Tuesday, June 27, 2006

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

This is what I did... went to Rome and did what the Romans do.

That is... I walked where they walked, viewed what they have seen, and I ate what they ate!

Several discussions before and during my training in Paris brought about the decision that from Geneva, we go to Rome. I took the opportunity since I really do not know when I will next get a free trip to Europe (well, connected to a training in Paris, anyway)... Plane tickets and hotel bookings were done online. We did the checking in (to get the boarding pass) the same way. And early Friday morning, off we go to Rome!

I did not make any research about Rome, not the way I did with Paris a year ago. But I do have some inkling about the richness of its history. I did not expect to be overwhelmed. I was dumbfounded!

Imagine a bus driver, hair sleeked with gel, sporting branded shades and wearing classy slacks and long sleeves polo. Then see him listening to his ipod while coolly driving along the highway to the Termini station. Look around and see fashionable moms, totting along their kids. Everyone seems to be walking along a catwalk.

They are a beautiful people, the Italians. And Rome? Wonderful!

The next series of pictures will be about Rome. And maybe, you will understand why I love Rome the most.

Walk with me to the Colosseum. Put your hand inside the Bocca della Verita. Take a bicycle ride inside the Villa Borghesa. Feel the softness and enjoy the smell of true leather. Be amazed with the grandeur of San Pietro. Admire the Pieta as well as the Capelle Sistina. Or just plain enjoy the sun while staying in front of the Fontana di trevi or shop near the Spanish steps.

Rome... Rome... Rome...

A few more pictures of Mont St Michel

Just to remind me how the Mont St Michel looked like from different angles and views.

A small passageway that we used to go down from the abbey above.

La mere Poulard, a famous inn that started in 1888 that symbolizes the French culinary tradition and the roots of the soil.

... moi, of course

The garden of the abbey

Canons at the entrance of the fort...

Here is a short history on the Mont st. Michel (from www.francemonthly.com)

Mont Saint Michel is a monastery built at the top of a rocky islet that overlooks the sea, right at the border between Brittany and Normandy. The statue of Archangel Saint Michael towers 560 feet above the English Channel. Mont Saint Michel was an island until a causeway was built at the end of the 19th century. It was separated from the mainland by one mile of sand at low tide, or by water at high tide. The range in tides is one of the greatest in Europe: it can be 46 feet between high and low water marks. The bay around the Mont is absolutely flat and the rising tide is said to sometimes match the speed of a galloping horse. In the early 8th century, according to catholic lore, Archangel Saint Michael instructed the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert, to build the monastery. From the year 1000 on, and for 6 consecutive centuries thereafter, the Dukes of Normandy and the pilgrims financed the construction of additional structures despite the difficulty of building on an island only accessible by foot. During the French Revolution, the fortified abbey became a prison for political opponents. Mont Saint Michel was designated an official French National Heritage Site in 1872 and is restored on a yearly basis by the French Government, much to the delight of its visitors.

Monday, June 26, 2006

more on geneva

Here are a few more pictures of Geneva...

The jet d'eau fountain is the icon of Geneva. The height of the jet is an incredible 140m, with 500 litres of water forced out of the nozzle every second at about 200kph. It was a good day to take its picture. Notice how the sun's rays on the water created rainbow colors.

At Place Neuve, I found kids playing with a big chess set. Unseen around them are fathers, grandfathers, as well as husbands and wives, who are taking on the challenge of a chess game with these grandiose chess sets.

I took a short boat cruise around Lake Geneva. And there is a little mermaid – The Little Mermaid of Lake LĂ©man, or, The Siren, a bronze statue by Natacha de Senger, that was set on a rock there in 1966.

Geneva, of course, is known for its role during the reformation years and how it has become a haven for protestants. I would have wanted to attend one of their services, time permitting. I just let myself be satisfied with seeing a few protestant churches.

Below is the reformation wall which showed the fathers as well as those who played big roles in the history of protestantism.

To these symbols, the red cross and the red crescent, another one will be added soon : the red crystal.

To end this entry, let me show images of nature that captured my eyes.

a different kind of life

I spent my first night in Geneva on my own. My friend, whose flat I would be sharing for the next few days, was somewhere in Belgium for work. It was a bit challenging to be alone... at first anyway.

I felt the silence. It was eerie at first, not used to this kind of silence. I was at the sixth floor, the highest in the building. I could see from the big panes of windows the skies as well as hear the chirping of birds. It can be a bit of frightening when you are forced to face the silence. The silence that I often look for in Manila and found there in Geneva.

