I've finally uploaded photos from my Asia tour, which you can see on Flickr here. It also looks like I'll be going home for Christmas, as I got a super cheap ticket on Virgin America...but only for the return from San Francisco to New York. I still need to buy a ticket TO San Francisco, but I'm waiting to see which bowl game Cal ends up going to.I know: Priorties, priorties. Most of my sources tell me that we'll be going to the Emerald Bowl, which is in San Francisco on Dec. 27, the day before I return to NYC, which works out perfectly for me. But I wouldn't mind flying out a week earlier to Nevada for Vegas Bowl...
Yesterday was the 111th Big Game between Cal and Stanford, and happily for me, Cal won. I took over 300 photos on my new camera, but really most of them are just duplicates on different aperture settings. The day was great because the skies were clear (and blue) and I got to see all of my friends. But since it was a 12:30 p.m. game, it was almost impossible to tailgate, um, properly. I didn't really eat much before or during the game though. When I was in band, I could never eat much before because I always had a sickening feeling in my stomach, either from being tired from practice or anxiety about the shows, or both. But I still got that feeling yesterday even though I had nothing to worry about. Bizarre. I was shocked, however, at how hot it was in the middle of November. Between standing in the sun all day and the fact that it was so early in the day, almost everyone was ready to go to bed at 8 p.m. I loved the Cal Band's halftime show with 90s pop since it was all songs I listened to in high school. But I was kind of irked by the Stanford band show about Memorial Stadium being on a fault line and that the big earthquake was going to hit during the game. After I described the show to my mom when I got home, she said, "They always try to be cutting edge, but they always miss the mark." I do have to give them points for creativity. How could anyone else come up with harnessing a snare drum player to a contraption that spins he/she upside down through almost the whole game? But I always enjoy Big Game because its really the Homecoming for Cal alums and both sides of the rivalry get along pretty well.
My trip is almost over as the last leg of my trip back to New York City is tonight, with a FOUR hour layover in Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport. I could take the Bolt Bus and get back to my apartment faster, but then again it's a JetBlue rewards ticket on the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I'm lucky I got a seat at all. Many times when I go on long trips, by the end of it, I'm ready to go home. This time, I'm pretty depressed, so much so that even though I was exhausted yesterday, I still had trouble falling asleep. I don't know if its apprehension about dealing with job and financial stuff when I get back, or that I'll miss everyone at home and I don't know when I'm coming back exactly yet. Despite all of this, I'm pretty lucky that I get to home to a place as awesome as New York.
After recovering significantly from jet lag and getting back on a normal sleeping schedule (well 3 a.m. to 11 a.m....), I went to my favorite San Francisco pub, Royal Exchange, for some Big Game eve celebration. On the way there, my trip seemed to come full circle a little bit. As when I arrived at Oakland airport almost three weeks ago, I didn't have any change for the AirBART shuttle and asked the entire bus if anyone had change for a $5 bill. Mercifully, someone did. Yesterday, while on the J-Church streetcar going downtown, another woman had the same dilemma, and I actually had change for her. Royal Exchange was great, as I've never been there when Cal Band has, and I actually got to play a few songs. But I haven't played since ski trip in January, so I knew I really needed to practice when I couldn't feel my lips anymore on "Separate Ways." Pictures later.
Anyway, today is my absolute FAVORITE holiday: BIG GAME! And I'm actually home for it! (The trip's dates might have been slightly arranged around today...) GO BEARS! BEAT THE CARDINAL! (Please, pretty please!)
Well, it sure felt like an escape. Let me begin, however, with the return to Manila on Monday afternoon. In order to keep costs down, it was cheaper to fly back to Manila from Hong Kong to catch a connecting flight to Tokyo, leaving us with about 12 hours back at the house. Considering its Big Game week (my favorite week of the year), there is not supposed to be any sleep this week, and so far I haven't really gotten any thanks to airports and planes. I think I might even have my passport number memorized by now. Going from a nice 22 degrees Celsius to 33 was only the beginning. The taxi ride back to the house in Santa Mesa was almost two hours thanks to a six-car pile-up on Roxas Boulevard, involving 4 cars, a jeepney and a big truck. The truck went away spotless, but the back of the jeepney looked like an accordion and there weren't any windows left on the other cars. When we got back to the house, I tried to nap, but I got distracted by Wheel of Fortune, and then we headed to SM Centerpoint to get some more snacks. As my mom was buying some buko (coconut) juice, I looked over to the first vegetarian restaurant I've ever seen in Manila, only to see they served barbeque pork and chicken adobo, among other things. I think the only thing on the menu that was legitimately vegetarian was a fruit salad, and even then I'm not sure...
Our Northwest flight to Tokyo was set to depart at 7:35 a.m. from NAIA, so we had to be out the door by 4 a.m. just in case there was traffic. Trying to be as quiet as possible without waking anyone up, my mom and I loaded our luggage into the car. Just to give me the right send off, a giant roach appeared near the car to wish me goodbye. I will not keep in touch.
While the drive was only about 30 minutes, I think it was the longest drive of my life. As we pulled out of the drive way, we turned the air conditioning on, which I wish we never did. The car was sluggish already by two blocks away, so we turned it off and opened the windows, which at night was just fine. However, the car never really got back to normal. I'm used to our driver blasting down the streets, but since it was so dark and there are hardly any streetlights in Manila, he was being on the extremely cautious side. Yet the car was still making a funny sound. Every block seemed to wear and tear on the vehicle, to the point where I thought it was just going to break down and we were going to have to find a cab to get us to the airport. Then I became afraid that since it was so dark, we might hit another car since other drivers weren't as cautious. Or even that we might be car-jacked/mugged since there have been so many incidents near our area lately. When we finally made it to the airport, we missed the exit to the terminal because our driver was only used to dropping us off at the Philippine Airlines terminal, forcing us to make a completely illegal turnaround in the dark.
By some miracle, we made it to the airport. Again, this other international terminal looks like it hasn't been updated since construction, but it was still cleaner and more organized than the old JFK JetBlue terminal. A little after sunrise on a clear morning, our jumbo jet headed for the Land of the Rising Sun.
For the first time since Sunday, November 3, I got a full night's sleep (even if it was from 9pm to 6am). Most, MOST, unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch the Cal-USC football game at 9 a.m. on Sunday (5 p.m. PST on Saturday) on ESPN here. I got hope on Friday since ESPN was airing the Virginia Tech-Maryland game, and they were airing a Pac-10 football special, which I didn't get to watch since we left for the dentist. However, when I woke up this Sunday morning, much to my dismay, it was obvious there would be no Cal football for me. I perfectly understand ESPN airing more UEFA football, which I have been watching a lot here and has been far more entertaining than the Asian cricket tournaments I had to sit through in 2003. But instead of world football or American football, ESPN has decided to air…the National Spelling Bee. Great. Just great. As I mentioned before, if you think Christmas season starts early in America, its nothing like here. My mom said that Christmas (as there are no other winter holidays celebrated here really) decorations have been up in malls and around city streets since September. Filipinos really go all out for Christmas here, and it does make the city a bit brighter for a few months. For a very small taste, imagine entire department store floors of home and tree decorations and manger scenes and Christmas carols blaring in mall hallways. My favorite decorations are always the green, red and yellow paroles (large stars usually made out of capiz) either hanging in people's windows or from treetops along the roads.
The only city in the United States where I have experienced the winter holidays really take over is New York City. When I watched Today this morning (I think was Saturday's episode) one of the anchors mentioned the opening of the Rockettes' show at Radio City Music Hall. I mentioned to my mom that I was planning to go with some friends, and she said she'd love to go, but doesn't have the patience to sit through live shows anymore. "If there's not a remote control, I can't sit through it."