October 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
My mother’s penmanship is nothing like mine.
Her smooth cursive glides in between two shades of her pen, interrupted only by perfunctory stops. Each loop and line written in full and consistent control. “Light, dark…light, dark“, as she showed me one day how it’s done the “Paulinian” way. “They didn’t teach me that in school. Can you just write my name on my notebook labels, Inay?“, I pleaded. She would usually accede to my request, at least until before I went into secondary school. When high school came, even doing the plastic cover wrapping was suddenly expected of me. Looking at how I wrote my name usually made me squint in disgust. The letters rarely stood on the same line, and the angles & sizes were undeniably mismatched. In addition to that, I had to make do using print. My cursive was even more appalling. In contrast, though my plastic cover wrap started rather shabbily, I grew better with it over time. So much so that I even looked forward to doing it for my brother – something he readily allowed me to claim responsibility for. After a few years of bearing with my handwritten labels, I finally asked my mom to get me a name stamp. It increased my desire to see my school books.
This was what I thought of as I dropped the letter I wrote for Tita Marivic in the mailbox. She was one of my mother’s close friends, at least that’s how I would describe her. My mom didn’t really have friends she would regularly hang out with, so to speak. But I remembered Tita Marivic’s regular visits to our house in Sampaloc up until the time before she migrated to Australia. Memories of their conversations are vague, but I recall sitting on her lap. I was perhaps 6 or 7 then when she left – and I never did see her again. When my mom passed away, we received a letter from her. I could only assume she still kept in touch with my mom until the latter years as we had changed our address already by then. Moved by her kind gesture, I wrote to her as well to thank her for her condolences. I wrote so many letters that month, with the help of my brother and with the prodding of my father. It helped us manage the pain better – to dwell on good memories and focus on gratitude. And as with how the consciousness to friendly affection can sometimes vaporize over both the routine and hysteria of everyday living, it was only after almost 4 years again that she got in touch with me by way of greeting me on my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I was ashamed for not having kept in touch, not because we were friends, but because she was my mother’s. A thread of connection that I did not necessarily want to let go just because my mom’s knot was unraveled. As I walked away from the post box, I was gripped by a sudden regret. I hadn’t written a disclaimer for my messy handwriting and neither did I consciously try to make it more legible than usual, how inconsiderate of me.
But more than that, it somehow pained me a little that Tita Marivic would not be able to remark how I had the penmanship of my mother.
October 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
I stand there waiting whenever she leaves me half-past 9. Perhaps a few thousand people per day, I hear their footsteps and I smell their presence. Sometimes, on a few occasions which can be far in between, I feel their sadness creep in on me like a chill. But when it’s happiness that radiates from within – a glow that refuses to die even in the direst of days, I smile off the wear away and draw more courage to stand there in wait. Yet I still worry a lot. My mind is often vagrant with troubling thoughts. ‘Are you sick?’ ‘Do you feel bad today?’ ‘Have you forgotten about me?’ ‘Will you ever come?’
Today she picked me up a little past 5. Always in a hurry, but nevertheless she asked me how my day was. I smiled and said, “It’s been good”. Because today, you came.
“What were you waiting for?”
For the blind uncle who stands in wait for a kind passer-by to buy a tissue packet from him (Singapore)
October 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m not sure when exactly, but it happened in the lull of an afternoon. People hanging on threads of wakefulness, the sun burning more than half-through its day’s embers – everything working on a slow rhythm. I was there, unadorned with thoughts. Silent in the contemplation of nothing. Moving like a fish that swam constantly because if it didn’t, it would die. In a brief moment, the artery that gave me its dreams was sliced clean. Not a drop of blood, not a tear was shed. When I slept that night, I no longer saw the rainbow. That was when I knew the answer to your question.
“Do you believe in Love?”
September 23, 2017 § Leave a comment
It was one of those trips that was more of the company rather than the destination. Three days was barely enough to scratch the surface of this beautiful country. Despite the constant tourist reminder to be wary of theft, our naive carelessness did not attract any untoward incident – thank goodness. I’m generally drained from my month-long hiatus from responsibilities, ironically, so I will just be listing my favorite memories from this trip and leaving a video of our moments.
- The food – a ton has been written about Vietnamese cuisine, I say don’t bother reading and just go out there and eat it. Every little shop is bound to be authentic and interesting the least.
