Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Vaccinated

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Today I received my first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. The process, from my arrival at the vaccination site to the actual vaccination, took only 20 minutes. The local government unit of Quezon City exceeded my expectations. I anticipated queues as long as 7 hours, as my mother experienced in Cavite, but it wasn't so for me. 

I don't even live in Quezon City; I just work there but they gave me a vaccine. I pre-registered for the vaccine in the city where I live as early as January of this year, but until now I have yet to receive a notification in any form from the city government. I registered online on the Quezon City platform last Friday, received an SMS about my vaccination schedule two days after, and got vaccinated today.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What a Pleasant Surprise

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Last night I received an SMS from the LGU of Quezon City. It contains information about when and where I will be vaccinated. I wasn't expecting to hear anything from them this early because I only registered on their platform last Friday. Come Monday I'm already scheduled to get the vaccine against COVID-19. What a pleasant surprise. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Plague Year

Monday, June 28, 2021

I recently read Lawrence Wright's new book, The Plague Year: America in the Age of Covid, where he tells the story of the COVID-19 pandemic from the initial outbreak in China, to the destruction it inflicted around the world, to the Trump administration's chaotic response to the virus, and to the vaccine rollout several months later. It was essentially a summary of the momentous events that happened in 2020. As these events were happening, I was stranded in Costa Rica, trying to live a normal life amid so much uncertainty. 

Italy went into national lockdown on 10 March. That was our third day in Costa Rica. The horrifying images from Lombardy—overrun hospitals and deserted streets—felt so far away from where we were. D and I believed that everything would be fine until we heard that one of the managers at the villa we're staying at got fired because of the many cancellations the hotel received. That was our first indication of the gravity of the pandemic. 

The United States of America declared COVID-19 as a national emergency on 13 March. On that day, still feeling invincible, we traveled from the mountains of Heredia to the beach town of Manuel Antonio. 

Countries in Latin America, including Costa Rica, started going on lockdown on 17 March. The day before that we went on a catamaran cruise filled with springbreakers. We didn't know then that that was the country's last hurrah as it would ban all tourists and restrict all non-essential activities the following day.  Subsequently, airlines started to cancel flights and countries allowed only the entry of returning residents. We decided not to travel to Brazil as originally planned and stayed in Manuel Antonio, instead, to luxuriate in its pura vida way of life. On 22 March my return flight to Manila was cancelled. We frantically looked for alternative flights to the Philippines, but most countries were on lockdown and all commercial flights were suspended. D was lucky enough to catch the last flight back to America a week after. Only repatriation flights have been allowed since then.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses in the state to shut their doors and for everyone to stay at home on 20 March. New York was then the epicenter of the virus. Hungry for anything that would make sense out of what's happening, I watched and took comfort in Gov. Cuomo's daily briefings. In April, when I was feeling hopeless about my situation, D reminded me of the governor's words:

"And 10 years from now you'll be talking about today to your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear because you will remember the lives lost, and you'll remember the faces and you'll remember the names, and you'll remember how hard we worked and that we still lost loved ones.

And you'll shed a tear and you should because it will be sad. But you will also be proud. You'll be proud of what you did."

The epidemiological curve started to flatten in New York in May. That was also the time when the government of Costa Rica decided to open beaches and national parks. Beaches were open only from 5 to 8 in the morning, so I got up early every day to make the most of that limited beach time. I was supposed to fly to Manila at the end of the month, but my flight was again canceled. That was when I realized that there won't be any flights soon, and it's better to simply relax and enjoy my time in Costa Rica

The daily number of cases in America reached its peak in the middle of July, while the country fought over the wearing of masks. Costa Rica, after flattening the curve for several months, started experiencing a second wave of the virus. It mandated everyone to wear masks in all public places such as buses and supermarkets on 27 June. Nobody complained about it; we just followed the rule. We got away without wearing masks when we're at the beach, where people stayed within their burbujas sociales (social bubbles) and the risk of acquiring the virus was very low. 

The US Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention were held in August 2020. I microwaved popcorn and watched the events with gusto. When I told the Jim, the inn manager, about it, he said that I should've paired the popcorn with tequila for that's the only way to get through such events without losing one's sanity. The presidential debates, which I also watched, took place the following month, but I had ice cream in place of tequila. 

Costa Rica along with its neighbor Panama re-opened in October. Flights in and out of both countries were resumed, and Costa Rica started accepting tourists from selected countries. I was able to book a Copa America flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through Panama City. After 236 days, I finally left Costa Rica. 

