Monday, October 31, 2011

a slightly supernatural tale on halloween night

In January of 2007 I was sent to India with another senior member of my team to help train some people in the New Delhi office. We stayed in a Hilton hotel called The Trident and it was the first time I flew business class.

Part of the work was visiting some middle-class Indian households and in one such household we met an astrologer who was well-known in the area. People flocked to him for readings. Since we were there, we decided to give it a try.

My companion and friend, G, had a boyfriend at that time and they were okay. But the astrologer said that she will not be marrying that boyfriend. He also said that she will meet her husband-to-be through something that is transportation-related, and that she will get married in the month of September. He said she will be rich and happy.

They all came true. Almost to the letter.

For my part, I have yet to wait for my destiny, or path, to manifest itself. I have already forgotten a lot of the details but mine had to do with spring -- either I meet my husband-to-be at that time or he becomes my boyfriend or I get proposed to within that period. The astrologer also said that India, or something Indian, will have something to do with my knowing when it is time or when it is the One.

He also said I will have a happy marriage and I will be rich, but not as rich as G because I shop too much.

I wonder.

travel story : hong kong, day 2

This was on the 25th of October. Breakfast was at the hotel from the stash we bought from 7-eleven the night before.

I mapped out our walking path to Kowloon Park, with every intention of spending the whole morning there. An effective way to avoid shopping was to avoid going into the shopping malls. We were reserving whatever little we had for the street markets. Besides, we were never really patrons of popular (often expensive) branded products.

Kowloon Park turned out to be a very enjoyable and pleasant surprise. I love the idea of so much greenery and nature in the midst of a bustling city.

Lunch was at McDonald's because we wanted to try how its food tasted in other countries. In Hong Kong, everything was less salty and more flavorful. It also had more ice cream flavors. And bigger regular sizes.

We took a peek at Muji just to see if it sold the same stuff as back home. It sold a lot more.

We went inside the mall that sold only Chinese products and we almost drooled over the handmade tablecloths and pillow cases and bags - basically anything cloth and embroidered. But they were also very expensive.

We walked along the rest of Nathan Road from Kowloon Park to our hotel at Eaton, checking out all most of the Sasa, Watsons and Mannings stores. In the Philippines, Burt's Bees is exclusively sold in a high-end beauty store. In Hong Kong it is just part of the regular inventory of Watson's.

We took a quick rest in the hotel in the late afternoon before taking on the Temple Street Night Market. My sister dropped by 7-eleven to get a bowl of fish ball curry udon to tide her over.
Dinner was rice topped with chicken cooked in a claypot.
My biggest splurge for the trip was a leather covered blank notebook (HK$98) that I intend to make into a photo and text journal about this trip and all future trips to Hong Kong. The kanji means "Smooth Sailing".

The night was concluded along Kansu Street with a fortune teller who gave us only good predictions and an amulet. She also took a bit of our money. That was the only thing that went off the plan in that whole trip. It was a purely impulsive thing and I guess I was looking for a bit of magic amidst all the scrimping and emerging questions in my head (and heart) and all the other things that were hovering over me even as I tried to forget about them for a while.

She said I would get married next year and that I will have two sons and that I will not lack for money and my husband will be very tall. She also said I have an honest heart and that really, really made me think and wonder because one of the main things I am bothered about now had to do with it. Well, I did ask for some sort of message from the Universe. Maybe this is one.

where are the ghosts and the witches?

When I was still employed I would take a bit of trouble to celebrate Halloween in some way. It could be as simple as a movie marathon or a nice dinner or walking around the mall in some costume or watch the people who do walk around in costume. The point is, I celebrated it in one way or another.

Last year and this year I have become more domesticated and low-key. For starters, I will be cleaning the house today and will probably be starting on some overdue tasks for an on-going project. I will also probably run a couple of errands to the supermarket.

Yesterday I went to the new water spa place. It was my birthday gift to Mao and we spent about two hours trying out all the water massages and soaking in the herbal pools. We even took laps in the lapping pool (which made me start wondering about a membership of some form because the pool was perfect for working out).

