Monday, October 29, 2007

All my bags are packed

I'm almost ready to go!

I'm sitting here, blogging away... Excuse me, readers at large, I have to leave a few reminders for my boys. Indulge me...

Hey guys, don't forget --

Gabriel, the thermostat - 63 degrees at bedtime, increase early in the morning to, say, 68 - 69. Turn off when you leave. Wear sweaters or warmer clothes inside the house.

Wear hoodies to school.

Everyone, wash your own plates. Clean up after yourselves.

Do your laundry today!

Everyone, wear a seatbelt in the car. Pleeease! $167 fine for not wearing a seatbelt, remember. And think of the injury risks of not properly wearing one too. Bud, lapbelt!!

Feed the hamsters and Gino's piranha. (I don't need to remind you about this.)

Markus, I'll cut your hair when I come back.

Tuesday is JOLT, Friday is Solid Rock, Sunday is church! No excuses unless you are reeallly not feeling well and not just "i'm not feeling well...".

Budget is for groceries, not junk food. Ok, you can have a bag of chips and a Sprite on a weekend, that's it.

Eat healthier choices in the fridge.

Homework first before Nintendo or computer or TV.

Turn on the light outside the front door at dusk.

Gabriel, your turn to take garbage bins to the curb this week. Markus, you are next week.

Markus, you can have crab and corn soup when dad goes to Superstore or T & T. You get a treat if you help dad carry groceries.

Mick, help prepare your own packed lunch. You too Gabriel and Markus.

Everyone, keep the computer desks neat. Use printer only for homework. Ink is too expensive. If old monitor fails, Gabriel and Markus can use Mick's PC.

Mick, wake up earlier for church or attend Saturday night.

Bud, you know where the car's insurance papers are and spare keys. I'll bring car to shop for oil change and top up when I come back.

Install the door sweep I got from Home Depot.

Remember the fall clean up starts on Nov 2.

I have written down recipes and suggested menu to last for more than a week. Just repeat a dish or two, or do your own. Mac and Cheese or Ramen for quick fix. Or roast chicken which is cheaper and better at Superstore.

Mail cheques I have prepared. World Vision and African Enterprise.

Return Gino's books to Vancouver Public Library.

Expect egg man to deliver a tray on Wednesday. Pay $12.50 for 2 trays including the last one.

I'll teach you guitar when I come back. In the meantime, watch the DVD.

Markus, is your bass amp still charged? Ask your classmate for your bass lesson book he borrowed. Keep practicing.

OK I think these are all my reminders. Lab lab kiss kiss... huggy buggy and cuddle bunny when Mom comes back.

Email Mom!!! Most of all, take care. Go home from school early.

Ahhh... I hope I'm not forgetting anything.

I think I have one last thing I haven't done. Plant tulip bulbs in a pot. Oh I can do that in 2 minutes.

My luggage is ready. I have written down everything that went into my suitcase and carry on. I will just throw in the cream cheese for Gino. That's about it.

My travel and accommodation documents are all in a binder, with maps and web printouts what to see and to do, where to eat on a budget. Oh God, I hope I don't lose anything anything. Pleaase.

And while you are reading this, my family and readers at large, my friends I haven't met, would you say a prayer for health and safety for me, Gino and my boys here.

"You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out," the Bible says, and also the words spoken to me by friends who blessed me. Though I have anxieties, I choose to trust and enjoy!!!

Bon voyage!! See you after two weeks!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What not to wear

I thought it was a practical idea to bring a long denim skirt on my trip to Europe next week. It is comfortable, warm and very low maintenance. I can wear it for days and days and just change my top. One pair of jeans, one denim skirt, a pair of black pants and a few long sleeved blouses to mix and match that will all fit into a backpack/roller bag. I'm good to go.

So last Sunday, I went to my favourite thriftshop to get such a skirt. It's only for this short trip and I may never wear it again, why get an expensive one. I spent a long time looking for this one skirt.

After about two hours in the store, I went home with a skirt, tried it on, and walked about to see how it felt. I bumped into Markus and Gabriel in the kitchen.

"Mom, what are you wearing?" they both exclaimed.

"It's a denim skirt," I replied.

"Mom, you're NOT wearing that to Paris, the fashion capital of the world!" Gabriel said.

"But I'm also going to Nimes (pronounced NIM), where denims originated. I will wear denims," I tried to impress the two with something I just heard from Rick Steve's Europe on TV. They couldn't care less.

The two went on and on critiquing the skirt and how I looked in it as if they had seen the show What Not to Wear on cable TV. I can't stand that show, honestly.

"This is an Eddie Bauer," I said.

"Who cares? It's ugly," they replied. "And why is the slit in front? Mom, you're wearing it sideways," they chuckled. Since when did these two become my personal fashion consultants?

"That's the style," I replied back. They went on and on and on until I gave up pretending to know Eddie Bauer -- and style -- and changed to something more familiar.

Knowing that Gabriel and Markus will keep teasing me every time they see me "wearing a skirt sideways", I returned it to the store the very next day. I found another one--a faded black denim skirt also with a slit in front but nicer looking. It fits me better too and it hides dirt better. Perfect for long travel times. Gabriel and Markus have not seen it, and I'm not going to ask their opinion.

I am bringing a pair of black pants just in case some establishments in the "fashion capital of the world" or elsewhere require less casual attire. Other than that, it will be denims all the way for me. After all, I'm going to the place where it came from.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

French connection


I was half-joking when I said I wanted to go to France after Gino left in late August. Guess what? I am really going to France. I have my round-trip ticket and I'm leaving on October 29!

"Come on, Lerryblossoms! You should go. You deserve a break... Pray about it," my good friend Merryblossoms told me when I first broached the idea in a daydreaming fashion. I did not really believe I could afford the trip, or that I wanted to spend a lot for it. But what she said got me thinking. When else could I go to Provence and have free accommodation? Gino has an attic all to himself. Besides, I haven't had a real vacation in 3 years. I took my "holidays" to either clean the house or paint a room. I began seriously entertaining a trip to France.

Bud was okay with the idea, and rather envious too. He would have come if not for work and for the young ones at home. After all, someone was graciously offering to shoulder the fares. Me, I still have 2 weeks paid vacation left. France seemed to be a great idea. I prayed about it.

I started checking out plane fares online. Everything was in the thousands! There was even something that cost more than $5,000 round-trip. Forget it!

Then I remembered to check Zoom Airlines, the same one Gino took to France. When I saw their plane fares, I got excited. $149 to Paris and $229 back!! Including taxes, it was less than $700. Can't be beat!

So I started communicating with Gino about my plans and we texted back and forth about the dates. The thing with Zoom is, they fly on certain days only. I had to sync my 2-weeks break with Gino's schedule. When we finally agreed on the dates, I went online to book my flights. The fares had significantly increased overnight on the dates I wanted! Whaaat?? I was very disappointed. God, I prayed, if the fares are higher than $700, I won't go.

Later, when I checked the Zoom site again, lower fares were back but on different dates. They were not as low as the first time, but still lower than $700. I contacted Gino about the changes. Oh, the beauty of text messaging!

After I got his response, I went online to finally book my flight. I saw a lower fare combination, the lowest I had seen, but on different dates again. It would still allow me to travel to France and back to Vancouver in two weeks. $149 to Paris and $199 back! With taxes, I'd pay less than $600. And I get to be there for Gino's birthday. I booked my flights immediately.

Gino was probably getting confused about my constantly changing travel dates. October 22 ... October 15 ... Now I would be going there on October 29, start of Gino's school break during which he was planning to go to Italy with some other people. He had to change his own plans, somewhat. He was still going to Italy -- with me! I am going to Italy! Che bello!

"Mom, learn a few French phrases," Gino said at the beginning. Later, he told me to learn a few Italian phrases too. Last summer, for some strange reason, I tried so hard to memorize mini-craquelins au riz avec noix, of all things (mini rice crackers with nuts - the munchies I bought from Costco). As for my Italian, I know different kinds of pasta and pizza. I guess I should learn some French and Italian drinks, too, huh?

Occasionally, I wonder if I am not being extravagant. Gino and I are prepared to get the cheapest hostels, eat the simplest food and munch on mini-craquelins on long train rides. Still, I hear this tiny cheapskate's voice in my head that wants to take me on a guilt trip instead. No! I won't take the trip called Guilt. I am going to France and see my son (and Paris and Venice and Florence and Provence, possible Geneva too!) I counterattack. And I will buy a few souvenirs!

I was in this state of self-doubt, when I came across a wise quote from the great Leonardo da Vinci: "Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment...Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen."

How appropriate and how timely! Da Vinci seemed to speak to me in plain--not coded-- language. Thank you Leonardo. I will visit your artwork in the Louvre.

My challenge on this trip is finding ways to travel on a shoestring budget. This would be very interesting. I wonder how far my frugality will take me in an expensive part of the world. I will journal my cheap discoveries and share some tips
with you later.

Here's one to begin with -- mini-craquelins!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bonding, binging, boxing

Canada's Thanksgiving Day falls on the second Monday of October. It is one holiday we immigrants learn to adopt and appreciate. It's a good tradition that brings family and friends together. And it's also a good time to be grateful for all of God's many blessings.

This year, we had a Thanksgiving party at a friend's house with our Life Group from church. Our Life Group is currently composed of 5 couples, all Filipino immigrants, that meet twice a month at different homes. We talk about our concerns, needs, answered prayers, frustrations, and whatever else anyone would like to open up to the group. We commit to keep confidences. The Life Group is meant to be a safe place. No gossiping!!

Although our group just started this fall, we are already becoming good friends. We are bonding. We are still in the getting-to-know-you and trust-building stages, but I can sense the potential of our group to become a place of mutual support.

We started the afternoon with our regular Bible study and fellowship. In keeping with the sermon series at our church, the topic was from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

We started with some singing.

After the Bible study, we had a turkey dinner. Our gracious hosts prepared a humungous roast turkey and other sumptious dishes and desserts, and the guests brought their potluck too. It was binging time! More guests, with more food, trickled in.

Turkey and bibingka!

To cap the evening, we gathered in front of a big TV to watch the Super Featherweight title fight between the Philippines' Manny Pacquiao and Mexico's Marco Antonio Barrera. Fortunately, our hosts had HBO. By this time, our number had grown to around 30, including the children. Before the match started, we were all animatedly talking and laughing and kidding around. It was like a happy marketplace! You'd wonder how we could even hear one another.

Finally, the bout started with the usual introductions and the singing of the national anthems. We felt a sense of pride hearing Lupang Hinirang on international TV. It was sung beautifully. We felt like the Philippines had already won.

The fight lasted all of 12 rounds. That's 3 minutes each round with 1-minute breaks in between. There were exciting moments when we became very loud. I was among those who screamed the most. If you don't want to hurt your eardrums, don't sit beside me during a boxing match. I scream, I kick, I fling my arms... COME ON MANNYYYYY! TAPUSIN MO NAAAA!

Even though the game did not deliver the same level of excitement as Pacquiao's previous fights, we were still very pleased that he won. The Philippines would be going wild.

So that was our Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for so many things -- for my family, my friends, my native land, my adopted country, my church, my job, my health, my simple pleasures, my big challenges... For all of these things, God, thank you!!