Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Microwave Fail!

The microwave oven has been conking out for quite some time now.  The display will suddenly say defrost.  As in it clicks on its own.  Thank God it doesn’t start on its own as well.  I even thought it was a ghost.  Really.  But since the microwave is not exactly brand new (it came with the “furnished” apartment including the old TV, so-so sala set and ghastly dining table – sorry may poot pa rin hanggang ngayon! Haha!) I thought it might just be entering into its last days.

And today, I think it really did.  With awesome timing I must say.  I was going to heat my lunch and I was terribly hungry – hyperacidity attack anyone?  And suddenly I couldn’t undo the defrost settings – which would normally be done by pressing “Clear.”  I unplugged the damned thing and plugged it again.  And guess what surprised me on the display: FAIL.  It really said FAIL! I swear I’ve never seen a microwave do that.

I tried not to think it was a personal attack on me.  I mean funny things can creep into your mind especially when you’re hungry.  Especially me – I go berserk when I’m hungry, really!  But really it was a fail! Haha!  I was super hungry and the microwave conks out just like that.  Fail talaga!  It was just too funny I couldn’t help but disturb hubby from work.  Aside from tell him the funny story, I also want to get him to get the landlord to change the old microwave they put in our apartment.  Barely a quarter here and the microwave dies, well, fails on you.  Totally unacceptable.

For now there is the oven to heat my lunch with!  And the good old stove.  Until we sort this thing out, Microwave is Fail! 

Oven For Now

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Sickness and In Health...

Today, I felt sick.  I’ve thrown up thrice – twice during Sinhala class and once when I got home.  Not in class though – thank God I was able to make it to the toilet!  It is because of a severe case of hyperacidity.  And NOT infanticipating as my mom would put it and my younger brother seriously listing it as his Christmas wish to Santa.

Anyway I was really out of it.  I have quite a number of things to do today but I slept through the afternoon.  When I woke up I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  When I stood up my stomach felt queasy.  When I sat down it was a bit more manageable.  When I stood up again, there seem to be a newly opened theme park in my belly.  I drank medicine and shivered at the taste of water.  I knew that this was not good.  Add to the fact that I went to the toilet twice in the morning.  Now that makes it wrong up and down!  I even didn’t dare to eat lunch – just some softened (by time, in short luma na) crackers.

But through it all, I managed to cook rice, defrost the fish, and when I felt a little better fried it, sliced some tomatoes and set up the dining table for dinner.  I realized this is what being a housewife (with no helper) is all about.  But more importantly this is what being married is all about.  You do what you have to do, in sickness and in health.  Of course that could mean many other things but tonight it was because I knew hubby had a long day at work and in as much as I’m not feeling well I knew that he would have a more tiring day than I, would have to deal with terrible rainy rush hour traffic and would come home hungry.  I called him earlier today and asked him to buy some stuff (Gatorade, banana, etc.) and come home early so he could cook.  But as soon as I felt like I could have a normal time preparing the food, smelling the fish and all, I jumped right down to business.  I want dinner to be ready once hubby comes home.  I mustered all my strength to prepare food for him (and myself – thankfully they are being properly digested as I write this).  At that moment I realized that I was so married.  And with that small act of love, I actually lived true to my vow.

In sickness and in health, I am your wife.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Interview with the Housewives # 5: The Real Housewife of Orange County

The first time I got to know this lady during the Rihanna / Chris Brown concert in Manila sometime in November 2008.  My hubby and I were still dating then (oh how time flies!).  She is married to my hubby’s kabarkada.   After that concert, we would always go out.  Eat, drink, sing and be merry – just like what any normal barkada would do.  She was fun to be with (full of energy!), I like her authenticity and amazed at how her whole demeanor would change when she was with her lovely daughter.  Too bad she and her hubby moved to the US.  Like Academic Wife, The Real Housewife of Orange County (TRHOC) joined her hubby in pursuit of his academic dreams.  Which lead her to this so-called-life of being a housewife almost a year and a half now.  Prior to leaving Manila, TRHOC was a trainer/training consultant (for 3 years) and pre-school teacher (for 3 years too).  Here is her (our) story: 

The real housewife of Orange County with daughter H
LLVL: Why / How did you become a housewife?

TRHOC: I became a housewife primarily because my hubby is getting his MBA here in the US and (darned) visa restrictions prevent me from getting a job in this country (not that I haven't been looking, it's just a bit uphill because of the restriction). Also, we can't really get a nanny here so I need to take care of H since she isn't in school full-time just yet.

Editor’s Note:  Note one, H is TRHOC’s (almost) 4 year old lovely daughter.  Note two, why are those visa restrictions so limiting?  I am beginning to think it is one big mess of discrimination for spouses (usually women!) who tag along with their other half who gets the working / student visa!

LLVL:  Do you have any other occupation aside from being a housewife?

TRHOC: My hubby's executive PA. Does that count? Haha. I'm about to become a blogger soon ;)

Editor’s Note:  Lucky hubbies!  They get gorgeous and intelligent PA’s!  Right TRHOC?  Also, thank God for blogging.  Really.  I think it has given me sanity in this housewifedom.  It is my creative outlet and my connection to the rest of the world outside our humble abode!  So kudos to you TRHOC!  Blog, blog, blog!

LLVL:  How was the transition like for you shifting from your prior occupation to being a housewife?

TRHOC:  It was exciting and difficult at the same time. Exciting because we moved to a different country, so there's a lot of discovery and adventure that goes with the new role but it was difficult at times because the transition was compounded by homesickness :'( Thank heavens for TFC! Hehe.
Editor’s Note:  How I wish there was TFC here! I miss The Buzz…

LLVL:  What made it easy? Difficult?

