experience is the best teacher (but the worst kick in the ass)

yesterday, accompanying jill at the customs desk of the airport brought to light a few things about my new life in fiji:

1. i have become negligent of hard and fast rules
2. i count on other people’s “i’ve been there, done that” stories and take them to be the norm (even if i have been reminded of the actual conditions)
3. there are A.I.B.’s in the world (a new term we have coined for masungit people who don’t give consideration)

i am talking about the vat refund scheme. in certain authorized establishments, you are given a form along with your official receipts to present to the customs officer at the airport and you’ll be given back the 15% value-added tax on the items. it’s a government initiative meant to encourage people to spend their money on the island.

sounds simple enough? it does, especially if you read the part on the form that says no goods, no refund. and even more especially if you read the conditions that say the officer has the right to inspect the items. and even more especially if one salesperson reminded you about the customs check. i must be blind and deaf or something.

i deserve a swift kick in the ass.

here’s why i find it hard to let go: it’s very not me to let my guard down on things like that. letting guard down is, in fact, one of the main causes of heated discussions in our household, during instances (and plenty of it) when my husband neglects to read the fine print. yes, reading fine print and between the lines used to be my specialty. i used to be extremely detail-oriented and didn’t make moves without having all bases covered. overanalysis was and perhaps still is my biggest debilitating characteristic.

what grabs me by the throat here is the idea that i have become too self-satisfied to care about outcomes and unconcerned about consequences of little actions. perhaps if this had happened to me alone, i’d easily shrug it off, but to have my newfound aloofness affect another person expecting positive results is just so disappointing.

in short, i hate that i have become complacent. that’s right, i have become the one thing i used to detest in utter completion. hard to imagine now i was the one who used to always say “complacency is the enemy” in even the simplest cases (such as billiard games when i get a ball in hand; yep, i love applying life lessons on the pool table). perhaps it’s the devil-may-care attitude that came part and parcel with this very relaxed island lifestyle. or this crazy notion that if worse comes to worst, we can always try talking our way out of a pickle. or it may simply be the fact that we were rushing at check-in (since we thought the flight was 30 minutes later than it actually was. plus an incident involving setting the alarm clock at philippine time… lol here) and we had to prioritize getting the bags on the plane more than the customs guy poking his head into them. whatever. there is no excuse for knowing better.

i have become complacent. i have become my own enemy.

tonight, as a start to regaining my old detail-oriented self, i will read the electric sewing machine manual. for fun.

what happened to my 113 hours?

yesterday, i realized that the check issued to me was short of an amount equivalent to 113 hours of service. i asked the operations manager nicely why that is so, but even he was baffled and said that that shouldn’t have happened. must be an oversight somewhere.

but the whole situation is kind of a downer and it makes me not want to show up until that is rectified. but it’s not really the boss’s fault, most likely an accounting error, still…

maybe i should just rock up to the main office and sit there until they hand me a check.

office: this might take a while. we’ll call you when it’s ready.
me: that’s ok, i have time.
office: might even take a whole day.
me: that’s alright, i’ll wait here until 5pm then. (open a magazine and start reading editorial)
office: but i’m afraid you might waste your time if it is not ready by 5pm.
me: oh, do you need more time? i can wait until… (glance at wristwatch) 5:30. ok, i’ll just be right here. (cross legs and get back to magazine)

oh well, i don’t want to be mean. it must be an honest mistake. i’m sure the whole thing can’t be that bad.

still, man…

thanks for dropping by

someone left a comment on an entry nearly a year old:

A very well thought off blog, very personal but too critical in some areas, after all it is a Pacific pageant and that probably its own uniqueness.
I happen to know Miss SPP 2009 Mere, Miss Cook Islands 2009 Engra n Miss SPP 2008 personally and I believe they are all exceptional women in society. I am a final year medical student in Fiji and happen to have met Mere in a charity event in which we came to work together more closely. She embodies the true mark of a Fijian woman, beauty, elegance and a very well spoken individual. Later I found out that Mere had sufficient exposure to the international society and was well aware of her surroundings. She was definitely a person to be reckoned with.
I met Engra while I was a student in USP and we happen to join the same USP choir group that was then called Malaga now called Pacific voices. She has a very elegant style, beautiful inside and out and a very simple person to know. Even though I left a year later, Engra and I kept in contact since we basically had the same group of friends.
I met Vanessa while I was a second year in FSM as she also played 1st touch and happen to be in the same dance group I was in. Nessa is a person with a cute character, she has a great personality, a joke often is exceptionally beautiful and my interest in marine environments has always been something that we both like to ponder on when we meet.
The costumes of each contests were all worth a prize, because all of it had a LOT of work done to it. For example the tapa dresses, from planting the tapa, to making the tapa and printing it and then trying to think of a design to hold it all together is quite a lot of work. Engra’s singing well maybe it didn’t sound as well but that was not the point the message of the song was the point and regardless of how well we are singing here in the Pacific Global warming continues!!
Again with the talent show since it’s a Pacific pageant, the contestants had to express their talents in song and dance because that how our ancestors did so. Chanting and drum beatings and each movement that a hand made in their talent meant something that was important and showcased culture.
It takes a lot of work organizing an event with this magnitude, I was a volunteer for Hibiscus Fiji in the years 2007 and 2008 and it is HECTIC. Yes there is room for improvement and just to remind you the event in for CHARITY and in case of SPP it’s for PRESERVING the culture of the Pacific. So as a Part Fijian, Samoan and Cook Islander I consider myself as a true Pacific woman. I understand if we are unable to purchase a noise free box! After all we rather use that money to save our turtles, prevent the Japanese from killing our whales and creating awareness about Global Warming. Need I say more?
With the last questions for the top five, being a contestant you should be ready with whatever gets thrown to you. There is no room for lack of self awareness, ignorance or ‘omg I didn’t go through that last night’, so with all due respect, reassess your blog because it lacks PACIFIC flavor. x x

thank you for your thoughts, but may point out a few things:

this is a personal blog. it is meant to have personal points of view, critical or otherwise. unless i say anything hateful, judgmental and intolerant against a whole lifestyle, race or system of belief, my views shall be nothing but opinions, which, as far as i know, are protected by our fundamental democratic rights to free expression. as are your opinions in the comment.

i am not originally from the pacific. neither is this a pacific-oriented blog. may i reiterate that this is a personal blog? thank you for the advice, but i do not think i have to reassess anything; there is no need to infuse my posts with “pacific flavor” because i don’t intend for any of them to have that. don’t get me wrong, lest you hand me more suggestions on how to voice my entries, i enjoy fiji immensely and love my family here, but my day-to-day activities are more mainstream than deeply cultural pacific.

i understand how hectic it might be to organize the festival, i myself have been involved in major events before, but i am not talking about where the money has been allocated (saving whales against the japanese and others) nor am i even remotely suggesting that it should rather be funneled to the pageant. i am talking about the viewing experience. and a lot of things based on what i saw on tv.

i am sure the contestants are all very nice and they are all special and beautiful in their own way as is everybody in the world. but i believe i emphasized that i like my pageants superficial? as in sashaying in swimsuits and evening gowns close to the body, interview portion with questions almost always answerable by hackneyed statements about society. the popular notion of how pageants should be. i didn’t say msp should conform to that popular notion. i’m sorry that my preference doesn’t sit well with you.

indulge me one more opinion, though: excuses are not necessary.

but i do appreciate you dropping by and taking time to write a comment, including a description of the contestants that you personally know. i didn’t even think anyone was reading my nondescript little spot in cyberspace. i am but a nobody after all, and anyone who bothers with my nonsensical thoughts ought to have better things to do.

