Dress to De-Stress

Looking at my closet (now pretty downsized thanks to the trans-Pacific move and summer-long purge of my belongings) I don’t think you can tell that I’m now a “working girl.” I can report for work at an office, have working lunch meetings and engage in other adult-like shenanigans. The social encounters of the past week or so have got me thinking about revamping my closet to better suit the world of desk jobs, conferences and other professional events.

BAH!! Who am I kidding?!

I am happily and pretty recently employed, yes, but currently boast of a flexible schedule,  more task oriented than clocking in hours at a desk. Thank goodness! Can anyone seriously picture me working out of a desk all day? My great schedule allows me to carve time for work with my non-profit organization, the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project Inc. (We’ve got a big annual event coming up soon!), for teaching Zumba classes, and hopefully soon to do some art and dance programming. It also allows me to be very involved with people and engage our workers, partners and potentially some new communities as well!

But yes, I’m feeling a little pressure to tone down my outfits. Just a little! I may slowly (with respect to my meager fresh-college-grad budget) acquire more “professional” articles of clothing. I figure I need a pair of pants that aren’t bright red, jaguar print, bright blue or severely distressed. Or shoes that aren’t bright yellow and tops that don’t have large, intentional tears straight down their backs.

Last week I went to a lunch meeting, (not directly for work, but for networking), and had no idea that I’d be at a place with a dress code. I maybe should’ve gotten a hint when I was told we were meeting at the “Executive Lounge,” but I guess I was in denial because I showed up in a pair of decent plaid shorts, but still shorts, and my trusty pair of barely-there, but very cute, turquoise sandals. When I arrived at the place I purposefully ignored what I think know was a large note about the dress code written in fluorescent pen. I think it may have said something about no shorts and no sandals… but I wouldn’t know, of course. I was ignoring it.

The beautiful and wonderfully accomplished women I had lunch with temporarily appeased my under-dressed woes by saying, “Enjoy the tropical weather!” knowing that I had sort of just returned from a country with four seasons, or “It’s okay, you just graduated!” But it certainly got me thinking about better dressing “the part” (whatever part that may be)– at least on the days when I am having important meetings! I should maybe stop showing up to things in sneakers, shorts, or happily faded and oversized tees.

I did ask one my bosses, who also happens to be someone I am related to – Do you care what I wear to work? No, he said, with an expression that seemed to think I was asking an odd question. This also happens to be the brother that both semi-scrutinizes and  semi-enjoys (I think) my outfits, articles of clothing and accessories by commenting that they are “interesting” or “strange.” Tee hee!

I’m an artist! It’s fine!” is what I’ve always reasoned for my choices of mismatching but matching ensembles. And I insist they always work. Often there is something colorful or loud about what I’m wearing, even if it’s just a pair of slender earrings that fall longer than my hair, or the vintage fork that is wrapped gracefully around my middle finger as a weapon ring.

I work with communities, non-profit organizations, foundations and communities that serve the less fortunate and people at risk. So it’s less about dressing professionally, but more about dressing appropriately and comfortably.

After moving back to Metro Manila, I was a little taken aback to rediscover that  life is a little more… conservative over here. My short jean shorts and torn up shirts have their place and I can’t just walk around the city, especial Makati, in whatever I please. College was such a tease! I felt like I could get away with wearing whatever I wanted! I’m now trying to discover ways to still use the clothes I have (since I don’t have the means or the desire to just shop shop shop for more), but show less skin, and at the same time not completely melt in the Filipino heat.

Yesterday I invested in two new pairs of pants, of the more basic persuasion. I found a simple pair of black skinny pants, but with super awesome but subdued leatherette detail running down the outer legs, and patched into the inside of the knees, like riding pants. Yup, pretty basic. I also love the men’s section and found a comfy pair of dark jeans, 50% off! (These purchases mean no more shopping till November, at least!) And here’s a new pair of boots I scored with a pair of gift certificates that I was given. (Couldn’t resist wearing my funky and bright flowery tights today! My idea of toning down my outfits??)  Glad to have another pair of shoes that allows for hours of painless walking, and even dancing too, if necessary! 😉

I think every morning my mom enjoys and possibly partially worries about what I might walk out of the house in. She lets me be since she knows that with the loss of many hours that I used to spend in the dance studio and the art studio,  the way I dress is one of the primary ways I am currently able to express myself.

The new year begins at Wheaton this week. For the first time this fall, I don’t have to think about new classes, I’m not thumbing through a syllabus or getting my work shifts sorted around my class schedule and dance rehearsals. I’m no longer a student for the first time since I was two and a half years old!

