Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's 2012

Here's wishing that 2012 will be gentler, kinder and warmer.  Here's to hoping that wishes will come true. May friends and family find joy, happiness and good health.  I wish all of you the kind of love that brings you home after a long journey, wherever you are.

True love, kindness, tears only of joy and warmth in the embrace of those who carry your heart and soul in the palm of their hands...

Happy New Year's to all and I wish we all find each other in the journey called life this year!

New York, New York

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paris Partie Deux

In October it was decided I would be returning to Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world.  The great part about it was, my daughter Nicole was traveling with me.

As is my annual sojourn to Europe, I try to stay away from the hot summer days and schedule closer to early fall so I can have not just the comfortable weather but great pictures as well of moi - in my boots and jackets and my numerous scarves. And so we packed - sweaters, leggings, boots, jackets and all and landed in Paris to experience 85 degree weather! What the crepe?! And thus we ended up wearing our lighter wardrobe intended for the second leg of our vacation, to warmer Barcelona.

I love Paris - have I said that yet? In late September, the touristy crowds have dissipated and the locals are back.  The bistros, the cafes and the boulangerie offer a wide variety of pre-fixe menus that will dazzle your palate and appreciation for the French cuisine.  I like going to the smaller family-owned shops where when we come in and stagger with my flailing French, they immediately read the distress on my face and dispatch the English-speaking waiter. HA! And then he staggers with his flailing English to explain what is on the menu so we order, he delivers and we are all happy in the end. I always suggest to friends that when you travel, to be adventurous.  Order stuff that you are not familiar with but best of all, ask what they recommend: que recommandez-vous? But do all your meals have to be French? Depends how you feel but seriously I think if I did that I would just hate and swear off any more charcuterie before I learn to pronounce it properly!  In the one week that we made Paris our home, we also ate at local Italian/pizza restaurants and yes, in Montmartre we found a tiny family-owned Thai place that served sticky rice with their meals and it just hit the spot.

McDonald's, yes - that great American invention, has fascinated me how it has adapted to every country it mushroomed into.  In Italy [] they have burgers with pancetta and no burgers buns for you but instead you get them in ciabatta rolls! And then they pack their take-outs in snazzy brown bags! Of course in Manila we have the McTapsilog and McLongsilog side by side the Egg McMuffins for breakfast!  In France they have the Croque McDo [] which sadly we never got to taste because the 'other' food options were just numerous!

Oh, the Parisiens! I love listening to the local chatter that I absolutely cannot understand and manage to learn if I tried.  I think it is a fascinating language - not just romantique but very seductive: "Comment allez-vous?" ... me: oh yes, take me home =) And no, I have never met a rude Parisien (there are more rude New Yorkers trust me!) - we have been helped when asked to even and do they smile back when you greet them 'bon jour!'. I love how the women would ride their bikes in their high heels and how the men strut like they are god's gift to women (hmmm, like the italians and the Spaniards!).

During my first visit to Paris, as a side trip to Lyon, I only stayed three days and had to rush through the major sites in between meeting with friends and making lunch commitments.  It was a preview and I was a tourist. This time I wanted to feel like a local. We decided to stay a week and found a wonderful apartment in the Marais area that was rented out by a now NY-based UN staffer.

I have traveled around with my daughter since she was small.  In Manila, I taught her how to read road maps so that when we made long drives she read the milestones and would dictate to me what town we would be driving into next and how far we are from it.

True enough, as soon as we arrived in Paris she studied the subway system and by the next day knew the quickest way to get anywhere.  She became my official guide. We took in Paris in a very relaxed way - we took long walks and sat in the park to watch people, took extended brunches or took the bus instead of the metro to see more places.  On her own she ventured into her museum tours (I get saturated very quickly with the artsy stuff!) and finally had her face to face time with the Mona Lisa. "It is so over-rated!" was her only reaction.

The only major touristy stuff we did were climb La Tour Eiffel and waited until sunset to enjoy the flickering lights of the steel lady, took the river cruise on the Bateaux Mouches and visit Versailles. We mingled like locals with the crowds during Nuit Blanche and it totally reminded us of the chaos that ensues in Manhattan during the Thanksgiving parade or the West Village Halloween parade. We sampled the macarons at Laduree (and my favorite is the rose!) but didn't think much about it since there is also a Laduree in Manhattan.  It was just so fantastique to be sitting on a bench along the Champs Elysee munching on les macarons =)

