Monday, December 28, 2009

customer service.

I was at KFC very recently, and I must tell you that I don't go there very often. I ordered for a bucket and when I arrived home, I discovered that there were a few pieces that were probably left overs from the previous day. Annoying, isn't it?

In the Philippines, if we dine out and find left overs mixed in our food, we are more likely to wrap it in a table napkin and slip it in our bags or pockets. If the waiter asks us how our food was, we would probably smile and tell him it was delicious.

Such well-mannered people, eh?

BUT in certain situations, we do complain. When we do, we lose our temper and scream like a madwoman. Well, I do.... sometimes! lol

Such uncivilized people, eh?

This is why I admire the cool, calm, and composed complaining at which the Dutch are so good. They never raise their voice and they actually believe that they deserve to get what they had paid for, which is the difference between the Dutch and Filipino attitudes when it comes to spending.

Maybe I should say, my Filipino attitude. But I am catching on.

That is good news, right? The bad news is that all my complaining techniques are getting me nowhere. I am simply becoming demanding, annoying, and at times, aggressive. Oh yes, I am turning into a complainer. I think.

Keeping a stiff upper lip was what made me refined, civilised and perhaps, even endearing (friendly) to people. I thought then that if I supress any display of emotion, smile if necessary, pretend that nothing happened, and give my other cheek; everything will be all right.

BUT I am no longer that person, and that ability to be tolerant (civilised and endearing) is no longer useful to me. I will say what I want to say, when I want to say it, and will be responsible for it. I try not to offend people, if I can help it.

Oh yes, I have grown. I have learned the Dutch´s relaxed, confrontational way of dealing with things. And I must admit, I am actually loving it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I love Christmas!

First of all, A BLESSED, MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all! :D

The goddess of blogging left my nest for awhile, and I had been without a muse (my inspiration) since then. Hence, the long silence. lol

The year is almost over. We are all aware of that, I suppose. I am doing some thinking myself as to what I have accomplished this year. Then I stopped and became somewhat agitated. Why do I always think in terms of accomplishment? Why can I not gauge it in terms of personal growth? Or what I perceive as development in my personality. For instance, did I bother to act wiser and more matured, and accordingly to situations?

In general, I would certainly say I did. Of course, what I perceive as wise, matured, and proper, may mean something else to the onlooker.

But one thing is for sure. I have chosen to love myself more this year. Some may think it was egoistic, self-centered, and/or narcissistic. It doesn't really matter because people will always look at you according to their moods, their concept of truth, and their cultural & emotional luggage. If they are happy, they will be happy for you. If they are unhappy, they will try to drag you into their miserable state.

This is of course nothing new to us all. It's human nature, and the same could be said even in the animal kingdom. We don't want to be alone --- whether we are happy or miserable. From the moment we were born until our very last breathe, we want people around us.

And this is what people try to do at Christmas time. We try to surround ourselves with the people we love and who love us. Hence, the parties and dinners. We don't want to be alone for nobody wants to be alone. We want to belong to a tribe. To feel needed, loved and wanted.

Some of us are too proud to accept and acknowledge that. But it´s the truth. We are pleasers.

For those of us who are caught between two cultures, we try to make the most out of it. We decorate our homes and prepare food that will remind us of home.... or what used to be home. We share with our new family (and even with new friends and new neighbors) our culture and roots (religious and otherwise).

So whenever we take that old box that says "Christmas decors", we know that this is our way of holding on to our past (some would say, to see the world like a child again)..... of dragging people into our lives (the greetings and social obligations)..... of feeling we belong (Christmas dinner with the family). And this is why I love Christmas......

I love Christmas because it makes all of this possible for us, without much fuss. People obligingly do whatever is asked; and blame everything on capitalism or Catholic rituals and tradition, as others would call them. As for me, I love the rituals and traditions... so yes, I LOVE CHRISTMAS! hahahahaha

Thursday, December 3, 2009

to listen or not to listen....

So I have a new job. I am teaching at this local school called De Weier. My fifth week now. I don't know yet the names of my colleagues, but I am now a familiar face to them.

Today, I was standing by the coffee machine when I overheard two, young teachers discussing their private lives, in Dutch of course.

Colleague 1: Men are such strange creatures.
Colleague 2: No, they're not. They're just ... what's the word .... oh yes, sexed up.
Colleague 1: But Marieke, I really love him. We have been together for 2 years now. And now, he's in Morocco. I can´t stand it.
Colleague 2: If he truly loves you, it doesn't matter whether he is in Venus or in Timbuktu. He will remain faithful to you.
Colleague 1: But there are so many beautiful women in Morocco. (starts to cry)
Colleague 2: so what?
Colleague 1: He will .... (in between sobs looks at me, somewhat annoyed. My coffee was ready, and I was still standing there. AWKWARD!!! LOL )

Me: Hello.

With that note, I left. I missed the rest of the conversation, and I realized that I was not supposed to be listening, but there I was! Shame on me...! hahahahaha

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

letting go.



In my life, I lost childhood friends, boyfriends, and bestfriends. Yes, it can be very painful when a relationship breaks up. First, there's shock. You know, like your friend has died. Then, there's this gripping grief that it's over.

Normally, we would ask ourselves, what went wrong? What did I do? We tend to blame ourselves. Then, we get angry and frustrated, and we punish ourselves by thinking that it's wrong to have a good cry to get the grief out of our system. This is especially true when the relationship was a really good one. When you've known each other practically all your lives, or if you grew up together, or spent important years of your lives together.

I've lost friends this year. Not just acquaintances but good friends. It makes me sad, of course.

But I knew that the friendship was over when we stopped talking to each other. I tried to patch things up, but I realised that I was just wasting my time because they have passed judgment on me -- as to what kind of person I have become, after moving to Europe.

I felt like a beggar really, pleading them to take me back. But who am I kidding? I was simply prolonging my agony. I know that instead of winning them back, I pushed them away when I tried explaining things to them. Truly, a waste of time.

Then, I realised something. I realised that I worry too much that I'll never meet new friends again because they were my good friends for a very long time. It was quite difficult for me to think that there'll be others but my sister kept saying that there will be!

I know that I have changed. My beliefs and worldview have altered. I know that. I have not only acclimatized, but have also acculturized myself here which is only logical because these acquired values and behaviours are necessary for me to live and survive here. It doesn´t mean that I have forgotten who I am and where I came from. But sadly, my friends don´t look at it that way.

Now, I feel completely resigned and surprisingly, I don't feel rejected anymore because if there is one thing that I have learned from this life, that would be that relationships/friendships end for all sorts of reasons, and it's hardly ever one person's fault.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sint Maarten.

It was November 11th. Some kids from the neighborhood came knocking at our door for Sint Maarten´s Day. They had paper lanterns and candles with them. You're supposed to open your door, light a candle, and give these kids treats like candies, cookies, chocolates, or fruits after they sing you songs. The songs have funny lyrics, by the way.

One song went:

Sint Maarten Sint Maarten
De koeien hebben staarten
De meisjes hebben rokjes aan
Daar komt Sint Martinus aan





Translation:

Saint Martin, Saint Martin
The cows have tails
The girls have skirts
Here comes Saint Martinus



They sung it over and over that I was able to memorize the lyrics. But after they left, I started wondering what have cows with tails got to do with Saint Martin? The noble, knight St. Martin who helped a pauper! LOL

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unfriended.

I heard of the word unfriended for the first time early this year, when a friend of mine called me to inform me that her highschool buddy unfriended her on Facebook. It sounded very strange to my ears. What exactly is unfriend? I mean, how do you unfriend a friend and why would you do it?

It turned out that unfriend is a word that people use today to mean that your name had been deleted from someone else´s contact list. Unfriending means deleting someone from your network.

This made me think about the quarrels around the world. The religious conflicts (although some say it´s social) in Northern Ireland - the IRA and the British. The Hinduist India and Moslem Pakistan. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Moslems. Wouldn´t it be nice if we could just unfriend all the miseries that these century-old wars had brought to mankind?

This brings me to the famous Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders. In March last year, Wilders released a 10-minute film, Fitna, on the internet where he alternated verses from the Qur'an with footage of terrorist atrocities committed around the world.

As expected, Moslem activists had called for Wilders to be prosecuted under the blasphemy laws for having argued that Islam was incompatible with personal freedoms and Western democracy.

Instead, the Dutch government scrapped the 1930s blasphemy law in favor of what they call, strengthening the current anti-discrimination legislation. They said that religion will not be given a privileged place above free speech and freedom to express without censorship.

From their standpoint, I understand the desire of the government to maintain freedom of speech among their people.

But what about hurting the sensibilities of other people, from other cultures? Does that still count? I mean, who is going to be held responsible when people start imparting half-truth information? Can we unfriend them? LOL

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

is laughter still the best medicine?

I know that when people read blogs, they want to read something light and funny. Something happy and uplifting.

Well, I don't feel sad. Neither am I happy nor affected by the gloomy skies today. I'm just worried about the state of someone very close to me. Let's call him William.

Willy has been suffering from severe depression since 1989. He was institutionalised on four occasions. Two of which, for attempted suicide. Anyway, Willy had been on sick leave since 2005. He made great contributions to the company so the board found it very hard to fire him. In the end, integrity prevailed and Willy left the company voluntarily.

Early this year however, he thought he was on his way to recovery. And bang!!!.. just like that ..... there it was again and he's down in the pit again. Yes, again.

Being one of the closest people in his life, I always feel and see how wasted, hurt, numbed, angry, frustrated, resigned, enthusiastic, bouncing with life, full of determination, and at times empty, his life could be. His depression is sometimes soooooo severe that all he can do is give in and wait,... while his family, friends and I watch in agony. But Willy is one hell of a fighter.

This morning, he came to me and told me about how he feels. He was crying. He said that he thought he was recovering, and was rather happy about it. Apparently, recovery and happiness for him are one and same thing. So I asked him what does he do to "recover"? Without batting an eyelash, he said candidly, take my medication everyday.

I smiled. Didn't really know what to say.... Then a thought came to me. So I let him a secret.

I said that eversince I moved to the Netherlands, I only watch old comedy shows whenever I switch on the TV. I even bought dvds..... which I normally watch when I feel I am heading towards Depression Lane myself. So yes, I laugh and laugh... because I know laughter is the best medicine and it's good for my mental health. In life, I have learned that there´s really such thing as self-preservation. You have to learn to fend for yourself.

But really, how does one recover from a lifelong debilitating disease called depression? Medication? Meditation? Faith? Music? Diet? Gene theraphy?

How? I want to know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

patat.... anyone?

Let's talk about food. Dutch food.

Whenever friends and relatives ask me about my favorite traditional Dutch cuisine, my mind would normally go blank. Sure, Hubby taught me to prepare hutspot and boerenkool (or zuurkool met rookworst) stamp pot but I don't really consider any of those dishes my favorite.

This made me think.

It's a question that always pops out, and I feel a bit stupid that I couldn't come up with a decent answer. A simple question, and yet.... I don´t know the answer. What is something Dutch that I truly, truly love to eat?

The thing is, ..... the thing is, my favorite Dutch food is patat met mayo. Hubby told me that it's not even Dutch because it's Flemish. Belgian, that is.

So what is patat met mayo, you might want to ask. Well, it's fries with mayonaise.

Don´t look at me now. LOL I know what you´re thinking, and you have every right to freak out. I did too when hubby asked me to try it for the first time. My brain conked out while calculating all the fat and calories I was taking in. It was the unhealthiest food I ever had, I thought. But that was 8 years ago.

Nowadays, I don't eat fries UNLESS I have a bottle of mayonaise close by. They make mayonaise here specially for fries. Oh yeah, it's freaking unhealthy.... but hey, it's really good. You should try it sometime. hahahahahaha

The generic term for fries is frites. You can also have fries with curry, ketchup, peanut sauce (sate), joppiesaus, and even finely chopped raw onion.

The names are quite unique as well. For kiddie fries, there's kinder patat. Then, the regular fries is simply called patat. There's also patat mayo, patat curry, patat ketchup, patat met pindasaus, patat speciaal, patat oorlog, patat joppiesaus, patat rotzooi, patat halfom, patat flip, patat oorlog groot joppie, patat chilimayo, patat peeters, patat samurai. Name it, they have it. LOL

About the names.

Pindasaus is peanut sauce. An influence of the Indonesian cuisine in the Dutch cuisine.

Please don´t ask me what is joppiesaus. I haven´t tried it yet. When I asked hubby what it was, he said that it´s something that will probably make you shout YIPEEE (in Dutch, joppie) after having some. Yeah right! HAHAHAHAHA

Patat oorlog? Like I said, patat means fries. And oorlog? It means war. LOL. A pataat oorlog is fries with chopped raw onions as garnishing; "glazed" with peanut sauce (sate sauce) and mayonaise. And voila, you have a war. War of tastes, that is. hahahahahaha

Patat rotzooi. Rotzooi means mess or garbage. It´s actually similar to patat oorlog plus curry sauce.

The rest, I don´t know because I haven´t tried them yet but I´ll let you know when I already did. LOL

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall.

It's officially Fall. It is windy, cloudy, and rainy. The leaves are falling. An elderly woman who lives a few houses away, was hanging her Christmas lights this afternoon.



Some have giant-sized pumpkins in their frontyards.


And ..... I am receiving weird sms-es and emails. Two went too far. So I asked myself the common question. What did I do now? They didn´t have the courtesy, decency and the humanity to say things to my face.

Until my retired music therapist friend Theo mentioned something about Fall today. In passing, he asked me if I feel somewhat depressed about the leaves falling, the downpour, and the dropping of temperature to minus 4.

I told him that I find falling leaves rather enchanting. You see, for me, they seem like dancing, fallen angels. They try to beautifully reach out for each other.... swirling, floating gracefully in mid-air... and in a way, these leaves remind us that it is okay to sometimes lose control.

I told Theo that in the Philippines, we always welcome rain because it´s good for the crops. A shaman from Kiangan, Ifugao once told me, that rain is nature´s way of purifying itself. It´s like tears he said. When we are sad, we cry. When we cry, we wash away all our sadness.

Theo however had something very interesting to say. He said that according to studies, falling leaves make people depresssed and drive some crazy. Apparently, Autumn is the busiest time of the year for psychiatrists and mental institutions.
I was surprised. I was not expecting that information.

But it explains some things. Those disturbing stuff in my mail box for example. Two acquaintances who are accusing me of neglecting our friendship. I guess, it´s true that we all need some help sometime. For awhile, I was starting to believe all their accusations. But I totally get it now.

I believe, Fall does not only refer to falling leaves, falling ripe crops, Thanksgiving, or Halloween. It is also actually related to the emotional dip that people go through because of all the uncertainties and fears that is linked to this season.

The melancholic weather and the possibility of a harsh winter do not help much either because we know and we are aware that somehow, behind those dark clouds.... the sun is not really shining.... that the coming of the cold winter is non-stoppable.

No wonder that we all feel sad to see summer go, and someone came up with a song that goes: it´s the time of year, when good friends are near....tryin' hard to find a quiet moment...Sharing love and joy..... children with their toys..... sadness fills my heart to see you go.

Friday, October 9, 2009

work hard, play hard.

When I told my friend JR that I was getting married and am moving to Europe, his first reaction was, "Why? Why are you giving up your life here? Europe does not have a soul. It is dead. Cold and dead."

I thought that he was merely being his cynical self. There is nothing amiss about living in Europe, I thought.

I haven't seen JR since the wedding day but there are times when I think about what he said. Like today. I was checking online for an all-inclusive trip to Prague. Fall break is just a week or two away, and I am actually looking forward to getting out of my little cave here.

