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CURB or CURVE: That is the Question

So today at lunch a co-worker from the table across asked me if I’m pregnant. “Cos you know, you gained weight”, she said.

“No they didn’t!” was my fiancé Ian’s reply when I called him later (I skipped the courtesies and immediately launched into “They asked me if I’m pregnant” in my best Oppressed Cecille voice).

“Baby, are you crying?”, he asked when I didn’t answer.

“No” is what I should have said…Instead, I said “Yes”, lobbying for sympathy. (Well, I was feeling bad, okay?)

“Don’t mind them, Baby. They’re just jealous of you because you’re beautiful and sexy”. (Oh yeah, my fiancé is awesome, isn’t he?)

See, when you have somebody telling you that, you don’t really care if you gain a few pounds. This isn’t the first time the girls at work have said something about my weight, but I never really minded them. I know that I’m healthy and I’m secure about my future husband’s attraction to me no matter what.

Today, I’ve decided that I’m sick of co-workers picking on my weight every chance they get when I don’t even give a damn. Jesus Christ, I’m 49.5 kg at 5 feet 3 inches. Is that so bad?

To be honest, it’s indeed a jump from the 45.5 kg I weighed at the same time last year. But it doesn’t really bother me much. Well, until last month when I couldn’t stop saying: “I’m fat”. I seriously thought that I was beginning to have body-image issues. I took a beating when my co-workers’, with their prying eyes, started to notice my weight gain. And boy, did they remind me every day!

I once took the lift carrying take-out dinner. This girl I ride the shuttle with every day came in and commented that it’s already 7pm and that I should have eaten dinner before 6pm! It doesn’t end there: I have girls knocking on my door asking me if I want to go to the gym. When I’ve wanted to buy a chocolate croissant for dessert, I’ve had to sneak out to the bakeshop, making sure my colleagues didn’t see me, or risk being told “Ceciw, you eating again?!? Khun Ian see you, he say: What happened to you? Now you are uaan (Thai: fat)!” 

 Sigh! It’s exactly these kinds of “criticisms” that have been souring my mood. I’ve always been happy and confident with my body.  Like I said, I don’t give a damn. But I guess that’s why: They want me to give a damn!  Like really, telling me I should stop eating rice every day or else my fiancé would leave me for a skinnier woman?!?

As annoyed as I am, I really don’t blame them for the kind of mentality they have. It’s all the media bullshit they see in TV commercials, bus and train ads, posters, etc.

Have you seen Beyonce’s Cavalli  ad?

In the poster, we see an extremely stylized image of the songstress to the point that her famous curves completely disappeared! Instead, we see  B’s head on top of an exaggeratedly skinny CGI body with spider-like extremities that makes her look more abnormal than a Barbie doll.

Here’s the Skinny: Roberto Cavalli is the official designer for Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show. The poster is supposedly for the tour’s campaign.

Famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was, of course, widely criticized for the release. The photo was immediately removed from circulation after the slamming from fans, nutritionists, health advocates, feminists, etcetera.  Cavalli’s camp had explained – and I quote: “the image of the gown (sic.) is a sketch and not a photo, and therefore it is only meant to be a stylized and artistic vision”.

I get you, Roberto, but you know that the damage is done.

Beyonce, of course, was reportedly upset about the whole fiasco just as she was when H & M airbrushed her swim-suit photos (to make her look thinner) and insisted the original/unedited versions be used for the official summer campaign. She is currently suing them for millions of dollars.

Speaking of H & M, this was a really ironic move considering that their April 2013 campaign featuring Size 14 Jennie Runk earned them positive raves and accolades.

24-year old Ms. Runk here is billed as the heroine of self-loathing women, especially teenage girls who suffer starvation, amongst other scary means of losing weight. She is said to be helping women feel better about themselves because she heralds real beauty and that she has “the body of a normal woman”. Ha!

While I admire Ms. Runk’s beauty and support her message, I couldn’t help but see this as a dubious stunt—big corporations preying on vulnerable women’s craving for approval from the mass media. Even Ms. Runk can be just a pawn in this giant scheme. I hope not.

But whatever, if it works for the deflation of the over-all insecurity of the female population and teen suicide rates, then it’s fine with me. Besides, whatever the billboard ads say is “trendy”, then that’s what is “trendy”.  Ugh!

Obviously, trend varies depending on the market these companies cater to. The disparity between the message of Jennie and Beyonce’s H & M ads says it clearly: There’s the normal market and the other markets. Jennie Runk isn’t’ exactly labeled as just a “model” but a “plus size model”. Ask any beauty or fashion magazine and they will tell you that the normal sized- women are supposed to look like this:

Scary!

As an advocate for women and a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, this issue has always been close to my heart. I have always found the popular standards of beauty to be ridiculous and unrealistic for most people.  To condone this is outrageous and it sickens me to think how many women have suffered (and are suffering still) both emotionally and physically just to fit into the accepted “beautiful” and/or “sexy” category mostly perpetuated by selfish companies with vested financial interests.

 But, why this sudden lashing? Well, because, I too have become a victim of this vulgar commercialism and I can’t just stand there and take it.

I live in Thailand- where girls eat garden salad for breakfast and have dinner before 6 o’clock in the evening, where women go out of their houses as if they forgot to put their pants on, flaunting their chicken-skinny legs! Here in Bangkok, a popular cosmetic hotspot, co-workers eye you with disdain every time you put food into your mouth.

I am not arguing that women should just eat with abandon and not care about their bodies at all. I say we should all take measures to ensure our bodies are healthy and that includes eating in moderation and proper exercise. Certainly not by skipping meals, or even worse, fad dieting.  More importantly, on a bigger scale, the bashing has got to stop!

It’s not as if this is a life and death situation where one has to curb her diet or run the risk of gaining, whoa! unwanted curves! Yeah, because that’s really the worst thing a woman could have!

This obsession with these (and I say this with a bitter taste in my mouth) “standards of beauty”, of an ideal sexiness is pushing women to go to absurd lengths- pressuring them to achieve a figure that may not be healthy for them. By the way, these ideals are not only promoting malnutrition, they are also cultivating a culture of mean-spiritedness and superiority complexes in those who fit the criteria, and low self-esteem in those who aren’t welcome into the category.

I do know that some women are just naturally skinny and they don’t gain weight no matter how much they eat. I don’t have anything against them. I do think they can be indeed sexy too, but not just because of their vital statistics. There are a million things that can make a woman sexy: wit, wisdom, kindness, sense of humor, skill, perhaps? If I were a man, these would certainly attract me.