However, this is a great time to be home and a great time to be working- I’m busy, I’m doing things I enjoy and I’m beginning to get plugged into community. Not to mention, the Philippines is finally getting some positive reviews in the news! Despite another devastating season of rain and flood, the forecast for our economy is bright and flourishing. Read more about it here. Below is my favorite chunk of good news:

“Times are pretty good in the Philippines if you are young, skilled and live in the city. Young urban workers are helping to give the country its brightest prospects in decades, economists say.

With $70 billion in reserves and lower interest payments on its debt after recent credit rating upgrades, the Philippines pledged $1 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help shore up the struggling economies of Europe.

“This is the same rescue fund that saved the Philippines when our country was in deep financial trouble in the early ’80s,” said Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, a congressman from Western Samar.

The Philippines has certainly had a steady flow of positive economic news recently. On July 4, Standard & Poor’s raised the country’s debt rating to just below investment grade, the highest rating for the country since 2003 and equivalent to that of Indonesia.

The Philippines is the 44th-largest economy in the world today,according to HSBC estimates. But if current trends hold, it can leap to the No. 16 spot by 2050. The Philippine stock market, one of the best performers in the region, closed at a record high after the recent S.& P. rating upgrade, and the country’s currency, the peso, reached a four-year high against the dollar at about the same time.”

Bagel Versus English Muffin

I found English muffins today! I chanced upon them while dragging my feet in obedience to my mom’s craving for more munchies.

We were walking by a little bakery station, after having just just checked out of the grocery with a bag of yummy cookies which I thought would suffice. I was making fun of what I thought was her unnecessary craving for more food. (HA, look who’s talking, Tanya-of-four-stomachs!)  But out of the ever-hungry corner of my eye, I spied a familiar and missed sight, that of a soft, thick disc, pale and edible. They were stacked up in a simple little tower wrapped up in shiny plastic bag. “MOM THEY HAVE ENGLISH MUFFINS!” I exclaimed.

And I was sold. I began to rumble to her about toasted English muffins for breakfast, topped with butter and blueberry jelly…

So I ended up with more food, including a fairly large (pricey but absolutely worth it) chocolate chip cookie, with the edges baked to a crisp but oh so chewy brown. Ah! Beautiful! At first my mom disagreed with its cost, but after a single bite, she was converted. I foresee her buying a fair share of these for her own happy consumption in the months to follow. 

Now there was a time that I was obsessed with bagels for breakfast. Actually, bagels in general. I was just as delighted to find bagels in Manila, as I was to find English muffins today. Then I moved on, and fell in love with English muffins. There must have been a handful of reasons why I gave up on bagels, though I had ridiculously shunned English muffins for the first three years I was in college. (I had little faith in their ability to feed my hungry stomach! They looked so flimsy!) The Downfall of the Bagel in my life, began when I stopped finishing the bagels. I’d leave half of them uneaten – tired of chewing it, and tired of its uncomfortable and annoying chewy-ness. I would lose interest in the bagel, and my appetite, even before I was done eating.

Maybe I just never toasted them long enough? Maybe I just wasn’t getting good quality bagels? Does anyone else think this much about their choice of breakfast bread??

The English muffins, on the other hand, come out of the toaster so crisp and eager to be eaten. They were versatile and easy to devour. Also, because I love to pile the cream cheese or jam or jelly, it was easier to eat the muffins without the concern of the bagel hole. Why do bagels have holes anyway? Everything just sees out! (Willingly going off on a tangent: some of my friends came up with a joke of an idea, to start a new project under my NGO – potentially a venture called Holes for the Homeless. We’d donate all the bagel holes to the needy instead of throwing them out from the bakeries. The bagels probably don’t even have centers to begin with. Or maybe we were going to donate donut holes.. I hadn’t even heard of donut holes till this year!)

As breakfast, or as snack, or as second breakfast, I would often prepare more than one English muffin. Each of a different variety.  Butter and cinnamon sugar. Cream cheese and blueberry jam. Butter and apricot preserve. Peanut butter and cinnamon sugar. Just butter even. Or you could put an egg in it, with cheese melting gently. I’d put it on a take-away paper boat from the dining hall or wrap it in foil to preserve the warmth. Nom nom nom.  I was like a squirrel, my friends would tell me, packing food in my bag all the time. There’d always be something edible and snackable in my bag. Sometimes a couple cookies. Often a stack of cookies or a dessert variety.

