Road Trippin' to Al Ruwais

>> Friday, March 30, 2007

Yesterday, my boss tricked me into going with him to a two-hour road trip to the northern tip of Qatar. I ran out of excuses so I decided to go with him just so he could get over with all the excitement [ie "you have to go to our farm and breathe fresh air!"]. Just outside the city limits, the long stretch of highway dissolved into the horizon so I played some tunes and expected a boring ride towards the desert.

Road Trippin'

The purpose of going to "the farm" was to give some new Chinese guests a tour of a grand industrial plan that will rock that side of Qatar in five years or so. I texted my mom about this but she didn't seem to care. She was more keen on seeing photos of me in the actual desert so she kept reminding me to get my camera ready.

Along the way, I realized that the north's deserts are gone. No sand dunes (if there were any before). No vast areas of sand. Just large vacant lands waiting to be planted with villas and buildings. The only "desertful" characteristics were the palm trees, desert grass, and the promise of a camel because of camel crossing signs that showed up every five kilometers as if reminding us that we might bump into one any moment. I wanted to take a picture of the road sign but I figured that with the sun setting, the boss wouldn't like the idea of a photo op, and besides, I knew I could google it.

[The photo was taken someplace else. The road we traveled on looked a lot like this except for the outline of a mountain on the background.]

We finally reached the northern tip after almost two hours. There was no great view to behold. What greeted us was a small port, a few bopping dhows and some fisherfolk assembling gigantic fish cages. Boring.

We stayed there for fifteen minutes then headed to "the farm". "The farm" turned out to be three areas of fenced-in land. Inside one "farm" were some two hundred doves of different varieties. The other "farm" had fruit stuff. And the last "farm" was a vacation villa which was powered by a generator since we were too far away from civilization.

The Chinese guests, all prim and proper businessmen and woman, were relieved when we reached the villa. We waited ten and a half years for food to be served. When the caterers finally came in with the food, I noticed the fake amused smiles of the guests as they observed for the first time how an Arab dinner was served: on the floor. They couldn't imagine how such a nicely and expensively decorated villa could leave out a proper dining hall, but before they could come up with theories, they already found themselves kneeling in front of a huge tray of bukhari rice topped with
half of a roasted lamb, yes, that's how huge the tray was!

The Chinese acted weird. First of all, an exception was made for the Chinese woman, because under normal circumstances, she's not really allowed to dine with men. Then they all looked grossed out when the host dug in the rice and served the guests using his bare hands. When the host handed out a slab of meat to the lady, she was quick to grab her plate and avoid contamination. I have to admit, I felt the same way when I first had my Arab meal but they were out of line, they even took pictures! They probably think they found a highway sideshow. I freaked them even more by licking my fingers and digging into the best parts of the lamb.

After dinner we didn't linger for the usual tea and small talk. The Chinese were literally running for the exit door. It was considerably late anyway and the power generator finally complained by fluctuating the current.

On the way home, I realized the trip wasn't so bad, I did have fresh air after all and the bukhari and roasted lamb were the best I've ever tasted by far. Too bad not a camel dared cross the highway while we were on the road. But on the long drive home, I was just glad to see a strange yet at the same time familiar sign that can only mean we're back in the city:


Dad's Somewhere Out There

>> Monday, March 26, 2007

On my 9th birthday, my Dad woke me up early in the morning and told me to fix my ears on the radio. He left for work and the whole morning I waited patiently by the radio like a good boyscout. Just before noon, the DJ announced my name on the air and greeted me a Happy Birthday (greetings from your Dad) then a dedicated song followed. It was the theme from An American Tail. I didn't have a party since we didn't have money for parties. But that was one of the most memorable birthdays ever.

Ever heard of the expression "speaking of the devil"? Well, I posted my last entry, and today, I got an email from my Dad. I guess I spoke too soon. But in the spirit of fair journalism, here's what my dad said:

Ja, how are you, son? I got your mail and thank you for that.
I misssed you so much Ja. I just want you to know how much I love you. I know how hard it is to be away from your home but that's how life is. Be patient and always trust to God your everyday life and be friendly especially that you're a stranger to that place. Avoid getting into trouble ha.
I tried to call you on the number that you gave me but I can't get through. And also give me Josh's number too so I can call him.
Ja, I'm getting too old and weak. The only thing I'm asking Lord is to see and be with you before I totally close my eyes. I hope and pray we can spend time together and share every moment that we haven't did before. God knows how much I love and care for you, son.
Take good care of yourself always and be happy with what you have for now.
May the good Lord always guide my sons and protect them from any harm and danger.
See you next mail son, I love you as always.

Okay, so I don't know what happened. I've never known my Dad to be religious but now he seems to be speaking in tongues. People change, I guess, but then again, he's in the US and Lord knows what other uppers they have there aside from 7UP. I'm just kidding. I know he's sincere about this. My Dad can really get mushy and it creeps me out.

Maybe he's exaggerating a bit when he said he's getting "too old and weak". First of all, 55 is not really too old. And second of all, if you still manage to pop out some jizz and get a woman pregnant at that age, you're not exactly weak.

And apparently when he said "always guide my sons," he was actually referring to the five of his sons. And I only know my three other brothers. I can imagine his latest 3-year-old kid growing up and getting traumatized when he finds out later on that there were others that came before him.

My dad gives me good material. I just might consider a career in stand-up comedy.

So that's it. I spoke too soon. My bad. Dad actually made a decent reply. Now, please excuse me while I walk outside and listen to this
Somewhere Out There


WB, Dad, Tyler's Been Looking for You

>> Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As if disconnected from YM and signing back again, my dad, whom I haven't seen since New Year 2000, suddenly emails me again after a five-month silence. Everytime my dad comes into view, I could only think of this passage from Fight Club, and boy, isn't Tyler Durden right?!

"This is the first generation of men raised by women. Me, I knew my dad for
about six years, but I don't remember anything. My dad, he starts a new family

in a new town for about every six years. This isn't so much like a family as

it's like he sets up a franchise."

[My dad, in a nutshell. Welcome back, dad. Tyler's been looking for you.]

Exactly a week before graduating from high school, our Christian Living teacher thought it would be nice to write a letter to our parents. Since my mom was in Hong Kong at that time, I had to write one for my dad. I didn't see the point because my dad did not live with us anymore. But I wrote the letter anyway thinking it would be only for God to read. The next day, I was surprised to see my dad at our class' year-end retreat. And when we were instructed to read to our parents the letter we wrote, I knew I was in deep trouble. I only made it past the second sentence, after that, I broke down. My dad ended up reading the letter by himself. I almost felt ashamed I wrote it. He explained to me his side of the story and after that, for the first time in my troubled teen life, everything was clear. Nothing changed between me and my dad after that letter except that I have found respect for him and finally understood his actions. A year later I moved from Bacolod to Davao without him knowing. And three years more, my dad flew to the US without me knowing.

December 31, 1999. I was standing on the vacant lot beside my dad's duplex in a low-class housing community, observing that in the city outskirts, the stars seemed brighter. My dad found me in the dark, and before I could throw the cigarette I was holding, he asked for a light. He puffed and told me to quit smoking already (insert laugh track here). He thanked me for buying two cases of San Miguel Beer. We talked for a bit. He apologized for not being the ideal father for me and my brother. I thought it was the alcohol talking but I told him everything was cool anyway. He hugged me and just like a good TV moment, my two younger half brothers came running toward us and said that we're counting down to the new year in a few minutes. After three days, I flew back to Davao and didn't have the chance to see my father again.

For the past few years my dad has been emailing once in a while, mostly to greet us during birthdays or holidays. He would call once in a while, mostly to give Western Union details, and each telephone conversation would always end with "thank you" and "I love you"-- heartfelt, believe it or not.

But five months ago he stopped communicating with us. And in his recent email he said that he just got his internet connection back, but that does not explain why he hasn't called. I wrote him back and told him that what his almost-thirty-year-old son wanted from him, more than anything, was a father-figure (in terms he would understand, of course). It was quite a long email, a feeling of deja vu while I was writing it. I told him that I am now based in Qatar. I told him updates about my brother. I told him to give me a call, Western Union or no Western Union.

His reply was two lines long with three periods and a question mark. My mention of Qatar did not even seem to matter to him. I gave up analyzing his reply and decided to look on the bright side. At least he's still alive. [I heard his franchise has gone global.]

Basically this entry explains why I love Fight Club. Or maybe I'm just saying that I'm glad I finally heard from my dad. Whichever the reason, I'm still closing this post with another passage from Chuck Palahniuk's debut novel:

The mechanic says, "If you're male and you're Christian and living in America,
your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your

father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you belive about God?"

I found out that this doesn't apply to American males alone. Whatever, at least He's still alive.OUT


It Can't Be True, Can It?

>> Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Charlieeeeeeee, candy mountain, Charlie. Chaaaarrrrrrlieeeeeeee," eerie unicorns persuading Charlie, the other unicorn, to go with them to candy mountain. If you haven't seen this popular piece of youtubeness (joyness), watch the video below. But if you're the impatient type, just read the spoiler.

So Charlie went inside Candy Mountain cave, was attacked in the darkness and woke up only to find out that his kidney was stolen. An old urban legend but made especially for kids or for those in need of a good LoL.

I remember a few weeks ago, the Chinese guys in the office dragged my unwilling arse to the dinner table and made me join their happy little picnic of kiwi fruit, mandarin oranges and fake beer--the NA on the label means Non-Alcoholic but until now I don't understand how beer can be NA when it's supposed to be A. It's like decaf coffee. What's the point, right? But wouldn't it be nice if they came up with Non-Deadly cigarettes? Getting off track. Back to the mandarin oranges and fake beer--which I thought was just a drunkard's worst nightmare but turned out to be true. Getting off track again! ARGH!

Fake beer. Can we just talk about this? No? OK. The Chinese guys were so sweet but a bit dumb. They wanted me to join their little picnic but, despite the foreskin, they didn't have enough foresight to see that I'll be OPed in five minutes.

I delighted myself in peeling the kiwi (not the foreskin!) and thought how many brown-skinned fruits were actually green inside. Not too many. Then I focused my attention to Yang. Everyone else was listening intently as he pounded on each Chinese word he spoke. I saw Chinese characters float in front of me and for a while I thought about
Rosie O'Donnell. The tale sounded intense and dark. And like Lola Basyang, he ended his mesmerizing tale in a shroud of mystery that left his audience silent for a minute.

"Uhm can someone translate to me, please?" I broke the silence, kiwi in hand.

"It's about this guy," Jimmy, the only Chinese guy around who can speak English, started to explain, "whose kidney was stolen because," he stopped short because I interrupted.

I told him I already know that story. It's an urban legend. It's not real. It's possible it can happen but not under those circumstances. I wanted to explain to them that the story is too complicated for a kidney heist. I wanted to tell them that kidney robbers would not look for victims in bars because chances are, bar-kidneys are drenched in alcohol and they're better off looking at NA places like Qatar. I wanted to convince them that it is so not true but I decided not to burst their bubble and just shut my mouth and ate my kiwi.

Two days ago Lee showed me the Charlie video and afterwards insisted that the urban legend was true because his father told him about the kidneynappers when he was younger. Oh well, anything to keep the kids in the house.

The man-in-the-iced-bathtub-sans-kidney is probably the mother of urban legends. But there's another one that's popular for Filipino overseas workers, especially those working in the Middle East. It's "The Rape of the Clean Shaven Man". It tells the story of a Filipino who went to look for an honest job in the Middle East and was raped by an Arab man in the desert for no reason. The moral of the story? Grow a moustache. The thicker the moustache, the stronger your protection against rape.

It can't be true, can it? And don't tell me that a friend of your friend has first hand experience.

Just to be clear though, why I shave has nothing to do with this urban legend.


Like a Perfect Day for Bananafish and Clockwork Orange: The Blogger Crossover

>> Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The phone rang four times before I heard a strange panting and moaning on the other end. "Ahhh, ahhh, uhhhhhm, haaaa, wheeeew, Hello?! Haaaaaaa, whooooh," the small voice spoke in between heavy doses of air. My mind began picturing her in bed, covered in sweat and with a charming French man from whom she most certainly attributed each pant and moan. Her one hand probably handcuffed. She did, after all, txt me earlier that she has a story to tell about a pair of cuffs. I hesitated for a bit, afraid that I might have interrupted a very private event. "Kala?" I finally asked. But I had to know so I asked "Kala, are you having sex?"

She laughed and still panting said "I just got off the treadmill!" Right, like anyone was ever going to buy that! We set an eyeball for the next day and I told her to continue what she was doing.

That was my first phone conversation with
Kala, the blogger who stumbled upon Like Clockwork Orange while searching for info about Qatar. Naturally, after she posted comments on my blog, I read her posts. I suddenly felt unworthy of her presence in my sphere, but I wanted so much to be rubbing elbows with such a great writer.

So you can imagine how excited I was last Sunday. I braved the sandstorm and headed for City Center. In my head I can hear Spongebob chanting over and over again `I have a new friend, I have a new friend'.

I arrived late and for a moment I was worried that she got tired of waiting and left. But there she was, sitting on the green Starbucks chair, cuddling a book, Lolita, like it was a fragile baby. I walked up to her and waited for her to look up and stand before I hugged her. "Human touch!" I exclaimed. I haven't been hugged for a long time and I forgot how warm and comforting it feels. A little longer and I would have broken down but it was just a quick friendly hug, a gesture that, for me, means 'welcome to my world'.

The world outside the blog, of course. Bloggers are not just persons chatting on the net. They are well-formed characters and with depth. When I read a blog, I view it as a series, a sitcom or a drama, depending on the theme, and the blogger leads the cast.

Thus when Kala and I met, I can't help but think of a crossover episode between two shows. Think about Ally McBeal appearing on the set of The Practice. Or Angel kicking vampire ass alongside Buffy. You get the drift. But whether she writes about this crossover or not is entirely up to her. I'm milking it as much as I can! [ LoL]

We exchanged gifts the instant we met. She gave me a Haruki Murakami book called Kafka on the Shore and I gave her some divx movies and a dirty comic strip that Martin forwarded to my email.

Anyway, we talked. A lot. She paid for lunch, I paid for coffee and dessert. Then we went to her apartment and talked some more. It was an interesting talk because most of the time we picked up from where we left off from the blog posts so the narrative was easy to follow.

She, of course, detailed the handcuff incident that happened at the airport when she arrived in Doha. And she introduced me to Mahmoud the [male] robot. Mahmoud has his own passport. I told Kala that I think Mahmoud needs a sexbuddy more than a passport.

Then, Kala showed me brilliant French comic books, Bande Dessinée or BDs, and I mentally shot myself for giving her that dirty comic strip earlier that afternoon.

Soon the light outside the building faded and it was time to go back to our tasks. Kala had to cook and I had to go back to the office. The crossover episode ends.

While I was waiting for a taxi, I told Kala that we should take a picture of our first meeting.

The start of a beautiful friendship?

In any case, somehow I know that there will be more crossover episodes. And I have yet to meet the entire cast on her show.


A High School Story

>> Sunday, March 11, 2007

The plot was almost like the Drew Barrymore movie: One evening, I suddenly found myself in High School. What do I do to fit in?

We were five in the car. The boss' wife was driving and Lee, her 15-year old son was seated at the front complaining every two minutes how late we all were for the food festival. His mom complained back that he should've worn his jacket (translates to hoodie) because it would be freezing at the open field. I sat silently at the back trying not to mind the out-of-nowhere punches I was getting from a three year old nymph. Meanwhile, the maid said she can't wait to stuff food into the empty container she brought. I thought it's too Filipino of her to bring tupperware to a party.

Finally, we arrived at The Cambridge School and in parenthesis, "A British Style International School", and you thought schools aren't in fashion. Lily, Lee's younger sister, greeted us at the front gate with her friend Tina (Lee calls her Tuna cause she's a bit flaky). Lee went past Tuna without a word. They had a falling out a week ago and their cold war was getting colder by the day.

We all rushed to the food fair with our contribution of Chinese Noodles and Dumplings. But don't ask why they placed it on the South Africa table. Lily then showed me her display of overpriced bracelets and chokers and told me that before I choke on the price, I have to remember that proceeds will go to charity.

For the most part of the evening, I essentially just went around the school grounds, leaping from one table to the next tasting all sorts of food. Around the world in 80 bites you might say. I may sound biased but the best table, food-wise, was the Philippines. If Doha wasn't too strict, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw a whole
lechon with a crispy, golden-brown grimace, displayed in front of muslim parents who were always apt to ask whether the food was halal or not.

The entertainment sucked but watchable as high school kids hurl and strut like it's their moment in the eyes of God. I would check on Lee once in a while because he was so excited to see his friends rap and breakdance. I'm more excited to see the band play. But at least both of us agree that the Lebanese Palestinian dance routine was just gay and annoying.

I got bored after two hours of eating and roaming and watching but I also felt high schoolish again. I suddenly felt the urge to do something rebellious. I stormed out of the school and looked for a grocer. Twenty minutes later (I still held that rebel mode after all that time), I was back in high school, smoking in one corner of the field and rocking with the school band.