(i am an even bigger loser for bothering to write an entry about the subject. but i’m on a “the batman” binge right now, and i think i’m hallucinating from an overdose of the dark knight and joker. i don’t even know how that is related to irrational behavior)

humble home and little girl

little house

porch

exit to plant nursery

exit to main house

living room (excuse the small mess)

home work station

a peek into babyn’s room

little kitchen

the kitchen windows open to the porch

little hall going to the back porch

back porch

backyard with little vegetable patch, herb garden and fruit trees

exit to the other plant nursery

from group of islands to another

i came back to fiji the other week with a two-year-old in tow. traveling with a pre-schooler was smoother than i expected. she was well-behaved throughout the entire trip, even during the long hours in flight. granted she slept about half the time going to fiji from hongkong…

before i went on the trip, i asked other mothers who have tried traveling with their two-year-olds to very distant destinations how they kept their little tykes entertained enough to keep them from throwing a tantrum in extreme boredom. and the recommendations came in both ordinary and unfamiliar forms:

bring a portable dvd player with her favorite movies.
let her carry a favorite stuffed animal.
coloring books and crayons.
give her a dose of cough syrup.

the dvd player would have been nice, but i don’t have one nor do i own a laptop. and i wasn’t willing to spend for it.

i couldn’t find her favorite stuffed cat “oliver”, so i bought the stuffed horse she’s been wanting in s.m. i didn’t show it to her until we got the airport. as soon as she walked around the check-in area with it all excited and cheerful, another kid tries to snatch it off her grasp. the nerve. robyn held on more firmly to the little horse which just made the other kid more determined. i finally pried it off their hands, but the kid kept tugging at it even while i tried to keep it from her reach. she eventually gave up.

i brought crayons and a coloring book. i didn’t even get the chance to show her the coloring book; she enjoyed drawing on blank sheets of paper.

babyn's 'happy square', though it looks more like a smirking square.

babyn's 'mumu' under her 'moon' that looks like a sickle about to decapitate the 'mumu'... if that is even possible to do to a ghost.

and i had a few disney princess storybooks as well.

as for snack food, we had enough cheez curls and choco mucho to last us until hongkong. then i had to buy popcorn to last us until fiji.

we stayed in the regal hotel, the one you can walk to via footbridge from the terminal. i love that place! it’s just the kind of modern maximalist i like. we were bumped up to a one-bedroom apartment with two queen size beds, a kitchen and a veranda. but we only paid for the standard room we booked earlier. talk about lucky. i wish we could have stayed there longer.

speaking of hongkong… i am crazy about their new airport. because it’s so huge i can get lost there. which i did. and i am positively obsessed with the noodles there. hey, it’s the chinese after all. i dream about those noodles. i told my husband we should go back to hk just to eat those noodles.

so here we are now.

people-watching at the sports complex

there is truth to the claim that you don’t miss the water ’til the well runs dry.

there was a point in my early twenties when i tried to introduce physical fitness into my lifestyle and went everyday to the cebu city sports complex to either ballroom dance, swim, or jog around the track oval. on some days when i make it in time, i join the taebo or tai-chi demonstrations. all that time, i treated the activities as chores, things i didn’t really want to do (well, except ballroom, that is), but had to for a purpose. soon enough, my enthusiasm fizzled into a dying ember, made my way to the center less and less, and finally gave up without even noticing it.

all those days i sauntered into the complex to perform my chores, i just went in, did what i had to do, then left without looking back or engaging in small talk with anyone else.

today, coming back to cebu from thousands of miles away, more aware and more anxious (at least by my meagre standards) about physical fitness, i decided to stroll the kilometer stretch from where i stayed to the sports complex. and when i entered the structure, i was hit by a strange wistfulness that can only be spurred by a sudden feeling of… i don’t know, missing, i guess.

it was then when i realized just how wonderful the place is, this public sports complex with people from all walks of life, a myriad of sports and recreation all there for one to learn, to master, to be curious about, or to just pass the time with if that’s your trip. nearly ten years ago, i was so caught up with simply getting this fitness thing over and done with, i never even stopped a moment to look around.

so instead of running the track, swimming, dancing or boxing (which was actually what i went there for in the first place), i ventured around at a leisurely pace. the rest of the world around me seemed to spin in restless activity, and what a marvelous sensation to just watch!

the vaunted dancesport studio is the first you’ll see as you enter the building. in posters and boards that you won’t miss even if you were legally blind are photos, clippings and certificates of the team’s guinness world record achievement: biggest dance class on earth, attained in june 2009. i dally inside, inquiring about classes from the organizers; i’ve been there once or twice before to hire dancers for an event, but i didn’t even bother to watch what was going on. such a loss for me. as the lady in the glass-paneled office talks to me, my eyes keep flitting to the pairs on the floor as they glide this way and dip that way while an instructor beats the boards with a cane(?) in time to the rhythm. i dance recreational ballroom, but dancesport requires an almost completely different set of skills. so without batting an eyelash, i said i will come back to enroll for classes.

then i walk on to the next studio where ladies with bare abs, bejeweled scarves around their hips, were gyrating and pulsating as the one who sways most like shakira was calling out instructions over the din of chatter and shuffling feet… yes, this class, bellydancing, has a sizeable audience of on-lookers.

onwards, the gym at the end of the hall have the balance beam, uneven bars, vault… ladies’ gymnastics. there were kids warming up and stretching (by stretching, i mean splits and leg extensions and back-bends), likely getting ready to train on the apparatus.

as i move on to the track, i take a second to enjoy a glimpse of the momentum flashing from the square of light leading outside. i notice that the whole space was filled with people, not all of them necessarily running circles around the oval. i have always known and noticed that it does seem crowded there, but i never really appreciated what was happening until earlier today.

and when i stepped out to rest my elbows on the railings, i couldn’t think of a better thing to do in the afternoon than to people-watch in the oval: b-boys practicing air flares, pop jazz dancers memorizing choreography, flag-football team training on the center field, a tennis player volleying a ball against the wall for lack of an opponent, and naturally the runners and joggers taking advantage of the inside track.

i found most remarkable the gymnastics training. the male athletes dragged the mats out into the open, planted the vault and springboard(?) right before the layers of cushion and canvas, and practiced their somersaults. one of them had shoulder-length curly hair pulled back in an unkempt ponytail, a mustache and a goatee; hardly the look i expected from a gymnast, a novelty that amused me no end. what looked like astounding flips and tumbles to me apparently didn’t fly well with the coach who yelled, “ayaw mo sige’g barog ra diha, kay ibton nako nang mat, derecho gyud mo sa semento.” (don’t just stand there or i’ll pull the mat out and you’ll land straight on the concrete). talk about tough… they’re not even just standing around. does he mean their efforts are only tantamount to standing? talk about high standards.

the rhythmic gymnastics coach wasn’t giving the girls an easier time either. as they extended their legs behind them and spun on one leg over and over, she walks to each of them, points her index finger in strong gestures before their faces all steely in concentration and bellows “ingon ko duha ka tuyok! isa ra na imong gibuhat, kakita ko!” (i said two spins! you did only one, i saw it!). oh, and one of these girls who seemed probably between ten to twelve years old has the sickest abs i’ve ever seen on a female. i swear.

i finally found my way into the boxing gym to schedule a training for tomorrow morning. for now, i just wanted to watch people.

as i began walking towards the exit, the taekwondo class spills onto the oval for their daily jogging requirement. as the bigger kids wearing black belts break away from the smaller ones, i notice that the ones lagging behind (about six young kids, ranging from around five to eight years old) start playing tag instead of jogging aimlessly… children being children. even if the two tiniest ones were wearing a blue and a brown belt.

antisocial networking

what a strange thing social networking is. it intends to bring people together but it actually pushes them apart in many ways.

friendster, for instance. i know someone who intermittently breaks up/reconciles with her so-called bf based on what she reads on his profile.

and what a well-spring of the most fake of fakers! it’s like a plastic factory! in the real world one girl calls a friend “stupid” and another “ugly”, but writes the most saccharine of niceties on the same friends’ walls.

not that i bother. i just happen to see it on my homepage. which is why i put up blinders because it’s just too needlessly annoying.

but i’m still there despite my thoughtless complaints. because i’m an emotional sado-masochist like that. and it gives me a perverted high to notice how some very uptight people carry on with their petty jealousies and try vainly to attract attention.

ok, so i’m not exactly the best example of social network ethics. i admit to poking fun at some of the most preposterous status updates, though i am aware that neither am i immune to the ridicule of others in turn. when i saw someone plagiarize a piece of work on her set of notes, claiming the middle-age epiphany as her own, i set out to create a bogus account just so i can tell her anonymously to cite the author, otherwise put it down.

oh, and i have this thing about becoming a fan… i don’t know. i don’t have standards as a fan. except on american idol.