Halting Aplomb

Here I am again facing a blank MS word page which after a few minutes will be filled with the excess of my overflowing thoughts causing my emotional exhaustion. Lately, I have observed that my stress is not even caused by my academic obligations but by my unexpressed fear of the unknown. I think too much. I plan way ahead of today and maybe even of the next day and the day after that. I worry for things that are yet abstract. I worry about my future. Today, I am going to take this dark soul trying to consume the happy virus in me or out of my system. I can’t let it control my life. By doing so, I have to admit I am emotionally troubled, in which by far of no serious consequences. I have to write down what bothers me today because as always, it is in these pages that no judgment is given to what I say or do. I only have to express. Yes, expression is my way out of whatever is bothering and slowly drowning me every day.

I sent the 17th job application to a university today. Yes, 17th! In the Philippines, I have never been so determined of landing to a teaching career with this desperation. Maybe because back home I know that among the other applicants, I possess the necessary qualifications to get hired. But in a foreign land like Korea, the game is totally different. I was once prejudiced by one university simply because of my age. I am not sure if in other first-world countries, having a young university teacher is as unappealing as it is in Korea. But, again in my country, the younger you are, the better as long as you are competent. Today I discovered that one of the universities nearest to where I study has already ended their interview period, which means, I have to cross their name out of my list now. It saddened me because my chances of getting a job in a nearby university for travel convenience have now got slim.

One time I told myself that the first school which will hire me will get my “yes” at once, be it in Pyongyang, North Korea! I am this desperate! In my previous post, I have mentioned the need for me to work while studying starting the spring semester. What is really the meanest effect of this usual rejection in job hunting is that it indirectly pulls down your self-confidence however towering it may be. And mine is just slowly crashing down. Like every job hopeful, I am also capable of getting discouraged and worst question my capabilities. It is a must that as a person, we must maintain our self-esteem unhurt. It is the very core of our being which is once ruined may cause us our sanity and optimism. A strong person like me suffers from this threat at times. But, the fight isn’t over. So far, in my list of universities, I have only maybe lost 5 of the 17. So, 12 is still a good number considering I only need one school to see what I am capable of as a teacher. Every time a threat to my self-worth is howling, I hurriedly look for a counter-attack. This time, for this particular dilemma, I remember that I have the quality to be hired internationally.

BS Appointment letter

September of last year, an offer came. While I was just enjoying my first summer breeze in Korea, I was hired in an elementary school in Barcelona Spain. The salary is very inviting. Imagine earning US$4,500 a month! But then, it was a turning point for me. I was torn between financial reward and a PhD diploma from abroad (a childhood dream), later found myself choosing the latter. I have a little regret. That’s fair. Even my own Professor asked me why I let it slip away. My family and friends also thought that I couldn’t be more stupid letting that slip away. But in life we must accept that we can’t have everything we want. Choices must always be made. I am certain that same or even better opportunities may come along the next time. Earning my PhD will surely take me to places. One indication is that, I was able to visit Japan and Canada for free this year because I chose to stay in Korea. God is fair, always fair.

Right now, I am tired and anxious of this job hunt. But I have to remind myself that rejections don’t mean as dead end. They are leadings to where we should be as planned by our Divine Master. The bible says, “Be still for I am God,” therefore I should put all that is bothering me to Him and be calm. May God hear my prayer!

(screenshot of the contract sent to me by the school’s HR)

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A prose from somewhere

(I’ve read this from somewhere. No title. No author. I and the writer share the same precautions.  :P)

Don’t fall in love with me.
There are days when I get sad without a reason and I just stare at the ceiling with tears streaming down my face.

Don’t fall in love with me.
On those days, I don’t talk to anyone. I just bury myself in my bed and think about how I became this mess of sadness.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I will become attached to you and I will cry myself to sleep if you don’t text me good night before you go to sleep and I will convince myself that it’s because you got tired of me.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I’m too much. I will depend on you. I need attention, much more than other people. I’ll talk to you in metaphors and make you one. I’ll write poems about you and opening up my skin at 2 A.M.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I couldn’t stand you coming home to find me on the bathroom floor shaking and crying, with blood spilling from my wrists. I couldn’t stand seeing the disappointment in your eyes.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I will pour everything I’ve left of me into you, every bit of love, until I have nothing to give. Until I become completely empty.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I’m scared that my sadness is contagious.

Don’t fall in love with me.
I will replay your sweet words in my head when I hate myself so much that I want to die. Your words will be the only thing that make me stay.

Don’t fall in love with me.
You will live in fear. You won’t be able to leave me, because you’d know if you did, I wouldn’t have anything to live for.

Don’t fall in love with me.
Before I met you, there wasn’t a single person who could’ve made me stay. You’re my reason now.

Don’t fall in love with me.
Because I will fall in love with you.
– by (yet) unknown writer

Support on the rocks and the need to float

“Fear is the absence of FAITH.”

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Everyone talks about it. Most are worried about how foreign students under BK21 program (stands for Brain Korea, a research program funded by the Korean government) are going to survive starting next semester given the predicament. My professor didn’t say a word about it to me. Not yet. Although, prior to this certainty of the program’s withdrawal, he has been vocal in assuring me if things will not go on my favor (in terms of financial assistance), he is ready to lend a hand. I am uncertain about how much he is willing to spend to support my studies. But I can’t rely on him because I know he has his own matters to deal with and independence especially on money-matters is a big deal to my principles. Nevertheless, the thought that when the worst comes, I will not die in hunger or go astray somehow comforts me. I have always been proud to say, God put me under the responsibility of a conscientious and kind professor to others’ envy.

Graduate students talk about it and they’re worried about us. But nobody dared ask me if I am. Honestly, prior to the news of BK’s withdrawal, I have made my own decision of leaving under its reign. I planned of going back to teaching and live in a financially stable condition and at the same time continue with my studies (making most of opportunities). My professor who has been consistently supportive and sensitive about my needs (as a lone graduate student in our lab), agrees on it. Work full-time and study part-time. Perfect! The university offers a 100% free of tuition fees to all foreign students who have commendable English proficiency test score, fortunately I am qualified. So, I would only have to think for my daily expenses and accommodation, and that can be a huge problem!

Working in a university in Korea could be both challenging and rewarding. A professor teaches a maximum of 12 hours in a week while the rest of your time could be spent in matters of your concern. Some would do Phd studies while some enjoy leisure and others conduct research. So, I was thinking, if I will be able to get a job as an English professor, I have considerably enough time to attend to my academic obligations. Now here’s the concern or I should say a possibility. If I am not going to be hired in any of the 15 universities I have sent applications to, I have to go for plan B. Plan B is working as an English academy teacher. The salary is almost similar to the universities although 4 months paid vacation in the latter makes it more enticing. But more importantly, if your work in a 학원 (hagwon), your time will be eaten up due its demands for longer working hours Mondays through Fridays and sometimes on weekends with just two weeks paid vacation in a year. Another disadvantage is that, working in an academy oftentimes leave you deal with students who may be novice in this linguistic arena. So, you will have to teach the very basic, and I am totally over that stage, learning while teaching is also an important consideration for me. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I taught in an academy in Cebu, so I know what I’m going to be putting myself into, if ever. More so, I would be exhausted doing both work and studies, and I can’t afford to give up the latter.

I have sent application to over 15 universities around Korea. In a raffle draw, they say, “the more entries, the more chances of winning.” That can also be applied in job hunting, devising it to, “the more applications you send, the higher the probability of employment.” I am praying to be hired in a university around Daegu, most favorably the next school to mine. It would give me convenience. Yet, if I won’t be lucky enough to get what I sincerely pray for, getting a job from a university outside the city will of course not be so bad. Acceptance of applications for the spring semester is on-going. It may last from this week up to the 2nd or 3rd week of December. They will notify applicants if they make the cut within that period and if I am lucky, I’ll be able to be invited for an interview.

My family back home never insisted to get financial help from me. But at 28, and coming from an impoverished one, I feel that I have to. This adds to my list of motivations.

Support is on the rocks. But I am not worried because God is telling me I have options. All I have to do is  play my cards wisely and think like a real scientist who makes sure every action is a product of precise thinking. At the moment, I am keeping my fingers crossed and unceasingly pray. I am pretty sure that I am going to get the best and what I deserve. So, there’s no need to worry, for “this too shall pass!

Lyrics & Memoirs

Moving on from a break-up is a task harder than any subject learned in class. It can put you in the middle of a wide sea feeling lost and still hoping that the person who broke your heart will come back and save you. All the memories go back to life and linger whenever you hear those familiar lines that perfectly describe how you are feeling inside. Music gives color to life, inspires the soul and sometimes needless to say, reminds you of the wounds you were trying to heal. Yet, absurd as it is, even if those sweet-perfect lines bring back the sad memories and the good ones, we still listen to them. But, once you were victorious in your attempt to see the colors of life again, a smile will naturally paint your lips the moment you hear those lyrics. Anyhow, here is my top 10  songs of hope and heartbreaks which keeping me company:

  1. What Hurts the Most (Rascal Flatts)- This boy band knows how to be classic. Most of their songs stay in your head leaving you teary-eyed. What hurts the most speaks of regrets of not being able to say the words you’ve wanted the person to hear. Those words that have maybe saved your relationship. I can still remember how the words of this song made me sob like a child dying to get that toy from a shop.
  2. Almost Lover (A Fine Frenzy cover)-Images…as almost lovers, there is a lot of sweet and heart-warming images that you and your almost lover made together but like any unlabeled romance, they can be misleading and leave you nothing but failed expectations. But these are now simply images because goodbye is here. Clinging to them worsens the situation but keeping them in your treasure box will be your best consolation. This song ends with a good message of wishing your almost lover well.
  3. Where Do Broken Hearts Go (Whitney Houston)- Perhaps this a national theme song of every single soul suffering from the consequences of love. Having a really difficult time moving on and putting back together the pieces of your broken heart. But thank God I have found back home and have answered this question.
  4. Jealous (Labrinth)- Soulful. Striking. Emotional. Direct. A few of the adjectives that can describe this masterpiece of this Englishman. Being jealous of the rain, wind, and other inanimate things that can be closer to the person whom you love. And above all, being jealous of the fact that he/she is happy and you’re not part of it. Jealousy is a natural reaction of a heart capable of loving although unreciprocated. But what’s important is, after all the bitterness, we can still wish that person the best in his/her new journey.
  5. Bakit nga ba Mahal Kita (Roselle Nava)- It speaks of the overrated unconditional love. But it must end, because the feeling must be mutual for it to flourish. Making me to eventually see the end of the road for us and put an end to martyrdom.
  6. I Don’t Want You to Go (Lani Hall)- If you only can, and if only he’ll choose you, you would surely ask that person to stay no matter how pathetic you become. But even if how hard you try to give him/her your best, that person will still choose to leave because maybe you’re not just meant for each other, this fact hurts but it is for the betterment of both of you.
  7. My Everything (Ariana Grande)- Surprise! She’s not only for the groove beat but Ariana can also make you emotional while recalling those times.
  8. Somewhere Down the Road (Erick Santos)- Many versions were already made of this song but Erick Santos did justice. When all the above songs failed to give a spark of a hopeful possibility that the two of you may meet again, somewhere down the road, well then, this song is perfect!
  9. Ikaw (Yeng Constantino)- This is a deeply-hugot song! Somewhat that emotional expression of gratitude of Yeng for having found her heaven-sent man, gives me an equally emotional but opposite feeling of regret. This song pains me realizing that I have no right to say that he is the one given by God to me yet.
  10. What Matters Most (Kenny Rankin)- Classic, soft and touching. The message of this song is truly one you’ll always want to be reminded of. It’s not how long we held each other’s hand, what matters is how well we loved each other, what matter most is that we love at all. Alright, it’s not about the length of our love story but the moments and amount of love we shared.

These poetry in melody may have caused your tears to fall, but just imagine how gray moving on can be without them! 😛

(Credits to youtube for the videos)

#StudyAbroadPaMore: Lessons outside my lab

Outside the academic realm, other things can be learned while studying abroad. They are lessons on how to survive the demands of studies and life as a legal alien in a foreign land and later on be useful as the expedition further. Although the list can go on, I only picked the standouts, here they are:

  1. Cooking- In the Philippines, the only regular time I would be seen in the kitchen is meal time. And the only task I am confidently trained of is peeling off skin of ingredients for various cuisines during fiesta, Christmas and other major gatherings. But when I decided to live out of the university dorm, I discovered my passion in cooking. I do this mostly on weekends and sometimes at night after my “lab-life” when my body and mind allow. I now know how to cook chicken adobo, ground pork guisado, mouth-watering fish paksiw, soy sauce-free pancit and a lot more. This was with the help of some pinoy professor friends and youtube university tutorials of course! I would often hear from culinary enthusiasts that cooking is therapeutic, now I can definitely agree with them! My Korean friends and professor couldn’t be more impressed. Isn’t it interesting that my major is Occupational Health-Ergonomics and now with a minor in Culinary Arts? hahaha My next on the list is baking. 4003422419_0107494f33_z
  2. Multi-tasking like a superhero- I am a nocturnal person and my Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is usually achieved between 5-10am. But I must be in the lab before 9am Monday-Friday. So, I always steal seconds turning to minutes when the alarm rings at 7. I then get up between 8:00-8:20. Since it would take me roughly 15 minutes to hike from my apartment to my laboratory (forced exercise twice a day), I have to move like “The Flash” as I dopted the 빨리 빨리 (pali pali) culture. While I am taking a shower, left over foods are heated in the oven. I take bites of my breakfast while blow drying my hair (although last week I started not to dry my hair anymore since perm-messy hair is a trend in Korea). On weekends, I would watch teleseryes, documentaries, and other interesting videos while having brunch or dinner. I would also do multiple tasks in the lab such as downloading published journals for friends (in the Philippines) in between small breaks while trying to devour on some statistical data and preparing for presentations.Multitasking
  3. Strumming the guitar and learning some chords- Frustrated cook, frustrated musician! Yes, that’s me! I love music but music has left me long ago. My friends in a town where I finished elementary can attest to this, I had a golden voice in my childhood years. You’ve heard it right! Hahaha When I entered  high school, I didn’t take singing seriously since I never really dream of succeeding in this field. Though music has left me, I never totally abandon it. Now, on my most stressed nights, I would pick my guitar up and let some strangers in youtube teach me the basics. So far, I can now perfectly locate and strum D, G, and A chords. Hahaha Not bad for a novice.12179062_10206502510515226_977196392_n
  4. Sports- I grew up in an island. Well, the Philippines is an archipelago, so who doesn’t? But I mean, a small island where the sea is just a few steps away from your door. Growing up, the sea witnessed my first stroke. In college, I made it to the final cut for our university’s swimming team but eventually quit due to conflicting schedules with academics. Apart from swimming, I enjoy watching men doing flip kicks in sipak takraw and players spiking in volleyball. In Korea, sipak takraw is unknown. But in our university, we have a volleyball court which is well-maintained (not really surprising when you are in one of the most expensive universities in the country). Last summer, I learned how to serve, spike, and toss volleyball. I no longer cover my face or run whenever I see the ball coming my direction; in fact I always get this ecstasy every time I play. Achievement!images20XCQ0YO
  5. The art of NOT pleasing everyone- Cultural differences can be very harsh especially if you are in a culturally-conservative country like South Korea. Sexual preferences must be kept discrete if they don’t strictly agree with either of the two signage on toilet doors (You know what I mean). For someone who can be loud as me when with friends (Filipinos can laugh out loud even at the corniest joke), controlling it is sometimes difficult. But one day I just got tired of considering thoughts of people around me. I turned to be cool and silly at matters that I thought may break the image I was upholding. D***! Who cares?! For as long as I don’t offend others, act like one of those skinny-jeans wearing dudes, and follow their fashion trend when good mood comes, I’ll be in no trouble. Being genuine and nice to others plus a fairly good English (Ahem!) ability cover all the suspicions. Outcome: I became less stressed and gained more friends. Verdict: New approach is effective! 7fd0r6d969885c4c47c8cbbb03ab6a5c8ef4d_f
  6. Loved reading more than ever- Two or three research journals a day, that’s my daily dosage of documented knowledge. I also read news articles, do crossword puzzle, review course hand-outs, get excited with new blog entries of some of my favorite bloggers and a dose of some great authors like Paulo Coelho. Back home, I only enjoyed reading novels, not even the lessons I had to teach. Thanks to this excitement I’d get whenever I think of improving in scientific writing, I turned into a bookworm.Journal-Banner
  7. Eat burning hot and spicy food like a local!- How many times have my poor taste-buds suffered first degree burn? That I don’t anymore know. Even in eating, Koreans are always in a hurry (빨리 빨리 culture). Thus, I have to catch up with their speed because it feels awkward to be waited to finish (feeling sorry to my taste-buds). But the more they suffer, the more that I enjoy devouring these addictively palatable Korean cuisines served both hot and spicy such as my favorite Jjampong (Seafood Noodle). Surprisingly, kimchi which is disliked by foreign tongues can also cause my cravings. When I was in Canada, I was like a “naglilihi” pregnant woman dying over Korean foods. Luckily, we found one outside Niagara Falls; we dined and didn’t mind the price!Jampong
  8. Surviving lonliness-Homesickness can just be a plain word not until you get to experience it. Cry if you must, shout if you must and get depressed if you have to. But never forget to rise again and continue with your sojourn are my advice to myself. In the first place, nobody required me to give up my career and leave home for a personal ambition. So, I can blame no one for feeling nostalgic at times. It’s simple, I chose this, and therefore I must stand for this!loneliness

Student-life in a foreign land is no bed of roses. Prestigious and astounding as it is, but if one is not ready to embrace change and adapt what the host country can offer, he/she will end up wishing for a time machine that can turn back time, kissing his/her ambitions goodbye!

(most photographs used are grabbed from google)

GOOD STUDY HABIT: Sacrificing today for a better tomorrow

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Its midterm week.

Everyone looks anxious while rushing to their respective classrooms. A big percentage of these students are certain they’ll nail the tests. They’ve been studying for three weeks now. Although some may have been a bit lenient with their approach in studying they will still surely make it hence they know the consequence of their leniency. Since I came to this University three semesters ago, I have never witness first-hand the way Korean university students burn their midnight candles—until now! For the past semesters, my life has been revolving around my laboratory facing my desktop computer, pressing the keys documenting the words from my cranium. Every 9am, it became mechanical to me to sit down and read research journals, make power point presentations and once in a while get a good grasp of statistics. This has been my daily routine, my kind of study habit. If I will look back to how I was in the Philippines while pursuing Bachelor and Masters degrees, my study habit is far better now. No one forces me to go home at 10 or 11pm and make my brain cells function perplexly. But being surrounded by people whose study culture is intimidating, impressive and has been honed since childhood, adaptation is inexorable.

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On my first semester, I felt like being asked to do bungee jumping. It felt like the only way to impress my master was to risk my life. Yes, it felt like risking my life. But for what? For knowledge! But today, I have become nocturnal and understood how hard work stimulates the brain and prepare the path for the future. For this term test, a Korean friend and I spent a Saturday and Sunday in the lab until 1am. He was doing his best to understand all the lessons in all of his subjects. Now when I say all the lessons, I literally mean ALL, while I was again facing my computer in the preparatory room writing a new research proposal and reading some more. We were technically in separate rooms on that Saturday night. Then he suddenly turned silent inside the lab, I peeped in and saw him writing a lot of stuff on the white board. His left hand holding the eraser, and the marker on the right and his notes and books scattered on the table. I was impressed! So this is how they really review for exams. He computes and solves what has to be solved. Practically testing himself apart from plainly memorizing. While the two of us are in our lab, others are also doing their group studies in other rooms. This goes to say that most rooms are used as study hubs. The library also opens until 10pm 2 weeks prior the exam period. The study rooms inside the library are available 24/7. So, when I told my friend that in the university where I came from, the library closes at 5pm every day and most students are rarely seen in libraries during exams, he laughed in surprise.

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Group studying is something I truly admire with Korean students. Koreans’ study habit is motivated by the fact that the tuition fee can reach almost half a million pesos for one semester. And most importantly, they are motivated by their desire to get the best job their country can offer. I personally view a good study habit as a determinant of how a person survives life. A good study habit means sacrificing your leisure time, sleep and social events. It means being awake while others snore and dream. It means appreciating knowledge even if others will think it’s only for the mentally gifted. I observed that most Filipino students have this stigma and wrong notion about intelligence; that it is purely genetic.

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This is a wrong assumption that demotivates oneself. Intelligence is genetic but it can also be acquired. Knowledge is the key to becoming smart. But to become knowledgeable, one must know how to work hard and sacrifice. Today’s generation is provided with arenas of knowledge at a fingertip. But most students do not realize this. With the classes I handled in the Philippines, only seminarians foster an impressive training in knowledge acquisition, later did I know that their training is commonplace in first world countries like South Korea. Being good in school is a choice. Like choosing a menu, it is a conscious choice. If a student wants to improve, he/she must be proactive. He/she must not wait for the apple to fall from the tree because a theory has already been made out of that observation. He/she must understand that knowledge is relative and acquired. Regardless of our genes, our brain is capable of storing information beyond our imagination. But to maximize its storing capacity, we must be thirsty with information and study in a Korean way!

(most photographs used are grabbed from google)

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Paranoia of the Filipino Youth

Jose Rizal must be dismayed!

Just this afternoon, a cousin’s nineteen years old daughter posted on her fb account a photo of her cut wrist and a blade on it. It is captioned in jejemon as “_naiines nku s sarile ko (crying emoticons)… dco n alam ga2wen ko.” “Shet ang sakit!!!! Kaya ko to.” It isn’t my first time to bump into this kind of pathetic, immature and irrational kind of status mostly of teenage girls while leafing through facebook. Most of the Filipino youngsters have been causing my personal disappointments lately.

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I have witnessed how they’ve been spending their youth in matters of the heart over that of the mind. Two of my nieces got pregnant last year because the other was claiming for the same thing as this girl mentioned above. She’s afraid of losing grip of her boyfriend. So, at 19 she decided to quit school and live with the guy. Months after, she became a young mother. Her younger sister somewhat wrongly inspired with her example maybe thought that at 17 she is out of trend for being single. And so a year after I left the country, I’ve learned that she got knocked-off as well through her little experiment with a guy. I wanted to curse them for this! I was furious! It was so unacceptable to think that even with the example of perseverance and dedication in my studies and a career I have been trying to create (defying poverty), they still narrowed their vision. It is surprising and intolerable to note that young people outside my family look up on the path I took instead of them.

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It is so sad to know that the onset and availability of technology has bought their youth in exchange of premature affair and temporary pleasures. I cannot truly fathom their real reasons for wasting the primetime of their lives, and their chances of creating a more comfortable future by valuing education rather than what excites the heart. I am not against romance; I even think it’s instrumental in making people feel ecstasy. Nevertheless, I can never agree with giving up school for love (not unless someone is counting down his/her days). Rationalizing our feelings can be the key to avoid this kind of mess. Science tells us that the brain is the one that controls all our activities and emotions. The hypothalamus controls love, it says. Yet, they have held captives of what they believe to be of the heart’s doing.

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Love must be used as an instrument to inspire oneself and the person you love to achieve his/her potentials and dreams. It must be felt and celebrated with restrictions and boundaries. It must know when to hibernate when it becomes destructive or misleading. We have passed through that nomadic era when making families at an early age was the priority to sustain the human race. Our society has become competitive that preparation is needed so that we’ll be well-armed for our future battles. We must not have this paranoia over love and relationships. We must not be blinded and open our eyes to the biting realities caused by untimely unions because true love can wait.

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I for one understand my role in this world. Inasmuch as I want to inspire the youth, all I can do is model them how to concoct a recipe that would enable them to taste the best of life, but they themselves must be their own bartenders, bearing in mind that life is what we make it!

