Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Doppelganger

It was my first long haul flight, how I wished that I would be seated beside someone cool; if not cool, at least tolerable, not a crying baby, nor a chatty grandparent, nor someone who has bad breath.

On the plane, i was seated beside 2 Chinese people, a guy on my left with his dad and a girl on my right.  I've watched a few movies and was kind of getting bored with no one to talk to.  The first meal  was being served, I overeard the girl beside me spoke with the attendant in English (even though she was watching Chinese movie on her screen) so I initiated a conversation.

I found out that she is a Chinese Language teacher from Beijing, she is the only child and is married with no kids yet.  She used to be a Chinese teacher in Arkansas for 3 years and is now heading to New York to study for a year.  I also told her basic stuff about me, my family, and what I do.  Told her about my trip around the US and Mexico.

Naturally, as Asians, we tend to talk about our age.  She told me she is 30 years old.  I said, me too! and she asked, when is your birthday? and I said in June; and she's like me too! June when?  I said, 15! she said No way! I'm 16th!  Then also found out that we both booked the Super Shuttle to get from the airport to go to our hostels.  The connection began so we started showing each other photos of our family.  She then showed me some of her photos on her ipad and saw this photo of her:

I was like, that looks like me!  What the?!  That's me!  I guess we both didn't realize we looked alike because the light was dim.  I showed her photos of my sister Girlie, and she said she feels like she looks like her too! hahaha

Anyway, we spent the rest of the time chatting and talking about China and other things.  We promised to keep in touch and meet up in New York after she finds for an apartment to stay.  So a day before I left for DC, I met up with her.  Here is our photo:

Maybe you don't agree we look alike, but I KNOW people will say we could be sisters!  She also told me that something happened on the plane that I didn't pay attention to: When we were about to land and the flight attendant was giving us US Customs Card, the girl told us that we only need 1 card per family and so she gave me one and moved on to the next passenger! haha  She had to call the attendant back to give her a card. LOL.  Then at the Super Shuttle counter, we each gave our vouchers to the lady on the desk, and she was confused and said, oh you guys have 2 copies? and I was like, yeah, we're not related! haha  she thought we were sisters too.  We jokingly talk about that we might have the same ancestors from China; but this was not very feasible for she is from the North (Beijing) and my family is from the South (Fujian)! haha

We just constantly amaze one another with the stuff we find out about each other.  When we met the other day, we found out that we were actually at the same place at the same time.  We just didn't meet.  We were both at the Financial District trying to see what celebration is going on near the World Trade Center.  We each showed our photos and we even took the same photo of the singing choir group.  Funny.

When we were about to say goodbye after spending an afternoon together, we said goodbye hoping to see each other again in this lifetime.  There was this undeniable connection between the two of us, we both felt it.  She even told me that if I ever get into whatever kind of trouble in the US that I can call her and she will do everything she can to help me.  You only say that kind of thing when you mean it.

It is stories like this that is worth sharing.  Amazing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Extreme Filipino Hospitality

I have always heard of and talked about Filipino Hospitality.  Boasted about how extremely hospitable Filipino people are; I was speaking in the host point-of-view.  It was not until I got to New York and met up with my Filipino friends that I have come to realize how hospitality can be taken to a whole new level.

Since I got here, I have met up with my friends Jackson and Joy (my high school friends), AJ and Nina (from college), and Anne (whom I've met here via G).

Anne, is a successful Filipina woman who lives in a posh apartment in Manhattan and works as a producer in Bloomberg.  Yeah!  Her life is divine!  I have met her only through G, who came here to visit her.  The other night, I went to her  house to hang out and drank wine which ended at around 3 in the morning.  I fell asleep on her floor while chatting with the girls.  When I woke up in the middle of the night to go pee, she immediately offered me everything that I could ever need to be more comfortable in her house; sleepwear, pajama, shorts, slippers, tshirt... She made me feel so at home for my impromptu sleepover!

me, G, Anne

Then there is my high school friend, Jackson and his wife Joy, who has been nothing but supportive of my visit to NY.  Weeks before I was coming, Joy would send me photos of their new baby Gavin saying "See you soon, Auntie!" or the constant exchange of messages with Jackson to help me out with tips on places to go and food to eat.  They just had a baby 2 months ago and they traveled all the way to Brooklyn with Joy's parents just to welcome me to New York!  I felt so guilty making them come all the way down just to see me even though Joy's parents were tired from walking the whole morning; plus the stress of traveling with a new born baby (first time on the subway too)!  It's so crazy.  We went to the Brooklyn Smorgasburg Food Flea Market and even paid for my food and drinks!  Not just that, I realized that I left a bag with them and Jackson brought it back to me today (but told me yesterday if it were anything important, he would bring it to me right away)!  He also invited me to come see a baseball game at the Citifield Stadium in Queens to watch the Mets game then fed me burger!

Jackson, me, Joy, and Joy's dad who is visiting

Then of course, there is AJ and Nina.  AJ was my blockmate in University and Nina was his girlfriend (now wife).  AJ usually works late and does not use as much facebook, so I have been keeping in touch with Nina this whole time.  Since the day I have arrived, there is not a day that Nina failed to ask me how my day went, and what I did that day.  They've asked me to keep my Sunday and Monday free so that I can spend time with them during their off days.

So far, I was driven everywhere by their beautiful new car; they have driven me to restaurants, malls, even outlets in Long Island!  Nina remembered everything that I told her about what I wanted to eat or things I wanted to do, and places I wanted to go.  Yes, everything.