TRHOC:  A really supportive hubby and family have made it easy. Being in a new and different place definitely has its plus points because there's so much to do and explore here. Plus, I love how Orange County and I guess the lifestyle here in general really caters to housewives, especially housewives with young children. There are plenty of resources to get help from and places to visit and things to do. Mostly, the difficulty would creep in via homesickness, as I mentioned earlier. Sometimes, no matter how great it gets here, there really is no place like home (or your home country).

LLVL:  What do you like best in being a housewife?

TRHOC: Having the TV on while I work, and by work I mean chores and whatnot ;) Haha, kidding! I'm not sure really. Being on my own schedule I suppose. I can dictate when and how to do things. I suppose you could say I like being my own boss ;)

LLVL: What are the challenges?

TRHOC: Missing the office dynamics, working with different people (or at least, working with people my age on a daily basis), pretty office clothes and shoes! Haha. H can be a challenge sometimes when she's sick or cranky.

LLVL: What things you do that help you enjoy being a housewife?

TRHOC: I always make sure to schedule some kind of alone time. Even if it's just at the end of the day when H is asleep and hubby is working on school stuff. I usually read a book or work on my laptop. My favorite kinds of alone time are going out for a run or running errands alone. Alone time keeps me sane ;)

LLVL: Any other tips to enjoy being a housewife?

TRHOC: Enjoy your time as a housewife right now, especially since it's just you and hubby (for now). Having a kid changes everything! In a good way of course. ;) But once the kids come, it isn't going to be like this until they're off to school and have their own lives. Also, as with anything in life, time management is key!

LLVL: Do you have plans of shifting back to a "working" life?

TRHOC: For sure!!! As soon as hubby has his MBA and is working steadily, it'll be my turn to work or study! So perhaps in a couple of years or so, give or take a few months, I can be a working mom again :)

LLVL: Any other words of wisdom?

TRHOC: Always be thankful, no matter where you are in life. Remembering that keeps me sane. Knowing and trusting that things are happening as they should keeps me focused and grounded. When difficult stuff arrives, see them as challenges. Oh and staying organized is a big help too! ;)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, yes, let’s be thankful for where we are in life.  What I noticed from my own journey is, in as much as there are days in the dumps, figuring out why I am here, missing my old life, getting frustrated from being in a different environment at the end of the day, I am very, very thankful and I have a lot to be thankful for.  First, my hubby.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I am lucky we have re-discovered each other at the time we did (we first met in grade school theater when I was 10 and he was 12 – seriously!).  Second, that we are starting our marriage this way.  Just us.  Family is great, but admittedly it could complicate a marriage (!).  Third, we are in such a beautiful and exotic country waiting to be discovered!  Fourth, we do get some expat perks (not much but enough)!  Fifth, I am in a space where I can re-define myself.  It is refreshing to step out of your old life and have the time and freedom to learn new things, do new things and transform yourself in the process.  And I through it all, I am with my man.  What more can you ask from life?

Goodbye “Quotable” Journal

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always kept a journal.  Back in the good old days it was still called a “diary.”  I like writing my thoughts down.  I like writing my prayers.  I like writing what strikes me in the things I read.  I like writing my goals down – they get to be accomplished that way.

Today, I wrote my last entry in my “quotable” journal (quotable is the brand). I felt sentimental and the moment was poignant.  As if I’m saying goodbye to a good friend.  What’s special about this journal?  Well the last 3 years have been short of saying transformational.  And my “quotable” journal was a witness through it.  3 years for a journal??? Well, I didn’t write everyday and it was mighty thick!

My Quotable Journal Cover from www.quotablecards.com

My very first entry was a Birthday List for 2007.  Instead of New Year’s Resolution, I write a Birthday List.  Your birthday anyway is Your New Year. Back then I wanted to be more kind to myself and my body – get fear and anxiety out of my system, save (haha!), let go of a nasty habit.  I also wanted to defend my MA thesis – I’ve graduated now.  And I wanted to pray more – weekday masses (as much as possible) and daily prayer now a way of life.

It was where I wrote my subsequent birthday lists for 2008 and 2009. Which reminds me, I have to write one for this year!

It was also the repository of Elizabeth Gilbert’s words from Eat, Pray, Love (my bible!).  Because of that I learned to find “healing and peace that can only come from solitude.”  I learned my “way around loneliness…” and never used “another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled desires.”  I was also able to “clear out all the space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway.  And guess what the universe will do with that doorway?  It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed.  Stop using David to block that door.  Let it go.”  And rush in God did!

It was also where I wrote my notes on other books that help me shape my thinking like Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, Marielle Guilliano’s Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed and Cecilia Ahern's The Book of Tomorrow among others.

It was where I wrote my vision of my ideal man – and most importantly my non-negotiables.  And my husband ticked ALL of that.

It helped me find my way through a career situation.  It helped me find the next best step and take it.  It was where I wrote down Alicia Key’s Element of Freedom, something that was in my iPod and gave me strength to take that career step:

“And the day came
When the risk it took
To remain tight and closed in the bud
Was more painful
Than the risk it took to bloom.
This is the element of freedom.”

It was my prayer journal in my silent retreat Lent of 2010.

It was where I wrote my friend’s quote: “Life is too short NOT to be spent in the pursuit of dreams (Charisse Salinas).”

It was where I wrote that I wanted to run a race outside the country.  It didn’t mention a distance but I did my 1st Half Marathon in New York, August 2009.

