Sunday, November 19, 2006

Menopause 1

I told the bill collector I was not paying the bill, because It was not me in the hospital....but then I saw this picture. I thought I'd play up on this menopause memory loss bit.
Two days ago, I decided to search the internet about menopause. I read the many symptoms that comes with menopause and one of them is heart palpitations. I could kick myself for not reading up on it before. Two weeks before I left Dallas to come to the Philippines, I was admitted to the hospital for some symptoms that I thought were that of a stroke. After 2 days and 15,000 usd in medical bills, the doctor released me and all he could say was that I was having panick attacks. What in the world is that? Or why is that? I knew that several years prior I was slowly introduced to this body I am not familiar with. Memory loss, difficulty to focus, on a good day. Then there's the, "I am fat, I am ugly, nothing fits, I just want to cry..leave me alone or I am filing for divorce if I don't kill you," days. The medical bill was bad enough but the doctor not really able to tell you why, is frustrating to say the least. But now I understand, why I have this crazy heartbeats. Now I can justify those good and bad days. There are so many books written about menopause and I did not think of reading them before because, I don't think I should. One of those books said in the front cover that with menopause comes wisdom and power. How is that wisdom and power when I can't even remember what I said just now? Well, see I was going to write about wanderlust and end up with menopause. So I better quit before I lose focus again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Budget Travel

1. The dorm room at Hangout 2. The Trekker Lodge 3. Hangout Hostel

On my recent trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, I was determined that I would have to go "budget" in order to be able to stay longer and see more places. In addition to my latest copy of the Lonely Planet, I searched the web for different places to consider as my place for lodging. I also read several review sites on several different lodges and hostels. When travelling in the US, I don't even feel comfortable staying at Best Western. So the thought of staying at hostels and budget lodging kind of made we wary. Arriving after midnite to any foreign country is bad enough, but knowing also that Singapore is clean and a safe City State, it helped alleviate my anxiety about the hostel I was about to lodge in. I decided to stay at Hangout at Mt. Emily. Not having stayed at hostels before, I did not know what to expect, or if I expected anything it was for the worst. After the taxi driver dropped me off at the front door, I noticed that the young lady at the front desk had a big smile and acted like she was expecting me, and was really glad to see me. After I signed for my room she handed me the key and showed me the elevator. This is definitely not the Peninsula, I thought. I reserved a "private room with attached bathroom." These are new terms for me, because I always thought that bathrooms comes standard in every hotel room. But this is "hostel" mind you, so I was anxious to see what my room would actually look like. The website implied that even though it says private, the charges are per bed. This hostel, has private rooms and a dorm room. I could not wait to stick my card key in the door to see what lies behind it. And wow, the room was very neat, crispy white linen, a window and the bathroom was clean and the water pressure, like a waterfall. I was told check out time is 10 a.m. another new for me. I had reserved for 3 nights but the second nite I had to be in a dorm room because the private rooms were booked that day. I always made it a rule not to stay at friends' houses while on vacation, now a dorm room? So the second night would be a test of my resolve. But I was determined that this trip was going to be an adventure all the way for me. This is the first time I travelled alone and the first time I am going budget hostels. So I checked out of the private room and moved to a different door but still on the same floor. I walked in and there it was, 4 women scampering around the bathroom and another one still sleeping. None of them acknowledged me except for the one who smiled back at me when I did. The room had 6 beds. I like the set up of the beds but the mess I was not prepared to take. The garbage can in the corner was spilling over, moist towels on the floor and underwears hanging everywhere. I put my backpack on the bed and got out of the room. I had to step back out of the situation in order to think. Something inside me felt at home, but not quiet. I went to the second floor where the computers were. This floor is called the Veg Out floor. There was a billiard table, some bean bags, a big screen tv, a cubicle for reading and a coffee machine that spits out free drinks. I immediately felt at home, coffee and After 2 hours, I went back to the room and all the other ladies have checked out already. I was told I will be the only one left in the room. The maid came to spruce up the room and that made me feel good then. I learned another thing; towels and beddings are not changed everyday, oh well, I laid in the bed and thought " hostelling is not bad after all."

