Men stumble over pebbles, not mountains;
Women look where they're going.
Monday, May 08, 2006

The Magical World of Oz

Five days (and counting) to go before I leave Melbourne for the Philippines. It’s quite obvious to anyone close to me that I’ve been waiting and itching to get back home from the moment I got here. And yet… I find myself feeling a little sad for leaving. I think Melbourne has done what San Francisco, Hanoi, New Jersey and Jakarta was not able to do. It made me fall a little in love with it.

And what’s not to love?

If I look at my feelings closely, I realize that I yearn for the Philippines only because my family and my friends are there. But, if, miraculously, I could transport them to somewhere, it would be here, in Melbourne.

Primarily because of the people. Here, trust still exists. Perfect strangers smile at each other while walking on the streets; young men still, theoretically, open doors for you [they don’t really pull open the door, since most of the doors have sensors, so its either they pull out their ID to open it for you or stand in the sensors]; waiters, janitors, truck drivers are treated (and treat you) with casual friendliness without agenda. In fact, the only people who have ever treated me in an untoward way, were, sad to say, immigrants [I assume they were since, one, was an irritable Chinese who barely spoke English and the other was Greek who cheated me out of A$0.40 cents]. Everyone else was polite – more than polite, they were friendly. And it’s difficult not to be affected by it. My biggest concern now is that when I get back to Manila, I’d be smiling and asking “How are you doing?” to everyone I see and meet. And probably end up having my purse stolen or something.

That’s also one of the reasons why I like it here in Melbourne. I’ve never felt so safe in my entire life. Even when I was in the shady part of city, where the street lights were dim and I was walking all alone, I was never really afraid for my welfare. Sure, I was depressed to be walking alone, but, I wasn’t really afraid. Mainly because it’s not uncommon to still find people, young, old, Asian, walking the streets with you. You’re never really quite alone, if you really look for people. Even the cars don’t seem that dangerous – pedestrians are given right of way all the time (even though they could just speed up to “overtake” pedestrians).

Another reason why I had fallen in love with this city is the culture of the business. Here, people work their butts off from 9 to 5, but, after a certain time, people leave and go home. You would hardly see anyone doing overtime, because companies and corporations believe in family as much as they believe in their incomes. It’s also only here did I see a company have a dedicated group looking out for the welfare of their employees – they think of the simples things, mostly, that add up to being a great deal – free fruits on Mondays and Thursdays, barbeques for lunch once every month, free samples (soon to expire, but, really, who cares?) of the company’s products in the fridge, a coffee/hot chocolate (yum!) machine (for free, no coins needed) in the staff kitchen. It’s the kind of culture you’d love to work in – because you’re not graded on the merit of the hours spent, but on the merit of the work performed.

But of course, every paradise has its share of snakes. In Melbourne, it’s the absolute lack of a night life that bugs me. Sure, the city is still awake after six, but the surrounding areas (that is still part of the city, mind you, just not the heart of it), is already fast asleep. If you plan to have dinner after 6, you’d have to take a tram ride to the heart of Melbourne to eat. And then, of course, there are the movies. Movies here cost A LOT. Even more than in the States. Back in the US (at least, when I was there) you can at least choose to watch the matinee for almost half the price. Here, there is no such thing. A movie ticket would cost you A$15 (roughly translated to P600) and that’s excluding the popcorn and the coke. And of course, the biggest snake of all, the weather. I’ve been told that here in Melbourne, you could four seasons in one day. And, as I’ve spoken about extensively in my previous blogs, the cold weather and I don’t jive. I’d rather be in warmer climes than here, never mind the fact that the trees turn into wondrous hues of orange and gold, and that leaves in the park fall like rain to the ground. It’s not worth it when you have chapped lips, dry skin, cold hands and shivering toes. At least, not for me.

All in all, I’m glad to be going home (finally). I’m excited to hug my husband (I’m teary eyed just thinking about it), of bantering with my fellow monkey, of giggling over idol with my in-game sis, of talking about life in general with my strength, of discussing possibilities with a young wannabe monkey (but is really an ox). I can’t wait to taste the over buttered and garlic-ed prawns in Dampa and the salty charred liempo. I’m excited to go back to the game I’ve missed for so long, to join the litcritters again, to sing my sad songs during karaoke. And of course, to taste Mocha Java again... Yum...

I guess there’s no place like home.
Neurotic Female took flight at 7:18 AM ::
Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Photos

Here are some of my photos taken in Australia (as promised Vinnie!) Some of the pictures here I could never have hoped to write the description down, like the Shrine of Remembrance and the shades of autumn because I really don't believe I could have done justice to them.

The Shrine



In Greater Detail



K8 vs Black Swan (K8 wins!)



K8 in Autumn



Leaves on Fire

Neurotic Female took flight at 7:14 AM ::
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Updates from the World Down Under

My company has finally done it. They have successfully dragged me (kicking and screaming, if I may add) to an out of the country business trip. For someone who absolutely hates the absolutely absurd long plane ride with its cramped seats and shady seat companions, and abhors with equal measure the lining up, moving suitcases and standing before yellow lines in airports, this was an extremely big deal. As it was, I had specifically stated before I took the job with my present company that I dislike travel of any kind. But, here I am, some 8 thousand miles away from home, where my wonderful husband, the humid heat, my great friends and the continuous noise of people trying to survive, seem a lifetime away.

The Weather

I had known before I went that the weather would be bad. I personally am a creature of heat (not in heat, mind you, at least, not all the time), and would prefer to be warm than cold. Hence, going to a country where it is autumn as opposed to the summer I was experiencing back in ol’ Manila, seemed unbearable. I tried to stock up on “winter” clothing – as much as it existed in a tropical country – but in the end it wasn’t enough. While most of the jackets lent to me by my husband’s family helped stave off the cold from my chest (and sometimes thighs), and the boots loaned out to me by my close friend Nikki protected my feet to my calves, there was nothing to be done with my face, and, if I wanted to hold on to my bag, my left hand (the right was always in a fist in my jacket pocket). It doesn’t help that Melbourne’s weather seem as fickle as a woman during that time of the month – it’s sunny when you begin crossing the street, and cloudy and windy by the time you get to the other end. Raising your hopes that you can almost get used to it one moment and dashing them in the next.

Speaking of sun, it has been my only comfort during the windy days. But I do wonder if I’m already baking without my knowing it. After all, the temperature when you’re in the shade is sooooo much cooler than when you’re out gallivanting under the sun. My frozen brain has concluded that the sun must be soooooo hot that it can heat up the temperature just by being under it. Which is bad for me, good for skin cancer and sun burn. Unfortunately, the pleasure of being out of the cold, no matter how short a time, is too much to resist, so I just pray that what little sun block I use would be enough to filter the UV rays.

The Language

It’s not that bad really. It is a bit disconcerting to hear them say “You littler ripper” [I am at a loss for words] and pronounce organization as or-ga-NAY-say-tion. It’s also amusing for me to see signs that say “Please put your crockery in the sink” [put your plates in the sink] and “Throw your rubbish in the bin” [throw your trash in the bin], not because I didn’t know the words themselves, but because they seem to be using a lot of letters to denote simple things. But then again, that’s coming from a biased perspective. I am in Rome after all, and in here, I’m the weird one.

Food

It’s large. And I mean large. It’s quite ironic since the Australians themselves [and I mean the Caucasians I’ve seen, because the non-Caucasians tend to be taller] are not that tall / big. And yet they seem to eat a lot here, judging from the serving size in the restaurants. Right now, my biggest battle after the weather is to keep the bulge at bay. Unfortunately for me, the food ain’t that bad – especially since there are a lot of Italian places for pizza and numerous famous and not so famous [although, I have yet to see a Starbucks] cafes which serve my favorite breakfast [bacon, lightly toasted bread and sunny side up eggs]. And when I do get a craving for rice, there is always some Asian / Chinese restaurant serving them in huge amounts together with tasty viands of my choice.

I beg people to pray for me that I have the fortitude to say no to temptation.

The people

They have been, surprisingly, extremely nice. It seems that wherever we go, we are treated in the same casual, friendly way they treat other natives. You go in a restaurant, and the waitress will ask you how you’re doing, engage you in cheery conversation and seat you in the best place in the restaurant [or at least what’s left of it]. Not to offend my American friends, but this was the complete opposite of what I experienced in the States. There, people were stand-offish and turned their noses up on non-English speaking Asians.

I’ve also noticed that they love their dogs. There’s a bad joke going around that dogs here have more rights than most people. I don’t know how true it is, but what I do know is that I see a lot of fat, well-loved dogs in various shapes and sizes cuddled and walked by their owners.

The place

What impresses me the most is how clean it is. And yet, I have not seen a traffic officer, policeman or any type of enforcer at all. But somehow, pedestrians are given the right of way, trash – I mean, rubbish – is thrown in the right bin, and drivers obey traffic rules. Their focus on the environment is incredible as well, with a lot of the Australians ads promoting environmental efforts. Even the cheap supermarkets offer “environmentally friendly” satchels which you purchase [and apparently, a lot do] which will then be used for your groceries in lieu of traditional plastic bags.

At the same time, I’m impressed with the monuments and the parks. It’s absolutely breathtaking to see the park and the Royal Botanical Gardens in autumn. The only blip in my otherwise wonderful experience was the fact that it was COLD. After our trip to the Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance [a beautiful monument fashioned after Greek temples erected in honor of the men and women who served the great empire during WW1], I had fallen ill. It was a combination of the long up and down hill walks and jet lag, given a big dose of COLDNESS. I’m just not meant for these autumn – winter things.

Conclusion

I still want to go home. Of course, my close friends Dean, Nikki and Vinnie have all been texting me [thanks guys!] along with my husband, and those texts do help in defrosting my brain and dredging up some energy to do my work, but I still yearn for their physical company. It’s lonely here – malls and most restaurants close at 7, there is only one plug available in the hotel room I share with an office mate, channels are limited [Wah, NO IDOL!], and it’s generally too cold to go out anywhere [not that anywhere would be open after a certain time] – that, after just a week, I feel that I’m going a little crazy.

But it’s just 17 days to go, right? 17 days is not a long time right?

I will be home soon.
Neurotic Female took flight at 3:53 PM ::
Monday, December 05, 2005

Almost Married

5 days to go and counting.

By next week, waking up with the man I love would be more than just a dream.

By this Saturday, I will have to start getting used to my new name - among other things, this is the most basic, most obvious change I will be undergoing.

By this Friday, I will be spending the night alone in Linden, thinking, dreaming, knowing that Forever is just around the corner.

By tomorrow, I'll probably be half insane withw worry regarding the priest, the reception, the unpaid bills.

Ain't it a wonderful world?
Neurotic Female took flight at 4:47 PM ::
Thursday, December 01, 2005

New Traditions

Putting up the tree had always been an exhaustive exercise for my parents. They would argue about everything in the process - from how badly it was packed in the previous year, how dusty it was and eventually, how inconvenient it was to put up a tree year after year. After years of bickering, our tree (which I specifically remember as being 7 foot tall, because “7” was one of the first numbers I could read) shrunk until now my poor brother has to content himself with a desk type tree.

My parents also did not care much about décor, opting to pour their money on more important things, like my hospital bills and food. Being the independent type with childish visions of Christmas collected from the TV shows I’ve seen, I started saving up my allowance to buy a few pieces of evergreen boughs or pretty Christmas balls, or some delicate ribbon to spruce up my tree. I think I was nine when I began to put up the tree myself and take over the decorations. My mother thought it was a waste of money, especially since I did not have enough to buy decorations to cover the entire tree without it looking sparse. But I stood my ground and eventually, by the time I was 15, I had enough trinkets to sufficiently decorate the tree. It was a long journey, but it was worth it.

I also remember going to great lengths to put gifts underneath it, something my parents never did since they have always opted to give cash instead. Using what was left of my savings, I would buy small trinkets for my classmates, wrap it up (badly I might add), put it underneath the tree and pretend they were for me (yes, I was pretty selfish when I was young). My greatest problem with that was that by the time Christmas eve / day arrived, there would hardly be any presents left (because, apparently, saving up was still an alien concept to my grade school peers).

To some people, Christmas around my house must seem pretty unappealing. But the truth was, I wasn’t really miserable during Christmas because the season would always be saved by Santa. Unfortunately, since we were poor, “Santa” never really gave me the gift I wanted. Of course that didn’t matter to me. For me, what was important was that his existence was validated each time he would send me a toy (of course, I did wonder if he got my gender right when I received a Bruce Lee doll for Christmas) and I would bite my tongue whenever the urge to ask how he knew it was “my” gift when the gift had no tag, no note or label. But then, you can only cling to Santa for so long, and I suppose my parents thought at twelve, I couldn’t possibly not know he didn’t exist. So they just stopped giving Santa presents.

I still remember how that broke my heart.

Now that I’m getting married, I crave to make traditions that will last and be remembered. I want to ensure that my children would grow up to complain about how there was just too much festivities and how big or overdone Christmas was in our house, rather than having nothing to talk about at all regarding the traditions in their household. In some ways, I’m not really creating new traditions since some of the things I’ve been doing since I was young, I’m choosing to keep. I still buy Christmas gifts early for my friends and, whenever Alex would let me, wrap them up just as badly as I did when I was nine and I still save up money to buy a few more decorations every year. But there is excitement at being able to have a “new” beginning that I will share with the man I love the most. Because now, these traditions are no longer just mine, it will be ours. And whatever mutation and evolution our habits will have, it will always be “our” tradition.

And really, what are traditions if not shared with the people you love?
Neurotic Female took flight at 4:04 PM ::
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Confessions

“I think we need space.” Mark sounded embarrassed, as if he was admitting to a humiliating experience rather than breaking a two year relationship.

I faltered. “But…” Was all I could say. I don’t even know if I said it loud enough to be heard, because he continued as if I had not interjected.

“I have a lot of things I have to do, and really, there is so much on my plate right now, I don’t know if I can handle a relationship at this point in time,” said Mark, gaining momentum as he spoke.

“Are you alright Marie?” He wouldn’t have had to ask if he had not decided to break the news to me on the phone. But as it was, all he had to go by was my voice.

It was just as well. “Yes.” I reply quietly.

He probably didn’t believe me. “Why don’t we talk about this more, later, ok? I have a meeting to attend to right now and -”

“-And you have to go. I understand.” Don’t I always? Then sensing that I may have agreed too quickly, I added. “We’ll talk later. I’m ok.” I didn’t have to add that last bit. Really.

“Well, talk to you soon.” A moment of silence. “I love you.”

It was too much. I dropped the phone and cried.

The First Time


Mark has a nasty habit of hurting me. Not just emotionally, but physically as well. Way back when his father was still alive, Mark was beaten for every infraction, big or small. And while he swore never to do the same to his future children (and I presume, by extension, to his significant others), he still had difficulty containing his temper from becoming physical.

He doesn’t mean to. I know he doesn’t.

I still remember the first time it happened. We had fought then – I don’t even remember about what, only that it was early in the relationship – he had taken my arm and squeezed it tight in frustration. At first, it was exciting. He was different from the other “boys” I knew. He was dangerous and he was powerful. Everything my sheltered catholic schoolgirl background secretly craved. As such, sad as it may be, my initial reaction was lust.

But then, he didn’t stop.

And it began to hurt. And I began to struggle. And he wouldn’t let go. And I was afraid. So afraid.

Eventually, after much tears and yelling, he released me. And I had bruises on my arm that healed only until our next fight.

