Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Trip

On the Conference

As I was leaving for the leadership conference in Canberra, I was already wary of the title. I had presumptions, emphasis on the 'pre', of how it would be. I know it's aimed at 'character building' and 'finding the leader in all of us', not that I am against the idea, but I have always been reserved to these types of trainings (AsiaWorks, ESQ, etc). Firstly, I think character building is a life long process, at least for me, and it would be very difficult to pack it into a week, let alone 3 days. Secondly, leadership is a broad concept. I am not a leadership scholar, and from what little I know of the area, I think leaders are not necessarily those in the spotlight. They are the random traits in each and everyone of us, inspiring others (and ourselves) to do the right thing. Conventional roles like manager, president, director are all easily identified. But leadership roles that are often overlooked, a parent, a lecturer, informal leaders - all contain aspects of leadership, without attaining its role. Leadership through ideas, not through the people.

But it's nevertheless a mandatory course of my scholarship and I did meet very interesting people throughout the region (including the enlightenment the course gave me on the Pacific Islands, which I was very ignorant on before). Some friendships I think I'll carry with me decades afterwards.

On Being Mobile

There are two main things I learned from the trip:

1. No matter how exciting adventures are, there is no place like home.
2. No matter how inspiring some people are, the people my heart aches for are the people I love.

I love, love, love traveling. I love the mobility, the constant move, the learning opportunities, but these are all worthy, I think, when I think of the settlement I am blessed with. I just began thinking that I am the type of person that could enjoy adventure only to a certain point. When I get wary, tired, I realised that I hear that voice in my head that says: 'Okay, I think I've had enough. I am ready to go home.' And I don't think those adventures would be as interesting if I didn't have a 'home' to go to.

And this was confirmed when I was physically so tired that my body began to break down. I know that I would be ok, I know how to survive: make sure I eat nutritious food, take a walk outside for fresh air, get vitamins and basic meds, sleep, etc. I know without loved ones I could survive, but they make the process so much faster and comfortable. At least for me.

And yes. I got so tired that I overslept. After 5 connecting flights in 6 days, I finally missed the one that mattered the most: the flight home. I woke up at 1AM when my flight was on 2AM. When I arrived at the airport the check in counter had closed, I was 10 minutes late. I did all I could, from banging the airline office's door, talking to security, immigration, and finally gave up when the airport manager said there's nothing I could do. I was tired, sick, and I was very ready to go home.

When I thought about it, I don't think I would do it any other way. Even if I knew I couldn't get on that flight, I would have still hopped on a taxi and went to the airport to go down kicking and screaming - just to make sure I did everything I could. Then I would dust myself off and try again.

So I took a deep breath, drank my bottled water, and sat down for a while. Then I walked over to the monitor to see the earliest flight back.

I bought tickets on the 4AM flight with connecting flights. Had a healthy breakfast and slept on the plane for almost the whole trip (seriously). Discussed logistics with Arya and landed safely on 10.30AM.

So the total sum was 7 flights in 7 days. I think I have had my fair share of flights for the next 4 months. No flying for me for a while :D

Oh I learned another thing. I do not like connecting flights. Especially ones that include planes with propellers.

'Tapi, Inaya, pesawat dengan baling-baling itu lebih aman lho daripada BOEING. Soalnya kalau mesinnya mati, pilotnya bisa nerbangin sampai mendarat,' said an ALA scholar before boarding.

Yes, this is the kind of information you want to hear before boarding.

On Going Home Unbeknownst to Malik

He was sleeping and Arya and I were hovering above him. He peeked, smiled. Then his eyebrows met like he was thinking in his sleep, he opened his eyes, looked at me confusedly, and he cried like it was nobody's business.

I think he felt a bit betrayed (assuming I had the skills to translate his cry) and that suddenly everything fell into place to logically decipher my absence as real. It took him a while to adjust to my being home and for me as well. But I do remember my parents not being home when they had duties abroad and all of us survived and turned out travellers as well. So I am an optimist that this is as much a learning process for Malik as it is for his mother (and father).

One of the positive points is the fact that he is now attached to Arya like he wasn't before. And although it's bittersweet for me as the (former) dominant caregiver from my pregnancy to breastfeeding days, this is actually healthier for him. The more sustainable his support system is, the better he will survive and acquire confidence. Which reminded me of a speaker from the conference who spoke of gender issues. I wasn't in full agreement with all her points but I did agree with one.

The current industry does favour men over women. But the logic works otherwise. The current family system favours women over men. There needs to be social opportunities for both, so that personal choices are not forced upon us but laid out for conscious decisions. Women's ability to bear children are fixed. But raising children, that is fluid. It is a role both parents may excell in, and both should, whenever possible. A child may benefit from the presence of both parents with each of their unique characteristics. And it turned out, my going away for a while provided this opportunity 'equity' in our family system.

On Talking to My Bestfriend

Throughout the trip I had little to no internet connection, so I barely had the chance to talk to Arya. We survived alright, we're adults and we stand on our own two feet. Almost five years into marriage you tend to not dwell on 'I miss you's. But it was when we began talking and cracking jokes and discussing things that I realised: he is really my bestfriend.

Ours is a relationship where we are sound individually. We work well without each other in our own niches. I am not miserable without him and neither is he. But after talking and 'opening the faucet' so to speak, I realised I was profoundly happier.

This level of commitment I think comes with responsibilities. And it is my responsibility to earn his trust wherever I go, whoever I meet, no matter how far away from home I am - as he does mine.

So in short, it's good to be home :)

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