Friday, May 30, 2008

That is some delicious apple

I forgot to mention that the day we searched out Jennifer Cafe and found the juiciest carnitas tacos in lower Manhattan, Abe's friend was part of or supposedly doing sound for a show that night in one of the nearby theatres called Offensive Women. It was basically 4 women doing some great comedy routines, some of them well acted and one very awkwardly raunchy (or just plain disgusting) caricature of a... redneck. A very rough one.

My continuing journey through the Big Apple would not have been what it was without Kim, Vi's older sister and good friend of my cousin Joanne. Having worked for the TV studios out here in New York, she made the perfect guide to her cousin My Linh and I, picking out some of the best places to eat and taking us to various famous stops around the city. Some notably delicious places are Roxy's Delicatessen, serving amazingly smooth and creamy cheesecakes (try the pumpkin one!) and Alice's Tea Cup, which does an amazing afternoon tea consisting of delectable sandwiches, your choice of fluffy scone (again, try the pumpkin!) and a comforting hot pot of any one of their flavorful teas, the choices numbering well over 100. 

Walking from one stop to the next, Kim and My Linh talk about seeing a Broadway show. I mention to them that Avenue Q was a really good one, having seen it in London, and they agree to check it out. Arriving at the Avenue Q doors, we find that it is, for some reason, closed for the night. What other options are there? How about the one called In The Heights, nominated for a Tony Best Musical? On the way, I learn from Kim that they are going to try getting rush tickets (a lottery done 2 hours before the show, usually raffling off the unsold tickets), and I hurredly mention that we'll have to depend on their luck because mine is usually not good enough for these things. Passing the 50% off Broadway ticket booth, we note that if we didn't succeed with rush, we can always come back and grab some tickets for half off the price. We get to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for In The Heights and put our name in the raffle bucket, waiting for the guy to step out and start the raffle. 

22 tickets available. Max tickets per picked person is 2. The guy stands up high, and rolls his hand around the bucket, looking for lucky son of a bitch #1.

Bucket guy: "And the first one is... Christopher Lim." 

Kim: "Dude, Chris, he said your name." 

Me: "What?" 

Bucket guy: "Hey, is there a Christopher Lim here? Anybody??"

Me: "Oh. OH! Oh shit! HEY OVER HERE!" 

And that was pretty much how I won two rush tickets to In The Heights. They cost $26.50 each, and it turns out the rush/unsold tickets are usually the front row Orchestra ones. So two tickets to FRONT ROW Broadway.

Holy fucking awesome, Batman.

I suggested to Kim that since I've already seen a show in London, they could take the tickets and I'd just find something to eat and head back. Kim mentioned that she had some errands to do, and to just see the show and watch after her cousin. Alright, sounds good to me, let's check this out!

A great, great cast, brilliant singers and excellent dance routines that fill the stage with life. Lin-Manuel Miranda as Usnavi is brilliant, spitting out words in a rap and flowing it into a song moments later. The cast's singing is sublime, Carla's especially, hitting all the notes beautifully, my eardrums soaking in all the magnificence. Comedy, love, tragedy, it's all in there, spilled out in a torrent of motion and dance, chorus and refrain. 

For $26.50 *dingggg*

A few days later, I once again meet up with Kim at the corner of Bryant Park, at about 6 am. Why so early you ask? Well, Kim's connections through the TV industry bring us to Good Morning America's summer concert series, and a free concert is being held in the park. She also has some kind of pull so she gets us into the VIP line and we head to the front of the stage.

YAAAaaaieeah! For some reason I always hear Lil Jon when I see Usher. OOKAAAaaaayyy!

One thing I learned from listening to the music at this concert is how much I love the acoustic instruments used. With a full band, the music had such presence, the sound very filling. I thought, "great, his album must sound just as good!" Went and downloaded it. Aaaaand....

His album SUCKS. After hearing the acoustic instruments at the concert, it felt like the music regressed into some weak rendition as his album spat half-hearted beats of synthetic piffle. Promptly deleted.