It was where I wrote when I wanted to get married, to whom and my “get ready plan.”  I’m so anal that way. I got married way ahead of my timeline!  But most importantly I married the man God created for me.  He just didn’t tick my vision of an ideal man and my non-negotiables he exceeded it.  And I am thankful everyday that I cook for him, take care of him, hold his hand when we sleep, wake up to prepare his breakfast and get him ready for work and everything in between.

And it was where I wrote my daily prayers, tried to make sense of where I am and where I need to go.

True to the quotable cover, my journal witnessed how I:

Walk in the rain,
smell flowers,
stop along the way,
build sandcastles,
go on field trips,
find out how things work,
tell stories,
say the magic words,
trust the universe. 

-Bruce Williamson

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creating a Sacred Space

It may not look like it but I’m actually quite a prayerful person.  I guess it is part of the quest for life’s meaning.  I’ve found consolation in personal prayers, daily masses, silent retreats (yes I can do magnum silencium), singing in the church choir, being part of campus ministry (in high school) and a religious community (Christian Life Community – both in high school and college).  As I started working, the frenzy of corporate life took center stage and prayer a back seat.  Until a dark moment in my life, prayer found it’s way back through a simple ladies’ room chat with a former officemate (still a very good friend).  Corporate life will always be hectic but at least somehow since that time on, prayer has been present.

One of the greatest gifts my housewifedom has brought is the luxury of creating a scared space in my day.  After preparing hubby’s baon, taking our breakfast and sending him off, I log on to http://sacredspace.ie/ (doing this before going to Facebook I admit is a challenge!).  This is a wonderful site run by the Irish Jesuits.  They have a simple prayer each day that you can do for around 10 minutes - just 10 easy and glorious minutes each day for spiritual nourishing. 

The prayer is done in six stages: The Presence of God, Freedom, Consciousness, The Word, Conversation, Conclusion.  A reading on prayer serves as a prelude.  Followed by a few words, to ask for grace, to be reminded of God’s presence (Presence of God, Freedom, Consciousness).  The day’s scripture is presented and a few points for reflection are suggested (The Word).  You then take your time to talk to God about what the scripture is telling you, or as in any prayer, whatever you want to say or not to say (Conversation).  The prayer is ended aptly with a Glory Be (Conclusion). 

I keep a journal where I write my prayers as well as some words that struck me from the site.  Here are those words from Sacred Space - they have provided me consolation.  Listen to them and maybe they are also saying something to you.

“I remind myself that there are things that God has to teach me yet, and ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me.”

“Let my heart respond to your love.” 

“…the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires, gently nudging me towards all that is good…”

“Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me.  To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me…”

“Savour life’s implications.”

“Help me Lord to be more conscious of your presence.  Teach me to recognize your presence in others.  Fill my heart with gratitude for the times Your love has been shown to me through the care of others.”

“I ask for the grace to be free of my own preoccupations and open to what God may be saying to me.”

“Dear Lord, grant that I may live as You intended, with complete confidence in Your loving care.”

“God is already with us in our desires.”

“All prayers involves some reaching out with childlike trust, even when the inner tone is chaotic or full of confusion.”

“All praying echoes the surrender of Jesus: not my will but Yours.”

“We ask for what we think is best, but we try to hand everything over to the One who knows even better.”

“When we pray, the heart learns something in its own strange way…”

“…I have understood something more deeply and on another level – about God, or about Love, or about myself, or about others…”

“…an important fruit of prayer is genuine peace and the courage to live.  And this can happen even without strong feelings.”

“Perhads only at the end is ‘something understood.’”

“…my horizon expands and attitudes get healed by being in the presence of God.”

Note:  Some quotes came from writers other than the Irish Jesuits.  I was not able to take note of their names.  My apologies for that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interview with the Housewives # 4: The Real Housewife of New York

One of the most surprising and comforting thing about being a housewife now was sharing the same experience with my bestest cousin.  My cousin and I have been close no matter the distance.  When she was still living in the Philippines, their family was based in Cebu while we are in Manila.  They then moved to New York but we would exchange letters (yes, good old handwritten snail mailed letters!) to keep in touch.  With Facebook, keeping in touch could never have been easier.  Now that we’re both housewives, we never wanted to be closer to each other than ever!  That would be too fun!  In as much as we’re separated by 10.5 hours and countless number of miles we share a similar story.  Here it is…

The Real Housewife of New York (TRHNY) has been a housewife for 7 months already.  There were a couple of circumstances that lead TRHNY to decide that housewifedom would be best for her.  First, TRHNY decided to leave her job for personal reasons (She was a Clinical Dietician and a Diet Tech for 6 years).  Shortly after that, she and her hubby wanted to travel and it didn’t make sense to find another job right away as she wouldn’t have time off for that vacation.  And third, they wanted to start a family (they are pregnant with their 1st!).  Aside from housewifely duties, she would assist her hubby with his photoshoot gigs (weddings and engagement portraits).   

LLVL:  How was the transition like for you shifting from your prior occupation to being a housewife?

TRHNY:  It was quite odd at first not waking up at 5am everyday for work, but because I already know that I'll be taking a break from my job, I had already planned my "things" to do.

LLVL:  What made it easy?

TRHNY:  What made it easy for me was having a very understanding husband who didn't think any less of me when I made the decision to stop working. 

Editor’s Note:  I love hearing about wonderful stories of the understanding husbands.  My husband is one and it is a joy being married to him!  I wish the same for all the women out there.  And I’m very happy my cousin is married to one!