It seems almost unfair to make a claim that life in this part of the world is very stressful. But it is. I, for one, wake up feeling sore, and retire to bed at night feeling more sore. True, I only work parttime but running a household and maintaining a social life definitely require a full time job. In fact, there are times when I wish there is an extra hour or two in a day so that I could finish all my tasks.

So to some degree, what JR said is true. This society is dead. Dead in the sense that so much importance is put on leisure that all we tend to do is work. Leisure and culture become interchangeable. You go to a museum not so much to see how ancient heritage is like and how it is preserved, but to sort of rediscover past as a living source of the present. This is why man tends to attach more significance to his leisure here. We work hard, we play hard. In other words, we live to work.

There is really nothing wrong about the word work. As I was telling my former classmate Meren, our job here as housewives also requires a kind of professional mobility, flexibility and coordination. The machines are there not to make our work load easy, but to facilitate any kind of work so that we could be more efficient workers. Of course, we try to avoid objectifying ourselves as machines... but in a way, we are!

That is why there is a tendency to forget the SELF. We wake up and go about our daily activities looking like orphans from Annie, and we retire at night smelling like sweaty stevedores. When we want to give time to our selves, we go to a spa or a health center. We think that pampering the body will help maintain balance in our lives.

Man is no longer concerned with understanding the internal problems... the self. He serves the society best when he remains faithful to his work. Work hard... play hard. That´s why it´s dead.

Life then is the constant oscillation between restropect and prospect. Man lives to work. He works so that he could also have leisure. Leisure opens up the horizon of possibilities. More possibilities, more work. More work means more trip to recreational and health centers. And in my case, more chance to see the world.

So yes, sometimes I wonder if it is life I treasure ..... or, work so that I could have a life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

somewhere over the .....

Sometimes when nobody is watching or looking, nature reveals itself. Like this beautiful rainbow I saw from our kitchen table today. I had to make sure I take a picture of it. It was too beautiful to pass!





and tonight, this full moon.....





Truly, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.... Those are Mahatma Gandhi's words of course, not mine. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

In art you can experience the nearness of God.

This was written by Theo, a friend of mine. Thanks, Theo, for sharing your wonderful story about Rome. I would like to go there again after reading your piece.! :)

June 16, 2009.


Rome made me feel "touched" by the Holy Spirit.

In Holland, I was rather sceptic and at times, sarcastic about several weird opinions of most of the previous and even the incumbent Roman Catholic popes. They do not match up with the modern day problems.

In my opinion, God's purposes but also my feelings of loving one's neighbour, do not somehow fit the church's stand on homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and many more.

However, all these things became unimportant to me when I visited Rome last June. They did not even occur to me anymore because in Rome, I experienced that there are more important things than my idea of the popes. After all, they are only men, dependent on their background, ages, social environment, and many more.


Real art is impossible without God.

In Rome, I saw God's work. It was almost too much to feel and impossible to understand, but it brought me in touch with my own image of what heaven should be like. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Bernini, Rafael, and all those other artists, touched and guided by the hand of God.

I thought that without the great inspiration of God, the perfection in their artworks would be absolutely impossible for they are only human beings. But this is Rome!





Not even in the city guide.

Of course, all the world's famous paintings, sculptures, architectures, and churches attracted my admiring attention. But I visited also so many unknown places: the places that were less mentioned, less popular. There were so many wonderful ceilings, that invited me to lie down on my back and have a close look. I could do it for hours.

All these miracles entered straight into my soul. I was really touched by all those art works of many centuries ago.


Rome: a big city.


Rome has also an interesting but crazy daily life. Like any other big city, the traffic in Rome is overwhelming although you see there a majority of motorcycles and Vespa scooters. Of course, there was a lot of noise.

Everybody is swarming like flies, finding their way through the crowd and traffic jams. The speed and smell of those thousands of exhausters was impressive. But there was much respect for pedestrian crossings. You can safely cross, and it was rather relaxed to walk and shop around Rome.

By the way, shopping is not expensive. It's even cheaper than in The Netherlands. Also, when you have quetions, everybody (in my experience) was very friendly and helpful. That's why I thought that the Romans are less stressed than people in other big cities.

I also noticed that you can easily distinguied the tourists because of the poor taste in clothes. Indeed, Italians are very fashionable --- expensive suits and shoes, and ladies are predominantly goodlooking.



Peace.

It can be rather hot and busy in the center of Rome, but the moment you enter one of those many beautiful churches, time stops immediately. The globe is no longer turning. It's like coming out of a time machine. Total silence in a cool, fresh atmosphere, and a sense of being a couple of centuries back in time. There is complete peace.




There is so much to enjoy in Rome. I know. I was there!



Sunday, September 27, 2009

water conquers all?

In 1953, a storm hit the Netherlands. In the province of Zeeland, ships and boats went aground. Houses sank in the deepest whirlpool of the angry North Sea. Thousands were homeless, and close to another thousand vanished in the sea. It was a nightmare that the Dutch people will never forget.




Let me tell you something about Zeeland. It is a province where the formation of the land is so much influenced by the water. Much land is reclaimed and lost to the sea. Pretty much like my very own homeland, the archipelagic Philippines. The difference is that Zeeland is a province of polders, dams, dikes and bridges while Philippines is, well,... a country of more than 7,100 islands.




The tragedy of 1953 taught the Dutch a valuable lesson. They have to protect themselves from the rough North Sea and put an end to the never-ending battle with water. They built the Deltawerken. (click on the link to read more about it. I have been there in 2005. Amazing place! If you are planning a trip to the Netherlands, you must go to Zeeland , see the Deltaworks & visit Neeltje Jans.)


Last night, I received a heart rending news from friends and relatives. Manila went under water. Typhoon Ondoy literally twirled the city within its fingers and left many people homeless and in despair.



Like in any other disaster, officials start pointing fingers at each other. The President, who is occupying the highest seat in the chain of command, is being blamed for everything. I don't know what to think and say. I mean, surely, it's not her fault if storms and typhoon hit the country. Her number one priority is economic recovery. So they say.

As I sit here, and watch all the youtube videos forwarded to me, I wonder why can't we follow the suit of the Dutchmen, in terms of addressing the problem of water. During a short chit-chat with the governor of my hometown last April, she said that windmills are being built by Dutch engineers to generate power. That's great, I thought.

But what about losing land to the sea? How about the floods and overflowing rivers that had been plaguing the capital? What are government officials doing, in terms of governance and allocation of funds? Are fiestas and other merrymakings really more important than infrastructure? tsk...tsk...tsk..

Sources of photograps: (1 & 3) Holland. Herman van Amsterdam and Jan Vermeer. (2) postcard (4) www.inquirer.net

Saturday, September 26, 2009

charity.

Last June, Hubby and I went around (in our neighborhood) to collect for ANGO (Algemene Nederlandse Gehandicapten Organisatie), an organization that helps handicap and people with chronic ailment. It was a volunteer job that hubby signed up for online, and I merely tagged along to meet our other neighbors.

You wouldn´t believe what people are capable of doing when you come knocking at their door, with the little plastic thing where people could drop loose change but also paper money.

One guy asked us if we knew who he was. We said no. He introduced himself as the TV host of a program for some charity organization. Then he said, I am already doing enough charity work. With that note, he left and closed the door behind him.

An elderly woman asked for an identification card, and the document that states that we are official collectors of ANGO.

A guy told us he doesn´t believe in charity, and slammed the door angrily.

A middle-aged woman said she doesn´t have change, and has only 10 euros in her wallet.

Others didn´t even bother to open the door, and the thing is, you could see them from outside that they are home, watching television.

As we walked home, I wonder why it was sooo difficult for those people to share 20 or 50 cents. It doesn´t say that you are obliged to give 100 euros. Any amount is welcome. You may even donate 5 cents if you want. Oh well....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

in the eyes of a child....

I have a new 7-year-old piano student. He is quite special. Highly-intelligent and doesn't want to be treated like a kid.

During our first session last Friday, he urged me to talk to him like an adult. He was annoyed about the fact that I explained everything to him twice. He was also insulted upon realization that I was choosing carefully my words. Finally, he had an outburst. Begged me to stop talking to him like he was a freaking moron.

Truth is, I was not talking to him like he was a moron. I was merely explaining to him the elements of music, which frankly speaking, is quite difficult for a child to grasp. At least, that's what I have observed from my almost 20 years of teaching experience. I don´t normally talk about elements of music on the first lesson. But he reported to me that he read a book about it, and that I must tell him what I know about the subject matter.

The boy told me he knew everything there is to know about melody, harmony, pitch, timbre, meter, and tempo. Maybe, he did too. I mean, he showed me the book on Music Theory to support his claim. So I told him that just because he read the book, doesn't mean he knows everything.

He challenged me to ask him anything. So I did.

Since he wanted to be treated like an adult, I started talking to him like I was giving a lecture to my former university students. I played an excerpt from Schubert's sonata in B flat, and asked him to tell me what he thinks about the timbre of that piece of music. He stared at me, with mouth wide opened. More annoyed.

So I said, all right... how about this one? I played a portion from Mozart's Theme and Variation on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This time, I asked him to tell me about the chord progression and how it developed in those two sections. He became upset.

For the record, I was not bullying him. I was merely driving at a point. The point being: Enjoy what is here now, and right now, he is a child. I told him that he will only be a child once. Just once. He should not rush to adulthood.

He was silent.

While I was saying those things, I can imagine that the mother was listening intently. After all, she was sitting by about 6 meters away from us only. She warned me of course, about his son´s IQ. But I have established before that I will not be terrorized by a kid. Not in my house and certainly not about music.

Bottom line, the child may have the IQ of a genius but we, adults, have the years of experience and wisdom. I don´t know if what I did is right, or might have scarred or even traumatized him. So maybe, I too don't have the wisdom. I don't know.

So he read a book. Big deal. I spent more than half of my life, learning practically everything that I now know.

And this much I know. As a teacher, I feel that it was also my role to educate his emotions. After all, music is about feelings too. It´s about knowing with your senses. If he can´t control himself and his emotions, he has no business to learn how to play the piano, especially because music needs time and patience. Lots of patience actually.

So yes, in the eyes of this specific child, music is quite simple. Maybe, he has everything figured out. Theoretically speaking, perhaps. Who knows? But the practical side... I bet it is as alien to him as reggae is to a Tibetan monk. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Art of Insult.

The mayor of Shanghai is complaining about its residents who are lounging around the city steets in their pyjamas. It´s bad for the image of Shanghai, he said.

This reminds me of the flea market in front of our house in Sampaloc. Every Wednesday and Saturday, people from remote villages (barrios) come to sell their goods. Some are decent, others in their pyjamas, and there are those who walk around in half-clad bodies. I guess, from where I come, walking around in pyjamas is no big deal. You can wear whatever you want to wear because comfort always comes first. The good thing about this practice is, nobody makes fun of you. You can walk around half-naked, and still have your dignity. I'm talking about men of course! Women don't walk around in half-clad bodies in Sorsogon.

In some cultures, walking around in your pyjamas or half-naked is the ultimate insult. In the northern part of the Philippines, there is a group of people called the Ifugaos. They are well-known for the 8th manmade wonder of the world. The Banaue Rice Terraces.

In Ifugao culture, men always put on a shirt when they talk to each other. Although it is all right for women to walk around in shorts, wearing it to social gatherings like a pre-wedding festival, is definitely inappropriate. It doesn't matter if you're wearing Dolce and Gabbana shorts. It's still a pair of shorts and the host will still be humiliated for your utter disrespect of the occasion.

In Indonesia, one should never hand-over something with his left hand. It´s tantamount to a slap on the face because the left hand is considered the dirty hand. And when you point, better do it with your thumb and never with your other fingers. In the Philippines, some people have the habit of pointing with their lips. LOL

Speaking of pointing and fingers, we all know that showing or giving your middle-finger is reaching the apogee of insults in western societies. It is obscene and is like saying the F-word. In some southern European countries however, they abase you by saying that you are a child of a whore. Meaning, your mother belongs to the lowest caste. A puta.

In India where women are empowered, men never open doors for them. It's a form of insult also. You should also forget about offering your muscled arms to lift or carry heavy bags for a woman. It's simply unacceptable there.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, it is funny to make jokes about their neighboring countries. The more ridiculous the joke, the better. In Africa, it's the highest form of insult. To make fun of other ethnolinguistic groups or what they call as their `neighboring tribes´. In fact, this could lead to an all-out war.

Insults then come in many forms. Some people have mastered the art of it. But I think, it is important to always bear in mind where we´re coming from. After all, our cultural baggage will always dictate what is accepted and unaccepted to us. For what is one man´s meat, could be another man´s poison.

***I wrote this last year around Christmas time, and decided to delete it. I am posting it again. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

musings.

Do you ever wonder how biased the English language is to men?

Take for example an unmarried man of 50 years old. We use the word single or bachelor to describe him. Right? Such decent and dignified words. lol

But if it´s a woman, the only word available to label her status is single. Unless, we will count spinster and old maid... which frankly, do not even come close to decent, dignified bachelor.

Here's a thought. Imagine a society where unmarried women could have more than one live-in partner. How will we label her?

Single?

I'm not so sure...

Spinster?

Only if she is tied to a spinning wheel, and far from her Cassanovas. lol

Old maid?

In this age, 50 is the new 30 they say. Calling a 50-year-old unmarried woman, an old maid is rather inappropriate, don't you agree? LOL

Virgin?

Nice try!

So much for labeling. HAHAHAHAHAHA Again, this is one reason why I don't like labels. It's too restricted. Too plain. Too biased! I mean, really.....!

Den Helder.

These photographs were taken today in and on our way to Den Helder to visit friends.... It's a lovely city. Only 45 minutes away (could be more, could be less... lol) from Amsterdam.




windmills, of course....


It's an old fishing village..... and like any other coastal city, there are lots of boats, yachts, and ships.


People are warm and friendly. They also love the outdoors... like this one, hosting a kiddie birthday party outside their home ......


Den Helder is known for its beaches, beautiful sand dunes and lakes too.......



This is one place in Holland where horses & would-be equestrians go for a little walk on the beach




Our old friend Mickie and daughter, cuddly Em.............





And of course, his wife Mommy Res.



On our way back, we met a fold of Highland kyloes, the oldest known cattle breed which dates back as far as the 12th century. We walked right in front of them. Such beautiful animals.... huge, too! I took several pictures, except that they didn´t come out well because I was quite nervous and my iPhone camera didn´t have a flash. A few years ago, during a trip to Scotland, I heard about these rare kyloes and hoped that we see some along the way. We didn´t. And well, what do you know?! I never thought I´d be seeing them here!!! lol

Don´t you just love weekends? I know, I do! ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bakkeren.

I was talking with my friend, Linde, yesterday. Haven't seen her for almost 6 months. And in the 6 months that I haven't seen her, Linde lost 12 kgs whereas I gained 8! I was a bit jealoused of course. She was looking fabulous, and I was feeling oh-so-bloated. lol So I asked her, what did you do?

Without hesitation she said, oh .... bakken. If you look up the dictionary, a bakker is a baker. And bakken is to bake or to fry in a pan. Surely, you don't lose 12 kgs if you live alone on bread and fried stuff, I said.

She smiled shyly.... which is somewhat new to me. You see, Linde is outspoken, very frank, and loud. The 3 years that I´ve known her, she was never modest, and being shy is not really in her vocabulary. So I teased her. I said, oh come on.... don´t tell me you´re shy now! lol

Well, apparently, I did not hear her very well. Or probably, I did ..... Anyway. The human brain is like a computer. When you encode something and your spelling is wrong, the brain (like the computer) will search for a word that is similar to the word that you just said.

