Friday, 24 December 2010

A Wish, A Note of Thanks

JINGLE. It is that evening when we typically await Santa Claus with his bag of goodies and tonight I am among those keeping vigil and listening to the patter of reindeer hoofs on our roof. For this one fleeting Christmas eve, I am making myself hostage to the childhood tradition of hanging a sock by a limb on the tinsel tree hoping that the wish contained in it would be telegraphed to Santa and eventually granted. My feelings are beyond excitement; they are almost pleading for Santa's bag bearing the gift I've asked for.

Two weeks ago, I announced that I am feeling 'less happy' this Christmas -- for some good reason then which was related to developments in the workplace. Little did I know that the mild ailment that ma cherie was nursing at that time would develop into something more painful, more remarkable, and prolonged. It is the latter which makes my Christmas definitely 'less happy' than the previous years. While the condition isn't life threatening, it diminishes one's self-confidence particularly in a period when healthy lifestyle had been a theme from day-to-day. Unlike previous holidays, we are staying in-country this time in order to find the appropriate medical remedies until before the frenzy of the incoming year snows us down.

I am certain that we shall eventually overcome this challenge by hedging our bets over time. But the feeling of 'less happy' unfortunately prevails in me preventing those spontaneous smiles and laughter which I know is a temporary state.

Hey it's Christmas, I suddenly remind myself. In two hours, Santa will alight above us with his goodies that include the gift that I wished for.

I realized that I have not been as prolific with my posts, thanks to disturbances such as this on many fronts in my life. Despite that, I have been surprised and gifted this year with friends whose photos/avatars have shown up on this blog space. The experience of this discovery was humbling and numbing. Having met, read, and exchanged with great people like you was a progressive Christmas gift, something that Santa sent well in advance of this day. Thank you to all, may our friendship endure into the next years, and I hope that those bursts of emotions in every post and natural responses from each and everyone continue onwards.

A Joyful Christmas to all.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Choice

Yum. On my way home, I pass by some hole-in-the-wall eateries that are frequented not only by nearby residents but by folks from elsewhere judging from the number of vehicles parked outside. Apparently, the customers are enjoying food and company despite the simple and barren interiors, the seemingly unbearable heat and humidity, and the smell of burnt food from the grill. If only most small establishments in our City were patronized by as many people everyday, I am inclined to believe that an important stage to the distribution of economic prosperity throughout social classes is at hand.

A perennial problem however in developing nations is the stranglehold of the oligarchy on the instruments of wealth creation and accumulation.

Likewise, I am witness to the mushrooming shopping centres and supermarkets owned by one super-wealthy family whose name has literally been transformed into a brand. That's the same story in regard to similar families -- very rich, owners of large industrial empires, in control of huge economic levers, mutually reinforcing, motivated by monopolistic objectives.

I feel very strongly against monopolies or near-monopolies. These practices are undemocratic and seriously undermine the economic health of nations. Furthermore, they rob us of the ability to exercise choices and to benefit from efficiencies (such as lower prices) attendant to a variety of choices in the market. Their presence in effect kills enterprise. In some sense, they are consumer terrorists.

I pray for the end of their era in much the same way that the big US banks have been shuttered on account of uncontrolled greed. I'd like to see flourishing small businesses with authentic products and genuine interests. May that time arrive soon.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Acceptance

Owww. I caught a clip of Ray Kurzweil on television. He ceremoniously informed that in the next decade, man would be able to conquer almost all of life-crippling diseases and therefore to extend his life further. Then I remembered having listened to him once in Lausanne where he gave specific realities to Marshall McLuhan's thought of of a global village. A futurist like Kurweil didn't have to state the obvious result of ongoing advances in biotechnology for us to realize what might again change the face of mankind just as technology itself had radically done in the last decade. At the same time, we've been reading about massive efforts to preserve the present.

It dawned on me that in relation to Kurzweil's crusade, the unraveling changes in this world which include the transformation of mankind is a natural stage in evolution. The slow disappearance of certain animal species which many are trying hard to overturn is one distinct manifestation. Science-fiction in movies leads us to preview the future -- vastly different, somewhat scary, but inevitable.

Human relationships are just as vulnerable to changes. From some recent blog posts elewhere, I've read about personal states such as marriage which led to divorce and more commonly, a current beau ended up as someone else's. Should these even be resisted.

Why should I even raise the possibility of fractures being healed. Regardless, the subsequent state would be different -- some scarred, others deformed, the rest replaced -- from the original form . A more comfortable thought.

With that, the coming holidays won't be too stressful.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Healed?

Chill. It is the Season and my favorite coffee shop trumpets as usual its annual planner which can be had for an equivalent number of coffee cups. But who needs a printed and handwritten planner in this age which is actively searching for a personal digital convergence device. Lugging around and much less opening printed pages to write on in meetings are ancient. I presage this blog with that observation in relation to the immediately preceding post (re Fractures).

Many thanks to those who provided rejoinders by voting for the idea that 'categories' help us 'make sense' of this world.

Yes, categories and planners help us 'make sense' of our presence and that of others in this world. They also enable us to rationalize thoughts and behavior especially if these are different from our expectations. How much and to what extent can we actually predict the behavior of others in order to align our plans with theirs. If you'd ask me if we even need to do that, my answer would be a 'yes'.

Consider an arranged date with someone you've been having the 'hots' for. All's been planned for this auspicious date only to be blindsided by a text message from him asking for a re-schedule due to some 'significant' reason. Did you really think that this wasn't coming? Why were you not able to foresee? Is it  unforeseeable -- maybe not as easy without a previous history. If you had foreseen, what would you have done?

If another situation/event intervened like your winning the US$10 Million Lottery prize, will the plan and the outcome have changed.

There are tell-tale signs that will allow us to spot doubts; however, rationalized plans and categories force us into believing that a fracture just isn't possible. But a fracture hurts. Mendable? Possibly yes. There is hope after all in this world. As another blogger keeps on plugging -- amen to 'world peace'.  




Monday, 1 November 2010

Fractures

Fuzzies. Our nephew Alfred went to a social event of 'beklettes' last weekend eventually ending up at a much larger Halloween party which according to him was dominated by the 'bekies' and 'beklettes'. That was some interesting social division which I first became aware of through reading AC's blog. Over glasses of margarita, I mulled over the existence of such categories particularly as they have been affecting civilizations.

A colleague who lives in Kabul I would imagine has a life fraught with constant danger no matter how much he tries to deny this reality which came about due to divisions in ethnic philosophies. Again concepts of categories among people much like differences between Christianity and Islam. History is replete with the recurrence of emerging categories that are split further into some other categories. Could that be a way of coping with inevitable complexities in this world?