They were never really gone.

The Affair

Jeff was sweet, nice and more importantly, Mark’s complete opposite. I often wonder if, had I not been in an abusive relationship, I would have been fallen for him. I desperately cling to the hope that I would have. At least then, the affair would have been a bit more forgivable.

It started innocently enough. He was a nice guy and I was the abused girlfriend. No, he didn’t really comfort me, nor was he the shoulder I cried on. On the contrary, we had talked about everything but my relationship, or his relationship for that matter. Instead we wrote sappy love letters, savored the secret deliciousness of forbidden love and got intoxicated with our stolen kisses.

Vaguely, the logical, still very much catholic schoolgirl part of my mind, knew that we were hurting people. His girlfriend of x number of years who knew. My boyfriend of x number of months who didn’t. Our families who found out too much and too little.

It was all too complicated, but we barely cared. For me, the fact that it was a secret (as secret as it could be) meant it was temporary. It would end. And that was the point – it was like a wild ride.

And I thought it was the same for Jeff as well. Until he broke off his relationship with his girlfriend, confessed his undying love for me and threw his friends, family and everything else that stood in the way of our relationship to the wind.

I couldn’t do the same thing. I just couldn’t. I loved Jeff, but I couldn’t bare the guilt of being responsible for so many broken hearts. I didn’t love him enough for that.

And so, it ended. The affair, after Jeff did the right thing, ended. It wasn’t fair. It never is.

The Lowest of the Low

It occurred just recently. Again, the details of why we fought were vague. I think it had something to do with him needing to work, and me coming to visit. I didn’t want to stay in his office to watch him type and so I walked out of the room to the porch, sat down and started reading a book.

He lost his temper.

He kept on insisting, first, for me to go inside, and then, when I wouldn’t go back to the office, to go to the dining room to eat lunch. I stubbornly and proudly said no, despite knowing where it would lead to, because…

Because.

I don’t know.

But I stood my ground, as if staying outside was more important than anything I had ever fought for. But he was bigger, taller and heavier than me. And so I was half dragged, half bullied into the house. There, he forced me to sit down and told, no, commanded me to stop crying and eat.

But the more he yelled, the more impossible it was for me to stop the tears from falling. Until finally, I was just weeping - the food in front of me barely visible.

His grandmother, who was not capable of speaking in Tagalog or English, chose that time to join us. When she saw me sobbing half hysterically, she started talking to me in Chinese. I couldn’t understand what she was saying. But between Mark’s shouting and cursing, and her soft incomprehensible words, I focused my attention her. Then, in a moment of lucidity, I was able to calm down enough to see her eyes. What I saw there needed no translation. It was pity.

After that, I made a decision never, never to cry in public again. No matter how bad it would get, I would find a way to control myself. No pain was worth pity.

Mark didn’t understand that. Didn’t comprehend how that decision changed me. Didn’t even notice until it was almost too late.

I was getting back my bearings. I was getting back my strength.

The End

Now, it’s over. He ended it. Just when I was beginning to understand, to reclaim, to fight back, it’s over.

And I wept. Because of relief, because he did it before I did, because despite all that I have sacrificed he still left me, because some stupid part of me loved him, because I’m tired, because it’s over.

It should have been my ending. It should have been him crying helplessly and hopelessly while I walk out of his life. It should have not hurt this much to let go.

Instead, I’m free. And broken.
Neurotic Female took flight at 10:50 AM ::
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Three Weeks to Go

We're almost ready, if not for the million and one things that decided to go wrong just a little less than a month to go before the wedding.

It ain't that bad. It's just... frustrating.

Right now though, I'm considering just letting the coordinator and Alex handle the nitty gritty of the wedding - but OC side keeps wanting some form of control.

On the good side, I've lost 7 pounds in November alone. On the bad side, I wasn't even trying... sigh, the only thing appetizing to me at this moment are prawns, and sadly, even in Dampa, that is, at most, a once in a week luxury
Neurotic Female took flight at 12:47 PM ::