Monday, December 31, 2007

Ending the year 2007

Let me end the year with the two books I recently finished. The first one, I discovered while surfing the net. A friend kindly bought it for me in the States. It helped free a part of what’s inside me. The other one was a recent Christmas gift from the same friend (she knew I love the books of Jane Austen). Inspired from the story of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy, I found it very helpful to end the year. Hands-down, it is interesting.


The first book may not sound too inviting for people NOT in the know. “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” What??? But grab the book and you will find why. Writer Mark Batterson (www.evotional.com) took what appeared like a few insignificant Bible verses but when dissected, they pointed out to an inspired way of thinking, and living. Not an easy book to read. Not because it contains complicated words. In fact, the words are simple. The ideas are not. They made me think. They made me analyze myself. They challenge. And they demand an answer.

Basically, it is about being courageous and facing your fear. So that you will discover your God-given potential.

From the book, I quote here some points I will always remember.

- Goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. Our calling is much higher than simply running from what’s wrong. We’re called to chase lions – look for opportunities in our problems and obstacles, and take risks to reach for God’s best.
- Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don’t know. The other half is unlearning what we do know.
- The goal in life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to chase lions.
- God wants us to learn to see bad experiences through the good we have gained from them.
- Stop spending all your energy making plans for God, and start seeking God.
- Sometimes taking a calculated risk means giving up something good so you can experience something great.
- A relationship with God is the ultimate win-win relationship because you can never give up more that you get back.
- If you want to see and seize God-ordained opportunities, you’ve got to live in prayer mode.
- Maturity doesn’t equal conformity.
- Christ followers ought to be the most passionate people in the planet. To be like Jesus is to be consumed with passion.
- Part of spiritual maturity is caring less and less about what people think of you and more and more about what God what thinks of you.
- How you think of God will determine who you become.

Courage is such a heavy word. But I am learning to have more of it.

Sarah Arthur’s “Dating Mr. Darcy” (www.saraharthur.com), when read cursory is really for those who are starting or are already in a dating relationship. But to me, it is for anyone who is in any kind of relationship (romantic, filial, familial, or phileo). It teaches us to see a person through his/her family relationship, his/her interaction with friends, how he/she is with her faith and the importance of having an alone time. And more significant, to see ourselves through the same kind of approach.

I found the book timely for, at the end, the book asks probing questions which are useful to end the year. I am still reflecting on how to give complete answers but let me post some of them…

What are my top five strengths?
What are my top five weaknesses?
What are my goals in life? What am I doing to achieve those goals?
What do my goals show me about myself?
How do these goals affect my relationship with my family, friends and God?
How healthy are my relationships in general?


With these two books, I have tried to review my life for the past year.

I had to make a mental check about how I am doing with my relationships with my family and friends. I have been evaluating my faith and my alone time. I know that I still need to improve in these aspects, most especially on the latter.

I realized that God has allowed me to face a lot of fears, both imagined and real. Happily, I conquered a lot of them. Because of His strength. Another year is coming. I know I will face more fears. I really hope and pray that I will be ready to face more lions. Even better, to run after them!

Again, Carpe Christ!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It can make me move!

Not too many things can make me leave my country. Not coup d’√©tats, not the decreasing peso (last year), not the doomsday announcements of pessimistic Filipinos. There are just so many things that make me appreciate this land and its people.

But there are some things that might just make me snap and I will immigrate!

One sore spot in my book is the traffic. Okay, fine, there is traffic in every major city. Hmmm… Let me correct myself. I don’t think I really meant traffic specifically. It is more about the noisy streets. Are other major city streets as noisy as it is here? Not in Europe, I think.

Here, they sound the horn for everything. Warn a crossing pedestrian. Make the bus in front move. Indicate that the bus just arrived and that there are still seats to be filled. Call the attention of possible passenger. Or just plain show displeasure for the turtle-like movement of the traffic!

Along Boni EDSA, signages are all over. I even saw one traffic man waving it to the public. It says, “Bawal bumisina (no sounding of horns). I so love to see that sign. There is silence. But whenever there is no traffic man, you will still surely hear the same ugly sound. Just to show how noisy it is, try to imagine, I am at the 34th floor of an office building but I can still hear the sound of blaring horns!

How come drivers of public transportation consider the buses or jeepneys as their own disco room? I know we Filipinos love music but a volume of 10 decibels or more is really painful. Non-stop, very loud music for thirty minutes = pure hell.

Commuting to work can be very trying. When you get out the door, you really don’t know what kind of bus you will be riding in. I hate to ride the old and decrepit ones. Those, I believe, should be sold as scrap metal. These are filthy and grimy, not on the outside, but inside! One could see the little cockroaches walking along the window, making you stop and think about sitting down.

Then, those drivers who should be arrested for not knowing how to drive. There should be a law that requires drivers in the public sector to go though formal training. It really makes one dizzy when a driver constantly breaks, abruptly. Imagine if you have been standing inside a bus from your home to your destination? It is like you are holding on to a swaying rope. It is okay if there is only one rope. But there are 40 ropes, with 40 people hanging on them inside the bus!

To continue my griping, let me share a story. Once upon a time, the roads were nice from my house to the highway. I take trikes and my travel was so nice and comfy. Then, the potholes began appearing. Not because of rains. Not because of usage. It was the result of roadworks of water, electric or phone companies. They dig. But they do not refill the holes beautifully! The comfy ride has been transformed to a mini-rollercoaster.

I have to say though that I like riding buses. It is interesting to watch the people. It is nice to just sit and after 30 minutes you can go off to work. No parking to think of. I love that I can look outside the window but in fact, see nothing. My mind had begun weaving its thoughts. Or I could be praying, having a private time with Him. Or it is also nice to take a quick nap, especially if I had a late night.

If only there could be less noise, more learned drivers, and newer buses. Oh, I have to add one more important thing = cleaner air.

I am thankful that a good friend lets me ride in her car whenever she is in the city. Otherwise, I might already be … somewhere?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pretty vice

I don’t know which one is more dangerous. Cigarette smoke or carbon monoxide. But then, I haven’t heard of anyone dying for staying so long inside a room filled with cigarette smoke. Or maybe there should be an experiment. Put someone in a closed car, fill it with cigarette smoke, and let see if he/she is still alive the next day.

Sounds mean? But then, isn’t that in a way kinder? At least that person will not go through a long and painful death. We all know about its side effects as well as the end result.

Among the various vices we humans take pleasure in, the one I really can’t understand is smoking. Food is delicious. Alcohol is invigorating. Gambling could be beguiling. Racing (cars, horses, even dogs) could be adrenalin-pushing. But cigarettes? Okay, I heard when the caffeine kicks in, it can feel good. Then just drink a lot of coffee. Or better yet, eat loads of chocolates. At least, it will trigger feel-good chemicals and it tastes delicious.

Maybe, because it’s a cheap vice? Especially here in our country.

I am just posting some of the pretty pictures associated with smoking.




Anyone, is this true? Then, cigarette smoking is in fact cigarette smoke + carbon monoxide? Hmmm...


(from www.hpb.sg)
Made this smaller. To those who are eating, please excuse me. : - )

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

I felt disconnected when I arrived back home in the middle of December. It seemed like everyone else has done their shopping, arranged their schedules for parties and reunions, had set the noche Buena menu. A few days after though, I was hooked back into the mainframe. I started with my gift list, thought about what food to buy for the Christmas dinner, looked into my agenda to make sure there was no conflict in my schedule.

For a while, I felt like panicking but I stopped. No. I will not be pressured into the unrelentless demands of the season. One should not get stressed by unnecessary things. It is important to remember why we are happy during at this time of the year. It is to celebrate God’s love when He gave His only child, Jesus Christ.

It is Christmas today. And beyond my joy for the Savior’s love, I am contented also for other things. I realized why I enjoy December. I know it should not only be during this season but it has become a good reason to see people you haven’t seen for so long.

I met with a college friend and we were able to update on things happening in our lives. I had dinner with her family and enjoyed the company of her little cute daughter. I had buffet lunch with church friends I made from my teen-age years. Aside from the delicious food, it was fun to laugh and tease each other again. For the first time, I was finally able to join the birthday celebration of a friend I’ve known for four years. Having the same birthday as Jesus Christ can be challenging. It was only this year that our group of friends celebrated it near her birthdate and almost all of us were present. Happy Birthday B!

Christmas parties can be expensive. What with the food contribution and exchange gifts. But I like the fact that I get to see, event for just a while, the people I love and admire. Often, they carry their littIe ‘uns with them. I had time to entertain and be entertained by cute little nieces. To giggle and tickle them for a few hours. It was enjoyable to receive their sweet hugs and see their cute smiles. It was a time to visit elderly relatives and make them happy with a box of treats and little gifts.

