Merriam-Webster defines “study” as “the activity or process of learning about something by reading, memorizing facts, attending school etc.” But language is a living thing that evolves through the years and the word “study” is no exception. It has gone through an evolution much to the chagrin of the teacher in me.
There is something in Bekasi that brings out the magpie in me whenever I chance upon something that I am fond of. Being a collector is nothing new for me, but I mostly collected books and, at one point, shoes until my mother put a moratorium on my shoe-spending and made me swear not to enhance my collection. I just now replace some old ones.
But Bekasi has had me starting new collections, which would make most people raise their eyebrows in incredulity. My liking, for example, for couscous had me starting a collection of couscous during my early years in Bekasi. It was unheard of so I would have a former flat mate of mine carting boxes of those for me when she’d drop by for a visit from Singapore. Now, fortuitously, couscous is ubiquitous and has become a permanent fixture in the supermarket shelves of Bekasi. After couscous, I found myself collecting this particular brand of Japanese green tea which was so commonplace in Singapore, but oh-so-rare in Bekasi. Carrefour carried it but its availability was unpredictable as a windstorm; it would take months before the stock could be replenished. This was recently followed by a collection of the Nature’s Bakery raspberry fig bars that I serendipitously chanced upon Farmer’s Market at Grand Metropolitan Mall. The stock is dwindling and heaven knows when it will be replenished again. Following the fig bars is a short-lived collection of Starbucks’s bottled Frappuccino. I am stretching my Starbucks Frappuccino because I’m down to my last two bottles. My last trip to Farmer’s Market left me so dismayed because the shelf where the bottles of mocha and coffee Frappuccino used to be had been completely replaced by a collection of bottled milk tea from Thailand.
Target is a treasure trove of surprises. I was strolling along the aisles when I chanced upon such as this unlikely alliance between these iconic figurines. I suddenly had a vision of Darth Vader and Leonardo standing guard outside my office at Global Prestasi School. Too bad that they couldn’t fit into my luggage.
I am not one to argue with a sage if I don’t know any better. The Sage of Tea, Lu Yu, is someone I won’t question about tea. He wrote the compendious book on tea, The Classic of Tea, and I do agree with his thoughts on tea, such as it has a calming effect. I drink chamomile when I want my thoughts to quiet down and relax the knotted muscles. I normally have a cup at night for a good night’s sleep. Now, peppermint is good for when my stomach starts acting up again; it is better than popping a tablet. While dining in a Chinese restaurant, I normally have chrysanthemum or jasmine tea (no sugar) with the meal. It aides in digestion I was told. As for green tea – I am biased towards the genmaicha green tea – it is perfect when I am marking papers, as it gives the brain power an extra boost. Adding to the efficacy of green tea is it helps one with pulling down the weight.Then I had a cup of peppermint one fine afternoon at Hotel Ibis Bencoolen in Singapore. Now, I dare add to the Sage of Tea’s quotes on tea. I am thinking “Tea can make you laugh.” Or “Tea is perfect for exercises on malapropism.”
The meeting was at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the new mall of Eastwood Mall in Quezon City. I was excited to see two of my long time high school friends, Melie and Joy. Joy lives in California with her husband and two sons while Melie lives in Quezon City with her immediate and extended family. Whenever we are all in the Philippines, we make it a point to catch up.
Arriving at Eastwood Mall, I headed to the information counter to ask for directions. It was my first time at the mall.
Me: “Good afternoon. Can you please tell me where Coffee Bean is?”
Receptionist: “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Go to the end and exit this building. Walk the sky bridge until the end. Coffee Bean is at the other side.”
Me: “So, go to the end, exit, on to the sky bridge and Coffee Bean is at the other end.”
Receptionist: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Me: “Thank you and Happy New Year.”
Receptionist: “You’re welcome, Ma’am. Happy New Year, too.”
Following her directions, I was on the look out for the sky bridge when I exited the building. Lo and behold! There was a wonderful canvas of sky blue dotted by puffs of clouds.
Me: “Good Lord! Where is the sky bridge?”
