Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Ondoy has left us to spew further damage on the Indochinese peninsula, but a new set of storms are in our waters. The first one, int'l codename Parma (I can't help but think of it as a large leg of ham), is blowing in at 150 kph. It may lose strength and head out into oblivion, but there's also the possibility that it will howl straight at us, and then veer back on itself. The remaining days of my vacation may all be about staying dry.

Went to Manila Ocean Park today with a friend, the aquariums are much nicer now, less fake corals, and the sharks look so sleek, like siamese cats in color, not to mention that sharklike grace. However, I wouldn't recommend the mermaid show at all. Beyond tacky. I think I'll try to go catch the jellyfish show before I head north.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I have five days left before I leave for my long journey home (given the bus trip down to Xiamen and the two hour plane ride home, it feels like I'm travelling as far as Hawaii for such a short distance), my main objective this week is to store my things with my friend M, and dispose, use up everything else, particularly anything edible. I've kept grocery shopping to a minimum over the last three weeks, and haven't cooked a great deal. I have two packs of dumplings to eat for lunch and dinner tomorrow, but I have been keen on making japanese curry for some time. I have a packet of the curry paste, and an apple, so I trotted down to the supermarket to get some vegies, chopped them up (one onion, a head of garlic, two medium potatoes, two carrots) and began the layering in the pot. First rough chopped onions fry up in oil, letting it caramelize for added smokiness, toss in the garlic, and a splosh of fish sauce since I am out of salt. While those flavors start creating a heady aroma along with a bit too much pepper, I rough chop the potatoes and carrots, and don't forget the apple. They go in, one by one, letting the potatoes soak up the flavors first, then the carrots, finally the apple chips. Crumble the curry paste into the pot, and let it envelope the vegetables before adding broth (I used vegetable broth), about 3 cups of it to make the sauce thick enough once it cooks on low heat for at least thirty minutes. One of the other things I had leftover in the kitchen was some corned beef that I had cooked two days ago and not wanting to waste it, I've put it into the curry for some meaty tastes.
The plate lying next to me reminds me of some japanese ramen place in HK that serves a mound of rice, some meat (usually tonkatsu but I must make do with the dried corned beef flakes), and the curry sinking into the rice. Comfort food, Sunday night, it's a perfect pairing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I made my weekly call home and was sad to hear that my mom's longtime feline companion has died. I met Mika when she was given to my mom by a Japanese client of hers. She was 2 or 3 years old at the time, and that was in the early 90's. She continued to terrorize any other animal throughout her reign as queen cat, making it seemingly impossible to bring in another animal. Through events outside her control, I eased the dog and my own cat into her domain last year and early this year respectively. Needless to say she probably didn't think too highly of me at the end of her life.
She died quietly, my mom found her by the bed, in perpetual sleep. RIP.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Acoustic evening

Crash! Boom! Drip! There's a concert outside my window, no musical instruments, none of the traditional kind anyhow. It's Mother Nature, water cascading down from the clouds, at times intense, climactic, currently, softer, tender, with irregular beats. The aria sung by the thunder, this is no clapping, sharp staccato. This is rolling, moaning then intense. Reverberates through my shelter's walls, long beats, bass sounds. Boooooom.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First love

The car - a white Porsche (methinks a Carrera), parked in front of a gate. The boy - about 4, walking behind his dad. He sees the car, walks close to it and peers through the dark windows, perhaps hoping to see the interior detailing. He continues to walk towards his dad, but his head is swivelled towards the car, gazing it at its curves, lines, low to the ground body. He's transfixed. "Hey!" his dad shouts at him. He has nearly walked right into the street, in front of traffic. He's smitten.

Tater tots

Around the corner from the school lies a street without much too brag about, as ordinary a street in this city as any other. However, it does have a good assortment of streetfood carts, and being less than 5 minutes away, a good place for a local snack. WZhou isn't a big streetfood place, not much of what I'd call an indigenous food culture about, so most of the food carts tend to tout either Sichuan style or Fujian style food. I'd had a few bowls of the cold noodles over summer, heavily spiced, and a bowl of their dumpling soup (shui jiao, tang) with tidbits of dried shrimp. One of my favorite choices late in the day is the spicy flatbread, freshly heated in the tandoori-style coal oven. For three renmimbi, a wonderful and slightly oily snack. Today, I think I may have found my other new favorite - a bowl of fried potatoes mixed with onions, coriander, shredded cucumber, and chilli. Oh my, another 3 rmb wonder. Just never get it less than 15 minutes before a meeting or class as it should be savored. It's too fiery to gulp down anyway, spearing each tater, blowing on the tongue searing edges; it would be perfect with an ice cold beer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Times are changing

Dark at 6, gusts, a certain nip, yes, autumn is not far. Rain this late afternoon/early evening, cool enough not to need the airconditioner on till later. I know I must prepare for winter, is this why I feel the urge to eat? Am I being bearlike and preparing for hibernation? I can't escape for months till spring, although at times I wish there was such an option.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's a seller's market

The landlord of my current apartment is in the process of selling the place, and there are regular visitors everyday to view the apartment. This means in the mornings when I am usually doing little of no value, I end up welcoming the real estate agent and prospective buyers to wander at will around the rooms. However, I prefer not to be around when they show up, as it feels odd to be something of the human dummy showcasing what it looks like to live here.
The real estate market of this city is something to behold. Old and new apartments are priced beyond what one would expect of a second rate city, but that has a little to do with the general assumptions for the national housing market according to what my students have told me. The value of owning an apartment is rather high among newlyweds, absolutely imperative for a new couple to have one before the wedding, and parents cough up their savings to buy their children a home. Financial crisis or not, apartments are a good commodity over here, resale value of this place made me do a double take. I look at it with a critical eye, consider how much the new owner will have to spend to update the facilities, particularly the bathroom, and wonder if they notice all the cracks and concerns I see. That large-ish line running down the first third of the master bedroom, I would definitely want to know how that's going to work out. The flooring needs to be ripped out, redone, hopefully with real wood or tile, not the cheap pseudo-linoleum crap placed there in the first place.
I was also curious to hear that the current landlord had no interest in selling off his furniture. "I don't have space in my current home, so I'm throwing away everything here." I'd suggest he do a garage sale, but remembered that this is China, most people don't seem to go for second hand things. Maybe he figures reselling all of it would be more difficult, not to mention hauling it down the flights of stairs.
As for my next abode, I will wait till after I return in October. Why fork over three months rent and deposit now when I don't know the exact date of my return? I'm viewing neighborhoods on my free days to see what areas I would prefer to live in, and how long it would take to walk to work. Am certain that neighborhoods east and south of the office are out, as the issue of safety is paramount. North and West are familiar, and now that I found out I am a mere stone's throw from the cult status moon bar, I might not want to leave the district.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bits and pieces of my 9/11

Morning fight with a colleague. Bitchy me comes out and makes the other person mad. He says "you're not in charge here!" and threatens to quit. Er, what a baby! Plus he should change his cologne, he reeks. The issue I raised (his gf hangs around the teachers room the entire day using the computers and telephone) is unresolved, he has her sitting there again in the afternoon, and the lady in charge is a putz so she can't put her foot down. He makes nice later, saying let's be friends. The other person I butted heads with two months ago left, not sure why though. At least that one was doing his job. This one, ugh, a dom, smelly one too.

Head to the neighborhood Korean resto for bibimpap but get sidetracked by what looks like interesting noodles with seafood. Unfortunately I should have stuck with the bibimpap, the noodles are gloopy with some bean based sauce, the squid is tougher to chew than leather.

New impetus to go to Shanghai in a week, two friends will be attending the edu fair there. How to figure out my schedule though....

Raised my flagging spirits by watching Avenue Montaigne, fluffy French movie, lit in bright colors, about music, love, art, the passage of time, youth. Charming lead actress, chirpy and "a ray of sunshine", with the requisite Roman nosed leading men. One character is supposed to be a classical pianist but he exudes raw peasant energy. Strips down to his shirtsleeves in the climactic concert scene, now that's how they should all look if they want us to attend concerts. Well, maybe not all of them. The only line I will remember "never do anything for nothing" - spoken by Sydney Pollack (who gets mistaken for Martin Scorcese).

Withdrawal symptoms - nothing to read, worse when I'm having a meal and need a book to take me away from my surroundings. Regret not having raided M's library before leaving Xiamen. Two weeks to go before home, so must control myself till then.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

testing, testing

Lay's potato chips in China is available in a lot of flavors. Plain (here called American style), barbecue, roast chicken, and I've come across one that looks like it incorporates chilli peppers and tomato. But the most mindboggling are the fruit flavors. Today at the supermarket, I took a serious look at the offerings. Mango, cucumber, lime, blueberry, cherry tomato, and out now - lychee. I could have stuck to the basic plain which is my go to comfort food of late. But my hand strayed, and thought why not? I don't think I'm ready for blueberry potato chips, but the lime doesn't sound too bad.
The flavor of the product is citrusy, a bit too sweet for me, but not all together horrible. I could see myself making a spicy salsa to go with this.
When I go home, I shall pack a few bags for a shared test taste. Who wants in?

Monday, September 07, 2009


I am thankful:
1. for a roof over my head, even if it meant waiting for over an hour for the landlord to figure out which keys go with which lock. So close to a toilet and a wash, and yet so far.
2. for clean clothes, especially upon finding my stash of clothes that I left in the closet missing, along with the suitcase I had put it in. My shoes were subsequently found in another closet, but my two wrap dresses, my Indonesian batik, my favorite jogging pants, my new sheer white kimono, and my winter coat, gone. Who took it, why, I have my suspicions, I have no proof, but who else I ask myself. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the remaining pieces I do have.
3. for friends, colleagues, and kindness from strangers.
4. for not being in a war zone, or on a ferry in my own country
5. for water. Cold, refreshing. For washing the white dust from my travel bags. For making me feel human again.
6. for distractions; I miss downloading and listening to podcasts, and I finally got to update my itunes list. Thank you for Garrison Keillor, poetry, humor, All Songs Considered, Splendid Table, The Moth....
7. for a phonecall from someone who wants me to join them in Shanghai in a few weeks. Tempting, very tempting.
8. for a good connection, for the internet
9. for the ability to see beyond the mess
10. for finding my nail clipper.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies