Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Musings of a Melancholy Mind in Limbo

It’s hard to become oblivious to what’s going on in this world and simply enjoy your life. But sometimes I feel like it’s the only way to survive. I’ve tried to steer clear of politicizing my blog since I started it. Everyone who knows me knows too that I have VERY strong opinions on most things, and politics is no different. But after spending a large chunk of my 20s embroiled in student politics, and having my illusions shattered and my heart broken by what I felt was my own personal failing in smashing the status quo and heralding in a new world order that was JUST, and GOOD - I took several steps back.

I stopped reading newspapers, I actively stopped watching the “News” on TV (although the term “News” should be used very lightly – biased propaganda does not a news report make). I immersed myself in everyday living: partying, relationships, a typical selfish existence which most of us lead. Moving to Asia also made it easier to slide into political oblivion – I could quite easily avoid paying attention to news that was speaking to me in Mandarin! Sure, there was always cable TV and English-language newspapers to turn to – but I didn’t WANT to know. The really important stories would filter into my world anyway – from my knowledgeable and intelligent friends. I would still get involved in debates, but less vocally, less heatedly.

It infuriates me what is going on in the world. It is shameful that the world is run by GREED. Money = power. More money = more power. Wars are waged on ridiculous premises, all in the name of the great god of our capitalist world: MONEY.

Or even better – RELIGION. Because THAT’S what your god wants you to do – KILL EACH OTHER. Hate breeds more hate… breeds more hate… ad infinitum. The knowledge that religion and spirituality is about LOVE – for the Universe, for each other, for our world, for whatever god you believe in – seems to be entirely lost on most members of the major religions these days.

I remember coming home 3 Fridays ago to news that there had just been a devastating earthquake in Japan and an ensuing giant tsunami, and that the Philippines was at risk of being hit by another giant tsunami in a few hours time. There’s nothing quite like suddenly facing your own mortality to make you re-think things. For a few short hours, I was plunged into depths that I had been refusing to plummet for so long, forced to really LOOK. With wide open eyes. The picture was chilling.

A few days later, after the threat of the tsunami had passed here in the Philippines, the news-media was suddenly awash with a new threat: that of a nuclear disaster. Alarming texts were being sent around Asia – warnings of radiation poisoning, how to avoid it, what to do in case of emergency… It was terrifying. This dark, imperceptible threat loomed large upon the Japanese horizon, no-one knew exactly what was going on, whether there was a cause for concern or not, what the fallout would be.

I found myself dwelling on things that I haven’t allowed myself to think too deeply about for a long time. I fear that if I do, I will begin to drown in the sadness. The fact is – we are KILLING our world. Nature is being destroyed at an alarming rate. I don’t need to start quoting statistics about sea life being wiped out by over-fishing, about animals becoming extinct daily, about pollution and waste and deforestation and and and…!!! Not to mention all the socio-political NONSENSE. It's abhorrent. Politicians lying to their populations, wasting money on war, instead of feeding their people, relying on distraction and dishonesty to push their selfish agendas at the expense of the masses... Children starving, homeless people, poor and desperate souls all over the world… It's enough to break your heart.

I remember when I was in India – by far the most difficult country for me to travel through, as I felt every day like I was being bombarded with sadness. In India it’s tangible. You smell it, you see it, you live it. I remember waking up every morning and talking to myself, steeling myself for the day ahead, giving myself pep-talks about how I wasn’t going to be sad about what I see, about how I need to block out the poverty and misery, and focus instead on the beautiful things: on the bright colours of the clothing draped elegantly, on the sound of the women’s anklets as they jingled down the street, on the kindness of the strangers who insisted on sharing their lunch with me on trains, on the bright smile of a child waving from a platform.

I see my month in India as a metaphor for my life. I once wore only black. I had multiple facial piercings which I hid behind, and an aggressive hardness that I used as a shield. All the while inside I was drowning in a way that only an over-emotional, romantic young philosopher can drown within themselves. I lamented, I wept, I sank. And then I learned that that attitude was pointless. It wasn’t helping me, it wasn’t helping the world. I accepted that the impact that I make on this world, and the way in which the world presents itself to me, is entirely dependent upon ME, and that I must make of it what I can, and what I will. So I started wearing bright colours. I started covering myself in - and surrounding myself with - things that shine and sparkle. I became frivolous and flighty and flippant. And it was wonderful, and liberating, and FUN!

But it wasn’t ALL me. It was real enough, it just wasn’t complete. And that’s what I’ve been realizing in the past year or two. I am trying to balance the sides, the energies, the dark and light, the troubled intellectual and the fanciful flake. The scales, I find, seem to sway heavily to one side… almost all the way down… before the balance changes again. Perhaps one day it’ll be only slight sways from one side to the other? Eventually, what I hope will guide me is my profound optimism, my unshakeable hope, and an unerring belief that somehow – ALWAYS – everything will turn out fine. Because really – what else CAN we believe in?

Sending love and light to you all, wherever you are in this world. xoxox

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More than just a beautiful beach

I just had a lovely, lovely weekend, and it didn’t involve me going to the beach at all!

