26 is a funny age to explore

I often forget that I’m only in my mid-twenties. Most of the time, I feel like I have to act more mature than my age and does it help me? I’m also not sure.

Tonight, I went out with a good friend and some of her friends and realized that yeah, I’m only in my mid-twenties. There’s a lot more I could do and experience and getting blitzed on a weeknight 6,000 miles away from home is hardly a sin.

Life is what we make it, I guess.


[personal] like riding a bike

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m back to writing. And I didn’t realize how much I missed the act of pulling your thoughts together, building worlds and characters. I love the process. The process is what I enjoy most about this endeavor. Writing, itself, is a difficult and painful thing that always breaks me down and always, always humbles me. I love and hate it.

But I’m happy within the deepest parts of my soul that I’m back to writing.

[personal] trying out for a feel

At this point, let’s just skip the fake gasp and “it’s been a gazillion years since my last update.”

I’m horrible at Following Through, we know that by now.

So, what’s new? A lot of things. I’d like to think I’m trying to finally assert my agency in my life, but really. It’s just the universe pushing me to do all these things. I love bulleted things so, let’s get on with it.

  • Writing

I’m starting out a big online writing class tomorrow, September 1. It’s designed to push people to accomplish small goals that will eventually lead them to complete a whole manuscript. I’m super terrified – that I’d fail in general, but also because I haven’t written anything since my first short story. There is also the fact that I’m never really good at finishing things. So I’m terrified.

But also goddamn excited.

  •  Another Writing Thing

I’ve had this thought for a while now, about three weeks now to be honest. I wanted to really get back into writing by doing sort of a weekly challenge for myself. Of course, like the shitty writer going back into the practice that I am, I’d thought of taking baby steps. And by that I mean really, for fucking serious, update this goddamn blog religiously.

We’ll see.

  • Financial Maturity

This, my friends, is the miracle of the 21st century. I have started to look after my future financially and though it may cripple me right now (as in the Prime of My Youth), I think this is really the right step towards a more secure future.

  • Fitness

I constantly thank the Lord for bringing Wyeth into my life. She was my lunch buddy in my previous work and now, a constant in my (expat) life. One of the many things I am thankful for her and her friendship is her hawkeye in ensuring that I really start and continue working out.

Wyeth, if you’re reading this: thank you for motivating me to get out of the damn bed and also let’s schedule a cheat day soon.

I’m not really sure what my blog is morphing into right now. All these weird content that has nothing to do with books and reviews are so all over the place they look like a blog from 2010. And I’m not mad about it at all. So maybe I’d get on with this more and expect more of this?




[travel] Big, Bad Wolf in Dubai, UAE

*clears dust, coughs* Hello? Anybody out here? Oh, you’re still here!

I know I said I’ll write more often but I’m a lazy writer. There’s no escaping the truth.

But if anything, I’m a dedicated reader! Recently, I went to the Big, Bad Wolf book fair here in Dubai. Dubbed as the biggest book sale in the world, it boasts more than 3 million brand-new books from children’s books to your favorite genre fiction.

Honestly, being there is overwhelming.

Here’s the thing about me: I often get sensory-overload whenever I go to malls and markets.  I find it difficult to register everything at once so I kind of check out while walking. Just imagine how it is for me walking into big bookstores! Case in point: Kinokuniya.

Similar to Big, Bad Wolf, Kinokuniya is also a Malaysian brand, only it is a chain of bookstores. (These Malaysian’s know the value of BIG and BOOKS, no? Okay, that’s my last comment about this.) The one in Dubai Mall is known to be a cavernous space and elemental beings have been lost for days inside that maze. I assure you, it’s so easy to get lost in there. I, of course, did. Every time I step into that space, I just *throws brain*. Like that. Every time. A lot of times, the experience of getting into that bookstore is just a blur for me. Blurred background, white noise. That’s it, for me.

Big, Bad Wolf was almost the same. Almost.

When you enter the hall (which is almost two continuous warehouses, emptied and filled with tables and tables of books,) you will be greeted by chaotic stands of best-sellers. Or really, Oprah’s books. Multiple copies of a Jojo Moyes title. And then you enter the land of children’s books. There are pop-ups, activity books, and your regular story types strewn everywhere. And by everywhere, I really mean EVERYWHERE. You have to understand that guests have already plowed through these I-would-only-assume-to-be–once-meticulously-organized tables. Books are of course going to be strewn everywhere. There are a lot of parents and children here. We just ignored this section, to be honest.

(I really, really lusted over the pop-up books but they’re still so god dang expensive, even with the discount.)

So my friend and I headed straight to the fiction section. My beloved YA and genre fiction. Hearts and books emoji here.

It’s a little disappointing though because most titles are not exactly my cup of tea. Which, of course, is not a problem I am going to thrust into the management of the book sale. (Dear management, you did great – all things considered.) Most of the choices in the YA books are limited to a few authors. There’s not much choice in the titles, too. If you’re expecting a Scholastic book fair-level of organization and stocking, that’s not what this book sale is.

