20 October 2018

"How Foolish I was Ever To Have Thought of Them as Intellectual Giants"

"I'll admit I'm like him in a number of ways, but humility and self-effacement are not among them. I've learned how little they get a person in this world."

Truthfully, I haven't had the energy nor the drive to finish books after books these past months. Maybe I'm uninspired or I just happen to be in a reading rut. I still continuously buy plenty of books in the hopes that seeing what my money was exchanged for would motivate me to make every cent spent on them worth it but unfortunately, I've subconsciously piled them up in our mini-library of sorts and decided that their worth would be as decorations. Ughh I know, lame. So today, I would just talk about the last 5-star book I've read, which was all the way back to December 2017. Today's topic would be about Keyes' Flowers for Algernon.

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Top and shoes: Zara | Skirt: Topshop | Belt: Rajo Laurel | Bag: Saint Laurent Downtown Cabas | Earrings: Mango

These photos were taken last 25 Feb 2018. My officemate's daughter celebrated her 7th birthday and you know about kids these days, they have better and more well-thought parties compared to when it was during my time in the mid-1990s. Now, all ideas are possible if only one can think about it. My officemate asked my help in planning the party since she knows that I LOVEEE planning events. I readily agreed to going here and there and being on call, with services for free so long as my ideas would be translated to reality. In short, I agreed provided that no budget would be spared. The party was arranged down to the last detail. We even had taste-test of the food that will be served (officemate and I did this during one lunch break). Even the birthday celebrant's outfit to be worn was given enough thought. It was designed by my officemate and I's favorite Filipino designer, Rajo Laurel. To add the "unicorn" vibe since it's the requested theme of the party, we bought Cassie (the birthday celebrant) faux fur from Zara. What? I love faux fur, remember? I would love it if everyone  would get to wear one even if it isn't for winter hahahahaha As for the actual venue, it was so nicely-done. There was an area for nail art, and there were kiosks of Potato Corner, Tater's, and Pinkberry yogurt. But oh well, I've not much photos to share because I was just too impressed by how a month of planning it all turned out to be SO SO SO FUN AND NICE that most of my documentation of it were in video format and not photos.

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"There are a lot of people who will give money or materials, but very few who will give time and affection."

Back to the book. The book is an amalgamation of different novels, each chapter with a different lesson to impart. Much as I'd like to pinpoint a single scene that could best illustrate this book's wonder, I can't. Because it's more like a loaded machine gun that keeps firing one poignant theme after another. It opens a lot of discussions on the ethics behind experimenting on live subjects, how society views and treats those whom it deems not normal, and how mankind mistreats those who are mentally handicapped.

 It's about 32-yr old Charlie Gordon who was born with an IQ of only 68. He grew up estranged from his family and was simultaneously working in a bakery by day and a student in a special school by night. His desperate wish was to be smart because he strongly believed that he will be happy if he's smart and not dumb, as he accepted himself to be. "If your smart you can have lots of frends to talk to and you never get lonley by yourself all the time." Among the strongest points of the novel was having a 1st-person perspective of the thought-process of Charlie, as his thoughts were documented in his diary. It's refreshing and such an emotionally-invoking way to narrate a story.

“There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin."

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Charlie Gordon had been selected by the professor-scientists from Beekman University to be the first human to be tested on a procedure that has only been tried on lab rats. A white mouse called Algernon underwent a surgery that would increase his IQ. Of all the rats who were similarly experimented on, Algernon showed the highest resiliency on the procedure. He had stayed smart the longest out of all the test subjects. Still boosted by the success of the experiment, the doctors, headed by Prof Nemur, performed the same surgery on Charlie. His desire to be smart had been so endearing and so well-founded and so strong that although he was not the first human-subject choice in the program, he had ultimately been selected. The experiment proved to be a success. Charlie's IQ of 68 rose to 185; from a retardate to a genius.

