Young dog, old tricks

Since coming to China, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter a lot of modern technology that I’ve never encountered in Manila, or instances with technology that I’ve never had to endure when I was living with my family. They do say that living abroad gives you the chance to experience new things. In this blog post though, instead of experiencing something new, I was forced to re-do an experience that I haven’t undergone in a long time.

So, knowing what an insomniac I am, my body clock is unusually abnormal. Sometimes I’m asleep really early, so I end up waking unbelievably early; sometimes I’m asleep really late and end up waking up mid-afternoon of the same day. In my old apartment, I had no problems with water usage, whether or not it’s evening, morning, or dawn. I can take a bath, do my laundry, clean, whenever I felt like it. Imagine my shock when the day before yesterday, after a cleaning session and a cooking session that had me smelling and covered in whatnot, I was all-ready to have my post-midnight bath and was in the shower when lo and behold, the only thing coming out of my shower head was trickles of water – not enough for a bath. I freaked out, wondering if it was because of my water bill, or something else. I probably spent about 10 minutes figuring out what to do when it finally hit me, this is what I needed to do if I wanted to get into bed at all (since I wasn’t going to plop into my bed dirty).

While moving into my cousin’s apartment earlier this month, I noticed that they had an old-style heater, the one you plug into a socket and then dip into a pail of water and wait to heat. Yeah, we had one of those in my parents room, so I was quite familiar with using it. But the thing I was grateful for most was despite not having enough water to take a bath using the shower, I had a pail full of water, which was a habit I learned from my parents who said that it was always good to have a full pail of water on-hand because if a fire emergency happened and all water and electricity was shut off, at least I’d have available water. So, I got dressed again and had to drag that pail of water from the shower area to a nearby bathroom socket and wait for it to heat up.

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When you can’t count on modern technology, old technology has a way of pointing out that old does not mean useless.

After all was said and done, and the water was warm enough that I wouldn’t feel the winter cold, another thing I had to do was re-learn how to make-do with just that one pail of water for my bath. You can tag it as a #firstworldproblem even though I’m from a third-world country and currently living in one too, but it has been a very long time since I had to limit my water usage for my showers. Which is not entirely a bad thing I may add, having to experience that again, but it just made me re-think how often we take things like water for granted. We are so used to having a lot, too much water, too much food, too much money, too much of too much, that we forget that if we can limit what we use now, it may mean that we save more for later.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to start using just one pail of water for my bath, because I won’t be able to have a proper bath like that. But I think, from now on, I’ll be more conscious of how long I actually spend in the shower because it’s not a good habit to waste water just so I don’t have to give up being under warm water.

The DouDiZhu Addiction

So sometime during the holidays, and even some instances before that, I’ve noticed a lot of people playing this card game on their cellphones and on their computers. It wasn’t Mahjong, and it looked something like hearts. It wasn’t until I asked my cousin and uncle that I found out it was a game called Fight the Landlord (斗地主-doudizhu) which is a very popular game here in China. For my Chinese readers or readers who are very familiar with China and Chinese culture here on the Mainland, I don’t think I need to explain how popular it is.

There’s a cards version of the game, an online version on a computer, and various apps for smartphones. I’ve recently been playing the QQ version, where you play with other real players who are logged in.

The game is very similar to a Filipino game we call Tong Its, and another we call Pusoy Dos, where you try to form combinations (very similar to poker) and try to get rid of the cards in your hand, and where the number 2 card is highest. Of course, in Fight the Landlord, the Joker card is the highest. And in Fight the Landlord, you can drop combinations of cards like straights and pairs together, or something like that…it’s quite difficult to explain. I haven’t fully understood the mechanics of the game, one – since I can’t read the instructions in Chinese, and two – because I don’t fully understand how the instructions on Wikipedia go. I guess you just try out the game and learn it through practice. Of course, playing online means that most plays are somewhat automatic and there’s an online guide to help you and give you hints.

The text above just says that the farmers win the round. This picture is from my QQ game. Other games have other designs for their characters and table settings, though gameplay is always the same.

It’s quite fun though, and most of the time I play it when I’m idle or when i can’t sleep. And the great thing is that if you’re the “farmer”, you play alongside a teammate, which is usually what I choose. I don’t yet have the confidence to boldly choose to be a “landlord” when I see that my cards are good (as players can choose to bid for the landlord position if they think their cards have a chance of winning, because landlords start the game with any cards – combo or otherwise). It’s much easier to partner up with someone. Anyways, it’s a win-win situation if you’re helping out your teammate as you both get points for winning. So, getting rid of all your personal cards isn’t always the answer. Sometimes the strategy is to not do anything so that your partner wins, or to beat the landlord so you can give your partner a chance to win. These strategies work especially well when your partner is only 1-3(more or less) cards away, since some players leave combinations to the very end of the game (which leaves other players surprised and unsuspecting of the turnout).