LLVL:  What made it difficult?

TRHNY:  What made it difficult was that I no longer was receiving a paycheck biweekly, and that would mean I would have to "depend" on my husband for groceries and other expenses for the home.

LLVL:  This is such an issue for me.  When I earned and spent my own money, I felt free – free to do what I want with it. I don’t need to account for my expenses to anyone – which maybe the reason why I don’t do accounting at all! Haha! Now I live on a monthly allowance – which I budget and do the accounting – not because it is required but because I think it’s my duty to.  I am happy that within these boundaries I have the freedom to do with it as I wish.  Yesterday I was buying a binder for my files – I really wanted to buy the most expensive one because it was really the best fit for my needs among the lot.  I somehow felt guilty that I’m buying it.  It wasn’t too expensive (just most expensive), it was within budget, I still have more than enough for the week and I decided that better spend on a quality piece than a cheaper piece that wasn’t upto my standards.  If that was my own money, I wouldn’t have felt the guilt.  But I have a more philosophical take on this – I see it as God’s challenge for me to surrender.  I am a control freak really (that’s why my dad always reminds me to relax) and it is a huge blow to my ego to depend on someone for something.  But that is what marriage is about.  More than depending on someone for the money, but really the act of letting go of one’s self, one’s insecurities (and securities) and hang-ups.  It is about surrendering your life to your husband and allowing him to take care of you.  And once I’ve done that, I felt a lot of tension within me ease.  But it wasn’t all my doing.  One biggest factors of the shift is that the fact that my husband showed me he was happy to do it, that I shouldn’t fear and that it is, at the end of the day, ok. 

LLVL:  What do you like best in being a housewife?

TRHNY:  What I like best of being a housewife is having the opportunity to explore the art of cooking and baking.  I am a terrible cook (take my word for it), but I love baking desserts (this I must say is my strongest points).  It's a good thing that my husband is a dessert lover because even if the meals I cooked are not that good, I make him happy with the desserts I make :) 

LLVL: What are the challenges?

TRHNY:  The challenges I must say is to constantly find something to do so I don't get bored, and not rely on the days ahead of me as an excuse to be lazy.  For example:  Laundry and cleaning the house.  I can easily put that off because I know tomorrow I don't have any special plans, but I try to have a schedule for laundry and cleaning to avoid putting it off to another day.

LLVL:  What things you do that help you enjoy being a housewife?

TRHNY:  I read to keep me busy from novels to magazines, medical journals, news from the internet, recipe books.  I Facebook (who doesn't when we have so much time in our hands now... haha!).  I make time to meet my friends for lunch or dinner if they're available. I visit my family when they're off from work during the week.  I do yoga exercises. I go out with my husband to take photos on weekends if we don't have other things to do.  I watch TV.  If I'm not cooking, I'm whipping up desserts :)

LLVL: Any other tips to enjoy being a housewife?

TRHNY: 1) Keep yourself busy with the things you enjoy the most. 2) Do the things that you have always wanted to do, and never got the chance to do it because of your previous job. 3) Spice up intimacy with your husband. Surprise him with anything from a romantic candle lit dinner for two at home, a nice candle lit bubble bath (if you have a bathtub, if not, sneak in the shower with him), and put on a sexy lingerie in bed.  4) Stay away from shopping unless it's necessary (haha!). 

Editor’s Note:  Hmmm… now that’s a thought!

LLVL:  Do you have plans of shifting back to being a working girl?

TRHNY:  I do plan on possibly working part time or per diem after the baby is a bit older, since my husband and I decided that we are not hiring a sitter, it's quite impossible to work without worrying who's going to watch our child.  Of course when our child is of school age, I'll be going back to work full time, unless we plan for the 2nd baby right away :)

LLVL:  Any other words of wisdom?

TRHNY:  Have confidence in yourself.  Don't let other people think of you less just because you're no longer the "working girl" you used to be.  One day, all your savings will start to decrease, don't panic... just ask your husband nicely to provide a little cash:)  Being a housewife is not necessarily an easy task, so don't let your guard down and it doesn't mean that you're always home, that you forget about yourself.  Don't forget that you still have to look your best.

I love my cousin!  She is totally rockin’ being a housewife and reminding us all that just because we stay at home most of the time, we should look and be anything less than fabulous! 

So that’s it for this edition of the Interview with the Housewives!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Lunuganga

One of the most interesting personalities I’ve met here in Sri Lanka is Geoffrey Bawa.  I’ve not personally met the guy and I will never do at least in this worldly life.  But I’ve met him in quite a few of his works.  One is the structure that houses Paradise Road’s Gallery Café, another is his own Colombo abode at #11 33rd Lane and now his famed estate Lunuganga (or Salt Garden). 

Lunuganga is in Bentota, around 2.5 hours drive south of Colombo (on the way to Galle).  It used to be a rubber plantation.  Upon returning from the UK, Mr. Bawa bought the land.  The garden was his architectural crib – it consumed him and transformed him from a lawyer to “one of the most important Asian architects of the 20th century (Lunuganga Primer).”  It became my objective to set foot in the bed of Bawa’s transformation.  One because truly, the estate is magnificent.  And two, I wanted to be where it all began.

Lunuganga is hard to find.  There are no signages going to the place.  The roads are fit for just one car.  And unpaved.  But it was worth the trip.

Upon entering the inner gate we were welcomed by the most amazing vista I’ve ever seen in my (approximately) 2 months in Sri Lanka.  

