Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's Good Being Married...

... because one day you're home walking around in your underwear, and a light suddenly comes on in your husand's eyes. He begins to look at you with wonder and with awe. He's singing you praises: "Honey, you're so hot. You've got a body just like Shakira's."

The next minute you know that married life just keeps on getting better, because the man is looking at you longer, state of wonder and awe intact, in fact elevated as he exclaims, "Your breasts, they're lovelier than hers."

You stand up straighter, tuck in your tummy, stick your butt out a little. "I should have started those belly-dancing lessons," you berate yourself, but only lightly, because you're really having too much fun basking in the admiration.

Milk the moment for all it's worth is the thing to do on these occasions, because you know what they say: Good things never last.

There the husband is, still looking at you, but now a little less stupefied. "Except," and here he pauses, inclining his head to one side to get a better view of your behind. "I think it's all those years working in an office doing nothing but being in front of a computer." Another pause. "What?!" you half-shout. He continues: "Your butt, it starts out with a bump, and then it goes flat. It's quite flat, like your flesh forgot that it's not sitting down in an office chair anymore. You've got a flat butt, honey. Here, see," he points. "Look, it's flat."

Since they say that marriage is about compromise, and you know that hitting him on the head with a frying pan--yes, flat on the head--would make you feel too guilty, you just pull on a pair of jeans and tell him to shut up.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Teleporting via Casserole

Some kind of art shot of a yellow pepper.

Dinner tonight will be sinigang. Last night, it was Bicol Express. A few days before that, we spent a night with friends , and as I was the only one who had time to cook beforehand, we chit-chatted around a table laden with fish kinilaw, chicken adobo, tomatoes and onions chopped and drizzled with a patis-based sauce, and, of course, steamed rice.

Yes, a funny thing happened when I moved to France: I learned to cook Filipino food.

My father would have a hard time believing it. We Lejanos love to eat, but the gift for working magic in the kitchen had somehow been limited to my Dad, my Mom, my sister Bel, and, later on, my brother-in-law Alvin. Bel's twin couldn't cook as well, but was her kitchen helper, the eldest sister didn't seem interested, and me, well, my father never liked eating in my apartment: "Pasta again?!" he'd complain. Quick and easy cooking it was for me, I had a career to pursue. Besides, I could always just drive over to spend the weekend with Mom and Dad if I felt the need for pinakbet and crispy pata.

These days, I'd have to buy a plane ticket to get back to Las Pinas. Nearer are a few Asian restaurants, but they serve food adapted to local tastes. I was probably the only customer who complained when her chopsuey was placed in front of her: "Why is it loaded with meat? Where are the vegetables?"

While I would like to wax nostalgic, as food writers are wont to do, about divining the mysteries hidden in the skin of an onion while chopping vegetables in grandmother's kitchen, my experience is inescapably prosaic: I began by searching "siomai recipe" on Google.

Still, it works for me. I feel myself adjusting well to this foreign country, and I think part of it is because there in my refrigerator, spice shelves, and vegetable basket, although the sitaw is called le haricot and for lumpia wrapper I use this thing called la feuille de brick, any time I want to, I can work some magic and bring myself home.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Weekend with the Massebieaus (or why Makis, who claims to have lost all spontaneity, should come spend some time with us)

"As long as we don't have to paddle," Angie and Lea say.

Friday morning I get a text from friends living in Switzerland: "We're in France until August 14. You want to go kayaking?" I mention it to Pierre, who shrugs his shoulders, and we let it go at that. After lunch, he tells me. "Oh, Djannot called. The kayaking is for tomorrow." Okay, I say.

That evening I ask, "So it's an overnight thing?" "Yeah, " Pierre says. After which I'm told, there's no hotel, we'll be sleeping in tents, and there are probably no toilets either. "Huh?" I ask. "You pee and poo in the river." Oh god. So that night we decide, we'll just make it a day trip, paddle around with our friends a bit, then at night go back to home and the comfort of things that flush.

The following morning, we arrive at Djannot's and Malika's (at 10:15, when we said we'd be there at 8:30), and after some discussion decide, okay, okay, despite that I only packed a change of clothes each for me and Pierre, and three changes for Angie, we'll stay the night. The couple from Switzerland, Francis and Tonia, roll in at 10:30.

We have coffee, indulge in chitchat, then go to the supermarket for food. While there, we pick up a small tent too. We finally get to Ardeche and its kayaks at three p.m. Only to be informed: "Maybe it is not possible anymore,'" the lady at the tourism office says. "I don't know if you can get to the point where they close the river before six p.m." We think of all the food we'd bought, and I propose, "Hey, we can just bring all this back to Aigues Mortes and have a big barbecue!" (Back to the comfort of things that flush!)

No such luck, we find a guy willing to rent us kayaks at that hour, if we promise to move quick so we make it on time. We get four water-tight plastic tubs and in 15 minutes pack all we can into them, clothes and food mainly, but in the rush forget: flashlight, portable gas cooker, and snacks. For lack of space the other two couples leave their tents behind. Somebody French remember to bring the two bottles of red wine though.

After two and a half hours of paddling, sometimes against the cold mistral wind, we reach the camp. When everybody had gotten warm and dry, Pierre and I gloat. We have a tent! Then we open the thing and find out it has several metal pieces missing (don't ask me why). We end up using the tent as a duvet. (High point of the night: Discovering the camp had showers and toilets. Then a drop: The hot water had ran out.)

The next day Pierre and I wake up bright and early, make coffee and toast for everyone. While I'm fantasizing about the long, hot shower I am going to take as soon as we get back home, Francis comes walking up, announces, "I've studied the map, and it's going to take five more hours of paddling to get back to St. Martin."

"What???!!!" I scream. "You mean we kayak back? Nobody is going to come pick us up in a van right here, today?" Apparently not. "How come nobody told me about this?" Shrugs all around. Apparently, nobody knew exactly how much paddling we'd signed up for.

A lunch of leftovers and many cigarette breaks later, plus some stops to wait for the one kayak that kept turning over, at seven p.m. of the second day, we finally make it back to where we'd parked our cars. We're told that we had paddled a total of 35 kilometers. My body didn't need the number, it knew it had been punished. Why, even my toes hurt.

This weekend, we're planning to see the same people again. It's going to be just a day on the beach, they promise.

Friday, August 04, 2006

One More Shot

Just because, despite that she's all hair here, I think my stepdaughter
Angie is looking very cute harvesting cherry tomatoes in this picture.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


My recent blog entries have been missing spots of color; all words, no images. So here are some photos of what's turning out to be a very wholesome summer filled with (top to bottom) looking after children, saving dragonflies who don't navigate so well and trap themselves indoors, and rediscovering the exhilaration of slamming yourself into strong waves followed by rolling around in sand. There are also clam-picking mornings, lunchtime barbecues, afternoon dips in the pool, and trips to the amusement park that last till midnight. Oh, and I'm still very into vegetable gardening. All together now, let's say, Apol, welcome to domestication. Gosh.