So far since starting to play, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. Some are really good wins, and some feel really depressing, especially when I haven’t dropped that many cards and I find myself unable to drop anything before the opponent wins. I’d like to believe though, that I am getting a lot better at playing.

Only time can tell if I’m improving. For now, each game is a learning process, and I still commit a lot of mistakes. But as they say, experience is the best teacher.

Twenty-four, and in love.

Because I had to say this, even if no one out there is listening…

I’ve seriously fallen in love with Wang Lee Hom (王力宏), an American-Taiwanese singer currently living in Taiwan.

It may just be a phase, because I’m finally really understanding Chinese music after learning Mandarin in China. But this feels a lot different from my phase with F4, which was a time in my life where I was too caught up in the Meteor Garden series to actually really say that was learning Mandarin. Which brings me to this point, I’m already 24 (turning 25 this year), yet I’m still star-struck  over some pop-singing sensation who has over 25 million people following him on Weibo, and who knows how many others in the Western world, who adore him.

Every time I see him on my computer screen, I just get giddy all over. He’s such an adorable geek. Looking at him, he’s nothing like the normal pop star. He’s cute, but sometimes he’s so geeky and so into what he’s doing, you wouldn’t imagine that he’s actually past his mid-30′s. He puts himself so much into his music, and even though he’s singing pop or some romantic Chinese song, all of it just reaches out to you. The amazing thing about him, besides his ability to sing, is his ability to compose music and arrange the music composition of his songs. As a fellow writer, I can relate to his writing, and admire and envy his talent at the same time. But finding out that he can compose his own music and arrange the composition of the songs he makes, AND he plays musical instruments. I’m just totally head-over-heels. Add to that the fact that he can speak English, and wears glasses. Physical appearance-wise, he is definitely my type. But not only that, LeeHom exudes an aura of innocence and humility. He speaks his mind, but is always polite, he’s funny and sweet, and he’s really down-to-earth. Those are the kinds of personalities I find really attractive in a guy.

I had a friend before who was really into Jay Chou (周杰伦), and I couldn’t understand why she was so into him, besides the fact that my Mandarin at that time was really poor. Now though, I am starting to understand her feelings.

Unlike most other fans, I cannot say I am obsessed. Most of what I know comes from reading about him on wikipedia and whatever source I might find, as well as listening to his music (and trying to understand what the Chinese words mean),  and the few months that I’ve come to realize how attracted to him and his music I am. I barely know him compared to other fans, but it doesn’t mean that my admiration and respect for him is any less. Looking back at when it started though, it must have been when I went to visit my friend Jerry back when I was living in Beijing, and he had the music channel on. I heard LeeHom’s “春雨里洗过的太阳” (The sunshine washed by the spring rain) and just loved how the music flowed so well, besides it being catchy and nothing too exuberant. I loved it so much that I sang it for my speaking class when we went KTV-ing for our midterms.

I know I should have done this more seriously back when I was still in High School – find a Chinese singer that I really liked and translate their songs into English, or at least use their songs to inspire me to do better in Chinese. But as they say, it’s never too late to start anything, and it’s never too late to fall in love. And so, recently, I listen to Lee Hom’s music and slowly, step by step, try to understand what he’s singing…though I sometimes need the use of my dictionary.

He’s quite amazing though. Musically talented and he speaks Chinese so well. I wonder how he got to become so good in speaking Mandarin, even though he grew up in the US. Unless his parents spoke to him in Mandarin at home, but still, I can only hope that my Mandarin improves more and more, just like him.

Oh my, I am hopelessly in love. I even had a dream of him recently, where we accidentally met on the street and became good friends, and even fell in love. Of course, it all felt so real in the dream (especially since I did meet him by accident – in the dream), that I woke up wanting to go back to sleep. Well, as they say in Tagalog, libre lang naman mangarap, which just means that dreaming doesn’t cost you a thing (so keep dreaming/wishing).

Time to go back to my dreams and to my hopes that I can dream about Wang Lee Hom again.

王力宏,我爱的就是你!

 

The student is now the teacher

Hello 2013, this being the first post of the year, and the first blog post in about 3 months. A lot has happened since I last reminded everyone that I was alive.

