B, Chicagoland
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Vera Wakes Up

It’s the middle of the coldest month of the year, and I’m indoors, wearing three layers of clothing (including a down jacket). For two weeks, Vera, my beloved laptop, has been in a coma. The one time I use my laptop as a tray. But today I learned that her brain is still working, I just need to hook her up to a different screen in the meanwhile.

Anyway. It’s been a good 2015 so far. Let me sum up January to mid-Feb:

  • Watching the fireworks on the roof of my house in Manila, with my family. Like the good old times. Before that, partaking of a signature Tan family gathering feast, and the strange family conversations with none other than my parents and sister. The strange part, more on dad’s end.
  • Seeing my family, my best friends, and other friends from the Philippines before coming back to the USA. Being able to attend the wedding of one of my childhood friends, and seeing another childhood friend be very pregnant. What was it like coming back to Manila after nearly two years of being away, aside from nostalgic? It was too short, for starters. I was back in the USA by the mid-early January.
  • The rest of January (until the present) has been about surviving winter in Chicagoland, in the burbs, in a city where I initially felt like my legs were cut off. Unlike New York, Chicago is more spread out, and you need a car, and warming up gear. It was annoying, because I’m used to conquering my way by foot. But this is good adaptability training.
  • Taking care of grown-uppy/life stuff that I’ve put off (out of frustration, or lack of necessity) for a while: a driver’s license, health insurance, a credit card, etc. Took a while to get these done, but they’re finally done! Other things I’m quite happy about is vacuuming the car, driving in snow, driving on the expressway, putting up furniture, and being able to do something about random life predicaments and gain bearing rather than feeling helpless.
  • Starting on a small personal project with my parents’ kitchen (and then the laptop incident). I need to finish this really really soon.
  • Regularly reading the newspaper. This is embarrassing, but it stresses my eyes too much to read from a digital screen, even if it’s convenient. So I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. In the afternoon, you can see me reading the papers with a cup of coffee, like a dignified fatherly figure.
  • Regularly exercising. Walking at least 2.5 miles a day, thanks to a WSJ article on the amazing elasticity of our brains. From walking, to slight jogging, it’s began to include push-ups, crunches, and other circuit training routines.
  • Regularly eating healthy, i.e., balanced omnivore-ing. Which in my case, translates to eating more leafy greens. I hate salads, but using Vitamix a couple of times a week sure has gotten a lot of greens into my system. That, and lemon water! On occasion I treat myself. Like fried chicken and biscuits (and fries) on Valentines day. And malted chocolate milkshakes. No feelings of self-deprivation here, most times.
  • My cousins from across the USA and around the midwest have been visiting from time to time, so it’s been fun as well. Grocery explorations (it’s a shared past time), food tripping, Chicago restaurant week, etc.
  • BSF study of the life of Moses, now in my fourth location! It’s always fascinating the kinds of communities you’ll become a part of in different places around the world.
  • Cooking a delicious chicken adobo for the first time in my life. Still a proud, and tasty moment. Vinegar. Soy sauce. Garlic. White rice. Love.
  • Living in the middle of quiet, where restaurants don’t exactly delivery, and they close at 8pm. It’s been more solitude that I anticipated. Not the sensory bombardment of Manhattan, or Manila. But I like it too.
  • As for what I’ve been doing since I resigned from my previous job: I’m a barista. At the end of the day, I smell like coffee. My friends would find this hilarious, because I’ve always avoided Starbucks like a plague. But I have my reasons for this decision, and I’m enjoying the ride :>  Aside from learning how to make the stuff on and off their extensive drink menu, I’ve sampled a lot of the bakery offerings, and gotten a feel of the details and challenges of operating a cafe. The team that I’m a part of is great, patient, and fun. No complaints here.
  • Wait, I’m not in design/architecture/interiors? Not presently. For the past four years, I’ve been satisfied and frustrated with being an interior designer. Design is wonderful, and will always be a part of my OS, but I’ve needed a break from it for a while (hence the farming study that should’ve been 2013). I’ll save the thoughts for that for another day. The first few weeks of being here involved forcing myself to figure out immediately what specific direction what I wanted to go. Nothing good came out of forcing something that couldn’t be forced; it needed time to calm down and simmer. And rather than waiting for the unpredictable to happen, I decided to do something to keep sharp and active (and getting moneys). So I applied and was trained to become a barista! Might as well get paid to develop new skills, and have a behind-the-scenes look at Howard Schultz’s empire while figuring things out.
  • I was ready to apply to architecture/design firms upon my return to the USA. I had a list of them, all curated from last year. Except that I absolutely couldn’t bring myself to apply to any, after experiencing design in different places and different formats for the past four years. Something inside was just… not willing.
  • Lastly, the next life direction has taken shape over the past couple of weeks. Huzzah!

Altogether, it’s been fruitful. The only other things I haven’t ticked off the list of “things I need to do first while settling in” are:

  • Finding a church. I miss Redeemer Presbyterian, and I’ll always remotely be a member of it.
  • Writing. I’ve got several drafts in my iPhone Notes with things I wrote while feeling very single at 2am in the JFK airport waiting for eight hours for my transfer flight, questions on what it means to believe or have faith, fires and burning bushes, Filipino cuisine, and other fragile things that enter the stream of consciousness only right before drifting off to sleep. Then you rouse yourself up and try to catch them. And then revise until the twelfth of never.

So here we are! This is all to say: Vera, I’m glad you’re sort of back. And world, I’m alive, and kicking.


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