The flight to the Philippines has done strange things to my left shoulder, which has been stuck for several days before I flew out. Trying to stretch and relax and exercise it... eventually, the giant knot behind my shoulderblade will come out.

I've since settled into the familiarity of being in a pseudofamiliar place I can't navigate alone: pseudofamiliar, because I've been here so long for so often over my entire life, but I've always been a visitor. As for navigating it, I could probably brute-force my way through on guts alone as I have in many other places I have traveled, but I am a visitor, and as such rely on a network of relatives with cell phones who make all the necessary arrangements for me to never leave a well-protected space.

The slightly cushioned-and-bubblewrapped feeling of repeated and static unfamiliarity that I'm too kindly sheltered in to change is, ironically, probably one of the most familiar feelings I have. Being in a house where I understand everything that's said, and where I'm able to fully participate in events, is still a little weird. (It's also why I loved living with my aunt in Boston, and why I love visiting friends.) It's not... a bad feeling, it's just... a little... I don't know. I'm strong-willed enough that it doesn't really stop me from much any more, but I don't think I would have been able to develop a strong will had I grown up entirely there; my mom's right that I would have grown up as a different person if I hadn't left home to live at high school when I was 14.

Also ironically, I spent most of dinner tonight exhorting one of my (slightly) younger cousins, who graduated college last year, to fill her life with something other than work. 6 days a week of overtime isn't good in the long run, I told her. It's not that working hard or earning money and saving it is bad; it's that only working hard and earning and saving money isn't a balance, it's trading "doing what my family tells me to do" for "doing what my boss tells me to do," and either way, when do you get to do what you want to do? Not that I've figured that balance out myself, mind you, but at least it's being worked on.

I can see why she'd do that, though. It feels good to be treated like an independent and capable adult. When your career is where you get most of that feeling, it's pretty logical to pour yourself into it and try to stay in that state of working (as an independent and capable adult!) as often and as long as possible, because... what's there to go home to? (Television doesn't count, I told my cousin.)

We drove by a massive tiangge on the way to dinner tonight. I think I'd translate "tiangge" as "holiday marketplace" or "bazaar," although comparing a tiangge to the sort of bazaar you'd find at an American church or fairground is like describing a stir-fry as "sauteed vegetables" - something's lost in the translation. I wished I could just hop out and walk around the market stalls, but that is not allowed. In any case, this week is for me to spend time with my family (while getting expense reports and whatnot done in the evenings and early mornings), and this will involve a trip with both my grandmothers to Tanay to visit Regina Rica on Thursday - the nuns who turned my parents' house in Glenview into "The Glenview Convent" for a while in October.

I have had far more food already than is probably good for me: spaghetti, diniguan and rice, hot dog, atis, yogurt with mango, osso buco, risotto, ravioli, dumplings, lugaw with sibuyas tagalog, mango nectar, and all this within the past 20 hours and I slept through breakfast and lunch. Sometimes the language doesn't translate so well, so the food does the talking for us (or rather, for my grandmother): I love you! Eat in order to accept my love! There's really no way to politely turn a Chinese grandmother down. You eat. Omnomnom.

Along those same lines, I now have a Santa hat with flashing star lights across the front. It'll make it easier for my parents to find me in Thailand if I'm wearing that, I joked. I'm not entirely sure what one does with this sort of thing afterwards, though...

I really should get around to those reimbursements.