Today is the 2nd day of January, and here in China, it coincides with a 3-day national holiday that starts on New Year. Since coming back to Xiamen after my 2-week semi-vacation in Manila for the Christmas holidays, I haven’t been doing much of anything besides staying home, sleeping, and trying to keep myself warm. In fact, my assignment for my part-time work ended 3 months ago so that part of my productive life hasn’t been awake in a long while.When I first came back to Xiamen last 28, I had to initially decline offers to renew part-time work because I was hoping to catch up on schoolwork, and previous tries to do part-time work online last month never pushed through due to various circumstances. But yesterday, my boss asked me if I could spend the holiday doing work and since I didn’t have anything planned today except a shopping date that could be moved, I decided to okay a schedule to teach.

At first, I felt very iffy about coming to work on one – a holiday, two – the morning, and three – cold winters day. Owing to the fact that I had a hard time falling asleep last night, among other things, I woke up tired and not excited to commute to work. But my initial blah-ness over the situation changed for the better over the course of 8 hours, more or less.

Today, I taught 4 different students with varying ages, which is a lot different from before when I had 4-5 students who were all the same age and in high school, and with a set of more or less the same exercises which I had to drill them on and review with them.

My first student today was a 15-year old girl. She wasn’t that hard to adjust to as she was very similar to my past students, and her comprehension of English was okay so I could speak English without worrying so much about translations. We spent 2 hours correcting her English essays, which weren’t that bad for someone whose mother tongue isn’t English. She was really nice, and quite adorable all wrapped up in her thick down-feathered jacket and scarf, and even asked me to lunch with her. We had lunch together at a small Chinese restaurant across the street, and I had one of the cheapest (yet filling) meals I’ve had in a long long time. And did I mention she thought I was 17? :)

My second student was a lot different, and reminded me of myself when I was much younger. I arrived late because during the lunch break I had decided to go to my friend’s house which was nearby and commuting back to work was harder than commuting from work to my friend’s house. My student was a 11-year old girl in the 6th grade, very talkative, curious and distracted, which was probably what I was when I was her age. She was just so jittery-flittery (yes, I know it’s not an actual word) the entire time I was correcting her essays. As compared to my first student of the day, her comprehension of English wasn’t as broad so I had to speak Chinese more than I did English, which proved a little trying because my wrong intonations were more noticeable when I was trying to explain things to her. Besides editing her work, I had to write down why certain words were used a certain way, compared to similar sounding words which could mean something completely different. I couldn’t just explain because she couldn’t understand my way of speaking very much, so I had to pretty much write everything down. She was quite hyper though and kept looking around the room, at my bottle of coke which she at one point started shaking vigorously, and kept glancing at my bracelets and whatever else could distract her from her essays. Not to say she wasn’t adorable, because she was. She made me realize how hard it must have been to teach me when I was her age.

The last batch of students were cousins who were in the 4th grade, a 9-year old girl and a 10-year old boy. I think I found the most joy in teaching them among today’s students, because they were so enthusiastic about studying. And despite seeming somewhat distracted with their cellphones before our session started, they were so concentrated on me when I was teaching them. One part we did when we were studying was that someone had given them phrases in Chinese which they had to translate into English and I had to correct it as homework. Both the students were so diligent and though they had mistakes, they diligently copied what I wrote in English so they could practice their English strokes. Next we did the months of the year and I tried correcting their pronunciations before I moved into quizzing them on the months by giving them the English name and asking them which month it was, and later by giving them the Mandarin name and asking them to translate it into English. I also gave them hints on how to remember which of the months were what in their Chinese counterparts. We also did a bit of fill-in-the-blank exercises and reading, which they were very excited to do. I think this is probably why if I had become a teacher, I would have gone out of my way to pick elementary school students to teach. And even if I had to speak to them in Chinese most the entire time, I was pretty smooth when it came to talking to them, and I didn’t feel nervous or anxious. And, they kept talking about so many random things and telling me how they had already studied their entire book and had memorized all the English dialogues inside. When I asked them to translate the English dialogues into Chinese, just to make sure they understood it and weren’t just reading it, they proved to be quite good. I was amazed.

The best part of today being that it started off on what felt like the wrong side of the bed, yet ended up feeling very satisfying.

Let it not be said that I have never considered education as a career, even if it’s only short-term.