There are meanings attributed to these categories such in the "Left" or the "Right". A high school student today may refer to the "Tea Party" with its meanings in current American politics than its historical origins. With tomorrow's mid-term elections in the USA, I view the combination of certain categories to suit candidates' objectives provided by the convenience and escape inherent in these categories. Consider for example a Democrat who doesn't favor Obama's healthcare reform. 

To make these categories suit certain objectives is ideal if only these can be predicted. It may well be the key to preventing the transport of mail bombs from cargo planes in Yemen or to promoting their successful delivery!  

In a world filled with categories, differences, and fracture after fracture, we could only hope for the best this Sweet November.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Trolley Dolly

Zonked. Four weeks quickly flew by but not seamlessly. To move across time zones and lose sight of time and date bring episodes of anxiety and frustration. Haven't posted anything nor read those of friends - how pathetic. At the end of every day, I couldn't even turn on my laptop due to exhaustion from endless meetings and various social activities. Ironically, the latter could have been relaxing but weren't.



British Airways Club World longhaul business class cabinOn the way home, I decided to take business class in order to enjoy little comforts that might assuage a tired body. This wasn't company paid nor provided complimentarily by my favorite airline [which has done that before] but purchased from mileage credited to my account. In effect, it was a purchased seat for which I deserved the appropriate treatment, convenience, and peace.



Alas, the expectation wasn't meant to be. The culprit: the trolley-dolly [aka air hostess/stewardess] and there were several of them on the flight. 

They have this bad habit of never leaving you alone -- even serving food is a disruption when you don't need it. Then they serve food like they'd like to announce it to the world by walking up and down the aisle, asking you details about your food preferences, and behaving as if they were in prepetual hurry. Why couldn't airlines simply lay out the food on some table and allow the passengers to pick whatever they wanted.

When they're rung for service, it would take an eternity for them to arrive because [as they said] there were just too many passengers. But hello, that was business class which ought to have an exclusive coterie of servers. Many of the females actually had passive aggression which I must say was borne out of training and attitude fostered on them by helpless passengers and which was manifested in the tone of voice and the smirk on faces. In one flight and as we were about to disembark, one of them had the courage to ask ma cherie if the shawl she had on was one of the airline's [while colours were nearly similar, the materials were different] and it was the seeming arrogance of the woman to venture asking without as much as an apologetic mien [to think that we were also on business class].

Asian airlines are often guilty of these offenses but the aggressive qualities are more often than not found in every flight. It is possible that this is a post 9/11 phenomenon which only contributes to the stress of travel. It is likely that complaints have been aired many times by countless passengers. These characters are ghosts on domestic flights in the USA which don't serve food or sell duty-free goods but they are highly visible on inter-country flights in Europe.

Be warned and be prepared!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Connections

Buzzed. Passing by a bookstore last night, I was attracted to the window display which contained among others a book authored by Jefffrey Pfeffer, a former professor who brought this guy named Keith Ferrazzi to  a class session on "social connections." Keith himself wrote 'Never Eat Alone' earning him the invitation to talk about it in class. His book was written with the obvious intention of building and nurturing business connections thereby creating wealth. At home, I dug up his book which I have not read since that time he's given us autographed copies and then skimmed through some valuable insights which are shared in this post.

He says that in order to become 'interesting', one should always learn. .  .  .in order to earn more. And that content-creators (this includes bloggers) are readers, questioners, or conversationalists. He recommends quite expensive pursuits -- books and magazines, three to five conferences a year, a course or two, and developing relationships with leaders (in the field of blogging?).

Staying healthy, says Keith, makes someone interesting. Sensible. His workout regimen is five times a week (overkill?), takes a five-day vacation every other month (you wish!), and goes on a spirituality retreat once a month (yeah - in Burma).

"Creativity is worthless if it can't be applied", he emphasizes then says that the end-all should be that "this will make us more money".

There's this part of the book on personalities to watch and avoid from turning into one in social gatherings: the wallflower (you know who that is); the ankle-hugger who shadows his/her BFF; the celebrity hound who chases the most important person at the event; the swarmy eye darter who gives you a 30-second bad sound bite and moves quickly to another person; the card dispenser/amasser who passes his card out to everyone.  

In person, Keith is a highly-engaged conversationalist like a living proof of his book. He is in his early 30s, has written another book titled "Who Watches Your Back". Yes, he is gay and I think he still resides in America.

Light-hearted thoughts for the 'networker' on a lazy Sunday.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Differences

Globalization Part Two. Our friend Benjie lives in New York City and works for one of the City's finest service agencies. His apartment overlooks Central Park which gives him enough incentive to hike over at any time especially on late evenings. He tells us that nocturnal citizens of the Park would carry with them flashlights all the time for various reasons but importantly for viewing faces of their co-habitues. Out-of-the-blue. Startling. I suppose one gets used to it in time but isn't that quite a courageous posture to cruising. Only in the City that Never Sleeps.

That experience I thought runs contrary to my belief about the American culture which thrives on impersonal relationships. A Disneyland experience will confirm my observation, where the characters are hidden away in fancy costumes and buried deep somewhere when their performance duties aren't called for. Even the Disney Park's utility workers are clad in clothing and costumes intending to depersonalize (or even dehumanize) their existence [Ever asked why one had to dress like a rat?]

From where did the world learn to accept the senseless greeting of "Welcome to McDonald's" while the greeter is attending to another customer at the till. Did anyone feel like responding to the greeting? 

I initially thought that the greeting of 'Bonjour' in Paris was something similar -- senseless, impersonal, idiotic -- until I bravely talked up some of those who dished out the greeting in hotels, in restaurants, even at the Buddha Bar. If they failed to greet, it meant that they may not have noticed you or (!) they didn't like you at all. Unlike the Americans who are slaves to consumerism, I think that the French are inclined to view themselves as experts in whatever they do regardless of their profession and therefore take their actions (or their opinions) seriously.

One time in NYC, I did not have enough loose currency for restaurant tipping that I left only U$10 on the table. The waiter had the temerity to run after me and give back the money because as he said it is less than what was expected. At Paris' Le Tropic bar which is mostly frequented by the young adult gay population, we are never bothered with tips and do not see any apparent interest on the part of the gorgeous waiters to push drinks past your face from time to time. They are nevertheless quick to respond to requests for another glass of kir with the most seductive of smiles.

