When I was a teenager, I came across a book that my aunt almost threw away. It had such a mystical illustration as a cover, that I decided to read it. That book is now a world best seller and … Continue reading
December 31st, 2013. Today is the last day of this magnificent year. I never really expected it, but I believe this year has been one of those wonderful years which I am extremely positive and at the same time, extremely … Continue reading
In a different part of the wold, my birthday has already started. Here in the Netherlands, it’s roughly four hours away. Tick tock, tick tock. Facebook will soon be flooded with greetings from online friends. We all know the drill, those closest to us give us messages in our phones and emails, some of them give messages in facebook personally, some declare it on your wall and others, just like other people’s greetings. At this moment I have received 1 text message, 4 personal facebook messages, 11 posts in my wall and 1 liked another person’s greeting. There are those valuable few who take the time to say, “Let’s go out and celebrate your wonderful day. Just you and me and let’s find somewhere nice.” You don’t get much of those these days. It now usually ends with facebook and real life meaningful talks are now a thing of the past. This blog even reinforces that I also am trapped in this, that me writing this means that I accept that I have a virtual self.
Far from the usual social connections, I am here living in my fifth country of residence away from all that I know and cherish but I am following exactly the course of action I wanted to take. This is the dream – taking a break from work, gaining new knowledge, doing a masters degree, traveling Europe and in the process learning the cultures of the world. Why is it that at this moment when everything seems to be perfect, I realize that the only place I want to be today is either in the waterbed of our house in Singapore or right beside my mom in Manila. I just want to be there, as if I never left, as if this reality is a mere dream and all the wonders of what I am experiencing is just a momentary flash of the subconscious that I will fail to remember tomorrow.
Birthdays for me are like wormholes of emotions. I just feel everything. I’m happy and sad at the same time. I’m apathetic but all so sensitive. The day feels like a never-ending story and facebook provides false hopes of warm smiles and kind faces wishing you good things.
A few weeks ago I was carpooling in France from Angers to Paris. I was in the passenger seat with this wonderful French lady that had an American accent and we were talking away as if we were the best of friends at the same time, wonderful acquaintances. We know for a fact that we won’t be seeing each other again at any point in our lives but we shared personal stories quite casually. She was divorced, had two kids living in different parts of France and one of them is going to Luxembourg with her grandson the month after. At one point in our discussion, she told me that she was attending a wedding of the daughter of a close friend. She then told me something unexpected – that she needed to go on a diet because she thinks she looks horrible in her clothes and that she wants to loose 5kg before the wedding. She also said that she was happy to go only if there were other people who are not couples. She gets too uncomfortable with all the couples who go back to their rooms, mind their own business and don’t really mingle. She had to ask her friend if there were other friends who were also going but not so boring like the other couples. I believe she was fishing if another friend, a single old gentleman was coming. And he was so she would too. After hearing this I suddenly asked her, “It never goes away does it, this social awkwardness we feel when have no other person is interesting enough (or interested with us) to speak to?” She said something like, “Some people are just so boring, I can’t bear being in the same table with them.” I thought this sounded like a discussion of two teenage girls talking about the senior prom.
With these memory in mind, it dawned on me that even though life becomes richer, we add more years to our age, we get white hair (just like what I had for the first time last week) and lines are formed in our faces, our fundamental issues are the same as always. I’ve contemplated about my birthday since I was in my teens and I am again back to square one. My thoughts are probably different from a few years back, the issues become more complex but the same dilemma occurs – why is it that birthdays are such wormholes of emotions. I am basically going through a seemingly annual menstrual cycle wherein I am full of uncalled for mood swings that just doesn’t go away. Maybe it is good (this is optimism coming in). It is good because I know that this is not just an ordinary day, that my mind is telling that me that this is a Eureka Moment. I am growing up again and all these thinking keeps me sane and alive for the rest of the year. What is life without introspection? What is life without the passing of time? What is life without these impossible-to-deal-with emotions?
If I get to the point in my life when I will forget my birthday was coming, to forget that the day has a meaning and that this day I will see the usual signs of joy, if I forget that, will that be living? These honest moments of confused emotions is the indicator that I have a mind that wants to understand this. I have the heart that feels this. I have the fingers that type this and I have the eyes that sees everything that will happen in this day. I am alive and every birthday I celebrate this by flushing my thoughts and emotions out in the open. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable, accepting I am not a stone because I feel. This, I believe is the miracle of my birthday posts. I say this because I believe it has meaning. I don’t know if it will mean anything to someone else but me blogging reaches to out to everyone, “Hey I am here and today, allow me to contemplate my life and my existence, because I am alive.”
Here is the link of my previous birthday post: Opening the Gates on Oneself
Here is the link with my thoughts on Facebook: Breaking Free from the Digital World
Check out this video too and the effects of social media to society
For the last few days I have been spending time with Jose in London and days before that we were in Greece to celebrate Chinese New Year. It has been a couple of months since we last saw each other and I am very happy that we had the time to relax and see a new city which we both haven’t been before. It has been a wonderful 10 days but of course, if I could make it longer, I would like to do so. When you have shared your life with a person for a couple of years, it seems alien if they are not there with you. Right now I am in London in his family home and I will spend a month here. I am waiting for Jose to come back from a visit to a family friend and after that, me and his sister will send him off to the airport for his travel back to Singapore.