The architecture of the house and its rooms (there are quite a few scattered around the estate) is reminiscent of his own Colombo abode.  Maybe it was his way of bringing his Lunuganga to his everyday life?

But Bawa also brought the Italian Renaissance garden to the tropics as that was his main inspiration for the design of the place.  It was also a renaissance of sorts as aside from Bawa’s creation, his many artist friends also contributed interesting pieces and sculptures.

Aside from its sheer beauty, Lunuganga was also a smart creation.  It rested upon two sides of a national road (albeit a small one at that).  Bawa connected the two sides by a bridge – a bridge that quite naturally just rested straddling on either side to make one big estate.  Without having to bulldoze through the national road.

Aside from being such an architectural wonder, Lunuganga for me is a beautiful symbol of man’s ability to make himself who he wants to be and at the same time making the world a more beautiful place.  Who would have thought that a lawyer could be an architect?  To me they are two totally different disciplines.  Yet Bawa made the leap.  And that resonated with where I am now.  I am in my own Lunuganga, a beautiful cradle of transformation.  I too can make that leap.  I too can be unbounded from the kind of person who used to define me with who I want to be.  Right now, in my own terms.  I can make an abandoned rubber plantation into a beautiful Italian Renaissance garden.  And more…

So Lunuganga is my inspiration to carry on in my own rollercoaster of a journey of transformation.  I guess that’s the beautiful part of leaving your old life behind.  Because you have a big beautiful world to create and re-create.

How about you, have you found your Lunuganga?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Riding the Sigmoid Curve in La Lanka

Last week I’ve reached my all time low living in la Lanka.  It is NOT because of the service, good Lord no! (Service Næ ) but something deeper than that.  I really didn’t think much about moving here.  It was just the most natural thing in the world being with my hubby.  I knew it required a dying to self – it was a ginormous sacrifice leaving my life behind.  But it is very clear to me that my life was meant to be lived with hubby, wherever in the world that maybe.  And whatever it takes.  To date, that remains strong (it’s not been a while but still).  My biggest mistake was thinking that I will leave my life behind but pick up from where I left off.  Little did I know that this time, I would be starting from scratch. 

I’ve never been out of a job since graduating from college.  For 7 years of my adult life, my career is what defined me.  I was the HR girl who was focused on getting from point a to point b at work while at the same time juggling school and finally getting an M.A. in Industrial Organizational Psychology.  My life was so aligned.  Now that I found myself being a housewife, all that defined me before suddenly does not apply.  I left my life, but I’m not picking up where I left off.  Instead I am picking up pieces – anything I can get my hands on.

I jumped into embracing this profession.  Interviewing wonderful women who chose housewifedom and learning a lot from them!  I started enjoying the downtime this way of life provides.  As per Diplo Wife, “There is infinite joy to being a housewife if one is to explore all the other aspects of one's life and passions (aside from work).” 
One is writing.  I’ve always enjoyed writing.  I even wanted to seriously pursue it but of course it wasn’t going to pay as much as my old job was.  But lookie here, I am writing.  Writing to live but not for a living.  Also, as per Diplo Wife, “a group of fabulous friends to have ladies lunch with and talk to about the joys and pains of being an expat’s/diplomat’s wife” does not hurt a bit. I think I’ve found some fabulous women in my Sinhala class with whom I occasionally lunch with and share a couple of beers over.  Yes during lunch, why not?

The Academic Wife inspired me to take up a hobby.  And I seriously dove into it.  Even before arriving in Colombo, I have been searching for the perfect yoga center for me.  I wasn’t able to find the best one until I got here.  I tried yoga in a gym class which was enjoyable but another yoga center called out to me.  I was taught one-on-one by a wonderful Indian lady for 10 straight days.  A requirement for beginners.  Now I can do a headstand (albeit against the wall but staying there and breathing), shoulder stand and the plough without years of practice!  Which pushed me to take the Bajaj (public transpo) because some classes clashed with hubby’s schedule - a logistical concern with the car and driver.  Anyway I gained my mobility (albeit with some frustrations along the way) because of pursuing yoga.  And because of yoga itself I gained so much (more on this on a separate post later!). 

Farmer Wife said something that allowed me to let go and chill out.  Hubby will not love me because of gourmet meals and a perfect home.  He has loved me even before he knew how I would fare in that area.  Which made me enjoy cooking more and somehow a consolation in my daily life.  I cooked with my heart.  Not to impress but because it was the kind of food that fed the belly big time.  It also fed the soul – of those who eat but more so of the one who was doing the cooking.

The center of energy in our humble abode
Amidst all these, there was something terribly missing.  Doing all of these can only last a while.  In as much as there are other worldly pursuits that make up a person, for me there has to be some semblance of work into it.  Because at the end of the day, I know I love my profession and what I did.  Prior to leaving Manila I was hoping to find a job here.  I was more optimistic than realistic.  The frustration is because of the visa situation.  It is damn hard to get a working visa if your husband already has one.  I gave myself 3 months to find a job.  The job prospect is not a problem but the visa situation has not changed one bit.  It’s so near it’s almost here but yet so far.  It’s been halfway through my self-imposed timeline and I’m panicking inside.  I might need to accept that I will be a housewife for the whole duration of the assignment (yikes!).  Honestly my frame of mind was that it was a temporary arrangement.  But somehow deep inside I knew the possibility was real.  That’s why I had to soothe myself with the Interviews with the Housewives.
The couch for the potato...
Also something deep inside me is saying that there is actually something that God wants me to figure out, grasp and learn.  When things you think you want or need do not turn out easily, you know the universe is leading you to a detour.  It is frustrating when you don’t know what it is and no matter what you do it’s not getting to you.  I’m sure a bit of it is patience but I somehow I feel there is something else. 

And then the day of the dumps came.  The night before I was thinking about taking a big step.  I was talking about it with my husband and as always, he was all out support.  I was thinking about the timing, that I should the step when I get this job, so at least I could replenish the investment.  But in as much as that is perfectly practical, I knew it was not the right decision.  I decided to sleep on it.  And when I woke up, I immediately knew it was a terrible day that I didn’t want to go through.  I knew I was in the dumps because I didn’t want to go to yoga and I had to ask hubby to stay behind a little bit to cry things out with him.  The whole day I didn’t have the appetite for anything.  I didn’t want to clean (well that is always but on better days I push myself!), and all I wanted was to lie on the couch and watch tv.  Totally unheard of in my past life.  Back then if you feel shitty it doesn’t matter – you just have to get up and go.  But now, where do I need to get up and go to?  There was no Sinhala class that day, not even a grocery day and the one thing that could make me feel better is not until cooking for dinner.  So couch day it was!  I was surprised that I allowed myself that.  But I was just being true and now I have the luxury to.

Then the Sigmoid Curve came to mind.  The Sigmoid Curve is the learning curve.  There is a more mathematical explanation to it but please, let’s not go there.  It looks like this:

The Sigmoid Curve courtesy of www.biz_ed.co.uk
The 2 axes represent performance and time.  In the first curve, when you start there is generally a dip in performance.  Birth pains maybe?  It’s really like that when you learn something new, it’s a painful process as it requires you to clear out a bit of cognitive space to make way for something new.  And there are some things we just can’t let go and unlearn.  When we get the hang of it, what we learn then translates to performance and we steadily improve.  When we reach a certain level of comfort, the subject matter becomes second nature.  Cruising through life maybe?  Then the time comes when we feel we’ve plateaud.  Performance then dips because where you are at is not exciting anymore, it doesn’t push you because you’ve reached a place where the challenge that fueled you no longer exists. 

The trick is to start another curve – a totally different one.  As how you started the previous curve, there will always be a dip.  But your curve will no longer be where you initially started.  The beauty of this curve is that it has the capacity to go further up than you’ve experienced before.  And for me the Sigmoid Curve is a curve of life that we should strive for.  It is also a symbol of hope.   That #1, the dumps will not be forever.  And #2, you’re starting the process of a bigger, better and higher curve. 

That day of the dumps I made a decision to take a leap of faith into a new and exciting foray.  And for the first time in a while, something has taken hold of me in the area of “work.”  What that is, well you will soon find out! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Service Næ

For the month and a half of living in Sri Lanka, most of my daily interactions are with people in the service industry.  Pretty much those who sell stuff – cashiers, sales ladies and men, waiters and even the Bajaj drivers (argh!).  Blame that on home decorating, home office shopping, regular grocery shopping and general eating and dining.  Recent experience pushed me to rant about their service – or lack thereof.  I’m NOT saying this for all, but this goes for most interactions in my 1.5 months experience.

What is it like? 

They are not mean or anything.  In fact they are very friendly and courteous.  But these are very different from SERVICE.

Bajaj drivers (50% of them and I noticed the more stocky ones) will rip you off.  Say plus 50% of the usual fare.  Even if they don’t know where you’re going and you have to be the one to point the directions…  Seriously?

The guy whom I was going to buy printer from didn’t want me to test the damn thing.  Again, seriously???  I suppose that’s the way it goes because the next store I went to has the same policy.  What made me buy from this other guy was the assurance of warranty.  But then, he had the gall to ask me if I really wanted to check the contents of the pack since it has warranty anyways.  Well, hello???  I’m already in the store right now and you’re getting the stuff out of the box anyway!

Why was it such a pain buying you? :-(

The office is set! Printer working a-ok! Frustration worth it!

Concierge at Mount Lavinia hotel was not really living up to his role because when asked where a certain famous nearby resto is, his attitude was cocky and didn’t really offer any help – at all.  And you call yourself a concierge? 

Even the church was not spared!  Hubby and I wanted to have our flat blessed and we asked the parish office for a priest.  They took note of our details but never got back to us.  When I went back and followed up, the lady in the office knew nothing and told us that the priests were in retreat upto Saturday.  That information could have been supplied earlier right???

Water delivery service only delivers on the day they want.  I didn’t have empties on their self-imposed delivery date and asked them to come back the next day.  They said they will come back a week after.  I called to ask for delivery and the sales guy said that is not possible and asked me to call his manager!!!  SERIOUSLY???

Building guard didn’t want to have our huge furnitures up the elevator because by the looks of it he’s saying it won’t fit.  He was right, but my issue was he didn’t even try.  He just said no and was all negative about the alternative that I wanted – take it up 13 floors up via stairs.  It still won’t fit because of the sheer size of the thing but even if how impossible the task may seem, for me it doesn’t matter if you arrive at a solution.  But it really ticks me off if you don’t try to solve the problem.

How to deal? 

I get angry.  Tell them what I think.  And tell them what to do.  Somehow most of them won’t go beyond the obvious.  And is seemingly too lazy to think.  So I do the thinking for them.  Does it work?  Sometimes.  Other times it is just wise to accept the situation.  And maybe blame it on the language barrier.  Don’t get me wrong, they speak English well.  But the comprehension is still a challenge!  Or maybe it’s my accent?  I don’t know.  If all else fails, I look to those who can provide a better service.

First our trusty driver.  He is an amazingly friendly person (as in he will honk in the middle of the street because he saw a friend! Oh hello!).  Very concerned about our welfare… like choose papaya for me in the supermarket, buy me king coconut because he wants me to try it and gets worried if it’s already late and I haven’t sent him off to pick up hubby.  “How about sir?  Office?”  He is an exception.  Even if his English is limited he tries to understand.  And he tries hard.  And that makes a whole lot of difference.

Second the sales lady in Arpico (a local hypermarket).  I was looking for electrical tape and apparently they have a different term here.  So describe away I did.  Somehow she got what I was saying.  It wasn’t on display but she went to the backroom to get it.  With energy.  Way to go sister!

Third the waiter at Gallery Café.  Hubby asked for lemon juice of sorts.  Which I couldn’t understand what he was asking for really.  The waiter though understood him and brought him exactly what he wanted.

It’s a hit or miss really but the fact remains that the service industry still has a lot of customer orientation training to do.  I do hope I won’t get too riled up when this happens again.  Which it will.  Because it takes a hot fudge sundae and large fries to soothe my soul and that is not good for the belly and the heart!  So I vow to do three things: approach the situation without high expectations, simplify questions and requests/instructions (learn more Sinhala if needed) and muster all self control to soothe the frustration with a happy yummy sinful treat! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Movie La Vida Lanka

Ever experienced watching a movie for say 45 minutes… then an intermission?  I thought intermissions were for plays only.  Not in Sri Lanka!  Apparently it is a practice to have an intermission in the middle of a movie!  Hello?  What’s up with that?

Well, people go off to the toilet, get snacks, some go home altogether (I think they even sell tickets for half the movie!).  While people who opt to wait it out get a treat viewing print ads ala slide show – yes I am NOT kidding.  Then a few other commercials, this time moving, follow.

Slide of an Ad in Sinhala

Slide of an Ad in English
I learned from S (my Sinhala classmate) that intermissions were usual for Bollywood movies.  I didn’t know Bollywood movies last for around 3-4 hours! I agree for that you do need an intermission!  But not for your average Hollywood movie which was what we were watching.  Oh well I guess Bollywood trumps Hollywood in this side of the world.

The movie house is quite ancient and it reeks of years of sweat that stuck to the chairs and walls.  It feels like watching a movie in old Guadalupe or Cubao standalone movie houses big in the 70’s and 80’s but doing it today.  I have never experienced that but that’s how it looks from the outside.  People put their feet up, answer the phone, talk to each other, not only during intermissions but also in the middle of the movie.     

A Stolen Shot of the Moviehouse During The Intermission
That’s how our baptism to the Sri Lankan movie house experience went!  Movie la vida Lanka!

Room With A View

One of the things I am thankful for living in Colombo is the view.  It is my first time to live in a high rise (well there was one crazy year of independence but I was only on the 3rd floor and the whole apartment building was only upto the 5th so that doesn’t count).  I was somehow aversed to it because I’ve always loved the village life.  Having your house planted on the ground (my mom never feels the earthquakes when I would experience them in the office or somewhere higher) gives you a sense of security and safety.  Our neighborhood in F1 had very nice paved roads and an awesome security system so running at 4am won’t give you the creeps.  When my husband and I lived in their home in an Antipolo village, it was also a treat.  Like coming home to a vacation house because of the lush foliage and the cool air.  So condo living really doesn’t appeal to me at all.  Always a village girl I would say!

But in Colombo we live in one.  Of course I was hoping for a house but with just the 2 of us and the Managing Director post still 2 big steps away from where my husband is, it’s a stretch!  But I’m not complaining.  It’s a new development and a spacious 2+1.  It was the best my husband saw and thank God it fit the budget!  But one of the best parts to it is that every morning when I bid my husband goodbye at our door, we take in an awesome view of the city and the Indian Ocean.  Not to mention getting quite a good breeze too!  

I’ve never had this leaving home for work.  Usually in F1 and Antipolo I would be greeted by the friendly neighbors, from babies to oldies.  Which was awesome in itself but the view from this height gives you something else.  Since we’re like the only one on our floor (for now), it’s the serenity of an empty floor.  But if you look farther out, on a good day, you get a nice view of the sun touching the roofs and trees of Colombo.  White puffy clouds amidst the most glorious blue I’ve ever seen.  And into the horizon, the Indian Ocean. 

If you see such beauty everyday, I don’t know how you could feel discontent.  This everyday experience is a reminder for me that I have such a blessed life.  That in as much as there are big chunks of the puzzle missing, the picture is nonetheless beautiful in its incompleteness.

And that’s livin’ la vida Lanka!         

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3 and Family S

This picture was taken exactly 2 years ago when my family went on a wonderful cruise in the Mediterranean. It was one of the best family trips ever and I will be forever be grateful for that gift of travel and togetherness amidst the world’s most awesome sites and gastronomic delights.  It was the first time for me to celebrate my birthday outside the country.  In 2008 it was under the Tuscan sun. 

Today is the second time I’m celebrating my birthday away from “home.”  But instead of togetherness, Family S for the first time is in 5 different countries (totally apart!) in 3 continents.  Father is working in East Timor, Mother is presenting a study in Lithuania, Bro # 1 is studying in Australia and Bro # 2 is the man of the house in the Philippines.  Thank God for Facebook, it seems like we are not too far apart.