Last year in Hongkong, a pretty senior Anglo-Saxon guy loudly greeted me with "Hi, hi, hi" meeting me through a hallway. Nothing's wrong with that except that we were surely not acquainted with each other. Again, nothing's wrong with a desire to 'pick up' someone in an airport but that was as bold as holding a lit flashlight to a stranger's face. In contrast, I received once from a waiter at the Banana Cafe in Paris a card sent by one customer seated inside [I was at the exterior area] asking if he could join me for drinks. Nothing's wrong with that. Different strokes with different cultures. Tolerable differences which could bring us to World Peace -- if only all differences were tolerable.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Globalization

World Peace? "Could I borrow your set of plug-adapters for the laptop?", asked ma cherie as she was packing her luggage one day. As I handed over the universal plugs, I wondered what happened to her's and mulled over a seeming indispensable accessory of international travel today . . . . if you'd like to stay in touch with loved ones, friends, and official business . . . or simply find some way of whiling time in airports or cafes.

Why haven't the electrical systems of nations been globalized -- one system, one world, one plug! That alone is an indication that disagreement and aggression among nations at the WTO round tables and conferences will continue until who knows when. Is it really possible to globalize trade in an unglobalized world of varied cultures?

Across the Atlantic, the mobile phone reflects cultural divides. In Paris, the locals that you meet along the Rue de Rivoli would be talking on their mobiles but with short, to-the-point clips. Over in New York, the cell phone isn't as obvious on Fifth Avenue but when they call, the Americans seem to spend a lifetime conversing or arguing with the party at the other end. While both cultures may tend to use the mobile phone for voiced communication, the French are more inclined than Americans who with the advent of the Blackberry increasingly keep up with their email messages.

And why does Britain if it were indeed part of Europe insist on driving on the other side of the road compared to the rest of the continent.

Wouldn't the world benefit from economies of scale if nations were willing to give up material differences on perhaps electrical and transportation systems and then savings ploughed into innovations that could contribute to a sustainable global community. Are chasms at the WTO meetings due to intellectual substance than to philistine pride.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Hongkong

Nerves! Decidedly one of my favorite world cities, Hongkong was our next stop on the way home. It beckons because it is home to many Chinese friends with whom we've spent many exciting moments including Christmas dinners on Lamma island and in the new territories, one freezing barbecue binge on Repulse bay, and Chinese New Year celebrations. It serves as our most convenient gateway to Europe, North America, or some parts of Africa and then back; let's not also forget airline loyalties due to frequent flier miles.

In the news recently was a legislator from our country belonging to a family of distinct notoriety who had been caught with prohibited drugs in his possession. His family bailed him out (luckily that was possible) and spun the tale that the situation was manipulated by some influential parties. In Hongkong?

Light, airy, and shopping-friendly: Hongkong's airport
I had my own sordid experience too when on entering the territory this time my passport was closely scrutinized by immigration authorities to the point that I was brought to their back offices where I came across people of various nationalities waiting for some dialogue with the Chinese officials. It was a horribly irritating 20 minutes of wasted time while Immigration scanned the pages of my passport, talked among themselves over it, and then asked me of when I shall leave the City. As I was eventually let go and escorted into baggage claim, I had not been informed about the reason for the brief incident which prompted me to demand for an explanation. We went back to the office because the escort agent could not communicate well in English.

There I discovered that I was detained because the letters bearing my first name on the passport's first page were somewhat smudged. That had to be since this document is almost four years old and went through the fingers of countless consulates and various immigration personnel in many countries. In the shadows of 9/11, we can only be wary of instantly arising situations (especially in airports) like that. Have you seen the movie Rendition?

It was recommended that I secure a new passport -- the digital type -- to avoid similar circumstances and which they say is "for my own good". Hmmmm. My stubborn nature tells me to diss that instruction and to keep using the current one until expiry. On exiting Hongkong, I hoped that Immigration would see that smudge again but they didn't in the same way that they hadn't on previous times which only proved my theory that the observation was subjective and defensible. But one could miss a flight that way! The other motivation for me to acquire a digital passport is the ease of checking in at airport kiosks (as opposed to check-in counters) which require this kind of identity document.

The visit to Hongkong was planned so as to meet Chinese friends and if only for that was well worth the anxiety and troubles. But yes, Hongkong will still be a favorite.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Holy Days

Part of the spice market within the souks
Au revoir, mes amis.We left Marrakesh just as Ramadan began. Leaving was the right decision as the City was just about to shift into holy mode and then soon its residents would be sporting long faces more out of food-deprivation from dawn to dusk than anything else. Goodbye to a colourful culture and to an equally lively people whose religious discipline I had come to admire.

Faithfulness is written all over the country and I suppose on the rest of the muslim world. I wish them well and thank them for the wonderful reception accorded me in the riad where we stayed and in the souks which I had bravely foraged. 

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Trance

Dazed. In the bowels of Heathrow's terminal 5 business class lounge, I took a strategic seat which allowed a panoramic view of a variety of passenger types. All of us were definitely en route and I again went on to while time in an airport by people-watching.

The 'road warriors' always fascinate me. With one hand on the laptop's keyboard and the other tapping away on the Blackberry, they're the quintessential business travellers who feel an entitlement to the place. They're not even looking at either screen while doing all that. Is this awesome display of ambidexterity due to some chase at stock markets opening and closing in some parts of the globe; that a second's miscue could mean quantum financial losses. Or is it just a trend that to divert from it will show a less competent individual. In all cases, they'd look dazed. I have not fallen for this cult (yet?) but the reminder of a laptop in my carry-on is tempting as well as securing one of those public workstations in the lounge if only to check on mails.

Then there's the 'hyperactive' who keeps on commuting from his seat to the food buffet or drinks counter unmindful of other passengers as he skips and hops around. He seems nervous about something -- missing his flight or meeting someone at the end of the flight?  Does he know that only an idiot misses a plane? While moving about, they disturb the relative peace of the lounge and waste the food which they do not even touch after all. More to the point, they're dazed.

The 'TV fan' has eyes eternally glued to the television whatever nonsensical show is going on. Perfectly dazed. Not a word to his nearby companion. Try changing channels and he wouldn't mind as he simply continues to stare.

There are raucous passengers who might have chanced on an acquaintance and are busy catching up with each other. Vocal sound decibels are above what one might expect in a resting spot like this lounge but what caught my attention was that nobody seemed to care about conversations bordering on the noisy. Animated faces of people exchanging news and views sharply contrast against stoic faces of quiet and oftentimes individual lonely travellers.

