An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

24 September 2010

Sun and wind

When I was growing up in the farm we had a lavandera who would come in every few days. She would haul all our dirty clothes and linens out to the water pump in the back of the property, behind the bodega and beside the vegetable garden, and there should would stay all day, washing everything by hand in large aluminum pans with cold, clear water pumped from the Isarog Mountain.

She would always do the heavy fabrics first because they take longer to dry. Whenever she would finish a batch, she would wring them out with her fierce, strong hands made of steel -- she herself was large and stocky and looked as strong as a tree -- put them back into a large pan, and bring them out to where the clotheslines are, for hanging. One by one she would unfurl the fabric and pin them to the clothesline with long wooden laundry pins made of split bamboo that have been long dried out and become brown over years of use.

When I see her starting to hang out the clean, wet, laundry, I would run out in the warm sunshine, against the wind streaming down from the mountain, to stand in front of the flapping fabrics and enjoy the way they slap me with cold wetness.

The laundry would smell divine. I would be able to smell soap, bleach and the subtle but unmistakable smell of fresh spring water, mingled with the smell of the leaves and bamboo in the vegetable garden. I would be able to detect the aroma of the wind from the mountain, and smell the sun on my hair. I would run along the heavy clotheslines, laughing while the laundry flapped in the wind and hit me gently, prodding me to keep running. And when I would notice that my clothes were damp and also smelled of fresh laundry, that was my cue to skip on back home, tired and happy.

After hours of being hung out in the sun and wind, late in the afternoon, long after the lavandera had gone home herself, the laundry would be taken down by the other maids and folded into baskets. The laundry would then be brought into the house, and the whole house would smell like fresh laundry and bamboo. Even if it were already dusk, it would be like sunshine was still inside the house. That was when I learned to love fresh laundry.

Now hardly anyone ever does laundry that way, especially in the cities. Now sheets are fed into steel machines to be washed and dried, much like how we do laundry now in my parents’ house. But each time I get to hand-wash my own small batch of delicates in my sink and hang them out with plastic pins on a clothes rack on the balcony outside my apartment so they can dry in the gentle breeze, I stand there for a few minutes longer, invoking my own older memories of sun and wind and clotheslines, and of giant, clean, wet bedsheets happily dancing themselves dry in the orange afternoon.

[Image credits: 1, 2]

17 September 2010


It has become my usual joke that my apartment has now grown up. But the truth is that my old apartment, which I call The College of Chaos, did not grow up. It is still stuck in time, cauterized into my memory, as that magical, fantastical place where mad and important things happened in my long-ago life. What really happened is that I have moved out of The College of Chaos and into my new apartment, The Fortress, and it’s The Fortress that is a grownup, has been a grownup even before I moved in, and which now envelops me with grownup things.

It’s nice. Here I can pretend that my life is in order, because there is a stockroom where I can throw all my disorderly, childish things, including things I cannot sort or deal with at the moment. In this new apartment there are actual compartments. I have an actual bedroom that has only one book in it (which, currently, is Midnight’s Children. All the other books are in the study. There is an actual architectural division between study and sleep.

I have an adorable new lamp, which is a birthday gift from The Dude, and an area in the wall for my favorite photos.

Also, all my shoes are inside a shoe cabinet, a piece of furniture that I’ve never had space for in the old apartment. In the old apartment I used to keep my shoes under the bed, which is okay for all intents and purposes, except that on mornings where I am in a hurry, it’s pain to have to reach under the bed each time for the right pair of shoes, and so I have developed the nasty habit of leaving all my shoes out in the open, where I can easily trip over them at any given time. But now, all my shoes are where they should be in an adult’s apartment.

I have three windows that actually function as windows, and which I have decorated with stylish grownup window treatments. I have cream roman shades with dark rose and matte gold stripes, with blackout linings. In the bedroom I have additional filmy cream-colored drapes.

On weekends I sit at my desk beside a window with the roman shades up, watch old movies while enjoying the soft breeze created by the cross-ventilation of all three open windows, and read while the afternoon sun sinks beyond the skyline of Makati.

My bed is a hypersomniac’s dream. In the old apartment I have lived on a narrow bed because it was all that could ever fit among the bookshelves and the boxes of my graduate student life. But now that I have a full-sized bed with a mattress that's fifteen inches thick (including the topper), a high, padded headboard, and backlights, I make a day out of shopping for bed linens to drape my very stylish grownup bed with.

And because of the roman shades with the blackout lining, I can have instant night any time of the day. Indeed, my sleeping life has gone from cotton rompers to silk dresses, from pigtails to fully-coiffed hairstyles, from sneakers to high-heeled leather shoes.

I loved the College of Chaos. It truly lived up to its name, and I lived there happily and chaotically for seven years. But the College of Chaos is no more, and so is the girl who used to live there. When I see old photos of a younger me in my old apartment, I feel both nostalgia and detachment, both homesickness and liberation. Now, in The Fortress, I feel more regulated, more scheduled, more aligned, and in this neat order I find my sanctuary and my protection.

And that is how our homes reflect our own desires much more accurately than we would care to admit. Because in truth, only The Fortress is a grown up. The person who lives within its walls is still just a little girl dreaming of growing up.

10 September 2010


Sometimes when the pressures of city life and the mounting deadlines get to be too much for me, I imagine myself in a place far, far way, where there are no highways, no parking lots, no traffic lights, and no phones. In that place I can read and write to my heart’s content, by candlelight, on paper, using an actual pen that takes ink from a bottle, wake up at dawn, eat fruit every day, and take long walks along creeks and byways and vast fields of flowers. I imagine taking naps under huge trees with canopies that cover acres and acres of grassland, gathering flowers in huge baskets to decorate my home with, drinking water straight from waterfalls, watching butterflies rise from bushes, running across green pastures, diving into lakes, living with the sunrise.

And then I wake up, look out my window, and realize that I am still in the city where I have been living for almost ten years, but that where I am at the moment is still the best place to be. Because it's real.

[Image credit]

03 September 2010

Destiny, perhaps (a colorcast)

[My first colorcast]