Monday, June 29, 2009

24 hours

I'm no Jack Bauer, wouldn't sacrifice my life for the sitting President, and my real question is, when does he ever go to the toilet. Why don't tv dramas ever show anyone going to the bathroom? Eating, sleeping, they are there, but never the throne.
In the next 24 hours, I will prepare to leave again. Finally. Two week delay nonewithstanding, it's been a vacation, with some productivity thrown in. Three weekends of dog training, completed one knitting project, ate a lot of things I won't get in China, and read, read, read.
Google is out of sorts in China, I even read that people can't access gmail. Returning to the vacuum.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Get off my chest!

Some things that I just have to write before they take over my subconscious, I don't want any of these things making weird insinuations in my dreams so best to just write them and be done with them, right? Akin to last song syndrome, I better speak now or forever be stuck with them.

In no particular order, or importance:
*Jon and Kate - boo. You have 8 kids who are going to suffer. Put them out of their misery and get real jobs and real lives and get off the tv.
*deaths all around - while I feel for Ed, everyone's focusing on MJ, while FF is off the radar. Pity she and RO'N didn't get hitched, or maybe it's best she didn't.
*the citizens of S. Carolina should impeach their governor, he's a wimp and a hypocrite. Crying in Argentina, double boo. And his wife, seriously? You'd take him back?
*am incensed at the news that the local government has passed a bill to allow greyhound racing in the country, and I do hope by petitioning those dolts, it won't push through. However, the case against the dolphin show in Subic was tossed out, so knowing our lovely government who cares not a whit for animal wellbeing, it will not be easy to sway them not to allow the poor dogs to be run to death, abused, and worse.
*what is it with the increasing number of incorrectly used prepositions all around? I see it in the road signs, tv ads, it's becoming a real annoyance to me anyway. I know most people don't give a rat's ass. Must learn to turn my eyes away.

And what is it about coincidences that lead me to temptation, deliver me from evil damnit! Argh, two sightings that raise thoughts I would like to put aside, one indirect, but one so near I could have touched it. Shivers me timbers, I'm glad I had things to do and didn't give into my first instinct. I may hear the devil on my shoulder but I don't give in, maybe that's why I keep gaining weight though....
Have read with trepidation that Google is under attack by the mainland government, the latter complaining about all the sexual references online, but I will assume it's to "clean up" house before the 60th birthday of the government. I will also have to assume that once I'm there again, whenever that happens, I will not have access to my blog, I begin to wonder if I shouldn't have a backup blog, somewhere else online that I can access that won't be blockaded by government censors. Of course a written, paper-pencil journal will do, and I have many a notebook filled with my illegible jottings. There's always Facebook of course.
I feel a bit like those seafarers between sojourns on board their rickety ships; doing the rounds of all the food places I won't be seeing for awhile, reading as much as I can, tramping up and down favorite spots, playing with the pets, writing, reviewing what I should add to my very bored list of clothing, adding to my dvd collection. There is also a sense of what to path to take next, should this episode not take fruit. What will I end up exploring? Dog training? A job with commercial, ie financial, opportunities? Beach tramp? The possibilities seem endless, if one knows where to look.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday rapture

On a blazing hot Friday, I run through the city taking care of errands, paying bills that are long overdue, bringing the dog to the vet for a check-up, having shoes fixed, going down the list of things to bring before I leave, calling the travel agent one more time to check if it's all ok this time. Sigh. I head to one of my regular cafes for a lunch fix and am slightly disappointed with what I have to eat, but the disappointment doesn't sit long, as I'm engrossed, absolutely engrossed in what I'm reading. East of Eden, Steinbeck, he is a god! My goodness, this is amazing stuff, am truly enthralled with his realism, the quirky moments of side stories cutting through the rich batter of his main story, that of the Trasks and Hamiltons. I don't want to rush it, but I think I'll be raring to finish the several hundred pages I have to finish soon. She's just shot him in the shoulder, leaving him and his twins to suffer!