Now that I have a bit of time to think, I thought of doing a blog to clear my head. For the last few months I have been contemplating on my life as a student, as a professional and as a person who has somehow taken the big plunge of rebooting his life. I now know that this masters degree will change my life – that I will be doing something I have never imagined I will do and that it is providing me with skills I never thought I would acquire. I am in that period of uncertainty, some sort of an intellectual crisis. Where will my life lead me?
Before coming to Germany, I had a clear vision in my mind of what my skill sets were and what I am happy doing. From my previous blog I had a certainty in my writing, a certain stance but now that stance is wobbly. I am somehow unclear with my vision of the future for the first time in my life. With new knowledge comes new avenues of growth, new possibilities, new means of working and my own definitions of how my life is be suddenly opening up. It is as if I was looking at a certain tunnel where there was a clear but unchanging view and now, I have come to the end of that tunnel and I realized that the scenery is much richer and the roads diverge in different locations. Life choices and career choices are not linearly constructed and I have to sort out which one I will need to take. Life isn’t as simple as I thought it was.
However, after traveling in Athens and meeting people from different backgrounds in Germany and here in London, I also realized that this thinking process is a privilege. Many people have no luxury of choice and that the world sweeps them in its mighty current. For example, Greece is a beautiful country but so much of its people are in poverty now and many people of my age do not have jobs. I don’t have a job now but I can live because I chose this path to become a student and saved my money to achieve it. I am opening my options and of course that means that I will have a choice. I have put myself in this position of limitless choices but it scares me too.
The real question now is that is it better to have limited choices or having more choices in life? Is a straight path better than a convoluted path in life? I’m not really sure. I am now here in this point and I am trying to create a straight path but I do know in my heart that it won’t be that simple anymore.
I have signed up for an intensive introduction to the German Language when I first arrived in Cottbus. We are now through with the second week of three weeks of training. We have daily lessons which, by the beginning of the semester will be done twice a week for an hour, more like an extensive lesson. I am enjoying the lessons, although I must admit that at a certain point of the lecture of every day, around 2 hours in the class proper, I find myself really just dumb struck with what we are talking about. I make it a point to do my assignments and improve my vocabulary on a daily basis. I am proud to say that I have ordered beers for myself and two friends , figured out how much the cashier says in the grocery, went to the museum and asked the for discounted rates for students to get a special tour package, spoke to the city hall personnel to clear my residency permit and I have also discussed with the local insurance on how I can get additional travel insurance – this has been done with more or less half German, a quarter English and a quarter of patience and guesswork.
Let me share some of the stories I have had with my basic German knowledge. My teacher asked me today what languages we speak at home and I told her in German, “Wir sprechen Englisch und Philippinisch.” explaining that we both speak the two languages at home. She was puzzled by the answer and she asked, “Is that normal?” I said the language we speak is mostly a combination but we are comfortable to speak in either Filipino or English. She found this an interesting response. Generally, Germans would prefer to speak German at home and not combine the two languages together because it will be a bit confusing. There are already some words that are similarly expressed so creating a Gerlish (my own term for German-English talk) isn’t really a fad here.
Another day, we were also asked to show the country we came from and she wittily said, “The country is far far away!” I never really saw it as that far in my mind – its only 6 hours difference as compared to the US which is 12 hour difference to Manila / Singapore but when I reflected on it, maps usually show that New Zealand is in the right most side of the map and the US is is in the left side and of course, Europe is in the middle. We are like on the right hand side of the map covered with so much water. Most people would here have not met any Filipino, even the woman in Stadtbüro (City Office) was surprised most Filipinos are Roman Catholics.
Like in Singapore, I have also encountered many questions mostly from International students, why my English is good, and they ask where I studied my bachelor’s degree. I can’t seem to find the right words for this yet and my usual response is that, “We have good education back home.” That conversation usually just ends there.
I have also been asked a couple of times by the Spanish students if I speak Spanish and I say, “I can count in Spanish. I don’t know if that’s the same thing.” I would usually throw some bente dos, bente quatro, lamesa, eskaparate, and ola in the word list and they nod affirmatively. I am still slightly part of the family.
Lastly, as part of our lessons, we were asked us to convert a German expressions to our native tongue. Here was the trick conversion that got me. “Was sind Ihr Hobbys? Ich sammle Briefmarken” (What are your Hobbies? I collect stamps.) I actually had a hard time translating hobbies and stamps to Filipino. Finally I got it. “Ano po ang iyong kinalilibangan? Ako any mahilig mangolekta ng selyo.” After writing that, I pondered when I last used the word selyo. It was probably in primary school.
There is a German – English -Filipino conundrum in my mind. I feel that German is my first foreign language. English has been so engrained in our daily conversations as Filipinos because it has been taught in schools from kinder garten to high school so much so that I have associated it with normal conversations. We can’t escape a day not seeing an English phrase or saying something in English. I won’t dare to say it is my mother tongue because I know that I speak Filipino easily too but at some point, English has only become a tool for me to communicate. I no longer differentiate the medium of communication from my own native tongue. When I speak German, I am like a toddler, jumbling the words together to find the most appropriate way of saying things. I process the words in English, translate it to German and check if it is correct. We have never really learned or possibly created a German -Filipino educational tool, or at least none that I know of. I rely on my grasp of the English language to help me learn this foreign language.
When we heavily rely on one language to learn another, do we consider it a foreign language? Are we a bilingual nation?