Saturday, October 11, 2008
Plans gone South

So I'm here in Cebu and went through a magazine with none other than hometown heroes Urbandub on the cover. After reading the article, I noticed that they had a listing of places that have live bands. After calling up a few of the establishments in the directory, it turns out they're pretty far from where I am.

An hour and a half later, here I am in Mango Square at a net cafe, typing with a keyboard that has most of the letters smudged off. This area here is pretty much like a smaller and noisier version of Metrowalk with the usual crap R & B/hip-hop places. The original plan was to watch any band resembling rock music so I could have a drink that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg. I figured I could stand around in a mosh pit and have a drink while NOT sticking out like a sore thumb.

Upon the recommendation of the guest services officer, they had me brought here. At first, I thought I was going to end up in a seedy part of town where I was going to get stabbed in a dark corner somewhere. Well, it turns out my fear has shifted into utter disappointment. There's a ton of Koreans and white dudes here, and most of them look shitfaced. I was in the bathroom and heard this guy puking his guts out in the stall by the far end.

It's almost 3 AM and it seems like there's no hope of finding any trace of the local rock scene here. By the time I get back to my room, I will have wasted close to five hundred bucks on cab fare alone.

Hey, at least I tried right? Gosh, I feel so adventurous.

UPDATE (3:23 AM): I'm back at the hotel with a bottle of Strong Ice I picked up at a gas station on the way back. Costs about three times less than what they charge at this place.

Cab fare going back was about 30 bucks cheaper than what I paid going out. I agreed to add a little extra because the hotel was "too far" for him. Thus, I gave him the extra 30 bucks that I would have saved, but he didn't look too happy about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Train Ride with my boy

Tuesday, July 01, 2008
My friend Alex made a video of his recent trip to Japan which inspired me to put together a slideshow of the pictures I took from the last week of our stay over there (late February of this year). I played around with Windows Movie Maker and this was the result:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
One of the things I learned in Japan was not to put too much on my plate. The nature of the training we did required us to do a lot of tasks, all under a deadline. There were times when I felt there was too much going on that I felt paralyzed by indecision. It sometimes felt like I had so much to do that I didn't know what to do first. What I did to cope was to focus on one thing at a time and shut out all the other pending jobs from my mind until I actually needed to deal with them.

If I thought too much about the sum of all the things I had to do for the day, it would be too much for me handle - as opposed to breaking them down in manageable chunks. If I concentrated on one thing and then move on to the next without worrying about anything else, it seemed like it would get everything done faster as a whole. This approach would allow me to finish the day's workload without getting too stressed out.

I think this is what I have to do now with my new job, because I honestly feel overwhelmed with all the assignments piling up. It feels like I'm in way over my head with all the research materials I have to read before getting into writing the newsletters I have to finish. Just thinking of all the stuff I have to get done makes me want to do nothing. It's a self-defeating mental habit I know, but I'll have to get around to it sooner or later.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
We just saw the Incredible Hulk last night. I can't say it was a bad movie, because it honestly looks like a lot of effort was put into making this reboot. Any movie with Edward Norton and Tim Roth are justifications alone to go and see it, but I can't say I was blown away by this one. I was probably expecting too much, I guess. It was hard for me not to make comparisons with Ang Lee's version which unlike a lot of those out there, I liked immensely in spite of the "clunky and cartoonish" CGI. Come on, YOU try and make a Hulk without the aid of computers and see if it's the least bit convincing. Too talky and introspective? I didn't think so. The human interest throughout Lee's take on the not-so-gentle giant kept the whole thing afloat between the action scenes.


I'm not saying the new one didn't have scenes and dialogue of the same nature, but somehow there were a few things, in my opinion, that got in the way of fully enjoying the movie. I was probably expecting something else, but after a little hindsight I came to appreciate all the little details and references the film made to its pulp-based counterpart. After all, I never really read much of the comics to know how closely the movie follows the source material, but I think the key element still stands true in this version - namely, Banner's perpetual quest for inner peace.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Shellhead strikes box-office gold

What I love about the movie is that it walks a fine line between plausability and farfetchedness. It has the right amount smartassery (in dialogue) and action sequences to keep the fanboys satisfied while enticing the non-followers of the source material. I dig the fact that it's not campy at all, which is a common trap for superhero movies. It's a given that RDJ totally owned his role as the decadent and likeable asshole Tony Stark, but I appreciate that they didn't overplay his alcoholic side (Tony, not Robert).

In spite of the outlandish premise that could spell problems for a live action film adaptation, there is a realistic temperance. One such example is during the scene where Stark does a weather and air traffic control check before doing a test flight. His AI butler Jarvis warns him that there are "terabytes" of calculations needed to do an actual flight, but Stark/Downey Jr. stays true to character by skipping the advisory and blasting off into the sky.

The verdict: go see it if you haven't already, nuff said :)

Thursday, May 08, 2008
Someone once said that people blog to show the rest of the world that they are plain, simple and cool. I can't help but think that this is true, and it depresses me to think I am one of millions trying to put up this conceitedly self-depreciative tone in order to project that I am in fact, the opposite of how I describe myself. Here I am in this vast sea of users contributing to an infinite void of content that ultimately amounts to nothing. Who really gives a shit about what I did last weekend? I've been going through other strangers' blogs and the whole self-centeredness of it all is beginning to turn me off. All this pa-cute crap, smart-assery and trying to be ironic and shit is making me lose my appetite to blog any longer.
Friday, April 04, 2008
One Month Later

There's a box of brownie mix across the kitchen that's begging to baked for the sheer boredom of it. But then, I can't eat what I won't bake right? Right. I'm already at 170 lbs, and when I came back to Manila I was at a nice 160. Now that I'm in the land of plenty, it's easy to waste all the hard work I inadvertently put in for the last 6 months I spent in Japan (back when I was firmly at 200). My cousin Ben is coming over in less than an hour to pick me up for a long overdue visit to In N' Out, which is going to derail my weight maintenance plans for sure.

I should go back a few weeks though. So we came back from Japan on March 3rd because the company decided to shut down their Manila branch, thereby prematurely ending our training contract. All's well that ends well I say because I wouldn't have wanted to pursue a long-term career with them anyway. What happened was a good excuse for us to go home and I don't mind that at all. There are times when I miss being in Japan, taking in the culture through simple things like biking along the city's sidewalks and interacting with the locals. I certainly don't miss working for the company under the guise of training, but all in all I did enjoy myself in spite of the difficulties that Lyn and I went through. I'm making an effort towards emotional maturity and part of that involves me not looking back in anger.

I then spent the next three weeks catching up on lost time with our dear Dan and did a bit of job hunting as well. Boy, Dan was really happy to see us - he was talkative and excited to see us on the way to the airport to pick us up, but when I carried him in my arms he was quiet for a good half hour or so. He said nothing and just clung to me with his head resting on my shoulder. I suppose there are moments that are so good that they're beyond words.

For the meantime, I'm back to my work-from-home job but doing that from my deceased aunt's (God rest her soul) home in California. My other aunt lives here now with my sick grandma whom I came to visit. My grandmother is not doing too well because she refuses to eat, although her vitals are pretty good for someone who's 92. Her condition is much like a yo-yo; she has good days (as good as it gets anyway) and then there are bad days where she doesn't eat the whole day. I noticed that when she's properly nourished, she's alert and interacts with us. When she doesn't want to eat, she's obviously weak and withdrawn from us. It even came to a point when we thought she was going to go soon. Although she is mostly bedridden, technically she doesn't have any life-threatening illnesses. She did have a case of pneumonia and had to be confined at the hospital for a few days last week, but she's back home and resting. Lately she's been eating three times daily and I even baked a batch of brownies recently, two of which she ate.

From my personal observation, Mama Osang (how we address her) is simply tired, mentally and spiritually. Physically, she could probably live several more years, maybe well into her hundreds even. But she has been through a lot. Early in my dad and his sibling's lives, Mama raised her ten children as a widow (three of which have passed on). My grandfather died when Dad was just nine and Mama had to manage a business on her own, not to mention having to hide her beloved children from the Japanese troops during the war. So now, everyone here is playing it by ear and taking it one day at a time.

We are happy that Mama is doing better these recent days, but cautiously happy as my cousin PJ advises. To quote my other cousin Diana, she is the rock of our family, the glue that has held us together over the challenging decades our family has gone through. Mama's modest, prim and proper demeanor has taught her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren the importance of good manners and playing fair with our neighbors. I am preparing for the event of her passing, but I have on one occasion felt a great deal of sadness to the point of tears. When I was younger, I said and did a lot of things that I'm not proud of but despite that Mama has told me before, "mabait ka, dito ka na lang tumira". And it is those words that strike me the most, because she can see good in others even when they can't see it in themselves.

I'm pretty much figuring out things out for now, but I'm not going to spend too much time away from Dan. Like Lyn says, he'll only be young once so we have to make the most of his childhood and enjoy his company during his formative years. Who knows where we'll be by the year's end? Only time can tell. I only pray for the prosperity that will allow me to provide the good life that my wife and son deserves.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Otsukaresama Deshita

Tonight marks my last night in Japan. We'll be going home tomorrow because the Manila branch of the company we're training for is going to close due to complications that have arisen during these recent months. I'll be getting into that later on, but our flight's early tomorrow, so good night for now.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Driven by some masochistic need to deprive myself of much-needed rest, here I am still glued to the screen browsing the Web for whatever suits my fancy. I keep promising myself to sleep early, but still manage to stay waaay past my bedtime. Now that there's nothing interesting left to read, blogging has become my excuse to stay online and keep my bloodshot eyes open. Vitamins and coffee (which has not been a necessity for me prior to coming here) are what keep me awake in spite of staying up late.

Anyway, the main point of posting here is just to report that we'll be moving to a different location (an hour from here) supposedly by the month's end. I hate to be dobutful about whether it's going to push through or not, but based on our experience here so far I've learned to take my manager's words with a grain - nay, a hefty spoonful of salt to go along with his words. It's unfair to blame him solely for the things we don't like about about our working arrangment, but he still has to own up to some of the grief we've had so far. I know he's trying his best, but sometimes I can't help but feel some resentment towards him.

Going back to what I was saying, the decision to move us to a different location came about from sit-down meeting with the president of the company himself, and at his house no less. We discussed their plans after our one-year training period ends this September. Afterwards, we spent the night at his place and went home after breakfast. To say the very least, I felt like a stormtrooper being invited by the Emperor to have dinner at the Death Star. Obscure references aside, I am somewhat relieved that we finally had some clarification on our future with the company. It was bothering me so much that we lacked a sense of direction and not knowing the point of stay here that it had driven me to the point of anger and ill will towards the company. Now that they've told us what were meant to do after our training and how our future job relates to our daily tasks at the center, a bit of weight has been lifted off my chest. I only hope that the move pushes through, but why I should I find it so unlikely when the president (and not just our manager) confirmed it? Ideally, we'll be moving by March and will be working out of their main office. That means I don't have to stand for literally eleven hours on end at the cold storage we're training at now. That also means I'm going to gain back the weight I had inadvertently and begrudgingly lost in the last five months. I mean come on, I was still in college the last time I weighed this much (granted that the weighing scale at the president's bathroom was correct).

But more on our work situation when I find the time again to drop by. This former-phone-monkey-turned-coroporate-drone needs to get some shuteye before the date changes (which is less than half an hour from now).
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Eight Months to Go

But sometimes it feels much longer than that.

Sunday, January 06, 2008
Various thoughts across multiple topics

Just a condensed collection of observations accumulated in the 3.5 months we've been here:


Paulette, our Canadian friend and classmate from the kominkan (local community center where free language classes are held etc.), says that other foreigners living here have grown jaded and angry over the years. She says it's mainly because people here lack a sense of humor, but I beg to differ. She's been a kindergarten teacher here for 14 years now, so I guess she knows what she's talking about, yet not everyone here acts the same. Any country has different kinds of people, so there's really no difference where you are. Some of the people I work with are friendly and accomodating while others are sarcastic and downright condescending. The drivers especially like to joke around and laugh the loudest so I can't say that they don't have a sense of humor. It's just the cultural difference that gets in the way of seeing them for who they really are.