I stand from my lunch table and head in an aimless direction, attracted by the prints in the window; a salesman calls out to come into his store, but I veer into the bakery instead, Jipan, known for it's murphy bread (or is it muffin bread??), a buttery flaky brioche, good for french toast. I cursorily scan the stacks, see some samples on a lower shelf (someone needs to tell the owner how to make her display more appealing), sample something a bit dry and am about to move on when a small sign catches my attention. "Kouin aman", could it be? I see a small sample available to taste, I bite, it's sticky, crunchy, buttery. Oh my. Yes it is. David Lebovitz wrote out a recipe for Kouign Amann in 2005, and here it is in front of me, a few pieces hidden among a large tray of other bready morsels. I buy two of them, along with some large pain de chocolat and what looks like a cinnamon loaf with almonds. I'm carbo loading tonight!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Keeping my eyes peeled

Sign number one: 8th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day shares the banner space with the 110th anniversar of the Siege of Baler. I learned about what took place in Baler due to the movie that was released in one of the recent local film festivals. Spanish soldiers were under siege by Filipino troops during the war for independence, the Filipinos starved the Spanish out in the church located in the town of Baler (Pampanga?), and their final surrender after months stuck inside the church highlighted the final straw of Spanish control of our first set of colonizers. I find it interesting that they'd use the siege as a counterpoint to the friendship day between the two nations. Is it a bit of a poke in our previous rulers ribs? Or simply the lack of political tact?

Sign number two: SM San Juan (I didn't know SM had a mall in San Juan!) is on sale over a few days this month, but the sign I saw on Ramon Magsaysay Blvd doesn't highlight the mall sale, it states "SALE City of San Juan Selected items..." - if I wasn't paying close attention I would not have seen the logo of SM. Is the city of San Juan not doing that well then? Or have the Estradas decided it's better to have Henry Sy's consortium raise funds for the city?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dusting off

Father's Day, 2009. When did we become so overwrought over fake holidays? Is it Valentine's Day's fault that we now kowtow to specific days? Or is Hallmark to blame?
In any case, we're off to a FD dinner, which is also an excuse to see how tall the kids have grown, eat too much, and be grumpy later because the favorite tv show was missed (that'll be my mother).
Before I return to the mothership up north, I am revelling in the books I have left from my booksale in February and March. I still have a good number of books left, although I culled the ones I sold carefully, and also portioned some for the consignment store. My mother found an unused bookshelf to stock the books I left behind, with a smaller number stuffed into an old cabinet. I spend a good couple of hours each day, pulling one book or another out, reading a few chapters, feeling a sense of urgency since I know I won't be surrounded by my babies in a few days.
Another baby I abandoned (yes, she is feeling abandoned I tell you!) is my feline companion, who noticeably ignored me when I first got home, but finally deigned to stay with me yesterday, while I puttered about the house. She and the other cat (who is getting very old, but is quite feisty, doesn't enjoy having to share her turf) hiss and snarl when they get within 3 feet of each other, so there's a sense of detente when we know one is approaching the other. Nothing untoward ever happens, they simply express the antipathy of seeing one another, and then one stalks away, ever so upset of the encroachment. I slowly guide my cat into my shared space, and try to keep her occupied for a few hours, including making sure she's not flea bitten. Granted, she's not the most amiable creature, but I do miss her pumpkin/raccoon like features when I'm doing nada in my Chinese abode. Not her hair all over the place, but definitely her presence and her zen like state even in the most distressful times.
The puppy, who isn't so much a puppy as a young female dog, ie bitch, is going back for her uncasting tomorrow, the removal of her cast, the removal of her collar, and hopefully a really good bath. We can't get her cast wet, so we're stuck wiping her down, combing, but the eau de pooch is getting worse. I want to make sure she is in less odorous state before I go. Plus I must decide, snip or not to snip? She had her first mens a couple of months back, and she's likely to go a bit delirious with hormonal changes, not that she has the companionship of any male doggies; if she were to get pregnant, it would likely make my mother fall down to her knees in belief of immaculate conception. And she's not likely to tell me about it either, just like the dog's accident.
Stopped by Legaspi Market this morning, wandered through the stalls to find things to try before I go back. Now that I think about it, the week I left for China in March was punctuated by a trip the Legaspi market as well. Hmmm. Anyway, had chorizo paella, bought some chicken pate from Pamora, and decided to buy some avocados to make guac at home. Why I can't find avocados in China I don't know. Not native perhaps, and maybe the flavor just doesn't rock Chinese people's worlds. Not something I've ever seen in Chinese cuisine for sure, not even avocado shakes. Anyway, some lemon, cilantro, and jalapenos for good measure and I'll be double dipping myself tomorrow when it's all made.
I also bought two sheer embroidered kimonos, a steal for P800; I remember seeing something similar, but far more detailed and lush at a department store, not to mention leaps and bounds more expensive. I figure these loose tops will be a good way to punch up a pair of jeans. Good thing about kimonos: loose sleeves, a nice summery pick me up. A detour to the Aroomatherapy table for a ginger mist spritz and I think I'm ready to head back.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comfort food

I had what may have been the best chocolate mousse of my life yesterday at La Cabane. Lunch with K and J and A, watching the rains wash the streets clean, cosily ensconced by the window in plushy seats. K was not in tip-top dessert mood, and when faced with choices, we only got two - the mousse and the tarte tatin. I decided on the former by sheer chance of seeing it being served at another table. Over the years I've unfortunately tasted some pallid c/m's, usually lacking in any chocolate flavor, perhaps made with powdered chocolate, and kept firm with gelatin. Blech. La Cabane's c/m was a dark color, and when spooned, you could see the bounce of the eggwhite froth. The flavor was a rush of chocolate, with a hint of brandy or maybe cointreau; it didn't hit you in the face, it was subtle, a slinky taste on the palate. I could imagine eating cup of rich mousse when I've accomplished a good deed for myself, a sweet pat on the back.

That feeling of accomplishment is in short supply these days. My knitting project feels stalled, as the person helping me complete the project is out of town and I don't know how to wrap it up. And just when I thought I'd be done with the to-ing and fro-ing for my visa, there's another hiccup. I steel myself for more hiccups. But I may need a way to vent my frustration very soon. The last thing I need is an ulcer.

What I did discover through reading my last medical checkup details is that I have a fatty liver. My last blood pressure reading shows that I've recovered some ground from the higher than normal rate I noticed earlier this year, my diastolic is down to 80. But I will have to drink more tea, bitter foods like ampalaya, and reduce all the good tasty things in life while I coddle my liver back to health. Well, I can do that in China.

In the meantime, a slice of chocolate cake before I return to where there is no place for cake, or where they put full tomatoes on their cakes. And I may mash up some avocadoes for some guacamole goodness. Topped with bacon!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Staying up till 2 am with friends, bellybuster of a dinner, sleeping the day away (utter lack of anything to do), followed by munching on all the chocolate lace cookies, listening to podcasts on backlog, sleeping in the afternoon, watching a really boring BBC production of Mansfield Park, sleeping at 3 am, waking up at 10 realizing I'm running late for dog training, taking the dreaded step to get all my facial bumps removed, will I sleep early tonight or just attempt to wake up at 6 am tomorrow so I can go to the gym early in the morning, weighed in and found 2 lbs regained erp, not caring enough to skip pork bbq with garlic rice, guilty thoughts over buying a new pair of sandals that I'll have to lug back to China or it'll molder, stressed out over when the darn visa will be released, annoyed at the other visa that I'm going to cut up asap, what will my fb username be - ah go the whole hog, who cares anyway, more walking, less eating, well maybe a few times this week, catch up with friends, spent more on the face products than the procedure, search for cheapflight. More water, less caffeine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

All Sunday, all dog

Last Sunday, I joined my dog training group for a small reunion of sorts. The first batch of trainers were nearly all there, minus L and K, and joined the second batch of trainers to work with some of the new dogs, and for a special case - our very first behavioral analysis of one dog (with owners in attendance). JI plans to get us to build skills towards helping analyze what makes problem dogs tick and it was a great training day for those of us; I wish I could stay on and do more weeks with this side of the program. JI will also be setting up a training academy soon, I'd join it in a heartbeat if I wasn't out of the country.

We also had a mishap with one of the puppies, 9 weeks old, and very bright. I was holding the puppy, and it decided that it was a cat, and leaped out of my arms 4 feet down onto a hard tiled floor. It landed hard, and took a painful spill. We worried it was a dislocated shoulder, but after the vet took the x-ray, we learned it was a sprained muscle. Such relief. With my own dog all bound up and in a cast, I don't think I can take more animal mishaps.

Unfortunately, we witnessed the sorrow of another family whose 10 year old pet had to be put down; a failing kidney and deteriorating health forced them to the painful decision. Owner, yaya, all were keening with sorrow.

