Posts by Kleo:

    Beyond Deadlines Anniversary Article Series 2018

    February 17th, 2018

    IT WAS the 26th March of 2016, when I received this private message on Facebook, “Hi Cleo, just wondering bka gusto mong maging volunteer writer ng ng beyonddeadlines dyan sa UAE? You are most welcome to submit your essays or news item.”

    I was like, “Ehhhh, me? To write?” In my mind too was, “Di naman ako graduate ng Lit! (Literature) di rin naman journo (journalist).”

    An overwhelming assortment of reactions within me was the order of that day; I was grateful to be considered, confused why I was actually thought of for the part, fearful that I might not meet the standards; concerned that if I agreed, find out later that I will not find the time to write (baka mag-ningas cogon), astounded that I have the chance to do something about one of my passions… writing. Inasmuch as I love reading, I love writing too… on a very personal level.

    That day, I faced the opportunity to share what I have been jotting down (mostly in my head) out of my personal experiences with people, places and situations. My yellowed writing books bearing stories of the past (narratives that are etched in my mind that I wouldn’t want to be forgotten by my children, nephews, nieces and their children) peep excitedly from the recess of my nightstand. I patted them carefully, “not the time yet…”

    I said my prayers and accepted the challenge though. Put pen to paper my new adventures and inspirations. I am glad I did. Contributing what little I could to beyonddeadlines has intensified my desire to write and share; I am proud being “Kleo, Cheska’s mom (or Ben’s, or ‘s and/or Arunee’s)”, happy as “Kleo, Mr. Anura’s wife”; but I am truly thankful for the continued prospect of being “Kleo of beyonddeadlines” – now I am not just a shadow, I reclaim and occupy my little niche of contentment and humble achievements.

    The “Desert Quips” for beyonddeadlines is Kleo, it is me! Alhamdullilah!

    Two years with beyondeadlines, I suppose means two or more years added to my life span of happy memories. Thank you to our Kapatid, Nelson Flores, the writers, followers, friends and readers of Beyond Deadlines for all the support and encouragement!

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    The Gift of Giving and Receiving

    February 13th, 2018

    Part 1

    A Gift: What is it? What it should be?

    THE 2017 Holiday Season passed. A brand New Year has been ushered in and it is now February, and another gift-giving tradition is here, Valentine’s Day. It is not as big as the Christian’s Christmas but it’s also commercially famous for gift-giving and well, yes, obviously receiving too. Not much for children but for adults.

    A few months back, I received a message that would sort of galvanize me into writing this piece. Someone asked me for a gift. Yes, a request detailing what was wished for and the occasion, a birthday. Since this is not the first time, not necessarily from the same person, I mused on this and asked myself, why? Not really, “Why me?” but “Gift? Why do you ASK for a gift?”

    It’s a different story when you ask someone very close to you. Now, some might say it is okay if you ask from someone like your husband or your parent, “Get me a new phone as birthday gift, okay?”

    I question myself again, “Really? That’s fine to ask for a gift and be specific about what you want?” What if the person was preparing for months to get you this special something but different from what you asked for? What if they cannot afford to give anything at all at the time? What if they actually do not feel like giving you anything at all for whatever reason? Shouldn’t these all be put into consideration WHEN ASKING FOR A GIFT? Or should we be asking at all?

    If and when someone asks you what you wanted for a gift, that’s another ball game altogether; especially, if you’re someone deemed as difficult to get a gift for. And, if you yourself seem to be running out of gift options for someone, some people do ask, “Please tell me what you want, I’d rather get you what you want instead of something you’ll find useless at the end of the day, please tell me, we both know I’m going to get one for you anyway.”

    Would this kill the idea of a present? Shouldn’t a gift have the element of surprise in it?

    A child receiving a gift from her mom

    What is a GIFT anyway? Dictionaries say, “It is a thing given willingly to someone without payment” (preferably from the heart?) Let us not tackle the other types like donations, endowments, benefactions etc. Just the one you give or receive on occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other holidays like Christmas, Valentines etc.

    A thing given willingly! I’m not saying that when it’s requested from you it’s not a gift because it’s not given at will or as a choice. As I mentioned, sometimes you are faced with the situation wherein you have to ask what a person prefers. It is still a gift because you already have it in mind that you will give a gift!

    Thing is, say, even if I am not planning to give a gift and a person asks, if I agree in giving it, I would have given because I realized that, yes! I want to give this thing to this person as a gift! Win-Win! The person gets the wish and I get to enjoy the feeling of making that wish come true!

    Because I love giving gifts! Most especially when I could actually afford it! I love giving what I know the receiver wants and will have a use for; otherwise, they wouldn’t wish for it would they? Best of giving gifts for me is taking time and using what imagination I have in wrapping them! It doesn’t make any difference to me whether I’m wrapping an expensive gift or a cost effective one, they will be wrapped with the same enthusiasm, love and imagination or creativeness.

    A gift has to be given willingly… definitely NOT by means of extortion in any way; through sob stories, threats or guilt tripping the supposed presenter to yield and give!

    In my view, there should be NO OBLIGATION in gift-giving.

    How about traditions like “Exchange Gifts or Monito/Monita usually done at Christmas parties? The onus is there when you’re part of it; don’t join then if you don’t feel like it! Giving gifts should be enjoyed as a wholesome experience.

    Gift giving should be regarded as sacrosanct; the act and not the gift per se should make both parties (giver and receiver) joyous in giving and vice versa. It should be able to help strengthen bonds and relationships; and a gift should be given without the expectation of getting something back in return.

    A gift at the end of the day is what you give; not always in cash and kind but in kind thoughts (like prayers) and deeds.

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    My Daily Prayer

    January 7th, 2018

    The year 2018 has come and not without notice or caveat from the Creator. We had the whole of 2017 to prepare us for whatever these coming twelve months have in store for us. Don’t be sad! Don’t be scared! Don’t be too over-confident! Whatever we face this brand new year, perhaps, it might take us through the next the same as 2017 has. Perhaps…

    Or we might get 2018 wholly different, however it comes, the year will go through anyways, depending on how we face it. So let’s greet it head on, what better way than with a prayer (however we do it, according to one’s dogmata, practices or liking) – for those who BELIEVE.

    Please allow me to share with you my Morning Prayer in the hope that the good Lord will bless you with many good journeys too. The roads are perilous at most, however careful you are. The good Lord has blessed me many fine adventures, not unscathed at times, but grateful for a strong heart and mind to bear with the wounds as I watch them heal. I always tell my family and friends, “Do not drive or start your day without praying please…”

    I always say this prayer when in the car (as soon as I get up doesn’t really work for me, my day starts the first time I sit behind the steering wheel each morning. I refuse to move my car even an inch without saying this prayer.

    Here is my one. Please accept my modest gift to all of you.

    (I am a Muslim and start my prayers and everything else I do with the Al Fatiha (The Opening or the First Surah of the Noble Qur’an); it goes

    *****

    “Bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

    “In the name of Allah the beneficent, the merciful, praise be Allah, Lord of the worlds, the beneficent, the merciful. Thee alone we worship, Thee alone we seek for help, please lead us to the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured and not of those who has earned Thy anger nor of those who has gone astray.”

    (Then my very personal prayer comes after)

    Oh Allah, thank you for the new day

    Here we are facing the roads and their challenges again.

    Please bless my husband,

    his person, his work, his decisions and the work of his hands,

    May he always show compassion and fairness;

    Protect him from anything or anyone that may willingly or accidentally harm him at any time.

    I pray to you Oh Lord, bless my children with the motivation to find their calling and perform their duties as you May want them to. Bless them with good friends and protect them from anyone that could hurt them, including me and their own selves.

    Guide us Lord; please protect us from ALL dangers, seen and unseen, from the works of men and those of Mother Nature.

    As we drive these roads Oh Lord,

    (Followed by ALL the people whose names I mention one by one like my husband, my children, families and friends from different parts of the world, yes, I say their names, each one… every day…)

    Please take us safely where we need to be.

    Please do not allow us to hurt anyone;

    Not human lives, animals or plants.

    Do not allow us to destroy property; not ours, nor those of others.

    Protect us Oh Allah, from other drivers who may not be fit to drive but are still on the roads just the same, including us;

    Protect us from anyone who might make mistakes on the roads; drivers, passengers, pedestrians and the like, including us.

    Guide us and protect us as always Oh Allah, protect us from others; and others from us.

    I am not good at driving this car or my life Lord; it is only with Your mercy that I get through with each mile…

    Thank you Oh Allah.

    Bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

    Ameen

    *****

    Life is like driving the roads of this world, each and everyone’s actions affect someone else’s all the time; let us be conscious even of our minutest decisions and make them safe for all concerned. Let us not rely entirely on our own skills and talents; or be scared of what we think is lacking in others.

    HAVE A SAFE AND BEAUTIFUL 2018 THAT IS FULL OF GRATITUDE EVERYONE!

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    Ang Babaeng Pinagpala (The Blessed Woman)

    May 26th, 2017

    ANG BABAENG PINAGPALA

    (The Blessed Woman)

    A Post Mother’s Day Recollection in Honor of Working Women Outside their Home Country

    IN a café and I was about to sip my tea but almost spilt it…

    Woman 1: You’re back! How are you? You look great like you were never pregnant at all! How’s the baby?

    Woman 2: I’m okay, baby’s with my parents back home, wait, I’ll be back, I’ll just run to the loo.

    She rushes to the toilet.

    Woman 1: Can you imagine that girl? I don’t understand how she and her husband decided for her to get pregnant just to leave the child with her parents! So unfair to the child and so selfish of her! I can’t even afford to think of leaving my child overnight with someone else, let alone for months? Years! I don’t know how she does it! So cruel!

    This is the point where I almost spilt my tea, tried to control my emotions and my best not to interfere. Failed all three… Good thing cause the tea could have burnt me.

    -*-*-

    Becka met her husband in Sharjah, UAE. They both worked for the same hotel. They got married in Philippines in the presence of family and friends then went back to work. Becka got pregnant while in the UAE. She gave birth in Philippines and after her maternity leave, kissed her son, packed her bags and boarded the plane off to Sharjah. For second child, same thing happened.

    Her breasts were still heavy with milk but she had to leave her children with her mother in Bulacan, Philippines. Thanks to Facebook she says because she has constant contact with her mother, she could always go back to the pictures and gaze at them for hours until it’s time to go back to work again.

    I asked her what the hardest part of being away from one’s child is; she replied, “Many! Every part is difficult. From the time your breasts swell and the milk trickles, you know somewhere across the globe, your child is hungry and needs you but you can’t be there; the thought that you are missing ALL their firsts, I have to contend myself with pictures and sometimes videos.”

    “At most, I tire myself to the point of exhaustion so that when I go back to the accommodation, I fall asleep quickly, otherwise, I toss and turn ‘til it’s time to get up, imagining how my children would be at that exact moment, are they sleeping, playing, giggling? I wonder what they can do now, what words they can say, what they really like… I miss the feel of their tiny fingers curled in mine. The smell of their hair, their breath… Even the part when you’re going on vacation to see your children is painful.”

    “You know it’s only for a while, you know that there is that date looming when you have to leave them again. So you just try to enjoy the little time as much as you can because mommy and daddy both have to work for their future. What we earn here is difficult to find back home.”

    Todate: Becka is back home with her children in Bulacan after the death of her husband. Both children are in college and Becka earns from her Mango and Tiger Prawn Farms.

    -*-*-

    Nita Palsa, a.k.a. Ate Nitz to many was hired to work in Dubai as my godson’s nanny, she stayed with him for a long time until the boy’s grandma came and she was relieved of her duties (sadly for my godson); Ate Nitz was immediately employed by a French couple who moved around with us and saw how caring and how good Ate Nitz was with children. She was like, all our children’s carer. It didn’t matter that she was only being paid by one child’s parents; any child in her vicinity would instantly be Ate Nitz’s ward and she would care for the child/children whether you ask her for the favour or not.

    Unbeknownst to many, Ate Nitz is a single mother and despite her jovial and sunny nature, carries with her the burden of guilt and longing. She left her 7 year old daughter with her married sister who did not have a child, with an agreement that she would fully support the child.

