Monday, December 19, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One

Rogue One. Enjoyable movie with lots of action, a cool space battle and a gigantic Star Wars stamp on it sans the rolling script in the beginning. My guess is that they dropped it because it doesn't have Roman numerals in its title.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time watching the movie. It reminded me of all things Star Wars; rebels dashing off here and there to find plans or people, the self-sacrificing mentor, the orphaned hero/heroine, the brave pilot, the funny robot, and a character saying that they've "got a bad feeling about this." Oh and wait, let's not forget the desperate hologram message. I guess I'm just a bit sad that it really is a filler. While I'm definitely a fan of the Zatoichi-like Asian man with a stick, it doesn't do anything new  -- unless Jyn looks kind of like Rey for a reason. Hah.

I think that it was a good movie and I especially appreciate the cinematography. Yes, I go geeky over stuff like that. I went as far as to read up on the lenses used for this particular movie. I'm not quite sure if sitting on the first row in a small cinema had anything to do with my fascination with the colors. They were old school and definitely brings you right back to the first three movies (OK fine maybe the others, too). All in all, the marriage of old techniques and the new produced to what is to me, a visually stunning film. Suspension of disbelief as always is a factor in enjoying movies but it doesn't hurt in this day and age of technology to have digital expertise be evident on screen.

It being a filler, I suppose there's no point in saying that it was predictable. In truth, I no longer always think that predictability is necessarily a bad thing. We know that people will die, an unlikely group of characters will trust and work together, and that someone will fall in love with the heroine; but that's what makes it an entertaining movie that is at the same time real and relatable.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


(Inspired by Helen)

Sometimes, people touch your lives and stay for a time to make it brighter. They add dimension and widen your horizons a little bit. Just like that, you change.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Version 3.1

I have always liked these two cards. I may not have always appreciated them, but they resonated the most. Beginnings. Endings. Times of change and perhaps, upheaval.

I was reading a series of letters I'd posted in a blog almost four years ago and started thinking of how different things had been back then. How different I had been in some ways and how certain things had not changed. I remember telling a friend how much I missed myself, the old me. And him telling me that it was ok, that it didn't matter what version I was.

We are funny creatures. Sometimes scared of change, sometimes craving it. But do we really change? I once sought to run away from myself, to reinvent who I was. Yet, one of my favorite authors when I was in high school,  Anne Rice, once wrote, "None of us really change over time. We only become more fully what we are."

I'd like to think that we become better. We might not always get there using the best route. It might sometimes be rocky, be hilly, even be mountainous. Journeys change us but I see it as a test to find the best things in oneself and let those parts of you come through. Three and a half years in Dar has taught me a lot about myself and what I could potentially be. I discovered new skills and also re-discovered and re-purposed old ones. I learned how to cook and haggle (albeit reluctantly) now and then. I learned how to accept compliments and how to not shut my eyes when dancing. 

My time in Tanzania is coming to an end. To some, six months may be a lifetime or at least sound like a long time. To me, it's not that far off. Ten weeks till my US trip and then ten weeks after that I'm out of here. I regret it a bit that I hadn't been able to say goodbye to Viet Nam properly. So for this one, I'd like to savor my beach/pool weekends, spend time with friends as much as I can, and just enjoy the rest of my Dar experience. Perhaps that's part of version 3.1. Instead of spending the last months in a haze and just jumping off, I can keep my eyes wide open between this adventure and the next.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Can one be enough?

I struggle with owning only one of something. I have three phones, two speakers, three pillows, three sets of beddings, four pairs of work shoes, seven bottles of lotion/tub of body butter, five kimono dresses, two backpacks for everyday use... The list goes on and on.

About two months ago, I read this article about the joys of having just one of things. Of course, I don't mean for everything. Obviously, I'd still need multiples of underwear and clothes but I can see the point of having one of certain things. If I had one of something:
1. I'd take better care of it
2. I'd be able to use ALL of my possessions
3. I might be able to afford higher quality items
4. There would be an increase in intentionality in my purchases

However, I worry about replacing things. Where I live, I can't just walk up to a store and expect to get the things I want when I want them. Re-stocking items is not a thing and ordering online takes months and a lot of money. Someday, maybe I'll live somewhere where most things I think I need to have doubles of will be 20 minutes away and under $20. For the next six months? Definitely not.

I do know that I need to keep cutting down on duplicates and multiples though. I can't use the same excuse over and over again. All the same, I need to know which battles to fight and when the quest for minimalism can become too much or too impractical. I have allergies and replacing my beddings help. I don't want to keep running the wash when I don't have a full load. Also, part of my identity is - I have things for "just in case." I'm willing to share and give away, so, I do need things to share and give away. 

Moving forward, I'll just re-think my purchases and make sure I'm not buying something I already have and don't need a duplicate of. At the end of the year, culling items I don't need will be easy once I pack up. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mindful Spending and Possessions

Since March, I've been on a purging/de-cluttering rampage. When I first moved to Tanzania, I was only allowed 15kg as checked-in baggage. A little more than a year later, when I moved house, I had amassed double, perhaps triple that. For my age, if you think about it, I don't have a lot of possessions. Apart from my books back home, I don't have much else other than a chest of drawers containing a few odds and ends and hardly any clothes. I don't have anything in storage. Everything else by way of physical possessions, is in this house, in Tanzania. The question is, what do I really need to own?

My current book pile
  • Books. Living in Vietnam converted me to e-books. Traditionalists will argue about this again and again, but I'm happy to say that I'm now able to read a book and let it go. 
  • Clothing. Living in tropical countries, having enough change of clothes is important, both for hygiene and also for the environment. Since I use a washing machine, I need to have enough to last me between (sizeable) loads. I don't need 50 shirts of inferior quality just because they have funny sayings. I need comfortable and sturdy shoes more than pretty ones. 
  • Gadgets. I like gadgets and nifty tools far too much for my own good but I don't need them, not really. I have to think about what I use and what I currently have and make sure I don't buy random things just because I think they're cool or that someday I may need them.
  • Beddings. Three sets of bedding is enough - I can't always trust the weather to comply and dry my sheets immediately and I need to change them about once a week to make sure my allergies don't bother me any more than they usually do.
  • Important documents. 'Nuff said.
  • Stationeries and other paper products. My excuse is I'm a teacher. It's not enough to justify having triples of things I don't use often. Pens are another matter, because I'm fussy about using only ultra fine point and they're not available here as far as I know. I check my locker and my box at home every term to make sure I don't store things I don't need any more.
  • Extra toiletries. Here comes another excuse - toiletries, can be quite expensive here as a lot of products are imported. I tend to hoard when possible by buying when I'm abroad or asking friends to bring them for me. Since my  time in Tanzania is drawing to a close, I have to quite doing this and use up what I have before I leave.
  • Sentimental items. From now on, I'm only going to keep things that make me happy. 

I have always thought words with -ist and -ism mostly divide humankind. I'm not aspiring to be a pure minimalist. I like my wall of postcards, letters, pictures and memories. The laminates of collages I made to raise my spirits during a time of depression, I definitely want to keep. My tables are not always going to be devoid of tiny figures or whatnot. What I don't want, is to not know what I have and to be overwhelmed by choices of what to wear and what to use because I own too many things. I don't want to not have time for what I think are truly important. I want to spend my money more mindfully and for it to go towards my needs and my dreams.

For the remainder of this year, I will only spend my money on the following:
  • Groceries and toiletries as needed
  • E-books (I haven't set my budget, but I also haven't bought anything new since January)
  • Cleaning and shared housing expenses
  • Gifts for others (I need to plan more carefully and make sure I'm not buying random things for gifting's sake)
  • A haircut (maybe)
  • Contact lenses and solution 
  • Trips
  • Experiences (theatre, museums, wildlife safaris, etc.)
  • Any other shopping has to be planned and thought about for at least a month, otherwise, I probably don't really need them

I sort of have an addictive personality (understatement) and I've inundated my sister's and Lily's inbox with links to some articles regarding simplifying, decluttering and minimalism. If you want to read some of them, you can find the best I've found at the following sites:

A Letter to My Parents

It took me ages to write everything out although the content has been in my thoughts for a while now. I'm sending a paper copy but I'd like this to be kept online as well.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry we don’t talk as often as we used to. Dad, can you turn on your wifi more often? Let’s coordinate so I can call you on Viber or FaceTime. I’m writing you a letter because what I have to say is quite lengthy and a bit maudlin as well. We don’t want Dad to be bawling like a baby by the time I finish.

I think it’s pretty awesome that I had my eighth leap birthday this year. Leapers all over the world still aren’t very common. I’ve only met or heard of a handful and even online, there aren’t that very many of us. It’s a very cool birthday to have, though.  Anyway, thinking about my birthday and where I was celebrating it got me to start thinking about how lucky I was. I had quite a wild imagination as a little kid but never had I imagined my life to be what it is now. I wouldn’t have imagined me to be who I am now.

There are so many things that I like about my life, many things I’m grateful for. I don’t think I’d have most of them if you weren’t the people you are and if you’d raised me differently. I know it hasn’t been all that easy, I do hope it has mostly been fun for you both.

I have lots of memories from childhood. I remember learning how to read and write with Dad, taking lots of walks and talking about everything under the sun. I used to ride on Dad’s shoulders, eating (contraband) street food when I went with him to work and listening to him chat with anyone who had a tongue.  Mom, you used to wrap me up like a baby in my favorite blanket and tickle me while we watched your soaps and action-packed TV shows. I recall going to work with you and watching you teach your classes. I mostly remember your naughty students and how I ended up collecting Marvel cards because of them. Walking up and down that “mountain” to get to your school was fun because you told me lots of stories to distract me. It was always hard work getting you to tell me about your childhood because you said your memory wasn’t like Tita Gelie’s.

When Dad left for Saudi Arabia, I had a fantastic time writing and recording letters for him. By the way, Dad, thank you for letting me make all those (grammar and spelling) mistakes and not making me feel bad about them. I can’t remember whose idea it was to let me start performing in school, it was great though. I never stopped being scared of being in front of people but at the same time I loved it. I learned how to express myself and got the confidence I needed to accomplish a lot of things. I am lucky to have a prodigious memory but learning to train it wasn’t an accident. To this day, I remember the words to most of the poems, declamations and orations I had to recite, by heart. Dad fostered my love of reading and Mom inadvertently made it the most enticing thing to do by forbidding me to read books other than textbooks or assigned reading during the school year.

They say every mom is a kid’s number one fan and may at times be unrealistic about one’s gifts or talents. You, Mom, were certainly never the latter. I love how forthright you are about your children’s (and your husband’s) flaws. You taught me to be honest but not to be cruel and to compliment people when they deserve them. Watching you work on our finances and your openness about how you manage them taught me how to manage my own. You trusted me to watch movies on my own and let me wander around the mall while you worked. I wasn’t always deserving of your trust and that’s how I ended up losing the school bus privileges. Nevertheless, I think I can attribute becoming independent and street smart, to all that.

Dad, I know I sometimes may have disappointed you by not being as religious as you are. I appreciate you being patient with all my questions and letting me talk about what I read or hear about so I can understand and create my own core beliefs. I always looked forward to the time you spent with me singing worship songs and old songs. You talked about your faith and always treated my opinions and queries as valid and deserving of your attention.

We had our rough patches, but I mostly remember your love. I thank you for my virtues, my strengths, my flaws and my weaknesses. Without all those, I wouldn’t be me.

There are a lot more stories to tell and reminisce about, more recollections to attest to how wonderful you both are. On that note, I end this letter with hugs and kisses sent to both of you.

With love as always,

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Last night I dreamt of you
Don't worry, I knew it wasn't true
But it was nice to have a glimpse 
Of someone I used to miss