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.  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.

Two of my konbini favorites: omusubi (rice balls) and purin (custard pudding)
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?
 
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