Monday, June 23, 2008

The Sunshine Post #28: Can Vegetarians Eat Marmite? And Other Times I Think I Slipped

Hello dears!

I turned vegetarian on November of 2006; a side effect of a martial arts retreat that I attended out of recommendation of one of my taekwondo teachers (I was stressed out and emo then. My brain cells were dying for the umpteenth time – not my brain; the rats'. Ugh.) Aside from being trained in knife fighting and kali, I also quit eating meat cold turkey (pun sort-of intended). I don't know, you guys … there's something about eating flesh that makes me queasy now. Even though I keep emphasizing that I do it for health reasons and not moral ones, it's hard not to put the "respect for life" factor in there at some point. I've decapitated way too many rats for a normal person; meat was serving as a gross reminder of what I once was: a grad student doing joyless drudgery.

The road to vegetarianism has its share of road kill, especially for one whose cultural heritages are notorious for eating anything and everything. To announce that I'm vegetarian has usually resulted in dismayed groans, and I've limited going to lunch with people, else to give me yet another nail to pound in my coffin of guilt for being such a burden. I'm very hard to feed.

I may be a gastronomic pariah, but there are excellent side effects to vegetarianism. Weight loss, great skin, great teeth (I just had the shortest dental appointment two weeks ago – I haven't had one in over a year and all she had to do was clean my teeth a bit. No meat, no cavities, yo! Woohoo!), and more energy. It's cheaper for me, too – when you've lost as much weight as I have, and when you can't eat anything that once had limbs, food stops becoming a tourist attraction to you. I feel so clean, which is timely for this stage in my life where I am hell-bent on cleaning out my life as much as possible.

Being relatively new to this dietary lifestyle, there were times when I wasn't as purely vegetarian as I thought. When desperate, for example, I would pluck out the meat from pizza and just eat the bread, or sip chicken stock when skipping a meal was the only other option. I've been slowly removing these little slip-ups, but sometimes, the world seems to be against me. Last week, while eating arugula salad at my favorite restaurant, I stopped short when I noticed something green moving among the leaves – a larvae! Eww. God knows how many of those I've already digested, since I'm always reading or writing while eating.

There are culinary discoveries that have made me wonder, as they don't seem to be meat, but they're not vegetables, fruits or grains either. To the Aussies and the Brits, is marmite vegetarian?* Are you sure? Hmm? I've had it and I don't think it's that bad – marmite/vegemite/black gold pizza is actually good. But it's from yeast, which moves and reproduces pretty quickly, as I've observed under a microscope. Yikes, yo! What have I done?

I had another dietary anomaly today. Out of curiosity and the need for WiFi, I ordered a shot of civet coffee. In my rather blunt and shameless way of describing things, I will define it as coffee beans that you pick from poop and then charge people a lot of money for. Here is the definition from the back of the really expensive jar: "Picked from the Philippine forest floors during coffee season, the Philippine Civet Coffee comes from the droppings of the palm civet, a nocturnal animal that chooses and gorges only the ripest and sweetest coffee cherries. These coffee cherries are fermented in the civet's digestive system and are dropped as whole beans. The beans are then washed, dried, and roasted, capturing the complex flavors for everyone to enjoy."

It was brought to me: hot, steamy, with the fascinating color of excrement. Ah! An expensive espresso shot. I took my first sip. And nearly choked. Whoa, yo! "Complex" is right. It's really strong and bitter; just two sips and I couldn't take any more. (Here's another thing with vegetarian yogis – we can't take as much caffeine as we used to.) "For everyone to enjoy," my ass. But back to my question – was this vegetarian or not? A show of hands, please. I mean, it went through some animal's intestines and went out its butt, for the love of God. Bleh. Regardless, I will never do it again; it's just too strong for me. Oh well. Now I know what it tastes like, I will never have to wonder anymore. It's my new thing for today – drink coffee from animal poop. (I have a daily habit of doing something new every single day. I might go racecar driving next week. We'll see. I will let you know.)

Ah. Just when I thought life was made simpler by exclusion, there are exceptions that I must consider. But to simplify everything, let's hear it for my new vegetarian rule (I might make a T-shirt out of this):

I don't eat anything that's greater than 15% homologous with my genome.

Lots of love,

* Edit: Yes, marmite/vegemite is vegetarian, since yeast is a sentient organism and belongs to the taxonomic kingdom of Fungi, where mushrooms also belong. Ah, portobello mushrooms! Without you we vegetarians will starve!

