Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tourists in Santa Rosa

It used to be so empty here.

We moved here in 1996 feeling like we were leaving reality behind. After us kids almost being run over by cars just outside of our house in AAVA, my parents felt like it was a good move to go down to Santa Rosa. Fewer cars, clean air, the promise of a brand new city going about things right. No more congested roads, no oversaturation, enough green around all the buildings.

Over the years, we were able to see things slowly being built, and it was really nice. Things we used to need to go to Alabang for, we can now get here. But something went wrong along the way after 20 years, and now, every Christmas season, our main arteries, the main roads of access to our homes, become as clogged as the arteries of many people during this festive time of the year.

I'm sure there's something to be said here about excess, and our weakness when it comes to fads, even when they're not really special, or even downright inconvenient. There is nothing down here in Santa Rosa that the swarming crowds can't find in their respective hometowns, but the idea that it's greener here, and that it's a hidden secret, or that there are fewer people: paradoxically, everything that their coming here in droves cancels out.

But that's not what I'm here to write about.

Every time I've gone out recently, I've come across behaviour that I'm not used to seeing here back home. Behaviour that's expected whenever I'm out in Manila: Reckless driving, people getting into your personal space, not flushing in public toilets, littering, etc. 

And I get it: it's easy to blame things on tourists. I have to admit I always assume that those people aren't locals. It's hard to believe that locals would treat their own home like a dump. But I also feel like that's a dangerous attitude to have.

Anywhere you go, the more people there are, the less mindful they are of their surroundings.

The first paper cup on the ground triggers ten more. It's just easier to do the lazy thing when it's been done before, and there are more chances of people doing the first shitty thing, the more people there are.

What I'm saying is, maybe let's just all take responsibility. Thinking that we're any different or better than people from other places by default make us no better than the Trumps of the world. 

I'm still pretty sure tourists are less likely to care for a place than locals, but it would be bad to blame any individual for having come from anywhere they come from. It would be best to assume that people occupying a place just act in response to what they view as the default, and the more people there are, the worse the default seems to be. Crowds are just messy, and the fewer people there are, the more pristine your surroundings look. The more likely everyone is to take care of it and keep it that way.

There is still a lot to be said about what could be changed by the developers, the government, the powers that be, because they certainly could have avoided this unnecessary influx of tourists that our city is not prepared to handle, but for us who don't have a say, we should just keep choosing to inspire good behaviour in each other by setting an example. Aim to improve apparent defaults.

Clean up after ourselves, and even for others (if we're lucky enough to find the rare trashcans) spare a little spritz from your poo-fume bottle if the toilets are a little stanky, let people through in passage ways, keep right, keep your voice down in restaurants, smile at people, say thanks, even help out a lost tourist!

I'm hopeful that things will slowly improve, but we have to work as a unit. "Tourists" will take care of our place if as locals, we suggest the good behaviour strongly enough, and make it very apparent as The Thing To Do. Hating on them does nothing. Just makes us have a false sense of entitlement. We are lucky to have found this place, and have all come from other places. Some, very recently! Let's just all be better, kinder, more proactive about our behaviour in public.

Or we can just stay home.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Emotional Minimalism

What if you could declutter your feelings?

What if you could look over the stock of emotional reactions you keep around, decide which ones to keep, and which ones aren't serving you anymore, and let them go?

Sure you can't toss people out in your life, there will always be bad apples in your circles, maybe even your family, but what if you can toss out the guilt, shame, undeserved care, or any other feeling associated with them that doesn't do anyone any good?

What if you can free yourself from the insecurity of not being as good as you want to be, and make some space to stock up on feeling excited about how much you can improve instead? After all, minimalism isn't about merely having less, but rather having what is essential, and forgoing everything else.

What if you could accept and recognize the effect of toxic people on you and decide not to feel obliged to impress them, and allow yourself to keep a civil, safe distance?

The thing is, you can. Sure, it's not an exact analogy: there is no before-and-after picture you can take, and it cannot be done over one long holiday. Emotions are habits, not things, and saying they're easy to quit is like saying beating addiction is as simple as just not buying cigarettes anymore.

