Friday, September 30, 2005

Where's Scotty when you need him?

Moving is tedious business. I've never done a move in Manila, but have had my share of best forgotten house/apartment moves in my college years and in Hong Kong. One memory comes to mind, helping a friend move from one apt to another from Hong Kong Island to Lamma; trying to figure out how to lift her mattress up the hill. Our beers were well deserved after that mess. Now that I think about it, the place she moved to was where she had an infestation of bats in the aircondition unit. Not that our travails were a cause or effect kind of thing.

I am now facing moving out of my parents home, something I've had planned for 8 years. Long time to be looking for a place to call my own, or at least to rent for myself, but it finally happened. I hope that the new pad will be a long-term venture, as I don't fancy looking again. Rentals in Manila are plain exorbitant and usually depressing. Too small, too smelly, too, too.

Last weekend, I got tired of imagining my things packed and started hauling the boxes and banigs that I would bring over. Cleaned out some books, packed the ones I didn't want into two bags to bring to Bound for consignment, and swept up some of the pieces that would follow me northward. As per my usual procrastination, I found myself reading some of the books instead of just dusting them off for the move. But I did manage to seperate the books I've read from one bookcase into three boxes, and one box of unread books into the other. I calculate I still have 10 to 15 boxes of books left to clean and pack.

Two of the books I decide to read betwixt moves is Nathaniel's Nutmeg, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. The former is a non-fiction narrative of how nutmeg changed the world, while everyone seems to have the latter in their best books I've ever read list.

I find Nutmeg rather charming, with passages on the long forgotten explorers, colonizers, adventurers from Elizabethan (the First) England, and their rivals, the Dutch. One of the most amusing yet enlightening bits tell of how the explorers and merchants kept on searching for a Northeast passage, through the Arctic and across Scandinavia/Russia, as a means to get to the Spice Islands faster. To the modern mind, it may seem remarkable that they could conceive that there was a speedier route cutting North, to the islands lying not far from Papau New Guinea and Australia. But without their sacrifice in lives, and the undeniable desire to keep finding new ways of getting to their destination (the bottom line is they wanted to get to the goods faster than their competitors, make money. Is that where the saying money makes the world go round comes from? Hmmm), we wouldn't have the global connection we do now. The global economy was already in full swing in those days, what with merchants bringing the best of the East to the buyers in the West. Eventually, that has come full circle, or at least to a point of McDonaldization (sic) of most of the international economy.

I have a few weeks left to move out and be on my own. I'm looking forward to the peace that will entail. Though I'm not looking forward to not having a maid to clean my room everyday and the little luxuries that come with staying with the parents. When I look at all I still have to clean and pack, I wish the Star Trek beam was not merely in our imaginations. I'd like to stick all the boxes in the middle of my room, press a few coordinates and presto, they'd be in the new place without my having to heft them over. Maybe with a few adjustments, the beam would magically hang up the clothes, sort out the books, and have a fresh cut flower all ready for when I walk through the door...

Sigh, back to the grind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

forgotten subject

I realized that the previous posts about AC books was also entitled "... and internet radio", but I had nothing on internet radio.

I love to listen to music while I'm working. I've read that it's not a good idea as it is a distraction, but I'd rather have a rush of music than the sound of the airconditioner. At times, I plug on the radio, and twiddle to my local radio station, usually 103.5 fm for alternative pop. But radio can be annoying with the incessant commercials and the silly games they make people do so they can be one of over 200 people that might win a raffle to another game show or other promo.

Sidenote: eegads, it's raining again!!!

Some years back, I found that online radio stations were a good alternative to the regular radio stuff, not much commercial buttinskis touting haircare or saving the environment (I donate to environmental causes, but i don't need the constant reminders of the degradation we are surrounded with). However, I didn't have dsl until last year so I couldn't benefit from the regular listening pleasure of long playing songs. There's nothing more exasperating than singing along with Oklahoma, when the song stops at Okl---- argh.

Yahoo messenger just upgraded and now offers their own selection of radio stations; they tend to be spotted with a couple of ads from ABC shows like premieres of Desperate Housewives, and some Bud light commercials. I'd rather go with Accuradio, where I can wallow in hours of big band, broadway shows, alternative rock, or classics at any time. Right now, I have it on the Swinging Pop standards, listening as I type this to some tap dancer's rhythmic feet while the melody to Smile, Darn Ya, Smile plays on the back ground. It's Sammy Davis Jr. Now it's Lena Horne singing something. I can imagine her big grin while she sings.

There does seem to be enough for everyone out there, so long as you have dependable internet service and a computer to play it on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

books and internet radio

I was at the Powerbooks store in Robinsons Manila yesterday and found two Agatha Christie books I haven't read before. AC was my Nancy Drew. I was a semi-precocious child who wanted to be seen as a mature reader, so instead of collecting Nancy Drew books, I gobbed onto my sister's collection of AC. She liked Tommy and Tuppence, but Hercule Poirot of the moustache, little grey cells and eggshaped head was my kind of detective. The first AC I ever read was Death on the Nile. Not a typical AC mystery, as it was set in ancient Egypt (probably written during the time she was still married to the archeologist). I then took the Poirot arc backward, reading Curtain before The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. And I jumped around a lot, reading some of the Ms. Marple stories alongside Parker Pyne and the non-detective stories, before heading back to the safe harbors of Poirot.

Dame Christie is probably the reason I love mysteries, specifically female British mystery writers. From her I took up Ngaio Marsh (ok, technically NM is a Kiwi), Dorothy Sayers, PD James, their contemporaries like Minette Walters.

The two books I picked up were Murder is Easy (first published as Easy to Kill) and Taken at the Flood. The latter is a Poirot mystery and definitely one I had never read before.

Murder is Easy is very reminiscent of another story AC wrote, might have been one of her first drafts before she rewrote it for one of her major detectives. I will have to go through the other books to find the plot likeness.

Taken is a tad different, there's more intrigue and in a way, the deaths are a sub-plot to the characters. Also, you get a sense of the despair that cut into the upper middle class lifestyle after WW2. Taxation and shortages made life harder for those who had small pensions. I could feel how tempting it was for the Cloades to get rid of Rosaleen; was the fact that the real murderer not one of them a bit of classism on AC's part?

The only AC books that were downright awful were adaptations of her plays written by some fellow who's name is suppressed deep in some "awful book" memory. Terrible in that the "writer" just rewrote the script into prose, without developing the story or character; uncharacteristic of Christie. Hopefully the man has been removed from his job and never allowed to come close to a book deal again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Return to market

I spent a few hours roaming Market!Market! It's been sometime since I went there, and the first time I've had to really go around the shops to see if there's anything that makes the mall worth going back to. Since I'm into books and food, I have to admit there's not much in the place for a book lover. The two book outlets aren't that exciting, and I didn't find anything that made me go ooh! gotta have that book.

On the food side, I was immediately surprised that China Star was closed so soon after it opened last year. I know the food business is harsh but we were there late last year and it seemed to be doing well. Considering the other food options inside the mall and outside by the fresh fruits, vegetables and grillery (sic), I wonder what made the management decide to close up shop.

I ended up getting a fresh lumpia at Mann Hann, buying mangosteen and a marang from the fruit stands. Also at Mann Hann, I ordered an oyster cake to take home to the folks. Is it the -ber months that make up oyster season or is it not safe to eat them during this time of the year? I can't remember. But I haven't had an oyster cake in sometime so it's always a treat to have it. Reminds me of my childhood when we'd go to Chinatown after Sunday mass and one of our favorite dives was a place we named "oyster place" - yeah, well we didn't have a lot of imagination for places, pragmatic foodies that we were - where they'd have a bowl of tiny oysters ready to be cooked up into the best oyster cakes and oyster stews in town. When I lived in China, the wet markets would have special times of the year when the vendors would sell plastic buckets of young oysters, freshly shucked. I never had the guts to buy them and make my own oyster cake. But soon, I'll have my own kitchen to play with and I'll be experimenting on a lot of food that I've wanted to make!!! (insert mad scientist laughter here)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Chicharon days

I went to the market to browse, and bought a freshly cut hydrangea for my new vase, some pre-packed chinese food, and chicharon (2 bags!). Also dropped by the juice stand for a large order of Rainy Day Juice (papaya-watermelon-and two other fruits), and then my last stop was the indian food stall to get some samosas.

All of this was meant for the office, to have something to eat for lunch while at work. But I was tempted by the sun, so sorely missed this last week, found an empty bench where I drank up my juice, chomped on the samosas and then tore open one bag of chicharon. Luckily I stopped myself from eating the entire bag, but made a definite dent.

I remember my first samosa, it was in the fourth grade and a Pakistani classmate brought in her mom's cooking for one of our never ending food or bake sales. I don't know if it was for an South Asian food fest, but we all brought something to share with the rest of the folks who wanted non-canteen food, and Maryam brought a tray filled with these deep fried dumplings. She warned me they were spicy, and luckily I was never a picky eater, so I bit into it and was hooked. I've always thought of samosas as my first edible cross-cultural experience. How can you make enemies when you savor another culture's food?

As for chicharon, my favorite is still the Lapid's chicharon, when it's fresh and hot. The ones I bought today weren't bad, but nothing spectacular. I was hoping for more laman, instead the bits were mostly skin.

At lunch yesterday, the restaurant had an item with chicken chicharon on rice. That reminded me of the days in school when someone used to sell bags of chicken chicharon in the canteen. I loved those, salty and crunchy. Not too big like pork chicharon bits and had a really savory taste that pork chicharon doesn't always have. Didn't need to dip it into vinegar or add anything as it was redolent of fat and salt.

As for the packed chinese food, it was ho-hum. There was a definite MSG taste to the sauces, and a lack of spice. Don't think I'll be buying from that vendor any more.

Staring at the bag of supersize chocolate covered malt balls, I think it's no contest... there goes one! and soon the rest!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Achy throats and sicky days

How I need to take a day off. I feel like my days have been stuffed with work and I can't commit to more work before I get some time off. My throat feels like a scratchy towel is down my larynx. I also have a late sleep time issue these days, can't get to sleep before midnight, although I know that I'll be able to change that once I stop watching tv until midnight. I can see a weekend of early evenings.

I found the townhouse last week after an hour and a half on the public transport system, and waiting for A to pick me up at the corner store (I turned left when I should have turned right). The place looks like it's in good shape, repainted, retiled, and much bigger than I remembered. I may be able to put my furniture in there after all. I've also been able to get a stove and some shelves for books. Once the place looks ready to be cleaned, I'll borrow the maid to do a sweep and a polish all over, then start moving in items over a couple of weekends. I want to be in by the first week of October.

I'm debating over whether or not to go on LOA at school. I don't think I can afford to be in class this semester. I also have to think about whether this program is what I want to do. Perseverance, I know, is the key to successfully completing the program, not being burdened by failing the classes.

I think the book How to be Idle is making me yearn to go on a sicky. Love that term. I'm sicky today.

Hopefully traffic won't be so bad tonight and I'll be able to pick up my adidas bag from bound. I'll lug another load of books over Sunday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

the blues

When guests come to town, my adrenaline rush is pretty high. I've been working towards their visit, planning where they'll go, what they'll see, who they'll meet, and arranging the logistics to keep their day moving. Since the guests yesterday were good acquaintances (not yet at the level of friends), and their good word would help or hinder future activities, I had to make sure that they were kept busy and productive.

A lot of their time was spent going from school to school. I didn't try to overload their schedule, since I wanted them time to meet with students and the counselors, plus enough breaks in between for traffic and any timing problems that may occur in a day. Luckily, the biggest delay happened early on in the day, when C went to Reedley from Manila, after she dropped J and me off at St. Scholastica's. When we met up with her at Reedley, they still had a good hour to get to ISManila.

School visits are always a big question mark from the time I set them up to the time the presentations start. I run the gamut of hope, disappointment or gratitude, irritation and finally release when I prepare for them. I'd rather wait until the school just says "please come over to talk to the students" rather than call them or fax to find out if they have time to meet with international guests.

Maybe I just hate to be told No you can't come over. That always means setting up more appointments to hedge against the ones that cancel at the last minute.

But a good visit can be worth a lot of goodwill and future support, so I keep pressing on, being thankful for the little blessings, and never without a backup plan.

J and C sent over a very nice bouquet to thank me for the work yesterday. It sits in the library, wafting a gentle but persistent fragrance throughout the room. Makes me think of going to Dangwa tonight for flower shopping.

On another note, I will get to see the new townhouse later tonight. I'll take the MRT from Makati and test the timing on public transportation. And of course if I can find the place. I was last there in January, so I'll have to see if I can remember how to get there.

I am toooooo tired to think or work today. I sent off one set of letters and have half-heartedly answered emails from students and parents. What I need is a day of sleep, and I may get some sleep time on Saturday morning before I go register for class.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies