Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kembot in Cambodia

I recently came back from a ten-day holiday in Cambodia with some very dear friends. God knows I need a brief break from being unemployed, no? Really, I'm tired of being so utterly useless, so it's nice to take my mind off the mounting sense of helplessness I have been feeling the past few months.

The first stop was Siem Reap, my third time in the popular tourist destination. There I met L, G, and J, who flew in from Ilo-ilo. It was G and J's first time to visit Siem Reap, therefore, a temple run was in order. The thrill of seeing the Angkor Wat complex never ceases despite repeated viewings.


We then traveled to Phnom Penh where we met FuchsiaBoy and R. The Ilonggo mafia only got bigger, di bala? (Fortunately, I understand Ilonggo!)

It's always exciting for me to visit a city for the first time. I didn't read beforehand on its must-sees, confident that FuchsiaBoy would show us around. Indeed, he brought us to some great restaurants in the city.


As for sight-seeing, I was gobsmacked by the scale of the Central Market. I especially love its grand curves and sharp angles.


For a bit of history, we paid a visit to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison. Both places left lasting traumas to Khmer society no thanks to the horrific rule of the Khmer Rouge. There was a heavy energy in these sites, of course; but still they are worth a visit.


The pack then went to Koh Rong, an island off the coast of Sihanoukville.


I've seen quite a few beaches in my life but nothing is as stunning as Koh Rong. From our guest house, we had to trek through a hill (or what felt like a mountain to me) for an hour. All my exhaustion went away when I first laid eyes on the clear blue water of Long Beach. Its sand was perfectly powdery white, almost blinding in the midday sun.

Long Beach has yet to see its share of infrastructure for tourists, and I hope it stays that way. It was simply kilometers of empty beach. Perfection, isn't it?

We lay on the grass, under the shade of a pine tree and did nothing but soak in the serenity of the beach. We also swam in the warm water, blissfully rocked by the gentle waves. Watching the sun set was the perfect ending to our day.


The following day we hired a boat to take us snorkelling and fishing, both of which did not go very well. I mean, fishing for bayots? I don't think so.


We ended up going back Long Beach to do more lounging on the beach and swimming. We simply couldn't get enough of the place.


On the side of the island where the accommodations are located, we stayed in huts just a few steps from the beach. Electricity was cut off at midnight. We were lulled by the sound of the waves lapping on the shore. And then we woke up to the cool sea breeze.

Here's hoping that Koh Rong is left undisturbed for years to come.

Guysh, guysh, thanks for the lovely time in Cambodia. Special thanks to L and R for making the trip possible. I had a blast and will treasure the memories from that trip. Until the next reunion...

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Back to the (Shutdown) City of Angels

So I've been in Bangkok for over a month now. There's really nothing else to say but that I'm happy to be back in what I feel is really my home for now.

There were so many things I missed about Bangkok that I immediately went around eating chicken rice and kapao gai and getting a Thai massage on my first day here. There were also endless meetings with Bangkok-based friends during the first two weeks of my return.





I wouldn't pretend I needed to adjust in Bangkok, after all I was gone for only a year. Everything felt the same (except that we had a cool first weeks of 2014). Returning has been just like effortlessly sliding back into the good old things: the food, the people, the city, and avoiding to get run over by a motorbike - an essential survival skill here.

But what's with this this #BangkokShutdown business? Ooops, I'm sorry. I don't do politics on this blog.


Oh, there are major changes in my Bangkok experience that I have to mention though. A few of my very close friends have left the city to seek greener pastures. Bubbles is now in the land down under. La Viviana and Genesis have also returned to the Philippines.


While some people are leaving some are also coming to stay in Bangkok... although I have to keep the identity of those people relocating to Bangkok under wraps lest I be sued. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to welcome more fairies into the fold (you know who you are!).

So what have I been up to the fast few weeks?

Well, for a start, I've managed to find an affordable place of my own. After living in the posh side of Ratchada in Rexona Gomorrah's mansion for three weeks, I moved to the poorer side and settled in a small room with a view of my neighbor's balcony. Since then I've attempted to make the room habitable and functional and somehow I'm developing a love for it despite the sorry state of the bathroom and the stink of cat's piss in the lift. But hey, I'm not complaining; I'm just being my usual bitchy self.


I do miss my old neighborhood in Thewet though as my current one is not as charming. On the other hand, I have a better appreciation of being just a few meters away from the underground, which makes going to the center of town a breeze... well unless you're caught in the frenzy of rush hour.


On the job-hunting front... nothing depresses me more. I don't even want to write about it here. Suffice to say, I'm as useless as I've ever been while the money in my bank account is quickly being depleted.

And then I have to face the life of being on a tourist visa, which required me going on a visa run to Vientiane last week. I never had to think about my visa when I used to work here. But now it feels like I have a terminal illness and the doctor just told me I have 60 days to live, but with the possibility of a 30 day extension.

So here I am back in Bangkok in the most imperfect circumstances. But at least I'm here and I'm here to say (if I get a job).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The End of My Affair with London

I realized I'm spending my final week in London. I am a bit relieved to leave this city, in as much as I had a wonderful time here. First, allow me to explain why I seem to have a love-hate relationship with London.

The best bits... London is never boring. You have to be intrinsically super boring to get bored in London where a million things are happening all at the same time. I most enjoyed the city's landscape: its parks, museums, theaters, canals, and bridges.


For instance, I'm often entranced by the old buildings made of bricks or marble. There's something organic about how they are crammed together, often with diverging styles. London's buildings escape a sense of uniformity because (at least to my untrained eye) they seem to come from different periods. Because there are so many of these remarkable edifices vying for one's attention, they are often overlooked or just simply overshadowed by relatively grander buildings.

I'm just taking the buildings of the city as an example of its charm. There are of course the numerous parks and squares that are full of their own character. I like Regent Park and Primrose Hill for instance. And then having lived mostly in Bloomsbury, I enjoyed hanging out in its many squares in the summer.

If it's too cold to be outdoors, one heads to the free and well-heated museums. My favorites are the National Gallery (where I always discover new masterpieces in every visit) and the Tate Modern. The Courtauld Gallery and Saatchi Gallery also have their gems. And if one is patient enough to queue for a day ticket, watching a great play or musical in the West End is not always beyond reach.



While I have written more about London as a space so far, there is also something to be said about the Londoners themselves. It's remarkable how multi-cultural London is. Oftentimes I find my self not hearing a word of English on the bus whereas the melange of Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and, yes, Tagalog always make me feel like I'm in a UN convention.

And even if London is a very busy city, the people are surprisingly polite to each other. The endless exchanges of 'thank you', 'you're welcome', and 'I'm sorry' is admirable for such a densely packed and fast paced city. And far from the stereotype of the dour British character, on the contrary I find them very approachable and welcoming.

So let's get to the things I don't like about this city. Mainly, I still can't get over the fact that everything costs a gazillion pounds here. Thank god for the 3-pound meals at Tesco. Even going to a fastfood such as McDonalds or Burger King costs like a decent meal in a good restaurant in Bangkok or Manila. Even public transport is outrageously expensive, thus, I'm at the mercy of buses.

Also, I imagine most young people here living on an average wage spending a significant amount of that on rent alone. And then you add the council taxes, TV license, and other shit. I don't see that as ever justifiable.

But hey, that's the cost of living in one of the most exciting places in the world. So in as much as London never runs out of things to experience, you need quite a lot of money to do just that.

I understand that the wages here would somehow make up for the cost of living, but I still hear people complaining about rising prices, especially rent. And with an increasingly competitive job market, finding a good job that would match one's lifestyle remains a challenge. I'd only be constantly frustrated living here if I could not afford much of what I want to do, say, regular visits to the theater.


So saying good bye to London is bittersweet in that I'm passionately in love with it but I know it's a relationship that's not sustainable.

I have to say though that just like a good love affair, I have great memories of the city. It embraced me warmly and nurtured my senses, even giving me orgasms I'd remember for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Double or single?

The days of aimlessness are finally over. A little more than a week ago I finally found a part-time job as a bartender at an event venue in the posh side of the city. The job was a long time coming as I was practically not doing anything a month a half after I submitted my dissertation. Just when I thought it was a bad decision to stay longer in London, I found this job.

Gurrrl, it's not easy. The hours are long; often times I work for twelve hours with only a twenty-minute break on the sixth hour (although I work only about three days a week). And not that I'm just serving drinks but I also lug around ice bags, crates of drinks and glasses, and even physically dismantle the bar (because the set-up changes every event).


I was in a complete daze on my first night because everything had to be fast. Besides, I didn't even know how to mix the most basic of mixers. Also, I had to learn how to use a cash register, which until now I still dread touching. I learned on the job by pestering my workmates with endless questions. One of my weaknesses is remembering what people order. I didn't know I have such horrible short-term memory. A lot of times I threw away a mix or glass of wine because I got them wrong. I am a constant embarrassment and I wouldn't be surprised if I get fired any day soon.

I hope that does not happen because I badly need the money. I'm earning just a few cents above the minimum wage, but what's encouraging me is that when I convert what I earn to baht it's not bad at all. I intend to save all the money I earn now for my jobless days in Bangkok, which could last for months if I'm not lucky.

My mom is still trying to convince me to find a more stable job in London and hopefully stay here longer. But I just don't have the inclination to live here mainly because it's such a bloody expensive city on top of the fact that finding a job here is difficult these days. Besides, I like the laid back life in Bangkok and that one doesn't need to be a gazillionaire to get by there.

So now I'm counting my last two months in London, full of hard work while braving yet another gloomy and freezing winter. I just can't wait to lie on the sands of Koh Samet in January!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Post-MA blues

It's finally over. The thing I'm here for has come to a conclusion. It's been a year of studying, of my attempts at being a masters student. Last week, I submitted what feels like the ultimate stamp that I achieved something, the much vaunted dissertation. Writing it took me about three and a half months. It sounds like a long time to write some kind of opus but all that effort amounted to only 10,000 words, which is not much actually. The printed copy felt puny in my hands, seemingly betraying all the hard work I put into it. There are days when I felt like my dissertation was a masterpiece and then most days I feel like it was crap.


Anyway, I'm glad I'm finished with the dissertation and the whole masters business. It's a great experience of course - and I don't know where to start - but it also helped me realized I'm not exactly the academic I wish I am. I find academia too tedious for me. Basically, I'm too lazy to still continue studying after this.

Having finished my education, I'm nothing but an unemployed bastard. Mind you, I don't have grand delusions of having a wonderful career after this. I don't feel a sense of entitlement the way I used to when I finished my BA. It's really up to me to make the most of my qualification.

For now though I'm maximizing my student visa, which means I'd have to brave another winter.  I'm just looking for odd jobs here and there. It's unbearable being so unproductive after such a hectic one year. The day after I submitted my dissertation I woke up with no plans in my head for the first time in months. It was (still is) indeed a weird feeling of aimlessness. Since then I've just been staying home, avoiding making unnecessary spending because god knows how pricey London is. And oh, I've moved in with my aunts (as I can't afford rent AT ALL) and had been sleeping on the floor (god bless me in winter).

I've been desperately looking for a job; just about anything would do from waitering to being a shopping attendant. In an ideal world I should be a money boy to a Russian gazillionaire who has a flat in Mayfair or Chelsea, but I'm too old for that. LOL.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I'm still here...

Hi girls! I just decided to drop a few words in this long-neglected blog. I don't need to give you stupid excuses on my lack of updates, if ever you cared to begin with. But hey, here I am, finally having the time and energy to write something. I'm using 'write' very loosely here as I don't have a proper plan on what to write about. So, this is mainly a free-flowing post, and you may stop reading right now if the prospect of my rambling bores the shit out of you.



Okay, so what has been going on with my life in London over the past few months? My last post was December and in the past six months I've been mainly focused on school. What else, aber? I don't want to make it appear that I suddenly became a dedicated academic, which is not likely to happen anytime soon. It's just that I really don't have anything else to do but study and write papers and more study. That's what I'm meant to do here anyway.

April and May were particularly very tensed because I was writing the last of my school essays and then soon after it was one month of exams. I dreaded the exam season most of all and I'm glad my daily trip to the library to study is finally over. It felt like I was a prisoner of the library, eating peanut butter sandwich for lunch everyday. All the tedious studying somehow paid off though. Not that I excelled in all of my exams. But suffice to say I passed all of them, which is just exactly my goal. I used to be ambitious, you know?



So what else?

Well, I'm still enjoying London, even if the sheer expense of living in this city still drives me insane. With that out of the way, it truly is a great city. I feel like I'm in the center of the action when it comes to culture, fashion, and art. I've been enjoying some of the more affordable theater shows, for instance. I've managed to watch 'War Horse', 'Once', and 'Book of Mormon', the latter being the hottest ticket in town at the moment. But somehow my favorite show so far has been 'A Chorus Line' revival. The music and dancing are both top-notch, but it excels best in its heartfelt story about a group of aspiring professional dancers.

And then of course there are the museums and galleries. I've visited the main ones (National Gallery and the Tate Modern) several times and I know I'd go back there to relish the experience of being surrounded by the greatest art works of our time.





