Monday, July 31, 2006

Get up and go back

A recent acquaintance sent me an email: "I really didn't like the last minute planning and the poor scheduling of my job, including 2 last minute travels. That was not a part of what I was told before coming here. So now I've gone back to (insert country of residence here)."

The person in question was recently sent here to work, and then upped and left within 5 weeks. I'm sure there was more to it than the sentence above, but it seems that the action was taken without much preamble. Leaves a few questions in my mind, the first being, would I ever do that? Just turn around and walk away from a job? And if I were being posted overseas, pack my bags and fly home?

I can understand not agreeing with the job description, or feeling conflicted with the way things are being handled. But I would probably negotiate the terms first and find a way to come to some amicable solution. Perhaps I'm just a peaceable kind of gal. Try not to rock the boat till it's absolutely certain things aren't going to work. Then I'd leave. After a 15 day notice. Tidy my things, make sure my fish tank was ready for the move.

In my first post back in Manila, I worked with Ann, she was a consultant for our program and had been living in Manila so long she knew the jeepney routes better than most Pinoys. I believe her husband was also working for a USAID project, so they had been settled for sometime, but with the knowledge that one day they'd have to leave. Ann kept a couple of guppies in her fishtank, and over the two years I worked with her they stayed healthy and happy. She told me it was the combination of the fresh aquatic plants and the snails (yes, live snails) that would clean the tank walls. No need for an oxygen filtration system. All organic.

When Ann's husband's contract was over, she, too, followed suit. But what to do with the fish and the tank? As I was the only one who seemed to have any interest in taking care of the thing, she passed it on to me. 6 years later, the guppies are long gone, as are 8 other fish who lived and died in that tank. The longest lasting fish was a male orange fish (I assume it was male as was told to me by the fish store), who, living on his own, was accused by my work mates and friends of being seriously deprived of female companionship. Rather they accused me of depriving him of a life. Well, it seemed to give him longevity. He lasted 4 years swimming solo.

My fishtank is currently occupied by the plants and the snails, sans fish. I've been meaning to replace my orange fish, but as he had kept me company, silent though he was, I feel it might be traitorous to plop a new fish in so soon. At least a year's mourning would be proper form in memory of fish.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cold quiche, rainy Sunday

The title says it all. Not wanting to go out and find a restaurant, I've resorted to munching on a cold slice of vegetarian quiche (quiche a les legumes I think it was sold as), followed by a small bag of the last of the free Holy Kettle Corn popcorn. The weather report outside is a medium grey sky, rain and more rain, puddles galore.

Yesterday, after a morning workshop at the office, I met up with J and J, who couldn't decide where they wanted to have lunch. We ended up at Grappa's in Greenbelt 3, our feet wet from dashing through the flooded Legaspi-De La Rosa corner, soothing our dampened souls with cold beer, smoked salmon and a vegetarian pizza. J bemoaned the problems at work, the other J regaled us with his recent trip around Oceania and tempted us with an offer of a free hotel room in Guam and Palau at the end of August (dearly tempted but I do have a dive trip coming up around that time).

We wandered through Avant to look at cameras, cellphones and other appliances, before heading to Powerbooks to listen to David Sedaris, writer of Naked, Me Talk Pretty, and other collections of essays. I prefer his book Dressing Your Family in Corduroy (as I don't have the books in front of me, I am probably not writing the titles out, may edit eventually, but not just yet). I listened in to his reading and chat for 10 minutes but had to drag myself away to meet T/L for a movie. The bit I caught was a delight and the folks over at Bruno's Barbershop should get Mr. Sedaris to do an ad for them.

After the movie, J was still waiting to get his book signed, he was number 270 out of 350+ fans. I rejoined him and we had some coffee and extremely stiff cinnamon rolls while we waited it out. As photographs were not allowed, I only managed to catch J leaning into the signing table while David Sedaris signed the books on my camera/cellphone. Naturally, J didn't like the photo, saying it was a photo of an ass, clad in black. Such gratitude! However, he was quite pleased as he had been able to chat with the author who even gave him his address in Paris, plus offered the information that he'd be in Vancouver in October (Vancouver being J's second home). I had to bring J back to earth by reminding him that David Sedaris' partner, Hugh, was also in the audience, and is amazingly cute. Mental bitch slap of sorts.

This makes the second celeb book signing that I've attended, Neil Gaiman being the first, and have not had one book signed.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Winnings, et al

7 months down, 5 more to go and 2006 has been a year of small winnings. I've won free tickets to movies, a chance to go to HK (didn't win the big prize, but I was close), and now, free popcorn. A comment on another blog led to free bags of popcorn. What a sweet deal, and now I'm a happy popcorn muncher. I made a bet against a friend, won a pint of ice cream. Won gift certificates to see the World Cup.

As kids, my siblings and I filled out reams of contest stubs from the supermarket, never won a thing. As a young adult, I'd be filled with visions of what I'd do with the millions won from a lottery jackpot after placing a $1 bet on the line. Winnings: zero.

My luck usually held in cases of riding crazy cabs around China and the rest of S. East Asia, the worst accident was getting grazed near Landmark recently. However, I've had a couple of bad fender benders when I used to drive in the US. And in both cases, my car was parked and I'd come back to find a dent in the trunk, so I never even got to find out who was the malefactor involved (such jerks, they never even left a note to apologize).

If, as the philosophers say, there is always balance in life, should I dream and hope that a billion dollars will fall on my lap? What would be taken from me in that case? A life of a loved one? Deterioration of health? WW3?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Glenda has swept the air clean, Manila post typhoon can be a great place to be, air quality a bit better than normal, cooler, less sulfurous.

The last couple of days haven't been easy on the ears though, the sound of the rain outside my bedroom window reminded me of the sound of waterfalls, taking the boat on a Niagara Falls trip and getting as close to the rush as possible. The intensity of the water, the wave after wave of pounding against the trees and rooftops.

According to the weather report, the typhoon hit Batanes yesterday, signal number 3. What must it be like, to sit inside a stone house, watching the wind howl through the landscape, surrounded by the theatre of falling rain, and hoping the house stays firm. Cold, a bit musty inside the house, the smell of smoke from a fire inside the house. And at night, dark, but the monster continues to batter and beat the earth to bits outside.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Argentina regrets he's unable to lunch today

Saturday, July 22, La Grotta, Makati. Countries represented: Thailand, Russia, the United States (by default), S. Africa, Portugal, and the Philippines. We had expected Argentina to join us, but he was in Iligan.

8 people, 6 countries. Not bad for a simple lunch, organized on the spot. Cam and I had thought of having lunch, then I invited a couple of people, she invited a couple of people and when we gathered, there we were, the world. Sitting in a little bistro off the main business center of Makati. A new guy from Argentina who had been invited to the lunch had to fly to Iligan for a business trip and couldn't make it. We'd have had 5 of the 7 continents represented if he had.

As I was the only one of the group who had had lunch there previously, I felt a bit of responsibility for their gustatory welfare and enjoyment. While most of the dishes were ok, the service that day was below par and we had to suffer through so many reports from the kitchen that this dish was unavailable, or that dish was no longer available. Golly. I did reprimand our server, the brother to the cook. We had made reservations, we got there early, we even ordered early on, yet our food was the last to arrive among the other guests and the irritation of having to re-order. Luckily no one was of the temperament that requires extensive mollifying. However, it was a severe disappointment, the only damper to our appetites.

I'm sure La Grotta has it's good days, and I had a good meal there on an earlier occasion. But it is always such a hit or miss proposition, eating out in this city. And when you have guests, and guests from all over, it would be nice to just enjoy a meal without resorting to bitching or worrying about quality and service.

Of course, in the Cole Porter song I'm taking advantage of, the main character ends up in a far sorrier position. It's all relative.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Chocolate shell

Was it a mere 12 months or so ago that I heard about Polly's? It was either on the list of 10 best desserts that Lori of Dessert First mentioned it. Or it may have been at my friend D's place in Magallanes, as he'd pick up a box at the gas station nearby. Whichever the source, the cake, a rich, moist, fudge chocolate cake has become our office's cake of choice for birthdays and on days like today (sky alert: grey to front of us, grey to the right and left of us. Horrid.).

Days like today start off badly, late wake up, rushing to work through snailpace traffic, groggily going through the emails, shocked to find one has an appointment back on the other side of town in less than 45 minutes, and having to miss breakfast and any form of nutritional intake for at least another 4 hours. Throbbing headache or at least the sense of one just under the surface of your temple keeps you from feeling a smidgen of positivism. A good sleep is all it needs to get you back on your feet.

Chocolate cake, sunshine in a small brown box. That's all it took to make one very bleak day into something worth smiling about. Polly's, now available in your neighborhood Shell gas station.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


4 a.m., my phone beeps, I press on the button thinking it's my alarm. It's a message. From some unknown number, with lots of numbers that tell me it's not a Philippine cell phone. I have the phone screen about an inch from my nose (still haven't found my glasses so I'm as blind as a bat), and try to read the message: Per chi non lo avesse saputo altrimenti: alle 15:23 e nato gabriele. Molti baci simona

Eh? What? I find my glasses, turn on the light and read it again. And again, until it finally dawns on me, Simona! She's given birth! And her new son is named Gabriele. How joyous for her and Gigi. Plus her first son Matteo is now a big brother. Sweet and happy news.

Another light erupts in my central cortex (apologies to the brain doctors who are cringing at the misnomer), Matteo and Gabriele. Matthew and Gabriel. Golly. That does bring me back. 7th and 8th grade to be exact. The Mayor brothers, longest lashes on the face of the earth, the first Argentines I had met. Made me want to call Patty in Minneapolis right there. But I didn't.

So to Simona and Gigi, their two new angels, warm Manila greetings to you all. Sante.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I never thought you'd be into this sort of thing

First impressions are very important, they set a standard for what people think of you. If the relationship continues, the first impression is layered over by more information, sensations, experiences together. The deeper a relationship goes, the more you know of someone, and are less likely to feel surprised at something they do. Or it could come as a complete shock when they do something that goes against the grain of what you think their personality is.

In the last month, friends who have known me for a couple of years or so have commented (with increasing irritation on my part) that they wouldn't have taken me for a football fan, or a sports fan of any kind. Amusedly they say in one form or another "I never knew you were into soccer/football/World Cup" . While I've laughed it off, it makes me think of what else would someone say "I didn't know you were into this" if they knew about me. And likewise, what would make me ask that question to someone I know now.

Double withdrawal needs extreme distraction

Cole Porter's song "I get a kick out of you" is playing in my mind, primarily the line "I get no kick from cocaine" - that line sometimes gets edited out by the conservative factions. I don't get a kick from any drug, and it's no time to toss my hat into the drug lifestyle. When I'm sick, I try to see if water therapy will do instead of taking meds. But the option of taking narcotics leaves me cold. Life's too full of surreal moments and pure pleasure to color it with anything else.

However, drugs aren't the only things in life that push our emotional or psychological buttons. And getting over anything, even the most frivolous of addictions, takes one through a period of withdrawal, that low after the high, the feeling of incapacity and imbalance. Wanting to reconnect to the rush but there's nothing there to latch on to. If there's anything that emphasizes the solitude of life, that we are born into this world alone and will die alone, it's the understanding of withdrawal that has come upon me at this time.

The World Cup is a frivolous pursuit, it won't cause lasting peace for mankind, nor will I figure out the answer to life's question (it won't even advance the right question for us to answer). But it is a wonderful way to enjoy one month every four years, to bond with other fellow fans, discuss the minutiae of the player's, the games, even the referees who have to go into psychotherapy to overcome guilt of sending off players. And as it's only a short few weeks, I immediately jump into the fray and then find myself agonizing through the motions afterwards. When I was 12 and 16, I mooned about for months after the finals. Ran through all the newspapers for articles on the Argentina players, and cut up anything news worthy. Typical teenage infatuation. These days, I have work to get me through the next few weeks.

Getting over an affair is another withdrawal moment. I found myself twitchy for two weeks, waiting for news about him, wondering why I was still looking for emails or YM contact when I had dismissed him. It took a mutual friend's anger over his irresponsibility (on an issue that had nothing to do with the relationship) to settle my nerves. Seeing him in an unflattering light was a good way to douse some of the smoldering embers. I felt sorry for him, but also found myself annoyed that he was being a jerk to his friends.

If I had the money to waste, I'd distract myself with travel. I'd fly to Melbourne and Sydney, then Auckland and Christchurch, before a couple days in Bali. I'd buy books, cheese, shoes, and a new digital camera; days in a spa, taking in the landscapes and cityscapes. It would be at least a month of distraction, spent without a care in the world.

But as I'm a regular joe schmoe, I'll have to distract myself with the what I have on hand - school, work, house upkeep, garden upkeep, and not bothering friends with my moping. Return to the mundane.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Staying awake for blue and white

Tonight is the final game of the World Cup 2006. Germany has had a successful run as a team and as a host. After 4 weeks, 32 teams, over 100 goals, penalties, yellow and red cards (did portugal get the most number of both?), it's down to Italy vs France. Both teams normally wear blue, but that would only confuse us, the viewers, not to mention the teams. So France will wear white, as decided by the gods of FIFA, and the azzuris will wear blue. I'm sure there's a reason they've been wearing blue for all this time, but given the Italian flag colors, it doesn't make as much sense as it seems.

I'm typing this at a internet cafe, and have plans to watch the game with a few valiant friends who aren't football crazy but who agreed to watch with me. We have a room at Red Box in Greenbelt and even got a gift certificate to watch the games. Not a freebie of a room, but it will be less expensive in the long run. Afterwards, I plan to hit a nice hotel buffet breakfast, then head home to sleep it all off. Perfectly timed, I have Monday off, and won't have to try to look half-awake throughout the day.

If either team wins, I'll be happy for them. The Italians are facing so much back home with the match fixing debacle that winning the cup would help them deal with the mess. The French team would also enjoy the end of the run of Zidane, a fitting finish to a fantastic player. Both countries would probably enjoy the momentary relief from their internal troubles if their teams win.


go azzuris.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Avocado mush

As a child, the only avocados we would eat were liberally whipped up with milk and sugar, at times frozen for that pseudo-ice cream feel, but mostly eaten straight up, no fuss dessert. I wasn't that keen on it though. Avocados have a unusual sweet and savory mouth feel. A meaty fruit, full of fat, but good fats, especially if you want to lubricate your joints. I could have cared less about my joints as a 10 year old. Thus avocados never joined the top of my favorite fruits.

Over time, I was introduced to the savory aspect of avocados, mostly guacamole or as a sliced ingredient in a salad. Again, they never found a spot in my heart. It took a trip to San Antonio, Texas, to change how I viewed guacamole. Watching the handmade preparation and sheer love given to the dish, all the while told about how the ingredients meld to make a delicious puree for more than a mere tortilla chip. And it was delicious. And I learned to love the avocado.

Nowadays, avocados are all over the markets, some markets offering better fruits than others. I especially like to find the just ripened avocados at Salcedo market on Saturday. They aren't rock hard or look like they'd be best used as ballast for a ship. They're firm, not mushy, but a gentle press against the skin shows they're ready to eat.

Cutting them open, the meat is a clean green color, and without any blotches. It's creamy and ready for my fork. I don't use a blender or any special mashing instruments, just a fork. Before hand, I've crushed some garlic, chopped some jalapeno peppers, minced the cilantro and onions, and juiced some lime (plus grated the zest of a lemon). Some rock salt and black pepper, and I'm ready to blend it all together. It makes for a lovely mix, and I'm spooning it over my salad or eating it straight with freshly cut carrots or radish chips. I like my guacamole spicy, and that will sometimes mean no one else can or will eat it. Heehee, more for me!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Moving things around

Space, the final frontier. Or in my case, the chance to create a den, full of books, where I can look out on a tree lined street and contemplate the movement of the clouds overhead.

The second bedroom will be free by the end of the month and I'll have a new room to move things into. And that includes a few banigs, my futon mattress which will serve as a sofa/bed, of course my books. I can also bring over more of my books from my parents' place as I now have more space!!!!

I will lose some of the free art that A had put up, but over time I will find something for that. I'll put in some plants upstairs. Maybe a tea set.

And perhaps, a cat! Feline companionship again.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Futbol dreams at an end for another four years

Penalty kicks are the bane of my Argentine soul. As soon as the Germany vs Argentina game went into a penalty shootout, I knew the dreams of this World Cup were over. S. Africa here we come. And that doees mean another crazy schedule trying to catch the games, as S. Africa is along the same time zone as Germany and most of Europe.

I'm of two minds whether to spend the time to watch the games this week. My team is out, and all I can hope for is that Germany doesn't make it. Any team but Germany is my motto now. Out of the four, I'd prefer Portugal, they haven't won a WC trophy, and this is as close as they've come in decades. The resurrected French team is up and about now that they've kicked Brazil from the semi's, and it would be a nice farewell to Zizou to bring it back across the border. And those beautiful boys in Italy would look nice on the winner's platform (they haven't played well this year, so I highly doubt their chances, but they've been lucky so far, and luck can play a big part in a championship). So any team but Germany please!

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies