Back to (a different kind of) normal

My life is back to normal. At least, it’s an entirely different kind of normal from the normal I’ve been used to for the past few years.

I’ve somehow chosen a different kind of life to live now. I’ve given up the luxury of driving to and from work five days a week. Gone is the 1.5++ hour drive (one-way) to and from work, and the thousands of pesos spent monthly on gasoline charges and other car maintenance expenses. I am back on the daily commute. I’m back to working in my comfort zone, my timezone. It’s about two-thirds of the distance I used to travel every day. My new work is a short walk from the MRT station. I take the MRT everyday now, going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening. I then take a shuttle after MRT in the evening, and take a leisurely walk (under the stars) from the village gate on my way home.

I try to pack my lunch everyday too. I make myself a yummy sandwich, enough to fill me at lunch. When I don’t get to pack my lunch, I buy a sandwich at a nearby convenience store. It costs a lot less than what I used to eat for lunch, and has a lot less calories too.

Work is both something old and new. I’m starting to get into the groove again. The project I’m doing now is pretty interesting and challenging, enough to give me just the right push to give my best, as I always would like to do with whatever I do.

My personal life is also warming up too. No lovelife yet, though. I’m just loving the time I have on my hands to write blogs, do errands, read books, study/review on some topics and interests, pamper myself, relax and meditate, and opportunities to do many other things.

There’s just something that feels really nice about the new kind of normal. There are less expenses, less calories, more walks and physical activities, more time to just look around and observe the real world, and more time to be me again. I guess I really needed this change.

A better me everyday, that’s the goal. Sometimes it happens in small moments, in baby steps. Sometimes it happens with long strides, or with some jumps. This time, it was a leap for me again. I’ve landed, and am back on the ground, but this is an entirely different land already. Time to continue walking.

The KL Adventure – Part 1

Perhaps it just happened that I’ve wanted to go on a personal adventure for the longest time; or maybe because I have new found friends (NFFs) in that city; or perhaps because I keep on seeing a lot of things about that place on cable TV. Whatever the real reason was, I booked my flights and my hotel, and though I hesitated and had thoughts of postponing the trip, I did push through. I’m so glad I did.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of August 24. It was my first time there, and I was alone, but eager and ready to start my adventure. I was really aiming for a budget trip, to spend the least I could but still be comfortable and safe enough.

Kuala lumpur LCCT Airport

Instead of taking the taxi from the (LCCT) airport to my hotel, which would have costed between RM80-90, I took the shuttle-train connection from LCCT to KL Sentral Station, and took a short taxi trip from the Sentral Station to the Hotel. I spent less than RM30.

I stayed at Citrus Hotel. It wasn’t in Bukit Bintang or around KLCC, but right within the city and not too far away. It was a 15min taxi ride from most locations around the city. Around the city, I did travel mostly via taxis, since I am not too familiar to feel safe taking the regular public transport yet.

First agenda for that trip fell on the evening of my arrival. I met up with my Malaysian friend Daniel at the Pavilion Mall along Bukit Bintang. He gave me a really nice welcome dinner, and immediately introduced me to Malaysian food. I particularly remember the beef rendang and the satay… and he did teach me how satay was traditionally eaten.

Early morning the next day, I was awoken by the ringing of my hotel phone. Ah, yeah, I was expecting some people. My friends Arnold and Wenna, who were based in Singapore, were also in town and they just arrived then in KL. Another old friend, Esti, was apparently based in Malaysia, and was also with them when they came to meet up with me. We had a quick breakfast buffet together, the four of us, before I had to fly off to my arranged tour for the day.

National Mosque

I pre-arranged a tour with the hotel, and this particular one had a number of key destinations around the city, as well as a visit to the Batu Caves, around 30 minutes from the city. First destination was the National Mosque (Masjid Negara), for which I needed to put on a cape and a head scarf before I can enter the mosque.

The next destination was the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery and the Merdeka Square. It was a good overview of the history and culture of Malaysia and the city of Kuala Lumpur. Also, it was a week before the National Day of Malaysia, and there were practices and preparations happening in the Merdeka Square, an important landmark and center of national activities.

Next was Istana Negara, or the palace of the Agong (or the incumbent national King) of Malaysia. Malaysia as a country has a number of Kings or Sultans, each of which reigns over specific areas or states in Malaysia. One of these sultans is assigned as the Agong, whereas this role is rotated around the different sultans. Unfortunately, the public is not allowed inside the Istana Negara, so we just took pictures outside.

The next is the most significant destination of my journey, in terms of mass, time, as well as energy and effort spent. We went to the Batu Caves. The Batu caves are a series of Hindu temples built into and around large limestone cliffs and caves. At the entrance is the 42.7 m high golden statue of Lord Muruga. There are 272 steps from the ground to the main temple, and yes, I did climb the entire thing. Inside of the cave was a wonderful mix of natural limestone formations from the 100m high cave, as well as the cultural and religious structures and images of hindu gods inside.

From the Batu Caves, we made our way to the Royal Selangor Pewter factory. They are the biggest manufacturer of pewter, which is an alloy made of tin, antimony, and copper. Apparently, the British were drawn to Malaysia especially because of the abundance of Tin in the natural resources of the country.

Last destination was Beryl Chocolate Store. Although I didn’t have plans of buying any, I had a taste of their special tiramisu milk chocolates, and they were superb! I ended up buying a bag of chocolates for me and the family back home.

(to be continued in the next post)

Zen

My guess is that it started with the rabbits. They evoke something so amazingly calm about them, the way they almost never make a sound, and the very gentle way they move. There is almost nothing stressful with watching a bunny go about its way, hopping around, munching on greens, cleaning themselves, or just snuggling. It’s been a month and I have been watching my rabbits every evening. They are a stress reliever, and somehow a good way to quiet the soul.

Another factor would be doing yoga regularly. I can’t say that its already a habit, but doing it once a week for one month without falter is an achievement for me already. So many reasons why I’ve decided to invest my time and effort into yoga. It does a lot of good things for me. First, it’s teaching me more discipline just to make sure I attend a session on the same day every week. Second, it’s helping me improve flexibility, balance, and core strength. Third, it is a good way to relax the mind, a way to ease internal tensions.

I’m trying to learn and get used to meditation too. I’ve been cleaning my room of clutter. I’ve been doing more quiet alone time.

Well, people who personally know me can attest to how high-strung I usually am, and I have been like that forever. A more relaxed, more zen way of living is very new to me. Not that I am completely shifting from my high-energy life to a zen life. I still love my crazy life. But finding out the quiet and relaxed state is amazing and possibly doing me a lot of good. It needed a space in my life for the longest time.

Yoga :)

It is a very good feeling to be back to practicing yoga. Well, I have never been able to practice yoga regularly before because of a number of limitations – financial, time, and the distance and locations of good yoga studios. It is wonderful to have recently discovered not just one, but two new yoga studios in convenient locations for me. One is White Space in the Katipunan Area (http://www.whitespacewellness.com/) which opened just last month, and the other one is Urban Ashram Manila’s BGC branch (http://www.urbanashrammanila.com/) which is opening this month.

I have started my first class at White Space and am very pleased with it – the facilities, the people, and the feeling of being able to practice yoga again. The studio also offers pilates, t’ai chi, reiki, meditation, and modern dance, but I have yet to try those other things out. But I really do intend to practice here at least once a week, time and traffic permitting. Its location is halfway between my workplace and my home. Now that things are a bit more relaxed in the museum, perhaps I can get more me-time and practice yoga regularly at White Space.

I have not seen Urban Ashram Manila’s BGC studio yet, but I and my colleagues already got a 15-day pass to try out their classes. I think they also have an open house these coming weeks before they go full operation. It will also be a good alternative location for me to practice yoga, since it is just a few minutes away from where I work.

The blog that went the other way

I started this blog over a year ago, initially intended for something else. I wanted to setup a website for a specific purpose, a certain online portal for inspiration and coaching, and I was hoping that the blog would be able to jumpstart it all. However, the blog became something quite far from what it originally intended to be. Not that it became something bad or worse. Rather, it just went an entirely different way.

Now I have some people who have chosen to follow me, though not the ones I first thought of while starting this blog. I never realized that there are a lot of different people who would appreciate the things I write and the things I write about. It is wonderful to be able to realize the power of the internet, how it has allowed me to reach out to a lot of different people from across the globe.

Blogging used to be just a passing hobby, which somehow became a duty. Now it has evolved into a certain fondness. There is now a desire to at least try to write about things that make me ponder on a normal day. While driving or running, or sometimes even in the middle of work, certain things or topics strike me and I bookmark them with a title on my digital notebook. And then I try to find the time to expound about it. There are some times that ideas and words just flow out of me full of sense, and I can write one article after another. There are also times I find myself dry, and I put off writing for another day. But I try as much as possible to write something at least weekly

Maintaining this blog has allowed me to grow in many ways. I am able to practice writing, as well as to exercise and become more aware of my thought process. At times, it is also a catalyst to help me understand ideas and situations better.

I find such joy even in the few people who follow, read, and appreciate my posts. I always try to reach outwards, as much as I do inwards, in every article I write.

Dance

Dancing is my passion. I fell in love with dance during an Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE) on Streetdance way back in 1st year college. Because of this, I took both basic and advance street dance PE classes. I auditioned and almost joined UP Street Dance Club, but the truckload of academics got in the way. I joined dance competitions with the organization I belonged to in engineering. I danced on several events for YFC based in UP Diliman.

Well, I really do love dancing, but a lot of things have kept me from it these past few years. And when I started working back in 2007, I couldn’t find the time to dance again, save for the occasions I had to dance or choreograph for performances during office Christmas parties. But of course that kind of dance is way simpler than what I used to do in college.

Work and life kind of got in the way. Of course, I’ve always wanted to go back to my love. Even during the dry times, I knew I was still in love with dance. I move at the mere sound of a groovy music. Sometime when I am alone, I even dance to imaginary music. I couldn’t take it out of my system.

Imagine my joy when I found a chance to attend dance classes this summer, under the instruction of one of my street dance coach from early college days.

It wasn’t a walk in the park. I worked in Taguig from 9am to 6pm and drove all the way to the dance studio in Quezon City in time for my 7pm class, twice a week. I started attending the classes on my own, with no friends to accompany me. All my classmates were at least 5 years younger than me, and some maybe 10 years younger. It wasn’t a basic dance class. I had a hard time going back to the level that they were dancing with. I wasn’t in good condition because I haven’t been really dancing these past few years. I had to catch up on so much, and I had to do it fast.

There was a bit of discouragement in my heart. It was difficult to manage time and schedules. I also felt like I didn’t belong anymore, that I couldn’t dance well anymore, and it was so hard to catch up. And yet I persevered, and continued on. Passion has a knack for driving you beyond your normal limits.

I know I’m not as good as my much younger classmates in dance, but I know that I was already able to push myself to dance to a tolerable, if not completely satisfying level. And I thank my coach so much for the patience that he has for me. I do hope I deliver a decent performance during the dance recital on Sunday.

And I do hope I could continue dancing, one way or another.