During the 3 days that I was there, I learned my way around on the train, when I can walk to it, I just walked. The first day, I stumbled into a wet market with food stalls next door. But in Singapore, there's hardly any building without a food stall in it, I learned that later. I thought I died and went to heaven. I did not know what to do first, I was like a child in a candy store. In the US or anywhere I go, I always go for the local market or the grocery store, because I want to know what they have that I have not seen or eaten. But true to myself, when faced with a lot of choices I end up not choosing anything. So I end up not eating because I could not make up my mind on what to eat. I wanted all of them. I think I circled the place 3 times only to go away more hungry. I took the train and went to Chinatown and sat down at the first restaurant I saw. The waitress came to take my order and I started to vacillate again, so I pointed to the lemak laksa and waited. I was introduced to this dish in Labuan,Malaysia and it stayed in my mind how a boyfriend stays in your heart. Lemak laksa is a curried soup with coconut cream with toppings of chicken and or seafood. I find this dish on the top of my favorite foods in Singapore and Malaysia. I was told that Katong laksa in Singapore is a good one if not the best. I have decided that on my return trip there, I will be exploring on different laksa and write about it. That is how much I love this dish.

I could have flown to Malaysia from Singapore, but since I was determined to stay on budget, I opted to take the bus to Kuala Lumpur. It would be a 5 and 1/2 hour ride, but I wanted to see the countryside and experience everything in slow motion. The bus fares varies, I learned the hard way. At the Golden Mile complex, there are various travel counters that sells bus tickets. Look around and compare for the best rate. Being my first time, I did not know that there are several bus companies that leaves at different times and at different prices. Don't ask me why.

The ride was very comfortable. I sat next to an Indonesian family who did not speak any English. The lady who I assume was the mother would hand me whatever they were eating and I tried to say no but she won't take it away, so I ate them. It seemed like it was every hour that they would eat something and here she comes again, hand them to me first. I did not know what they were but they were good. On the 3rd time, I pretended to be asleep because I just can't take them anymore.

I arrived Kuala Lumpur feeling pretty upbeat until I saw the neighborhood of the lodge I was supposed to be staying at. It was dirty, garbage strewn everywhere and the buildings were old and looked almost abandoned.

I was freaking out by the time I reached the lodge called Trekker Lodge. I tried to cancel out but I still would have to pay the full amount because I did not have the 72 hour cancellation notice. I tried explaining to Ashman, the clerk that I am not used to hostelling and the place was just not suitable for me. He was very consoling and hospitable that I calmed down. I reserved for 2 nights, but I told him I will be moving out the next day to stay at a a friends house. He agreed not to charge me for the 2nd day. After I have settled down, I noticed that the place was really neat and very homey. There was a tv room and 2 small table to eat at. Four European men and 2 American women were lounging around so I joined them for some small talk. Ashman said that this is like a "homestay", but I won't know because again, this was my first time. The next morning around 6am, I went to the computer to do my email. Sebastian, the clerk for the night was asleep on the couch. He got up and made coffee and tea and put out some bread in the kitchen. That really made me feel at home and I began to feel fondness for the place. As I was leaving, I knew in my heart that hostelling will be it for me from now on.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

To marry or Not to marry

Today is one of those days where I can’t decide what I should eat for breakfast. It’s a simple dilemma considering that a lot of people don’t even have anything to eat. I finally decided on a piece of slice bread straight from the refrigerator and coffee. I finished reading the last chapter of the book of James and a thought popped in my head, “Will I ever remarry? Or maybe I should rephrase it, “ Would I want to remarry?” After my husband died, I hear so many well intentioned comments like, “ Oh, don’t remarry, why should you look for a headache” Others get maternal, “Oh, you should remarry, maybe not so soon but you should –just so you will have someone and you won’t be lonely.” Or something like, “Why remarry, you have your pension, you don’t need a man.”

Well, since I have nothing better to do today, let us reason together and dissect these statements to see if we can make sense out of them.
1. Marriage = headaches: You know, I had my heart broken (if it really gets broken) so many times and I always end up with the conclusion that whatever does not kill you, strengthens you. Can you really imagine life in this world without heartaches, headaches, and stomachaches? And now that I am older I noticed my knee aches too. Even that I welcome, because I get to appreciate the days that I don’t hear my knees crackle when I exercise. How boring, how lifeless will life be without the occasional pain? How so not exciting. So statement no. 1 will not stop me from remarrying.

2. Marriage = companionship. There’s some truth to this. But I was in a relationship once and I have never felt so alone, so lonely on Christmas. And he was right beside me. There are some marriages that you might as well have a rooster in your yard than a husband in the house. At least this rooster that my neighbor owns, crows even before you deny him three times, flap its’ wings and greets you every morning. (Whether you want him to or not.)
My daughter says "we can buy a husband but we can’t buy companionship." (I have not analyzed this statement but my Christmas gift would be in jeopardy if I don’t quote her, so I thought I’d write it and let you chew on it.)
So… No. This statement will not make me remarry.

3. Money = Man. Now, we’re going to discuss this deeply and in details. Another friend insists that if “you have money, you don’t need a man. You can do anything if you have money.”
I know, I know. Hire a yardman, hire a handyman, or buy a radio and leave it constantly tuned in to Howard Stern or Bobby Nalzaro. That’s the same, right? I don’t think so. Money will not buy you that wide, warm back (assuming he is obese) to curl up in and shield you from the lightning flash in the middle of the night. Money will not buy you that living cell that will bleed if you hit his toes with the vacuum while he is firmly planted in front of the TV. Now, money will buy you a life size dummy that you can position on the passenger side so you can drive on the HOV lane and get to work on time. Also, it will buy you a nice room at The Oriental Bangkok while you cry your eyes out because the plastic dummy just won’t do anymore.

Should I? Or Should I not? I understand the power of money or lack thereof, but I have yet to discover the power to resist the need for a man.


Filipinos have the knack for words. They can coin words and make it into something humorous or even funny. And Filipinos eat anything too..well, almost anything. I did my part when I was growing up as my mom would never throw away anything; when we complained she would always invoke "going hungry during world war 2." But as I got older and my personal finances improved, I tried to act like I came out of her womb already civilized. Note that I said 'tried.'
My older brother and the rest of the population likes to eat chicken feet. And so do I. To mask the criminality of the word, Filipinos calls them 'Adidas'. Barbecued, stewed or in soups, chicken feet is pretty tasty, I have to admit. But sans the nails. I love the stewed kind and always order them at dimsum. I was in Kuala Lumpur and a friend asked if I would eat chicken feet for breakfast. He said it comes with Chinese mushroom. Feet and fungus on the same line with breakfast? Well, do as the Romans do.
There's something appealing about something small, something thin, but the adidas on my plate were very fat I was not sure if they were really chicken feet. This one was not chopped into little pieces. From the knee all the way down, 2 feet arranged ominously in my plate. I gulped them down anyway.
Three days later I was back home in Cebu, I went out for lunch and guess what I was craving for, again...adidas.
I went to Dimsum and ordered a plate. Then I started to examine the soft as silk adidas on my plate. Unlike what I had in KL, these are chopped into small bite size pieces. I pondered, since I really love this 'delicacy' I should try making them at home in order to save money. So the next day, I went to the nearby grocery store. There was a big pile of them in behind the glass counter. I looked around to make sure none of my friends saw me with the tong diligently checking each feet. Civilized people should not admit to eating adidas. I started to feel grossed out as I was doing this because -should I call them toes? they were like baby fingers with baby nails. I asked the attendant if she could get one of the boys at the back to cut the nails out and she gave me that look like, "who do you think you are?" Ok, I got the point, so when I got home I started washing them and pulling those "yellow" scales that were still stuck in some of them. As I was doing this, I was really beginning to feel sick in my stomach. My minds eye was trying to describe them; cats claws? baby fingers? oh dear, it's chicken feet, one you love to eat, my mind seems to remind me. I did not think I wanted to go through with it, but instead I got my kitchen shears and cut the nails out by one. By this time, I already knew I won't eat it. I can't eat it. Them nails did me in. I put them in the crockpot, seasoned them with star anise, peppercorns, garlic, soy sauce and I went to bed and tried to put them out of my mind.
The next morning, I was anxious to see how it turned out. It smelled good and almost look like the one I order at Dimsum. Jordan, this poor malnourished 11 year old boy who I inherited from the neighborhood kids, looked at them and told me he is not hungry. " You're always hungry, why are you not hungry this morning, are you sick?" "No, those make me sick" he pointed to my pot. I was mad and wanted to say something like --you are poor and malnourished, you can't be picky. How dare you not eat them, I even eat them. Until now.
I really can't blame Jordan, because as I was looking at my pot full of adidas, I don't think I will ever eat them again. Nails or without nails.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To Spit or not to Spit

