Saturday, December 20, 2008

fondue.

salmon mousse
Even this early, I am already stressing about our second Christmas dinner (December 26) which is traditionally spent with the inlaws.

This year, I am assigned to prepare the appetizers, and I am cracking my brain to find something pleasing to the tastebuds that will go with fondue. Yup.... fondue! I was thinking of salmon mousse or salmon amuse. But I'm not so sure. Because although it sounds a bit like fish and chips, I´m not quite convinced the salmon and cheese go together! And especially not for the traditional family Christmas dinner! So you see, I´m not exactly thrilled about the whole idea. Last year, our theme was Italian and I prepared the salad. That was easy. But fondue?

Fondue is basically our Filipino shabu-shabu counterpart, except that you dip the meat (bread, vegetables, etc) into the delicious cheese (or chocolate) mix instead of the regular meat stock we use for shabu-shabu. The recipes vary from family to family, and even from country to country.

In Switzerland, they eat fondue with Swiss army knives and prepare it with loads of goat cheese. In Germany, they use potatoes. In France, they dip French bread. But fondue originated high in the alps where farmers become extremely isolated during the winter months. Back here, people prepare it when they don't have the time to cook because you can always buy a pre-packed of fondue.

My mother-in-law however, mixes hard & soft cheeses, and white wine. It always tastes delicious.....! Most of all, it´s fun to do. Try it sometime with your friends and kids. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fog of Hengelo.


Photos: Somerset, England

Yesterday, I woke up to an enchanting, magical world. Tiny drops of rain floating in the air. Clouds at ground level. It was like being in Avalon. Except that there was neither an Arthur nor a Morgan Le Fay. No nymphs or fairies. No forging of the excalibur. No Merlin. In fact, it was just The Fog of Hengelo.

I went outside in my backyard. I tried catching the tiny droplets in my palm. It felt like re-living my 5th grade again when Mrs. Digo, our Science teacher, taught us about precipitation and condensation. I could almost hear her voice whispering in my ears, `when the visibility is less than 200 meters, it´s fog. When it's somewhere between 1-2 kms, it´s mist.´

The visibility was so poor, I could not see anything. Not my backyard. Or my neighbor´s fence. Nothing. It´s actually like being blind.... except that you are not blind. You can see. You think you know where you're going. At the same, you see nothing and you don't know where you're going. Ahh.... this is fog, I told myself. Just like what Mrs. Digo taught us.


Living in Europe still continues to fascinate me. The mass of fog.... the thick mist.... the large hailstones... the flurry snow.... the crisp floral scent of springtime... the damp stench of autumn.... the intrusive spicy summers.... the mystic winter. These were all new to me seven years ago, but everytime I see or experience them it's always like the first time. My jaws would drop and my eyes would grow big out of excitement. And like an eager child, I smile from ear to ear! lol

Sunday, December 14, 2008

baby killer.

Last December 1 of this year, the body of a dead baby boy was found in a city close to where I live. A DNA profiling was employed to identify the identity of the unknown mother/killer. Last Thursday, the forensic scientists had identifed the mother. A 23- year old young lady, who claims that she was not ready to take complete responsibility for her life or the child because she is young and still wants to enjoy life.

This is the second baby found dead in Enschede this year. My heart of course goes to the babies. They were not even given a proper burial. They were simply wrapped in a grocery bag, and were dumped in the garbage.

I still shudder at the thought. How could a mother do something like that to her child? She has to be sick to commit such a barbarous crime! Her friends and classmates claim that they didn´t even know that she was pregnant.

Apparently, the young lady went regularly on a drinking spree. But she claims to be poor. She claims that poverty drove her to do such a horrendous act. She blames the government and society for not taking care of people like her. Her lawyer advices her to plead insanity. Is she really? Insane, that is.

We all know that in criminal trials, the insanity defenses are possible defenses by excuse so that the defendant will not be held criminally liable for breaking the law..... for terminating the life of an innocent child!

I am so upset. I don´t understand why some people live in a savage state.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

and you think you know better.

Julia had been my piano student for over 2 years now. She just turned 6 when I first met her back in November 2006. In the beginning, I was hesitant to take her in. She could barely read the alphabet, let alone notes!

But I saw talent. The kid has a good ear. Although she can't read notes, she can play short, simple passages that I showed her during our first meeting, without the aid of a music book. So I took her in.

Julia's parents are a young couple. Her mom was about 26 at that time. Her dad was about 28 or 29 years old. They are not very sophisticated people, but they have horses and Julia even at a very tender age then, could already mount and ride her pony like a real equestrian. I was extremely impressed. But none of them had serious music training.

Julia turned 9 last week. And boy, how she had grown. I watched her while she played. She doesn´t like Mozart because she finds the pieces too common. Kabalevsky and Shostakovitch do not appeal to her because their language is too alien for her, she said. (She reminded me actually of myself when I first played Bartok. I wanted to rip off the page! HAHAHA) And Bach, she thinks, is too technical. Just the same, I gave her Bach.

But when she came last Thursday, I was rather annoyed of her attitude. She didn´t want to play her Etudes. See, this is the problem when you have a gifted student. They tend to grow easily bored, and they think they can play everything.

So I asked her what she wanted to play. She said, Fur Elise. I stared at her in disbelief. Of course she can´t play Fur Elise! Her fingers are too stiff for the running passages in the third section of the piece, and she is simply not ready for it. She doesn´t have the discipline. And she is too lazy to bother to study her lessons.

But I can give her Fur Elise for her recital piece in Spring. No question about that. She can play it in no time. No doubt about that either. I know, she can do it. But I want her to want it so badly. I want her to value the discipline that goes with the musical training.

After she left, I stopped for a moment. It made me think of those people who tried to stop me in the past, because they thought they knew better. Those people who thought they can teach me a lesson by making me want it so badly. And of course, I did exactly the opposite thing to spite them. In the end, we were both losers.

But think about it, how often do we play god? Deciding the fate of someone. Pretending we have all the answers. Truly, why do we think we know better? Is it because of experience, or is it because we are too proud to admit to ourselves that some people .... make that, some kids are just too darn good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the many faces of poverty.

Some 30 years ago (upon her return from her world tour), my grandmother said that it's better to be poor in a poor country, than to be poor in a rich country. I never really understood what she meant until that day I was walking the narrow streets of Termini in Rome. My sister Mcel and I were shocked. Literally.

The previous day, we were floored by the Colosseum. Truly, it was the glory that was Rome. And that morning, we were at St. Peter's Square. The Vatican City tour overwhelmed us. I bragged about my limitted knowledge of history, and told my brother that the oldest monarch in the world lives there. My brother in return, impressed me with his knowledge of the works of Bernini, Raphael, and Michaelangelo.

But nothing impressed me there as much as the opulence of the building's interior. The attention to detail, and the massiveness of the structure. Everything was grand and majestic. I never thought the Catholic Church was that rich, and especially during the Baroque period.

That evening however, when Mcel, J and I walked to the Termini, we were welcomed by homeless and vagabonds. Most of them are dark skinned. Right at the Pope's backyard, there was poverty. It was lurking in every street, and every corner. It was unfathomable. I was outraged and scandalized.

I couldn't get the impression out of my head that everytime I think of Italy now, I think of those homeless gypsies.

============
When I went to UK, I also saw some beggars. They didn't strike me as poor. I mean, how could you afford to have a dog with you and beg at the same time? You see, all the beggars that I ran into during my brief stay in the UK, have dogs with them. (have a good look at the pic I posted.)

It was infuriating. But then again, how could you be angry at someone who has given up pride? Someone who looks hopeless, cold, and hungry?

============

In Chicago, the homeless live under bridges. They didn't beg. They demanded that you give them something. Some were pushy, even rough. Others were mentally challenged. And there were those children who reminded me so much of the street children in Manila. (Today, they sell sampaguitas. Tomorrow, they sell their bodies.)

I must say that the poor people I saw while I was visiting Chicago, were either Afro-Americans or Latinos. Thank goodness, I did not bump into a Filipino beggar. That would have been quite an experience!

============
Berlin was different. The poor people there were mostly confined in the eastern part of the city, and the places most frequented by tourists such as the Brandenburg Gates, Museums Island.

In this part of Europe, beggars speak different languages. It was amazing! One girl who looks Polish to me, asked me if I were Spanish. I said, yes. Then, she started to talk in Spanish. She was telling me how hungry she was. I was so impressed, I decided to give her a euro! (Normally, I don´t give money. Food is ok, but money is out of the question.)

According to my friend, most of these beggars are Romanians, Czechs, Polish, and Russians. Germans don´t beg, he said.

============
And today, I was bothered by the news about the 300,000 poor children in the Netherlands. As I went through the article (yes, in Dutch! hehehe), I realized that their definition of "poor" is entirely different from my concept of what poverty is all about!

It says, a poor person is "someone who is denied to go on vacations; someone who doesn't have an LCD television; someone who eats 5 small quantity but healthy meals a day, and can not afford to have burger and fries."

The article is appealing to the government to allot a budget for these poor children so that the kids can go on vacation, have LCD tv, and eat more.

When I reached that point, I folded the paper and went to the bathroom for a warm bath! See, this is one of the reasons why I never bother to read papers on weekdays. I only get annoyed!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sinterklaas is here!

Last Saturday, Sinterklaas (the Dutch Santa Claus) and zwarte Piet arrived in Hengelo. There was a grand parade around the city center. Extremely excited children were there to welcome him! Yes, it´s that time of year again....

In the next couple of weeks, Sinterklaas will be busy visiting houses.

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas arrives in a boat from Spain. Together with him are his assistants called zwarte Piet (Black Pete). According to legend, Sinterklaas rides a white horse and travels from rooftop to rooftop; or passes through an open window. His assistants, Black Petes, come down the chimney and give you presents in your klompen (wooden shoes).

So kids set their shoes near the chimney with a carrot in them (for the horse) before they go to bed. (My 4-year-old pupil told me that she also placed a vase of water for the horse! lol) The next morning, they wake up with small gifts and candies if they are good. They get twigs in the shoes if they have misbehaved.

I guess the most interesting part about this Sinterklaas tradition is Black Pete, the helpers. It sounds derogatory ....... condescending even. I must admit that I, too, was distrubed when I heard this word for the first time. Also, these Black Petes are far from being black. They are actually white people painted black! hahahahahaha

But everybody loves Sinterklaas here. So on the eve of his feast day (December 5th), we all celebrate it ---- young and old, Christian and non-Christian. And the good thing about it is that, it is observed without any religious overtones. (Although we all agree about the Christian origin of the tradition. hahahaha)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

what language?

My 17-year-old student told me about his recent trip to London. He said that in East London, people use a very strange language. They call it cockney. He asked me if I knew that britneys means beer; and rub a dub means pub? I said, no. He smiled.

That´s the beauty of language, I suppose. It´s dynamic, alive. It´s changing and moving with our times. And yes, people will always create new words to describe things, feelings, actions, etc...

Back in college, we used the word malandicious to describe someone who is crazy, flirtatious but in a friendly way. At home, we used kadurat. Nowadays, I hear my nieces use the word kikay.

My husband said that 10 or so years ago, it was fashionable here to use French words and expressions. These days, the Dutch language is highly peppered with English words and expressions. For example last Friday I heard a TV host saying, `ben jij happy?´ (are you happy?) And today, my student told me while narrating a story `hij moet to the point zijn´ (hij should go straight to the point).

We do the same thing in the Philippines of course. We play with words a lot. So imagine what will happen to our language, and especially the spelling, years from now. My nieces are already doing it when they email me. They use truncated English. And here I am, constantly reminding them to use the proper spelling. Because, I said, it is important that their fingers know where to locate the other letters on the keyboard! LOL

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Charlie Brown.

CMae and I went to a Charlie Brown concert today. The American music director, Abby, is an old acquaintance of mine. She knows that I'm a musicologist and that I play several musical instruments. So when she put up this concert 6 months ago, I was in the must-come guest list. Why, she even invited me to the dinner party after the concert!

The day started weird. Hubby had to go to the observatory, and I didn't have a ride to the concert hall which was in another city. I was grumpy for about 20 seconds and decided to hire a cab, instead of going by public transport. I thought it was better that way. I didn't have to worry about the location because that's what cab drivers do. They pick you up and drop you off where you want to go.

But this particular cab driver was from Turkey. When I told him I wanted to go to Walstraat (wal is pronounced with a short "a") , he took me to Waalstraat (pronounced with a long "a"). Walstraat is in the heart of the city. That's where the concert was held. Whereas Waalstraat is in the suburbs. About 16 kms away from the theater! But he was Turkish. I can't possibly blame him for his ethnicity.

When he dropped us off at the city center, he instructed me to just follow that street and said that I would find the concert hall at the end of it. Needless to say, we were lost! But I tried to stay calm, and dismissed the whole thing. We asked for directions, and finally after walking around in circles for 30 minutes, found the place.

The hall was jampacked. Their repertoire included broadway hitsongs from Man of La Mancha, South Pacific, Hair, Grease, Cats, etc... Songs like The Impossible Dream, Some Enchanted Evening, Summer nights, Memory. Songs that are very familiar to videoke-lovers Filipinos. Songs that CMae and I are also dying to sing!

So imagine us surrounded by refined Dutch audience! It felt like we were gagged. You see, Dutch people are a bit uptight. Like their English neighbor, they too try very hard to show no emotions. Oh yes, they are frank and straightforward. But when you show your true emotions, you are immediately labeled as "common" or "simple". Meaning, an uneducated person. And believe me, even for this tiny country of 16 million population with 98% literacy, I assure you that noone here would like to be the simple guy. So, a poker face is a face of someone who has attained Dutch-hood. LOL

When intermission came, CMae and I decided to get something to drink. Some people had cola, jus d'orange, hot cocoa, and milk. Yes, milk! lol While others had beer, red and white wine. A cup of tea cost one euro fifty cents. A glass of red wine costs 2 euros. We should have opted for a glass of red wine, right? But it's cold outside and we're Asians, so we had tea instead. LOL

The second part, was from the You're a good man Charlie Brown musical. It went very fast. I guess, I was having such a great time! The performers were not exactly what one would call professional singers, but hey, they tried their best and the costumes were nice.

So I give them an "A" for the effort! (my friend Mica says, A for A-ffort! hahahaha)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

children's hour.

Cpie called. There was an incessant noise in the background. Her two Pocahontas were singing, talking and playing. Gabrielle who´s almost six, is the teacher; her sister Emmanuelle, three, the pupil. I chuckled while I listened to them play. I could hear Gabrielle hitting the table with a stick while calling the attention of the younger sister. LOL

It reminded me so much of our childhood. When our teachers sat in the middle of our universe, and we believed everything that they said, as if they were direct descendants of Mozes.

That's the difference between Dutch and Filipino children, I guess. Here, the children think that the teachers are their equal and the only role the teachers play in their lives, is to assist and guide them. Children are not obliged to listen to their teachers. They are free to say whatever they want to say. There is no such thing as impertinent answers. There are only outspoken children with creative minds and self-esteem. They are therefore trained to be bold and fearless.

Likewise, children are not pushed in one direction. It's all right to fail in math or science. It's not the end of the world. You can always be a mechanic, a miner, a stevedore, or a plumber. It is all right not to go to college. You don't need a college diploma to have a good education.

In the Philippines, it's different. The teachers are revered. The role of the teacher is to mold the minds of the children. The teacher does not only guide. She also teaches them good manners. She is a disciplinarian too. The second mother. She encourages them to excel and push them whenever necessary. For a Filipino teacher, there are no gray areas. There's only black or white.

I don't know which system works better. But this much I know. Sometimes, it only takes an innocent laughter of child to remind us of how beautiful life can be. I was happy to hear that somewhere in the exotic Arab state of Jeddah, my phenomenally naughty nieces are at play.... and are driving their mom crazy! HAHAHAHAHA

Monday, November 3, 2008

my music story and the maestra. Part I

My first musical recollection was at age 3. Perhaps noone will believe me if I'd tell them that I still remember that moment. My older sister Mcel was playing the piano with both her hands, and I was fascinated at the sight & the beautiful sound she was producing. I thought it was easy, and I could do it.

I tried imitating her on my piano toy. I don't think it came close, but during one of the visits of her piano teacher Mrs. Conde, the old lady saw instantly a musical child in me. Of course, I was too young. Piano teachers have this unwritten rule that the child should at least know how to distinguish A from B, before they could take her in as a student.

The old lady did not wait long. She said, I was too special. So when I was 4 , my first piano lesson began.

I still remember that day. A woman ushered me in to a dark living room. There was a lifesized picture that looked more like a painting, hanging above her pre-war upright piano. Later on, I found out that that woman in the picture is Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

The place had a musty odor, and there were music sheets laying everywhere. The maestra was sitting on a table, and was writing. She was oblivious and was obviously in the middle of something. The woman almost whispering, informed the maestra about my arrival.

The maestra immediately stood up and gave me a beautiful warm smile. She asked Iyay, the woman who let me in, to prepare something for me. The maestra then asked me to play something for her. I can´t recall what I played, but I remember her smiling after I finished the piece. She took out a piano book and taught me how to read notes. And that´s how it all started.

The maestra literally took me under her wing. I was not just the favored one, I was the favorite. I was her musical child. All her advanced students knew about me. They refered to me as the espesyal na batit or the `gifted child.´

The maestra had big plans for me. She always inspired me with her playing, and mind you, she doesn´t play for her other students. After our lessons, I always got a bowl of ice cream and cookies. She told me about the lives of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, and even Rachmaninoff. She always held a fan in one hand, and everytime she mentioned their names, there was this twinkle in her eyes that is hard to describe.

She said, you need Bach for your technique; Mozart, to connect with the child in you; Beethoven, to understand emotions and how sturm und drang sounds; Chopin, to enjoy music poetry; Liszt, to paint provocative and stirring sounds; and Rachmaninoff, to capture that nationalist spirit in you. I sat there and listened to her stories. She became my idol. I just knew then that I wanted to become like her when I grow up.

But when I was 7, the maestra had a vehicular accident. She spent the next 15 years of her life, on a wheelchair. As for her piano students (myself included), we had to look for another teacher. She didn't want me to go. I was after all, her favorite. But she could not play the piano anymore. She can´t even stand, or sit for a long time.

So we had a new piano teacher. She was nice. But I could tell right away that she wasn't as good as the maestra. Her method of teaching was nothing like the maestra. She did everything by the book. There was no life. No passion. No intense love for music. She even gave me the impression that she taught music because she doesn´t know what else to do.

I also discovered one thing. She was not very good at sight reading. I was so cocky then, I really thought I was better than her. I went back to the maestra. Told her about my observations. She was silent. That same day, I told my mother that I don't need piano lessons anymore. That was in 1979, I was 11 years old then. I was learning Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata & Grieg's Anitra's dance, and I didn't have a teacher.

A year and a half later, maestra invited her nun, concert pianist niece to Sorsogon. Sor Ester, who was trained in Germany, took me in. I was so happy. You see, Sor Ester is a virtuoso pianist and an excellent teacher. She was soooo good, the 8 months I spent with her as a student was a humbling experience.


I´ll stop here.... will continue again another time.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

all souls day.

All Souls Day.... One of those heavy days. Those days that make me think about my existence. And let me tell you this, I try not to think so much about it! LOL

Except for a few, most of us will not live more than a hundred years and not one in a million that long. Yet even that one, spends half his life as a helpless child. Of the time left, half is spent in sleep, or wasted during the day. And still, of the time that remains, he is plagued by pain, illness, sorrow, bitterness, deaths, losses, worry, and fear.

Yes. No amount of money, fame, faith, or religion can make man feel totally at peace with himself or the world around him. He is constantly being gnawed by anxiety.

So what is man´s life for? What pleasure is there in it? Is it for appreciating beauty? For acquiring wealth? Taking care of your family?

We move around and live, preoccupied with the petty things we see and hear,... brooding over prejudices (discrimination even), passing by the joys of life without even knowing that we have missed anything.

And one day, a friend or a loved one goes. Just like that, we are changed forever. We realize that although in life all creatures are different, in death we are all the same. The myriad things are thus equal at birth and again become equal in death. All are equally wise, equally silly, equally noble, equally foolish. One lives ten years, another a hundred, but they all die.

These thoughts are not unique, I know that. Man is born into a world he did not make and can never completely understand. His life is full of duties and responsibility, harassed by fears and worries. He makes himself more miserable by demanding more of himself!

Then comes the epiphany..... the revelation of the ultimate truth that we are imprisoned at the bottom of the sea of life, chained and helpless.

It´s harsh, I know. But it´s the truth.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

inspector gadget.

There is one thing that my husband and I don't like doing together. In Dutch, they call it knutselen. Working with your bare hands and making `do-it-yourself´ projects.

Hubby loves math and is so passionate about astronomy. He loves taking pictures of comets, the milky way, planets, and other heavenly objects. In the summer, he enthusiastically waits for the meteor shower. He also measures the nuclear magnetic resonance.

He built his first telescope when he was eight. Impressive, isn´t it? Wrote software programs for the radio telescopes which the local observatory still use. And today, he assembled a radio receiver for his lightning detection program. He´s my `little´ Frank-Einstein. (I say `little´ because he´s not a really what one would call a `mad scientist´. )

So Hubby likes taking things apart and putting them together again. He has so many on-going projects which also means that the house, including our garage, is one big laboratory. It can be so frustrating sometimes.... and annoying too.

There are also those times when he is obsessing about a mathematical formula for his experiments, and is patiently trying to explain it to me even if I have shown complete disinterest! Sometimes I wonder what drawn us together. We are sooooooo different.

But when the sink is clogged, or the roof tiles are blown away at the height of winter, or that one time when my electric blanket had a short circuit, Hubby fixes them all and always with a formula! Truly, he´s my personal Inspector Gadget! lol

Saturday, October 25, 2008

what Europeans think of Americans

Cherie asked me what Europeans think of Americans. I told her I will do an extensive research on the subject matter. hahahaha

The truth is, I don't know.

When I came to Hengelo in 2001, there were a number of things that struck me. First, there were no McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Pancake House, or even Wendy's. Second, no malls. And third, the tallest building is the Cathedral of Hengelo.

Dutch people aren't ANTI-Americans, I suppose. They are anti-commercialism, anti-fastfood chains. They are anti-excessive, anti-extravagant. Anti-democracy. LOL They aren't very flexible people, so they are not very fond of change.

But this labeling thing always makes me nervous. You see, I live in a small city with 68 thousand residents. I have few acquaintances and friends. When we're together, we seldom talk about politics. And if we do, they aren't very interested really. They even couldn't care less about the monarchs or the church. But to say that they are apathetic, would be fallacious either.

So what do Dutch think of Americans? I don't know.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

a path through life.

I was clearing our garage this morning, when I stumbled upon this card. It says:

In my life,
I have been blessed by angels.
Some, strangers
whose one-second smiles
or compassionate eyes
have made a difficult day a little easier.

Others, soul mates who connect
with the deepest part
of my spirit.

Dear Ma´am,

My life wouldn´t have been the same without your friendship, or the
gentle, tender gifts you share just by being yourself.
Thank you for being an angel.

Your student,
Lilymae



---------------------------------------------------------------------------

I managed to choke back my tears, but it warmed my soul. The 15-year-old card brought back pleasant memories of my former students who are now successful pop artists, musicians, teachers..... and there are those who, like Lilymae and Tusa, pursued careers in the academe as university professors. In fact, Lilymae is now handling the courses I used to teach, and is leading the orchestra that I formed. :)

I´m very proud of them by the way. All of them! They were my babies..... my children. And look where they are now! But it made me think about the decisions I made ---- my path through life. I have no regrets. I am where I want to be. I´m still a teacher....... will always be one, I guess.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tricycle people.




The Netherlands is said to be one of the most densely populated country in the world. The Dutch are constantly complaining about the influx of immigrants and emigrants. And whenever there is a car honking like a madman, the conclusion is made easily. It must be a buitenlander. An outsider. A foreigner.

This is the reason why third class citizen*** like myself, has more responsibility here to behave well and sensibly at all times. We want them to have a change of heart about non-western people. That we are learned people, with manners and good upbringing. But I guess, that will never be good enough.

So when I went to Berlin sometime ago, I was quite surprised to see tricycles. Berlin is now the capital of Germany. It might have suffered a lot from the hands of two dictators in the previous century, but it is far from being the capital of a third world country.

For a typical westerner, tricycles and third world countries are synonymous. They are backward, unsophisticated, and eyesore. And although these tricycles are convenient, the drivers defy all the rules of engagement in a given traffic jam scenario. They are creative and cunning.

I used the word third world, and I am aware that it is politically incorrect. In the Philippines, we are taught to use the terms developed and underdeveloped. But after living here for 7 years now, I discovered that those words are perhaps only being used by people from the so-called underdeveloped countries.

It´s ironic really. The countries that label themselves first world may have all the modern technology and facilities, but I am still convinced that although the media project the underdeveloped countries as corrupt, these `corrupt´ underdeveloped countries are the necessary evil in world politics, to make the First World look good.

Like the tricycles that are quite an ugly sight for the man in four wheels. But hey, that´s just one opinion.... my opinion.


***i must admit though that i had never been treated here with less respect; or that i have less rights than a regular Dutch citizen. BUT like all other migrants, i also have not-so-pleasants as well as pleasant experiences.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

stuffing stuff.


"If everybody had the standard of living of the average European or American, we would probably need five new planets. But we've only got this one." These are the wise words of Jane Goodall, an English scientist who spent years observing the chimpanzees in the forest of Tanzania.

Five new planets. Imagine that! But she's absolutely right. Western people are fond of acquiring new stuff and collecting the old ones. One doesn´t have to look far.... my own garage is a classic example. It is stuffed with practically everything --- 95% of them are hand-me-downs from relatives and friends.

You see, I´m like my Ma. I collect garbage (things that no longer have value for others). Somehow, I find it difficult to throw anything that is still in good, working condition. I don't care if it doesn't look nice for as long as I can use it, I'd like to keep it. So old dressoirs, tables, fauteuils, bookcase, pans, even old electric heaters..... they all have a place in my garage!

I know that it's not about being attached to material wealth, because I'm not ... attached, that is. But when I look at an old dressoir for example, I don't see a furniture with an intricate design. I only see a beautiful piece of rose wood. And for me, it's a sin to throw such a beauty. My husband said that it will be recycled. But still, I don't have the heart to do it. I am hoping that someday, somehow... someone will have a place in her home for the old dressoir. But who am I kidding? This is Europe.

A very wise Ifugao once told me, `as long as man doesn´t realize that he can´t eat money, he will continue chopping down trees to have more money

It´s scary, I know. But how do we stop people from buying, acquiring, and collecting? Let's face it. We all work hard to have more money. Because if we have more money, we have more stuff. And if we have more stuff, we think we´ll be happier. We want to live like the average European or American.... surrounded by stuff. Contented and happy. Whatever that means.

So Dr. Goodall is an inspiration to me because her work helps us understand how to take better care of our Earth. Her passion and empathy is a proof that it is possible to make a positive difference for others. For indeed, "you can't live through a day without making an impact on the world. And we all have a choice about what sort of impact we will make."

Like her, I also want to make an impact.... a difference. Perhaps my approach is not really helping because right now, I am merely stuffing stuff! But....we´ll see.

Monday, October 13, 2008

cigars and gums.

Smoking in public places is finally banned in the Netherlands. People are no longer allowed to smoke inside the office buildings, restaurants, and bus stations. I thought it's rather cool. Finally, I don't have to choke on somebody else's smoke. Coming from an ex-chain smoker, that probably sounds not cool. lol

But I read in the papers today that in Rijssen (a town closeby), chewing a gum in public is also prohibited! I was stupefied. I can understand why they banned smoking in public, but if people are no longer allowed to chew gums in public, what's next?

This country has legalized euthanasia, gay marriages, smoking of marijuana, prostitution.... just to name a few. So why are they after the gum now? I want to say, it's just a gum and anyway, they could always recycle and make condoms out of it. HAHAHAHA!

Friday, October 10, 2008

who is pikon?

There is an ongoing discussion whether we Filipinos are pikon (visit http://proudlyfilipina.com/content/are-pinoys-pikon#comment-620 )

Amgreen has recently posted a blog entitled "Are Pinoys pikon?" Some of us shared our opinion. Others opted to keep silent. And there was someone who took it to the next level and played Freud. She said, I truly believe how we take someones words also, has a lot to do with our own self esteem. From pikon to self-esteem.

Perhaps, people sometimes forget that what we say, observe, and write.... are just quick snapshots of what we think. It is NOT who we truly are deep down inside. Therefore, a blog is just a blog. I write here about the things that call my attention. It doesn't bear a simple label. It doesn't mean I am full of hatred, or that I'm stupid enough not to see the goodness in life. It doesn't mean that the only thing I see in this world, is its dark and evil side. Or that I am a scholar who is unhappy and famous. Or that I have low self-esteem.

It is simply what it is. A blog. Or in the case of that discussion, a comment.

But sometimes, we tend to put labels too quickly. Judge people too easily. Generalize too often. I think that person forgot that we aren't brainless people who do know that it is not having everything goes right, but being able to face whatever goes wrong. Life is not about being able to rid the world of all injustices but rising above them. And if rising above them means, burning flags for others... who are we to stop them?

Yes, it's true that that English imbecile made a racist remark. We talked about it... and expressed our opinions. But for her to assume that Filipinos who react violently to such racist remark have self-esteem issues??? Hellllooooo? The nerd! LOL


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

being healthy.





My sis Mcel used to say that the difference between "developed" and "developing" countries is in hair coloring. She said that in developed countries, you have more grey; in developing countries, black. The reason for this she said, is health care. I did not dare challenge her but everytime I get on my bicycle, I always take mental notes. She´s right of course. Oh well, it's her domain. Health care.

Talking about health.....

When I got married 7 years ago and moved to this country, my health regimen has radically changed. I wouldn't say that the change was brought about by my husband. But being married and living in a foreign land definitely had a small but gradual impact on the way I look and what I ate.

For instance, I stopped working. The only places I go to nowadays are the supermarket, the groceries, church, shops (no malls here), library, and when the weather is nice, the movies. I even stopped going to cultural centers. There is simply no need to spend 2 hours in front of the mirror every morning!

Fish is so expensive, and meat products are relatively cheap. They have all sorts of sausages, meatloaf, and an assortisement of cold cuts for breakfast. Chocolates and cakes are two things that Dutch bakeshops are very good at. And needless to say, I am a chocoholic. So, living here is like living the lives of Hansel and Gretel. Except that there is no witch in my story. LOL

Now, I am past the point of no return and my poor health regimen is sending me into a downward spiral. It is freaking me out too. I know that my health is the most important thing, but the chocolates are really good. lol

Monday, October 6, 2008

airport story.

Someone complained about how she was treated at Gatwick Airport in London. She said that the UK is third world country, and that she had a terrible time travelling around Europe because the airport officials were arrogant.

I think there is a grain of truth there. But I also think that it is not just in Europe. Last year, I had a similar experience at Dulles Airport. I forgot about the bottle mineral water that I was carrying with me, before I placed my handcarry bag on the belt. After I was searched, I went over to collect my bag.

There were these two American officers. One said, did you pack your bag yourself ma'm? I said, yes. He continued, did anybody ask you to handcarry something for him/her? I said, no. Finally he asked me if he could search my bag. I said sure, and I extended my arms to reach for my bag. You see, Ma used to tell us that if anybody will search us, we should never allow that person to open our bag, just in case they put something in it; and that we should do the opening ourselves.

Suddenly, the two Americans officers grabbed my hands. Each one, holding an arm. I was shocked. Before I could say anything, the other officer said in a robot-like voice, "Ma´m, the moment your luggage goes through that belt, it becomes a property of the United States of America. Please don´t touch it." In my head it sounded like this, `you have the right to remain silent, etc...´

Everybody was looking at me. I felt scared and very uncomfortable. I felt like a criminal at large. Finally when I found the courage to say something, I heard myself saying, I believe I have a bottle of mineral water in there. They took it out of the bag. I asked if I could have a sip because my throat was very dry. They didn´t even look at me, and threw it in the litter bin.

I was rather annoyed, but kept my cool. When I was about to collect my passport, the officer said, is this yours ma´m? I said yes. He asked, are you Dutch ma´m? I almost said, yes and Van Gogh is my grandfather and if you say another word I´ll cut my ear.

But instead, I politely said yes.... took my stuff and walked away. But I still could not figure out why he asked if I were Dutch. Is he going to give me a slice of cheese? What?! Will he treat me differently if I had an British passport? Or a Filipino passport?

Why is it that most airport officials are arrogant and rude? Is that part of their job description? I mean, do they get paid to behave like that?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

weekends.

It's Saturday. In Dutch, they say zaterdag. Samedi in French. Sabbath in Hebrew. Hari Sabtu in Bahasa Indonesia. lørdag in Danish. The Japanese calls it doyou. For many people, it is plain weekend. Time to unwind, relax, and spend time with the family.

Living in Holland changed my concept of weekends. Here we need weekends because we need relaxation. We need to relax because we can not work (meaning, work in order to put food on the table) continuously. It never ends. It's like a vicious circle. Relaxation then becomes an obligation. One has to relax so that he could gain strength to work again.

It was the exact opposite when I was living in the Philippines. Back then, I looked forward to weekends. It is not the end of the week but the highlight of my week. It is not the interlude but the climax of living.

It is for going to church, singing songs of praises, visiting family and friends, and having the best meal. It is when the soul has the time to catch up with the body. It's when the body, mind, and imagination are in accord. That´s what weekends are for, and I am surprised to realize that I had a change of heart about weekends. Nowadays, I dread weekends. You got that right. DREAD.

I dread weekends because it´s the time of the week when I have to catch up with my washing, ironing, cleaning, dusting, grocery shopping, trimming the plants, weeding and clearing the garden, scrubbing floors, washing windows, sewing clothes... and the endless list goes on.

I dread weekends because the bulk of work is so humongous, I don´t know where to start.

I dread weekends because everybody demands here to be visited on weekends. Yes, the word is demand. Friendship here is an obligation. You are obliged to call your friends. You are obliged to tell them what you are up to. You are obliged to keep them updated. You are obliged to visit them on a regular basis. You are obliged to cook meals for them. (They love Filipino dishes.) You are obliged (and entitled) to only have a cup of tea and a cookie when they invite you to come over. You are obliged to be their friend. And need I say more? Back in the Philippines, I have an entirely different notion of friendship!

But there is an explanation for all of that. In Manila, we had helpers. I only cook when I feel like it. I only clean my room when I want to. I don´t have to please our neighbors about how our place looked like. And life was not moving so fast, as it does here.

I had and have friends who knew me since I was a teenager, some of them are friends from childhood. We are and feel secured about our place in each other´s lives, we don´t have to oblige each other about calling or visitation.

But I live here, and this is my reality now. I'm not saying that one is better than the other. All I'm saying is that, life is different here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

girl power ala Fonda


I had lunch with my expat girl friends last Saturday. We were outnumbered by the Americans so there was a monopoly on the subjects we talked about.

First, it was about McCain and Obama. Then, the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket. Then came the story about Wallstreet and the Bail out plan. Of course, there were also stories about tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, St. Helen´s deadly eruption in 1980. And while we were greedily enjoying our nice vlaai cakes, our host Katelynn decided it was time for Jane Fonda.

I almost choked. Jane Fonda? I swear, I probably had this big question mark written all over my face. And while our American friend Linda was lost in her story about her recent trip to Hollywood and Henry Fonda, I was also lost in my mental aerobic ala Fonda. What is it now with Jane Fonda? I mused.

In the mid eighties, Jane Fonda was a big thing in our campus. I remember our weekly aerobics in the dormitory. My room mate had a Jane Fonda tape that everybody was dying to have a copy. I was her roomie, so I was one of the first ones who owned a copy of the original.

I still vividly remember how I twisted my hips to the `you´re sixteen.... you´re beautiful... and you´re mine...´ music! I was 17 then, of course I can twist my hips!!! hahahaha Or that time when I was running out of breathe I thought I´d collapse but somehow managed to smile while reaching for the roof for the stretch exercise, and listening to Jane Fonda like she was my personal maharishi guru?! Oh, and who could forget about the announcement she made about divorcing her husband and becoming a born again Christian? She is truly an American icon, in every sense of the word.

But hey, we aren´t all crazy about the woman. Katelynn however managed to make us all sit down infront of her big television and watch Jane Fonda talk about her book (published in 2005). I was annoyed in the beginning. But as I listened to her talk, I developed a sincere liking for the woman. She is quite admirable, I thought. I realised then the importance of the interview to our women´s group. Jane Fonda was talking about Carol Gilligan´s A Different Voice. I was surprised. To think that that book has 500 something pages!

So I sat there, ate my vlaai, and listened to the third act of Jane Fonda´s life.




~~~the photograph was taken by my English friend Nicole. ~~~~

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

nature.

Nature can sometimes be so intimidating. Like that one time I was in Switzerland. I stood there in awe. For no apparent reason, I started to cry while admiring the breathtaking snowcapped mountains. Or that other time I was in this beautiful lagoon in my hometown. I was so happy watching small fishes circle me around, while I took their lovely pictures.

Yes, nature can be so beautiful. It can take our breath away. It is so pure, we think it's something sacred, and we don´t want to disturb & spoil it.

I remember our mountaineers´oath back in college. We say, take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footsteps. And my funny mountaineering friend added something. He said, make nothing but babies. LOL

I guess, there will always be this nature lover in me. So last Sunday, my husband and I went for a long walk in the `forest´. Here are some of the photos I took.

mushrooms.... they remind me of Gulliver's Travels.





or these butterflies, of Tinker Bell and Never Land.




Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dig this, if you can.

A friend of mine forwarded this to me. I had a good laugh. LOL


°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

We've been friends for a long time ago. We come from the same alma mother. Actually, our paths crossed one time on another. But it's only now that I gave him a second look. I realized that beauty is in the eyes. The pulpbits of my heart went fast, really fast. He´s cute. And then, he came over with me.

He said, 'I hope you don't mine. Can I get your number?'

I worried. What if he doesn't give it back? He explained also that it's so we could keep intact.

I said, 'Connect me if i'm wrong but are you asking me ouch?'

'The!?!!??'. .. was his sarcastic reply.

Grrrr! The verb! He was upset! Persona ingrata!!! I cried buckles of tears.

He probably felt guilty. He said, ' imagine this is a blessing in the sky. Irregardless of my feelings, we should still go ouch. '

Now, we're so in love. The past is mute and epidemic. Thanks God we swallowed our fried. Now, I'm 33 and I'm running our time.

After 2 weeks, he plopped the question. 'Will you marriage me?' I'm in a state of shocked. Imagine, when it rains, it's four! This is true good to be true! So of course, I said 'yes'. Love is a many splendor. When we were getting ready for our wedding, everything swell to pieces.

One time, we were having dinner and then came a lady. She said, 'Well, well, well. Look do we have here.' What the fuss! The nerd of that lady! She said they were still on. So I told her, 'whatever is that, cut me some slacks!' I didn't want this to get our hand so I had to sip it in the bud. She accused me of steeling her boyfriend.

As is!!! I don't want to portrait the role of the other woman! Gosh, tell me to the marines! I told her, 'please, mine you own business!'

Who would believe her anyway? It's not my problem anymore but her problem anymore, so she stopped. Everything is coming up daisies. I'm so happy. Even my boyfriend said like twice. He's so supportive.

He said, 'Look at is this way, she's ouch of our lives.'

So my advice to all for you - take the risk. You can never can tell. Just burn the bridge when you get there. Life is shorts. If you make a mistake, we'll just pray for the internal and external repose of your soul.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Of lakes, metal bands, Nokia and many more.

When I was in Indonesia back 1994, I made friends and acquaintances from practically all over the world. They were as exotic to me, as I was to them. So when we talked about our nativeland, we always thought of what best represents our country.

One evening, after watching a rather long kroncong (Portuguese-influenced love songs) singing, my fellow scholars and I went for a susu segar (sort of a night cup). My Argentinian bestfriend Daniela started it. She showed us how to dance Tango and spoke about the Argentinian fire. My English friend Alice talked about Princess Diana, the Buckingham palace scandal (at that time), and Shakespeare of course. My Scotish friend Sofie, talked about Mary Queen of Scots, the kilt and the scotch. My Danish friend Jacob spoked about the Little Mermaid and Hans Christian Andersen. Jonas from Sweden bragged about ABBA. And there was Pia from Finland. She said, Finland is the land of Sibelius, lakes, metal bands, and Nokia.

Jean Sibelius, the Finnish nationalist composer of Finlandia, I know. But lakes, metal bands and Nokia? I was silent, didn't ask further questions. I just sat there and watched her smoke kretek (clove) cigarette in her hippie clothes. She was kind and sweet to me, but I never really quite understood her.

In 2005, Pia came to visit me. She was with her partner Jukka. She was calm and soft-spoken, as usual. So was her boyfriend. They laughed softly. Walked softly. Ate softly. Everything about them was soft, tender, and kind. They gave me the impression that perhaps, Finns are like that. Soft, tender, and kind. Of course, we all heard about that shooting spree last year. But one incident will not change my impression about the people.

Until last night when I came across about the college massacre that happened last week in Finland. (I read last week´s papers during weekends. Can´t be bothered about them during the week. he he he) All I could say to myself was, WHY WHY WHY?

All the victims (except for the teacher) he killed were his classmates. They knew each other. He knew them. What made him do it? And what about those police authorities who waited outside, feeling helpless? And why did he post it on youtube?

I will echo that boy´s thought. He said, what kind of society are we building? Indeed, what kind of society?!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Meren.


When I was in grade 4, Ma put me in a public school. It was inevitable. I was driving the nuns at the Catholic school crazy. I hit one with a ball. I sneaked in their private chamber when nobody was watching. (It was there that I found out that they shave off their heads because I saw them without their headdress! What is it called anyway, the cloth that covers the head? A habit?? LOL) I went swimming at the school´s pool with my sisters, while waiting for our driver. In other words, I was a problem child. HAHAHAHAHA

So my parents decided that it was time for a change. There were only 3 elementary schools in my hometown then. And because I was behaving badly, I was put in the school were the poorest of the poor in our hometown send their children. The school where children go to school wearing slippers. The school where children line up for free bread during snacks. The school where children have to work in a workshop, in the event that their family can no longer afford to send them to highschool.

My parents probably thought that in that school, I will learn about getting along with people. That I will learn how to behave. That they will teach me to be a person. That I will realize that I behaved badly in my previous school.

That school is Burabod. And whether or not I have learned my so-called lesson, is still a mystery to me! LOL

In Burabod, I made a lot of friends and "enemies". They were all curious why I go to school with ribbons, black shoes, white socks, laced hankies, and trimmed nails. They were laughing when recess came, and I took out my hotdog sandwich & lemonade. They were all amused with my bag, my pencil case, books, and notebooks. I felt like a complete idiot.

But in Burabod, I also met Meren. We were in the same class. We instantly liked each other. We played some games together and danced in the same Dance Troupe.... climbed trees. ... ate pan de coco together......and dreamed about the future! Sometimes, she was at my place. And sometimes, I was at her place. She wanted to be an architect. I don´t know what I told what I wanted to be! LOL

That was back in 1977. We were in grade 4.

Thirty-one years later..... we found each other again. She lives in France. Happily married and has 3 children. She writes poems and takes lovely pictures. She looks gorgeous and has the body of a supermodel (I am so green with envy! LOL). We are catching up again.... giggling and being naughty again just like back in 1977.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tit for tat.

Living in a multicultural society has taught me a lot of things. It has taught me that happiness is transient. That being tied to your culture, is putting too much importance on yourself and having no time to appreciate the world around you. It´s pretty much like being a horse with blinders. You only see what is infront of you, and the rest is a blur.

I love my country like all immigrants/emigrants love theirs. In fact, I always tell myself no country could replace The Philippines..... make that, My Philippines. This is probably one of the reasons why I´d like to think that my only homeland is in music. Because when I play music, I am home. And in that home, I am happy. No gossips. No debasement. No betrayal. No inflicting of pain. No abuses. In that world, I am safe.

But that's not all there is to life. So we adapt. We evolve. And in my case, I have to let go of this sense of disproportionate importance that I've attached to myself. Of that feeling that the only culture I could truly love and consider home, is my Philippines.... or my music. I have to let go of self-importance.

That I am so important I feel justified to be annoyed of everything. That I am so important, I could afford to leave if things don´t go my way. That I am so important, I could pretend that I know better and could shove my views down the throat of others. That I am so important, I don't need people to understand me.

All of that has to go. Because holding on to that feeling, is not treating the people around you as equal. You put too much importance on the self.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Street musicians.

Being in Berlin reminded me again of the one thing that I am so passionate about, music. While my husband and I walked through this historic city for days, I can't help going into trance everytime I hear sound. Yes, anything and everything that produce sound fascinates me!








The musicians are so good, I even gave up a late afternoon tour to Pergamon museum, just to listen to this glass chimes player. He was extremely skillful, I stood there in awe and watched him with envy.

And then, there´s this other keyboard player. She made an electric keyboard sound like a baby grand piano. Her passages were so delicious, I almost cried.






I guess, this is the beauty of being in Europe. I get to experience music in every conceivable way. For them, music is quite essential. It is what the atmosphere is to the earth. And unlike non-western music practices, theirs is purely for enjoyment. It's like having a cup of coffee while munching on that French chocolate truffles.

I took short excerpts.... listen and enjoy their music.

Berlin.


The Neue Synagogue, after it was reconstructed in 1988. This building showcases the history of the Jewish community in Berlin from the 1860s. It was quite a disappointment really. Also, you have to go through a thorough inspection for security purposes (very annoying experience) before you could enter the building.






The Rathaus (city hall) in Alexanderplaats.








The TV Tower´s sphere.





At Charlie Checkpoint. The crossing point between East and West Berlin.



The Brandenburg Tor and the famous quadriga.






The Berlin Dom, a Protestant chuch, conceived to be Berlin's counterpart of Rome's St. Peter´s Basilica.






The Reichstag.








Berlin Wall. I took this picture from the eastern part of the city. I imagined the wall to be much taller, but it wasn't. There are however so many horrible stories about people who died, trying to climb this wall to cross to West Berlin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Her-story at a glance.

I was told today that I am going to Berlin tomorrow. I've never been there before so I thought of polishing my knowledge about European history. Guess what I´ve found out?

* Berlin came from Slavic word "bog" which means swamp

* Hitler was a Catholic (!); he was not German but an Austrian commoner

* The Brandenburg Gate was patterned after the entrance to the Acropolis, and was built to symbolize
peace

* Although the first Holy Roman Emperor was Charlemagne, the continuous line of emperors began only with Otto the Great (a German) in 962

* Despite its name, for most of its existence the Holy Roman Empire did not in practice include Rome within its borders

* The term Holy Roman Empire dates only from 1254

