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.

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Almost Robbed

And to think, the only time I remember being robbed outright was back in 2006 when I was still studying in Ateneo and while I was with my blockmates, my laptop was stolen. Considering that I’ve lived in China for over a year and a half, this is the first time that someone has attempted to rob me. There is a small lingering doubt about the incident in my head, almost like I can’t believe that it happened so it must have been false, but instinct tells me otherwise.

Last Saturday evening, after  dinner at a sushi restaurant and some bazaar shopping with my friend, we decided to head home to call it a night. As we were making our way to the bus stop (中山路站 – Zhong Shan Lu stop), me and my friend were in a deep conversation about a lot of things. In my left hand, I held a shopping bag. My right hand was somewhere near my hand bag. As we were already by the bus stop, I readied myself for any incoming buses headed towards the school by turning to my bag to take out my bus card. With the bag I was wearing at the time, I usually keep the bus card by the front pocket for easy access, but since my friend noted earlier that evening that the button seemed to be coming off. Instead of just feeling for the card like I usually do, I decided to look at my bag while I was taking it out. It was at that moment that I noticed that my bag’s zipper was already 1/3 of the way open. What’s more, I noticed a hand pull away  and a man who was close behind me ducking behind the advertisement board.

I immediately told my friend that I thought I had almost been robbed.

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My perfect Mr. Imperfect

Sometimes I just like to add links to my sidebar but forget to actually go through the sites, even the ones that belong to friends. And yes, I don’t exactly know how RSS feeds go, but I think I’d be too lazy to actually go through all the blogs I would subscribe to, which makes me wonder if you guys sometimes tire of reading my blog, and I can’t help but wonder how many other blogs you read besides mine…or how many other blogs do you subscribe to besides mine.

Anyway, I went to my college friend’s blog and discovered this among her posts. I’ll share it below..

One day I hope to meet an imperfect man who will seem perfect to me from time to time.

He will not be the best I have ever met, but he will be great when I need him to be. He will hold my hand when we cross the street and make sure I stay on the safe side of the road. He will kiss me goodnight before I go to sleep, and he will kiss me torridly when I don’t want to sleep. He will wake me up with a pat on my leg and once in a while surprise me with breakfast in bed. He will argue with me, taunt me, frustrate me, but he will also let me win without having to tell me.
He will cradle me when I need to be babied, respect me when I need to feel big, and scold me when I make a big mistake. He will sing to me when quiet makes me lonely, and remain quiet when noise makes me mad. He will not always read me correctly, but he will always make his best guess. His timing will often be off when calculating my moods, but when he does find that perfect moment, he will make it one that I will never forget.
He will touch me when my heart is cold and cool me down when my head is hot. He will see through my Tupperware expressions and detect my tears before they fall. He will understand many things I am saying with my eyes, but sometimes he will pretend he doesn’t see them at all. He will hurt me time and again, but he will ask to be forgiven just as often. He will lose his temper because he is human, but he will always strive to become a better man.
He will falter and fall and make mistakes, but he will also rise above himself. He will hold open a door for me, although sometimes he will forget. He will order me around, but will bow when I resist. He will take me to a bar, dance with me, go wild with me, but he will also escort me to the theater to watch a play he never really wanted to see.
He will go shopping with me, but he will roll his eyes only when I am inside the fitting room, not when I can see him. He will stand by me at the cosmetics corner, and pretend he’s not bothered by the shade of purple I am trying on. He will laugh at me, not just with me, to remind me not to take myself too seriously.
He will tell me the whole truth when I am ready for it, but he will be ready with his half-truths when that’s what I should hear. He will make me realize that I need him, but only up to half as much as he needs me. He will make me admit that I want him, but only after he professes how he feels about me. He will bring out the best and the worst in me, but he will stick with me always.
One day I will meet an imperfect man. He will love me, and I will love him wholeheartedly.

Source: http://opinion.inquirer.net/17713/mr-imperfect

As a child, most girls long to find their Prince Charming, the perfect guy who will sweep them off their feet, do their every whim and fancy, and all those other things that come with being Mr. Perfect. But as maturity and experience teaches us, no one is ever perfect. What’s more, if you think finding Mr. Perfect is hard, finding Mr. Normal is even harder. Finding that one normal guy who has both faults and good qualities, that one guy who is willing to give-and-take while being in a relationship with you, who respects you and treats you the way you should be treated….THAT is DIFFICULT. Also, finding someone who is willing to look at the imperfect you and love it, that’s the most important thing.

