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Ready jet set, go (Part 1)

I have always wanted to travel. Run away from the crowd, see places, meet new people, pretend I’m another ‘me’, dine, relax, break out from daily mill, and my favorite part is just look around and mentally describe people in English. Try the last part. It’s fun.

 My first annual vacation provided just that.

Well, almost.

Running away from the crowd – Riyadh’s King Khalid  International Airport is never a safe place if you wish to avoid people getting into your face.  There were faces all over – within two inches radius. I stand less than 5 feet so I got to smell that…that axilla part. Thank God I survived.

The place was dark despite the lights because of the humongous cargoes and dark napes blocking every stray light. All check in counters accommodated all passengers for different airlines. Given the density of the crowd and only a few check-in staff, I was so restless I might end up in Sri Lanka or India.

Especially not in Sri Lanka.

To the Sri Lankan government, forgive me. This only goes to 10-15 people who while on queue rudely pushed pushed pushed me around bruising my gastrocnemius muscle, increased my blood pressure, stepped on my Fila, ran over my luggage, consumed my HUgo Boss and turned my rude button on.  By the way, if you call those blanket-and-rope-bound-colossal-square-things as pieces of luggage, look at me rude people. You are wrong.

Believe me the sizes were vertiginous they could overload spacecrafts.

I was in preppy mood. And nice. I turned around, and said “Please stop”. But you did not stop. I turned around again glowered. You were oblivious. I kicked your enormous cargoes and screeched ‘STOP!’ You ignored.

I needed to vent so I sent messages to friends telling them I was being surrounded by slum dogs. 

I was relieved.

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February 25, 2010 Posted by | Travels | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Borders

I was born in the Philippines and the only foreign country I have been to  is KSA. That makes two if I have to count my one-boring-hour stopover in Malaysia en route to Riyadh, which doesn’t really count because that moment Kuala Lumpur was really nothing but a picture of evening lights right through  my window seat. I have always wanted see places but work A and work B (full-time and part-time job) some years ago prevented me from booking a flight to another cosmos where people are more quiet, air is fresh and with almost zero traffic.

So I ended up here in my cozy room, in a comfortable villa, in a nice compound in metropolitan Riyadh — not to getaway from work but to work –again. I have annual vacations which I promised to spend to see other places outside the 2,217,949 square kilometers dessert sand. Romantic Paris, al dente Italy, sporty Cardiff, crowned London, modern Dubai, religious Rome, clock-ticking Germany are just few among the many interesting neighboring destinations waiting for my passport. (I think I can write fiction haha!) And colorful Brazil, too! They make the world’s best flip-flops and I can brag I have a pair which I almost laminated  due to its heartbreaking price.

I have yet to receive a call or email from an ambassador of some sort from some distant touristy place but my luggage is still patiently waiting for some packing up. It has been sitting between my closet and laundry basket ready to be filled with necessities from either side.

Since I have a few months left before my annual vacation, my only consolation is that when the wind blows, I imagine smelling Switzerland. Hmm.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Travels | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inang

(This one is for my grandmother Felomina for her love, my mother for sharing her to me and my aunt who was there through it all.)

                                                               

The greatest thing my grandmother has done to me was to raise me twice.

***

 Three years ago, Inang met Bryann for the first time at our church dormitory where I was staying. Inang smiled a lot and savored that moment of meeting her new acquaintance. She let out a chuckle and tapped his knee. ‘NaIu-meg ka’ (You’re fat), she said smiling.  I cannot recall the entire story but I am sure she must have also asked him, ‘Baro ka pay?’ (Are you still single?). Yes, that was my granny in her late 80’s. That was how she welcomed men who try to snatch us from our father.  They chatted for a while before Inang dozed the afternoon off.

 Bryann, the keen one told after that meeting that I am a lot like Inang in many ways. Well, uhh physically, one doesn’t have to look twice. I have her genes. He said that I would grow old and gray looking like Inang. Slow but twinkly.

***

I was born 10 months apart from Antot. We practically grew up together. Inang was there when we were born. She was there probably running like mad after our many first dangerous steps. Of course my parents were there all along but they had to go to work and we were left to her care most of the time to run amok and sing Ilocano songs.  She was there until we had to go to nursery school and started to act like adults.

 She pinned my Second Honor ribbon during my nursery recognition day and visited us some summers after that for the yearly ribbon or medal.  She would tell me, ‘Nalaing ka nga ubing’ (You’re a smart kid). Of course I never took it seriously because I knew then all kiddos are smart. We all have received citations in kindergarten, haven’t we?

 She was with us for a few years. Then she moved back to live in the city with my aunt. I only got to see her on summer vacations. I had a chance to live there with her again when I went to college. She woke up earlier than I did, took a bath (independently) longer than I did and ate more Ampalaya (Bittergourd) more than I can remember.  She was in her 80’s then. I would pester and ask her how longer she would still live. She would shove  me with her spoon, laugh and say, ‘Hmm mabayag-ak pay. Matay-akon to no diyak nga kayat-en ti parya,’ (Hmm I’d still be around longer. You’ll know I’m close to dying when I no longer want to eat Ampalaya.)

 I have yet to meet a person who is makes reading the Bible a full-time career. She was like that. I would leave for school, get back home and see her reading still if not sleeping. She spent long hours every day in her small white kiddie chair, reading her Bible in her corner by the door, carefully poring on each line with her index finger, page after page, after page. I never saw her wear reading glasses. God must have blessed her with excellent eyesight to be able to read the Bible until old age.

Her version of blogging.

 She spent many a year writing the story of her life and how God has been so good through it all. It was revised every time she recalls something to add. It was written in steady cursive strokes in a dilapidated yellow paper ready to be read before the older folks in family events. I never really paid much attention. I didn’t care. I was just a kid. She kept those many decaying ‘editions’ in her purse with her constantly present 100 peso bill.  Yes, that 100- peso, a few smaller bills, loose coins and old family pictures including that of my grandfather’s. She kept those valuables like they were her only treasure. She would perkily try to hand me money like she had lots of it or fold and set aside a few bills to give to the church for Sunday to come.

 Oh, Sundays. She loved Sundays. Church people loved her too. She was in every Women’s Conference and was constantly recognized as the oldest member of the church. Definitely she got it yearly. I mean, no kidding. Who else could have dethroned her? It is not something others can bet their necks on to win, is it?

  Going back to her story, she tried to read it before me when I was around 10 years old. I refused. I told her it was her will or something like it and she is not dying.  Now, after 18years I regret that I did not allow her to personally read it TO ME. It should have been the best of memories I have with her. I should have listened to what she was supposed to say in those notes. She was a good writer. A good story teller.

 Yesterday, I found a picture of my grandmother’s weather-beaten notes posted on my aunt’s Friendster account. She is still going through the saddest in her life being the youngest and the one who spent her whole life being with Inang. My aunt has seen the best and worst of growing old and back. She was there battling with the sleepless nights with Inang in her fits of night visions. She was there making sure Inang gets to the urinal in the nick of time. She was there hearing Inang breathe when she can no longer get out of bed. I browsed more of her pictures pondering on the events I haven’t witnessed. The wake. The burial.  The people who were touched by her life. I cried. Like a kid again. I cried the tears I haven’t shed when I first received the news. I was saddened when I was told she was gone but it took nine freaking months for the truth to sink in and finally now it has kicked me in the butt.

The truth is real. Like a toothache.  She has been gone.

 I left in July 2008 and bid her goodbye but she was no longer coherent. She wasn’t even looking when I was stepping back waving goodbye. I bet she never even understood why I was leaving. Nine months after that I was told she did not want to eat anymore. She died of old age and I was not there.

 Just like that.  

 I                w  a  s                    n  o   t                   t  h  e  r  e  .

I hate these ‘should have beens’ because no matter how hard I cry, the past cannot be changed anymore.  I had so much of her extraordinary affectionate attention some of which I failed to recognize. She was there to wake me up for breakfast and to scratch my head when I was deep in my books and more. I never had the chance to thank her for the devotion and love. Even if I’ll say it a hundred times and over she is no longer around to hear the words I have left unsaid.

 She loved us all. She loved me through my obliviousness. She loved me more than I deserved.

 Yesterday, nine months after she died, I was born a second time.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Family, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kat

 

Lovely!

I was not really into pets until I met Kat — playful and warm. I cannot take her to where I am  because the travel would surely make her miserable. Kat is a gift from Reagan, a friend and classmate back in college. Reagan’s family lives in another island so Bryann and I  had to cross the Davao Gulf  to get her. Ok  it was not like the nauseating longest distance across but we had to cross nonetheless. The boat ride made her sick! As a new mom err nanny to a cute puppy I was terrified to see her weak and yelping and throwing up all she had for breakfast. Whoever said something about the joy of motherhood was exaggerating. But then again resilient as pets are, Kat reached her new home drowsy but alive. 

 Our first day together was difficult as she refused to eat. Refused to drink. Refused to be touched. Refused to just anything. She felt comfortable though roaming around checking if her new home was just as good as the one she used to have. She retreated to the bathroom shutting me out of her life.  She was not interested to do anything other than to stare down at me. Huh. 

Too worried she had not eaten anything that day, I rushed to Robinson’s to buy her a variety of  puppy food and soap and some dog stuff. She ate the chicken chunks, gained energy and started to act like herself. Playful. I had no idea that it was the start of her taking over my life. I had to learn to bathe, feed, give her needs and clean up the floor for whatever she left.  I enjoyed having her around the house. Running. Barking. Tail-wagging. Getting and giving attention. When I had to leave for work, she was left with my aunt who was trying to get over grandmother’s death. I heard she has done a good job lighting up everyone’s life  in the family — and the neighbors’.

 From the way pets get into our life, change our moods, rearrange our schedules, teach us habits and  console our sorrows, we do not actually own them.

They own us. And they are pretty good at loving back.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Pets | , , | Leave a comment