last minute trips to the mall, saw some friends, and finally got myself to pack the relatively few things I would be taking with me–considering that I would be staying abroad for a year. They all fit in just one suitcase and a duffel bag, actually. I flew out of Manila on July 22 and arrived in Paris the day after, spending a brief layover in Doha, Qatar. I wrote a separate blog entry narrating the experience of the entire transit.
The first few days back in Paris was spent settling down in my new place, the quaint home of a university professor who is renting out the rooms of his children who have grown up and flown the nest, acquainting myself with the new neighborhood (the suburban city of Boulogne-Billancourt), and taking strolls in central Paris and some former stomping grounds in the city I once called home for several months until the pandemic began. I also did my first domestic errands–cleaning my new room, doing groceries to stock on food and other necessities, and reconnected with friends who had remained in the city throughout the past months.
Also, one of the first things I did, upon immediately feeling homesick, was to visit the only Filipino convenience store in the city that served prepared Filipino dishes (ala-karinderya). I always found it odd that unlike other “Asian” migrants and expats in Paris, Filipinos do not have a pronounced presence in the city in terms of establishments and other cultural exports–this, despite the considerable and increasing presence of migrant Filipinos in the French capital.
It was literally a warm reunion. I arrive in the middle of summer and weather has been very pleasant. It was a nice change from the Paris I had left behind back in early March–cold, overcast and bleak. I had left it in such sorrow and disappointment that I eagerly welcomed the brightness the past days has brought. It felt overwhelming, even, sometimes, with daylight lasting until way past 9 in the evening. It took a few days for me to adjust my body clock in such odd situation.
Because of the pandemic there are far fewer visitors and tourists on the streets of central Paris and it felt like the city was reclaimed back by its residents, spending their long days outdoors in plein air, at the parks and along the river, with friends and family.
However, the significance of this week cannot be summarized merely as the week I departed once again for Paris, but for many reasons it signaled another beginning in my constant pursuit of dreams and personal contentment. July 22, 2020 would go down in the story of my life as one of the most significant moments of its existence, for more reasons than the fact that it is the day I once again left the Philippines. I finally explained to my mom the entirety of my motivations and the reasons behind this particular pursuit. And that was all that mattered. It was a day of liberation.