There is a funny story that happened when we had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.  I was so alert from the beginning of dinner that I wanted to pay because of all this overwhelming hospitality they have been showing me.  So when the bill arrived, AJ and I both hurriedly grabbed the bill from the waitress' hand, but I won. haha.  Then the arguing started:  No, no, Cands, let me pay! /  Noooo.. I'll pay! |  Give me the bill, Cands!  |  No! |  Give it! | No! | Give it! our voices got so loud that Nina asked us to stop haha, she said people were staring at us lol. It felt like we were on a game show called "I'll pay for dinner!"  Eventually, after much debate, AJ finally gave in and allowed me to foot the bill.  I told him that I have already given my credit card to the waitress even before they served the food (which wasn't true, haha).  AJ even resorted to some name-calling because he lost the game! lol.

If all of that wasn't not enough, they are helping me fill up my balikbayan box with the stuff I bought from the outlets!  AND!!!! they washed my clothes for me since I've already been here for a week now; I gave them stinky clothes and they gave it back to me clean and folded!!!! (they insisted! I promise, ma!) gosh...

me, Nina and AJ at the All American Drive-In!
What I found really amazing is that my friends all said they felt embarrassed if they didn't do something for me!  They have this sense of responsibility that you have to have fun in their turf.  Despite the fact that I feel like I am the one that is taking up so much of their time and wanting to do the stuff that they have already done; as if their time wasn't enough gift for me, they will want to pay for my food too!

I tell you Filipinos set such high standard in hospitality, you'll be spoiled.  No one compares!  Tell me about your extreme Filipino hospitality experience.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Impressions of New York

I have finally made it to NY!  The City of Lights!  Been here for 24 hours from surviving 16 hours of flight and 12-hour time difference.  I have done a lot of sleeping considering I am in The City That Never Sleeps!  I feel so guilty falling in and out of consciousness since I arrived!  I slept at 5 in the morning til 1pm then slept again at 4-7pm!  I have to fix this sleeping pattern and start doing stuff in NY!

So after 24 hours, I decided to do a list of my first impressions of New York, so here it goes:

New York is like a giant movie set.  It is so BEAUTIFUL in New York! The architecture, the stores, the posters on the wall, the steam, the stairwell up an apartment (ala SATC), bricks, street lights, sculptures, road signs, fire escapes, trees... everything!!!  Everything seems to mean something artistically; like trees are strategically placed beside a street lamp so the shadows would cast beautifully on the road, it's so poetic.  I have given up taking photos of the buildings because all of them are beautiful!

photo from tlc-mag.com
New York is dirty.  Coming from Manila, I expected New York to be alot cleaner. haha.  There is just sooo much trash!  Don't get me wrong, the trash are organized and clean in black plastic bags, but they are just EVERYWHERE!  So much trash.

New York people are always on the phone.  No matter its the taxi driver, or the guy driving a truck, the UPS guy, the cashier from the store, a businessman walking on the street, the lady walking the dog, everyone is on the phone, ALL THE TIME!  Even my friend Chris Fed and I were NOcializing while eating haha

New York is delicious.  I have eaten at 3 places so far since I have been here, I have had a burger from 5 Napkins (USD 16), a Sabrett Hotdog (USD 4) on the street, and Katz's Pastrami Sandwich (USD 17) and everything has been wonderfully delicious (and expensive).  I have stopped converting my expenditures into peso.

New York is really diverse.  You cannot tell whether a person is a local or foreign.  It is such a melting pot of a city (that makes food so authentically delicious), that so far I have met people from Pakistan, England, Tunisia, Jamaica, China, France, Italy and Americans from other states all in just 24 hours.

New York roads are uneven.  Growing up in the Philippines and associating everything nice with the US, I thought NY roads would be less rocky haha.  I was surprised that our roads in Manila are comparable that of NY.

New York Subway is so hard to get used to.  It was not until I have spoken to a local who told me that the subway only goes North and South and none East to West that I understood why taking the train is almost the same as walking when I was heading towards Bleeker from 9th Street.  It is so difficult to find out where the stations are, the stairwells just magically appear on the side of the road.  There is no logo, or metro sign or anything.

New York is all about the parks.  I have yet to go to Central park and yet I have seen so many already! It's nice to have clean benches to sit on and eat a hotdog.  There are a lot of trees too!

New York is dog crazy.  There are soooo many dogs in New York!!  Someone is either walking their dog or someone is walking someone else's dog!  They are EVERYWHERE!  Therefore needless to say, there are also dog parks all around!

New York is tattoo friendly.  A LOT of people have tattoos!  Almost 85% of the people I see in the subway and walking in the street has tattoos! So awesome!

New York seems to have a bad reputation about safety.  90% of the people I have spoken to about New York has offered me some sort of safety precautions about the city.  Don't walk in the park at night; carry 20 dollar bills in your pocket so if someone robs you, you can just give them a 20;  Stay away from crazy people haha among other stuff.  I've lived in Manila my whole life and have never felt afraid even if I was in Caloocan or Tondo.  As a traveler, we should always be vigilant, apply common sense and trust your instincts anywhere in the world.

New York is friendly.  I guess I haven't been around yet, but so far, everyone has been really friendly.  Everyone takes time to say hello, chat a little bit, welcome me to the US, help me out when they saw me looking lost.