"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Saturday, October 30, 2010

To give or not to give.

Photo: Dried fish vendor getting rich during Fiestang Apu

In every country I've been to, there are beggars. The streets of neither the richest nor the poorest countries are spared this simple fact - there are always people in need.

The worst part of the poor here in the Philippines is that I speak the language. When beggars come up to me in Paris or even in the slums of Istanbul, I don't understand a word they say, making it much easier for me to continue walking without even acknowledging their existence. Here however, in the Philippines, the beggars come up to me pulling at my sleeves and speaking my mother's tongue, a language I only speak at home and to my family. How can I ignore a child, hair bleached a golden brown from the unrelenting sun, as he calls me big brother? How can the heart not be moved by an old woman, face leathered from weathering such tumultuous times, calling out to me, "son?"

It has always been against my nature to give my hard-earned money to beggars. How do I tell them that I'd rather not water the weeds of poverty? I'm torn because I cannot in good conscience perpetuate the problem, yet, neither can I just stand there and watch my brothers and grandmothers starve.

I wish against everything I have ever been told that I can one day tell my brethren as they ask for the loose coins in my pocket that I'm working toward a future that they may not see but will one day come.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Everything is possible. Nothing is permanent.

Image: Pampang Market at dawn. Everything moves, nothing is still.

I thought my very breath was connected to my iGoogle account. I thought my soul had rounded edges and a drop shadow. But here is my soul, thriving in trikonasana in sweltering jungle heat. Here is my breath, dwelling in the pipes that bring running water only when the water decides to run.

I think we're due for a little update of past events. I haven't done one of these in a while, so here goes.

What Erick has been up to in the Philippines for the past two weeks:

- Doing some freelance writing. Finally getting paid for the random ass shit I come up with.

- Test-rode a motocycle and ended up hurting myself. Which one's the clutch and which is the brake? I think I'll take it. Thanks.

- Completely owned at laser tag and rode my first roller coaster in the Philippines. Some of them kept braking down, but we rode them anyway. Danger is my middle name.

- Gave some architectural design advice for a building being built down the street from us. I just realized that I haven't discussed materials and column footings in over two months. They still use actual blueprints here. Yep, we're old school here on the Islands.

- Ate crickets, stuffed frogs, and water buffalo for the first time. Still on the list - python, dog, one-day-olds (think balut, but ones that have hatched).

- Helped plan a wedding while brainstorming awesome bachelor party ideas. What can I say, I'm a multitasker.

- Participated in a local fiesta (a feast in honor of patron saints) by eating, drinking, and merrymaking with complete strangers who are now well on their way to becoming good friends.

- Still looking for a job that will help change the world. On the list so far - teach children, work in urban planning, or fix air-conditioners. It is hot as hades here. Fixing broken air-cons will save lives.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I had my first motorcycle accident the other day.

Image: A grey day in Pampanga, Philippines

So I've been in the Philippines about a week now. It's great being rich. To give a little perspective, a beer is about 50 cents and a pack of cigarettes is less. Not that I'm a drinker or a smoker. I'm just sayin'...

I'm going to try a little something different. As most of you already know, I'm somewhat of an aspiring writer. Recently, with all of this time on my hands, I've been able to write a few stories. The following is an excerpt of one of the little stories I've been currently working on. I'd love to hear what you guys think of it!

The Power is Back On:

"The power is back on," she said as she inhaled smoke, keeping it in for as long as possible. Somehow, it felt indecent to watch her purse her lips around her cigarette now that the lights were back on. I got up to put on my clothes, automatic, like cogs in an old clock remembering that time continued to flow.

"I have to get home to see if I need to pick anything up for dinner," I said as I tied my shoes, ready to walk out of this lucid dream.

"Yeah, I need to get dinner ready, too" she replied. As deeply as we explored each other in the dark, we barely knew each other in the daylight. When the power was on, we were superficial acquaintances, so we kept the facts of our personal lives out of this transitional conversation. I suspected she had a husband, but I wasn't sure, and I certainly would not tell her about my children. These were the unspoken rules of Blackouts. We break down boundaries in the dark, rebuild them in the light.

At the office, I was a coordinator. I put ideas together and matched them to the staff whose talents best suit the tasks of implementing each idea. It was my job to undestand people, to know their capabilities. It was my job to measure ideas against personalities. I was damn good at it.

The first Blackout we spent together, Sorina had only been with our firm for a few weeks. I had given her a few projects and she was diligently doing them to the best of her abilities, which I knew would more than suffice. She was timid at work, unsure of her work and afraid to upset anyone, even those who ranked below her. We were staying late that night for a big deadline, when suddenly, the entire city went black. Without hesitation, I walked over to Sorina's desk and searched for her eyes in the near complete blackness.

"Milos, is that you?" she probed.

"You are headstrong." I took in an inaudible sigh and carefully measured my words, "You hate that you tiptoe around the feelings of others, yet you continue to. But I think, secretly, you would stomp through life if you could. Secretly, you want to be a conqueror." She stayed silent as our eyes adjusted to the black cloak that had enveloped us so severely.