Ahora

The universe has a way of revealing you truths when you least expect it. Last Saturday, I had one of these moments.

Our last activity for Spanish Level A 1.2 was extemporaneous speaking. Our professor, Ma. Luisa Young, used this exercise to review all our past lessons. Each one of us was assigned a topic that we had discussed for the past nine meetings: Que Haces Normalmente? (¿What Do You Usually Do? ) Mi Horario (My Schedule), Mis Gustan y Preferencias (My Likes), El Tiempo Atmosferico (The Weather), etc. For some reason, Srta. Young gave me a very different topic: anything under the sun.

I started writing and the words came freely. Well, as free as one can be while grasping for words in Spanish. She gave us around ten minutes to finish our speeches. I wasn’t really keeping track of the time but I was punctuating my last sentence at the exact moment that she said, “Vamos a empezar” (Let’s begin). I felt light after writing my piece. It was as if I just answered a question that has been long troubling me. Of course, she and my classmates thought I was being morbid when I recited the first few lines and I was struggling not to glance at my paper. I apologized for my incoherent rambling and she said “No, that’s fine! Your philosophical roots are showing.”

Perhaps it was a mix of all the philosophies I learned in school, or a synthesis of what I had learned in school and in real life. Or maybe it was something more. At the risk of sounding kumbaya, I don’t think the realization that came to me that time was entirely my own.

La vida es muy complicada.

Trabajamos mucho pero vemos a morir de todos formas. Veo frequente articulos sobre el fin del mundo en Diciembre y pienso este es divertido .

Generalmente, nos gusta la idea de Armageddon pero tenemos miedo de morir.

Es normal pero morir es inevitable.

No sabemos cuando nuestro ultimo dia va a ser, antes o despues 2012? No se. Antes, en 1999, decimos que el fin de mundo es el nuevo milenio, pero seguimos viviendo.

En mi opinion, la vida es complicada porque preocupiamos mucho, hasta punto que olvidamos la verdad que estamos en el mundo por corto tiempo.

Si el mundo llega a su fin el proximo mes, esta bien.

Pero ahora, vivimos. Ahora, existemos.

La vida es simple.

Translation:

Life is very complicated.

We work hard but we are all going to die anyway. I frequently see articles about the end of the world in December and I think it’s funny.

Generally, we like the idea of Armageddon but we are afraid to die.

This is normal, but to die is inevitable.

We don’t know when our last day on earth is, before or after 2012? I don’t know. Before, in 1999, we said that the end of the world was on the new millennium, but we are still living.

In my opinion. life is complicated because we worry too much, to the point that we forget the truth that we are in this world for only a short time.

If the world will end in December, that’s fine.

But for now, we live. For now, we exist.

Life is simple.

Photo cred: Image taken from the NASA site

Pamby The Polyglot-Wannabe

“Do not betray the language or it will end up betraying you.” – Cadz Malbarosa

I just plunked down Php 4,000 for another term at Instituto Cervantes. I’ll probably be doing “The Budgetarian” diet in the next two weeks or so, but that’s fine. It’s all worth it.

When I was younger, I liked the idea of being fluent in many languages. I’m sure a lot of people will agree with the opinion that I had as a ten-year-old, that polyglots sound cosmopolitan. The fact that my grandmother can speak Spanish added to my eagerness to learn a language different from Filipino and English.

In college, I finally had the chance to learn a foreign language in a formal setting. Our curriculum in San Beda required us to take six units in foreign language. Luckily, I had Spanish. I wasn’t really keen on taking up the other FL subjects that the school offered. My last name may scream Chinese but I felt that I was too old to learn Mandarin. I also knew I was going to have a hard time pronouncing things in German (despite the Kastner ancestry) and in French.

Srta. Justine Balanag was my professor for two semesters and I loved her. Pretty and soft-spoken, she never made us feel dumb for mixing up genders. I loved my first sem with her and did pretty well in class.

By second semester though, I was singing a different tune. Conjugation, for me, is a dirty word. I struggled forming verbs and hated seeing conjugation exercises in our exams. Our professor tried to make the lesson more enjoyable by presenting the lyrics to No Me Ames and having us fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verb. When Srta. Balanag asked if we were familiar with the Jennifer Lopez song, one of my classmates said with aplomb, “Yes, that’s the Spanish version of Love Don’t Cost A Thing.” That was the only highlight of our lessons in conjugation.

