Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Away and Alone Again

Went to HK with my boss to receive an award for the company. It wasn't the fun and adventure Disneyland trip and final-reduction pre-Chinese New Year sale that it was the last time we were there. In fact the only reason I went was to pre-empt someone else from appearing in the picture holding the trophy when he/she had very little to do with earning it. (Sigh. The things a maldita has to do.)

The good thing about traveling with big bosses is, you get to travel business class and enjoy the lounge and all the extra treats in the plane. I loved the instant massager in the seat and the Godiva chocolates that the FAs passed around (well, and the overflowing food and drinks, of course). The trade-off is the bummer of having to talk to your boss. I know some people who would push and shove just to be near the persons in power, but me, I'm the type who'd be perfectly happy if I never get noticed by my superiors, just doing my own business in my little cubicle, peace-loving as long as I receive my salary every two weeks. Tho actually this particular boss I was traveling with is not bad as bosses go (considering she's number 2 in the entire office. I have this theory: the higher up someone is in the corporate hierarchy, the nicer they can afford to be. It’s true in my office, anyway.) I can talk to her about books and indie films, and she hauls my Hello Kitty luggage into her trolley that she says she will let me push for her only if she was pregnant. She even pays for all the expenses I charged to my room - use of business center, airport shuttle. Dang. If I had known she would be so magnanimous I would’ve gotten my hands on the huge bag of nacho chips in the mini-bar. Haha.

We have a few hours before the awards dinner. I go around Marriott Hotel and the neighborhood. My room has a nice mountain view that inspires me to climb the window seat to get good pix, acrophobia and pregnancy and all. The basement conveniently connects to Pacific Place. It has stores like Armani and Fendi and other fancy-schmanzy brands that I never buy unless they’re on serious sale, which they hardly ever are.

The awards dinner was well-attended. Heads of companies came from all over to receive their trophies and deliver speeches. Small talk in the cocktails. At the sit-down dinner, I worry when, after serving roast pork, the waiters follow with three big prawns with walnuts in some sauce. Could this be the main dish already? I’ve had several bad experiences in plush hotels which somehow have this brilliant idea that the quality of the food they serve makes up for the utter lack of its quantity. I check the menu, and voila, it’s a 12-course dinner! The prawns are followed by scallops and vegetables, some sea cucumber thing, squid, garrupa, shark’s fin soup, chicken, rice with yummy mushrooms and meat of some sort, noodles and two kinds of dessert. There was bottomless fresh orange juice, to boot. It’s one of the happiest hotel dinners I can remember.
The next day I ask around where I can go. The concierge suggests some cultural event near Stanley Market to celebrate the Dragon Boat Holiday, which fell on that day. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about an occasion that involves a man who drowns himself in the river out of one patriotic cause or the other. So off I went to Causeway Bay, where Thom and I had previously hoarded great bargains. I just love how everything in HK is so efficient. You need never even go out of a building to be connected to the MTR. I enjoy following the signs in the train and the malls, finding my own way without having to act the lost tourist.

I buy a little something for everyone in the family, with my best buys being shimmering ballerina flats and Hello Kitty can of candies for me and my sis. (The office mates will have to make do with chocolates from the airport duty-free shops.) I also go to Queensway Place which has the ubiquitous Sasa and Bossini and same old stores. I did find here a gem of a bookstore, tho. It’s quaintly called Dymocks and from here I buy Georgia Nicholson’s book on snogging tips. (I love Georgia Nicholson. She’s a younger and fresher Bridget Jones. She calls her parents Mutti and Vati, has invented enough words like nunga-nungas and boy entrancers and glaciosity to make an entirely new vocabulary, and yet for all her glowing self-confidence manages to always fall flat on her face.)

In one bridgeway in the store I was shocked to find easily 500 Filipina OFWs just hanging around enjoying their day off, sitting or lying down on mats, chatting or reading. My heart went out to them as they looked vaguely like bedraggled refugees huddled together in some place they don’t really belong in.

I was happy to find a Disney store in the airport too, altho the prices seem to have a premium of at least HK$20 over those in Disneyland itself (as if the prices there aren’t steep as it is). I get caps for Yosh and Vada and a Tinkerbell brooch and Eeyore bracelet for moi. I find this brown denim jacket with fake fur on the collars and sleeves, plus Mickey faces stitched across the back. It’s uber cool but I thought obscenely priced at HK$415 so I let it go. So of course now I’m obsessing about it, never mind that the buttons will likely not close over my burgeoning tummy anymore. I had per diem to spare, anyway. Gosh, I covet that jacket …

My Cathay Pacific plane had the good sense to be parked way over in Terminal 2, so I had to take the airport train not to mention around 60 million walkalators to get to Gate 68. Not a load of fun when you’re pregnant and lugging around a heavy glass trophy. Gate 68 is the absolute last stop in the airport, I swear. If you take one step beyond the sign that says Gate 68, you’re already in Namibia territory or something. They probably assign all the flights to Manila there knowing that Filipinos are the most patient and non-complaining lot on earth. Well, not me.

It was a good trip tho. A breather however brief. I enjoyed being on my own and managing in a foreign land. I can get used to this. Well, if only I didn’t miss my boys too much, that is.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The First Day

Went to Yoshi’s first day of school today. Took a half day off from work to take him to his afternoon classes. He was excited wearing his new mint green uniform and using his Fantastic Four lunch bag. He even gamely posed for pix wherever I asked him to.

I was the only mommy who stayed the whole time. Altho there was a yaya who was just texting away. I stayed in the playground under the shade of the mango and santol trees, while Yosh and his four classmates (ranging from 3 ½ to 4 ½ years old, with only one girl) shouted “Present!” as Teacher Regine called the roll, recited the alphabet, counted from 1 to 10, washed their hands and prayed before having their snacks (the perennial egg and cheese sandwich plus Dutch Mill and Chamyto for Yosh).

Strangely, that breezy, quiet afternoon reminded me of my summers in Pangasinan when all I had to do with my life was climb trees, read my lolo’s Readers’ Digest, and eat left-over lunch. It was peaceful and oddly idyllic, far from the frenetic first day of school I imagined. (I guess I’ve had one too many enlistments and prerogs in UP to believe that back-to-school can be anything other than chaos.)

Sitting there on the swings under the trees, with the rhythmic sound of Yoshi’s nursery class singing, giggling and clapping together (with the occasional impertinent comment here and there) – it was nearly enough to calm my drama-queen-mum fears that my baby will be bullied, kidnapped, neglected, unfavored, hurt or harmed in any way when I’m not around to protect him with my superpower love and tight hugs. Nearly enough to reassure me that my little baby will be properly looked after by the teacher and stand-by nanny, get along well with his classmates, thrive in pre-school, be safe and happy, and that maybe he’ll do just fine on his way to growing up. Nearly enough to hold back my tragic tho as yet unfounded tears and heartbreak at the mere sight of Yosh in his uniform and lunch bag.

Well, nearly enough but not quite.