Monday, June 23, 2008

No Lingering

Was sent to Shenzhen last week for this same project for which I was being sent to Beijing in March. In March, Boots was barely 4 months old and wholly dependent on my boobs for nourishment and Yoshi was graduating from Juniors level in Mayfield, his first ever not counting the PMS day care graduation last year, so, even after I got the visa and all, Beijing was definitely a no-go. Shenzhen however even I didn’t have the creativity to get out of coz I knew it could mean my job already which I quite enjoy mainly because of the 8 to 5 working hours and 10-minute proximity to home. Besides Boots is 7 months old and happily devouring everything mashed and Yoshi is all settled back in Seniors class not to mention Chester could use some breathing space away from me (hahaha). And I didn’t want to turn into that kind of person that everyone invites to all the big events but who never shows up or consistently backs out at the last minute and eventually people just decide to ditch her altogether.

Nico is envious that Ches’ and my work take us to all these places, and I tell him I actually so dread these trips and I pull every trick in the book, anything just barely within the bounds of sanity to get out of traveling for business. I’ve been known to hide invites for seminars abroad where I’m sure the bosses will send me if they find out. Hel-lo. The reason I moved to Balara was so I could be near my family, not be an OFW of sorts. I thought I made my priorities pretty clear at my job interview. I love traveling as much as the next girl but it’s fun for me only if I’m with my family. I take my hats off to my mommy friends who travel abroad on a monthly or so basis or those who take on months-long scholarships abroad and mommies in the office who leave their kids for three months to join our talent exchange programs in UK and Australia (programs my bosses bug me to join every year but which I expertly turn down each time). Me, I can’t bear to be separated from my boys for more than four days. For three days I can look around and take in the sights and the culture and do retail therapy to ease the homesick pangs, but on the fourth day I’ll be a total wreck and probably capable of killing live human beings with my bare hands if it’s the only way I can get home to my boys already.

So there I was with one of the big bosses in the office with whom I’ve previously worked on other projects, and Anna who’s the project officer for this China deal, one of the nicest girls I know (the kind with no mean bone in their system and quote the Bible on a daily basis) and who also happens to live exactly four doors down from ours. I am sent to the meeting bcoz my favorite boss has his hands full and has basically passed on the legal work for this project to me and Liz. So I’ve been directly coordinating with our lawyers based in HK and Shanghai and Beijing who all work with the same international law firm I was previously with. It’s nice being the client of all these high-profile lawyers who speak Mandarin and French and took their Masters at Harvard and passed the New York Bar and stuff. (Am I the only one who’s had enough of school after four years in college and another four in law? Everyone else seems to have this obsession to accumulate as many degrees as possible and to pass every darned Bar exam that’s ever been invented. Why can’t people just be normal?) To be honest, I actually heaved a sign of relief when the endless meetings were finally over and the lawyer present had a lot of valuable inputs and even acted as our impromptu language translator. Somehow I couldn’t help feeling accountable for them, bcoz of my previous affiliation with them not to mention that it was I who recommended them. Besides, my company as the client deserves no less, not after we’re paying them scads and scads of dollars in hourly rates that I don’t even earn in a whole month much less a day. It would’ve been a robbery in broad daylight if they had given us anything less than top-notch service.

So anyway. We fly to HK and I am outraged that no one in the airport looks for our baggage claim tags as we exit to the parking area where a van was waiting for us. Gasp. So anyone could’ve picked up my pale pink Hello Kitty suitcase bequeathed to me by my sis and brought it home and it would’ve been gone from me for good and who knows where if ever I could still find a replacement? Major security breach equals unimaginable tragedy for me. Grrr.

We take the train to the border and line up for the endless immigration counters. There’s a downpour in Shenzhen and traffic is barely moving. I tell Anna, we seem to have been traveling all day just to be back in Edsa. Ugh. It’s past 7 pm by the time we get to Crowne Plaza Hotel, and I don’t waste any time on preliminaries and just plug in my Medela and pump away. The last time I let out milk was at past 7 that morning when Boots and I were still in bed. Groan. There goes my milk supply. I could’ve pumped in the airport after checking in, but as usual I spend too much time in the duty-free confectionery, using up my entire per diem on chocolates before we even leave Philippine soil. As if I can’t get them in the neighborhood 7-11, and at just about the same price too. Typical. I also planned to pump in the plane but the queues to the lavatory never stopped – it’s like every passenger just had to go at one point – and I knew I wouldn’t be able to let down with a long line like that to pressure me. And the next chance I got was at the hotel already. Sigh. Motherhood.

We are feted by our hosts with an authentic Chinese dinner. I’m scared of the word authentic when I’m traveling. It always connotes something too exotic and not entirely normal. It’s like liking Thai food here in Manila but not being able to take it in Bangkok bcoz it’s just so different and they put this smelly green leaf thing on every single dish but the iced tea so I always end up ordering the safe tho boring American breakfast. Ugh. At least with this authentic Chinese dinner I have about 20 dishes to choose from so I just focus on the ones that clearly look like fish or something that I have no doubt would be familiar to my taste buds like dimsum, and veer away from the dishes with suspicious shapes and colors and smells. One such thing was this soup with small brown balls and some kind of slimy meat that our boss thought looked a lot like worms. (At least he had the good sense to mention this after we were safely out of China.)

The hotel has an Italian theme, and I love the gondola filled with bluish flowers by the entrance, the ceiling that’s made to look like a blue sky with twinkling stars, the mosaic patterns in the walls and floors, and the various paintings of Italian sceneries. I give this hotel the award for the juiciest apples, plushest bedroom slippers and yummiest sushi bar. (I ate piles upon piles of sashimi that I was afraid I was turning into a salmon.) Also part of their lunch buffet is the Haagen Dazs bar which makes me wish Boots was with me as he’s a budding ice-cream-oholic. (He’s just like Yosh in many ways. He even wants his milk cold, just like Yosh from whom you never hear “Water, please”. It’s always “Very cold water, please” or “Gusto ko wong brain freeze, ha?” My boys are such characters.)