But something happened on the way to being a Parisien. Familiar with the trash shoots in apartment buildings in Manhattan, we thought our building in Marais would also let us throw stuff in the size of small plastic bags.  On our first day however we discovered that the slot was no bigger than a mailbox opening and so couldn't hold more than a small bunch of trash.  The owner of the apartment told us we can leave recyclables in the apartment that she can dispose off later or bring them to the basement.  We ventured into going down the basement and ended up faced with this cavernous dark cold space that had long unlit halls. Yes - how do you say 'creepy' in French again? So we left our huge bag of trash on the floor and ran back to the elevator (before we got stranded, heaven forbid!) and learned our lesson - everyday we threw out small bags of trash into the shoot and brought out the bigger ones (milk and soda bottles, pizza box, etc) to dispose of them into the neighborhood trash cans.  In Manhattan that is illegal.  I am still waiting for my ticket from the French council.

Someone told me that you never say goodbye to Paris, only "au revoir" because for sure it is a city you will keep coming back to.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writer's Block

It feels like I have been suffering from writer's block for the few years.  So many things in life has eclipsed the former yearning to just write, ponder and write.  These days I have been writing my thoughts through photographs.  My new art that I have been sharing to a few.  True, the artist is the biggest critic of himself.

Tomorrow, the first of August marks a major milestone.  I move out of the office that I have called my second family for the past 8 years.  Not out of absolute want, really.  In June I took a temporary promotion because "I am getting bored with all the demolition" in the renovation project.  It was too technical and the removal of the asbestos in the building prohibited my movements making me less able to photograph the progress of the project.  I was mostly stuck in the air-conditioned comfort of the office, pushing construction documents, attending design meetings and bridge-calling donors in Europe.  It was too clerical. I applied for other job vacancies and immediately got a temporary post to work with humanitarian staffing in the field. What excitement - new things to learn! Surge capacity, clusters, places with names I had to jot down so I could wikipedia it. Fun!

One week in the job and even more adventures came my way.  I was offered a real promotion within the same department but in another office.  Great, right? Humbly, I wanted to decline.  As humbly as I have declined three previous other offers for promotions.  Stupid, right? Yes, I heard you utter the words.

Work to me should be something I feel excited about when I wake up in the morning.  It has nothing to do with the remuneration nor is it just the relationships with the people in the office but the value of responsibility that my supervisors give me with confidence that I can manage them.  I had that at the renovation project.  I have proven my worth and everyone, including the Assistant Secretary-General have given me the appropriate acknowledgements. I need to be a part of it. I have turned down promotions because I am too lazy to start over with having people get to know me and what I can do. I fear the enemies that are unknown. Most of all, I fear failing if put in a different environment.  I fear losing myself.

I sought out opinions from my friends and the vote was unanimous.  It was time to leave the renovation project.  And so with an email, I accepted the job offer.

Tomorrow I will sit in a new desk.  I will meet new people, makes new friends, make new enemies.  Am I excited? Hard to tell.  There is anticipation for sure.  There is a feeling that I need to get this over and done with.

My writer's bloc? It is still up and at it.  But tonight my fingers sought the keyboard to sort out thoughts and put them on paper (or computer monitor).  My thoughts flowed freely, even as my words staggering. Getting over writer's block I realize has more to do with inspiration.  That walked out the door when the camera came in. I need to  introduce them to each other so they can mate and produce beautiful articles together.  That was my objective at the start.

I need to do things.

Southhamptons, New York

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Khalil Gibran

الحب الذي تغسله العيون بدموعها يظل طاهرًا وجميلاً وخالدًا"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Social Networking and the PDA-phobic

Hot humid summer night in Manhattan.  Boy and girl sit outside of Shake Shack eating 'healthier' burgers and 'healthier' fries.

In between chewing and chit-chatting about 'how was your day dear?', they both browse their emails from their phones.

Him: You sent me an invite to Google Plus?

Her: Uh-hum...

Him: Who else is there?

Her: me and none of your million and one female followers.

Him: So it is like a party with no guests.

Her: That's what I Tweeted.

Him:  You don't even bother with your Facebook peeps.

Her: They are not my peeps. Half of them are stalkers who add me so they can have 1,000 friends. Only about half of those in my list - the ones who see my full posts are my friends.

Him: So if I add you on Google Plus you and I can chat openly on your wall?

Her: Hell no.

Him: I just deleted your invite.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Photography

This weekend I will be attending a two-day photo composition class. My newly bought 24-105 L IS lens and my trusty Canon in tow, I will pray for perfect shooting weather and will hopefully capture New York City wake from its extended winter slumber and burst into colorful spring.