I want to find a guy who is not perfect and without fault, but the guy who is perfect and most well-suited for me.

Oh woah is the me who wishes my dreams can defy reality.

Me and Adeline Yen Mah, just a computer away

I don’t know if most of you know, but back in my days in elementary school…I hated studying Chinese. It was one of those daunting tasks you had to do at school because it was a class. It was one of those classes that you never really took seriously, where most of the stuff that we were tested on were a bunch of Chinese words we memorized before the exam and forgot after the tests. Or well for most, that’s what it felt like. Because we only spoke English at home and didn’t even practice Hokkien when speaking to one another, I felt like Mandarin was something that wasted my time. I remember spending hours and hours with my tutor, trying to memorize the words and answers to the vocabulary, comprehension, and Q&A parts of the quizzes and exams. It was hell. Of course, not knowing Hokkien made it worse because I couldn’t compare words and ideas to their Hokkien counterparts which would have probably made studying a tad easier.

That was my frustrated Chinese phase in life. Even being Chinese was hard because I felt like I didn’t look the part, and besides practices like wearing red on birthdays, eating noodles on birthdays, wearing white for wakes, me and my family weren’t really Chinese-Chinese. And then in the 6th or 7th grade, I discovered Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. It was actually from my mom’s library, and it was just lying around the house so I took it and began reading it. That’s where it began. After that, I discovered my mom’s copy of Falling Leaves (by the same author), and later on other Chinese-related books by Amy Tan and Lawrence Yep.

That’s where it began. I started taking Chinese lessons in High School much more seriously. I tried speaking more Mandarin with my tutor, tried conversing with my Dad in Hokkien, even volunteered to talk to my Chinese relatives once in a while. And in one of my years in High School, I even accompanied my dad to Xiamen (my first time on the Mainland)!

Basically, to cut the long story short, I discovered I liked Chinese. I liked learning about Chinese history, reading about Chinese culture and traditions, reading English books about China, and so on and so forth. Heck, I even took up Chinese Studies as my major in university!  I can distinctly say that one of the sources of my discovering my love for all that, all began with Adeline Yen Mah and her books.

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Thought I knew what I wanted to be

You know how when you were a kid, and you thought you knew what you were going be when you grew up? That was me then. And then, there’s the me now. Unemployed and not exactly sure what she wants to do.

A long long time ago, I thought knew what I wanted to be. Autograph books were so popular back in elementary school, and they always had that space where they ask you what you want to be when you grew up. For a time, I thought I wanted to be a businesswoman. To all my childhood classmates and friends whose autograph books I signed, my page will probably show evidence of that dream having been real. Businesswoman sounded like such a classy dream, especially for someone who didn’t exactly know what that meant or entailed. For many years, I thought I wanted to be a businesswoman. And here in the Philippines, if you were Chinese-Filipino, being a businessperson was usually (and more often than not) an option when deciding what to do.

And then I grew a little older, and I didn’t want to be a businesswoman anymore. I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to write. Once in class, one of my teachers asked the class if they already knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. I distinctly remember this was in 6th grade, and maybe less than half the class raised their hands, I was one of them.  I remember having a classmate who raised her hand without fear or doubt, the teacher called her and she told us she wanted to be a lawyer. I’m still good friends with that girl right now, though I’m not entirely sure if the path she’s on will still lead her to becoming a lawyer, or if that is still her dream.

A few years later, I changed my mind again. No longer did I want to be a journalist, I wanted to be a writer or a diplomat working in some foreign embassy. I thought I had it all planned out when I graduated from university; work for ABS-CBN or some newspaper/magazine/publishing house, get my work written, eventually get recognized, yadda yadda. Then I would maybe take the Foreign Service Exam and try to get into working in an embassy abroad. Doesn’t sound that confusing, at least it’s a dream with a laid-out plan.

Four years of university and one year of Mandarin (in China) later, I am now stuck in a rut. Back in Manila and job-hunting, with no real goal or desire in mind. Honestly, I don’t know what to do. It’s funny how things turn out the way they do. Sometimes, those who are so sure of what they want in their childhood, inevitably discover that those dreams that they built weren’t the dreams they wanted after all. And those who didn’t really know what they wanted, found it somewhere along the way.  There’s a quote or a saying that can be compared to that, something about not finding what you want when you go looking for it, and finding things when you least expect them. Something like that.