My 50Leaves 2012

50Leaves

1. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (January 27, 2012)

2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

3. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

4. My Country, My People by Lin Yutang

5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

6. Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley by Linda Berdoll (April 15, 2012)

7. A Song of Fire and Ice: A Feast for Crows [Book4] by George R. R. Martin

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (April 20, 2012)

9. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (April 21, 2012)

10. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (April 27, 2012)

11. Lasher by Anne Rice (May 14, 2012)

12. Taltos by Anne Rice (May 31, 2012)

13. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice (June 26, 2012)

14. Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice (June 29, 2012)

15. Howards End by E.M. Forster (August 29, 2012)

16. Room with a View by E.M. Forster (October 05, 2012)

17. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

18. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (October 24, 2012)

19, Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James (October 27, 2012)

20. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

21. Stainless Longganisa by Bob Ong

22. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (November 21,2012)

23. Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger (December 5, 2012)

24. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas (December 10, 2012)

25. Message in A Bottle by Nicholas Sparks (December 30, 2012)

26. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger

27. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

28. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (December 31, 2012)

End of 2012, Total Books Read : 18books.

Other members of Project:50Leaves[2012]:

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Project 50Leaves Page

Books reviews can be found here

My 50Leaves 2011

My 50Leaves 2010

My 50Leaves 2009

My Shelfari

My Goodreads

Adventures on a Xiamen Bus

It seems like the only bus rides I ever get to experience is outside of the Philippines, China being the place where I’ve had the most bus-ride experiences. From my first China bus ride in Xiamen in 2004, to the few times I had ridden a public bus back in Zhuhai in 2008, bus rides in Beijing when I had to go to school or when I went around a bit, to bus rides in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and even to bus rides here in Xiamen, riding a bus has proved to contain an invaluable amount of experiences. I’ve had my fair share of good bus rides, bad bus rides, and uncomfortable bus rides.

So far, I’d say that Xiamen bus rides have proved to be the most interesting. In Beijing, a subway option was always available for distant locations so the only times I was on a bus was when I would go to school, or the few times I had to go to 中关村 or some other places not directly accessible by subway. Here in Xiamen, there are only 3 options for me when traveling, which is walking, taking a taxi, and taking a bus. Because I’ve been doing part-time work, I’ve had to commute a lot to get to and from various places, often coinciding with people coming back from work. Also, when taxis prove to be too expensive or too hard to get, buses are of course the only other alternative, especially when you need to get to places that are quite far.

During the last couple of months I’ve been here, I’ve realized that no matter how frustrating bus rides can get at times, there are always days where you find out interesting things on a bus.

An example of an annoying bus ride was about two weeks ago when it was the national holidays, which meant one whole week without classes. Because I live near Xiamen University and the Nanputuo Temple, tourists on the weekends, and most especially on holidays, can go up to over 2000, or even more. The worst part being that my area is kind of cut off from the main part of the city, so that no matter how far you walked to get away from the busy area, you’d still be pretty much stuck in the busy area. So during the national holidays, I still had to go to work, but the thing was that finding buses with space was so difficult because of all the out-of-town tourists,  and taxis weren’t available, so you had to literally squeeze yourself into the buses if you wanted to go somewhere. One of the buses I take to work passes by a tunnel, and most people who try to squeeze into the bus at my station get off at the next stop (the stop after the tunnel) so as long as you make an effort to endure squeezing your way to the door of the bus, and endure the bus ride through the tunnel which can get somewhat suffocating when people around you carry a certain *ahemsmellahem*, it’s all pretty good and well.

But of course, despite bad days like that, I’ve had good experiences on the bus too. Like a couple of weeks back, I bumped into a bunch of Westerners on the bus, who I got to talk to. I’ve bumped into them a few more times on my way home from work since we take the same bus. I also love the old people who say thank you when I give up my seat for them to take, and how I sometimes meet someone who is much older than me and when I offer them a free seat they turn it down nicely saying that they’re getting off at the next stop. I’ve even had experiences where I offer my seat up to someone older, and they happen to get down earlier than me, so they call my attention and give me back my seat. Even though some Chinese people are really rude, like REALLY rude, I am amazed and touched at the few instances that I see young people being polite, like I’ve seen a couple of them give their seats to pregnant women, or parents with kids, or older people. Another thing that amazes me is the paki-pasa system that Filipinos have in jeepneys, paki-pasa roughly translated as please pass this on. Oftentimes, buses here are so full at the entrance that the only way to get in is to get through the exit, so people inform the driver that they’re getting in at the back and then ask the people between the exit and entrance to swipe their bus card for them, or to deposit their 1rmb into the money slot. 

Once, on a bus ride, I spotted a Pinoy yaya (maid) and her alaga (it’s a noun that refers to the child she’s taking care of) who were seated beside where I was standing. The entire time, I was just looking at the adorable kid and wanted to ask if the yaya was Pinoy but couldn’t muster the courage to ask until we were one stop away from my station. She introduced me to her alaga and talked to me about Xiamen, asked me about myself, among other things. It was really insightful and made me realize how Filipino yayas are one of the best yayas in the world because they really know how to take care of a household.