I told Mama I was having difficulties in Spanish and she wasn’t much help since in her heydays at UST, she would just read the newspaper while their Spanish prof (who also happened to be a nun) would teach. Obviously, Mama disliked the subject but she could get away with that type of attitude, having learned French and Japanese when she was younger. Fortunately, I survived the class but I knew I could do better.

June this year, I enrolled at Instituto Cervantes de Manila (IC). They administer a diagnostic exam to those who have previously taken Spanish classes so they can determine the level wherein the student will be placed. I decided not to take that and just enroll in Level A 1.1. I felt that my six units aren’t going to hack it. I found out that most of my classmates in IC felt the same. Just like me, they had good professors in college but they were really insecure of their grasp of basic Spanish.

Our first instructor was Senor Francisco Garcia. I had to restrain myself from giggling when I first heard his name because I was reminded of Senor Francisco in “Sarah Ang Munting Bratinella”. He was really funny and shot down anyone who was trying to go beyond the lesson plan, not because he didn’t want us to grow but for the very simple reason that there were students who really were beginners. He mentioned that in the past, students would drop out because they felt left behind by their know-it-all classmates. If you want to go beyond the lesson, he will get you transferred to the next level… which makes perfect sense. He also said that we should not be scared to ask questions or to make mistakes. “Don’t mind what your classmate will think,” he said, “he or she did not pay for your tuition.”

Despite his good heart, my classmates and I had our share of challenges. For starters, we are required to speak ONLY in Spanish while in class. Yes, even during out first meeting. I remember assuming we would spend the first thirty minutes getting to know each other only to have Senor Garcia come in, mutter something in Spanish, and go out of the room to look for someone. The minute he left, we all had bewildered looks on our faces and were saying only one thing, “Ansabe?!” Later on, we found out he was complaining because the computer wasn’t working.

Senor spoke really slow and wasn’t above to pantomiming in class so we could understand him. Sometimes, he would use Filipino when he noticed that no amount of explanation in Spanish would suffice. He would also speak in Filipino when surprised, a good example of which was during an activity where had to match phrases in column A and column B. When my classmate was called to recite, he said “Mi esposa es….” his eyebrows furrowed a little to look for the answer, “siendo comida por mis amigos”.

Senor’s jaw dropped. “Huy ano ba yan? Ikaw ba papayag kang gawin sa asawa mo yan?” he asked, aghast. To this day, I laugh at the memory of his reaction. Senor also seemed to have picked up on my joking nature as he would change his mode of questioning when I was the one reciting.

Tu prefieres Felipe?” he asked, while discussing La Familia using the Royal Family of Spain as a model. “Si! I answered, bobbing my head excitedly. “El es guapo, es rico, y es listo. Quiero poner Felipe en mi armario!” It was a good thing our classmate, who was a Carmelite nun,wasn’t easily scandalized.

The most difficult exercise I had to do was the one on giving directions. Spatially-challenged as I am, I don’t know how to give instructions to our place in Filipino, let alone Spanish! When it was my turn to present, I just made it seem jeepneys stop right in front of my house. My classmate who hails from Batangas, did a far better job at mapping out her route.

Before A 1.1 ended, we were asked to fill out an evaluation form regarding our class and our instructor. One of the questions were “Does your instructor speak only in Spanish while class is in session?” We were all wondering if there was an adverb more extreme than “always”.

Our professor for Level A 1.2 was Maria Luisa Young, and I hate her. She is so perfect! Intelligent, pretty, funny, fluent in Spanish and French, well-dressed, she is the woman I wanted to become when I was a kid. Have I mentioned she’s also nice? Despite her goddess-like persona, she is very down to earth. My female classmates and I were deeply disturbed when we found out that the pretty girl whom we thought was a student was actually our teacher. “Bakit ganun, lahat ata nasa kanya?!” we’d ask ourselves every Saturday. I’m not kidding.

Incidentally, she was Srta. Balanag’s French professor in Ateneo De Manila University. When I recounted to Srta. Balanag we’d use to describe Srta. Young, she replied “You forgot well-traveled.” Lol. Spot on. Really, she’s amazing and I’m uncertain if I’m jealous of her or if I have a crush on her.

Srta. Young is nice also but I had trouble keeping up with the lessons. There were so many verbs to memorize and conjugate, ranging from regular, to irregular, to extremely irregular, to reflexive. “Como se dice…” has to be the most overused phrase in class. There were times I felt incredibly stupid especially when I took too long to answer a question.

Little by little, I found myself dreading having to go to class but had a change of heart when we started discussing gerunds. I don’t know why but something about the technicality of the lesson appealed to me. So with renewed interest, I enrolled in the next level and am now keeping my fingers crossed that our class won’t get dissolved due to low enrollment rate.

I’m far from being multilingual, I still want to burst into tears whenever I hear a Spanish native speaking rapidly in his mother tongue. As a Filipino, the only advantage I have as a Spanish student is that some words and pronunciation rules are similar (their grammar is an entirely different discussion) to those in our own language. I still struggle but I love learning Spanish, not just because I have a perfect excuse to watch telenovelas (Pasion de Gavilanes, anyone?) but also because one can’t help but learn a country’s customs and culture while learning its language. Behind each expression is an interesting story that is tied to a nation’s identity.

I’ve created another wordpress site for my posts written in Spanish. There, I will try to accomplish the 30-Day Blog Challenge among other things. Wish me luck!

Enter Sandman

Tonight, the adaptability of the mother-and-son team was challenged.

My candidates were scheduled for client interview so that meant staying in the office until 11:00 PM. I really don’t have any problem with that since I get paid for overtime work. Tonight was different though, since my son was with me. This was the first time he had to stay in the office beyond the usual working hours. Mama was in Cavite and my son still does not have a nanny so no one will be left at home with him. My boss was worried about the set-up’ she felt bad for Yeoshie but I assured her that my son is as low-maintenance as his Nanay. I figured he would just just sleep on the sofa while I worked.

However, I forgot two very important details: 1. my son detests sleeping with the lights on, and 2. he did not take his afternoon nap today. Apparently, he went with Aaron when the latter went to Glorietta to meet up with his college friend, Julan. Aside from talking their ears off, my manipulative son cajoled the guys into bringing him to Timezone. Then they went to Starbucks. Lord knows the amount of sugar they consumed while they were there. A few minutes after 4:00 PM, Aaron called me to tell me they were downstairs so I brought my son to our HR office and let him play games on the computer.

At 7:00 PM, he was already raising the white flag. “Nanay, antok na ako.” he said. I asked if he was willing to sleep on the sofa and he said it was okay but when we got to the reception area, I remembered that I can’t turn out the lights. We proceeded to the “chill-out” room and he settled on the cushions. Almost thirty minutes had gone by and he still wasn’t asleep. I also felt a tantrum coming on.

I was about to concede to the thought that I would not be able to get any work done for the remainder of the evening but then I got struck by a flash of brilliance. I recalled that when he was a few months old, we accidentally found out that Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” would immediately put him to sleep.

Eventually, we discovered that he also liked Razorback and Korn. I wasn’t really sure if Lars Ulrich and the gang would still have the same effect on Yeoshie but I was running out of options, so I got my cellphone, played Enter Sandman and whaddya know, his eyes were closed by the middle part of the song. When it ended, he mumbled “Isa pa”, so I played Wolfgang’s “Arise”.

And just like that, my baby was sound asleep.

Leave It In The Basket

Newer isn’t always better. Microblogging may have transformed the way we share news about our daily activities but there are things that ought not be put online.

I admit that in the past, I’ve fallen prey to my impulsiveness and wouldn’t even think twice about going on Facebook or Twitter to update my status about how irked or sad I was at that moment. Fingers flying on my keyboard, I would type and share a status message that was, more often than not, meant for one or two persons only.

It was not until my aunt called me on it that I was able to stop this vulgar habit. She said if I was feeling really contemptuous and wanted attention, I might as well post my message on my target person’s wall instead of embarrassing myself to my friends. She had an excellent point. I observed my FB and Twitter contacts who were fond of discussing private matters online and I realized that no matter how strong a language they used to attack a person, they only end up cheapening themselves. After that, I just kept mum or deactivated my Facebook whenever I felt the urge to post something mean.

Of course there are times that I still use social media to rant; I am still human. But I draw the line at sharing highly intimate details. Your friends shouldn’t have to go through that. I also refuse to use this blog as my avenue. Granted I may only have 2-3 readers, I will not give in to my id and write crap on this site.  That’s what my journal is for.

When I was younger, I gave up on the idea of keeping a diary because my mother would ALWAYS read it. But last year, friend told me that she was tired of using Facebook to rant her ass off so she bought a notebook and poured  out all her sadness and frustrations there. I followed suit and I’m very happy that I did. Some things are meant to be kept private. However, if my mother or someone else would snoop around and decide to read the contents of my journal, it won’t be the end of the world for me. As David Sedaris once wrote, “If you read someone else’s diary, you get what you deserve”.

It’s been almost a year since I went “old school” and I would encourage my temperamental friends to do the same. We gain nothing but notoriety by airing our dirty laundry in public. Let’s just leave it in the basket.

Now What?

 

In high school, we had it all figured out. We knew what to major in, what career path to take, which type of partner to marry. We knew what we would be doing 10 years down the road. Somewhere between college and the tenth year of working though, the uncertainties creep in and some if us begin to realize we’re nowhere close to how we envisioned ourselves back then. Welcome to the wonderful period of the quarter-life crisis.

Years ago, the idea of twenty-somethings doubting their decisions and existence would’ve been ludicrous, laughable even. After all, the world is their oyster and there are a myriad opportunities to choose from. An existential crisis was something that happened to people who were pushing fifty. They were the ones who questioned their decisions, who regretted not going after their dreams, who bought the expensive cars to cover up the fact that they were really unhappy.  However, this line of thinking is becoming more and more common in younger people. Is it because of the shorter lifespan? Is it because this generation values self-esteem more than a high salary or stability (according to the JPMAP summit I attended last year). I don’t know. What I do know is that many of my friends are undergoing similar experiences that I can only classify as quarter-life crisis. I refuse to use the acronym (QLC) because it’s cute and there’s nothing cute about the damn thing.

For some, quarter-life crisis is relatively mild. They get bothered that things didn’t go as planned: they hate their work or realize they were dating the wrong person all these years, etc. so they tweak a few things and get right back on track. I envy those people. Mine consisted of the realization that I haven’t found my passion yet (more on this in my next post). A close friend shared my sentiments of not having found her passion; so much so that she did not even like what she majored in back in college. I can’t imagine how horrible that is, spending four years studying something you’re not even remotely interested in. She added that she also felt left behind by her friends who already had their own careers and families. Another friend is utterly overwhelmed by the “real world” and feels unsure about his every decision. Mind you, this phenomenon is not endemic to women or those who are totally in touch with their emotional side. I know a former ladies’ man who, at 25, regretted his skirt-chasing days and wished that he could turn back time so he could marry his neighbor – a girl whom he went out with a couple of months and loved him despite his womanizing ways. He loved her but had thought that he was seliing himself short by tying himself down to one girl. She is now living in the US with her husband and two kids. My friend didn’t know there was a name for what he was going through. He didn’t even know what triggered it. At that time, my friend had no idea why he suddenly felt the need to be by himself. He turned down drinking invitations from his male friends and invitations to “come on over” from his female acquaintances. He was in a slump for more or less a year but he emerged from his self-imposed isolation a stronger and wiser man. He still drinks like a fish but he no longer humps every moving object in sight. More importantly, he acknowledges that he made some wrong decisions but no longer sees the need to crucify himself.

I guess that is the number one advice I can give to someone going through this seemingly unending epoch: forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for missing out on opportunities. Forgive yourself for not yet knowing what you want out of life. Forgive yourself for wasting time on the wrong things and the wrong people. Forgive yourself for not yet achieving the goals you set for yourself. Forgive yourself for being a prude or for not having enough sex. Forgive yourself for not knowing everything, especially, for not knowing better. Yes, you should have but at that moment, that was what you thought was best for you. I would be the last person to advise someone experiencing quarter-life crisis to kick himself/herself out of his/her rut. That’s easier said than done. But at the very least, be hopeful that there will be answers to your questions if not today, then in the coming days, weeks, months, even years. Allow yourself to be deeply disturbed by your problem but don’t forget to live. Remember, your musing started when you noticed that you don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life for twenty years or so. Before you know it, another twenty years would have passed and you still don’t amount to anything because you were busy crying over spilt milk.

In high school, we had it all figured out. But that was in high school. This is now.