Flowers are cheap here as well. With 100 pesos, I could get a wonderful combination of temperate flowers including roses. They’re my “live” home companions like…when I want to bounce ideas off “somebody”. Ha ha!

roses

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For my daily fruit, I switch between bananas and avocados. Avocados are really cheap here (my fave words nowadays!) at 40 pesos per kilo (that’s about 4-5 medium sized ones). Fruits on the side make me less anxious about taking too much coffee.

work table flat lay

On my current K-drama series playlist

K-drama series on Viu are my companion these days. I can now put a tick on Goblin: The Lonely and Great God. Done. The story reverberates with truly unique characters – the Goblin, of course, and, a departure from grim reapers of old, the uncannily handsome and domestic Grim Reaper – that are smoothly threaded in to the world of humans. Living among humans day after day meant that human vulnerabilities would gradually rub off on them, and it did. By opening themselves to the human experience, it made them a whole lot better in the end. Better deities. As for the humans…ah, well, love is a destiny.

As I’ve just gotten into watching K-drama, I don’t know many Korean actors, and deciding which series to watch next is based mainly on the actors from previously-watched dramas. The actor Lee Dong Wook was the reason I watched Goblin, because he was the actor of My Girl the first ever K-drama I saw and liked. So, after Goblin I decided to go for dramas in which the actor Kim Go Eun starred in. Hence, Cheese in the Trap.

The drama is a poignant portrayal of university life, youthful romance, and issues affecting young people such as family, mental health, and self-direction. There are also plenty of quotable quotes in there that especially convey what young people are going through:

Baek In Ho: Who studies on the subway? What do you want to become?

Seol:  I just want a job. I don’t want to be unemployed.

Baek In Ho:  What are you worried about? You’re a college student.

Seol:  That’s what I thought, too. When I was in high school I thought I could be anything when I went to college. Now that I’m in college there are many difficult questions. I envy those people the most (gestures toward a couple of men in business suits).

Baek In Ho:  What’s the envy? They look like corpses.

The close of the series brought to mind David Foster’s Just For A Moment (theme song from St. Elmo’s Fire) which floated in my head. I did shed a tear or two. Good news though! There’s a movie adaptation coming out this year! Plus there’s a webtoon of the series which it turns out is the original material.

Afterward, I decided to branch out to dramas of the actor Park Hae Jin, the male lead in Cheese, which led me to Doctor Stranger. I’m now currently watching Episode 9. Incredibly good so far. The story has most everything- spying (North and South Korea), geopolitics, professional rivalry, romance, that involve, well, doctors. But most especially the operating room scenes look very real!

In between, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m also watching Bride of Ha Baek (The Bride of the Water God) originally a manga series of the same title. I’ve seen the male lead Nam Joo Hyuk in Cheese in the Trap and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo that I watched in February. After the first three episodes, I already liked Bride of Ha Baek because Shin Se Kyung‘s female lead’s story arc is so relatable. She has lots of things going on in her personal life, meaning, she’s not as happy, which keeps her, she’s a psychiatrist, from being fully present with her clients until… the series is now on Episode 8. The queer identities that have suddenly popped up in her life are starting to show who or what they really are.

 

“Allergies”

In a previous article, I mentioned about an ongoing experiment to identify the reason for my allergy to seafood. I wrote that my “seafood allergy” might actually be allergy to preservatives applied at various stages in the supply chain. Recently, I learned something more- that it might also be from ingesting contaminated seafood, or seafood contaminated with various diatoms (which tell about the quality of sea or marine water the seafood came from), viz.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by saxitoxins, a complex of neurotoxins produced by dinoflagellates which are assimilated and temporarily stored by bivalve mollusks such as mussels, clams and oysters.

Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning is caused by K. Brevis blooms also known as “red tides”.

Amnesic shellfish poisoning is caused by the phytoplanktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzchia multiseries which are the source of the toxic agent identified as domoic acid. This potent neurotoxin accumulates in mussels and clams that feed on toxic plankton during their bloom.

Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning is caused from ingesting mussels, scallops, clams and oysters contaminated with biotoxins produced by toxic marine dinoflagellates during their blooms in summer.

Azaspiracids shellfish poisoning is caused by azaspiracids, polyether marine toxins that accumulate in various shellfish species.

The fact that I’m not having any allergic reaction to the seafood here implies the marine waters here are relatively toxin- or diatom-free. Wow. I have to tell communities here this, just so to motivate them to not tire in maintaining their coasts and seas.


Literature review: Chee K Woo and Sami L Bahna, Not all shellfish “allergy” is allergy! 10 June 2011Clinical and Translational Allergy Journal, European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

What’s your ‘treat yourself’ wine?

tuba or coconut wine
Tuba (4-hour fermented coco wine). It’s brown-ish color is natural dye from the mangrove tree.