Another day found us stopping by the MoMA to see Olafur Eliasson's exhibit called "Take Your Time." Mirrors, lights, strobes, water are his paints and space is his canvas. Many of the works take entire rooms, starting with a black canvas absent of light and adding it in an interesting way. 

One of the works was, once again, a completely dark room. You hear falling water, not a cascade but a light shower. Strobe lights, popping a few times a second, freeze a series of falling droplets in time. A curtain of water, it is not; floating sparkles of light, it is.

Another work, another pitch black room. Instead of drops of water, it's a fine mist falling from the ceiling. A spotlight shines obliquely through this curtain of mist to create an indoor rainbow. 

One work even used a color to create a monochrome effect. Two hallways in the MoMA are illuminated with a series of flourescent bulbs, all with a deep yellow tint. With such a narrow band of color, you can only see everything in shades from yellow to black. 

Yes, these are some pretty cool exhibits. 

Somewhere in this madness, I was left in charge of My Linh and we decided to stop by the UNIQLO during the day after heading to PS1, the other half of the MoMA to continue checking out Olafur Eliasson's exhibits. I managed to pick up two shirts and the best fitting pair of jeans I've ever owned for way cheaper than I expected. Newfound respect for this store. Too bad it's only in New York, London, Paris and Japan. After UNIQLO, we headed to Brooklyn Heights to grab a good photo of the skyline, and we have this as a result.

Patience is really useful when hunting the photo. 

One of the reasons why I stayed in New York so long is beacuse of Letterman. I've always wanted to see his show live ever since I was like 12, when I used to watch his show with his Top 10s and Paul Schaeffer, who always reminded me of Arthur from The Tick. Having some guest passes for June 2nd's taping, I lept at the chance and was ready and waiting in line that afternoon. After being shuffled into the waiting room and patiently standing for a half hour while all preparations were finalized, we are finally let in to the Ed Sullvan Theatre. The set is much smaller than I anticipated! It was great to hear Paul Schaefer and his band play, and to watch Letterman do what he does best with his stars: interview. 

Alas, it's too bad Paul is kind of annoying, always jumping in with some strange comment, parroting Dave's words once in a while. It felt like he'd almost interrupt the flow of the show, but Letterman always pulls it back into motion. Afterwards, I would say that, given the stars at that time (none which I really knew) and Paul being a weirdo, it just felt like I just saw the show on TV. The only part that really sticks out differently is the music hitting you in the face so much more being live, and they show funny clips of other shows during commercials. 

Kim has some amazing friends. I met Marissa at Alice's Tea Cup where the two of them would go over stories about fun times in New York when Kim used to live here. My Linh and I sat mesmerized by her stories of her best friends and the things they used to do, Kirk, Chica, Rain and countless others that I forgot about. Chica is such a fun person, always with something hilarious to say about one of the stars. She will go on and on about so and so and this and that, and it's entertaining as hell to hear what she has to say about anyone and everyone! Later that night after Letterman, Kim mentioned that they were going to meet up with some friends, one guy named Rain. Who names themselves Rain? 

It turns out, awesome people. Rain is the guy that wrote, filmed and put together this hilarious webisode I caught a little before my trip. The reason why I know about it is because Ryan sent it to me mostly because the main character looks like our friend Arthur but talks like Woody Allen. Check it out at What a shock it was when we walked up and it's that guy! I was totally geeking out "Holy shit you're the guy from 72nd to Canal!" A very chill guy, hilarious as fuck and owns a photography studio in the Chinatown area (hence, Canal). I really wish he could continue the web series, it was great but alas, there's no funding for any more episodes at the moment. Hopefully they can get some soon. 

Speaking about photography, earlier that day, Kat and I got up early to get over to the Adorama in Manhattan, grab some strobes and pocketwizards and get down to strobing bizness. Doing my best to teach her what I could remember from my fundamentals in lighting class, we had a blast messing around with lights and taking photos of one another. I think I got a little impatient with answering lots of questions though, I know I interrupted Kat a few times. I hope I wasn't being so mean! 

