A Corner of My Own

Spiders.

I’m afraid of them.

I see them.

I kill them.

One night,

I turned the lights on.

A big black spider

Scampered in the ceiling.

I walked in slowly

And afraid

As the spider ambled

To the corner.

There it stayed

Away from harm.

And for the first time,

I didn’t want to kill it.

I wanted to be like it.

I wanted to find

I wanted to be

In a corner of my own.

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My Sulfur Bath Experience in Tbilisi

I was wandering around Tbilisi in search of a good place to have dinner when I came across several brick, domed rooftops which happens to be sulfur bathhouses.

I came to understand that these bathhouses are an important part of Tbilisi’s history. Tbilisi got its name from the hot springs that run under this district. According to legend, it was these sulfur springs that made King Vakhtang Georgasali to decide to settle there and make it the new capital.

I must admit, visiting one of these sulfur baths in Georgia was the most embarrassing but also one of the most hilarious experience during my recent travel.

There are five sulfur bathhouses left in Abanotubani district, or so I counted, compared to around more than 60 at the peak of its popularity. I wasn’t sure which to choose but someone approached me and invited me to try it. He lead me to what I never thought was a bathhouse. The exterior was elegant as it was inside. It appears totally different from the other bathhouses. I even thought it was a mosque!😅

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You can choose to go for a public bath or a private room. Even though public bathing will cost me a lot cheaper, bathing with strangers still didn’t sound very appealing to me so I opt for the latter and it’s rented by the hour. One of the staffs accompanied me to my room and I was told that I should dip myself in the water for 20 minutes while waiting for the masseuse to arrive. I must say, I am not very fond of any activity that involves water but I was impressed and felt okay when I came inside the big bathing room. There was a changing room, a toilet, a sitting/waiting area, a pool of hot sulfur water (40°C-50°C), a massage slab and shower. I paid for the room, the towels, shower gel, scrub and massage.

Since I booked a private room, I used it naked. The water was literally hot! As I tried to submerge myself, I already felt like drowning. It’s a small tub/pool but I had some difficulty breathing and I felt like the water’s gonna swallow me whole. Good thing the smell of sulfur wasn’t that strong. When I finally managed to fully submerge myself, it felt like the longest 20 minutes of my life!

Then the masseuse came. A stout fifty-ish woman with an austere face. I watched her walk to the waiting area where she suddenly stopped and stripped her clothes except her underwear. She came in front of the pool with her piercing gaze and pointed to the marble slab at the corner of the room. She then filled in a bucket of water. Naked, I went out of the pool and clumsily made my way to her. I smiled and said hello. She didn’t smile nor reply. She just looked at me and pointed where I should stand. It was awkward as hell!  I moved as instructed and when I turned to face her she was already carrying the bucket and threw the water at me! Ice cold water!!! I literally shrieked out of shock and I even felt furious I screamed why did she do that? She started laughing too hard then and asked me, “Good?” Hell, no! But yes, it was, to be quite honest, a few seconds later! She continued laughing her evil witch, sly laugh. I ended up laughing with her instead. I came to know much later that she also doesn’t know English so you can probably imagine how it was for the rest of my time with her there.

She started to scrub my arms while standing then she let me lay down in the marble slab to exfoliate the rest of my body. After the scrub, she filled in a kind of small sack with soapy water and covered me up with it. It’s the second best part of the whole experience, I felt like a baby and my skin felt softer and smoother.

Then came the best part — the massage! The human moment that I finally managed to totally relax! Her hands were so light but were really very good at what they do. I had a full-body massage and it was so totally worth it! After 20 minutes, she doused me again with buckets and buckets of water as she laughs her evil laugh. After feeling content and satisfied (I guess) throwing water at me, she finally stopped and started gathering all her stuffs in the bucket then left laughing.

I took another dip in the hot pool for a few more minutes and ended up laughing to myself. It was a fun experience. I then showered and got dressed and moments later, the phone rang and my time is up.

I left the bathhouse relaxed, happy and satisfied. Once outside, I remembered I was hungry and so I went on looking for a place to dine in. What happened next is another story that will stay in my heart forever but for now, I’ll keep you with the bathhouse experience.

Have a wonderful day, homo sapiens! 🙂

Sometimes I Wish We Never Met

You were smart, cool and sweet. You’re a breath of fresh air. You’re everything any girl would’ve wanted. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d go farther than being friends. But I wanted you in my life. You were my muse. You showed me another positive side of life. Eventually, I trusted you. Then, I loved you.