America held its presidential election on November 3. On that day I was busy exploring Rio's Botanical Gardens. The states were still counting electoral votes when I left Brazil for Manila two days after. While my co-passengers were drifting in and out of sleep, I was watching CNN's live coverage of the election on the plane. I was already in my quarantine hotel in the Philippines when Joseph Biden crossed 270 electoral college votes and became the 46th president of the United States.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Thoughts

Sunday, June 27, 2021

As expected, the gallo pinto I cooked today didn't come close to the ones I used to cook in Costa Rica. Worcestershire sauce is not a good substitute for Salsa Lizano

Clean bed sheets and pillowcases and a freshly made bed make me happy. 

People are blind to reason when it comes to vaccines. 

Filipinos are taught communicative competence in English for 12 years, from kindergarten to junior high school and beyond, yet most of us still cannot properly use the three simple tenses of verbs. 

What's the point of paying tribute to a dead person? You should've expressed your loving thoughts while the person can still appreciate them, when he or she is still alive. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Shanghai

Saturday, June 26, 2021

It was when I watched Ang Lee's 2010 film Lust, Caution that I first grew fascinated with Shanghai. It's the history, the glamour, and the mystery of the city depicted in the movie that got me. I wanted right then to visit the place, but I never had the chance to do so. I forgot all about it until recently when I started watching a Chinese series on Netflix that's set in Shanghai. The show was so successful in showing the city's charms that I can't help but be enticed. However, no matter how tempting Shanghai—or any place for that matter—is, most of us still cannot travel. So for now I will content myself with reliving past trips and dreaming of future ones. l will just stare at the fridge magnet of Shanghai that D gave me and imagine that I'm there with him admiring the city's skyline.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Although It Makes Absolutely No Sense To Me

Friday, June 25, 2021

Have you ever listened raptly to someone talk about things he is passionate about although what he's saying makes absolutely no sense to you? I do that all the time. I can hold a conversation about golf even if it bores me to death and I don't understand how it's played. I'm updated about the feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka even though I've never watched either of them play. I learn about who's playing in each tournament and which country they're from. I know that Saturday is Moving Day and that you have to refer to the British Open as THE OPEN—bits of trivia that leave me baffled and amused. I learned all of these through D, who's a huge fan of the sport. 

The things you do for love, yeah?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

When You Have No Life Whatsoever

Thursday, June 24, 2021

You'd be amazed at how much stuff you can get done when you have no life whatsoever. Working remotely, you can be on top of things all the time and produce output that you can be proud of; you can finish reading one book in two days; you can chat with your significant other about anything and everything under the sun; you can go on grocery runs and prepare simple meals; you can work out to your heart's content; you can write blog posts on whatever topic suits your fancy; you can exchange messages with your family throughout the day; you can go on long walks without worrying about time; you can watch multiple shows on Netflix; you can sit still, contemplate life, and bask in your solitude. You can do all of those and still get eight hours of sleep at night.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

My Gallo Pinto

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

One of the dishes that I learned to cook in Costa Rica is the gallo pinto, which is basically rice and beans. It's plant-based, easy to prepare, and quite delicious. I liked it so much that I cooked it every week during my stay there. 

My version of gallo pinto consists of:

  • leftover rice
  • cooked black beans
  • broth from the beans
  • garlic
  • onion
  • black pepper
  • chili pepper
  • cumin
  • chopped bell peppers
  • chopped culantro
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • Salsa Lizano

I sauté the garlic, onion, and the chili pepper; then I add the bell peppers, the cooked black beans with a bit of the broth, Salsa Lizano, the spices, and the rice. Then I toss them all together. Once all of the ingredients are well combined, I add the culantro and stir. Topped with a fried egg, my gallo pinto can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Gallo pinto served with fried egg

What makes this dish distinctly Costa Rican is the condiment Salsa Lizano. It is a thin, light brown sauce that consists of onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, sugar, mustard, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, and other spices. I've been looking for this sauce since I came back to the Philippines, but it's not available here. The articles I read suggested Worcestershire sauce as a substitute. I don't know of Worcestershire is going to work, but I plan to cook gallo pinto on the weekend. I hope i can imitate its original Costa Rican taste.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Maybe

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Since 2019 I've wanted to go on a solo trip to Myanmar. I had everything planned already. My route: fly from Manila to Yangon then take an overnight bus to Bagan, then another overnight bus to Kalaw, then hike for two days to Inle Lake, then return to Yangon and fly back to Manila. The cost: around PHP 60,000 for a two-week trip. The dates: anytime from October to May, the country's dry season. The wardrobe: conservative and comfortable. 

But then COVID happened and, as if the situation in Myanmar couldn't get any worse, the military seized control of the country and chaos ensued. So Myanmar is definitely out of the question for now.

