Ni Hao

5 03 2008

I’m on my 3rd night here and despite having no friends here nor acquaintance, I do not feel lonely.

My workmates have been very warm and welcoming. On my first day of work I was treated to my first real Chinese lunch by a couple of teammates and today another two guys invited us to a fancy Shanghainese lunch to celebrate the birth of their sons.

I was told that out here, baby showers and celebrations occur after the baby is born, not before the birth, like how Westerners do it.

A more interesting cultural fact I learned is that by tradition, a baby’s name isn’t given by the parents. It is in fact given by a future/fortune teller. When I asked what the basis is, they said it is based on the five elements; water, fire, gold, earth… I’m missing one more, I can’t remember what it was. I’ll get back to you on that one. So anyway, the baby’s name will have to signify a balance among the five elements. And mind you, you can’t just go to any fortune teller, parents consult with the famous ones and sometimes the wait list is so long that your kid has to wait 4 months before she gets called by a proper name.

Food here is orgasmic and is a social activity as it is shared by everyone on the table. My workmates keep worrying that I dislike Chinese food and I keep reassuring them that as long as I know what I’m about to put into my mouth then I’m a happy camper. This is definitely my kind of foodie heaven, without a doubt, especially since the cuisine differs per province, there’s Shanghainese food which I’m informed is sweeter, then Beijing which is spicier, and then there’s a region which is the greasiest oiliest of them all. Heaven indeed. So let me take back what I said about Minneapolis several months ago hehe. Just kidding. Maybe…

Anyway, before I came here I was told Shanghai was a mix of the old world and the new and progressive. I don’t quite get that impression.. Maybe because I’ve played witness to that kind of setting when I was in the Philippines or maybe because I don’t normally associate modernity and progress exclusively with a Western backdrop. But for others it could be the opposite, so when they see progress with an Oriental or Eastern flavor, they automatically say it’s a mismatch.

I’m still working up the courage to wander far from my hotel’s vicinity. I find it unnerving that I can’t read any of the signs around the city and that I can’t speak the language so it’s very easy to get lost. That’s all for now. I’ll check back again in a couple of days, if anyone cares…





Singapura

28 02 2008

This post is obviously long overdue ’cause the trip happened over two months ago, but in this case, it’s better late than never. I wrote snippets during the trip which I then glued together so they can be comprehensible.

***

I’ve been wondering since I got here, what is Singapore’s tourism tag line? If Malaysia is “truly Asia” and Australia’s asking where the “bloody hell” everyone is, how is Singapore lurking tourists?

I’m very lucky Ate Joan is based here ’cause she’s one hell of a good lakwatsera (I think it runs in the family actually). And it only takes her a few days to get all street-smart when she’s in a new place, no learning curves at all hehe. So we’ve done the usual touristy things; went to Sentosa, Singapore Zoo (but only reached the gate and had a quick dinner, we decided to forego the night safari due to the rain), hopped on a river cruise along Robertson Quay and checked out Lucky Plaza (Haha, Pinoy e). They were all OK but they weren’t the highlights of the trip for me.

For me what made this 3day stay worthwhile were so off the tourist trail and invisible from the travel brochures. If I were to advise someone about to go to Singapore, I’d tell her/him to get up early, take the train or bus, go to the nearest kopi tiam and order kaya toast and the traditional Singaporean kopi, or go to the East Coast to have an orgasmic dinner of chili crabs and cereal prawns at Jumbo Seafood, or stroll through the Kampong Glam district, Kandahar and Arab streets to indulge and maybe recall your Sibika at Kultura lessons at the Malay Heritage Centre. Simply put, do what the locals do… albeit on a payday (sadly, chili crabs do not come cheap, but kaya toast and kopi do!), or heck discover what the locals themselves have yet to discover.

My favorite memory during this trip has got to be the time when I saw a woman wearing a hijab (if I’m not mistaken) getting off the bus be welcomed by her young kids by pagmamano. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t Pinoy but seeing that gesture made me think of how deeply connected we all are and that we can move away and forward but we can still find a reason to celebrate and be proud of our heritage.

***

There you go, my travelogue for Singapore.

I’m leaving for Shanghai this Sunday. I’m more nervous than excited and this is the first time I’m feeling this way about a trip. Firstly, because I don’t speak the language, and secondly, because I don’t speak the language. Oh I already said that. Right. Sorry. Well I’m sure the experience won’t kill me and I know it will turn out to be a mind-blowing adventure. My colleagues say it’s like the modern Manila.

How can I find comfort in that when deep-down in my heart I’m a probinsyana? Lumuluwas pa nga ako para makipagkita sa mga kaibigan ko sa Manila eh, take note, lumuluwas. I bet you you’ve never used that word before in your life, unless you’re related to me. In that case you’d say mage-eeroplano ka or magb-bus ng bente-kwatro oras to get to Manila.





My Life in Buffet

23 10 2007

Little by little I’m beginning to realize what my manager meant when he said his time here in the US was a welcome break from everything going on in his life. It is nice to get away from everything, to take a step back and see where your life is heading. Sometimes all you really need is a few quiet weeks to keep still.

***

If I were to write a story about my stay in Minneapolis so far, it would be called MY LIFE IN BUFFET. It has been one buffet after another which gives me a heavier (pun intended) reason to go to the gym. But I’m certainly not complaining.

Minneapolis is a city worthy of any foodie. It will forever hold the honor of being the city to introduce me to the joy of Indian food. Oh yes, the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro was a very pleasant surprise, and cheap at $11. I’ve been there twice just this week.

The sushi bar at Ichiban is tasty but I think I’ll stay away from anything with seaweed from now on. And it is a bit steep at $30, but it does come with a free appetizer, drink and dessert and the fun of eyeing your food from several persons down and wishing no one will take it from you. And the resto gets points for using boats to carry the sushi instead of the plain conveyor-belt like contraption.

Last Friday when I finally met up with Consi and got introduced to the love of her life, Mark, and finally saw the famed Mall of America. (It is big and that’s all I can say about it) I got a chance to taste typical American fare again, this time at Ruby Tuesday. Apart from my friends, the salad bar and the strawberry iced tea made the very long wait time worth the hassle and the sirloin steak I ordered is worth a mention but I would have preferred the blue cheese served as a side dish.

While I sound a bit ambivalent about Ruby Tuesday, I’m definitely very happy with the Cheesecake Factory. It is, without a doubt, cheesecake heaven. And because heaven is meant to be shared, we decided to order a different flavor each so we can pass the cakes around the table have each person taste what the other has. I’m known as a sucker for everything sweet so I loved everything but I would probably choose Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake as part of my last meal on earth (putakte ang drama).

So there you have it, my life in buffet…





7 Days Later

15 10 2007

My sleep cycle is beginning to normalize thank goodness. Now I wake up at 5am, as opposed to the ungodly hour of 2am when the whole of Minneapolis is still sleeping. I have started a routine of going to the gym from 630 to 730 in the morning and it has helped heaps in sleeping better and taking away homesickness. My first few days here I was a wreck because I felt disconnected and lonely.

Time is just a concept I know but boy was it a big factor in my initial misery. D has been a great source of support while I was adjusting, even though I nearly drove him over the edge once with homesick drama hehehe. As embarrassing as it is to admit it, but there were nights when I cried like an 8-year-old child longing for home while spending summer away in a strange land.

I’m getting used to living here, Cads has taught me how to take the skyway to and from the office, for the price of a coffee haha. And I’ve also learned to walk quicker now while on the skyway, because I don’t relish seeing dozens of displeased people behind me waiting to overtake my slow pace.

Again, thank goodness for friends.

***

My foodie side is feeling satisfied as well. The Sunday brunch at the Marquette Hotel is a nice way to spend your last morning of the weekend. Rock bottom is OK as well, D recommended the Titan toothpicks but among the stuff we ordered I found the Tuscan Smoked Chicken most memorable. Lobster ravioli at Maggiano’s is orgasmic and hmm I had walleye fillet at Hell’s Kitchen BUT for some reason, I found the ketchup more worthwhile haha, well the bacon’s good as well.

***

And I’ve experienced US shopping, which has been raved about by almost everyone I know. I’ve been to Southdale to get some stuff from Victoria’s Secret and to Albertville (their outlet mall) to finish most of my personal and pasalubong shopping since it’s always good to start early. I told myself I’m all shopped out but I’m allowing myself a couple of more trips because I need to take advantage of the zero sales tax on clothes here =)

***

Yesterday we went to Duluth and blessed with a beautiful sunny day, checked out Lutsen Mountains, Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse.

***

Whew not bad for my first week eh?





punks not dead! and migs was here! – migs

9 04 2006


On my list of things to do before I leave for Aus is to watch Paramita live and last Saturday I was finally able to do so during the NU 107 Summer Shebang over at Tiendesitas. I saw them with Net, Rose (who has generously volunteered to accompany me to Cubao when I do my ukay shopping for winter clothes) and my high school friend Grettel.

Of course, since Tiendesitas was also one my favorite shopping havens, I couldn't resist buying these. Got the scarf and the two fabulous Cebu-made necklaces for only 300 pesos. Nothing beats treasure hunt shopping.


Before heading to the free concert, we dropped by the dog show inside the activity center and got to meet this very cute baby named Miggy. I'm sure that "bleh" face is directed to the boy with the erectile dysfunction. Thanks for empathizing with me Migs.

****

That afternoon, we also got to try a place for chocolate addicts like Net. I first read about Cafe Xocolat at Preview magazine. And since we were already in Megamall and I'm a shameless foodie, I decided to take Net and the others there. I had the vanilla mudslide (I think) and some churros and Net had their signature Taza de Xocolat. Were they good? Well let's just say that going to this place should be on your list of things to do before you die.





Rodic’s Running

5 04 2006

Yesterday i was finally able to get up at 5am and run in the streets again. As usual, cement gives me a different kind of post-run aches that makes running on the treadmill seem like running on a carpet.

To reward myself for having the determination to get up at 5 and the courage to run in the dark, I had a hearty lunch at Rodic's in Salcedo Village. Rodic's provides the UP Diliman staple tapsilog, I do not know any UPD grad who has never eaten at Rodic's. The Salcedo branch is like the Diliman branch in a lot of ways, same cramped space, same delicious tapsilog, same screaming waitresses, same shirtless male cooks, same aroma and same lamon-now-pay-later payment scheme. The only difference is that the customers are wearing slacks, polos and skirts instead of jeans and sneakers and they are lugging leather bags instead of backpacks. On the right side of the place there is a wall mural of UP Diliman, created by the great Larry Alcala. I wanted to have my picture taken beside it but the place was so packed that it made finding a good spot to take the picture from impossible.

****

Each day the number of things i will be leaving behind is growing and there are times during the day that sadness hits me. i am trying not to let the fears and anxiety get to me. if things go well, i will be uprooting myself and starting over in a new place in a few weeks' time. I am focusing on the good things it will bring; new adventure, new environment, new people to meet. 

this is one more event i will have to miss. my friends here in the office who also run are now starting to register and train for it.





filtering time for my amici

1 04 2006

IF IT DOESN’T TURN

YOU MARK IT DOWN

GET RID OF IT

THEN MOVE ON

These wise words were uttered by a client’s CIO during an all-hands’ meeting last thursday morning. Words from a very straightforward and pragmatic man. I couldn’t resist writing them down after he said them because they are perfectly applicable to life and how you deal with the people close to you. When a person you treasure hurts you and disappoints you deliberately, numerous times, you demote him/her in your hierarchy of people you love, take him/her out of your system and then move on. Dedicate your time to the people you love and who are willing to love you back and your days to discovering new loves, new people for whom you are willing to start over and take risks again. Make time to share your life with people who are willing to share their lives with you too. Simple but hard to do.

****

The past few days I realized that I have been using this “filtering mechanism” in how I manage my remaining time with my friends, especially in the office. Since I know my days with them are already numbered, I try to allot my time only to those that I care for the most. It irks me so much when I spend a considerable part of my day doing mindless chatter with individuals who leave me spent and stressed out after a night or lunch of hanging out with them. Net, gemskie and I were having coffee last night and got to discussing how we know which people we would not mind wasting time with and we were able to think of several factors.

1. if that person doesn’t leave us tired after hanging out with them, tired because we were the only ones talking the entire time

2. if while hanging out with that person, we never had to mentally create a line-up of topics just to prevent dead air (it gets so bad sometimes that while you’re talking about something, you are already thinking up new topics in your head!)

3. if after hanging out with that person, we never had to recount the stuff we said and evaluate in retrospect if the person found them offensive though they just didn’t say it

4. if the conversation is free-flowing and if we don’t have to look at our cellphones and wristwatches every 10 or so minutes

5. if we never had the urge to give the person a copy of Reader’s Digest and ask him/her to read it before we go out just so we’d have a, again, line-up of topics for the night

6. if there are always a lot of loud, boisterous laughter involved in the times we are with that person

I am not trying to be mean and sound snooty. I guess it’s just as simple as saying that I cannot jive with everyone all the time. And it’s hard to find people running in the same (insane) wavelength as mine or people who complement the way I think. And life is too short to waste it on inconsequential things hehehe.

****

anyway, some foodie news. i finally got to eat at AMICI DI DON BOSCO and it was heavenly and orgasmic and all the good chuva you can think of to describe good food. i had dinner and lunch there for two consecutive days, that’s how good the food is. sarap.