Lunch was at Cafe Juanita where I made reservations a couple of days before so Mao can try out their super delicious buffet. The restaurant was not too full and therefore it was not too noisy and I got a good look at the latest redecorating done and there was an angel watching over us as we ate.

As we were nearing the end of lunch, I had become extremely sleepy from the spa and the food. The next order of the day was a nap back at my place.

By 5pm we were heading out again to check a few things out at the warehouse sale across the street then we went to Mao's house for a home-cooked birthday dinner treat by his mom. I finally got to meet his family and had long interesting conversations with his brothers. His mom cooked a really good dish of baby back ribs (and I got some for taking home when his mom offered it after dinner).

The rest of the evening was spent watching Transformers 3 on DVD and Kung Fu Panda 2. I fell asleep halfway through Kung Fu Panda 2.

I now read through what I have written and it reads like a very normal and sane day.

There is a part of me that wants to go tricking and treating. One way or another. There is a part of me that is as hungry as the ghosts that walk around this time of the year.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

a quick sign off

I just came home from dinner and dessert. It's Mao's birthday and he treated the group at the banchetto in Metrowalk. Then we capped the night with dessert and coffee at Poco Deli, an Italian restaurant that serves the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted.

Will post more photos and stories tomorrow. Or rather, later today. Or maybe Monday if I get too busy doing Sunday stuff like family and water spa and lunch.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

little gifts

Sadly I could not practice kendo today because of the pain in my left leg. I consoled myself with preparing the little gifts for our friends -- we bought a box of different-flavored mochi in Hong Kong and divided them by three and I packaged them nicely. I used small designed cookie plastic packs and leftover gold string from last Christmas. Inexpensive but thoughtful. :)

the fall

I have always loved the autumn season even when there is no such thing where I live (in the Philippines there are basically two seasons: wet and dry). I have always dreamed about wearing fall clothes and walking along a leaf-strewn path of reds and golds. I also love the idea of pumpkins and Halloweens and the insinuations of magic and the supernatural.

I have always felt a little bit luckier during this season. A lot of stories have sprung into my life at this time of year, even without the dramatic backdrop of falling leaves.

This year there are stirrings that I am not yet certain of but I can feel that my life is about to shift once again.

'Cause it's frightening to be swimming in this strange sea
But I'd rather be here than on land

(Stephen Speaks, Out Of My League)

and now i have a bit of a limp

It started yesterday. Well, first there was the recurring ache on the left side of my foot which I think is due to some bad habit of curling my foot when I write or work on the desk.

Then yesterday there was this lump of ache somewhere in the fleshy muscle part on my left thigh above the back of my knee, a bit to the right, where a muscle dips to join the muscle leading to the inner thigh. At first it was just a lump of familiar ache, like I bumped it on the corner of a table. Then as the day progressed the ache changed character and it then felt like a pulled muscle or a trapped vein or even a torn bit of something. I started favoring my left leg since the pain tended to sharpen when I straighten my leg suddenly or make any sudden twists or bends at the knee. So now I'm limping a bit.

My suspicion: a belated result of going up and down the stone benches at the Kowloon Park trying to get a good shot of the flamingoes. There were a couple of particularly high benches that I climbed in a single pull and I remember a quick twinge in the same area that is aching now.

I've put some soothing oil on the area and tried massaging it gently. If it persists after three days I will go to a doctor.

Friday, October 28, 2011

travel story : hong kong, day 1

My sister and I went to Hong Kong on the 24th of October for a 3-night stay. It was a last-minute decision aided by unexpected help.

Flight to Hong Kong was around 5:45am so I hardly slept cramming my packing. Very bleary-eyed on the way to the airport and could barely keep myself awake through check-in.

At the Eaton Smart Hotel before 9am but we had to wait for our room to become available. The wait was worth it and we caught up on some sleep until noon.

