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.


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...