    In fairness to her sister and her husband, the girl was raised with much love as if she was their own. Ate Nitz was very vocal in her gratitude; she would tell us repeatedly how fortunate she and her daughter were.

    But the fact was, in the nights and she was alone in her bedroom, Ate Nitz would cry holding her daughter’s pictures, she cried until she could no more and then gives in to restless sleep.

    The next day, she would awaken to work herself so much not wanting any moment to let the feeling of missing her daughter seep in. She worked hard because she needed every penny to support her child.

    This went on for Ate Nitz for years. When her sister needs a big amount of money for Ate Nitz’s daughter, say, for schooling, she would send it no matter how. (Ate Nitz’s daughter was enrolled in a good school, she made sure to give her daughter everything possible if the girl wanted it, even if it meant she had to work harder to afford it).

    Though, her contract stated that she could go home every 2 years, sometimes, despite how much she missed her daughter, she would stay back in Dubai. Requesting cash for her air ticket and vacation leave just so she could send the money as requested by her sister for her daughter. She let go of the much needed rest and holiday, she let go of the chance holding her daughter in her arms again.

    Then one time, her sister phoned asking her to come home immediately. Ate Nitz asked for an emergency leave and due to her good relationship with her bosses and reliable performance as nanny, a temporary replacement was quickly sought and her wish granted. By then, her daughter a full grown teenage girl was full of questions, confusion, and bitterness.

    Ate Nitz came back to Dubai a week later, a broken mother. Her daughter refused to go back to school it seems. The girl would go back to school ONLY and ONLY IF Ate Nitz signs documents giving her sister and her husband full custody of her daughter and that she would give her daughter up completely including being called “Mama” by the girl who refused to do so.

    As per the couple, it was what the girl wanted. The girl even declined to speak to her own mother. The girl scorned at her mother for being a “DH” (domestic helper). She signed the papers under these conditions but she did not agree to give up the responsibility of being her mother so she continued to pay for the girl’s school, her food and other expenses. The girl has since graduated university level with the sweat and tears of Ate Nitz. I asked her why she continued supporting her daughter if all she received was the girl’s refusal and rejection.

    She replied, “To work and support her is what’s left of me as her mother; she may not call me her mother and refuse me the love and recognition but they cannot take away from me my duties and obligations as one. She may not be my daughter anymore for them, but I will remain her mother ‘til the day I die.”

    -*-*-

    Jenelyn, Jessy and Rose are Sales Associates of my favourite boutiques in Fujairah. All three have little babies they call their own. Their work entails that they stand for lengthy periods 6 days a week, sometimes, even 2 weeks without off. They face all sorts of customers and situations that it is a wonder whether the pay is enough for them to be parted from their little ones.

    Jenelyn’s 2 little children are with her mother in Philippines.

    Jessy gave birth a few weeks ago; the baby is with her in their apartment in Fujairah. When asked whether the baby will be kept here or will be taken to her family in Philippines, she doesn’t know yet but they are trying to keep the baby in UAE. That is depending whether her husband will qualify to sponsor the child under his visa as there are stringent immigration rules regarding family sponsorships.

    Rose has gone to Philippines on 100 days Maternity Leave, after which she will be back in UAE to resume work leaving her little baby behind under the care of her husband’s mother.

    All three are good, honest and hard-working women, supporting their husbands in bringing up the family they have decided to have.

    -*-*-

    To the lady in the café who said she doesn’t know how the woman who went to the washroom does it, meaning, leaving her baby behind in her home country in the care of another person to work in a foreign country.

    Correct, you do not know, I do not know; because we are not in their place. I ask the same question. How do these women leave their children or even think of being parted from their little ones? But I ask not in mockery. I ask amazed, wondering where they get the strength. Every time I meet a woman, a mother, who has left a young one in the care of parents or other family members to earn a living enough to support the child: there’s ALWAYS a pinch in my heart; an indescribable pain that suddenly transcends from that woman’s soul to mine. Because I too am a mother, I don’t for once believe that there is ANY MOTHER out there who would actually want to be separated from their offspring at any given time for any reason. I admire these women for the simple reason that I know they’re doing something I am certain I will never be capable of. Something I’m sure I will never be able to learn how to face bravely as they do. I respect them for the strength they have to muster every time they take that sigh of longing for the little chirps and goo goo’s… I will always accept their reasons (even if to some, they may seem as excuses) for leaving their children to take a job somewhere else… It is not easy being a mom, nor, being a far-away mom at that.

    Woman 2: Excuse me, but we are not talking to you! (Pointing towards me), after I went, “Whoa whoa, whoa!”

    “No, you are not, but I am talking to you! Do you live in her heart (gesturing towards the washroom where “Far-away Mother” is), do you actually know what she thinks and feels? You don’t, right? Because if you do, you will not say the things you just said, right now…”

    “Blessed are you among women, blessed you be more to the one who looks to the moon for her child’s innocent gaze.”

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    “Elijan, Aaron and Jason – Choosers of Religions”

    April 26th, 2017

    I STARED at the tiled wall in front of me briefly, shook my gloves off my hands, and carefully placed them at the edge of the sink on the marble counter. Deeply inhaled, turned around and announced, “The dishes can wait.”

    I sat my 14 year old son, Aaron down, holding his hands, I told him, “What do you want dear?”

    Question me an answer; answer with a question” (From the musical “Shangri-La, The Lost Horizon”).Isn’t that what they say is the best way to reply? In my situation, that came as the ONLY answer I could give.

    I knew then and there that I will have to face his question one way or the other in the future, perhaps from other people and more times that I would ever care to reply.

    His question: “Mom, what is my religion?”

    You see, Aaron’s dad is Buddhist; I, his mom, was previously Roman Catholic and embraced Islam in 2011 after years of learning and discernment.

    Aaron and his siblings were baptised in the Catholic faith. The children with the exception of Aaron have their leanings on Islam with their mother’s influence and perhaps mainly due to peer associations as the family lives in a Muslim dominated country.

    It’s not only Aaron’s nucleus family that is multi-faith. His Portuguese great-grandmother, Theodora, was a Buddhist convert, formerly a Catholic. He has a formerly Buddhist uncle in Sri Lanka who is now a very pious Catholic Christian after he won his battle against a life threatening disease.

    His mother’s family (mine), on the other hand is a happy communion of a very pious Catholic sister, a brother who is the Artistic Director of a Jewish Summer Camp in the United States, a brother married to a “Dating-daan” Christian denomination, a brother who is an active member of Victory (Christian Church), a nephew who married and is now a member of the “Iglesia ni Cristo” Christian movement, and now we are eagerly and proudly awaiting the ordination of a Catholic seminarian nephew, son of my cousin Regina.

    Aaron was born a month after his cousin, Elijan – son of a very pleasant woman, extremely patient and a truly religious Dating-daan member, Anna, my lovely sister-in-law. My brother remains a Catholic and Elijan goes to a Catholic school despite being an active learner of the teachings and ways of his mother’s religion.

    I always wondered how confusing it must be for Elijan to comprehend and/or absorb two very different perhaps conflicting Christian methods of worship and apply them to his daily life. Which ones does the boy truly accept and which passes one ear and out through the other? I was feeling worried for him but when I look at my nephew, he seems to know where to put his heart on; at least to me. What goes on in his mind really, only he knows.

    Aaron and Elijan both spent their early childhood in Dubai. The 3rd boy who is their contemporary is my husband’s godchild, Jason. He is the son of a Catholic mother and a Hindu father, both are our very close friends, hence the choice for my Buddhist husband as godfather in a very important Catholic sacrament, the Baptism.

    It may be noted that a lot of Catholic Christians honour and strengthen relationship bonds by making one a godparent for one’s child/children.

    Sometimes it even serves as a display of gratitude. Some may say that this defeats the purpose of having godparents in Christian sacraments like, Baptism, Confirmation and Matrimony

    At my age and varied cultural exposure, despite my curiosity, I have learned not to question people’s ways, especially those that have religious and/or cultural basis. I quench my thirst for knowledge tempered with understanding that we are creatures of differences and possible compromises; of relative acceptance of each other dependent on various circumstances.

    Going back to Jason, I was extremely impressed when at lunch at my place one Friday, the boy refused to eat meat! The Christendom was entering Lenten Season at the time, and this 13 year old boy was literally religious about abstaining from eating meat! He was also very regretful about missing his catechism class that day.

    Jason’s Confirmation was in 2 weeks at the time. He looked well prepared to receive the sacrament.

    I was trying to think of what meaningful gift I could give Jason as I know in my heart being a former Catholic that Confirmation is a very important event, more so, evidently, in a child, like Jason. The irony of it is the realisation that there is no gift worthy of this boy, because his pious ways and faithfulness to God is a gift to all believers of any denomination. He sets an example that truly, the seed of “Faith” can blossom in a child’s heart and be understood at an early stage of life.

    Because, religion, like most things in individual human development, presents itself differently to those who accept it; there are early learners and late bloomers.

    Religion may be something one is born with and lives with happily and faithfully.

    It could also be something some people find to be leading them to questions that eventually take them to another path or religion where they believe they could find the truth they seek for or closest to it.

    Perhaps, even, one’s religion is akin to one’s comfort zone… a home of like ways and minds in the worship of one’s accepted Creator. A community where one feels a sense of belongingness.

    Others even contest the need for religion.

    It may matter so much to others what creed they follow; some have stringent rules and practices that may seem questionable, unacceptable even, to those outside such faiths.

    There are those on the other hand who practice their faiths as individual and as personal as they may be allowed.

    Others seek to bridge the gap between denominations. I count myself as one and I know I am not alone.

    This is one of my humble attempts in fulfilling my “self-proclaimed” mission: To reach out to the younger generation of different faiths and/or religions.

    ~~~~~~~~

    Dear Elijan,

    During family get-together, there’s the usual banter about your Kuya Arnel and Ate Jheng being Iglesia ni Cristo members and your mom being a Dating-Daan follower. We are fortunate that we are able to joke about it (unlike what we read and hear about the two Christian denominations being against each other most of the time), as far as I know, no one takes offence in our family, we respect and we still love each other no matter how different we say our prayers and worship our Creator. I always pray for the end in misunderstandings and violence due to religious differences; there is hope because there are the likes of your mom and Kuya Arnel who wouldn’t say a nasty word to each other, much more hurt anyone deliberately because they have opposing views in faith.

    Son, don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise. We don’t need to be one or the other; we can be at peace with each other however different we are in many ways.

    ~~~~~~~~

    Dear Aaron,

    Son, I remain and will always maintain that you, my children should have the freedom to choose your own path, whether it’s something one might find trivial as to what passport you should carry or what name you should call your Creator. I call mine Allah, I am a Muslim.

    I shall open the doors of Islam for you with my example and my ways; no arm-twisting, no coercion, no dagger and no buying you, just so you follow what I believe in.

    Be free but be fair, be dutiful and be just. Love and respect humans and their humanity for this is the basis of all religions. Religion, my son, to me is a gift from Allah (God), a gift of guidance to a path back to our Giver. A gift designed in varied shapes and colors so as to suit its equally varied recipients. Find the gift that matches you and blossom with it. The hand of Allah will guide you; the love of Mom and Dad will always be there for you.

    ~~~~~~~~

    Dear Jason,

    I looked at you and thought, “No trace of Hinduism on this child, he is all Catholic, way to go Mommy Maricel!”

    I admire your mom’s devotion to her faith, and your dad’s love for you and your whole family.

    You see, son, your dad is one of the estimated 1 billion Hindus worldwide (the 3rd largest religion in terms of followers after Christianity and Islam). It doesn’t make your dad weak in faith that you are in fact a Catholic. It is the strong Hindu in him that he didn’t stand against you becoming what he thinks you want to be. He embraces what he must be thinking is your “dharma” (Sanskrit, in this context, meaning one’s destiny or purpose). By doing so, he fulfils his own dharma and is repaying one of his karmic debts – the debt to other human beings; repaid by treating them with respect. In this case, his wife’s ways and his son’s choice of faith even if it is not his.