When we were more sober then we had a better look around the room. A printed guide advised us about the earth-friendly effort of Hong Kong to reduce plastic usage so bringing one's own shopping bags would be the best way to go. The stores will provide shopping bags but for a small fee. Fortunately I have already made it a habit to bring my own bags so there was no problem. The hotel itself also had earth-friendly practices in place.

We had a good view of Nathan Road from our window. I had a cup of free tea as I slowly absorbed being in Hong Kong.

A 7-eleven was right across the hotel so we stocked up on breakfast and snack foods to save on money.

There were a few treats from the hotel but we don't drink and the other offers could only be claimed by a purchase which we could barely afford so we passed on those.

In the evening we went to the Temple Night Market which was just two streets away. I had a roasted chicken and duck rice topping. Then we scanned the goods for sale and indulged in a bracelet each (costing HK$15 apiece).

We were still not fully recovered from the previous night so we also decided to rest early and plan the next day.

a few questions

If so many things have been causing you too many delays, what do you make of it? How do you deal with the frustration and exhaustion? Just how many deep breaths can you do before you just yell your heart out?

Just curious.

*takes deep breath*

i'm back!

Lots of catching up and story-telling to do! But I have to sleep first and then it will be a busy long day when I wake up! Let me sign off with a quick shot of a piece of Hong Kong that I have experienced:

Monday, October 24, 2011

the wee hours

I just came back from a midnight dinner/breakfast. Will have to get ready by 2AM, do last minute checks. Mogget has been especially affectionate. He must sensing that I will be gone for a while. He has also been trying to get himself packed along.

I am still half-dreamy about this trip. Maybe it will all start really sinking in when I am inside the plane.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

last-minute magic

I was bracing myself for not going. There was no way I can swing it.

As I cleaned and cleared my closet and dusted off my travel bag, a memory surfaced. There is this one project that I have shelved in my head but which still owes me a decent amount of money. I could get paid for it within November if I push hard enough for the project implementation (I have not pushed hard enough because I never liked pushing anyone into anything except maybe pushing myself). On the other hand, I realized that if I am going to be serious about making proper money from this business I should level up my aggressiveness a few notches.

So I remembered that project. And if I just do a couple of days' intense revisions to the materials I could push for a project implementation closer to my terms but which will benefit both parties. Hence it will not be too much of a stressful thing.

And if I am able to push for that project I can get paid. Then that gap in my budget which prevents me from crossing over to helping the trip happen can be filled enough to make me manage.

I did not practice kendo to reserve my energies for work and preparations. I scoured the Internet for hotels and I found a good promo deal from a 4-star hotel right along Nathan Road and right within the area of one of the walking tours that my sister and I want to do. We filled up the forms, reviewed options, changed our minds, searched, repeated the process, repeated it again, and lingered over the "confirm" button until we decided to press it together by 8:30 in the evening.

Then it was just the spending money, of which we need just a little because we were willing to survive on 7-eleven meals.

Our dear, dear friend Peter Paul got wind of our plans and casually mentioned he had some Hong Kong dollars stowed away. He offered to lend it to us, let us use it, and have us pay only for the exact amount we actually consume so we don't have to spend any extra for foreign exchange (of course we return all the extra dollars to him).

And that solves our daily cash dilemma. We have more than enough for meals, getting around and a few cups of good tea or coffee. Most of the time we intend to do walking tours, read in the parks, maybe visit a museum, take lots of photographs, write in our journals, and simply savor the deliciousness of being someplace else. This will be a strictly super-budget trip and I would like to see how savvy we can be on the thinnest of shoestrings. Maybe you can pick up a trick or two later on.

With everything being last-minute, I am now on a deadline to get packed and fully prepared, plus take care of some work details like emails to clients to remind them that I will be out for the week. Flight is at 5:40AM tomorrow.

I'm still not absorbing the fact yet 100%. But I will be going to Hong Kong tomorrow with my sister. Yaaaay!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

here's to being hopeful

I spent a good chunk of the morning looking for solutions and computing for budgets.

I even braved checking online for the last few available rooms in affordable decent hotels. I did find one and there are only three rooms left.

