Tuesday, August 23, 2011

After a year… 55 Things I Remember About my Turkish Experiences

1.      The entire 5th World Youth Congress experience from July 30 to August 14, 2010 in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey
2.      My flight to Turkey and back to the Philippines via one of the world’s top carriers, Singapore Airlines, and the very expensive fare. Don’t ask me how much. Thanks to my sponsors.
3.      The flight attendants, free food, mini-TV and headset for each passenger inside the Singapore Airlines plane
4.      The Ataturk airport, and the long queue of international participants like me at the Immigration area
5.      The Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul, and the Istiklal Caddesi or Independence Avenue, a pedestrian shopping street. This is where I shopped most of my pasalubong.
6.      The vintage-looking red tram that runs along the Istiklal Avenue, and the subway in Istanbul
7.      The Bosphorus Bridge which connects Europe and Asia; and the Bosphorus Strait which separates the two continents
8.      The Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the not-so-blue Blue Mosque
9.      The Galata Tower, built in the 14th Century by the Genoese colony as part of their town defense, then used in different times as a prison then a watch tower for fires. I had the chance to go to the top of the flower and see the panoramic views of Istanbul from there, and dine at the second to the top floor.
10.  The Hagia Sophia (Divine Wisdom – attribute of Christ), one of the greatest surviving architectural examples of the Byzantine period. It used to be an Orthodox Patriarchal basilica (for 916 years), then a mosque (for 481 years), and now a museum. In the Byzantine history, the Hagia Sophia played an important role as emperors were crowned and various victories were celebrated here. It even gave refuge to criminals. Its interior view shows Islamic and Christian elements on top of the main dome. Imagine a mosque with a painting of the Virgin Mary.
11.  The Grand Bazar (1461), the world’s oldest and one of the largest covered markets. It has 18 entrances and more than 4,000 shops. It is similar to the Divisoria in the Philippines, only that is covered.
12.  The Istanbul Archaelogical Museum (est. 1881) which houses some 1,000 archaeological pieces from the Mediterranean basin, the Balkans, Middle East, North Africa and central Asia. Prominent artifacts in the museum include the tablet of the Peace Treaty of Kadesh dated 1284 BC (the first recorded international treaty in the world), Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women found in Sidon, the monumental Lycian tomb, statues from the ancient times until the Roman era, Parts of statues from the Temple of Zeus found at Pergamum, busts of Alexander the Great and Zeus, the troy exhibit, tablet archive containing documents with cuneiform inscription, obelisk of Asyrian king Adad-Nirari III, Ottoman coins, seals, decorations and medals.
13.  My awesome realization that the historical TROY was part of Turkey! For many years, people had thought that Troy mentioned in tales never existed until its remains were found in 1822. It appeared in Greek and Latin literature. Homer first mentioned story of Troy in Iliad and Odyssey. Its inhabitants in the Bronze Age were called Trojans. In this Age, troy had great power because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. In the third and second millennia BC troy was a cultural center. After the Trojan War, the city was abandoned from 1100 to 700 BC. About 700 BC Greek settlers bagan to occupy the Troas region which was named Ilon. Alexander the Great ruled the area around the 4th century BC. After Romans captured Troy in 85 BC, it was restored partially by Roman general Sulla and named as New Ilium. During the Byzantine rule, troy lost its importance. There is a replica of the mythical Trojan horse built by the Turkish Government (I’m sure you know the Trojan horse is you have read Homer’s work).
14.  The carpets
15.  Kebab overload!
16.  The Yoghurt served in almost every meal
17.  Shawarma, which is chicken in Turkey, not beef
18.  Baklava, a Turkish dessert
19.  Eating at Burger King and McDonalds when I had enough of beans, weird rice, weird-tasting chicken and weird macaroni. The serving of fries in the said restaurants was very generous (large fries mean twice the quantity of the large fries in the Philippines).
20.  Dondurma, Turkey’s version of Pinoy’s dirty ice cream
21.  The yummy Biskrem and Bolu chocolates
22.  The Turkish lira bills and coins which all feature Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey
23.  The school where we were housed, the Yildiz technical University in Davutpasa
24.  The late dusk, usually at 9:30 p.m. which is quite weird for Filipinos like me
25.  The sense of ancient history of Istanbul (first named Constantinople, then Byzantium)
26.  The mixed Byzantine and Ottoman elements in Istanbul’s architecture
27.  My adventures with the Team Pinas (mostly shopping and sight-seeing!)
28.  The exhibit fabricated by Team Pinas
29.  The three workshops I attended
30.  The mob dance
31.  My roommates from Azerbaijan and Afghanistan
32.  The regional meeting for Asians
33.  The Bosphorus night cruise, and the non-stop dancing on the boat!
34.  Shopping at The Forum, one of Europe’s biggest malls, with Team Pinas.
35.  The jumpshot photo of Team Pinas with The Forum at the backdrop
36.  The photoshoot of Team Pinas
37.  The Aya Irini Church concert. My fellow Filipino delegate and I went out of the venue during the break, but we were not allowed to come in again by the very strict guards.
38.  Buying an expensive Turkish SIM card which did not work
39.  The happy bus trips, with people dancing inside on the bus
40.  The happy Africans who danced at every opportunity
41.  The amoy inside the bus, and buying anti-biyahilo because of it
42.  My aile (family)
43.  Our aile’s provincial bus travel going to Bolu City, with a steward serving free drinks
44.  Our aile’s youth project in Bolu City
45.  Canoeing at Lake Danum
46.  Dinner with the Governor of Bolu Province after canoeing
47.  Painting the word Mabuhay on one of the steps of the youth center we organized in Bolu City
48.  Our aile’s clean up drive in the not-really-dirty forested part of Bolu City
49.  Happy conversations with my Finnish, Macedonian and African friends
50.  The Taksim Youth March
51.  Meeting a Filipina in Turkey, the only Pinoy we saw in the country, during the last day of the Congress
52.  My USD100 worth excess baggage
53.  The freebies, especially the pink shirt with the printed word MINIMALIST, and the souvenier pins and coins from my new international friends
54.  My meaningful interaction with young people from all over the world, their stories, their organizations, their projects, their hopes and dreams
55.  The Turkish people’s sincere interest to help and communicate with foreigners despite the language barrier 
Written on August 24, 2011


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Twelve Things I Remember About Hanoi, Vietnam

My list of good memories of Vietnam and its people is pretty long, but these are some things that I remember about my stay in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 5 to 9.
1.The 36 cramped streets at the old headquarter in Hanoi, which were never emptied of people and motorbikes
2. The motorbikes (and the heavy traffic they cause), which would remind me of Vietnam every now and then
3. The Trung Nguyen coffee which is pretty strong! My officemates liked it :)
4. The colorful and beautiful Áo Dài costumes, which make the Vietnamese girls even prettier; and the popularity of the conical hats in this modern age, which I find amazing
5. The language, which if mispronounced, would not be understood hehehe... And the people's love of their own language :)
6. Tortoises as a symbol, that were everywhere we have been to
7. The long ceramic street wall and the paintings on the streets
8. The highly organized Vietnamese Communist Youth Union, and the festive mass dancing of the youth
9. The Red River, the ceramic village and the Long Bien bridge, and the history behind them
10. The most important treasure of Vietnam: the people, their sincerity and hospitality

11. The Vietnam Dong which made me a millionaire (Check Peso to Dong exchange rate.)
12. The variety of food at Sunway Hotel restaurant and the grand buffet at Sen Tay Ho

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My 101 Korean Experiences (happy, funny, sad, interesting, shocking, etc.) in the IYF World Camp, June 27 to July 17, 2011