It’s very sad that nowadays, the art of husband-hunting has almost regressed to merely an aesthetic tourney.  They used to laugh about women in the time of Jane Austen or the 1950s that had to be educated in art, literature, music, geography, science, language, home economics and the like to make a good match, when eventually they will be consigned to the home to attend to their men’s needs and look after the children. Well, at least they had to use their brains; these days, women only have to look good, wear a perfect smile, be a size 0-2 and they can land senators, business tycoons, heirs to fortunes, etc.

Lastly, these days women don’t really seem to try to look good just for the hell of it. When you hear people say “Oh you should do this and that so you can get a boyfriend” or “Oh you should be like this or else your husband will look somewhere else”, it makes you think, is it really all about attracting men?

I love it when my fiancé compliments me and this encourages me to try to look good. But also, I just want to look good for myself…just because it makes me feel good. Do you know what I’m talking about? I mean, these decisions about our bodies are ours to make and should not be influenced by peer or social pressure.  It should also be about us!

Sweating it out, running around the park, and working my butt off in the fitness center? Yes, I do it because I want to. I know I have a responsibility to take care of my body. I do it and I will keep doing it – not because some damn commercial is telling me too or that I am afraid of Ian Weinstein abandoning me if I bloat.

CURB or CURVE? No! I am not letting anyone or anything decide for me whether I am “sexy” or not.

I believe that in every woman is an innate seductress, a charming maiden, an irresistible nymph, a goddess… no matter what her shape and size. We only have to claim that inner vixen…and tell her she shouldn’t be intimidated by whatever people around her say. Let her out, because she should be freakin’ running the world. Size 2 or not.

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Prathet Thai Antarai (Dangerous Thailand): Accident Files in the Land of Smiles

Every morning, my company shuttles me and other employees between our dorm and the hospital in which we work. Today, the driver was burning up the road like crazy, as usual. So I fastened my seatbelt and upon the “click” sound, all eyes turned to me. It seemed they all found it weird that I didn’t want to die yet.

So I sent the fiancé a message: “They all chuckled when I wore my seatbelt”.

To that he replied: “Oh f*** them! If the van crashes you can laugh as you walk away and step over their corpses.”

Me: “Yes, in sky-high heels!”

Him: “That’s my girl!”

Don’t get us wrong. We are not really mean people and we don’t really wish any harm to anyone. Quite the contrary, we are both frustrated by the lack of precaution some people have…..

I’ll give you the gory facts straight up.

Up to 26,000 people are killed in road accidents every year in Thailand, which puts the country in the 6th rank worldwide in terms of road casualties.

Between October 2011 and September 2012, the total number of reported accidents in Thailand was a whopping…wait for it…54,384!!! (1)

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LIKE CRUMPLED PAPER.A distorted piece of metal that was once a commuter van

Between October 27th 2012 and January 2nd, 2013, in celebration of the New Year holiday, a total of 3,329 people were injured in 3,176 road accidents reported throughout the country. Meanwhile, 365 people were killed. I don’t know about you but this really creeps me out. That’s 365 bodies for 365 days of the year. What a morbid and unlucky way to start the year!

I am not very superstitious but I know death tolls as high as this can’t be good. While some say accidents are premonitions of things to come, to me, it’s rather the result of an action previously taken (or not taken). If I were to be so bold, I’d say it’s a reflection of the people’s attitudes towards personal safety and welfare.  On a macro level, it teaches us a lot about Thai society’s disregard for responsible road practices and also, how they value life.

Maybe it’s the “Mai bpen rai” attitude that the Thais embody so well…

The site “Things Asian: Experience Asia Through the Eyes of the Travelers” provides us with a clearer understanding on the matter:

mai bpen rai, mai mee bpunhaa

The first phrase roughly translates to “it doesn’t matter”, the second to “no problem.” Together, they typify the Thai approach to life: don’t get bogged down by small obstacles, don’t worry, take it easy. Much to the dismay of Westerners, Thais employ these phrases even in situations that are dangerous, even life-threatening. (Westerner: “The house is on fire!” Thai: “No problem.”) If a Westerner protests, he is swiftly reprimanded with “jai yen” (calm ).

I admit, I had a little bit of this careless attitude when Ian and I were planning our trips all over Thailand. We both agreed that we want to travel and see the sights outside of the Bangkok metropolis. Our incessant dilemma though was: How to get there? Warnings about the Thai public transportation did not escape our ears.

I was born and raised in the Philippines and I have ridden practically all of the means of transportation there is, horse and water buffalo (carabao) included.  So I wasn’t really scared.  But Ian had never been to Asia before and I was worried about him. If there’s one thing I like about America, it is their strict adherence to road safety.  That is what he is used to.

During our first trip to Koh Samed, I didn’t have a problem with taking a mini-van back to Bangkok. My idea was: hell, mini-vans cut the travel time by an hour. We’ll get to our destination faster than a bullet.

And fast it was. I didn’t realize how much of a terrifying experience it was for Ian because I was asleep and drooling on his shoulders by the time our half-crazy driver was playing “Catch Me If You Can” with his fellow motorists. Expressway Edition.

Halfway to Bangkok, I woke up to the sound of my fiance, calling on to Jesus like an old Catholic lady. My baby was sweating like a sun-burnt laborer, the small towel I put in his back was soaking wet…I realized, the passengers’ attitudes towards the drivers’ speeding is a very important factor in the perpetuation of this devil-may care behavior on the road. Inside the van, I looked around us and saw the locals were dozing off, even snoring, like it’s just another day.

I used to hear people say that if you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere, pertaining to the “kaskasero” (speed maniac) attitude of Manila/Filipino drivers. Ha! They probably have never been to Thailand! If it were in my country, the Old Catholic ladies would have already cursed the delinquent driver to hell and back! Speeding and swerving Bangkok-bound, no one even bothered to call-out the kon kap’s (driver) maneuvering techniques. For them, the faster the better.

I made a mental note:  I would never put Ian through that kind of torment again.

Visit http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/2489 for the full list.

On a more scientific approach, Ponboon et.al, of the Thailand Accident Research Center cited in “Contributing Factors of Road Crashes in Thailand: Evidence from an Accident In-Depth Study” reasons such as roadside hazards, cargo load, panic -like steering and driver age for the mounting accident rate.

For this article, I read the Land Traffic Act, B.E. 2522 (1979) proclaimed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej himself.  I don’t really know how the traffic authorities actually enforces these regulations (do they go on patrol, do they install checkpoints, do they penalize non-seatbelt wearing drivers or overloading of passengers, etc.). But whichever way they are doing it, I am not impressed.

My first-hand observations on the traffic conditions here are unbelievable.

Take this photo, for example:

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This exhibits a simultaneous violation of:

Section 121 (500B). …………..The passenger shall ride at the back seat provided for the passenger, or in the side car.

Section 122 (500B). The rider and the passenger of a motorcycle shall wear a motorcycle helmet.

Section 43 (400-1000B)
No driver shall drive the vehicle:

* while being intoxicated by liquor or other alcoholic drinks

(I have no proof that Mr. Driver has been drinking but one must be surely drunk to make irrational decisions such as to carry 5 human beings, the 4 being children on a tiny two-wheel vehicle)

*with carelessness or recklessness which may cause danger to persons or property

* in a manner not normally practiced in driving a vehicle or while unable to see the way in front or at the back or either/both sides clearly enough for safety

*without thinking about the safety or suffering of other persons.

I am putting emphasis on that last line.

Safety issues which could potentially lead to suffering of persons should not be taken lightly.  I do think there is a limit to when “sabai sabai” (could be translated into English slang as “everything’s chill” or “not a care in the world”) is appropriate. Adherence to road regulation is clearly not something we should be “chill” about especially when it could mean the lives of our fellow human beings…

Perhaps in the third world countries plagued by poverty, the lives of our fellow human beings have become so cheap that we don’t care if we lose…what’s the statistics again? 26,000 people every year excluding the unreported cases!

Surely, I am not the first person to make these observations. While researching for this article, I have come across lots of blogs and websites who are expressing the same degree of frustration as I have. Check out some of them:

http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/motorcycle-safety-campaign-in-thailand/

http://superenglishsurat.blog.com/2012/12/20/riding-on-your-motorbike-thai-style/

http://www.pattayadailynews.com/en/2012/01/13/dangerous-overloaded-sattahip-songthaews-carry-30-students/

http://amusingthailand.com/hell-on-wheels/thailand-bottled-water-truck/

http://www.globalish.com/forum/threads/when-three-isnt-a-crowd.294/

As I read and discover more about the traffic situation, I realize I need to learn more. It seems, there’s more to this story than what meets the eye. Most of the blogs I’ve read focused on the motorbike problem. Some discussed the issue of traffic violations in general, detailing statistics, charting values of road accidents per type of vehicle, overloading, etc. The list is endless.

The facts are appalling but what I am truly puzzled about is the motivation. Why would these people subject themselves to this amount of potential danger? My impression was that the story is more about a sheer disregard for rules or safety regulations, an overly relaxed or daredevil approach in life. I mean, I would understand if a passenger cab driver does a 100-120 (minimum is 80) in an almost empty toll way. But speeding and swerving when other vehicles are also speeding and swerving is unacceptable. Especially when I tell him I am not in a hurry!!! Maybe he doesn’t care about his life but I do care about mine.

Once again, I wonder if it is only a true mindlessness or unawareness of the possible tragedies that lurk in the sidelines. I am doubtful because mindlessness is not a very Buddhist attribute. But then again, I could be just generalizing. Besides, reckless drivers are everywhere, not only in Buddhist countries like Thailand.

Despite my annoyance, I am still concerned about those speeding private vehicle drivers- those who race to death as if they don’t have families to go home to. How many children each year lose their mothers or fathers to drunk driving?

More so, I am very worried about the future of those children whose parents take overloaded public transport commuting to and from their workplace.

Those parents — do they pause for a while and contemplate what could be the consequence of their actions? Do they think for a second…hey, maybe if I ride this overloaded vehicle and something bad happens, what’s going to happen to my kids? How will my loved ones feel?

Maybe they never think about it because the forms of transportation they take daily are the only ones they’ve known since the beginning of their lives. Maybe they learned from their parents that taking overloaded “song thaews” is okay. “Riding the motorbike taxi without a helmet is okay; ask mother, she does it too”. Don’t worry.  In turn, their kids learn from them and the cycle continues. It becomes a societal habit. It is integrated into the culture. It becomes a “normal” thing. That’s when it becomes a bigger problem-when we don’t realize the hazards plaguing us even when they’re already staring us in the eye.

1r

2r 3r 4r 5r 6r

While writing this, I asked various co-workers about what they think of the traffic problem in Thailand. More specifically, I asked whether they had an issue regarding speeding drivers in their country. 3/3 said “120kph is normal. In fact, that’s not too fast.” The nurse manager in the next department said “Oh! I’m not the only one doing that. XXXX does it too”.

I am no cultural psychology expert or road accident specialist, but I do have common sense. Most of the time, that is all that it takes to know that there is something wrong.

I believe the government of Thailand has recognized this issue too, long before I wrote this article.  The Thailand Accident Research Center is incessant in their efforts to promote safety awareness. Or so their website says. Despite its prevalence, the government tells us the accidents have been significantly reduced in the last few years. I don’t know about that but the numbers mentioned above still look big  to me.

A public problem becomes more relevant based on how it affects people across the socioeconomic spectrum. The Upper-class may not need to take public transport, their kids may not need to ride motorbike taxis to go to school. The rest rely on public transport drivers to take them to their destination. No matter the differences, tragedy can strike anybody. It is a great equalizer. Some motorists drive slow and steady. But a speeding car could hit them and cause damage to life and property. Little children crossing the pedestrian could get hit by drunk drivers. Even a careful driver who forgot to wear his seatbelt could die when he gets hit by a big delivery truck. What I’m saying: our individual actions affect not only ourselves but the world around us. Every little thing we do or not do impacts our lives in varying degrees.

Having said this, I conclude that in facing this dilemma, both government and people must do their share.

Individual motorists and even passengers can start by thinking about personal safety before turning on the ignition key. A perfect example is securing their seatbelts on. I often notice that public transportations such as taxis and mini-vans don’t have safety belts except for the passenger in the front. Tsk! Had Princess Diana worn hers, it’s possible she would be alive now. Who knows? Of course, regard for personal safety must be accompanied by a social conscience, a responsibility for one’s actions keeping in mind that a rapidly moving ton of metal could hurt or kill someone. Pedestrians must also be wary of what’s happening around them before they cross the street. They must use the right crossing or an overpass. Motor accidents also happen when pedestrians are careless and do not follow rules of the road.

