Saturday, March 29, 2008

tragically stereotypical...

... but this was the highlight of my day (and my trip so far).

i love that every kid, no matter where they are from, loves looking at his/herself in a digital camera.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"yes please "

Kigali reminds me of San Pablo in the Philippines. It's a city of about 1million people and is the same type of small town atmosphere. Kids are running around in uniforms during school break. People are all over walking to little street shops and to the market. There are people on motors (read: bigger than mopeds but not quite motorcycles). The landscape is hilly but the full of trees, grass, and tons of houses with terracotta roofs. It even smells the same -- that musty smell of earth and petrol (my coworker doesn't like the smell). Of course, I like it because it reminds me of the Philippines except it lacks that twinge of burning rice pods on the side of the road.

I had a driver today and rode around meeting with shipping companies, securing more drivers, going to the store to buy supplies, and going to the US Embassy to do some business. All by noon! Fridays in Rwanda = cool. They shut down at 1.

The hotel is really, really nice. Nicer than some of the hotels that I've stayed in the US. The bathrooms are marble tiled and I have separate tub (and I think I just have a standard room). And there is artwork everywhere. This hotel was renovated recently. What's sad is that it used to be the Hotel Diplomat, which was ransacked during the genocide a few years ago. If you watch the movie, you'll see. Actually, I confirmed this today, but had thought of it on my own last night, kinda freaked me out a little bit and so I slept with the TV on BBCworld all night. It's what I get for watching Hotel Rwanda one night before I left.

On a lighter note, I've noticed that lots of people here like to answer with either "yes please", "no problem", or "thank you". But I will say that it sometimes catches me off guard because I don't always understand their context.

leah: may I have some coffee please?
waiter: yes please. rushes off
leah: ... ? ...

brings coffee

leah: we decided to have our coffee outside, can we move please?
waiter: yes please. no problem.

leah: thank you!
waiter: thank you
leah: ...
pause... your welcome?

now before you correct my punctuation, i want say, instead of "yes, please [insert it would be my pleasure to bring you coffee]... it's more like yesplease. said in one breath, as in one word. meaning... yes. it's cute. but jarrs me sometimes.

AND it isn't a "no, thank you!" situation, it's more like I'm just going to repeat what you just said and thank you happens to be it.

The "no problem" thing is just cute. They are the nicest people and smile all day long. I love it.

Again,we did lots of work that I can't really talk about but I did get to have some fun today.

After all our meetings, etc., we headed to dinner and realized that the cafe we discovered earlier in the afternoon had extended their al fresco restaurant from patio to the grassy area near the pool. It was cute. yes please!

Ok, we ate in the hotel (again), but this time, it was Rwandan and yummy. I tried as much as I could:

  • Roasted tilapia appetizers: yum.
  • Ugali: what i think was mashed casava. tasted like mashed yuca, without the fried goodness. or mashed potatoes without cream or butter.
  • Beef brochettes: grilled beef kabobs with onion. can't really go wrong with that.
  • Matoke in Tomato Sauce: matoke is a banana - that's pretty bland - simmered in tomato sauce. i could compare it to pot roast/beef stew, you know without the beef.
  • Baked Tilapia: tilapia, fried, i think, then simmered in tomato and herb sauce. reminiscent of filipino escabeche but not sweet or sour. uhh, maybe not escabeche.
  • Traditional goat stew: goat done all the way (read: not chewy) is very much like lamb. this stew was yummy! again, reminiscent of filipino calderetta - without the spiceyness.
  • For dessert, I had nutella crepe with some kind of fruit as well as Maitaki - which I think was a fried cassava fritter with coconut shavings on top. I'm not really sure if my guess is correct, but it was pretty good. Even better when I threw some nutella on top.
  • For my beverage, I had a Mutzig. It's the beer the waiter recommended. After I asked him if it was local, he said "yes please" and got it for me. After googling it just now, I find out it was a French beer. See what I mean. Oh well.
During dinner, there was a band (more like a beat machine, a guy on keyboard, two singers and later in the night, a guitar player). They sang everything and the keyboard player played for 4 hours straight. Their set included some Rwandan - this place was apparently a night out for the locals, some French for the tourists, some English 80's and classics for the tourists and some top 40, again I think for the locals who were dancing and drinking. It was nice. And pretty night on top of it.

No pictures today, maybe tomorrow. But just for some eye candy, here's my first souvenir for my niece.

isn't he adorable?! yes please!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

africa or bust.

Email that I received two days ago:

"have a great time
don't die
take great pictures
have a great time"
I'm here. I'm safe. Since this first leg is mostly work, I probably won't have pictures nor will I have too many interesting updates until later this weekend. But here are my observances so far:

  • Business class is the way to go. Seriously. I'm so spoiled now.
  • It was really neat to fly over the Sahara desert. Miles and miles of sand and nothing. SURREAL.
  • It was strange to land in the country that was not lit up like US cities at night. But in a cool, strange way, not a weird, strange way. You can just feel that you're in a different place. Love it.
  • That feeling reminds me of being in the Philippines.
  • I was a little freaked out seeing des milles colline vans in the airport parking lot since I watched the movie the night before I left. I know, I know... stupid of me.
  • The people are super nice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Peep-ster!

I'm on my way out to my family's Easter Egg-stravaganza. My family is crazy and crazy big. Just think the Bradys x 5. at every holiday. and child's birthday. until they turn 18. or... forever (my parents still throw me birthday dinners and invite the extended fam. I'm telling you, B-R-A-D-Y, just Filipino). At last count, the expected arrival at today's event is 41 adults (with a potential of a+ 5), 20 kids and at least 60 eggs filled with candy (and money). I'm excited for our little ones, but tired just thinking about it.

Anyway, I wanted to give a shout out to my cousins and friends who entered the Washington Post's Peep Show Diorama Contest. The contest is all about re-creating events in history or pop culture using Peeps (I mean, that's all they are really good for - because they are SHA-nasty [b & j that was for you]. I was dying to join this year, but alas, no time and I had a severe lack of focus. My many, many ideas spanned the following: "Peeps, I hate peeps " from the Indiana Jones movie - the part where opens the door and sees snakes all over the ground to Peeps on a Plane to Peepstock and to my favorite of "Addicted to Peep" a la Robert Palmer. Maybe next year...

Anyway, my friends were featured on CBS Sunday Morning this morning, in print in the Sunday Source and on Washington Post online (it's a flash file so I haven't figured out to paste here - it's entry #5). They were genius and used the following video as inspiration and became finalists. I'm so proud (of the peep diorama; i'm a little skeptical about the so-called exercise program in this Cebuano jail)! Check it out.

The inspiration (as if you haven't seen this a million times already - at least it's still hilarious for the 75th time):

Ok, gotta go deliver my potluck dish. Just a simple pasta carbonara a la leah - sans egg (one of the kids has an allergy). It's probably the simplest pasta dish ever; and with 50 people showing up, that's a lot of bacon. It only took me an hour to do this but now my studio and everything in it, clothes included, smells like bacon. According to Kitas' friend Matt, girls should wear bacon smelling perfume to attract men. I'd rather not test this theory- so I'm going to go see if I can find a warehouse sized bottle of febreze instead.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

in all her swanky glory.

kitas, in red square near st. basil's cathedral

last night, i had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend, kitas, who is abandoning beautiful dc (and a whole slew of friends) for what her current roommate calls a city with a broken bell. damn philly, stop taking my friends!

kitas and i met at pre-college visit and were pretty much thrown together in every freshman college related instance after. luckily, we became good friends and have kept up regularly for the past few years.

i'm a little bummed that she's moving but am happy that i have another friend to visit in philly (oh, and that she was brave and determined enough to decide that she was worth more than the crap she was being given at work). maybe one day, i'll learn appreciate that city the way that real philadelphians do (and maybe start putting my foot down at work when my crazzzzzy clients call me at 5:30 on a friday evening and saying that they had an emergency and that i need fix something. hence, why i am at work this saturday morning at at 6:00. yes, that's a real timestamp; i just finished calling halfway across the world.)

one of best memories that kitas and i have besides her scary obsession with one of my candles, the way she made my psycho roommate, fay, cry because she kept her dead dog's picture in her locket, our obsession with this random professor that we deemed MacDaddy, is that she and i went poland and russia together just two years ago. it was a pretty awesome trip. we went to see jeannage in poland, then flew to see my cousin lou in moscow, and then back to jeannage's party house krakow for more polski fun.

on our first night in poland, we drank mad dogs which is just guaranteed pukage in a (pretty!) shot. yeah, vodka, grenadine, and tabasco sauce. i took 6 of these, trying painfully to keep up with the poles after having had only onion soup for dinner. kitas tried her best, and on our drive down to the spas in krynica (in the mountains near the slovak border), had to take an unexpected stop. that was pretty funny.

during the trip we took a side trip to auschwitz and randomly ran into a kid from college -- who is mostly remembered as the kid who tried to use real paper in the overhead projector during our class-wide senior comprehensive presentations. and the guy that told donner that her underwear was on the roof. he was weird. and i thought it was creepy that i ran into him in the torture chambers in auschwitz considering the last time i saw him was said event with projector.

also, of course, in the rynek, we ran into the popemobile. sorry, i had to...

in russia, we took millions of tours of the city with cousin lou, hung out with my cousin's chauffeurs teaching them english and "filipinski" and recovered from flying aeroflot.

all in all, we took 9 flights within an 11 day trip but had a great time celebrating our fabulous, single, mid-twenties. now that we're both 'growing up' it's exciting to be nearing that big 3-0 as things fall into place with homes, jobs, and sense of self. but most importantly, it's great to have a good friend by your side to bitch with during the whole arduous process.

it's been a long 10 years, kitas! cheers to you! we'll miss you in dc.

kitas, at a club in krakow, after mad dogs and grass vodka.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

luck of the irish?

...or maybe God's way of saying "way to go!"

in the last month, i started going back to sunday mass as a cop out lenten sacrifice because for the last 5 years or so, i stopped going to church - not even on easter or christmas. i figured something is better than nothing. so on sunday mass, during the usual administrative parish news, father reminds everyone that the lottery for the papal mass will close after the 12noon service. so i sit there and fill out the form, not thinking that i'll get it. but let me tell you that they called yesterday and I SQUEALED. at work.

i'm going to see benny. in english.

here is a clip of benny in krakow that my friend j took while kitas and i were there on vacation in poland two years ago. and before you think i'm some catholic zealot pope freak, i'm not (really!); it was pure coincidence that we were in town visiting j for this occasion. and you know, we ran into il papa on the rynek.

but much like a sporting event when even though you aren't 100% sure who you're watching or if what they're doing is great -- when the crowd is cheering, you can't help but scream and jump up and down screaming "boo yah" and waving that foam finger right along with them.

that's what watching the popemobile is like.

Monday, March 17, 2008


What other Filipino (or Irish person for that matter) gets a phone call from Ireland to wish them a happy St. Paddrick's?

I do!

I love that I have Irish cousins!

Now I want to go out!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, March 16, 2008

miss me yet?

Life is life. It's been all kinds of crazy in my world as of late and so blogging has been put on the back burner since I'm one of those that can't just throw up an update. I'm too neurotic for that.

Anyway, work is sending me to Africa (yes, Africa) for a week and a half and I decided that I'm going to enjoy another week over there myself seeing this wonder of the world with my own eyes.

I'm working on editing (read: protecting the names of the innocent) some great conversations about getting ready for Africa from a very sarcastic friend/coworker who is going with me. Since the event that we're doing there is a BEAST that's keeping me up at night, it's good to know I'll have someone to laugh with during all the stress.

In the meantime, with friends leaving DC, babies being born all around me, and the Wisconsin extension of our family coming to visit (count: 6 kids under 10 in addition to our usual 7), I've become the potluck queen. More often that not, I choose dessert. It's easy and easy to make "fancy".

Here's a bouquet of yum that's spring and Easter inspired.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


so it's no surprise that i'm not a web designer. and while i knew that different browsers = different page sizes and different computers = different fonts, i was still sorely disappointed that my last post came out misaligned when i showed it to a friend yesterday (she has IE). especially since it took me FOREVER to align that just so.

so here it is: best viewed in Mozilla Firefox


Saturday, March 01, 2008

it's all about the packaging

today is one of my godchildren's birthdays. yes, one out of... eight (i think). and much like christmas, i have to be really smart about not only what i buy for the kiddies but also how i package the goods.

i love thoughtful, heartfelt packaging that is simple and pretty -- nothing that screams commercialism such as a TV cartoon character (usually, that's the toy that's inside). also, in my tiny, little home, i don't have room to store 5 rolls of paper appropriate for birthdays for boys, birthdays for girls, birthdays for adults, and showers galore. and i can't bring myself to throw it away after one use; that's just wasteful. i'm sure it wouldn't that be a big deal, but my adult friends probably don't want thomas, dora, or "bun in the oven" paper tarnishing their journals, powertools, or various fashion forward pieces.

my solution? brown paper.

and while it can be done wrong (think: UPS package), it's very easy to do right for every occasion. it's pretty classic.

a simple ribbon and some faux caligraphy make this box pop.

the toy on top is part gift, part finishing touch.

this was for a baby shower. cute "bug" touches, but not over the top B-A-B-Y!

christmas 2008
last year, i went nuts with loads of ribbon. while it was really pretty, the younger kids couldn't untie the ribbon by themselves. this year, i decided to go simple and use silver bows with a metallic, handwritten 'label'. just a little sparkle goes a long way.