My host organization said I should join them in their team-building event, to take a break even if for a day from an incredible month of hyperactivity not to mention, of late, anxiety. They have done an extraordinary job of facilitating my work so far as well as my security in the areas. Of the latter, I know they’re trying to hold in their worries and desire to guard over me 24/7. As for myself, apart from dealing with work pressure, I’ve lately been bombarded with new experiences almost on a daily basis that there’s no time for me to reflect and understand how they benefit my own life. Also, out there in the areas, there’s such a wealth of information and lessons that it’s made it extraordinarily challenging for me to sift through and obtain what’s just needed for the work I’m doing. Then, the usual pressure from family and friends- wtf are you still there for? When they say that…I start to have doubts- yeah, how the hell did I end up here? which I don’t like. Sometimes when I’m in this mood I imagine I’m in one of my favorite places to be…only that I’m fully clothed you know in case my folks decided to forcibly fly in through the roof and get me by the ears, clothed or not. Is why bombs are loathed- they’re like our parents in hyperwar mode.

 

But seriously by joining my host organization in their activity I wanted to convey my appreciation and gratitude. They’re my second family here, and since my entry into their lives their days have become uncharacteristically hectic. I so owe them some slack.

The event took place by the wonderful sea, in an open community training center maintained by their partner-organization. When we arrived, the distinct smell of goat meat (it’s halal) wafted in the air. We were told there’ll be papaitan and kaldereta on the table- yum! This reminded me of similar gatherings in my areas of assignment when I was younger, also the reunions at my grandparents’ during my childhood. The men did most of the cooking.

I’m already acquainted with the individuals there so I went around and joined in the conversation. Crowds is really a struggle for me although I can put a handle on this when it becomes a duty ie. work requires me to work the crowd. I could do it so well that people think I’m a go-getter. Ha! Besides, when you’re with village people, they scrutinize you with beetle eyes- they will right away pack off snobs or outsiders with no sense of humor. Once, I woke up in a depleted mood and no amount of self pep talk could elevate my mood. This showed through when I was facilitating a discussion with village women. Their faces reflected my mood. But I didn’t care. Then somebody said “no sense of humor” in reply to my question of what makes an effective volunteer. The body language of the other women screamed, oh my goodness. They were all looking at me like how children stare up at their parents when they knew they’ve crossed a no-no line, waiting for a punishment to come or not. The mental image tickled me and I laughed. The women’s bodies eased up a bit. Sense of humor is key to working well with villagers.

Then I moved into the hut where the men were cooking. Somebody asked if I wanted tuba. I said, yes sure. He handed me a cupful. And, it was unbelievably delicious- just the right sweetness and fermentation. The coconut juice had been collected very early that morning and fermented a few hours (it gets stronger the longer it’s fermented however 2-3 days would turn the juice to vinegar). Plus, I was told the container had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, which explained why it tasted clean. I had two cups (which kind of alarmed them but I assured them that I have a high tolerance for alcohol). Then while watching them do their thing, we talked about local wines and drinks. This scene reminds me of my childhood during reunions, when I was usually with the men – my uncles and their cousins – watching whatever they were doing and listening to their talk. I have a few photos of those times (come to think of it, I haven’t asked who took the shots). So, growing up, I don’t know but I naturally gravitate toward the company of male friends and acquaintances. Their kind of talk is what I’m familiar with. But also because I find I can be my naturally straightforward self with them and nobody would take overt offense. Ha ha!

tuba and freshly caught prawns

We also had prawns, freshly caught and (for me) unbelievably cheap at just 150 a kilo! About seafood, all my life I’ve reacted after digesting it or at times even from merely touching it hence avoided it. But my host organization upon learning this were horrified. The areas teemed with seafood. So we experimented (anyway, I brought my meds). First, pusit small and large ones. And what do you know- no reaction at all not even a hint of an itch. I thought about it. Then it dawned on me. Could it be the preservatives (applied along the supply chain as it makes it’s way to, for instance, Baguio City) and not the seafood? I told my host organization this which excited them some more about our experiment. Next, crabs. I had no reaction after the first. Wow! So I ate another one. Nada. Then, the prawns. No reaction. Amazing! I really am sure now my allergic reactions were due to preservatives. Goodness, how much nutrients did I lose from avoiding seafood?

How did the team-building go? It turned out that was just a bluff. The event was actually a “formal” welcome to me. Soon as the dishes were cooked and laid out, one of the organization’s staff called everyone inside the center, and after the usual how are you all feeling today? talk she then announced the real reason for the gathering. Ha! You thought I was a birthday girl, too stunned at first to react. But, really, it was such a gift.

“The Man Born To Farming”

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn. His thought passes along the row ends like a mole. What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark?

watermelon harvest by thecolorofred