On the government’s side, the solution, for Thailand, and likely also for the other developing Southeast Asian nations that have poor safety standards and practices, is a combination of boosting the existing  public awareness programs and  effective enforcement. Maybe the commercial campaigns, TV, radio, sopy and billboard ads depicting road responsibility as well as the horrible consequences of dangerous behavior messages aren’t coming across, eh?   And seriously, somebody has got to penalize those speeding drivers and drivers who don’t wear their goddamn seatbelts. Even harsher mandates are necessary for securing children safely in vehicles.

If the above suggestions could be effectively employed, the state will reap the windfall created by punitive fines for speeders and reckless drivers, the revenue paying for the public awareness campaign and – who knows? Maybe some funds left over to improve the roads! (Though honestly, Thailand’s road system is waaay better than most countries)

The eventual result would be a decrease in accidents over the coming years, which translates to more lives saved. Less injuries, less health care costs…the benefits go on.

Piña Colada, Prose and Poetry: Parting Ain’t Pretty

It’s been 43 hours since Ian left. I am still not ready to face my life…my life in Thailand, to be exact.

My thoughts keep repeating: I don’t belong here anymore.

I am at the point where my reality feels unreal.

My real life is in my fiancé’s arms.

_________________________

I’m supposed to be cheery. This last visit marks the final leg of this K1 journey.  In a few months, I will finally be with my love for good. We will never be apart again. But I’m not exactly feeling like Missus Positivus today.

I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m blaming it on the fact that after 10 days together, I got so used to Ian being here. I wrote him a poem earlier and in it, I expressed my melancholy…

My darling…

It’s only hours from your departure

And even the skies in Bangkok

Cry tears of grief

Your absence has sucked

The life out of my city

***************

I know…I know…I can be overly dramatic sometimes. Or hormonal.

There’s something different about this last visit though, aside from (but possibly related to) it being the last. I feel like this time I am bluntly refusing to feel all of the agony of longing. I cried so much before Ian even left, so maybe that’s why I didn’t have any more tears to spill after coming back from the airport.

Ah! The train trip back to the hotel – always the worst part of Ian’s every visit.

This time, I managed to scribble a note aboard the coach:

Dear Ian,

It’s 9pm and you must be boarding your plane now. I’m at the basement level of the airport, waiting for the next train to arrive.

I am safe. Don’t worry about me (although that’s impossible for you not to do). I’m a big girl and I will take good care of myself-I can handle it. 

So this is it! We’ve come to the last leg …three exciting, exhilarating and extraordinary visits. We have definitely made tons of memories that will last a lifetime. I want to thank you, with all my heart, for everything you’ve done to make these visits possible. And of course, for all the things you did while you were here. You have made me feel very special in countless ways.

 

Absolutely special! Years back, I used to wonder: How do you know when the person you’re with truly cares about you and cherishes you? I never found the answers until I met Ian. I know now, even without putting so much though into it, I am truly deeply madly loved. I feel it in every word that comes out of his mouth, every little lazy croon of endearment, every single touch and breath…

I am secure.  He makes certain I feel that way every day.

On my end, I am equally and irrevocably in love with him, powerfully so.

Have you ever thought of being in, or staying in a relationship just for the sake of it? Have you ever felt like keeping it the way it is because, after all, it was a good-enough set-up for you?

It’s not the most wonderful thing in the world.  But some say, you won’t really know the difference until you are in a relationship where both partners are truly crazy and craves for each other, respects, trusts and values each other like they would themselves, admires  and adores each other and expresses said admiration and adoration for each other through words, actions, etc.  It’s elusive, this seemingly ideal thing I am talking about, but it’s not impossible to have it. It does happen to mere mortals like us. Once you have it, you’ll be wise enough to follow Christina Perri’s example:

I will be brave I will not let anything

Take away

What’s standing in front of me”

 The PA announced the train’s arrival to Makkasan Station…less than 13 days ago, Ian and I got off at this stop to go to our hotel. That place is special to us because it’s the same place we stayed the first time Ian came here. Being in its lobby, rooms and dining hall once more was reminiscent of our very first few moments as a couple…It was in this place that we first said the three little words that made us both the happiest people in the world that minute…

(more of this in TRUE LOVE TRAVEL LOGS…Coming Soon!)

________________________________________________________________________

20 minutes after my departure from the airport, I was still sitting in the little corner I found inside the train. I kept writing:

“Your plane is probably flying back now. I pray for a safe flight for you my love. Know that I am always sending positive thoughts your way.

Darling, I already long for you, even though we were together only a few minutes ago.”

***************

It’s almost silly how I could miss him already when we were together only a few minutes ago. Silly, yes, but ironically it’s more sad than silly, how Farewells are.

You say goodbye with the promise that you will see each other soon…as if the promises will make it less painful. It doesn’t. But they give hope. It’s almost like grimacing a smile, or swallowing a bitter pill that you know would heal you and end your suffering…Thankfully, his farewell kisses (like the Pina Colada I had back when we frolicked on the beautiful island of Koh Samed), were sweet, full of promise, with a burst of salt from my tears…they were a reprieve.

“Parting is such sorrow, but your warm embraces and loving whispers are sweet sugar cubes to our otherwise bitter cup.”

But I know Ian and I know each other more than anybody else does. Our love transcends. I am connected to him and he is connected to me no matter how far apart: We are two photons entangled.

b-w photons I+W

“I am pressing my lips, savoring the memory of your last few kisses: quick but passionate still, urgent but not any less meaningful, a public display which yet delivers a secret only our two hearts will understand…”

Yes. I truly believe you my love. We will see each other soon.

My GF is super, tell me about yours!

Today I met “Ana”. She is a fellow Filipina nurse who works next door to my office. I have been with this company for six months and I never even knew she existed- until the day when my family came to visit. They were waiting for me outside my office, and she overheard their excited chatter in our mother tongue. Just as any homesick kababayan would, she approached us and introduced herself.

“Ana” is a single mother of two. She used to work in the Middle East in an Intensive Care Unit. She moved to Bangkok through the constant prodding of her sister, another “Ana”, who was already working as a Medical Report Nurse in our company.

We talked for about fifteen minutes, comparing our job descriptions, hiring process, day to day responsibilities and a little bit about our future plans. She told me she was recently transferred to her new department because the boss needed help with troubleshooting some issues. She later excused herself when she saw her colleague struggling with communication to a Middle Eastern patient.  She went to the nurse’s counter, spoke to the man in fluent Arabic and everything was fine again. This was Ana “troubleshooting” and kicking a** at it.

Today’s encounter made me remember my experience in Singapore just a few months back. My company sent me to train for an operating room procedure in Singapore General Hospital. On the first day of the workshop, we were supposed to walk around to visit the various stations to practice our skills in performing with a new technology called Transbronchial Needle Aspiration. Manning the booth was Fannie. Clearly and intelligently, she explained to the workshop participants the techniques for equipment preparation. I had more questions in mind so I spoke to her after her demonstration. I wasn’t surprised when she told me she is Filipina. We exchanged contacts and hugged each other goodbye on the last day of the workshop.

That was Fannie, the girl who was chosen to be in charge of representing her hospital amongst her other Singaporean colleagues.

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Fannie (in a gray sweater and white RN uniform) is a nurse in the SGH Endoscopy Unit.

Speaking of the chosen ones, there’s Joan; magna cum laude, student leader, columnist, photo-hobbyist, loyal friend, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of Mannitoba and future Fil-Canadian public servant. Among her many titles is Awesome Daughter to her dad and mom who are surely proud of her. I’ll make it short because when it comes to Joan, her voluminous credentials speak for themselves.

More about Joan: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/filipino-nurses-find-life-sweet-in-rural-rhas-78501942.html?path=/local&id=78501942&sortBy=newest&viewAllComments=y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zXuJRJltds

http://filipinojournal.com/v2/index.php?pagetype=read&article_num=12212009035211&latest_issue=V23-N24

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m/local-news/philippine-nurses-association-of-manitoba-officers-induction/

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m4/editorial/pnam-holds-1st-symposium-to-iens/

When it comes to families, I couldn’t think of a better role model than “Saori”. At 25, she is a proud full-time mother of two cute kiddos, an artist-entrepreneur and a loving wife to the man she’s loved since high school. She is a staunch advocate of exclusive breastfeeding and a practitioner of Modern & Smart parenting.  A lot has changed in child care and child rearing practices since and Saori is encouraging all moms to get into this amazing mommy experience.  Together with her mommyhood group, she strongly promotes innovative and baby-friendly techniques.

See:  Attachment Parenting, Baby Wearing, Cloth Diapering

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Saori is the proprietor of LIKHA NI SAOSAO’s custom art services: CLAY WORKS, GRAPHICS DESIGNS, PHOTOGRAPHY, & other ARTWORKS. Contact

https://www.facebook.com/LIKHANISAOSAO?ref=ts&fref=ts

I once met a girl in grade school who I will never forget. Her name is Kristine and she was my brother’s classmate. She once dreamt of travelling the world and now she’s realizing that dream. In her early 20s, Kristine already knows the value of money and saving. As an airline crew, she has been saving and investing her earnings wisely and has secured herself and her family’s future.

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Kristine was recently selected to be part of Saudia Airlines among 1000+ applicants and will be training in Jeddah for 2 months. She has previously travelled to United Kingdom and other locations worldwide.

Interesting stories, right? But why am I listing them?

We meet a lot people in our lifetime; some become part of our lives, and others leave marks, while most just silently drift away, only to become fragments of our memories. Yet there are some very special people, whether we’ve known them since childhood, met them at a summer camp, or during a Basic Life Support training, who manage to touch our hearts and inspire us. They are the women I have named above. To me, they embody the true ideals of a Global Filipina.

Who is the Global Filipina?

The Global Filipina is an inspiration to her fellow women. She is an asset not only of our country but of the world. She excels at what she does, may it be her profession, motherhood, or a vocation. Most importantly, she takes pride in what she does and who she is.

Take Reinabelle Reyes, a 28-year old astrophysicist from Princeton University, better known as “The Filipina who proved Einstein right”. When she was 26, she proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. For us non-science geeks, that means she made a really cool and celebrated achievement in her field.

The complete story:  http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/2686-the-filipina-who-proved-einstein-right

The Global Filipina is motivated to succeed. She plans for her future. She saves. She dedicates her time to fruitful endeavors, whether it is climbing the career ladder, taking care of her husband and kids, or pursuing a worthwhile hobby that allows her to express herself.  She works hard while others slack. She strives to make a difference in our world. Whether she is a Filipina who lives in the country or abroad, what’s important is that she is proud to be one.

Meet “Lyn”, a young teacher in her mid-twenties, worship leader at Singles for Christ, and a doting big sister to a brood of 8 whom she helps send to school. She currently lives in Thailand, away from her family.

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Second from Right, Lyn poses with her fellow choir members after the Christmas mass.

 Like Lyn, we know stories of many of our fellow Filipina women who are conquering the world every day, miles and seas away from their families. These Filipinas are everywhere.  They are surviving the daily battle of homesickness to either provide for their respective families or pursue their careers.

Sadly, we also often hear stories about the insufferable conditions that many of our fellow Filipinas have had to endure. I thank God every day that despite my personal struggles, I am healthy and safe. Then I close my eyes and say a little prayer for them.

Amidst these heartbreaking stories, once in a while we hear of our countrymen’s amazing feats internationally and it somehow aids in healing our nation’s broken dreams.

Angela and Mikaela Guerrero, gifted siblings, are truly blessings to our Motherland.   In an article, both sisters were described to have high IQ and were considered child prodigies. Angela Guerrero is 15 years old and a 3rd year undergraduate student, BS Chemistry Minor Music, at Cal State LA in an Early Entrance program for the Highly Gifted, prior to enrolling at CSULA.

Mikaela Guerrero, the younger sister of Angela, was found to be exceptionally gifted, with an IQ of 167, and was assessed by Dr. Sheila Vaughan of the Mirman School. Mikaela is an 8 year old child prodigy who is also a gifted writer and excellent artist.

Read more: http://www.asianjournal.com/galing-pinoy/59-galing-pinoy/3276-gifted-kids-jonathan-malabanan-angela-and-mikaela-guerrero-child-prodigies.html

During my lifetime, I’ve met so many wonderful Filipinas: There’s Race from Bulacan, (now a Singapore resident), Jade from Las Pinas (now travelling the world through Qatar Airways), Rose from my hometown who is now in Middle East, Doods, Dione, Jo, Nina, Chingkai, Gwen, Abi, Regi, Zy, my ninang Marivic, my friend Marivic, Vanessa, Raeca, Kim who are scattered around various parts of the world …..and so many others! Please forgive me if I couldn’t mention everybody.

Personally, my Global Filipina is my mom, Juvy. She is a mother of four and a passionate educator. She was my first teacher. She has dedicated her life to us, her children and to her students. I have never met a teacher as dynamic as my mother. I know this because as a child I would wait for her outside of her classroom, listening as she finished her classes. My mother has been rocking classrooms for 26 years, both in the Philippines and abroad, and I am really proud of her. Off-duty, she is the sweetest mother that can be.

