Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm Cuteable

My fabric jewelry is in the 25 September issue of cuteable. (I'm sure "issue" is not the correct term, but what do you call it if it's on a web site?) I'm thrilled! Click on the link and then scroll down to find my label, la pomme. Leave a comment if you want to be nice to me and say how much you like my stuff.

Oh, and please do read the post below because cultural adjustment is more what this blog is all about and my crafts entries are just squatting here until I get another site going for them. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"How Come You've Adjusted So Well?"

Is a question I'm often asked by other Filipinos who move to a foreign land and find themselves having difficulty coping.

Maybe Stephanie answered that when she told me one of the last times I saw her before I left, "You're the kind of girl who'll be fine wherever she is." From my mom I did learn the virtue of resilience and a go-for-it attitude, and I suppose it was reading mountains of books when I was younger that gave me a great hunger for experience.

"The reason I moved back here," a mestiza acquaintance who used to live in the US told me one night in Malate, "is that over there I was just a small fish in a really big pond. Here, I'm somebody, a big fish in a small pond." She was drunk, so I restrained myself from saying that I thought she was being silly. Personally I can be whatever size of guppy and think it's not about the size of the pond, it's how much fun you have exploring it.

Still, given all that, and as I tell anybody who asks, I had a very difficult first few months over here, which was the meat for the essay I wrote for the Palancas. One of the things that helped me through that period was educating myself about why, although I had always thought of myself as a very confident, ultra-capable kind of woman, there I was suddenly feeling insecure, childish, a few times like I was on the verge of some breakdown. Finding the reasons behind the tears helped me get over my own drama.

Aside from Internet research, I was sent some readings by girl friend Kat Olivares, who studied the culture shock phenomenon in graduate school. If you're a Pinoy in a foreign land or you're just curious, I can send you the six PDF files I got from Kat. Just leave me your e-mail address in the comments box. I'll erase the message as soon as I note your address, don't worry.

P.S., a.k.a., HEY, HELENE! You can read the essay and other 2007 Palanca winners over at Literatura 13.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Navel Gazing While Thinking About Words

It's funny that I had always thought that English was one of my two first languages, since I grew up learning to speak it and Filipino at the same time, but now I'm having to seriously rethink the idea. These days when I'm writing, a short story for example, and I'm searching for another word to replace one I had already typed out, say an alternative to the verb "pluck," instead of coming up with something like "yank," "tug," or any of the other choices a later consulting of an online thesaurus will yield, my brain gives me the French "arracher."

I'm no expert in the science of language acquisition, but I'm supposing that if English had actually been a first language for me, it would have been so firmly hardwired into my brain that French would not have presented any competition. Now I'm having to admit that a daily dose of Sesame Street and The Electric Company during childhood was not enough. English is only a weak second language, so that the third language--which at the moment is getting the most play, since French is what I speak, read, and hear almost 24/7--is trying to take over the no. 2 spot.

Thinking "trapped," "piégé" popped up, for "snack" it was "grignoter." This has happened so many times now that I'm starting to worry that my ability to write English will one day decline.

And on that note: I'm currently reading 99F by Frédéric Beigbeder and not just because the novel is soon going to be a movie starring the adorable Jean Dujardin who with Julien of Nouvelle Star and Grégoire of Koh Lanta currently make up the trinity of French men who make me swoon.

The last line in the first paragraph of Chapter 2 hit me in the gut: "Dans ma profession, personne ne souhaite votre bonheur, parce que les gens heureux ne consomment pas." "In my profession," says the protagonist Octave, "nobody wishes for your happiness, because happy people don't buy anything." (The translation doesn't quite pack as much of a wallop as the original, but you get the drift.)

Octave is an advertising man, but that line made me think of my previous profession as well. I loved working in women's magazines and continue to have friendships with former colleagues, but there were times when I asked myself if the stories we were publishing that were supposed to inspire women to become better versions of themselves were not at the same time eroding their confidence, sending them the message that they are not good enough. The way to become that ideal magazine woman who has great hair, a fashionable wardrobe, well-toned abs, a fantastic husband, a wonderful job, a caring boss, a perfectly balanced checkbook, a winning retirement plan, and the most well-disciplined children in the world? Continue buying issues of the mag.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Non-Animal Lovers, Skip This

Call me crazy cat lady if you wish, but I'm thoroughly convinced that daughter cat Dolly is growing up to look a lot like me:

P.S.: Don't worry, I don't usually wear the necklaces I sell on Etsy. I was taking pictures for uploading in the shop when the daughter cat kept interrupting, meowing to be included in the activity.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Breathing a Little Heavily

Girls, we may be in love and we may be happily married, we may even think that our husband is the strongest, most charming, one of the most handsome men in the world, but then comes the day when we are faced with a band of fresh-looking Spanish boys in their early twenties, stripped to the waist and performing all sorts of acrobatic acts--hanging upside down and then gliding sideways, twirling their supple bodies in the air as they hang by the strength of mere fingers. Physical exertion makes it so that their muscles are well cut and on grand display. We try to ignore them, but instead find ourselves enumerating, "Trapezius, deltoid, pectoralis major, triceps brachii, biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, abs..."

When that day comes, we are rendered helpless, really. They urge each other on, "Venga! Venga!" We take this as personal encouragement. We give in, give ourselves license to stare, even salivate a little. One of them bends over. We realize that our earlier list was incomplete. How could we have forgotten it? Glorious, glorious gluteus maximus!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Last on the Palancas (Pramis)

"Thank you very much to my parents, my sisters, my dear husband, and of course (with matching eyes up and index finger pointing heavenward) sa nasa itaas..."

So goes my imaginary speech at the 2007 Palanca Awards ceremonies held at The Manila Peninsula last 1 September. After a few days really really thinking about it, I decided not to fly over. Because it's too far, because it's too expensive, because I have to finish my stories for the Montpellier writer's group, because I want to go to Belgium, because I have to start autumn gardening, because I just opened my online shop and will have to help my mother-in-law set up hers, because because because... So my parents went for me. And because mom and dad are deep into their business and are the hardest people to get on the phone these days, I had to rely on Dean's blog for the chismis.

In his entry, I again stumbled on Ian Casocot. I don't really know Ian, but from his blog and the few e-mails we've exchanged, I already like him. He seems feisty and funny, plus he looks cute in his photos (yep, shallow, is my middle name). You've also got to give the guy a thumbs-up for his efforts getting Filipino-authored works out there. He runs the online literary magazine Literatura, and issue no. 13 will be devoted to this year's Palanca winners. Click here to read the back issues and wait for the new one. (P.S. Be prepared to read my full name--why, oh why, did my parents have to name me like a character from a telenovela?!)

This just in! My mom's comments about the country's most awaited annual writers' event:
1. "Ang daming pagkain, Apol. At masarap naman."
2. "Nakita ko si Korina Sanchez, kasi nandun si Mar Roxas, eh di ba mag-boyfriend sila?"
3. "Hindi naman boring."
4. "Hindi na ako bumili ng bagong damit, sinuot ko na lang yung suot ko nung wedding mo. Feeling ko ang ganda ko."
3. "Siyempre binasa ko naman yung essay mo para kung may magtanong sa akin makukuwentuhan ko. May mga nagtanong nga. Sabi ko nagsulat-sulat ka tungkol diyan sa buhay mo sa France. Sabi ko din, siyempre talented ka, eh anak kaya kita!"

Now you get an idea where I get my slight sayad from. I love my mom :).