Friday, September 22, 2006

Day Four: Not Without a Major Blooper

I woke up with the thought that if I don’t see my baby within the day, I’ll go mad just like Cruella de Ville. I say goodbye to the sumptuous breakfast buffet and the hotel staff who are really friendly and accommodating (a lot like Pinoys) and head off to my rush city tour with Suresh. Suresh, like Naral, is this big Indian guy who’s a driver cum guide for tourists. I love him bcoz he takes my pictures everywhere (which is a lot more than I can say about the very man I vowed to stay with till death do us part. Grrr.)

First stop was the King’s Palace which isn’t open to the public, so we had to content ourselves with the guard and the horse. I love how the city is so clean and green tho. You see all these flower pots lining the streets, just like in Baguio and Hong Kong, which is amazing bcoz the weather is as hot as Manila. Next we go to the National Monument where I ask this Moslem woman to take a picture of me with her young wards. It’s my favorite picture of the entire trip. It’s so United Colors of Benetton.

I convince Suresh to take me to the Orchid Garden, the one place I decided I wanted to see when I was surfing in the Net. It didn’t disappoint. There were orchids, lovely and exquisite orchids everywhere, hanging, crawling, standing, climbing up. It’s heaven.
I buy some really nice drawings in front of the old Railway Station. We also go inside the National Museum where Suresh shows off his expansive knowledge of Malay history and culture. The second floor lobby offers a nice view of the Independence Square below. Across the street are the quaint courthouses, which used to be the British seat of government. I can be a litigation lawyer if the courthouses are as nice as those. Last stop is Beryl’s Chocolate House, where the bestseller is the almond choco that’s to die for.

We take the scenic route thru Putra Jaya to the airport. Suresh attempts a lawyer joke which he says is supposed to be dirty. Maybe it was lost in translation, but it didn’t come out dirty or even much of a joke. No matter. I love Suresh.

I hoard more Barney stuff for Yosh and Vada in the KL airport. What can I say? There’s hardly any nice ones to buy in Manila so Yosh has to wait for his titas abroad to get any for him.

Changi is a revelation. I had two hours to kill before my flight so I had the chance to look around. A What To Do at Changi billboard caught my eye bcoz it showed a sunflower garden in the rooftop. I went to search for it and it was there as promised, in all its vibrance and beauty. This alone was worth the trip. There was also an orchid garden right in the midst of the duty-free shops. How truly refreshing.

I buy more chocolates before I run to my gate. Just as I’m lining up for the free Internet I notice a guy staring at me, me in my tank top and low-rise capris with my tummy peeping as usual, munching on the biggest Symphony bar you can imagine and carrying gazillion Barney stuff – and the guy is no less than the president of our company. I duck behind a post, put on my sweater and shades, and board at the absolute last minute. Thank God I’m not rich and can’t afford First Class like CEOs. Wouldn’t you know. A trip is just never complete without a major blooper like that happening to me. I am so loved by this universe. Aargh.

I watch Nacho Libre on the way back. It was surprisingly funny and it was embarrassing having to laugh out loud all by myself like I’ve just completely lost it. Oh whaddahell. I deserve it after I’ve just gone thru hours and hours being alone in my hotel room and roaming the streets of KL, enjoying myself but not too much bcoz I didn’t have any family or friends with me.

Yoshi notices my hand-carry and says “Big Barney!” before he even says Mommy. But never mind. I’m home and that’s all that matters.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Day Three: Shopping, Finally

I try the eggs benedict at the breakfast buffet. No great shakes, but it was my one chance to try it after I first heard of it in Runaway Bride. They also served buttered salmon today. Gosh, I’d live and die on salmon. I also love the waffle bar where I could put all the almonds and chocolate sauce and whipped cream I liked. This is the life.

I walk to Sheraton today. Not that I’m not running late, but it’s the second and last day of the conference after all and I’m not afraid of anything anymore. They have this timer on their traffic lights that tells pedestrians how much time you have left to cross. It’s cool bcoz it tells you when you have time to pose and walk pretty or when to hurry the hell up already. (Ches says there are timers like those in certain intersections in Manila already.)

