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Showing posts from July, 2009

...And That Night, My Arteries Wept

Before I went to the dentist, Ate took me to Mongolian Quick Stop in Festival Mall, where I filled my bowl with rice, noodles, lettuce, cabbage, bean sprouts, red bell peppers, and carrots. Then I handed it over to Meat Lady, who dutifully added squid, chicken, beef, and Unidentified Sea Product. Finally, Sauce Guy read my mind ("Spicy, mam?") and topped the overflowing bowl with spicy goodness before handing it to the Grill Man who would ensure that I did not get salmonella from eating raw foodstuff. Here's a picture of the finished product. It always gets smaller after it's cooked, which is why we all make sure the contents of our bowls resemble a small mountain before passing it on for grilling/frying.

I then went to the dentist's office, and almost stormed out of there after being made to wait for an hour and a half ("Mam, naipit siya eh." Hah!!! Although, must remember to be like my dentist's assistants and use the phrase "lunch meeting&qu…

Book Review: The Devil and Miss Prym

To my delight, my sisters have a collection of Coelho books. On my last visit here, I read The Alchemist, which was a thoughtful little tale of a young man's search for treasure. I especially like the part when he was in the desert and meets the alchemist.

I like reading Coelho's introductions. In The Devil and Miss Prym, he tells readers about the Persian myth of the birth of good and evil, and also recounts Adam and Eve's fall. Coelho says that he believes that profound decisions and their corresponding consequences take place within a short time frame, and so the events in this book, as in the previous two, occur within one week. Or did Coelho also anticipate the ADD of today's youth? Perhaps... Anyhoo, The Devil and Miss Prym, according to the author, is the third part of a three-part series, the first of which is By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, which I reviewed earlier. Now I must find the middle book, Veronika Decides to Die.

Here's the plot of this …

Two Days Later...

Yesterday we ran errands -- I had to get a bunch of bilins (note to self: never say, "I'm going to Manila, do you want anything?") -- and we also had to grab some booze for the evening.

We had lunch at North Park, a chain restaurant known for its delicious noodles. We shared a Century Egg and Seaweed Salad, and I had the Wonton Noodle Soup with Hong Kong Noodles, plus some siomai. My god, I have eaten more pork in the few days I've been here than an entire year in the U.S. If swine were indeed filthy and possessed by demons as some religious texts say, I would be doing an Exorcist impression and projectile vomiting on the cat right about now. Happily, this has yet to occur. Anyway, to top it off, I ate halo-halo, which is a dessert with crushed ice and condensed milk, with native beans, a dollop of ube, and, of all things, corn flakes.

Later on my old high school buddies came and we stayed up drinking and chatting until whatever hour the birds start chirping. It'…

27 on the 27th!

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!

I woke to the sun streaming through my windows, banishing my fears of a thunderstorm that would cancel our trip to Lago de Oro, a place in Calatagan that my sisters had been chirping about since I got back. Here's Priscilla helping me pack by double-checking the contents of my handbag.

It took us a couple of hours to get to the place, and we all had to rush to the bathroom as soon as we stepped out of the car. The girl bathroom featured this sign, which sent me hunting for "foreign matters" the whole day.

Here's my birthday pizza. It had a super thin crust and had the yummiest cheese EVER. I had two beers with my slices, but only out of necessity -- a fly had landed in my first glass, and it was too drunk to get out on its own, so I had to get a whole new glass. I got a complementary iced tea as well, which Ate Au promptly chugged.

After eating, we trooped to Lago de Oro's main attraction: wakeboarding! Here's Ate Raine:



Ate Au and I are w…

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

This is the story of Pilar, who has her sights set on the usual things -- marriage, a career -- only to have her childhood friend come back into her life and disrupt her plans, her preconceptions, and her goals. Pilar spends most of the book fighting against her emerging (re-emerging?) love for her nameless friend, and she only grows when she finally surrenders to her heart.

Throughout the story, Coelho draws parallels between human love and the Immaculate Conception -- Mama Mary submitted to the Lord despite knowing the persecution and fear and pain that she would suffer; and in the same way, those who love submit to it despite the possibility of rejection and loss.

Coelho also introduces readers to "the feminine aspect of God," which I interpreted as the life-giving and forgiving force in nature. Through one of his characters, the author distinguishes between the religious life and the spiritual life. He makes the point that all the major religions continue to be controlle…

A Visit to Lola and the Hairdresser (Not at the Same Time)

Today is Sunday, so it was time to visit Lola in Quezon City. She very thoughtfully made a little sign for me, and here I am posing beside it. For future reference, this is my "touched" face.