But what could have happened if we just never met?

Quite certainly, I would’ve saved myself from a tremendous heartache. Did you come in my life to teach me a lesson? If so, I wish you were a lesson I didn’t have to learn. Things weren’t so perfect when you came but I was okay. Still, you were there to cheer me up. Made me look at life from a different view. Said things are going to turn quite well. You offered me wisdom. You helped me become whole again.

Then you broke me just the same.

I’ve been contemplating for a very long time now if you were ever worth the love and time I gave you. Was the joy I felt with you worth this pain? Was it wrong to break my rules for you? Was I so naive to think that I meant something to you? Was it wrong that I trusted you? Or was I a fool for loving you?

If I could turn back time to the night we first kissed and change it all, I will. If only I knew that you’d give me more pain than joy, I would have left it all the way it once were. If only I knew you’d leave me for little mishaps and uncertainties, I shouldn’t have let things went too far.

Perhaps it’s true that everyone we meet in our lives come for a purpose or a reason. None of it is a coincidence. None of it a mistake. It’s been some time now since you did what you did and I’m trying to put them all past me. But some days, it all just comes back, reopens the wound you left me and hurts like hell again.

That is why sometimes, I wish we never met.

When It Comes To You

People come and go.

Some stay for some time,

Some stay longer.

Either way,

They’re not there forever.

They come, they leave.

Some love us,

Others hurt us.

Some make us whole,

And when we’re lucky,

They stay.

Others break us though,

Then leave.

But eventually,

We get up again

And put all the broken pieces together.

We get used to them gone.

But why when it comes to you,

I’m finding it hard to get used to?

When It Finally Sinks In

As I stroll through dusty lanes early this morning, it suddenly felt real. After the planning, the urgent moving, the changes and everything, I am, in the end, left alone.

Why has it hit me just now?

It just seems like yesterday when I first set foot in the company premises to attend the job interview. Time flies. Seven unbelievable, wonderful and enriching years have gone by and I am grateful to still be here. It’s just that I am left alone now. Everyone I worked with when we first opened the branch office has said goodbye. The last among them left today.

As it happens to everyone, we have tons of good times and some really bad times.  Things we think we should have been more involved with before or things we should have just ended at some point early on. I don’t really regret anything but I feel like I should have left the first time I wanted to. I would have been someone and somewhere else by now, who knows, and probably wouldn’t feel so alone today.

Perhaps there comes a time in every person’s life when it finally sinks in. To understand the subtle shift from an almost fantasy world to real life. I think I crossed that line today — I just no longer live in my own head now but in a very real new world.

Some Lessons Learned From My Most Spontaneous Travel

I first started traveling one destination at a time where I make a research of what places to see, what things to do, what stuff to try, what foods to eat, etc. I usually spend almost a month in one country exploring its different provinces. Then I tried dividing my vacation days to two countries. It was better. My most recent vacation though was something I didn’t really have time to plan about. My vacation was cancelled a few times the last two years and I almost have given up thinking about it. When schedules were finalized and I can really go on leave, I wasn’t sure where to go. First Jordan. Then Qatar and Jordan. Then Qatar and Georgia. Or just Georgia. I ended up traveling to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Jordan.

Among my main goals while traveling are to indulge myself in alcohol and suffice my palate with dishes I have never tried before and eat every pork dishes available in the place. 😅 (I’ve been living in Kuwait for the past nine years and a half, alcohol and pork are prohibited here.) And over the years, I’ve learned that one of the best things about travel is not merely about the places you’d be visiting or the food you get to taste the first time but the things you learn while traveling. Of course I can only speak for myself and so as far as I’m concerned, traveling has taught me a lot of things about people, culture, tradition, food, places, history and life in general. It also has taught me a lot of things about myself.

Most of my travels in the Philippines were spontaneous ones. I get to go to provinces three hours or more away from my hometown with just an hour notice. When I started traveling to other countries though, I had to research and make a list of things to do, places to go to, where to stay, etc. It was okay at first but following a certain schedule while traveling makes me feel my options are limited. I felt like I’m not getting the most of it so I went back to traveling without having everything planned. Today, I want to share some lessons I’ve learned from my most spontaneous vacation.

Decisions.

It’s very important to be very flexible with your plans so when forced to make last minute decisions, it won’t turn out so bad. Even the most indecisive person can change and learn how to make spontaneous decisions while traveling. Your plans could totally change but roll with the changes and discover other ways to enjoy.

You need not be multilingual.

While knowing a second (or more) language can really be very helpful while on the road, I have never been trapped in a situation where I badly needed to have known one. It’s sometimes embarrassing that the people I meet are bilingual but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying their company. And I was never in trouble for knowing just one.

Strangers can be the best guide books and they can be the best of friends you’ll ever meet.

While there are a lot of ways that could be of help when traveling alone like Google maps and stuff, strangers can still be the best guide books ever. I once asked a stranger how to go to this particular restaurant that serves traditional dishes while in Vietnam. He helped me find the place but suggested an even better place! And when I visited the place he recommended, I’ve met several other people there as well, a few of the best people I’ve met while traveling. Every stranger I’ve met has lead me from one place to another and each place was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Unplanned travel escapades are where the fondest of memories are.

I’ve always find spontaneity a lot more rewarding than a carefully planned life. Since I moved out of my parents’ home when I was 18, almost everything that happened in my life were unplanned. Same thing when I travel. The many instances where I wasn’t prepared during the trip turned out to be the best and where the fondest of memories were made. I’m not a big fan of surprises but I am always amazed where my love for spontaneity leads me. Unplanned escapades are usually short but in my experience, it’s never short of thrill and excitement! These memories are the ones I relive again and again. It never fades. The memory of each unplanned adventure never gets old.

It’s not always about where you go. It’s also about the people you’re with and things you do together wherever it leads you to.

No matter where I go to when I travel, one thing happens for sure, even if I don’t initially notice it, I come back a better person than who I was when I left. I gain more positivity and courage so thanks to the people I meet along the way. Every person I meet is unique and has something to offer which adds to the excitement. Never in my life have I thought of going on an escapade with marijuana smokers and learning a lot about life from them. Turns out, they’re a few of the kindest of people I’ve met.

It’s okay if things go wrong.

My parents, my mom specially, raised my brothers and I to always follow the rules. If we follow the rules, nothing could go wrong she said. Sure, generally she’s right but following the rules all the time is not fun. Following what the guide books say, it leaves us with little chance for spontaneity. It limits us from appreciating the beauty of the unexpected. When things don’t go according to plan, be okay with it. More often than not, it leads to better and more exciting adventures.

Inform your bank.

It is important to inform your bank about your travels because during my recent trip, they put my card on hold because of suspicious transactions. Know that when your bank notices something unusual on your transactions, they have the right to put it on hold. For my bank, there’s an option when you log-in online where you can inform the bank of your travel dates so they wouldn’t suspect your future transactions. It’ll be hell to have no money while in a foreign country so consider this.

Overpacking sucks.

This is a serious pain in the ass. For years, packing my things is what my travel nightmares are made of, I’ve never learned to travel light until my most recent escapade. Having to travel from one country to another at a very short notice, I had to ask my then still stranger travel buddy to pack my stuff for me. My packing skills are seriously awful. It’s amazing to see her how to do it and yeah, I definitely learned a lot from her. It’s not easy travelling from one place to another with large suitcases.

Appreciate and surrender to the moment.

Of course it’s nice to take photos of almost everything beautiful and interesting when you travel — the tourist spots, the food you’ve tasted the first time, the views, etc. — but sometimes, we forget to appreciate these things as it is because we’re busy taking photos for Instagram. During my recent travel, I wasn’t as prepared as I usually am — phone, camera, extra batteries, chargers, etc. — but I also get to appreciate everything more and I get to see and explore hidden gems because my phone was dead. I was left to explore the streets not knowing where it’ll lead me. Surrendering to the moment made the trip so much more exciting, interesting, educating, fun and special.

Life is so damn good.

Sometimes we forget to be grateful how fortunate we actually are. As I grow older, I become more grateful for being alive and having the chance to travel from time to time. Life is good. I know we all have times when we feel like life is so unfair but life is good, homo sapiens. Life is so damn good.

Why I Talk to Strangers

As children, we were often told to never talk to strangers because it’s dangerous. And I remember being frequently scolded by my parents for disobeying. I was caught many times — in school, in the market, in grocery shops, department stores — talking to strangers both young and old. I don’t know but even at a young age, I prefer to smile and say hello or something rather than just staying silent. With the innocence of children, they won’t really understand the different intentions of strangers for being nice. So I could definitely understand that it’s a very sound advice for children not to talk to strangers.

Not very much so with adults though. Talking to strangers is one of the few most relaxing and interesting thing I do when I’m alone.