The conference is more of the same. I listened intently to this female lawyer from Hong Kong, not so much out of interest in what she had to say but bcoz her British twang reminded so much of my great love Hugh Grant :) At one point my boss disappears from the stage where he’s supposed to be facilitating the Q&A and introducing the speakers and stuff, and when I get up to pee I see him dozing off at the back. The epitome of cool. I wonder if this guy takes anything seriously.

Over lunch I sit beside this gentle lady from Bangkok who’s all worried bcoz of the coup that broke out at home the day before. When I come back from the dessert bar, I know that the eager-beaver one from Bangladesh has done something not entirely polite bcoz she was saying, “I don’t really know about the Great Wall of China, bcoz I’m from Thailand”. Ha ha.

After the conference Nova over at the reception desk advises me to do some shopping at Bukit Bintang (Starry Hill, the name of one famous mall). It’s a good piece of advice bcoz it’s near (I only had to take the monorail and go down after two stations) and I found a lot of Barney for Yosh in the mall that’s connected to the station. Other great buys included shirts for Ches (Superman, He-Man and Einstein) and pashmina shawls. I also get Mr. Bean’s teddy bear for Yosh bcoz according to Joy it’s about really the only thing cheaper there. Oh of course, the trip would not be complete without me getting something Hello Kitty for me and Jen. In this case, I get us these nice purses made of suede and lined with pink fur. My sister will so love me forever for this purse.

This old guy from Saudi Arabia befriends me on the ride back. What can I say? This place is really multi-racial and multi-cultural. I myself was mistaken to be a local and approached for directions twice. Golly, I cannot even give directions in my home country. I have problems telling my right hand from my left even. It’s one of the little things Chester married me for, I’m sure. Duh.

It’s packing time back in the hotel. I weigh my luggage and was shocked that it’s around 30 kilos already. I thought back to my previous trips and was beffudled bcoz I bought so much more then and never had to pay for any excess baggage. It’s only after I weigh after I take a bath that I realize I was looking at the pounds portion all along. Gosh, I am the world’s biggest idiot sometimes, I swear. Even I have to admit. Ches will so love to hear this one. Another classic.

I watch 101 Dalmatians to put me to sleep. Tomorrow night I get to sleep with Yosh already. (Oh ok, Ches, too.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Day Two: Date with a Hottie

Start of the conference. The breakfast buffet is a winner. I binge on the beef bacon, smoked salmon and green guava juice. I miss Thom, my pig-out partner.

I can see the Sheraton sign from my hotel entrance but as I’m running late (as usual) I take a cab and barely make it to the conference registration. I was surprised to learn that my boss (whom I’ve previously blogged about as this hottie who always puts a personal touch to his texts and email and who’s married with kids and kinda old but a hottie nonetheless) was also going to be the chairperson in addition to being a panelist. (I had to do his entire presentation as my ticket to get there.)

I sit beside and make fast friends with Rennuka, a young lawyer from Sri Lanka. She has this conspicuous bump on her tummy and it took all my willpower not to ask her whether she’s pregnant. Rhoel would’ve been so proud of me. Well, I was scared for my own safety and well-being, coz I was thinking, what if that question was a real no-no in their culture and she ended up mauling me or something (she was a lot bigger than me).

I also meet a bunch of girls (well, women, more like) wearing these exquisite saris, also from Sri Lanka. I remark that they look really lovely and I feel so drab in my corporate attire beside them, and they reply that they wish they could wear suits like me but saris are what’s acceptable in their office. Ah, the ironies of life.

There were the usual eager beavers from the group, mainly these two guys from Bangladesh. Oh but at least they save us from having to say anything in the open forum portion. The attendees were mostly lawyers, and so the conference had a potential of being another good start. (From that old lawyer joke. Q: What do you call a roomful of lawyers bombed without any survivors? A: A good start.)

Imperial Sheraton has this grand staircase (with easily a hundred steps) and this major fountain so that it sounds like you’re in the midst of a downpour all the time. Yosh would’ve so loved that fountain. Sigh.

Anyway. My boss invites me to dinner and we decide to meet in Petronas Towers. (How romantic!) We go round and round looking for this authentic Malay cuisine place that a friend takes him to in a previous visit, which according to him serves yummy crispy fish. To no avail. So we go in KLCC and he looks around the shops for something to bring to his wife and kids. He’s so endearing the way he just drags me to these things like he’s not at all self-conscious. We settle for this tony cafĂ© and order the most Malay-sounding dishes in the menu. The meals are not exactly a success but the conversation is a resounding one :) He tells me how he saved a client like 6 million Singapore dollars for a solution to a legal bind that he thought of over lunch, in the process earning his office half a million US dollars. And even if he sounds proud of himself, it’s ok bcoz you know he deserves it. He’s one of those ‘made’ guys who don’t have to prove anything anymore. He also makes me laugh and laugh with his anecdotes about this other boss in the office.

For a while I’m almost happy being in KL, but then Ches informs me that Yosh had LBM and fever and was in St. Luke’s ER. Never mind that he was making friends with all the other patients and staff like his usual politician self. I wanna go home anyway. Home with my baby where I should be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Day One: Away and Alone

Was sent to KL to attend a two-day conference on something like the role of corporate secretaries in corporate governance. It was something that transformed from an event I looked forward to into one I couldn’t wait to get over with. Bcoz it would take me away from my two boys (well, three, including Garci) for four long days. We decided against them tagging along bcoz we wouldn’t be able to go around anyway with me being stuck in the conference, and besides there didn’t seem to be anything interesting for toddlers there.

So there I was, in the airport before it was even 6 AM, cold and alone. (My boss wasn’t flying in until late that night.) I saw these notices all around the airport about the prohibition for bringing in liquid and gel. I couldn’t help reminiscing about my breastmilk-expressing days in Bangkok. Would frozen milk have been allowed as exceptions to the prohibition? Hmm.

I use up like my entire per diem on chocolates within two minutes after I check in. I figured, if I’m going to be alone and lonely in a foreign land, I’d need tons of Lindt pistachios and Maltesers to get me thru.

I amuse myself with Singapore Airlines’ dozens of videos thru the ride to Changi Airport. Da Vinci Code is on, as well as X-Men III, Just My Luck and other new stuff, but I choose Forrest Gump, one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s only fitting too coz Thom has just downloaded for me the complete version of The Feather Theme, and I’ve been playing it over and over in my PC as I work on this major and stressful acquisition project that we have.

I so love the outfits of the FAs. They’re made of batik, I think, and they flare at the sleeves and taper at the waist and make the girls look like delicate porcelain dolls.

I run thru Changi to catch my connecting flight to KL and breeze thru the aerotrain in the KL airport. Lining up thru Immigration with all these Moslem types and rowdy Caucasians and exotic black women with their unbelievably kinky hair, I’ve never felt so alone. I was ready to turn around and get back home.

Good thing my driver from the travel agency spotted me right away. His name’s Naral, and he also doubles as a tour guide so he was able to give me many lessons on KL life and sites and phrases before we reached the Renaissance/New World hotel, where I was booked. I give this hotel the plushest pillows and most pleasant weighing scale awards (I weighed less than 110 pounds there!) I also love the long tub and the Olympic-sized pool. Best of all, it’s only like a 5-minute walk to the Petronas Towers, the first building I’ve ever fallen in love with. I mean, yeah, ok, I’ve seen some buildings that look really nice or really tall … but Petronas … it’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever. At night, illuminated against the dark sky, it looks to me like a mystical space ship all ready to take off.

I head to Suria KLCC Mall at the base of the tower, where I don’t see anything new from the high-end shops in Manila. I can’t resist going to Vincci tho, bcoz it’s truly Malaysian and is one of my and Chuchi’s favorite shoe brands. Surprisingly, I do resist buying a pair … bcoz I’ve just bought two in the Mall of Asia branch barely two days before :)

For lack of anything else to do and the night being young, I take Pam’s advice and ride the LRT to Central Market. (Pam is also responsible for showing us the must-sees and must-eats and must-trys in Subic. She’s my favorite among Chester’s girl friends.) I ask to break some ringgit bills with this Malay-looking guy, who turns out to be an Indonesian whose name is Adi and is there for a biofuel conference (oh, wow) and is also going to Central Market. So we go together but lose each other in the Masjid Jamek station. (I have to email this guy. He seemed nice enough.)