    In a few days, you will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and that marks that you are not only born to the faith of your mother, despite your dad having a different religion, you are choosing and affirming to be a Catholic Christian.

    I am wrong Jason, it is not true that you do not have a trace of Hinduism in you.vJust like your dad, you too are fulfilling your dharma and repaying your karmic debt – the debt to parents.

    May you find peace and contentment, enlightenment where you might require.

    ~~~~~~~~

    Aaron, Elijan, Jason… and all the other “children” who may chance upon this writing; you may or may not have your heart fixed on the religion you inherited somehow, or is served on a platter in front of you awaiting your decision; whatever you choose to follow or believe in, follow it with your heart, but don’t let it blind you. After all religions, whichever it is you faithfully adhere to means well and are not supposed to harm anyone. Religions teach of kindness and respect to all creations.

    The Dalai Lama of Tibet, in an interview, was asked what he thinks is the best religion; he replied, “The best religion is the one that gets you closest to God; it is the one that makes you a better person.”

    Don’t we all feel the same biting cold in winter? The same scorching heat in summer? The same loneliness and longing when left alone inasmuch as fullness and comfort, happiness and elation in joyous occasions? We all react in similar manner for we are all humans. Humans of different faiths and ways but of comparable needs and weaknesses.

    We may be of different religions but we must find ways to live with each other in peace; let’s start with respect, compassion and responsibility regardless of how pious or what religious background the one in front of us belongs to… then perhaps love will find its way in all our hearts.

     

                                                                     

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    FITNESS & HEALTH 101 Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

    February 16th, 2017

    Part 8

    Conclusion

    IF you intend to start some exercise regime, whatever your age, wherever you are, start now. It’s never too late until you can’t move your limbs anymore; by which time you’d regret that you didn’t do it while you still could. Whatever your physical, mental, financial and/or health condition is, there is always an exercise program that will suit you, it may be in a gym, a fitness club/center, the park, the mountains, the sea, or even in the comfort of your own home.

    Don’t worry about exercise equipment, machines and gadgets. Most of them were designed to imitate what we already have around us. For instance, treadmill was designed to make pathways, jogging paths and sidewalks fit into a smaller space in a gym or a room in our houses. You could walk the miles without even going out. Stair stepper or stair climber machines resemble our staircases, you can go on climbing without getting any higher and the effects to our bodies are the same! There are things we could use around us as alternative to most gym equipment and machines.

    In the UAE, there are a lot of parks that have been installed with exercise machines for the use of the general public.

    Good to have the machines and equipment for your chosen program but they may be important but not as essential as your willingness to do your workout. If you can afford it, enroll yourself in a fitness gym or club; otherwise, make use of what is available in terms of equipment, space and time. Drop the excuses and start NOW!

    I am no fitness expert; I’m just someone who tries to take care of my body even if I don’t look like it. I know the benefits, I feel them. From the time I started swimming regularly, my blood pressure has been stable that my doctor is considering stopping my maintenance medications.

    Whatever your reason/s may be for starting a fitness program, make your expectations real and viable. Don’t despair when you feel like nothing’s changing or improving; give it sometime, results don’t happen overnight. Check that you are doing the right exercises the right way. Qualified Fitness/Gym instructors are a big help; if you don’t have one, there are books, magazines and the internet.

    Support your fitness program by eating right. I walked for 35 minutes and my phone health app indicated that I burnt 153 kcal (kilocalorie). Great! I thought. In the afternoon, I finished a big scoop of ice cream (that’s about a cup). I checked how many calories I downed with that scoop, 267 kcal! Now, you do the math. I don’t stop myself from eating my favorite sweets but I try to control it. Nowadays, I eat a lot more fruits too.

    If you intend getting a membership in a fitness club, consider the following;

    1. Take a week to a month’s membership first. Don’t be taken in by sales talk to get a long term membership without familiarizing yourself with the facility. Check and experience every aspect the venue offers. No place is perfect, but ensure that the imperfections do not outweigh the benefits. (e.g. What if the water pressure in the showers is not strong enough for the quick showers you need before heading off to work? You don’t want to take the annoyance all the way to the office, right?

    2. If you’re planning to go with someone else, try it initially with the prospective person. Some people change their attitudes when exerting, sweating and feeling tired. You must also learn how to do it solo, in case your partner becomes unavailable to do workouts with you.

    3. If it’s your first time, don’t buy a whole lot of gym clothes and accessories; purchase as required only and after you have established that doing it regularly is a thing you want to do for a long time.

    4. Fitness centers and gyms can sometimes appear intimidating, more so, when members seem to know each other well and you’re the newbie. Don’t worry most gym members follow the rule of TEHO (To Each His Own); if you don’t want to socialize, a few would attempt at conversations but will drop it if you give a polite hint (unless, of course, you’re so hot and irresistible!)

    If you have reached this part without missing any, thank you! Even if you read only one or two of this series, I am still grateful for the time, I hope it was worth it. I enjoyed telling you my stories.

    I don’t intend to teach anyone about fitness and health in this series, I am obviously not an authority to the subject. I shared my experiences because I want YOU to start doing exercises too! I may still look like a laugh away whenever I carry my huge carry all fitness bag, but soon enough, I will achieve my health and fitness goals; the idiot I will be no more with the hope of taking you with me for the ride…

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    February 9th, 2017

    Part 7

    Spoilt for Choices!

    THERE is a host of other activities one can do to achieve fitness and health in the Middle East or any part of the world for that matter. There are clubs here that hold tennis classes, beach volleyball and squash play offs. There are Filipino groups that play badminton regularly. If you prefer football, there are weekend meets to play in mostly organized by our Brit counterparts. The Emirati boys in my neighborhood train for dragon boat racing. Our South African friends regularly scuba dive, snorkel and enjoy kayaking apart from sailing. Most expats like Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistanis stick wickets on the ground of an open field and hold weekend cricket matches with a soft ball, not the real hard cricket ball. An Egyptian friend tweets regularly about his cycling routes and achievements.

    If you prefer doing it solo or in a group, there should be something that will suit you. You just need to find it! The following, for example:

    Aerobics Classes – Remember that other activities like swimming, walking, hiking, spinning, use of cardio machines etc. are aerobic exercises. Here I mean, AEROBICS CLASSES or sessions; usually performed with music in groups although it can also be done solo and without music. It is a combination of rhythmic movements, stretching and strength training routines; usually taught by a certified instructor.

    Zumba or Zumba Dancing – like Jacuzzi, the word has become generic to this type dancing for fitness. Zumba is actually a trademark owned by Zumba Fitness, LLC. It was conceptualized by a Colombian dancer/choreographer Alberto Perez (a.k.a Beto) in the 1990’s by mistake. He used to teach aerobics classes at the gym he used to work for. One day he forgot his aerobics music cassette tapes and made do with what was available, a cassette tape of music for Latin Dances. The lively beats of Rumba and Merengue and his experience soon led to a new workout dance craze of the 90’s – Rumbazise. Beto rebranded his Rumbacize classes to Zumba. This Latin dance inspired workout done in group is reportedly performed by more than 12 million people at 110,000 sites, in 125 countries around the world.

    Indoor Cycling/Spinning – Indoor cycling using a special stationary bicycle with a weighted flywheel (some mechanical device that affects the rotational energy…inertia… it is some engineering /technological thing that… oh please don’t ask me, I will not know what to say as I’ve read about it twice and still find myself hopelessly clueless.) Popularly known as “Spinning”, but the term is actually a trademark owned by Mad Dogg Athletics to identify their particular type of instruction and bike models.

    As the name suggests, the classes are performed indoors, with some great music, controlled lighting and the guidance of a trained instructor. It focuses on endurance and strength, very intense and fast-paced.

    If you have noticed, I wrote some gathered information for you; simply because I don’t do any of these. Spinning is too high impact for me, my husband said that with my heart condition, 2 minutes on the bike might kill me, thanks for the vote of confidence, sweetheart! Zumba and aerobics classes on the other hand seem really appealing. My problem though is that every time I attempt at joining one, it always appears like I’m the only one who would not know the steps. It is like everybody else must have been doing it. I haven’t killed the idea, though, one day, I will have enough courage to join and flip these classes with my moves!

    There is actually no excuse acceptable when it comes to doing something in the pursuit for health and fitness. The hurdle though is for you to start one. The moment you start a regime that you end up liking, you’ll soon realize you like what you’re doing and cannot stand a day without doing it.

     

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    January 26th, 2017

    Part 6

    Scaredy-frog in the Pool.

    THE water from the outdoor showers by the pool was cold that I had to put my arms around me as if I was hugging myself. I stared at the empty pool. It was a quarter past 7 in the morning. The lifeguard was still recovering the traffic cones and chains around the pool. They are used to indicate that the pool is closed (the lifeguard would be off) and one must stay off the pool and outside the chained area. He glanced at me and smiled. I took the chance and asked what time I could go down and swim. He said that the pool opens at half past 7 but I could go in any way and he won’t leave me alone.

    I walked around the pool to check for depth levels. Found the shallow part and got down. I waded to the middle part. When the water was up to my chest, I started swimming across and back the width of the pool. The lifeguard walked towards the edge where I stop to do bubbles. He asked why I wouldn’t swim the length according to the blue lines. I replied that the deep scares me. He said, “You can swim, don’t worry, I am here.” I thanked him and promised I would try next time.

    The succeeding two days, I still swam, sort of across the grain. Until two ladies started to swim as well; this means that I would be swimming crossing their paths with the high probability of bumping or knocking onto them. I knew I had to change my direction as I am the one who’s sort of doing it the wrong way. The lifeguard once again noticed my dilemma. He came towards me and said, “Madam, you swim to the deep, you can do it, I will watch you.” I am truly grateful for his support, but I don’t fancy the idea of almost drowning (if I’m lucky of actually not dying from it!) and being “rescued” in a club pool. Unfortunately, I had to agree with the lifeguard, albeit half-heartedly. I composed myself and braced for a swim the longer distance according to the swim lanes and onto the deep side. I made sure I was close to the edge and tried to feel the wall of the pool as I swam to ensure that I could hold on to something when called for. As I reached the deep side, I immediately clung on to the edge until I managed to catch my breath. Then I pushed myself to go back the opposite direction not forgetting to feel the wall of the pool in case of emergency.

    On my next lap, halfway as I put my head out to breathe, I could see the legs of the lifeguard far ahead and above, at the edge of the pool where I would have to stop to do bubbles (or rest if you must say it). As I expected, he was waiting for me. As I approached, he said, “Madam, don’t cling onto the edge, let go, pretend you are cycling and kick, you will go down but you will float back up.” He is truly kind. He was teaching me to tread, free of charge! I did as told, true to his words, I sank but moving my legs as if cycling made me go up! I was thrilled and the caring lifeguard saw it and was happy for me. He said, “Madam, you can walk in water!” I laughed and finished my laps.

    Next day the generous and kind-hearted lifeguard didn’t allow me to go down the pool from the shallow part. He said, “Madam, you go down here, don’t be afraid. I am here.” I didn’t want to say “no” to him and disappoint him when all he’s trying to do was help me. So I mustered all the courage I have and held on tightly to the ladder and onto the water. My knuckles would have been so white for the way I was holding on to the edge of the pool, but swim from the deep I did. Thanks to the lifeguard who wouldn’t give up on me.

    Now I swim more confidently. Although I use only one style, the breaststroke; I am the frog in the pool. I can do a bit of freestyle but realized that I run out of breath half-way. To make sure it is safe, I do MY freestyle from the deep end so that if I run out of breath, I would be in the shallow part.

    The lifeguard gave me a free lesson (again!) on doing back float frog style too! He said to balance it as I have been using my upper body, counter it with laps of back float to use my lower back to float and my legs to push. Now I am really more confident in the pool, sometimes a bit too much I suppose.

    Case in point, as I was swimming, a group of young boys arrived at the pool area. They had who I suppose was their swimming instructor with them. I don’t anymore allow the presence of other people in or around the pool to bother me (not my private pool, right?) So I just went on with my business of swimming like a frog. I do this almost every day, that I feel I am almost perfect with my breaststroke technique.

