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|Saturday, February 25th, 2006|
|So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
13 months living in China. 3 months backpacking thru Southeast Asia. 2 months staying with my family in the Philippines.
I had told people I was leaving to learn Mandarin, see where my family’s from, etc. It’s true but not entirely. I said it mostly cuz it’s easy for others to understand. But, really, I left because I didn’t know anymore what kind of life I wanted to be living, didn’t know if I liked the one I had. So I removed myself from all that I knew in search of clarity.
The result? I speak passable Mandarin and want to learn more. I saw our old family home and interviewed some of my family members. And I got a small window of clarity to help me re-learn what I enjoy, what’s important to me.
I go back to the USA today. This is the last entry in my blog. Hope to build my own website by the end of the year, but this is it for a while. It’s been real, it’s been fun. In fact, it’s been really fun.
Goodbye Home. Hello Home.
|Friday, February 24th, 2006|
|state of emergency
President Arroyo declared a "State of Emergency" today. I haven't been allowed out of the house today, just in case. I've been watching the news all day, seeing policemen beating unarmed protesters. I don't know what's going to come of it all. Everyone knows Arroyo cheated during the elections, don't know how she plans to hold the country together cuz people clearly aren't backing her. What's the alternative...?
|i travel to justify my unemployment
Why do people travel? To visit friends and family. To engage in location-specific activities, like snowboarding or surfing. But what compels a person to travel halfway around the world to visit a country where they don’t know anyone & can’t speak the language? To relax, learn more about the world, engage in otherwise outrageous behavior?
For me, backpacking isn’t really that relaxing. It just means that I get stressed out about different things. Like, instead of worrying about making a college loan payment, I worry about finding the least expensive room that doesn’t put me at risk for malaria. I do learn more about the world, but I’m under no illusion that looking at a bunch of old temples will make me smarter. As for the outrageous behavior…well, I’m still the same person at heart so nothing scandalous, believe me.
I travel to show-off to my friends. “See, while you were waking up at 6 AM every day to go to that god-forsaken job of yours with your crappy boss, I was sunbathing on a beach in Thailand.”
I travel to learn more about myself by challenging myself. Yes, I can eat fried rice every day for a week & still like it. Yes, I can keep hiking even after my body is begging for me to stop. Yes, I can argue & shout obscenities at a taxi driver over $1 worth of change. Yes, I can feel the awesomeness of Angkor Wat. And I learn that I have limits. No, I don’t understand the horrors of the Vietnam War. No, I don’t understand why men having sex with prostitutes in Indonesia won’t wear condoms. No, I can’t believe how difficult it is for a Filipino to get a visa to the US. No, I can’t stand it when people think I’m Japanese.
It shows me what things I can handle and what things I need to work on. And what better way to do that than lying on the beach in Thailand?
Why do *you* travel?
|Thursday, February 23rd, 2006|
|Thursday, February 9th, 2006|
|25 books a year
I read somewhere that people should read 25 books a year. That's like one every 2 weeks. I don't know anyone who does that. I've been on vacation for 5 months & I've still only read 15 books. And I was so proud of myself. Sigh. Here's what I read:
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Return to Paradise by James A. Michener
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
Any recommendations for what 10 books should be on my reading list for the next 7 months?
|Friday, February 3rd, 2006|
|made me laugh
"People want to know why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy - and I keep it in a jar on my desk." - Stephen King
|Monday, January 30th, 2006|
Went to my first Chinese Buddhist ceremony. Interestingly, it's a lot like a Catholic Mass. People reciting, singing, repeating, kneeling, & standing in unison. Facing an altar with 3 gods on it. Having holy water flung at you. Filing in line to go up to the head guy, kneeling with hands folded in front of him. Instead of a wafer in your mouth, he paints a red dot on your forehead. After an hour, it's pretty much over. You get the option of going to different prayer stations to pray for a particular thing, like health, love, wealth.
The main differences were the new year celebration flourishes, like giving everyone "ang bao" (literally means "red envelope", perhaps better translated as "lucky money"), the pretty cool lion dance, & the firecrackers.
I was a little disappointed. I had thought it would be different, like more spiritual, peaceful, deeper. The really short ceremony we had at my uncle's house in the morning meant more to me. About 8 dishes were prepared and placed at an altar for my maternal grandparents. Then each of us were given incense sticks, silently greeted our ancestors & prayed for whatever was in our hearts, and that was it. Honoring the past, being with family, and food. What better way to begin the new year?
|Sunday, January 29th, 2006|
|happy chinese new year!
Those born under the sign of the Snake are:
Well-bred, attractive, and irresistible. Philosophical, deep thinkers, calm, intelligent, mysterious, emotional, intuitive, possessive and flirtatious. Admired for their helpfulness, generosity, wisdom, and gentleness but sometimes self-critical. Sentimental and romantic with a subtle sense of humor. Naturally lucky but should not be provoked since is a vicious loser.
For my Yin Fire Snake brethren born between February 4th, 1977 and February 4th, 1978, here is our horoscope for the lunar new year (as published by the Manila Bulletin):
You have a Robbery Star under your sign, so you have to be careful in handling your financial situation. Money luck is good and you can have profits from your business and work or you will have the chance for promotion. Otherwise, you may either change jobs or start your own business. Money is easy come and easy go. Therefore you should not be a loan guarantor for your friends and relatives; otherwise you will be encumbered by them and it will bring trouble in the months to come. You have to save money for a rainy day and budget your expenses well. Try to minimize all unnecessary expenditures. Married persons might have a newborn baby and single persons will have the opportunity to meet their dream lover. For your health, you have to beware of your diet and it's better to have an annual check up with your dentist as you may have problems with your teeth.
|Saturday, January 28th, 2006|
|and then there was one
About 2/3 of my relatives live in the Philippines, while the rest are mostly in the US. We had a mini-reunion where 14 of us from the States came to the PI. I was the first with Irene to arrive, so I saw the rest arrive and, one-by-one, leave. Now I’m the only one still here who still refuses to face reality & responsibility.
Life here is leisurely (lots of time to read, eat, watch DVDs, & shoot the shit) and fun because I have over 40 awesome family members to hang out with. The drawbacks are
1. Not seeing V, the rest of my family, & my friends
2. Lack of independence
3. Being sedentary
4. Dwindling bank account
So I finally bought my plane ticket back to the US. I arrive at LAX on February 25th (tho I’m considering changing it to a week later…). But I must admit that I may still be in a state of avoidance cuz I’ll be staying at my parents’ house in the OC for an undetermined length of time…so my ETA in “real life” is…sometime in…Spring 2006.
|Monday, January 23rd, 2006|
|god, country, & boxing
Despite the yumminess of Oscar De La Hoya, I don't like boxing. But I discovered that there's no way I could be in the Philippines and not watch the Morales-Pacquiao fight. From 1:30 - 3:00 PM all of Manila was glued to the TV. I was at Chili's (yes, the same one of babyback ribs jingle fame), drinking a San Miguel, watching two men try to knock each other out. It was front page news, priests referred to it at Sunday mass, and politicans were quoted on it. 80 million people declared: "God is on our side. Pacquiao will win." A little presumptuous, I thought, considering that Mexico is also overwhelmingly Catholic. But, as Round 10 ended with the ref stopping the fight to keep Morales from getting seriously damaged, perhaps they were right.
There are moments in the US when its people seem united, like during the Olympics or 9-11. But it's kinda nutty when it's a boxing match, and not even a titled one. Question: why do Cuba & Russia totally dominate Olympic boxing?
|Sunday, January 1st, 2006|
|Happy New Year & Photos!
Happy New Year!!! I rang it in with my family & friends in the Philippines on the rooftop of my uncle's house. Manila was rockin' with lots of music, yelling, & tons of fireworks. Then we have a midnight merienda of noodles with hardboiled eggs, warm pandesal, & cake. Life can be good.
I finally posted some pics of my travels. It's about 50 pics, which is just a fraction of what I've taken, but it covers a good breadth of what I've been up to these past 3 months. I'll add more later. Enjoy!http://flickr.com/photos/priscilly
|Tuesday, December 20th, 2005|
Spent the last 2 weeks on 2 infamous islands: Bali & Borneo. Very different experiences for me. Bali was all about fancy hotels, swimming pools, shopping, beautiful sunsets, & good food. The only indication there had been a terrorist attack this year was the emptiness of the place. Borneo was orangutans, granite mountains, lush forest, spectacular sunrises, & dirty dorm rooms. Both have mosquitoes, rain, deforestation, & really nice people.
The joys of traveling. One day you can be lounging in your own private swimming pool, sipping a cocktail. The next day you can be on a strenuous hike in the rainforest praying that you have enough water to make it to the top.
|Thursday, December 8th, 2005|
I came to the workcamp in the hope of being able to provide some kind of tangible support or change for the sex workers & children who live here. I wasn't able to do much & they're all still living the same life as before I came. But one thing that we did do for the women was show that we're not embarassed or afraid or critical of what they do. That we can talk with them, joke, listen, without the stigma that usually feel with others. And almost all of the IIWC volunteers said that the workcamps help them build more confidence & become more open-minded. They don't feel embarassed speaking English anymore. They can speak out & give presentations at meetings, they care about the issues. What they're really doing is building a movement of young people in Java & it was so awesome for me to able to see this first-hand & contribute a little to it.
As for me...besides the satisfaction of helping, I also got other things. The children taught me how easy & nice it feels to trust and love openly. I learned a traditional Javanese dance. I believe that there are good and nice people everywhere. And our taxi driver recognized us & remembered our names from the newspaper!
But these experiences leave me a little uncomfortable. It's so weird to spend an intense 10 days becoming so close to people & to a neighborhood, only to leave after a short time, possibly forever. The Indonesian people we met host workcamps all the time, the foreigners just come & go. They gotta get tired of this. Are any of these friendships real, is the change real? It just feels like moments, moments I undoubtedly appreciate, but moments nonetheless. Maybe some of y'all can give me some perspective on this?
|Sunday, December 4th, 2005|
|indonesian men need small condoms
So we basically are living in a huge red light district. During the day it seems like just any other old neighborhood, actually pretty chill. But yesterday was nuts. We were told ahead of time that Saturday was a very busy night here & that the more popular sex workers can service over 10 clients in just one day. But it's another thing to see the swarms of men with my own eyes. Guys on motorbikes everywhere, cars with 3 or 4 guys coming in together, taxis driving in clients. It costs 1000 rp just to get in the gates of the 'hood & these guys were definitely here to visit the prostitutes.
In a lot of ways, having the women together in one place is safer than having them walk the streets. The people know each other, help each other. There's the medical clinic close by and the women can wait for customers in front of their own homes. But it's still so crazy to see all the guys that flood the place.
We passed out condoms & HIV/AIDS info to the men, & I hope that at least some of them used them. A lot of the women told us that most of the men don't like using condoms & feel like that since they're paying, they want to get the "full sensation." Some get angry when the women try to insist on it. Sometimes the guys will hit them or go to a different woman. I don't get it. If you were going to have sex with a prostitute, wouldn't you be *more* likely to use a condom???
|Thursday, December 1st, 2005|
|World AIDS Day
Had to help plan & lead a workshop on sexual harassment, which is what I was doing my last 2 years in college & didn't think I'd be doing it again, much less in Indonesia. Talking about it openly is still a new thing here, so I was happily surprised at how talkative people were during the small group discussions. A lot of the English terminology was new for them (harassment vs assault, molestation, stalking, etc) & most people there had never talked about it in a mixed gender setting. I truly believe that no matter how a woman is dressed, she never deserves to be sexually harassed, but it was interesting to hear people debate this in a Muslim society with strict rules about dress & covering the body.
For World AIDS Day, we & almost 3,000 other people came out wearing red to make a formation of a huge red ribbon. A pic of it was in the local paper, saying it was the largest demonstration in Indonesia. A couple days before, we passed out paper roses, condoms, & info to motorists at a busy intersection. I was actually on the Indonesian news for doing this. Never thought I'd make it in the newspaper & TV!
|Sunday, November 27th, 2005|
|paying lots of $ to sleep on the floor
To not be such a lump during my 4-month trip, I signed up for a volunteer workcamp for 10 dys in Indonesia (http://www.geocities.com/IIWC3/IIWC.html
). International volunteers are placed around the country at different organizations working on various issues. Its main purpose is cultural exchange. So my site is in Semarang, a big city east of Jakarta, at a clinic that provides free STD testing & HIV/AIDS info in the largest concentration of sex workers in Central Java. Our camp has 4 volunteers (me, sis, guy from Belgium, gal from Indonesia) Interestingly, most vols they get are from the Netherlands & Japan. Plus 2 staff, and a whole slew of their friends and other local vols. For 10 days, this clinic is where we'll be sleeping, eating, planning, & getting to know each other, the sex workers, & the other people who live in the community.
We sleep on the floor of the clinic & have a very rudimentary bathroom & the dress code is strict for such hot weather, but I can tell I'm gonna like it. The atmosphere is laid-back and communal. Medical staff, outreach staff, sex workers, children who live in the area, & friends come in & out all day. Javanese culture seems pretty conservative, but I think I'm hanging out with some of the most open-minded, sexually explicit, liberal people in town. Activism still seems pretty new, especially about these issues, so it's nice to see people get all excited about their work, instead of jaded like me. :)
|Monday, November 21st, 2005|
|where are you going?
One of the things that made me happy about traveling in Asia is that I thought I wouldn't stand out so much & wouldn't have to deal with annoying comments. Once again, I was wrong. Of course, wandering around with a big-ass backpack screams tourist, but I hadn't realized how much my clothes and mannerisms would make me stand out. But the thing is that everyone knows I'm not from where we are at the moment but they don't know where I'm from.
I'm in Indonesia now. In order of frequency, this is what locals think I am: Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Malaysian. If I hear "konichiwa" one more time, I'm going to freak. I'm sure people do it to be friendly and to get my attention to sell me something and to maintain an image that Indonesian welcomes tourists, but after hearing it fifty times a day (no joke), it gets darn annoying. I'm sure it sounds awful, but I'd just like to spend a day walking down the street without anyone talking to me.
The second question people ask after "where are you from?" is "where are you going?" I read that this is like Americans saying "how are you?" or the Chinese saying "Have you eaten?", which is mostly said as a greeting or conversation starter or to be polite. But I still get taken aback when people ask me where I'm going and I want to get all bristly and say "none of your business!" Then I take a deep breath and try to nicely reply "just out walking."
It's been hard for me to keep things like this in perspective and to get used to these little cultural differences. But I just really want to be left alone. To not have strangers talk to me. To not have things yelled at me on the street. To not have 5 people in a row ask me the same question. To not have all of Indonesia speak to me in Japanese. Just to have a relaxing vacation. Too much to ask?
|Wednesday, November 16th, 2005|
China's Sexual Blogolutionhttp://www.alternet.org/story/28145/
Lost Sparrow, Sister Lotus and other Chinese women are changing the rules between the sexes -- and prompting government censorship -- as they post intimate details of their lives online.
***uh, my blog is pretty g-rated in comparison, so if you want to read about what chinese women really think, check it out. maybe my blog will sound more exciting if i get a cool code name. any ideas? by the way, i'm still looking for a domain name for my website, so please send any ideas my way!
|Tuesday, November 15th, 2005|
|Death of a Dream
"Amazing Race." Reality TV show where contestants travel all over the world & perform challenging tasks to win $. I heard they were looking for new contestants, groups of 4, must be family. I thought, perfect! Me & my sisters make 4. We're cute, well-traveled, in decent shape. I was dying for us to audition, but as I was in China, making an audition tape was too complicated, so I let it go. But I still occasionally think, we should be on that show!
Alas, Taman Negara, the national park in peninsular Malaysia, has made it clear to me that there's no way I would've survived on that show.
It's an 11km hike from the village to a hide, a rudimentary cabin where you have a good chance of spotting wild animals cuz of the adjacent salt lick. Gotta bring your own sleeping mat, food, & water. Should take 5-6 hours. We can leave in the morning, take a side trip to this hilltop, & still make it before dark. Great, no problem, right? So wrong.
It took us a whopping NINE hours. This includes 1 hour of being lost (meaning making our way thru trees & slipping & sliding up & down muddy slopes trying to find the trail) and 1 hour of walking after sundown in the pouring rain sloshing through mud and water, praying that we wouldn't miss the cabin in the dark.
My pitiful state afterwards says it best: 3 huge possibly infected blisters on my heels, bloody suck marks on my ankle & shoulder from leeches, 14 mosquito bites on my upper left arm alone, a burn mark on my right shoulder from the rubbing of my backpack, a body that feels like one huge cramp, a bruise on my forearm from when I fell, mud & dirt stains everywhere, & really tender hands and fingers filled with thorn pricks, rope burn, splinters, & various abrasions. Every step I take hurts in a hundred places & I was so exhausted that I slept 11 hours.
So I'm not so cute now, I don't feel especially well-traveled, & I'm in terrible shape. :(
If someone had told me that this is what I would endure to see less wildlife than an average night in Orange County, I would've said forget it. But now that it's over, I'm glad I went. The more you travel, the more you know what you're looking for & a lot of the adventure & unknown challenge is lost. But Taman Negara was a totally unexpected challenge & I respect it cuz it kicked my ass.
|Wednesday, November 9th, 2005|
Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia. So overloaded on colonial architecture, the American War on communism, & temples/palaces. In Thailand, I guess the north is a big tourist spot for hilltribe trekking, but I didn't really feel like staring at villagers like they're in a zoo, so we just headed to the beach.
It is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! (sorry i don't have pics up yet...)
Yes, it's touristy & over-developed & over-hyped, but I've never seen beaches this gorgeous before. Koh Pha Ngan on the Gulf of Thailand & Koh Phi Phi on the Andaman Sea. Clear turquoise water, soft white sand, pink sunrises & sunsets. So nice.
But then you get a little too sunburned & it's time to move on. Hello Malaysia!