Monday, December 26, 2005

Is it really Christmas?

Yesterday was Christmas day. Was it?

I am trying to find out the reason why it seemed so different this year. Have I become jaded and gotten used to the season?

I don't seem to be feeling the usual excitement that courses through my body and mind. The thrill that the season brings seemed gone. What happened?

I prepared my list of people I want to appreciate. I thought deeply about the best gift I could give to them (taking into consideration the price, the availability of the products, my time and the accesibility of the place). I bought the gifts. I wrapped them. Gave them a bit early than usual.

I received gifs. Thanked the giver and kept all the gifts in one area of my room. I planned to open them on Christmas eve. I did this a few years ago and I remember the feeling of excitement as I unwrapped each one. But this year, it was not the same. I loved the gifts I received . There were a few surprises. Yet it was different.

Early Saturday morning, on December 24, I left and went grocery shopping to buy the ingredients I needed for the Christmas food we were preparing. Back home, I gave instructions to our helper. I methodically opened tin cans of milk and fruit cocktail. I mixed all the ingredients and came up with a tasty (to me anyway) buko salad. We alse prepared the tuna spaghetti we wanted to make for that night ( a healthy choice!). There were other kinds of food in the refrigerator, ready for anyone who wants to wolf down a heavy dinner. Shopped, prepared, ate. All done. Usually, this gives me a certain satisfaction. Joyful that I was able to prepare something for the family. Truly, I was happy to have done all the things I have done. Yet, something is really different.

I am not sad. I am not feeling down. Yet I was not so very happy. When I try to think about it, I seem not to be feeling anything. I know that I loved the things I have done to celebrate the birth of our Christ. I gave gifts to people that I really want to appreaciate. I planned what food to eat.

What is the reason? Maybe I became distracted of the fact that I am assuming new and more responsibilities at the office? Maybe I was too busy with all the preparation that my heart forgot to relish the true meaning of the season? Maybe...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Prohibited on week-ends

It was back in November when I realized that both Christmas and New Year would fall on a Sunday. I didn't give it much thought.

A week before the "day," I am feeling the negative effect of this very nice timing. Why?

I lost two extra weekends for shopping. Imagine if it fell on a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday. Or any day except Saturday or Sunday. I would have gained an extra holiday. Celebrate the birth of Christ and the New Year on that additional day. And I could have done a lot during those two week-ends.

Week-ends are meant for last minute shopping and panic buying. I wrap my gifts on week-ends. I write my wishes and blessings on Christmas cards. I distribute my gifts to churchmates on Sundays. I do my grocery shopping for the noche buena on Saturdays. I sneak in side trips to the mall for people I've forgotten to buy a gift for. I need my week-end for all those tiny little things I do in order to prepare for the season of appreciation and thanksgiving.

What happens if my week-end is taken away from me? I rush. I feel harrassed. I frequent the malls every after working day so that I could buy a gift for my officemates or niece. I go to the tiangge a month before the event. I became less creative. I chose the same gift for everyone. I just list down the most important ones, hoping that I didn't miss a special someone. Subtract the nights I couldn't do my shopping because of parties in the office, reunions with college friends, baby shower on the side, events that are official in nature that I need to attend.

That's not a lot of time.

I vote that Christmas shouldn't fall on a week-end. For New Year as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Closing the curtains

My memory of Paris is fading past. My impressions and experiences are becoming blurred. Two days from now, it will be a month since I arrived from my voyage. It seems that it was a lifetime ago that I went there. Good thing, cameras were invented. Pictures help make us remember. Once in a while, I can click on my CD of images and try to recall.

I made so many entries about my short adventure. I must stop. Write about something else. Get on with my life. But before I do, I will do my last post. Paste certain images. This time, narrowing it down to my favorite pictures.

A previous entry mentioned about my love for the gardens and skies in Paris. This one, at Versailles Palace, combines the perfect union of the two. Just one word: beautiful.

I prefer the Eiffel Tower at night. Somehow, it casts a more sentimental picture. Made of metal, cold, so structured, yet a contrast to what it represents to many : romantic, flushed, and dreamy.

I only see this scenery from pictures. Never the real thing. Somehow this image questions us. Do we dare walk the long trail, and discover the goal? Or be afraid and just remain in a safe place? Really depends on whom we trust. Then, we can be confident even if we don't know the outcome.

But of course, even during the day, I cannot help myself but admire this tall structure. Who can? I maybe considered of the mainstream, who admire what is generally admired, but what is the sin in that? I did imagine it to be higher than its real height. I thought it would shroud the whole view of the sky. But then, that's the genius of the French. They know just the right size. Not too high, not too low. And once you are on top of the tower, you realize... woah! This is so high! Enjoy the view. Feel the cold air.

I did not like the Louvre, not because it was not pretty. It was. Too much. Overloaded. Another French genius. Combine ancient and modern. Mix nature and industrialism. I've read about the pyramid. And here it is. The picture of my best.

Picture perfect. That's all I can say. A very old and tall tree. Beautiful in its simplicity. Just right.

A rerun. The same picture above.

To highlight.

A last glimpse to the my dream city.

Other landmarks in Paris

Obelisk of Luxor : found at the Place de la Concorde. It was given by the viceroy of Egypt, Mohamed Ali, to Louis Phillipe. Measuring 22.83 meters high and weighing 230 tons, which marked the entrance to the Amon temple at Luxor, it was installed in 1836. It is not so hard to find this tall structure.

  1. Triumphal Arch : located in the center of the Charles-de-Gaulle Square, at the top end of the Champs Elysées. The world's largest triumphal arch. Constructed in 1806 by Napoleaon to commemorate the glory of the French arms.