*The Reichstag we associate with the Nazis, was actually the legislative body of the Holy Roman Empire

I thought it was rather odd that we call it The Holy Roman Empire, whereas the seat of power was not even in Rome! Of course in those times, it referred more to territory rather than the city itself.

I also realized that the original EU members are part of the Empire's territory namely Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Luxembourg. We all agree of course that this was not purely coincidental.



If I were told last week that I was going, I would have had enough time to visit the library and prepare. I need at least a week to do my reading. But one thing is for sure. I am definitely going to have a great time. lol

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

phony weird world.

Perhaps, one of the things that really gets under my skin (aside from false humility) is self-righteousness. Some people have the knack for self-righteous talks. They think their life is so perfect, it is okay to degrade others.

Indeed, there is a fine line between self-righteousness and being compassionate. Being compassionate is when you care for other people, you don´t want them to make the same mistakes you did. You spare them the trouble.

Our Christian background tells us also that being compassionate means alleviating the sufferings (sorrows and pains) of others so that when we see them needing our help, we don´t walk away and say `sorry dude, I´m busy. I don´t have time for you right now.´ In other words, being compassionate means being a good samaritan.

Being self-righteous on the other hand, is when you tell others how to live their lives, as if they are nincompoops while here you are, living a fairy-tale like, magnificently impeccable, exceptionally unblemished, astonishingly phenomenal, unbelievably sensational existence. In other words, your life is perfect and spotless.

The sad thing about our world today is that, there are so many self-righteous people around who are insanely disturbing. I used the word insane, because they drive me crazy. lol The question is, why do I let them affect me in the first place and why I am allergic to self-righteous talks? This is actually the reason why I sometimes don't go to church and/or discuss religion. It makes me feel so phony..... so fake...... like these self-righteous phony people.

Having a phony person around, feels like walking a fine line. I know! I have one for an inlaw. (My husband thinks she is just being compassionate. Oh well, he is entitled to his own opinion.) I am always in my toes when I talk to her because she always gives me the feeling that I am competing with her, even though I'm not.

My friend Lumen aptly described this phony people as "people who are envious, they only have negative things to say." That's exactly what they are. They only have negative things to say to you, because they think that you are never a match against their spotless, perfect life.

So why am I spending so much time talking about these phony people? Because I just talked to one last night. I was so annoyed, I had to call my friend Mica at 10 PM (very unholy hour!) and make 2 overseas calls to feel better again! Phew....! lol I'm just so glad I have good, real friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

legato... ?

My eight year old piano student asked me today what legato means. I told her that it means, `smooth and even playing, without any noticeable break between the notes.´ I showed her how to do it, in the hope that she will understand what it means. But she did not. She just sat there.... with a blank stare.

Sometimes, being a piano teacher in a foreign land can be so frustrating. It feels like you are not in your own house, although you are! I really wanted to tell her more about legato passages, but I simply couldn't. I felt I needed another 10 years in a Dutch language school!

To make up for that rotten feeling, I went over my CDs and listened to Leonard Bernstein's recording of Le Sacre du printempts. I needed to go away from that confronting, fleeting reality.

Such is the beauty of music. The moment you play it, a story is being narrated to you. This narration gives you the essence of an event and the causal sequence of the story. It captures the concreteness of the present moment, without necessarily imagining it in concrete scenes. And most of all, it discovers the drama that underlies our lives. A single second of the present then, becomes a little infinity.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Being a teacher.

I had been teaching since 1990. I never thought of course that I will be a teacher. I've always thought that I will have a glamourous job in some advertising company as a fashion designer. But I had never been good at visual arts. I can't even draw a horse, for crying out loud! hahahaha

Teaching has given me a sense of fulfillment like playing a piece of Debussy or Chopin does to me. My adrenaline would start to pump the moment I stand infront of the class. It makes me feel good. That's why when I moved here almost seven years ago now, I opted for a teaching career rather than working in some office.

Some people however, give the teaching profession a bad name. Take for example this one person I know. She said that if she doesn't find a real job, she will set up her own translation and tutorial services agency. It's fine really. Except that the way she had put it was rather derogatory, almost insulting.

So, just because one has a degree in whatever-it-is doesn't mean that she could be a teacher. What I find so obnoxious is the way some people project their failures in life, on teaching. My favorite line is, "oh, if I can't do this... I will teach." They say it in such a way that it appears like the teaching profession is for losers!

Therefore, I can not allow some unemployed former blah-blah-blah disrespect the teaching profession. I will not allow some loser "settle" with teaching because she can not find a REAL job! Like I said, just because she has a degree in whatever-it-is doesn't mean she can teach.

Oh well..... she can claim whatever she wants to claim. At the end of day, she knows that she's not a REAL teacher. Case closed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Parsa.

Harappa-Mohenjo daro.... Zapotec Mayan..... Shang dynasty.... the pyramids, etc... We've learned all about these in school.

But as I went through last month's copy of National Geographic, my breath was taken away by the story of Parsa. What was later called Persopolis, under the Greek influence. Parsa... Persopolis.... The Persian City. This place is so important, it even found its way in the Bible.

When we think of Iran today, we automatically associate it with the Ayatholla.... women in veil.... too much fighting.... Indeed, Iran leaves a bad taste in our mouths and westernized mind.`Their culture demonized in western cinema... escalating war of words with Washington D.C. as menacing would-be terrorists out to build the bomb.´

This makes me think. Truly, why do we associate Iranians with Arabs? Or with anything for that matter? Iran is Iran. Period. The world has so much to learn from this old culture. In fact, the Philippine political world (washing dirty linen in public), has soooooo much to learn from these people.

In Iran for instance, there is such a thing as taarof, the unwritten code as to how people should treat each other. The beauty about taarof is that, in a hierarchical society like Iran, people paradoxically deal with each other as equals. One tries to be smooth and sincere while hiding his true feelings. In other words, you never show your intention or real identity to forge a friendship based on equal trust.

BUT as far as our `boxing´ and `labeling´ western-oriented minds are concerned, they are pretentious and treacherous. Are they really? Perhaps, they are simply being cautious. After all, there had been a lot of danger throughout their history. A person´s way to protect himself is to never expose himself.

Maybe if we do not expose ourselves too much, wars (word war also) could be avoided.

On the many carvings on what´s left of its stone walls (which was published on the NG) for example, it is noteworthy that there is absence of violence in this old civilization. There were soldiers, but they were not fighting. There were weapons, but they were not drawn.

Empires and dynasties came and went. And while it is true that their history is undeniably saturated with wars and invasions, so much trade and cultural interchange, Iranians are just direct descendants of polite, peaceloving, hardworking and respectful people. And that's that it.

So next time you plan your trip, include the historic Parsa.

Monday, September 1, 2008

camote.

Believe it or not, I am growing sweet potatoes (yes dear, camote in the Netherlands! hahahaha) in my backyard. It´s growing wild. In fact, a portion of our garden is now exclusive for my beloved camote.

My husband who was so confused because he doesn´t know what it was, ALMOST uprooted the mother plant! He thought it was a worthless weed. Luckily, I was there.

So nowadays, I have all the reason in the world to have camote cue for snacks and cocido (steamed fish in lemon juice with camote tops)! I'm in heaven. hahahaha

But autumn is just around the corner. Soon, it will be dark, cold and rainy ... and my dear camote will go to sleep like all the other summer plants. But maybe,... just maybe... it will be back again next year! Can´t wait...

For now, let me enjoy my cocido. hehehe

Friday, August 29, 2008

crucified kermit.

Reuters/Courtesy Museion Museum/Handout


A crucified frog holding a beer mug in one hand and an egg in the other, while its green tongue hangs out of its disgusting mouth. Yes, I know. It's tasteless ... it's a nasty sight..... and it's outrageous and offensive. Especially for Christians.

The Pontiff is troubled, and has condemned it. I would have burned it.

I understand why a beer mug and an egg, but a green frog? I wonder what the German scupltor was thinking when he made it. And why is its tongue hanging out?

An Art Critic (whose name eludes me at the moment) during a TV interview said, that even Michaelangelo and Caravaggio were condemned during their time for their rebellious art works. He also said that our generation is not ready for this kind of artwork because it is very much ahead of its time.

If I were a meter away from that critic, I would have slapped his face for saying such slanderous claims. How dare he compare the Crucified Kermit to The Creation (Michaelangelo) and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter (Caravaggio)?!!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oma.

My 84 year-old neighbor and I were sitting in her living room. I was intently listening to her. She was talking about the Second World War and how she escaped the possibility of being sent to a prison cell in Germany for helping a jew contact her parents. She is still convinced that she did not do anything wrong.

I sat there in awe, full of admiration for the fragile old lady. This woman is a hero, I thought. But Oma went on with her story. She was narrating her story like it happened last month only. Her facial expression told me all the anger, pain, sorrow, and hatred she had to suffer in the hands of the German Nazis. I of course could not fathom with my tiny brain the horrors she had bear, to survive.

As I bike back home, I suddenly became very conscious of those houses that used to strike me as mansions with beautiful gardens. Those are the buildings that Oma mentioned in her story. There was this one particular house that I was quite fond of before. It used to be a Nazi prison. Now, it is a residential home. I stopped infront of that house..... tried to picture the place some 65 years old. I shuddered and left. All of a sudden, that house looked like the haunted Amityville to me.

I think I understand now why Oma's generation find it hard to forgive and forget the Germans. Because even for sweet, kind Oma, who was barely 17 years old when the war erupted, the Second World War scarred her like none other experience did. She still resents going to Germany. She doesn´t buy German products. She's not even comfortable that our Pope is German. And she still calls those people who helped Germany try to realise their goal, traitors. And boy, you should see the way her eyes would squint like sharp daggers when she talked about that not-so-distant past.

Then I thought about the Afghans, the Iraqi´s, .... those men, women, and kids who are trapped in those war-torn countries. My heart goes to them, but there´s nothing really I can do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

where´s the logic?

I was checking the internet for plane tickets. The prices are ridiculously high. What are these airline companies thinking? That they can just get away with all those taxes they included? It costs now almost twice the amount to travel to the Philippines! This makes me really angry.