We ended the long day at E's home, eating ice cream and talking about the future, observing her own dogs and the new puppy she's training, who was confident and full of puppy joy. Before we left, she showed us just how confident she was, falling into the carp pond, but swimming ably to the side to get herself out of her own predicament if not for E coming to her rescue. I think the humans were far more concerned than the dog! E's black lab decided that a soggy puppy was the perfect patient for his ministering tongue, that dog is a bit OC when it comes to cleaning!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

There be stories

In the few days of being home, taking care of some of life's necessities, seeing friends, sharing stories, catching up with life, I have come to a few conclusions:

1. Life in China is a lot better now than it was 15 years ago. When I try to share what little I've learned about my life over the last two months have been like, some of the interesting social/anthropological issues I've encountered, I realize that I must preface it with comparing it to what I experienced when I was studying chinese over a decade ago in Xiamen. The then and now are stark. Where there were no roads, barely any infrastructure, few choices, and a lot less freedom to speak to locals, there are now large freeways, tall buildings sprouting like mushrooms, opportunity to satiate oneself with Asian and Western goods, and open social intercourse. I remember one German friend sharing her paranoia living in an industrial city fifteen years ago in the Western part of China, feeling shadowed every day, finding her things rifled. These days, the government has better things to do, and they prefer harassing foreigners by charging us fees because we are outsiders. Otherwise, it's just business, walang personalahan.

2. Fifteen years have brought changes to the cities, and to the people. They're still very conservative, mind you, and so many traditional ways have returned (or perhaps, like viruses, they were merely latent), but they are less likely to wear drab clothes - instead they've taken to shiny things like Gollum. The brighter, the fluffier, the tackier, the better! They'd paste the sequins on their forehead if they could. And for every brillo pad hairdo, there are tons more women who enjoy letting their tresses shine and glow with natural luster. We used to oggle the complicated superstructures some salesladies would twist their ringlets into, but I haven't seen any of those in a long time. The worst I've encountered so far this year was an older woman who had her bouffant teased, lacquered, and dyed; it looked like a dark blonde caramel candy bird's nest, which did nothing for the rest of her round body shape.

3. I have regular jaw dropping conversations, usually in class. It teaches me so much, and I do appreciate the honesty of those discussions. I won't exploit what the students tell me, it's not for titillation and gossip. They share because they are learning English and they answer my questions because I'm their teacher. They definitely enrich my world view, and understanding of how people think.

4. The China diet, for me, is a success. I weighed in at the gym yesterday, discovered I lost 10 lbs in 10 weeks, and that's including all the bags of potato chips (no, not the weird tasting ones) during feeling-sorry-for-myself moments. I should write a silly diet book: "Eat Potato Chips and Still Lose 10 lbs! Hahahaha! Seriously though, the biggest thrill has been the ability to wear a pair of brown pants that I thought I'd have to sell at the garage sale, I can button it up and there's a couple of inches allowance around the waist too. Yahoo! Chinese food may be one of the greatest culinary choices in the world, but the monotony of eating the same thing day in and day out will chisel away at your appetite.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Access is mine!!

It's been a few weeks since sites have been out of the loop in my corner of the world, it is assumed it was the lead in to the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen, and there's hope (of which I am full of no matter what) that when I go back I won't have to look frustrated at my pile of notes, unable to write and get stuff off my chest, for this is ultimately what my blog is, therapy! Heehee

I'm in Manila for a week or two, in what is called Step 3 of my work visa process. I was only informed it was called step 3 yesterday, in between getting off the night bus from Wenzhou to Xiamen, and waiting (to no avail) for documents I was told were on their way from another city. The documents will now be couriered to me in Manila, as I couldn't get the extension I was promised earlier. China's like that, raises your hopes, dashes them, then leads you on towards more hopes and dreams. Sounds like some people I know.

While I'm home, I have a list of things to do: pay bills, haircut, see friends, eat bacon, eat cheese! And Manila laid quite the welcome home last night, Roxas Boulevard was practically a parking lot, the rains pounded the car roofs, the wind ruffled more than a few feathers. I found out that a tree came crashing down on a few cars in my parents family compound, I saw the debris this morning. And my dog, my poor puppy, has had her front right leg in a cast for a few weeks, after an accident, good thing I didn't know about that while I was in China. Suddenly I wished to be back in the ignorance of my Wenzhou existence.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies