Tuesday, October 27, 2009

is laughter still the best medicine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How? I want to know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

patat.... anyone?

Let's talk about food. Dutch food.

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

This made me think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the names.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009


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

Some have giant-sized pumpkins in their frontyards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

work hard, play hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

somewhere over the .....

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

and tonight, this full moon.....

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

Friday, October 2, 2009

In art you can experience the nearness of God.

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

June 16, 2009.

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

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

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

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

Real art is impossible without God.

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

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

Not even in the city guide.

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

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

Rome: a big city.

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

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

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

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


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

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