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Flanked by two girls from her class, my mom shows these Thai teens the love she has given her Filipino students. 

As I launch my new website, I would like to pay homage to all of the Global Filipinas who are out there: nurses and doctors who save lives, teachers who inculcate to children the important lessons in life, engineers, scientists and inventors who sustain life, parents who nourish life, and the friends  who make life worth living. My dear Global Filipinas, I salute you all.

My beloved readers, who is your personal Global Filipina? I invite you to nominate your own special lady. Describe her in three sentences or more, and please explain why she is your Global Filipina. Three sentences is only a minimum, you are encouraged to write more. Please post it as a comment under the tagline “Who is your GF (Global Filipina)?” below this blog entry. The best story will be featured in my next blog article.

Thank you very much for your support. I hope to hear from you soon, GFs!!!!

P.S. To my foreign readers, if you know a Filipina who embodies the GF characteristics, you are welcome to nominate her 🙂

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 4: Melancholic Reveries

 

February 25, 2013, 9:30 pm. I was back at the same exact station, but this time I was waiting for the train alone.

It felt like only just a few hours ago when the love of my life and I took the same railway going to the city proper.
Ian arrived to visit me again here in Thailand in the evening of February 15th. I met him at Arrivals and led him to the Airport rail link that took us to Ratchaprarop Station, approximately a 7-minute walk from Baiyoke Tower, where we were booked for the night.

As the passengers filled the car, Ian and I were all smiles, chuckling to ourselves in disbelief. We were in each other’s arms again! Our small corner inside the train echoed with our happy and excited chatter and my insistent inquiries about how his flight went. We were both grappling/vying for air time and oblivious to the world.

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Ten days later, as I sat solitary on one of the station benches, there was only silence and the hushed rolling and clicking of my 7-11-bought pen as my companion.

Imagining what I will return to, I was not looking forward to seeing the receptionist’s grouchy face in the hotel which had been our love nest for the past few days. His face could have been in a constant frown but it would definitely look happier than mine.

The PA announced the arriving train in two languages and I stood up to fall in line. As I took a seat, I looked back to our final minutes.

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I went with him to the airport to send him off. Outside the Passport Control (where only passengers can enter), we were saying our difficult goodbyes, exchanging promises and hastily uttered reminders (mine to Ian consisting mostly of repetitions to Take Care, Drive Safely Every day and Keep in touch). Right on cue, just like in the movies, an airline employee cuts in on our desperate last moments with a hand signal pointing to the clock/wrist watch as if to say “It’s time”.

Great! Make it easier for us.

Either he was just doing his job, or grossed out, or jealous of our blatant public display of affection. I was never big on PDA but with Ian and especially right at that very moment, the world around us had ceased to exist and I was shameless.
It was just he and I in our own perfect little world.

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I let go of Ian and he stepped onto the elevator that took him to the final security checkpoint and immigration. He never looked away from me-we kept mouthing our I LOVE YOUs until he was out of my sight.

Wow! So that’s it? Lea, Ian’s sister, was right. Those 10 days flew by so quickly. Of course, we both knew his visit was going to end but it didn’t change anything: the pain of separation is always the same. It’s as if the heart was torn from the chest because it follows the one you love, as Ellena, my future mother-in-law, had put it.
No matter how many times I said goodbye to Ian, I never got used to it. This feeling is only relieved when I see him again.

See him again… I had no idea when the next time would be and that made it all the more depressing for me. But before I could break down for a crying spree, a thought struck me:

Isn’t the Immigration Services right behind the glass wall in front of me? I remember from my recent Singapore trip that the Passport Control Section in Suvarnabhumi Airport was renovated in such a way that passengers have to take the escalator going up to some sort of boarding pass check, and then take an escalator down to appear before the Immigration officer.

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I rushed to see if I could get lucky and actually get a glimpse of Ian. My mind was racing, heart pounding, desperate for that one last goodbye. I positioned myself where there was a good view of the escalator and of the passengers going down. I didn’t want to miss him. Just moments later, he came through- in a hurry and with no time to look around him. He had a mission, to catch his plane. He didn’t bother to explore his surroundings. I was so desperate to catch his attention that I began tapping on the glass walls almost futilely. Then, with a bit of luck, a seemingly cordial middle-aged man behind him saw me and so I signaled to him to call Ian’s attention. He was kind enough to oblige and said something to Ian that made him turn his direction towards me. Seeing me unexpectedly lit his face up and my heart leapt for joy. Ian politely thanked the man and again started whispering his muted I love yous. I silently whispered back. Ian placed his hand on the left side of his chest. It is his way of telling me “Cecille, you’re in my heart”.

I know I am. It makes it seem all the more wrong for me to be sitting on a train back to a hotel room while Ian was set to fly thousands of feet above the ground. Moments ago, I was a woman loved and cherished by my man who was beside me. As I head back to Central Bangkok on my own, all of a sudden, I became a little girl again, caught in my melancholic reveries,and the city felt far too big for me.

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I was now a station away, and as I readied my train pass, I caught sight of the ring on my finger; now, Ian’s words echoed in my brain… “Whenever you feel sad and lonely, look to this ring and know I am always with you. We will be truly together soon, I promise”.
I desperately tried to suppress my sobs until I unlocked what used to be OUR room. As I pushed open the door, the scents of our frolicking filled my nose-remnants of Ian’s loving, comforting and reassuring presence not too long ago. Oh, dear God, I miss him already.

And that’s when the dam broke.

THE PRACTICAL POWER DRESSER : A Smart Girl’s Fashion Secrets in a Bad Economy

Since I started blogging, I knew that one day I was bound to write a fashion entry. Fashion talks may seem petty to some, but I tell you dearies, it’s not just about lovely dresses, to-die-for shoes and sparkly accessories that would make even the most proper of girls drool; I’d rather call it power dressing, or projecting a self-image of success through one’s wardrobe.

Power dressing refers to a style of clothing and hair intended to make wearers seem authoritative and competent, especially in professional settings in business, law and government.
                                                                                                                                -Wikipedia

To clarify, power dressing may revolve around clothes and accessories, but there’s more to it than the parade of labels and what-nots. It is more about the attitude of the wearer towards the clothes and the trend itself. Clothes can be tools we may use to project an image: how we want to portray ourselves and how we want to be perceived – but it isn’t about being pretending to like a style when you really don’t, or sacrificing comfort over fashion. If so, you run the risk of becoming a fashion victim. If I may boldly define it in my terms, power dressing encourages you to look into your inner self, evaluate your own sense of style, and bring it out through accents and/or statement accessories to be then paired with classic fashion pieces that would give a timeless and polished impression. It also helps if you have a fashion icon who can be your wardrobe guide to help you come up with your own version. The goal is to transmit an aura of calm confidence, being comfortable in one’s own body, and possessing undeniable flair that will make people around you think: “Damn, this girl is set to conquer the world! She is dressed to kill.”

As in the above definition, the term was originally coined to refer to wardrobe planning in relation to one’s professional career. Power dressing was viewed as ideal for government officials, corporate executives, and head honchos from all sorts of fields of expertise as well as job applicants. However, I believe that power dressing shouldn’t just be a costume to wear whenever one goes to their respective places of business. It should be a lifestyle, a state of mind. Thus, it may also be applied to our everyday lives. I am not suggesting that you should break your piggy banks, go on a shopping spree and start panic buying for a lavish wardrobe; rather, I’m advising that you invest in classic pieces (some of which may already be in your closets), pick out colors that suit you and accessorize in a way that brings out your unique personality while flashing that confident smile. Also, don’t forget to scour for budget finds. Bookmark places with great discount sales. Surely you can be a fashion Princess for less.

My personal fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn and it is very well reflected in my clothing preferences. Audrey popularized the Little Black Dress, an iconic fashion statement that says: elegant and sophisticated, conservative but not prudish- a true classic. It’s also very wearable. Ms. Hepburn, much like Coco Chanel, invested in timeless pieces (which can be worn anytime, anywhere) and in basic colors that are very easy to match with the rest of one’s outfit. Nonetheless, our heroine here isn’t afraid to add a pop of color such as touches of pink wherever she wants it. I personally like red. Red dress, red lips, red bag, red slim belt over a white or navy dress,  red shoes to match a classic LBD/LWD, red scarf, and red nails. Not at the same time of course, but you get what I mean. A hint or burst of red is a surefire formula to brighten my day and glam up my night.

I guess that’s enough talkin, let’s get dressin’.

The Little Black Dress-an every woman must-have, and my absolute favorite. 50% of my closet is populated by black dresses in all sorts of designs and variations. Here are a few of them:

The strapless black dress for cocktails and drinks

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The long sleeved black lace and lycra dress. I got mine on sale for B200 from Forever 21 last March (2013) and I haven’t had the chance to wear it yet.

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I used to have this version of the black lace dress from December 2010. I got it from Greenhills in Manila for Php350.

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The short sleeved black lace dress. I got this from H& M (on sale for B300). Here, the model definitely wore it better than I did.

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City Triangle open back dress (price unrecalled; adorned with pearls, hand-sewn by Jan Jay Espino ) as seen on my engagement photos.

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Vintage black dress (B150) as seen on my engagement photos.

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Vintage black dress (price unrecalled)

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The casual black top and leggings combo ala Mademoiselle Hepburn.

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The nude pumps. I admit. Just like the rest of the girls obsessed with Kate Midlleton’s style, I am also enamored with the Duchess’ favorite pair of L.K Bennett sledge heels.

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Sadly, at £49.50 a pop, the elusive pair is way beyond my thrifty fashionista budget. So instead I opted for a fashion steal in the form of Charles and Keith nude peep-toe pumps (originally priced B2, 000 here in Thailand but I got it for B1, 350 in Singapore). See actual photo here https://theglobalfilipina.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/cecille-and-ian-488.jpg

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To further satisfy my Catherine of Cambridge craving, I also availed of Payless Thailand’s opening sale and got this comfy and stylish pair at 50% off (B450).

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This version from Dexter is a nod to Kate’s penchant for wedges.

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A girl should never be without a pair of black stilettos. It’s the safe perfect match to any outfit a woman could think of. A Marie Claire- Paris black sling back (on sale for B200) does the job for me. https://theglobalfilipina.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/30.jpg

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Recently, along with my nude wedges, I got this pair from Christian Siriano for Payless, on sale of course! With a tinge of pink, this black number is the ultimate for killing the dance floor (only when out with the fiancé anywayJ). My new baby is still safe inside its box. I wanted to wear them today but I decided they’d be totally impractical for patient’s rounds and for going inside the O.R.

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Be the Lady in Red. Channel your “womanity” in this bright and bold hue…

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Either at the office party… (Bought from Tin Dayao-Tolentino for Php350)

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A celebration night with the girls…

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Or your birthday

Whatever in White. Simply cool, classic, comfy.

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And all of these stolen from my mother’s closet.

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Luckily for me, I am blessed with a quirky and fashion-forward mother too…unfortunately, I can’t bring my mother’s closet to America. This reminds me of what my future father-in-law said before: As a low-cost shopper, I will surely get sticker shock in the US. I am sooo used to cheap shopping in Asia (especially in Thailand which is the shopping capital of Southeast Asia) that I would probably never go out to the American malls.  I find it ridiculous how Asian-made products become way more expensive after being shipped off to North America. Consumerism at its finest.

 I was never a slave to fashion. I do like having nice things but I’ve always had the good sense to get them for reasonable, if not at absolutely low prices.  When I arrive in the US, I know I won’t be working for a while. With no income in a country where everything is practically, to coin Filipino slang, “dollars*”, how will the fashionista in me survive?

*Dollars- adj. (in Filipino slang) expensive

That’s when I thought of buying in advance for cheap here in Bangkok. Also, since I’m still earning here, I would actually have the means.  I used to joke with my cousins that here in Thailand, you can never be without clothes because they sell them as low as B20!!! That’s less than a dollar. True story.

Some of the stuff I displayed earlier haven’t been worn yet because I actually intend to bring them over to my new home. During my fiancé’s last visit, I asked him to carry some of my stuff to New York ahead of me.  It was actually therapeutic to our longing hearts because it was somehow our way of telling each other that my move to the US is definitely happening. How else would I be able to part with my darling shoes if I didn’t know for sure I’d see them again?! Hehe!

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Aside from actually “saving by spending” here rather than over  there,  I am investing in shopping because I am very excited to meet Ian’s family and friends for the first time. I know it might sound silly, but of course I really want to give them a good impression of me when they first see me. I want to look well put-together.  I have a feeling they would be pleasant to me anyway, even if I didn’t put in so much effort. Nonetheless, I still just want to put my best foot forward.

The truth is, no matter what one wears, it’s the overall personality that says more about a person. You may be wearing thousand dollar blings or strutting with all of Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen’s creations, but if you are as fake as a counterfeit Louis Vuitton Speedy from Laos, there’s no way you can charm a crowd. So here’s my advice to every lovely woman out there (advice I also so often give to myself):  Be your lovely and genuine self. And as I said earlier, don’t forget to smile and you will definitely win all of them over, fashionable outfit or notJ. Ciao!

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 004 – Does she speak English?

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Let’s face it: stereotypes will always exist. It’s human. And, while often carrying a negative connotation, most stereotypes do reflect a degree of truth – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we all rely on them sometimes. It’s our nature to have the need to simplify things – this isn’t always borne from ignorance or hostility, it can be just a matter of convenience in terms of how we interact with each other efficiently.

Stereotypes become dangerous when we accept them as universal truths, or as an interpretation of how things are “most” of the time – and even more so, when it impacts how we treat or interact with people we’re unfamiliar with. Do we judge them by their race? Color? Place of origin? Socioeconomic status? Accent? Hairstyle? Clothing? I could go on and on.

So, if I apply stereotypical thinking to everything I can observe about a person without ever speaking to them or getting to know them, how accurate would my assumptions be? How well am I describing who this person really is? Creating a person from a collection of stereotypes is fine for comedies, or comedians. But relying on stereotypes as your main way of understanding someone that you don’t know is simply ignorant.

Let’s get to the heart of this: Western/American guy. Asian woman from abroad.

Maybe she is a mail-order bride. Maybe he picked her out of a catalogue, or plucked her from the rice paddies.

Maybe she’s escaping a life if poverty. Maybe she’s after the green card and naturalization – and plans to import her rice paddy family too!

Maybe she’s an opportunist; a gold digger.

Maybe he is being used. There’s a long list of family members back home getting sick!

Maybe…

Maybe he’s a misogynist. The Western Women are too independent-minded for him, and he needs a submissive woman who will attend to his needs, desires, and follow his orders. (Anyone who knows Cecille is surely laughing at this point!)

Maybe, he’s a loser. There must be something wrong with him if he can’t even find a woman in his own country. It feels good to be getting all of these out of the way! Can anyone think of any more? If so, have at it in the comments!

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So it’s with these aforementioned stereotypes that we come to the inspiration for my post. This past Monday morning at work, I was at a meeting which is held monthly for all of the Managers at the Non-Profit Agency I’m employed at. At the start of these meetings, the facilitator (an Administrator who is also my boss) encourages the Managers to take a few brief minutes to speak in turn about anything they’d like: this is actually on the meeting agenda as “What I feel like saying…”

Typically, people will share either big life events, or simply anecdotes about their weekend activities. It had been a couple of months since I’ve been able to attend one of these meetings, so when it was my turn, I announced that since the last meeting, I’d become engaged.

Everyone in the room clapped. It was…well, cute. One of the other Managers asked me if I’ll be visiting my fiancée again soon, and I replied that yes, I will be traveling back to Thailand in May. To which she replied: “So does she speak English?”

I wasn’t especially surprised, but a bit annoyed to be asked in such a blatant way in that forum. But instead of switching to full-on defensive mode, I took it in stride and approached it as a “teachable” moment to explain that Cecille was fluent in English… She works in Thailand but is originally from the Philippines, and that English is the predominant language in the country. Everyone learned it in grade school. (In fact, Cecille learned it even earlier, as her mother is an English teacher.). Anyway, it would have been more tactful of her to ask me this question without the company of all of the other Managers in our meeting, but whatever…

I’d like to think that she was well-intentioned overall, or that maybe she assumed my fiancée is Thai and thus less likely to know English than a Filipina. While there are many Thais who speak perfect English too, it’s not ingrained in their culture like it is in the Philippines. I can’t help but to wonder if she would have asked me the same question had I said I’d be traveling to the Philippines.

If I’m especially cynical, I can also infer other meanings from this question:

First, that I would be able to marry someone that I couldn’t even communicate with. I could not. This may be an OK arrangement for some people, but not for me. Second, her question could be a reflection of the stereotype of Western Man/Asian Woman from abroad. (note – I add the phrase “from abroad” here because there are many American Asian women to which this stereotype doesn’t seem to apply). Knowing my fiancée is from Asia and further assuming the possibility that she can’t speak English seems to type-cast me as a potential bride-shopper, swooping in to rescue the hot but helpless rice paddy girl regardless of the fact that we don’t know how to talk to each other. That’s ok, because I’m the type of man who likes my women clueless and quiet… Obviously not.

Am I reaching here? Have I lost the ability to be objective and thus am overly sensitive to what people may assume?

All in all, does it even matter what people think? Yes and no.

No, it doesn’t matter because Cecille is my match regardless of what people may assume. Before I met Cecille (in person) I was attracted to her for her personality, her intelligence, her wit, and her charm. In fact, that’s what kept me talking to her so often in those first few weeks. The things that drew me to her then (and much more now) have little to do with her race, nationality, or where she is from. Yes, I knew she was Filipina, but more importantly, we later came to realize that we share similar values and dreams. Ultimately, during the two weeks I spent traveling with her, I fell in love.

I don’t have much previous experience with Asian culture or people – I’ve never had a close Asian friend before, let alone a girlfriend. That being said, the process of intermingling our two cultures and the resulting variety is one that I’m looking forward to.

Yet in a more general, and less personal way: Yes. It does matter what people think insomuch as it’s always a positive thing to challenge ignorance, to prove negative stereotypes wrong.

Cecille grew up on a farm. In fact, both sides of her family owned rice paddies. She would tell me stories of her life growing up in the countryside. She would often tease me that I did indeed pick a girl out of a rice paddy. But Cecille was also Editor in Chief of her college newspaper while concurrently the Vice President of the parliamentary debate club (which used English as the medium). She went to graduate school after her RN. For my future wife to have a solid resume is impressive – but more importantly, I would settle for nothing less than for my wife and I to truly connect and clearly communicate with each other – essential for any successful marriage.

In the end, I don’t look down on men who do the “mail-order bride” thing, or the women who marry them. To each their own, but it isn’t for me. The only reason for me to marry is when I have found someone that I truly love and cherish. But then again, this article isn’t meant to criticize other people’s preferences in choosing life partners. Rather, this is about the reliance on stereotypes to form opinions about people. And voicing such opinions publicly, especially in an inappropriate venue, rather than realizing you don’t really know anything and just keeping your misinformed judgment to yourself. Be careful with that, everyone.