* On the language

Speaking of the drivers I work with, they're the ones who use Hiroshima ben (the local dialect here) the most. There are many times that the Nihongo I took up during and after college goes out the window as soon as they start speaking. That's partially why Lyn and I started taking free language classes at the kominkan like I mentioned earlier. It gets frustrating sometimes when I can't express the more complex thoughts and emotions I want to convey, but it'll get better the longer I stay I suppose. In the past couple of months we've been corrected by our team leader Yamasaki san on how to properly use the language. For instance, a bunch of us saw some oddly brown colored drops of liquid on the floor as we were clocking out for the day. As a joke, I told Koyanagi san that it was "kuso", the word for "shit". She laughed at me the way an adult would at a child that unknowlingly uttered an expletive, and not fully aware of its context or usage. My unwittingly misplaced attempt at humor quickly reached Yamasaki san, who half-scolded me. "Kouhi dake" (it's only coffee), he said in a partially amused/shocked tone. This was followed by laughter from Iwano san, the senta chou (center chief) who found the whole thing funny being that I was a gaijin who didn't yet realize that the word was rude. There was another time when Yamasaki san advised us to refer to a woman as jyosei rather than onna (which literally means "female"), which Lyn and I thought was acceptable. You could say onna no hito (female person), but plain onna won't do. Strangely enough, using the term otoko (male, without the hito suffix) is perfectly fine.

* Seasons

snow-capped mountains outside our window

Back home, the weather only ranges from typhoon cold to suffocating heat coupled with insane humidity. Obviously, it's quite new for me to deal with living through four different seasons in a year. We arrived here during aki (autumn), so there were many times when we biked outside without having to put on a jacket. Since it started snowing last December 31st however, three layers of clothing plus a jacket and your choice of headwear is a prequisite when going out. So far, it only snowed for a few days last month (and hasn't since) but recently the average temperature at night is a few degrees shy of zero, if not below. We're still waiting for the peak of winter, which is February when it gets the coldest. Snow is pretty to look at when indoors, but it quickly loses its charm when the reality of having to deal with it sinks in.

* Foodblogging

Just for kicks, I've decided to put up some pics of the stuff I've eaten thoughout the duration of our stay here:

Soba served with tako (octopus) balls. The tako balls are mainly a wheat-like substance with a chunk of octopus in the center. The noodles all came in a ready-to-eat bundle (got it on sale for about 120 JPY/45 PHP for two packs) which includes the pink kamaboko (fishcake) and the actual soup itself.

Fried cookies made from wheat sprinkled with sugar. Our Chinese co-workers who live right next to our room cooked this for us. A tasty snack I sneak into work in a little ziploc bag when I get the munchies.

Noche Buena for Christmas Eve: pasta, fried chicken, macaroni salad, cake and red wine.

Tamagocchi-themed fruit chews (which look like gum) that my co-workers gave me.

Mori san gave this to us a couple of days after we got into a conversation about drinking. It's shochu, a popular alcoholic drink here. I haven't had any yet, but Mori said to drink it slowly and alternately with water because it's stronger than sake. I haven't figured out the difference of the two bottles seen here, but I'll ask him at work this Monday.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Arterial crimson never looked this good

"Scared shitless" was going to be the title for this one, but I've calmed down after going through the cast photos (to convince myself the actors aren't vampires) and the wiki info (beware of spoilers!) on 30 Days Of Night. It was a bloody good ride through and through, especially for those into the whole vampire genre. The cast did a great job of making the horror and urgency of the situation believable throughout the whole film and there weren't any dull moments at all.

Anyway, it's late and I have to turn in for the night. On another note, the finished laundry's still sitting inside the washing machine which happens to be five rooms down the hallway outside. It can wait until tomorrow though, because I'm sleepy and all. Really.