    Now, every time I pop my head out of the water for air, I would see or hear the instructor sort of refer to me either by pointing, using “she” (See how she does it?) or both pointing and referring to me, “Can you see how she kicks?” Look at the way she… so on and so forth. If that doesn’t motivate you, huh? I swam more energetically beaming with pride.

    After I finished my laps, I got out of the pool and settled myself on one of the pool lounges to let the water drip off before I enter the building where the shower/locker rooms are and noticed two of the boys from the group, the rest went somewhere else. They smiled and greeted me in Arabic. We chat for a while as one of the boys go to high school with my son.

    I was about to get up to leave and one of the boys sensed it I suppose so he rushed what he was about to tell me so as not to miss the chance. He said, “Ma’am, our swimming instructor was making an example of you to us…” (My chest heaved in some kind of rather expected satisfaction and delight) The boy who knows my son interjected “… Try putting your knees close to each other when you kick, ma’am…” (He was blushing uneasily but his eyes showed kindness and concern). The other boy added, a bit carelessly this time, “He said you seemed so determined but you’ve got all your techniques wrong. He said to watch you so we would remember what NOT to do when doing the breaststroke.” I was dumbfounded obviously and, yes, kind of embarrassed too. “Ohhh, it’s okay dear, I’m no athlete! Besides, I just swim to pass time, not really for doing the proper techniques (Oh yeah? So why do you watch swimmers on YouTube then?). Tell your teacher, I’ll try to improve (on my killing skills?)” I reached the shower rooms half- laughing and half wanting to give myself a knock on the head for thinking that I’m perfecting something just because I do it every day. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with that, though. Since you’re doing something regularly, try to do it properly and keep on marking and aiming for improvements.

    I may be scared of deep waters, I may not know how to swim properly, but as that swimming instructor said (he’s still alive, I didn’t murder him), I have the determination. I believe that when you’re doing something you really like but you’re not good at, try to learn it and perfect it! There are always better and more efficient ways of doing things, find them. Master them. It will feel good to be appreciated by others for doing things properly but the satisfaction in knowing you’re doing the right thing the right way will enshroud you with guided confidence.

    Nowadays, I have 1 Vietnamese and 2 Emirati triathletes for company in the pool every morning. They are training for the next competition. Company doesn’t bother me anymore; though, of course, I stay at “my own” lane (like an unwritten agreement, nobody takes the lane closest to the wall of the pool where the ladders are when I’m in the pool) so as not to get in their way too.

     

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    January 19th, 2017

    Part 5

    Madness in the Jacuzzi, Sauna and Steam Room

    SINCE my options for workout had dropped dramatically due to my many illnesses and conditions (I take it’s my female hormones and the lengthy stay in the planet that should be held accounted for). My apologies to all the well-trained and professional gym instructors out there who earn their bread and butter helping and training so many men and women who entrust their physical well-being and form to them; and for good reasons. I also ask for the forgiveness and understanding of those who put on their gym clothes, carry their gym bags and head to the gym regularly. I do not demean your drives and efforts, I am just stating the fact that the gym and I do not add up effectively.

    I am yet to find the fitness regime that would work for me. To be honest, I would rather be in a spa, pampered and relaxed at the soft trained hands of a massage therapist than spend any minute in a gym. But then, massages, facials, aquamedic pools, Turkish Hammam and other spa treatments could be good for me in many ways but not in my immediate need and attempt to lose body fat here and there (everywhere? Hmp!!!) to assist in the healing of my one and only body. I don’t believe in fast solutions like pills and other treatments that would involve huge amounts of cash and invasive techniques. I am old school and I believe in the conservative methods of attaining my fitness goals.

    My fixation on spa treatments moved me to prefer that section in a fitness club or center that houses one, two or all three: Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. They incidentally call it “The Spa” for some reason; some may even have a resident massage therapist on call, while most don’t. In a fitness club/center, it’s the closest I could get to my preferred well-being venue.

    Jacuzzi – It is actually a brand name that has become a generic term for whirlpool bathtubs and hot tub spas that this company manufactures.

    Wearing my one-piece swimsuit (the one appropriated for internal, only females around use), I test the temperature of the Jacuzzi in the club. Should be okay I thought. Before going into the tub, I check the controls and instructions. I don’t want a scene where I would be front page as the woman who drowned because her hair got caught in the Jacuzzi. Finally, I sit myself down allowing the bubbles to tickle me. I look left, right up, down. What’s that? Something’s floating; I take a closer look without touching. “Oh it’s just a piece of cotton…” I tell myself. Cotton? In a Jacuzzi? Uh-oh! I’m out of the Jacuzzi in no time! My weird deductive super suspicious reasoning kicks in. Woman in Jacuzzi, cotton floating. Woman… cotton… hygiene pads? Most unlikely? Disintegrating tampons… Eeeew! That could have come only from someone’s Tampons? Exit Jacuzzi. Never to enter again.

    Sauna – A small wooden room (more of a box to me) with seating area around it like benches attached to the walls, a stove or brazier with hot rocks, charcoal or fibers and a wooden bucket filled with water with ladle hanging on its side. Hot dry air is produced by ladling water from the bucket and dousing the heating element with it to produce more steam. People sit or lie down in a sauna to sweat profusely that is believed to flush toxins out, invigorate and promote health and a sense of well-being.

    They say there is nothing more Finnish than saunas. And in Finland, it is not a big thing to be in the nude when in the sauna. I am in the Middle East, so the one-piece swimsuit comes out from hiding again. Besides, I don’t think I would be very comfortable to show so much skin to anyone, stranger or no stranger. The fitness center’s sauna is empty; I will be on my own. I enter with much trepidation, I haven’t been in one before, and I stare at the tiny but cozy hot cubicle for a few seconds. I look around me without sitting; I just stood at the center of the sauna. It dawned on me; the only wooden box I know of and would not want to be in one as yet would be a coffin. The sizzling sound from the stove startled me. It seemed like a bigger and wider version of a wooden coffin. I don’t want to be in a coffin, not yet. I suddenly feel nauseated, goodbye sauna.

    Steam Room – the benefits of spending time in saunas and steam rooms are the same as they have the same methodology, to bring out sweat by means of hot steam. The steam room on the other hand is not a wooden box. It is a cubicle with moisture resistant polystyrene walls and benches, equipped with an apparatus that produces steam or moist air.

    The steam room is not entirely new to me. I’ve been to one many times in the past. I like the steam room and the feeling I get afterwards. A maximum of 10 to 20 minutes stay is advisable. I use the steam room at least twice a week.

    On my first visit to the club, I headed to the Ladies Lockers/showers wrapped myself with my towel and then headed for the steam room. As I opened the door, a burst of thick fragrant steam welcomed me. Ahhh, the sinuses open, it is so relieving, so rejuvenating. I stand in the center of the cubicle looking around me. Nope, I am not going to sit in those, I can imagine women seated there in the nude. I know hot steam/water kills bacteria and all. Nope, the thought nags. I just can’t. Even if I strip myself naked to sit on my towel, the towel will pick up whatever and I will take the germs or whatever microorganisms that would survive with me. So I stood in the center. Holding my towel tightly around me like someone’s trying to snatch it away. How can I stand in this hot yet invigorating room for 15 to a maximum of 20 minutes not doing anything?

    I am not a person who can be idle at all; I have to do something, anything. Now, let’s try to figure out how I could be more productive while inside. One can’t read a book here, pages would go wet, you can’t even see properly inside because of the steam. Perhaps, I could bring the ingredients for the next meal and start chopping them in the steam room? No? How about the steamed siopao, shuimai and other dumplings? Could I cook them in the same steam room? Still no? The activity inside the steam room must not leave garlic, onion or prawn smells and one that allows performance at minimum vision. Hmmm, I know! There is piped in music; stretching, possible! I am usually alone in the steam room, I could dance perhaps? So I tried. Remember the adage “Slippery when wet” (shhh, not entirely a green joke), I almost twisted my ankle, I held on to the bench for support and sat to catch my breath. I sat on it!

    Since I already touched and sat on the “juice” bench (hot steam kills bacteria…hot water kills germs… hot steam k…) Okay, now, think of something else; what can someone do while sitting in the steam room? Think think think.

    On my next visit to the steam room, I was a little bit more prepared. I applied a bit of olive oil (coconut is also good) on my hair (used for hot oil treatments, please don’t use too much that you might leave drips on the bench and floor of the steam room, dangerous for yourself and other users, don’t use too much of it and not the types that would leave the steam room with the oil smell. Be considerate.) I wrapped myself with a club issued towel (kept my own to use after my shower) grabbed my pumice stone from my bag and hid it under one flap of the towel and headed for the steam room. Nowadays, I sit in the steam room scrubbing my heels with my pumice stone. I am doing something for my fitness and achieved my goal to do something in the room! What do you know? I have the smoothest feet in Fujairah!

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    January 5th, 2017

    Part 4

    Hike for the Soul

    PRIOR to my spinal condition that prevented me from doing my daily walks, I have had these sudden outbursts of energy and urge to change my routine and head off to the foothills of Fujairah to hike. These mountains are sandy and rock-strewn at the bottom, rockier as you gain elevation.

    Obviously not the first one to venture these parts!

    They are almost bare of vegetation, except for a few thorny almost desiccated desert trees, prickly shrubs and pretty flowers I have never imagined to thrive in deserts like here.

    Desert melons believed to have been created by God for the sole consumption of desert animals like camels, donkeys, foxes, etc.

    My quest to regain health and fitness fueled the adventurous in me. I got scolded (when found out) by family and friends alike for venturing into the mountains unaccompanied with only my school kids informed by text where I have gone. Why them? Well, if something happens like I don’t return home for whatever reason, my kids could direct the search party to my starting point; if nothing happens and I get back in one piece, husband does not have to know, no worries, no spat on “what a silly thing it is to do, hike the mountains on your own!”

    I park my trusty Ford a couple thousand meters from the base.

    I took my backpack with my essentials: water bottle, granola bar, apple or orange, sunscreen, shawl or shayla (black cloth to cover women’s head) to protect my head and face from the harsh sun rays, my favorite cap to put over my shayla for added protection, shades, medications, paper, pen and phone.

    I did my walk first around the flat grounds if there are any, to complete and record my daily steps goal in my phone app. Once done, I change the setting to “Hike”. It tells me the distance, duration, highest elevation, so on. I enjoy hiking even on my own. There’s so much to discover and realize when you’re on your own and walking the less traveled paths.

    I chanced upon several fenced and protected archaeological sites deep in the mountains. I stood outside the green fence and stared at what would have remained of an old Arabic mud house. I could make out where the rooms would have been; the main entrance, the outside kitchen and so on, all but wonderful! I started seeing with my mind’s eyes how it would have looked like there before.

    During winter, one of my hikes led me to promontories whence I look down I could see a lake of rain water that got collected at the basin below. Never mind being green and murky, it was water! Water in mountain deserts! It is most dangerous in these areas this time of the year; flash floods in Fujairah mountains happen at this time, at its mightiest. The flash floods reach the city and take with it anything it could, including rock boulders.

    The living and the dead.

    Rain, when are you coming?

    On another hike, I passed a dam devoid of water; I walked a little higher and deeper into the mountain. I heard muffled whimpering. I slowly edged myself towards the tiny sounds, holding on to rocks to stable my climb. My steps sent a shower of tiny rubbles below. I got closer as the cries got louder from a shallow burrow under a rock among the shrubs a few meters in front of me. My presence would have stirred them too. One came out, then two…puppies! There should be more. Instinct told me not to approach any closer; they don’t look hurt anyway, perhaps just hungry. Would they eat fruits? Perhaps I should bring some milk and a portion from our dog’s food supply next time.

    I was to turn back when I felt the sting of hot stares on my nape. On the higher rocks around were dogs, massive dogs! About six of them, I didn’t really count; all staring at me, not snarling but not all too friendly as well. My movements away from the dogs were slow and careful; to this date, I don’t remember how I reached my car. I just remember panting heavily as if my chest would burst.

