a year of freefalling

Photo by Willy Family

So sorry to post and go, but I just want to drop a quick shout out to my beloved blog, born exactly a year ago, and still one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to me.

Thank you, thank you, for this opportunity to share my scattered thoughts. And oh, today's my birthday too :)

all i want for christmas

When I was a little girl, Christmas mornings were always the highlight of my year, the time when all of us kids will open our presents. I believed in Santa Claus and held on to that belief for as long as I could, even if I secretly knew that it was only my parents and grandparents who kept putting presents under our Christmas tree. Santa was just my excuse to make a Christmast list.

And my Christmas lists were loooong. I would write anything from an autographed photo of Romnick and Jennifer, who were my favorite couple in those days (Dae, I'm with you for a That's revival!), to something as far-fetched as spending a week in Switzerland so I could see Heidi and her grandfather's cottage. Heidi is a character from a children's book written by Johanna Spyri. I was obsessed with this book for awhile and the idea of running wild and free in those Alpine meadows seemed like heaven to me. Yeah, I've always been this geeky and delusional even as a kid, haha.

So anyways, because its Christmas and it's gonna be my birthday soon, I thought it would be fun to make another one of those lists. This of course was inspired by Irish and Dae who also posted their wish lists in the blogosphere. I will try to keep it within the bounds of reality, but a little magical thinking wouldn't hurt right? Here's my grown-up Christmas list:
  1. I really want to write and speak Spanish! And if I could read Lorca and Neruda in its orginal form (meaning Espanyol), I'd be the happiest girl in the world. Seriously. But in order to do that, I have to start somewhere. So I got those audio CDs from the Pimsleur Language Series last month and since I'm already done with Lessons 1-8, I'm hoping to start with Conversational Spanish next year. These CDs, in my opinion, are even better than actual classes because you can do them at your own pace, whenever and wherever.
  2. A Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. The best camera in the world, even if I don't really know anything about cameras. Or if this is too much to ask, I will also accept cash donations for my camera fund :P
  3. Amanda Castleman's travel writing classes.
  4. Clothes, accessories or home decors from Anthropologie. I am in love with this shop and I could stay here for hours, eventhough I could never buy anything here without feeling guilty about it. The cost of this cute little top, for example, is enough to feed a family of five in the Philippines. But its good for window-shopping at least.
  5. Home fragrance oils and tea lights from The Body Shop.
  6. Those little treasures from Planetweavers or Magnetic Poetry.
  7. As for the non-material things, I really want a consistent, 8 hours of sleep per day. I am so tired of walking around sleep-deprived all the time, so help me God. And as always, peace of mind and good health for me and my loved ones.

See, I'm a pretty easy to please. Or you could always buy me a McSweeney's subscription, and I will love you forever! *wink, wink*


but the truth is...


I would have given all of those up, and many times over, if I could have this:


Chistmas in the Philippines
Art by Ala Paredes


For where else can one have simbang gabi, budbud and tsokolate, kids singing the same carols over and over again, stars everywhere, real and unaffected laughter, and the warmth and chaos of being with the people you love the most?


In the Philippines, where everyone always finds a reason to celebrate and be with each other, there's never been a happier season than Christmas.

less than perfect

Scuffed. Scraped. Scratched. Dinged. *Insert more synonyms here*.

Whatever it's called, it only means one thing: my car is now less than perfect. I know, I know. I should let it go. Its just a scrape (albeit a very obvious one). And its all a part of the wonderful art of parking in San Francisco. Add the rain, the early morning fog, a sleep-deprived therapist hurrying for an IEP (yours truly of course) and there you go. It could have been worse.

But still. I'm a little bitter. I don't want to spend unnecessarily on a paint job. Yet I don't think I can stand seeing an obvious scrape (or scuff or whatever) on my car either. Maybe when it gets older, but not now.

So remind me again, why did I decide to get a car while living in this city?

on the upside

Only one more school day and its time for my winter break! Don't you just love working for a school district? I'm looking forward to spending time with family and friends, home-cooked Filipino meals, some NYC (and maybe Washington DC) wandering, and frolicking in the snow.

And oh, maybe even ice skating!


Photo by S Ryo on Flickr

insomnia musings

I can't sleep. Again. And I have to wake up at 6:30 am, join a crab walking competition with my kids (because I promised them that we'll have the finale this week, whatever that means :P), write and mail the rest of my holiday cards, and attend a dinner party for our therapy unit in the evening. Aargghhh...

Maybe I should just get this over with and take Tylenol pm. Hee.


Seriously, I hate how sleep is so hard to come by these days, especially when I really want it. Maybe I should cut the caffeine. Duh. But I only drink coffee in the mornings though, that doesn't even count right? And I only drink it to stay awake and keep up with my uber-energetic little munchkins, who, no matter how many crab walks and wall push-ups and every other heavy work activities known to school-based therapists I give them, are still bouncing off the walls and asking a thousand questions per minute.


Today, one of my third-graders asked me again if I have kids (of my own). Kids always ask me this question, I don't know why. I said no. And I wanted to add, not any time soon. Certainly not for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love working with kids and they teach me so much more than I could ever teach them, but at the same time I just can't imagine coming home and having to take care of your own child after a long day's work. Especially if you work in the schools just like we do. I don't know how other pediatric therapists or teachers can do it, it seems almost impossible.


But enough on the subject of children for now. Its getting really cold here in San Francisco and I wish I could be somewhere warm, perhaps in one of those 7,107 islands right across the Pacific. My theory about my mood being directly proportional to the sun is obviously being tested at this time of the year, although it doesn't seem like it'll be as bad as it was last winter. That was just pure misery. I got very sick and almost Iost my voice the week before Christmas and it was a torture trying to talk to my family on the phone because they couldn't understand a word that I was saying. Hopefully that won't happen again, I've been very diligent with taking my vitamin Cs.