Now to counter all my thoughts on food, let’s talk a bit about exercise. I’ve recently been feeling a little sluggish. I blame it on the lack of intense physical activity in my life. Yes, it’s time to move! I complained to my mom the other day saying, I used to run and dance four hours a day. Now here I am, just sitting on my ever expanding bottom. (Please read the word bottom with a British accent.) (Also, I exaggerated a bit about the running, I didn’t run every day. I ran a little. But I did have dance rehearsal at least four hours a day, four days a week. At least.)

That day I told myself, enough is enough! I can’t let another week go by without going out and taking a dance class. That was to be the big item on my checklist for the week.

So I stopped hesitating. I found a random hip hop studio by poking around online and I went to my first dance class in months. My body has been screaming at me for it all day, but who cares, my body is moving again! And not just walking or zumba-ing. Actually moving and creating story. I’ve also started back up with small doses of running– thanks to a recent purchase of much-needed running shoes. I am well prepared to bully out the slug monster in my life!

Now, after a little bit of internet perusing, I’ve found many articles about the bagel versus English muffin fiasco (as well as about pancakes vs french toast vs waffles, sausage vs bacon vs ham, muffins vs scones vs croissants…you get the idea.) Apparently I’m not the only one thinking about this stuff, and even four years ago people were already wondering where the bagel holes were if donut holes were so available. Har har har!

Turns out a lot of the discussion around these things revolves around the health factor, and not so much the scrumdidlydumptious factor, of these breakfasty breads. Yaaaawn!

And if you care to look, the Urban Dicitonary has an unfortunate definition of bagel holes. And bagels holes are not on the market because bagels are made differently from donuts – bagels are made by twisting dough or tearing a hole up before they are boiled. Apparently donuts are cut.

Bagel Hole also happens to be a famous bagel place in Brooklyn. Try it sometime? 

And tomorrow we shall see if the English muffins sitting in our fridge live up to the expectations I have so highly set for them!

No Longer Between

I guess it’s official then. Without my knowledge, the publishing of my first post in my new home of bloggery (yes, I think I just made that up), the seed of my new blog-dom, if you will, seems to have marked the official end of my summer.

Since I’ve arrived, I think I’ve stealthily tried to hold off getting completely acclimated to my re-relocation to home – Metro Manila, Philippines. I’ve taken  my sweet time getting over my jetlag, and have still to finish the purging of my stuff/junk in my bedroom or put new things up on the walls. And despite my previous yearning (after months of traveling and downsizing my collection of belongings) to unpack my suitcases once and for all, there are still little pockets of my luggage barely out of their bags, still rolled up to save space. And though I continue to allow many fibers of my being to deny the reality that for the first time in six years, I have no idea when I will be leaving or moving next, I am excited to stay put for a little bit. It’s a beautiful but also fearful thing to be returning to my roots and digging deep down into this Filipino soil for community.

My summer was a little over twelve weeks long. It began when I moved out of Wheaton and culminates now in daily rain showers in the South East Asian monsoon season. In between all of that I stomped lightly around the East Coast of the United States. During the summer weeks, many friends and new acquaintances inquired about what I was doing with all the time I had. I was certainly unemployed, but never bored out of my mind. I took the necessary time and effort one needed to simply be. I never allowed myself to long to be any other place than where I was at that moment. It was wonderful.

I was traveling. I was making new friends, and learning so many lovely things about old ones. I was beginning to fall in love with cooking. I was going for morning jogs and doing evening yoga in the living room (or the backyard of any home I was visiting). But I think mostly I was day dreaming and catching up with myself. I was writing. I wrote many deserved thank you letters to friends and mentors, cards and postcards for people I treasure. And I happily mailed them off!

My friend Bri captured the first time I ever dropped mail off at a US mail box back in June- all these years I would always go to the post office. I was thrilled!

In my flitting about this summer, it seemed that at every turn I was showered with good favor. Not to say that I was favored by people, but that I was gifted with good company and genuine, quality time with friends, nature, my thoughts, and God. I hope that in the next few months I might be able to share more about some of those moments, because collectively, they made the end to my college story a ridiculously sweet one, and completely worth all the trouble.

Speaking of endings, the first thing I saw on my Facebook news feed this morning was this photo posted by the Arts at Wheaton page:

I was barely awake so early in the morning, but seeing the photo made me a little sad. The caption reads, “This morning, we quietly bid farewell to our beloved Twisted Sisters. The Patrick Dougherty sculpture sustained some serious damage this summer and upon close inspection we reluctantly decided to remove it for safety reasons. The piece has been a permanent fixture and focal point on campus since 2008 and we will certainly miss it.

