Sunday, November 29, 2009

Little Runaway

The rain stopped falling for three years. The land cracked open like dying fish, waiting in vain with its mouth open. The unforgiving sun soon turned the land into baked broken clay.

Then massive grasshopper clouds landed on the remaining crops, shielding the sun in the sky as they made their descent, and consumed whatever was left on the ground. In a matter of minutes all crops were gone. The farmers stared at their now bare rice paddies, too hungry to cry.

As if that wasn’t enough, a three-month rainfall followed the drought. The ground was saturated with water it felt like sponge when you poked at it. Whatever managed to come out when the rain first started, now died in flooded paddies.

We were a half-merchant, half-farmer family. We had a little food left, but we had to be very careful. The front gate was secured with heavy wooden bolts before each meal. The hungry farmers would rob, or even kill, if they knew we had food left.

“Food” was a loose term to use. We had to mix tree barks with a little rice to make gruel. We ate it slowly. The taste was strange on our tongues, and we waited for the unpleasant consequences. Some would have stomach aches, and others, diarrhea.

My father traveled all over the place as a merchant. He finally told us we should move to another province, where there was no drought or flooded fields. We packed our belongings in as much luggage as our hands could carry, and boarded the train.

The train station was a chaotic mess. People swarmed the place with their families and luggage, shoveling and pushing each other. Japanese soldiers were beating them with their rifles, trying to instill some order. We managed to get on the train and, with all the chaos around us, lost the sight of my father promptly.

Older boys had been sent to another province to study before all this happened. My mother, my younger brother and I stayed at a local resident’s home after searching for my father to no avail. I was playing with a hand-made ball in the courtyard when I heard the conversation. The ball rolled to the base of the wall and rested under an open window. I froze when I realized what was going on.

“It’s so hard to carry on for you--a lone woman with two kids. What are you going to do with a long journey ahead of you?” The landlady said.

“Well, one step at a time I guess.” My mother replied.

“I don’t have girls of my own and can really use some help. Why don’t you leave your daughter here? I promise she will be better off staying here with us.”

“…” My mother didn’t say yes or no, but I could see that she was giving it a mull over - much to my horror.

I ran back to our room and packed everything I had in a cloth wrappage. I slipped out of the house with my little baggage and ran to where the train track was. I remembered which side we got off the train, so in my young mind I determined that if I continued in the direction where the train was heading, I would get to the destination. What that destination would be I hadn't a clue.

Somehow my mother found out that I had run away. She carried my brother and our stuff and started chasing after me, calling my name over and over. I ran faster as soon as I heard her so she wouldn’t catch up - she might trick me into going back and staying with that landlady.

I looked into each and every alley by the train station when I got there, wishing I would see my father in one of those alleys. I was so young that I didn't realize how low the odds were. Wouldn’t you know it? I glanced upon a person when passing one alley, and backed up to see a familiar silhouette. I met the eyes of the person who was also backing up to see me. It was my father!

I ran over to his side and saw that his eyes were all blood shot and swollen. He had been looking for us for days, and thought he had lost us forever. The stress of the trauma probably raised his blood pressure to sky high. By this time my mother had caught up with us. The first thing I told my father was: “Mom was going to sell me off!”

They had a huge fight in the hotel later. My father, unlike his wife, was always partial to us girls, and the idea of selling me to a total stranger, even though it was a harsh time and I didn't really hear the word "sell" or "buy", was beyond his comprehension. He was a very gentle man and I had never seen him losing his temper. My mother usually had her say and he never argued with her much. That was the first time I remembered him raising his voice to anyone.

And that was how we migrated to another province. I never went back to the old house until forty years later.

(My mother’s experience with the drought, famine and runaway when she was a little girl. The tree they consumed, after a little research I did, was elm tree.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

From Me to You!

Sarah is a young and aspiring writer who's still going to college. I'm honored to know that she thought my writing is worthy of passing on the "From Me to You" award. She may be young, but her writing shows great style and stands out among her peer. Thank you, Sarah!

I found the Coffee Shop in August, and timidly started joining the conversation. Much to my relief, I found people in the shop friendly, fun and encouraging. I was instantly hooked. I only had a handful of posts back then and they were pretty immature, but one person was kind enough to not only read them, but also took the time to comment. His comments to a person who didn't know what she was doing were the lifeline a blogger needed. So I carried on. I tried to write better. I didn't want to disappoint my "reader." The fact that I had one reader was enough to keep me going.