    I would have continued with my hiking every now and then if not for my back pain and the incident with the wild dogs. I still drive to the foothills, but I don’t stray far from the safety of my car anymore.

    A few realizations while hiking:

    • It is easier to walk on hard parched, packed even cracked sand than on fine or coarse but grainy sand (d-uhhh??? I didn’t know, okay? I just thought of how my shoes would get messed up one way or the other!)

    • Don’t put all your weight or trust on what you think is a strong stable rock; they’re sometimes loose underneath (same with people) and might take you with them when they come off and fall.

    • Most flora that grows in the desert and rock mountains are surrounded by sharp branches and/ or thorns that appear to be protecting the beautiful flowers from something.

    • Just because you don’t see them does it mean that the animals and insects are not there.

    • Man is amazingly ingenious when it comes to messing up the environment; Man can leave refuse anywhere, anytime.

    • When in the mountains, just like being in a boat out in the sea (I remember my cousin Arielito saying this), you get that feeling of subjection or helplessness that comes only with the awareness of a higher, more powerful and greater force – Nature.

    Hiking may be more risky than a gym workout and does not offer much in the areas of socializing or networking (unless of course, you meet other hikers which is not that common in these parts), you gain so much though in terms of introspection and the consciousness that you are a speck… a speck in this vast universe.

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    December 29th, 2016

    kleo desert quips

    Part 3

    Walkie, Walkie, Talkie, Talkie.

    SO what if a work out in the gym does not really suit me? There are other activities I could actually do to lose weight and/or become fit and stay healthy and do it with passion and perseverance.

    poster1

    As I was contemplating on my next fitness adventure, it struck me…I enjoy walking! When we were in Dubai during the 90’s, I used to brisk walk with my lovely sister-in-law, Anna. We’d meet after work and walk around the Garhoud area for at least an hour. We would be back home in time to send the kids off to bed.

    The starting point of our walk was always my place, the route was determined according to our moods and our many talks. I can say that we both enjoyed walking and talking that we sometimes forgot where we were. Dubai was booming at the time and there were massive construction everywhere. When we got too engrossed with our talks, we used to end up in these construction sites with only the way we came from to go out. Anna used to say, “Sister, I fear we might end up as fertilizer if we don’t walk faster out of this area!” Or something like, “Sister, when we get raped and murdered here, how long you think before they (referring to our families) find us?” Then we’d laugh our fears away and continue walking.

    Then my family shifted to the capital, Abu Dhabi. My brother and sister-in-law’s once or twice a month visit gave way to us continuing the brisk walks and engaging talks, albeit intermittently. We loved it so much that we used to walk to the Marina Mall and back. There was even a time, we asked the rest of the family to go home in the car and the two of us went on walking, and this was after shopping for at least 3-5 hours! We went a little farther one time, reaching the port area with massive oil tankers and ships. We were so lost, but we didn’t once lose a bit in our walking tempo except when we had to decide whether to jump into the water to go back to our house which we could see from a distance across the water from where we were standing or we could retrace our steps if we could, despite our sweat soaked jogging suits and sport shoes looking much like the “healthy buffs” that we were or not really. We arrived home safely at 3 AM to our relieved families who worried much about our whereabouts. I can’t help but smile when I think about my walks (and talks) with my sister-in-law.

    Now that I am without company to walk here in Fujairah, I have my routine and my 2 chosen routes that my family’s aware of. I walk for about an hour in the mornings after I drop my kids to school. I found out that walking in the mornings is better for me because if and when I plan doing it in the night when the kids are at home, they remain as plans. I never managed to get out for my fitness walks once I cross that limiting threshold of the house. My household chores beckon for my undivided attention.

    It’s a good thing that I happen to own a phone with a built-in app that tracks one’s fitness activities like walking, jogging, running, etc. It also keeps records pertaining to health related matters like blood pressure, diet, water consumption, weight records, etc. Thanks to my gadget googly-eyed son who was kind enough to inform me that such a thing exists in my phone. Patiently, the boy taught his rather aging, half-interested mother how to bring the said app into play which became extremely essential in the quest for fitness and health in these hot and arid climes.

    The app keeps tracks of the routes I go to and have been to, the steps I make and have taken; the number of hours, my speed, my fitness goals, targets achieved and the calories burnt. There’s even a female voice in the app that announces these info and even encourages me by saying, “2.5 km completed, .5 km more, you can do it!” But it’s not my sister-in-law! So the routinary walks are as such, they become so boring sometimes. I try to find things to think of while walking to encourage myself for the next day. I have an earphone stuck to an ear for music, the other hanging and jangling across my chest as I make my paces. This is to enable the other ear to hear if someone or something approaches from behind. Fujairah is mountainous, you see, I walk in paved but secluded areas. I don’t like the crowd along the more familiar walk paths in the Corniche area or the beach fronts. I had to try these paths though when I had to give up one of my regular circuits because a foot long thin snake crossed my path! I jumped and screamed but could not stop my legs from doing my steps. Then I found I could not go back to walk in the same area, just too horrified to do so. I have this strange feeling, the snake abandoned that area too in fear of experiencing my shrieks again when I almost stepped on it!

    As I said, I tried walking in the more crowded areas of the Corniche. Just once was enough. On the night that I did, I found a couple of ladies I know along the way, had to stop for what I thought were just “Hellos”. I was still catching my breath as I was in the midst of my timed walk. They went on and on talking and I ended up pausing my timer and to an invitation to a coffee morning… I don’t do coffee, nor do I like sitting pretending to like one thinking about things I should be doing somewhere else.

    The other place where I used to walk is the guest parking area of one of the shaikhs (Arab ruler/leader). It is the size of about 2 football fields with 4 helipads. It’s ideal for walking and quite safe too but I discontinued spending my walks there because it is too close to major thoroughfares and I couldn’t stand the thought of deeply inhaling carbon monoxide and other vehicular fumes whilst attempting ideal health for myself.

    Despite what seemed like me running out of places to walk for health and fitness, I was determined to go on walking with my phone app on and my music in my ear. A brand new treadmill was acquired and placed in one of the rooms of the house previously occupied by my eldest son who had gone off to college. More boring than walking out in the open I must say but serves the purpose. Well, that was until my orthopedic doctor dropped a bomb on me. “Lumbar Herniated Disc”, a common condition but needs immediate care that includes not putting pressure on my lower back brought about by common activities like walking. With my daily walks halted, I sit (at an angle) staring at the treadmill before me, now covered with delicate pieces of clothing I cannot put in the washer/dryer.

    Realization: It is really more fun and a lot safer to walk with company, better with a person you like or love a lot. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t do it solo; how about plan your day while walking, your tasks, your plans, even think of the past that sometimes bring you to smile or giggle. I like meditating as I walk; it’s exhilarating to commune with the Creator when surrounded by the amazing work of His hands.

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    FITNESS & HEALTH 101 Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

    December 22nd, 2016

    kleo desert quips

    Part 2

    The Gym, the Frog and the Chicken

    MY doctors advised, no, I think warned more than recommended, that I SHOULD do some REGULAR exercises to keep my blood pressure down and help my slowly deteriorating internal organs.

    I MUST, they say, lose a bit (fine! More than a bit) of my flabs and weight; my husband couldn’t agree more.

    The first thing that came to my husband’s  mind was get a gym membership to encourage my supposed attendance to the said facility. I don’t like wasting money, you see, his unproven notion of me going to the gym for the sake of getting HIS money’s worth was playing a fine tune in his head accompanied by my obvious reluctance to the whole idea. He also imagined that the contained space with exercise machines under the supervision of a licensed and qualified fitness instructor should be the safest decision for one such accident-prone, slapdash, haywire and high-strung person like me. We argued so much about it as I refused to be and be seen (by myself, mind you, with all the mirrors inside the workout area?) in a gym! Then the push came to shove; that is when he says, “It’s up to you… I will not say anything anymore…” in that calm “I don’t care anymore” tone only my husband, as far as I know could ever deliver in that special manner of his. “Yield” I decided, for my aching bones and muscles remind constantly of the need to stretch, bend, walk, run…whatever. I relented, but not to an annual membership, nor 6 or 3 months. I agreed to a month’s trial (scared that the amount to be paid was still too much to throw away if and when I end up going only once or twice and never show up in that revolting place again!

    Gyms to me are like fish tanks. Why? You could see everyone inside, right? All the meat and all the facial expressions! I am glad that the ladies’ fitness centers here in Fujairah are like the spas and salons catering to women only, they are usually tinted heavily (like the vehicles driven mostly by women) and/or thick stickers cover the doors and glass windows, as a rule here in the Middle East, to keep the women inside from being seen by strangers (or stranger men even) from outside. Covered or not, gyms are gyms! I abhor the sight of gyms to the point whenever I see one, I exclaim, “The Gym” (in the same manner and tone the little green alien men in the toy machine that Buzz Lightyear went into said to him, “The Claw…” – Toy Story).

    But my abhorrence is neither of the place nor the people inside really. Perhaps it reflects what I don’t have. And those would be patience and confidence for me to do anything about my own body that I have mistreated and neglected for so many years and I believe would take the rest of my lifetime to repair anyway if there is even a way. Right? So why bother?!! Ahahaha! That’s what I told my husband and doctors. Sad you couldn’t see the look on their faces!

    And so, I concede and I was given my membership form to fill up, the white thin cardboard ID for short term membership came out quickly bearing what seems to be my miniature flat face captured by the camera a few minutes before and the tiny scroll of my signature. A nice colored plastic ID for those with long term memberships, the receptionist explained when I glanced at all the other ID’s hanging from hooks in a receptacle behind her replacing locker keys issued to members who were currently inside the gym. “You’ll soon get your one after your 1 month membership”, hmmm quick girl but not too amusing, I mused.

    The fitness center my delightful husband enrolled me into is a unisex one. There is a Ladies Only Section should I prefer that. But my instructor happens to be a dude 6 feet tall with arms the size of my thighs, so I had to use the common area for males and females. He towers over me and reeks of that particular gym smell that for some reason, I get only from men. “Frog” as I would call him in my head for that’s what he reminds me of; started going over the program with me. He was either too fast or I was too dazed with the tang my olfactory nerves were sending to my brain that I could not comprehend half of what the man was saying.

    Frog has that habit of asking, “You understand?” after almost every sentence, in a tone that is more of mockery than a query common here in the Middle East. Mostly unintended, even shopkeepers say, “you understand?” after replying to your question about a product like as if you should have known beforehand; very annoying, I tell you. You understand? Hehehe. In this instance though, he was within reason to ask because I would have looked like a real moron as he pointed on the training program card then onto a part of the gym then onto a machine; talking and gesturing and pointing. The words were swimming in my head and the frantic aromas rushing to my nose in one convoluted confirmation that I was in a place I didn’t want to be.

    Frog led me to a machine and declared that I should start with that machine for at least 1 week before going to the next ones. I looked at the contraption before me, “What in the world is this monster and what does it do?” I queried more worried than when I came in (The movie “Final Destination” kept on creeping in my mind).

    After much explaining, Frog decided that I should start working out and stated that he would just be around should I require his help, he then turned around and walked off. I stood in the middle of the gym like a headless chicken; feeling like everything was going to fall on me, trap me, and worse, eat me alive. Why does it look easy for others then? In fairness to Frog, he was ultimately watching me from afar; I was just staring at each and everything, doing nothing. He came back and started off again showing me how one machine works and what I had to do. He sort of tried to show me how to do it but backed off when I bolted away from him, goose bumps all over me after feeling the cold clammy skin of his arm (that could only come from dried perspiration and then sweating again, I assume). He told me to try it on my own then without coming too close for comfort. I gave him the look of appreciation then asked politely to be excused. I walked off, quickly got my small gym bag from my big gym bag. My small gym bag contains my medium sized bottle of alcohol disinfectant, my pack of antiseptic wet wipes and my hand towel. I came back quite contented announcing I was ready to commence my work out… but not before I started wiping everything any part of my body would touch on the machine with my sterilizing solutions and wipes!

