Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Retarded Provinciano At School

"A ... O ... E ... I ... U ... U ..."

I must have died and gone back in kindergarten.

It's been a pretty hectic week, the first week of classes and all. And its weird, like I'm in a time parallel zone of sorts. I go out of my dorm and there's this fog slowly going down as the sun shines feebly through the dense clouds in the sky. I enter the building and students are lounging around the hallways either gossiping, smoking cigarettes or checking out the opposite sex. Sometimes all three at once. Our classroom is situated at the second floor, at the end of hall. There's a window at the end of the hall, so our place becomes a natural habitat for smokers to congregate and release their deadly fumes to the air outside. Going inside our room, I see all my classmates either seated down or standing up, all a little more apprehensive at the first subject that is coming up in a few minutes. To date, there are 8 Indonesians, 9 Koreans, 3 Filipinos, a Vietnamese and a Japanese, all in all: 22 students. The youngest is I think is in her late teens, while the eldest (the Japanese) is around mid 40's or 50's. Everybody is at early 20's. The bell rings and our teacher comes in. The four hours of misunderstanding starts...

"Ni hao ma?""Ni'n hao Laoshi!"

We have three teachers rotating in one week. One of them is young and she has a cute face. Another one comes straight out of a kung fu movie, kinda like martial artist albeit a little small. The last is a happy old lady with a penchant of making fun of our mistakes. It would even be more funnier if we could only understand her.

Our classes are all thought in Chinese. The teachers speak little or no English, which makes for a very hard study. Our classmates also don't speak Chinese, so we're all at the same boat. Laoshi ("teacher") Cutie can speak some English and takes care of our pronounciations, emphasizing on the lip movements. Laoshi Kung Pow takes most of our classes in the week, and teaches us both Hanzi writing and pronounciations. Laoshi Madame laughlingly heckles us with rapid Chinese and gives us pointers in sentence structure and grammer. And this goes on and on for a week...

"Wo xing Ai, jiao Hua"

I've been given my Chinese name, Ai Hua. Its means either "I Love China" or "Mugglewort Flower". Either one is unappealing, and when I get back to the Philippines I'm changing it to something like "The One Who Rises From Beneath The Ground And Controls The Space Time Continium" or some other nonsense. For now, I think I'd rather go with being called Mugglewort Flower...

"Wo...We...Wu...U...Tang Ina!!!"
Learning a different language is hard, moreso when it's Chinese Mandarin. The inflections and dictions are totally different, and the intonations are out of this world. I even learned that the Chinese have more than 10,000 characters to date, everything from milk to processed beef to large sentences like "the thing that makes the flies go away" (insect repellant). At least I'm not the only one struggling...

Oh, we finally made contact with the Filipinos here in Beijing. Surprisingly, there are a large number of us here, to the tune of more than 80, and that's just in the University. We had our Filipino Dinner/Meeting last night at the conference room. And its cool, lots of Filipinos representing all the different provinces and cities from Bicol to Davao to Manila to Cagayan. There are also a couple Ilonggos there, and guess what, both of them are close friends with "She Who Is Not To Be Named!". Wow. Talk about small world. Apparently they went to the same elementary school and kept in touch all over the years. One of them said that my ex even went to her birthday party last June. Hmmm, interesting. I probe some more and I find out that the guy she was with, you know the one everybody thinks of as her boytoy, wasn't introduced as the boyfriend. Hmmm, even more interesting. The theory of a boytoy is becoming a possibility as evidence is gathered, rinsed and dried out in the sun. Sadly, I wasn't able to get enough info as the party ended and we were swept away with the other noypi's.

Well, that's it, my first week as a student in Beijing. All in all, I feel like a retard.

