A friend of mine is going back to the Philippines today. She's been in the US thirty or so years. She came here after college, married and settled down. When I interviewed her for a job thirteen years ago she told me solemnly she'd be going back home in five years.
She was with me for more than five years - I abandoned the job first. She stayed behind and eventually left to work for another firm. We kept in touch as she built up her personal business outside of work, at first just beautiful cakes of amazing artistry and complexity, and then later food of all kinds.
I'm sad to see her go, but so excited about her new life in her old home. When I met her last week she was bubbling over with excitement and plans. She remembered the five-year-commitment with a giggle and laughed regretfully that it had taken her so long to put her affairs in order and put her familial demons to rest.
Although she's a vegetarian as much as possible (and a serious student of Chinese philosophy and health) she cooks what people ask for and so she gave me a piece of chorizo to take home. My experience of chorizo hasn't been good - you see it in the supermarket case with an ingredients list that reads like the "remember to throw away" instructions to a slaughterhouse. Well, I cooked her chorizo according to her instructions* and it was one of the most sublime treats I've ever eaten. She gave me the "low salt" version and yet it burst with flavor. "Vodka and wine," she told me with a wink.
I don't think she drinks, either.
I asked her if she still spoke the language (it's not Tagalog, it's a more local one) and she said, "Yes - I still dream in it!" To dream in a language you haven't heard spoken in more than twenty years...that's a thinking point right there. She's going home, even though we're all told we can't go home again.
I'm sure I'm committing some sort of Orientalism, but I'm imagining figs throwing massive roots over the stonework around the yard, and servants bringing obscure pans as they are called for. Wait, no, I'm not imagining it, that's how it is, she said.
Au revoir, Marlenie-Beanie! I'll miss you.
*Crumble the chorizo into a shallow pan of boiling water. Let the water evaporate and then continue to toast until the sausage is lightly browned.