Sunday, July 31, 2005

GH-049.jpg

GH-049.jpg
GH-049.jpg,
uploaded by
Gryphon Hall.
Moblog:

GH-046.jpg

GH-046.jpg
GH-046.jpg,
uploaded by
Gryphon Hall.
Moblog: My niece, currently being dedicated in God's presence.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dad's new PC

Dad's new brand-name Desktop PC, w/c he bought out of need, not just his but mine as well. He financed it, but I did the research. All this, including all peripherals, the table and chair was had for just P28K. Next week, we will already have DSL.GH-040.jpg

What do you think?

As you can see, the brand is Red Fox... but that's not as important as the one-year warranty that comes along with it; because it is brand-name, the warranty is good. The hardware itself is also good: a nice AMD Sempron with really high quality speakers, keyboard and optical mouse... terno pa! O, 'di ba?GH-041.jpg

Hopefully, when the PLDT guys come around, they can install DSL quick... Dad will be happy with his download speeds, I can research stuff I need for work and, most importantly, I can chat with my wife, Ærynn, again. It has been too long since we had a long, meaningful chat. Because of my job, I couldn't even visit my Mom-in-law, where she usually finds a way for me to speak with my wife... it has been a lonely existence.

Click here to see the full specifications of the Red Fox Vengeance SE Basic. The only difference is that this package has one CD-ROM drive, one DVD-RW drive, two hard disks (one is 40GB, the other is 80GB), and 256MB of DDR RAM.

Anyway, I hope this snazzy, red computer will mean that our hearts will burn bright again...

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities (Melbourne)

It is a thrill for me that Gryphon wants me to see him fit and handsome when he comes to Australia. I can assure him that I will love him no matter what and we will eat healthier food when he comes over.

For close to two years now, I have lived in Melbourne which is in the state of Victoria in the Land Down Under. I must confess that before I visited Australia, my concept of the country was largely formed by Crocodile Dundee, Thorn Birds and the Australian mining companies my father has worked under. So I thought of a huge desert, kangaroos and beer-drinking adventurers. It was a huge surprise to find that most Australians live near the coastal areas and in sophisticated cities.

Australia's famous city internationally is Sydney with its gorgeous harbour, iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The other showcase city is Melbourne and for many years past and until the present, these two cities have been rivals for the title of THE CITY of Australia. (Pictured is a famous Melbourne landmark, the Flinders Street train station).

We are constantly reminded that we are in the most "liveable city" in the world. This was after Melbourne was rated the best city to call home by international newspaper The Economist in 2002 and 2oo4. Anyway, Melbourne is known in Australia as being the country's fashion and restaurant capital. I'm not really into sports but the tennis grand slam Australian Open is held here as well the Australian Grand Prix (Formula 1 racing).

As a tourist, I enjoyed going to the zoos, parks and art galleries. Now there really isn't much time (or money) to do the touristy sort of things. However, I've made it my mission to still seek out the interesting places and restaurants in Melbourne without breaking the bank and to enjoy what the city has to offer. I look forward to having family and friends visit and show them the sights.

One good thing about Melbourne is the multiculturalism. You really do find people who come from around the world living here. Just the other night at class, I found that my classmates come from Malaysia, China, England, America, India, Columbia, Japan and different parts of Australia. One Aussie classmate even lived in the Philippines for five years. Consequently, the restaurants and eateries showcase different cuisine. One block away from our flat, along Burgundy Street (pictured), you can find Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian and Aussie food on offer.

I borrowed a book from the library entitled 'Cheap Eats 2005' which catalogues good but cheap restaurants. My flatmate and I went to one of the restaurants, Pizza Espresso in Doncaster. Upon entering this cozy restaurant, you see a big igloo-looking oven. This is where they cook the Italian thin-crust pizzas. The cooks and everyone kept talking in Italian and the music kept pace. We loved the feel of being there but we loved the cheap price even better. Next time we have something to celebrate, we'll try a Japanese restaurant that features authentic okinomiyaki (Japanese pancake). For now, we're staying away from restaurants so we could save. One more word on the food - the coffee is great! Anywhere you go, you get the real brewed thing in standard formats of cappuccino, latte, flat white, black and mochaccino.
I enjoy looking at the trees and the gardens. The huge gum trees, the roses, the birds... I'm thoroughly a city girl so I'm not really into the plant thing but I think that I have more of an appreciation for nature now. At five pm, the birds sing a chorus and every night I'm lulled to sleep by a bird solo.

I'm also grateful that God allowed me to live in the suburb of Heidelberg. It's one of the oldest suburbs so it has that old feel to it and it is a place that inspired artists. There was a famous art school here that gave birth to influential Aussie painters. One can still see the impressionist paintings (pictured and close-up) and the views that inspired them down the road where there is a huge parkland with a river running through it. During weekends, bikers go around the dirt trails and people take a walk with their dogs.


We are really close to a train station so it's never really quiet (which is a good thing for a city girl). Plus we live near two supermarkets, three pharmacies, two clinics, more than a handful of restaurants and other things so it's convenient. This was especially good when I didn't know how to drive yet. Another very good thing is that the public library is nearby so I'm getting to borrow most of the books I used to drool over at National Bookstore. One can also borrow DVDs, CDs and magazines. And you can place holds on books through the Internet and pick them up when available. I'm currently number 12 in the waiting list for 'Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' Neat, huh?


So this is the place I currently live in, most of the people are friendly and you get an occasional smile and 'G'day!'. The advantages are obvious and it's a charming and beautiful place. I do know that beneath the beauty, there is also a hidden, seamier side that the newspapers whisper about. There have been mafia-style shootings in the past and other things but I'm glad I haven't seen this 'dark side' for now.

Melbourne and I are still getting to know each other and I'll try to go off the beaten tourist paths more. This will especially be the case when Gryphon comes because he's more adventurous. However nice it is in the Land of Oz though, there is still no place like home.

Dear San Andres, Wish you were here.....


My flatmate is a Filipina nurse who hails from San Andres in Romblon. We are of the same age and faith. She was kind enough to allow me to live with her when I needed a place to stay last August. She recently asked me to edit this article. As I've been writing a lot about longing for home, I thought it fit to include what she has written:

For the past three years, I have been away from San Andres and all the things that make me feel at home. The sound of tricycles and jeepneys at my door, the familiar cry of ‘taho’ in the morning and ‘balut’ in the evening. I don’t hear the sound of sea waves when I tuck myself to sleep, not even a rooster crowing in the morning. Be it the good, the bad, or the ugly, I miss my home. The thing that makes it a little bit worse—I’m in the land down under and it’s winter!

Things here are different. One day, I was unwell and was told to rest. That means I have to spend the whole day lying in the couch with the remote controls lined up beside me. If sports coverage is the thing to go by, there are only three choices: football, rugby or cricket. All of these don’t make sense to me. I want to go back to the ‘real sports’ and cheer on my favorite Ginebra San Miguel Team.

The other thing that makes me really miss home is the freedom to wear comfortable clothes anytime. I can go anywhere in plain shirt and jeans. I can hang-out with friends wearing the same kind of clothes without considering the season. No need to rug up with wool coats and wear layers of clothes to keep myself warm.

Another downside of living overseas is the food. I miss those home-made meals like ginataang langka, pinakbet, pansit, adobong kangkong, inihaw na tulingan and a lot more. Or afternoon snacks like halo-halo, gulaman, turon and banana-cue. Because juggling work and study is always difficult, I have no choice but to resort to microwave cooking. I usually cook twice or three times a week, store the food in the freezer and re-heat when I need to. Anyway, the word ‘cuisine’ really is in the stomach of the beholder.

The only consolation I have for all the homesickness and bad eating is that I have a Filipina roommate. And because she’s from UP, she has this ‘makabayan’ kind of attitude. We both love Filipino music and Filipino food. Most of all, we’re both looking forward to that time when we can be reunited with our families and friends.

I would say that living overseas is not all about the glam and vanity of earning dollars. I still believe that the best things in life are those that don’t have price tags. Deep inside my heart, I miss my hometown and the people that make me ‘feel at home’.

I feel like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ crying “I wanna go back to Kansas. I want to go back to Auntie Em…there’s no place like home”.

There is a famous Aussie song that goes this way (I’ve changed the word to San Andres on the last line):

I’ve been to cities that never close down
From New York, to Rome to old London town
But no matter how far or how wide I roam
I still call ‘San Andres’ my home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I've become fat again, part 2

I just watched a special on TV about why diet plans fail. They mentioned three factors (or at least, I was able to absorb three factors):
  1. When everybody else is eating a lot, dieters tend to much more.
  2. When dieters binge on one meal, they usually throw off the entire day (or week) while promising themselves that they can start over next week.
  3. When dieters are stressed, they usually will eat more to feel better.
From what I know, number 1 and 2 applies to me. I know I've been working hard to shed the extra fat by watching what I eat. But when others around me are eating liempo and lechon kawali, it is true, I tend to eat what they eat. I have, of course, been taunted a lot about the lack of discipline I have if I cannot say "no" to eating what others eat, but the TV program has assured me that this was unfair at the very least. For one thing, eating is a social act. It becomes unnatural to eat differently from others, even if they expect you to. That is why a family of thin people tend to be a family of thin people, and vice versa. Fat friends congregate with each other, and vice versa. If everybody else is eating healthy, the tendency is for one to eat healthy. That's why people in Japan or other health-conscious cultures tend to stay healthy even if they eat a lot, while cultures like that in the USA or even in the Philippines tend to have obese people, even if they diet and eat little. As I said in my previous mobile post (I actually posted that using my cellphone; I finally found a system that works), when the "meriendas" are not only scheduled and regulated, but when the only food that is served are oily and saucy foods, there is no other recourse but to stay away from the pantry except during the lunch hour.

Oh, and about stress... we've got a lot of that. I've always told others that the reason why I don't become a pastor is because, among other things, I can't see myself making a sermon once a week. It is just too hard. Now that I'm training for a call center job, the ACE training (Accent and Conversational English Training) that happens nine hours a day, stopping only for merienda and lunch, has us needing to speak out more than once a day and writing our "reports" and "presentations." This is stressful, to say the least, and trainees congregating to eat that delish concoction of beef, peppers, mushrooms in thick gravy seems to be a way to relieve some of the stress.

One other source of stress for me is the decidedly nonChristian atmosphere of the workplace. I am not saying that the place is decidedly "evil"—it is not. It is just nonChristian: we men unashamedly make remarks about the body parts of the female trainees and talk about the ones we like, for instance. I say "we" because even if, frankly, I don't find myself attracted to any of the females there, in order to fit in I have to find something to like in the females around. I have thus far "appreciated" only the "safer" aspects of the females: good dresser, good speaker, pretty, etc. but I have already crossed the line twice when I agreed that one girl's "ass was hot" and that another girl's "feet was sexy." It is also uncomfortable when the females themselves, most of them married and/or having children of their own are also engaging in a little "innocent" flirting. I guess I am just too conservative... but still, I don't see the logic in all of this behavior. A single co-trainee cannot get the eye of the females, no matter how much he preens and all; yet we married guys get the attention primarily because we are "safe" (I will deal with this reprehensible illogic in a later post). Even the married women are more brazen than the single women.

Anyway, my point is that this adds to my stress, making the already scrumptuous food even tastier to my palate; and I must do everything in my power to try and avoid it. Ærynn deserves to have the same fit husband she married months ago when I see her again, not some fat whale.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I've become fat again

GH-024.jpg
GH-024.jpg,
originally uploaded by Gryphon Hall.
Moblog post: I have gotten fat again. After months of being just over 200lbs, I have experienced becoming almost 30lbs heavier in just a month. My belt has become tighter again after months of being too large. There was this shirt that I wore last month that showed that I was begining to have a neck again; I am wearing it again tonight, and there is on neck in the mirror now. It is, of course, needless to say that this is not good.

I've seen that there are several reasons for this sudden weight gain. First, I have not been getting much sleep since this new night-shift job. Of course, I've only been at it a week, but this shirt I am now wearing that is suddenly tight I wore just last week, and it didn't "stick" onto me this way. So, second, I think it is because of the instituted meriendas at work. You see, I don't eat merienda. Now that it is a tangible break & everybody is eating, I've been eating as well.

Well, not anymore. I have to be more disciplined if I am to avert all the damage to all the hard work for the last few months. I will again need to watch more closely my food intake, since I am no longer in Cavite and exercise will no longer be there just for the taking. More later.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Inside the Flat


It is now about 10 degrees in Melbourne. Six pm and it’s already very dark. I’ve been alone for three days now since my flatmate went to the Hillsong conference in Sydney. Haven’t really gone out and since the office doesn’t need me for two weeks, there really hasn’t been a need to step out of the flat. I keep hoping the recruitment agency will call though.

Been reading a friend’s blog for the first time. He writes really well and he’s very honest. I envy his fluid and articulate writing style. I can see
that he’s in love but the outcome isn’t clear yet. I know what an exciting and painful state it is to be in. When my husband was still courting me, he used to liken the situation to a poem by T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

“It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?”

I wish him well.

The birds were madly singing an hour before now. I don’t know why. Yesterday, I looked out the window. A great leafless tree was bare except for a brown bird, its reddish chest giving it the appearance of plumpness. I kept staring out the window and the bird continued to stay perched on the tree.

These days I alternate between feelings of joy and sadness. I long for my former home, the comforts, the protection, the love and companionship of family and friends. Some days I wake up from dreams of being in Project 2. Often I think about my husband and cry because I miss him so much.

Sometimes I feel happy for the giant and baby steps I’ve taken. I learned to drive a car. Learned to cook dishes other than instant noodles. Learned to take in the beauty of trees. Learned to take my turn at the washing machine. Learned to change my resume for every application. Learned what it is to be in want. Learned I’m no better than anyone else.

For this I thank God and yet I cry out in pain. I feel like I'm being pruned and all I can do is wait and pray. Meanwhile Coldplay’s Speed of Sound keeps playing in my head and I know I need to send my resume to another ten companies.
"And birds go flying at the speed of sound,
to show you how it all began.
Birds came flying from the underground,
if you could see it then you'd understand"

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities (Manila)


I went back to the Philippines some months ago and I saw my hometown with different eyes. It made me cry seeing how gray the walls were. For the first time, I saw that we are a poor country. I saw the traffic, the rickety bus rides, how packed the people are in public transportation and water on the side of the streets. Things I took in stride because as far as I was concerned, it was the way things have always been. But I found myself hanging on for dear life when my dad negotiated the streets of Manila when he picked me up from the airport.

Having only been gone a year, I did not think that I would have an adjustment period. But I did for about a week. Then it all came back to me. I still knew how to commute and navigate my way around the city. Bargains could still be had at old haunts like Divisoria (where I got my wedding dress), Cubao (wedding shoes) and at SM (for some giveaways). I found new haunts like Dangwa which was a mecca of fresh flowers. True, we were dismayed at the level of service or disservice at City Hall. But commercial services were fast and good. You could drop into a beauty parlour without making an appointment and my dress was made in four weeks' time.

Best of all were the people and the feeling of community. Dawn services were still held at church for two weeks before Christmas. And the church was always full on these occasions. We went to a total of three Christmas musicals. Laughter was in the air a lot and people laughed long and hard. When we distributed our invitations, we were well fed and looked after.

The success of our wedding day was due to the help of a lot of people. Tita Inday, Kuya Harlie and the canteen girls from our eatery organized the food for the choir. The choir from our church sang at the wedding. Friends decorated the church until early morning. An officemate made the bouquets. Family members and friends did a lot of organizing and small and big things. There was also a missing guitar, but that's another story.

After our short honeymoon in Tagaytay, we went back to Manila and more specifically to Project 2 in Quezon City. Except for my first four years, I have always lived in this former housing suburb. It is now very much a commercial though still residential district. The streets are quaintly named after fruits, some of which I have never seen or eaten.

My stay was short so I was determined to look around closely and cherish every little thing. I found myself relishing the Chickenjoy at the Jollibee along the corner of Kamias and Anonas. Directly opposite is the competing McDonalds. Looking out the second floor of this McDonalds, one can see the shoe and key duplication stall made of rickety looking wood that seems to have been in that corner ever since I was small. I could also see the Seven-Eleven in Chico Street where we used to buy our Slurpees. Walking along Anonas, the banks are clustered in one area. They look solid and austere with the sharp corners and the security guards brandishing heavy guns. Soon we came upon Kawilihan Bakery where we buy our pan de sal. This is also where the loser of basketball bets bought ice cream for the whole family. Beside Kawilihan is the ihaw-ihaw where one can buy chicken insides (yum!) and other barbecue treats. Eventually we reached Quirino Elementary School, right across our house. I remember being late a lot when I was still studying there (it was the traffic). But the statue of Quirino is still there and children still run straight out when school is over.

Project 2 and Manila will always be special to me. I think I really saw the city for the first time when I went back. And it shall be new and yet old again the next time I go home. It reminds me of what T.S. Eliot said:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"

Monday, July 04, 2005

Thinking Aloud: A Gripe Observed, part I

Parking lot at 0300HI am very perturbed. And, supposedly, I have no reason to be. . .

. . . Or rather, it's all in the way one looks at it, to see whether I have any real reason to be perturbed.

I almost wrote down "I married the most wonderful lady I've ever met, but I can't be with her" but I know just how sappy, clichéd, and generally annoying such statements are to those who have never been in the sort of situation I am in. I have married a wonderful lady. I have only spent a maximum of three weeks together with her. I had expected to be with her by next month. But, thanks to the cruel twists that can come, our reunion is going to be delayed, at best, and denied, at worst. Of course, "denied" is such a strong word. More properly, I would probably follow her much, much later than I thought; more like the two years apart that a friend of ours had to go through, when she was waiting to get her husband to the States.

All this "misery" is due to some misplaced good fortune.

You see, I have for some reason finally acquired a job that pays well. Good fortune indeed, except that it has come more than two years too late. Those who are truly familiar with the Job Market in the Philippines—and I'm not talking about those ten or twenty percent that get jobs on the get go and keep them for around 5 years; no, I'm talking about the majority of us out there—know that getting a job is like playing a game. So often, I have walked up to a snazzy building, freshly bathed, freshly shaved, with a fresh haircut and a fresh layer of dust that the metropolitan pollution has dumped on me, trying to feel confident. More often than I want to remember, I would ace their applications tests and exams, up until the final interview. How many times have I shaken a vigorous and eager hand just as the interview starts, then they take one good look at my resumé, see where I got my degree, see how many "jobs" I've been in, and see how short my durations were, and I get to shake that same hand that is now placid and uneager? I hate it when people try to broadcast the lie that companies here in the Philipppines do not discriminate against the "lesser" universities. They have accused me, and others, of just not trying hard enough. But they all want graduates from UP, DLSU, Ateneo, probably UST. . . they do!

Of course graduates from the "other" universities get jobs. Just not the jobs that one wants or was trained for. I have often found myself glossed over by these companies, even when I had the skills, and they choose someone who would later purchase those "Learn in 24 hours..." kind of books because they had to cram up on the skills. Our difference? He graduated from the Philippine version of an ivy-league university. So much so that most of my former classmates, even those that finished cum laude, can only find jobs as clerks, while less skilled and less smart rich kids get to ride around in business suits.

As a result, my resumé has become a joke. Only those small, no-name companies ever hired me, making my work experience even more pathetic.


Yet, I now find myself with a good paying job with a good multi-national company. I should be overjoyed. I am not. I definitely need the money. But I should have had this job two years ago, not now when I am about to leave. I credit the fact that Canadians were the ones who interviewed and hired me as the reason why I was able to get in, when so many times in the past I was turned away. To a Canadian PCU is the same as UP, and I got my chance.

I don't care about demographics, you know, that "fact" that they are parading around in the Philippines that usually, UP/DLSU/Ateneo/etc. graduates are the better and smarter workers. That only became so because these universities take all the best high school graduates, not because on any inherent superiority in their systems. And even so, if you treat a potential student as, well, the lower rungs, they will behave so. I have met a lot of really smart and industrious individuals in my college that have since turned to mediocrity, merely because that was what was expected of them.

Still, I have this job. A "call centre" job. A job which, years ago, I would not have touched with a ten-foot pole. It wasn't what I was trained for. It isn't what I want. I will receive calls and try to solve technical problems. We aren't allowed a lot of freedoms. The work is hectic and demanding, with long hours during the oddest hours of the day. The job, itself, is not very fulfilling. But it pays well, and over the course of a few years the need for money has stifled my idealism. Like in the Thomas Hardy novel of "Jude the Obscure" where Jude with aspirations to become a scholar and skills in Latin and Hebrew still cannot rise above the station in life that society drops on his shoulders, I have come to accept that maybe I will never be a writer. There will never be any time. I need money. This is it. This is all I will ever be accepted for. To hope for more is to always despair. To start accepting my station is, hopefully, the start of happiness for me. A mere customer service agent, probably someday a trainer. But that is it.

Oh, there are benefits upon benefits. The starting pay is good. There is insurance. And quiet rooms, showers, game rooms, free coffee. . . why did I ever aspire to anything more than this? I had always hated the corporate atmosphere. . . I should have accepted that it will be what feeds me. Yet, this lesson comes too late. If I had learned this two years ago and had, back then, sold myself to wage-slavery, my wife wouldn't have needed to leave. I should still have her here, and we could have been married earlier, have had kids earlier. . . a man's lot. I had been too proud, and loneliness has been my punishment.

I want to be with my wife now in Australia. But I cannot leave, now that I have a good company that accepted me. I need to stay at least until October, probably November. . . but I want to be with my wife. But I can only allow her to really live and pursue her dreams if I can provide. This job will help me. I need it.

But I am not happy.


I am perturbed. My team-mates are very much like the high school students I used to teach: loud, arrogant, self-absorbed and self-interested. Yet, this is the world that I must belong in, this world full of the loud and arrogant. Should I also be loud and arrogant to succeed? I hope not. But, now, I must prepare for work: do my job to sell myself and make myself as interesting a human product as I can, so I can ascend the ladder and make more money. What is more important than money? I cannot see beyond the flimsy walls of my workstation to know for sure, but this I know now: with money comes happiness.

And only fools and poets think otherwise and die hungry and lonely.