Lola had her little minions prepare a spread for us. We had two plates of lumpia (instantly demolished), veggie soup, pakbet, boiled saba, adobo, and chicken. Dessert was ice cream and the ube cake that Ate Au and I bought at Red Ribbon... because everything tastes better with a red ribbon. Even flip-flops.

Here's a picture of me with my two sisters (flanking me), and my cousins. After eating, these boys busted out the chess board. I ran away in fright (noooo! Anything but STRATEGY!!!!).

Picture of me with Lola, who turns 88 this year. She remembers all our birthdays. I believe she also dropped hints about becoming a great-grandma, but it was directed at my little brother, proud carrier of the family name. As a girl, I don't count. I did offer to find a husband who would take our …

Manila: Day 2

Spent most of the day sleeping to recover from the past month of working from 8 am to 1 am. After I shclepped out of bed for my breakfast of fried pork links, I thought to myself, Ah, what a great country. Rice, meat, and not a vegetable in sight. I then went straight back to bed and only got up at dusk, like a proper vampire.

Here's a picture of Priscilla, the little kitten I adopted (stole from her mother) back in '07. Thanks to Ate Raine's obsessive mothering, she's now enormous and sleek. She's also hostile, I can't imagine why. It surely couldn't have anything to do with being deprived of her true mother at the tender age of two weeks. Anyway, unlike Sheba, she is totally NOT into me, or any human for that matter.

The highlight of the evening was The Tres Marias Hula Hoop Extravaganza. All three of us obibahito bone (Bangla = unmarried sisters) made our very best attempt at mastering this noble art. As you can see from the video below, Shakira we are N…

MANILA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Made it back home! No misadventures to report, although I was a veritable wellspring of inappropriate creativity during the waiting periods. Only the lucky ones will get to view the finished product.

Here's picture of me and Ate Raine after I got back. I wore a kameez and an orna so people would be so weirded out by me that they wouldn't get friendly. It worked!!! Or was it my face?

I had an extremely productive day where I got some pesos, tinkered with my iPhone (OMG they have SIM cards in there! I thought it all ran on magic!), got my zits zapped, and watched the latest Harry Potter. An excellent start to a long-overdue break.

Monday Madness

After a whole day of being crushed under the sandal heels of the bosses, I returned home to find all the furniture upside down and my roommate and her friend busily plugging all the carpenter ant holes in the wood with some cancer-inducing substance. After making sure the kitty was safely out of the way in a kind family's apartment, we finished killing ants and I went for a run, as a group trooped up the stairs to watch the "Batman fruit bats, they're THIS BIG!" I saw the flying rodents and I was not impressed by their size. Afterwards I had to reassemble my bed plus mosquito net stand, cleaned the whole apartment, had leftovers, had diarrhea, had tea, and grabbed kitty back. He's been playing with the stuffed cat, Jiji. Just watch the video below and imagine him doing it for a whole hour. I love this kitten.

Abs & Ants: A Treatise

I. ABS

The prevalence of abdominal muscles can serve as a measure of national development, which for the purposes of this blog post will be defined as a country's ability to provide for the social needs of its citizens, including education, healthcare, housing, and so on. The ubiquity of these muscles, or abs, is inversely proportional to national development. Thus, Bangladesh has a low level of national development, given the fact that a large proportion of its male population has six packs.

It must be noted that abs can be used as an indicator only if they come as a result of manual labor. In Bangladesh, the rickshaw drivers represent the majority of the so-called Ab Group (cf. Dr. Santa Maria, Abs is Fabs, 2008). The amount of physical force necessary to propel an unoccupied rickshaw up an incline is considerable; more so the strength required to ferry a maximum of three passengers, or six sacks of grain products, around the city under the hot sun.

Strangely, the generally mil…

Cat vs cat

Shannon gave me a stuffed cat (Jiji from Majo no takyuubin) that now serves as Disco's playmate slash biting bag. Funnily, they're roughly the same size. I usually toss Jiji at Disco to keep him occupied with biting and kicking for half an hour. The purpose of this exercise is to train Disco to become a good mouser, once he finally becomes bigger than the rats here. Currently the rats would laugh him out of their hole. Maybe in a few months...

A Short Poem for Fuchska

Fuchska, my fuchska
Brimming with shredded boiled egg,
Chickpeas, and mandatory onions
Mahal na mahal kita.

You are crunchy like a taco
But lacking the juices from dead cow,
You compensate with spicy tamarind sauce
Anchalap mo.