P.S. Humans share a 47, 63, 38, 15, and 20% homology with the fruit fly, the mouse, C. elegans, baker's yeast, and Arabidopsis, respectively.

P.P.S. Yes, Manila was stormy over the weekend, but I'm ok! As are all my family and friends. Thank you for the concerned e-mails. You guys are the sweetest!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Sunshine Post #27: Bugged and Bothered

Hello dears!

Dang it, I’m mad.

I am infuriated! I am outraged!

I have been stood up by a record eleven people in four days on six different occasions. Eleven! Dear God. Do I look like someone who has a lot of idle time on her hands? Leche*. Argh, if there’s one thing I hate worse than being late, it’s not showing up at all. Tsk. Such an insult to my feminine charms, yo. Am I this cancelable?

*Leche: lĕ’-chĕ. Spanish for milk. I use it as a way to curse without really cursing. It has a nice sharp phonetic zing to it. Say it with me now! Leche! Leche! Lech lech lech!

A second source of irritation is the number of cockroaches I have been encountering. I have killed dozens in the past week or so. There are a lot of them, man, both in the office and at home. (It’s the weather; it’s an odd mixture of humid and rainy now. Ugh. What on earth is this? The Reaping?) Having to gut and decapitate rodents for a while (and therefore desensitized to pests) has made me the Go-to Girl when it comes to these buggers, and I have learned that killing them consists of two phases – Step, then Slide. The second is mandatory because many a roach has resurrected itself, leading to a lot of screaming women in the office.

I don’t know which is worse, wasting my time, or going to war with a bunch of bugs that can survive nuclear warfare.

Ok, deep breath. And release. Ahhhhhh. Off to yoga! No humans for a week! Or until they know what to do with a watch.

I’m a little peeved today, yes. I mean, I had to drink coffee to get free WiFi! And it wasn’t even decaf! Harumph.

Dang it, I’m mad!

And a little hormonal. Oweeee. Sniffle.

Lots of (indignant) love,

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Sunshine Post #26: Retroviral Reflections and the Wonders of 'Wawa'

Hello dears!

My unspoken vow of silence and isolation was broken this Saturday, when I had to speak the whole day for work. I know, right? For a “Director of Communications,” I’ve been pretty silent and anti-social, yo! But after years of listening to drivel, trust me, I’ve learned to pick the more efficient and lasting ways to communicate with people. I remember one class in grad school where everyone had to critique a paper. Everyone was just dissing the data for hours, while I had nothing to say because they all hated each other. I did, however, come up with a really long poem entitled “Vocabulary of a Poser.” Talk about a sign.

I slept at two in the morning the night before and awoke five hours later to give a workshop on HIV/AIDS. The gist was I had to give them a Powerpoint on how HIV works, how it is transmitted, why we’re interested in it, etc., and to get them to give an HIV speech. Ah, I had no idea how on earth this was going to go. I’ve never given a science talk to people who weren’t going to critique the work, ask me about experiments, and inquire which brand of Petri dish I used. The feeling was strangely pleasant – since transmission of information was the whole point, I was a lot more concerned with making sure they understood what I was saying, instead of trying to smoothly steer them away from the questionable numbers in my data. When competition and getting published are not an issue, the ability to educate and to inform is magnified a hundredfold.

I had hope after last May’s Blast-O-Cysted Summer Camp. (The word of the day, if you must know, was retrovirus.) A couple hours later, I was floored when Desiree used the words “retrovirus, “integrates” and “genome” in one sentence. I was shrieking with glee, bouncing up and down and clapping my hands. I nearly had tears in my eyes, yo. Whee! I can explain stuff without making people fall asleep! See, science isn’t that boring and hard!

Later that afternoon, I had to speak again, this time on how I came to do what I am doing now. (This is pretty much “the story” I say to everyone, so I didn’t have to prepare much.) From decapitating rodents to making vegan cupcakes and being among people who want to join the Cirque de Soleil -- I guess it does make for a rather unusual story for some people (although it makes perfect sense to me!). I’d like to think my audience recruitment and motivational skills weren’t too bad. I mean, how on earth can you go wrong with the theme “I-hated-humanity-before-coming-to-WYA-and-now-that-I’m-here-I-am-allergic-to-people-less-and-less,” right? I was under orders by the Directors here to tone down my personality (which was the hard part, but hell, I was a very proper Catholic schoolgirl with pigtails once upon a time).

