Caps locked for emphasis

TRAIN. TRAIN. TRAIN.
TRAIN. TRAIN. TRAIN.

No amount of font size, underscoring, exclamation point, and repeats will be enough to emphasize the need to prepare for something as daunting and life-changing as a race. I have been out of shape and in need of motivation for a while. Gone are the days when running 30 minutes straight would just be a chore for me. This time, getting to a destination must be deliberate and trained.

Running has always been my unspoken passion. When I had a heart-to-heart talk with my mom last summer in Singapore, she asked me what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I told her that I want to help people and to run. She asked why I stopped running after the bar exams, I told her that running reminded me of people who are no longer in my life. I feel like I have to stop because that would appear that I have moved on to better things. But in the end, and in the deepest recesses of my heart, I know that all I want to do is run.

I do not need a race. I do not need a finish line. I do not need the fancy gadgets and apps. I just need one push in the right direction to get me back on track. And so every day I remind myself with those three caps locked words in my glass board.

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Captivated

head over heels in love with this city
Head over heels in love with this city

Ho Chi Minh City is everything I expected it to be and more. It had a little of everything in my travel menu – history, food, architecture, religion, performance, nature tripping, shopping. I even got to do a bit of work along the way (because it’s more fun to beat a deadline while on vacation LOL). The people were warm and friendly even if they speak very little comprehensible English (at least those I interacted with). The weather was fine and cooperative. Everything was surprisingly cheap, so I made sure I experienced everything the place has to offer.

The city has its charms…

Pigeon watching or chasing... whatever your lazy self desires.
Pigeon watching or chasing… whatever your lazy self desires.
Watch and learn from street artisans
Watch and learn from street artisans
Watch out for those speeding motor bikes... on the sidewalk!
Watch out for those speeding motor bikes… on the sidewalk!

Absolutely gorgeous building facades were a delight to any neo-classical architecture fan like me. The nerd in me had a field day identifying the different architectural elements and searching online for those that were not familiar to me. Indeed, what you learn in the books is very different from what you will see in the real world. The real thing is way cooler.

Inside and out, the Revolutionary Museum is my favorite.
Inside and out, the Revolutionary Museum is my favorite.
Probably the grandest Post Office I have ever seen
Probably the grandest Post Office I have ever seen
Notre Dame church is very reminiscent of its European counterparts.
Notre Dame church is very reminiscent of its European counterparts.
The Opera House is just ridiculously beautiful.
The Opera House is just ridiculously beautiful.
The City Hall was under construction, but magnificent nonetheless.
The City Hall was under construction, but magnificent nonetheless.

Being a museum nut, I feasted on and got my fill of historical facts about the place. I was so fascinated about the political story of HCMC that I bought a biography book of Ho Chi Minh (to date, I have read the book 4 times already!). The war remnants were amazingly documented and well-preserved.

This speaks volumes about what was the national clamor at the time of Revolutionary Vietnam.
This speaks volumes about what was the national clamor at the time of Revolutionary Vietnam.
Apparently, motor bikes have been a long-time thing here.
Apparently, motor bikes have been a long-time thing here.
Vintage Vietnamese fashion :)
Vintage Vietnamese fashion 🙂
Gadgets...
Gadgets…
SAM_0463
Musical instruments…
Weapons of mass destruction! LOL
and weapons of mass destruction! LOL

The Reunification Palace is nothing like the seat of government in my country. Every space is contrived. Every element has meaning. Every perspective is nothing but pure opulence.

Outside looking in...
Outside looking in…
Inside looking out...
Inside looking out…
The massive brise soliel is something very French.
The massive brise soliel is something very French.
clean, crisp, and truly impeccable
clean, crisp, and truly impeccable
There's always a story behind every structure.
There’s always a story behind every structure.
A wonderful atrium centerpiece
A wonderful atrium centerpiece

(To be continued…)

The now-or-never attitude

In the very few instances that I shop for clothes, I always know when I see the right one. Not the perfect one (because there is no such thing), but just the right one. The price justifies the quality. The color complements the style. The fit feels comfy. The design captures the need. I proceed to buying the item, then I immediately leave the mall. I always make sure not to look at any shops thereafter, because I know that even the feeling of being “right” is not absolute. I will always find something “more right.” I know that ultimately, I control the chase for the right one.

