Rams and Horses

“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.” ― Gerald Raftery

I was born in 1991. When I turned to Google to know more about this year, it turns out that it was a very eventful one. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the following are just some of the events that took place on the year I was born:

  • It was the end of the Cold War
  • India turned its back on socialism and autarky
  • The first website was created
  • The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) was formed in The Hague, Netherlands.

The last bit actually took place on my birthday.

Every last few days of the year, Filipinos have a fondness for having fortune-tellers, who are knowledgable in astrology, be interviewed on TV to share what’s in-store for people based on their zodiac signs and the year they were born. While I believe that we make our own fate, it’s sometimes fun to indulge in these stuff just for the sake of it.

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Growing up, I thought I was born on the Year of the Ram/Goat/Sheep like my Mom who was born in April of 1955. At home, Mom and I had the closest personalities and I just attributed that to the possibility that being born rams had something to do with that.

A recent conversation with my Singaporean cousin-in-law about Chinese Zodiac got me thinking about personality assessments I used to read as a child about the signs and wondered what it “meant” to be an Aquarius child born on the Year of the Ram. A little research and Googling of my birthday led me to discover a shocker. I was born on the Year of the Horse.

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Here’s the thing about Chinese Zodiac. Even if they say that 1991 is the Year of the Ram, you have to check whether your birth date is before or after the Chinese New Year of your birth year. So, since I was born on February 11 and Chinese New Year that time was on the 14th, I technically still fall under the Year of the Metal Horse instead of the Metal Sheep.

So what’s the difference between the two? These are lifted from Travel China Guide website:

Horse

Sheep

Enthusiastic and energetic Gentle and calm
Warm-hearted Sensitive to art and beauty
Does not give up easily Loves quiet life
Independent and has strong endurance Hardworking and persistent
Too blunt Indecisive
Upright Timid
Easygoing Moody
Helpful Wise
Friendly Compassionate
Loves spending Sticks to prescribed order
Always works on self-improvement Lacks flexibility

I see that they have some qualities that are not far from the other, but also have opposite ones. I actually think I am a mix of both.

Then again, that’s what we are as humans. We have different sides to us and those sides make us the perfectly imperfect beings that we should embrace. We are all just trying to make a sense of this thing called life and one trait should not define our entire being. The same goes for our mistakes. We are not dolls that can be put in boxes and labeled because we are dynamic beings. We’re always evolving, always changing, and hopefully, always improving.

So, while I enjoy reading about personality assessments and stuff, I still believe that we make our own destiny in this world. We cannot discount our capacity for love and forgiveness because we are capable of so much more than we think we are. With our lives interlaced, things happen around us based on choices we make, good or bad. I don’t think that the alignment of the stars can influence that.

That being said, I will now be reading what’s in-store for people born on the Year of the Horse this 2019. Just because I don’t believe in fortune-telling does not mean I do not like being told I will have a lucky year. Who knows? There might be a sweet coincidence waiting to happen for me next year.

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My 2018 Review

“Life is an onion – you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.” ― Carl Sandburg, Remembrance Rock

It’s the last day of the year today. I still haven’t decided how to feel about this year. To be honest, it feels like 2018 happened so quickly that I am trying to figure out what happened in between. I was thinking that maybe, by writing this post, I can go back to the days of 2018 and see how it was for me.

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At the beginning of the year, I was just one month into my new job. The people were great, the job was challenging in an awesome way, and I felt grounded. I felt a sense of permanency that I haven’t felt in a while. Not having to travel far from home for work meant I did not have to put plans on hold to check whether there was going to be an out-of-town assignment or not. That meant that I had complete control over my schedule which meant a whole year’s worth of weekends to do anything I wanted to do.

Having so much time in my hands, I spent a lot of it learning new things. I started by making soap using melt-and-pour bases. I had so much fun concocting soaps, most of which were used at home or given away. It was therapeutic, watching soap bases melt and harden again, this time, scented with essential oils and decorated with dyes and whatever I could find in my kitchen.

I attended a workshop on how to make simple sandals and had a blast making footwear for myself. The sandals I made were eventually used when I sprained my ankle because they were the only comfy footwear that did not hurt my foot more than it needed. In the process of healing, I also learned about epsom salt and made tons of foot soaks for myself.

My inner warrior showed itself when I attempted archery for the first time. Now, this isn’t the type where you have a viewer to help you hit the target. This was traditional archery where you have to rely on your instincts. Oh, and I popped a balloon target while at it *wink*.

I was big on workshops this year. I attended one that was about caging crystals and making accessories! Despite not being a fan of jewelries and trinkets, I truly enjoyed the hobby so much that I bought my own tools and materials to make myself lots of baubles! On days when negative thoughts in my head would not let me sleep, I turned to my stones and wires to help me quiet my thoughts. They helped me a lot, to be honest.

I don’t wear my creations so much anymore. I guess I never was the type to wear accessories. I would still like to make trinkets one of these days to gift to friends.

Still on workshops, I attended two about tarot reading. Oh yeah! Being someone who enjoyed reading about witchcraft (the Harry Potter type only) and oracles, I was truly excited about tarot cards. I mean, it’s like getting you the answers you already know deep inside but cannot put a finger on.

These stuff, astrology and other forms of fortune-telling intrigue me. I don’t believe anyone can ever know what will happen in the future but you got to admit, these stuff are fun!

In the kitchen, I still suck at cooking. This year though, I established quite a relationship with my electric oven by making treats, most of which I only made for the first time. I learned how to make bread and I finally got to make corn muffins which I have dreamed of making since I was a little girl. Oh, don’t forget the cream puffs!

I also started bringing my baked stuff to work for my colleagues to try. I started with just my team but eventually allowed people from other teams to try what I bake. I think it’s my way of saying that I have completely opened up myself to them. You see, I only bake for people I have come to care about. By bringing my baked goods to work, I basically opened the door fully for them to be in my life.

I still have not decided whether to make baking a sideline to earn more money. For me, baking is something very personal and must be made with love. To bake batches and batches of cakes and cookies for people I have no connection or any established relationship with is a very alien idea to me. Still, I am not shutting the idea down.

There was not much travel this year unlike in 2017. Still, I managed to go to Hong Kong twice and got to visit Pampanga and Cebu.

I miss flying. To be honest, I did not want to have a desk job while I was growing up. It felt like it was going to bore me to death. So, in this new job, I have to admit missing the hustle and the bustle of the airport. I missed the excitement of going to unfamiliar places to meet people I only knew through their names on the company’s database. I missed the side trips on weekends like swimming with turtles or hopping on a zip line! I also learned to appreciate travel so much more now that I have to pay for my travels.

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Despite that, this new job made me feel grounded. It has given me a sense of permanency that my heart longed for after it has gotten weary of the constant packing of the suitcase and catching flights across the country. From 2016 to 2017, the house we’re renting felt so unfamiliar to me; so unfamiliar that it felt like the hotel rooms we stay in when out-of-town. I am much more at home with the place now. I bet that if I stayed at my previous job, I would still feel like a nomad.

I truly love Hong Kong! While I do not wish to live there, going there to visit my sister meant mini adventures that I always look forward to. There was so many firsts for me in Hong Kong like riding a cable car and going near a cow. I also experienced riding the tram and sitting at the upper deck of their double-decker bus. I enjoyed doing not-so-touristy-and-more-residently type of things there like going to the grocery or watching a movie.

Locally, I only managed to go to Pampanga and Cebu. Still, both trips were worth it because I got to spend time with friends and with relatives.

Speaking of friends, I am so glad that friends I have made from my previous work continue to be friends to this day. In fact, they still invite me to some of their events! I miss them a lot to be honest. That is why I treasure moments I get to spend with them because they have proven to be real friends through thick and thin.

I am also blessed with awesome colleagues at my new work. They make working so much more fun despite the workload and difficult conversations we have to make throughout the year. I am fortunate to be working with people who keep me motivated to do my best at all times regardless if it’s operations-related or not.

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When it comes to health and fitness, I went back to yoga this year. I admit I had to stop for a bit because of some complications due to my sprain earlier this year and heavy workload. I plan to be more consistent in 2019 because I enjoyed yoga so much. Not only was it good for my physical health, it was also good for my mental health as it allowed me to know myself in ways only yoga can allow me to.

Career-wise, there were a lot of changes that happened to our team that allowed me to show what I got. I celebrated my first anniversary with my current employer early this month and I realize that in a span of one year, I went through so many phases of personal and professional growth because of all the changes and challenges that the team had to face. That is why, even if it’s basically a desk job and is a tad bit routinary, I am far from being bored. There’s just always so much to learn, so much to discover and so much to contribute. That motivates me to go to work everyday, albeit some days can be draining and exhausting too.

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When it comes to faith, I recently started going to service, although with a different church. It’s not a Catholic one which I grew up in. I still fail to go consistently, maybe because going to church was not something my parents made sure to make a habit for me and my sister. Still, when I manage to go, I always leave with answers and more questions.