I buy some pewter and batik as well as a mortar and pestle made of mango wood ( to replace the one we lost in our luggage in the Bangkok airport). I go home to my elegant yet desolate hotel room and Ches texts me that Yoshi wants to pick me up from the office already coz that’s where he thinks I am. Hu hu.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Like No One's Watching

I love how our taebo class has transformed into half-social dancing sessions. I’m the resident latecomer if not altogether absentee enthusiast in the group, so I’m not sure exactly how this happened. Maybe due to insistent public demand or maybe my graceful dancer teacher just could not resist his urges anymore (he’s a DI by night). Well, whatever it is, it was a pleasant surprise for me to show up in class 30 minutes late as usual last week, and find my classmates doing the cha-cha. We have since moved on to rumba and boogie and the LA walk and other dance forms as alien to me as rocket science. And as Yosh is fond of saying, it’s so fun.

Taebo is great bcoz it’s the perfect release for my stresses at work and all my violent tendencies (or at least some of it). But dancing – dancing makes you feel good all over, like you’re all soft and pliant and feminine, like the world is filled with grace and beauty and unbridled joy. Never mind that you can’t quite follow all the moves, or that you’re a wee step behind all the others. It doesn’t matter to your classmates and the teacher. He’s not going to humiliate you or anything, just show you the right way to do it, and won’t even insist that you do it that way. So you just throw your head back and giggle like a trooper, and get on with the show. You just dance like no one’s watching.

In the movie What Dreams May Come, those who died lived in heaven as the people they’ve always wanted to be while on earth. (It’s strange that the family pet remained a Dalmatian even in heaven tho. I mean, what if that dog truly wanted to be J Lo while it was still alive? It should’ve been allowed to be J Lo in heaven. It’s not fair.) So, when you meet someone there in pink tutus and pointes (preferably with small Hello Kitty logos) with little white flowers on her hair, doing endless plies and pirouettes while popping Maltesers and blogging on the side – that will be me.

Assuming of course I get to heaven.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Five Inches for Guimaras

Ches told me how it’s been proven that hair works best to separate oil from water, hence the GMA government contracted with salons to collect all the hair that they cut for delivery to Guimaras. It was one of those easy-peasy things that you can do that will actually make some sense, so off I went to Bong, my favorite hair and make-up artist since he made me and Jen feel the prettiest we’ve ever been on our wedding days. I love how he gave me this ruffled look, so it doesn’t even show too much that I just forgot to comb up, and it’s like the unruly curls are all part of the total package or something.

(Of course, a haircut never looks quite as good as when you’ve just stepped out of the salon. It’s the same after a session with the derma or at the spa. I’d feel so good all over, like a star in my own right, and I’d find myself making a vow to exert more effort and care more about how I look, maybe blow-dry my hair or pluck my eyebrows once in a while or something. But the morning after, the zits re-appear and my hair once again flies in every imaginable direction, and there’s no trace of the star, I’m back to being just the mummy of a growing boy and a dog in heat. But oh whaddahell. They love me, anyway.)

Ches had all his hair shaved off. It’s one of the things I love and admire most about him – his willingness to go the extra mile to help out. I haven’t met anyone who’s donated more blood than him. This guy has been at it since he was allowed to, at 18. He even responds to pleas from perfect strangers that he reads in bulletin boards or whatever. I myself have only done it twice, only starting this year. And the relief is almost like passing the Bar when the doctors declare you fit to donate after grueling tests that involve a lot of poking around your skin with sharp needles. And it is gratifying to know that you can give literally a part of you that has the potential to save a fellow human being. And I’ll do it again, I really will … But please give me the drastic haircut over the big needles any day.

We try to help out the best we can, but we’re proud to have friends who seem to make a career out of this. Amelle and Mina are active in Make-A-Wish. Andrea has her annual Christmas parties for Payatas kids who I think they help send to school too. Just recently they sponsored a Repertory production of Aladdin for the benefit of children with cancer. Yosh loved the songs and dances, but my favorite part was seeing little girls and boys with no hair moving around the theater with smiles on faces. It’s nice to be friends with angels like Ands and the twins.

My favorite text from Mang Carling (our president’s driver who became my textmate since I was hospitalized last year) goes something like, when you see a child out on the street and shivering in the cold, don’t question God what He’s doing. He already did something – He sent you.