Okay, so going into the book sale I was resolved to only spend AED 100. That’s not a lot, but remember that this is a book sale: everything is supposed to be discounted. So if I did this well, I can come out with quite a lot of books.

Presented with literal mountains and mountains of books and paired with my sensory overload, I had to buckle down and set some rules for me.

  1. I will only buy The Raven Cycle books if I find them.
  2. I will only buy Gabaldon (or The Outlander series,) if I find them.
  3. Wuthering Heights!
  4. A Fairy Tale Retelling (Of course.)
  5. A romance book (Duh.)

In the end, I only got to bring home Wuthering Heights (in a spanking cute new cover!), a retelling, and some books that held me hostage. All in all, I stuck to my AED 100 budget (which makes me so proud of myself! What a great night for self-control!) and got to take home six books. That’s not too bad.

I know my bookshelf is a mess. As Mea once said, it could very nearly have its own moment. (Moment, as in the engineering sense.)

I had to wade in three different tables to find the Wuthering Heights in that cute cover before I found it. And the thing is, I’ve been to these three tables before I found it. The book was difficult to find because of the general chaos of the place, but also I think everything just blurs through my eyes. I was thinking the whole time, “Ah, something would probably look familiar to me and then I’ll get that.” But that’s just probably how everyone is though? Like, all choices are a blur until you see something that makes sense, even when you’re not really looking for it?

One of the beef I have with the organizers though is how there are only two tables for romance books, and even then the choices are only chick lit and women’s fic, which yes, okay they are romance. But that’s horribly under-representative of the whole spectrum of romance! There’s not a lot of Historical Romance, which I expected there should be quite a lot because they are usually the mains of book sales. Not a lot of contemporary titles too. There is one Maya Banks title, so that’s a plus, I guess.

For the science fiction and fantasy tables, there are quite a few good titles too. I feel like there are at least a couple of interesting titles that will pique the attention of the discerning sci-fi aficionado. It’s a little enviable, for me as a romance reader. Also! There are sets of books offered at discounted prices! But these are the Coelho books. I wonder how it could have been if there are also sets of romance books: the Bridgertons, perhaps. This is a fucking cash cow and no one is doing anything to sell them in complete sets. Why is that, my friend?

Anywho, Big, Bad Wolf was an amazing sensory overload. I’d go again if I have the resources (dirhams.) But as a trash slowly trying to pick me up, alas. It is not meant to be for now. It has been fun, though. Obviously not a lot of pictures, because when you’re there, who has time to take pictures?


Directions: If you’re in Dubai and would like to visit this monstrous book sale, head on to Mall of the Emirates Bus Station. Take the F30 bus and alight at the Studio City stop. Walk straight ahead, past two roundabouts and an intersection then take a left. The warehouse is the first building past the parking lot. (Although I did hear F30 now stops exactly at the venue. I’m not sure! Don’t blame me if you get lost.)

[personal] one year of being an ofw!

It has officially been a year now since I left the PH! Hi UAE, happy anniversary to us! (And also second grad anniversary! Padayon, mga bagong nagsipagtapos!)

As not mentioned here on this blog, a lot has happened during that year. A LOT. Prior to this move, I have to admit I really thought it would only be unicorns and butterflies. The usual, “OFW’s have it a lot better and easier than the people back home; that going abroad is the easy way out.” I’m still waiting for that magical day to happen, to be honest with all of you.

It Doesn’t Get Easy!

Let me tell you: I’ve been out in the world for two years now, and I’m still waiting for that eureka moment when I would know and feel that everything has fallen into place, much like how it looks to my contemporaries. It doesn’t seem like it will come this year, and even next year.

And I think, it probably doesn’t work that way.

Yesterday, I received a word from one of my superiors about how they want me to incorporate some new stuff to our social media as the ones we currently have been a little repetitive. I took it as an indirect, “You’re not doing very good at your job, Claridge.” But also minding that it might be the anxiety talking.

(The anxiety will never shut up, is also one of the things I learned over the year.)

As I often do, I shared this with my friends and one of them told me, “You shouldn’t think as if you don’t have room to make mistakes. It takes years for someone to get really great at something. Mistakes and learning from them are normal. Keep at it, you’ll keep on learning, keep on growing, and one day you’ll get there.”

And I guess, that’s really true. We (I) should stop being too harsh on myself. I’m relatively young. I’ve only been a working professional for two years. I know that I’ve been doing okay with my work. Sure, I get some things wrong, but I think there is enough credit to the things I did which actually helped the business.

Principles, Schmrinciples

It’s funny ’cause I realized, in the year spent here in the UAE, the hardest part of being out here is applying the honor and excellence one has learned in college. Honor and Excellence. I should stop compromising my beliefs for the comforts of others. I know, I know. In the test of real life, I wonder if it’s a tres or a kwatro I’ve been having.

Honor and excellence, don’t forget. Always, always embody.

Yalla, Habibi

So. One year. And two more, if all goes to plan. Every day, there is the urge to pack up my bags and go home. There is that little voice whispering, “You can thrive there. You did it before, you can do it again.” But also yesterday (seems like a lot happened yesterday, doesn’t it?) I read this graduation speech given by David Sedaris to wherever college it was, and one of his advice to the graduates was to don’t go back to your hometown. Actually, part of the advice was to also not have a fallback plan as a graduating artist.

But anyway, my takeaway from it was to keep on keeping on. Work on your craft, work on your career. It may fail, you may fail, but don’t ever quit. Of course, it was a timely read that I took as a sign from the universe that the road doesn’t end here for me.

I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve made sense with this post. I just want to commemorate this day, I held out for a year. A year of three visa runs to Oman, finding work at a completely unfamiliar place, stumbling, falling, and picking myself up. I’m a little bruised up but also little stronger, I’d like to think so. (Also, one published short story! Let’s not forget that.)

Yalla, habibi. Padayon.

[personal] this is the part of the truth i am scared to tell

I’m sitting alone at a familiar yet new Starbucks shop, in the middle of a faraway area. I have 10 dirhams on my wallet and I know, I will have to scour the earth for a few more just to afford the cab ride home. (As I said, this is a far area.)

And I never thought I’d say this but I didn’t know I needed this calm familiar feel Starbucks has.

Not to glorify Starbucks, but. A lot of my writing has been here, in chains of this big cafe conglomerate. Does that make me a cliche? Maybe. But it is what it is. This place has seen me craft pages and pages of what would be my work. And writing, writing will always be a part of who I am. And at the place 6000kms away from home, I feel the most at home here.

The past weeks had been crazy. I had been my craziest the past weeks. I didn’t know how to cope with the loneliness, the anxiety, and crippling fear of never being enough, of doing something wrong, of not being wanted. This was the worst bout of anxiety I’ve ever had in my entire life and it was all because of a boy. I am a sad failure of the Bechdel test and it’s sad that I had to continue writing about him.

(An aside, or a summary for those out of the loop: When Ariana Grande sang about being into a person she couldn’t breathe, believe her. It’s as surreal as you’d think it is until you figure you needed to breathe to live.)

But maybe, if I write about him, this stupid infatuation will start to get purged out of my system. I am trying to find ways to cope, to hang on to my normal. And finally, I am starting to breathe properly again.

Last night, I scrolled through four years worth of posts in Facebook. There weren’t a lot of posts, but what was there were enough memories to anchor me to who I am (was/) during those years. Who I still am, at my essence. Maybe I just needed that grounding. Maybe I just needed a reminder of who I am. Who I plan to be. So that I can go back to the right me. Not this boy-crazy, anxious girl occupying my body right now.

Maybe I’m still not alright. It still feels like I am about to crawl back and beg for attention – that I am fighting so fucking hard. But I’ve been alone for years and I turned out okay. I chased after challenges, faking the balls to do things, and achieved a fair amount of my goals. I can do this. I can overcome this. I know this. It’s back to regular programming, nothing big. I can handle this.

I will still be unstable and crazy in the coming weeks, but at least I can feel a little clarity now.

[personal] filipino food i miss the most

(Because I’m currently snacking on some pricey siomai and milk tea, as if this were 2015 and I was in Area 2.)

The worst thing about being away is missing out on your usual food haunts. There are days when I felt like only Ate Fe’s sizzling sisig could cure me of my misery. (And yes, I acknowledge that I also had this mindset even before I moved here. #FoodIsLife) Someday, Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez will applaud me for the way I sing praises to food.

  1. Ate Fe’s Sisig. The first thing I will eat once I come back home. I swear to God, Maginhawa will be the first on my list. I will probably walk around Maginhawa-Malingap-Sikatuna area again, light a cig for all the memories I’ve had in that area. Crack open a bottle or three of Red Horse at Sarah’s or TK. Sober up at Mini-Stop with their Fried Chicken (that is way better than Jollibee’s!). Basically, relive my undergrad trash self. I miss it so much.
  2. Mang Larry’s Isaw/UP Food Crawl. Even as an undergrad, I could never keep up with the influx of new stores popping up all over the campus. There used to be a cute, rustic cafe by SOLAIR that vanished even before I graduated. Area 2 is a beast with an evolutionary rate Darwin would have been proud of. For sure though, the staples like LB shake and Mang Larry’s isaw will never be forgotten. (Also, maybe add a Snack Shack burger even though they are also fairly new to Area 2. I am old. I can still remember Area 2 with just LB and LKB.)
  3. FA Siomai and Arki Pantea. OHMYGOD. Now that I remember the Pantea, I get a mad craving for it. 😦 FA siomai with its heaps of fried garlic bits is just THE BEST. I can still remember my freshie days with my Chem 16 Cool Friends (they were all older than me) and they introduced me to All Things All Freshies Should Know About UP. They were cool.
  4. Waltermart Guiguinto’s Takoyaki. I’m pretty sure this is a franchised product, but I always forget its name. Anyway, it serves it purpose – to satisfy your takoyaki cravings, which is actually pretty niche if you think about it. I also miss Ganchan’s legit takoyaki but it’s so expensive. (It also just occurred to me that this should be a filipino food-themed post, but hey.)
  5. Gong Cha’s Earl Grey Milk Tea. 😦 When will Gong Cha open here in Dubai?