... the elevator that I only saw in the movies.. for real! I love this elevator!

... the stairs going to the 6th floor

Later on, I grew to love it. Geneva, though an international city, is surrounded by mountains, waters, and trees. Benefit from the advantages of a modern city yet still experience nature at its finest. Enjoy the blooming flowers and the friendly sun while walking along the river. Drink from the fountains and be assured that the water is safe.

Coming from Paris where I felt so unsafe, I was paranoid at first. I kept on looking at my back, expecting a mugger lurking around. Later on, I became confident, exploring the big village that is called Geneva.

I could probably enjoy living in Geneva. With its organized transportation system and old buildings, the contrasts between the old and the new world, the prestige of the brands and old names. It would be a different kind of life.

... my cozy bed in Geneva

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I braved Geneva on my own and tried to find the United Nations Building. I found it. Unfortunately, it was not open for public tours since there was an on-going ministerial meeting on Human Rights. It would have been very interesting to see the big assembly hall.

I let myself be contented with the flags of different international organizations. These are waving up above one of the many bridges in Geneva.

Another picture of the bridge.

A fountain at the English Garden.

Geneva boasts of its biggest clock, to be found at the Promenade near the lake. The colors change, depending on the season (because of the variety of flowers and plants used).

This is called the Machine. I think this is used to control the flow of the water along Geneva lake.


Sorry to shatter the image. I just need to write this.

I left Paris with no misgivings. I did not make any effort to plan ahead about the places I would like to visit.I was not overly excited. During my first visit, I already realized that given the choice, I wouldn’t want to live in Paris. It was confirmed during my second visit. Don't get me wrong. Paris is beautiful in many ways. But it is not my world. It is not a place where I can feel safe.

But I am thankful that I had no misadventures other than an encounter at a metro with four young kids who were drunk and on the way home early Sunday morning. Unlike my colleague who had several encounters with the bad side of Paris.
I have to declare. God is good. For taking care of me. Thank you Lord!

I am happy to be in Geneva. I like this big village better.

Moi... in the pictures

At Notre Dame, where I listened to the Madrigal Singers, I realized that I know one of the members. This is Kuya Chris, a great singer, a schoolmate whom I haven't seen for the last 9 or 10 years? Great to see familiar faces at far away places!

At my back is the lovely pond at the beautiful Monet Garden. Roses do grow big here. There were many varieties of flowers in different colors. See bees flying from one flower to another. Good thing they are not interested in mere humans.

While wandering around Auvers sur Oise, trying to look for the Chateau and the house of Van Gogh, we found this interesting garden. Colorful benches that resemble animals were all around. Try to guess this animal.

Just one of the pretty spots in that part of Paris. I couldn't help but ask my colleague to take my picture with this background.

My co-trainees and I took advantage of our Sunday and joined a bus tour to Mont St. Michel. It was a long, long trip. I thought for a time why we pay in order to suffer. It took us 5 hours to go there and another 5 hours to come back. The 4 hours we spent going up and down the village and the abbey that were constructed following the structure of the rocky islet.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Update and pictures

I will be leaving Paris tomorrow... just some pictures to remind me of my stay there ...

I met some friends at the Notre Dame church and learned that there is a special mass since June 12 ( the next day) is going to be the 108th anniversary of our Independence from the Spanish. Being inside the famous church is a treat in itself but an added teaser is the news that the Madrigals would be singing. I had to attend. I learned that they won in a competition. They really do us proud. Great to start the week by listening to their heavenly voices.

Looks majestic since this was taken high above Paris. We were given the grand tour around, inside and out and most of all above the great Bercy: the center of the Ministry of Finance. We were taken to the helipad where we saw a great view. Though afraid of heights, I was more than willing to walk through the walkway if only for the experience. I was holding tight to the handrails though. Just to make sure that I wil not fall!

Saturday afternoon found me ( with a colleague) traipsing around Auvers sur Oise, the town where Van Gogh spent many days. I went up the room where he committed suicide and braved the hot sun in order to find his simple grave alongside his kind brother, Theo.

That morning though, we were happy to visit the house of Monet and enjoy the wonderful flowers in his garden.

A picture of one metro station in Paris as well as an overpass along a highway.

Til next entry!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Walking and training

Paris is truly a walking city. I have, once again, walked so much that my feet are killing me. No wonder many of the French are thin. You have no choice because you will lose all the calories you gain.

The other trainees here are interesting. Most are Caucasian. Only 3 or 4 are Asian and of other nationalities. It is wonderful to meet people from different kinds of backgrounds.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Just like home

No, it is not the buildings nor the people, but the weather. It is around 32 degrees now and it is like that of Manila. Good thing!