1. First night at Daegu Lincoln House, the first time I learned about the common bathroom
2. The common bathroom, and waking up as early as 4:30 a.m. for me to take a shower alone, which was not always successful
3. Walking barefooted in the IYF buildings
4. When someone used the slippers I left at the entrance. Since then, I almost always hand-carried my slippers wherever I went to.
5. Sleeping on the floor without pillows
6. When I realized the two adapters I bought from the Philippines do not fit the outlets in Korea
7. Borrowing an adapter so I can charge my laptop and camera
8. The array of street food downtown of Daegu and the free taste of food at the department stores/malls at Daegu and Seoul (Lotte, Shinsegae)
9. The rows of food stalls in the markets and the vendors in the streets of Daegu and Seoul
10. Kimchi…kimchi… and more kimchi. I still had the stomach to eat them in the first week. In the next weeks, when there were more choices (especially in Busan), I had to politely say no kimchi, please.
11. Chopsticks, which will I try using once in a while from now on
12. Korean boys carrying girly handbags
13. High school girls in their skimpy uniform
14. The Korean wrestling match, which I won with ease
15. My newfound friends, Truth 5, and our escapades, boredom, struggles and friendship which started at Daegu
16. Our cool Truth 5 volunteers, Sin James and Kyoung Won Lim
17. A gift from Kyoung – a Korean name for me – IM DONG HO - for which I am very pleased and thankful
18. Jepoi’s (a.k.a Jepuri) winning Korean speech
19. Jepoi coaching Kyoung in English
20. Migs (a.k.a. Mix) sleeping at every opportunity
21. Migs and Niko’s smoking sessions
22. Niko being all over the place
23. Picture-taking with Niko at the Lincoln auditorium, with the red chairs at the background
24. Herman… where is Herman? a. Holding the kawayan b. Fixing his bangs c. Taking photos of himself. Peace Herman!
25. Boom’s exercises
26. Sin James: “You (Jepoi) are very kind. And Boom…also very kind.”
27. Kyoung: “May muta ka.”
28. The walkout of James
29. The long walk to Nakdonggang River
30. The Hahoe Mask Museum and Mask Play at Andong Village, Daegu
31. The convenience I experienced at Centum Hotel, Busan
32. My roommates at Centum Hotel, Jihnan Kim, Jason Hyedong and another friend (I forgot his name.)
33. My new Korean, Indian, Nepalese and Filipino friends – Truth D3!
34. The buffet meals at Centum Hotel and BEXCO.
35. The most delicious burger I have eaten so far – Double Bolgogi at McDo!
36. When fellow Filipinos Rolando Bolanos and Manuel Martinez and I ate ramen at 7 Eleven, and when Manuel accidentally spilled his soup on my shorts
37. The Samsung Motors, where there are more machines than people. It was like watching the Transformers!
38. When we went to Hyundae Bay, and some of my team mates tried to throw me to the ice-cold water. They failed hahaha… But I lost my camera cap.
39. My jumpshot at Hyundae beach
40. When Hans requested me to sing I Believe-Tagalog version, while he sang the Korean version
41. When Jason blushed upon seeing and talking with a pretty girl hehehe…
42. The hair and skin vanity of Koreans
43. Drinking Max and soju with some Truth 5+1 friends one night at a bar along Hyundae in Busan
44. The subway ride from Centum to Hyundae
45. Being sad upon reaching Daeduk Retreat Center (from bed to floor again hehehe…)
46. The ice-cold water at Daeduk Retreat Center
47. When Pastor Cho caught me staying in our quarter during the mind lecture because I had to take a bath and washed some clothes
48. The IYF shirt which I washed three times
49. The cancelled water rafting
50. The world class performances of the Gracias Vocal Ensemble and Orchestra
51. The superb Nessun Dorma performance
52. The African way of saying “more”.
53. The repeated dance routines of the Righteous Stars
54. The repeated Chinese, African, Chinese and Korean cultural performances in the multiple opening ceremonies in different cities. I never got tired of watching the African dance over and over again.
55. The fantastic Samgo-Mu (Korean Drum Dance) performances
56. The awesome taekwondo dance-exhibition
57. The dramatic (and usually late) entrance of the VIPs
58. The balloon art workshop
59. The Wild River ride
60. The76th floor of the Woobang Tower
61. Ock Soo Park
62. Ock Soo Park’s interpreter and other interpreters in the mind lectures
63. Kkkkkkkkkkkkkk…
64. Pastors Cho and Nam
65. The challenge of staying awake during mind lectures in the morning, afternoon, evening and late evening. I think I was successful at some point, considering No. 66.
66. Many people sleeping during mind lectures
67. The all-Filipino meetings and mind lectures
68. The premature departures of many Filipinos
69. The Korean-Filipino interpreter who speaks Tagalong better than many of us
70. The pali-pali expression, which honestly got into my nerves
71. Questions like, “Are you righteous?”, “Are you a sinner?”, and “Are you saved?” which I honestly answered
72. Fellow Filipino Anna not wanting to talk to her teacher and to answer questions on No. 71.
73. IYF’s idea of change of heart
74. Walking, touring, shopping in the rain
75. Few attempts not to attend the mind lectures
76. The sauna and the orange clothes given to us
77. The happy pork barbecue lunch with my Truth D3 friends. It was the last lunch I shared with them. And I ate a lot!
78. Our kind pastor in Truth D3
79. Finding our bus…
80. The many and long bus rides, and the happy and meaningful interactions along the way (usually with Rolly, Manuel, Jinhan or Seung-woo.
81. Transferring my heavy luggage from one bus to another, from one venue to another
82. Arirang… a-ri-rang… a-ra-ri-yo… a-ri-rang… go-gae-ro…neo-meo-gan-dah…
83. You Raise Me Up song
84. Sorrow song
85. Sharing my experiences with Truth D3, with an interpreter
86. Korea’s cleanliness
87. Koreans’ road discipline
88. Koreans’ love of country and patriotism
89. Korea’s story of economic development
90. Koreans’ love of native language. Being unable to speak English well should not be an embarrassment. It’s just reflective of their love of Hanggul. I just wish many of us, Filipinos, are like the Koreans on that point.
91. The story of kimchi being a symbol of Korea’s survival during the country’s difficult times
92. Koreans’ top sports interests - baseball and football
93. The Korean TV programs shown on the bus, which I tried to understand from the characters’ actions hehehe…
94. My homestay with cool company Donghee Park and Yeong Myeong Choi
95. The homestay snack (second dinner, actually) - pork feet, fried chicken, eggs, watermelon, corn, etc.
96. Donghee Park’s great enthusiasm to serve his duty in the army next year
97. Yeong Meong Choi’s drawing of army (himself being on duty in the army as part of the Special Forces) on his message for me
98. Shopping at Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, Seoul, with only 50,000 Won left
99. Eating noodles at Namdaemun and conversations at Dunkin Donut with Julius Levy Bunsol, Sheena Anne Melody Salvador and Jason Cutaran.
100. Saying goodbye to my D3 friends while Gracias Choir was singing “Time to Say Goodbye” at Seoul Capitol Park
101. The entire IYF Korean experience, which, despite some not-so-met expectations and minor inconveniences, challenged my tolerance and patience; strengthened my personal faith and humbled me; and opened my heart a bit more to build friendship that transcends cultural differences and language barrier. This, I believe, is the change of heart that I experienced in Korea.