Finally, I got myself out of my comfortable routine after waking up in the morning; make coffee, loiter around my apartment and check emails then read my bible and pray. I know, the last part should the first thing I should do.
So today, I went for a walk. Here in Cebu, there's this complex built by the Ayalas' called the IT Park. A friend of mine brought this to my attention one time, she said "have you noticed that when the Ayalas build something they always waste some important land that instead of putting another building they use it for landscaping and walking trails?" She continued, "the Chinese would maximize the use of the land with a standing structural building without any provisions for landscaping, and they are mostly dirty, but not the Ayalas'." I really agree. As I was walking I noticed the buildings in this complex are clean and the surrounding areas are strewn with nice tropical plants and trees. The coffee shops which cater to most of these IT workers has a very nice ambience too.
I really felt good stretching my legs and flailing my arms..why didn't I do this before? Two pregnant women with their spouses were walking along with them, some were jogging some were running, others just sat in the curb resting. A man standing idly was holding a leash without a dog, then I saw an iguana slowly craning its' greenish head out of the grass on the other end of the leash. I was curious, so I asked questions. The iguana is 1 year old and the owner does not feed it meat but only vegetables. He said that if he feeds it meat, it gets mean and bites when it does not get meat anymore. Honestly, I don't see anything endearing about an iguana that I should feed it anything. I had too much so not fond memories of lizards all over our house when I was growing up, that anything resembling of them and bigger than them, feeding it would be the last thing my sane mind would want to do.
As the early morning sun was slowly getting over the buildings and began to touch my skin in an uncomfortable way, I started to walk in briskly so I can get done and go home. Some familiar obnoxious smell molested my nose, I wondered ..."here? who could be frying dried fish in these office buildings?" But I realized it was coming from the little neighborhood store from accross the street. Don't get me wrong, I love dried fish; grilled or fried. I just don't like the smell while it is being cooked. And to top that harrassment, a man walking towards me cleared his throat and spit right almost close to my feet. I don't know what's with these people, why they don't know or even have the common decency to figure out that a spit, phlegm or no phlegm is DIRTY, AND UNSANITARY when done outside the confines of your own bathroom.
I noticed that this is very common here in the Philippines, people burping out loud, smoking right in front of your face and spitting like it is mandatory for your health. Another thing I find idiotic; people would pick their teeth after eating, one hand holding the toothpick, the other covering the act...great, but then burp out loud? Gracias, for good groceries but excuse me for bad manners? And by the way, I am filipino. Even before I lived in the US, I find this burping thing, a heinous act.
The morning walk did me good, in the taxi heading home I thought to myself " I should consistently do this." I felt so good I even told the driver to keep the 2.50 peso change. He smiled, said "Salamat ma'm" then he opened his side of the door, spit out and speeded off. Oh well.