Birthday Dinner at 1864 (Galle Face Hotel)
But in as much as it seems sad to be away from my core family, now it is not too depressing.  Father was right, he said when you marry, it’s different from working or studying abroad.  Things change, priorities change, a lot of other things change.  And for the first time after the wedding I felt like Family S has changed and my place in it.  I will forever be a member of Family S but now I have Family O attached to it.  Family O of Mr. O and Family O of Mr. and Mrs. O.  Today, as I celebrate my birthday in as much as my Family S is not here, my own Family O is complete.  Hubby and I and a very happy birthday livin’ la vida Lanka.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrating One Month of Livin’ La Vida Lanka!

Sri Lanka Flag Flying High At The Galle Face Green

Today (2 November 2010) marks my first month in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Resident visa – Check!

I’ve pretty much found my bearings around Colombo and in nearby areas.  I can’t navigate on my own but I would know if it’s the right way or not.  Darn those roundabouts upon roundabouts though! Haha!

Daily routine – Check!

In as much as I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating more!  And in this month I would say hubby and I have been to pretty good restaurants in the city.  I’m actually surprised there is a wide variety!  And there are more things to try out!

Getting around the city via public transpo – Check!

Sinhala chutak puluan!  I can speak a bit of Sinhala (their national language) – to the amazement of my hubby’s workmates and the pleasure of our trusty driver.  Thanks to my teacher and fun classmates!

New friends – Check!  Thanks to hubby’s really cool team (his brand team and most of Marketing) and my fun Sinhala classmates!

I am also practicing really serious and traditional yoga now.  One-on-one yoga classes with an Indian Yoga Guru for 10 straight days anyone?  I can do a shoulderstand, the plough and headstand! In just 4 days of practice.  She is awesome.  More on this later!

Home decorating – not fully but it is a work in progress!

Enjoying this break and embracing housewife-dom – check!

Scoring a job – well, hopefully that one pans out soon.  Complicated visa situation (even if they mistakenly gave me a work visa with hubby’s details!).  But all will happen in the right time.

Embracing the culture – a continuous journey but got some good headstart!  Pettah anyone? And some nice Bawa afternoons.

Happy faces!
My most significant achievement in the last 30 days?  Fully embracing that we are here and la vida Lanka is where we ought to be right now.  It is such a joy realizing that we are truly gifted with a beautiful life even if that is far from what we call(ed) home.  And in the last 30 days, all these things have made Colombo, home.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with the Housewives #3: The Farmer Wife

My interview takes us to the Philippine countryside with The Farmer Wife.  Jo Ann and her hubby run a farm in Bulacan since they got married.  I always admired Jo Ann for being the no-nonsense woman she is and it shows in her approach in being a housewife.  She was the first girl who married in our college barkada.  I was the last.  And this is her (or our) story. 

The Farmer Wife (FW) is a work-from-home mom of one baby boy.  It was natural for her to work from home since work is practically at their backyard.  She has been doing this for almost 5 years now and has no plans of changing this arrangement.  

LLVL: How was the transition like for you shifting from your prior occupation to being a housewife?   

FW: Difficult and challenging.

LLVL: What made it difficult and challenging?

FW: I'm not used to doing chores and God chores are indeed chores! Plus being stuck at home is so boring.

Editor’s Note: Ditto! I never though that I would dislike chores so much because back in Manila I would do some here and there.  We don’t have full-time help so it was expected of my brothers and I to help out.  But it’s not the same when the all chores rest on you! I do things manually over here and it can make you OC-er than how you really are.  A sign that chores are not my favorite, there are days that I forget that it’s cleaning day… like today (hihi!)… 

LLVL: What are the challenges?   

FW:  Thinking about meals and cleaning the house in days when you just want to sleep.

Editor’s Note:  I know right?  Menu planning is more complicated than people think!  You need to have a good strategic sense because a dish exists within a weekly plan. And a weekly plan (as massive as it already is) has to be diverse in itself and diverse compared to the week before and the week after.  You also need to have a good understanding of the market especially when you need to source something that is not in the regular diet of your locality.  Case in point, try looking for bagoong in the local supermarket in Sri Lanka.  You won’t find it.  Not even the raw mats to make it yourself!

LLVL: Any words of wisdom to fellow housewives out there?

FW:  Accept that Mrs. All-Organized is not always reality. Give it a break!  Chill out.  Not all things are meant to be squeaky clean and gourmet perfect for your husband to love you.  Solicit his help too.

Editor’s Note: This is one of the most practical advices I’ve ever received.  Our upbringing has taught us to be perfectionists – in school, at work and even at home.  This is well and good but we all know perfection all the time is impossible.  Which therefore leads to a very stressful life.  Every time I clean the house I get really pissed because I know I could do better but I just can’t do it on a twice-a-week basis!  If I do that my life would just revolve around cleaning.  What a pathetic existence that would be!  Now, I’ve learned to do it smarter.  Some areas do not need regular cleaning while others do.  I also learned to be flexible about my cleaning schedule.  I have a Gantt Chart that I almost religiously follow but now since ultimately I’m really my own boss in the house, I do things depending on how I feel that day and the other things I need to do that may vary.  As long as on a weekly basis I am able to accomplish what I set out to do, I am good.  And since hubby is better in cleaning than me, I really do solicit his help.  Lucky for me my hubby is just awesome and never has complained about doing home chores.  I am the luckiest wife ever!

So there you are, the story of two ladies.  Doing the best they could to make their house a home.  But trying not to stress too much cleaning and cooking gourmet meals to make that home perfect.  At the end of the day it is teamwork – and you and hubby are in the same team.  And that makes the home perfect.

Till the next Interview with the Housewives! 
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