On Simple And Slow, On Family And Home

"There's a stream," my mom says at my left shoulder. "The stream your uncle and I used to wade in on our way to school."

"Well, it's technically righhhtttt here," my uncle interjects as he drives us down the highway. "But they covered it over a while back."

"We used to arrive at school so late," my mom remembers.

"And wet." My uncle laughs and so do the rest of my family packed in the car with us.

They've told this story a few times before but each telling seems more enjoyable than the last.


We're in my Mom's hometown this weekend for my granduncle's 95th birthday. We promise to visit, but Mom and I haven't been back in more than five years.

My 87-year-old grandma --- 86, if you ask her --- left this place in 1987. This is her first visit since then.

Almost everyone's shown up --- that uncle, this niece, that cousin, this grandaunt --- and it feels like a party when we chat together after dinner with warm cups of coffee and tea.

"How's your son?" I ask.

"How's your sister?" they answer.

There's so much to talk about, to laugh about.

We must spend more time together, I think, as we have Chinese misua noodle soup with egg for my granduncle's birthday.

Pray that God will change you not only the traffic situation.

My mom catches sight of the sign as we drive through the market area. I'm just amazed this city has no taxi cabs.

"What traffic?" Mom looks out the window and we remember home, where rush hour means a 2-hour commute over a 10 km (6 mi) distance.

We have a very different experience of traffic, and we are so so thankful we won't be facing it this weekend.

This town is technically a city, but it's much much less busier than where we live. (Home.)

The tray of fresh organic eggs is sitting on the bench, the yellow popping against the wooden grain under it.

I touch the top of each egg with my fingers as I hear the chickens cluck. Mom and Uncle talk behind me about the day-to-day running of the farm.

We had eggs laid by these chickens for breakfast today. The yolks were bright orange and the taste, all us city folks agree, was amazing.

I look up and realize I'm standing under my sister's favorite fruit tree. The durian she loves so much is growing on the branches.

Baby durians: that's the best way I can describe these miniature fruits. I take a photo of one with my iPhone, and another photo of those lovely eggs.

I feel the disconnect of my city upbringing heavily at this moment.

The last time I was here, I wasn't a minimalist yet. I'd just started an intern job fresh out of college, and I only stayed one night to attend a family event.

"What do you do for fun?" I ask. We're in the main part of the city, and the not-high rise buildings are so short. So different from the city I come from. (Home.)

"Eat good food." My cousin, who I've only really met properly on this trip, shrugs. "Go up to the mountains. Go down to the sea."

"You should visit again. We'll go."

I promise to do so, but if I'm honest, a part of me is glad to leave.

This didn't feel like my place. Do they go home early most nights? What about wanting to shop at a big mall? My mobile signal's sketchy sometimes, and the quiet outside is weird as we get to bed at night.

I'd be bored living like this all the time, I think. I really am a city girl.

"Do you remember throwing out the leftovers of our lunches after school everyday? Your nanny scolded us when we didn't finish them."

"Ugh, she used to pinch hard!"

They laugh and I watch her, trying to imagine my stylish mom as a mischievous little girl from a simpler time.

The open road stretches out before us.

The car we're in is a newer one with the camera that turns on to see the back of your car on reverse. It definitely can go faster than the crawl we're currently doing.

But it's okay 'cause we're all having fun. There's no need to hurry.

Let's take our time.

"This is nice," Mom says as we're about to take afternoon naps. "Not doing anything, spending time with family. It's relaxing."

I know what she means. Like workaholic mom, like workaholic daughter. Back in the big city, we're always headed somewhere, catching a deadline, after the next best thing.

Or rather, I correct myself, we were.

Mom and I have recently learned to slow down a bit. To accept that we can be productive at work but let go to rest at the right time.

Work is always there; another deadline replaces the one we just met. We do the best we can and have faith in God for the rest.

Space, relaxation, peace have become important things.

This trip just underscores that lesson.

"Want some?" My aunt holds a roll just out of the oven.

I bite into it and the fresh bread is lovely and warm in my mouth.

I've eaten so much this weekend. So much.

Shrimps in their shells slathered in sweet sauce. Red papayas with tiny slimy seeds. Filipino rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves. A quail egg peeled and dipped in salt.

I'm full. I'm happy.

I lie in bed the night before we leave for the big city. (Home.)

I remember how out of place I felt here last I came, how I didn't understand the quiet lifestyle and lack of activities I found fun to do.

This city's changed since then: more places to shop and eat, better roads, and better WiFi, but it's still quiet and close to nature.

And as a minimalist, I've changed too. There's something about this pace that's precious. Building my faith and relationships, walking in nature, and eating fresh food are more interesting to me than the almost-daily nights out, window shopping, and the microwaveable foods I used to fill my life with.

Simple was scary to me back then.

Now, I value simple.

I fall asleep at a reasonable hour, happy to know my family in a deeper way and happy to finally, finally appreciate simple living.

Our little plane for home takes off.

Outside the window, the green spreads outward until the clouds cover them from view.

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