Saturday, August 29, 2009

Regrets, I've Had A Few

I was chatting with my friend P today on Facebook and she reminded me again of how grateful she is of the day I persuaded her to audition for a play. She says that moment really made an impact on her life and she's glad she didn't chicken out on the opportunity. After chatting with her it made me think about some of the missed opportunities in my past and what regrets I have.

Just this past week while my guests were staying with us, I mentioned to them one of the bigger regrets I have was not trying out for the Dance Troupe when I was in high school. We were looking through our old pictures in my year book and making fun of each other. M's husband A started looking at the clubs we joined and I was embarrassed to point out I was in the Culture Shack. I vividly remember that afternoon. I was too chicken to try out for the Dance Troupe so I wandered around the hallways until I ended up in the Chinese club. I had nothing against being a part of the Culture Shack, I was just peeved at myself for not having the courage to tryout. In those days I felt only the "in" crowd was good enough for such a cool club. But after the tryouts were done, I kicked myself even more when I found out many girls whom I never would have considered got in!

One other thing that still burns in my mind was when a close family friend of ours was living with us in Manila. She was attending the local college and still getting the hang of a new life in the Philippines. During the earlier months of us living in the same house, she came about as much more conservative than me. She got really upset at me one day when she saw I was chatting with a good male friend of mine in my bedroom. After my friend left, she came up to me very upset. She said since my parents are in the US, we are supposed to look after each other. She said having a guy in my bedroom is unacceptable.

Many months later, when she started seeing someone, she came up to me one day and asked me about sex. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea whether she was trying to catch me since I was seeing someone at that point too or whether she was just curious or what?! Not wanting to take my chances, I simply told her I did not want to die a virgin. She seemed satisfied with that answer and walked away.

A few months later, she told me she was getting married! Shocked at the complete unexpectedness of this news, I questioned her over and over again on why such a rush to get married. I knew they were having problems with their relationship, so I was bewildered how they thought getting married would be the solution. A few weeks after their wedding, their whole family came to visit me to tell me it was because she was pregnant. Although I was extremely upset at what our friendship had dwindled into, deep down inside I was kicking myself again for not giving her the "talk" when she came up to me that day to ask about sex. I was too caught up covering my own tracks that I didn't realize she was the one that needed help. After we sort of mended our friendship abit, she said the guy told her sex was a normal part of being in a relationship and that he would go crazy if they didn't do it.

What haunts me as well is that a few weeks after she moved out of our apartment and returned the cell phone which I lent to her, I was clearing out the inbox and saw a text message the guy had sent her. It said he was willing to accept it if she really wanted to move back to Taiwan. He said if that is what she really wanted to do that he wouldn't stop her. The text message was dated a few weeks before she told me she was getting married.

I know these 2 stories don't seem big enough to be the ones that should still be haunting me to this day. There have been bigger dramas in my life laden with tons of regrets, but these 2 instances gets to me still because they could have been so easily avoided. If only there was someone I could have confided to about trying out for the Dance Troupe, I might not have chickened out. If only I wasn't so guilty, that friend of mine would have led a completely different life. I know for sure finding the courage to try out for something that scares me to death would have helped my lack of self confidence when I was in high school. I know for sure speaking up that day to my friend would have maintained our close friendship to this day. She was like the younger sister I never had. I have no idea though what her life would have been like if she did move back to Taiwan. At least for now she is still married and just had her 3rd child this year.

I hope when Boy Wonder and Nachos grow up, they'll be able to avoid as many missed opportunities as possible. I'm glad I was able to help P out when she needed that push. I hope Boy Wonder and Nachos will be as fortunate too in the future.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grandkids on Tap

Our annual trip to the US is set. We are meeting up with my parents and brother in Hawaii in September. Instead of going to California where they all live, we decided to make everyone meet half way. Good thing my brother's in-laws own a time share-type condo so that is where we will all be staying. Although I'm thrilled we're all going to spend some quality time together in Hawaii, its also made me realize our move to Australia has made it harder for everyone to visit each other, especially my parents.

When we lived in Hong Kong, my parents came to visit us almost twice every year. We also went to visit them once a year. It was easy to travel because there were direct flights. My parents would fly to Taiwan for their annual check ups, then to the Philippines to do their usual paper work type stuff and then to HK. These 3 countries were all close and a short plane ride. But now that we live in Melbourne, there are no direct flights between here and San Francisco. Flights are also pricier.

I've always known marrying Hubby would mean our future lies in Australia. I thought nothing of it then because its so easy to travel. But who would have thought the road block would turn out to be flight routing! And recently, I've also realized my parents are getting older which means it isn't that easy for them to take long haul flights.

Hubby commented some time ago to his parents that they never have to worry about finding time to spend with Boy Wonder and Nachos. He said they've got Grandma and Pop on tap. How I wish that were true for Gong-gong and Puo-puo (maternal grandfather and grandmother).

I grew up always filled with complete excitement when summer comes around which meant flying to Taiwan to see my Gong-gong and Puo-puo. It was merely a 2 hour flight from Manila to Taiwan. I remember always being greeted by Puo-puo with a bowl full of wax apples. I always associate these delicious fruits with Puo-puo. And now that Boy Wonder and Nachos are old enough to remember their Gong-gong and Puo-puo after each visit, I hope they will start associating different things with them.

I'm glad both sets of grandparents are so different. Yet I know they all love Boy Wonder and Nachos the same. A good example of how Grandma and Pop are:

Isn't Pop such a goofball?

Gong-gong and Puo-puo have no goofiness in them, but they still have fun together.

Below is a picture of 4 generations on ladies from Hubby's side of the family. In it is Nachos, Grandma, grandaunts, and great grandaunts.

Boy Wonder and Nachos' great grandfather is still around too. He's my Gong-gong.

Whenever I see these pictures, I always wish we'll be able to take pictures like this when it comes to Boy Wonder and Nachos' kids in the future. But I also remind myself that I shouldn't get way ahead of myself. I'll make the most of everything now. I'll make sure I do my best to let the kids bond with both sets of grandparents. And of course I'll continue taking tons of pictures for my grand kids to see some day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Pet Investment

I read this article in our local Progress Leader recently. While the whole story was warm and fuzzy, I just couldn't get over how much this woman spent on her dogs! Holy shmolly, over $50K, sold all her stuff and cashed in on her retirement fund. I really like animals. I grew up with pets galore, but for me there is a limit.

Growing up in the Philippines, we had stray animals everywhere. I picked up stray kittens all the time. Our house had generations of cats and kittens. We also always had a dog. Each one took over the old one when that one died. But I also don't remember taking any of our animals to the vet. It was only a more recent thing when we were old enough to know the animal was sick. And even then we had this vet who had a fear of dogs! A cat I had died of food poisoning. I can still remember that day watching him in agony in our backyard. What was strange was the fact that it did not cross my mind to take it to the vet! All I knew was that it was seriously sick and that it won't be around for much longer. But as cruel as it may sound, that is how animals were treated back in those days. Although there are lots of pets pampered too, majority are still stays, abused and even eaten.

We used to live on Jupiter street. When we were kids, this street was a purely residential street on the verge of being transformed into a hodgepodge of eateries and fancy restaurants. There was a building under construction right across our house. One day our dog went missing. The next day our helpers told my mom they suspect our dog had been eaten by the construction workers across the street. She asked them how they knew and one of them said she lent the workers a bunch of sauces. She didn't think anything of it until she put 2 and 2 together and got confirmation from our driver. Stranger even is that I don't remember my mom doing anything about it.

It was only after moving here, watching Grandma and Pop care for their dog Molly that I got a glimpse of how pets should be treated. Molly is an indoor dog with no flea or tick problems. Although she goes outside, other than a few muddy paws, there are no worries. I remember our helpers used to spend many an afternoon picking ticks off our dogs and drowning them in a bowl of cooking oil. Molly has been spayed. Our pets were never neutered. We just made sure we always had male dogs. Our female cats reproduced every year. But kitten mortally was very high. Majority also ran away. Molly only has one meal a day and her weight is watched. The health of a dog depends on it maintaining a healthy weight. Our dogs had 2 meals a day, were fed table scraps throughout the day and were never weighed. The moment something isn't right with Molly, she's brought to the vet. We had a dog once that was run over by a truck. Instead of rushing it to a vet, my mom poured a whole jar of Chinese medicine on it. Miraculously it lived till a ripe old age, but with a major limp. When talking to Molly, Grandma and Pop refer to each other as mum and dad. I loved my pets, but I guess not to the degree of seeing them as my kids.

It was only after my parents migrated to the US and I was left to look after our apartment in Manila that I took charge of looking after my cat. Because we used to live in a house with a backyard, I had to accustom Cat to living in-doors. Good thing he was a pretty lazy cat and was never interested in venturing out of our property. After we moved into the apartment, he became skittish, ran away once but eventually settled into life as a purely indoor cat. Because he was now an indoor cat, he had his first round of flee/tick removal, got all his shots and was fed proper cat food. I didn't realize just how much work and money had to be invested in keeping a pet!

I had to give Cat away when I moved to Hong Kong. I was grateful for finding a friend who loved cats and wanted to adopt Cat. Unfortunately, Cat died not too long after. My friend told me they were having roach problems and her boyfriend went a bit nutty with the bug spray. Cat died of liver failure due to all the bug spray around their apartment. I cried when I heard the news. He was the last cat I had.

Now that we live in a big house with a huge backyard, the thought of adopting a dog and a cat have crossed our minds many times. Having pets are always a great way of teaching kids how to care for an animal and taking responsibility when it comes to another living thing. Personally, pets I've had in the past always made me feel better when I was sad or calm me when I was stressed. All I had to do was sit with my dog or cat, stroke them for a few minutes and it was almost as if I was cured.

But we're still dragging our feet at the moment. I probably wouldn't have thought much about it if I was still living in Manila in those days. We would have had at least a dog and a cat right now. But I'm glad I've grown up when it comes to caring for a pet. When I think of having a pet now, I'm greatly concerned about its quality of life. At this moment I worry if we'll be able to provide it with an ideal one. And I'm happy to admit that in a strange sort of way.

Kudos to the lady who spent all that time, energy and money on her dogs. I'm glad those dogs found her and were not put down ahead of their time.

In Memory Of Chili and Cat

PS. While I was editing this post, Market Man of Market Manila, one of the blogs I frequently visit, also blogged about his pet. At least reading his post reassures me animals are being treated far better nowadays!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Retarded Road Markings In Melbourne

Not everything has been rosy since moving here. I've never really liked driving. I used to get completely stressed out whenever I had to drive into San Francisco. And when I moved back to Manila, I had ulcer attacks whenever I had to drive to work. So you can imagine the stress level I was in when I had to finally start driving here.

When we used to come here just for holidays, it was always Hubby that drove. It freaked me out that the roads here were opposite to what I was accustomed to. Even though roads in Hong Kong were the same as here, we didn't own a car, so I never had to drive.

The day we bought our car was a day of joy and complete fear. When I finally placed myself behind the wheel of the car all I could do was to calm myself by chanting "stay on the left side of the road, stay on the left side of the road." And so I stayed on the left side of the road, got a bit more comfortable and just ignored any honks that were aimed at my driving. I thought I was on the road to driving greatness, until I almost crashed into a taxi one day. It was then that I saw just how retarded the road markings in Melbourne are!

Pardon my juvenile attempts at computer graphics or whatever you call it. I tried to make the cars look as realistic as possible, but all I could do were these barrels with boobs. So, I present to you the alleged retarded road marking:

Imagine you're the green car, hurtling down the freeway, brain numb with the kids song CD you have heard for the 37th time that day. You're in the outer most lane because you are going to turn left or exit soon. All of a sudden, your lane disappears! You see this new lane appearing out of nowhere! What do you do? If you're used to driving in the States, you merge to your right naturally. But how do you merge into the next lane, at break neck speed and no time to check the lane you're merging into?? There are no warning signs, no arrows on the road, nothing! But no worries, because as it turns out, you're not suppose to do that anyway! What you do is just ignore this lane that magically appeared and drive into it.

It was this kind of lane marking that almost done me in that night. Good thing I wasn't driving too fast and the taxi driver in the next lane blasted his horn just in time. Hubby gave me a hard time about it, but come on! What kind of retarded road making is that? It doesn't make sense!

I can go on with a few other examples, but I think I've spent too much time on illustrating roads. Is there a program that does that?

So anyway, the other thing I am also baffled about is the funky right turn system they've got in the city. I'm still undecided whether I think it makes sense or not. Had I not seen it being done while NOT at the wheel, I would have had no idea what the sign meant when it says to turn right from the left lane! Here is what it looks like:

So the red cars are stopped because it is a red light for them. The white cars are crossing the intersection. The blue cars however need to turn right. So instead of getting into the inner lane, they go to the left, in front of the stopped cars waiting for their turn to go and wait for the yellow light or when the cars in their own lane have stopped coming. All I can say is I pity the tourists who have to drive their rental cars around Melbourne!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Marriage of Equals

I recently heard that a girl from my old high school has separated from her husband and is currently living with her children overseas. I'm pretty sure at this point some of my readers will wonder what is so special about this news and others would be ablaze with questions.

Had I heard this news a few years ago, my first thought would be how could someone from my old high school be separated? I came from a very conservative, nun run Chinese school. And if you got married in the Philippines, you can't get a divorce. My first questions would be did they try to work things out first? Why did the wife take the kids away from the father?

But when I first heard it, I found myself asking the bearer of this news: Why did they separate? Answer: Because the husband was abusive. 2nd question: Is she happier now? Answer: Yes. Well good for her!

I remember the gossip mill going over time years ago when we heard one of our old high school classmate got divorced. The curiosity, the theories, the what if's. Today all I care about is whether each party is happier and wish them the best.

But unfortunately this isn't how many people think. I was told this girl wouldn't have left the marriage had they remained in Manila. It was through good luck that her family was able to migrate overseas. While overseas, the husband couldn't handle it and left without a word. Nothing was in her name, so she was left with no money and income. He calls a few months later demanding she go home to continue her wifely duties. It was at that point that she finally stood her ground. She told him she will do whatever it takes to survive without him and support herself and her kids. She is currently living just fine without him, with a full-time job, both kids in school and living in her own apartment. Had she remained in the Philippines, there was no way this would have happened. After all the dust had settled from her broken marriage, she saw how strong and capable she really is.

If she was in the Philippines, she would have had to endure the stigma behind leaving your spouse, especially when you have children. Somehow its always the wife's fault. I don't know why. She wouldn't be able to get much advice and I doubt much support from family and friends. And any support or advice would have veered towards the "going back to work things out" route and "endure the abuse". Or she might even have been asked what she could be doing wrong or that she should try harder to please him. And another serious question would be income. There is no way you can find a job in the Philippines straight away that would afford you an apartment, tuition for 2 kids and with no financial support from family.

I know of a married couple whom no one knows, as of the last time I asked, whether they are still a couple or not. The whispered questioning has been going on for a few years now and still hasn't stopped. What I don't get is what the big deal is with all the secrecy. Yes, its sad that they might be separated. But they don't have kids and everyone knows they haven't really been living in the same country for sustained periods of time. Although I'd like to think all my friends are open minded and non-judgmental, I guess it just shows there is still a huge stigma when it comes to separation.

I'm hoping there's someway I can return to my high school and give a talk on the realities of marriage. When we were in high school in addition to premarital sex and abortion as a no-no, no one even dared talk about divorce! If there was someway the nuns would miraculously allow this talk, I want to empower the young ladies there. I would give the example of this girl that also graduated from our school. There is no excuse when it comes to abuse. And sometimes separation might just be the only way out of a bad situation.

Although I respect the sanctity of marriage and am all for doing your best to work things out, I am now more open minded when it comes to these issues. I wonder if I'd still think this way today had I not moved away.