I’m turning 23 this year and I still have no idea what I want to be, or what I want to do with the rest of my life. All the ideas or dreams I have or thought I wanted, just seem so idiotic when trying to think about how practical it all really is. Haha. Life is so hilarious, and surprising, really. To the kid me, if you could see me now, I wonder how disappointed you would be. The worst part is knowing what your best skill is, and what you love doing, but wondering if it’s enough to compete with in comparison to other people who think their best skill is the same as yours. Is it all really good enough?

北京的污染

When I was younger, a lot of people told me Beijing was polluted, even post-Olympics. When I first arrived in Beijing in late August, I was too excited to even notice the difference in the air quality. I’m sure Manila is not unpolluted, but Beijing’s air is definitely dirtier than back home. Anyway, for the first few weeks colds haunted me over and over again but I eventually overcame them. Since then, my body has become accustomed to the air, or at least that’s what I thought. With it being my second semester and all, it never occurred to me that I’d be encountering these same problems again. The cough and colds, sore throat and dry throat that have been accompanying me for the past couple of days has been nothing but an annoyance. A couple of weeks back someone told me that the pollution levels in Beijing reached up to 400. How bad is that? Apparently in Germany when it gets to 50 they start to semi-panic. So yes, definitely very bad for people living in Beijing. I say this with much conviction, Beijing is definitely cutting off a lot of years off my life. Haha.

Getting back to the story; a few weeks back, I discovered that on the days I’m amused that I can actually see the sun in its red (but hazy) glory, my lungs are dying much quicker. Apparently, it’s very polluted when it gets to that point. Guess I’m going to stop being amused at being able to see the sun. Also I, and as I’ve noticed a lot of my fellow foreigners at the language program as well, have been suffering from these weird cough, colds, dry sore throat, not feeling too well dilemma these past few days.

Then again, there’s really nothing much I can do. I’ll just have to put up with it for now and hope that medicines and vitamins will help alleviate the problems soon. I should definitely move back South next time. I miss Xiamen and Guangdong. And Hong Kong! Still, I love Beijing and I think it’s awesome in so many ways. But I don’t see myself living here too long-term unless it’s for something very very important.

花木兰(电影)Mulan (movie)

Last week I went to watch the movie, Hua Mulan (花木兰) at the Spring Film Festival Gala Night. I missed about 10-15minutes of the first part of the movie because I was having dinner with friends, but was able to catch up to the part where Mulan first enters the camp. I loved the story. It’s definitely different from the Disney version, and is much suited to more mature audiences (late teens/young adults-onwards). The amazing thing about the movie is that it doesn’t skimp on action and drama, and doesn’t fail to include some bits of a romantic story. I wouldn’t compare it to the Red Cliff movie which is definitely one of the most thrilling Chinese movies I’ve seen so far….but this definitely is a movie that would still appeal to me.

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And the movie doesn’t fail to be Chinese as the ending portrays a love of country over one’s own personal love life. There are also many aspects that Chinese hold dear, such as filial piety, a love (not romantic) between brothers, love for country, and the whole glory in death while fighting. The values portrayed in this movie are really values properly exhibited in old Chinese movies, or when concerned with older Chinese cultures and traditions (古代的文化,古代的习俗,古代的中国).

I’d definitely want to watch this movie again. My dad missed out on watching the movie so he’s planning on buying a copy when he goes to Xiamen (厦门) soon. I’d like to find myself a copy too when I go back to Beijing. Oh what’s more, since my Mandarin is much more improved than before, I was able to understand the movie dialogue much better and even compared it to the English subtitles. Of course, definitely, dialgoue in Mandarin was much better than the English translations.

Also, the pick of using Vicki Zhao as the main actress was pretty good, in my opinion. Seeing her as a tomboy-ish sort of actress from previous movies such as Red Cliff and So Close, makes it more believable that she would pass of as a boy in a war army as compared to other popular actresses…based on what I’ve seen on some forums. I love Zhang ZiYi and Michelle Yeoh in movies like Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but it’s nice to see other popular actresses star in movies like this. After all, we can’t have the same actresses hogging the spotlight all the time.

