So, I decided to drive from Manila to Hundred Islands. Google map said it is only 245 km from here. What no one told me is that, there are no signboards anywhere to direct you and most of the roads are single lanes teeming with reckless bike riders, bike taxies with sidecars and jeepneys that stop wherever and whenever they want in the middle of the road.
I started out at 6:30 a,m. and by 9 a.m. I had only done 80 km. I was getting tired of the constant breaking and not being able to pick up the speed. There was a bus in front of me and I hate following a larger vehicle as I can’t see the road ahead and have to rely on the bus driver’s instinct for me to evaluate the hazards ahead. So, I decided to overtake him.
Time and again, I told my children about why they should never overtake from the wrong side. I noticed there was a little shoulder on the right side and throwing all cautions to the wind, I decided to overtake the bus from the right side, just about the same time, the bus driver decided to turn to the right and stop to let the passengers disembark. I was already accelerating to overtake and when I stepped on the brake, I thought this was it..my life was going to be over… I swear I have a guardian angel. There was probably a cm between my car and the bus when the car stopped after I braked.
Of all the things I have ever done, this would top the list as the most stupidest. I am 45 years old for crying out loud!
I used to find it really amusing to watch the tourists jumping up and down when they see a rat scurrying around the drains when I was living in M’sia.. or their paranoia to eat the street food..
I used to eat pani puri from the street vendors in Bangalore when I was studying Medicine (knowing all the potential risk and regularly falling sick) I never thought twice about eating hawker food in M’sia.
I came to Manila thinking it would be like M’sia. Somehow food was the least of my worries as I really am not a fuzzy eater. Yet, it is food that I struggle the most with. My work is very hectic and I really have no time to cook. I don’t even have salt at the apartment where I stay.
First of all, I don’t understand the Tagalog names for food. Nothing makes any sense to me. Until now, even in Australia/Canada I can order my food in Chinese in a Chinese restaurant.. even that is not an option here because the food I am used to is different here.. And all vegetable dishes have shrimp in it, being vegetarian with a severed seafood allergy, my options are very limited..
I made an arrangement with chef at the cafeteria to cook dinner for me. Yesterday, he cooked two spring rolls and served it with rice. No gravy.. nothing.. I was so hungry, but I just couldn’t eat plain rice.. so I went out to look for something to eat… there were plenty of road side stalls.. and rats were scurrying around and I morphed in to a typical tourist.. the type I laughed at..
I ate plain rice in the end.. and thought of all the times I tossed food out if it was more than two days old at home and wished if I had some of that..
They have been doing everything by themselves. Grocery shopping,cooking, cleaning, laundry and taking care of Kirra & the garden. They are also working in their respective jobs for10 hrs/week . I know what they are doing is beyond what children of their age should be doing. But what choice do I have?
Years ago, I wrote about Freddie Aguilar and his song Anak in this blog. It is a song I grew up with and I still listen to it as I have plenty of good memories associated with it.
When I work late at night, I play YouTube music and one of the secretaries at work who too was doing overtime had noticed Anak in my play list and commented about it. She was surprised that I, a foreigner liked Tagalog songs! On Friday before leaving work, she left me complimentary ticket for Freddie Aguilar’s concert. in one of the local clubs. (She even called the organizer to arrange a VIP seat for me 🙂
I remember every little details about everyone in my life. Be it the security guard at the gate or the director of WHO health Systems. Not many people bother to remember anything about me. Sometimes it hurts.. especially when people forget my birthday.
So, the fact that someone remembered how much I love Freddie Aguilar meant a lot to me.
Last Saturday, I had dinner with other interns. During our meal, my phone kept pinging with FB messages. Normally, I don’t like to use my phone while I am having dinner, but this time, I told my friends that I have to talk to my kids. My youngest was coming home from Spain and I wasn’t home.
One of my fellow intern commented ” you are very close to your children”
I said “yes, I am”
She then said, “I wish I was this close to my mom, both my parents are doctors and when I was young, I wasn’t even allowed to be sick, cause neither of my parents wanted to stay back home and take care of me. Now they are semi retired and have the time, but I don’t live at home any more and we don’t even talk”
I know there is no right or wrong way and each to his own. But I do think it is worth to spend as much time as you can when your children are young.. Someone once told me “pay is less, but the fringe benefits are spectacular” I could have had my dream boat a decade ago, had I not given up work.Staying at home and raising my children have given me the closeness with my children that no amount of money could ever buy.