I had fun taking pictures of get-togethers, reunions, Christmas parties and cantatas at church. I was happy to greet people with a Merry Christmas while shaking their hands or giving them a kiss on the cheek. It was a pleasure to drink blended juice (raspberry black currant!) while having a hilarious time with church friends, better yet, my extended family.

I love giving gifts. It is my little way of telling them I appreciate them. How I wish I could give more but surely they know that they mean more than the monetary value of my material gift.

I spent the day at home. Quietly doing what I should have been doing during my vacation (school work). Still, it was fun. It was enjoyable to just linger at the kitchen table or stay in front of my computer and just devour pasta, corn on the cob and grilled beef. Or savor buko pandan or the home-made ube of Tita Glor. Or just munch on chips and chew on chocolates.

Thank you Lord for letting me see the beauty of the things this season brings.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thoughts on love... aloud and frank

It was only two weeks ago that I realized something. I never really thought much about it. True, I enjoy the stories. I sob when there are hurdles. I feel distressed over separations. I gush over the happy endings. But at the end of a real story, or of a song, a movie, a play or a book, it is all over. Out it goes from my mind. I get on with my life.

Recently though, in far-away lands, I was surrounded by what seemed to be its blissful manifestations. I read real and delightful testimonies about it in the virtual world. And of course, the cheery time of the year makes one feel it in the air. But what made it strikingly real to me was a line written by a friend. In his blog (www.capncrisp.multiply.com), he declared… “I told Claire that I love her.”

I had to ask myself, how did he know? For that matter, how does anyone recognize its presence? And so when I got back, I pestered some close friends. How does it feel? How do you know that it is the right person? What was the sign given to you?

On the question of feeling, the standard reply was “masarap” (wonderful). Happy. Another remarked that people would think you are silly for having a constant smile on your lips. On the question how do you know… the reply was, you’d know! Regarding the sign, the replies varied.

I understand how it feels to be happy. I am familiar with having a silly smile on my lips. About knowing, that is another thing.

I am fairly certain that I have never been in love. The romantic kind, anyway. I know all about loving God. I am familiar with filial or familial love. Love for pets, I have lots of this. But the engulfing emotion books narrate, the intense sensations that become the center of stories, the stirring feelings over which movies make a saga of… this I don’t think I ever went through.

Other questions…what does love entail? How powerful is it? Is it really so overwhelming that one would be willing to leave everything known and familiar? And travel halfway around the world to be with a loved one? Or to concede about so many things one believes in, swayed by love? How strong is it to make one courageous enough to give his/her heart to another person and hope that the other person would hold it with care? How does one know that it is not just deep infatuation and completely flitting?

It is said that it is better to have loved and failed than to not have loved at all. Also, to not have loved is to not have lived at all.

So does this mean that I have never lived? Do I wish that I have loved romantically in my very younger years? No, I think I don’t. I would have been ill-prepared. It would certainly have been too emotional and hurtful. Surely, I would have made mistakes that I would be lamenting over right now.

What then? What have I to show for the last decade? Simple. I have had a roller coaster love relationship with God. He was constant, I was not. I betray Him. He embraces me. I withdraw, wanting my own way. He forgives and He draws me back in His arms.

Is it right to compare romantic love with God’s love?

No.

For my Father’s love is incomparable. His is far more real and complete. It encompasses me yet it sets me free. During those years of innocence romantically, I have found and learned to know myself. Something I needed to do, if ever I am to be with someone else. I will not change the past for anything. For that was the time I discovered that love is a decision. For when I loved God, it was a decision of my mind and heart.

I still wonder if I am capable of romantic love. Would I be willing to commit my life to another person? In the spirit of discussion, will there be such a man who would be eager to be devoted to me despite my failures, challenges, and struggles? Would the door of my heart open to such an offering?

I think so. I hope so.

Something else… there is something I realized. If ever God will grant me such a love, there is a very important feature I have to find. The non-negotiable factor. This man must be passionately intimate with my God. He must be zealously pursuing a loving relationship with Him. This man must be totally in love with Him first. Otherwise, no deals.

I heed though the wisdom of Solomon when he said…

<< Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem, by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you're ready. >>

It will come. If the Lord wills it.

For now, I am just basking in my love affair with God.

And oh, May dear, one other thing. This man, it wouldn’t hurt if he would look yummy in my eyes. :- )

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adieu with pictures

Promise, this is going to be my last post on my recent trip to Europe. Just some last interesting pictures.

Let me just say that I was at the zero longitude of the world. Let me post its short description:


THe Prime Meridian is an imaginary line running north-south through Greenwich. In 1884, the line was named as the world's longitude Zero by the International Meridian Conference.

Every position on earth is defined by its longitude (its distance east or west from Greemwich) and its latitude (the distance north or south of the equator). Both latitude and longitude are measured in segments of a circle: degrees'', minutes'' and seconds''.



Isn't that cool? And I was there!!!




















I was there at this exact date and time!




















Who wants to spend a night inside the museum?

















The fish ate my camera and my hand. Eerie when I saw this picture...







Jojie's hands inside the interesting dryer...














This is for beng!










we stayed here...














It was enchanting to be inside Harrods! All those things that one could buy! The chocolate! The bags! The caviar and the shrimp! Reah, you should go shopping here! : -)















Just wanted to show the buses in London. It was a marvel how the drivers manouevered the turnings. Oh, by the way, I found the roundabouts interesting. And the rule of right on the road. If you are not familiar with them, start researching!

















Where we ran after the bus because we were on the wrong side of the road!

















Fish and chips... yummy, really.























Can you see me? I really don't like Ferrero but it was an interesting ad.















And oh, this is for PJ2! :- ) Don't you just love me? :-) kill me?????? : -)

Another form of worship

I hit the gym yesterday. After almost a month-long hiatus. And it felt good. To run, to stretch, to feel the pull of the weight. Many have asked me, why do you go to the gym? You don’t need it. But I say, yes, I do!

Exercise to me, in a sense, is a form of worship. Isn’t it mentioned that in everything we do, do it for the glory of God? And thus, this too, I do for Him. How? We are told to take care of our bodies. Man was created to toil, to sweat, to use up the energy inside him. In the last few generations, with our “easier” way of life, we have seen how humans have stopped utilizing what was given him.

Result?

Excess. Pain. Disease. Death.

Exercise can take many forms. Running, jogging, walking, hitting the gym, sports activities, even just doing a lot of moving. Just use up that surplus energy. Especially if you have the tendency to take a little more than what was ample.

Unused sugar and fats (etc.) stay inside the body. Later on, they are converted into high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, blocked arteries, etc. Fine by me if it was only the one responsible who will suffer. True, what we sow, we reap. But I look at it in the long term. Often times, it is our loved ones who suffer more. The spouse who worry over the high blood pressure of his/her partner. Or patiently takes care of a paralyzed wife/husband for years and years. The wife left to tend for the kids for the husband went to his Maker a little early than expected. Children unable to finish their schooling or emotionally incomplete without the guidance of both parents. Or they are left with the burden of spending for the medicines and hospital bills.

I am sure that these loved ones do not begrudge these things for they do these in love. And of course, we also have those genetic predispositions, that is, diseases we inherited from our ancestors. We can’t change these. But for those that we can, we are accountable for our actions.

I believe that if you love your kids, your wife/ husband, your whole family, you will spare them the burden of suffering brought about by your way of living. Thus, eat the right food and exercise.

Oh, don’t worry, I too have my excesses. I love sweets and chicken, especially the crispy skin! But I have learned to balance it by going to the gym. (and not eating too much of everything).

For I always remember, taking care of my body is, in fact, loving my family (and future family) and worshiping Him.

Distinctive experiences

I will understand if no one reads this. It is too long. But once again, this is for me. To remember…

It was the first time for me to:

- Enjoy various kinds of foods. From tapas (Cuba), to pate flambé (Strasbourg), Pad Char Goong (Thailand), fish and chips (UK), Gyoza (Chinese), couscous royale (Turkey), salmon teriyaki (Korean), Chicken curry (Indian), berries (European), pizza provencal and croissants (Paris), sinigang and adobo (Philippines), etc. Truly international.

- See new places and buildings. In Strasbourg, the various European Institutions, Petite France and German districts, the Vauban dam, Ponts couverts (covered bridge), the Cathedrale, etc. I especially enjoyed walking along the river Ille. And seeing the moving bridge. In London, I loved the view of and from the Tower Bridge. My favorite part was walking along the Thames river. It was lovely seeing all the scenery and structures. And to feel safe.

