Thursday, December 19, 2013

It’s that time of the year

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It’s that time of the year again, when I can’t but look back and reflect on what I’ve done, or whether I’ve done enough; on how far I’ve gone, or how I got there; on what changed, or what I would’ve changed. These are questions that don’t really have answers, and yet I ask.

I’ve changed jobs, met new people, spent my birthday climbing a mountain, learned how to use a tablet, wrote less, studied Nihongo, camped on a volcano, fell in love with Haruki Murakami, got accosted on an overpass, succumbed to the delights of having cable TV, and started jumping rope. That’s about it – a year that’s pretty uneventful but otherwise satisfying. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Climbing Mountains

Monday, December 9, 2013

I’d always known that climbing mountains was a high-risk pursuit. I accepted that danger was an essential component of the game—without it, climbing would be little different from a hundred other trifling diversions. It was titillating to brush up against the enigma of mortality, to steal a glimpse across its forbidden frontier. Climbing was a magnificent activity, I firmly believed, not in spite of the inherent perils, but precisely because of them.

~ Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, 1997

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving at Anawangin Cove, Zambales

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What could be a better way to celebrate thanksgiving than to spend it with family, surrounded with the bounty of nature, stripped of all excess, and grateful for having life’s bare essentials?  Enduring a few days’ discomfort truly makes us appreciate the everyday comforts we enjoy but often give little value to.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We are unable to comprehend our experience

Thursday, November 21, 2013

our human tragedy is that we are unable to comprehend our experience, it slips through our fingers, we can’t hold on to it, and the more time passes, the harder it gets…. My father said that the natural world gave us explanations to compensate for the meanings we could not grasp. The slant of the cold sunlight on a winter pine, the music of water, an oar cutting the lake and the flight of birds, the mountains’ nobility, the silence of the silence. We are given life but must accept that it is unattainable and rejoice in what can be held in the eye, the memory, the mind.

~ Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown, 2005 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Climbing Mt Rinjani: Lombok's Sacred Volcano

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

As I trudged up the mountain gasping for breath and trying not to listen to the sound of my heart pounding against my breast and my legs groaning in pain, my mind pondered the events that brought me there.  It was three years ago when I told myself that I could—and would—climb Mt. Rinjani, a volcano located in Lombok, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Despite the strenuousness of the hike, I am glad I talked myself and my partner into doing it.  We could have spent our entire vacation lounging by the stunning beaches of Bali but we wanted adventure, which we had in climbing Mt. Rinjani.

The Two-Day Hike to Gunung Rinjani

We started walking from the Senaru Trek Center at 7 am, rested and had lunch from 11 am to 1 pm, and reached the crater at 4 pm, where we also spent the night.  The 9.2-kilometer trail that we struggled through for seven hours to reach the rim we could have covered on foot for less than two hours on flat ground.   
  
The Terrain

During the first hour of the trek, we walked on relatively flat ground under the cover of trees then the trail became increasingly steeper as we went through grassy meadows and the rocky steps leading to the crater.





The Food

The meals served by our outfitter, Galang Ijo Expedition, were simply superb. It amazed me how the team was able to prepare such elaborate meals given the limited time and equipment.



The Hikers

Aside from my partner and I and the local guides and porters, there were no other Asians in sight.  The other hikers were mostly Europeans and Australians of varying ages.  It was quite embarrassing to be caught huffing and puffing while a vigorous group of Italians in their 50s and 60s pass me by.



Danau Segara Anak and Gunung Baru Jari

Gunung Rinjani soars 3,726 m above sea level and is the second highest volcano in Indonesia. The 4-km wide caldera near the top of the volcano is filled by a 230-meter deep lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea Lake). A smaller active volcano, Gunung Baru Jari juts from the crater's interior at the edge of the lake.



The Camp

The team set up our camp on a private spot near the edge of the rim, complete with our very own toilet tent and a spectacular view of Rinjani’s summit, Lake Segara Anak, and Gunung Baru Jari.  From our spot, we could see numerous tents dotting the crater of the volcano.



