WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Borrowed time

LISBON, Portugal (MindaNews/01 May) — In the pre-dawn light, the imposing white marble monument on the Marques de Pombal plaza in downtown Lisbon made for a leisurely examination all on my lonesome. It immortalized this people’s past of back-breaking labor at agriculture and fishing, of sea-faring and naval valor, and supplication for the intercession of saints. It didn’t tell of today’s muggers, or the occasional vagrant tipping covers off garbage cans, or ladies of the night wearily traipsing on home before it got to light. Hmmm… maybe I shouldn’t be out here at this hour.

It was 5 in the morning here; already noon at home. In Frankfurt some hours ago, I found I’d lost 6 hours. I lost another hour when I landed in Lisbon.  I had traveled 22 hours to lose 7. Wow.

That’ll probably even out in about two weeks, but just now it seems magical to think I’m living on borrowed time.

I am in Lisbon to present my Haiyan paper at the 2016 International Psychological Applications Conference and Trends (InPACT). The conference is an annual gathering of psychologists all over to apprehend how best to use psychological theories and tools for practical purposes, for serving real needs of real people at real time. Participation at the InPACT is very competitive, with only about 20-30% of submissions for the year accepted for invitation to present. This year, the conference people asked me also to chair one of the sessions.

Conferencing is part of what a serious academic needs to do – not just to listen in on what others are working on in other parts of the world, but more importantly, to contribute to mainstream knowledge that could further enrich disciplinal theories and applications.

I had sent in my paper in August, and it was two months later that the blind reviews came back to merit its acceptance. So it had been several months that I had prepared for this trip, for the time when I set foot on where I’m supposed to go. It’s an adventure working out travel details and things to bring, anticipating a little respite from the unrelenting heat and the equally unrelenting inane pre-election shenanigans that pervade the Philippine landscape.

Foreign travel is an occasion to laugh at one’s ignorance now and then – like, when I asked the airport staff at the currency exchange counter what kind of money I’ll need to get on a bus to Lisbon.

“Euros!” he laughed.

“That, I have. Thank you,” I grinned back.

“You don’t need me! That makes me sad,” he said.

I probably did need him, if only to break up my bills. Outside the airport, the taxis were on strike and the buses adjusted by avoiding the busy downtown streets where I intended to go. The metro staff took a look at my 50 Euro bill and shook his head, directing me from the automated ticket dispenser to the long line of commuters buying tickets from a manned counter. I should remember to bring smaller bills next time, though this is an improvement from my habit of bringing US dollars on trips abroad. In Italy last year, currency conversion service took off 8% from my money’s value. I swore this time I won’t part that way with my hard-earned money.

Money does make the world go round, I mused, as I perused emails I that came in while I was miles about the ground. Rodge was still trying to balance Tacloban disbursements and Cezar was working out funds for Comval this weekend. It appears I did not leave enough to cover the team’s needs. But they aren’t Abangers Boys for nothing. They’ll come through and deliver on a shoestring budget, even if it means tightening their belts some more. I don’t have to babysit them at all. In the last couple of years, they’ve gotten to babysitting me when we go out there.

Ah, I sure will miss them when they go. Gab the Father had left already for Naga. Gab the Son will soon leave the roost for a university in Australia where he’d proposed to try and spin my torya-torya method along the lines of positive psychology for post-disaster psychological interventions. Rodge will soon set off for another round of in-person sessions for his peace building fellowship.

Hadji, so busy these days, is also about to go and start on his PhD studies. I am so proud of him. I’m looking at his posts on his activities this week, and I wonder about how much if this had been covered by his personal funds. He never complains however much he gets from the Center to run his security sector reform activities. Most times, he even gets nothing and yet he unfailingly does admirable work addressing community needs and providing valuable suggestions for the security sector.

I rattled off replies to my research students who are in various stages of their work. Jurilex Maglinte sent her welcome news of having passed her thesis defense with a benemeritus grade. That made me smile. Of course, she deserves a benemeritus! Lexie had worked on anger expressions of male doers of violence. The Office of Graduate Research at the University of Sto. Tomas invited me on her panel. Unfortunately, I had to send in my review by email since her defense fell on the day I was leaving for Europe.

So, here I am chilling where it’s 12 degrees cooler than back home. There’s nothing more in my email that requires urgent attention. I think it’s safe now to leave home where it is and go out there to chill some more. The Lisbon streets are waiting. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches at the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University. She is head of the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services. You may send comments to [email protected]. “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says.)