Right across the hotel is the Wonder of the World theme park but it’s all business meetings for us and no time for pleasure even if the sun shone bright and happy on our second day. I told Anna, note the singular ‘Wonder’. How difficult would it have been to add an ‘s’ to the thing, especially since by just passing thru the entrance you could see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and some Swiss chalets or something, clearly more than one wonder of the world. Hahaha. The two of us get a kick out of spotting all these crazy signs. For instance, at the immigration in the border, there were signs above the officers behind the counters that read, “If you are feeling unwell, please consult a doctor”. I mean, it’s all flawless English grammar and everything, but it makes you wonder what is the point exactly and whaddahell is the relation of seeing a doctor to all the visa checking going on in the place? It’s baffling. (It was like when I got this invite for a tax seminar thru an SMS that ended with, If you’re not interested, please ignore this message. Well, needless to say! What did this lunatic sender think? That I was such a loser that I’d have time to reply, Sorry, I’m not interested. Hel-lo!) Anna also figures that “Meeting Place” translates to “Waiting Area”. I see a sign that says “No lingering” and it’s easy to see it means don’t loiter there. I find it hilarious that they choose the word ‘linger’ which for me, beyond doing something useless like hanging out in one place for some time, evokes something romantic like staying too long in a relationship that isn’t working, like in one of my favorites from The Cranberries. (“You know I’m such a fool for you … You got me wrapped around your finger … Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to … do you have to let it linger?”)

And those are just the funny-looking signs. We got a load out of the painfully incorrect ones as well. We were handed a business card by someone who listed a number under ‘porable’. Poor Anna couldn’t decipher what it meant. I told her I think it means portable as in mobile phone number. Another business card listed the position of the giver as “Exection Officer”. You can’t even solve the problem by just adding a ‘u’ coz then he’ll end up sounding like someone in the business of executing people or something. And amazingly when I asked an attendant at the hotel where the comfort room/CR/wash room/powder room was, she just smiled and acted like none of the words I was trying sounded even remotely familiar. Shucks, how tragic is that. It was a five-star hotel, after all. And I wasn’t even looking for something difficult like the business center or the grand ballroom. It was just the usual CR that every hotel guest from any part of the world uses and must have at one point in her career asked her for directions.

At least she compensates for her uncomprehending stare with an oh so Asian winning smile.

Go, China. You are so ready for the Beijing Olympics. Xie xie!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


She forgot about beauty.

My sister texted me the other day, to say she misses me and she loves me. And she said, while she was at it, that she also wanted to let me know that she was proud of me for all I have achieved. Great family, nice career, the perfect husband (she is so blinded by Ches, I swear). And she said she doesn’t know how I manage everything with so much grace. She said her friend Tina asked her if she was envious, and she said she has reached that level of maturity where she’s just proud of and happy for her little sister. And she said she wished we could go shopping together not only bcoz it’s retail therapy but also because it’s just fun doing it with me.

The only thing she forgot was the beauty. How I do everything not only with so much grace but also with so much beauty. Hahaha.

I show Ches the texts and together we wonder what particularly wicked junk food she ate that made her go all demonstrative all of a sudden. (Yosh takes after her craving for everything unhealthy. Groan.) Although she’s always been a big drama queen. I ask Ches, do you agree that I’m a gracious person? Which is a really stupid question, in the same league as asking your husband, do I look fat? There can only ever be one correct answer to this question, if he knows what’s good for him.

What is grace, anyway? It is grace, perhaps, to be happy being happy and enjoying everything that life has to offer, even if it means living in a perpetual state of daze multi-tasking marriage, motherhood and a regular job not to mention a lot of blogging, or even if, say, you’re still pining for your dream house, or consistently ticked off by your boss. Maybe it’s also grace to be nice to people you don’t have to be nice to (like the guards or your helpers or external counsel whom you can very well treat unreasonably since you’re the client now and if only to get back in some perverted way against all your clients who have ever maltreated you in your former law office).

If my sister had added beauty, it would’ve been perfect. Then I could’ve bugged Ches not only whether I was gracious but also whether I was beauteous. Hahaha. (Beauteous is one of Phoebe’s favorite adjectives. I didn’t even know such a word existed until I met her in high school and she began spewing it out in normal conversation. I still have a hard time spelling it, but it has an exotic ring to it, so I’ve also taken to using it every chance I get.)

She broke my heart, my sister. In a good way. In the same way as when I’m just overwhelmed by emotion for my boys sometimes and I squeeze them tight and tell them mushy mushy stuff and Boots just stares at me with his little baby eyes but Yoshi hugs me back and says with a smile, You break my heart, Mommy. That way. And I know she knows it, knows fully well what a crybaby I am, reduced to sniffles by the silliest songs or movies.

It’s about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in a long while. Altho there’s what Ches said when I was majorly fighting it up with him bcoz he was being sent away again – to Bacolod this time – for several nights. He said he couldn’t imagine not being married to me and that he knows I love him even if I’m being a meanie. There’s also what Rhoel said when I greeted him for his birthday. He said I’m still his favorite maldita. (Hahaha. What an honor.)

It’s one thing to be flattered by my younger friends in the office who said they don’t believe I’m a real lawyer bcoz I’m “cool”. It’s another thing entirely when my sister says I’m good. I mean, this person has known me only since the moment I came into this world and she was barely three years old.

It leaves me with a good feeling that I think will last me till the end of the year (barring unforeseen, more tragic than usual circumstances.)

Even if she did forget all about the beauty part.