My gaze veered to the left and spotted the huge Coffee Bean sign. I followed the circuitous pathway and – surprise, surprise – reached a short, concrete Japanese bridge which I crossed to get to Coffee Bean.
Staid as an English butler isn’t how I’d describe the ambience at La Tartine, the restaurant and breakfast place for guests staying at Hotel Puri Tempo Doeloe. While the kitchen rustled up my breakfast, I was piqued at the knick-knacks on display and particularly the signs. The ambience definitely reeked of the irreverent behaviour of Queen of Pop Madonna commingled with the witticism of TV host Jimmy Fallon that is a bit out of place in prim and proper Sanur, Bali. But that’s part of the charm of La Tartine, its disarming laidback milieu that indubitably cracks you up. Even Snow White’s Grumpy couldn’t keep his irascible demeanour.
Whoever said that women are docile creatures is in for a rude awakening at La Tartine. The owner definitely has his/her image of women different from the conventional one. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
The last sign that my gaze fell on shortly before my breakfast of nasi goreng (fried rice) arrived was one rib tickler. The timing was so apt since “Fifty Shades of Grey” was then playing in the cinemas.
La Tartine Café-Restaurant
Jl. bypass Ngurah Rai 209
Tel: 0361 286542
Eureka! Here is the answer to a shopaholics’ dire predicament of not having enough space to fit everything they bought in their bag. This gargantuan Webe bag greets people the moment they emerge from meandering walk within the souvenir shopping area that they pass through to get through their departure gates from the check-in area on the first floor at the Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, Bali.
Putting down the red pen,
irritation seeps in.
There is no end to this madness
of correcting the misspelled “dissappointed”
or putting a full-stop or ? or ! at the end of the sentence.
A silent shriek goes through my head: “Let me outta here!”
A break – I need a break that was more than the trite Kit Kat break.
Zing! There can only be that one that can take the frustration.
Smooth like well polished marble tiles;
soft as whipped butter;
and demure as a young Victorian lady
waiting for her gentleman caller.
Sophie’s creation would have been perfect
– with green tea to boot – but Georgetown
would do for now.
Yes! Oh yes!
I’m going on a break.
Unlike most singles, I have a few weeks respite from being badgered about my marital status. Big holidays are always hard on the singletons as they are plagued by queries about their love life and poked fun at for being without a partner. The big holidays with its endless get-togethers are Christmas followed by Chinese New Year. Valentine’s Day isn’t a big family affair but the whole community – from restaurants to shopping malls – is in on shining the spotlight on the singletons. I don’t observe Chinese New Year although I join in the festivities so I get a few weeks off from the harassment.
In my 20s, Christmas was when the singleton in my family took centre stage when kith and kin speculated on my status. The nosey ones did not relent with their catty remarks (“Time has left me.”) and crude jokes (“I should be less opinionated so I can find a partner.”) that riled me to no end. It got worse when I was compared to my cousins who were in committed relationships. Attending family gatherings transformed into a difficult chore because there was nothing endearing about being cast as the black sheep of the family.
Twenty plus years later, age has mellowed my otherwise belligerent stance and caustic retorts to the relationship-police who never fail to try and wheedle out of me my state of romantic affairs. I have learnt since them to let everything slide off like water on a duck’s tail. In a way, it seemed like I wrote the scenes beforehand and went over them in my head in preparation for the usual grilling.
One scenario went something like this.
A relative would ask, his tone a mixture of sarcasm and mockery: “O, kailangan ka ba ikakasal?”
Me: “Oh, am still waiting for the answer from the guy am courting. You will be the first one to receive a wedding invite. Promise.”
Relative was gobsmacked at my retort because, for him, it was completely sacrilegious. Sacrilegious in two ways – my singlehood and that I was “running” after a man and, on top of it, proposing. In his prejudiced view of women, the man should be the one proposing marriage. It was completely unthinkable for a woman to express her feelings; she had to wait for someone to claim her as his. I was kidding naturally although I am not averse to the idea of being the one to propose. I knew he was going to go apoplectic once he heard my answer, but I just wanted to shine the light on his atavistic thinking and make him squirm with uneasiness in his seat.
Scenario 2 was something like this.
Relative: “O, wala pa bang kasalan?”
Me: Not in the near future. I can’t find someone young and good-looking.
Gobsmacked as always, my relative (a different one) was grappling with the thought of moi dating someone my junior. Again, within the biased mindset of women and marriage, an older woman in a relationship with a very young man is unacceptable. The exchange would never progress after my retort. Had I said something sounding like an apology for my “sorry” state (sorry state in his mind) and was looking worried, he would have launched into a speech of what I should do to solve my “problem”, which always amounted to just one thing. That is, settle for the first one that comes my way even if the man is a class A schmuck.
A new scenario played out in a recent get-together at the start of the New Year that caught me by surprise. It was, admittedly, a pleasant surprise. In the midst of waiting for my order of fish balls to cook, my aunt from my mother’s side asked me nicely if I was married. I said nicely because, one, she had a smile and, two, the tone was far from jeering. Running through my mind for the list of my ready answers, I settled for “Not yet. Am enjoying my life and I can’t find anyone good- looking.” I said it with a smile and she smiled back.
” Tama yan. Mag-enjoy ka,” she said genuinely.
I nearly dropped the fish ball I was about to eat. It was such a refreshing remark. There was no trace of sarcasm or pity when she said it. The fact that her sentiment was echoed by her former nanny- turned family-friend made it doubly refreshing and mind-blowing to see the age-old cycle of perpetuating the bigoted notion of unmarried women finally broken in my family, at least on my mother’s side. I chomped on my plate of fish balls with gusto after that.
Valentine’s Day is just in a week’s time and the ambience is somewhat different from the previous years. My atavistic relatives are nowhere in sight. The community I am living in right now has a different take on singletons – it is none of their business although you feel this silent, unobtrusive wish that they soon find someone to spend their life with. The wish, I realized, smacks with unfeigned sincerity in wanting one to be happy because there is no judgement that comes with it. A singleton isn’t viewed as an anomaly or as a lost cause. Saying “I am single” on Valentine’s Day is a mere statement of fact, not a badge of shame.
So, yes, I am single.
It could have been another hotel but pragmatism kicked in when I was looking through Booking.com for a hotel. With the devastation that happened in Tacloban, my conscience couldn’t accept being too extravagant even though it was the Yuletide season thus Hotel Ibis on Bencoolen Street looked like a good deal.
I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary for an economy hotel but the simple and wide lobby was a welcome respite from the usually cramped lobbies of other such hotels. The in-house restaurant was a pleasant surprise too with its breakfast buffet at S$21++ per person that boasted a far cry from the run-of-the mill offerings of other hotels. Too bad though because they didn’t have my favourite breakfast food of waffle and pancake. Even housekeeping was a revelation – the courteous crew did a splendid job of replenishing toiletries and cleaning the room. Our (my mum and I) room on the ninth floor was spacious enough and everything was in working order until I tried the room phone. I couldn’t get an outside line. I asked the staff at reception why I couldn’t make a phone call and she said I am not permitted to make outside calls because I didn’t make a deposit. Never has the status of economy hotel guest been driven hard than the woman’s blasé explanation!
It was stated in my reservation (my gal pal made the reservation for me) that I would pay in cash, but I didn’t get word that I’d be bar from making a local phone call if I didn’t make a down payment. By then I had paid in full when I checked in and still no information was given about what I was entitled to in their hotel. My thoughts were: It wouldn’t hurt to let me know so I wouldn’t look foolish and I could have been spared the irksome experience. Moreover, they could charge me for the local call when I checked out. Odd, really.
Anyway, I let the incident slide like water off a duck’s tail because there are numerous pay phones around the city I could use. Funny though because, last I checked, cash has always been welcomed in Singapore and hotel guests are always informed about these little things. But I suppose that’s what I get for booking an economy hotel – even the little details are economised.