Archive for February, 2011

Halfway There!

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

50-yard-line

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

-William Blake

The hours melt away as dawn’s darkness soften into morning light
Lost in the frenzy of visions dancing before my inner sight
Watching the clock turn faster than my fingers can type
Waiting for that flash, that feeling, that word that feels just right

The mind drives the body like spokes are turned by the wheel
No more hunger, no more thirst, no more pain, I seem to feel
Only the primal urges cry out that there is a body attached still
Days are like minutes where the mind, not the body, is more real

Characters I now love move and breathe in my fantasy land
What an awesome gift the great Creator has given to man!
To form the invisible into being whether by finger or hand
Watching beauty in the world of a single grain of sand

Perfect Storm

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I once described the frenzy of inspiration in my writing process as “entering the whirlwind.” It is that moment when I get lost in the swirl of ideas, possibilities, imagination … and it all somehow translates into the written word by some supernatural force that compels me. These past few weeks afforded me all kinds of luxuries for physical recreation, emotional restoration, intellectual stimulation, and social interaction. Upon coming back, there is this confluence of wholeness and inspiration that seems to create a perfect storm for a writing frenzy. And it starts now.

hurricane

As such, I am taking advantage of this building momentum by riding the headwind in hopes that it will take me to the end of my writing project. I am estimating 2-3 days of intensive writing. It’s now or never.

Hopefully, I will have finished my first completed draft by the next blog entry.

Back to “Work”

Friday, February 18th, 2011

creative writing

I read an article sometime last week about treating my writing more like a “job” than “freelance.” This way, I will not be tempted to procrastinate. Specifically, the line that got me was,

” … thinking about your writing as more “work” than ‘freelancing’ will help you stay focused. Working a regular schedule (dare we suggest 9-5?) in a regular location (your apartment, Starbucks, the library) will help you manage what will at first feel like an overwhelming load.”

The deadline I have set for myself is March 10th. This gives me only a couple of weeks to work at completing my first draft. Please pray for me!

The rubber meets the road … or rather, the pen meets the paper.

writing

The Visual Bible: Acts

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

I spent most of the day unpacking and decompressing from my travels. I went shopping, did laundry, restocked the fridge, took a long hot shower, and reviewed my Footsteps of Paul trip by watching The Visual Bible in which only the words in the NIV were used in the movie.

Acts

I am once again inspired by Paul’s spirit. I realize now that while we have been given different giftings, we all have a similar calling to preach. I am convinced that we are to utilize whatever means we have to serve Him. I see Paul as a man whose talents included speaking, engaging people in intellectual discussions, travel, and reckless abandon (abundance of faith).

I subscribe to the idea of “suffering for the gospel” and “surrendering all for the kingdom.” After watching this movie, I don’t think I really know what it means. Paul was arrested, flogged, stoned, persecuted, betrayed, abandoned, ostracized. He suffered much for what he has committed himself to do for life. When he says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” it was a declaration of a life lived with single-minded purpose. He really was looking for the crown of righteousness that he expects from the Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. Suddenly, all my “hardships and sufferings” have turned to petty discomforts.

Paul and the apostles often saw visions, heard from Jesus, received power to perform miracles, had faith to endure persecutions. I imagine that their strength comes from great conviction in the Lord Jesus Christ. I hardly know anyone these days with this kind of faith. But I know it is not impossible to live out.

While I was watching the movie, fireworks were going off (still) outside the apartment. Chinese New Year is not over yet … I imagine it will continue going tonight and tomorrow and the rest of the week.

fireworks

I’m Back!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

After countless hours in the bus, in the plane, in hotel rooms, and in airports throughout these last few weeks, I’m finally back. It’s been a thrilling and memorable journey. Though I’m sad it’s over, I feel relieved that I can finally stay put in one place.

I flew from Bangkok to Macau. And this is the border where I crossed from Macau to Zhuhai in China.

The Border

I knew I was back in China when I got on the plane headed to Macau. After experiencing the hearty warmth of the Turks, the dignified coolness of the Greeks, and the kind gentleness of the Thai’s, I felt a kind of reverse culture shock to be in a plane full of Chinese people. They spoke loudly, openly berated complete strangers to the point of rudeness, and seemingly had no sense of private space as they pushed and shoved in the plane — it’s the kind of freedom one feels when one is with family, I suppose. It felt strange, if not comforting, to actually make sense of people’s conversations and not feel like an ignorant foreigner.

I smiled inwardly as people had to be reminded by flight attendants to sit down when a majority of them started opening the overhead cabins as soon as the plane’s wheels touched the ground. People impatiently and reluctantly re-buckled their seat belts as the plane taxi’d down the runway. The complaints, the conversations, and the cell phone calls in the plane grew louder during the very long runway ride.

To me, Chinese never sounded better.

Walking Tour

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

With a map in hand, I started early this morning on a walking tour of Chiang Mai. I decided not to take any public transportation but do a survey of the city on foot. It helps that there are so many interesting things to see!