Looking back on 2010

Can I just say, this year has (so far) had the most accomplished and excited moments of my life, as well as some of the saddest and most stressful parts of my life as well.

2010, I graduated from University with passing marks. All 4 years of hard work, effort and all those annoyingly sleepless nights of homework, papers, exams and the like..done! What an accomplishment. Though I never made the Dean’s List, or got honors come graduation, it was definitely a proud moment to have been able to say that I graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with my bachelor’s degree. A proud moment to have made it through the AMDG (Ang Matutulog Di Gragraduate) phase of my life.

It was also a wonderful moment to have finished the yearbook-related work I had to do, and to see my batchmates get their yearbooks in time, though I have to say that it wasn’t without difficulty that we had to deal with all the yearbook-related problems we encountered day after day.

Getting accepted into TsingHua for the Chinese Language Program, and coming to China has also been a highlight for the year. Along with getting accepted into TsingHua are also the fun moments I’ve had with my friends here in China. The adventures, the mishaps, the new experiences, new friends, new environment, new everything that we’ve come to know, though not all of them were happy moments, they had in some way contributed to making the year memorable in a happy sense. I signed up for this, so I’m taking it all in stride as I finish the year 2010.

In 2010, I lost one of my best friends. My faithful companion, my wonderful dog who had accompanied me throughout my teenage life, who was my baby and my pet, the one I would talk to about my problems, left me. It was one of the hardest things I had to accept in my life. He who I had counted on living for a few more years, who would tearfully watch me say goodbye as I left for China, who would gleefully welcome me back from China..the one who saw me through some of the worst and best times of my high school and college life, went on ahead. My Taka, even now I miss him so much. Thinking about going home in a month makes me realize that he will not be there when I go back. In 2010, I lost my irreplaceable best friend to an illness, it will be an unforgettable moment for the rest of my life.

Soon after I lost my baby Taka and a few days before I was to leave for Beijing, I also lost another of my dear pet dogs.

This year was also one of the most stressful make-or-break moments in my entire life. Having to constantly worry about finishing my thesis paper while worrying about other requirements, and graduating, This year definitely took its toll and took a few years off of my life. Thesis was one of the worst parts of my university life. If I had the opportunity to just throw it away without consequence, I would have done so a long long time ago, and without looking back I might add. Thesis was hell, though deep down I feel that I would have to meet up with him someday again. Gak. Oh well, that one part of my life is done and over with. No need for me to look back on it again, thankfully.

With 2011 just around the corner, or well just a few hours away, I can’t help but look back on my 2010 and wish it could have been better in many ways. Still, I am quite thankful for the many blessings and opportunities that have been given to me, many of which I did not expect. 2010 definitely brought many surprises into my life, both good and bad. 2010 was definitely not without ups and downs throughout the entire year. Still, the selfish me can’t help but hope that 2011 will be a much better year, filled with better opportunities, better experiences, better memories. Call me selfish, but I still want more. Haha.

Spending my first Christmas abroad

Recently I’ve realized that one of the things we take for granted are special days we spend with our family and friends. Things that are annually celebrated became habitual and eventually get taken for granted. Today, I spent my first Christmas holidays away from home, away from family, away from familiarity. Who would have known that I would get so homesick. It’s only been about 4 months that I’ve been away, but it has been the longest time in my life that I’ve ever spent away from my family. It’s hard, especially being in a country like China that doesn’t really celebrate the holiday the same way it’s celebrated back in Manila.

Yesterday, me and my flatmates and a few other friends went to this place called Sanlitun which is very popular with foreigners. Since we all couldn’t go home to spend the holidays with family (as the airplane tickets going back home are expensive, and we don’t have christmas holidays away from classes), we all decided that since we are each others family in Beijing, we should celebrate it as best as we could. We went to this restaurant called Tairyo Teppanyaki and had the most expensive meal we’ve ever had so far. Costing us over 200rmb, we got served tons of delicious food cooked right in front of us. Despite being away from the normal traditions that encompass Christmas and Christmas Eve, being in joyful company of friends almost makes up for the loneliness that being away from home brings to the surface.