- Teh Dar – we watched this cirque-like performance at the Saigon Opera House and it was well worth every dong we paid.
- The history – though I did not leave with a thorough understanding of why the Vietnam war happened, a glimpse of life during and after their wartime offered a better understanding of how their people fought for their independence and how the players from both sides had to live through the consequences.
- The buildings – So much boutiques and interesting shops lie in the seemingly old buildings in the city, we were lucky enough to run into 26 Ly Tu Trong where the Phong Tranh Nghe Thuat Art Gallery is housed. This was one of my favorite spots (the dark corridors and the vintage elevator that’s characteristically French) and I can only imagine the city has a lot more to offer that we never got to see this round.
- The company – I’m really weak in writing about really happy times, sad writer’s syndrome. So I guess this video and a big thank you to April, Gale and Marge will have to do.
Oh, another thing, I have reached my media storage limit for this blog which is why this entry has no photos. Still pondering if I should pay up or open a new blog. :(
September 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
I dragged my luggage closer to me as I rummaged for my passport in my bag. I needed it to buy a sim card. The man at the counter laughed and told me with a bemused smile, “Don’t worry, you’re in Nepal”. When I picked Nepal as my next travel destination, I never had the worried mindset that I was going somewhere less safe. All I had in mind were hopefully seeing the Himalayas, witnessing their colorful culture and eating authentic Nepali food. But when I caught my connecting flight from KL to Kathmandu, I got a bit intimidated by the fact that 90% of the passengers in my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur were male. There was probably less than 10 of us female, and most of the women looked like travelers like myself. But I never did feel unsafe as most of the men were engrossed amongst themselves anyway and they didn’t really give uncomfortable stares. There was only the inconvenience (probably quite universal to all males hehe) that hygiene and proper etiquette is less important – and so I was unable to use the plane toilet.
I flew in to their capital, Kathmandu City, which was located in Kathmandu Valley. Just observing the night lights as the plane made its landing, I knew I was in for a different terrain. As I walked down the tarmac, my fellow passengers got away with taking multiple photos with the plane as we boarded the bus that took us to what seemed like a domestic airport outfit. I had expected cold weather – something in the range of 18 degC, which explained the relatively thick jacket I had under my arm. It was warm if anything, and I didn’t expect it to get cooler in the morning. I could have saved the jacket expense for extra momos. The airport was made of bricks, as with most buildings in Nepal. I had applied for a visa earlier at their consulate at Singapore so immigration was a breeze (and an extra 40 USD) for me. Rosh opted for the visa-on-arrival, which costs 25 USD and a few more minutes with the forms. The time I saved was unnecessary though as I spent it mostly waiting for the baggage to arrive. When I finally got my bags, I had to “fight off” with the other Nepali men who crowded the only money exchange counter open that night as there was no concept of falling in line. To my surprise I squeezed in easily and was alert enough to demand for the 10 NPR cheated out of me. I kind of regretted this anal attention to details later as I could have just given away that 10 NPR out of generosity. In any case, business should be conducted with honesty. And that was finally how I found myself at the NTel counter buying a sim card so I could finally tell my Dad that I was in the land of the sherpas.
Rosh arrived on a different flight later that night, so I settled myself first in our room and enjoyed the distinct taste of their Nepali welcome tea. “It’s really nice, but a bit sour”, I encouraged her later on as she pondered if she’ll get tea or not. “but I’m not sure if it’s because of the water or maybe the milk”, I added as a precaution. I tasted the rust from the pipes when I brushed my teeth upon arriving. She winced at the idea, but got herself one anyway.
Filled with mountain ranges, the valleys of Nepal offer spectacular views of these undulating and jagged peaks. We stayed in Thamel for our first few days, where most streets were unpaved and littered with both trash and construction materials and debris. They were filled with bustling life however – large and small stupas and temples, apples and pomegranates for sale, colorful souvenir shops, a mixture of people who, for the sake of reference and explainable by geography, looked like they could be from either China or India. There were also a lot of stray dogs who knew how to capitalize on friendliness. “They’re following us”, Rosh mumbled under her breath when we were taking a morning stroll at Nagarkot. I had made the mistake of saying “Hi” to them, and several dogs merrily trotted to follow us all the way to our hotel. “Don’t worry, they’ll probably stop at the foot of the stairs going up”, I told her. They didn’t. I wonder what the people thought when we brought up 4 dogs into the hotel grounds, the resident dog was clearly unhappy. Clothing was a mixture of the traditional and the modern too. Motorcycles and old cars typically plied these routes carelessly, although I never did witness any accident. It was muddy when it rained, and dusty when it didn’t. The people knew, and most of them had face masks on. I wondered when they started becoming conscious of the dust, or was the huge amount of dust an aftermath only of the earthquake 2 years ago. Rosh and I never did wear masks in our entire trip, though I’m pretty sure we both brought a couple. Something about putting on a mask made me feel I’d experience less of Nepal, or maybe I just didn’t want to be bothered.
On our first morning, we decided to explore the streets of Thamel. We went to the Kathmandu Durbar Square (a melting pot of both Hindu and Buddhist influence in Nepal teeming with beautifully interwoven history), the Pashupatinath temple (one of the oldest Hindu temples in Kathmandu, and where one can witness open-air cremations), and ended the night with dinner at the Garden of Dreams (Kaiser Cafe – nice date place imo) and a night cap in one of the bars in Thamel with awesome live music. It felt like a really long and well accomplished day because we did manage to do almost everything on the schedule we planned out.
Took this early morning photo of Thamel by climbing to the the rooftop tanks of the hotel. Buildings are densely packed with mostly single lane (but 2-way use) streets separating them.
Rosh gamely posing for my attempt at amateur street photography
Couldn’t resist taking photos beside these miniature doors (which were by the way common in the houses in Thamel), because I’m finally as tall as the door frame.
People seeked the blessings of Hindu priests around the temples at the Durbar Square
apples and pomegranates seemed to be at season when we went to Nepal
Our guide related to us that some Nepali people still believe that lying in front of an image of Kaal Bhairav will result in the dishonest person vomiting blood; which is how he explained why a police station was located beside this 10-ft tall image to help get confessions fast.
cows are sacred, and pigeons are fed to gain good karma
on top of one of the many rooftop restaurants in Kathmandu. order yourself a Nepali Thali set, or a classic plate of momos, homemade yogurt or my favorite ginger-honey-lemon drink
Still haven’t mastered the skill of using squat toilets and was lucky enough that I only had to use these during our 11-hr road trip. Rosh opted not to use them at all and hold it in that long.
my Sadu misadventure at the Pashupatinath temple. our guide told us that these sadus have been living as sadus for almost half a decade and have been featured in a number of popular magazines like the National Geographic. they beckoned me for a blessing and asked for 2000 NPR subsequently. the guide told us they give away this money to less fortunate people, something we weren’t able to verify.
at the Hindu-version of the Mecca, the main temple at Pashupatinath (oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu). our guide kindly gave me bindi as well on my forehead
although most of Nepal’s streets turn dark by 8pm or so, the streets of Thamel are an exception because of its touristy-culture
On our second day, we spent the morning at the Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the “monkey temple”. We then headed to the renowned Thamel Momo Hut to get another fill of momos for lunch and prepared for our 2 hour trip up to the hill-side town of Nagarkot. After having taken in the busy life of Thamel, we looked forward to the quiet life at the “premier hill station” (as often mentioned on their ads) of Kathmandu. The road to Nagarkot was again very bumpy but the views were spectacular. If only we had come during the September-December period, we would have been treated to great views of the snow-capped Himalayas here. Unfortunately, it was cloudy the whole time we were there. Nagarkot reminded me of Sagada in a lot of ways – food was awesome with most of the cafes overlooking the valley and the mountains, the ambiance was peaceful, weather was cool, and nights were long and dark. Nagarkot also felt perpetually wet – our sheets were wet and in fact all of our things were as well thanks to the fog that was present most of the day. We stayed at an ingeniously-named place called Hotel at the End of the Universe. Other than this place, we checked out equally wonderful inn/cafes like the Peaceful Cottage & Cafe Du Mont, as well as the Berg House Cafe. But I think Rosh and I would both agree that the best meal we had in Nagarkot was at the low-key Sherpa Alpine Cottage where we got this traditional Sherpa vegetable noodle soup and curried fried chicken. It wasn’t really photogenic so I don’t have a proper photo (aside from the fact that it was one of our longest waits for food in our entire trip; the waiter happily told us that he was the one who cooked it himself when we praised the dishes after). We also mistakenly ordered “Sherpa’s punch”, having thought it would be a light cocktail, but to our surprise it tasted almost like pure whiskey. We had probably 3 sips each and walked home crazily laughing and arguing about what a sherpa was. “Are sherpas a community or an occupation?”, I asked while a little bit light-headed from their punch. “Animals”, Rosh answered with abrupt confidence. “Dude?”, I said bewildered. The argument was settled when we finally connected to Wifi.
Swayambhunath Temple stupa
view from the top: the city of Kathmandu
me with the prayer flags and Rosh with the prayer wheels
momo feast at the Thamel Momo Hut! they had over 20 different types of momos, but we sadly only had space for 4 types: garlic-cheese, spinach-mushroom, buffalo and chocolate!
first dinner at Nagarkot at the Sherpa Alpine Cottage…
…with our best meal ever!
dogs of Nagarkot
one of the things I’ll miss the most, the ubiquitous ginger lemon honey drink in Nepal! this one was at Berg House Cafe, but I basically drank it on every meal
images of Nagarkot
After two nights in Nagarkot, we hired a private van to take us to and fro Pokhara. We had expected a 6 hour trip, or 8 hours at worst, but we spent 9 hours on the way there and 11 hours on the way back. To say that the road was rough and bumpy was a grand understatement. We spent most of the trip silently enduring the constant up and down motion. I listened to my Spotify playlist come and go with the mountainside villages as signal was lost easily. Traffic in the city was also very heavy, but being a foreign place, it was amusing enough to observe everything between spells of falling into slumber. Upon arriving in Pokhara, we decided to treat ourselves to fancy meals for the rest of our stay there because the food prices were really cheap given the quality. A good meal would be around 500-1000 NPR, which is approximately 5-10 USD. I would still be eating in a hawker center at that price if I were in Singapore. Pokhara is a good destination for outdoor fun, but the only thing we opted to do there was paraglide (75 USD). We both got a good solid tan as we paraglided right smack lunchtime. It was a great experience though, especially the take off. Heights don’t scare me, but I became nauseous after a few minutes of gliding and so I asked my pilot if we could head down a little bit early lest I bless some unfortunate stranger my vomit. Other than that, it was nice strolling around the streets of Pokhara and checking out all the souvenir shops. The place reminded me of Langkawi this time, with so much restaurants and pubs side by side. We stayed near Fewa lake, though we didn’t do boating (I was still rather shaken from the entire road trip). We also tried to catch the sunrise at Sarangkot, which was a 45 minute drive from Fewa Lake, but alas even that was deprived of us by the clouds. Nevertheless, it was quite a relaxing two nights of just taking it slow. We needed the energy to go through the trip back to Kathmandu anyway. My favorite purchase in Pokhara would have to be the dried blueberries which we saw in some gourmet grocery there – I had wanted to bring it home for my dad but I ended up finishing the entire bag due to my PMS hunger pangs.
I took a break from taking photos at Pokhara so I mostly just have this we-woke-up-like-this photo for catching our failed sunrise and some boats at Fewa Lake. Paragliding images didn’t turn out nicely so not including them here lol.
On our last night at Nepal, we decided to stay at Boudha, which is another town a bit farther from Thamel. The Boudhanath Stupa, which is the largest in Nepal, was right here as well and I had read that this was a nice place to witness the morning and evening worship. Having had endured an 11-hour trip on the road, wherein at one point we found our van stuck at a dead end and skirting the edge of a road literally beside a cliff that ironically offered a mesmerizing view of the city lights below (the driver patiently maneuvered us out of that situation but we were honestly petrified of falling off the ravine), arriving at Shambaling Hotel in Boudha was like reaching an oasis amidst the road chaos. True enough, that was their exact description on their website. Staying at Shambaling was one of our best experiences in this trip (at only 75 USD per night for their deluxe double room), aside from the fact that being at Boudha was very much different from being at Thamel. I walked to the stupa that morning and saw people circumambulating the stupa, saying prayers and spinning the prayer wheels, while monks and beggars lined the outer circumference of the revolving population, waiting for donations from generous passersby. The structures around the stupa also encircled it, forming an enclave of rooftop restaurants with souvenir shops down below. Walking off into the streets, Tibetan cuisine was also quite famous here and so Rosh and I sampled a few (Laphing and Thukpa to be specific). Rosh quite liked the thukpa and I happily allowed her to finish most of it as my stomach was bursting from all the yogurt and ginger lemon honey I had prior to meeting her for lunch. We took it slow on our last day, spending most of our time buying last minute souvenirs – both of us particularly engrossed with singing bowls. They would definitely be my favorite from everything I bought there, and I’m pretty sure it would have also been Rosh’s, recalling how she checked out all the bowls she collected over our trip with childlike glee in the hotel’s bathroom since they told us that placing water inside would create a different sound and vibration. They even advised us to drink the water after letting the bowl create its characteristic tone. “One of them has a hole!”, she told me clearly upset. I was surprised that the metal bowl (made of around 5-7 different metals, as described by the shopkeeper) had a hole myself. “Ohwell, just give that one away”, I (in retrospect) lamely suggested.
Images of Boudha: definitely a recommended last stop for any trip to Nepal
I spent around 500 USD for the entire 8-day trip, plus an additional 300 USD for all the souvenirs I got, and lastly another 350 USD (bought only 1 month prior to the trip) for my airfare from Singapore. All of those numbers can be significantly decreased if you book your tickets ahead, stay in cheaper hotels, opt to buy less, and opt to eat less haha. USD is readily accepted everywhere in Nepal, even sidewalk vendors will willingly receive them as you’re usually at a loss if you opt to spend in USD, but money changers are pretty common anyway and open until pretty late in tourist areas. Either getting NTel or NCell simcards is okay as they were both not fully reliable, but it’s best to purchase your data plan at the airport as they set it up for you themselves – it’s pretty confusing to buy a data plan on your own or in smaller shops. We navigated easier thanks to Rosh knowing how to speak Hindi, and most Nepalese people understanding the language as well, but English was well understood by most people. Walking around seemed safe, although not knowing the correct prices of things can very well land you into spending 300-500% more of the actual value of things (souvenirs and taxi fares). Nevertheless, whatever excess you spend, you can just consider as contribution to rebuilding the city of Kathmandu from the aftermath of the earthquake a few years ago and helping their economy. While in Nepal, Rosh and I reflected how living in the Philippines was far more convenient and comfortable even with all the usual inconvenience and discomfort that Filipinos complain about. It was both a cultural treat and a learning experience.
Finally, I’m glad I took this trip with Rosh. We had recounted how in 17 years since highschool, we only had 4 additional meetings (and photos) together, even if we had spent most of highschool on the phone almost every day. It wasn’t really a planned trip, I had booked my tickets as a form of motivation and decision that I will go somewhere after submitting my thesis, and I had given my schedule to Rosh for her decision whether she wanted to come along or not. We never did plan traveling together well before this, and as we all know traveling with someone can be a make or break. The monsoon season flooded Nepal right about that time we were going there (Aug 24-Sep 1, 2017), and so up to the last minute we were trying to see how our plans would pan out depending on if the weather cooperates. I would say that although Rosh and I have different intrinsic traveling preferences, we mostly were able to tolerate each other for a week – and that success considering we both started our time-of-the-month at the end of it haha. Rosh still had to endure having her luggage lost on the way back to Manila, so she probably has more conflicted feelings for this trip. But I do hope the positive ones dominate – particularly the momo feasting, sleeping in an unsecured cabin and having weird lucid dreams, the mobile fast, the loooong road trip, the paragliding, souvenir shopping and a number of other things in between. Fortunately, the weather was more than nice to us, allowing us to do most of the things we planned. I’d definitely love to go back to Nepal, and this time in the correct season so I get more than just a glimpse of the tip of the snow-capped mountains. Thank you for coming with me on this trip, Rosh! =)
—–watch our travel video in HD below—-
August 23, 2017 § 3 Comments