That's why my brain thought Linde said bakken although she said bakkeren. Let me tell you about Bakkeren. It's a Dutch word that came to existence just very recently. Perhaps a year or two ago. Suffice it to say that bakkeren is actually not a real Dutch word. It's somebody else's last name.

Her name is Sonja Bakker. (Oh yes Mathilda, I did my homework!! LOL) Ms.Bakker came up with a diet that earned her millions of followers in the Netherlands and Germany. She wrote several books already, I understand from her website. And a lot of people are hooked on her simple dieting. My friend Linde also told me that Ms. Bakker has a tv program. Don't look now but I'm actually not very keen on watching tv! lol

I haven't tried bakkeren yet, but I checked out her website. The diet loooks very simple really. There are 2 different sets of weekly meal plans for men and women.

Check this out. It's a one day meal plan for women.


Breakfast: a slice of breakfast cookie and butter
snack: 1 apple
Lunch: 1 slice toasted wheat bread with a slice of pineapple
snack: a glass of non-fat milk
Dinner: 125 g of boiled potatoes
250 g of witlof
75 g of meatball
1 tbsp gravy
1 serving rauwkost (cucumber, radish, beets) and yoghurt.


Like I said, it looks simple. But the question is, do I have the discipline and patience to follow the diet to the letter? That, my friend, is the one million dollar question! lol

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sweet blogging.

Every night and sometimes, every morning I check my blog with much anticipation. Like a child on Christmas  morning, I wonder if Santa dropped by and whether or not, he left a package for me.

So it goes without saying that whenever I click on my blog everyday, I am reminded of Neil Diamond´s Sweet Caroline. You know, Where it began.. I can´t begin to knowin´ ... But then I know it´s growin´ strong...  Was in the spring ... Then spring became the summer ... Who would believe you´d come along....  Hands, touching hands ....reaching out.... touching me.... touching you.....


Ahhhhh blogging. I started blogging back in 2007. It was purely out of .... well, curiousity. I was curious about the "new"  (it was not new all right, but the idea was new to me) program back then. I didn't know what it was, so my first blog was a longggggggg story about my life here! And so..... began my blogging journey through cyberspace.

What I did not expect is the people that I will meet here. People that I know before, but have lost touch. And there are those people who I don´t know at all.

Take Cherie for instance. Our families know each other for as long as I can remember! Her dad was once upon a time our family doctor.... And her mom and uncles and aunts were my grandma's students. I still remember my grandma talking about a certain brilliant Maquito boy whose genius impressed her like no other student did.

Girl scout buddy Anna and sistahhh  Buday,... well, our parents grew up and went to the same high school together. Her aunt and my mother still gossip and talk about their old high school days. As for her grandpa... well, I also remember my grandma say some things about him. But I was young then and I did not really pay much attention! LOL I just know that he was a judge.

Anna and I know each other since kindergarten. We were best of friends between 1981 and 82.... I used to hang around in their house -- her bedroom, whenever we have vacant periods. Loved and envied her sanrio collection. And together, we fell in love with Scott Baio and Rex Smith! lol

Jesusa´s grandparents and my grandma were also old friends. They owned the oldest printing press in the province. And although I never was close to Jesusa before because she is 3 batches younger than I, we both had piano lessons with Tia Yaying and her cousin Amy, is one of the few people in the world who truly understand me and my temperament. Dear Amy is my one old friend who neither spoke ill of me nor passed judgement about me.

Then there´s Mel, an old friend, who migrated to Canada since March last year. Mel taught me to appreciate writing. She insisted back in highschool that we exchange letters every morning! lol 

Chyt belongs to my university days. We've known each other since 1990. With Chyt as my bestfriend, my last year in the university was the most memorable one. I saw her fall in and out of love with this-and-that guy. And vice versa. If there is one word that would aptly describe our friendship, that word would be passion. Chyt and I both love passionately, believe passionately, and fight passionately.

My good friend Retno shares my Holland years. She´s my link to my former life in Indonesia. We know each other for 5 years now. We seldom see each other face to face, but we both know that we will always be there for each other.

And now.... I have new blog friends! These are the people who visit my blog on a regular basis, I think. :)

There's Aristarkhos. I know him for over a year (maybe 2?) now. He strikes me as a young Gandhi. Don't ask why! lol I don't know him very well, but this much I know. He is a decent man who loves literature, philosophy, sports, and is amazed by his neighbor's mom. lol  Aristarkhos is also an advocate of animal rights and a lover of nature, a wise person who listens with his heart and talks with his logical mind. I consider him a good friend.

Lopa , Aledys and Anita are very new friends. All three live in the Netherlands. Lopa is a young executive, who lives here because of her job. Aledys is married with children (where´s Peggy Bundy? lol). She strikes me of someone who is devoted and honest. I'd like to taste her dulce de leche someday!!! lol  As for lovely Anita,... I think she´s really an artist disguised as a Brazilian mom living and working in Holland. hehehe 

Pinay in Dutchland and Isabel are very new expat friends as well.

There´s also Sol. And Tessa. New friends of mine. They are both townmates that I haven´t met before.... except here, in this bloody thing called blog. We now share thoughts and life experiences.....  just like the rest of you guys here.


So now, I look at the night... and it don´t seem so lonelySweet blogging... good times never seemed so GOOOOOOD!

Monday, September 14, 2009

lifestyle.

A Filipina friend of mine and her husband moved to a flat, which she calls a condominium. Emphasis on the condominium. She is very thrilled and excited about the whole moving thing. She told me that she enjoys watching the city skyline at night and well... everything and everybody that is below her.

I am happy for her. True, the skyline is beautiful, especially late at night. But it made me think about the difference in lifestyles and perspective.

In the Philippines, if you live in a flat... well, you are well-off. Only moneyed young executives live in flats, or condominiums for that matter. (Besides, flats are only found in congested big cities.) Ordinary people live in houses. If you are poor in the Philippines, you eat fish and vegetables. Meat is expensive. Only middle class and rich people can afford to eat meat on a daily basis. As for vegetables, rich people often go for salad.

Also in the Philippines, only rich people ride Mercedes. Ordinary people take jeepneys and buses.

Here, people who can not afford to buy houses, live in flats. People who have money, eat fish and vegetables on a daily basis. Salad is for everybody, and lettuce is one of the cheaper vegetables available in the supermarkets. As for riding Mercedes, well,... it's a cab here! Anyone can hail a cab. Although, there are also people who drive Mercedes here.

It's funny, isn't it? How things work in this crazy, crazy world. lol

Saturday, September 12, 2009

lazy afternoon...

I guess, summer will never be over.... as far as these kids are concerned anyway! lol


"let's build a castle...."


"are you serious?"


"I am! Let's get started!"

I was reminded of my childhood actually. How my siblings and I used to make our own castles and volcanos. Love those days...!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"He who without grammar mistakes, let him throw a stone at her first."

There are people who continue to impress me with their huge egos and what I perceive as stupidity. Take for example some of hubby's cantankerous relatives. I mean, really... tell me what do sophisticated people need --- to realize that migrants are struggling to be accepted, and will therefore remain to laugh with an accent (to borrow the title of Firozeeh Dumas' book LAUGHING WITHOUT AN ACCENT)?

I was particularly offended by the recent emails that circulated among the cousins. Hubby being a cousin, received copies of them as well. I did too. One particular brilliant cousin attacked the immigrants who talk with heavy `North African´accents. I think, the pathetic guy meant Moroccan accent. His email ended with a question. The question being, "what will our children learn in school if they have these people's kids for classmates?"

Another obnoxious cousin replied about how amused she was with these people who absolutely need LOTS OF help in the grammar department. Such arrogance. I wanted so badly to email this cousin and borrow a line from the Bible (quoting in bad taste, if I made add)... but what the heck? That line being.... "He who without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."

Oh yes, I wanted to give them a piece of my mind, and tell them all to get lost. But I am blogging instead.

