Friday, June 22, 2007

Rich, Poor, and a River


Rich, Poor, and a River
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
Here's a nice shot from my aunt's apartment. She's 16 stories up and you can see that this place really sticks out of the middle of lower-quality homes. If we had a view of the other side, you'd see Makati, the Philippines' business capital.

Philippines Day Thirteen

THE THIRD WORLD MALL
I bought a bunch of books yesterday and am spending most of the day reading them. I say "most of the day" since aside from my usual gym time, I spent trying to find a wireless connection for my laptop. Turns out I had been pirating the connection in the lobby of my aunt's building and whoever owns it put up a password. I then proceeded to locate the nearest other wireless signal, and it's here in the Starbucks in the mall next door. Of course, it's not that simple: it was a pay-per-use connection. Of course, it's still not that simple: I had to go up to the counter to buy minutes.

So with all that done, I came on to check on details of a trip that Elli, Nikki, and Teal are taking to Sarangani (or the primary source document), home to Cecile's governor brother, Miguel Dominguez. I'm tagging along and have to book a ticket for myself, while Cecile will handle the girls. So, she sent me an e-mail she had passed on to a travel agent and I got confused since there were no flight numbers. Turns out, there's only one flight to General Santos City from Manila on Tuesday. In any case, I'll be there until the 29th, meaning I'll have to skip a talk at UP on the Thai coup.

Anyway, why is this post called "Third World Mall"? Well, I was going to take pictures of this place, especially the catholic chapel inside it, but a security guard found me out and asked me to either get authorization from the mall administration or stop taking pictures. So, in a sign of good faith, I deleted the pictures I took in front of her. Still, I've never heard of a church-in-a-mall before and apparently the people who live in the residential towers nearby wanted a parish of their own, so they lobbied to have it built. The chapel's pretty tiny, so when I went to mass there last Saturday, we were spilling out into the mall itself. For the lucky few who made it inside, they could either (1) see the priest head on, (2) see the priest on a flatscreen TV (because they were positioned behind a pillar), or (3) see the priest on a large projector. See? The Catholic Church is moving along with the times.

But in a grander sense, Third World Malls like these are so unattainably high-end for the vast majority of the people here that either habitus or even force somehow prevents "undesirables" (i.e. the "masses") from even stepping foot inside. And, unlike Mall Arauco in Vina del Mar, the semi-gatedness of Rockwell "sanitizes" the area around it from the poor. I'll show you in pictures in a bit.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Subic Bay Adventure


I Can Do Better
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
I was planning on doing an elaborate photoblog of my "world of wonder" at Subic Bay last Sunday, but this thing takes forever to upload photos. Instead, I'll upload this one and let you folks peruse my flickr page for the "details," so to speak. What happened in a general sense was that I was asked to chaperone my little sister on a trip to Subic Bay, the former U.S. Navy base in the Philippines. We left with her friend's family at about 4am and I ate fried chicken for breakfast. I thought I was going to be bored out of my boxers, but the Miss Philippines contest contestants showed up and I snapped lots of pictures of them at the seal show. As I was about to get them in bikinis, my camera ran out of batteries. Such is life.

Philippines Day Twelve

MOUTHWASH ADVENTURE

After I use my aunt’s building’s gym, I usually have a salad with her in her apartment. These salads, though, are chock full of onions, which at the time are really good with their spicy bite, but afterwards leave that oniny aftertaste as only onions do. Of course, it really doesn’t matter that I can taste onion for hours afterwards since I usually go to bed soon after and as such don’t have to play with others, but you know me – might as well try to remove it for the sake of saying I did it. You know, ‘cause I like to think I’m good at low-risk observational humor. Also, because I think someone can be “good” at humor.

So in the bathroom at my lola’s house, I saw this green stuff that could have only been mouthwash. I prepped myself in anticipation for my mouthwashy intercourse: I flossed, I brushed my teeth, I scrubbed my tongue just to see if that’d help (nope).
I took the bottle in my hand and unscrewed the top. Now, I had sort of a convincing-someone-to-eat-wasabi-straight-up-by-telling-them-it-was-green-tea moment: I wondered if I was going drink from the cap, why the cap was so small and why the bottle’s spout was so tiny. I thought it was some quaint contrivance to help people (children) not swallow too much of the stuff, so I filled up the cap, sipped it all up, and started to swish it around.

A surge of chemical tinglyness exploded in my mouth, about eleven to forty-five times more intense than any regular old mouthwash. I could feel my tongue and my cheeks start to wrinkle, and my lips were puckering involuntarily. All that soft tissue in and around my mouth felt like it was being sucked dry. I spit that shit out, and let me tell you, I was in a fucking daze. I groggily grabbed the bottle to find out what the fuck I did wrong and then it was made clear to me that I was an idiot:

Astringo-Sol brand CONCENTRATED MOUTHWASH

Of course, I wanted to know exactly how much of an idiot I was instead of washing my mouth out immediately. Turns out that you mix one part Astringo-Sol and FOUR PARTS WATER. I glanced quickly upwards onto the shelf above the sink and saw a cup that I bet had been used just minutes before to mix one part Astringo-Sol and four parts water and then went straight to gargling with water. Six or seven handfuls of water later, I still couldn’t get the soft tissue in my mouth to absorb the water and diffuse those dehydrated cells. And what’s more, I still tasted onion, but only this time, mixed with the aftertaste and bad memories of Astringo-Sol.

In other news, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy V again, only of course because I’m too old to play Pokemon. Also, I don’t think any one set of RPG commands are as badass as these:




Under “Items” you can select “Mouthwash.” Not for kids.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Philippines Day Nine

I bet you're all dying to know what's up with me. I started to do a backwards recounting of my first week in the Philippines, but I got caught up in a few things (Elite Beat Agents, also, look at all the hipsters playing it) and managed to get two days in. This post I'll use to just summarize what's been up so far. I'm sorry to the three of you who read this blog; despite being whizzes at computers, the Filipino people have not managed to spread the joys of wi-fi around to enough places. Right now, I'm in the lobby of my aunt's embarrasingly swanky apartment building using the free wi-fi here. Oh, by the way, according to one study I recently read on the middle class in the Philippines, my aunt would be a "Capitalist" since she employs over 80 people to bake, deliver, and manage cakes.

Anyway, I arrived with no complications. I left on Friday afternoon from SF and stayed awake on the plane from SF to Narita and from Narita to Manila (I rented a shower room in the Narita airport!). I did this feat of 16 hours of wakefulness in order to cut down on my jetlag when I got in (I landed at 10:30pm on the next day) and did so by playing Elite Beat Agents and watching the in-flight movies. Oh, the movie Bandidas managed to make me jealous of Steve Zahn since he basically gets molested by Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz; the two of them spend the entire movie nearly busting out of their costumes and slobbering all over him. If there were any a film that made me like breasts any more than I already do, it's Bandidas. I also watched The Lives of Others, so I didn't completely rot my brain.

Anyway, my family was totally happy to see me, as were my aunt's 454,234,777 dogs, three of which are fuzzy, shaggy puppies who as of yesterday just figured out how to whimper. Since he's based in Davao now (in the southern Philippines), he came up for a couple days to chill and such and I got to see his cafe (where, as my mom pointed out, you can order dinaguan and coffee). After he left, I took over his room in my grandma's house.

I've managed to set up somewhat of a routine so far after a week, which consists of me getting up at 6am to leave for UP (University of the Philippines) at 7:30 (arriving at 8:30ish), staying there for about five hours to work, then heading back to my aunt's swanky apartment where I use the gym (for free) and get after workout shakes (also for free, out of the generosity of my aunt). I try to be asleep by 10pm, which is aided by the fact that I don't have any internet in my room and that the TV here is sort of lame (no hours and hours of Law and Order).

I haven't spent money so far while I've been here, which was I expected, but of course, I feel guilty that I haven't spent money on myself. So, I'm just trying to not spend money on anything at all to somehow balance out karmically the money being spent on me with asceticism. I'm sure that's not going to work, but at least I tried.

I've also been taking the jeepney and the MRT to go to UP, which has actually forced me to speak Tagalog. It's made my brain activate it's deep receesses of tagalog words and use them to form sentences. While it's not like I'm reciting Shakespeare asking the driver to drop me off near my aunt's apartment, it's still getting me to open my mouth.

What else? Well, I'll fill in the rest of the blanks in the days to come as I'll try to upload pictures to my flickr account and talk about myself more.

Philippines Day Five

I developed enough balls to follow through on Myther and Friends today, the powerbroker’s luncheon that my dad got me an invitation to. My dad texted my stepmom to accompany me, which was a good idea, since of all the things I inherited from my father, his schmoozing gene was not one of them.

When we got upstairs to the dining room, Myther had already set up the buffet line and was chatting with the mayor of Makati, Jejomar Binay, and a few other people. The atmosphere was quite different from when I went on Sunday: Myther had about six plastic tables set up, about three long ones, and three smaller ones, each with a box of tissues for napkins and a bowl of garlic peanuts. A pianist was playing standards and Myther’s small army of “waiters” was bustling about, getting people soup and Diet Coke.

He greeted us and led us to a small table in the corner near a window and the pianist. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see the main table, a longer one in the far side of the room where Myther and the mayor were talking, but we had a good view of the other two long tables where eventually Senator Loren Legarda sat along with her entourage.

Myther and Friends combines Simmellian sociability with the habitus of the political field. We sat alone for a few minutes until Andy Fornier joined us. Andy, according to a joking Myther, is a “high-priced” lawyer who knew my Tita Didi since he was involved in what I guess would be the equivalent of the PTA at the school she principals. Andy explained a little more about the Myther and Friends phenomenon, using his publicly-known conflict with Loren Legarda as an example. Even if he had tried to legally invalidate her senatorial candidacy, at Myther’s everyone is civil, polite, and the talk is not about politics but other “balita” like celebrity news, sports, and basically stuff that’s not immediately about politics. Still, the fact that politicians and opinion writers show up to talk to each other, and the fact that there was a photographer doing photo-op pictures shows that at least at one level, Myther’s lunches are still about politics, but among “friends.”

Myther came and chatted with us for a bit as he was making his rounds. He offered to introduce me to the politicians, but I was too chickenshit to do it. Maybe next week when I go back – something I intend to do for the next few months – I can talk showbiz gossip with the Mayor or a Congressman. In any case, as an attendant, I can’t share the details of the conversations I had there (another one of those unspoken rules). Suffice it to say, after having visited UP and read the very technical attempts to measure middle-class politics in the Philippines, the politicos have a completely different view, one that seems to stress the importance of good timing, name recognition, personal connections, and media exposure.

Oh and of my “appearance” at my dad’s friend’s dad’s novena: my dad texted me that I’ve seemed to have made an “impression” on the attendees because of my “good looks.” Hilarious.

Philippines Day Four

DILIMAN IS FAR
Last night, I realized I had to get up early and didn’t have an alarm clock. My cellphone here doesn’t have an alarm option, and the alarm clock in the room had seen better days. After a few minutes of trying to get it to work, I got brave enough to plug in my DS (with a prong adapter AND a voltage adapter), which has an alarm. Still, it took a bit of finagling to stretch the cord from the foot of the bed to the windowsill near my head and then to balance it so it wouldn’t fall on my face or fall on the bed and have me crush it in the middle of the night. It was actually kind of neat – the DS has the current time in white numbers on a black background, along with the time the alarm will go off and a countdown of how many hours, minutes, and seconds are left.

Anyway, I got up at six.

I wanted to print out a copy of my dissertation and my CV for Prof. Bautista, but the Becky’s Kitchen office didn’t open until 8:30, so that was out. Jhomby, one of my aunt’s drivers, came by for me at 7:30, a little earlier than our expected departure time, but since I was ready, we headed out. I have some American middle-class misgivings about having someone in my aunt’s employ drive me around in an air-conditioned BMW and later in the day, I suggested to my aunt that I figure out how to take the commuter rail and the jeepneys to UP.

One of the reasons why I had those misgivings was because the traffic was horrible heading up there and even worse coming back. Jhomby maneuvered through the sidestreets to get us further along on the main north-south thoroughfare here – EDSA – and we drove through two really posh neighborhoods – Dasmariñas Village and Forbes Park – and it seemed like I was driving down Blackstone Boulevard and the East Side all over again. Talk about the global elite sharing a similar culture. Anyway, it took us about an hour through a few patches of stop-and-go traffic to head up there; in fact, we got there an hour early, so I waited in the car until 9:30. On the way back, it was a mess, though; because we were heading down the other side of EDSA, there wasn’t a little detour route to take and we had to slug through the traffic for two hours before we got back to Bautista Street.

Anyway, I learned a bit about Jhomby while I was waiting. He’d been working in a factory and a warehouse before working for my aunt, who had been employing his wife at the bakeshop. He had come up from Leyte in 1994 to work, along with a few of his brothers and sisters. His mom is still down there in the Visayas with a couple of his siblings. We talked a bit about my aunt’s fleet of cars, traffic, and voting, which he said he wasn’t able to do in the last election because of bureaucratic and work-related reasons. He said that my aunt was helping him with tuition for his eldest daughter, who’s at St. Scho.

Eventually I was able to meet with Prof. Bautista after a short, short delay. I gave her a cake from my aunt and I explained my dissertation to her. She liked it a lot and gave me a few books to read, with the caveat that there’s not much written on the middle class, and whatever’s been done has tried very hard to find an operational definition for the Philippines, but there’s still work to be done. She also said she’d be willing to help me set up interviews with nearly every academic I wanted to talk to on my list, since they all pass through UP. I told her about my plans with the TWSC, and she called up the director and sent me down to the center with a lot of credentials.

After getting a little lost, I found the TWSC in the basement of the adjacent building. I saw the director, Prof. Tadem, who knew me as “Oslec” from José’s letter-of-rec. She was very welcoming and also gave me a couple books to read on the middle class and then gave me a tour of the Center, “so you can decide to back out” she said self-depricatingly.

“Welcome to the Third World Studies Center,” she said. “As you can see,” she said as she showed me around the workspace, “this is the third world.” I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed about: there are four desks for visiting fellows (I got to pick mine: it’s closest to the internet connection), a couple of communal computers, and desks for the research assistants. In the adjacent room, there’s a long table with plastic chairs for seminars. It’s not noisy, which is nice, and it doesn’t seem to be PSTC-quiet either, so I think it’ll be good for facilitating community. As we walked out of the workspace, I saw that they had been googling my name. Remind me to have Harmonic Motion delete my profile page, ‘cause that’s always the first hit (Rhode Island God of Desire, indeed).

NOVENA WITH NO ROSARY, BUT WITH ROSARIOS
Later, my dad had me represent him at the Novena for his friend, Jimmy Del Rosario’s father, Jesus, or “Mr. J” as he was known. I met Jimmy back in April of last year when he brought my dad over to New York to schmooze with a Japanese investor. Anyway, the Novena mass was in Forbes Park, a very exclusive neighborhood in Manila which I drove through earlier today. It’s the home of old money and new money with a lot of money. Everyone was well dressed (except for me and my black shoes and short white socks) and Mr. J’s employees from his executives to his secretaries were there, though the seats weren’t completely filled up. This tribute mass was very nice, though I almost lost it when the priest started going all B52’s on one of the hymns.

I was prepared to say the rosary after the mass, but we just moved on to a dinner catered by Le Souffle, the restaurant in my aunt’s swanky apartment building I ate at last night. I sat with my stepmom and a couple of friends of my dad’s and Jimmy’s when they were in recovery at New Beginnings. The four of us basically sat alone, which of course let us see all the Manila socialites who were in attendance. I saw this one lady who had a really great figure (or at least one that I’d be attracted to) and from behind, looked like she was 25. Let’s say that she’s really a middle-aged socialite who’s aging very, very gracefully.

Tomorrow I’m going to Myther and Friends if I don’t poop in my pants from fear-induced-diarrhea beforehand.

Friday, June 08, 2007

T-1 Day

PACKING LIGHT, BUT IN A HEAVY WAY
I ran errands with my mom, my lolo, and my littlest brother today, and took my bros to Fresh Choice for dinner, as is our custom before I leave home. I also got around to getting a DS with Elite Beat Agents and New Super Mario Bros. Of course, it took me a few minutes to realize (after I had brought it home) that the voltage in the Philippines will fry my poor little DS lite without an adapter, whereas if I had gotten an iPod, I could have charged that bugger up through my laptop's USB port. Easily rectified, I'm sure.

In any case, I managed to drop my large suitcase to about 55 pounds so my mom can load up her pasalubongs along with mine in there. I ended up unloading another set of clothes here in Pacifica, which is no problem the more I think about the uselessness of long-sleeved t-shirts in the Philippines, other than to prevent mosquito bites. Still, I feel a little better about travelling when there's more potential space in my bags, even if it's just so they don't weigh as much.

HALF-ASSEDNESS
Last week before I left, I had Brown's registrar process and send a transcript to me in the Philippines for my research fellow application. I should have planned further ahead: because of all the undergrads looking for jobs over the summer, the registrar's office expects a 10 day processing time for all transcripts. That plus the time it'll take to get to the Philippines means I won't be able to submit my materials to the Third World Studies Center all at once. Hopefully all the stuff gets in when I get there and my life in the Philippines can move forward smoothly.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

T-2 Days

ERRANDS, FRIVOLOUS PURCHASES
With a couple days left, I have a few things to buy for pasalubong (I think it best translates as "a gift from afar") to the Philippines. I talked to my aunt in New Jersey and she thinks it best I bring a lot of candy and trail mix. My mom figures similarly -- there's really nothing we can get here that they don't have there (or could get). Such are the wonders of globalization and being part of the "middle class."

Of course, all thoughts turn to me in my hour of travel. I am considering purchasing some sort of entertainment device to distract me while I'm on the plane(s) (for the next year and a third). I'm considering purchasing either a Nintendo DS (which will give 11 hours of playing time on a hour's charge) or a new-fangled iPod (the 80GB will play back 6.5 hours of video, a lot more for audio). The rubs, if you can have more than one, are these: the iPod is $249, and a season of Law and Order is about $35 on iTunes; the DS is approximately $80 (in a feminine coral) to $90 ("polar white), but I'm not terribly interested in any of the games; I'll feel like a sell-out if I buy the iPod, while I'll feel like a nerd if I got the DS; and, shouldn't I just read something pretentious, necessary, or at least something that'll get me laid because everyone's read it ("The Kite Runner")?

Well, I've got Rumi, Neruda, and the Tao Te Ching to read. If those don't get me laid, then at least I'll be slightly more spiritual. Also, I figure I'll be sleeping a lot on the planes and watching the movies, so I don't expect this thing to occupy me for the entirety of the time. But, I can't but help think that I'll need to pass the remaining time somehow and hearing Jack McCoy "teach cynicism to a series of supermodels" or playing the only two games I'm interested in getting for the DS -- Elite Beat Agents or Advanced Wars -- seem like decent options.

Of course, I could just make friends with the people around me, but that's hard.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

T-4 Days

FILIPINO PANCAKES AND THE LIKE
I was the unlikely courier of a very classy Filipino cookbook, written by my aunt's friend. I think it made its way from the Philppines to my aunt in New Jersey and then to me, but I could be mistaken -- it's a pretty slick production and not typical of the stuff produced for export in the Philippines. Anyway, it's got some great pictures and great stories about filipino food that it got me craving it again.

But the thing is, they describe lumpia in a very peculiar way: "a fresh pancake wrapped around vegetables and/or meat." I'm O.K. with the "vegetables and/or meat" part, but if lumpia is part pancake, then a real pancake is a loaf of bread. And if that pancake is "fresh," then we might as well put everything in the freezer right now.

Let me share with you my lumpia-making stories, they're all the same. First, it involves thawing out a deeply frozen package of wrappers in the microwave. Then, using a large butcher knife, cutting the edges off so (1) it comes out square and (2) so we can separate the wrappers, which are paper-thin. Then its wetting your fingers and trying to use your nails to grab a corner of one wrapper, then slowly pulling it free from its semi-frozen neighbors without having it rip in two or three places. Then other people (for some reason) fill the bastards up with filling and I get to fry them. None of that ever involves a "pancake," let alone a "fresh" one.

Though it's not in the book, the dish tortang talong is often all dolled up. The dish is basically a flattened, roasted eggplant with an omelette with ground beef on top. In other words, it's an eggplant omelette. However, it's often described as an "aubergine fritatta" which I can partially accept, the "fritatta" part, that is. Calling an eggplant an "aubergine" is just asking to get socked in the stomach. Tortang talong is good enough, and if anyone ever asks, it's an eggplant omelette.

Monday, June 04, 2007

T-5 Days

PHO AND RELATED THINGS
We had Vietnamese food for lunch in Daly City. Usually when I think of Daly City, I think of course of the dense Filipino population, but there a greasy-spoon type pho place in Westlake that my family and I just call "Pho." When you order, you have to give them the number on the menu for your item; they won't accept your attempts at pronouncing the Vietnamese or even telling them what you want in English. So, if you say "I want the bbq shirmp vermicelli," they say "ok, number 83." The servings are huge, and you can even ask for a "small," which is still big enough to cancel out the appetite of my littlest brother.

The trip to Pho was an interesting break from eating Filipino food at home. While that may sound odd, my mom usually doesn't cook Filipino food for fear that it'll clog all our arteries. But, now that my grandparents have moved in, we've had lumpia (the white people's favorite!) and sinigang (which is I guess my favorite) and leftover lumpia and sinigang, which really makes me ask, "am I actually going to crave filipino food in the Philippines?"

I guess what I'm asking is, "why am I still freaking out about going to the Philippines?" I guess I was partially looking foward to eating what could not be argued with being Filipino food, though now that I've had my fill, I kind of want to eat broiled tofu or spinach pasta or hamachi sashimi. Then I guess the question I'm asking is, "am I that bourgeois?" to which I guess the answer is, "you have a t-shirt that says 'Middle Class' on it."

I leave you with this: a list of fictional bees.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

T-6 Days

IT IS DONE
I finally completed my dissertation proposal, complete with bibliography, charts, and a pithy conclusion. It's like a total party atmosphere in my brain, though sadly, I'm not partying. It's good though to be pretty much done with that hurdle with only the actual race left to run. I'm still not nearly convinced by my own argument, but heck, I'm a contrarian, so it comes naturally (no it doesn't).

Of course, since I love bad sports metaphors (I don't), while I've cleared this hurdle, I've got more to go and the 400m Intermediate Dissertation is the hardest race to run, up there with the 3000m Trying to Get Laid Steeplechase. I started out slow, had bad form over the first few hurdles, picked up speed, slowed down, and now I've cleared one cleanly with the rest hopefully going my way. By "going my way," of course I mean "every single one of my assumptions will be proven correct," which is usually the exact opposite of what typically happens during fieldwork.

In other news, it's friggin' cold in Pacifica: it hit a low of 50 today, which, while not snowing, was not something I was prepared for. When I unloaded thirty pounds from my suitcase at the airport (I did tell you all that story, no?), I gave Andrew all my sweaters -- hoodies and all. So I'm inside the house and wearing jackets and otherwise wondering about my luck thus far. I'm fairly certain, however, that I won't be needing my sweaters in the Philippines.

NEW WEBCAM
I have a new webcam. It has a microphone built in. It's such a frivolous purchase, but it was $20 off and had a $30 rebate, so it was more than half off. Also, since my computer's internal mike and my old webcam weren't up to Skype snuff, I felt I needed to upgrade before I left. So far, it's been anticlimactic, but it does have some neat effects that distracted my little brothers for a good hour.

Speaking of distracting little brothers, I took Al to play bowling with his friends today. First of all, someone's been feeding these kids HGH, because they're all freaking tall. Second, the bowling alley we were at -- Serra Bowl -- apparently hosted something called the "National Bowling Karaoke Idol" (I wish I had taken a picture of the sign). I feel sorry for anyone entering and competing with Serra Bowl or Classic Bowl, both near my house -- no one can stop a Filipino in a competion that involves both bowling and karaoke. That's like asking a fish to breathe water and swim.

Friday, June 01, 2007

T-7 Days

Hiya. It's about 1am on Friday morning and I'll be leaving this house at 4:30 to get to the airport here in Providence (actually in Warwick) by 5 for my 6am flight back to California. I'm up because, well, I haven't finished packing. I spent all day (from 10am to about 7pm) working on my dissertation proposal, and I have to say, it looks pretty good for a dissertation proposal. I changed the title to "Middle-Class Consciousness and the Crisis of Democracy in the Developing World: A Comparative Analysis of the Philippines, Venezuela, and Ecuador" to more accurately reflect what it is I'm studying. I was going for something more nifty, but I'll save that for the book.

But as a result, as I said, I had not started packing until about 9pm tonight. I was a little inspired as I loaded up the large suitcase my aunt gave me, because I still had my large backpack to fill up. But once I started filling up the backpack, I was significantly less confident in my ability to bring that many clothes home. After some interesting sock placement (not my crotch), I managed to fit most of my stuff, with some more stuff left to go.

Moments like these scare me: it's clear I'm not yet a savvy traveller, but perhaps after a few months galavanting around the world, I'll come to some epiphany about the virtues of packing light and only having some sort of walking stick or indigenous hat to my name.