Finally, too I have found the quote that best describes how I photograph from Henri Carter-Bresson:  "A great photograph has a musical feel, and a single photograph tells lots of stories and can transfix a moment in time's flow."

Or at least that is how I wish to learn to photograph by the end of my composition classes.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Reflection

Winter had been long this year, almost endless.  It is mid-April and everyone on the East Coast of the continental United States is complaining that they still have their winter coats as part of their daily wardrobe.

Yesterday the rain poured unforgiving. It slew any hopes that warmer days would be approaching. The weight of the soaking and the winds split the huge tree at the corner and spilled its springtime blooms on the sidewalk.  It was scary. This morning I woke to the morning sunshine filtering into my apartment through windows that have been pleading for some Windex. When I stepped out for lunch it was still brisk but the sun was out and the skies were blue.

There is this scene in a Julia Roberts movie where Hugh Grant is walking the streets of London and the seasons catch up with him every ten or so steps.  My life feels that way sometimes - of time just quickly passing by. Soon it will be the scorching summer days and then the leaves will turn golden again and then Father Winter should not be far behind. Another birthday, another Thanksgiving, another Christmas and then another New Year.

Years pass, seasons come and go and there is no way of denying that I am getting older.  I feel it all the time - the impatience for the mundane becomes overwhelming. Yoga helps but when I get to my knees for a better angle for my pictures my knees scream. It is not the same. My eyesight is deteriorating and I blame the architectural drawings I work with daily. I observe the naivete of the young and shake my head knowing I have taken that journey before.  But all of this in stride I ask myself where I want to go. What do I want to do? What can I change now to make my life  happier? Everyone says I have a great life and yet I have some objections to that statement.

Sometime we think we stall in our decisions because we are too comfortable and too happy that we settle for the status quo.  Everyone dreams of a life in Manhattan, working for the world's greatest organization. I travel as I please to places I have once upon a time never even thought I could see beyond the pages of a book. I have great friends and people who truly care and love me. I have dreamed and I have lived some of it.  And I have also had some disappointments. Yet I acknowledge that until I am in full control of the world (which yes, I know I never will), there will always be disappointments. I've laughed more than I have cried. I have a smile on my face more often than I have a frown and yet there is something lacking.  But that is life. There always have to be a certain vacuum - a part missing because it pushes us to live life some more. To further fulfillment, to share, to grow, to learn, to cry, to laugh, to break and then to mend.

I look outside my window and gaze at another full moon. One more full moon, one more cycle of the earth. I feel blessed and grateful of this life. I am thankful.

New York, NY

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things You have Done in Your Lifetime

Things you have done during your lifetime: (with personal notes in parenthesis)
(X) Gone on a blind date (all my university life it seems)
(X) Skipped school (most of high school and university)
( ) Watched someone die
(X) Been to Canada (Vancouver)
() Been to Mexico
(X) Been to Florida
(X) Been to Hawaii
(X) Been on a plane
(X) Been on a helicopter
(X) Been lost (many times, and loved watching LOST)
(X) Gone to Washington, DC
(X) Swam in the ocean
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers
(X) Recently colored with crayons
(X) Sang Karaoke
(X) Paid for a meal with coins only (UN cafeteria usually)
() Been to the top of the St. Louis Arch.
(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't (many many times)
(X) Made prank phone calls
() Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose
(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue (I love doing this!)
(X) Danced in the rain
(X) Written a letter to Santa Claus (very recently as a matter of fact)
(X) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(X) Watched the sunrise with someone (and sunset....)
(X) Blown bubbles
(X) Gone ice-skating
(X) Gone to the movies
() Been deep sea fishing
() Driven across the United States
() Been in a hot air balloon
() Been sky diving
(X) Gone snowmobiling
(X) Lived in more than one country
(X) Lay down outside at night and admired the stars while listening to the crickets
(X) Seen a falling star and made a wish (and the wish didn't come true)
() Enjoyed the beauty of Old Faithful Geyser
(X) Seen the Statue of Liberty
() Gone to the top of Seattle Space Needle
(X) Been on a cruise  (short cruise)
(X) Traveled by train
() Traveled by motorcycle
(X) Been horse back riding
(X) Ridden on a San Francisco CABLE CAR
(X) Been to Disneyland OR Disney World (both)
(X) Truly believe in the power of prayer (many times faith has helped me through tough times but I am still not a devout anything)
(X) Been in a rain forest
(X ) Seen whales in the ocean
(X) Been to Niagara Falls
() Ridden on an elephant
( ) Swam with dolphins
( ) Been to the Olympics
( ) Walked on the Great Wall of China
( ) Saw and heard a glacier calf
( ) Been spinnaker flying
( ) Been water-skiing
(X) Been snow-skiing
( ) Been to Westminster Abbey
(X) Been to the Louvre
() Swam in the Mediterranean
(X) Been to a Major League Baseball game
(X) Been to a National Football League game


I have noticed that when more senior-ranking colleagues make ridiculous pronouncements and expect everyone to believe it, it only emphasizes how stupid they think you are to believe it.

I am just saying.

New York,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


10PM : I found myself sitting on my couch with Google Earth open on my iPad.  I was planning my year and it would be based on where I plan to be - in the spring, the summer, autumn and Christmas holidays.  I had "bookmarks" to work with.  Having just returned from a quick vacation with family, I promised my dad I would return for his birthday in August.  So I have blocked two weeks in August for Manila. Where to go before and after in Asia was the next question.  I have resolved that in my quest to cover much of Europe as I can I would at the same time see as much of Asia as I can and seems only reasonable to time this when I go home.  For August I was torn between my boyfriend's suggestion of meeting up in Phuket or photographing a more zen Bali or more exotic Bhutan.

I have also made a promise to my family to be home for the holidays so I will be in Manila in December.  We were planning a pre-50th wedding anniversary celebration for my parents and I have been looking at doing a quick 5-7 day cruise with them embarking from either Singapore or Hong Kong.  I have contacted a travel agency after I ended up with dead-end searches on the internet only to be reminded that it will be winter in China so there would be limited short cruises.  Sigh...maybe we can just all go to Cebu? Or I heard the Shangri-La in Boracay is exceptional.

And then there is the problem that is May.  I have made plans to return to Italy in the spring to see the sunflowers in Tuscany.  When I traveled last fall they were gone and in their plan was a landscape of autumn golds, yellows, reds and browns.  And yet I have also wanted to see the fjords of Norway and bask in the 24 hour daylight splendor.

Locally I have tickets to see friends in Miami, San Francisco and Chicago.  Grateful for the mileage I have accumulated that feeds my wanderlust through free tickets! Cheers Delta and Continental! And cheers that even my credit card purchases go into mileage! YAY!

And then I stall... I have promised Jorge I will visit him in Madrid and I would like to see Barcelona and Zaragoza as well as see the churches of Andalucia.  Spain in the fall? Andrea's stint in Geneva will end soon and I did say we would see Berne, Zurich and the southern Swiss lakes together in the summer.  And then there is Prague. And then Jenny and my return to Stockholm as the girl with the butterfly tattoo  in Gamla Stan.

The world is too big, so many places to see with so little time.  My perfect solution is yes, to win the lottery.  I will file a year long leave from my work (not resign - you want me to give up my hefty pension fund???) and just travel around the world with no clear direction.  I would start with Scandinavia in the summer and then St. Petersburg.  And then I would base myself again in Colle di Val D'Elsa while I discover the other parts of Tuscany ... a chance to see Bramasole finally??? Or maybe find a new base in Umbria. Then I will head back to Lyon and enjoy the bridges when it is warmer and brighter.  The last time I was there was also in the autumn and 3 days of my week was rained out.  I would like to return to the Vieux Lyon and stay longer - maybe 3 weeks to enjoy the cuisine and the wine and the people.  Then I will proceed to Provence for the lavender fields and then to Nice.  And then I will take my favorite TGV to Paris where I will get an apartment even tinier than my Manhattan flat and live there for the rest of the summer.

And when the crisp air begins to blow, I will return north to enjoy the colors. I will walk the streets of Zurich and then enjoy the Italian lakes and re-experience the magic of Tuscan countryside.  Then I will head towards Nairobi where I will photograph the wilderness. I will spend days in the safaris and maybe hike Kilimanjaro.  I will explore the deserts and shoot pictures of the dunes at dawn and at sunset and marvel at the brilliant colors that nature creates.

When it begins to get cold then I will be migratory like the birds and head for Asia.  I have been planning to see Japan for two years now.  Despite the great catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in 2011, I still believe Japan will be beautiful to see in the spring and in the fall.  And then it is time to bike in Viet Nan, walk the paddies in search for Ketut in Indonesia (Eat Pray and Love anyone?). I would like to hibernate in the beaches of Bali or Phuket or just find comfort in the love of family back in Manila.

You see I know my cycles - Europe in the spring and the summer, Africa in the fall and Asia in the winter. Now I will go out and get myself a lottery ticket......

Manhattan, NY

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Promise

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Shakespeare Sonnet 116