His name was Mr. Bob. By now you all know that he's always kind and tolerant and humorous. I visited his blog many times because I wanted to find out what kind of writer he was, and each time I ran away as soon as I got there. What in the world is he talking about? What kind of language is that? It looked like English, but I didn't understand a word of it.

I finally got used to his style and language, and it's a good thing I did. His stories are so funny you will find yourself ROFL, like the bloggers would say. I thought he was just a happy-go-lucky guy, until one day I read this post and was left speechless. Anybody who went through that kind of trauma and didn't resolve to traversing on a self-destructive path is a hero. To be kind and warm and encouraging to others after such trauma is divine. He survived the demon in more than one form. So I want to dedicate this award to him as the honorary recipient.

His self description is:

I enjoy everbody, and love every comment left here, they are truly treasured. I am not computer geeky, learned, or proficent, so please forgive me, if you find something here that doesn't make sense to you. if you want I am always open to your ideas and suggestions. If you have arrived at this site it probably was not by accident.

thanks for stopping by, and just keep on laffin. plainolebob

He started the Hot Dawg Friday, where each Friday he gives out the award to five people--a lot of them new bloggers. It takes a lot of work to get that done. I know because I have trouble just doing it once in a while. That's just Bob--always encouraging others to carry on.

Bob, you are such an inspiration to so many people. I am honored to have known you. You don't need to pass it on, write a thank you post, or anything the like. I just wanted to tell you how much you are appreciated.

It's a great pleasure to pass this award to these delightful writers. There are more great blogs out there than I have space to mention them here. You know who you are. You all have beautiful awards to bear witness. But to continue in Mr. Bob's style, I would like to acknowledge these fairly new blogs. Please pay them a visit. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Dealing with elder care, death, and family members in such a humorous way you will laugh your troubles away. Her blog description is simple: Loving Someone From End To End. And that's what she did.

You may not agree with her political stand, but her writing is witty and to the point. To quote her own words:
I'm a liberal Christian Texas Democrat. A living, walking oxymoron. With plenty of reasons to rant.

An Englishman’s sarcasm written in fine forms. He always has beautiful picture to go with the story if you're not big on reading.

One single post can generate 114 comments. Need I say more? He has a good amount of followers, but I have yet to see this kind of response on other blogs. His one-setence aphorisms make you look at things in life from a completely different angle.

Ms. Burb’s energy in the coffee shop can blow your derriere off your chair, and laugh all the way down. Her blog is all about murder and such. You might not want to read it before bedtime. There is a disclaimer at the bottom of her blog that states in the spirit of Ms. Burb:
The half-cocked views of the Authors of B3 may not necessarily be the views of those Authors when they're don't hold anything against us, okay?!!

There is also a catch of seven things you have to share. I will not bore you with a repeat. If you are curious here's the link:

Congratulations to all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

As the World Turns

I’m not sure if this soap opera is still running, but I saw the name in the passing every now and then, and thought I’d borrow it for this post.

Mr. Bob initiated the conversation titled “Is the world gonna end in 2012” the other day, and that prompted me to think. They say everyone needs to make a “bucket list” to set your priorities straight. And if the world is going to end in 2012, now will be a good time to start thinking about it.

My initial thought was: this is easy! I can give you a list of fifty things I want to do before the world stops turning, or goes up with a big kaboom.

As it turns out, I had to mull it over longer than I thought, and I could only come up with ten. If your time is limited, suddenly some of the things you want to do are not that important anymore. For example, I wanted to learn French. But what would be the point giving the situation?

Here’s my list of ten after some hard thinking:

1. Make sure people I love know I love them – I hope this one needs no explanation, and I probably don’t do it enough.

2. Go to dance once a week – I envy people with rhythm and coordination. Dancing seems to be so natural for them whenever there’s music. I’m too shy to do that, but will try to overcome it before the world ends. I have a karaoke machine at home, so I got the singing part covered.

3. Go to Italy – I always wanted to visit Italy. I know my half-Italian friend wants to go, too, but the hope is dwindling since her health and employment situation are both declining. I’ll see if I can come up with the budget to pay for both of us.

