A Taste of Home

Three days ago, I woke up to the smell of danggit which we had for breakfast along with fried rice, noodles and eggs.  It was a rainy morning and as we sipped our coffees, we watched the grey clouds and the raindrops from our window. We took our time to drink our coffees and had another round afterwards.

Continue reading “A Taste of Home”

On Being Chased

Yesterday, I’ve read an article called My Body Doesn’t Belong To You, where the author shared her story of being harassed on the road, probably because of her huge cup size. I suddenly remembered how I was teased back in 6th grade because of having very small boobs (something very opposite to the author’s issue). My male classmates would call me names like flat chested or airplane runway. I was so annoyed with them at that time and frustrated with my body specially my boobs for not growing up to the standard size. All my classmates were already wearing bras but I’m still using a ladies’ sando.

Later in life I realized how having small boobs is actually an advantage. Nothing jumps up and down when I run fast, people look into my eyes and not on my boobs when I talk, it’s easy to fit in clothes, I don’t attract any unwanted attention, I don’t get catcalled, I don’t get harassed. But that’s until I started being chased.

My first experience of this Catch Me If You Can game is when I was in Dubai, trying to cross a road. As there was no pedestrian lane, I was waiting for the cars to stop or disappear before I can cross the road. A car stopped in front of me. I thought he stopped because he was waiting for someone so I took several steps towards the rear of the car. He reversed until his front door is in front of me. His window was rolled down. He smiled and he motioned his head in a way that he’s calling me to get into his car. I ran and crossed the road regardless of how many cars were coming my way. I saw him sped up and took the u-turn to chase me. I ran and luckily found a small shop. I went inside. He parked his car outside the shop. I was walking around and around that small shop with only 2 back-to-back shelves trying to buy time. I felt like I was playing hide and seek but on this game, I don’t want to be found. After 15minutes his car was gone. I felt relieved. I waited for 10 more minutes before leaving the shop. As I stepped out of the shop, I saw his car about 10meters away from me. He found another girl to chase.

Once I was walking home from the metro station. I passed by a police car parked in front of a tea shop, the police men were having tea. I feel safe whenever I see them; it means nothing can happen as people in Dubai are scared of the police. But then just a few meters away from the police car, as I was walking I saw a car parked maybe 2 meters away from me. An old local guy was sitting on the driver’s seat, smiling at me with his crooked teeth. I ignored him and pretended that I didn’t see him. I turned left. His car followed me. I walked in a slow pace, took my phone and pretended to call someone. Then he left.

I was waiting for my shuttle service right in front of my office building when an old sports car stopped in front of me. I saw an Arab guy (but not a local), looking at me, and said Car Lift. (In Dubai, car lifts are private cars turned into taxi where people take during rush hour when taxis aren’t available). I said no. He asked in broken English, Where you go? I didn’t say anything and just walked towards the rear end of his car. He left after a few minutes. This scene happened in three consecutive days.

Once I was walking home, I heard someone shouting, Excuse me! Excuse me! I stopped as I thought it was a polite call, maybe I dropped something and someone wants to return it so I turned around. I saw an Indian guy, wearing an office attire, long sleeves and tie, running after me and when he stopped, he asked, Can I be your friend? I said but one word, No! I turned around, walked and took my phone. I glared back at him once more and checked if he was still following me but I was glad that he left.

One night, I was walking with a female friend. The streets were brightly lit up. I saw a car coming towards us, and I told her, this car will surely stop in front of us, as if I am already an expert in these kinds of experiences. She knew my Catch Me If You Can experiences and she can’t believe me as she has never experienced any so far. The car didn’t stop, it passed by us but it took a u-turn and it was behind us in no time. Inside the car was a local guy. He uttered something in Arabic which we didn’t understand. We continued walking and ignored him so he drove away. My friend said, this was my first experience of this kind of harassment but I’m sure he came for you, not for me. If I’m alone I wouldn’t have experienced that.

I thought about it. Maybe it’s not about the boobs anymore and I’m sure it’s not about my outfit. I always dress up modestly and if I’m not wearing office attire, I wear trashy clothes as I hate getting attention. I thought maybe it’s the nationality because some people in Dubai look down to others. So I asked 9 of my Filipina friends if they have experienced any such harassment but none of them did. So I’m the unlucky 1 out of 10 women and it’s not about the boobs, nor the outfit, nor the nationality. It’s about how they look at women in general.

So much for my experiences in Dubai and I’m glad that I moved here and for more than a year of living here in the Maldives, regardless of my cup size, my attire or my nationality, I only get chased by big yellow trigger fish and I definitely prefer that.