When spring came, which was rather late, I learned to enjoy London's parks and gardens. Oh god, the fully bloomed flowers were a sight to behold, a sharp contrast to the usual greyness of the London skies. I have to point out though that there had been sunny spells the past many weeks and the city denizens always use it as a good excuse to lie on the park. Oh, I also welcome the long days of the summer months!




In terms of travel, it's something I obviously could not do at will because I'm focused on school and I couldn't afford it. But I've done a bit of travelling nonetheless. Last December was of course Heidiland. And then also in December I had a road trip with Tyty and Fatima throughout some cities of the UK. Last March I visited family in Belgium and from there I had a day trip in Paris (an absolute dream come true!). I'm afraid that's all the travelling I've been able to afford, unfortunately.

So now it's the summer term, meaning it's dissertation writing time. It's a completely daunting task for me. It's always tempting to take it easy because we have loads of time in our hands, or an illusion of it. At least that's what I tell my self, so, I'm trying to build on the momentum of my discipline of studying for my exams into my dissertation writing. Only God knows where this is heading. As it is, I'm tempted to just be lazy, lazy, lazy... it's a surprise I've even managed to write a blog post today.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Heidiland

So the Christmas break is almost over. We will go back to school on Monday and I'm still going crazy over trying to finish a couple of papers due next week. Well, obviously someone has not been putting his break to good use, instead it was mostly spent on hedonistic pursuits.

The biggest thing I did over the break was visit Heidiland... and I don't know how to start writing about it because it was such a massive trip for me. First, I should thank Heidi la Seoul for making the trip possible. He was already talking about inviting me to Heidiland when we last saw each other in BKK last year but I was not even sure if I would be granted a visa or if I could afford the trip. So it was surreal when in mid-December I stepped off the airport in Basel and the gorgeous Hye Kim Park in his 22-inch waistline was there to meet me.

Oh, let me get this out of the way before I proceed. I finally saw... SNOW, bitches. Yes, the thing that drives us people from the tropics wild. Did I go wild? I sure did. It was snow all over the place. Everything was just blanketed in white, cold, crisp snow; I wonder how many cups of halo-halo and mais con hielo we could make out of them, no?


Hye Kim Park then showed me around Basel and climbed to the top the spire of one cathedral. Oh stunning views! It was certainly the fastest way to see Basel because we had such limited time. And then we took the train to Bern, the capital. Every building was green there. Color-coordination, a dream place for anyone with OCD. We finally met Heidi la Seoul and we greeted each other with the loudest kathoey shriek we could muster.




In the next few days we drove a bit around Heidiland. I don't how to give justice to the scenery, especially the towering mountains that kept on taking my breath away. They all looked so postcard perfect, I could stare at them for hours. We also visited the lakeside cities of Neuchatel and Lucerne, and then Zurich. It was a pleasure walking down the narrow alleys of these cities that often lead to a square, always with a fountain as its centerpiece.  I'm just also completely amazed by how each city always has the most awe-inspiring views, mainly consisting of grand, old buildings facing a river or a lake and with the mountains in the backdrop. Divine, divine, divine!!! I just don't have the words to describe them.





Thursday, December 06, 2012

Winter Update


I'm still alive. Cold, but definitely still alive. We're now transitioning to winter, a season people have warned me about. The last few days we've seen temperatures drop to single digits and then finally we were hovering just a little bit above zero. I'm freezing most of the time but there's really nothing much one can do but OWN winter. 

Perfect, now that we've talked about the weather - what else could be more important, aber? - we can move on to trivial stuff.

Oh, let's talk about school. I've actually managed to survive the first term, which ends in a week (and then it's the winter break!). There was a period during half-term when I asked my self what I was doing in masters school. I felt I didn't belong here… with all these brilliant kids in class! Really, they're pretty much kids but who know a great deal more than I do. 


And then came the first essay of the year (and I'm doing another one at the moment). It was all big drama doing it because for more than a decade now I haven't done any academic writing. Most of the time I was running around the library grabbing whatever stuff I could possibly use for my essay. I was tensed like crazy, I finished a first draft two weeks before it was due. I'm not saying I suddenly became brilliant, but really it was more because I panicked and rushed to write like my life depended on it (which might have been the case, actually). For a paper entirely built on panicking I managed to get a decent grade, although it could have been better (because I'm NEVER satisfied). 

Well, school is not always that dramatic. Mostly, I spend my time being alone, like most students I guess, poring through loads of assigned readings. That's school for you!