The first reason why I genuinely find it interesting talking to strangers even when I was a child was because I grew up from a small family and not very close with our relatives. We also didn’t have neighbors whom we can play with when we were children so I only spend time with my two brothers, not that they’re not interesting enough to be with, they’re both very cool actually, but I always thought that there are far more things I can know and learn about if I talk to others and more often than not, they happen to be strangers.

I also like talking to strangers for the simple reason that I hate waiting. Waiting for friends who come late at the scheduled meeting time, waiting for my order to arrive when I dine out alone, waiting in long queues, waiting for my turn in banks or other offices. Waiting is boring so I always bring a book with me but sometimes why not talk with someone instead until it’s your turn to approach the counter or until your friends arrive? I mean, time flies faster when there’s someone to talk to, right?

When I was a freshman in the university and was working part time in a fast food restaurant, we had this customer who eats the very same thing — rice, hotdogs and eggs with hot chocolate— every Monday morning. He is good-looking but he never smiled. He always carries a blue backpack and always reads a book while he eats. Strangers like this guy appear to me as riddles waiting to be solved. They’re irresistible. Why does he eat the same thing at almost the same time every Monday morning? Why doesn’t he smile? What other books have he read? Who is his favorite author? Etc. Etc. One rainy morning, he came again and for the first time, he came to my counter. He said hello. I think I was smiling wide to my ears when I said, “Hi! Good morning. One hotdog meal with hot chocolate for dine-in?” He smiled back. We dated for the next couple of years.

Moreover, a stranger is not my phone, nor my laptop or PC. So talking to someone I don’t know is a way of taking a break from gadgets. A break from work-related or the usual phone calls or text messages. A break from my typical work day. A smile and some small talk with a stranger often recharge my energy.

For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve experienced happily talking to strangers while travelling. When I travel, I always spend a good amount of time in parks and cafes to read, write and people-watch. The fun thing about it is you’ll never know who you’d happen to sit right next to, or who would happen to sit next to you.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a stranger to someone and I feel they’re interested to talk to me, too. The first time I visited Hanoi, I get to meet some students in the park surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, who are working on a project about what tourists like the most about their country. They basically asked to interview me to which I delightfully obliged. While I was hiking my way up to the Monastery in Petra, I was offered a marriage proposal! Ha! That could make for another post. 🙂 When I was in Qatar, I’ve met a British guy in the library as we happen to be looking for the same books. While in a tram in Georgia, I’ve met a Kuwaiti family who happens to be very nice to me. I’ve also met several others in clubs and restaurants. It’s funny actually because I’ve met/befriended more Kuwaitis in Georgia in four days than in my nine years of working in Kuwait. 🙂 I’ve also met people from different walks of life and with all sorts of life experiences. I’ve met a wealthy businessman while exploring the monastery and caves of Vardzia, an Australian guy who gave up his job to travel and was so curious about the “Happy Pizza” in Siem Reap, expats earning a living in Doha, poor villagers who don’t have any idea how much money tourism makes out of the attractions in their country but are only very grateful that you visited their place and so much more.

I’m a big fan of solo travel but it doesn’t really feel like I’m traveling alone because of the many strangers I get to talk to. Having an unexpected travel buddy (or buddies) from time to time is rewarding. And it’s even more interesting if these buddies are different from me. They help me realize how much of a bubble I actually live in. I learn new things from them. They help me broaden my view of the world.

I also get to have the deepest and the most meaningful of conversations with strangers. When I first arrived in my hotel in Amman, I’ve met two women (one from Palestine and one from Syria) and a man from Saudi Arabia right there in the lobby. We instantly clicked and that same afternoon went on a road trip to As-Salt, had dinner, smoked shisha, shared each other’s life stories like as if we’ve known each other for a very long time. I was then mending a broken heart from a seven-year relationship and the Syrian lady just broke up with her boyfriend the day before. The other lady just broke an engagement while the guy recently got dumped. A group of brokenhearted humans basically. That’s a very unforgettable day. Four souls with shattered hearts formed a friendship like no other.

I don’t know but I often find it easier to open up to strangers, it’s cathartic telling them my deepest feelings. Or probably because I won’t see them again anyway! Ha! Or maybe because they tend to be more objective? Bottom line is, there’s something strangely satisfying talking to people I don’t really know. That’s how I feel, at least.

Strangers have too much to offer us. Each has a unique story to tell. And when we keep our minds open to encounters with strangers, we learn about them and they teach us something in return. Some encounters could even be life-changing. Who knows, right? Some stay for a while, some stay longer. But either way, they serve us a purpose that helps us evolve into better people.

Happy day, Homo sapiens! 😊