every ending is a new beginning. so it only feels right to start off the story from when I left Williamsburg, VA—the main reason why I was even in the States.
for months it felt like I’m falling, falling, falling. when the day for me to leave finally arrived, I went crashing onto the ground.
before I start my story, I feel that I should make some things clear.
Liz from the book Eat, Pray, Love pointed out that the countries she visited started with “I” and if you look through reviews of the book, someone noted that instead of self-searching, the “I” is more for narcissism. I love the first two arcs, but couldn’t get myself to finish the last two chapters of the book, because honestly, I’m getting tired of you and your narcissism too, Liz.
however, when planning to pen down my travels, I feel so much like Liz. *looks into mirror in disgust*
but then that’s the whole point of a blog, right? think old skool blog—without the ads and sponsorships, etc. who would run one if s/he doesn’t think that people care enough to read? and this is my blog. my blog. so of course this is the place that’s filled with my memories, my worldviews, my thoughts, my opinions and my twisted sense of humour. my, my. five my-s in a sentence, I’m doing this whole narcissism thing pretty well.
well, I don’t know how “stalkerish” y’all can be, but if you happen to come back and read old posts again and again, you’ll realize I edit them from time to time. my memories are good but they’re very scattered. if I were to wait till I remember everything to hit publish, these blogposts will forever be buried in my ever-growing drafts. so, here’s the way: if something happens to float into my mind in the future, I’m gonna come back and edit. this is, afterall, my blog. also, names are fictional for privacy’s sake.
so here it begins.
the whole while I was living here, I kept thinking, “so there’s this tiny spot on the map, so tiny that no one probably cares about it except those who live there, and I’ve actually spent three months of my life here on this tiny spot.”
I remember the first day we were settled in our village, we rode the bicycle to the bank. it has always remained one of my favourite things to do, although I’d only done it for like, what, four times during my whole stay? the first time, my shit stamina couldn’t get me riding past half the path, I had to push my bicycle. by my last time I biked to the bank, I could reach there in about five minutes without having to get off. and boy, did I ride fast, ‘cause my accommodation payment wouldn’t process and I might end up on the streets of New York City.
what the locals always told us, “Williamsburg is a very vibrant place.” vibrant how? the summer is very summer and the winter is very winter. right… okay, they did elaborate to us, but other than putting it this way, I don’t really know what else can I say. if someone were to ask me, if that someone is Asian, Hong Kong restaurant which is next to Food Lion has good sesame chicken, but the other food are meh. be careful of the cacti in front of the Mexican restaurant next to BB&T when you park your bike. I’ve never done it, but I think you can just get one movie ticket at Regal Cinemas and sneak into all of the halls to watch other movies. they even make it easy for you by stating the movies and their showtimes outside of each hall. oh, and do it on a Tuesday, because tickets are a lot cheaper then. there’s also a sushi buffet next to the cinema. if that’s not enough Japanese food, there’s another Japanese restaurant at the premium outlet.
there’s this old lady whom I always bumped into but never talked to on the Number 5 Red Monticello bus. the first time I noticed her, she was reading a thick book and used a library receipt as her bookmark. she’s one of those people who moved her fingers across the line as she read and she wore a pretty ring. that day, the sunlight was hitting perfectly on her ring, which was why I started noticing her. why am I telling you this? I don’t know. I’m kind of thinking of her right now and wondering if she’s on the bus with her new read.
you would think that I miss Williamsburg a lot. well, I thought so too, until recently my friend Sam asked if I missed Williamsburg and what’s my favourite spot there.
“my bathroom,” I answered, without even having to think.
I know it sounds horrible. sadly, Williamsburg is one of those towns that I would definitely wouldn’t return. what did I do during my free time there? mostly shopping at the premium outlet, catching a movie or staring at the Criterion Collection in Barnes and Nobles. is there a club? well, a “club” is an overstatement. it’s just a small, dark room with crappy lights and DJ spinning Turkish and Spanish tunes (what?) on Wednesday nights. people were either shit-faced or pretended to be shit-faced. the second which was also my last time I was there, I spent the night at the hotel lobby next door chatting to an old lady and stroking her black dog (“it’s hair, not fur, hair like our hair, go ahead and touch it”).
but then it’s precisely the reason why I was crying so hard when I left. because I know I’m never coming back.
the day before, on our way back from my last-minute shopping, Dee said, “aren’t you afraid that you start forgetting this place? like it’s not how it is right now in your memory.”
there honestly was no reason for me to cry anymore. I was one of the few last ones who left. and the people sending me are Malaysians whom I can meet with just a phone call when we’re all home.
the lady at the reception—the lady who always took longer than normal to process our stuffs—took longer than normal as usual to realize that the two pieces of fully-packed luggage belonged to me and only me.
“you’re leaving alone?”
amidst the ugly faces and ugly embraces, someone replied, “yes.”
“oh, poor girl.”
I got asked this question a lot. before the program, during the program, after the program. the thing is, I was supposed to come with a friend (not gonna mention your name, but you know who you are), but then, long story short, he changed plans like he always did so this time I decided to ditch him.
sometimes on my journey, I couldn’t help thinking if things would be different if we came together. I could be working a completely different job in a different city in a different time zone and meet different people. perhaps I wouldn’t believe that I could actually handle a lot of things on my own, especially travelling solo for two weeks, which was a learning curve as steep as a 90° for me. one thing for sure, I wouldn’t be seeing what I saw and be so focused on my experience.
wherever I went and whatever I do, I often find myself learning lessons that has nothing to do with the place or the job itself. I was an optimist, then a pessimist, then a realist and Williamsburg somehow in its own way, changed me into an opportunist.
another of those weird lessons is realizing that my never-ending to do list can wait. up to four months. or even more. or even till the day I die it still won’t matter much. maybe the real lesson is to live life from moment to moment, instead of constantly worrying ticking things off.
also, thanks to all the overcooked and underdone pretzels, I now know that the importance of right timing when it comes to doing things. not too early, not too late.
as for serious life lessons, meeting all kinds of customers day to day is definitely eye-opening. let’s just say the word “stereotype” is in the Oxford English dictionary for a reason. nevertheless, I understood perfectly well that good people comes in all shapes and sizes, so does bad people.
the night before, Ash came over to watch me pack. my roommates had already caught the midnight bus to New York City. it turned out, unsurprisingly, no matter where we are, we youngsters never fail to do that one thing we do so well—procrastinate.
in between my trying to focus on packing and my complaining about having so many things to pack and getting full blown anxiety on what could go wrong with my plans (“Sean, I know I’m smart, but I’m not street smart you know, I’m more the book smart type.”), I tried to memorize Williamsburg.
I left quite hastily the next day, not knowing that I didn’t need to then, leaving some things un-completely-done, which caused me an anxiety attack in DC. more on that later.
realizing that time’s up, I called an Uber hesitantly. very hesitantly. when my friends were loading my stuffs onto the car, the driver asked the same thing, “oh dear, you’re leaving alone?”
I knew how short the journey is. even by Number 3 Orange Merrimac Trail bus, it only took about seven minutes to reach the train station. the driver tried to make conversation with me during the trip and I tried to answer as best without my voice cracking.
when we arrived, I reluctantly got down the car and removed my stuffs from the car. when she said goodbye and wished all the best to me, I kind of wished she would board the train with me. little did I know in the coming twenty-six days, whenever a driver dropped me at a station I always wished that they could come with me.
even thirty minutes after leaving my friends and my home-for-three-months, while waiting for the train alone, I still couldn’t stop myself from sobbing embarrassingly at the platform.
I remember myself saying, “the thing with me is, I always hate something when I’m in the midst of it. I hated secondary school when I was in secondary school. I hated university when I was in university. funnily enough, now I can’t even tell why I hated secondary school or university so much. you see, time filters the bad things out. I always say that I hate the park, but I also know that I will miss it once I leave.”
but OH MY GOD!!! I thought I couldn’t care less about the park anymore but after a couple weeks of staring at this draft, everything I hate about the park just comes back to me. but maybe someday, a month from now, a year from now, or twenty years from now, I will only see Williamsburg in all its goodness (but still not return :P)
with the paper that comes in my fortune cookie that says “fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment” in one of the many purses that I carried around, I left Williamsburg for good and embarked on this journey that I’ve imagined times after times.