In the bigger scheme of things, i realize that this is how I live my life. The feeling that something is right is so hard to come by that when it hits me, I know I have to do something. I have to make a decision. It is now or never. There is no later, because “later” will give me another perspective, which could alter the “right-ness” of the initial feeling. No, this is not about being impulsive. As you can see in my above decision-making process, a lot of things were considered in arriving with the conclusion that indeed something is right. It was not done in haste. It was not borne out of impatience. It was a solid decision.

Finally, when something is right, the decision to pursue it must be supported with conviction. A conviction that requires adaptation though. Like when the fabric is too sheer to keep me warm, I would put on a coat. Or like when the color is two shades off the motif, I would accent the dress with accessories in the right shade of color. Despite such, I must come to a resolution that I will stand by it; that when something else suddenly feels “more right,” I will not be swayed; and that when the right ceases to be so, I will adapt.

PS – This post is just about the hiking/rappelling gloves that I bought, which I felt was the “right” hiking/rappelling gloves at the time. Then I later realize that they do not match (in color at least) with my other gear. Yes, I over-analyze everything like that. LOL

7 surefire ways to be awesome while traveling

In all my travels, I do these activities. They reflect my personality and give me the utmost happiness wherever and whenever I do them. In essence, these are also the reasons why I travel.

  1. Bring “pasalubong” (a welcome gift) from your country and give it to the person whose presence/company you most enjoyed during the trip. I usually bring with me a t-shirt with “Davao” or “Pilipinas” printed on it with the aim of giving it to the most awesome local I meet. The recipient could be your tour guide, who swallowed a Lonely Planet guidebook for you; or your porter, who carried your life (okay, maybe just your overloaded bag); or the owner of the guesthouse, who made you feel at home. To see their faces light up with gratitude is priceless, I tell you.
  2. Send an unsuspecting friend a postcard. Since I already imposed upon myself to send postcards to my family when I travel, so why not send one to an oblivious friend or a random stranger, right? I call this my version of the traveling gnome prank.
  3. Visit the highest elevation of the place. Before going to a certain place, I always google the highest structure or the highest mountain (if it has one). I know I am not the most fit to take on a challenge like this, but the view is always worth the effort. So why do this? Because as the famous architect Cesar Pelli once said, “The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in our human psyche.
  4. Visit a local bookshop or library… and of course, read. Being a purist at heart, I find joy (and awesomeness) in reading books. I ask the librarian for classics of native authors (e.g. Rumi’s The Book of Love) or the bookshop saleslady for bestsellers of local authors (e.g. Dumb Luck by Vu Trong Phung). Sometimes, you have to excuse the translation though, but the story plots are usually out of the ordinary.
  5. Watch a show. Be it a symphony orchestra or a ballet company or an acrobat team, you know that the show will give you goosebumps in the end. This activity usually costs the most in my itinerary, but I love to see people who are insanely good at what they do and usually people in these shows are the passionate ones or the crazy-talented types.
  6. Go to a restaurant with no English translation in its menu. This is the ultimate daredevil challenge for me and I usually do this at the last day of my trip (because I cannot afford to have diarrhea while visiting museums or watching a show). For restaurants, this is a test of how effective their food plating and photography is. So, order, take an instagram, and pray to the heavens for an awesome (and tummy-safe) meal.
  7. Go to their most sacred place. Coming from a very religious country, I know how religion can give its followers hope. And it is such a sight to see people, both the desperate and the thankful, converge (sometimes in large numbers) and pray to and affirm the existence of someone/something. It is mind-boggling (yet very moving) for me all the time.

