Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year, everyone!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today I woke up to the loud tooting of toy horns. What's that ruckus about, I asked myself. Then it suddenly dawned on me that it's new year's eve.

Happy New Year, everyone!


What do you think 2010 holds in store for us?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cambodia Chronicles Two: Fried Insects

Sunday, December 27, 2009



It was such a delight when at a bus stop on our way to Siem Reap we saw some fried insects being sold along with eggs and a variety of fresh fruits .



Here's what looks like crickets


And spiders

And beetles

and insect larvae.


Don't they look delicious?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cambodia Chronicles One: Contemplating Eternity

Friday, December 25, 2009

The place was inundated with visitors, yet I felt the sweep of the centuries roll over me as we traipsed through the labyrinth of crumbling walls, ethereal bas reliefs, delicately carved apsaras and the inscrutable stone faces of the Bayon. In the middle of a monument built in the 12th century, I can’t help but contemplate eternity. In these times when nothing seems to last, the Angkor monuments attest that some things do endure.



Nothing I’ve read prepared me from actually witnessing the overgrown ruins of Ta Phrom, a temple slowly being devoured by centuries old trees. The tangle of dense undergrowth and seemingly endless roots of towering silk cotton trees have so seamlessly merged with the temple’s sandstone slabs, that they look as if they’ve been part of each other forever.



Following rigorous rules of order and symmetry, heavy with symbolism that honor both Buddhist and Hindu divinities and tradition, and “comparable to the most impressive of history’s architectural composition,” the Angkor monuments--the Angkor Wat in particular--“are a work of power, unity and style.” What puzzles me, however, is the reason behind the abandonment of Angkor. Is it really because of the Thai invasion, or is it something else? For a work of such colossal effort, what made the Khmer abandon it? While absorbing hundreds of years of history, I tried to find answers from the beauty and ruined grandeur surrounding me but ended up with more questions - questions that are devoid of answers.




"Khmer art is a concept in search for a form. The artist does not inspire himself from nature, does not compel himself to represent movement and life in order to create a 'work of art'. Without abstraction, he seeks real expression, but through the eyes of a visionary in accordance with the principle of static form so endeared by his race. His work is an act of faith--more collective than individual--where each can find his own emotion, and the masterpiece born from the intensity of the internal flame that inspires him, from his spiritual communion with the divinity." (Maurice Glaize, The Monuments of the Angkor Group, 1944)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

if, before every action

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was my fault, she sobbed, and it was true, no one could deny it, but it is also true, if this brings her any consolation, that if, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and the evil resulting from our words and deeds go on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniformed and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much-talked-of immortality...

~ Jose Saramago, Blindness, 1997

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's Christmas Like?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, greets everyone. Merry Christmas! I greet back without really knowing what Christmas, or a happy Christmas, is. Beyond the gifts and the glitter—things I admit I enjoy—that come with this special day, what is Christmas really like? For somebody like me who has never known or celebrated it, Christmas is just another ordinary day.

When asked how I will spend the holidays, I think of coming up with lies so I won’t have to explain myself and my beliefs (or the lack of them). It is hard to make people understand when you know that your views are so different from theirs and when you know that it is better to just keep your mouth shut.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vietnam Chronicles Two: Rice Paper Paintings at the Ben Tanh Market

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

They say that a trip to Ho Chi Minh City is never complete without a visit to its famous Ben Tanh Market located at the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao and Le Lai Streets in District 1. Originally built by the French in 1859, the market had been moved to its new building in 1912.


From the hodgepodge of items sold in the market, we found--and bought--these water color paintings on rice paper:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

why should it be?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

People see us, and they assume things so far from the truth that I can't but laugh or, at times, scream at the top of my lungs. No he is not my father; he is my significant other, my life partner, the love of my life. Is that too hard to comprehend?

If the age difference isn't an issue between us, why should it be to other people?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vietnam Chronicles One: Surrounded with the Unfamiliar

Friday, December 18, 2009

From somewhere, above, below, all around, came the babel of unfamiliar phrases. Letting my eyes roam, I saw sign boards lettered with words I cannot pronounce let alone understand. The sight of motorbikes of a multitude I’ve never seen--nor imagined possible—before amazed me so much that I could have spent a day just watching them manage their way without hitting somebody or bumping into each other.

Fronting food stalls lined up along sidewalks, both locals and tourists sit on small stools savoring a banh mi sandwich, a steaming bowl of pho, a mug of iced coffee or a tall glass of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.

Used to a place where sprawling structures are the norm, I found beauty and grace in the rows of slim, multi-storeyed, French-inspired buildings that can be seen all over the city. Everything felt, looked, tasted and sounded different.

Surrounded with the unfamiliar in the middle of Phan Ngu Lao, Saigon’s backpackers’ district, I felt a sense of ineffable joy surge through me.

Surrounded with things I don’t understand, I realized that I don’t have to. We don’t really have to understand something to take pleasure in it, do we?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

beneath all the laughter

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

While chatting over dinner with classmates from high school whom we are not really close with, even before, we feel something that we know we shouldn’t be feeling. The Germans have the perfect word for it: schadenfreude. The enjoyment we get from the troubles of others. Dripping with condescension, we outwardly sympathize yet innerly laugh when we hear that a former classmate is living an attenuated and less than perfect life; we judge a person, calling her hopeless, when we do not even know what’s going on in her life; with dismissive scorn, we continue to hate those we secretly envy, and we convince ourselves that we are better off than they are.

Is this the devil inside of us battling to be let loose? Or is it purely an inexorable part of human nature?

In reunions we never get to show who we have become. It always sounds as if we are bragging, even if we’re not. Others always perceive us as the bumbling fools we were before and not who we are now. We thought we’ve changed, but with them we act out the parts previously assigned to us; we are limited to reminiscing about follies of the past, because we’re afraid that without them we might not have anything common to talk about.

Beneath all the laughter is a gaping void.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We Travel to Become Young Fools Again

Monday, December 14, 2009

Back from a wonderful whirlwind trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, I am glad to return to my old routine yet raring to travel once again.


We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
(Pico Iyer, Why We Travel, 2009)
 
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