When this is all over, when the entire world reaches some approximation of normalcy, I will try to make plans again. I will travel once more. Maybe I'll go to Bolivia, or to Kazakhstan, or to Armenia. Maybe. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Layer of Protection or a Source of Misery?

Monday, June 21, 2021

Face shields, the bane of our existence. Is it effective against the spread of the virus? Who knows? I may be wrong but it looks like the Philippines is the only country in the world who had ordered its people to wear face shields outdoors at all times. Some officials now say that we can already do away with face shields outdoors, but some say that face shields are an added layer of protection that we can't do without. It's all very confusing right now. According to the his spokesperson, the president will clear up the matter today.

I'm all for protection against the virus. I wear a face shield over my mask whenever I go out although there are not that many people outside and the risk of contracting the virus is quite low. Wearing a face shield with a mask in this heat and humidity is hugely uncomfortable, yet I still do it. It's for my peace of mind: at least I can say to myself that I took all precautions necessary to ensure my safety. I have yet to read data that proves how effective face shields are against the virus. It is highly likely that they don't really help, but why not wear them anyway? It surely won't help if they're worn as headbands or sun visors, like most people do. 

Face shields—made utterly ineffective by people not wearing them properly—are just a source of misery to most of us. Maybe it's now time to do away with them. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Of Cancel Culture and Womanhood

Sunday, June 20, 2021

I spent hours this morning reading about the feud between two Nigerian authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Akwaeke Emezi, whose books—Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, and The Death of Vivek Oji—I've read and liked. It started when an opinion piece from today's The Guardian entitled "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Captures the Hypocrisies of Too Many 'Social Justice' Zealots" caught my eye. I read it and continued digging for articles about the entire thing, which, I found out, is murkier and more convoluted than what it seems. 

A few days ago Adichie wrote a blistering essay against cancel culture that permeates social media. She argues that:

"There are many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion, who can fluidly pontificate on Twitter about kindness but are unable to actually show kindness. People whose social media lives are case studies in emotional aridity."

She adds that there is now "a generation of young people on social media so terrified of having the wrong opinions" and being attacked for having them, and that:

"The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene." 

The essay isn't simply an eloquent takedown of cancel culture but a defense of herself against two authors who are actively trying to cancel her. One of these authors is Emezi, a nonbinary author who uses the pronouns them/they/their and who I thought all along was a man when I read their book. Emezi started criticizing Adichie, a cisgender woman and a noted feminist, for her alleged transphobia when, during a 2017 interview, Adichie was asked, "If you’re a trans woman who grew up as a man ... does that take away from becoming a woman—are you any less of a real woman?” She answered:

"When people talk about, “Are trans women women?” my feeling is trans women are trans women. But I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man, with the privileges the world accords a man, and then sort of change — switch gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.

I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women. What I’m saying is that gender is not biology. Gender is sociology."

This drama, which at first I thought was about cancel culture, is really a debate about trans identity and womanhood. Gender is, indeed, a social construct. But being born female and having to go through things only cis women experience is not the same as the experience of transitioning into a woman. So who do we consider as women now? Are trans women women? Can we include trans women under the broader category of womanhood?

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Closing Myself Off

Saturday, June 19, 2021

When did I start closing myself off from the world, I often wonder. I used to have friends; I used to enjoy the company of others. Now it's only D and my immediate family with whom I interact and whose company I derive pleasure from. Have I always been this way, or did I simply give up on trying to hold on to those friendships, that level of intimacy that physical distance no longer permits? I've realized a long time ago that people don't really care about the minutiae of my life, so I stopped caring as well. And I've accepted that most relationships are superficial and ephemeral, as most things in this world are.

I've withdrawn from other people for so long that I already forgot how to place myself in the context of others. I don't know how to make new friends anymore. At this stage of my life and in this increasingly socially atomized world we live in, I don't think making new friends, real ones at that, is even possible. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Today

Friday, June 18, 2021

Today I renewed this blog's domain name for another two years. I hesitated at first. I thought of shutting it down for good, but I know that you would want me to keep this, to continue writing even if that day will come when you won't be able to read what I write anymore.  

You know that I write mainly for you, right? You're the only one who has the patience and the inclination to read about my ramblings anyway. I thank you for that and for the many other things, honey.  This blog has been our thing for the past 14 years, and it will continue to be so for always.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

There's a winnowing away

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"The face that stares back at you from the mirror later in life is so different than when you’re young. There’s a winnowing away and a shutting down. A sense of something having been taken from you and you don’t know exactly what it is, just that it isn’t there anymore. What opens up to you instead is experience, is cunning, is foreknowledge. Nothing you sought."

~ Jeff VanderMeer, Hummingbird Salamander, 2021

 
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