So, what are things I miss the most since coming here?
My children, my bed and my dog.
Cheese. I never realized how much cheese has become part of my diet till I came here. I miss having Tomato and Mozzarella salad. I miss cheese toasty, gnocchi with a generous serving of grated mozzarella..
Coffee. I am not a fan of Starbucks and the café at work often incinerate the coffee beans before grinding. I miss fair trade Colombian coffee that I have at my house in Brissie.
Shopping. I hate shopping generally. I never ever do window shopping. When I need something, I want to go be able to go to the shop and get it. I live close to one of the largest malls here. All I want is a can of hairstyling mousse. First of all, the mall is very crowded. and the escalators are all over the place and there is no system or order for the shops. Every level has multitudes of restaurants selling practically the same thing. The grocery shop sells everything but hairstyling products. So, my hair is all frizzy due to high humidity and I hate that I can’t do anything.
My goodness, after reading my own grievances list, I realized I have way too much first world problems!! Spoiled brat eh? But there is a plus side. I found a shop that sells tapioca chips 35 pesos (slightly less that 1 AUD) a packet and that makes up for everything!
A classmate of mine is also doing the same internship at WHO and he arrived a month before me. This morning as we entered the WHO building, all the security guards greeted me and I greeted each of them by their name ( there are a lot of them as WHO-WPRO is currently hosting the Regional Committee meeting.) Sometimes, I work till late and one of the security guards would always walk me home, even though it is not part of their job description.
This greeting process continued with the staff at the café. On Monday, I had mentioned to the Chef that it is Thanksgiving day for Canadians and when I was leaving work, the security guard gave me a Bento box of food. Apparently it was my Thanksgiving treat from the chef.
And as we climbed up the stairs, the director of another dept stopped me to have a chat.
Eventually my classmate quipped, my goodness, you know everyone here.
It is true.
I am a firm believer of being nice to everyone.
I also want to make full use of my time here and network. After all, “if you don’t go after what you want, you have to live with what you have” It is my own quote and I believe in it totally.
It is the first time my youngest has stayed away from me for more than a week. (She is on a student exchange in Spain at the moment).
We talk often on FB and if I don’t reply to her quickly, she will text me and ask if I am not getting her messages?
I gave her a bank card that she could use in Spain. Every single purchase she makes, she would ask if it was ok? is she spending too much money? (As opposed to Yaya, who sent me one email on the day she arrived in Spain and then another one when she ran out of money and wanted me to send her more!). She even bought gifts for my elderly neighbors. (Which made me feel sad.. rightfully my mother should be enjoying my children’s love and generosity)
But more than anything I was really surprised when my youngest asked my advice about coping..
Apparently some of her friends had organized a trekking trip and she didn’t go because she had cramps and was too lazy to walk. It turned out that the people who went for the trekking had a really awesome time and the view from the top was breathtaking. This has resulted in my youngest feeling miserable.. regretting her decision not to go. She asked me, how do I deal with this mom?
So I told her, we make decisions based on certain facts and sometimes we realize we made the wrong choice. Life is all about learning from mistakes.. You can’t undo the decision and have to live with that little regret that will nag your conscience forever. But you can make sure that you won’t make the same mistake again. Then I told her, trust me when I tell you this, I have screwed up more times than you think one person could do. and I have learned to accept that I screwed up and hopefully will not repeat it..
I had a dinner with the Regional Director of WHO. Nothing special, all new interns get to do this. During the dinner, the RD mentioned that I was the oldest intern he ever met. I wasn’t sure how to view that particular statement. Should I be ashamed of being old? Of course, I know the old saying ” you are never too old”. However, his comment did unsettle me.
Few days later, I had dinner with my boss and his wife. When I saw her name on the dinner invitation, I though it looked very familiar.
During the course of our dinner, I asked her if she was the person I am thinking of and she was surprised that I knew her name. About 20 years ago, I read few of the journal articles she had written. At that time, she was a pioneer in Virology. But her husband was working for WHO in Geneva and she was working somewhere else and the kids wanted to stay in Geneva. So she quit her job and never went back to work. A decision she regrets to this day.
I know my path ahead is not going to be smooth. I know I am old.. there is no denying that. But I also know, if I stop now, I will be in the exact same position as my boss’s wife in 20 years. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen.
So this is the march of the old woman.. and onwards I go…