29 May 2008

A Familiar Face!

FVR haunting me across the oceans.

I was walking with my disoriented omelet-brain and I stumbled into a Frankfurt gallery and "bumped into" our former president Fidel V. Ramos.

After days of meeting many people who did not even know where the Philippines was, I was pretty amused by the sight of him. The portrait was on an easel, and the jars of paint beside it indicated it being in the process of completion, but you never know when people do stuff for effect.

No one was around, so I put on "Disko Partizani" and danced a little while browsing the rest of the artwork. I briefly contemplated some kind of robbery, but everything was just so big.

From some EU exhibition at the same gallery. Above is a bull painting and below are dancing little cubist people individually cut from some kind of metal.

I remember neither the artists' names nor the gallery's name. But I think this one was along Kaiserstrasse.

28 May 2008

Exploding Rotten Egg

It actually smells much worse than it looks

Yesterday, Juliet approached the tray on our kitchen counter to pick up a suspected rotten egg. As she touched it, it exploded with a loud bang, like a five star firecracker. Bits of shell and goo were on her. Poor her.

To begin with, the egg was probably already "bad" when we bought it (from an organic fowl farmer, as you can see, the shells still have poop on them). After a couple of weeks, the bacteria produced some gaseous reaction that was too much to contain. It smelled nasty.

This reminds me to tell everyone I know that if and when you bake, remember to crack every new egg in a small bowl that is separate from the rest of your batter. In the natural world, especially among animals who have so many offspring, there are bound to be some "bad eggs". You don't want to mix a rotten egg with the rest of your ingredients!

26 May 2008

A Little Bit of America in Alemanya

Germany is the most Americanized European country I've ever been to. I held this as a faint idea two years ago, but now I am without doubt.

From the popularity of McDonald's, to the explosion of both hip-hop and emo/hipster pop culture, to the amount of cars roaming the cities, to the use of common kano idioms... there is a kind of familiarity that makes it easier yet a little less enchanting to travel around Germany. (Note that "enchantment" while travel is, however, overrated.)

Obviously, it still has more in common politically and linguistically with its neighbors. But this is the kind of thing that endless mountains of wurst cannot hide.

OMG Shopping Queen!

And hey, what do you know, there is a book about this whole phenomenon. Maybe the cultural invasion has its roots in the Americanization of the West Side of the Wall? Maybe the Wall intensified the aspirational pull of a drastically different model of living. I don't know.

Coming from a thoroughly Yanquified country myself, I find it interesting (yet frustrating) to always have this lens over my everyday perception of popular culture. It is painful because I consider American mainstream media to be of revolting quality, and I have a special discomfort with the ease with which it has exported itself. It sure doesn't make us less awesome as people, but it's a challenge and is something to think (and do something) about.

West Side of the Berlin Wallz yo

25 May 2008

Maradona by Emir Kusturica

I'm interested in seeing Emir Kusturica's new film on that crazy Argentine, Diego Maradona. Clearly he is a fan (I remember the Rom Matko screaming the football player's name in jubilation in the director's riotous film Black Cat White Cat.)

According to Kusturica, it will show
"the three Maradonas" I've discovered during the shooting: the football teacher, the politically incorrect citizen against the unilateral politics of the USA and the family man. These three Diegos will be in the end of the film I will shoot in the Aztec Stadium in Mexico, where Diego scored one of his most famous goals, during the World Cup 1986 against the English team."
If you click on the trailer, you will hear strains of Manu Chao. Can it get any sweeter than that?

23 May 2008

Something of a Misadventure

Traveling light with the 80s blue duffel bag and arnis sticks.

After being through backpacking hell and high water (e.g. sleeping on freezing park benches and in other public places) you develop a certain kind of traveling hubris when it comes to "winging it". Although the map said that the house was just "a few steps" from the bus stop, I was still at the airport, and it was getting late.

Frankfurt Airport is no joke. It is big, with several terminals. I tried to use the phone and dialed "Information", but the guy told me that he had nothing to say about trains. And so I looked for the Deutsch Bahn office, where they sold me a ticket (53 € from Frankfurt to Bonn!) with German details, and told me that my train leaves in five minutes.

This is an alternate universe where things are always on time, so I ran, asked searched for the right platform, hopped on the ICE train (a high speed baby which "enjoys highest reputation"), then I dozed off in my seat. Luckily, not before asking the man beside me if I was on the right train to Bonn Siegburg.

"Attention please, we are in Bonn Siegburg". It was not the train announcement speaking, but the man beside me, as he poked me awake. I said "Danke" and got off, and went down the escalator to the tram station, bought a random ticket on the machine (they never check anyway), and rode to Bonn Hauptbahnhof (very useful word, it means central station).

German, German, German girls, waiting for a late night tram.

From here I took a bus (only after a policeman told me my map was wrong and tried to get me to take another tram). The driver couldn't speak English and let me on for free, and sent me off at the Annaberger Street stop with well wishes.

"A few steps away" from the bus stop turned out to be, initially, fifteen minutes past small-town shops, a school, and empty phone booths.

Oh the sturdy look to this indigenous phone booth! Doesn't it make you want to call someone... anyone.

Luckily, I came across Sebastian, a friendly stranger. Even more luckily, he happened to rent a room in the house I was going to, and (damn I am lucky) he let me put my bag on his stroller. That sounds dirty, but I mean it quite literally, as you will see below. Haus Annaberg was actually another thirty minutes from where I was. And it was inside a forest!