In France: (Strasbourg & Paris)

- Take, on my own, a long trip on the urban train network in Paris. Called the RER, I took the line C in order to reach Champs de Mars. It was the nearest station to reach a friend’s house. The metro station was under construction. Either I brave the RER or get lost walking. I chose the former. I was thankful for the young lady who answered my questions and directed me to the right train.

- Experience that even to only take a metro ride, some people dare to break the law. At Picpus station, a black guy was standing. He waited as I went out and then he entered through the exit door. At the Gare de l’Est, a black girl asked if she could enter the metro with me. I’ve seen this before, 2 persons go in by just using one metro ticket. I said I am not sure if I am going in and then proceeded to the other door (the correct entrance for my train). I heard her cursing.

- Feel so nervous in France. While eating our Chinese take-out and enjoying the Christmas tree at a plaza in Strasbourg, my friend and I were accosted by three French guys. We saw them too late as they aggressively headed our way and demanded if we speak French. We remained silent and quickly fled. We heard them making noises that sounded like Chinese. They thought we were Chinese. Thank God, nothing bad happened. One of the reasons why I don’ feel safe in France.

- Drink hot wine. It was very effective in warming my frozen hands.

- Ask three little girls for direction and thus took the long way to arrive at my destination. It was at this time that I found myself walking behind a homeless guy. And fervently praying that nothing bad would happen to me.

- Meet an Indonesian girl. She was seated beside me at Hillsong Paris. She was doing the European tour. Thank God I was not alone when I headed back towards the metro. She knew the correct and shorter way.

In London:

- Try the fish and chips of the English. I loved the taste of codfish. I liked the chips (these are in fact, potatoes, much like the French fries but bigger).

- Wear three tops and two pants. Plus a coat, a scarf, head covering ang gloves. There as a time I was wearing two sets of socks. It was really cold. Especially when it became to windy.

- Be at the front seats of the Upper Circle of Queen's Theater. To enjoy the live performance of Les Miserables. To finally see what was happening when there was only music playing (from the CD/tapes). Got around 40% off the ticket price. Just buy it on the same day of the showing. Finally was able to see it live! Wonderful voices! I cried when Eponine and Jean Valjean died.

- Drink a shot of chocolate. Totally delicious and intoxicating.

- Win in a raffle but unfortunately I could not take home the prize. It wouldn't have fit inside my bag.

- Be surrounded by birds and swans. They won’t even budge an inch when they are approached by a human. This was at the Kensington Gardens.

- Almost touch a squirrel. I think it was so hungry that it decided to accept Skyflakes. Or maybe, Filipino food was just too tempting.

- Run after a bus because we were at the wrong side of the street. For that matter, it was my first time to ride in a right-hand drive car or to read the sign on the road before I cross the street!

- Get dizzy while looking for the Post Office. It was my first time to mail a letter in London. A good lady lent us her scotch tape and scissors (to reinforce the packaging).

- Ride in front of the second level of a bus. Bus drivers can earn around 500 pounds a week plus overtime pay. Tempting. But wouldn’t it make you crazy to drive around all day following the same route?

- Eat inside a pub. Food in there is cheaper, I learned. Choose your seat, order at the bar, pay your bill. Sit down and wait for your food. Then eat.

- Be in an English speaking city yet to feel like I am in a foreign land. It was hard to eavesdrop. British English is harder than French! Leicester is pronounced as Lester. Same rule for Gloucester. Thames river is in fact pronounced as “Tems.” I already forgot the pronunciation of the words that my host taught me!

- See what used to be the red-light district. Soho. It is now a posh hang-out place, especially for artists (I hope I understood Malu’s explanation correctly)

- Almost get hit by the hand of a child. On his father’s arms, the boy raised his arm while they were walking down the street. Good thing I saw what was coming and was able to sidestep what could have been painful.

- Get my very own Oyster Card. I heard you can keep it forever. Mine is waiting for its next trip back to London.

- Experience the civil and courteous British. From what I have seen so far, they are a helpful lot.

There are so many other things but I couldn't very write them all here. This is just for me... lest I forget.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Leaving Paris with Hope

Paris. I’ve seen its beauty. I’ve experienced some of its enchantments. One thing I do not consider it to be so: it is not the place that will make me easily think of God.

Two contrasting experiences made me realize that God is still working hard in this city, famous, not for agape, but for romantic love.

Two nights before I left, two friends took me on a car ride to see Paris at night. To behold the city illuminated with glorious lights. The Eiffel Tower as it blinks every hour and the trees along Champs Elysees, dressed with droplights.