As I was speaking, I noticed that many of the veteran members and former interns, Donna and Emily in particular, had these doe-eyed constipated “awwww” looks on their faces, which confounded me and almost made me lose my place, until I went out to dinner with the former at Cyma. Mein Gott, this is officially my Philippine-Greek equivalent of Gobo, although it’s not all vegetarian. I can eat their roka (arugula) salad every day forever. Finally! Something I can eat! Yum yum.

By some attack of misfortune, all of my friends cancelled their plans with me that day, which was annoying at first but I’m fine since it was a time for me to get to know these people more. Dinner with Donna that evening was … hmm, there is no word for this – let’s just say that imagining myself in her stories made me digest my dinner faster. Ah, the love these people have for this organization! Amazing. I am so happy to be here! But yow, you guys, I am glad for the more stoic, non-Filipino bloodline/s coursing through my veins – I don’t think I am built to be that emotional and weepy; I will likely have an aneurysm. I mean, I was exhausted just listening to her New York internship stories – so many sentimental tears! How… heh, I can’t believe I’m saying this word, but how wawa*.

* wawa (adj.) – Pronounced wáwâ. Say it with me now! Wawa. Wa. Wa. Wawa! Whee! A word that World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific members say a lot; I think we can trace it to Tams. It’s short for kawawa – Filipino for “pitiful.” Wawa is used in a loving way, especially when said with puppy-dog eyes in a voice that’s a few notes higher than normal. Example: Aww, a cockroach ran up your face? You’re so wawa. (Insert pout here.)

Whee! I am slowly building friendships here – a big relief to a lot of people, I know. As I write this, Peejay, a national committee member, just SMS-ed me to tell me that he loved the Bikram yoga class we just had. Yahoo! I will turn all of them into healthy focused yogis, one lechon**-eating person at a time. Trina, a former intern and my Gold Standard for Hyperactivity and Enthusiasm, sent me a message late one evening to tell me that Moleskines are still available in Manila in this particular bookstore. Thank God and aww, that was sweet. And Frank will teach me all about the stock market in exchange for web design instruction tomorrow. Yay!

** lechon – roasted suckling pig. Oh dear God. Donna told me about riding in a truck with her arm around one, with the oil dripping on her. I just blanched. Bleh.

All this sounds pathetic, I know. But I’ve been so alienated and alone for so long and only had mice and Chloe, my purple Carebear Cub, to keep me company at night for three years, that I think wanting to be with the people around me as opposed to feeling forced to socialize in meetings and parties, listening to drivel and engaging in inconsequential small talk all the time is actually big and bloggable. I may want to take on more challenges in the future, but please God, don’t let me go through the a repeat performance of feeling so agonized and sad, thinking that a minute more with the wrong people will make me slit my wrists, and not having anyone’s name to place on my Emergency Contact Person box. How unbelievably depressing. How perfectly dull. How incredibly dismal.

How very wawa.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Sunshine Post #25: Twenty-Five and Still Alive

Hello dears!

I’m 25.



Dalawampu’t lima. Er sher wu. Di tsah goh. Viente cinco. Vingt-cinq. Twenty five

Hmm. I’ve written this in all the languages I know but it still feels strangely new to me.

My birthday, for the first time, was uneventful. In fact, I did nothing to commemorate the day. I don’t know why; I wasn’t depressed or anything. But I’d like to think that I’m at that stage where I am finally on the right track and happy with everything I am doing that there’s no need for one big explosion of affirmation. I think that joy is the theme of my life, and that solitude happens to accompany it at this point although hopefully not forever. To be 25 seems to have some sort of finality – dang it, you’d better have learned SOMETHING at this point to make all this turmoil worthwhile!

Ah, but yes! What good is a blog without the necessary reflective post that I will cringe at years from now? Here are twenty-five points to commemorate twenty-five years:

Five Things I Will Do For a Long Time, if Not Forever
1. Create. If I cannot relate to the real world, then I shall make my own! Long live the power of the Whee!
2. Do yoga and martial arts. I refuse to be a Botoxed weakling when I am 40.
3. Learn new things and teach them to others. Passing knowledge on is my way of determining whether I really understood it or not.
4. Write. When the silence is deafening and my head is close to exploding, typing my thoughts on screen eases the migraines.
5. Attempt to make people happy, then bounce away! Doesn’t it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Repeat.