Four copies of a 250 page writing exercise, soft-bound in a powder blue paperback was laid in front of me. I relished the weight in my hands and flipped the newly printed pages just to see the colors change along with the rapid superimposition. I had no desire of reading it again for awhile. I don’t equate it to 4 years of my life because the sum of the past years is surely greater than an impending PhD degree. But that was roughly what it was. Up until the very last minute, I relied on blind hope. Hope, that even I found logically hard to believe, I repeated and repeated just to placate the constant worry. I worked as much as I can on my few highs, and allowed myself to rest on my many lows. I turned off my email notifications and I went to the gym without a thing on my mind. I was struggling but I wasn’t going to lose the right to live a little. Maybe I was too hard on myself. Or maybe I gave a PhD too much weight for what it really was. But the most powerful thing I realized at the end of it all was that time and again, things end. Suffering can feel endless, at least that was how it felt. The number of times I told my friends that “I’m still studying”, “I’m still writing my thesis”, “I’ll see you soon after this”. The repeated ambiguous answer of “I’m doing my best” whenever my supervisor asked me if I’ll finish it on time. The endless prodding by my Dad when this PhD will end and me complaining over and over again for him to stop asking me about it. “It’ll be done when it’s done”. People telling me that I can do it, and me silently revolting that they had no idea how much I was struggling and failing. I still have my oral defense left to officially end this chapter of my life, but I won’t deny that I looked forward to this freedom of being able to finally set aside the fear of not being able to make it. I have to face a lot more important questions now, but I’m thankful for so many people. Extremely thankful that listing it down here won’t even do justice for them. I’ve been too happy after submitting my thesis that I wasn’t able to even write about it, but before I start the entry I’ll be writing next, I wanted to mark this little success.
July 5, 2017 § 2 Comments
I actually googled it. “what do you do when you feel like your thesis is bullshit?”. And the internet didn’t disappoint, so many other people out there apparently feel the same. Some days I feel like I got my shit well-pleated together – meaning I’m on the verge of breaking down and succumbing to utter depression, but somehow I’m magically dealing with it. On some days though, especially when something so important goes wrong, I do break down. And the worst part is, because I’ve been putting up such a good front, nobody understands the magnitude of how I feel that even when I try to ask for help from my dad, he downplays it or worse, brushes it off. It makes things worse, but somehow the anger and disappointment turns into a drive to carry on. Then I go back to that state of magically dealing with it and I regain my composure and care for other human beings. Because on really bad days, I give zero fucks. And I never knew I could do zero fucks, until my Ph.D.
I have a month to go before I hand in my thesis and I’m pointblank scared. I suppose in the 4 years that I’ve been trying to deal with this alone, publishing one honest post about it is understandable. And that to whoever reads this and knows me personally, you need not comfort me. Some days, a girl just has to vent. I hope that when I read this in a month, I would have finally handed it in.
May 23, 2017 § 2 Comments
It was the eighth day in a row that I turned to my side to the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. The slick from my sweat made being in bed with the persistent heat unbearable, but surprisingly the warm scent soothed me. Someone several floors down must have finally pursued an old flame, that burning passion. The blinds right beside my bed afforded me shadows to the lives below – mostly through the sounds I heard and the redolence I smelled. Strange voices, strange noises, charcoal burning, and curries stewing. Animated conversations in foreign tongues would sometimes keep me up at night, usually annoying but not as much as that rogue mosquito intent on whispering his tiny tales directly to my ear. Like most people where I came from, I had lived in a house most of my life. With my room always on the second floor, the view from the window carried different memories as I grew up. When I was six, one evening in Sampaloc, I looked out and felt the overwhelming distance that separated me from my parents. The black car that they were in was leaving. When I was 12, I looked out to the life in the streets of Pio del Pilar that I was not allowed to participate in: barefoot kids running, shouting profanities and giddy laughter, as vehicles skillfully navigated bike tracks and balls. Not that I wanted to. When I was 16, I pulled down all my curtains nightly to escape the view of the large mango tree that stood guard right in front of me. I always saw it as ominous, though not once did it bring me any particular trouble. Every morning, I’d wake up to my curtains neatly bundled and my windows wide open, enough to give me a chill. “The breeze is wonderful”, my dad would repeatedly keep on exclaiming. Only on bright weekend mornings would I look out through my windows. We left before the sun rose on Mondays, as we lived in the suburbs of Dasmarinas only during the weekend. The rest, we spent in Makati. Now at 28, I look out from the tenth floor into the sight of concrete buildings. Lighted windows in random patterns block the skyline, yet they magnetize my eyes to a strange sight that hold conflicting feelings. They remind me of how far I’ve come, but also of how far I’ve gone. It’s strange that I’ve been recently having these spells of suddenly realizing my reality. As if I usually wasn’t living in it, something not impossible. I’d be walking down the street clutching my groceries, or sometimes in the middle of transferring fluid between two flasks in the laboratory. And it would hit me like the first splash of a numbing cold shower. Simple as three-worded sentences. “Inay is gone.” “I’m in Singapore.” “I’m turning 30.” Undeniable facts, common knowledge, disclosed to most if not to everyone, yet they somehow still surprise me. A brief rinse of clarity from the everyday drudgery. But it doesn’t happen when I look out the window. In that gaze, they come in run-on sentences, lacking punctuation and still, a conclusion.