 The Expenses


The 2 days and 1 night trek package from Galang Ijo includes the following:
  • Pick-up and drop-off transfers from any place in Lombok
  • Accommodation in Senaru the night before the trek
  • Entrance fee to Rinjani National Park 
  • English speaking guide and porters 
  • Full board meals
  • All camping equipment

Monday, November 11, 2013

An Invisible Boundary

Monday, November 11, 2013

This made me think of the many invites I ignored, the excuses I came up with to not be with people, the wall I’ve built inside myself behind which others can't touch me, the distance I kept even from my friends. I could have written these words myself:

The upshot of all this is that when I was young I began to draw an invisible boundary between myself and other people. No matter who I was dealing with. I maintained a set distance, carefully monitoring the person’s attitude so that they wouldn’t get any closer. I didn’t easily swallow what other people told me. My only passions were books and music. As you might guess, I led a lonely life. ~ Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart, 1999

Monday, October 14, 2013

From Kuta Beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

How does one ease into the mundane from the exhilaration of the foreign?

Monday, October 7, 2013

It has always been like this. Whenever I return from a trip it takes a while to get my bearings.  Everything seems dull and ordinary compared to the vitality of those days on the road. How does one ease into the mundane from the exhilaration of the foreign? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Living in your own private library

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Every one of us is losing something precious to us," he says after the phone stops ringing. "Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads—at least that's where I imagine it—there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.

~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore, 2002

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When the doorbell rang

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It was past midnight and I was on page 189 of Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore when the doorbell rang. I rushed to the door, my heart singing, “It’s him! It’s him! It’s him!” 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hello, adventure

Friday, September 20, 2013

There's just one week to go before we leave for Indonesia. Reservations are all set, booking confirmations printed out, and leg muscles strengthened for the trek.  

My backpack is brimming with vacation clothes as much as I am with excitementHello, adventure!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The electronic apotheosis of mass culture has merely reconfirmed the elitism of literary reading, which was briefly obscured in the novel's heyday. I mourn the eclipse of the cultural authority that literature once possessed, and I rue the onset of an age so anxious that the pleasure of a text becomes difficult to sustain. I'm not sure I'll last long myself without buying a new one. But the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone. 

~ Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone: Essays, 2002

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birthday Climb

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Last January, my siblings and I thought of a special and not very common way of celebrating my birthday. We spent it climbing a mountain: Mt. Gulugod-Baboy in Anilao, Batangas. 

Here are some photos:

Spending my birthday climbing Mt Gulugod-Baboy in Anilao, Mabini, Batangas

Friday, August 23, 2013

Trivial

Friday, August 23, 2013

There is a month to go before we leave for our trek, and I grapple with questions like Do I wear my trusty convertible pants, or do I go for that cute hiking skort? Or maybe I should just bring them both?  For who says I cannot climb a volcano in both comfort AND style?  I know I should be preparing for or worrying about the rigor and danger of the climb, but my mind refuses to focus on THAT.  Immersing myself in the trivial and the superficial keeps me from having cold feet.  So for now, I will think about what I will wear during 9-hour 60-degree ascent over rocky terrain and not about how difficult and terrifying it could be. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

I felt despair

Friday, August 16, 2013

I felt despair.  The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously.  For me it denotes a single admixture – a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death.  It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst.  But it’s not these things, quite.  It’s more like wanting do die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.


~ David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, 1997.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

More Than a Place to Sleep

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I do not understand why, in choosing travel accommodation, some people would say dismissively, “oh, we’re just sleeping there anyway.”  Hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, hostels, homestays – are they nothing more than places to sleep?  I think not.  They are an essential part of the whole travel experience.  In fact, some of my memorable experiences on the road involve--and revolve around--the places I stayed at.


Here are my favorites:

Teresek View Motel, Kuala Tahan, Pahang, Malaysia

This inn is included in the tour package for Taman Negara National Park that we got so I had no idea how it would be like.  It turned out really crummy:  the smell of durian that pervaded the place and engulfed the senses; a bathroom you wouldn’t want to set your foot in without slippers on; the smell of moldy linens camouflaged by perfume; a ‘private’ balcony that turned out to be not so private after all.  But our stay at Teresek View became the highlight of our trip. The sheer shabbiness of the place changed the way I look at life on the road and life in general.  It taught me that when I’m in a foreign place I can’t afford to be fussy and fastidious, and yielding to the place and to the moment is the best way to have fun. From then on, travel became less of a ‘vacation’ but more of experiencing both the niceties and nastiness of every day.     

Umaid Bhawan Hotel, Jaipur, India

Umaid Bhawan is a favorite for how it looks. I felt like a maharani staying in such a swanky place.

