Friday, February 26, 2010

Day One

My family decided to drive to South Florida to visit The Walt Disney World in Orlando and to see the southernmost part of the United States in the Florida Keys. That explains why Max, my laptop, is cradled on my tummy right now, while I am typing this entry in a semi-recumbent position. I am inside my aunt's recreational vehicle (RV) or motor home. For approximately one week, my bedroom, which is where I am now, will be the bunk just above the driver's and front passenger's seats. I will be sharing the bed with my mother, who by the way just decided a few minutes ago to call it a day after spending around two hours checking her Facebook account. My aunt and her cousin will sleep in the bedroom while my cousin's bed is actually our dining table during the daytime. The table's leg - yeah there's only one - actually folds down so that the panel then rests on the seats, thus providing a bed probably enough for someone who is six feet tall.

Since Mobile, Alabama, my home base here in the US, is just near the Florida State Line, it took us only about an hour and a half to enter the Sunshine State. Going to Orlando which is at the southern part of Florida, is a ten-hour drive from Mobile.

Our first night was already something to talk about. The gods must be crazy and just wanted to play tricks on us. Two tricks to be exact.

We decided to spend the night in Ocala approximately an hour and a half away from Orlando, so we looked for an RV park there. An RV park is a place where people with RVs can stay overnight or longer. Also referred to as campgrounds,since they also provide spaces and facilities for tent camping, RV parks provide hook-ups for power, drinking water, cable, telephone. Wireless Internet is also provided. Other RV park or resorts, like the one where we checked in now, have a pool complete with a jacuzzi. Sewer connection is available too, which I think is very good since RVers won't have to worry about a full septic tank. It's not easy carrying a heavy load, you know. Pun intended.

It was around 9pm when we started to look for an RV park in Ocala, with the help of the GPS. Indeed we found one. But to our chagrin, it was closed! I was really confused why RV parks would close when in fact this is America and almost everybody drives from one state to another - almost all the time, not minding the hours, whether it is night or day. Unfazed by this first disappointment, we went on to look for another RV park nearby but this time we called its office first before proceeding to the place. Only a machine answered our call which would possibly mean that the park was not open anymore or not receiving any new campers. I then understand that the closing time of 5pm is also for the safety of the campers or RV people inside the camp grounds.

So we drove and drove on the interstate, not actually knowing where to go, undecided whether we should just drive directly to Orlando or stop by somewhere and spend the night in that somewhere. But where in this part of the world is that? The nearest rest area from where we were is a good one hundred miles away. A rest area is a public facility located next to a thoroughfare such as a highway, at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel, without exiting on to secondary roads. It does not provide those hook-ups made available to RVers in RV parks or campgrounds, and it has safety issues too. Many rest areas have the reputation of being unsafe with regard to crime, especially at night, since they are located in remote areas. However, the rest area is the next best option left for us, with all the RV parks already closed.

As we coursed through the interstate, we saw a very wide parking space in front of Winn-Dixie, a 24-hour commercial establishment. We finally decided to stay there for the night, hoping that the security guard would not drive us away. There goes the first joke by the gods.

While we were preparing dinner, my cousin turned on the television and looked for the remote control of the converter box. First it was only him but eventually, all of us were looking for the remote control but it was nowhere to be found. The day before we left Mobile, my cousin tested the converter box and the television to check on the channels and he was sure he placed the remote on the table. That left all of us puzzled. Why we couldn't find the thing?

After a good recall of events, we concluded that it was my aunt who left the remote at home. The day before our departure, the old TV was brought by my aunt to the machine shop for storage. She replaced it with the TV that we have right now, which her niece offered to her to use during this trip. Since the old TV had a remote, and my aunt remembers she brought a remote with it while she was carrying it to the shop, we suspected that she accidentally exchanged the remote controls and brought the remote of the converter box instead. Indeed we found the remote of the old television inside the RV. Now that solved the mystery of the remote control. That meant no television for us for this whole week. No Vancouver Winter Olympics, no American Idol, no Amazing Race. That was the second trick. We can do nothing about it but laugh at how the gods played their tricks on us.

We thought that was the end of it but ripples of the tricks kept coming. Since we had no power hook-ups, we had no heat to keep us warm for the night. We didn't want to turn our generator on overnight and consume our gas on that. A tank full of gas would only last for five hours if spent to power a generator. Good that we brought lots of comforters with us. That really didn't keep us warm during the night, but it helped us a little to survive the really biting cold.

I was thinking then, I was told that Florida is not as cold as the state where we came from. Probably the cold that we were experiencing was partially due to the Northeast wind blowing. Or maybe this is just how it feels to sleep during a winter night - or at least try to - without any heater to keep one warm.

Morning came and thank God, we survived the night, and maybe, the jokes on the playful spirits on us too. For the first time, I got to experience the Florida sunshine and it made me smile because it made me forget about what we went through the night before. The sunshine as bright as the one here in Florida would easily put a smile on one's face especially during this memorable winter season, when the sun has been extraordinarily bashful.

I thought to myself, "Aaahh! So this is the Florida sunshine," and smiled. I smiled at the sun as it smiled back on me. I smiled at the thought of the adventures waiting for me here. Lastly, I smiled because I have waited for this, and now, I am definitely ready for Day One.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Again, we are told. Never underestimate the power of your dreams.

This is by far my most favorite Vancouver Winter Olympics commercial to date.

Julia Mancuso has won four World Cup Races and 3 World Championship Medals - bronze medals in the super-G and giant slalom events and a silver in the super-combined in 2007. She also bagged an Olympic Gold Medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

After those successes, her standings in races were not as good due to injuries. It would have been easy to give up but Mancuso pushed herself to stick to a more strenuous training regimen to improve her race times. Indeed, her efforts paid off.

Last February 18, in this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver, she won a silver medal in Alpine Skiing Downhill, while another American won the gold. Together, they gave the United States its first 1-2 finish in an Olympic Alpine event, since 1984.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For Team Didi

This waitress from Knoxville, Tennessee, gained attention when she sang "Terrified" during Hollywood Week. She also has her own story to tell, which by now everybody knows already (I believe), particularly what motivated her to join the auditions for American Idol. She has a powerful voice and she's got star quality too. Let's see how far this country lass would go this season.

Her version of Katherine McPhee's Terrified (written by now Idol Judge Kara DioGardi) is making rounds in blogs and in FB pages. I am definitely a member of Team Didi, and so, here she is.

Hollywood Week . . .

Auditions . . .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food Talk: Kaya mo ba 'to?

We've heard it many times before - we are what we eat. I came across two articles from a national daily and these articles made me reevaluate what I have been gobbling up and stuffing my body with.

The first article is about Presidential Candidate Richard Gordon's campaign which encourages us Filipinos to eat less rice. He equates eating less rice to more earnings for the country, and aside from that, a healthier people too.

I agree with his premise. Though I am a heavy rice-eater, I believe that eating less rice, maybe, one cup less than what most of us usually have, would, in a way, help those who have been continuously challenged to lose weight or those who are in a constant battle with the bathroom scale. Losing weight would ward us away from the problems that go with being overweight or with being obese.

But that irresistible cup of rice is actually just one of the many sources that run the gamut of obesity. Obesity, which has become a worldwide epidemic, is caused by an interplay of factors which include excessive dietary calories, lack of physical activity, and genetic susceptibility. A certain number of cases are caused by genetic disorders, endocrine disorders, medications, and psychiatric illness. Obesity is generally frowned upon by society because it increases the likelihood of various life-threatening diseases like hypertension and diabetes mellitus, to name a few. Interestingly, somewhere in the annals of history, it was considered a symbol of fertility and affluence, and it still is in some parts of Africa.

Obesity is a story that has three sides which we all need to hear. Since the genetic predisposition is entirely out of our control, we can work on the other two departments which include dietary intake and physical activity. Now the intake of rice may matter in the former but of course, cutting off on our rice intake is not everything. There is still the need to cut off on our consumption of trans fat.

Trans fat is the common name of unsaturated fat. It is one of those culprits that increase the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. It is usually found in fried food, fast food, and even in baked goodies. Now can you wave goodbye to McDonald's, or KFC, or Red Ribbon? That is of course aside from resisting the temptation to add an order of extra rice while you are in the restaurant, or to add one more gantang of uncooked rice into the rice cooker.

Now on to the second article about food. It operates on the proposition that (and I quote) - "If you are what you eat, then it necessarily follows that your brain is what you eat, as well." This reminds me of the many propositions in Logic Class way back in my university days. I have to confess, that Logic is one of the few subjects (and I could not even remember what those few other subjects are) which I reviewed every night without fail, yes - even during weekends - because I was dead scared to get a low grade. I could still remember my professor emphasizing the if-and-only-if proposition. He made an effort to make us laugh during his lectures, even singing for us a few lines from his favorite song, just to send his points across. He was lanky and almost had nothing for the barber, and he has a resemblance to the villain in the movie Meet the Robinsons. Logic Class was fun, we laughed (like we were proud of our uvulas) at the professor's antics during lectures but we would drip heavily with cold sweat during exams. Now, please excuse me for yakking and straying away from my point, but the opening proposition of the article seems correct to me. Trust me, I got good grades in that subject (wink, wink).

The article tackles food preferences by some named medical professionals. They make an effort to include those food in their diet apparently because of the effects they have on the brain. What I found really striking though was what I read on the last part. The article reveals that eating much meat diminishes intellectual activity. It turns out now that my favorite pork barbecue and my ever beloved lechon will not only clog up my arteries but will also tinker with my cerebral functions. The article also mentions that excessive amounts of sugar in the diet was noted to impair frontal lobe function in schoolchildren. As if those were not enough, maybe you should start considering about not including bulalo in your list of favorites because, as a doctor divulges in the article, it contains a lot of chemicals and its DNA nature is not considered a whole food. I could not be shocked enough. Will somebody please hold my shoulders and shake me vigorously so that I will recuperate from this state of shock? Will somebody please push my jaw up too? Can anybody also enlighten me, what whole food exactly is?

As of now, I could not (yet) imagine myself not eating meat or cutting on my sugar intake. Well there is sugar in particularly every food we it! And meat is, for lack of a better word, delicious! Heavenly even, like my compulsory cup of coffee in the morning.

Maybe these assumptions have some truth in it. However, I choose to take a to-see-is-to-believe stand as of the moment. In the language of logic, an if-and-only-if rebuttal. If and only if the study that yielded these results would be cited, and the reading public would be given a way to access it, then I would believe. It is the only way to dispel the doubts of Doubting Thomases like me. How many years were the cohort studies made? What was the sample size? What were the study tools utilized? What was the endpoint of the study? How was the study analyzed? Now, this makes me feel I am carried back to my Epidemiology Class in medical school. I think it's time to go and grab a bite before I yak like crazy. I am not mad. Of course not. This in fact is the most graceful way I can conclude this article. Trust me, I am not mad. Of course not. Just a little hungry maybe. Of course. Who won't be? :-) (Wink, wink.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The secret of the rooftop

Just recently, I was in a trough in my life when I discovered this spot in the hospital where I work. I have been there before but it is a spot where I usually wouldn't care to go to although I see the pathway that leads to it every time I go to the dietary to get our meals. I have been there before and that was in the very distant past that I could not even recall when. I have been there before and yet it is only recently that I discovered that this spot holds great treasures. That's why I ask myself, why did I ever let past chances to go to that spot slip away.

I am talking about the rooftop of the hospital's lowermost building. It was when I was in one of my most downtimes that I discovered the secret which the rooftop holds. And just when I made that discovery, I wished that I had more time to feast on the beauty that the rooftop has revealed to me.

You would not believe what I discovered. The rooftop on this side of Bohol gives me a very nice view of the sunset. Maybe that is not much of a discovery at all for anyone else, but to me it is.

Nature never lost its spell on me. It never ceases to amaze me, and I always find myself gawking while staring at its beauty. Farmlands filled with newly-grown rice, that seem to seduce you to run on it -barefoot - and playfully sing Maria's Sound of Music. The hardworking water buffalo that painstakingly serves its two masters - the very land it tills, and the farmer whom it carries around. Mountains that stand in proud splendor. Raging waterfalls that soothes one's raging heart. Pitch black caves which house nature's work of art. A giant tree in the middle of the forest. The silky lake which is one world by itself with all the flora and fauna that thrive in it. And now, this sunset.

This sunset, which serves as a perfect backdrop to the bluegreen waters of this paradise, has been my companion during my time at the pits. It has been a warming embrace from the demands of work. It made me pause and look back, so that I can move on again, from where I left. It's more like nature has shared to me a part of its energy, to counteract whatever negativity the world has.

It has been a friend. It is one of the things I deeply miss when I am not in Bohol because back in the busy city of Ceboom, I have no breathtaking view of it. From the time I knew of this secret, every late afternoon, as long as I am not stranded at the Operating Room, I make it a habit to run to the rooftop to spend a few minutes with this friend. But we never talk. Not a word is spoken. We just stare into each other - I, into it's beauty, and the sunset responding back with its energy and whatever light is left of it, until it fades, and fades, and finally disappears as the sun finds its place beneath the horizon.

Then I leave the rooftop, relieved, recharged, revitalized, inspired, and most importantly looking forward to the next day, whatever life brings.

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