Five Things I Will (Hopefully) Never Do Again
1. Do a Ph.D. I seriously think it stifles creativity. And I have neither the attention span nor the competitive urge for it.
2. Eat meat. I can’t eat anything that used to have beaks or boobs anymore, you guys. I can’t even look at rotisserie chickens without having the urge to puke.
3. Hold back when I really want to do something. I think everyone should have a Bucket List written down as early as possible, and go back to it as regularly as they can.
4. Be anyone’s doormat. Ha! That goes without saying.
5. Ghost write for anyone. Ever! (Yeah, that’s right! Everyone has to do their own speeches, love letters and articles from now on, yo. You are stomping on my dignity by taking my words without proper compensation! The world has enough drivel; let’s at least remove the anonymity and own up to your loggorhea!)

Five Things I Am Grateful For
1. Knowing what I am innately good at and what I really want to do, without peer and parental pressure, competition or nepotism. And knowing is half the battle!
2. Being healthy. Trust me, this yoga/taekwondo/healthy eating thing was waaaay out of my character three years ago.
3. Three years alone in New York City. They were painful and tumultuous (and next time I’m in a new city by myself again, remind me to make friends earlier) but I guess that was the point. I think everyone should break out of the mold eventually. I’m just happy it came earlier than later.
4. Making friends wherever I go. Because nomads need love, too!
5. My sarcasm. I think irony is something we can all grab onto when the chips are down, so we won’t ever take some things way too seriously.

Five Things I Regret
1. Not spending more time with interesting people I’ve met. There may be no goodbyes, but there are farewells to the type of person your friends are at this moment.
2. Making excuses. When someone asks you how far you want to go, you don’t give a number; you say “All the way!”
3. Learning these lessons only now. When you look at it, they seem a little ‘duh.’ Didn’t we learn all these in kindergarten?
4. Being resistant to change. Ah. I still am, sometimes.
5. Not going to trapeze school when I had the chance! *sob* I shall fly one day, you’ll see!

(At Least) Five Things I Will Do This Year
1. Climb ______.
2. Learn ______.
3. Earn my ______.
4. Attempt to ______.
5. Create ______.
These will, of course, be documented in the most fun way possible.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, one reason I didn’t feel like partying was that I felt this irrepressible sense of exhaustion. The racetrack I placed myself on turned into a roller coaster that seemed to go on forever, and now I am dizzy and badly need to hurl. Too many things keep happening that I feel glad to have written about them so I have some sort of proof. (These e-mails aren’t some random idea, by the way. Before The Sunshine Posts, there were 100 Chronicles of Paranoia e-mailed to 200 of my friends. My writing mentor wants me to turn those into a book, but yikes, I don’t think so. There are way more embarrassing and incriminating things there than I want strangers to know. And who on earth wants to pay for some chick’s neurotic drivel? I might turn it into a blog for posterity’s sake.)

But I digress. Now that I think about it, adventurousness and productive creativity are just my Freudian way of making sure I never have to be embarrassed about revealing my age. I never want to have to hide my age (or look my age for that matter, hence the facials), and feel like being asked that question is a violation of my person because I feel I hadn’t done enough. I think it’s why I want to experience everything as early as possible, even just once – the twenties are, after all, the years where we laugh, cry, love, and hate with the greatest force we have ever known.

When I was 21, I dreaded uncertainty, but now I think it is a blessing and a challenge to have to carve out my life with my own hands. If there’s one scenario I am glad not to be in right now, it’s to be in the corporate/medical/law/academic world, surrounded by the same type of people I grew up with, engaged to someone in one of my circles. I’m sure it’s a nice pleasant story with more or less a happy ending, but I’d rather see the world and know how beautiful, destructive, joyful, painful and limitless life can actually be before settling down on some preordained path. That’s the true measure of a life well-lived, I think – to extract from it happiness with substance, instead of happiness that’s too thin and trite, even Hallmark doesn’t want to make a greeting card about it. And as the great and renowned tour guide and performer Carlos C------ reassured me just a few weeks ago (and to everyone in their twenties, I propose we turn this into our battle cry):

“It’s all drama until you hit 30.”

Lots of love,