Monday, October 31, 2005


One of my friends told me that when I stopped posting on our e-group he would know that things were going well here in the Middle East. For him, he would rest easy that I did not have to unburden myself through my e-mails.

That isn't necessarily so. I am saying now that it ain't so.

I've been striking a balance between my tendency to go off-tangent on the things I MUST DO (i.e. work), the things I have been asked, and agreed to do (i.e. requests from friends, organizational stuff), and my regular, singular INDOLENCE.

These past two months have been pretty tough. I am feeling the regular downspin of my biorhythm on this job. "Romance of discontent" or not, I have been fending off the seeming lack of purpose on the job.

Bruce Lee wrote and acted one of my favorite cryptic lines ever put down on film in Enter the Dragon. In the opening sequence, Lee's master asks him: "Who is your opponent?" And Lee answers, "There is no opponent, because there is no I."

As unconnected as it may be, that line works for me.

I am encumbered by my own self, and not all the talent or the goodwill will prevent my personal meltdown if I allow it to happen.

Simply put, my best opponent is my own self.

So now, I'd go back to doing what I am supposed to do ... working hard and at the same time, watching and waiting for the relevant thing to say.

Expression can also be found in silence, and for my last quote today (my only Tom Clancy quotable) --- Silence is the greatest passion of all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Happiness Is... (Part 2)

  • Finally kicking your nemesis's butt on your favorite fighting game (in my case, Tekken).
  • Getting brain freeze from slurping down a really cold drink or shake after a hot day.
  • Breaking wind with an earsplitting splat and yet finding your underwear dry.
  • Mastering the swear words in a new language.
  • Being the first person to reach a newly-opened queue at the checkout counter (and leaving everyone else stranded, hehe).
  • Getting new electronic gadgets and popping the bubble wrap in which they were wrapped.
  • Enjoying nipple slips and other wardrobe disasters (intended or not) of otherwise virginal female showbiz personalities.
  • Waking up to a mountain or sea view with a hot cup of coffee, letting the crisp air and the sunrise soak in.
  • Reaching that unscratchable spot and giving it a good rubbing.
  • Hunkering down on the bed and having your loved one beside you.
  • Watching someone else shed tears of joy.
  • Letting out a primeval yell of pure emotion.
  • Hearing an innocent child say "I love you" with him/her meaning it.

Happiness Is...

  • Breaking that pesky high score some twelve-year old set on your favorite arcade game.
  • Getting the same stuff your best buddy was proud of at a huge bargain.
  • Being able to run up three flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.
  • Eating fried chicken and french fries while watching a "Godfather" or "LOTR" video marathon
  • Getting to the toilet before your bladder gives way after holding it for at least five minutes
  • Seeing some schmuck get what is coming to him
  • Holding a deep thought you couldn't believe you had in you.
  • Hugging someone while passing a rainy afternoon.
  • A clean pair of socks.
  • Eating at the most gargantuan buffet table ever.
  • Losing weight without diet, exercise, or stress.
  • That oh-so-sweet, but uncertain first kiss.
  • Falling in love for the first time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Change Agents

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
- Aristotle

One of the main tendencies of an expatriate professional’s life in Saudi Arabia is mediocrity. I’m not saying this to denigrate any of my colleagues who have dedicated themselves to living in Saudi Arabia --- it’s just that the prevailing culture in Saudi society has been one of paternalism and to some degree, relies more on SIR (smooth interpersonal relationships) than Filipinos ever do back in the Philippines.

This is evident in how people regard meeting deadlines, starting meetings on time, making small adjustments here and there instead of adhering to a strict discipline. The regard of many Saudi citizens to traffic rules is just one example among many. The continuing fiction that Saudis must be promoted even beyond their capability is also another. I have to admit that this country belongs to the Saudis and they should take over one day. All signs for that coming day are still relatively far away.