In airports, we are all caught in a space of time and of place. We are neither here nor there. This is what keeps passengers dazed. With the reality that it is a temporary state and so would be the next one (i.e., inside the aircraft), we might feel lost, anxious, imprisoned, irritated, sick, or oftentimes we don't know what it really is because we do not acknowledge it. Pity the constant traveller who flits from one tentative state to another -- be it airport or hotel. The trance never ends.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Image? Beauty?

Drat! Until now she is considered a high priestess of couture and beauty. Everytime I attend a social gathering there is inevitably a svelte damsel garbed in that famous 'little black dress' proudly faithful to its backless original. Her perfume Number 5 does not fail to impress in high society. Our featured agency for this post is Madame Coco Chanel because of recent discussions about women wanting to make themselves attractive and beautiful with clothes, jewelry, hair styles and coloring, beauty products, and now cosmetic surgery. I asked myself what would Coco think of breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and liposuction. If anyone who has intimacy on her thoughts and philosophy, please post your comments.

More than just profits from it, beauty has been medicalized for sure suggesting that it can be improved or modified. I do not have problems with that as long as women's self-image, self-esteeem, and well-being are made better and therefore their lives changed after the cosmetic surgery. With the improvement in body parts, one's self-image image improves in the short term and I hope in the long-term too. Do their sex lives improve as well? Was the husband or boyfriend a major factor in the pressure to look younger or more beautiful?

Men are not spared. I have been receiving enormous spam emails offering various concoctions of Viagra. A friend informed me (how could I be so ignorant) that some major pharmacies sell tea blends that offer Viagra-like effects but for shorter durations. Better, longer erections! Larger penises! Men are also pursuing to regain lost youth and to increase virility.

I mentioned the word 'profit' earlier which i think has motivated this whole industry. Whether or not the need is there, the landscape of cosmetic surgery has motivated that need or desire to surface -- even if irrational. Or is there a "right to beauty" really? And is cosmetic surgery the answer?

Friday, 30 July 2010

Southern Comforts



Ole! With frequent weekend jaunts to out of town, I realized that I had not written thoughts on recent sports events like the World Cup or the Tour de France. All blogs were headed that way and spiced up by dear Paul the psychic octopus now turned global superstar.

The trips to the country's southern cities though work related and not particularly relaxing were interesting. For one, I have tasted one blueberry cheesecake that's to-die-for along with cafe mocha that somehow did not activate the acidity of my stomach. Just like the designer coffee havens in Manila, this featured cafe is situated along a buzzing strip for nightlife citizens who would as well find here dinner restos, wine bars, and an outdoor live band concert stage. Obviously, nighttime activities have moved to this part of the city. My cherie wondered whether the name of this coffee shop was a take off from a recognizable brand or was already bordering on plagiarism. Perfect chill out setting together with (as usual) netizens blazing away on their Facebook pages. Come and visit this fascinating city known for its unique whitewater rafting adventure. I won't tell you where this cafe could be found -- part of the fun in this blog -- but a prize awaits the first comment with the correct answer.

Cebu is another favorite destination considering the Manila-like comforts that abound from hotels and restos to taxis and shopping malls. It can be quite pricey however especially if you decided to stay in those Mactan resort enclaves. It has been raining at night when I was there this weekend but where doesn't and on occasions it had also rained over there on January (Sinulog festival time). Overall and if you are not going for business, Cebu City is a very safe destination for holiday seekers.

Davao City sprawls and because of that does not pretend to be preoccupied as much as Cebu City or Metro Manila. Despite numerous visits here, I have always wondered where the center of nightlife is located in Davao as it has never been visible to me or to someone around my demographic. They have a recent coffee chain called 'Cafe di Chicco' that serves respectable coffee (varied) and food. Some patrons even take their pets along and that's tolerated by the establishment. I'm sure the alcohol is somewhere.

Places for weekend meetings ot trysts. Haul your mysterious date/s out there [meet for the first time over there] and if he picks up on the invitation, that's your cue for some exciting days ahead. Forget about Boracay in the meantime; it's overrated and arduous if you've been going quite frequently. Let's hope your mysterious date is cute -- but you can mitigate that, can't you?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Nearly Khmer

Every now and then my country's embassy in Cambodia sends email notices of various official actions and citizen social gatherings and that's because I have registered with them when I was working there some years past. It was an interesting phase of life as it forced me to behave in ways that I did not intend on doing -- living an expat's life -- and thankfully for only a brief period that went without my even noticing.

Phnom Penh was a pretty contained city but with some parts specifically tailored towards foreigners. Every afternoon from work and as a daily routine, I'd quickly dump my laptop computer and backpack in my hotel room and head to the street corner bars for quick infusions of gin and tonic with incessant chatter from caucasians working as well in the country. Dinner afterwards from a price-reasonable selection of Asian or Western cuisine in specialty restaurants dotting various locations in the City. I was almost a fixture at Comme a la Maison, a restaurant  on Street 51. Certainly, I would not have been doing that on a regular basis if I were home but choices I realized have become quite limited in the absence of immediate family or a permanent home to come home to every night.

I had been forced to keep myself busy and entertained in the process of living away from home. There were limitations to patience in watching the cable TV programs. Without meaning to, I frequented the hot and humid Russian market on weekends purchasing what-nots that I didn't need. At one time, I simply took off one Sunday for the famed Siem Reap, a comfortable hour's flight away, where the world-renowned Angkor Wat temple beckoned. Simply hard stone and challenging to physically traverse -- that was what the huge and magnficent temple was. The City itself feels bohemian and is a worthy holiday destination as it has modern lodging facilities and interesting watering holes along what they aptly called Bar Street. The Hotel de la Paix, the boutique hotel that it is, appears lavish and expensive but there are less pricey alternatives around which are in fact to my estimation better than most hotels in the capital. Food choices are also varied and of excellent taste. I won't forget the Blue Pumpkin restraurant in the centre of town whose eclectic menu and savory bakery offerings would rival even its best parisian counterparts.

The locals were quite trustworthy as they tried their warmest best to please visitors like myself. That in itself was comforting to a stranger.

Despite the comforts, the relaxed (and sometimes luxurious) way of life, the nice people around, the pleasant weather, I had not felt settled. I looked forward to going home. I'm sure anyone who has gone away from home for a while and who knows that all that was temporary would have felt the same anxieties. Why would one want to live outside his country of domicile? What hard choices had to be made? What pressures attend to the individual and to his family?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

By Chance or By Design

Nadal hoists the Wimbledon trophy once more
Several years ago, I was walking uphill from a hotel in Barcelona to my school when a small crowd literally cut through my path crossing the road. I noticed that there were television cameras following a youngish guy whom I recognized as one who was then on the fast track to tennis stardom. That was Rafael Nadal coming from a  practice session at the Barcalona tennis club. For someone posturing to superstardom and worldwide prominence, he displayed much attention and affection for the local fans that joined him that day. Had I secured his autograph or photo then, that would have been visible on this post today. Either I was more concerned with making it to class or I had doubts about his chances of rising to fame, I could today only look back on those memories. A chanced encounter with the future.

One grandslam title after another convinced me that he was destined to glory. Last month, he re-acquired the French Open title and today did the same at Wimbledon -- winning in straight sets. I have watched this year both championship matches on television thinking that I have had the chances before of watching both grandslam championships from courtside on various years. I was in both cities during the weeks when the matches took place. Those were as well missed chances.

Winning to me is always by design. The determination to win is always coupled with exceptional skill and unbowed performance. Doing something for yourself is the same thing -- always by design -- not on the wing of chance. A victim of chance will always have the opportunity to later win on the crest of desire and design.

Have a great week ahead.




Friday, 2 July 2010

Read

Subscribers of Amazon surely get mildly annoyed when they receive reminders of new releases, purportedly to motivate purchase decisions. I am not spared. But I admit that shopping for titles that way has been a pleasant and secured experience.

I have been purchasing the books of the featured author in this post through this route -- only because these are not available at local book sellers. Could that be due to the absence of a market or the simple  lack of awareness by book agents but I hope not a reflection of dangerous conservatism. My acquaintance with this writer began years ago as I was rummaging through a second-hand book store. Then my attention was caught by the title and thought that it was a book on food/cooking prompting me to read the teaser on the back cover. 

Anthony Bidulka has since written to my knowledge at least five other books around the same genre taking the reader to oftentimes popular but sometimes esoteric destinations. True, at some point one gets the sense of the author's writing style and then boredom sets in. But that has happened with me in most of the authors I have been following.

I am a sucker for the thriller; thus a big fan of David Baldacci. Never missed any of his books that I could build a library in his honor. I did not part with his latest book -- Deliver Us From Evil -- until I was done with it. It was the same experience I've had with a couple of his other books but could not say the same with others. This is the same observation I have about Grisham and might be the reason why he sometimes departs from law/courtroom drama for heartwarming plots. When in the university, I read Robin Cook who specializes in medical thrillers but have since left him as the language and the narrative echoed from novel to novel. We all need to be refreshed at some point in our choice of literature. However if there's an element that I have not given up in my choices it is the thriller to the extent that I sometimes have been disappointed with some authors. We also know that they may have ghost writers which could be gleaned from the changing styles from one book to another. This, I have noticed in Steve Martini's.

Therefore to all dear readers of this post, I am willing to give away one book of any one of the following (your choice): Bidulka, Baldacci, Martini. My way of sharing (again). Only to the first one who responds and is from the Philippines. Just let me know where to send.

Read. GO.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Holiday

 Jakarta, many years back, was to me a testament to urban sprawl -- perennial traffic jams, unyielding pollution, denuded environs, an oppressively humid climate, crowded sidewalks, and a very slow bureaucracy. That might have been why I have never returned to Indonesia until now.

Coming to Bali was like a chore or more appropriately a job. No expectations but more likely evoking images of Jakarta. My mind may have been pre-occupied that I did not even wonder why throngs come to this place with its fabulous promotions as a holiday destination. Thoughts of the Bali bombings did not as well occur to me. Soon as the plane touched down on Denpasar and I looked out the window, the veiled thoughts of boredom and apathy turned to excitement and curiosity.

Sure the airport bulding is not particularly modern in the likes of Hongkong's or Heathrow's T5 but it was sufficiently clean, airy, spacious, and assuring. The roof and walls are brick tiled with comprehensible signs leading the tourists.  Because one can secure a visa on arrival, the immigration area could be teeming with humanity featuring lengthy queues from purchasing visas to gaining access to entry processing personnel. It had taken me more than an hour just to hurdle the entry application. Apart from that, there were no further creases mainly becuse the 5-star hotel where I was pleasantly put in was prepared in managing airport-hotel transfers. 


Bali is a tourist destination. The weather is not humid -- the highest temp, they say, is in the lower thirties. The streets are well paved but narrow and I suspect that this was a deliberate attempt to keep up appearances, hence mild traffic stops in certain places. There is so much greenery even along the streets juxtaposed alongside modern-looking but low buildings. One gets the feeling that the island is wirelessly linked as most shops/cafes proudly announce wi-fis.

Life on the island is relaxed despite the preponderance of business establishments throughout. Poverty if ever is not observable among the residents. The batik designs/prints on textile and clothing as well as wood-carved representations of local gods and animals are among take-home presents, if one wishes to make shopping a worthy endeavor. Bargaining however must be a skill that a determined shopper ought to employ.

The beach is something the island is proud of and I agree despite having enjoyed more fabulous beaches/sand before. I am lucky to stay in this fabulous resort-hotel which has its own beach frontage. It feels secure even at night -- one doesn't have to go to Kuta (the centre of Denpasar) to experience a holiday. A variety of international cuisine is available through restaurants along the road right outside our resort enclave and I would imagine everywhere on the island. Transport from place to place is easily available through identifiable taxis. Most importantly, the people are friendly and helpful (is that a southeast asian trait).

If you should go, my advice is GO with your loved one/s. See you there.



      

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Go

My cherie and moi were deep in conversation when the sudden thud of the 747 felt like it came apart topped by oxygen masks dropping and flailing at our faces. Simultaneously, my heart leapt to my throat as the cliche goes only to realize that the aircraft had eventually landed in Johannesburg at 5am and had already gone into taxi mode as the pilot's delayed announcement blamed the scare to very cloudy skies and to the plane's auto-pilot. Welcome to South Africa, circa 2002, a sequel post to the 2010 World Cup. 

We came to South Africa devoid of expectations and were pleasantly surprised. On transit to Cape Town, we discovered the Joburg airport as quite modern, orderly, and clean. The flights were on time and the models of their national carrier relatively updated. It of course helped that most of those we ran into spoke very good English and all together we got this sense of safety and promise. It was an hour's flight to Cape Town and from the air we sort of envied the vast natural resources available to this nation. In spite of what we knew about blood diamonds, we couldn't help but admire the numerous mine exploration activities that were visible from about 35,000 feet overhead.

Cape Town looked even more modern and on the surface wealthier that most places in Africa and while at the airport we felt like arriving in a European city. As all modernized cities, Cape Town was not spared from urban squalor. On our way to the city's center, we witnessed a very long stretch of what seemed like organized shantytowns which according to our driver are the hovels of drug and crime denizens. I said organized because from the highway the frontage shanties looked all the same in size and color but each one seemed too small to live in. If this City were the most visited in the country, it might have been interesting if walking tours were arranged around this place in order to appreciate better the local culture and politics.      

But one comes to tourist destinations and falls prey to the showcase landmarks.

I won't forget ascending Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain overlooking Cape Town. We were there close to dusk and witnessed how the City sparkled at night. "What luxury, because in my country, we spend nights without any electricity", commented a colleague from Myanmar who marvelled as well at the sight. They said that one could actually walk to the top but we decided to take the short cable car ride which we never regretted. Viewing the scenery below and around the car as it slowly climbed was both a breathtaking and a thrilling experience.

We tasted history on Robben island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The island accessible through a fast watercraft is now a tourist spot, looks barren nevertheless, but hosts flora and wild animals unique to Africa. An old prison bus took us to the former prison complex where we were led to Mandela's cell. Just one minute in front of that cell, a colleague wept incessantly and had to be taken away and back to the main island. Later that day, she expressed having been affected by the vision of Mandela's suffering. Incredibly, we agreed that it was this part of the trip that should be the most memorable.

Cape Town is a shopping haven, especially for those who come from countries that are devoid of life's luxuries. A friend bought a video game console for her son because there wasn't any demand for these gadgets in her country, Malawi. She found her object at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront which is really an operating harbor and at the same time a complex of various shopping and entertainment venues, quite unusual in that it is set before the sea and within perfect view of Table Mountain. We brought home some local handicrafts.

These and the World Cup were very enticing reasons for us to have gone back this year. The year isn't over yet but the Cup will soon be. 2014 in Rio?

They say that not all cities of South Africa are safe to visit. Ma cherie recounts that one morning she came across a dead man who has been shot on the street fronting her apartment -- not quite a welcome event for a newcomer to Durban. They may be quite right but this country brims with promise, enough to convince us to GO back and for you dear reader to GO.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Fever



I shuttled between New York and Paris at the onset until the near conclusion of the 1998 World Cup. It wasn't much talked about in the United States as the people I had been meeting with were oblivious until I got to Europe. Over there, it was electrifying. The World Cup was capable of bringing entire populations to a standstill. Horns blared along the streets of Paris every time the home team (they were hosts) scored victories and cafes in Zurich were filled with eager-eyed men AND women running commentaries while watching large projection screens.

I had the same kind of experience in 2006 while in Madrid. Once the Spanish team (hey, they are favorites this year) punctured the goal, the entire edifice where I was shook to the stomps, cries, and other sounds of elation by academicians whom I thought were engrossed in scholarly endeavor. One is likely to feel goose pimples over the national pride, something which the World Cup is able to achieve with seeming ease and flamboyance. This year, the Cup is being hosted by South Africa, the first time that it's being played on the African continent.

Because I haven't played football in my entire life, I at first could not quite grasp the magic that has so much engulfed the continent. Having been used to rival sports like basketball and tennis, I found it odd that the game could end up in a draw and produce very low scores. In time however, I have learned to admire and enjoy watching AND criticizing football games.

Like all sports, the Cup has its own heroes. In 1998, Zidane rose to world fame. Today, they come from all over but strikingly from African teams who have been playing with European franchises. Have you seen Cote D'Ivoire's Didier Drogba in the latest issue of Time? Too bad injuries sideline him in this Cup hurting the chances of his national team.  Influence is written all over the faces of these icons that compelled Armani to pick Cristiano Ronaldo as his new image model. 

We could only wish that these influentials could use their personal power to satisfy hunger in Africa or to prevent violence in Palestine. Is that too much heat for this fever?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Xanadu




Symbolic of the title, I apologize for having been lost in space and time. Just around, I suddenly found myself oblivious of mundane matters (like this Blog) much like bobbing around the fizz of Neverland or Xanadu (if you like). Not even the '4 Minute' or the 'U Kiss' could bring me back. Neither was I addicted to alcohol, meth, or viagra. No it wasn't due to the lack of anything to write about but maybe due to my inability to choose which one/s. Should it be sequels to what I've previously posted or an entirely new one. OMG - this shows I don't even know who's reading. But thanks to those who have boldly joined the "allies" team -- welcome to you whose blogs I read as well -- and all others whose photos I await. Promise -- I'm back!


Monday, 3 May 2010

European Tale

What if they had changed roles? Will their following keep up?

Both from Europe and of great reputation in their respective careers. Within earshot of each other.

Rermember the movie Freaky Friday?

Monday, 26 April 2010

Lucky Lukas

My friend Noel suggested that I drizzle this post with some salt just so I could drive readership along. Here goes. While in Budapest last month for an assignment with the 'Time Out' publications, I got an out of the blue message from my editor who asked me to interview Lukas Ridgeston allegedly residing in that City. Off I went to do desk research on the subject and well . . . wasn't this interesting. Will I be lucky to do it?

It was easy finding the BelAmi (beautiful friend) studio-offices which was just one brief tram ride from my hotel right along the river Danube. On the way to Boraros ter (target interview location), I feasted as well on lovely sights of the City. It was like going back in time when one takes public transport (tram, metro,bus) in Budapest. The vehicles seemed to be remnants of the Communist era and that adds to the quaint odd experience.

On arrival at a Greek cafe to meet the interviewee, I not only feasted on great food but on the wonderful Lukas too. Don't get me wrong; by that I meant 'feasted' on the conversation and interview material.

While I wouldn't divulge here the full text of the interview due to be published sometime, I had been informed by Lukas that he'd finished a university degree in architecture which has made him contribute to the construction of the BelAmi facilities. Today, he doesn't appear in any of the BelAmi productions anymore but shoot, direct, or edit the videos for internet purchases. He as a matter of personal policy has reserved acting roles to the younger talents and decided to take on a production role in the company.

Yes, he does have those icy blue eyes that pierce you with every stare. Yes, he has a special someone in his life right now. Yes, he wishes to visit Asia and unfortunately hasn't heard much about Southeast Asia beyond Thailand and Indonesia. Yes, I made him interested in Boracay as he is a wakeboarding enthusiast (shouldn't he go to Caramoan instead?). Yes, he is now 35 years old but retains those looks that made him globally famous. His name and BelAmi are well-built brands in the industry. Lucky indeed.

Later he and his colleague took me to drinks at the Acqua Bar in my hotel (shouldn't I have done that?) to show their appreciation of my efforts of coming from very far to do the interview. Was I lucky?

On reflection, I thought that celebrities like him either define their careers or allow fate to take them somewhere. Lukas according to him took a while to acceed to the BelAmi invitation but once there simply went from fame to fame. Even today, his current and future lives it appears are defined by himself. Lucky Lukas.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Match Point

Young as he is, our son announced that he'd like to learn tennis this Summer. It was a surprise to me as I had been pricking his interest in the game for a couple of years now but for some reason he's had this easily reluctant response to suggestions. We'll see how he does. Having played games before, I am an avid fan and have been following the sport from one grandslam or even ATP championship match to the next.

Rafael Nadal whose photo graces this post slid from the premiere position to the world's number three due to a series of injuries last year until early this year.  Despite that and considered by many as Federer's nemesis and heir apparent, his appeal to fans worldwide didn't wane including marriage proposals from women in the stands and courageous streaks across the court by gay men for a quick hug. He's just won the Monte Carlo title (see photo) this year.

Previous icons like Sampras and Agassi have been intermittently coming out of retirement to play a game or two. Justine Henin came back to the game after some hiatus. I guess it's just too difficult leaving the limelight or is it just the sound of the racket hitting the ball. What does one feel as match point nears and then goes. It's just like life, isn't it?

The thrill is long before match point, no matter what all may argue about finishing the exhausting five or six-set game -- that's when you judge how great a game was fought and went. As much as we'd like our idols to clinch victory at match point, we relish the brilliance of the game with every forehand/backhand/serve/topspin/volley. This is what generates applause and ahhhhs. When we live life like a tennis match, we savor every minute of it believing that match point will eventually arrive. Let's play.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Change

While browsing through a bookstore over last weekend, I was struck by the title of this book. It dawned on me that I had received a complimentary copy of "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard" from the Stanford University's Graduate School of Business where I went to years ago. One of the book's author in fact was among our teachers. Obviously, it got lost among the pile of "to-dos".

Being psychologists, the authors look at reasons why change is so difficult to achieve in individuals and in organizations. The book proceeds to recommend certain ways of creating lasting change and provides specific examples of success. These are the interesting elements of the book -- the stories that lead us to practical actions in daily life.

I had read the book, some parts with greater emphasis than others, and overall found it a good one. Apparently, it is the second one that I have of these authors who have proven reliable and very pragmatic. In case you might be wondering how best to deal with change without having to scan the litereature of theories, I recommend the purchase of "Switch".  

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Crooked

The seduction of fraud is just too much. We have been confronted with brazen fraud at work involving (of course) money poached from services to clients and total disregard of systems designed to forestall these indecent intentions.  Last week, we heard about famous speeches being plagiarized with specific ideas being passed on as original thoughts by an esteemed personality. Another perfect form of fraud.

When money is at the center of fraud, we think that the crime shall naturally resolve itself as long as control measures are operational to eventually reveal deviations from norms.Intellectual fraud is akin but has severe moral dimensions. If fraud finds its resolution in legal systems, why is it that we are too horrified to discover it and even wish that it may as well not occur. Even if the system provides for the resolution of fraud, I do not think that anybody wishes to deal with it least of which the legal prosecutors. The act leaves a scar and to a great extent ruins the personality of the criminal. Even the offended party finds it uncomfortable if not difficult to recover from the experience and furthermore runs deep when the experience takes place at a personal level.

To say however that fraud is here to stay is dismissive and defeatist. I'd say that to be keenly aware that it may happen anytime anywhere puts us in a prepared state and gears us to prevent it from happening. That way, we feel less disappointed, not destroyed, and immediately able to recover.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Finally it is Easter

Before soon, everyone would have resumed business as usual after enjoying a short stint with tranquility and reflection. I hope. Today is Easter, the link between Lenten rest and at least another nine months of exhaustive work. We should all enjoy Easter and be happy for it.

If it were really traquility that the soul longed for during Holy Week, I wondered why we had to escape what was the quiet City for popular and frenetic vacation spots like Boracay which was once more populated with (you guessed it) acquaintances and familiar faces. What was it about showing up in social places like that as similar as wanting to be seen in popular parties? What was it about strutting half-naked not just on the beach but even in eateries and stores proudly showing off a body that's the product of three months' hard labor.


Flying to Bora was not as simple either this time. We had to suffer through an almost two-hour trip from Kalibo to Caticlan. Blame that on the January/February flight cancellations of most airlines to Caticlan when bookings were placed. Why should one endure the wasted time and the boredom of the land trip?

Why as well enjoy way below five-star hotel facilities? Can we really sustain ourselves with that? 

It might not be the tranquility but the change of scene and of daily routine (and certainly the incomparable silky white sand of Bora), I have come to conclude upon arriving in Manila last night because despite the heat and tired bodies, we still felt energized to face another day and week of fruitful consequences.

Happy Easter everyone.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Summer's Hot, Hot, Hot!

Only one snapped up my offer last week of an all-expense paid and no-cost delivery of "Fire". See post below. Either no one noticed or readers thought of it as a hoax. I am off to Boracay tomorrow from which I shall send an installment-post but in the meantime, I am sharing this photograph of "Fire" which might just stir up the loins of you my dear friends. Thus the offer is extended until April 8 but I may not be able to dispatch your requests until I return to the City on April 5. Again, simply let me know where to send your request in the comment box of this post and please provide us later with a snippet of your experience.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Indulgences

Suddenly, I noticed that my face was unusually dirty almost sending shockwaves through my body. Apparently, I have not been looking closely at my face until I came face-to-face (pun!) with it while shopping in an Adidas store tonight. While fitting on some garments, I had the benefit of a full-length mirror up close bathed beneath bright lights. Run!

Thanks to The Spa -- caught them in time for a much needed facial which I haven't had for years!! The facial treatment wasn't easy as anybody who's had one will attest to. Without doubt, the facial therapist was patient and deft at cleaning up the debris. Sixty minutes after and I was again ready to face the world.

It's not easy to be a movie star (not that I'm one) or any kind of celebrity if one has to have twice-a-month facials. Sports figures are subjected to even more stringent troubles considering the heat, sweat, and pollution in every game. Showers and warm baths won't cleanse your face as effectively.

Some may call that vanity but this case was an important step towards taking good care of one's self. Indulge once in a while.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Monday, Monday


Monday couldn't be any more refreshing than this photo. The Babies, as they are called, include Matthew (far left), Raffy the brown bear, Jr the cute little bear, and Mexique with the hat. Except for the latter, they have been in the family for some years now. Mexique was a gift to our son by our friend Elijah who hails from Hongkong. These special characters who have provided bursts of inspiration and unsolicited smiles have joined us on trips around the country and on weekend forays in the city. Do I see a smile there?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Anyone interested?

