Drifting in the Ocean

Been a month since the Cebu trip. I worked hard this year, I swear, the trip was a treat well-deserved yo.

Before Karim’s arrival in Malapascua I did a dive on my own, to feel comfortable enough for the “big” dive for the threshers. I was never a confident diver, especially after being caught in a strong current in Perhentian. I had done drift-diving; the paranoia was mainly from an irresponsible divemaster. ūüė¶ Sun-rise that morning when we had our first thresher shark dive was nothing short of amazing. Partially also because I rarely make it for sun-rise, haha.

Those big round eyes.

I did a total of three dives at the same site, though the second was pretty much a ripped-off. If you are ever offered two thresher dives, bear in mind by daylight they are back home. One is enough. They came close, so close but so elegant I forgot the damage they can cause. Those eyes, I stared at them in awe.


*Photo from internet, but pretty close ūüėõ

Suddenly it felt like learning how to dive is one of the best thing ever. Ever. At 30m without nitrox we could not stay for long, but still worth it.

Maki and Annie’s wedding was lovely. Other than the long-awaited Cebuano lechon, we were also treated to fireworks, Pinoy hospitality and dance moves, and a trip to the local hospital with happy ending.

In Moalboal we visited Kawasan Falls. Water there in every corner was beautiful and clear. Jumping off 12m was exhilarating for me. One should definitely do the canyoneering if you can instead of just visiting the falls. The ones before were equally nice and less crowded. Beats the line of umbrellas for tourists at Kawasan for sure. Everyone’s social media post only shows this:

But on the opposite…. you get this. (you can thank me later)

I’m not saying it is not worth going, but do yourself a favour, spend a bit more time at places you feel comfortable before heading here because the guides will not want to do a detour once you are at your last stop, I think. At our second fall where we had lunch we waited a bit and it got better after people are done eating and jumping off the 12m cliff.

Before heading back to the city I convinced my lazy bones to do a dive at Moalboal’s house reef. Sardinesssss, so many sardines! They were close to the surface, and blocking the natural light. Big chunk of them forming a dark silhouette like a gloomy cloud above me during the dive.

At the end of the trip I was just over the top. Threshers, checked. Sardines, checked.

Left the country with a nice beach-wave perm.

Can’t wait for my liveaboard booked for 2018! Keep blowing bubbles, no troubles!

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The Privileged

A privileged life where devices connects to the outside, making the world smaller and accessible with budget airlines. The ease of obtaining a passport. The water I drink from the tap, for showering, brushing, washing, all come too easy. 

The spring of the mattresses that was discussed with my colleagues, how my quilt always runs off alignment.

It all makes me feel ashamed. 
Clean water or bathtub? Walking alive or a Porsche? Basic wear or ridiculous designer brands? Hard concrete or bad mattress?

Every now and then I’ll be looking at materials and think. Just think. Sometimes I get sucked into marketing, or simply to fulfil my wanderlust. You don’t need to be rich to travel, but truth be told, you need a passport and thats not a norm in some places. 

My heart wrenched for the ones who never got an education, an aircon system, a mobile, a blanket, a hug, a graduation cert, an insurance… but what are these to real happiness. People around you are real happiness. Your best memory is not that Gucci bag, but WHO you showed it to first, WHO you belittled with it, WHO thinks you are wealthy… though for all the wrong reasons. 

How diversed this life is?

Just watched a documentry of the 2004 tsunami in Asia.

Twenty Seventeen

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Three days into the new chapter.

This coming year, however, I dream of the day where peace and love rules the world. Bottomline, suffering should end.

It is not that bag you scrimped to buy, that unfinished work, the shoes that broke while you danced… but real people who struggles with basic sanitation, change of clothes, death, and fear, every minute. Bringing this thought to a new year reminds me of what I want in life. It might not be now, but someday, I will find a way to contribute to the society, instead of donations and empathy. The parts of the world that I have not laid my feet on; I want to see them all. If anything I could ask for, is good health for everyone around me, and to travel and learn more.

In my ideal world, the news are better off with Hollywood tabloids, than governments fighting over territories and power. It would be better counting stars, than counting death. Technology should help improve lives, minimise global warming, than putting people into debts. Fashion should just be based on style and quality, not brands nor price tags.

And I, should be happy, not unhappy. Simple as that.

Spent the last hours with Desleen (thanks for free tickets!), Jas, Jinyi, and their friends counting down at the Siloso Beach Party. Was a first; fun and memorable night, with the wigs drawing much unwanted attention (for myself at least). Like this.

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Happy New Year y’all.

Brace for impact.

Iran, the Ancient Persian Empire

As the plane landed, the ladies on the flight were all putting on their hijab – required by the (Islamic) Iran government. I practiced once or twice before the trip, just to check if I might need to walk with one hand on my head throughout the trip. A clip could do the trick; but hello, if I want to wear a hijab, I wear it with style!

Getting the visa took a while, but not enough for the hostel to charge extra waiting time for transport though, phew.

Over the course of two weeks I met so many people from¬†everywhere. We are all very different except for one trait – to explore. Fashion designer, graphic design professors, bartender, activists, dive-master, custom officer, banker, street performer, teachers, a young dude¬†who has a tattoo of an onion… you name it.

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The history, overwhelming.

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The nature, breath-taking.

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The architecture, incredible.

The road trip with my first CS host, Amir, took me to places I probably can never get to without his car. We also went on the route I wanted to go by train – though the train could have been a better option, I’m not complaining for what I experienced. Some days I do not see any other tourist, and he made it easy for the language barrier.¬†I¬†feel grateful,¬†despite the bitter aftertaste (no pun intended).