Many people remain critical of the Saudi royal family and sure enough, I’m certain that family is not perfect. But the culture permeates every one – and in some way, the practices of some expatriates help perpetuate, instead of blunting and reforming such mediocrity, which in the end, transform itself into mendicancy. While the royal family would have to do its share, the people would have to make their own changes.

This country has oil wealth – more than enough to pay for three lifetimes of its current population (perhaps even more) – but it has some ways to go in making it a more balanced society. Mind you – the balance does not have to mean it has to change its fundamental structure – but somewhere along that line, reforms would have to be carried out.

This is where Filipinos and other expatriates must play a crucial role – to be change agents instead of being changed ourselves. The pay is great, but I hope it disturbs people to think that WE ARE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE. We are just visitors, and before we get too comfortable that getting out is too difficult of an option, we have to plan accordingly – not only financially, but also professionally.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The very nice people at the ISU have officially logged as a pornographic site. I cannot even log on to my own blog! Cripes, this is ridiculous. I will say this, though, I don't know what kind of damage these blogs do to the morals of the general public here in Saudi Arabia...

True, there are really irresponsible people out there who post as if their heads were stuck up way into their posteriors. But closing the source will only lead to more irresponsibility

This world is already a wholly-connected one - so damming the Internet to keep a few loose cannons away is like letting people die of thrist because you fear a few microbes flowing on the surface. (But let's see how they react, some people may request for unblocking...)

Age and Opportunity

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy birthday to me!

It's strange but I don't feel older. If anything I feel younger, having come to Saudi Arabia and experiencing some parts of my life on my own terms for the very first time.

I am conscious however that as time passes, the doors to any meaningful relationship with a woman are soon banging shut, and the windows, if ever they are available, are starting to close as well. It's not as if I didn't want to have a relationship with a woman; it's just that I haven't really "crossed to the other side" as I have with so many other things.

On the good days, it isn't all that bad, as I am surrounded by children that I get in touch with; on the bad days, I end up asking myself why am I busy taking care of someone else's children. On the ugly days, which don't come often (thank the Lord), I struggle so as not to wallow in self-pity - working in a land that is not my own, devoting myself to the success of strangers and upon coming home, finding that the people you love are becoming strangers.

I just hope that this experience prepares me, cleanses me, and purifies me for what lies ahead. I can't predict the future, all I know is that the choices I make right now would blaze me a new path for my life.

You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. - Psalms 63:11

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Red October

On silent feet it came
Breathing a sheet of flame, it came
Closing it on its rightful prey
Burning a hundred years away
The Morning of the Dragon
Truth lit up the street
The tiger we were stalking
Walked on paper feet
And in the clear white heat of dawn
Was gone
-- "Morning of the Dragon" from "Miss Saigon"

The anniversaries of the founding of the pre-eminent Communist regimes, Russia and China, are in October (of course, the Russians actually had theirs in November, since their calendar at the time was about 11-12 days behind ours). Now their great revolutions are likely to disappear - the Soviet Union of Greater Russia has dissolved into constituent republics, while the People's Republic of China is being challenged by the success of its semi-feudal capitalist system now in place.

But even so, the Chinese Community Party is still going strong. Congratulations, comrades. May you get your just deserts for the blood you shed in the name of the Party.

The real question now is whether the capitalist/materialist/humanist paradigm that is currently ruling the roost is the one which will be the most sustainable. On the one hand, we've seen capitalist economies turn to socialism and the welfare state to protect their "dispossessed." With Evil (with a capital E) falling to the wonders of science, it is no wonder that many of our people today lack a moral compass - and thus lacking the middle ground with which to deal with the activist sects in Islam and Christianity.

Somehow I'm not convinced in this brave new world that there is no room for the ideal of dedicating oneself to the STATE --- whether an earthly one as envisioned by the communists, or the heavenly one. However, I fear that extremism, and the lack of understanding, will continue to tear our world apart.

May all our children learn
The tide of right will turn
Giants fall, tigers burn
Someday with the dawn
They're gone.