I usually come home exhausted on Friday evenings. After a week at work, all I want is to be in SILENCE. To not have to talk, or think, or be aware in any way. Hubby and I have always had a great understanding – we are not attached at the hip. We do our own thing, follow our own plans, and can happily go out without each other and still *gasp* have a good time! ;-)

So last Friday, D had plans to go out with his friends. PERFECT. I relish nights on my own. I love cooking dinner for myself, while I futz around online without feeling guilty for ignoring my man, I love sipping on a glass of cold wine while I watch period pieces and musicals and silly romantic comedies (all the movies I could never put D through in good conscience), and I love just BEING.

Then to fall asleep and be woken by my slightly drunken, freshly showered (D always showers before bed, no matter how drunk he is when he gets home), incredibly loving and oh-so-sweet hubby crawling into bed and cuddling… NIIIIICE.

Then all of Saturday, D was teaching kite-boarding on the beach, and I had promised myself that I would hit my studies. I tried. I swear I did. I did some, but not nearly enough to even mention. But I had another great day to myself! I made myself a supremely delicious frittata, had an hour-and-a-half Skype call with my 2 best girls in Taiwan, where we laughed and bonded and chatted and pretended we were all in the same room (never mind the same country!), watched another movie, caught up on another girlfriend in London’s blog (scandalous yet wonderful!), and just enjoyed the sunshine falling on my lush tropical garden from the comfort of my living room. HEAVEN!

That morning I had woken up craving a seafood extravaganza. And what better night for it than Saturday! Before I knew it, I had rounded up 12 friends to head out to the wet market for a veritable feast! I LOVE the wet market. It’s the cheapest and freshest seafood on the island, and you can really treat yourself like a queen! You choose your food while it's still alive, buying it by weight, and then take it to any of the numerous eateries dotted immediately around the live food display, and choose how you would like it prepared. We ended up with a table brimming and overflowing with goodies! Coconut curry crab, ginger and garlic clam soup, baked oysters, peri-peri prawns, garlic butter prawns, baked cheese and garlic scallops, sweet and sour grilled fish… Ah! My mouth waters just at the memory! The night was crowned by some dancing at my favourite beach bar – toes in the sand, waves breaking just metres away, rain falling all around, wind blowing… magic.

Good friends + good food = HAPPINESS

On Sunday again I debated going to lie on the beach and get some sun, but opted instead for a lunch with my girl Anny, who’s awesome. Ice-cold beers, Japanese food, on a balcony overlooking the sea. Good, honest, positive conversation, lots of laughs, tremendous tales… too good!

And just to top of this perfect foodie weekend, my husband and my lovely friend Anna tag-teamed on a home-made tuna and salmon sushi dinner on Sunday night that was simply wonderful.

Good food, good friends. It takes so little to make me happy, really. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mid-term Break

A MAJOR perk of being a teacher is the time off. I won't pretend otherwise. It's rather spectacular to get approximately 12 weeks off a year, of paid leave.
However, before you all start cursing my luck, let me put it into perspective for you a little: When was the last time you spent 7 hours a day with a child? Now times that by 5 - for every day of the week. Now times that by 13, which is the number of kids that I teach. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT: We teachers DESERVE all the time off that we get!!!

Teaching is draining, and exhausting. You are constantly carrying the energy of an entire room. You have to be strong, supportive, encouraging, patient, loving, firm... all the time. You hold the psyche of an individual in your hands. You can either crush someone's spirit, or make them shine - with a single sentence. It is a COLOSSAL responsibilty, and a COLOSSAL gift. I love what I do, but even I need to recharge sometimes.
Me with my TA and our kids on the last day of school for 2010

And so, when I get even a mere week off from teaching, I RELISH it. I had grand plans to start studying in the break. My coursework packs for my Postgraduate Certificate in Education arrived a few weeks ago, and I keep making myself futile promises of getting to them. I think my excitement started to wane after I unwrapped the package, however. This IS studying, and studying IS hard. I am infinitely excited to start, but I am also painfully lazy and a fantastic procrastinator - my entire University career was something of a fluke, which I owe in large part to simply taking excellent notes in lectures and having an exceptionally good short-term memory when sleep-deprived.
Woohoo!!! My study materials arrive! So exciting!

Anyway. On the first day of the break, I managed to sort everything out: Read the study packs for each of the 7 subjects, get my head around when my assignments are due and what I need to do for each of them, and compile a list of the necessary textbooks that I need to buy and order online (This part is actually harder than it seems: I need to find the books online - of course, they aren't all available at the same place! - then arrange for them to be shipped to my brother in Johannesburg, who in turn will mail them to me to a friend's sister's house in Manila, who will then send them to me here in Boracay. Whew!)

Anyway, that done, I decided to relax. And never quite managed to look at the textbooks again for the rest of the week! What I DID do is read a lot, watch a lot of movies, sleep, cook, and relax. I spent 2 beautiful days at the beach, watching the sun set with good friends and enjoying my island, and went out to our favourite local bar (which is on the beach) where we danced in the moonrise and laughed like children.

I've been back at school for a few days now, and I feel like a new person. Sometimes all you need is 5 days to yourself to feel human again.