 “I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”

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But what he so longed to have proved to not bring the happiness he thought he would have once he's smart. Slowly, he started comprehending things that he had greatly mistaken for something else before. Now that he's a genius, he realized that his "frends" at the bakery were not laughing with him but that they make fun of him and laugh at him all the time. Eventually, Charlie understood that his own mother sent him away because she was resentful and ashamed of his retardation. He thought that he could finally be with the woman whom he has always had a crush on now that he's smart. But then again, he soon realized that he was just as out-of-reach from the girl of his dreams when he was dumb just as he was smart. And finally, he has come to realize that the scientists who performed the surgery on him were not the "gods and heroes" he once thought of them to be. 

"They would always find excuses to slip away, afraid to reveal the narrowness of their knowledge. How different they seem to be now. And how foolish I was ever to have thought that professors were intellectual giants. They're people - and afraid the rest of the world will find out."

He soon realized that the Intellectual Giants he greatly revered before were also not sure of the long-term outcome of the surgery. Soon, Charlie's genius-level IQ separated him from others in the same way that his low IQ used to. Worse, now he knows what it's like to have knowledge of everything and see those whom he thought were better than him, suddenly appear clearly as normal persons who are just trying their best without knowing as much as he does. In the end he found out that Algernon, the only thing existing who knew exactly what he was undergoing through, was slowly mentally regressing. It has become a race against time as Charlie tried to solve the problem that caused the mental regression. He eventually wrote the study on both his and Algernon's mental states, with the study being his swan song before he finally returned to his original state.

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"You know things. You see things. But you haven't developed understanding, or -I have to use the word- tolerance."

To summarize what Flowers for Algernon was about, it's a book  about humanity - its complexities, biases, surprises, and its innate cruelty masked sometimes by unfairness. The novel reveals the glaring truth that truly, there is both goodness and depravity in mankind.

I love one of the questions it posited - would it better to not know but be happy or to know but eventually lose it again? I have always preferred preservation rather than finding the solution to the already-present problem. I'd rather have calculated risks with small gains rather than great leaps of faith with uncertain outcome. Yes, it's true, I'm a very boring twenty-something girl. But in my defense, it's not an easy feat to go back to the way it was when you already know for a fact that it could be better.

 Read the novel. It comes highly recommended. 

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"But I've learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge have all become great idols. But I know now there's one thing you've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn." 

13 October 2018

"Respond to Every Call That Excites Your Spirit"

Oh how I miss the cold season. Perhaps it’s because I’m from a tropical country where it’s perpetually summer time that my favorite travel period is during the winter season. I am a happy wanderer so long as it’s cold because I get cranky when it’s hot. I feel uncomfortable when the sun is glaring down at me causing me to feel the incessant sweat trickling down my face. I can’t think well when it’s too hot, period. Thus I rarely willingly agree to go on trips abroad if the climate is just the same as in Manila. Of course, trips to the beach are different. But that’s for another post.

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OH HELLOOOOOOOO! Look who’s back!! Hahahahahaha I was deleting useless mails in my account over the weekend when I saw some email threads pertaining to this blog. I was about to embark on a boring photo-less trip down the memory lane when surprise, surprise, I saw that my photos are up again! Thank you, Photo Bucket. You’re such a reliable partner!! (I’m still not paying though hahahaha).

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Ever the lazy narrator, I have missed plenty of opportunities to collate my thoughts into written words just because I succumbed to the tempting nudges  of laziness. For this post, there won’t be any “ideas” or whatever term you can coin my “thoughts”. I’m just going to tell stories and snippets from a travel that has set the tone of 2018 for me. Call it my sentimental musings, if you will. To begin with, others say I’m not sentimental although I’d like to believe that I am considering that I have this online blog and my mostly forgotten diary just to talk about a particularly memorable memory. Oh well. Anyway, today’s lengthy post would be about the joint-birthday trip last January 2018 with my college best friend. What better way to revive this blog than to share photos from one of probably the most magical, if not the most, place I’ve been to by far. Lina and I spent a 5-day (6 if the transit would be counted) trip in Harbin, China.