Oh bus rides, even when at times I wish I just had my own car here in Xiamen (even though it would go to waste since I don’t know how to drive, and there’s not many places I go to anyway), taking the bus is so much more cheaper and more convenient, and I get to meet so many different people along the way. It’s not always good, especially when I’m beside someone who smells like they haven’t had a bath in a few days, or when I’m beside someone who is wearing a sleeveless tee and happens to have a lot of hair in their you-know-what, but all-in-all I feel like I’m truly basking in the independent life. Who knows, I might just bump into my next adventure on a bus ride. :)

She’s the kind of girl who loves Autumn

I’ve loved autumn since I first discovered that the leaves turn yellow and red and the weather becomes cooler, and the fashion requires people to wear coats and boots, a long long time before I actually experienced it for the first time in Beijing. Coming from a country that only has wet and dry weather, it was something out-of-the-ordinary, something amazing. So according to the change in weather, Autumn this year started more or less on September 23, and Xiamen despite being in the South, is still affected by such seasonal changes.

When I first arrived in Xiamen in February, it was transitioning from Winter-Spring, and then I was in Xiamen the entire time it was Summer, and now it’s transitioning into Autumn. The thing I’ve realized about Fall in Xiamen is that despite the relatively hot weather in the afternoons, the past few evenings have been abnormally cool, and when I mean abnormal it means that the difference between afternoon and evening temperatures feels so different that you’d have a hard time imagining how a few hours can change the temperature so drastically. I guess one thing different about Beijing and Xiamen (weather-wise) is that Beijing is relatively dry, and Xiamen is relatively humid – not to mention how it’s beside the sea so sea breezes are ever-present.

Dad was here just last week, so along with the few winter items I had with me when I first arrived, and some of the items I had brought soon after I realized that all my outfits were Summer-ish and it was still Winter in February, dad brought along some scarves and thicker outfits that will hopefully keep me from buying too many winter clothes for winter, since it’s not suppose to be as cold as Beijing anyway. I wonder how much time I have left to wear shorts and sandals, and be able to go out without wearing a jacket or bringing along something to keep the cold at bay….

She’s the Kind of Girl tee from No. 3 Storehouse Xiamen; Light Blue shorts from Manila; Bowler Bag from Taobao; Brown boots from Taobao; Red Urbanears headphones from Mom

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A Billion and Me

Weekends are at times my favorite days of the week, despite the noise at the Nanputuo Temple, because these are the days I can relax and do my chores and sleep in. Today I was awakened by a loud barrage of noise outside my building, which is located by the West Gate of Xiamen University. I woke up to see a flood of Chinese people filling the streets shouting something almost inaudible. It’s not that I’ve never seen Chinese people like this, I did once join the Beijing locals who were lining up to welcome the 1st day of October (which is the independence day for the People’s Republic of China) back in 2010 at Tian’an Men Square and it was crowded. This is the first time though that I’ve seen Chinese people rally together to announce a stand on something, live.

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Like working from 9-5

So recently, it’s like I’ve been working from 9-5. Some days it’s 8-5, and some days it’s 10-5. The new semester has begun and I’m finally feeling what it is to be studying and doing part-time work at the same time. I know so many people will think that at (almost) 24, I should know how it feels like, but coming from a country that doesn’t generally allow part-time work to students who haven’t graduated from university, it’s not something completely unheard of especially since I came to China soon after graduating from university. Back to topic, I’ve been doing two things since the semester began this week – studying and working. I’ve been granted a very practical schedule that allows me to study in the mornings and work in the afternoons, though it doesn’t leave me with much time to rest or study, though I’ve tried to remedy that by bringing some of my books to work with me so that during breaks or times that students are answering seatwork I can do my studies.

It’s been very draining and tiring, most especially since most of my classes start at 8 and that means having to wake up a lot earlier than I’m used to, and that means that I don’t come to work fully refreshed unlike during the summer holidays. In fact, this week was so stressful because I was trying to fix all my visa and passport documents (before my visa expires next week) plus I was trying to schedule my classes since I initially wanted my listening class to be on a lower level compared to my other classes, but what was most frustrating was that the language program office decided to re-do the level arrangements and I had to rethink the levels I wanted for my classes. In short, it’s just been really confusing and tiring.

Black blazer from H&M Xiamen; Striped tee from H&M Xiamen; Legging pants from UNIQLO Hong Kong; Eyeglass frame necklace from Xiamen; White and gold bracelet from Xiamen

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