    I appeared at the gym every other morning to Frog’s dismay, I think. The amount of gym issued towels I used for 1 month would beat those on annual membership, I heard one member saying to a gym staff. One boy overheard them talking and added half laughing, “You know where she is with the amount of towels hanging on the machine she’s using, like laundry on line!” Well I had to use one for wiping the machine, one to cover the space on the machine I would sit on and one to… To this I replied, “You would know which machines I used as well, dear, they are the ones that are not sticky with sweat, ones with less germs and probably the ones smelling better too compared to the one you’re on, right now!”

    The gym would have probably refused my membership renewal if I tried to, I didn’t. I did what I was asked to and it didn’t work out as planned. My husband and my doctors came to a realization that the gym is not the place for me to do my work out or any physical activity for that matter, thanks for that!

    I saw Frog last week in the grocery shop, he said “Hello”, there was warmth and friendliness in his tone but one that could only be construed as “Nice to see you out here, please don’t come to the gym ever again!”

    Fact: I wasn’t totally wrong using towels on gym equipment. They are issued to people when they are on shared exercise machines, furthermore, please wipe machines after use, no one wants to sit on a pool of sweat, specially not their own!

    Next episode for next week

    FITNESS & HEALTH 101

    Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

    Part 3 – Walkie, Walkie, Talkie, Talkie.

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    FITNESS & HEALTH 101 Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

    November 11th, 2016

    kleo desert quips

    PART 1

    Why oh why?!!

    ONE may believe that here in the Middle East, it is very easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle.

    Despite government, community, and private sectors’ efforts to promote fitness, individuals still get infected by this “sitting disease.” Why not? Most parts of the region are populated largely by working expats or locals who are business owners; they have the right to the excuse of not having time and/or being too exhausted to bother about their own fitness and health after their long working hours.

    The list of things to do in one’s free time is too long; sweating on a treadmill is way down that list if ever included at all. The expat and local family members who might have the time though would rather enjoy the many “more entertaining” activities these gulf countries offer: shopping, playing computer/TV games, busying themselves with their expensive gadgets and eating; yes eating and talking while sipping tea or coffee with fruits, nuts and sweets on the side for extended hours on those luxurious and very comfortable cushions on thickly carpeted floors in a majlis (sitting area in Arabic houses; translates literally to “A place of sitting”). These are far more appealing than working out with strangers in a gym.

    Eating should top the list whether it is at home, in restaurants, parks or in cars. Well, one does not have to be Einstein to say that eating (delightful congenial eating!) and as most men I know would say, “just farting around” with not much of physical activity leads to, well, a life of just that, desk bound and inactive; not very fit nor very healthy.

    There are those, of course, on the other side of the story (some of them, extremely on the other side), people who take the time and effort to take care of their health and fitness or go to facilities for the same, for varied reasons and sometimes encourage those around them to do the same.

    Going to the gym or fitness center means many things for many people.

    You might find Saud on a bench press because he is a body building enthusiast; Gerrard pumps it out in the gym because he has been doing it a third of his life and likes the muscleman he sees in the mirror. Have you seen Muneeb’s Instagram? Eternally in the gym doing selfies while working out! Teresa keeps her lean and toned physique and wants it for good.

    Osama has been dragged by his friends to get a membership in the club and that is where they converge, working out, chilling, figuring out where they would go for the next adventure. Andrea thought she’d lose inches of the belly fat if she replaced trips to her church by religiously going to the Ladies’ Fitness Center; close to her office which is also next to a row of fast-food outlets that she frequently finds herself in to reward herself after the long tiring hours of aerobics with her friends Victoria and Raine.

    Roshan, Marlon and Arnel show up in the gym most of the time in their mostly astonishing colorful sports garbs because they think that’s where they could scam for their next date. Janet has been trying to gain weight and doctors suggested that she sees a physical trainer too for a fitness plan in gaining weight; Janet is still at it in the gym but not for the same reason anymore, the gym instructor is a very very very (3 very’s quoted from Janet) good, charming, and gorgeous motivator! She actually gained weight but mostly in the middle, expected to come out after 9 months.

    Alex is a hotel’s basketball coach (aside from being a restaurant Assistant Manager), hence, the endeavor to show his team how to keep in form, to the gym he goes with them. Lourdes, Anita and Aileen love their workout sessions followed by sauna; their girl time-out chatting and taking some time away from the demanding tasks waiting for them at home, there’s a bit of gossip injected there too. Sepalee’s way of keeping fit after work is attending yoga with her yuppie glam young adult children. She demands it from them to give them some time away from work and as quality family time together.

    Angelica, Malka, Tamirin, Mohammed, Aziz, Gabriel and Jojo go to the gym individually and sometimes in group because the company they work for has provided its employees with fitness center memberships as it is believed that healthy and fit employees make for a more productive workforce; the opportunity is there so they avail of it. There are those who won’t fail their swimming or gym appointments for medical reasons. People like yours truly, fall in this category.

    “If you do not exercise, Maria, your liver will retain the fatty deposits and will in due time fail to do its job… your heart will not pump properly… your blood pressure will always be high and…” Exercise! Exercise!

    Now that we have established that there may be different underlying reasons why people DO and DON’T go the extra mile to keep fit and/or healthy, I invite you to please read on as I embark on my newest journey. THE ROAD TO FITNESS or whatever that may be as I truly don’t understand much of it but am sort of more forced than motivated in what seems to be my daily routine now.

    Maybe you will find the story of this newbie similar to yours, possibly familiar, or perhaps it could prepare you, should you be planning to start your own fitness program. Rest assured, you are not alone. Some will tackle going to the gym or fitness center/club confidently and will be well guided. Some will unfortunately… and unbelievably, be such dolts about the whole thing, uhhrm, like me. Don’t despair! Things improve, your willingness to work out for fitness and health included.

    Next…

    Part 2

    The Gym, the Frog and the Chicken

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    Mga recuerdo ni Kleo

    October 12th, 2016

    kleo desert quips

    Mga recuerdo ni Kleo mula sa United Arab Emirates

     

    kleo-1

    kleo2

    kleo3

     

     

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    Eva Contravida — FB Friend or Foe?

    October 4th, 2016

    kleo desert quipsINTRODUCING, Eva Contravida (emphasis on the first name, please, she would say, “It’s Eeeeva! Eva with the long ‘e’, Eeeeevahhh!”). Truth is, her family name’s something else but she had been known to many as Eva Contravida that nobody’s bothered about her real surname. The sobriquet became apt as the word “contravida” is a Spanish word adapted in many other languages and dialects as “the antagonist” or villain/villainess; Literal translation of the compound word, contra – against, and vida, feminine noun for “Life”. Therefore, one who is literally against life and as in any story, life would revolve in the main characters. The contravida would be that one person who makes the leading character’s life one of misery. We all know that, yes.

    Who is Eva Contravida, though, you might ask. She is in my Facebook Friends List. Not necessarily a “Friend” in the truest sense, at least for me. I do have a lot of FB friends; MOST of my sincerely beloved friends are there, some are acquaintances, others are, well, just like Eva Contravida. She sent me a friend request which I politely accepted because she is known to many people important to me. She is still in my list because when I am down or bored, Eva amuses me with her replies to so many posts or shares on FB. She would rarely post on her own but boy oh boy! Is she brutal with her comments!

    I have compiled few of her comments and replies, usually for similar posts on different instances:

    Lunch today! Yummy!

    food
    Like Comment Share

    Eva Contravida …and why are you telling us?

    Eva Contravida What you have on your plate is better than what we have on ours?

    Eva Contravida If you aren’t inviting us, what’s the point of this post then?

    Eva Contravida Have you ever thought of the ones who could be looking at this picture and swallowing their saliva because perhaps they are not in the position for whatever reason to have their own meals right now?

    Eva Contravida Wow! That really looks delicious! I’m sure you didn’t cook that!

    Eva Contravida You call that yummy? Have you seen real food, man?

    Eva Contravida You aren’t eating that! Seriously!

    Eva Contravida Next door neighbor’s been generous huh?

    Eva Contravida You could perhaps take a picture at a better angle, and then it might actually look good enough to eat…

    Eva Contravida Let’s see 231 kcal on the fries, could be 444kcal on tartar sauce, 125 kcal on peas, between 6oo to 750 kcal on the chicken… Do you really think Mt, Kilimanjaro in between your chest and torso needs a boost?

    Eva Contravida Gurl! You eat this much? Why do you still look like an ironing board with a hanger for shoulders walking on the road?

    Eva Contravida You are one to rely on for food porno!

    On check-in’s , where people post where they are at the moment. FB users broadcast where they are, usually establishments like hotels, resorts, restaurants, airports etc. because they are either happy, excited or want to let people know their location for reasons of time and guidance. Some on the other hand use this to announce that they can actually afford to be in such places. Eva hates it.

    • Cottage Hill Resort Hotel & Spa, Brookslane…5* Resort Hotel & Spa

      Donna T. Bragg was with Keif Aunitting and 5 other people at Cottage Hill Hotel Resort & Spa, Feb. 21, 2016

    Eva Contravida Have a great time! In the mean time, we’re organizing a potluck party, venue? Your house! Hahaha!

    Eva Contravida Let all the robbers and thieves know! Why not?

    Eva Contravida And what is a nice little girl like you doing in a grand place like that? Hmm???

    Eva Contravida Anyone I know, any good at picking locks?

    Eva Contravida Expensive! Posh! You! Mismatch!

    Eva Contravida Ohhhh! I AM SO JEALOUS! Happy now?

    Eva Contravida Who’s footing the bill this time?

    Eva Contravida Nice place! Where next? Home I hope. Where real people with real feelings are waiting for you all the time….Waiting! Waiting… Waiting…

    REPENT

    All you sinners,

    For the night has come

    Bringing with it

    Darkest hours!

    Type Amen to be saved

    Share to receive good luck tomorrow.

    Ignore and you will have bad luck for 3 years.

    On prayers, typing “Amen”, blessings if you share, damnation if you don’t quotes and other religious posts.

    Eva Contravida There are chapels, churches and other places for prayers and worship, why on FB, honey?

    Eva Contravida Really now!

    Eva Contravida I mean, yeah, good that you pray. But… but…but…

    Eva Contravida 7 years of bad luck huh? You’ve been on my Friends list for 4 years, 3 to go!

    Eva Contravida Can I choose my own type of blessing, then?

    Eva Contravida I AM DOOMED!

    Eva Contravida Chain letters the millennial way?

    Eva Contravida Ever heard of omnipotence, omnipresent being? How about “prayer”? Nahh?

    Eva Contravida Tsk…tsk…tsk… This is what I call FAITH… on FB.

    Eva Contravida Your supreme being heard you, so did we?

    Eva Contravida Undergoing some financial problems huh?

    Eva Contravida We REALLY need to KNOW your earnest hopes and wishes! Really!

    On selfies… hundreds of them. In all sort of positions, locations and situations.

    Eva Contravida Hahahahahahaha!

    Eva Contravida Do you own a mirror? Buy one!

    Eva Contravida Whoa! Your face as soon as I logged in on FB! Please be careful! My heart!

    Eva Contravida Dear, what made you take a picture of yourself like that?

    Eva Contravida This is worth my time? Or yours?

    Eva Contravida You da face! Or the feces… the piss?

    Eva Contravida Drink coffee sweetie and wake up to reality.

    Eva Contravida This is one of the reasons I want to kill the person who invented phone cameras.

    Eva Contravida What in tarnation?!!

    Eva Contravida Can anyone, dogs, cats, anyone?! Lick this one into “fit to be seen” state please?!

    Eva Contravida You call that a “duck face”? More like DUCK FEET!

    Eva Contravida But ducks are cute!

    Eva Contravida There’s a very big difference between that and a duck face, promise!

    Eva Contravida Why oh why do you do this to yourself?

    Eva Contravida If I see any more of these selfies of yours, I might actually become a criminal one day!

    Eva Contravida You have a pretty face, sweetheart, don’t you think you have flaunted it well enough beyond satiation?

    Eva Contravida Ladies and gentlemen! Our next contestant for “So you think you are goog-looking!”

    Eva Contravida The caption! Brad Pitt look-a-like? 😀 How about Pit bull? Nah! Pit bulls still look better.

    Eva Contravida Anyone who told you to post selfies like this one definitely loves you (blindly). 😛

    Eva Contravida Hungry for love or attention? Ahh, we know the answer to that!

    Eva Contravida Dear, I don’t want to be too mean, but yours is not the body to pose like that.

    Eva Contravida “ Beauty lies in the beholder”… unwilling, victimized, haunted beholders are we!

    Eva Contravida Ohhh, that’s your nose! Apologies.

    More of Eva’s random replies and comments.

    Eva Contravida You are always the pitiful underdog, lighten up man!

    Eva Contravida I wonder you’re still employed…

    Eva Contravida Please let us know when you next burp too!

    Eva Contravida Is this honestly post-worthy?

    Eva Contravida Enough with the drama people!

    Eva Contravida Pic caption; cute puppy, pic focal point; designer bag… discreet and smooth. Yeah!

    Eva Contravida Okay! We get it!

    Eva Contravida Funny to you!

    Eva Contravida It’s on FB! You posted it! So stop acting so innocent and helpless!

    Eva Contravida Your child is the cutest and smartest, yes, can’t you wait for us to say that?

    Eva Contravida You “LIKE” your own post? Of course, you do! You posted it! D-uhhh!

    Eva Contravida HBD? HBD? 365 days I waited for it, and you greet me in 3 letters? HBD? How about HBD2U??? That could be difficult, yeah?

    Eva Contravida You and your gym selfies, enough already.

    Eva Contravida Oh just be happy for the guy dude!

    Eva Contravida Don’t you guys live in one house?

    Eva Contravida “I, me and myself” yeah gurl, yah caption so apt!

    That is Eva Contravida, folks. Not many of us like her ruthlessness and/or coldness in dishing out her mostly unsolicited opinions. Or are they?

    When you post or share in social media and its various forms, what do you have in mind? People post and share pictures, statuses, quotes, birthday/holiday greetings, whereabouts, food, pets, plants and whatever they may feel like to because they want it on their walls. Why people post or share is of a different matter as they vary from one person to another.

    Eva Contravida on the other hand is created by ALL OF US who share and post on social media. We would have encountered Eva Contravida, one way or the other in our posts/shares or those that we have reacted to. In the same manner we meet the Licky LIKEes (friends who would LIKE your posts to ensure you do the same to theirs) and there are the Lovey Doveys (friends who would LIKE your posts, even before or not reading your posts at all, simply because they like or love you).

    There’s a domino principle attached when one clicks that post/share button; an acknowledgement of that desire in us to communicate to others, thereby, knowing or unknowingly agreeing (a hankering to some) for people to REACT or RESPOND. These reactions either with emoticons and/or comments may or may not compel others to do the same to the point where quarrels arise, enemies are made; a smile, even laughter is evoked in writing (“Hahaha” or 😀 ) coinciding with the reader or the writer’s emotion at the time. This is also a time where a “NO-REACTION” is a reaction! When one does not react to a post intended particularly to him/her, it may be seen as “I am ignoring you”, “you are of no consequence to me”, “So?” so on… rarely accepted as “Not yet read by tagged person”. To a lot of social media users, “No-Reaction” means indifference; don’t be surprised if you get suddenly ‘unfriended’ on the basis of no-reaction to posts and shares.

    When we post or share on social media, admit it or not, there is that want for reaction. Perhaps not according to the number of LIKES to some (Very few, we may suppose), but for some reaction, one way or the other; could be a response on the same vehicle or when you meet each other personally. Eva Contravida, again, like it or not, mirrors what most of us think of other peoples posts. She unleashes the emotions most of us out of politeness would rather keep mum about. Every time we go on our FB accounts, we will always see things we LIKE and a lot we’d rather not know about. Social media is a world of reactions and counter-reactions.

    One may say referring to one’s FB wall, “My wall, and my way”. There’s a limit to this motto though. For we may be in control of what we write, post and share on our walls; the reactions to them though is limited to us allowing them on the comments or deleting them BUT only AFTER we have read these responses. It may be assumed then that somebody would have already read them prior to us doing so.

    They say be careful and be responsible when posting on social media, for you do not know who would be reading, who could be getting affected and who may react; for there is an Eva Contravida lurking around us… in us. Don’t be discouraged, threatened, angered and/or taken over by Eva. Instead, look at her point of view sometimes that we may balance the contents of our posts. For all concerned, make it safe, make it legal; make it funny if you must, but make it careful. If it’s safe even for a child to read it, by all means, go ahead and click that POST button. Enjoy the drive and the scenery that goes with it.

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    Si Dikong na Bully

    August 21st, 2016

    kleo desert quipsBATA pa kami ay talagang may pagka-bully na itong aming Dikong. Lagi siyang nakikipagsagutan sa aming Kuyang kapag napagsasabihan. Masipag, matapang at madiskarte ang Dikong, magaling siya sa pagkakarpintero kung kaya naman ang mga bagay na kailangan kumpunihin sa aming bahay ay di na itinatawag pa ng aming mga magulang ng mga arawang kontraktor na gagawa; si Dikong ang aming “handy-man”.

    Dahil marami siyang sirang nagagawaan ng paraan, dahil maraming bagay sa bahay ang kaya niyang muling paandarin at paganahin at dahil matalinong magsasagot ang Dikong, pinalalampas na lamang ng Mamang at Papang ang kanyang pagiging palasagot at ang kadalasang pagiging mataas na may langkin. Wala rin daw namang mangyayari dahil kahit ano sabihin nila ang Dikong pa rin ang magwawagi; kadalasang huling salita niya ay, “O e ano ngayon? Ganito ako, wala na kayong magagawa, take it or leave it!”

    Hinayaan na lamang nila ang Dikong sa kanyang mga gawi, wari bang sinawaan na rin silang piliting ituwid ang mga kabuktutan nito dahil sa kabila nito malambing naman ang Dikong sa kanila, maawain sa inaapi ng “iba” at sobrang mapagmahal sa mga kaibigan at kinagagaangan niya ng loob.

    Maraming kaibigan ang Dikong, nilalahat ko na sila sa pagsasabing tapat sila sa Dikong dahil takot sila sa kanya. Karamihan sa kanila ay may utang na loob sa kanya, marami naman din ang umaasang maaambunan ng pabor niya sa oras ng kagipitan.

    Di lamang kasi bukas palad ang Dikong sa laman ng kanyang munting bulsa, kundi pati sa kanyang angking munting karunungan pero higit sa lahat sa kanyang taglay na lakas at tapang lalo na sa larangan ng pakikipagtalastasan at pakikipagsuntukan! Mayroon kang tagapagtanggol kay Dikong kung ikaw ay kaibigan niya… kung ikaw ay gusto niya… kung ikaw ay tagasunod niya. Huwag kang magkakamaling kalabanin si Dikong sa salita o gawa dahil lagot ka!

    Naaalala ko ang Dikong nung nag-aaral pa. Papasok lamang kung gusto niya. Kapag nasa loob naman ng silid-aralan, kaawa-awa ang kanyang mga guro dahil sa walang habas niyang pagkuwestiyon ng mga aralin at laman ng mga aklat.

    Minsan ay may punto naman talaga siya. Ngunit napagalaman ng aming mga magulang na madalas kaysa hindi ang dahilan ng debate laban sa kanyang mga guro ay dahil nabuburyong siya o kaya naman ay umiiwas sa mga pagsusulit; kaya ang mga kaklase niya ay bilib sa kanya. Aba’y kung di ka nakapag-aral sa araw ng pagsusulit, magkakaroon ka ng pagkakataon na mag-aral pa dahil kayang ubusin ng Dikong ko ang oras na laan para sa mga aralin sa pakikipagtalo sa guro.

    Kahit anong istrikta ng guro ay di ubra kay Dikong. Wala siyang sinasanto! Kaya para sa mga guro, di kawalan ang um-absent ang Dikong, pakiramdam namin, nagpapasalamat pa sila. Ayaw din nilang ibagsak ang Dikong dahil mataas din naman ang nakukuha niyang grado!

    Sabi ng Kuyang, marahil daw ay dahil takot ang mga matatalino niyang kaklase na di siya pakopyahin. Bugbog sarado sa Dikong ang aabutin nila! At kung may takot magpakopya, may takot rin na di gawin ang projects at takdang-aralin niya! Lalong ayaw ng kanyang mga guro ang siya ay ibagsak sa klase dahil baka maging repeater siya at mabalik lang muli sa klase nila! Kalbaryo na naman ang buong Academic Year nila!

    Marami rin naging nobya ang Dikong. Ngunit nakakalungkot na ganun din ang dahilan nila sa pakikipag-relasyon sa kanya. May halong takot, pagbabalik ng utang na loob (yung iba nga pinilit pa ng mga tatay o kuya nila bilang pasasalamat sa pagtatanggol ng Dikong sa kanila), yung iba pa ay dahil sa pagnanais na maging bahagi ng kanyang sikat, maimpluensiya at maangas na mundo.

    Maliban sa isang babae. Si Lani De Los Reyes. Maganda, mayumi, matalino at higit sa lahat, ang matapang si Lani. Humaling na humaling sa kanya ang Dikong. Pero may nobyo na si Lani. Sabi nga niya, hindi naman daw sigurong mahirap mahalin ang Dikong, ngunit ang subukan o gawin ito ay magiging isang malaking hamon sa prinsipyo at etika ng isang tao.

    Sinubukan pa rin ligawan ng Dikong si Lani; sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay nakatanggap ng nakakatulig na “Hindi” ang Dikong. Basted at nasugatan ang pride pati ang prinsipyo ay kauna-unahang pagkakataon din na nanahimik ang Dikong sa pagtanggap ng pagtanggi. Tinanggap niya ngunit di niya kinalimutan.

    Mula noon kaawa-awa ang sinasapit ng mga nagiging nobya ng Dikong. Pinahihirapan niya ang kalooban ng mga ito. Nilalait, tinatakot at di pinapayagang kumalas sa kanya hanggat di ang Dikong ang nagsasabi na “Tapos na tayo”. Parang nabunutan ng tinik sa dibdib ang mga pobresitang ginamit at inalipusta lamang ng Dikong. Para bang nawalan na nang halaga sa kanya ang mga babae. Minsan naisip ko, babae rin si Mamang, nakalimutan na kaya ito ng Dikong?

    Kamakailan, nabalitaan namin ang karumal-dumal na sinapit ni Lani. Natagpuan siyang tulala sa ibabaw ng tulay. Gutay-gutay ang kasuotan nito. Ayon sa imbestigasyon. Hinalay siya ng di lamang iisang lalaki. Maraming sugat na tinamo si Lani.

    Sabi nila, sa ibang lugar siya ginahasa, may nagdala at nagbagsak lamang sa kanya sa ibabaw ng tulay kung saan siya ay para bang exhibit sa museo na makikita ng bawat dadaan.

    Hindi ko naman masyadong kilala talaga si Lani, maliban sa mga naikwento na dahil nga sa panliligaw sa kanya ng Dikong ko. Mabuti o matino ba siyang babae? Di ko alam. Noon ngang binasted niya ang Dikong, nakaramdam pa ako ng inis kay Lani. Wari ko ba’y gusto lamang niyang maitala bilang ang matapang na babaeng kumontra at humindi sa aking Dikong!

    Pero grabe ang habag na naramdaman ko sa kanya dahil sa kanyang sinapit. Dahil kahit anong klaseng babae o tao ka, walang sino man ang may karapatan na lapastanganin ang iyong pagiging tao!

    Pasalamat daw at binuhay pa ito ayon sa mga pulis. Pasalamat at binuhay pa? Ganun? Ano na bang klaseng lipunan mayroon na tayo ang tanong ko sa aking sarili para magpasalamat pa at binuhay ang isang tao pagkatapos yurakan mismo ang pagkatao nito?