Despite all that joyous food and company though, I couldn’t help but feel lonely as I found myself celebrating Christmas alone. As the clock turned 12midnight, I found myself alone in Starbucks Sanlitun, with my friends still just going around the area and sight-seeing despite the cold weather outside. It was lonely, unexpectedly lonely and depressing. It made me remember how back home, as we grew older, those excited moments for midnight to strike that eventually became just greetings before bed would seem so far away from the me who was presently so far away from home.

For most Chinese here, Christmas is just a time of giving presents and spending it with their girlfriends or boyfriends. It’s completely different from the way it’s celebrated back home. Everything, from the way Filipinos like to celebrate Christmas early and the way we decorate practically everything with Christmas decor, comparing it to how Chinese just put up small decorations and don’t really decorate till it’s near December 25, makes me miss the way we do things back home. It’s not just about gift-giving or spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend, being away from home has made me realize that it’s about spending time with family and commemorating the day with special food and music (no matter how annoying or redundant it seems), or making the time and effort to go shopping for something someone wants/needs and to wrap it as best as you can so you can see how they react when they open it or thank you for the gift.

As I’m spending another semester here in China after my current semester ends, I see myself with so many things to do. I need to find work either back home or here in China, while still keeping up with my studies in my university. If it’s meant to happen, I hope I can find work here so that I can keep improving my Mandarin while not depending so much on my family. If I can find a part time job here next semester, that would help me out a lot. As well, I would still love to continue to go around places in Beijing, and even around China, as long as I am able to afford doing so and without it conflicting so much with my studies. I’d love to travel and go out on adventures, but still plan what I need to do on a daily or monthly basis. Being the almost overly OC person my friends keep telling me I am, I hopefully want to see myself and my days filled with new things to do.

It seems like a lot of things to hope for with it still being 2010, but with 2011 just around the corner, there are so many things to have to prepare for and to look forward to. Another year, another great adventure waiting to be discovered!

Also being the ICAn that I am, I’m promoting the use of the http://xvr.in/ url shortener! Support to the school next door and to all my friends from that side of the Church. Apparently, it’s made by a friend of mine who happens to share the same birthday as me. Awesome!

A different kind of url shortener for the person who keeps on being different. Because procrastinating while still being awesome is not just a hobby, it’s a way of life! Cram it with http://xvr.in/

Also, this blog post is an entry to this contest here. Join in for a chance to win a leather Starbucks planner from Malaysia, care of a friend who bought them when he was visiting there. Contest is open to those living in Manila.

I am No One

As cross-posted from my deviantart

Yesterday, tragedy struck here in the Philippines as a tourist bus was held hostage by a man, a man who was wronged by the world. A former police offer, he was fired for some things he was said to have done. I don’t know if he did those things he was accused of or not, but he felt wronged after more than 20 years of service. He decided that by kidnapping some people, his voice would be heard. It was going well until mid-afternoon struck and some things went wrong. In the end, a few of the tourists on that bus were killed, and so was this guy.

I will not say anymore lest I seem biased. I am not here to say that what he did was right, or was wrong. But it made me realize that we are all just human beings, mortal and imperfect human beings. And that no matter how we try to succeed, become rich or famous, or do something extra-ordinary, to this world where we live, we are just another person.

We are invisible. Part of a society that is one of many societies that exists and has existed since time immemorial. We are no one different. We are who we are. We may be normal common folk, or important people who make big decisions, but to this world, we are just one of the many people who are born into this life and later die in this life. To her who has lived millions of years, we are nothing.

We live, then we die.


About this poem:
I didn’t add punctuations or capitalized lines after the first. Feel free to read it as you see fit. There is definitely a pattern in the sentences, because that’s how I felt when I wrote it. But feel free to read past it, you might not see how I wrote it, or if you’ve read a lot of my work you might see it.

R.I.P. to those people who were killed in that tragedy. We pray that you are in a better place. I pray that your families though grieving, will be able to send you off to a place far past this world that does not really see us.

Invisible

With eyes that wander
it searches
it moves
yet it cannot see me
with fingers that search
it reaches out
into the darkness
yet it cannot feel me
with a voice that calls
it softly whispers
it calls out loudly
yet it cannot hear me
I am here
can’t you see me
feel me
hear me
here i stand unmoving
lost in the world
as it swallows me
as if i am nothing
it has devoured me
can you see me now
i am one with you
world
see me
feel me
hear me
i am here
waiting