Royal Suite, Umaid Bhawan Hotel, Jaipur, India

Hotel Centre Pointe Silom, Bangkok, Thailand

It was my first time to go to Bangkok when we stayed at Centre Pointe.  I thought at that time that the high-rise hotel with its sanitized feel and modern facilities looked incongruous with the chaos that surrounded it. Stepping out of its doors, we were greeted by the ceaseless tumult of everyday life: colorful tuktuks all around, people walking to the Saphan Taksin pier to catch a riverboat taxi, street vendors hawking charcoal-grilled fish, yen ta four, rompers, dragon fruits, lottery tickets—an entire world of goodies that enchant wide-eyed tourists like me. Without this incessant commotion in its surroundings, Centre Pointe would be like any other nice yet dull hotel.

8 Auspicious Him View Hotel, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India

I am not a religious person, but I loved how this inn named and decorated their rooms with the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. We stayed at the White Conch room wherein I can see the stunning Dhauladhar range without having to get up from bed.
White Conch Room, 8 Auspicious Him View Hotel, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India

The Green House, Urubamba, Huaran, Peru

The Green House remains my favorite among all the hotels and inns I’ve stayed. Let me quote from a post I’ve written earlier:

 The Green House offered us a restorative sojourn. Located in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley, this bed-and-breakfast became our sanctuary from noise and disquiet, a place where the din of hooting horns, screaming brakes and prattling tourists is refreshingly absent and the modest sound of the stream behind our room blended with the place’s tranquil silence.

Its splendid isolation, away from life’s daily disruptions and distractions, rewarded us with the rare chance to be together - to go on quiet walks, discover the depths and delights of the community, picnic on freshly baked bread and fruits in the middle of harvested corn fields and drink in the magnificence of the Andes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Avoiding Life

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Somebody wrote that abandoning a book is tantamount to heresy. I am among those who share this belief, and last weekend I dared to go even further: What if abandoning a book is not tantamount to heresy but not finishing it in one sitting is?

Last weekend I decided to reward myself, a reward that involved spending all of my waking hours with my nose in a book. It was like returning to those blissful days of childhood, when I never stopped reading--not even for food or sleep--until I reached the final page; when nothing really mattered beyond the pages of cherished books. While before I read just for the sheer pleasure of it, now it has become a means of avoiding life itself.  How true these words of W. Somerset Maugham are:

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge for almost all the miseries of life.”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

That inner churning that moves you forward

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Accosted by a Stranger

Friday, July 12, 2013

I was accosted by a stranger on my way to work this morning.  It made me realize how utterly powerless I am when faced with that kind of danger.

It happened at around 7 am in the overpass beside SM Sta Mesa. Following my usual morning route, I climbed the stairs of the overpass and when I reached the top of the stairs, I saw that lone man with his back to me standing by the wall of the overpass doing nothing. From afar the person already looked suspicious because nobody in his or her right mind would be gazing idly at the traffic along Aurora Boulevard while everybody else is rushing to start the day.

With my guard up, I hurriedly walked past him but he started to trail half a step behind me. I knew then that something’s terribly wrong. At the periphery of my focus I saw that his zip was undone and some skin is peeking through. When I reached the opposite end of the walkway, just before the stairs, he grabbed my left breast, so I screamed and he immediately let go. I went down the stairs and saw a group of police officers a few meters away to which I reported what happened.  

A bit shaken, I continued to walk while turning over in my mind what just happened. Was it my fault? Garbed in a basic black t-shirt with black skinny jeans and combat boots, I was showing neither cleavage nor legs that time - nothing really provocative. Maybe my being alone was invitation enough for the man.  Could I have done something differently to prevent that from happening? I mulled over the things that I did, but I realized that the question itself is irrelevant. I should be thinking of ways to keep myself safe, instead.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I just wanted out

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I think there must be probably different types of suicides. I'm not one of the self-hating ones. The type of like "I'm shit and the world'd be better off without poor me" type that says that but also imagines what everybody'll say at their funeral. I've met types like that on wards. Poor-me- I-hate-me-punish-me-come-to-my-funeral. Then they show you a 20 X 25 glossy of their dead cat. It's all self-pity bullshit. It's bullshit. I didn't have any special grudges. I didn't fail an exam or get dumped by anybody. All these types. Hurt themselves….I didn't want to especially hurt myself. Or like punish. I don't hate myself. I just wanted out. I didn't want to play anymore is all.

~David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, 1996

Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Trip to Potipot Island, Zambales

Monday, July 1, 2013


P.S. The sun came out the third day and we finally made it to the island we came for.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Handywoman

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I am quite proud of myself today. I did something that, given my utter ineptitude in all things mechanical, I consider amazing, even miraculous: I fixed my vacuum cleaner! And because of that, though steeped in sweat and coated with dust, I am beaming with pride and joy.

I was vacuuming the carpet when the vacuum cleaner conked out.  The dust bag is already full, I thought immediately, so I opened the cleaner and emptied the bag. When I plugged in the machine, it still wouldn't work. I tried several times but it just won't budge.  There was clearly something wrong with the suction.  

So I was left with three choices: get somebody to fix the vacuum cleaner, buy a new  one, or fix it myself.  I opted for the last one.

With the help of Google I looked for articles on how I can fix the cleaner, but the ones I read were not that helpful.  Their instructions were for distinct types and brands of cleaners very different from the one I have.  But there's one thing that I learned from all those articles: If there is no suction, there must be a blockage.

So how do I check if there is a blockage? I thought.  I disconnected the hose from the vacuum cleaner then poured water into the hose, hoping that the water would flush out the problem. It didn't but it proved that there was, indeed, a blockage in the hose because the water didn't pass smoothly through to the other end.  I then looked around for something that I could use to push the debris out out of the hose.  I saw the curtain rod; but when I tried to insert it, it wouldn't fit because of the hose's curved parts.  Then I looked around some more until I saw those thick coaxial cables the cable TV guy left behind.  This would do it, I said to myself. And it did.  I was able to push the cable all the way through the hose and remove the blockage.  And by doing so, I saved several thousand pesos for not buying a new vacuum cleaner or paying somebody else to fix it and proved to myself that I can also be a handywoman if I put my mind to it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How a Culture Eats

Friday, June 14, 2013

"If a food is more than the sum of its nutrient and a diet is more than the sum of its foods, it follows that a food culture is more than the sum of its menus—it embraces as well as the set of manners, eating habits, and unspoken rules that together governs a people’s relationship to food and eating.  How a culture eats may have just as much of bearing on health as what a culture eats. The foodstuffs of another people are often easier to borrow than their food habits, it’s true, but to adopt some of these habits would do at least as much for our health and happiness as eaters."
 ~ Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, 2008

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SRK

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My sister and I made a deal: she will sit through a string of Bollywood movies with me if I will watch (and stop myself from criticizing) the Twilight movies with her.  It’s just fair, isn’t it, for I love Shah Rukh Khan as much as she loves Robert Pattinson. “You are the only person in the Philippines who is aware that Shah Rukh Khan exists!” She protested.  “I am not the only one; you do, too!” I said.  “He is ugly,” she retorted.  “So is Edward Cullen.” I insisted. And so goes our conversation.

photo of Shah Rukh Khan, aka SRK, in the Delhi Times, which I kept and brought home 
My fascination with the Badshah of Bollywood, who also goes by the name SRK, started when I first watched him in a movie, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, recommended by one of my blogger friends. After several movies, I became a certified fan.  It was such a delight to see his face in newspapers and on billboards all over different cities in India.

The King and I in Jaipur, India
Come to think of it, I am SRK's number one fan in the Philippines because I may be the only one.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I want to be friends with Howard, Mickey, Yossarian, Saleem and Raskolnikov

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In a recent interview with Claire Messud, celebrated author of The Emperor’s Children, the interviewer asked her about one of the characters in her new book, “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim” to which she replied:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?” (Source)

I was dumbfounded by her response, not entirely because of the ferocity of her indignation but more for the characters she mentioned. Three of them are my favorite heroes (or, to some, antagonists)  in fiction, the very ones that I want to be friends with!

My favorite heroes in fiction, here’s the complete list:

Howard Roark, architect

"His body leaned back against the sky.  It was a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into planes.... His hair was neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind." (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)


Mickey Sabbath, ex puppeteer

"Through the lens of unforewarned Norman, Sabbath saw what he looked like, had come to look like, didn’t care that he looked like, deliberately looked like--and it pleased him.  He’d never lost the simple pleasure, which went way back, of making people uncomfortable, comfortable people especially." (Sabbath’s Theater, Philip Roth)

Captain John Yossarian, US Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier 

"That crazy bastard may be the only sane one left." (Catch-22, Joseph Heller)

Saleem Sinai, telepath and chutney maker

"I have been a swallower of lives, and to know me, just the one of me, you’ll have to swallow the lot as well. Consumed multitudes are jostling and shoving inside me, and guided only by the memory of a large white bedsheet with a roughly circular hole some seven inches in diameter cut into the center, clutching at the dream of that holey, mutilated square of linen, which is my talisman, my open sesame..." (Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie)

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, ex-student of law

"He had plunged so far within himself, into so complete an isolation, that he feared meeting not only his landlady but anyone at all.  He had lately ceased even to feel the weight of the poverty that crushed him. He had completely lost interest in his day-to-day affairs, and he had no wish to recover such interest." (Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Described like that, don’t you just want to be friends with them?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Preparing for Another Climb

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

We have three months to prepare for another climb, but I have yet to graduate from sporadic bouts of exercise to a more disciplined routine. This lack of focus would only get me halfway through, I know.

Thinking of the discomfort, the sheer physical and mental danger and all the madness I would face going up the mountain is what pushes me to pick up my gym shoes and hit the stairs. Doing multiple rounds of stair climbing got me through more strenuous treks in the past.  I hope it will do so again this time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wouldn't it be awesome to live here?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wouldn't it be awesome to live in this house and wake up to that view every morning of every day?
Nepali round houses along the Sarangkot-Naudanda hiking trail with Machapuchare in the distance

Monday, May 27, 2013

Amid a Confluence of Cultures in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala

Monday, May 27, 2013

It felt foreign yet familiar.  In that Indian city high up in the Himalayas I found myself in the midst of a confluence of cultures, so exciting in its rarity and heartening in its spontaneity.  The temple of the Dalai Lama, just a few blocks away from McLeod’s main square, was teeming with visitors, but it was one of the most serene places I’ve been to. Its majestic prayer wheels--the ma ni lag ‘khor--never stopped turning, constantly set in motion by pilgrims from different corners of the world.

From where I was seated in that nondescript noodle house, I could see some women in woolen chuba or in Indian sari, Tibetan monks in maroon robes and travelers in head-to-foot Gore-Tex pass each other along the store-lined streets surrounding the square. Used to hearing the mantra om mani padme hum reverberating through the town,, I felt delighted when, in the middle of tasting my first ever hot momo soup, the Black-Eyed Peas’ Bebot started playing. "Filipino, Filipino. Filipino, Filipino. Hoy pare, pakinggan n’yo. Heto na ang tunay na Pilipino."  How surreal, I thought.  In that place, at that moment, I never felt more alive.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Left with the liberty of all those books

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I realize that lust stands high in the list of deadly sins. And yet lust--the tightening throat, the flushed cheeks, the raging appetite--is the only word accurate to describe the sensation I felt that morning, as the painted door closed and I was left with the liberty of all those books. 

~ Geraldine Brooks, March, 2005

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lately

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I’ve been rather preoccupied with several things lately – my Nihongo classes, our trip to the island of Boracay, my changing jobs and the never-ending travel plans, that always acts as my pick-me-up.

I did not expect the amount of time that learning Japanese demands.  I have to study incessantly for if I don’t I would fall back and it would be impossible to catch up and relearn everything.  The amount of words to memorize is just staggering.  I study almost every day, but I still cannot understand the dialogue in Japanese movies without English subtitles.

I am still trying to adapt to my new workplace.  I’ve been here for a week now and the culture is way different from the old one. The funny thing is that was mistaken for a fresh graduate.

My siblings and I recently went to Boracay where we celebrated the 18th birthday of our youngest sister. Spending several days on the beach made me yearn for the mountains. Climbing a volcano in Indonesia is next on my list.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Little events, ordinary things

Monday, April 29, 2013

Perhaps it's true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house---the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture---must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.

~ Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, 1997

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The struggle with writing is over

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The struggle with writing is over.”

Those are the words written on a post-it by Philip Roth’s computer screen. In an interview, Roth said that looking at the note every day gives him strength.  It made me wonder how it would feel like if I, too, would stop articulating my thoughts.  And so I did: I stopped writing.  For the past several weeks, I restrained myself from updating my blog. 

Knowing that I don’t have to struggle with writing anymore brought me such relief, but choosing not to struggle was a struggle in itself.  Suppressed and stultified, the need to write always threatened to overwhelm me, and now it finally did.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do I Mind?

Friday, March 29, 2013


"What difference would it make if I minded? It wouldn't change anything. Do I mind? It never occurs to me to mind.  Okay, I got overemotional.  But minding? What's the point of minding? What was the point of trying to find reason or meaning in any of these things? By the time I was twenty-five I already knew there wasn't any."

~ Philip Roth, Sabbath's Theater, 1995

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of School

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Our Japanese class started last Saturday.  It’s been a while since I lasted attended classes that I felt like a child bursting with excitement for her first day of school.  Armed with a spiral notebook, a pen and several markers, I wanted to feel like a student once again.  And when I entered that tiny classroom with all those beckoning armchairs all lined up, I did feel like a student. It didn’t matter that the topics we took up that day were concepts that I’ve already mastered.  It just felt wonderful to be in that classroom, learning a foreign language and meeting new people.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rejection

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It must take some amount of courage for a guy to approach a girl and ask for her name and number. How do guys do it? I always wonder.  Have they been inured to rejection that it’s become easy for them to expose themselves to the perils of being scorned or, even worse, ignored?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kathmandu Valley’s UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Upon arrival at Kathamandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, I immediately noticed those posters highlighting Nepal’s richness in culture and biodiversity.  It prides itself for having four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes the six monuments in Kathmandu Valley that we visited: three historical palaces (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares), Hindu temple (Pashupatinath) and two Buddhist stupas (Swayambunath and Boudhanath).

Kathmandu Durbar Square

During our stay in Kathmandu we’d walk to the Durbar Square from our hotel and watch people go about with their daily lives.  It is a public place where tourists, touts, locals and expats perched on temple steps idle away the day; where the vibrant colors of marigolds, peppers and oranges spread out for sale on the pavements stand out against muted tones of the temples; and where cars and power lines look incongruous amid the square’s medieval look.  

Swayambunath

When I first saw a photo of Swayambunath and read that it “has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer for at least 2000 years and is now a totemic symbol of Nepal” that “throbs with activity as peasants from the nearby rice fields, pilgrims who have ventured from far afield, yellow-robed monks spinning copper prayer wheels, and camera-clad tourists snapping photos explore the many buildings and statues around the stupa,” I knew I had to go there.

The golden shrine of Swayambunath, which sits on a solitary hill in the western edge of Kathmandu, afforded us a spectacular view of Kathmandu Valley:


Bhaktapur Durbar Square


We almost did not enter the site for fear that it would be no different from Kathmandu Durbar Square, but I’m happy that we did. According to the leaflet given to us at the gate, “the cultural capital of Nepal, Bhaktapur’s history goes back to the early 8th century.”  To be in a place that old is simply overwhelming.  

Patan Durbar Square


Worn out from gazing at historic buildings that all looked the same after several days, we had to pass up on Patan Durbar Square.  After taking a few photos of the palace square, we proceeded to explore the surrounding area, instead.  Walking without any direction, we ended up in the local market where I was able to buy spices that are priced four times less than those sold in Thamel.  Exploring the market gave us an authentic view of today’s Patan, not something frozen in time.
  
Pashupatinath

We went to Pashupatinath to witness a cremation, and what I saw left me awed and humbled:


Boudhanath

The great stupa of Boudhanath is the largest stupa in Nepal and dates back to the 14th century.  They say that “in the past, when the trade routes to central and western Tibet were fully open, traders, pilgrims and travelers sought blessing at the stupa for safe passage over the mountain passes and gave thanksgiving to it upon arrival in the Kathmandu Valley.” While turning the prayer wheels, I realized that we were doing the same thing.


------
This is my 1000th post.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Under the Weather

Friday, February 22, 2013

My body has not ached this much since we did the 18-km climb to Triund in Dharamsala last October. With throat swollen, eyes and nose runny and joints and muscles painful, I should be in bed right now, but there are simply too many things to finish today. And the weather agrees with the state I’m in, too: the rain’s been pounding down mercilessly, and my body feels as leaden as the skies.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

sorting out what I believed

Thursday, February 21, 2013

...I started to reexamine my assumptions, and recalled the values my mother and grandparents had taught me.  In this slow, fitful process of sorting out what I believed, I began silently registering the point in dorm-room conversations when my college friends and I stopped thinking and slipped into cant: the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily, and the freedom from constraints of monogamy or religion was proclaimed without fully understanding the value of such constraints, and the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement, or claiming moral superiority over those not so victimized.

~ Barrack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, 2006

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the past couple of weeks

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I am ashamed of myself.  How could I have neglected this space for this long? Being preoccupied with work is not valid reason. It is just plain laziness.

In the past couple of weeks, I have:
  • Devoured past seasons of Project Runway and Netflix’s House of Cards.  Against my better judgment, I find the two shows unreasonably addictive.
  • Been dream-planning for a trek on the Camino de Santiago. Our limited vacation time will not permit us to finish the entire 780 kms so we plan to walk only the first hundred kilometers starting from St John Pied de Port in southwestern France then across the Pyrenees to Spain and all the way to Pamplona.
  • Been very busy managing three divisions since the restructuring.  Most of my time is spent in attending meetings and sending emails to ensure the timely delivery of projects.
  • Read Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, both of which I really liked.  I am now reading Pres. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope.
  • Received the most fabulous Valentine’s gift ever: language classes for Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish or French.  I wanted to attend the classes for Spanish but they are scheduled on weekdays, so I’d probably go for Japanese instead.  Studying on my own is fine, but it would be great to finally have actual people to converse with.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The hopeless emptiness

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Now you’ve said it. The hopeless emptiness. Hell, plenty of people are on to the emptiness part; out where I used to work, on the Coast, that’s all we ever talked about. We’d sit around talking about emptiness all night. Nobody ever said ‘hopeless,’ though; that’s where we’d chicken out. Because maybe it does take a certain amount of guts to see the emptiness, but it takes a whole hell of a lot more to see the hopelessness. And I guess when you do see the hopelessness, that’s when there’s nothing to do but take off. If you can.

~ Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road, 1961

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Overland by Train Through North India

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inspired by Paul Theroux’s railway adventures, D and I opted to explore North India by train.  We took the train from Delhi to Agra, from Agra to Jaipur, from Jaipur back to Delhi, from Delhi to Amritsar and from Pathankot back to Delhi. I’m glad we did because traveling by train across India is cheap but comfortable, frenetic yet fun and confusing yet clarifying all at the same time.

With 64,000 km of rail, 7,000 stations and 11,000 trains transporting 12 million people every day, the Indian railway, without doubt, constitutes the very lifeline of the country. Being one of the most sought after means of transportation, Indian trains get fully-booked several weeks in advance. I wanted to secure our seats early so I booked our tickets through Cleartrip two months before our travel dates.

These are the routes and the corresponding trains that we took:  


Upon arrival at the New Delhi Railway Station in Pahar Ganj, we were immediately confronted by men in uniform who looked and acted as if they are railway officials.  They asked to see our e-tickets and claimed that our train has been canceled and directed us to go to a certain Tourist Center at Connaught Place.  Clueless tourists who do not know any better would definitely fall for this ploy. They were so convincing.  But, having read about this scam while doing my research, I didn’t believe any of it, of course.  We ignored them, proceeded to our designated platform and waited for our train to Agra, the Bhopal Shatabdi 12016, which, contrary to what those men said, was not canceled.  

four-berth, air-conditioned cabin
aboard the Khajuraho Udaipur Express
After a day of struggling with crowds while marveling at the grandeur of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, the comfort and privacy offered by our first class compartment at the Khajuraho Udaipur Express (Kurj Udz) 19665 were such a relief.  The compartment, which we didn’t have to share with others, had beds, pillows and blankets. What more can a weary traveler ask for?

We were put on waitlisted status despite having reserved our train tickets bound for Pathankot from Amritsar months in advance.  Our seats were not confirmed till our travel date so we opted to go by taxi from Amritsar all the way to McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala.  At 5,000 INR (USD92) it was a bit expensive, but we didn’t have to go through the trouble of transferring from a rickshaw to a train to a bus to a cab just to reach our destination.

food served on the train
It is also true what they say about trains providing the most unique of experiences in India: the food that was served, the people that we met, the beauty and kindness beyond the stench and the squalor, the mundane concerns of ordinary Indian men, women and children and the candor and complexity of their way of life. 
 
muffled solitude © 2007-2016. Design by Pocket | Distributed by Blogger Blog Templates