The only thing constant is change,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. It is central to the universe, he said, and that viewpoint coined the word whose meaning embraces both the source and the fundamental order of the cosmos—logos.
Strangely enough, there’s a great clamor for change, as though it were not happening everywhere, even in our selves, right before our eyes. I look in the mirror and change is reflected. Indeed, nothing is permanent, and we had better develop a new attitude toward change so that we may be able to adapt to it.
Only last week my husband and I traveled to Penang, Malaysia, and Singapore, and found ourselves adapting precisely in that sense. The flight itself, four hours plus each way, called for little adapting; it’s the pre- and post-flight processing.
We were standing in a long line to the check-in counter in Manila when an airport man walked up to offer me wheelchair assistance. I didn’t feel insulted. Gone are the days when people could not believe (or affected not to believe), whenever I whipped out my senior-discount card, that I was eligible for it. But this time I was spotted a mile away, in spite—or perhaps because?—of my purple hair.
I accepted the wheelchair, and from then on my airport experience became quite pleasant. I was first to board, last to deplane. I avoided all queues. Vergel could be with me all the time, not minding himself walking or being seen with me being wheeled.
In fact, he began adapting much earlier than I. Wherever we go, he now carries what I used to carry in a handbag, only he does so in a sporty backpack. For the few things I need on me—cellphone, tissue, paper, lipstick—I have taken to wearing clothes with deep pockets.
Unencumbered by a bag, I realize I walk more steadily.
At airports, however, nothing beats a wheelchair. After our largely walking trip to Japan last year, I have self-diagnosed an Achilles tendon inflammation in my left foot, which mysteriously comes and goes. It comes usually after staying on my feet too long or walking more than 10,000 steps, which I easily do on foreign trips; every step after that causes me a pain that makes me walk with a limp.
In Singapore, I took 14,500 steps after we ended up walking in circles, momentarily confused between Orchard Road and Orchard Drive. In Penang, on my 16,000th step—
I don’t think I’ll ever beat that—my ankle simply was too hurt for another step. Holding my legs up before bed, sometimes with an ice pack, and taping my left heel with Salonpas make me feel better the next day, although the sore feeling does not completely go away.
The airport wheelchair will surely delay the onset of the condition, if not altogether prevent it. I also should be able to help myself. I think it’s not so much my age as my weight; if I lose 10 pounds, I’d be in appreciably better shape. Still, the airport wheelchair stays.
But it wasn’t only because of the wheelchair that I enjoyed traveling with my husband this time. We had been avoiding certain sensitive topics lately, and time away together gave us a chance to be candid about sore points before they became bigger. For one thing, in that situation, he couldn’t walk out in the middle of an argument, and I couldn’t apply the silent treatment for long.
Without our usual defense mechanisms, we were able indeed to smooth some kinks. Also, we found the time to talk and laugh about the changes in our life and in ourselves, weigh our options, and strategize together for the long haul. We read The New York Times every morning, before, during and after the breakfast buffet, and watched a lot of Western news, commentaries and interviews on international TV and appreciated the professionalism and confidence of journalists in the much freer and better-developed world, where institutions are working.
The distance may have provided me with a better perspective on the situation at home, but my heart still broke seeing how much worse off we are. And to think we had a stronger head start!
Travel is a joy, but, as a Filipino tourist, such comparisons somehow take away from it. I feel hurt in particular seeing many of our countrymen, some of them teachers, ending up working abroad below their grade. It didn’t use to be that way.