I am blogging about it NOT because I am fuming mad. Neither do I hate them nor do I want to sollicit pity or sympathy here. I am blogging because I am outraged. Outraged by our behavior towards each other. Outraged about their indiscretion and ignorance. Outraged and scandalised about their incorrect image of migrants. Outraged and upset about their utter disrespect and lack of compassion.

This kind of behaviour made me think of myself... whether I feel the same way whenever they speak in what I will call here as Klompen-English. You know, like, "I go with the bike to the city" (ik ga met de fiets naar het centrum). Or when they say HEPI to mean happy; or LOOKI to mean lucky.

This brings me to my next question. Are we just as indiscreet, ignorant, incorrect, disrespectful, and incompassionate as these cousins? I wonder.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Alzheimer´s disease.

Stella, my fellow scholar in Indonesia and German friend of 15 years is devastated upon learning that her 63-year-old mom has Alzheimer's disease. Her life crumbled like a cookie dipped in a frothy milkshake. Together with the rest of her family, she watches her mother slowly slip away.

I have never met Stella´s mom. Whenever I went visit Stella in Munich before, her mom wasn´t around. I knew though that she lives in Pasau. And although I haven´t met the woman, I know in my heart that she is a gentle woman. A woman with high morals and good character. I knew that she is a good mother.

The last time Stella and I spoke to each other was in November 2008. She was heartbroken because they could no longer take care of her mom and they have to put her in a hospital where she will receive proper care. I was enveloped with sadness, pity and cowardice.

As a result, I stopped talking to Stella. She stopped emailing as well. I guess, we don't really know what to say to each other anymore. Oh yes, I think about her constantly. About how it would like to witness your mom lose control of everything.

I think about them. About how they are coping with the difficult situation. But I am coward.... and I don't know what to say to her.

Europe´s richest monarch.


The Dutch Prince and heir to the throne, Willem Alexander is crying foul. Foul that the paparazzis ambushed and took pictures of his family during a trip to Argentina, homeland of his wife and future Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Maxima.

This was one of the many topics my friends May, Micky and I had tonight. Micky (a diehard Dutch) pointed out to me that these people did not really choose to be royalties. That it is a birthright, but that they did not ask for it. That they now want some privacy, is but logical, he said. After all, they always arrange for those pictorials that the magazines, television programs need to show to the world.

The devil's advocate in me told Micky that it is not entirely true that they did not choose to be in that position. That like ordinary people, royalties also have choices. You know, free will. It´s not as if we are still living in the Dark Ages here.

Then Micky told me something that I did not know. Apparently, the Dutch reigning queen, Beatrix, is the wealthiest reigning monarch in Europe. I fell silent. Didn´t know what to say. I wanted to pursue my argument but I was floored by the new information. I can´t believe it.... I always thought it was Queen Elizabeth II. So, I surfed the net. Micky was right of course.



source of the pix: http://www.eo.nl/programma/blauwbloed/


Friday, September 4, 2009

Funny Everdien.

Everdien was one of my many Dutch teachers at the language school where I went for the integration program. She was ... has always been the funny one although I must admit that her facial expression has the intensity and seriousness of the Queen of England.

There were times when she would make jokes that probably half of the class didn´t get. I still laugh at them whenever I think of her.

For example that one morning while she was collecting our books and was waiting for us to finish our seatwork, she said, zijn julie al klaar....(pauses here).... komen? (are you done?) In Dutch, klaar means being done. But when you add komen to klaar, it still means done all right --- but in a very naughty way! The beauty of this language. hahahahahaha

Everdien moved to the south of France, I heard. I don't blame her. She used to say that she was born in the wrong country. I thought she was being funny again when she said that. But I guess, she got tired of the gloomy, dark northern European skies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oppsss....

Hubby needed a new hard drive, so we drove to Media Markt. After waiting for what seemed like 30 minutes, I decided to approach two men in an identical suit who were carrying a box of Dyson vacuum cleaner.

I said, could you please help me?

The guys looked at each other and said in unison, sure.

I pointed at my husband and told the guys we needed their assistance to help us decide which one to buy.

The guys looked at each other, and stared at me. Somewhat annoyed and impatient, I said half-jokingly, well? Are we still going to wait for the rainy season?

The older guy smiled and said, well .....

I said, yessss?

Hubby came, put his arms around me and whispered in my ears, they don´t work here.


Oppppsss. lol

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

on the keys...

For me, piano playing is something that I do to entertain myself, be closer to a loved one, or at times when a beautiful melody is playing in my head and I want to capture it on my keyboard. I don't do it to entertain people. Or to make a living out of it. It is not a hobby either. It is my way of life.

A lot of people don't get that. They don't understand why would I waste my talent on ME, myself. They think that it is a very selfish thing to do. They think it's arrogant. Maybe, that is so. I don't know.

For me, it's quite simple really. It´s like having a well. Your own well; in your own backyard. You regularly fetch water there because you need water to cook, clean, wash, drink... to live. My music is my well... my water. My source of life. My agua de vida, and it's not for public consumption. Sure, I can share it with others every now and then. But it should be in my own terms... my own time... my own liking.

So when I started teaching private lessons back in 2005, it was purely out of politeness. I had an 8-year old neighbor Sofia, who wanted to learn how to play the piano. She has a condition and I found it too hard say NO to her. A blue-eyed girl with an angelic face, and a smile of everlasting purity and innocence, who am I to say NO? It was not what I have planned to do here though.

Sofia is not the easiest student but she kind of grew on me. She has ADHD, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She has problems with concentration, mental focus, and has a low self-esteem. When I first had her on the piano, her body trembled. I had to be very gentle with her.

It was not easy for both of us, of course. But now, Sofia can play Fur Elise, Brahm´s Waltz in A flat major, Comptine d'un autre été l'après, among other things.

Sometimes, she makes me cry with her playing. Maybe, because I have grown very fond of her.
She´s 12 now. But whenever she´s playing the piano, she remains this little girl to me... who, on that bright summer day, came knocking at my door,.. in her red, short, pretty dress... and asked me to take her on as my piano student.

Sofia and I know that she will not become a concert pianist. But in her, I see a glimpse of myself. For like myself, Sofia had found a home and a friend in her music.... like I did too, years ago.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

just blabbing...

People are still talking about them.... Edward Kennedy, Corazon Aquino, Michael Jackson. Old photographs, old articles, and past events are being dealt preponderantly with the description and analysis of past political and creative activities. The analyses being highly-opinionated and biased.

I am not criticizing anybody. I am merely stating that there seems to be a need for perspective in assessing the importance of events. Such events which often appears questionable. And what about the utter disregard for, you know, like which ones deserves relating, what should be analyzed, and for what purpose?

Media should be careful about what they air and publish because there are ignorant people out there who are open and susceptible to absorbing everything being said on the tube and on paper (that apparently appears to them) as The Truth. The commercial aspects of this media circus along with new means of communication, is leading to something horrible that I can not put my finger on. One of them being hate perhaps?

Enough already! Enough with the funerals, and the so-called documentation of that historic moment. I say, let the dead bury the dead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

interview (Dutch-style)

When you go to an interview in the Netherlands, always remember that it's not enough that you speak Dutch. You should also speak their language --- their body language. Meaning, get into their minds and think like they do. If you have to, wear a klompen (wooden shoes). lol All right, that was uncalled for.

I went to another job interview. I applied for a teaching position. And I did not get the job because they said that I didn't have the eligibility diploma.

I spoke to Dutch friends and here's what they told me.... mostly, to comfort my wounded pride. lol

Anneke: if they didn't see your potential, they are not worth your time. Look for another school.

Geert: This is Holland. The land of diplomas. It is not enough that you have a masteral degree, or a certificate from Oxford or Yale. It is also important that they validate your diploma and see if it is of any use here.

Ben: Remember that in the Netherlands, people would like to think that we are all equal, although some are more equal than others. So if you go to an interview here, and act like you have more to offer than they asked for, you are automatically disqualified. In effect, you eliminated yourself. Why? Because you are no longer equals.

