Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades trilogy is one of the most talked about books in the market today. Because of its supposedly controversial theme, it drove many readers-women specifically-to pick them up. E.L. James, the author, has piqued the curiosity of women of all ages, race, income, gender preference and social status.

Me, I was glad I had them on the iPad. They made me survive the grueling continental trip to Israel. They kept me company while I survive boredom and fatigue.

Christian Grey is, for me, a man to be coveted. Sans the sexual addiction, who wouldn’t want a handsome, rich, intelligent, philanthropic man? Add a little vulnerability any woman would find challenging to overcome, I would have been a goner if he was a real person and I had the chance to meet him. I would have buckled in the knees, too, much like the mousy, insecure Anastasia Steele.

My review of the series may already be tainted from other reviews I have read in the course of reading it. I can’t help but agree that the characters are too much Twilight-y–from the godlike, too-handsome-to-be-true Edward and Christian, to the brown-haired, quiet Bella and Anastasia. The girls kept repeating the mantra of what-could-this-god-see-in-me. And I couldn’t agree more about the too much sex. Really! And the scenes just seem to be a little repetitive. Ditto for many of the lines. But still, I wouldn’t call it very bad writing. There were a lot of dragging parts but the books made me hang on to the very end to see how the characters would fare as soon as they got over the insecurities of Christian and Ana. The controversial BDSM are actually sparse, and can be found widely spaced throughout the books. “Vanilla sex” is actually more prevalent than the whipping, bounding, tying, etc.

They are really just that–books. After going through them, I could say I liked them, not really love them. There have been more better written and well thought of ones, of course. But then I knew what I was “getting into” so I wasn’t that surprised or pretended to be shocked by all the gory details. I read (if time and my toddler permits) a wide range of literature. I am not into just chick-lit, or fantasy, or crime. If you are a wide reader, you would understand how fun it is to pore over pages and pages of various genre. I don’t think reading the trilogy made me a different person nor had my values changed. I have not become a menace to society πŸ™‚

The Inbal Jerusalem Hotel

Because the organizers of the Diaspora Conference I attended sponsored the participants’ accommodation, I got lucky enough to stay in the wonderful Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. It is a five-star work of art located in the city center of Jerusalem. This is what the facade looks like:

I loved this place so much during my entire stay there. After long, grueling hours traveling from Manila to Jerusalem, it just welcomed me with open arms, and I practically ran and got swallowed in its luxurious surroundings. It was very spacious and tastefully decorated. I had two twin beds put together all to myself (wish I had the hubby and kid with me then!). My beautiful room overlooked the hotel patio, which was great, but which I would have traded for a view of the Old City. Well, couldn’t complain. This became my home for four days.

The bathroom was also very impressive and clean (although I didn’t get to take a picture) with all the wonderfully smelling toiletries. There were complimentary fruits and water, as well as everyday morning papers. Internet connection was very fast and reliable. You can even order room service or schedule a spa appointment online. Staff were also really, really nice.

Five stars!!

Hello, goodbye!

…to diapers! I am happy to say that we have almost said goodbye to these things. We will kinda ease up on the environment Wheee! But who am I kidding, it may take another couple more months before we can do away without them when Mischa goes to school, or when she sleeps, for that matter. Still, she has successfully done number 1 and number 2 on the toilet. That’s hallelujah for a parent like me. It’s long overdue, but hey, I’ll take it any day. No child is perfect. She still has accidents every now and then, and I suspect to have a few more of these before it all becomes second nature to her.

Walking the path of Jesus

My title may be a little overly dramatic, but it sure felt like it as I was trekking down the streets of Jerusalem. For a Christian Catholic like me, it is a treat of a lifetime to be able to do this. While I didn’t think I’ll be able to do some sightseeing on this business trip, I was glad I did, thanks to fellow Filipinos who led the way for me. I have no qualms of traveling alone to distant lands miles away from my Philippines, but the idea of roaming on my own, asking for directions and doing the touristy stuff alone, do not bode well for me. Plus, as I said in my earlier post, I traveled far and long, and as soon as I got to my hotel, I immersed in a leisurely hot shower, and plunked my tired body into the luxurious bed of the Inbal Hotel (more of the hotel in my next post, hopefully!).

Due to my own ignorance, I thought Israel is one of the desert regions. I was surprised that it is lush with foliage.

My first glimpse of the Dead Sea

The scenic route from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem

Beautiful sunset views

Lion’s Gate

Via Dolorosa or Way of the Cross

Is it really?

One of the walkways

Jesus rested His hand in here

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was unfortunately closed when we went there (I wanted to swipe at those flags! They had no business being there!)

Some street food

The above photo is out of place from the Jerusalem post. But I gotta include it here since it was my first time to see a desert, having lived in the tropics all my life, and have visited only parts of Europe, North America and the rest of Asia. This was taken inside the plane as we skimmed the skies of Jordan prior to landing.

