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,


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 )

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


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 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.