Thursday, 30 June 2011

even heroes need holidays

And I'm not a hero! So I'm entitled to more holidays!

I arrived in Jakarta on 21 June 2011 and flew to Bali on the 27th.

On the first day of my arrival in Bali, my boyfriend and I went to La Ota for some porridge - that's how we always start my trip in Bali. Then we headed to Bali Ink to set up an appointment for my first (and most probably my last) tattoo. How do I know it's going to be my last? Well, when I was in San Francisco, suddenly Mom sent me an SMS message telling me that she had heard of my plan to get a tattoo. She pleaded (basically told me) to not get one. I replied to her that I'd discuss the plan when I got home.

On the eve of the flight to Bali as I was packing my suitcase, this conversation ensued.

"Mom, why can't I have a tattoo? Are you concerned about the cleanliness and hygiene of the place?"

"Yes, I'm worried about that," she said.

"But they have clean and new needles and stuff. They'll show you the new needles, just like they do at the facialist," I replied, referring to the dermatologist where we usually go to. Then I realized I had made a weak preposition, and so I added, "Or like the clinics and hospitals where they always have new needles and sterilized equipment."

I showed her the designs: the cats, the bell jar, the mandala, and finally the peacock feather at the back of the neck.

"That one is pretty," she said, pointing at the peacock feather.

"It is! And I want it."

"Why can't you have it for a temporary tattoo? And anyway, it will hurt, won't it?"

"Yes! But that's the essence of getting a tattoo: a painful commitment for a thing of beauty that will last forever!" actually as I was saying this, I was involuntarily reminded about the pain that I'd have to endure (around 90 minutes - the front-desk person at Bali Ink said). I think I flinched a bit.

"This one," I said, pointing at the bell jar design, "I made a promise to myself that if I were accepted at a school I wanted, I'd get it." The bell jar design was inspired by Sylvia Plath's one and only novel.

"Well, okay... but you have to choose. I want you to only get one tattoo. That's it!"

"One... full body?"

"No, just one tattoo. And I prefer you get the smallest," she sternly said.

"Gosh. How did you find out I was getting tattoos anyway?" I asked. I had remained silent about the whole thing. My plan was to silently get my tattoos done and then came home with them.

"I read about them," she replied with her usual poker face.

"From where?"

"The newspapers..." she replied. I almost giggled but also maintained a serious air - I was in the middle of a business proposal, not unlike when I asked for an Acer Ferrari laptop seven years ago.

"Oh, well. I'll get the peacock, then" I said decidedly.

And here I am, in Bali, anxiously waiting for two more days and reading about tattoo aftercare.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

excess baggage

Well, here I am again at San Francisco International Airport, the SFO. It's pretty bland out here in the check-in section, but probably because it is just what it is: the check-in section.

I'm grueling over the fact that I might be charged for excess baggage. I mean, I won't mind paying, I just want to go home. I really do.

Everything in the two bags is essential to be brought home. I might not return with them when I'm going back in August, but I really need to get these things home.

It is now 3.58 PM. My flight is at 1.20 AM. The ticket counter is not even open yet.

I'm worried, but I'll blog later.


I just got in! SQ took my baggage and even gave me a little tote bag so I can put some items from my overweight backpack in the tote bag.

Oh, and I had to endure the full-body x-ray. Well, no departure stamp or any immigration issues (it was cancelled in April 2011 - it was a legacy of Bush's era), but I JUST LOST MY FRIGGIN' PRIVACY.

It's like... someone just took a picture of my private parts!

Here's what a full-body x-ray looks like:

Friday, 10 June 2011

things i'll miss and won't miss

I'll miss:
  1. My friends and teachers at EF school.
  2. The MUNI (and the relatively convenient and fast rides).
  3. The ClipperCard (and its convenience).
  4. Windows and sunlight that goes through it and illuminates my room.
  5. The cool air that deletes the need to install air conditioner.
  6. Chinese Pancake with Rice that I purchase every weekend after dance conditioning class from a nearby Chinese restaurant.
  7. The relative absence of noise from the streets outside.
  8. People in the hostel and at the school that I can talk about.
  9. The big city air and feeling and walking down UN Square to the BART station through the stalls selling knick-knacks and foods I never bought.
  10. The proximity to FatChanceBellyDance studio.
  11. RAs at the hostel.
  12. Restaurants at the Fisherman's Wharf.

I won't miss:
  1. The abundance of poo (hopefully excreted by dogs) on the streets.
  2. Noisy bitches (boys and girls - mostly French speakers and Arabs) in the hostel and at school.
  3. Liplocking students - minors or otherwise.
  4. Said bitches who think they're cool either by talking so loud and socializing with many people or by being aloof and silent.
  5. Seeing dirty syringes and condoms on the pavement.
  6. The homeless people (although they are an interesting bunch of people).
  7. Unfriendly hostel staff.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

little town, it's a quiet village

Remember when I complained about Santa Rosa and Sebastopol? (Geez, I use the same opening for the blog entry)

Well, I'm damned now.

Okay, probably not too damned, as I feel positive about going to St. Mary's College, CA.

Yesterday, I spent the whole day going to SMC. It took me approximately 42 minutes from Civic Center BART to the Lafayette BART (the train departed at 11.18 and arrived at 12 noon). There was nothing wrong with the BART ride. It was not uneventful - just flat and nothing interesting, really.

The first thing that I saw upon exiting Lafayette BART station was a hill full of white cross. That'll be somehow serenely eerie when I board the evening train home. Or probably not serene. Just eerie, and in a whole lot of sense, cryptic.

Here comes the good news: the bus ride from either Lafayette BART station or Orinda BART station right to the heart of SMC (how convenient) takes approximately 25 minutes. However, the bus comes every two hours on certain periods. I had to wait for a full hour.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," said Dorothy to her dog in Wizard of Oz. I didn't have Kitty with me (my sling bag is broken and my tiny bag is... tiny... and stuffed to max) to share that feeling, though.

I guess the reason that the bus frequency is kept at minimum is because no one really rides it. When I returned from SMC to the Lafayette BART station, there were only three passengers, including myself. The two of them descended shortly and I was the only one left for the whole ride. I am relieved to know that my evening classes won't be later than 7 PM. That means I can catch the 7.19 PM, the 7.41 PM, or the latest, 8.21 PM buses to take me to either Lafayette or Orinda BART stations. Now I only need to invest in a watch.

According to Google Map, it is a 5.1 mile walk from SMC to Lafayette BART station (am I being somewhat pedantic by writing "Lafayette BART station" over and over again?). It's not that it's not doable. It's just that on some parts of the roads, no pavement is available. I got off on the wrong stop on my way to SMC, but there was a hiking and biking trail that I could walk on. I can't ride a bike. I know, I've tried, I just can't. I can rollerblade, but I don't think the path will be smooth enough to do it. During the walk, I came up with a brilliant solution: Segway! Although, you know, with the current Segway price (I heard it could come all the way up to USD 8,000!), I'd rather drive a car.

SMC was so peaceful when I arrived. It was the off-season I assume. Had I arrived in the Fall, I would have been freaked out with so many people. It's just amazing how I felt the need to be with people, yet crowd seems to make me feel uncomfortable. That's why I chose to live on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley instead of North Berkeley (YES, I'VE FOUND AN APARTMENT and have signed the contract! I'm moving in on June 15), because, in the words of Virginia Woolf in The Hours, "I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital."

Well, Telegraph Avenue is not exactly the Capital, but I hope you get the picture.

With the absence of the Clipper Card in the public transportation in Moraga, and the total uselessness of the said Card in BART stations in areas outside San Francisco, I won't be using it when I return. I've calculated the costs. It's much, much cheaper to pay for one-time bus rides and refill the BART card.

Now that everything is settled, I can't wait to go home.

Still, one more question ensues: I won't be living in San Francisco anymore; I wonder whether or not I should change the title of the blog and if I should, to what?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

awards, goodbyes, little miss sunshine, and fisherman's wharf

There will be times when I gloat, and no matter how often those moments appear, I never seem to be able to show off my academic intelligence.

This is the first time.

Yes, yours truly here is the recipient of the Award for Academic Excellence for being a student with A+ average. You'd better believe it. I didn't believe it myself but then I opened my score card and there was that A+, neatly printed on the paper. A miracle. What's next? A cure for AIDS?

That wasn't the only award I received, though. On Memorial Day's BBQ Party at Mr. Stephen's, I also earned a gag award that said "Most Original and Only Bellydancer". I love that award so, so much, and keep it close to my heart.

I know I'm backtracking in this entry, but please bear with me as I'm going to backtrack once more.

The day before graduation day (here's the timeline: graduation day was on Friday, June 3; Memorial Day BBQ was on Monday, May 30) - Thursday, June 2, after a nice lunch at Grande Kamekyo across EF's Fisherman's Wharf, Leo, Rex, and I decided to walk to the beach. It was a nice, sunny day, although the wind was cold. And so we chatted.

"I've been here the longest," Rex said with a cigarette wedged between his fingers.

"How long?" I asked.

"Fifteen months."

I gasped. "Fifteen months?"

He nodded. "I started in Oakland. They didn't have UP (University Preparation - language drills, application assistance, gmat/gre/toefl preparation, truckloads of books enough to give us hernia) program then, but I had paid, so they put me in the AY (Academic Year [General English] - mostly fun, games, light grammar, virtually no books). I was in AY for 6 months, then I got into UP for another nine months."

"How was it?"

"Well, at first, I couldn't even say a word in English. The first day, I didn't even smoke because I didn't have my lighter with me and I didn't know how to ask for fire. After it became unbearable, I just asked the other students, 'May I have fire?'"

"But that's great! I mean, it's also common to ask for 'fire' when you want to light up a cigarette," I said.

"Yeah, but the other students were also as stupid as I was and they didn't know what I meant. It took us a while," he laughed endearingly.

I'd heard the same thing from my friends: Najla (an Arab), Andrey (Russian), and Leo as well. They had benefited a lot from staying in the USA and just talk. There is a huge improvement between when I first met Andrey and Leo and now when I'm talking to them.

On Friday, just before all of us went to Tiernan's for the graduation ceremony (it was dreary outside and our principal said that the weather didn't permit us to hold the event on the beach), we watched the conclusion of Little Miss Sunshine in Lauren's class. I cried a bit while watching it, I didn't cry at all during the graduation ceremony, so it was reasonable when I burst into tears in the middle of the night as I watched Leo's videos featuring collage of the students' photos.

And so, what else could I do but write a poem?

fisherman's wharf

there is always the pain of meeting someone,
and getting to know that someone for the briefest moment,
but it feels like it's been a lifetime.

and then you have to say goodbye.

this pain;
it rips open my chest and crushes my heart.

this pain;
it will always be there.

but I have the memories to remind me
of the magical moments of friendship.

five damn months
and the pain when I said,
"what the hell am I doing here?"
are gone.
that pain disappears.

but this pain remains.
and I hope
not even senility
nor dementia
nor all force or disease on Earth
will wipe away the memory
that feeds this pain.
for I know I can take it.
I can live with it.

but I sure as hell
can't live without the memories
of my friends
of the classes and the books
of the bus rides and car lifts
of the here and now
of fisherman's wharf.

and so I cry
as if each choke
each tear
could ease my suffering.

and yet I smile
for it is not a suffering
but a privilege
an honor
of sharing lessons
of learning and teaching
of murmuring and wailing
of walking down the corridors
of fisherman's wharf.