Monday, August 22, 2011

where am I

Looking at my last post, I didn't have any ideas how to start writing again. A lot of things happened since my last writing. I got worried on how to start writing again with all the events and the airplane rides that I took in a matter of 2 months, I was left with the thought Where am I?

I will try my best to recount all the things in the past 2 months, but first to make it easier for me. I would like to start with where am I?

August 14
I took a flight from Cebu to Manila to Jakarta.
I arrived in Jakarta at 11:45 in the evening local time. After exiting from the immigration and getting my backpack, I followed what my host in Jakarta instructed me to do, look for a blue bird cab and gave the driver his address. ( I was still overwhelmed with big denomination of their currency) Since this was an unplanned trip, I did not have much time to study on the conversion rate.

The closest city I can relate Jakarta to is Manila. I thought that Manila has the worst traffic in the world equalling to those of New Delhi and Mumbai but Jakarta is far worst.

Buses and Taxis are the main mode of moving around the city. "Ojecs" or motorbikes can take you around fast but sometimes it needs a strong determination to face the fast running Ojecs racing in the main roads with big cars. One impressive transportation in Jakarta is the Bus way. If most countries have subways to transport commuters fast, Jakarta has a Busway that works like a subway but instead of being on a tube, it is a running bus with its own bus lane and stations to transfer to other routes as well.

For people who loves malls and shopping, Jakarta is the place. Malls are massive and modern.

W, my host trusted his apartment keys with me and helped me get a local sim card that can access the internet unlimited for 30 days.
I stayed with W for 3 nights and I headed to Bali flying to Denpasar via Batavia.

While waiting for my flight to Denpasar, I got an email from couchsurfing, that another host is willing to host me for a few days in Kuta. ( I got lucky on the last minute)

J, offered to pick me up at the airport. Since my flight arrived at 4pm and he still has to be in his office we decided to meet in one of the malls in Kuta.

Like W, J also trusted his apartment keys with me for 2 days.
On the first night we headed to the touristy Kuta beach for Beer. The beach is full of tourist and mostly surfers.
On the second day we rode his motorbike to a less rowdy beach with a magnificent view of the sunset. I offered to treat him for dinner and I thank him for showing me around because I have planned to head to the islands of lombok the next day.

(arriving at denpasar airport)

(a common sight everywhere in Bali)

The Trip from Kuta started at 6:30 am to Padangbai ( a little over an hour )
Arriving at Padangbai, we wait for the ferry that departs at 9am to Lombok ( around 4 to 5 grueling hours)
(leaving Padangbai to Lombok by ferry)

(my bed during the 5 hour slow boat ride)
With lack of sleep and a very uncomfortable ride, I was very tired when I arrived at Lombok Island. From Lombok port, I need to catch another bus ride to a smaller harbor ( almost 2 hours)
At around 4pm, I finally arrive at the harbor that will transport me to Gili Islands. I stayed in the harbor for an hour to wait for the small boats to fill up before it gets to the Islands.
At 5PM the small boat departed to the Islands.
I arrived in the Island at 5:30PM, without arranging any accommodation in the island, I was prepared to camp in the beach.
July to September are the high season in Bali and the Islands, which means prices can easily triple at this time. Bungalows near the beach are the most expensive ones. The farther from the beach the cost slowly drops. I was taken to a bungalow 10 minutes away from the beach. The price for the fan room is at 200,000 rps. Being on a tight budget but at the same time being very tired, I was tempted to get the place.
The craziness in me, tried to walk further until I reached a local village of fishermen and their families. With my heavy backpack, I just knocked randomly at local people's houses and asked if they have a spare room for me.
After 2 houses, I was referred to a boatman named Jamil. He offered to let me stay with his family for 50,000 rps
I stayed in his daugther room. The accommodation was very basic with outside squat toilet, what else can I expect at this high season for 50,000 rps.
In the evening I spoke with Jamil and I learned that I am staying with a muslim family and since its ramadam everyone in the family is not eating from Sun up until Sun down. They told me that everyone wakes up at 3am to start preparing to eat because everyone will not eat until 6pm in the afternoon.
I learned from Jamil that everything in the Island is expensive. The Island doesn't have fresh water and no electricity. Everything is transported by boat from Lombok. So i bathed in sea and showered with the same filtered salt water....
Life in the Island is very simple. No cars and motorcycles allowed in the island. The main mode of transportation is a horse by walking.
Internet in the island is also very expensive. Most internet shops charge 24,000 rps for an hour use of the computer.
He showed me around the village and told me where to get cheap food to eat, because restaurants by the beach are very pricey.
He introduced me to his family. His daughter Melanie is in elementary and is studying in the island's only school.
It is amazing to see the 2 face of the Island. Going to the beach side seeing foreigners getting massages on the beach side with their cocktails and beers and walking along the village where the locals main entertainment in the evening is talking among themselves and their neighbors to past the time.
Staying with the locals here made me appreciate the comforts I have at home but listening to their stories and their way of life is priceless...

One day I hope to comeback to this place, where swimming 20 meters from the beach line, means swimming with turtles and swimming in a very big aquarium of exotic fishes.

I am returning to Bali tomorrow after 3 nights here in the island. I will bring back with me a lot of memories.

(one of the pricey places in the beachside)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

a short thought about life

5 minutes ago, I borrowed my 20 day old nephew dodong. I tried to test myself if I am capable of taking care oh him on my own for at least an hour.
I brought him inside my room and played music for him while he was staring into space. After about 10 minutes of his baby moves, he started to cry. I tried to quiet him down by some small hand patting on his baby bum.. He stopped crying.
After a short 5 minute of staring again, he began crying louder this time and he was turning red. I wanted to carry him but I am not sure if I can pick him up the proper way without hurting his head.
I realized how delicate this 20 day old life here in front of me. I decided to bring him back to his mom. I failed my test. I did not last an hour.
(dodong staring into space in my room)

After dodong left my room. A thought about life came to me. While we are welcoming the new addition to our family, I cannot stop feeling sad for a high school classmate named Dina.
Dina has been complaining of constant stomach crunches and pain. The doctor found some stones inside her and decided to operate her to remove the stones. When she was operated the doctors found a tumor on her Bile duct. They removed the tumor and had it checked if it was benign or might be alarming for cancer.
Last week the tumor biopsy indicated that it is cancerous. And it has spread through other nearby organs.
Dina is now in the hospital, the family is awaiting for her condition to stabilize before she can start with the chemotherapy.
I learned the sad news 5 days ago. It made me realize that cancer is not just for elderly people but it can hit anyone.
The difficult part of Dina's situation is she just had her first baby last January. Her baby girl is just 5 months old.
Friends, even if you don't personally know Dina, I seek your help in praying for Dina and her family in this trying times.

(Dina on her wedding day )

(Dina and her baby Julliana)
Life can come too easily and it also can go too quickly.
Let's all be happy and celebrate life

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mother Nature has spoken

Yesterday was an ordinary rainy day. Very light but non stop rain. No one anticipated that Mother Nature is gonna be talking to us.

Waters from highlands suddenly rush into our place, the low lands. I was stuck in the office until 10pm because the street where I live is unpassable by any vehicle. All I can do is call our house help on the phone regarding the situation inside the house.
I was expecting bad, but when I got home at around 10:30 This is what I saw.

This is the morning after picture.

The house is still a mess now. I hope we all learned our lessons.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interesting Chat today

Today I got the chance to see an old friend online.
"I" now lives in Berlin we use to work together and after she got married to her german boyfriend, they transferred to Germany.
Since she got hired by a German Bank, I seldom see her online. When I saw "I" was online, I instantly message her. And ask her how are things and if she has adjusted to her new job already. Here are some parts of our catching up.

Me: have you adjusted well already?
"I": yeah, work is good I'm enjoying it stressful at times
Me:Wow that's really good to hear that you are enjoying work
"I": I am proud to say, modesty aside, that my bosses are impressed with me. I think I finally found the job that suits me. Its a mix of 3 things, Banking,Legal and Research, the 3 fields that interest me most.

After updating each other, we spoke about our common friends and some of her law school classmates whom I knew also. Our chat lasted for at least a little over an hour. Suddenly she has to go.

"I": dude I gotta run. "T" ( T is I's husband) promised to take me shopping cuz it's my birthday.
Me: hey sorry
"I": huh? why?
Me: I didn't know its your birthday, I closed my facebook I am not updated. I feel bad I didn't greet you.
"I": hahahaha no worries we're new yorkers we can take it.
Me: well yeah.... that's a good answer.
"I": haha thanks let's catch up again soon.
Me: enjoy your day newyorker
"I": Ciao!

After catching up with "I" , It made me realize again how we are and how we feel towards our birthdays. Some become sentimental, some needs more attention, some need to feel special and for "I" maybe it is just another day. After all she is a Newyorker.
Are you a newyorker?

Friday, May 6, 2011

my favorite pictures (to be given away)

Out of almost 2,000 photos, I scanned through some of my travel pictures and printed those that are my favorites.
After printing the 9 pictures, I realized how I wish to share the insights and learnings I gained from these trips. Since I am not good in putting all my thoughts into words, I guess sharing pictures to my friends will be a way to convey the wonderful feeling I had during my travels.
Here are some of my favorite pics and a little story behind the photos.
The Massai Guide. This man is our guide when we arrive at the massai village, arriving at the village on a wednesday. We were lucky to see the bustling and colorful exchanges of goods, which only happens once a week. The massai people are very strict with their photos taken. When we were going back to camp, I asked him If I could take a photo of him, He agreed but he looked away from the camera thus giving me this picture.
The orphans at Kibera. On my last day in Kenya, I decided to spend the day in one of Africa's poorest and largest slums. My first stop is an orphanage/school. I learned from this place the value of food to the orphans. It is rare that these kids get to eat a good meal. It is very common for them to partake a sticky liquid made from maize. I tried tasting it. It was just like a sticky flavorless water. Yet for these kids, it is a way to fill in their stomach to combat hunger, regardless of its tastelessness.
The warriors. The massai warriors doing their traditional dance, which involves a lot of high jumping in the air. After printing this picture, It made me realize how fortunate I am to experience such culture at this modern times. Looking at this picture made me think that while we are bustling with our modern gadgets, on the other side of the world, there are people living their normal lives in a very traditional and laid back way.

The smiling Massai. I like this photo because of the sharpness capture of the massai guy in contrast with his fading background. This for me is a lucky shot.

Early morning tour. The most intense and spiritual city in India. I arrived in what I describe as the city of deaths, Varanasi feeling suffocated, irritable and emotionally drained. All these negativity is because of the intensity and the power of the place that overshadowed me. Seeing death in its natural form, it gave me another meaning to life. I hired a boatman to give me an early morning cruise at the gaths. This image conveys how locals do their daily morning routines of dipping in the world's most polluted water, which they believe is a way of cleansing themselves from the impurities of life. After staying a few days in Varanasi, I appreciated its negativity and its intensity, making Varanasi one of the best places I visited in India.
The scavenger. I like this picture because of how the young kid's face transformed because of the facial expression. And up to this day I am not sure if this kid is a boy or a girl. I like the intensity of the kid's eye. One of my personal favorites.
The Sand dunes at last. We started the 2 day journey in the Thar desert around 9am we reached the area with vast sand dunes around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. The trek was very exhausting but the experience of sleeping under the stars and riding the camel for 2 days was all worth the exhaustion. Plus we are only a few kilometers away from one of my dream destinations. Pakistan.

The greeters. Entering the old Jaisalmer fort, these ladies cant be missed, from the bangles they are selling to the vibrant colors of their clothes. Since I don't intend to buy any of their goods, I bargained for a few rupees for them to be photographed.

The musician. This man is sitting in the middle of the massive fort, playing with his instrument the whole day for a few drops of coins in his can. I took this photo quite far from him as so not to distract him and I was afraid that he might be angry having photographed without his knowledge. To my surprise he genuinely smiled when he saw me taking his picture.

Two pictures given away already. Do let me know if you want one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Backtracking the goodtimes at the bad time

