Monday, November 5, 2018

Fridays had lost their meaning

Monday, November 5, 2018

"This was the fourth day of rain, Friday afternoon, and a conditioned part of him submitted to end-of-the-week lassitude, even if Fridays had lost their meaning. Hard to believe that reconstruction had progressed so far that clock-watching had returned, the slacker’s code, the concept of weekend. It had been a humdrum couple of days, reaffirming his belief in reincarnation: everything was so boring that this could not be the first time he’d experienced it. A cheerful thought, in its way, given the catastrophe."

~Colson Whitehead, Zone One: A Zombie Novel With Brains, 2011 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Favorite Experiences in Sri Lanka

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What is it about Sri Lanka that made us fall in love with it? Is it its magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites—from Galle Fort’s perfectly preserved fortifications; to Kandy, home of the sacred tooth relic; to the rock citadel of Sigiriya; to the Dambulla Cave Temples that dates back to the first century BC; and to the rain forests and tea plantations in the Central Highlands?  Is it Colombo’s glinting high-rises casting a shadow over its deteriorating colonial architecture? Is it the country’s pristine laid-back beaches fringed with swaying coconut trees? Is it its numerous hiking trails along sleepy villages and tea-clad hillsides and up lush green mountains?  Is it the rich and deep flavors, textures, and spices of Sri Lankan cuisine?

My partner and I spent two weeks exploring Sri Lanka in August of this year, and below are my favorite experiences in the country.

First meal in Sri Lanka

Upon arrival in Colombo, we immediately set out to look for some food. We ended up at a nondescript canteen at Colombo Fort Station. This delicious fish curry meal cost less than a dollar. 

The train ride from Colombo to Galle was hot and slow but offered breathtaking views of the west coast and its villages.

Lazy walks along Dalawella Beach in Unawatuna

Here we spent many lazy afternoons doing nothing.


The hike to Ella Rock involves walking along railroad tracks, through tea plantations, and up the mountain itself.

Hike to Demodara Nine-Arch Bridge

Demodara's magnificent Nine-Arch Bridge was built in 1921, entirely out of brick, rock, and cement and without a single piece of steel.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

As if what really happened matters less than what should have happened

Thursday, May 31, 2018

“There are moments when history and memory seem like a mist, as if what really happened matters less than what should have happened. The mist lifts and suddenly there we are, my good parents and their good children, their grateful children who phone for no reason but to talk, say their good-nights with a kiss, and look forward to home on the holidays. I see how, in a family like mine, love doesn’t have to be earned and it can’t be lost. Just for a moment, I see us that way; I see us all. Restored and repaired. Reunited. Refulgent.”

~ Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, 2013

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Applying for Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorization

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is required for travel to Sri Lanka. So a few days ago I applied for an ETA through the official Sri Lankan government website and, surprisingly, it went quite smoothly.  I’ve read many complaints about the website not working properly, people being denied for various reasons, and some not receiving their email confirmations. I was a bit anxious for I might encounter such problems too but, luckily, I didn’t. I just went to the website, filled in and submitted the application form, and then paid the fee via credit card. Within a couple of minutes, I received an email confirming receipt of my application. And not long after that, I received the ETA approval notice. It was that fast and efficient. I wonder why others didn’t have the same experience.

Now that I’ve received travel authorization, booked all accommodations, and purchased plane tickets, I’m all set for our Sri Lankan escapade.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I assumed he would wait there forever

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I hadn’t known that I assumed he would wait there forever in that white bed below his window. I hadn’t known I needed him there. Like a landmark, a pyramid-shaped stone or a cypress, that we assume will never move. So we can find our way home. And then, inevitably, one day—it’s gone. And we realize that we thought we were the only changing thing, the only variable, in the world; that the objects and people in our lives are there for our pleasure, like the playing pieces of a game, and cannot move of their own accord; that they are held in place by our need for them, by our love.

~ Andrew Sean Greer, Less, 2017

Friday, May 11, 2018

Konbini Adventure

Friday, May 11, 2018

As I stir my instant matcha au lait its luscious vegetal scent permeates the air. I take a sip of the tea, close my eyes, sit back in my chair, and feel myself transported back to our days in Japan, our joyful konbini adventure.

Convenience stores like Lawson, 7-11, and Family Mart are called konbini in Japan. On the very day my boyfriend and I arrived in the country, we immediately checked out the konbini a few meters from our hotel. Entering the store, we were greeted by a plethora of products, both familiar and strange. An entire shelf full of what looked like different kinds of custard pudding caught my eye. After some careful inspection of the content through the container and a concentrated effort to read the Japanese labels, I still don’t know which pudding to choose so I decided to follow what locals are doing and got the ones chosen by the Japanese couple next to me.  

Two of my konbini favorites: omusubi (rice balls) and purin (custard pudding)
Still overwhelmed by the novelty of everything around me, I walked to the section displaying a variety of omusubi (or onigiri), those rice balls that are wrapped in seaweed and contain different fillings like tuna with mayonnaise, pickled Japanese plum, salmon roe, and natto or fermented soy beans. I grabbed one and tried to decipher, or guess, which one it is. Everything’s in Kanji, and the only thing that I can recognize on the label is the character for sakana, which means fish. Maybe this one contains tuna, I thought. And it was tuna, and it was delicious. We found that out when we got back to the hotel and sampled the goodies we bought. The hours I spent learning Japanese turned out worthwhile after all.

Konbinis are ubiquitous in Japan, and it was always an adventure whenever we enter one because we didn't have a plan and we were never quite sure what it was we’re buying. Like that time when we wanted to buy some cooking oil. When we were in touristy Kyoto, we wanted to enjoy the city like a local so we opted to stay at a furnished apartment and prepare and eat our meals--mostly breakfast and dinner--at home. That's why we needed cooking oil. But we couldn't find it in the konbini. I took a bottle that resembled cooking oil and asked the guy manning the cash register if it's cooking oil, but he couldn't understand English. And for the life of me, I could not remember the Japanese word for oil. The only word that I could recall is aceite, its Spanish equivalent. Luckily a kind Japanese lady heard what I said and she told me that what I'm holding is not cooking oil but sake. Then she showed me where the cooking oil was. I thanked her, for without her we'd be eating bacon fried in sake for breakfast.

Our homemade breakfast: bacon, scrambled eggs, matcha tea, coffee, bread, bite-sized cheese, persimmon, an orange, chinese cabbage, and omusubi

When we travel it's not just about the magnificent temples, awe-inspiring landscapes, and other bucket-list-worthy tourist destinations. Sometimes it's the small mundane things like our daily konbini jaunts that make traveling to foreign places truly rewarding.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

The purity of habit and home

Monday, May 7, 2018

"I was confusing familiarity with happiness. Because that was there even when love wasn’t—the net of family, the purity of habit and home. It was such an unfathomable amount of time that you spent at home, and maybe that’s the best you could get—that sense of endless enclosure, like picking for the lip of tape but never finding it. There were no seams, no interruptions—just the landmarks of your life that had become so absorbed in you that you couldn’t even acknowledge them."

~ Emma Cline, The Girls, 2016

Friday, May 4, 2018

I Wish We Had More Time to Talk

Friday, May 4, 2018

On the ride home I thought, I wish we had more time to talk. Not just talk, but talk quietly, instead of struggling to be heard amid the din of various voices competing for your attention. I wanted to know how you are, how you really are, but I didn’t get a chance. How can I when multiple conversations were happening at the same time and drifting off on tangents I could not follow?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

He made her like herself

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size. She told him how she very much wanted God to exist but feared He did not, how she worried that she should know what she wanted to do with her life but did not even know what she wanted to study at university. It seemed so natural, to talk to him about odd things. She had never done that before. The trust, so sudden and yet so complete, and the intimacy, frightened her."

~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, 2013

Friday, March 9, 2018

Planning for Another Adventure

Friday, March 9, 2018

I’ve spent the last two weeks choosing where to travel next. I considered Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil. Taiwan is easy because it’s near and I no longer have to apply for a visa to go there. But after going to Japan last year and to Hong Kong and Macau last month, I don’t want to go to another East Asian country. Papua New Guinea, touted as “the last frontier,” seems captivating, but from what I read, it’s not easy to explore the country independently.  So I ended up with Brazil.

After making an initial budget estimate for three weeks in Brazil, I proceeded with the itinerary. The plan was to enter through Sao Paulo, spend a few days in Rio de Janeiro, then onward to Salvador de Bahia and the rest of the northeast coast.  Everything’s set until I read horror stories that changed my mind and made me discard the entire plan. Personal accounts of travelers who were taken advantage of, assaulted, and robbed at gun point in broad daylight at major tourist destinations freaked me out.

Where do I want to go anyway? Somewhere exotic yet safe, unusual but accessible; a place where nobody I know has gone to and where it’s relatively easy to get a visa. My search for that perfect place that meets those standards led me to Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka fits the bill, I think, perhaps except for the “safe” part. There has been a spate of communal violence in Kandy, a major tourist hub in the country’s Central Province, in the past days and the government had already declared a state of emergency to halt the rioting.

So where do I go now? I still don’t know.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

All this happiness

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"We told each other everything about ourselves, the way lovers do, and even though we knew it couldn’t last, and the thought that in fact it might was frightening because there was also something unbearable about it, all this happiness, so we lived in it as if we didn’t know. The fall had to come, but we didn’t bother ourselves about it – how could we when everything was so great?"

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, A Man In Love: My Struggle Book Two, 2009

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Forty

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Yesterday I turned forty yet I don’t feel any different from my usual self. Some say life begins at this age but it just goes on, doesn’t it?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow’s sky

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"All I know is that I’ve wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I’d get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don’t want it any more, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow’s sky. That’s what I want now, and I think it’s what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We’ll become too set to change. If we don’t take our chance now, another may never come for either of us."
~ Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans, 2000

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Today I woke up at half past four in the morning

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Today I woke up at half past four in the morning. It was a struggle. I wanted to sleep some more but I knew that I had to get up to run for at least half an hour before I go to work. So I dragged myself out of bed, drank a glass of water, ate a banana, brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on contact lenses, tied my hair up in a ponytail, changed into shorts and tank top, and put on my running shoes. I was half asleep the whole time. 

It was a dark and chilly outside, and, still very sleepy, I started to run. Listening to a podcast on the director of Get Out talking about his movie somewhat woke me up. A few guys ran past me. I wondered how they could have that kind of energy at so early in the morning. Or maybe I was just running really, really slow.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The end of the world they had built together

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"…whatever name they gave their bond they each in their own way believed it required them to protect the other, and so neither talked much of drifting apart, not wanting to inflict a fear of abandonment, while also themselves quietly feeling that fear, the fear of the severing of their tie, the end of the world they had built together, a world of shared experiences in which no one else would share, and a shared intimate language that was unique to them, and a sense that what they might break was special and likely irreplaceable. But while fear was part of what kept them together for those first few months in Marin, more powerful than fear was the desire that each see the other find firmer footing before they let go, and thus in the end their relationship did in some senses come to resemble that of siblings, in that friendship was its strongest element, and unlike many passions, theirs managed to cool slowly, without curdling into its reverse, anger, except intermittently."

~ Hamid Mohsin, Exit West, 2017

Monday, January 8, 2018

It’s the Start of the Year

Monday, January 8, 2018

It’s the start of the year, and I think of the many things I want to write about—my thoughts about the past year, the fantastic books I’ve read, my experiences in Japan, our family vacation in Malaysia—but I’m not yet in the right headspace for that kind of focused writing.  So I’m here, staring at my notes, planning what to write, and trying to regain my ability to think clearly. 
 
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