Travel tips/ ASK

So many times we hear wives complaining about their husbands getting lost while on a trip somewhere because he just won't ask for directions. But I always wondered - why won't the women do the asking if she is sitting right next to him anyway? Make him stop, roll the window down and ask, well, that's assuming he is man enough to stop though. I could not relate to this predicament because my late husband was the opposite. In fact, he asked too much.

I don't mind asking for directions or asking someone what they think of this and that restaurant when I am in a foreign country. People like to be asked because basically most people like to help and in particular likes to give directions. But you have to be sensitive to the other persons body language though. You can't approach someone who is in the middle of an intimate conversation or someone who is about to alight the train. I was in Singapore 2 weeks ago, and the taxi driver who took me to my hotel at 130 a.m. was very chatty. I told him I was going to Kuala Lumpur in a day or two. He then picked up his cell phone, dialed a fellow taxi driver and proceeded to tell me what bus station to go to and why I should not buy a round trip ticket. From Singapore you pay Singapore dollars, Ringgits in Kuala lumpur. During the 20 minute ride, I learned some details my Lonely Planet guidebook forgot to mention.
The next day, I asked the hotel clerk, a young Chinese guy named Desmond for some places to go to that is not a tourist trail. He gave me names of a few places plus directions on how to get there by train. Then after a 15 minute conversation, his eyes lit up - "hey, I get off work at 330pm, from here I go to the temple to pray, would you like to come see what we Chinese do in the temple?" "Of course, I will come down and wait for you then." I felt like I hit a jackpot.
On the way to the temple I was telling him how much I like the foods in Singapore. We decided we should stop at some food stalls where the locals eat. He asked me if I will eat anything, I said yes. But after I said yes, I thought to myself " Oh dear God, why did I say that?" I told him he can order and I will eat it whatever it is, as long as it is not a lot because I am still full from lunch. He came back with a peanut soup. It was the first time I have seen or eat that. There were 4 glutinous balls in the somewhat creamy looking hot liquid. The balls had each different fillings, meat, peanut or red bean paste. It was quite delicious. The place was full of people so a man and a woman asked if they could sit with us in our table. When Desmond left to get me a cold drink, I started a conversation with the woman and found out she was Filipino and he was Malay. I asked him about Hari Raya, the holiday that Singapore had been celebrating for a few days before I got there. I gathered it means " a day of celebration" for Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore. They offered me a beer, " No, I don't drink." He winked and pouted his lips " Come on, it's my Hari Raya." I lifted the mug to my lips and I cringed at the Tiger (the national beer).
" I just can't drink all of this" I apologized. Desmond offered to down it for me, "bottoms up"he said, and off we go to pray. Or he did. He picked up some joss sticks from some container, held it with both hands and placed it on his forehead while he faced towards the east and mumbled silently with his eyes closed. He explained about the goddess of Mercy that he prayed to , I explained to him the simplicity of Christs' offer of salvation through His blood.
I got more than I could ask for because we continued on to get more snacks and this time it was a fresh coconut from Thailand. The water and the meat was the sweetest and tastiest coconut I have ever put in my mouth. The size of the coconut is about the size of a mans fist I did not know what it was when I saw it in Chinatown the day before. And by the way, he paid too. You know what I mean, people just want to help.
I don't like anything new; can opener or a car. I am afraid I will destroy it because I don't want to read the manual to operate it. Same thing with this blogging thingy. When I was in Singapore I tried to keep my friends and daughter updated on my whereabouts through email. None of my friends suggested about me blogging--they don't even know how to open pictures I sent them thru Kodak gallery, can you imagine them thinking about me blogging? But my daughter got frustrated with me repeating things or not saying enough on my email so she said " why don't you blog?" "You mean blab?" " No, mom, blog...b.l.o.g." I said ok. I don't know the first thing about blog or where to start. She is not a good teacher so she told me to go to the website and "just play with the buttons."

So here I am...blabbing, I mean blogging. I think.