I have computed my budgets and it is such a tight squeeze that I could not breathe very well. But I remain optimistic and have proceeded to cleaning my travel bagua and taking out my suitcase.

a jolt of sadness, a grab for a miracle

I was browsing through my inbox and found an email advisory from the airline informing me that I could do an online check-in for my trip to Hong Kong on Monday.

Early this year, around February I think, my sister and I jumped at a ticket sale for Hong Kong scheduled for next week. We were positive and confident that we would have the means to go on a trip, that we would be getting enough projects and making enough money. We did the same for Singapore in April and it was a success. We knew we would make it again for Hong Kong in October.

It is now two days before the trip and we have not reserved a hotel nor have enough money to fund the trip. My sister has been alternately sad and hopeful for the past month and has worked her fingers to the bone on writing projects. But as of this point, there is just not enough money to safely get us through.

But it is only Saturday. There is still today and the whole of tomorrow.

Yesterday as I was resting in between grueling interview sessions, I looked out the window and gazed at the busy business district outside. I could be going to an office like that everyday and have more than enough to pay for next week's trip. But then, I might not have the time to actually take the leave to go on a trip next week. Or I would be too tired and stressed to enjoy it fully. And I would be feeling the pressure of the work pending and waiting for me to come home. I've been there.

Yesterday, Ms G and I talked about giving up paychecks and what we got in exchange for it. Family time. Creative time. Waking up without feeling your heart hammering through your tightening chest in anticipation of the stress ahead that starts with the morning rush hour traffic. Sleeping through the night without worrying about the next day and the next week and the next presentation.

I told Ms G that when I stopped working in an office and started to visit my parents more, I was shocked to realize how old my parents have become. I have been too busy and I have just always sent them a lot of money and thought they must be happy and comfortable enough.

I also told Ms G how, since I left work, the money I needed came in at exactly the right moment just when I thought it would never do so.

It is only Saturday. A lot of things could still happen.

catching up

Made myself get up at 8AM. I am now catching up on my online lessons (there's a lot!) and doing my best to finish my homework which is due at midnight tonight.

I will also need to spend some time catching up with the house chores. Look at all the clutter and mess (and you can't even see inside the sink yet where more dirty mugs and spoons are having a party)!

Friday, October 21, 2011

a quick good night

Got home from work at 10:30pm, about an hour later than anticipated. It was a great good thing though that I was working with Ms G who is simply one of the most reliable and pleasant people to work with. Normally she would recruit respondents for me but today I facilitated for her. We stuck together and cheered each other up through the near mishaps of the day because there were quite a number of details that were missed out on in preparation by the client.

We had a late dinner in a famous local chef's restaurant where I had a breakfast plate of sausages, egg and rice. And I could not resist the pavlova bites for dessert.

I wish I could write a bit more but I am just too tired. Will be back tomorrow morning (and I hope I can get up early to catch up on the house chores and to-dos that I had to miss out on today because of the work.)

Good night!

will be office lady today

Drinking a hot cup of coffee while I slowly nudge myself to full wakefulness. I will be out all day today, and I will be working in an office --- a place I have rarely been in the past 1.5 years! It's for a project where all I have to do is interview groups of people for a research study. It will be a bit of a long day -- I leave by 9AM and the interview sessions begin at around 10AM. Estimating by the schedules given to me I will finish at around 8:30PM, or even 9PM if things get delayed along the way.

I have decided to wear a nice pair of jeans (since I will be interviewing mostly college students and I don't want to go all formal on them -- I want them to feel relaxed and comfortable with me) and a plain soft slightly frilly top paired with a chunky necklace for a splash of color. Hopefully this achieves some sort of dressed-up casual that will not intimidate nor alienate the young people I will be talking to. (On the plus side, this top is super comfy, which will matter after I've been sitting for more than six hours in the same room asking the same questions.)

This necklace is a steal -- I bought it during one of my out-of-town projects in Davao City. There is a popular strip of stores selling local goods and I bought a string of these beads and had them made into a necklace. It came out much much cheaper than if I had bought a similar piece back in Manila. I hope to go back there and buy more "raw" beads for my crafts.

Have to get ready now. Hope to have some sanity and strength left to write again tonight!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

my life list

I have been greatly inspired by the life lists of Carolynsfgirlbybay and Mighty Girl. Here I wrote my own, with one little item already crossed out (Yay!).

Some are big, some are small. Some are quite easy, a few will probably require finding a genie in a bottle or maybe a fairy godmother. Looking through my list after writing them, I began to see patterns that made me smile as I realized where I am heading and who and what I am growing into. I certainly never imagined I would ever find myself along this particular path. Not even five years ago.

Maybe I will change some items as I go along, or maybe even add to the list and make it 150 instead of 100. One thing for sure, there is still so much to do with this life, so much to look forward to, so much to learn. Late bloomer I may be, but I will blooming long after many have decided to call it a day, or a life.

I would love to read your life lists. Let me know if you have one. :)

a little freshening up, a dozen donuts and making lists

If you haven't noticed yet, I've changed some fonts and colors and even put up a header with an image! The header is still a work in progress but I think it is much better than a plain scrawl of text, don't you?

My sister and I swam today and then I had a donut and a cheese sandwich for breakfast. The donut was from a lucky purchase last night -- I dropped by the supermarket to pick up a couple of items and Dunkin Donuts (a favorite) just opened up a stall in the supermarket on the same day. As a treat to opening-day-customers, they offered a dozen donuts for the price of six. How could I resist? I shared the dozen with my parents and my sister and took home some for my own.

Today I have to make preparations for a project I will do tomorrow. It's a one-off thing -- I show up and facilitate some group discussions and then I am done. I am being paid for my expertise in interviewing, a skill I have developed and honed while I was working as a consumer research expert.

Today I also update my lists as part of my practice in organizing and prioritizing. I have always been a list maniac but even lists have to have some semblance of art and science to it or they will just be another source of clutter. As a freelancer I also have to keep track of more things so random post-its won't cut it. My calendar planner sometimes looks more like a collage than a calendar but that's the way it works for me.

Be back in a bit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

a good morning

Suddenly there are projects happening. So my November bills should be safe and taken care of.

Meanwhile I am sticking to my resolution to manage my time wisely so I will be fair to everything that needs to be done. Especially preparing for the December sale. It's such a challenge since my sister and I are practically starting from scratch!

But somehow I can also feel that it will all turn out fine. It always does. Especially when you least expect it. So I try not be worrying obsessively about the "how". Everything in its own perfect time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

photo breaks

I actually have some serious project work to do and it is quite frustrating that my getting-to-know-my-camera time has to take a back seat for the meantime.

Anyway I did manage to squeeze in some photo breaks and here are some attempts (I am currently limited within my tiny studio.)

Yes I have a fondness for that blue pot!

after more than a decade of dilly-dallying

Please welcome my new companion:

Bought on a hard-to-resist installment deal with zero interest. It has been price-reduced because its next-level brother has been launched.

Last night and this morning I have been like a child discovering a whole new universe. Every successful shot (I have jumped bravely into aperture-priority setting) got me grinning from ear to ear.

I still have a lot to learn, including memorizing all the buttons and switches and every number and letter on my camera. But I am pretty excited to take this particular journey -- definitely I have come so far from trying to take a moody dramatic shot of a rooster on a late sunny afternoon while using a super old 35mm film camera that can only click and nothing else. That was me in high school or college I think. The photo did not even come out in the developing because it was either over or under exposed and the photo developer took the liberty of deciding not to print it anymore.

After that self-searching post about photography (helped a lot by a beautiful course I am taking right now), I am now better set with what I want to happen in my life. Shedding and clearing away the stuff that derail or discourage you is not an easy task but knowing the stuff that do matter to you no matter what will take you a good long way.

And I do believe that when you know where you want to go, the universe will conspire to show you the way.