It’s Been A While

 

image: shawnbbailey.comimage: shawnbbailey.com

I was informed that you are here for a week’s visit.

It’s been a few years since we separated ways, well, since you dumped me and it’s as if no one else in this world moved on except for you and me. Our names are, still, always associated with each other like it has always been, just like how the salt and pepper shaker always come in pairs.

You’ve been with her for about four years and she’s actually quite a good record for your resume if she had been a job. You’re together for a while now yet our friends still look at me whenever your name is mentioned during the meet ups.

I don’t know why you have to call me whenever you’re here and I don’t know either why I always allow myself to be a subject of your self-indulgence, just like the way it has always been.

You knew that I don’t work on Sundays so you called me. I wanted to decline your offer for breakfast at Paul’s but your insistence didn’t let me by saying that no one’s available to accompany you.  Best laid plans. Nevertheless, this has always been the case.

We were friends then we became more than friends then we ended up as enemies and now we’re friends again. We’ve both moved on but I’ve been puzzled by thoughts that I shouldn’t have been thinking of in the first place.

Maybe because there are words left unsaid or maybe there are words that I’ve longed to hear. Unfortunately it was never heard of, not from you.

I wonder if you ever loved me. Or was I just a convenience to you at that time.  I asked myself what I lacked or what I did wrong or does she have something that I don’t have. Was she more loving or caring or intelligent or funny.

I always believed in myself but not when I’m with you. I’ve always felt less and maybe that’s the reason why I really became less.

I know it’s too late to ask or mumble about these things but I’m just an average girl and sometimes I’m too dumb to comprehend. Was it your fault or was it really mine? Or was it destiny that didn’t let us go on forever.

I wanted to let you go but you’ve never let me. You always have your hand on me so how can I walk away.

I need to close the door, so please let me.

***

-yet another old moronic post from one of my other blogs. Why am I even posting this again?

P.S. This was written years back. We both have already moved on as of now. 

Looking Through The Glass Window

Dubai Rain

I was awaken today by a loud bang. It was the external wooden window. Pushed by the strong wind.

It wasn’t too bright and it’s not dark either. I looked at the clock and it says 9:30 am. I looked through the glass window. It was raining. What a surprise! It seldom rains in January as it seldom rains in Dubai.

Dubai rain usually comes by November or December when winter kicks in. The first rain of the year came too early. But who can say what? Who can predict what? Like us, the climate changes too.

People usually associate the weather with their feelings. Rainy days are often associated with sadness and pain. Maybe because in most of the romantic films, we often see lovers separating ways, crying and hurting and then comes the rain.

For some, the rain is a blessing from the sky, specially in the UAE when the rain comes only twice or thrice a year. I’ve heard of old stories of Arabs jumping out of their cars to dance in the middle of the road when the rain pours. In my nine years in Dubai, I have not seen such a scene. But who knows?

Some people just regard the rain as the best weather to sleep all day and with all honesty,  this sounds like a good plan.

So many emotions are triggered by the rain.

But, what if we look at things from a different perspective? What if we are to be a rain drop? The tiny drops that makes up the rain that showers us with those different emotions. How would we feel? How would it feel to be a rain drop?

Could it be liberating to be a rain drop? Could it mean freedom whenever it rains? Freedom from being held in the cloud for so long a time.  Freedom from anything. Once out of the dark cloud, it will feel like an endless slide.

A free fall.

Sometimes, like a cloud, we hold up so much of stress, pain, secrets or anger. But instead of a cloud, can’t we just be like a rain drop?

Maybe we should. Sometimes. Free to fall. Free from all the burden, pain and agony that we’ve held up for so long.

Try to be a rain drop once in a while and just let it all go. Let the wind take you to wherever till you drop on the ground and kiss the earth or join the lake, the river or the sea.

***

Hello 2016! Hello Project 366!

Day 2: Project 366 | A poem on Unrequited Love

Day 3: Project 366 | What’s the weather like where you are? How do you feel about it?

Exchange Gifts

I was raised a Christian but we never celebrated Christmas. For us, December 25 is just another ordinary day. Its not like we don’t celebrate the day that Christ was born. We just believe that it should be celebrated everyday rather than on a date that isn’t stated in the bible.

So I grew up not participating in Christmas parties, not buying gifts, nor exchanging them.

However, over the last few years I started attending Christmas parties not because its Christmas but because that’s the time when  friends gather and have fun. As an expat in Dubai where you have very few relatives and your friends become your family, attending parties like this feels like family gatherings more than anything else.

We were (me and my husband)  invited into two gatherings on the 24th. One is  engrande, and the other is a  much intimate one.