Most days it would feel like giving away old clothes, only to find them back in your closet the next day. Emotions are clothes, if clothes were alive and could crawl.

Emotional decluttering feels more like training a muscle. You'll have to do it regularly, but there will always be an improvement, and it should only get easier over time.

And the way to start is to stop and decide to be aware of what you have in there in the first place. A lot of objectivity, a listening ear from a friend, maybe even a bit of journalling, but the most important thing is to choose to be aware of how you feel from now on.

Know that your emotions don't have to BE you. You don't have to let the monstrous black tides that wash over you pull you away into an endless sea of hopelessness or anger. You are more like a shelf, and emotions are the books you put into it. And sure, the longer you keep some books in there, the more they're going to look like they're part of that shelf, and the shelf won't ever be the same without them. That's all fine and good if you're keeping good classics in there that remind you of how to strive in life, and how to create and keep joy. How to love, or feel grateful, so sure keep those. But if they're shitty novels or gossip rags, would the shelf never being the same be such a bad thing?

It's hard, and it will take time. But it's a choice you can always make.

And again, Minimalism is not about having the least possible amount, but about having less of what you don't need, and more of what is essential. So perhaps, replacing the bad with the good will do you more favors than just trying to create a void and resisting the icky feelings when they come. Build the habit of hopping onto a happier train of thought instead of boring a hole into an awkward memory of a moment that you can't change.

There is loads of good advice out there about the hows of it all, but the most important part is to remind yourself that it's an option. There is a different way to live. There is a way to think kinder, that is, thinking in a way that is kinder to yourself, and this will allow you to also be kinder to others.

Since we're welcoming a new year soon, perhaps it would be a good time to start.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It's Longer in the Thick of It

If you're expecting anything raunchy because of my title, prepare to be disappointed. I'm here to talk about a very un-sexy topic for most people.

The passage of time. Or maybe more like your passage within it.

Time flies, they say, when you're having fun. And time supposedly goes faster for you as you get older. As you notice and remember patterns from every day life, repeat sensations will start to feel like your brain just skimming a page, never letting your consciousness settle or find a home within the moments. And in the end, you look back, and much of it would feel like you just floated by, with your senses numbed. Tewwifying!

A couple nights ago, I walked home on my usual route, and a thought made me freeze: This street I'm walking on feels suspiciously shorter. Am I letting "the Now" slip by too fast? Am I skimming this page of my life?

When things like that happen, I like to recall what it was like to be a child, to have every sight, scent, and sound assault me. So vivid, my days felt like dreams within dreams, and every sunset would feel like saying goodbye to a good friend. I try to conjure that up in me, with varying results.

These days, they feel more and more like missed chances with encounters of smiling strangers. We could have been friends, but I didn't quite get to know who you were, Day, or what we could have been. So bye I guess.

This pattern recognition thing, although I'm sure it helps us function easier from day to day, sometimes feels like a bubble suit acting like a barrier between me and the world. As more patterns form, it's as if the bubble crystallizes, letting me feel less and less, separating me from the world.

Except when I'm scared shitless.

I realized, while walking that night, that it wasn't that I was savoring my walks more in the past. It was more because I always felt like something was going to hurt or kill me, and I've grown out of that somewhat.

Now that I have less travel anxiety, I could function like most folks during transit or on foot. I'll sort of just go my way automatically and think about something far far away in my head, and that probably makes things feel shorter.

I feel more safe now, and that's a good thing.

But for other things in life, too much safety, too much of the same, not taking risks... It can make time feel so short.

Are we always going to go through hardships that feel drawn on, only to find that once we've reached the resolution of our challenges, time will slip by beyond the finish line?

I'm still holding on to a hope that I can keep things fresh without having to resort to risky behavior.

But a comforting thought that I get from all of this is that: Right now, I'm in the thick of figuring things out. And it will feel slow, and at times, it will feel like things aren't changing and can never be the way I hope them to be. But even though I'm challenged and I find myself anxious and fearful a lot of the time, I'm at least in a safe place where I can grow, I am cared for, and I have people to talk to. That's far better than where I used to be, and I have hope that my challenges will evolve and change, but I will always be able to step back once in a while to see, smell, feel all of it in all its glory.

I will always remember in gratitude the things I used to be unable to filter out, and in the future, when I'm over my current ones, the things I still can't filter out to this day: all my over-analyzed interactions, my illogical fears, all the times I think I come off too strange...

Someday that might change, but I won't forget that it did. And so time will slow down in reverence, and I will be able to stop and stare in wonder at all the beautiful ways that a person can evolve within a lifetime.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tricycle Therapy aka Dealing with my Demons in the Dark

Coming home today I had a nice talk with Beardy. It was one of those talks where what you say just unfolds by itself, sort of a live epiphany in front of a one-man audience.

It helped that we were in the dark, in a cramped tricycle, loud motor running, me buzzed from sitting all day making* art. I felt like bursting, and was in a safe space to do so.

I told him about how I think I've been avoiding being "seen" for a long time, because I wasn't comfortable with myself.

Being "seen" as in leaving any sort of impression. At first I claimed that I didn't want to leave any strong impression on anyone, and so I feel scared when people seem to get a whiff of my critical/agit side (I attempt to mask this by showing my kooky/awkward side so people know I don't bite) but I suddenly realised that I was trying to not make ANY impression at all.

Thus I had an aversion to speaking my mind without being asked (by name, not as part of a crowd), or to volunteer for things, or to make friends with people I liked or admired.

But recent developments had made it so that I've been spending more time with those people, and so it's becoming very unlikely for them to not have any impression of me. And so this provided a stark contrast from how things were just a year ago, which made the reasons, I guess, bubble up to the surface.

let's provide a visual! the oil = deep seated issues. they were stuck to the bottom when i was socially empty and friends = water!! 
It's because I have an ideal self, and I know I'm far from being her as of yet.

My ideal self would be kind enough to speak her mind, ask questions when in doubt of what someone says, but sound calm and reassuring enough that the person wouldn't feel attacked. But that takes a lot of nerve. It takes a very calm person. And I'm typically a very nervy person.

I get too nervous when speaking up around people because I'm overly either sensitive or imaginative about what they would think or how they'd feel of/about what I say.

It's kind of funny to realise this now, at a point in my life where I've supposedly very decidedly stopped caring what other people think about me. But now I realise that that only goes as far as my appearance. I don't care about being ugly, fat, or hairy. But I do care about being kind.

Beardy reassured me that it's already a lot for me to be so ambitious about being a better person, instead of being too happy about who I already am. I told him I admired him and others, who felt comfortable to be seen as who they are. Comfortable about people knowing their impatience, pickiness, all of their glorious idiosyncrasies, but he said he admired that I'm aware of mine and would like to improve upon them instead of settling.

I'm realising that perhaps I've reached the point of no return. There are things to be worked on that could only be worked on under the lamplight of the company of other people. I may feel like I got it together when I'm alone or unstimulated, when my mental, emotional and physical energies are untapped and thus feel abundant. I did feel like I was searching for a "flowier" state of being, rather than the safe and stagnant shell I felt I was in. Maybe I'm here now. Maybe this is how it will feel for a while.

I will feel more watched, my palms and feet will be sweaty, but I'd be learning and relating to other people more, at an exponential rate. I will feel misunderstood, I will feel scared about perhaps having said the wrong thing, but this way, I'd be able to reach and help more people, with whatever I'm called out to do. I'd be nervous because I care, and uncomfortable like I'm in a tricycle.

And maybe sometimes, that's the kindest thing to be.

 (*term used loosely: our mentor tells it's just copying because the composition is directed) 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sitting Duck (poem)

living in a cage called Psychological Time
I run away from a familiar feeling:
anxious heartbeats, sounding inside
like footsteps behind me, running.

knitting lists from an unraveling mind
until all they are are identical rows
meaningless squiggles, constant warnings
of failures only the future knows

clearing out big spaces of time
to let the work catch up on crutches
brain jumping onto parallel planes
the clock doesn't stop, but watches.

waking up near the bottom of the lake
after dreaming about struggling on the surface
a desperate hope for diamonds to form
from the chances that slipped into the furnace

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Go Away, Meet Yourself. (France Vol.2)

There were things I expected to see when I went to France.

Par exemple, when I went to Paris, it felt like sort of a scavenger hunt of things that were in those cutesy Paris maps we used for French class:

1. two churches
Notre Dame! LIKE FIRE!!! HELLFIRE!!! THIS FIRE IN MY SKIN!!!! THIS BURNING!! DESIRE!! IS TURNING ME TO SIN!!! (Now don't be creeped out, it's an actual song from a Disney film. They're wholesome don't you know.)
Sacre Coeur! The sight to see really is the surrounding area. The church itself is cute, but the view is amazing from the front of it, looking out into Paris:

gave me tiny goosebumps to be very honest with you

There was an asian couple who brought photographers and took prenup pics (?I'm guessing)

2. the Da Vinci Code museum The Louvre

which was so big I had to take a nap in the middle of my visit, (and don't forget to take a picture of the pyramid because that's how they know you went)
Taking a pic from the middle part of the monster building that was the Louvre

3. the pointy thing The Eiffel Tower
It was pleasantly not very crowded and very sunny when we went :)

4. The Arch of Intense Faces  Arc de Triomphe
It's SO ELABORATE much more detailed than I imagined. What a sight.


5. Shakespeare and Co.

and what, real life buskers?! What luck!

I also expected to be able to eat good food. I didn't expect that it would be because of the quality of the produce instead of mere cookery, but I digress.

This was the France I expected to see.

And then there's the small things I did not expect to see, and that I... low-key fell in love with man.

1.The painted windows in stone houses

I don't know why, seeing them everywhere just sort of filled me with something nice and weird. Can you relate?

2. The flowers (and trees and plants in general!!!)
florb salad

Tiny Beardarito

Bunnyfood <3

Tulip: "I'm almost purple black I'm so black purple!!!"

Add caption


Fisherman flowers. Apparently they crush these after a day of fishin' to make their fingers more fresh

I just kinda stood under this tree and asked it, ".. Are you real?"

Had a couple laughs at all of the pine trees because I always think they look like they're giving me ALL OF THE FINGERS

Each petal is heart shaped.

This weirdly smelled like corn.


 Has it always been this way? It was everywhere in the highways.
Anyway speaking of the roads, what a joy to drive on ones where you don't have to stop every minute and basically fend for your life all the time. Rules are followed, everyone knows what they are, and you don't have to micromanage your whole trip. Here, we have to be on edge ALL THE TIME. We drove for miles and there were very few "interesting" incidents. So a lot of time to just stare at sheep, cows, sloping hills, farms, houses, windmills, and yeah, a crapload of rapeseed.

I obviously didn't get to take many pictures out the window, because speed and window filters make bad ones and I'm not the type to stop by the road to take better ones, so here is a picture of windmills.

3. city planning in general
It was so easy to get around, the signs told you everything you needed to know and were consistent, all towns had a tourism office with maps, there are parking lots every few minutes with huge recycling bins and electric car chargers, where you can leave your car so you can walk the rest of the way.. Because the streets are designed for pedestrians. Whaaat? Yes. That's how it should be everywhere, but it's not.
I was NEVER driven by Beardy before we went to France so I really enjoyed that part of it all

Hello it's us

And what really struck me as amazing, was that "everything you needed to know" included Where to Camp. There was a place to set up camp in every town we went to! Here's the one we stayed in near Amboise:

Our tent and the showers and some grass in between

Our breakfast view: Our car's butt.

4. The animals
Surprise kitty! This kitty suddenly rubbed up on me while we were walking somewhere in ...Quimper I'm guessing

:D Meeting this cow really made me happy because it was one of my goals during the trip and this cow was very friendly and sweet!

Fluffo the Donkeroo and Beardy's Maman

He waited so long to touch this pony and the pony took his sweet time walking up to us. Then paused JUST out of reach, before finally moving closer to Beardy. It was a hilarious moment for me.

These romantic duckos were walking down the stream as we were walking by it and it felt like we were mirroring each other awwww..

5. And me...


Yes, I believe I met myself anew in this trip.
"I found myself"?! Really? You're ending this by revealing a cliché?

Now now, hold on a minute: you see, being so far detached from all I knew, I was left outside the shell of reality that I'd always been hidden in, without really knowing so.

In other words, by being away from all of the people, the circumstances, the danger, the inconveniences that I've been accustomed to, I was also away from most of the habits and rhythm of my typical life, and so it was like having to start fresh and picking up new tools, and therefore revealing a part of myself that isn't formed by these things.

It's not to say that it's necessarily a more accurate, nor a better-functioning version of me; in fact, I felt weak because it was cold, I often felt meeker than I want to feel compared to the very outspoken French people (who not to mention mostly spoke French, soooo.. ), I felt highly dependent of Beardy and his family too, so I wasn't necessarily freer, but:

I had really great conversations and what I felt was sincere connection to some people I've only met for the first time, I did things that would be considered strenuous for my family's habits when we go on trips, I interacted with strangers, which I typically avoid here at home... Basically, it's different... And it's not better because of the circumstances of things, as much as it is just better because it's a way to know myself more. In whatever manner it would entail.

Travel is typically thought of as a way to escape your problems, as if you weren't bringing yourself. But let's face it, you're where most of the baggage you're trying to get away from lives. Not so much in our surroundings.

When you go away, you are given a chance to reveal a different part of you to yourself. And so, the life-changing aspect of travel isn't finished the minute you fly back home - a fuller knowledge of yourself comes back with you, and hopefully guides you the rest of the way.

Going to France taught me the following about myself:

  1. I actually really like warmth. I just thought of "warm" as "hot" by default because I'm from the tropics.
  2. In a functioning society where mail and necessities can reach any corner of the country, I very much prefer provinces to big cities. But a nice compromise in between would be best.
  3. During deep dinner conversations, I am actually able to participate well without wanting to escape and be somewhere else. I'm just a little uncomfortable with small talk, so I always thought I hated socializing, because small talk is more typical to my culture.
  4. I get sick easily when it's cold! But I can wear makeup without feeling gross after a few hours!!! It's kind of a dilemma.
  5. This one's hard to describe, but I realised that I have OK instincts. Probably because you have to fend for yourself in many things here, and so in a place designed to aide its citizens, it's difficult to feel too lost at any time. Even with the language barrier!

What about you? Have you ever learned anything about yourself while traveling? And it doesn't even have to be far away! Just anywhere new to you! What did you learn? I'd love to know your story!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bea Visits Beardy's Homeland (France Vol.1)

So last March I wrote this kind of weird post without really touching upon what it was even about. Then I left the blog for almost five months, (which is typical!!) but now that I have some time during which I am intentionally avoiding doing any work/thinking about work to refresh my brain cells, I decided to finally write a bit about MY VACATION IN FRANCE!!!

Now this is just going to be a summary, but I already know it might be a little long. I'll try not to ramble too much and let the pictures do most of the talking, but knowing myself, this might still end up being very wordy, (I mean just this bit explaining is already unnecessarily wordy) so strap yourself in, get an iced coffee, maybe put some music in the background, I don't know man it's your life!!! 

There's already like an 80% chance that you know why I went there. I assume you come from Facebook, which would mean you might know me personally, and might know that that's where Em -I mean Beardy (he's called Beardy here you guys! Shh!)- is from. But here are some things you might not know about this trip:

  1. It's actually only my FIRST time going there. Beardy so far had been the sole crosser of seas in our relationship until then. FOR FIVE HUNDRED YEARRRRS!!!
  2. I've tried and failed before to go, and that's what that last weird post was about! I was then awaiting my Visa application results! Haha.
  3. The first time I attempted to go was in 2014, when the macaron fad had just reached the Ph. And to make things fun, I decided to do a Macaron Strike! Where I managed to refrain from ever trying one before I could go to France and eat one there.

And no, I did not go to Ladurée in Paris to make that happen; we have a branch of that here in Makati. My first macaron (my first six if we're being honest) was procured from a Carrefour, which we don't have in the Philippines. I wasn't really expecting to like them, it was more for the principle of it. The symbolism of it. But hey they were good! Much more interesting that what I had imagined (glorified meringue sandwiches with filling).. They were chewy on the inside and the fillings were really nice. They're not just pretty to look at! Sorry I misjudged you, macarons.

Much of our 7-week vacation was spent just chilling at their home in Brittany, like we used to do the first years that he visited me here. We played lots of board games, played music together with his sister, cooked and ate a lot of nice food, taking scenic walks, and whatever else.

A lot of the time, I was sick while I was there. I unfortunately got a bad case of the coughies shortly before leaving, and the cold/dry environment wasn't too kind to that. It lasted for weeks! And so I wasn't very energetic and needed a lot of rest. But it was still really lovely to be with his family in a mostly relaxed environment! Eating breakfast together while watching birds outside, making LOTS of tea, drinking beer and eating various numnums by a fire (it was still cold enough to merit that in a Breton spring apparently!)... like the sweetest cherry tomatoes I've ever had in my life!

The difference in the general climate is pretty striking:

  • You can have a sunroof in your car or room and NOT turn your room or car into a deadly oven
  • Room temperature water is cold. You don't need to refrigerate water.
  • I can wear makeup without feeling disgusting after a couple hours
  • I can put oil in my hair without it turning into a swampy mess
  • Everything keeps a lot better without so much humidity. Not just food - buildings, towels, dishes, very old books, everything looked newer than they actually were. So it's not just that we're lazy in taking care of our buildings and artefacts here I guess. Climate plays a very important role in preserving culture. Welp. Wind it back a bit there Bea.
  • The sun sets around 9pm. This made such a huge difference for me. I often feel like the day is over when the sun is down, and would feel sad during evenings here because everything just feels more dangerous in the dark, and if you weren't done it's like everything you're going to do after the sun sets is already LATE. But when the sun sets at 9pm, it's like just in time for bed, and it felt like I could live the waking hours to the fullest. I wasn't chasing the sun.
  • I wore the same clothes over and over because I didn't really sweat in them much.
  • People are always feeling the weather out, and if it got warm or sunny, people make a point to go outside. To walk instead of driving everywhere. To eat in the patio instead of inside. Here it's as if because there's always a high probability of it being too hot or wet to be outside, even when it's nice and cloudy/cool/dry, we are not programmed to take advantage of that anymore. We stay inside anyway. We wait to be picked up at the entrance of stores even when it's cloudy enough to walk the grocery cart to our cars. I really learned to appreciate good weather now when I experience it. And I love it that I'm not always cold here in the Philippines. I understand Beardy a lot better now when it comes to that.
One of the first days in Brittany. It was warm enough to eat outside so we did, but you bet I braved the cold in the shade just so the sun won't burn my retinas!
A couple of people enjoying the sun in Pont-Aven
  • It can be very cold but also blindingly bright at the same time!!!
*ngiting nakakasilaw nasisilaw*

Really all of this I could have guessed myself but it was still quite an experience actually living it. Like being in Paris. It's such a tourist trap, such a filmic destination, so well-covered in books, films, pictures... It was the France I "knew" before I ever went. But it's SO different from the rest of the country! I never imagined that the feeling I'd have upon arriving in Paris was... STRESS! Because I've been spoiled for weeks in the countryside where there's nature, cute animals, and few cars before I went to the bustling city. It was really fun though! And quite the funny feeling seeing the sights with my own two eyes.

Here we see some youths having a classic Parisian picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Imagine being a teenage tourist on a trip with your friends doing this with no shame and maybe even a bit of pride! Youth is a wonderful thing.

The Louvre pyramids... FROM INSIDE THE MUSEUM! Before taking an exhausted nap. A guard totally let us. It was right front of him.

Taking a picture in front of the Centre Pompidou for my best friend ♥
MONT MARTRE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! Look at that golden morning glow.♥

THE SMELL OF OIL PAINTS IN THE MORNING IS ALMOST BETTER THAN THE SMELL OF FRESH BAGUETTES TO ME please don't tell Beardy I said that. It's blasphemous to the French. 

Shakespeare and Co, with some English(?) buskers on the side

So that's me meeting the side of France that I was expecting to meet. In the next post I'll be covering the summary of the unexpected side of France I saw, and in the future, more detailed stuff about all of the small trips that we took. Hope to see you here again! Thanks for your time! Hope you enjoyed your coffee!