Monday

JUST SAY IT

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
-Jerry Seinfeld

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It's not so often that we meet special people in our lives. They come in different degrees of "specialness", if there's such a thing. It's really a shame that sometimes distance can bring us apart from people whom we consider bestfriends. I'm sure that
most Pinays who has relocated abroad can relate to this after years of being away for a long time from the Philippines, or from childhood friends. Although communication can still be maintained, the physical presence is still lacking. Thus, putting us farther and farther away from our old friends. The assimilation of a new culture, practices, and way of thinking can also become a barrier in between the people we used to know, or even our very own family as with my case. It is not that I totally changed my culture and way of thinking but have assimilated some of the practical ways of life and thinking in the western world.

Being far away from our friends is like moving on with life in a parallel world. We move on, they move on. Some may eventually get married and have children, and so we do.Sometimes, we all get busy with our lives and move on. It is only during ocassional visits that we finally get to see how our old friends back home. You would be amazed at how far they have gone. With my case, I felt suddenly old when I got the chance to see my hometown again and the people, that when I left were children. But now, very grown up, and even have children of their own. I was filled with amazement at how time flies, at how things could have gone by so fast. The places, the streets still have a feel of familiarity although an additional building might have been built or have been demolished. Some people remained like the last time I have seen them like they haven't aged at all, but some totally have been ravaged by time and age that I couldn't recognize them at all, mostly the young people who has grown up and moved on with their lives. I was almost embarrassed when some of my former classmates started talking to me and I didn't recognize them. Not that I am pretending not to greet them or know them but because I honestly didn't recognise them. I wouldn't like to embarrass anybody at all, in fact I was the one who got embarassed when they started talking to me on the streets and I didn't have a clue who they were. Time and age changes appearances of people, so it's not surprising that we don't recognize some of them. The changes did make me feel weird. I wondered how much I changed in appearance. Well, we all grow old. It probably depends how long one have been away from his or her hometown to experience these weird feelings that I had visiting home for the first time. The longer, the stranger the feeling. I cannot fully put it into words how I really felt. It's sort of a feeling of being a stranger in your own hometown, at the same time there is still the sense of familiarity. It feels like it's home and it's not at the same time. I guess, we all have different feelings once we get back home for the first time. I guess that's just how I felt the last time I was there. I know it's been a while I just thought of reviewing things up.

Talking about inculturation and assimilation, some people go overboard. I was at a Pinoy party but there was an Indonesian girl named S. I have met her at the same place with another ocassion, it was a baby shower. She was with a boyfriend at that time. After two weeks, we were invited to the same house with another baby shower, she showed up with another man which Ate Zie immediately told us as her new boyfriend. I said "na naman!", she said "yes! this is America." I said nothing but the expression "this is America!" made me thinking. So what if this is America? That doesn'tmean you can lose your sense self morale and self respect. Some people who move to this country take "freedom" in a literal sense. I would think that the sudden sense of freedom makes some people who were once restricted by other culture suddenly go crazy with the new found freedom that they suddenly have and overdo things and lose self control. I know it is true to some Filipinas who move to other countries. They suddenly lose their self into the new culture, they get confused with the new norms and practices and ways of doing things. Freedom come with responsibility. It can free a person or it could destroy a person. It depends how they use them. There has to be a sense of balance.

I have heard the expression in a lot of situations. One ocassion is when people who are smarty pants encounter other immigrants who can't speak English or have a hard time speaking English. Somehow it's true, in America, one really has to learn to speak English because it is a necessity in order to go around, get a job and do all sorts of stuff here. But I don't think people who doesn't speak English are dumb. It just happens that they grew up in another country where another language is spoken. And there are people who learns a language faster than others. The older people who moves to America may have a hard time learning and speaking English. But their children will be very fluent in the language. It is always an advantage if one learns the language of his or her host country or English as it's widely used and spoken in almost anywhere, the universal language as they say. It is part of adaptation into a certain place, to be able to speak what the locals speak.

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Lately, I had been trying to be very practical and practice frugality. I probably said in my other postings that I love shopping. In some ways it's my way of spending free time. It's not that I needed things, but sometimes I cannot help buying stuff especially if they are good deals. Lately I really restricted myself in just buying very few stuff keeping in mind what I really need. Before grabbing stuff I have to stop and think "do I really need it?" It did help a lot. Sometimes I go in a storewithout any plan of buying stuff but then I come out with a bagful of stuff. My shopping isn't that bad, other people have worst which is literally an addiction. I wouldn't say my shopping is an addiction, since I have a control over it and I do shop minimally but I still wanted to be more practical and eventually make it a habit not to buy things that I don't really need and they just accumulate as junks in the storage. I am trying also to make it a point to go for quality instead of quantity or just because it's cheaper. I have found that quality goods lasts longer than the cheap products. It's not always the case of course, there can be quality goods that can be cheaper if you know where to find them. I am a person who go hunting for stores that have quality products for a cheaper price. I figure I would spend less on stuff and maybe invest for things needed in the long run, things more important and really are needed.

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I think it is wise not to assume anything. A lot of things, even people may not be how they look or they seem to be. In a multi-cultural area where we live where there are so many kinds of people from all over the world, people seem to be more tolerant, more aware and more accepting of different cultures. When I meet someone foreign, or of foreign accent basing from how they talk. I make it a point to ask where they are from instead of presuming they might be from a certain country basing from how they talk or their appearances. Most of the time guessing wrong may be offensive to other people. As with my case sometimes, when people started talking in Spanish presuming I talk Spanish, meaning I am of Hispanic origin. Not all people with brown skin are Hispanic. When people assume too much, it can get annoying and offensive. It doesn't bother me sometimes, but on ocassions it annoys me when even people who really doesn't speak Spanish all of a sudden started speaking in Spanish to me. And when I say "what?" they suddenly come to their senses. Looks are really decieving. I was conversing with this Chinese guy who has another friend by the smoothie shop. He introduced his friend as Jennifer. Jennifer started asking where I am originally from. I said, Philippines. How about you I asked. She said Cambodia. Then, Jo said, "you don't look like a Cambodian." She has a fair skin, that's why he made that remark. He said that I am the one whom he might think as Cambodian because of my darker complexion. It only means that not all Cambodians are dark skinned. And not all Filipinos are dark skinned too. Skin and appearances vary, even Filipinos have different degrees of skin tone from brown to dark brown to sand, to toasted, to even very fair skin. Sometimes people of mixed bloods look very much like one of the parents depending on what's the dominant genes. So, it is not really a wise thing to just presume someone is from a certain country just by their mere look especially in America where everyone is an immigrant from different parts of the world. People may not look like a typical American, they can be Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic-American.Most of the time people who moved to this country still carry a certain accent from their original language but their children may be very well be American especially if they were born and grew up here.

I am fond of meeting people from different places and learning their own culture. It is facinating when you learn of other cultures' way of life, traditions, beliefs, even superstitious beliefs. It irks me mostly when people who are ignorant of a certain culture makes derogatory remarks about a certain culture or other people. As they say "don't criticize something you don't even understand." So I make it a point to learn other cultures before even openning my mouth. Most of the time, people who have never been exposed to other kinds of cultures base their perceptions with what they hear around, those stereotypical descriptions of other people or they base it from what they read, from what they see on televisions which doesn't necessarily depict the true culture, if it does only in a limited manner. It is in the experiencing, learning, observing and immersing oneself into another culture where they can truly understand it.

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I believe people are very much like plants. They are resilient, they can adapt to wherever they are planted. We have been here in our new place for almost a year now, and I have grown more comfortable as they days pass by. It's almost like my roots have started to hold on to our new home and my leaves have started to become robust as the spring wakes up all the lush greens all around me. I'm feeling like one of them coming alive, green and lush again. I can sya that I have gone dormant during the winter season, that's what it does to plants and people too. Less active, trying to stay warm away from the freezing cold. And now I can really tell that I have gained a few pounds during those hibernating season when I tried my summer pants. They felt snug and a little tight. It's really high time to shed off those few pounds. I'm trying to take advantage of the not so hot weather spending time outdoors before the steaming hot and sticky season comes. I can tolerate heat more than cold, being from the tropics. I notice that I am more vulnerable to cold than heat. I can stand being hot and sweaty but being cold, I can last for just a few minutes. That's why I am so glad that we live in the South where it doesn't even snow except in the mountains and the elevated areas.

So, like everyone else, I'm enjoying the spring weather down South before the kudzu come spreading it's leaves on everything else in summer.

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