    May mga nagsabing, ang Dikong ang nag-utos na gawin ito kay Lani bilang paghihiganti sa pagtanggi sa inaalok na pag-ibig noon . Wala silang makitang pruweba, pwede rin na takot lang ang mga pulis dahil graduate na ang Dikong sa pambu-bully sa silid-aralan. Big Time Bully na siya. Kaya na niya kahit sino.

    Wala kaming magawa o pinpiili na lamang naming manahimik dahil gulo lamang sa aming buhay ang inaanyaya ng pagtuligsa sa kanyang mga gawi. Mahal namin ang aming Dikong; masasabi ng ilan na mali ang pagmamahal naming ito sa kanya. Di namin kayang saklawan ang pag-iisip at mga gawain niya. Nagbubulag-bulagan kami dahil kami ang tahanan niya. Bingi kami sa mga hinaing ng mga katulad ni Lani at marami pang maaaring maging katulad niya dahil kami ang pumayag na maging bully ang Dikong.

    Ako nga pala ang bunso sa amin… sana maging kasing tapang din ako ng Dikong. Dahil pag laki ko, marahil kaya ko nang ipaala-ala kay Dikong na malaki na ang nagawa ng takot ng marami sa kanya; mabubuti at di masyadong mabuti. Na-prove na rin niya na matapang at di siya kayang takutin nino man.

    Dasal ko ngayon na sana lang ay manumbalik na ang aming Dikong na masipag, madiskarte at matapang. Ang aming Dikong na tagapag-ayos ng tahanan.

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    Only in the United Arab Emirates, perhaps.

    June 6th, 2016

    kleo desert quipsI LOVE driving. I do a lot of it. Every day.

    On these drives, I notice things and  wonder about a lot and contemplate on others. Some things make me laugh and in rare instances when I get upset and angry, sad. There is always something to wonder about when I go wandering in my trusty Ford.

    I love the roads of the United Arab Emirates; they are, perhaps, some of the best maintained and some of the widest roads in the world. It has been reported last month that the 12 lanes of Emirates Road, a.k.a. the Dubai Bypass Road will be expanded to a total of 14 lanes soon. Fact is, even with the present 12 lanes, it is chock a block there during rush hour and evenings when lorries are allowed to transport goods from different parts of the emirates and from neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Oman.

    To me, it is amusing to see that during these jams, vehicles mostly driven by locals going to the Eastern Region start moving out of the highway and like ants make their way onto paths carved by 4WD tyres on the desert sands. It is a beautiful sight how the lights gleam in the dark, moving as the sand disturbed by wheels rise, screening the cause of the ascent. It is not only the roads, though, but things I see on the road that inspire musings even to my tepid mind. Drivers on these roads? Uhhrm… “inspire” is not a word, I’m afraid I can bring into play right now to describe the same. Some other time, most probably.

    Let me introduce to you the Arab world (or a tiny piece of it) as I see it, most of them while behind the wheel; The observations I am going to share could be endemic to UAE or most probably to this Asian section called the Middle East. Some had been noted before, others, well…

    I KNOW I AM IN THE MIDDLE EAST, UAE SPECIFICALLY, WHEN…

    … I look out of the window from an aircraft that is landing in a few minutes and I see dark lines on the desert below going on as if endlessly, like serpents looking for prey.

    These are fence boundaries separating the desert from the roads. They are supposed to (at least) control the shift of sand during wind and/or sand storms from covering tar roads and other infrastructure. They also protect desert animals like camels from wandering on to the roads that could endanger both man and beast alike.

    … I pass by air-conditioned bus stops.

    In 2008, Dubai became the first city in the world to have these “shelters” or bus stops that had been installed with air-conditioning units. There are around 400 bus stops, at the time; only 150 were air-conditioned due to connectivity. The solar power system had been looked into to solve this issue to make sure that all bus stops will not turn out like furnaces during summer months. Other emirates are also enjoying similar facilities, why, I just saw one in Fujairah this week and got all excited about it!

    … I never stop getting amazed at the sight of luxury cars parked on the road side (like they don’t cost much to have!)

    The locals whether in the UAE, Bahrain, KSA and the rest in Middle East generally veer towards the most luxurious; why not? The standard of living is high. In other words, they could very well afford these extremely expensive cars. Do they love cars in this part of the world? Heck, yes! Even if they love their really handsome cars though, they don’t seem to mind parking them in front of their houses just on the road, not the garages. Here in Fujairah, I drool looking at that pink Lamborghini parked on the road all the time as if it does not deserve a special parking space! Some sort of exhibitionism one might say. Then what? I am the voyeur?

    … I am behind 2 cars moving at snail pace because the car occupants are chatting (most probably about football results that they both watched anyway…together!)

    If you happen to be on the road and realize that you have slowed down without really planning to, (Congratulations! More so if you’re on a 2 lane road and you can’t overtake), then you realize that the cars in front of you are moving at 20 kph because they have something rather ‘urgent’ to talk about (like “you should try the biryani in this so and so restaurant), or the drivers are friends who haven’t seen each other for some time; their shutters down and the drivers, passengers included too, could be heard happily greeting each other, telling each other jokes, even some news they couldn’t wait to tell each other.

    Makes you wonder what they use their iPhones, Samsungs and other costly gadgets for. Sometimes though, it is just two youngsters talking from separate vehicles, at a speed enough for them to either exchange numbers or the male begging for the female to give him her number. When situations get too desperate because the prospect would not share her number, one would see a tiny piece of paper that Ahmed or Abdulla would painstakingly try to reach out and hand over to the lady in the other car. The giggling girls would open the small note bearing the boy’s number/s, who knows maybe one of the girls might actually call him! Good luck to that.

    Nothing to worry about though, they usually move to the side of the road when they notice you’re behind them. Look back and you’ll see them alighting from their vehicles to continue with their conversation (except in the case of the boy wanting that phone number). Again, makes you wonder why they didn’t do that in the first place. I’m sure if you stalk behind some of these cars, you might just find out they are actually neighbors who live on the same side of a street! At first, some might find it annoying; I call it cultural, got so used to it that I don’t even mind waiting behind anymore. Usually, I end up smiling when I see their excited faces as they exchange their “salaam” (greeting of peace) and “masaalama” (good bye) if I’m patient enough to wait behind them, definitely not expecting any speed fines.

    … my kids excitedly call my attention because there is a lion ( a tiger or a cheetah) in the other car!

    I’m not going to tackle regulations here, nor the morality in keeping wild animals as pets. Just saying that “wild pets” has become some sort of a status symbol in these parts and it is not surprising anymore to come across a 4 legged wild animal at the passenger seat of a Ferrari!

    …I chuckle at the black doughnut artwork on the road made by squealing tyres.

    You’re not in Daytona or Indianapolis; you’re not in a Formula 1 race track, you still might smell the burning rubber if you chance upon one, you get to see the markings on the roads! The previous night’s reveller’s masterpiece! Young Arabs have the penchant to demonstrate their driving skills with peers on roads not frequented by the local police. They screech and turn; they drift and burn, making doughnuts on the road. Someone has been enjoying and some tyre shop will be earning more!

    … I repeatedly ask myself, “What’s with the roundabouts?”

    I have not seen so much love for the R/A like that of the gulf countries. There are roundabouts everywhere; in sizes big or small. Most of them with giant Arabic motifs from kitchen implements to war time trappings meant to remind everyone of one with such significance; in every respect symbolical. Some are huge enough for people to mistake them for parks (or that is really of dual purpose?) Ever wonder why you’re on the road driving when there’s more room on the roundabouts?

    … I check several gulf country maps and they bear at least one Corniche (Road) on ALL of them?

    Check it if you must, most if not all countries in this region bear the word, “Corniche” (meaning “A road that winds along the side of a steep coast or cliff”) on their maps. It seems irrelevant that most are not on a steep coast or cliff. Beach road – Corniche. The road along the coast – Corniche. If there is sea water and a road beside it – Corniche. Most establishments found in the area would be called something with “Corniche” attached to it to denote the location. Case in point, Al Corniche Hodeida, Yemen; Al Corniche Club, Kuwait; Jeddah Corniche Towers, KSA; Corniche Maternity Hospital, UAE; Muttrah Corniche, Oman; the list goes on.

    … I pass by neighborhoods and count the number of houses with wooden benches by the gate outside the perimeter walls.

    Arab men love to spend time with their fellows either in the majlis (Sitting rooms where male members of the family usually receive their male visitors. Typically built separate from the areas of the house or compound inhabited by the women to preserve their privacy) or their tall wooden benches outside. Sunset and cooler afternoons will find men and boys converging in these spots where the benches are to engage in serious talks or simply to banter about their daily lives.

    … I marvel at the amount of houses with metal water taps outside their concrete walls.

    Muslims perform sadaqah (acts of charity) in many ways. It is said that the best form though is giving someone water to drink. As such, Muslim families in the UAE and other Islamic states, offer sabeel (roughly translates as ‘continuous flow of water’) to strangers, travelers, street workers and others by installing metal water dispensers outside the fence of their villas. Construction workers from nearby sites could be seen carrying jugs to fetch and partake of this cooled water that otherwise they would have to pay for from shops. It is remarkable to point that I haven’t seen any of these water taps tampered or abused in any way; perhaps a manner of gratefulness defined.

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    Home – Where is yours?

    May 10th, 2016

    kleo desert quipsSOMETIME in 1995 while on holiday in the Philippines, I was openly criticized for “acting like a foreigner in my own country.”  Why? Because when some friends came over to my mom’s house to see me and ask how I was, I said, “Ohhh, covered with allergies. The moment we landed, I noticed rashes on my arms, now they’re all over my body!”

    One queries as to what could have happened and I responded that I’m very sensitive to heat and dust, why, my own sweat makes me feel very itchy!

    Actually, it could have been possible that I was just so excited with the trip! This, I could not elaborate on further as one of my visitors quickly commented in some mocking way, “Is it not hot in the Dubai?  Hotter than here in the Philippines?  As if you did not grow up here to be allergic to Philippine weather and pollution!  As if this is not really your home!”

    I could have defended myself by saying, “Technically, I didn’t really grow up in the Philippines, my father left to work for Air America in Vietnam in 1965, from then onwards, my siblings (except our eldest) and I were always on the move to where our parents would be taken as demanded by my father’s job.”

    Then again, I could have just ignored the comment and not ruin the mini reunion that was in front of me. I did just that and retains the friendship I have with those present at the time.

    Sometimes, it is difficult for those who stay in the HOME COUNTRY to understand that despite retaining one’s nationality and passport; people who left their native country due to different reasons and purposes like the call of responsibility or economic and cultural challenges; people like businessmen and/or workers – (Overseas Filipino Workers in the case of Filipinos) – and their families could just be AT HOME in their adoptive countries.

    In the same manner, Filipino emigrants to other countries, despite having obtained a new passport either by marriage, birth or officially declaring the emigrant status of their host country could and would still call Philippines HOME.  Why not?  It is a beautiful country after all.  People can complain about the traffic, the humidity, the government, the slow this and the slow that… but there are these things that make the Philippines so special that one will always want to come back to it.

    There is always something or someone in the Philippines that would make a Filipino take that trip to go back HOME.

    Generally “Home” they say, is where one lives permanently; then again to others; it is where the heart is… a place where you feel love, where you can be your own person most comfortably.

    Plucked from it, “Home” is where you would long very much to be. Home is… where mama and papa are? Where my doggy comes barking with its tail wagging happily when it sees me… where everyone gathers for that happy occasion, even the sad ones?  Where I can put my feet up anytime, sing loudly unabashed?

    A character of a novel with the same title by Irish writer James Joyce, Ulysses, puts it as, “Home isn’t where you’re born into… can be a place of mind, a moment where you know who you are, the history of it. And they can be places you breathe life into.”

    Wherever it is, HOME is a place, physically or mentally. A place created by our emotions.

    There is no other word that can be associated with the word HOME as closely as the word EMOTIONS.  Emotions, being a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

    Home is what you make of it, anywhere…

    So, whenever I feel and hear the aircraft’s landing gears’ slow and smooth grunts as they are being released, getting ready for the strip that waits below.  I always look out of the plane’s window to see and then urgently wake up my kids, “Guys, we’re home!”

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