For instance, it took me about 20 minutes to reach this old wall from my hotel. There are about five sections of these that serve as entrance gates and mark the boundaries of the ancient city. The city within these walls is now modernized but it still has its small-town charm compared to the bustling city surrounding it.

old city wall

I came across this very nice park just outside of the south gate. I spent some time to rest and watch dozens of pigeons waiting to be fed by the tourists. Now that I’m out and about in town, I have noticed that this place is a LOT more touristy than I first realized. I didn’t feel as self-conscious walking around with a map in my hand.

Buak Haad Park

Around every corner is a temple, it seems (like Starbucks, which is also in every corner over here). What interested me the most are the tips of these structures … they are so unique and so specific in their design. I entered the first few temples during the walk. As in mosques, I had to take off my shoes in respect and perhaps to keep the floor clean. I saw many monks (as young as 12 years old) in different stages of bowing, praying, chanting, and cleaning the temple. I stopped going into the temples because they tended to all look the same after a while.

temple tip

There was this big mall area that has western restaurants, shopping, arcades, food court, and a cinema. I spent a couple of hours here but did not buy anything; alas, if I did, I’ll have to spend even more money if my luggage were overweight! I was content to browse in the bookstores which made me just as happy.

the mall

What I could spend money on is food. By far, my favorite is the mango with sticky rice. I’ve eaten this quite a few times already on this trip. I would make this myself but they put coconut milk and some ground peanuts that will be hard to recreate. I will miss snacking on these.

mango with sticky rice

My dinner finale before I leave Chiang Mai: Green Curry Chicken.

green curry chicken rice

Common Sights

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

There are things that I keep seeing as I walk the streets of Chiang Mai. I’m willing to bet that other tourists notice the same things. For instance, there are at least a couple of rivers that wind throughout the city and one can see water at every turn. The Thai love their fountains. There also seems to be one every few feet (though there’s none on this picture).

typical street along the river

Another common sight are shrines. Since Buddhism and Hinduism are major religions here, there is a little shrine on every block. This is not including the shrines inside stores and houses. Some have food offerings like in this picture.

street shrines

Who can ignore the massage parlors? They’re even cheaper here than in China. I kept wanting to get one (at least a foot massage) but I’d feel too restless sitting when I could be walking around. I’m okay without it.

massage parlors

It’s interesting to note that Fish Spas have become a big hit here. There’s literally one on every corner! Most tourists are intrigued and fall for it (part of their Thai experience, I guess). The tanks are out in public for everyone to see. I actually did this in China almost three years ago and I can bet that no one goes a second time. Besides the ticklish feeling, I highly doubt the little suctions of these guppies do much to scrape away dead skin cells, much less have any medicinal benefit (as they claim). In my opinion, it’s a fad that will quickly fade away.

fish spas

Mexican in Thailand

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Another day of meetings and workshops … didn’t have much time for anything else. For dinner, I was invited by this family to their favorite Mexican food in Thailand called Miguel’s. I am not a big fan of Mexican food but this one was actually pretty good. I got myself some chicken taquitos and enjoyed it. Another family joined us and it was good to get to know them during the meal.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for authentic Mexican food in Chiang Mai. I found an ad for Miguel’s Cafe online. It’s the exact table where we sat tonight:

Miguel's Cafe

Belated Birthday Bash

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

My teammates gave me a belated birthday celebration. After a day of meetings and workshops, we finally had time to go out to town and enjoy a nice dinner. Though I would have been happy with Thai food, the consensus was Italian food for tonight. It was good to catch up with each other since we hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks.

I ordered the most unusual food I could find on the menu: black fettuccine. It came highly recommended by some people so I took the risk. The black color did not look appealing but the taste was alright. It tasted like the ink that comes out of squid (and I love squid). It was a little spicy but it was not that bad. It helped that there were shrimps on it. I couldn’t help but to put heaps of parmesan cheese, though.

black fettucine

Transportation

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Southeast Asia but there’s something about being in Thailand that feels very familiar. The tropical weather, people’s warmth, and the general setting of stores, streets, and shops remind me of the Philippines. Moreover, the smell of Thai food seems to hang in the air and whets my natural appetite.

When I’m in China, I know enough Chinese to get around, even hold basic conversation. When I was in Turkey and Greece, I was with a group and there were enough people who spoke English that I did not have too much trouble with getting what I needed. Today, I had my first encounter with culture shock. I tried to go downtown using public transportation and realized that I know nothing of the Thai language, not even the numbers. For the first time in a very long time, I resorted to sign language, motioning, and even grunting. It did not feel very good.

The most common (and least expensive) transportation around here is the “song tau” (that’s how it’s pronounced in Thai). It is like the jeepneys in Manila, only they are not as well-decorated and every single one is colored red. Unlike the ones in Manila, they do not have a definite route but go where their passengers ask them to go.

song tau

I flagged at least two of them but I had such difficulty communicating that I could not tell them where I needed to go (much less bargain the price down). I had a piece of paper with the name of the place but they did not understand me. Finally, this seamstress on the sidewalk (who was clearly a lady boy, by the way) had compassion on me and helped me get a tuk-tuk. He/She talked to the driver and gave him directions. She also got me the local price for the fare. Later, I found out that I was charged for half the price they usually ask most foreigners.

tuk-tuk

The food here is so good that I’ll be blogging about what I eat for every day that I’m here. Tonight: Pad Thai.

shrimp pad thai