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Rumi’s words, which I entitled this post with, surprisingly became true while we were in Harbin. It seemed that the universe conspired towards bringing Lina and I to that resplendent cold place. We’ve initially booked tickets going to Shanghai 10 months prior to the trip. However, unfortunate circumstances demanded that we change the itinerary abruptly. We were geared towards booking tickets from Shanghai to Guilin (we’ve even semi-drawn the itinerary too) but alas alas, I came across photos (not even an article!) of beautifully lighted ice sculptures taken from Harbin. 7-8 days before the flight to Shanghai, Lina and I booked domestic tickets to Harbin. 6 days prior to the trip, we had to scour for hotel accommodation as it’s among the requirements in obtaining the Chinese visa. 2-3days before the trip, our visas were released. 1 day prior to the trip, we were still doing last-minute booking of accommodations as we finalized our itinerary. It was only then as well that we’ve realized that Harbin is not like the other places we’ve visited during winter time. Winter in Harbin is another story altogether. With only hours before the departure time, we were still trying to pack as much thermal clothes as we possibly could find. (On a side note, this is where Zalora saved the day. Lina and I were able to buy our matching faux fur jacket, and have it delivered to us on time). So you see, it was as if the universe wanted to take us to Harbin.   

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Of course it’s not a typical Gellie-travel if there won’t be a problem at all Hahahaha perhaps too much excitement caused the oversight but Lina and I forgot to exchange our cash to CNY prior to the trip. Worse, we’ve booked our hotel accommodation 30 or so mins away from the city proper that the banks near our hotel strictly followed the no-work on Sundays rule. We were completely without money for an entire day. An entire day was wasted but oh well. On our 2nd day, we’ve been wiser and richer than the day before that’s why we were able to embark on an adventure. Harbin is geographically nearer to some cities in Russia than Shanghai or Beijing and so the Russian influences were all over the city. Our first activity was to roam around the central district where the Saint Sophia Cathedral is located. It was there that lines of shops selling winter gear including our Russian-inspired hats were sold.

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Don’t be fooled by the big smiley faces. When the temperature began going down to -15°C, so was our patience thinning. Put 2 hot-tempered, mostly-self-centered, and headstrong girls in a battle of wills and you’ll have the depth of friendship between them really tested Hahahahaha Suffice to say, I have declared Lina as my college best friend after this trip. Our friendship surprisingly, albeit much-appreciated, surpassed the test of patience. See these following photos? They were taken by random strangers because we were in different coffee shops by then (is this too personal to publish here, Lins? HAHAHAHA)

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Tantrums aside, Zhongyang street is beautiful at night!! And there's this lighted "tunnel" that played various musical compositions of Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky (at least during our walk through it, they were the only composers whom my little knowledge recognized)

My favorite day of the trip was when we went to both Sun Island and Ice and Snow World. I love how beautiful and cold and mysterious and deep snow seems to be. There weren’t too many tourists in Sun Island when we went there. In fact, there were areas where there weren’t anyone at all save for Lina and I. Towards night time, we transferred to Ice and Snow World in time to see the ice sculptures lighted up. Believe me when I say that I have been overwhelmed by the entire place. Everywhere just looked like a feast to the eyes. It was also then than the temperature went down from -30° to -35/40°. I found out that despite the layers of thermal clothes, my bubble jacket, gloves, and ear muffs, I couldn’t last more than 2hrs outside without making my fingers freeze. All thanks to iPhone’s BURST for capturing hundreds of photos in one go because otherwise, we wouldn’t have much photos given that we couldn’t feel our fingers anymore.  

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To summarize how Lina and I fell in love with Harbin, let me copy one of my posts from my Instagram account:

“Just to reach Harbin, it took us both international and domestic flights, an excess baggage fee of 350CNY, barely used VPN subscription, and 2 traumatizing cab incidents (1 charged us exorbitantly and smoked inside the cab the entire time without letting us open the windows while the other left us stranded in the middle of who knows where). But surprisingly, the city also has among the most accommodating locals to tourists, from the staff at the hotel down to the police officers who approached us whenever we’re trying to haggle with the cab drivers and the locals who randomly joined our conversations just to translate for us. I will return (with thermal shoes, now that I know better), if only for the warmth welcome from such a literally cold place!”

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