As with almost all of my trips, there is always that nagging feeling of regret that the time spent in that place is not enough. I wish I could visit Israel again, and drink in more of this wonderful country. I was both in awe, at the same time, a little skeptical (I am so sorry) at the places I have been to, especially those that hold significance for my religion. It’s just that it seems like the place is not as preserved or taken cared of as I had imagined. I revere walking in where the Lord took his final steps, but really, it was like it was not given that much importance there. It was a little disappointing. Too bad, we didn’t get to go inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the rest of the stations of the cross were, and where Jesus was crucified, it would have been awesome.

I regret that I did this trip in the evening. I am sure it would be more beautiful in the bright sunlight. I wish I could be given another chance. I will love to bring my mother along.

Israel: The conference

My little adventure to state of Israel, specifically to Jerusalem, can be summarized in one word: bitin. Although it took so much of my time and energy to get there as there is no direct flight to Tel-Aviv from Manila, I absolutely had no regrets about coming there. (Read: Manila-Hongkong-Bangkok-Amman-Tel Aviv). I managed to survive the 22-hour and 30-hour flights (back and forth) thanks to the dandy iPad.

I attended a conference on the relationship between diasporas and homelands sponsored by the Israeli government. The Philippines, being one of the big migrant-sending countries, of course, had a lot to share about its own experiences in protecting hordes of migrating Filipinos, and mainstreaming migration and development within government agencies.

There were, I think, about eighty or so participants who flew in to Jerusalem from forty countries. That’s a bit handful, and I got to hand it to the organizers for getting bringing together that diverse a crowd. Technology is really something else. Imagine calling every single participant over the telephone. That would have been such a nightmare. Thank God for e-mails.

Suffice to say, it was a great get-together. I definitely took home very important insights, which I can share, and model. I observed a lot, mind you, I am not much of a talker in person, and managed to engage some in lively discussions. I also presented one of our flagship programs on donations from overseas Filipinos, and I got to say (in my very biased opinion) that my listeners looked impressed at the service we do for our diaspora. Listening to the plenary speakers, I also thought with pride about we are far ahead in terms of according rights and privileges. Our biggest challenge now, and I believe we are also making some headway through our new projects, is to engage them to participate in activities that would help develop the country. But this is not going to happen overnight. We must all work hard for this to happen and for the results to be felt. I hope to attend again the next conference (if there will be any), and this time, I also wish for the event to have output-oriented workshops, which is lacking in this one. But as it is, the conference was really successful.

All set

It has been a couple of days since I have been home, and it was blessed relief to lie down beside the kid and husband. On the other hand, it has also been a little hectic what with all the unpacking, celebrating Fathers’ Day yesterday, chores, and of course, preparing for Mischa’s first official day in school (of course she already had a month of practice school the past month).

All throughout the summer, I had to have several trips to the mall to buy and prepare all of Mischa’s school needs. I just love it! I don’t know what is it with bookstores but it just feels great roaming around the shelves, and breathing in the smell of new books and supplies. In this day and age of digital technology, where everything is available at the click of fingers, nothing beats the feeling of opening new books. Anyway, choosing and browsing through aisles and aisles of pens, papers, notebooks, etc. brought me back to my own school days. It got me sentimental as I am now a parent doing this for her child. And really, there is much more to choose from today. I could have stayed there for hours. As I said before, I am more excited than the pre-schooler herself.

It was the same thing when we got home each time, and I lay down the items I bought. I don’t know how covering the books with plastic, and labeling all of Mischa’s things could stir so much emotion in me. I’m so weird. Can’t wait to bring her to school (again!).

Bringing out the inner kikay

Before I hie off to distant Israel later today, I am still doing mommy and wife duties while updating my blog. Woke up real early and didn’t really want to brood since I had been experiencing both excitement and agony about going out of the country, even if only for a days. I guess it will never be easy to pack and be enthusiastic about seeing and discovering new places if you are leaving behind your child and husband. Sigh! How I wish I could bring them with me.

Anyway, wanted to share this this photo of Mischa:

Masyado naman yatang maaga anak? πŸ™‚

Mischa and I used to have daily battles in the morning when I am trying to put on my makeup. Initially, she would only stare as I apply on tint after tint. Then she began insisting on touching and using each, single item. I would end up with numerous cracked powder foundations, blended shadow palettes, mashed lipsticks, well, you get the drift. After a while, she got tired of playing with my stuff and began insisting on putting these on me herself! And so I began setting aside makeup I am not using for the toddler’s pleasure. When I told Tito Ninong about this, of course, he had to buy her toy makeup for her birthday. There was smugness in the kid as she seriously and delightedly used it on her Barbie dolls.

Hay, I will miss you my sweet, kahit one week lang. I hope Thursday next week comes fast enough for the three of us.