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Life / Writing

two things

I.

A former teammate / work colleague had gone missing more than a week ago. His family searched for him for days and a serendipitous circumstance led them to ask for driving directions from a certain faraway police station. The station happens to have located a lifeless body; ‘would you like to see if it is your missing person by any chance?’

Of course it was him.

There were no conclusive reports but there have been multiple withdrawal transaction from his bank account since the disappearance. Yes,  it can happen to anyone– a desperate thug living anywhere in this world will abduct and bludgeon someone to death for $2200. Or a lot less than that. When it hits close to home, the danger is very real.

When we worked at the same company, he would relentlessly ask everyone to pose for group photos at events or meetings. I remember it drove me bananas because it hassled people, it was seemingly unnecessary to document the mundane. In retrospect, I perfectly understand now. There are hundreds of photos of him on his Facebook account and they all show how he truly lived a full life– traveling, working, keeping fit, mentoring kids, serving God, being with his family.  His posts were so full of positivity and joy.

We were not terribly close, but the way he lived his life– it is a constant reminder to fill your days with meaning.

I wish you the best journey ever, F.

II.

I was coming down with a fever one day but I just took a personal day off the week prior and I could not afford to be away for another day. I trudged on and finally had it on the third day– I was too sick to even get up.  I have not felt that ill in a long time and yet, work still hounded me. I am reminded that my work will not care even if I am in my deathbed, it will only care that the report gets done or the stakeholders get notified. I would love to break away from these chains, if I only can.

Life / Writing

First-Time Dog Mummy

These days, I usually sleep, read books or edit this blog whenever I can find free time. I have moved over 300+ blog entries from blogger and I am in the process of recoding and editing the images that accompany each entry. I have not been able to do that in the past 2 days because we have just welcomed a puppy in our home, She is a 2 month old Maltichon: a Bichon Frise – Maltese mix.

Summer the Maltichon

I love dogs but I have no clue about raising one. In the past 48 hours I have Googled and learned so much.. heck, I even read Ceasar Millan’s book. 😛 It’s like having a kid really, only a pup is less delicate. She has been eating vomit and toilet paper and newspapers and bit on one dead cockroach she found lying around at one point. She was even close to eating her poop on several occasions.

Similar to my philosophy of raising my would-be children, I will avoid treating her like a “princess.” I have an aversion to people who treat their dogs and kids like so. Dogs, like children, should be raised in a loving home, but at the same time parents should not make their lot feel like they are privileged, superior, and self-important.

Life / Writing

Loss / Lost

Perhaps it’s only fitting to write about a major life event as my first post in this new domain. I told myself I won’t talk about it openly because it will sound like I am a “victim” looking for sympathy. I suppose it will sound like it at some point, and I hope you don’t get the wrong idea.

I lost my dad to cancer this month, just two weeks before we were supposed to celebrate his 68th birthday. I remember the fear, worry, uncertainty, when we first found out in 2005. The prognosis was 6 months up to 1 year, but he defied all odds and fought a long and hard battle for 9.5 years.

It has been almost a decade of hospital visits, 6 different chemotherapy treatments, hair loss (i have memories of cleaning out clumps in the shower drain, with my heart breaking for the loss of his thick head of very black, never dyed hair), 31 consecutive months of blood transfusions, a visually impaired eye, edemas, pneumonia, muscle wastage, oxygen tanks, Epoetin injections, pain medication.

This challenge has shaped so much of who I am. I spent my 20s living with a lot of fear, mostly worried of what is to come. I sound so selfish to even say this. I was not the one on the front lines, so to speak. My mother devoted all of her time to care for him. One of the people closest to me told me that that he sees me as a person worried about “a problem”, not a daughter who cares for his dad. Somehow that makes it worse.

I work until late at night and my dad would wait for me to get home every single day. He would wait for me even if he was tired, in pain, or in the hospital. He would only lie on his bed after he knew I was safe at home. He did that every day until his last day on earth. I am glad I had the chance to tell him I love him each night I would check in to say I was safe home. I still feel I did not do enough.

I have always prayed that he pass peacefully in his sleep, at home on his bed, with no pain or trauma. That did not happen and it is absolutely the hardest thing for me to process and come to terms with. He struggled to breathe on his last day and spent hours waiting, gasping for air in the ER. Hours later, he was given morphine until he drifted off to sleep. A priest was called to anoint him. He was unconscious, but he shed a tear. I often wonder about his thoughts during those final hours of consciousness.

I live hours away and I rushed home as soon as I heard he was back at the hospital. I finally arrive and held him and whispered in his ear. I hope he still heard and knew I was there. It was his longtime wish not to be revived or tracheotomized and I signed the Do Not Resuscitate waiver on his behalf. Thirty minutes after I arrived, he breathed his last, surrounded by immediate family and closest friends.

It feels so strange that he was just here. I can’t quite describe it, but it feels unreal. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that a person can exist and then be gone forever, just like that. You were a constant presence my whole life, but you are no longer. What? You’re gone? You were just here! Will I see you again when I die? I wish I knew. Living day-to-day will be easier if I knew for sure I will see you again.

I have always wished that his pain would end. I spent a decade with this gnawing feeling eating me up inside. Now that it has ended, I feel lost and empty, like there is a big gaping hole in my life that nothing can ever fill.

When I was a teenager I hated my parents. Now that I am older, I know without a doubt they are absolutely the best people I know. It was such a privilege to have been raised by this strong, loving, courageous human being.

I love you forever and I think about you every day. I hope you are enjoying your peaceful new life.

Indonesia / Writing

Life

And just like that, more than half of the year is over. I haven’t even finished writing about the EU trip I took a long time ago. I’ve taken two more trips since then, and they still remain in my ‘for future blog posts’ list. 🙁

Less than a week ago, my plane landed in Manila from Denpasar, Bali. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise view as we drove to Ngurah Rai Airport, and the fact that I am never awake early enough to see the sunrise as beautiful as this one made it harder to leave. I still cannot sit still thinking about having to go back to an office job while there as so many things I need to see, experience, and learn from.

Bali is diverse and beautiful, but more than the touristy sights, it’s traveling with a person you have known for seventeen years, the house with the smells of clove cigarettes, sandalwood incense, and herbal mosquito coils, the kindness of the people we met along the way, a little personal achievement in the form of a decent Bakasana in Canggu, my funny lifeguard rescue, the smiles, glimpses of simple yet full lives… sure to be back.

“As beautiful as this island is, the real Bali exists primarily in its people– as well as in the mind of the beholder.”

Life / Writing

so this is the new year and i don’t feel any different

From Neil Gaiman’s blog:

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.

Bravery and joy.
It’s exactly what I wish for myself as well. Both have eluded me for so long.

Here’s to a brighter year ahead.

France / Writing

pique-nique au Champs de Mars

Eiffel at dusk

After spending the day at the shops, we head to the neighborhood Monoprix and bought a few things for dinner. We decided to spend the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower grounds, at the Champs de Mars.

Our little spread.

picnic at Champs de Mars

It was such a fine evening, and I’m glad I took a few nice pictures at least.
Below is my favorite photo of the Eiffel; it actually gets more crowded as you get closer to the tower. People sat and lay on the grass, chatting, having picnics and drinks, celebrating birthdays, singing, cuddling, making music. A tall steel tower with twinkling lights, the sound of French chatter and pleasant, happy people all around, Dutch cheese and balsamique crisps, the cool grass and the neatly trimmed hedges, and an evening much warmer than the one prior. I am reminded of why I decided to come to this place.

Eiffel Tower from Champs de Mars
picnic at Champs de Mars 

France / Writing

the terrace view at Printemps

After visiting Galeries Lafayette, we walk to another department store called Printemps. The Printemps flagship store is by this area, and the top floor (9th) offers a pretty view of the city.

This is my favorite picture from this early evening.
love, Printemps

The Haussmannian view, I cannot say it enough, that this city was designed so well. Haussmann probably destroyed whatever was unsightly during his time, redesigned buildings, and established certain standards on future constructions.
Baron Haussmann's  beautiful city

Not related to Paris, but the layout of the Eixample area in Barcelona (Spain) is also amazing!

Truth be told, the cafe with the unappealing sandwiches looked a bit sad. Glad there is beer from the tap! Ordered a blonde Leffe.
Leffe with a view

Enjoying the view and our drinks, people watching
tourists at Printemps
hanging out at Printemps
Leffe at Printemps

City views: Pantheon area and the Montmartre area.

Pantheon area from Printemps
Montmartre from Printemps

Printemps
64 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris
Metro: Havre Caumartin
http://departmentstoreparis.printemps.com

France / Writing

window shopping at Galeries Lafayette

After almost a week of museums and touristy sights, we decided to take it a easier on our seventh day in France. We spent the morning at Forum des Halles, which is a shopping centre near our rented apartment. The Les Halles area used to be the belly of Paris, the central marketplace– and it had been so for centuries, until the congestion had become so bad that they had to relocate the market elsewhere. It is now in Rungis, in the Southern suburbs of Paris, and it is said to be the largest food market in the world.

Had lunch at L’Entrecote des Halles and took the metro to Paris’s iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette.

The grand Belle Epoque dome
The grand belle epoque dome of Galeries Lafayette

Granted, the place mostly caters to tourists than locals and I’m quite sure most of the shoppers are just visiting. At some point, Chinese tourists asked if we could buy bags for them, using our passports. I’ve heard of this before because some friends already had the same experience. There is a limit of bag purchases for tourists of certain nationalities because of the widespread counterfeiting of the bags.

The grand Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette

A closer photo of the dome
a closer look at the belle epoque dome

The Pierre Hermé store, apparently they have the best macarons, even better than Ladurée. I had quite a list of food shops / pâtisseries I wanted to try and I regret not even going to most of them. (Jean-Paul Hevin, Ladurée, Dalloyau, Poilane, Eric Kayser..) Moodiness get the best of me.
macarons from Pierre Herme

Galeries Lafayette
Paris Haussmann
40, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette, Opéra or
RER: (A) Auber or (E) Haussmann St Lazare

Books / Writing

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

“There was this notion in my mind that somehow yoga was going to make me better. Better than I’d been, better than everyone else. More virtuous. I liked the idea of myself as a yoga person. (I could not bring myself to say yogi, or yogini.) Lithe, probably thin, with some kind of ineffable glow. And my back wouldn’t hurt.”

I finished this book a month ago. As a person who has had an on and off yoga practice over the years, I loved the bits on yoga, I find myself relating to most of the writer’s experiences and insights, it’s the most highlighted book I read this year, in fact.
I loved Claire Dederer’s idea of relating certain yoga poses to various points of her life, but the latter chapters I find were haphazard and quite confusing. I honestly didn’t care about most of the other topics, except when she was talking about yoga. I lost interest halfway into it but I forced myself to finish because every now and then I stumbled upon ‘gems’.
Claire wrote about having difficulties with chaturanga dandasana and the wheel, I struggled with the same and I am quite convinced my body is not meant to do these poses even if I try so hard. Chaturanga is an important transition pose as you move through the vinyasa flow, and I would always feel awkward not being able to stay in this pose with integrity, that is with the elbows bending at 45 degrees, my knees not resting on the floor, and the belly not dropping. When it is time to do inversions, I find the rest of the class opening up their chests with ease, meanwhile I lie in corpse pose unable to lift myself to do a wheel. It’s a bit comforting to know some people have certain asanas they cannot do well.
Reading this book served as a reminder of how I needed yoga in my life and I need to get back on the mat real soon.

:
:
:
I thought I would do yoga all my life, and I thought that I would continue to improve at it, that I would penetrate its deepest mysteries and finally be able to perform a transition from scorpion directly into chaturanga. But here’s the truth: The longer I do yoga, the worse I get at it. I can’t tell you what a relief it is.
I did yoga because of an idea I had of who I wanted to be: serene, fit, spiritual.
For years, yoga had been the one place where I paid attention to how I was feeling. I did the poses and actually, right there in that moment, felt them.
Those of you who are really bad at yoga, you’re in the right place. I hope everyone will allow themselves to be really crappy today, to walk away from being perfect. The real yoga isn’t in the perfect pose; it’s in the crappy pose that you are really feeling. You want to feel it from the inside out, rather than make it perfect from the outside in.
When your teacher shows you how something is done, there’s a feeling of possibility, a transmittal of something like faith. Yes, this can be done. I’m seeing it right before my eyes.
t was easy to think of yoga as a cure, a program, a teleology. You were going to end up somewhere really great if you just stuck with it. I often thought about what yoga would give me: yoga butt, open hamstrings, equilibrium, a calm mind, that mysterious yoga glow. And it was true, a person would be more likely to have those things if she went to yoga than if she, say, played Tetris for hours on end. (Always an option.)
The idea was, you got better, looser, stronger while you were at yoga, and then you exported that excellence to the rest to life. You learned how to act right at yoga, and then you acted right, or righter, when you were in your car, or at the grocery store, or putting your children to bed.
I had discovered something; there was a pleasure in becoming something new. You could will yourself into a fresh shape. Now all I had to do was figure out how to do it out there, in my life.
Books / Writing

On Reading

SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED to me on the metro recently: I learned to read. I know it didn’t happen all at once, but today it felt like someone flicked a switch. Suddenly the lights went on inside my head and the words passed through, like one of those healings you read about at a tent revival, where blind men see and mute children speak.
Reading, the pleasure I most took for granted, finally restored. I looked around me, wondering if anyone had noticed. No one did. I was part of the urban wallpaper.
from Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard

I used to read a lot of some fiction when I was younger, so most of my books are from that genre. In my mid-twenties my tastes changed and I bought more of travel & food literature. My real bookshelf is practically untouched now, except for when I need to look something up.
This might sound terribly corny, but finally purchasing an ebook reader sort of changed my life, so much that I have separation anxiety with the device even if I’ll be away for a couple of hours.
I have close to 700 lovingly curated books in my e-library, no random stuff or trashy romances. I have been more interested in nonfiction as I grew older, specifically travel narratives, memoirs, cookbooks (even if I don’t really cook!), and food literature. I probably have more than enough ebooks now to last me a lifetime.

Favorites so far (July – Sept 2012):

Blankets, Craig Thompson (graphic novel)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson
Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard

P.S. I do realize that I mentioned having “no trashy romances” but I did read the first Fifty Shades of Grey book. It was a waste of time.