Monday, March 30, 2009

Excuse me

I don't like whining, and I especially hate travellers who can't seem to find anything good about a place (you know those types, the I only eat at fast food joints because I know their names back home, why is everything around here dirty, why does everyone not speak english types). I won't be spending much time focusing on the negatives, but I figure a bit of exasperation at how things work here in the land of tea and rice won't be taken against me (and hopefully no blog blocking on the part of the local censors).
I told several friends before I left that my biggest concern was having a clean toilet, a western toilet preferably, and to my eternal gratitude the gods have been good so far. My office has clean, sanitized options, both Western and squat. And the hotel I am staying at for the first few days has a western toilet.
The hotel itself, well, it could be several notches better. It seriously needs a carpet upgrade, are those cigarette burns everywhere? And I forgot how much I would be surrounded by smokers here, they smoke in the bus (right in front of the No Smoking sign - it's in chinese, no way for them to plead ignorance), they smoke in the elevator, they smoke in their rooms. I'm girding myself to bitchslap the first student who tries to light up in class. Well, castigate, in really nice but stern tones. I am practicing my steely gaze as I write this.
The city's taxi system is unusually strict. Taxis can only go in a particular direction and if you ask them to go the other way, they tell you to cross the road and grab a cab on the other side. I asked the ladies here at work and they explained that it would cost me more if I tried to make the cabbies turn around, so at least that's one lesson learned so far. I'm still trying to make heads or tails of the bus system, the buses look rather swiffy, none of the old russian buses that I used to push my way in (because the old chinese ladies would push their way in, sticking their elbows into your ribs to grab leverage) way back in the early 90's. Chinese cabbies are crazy, they definitely push their boundaries when it comes to weaving in and out of traffic. Back in Xiamen, we saw a particularly intense accident, a bus crashed into the center aisle metal rail. Glass everywhere, the bumper and front grill looked beyond repair. I think I had better increase my death and dismemberment insurance when I go home in a few months time.
Wenzhou boomed due to the industrial growth of the last 8 years; its vicinity to Shanghai made it very popular for companies that build small parts for practically everything. Fashion, cars, machinery, office equipment. Somewhere in the flatlands towards the west, there was a factory built just to make some tiny hinge by the thousands. Migrant workers flooded in, and the city grew exponentially. The folks who grew rich off the proletariats backs now drive around in beamers, porsches, and range rovers galore. A walk around town yesterday was quite eye opening. There's money in these hills, although the economic downturn is hitting everyone hard. Exports are going to be double digit percentage points lower than last year, so those cars may not be on the road for much longer.
The main shopping drag, Five Horses Street and the offshoot alley, First Bridge, is full of the least essential items on the face of the earth. Ok, maybe the diva editor in the Devil Wore Prada would disagree with me, but do the citizens of this city really need store after store of deconstructed sack like dresses, jeans, handbags, shoes with ruffles on the heel, and undergarments?
I am thrilled that I can spend a few kuai for dvds; without access to english news, I know that knowing a few stores that will feed my need for mindless entertainment will be a godsend. I already got a copy of Doubt and SATC (extended cut). I should have quite the collection in a few months.
Oh and speaking of eating in fast food joints, I must hang my head in shame that I caved in and ate at the KFC by the train station. But if there's any reason to gloat, the KFC here serves fantastic egg tarts! Macau, schmacau, I don't need to fly/train/bus my down south for flaky, eggy, creamy tarts! Yahoo!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Onward ho

My bags are packed. Am I ready to go? Not as wholeheartedly as I used to be, I think it's a part of the aging process, the reluctance to move again, create a new home in a new place, make new friends. Over three years ago, I moved to a new house, but that wasn't too far from where I used to live. This time around, I've packed boxes up, sorted through the accumulated junk of three years (how did I manage to surround myself with all this stuff???), and put my pets up with my folks. I do feel bad for my mom, since I can see with new eyes how much all her kids (myself included) have dumped on her everytime we move house or country. I do hope I won't take too long to gather all my detritus from her cabinets and dispose of them properly.

The only thing on my Hope For list is a working, clean Western style bathroom wherever I end up. I don't have high expectations, knowing what I know... but I'm a positive thinker.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Crowning (oily) glory

Personal hygiene, washing, showering, shampooing, feeling squeaky clean. Are they all crock? An article states that washing everyday is not as healthy as it seems. I can't imagine not shampooing daily, the few times I have been forced not to lather up always ends up feeling like I want to tear my hair out of my head.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Breakfasts for the not quite a champion

It wasn't a plan of any kind, but perhaps seeing a great post about hearty provincial breakfasts made me yearn for something more hearty and filling than a cracker and Yakult (which has been my go to, I'm starving at 9 am, and forgot to eat something again, and my eyes are starting to roll in the back of my head because I forgot to eat...). Friday morning, I left home early to avoid traffic which meant hours twiddling my fingers, or doing something a bit more productive like checking emails at a nearby cafe with good breakies. Apartment 1B has become a good place to eat and meet friends and write, a cosy neighborhood nook full of great tastes and smells. I normally order eggs benedict when I'm there, but I decided to think about what I really wanted to eat as I scanned the menu. And there it was, waffles. With a side of bacon please. Blood pressure be damned. It was a great choice, the mini-wells in the waffles captured more of the maple syrup and the bacon, oh, how I wish I could have more of that bacon. Crispy. Shatteringly crispy. And not runty bacons. No, these were long streaks of bacon, a long pig sacrificed itself for those three strips. Worthy of those four wedges of maple dressed waffles. And a hot chocolate.

Saturday, I had oatmeal.

Sunday was originally scheduled for a quick trip to the Lung Center where I'd mosey around the fruits and vegetables but seriously thinking only about hot bibingka, but catching up on a lack of sleep meant foregoing the early rise and redirecting myself towards Cubao where I spontaneously chose Cafe Adriatico over Krispy Kreme. And running down the list of breakfasts on the menu, I thought the Fisherman's breakfast seemed a healthier choice than the litany of porky items, and other tasty sundries. The Fishermen who eat at CA will enjoy a large serving of "smoked sardines" ie tuyo, with munggo topped with chicharon, a red egg and tomato salad, saba bananas cooked in sugar, and coffee or tea. What I didn't know was that their munggo had a secret healthy ingredient - ampalaya! Argh. Would I manage to eat the bitter fruit on a Sunday, and in the morning at that? I recalled the early years when I was told to eat my ampalaya because it was good for me; I'd cut them into the tiniest strips imaginable to avoid eating them, because dicing them up and moving them around the plate made them seem to disappear in a child's logical frame of mind. I paused for awhile looking at the scalloped crescents of green, hard to miss those for sure. I could spoon the munggo and the chicharon and leave the slices piled up in the bowl... nah. Thankfully they were not too bitter, and worked admirably well with the smoked sardines (Tuyo! they're called tuyo, Cafe Adriatico menu writers!). And it made me feel like I was eating a lot healthier than I would have if I had given in to my wishes for tapa, or KK next door.

Another early morning wake up call today, and I wandered around Makati thinking where to wait before going to the doctor? I popped into a health food cafe in RCBC building and ordered the Power Breakfast combination of muesli with vegetable omelet, which comes with a plate of fresh fruit and tea/coffee. Not a bad deal and the omelet was just the right size, with a large bowl of muesli and truly fresh fruit (the mangoes were perfectly sweet). I think I prefer the cafe's set over what gets served downstairs at Deli France. Plus I had the place all to myself!

What breakfasts will I turn to next? I still have lots of crackers and yakult though...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend plan

6am - Oatmeal
7am - walk dog
8am - open house for book sale
9am - bring dog to vet
10 am to 2pm - urge friends to keep buying books
3pm - chocolate tasting
5pm - bring dog to my parents
7pm - dinner

7am - lung center market (bibingka!)
9am - PAWS
12 noon - lunch
1 pm to 7 pm - book sale at home
evening - spa

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Morning shocker

I went to the doctor for a check up and was given bad news - my blood pressure is way too high. Both systolic and diastolic are higher than I've ever seen before, and the worst part is that I've sensed the changes internally. So while it was shocking to see the actual numbers, I wasn't in disbelief. I could feel when I'd have a harder time catching my breath while climbing the stairs, I felt the impact of the heat of the summer, I have had a harder time sleeping. Stress the last few months bearing down on me and feeling like a vise.
I have the tools to change things. I can eat healthier, exercise, and meditate. Will it be so easy to turn things around? I know it's possible, and it just requires a few tweaks to my schedule. I don't want to be taking drugs to lower my bp, so I must change the inside with the tools I have outside. Reading up on alternative measures, I see I have to add more celery and garlic to the diet, and use that 20 to 30 minutes I waste lollygagging in bed in the morning (telling myself to get out of bed and go to work) meditating and working on breathing exercises. That's a start.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Four meals with four friends

Litany of tastes on the last Saturday of February:
1. Kanin Club, Paseo de Sta. Rosa. Pair the crispy dinuguan with the thai green mango salad. And the crunchy tadyang works well with the sigarillas cooked bicol express style. The patola cooked in olive oil was a light dish, a good counterpoint to all the meaty yumminess on the table, good with tapa. Don't order the all you can eat rice, it's pure gluttony and you never ask for a refill anyway. Unfortunately, the sticky rice with mango was more a miss than a hit. They used regular rice, and it didn't taste like it was cooked in coconut milk.
What I would like to try if I go back: the crispy binagoongan and the seafood karekare.
2. Il Gallo Nero - we had a pizza for merienda, thin crust, had the specialty of the house with arugula and prosciutto. A good find in a somewhat far from the main center of town location. The Tuscan chef is no longer connected with the place, no idea if the rest of the menu stands up to the test. But if you're returning from Nasugbu and are hungry with the munchies, then stop at the Alfonso hotel, and grab a pie.
3. Bawai - we overordered. Prior to going, we had been given too many instructions (no space, then space became available, then told to order by text, told that the only items available were down to six items, then given different instructions that the entire menu was available, and then when we did text in the order, asked for more clarity regarding who was ordering what. I was not impressed so far.). Good thing the place turned out to be charming, the food, mostly good, and the people and service much faster than we had been told it would be. Because of the jolly to and fro-ing of the instructions, we ended up ordering too many ribs, an extra order of the chicken, and we probably only needed one bowl of pho. But the flavors were enchanting, the broth on the mark. I'd want more caramelization in the chicken and the pork ribs could use more oomph. High marks for the fresh rolls and the sausages (which a friend of a friend told us not to order) were much better than we had expected (never listen to someone who doesn't like adventurous eating, they always fail.).
4. Chateau Hestia - we'd been eating since noon, and by 9 pm, we were all distended. But foodies never back down from a challenge, and we walked a few meters in the dark to the neighboring bistro for dessert and some dalandan-celo (-cello?). The grand marnier gelato was lovely with a shot of the vin d'orange, but the hot chocolate drink was lacking any depth of flavor or texture. The panna cotta with passion fruit puree was lovely. The dalandan/calamansi liquor was a bit too astringent, strong on the palate. Very cleansing after all that food we had during the day. The surroundings are likewise pleasant, I would like to see the place during the day, enjoy a summer picnic on the lawn, and try the lamb.

We spent Sunday eating less heavy meals, the only bit that we failed to achieve was missing out on bacon waffles for breakfast, but the steak pies at Bag of Beans hit the spot on an overcast afternoon. Good bacon and fries there too.

Back to my regular eating schedule...

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies