Recently, I , and a group of friends, went on a 14-day trip cutting across four countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore).
Highlights of the trip include: experiencing various modes of transportation in crossing borders (ferry boat, bus, train, and plane); feeling the warmth and hospitality of our new found friends in Thailand; practicing our Thai, Bahasa Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, and even our Singlish (Singaporean English); and getting used to spicy food (well, this was a major highlight for me).
It was a budget trip. We traveled on a tight but workable budget. Buying of souvenirs and pasalubongs were well planned. I honestly did not buy much (I ate as much local food as I could, though). I might not have bought much pasalubong but I brought home lots of kwento! So who wants kwento? Like it or not, here I’ll share what I got from the trip (mostly on the level of what can be considered ‘share-able’, as many of my learnings were also very, very personal).
Heightened directional skills. I’m not good with directions, left or right, north or south or whichever. I would probably just try to remember building or street names but that’s just one part of the skill we call ‘getting-from-point-A-to-point-B’. In this recent travel, the added dimension of points A and B being in a foreign country and the street or building names in a foreign language and script made going around quite a challenge.
Maps are very useful, only if you know how to actually look at them. GPS are equally good but once your battery goes kaput, bye-bye high-tech map.
We traveled in a group and sometimes the urge to just depend on only person who knows how to ‘go around’ is strong. “So where are we going? How do we get there? Do I step my left foot now?”
So I really had to try and try real hard to understand directions and understand which way the sun sets, which way is left, and other out-of-this-world directions. I wouldn’t want to be the annoying travel-mate and so I have to hone this skill if I want to continue on my ‘traveling Theia’ days.
However, on our last day in Singapore, this new found skill left momentarily and I found myself lost. At 4pm, walking along Bishan Park, I thought I was in one of those Walking Dead episodes – not a soul in sight, the sun was high, the air was humid, and I was lost (with a friend who was as lost as I was). But we still managed to get home after a few bus rides (which cost us a fortune, unfortunately). So there, save the being lost for last. Despite that, I still like to believe that somehow this travel had heightened by sense of direction (even for just 2 centimeters. Ok, not funny.)
Polished administrative skills. It would be helpful to have someone fix everything for you, from travel tickets to the hotel bookings to the itinerary but a time will come when you have to do it for yourself (especially if you have dreams of doing solo backpacking trips or just go on a vacation by yourself).
The Internet offers a wealth of information and convenience – discovering what other travelers have to say, searching for the most delicious local food, keeping up to date to money conversion rates, and booking reservations earlier. [Agoda.com; Tripadvisor.com]
Our group had our very own Ate KC who did most of the admin things (she has an events organizing business so she’s that good) and we don’t really need to kill ourselves planning and poring over all the details but I still tried to be in the know and I believe this skill will be a real lifesaver in traveling and in life in general.
Managing my own travel would be easier but managing for a group requires a higher level of admin skill – something I hope to learn.
Related to the admin skills, going to four countries is a test of my eye for details, from the conversion rates, the most efficient mode of public transportation, the time difference among countries, as well as the important notes on culture and customs that one has to keep in mind (wearing long sleeved shirts in a conservative Muslim community, bowing head to show respect, etc). For all taking note of and remembering all these, I had my trusty notebook.
Strengthening relationship with traveling buddies. Traveling 14 days with 6 other people is a test of my patience and people skills. I’m not really known to be a very patient person and would not really win the ‘Miss Congeniality’ award so it’s a challenge traveling with me (I actually find traveling with myself a challenge too).
It takes a conscious effort on my part to still smile despite the headache (‘It’s just waay too hot’), the confusion (‘Wait, how do we say ‘which way to the airport’ in Bahasa Malay?’), the personal hang ups (What?! You guys don’t want to go check out the library?), and all other things that might otherwise ruin the trip.
I prayed for extended grace and for the coolness to deal with things and I’d like to believe I did well (I have to ask my travel mates on this, though. Haha). Traveling with a group brings out the best and the worst in a person. True enough, this experience brought out both in me and with that awareness comes the ability to channel the ‘best and the worst’ to usefulness or to something else which is not detrimental to the trip and to my other traveling buddies.
All in all, I went home darker, fatter (admittedly), and richer in experience and learnings. I missed home terribly and I was just away for 14 days. I could only imagine how our overseas workers feel – the longing for home and for their countrymen and for everything familiar. I saw with my own eyes the differences, the similarities, and all the in betweens – all that connects us, all that makes us humans. I’ve become more appreciative; my biases were erased. I’m re-appreciating the Philippines and taking note of the fine points among the countries I’ve visited (while keeping in mind ASEAN 2015).
The other half of Southeast Asia waits. Soon. I will be writing about each country (hopefully), soon also.
To begin with, this is not a rant blog. Nope. I’m just merely, umm, documenting life as it is now… here… at work.
It’s March and for University of the Philippines students’, it’s called ‘hell week’. I’m not sure where that tag came from since obviously no one’s been to hell and back to say that it’s pretty much like this in hell, so I presume they just thought that hell would require them tons of schoolwork (now, that is for another theological blog altogether). Anyway, it’s the time of the semester where work piles up and demands are tough and sleep is almost skipped and food intake is characterized by quick bites, fast food, and unhealthy bingeing on ‘pick me up foods’ (usually junk foods).
Students look dazed and lost. They congregate by fives or sixes under staircases, in front of the teacher’s office, under a tree, or in a coffee shop. They wear the same clothes they’ve been wearing for the past few days. They stink – they stink with cologne-cover-up. Their smiles look like twitches and their eyes dart from side to side, wary of any incoming professor who might remind them that today’s the deadline of whatever they’re currently working on. But then, I must have been mistaken, I might be recollecting my college days some 8 years ago.
Today, they seem to walk, err, glide in corridors dressed as immaculately as those in outrageously expensive fashion mags. Not a hair our of place, not a patch of skin grimed by life. They clutch their designer bags, swipe their tablets with their manicured fingers, or flick through their car keys. It seems surreal, I thought, as I stand there gawking at them – me in my faded jeans, flats, and mustard yellow shirt. I had my tablets with me, the vitamins, and my phone which needs no swiping (it has buttons, duh). And I got lost. It’s supposed to be the toughest week of a student’s life and I feel as if I walked in on a Gossip Girl’s set.
So anyway, those are just observations I made because I don’t want to think of the things I’m to actually do but which I’ll happily blog about right now for, uh, documentations sake.
Teaching journalism and communication research meant one thing – papers. Papers I had to all go through individually, check/edit, and grade accordingly. Papers I had to bring with me everywhere I go just in case some free time pops up so I can go through them. Papers I cry over. (“Is this even english?!” or “Kindly change this to that and… oh, never mind, let me rewrite your whole paragraph” or “Is this a game? Some sort of cut each paragraph and arrange to make sense”). So, there. I am currently buried nose-deep in these papers and the thought of writing even for one more time the comment ‘what do you mean?’ to a student’s paper, breaks my drive to actually start checking. But let me say that if only one solitary student work made me smile and did not give my pencil such a hard time, it was all worth it. Really.
I’m also currently working on a research covering five provinces. Surveying college students on their Internet access and use. The toughest part is not the conceptualizing, nor the traveling and data gathering (which is actually loads of fun), nor the data collection and analyzing part. The most difficult thing to handle is the admin work – receipts, budget, travel requests, etc. It’s a whole new world of papers, fine print rules, and too-late-reminders. Our research is funded by the University, a government entity, therefore it works on government rules and set ups – very, very difficult and its a fact. But I’m pushing through this. It’s hard to get funding these days so whatever set up I’m working with here, I’ll definitely finish this research.
Apart form the research, I’m also taking up the last two courses for my MS degree (that is before I plunge head-on to my thesis). Classes are during Saturdays at UP Diliman, Quezon City (about 75 kms from where I work or a 2-hour bus ride). We had weekly papers and reports and if I would be complacent enough to think that one week is a long time to get these papers done, I am very much mistaken. Part of me thinks that studying along side working is to test my mettle in terms of balancing office work, grad school work, and life in general. Part of me thinks that this is a sure fire way to get burned out.
Because of that notion, I’m determined to get some sort of ‘leave’ when I’m already conducting my thesis. I want to enjoy it and get most out of that experience. I’m envisioning a study which would require me to travel much (funding may be a problem but that I’ll have to deal later). For now, I still have two class reports and 5 major papers to finish, hopefully not half-baked as I fear they would be if I’d have to choose between work and grad school requirements.
In between, I’d have to go through dozens of newspapers, check on student’s progress, try to live a life – an actual life, with some social interaction, and have 7 hours of sleep.
I don’t know how to end this except that I’m really not complaining. I chose to be here, doing these things. I said yes to handling journalism courses, yes to taking my MS degree with additional units from Diliman, and yes to being the study leader of our department’s research. I am merely stating that things could still be improved, either by me or by the system I work in and with.
At the end of the day, I’d still rather be here than anywhere else (except maybe in an NBA court side game, that’s one thing I know I wouldn’t pass on). My strength may reach it’s end but I have a strong God and He promises rest and renewing of strength that I can count on.
It’s still ‘hell week’ but as I always say since I was a freshman, it’s really ‘grace week’.
‘You punch like a girl’
Well and good, especially if I punch like Ronda Rousey, the current UFC Female Bantamweight Champion. Currently, she is the new ‘it’ girl’ – a mixture of beauty and brawn. Suddenly, ‘girls as tough as guys’ is mainstream.
I’m currently into Muay Thai but I would not be venturing into actual fighting. First, because I don’t want to, second because I don’t want to. So what’s with this post?
With Ronda’s fame, I sometimes think maybe I could do it also. Why not? I could start my Judo training now (though at 25, I’m a bit too old since Ronda started Judo when she’s, what, 11?) Hone my Muay Thai strikes and kicks and elbows and knees – all 8 limbs. Maybe I could also work my way with BJJ.
I’d get pretty excited and pumped up and then I’d stop and breathe and ask myself ‘Is that what I want?’. Am I made to do that? How much of me is willing to drop everything now and pursue MMA – about 5% perhaps (fueled by this ‘ronda-craze’). So that’s the answer, it’s not in my heart of hearts. I don’t do things I’m not sold out. It may sound exciting but it’s not me.
But I’ll continue training for fitness sake and other personal reasons. I like the strength and discipline I get from it. I love the variations, the leveling up, and the respect I get from my guy teammates. And I feel contented with that. The clincher is that I don’t feel the pangs of loss if I don’t dive into MMA.
BUT, and that’s a big but (pun not intended), I’d still like to ‘use’ Ronda as the equivalent of the poster one plasters on their wall for inspiration in terms of what I want to achieve in my body (yes, just the physique).
So, I’m articulating it here that I would aim for a toned body – strong and healthy – just like this new ‘it’ girl – Rowdy Ronda Rousey, so help me God.