The sun is hot. It is humid. And it is 8 o'clock in the evening! How bizarre can it get? What looks like 6pm in Manila is 10 pm here. Very nice indeed. Especially if you took the wrong Metro stop and you got lost. Yup, got lost yesterday. I found myself at a deserted place with a few Arabs and blacks around. Deserted maybe because it is truly late already. I have nothing against the blacks and Arabs but when the people who live here warn me about them, I have to be nervous when I am lost in an unknown place and it is only them that I see. I find it unfair to generalize but one has to be careful and thus, I just tried to put some distance between us albeit not too obvious that I am doing it.

My hotel is not so nice this time. The great thing is that it is just 15 minutes away from the training place.

Til next entry. Might be coming from Paris or just in Manila.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Travelling again

I will be leaving tomorrow... better yet, later. It is already saturday morning, early morning at that and here I am, surfing the net. I had to open my computer since I forgot to activate the automatic response feature of my Outlook in the office (reasons! reasons!). So here I am, trying to keep myself awake and forcing my mind to think of something to write. An ordeal.

Once again the Lord has blessed me with a trip to Paris. For 6 working days, I will go through an office training and thereby truly understand how each French agency is connected to one another. I thank the organizers for adding another Monday since this sandwiched one week-end which gave us trainees an opportunity to visit tourist spots in Paris (or surrounding areas). I hope to see Mont St. Michel and also Auvers-sur-Oise.

And there is another treat! I will also be spending a few days in Geneva! I am excited to see this place for this is where Jean Calvin and Martin Luther flourished after they were forced to leave their own countries.

I have to go for now... ny eyes are drooping. They are begging me to let go and just give them rest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The poor of the land

Every day I see them.

A man pushing a cart while looking for scrap metals and old newspapers. Another is walking beside his old and rusty bike, while shouting “HASA!” (sharpening of knives) An old man, seated early in the morning in front of the hardware store where he works, looks unseeingly into nothingness.

Three women, along the sidewalk of the highway, sell small quantities of vegetables to passerbys. A fleshy man in tattered and shabby clothes, covered with dirt all over, painstakingly sweeps away the dirt around the vendors. This he does in exchange for the free food that they dole out to him. Not too far away is a scruffy and gaunt man who calls out to passengers of tricycles.

Going up the MRT station, I notice the vendors of candies. Not too far from them, are their children, sleeping soundly on the squalid floor, beside them are dirty and used plastics cups that become receptacles of alms. Men, darkened by the sun and almost always sweating profusely, go up and down public busses to sell bottled water, cooked peanuts, candies and snacks.

Then there are the drivers. Taxi drivers who complain aloud because caught in the traffic, they lose a much needed income. Or the jeepney drivers, with grime beneath their nails, in sweat stained shirts and reeking of body odor, hurtling across the street in order to make another round. Or the tricycle drivers, falling in line in almost every street corner and fighting over passengers, who count every peso they earn after filling in the tank with the expensive gasoline. Truck drivers who get into accidents because they are on the road, sleepless, underpaid, and with no insurance.

I ask, why are there to many of them?

When I see them, I feel a twinge in my heart. I know how it is to be in need. Maybe not as much as they needed. But I know how it felt like to live in a very small apartment, to eat plain food, to buy unfashionable yet sturdy clothes, to make do with what you have.

One day, I got my answer. Indirectly.

The poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land. Deuteronomy 15: 11

Or maybe directly.

I felt sad when I read this verse. For I realized that there is no use asking why there are so many poor people. It has been declared. They will always be here. I take note instead of the second part of the verse. It is a commandment. Help them out.

I do what I can. I help certain people. Mostly those whom I know personally. For the rest, all I can do is whisper a prayer: God, give him strength to continue his work. Give him health that he may provide for his family. Sustain and bless him, O Lord!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Choices or the lack of it

What do I want? I pose this question to myself.

More and more each day.

Do something you are very good at, yet you hate what the term connotes.

Venture into the world of numbers. A realm where, in your subconscious, you once thought you might flourish.

Or continue with the function that imply prestige yet you might not live up to it.

But scrutinizing the facts, I realize, do I even have the choice?

I already cried. Twice at that. For sure there are others tears to follow.

If He is teaching me a lesson, I think I am learning.

If He is asking me to wait, I am doing that.

If He wants me to make a stand, I have made the initial steps.

Still, I do not know what I want.

I only know one thing. God is my defender. He will justify my right.

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 (www.evotional.com)