Not far from the Sorbonne University and the Luxembourg Garden, the imposing Panthéon looks over the Quartier Latin. It was a church constructed in dedication to Sainte-Genevieve as a vow of King Louis XV if he recovers from a serious illness. The crypt holds the remains of famous people such as Voltaire, Zola, Dumas, Henri Rousseau, and Marie Curie.

Grande Arche de la Défense : this project was initiated by the French president Mitterand. He wanted a XXth century Arc de Triomphe. Designed by the Danish architect Otto van Spreckelsen, it looks like a cube-shaped building. It is a 106 meters white building with the middle part left open. The sides of the cube contain offices. At the top is a museum and a nice view of the city center. At the exact opposite, at the end if the Avenue, is the Triumphal Arch.

Notre Dame : One of the most famous cathedrals in the world and France's most visited religious site. Construction on this gothic church began in 1163 and completed about 1345. Follow in the footsteps of Victor Hugo's hunchback Quasimodo by climbing the 226 ft high towers and get a closer view of the famed gargoyles.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Rodin Museum

Just appreciate them...

Inside Orsay Museum

From artbooks I have learned the names of artists and the titles of their artworks. It was in Paris, within the museums, that I saw the real ones. Warning : camera flashes are not allowed.

  1. Van Gogh : his story we know too well. Some of his artworks:

Sculptures : see the intricate work done on different kinds of stone.

From the era of pointilism:

Other works:

Museums : A sampling

My limited time in Paris only allowed me to visit 3 museums. But only a glimpse. More time is needed to appreacite all of the artworks. From the outside...

Louvre : the largest art museum in the world. Opened its doors to the public in the late 18th century. It may take you a week or more if you want to really see all the artworks and appreciate them entirely.

Rodin museum : celebrates the work of August Rodin who donated all of his work to the state of Paris. You can find various sizes of his classic work : The Thinker.

Musée d'Orsay : my favorite for it houses the great works of impressionist painters. I enjoyed this museum much more than Louvre since I was able to take my time and admire works of Van Gogh, Seurat, Monet, Manet, Degas, etc...

Majestic gardens

Some gardens that I visited. All of them beautiful. I realized that I prefer nature.

Garden at the Rodin Museum. A place where you reflect while appreaciating sculptures scattered all around you.

One of the many gardens surrounding the Chenonceau garden. Beauty if nature combined with human creativity.

Luxembourg Garden: a beautiful 25-hectare garden.

Promenade gardens towards the Eiffel Tower. Taken atop the tower. A long walk but worth it.

A perfect example of French style garden architecture: the formal, carefully ordered, and perfectly landscaped gardens at Versailles Palace.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Castles in Paris: See the interiors

Visiting several castles in France entails a look inside the lives of famous kings and royal families. I attached here a few pictures to show how intricate were the designs, how big the rooms, and how lavish the furniture.

I noticed that beds seem to be very small compared to what we have today. Were they smaller in height? Or do they just prefer to curl up in bed?

A statue gilded in gold created just to hold a chandelier. Talk about lavish.

A hallway full of animals' antlers. Try to visualize. Many horses. A pack of hunters. A king surrounded by his court. Ladies of royal blood garbed in extravagant clothes, having tea in the garden while waiting for their husbands and paramours to come from the long hunt. An excitement-filled hunt in a forest filled with game. Everyone ready for the kill.

Take some time to look up the ceilings and see the detailed designs. See artworks every time you look around. No wonder they need large spaces for gardens. They were necessary to remain sane.

Walk through another spacious hallway and imagine you pass through this way each day. Hmmm... it is not only the garden that you need strength to walk, even inside your house.

Want to see a particular country in the world? Check out their "little globe."

Surround yourself with pictures of your ancestors. A reminder of their past exploits.

With stained glass windows inside the castle, it may seem like you are in a church.

Ready to go to war? Get into an armor. I've always thought that a battle with swords is much better than guns and canons. In a certain perspective, this kind of fight is more equal ... a fight that entails skill of prowess and mind.

Just a short glimpse into their lives ...

Where the kings lived

Five castles in a span of two weeks. A way to see how the kings of France lived their lavish and ceremonial lives. These pictures are all from the outside, set in wonderful views of the sky.

At the city where I had my training, I was able to visit the Chateau de Vincennes. According to history, it constructed in the 14th century by Charles V and it is one of the biggest and best preserved castles in Europe

On a free day, I grabbed an opportunity and joined a guided tour to the Loire Valley, a place filled with numerous castles from different centuries. I was able to visit three.

The first: "Château de Chenonceau" ... or the " perfect " Loire Valley Castle in the harmonious setting of river Cher. It was said to be shaped by women such as Catherine Briçonney, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, Louise de Lorraine, Madame Dupin, Madame Pelouze ...

A great expanse of land with a maze, a vegetable garden, a farm, and a wooded area. A beautiful place!

The second castle : Cheverny, held to be the Loire's most magnificently furnished château. It is still inhabited by the original family. Its design was inspired by the Luxembourg Palace in Paris.

The third: Chateau de Chambord. This is the largest of the Loire castles, a sumptuous Renaissance Palace, and creation of the King François I.

No trip to France is complete without a visit to "Versailles Palace" or the "Palace of Versailles". This "immense palace" of the Louis XIV represents the most prestigious monument of the 17th century French Art. King Louis XIV or the Sun King transformed his father's hunting lodge into the most impressive castle of all time. A golden palace surrounded by immense gardens filled with numerous fountains and statues.

Lion Chaser Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson (