A Reread: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

downloadBook #25.

By large, endings are sad, aren’t they? Or bittersweet perhaps? It could give us tremendous relief, too, as is the case in The Sense of an Ending.

This little treasure of a book is the story of the unremarkable life of Anthony Webster as he recollects and confronts the past after receiving a solicitor’s letter, the reappearance of an ex-girlfriend and reading a few pages of his old friend’s diary. This is best read in one sitting preferably with a few shots of whisky. 🙂

It has two finely controlled parts: 1) sheer nostalgia and 2) the coming together of memories from years ago as it unfolds different interpretations to clarify the truth. It’s mainly about the unreliability of memory and dealing with the past, remembering events and our understanding of time, with a touch of history, death and loss.

Little by little, the book reveals the secrets hidden in buried memories as Tony tries to remember and face up to the actions of his younger self and live through the mystery of the last forty years. Tony is a very engaging narrator. He definitely kept me reading regardless of him being reliable or not. Though this is already my second reading, I am still perplexed by the ending and just like Tony, “I just don’t get it,” really. I still had to go back to a few pages and reread over and over looking for clues I must have missed to give me a better understanding of the ending and answers to the many hows and whys it left me.

This is a very simple story on the surface but with delicate undertones written in a very interesting way. It is short, deep, thought-provoking, luminous, readable and very re-readable book. No wonder it was awarded the Man Booker Prize. I believe it’s never too late to learn. It’s never too late to learn and understand ourselves and other people. You might not be someone you thought you were yesterday. What we believe about other people then may possibly be different, too. How these things can change overtime as we try to understand people/things based on our memory of them and the history that goes with it is truly something to reflect upon and could very well give us a sense of an ending.

Quotable Quotes:

“Songs do occasionally tell the truth.”

“Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it.”

“Life isn’t just addition and subtraction. There’s also the accumulation, the multiplication, of loss, of failure.”

“…what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Advertisements

Liebster Award #3

Many thanks to Sameera for nominating me for my third Liebster Award! Do check out and enjoy this very young lady’s blog here.

download (1)

The Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 5-11 blogs/bloggers.
  4. Ask the bloggers 10-11 questions.

Here are Sameera’s questions and my answers:

One thing that you would like to change in your life.

Hmmm, this is difficult. There are some things I’d like to change but I think altering them would also change the rest of my life so I’d rather not. However, I’d like to say that I’d consider being less-friendly if I could.

What would you do if you are about to lose everything in your life?

Now this is even more difficult. Hmmm… well, what should I do? What can I do? I’d probably let it all go at that moment, think about the loss and feel it, then work my ass to retrieve back the things/people I’ve lost that matter and live a better life in order not to lose them again.

Advice you would like to give to me about my poems.

As I always mention, I don’t think I’m in the position to give advice to writers/bloggers but just keep on writing (according to my writer friend), I think you’d learn as you write more.

The person who influenced you the most.

My parents. They’re two very different individuals and I wonder how they’ve managed to stay together for thirty-nine years (and counting) but they instilled in me moral values that helped me learn and grow in every way.

Any adventurous thing you would like to share.

I find it really very adventurous trying every kind of food I see wherever I am and the best food adventure I had was in Hanoi, Vietnam. You’ll never run out of something new for your taste buds. 🙂

Books you would like to read.

There are tons of books I’d like to read and I still have more than 50 unread books on my shelves! Yay!

If you had one last chance to change anything what would it be?

Same answer to the first question.

How you came across writing blog?

I’m not sure I understand this question right but if you meant how I decided to write a blog, well, it was purely out of boredom two years ago…

What inspires you to write?

I usually only get to write when I feel too much. I’m no writer/blogger. It just so happens that some thoughts come into mind and I just write them.

Apart from writing what else you love to do in life.

I love eating, reading, playing tennis and making other people’s lives miserable. Haha! Just kidding about the last one! 😀

The nominees are:

  1. https://eullycornmeetsworld.wordpress.com/
  2. https://nishasharma1896.wordpress.com/
  3. https://tashneevmavee.wordpress.com/
  4. https://wordsinthelight.com/
  5. https://bloggymcblogface446.wordpress.com/
  6. https://myadviceforyourlife.wordpress.com/
  7. https://inamessyworld.wordpress.com/

And my questions are:

  1. What do you do in your free time?
  2. What’s your dream job?
  3. Which do you prefer more, watching TV or reading?
  4. What does your perfect day look like?
  5. How would your friends describe you?
  6. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  7. Recommend a movie. Why do you recommend it?
  8. When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
  9. What’s your favorite time of day?
  10. If you could be anywhere else right now, where would it be?

I can’t think of better questions to ask at the moment but I’m very interested to know your answers.

Once again, thank you, Sameera!

Happy day, homo sapiens! 🙂

12 Things I’ve Learned from Working in Kuwait

It’s almost nine years since I boarded the Etihad Airways flight leaving Manila a few minutes past midnight. I haven’t been home since then. But for as long as I can remember, working overseas — specially in the Middle East — was never part of my plans growing up. Moving to a foreign country could be a scary stuff for many but not for me. It’s just that, at that time, I didn’t see myself working abroad. But to borrow the words of Jamie Lannister (or George R.R. Martin to be more precise), “…the things we do for love.” So off to Kuwait I flew…

Jumping into life as an expatriate was a decision I made for love. When I think about it now, I still somehow think it’s one of the most stupid decisions I’ve ever made. I had a rewarding job back in Manila, was earning good enough, have a wonderful family and friends. So why leave? Love. Yes, love. But that’s not what I wanted to write about today though here’s a spoiler… it wasn’t a happy ending. It wasn’t all easy but I can say I still have been very fortunate and blessed after that. What happened then opened new doors, challenges and opportunities for me. Thus, here I am now.

Personally and professionally, these long years of working in Kuwait and living on my own has taught me a lot of things. Allow me to share some…

1. I’ve learned to become totally independent/self-reliant. Arriving in an unfamiliar environment by myself, I didn’t have a choice but to find my way around and rely on myself completely. I have already moved out of my parents’ home a couple of years before I came here but it’s always easy to go home to them whenever I want to or need to. But moving to another country, clueless, is a totally different thing. I learned to cook my meals, treat my wounds (physically & emotionally), going to the doctor when I’m sick, making my grocery list, paying my house rent and bills — I have to do it all on my own. (Thanks to technology I am able to pay my bills or order food online just by clicking this and that, click, click and click then it’s done, as sometimes it’s not easy calling due to language barriers.) It’s amazing to realize that I was able to adapt pretty quickly. I’m glad how I’m able to improve an independent mindset and was able to enhance my decision-making skills. Of course I still make mistakes, but it’s from these mistakes that I learn to be wiser and stronger being on my own. Being able to do things my way is a very liberating feeling!

2. I’ve learned that nationality matters. Well, we always hear that we are all global citizens but in reality, nationality matters here. It does. I understand this connotes a negative meaning, however, sad as it seems, people are paid according to what passport they carry. An Indian teacher can never get a salary equal to an American teacher though they have the same qualifications. Nationality determines the salary for different job titles.

3. I’ve learned a great deal of patience and balance. I always try to be as optimistic as I could about life, however, patience was never really my virtue. Coming here though, I’ve learned to be patient with myself and other people or else, I’d better go back home. It just hit me one day to just take it easy and be patient for a while, balancing my work and social life and give myself a chance to learn how things work in this country.  It is definitely a big adjustment, seriously. But being patient and knowing how to balance things helped me adapt to these differences.

4. I’ve learned that culture shock is a real thing. (It can happen to anyone.) And homesickness, too. Coping with culture shock I think was one of the most challenging aspect of moving overseas or even just traveling. Every traveler I think feels the same way to a certain extent but for most first-timers, I think it’s more serious. First thing that strike me was the language. I felt dizzy listening to people talking simultaneously and very loudly in an unfamiliar language that pretty much sounded like noise to me in my earlier months here. Next, the way people stare at me made me quite uncomfortable, too. (My mom told me it’s bad to stare.) A lot of men stare at women differently that it makes it awkward and unpleasant. I don’t know how to explain this well so I’ll leave it at that. I’m sure others who have worked in the Middle East will understand me. Another thing that still shocks me even to this day are the times when some men drop a piece of paper on your table with their mobile numbers on it. Seriously. You can decently ask for my name and my phone number if you want to be friends with me but dropping a piece of paper with your number and expecting me to call you or send you a message?!? Hell, no. I don’t know if this is okay with other women, but for me, definitely a no-no.

Work ethics and social interactions are far too different from where I came from so it’s really a big shock for me, too. Life doesn’t move as quickly here but life doesn’t end when you don’t get a reply to your email the same hour or the same day, but still. Unanswered phone calls are annoying as well. Some things that I can’t really get used to.

Alongside coping with culture shock, I also learned that homesickness can hit even the most independent of people. It was only less than a month since I arrived when I started  missing everything about my country already. I miss my family, my friends, the food/restaurants, my dog, my mom’s voice (specially when she’s angry (: haha!), my hometown, our home, my bedroom, my books, our village, the markets/shops/malls/bookstores, the public transportation, the pine trees, the fog, the weather, the rain, the discos/bars, alcohol/beer, the people, the fun. I wanted to go back home. But I thought better of it so I stayed. I realized it’s okay to be homesick. Some people I’ve met here make me forget homesickness every now and then. I just try to enjoy the time I have here with some good people I’ve met or by myself most of the time. Home will always be there when I return anyway. 🙂

5. I’ve learned that it helps a lot to learn the country’s language and culture. Communicating with people from different countries without a common language was something really irritating for me at first. I actually expected them to at least know basic English, however, that wasn’t the case. Many people I’ve met here don’t speak English at all. It’s surprising specially in places where English-speakers are expected. So it was (and is still) pretty difficult to communicate. Like in restaurants that serve Arabic dishes, of course as expats, we expect someone who is able to explain to us the dishes in English. It’s frustrating that the staffs aren’t able to explain these things to you. So my experience in a Lebanese restaurant helped me a lot about Arabic food. Anyhow, as days and months and years went by, it became very interesting to experience communicating without a common language! Yes, believe it or not, it’s possible! This happened almost everyday in my first two or three years and even these days, though rarely. But it’s not easy of course. It sometimes leads to miscommunication so it really helps a lot to learn the spoken language in your host country. I’m not saying learn everything but knowing the basics certainly made my life better and easier. It’s pretty annoying coping with a language difficult to understand and I never had the will to learn actually but it goes a long way to know at least how to greet or say thank you in other people’s language.

It’s also a big plus knowing cultural taboos and how to avoid them. I surely found some pretty odd things at first and many times, I disagree about something, but taking a step back and trying to look at things in their perspective helps a lot in understanding their culture/behavior and gradually I learned to understand and respect them. Nothing really comes out good for being an idiot abroad so I try to learn whatever possible things I can learn about the place, the people, the culture and gain understanding of whatever situation I’m into. I’m sometimes appalled or amazed or surprised but it all contributes to how I survive here.

6. I’ve learned to be flexible. I can’t always get what I want and people are not going to adjust or give way for me all the time so I always try to be flexible. Back home, I mostly work things my way and I’m mostly in control of situations but here, I’ve learned that life can’t always be like that. I certainly can’t have all things my way and not every situation is under my control. I’ve learned and understood that there’s always more than one correct answer. I always try to be open-minded and to be prepared to change my mind once in a while because things don’t just fall perfectly on my lap. Even in everyday experiences like eating out with friends/colleagues, being flexible and open-minded will make the experience better, happier and worthwhile. Trying unusual and never-before-heard dishes because it’s the only place open at that time of the day/night actually introduced me to new different dishes and new favorites! So being flexible lead me to different adventures.

7. I’ve learned to manage my expectations. It’s good to think positive but it’s stupid to underestimate how difficult it can get to live in a new place, a new environment, with different people, different climate and a new culture. It isn’t all fun and easy so give big enough room for disappointments, irritation, discouragement and tears. Don’t be overconfident as well but learn to find your niche in your new world and it will be satisfying and beneficial later on.

8. I’ve learned to ask for help. Being independent doesn’t mean you won’t be needing help. Though I can figure things out on my own most of the time, there are situations where it is wiser and more efficient to ask for other people’s help like asking for directions or how things are done here and there. It’s pretty annoying sometimes because of unnecessary talks/comments but hell, there’s no harm in asking for help.

9. I’ve learned to just smile and not to sweat the small stuff. Seriously. A smile always goes a long way. (But still be cautious and use your common sense, of course!) Smiling just feels good. Smiling makes me happy and it could make other people happy, too. Remember that smile is contagious. 🙂 Moreover, don’t sweat the small stuff. Life could be way much worse than we could ever imagine so I learned to appreciate what I have and what I don’t and life as a whole. Really, life ain’t that bad.

10. I’ve learned the value of money. Since I started living by myself, specially when I started working here, the way I look at money started to change. I realized I can just buy a ticket to somewhere and enjoy a lot of different, wonderful, crazy, mind-boggling and extraordinary things instead of buying shoes and bags every so often. (I still don’t mind spending money on books though!) I’ve been able to travel to a few countries during my annual vacations and I was also able to see how people spend (or waste) their money and how little a lot of people have. I also don’t have much but I feel really blessed living the life I have now. I get to realize how much money I’m wasting on things I don’t really need when a lot of people don’t even have anything to eat. I’ve seen poverty in places known as tourist destinations but it’s saddening, heart-wrenching even, to see the reality behind these beautiful and astonishing places. Since then, I promised myself to spend my money wisely and find ways to help the less fortunate in my own little way.

11. I’ve learned to take risks after risks after risks. (Or else, life’s a bore.) I think my decision to quit my job back in Manila and come here was one of the riskiest thing I’ve done in my life. Less than a month since I got here though, I started regretting that decision. Everything was not what I expected, nonetheless, I stayed. Then I needed to take far bigger risks after that. As it turned out, what seemed to be a wrong decision almost nine years ago, turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

12. I’ve learned to embrace diversity. It’s important not to stereotype. Everyone of us is a masterpiece. None of us is exactly the same as someone else. We were raised in different ways, we have different cultures and beliefs, thus, we have different opinions and way of life. Sure, some (or a lot) of things were strange, peculiar or unusual but overtime, I learned to accept and respect these differences as others accept mine. This diversity makes it all beautiful. We become more passionate about other people, it helps bring about a healthier lifestyle, it enriches our knowledge and opinion and it makes us closer.

These are the most notable things I’ve learned thus far living as an expatriate. (This decision I’ve made for love ain’t that bad after all.) Years ago I thought working abroad wasn’t for me. Not anymore. It has opened a lot of exciting, challenging, rare and unexpected opportunities, both personally and professionally that I think working abroad is a choice I’d make again and again. There were years of happy, delightful, wonderful and satisfying moments. There were weeks and months of tears and despair. But all these contributed to what and where I am now.

Kuwait is not for everyone. Countless times I thought it’s not for me, too. It’s certainly not the life I’ve wished/imagined when I was younger but it undeniably helped me in a lot of ways which couldn’t have been possible if I just stayed back home. I am pleased that I’ve learned a lot about myself and that my life had been better in one way or the other. For this I am glad for the experiences I’ve had. Sure there are negative aspects of the country and sometimes I myself find it unsafe in some areas, but it’s not all war zones here or in the Middle East. We can’t ignore the fact that terrible things happen every now and then, however, we have to keep in mind that tolerance and respect for people and their culture is a two-way process. I still always try to convince myself and believe that there are more good people here. Perhaps, I just have to give it a try to reach out again. I don’t want to be left wondering what if and if only.

Thanks for reading. Happy day, homo sapiens! 🙂

Quote of the Week

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.

-Australian Aboriginal Proverb

Quote of the Week

When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life’s subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic.

-Julian Barnes

Sunshine Blogger Award #2

I am so thrilled to accept another Sunshine Blogger Award, this time from a very kind-hearted lady with a lovely name, Tashnee! Do check out her blog if you haven’t yet here.

images

The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions that the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 blogs to receive the award and write for them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Now here are Tashnee’s questions:

Since you started blogging what have you learned from other bloggers?

What I’ve learned from other bloggers aren’t actually blogging/writing tips. What I usually learn from them are things that happen in their worlds. I also get to learn a lot of general information from them and that’s what makes it all fun and interesting.

Who is your mentor?

Actually, no one. As I have mentioned several times, I’m not really a writer. It just so happened that I’ve got things in my mind that are sometimes better written than spoken. There’s this one person though whom I ask once in a while when things are a bit confusing or when I need an opinion on something or when I need better vocabulary words. If you can call that a mentor, then he’s the closest I’ve got. 🙂

What makes you unique?

Oh, I think I don’t know… though I’ve always believed that every person is unique, I can’t still pinpoint what makes me unique among others. I’d want to believe I’m normal though because I am very often described by others as weird, strange, naughty and very recently, dangerous.

What motivates you to blog?

I actually only get to write something when I’m feeling too much. So I guess, it’s the emotions/feelings and everyday experiences/observations that actually motivate me to write.

What are your fears?

My mom and an empty refrigerator. Haha!

What’s your blog about?

Just about anything…

How do you grow your blog?

I’m afraid I’m not doing anything except for commenting and replying to comments and visiting other interesting blogs as well. I should probably work on this. 😉

Describe yourself in two words.

Naughty and rebellious. But I really think I’m nice! Haha!

Which blogger do you look up to, if you have and why?

As long as I enjoy what I read in their blogs, I think that’s something to look up to.

What type of music you like?

I can listen to most types of music but I listen to alternative rock more.

The Nominees:

Priti C

Bethany

Hussein

Sharon

Seema

Orange

Sophie

The secret blog of a 30 year old

Umaima

Akhila

Aman

My 11 Questions for the Nominees

1. Do you like history? Why or why not?

2. What part of history would you like to go back to if you could?

3. Would you change history if you could?

4. What does home mean to you?

5. What do you like most about your hometown?

6. What do you prefer, city or countryside? Why?

7. What country would you really like to visit someday?

8. What’s the first thing you notice about people?

9. How do your friends describe you?

10. What’s your favorite quote?

11. What’s your favorite book?

There you go! I hope the nominees will have time to answer my questions because I am so excited to hear your answers. 🙂

Once again, thanks Tashnee! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Happy day, homo sapiens!

About Last Night

My home and my new workplace is now far from my favorite Korean restaurant so it’s not really very easy and convenient for me anymore to go and eat Korean food. Last night though, I really can’t suppress my cravings any longer.

So of course, the very tasty and colorful side dishes or banchan (반찬) were served first: kimchi, fish cakes, pajeon, green beans, pickled onions and potato salad.

img_9222

The main dish is haemultang (해물탕) or spicy seafood soup/stew. It’s made with a variety of seafood and some veggies. It’s a very comforting soup/stew specially now that winter’s coming. 🙂

img_9225

How ’bout you? What foods do you crave for nowadays? And do you like Korean food, too? I’d be glad to know… 🙂

Happy Thursday/weekend, homo sapiens!