Sebastian is bananas, though he prevented me from having a really good story to tell.

I never would have figured that out. I would have plopped down in exhaustion by the side of the road (serious). I am glad I didn't, though, as temps dropped to freezing after a few hours.

I arrived before my hosts, who drove in a van from Berlin. I could only laugh at my lack of due diligence. It is my fault, it is always my fault. Sometimes I think I do it on purpose.

21 May 2008

Wie Ghets, Dairy Deutschland?

Potato and cauliflower creamy soup with bread.

It's not easy being my tummy in Germany. Although the food is delicious, it usually entails a whole lot of cheese, bread, cream, and an endless array of white sauces. Whenever I travel to a dairy-eating country, I try to eat cultured food for the first few days, as I am mostly vegan. I mean stuff like yogurt or buttermilk to colonize my stomach with local milk-digesting bacteria.

These "vacations" from my native food are not easy. Almost every day of my life back home, I eat rice and lowland vegetables (warm weather stuff! not cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.). And so when I begin to eat heavy stuff, my stomach sometimes stirs and cries out like a wounded/mating large mammal.

Nevertheless, it's all worth it. What a drag travel would be if we could not dialogue with cultures and landscapes through food!

A breakfast of various fruit, bread, jam, and hazelnut spread. Germany was created by God to spread the hazelnut gospel throughout the world. I didn't eat the egg.

I'll blog about these more in the coming days. I think for now I should be a grown-up and unpack, and sort my mind out. And yes, I've also started to caption my photos.

10 May 2008

Fried Saba Variation

Nom nom nom... My brother thinks that fried saba bananas pre-dipped in atta flour taste funny. I think they are good, although they absorb a lot of oil because of the coating... They tasted especially nice with the palm sugar Jana brought from Thailand.

Before I fried them, I cooked some ginger, lemongrass, and cinnamon bark into the oil.

08 May 2008

Hopia Love Me Too

Remember that old joke about the cheap Valentine's Day gifts?

"To siomai love for you, hopia love me too!"

Being given this simple foodthing by a suitor is generally considered to be chipipay, as it is associated with street snacks and Binondo. Though I love the taste, I usually avoid regular hopia because it has either lard or solidified vegetable shortening. An exception would be the low-fat corn oil ones from Greenhills, as well as cheap ones like these, which smelled of very nice coconut oil. Made all the way in Kawit, Cavite (but bought in old Manila), the dough was not flaky at all, but who cares? The mongo paste seemed really fresh, most, and not too sweet. The whole box was inhaled by four of us.

And just look at the awesome box. The design was hand-drawn and then printed in blue ink on some red geometric design. It's nice to know that a person who's starting a small business can tap someone (maybe a nephew who "draws well") to design his packaging, instead of today's usual default of searching for "someone who does Photoshop".

Things don't look this nice anymore:

03 May 2008

Making Merry Out of Nothing, Like in Refugee Camp

Gogol Bordello's "Oh No" says important things about our often wasted ability to make everyday a celebration. It also reminds me of the crisis-come-togetherness of the Filipino (i.e. brownout barbeques and People Power parties).

It makes a good manifesto against boring living:

Sometimes when facing common trouble
When whole town is screwed
We become actually human
Act like Prometheus would

Suddenly there is more humor
And a party tabor style
People ringing one another
"Yo man, how was your blackout?"

Suddenly there is more music
Made with the buckets in the park
Girls are dancing with the flashlights
I got only one guitar!

And you see brothers and sisters
All engaged in sport of help
Making merry out of nothing
Like in refugee camp

Oh yeah, oh no, it doesn't have to be so
It is possible any time anywhere
Even without any dough
Oh yeah, oh no, it doesn't have to be so
Forces of the creative mind are unstoppable!

And you think, all right, now people
They have finally woke up
But as soon as the trouble over
Watch them take another nap

Nobody is making merry
Only trotting scared of boss
Everybody's making hurry
For some old forgotten cause

But one thing is surely eternal
It's condition of a man
Who don't know where he is going
Who don't know where does he stand
Who's dream power is corked bottle
Put away in dry dark place
Who's youth power is well buried
Under propaganda waste

Who's dream life is in opposition
With the life he leads today
Who's beaten down in believing
It just kinda goes this way!

Oh no, it doesn't have to be so
Forces of the creative mind are unstoppable

02 May 2008

Ampaw or Puffed Rice

Did you know that ampaw is actually made by frying sun-dried bahaw (leftover rice)? This Filipino version of rice crispies is extremely addicting. Fortunately for calorie-counters, the process of making it is quite cumbersome:

Put aside your leftover rice after every meal and sun-dry as soon as possible. Make sure there is not a bit of moisture left, or else you will end up with colorful mold cultures. Anyway, do this everyday until you have a good amount. You then cook it in very hot oil with sugar until it puffs up, then drain. Don't add too much sugar, as it may become goopy like American rice crispies.

The ampaw pictured above was made with roughly polished Mindoro red rice. I ate copious amounts of it. I can imagine a great flavorful one made of black or purple rice! Another thing to try. Mmmm hmm...

Tricycles and Testosterone

"Palekero" and "Chicks Hunter", two of the many playboys plying Doña Soledad Avenue.

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