Travelling as a solo woman (with a different skin colour) in Iran has its pros and cons. You gather a crowd in three minutes, with everyone hoping they have a solution to your problem, or you risk getting touched or harassed by oppressed male counterparts. As much as possible I kept my eyes to the ground, and smile to those who seemed genuine. Sometimes you get it wrong. I smiled to a soldier in a mosque whom I assumed was following me for my safety, or possibly hoping to help me snap some photos (as I was alone) Рhe requested for a photo with me, and pulled me in immediately after the shutter clicked, and tried to kiss me. He persisted for a bit after I pushed him away. Usually when you stand firm, or be in a crowded place, you are pretty safe.

Mountains after mountains, the endless folds from the tectonic plates. I came for the view on Alamut but was caught in heavy fog, but the journey was already jaw-dropping. It was an intense trip back down in the evening with no lamps on mountain roads, poorly marked roads, mediocre brake and headlights, and a badly-timed thunderstorm with snow covering the roads.

The impromptu hitch-hike was a catch. I was planning to hitch if I had found a travel partner, but I did not. After two or three hours in Kandovan, which is two hours away from Tabriz, there was no taxi operating (back to Tabriz) because someone from the village passed away and everyone went to attend the funeral. So I approached the only group I saw that late morning. They kindly offered to send me to a safe place where they arranged a taxi for me. Over chai, they told me they were all graphic designers! After a short drive, the taxi driver spoke to me and took a turn away from the highway. I questioned him but he gestured me to wait and see. He turned into a school and picked up a girl who appeared to be six years or so. We both laughed, seemingly agreeing that the paranoia was redundant.

People in Tabriz spoke Turkish, Azeri Turkish. My broken Turkish helped a bit, and I miss the people from that kebab restaurant next to my hotel that chatted with me, offered me chai, accepted my pastries, and put me in a taxi safely to the bus terminal.

Hassan and Khadijeh’s hospitality made me blushed. They showed me the will to learn, humility, and the fact that I would tear at departure after spending only two nights couchsurfing with them. In the day we made a trip to the border, 15km away from Iraq. I was not looking for excitement, or danger, but amused at the resilience of the city. I was curious.

The cars that stopped on the highway, mistaking me as a married Afghanistan woman, and helping to fix the flat tyre. One car assuring he will follow us to Shiraz, knowing the spare tyre was not in the best condition.

Persepolis celebrated 2500 years of the empire in 1971, which makes it 2545 years during my visit. The Achaemenid Empire was something I never knew nor research beforehand, and I actually spent a day or two digging into it after coming home.

The mosques were very, very impressive. Every single one. It makes me question a lot about the architecture style through the eras. The patterns, the ratio, the brains behind it, the labour that went into it, the scripts that speaks on it – it works on your senses.

The dynamism of the country took my heart away. I was getting used to wearing hijab in public places – it was actually really useful when the temperature dropped! If there is anything to whine about, it was the shortage of variety of food once you leave the big cities, and the high-quality toilet papers equivalent to our kitchen towels that might just cause abrasion on your buttocks.

In general, humanity is not dead in Iran. War is not happening in Iran. Everything on the media does not speak for the people in Iran. It is one of those places that lingers on my mind even upon reaching the comfort of my bed back home.

And here is a very nice photo a stranger took for me at the Nasir-al-mulk mosque (aka Pink Mosque) for my own pleasure, haha.

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He said.

“Don’t try to understand men. Don’t even try to understand women.”

I agree to disagree.

These couple of days, in the midst of drowning in work, a lot has been racing through my mind. The friends I have, the boys I met, the boy I haven’t seen in almost a decade, the current situation, the job… on and on.

There seems to be a lot of conversation I would like to have with someone. The urge to defend has long gone. Hate to admit but I miss the besties.

Life is not that bad – but a channel where I can be at ease don’t exist anymore. The people who understand and know my stories, the ones who knows I am vulnerable. A good laugh is all it takes to forget about assumption people made of me.

This indulgence in self-pity surges discreetly. It is mental.

Maybe it is time to make time.

In the now.

I just stepped out from my washroom a minute (or less!) ago just to pen this down.

That moment I sort of lost myself wandering within the four walls – pretty sensational.

I forgot about the visual I was working on for the past five or six hours, and indulged myself in the surrounding of my humble neighbourhood, taking a tour with my ears.

There was a lady humming to a 60s Mandarin Pop – something with a flower. A¬†kid¬†started getting excited speaking to someone. The engine of a car, with people stepping on metal sewage manhole, speaking at normal decibel. I couldn’t make out what was said, but living on the third storey somehow I could hear them. A motorbike screeched and raced off¬†like a stereo. These disturbance made the birds chirps. Another car just came in to the carpark and is reversing. Then another engine of what sounded like a large vehicle.

My senses heightened so much; the walls felt like nothing.

Someone slammed a door – I guessed the person was going for a shower but I heard only water flow that fits a hand-wash better. When the tap was off, I can hear water flowing down the pipe.

My mom is still coughing, after a bad week.

A few hours ago a bird flew into our house. For the record, my cat was caught by surprise to even start chasing before the bird found its way out. It must be as surprised as us.

I love moments like this – for some strange reason it feels blissful.

Right now, even better when Donut comes over meowing, waiting for pet time.

Uncertain

Those days you wonder if speaking up is the right thing to do, or keeping mum is the right way to go. Growing up, I tend to see myself as a pretty reasonable and righteous person, and it feels like I need to say something at times because no one has the guts to.

Speaking to one lady the other night shed some light on my latest impulse – I could be wrong. I questioned myself why does things bothers me, and why should I care? It all boils down to honesty and equality. When the ideal hippie life strikes me, none of these matters that much.

The days I chose to be carefree were the days I were happy – so let it be. That is how it should be. From now on, I refuse to be dragged into or react to any of your unhappiness.

For it shall end.