More questions. Yep. This year had me going through lots of introspection and reflection, not only about faith, but about life too, in general. This is the year I really questioned my purpose and the reason for my existence, not so much because I was being emotional, but because of a true need to figure out where I am headed.

Yesterday Rizal day. Jose Rizal, our unofficial national hero, once said “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” What he means is that a person who does not know how to look back cannot reach his destination. I believe that looking back allows us to see where were got it right and where we need to improve. I look back at 2018 filled with gratitude for everything it has taught me about myself and about life. This year was all about growth for me.

I am excited to see what 2019 has in-store for me. I hope it will be a good year for everyone. With that, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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Just Tried: Snails!

It’s been a while! My golly! I haven’t written anything for weeks. I feel so bad for neglecting this baby (my blog). I have so much catching up to do when it comes to writing.

The past few months have been like a rollercoaster, especially at work. Year-end is always crazy in any office, I think. November and December workload felt like giant waves slamming against the huge rocks of Laswitan in Surigao! I had to give up yoga because I needed all the extra time I could get to meet deadlines. We’re down to the last three weeks and everything shall be over after Q4 sign-off.

While I have mostly stayed at home these past few weeks, I still had some mini adventures from time to time. There was also a lot of eating (more like pigging) out lately that’s why I gained a few pounds lately. My clothes are now tighter than when I first bought them. Oh dear, I need to go back to yoga and lose weight!

Before my uncle, Greg, went to the US to be with his family for the holidays, he invited me and Mom to have dinner out. I initially suggested going for Italian food at Mamma Mia in Uptown Mall in Bonifacio Global City, but Uncle Greg went looking around while waiting for us. He then discovered El Corazon, the Spanish and Filipino fusion restaurant where I brought Mom to for Mother’s Day. So, back to El Corazon Mom and I went.

We ordered the same Paella Valenciana that we did last time. We highly recommended it to Uncle Greg because we really loved it back in May. With it, we ordered Seville (shrimp gambas sautéed in olive oil and garlic, served with a basket of Pan de Saland what my uncle went there for, Caracoles (escargot in coconut milk).

I have never tried snails my whole life so that night proved to be an adventure for my taste buds. Armed with a wooden skewer to poke and take out the flesh inside the shells, I started going through this appetizer with Uncle Greg while he shared stories of how his Japanese guests loved eating the snails from a different restaurant. Mom didn’t want to try and could not be coaxed to try them at all so uncle and I helped ourselves to the plate of kuhol. None for her meant more for us!

I honestly and truly loved them! The meat from these snails reminded me of the meat from tahong (Asian green mussels) because they somehow have similar texture in the mouth. They weren’t mushy nor were they gummy. They weren’t the melt-in-your-mouth type, but they had this perfect amount of chewiness. Paired with creamy coconut milk sauce, my taste buds were having a party eating the escargot! I wanted to get a second order!

And the gambas? So delicious! The shrimps were cook just right, not gummy at all. There was just the right amount of olive oil to spread on the bread that came with the appetizer so the shrimps were not swimming in oil. However, I still love the gambas from Lorenzo’s Way better. I can’t figure out why but it has something to do with the garlic. Nevertheless, the dish was enjoyable.

Meals are best eaten over awesome conversation. Uncle Greg never runs out of amazing topics to talk about. That night, he shared with us his experience reading the book, Ikigai, and how fascinated he was over this Japanese secret to a long, happy life. This led us to a discussion on the corporate culture in Japan to their education system to their values and discipline that I almost booked a trip to Japan right there.

For dessert, we went to the Hello Kitty Café where we ordered L’Opera cake, Kahlua Cream Cheese Torte, Strawberry Peanut Butter Frappe, and Cappuccino (dear Italians, please don’t get mad).

At the café, our uncle finally got to talk to my sister’s Korean boyfriend over video call. It was so funny because we were in one video call with my sister while the boyfriend was in a separate video call. So many gadgets were involved and thanks to technology, I think the boyfriend passed level one of my uncle’s “interrogation.” I wonder how many more levels there are to go.

Back to dessert, the L’Opera cake was great! It wasn’t too sweet, the cake was tender but not mushy, and the chocolate was rich but not too milky. The cream cheese torte, was also delicious but after a few bites, my taste buds did not want to have any more of it. That being said, I think four people can enjoy that small cake. The frappe was refreshing and did not taste of artificial flavoring. I sure hope I am right in assuming that they used fresh strawberries for it.

I cannot wait for my next food adventure with Uncle Greg. He’s currently enjoying being with his family in the US, especially his grandson, Ell. I hope to meet that kid one day because I live for his mom’s IG posts about him! He loves food like his grandpa and so I look forward to future food adventures they’ll have together.