Making way for the new

I just resigned from my part-time teaching job. It was a hard decision. It was a decision I was contemplating on (or putting off) the whole summer. I asked family and friends for their views about it, but no one actually gave me a clear opinion. Most of them thought it will be very hard for me to move on to new things. Others feel that I am just doing this for selfish reasons. So, I will share how I came up with my decision, because someone out there might also be in the same crossroad.

Mathematics of time

It takes 8 hours of lecture and approximately 12 hours of preparation every week to teach a 4-unit subject to 2 sections. During exams, I usually allot 16 hours for preparing an exam and 35 hours for checking 50 notebooks. Preparing and checking one quiz, on the other hand, takes 5 hours total. Lastly, computing for grades takes around 8 hours. Since we are required to have 3 quizzes and 3 exams per semester, the total number of hours spent for one semester is 576 hours, or 24 (no-sleeping) days, or 72 working days. That is almost one month dedicated to teaching. That is almost twice the number of vacation leaves that I am given in the firm.

Mathematics of money

Believe it or not, I only earned Php29,000.00 for one semester of teaching. I earn more than that in one month in my firm job. In fact, my salary increase this year can very well cover, if not exceed, the amount of income that I will lose if I quit teaching. Considering the amount of time that I spent, I was, in effect, being paid Php50.00 per hour for teaching. I cannot even compare that to my hourly rate in the firm without crying injustice.

Quality of intangible rewards

The rewards of teaching really come when the teacher has finally seen her students graduate, pass the qualifying exams, succeed in their careers, and probably follow her academic path. I know that from experience. But I also know that there are ungrateful ones. There are those who could not see the value in making them realize that they are capable of doing more. And with the kind of teacher that I had been, I will most likely encounter the latter.

Quality of experience

This was the deciding factor for me. Teaching is learning more about the subject. Teaching is learning from my students. Teaching is discipline. And if you teach something over and over, teaching is also a path to mastery. But I also understand that experience is largely dependent on the culture of the university. Is the university supportive of your efforts and methodologies? Are your students receptive to new ideas? Are they motivated to learn in the same way as you are? Are you in the company of the best minds that fosters fruitful exchange of views?

I guess I would have to find new ways of learning more about my field. I will probably start doing researches and writing articles. Those have been in my to-do list for quite some time. I am now free to do more pro bono work, the kind of work that I find meaningful and emotionally rewarding. I might also return to running to bring focus and discipline to my life. Of course, I have my travels, which will give me a more open and diverse learning environment.

So, this is me, clearing out the old to make way for the new (as Steve Jobs put it).

10 perks of solo travel

Some think that traveling alone makes the traveler lonely and helpless. On the contrary, solo travel has its advantages. And I must say, the advantages truly outweigh my fears and doubts in going on my own. Below are just some silver linings that I have pondered on:

  1.  You do not have to wait for the other person to finish his/her affairs (i.e., getting dressed, shopping, taking pictures, etc.). Corollary, you can also take your time.
  2. You do not have to agree to anything (i.e., where to go, what to eat, how to get to wherever, etc.).
  3. You do not have to consider moods, opinions, and beliefs other than your own. You push and drag your own happiness and journey.
  4. You will be more responsible with your things and money. You know you are on your own. You have no one to depend on or to blame but yourself.
  5. You will improve on your communication skills. You will be forced to use them when boredom or ignorance hits you.
  6. You will develop a unique way of making decisions. One that is fast, intuitive, and confident.
  7. You will gain a sense of self-pride by accomplishing things on your own.
  8. You will look forward to socializing with others. Others will not pass prejudice based on the crowd that you are with. There is always a chance to reinvent one’s self for first impressions.
  9. You will be thrilled doing things, even the mundane kind. Riding a taxi… at midnight… in a “no-English” place… with a “no-English” driver? Exactly.
  10. You will discover something about yourself. Your peeves, your patience, your limitations will all be interestingly unravelled and you cannot help but be amazed.