State of Mind: Free!!! It's Saturday!!! No Class!!! Yay!!!
Song of the Day: American Idiot By Green Day
Now Reading: The Rainmaker by John Grisham
Chinese Phrase of the Day: San Mi Fan! Yi Wanr Duinuirou!!! (Three more cups of rice! And one stewed beef!!!)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Beijing Bonanza

Woot! I’m now here at Beijing, the land of population explosion, bicycles and weirdly, Mp3 players. Almost one out of three has this gadget hanging by their necks, and I’m seriously thinking of getting an IPoD, the mini type of just 10 gigs. Anyways, I’m trying to recap what happened the last week, up to this point. Mind you, I miss some things since there's a lot to cover, so I'll just write what I remember and write the others later. Here we go!

I arrived at Hong Kong airport around 1:55 pm Saturday, weary the whole travel yet somehow a little bit revitalized when plane finally touched down on the runway. Wow, Hong Kong. I was here last five or seven years before, and that time I spent a fun time with my cousins touring the city and basically being kids. Was that almost a decade now? Geez…

Anyways, this time we didn’t have time to even go out at the airport as our connecting flight is at 3:50, barely two hours before we leave again, this time to Beijing. After changing some of our money into Chinese yuans, we headed to our pre-departure area, gate number 47. Currently, we are at gate number 1, so we had to walk methinks at least a mile to our destination. Let me tell you that it was no walk in the park even if there were moving walkways every 25 feet, the travel by foot was fatiguing. Huffing and puffing, we finally arrived to find out that my brother had a temporary mind relapse and told me that there are actually mini-subways beneath the airport, little trams we can ride for free. Damn. Now he remembers, at all times. Arrrgh…

The plane was slightly delayed, so we arrived at Beijing at 7 pm. There was a guide from the agency to fetch us, holding up our names at the arrival section. When we finally met up, he introduced himself as Kevin and he was supposed to pick us up.

This is where things get a little iffy. I first thought he was part of the agency, but by asking him questions, I find that he knows nothing about some details, like the orientation and stuff. Hmmm, pretty disturbing. Add the fact that his driver’s van was like a family van, the type where there are clothes, cartons and other stuff strewn all over the back part. At this point two conclusions come to mind: either the agency runs a loose ship, or Kevin and his driver are hired on a case to case basis. Whatever, I resigned myself. I have been moving for more then 12 hours total by foot and by plane, and at this point my mind doesn’t care anymore. Jetlag has finally caught up with me. Damn.

It was a long ride, an hour and a half I think. During the ride, there are three things I noticed about the Chinese and their preferred mode of transportation. One: everyone is riding bicycles. And these people have the freakin’ balls to ride in the dark, cross the highway and even hold up traffic. Wow. Two: While they do have guts to travel by two wheels, they have lanes for bikes as well, kinda like a partition for safety. Nice. Lastly: Everything is on bikes, from groceries to panel doors and, just yesterday, an old PC. Hmmm….

When we arrived at the University dorm, things got a little more iffy. Our room has only one workable socket ( the aircon ), and the other ones don’t seem to provide electricity, thus rendering out TV and refrigerator useless. We tried to correct things but things got into a sudden turn for the worst when we found out that nobody here speaks English! Damn!! (After repeated hand gestures and outlandish signals to our landlady, we finally got out electricity working…three days after. What a way to start our adventure) The next couple or four days were spent roaming around the area, trying to familiarize ourselves with the place, getting lost a couple times, once even bombarded by the rain but generally having fun all the while.

They have this grocery a couple of block from the university, and again nobody speaks a word of english. At least they have some American foodstuffs. Our food for the past week consist of 3 minute noodles and just now, some cereals and milk. I just bought a small frying pan and some chinese ham and longanisas, and I plan to cook this evening. Hopefully, it won't burn TOO much.

This last Saturday I had fun time roaming the Forbidden City. It's really vast, spanning more than 40 hectares, with more than 900 areas to explore. We toured the walls, the courtyard, the concubine area (comprimising methinks 1/4 of the palace), the throne room, the royal washrooms and finally the rock garden.

This Sunday was kinda like a special day for us, when we get to meet our LEP's (language exchange partner). Mine's a bit shy, and knows a little English. Her name is Xiaomei Jia, and she's studying Enviromental studies at some University I didn't get the name at. Let me tell you one thing though, things are a bit pretty tough when we start communicating though. Other LEP's know enough english to carry a conversation; mine has trouble starting one. Ah well, I do believe that things happen for a reason (to a certain extent mind you, gut feeling and all) and I believe I'll probably get a lot more from her than the other LEP's, language barrier non-withstanding.

Well, that's it, my first two weeks in Beijing. If you noticed, I changed my title as well, deeming it correct to call this my Season Three. I'll do a reqiuem next time, perhaps two or three days from now. Not really sure though, school starts in Tuesday, so we'll see.
That's it. This is the Hamster, live from Beijing and been living here for over a week now, signing out. Stay tuned for more updates.

State of Mind: Flurry of Thoughts
Now Listening to: Nude Tempo No.1 by Miguel Migs
Now reading: On Writing by Stephen "OMIGOD" King
Looking for: Warhammer Stuff! I'm gonna order online before I go crazy!!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Plans Destroyed Yet Again

Well, I did it again. I swallowed my own foot and pride when I said that I will attempt a blog marathon, that didn't happen. Then I remembered that when I make plans, these things usually blow up in my face, resulting in a black face with a puzzled expression, the kind you see in cartoons.

Anyways, to wit.

Friday. Lots of costumers on a Friday. Went to Dancing Queen's father's wake. Suffice to say, went home in the wee hours of morning to stumble in my bed, already snoring before I hit mattress...

Saturday. Woke up to the glare of an early rising sun. Damn. I forgot to close the curtains. Got up groggily, yanked the curtains close, went back to sleep. Only I couldn't sleep. Sounds of the morning penetrate my defrosting brain; Sandara's "In and Out" song does a buzzsaw on my subconcious. I really loathe that song. Got up, threw freezing water up my face, shrieked bloody murder, and attempted to shave whilst my hands are shaking from sleep deprivation. Ow. Memo to me: Don't do this again. Ever.

Work on a Saturday means extra mucho customers. No time to load the concious, just go into safe mode and let the subconcious run things from afar. Things were hectic from sun-up to sundown. I need to unwind.

After work, called up some buddies and treated them dinner, since its kinda like my despidida and my last week and stuff. My guys from the band, buds from my old community where I served, even HER, they were all there. It was a fun night, and again I went home in the wee hours of morning. It was kinda cool to see the old gang again after a long while, and this makes up for the foggy crap my brain has undergone these past days.

Sunday. Woke at 11. Basketball time! Went to the battlegrounds of PESCAR for some serious game of b-ball. The first game went smoothly, only we didn't do anything except for our shooting guard, Coach Gaban. Damn, that old dog can still shoot. At the end of the game, scores were 30-17, with Gaban 10/10 in the three point line, with 30/30 for personal insults, jests and cackling laughter. For example, when he shoots, he shouts "it ain't straight!" or "Rebound!!" then the ball goes in without touching the ring. Swish. Nothing but the net. Now thats our coach for you, never the one to pass up to psyche your mind.

At the end of the game, finally got my sleeping tests lined up and ready, and went to the hospital to get prepped up. "Prepped up" means the nurses are attaching wires to my head, face, arms, body and legs. Total wires: 37. Now the reason for my sleeping test is to find out why I snore. Yep, you heard me, snore. I never snored in Manila; apparently the weather here, clean as a baby's bottom, doesn't agree with me. It wants a chemical laden atmosphere to render me comatose and deader than Sleeping Beauty was.

It was an acheful night. I won't dare move, for the love of God, else the wires would get detached and we have to do all the wiring process again.

Woke up at 6 am, and went home with an aching back, aching head, cramped legs and arms. I was prepared for restful sleep when my celphone beeps. Turned out to be SHE. SHE was asking if I could go to lunch with her and her buddies. Lunch with HER! Hot diggity! Needless to say, I slapped myself to wake up, got into some clothes and went to lunch with her, aching body and all. The things I do for a girl. Damnation.

As to my promises of that blog marathon, you can just shove it to where the sun don't shine. I'm pretty worn out everyday from the work and preparations for the China Trip. And tomorrow I got invited to a semi private fashion show courtesy of a friend, who's one of the designers. More likely, I will be home again in the wee hours of morning.

Yeah gads, turns out this going out thing, every night, instead of going home and sleep, is draining me slowly. Then again I'm spending my last days in Iloilo.
What the hell, last days and all...
State of Mind: Happy Yet Strangely Disquieted
Now Listening: Inuman Sessions Vol 1 by Parokya ni Edgar
Now Reading: Preludes and Nocturns by Neil Gaiman
Days left for the China Trip: 4 days and counting

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Ex Files: Reviving A Lost Cause


Today is the first day of September.

And I forgot that my anniversary, August 12, has been gone. What anniversary? Well, August 12 was the day I wrote my very first entry. Wow. It's been a year since I started writing this journal, and I say it has been an effort to write something almost everyday. So, in celebration, I would now attemtpt to write something everyday. Not just anything though, since writing a few lines about some stuff is boring. Everyday, I'll write something meaninful and usefull, touching on the topics love, life and its disparity. Of course, there's the China Trip, so I won't probably run out of topics.

I had a good day in terms of people relationships. Met with Indian Man, my bud in college, who for the past couple of weeks kept asking me to meet up with him and reminisce the good old times at "Iskul ng Bayan". I only stayed at that prestigious university for only a couple of years, then had my roots pulled out and thrown to the distant shore of Manila. I had a lot friends there, good friends all. In fact, by the time I was in the second year, they had a notion to make me run for external vice president external, a notion I quickly doused. Me and politics? I would rather be put in a cage of flesh eating baboons. Seriously though, my life was good, and I was contented. Good grades, excellent friends and a nice girlfriend. I knew everyone in my year level, and by the time I reached second year, knew most of the upper classmen. Some I even made buddies with. What more could I ask for?

But it was not meant to be, and my downfall was triggered than who else?

My ex-girlfriend.

I once wrote a couple months ago an entry about seeking redemption in the eyes of my former U.P. classmates. Well, I'm now taking the first steps, going through my close friends who I haven't seen for the longest while. Actually I'm a little nervous about the whole affair since some people, once they heard the rumour, would form their own opinions about the whole thing and keep it locked in stone. Thanks God, it isn't true for for some.

It was fun actually, with basis on most of our talks is business. We must be getting older if were talking about those kinds of topics. We finally parted ways and promised to see each other again on Tuesday, for Ms. Fortune Cookie, who has a fashion show that day. Now, Ms. Fortune Cookie is also a good friend of mine, blockmates since first year, although we haven't seen each other for the better part of the decade. Took up guts to call her up (the nervousness is still in the background) and when we did talk, it lasted for over an hour. Wow. I miss her honestly, with others in our own little group of five. There was Fat Man (me), Serious (scrawny dude), Fortune Cookie (athletic babe), Bunny (happy-go-lucky and hyper)and Mother (fount of all opinions). My ex wasn't part of that group, the reasons all unremembered in the passage of time. Ah well, perhaps its for the best.

After I put down the phone, I found my resolve renewed. Perhaps there is hope for me and U.P. after all.

Still, the road for redemption isn't what you call a sightseeing tour. Hmmm, better get my running shoes...

State of Mind: Happy/Relief
Song of the Day: Since I Left You by The Avalanches
Now reading: The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll
Totally Miss: HER

The Endless

Another of day of sadness passes. Dancing Queen's father just past away this morning, and everybody in our batch who knew him are in deep sorrow, especially the girls in our section who consider him as their surrogate father. A sad day for all of us.It just seems there's been a lot of deaths lately, from our batchmate Venus to Dancing Queen's father. I also heard that Venus's grandmother died just a couple of weeks ago, seems she can't bear what happened to her grandchild. Too much strain maybe...

What is Death? Death is depicted by many forms, so when we die perhaps there is somebody waiting to take us to the realm of the spirits. Tradionally, Death is percieved by a bony skeleton holding a scythe; others think of him as a dark shroud of shadow or even a serious brooding man like in the movie "Meet Joe Black". But I like Neil Gaiman's version of Death as a goth chick. Black leather outfit, deep eyeshadows, anhk necklace with a black handbag is bloody cool (um...pun unintended). At least when I die, I'd have a pretty babe to guide me, hehe.

Speaking of Neil Gaiman (and basing his works on Sandman), I would suppose everyone would see him a weird guy. Others, like me, consider him to be one of the most refreshingly original writers and storytellers of this century. For those who are not in the know, the Sandman comics is kind of story which touches the lives of people all through the ages all over world (and the universe for that matter), through depictions of sorrow, death, anger and, yes, dreams. Brief sypnosis...

Neil Gaiman's world covers everything, from history to modern day life, from the mundane to the surreal. From these stories arise seven beings greater than the gods, called the Endless. They are Death, Desire, Delirium, Destiny, Destruction, Dream and Despair. They are ideas; their forms made by what people percieved them to be. Death looks a like a teenage goth chick, yet strangely happy-go-lucky. Delirium is a little girl with a punk hairdo, babbling nonsense and what nots, just like any kid. Destruction, the traveller, is a big man with a bag always looking away, always separate from his "brothers and sisters". When you see his face, rest assured there's a catastrophe happening in the near future. Dream, the main character, is a brooding man, seriousness personified, prone to tantrums. Kinda makes you wonder how we get happy dreams. Destiny is blind, cloaked in a brown robe, arms chained to a massive book he always carries. Within that book contains the destinies of every living person anywhere in the universe. Androgynous Desire is probably what metrosexuals and fashionistas aspire to be; hip, cool and always in fashion. Lastly is Despair, a fat hag, strewn hair that hasn't seen a comb in decades and is always naked, sagging tits and all. Her only accessory is her hook ring, which, for the life of me, can't understand why she puts it her mouth. A deeper meaning perhaps?

Everyone is the Endless are seamlessly integrated in the storyline, and perhaps in real life also. We look at ourselves and despair at our body, our face, our hair and other preconstructive insecurities. We look at others and desire them, or desire to be like them, with lust and love swirling in tandem. We go mad in delirium, whether by love, hate, work or even just plain drunkeness. We dream dreams of grandeur, have nightmares to keep us wide awake. When we're angry, destruction come knocking at our doorsteps, sometimes so loudly that we can't help our selves. Our destinies are written daily in front of us, indeed we change our future by every decision we make. In the end though, death conquers all.

What can I say? Neil Gaiman is a freakin' genius. Touching everything from the classics (Shakespeare was supposedly inspired by Dream, bargaining two stories for his inspirations. Edgar Allan Poe, on the other hand, pines for Despair) to sci-fi to fantasy to modern day stories. He even appeared at JLA: Strength in Numbers story arc by helping Superman and others defeat Starro the Conqueror. His Endless are everywhere, as it should be, since everyone alive has them inside.

The Series itself is comprimised by 10 volumes, each volume independent of each other except the last one, The Wake, wherein Dream dies and is reborn again. One must read the first eight if he or she wishes to understand the whole story.

Everyone would think that the series itself is about life's hardships. I mean we're talking about seven beings greater than the gods right? And they're names are based on the primal feelings/urges of the people. And some of those names inspire bad thoughts, like Despair, Death and Destruction. While it does look like that in the surface, I think that series itself celebrates life more in the sense that those with courage to overcome them can truly enjoy life. In reality, life IS hard, but if we persevere against it, overcome it, well, that doesn't necessarily mean life will become good, but living life is the only time we feel truly alive. There are no other exceptions.

Which is why, when we die, there is no point in drumming over what could have we done. The only thing that matters is how we live our own lives, and how we touch others.
'Nuff said.

State of Mind: Early Morning Introspection
Song of the Day: Dare You To Move by Switchfoot
Favorite Neil Gaiman Sandman Story: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Favorite Endless Character: Dream, or in some cases, Dream's janitor Merv Pumpkinhead.