In the spirit of true altruism, I would like to send without cost to recipients at least six tablets of "Fire" [see post below] to the first five interested parties who shall post their comments here.

They should be residents of the Philippines and willing to provide a narrative of their experience. Offer is good until March 25, 2010.

Go get them.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Too Hot to Handle

In a neat, little DHL Package today came a surprise that's too hot to handle -- ten small medicine boxes each of which contains blister packs of the world-renowned pill popularly known as Viagra. Suggestively branded as "Fire", the product which retails in India was sent out of London by a work colleague [who I trust is not Captain Hook or any of his cohorts].

I couldn't agree more that sildenafil citrate (aka Viagra or Cialis; 100mg tabs) reflects advancement in science along with other drugs designed to stimulate or dull the senses. On the upbeat side, they're promoted as 'male sex enhancers' but are medically considered as remedies for erectile dysfunction. It appears that the drug is available locally and globally.

The note attached to the package specifically said that the product was for "tests" which I took to mean seriously. Neither have I tried this drug before nor do I intend to do so now. While I was certain that there will be 'takers', I have asked someone to offer it to some individuals who might be interested in trying out.

Experiences anyone?

Let's await the next episode!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Peter Listens To This Too

Here's an idyllic piece from Africa that I think you'd enjoy listening to in the same way I did. The performer is Tito Paris from Cape Verde. Courtesy of Antonio Cardoso.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Going Home

"Have you tried smoking shisha?", said the airport agent as I checked into my flight to home. For a while, I didn't know what to say as the question was totally unexpected. "Haven't", was my response.

From what I know, shisha smoking is a tradition held in the Arab world. It is the result of tobacco mixed with fruit bits and bundled into a neat sensation and more interestingly smoked through what they call a hookah. Last October, after a dinner cruise in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, my colleagues took me around a menagerie of riverside bars frequented by local rich kids smoking shisha. I was asked if I'd like to try which I politely refused not due to any lack of adventure but perhaps due to exhaustion over the last few days of sheer work. With that spontaneous airport question today and then looking back to Istanbul, I thought that I may have then missed an opportunity.

Apparently, the shisha question posed was prompted by a group of middle Eastern tourists lining up with the adjacent counters. I however thought that shisha was an interesting and knowledgeable way of opening up conversation with a passenger. Novel indeed. Some more exchanges between us [being from my own country of origin too] suggested flirting with me but I simply let it go anxious to get going with my long trip to home.

Au revoir mes amies et a bientot mes cheres.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Allez chere chanteuse

You'd think that someone French must be lording the hit charts in Paris. Nope, it is still Lady Gaga whose songs are undisputedly mimed and sung. One hit after another have made the Fame Monster which I will attribute to her ability to capture a new genre combining danceable tunes with critical lyricism.

"I want your psycho, your vertical stick. Want you in my room when your baby is sick. I want your love, love, love." "Want your bad romance, caught in a bad romance."

Peter Pan is a fan, are you?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Bonjour Paris

Truly bonjour! Peter Pan's disguise failed to deflate his arrival in the French capital today as on the way out of the terminal he was suddenly halted by a group of customs officials who were on a regular tour of questions and inspections.

That was a surprise indeed which nevertheless proved irritating. This little incident thankfully was not enough to dampen my spirits upon entering what I have always considered 'home' in Europe regardless of my London relations. Clear skies and sunny. Very cold though. Snow in the south of France -- what!

My 'home', the Hotel Sevres Saint Germain on beautiful 6th arrondisement, was all decked to welcome. Old friends were there -- Valerie at the front desk, Maria in the kitchen, and the rest including Ahmed, Larissa, and Cecille (the manager). The usual chambre on the 2nd level has been reserved and I was all set to take that afternoon nap, much deserved after waking up at 5 in the morning to catch the 9am flight.

Now I can relax and then plan the next days ahead. A tout a l'heure.

Monday, 8 March 2010

In Her Honor

It is International Women's Day. I have noticed that men and women are carrying long-stemmed flowers around Budapest but in a manner I have not been used to -- upside down. Apparently, it is a red-letter day in this country which says a lot about what it went through. That thought prompts me to ask what a nation needs to experience in order to accord love, respect, and equal rights to women.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Up, Up, and Away

Peter Pan flew in a huff on March 6 tired of London's grime and slime. Off to mysterious Budapest, beckoning with its post-communist and interesting culture. From the airport, barren trees greet tourists (Spring?) who had to contend with drizzles of snowflakes. Below freezing at 6pm. Brrrrr. The Marriott is tasteful and conveniently located; no regrets staying.

Those who'd like to visit Franz Lizst's roots and music must come here. The Romanesque architecture reminds of a horror movie set while the Renaissance art closely resembles much of Europe's. It is amazing that the original buildings have been preserved especially those that remind of the oppression and cruelty of the communist era. These are juxtaposed with today's commercialism as most of luxury and fast moving brands are available here. One can quickly scan the historical monuments -- the Castle, Parliament, etc. -- in a day. Transport systems are well organized and cheap even if not as glamorous and colorful as those found in more prominent European capitals. Currency is still the Forint, appears cheaper to buy things here against places where the Euro (or the pound!) prevails. Food isn't bad either. The people are helpful, if they can understand you.

No more than three days for Peter Pan here. Again. . . . up, up, and . . . .!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Is it officially Spring or not yet?

Could you imagine Peter Pan flying through sleet? Would he be drenched or will the water simply slip through his slithe body? These questions preoccupied me as I struggled through my third day in London and asked -- is it officially Spring?

The day began cold and gray (sounds like a song!) but sunlight peeked occasionally particularly at lunchtime. Then I noticed that the plants were alive as well. Weren't these indications of Spring. It was cold all right (hovering between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius) but folks were out some even showing signs of not bothering whether they were clad properly or not.

To show as much courage, I set out tonight to undetake dinner alone. There was this lovely Spanish restaurant on Great Portland Street. It is called Iberica - how apt! Tapas were exceptional and attention from the receptionist and servers extraordinary. Wine would have been wonderful but I decided not to take any alcohol fearing that my jet lag might set in. As if the place which has an art gallery as well had a reputation because the restaurant quickly filled up just past 7pm.

Is it Spring - who knows or cares. As long as people treat the weather as a friend and enjoy each other's company in a tapas bar/restaurant, it shouldn't matter. Peter Pan himself would not have bothered with the weather. . . . because his nemesis won't.