Homestay in the Philippines: Anda Part 2

Maris asked when I was coming over. She is seven, held my hand the night before when Efrena was practicing a traditional Philippine dance to prepare for the upcoming winter festival. We sat together at the basketball benches watching the mayor’s wife bellow instructions at the dancers, telling them to lift their arms higher or emote more. Maris’s house is next door’s to Efrena’s, and in fact Maris is related to her. Third or fourth removed cousins. I had to correct Maris gently. “You know, I’m coming over to see your momma, Maribel, too. And you..”  My smile was tender and encouraging. She’s a willowy girl, loves the color pink and will grow to be a beauty. Her hair hangs long, close to mid-back and reminds me of buns fresh from the oven – golden brown. I looked forward to knowing Maris and her family. After gobbling a breakfast of eggs and rice at Efrena’s, I lifted that juggernaut that is my backpack and opened the creaky fence for the last time. Smoke from stove fires carried in the air. It was 9 a.m. and already the orange disc in the sky blazed, causing a tiny bit of sweat to form on my skin. I maneuvered down the dirt path, noting how lovely the colorful parols were, gleaming against the sunshine. They were rainbows captured in stars. An obscene amount of cocks cawed at the back end of Efrena’s house, held by nets constructed from bamboo. The nets were shaped like rounded colanders, in this case to capture a preened animal used for God knows what, not slippery pasta, steaming and piping from the stove. A tautly muscled young man was their minder, at times […]

I’m the Ultimate Leftover

China is a nation gripped in fluctuation. A Sichuan restaurant that I went to last week will likely be torn down and replaced with a hot pot establishment, usually in a blink or virtually overnight when I’m sound asleep. A heady brew of economic ping-pong is at play. China is charging into business with far flung countries, beyond their established trading partners in Asia and the Middle East. Brazil is providing China with soybeans, crude oil and metals at an astounding rate (about USD 11.19 billion). In February of this year, Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper accomplished a historical feat that had been years in process: the signing of a “declaration of intent” for a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). Although trade with China has been steadily rising since 2009 (a staggering 38%), there remained uncertainty with the solidity of foreign investments. FIPA should ensure equitable treatment of foreign investors and introduce legally binding accountability for both countries. It will take years to finalize the legal wranglings, yet according to eager Canadian companies, this leap is a flag of triumph flapping in the wind. Meanwhile, China is a child with an uncontrollable growth spurt, which is partially exciting to witness, and partially unnerving. The social landscape of China is also morphing at incredible speeds. The phenomenon that women can now not only be financially independent, but possibly earn more money than a man is relatively new. The backlash to this is being labelled a ‘shengnu’. And what is this seemingly innocuous term? Translation: leftover food.

By |March 23rd, 2012 |Categories: China, Culture |23 Comments

Chicks Conquering the World: Water’s Edge Creative

Malcolm Gladwell’s words cut deep:”Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity — doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.”  Painful, Mr. Gladwell.  Based on this rigid picture, what possessed Laurie Sutton to launch a website to inspire others to be creative and open an on-line jewelry business way past her creative prime?  Only one way to find out.  Q) In the bio on your website you write, “As my 40th birthday approached, I began pondering what I really wanted my life to look and feel like.”   40 is considered a time to wind down in North American culture, not ramp up, why did you see the need for an overhaul and what did you envision?   A) Well, like many people, I kept putting off the life I really wanted to live because it seemed “unrealistic.”  Unlike many people, I have not yet married and I don’t have any kids, so approaching 40 did not feel in any way like a “wind down” for me.  I still felt like I hadn’t truly gotten started, and that threshold 40th birthday just felt like the perfect time to start getting myself unstuck.  I didn’t want to waste any more time struggling and settling for “good enough.”  My thirties were a crucible of unhealthy relationship choices, financial struggles, unhappiness in my career, and lack of real direction in life.  In the year before I turned 40, I simply decided that I’d had enough of that and opened myself to a brighter, more colorful, more audacious life that’s true to my real self. Q) Building on question #1, how have you made your vision happen at age 40?  A) For the first […]

Homestay in the Philippines: Anda Part 1

It was a concrete A-frame bungalow covered with a corrugated metal roof. A well-manicured, yet small lawn bloomed with aloe vera and potted flowers – their luscious, red petals open to the sky.  Despite its modest scale, it was still pleasing to the eye.  The wooden gate buckled under the pressure of my fingers as I worked the latch to gain entrance.  Sun warmed my back –I could hear roosters clucking and the buzzing of insects. Two wonderstruck children hovered by the fence, clad in tees, shorts and flip flops cataloguing my every movement.  This small, Asian woman – saddled down with a burgundy pack – it’s length dwarfing her from head to hip stepped at the front door and knocked. It opened with a creak. A stout woman in a flowery shirt and knee-length madras shorts smiled widely. “Jeannie!  So glad you here.. Come in, come in!” A flood of welcome warmed my cheeks. My hostess’s name is Efrena.  She pulled back the door to allow room for my pack to fit through the frame. I stepped into a room with a concrete floor that looked stained by charcoal.  The walls were of the same material. Paint hadn’t been applied to mask the state of an unfinished house. A glass table with plastic chairs was flanked by a television heaped with trinkets found in markets.  It was playful and childlike. A shelving unit held a tuner, a disc player for a karaoke setup and a DVD player.  Her center of worship was evident where a lone, glass case stood.  Inside it were ceramic figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus – a picture of the adult Jesus was tacked to the outside.

By |March 14th, 2012 |Categories: Bohol |36 Comments

Bust a Travel Myth on International Women’s Day

The garlic was burning.  Even though I swore the flame was turned low.  In trying to settle into my expatriate life, I’ve taken up the charge of domesticity. I’m failing miserably.   I overcook food.  Don’t chop vegetables in a neat manner.  Lose large amounts of patience with cooking in general.  I curse and moan about it, as though I’ve lost a fair quantity of blood during a transfusion. Myth #1 about women: we were carved from Adam’s rib to keep a peaceful and harmonious home. If my domestic skills are any indication – I would have been tossed out of the fifties so fast –  my arse would have skimmed the curb before landing with a bang and a wave of pain. My unsuccessful cooking and sewing excursions (I actually failed sewing because I wanted to skip that period and watch my weird friend Paula smoke cat-nip) are prime examples of myth busting on International Women’s Day. I’m also partly inspired by Gloria L. Blackwell’s post on shattering as she calls it, those “same, tired old myths” that continue to devalue women. Blackwell smartly correlates MythBusters, a popular television show on the Discovery Channel with a compilation created by CARE.  Through stories and videos, 10 myths about women are addressed and debunked by 10 heroes. Some of the myths addressed: – She asked for it. – A women’s place is in the home. – It’s a man’s world. CARE  is unlocking a myth every month.  I’m personally excited to read them all.

To Lie or Not?

Anger can be unbecoming of a woman.  This sentiment may have been an old proverb or uttered by a frightened husband. A lone lady hopping to destinations is prone to a plethora of emotions.  After all, this rare breed of traveler is subjected to stimuli that can’t be deflected off someone else. From unlivable hostel hovels to break neck tuk-tuk rides to ingesting dog entrails that leave us writhing alone in that hovel we complained about five hours ago. Truly, we are all on our own. Another thing that we are left to deal with is the barrage of male attention. Whether you are gay, straight or bisexual – it seems men in the Arab world, Europe or Asia usually assume you are an erect arrow and fair game. This is when we rise to anger. The attention, while sometimes flattering, can also go from 0 to 360 degrees of annoying. The simple task of walking down the street is fraught with intense catcalls, potential groping or outright marriage proposals.

By |March 2nd, 2012 |Categories: Uncategorized |55 Comments