To show me something different, we cruised along the Bois de Boulogne. Seems innocent when translated... Boulogne Woods.

Surely, it was majestic by day. But at night, there is a different scene being played out. Shrouded by darkness and hidden by the green foliage, transvestites stand in the cold. They wear half-opened dark coats that expose undergarments that should only be seen within the confines of a private room. They leave nothing more to imagination. They offer their wares to willing clients who are ready to go within the dense coverage of trees.

I was told that it is not illegal to do this since it is considered a profession. It’s okay as long as the general public does not see what they do.

I knew such things existed but in my desire to be naive, I’ve taught myself not to look for such sights. It embodied the dark side of city. It can represent souls in need of salvation.

But the night before I left Paris, I saw a big window of hope. Though I feared going to an unfamiliar place, I asked God for courage so that I could see with my own eyes. I don’t feel safe in this city yet I was convinced that I must go. I wanted to know what it meant for Hillsong to be in Paris.

The foyer was welcoming as people greeted one another. It was not only coffee that was free-flowing, there were a lot of smiles too. As I sat in my little corner, I enjoyed the noise. It was a marvelous noise. French people in a fellowship mode. It seemed like another world.

Two years ago, during my first time in Paris, I attended a very, very solemn Christian service. It struck me that there weren’t too many young people. And that worried me for they are the next generation. If they do not know God, what will be the future of this city? I prayed then that someday I hope to see men and women of this nation exuberantly praising and worshiping God. It seems highly unlikely. What with my encounters with its people and culture. Will I ever see the reality of this wish from my soul?



I really don’t know how many people were inside. 200? 300? Maybe even more? Male and female, old and young (more of this), different colors and nationalities, different languages, all of us converging to worship God on a Friday night service. It was wonderful to behold the passion of the band as they led the praise and worship time. And a blessing to see an audience dancing with joy and lifting their hands to glorify the Creator. They sang in French and in English, with the words flashed on the screen, with the respective subtitles thereunder.

And the preaching that night, in English (with an Australian accent) but simultaneously translated in French, was about Nehemiah who saw things differently. It was through the eyes of God. Voir des choses differement. I got reminded that I must dream big but remain focused on the small things of the now. Parce que Dieu peut tout changer et tout faire.

As I sang with the band and listened to the words of the speaker, I could not help but shed a few tears. This was the answer to a prayer I deemed impossible to happen. But once again, the words of Pastor Brendan assured me, nothing is impossible with God.

I really do not know why God has directed my path towards learning the language of this people who seems to have it all. I am patiently waiting for I know He will reveal it to me. But as I wait, I continue to pray for this city, this foreign country.

I left Paris with a lighter heart for I see hope. God is moving, slowly but surely and most importantly, powerfully.

(http://www.hillsongparismychurch.fr/)
= = =




I also visited Hillsong London. There were maybe around 600 people inside the Dominion Theater. Once again, it was filled with different kinds of people.

The speaker spoke and showed awesome pictures of the universe, the earth, the sun and other heavenly bodies which give testament to the power of God. Though we are small in a very big universe, God knows us and loves us. I quote the speaker in saying this… Long before you have decided what to do with Him, He has already decided what to do with you.






Core of a whirlpool galaxy (www.hubblesite.org)

(http://www.hillsonglondonmychurch.co.uk/)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ordeals of traveling

I am back in Manila. Back to reality. But in order for me to remember the last 16 days, I have to write about them. So bear with me. For this entry, let me share my experiences with the different modes of transportation I took. This is going to be long.

Hell. That was the only word I could think of as I waited for 13 hours in Hongkong. KLM issued my e-ticket with the wrong schedule. It was only the night before my flight that I find out. My booking experience with KLM for the past two years went well that I trusted the same service would be given me. Too late I found out that my 5:00 pm departure from Manila was moved to an earlier 8:00am flight. Imagine my panic as I finished my packing. I was unable to eat a proper breakfast. I was not able to buy pasalubong (gifts) of food delights for Filipinos in France. So tired, I had to rush to the airport.



All I could think of in HK was that KLM would be the object of my ire upon my return in Manila. Sleepless the night before, I felt so cold despite 3 layers of clothing. It was not possible to rest. Only individual seats connected to one another were available. How could one sleep peacefully while seated? Good thing I had some food with me. But these were not the hot and filling food I could have eaten if I was at home waiting for my correct flight.