Irene: Most schools here are old-fashioned. They want to think they're progressive, but they're not. Educators and teachers can't think outside the box.

Sophie: Teachers at my school can be so chaotic. Teaching is just a job for them. They do it, and then they go home. You are too organized ... too good to join the faculty staff there. (don´t you just love Sophie? I do! lol)


At the end of the day, you realize that it's not about what other people have to say. It's about how you feel. Honestly, I felt that I could really make a difference there. But don't we all, think that we can make a difference? LOL

I am trained in both western and non-western music. I was, once upon a time, a faculty member of UP, the state university in my country. I actually belonged to the crème de la crème there, the intellectual elite. Whatever that means. LOL

But they are right in pointing out to me that I don't have the onderwijsbevoegheid (eligibility). Of course. Rules are rules (regels zijn regels).

Oh well.... next please.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to Holland.


Whenever I feel sad, am whining, or am wallowing up in self-pity because of a job that I didn´t get, or am simply being ungrateful ..... I often turn to a poem by Emily Perl Kingsley. The poem is entitled WELCOME TO HOLLAND. It´s beautiful so I´m sharing it with you.... :)




Welcome To Holland...... by Emily Perl Kingsley


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

new lingo.

When we were growing up, my siblings and I came up with this language that only the 5 of us can understand. You know, when we want to sneak out of the house and leave grandma in the dark....we speak in that language. Or, that time when we plotted against the maid. Or sometimes, when we just feel like conniving at winning a game.

So when we want to communicate with each other and isolate a playmate, a stranger, or grandma, we speak in our own lingo. The more vocabulary you have, the better it is. Oh yes, we were wicked and naughty then! lol

Years later came another sister. We initiated her of course with our lingo. And so, all 6 of us now speak that lingo with eloquence. My mom joined the ban-wagon and now speaks the language fluently as well. I guess she didn't want to be excluded, especially when we were talking about her. LOL

But this morning, my older sister emailed all of us that her only child came up with her own lingo, and practices on her! HAHAHAHAHAHA I guess, the 8-year-old poor girl got sick and tired listening to us whenever we speak to each other in our secret language. I don't blame her. I feel exactly the same everytime my students talk to each other in Twents. That's the local language in this region.

Anyway, my sister was complaining about it. Not only has she tried cleaning her ears to understand every single word that her child says, but she also must understand the meaning of each word. I pity her. LOL

I tried consoling her and told her that it goes without saying that her daughter has her genes! lol Ach... ya... as we say in my mother language, bilog an kinab-an (the world is round). Meaning, what goes round, comes round.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Minding one's business.

I got up early today... at 6:30 AM. That's early for a night owl like myself, who is restless and constantly moving around the house like a mad man afer midnight. My friends tease me about it, and call me a white witch. hahahahaha

But last night, I decided again (for the nth time) to go back to the morning rhythm and enjoy the sacred, early morning hours.

Hubby was already up by the time I got up. He was busy getting ready for work. I went to the kitchen and decided to boil water for coffee. Oh yes, I can't survive a day without a cup of coffee. It's not that I'm addicted to it. I simply can't go about my usual routine without a cup of good, strong, black coffee.

Years ago when I still used to smoke, breakfast is the best meal of the day for me because I only drink coffee and have cigar. But I stopped smoking 7 years ago, after being addicted to it for 17 years. Oh yes, I started young. lol

Anyway about this morning, after hubby left... I decided to take my laptop to the living room and check my mail from there. Normally, I do it upstairs, in our study room. But I was trying to wake up... and I wanted to hear good news from friends and relatives via e-mails, and NOT the ones you see on TV and make you wish that they have better things to say than those bloody, horrible things they show all the time.

I am getting sidetracked again. lol

As I was saying, I was enjoying the morning, drinking my coffee, reading the post of Grace... when I suddenly heard the sound of an ambulance. I looked outside the window. The ambulance stopped right outside our house. I was apprehensive to check. Who could it be now?

I waited... and then came another car. This time, the GP's car. A doctor in white suit rushed to the house of my neighbor who just moved in April last year, had a baby by July, and a divorce by December. I think the guy has a drinking problem. Anyway...

I looked around. I was happy to see that there were other neighbors looking through their windows too. But surprise, surprise... nobody went outside to check what was going on. Like me, they were simply looking out through their glass window.

This reminds me of a story. About a year or two ago, an elderly woman was found dead, lying in her kitchen, with broken wares around her. She was probably preparing a meal when the angel death came to fetch her. I stood outside her house, said a little prayer... and waited for her other neighbors to come out and say "goodbye" to her. Nobody came out, except for the mortician.. or was it the funeral director? I don't know. They were all wearing black suits. I can't tell who is who. But nobody from the neighborhood came... except for me, who was passing by, for my usual afternoon walk that day.

The thing about living in developed countries is that, in situations like this, people tend to stay indoors. They don't want to "pry" ... to show interest. It is as if, showing interest and being "compassionate" is unacceptable. Oh, and here's another thing. You are not welcome in the wake IF you do not receive a card from the family. How weird is that? Hubby said that it's not that they don't care. They do. It's just that there's really nothing they can do about it. He has a point, of course.

Here's another incident. One time, another neighbor had a baby and I wanted so badly to go there and congratulate the couple (I know the husband, and he had always been friendly to me). But my Dutch friends and acquaintances told me that I am not welcome there since the family did not send me a card, announcing the birth of their child. By neighbor I meant, two houses away from us! Pretty close, isn't it? Yet, no card.

Now, about this neighbor who was fetched by an ambulance just a few hours ago... my prayers and thoughts are with him. I hope that he'll be just fine. I really do. After all, he is only 26.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Return to sender.

I received a phone call from a stranger yesterday afternoon. The call was about a letter addressed to me that was dropped in her mailbox "by accident." She said that she could have thrown it away, but that that was not the right thing to do. So she asked her son to look for my last name in the telephone book, find my phone number, and call me.

Her instructions were simple. She asked me to pick it up at her home address. I was hesitant at first. I told her that she could just drop it at the post office next time she goes there. Then, there was this pregnant pause. She said that she doesn't go out of her house anymore. I felt ashamed at that point.

So I asked her for her home address. She said that she lives in... Vlu blah blah blah. I said, could you please repeat that again? She said, Vlu blah blah blah. I said, could you please say that slowly? I am not a native Dutch speaker. She said slowly, Vlu blah blah blah. For the nth time, I said, what was that again? Patiently, she repeated the street name.

It's not that I'm deaf or stupid. I just couldn't spell it on paper. So I asked her to spell it out for me.
And she said, sure, child. Then she started spelling it out for me. She said: F for Fluweelplein.... L for... ya, Fluweelplein. U for ....

At that point, I stopped her. I said, you know what, I'll just check the map. Luckily, I found it.

The thing is, when she said Fluweelplein, it sounded like: VLU-VIE-PLA-YEN. I couldn't understand her.

So I biked to her place. Expensive flat. Only two apartments for each floor.

I rang the bell. A fragile, old lady came out. She's 81 years old. She invited me in. She has a wonderful view of the entire city. Very nice... Her furniture were old, and expensive. The old lady did have an exquisite taste, I must add.

I thanked her for everything. But I felt like she wanted me to stay. So I stayed for a little longer. She told me that she just lost her husband. He had cancer of the brain. He was 81. I tried to console her by telling her that 81 is old, and that a lot of people die younger. My father passed away when he was 67. So for me, 81 is quite something.

Then, I realized how tactless I was when I saw the elderly woman's face froze. How could I be so clumsy! But of course, she is also 81. I might as well have said, you are old and may die now.

But I guess the thing about being old is that, you tend to let those small things... petty things really,... go unnoticed. I'm sure she was offended, but I didn't see her dwell on that nasty remark I made. Instead, she told me stories about how she and her husband spent summer last year. They went on a camping holiday in Giethoorn. Giethoorn is known for its beautiful canals. It's also called the Venice of the north.