4. Laugh everyday –  crying everyday won't stop the inevitable, so I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

5. Go back to the city where I was born – and see if I can reconnect with some old friends. Tell them I miss them, and that I dream of them often.

6. Find my lost half brother – two words: dysfunctional family. I tried it once to no avail. I hope he’s doing well.

7. Move my mom in to live with me now (I may be crazy by the time the world ends, so I won’t be too devastated)

8. See the world if I have money left – the earth is a wonderful place. See it before it goes away.

9. Thank God every morning I wake up – that means the world and me are both alive. I do that now, actually.

10. Eat all the chocolates I could – especially the dark ones. This one may change after two days, as I will no doubt be sick of it. When that happens I’ll change it to “Taste every cuisine available” Thankfully I live in a very diverse community, so I won’t be running out of options any time soon.

There’s no order for this list, but there’s really only one thing that’s important, and I’ll let you guess which one.

I did, however, have to struggle with “Forgive people who did you wrong” which is on most people's bucket lists. I did this for the most part, and the great reward was the inner peace and happiness. But there are a couple of people I just couldn’t look into their eyes and say, “I forgive you for what you did to me.” One of these people is my step-mother.

She is a hateful and crass woman. She did everything she could to alienate us from our father. Case in point: her lovely answer was often: “What do you want? To suck on his old nipples?” whenever we asked the simple question: “Where is dad?” She had a son after she married my father in a shotgun sort of wedding, but the elephant in the room was he was not my father’s son. We never said anything to our father.

She got her wish when both my sister and I were out of the house and living in dorms, and she always sent the maid home for vacation when my sister went home for summer breaks. Luckily I lived in a different city and often did not go home for breaks. She made sure we know that we were uninvited and unwelcome outsiders the day she set her foot in our door.

I will probably be dancing around the house and singing “Ding dong the witch is gone” the day she dies. So you see when it comes to forgiving her, I’m afraid I still have a long way to go.

What will be your list of ten things?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Road Traveled

The patio overlooked the river that melted into the ocean half a mile away. The crisp morning air glistened above the water. A couple of ducks floated lazily along the slow and cool current, still half lingering in last night’s dreams.

She looked down on her plate of eggs, ham and strawberries. There were white linen and smiling guests all around them. It was as perfect a getaway as possible for the new romance.

Something was missing, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was.

He commented on the ducks and the setting, the history of the harbor and the sound of the morning trumpet. He asked what she wanted to do after the breakfast. They chitchatted through eating, but avoided the unmentioned. She looked into his eyes, and he returned with a glance and a smile - both ended half done. They finished without once touching each other.

The drive home was less jubilant than coming here. They passed jokes here and there for the sake of breaking the silence. Passion died before it even started, and she wondered if she was to blame. He appeared to be a nice man, if not physically attractive. Still, she was willing to tend and irrigate the new liaison and see if it would grow into full blossom. They had good times at the theatre and symphonies. For her a nice guy outweighed the other shortfalls, which he owned quite a few.

Maybe you can’t force chemistry, she wondered to herself.

She picked up her car at his place and drove home. Just when she was pulling into the garage her phone rang. He wanted to talk, but not on the phone.

Talk to me now, she said.

I don’t want to do this over the phone, he pleaded.

I don’t want to wait, she insisted. She couldn’t let it brew for several days before they meet.

I feel that this could be something great. You are the perfect woman that I could fall in love with, he slowly proceeded. She waited for a ‘but’.

But…I don’t know how to go on when I’m not over somebody else, he said it sadly.

His ex-girlfriend called him a couple of days earlier. It was a tumultuous relationship, and he eventually asked her to move out when they broke up for the tenth or twentieth time. He assured her that it was over when she questioned if he had moved on too fast. No, he said. Her drinking, her dark moods, her cruel words to him were all too much to bear. I would never want to go through that again, he declared definitively.

Yet he wanted to go back to her as soon as she called.

She felt like an idiot. She was looking at a possible future, while he was leading her to a dead end. Was he thinking about her the whole weekend? She blamed herself for not seeing this coming. She had suspected it was too soon for him to start anew, but she ignored her intuition and trusted his words anyway. She beat herself down for the next few days. It was all her fault. She knew it was too soon for him. She should have been more careful. When grief veiled all lights around her, something inside changed unexpectedly.