The band was singing Wonderwall by Oasis. And somewhere in that open field, Lily was counting her bracelet sales, Tuna apologized to Lee and he "sorta" accepted her apology, the maid was discreetly filling her tupperware with Beef Caldereta, Lee's mom was having a blast seeing the little nymph dance around and I was on my fourth stick of Marlboro Lights.

The host of the show introduced the band's last song, and that was when Lee approached me, he caught me smoking and he gave me the WTF look. I just told him I felt like being a kid again.

Lee's mom and the rest of the family left early and Lee and I had to take a taxi. He was shivering. The night turned out to be freezing and he probably thought that his mom was right about wearing a jacket (or a hoodie).

I was about to throw the rest of the cigarettes when Lee stopped me. He said to keep one stick just in case. So I did. We finally got into a taxi and praised its warmth.

That was three days ago. A night when I felt like I was seventeen again (insert
Eurythmics song here

Eurythmics - Seven...
) I still have that cigarette stick in my pocket. Just in case. OUT.


ONETOTEN: 10 Reasons Why I'm Never Going To Marry

>> Thursday, March 8, 2007

Everytime somebody asks me when I'm going to get married I'd always say when I reach 35. But next year I'm turning 30 and I still don't see myself in that situation. I assume that in the next five years, more and more people, especially the ones called friends, will ask again. So I'm bravely saying now, that I'm never going to marry. (Friends,) Aside from the more obvious reason, I'm never going to marry because:

10. I have an aversion to any religious rite…
09. …and I don't trust the judicial system.
08. Frodo says there is only one ring to rule them all, and it's not the wedding ring.
07. I'd rather make money covering and organizing weddings than spending for a wedding.
06. And you ask who's going to take care of my old folks?
05. I want to have my own room where I can hang my Doraemon posters and cuddle my life size Pink Panther.
04. "Hit and Run" is not just road-kill left for dead, it can be a very satisfying exercise.
03. It gives me enough reason not to have kids (but that's another list).
02. It would be a shame to have a family and finding out later on that there's room for only one more in the end-of-the-world escape plan.
01. I'm a selfish prick. OUT.


Holden on to a Catcher

>> Monday, March 5, 2007

Doha is starting to be livable after all! Virgin ultracoolmegamusicbookstore has opened and it's one of the oases in this culture-thirsty land. I bought three books, and two of these are the same because I'm giving one to my foster brother Lee just because he can write kick-a$& stories on RPG wrestling forums. Anyway, why this book is special…it started with a book report.

I stood at the library counter holding a small thin tattered red book. I didn’t even read the author's name. At sixteen, my mind was focused o
n movies and music and the only books I ever read were Archie Double Digests and the Choose Your Own Adventure series. When the librarian finally stamped the date on, I threw the book inside my bag, zipped it and rushed to the other rebels-slash-outcasts flocked under one of the cafeteria gazebos where we always convened for after-school guitar sessions. A week later, I found myself digging in my waste-filled backpack searching for the little red book and cramming for a book report deadline for our Grade 10 English class.

Despite the deadline, I can't seem to get past the first page. I kept on reading the same paragraph over and over. I was so preoccupied. I wanted to be with my friends instead of at home reading. I wanted to go to the sea side with my best friend and talk till dawn. I wanted to escape from our depressing house and go home only when I was ready to sleep. You have to understand; without cable or a computer or a telephone, and being around people with mounting problems, home is the last place on my mind.

So I went out, rode a
jeepney to Dunkin Donuts and began again with "To My Mother", the dedication. By the time I had my third cup of coffee and fourth coco strawberry doughnut I was already holding the last page of The Catcher in the Rye, careful not to completely tear it from the piece of tape that was holding it into place. A few moments later, I closed the book and read the name of the author: JD Salinger. Then I took another sip of my coffee and noticed a different bolder taste.

The following week I passed my report on time and got a high mark because I cheated using Barron's Booknotes. When clearance signing came, the librarian asked for an unreturned small thin tattered red book. I told her I lost it and she made me pay forty bucks. I got out of the library and saw my friends singing to a three-chord strumming. I sang with them for a while, but I can't wait to get back home. I wanted to be home. I wanted to get that red book from under my pillow and read The Catcher in the Rye again.




Abre Los Ojos

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Thirtysomething educator who holds the secret to the meaning of life. =P

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