Speaking of getting sick, one of our kids (I guess we're back to the subject of children again) was taken to the hospital last week because of a throat infection and I just learned tonight that she is now critically ill although her doctors doesn't know what's wrong with her yet. I can't even imagine our little 7-year old lying in the ICU with tubes all over her. The last time I saw her she was happily playing tag at the playground, with her cute little braids bouncing up and down behind her. I shudder to think what her parents must feel right now, especially since no really knows what's going on with her yet. It's really sad. The only thing that I could do was to say a prayer for her. And for her family.

Please include them in your prayers as well.

a reason to smile

Photo courtesy of UNICEF


This day felt like it would never end. My feet ached from walking all over my schools, navigating playgrounds otherwise known as "the ultimate obstacle course" (according to my little kiddos), and sorting through piles of paperwork. And then I saw this picture and I couldn't help but smile.


Aren't they precious?

december is here!

'Tis the season to be busy.

I've been running around like a madwoman these days, going from school to school, attending IEPs, completing assessments, making home programs, etc. The usual craziness. Add to that, I'm also slowly checking things off my holiday list - buying gifts, writing cards, calling friends in the East Coast to let them know that I'll be there for the holiday break, calling my family back home in the Philippines (thus adding to my ever-increasing phone bill), and so many other things. The way things are going now, I'm pretty sure that I'll be broke by the end of this month. But no matter. December is my favorite time of the year and I love finding that special gift for each of my loved ones.

Despite of my hectic schedule, or maybe because of it, I did find time for my "meaningful occupations," stealing precious moments here and there. Today I spent the entire afternoon wandering around in two of my favorite parks - first at Golden Gate Park then later at Alamo Square. I had planned on writing a little but of course I ended up spending more time staring into space instead, which I reasoned is also a huge part of writing (haha!).

And oh, I did take lots of pictures. Words may be hard to come by these days, but pictures sure aren't. In fact, for the nth time, I wish that I had a better camera to capture every little detail of the blessings that I saw today:


Shadow Play at the Lily Pond

Colors of Fall


A Beautiful Sunset


See the rest of the pictures here.

3 months, 12 days


Has it really been that long? It seems like it was just yesterday when I left Southern California, northbound and hopeful, ready to face whatever surprises that will come my way.

And San Francisco is indeed a beautiful surprise. I knew that I fell in love with this city on those few visits that I came here but it was more of the gushy oh-its-so-pretty-here kind. Now that I actually live here, its a different kind of feeling. Something inexplicable, like a sudden affinity, a recognition of being "home".

I've always believed that there are places in this world that one can really call "home". It doesn't matter if its an impoverished village or a posh neighboorhood, what matters is how you feel, or rather, how the place makes you feel. San Francisco is one of those places for me. I don't know, there's something about this city that touches my soul, inspires me to create, and compels me to look at things more closely. I've filled pages and pages of journals and taken hundreds of pictures since I got here and I'm slowly beginning to realize that this is what I've always wanted to do all along.

When, in my vaguest dreams, I pictured myself and who I'll become, I think that this is what I dreamed about - me exploring a city, sitting at corner cafes, taking random pictures, browsing little shops and bookstores, watching independent films, listening to literary readings, writing outdoors, walking around with no plan whatsoever, and a world of endless possibilities stretched out before me. For the first time in a long time, I know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

It wasn't a smooth transition, nor is it easy living here. In fact, there were times when I felt like pulling my hair out and crying in frustration, times when I even wondered why I moved to this city in the first place. I was completely broke on my first month here, my car was towed away because of a parking violation, the apartment's bathroom floor was flooded due to leaky pipes, my computer crashed and I lost a lot of precious data, I didn't know anyone to ask for help - to name just a few. There's also the weather, which at its best can be described as moody and at its worse, 'schizophrenic' (as one writer puts it). You can wake up to a warm and sunny morning and you drive across the city to say, the Richmond District, and you'll be absolutely freezing. I am such a weather wuss and I get cold very easily so it took me a while to adjust to the unpredictable weather here. And let's not forget the challenge of finding street parking, or the fact that half of my paycheck probably goes to the ridiculous amount that I pay for a parking space and those (in)famous parking tickets - I already had three since I got here!

But even the most difficult times is still a blessing, for I always end up learning a little more about myself - the stronger, more independent side of me. Six months ago, who would've thought that I'll be driving all the way to Sonoma County by myself? I've also learned to accept help from new acquaintances and to let go of whatever preconceptions that I had of people or groups of people. Most of all, I've learned to trust in God more, because I believe that He brought me here and that if everything else fails, I know that He will never let go of me. For all this, I am thankful.

more thanks

In the spirit of this Thanksgiving holiday, I just want to say that I wouldn't have survived my first months here without these people: Kuya Bill, my bestest best friend and cousin in one ~ thank you for everything. Moira, Gracia, Neeha, Mayee, Ate Faye, Tia, Dae, Lori, Jane, Grace, Vanessa, Irish, Farrah, Bobby, Carl ~ many thanks for tolerating my endless chatter and neurotic episodes (haha). Jethro, Marjo, Poipoi, Ate Jude, Ate Tina, Lola Tasing, Tiya Mameng, Tiya Masing, Jean, Jewel ~ thanks for your undying love and support. Leah, Iray, Machai, Bachang, Christela, Rachanz, Samia, Monica, Chanda, Leanne, Ruby, Audrey, Melissa, Elaine, Carrie, Jayna, Rennie, Janice, Frank and Ele ~ thank you for keeping in touch. Ma and Pa ~ much love.

And to all that I forgot to call, e-mail, text, etc. - thanks for understanding.

journal excerpt

San Anselmo, CA.

"Its funny how one teeny little thing, one seemingly random act, can change your day so completely. And all that carefully contructed balance that you thought you somehow achieved will come crashing down, just like that. Once again, you see yourself lost, anxious, waiting.

The waiting, perhaps, is the hardest of all. You start torturing yourself with if onlys, creating scenarios, changing outcomes. But in the end, you're back to where you started, back to the waiting.


This afternoon I decided that I needed a break from it all. So I walked. I walked without even knowing where I'm going, past quaint houses with dependable SUVs parked in their front yards, past young fathers teaching little girls how to ride their scooters, past streets named Meadowlark and Morning Side, past retirees reading newspapers in their porches. I willed myself to stop thinking, just concentrate on the walk and the rustle of autumn leaves beneath my feet. But even if I wanted to, I couldn't stop the questions. Or the mass of confusion that followed. How can this happen? Why now?

Sometimes, I wish we can arrange our lives in neat little rows, like those quaint houses and tree-lined streets that I passed in Meadowlark (or was it Morning Side?). No surprises, no messy consequences.


No queasy feeling in your stomach as you wait. And wait..."

Edited 11/27: Last weekend's mishap was eventually resolved and all is good now. This is another lesson learned.

i love holidays and fridays!

Today is Veteran's Day and school is out. That means another day of writing and walking around in my adopted city. Or make that just plain wandering. My mind is too relaxed to write, too much in a holiday mode. The words will follow later, I promise.

For now, enjoy these pictures. Mere glimpses of the what I saw today:

Rows and rows of Victorians



...and a breathtaking twilight.

flickr(ed)

Click on image for a larger view

"We live in a beautiful world", sings Coldplay's Chris Martin. And looking at these amazing shots, I couldn't agree more.
I found them at Flickr, this wonderful world of pictures that I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago, a community to which I am now *small voice* addicted. Hehe.

I hope someday I'll get to take pictures like these ones, but for now I'll find inspiration in all the beauty and talent that is out there. And if you haven't signed up yet, maybe you should too.

Then we'll all have fun exploring Flickrland!


A special word of thanks to all my new Flickr friends who graciously allowed me to post their photos here (click on each to visit their site):
Daniel, Lauri, Chany, Keith, Angela, Cat, Thomas, Lou, Alex, and Kevin.

witches, drag queens, and a colorful parade

Happy Halloween!

It's almost midnight and I should stay away from this computer if I know what's best for me. But I'm still functioning on a sugar high, obviously from all that chocolate that they gave us at school today, and I can't bring myself to go to bed yet.


This past week has been insane, I was (and still am) drowning in paperwork. I wanted to write something here but I neither had the time nor the energy to do it. I have come to a conclusion that all this paperwork is never gonna end, that's its all part of being a school-based therapist, so I might as well start accepting this rather than complain about it. The little joys and the perks of my job (i.e. vacation!) is so much more than the agony of paperwork.

And speaking of joys, our kids had a Halloween costume party today and they were just adorable. Having been born and raised in the Philippines where we rarely celebrate Halloween and I never had the chance to go trick or treating, it was fun to watch the kids bouncing in their costumes while their doting parents were busy taking pictures. I was especially impressed by how well the little kindergarteners were able to tolerate their elaborate costumes. There were no crying or yanking of clothes and they all looked very happy in their little dress-up world.

My favorite was our blue-haired witch. I loved how she was so oblivious to the chaos that was going on around her, content on writing on her journal instead.



from the schools to the streets


The celebration doesn't really end there. For after I got home from work, I decided to watch the Halloween Parade on Castro Street. Earlier last week, my cousin Bill told me that I should see this parade because its really one-of-a-kind. And since I live down the street from Castro, I decided to check it out and experience for myself what everyone has been raving about.

So I went there, sans costume, expecting a parade. You know, the kind where I will stay in the sidelines and watch people in costumes pass me by. Much to my surprise, The Castro Parade is the exact opposite. There are really no performers or spectators but rather everyone is just crammed together on the street, whether you're wearing a costume or not.


Soon I found myself walking along a stream of people, staring at all the costumes (and there were tons of them!) and just trying to keep myself from getting pushed and shoved by over-excited teenagers. And boy, the costumes were unbelievable. Drag queens, fairies, pirates, skeletons...you name it, they're all there. I even saw chihuahuas dressed in hotdog costumes! It was fun and exhausting at the same time. I went home after an hour or so when I noticed that people were already starting to get drunk. Besides, I couldn't wait to see how my pictures would turn out.


Here are some of them:

halloween 124

This was really freaky, especially when he started talking.

I kinda liked how this turned out blurry :)


Thousands of people on the streets!


Next year, if I'm still living in this city, I think I will still brave the crowd and join this parade again. Its really an experience that one shouldn't miss.


or maybe not...

Update 11/1/06

I just heard from the news today that there were shootings at the parade last night. Thank God I left early!
Read more about this news here.

happy feet


one good book + a beautiful park = happy feet.

thank God for Indian summers!

writing lessons

The thing that I love about working with kids is that they never fail to surprise me. They say the silliest, funniest, and most random of things but there's always some truth and wisdom behind it.

Like today, I asked one of my second-graders to come up with words to describe an apple that she had just tasted from her gardening class. And then I wanted her to make a poem about the apple from her list of words. This is what she wrote:

Red. Small. Sweetest. Sweet. Crunchy. Polka Dots.

"Why polka dots?" I asked her.

"Because first you have to look at your apple before you eat it," she replied cheerfully.

"And...?" I still had no clue why this has something to do with polka dots.

"Apples have different patterns in it. You have to look closely at the apple so if it gets lost, then you can find it. Mine has polka dots," she said.

Much later, I was still thinking about the polka dots. And how right she is. Because in writing, just like with everything thing else in life, one only needs to look closely at things to appreciate its beauty and uniqueness.

To some it may just be an ordinary apple. But to her, its an apple with polka dots. That's a big difference.

finding toland

I'm beat. Today was such a long day. I had to wake up early to get my S.F. Unified School District badge at this obscure location near the Port of San Francisco. And I had no idea where this place was, all I know was that I have to be there between 8 to 9 a.m. or they will have to reschedule my appointment. And they are very strict about this, one co-worker of mine arrived a little after 9 and they told her to come back again, get another schedule, and wait for them to contact her (a very agonizing process!).

So I got up at around 7, which was a miracle considering that I slept at 3 a.m. finishing my trienniel report for an IEP meeting today, and I was debating on whether or not I should just take a taxi or if I should just cancel my appointment all together. After all, who knows how long it will take me to find this place and maybe by the time I'll get there it'll be too late anyways. But in the end, I decided to drive there and get it over with.

Finding 843 Toland St. is another story. Something that might fall under a title like 'Adventures of a Topographically-Challenged-Hopelessly-Dyspraxic Driver' by *ahem*, yours truly.

I had all the directions from MapQuest so I thought it was fairly easy to find. But of course, just as it always happens when you are racing against time, there's road contructions, detours, and the much-dreaded traffic. And because we were redirected to another street, I had to pull over and check my map again, lest I end up entering the wrong street. I did end up driving towards the San Jose freeway entrance though I realized my mistake just in time to get to another lane!

It was already 8:47 and still no Toland in the sight. Did I miss it? And then, am I even driving in the right direction? Oh, I should've just taken a taxi! (This is what happens when you're spending way too much time in front of a computer and you're sleep-deprived, you start talking to yourself on a busy highway, haha). According to MapQuest, it is a 12 min. drive from my place (yeah right!). At the rate that I was going, it might have been light years!

*More driving and more talking to self* LOL.

And then finally, there it was - Toland. A little street in the middle of nowhere. Mind you, this area looked very sketchy, all I could see were old warehouses and cargo trucks. How in the world did the school district's Custodial Office ended up being here? I have no clue. But I did find it and the bungalow where I was to meet this lady who will take my picture. I looked at my watch and it was 8:59. Perfect timing.


Suzanne, one of the physical therapists who works at my school, was also there and she asked me if she could follow me on the way back to Noe Valley. She wants to follow me! I couldn't help but laugh. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Needless to say, we, or rather I (because she was following me :P), found the way to our school. I survived the day and the hour-long trienniel IEP meeting while trying desperately not to yawn. And I finally got my badge, which means that I now have proof that I am officially employed by the school district.

Not too bad for a day's work, huh? Now off I go to get some sleep.

oh look, it's a fiesta!

So after the excitement of last night's Lit Crawl, I went to church early this morning expecting a quiet and peaceful Sunday. Little did I know that I was in for another surprise.

It turned out that today is the Feast of Senor de los Milagros, the patron saint of Lima, Peru and people from all over California came to Mission Dolores Basilica (the church that I always go to on Sundays) just to celebrate this very special day. Before I knew it, I was swept away in their colorful festivities - complete with a little procession, musica Latina, and lots of Peruvian food!

Good thing I brought my camera and I was able to take these pictures:



See the rest of the pics on my Flickr photostream.

shaken

I just got back from Lit Crawl in The Mission and I'm still too fired up to write anything coherent. This form of literary bar-hopping is, hands down, one of the most exciting things that I've ever been a part of since I moved here.

It wasn't so much as the events, or the writers, or even performances that shook me. No, there wasn't anything brilliant or exceptional that stood apart from the rest. Rather, it was the process deep inside myself that went on long after the last literary piece was read.


The realization that I really do love to write. And I need to write. Its as simple and as complicated as that.

a writer's world

If there were any doubts in my mind about the wisdom of my moving here, they're all gone now. I finally understood why I am so drawn to this city. And its called Litquake, San Francisco's annual literary festival.

Picture this: 350 authors in a week full of literary events, from readings to workshops, poetry, music, politics, storytelling, theater, and children's lit, all for the love of the written word.

To a geek like me, this sounds too good to be true. Yet its really happening here. In fact, I just went to an event called Off the Richter Scale today and I was blown away. Most of the readings were so powerful that they were almost too much to take in. One of the authors, Adam Mansbach, recited the prologue of his novel Angry Black White Boy from memory. He gave such an awesome performance that I felt goosebumps on my arms, and I didn't even understand half of what he was saying! When it was all over, I went away inspired and slightly disoriented, a feeling that usually happens when I am in the presence of something or someone who makes me think.

And that was only the beginning. There's still so much in store for the rest of the week. Their line-up includes Pulitzer finalist Dave Eggers (author of the book A Heartbreaking Work of Stagerring Genius and one of my favorites), Deborah Major, Phil Cousineau, Constance Hale, Luis Alberto Urrea and so many more, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who will read from her children's book titled Is There Really A Human Race?

The best part of it all is that it's free, most of the events are anyway. One of its traditions,
Lit Crawl, promised to get everyone "drunk on words" next Saturday evening. I can't wait. I just hope I'll be "sober" enough to write here. Something like this is definitely worth blogging.


parallel synchronized randomness




Yet another reason to make me stay in this city is the convenience of watching independent and foreign films. While in L.A. you have to drive so far to go to an indie film theater, here its only a 15-minute ride via the Muni.
Last night, I watched Michael Gondry's The Science of Sleep starring Gael Garcia Bernal. I've always admired Gondry's work ever since I saw his award-winning movie Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. And of course, everyone knows how much I love Gael (read my entry here), so I just had to see this.
 

Set in Paris, the story is about Stephane (Gael), a creative yet somewhat immature visual artist who has a hard time separating his dream world from his lived reality. He falls in love with his neighbor and for the rest of movie tries and fails miserably to pursue her. Stephane believes in the phenomenon of PSR (Parallel Synchronized Randomness), where two people end up finding each other because they have similar thoughts. Sort of like soulmates, but in a childish way, complete with plastic time machines and a broken pony.


This film, however, is more chaotic than what its storyline suggests. Gondry is a genius when it comes to visual effects and the end result is surreal and dreamlike, which you have to see in order to appreciate. As usual, Gael was great and I really enjoyed watching him play a nerdy and boyish character as opposed to his more "serious" roles (think Amores Perros). And I loved how he switches between 3 languages: French, Spanish, and English tinged with a Spanish accent.


Overall, I think The Science of Sleep is a charming, quirky, and very much "out there" movie. You will either love it or hate it, there's no in between. Personally, I loved it. But if you like cookie-cutter Hollywood films, then this is probably NOT for you.


on a shallow note

I just need an excuse to swoon, so I thought I should share this video clip of Gael's French Levi's ad. I know, I'm hopeless!

But really, what's not to love? He's beautiful, he's smart, he's an amazing actor, he picks films that are socially relevant, plus he traveled all the way to South Asia to support Oxfam's global campaign to Make Trade Fair. I'm a little worried though because he is also starring in Brad Pitt's upcoming movie Babel. Could it be that he has finally succumbed to Hollywood's lure? I hope not, for I really want him to stay indie.

Enjoy this YouTube video!

reality check

Okay, enough of my instrospection and SF gushing. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of my life here.

San Francisco is great but it is also one of the most difficult cities to drive around, for me at least. Aside from the fact that the streets are hilly and confusing (some of them gets cut off at certain places and continues on to the next block), there is also that little business of parking.

Yes, parking here is such a pain. And given my driving skills (or lack thereof), the entire experience of day-to-day parking, from finding a space to trying to squeeze into that space while preventing your car from rolling down the hill, is indeed an adventure. Although I must say, it's actually getting better these days. I've learned some "adaptive strategies" (haha) and my parallel parking is not as bad as it used to be. I also went ahead and rented a parking space a block away from my cousin's apartment, which made my life so much easier.

And this may sound silly, but a huge part of my days' successes is how long it took me to find parking. Like today, my morning went really well because I was able to find a parking spot right away and it took me less than 15 minutes to drive to one of my schools and park my little Civic. I know, its really not that exciting, but if you know me and how terribly dyspraxic I am, you'll understand.

As for those roller-coaster hills, they aren't too bad either. They used to be really daunting when I first started driving here but now I am getting used to it. In fact, when you take away the anxiety that goes with it, driving up and down the hills can actually be enjoyable, especially along Upper Market/Portola Drive where you can see the rest of the city below. My only complaint is that sometimes the fog rolls in and you can hardly see where you're going along those hills. This only happened to me once and it was pretty scary, I think I had a near-panic attack and called every saint that I could think of :D .

~

Work turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Not because I have to drive around my schools, but because it requires so much organization. And I am certainly not the most organized person on earth. Come to think of it, I thrive on being unorganized. I hate following schedules, my entire college life I was almost always late for every class, and most of my projects, written work and what-not are often done at the last-minute. It used to drive my parents (and every type A personality around me) crazy but for the most part, it works for me.

Well, maybe not this time. For my job requires having to juggle seeing 30-something kids in three schools in a week, attending IEP meetings, calling parents and other professionals, keeping kids' files up-to-date, and a million other things. When in the past I only used my planner when I feel like it, now its becoming my lifeline. I constantly refer to it to keep track of what's going on, when, and where. Add to this, I also have to plan ahead for my sessions and be more creative because our school district doesn't have all the therapy supplies that I need.

My first couple of weeks I was so lost amongst my "to-do list", I didn't know which ones to do first and I was seriously doubting if this job is a good match for me. But I'm never the one to give up too easily. I've always been pushing myself, trying to do things that are difficult for me (i.e. moving to a new city where I don't know anyone, driving, etc.), and this time is no different. I'm sure the organizational part of it will always be a challenge, but I'll give it my best shot. Besides, my kids are too darn cute and such a joy to work with.

~

That said, I do miss Southern California. I miss the weather and wearing my flip-flops, I miss "playing" at the clinic, I miss the people. Definitely the people.

You know who you are guys, I hope we can get together soon...

if a picture paints...

I can't help it. I'm giddy as a wide-eyed tourist, pointing my camera at every little thing I see. This city is casting its spell on me and I'm falling: willingly, joyously, deeply.


From where I'm sitting now, its easy to understand why Tony Bennet left his heart here. I've seen this view so many times before and yet each time, I'm still left at loss for words.



And really, who needs words? These pictures speak for themselves.





Check out the rest of the photos here.

living the questions

For as long as I can remember, I've always been asking questions, seeking answers, and searching for that elusive something that I can't even define. My innate curiosity and thirst for adventure has led me to believe that I was meant to live a life of wandering, learning, writing, and learning more. And I didn't want to belong, not to a place, a person, or anything else really, until I will find that which I have been searching for.

Or so I thought.


These past couple of months were the hardest for me. I felt like I was in a limbo, in that space between here and there. I was so done with L.A. and I was anxious to go somewhere else. At the same time, I had also begun to question if it was all worth it, all this wandering. Is it worth leaving friends, family, those people and places you hold dear? The days that I had spent home last summer were the happiest that I've been in a long time and it broke my heart that I had to say goodbye again, never knowing when I will come back. Is it worth all those goodbyes?

I really don't know. But I take comfort in the words of Rilke, when he said:


"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."


Now as I go through yet another move, in a city that I've always loved, I am quitely taking my time. There's this side of me that wants to ask how long am I staying here, the same part that's wondering where am I going next, but I choose not to dwell on these questions. In fact, I was reading through one of my journals last night and I came across my list, those things that I wanted to do in the next ten or so years:

Get a research scholarship in London. Work for UNICEF. Learn a foreign language, preferably Spanish. Live in Tibet. Go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.


Do I still want to do these things? Yes, no, maybe. Like I said, I will take my time. I will play, write, read, take lots of pictures, watch the sunset, get drunk, eat dessert, fall in love.

I will live the questions.

in a nutshell

It's been ages since my last entry. A lot has happened since then.

For starters, I left Southern California and moved to San Francisco. And if that's not enough news, I also bought a car. Yes, I am driving now. Isn't that amazing, not to mention mildly ironic? I lived in LA for almost 3 years (where driving is one of life's basic needs) and I didn't get a car and now I'm in SF where everything is accessible by public transportation that its almost a liability to have a car (think about the parking!) and yet here I am driving around, pretending that I know what I'm doing or where I'm going, when the truth is I really have no topographical orientation whatsoever.

But irony aside, I'm very excited and nervous at the same time. I'm excited because I've always loved San Francisco (read my January 1 and 3 entries) and eversince I was little, I've dreamt of living for a year or two in one of the world's literary cities (i.e. Paris, London, Prague, NY, SF), and now I am finally getting a chance to nurture my writer self and make this dream a reality.

I'm also nervous because it's a new place, a new job, a new car, and except for my relative who lives an hour away in Petaluma, I really don't know anyone here. Its like starting all over again - getting to know the city, making friends, establishing routines, etc. This time, I will be completely on my own, no crazy housemates and no one to watch movies and eat ice cream with. And knowing me and my knack for attracting misfortunes, I'm sure it will be one hell of a ride.

But then again, change is what I craved for, and change is what I need. Like what Frances Mayes (author of Under the Tuscan Sun) had said, when she first moved to a villa in Tuscany, "...life must change from time to time if we are to go forward in our thinking".

I completely agree with her. The entire experience of being a grad student in Southern California, working in a job that I love, meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds and eventually making lasting friendships was one of the greatest experiences of my not-so-young life. And I will always thank God for that single moment in time when I decided to move across the Pacific and study here. I've learned a lot and got to know myself so much better in the process. But like all good things, it has reached its end. Here and now, is a new beginning. A new chapter of my life that I intend to enjoy and live to the full.

Wish me luck.

a tale of black and white

I’m still perseverating on the World Cup. Forgive me, I just had to write this entry. Last Sunday’s game was nail-biting and I’m so happy that my team won. But what everyone doesn’t know is that there is so much more to it than just the game. And that my friends, is the story of Juventus – the Italian football club that I’ve been rooting for since the mid-90’s, the same one whose future is still up in the air because of a domestic match-fixing scandal.

I remember back when I was in high school I would stay up so late just so I could watch a Juventus game live on ESPN. And while the rest of my friends were watching basketball, I was the lone football fanatic who cried when Italy was eliminated in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out against France (World Cup ’98). Heck, I even plastered my computer with wallpapers and screensavers of my Juve boys and I told everyone that one of my ‘Things To Do Before I Turn 30’ was to watch a Juventus game in Turin.

Yes, I was that (and still am) obsessed.

So you could just imagine how exciting this year’s World Cup was for me. Especially since 8 of the strongest players for both Italy and France were all from Juventus (more commonly known as bianconeri in Italia) – Canavarro, Buffon, Camoranesi, del Piero, Zambrotta, Vieira, Thuram, Trezeguet. There’s also former Juve players Perrotta, Inzaghi, Henry, and of course, France’s top player, Zidane.

Throughout these years I’ve watched them play together, both in the Italian and European leagues, and eventhough I was rooting for Italy in last Sunday’s final, it was still bittersweet to see the boys play against each other. I was even sorry for Zidane, whose brilliant career will now be forever marred by that infamous headbutt. After all, Zidane was a member of the Juventus family for 5 years and though he has long since played for Real Madrid, my memories of him will always be of those glorious days when he and Alex were leading Juve to win the European Championship League. Perhaps Gianluigi Buffon (Italy’s goalkeeper) felt the same way, for he was seen comforting Zidane as he walked off the pitch following his red card, tenderly stroking the Frenchman’s head. It may be the World Cup final, but these two share a history, and as they say, once a bianconeri, always a bianconeri.

Sometime next week, Juventus and the rest of the Italian Serie A clubs will be sentenced. And some of the boys may have to give up their black and white jerseys to play for a different team. This is heartbreaking, but such is life. I can only console myself with the fact that, at least, the players that I’ve admired all these years made such a great impact on the world’s most important football tournament. Even a sports writer from the London Times recognized this when he wrote:

“Italy won their fourth World Cup last night with a Juventus backbone, beating a France side whose spine was equally black and white.”

I’ve never been this proud to be a Juventus fan.

campioni del mondo


Coming out from my blog-writing hiatus to say that I am so proud of my boys.
Viva Italia! FIFA World Cup 2006 Champions.

"sugat at pangarap"


"There are scenes that haunt us and imprint their images in our memory. They are not always familiar (we already come from different countries), but the sense of the experience that echoes our own remembering, engages our own looking into ourselves, leads us to wonder: Where and why is this place and this moment so - for want of a word - lovely?"
Marne Kilates, Dust Devils

Growing up, the sea has always been my source of comfort. It is the sea that I go to when I want to think or when everything in my life doesn't make sense and I simply want to breath.

This sea and this sunset, in particular, is my favorite. And coming back here after being gone for so long is like finding a missing part of me that I never even realized I had lost until now. Its so hard to explain it, my heart is too full. But perhaps this poem, written by Virgilio S. Almario, can best describe how I feel right now:

Tuwing Dadadalawin Ko Ang Dagat
Natutuhan kong bumasa't sumulat
Sa pamamagitan ng dagat.
Guri ko ang matiyagang alon
Sa ulit-ulit na pagbaybay sa anyo ng lupa;
Sa natutulog na buhangin.
Natutuhan kong basahin ang lungkot
Sa mga kulubot ng kabibe't korales,
Sa pagas na tiyan ng nakahimpil na bangka.
Sa ulyaning lambat na naghahanap ng asin.

Natutuhan ko namang isulat ang tuwa
Sa malikot na pagtatampisaw ng talampakan,
Sa malayang pusag ng hipon,
At sa banye-banyerang biyayang inaahon
Ng matitipunong mangingisda.
Tuwing dadalawin ko ang dagat,
Nagbubulung ito ng simulain
Mula sa sigasig ng nababasag na alon;
Natutunaw ang malibag na asim ng siyudad
At para akong baguntao
Na humahandang humarap muli sa sugat at pangarap.

For those non-Filipino speaking readers, here's an English translation:

I learned to read and write
From the sea...

I learned to read loneliness
From the wrinkled flesh of clam and coral...
The frayed belly of the tired outrigger...

I learned to write joy
Into the splashing of feet on the surf,
Into the leaping of the shrimp...

Every time I go to the sea,
It whispers to me the principle
Of the breaking wave;
It washes off the stale grime of the city

And I am reborn,
To face once more every pain and dream.

~

home. at last.

panglao island

Panglao Island, Philippines.

only me

Who the heck would lose her wallet the day before she will go on an international trip?

With all my running around, getting paperwork done, my kids covered, my tax forms completed, somewhere in the middle of getting coffee and trying to get through a rainy day at Arlington after a horrible 3-hour IEP, I must have dropped my wallet. And with it went my credit cards, my debit card, my USCard (now I can’t pretend that I’m a graduate student anymore :P), my California ID and all other forms of identification except my passport. Oh, and my expired Philippine driver’s license which I never even used anyway.

And the sad part is, before I even started to mourn my loss, it was time to scramble and get all things done before I leave. That and the messy business of canceling all my credit cards, going to the bank and buying traveler’s checks, etc.

Yeah, I can now write a "Complete Idiot’s Guide to Stressing Yourself Out Before Going on a Twenty-Hour Plane Ride".

update 5/4/06
There is definitely some goodness left in this world. Yesterday, after I got back from the Philippines, my housemate told me that a parcel was delivered for me while I was away. When I opened it, viola! my precious wallet was inside, all nicely wrapped, with its contents intact. Thank you, thank you, George from Torrance. I don't really know you, but you're an angel. And your little note was sweet, I tried to call your number but all I got was your answering machine. I know its impossible for you to read this but thank you anyways.

rain. solitude. nabokov.

I love rainy days. It always gives me an opportunity to slow down and write more. I can be in my room, snuggling under my heavy comforter or walking along the wet and soggy streets and all of a sudden I see something or remember a word, an image, a place, and I can think of so many things to write about – the girl in the bus who always comes with smeared lipstick on her face, my crazy friend who calls me at 5 in the morning (I love him to death but God I could strangle him for disturbing my sleep!), how I’ve somewhat become a hoarder of all things Japanese (thanks to Mitsuwa Market), my never-ending imaginary list of things-to-do, my obsession with Thai food and cinnamon dolce latte. I could go on and on.

Forgive my nonsensical ramblings. It’s Saturday, I had just woken up from a blissful sleep, and outside its cold and drizzly. I wanted to put my empty balikbayan box in the garage but I decided to make hot green tea instead. Like I said before, I’ve acquired a liking to all things Japanese lately, including green tea. I’ve also gotten used to the solitude of early morning air, when my thoughts can wander off anywhere I want them to be.

So what did I really want to write about? Ah, I remember now. I was trying to organize some of my books and journals last night and I found this quote, from Nabokov’s A Letter that Never Reached Russia, which I think is a most fitting description of how I feel right now:

“My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry profoundly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds you in loneliness.”


Nobokov wrote this when he was in exile. And there are times when I feel like I am in exile too. Yet even during those times when I feel this way, I can still say that I am happy here, just a difficult sort of happiness. I say difficult because there’s always this unspoken yearning for the life I left behind (or the memories of it) and coming to terms with the reality that even if I do go back, it will never be the same again.

When I first came here, I had no idea what I wanted, only that I had to leave. I needed to understand myself better and I felt like the only way to do that was to move away from everything familiar and comfortable. And this is true. I learned more about myself in the past years that I’ve been here than the rest of my life before it. Yes, there’s a lot of confusion and some terrible winter nights in between, when all I wanted was to bask in the tropical sun with the people I love the most, but I’d rather go through all that again if only to arrive to a certain degree of clarity. At least now I already know what I want, or some of it anyways. The rest, I hope, I’ll figure out as I go along the way.

epiphany

It’s cold and rainy today. And because it rarely rains here in Southern California, I feel like the rain is a metaphor for change, for moving on. Or perhaps I am just feeling this way because I finally made up my mind about the questions that’s been bothering me for too long now. Like, where do I go from here?