I listened to her intently. She is talking about the past in present tense. I'm sure she wasn't stupid. But I know how it feels to lose a loved one. When my grandma passed away, it took me years to learn to talk about her in the past tense.

Later on, I went home with a smile on my face and a story that I will probably tell for the rest of my life. I've learned three things from that old woman.

One, you should always do the right thing.

Second, if you receive a letter that is not addressed to you, don't throw it away. Check out the telephone book for the person, contact him/her. Give that person the chance to read his/her letter.

And lastly, don't focus too much on people's shortcomings. Life is short. Forgive, forget.. and move on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

almost over.


It's almost 3 AM. I'm tired but not sleepy. I was sitting outside in our backyard the whole evening, contemplating on what I've been doing the past few months. Every now and then, I would gaze at the sunflowers, corns and pumpkins I got from the market. I still have to put the flowers in a vase... and the corns and pumpkins have to be stored in the basement.

Then, I had a horrible realization that almost made me cry. Winter is coming!!! And yes, I'm not very fond of winter.

I know, the temperature is still high and I could still walk around in t-shirts and shorts. But the signs are there. The temperature is dropping by 1-2 degrees everyday. It slowly gets dark after 8 PM. The nights are somewhat darker. The birds no longer bother me at 4:30 AM. Besides, my student just told me this afternoon that school starts in less than 2 weeks. That is not so far away.

Yup,... summer 2009 is almost over.

I'm sad but am also looking forward to seeing my students again. Most of them went away for the summer holiday, and I actually miss them a lot. I figure that when school starts again, I won't be so lonely anymore. I will be busy with work, and my students will surely have lots of stories to tell. Also, I'll stop eating barbecue, drinking coke, and eating ice cream!

Can't believe I'm saying this. But yup, I'm actually happy that summer is almost over!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

naturist.

I don't know if you've heard of naturist camps, or naturism for that matter. Well, I have. Or at least, that's what I thought.

Anyway, we were on our way back home. The sun was already setting, and we were becoming quite desperate looking for a campsite where we could stay for the night.

After driving through villages, and up & downhill, we finally saw a sign pointing to a campsite. We followed it. It led us to a forest in the middle of nowhere. We were quite happy about it because after driving the busy highways of Macon and Lyon, the stillness and serenity of the forest was definitely what we needed to calm our nerves and enjoy the evening.

I was already picturing in my mind's eye. We are going to have some salad, sausages, cheese, and lots of wine.

We saw a few cows on the meadow. Two cars with very friendly people riding it, I might add. They smiled and waved at us, as if we were old pals. We smiled and waved back. A waterfalls and a lake. We love the place already, although we haven't seen it yet. Hubby was already convincing me to consider staying for a few more days.

Well, after our trip around Auvergne, Rhone Alpes, Alpes de haute Provence, Alpes Maritime, Bouches de Rhone, and Monacco, I was really longing for home already. I gave hubby an encouraging smile, but didn't say anything. But I was impressed by the location.

As we entered the campsite, we were thrilled about the whole idea all the more because there were only few cars. Surprisingly, our car was the only Dutch car! (All the camps we've been to were occupied by Dutch campers mostly. Not only the camps, but the highways too.) So being the only Dutch campers in this particular camp now, made us gloat with pride. Imagine, the other Dutch campers did not discover this paradise camp! We were very proud of ourselves!

We went inside a quaint, charming cabin to inquire if they could accommodate us. An elderly guy greeted us with a friendly smile. He took one quick look at me, and said something in French. My husband translated it for me. At the same time, the French guy said in broken English "you been naturist camp before?" I smiled and said, no.

Hubby asked me if I were okay with it. I look at him, somewhat annoyed, and told him that it was okay. Meanwhile the French guy walked to his table and took out a brochure. He specifically pointed at the naked people. I laughed at him and reassured him that I've seen naked people before.

He said, ok. He then checked the computer. Meanwhile, hubby put his hand around my shoulder and said (this time in Dutch), are you sure you can walk around this camp in all your glory? I looked at him and said, what do you mean "all my glory?" I said, I don't mind if they walk around naked, for as long as I'm not naked.

Hubby then explained to me what naturist camps are all about. Truly, ignorance is not innocence but sin! Well the rest of the story,... I guess, you already know! hahahahaha

Saturday, August 8, 2009

ponderings.


I haven't seen him for years. There were times in my life when I thought he was dead. Maybe he was too, in my head... in my heart.

He resurfaces, like a ghost from the past. And just like that, my life begins to feel like a kite, spinning in mid-air, aimlessly flying, at the mercy of the wind.

Many times, I thought of him..... of what ifs and could have beens. The joyride. The happy days. The hole he bore. The sad melodies he sang. The malaise. The loss. The grief. The anguish.

We all have loved, and lost. I did too.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

knotting the knot.

My friend Candy is married to an English bloke. She had been married twice, and is now contemplating on getting another divorce. She claims being verbally and emotionally abused. And just last night, we spent hours talking about her problem.

I've been married for almost 8 years. Like any other marriage, ours is not perfect. We run into problems. Lots of them. Issues and disagreements mostly because of our cultural differences. Stresses and tempers. And many times, I thought it was over. Maybe, he did too.

However, we somehow manage to settle our differences. I realized that it's how we handle those inevitable things that defines us and our marriage. It determines how we grow as a couple. Learning and growing together is not always easy, as we all know. But it helps knot the knot, and build the foundation of our relationship.

Of course, I still get pretty upset everytime he pretends to be doctor when I'm ill, and would hush me for nagging him that I need a real doctor. I still get irked whenever he teases me about selling the house and moving to Rwanda. He still gets provoked everytime I badger him about his obsession, his experiments and projects; and how little time he spends on us.

Tja.... what can I say? It's our marriage, and it's imperfect.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Beautiful Life.

My 14-year-old niece wrote an essay on life. I was amazed. How could a girl of such tender age capture in words the very essence of life? Here it goes:



A Beautiful Life .......... by Chess C. Fajardo

For every smile that the sunrise brings, for every giggle that I hear them sing, for every hope that a new day gives, I wonder, how beautiful life truly is…

As I thought of this line, I slowly laid down the soft grass and breathed in its fresh aroma; I ran my fingers across the tender leaves of the grass and felt it at the tips of my hand. I fixed myself to the ground and never felt so relaxed before. As I enjoyed the early morning dew somehow invigorate my tired, exhausted body, I felt a slight shiver run through my spine. I was surprised to realize, that it made me blurt out a giggle than a shriek. Then, I smiled for, for the first time for quite sometime, I felt relaxed.

I gazed at the great blue horizon, realizing how terribly lucky I am to have laid eyes on the things that made each day of my life worth looking forward to. But its not really how things appear to be but the way you look at them. Some may look at a flower as just a part of a plant, that will eventually wilt and loose its beauty, but to me, it’s the most wonderful gift nature can ever offer. It may be the only reward that we get for all the efforts that we’ve given to take care of the plant but, if you really look deeper to the thought, it’s actually not the flower that counts but the happiness that it brings to our lives and the thought that with every hard work made by heart is a reward even the richest of the rich can’t ever buy.

I was staring blankly at the skies for quite some time there, until I was conscious again. I looked closely at the floating clouds and recalled such great memories which I daydreamt for what appeared to me as a minute or so. Then it made me think about life. Like a cloud, it can be like how you look at it or how you want it to be. Like a cloud, life can appear differently to different people.

Life is as one experience it. One has to drink deep of every moment… One has to learn how to enjoy and make the most out of every second…One has to learn to live…for, living is like the tip-toe between the fine line of life and death. Knowing life’s fragility as well as transcendence is what makes a glimpse of life worth an eternity.

So, like what one of the remarkable poets has stated, “Laugh and be merry better the world with a song, better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong….” That’s how we should spend every spilt second of our lives for you’ll never know when you’ll ever breathe your last. And so that, when time comes and death cradles your memoirs, these will remain as great treasures and everyone will remember it for what it was… “A beautiful life!”