May 16, 2017 § 3 Comments
What details are left out when we remember? Doesn’t omission hold the hand of inclusion? The silver lining in the clouds that day remains vivid, but the way you smiled has been forgotten. Like a faded old receipt blurred out from friction and time, all the details once printed neatly but will never be made out. Emotions wield power over our memories. Just as anger doesn’t allow you to forget the shrug of her shoulders as she brushed away your question. Or just as nostalgia makes you forget how you hated most of your mother’s Christmas day presents. Instead, it paves the way for memories with her of rolling with the waves on fine black sand in a waning sunset. You choose what you remember. You willingly forget. The details in between get carried along, lost when you’re searching and present at the most inappropriate moments. Sometimes, it isn’t simply a burial of a hodgepodge of folded letters. Sometimes, you handpick a select few to keep you going.
The rest, you tear into smithereens and set ablaze in the glorious sun.
May 15, 2017 § Leave a comment
There was a time I lived for instant cup noodles. My parents initially refrained from buying them and I would only get to eat them on airplanes. So among my favorite childhood memories were all the long haul flights I took with my mom. I have this one lucid memory where the cabin lights were already dimmed and I was wrapped up in the airline blanket. I told her I was still hungry even if we had just eaten the served dinner. She rang the button for the attendant, and moments later the beautiful lady set down in front of me a cup of hot noodles. I loved eating the corn kernels in those instant cup noodles then. Apart from that treat, I always looked forward to the activity kit airlines give to children to keep them preoccupied. That aside from peering through the window the entire duration of the flight. I was careful of everything inside those kits, making sure my brother didn’t accidentally pack into his kit one of the contents from mine during those times that we were already flying together. I didn’t hand those to my mom for safekeeping unlike the other things that I didn’t care keeping. I stashed them in my own bag and worked on them even when we were at our destination already. I also remember how during those flights, my mom would at one point ask me if I wanted to sleep on her lap. And I always did say yes, until the time my height didn’t allow any comfortable position to be found. At that point, I leaned on her shoulder instead. And eventually, I didn’t dare lean on her fragile frame anymore, settling with just clutching her hand.
I thought about these memories on the flight back home, while looking on a mother with her child seated on her lap. I was initially seated beside them but as the flight was barely full, I decided to move into another seat when they were served food. I no longer like ordering food on the plane because of how the smell seems to cling on my clothes. And that was the same reason I moved into the opposite row when I discovered she had ordered her own. She naively thought I moved to allow her to set down her child as she ate dinner and thanked me after. I suppose she had hoped I would move after all. When I was granted the pass to take whatever I wanted in the grocery, my brother and I did at some point always take in cup noodles for our study nights. Nowadays, I don’t look forward to corn being mixed in my noodles, and in fact it’s been ages since I ate an instant one. I now buy seats not by the window but right beside the aisle. I think about the ease of evacuating during an emergency and the convenience when I need to go to the loo. Though I still occasionally steal glances of the window as the view still has the ability to mesmerize me. I don’t remember personally throwing away those activity kits from the plane, but I guess I did at some point. Save for letters and some objects worth keeping, it’s easy for me to dispose of unnecessary things now. That clinical disposal has even crept into my once stubborn sentimentality.
And as for the lap that will never be beside me, my best chance would now be an empty seat behind as I freely recline mine and rest my head in the groove in between.
Things have changed. But never the memories worth keeping. Happy mother’s day to you in heaven, Inay.