As I am writing this post, I am bloody stressed out now. Pardon me for I have been writing mostly on my downside, thus most of the post are on the negative side.
This time I wanna think of the good times I spent with my high school mates during the past holy Thursday and Friday. I am Backtracking the good times at a bad time.
Since I bade my Bali trip goodbye, I have decided to catch up with my high school mates in the city.
As concrete as I can I wanna share the good times with friends on a two day holiday.
Thursday April 21
After the 3.5 hour drive to the city, I arrived at my friend S's house. When I got there I saw E, K and J. J is the wife of S. A few minutes after I arrived R came in also. K who studied to be a chef, brought her sister with her to prepare for our Japanese inspired dinner.
I enjoyed eating the Sashimi the most. It is one of my favorite food. Nothing beats a sumptuous dinner over good conversation with friends.
(actual photo of our dinner)
After the having one of the best dinners of my life, Our host S and J invited us for a night swimming in their club house pool. Everyone was in the mood for night swimming except for R, who busied herself taking photos. Lapping in the pool was a very good way to release the stress from work. I can still vividly remember, I allowed myself to just float on my back in the water and seeing the night sky filled with stars and wishing that time would stop for me to savor the relaxing feeling of the water and floating while looking at the stars... it was an amazing moment.
(the goggles i used during the lapping)
We did not stop swimming until the life guard on duty informed us that the pool is closing. After washing up we head back to S and J's house. J announced to everyone that as soon as we are ready, she is going to meet us at their music room for some serious heavy drinking and karaoke night. True enough, she prepared Lime and salt for our Tequila shots and I really lost count on the bottles of wine we consumed that night. E and K started off by singing upbeat songs. Slowly as the night progressed everyone seem to loosen up as the alcohol started to sipped in to our system. I even dared myself to sing a song. I don't know if its the 3 straight shots of tequila, I selected this 1965 hit song. Slightly aware of the sound I am making, I decided not to finish the song, comparing my voice to E's semi pro voice and leaving a little dignity to myself.
It was J who first declared that she is a drunk already. E was dancing while drinking to make himself active and not let the alcohol take over his sanity. But the dancing did not help much as he suddenly puked in the kitchen sink while getting some food to eat. After cleaning his mess, without a word, he just declared to everyone that he is going to bed. Sensing that everyone had a bit too much, all of us agreed to call it a night. We all stayed in one room. I can't recall our bedtime because after I change to my sleeping clothes I passed out.
I just remembered waking up because of E's puking sound the morning after.
I looked at everyone it was E and R who were most affected by the hang over as they were alternating themselves puking.
(That's K on the background with our alcohol)
Friday April 22
Nursing a hangover the next day, J prepared warm soup for everyone. It was funny looking at how lanky E has become while eating banana, which is a hangover cure. Our Host reserved the morning for us to hit the beach. Sadly R, gave up and decided to go home to cure her hangover in the comforts of her house. E, despite the non stop puking decided to join us at the beach. We just made sure to get him gatorade as he was dehydrating already from all the throwing up.
On the beach, J, me and a getting better E decided to go for a swim. We even rented a jetski to crash the waves and explore the neighboring beaches.
(getting ready for our jetski ride)
Around 3pm we decided to start packing up to head home. But as we drove towards home, S invited everyone to stop by a newly opened firing range to try out the place. It was a very good experience, missing the target plates at the beginning then slowly learning how to properly aim at the targets. S is a very good teacher. I gained new admiration to those shooters who hit their targets while running, damn its not easy.
(aiming at our targets)
After finishing 2 rounds (200 bullets), we decided to go home. Since our host S and J has prepared so much for us already, I invited everyone for a Korean dinner. So everyone just washed up and changed clothes then we all went to a Korean Resto. Our host is not so familiar with Korean cuisine, I am not a food expert but I love korean food. Good thing K, our food expert is also very good in ordering korean food. I can barely remember the name of the food but it was all good. Thanks to K's ordering skills. We finished dinner at around 8. S and J invited everyone for a relaxing massage at a Spa.
Everyone got the "wholistic massage". Because I was so tired, I slowly dozed off as the attendant was rubbing my back. I was half asleep, and as my eyes close, I can feel my saliva dripping from my mouth... I did not care much, I am here for a relaxation.
(Korean dinner)
After our massage, everyone looked doped with our sloppy eyes. I informed my friends that I going back home early morning to catch up before office opens. Since my home is 3.5 hours drive. I need to get up at 3 am to make it at home at least 6:30 in the morning. We decided to kill the time and end our night with some late night snacks and coffee at starbucks.
We killed the time by reminiscing about the good old days during school and wondering how our other friends are doing. Me not wanting to sleep also had consumed 2 tall size americano to keep me awake until 3am.
Sensing that S is already sleepy, E needs some rest too after the bad hangover. I asked everyone if we can start driving home already. I just have 1 hour to wait before I start to head home.
When we reached home, E automatically fell flat. The couple S and J stayed up with me until 3 am so they can send me off.
I set my phone to alarm at 3am. 2:50 AM I told S and J that I would be heading home now, I don't want my alarm to sound so that I won't disturb E.
They went down with me until I reach my car and start driving.
(bagel and chips at starbucks)
I cancelled my Bali trip for a trip in the city. Looking back, it was a very short bonding time with my friends. The 3.5 hours drive is not easy and knowing that I would be working when I get home. But it was all worth it!

I feel better now

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not that bad after all

Driving on the way home yesterday, I drove pass the vast rice fields as the sun was slowly setting. Looking at the window I was greeted with this view.
I had to pull over and roll down my car window and hurriedly took my phone and captured this view.

(my hometown)
This view somewhat reminded me of the time when I was in Narok, Kenya doing a 3 day safari and looking at the one of the best sunsets of my life.
It was an exhilarating feeling that I was halfway around from my country and I was one with wilds at its best.

(narok kenya)

With the negativity I have towards this seemingly lifeless sleeping town that I am living, I continually struggle of thinking of the exciting life away from my comfort zone, thus making my hometown a place that I need to vacate.
Looking at the Beautiful sunset yesterday, it made me realize wherever I will be, we are all under one sky and we share the same sun, no matter how nice and ordinary looking it sets at our angle in this side of the world.
Arriving home yesterday made me feel its not that bad after all...........

Yet the struggle continues. Have a blessed holyweek