If they want to earn more, they should go after the business class passengers. But economy passengers? Hey, come on! We are just ordinary citizens trying to keep our finances afloat!

I really don't understand. The dollar is depreciating, but the commodities are appreciating. Where´s the logic behind that?

A greenie friend of mine said that she was rather happy that the prices of plane ticket went up. She said that if people could no longer afford to fly, the atmosphere will become cleaner. Mother Earth will heal. Again, where´s the logic?

A politician said that discouraging people to travel, will keep them home. Which means, savings for the family, hence savings for the country. Sounds logical, doesn´t it? Think again! The next day, a picture of him and his family vacationing in Cayman Island was on the frontpage of a local newspaper. So tell me, is that logical? That only moneyed people can travel?

As I´ve said, it´s truly unsettling and annoying. Perhaps, we will witness again in the not-so-far future an upsurge of violence to end the reign of these terroristic inflation. For how do we overcome the limitations of both common sense and reality! Because really, where´s the logic?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

anxiety.

I had frequented the hospital last week, .... and also this week. Too often in fact that I am now familiar with faces there; that one doctor would wave at me everytime he sees me! But the truth is, I don´t really like hospitals. It reminds me of death..... of our mortality..... the omega.

I have trouble sleeping lately. Everytime I close my eyes, I feel like drowning. That there is this powerful sucking force that makes me feel like a leaf at the mercy of the wind. I also feel like I am going to die in my sleep. This is the reason why I take sleeping pills nowadays. You see, sleeping pills numb the senses.... the brain. You don´t have to think. You don´t have to be a responsible adult. In fact, you don´t have to be anything. It´s just you and sleep.

Which brings me to my next thought. What happens to us when we go to sleep? Of course, there are millions of articles, dissertations, books, and studies made about sleep. But nobody had really come up with a concrete answer. Until now, we still don´t really know what happens the moment we close our eyes and jump into that abyss where time seems infinite.

So can you blame me if I don't want to sleep anymore? hahahaha

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Big "D"

We all heard about Dr. Jekell and Mister Hyde. Depression. Such a big word.

I read in the newspaper that 1 out of 3 Dutch suffers from some form of depression. That's about one-third of the 17 million Dutch population. Freaky, isn't it? So I asked myself, what causes depression? Why are some people more prone than others? What are the possible causes?

Well, there's genes. Some people are born with it. In the Netherlands, they are referred to as children who were born on a rainy Monday, or something like that.

Childhood trauma or abuse causes depression also. Health problems. For instance, someone with multiple sclerosis. Loneliness and isolation will surely lead to depression. There´s also financial strain, and burn out. Oh, and there´s the winter depression.

What about if someone threatens to kill himself? Is that a simple threat? Or, do we take that seriously?

Then I wonder.... I wonder, how come we don't hear about depression in developing countries like the Philippines? Are we too ashamed to talk about it? I know we have several mental hospitals spread across the country but, a half-way hospital (as they are referred to here) for depressed patients? Don't tell me there aren't depressed patients in the Philippines! Don't tell me they can forget about their depressed mental state while singing My Way!

What about having a happy, God-fearing, and loving (extended) family? Does that count why we, Filipinos, are happy people? I think, it does!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mother of Pearl.

I have a new reader ... my Ma --- thanks to my older sister, Ate, who downloads and prints my blogs for her. Ma tirelessly and patiently reads my blog these days. hahahahaha

I actually feel elated. I mean, who wouldn´t? My Ma is a very good writer.... perhaps one of the best in the province, in my opinion. I used to read her poems when I was growing up. Sometimes, I would copy and post them on my study table or in my textbooks to remind me of her, and for inspiration. I always thought I could read her mind that way.... or, be connected with her innermost thoughts which was home of course.

That was before..... when Ma had time to indulge in the fascinating world of reading and writing. She still reads all right, but writing has taken a back seat.

Now, she's a retired grandma and recently became my number one fan! I'm overjoyed. hahahahahaha

But there's another face to this story. Ma is also my silent editor.... my critic. We discuss my blogs nowadays, and she would always give me a 5-minute lecture on grammar and syntax. This, I find, rather endearing and to some extent, amusing. I guess, I´ve matured. After all, I´m a middle-aged woman now!

Whereas before we would have our lengthy discussion, argument, and sometimes, brawls as to who is right, I actually listen to her now. You see, my Ma had always encouraged that among us. She said that arguing is a healthy form of mental gymnastics.

Some people do not agree with her, saying that we are being discourteous and disrespectful to her. But for Ma .... if you could defend and fight for your argument to the very end , she will listen and at times, even consider what you´re saying. She keeps an openmind .... always. And she stays calm.

Now that we are grown ups, Ma has become the elder of the tribe. Our tribe. She now embodies the very essence of motherhood. Our everything really. She gives birth to wise ideas ; lends an ear and sometimes support our not-so-sound decisions; provides laughter and sunshine when everything seems dark; gives strength and hope when needed; and loves unconditionally. After all, we are hers no matter what!!! hahahahaha

At the end of the day, we are both happy with this blog thing..... why, we are more reconnected now than ever. I´m not saying that because she reads my blog. I say that from a point of view of child who must have been difficult to raise.

I am after all the artist in the family. As my little sister Cpie would say, we don´t have to understand what you´re doing or saying, but hey, we´re listening and we're here for you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Monday, July 7, 2008

a laughter ....

I just saw an add on the msn website. It says, `baby´s laughter triggers mom´s brain.´ Does it really? If that is the case, let´s have a laugh.

When I was studying in Indonesia, my professor called my attention one morning.

Prof: Mbak Maria, you make me sick. You hit the wrong note twice.
Me: Go to hell!

After saying that, I collected my things, stood up, and stormed out while tears flooded my cheeks. Everybody was looking at me with a somewhat bewildered and confused look. Truth is, I was so embarrassed. Imagine, I made somebody sick with my music!

Hours later, Emma, my English classmate, dropped by my place. At first, I didn´t want to talk to her, so I told her to go away. I just wanted to be alone.

Around that time, my grandma just had a heart bypass and I was far away from home. I just actually wanted to go back to the Philippines. But Ma said that specialists are looking after grandma and there´s not much I can do.

Besides, if I go home during the academic school year, it will definitely have consequences which will include paying the university a full refund and perhaps even getting fired for breach of contract! (I was a government scholar then.)

So I was double upset when my professor told me I make him sick! But Emma was waiting outside my door. She wouldn´t leave. So I let her in and spoke to her.

Emma: how are you?
Me: I´m not really in the mood for a chit chat, Emma.
Emma: But why were you so upset?
Me: Won´t you be upset if someone told you that you make him sick?
Emma: Who told you that?
Me: Pak Joko (the professor), who else???!
Emma: He did? When?
Me: EMMA!!! during our class.

Emma stared at me. Then there was a pregnant pause.....

Emma: Oh that!
Me: Yes, THAT!
Emma: Marissa, Pak Joko said Mbak Maria, you MADE A MISTAKE. You hit the wrong note twice.

I was silent. And then, we both laughed. Poor Pak Joko.


But the thing is, some Indonesians have problems with pronunciation. So Pak Joko sounded actually like this:


Pak Joko: Mbak Maria, you mek mestek, you het rong not twez.


Which sounded to me like: Mbak Maria, you make me sick. You hit the wrong note twice.


But like I said, I should always clean my ears when travelling/living abroad! THE END! HAHAHAHAHAHA



Pak = Sir or Mister
Mbak = miss

Friendship.


My highschool classmate and friend Menchie wrote a very nice blog about reconnection. It touched me and made me feel homesick..... make that Menchie-homesick! HAHAHAHAHA

I was actually planning to blog about marriage. But I guess, friendship is also a sort of marriage, minus the wedding that is! So I am going to talk about it instead.

Friendship..... what is it actually? It sounds so trite and banal, I could fall asleep right now! ha ha ha!

Kidding aside, I believe friendship is the marriage of two (or more) people who have different upbringing yet are drawn by a common interest, dream, frivolity, background, and sometimes even by the same nemesis! Menchie and I however never had the last one. hahahahahaha

I used the word marriage because in many ways, it is a union of people who do love and care for each other (minus romance... although we all know that friendship can reach its zenith in marriage because the bond is closer). But the camaraderie, commitment and demands are just as exciting and precious.

But it´s true what Menchie wrote in her blog. Eden, Mel, Cherie, Menchie and I are re-discovering and reconnecting again through blogging. Sounds odd, but true. And that´s the beauty of cyberspace. You are only an iota of a second away from each other..... or in our case, a blog away.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Meeting marten.



It was Friday night. Our friend Niek just left, and I still have to clear the kitchen. I decided to go upstairs instead to check my email. Hey, I have one from my sister! I picked up the receiver and dialed her number.

We chatted, and by the time we were done… it was almost 4:00 AM and I was exhausted. It was time to retire to bed. Suddenly I heard a thud and stumping. My brain ran wild. What could that be? Or maybe I should be asking myself who could that be?!

And just like that, I was wide awake. I was annoyed.

I walked to the window…. looked outside. It was so peaceful. The sky was so beautiful..... like a canvas. It reminded of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Ah,... summer. I love Europe in the summer.

I saw somebody moving close to our neighbors’ fence. It’s probably Meneer Erv, I thought. But what seemed like Meneer Erv’s head, had a very bushy tail attached to it, and was running around! My heart started to pound in excitement. What was that????

Then I heard a loud shriek. It was almost like a piercing cry. The little nocturnal creature was playing! Was he calling for a friend??? It was such a delight to witness such a beautiful sight. He was very agile.... moved very fast....and an excellent climber too! It’s definitely a large squirrel, I thought. If only I had my camera now, I said. But if I leave, I knew that the creature will be gone and perhaps I won’t ever see it again. So I continued watching it.

I found myself enjoying the experience. Ah,…. he looks soooo cute, soooo cuddly! So innocent... and so,... and just like that, it was gone! I fell sad, like a little child robbed of her favorite doll!

At breakfast, I told my husband about my little adventure. He said that the “cute little creature” I was referring to, was a stone marten (steen marter). An omnivorous, opportunistic animal who feeds on rabbits, chickens, birds, nuts, and berries.

I was silent. My pet Kapkap (a chicken) was killed last month. Life was literally sucked out of her. We found her lying in a corner, ... headless and bloodless.The creature who killed Kapkap was merciless. I still shudder at the thought.

And today, I found out that the beautiful furry creature that I saw prancing and dancing early this morning was the deadly predator that was responsible for the tragic death of Kapkap! Truly, looks can be very deceiving.





(The photo is not mine. I downloaded it from the Encyclopedia Britannica website.)