The first party we were invited to was organized by a family, friends of my husband. It was a gathering for 25 people with complete programe, games, singing and dancing and exchanging gifts. We decided to attend this party first since it was supposed to start at 7:30pm. But until we left at 9:30pm, there’s just 5 of us in the venue. We left as we had to attend another one and since there was an exchange gift, we just left the gifts and asked my husband’s friend to just bring along what’s for us.

Later on, I received a gift from someone named Jessica. Someone I have not even met.

A Victoria’s secret gift set.

Victoria's Secret

I did not understand the whole concept of inviting 25 people who don’t even know each other to attend the same party, let alone ask them to exchange gifts with one another. Maybe this is their form of socializing, meeting new people and making new friends and I was just too anti-social (like everyone says so) or maybe because I am not used to attending parties so I felt strange.

I’ve heard that the hosts invited several non-Filipinos to the party. One, who is of a totally different culture who never have heard about Christmas in his entire life, bought a candle for a gift worth 3 Dirhams when the exchange gift was for anything worth at least 50 Dirhams. The person who received the candle commented “anu ba yan, di pa nga ako patay binibigyan na ako ng kandila” (what is this, I am not dead yet but they are already giving me candles). We should really have written down our wish list, at least then we’ll know what to receive.

The exchange gift didn’t really make sense to me.

Exchange gift is accepting and thanking for what you have received, not demanding for what you want. It’s not about compensating the amount you spend for giving something, but for making the person feel glad. – from Anne’s recent post on Exchange Gifts

We headed to the 2nd gathering held at our friend’s house. There was just 7 of us. After having a light dinner, we played Uno,  played the guitar, sang 90s OPM songs and had few beers and kapeng barako afterwards (what a combination ha ha). We did exchange some gifts and it was fun.

They gave me plain white mugs because they know I’ll draw on them. Someone received a coffee tray because her hands always trembled while bringing cups from the kitchen. Someone received table mats that suits her wooden table.

These are simple things, not even expensive ones, but makes you feel that you are really remembered.

On the 25th, I received another gift from a friend. A pillow case set. When I thanked her she said “pasensya na, yan lang ang nakayanan” (sorry, that’s all I can afford).

Really, why say sorry for giving  a pillow case set?

Sometimes it is difficult to choose and buy a gift to a person who (you feel) has everything already. Or who can buy whatever she/he needs. Or who only buys expensive things. And yes sometimes you’ll think that they might just throw your gift as they can buy better ones anyway.

Yes, its true that they might just set your gift aside as they may not like it  but the fact that you made an effort and you’ve let them know that they were remembered is what they’ll appreciate.

Christmas is the season of giving but let us not forget that we can always give a gift to anyone at any given time. It does not have to be on Christmas.  The least the person expects a gift, the more he/she gets surprised. The more the effort is appreciated.

Let us also remember that our main reason for giving a gift shouldn’t be because we need to but because we want to.

 

Hopes are like Hair Ornaments….

By the time you lay your eyes on this post, whether you read this or not (ha ha), I should have been packing my bags and by Saturday I would have been on a plane to Vienna. In a few days time I would have been wearing the nice winter outfits that I bought and I would have been walking down the beautiful streets of Vienna and maybe sitting in one of the cafes having a nice warm Viennese coffee while listening to some classical music.

But due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to cancel this Vienna trip that I had long dreamed of.

I almost died crying. But I didn’t die.

Moms, as they always do, have the habit of reminding you, how you were as a kid. It could be fun, it could be embarrassing. There are things you’ll remember, there are things you won’t.

When I was a toddler, as she said, I wouldn’t stop crying till she buys me an ice cream. She’ll buy not because I want it but out of shame on the scene that I’ve made inside the supermarket.

She said that after sometime, I started asking for wallets and bags whenever we go to malls. I won’t cry anymore but I won’t stop looking at the bag or wallet. I would stand there looking at the thing that I want till she buys it either out of pity on how sad my face was or out of irritation on my obstinacy.

A different tactic, I would say. A different way of asking you to buy things for me. And I will just laugh it off, though to sum it up, I was really a stubborn kid. She doesn’t say it directly and I don’t admit it either.

Back in the 90s, having a whole set of Encyclopedia is like a form of a social status. It’s like, having a set displayed on a nice varnished bookshelf in your living room makes you either look so cool or smart or (rich?) whatever the case is. I think I was just ten years old when I asked my mom to buy that encyclopedia set.

There was this one sales guy who kept coming back to offer the whole set along with some freebies at a very irresistible deal – that we don’t have to pay it all upfront. We can pay it monthly, for like a year or two.

Like the sales guy, I didn’t stop asking mom to buy that encyclopedia till she did.

In the end, I did not even read the whole set. I wasn’t even close to finishing one volume, let alone the whole set (of 20 volumes or more). The encyclopedia set, became, a form of a social status, a reference from time to time, and now, an antique display.

My mom did not have to tell this story over and over again for me to remember it as my memory of it is as clear as the summer sky whenever I see the Encyclopedia set.

Today, while still in remorse about my canceled trip, I remembered one of the lines in the novel Memoirs of a Geisha.

Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear many of them. When they become old they look silly wearing even one.

– Mameha, Memoirs of a Geisha

I can well, replace the word hope, with dreams or aspirations or wants.

I always try to push for the things that I want in any possible way I can, no matter which direction I take. I’ll try because I want to, even if I don’t really need to. This is how I always was, and I believe I still am.

Trying to get what you want could be a good or bad thing, and in my case, if I push for what I want this time, it will be the latter.

It broke my heart when I canceled the trip. It’s nearly 4 days away. I could almost see myself wandering in Vienna, experiencing my first white Christmas, venturing Europe for the first time.

I have the time and resources to pursue this trip but the timing isn’t just right. There could be a next time, or there could be none.

I’m still crying a river because it hurts not to get what you want, what you’ve always longed for and what you have already looked forward to.

But things are quite different now. It’s not just a matter of ice cream, or purse or bag or a whole set of Encyclopedia. There’s more to life than what we want.

I have really dreamed of this trip and I hope that I’ll get another chance. And if the right time comes, I’ll make sure that the trip won’t be just another ornament on my hair.

Finding Your Lost Self in a Sea of Strangers

Recently, I’ve been hanging out with a group of people that is totally different from my group of friends. People that I never thought I’d ever spend time with.

They all reach home by 7 to 7:30 in the evening. They’ll start cooking, chatting and laughing. And once the cooking is done, they sit and eat altogether. And gossip altogether.

I’ve read somewhere, and I’ve kept in mind, this saying that Bright People talk about Science and Politics, Average People talk about Events and the Below Average talk about other people’s lives. Is this really for real? Do bright people never really gossip? At all?

I guess, a little bit of  gossip won’t hurt. A little bit of gossip makes us human.

I was overwhelmed by the warmth of their acceptance and a pang of guilt hit me after learning that they have always asked for me after our first meet up.  They have always looked forward to the day(s) that I’d come back and meet them again. I was not really interested in meeting any of them and much more, becoming part of their lives.

But then for some reasons, I went to see them again and for some reasons I started enjoying their company.

I have no idea why, but I noticed that they like sharing their life stories to me. They are too eager to tell me their share of misfortunes, their lives prior to becoming an OFW,  how they survived and how they ended up here in Dubai. They are so proud of their stories as if their sufferings are gold medals that they can hang on their chests.

After several meet ups, they are still too excited to share their stories to me, parts of their lives that they haven’t told me before. Maybe because they felt that I’m a good listener, or maybe because I look like the odd one out. Or maybe they all think that I did not have my share of misfortunes too. Maybe, I got myself all covered up with a nice little costume that’s why they can’t see through.

After dinner, they all gather up and sit cross-legged on the floor, eat chips and drink cola or coffee. They don’t need cozy sofa set, fancy coffees and macaroons to have their stories shared. They don’t take photos and tag each other on social media sites and write statuses like “Bonding with Friends” or “Having Great Time with Friends.”  They don’t need to tell the whole sundry that they are having a great time, they are just living the moment.

This bond has somehow helped all of them survive their months and years of being away from their families back home. This bond, is somehow, keeping them sane as it’s not easy to be thousand miles away from home and work for long hours only to earn less than Php 20k a month.

Somehow, they found comfort in each other. In each other’s company. In each other’s lives. In each other’s luck and misfortunes.

Somehow, I found comfort in them too.

These past few weeks, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve faced so many issues, significant and unnecessary ones, a web of complication that I have woven myself into and I can’t work my way  out. I felt disoriented. I felt that I’m losing it – whatever it is.

Meeting these people and hearing their stories somehow, had been an eye-opener. Sometimes, life is really simple. It is only us who complicates it.

They reminded me of my old self, my first year here in Dubai. A part of my life that I’ve always reminisced but somehow, I’ve always failed to remember.

Those were the days. When life was simpler. When I never really cared for anything else but to get my salary by the end of the month and send money home.

Sometimes when life gets too complicated we get lost and we wish to go back to our old selves. Our simpler selves. Our happier selves.

If you think you’ve lost yourself,  try looking for it in a sea of strangers. You might really find what you are looking for.

How do we define the word “Baduy”?

There’s one Filipino Radio Station here in Dubai, TAG 91.1, and whenever I tune in, I feel like I’m listening to Love Radio or Yes FM. The whole setup of the station from the music that they play to the DJs and their funny names – Pinoy na Pinoy.

Whenever I tune in, never will I not hear Karylle’s Kapiling Kita and so this song got stuck in my head, till now.

I was singing the chorus of the song once, to myself, but someone overheard and asked me what the song was and who sang it. I actually laughed before answering. And the person who asked, upon hearing my answer, laughed too and said yuck! Baduy nito!

But how do we actually define baduy? I searched for English translations of the word and I found bad taste and wearing unfashionable clothes.

I am a fan of alternative, rock and punk rock music. But I also listen to the likes of Karylle, does that make me baduy? I also watch Fliptop, does that make me baduy?

If I watch AlDub or OTWOL instead of The Walking Dead of Game of Thrones, does that make me baduy?

If I like to wear black clothes and you like to wear bright orange or apple green, who’s baduy then? If I would like to tuck my shirt in and if I am more comfortable with high waist pants, does that make me baduy?

Are the jejes baduy? If they are baduy, do they have the right to call someone else baduy too? Maybe their outfit is really a pain in my eyes but can I call them baduy because I don’t have the same taste that they do?

Jeje outfit – image from downwithtunes.blogspot.com

If I have an LV or MK bag and you have a bag with no brand or maybe an imitation of LV or MK that you bought from Divisoria, does that make you baduy? Can money also define who’s baduy and who’s not? How about those who can’t afford to buy branded items? Does that make them baduy?

Who actually defines what is bad taste and what is good? Who sets the standard? Fashion designers? Music gurus? People with higher social status? Ourselves?

If you go to church or to a gathering or a celebration with your best clothes on and you only have one pair – a fuchsia pink shirt and an apple green checkered pants.  Does that make you baduy? Can social standing define baduy? Can we call a person without a choice baduy too?

We all have our own preferences. What I prefer does not make your taste bad and vice versa.

So tell me, how do you define baduy?

Image from pinterest

Waiting for the bus, waiting for the right time

Waiting for the bus, waiting for the right time

image from wikipedia.org

 

I started taking the public bus a few weeks ago.

I am so used to taking our shuttle service that drops and picks me up right in front of my office and apartment doorstep, that taking the public bus made me a feel a bit nervous.

Nervous because I have not ridden the public bus for so long a time and I’m not sure about the route that these buses take.  If I jump in the wrong one, I might end up in the middle of the desert.

On the first night of my public bus journey, I reached the bus stop at around 6:30pm. Obviously, 6:30pm is a rush hour. Everyone has gone out of their offices. Everyone wants to get home quickly. Everyone’s in a hurry.

I stood at the crowded bus station for about ten minutes when the first bus came. Jam packed as it is, the crowd still hurriedly ran to the bus when it stopped and opened its doors to unload a few passengers. They pushed and tried to squeeze themselves in until there’s really no more space to drop a pin.

I waited again. I was sure that another bus will arrive in no time. Some passengers waited too while some did not and took the taxi instead.

After another ten minutes of waiting, two buses came. I had the luxury to choose which bus should I take as both were half empty.

The ride was smooth and comfortable. I didn’t have to push anyone or get pushed back.

When we reached our destination which is the metro station, the first bus, the jam packed one, just arrived too. This bus might have been stuck in the heavy traffic.

I felt bad for those who immediately jumped in the first bus. They were pushed and squeezed, and tired as they were from the long day at work, they still had to fight to get in the bus and stand uncomfortably while stuck in the heavy traffic when they could have comfortably sat inside the half empty buses if only they had the patience to wait for a bit more.

Back home, they usually compare the buses, or jeeps with love life. I thought there’s more to that.

Waiting for the bus is also like waiting for the right time, right opportunity or the right solution to our problems. The issue is, we are too impatient at times that we fight to get into the very first bus that arrives, knowing that more buses will come afterwards anyway.

We fight to get into the bus, unaware if the ride is even worth the fight.

We fight and push others to the point of hurting them. Then they push us back, sometimes harder, to the point that we fall off.  And if we don’t fall off, we surrender and voluntarily get off the bus at the next possible stop which is why we don’t reach our intended destinations and  we regret our decisions.

Sometimes all we have to do is just step back and wait. Wait till the rush hour cools down. Wait till the next empty bus arrives. Wait for the right time, opportunity or solution, as waiting for a little bit more won’t hurt at all.