My flight to Paris was quite nice. I was seated beside a retired man with his wife. We chatted quite nicely about France, the Philippines, their travels and what I would be doing in Paris. I was able to get some sleep albeit disturbed from time to time by movements of the crew or the person beside me. I could understand his constant turnings. There was not enough leg room to stretch long legs.

I noticed something different though. There was no waiting in line for the use of the toilets. I often encountered this in my other air travels with predominantly Filipino passengers. We tend to brush our teeth after every meal, change clothes, refresh make-up, etc. It was nice not to queue for long. But imagine the smell of a room filled with un-brushed teeth. Sorry to sound disgusting, but for someone like me who has a sensitive sense of smell, it could be trying to be in such a room.

I had to rush again upon my arrival in Paris. I was to catch a TGV bound for Strasbourg. For those unfamiliar, TGV is a train system of France, very famous for being fast. It was my first time to ride this. And what do I like about it? Seats do not face one another. The only other person you can interact with is the person beside you. The gentleman beside me was kind enough to lift my bag to the overhead rack. He could have been the Ethan in my Before Sunset. A pity that it was he who was reading and I dare not ask what it was about.


To go to London, I decided that I’d take the Eurostar. Another new experience since the train goes underwater and through the English Channel. The seating arrangement this time was that four people would be facing each other. Good thing we all went to sleep during the trip (except for moments when I would look outside the window to see the changing view.



The station in London was newly opened. St. Pancras looks beautiful. Especially with the sculpture of a couple sealing their reunion with a kiss.







The London metro (or what they call as Tube) seemed a bit more complicated. I already mastered the Paris metro system which designates the each line with just a number (there are 14 lines). The London Tube calls each line with a specific name (Central, Embankment, Central, etc.). But I did get the hang of it as I traveled more each day.

The railways from outside and to London were much like the RER in Paris. One has to check if it will pass your chosen destination. There are express trains that only stop at specific stations.



What I love about the transportation in Paris and London is that one can buy ride-all-you-can tickets (Carte Orange for Paris and Travel Card or Oyster for London).

From London to Amsterdam, I was on an aisle seat right by the emergency exit. Great leg room but one needs to be ready in case of emergency. It was a quick flight. Obvious because only chips and juice were given as snacks. Long flights require full meals.

The connecting flight from Amsterdam to Manila was quite full. It was the hub of KLM and thus most of European flights converge here to go to other destinations. I noticed there were lots of Filipinas married to foreigners, towing little kids with them. It hit me that it was in fact already December and thus, many Filipinos are coming home for the festive Christmas season that only our country can provide.

Babies and little kids were crying all night. But that was not the reason I went almost sleepless throughout the flight. Some things that were happening in Manila and what I have seen in Paris and London were troubling me. Questions that I need to ask myself but not willing to face. Answers that I find hard to give. Thoughts swirled in my mind as I attempted to see where all these are heading. There were resolutions I decided I have to make.

Those thoughts were still in my mind as I took my taxi ride for home. Passing through the shanties near the airport, I realized that I am now back to where I am supposed to be. For now.

PS.

I just got a call today from the airline. They owned up to their mistake and apologized. I showed no fury for I acknowledge the fact that humans err. But for that hell of waiting, I am demanding for just compensation. I still do not know if anything would be given. But hey, I did try!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A taste of France

Paris has a lot to offer regarding food. Not just their own, but a taste of the world.





Looks familiar? Yup, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Lots of them.















One night, we went to a Turkish restaurant. And ordered Royale couscous. With lamb, beef, chichek, and sausage (no pork). And wasn't able to finish it. Delicious and filling.







At the Christmas market in Strasbourg. He was preparing the nutella crepe I ate. Rich chocolate.








Khaki. Sounds weird for a fruit name. I am trying to remember its taste. Like a peach. With the same consistency yet harder. With a hint of guava and kiwi?




I've tasted hot tea, hot coffee, hot everything. But not hot wine. With honey and fruits, it is just right drink to make one feel warm in a windy and cold night.
Preview


I like the fact that sugar here in Europe can come in various shapes. One sugar please, for my tea.



Looks delicious. It's not quite the same cheese cake we know in the Philippines. The cloying sweet taste is missing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I need to read more...

I got this from abaniko's site (www.abaniko.blogspot.com)...

The blog readability test : What level of education is needed to understand your blog?

cash advance


But then, it'll be easier for people to read my words...

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)