Fuchska (sp?) is Bangladesh's secret. Heck, it may be a Chittagong thing. But if you Google it, you won't find it! You'll get some Eastern European thing! So you must come here to eat it. Come onnnnn, Bangladesh is funnnn...

Carpenter ants woke me up

Woke up at 7 am today because, apart from Disco chomping on my fingers, carpenter ants were also joining in the biting fun. I yelped, hopped out of bed, washed my sheets, and prepared for a busy Saturday.

Here are a couple shots of me attempting to play tennis at the Chittagong Club. I look so thin! Black is slimming! (Or, as the print ads around here claim, "sliming.")

I also took a short dip in the green swimming pool. Since I had no swimsuit, I just hopped in wearing a sports bra and my Vickies. Hah! Who can tell the difference here?

The activities were followed by lunch (the longest lunch of my life, as usual), and then I went to Central Plaza to get a couple blouses tailor-made, and finally off to Alvira's for my weekly facial.

Then I incurred some divine wrath or something, because Disco decided to (a) stink up my room, and (b) poop on my lovely new foot rug in the bathroom. And then we had a disastrous dinner at a new restaurant that opened up next door -- we trie…

Suck at Life

Paraphrased from http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=suck+at+life

To suck at life means:

1. (v.) To fail at every attempt to contribute to society, or any attempts at talent.
2. (n.) A phrase used when someone does something terribly wrong that frustrates another.
3. (adj.) To be naturally unlucky. To suffer constant misfortune.
4. (v.) To make a decision which seems to be innocent, but actually leads to undesired consequences and often catastrophic misfortune.
5. (n.) To be completely without people skills.
6. (n.) Totally lacking in every single aspect of life.
7. (n.) To be completely oblivious to the actions, thoughts, and behavior of others as well as themselves.

I think I'm numbers 1, 2, and 3. What about you?

The Joys of Pet Ownership

I named my kitten after I gave him his first bath in the guest bathroom sink. As I held his tiny wet shivering body under the forearms, I had an epiphany that I then spoke out loud: "I shall name him Disco."

Disco has a streak of pink on his left side that we have decided is paint and not, in fact, ring worm. Two ringworm experts (=they've had ringworm before) judged it so. Still, to be safe, I scrubbed the sucker again yesterday. Still pink.

Disco seems to be a good boy. When I'm in the shower, he walks into the bathroom, politely turns his back, and guards the door. When I'm in the kitchen, he will sit in the middle of the floor and patiently wait for me finish. He does not, like other cats in my life *cough*Sheba*cough*, orbit around my head at 5 in the morning. Instead, like me, he will laze in bed until food magically appears.

Speaking of bed, he doesn't actually sleep with me per se. He can't figure out how to get past the mosquito net. So he steps…

My New Kitty!

Bright was the day and glad our hearts
When events eventuated as I shall now relate.

Okay, I'm done. Summary: found kitty on stairs. Gave kitty three shampoo sessions and de-flea'd. Trained kitty to use litter box. Kitty now passed out behind me, hogging my computer chair so half my butt is hanging off. So worth it.

What the heck did I just eat?

Oh, it was betel. Betel, I learned in my Vietnamese History class, was traditionally chewed by the folks who liked having red teeth. Also, Wikipedia informs me that betel (aka paan) is a stimulant, an antiseptic, and a breath freshener. Sure.

What they DON'T tell you is how NASTY this stuff is. It tasted like a leather shoe with a touch of cheap menthol. I unwrapped it to see what was inside: little shavings of cardboard?

Funny thing is, I see the leaves for these guys everywhere on the streets. They're usually in a high pile in some basket.

Take it from Auntie Nikki: DO NOT EAT THIS STUFF. IT IS GROSS.

You've been warned.

The Long Day Wanes

Wikipedia says that Burgess intended his Malayan trilogy, The Long Day Wanes, to be the definitive novel about the expatriate experience in Malaya around the time of its post-WWII independence. Burgess was stationed there in the fifties, and became fluent in the language, a fact amply demonstrated in the novel.

The author's cynicism colors everything in the novel(s), from the hopelessly corrupt protagonists and minor characters, to the description of small towns in Malaya. In fact, I'd borrowed this book from a Malaysian, who couldn't finish reading it because it contained so many stereotypes: the bookish, cunning Chinese; the lazy Malays; the warlike Sikhs; the effete Englishmen. I think this is an accurate statement about the first two novels, but the third one (Beds in the East) is different.

The first two novels (Time for a Tiger and The Enemy in the Blanket) follow Victor Crabbe, idealistic schoolmaster, shoddy husband, and all-around lame human being. Time for a Tig…

Saturday of Lameness?

Couldn't sleep last night, so I opted out of the 7 am trip to Cox's Bazaar. I then spent the morning in bitter self-recrimination, but thanks to my friend the treadmill, I eventually got over it. Spent the day passed out instead of romping on the beach in my kameez. Sigh.

The day perked up as I was tromping down with my laundry basket and a gracious smiling young lady in a flowing skirt offered me some jackfruit -- apparently she and her friends had overstocked on this slimy delight, and were running around the apartment building trying to unload the rest. Fortunately the bottomless pit aka me happened to pass by.

So anyway, instead of pics of the longest natural coastline in the world, I present to you, my dismayed audience, pictures of my new room. And another one of the cat.

I upgraded myself to the Room with A/C, which I shamelessly used today during my naptime. As you can see, the view outside my balcony is that of the building next door. I daren't open the curtains i…

Impala

Here is the butter masala dosa at Impala, the friendly neighborhood restaurant that is now getting used to foreigners chowing down regularly. Impala specializes in Chinese and South Indian cuisine. The other dosas are the length of my arm. This magnificent dosa is but one of the many delights that await visitors of Panchlaish. Yum yum, come on over!

GRADUATION!!!

Our girls had traveled so far and endured so much and we celebrated them today. Another chance to do photo ops!

I have never seen so many beautiful saris. Our students and staff were dazzling. Even the shalwar kameez were gleaming.

Not to be outdone, I decked myself out in baro't saya. Throughout the ceremony, I flounced down the aisles and proudly replied that, yes, this is our traditional formal wear, and no, I am not Malaysian.

The ceremony itself was perfect. The gratitude that the students felt for their teachers was palpable, and there was so much love and goodwill in the air that I didn't break a camera over the obnoxious press people's heads.
The girls did a slideshow presentation to what seems to be their favorite song, something about "you lift me uuuup," and everyone started WEEPING. I mean, this was basically the Estrogen Zone. Fortunately, the Chair of the Graduation Planning Committee had the foresight to appoint a Tissue Committee (which turned out …

Midnight call???

So at around half past eight last night I called the tailor to remind him that he was meant to deliver the finished goods (academic stoles) to me soon. "Yes mam!" he chirped. "Half nine mam!" I figured that this was Bangladesh, therefore 9:30 pm = 10:00 pm. At the earliest.

But I was suuuper sleepy last night. Finally, at 10:30, I locked the main door to the flat, sent him an SMS telling him to come to the office tomorrow instead, and passed out.

The phone rang later -- tailor man! "Mam, where is your flat?" he asked. "It's late," I told him, as sternly as I could manage while unconscious. "Sorry mam, sorry mam," he said. Well, heck, he was here anyway. I told him where I was, then checked the time after hanging up. 11:48 pm. Brilliant. I put on my robe (rumored to have been stolen from a hotel, but really a gift from Mama), let him in, got the goodies and paid him and ushered him out. It was five past midnight by then. My beauty …

Prom Night

Our girls had their "prom without boys" tonight. On the way to this social event of the season, P and I on our rickshaw got smacked by a CNG. Ouch! The impact made me drop my purse and I immediately dove after it. P hopped out and then fell. Ha! Ha! No one was hurt, although there was much shouting -- from the drivers, not us, as we'd scooted off to safety by that time. Note to self: never ride a rickshaw after dark.

We got there and it was, indeed, just like prom, with pictorials going on everywhere and squealing girls scattering and reforming into groups for more picture-taking and mutual admiration. Some of the girls went all out and had tailors make their evening wear. There was much makeup in evidence, and so much face and body glitter that my skin absorbed some just by walking through the venue. I think my lungs are glittering right now, actually. Anyway, all this posing and giggling made me realize that prom really is an estrogenic activity -- the testosterone carr…

THE HILL TRACTS!!!

Finally! I get to go to Rangamati!

First, we had to go through two security checkpoints. Apparently there's some rumblings in the area, so foreigners have to submit their passport details etc to the soldiers. Here's a couple of them patrolling our van.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts are unrelentingly green. Everywhere you look, it's that lush color that Bangladeshis love to wear. Now I know why I always miss the Green Memo at the office: EVERY day is green day!

It took about three hours total to get to where we wanted to go: the docks for our boat ride to lunch. On the way down to the docks, we spotted these little animals. I call this shot "Goat Segregation" -- notice the white goat is up top, the two little black goats are huddled together, and the mixed ones are at the very bottom.

We got into the boat, where we passed this tree trunk sticking up out of the water. Turns out we were on top of Rangamati City, which was flooded back in the day to make the artificial dam…