Again, warm thanks to everyone who participated in the construction, enjoyment, documentation and maintenance of the Sisters over the last four years.”

Patrick Dougherty had told us that his sculptures usually have at least 2 to 3 good years and are probably kept up for no more than five. The photo was another reminder that I am in a season of new beginnings and new stories. Unfortunately in the process, many things must also be put to rest.

My first year seminar at Wheaton was one of the lucky groups of students to be able to work on the building of the sculpture four years ago. We were tentative freshmen, taking an art class on drawing and 2-d design, and each of us were required to work a number of hours on the project.  I worked one of the first shifts and spent my time sorting the long saplings and being one of four people collectively driving a large drill into the ground for the foundation.

I have virtually no memory of Wheaton before the life of this sculpture. It has joined my class in our coming and again in our departure. However, it is without doubt I know that many things I’ve learned,  bonds I have formed and dreams I have sowed, have a life span of more than just two to three years good years and will endure way beyond just five.

And so it is the end of the summer. My mind is whirring with ideas and I am working on multiple projects, each so distinct from the next one. For once I am no longer between staying and going, arriving and leaving. I am simply, for now, staying.

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

Between going and staying the day wavers, by Octavio Paz

A Reversing Wind

It’s rained every day since I arrived. Every single day without fail. And right on the two week mark, just this past Tuesday, it rained its hardest. I woke up that morning and the world was humming gray. The gray stayed all day and with the light never shifting, you couldn’t tell time was passing. The daylight only changed as different clouds swung heavily overhead, clouds weighted with rain, ready to pour.

The clouds would sometimes pause for breath, but not for very long. Earlier this week, I thought we were in a typhoon, but I guess it’s just the monsoon rains. I didn’t, and still don’t, know much about monsoons. Somewhere in the Wikipedia entry about monsoons, is the phrase “a reversing wind.” I found that sweetly poetic.

Not my photo, borrowed from UP Socius on Facebook. The caption reads: “A view of Manila yesterday. Some say it looks like Gotham or Mordor because it looks likes its on fire and has lots of smoke. Ironically, it has been raining almost nonstop and those are just a combination of smoke, clouds, and streetlights.”

This is what the Discovery Channel says about monsoons: Monsoons are wind systems that reverse directions with the change of seasons. Monsoons are often associated with heavy rains. During summer, moist air from nearby oceans flows into areas of low pressure and brings heavy rainfall. In winter, air is drawn away from areas of high pressure toward the sea and this results in dry, clear cold weather.

CNN has reported of chaos in the Philippine capital due to all this rain. Apparently we got 504 millimeters of rain – about 20 inches! This morning I heard that over 800,000 individuals have already been displaced due to the floods. People have been evacuated from their homes and much of the region is submerged. This is only the beginning of the hard part.

Yet in the midst of all the chaos in my neck of this world’s woods, I’m back in my old room, in the house I grew up in, considering trivial things. Like where has the sun been all these weeks? Or whether I’ll drum up the motivation to go running this weekend. Or how it’s time to get my new blog up and for me to get writing. In all selfish news, I’ve started a new blog! And this is my first entry! YAY!

I’ve moved out of Tanacious T, which will forever (at least forever in the terms of the internet world) hold many of my memories and mumblings from my days at Wheaton College. I will probably refer back to it often, at least for the time being, while I continue to process this new chapter of my life. On the back of graduating last May and an incredible summer of traveling, I’ve decided to allow my thoughts to settle like stubborn dust, but more unyielding, onto this new home on the web called Speak Soon. I’m looking forward to a fresh start!

I think of the words a reversing wind. And I’m caught there for a second, interpreting it in my own way, in my own life. I considered, for many moments, naming my blog A Reversing Wind; but didn’t quite like the sense of growing backwards that it left me with. However, for now I do feel a little bit like a reversing wind, changing directions because of the seasons. I’ve started a new season, and I’ve found myself at home, like I said, in my old room, in the house I grew up in. I’ve found my way back here after a long while of being away.  Can you say six years? (With visits of course!) But there are new adventures to be had here and so many stories to tell!

On the ride home on Monday, in a heavy burst of downpour on the Skyway, everyone on the road had their tail lights flashing. Cars sped forward at tentative pace. I stared ahead. Suddenly, all those blinking lights, disappearing into the heavy mist of rain, appeared to me like old friends, sending sweet, solemn greetings to me, almost like hands in the air, gently swaying.

There will be many, many stories to tell. Can’t wait, speak soon.

-T