Here's some of the results.


I wish we had more time to geek out about the photography stuff! We just ran out of time at the end of it all =/ Booo.

Overall, I really love New York. If I could get hired with Google or find some other company that had an office in New York, I would move there, possibly into Kat and Abe's closet, and work on photography stuff on the side. 

It would be beautiful.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Completion (Please Wait)

I'm going to finish this.

I've hit the ground running, starting to prepare for interviews, seeing some friends and finding old connections, and acclimating myself to the life and world that is here, Los Angeles, California (for example, I forgot the code for our house burglar alarm so the alarm blasted and now I'm waiting for Brinks to call so I can stop the police from coming and harassing me... yes, it has definitely been a while) that I have just not had the time to spend on photos and writing.

I hope to have a little break to get everything settled away and hopefully some time will open up so I can jot these thoughts down before they leave me forever!

It will come.

Plans for posts:
  • New York, part 2
  • San Francisco
  • Returning home
  • Overview, new thoughts, things learned (if I can figure them out and communicate them)
  • Statistics
  • A few thoughts on the responses I am getting

It WILL come.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taking a bite out of the apple

Lugging my indescribably heavy bag to Heathrow, I send it off to the baggage check in and breathe a sigh of equal parts relief, bliss, and victory. Making sure all of my bits and pieces of carry on are with me, I'm on the plane and bid farewell to Europe as the ground fades away below.

I've flown so many times in the past few months that it's all pretty much automatic. Get to the airport early. Make sure to have the right confirmation codes and outbound flights (if necessary). Check in. Take off watch, belt, phone, etc. and pass through security. Immigration/passport checkpoint. Go to gate. Wait/read/buy/eat food. Board. Liftoff. Check check checkity check.

The whole preparation part, meanwhile, bothers me, those two to three hours of hurrying up to wait. Can we break the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle already? Can't someone just "beam me up?" All this time waiting for things is good for bookreading, but it does add up to a lot of wasted time...

Anyway, after an unexpectedly tame and short flight, I land in New York. Back to US soil. Back after 8 long months. I had thought that this moment would be filled with a kind of excitement, anticipation leading up to the moment I step off the plane, like reappearing in a land from which I vanished. Nope, I was just being silly. It just feels like just another place, another mundane featureless airport, another stop in the metro of life. But not the stop that moves you forward, more like the stop that you pass through on your normal commute. Nothing special, no change in feeling detected. I begin to wonder if I really did change or grow during this trip because I don't seem to consciously register it. Maybe it's all hidden from view.

Grabbing my bag and moving out to the arrivals area, I begin to spy for Kat, my host out here. So I actually never met her in person before. This itself isn't that weird; many of my hosts for CouchSurfing I haven't met in person until I actually see them, but those connections are made for that purpose and at least I've seen what they look like (CouchSurfers have photos of themselves). Kat I met randomly because she emailed me about some movie stills in Flickr and we just got to emailing about photoraphy, dreams, and whatever else, penpal style! Of like photographic minds (just like Armand too), I mentioned I'd be heading back to the states and she said well New York is on the way back, why not?

My thoughts exactly. 

I spy a paper with my name on it. How neat! That's never happened to me before. We head back to her place in Brooklyn and chat about great places to eat in the area (of course, it's always what I gotta know). I get to meet her boyfriend Abe later when he comes home from his job (sound guy for film sets, this one was for Pepsi) which is one of the coolest, chillest people I have met. Such great taste in music too. 

Delicious food is finally within decent financial reach after traversing through some of the most expensive places to eat in Europe. Early on, I went to have the New York style bagel sandwich at a local place which was absolutely delectable consisting of a toasted everything bagel (all kinds of seeds), two delicious fried eggs and a layer of sausage to round it all out, ketchup salt and pepper included. Cost? $3.65. Insanely priced food is, at last, history. 

