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Wrote this in response to a link on facebook describing "Five Books that Dump You into a Pit of Despair":

I tend to stay away from books that I know will be absolutely depressing, because I really don't like sad stories. But I read the Handmaid's Tale, and it didn't quite 'plunge me into a pit of despair' (I actually found 'The Robber Bride' more emotionally affecting). The 'sad' books I've read that stand out because of how they affected me are 1) 'Waiting' by Ha Jin; 2) 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy; 3) 'Shalimar the Clown', by Salman Rushdie; 4) 'A Separate Peace', by John Knowles; 5) 'The Good Earth' by Pearl S. Buck.
'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell was pretty sad as well, actually. The movie is very different.
Recently, 'The Snow Child', by Eowyn Ivey.

As for painful reads - 'The Poisonwood Bible' by Barbara Kingsolver. I never finished it.
Frustrating - 'Deathless' by Catherynne Valente


I will update with more details on each novel tomorrow.

Did some quick internet research on one of the books listed on the "books that will plunge you..." site - "The Girl Next Door", which was based on a true story. The interpretation as well as the true story are both unbelievably horrifying. The movie, "An American Crime" was also based on those same events. *shudder*

--
I was able to get some work done today, but was not able to finish everything I wanted to.
A Filipina lady I met the other day (staying at the same hotel) told me this morning that I "work so hard" (she's seen me working on my laptop during breakfast two days in a row). I hope I can still be considered hard-working. I worry about becoming lazy, losing focus, not being as efficient as I used to be.
No evidence of that so far... no one has criticized me at work, and I only have one project that is seriously behind schedule, but slipped deadlines are not always my fault...

I'm worried about this one project. I feel we really need to push back the date of project closure, so that we have a little room to breathe. I will email people on this tomorrow. :(

Now, sleep.
I woke up this morning right before my dream reached its climax -- I was just about to step into a Sigur Ros concert. For some reason, in my dream, Arashi was also scheduled to hold a concert in that same city, and I was thinking that they (Sigur Ros and Arashi) are somehow always linked. In real life, however, my (true) love for them is probably the only link between the two groups. :))

G'nyt.
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Life Lesson:

  1. People can't be helped if they don't want to be helped.

  2. Give yourself time to be sad.

  3. Sadness is contagious.

  4. There is always a solution.

  5. Know what you want and make it happen.

  6. Things can seem like crap sometimes. But unless you live in Congo, Sudan, Kashmir or Afghanistan then there are people SO much worse off.

Life Skill:

  1. Knowing how to cope and deal.

  2. Knowing how to get up after allowing yourself the luxury of wallowing for a while.

  3. The ability to identify people who are good for you.

  4. The ability to find the solution to your problem. If it isn't pre-existing then make that solution. Build it from scratch, mould it with your fingers. Love it because it's yours.

  5. Knowing how to extract and retain lessons from every experience, good or bad.

  6. Knowing how to count your blessings. Be grateful. And get off your ass.

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I have this warm glow in my chest.
I realized that some aspects of my life were signs of how close I am to giving up on something. But life surprises us sometimes.

--

A large part of my morning was spent with Jac, Reza, and Javi at  an institution for underprivileged children run by nuns. It was more of an exploratory visit towards setting up the community service aspect of our book club. :)  Based on our experience today, I think we will probably have to change our outreach plans a little... Most of the kids at the orphanage are special children; either born differently-abled or haven't reached their full potential because of neglect. Most of them can't form words and there aren't enough nuns or visitors for them to really get the attention I think they need. The kids need mental stimulation, but a reading program might not be the most appropriate way to help them at this point. I think jac is right - picture books should be fine, and I think coloring books and perhaps other like activity books may be something they'd be interested in and learn from.

We arrived too late for their play time and just caught the tail-end of lunch time. We'll go back earlier next time. I might go back next week. I want to see the kids again, and also prove to the nuns that we were serious in our desire to help. 

The book I'm currently reading is 'The Furies' by Janet Hobhouse. It's told in the first person, from the point of view of a woman who grew up surrounded by the strange, dysfunctional women of her family and who developed strange, dysfunctional relationships with all of them. This girl was poor growing up. Not dirt poor, not like the children we spent time with today, but poor enough to suffer.

Here's an excerpt where she describes an afternoon in which a well-off classmate visited her at home:

'I'm just going to get something from my room,' I said, opening the closet, squeezing narrowly past the door, and pulling it tightly behind me. I simply willed her to believe that the door behind which I was standing and holding very still was the door of a corridor, off which were who knows how many rooms, perhaps not only a child's room, but a mother's room, perhaps a guest room and a maid's room, and in these rooms which I wished her to imagine there were all the things she took for granted: a television, phonograph, books, pictures, rugs, mirrors, possessions strewn and possessions straightened, a whole second apartment here behind my mother's raincoat and shoeboxes and slender, dangling wardrobe."

I looked around my room after reading that paragraph, and I saw everything she described, everything I myself often take for granted. And I thought I would be blessed if I only remember not to take anything I have for granted. Everything is a blessing, everything is a gift.

I am grateful, but sometimes I forget. Today was a good reminder. We all need little reminders once in a while.

--

I should be working on my final thesis presentation but I'm SLEEPY. :/

--

I had a nice surprise today. :)

Oh, and Ms. Tin (my trainer) and I were able to convince my parents to sign up at the gym. I hope they establish a regular exercise routine. :)
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2007 is winding to a close and, before I fall into vacation-mode, I'd better blog in honor of this wonderful year.
I learned more about myself this year than I have in any other.
I moved away from some things and found my way back to others. And -- my life path completely changed.

Highlights of this year:
- leaving med school.
- the best summer EVER -- trip to Lao and Cambodia with Kris (and under that -- KHMU VILLAGE! and tongkhawyaokuay)
- the total change of life plan!
- Entering SURP and finding more of myself there.
- that wonderful sembreak trip to Vietnam and meeting all those wonderful people.
- bonding with my digital SLR (I know its functions better now)
- working out regularly again
- getting my first job

That's just so far. There are still a couple of weeks to go before 2008 comes along!
And -- much as I sometimes wish hope was dead (in me) -- there's a persistent smidgen of it left.

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