(most photographs used are grabbed from google)

The Naked Morning

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Perhaps, if I have just been refusing inculturation, I would be in a terrible stress everytime I go out for an adventure. As a tourist or an expat (been here for quite a while), it has been written in so many articles that to truly experience the uniqueness of the country’s culture, you must spend time with the locals. This embed the rules; eat what they eat, sleep where they sleep, be silly when your local friends are, and of course get first-hand experience with places no matter the dress code (or no dress at all! Hahaha).This is very much similar to that old adage, “if you’re in Rome, do what the Romans do.” And so, wherever my wanderlust feet take me and however awkward the situation may be, I always follow this rule. Tattooed this in my mind.

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Last Saturday was another proof that this simple rule bridges people of unique origins together. Early morning after that first night in Pohang City, I, Geunhee and Seunghyeon were taken to a Korean sauna (찜질방) by Seunghyeon’s father. The invitation came as a surprise since nothing like that was on our list. According to a few Filipino friends, if Koreans take you there, it means they are welcoming you to their family and that’s tantamount to being liked and totally accepted to their inner circle of friends. Who wouldn’t want that anyway? Hahaha… But wait, you may wonder why I am making a fuss over this sauna thingy. The answer is that, in Korea, going to the sauna means going NAKED in front of others and with whoever you are with!!! Now, picture this, there is you, your friends, and your friend’s father walking inside the place wearing nothing and playing with water and enjoying the Jacuzzi. Coming from a country where the only moments we were probably bare in front of another person was when we were born and when we’re making love. Now that’s for sure common everywhere. If it was my first time, I would probably decline the invitation if not knowing the consequences or if I haven’t experience it before.

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Thanks to my occasionally adventurous self, I already went to sauna twice before (alone) and even had my eyes spiraled out in shock in that “optional clothing” beach in Toronto. hahaha But of course I went to these places alone and later revealed it to my friends who happened to have gone there as well but never cared to entice me thinking it isn’t my kinda thing (well, it’s always been my kinda thing..hahaha). And so, these previous experiences somewhat trained me to become more confident of my sexuality and not-so-sexy body. But who cares?! Not everyone is anyway, except my two friends who were maybe in front of the line when good looks and slenderness were dispersed by the Great Giver.

What’s validated after is the level of closeness that experience brought us. It made the three of us more comfortable with each other to the point that we can already say or do any kind of skinship without malice. And Seunghyeon’s dad, he is simply the most generous and coolest!

 

Meanwhile, here’s Conan showing and explaining further this 찜질방 (Jjimjilbang) experience! 😛

Almost Lover

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Each season has its own closure when the next one inevitably manifests its signs. Like any ordinary person, I had my fair-share of love-story that maybe was my greatest. It turned my world upside-down that I simply didn’t want to let go of that dream-like episode for the fear that the reality may become unpleasant. It is far from Romeo & Juliet neither that of Aldub because both speak of the common boy-girl pattern. But when we speak of “love” as he puts it, “it is just a very special kind of feeling that defies who or what we are.” We were both graduate school students in the same university. I met him on his final year. He is a pure-straight Chinese guy with a very gentle personality and beautiful mind (smart is sexy). Falling for him was never my intention for obvious reasons: somebody already owns his heart; and expecting the same feelings in return is surely “suntok sa buwan.” But when destiny takes its course, you’ll only find yourself captive of its enchanting power. And so, our usual hi and hello turned into conversations and a number of skinship and flirting. Our days would usually begin and end seeing each other since our rooms in the dormitory and our laboratories are only a few footsteps away. In most mornings, we would stroll to our labs together. In the afternoon, I would visit their lab or he to mine and we would go to the nearest grocery in the campus to grab something for snacks. Although we don’t eat dinner together, we often occupy the same table when mine and his professor (who happened to be best buddies) would take us to the cafeteria.

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Oftentimes, we would fool around like kids inside our laboratories although prohibited. And in the dormitory, his roommates would wonder what’s between us but we would only look at each other and laugh. These routines unconsciously made me get used to his presence and the skinship fertilized the budding mutual understanding. One evening on our way to the dorm he sweetly uttered the words “I love you” while looking to my eyes as a dare and we both laughed at it. This magical phrase was repeated when he once asked me its translation in my language as well as the word “idiot” which he then put together as “tanga, mahal kita!” For quite some time I was in control and firmly guarding my vulnerable heart because I know the love will be unrequited. But, when the girl came for a month of visit, my biggest fear manifested–jealousy enveloped me. The sight of them together was unexpectedly more tormenting than its thought. One Sunday afternoon, they saw me cueing at the cashier in the convenient store. He introduced me to her as his good friend in what seemed to be one of the most awkward situations I’ve ever been to. Although I wanted the ground to open and swallow me whole, I maintained my composure and offered a handshake. While the girl was holding his arm, I couldn’t help to think that truly, whatever we have has now ended. That the beautiful afternoon walks and laughter under the cherry blossom trees and the sweetness he shows in front of my friends were merely fictions.

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While we were in the university clinic one afternoon in May, he told me if only he wasn’t Chinese and no pressures are put on him by his parents being the only child, things might have been different. But what sort of panacea can these words give? Nothing! In fact it only emphasized the reality that there can never be “us.” That things could have been but weren’t. Before he left the country, I decided to meet him for one last time. We had dinner together and gave him a token (a dream-catcher) which I told him would remind him of me when distance finally seclude us. A month of not seeing each other while he was just in another room didn’t help me tarnish what I feel for him, it only intensified. I still saw in his eyes the same happiness I used to see whenever he sees me approaching. It is now coupled with that estranged feeling, that even sitting beside him is now somewhat restricted by the thought of his girl holding his arm.

The bottles of soju and beer during our school’s spring fest only alleviated the heartache for a couple of hours. I am not good at drinking but I wanted to forget the pain. The nights and days of crying only made my eyes swollen but never really dried the tears. I was left with what ifs. If in the first place we have bravely faced our fears and expressed our hearts however hostile it may feel, it might have saved me from creating these images of us and holding on to these fictions we mutually made. Nevertheless, I should be grateful, my best friend says, that I am able to experience such kind of genuine love regardless of its duration and consequences. I was awakened back to my senses when she told me that, I should instead feel blessed having been able to experience a man’s unconditional love because others of my sexual orientation may not be given such opportunity in their lifetime.

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Months after his departure, my heartbeat still races whenever I hear his name from his lab-mates who are living witnesses of our kind of spring romance and who never get tired of bringing up the recent past. In some nights, I would still shed tears whenever he crosses my mind and I’m taken back to those nostalgic images. But, this must end! I should pick myself up. Perhaps, my best friend was right, I should just be grateful for this short fiction of romance I had with him. It should not even matter anymore whether or not we had a closure, because there was no definite label of what we had to begin with. Now the leaves are turning gold and soon the trees would go bare. But in its sort of demise life is buried within and another spring is waiting ahead. I have decided to be free and focus on finishing my degree. Use that bareness in my heart to create an early spring with what remained—memories. No looking back, just moving forward. No bitterness, just happiness, and no regrets, just gratitude. And in this moment I’d wish to say,

so long my almost lover…

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If only the stars were written for us

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We’ll trek the Alps and dive the seas.

Then feast on the banquet from east to west.

While lying on your arm on that powder-like sand,

We’ll waste the time glancing at the mystic moon.

We’ll create images that time can’t steal.

For when your eyes meet mine

Paradise is here.

In every waking day, I’ll kiss your lips.

I’ll cuddle you tight like it’s my first.

I’ll cook for you and play like a chef,

Coz my dear they say, “It’ll make you love me best.

I’ll be your everything, like you will be mine.

These and always these are the vows I’ll keep.

You’ll carry our daughter while I’ll carry our son.

While we’re walking on that same beach.

There we’ll realize the victory of love.

Looking at them we’ll smile and kiss.

At 70 you’ll still sweep me off my feet.

The warm of your embrace will never diminish.

Your kisses will still be the sweetest.

While your sparkling eyes shouts the words “wishi wo ai ni.”

The very words you’ll whisper me under the Sakura trees.

Our love story will be no ordinary.

It’ll be made and firmed by time and dubiety.

But even if how mystified we will be,

In your arms, I’ll find love’s eternity.

(Written for the one who now owns the dream-catcher, for what we have may just stay in that perfect world he called “memories.”)

8th July 2015