Much of New York so far has been a whirlwind of events and happenings. My timing here must be something incredible as various friends from all over happen to be here when I am. Coinciding with the university graduations, many friends are in town, some from California, and one from London even. While having a delicious burger at a diner in Manhattan (Deluxe Diner) I got the chance to meet up with Chris Nguyen coming from LA for a graduation and do some work. It was so great to see him after so long and to finally have a chance to chat! The burger, by the way, was pretty much the best one I've had in ages. Meat cooked perfectly tender, it just melted away in the mouth, great fries and a decent amount of veggies to round it all out. However high Deluxe Diner raised the burger bar, any records held were totally smashed when I met up with Joe (who came from London for work reasons) and we went to the Shake Shack, located in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park. Famous for their burgers, the line is always at least a half hour long. I picked out this one called the Shake Stack, which is a layer of tomato, a layer of lettuce, cheese, a burger, a fried portobello mushroom layer, another cheese slice, and one more layer of burger. You don't really need me to describe what a feast it was, or how this burger was even MORE tasty and deliciously tender than Deluxe's. Just make it a point to go there yourself and wait in line for it when you're around these parts because it is just SO worth it.

Another thing that's great about being back in New York is having the foods that I really missed and could not get while away. Case in point: Mexican food. We all know that Los Angeles is arguably the best hub of Mexican food, and having sampled quite a few of their delicious restaurants, roach coaches and even El Parian (5/5 on The Great Taco Hunt) anything out here must be truly formidable to match my (self-proclaimed) discerning palate for the savory tortilla wrapped food.

Well, thanks to Abe, I found the spot. It's called Jennifer Cafe and it's on 67 1st Avenue at 4th St. How does it compare? Carne asada? Deep flavor, juicy and nicely tender, but a bit too much fat for my tastes. Pollo? Decent, bit dry. Carnitas? 

Oh... carnitas... *drool* You just can't lose with carnitas. It's got SO much pork juice oozing out of the meat and perfectly spiced. Totally destroyed my 8 month Mexican food craving. 

What else is good... Ah yes. After our Deluxe Diner feastlicious, Abe and I were still a bit hungry so we walked nearby to Koronet Pizza. For $3 you get a slice the size of home base, thin crusted New York style. I added pepperoni because I missed it so much, turning it into $4.25. It's big, it's tasty, and it's filling. 

Abe, by the way, is the real Galactus. After our meal at Deluxe, he finished off his slice of cheese, and I gave him half of mine. And you guys thought *I* could eat!

To be continued...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cruising through the countryside

Another early wake up call (3:30 am), another trip to the airport when it's morning and still dark, and another super early flight brings us from the city of Fes, Morocco to Marseille, France. While in the airport, I realized that being charged 12€ to check in an extra bag of random clothes wasn't worth it, so I picked out some clothes and items that I would most likely not wear or use to throw away (of course, the cheapest stuff) and once again managed to pack everything into one bag.

Arriving in Marseille, we took a bus out to the city and then jumped on the metro a bit, hopping out at the stop near our CouchSurfer, Baptiste. After meeting Baptiste, his roommate Norman and Norman's girlfriend Anouk, everyone seemed a bit hesitant but after a bit of talking and getting to know each other, we relaxed and felt at home. Their place is great. It's very nicely decorated, a nice white/brown/red color scheme and cool sliding blinds. The livingroom is very open and has a balcony on the side, mostly used for smoking. Anouk is a budding photographer with brilliance. Her photos capture such raw emotion, are contrasty as hell and sharp as nails. Check them out when you have the chance. Baptiste is such a cool character. Hilarious timing, an amazing cook and a beer swilling filmmaker. He used to work for Troma (Cannibal, the Musical!) and loves his bloody zombie movies. Many, many requests to see his work were made, but alas, the answer was always "later."

Later that night, Baptiste handed us a bag full of different ties, wigs and whatnot. Time to head out. Without having to describe things, let's just look at the photos.

Work it

Cianar said I looked like a walking Stephen Hawking.

Rock out!

We headed out to a local Irish pub. After grabbing some beers (me, a 7up b/c of stomach issues) and sitting at a table outside, about two hours into the night, some random person came up to Cianar and mentioned something about his slick Japanese headband. What seemed like an innocently enough observation ballooned into a 5 hour talkfest about everything and anything, especially having to do with Jeremy and meeting up with him later for quite possibly would be a very explicit rendezvous.

And that's what Jeremy thought about the whole thing, as Baptiste blows a condom into a balloon and Norman looks ahead in disbelief.

Talking with Ryan while I was in the Philippines, we decided to get a car rental and drive around the countryside of France. We picked up our car, a nice Renault Clio, sort of a hatchback style car that can fit the 5 of us, we took it back to Baptiste's place and, being the awesome guy that he is, he offered to take us around to the city of Cassis! Driving through the countryside is amazing, lemme tell ya. Winding away from Marseille, the road goes up, up over a mountainside and winds through beautifully curvy and green hills. After a few more fun curves downward, we arrive at the tiny coastal city of Cassis. I don't remember too much about Cassis, but we talked about pétanque while watching some locals in the park play. Generally, the words that come to mind are: port, cold, wind. We did end up walking around the "Warning, danger" sign and go around the cliffside to the other side.

You really should click through to see the larger size.

Returning home, Baptiste threw down an amazing chicken and wine stew with about eleventy billion spices and good stuff. Despite my stomach issues, I ate more than thought possible. We talked a bit more about movies, film, and some of the ones that Baptiste liked. We saw Maniac, then moved on to Cannibal, the Musical, and finally, with a bit more beer and some egging on, Baptiste's films! Woohoo! Filled with film magic and some greatly gory special effects and makeup (and a enough male nudity to freak out the average American) each film was a horrific treat.

Bidding our eternal thanks, we took off to traverse the countryside and get ourselves to the next cities. We stopped at Aix-en-Provence for a few hours to see the city on foot, then continued to our hostel in Avignon. Pretty quiet place, and a great location---right across the river that looks into the old city of Avignon.

Here's the view:

See it large. It's worth it.

That night, we went into the city in search of food and found a great tapas place called Tapalocas. Excellent tapas, from chorizo and lentils to aubergine (eggplant) medleys and even delicious confectionery like churros and melted dark chocolate, this place was worth the crazy lost-in-the-Medina walk to get to. It also the best sangria I've ever had. Delicious!

One more day of driving around the south to head toward the salt flat area near the ocean, we stopped by a vinyard (unfortunately at closing time) and decided here that we would do Cianar's panorama.

So we did.

And it was good.

On the 14th, I headed for Bordeaux to visit Caroline and the rest of the guys headed to Paris to hang with Ryan's sister Julie and her chill husband Andrew. How was Bordeaux? It's like a nice small town, very walkable from top to bottom, covered in a day by foot easily. Unfortunately, Caroline was super busy with work (being a doctor does that kind of thing) so I didn't get to see her much, but I did go with her to this delicious sushi bar called Yako for her friend's birthday. Sushi there was awesome, fresh and tender and tasty.

My favorite thing in the city was this art piece called Miroir d'eau, the Water Mirror located in front of the Place du Bourse. Water randomly goes from 15 mm depth to less than 1 mm depth, and then sometimes a fine mist is sprayed, letting lots of people enjoy the cool water as they walk through.

If anything it makes for a nice photo.

Bordeaux is also known for its vinyards and what would be a visit to the vinyard capital of France without visiting it's vinyards? Taking a tour to two of the countryside vinyards, I arrived at Château Guiraud and tried their delicious 2002 sweet white and Château Beau-Site for their lovely smooth reds and white, which was so subtly sweet as to be perfect. Note: I don't know anything about wines, but they seemed good to me. Andrew, Julie's husband and an avid wine drinker (from what I know) remarked that it was fucking good. Awesome.

Odd thing on the train heading into Bordeaux. After a few stops, maybe half an hour before we got into the Bordeaux station, the train slows down and stops, and an announcement is made in French. After reading my book for half an hour (Kafka on the Shore by Murakami), train having not moved an inch, I started to wonder what was going on and asked the couple next to me what the problem was. They mentioned that the train had an accident; someone lept in front of it. Yikes! As the train finally started on its final leg to Bordeaux, in the window I could see many, many police cars and an ambulance, lights blazing into the night.

Odd that the same thing happened when I was in London on the tube last year. Hmm!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Through the desert

Ah, Morocco. What an experience. A supremely religious, nearly militant people mixed with enough poverty across the land to erase all sentiment and feeling for travelers. Many times I felt as if I were a target for silver tongued, sometimes flat-out liars (ah sir, the Medina is closed, I will show you a nearby hotel!), only after my precious gold dubloons moolah. Spend enough time walking through the city and your level of trust for the people walkig about the city slowly evaporates. Walking throughout the Medina also brought out unending calls of "Jackie Chan," the occasional "Japonese!" or a mock imitation of Bruce Lee kung fu moves and/or a bow as I passed by. What turned out to be initially amusing became annoying, eventually evolving into aggravating. Now I understand how Darren felt while walking throughout China.

Prayer is held frequently throughout the day, and even at night. Every time prayer is being held, the nearby mosque blasts out religious calls and singing through their massive speaker system to be heard by everyone in the nearby area. Even at 3:30-4 am in the morning. It feels vaguely authoritarian, as if I woke up in the world of V for Vendetta or 1984.

The impressions I got from the people and the culture are not to be taken as having a bad experience. These are just some thoughts that bubbled from my head as I was writing this, things that I didn't make notes about originally. Now let's move on to those other things I had planned to write about.

We arrived in Marrakech, spent a few days at a beautiful Riad (their version of a hostel/hotel) and then moved on to Fes to stay at an amazing traditional Moroccan house. Cianar, Ryan, Diana and Jeremy got to start their CouchSurfing experience at this beautiful place.

Marrakech and Fes are similar in some ways, yet have their own personality. There is an old city surrounded by ancient walls and gates---the Medina---which is usually surrounded by the newer city, of which a part is called the Ville Nouveille (the new city). The Ville Nouveille is, as you'd expect, more modernly designed with wide paved roads, big buildings of random apartment and condos, and lots of regular shops and stores lining the street. The Medina is something else altogether. It seems as if all the space was reserved for the buildings, built so large and close to one another that all life is relegated to the tiny alleyways, blood flowing through capillaries. Barely enough space for a car, yet men with mule drawn carts and others on scooters and bikes brave it anyway, often all at the same time where pedestrians abound. City markets, both held in the larger streets and even trickling down into the alleyways, are filled with a myriad of items for sale from the typical meticulously designed rugs and carpets that might come to mind, the shiny metalworks---teapots and other elaborate stands consisting of bronze, silver and copper---to the seemingly random---used appliances like beat up washers and dryers, old office phones, and even gears and sprokets pulled out of God (Allah?) knows what. Calls constantly made to the passers by, shopkeepers gabbing with their shopkeeping neighbors, the local mosques blasting out the afternoon prayer---everyone does their part to add to the noise and the chaos that makes the old city.

As with any different culture, you get to one of my favorite parts... the food. Food here is absolutely sublime. Start with the traditional Moroccan soup known as harira, a mixture of deliciously tangy tomato base with olive oil, chickpeas, lentils and enough spices to kickstart anyone's morning, it is thick, hearty and perfect for dipping the local bread. Couscous is another favorite, tiny grains best when cooked with the broth that comes oozing out of the lamb, chicken, or what have you as it is steamed to its fluffy goodness. And then, we arrive at the tajine. Tajine is the dish of the area, a local stew made with lamb, beef or chicken. Generously garnished with carrots, string beans, cilantro, potatoes, olives and sometimes with large beans and squash, then covered in a special clay pot and thrown into the heat, tajine is a mix of intense flavors, blended textures, and the tenderest juiciest meat soaked in spices and infused with the delicious flavors and aromas of the vegetables. Slow cooked to absolute perfection, chicken breast tastes as tender and juicy as the dark meat, making one wish that the dish just never ended. Top the meal off with the ubiquitous, deliciously refreshing mint tea, and you have the makings of culinary bliss.

