Everything comes to an end. It was time for me to say goodbye to the Philippines, that hospitable place, which gave me so many new impressions over the last few days. At eight in the morning, a taxi was to pick me up and take me to the airport. Three hours in the car, then an airport, a plane, and three and a half hours to Singapore. Mark, Michael and I met for breakfast. Last conversation, goodbye. Then I went to say goodbye to the sea. I looked at the bright blue surface stretching to the horizon, and tears rolled down my cheeks. Then I jumped into the car and set off for the airport. On the way, I asked the driver to drop in at Club Serena, but having arrived there, I found out that everyone else had already left.
Airport, customs, passport control… All of those necessary attributes of travel are the same every time. They take a lot of time, but there’s no way to go around them. And when yet another door closes behind you, you realise that something is over, finished. And something new begins.
Singapore. How strange it was to plunge into this world after the quietness and calmness of the Philippines. Bustling airport with trains running between terminals, roads with five lanes in each direction, hurrying people… Civilisation. And in the Philippines I did not even have a TV in my room, although I can’t say I missed it.
I had five hours before the flight to Melbourne, while my Russian friends had seven hours before theirs to Moscow. We jumped into a taxi and went to Clarke Quay, a place Mark recommended. The Moscowers were astonished by the cleanliness around them. As for me, that place reminded me very much of Melbourne. And the fact that we drove on the left side of the road only added to the similarities.
Clarke Quay resembled Melbourne’s South Bank a lot: a place on the river bank, where both sides are packed with restaurants. A lot of delicious food and hordes of tourists. Since we couldn’t fit into a single car, we arrived in two taxis. I was in the second, and we left the airport a little later. When we arrived, the guys from the first batch had already dispersed. I was disappointed – I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to everyone yet. I set off on a task of finding them, and I spent the next hour running from one restaurant to another on both sides of the river. I knew their phone numbers, but my phone for some reason worked very poorly and I could not get through to anyone. Finally, I found them all in one place – at “Quayside Seafood” restaurant. I still had time and I could not pass up the opportunity to have a dinner.
We drank beer and ate fish and crabs. And when it was about time for me to go, I picked up a glass and said a very simple toast:
— Thank you for changing life.
I do not know whether they took me seriously, but I was absolutely serious. Something happened to me during those two weeks. Yes, I did things that I didn’t know I was capable of. But still that is not the point – meters and minutes are not of critical importance. The experience itself was the most important. Probably, an astronaut who goes for a spacewalk experiences something similar: emotional shake-up so strong that it permanently changes the outlook on life. I know that happened to me. I do not know what I am going to do with it, but I have no doubt everything will be as it should be.
When I try to trace the chain of events that led me to the Philippines, I wonder how it all fit together. This chain is stretched for years, and perhaps for decades. Decisions taken, at first glance completely unrelated to each other, formed in a line along which I walked. At job interviews I was often asked where I saw myself in five years. I never knew what to answer, but now I know even less. Can we plan our lives ahead?
For example, Mark, as I said, changed his career as an IT manager in Singapore for the role of hotel manager in the Philippines. How could it have been planned five years earlier? Some might say that I believe in destiny, and maybe I do, but not quite. In fact, life is not a straight line. The world is not static; it is constantly in motion, in a perpetual state of chaos – which actually might not be chaos. We just do not know the rules of the game, so when something unexpected happens, we call it an accident. Events collide and intertwine, forming a network of possible choices and consequences. At certain points in life, everyone comes to a place from which he can turn right or left. And depending on that his life will turn out differently. We can not plan our futures five years ahead. We can only hope to be in the right place at the right time and pull the right string.
But that’s not all. I believe that sometimes the probabilities add up themselves, stars align, and what should happen happens. That happens not always and maybe not for everyone, but sometimes that is enough to forever change someone’s life.
I said goodbye to everyone and departed. I still had half an hour, and I walked along the river in the Singapore night. Then, with some difficulty, I caught a taxi and went to the airport. Airport, passport control, customs… Seven hours of a night flight. And in Melbourne’s airport I was met by my family.
My vacation was over, but what I experienced will stay with me forever. And I hope that wasn’t the last time.
Although, not yet. Some people asked me why I needed all this. Okay, I’ll tell.
The text © 2010 Sergey Stadnik
The photos © 2010 Sergey Stadnik, Vasily Avseenko
The music track used in the video is “Nine Voices” by “Yes”.