There are just days though when I feel like I need to extricate my self from my desk and take a long walk, especially when the sun's out, a precious moment during winter in London, it seems. Often I go to a museum to diffuse my mind or just walk down Oxford street and gawk at clothes I can't afford. 

On Friday nights I go out with Tyty and Fatima for some wine and Chinese food (the cheap kind, if that ever exists in London). That's all the "fun" I could do because I really can't afford going out more often, chai mai?

Speaking of finances, it's no secret that London is shockingly expensive. So I'm mainly subsisting on microwave food, bland soups in particular… something like 2 pounds per cup, which is still atrociously overpriced compared to a yummy bowl of noodles in Thewet for only less than a pound. 

At first I had to constantly remind my self that I'm not in Bangkok anymore. And then eventually I get used to the prices and I just basically have to live with it… meaning having a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Oh, I applied for a temporary sales job in a department store but I didn't get it. On the one hand, I really need the money, but on the other I don't know where I'd get the time to do school work had I got the job. But I still need money, so I'd figure out how to whore my self somehow.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Bayot Goes to School

So it's back to school. Last week was "welcome week" during which we had several orientation sessions in our faculty and department. I met several Thais who are also doing my course, which is of course great. And then I spent the rest of welcome week attending talks on such things as eating healthy (I know, I need to learn a great deal on keeping a 30-inch waist), managing money (oh, this too), and finding a part-job (which should happen now).

This week I started my courses. As we are required to take three courses, I picked politics, anthropology, and history. I hope somehow I'd be able to tie the three together, especially in writing my dissertation.

In one of my courses, I met a couple of farangs who used to live in Bangkok, too. It's amazing to find all these Thailand connections all the way here in London. Of course we instantly dived into sharing our experiences from living in Bangkok.


It's still a bit early to get a good grip on what my professors and classmates would be like.

However, I feel pretty old in class. Most of my classmates have just graduated from their BAs. So being fresh from school, they really are good on "academic speak", a skill I've lost a long, long time ago. And they seem to know what exactly they want to focus on in their study, say, migration, the politics of such and such, etc., whereas, I still don't know exactly what I'm interested in. Oh, kids these days!

The past few days I've just been trying to read as many of the required readings as I could. This brings me memories of my BA. I'm a slow reader so I need a lot of time to go through the text and then I quickly make notes... all these boring bits. I just really need to pace my self so that I don't cram the day before the lectures.

Which means I've got to discipline my self in sitting down to read at least a reading a day over the course of the week... instead of watching America's Next Top Model, no?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My first week in London

There are still a lot of times when I couldn't believe I'm actually in London. I've been here a week and still there's something surreal about being in a place I've always dreamed of visiting. Until about three months ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be here.

The past week had been tourist mode. My aunts had been amazingly kind to show me around. My first day alone we were hopping from one bus to another until midnight just to see the basic sights, e.g. Oxford Street, Harrods, Kensington Gardens, and Tower Bridge.

The highlight of my first day here was watching "Billy Elliot", a treat from my aunt. I wish I have the words to describe the musical, simply put I was completely astounded by it all. I was listening to the songs a few weeks before I watched the show but the music still moved me on performance night. The choreography was of course flawless.




The following days were more touristy stuff, such as the Olympic Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, China Town, and Covent Garden.

The next day, I met an Oxford-based Pinay Fairy ("Lady Chatterley") who brought me to the National Gallery. It was stunned when I saw my first Van Gogh, my reaction was summed up into a loud gasp. And then there were a number of Cezanne, Monet, Klimt, and Turner, among others. I'd definitely keep on going back there.

Last Thursday, I met two Pinay Fairies who showed me around Soho, supposedly one of London's gay areas.




Yesterday, I went to the British Museum, which was packed with tourists, so I have to visit again on a quieter day. I then hopped on a bus and walked the Millennium Bridge to reach Tate Modern where I saw a handful of Picassos (yet again another transcendental experience) along with some Matisse, Rothko, Pollock, and Dali. That was such a dream!










Today I went to Harrods to attend the book signing of Scott Schuman's new book, "Closer". Garance Dore was there as well to sign the pages where she appears. I was shaking the entire time I was in front of them. Yet another surreal moment right there.

Oh, I also dropped by the venue of London Fashion Week last Friday. I just hung around outside the tents, watching those fashionable people snapped up by street style photographers. It's a bit amusing to observe the fashion scene, but that's all I could do.



So that's basically a rapid rundown of the things I've been up to over the past week. There are still so many impressions of London I want to write about but that's for next time.

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