See, it's not all bad.

Much of the trip has been spent visiting the Medina, and walking about to find the various cultural spots like the mosques and certain museums. Much of the trip also has been spent getting horribly lost for hours as the streets seem to lack proper signage and being pretty much covered by all the tall buildings makes it difficult to keep one's bearings. Eventually, after walking in seemingly random directions, we end up at the Medina wall or are able to see the tower of the mosque nearby where we're staying at, allowing us to find our way back, arriving at a restaurant which makes the food seem just that much better to us weary, starving (thankful) travelers.

Now that I'm traveling with friends, it makes things much more interesting. Logistics increase of course, as we have to ensure that we find places and CouchSurfing hosts that can accommodate all of us. I no longer only worry about myself, I have to keep up with the rest of them and catch up (say, when I stop a moment to take a shot) or turn around every so often to make sure we're still all together if I'm (infrequently) in the front of the line. That's just the boring stuff though, it's great to see old friends again and travel with them. Cianar is the same as always, throwing off witty banter and inappropriate (but missed) comments left and right, sometimes drawing awkward looks or laughs. Jeremy, I actually didn't know too well before, but he's an expert at deftly springing his wit on the situation at hand and a master of improvisation. Diana's blunt, blunt honesty may seem harsh or tactless until you hear the disarmingly cute voice that comes with it. And Ryan's endless razor sharp wit, who can't miss that?

Here's an example: Sitting at a café after being lost for a while, we stop to take a break, get some café au lait (coffee with milk) and some ice cream. Invariably, someone breaks out the cards and we launch into games of pusoy dos, taking a relaxing afternoon break in the cool shade and welcoming breeze of the café. Pusoy dos is a game where one's goal is to get rid of cards by putting down increasingly high hands, starting with singles, and then dropping up to 5-card poker hands. After an intense round of playing, a few straights and even a full house, Diana goes after the straight flush with her own 5-card hand: Q, K, A, 2 and a 3, dropping it with gusto onto the pile, big grin on her face. Ryan calmly turns to her, picks up the cards, and explains that the 3 can't wrap around in that straight, saying that "it's just like having four cool guys, and one very uncool girl." HAHAHAHA!

And then there's the Hammam experience. That one you get if you buy me a pint.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The best and the worst

So many people - aunts, uncles and cousins (from Zambo to Bacolod, and of course here in Manila - Anson, Andy, Hil, Andre and Bian), all my nephews and nieces (most of the crazy awesome ones in Zambo! Corinne and Mikey, I will miss you guys, geezers), dive homies (Robert, Mark--laziest dive instructor on the planet, Mel, Rania and Ices, and also Rhea---keep the blog stalking going---and Dengue Alert), crazy SAF guy that cut me while teaching me how to wield a knife correctly (Gilbert, you're nuts, seriously, learn some fuckin' English so your conversation isn't limited to "how to kill people" tutorials), and of course, 蕭玉銘, who absolutely rocks my world. Sucks to go. So many memories. So much time spent here, so much I will miss, my home away from home away from home.

I really love meeting these amazing people, people I can share stories with, hear stories about, and with what limited time I have had here (it always seems limited when you are just next to departing) push myself past my own boundaries, open up to others, learn about them, and as always, learn something about me.

I really hate knowing that for certain ones, this might be the last time I'll see any of them. Everyone has their own path, and while I'm glad to have crossed with theirs, it saddens me to know that crossing does not mean continuing with.

My footsteps will no longer be next to yours and that... kills me.

Here's to hoping they cross again.

So, au revoir, so long, goodbye, paalam. I'll miss you so God damn much.

Short and to some point, hopefully. 4 in the morning, hard to write.