They agreed on a date to meet at the train station for the last time.

She pulled into the station by the curb where he was waiting. He opened the door and said hi, handing over a bag with her belongings.

“Come in, and sit down.” She said quietly. He did what she said and got into the car.

“I have something to say and I want you to listen.” She tried her best to mask her shaking body and voice.


“You think by jumping into another relationship is the best way to get over an old one. You don’t allow yourself to grieve and reflect on what’s going on within yourself. So you start something when you are not ready, and end up hurting others. Nobody needs a rebound from you - least of all, me.”

“I’m sorry…” He started, but she didn’t let him go on.

“I’m not finished." She paused, gathered her thoughts and continued, "You need to know how you made me feel. I thought I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t measure up, that you were quiet because you missed her and wished I were her. Do you know how hurtful that could be? You didn’t care how painful it was for others, so long as you didn’t have to feel the pain yourself. Next time you want to do this, stop and think about what you did to me.”

He started to mumble something, but she couldn’t hear a word over the deafening sound of her heartbeat. She took a deep breath and said, “Now you can get out.” He opened the door to leave, and bent down to say good-bye before shutting the door. She pulled away from the curb, determined not to look at the rear mirror. She made the turn and fought hard not to let the tears glide down.

Two years later he called and told her that he was in the process of divorcing his wife, the ex-girlfriend he married after their train station breakup. It was the biggest mistake in my life, he lamented. Her drinking, her dark moods, her cold and callous words to him, all were reasons why it didn’t work, and she had heard them all two years ago.

He eagerly wanted to renew their relationship as if the past two years didn’t happen, and didn’t understand her reluctance. What’s different, he asked in genuine bewilderment. I didn’t change, he assured her. His complete denial was astonishing. Apparently nothing she told him in their last meeting had registered with him, in spite of her best effort to connect with him emotionally.

Sometimes we need to revisit the road already traveled more than a few times to get it right, and only if we are willing to listen to our innermost voice carefully. She can't help but wonder how much more traveling awaits her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goose Alley

It was no doubt the dorkiest uniform I had to don in my life, and it lasted twelve years. I will try to paint as clear of a picture as I possibly could.

White boxy shirt with no shape-forming darts anywhere, and buttons going all the way to an inch under my collar bone was normally the choice of tops. The only variation was short sleeves in the summer and long sleeves in the winter. It was tucked in a knee-length black or navy blue skirt with pleats all around, and the kneecaps must be completely covered. White tube socks went half way up to the kneecaps were required, extending from a pair of black MaryJane style shoes. They had shops make these uniforms especially for schools, and we didn't have any saying in how they tailor to fit anybody in any complimentary ways. If you managed to do that, you must be from an extremely wealthy family. I knew of only one person during the entire twelve years who actually had her uniforms tailor-made, and we all thought she was a slut because the uniform greatly enhanced her feminine curves--a concept entirely foreign to us.

Everyone had to wear uniforms from first grade through twelfth. The only solace was everyone looked equally dorky--except for the one aforementioned.

The worst part was not the uniform, however. It was the hair. We must keep it no longer than our earlobes. That means we had to cut it an inch above the earlobes, so we could last a month or so without being called to the military training officer's office and getting a good reproach, or worse yet, a write-up. He checked our hair with a ruler every week, making sure we obey the rules. That also means there was always a patch of stubble in the back of my head from shaving off that part of the hair. Very few schoolgirl hairstyles in the world could compare to the ugliness of that patch. Whoever came up with the hairstyle ought to be publicly caned. I still cringe at the thought of the unsightly hairstyle.

My good friend Jeanne had the misfortune of being born with wavy hair. The training officer refused to accept her explanation and insisted that she permed her hair, which was against the rules, naturally. I think her parents eventually had to talk to the officer to clear her name. No wonder I felt a strange kinship when I saw the picture of a colonial period man with a "pumpkinhead" hair cut. He would fit in nicely in our school--on the girl side, that is. It was little wonder we all let our hair grow as long as possible once we were in college to make up for lost time.

I don’t recall the hairstyle for boys for reasons I will explain shortly. I vaguely remember it was extremely short, with at least half of the scalp shaved.

We also had to carry the crossbody book bag with the school's name on it. It added little to the dorkiness because, frankly, nothing much in the world would. Makeup was strictly prohibited. Since wearing makeup was considered a ritual for older women, we didn't really mind. Talking to a boy in school (or any boys for that matter) was an offense worse than wearing makeup. I got into serious trouble in junior high when the son of a family friend decided to write me a letter--and he sent it to my school. I still suffer the "No, I didn't do it!" knee jerk reaction nowadays from repeating “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Honestly.” a hundred times to the school interrogators. I never looked at the boys at school, let along talking with them.

To this day I have no clue what was in the letter. The interrogators had obviously read it, but they didn’t hand it over after the scolding, and I didn't want to ask for it. I left the office as if there were a scarlet letter embroidered on my chest. I was lucky to get a mere scolding. They warned me that I could be expelled--and therefore further shamed. I felt the utter unfairness, but could argue with no one. All that humiliation for something I didn't do, and the distrustful expression on their faces I had to endure. I only wish I could somehow meet the boy again today, and have the chance to say "What the hell were you thinking?" to his no longer boyish face. But this event happened years after the goose run, and I digressed.

The walk home after school was the happiest time of the day. After the scolding, spanking (from math problems we didn’t get right) and the assignment of endless homework for the day, finally we were able to have a little breathing room. We were able to talk, laugh, play tags, and banter before going home and burying our noses in the books until late into the night. We had to get ready for the test to enter junior high.

The walk would be perfect if I could get pass those geese without being nipped.

Somebody was raising geese in a residential neighborhood near our house. Weren't there any zoning laws, you ask. If there were, we had never heard of it. This somebody thought the geese were civilized enough animals to let loose in the alley unsupervised. They might look white and fluffy and cute to the owner, but they were in fact mean little creatures that were noisy, territorial, and aggressive. Unfortunately I knew this first hand.

My heart started pounding fast when I was near the alley. My ears were suddenly super sharp, and my palms were suddenly clammy. Are they anywhere near? Do I hear a goose honking? Is that the sound of little webbed feet flapping down the road? If none of these were true, I would dash to run the length of the alley with all my might, while praying to whatever god there was to protect me and blind the geese and get me home safely.

I was not always that lucky. Somehow they heard me coming more often than I liked. Even if I started out with no geese in sight, most of the time they appeared from nowhere in the middle of my mad dash, and started chasing me as if I were the big bad wolf set out to get one of them. The long tube socks were never long enough in these incidents, despite how much we hated the length otherwise. One or two of them always managed to get me on the calves, and always on the skin, not on the socks. Their loud honking noise and the long stretching necks just increased the terror many folds. I was the villian that invaded their space.

I eventually got home with sweat on my face, and bite marks on my calves. Luckily they didn't draw blood. Mostly just scrapes as if I fell down backwards and scraped myself on rocks. I would wash up, do my homework after my heartbeat calm down, and get ready for another day, and another goose run. The only thing I could do was to try and run faster next time.

We didn't stay in that neighborhood too long, but the mental alarm was permanently set. There are flocks of Canada geese in the park where I will now take my dog for walks. I always look at them with watchful eyes, and warn my dog that they are vicious fowl. I don’t allow her to get close to them, regardless how badly she wants to investigate the wobbling birds.

I can't tell you how happy I was every time I dined at this little restaurant in the city where the geese roamed free in the alley. My favorite dish there was boiled goose meat. There was simply no word for the feeling each time I sank my teeth into the juicy flesh.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Superior Scribblers R U

Yes. We are all superior scribblers--unofficially.

It took a lot more work than I had thought to pass this award on. Not because of lack of good blogs, but the opposite. So many good blogs and so little time/awards. I had sleepless nights over this.

First, the rules you need to follow if you get this:

*Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
*Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I'm passing this to these blogs:  He's very young, but very into technology. The novel he's putting together is full of details of the technology world--all fiction, but you won't know it unless he tells you. Danny has been putting in a lot of effort on a subject he loves. The thoughts and rants of a baby boomer, but you don't have to be one to appreciate them. A great story teller in Ireland. The Halloween story "After Dark" is really good, and really creepy. Coach Dayne is always thought provocative. One read may change your mindset for good. Good writing combined with yummy recipes.

Of course there are a lot more than mentioned here. I may have to come back and add five more later. Congratulations to all, and thank you so much, Mike!


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