I realized that I cannot keep on hesitating anymore, living my life half-heartedly, with a huge part of me wanting to do something else. It’s not good for me or to those around me, especially since I know that I am capable of so much more. And the world certainly deserves more.
.
So London it is.

playground love

This morning I was a part of a courtship of sorts. At the playground. With one of my kids.

His name is Joey and he’s 8-years old. After practicing his jumping jacks and hanging on the monkey bars, I told him that we have to go inside the classroom to work on his handwriting. He suddenly grew very quiet so I asked him what’s wrong, he said nothing, but he was staring somewhere on the other side of the playground.

After a couple of minutes, he finally told me that he doesn’t want to practice writing and that we should stay at the playground instead. Again, I asked him why. “Because my girlfriend is here”, he answered. Such an honest response. As if nothing is more important than simply being in the same place as the person you love.

So we decided to hang around at the playground for awhile, eyeing the group of girls where his ‘girlfriend’ was. I told him that we should go over and say 'hi' and then we really have to go back to his classroom. He seemed very cool about it at first, but as we approached the girls, he started hiding behind my back. I couldn’t help but smile. How many times have I acted like him before, all excited and giddy in anticipation but motionless and nervous in reality?

Since he suddenly turned mute on me, I had to do all the talking. I asked the girls who their names were, what class are they in, etc. I also asked if they wanted to play with us, they said okay, but when I turned around Joey had walked away and then he started running. When I eventually caught up with him, he was already close to his classroom. I said, “I thought you wanted to play with the girls.” He didn’t say anything but he was still staring at the playground.

Back in his classroom, he told me that he doesn’t want to practice writing because it’s so boring. “We’ll make it fun,” I promised. I suddenly had this exciting plan. So I asked him, “What if we’ll work on your upper case and lower case letters now so we can write a beautiful letter for Kate (the girl’s name) next week?”

He seemed to like this idea a lot. In fact, he was beaming.

Ah, young love.

it's the Oscars!

‘Tis that time of the year again and everyone in Hollywood is all psyched for this evening’s awards ceremony. And because I love going to the movies (and eating ice cream before or afterwards), I thought I should write about the ones that I really liked this year and the reasons why I loved them:


Brokeback Mountain
. By far the best film this year. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall both gave an amazing performance as Ennis and Jack, taking their audience right to the very heart of their characters. But more than the acting, it is the entirety of the story, the magnificent setting, and the poignancy of it all that makes this film really beautiful. For me, this is not just a ‘gay cowboy movie’ (which is unfortunate that a lot of people categorize it this way) – it’s really about life and the choices that you make and how you live with the consequences of those choices.
The last scene with Ennis said it all: he was inside his mobile home, alone and weather-beaten, gazing tenderly at those two overlapped shirts (with a postcard of Brokeback Mountain pinned beside it) and he said “Jack, I swear….” With so little words, this scene managed to portray a universal experience of love and loss and dealing with the consequences, an experience that could happen to anyone…it doesn’t matter if it is between two men, two women, or a man and a woman. And the fact that subtle nuances such as this were captured so vividly in a film is, for me, a rare cinematic achievement. Cheers to its director, Ang Lee, for his vision and daring. .

Dear Frankie
. An independent Scottish film that I unexpectedly came across
while reading a Borders book review. Very, very sweet. Its one of those small films that will tug at your heartstrings just because it’s so simple and so real and the characters are people that one can easily relate to. And I just love how its so full of little moments that will really stay with you and make you fall in love all over again.
.
March of the Penguins. I love, love, love this documentary. From its opening scene to its slow fade-out (and Morgan Freeman’s beautiful voice), I was completely spellbound. There are so many things that I want to write about the emperor penguins but I’ll reserve them for later, when I finally get to see the entire features of its DVD. For now, all I can say is that if there’s any film, documentary or otherwise, that you should definitely watch, this has got to be it.

Match Point
. At first I can’t make up my mind if I like this movie or not, but it will surely make you think, even long after you leave the theater. The story is well-written, very unpredictable and full of twists and turns. And eventhough it is morally disturbing (for me at least), I also think that it’s a microcosm of today’s society – how people would manipulate each other to get what they want, how relationships are so arbitrary, and how, to some extent, everything depends on luck. Plus, there’s Jonathan Rhes-Meyers who is such a good actor and a joy to watch on the silverscreen (I liked him since Bend it Like Beckham).


Pride and Prejudice
. I love the novel by Jane Austen and for years I’ve always wanted to be like Elizabeth Bennet (complete with a Mr. Darcy of my own, hehe). These two are easily my favorite characters: intelligent, well-read, and very introspective…and I just love how they can really talk to each other, even when they thought they hated each other (their verbal sparrings are precious!). As for this film, I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation.
.
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
. This is a very lighthearted chic flick (also adapted from a book) which reminds me of my own ‘sisterhood’, our shared memories, and the crazy things that we do in the name of love (Laile, remember asuka-asuka?). And yeah, I’m biased because I’ve always dreamed of going to Santorini.

Update 3/23:
The Constant Gardener. I just saw this movie recently and I can’t believe it didn’t win a major award (well, except for Rachel Weisz who won Best Supporting Actress). Its soooo beautiful. The music is haunting, the cinematography is great and you’ll be amazed by how beautiful (geez, I should stop using this word) Africa is. But more importantly, the story is socially relevant. The writer should've used a more catchy title though :P.