Spring forward

The temperature hit 70’s today. Just like my blog, the city was revived by the warm weather. The District simmered with people this afternoon on my way home- on sidewalks, parks, and streets. Daylight pushed past seven in the evening.

The first quarter of the year is over, and two things have kept me busy in the dark hours of winter:

  1. Writing. For eight Saturdays starting late January, I dragged myself out of bed and braved the cold mornings to attend a writing workshop at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda to polish two of my essays. I got to know some local writers, and developed my reading/critiquing skills. It was also a good way to test my writing to an American audience to figure out, like in any workshop, which elements of my writing worked and did not work. It was especially nerve-wracking for me as a non-native English speaker to submit pieces that I’ve shelved been working on for the past months or years.
  2. Work. I survived the week-long event last mid-March my team at the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice has been organizing since late last year. It’s a biannual flagship event my department organizes where colleagues from country offices come to Washington to network and keep abreast of corporate and technical discussions. Soon after, I also started supporting the NDC (short for Nationally Determined Contributions) Team of the Climate Change Thematic Group, where I’m conducting a portfolio of World Bank’s climate change project portfolio.

These two will likely continue to keep me busy for the few months. Work picks up this time of year as we prepare for the Spring Meetings. Meanwhile, I’ll continue carving some time, just like tonight, and keep the writing going.

Have a lovely spring, summer, or fall, depending on which part of the world you’re reading this.

P.S. I’ve been using less of Facebook and Instagram lately, but am still around on Twitter.

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Commemorating 9-11, 16 years on

I learned about the tragedy almost 12 hours later, already a Monday morning in the Philippines. I must have been busy studying for a test when it happened. This was B.F. (before Facebook, but during Friendster) when there was still no instant notification, ubiquitous wifi, and phones were dumb. My main source of news was the newspaper (paper!) from my college’s reading room, and the occasional prime time news on TV. On my way out to class, I saw my dorm-mates in the common room huddled around the TV. I went in to find out what the commotion was about. I must have been the last person to know about it. I recognized the news anchor, and searched confirmed there was an on-screen graphic logo. It can’t be a movie.

What a horrible news, I thought. Then the news cut forward to the towers being engulfed by black billowing smoke. Then one tower crumbled. And then another.

It’s one of those tragedies that has occurred in my lifetime, that changed and defined (and has been defining) international affairs, world power, and terrorism and security.  Living in Washington, D.C. now makes all these more pronounced with New York City just a few hours away and the Pentagon right in our backyard. It’s difficult not to be paranoid at times. Things are now back to normal, but will never be normal.

Wet weather in Washington

The rain was relentless the previous two days. Yesterday was the worse of the two when it felt like one of those monsoon rains in Manila. I zipped (Lyfted?) around town when I could have taken a bus back to my apartment or walk to a small theater last night. I’m hosting a cousin from Australia, and asked me if this is typical summer in the city. Sort of.

The District is not really known for its wet summers. But it’s not the first time I’ve experienced extreme weather in the District. Philippine summers can be debilitatingly hot and humid, but the heatwave back in 2011 was the hottest I’ve experienced ever outside of Las Vegas.

The sun teased us with its presence this morning, before finally coming through just before sundown. The air is crisp tonight, and the forecast in the next three days looks promising. I hope to make the most out of the good weather touring my cousin and meeting up with a friend visiting from India before I head back home in less than a week.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Signing-up for the March for Science

18056736_1325941194126810_7354717257702260811_nThe Earth Day 2017 celebration coincided with the March for Science yesterday. And marched we did, along with thousands others. The crowd was a far cry from the mediocre turn up on the Earth Day rally I witnessed five years ago (when a right-wing media-watch organization also swiped my photos).

I had tentative plans of attending because it fell on a Saturday, and my weekends are sacred. and I’ve done my fair share of rallies even way back as an undergrad. But after my roommate invited me to an impromptu sign-making workshop at Artomatic, I didn’t want my sign- and training in science- be easily discarded and just go to waste. So yesterday afternoon, under DC’s grey and rainy skies, armed with our signs, umbrellas, and rain coats, off my roommate, her mom, and I went to the march. We knew it would be a wet day and we were prepared for it, because, science!

I’m still recovering from the past days’ activities. There’s another march scheduled next Saturday called the People’s Climate Movement. I’m still unsure if I’ll go, but here I am already brainstorming ideas for a sign.

March for Science Capitol

Cherry Blossom Kite Festival 2017

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It’s that time of the year in Washington, D.C., when tree branches puff a pink cloud. It’s a special time of the year that signals spring- so special that a festival was created around the occasion- The Cherry Blossom Festival.

One of the activities lined up each year is the kite festival, which I wasn’t aware of, until my roommate/landlady told me about it a few days earlier. I usually just go to the Tidal Basin, and gush about the flowers for the rest of the year.

Back in late March, I attended a one-day workshop to learn the basics of smartphone filmmaking offered by Docs in Progress, a non-profit that promotes documentary filmmaking based in Silver Spring, Maryland. What better way to put my budding (no pun intended) filmmaking talent to good use by shooting a fun event like the kite festival held last Saturday. And here’s the result. It’s not worthy of an Oscar, but at least a like or retweet or two. Enjoy!

 

Adulting advice from a book author

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When I was in grade school, I envied my other classmates who were better off than my family. My brother and I studied in an exclusive school for boys in grade school, where many of my classmates came from well-off families. Our blue and white school uniform did not disguise the Game Boy and Nike Air Max other students brought to school. It was easy to be better off compared to our family. My parents only earned enough to meet our day-to-day needs. But there were even times they had to borrow and pool money to pay for our tuition so the school would allow us to take the quarterly periodic tests. I fantasized of being born into a different, well-off family (which reminds me of this meme). I imagined being chauffeured to and from school (we got our first family car when I was 23). During Christmas breaks, I also wanted to have travel plans, wore thick sweaters, and visit Disneyland. But the closest I got to my dreams was a visit to a local theme park with questionable safety standards and the cold AC of a shopping mall.

You’d think I would outgrow this feeling of envy as I got older, but my wants and wishes turned more elaborate yet more professional. My mom was a public school teacher, and I wished she had the right connections to set me up for any well-paying job. My father had left the country. What if they were doctors and lawyers, so choosing a career would have been as easy as taking over their practice? They let me take up a major in college that no one among us knew of the future career odds and options. I was an early version of a free-range kid out of necessity, because they didn’t have the means to put up that fence that could give me a sheltered life.

I didn’t have anyone to turn to, and neither knew the right questions much less have the gumption to ask. Unlike meals I’ve had with other families, eating on the dining table was an act of nutrition and not discussion.

When I went to grad school in my early 20’s, I realized all these fantasies and what-ifs were just that- unhealthy and irrelevant ruminations that stem from comparing my life with that of others. It’s a waste of time and energy, better harnessed for working with what my parents have been able to provide, and carving my own niche in life. We always had food on the table and a roof over my head. And I’m forever grateful for that. They’re easy for me to say now in hindsight. But who’s supposed to teach us these nuggets of wisdom when we’re young? From whom, and how can we learn them sooner rather than later?

Margaux Bergen in her first book “Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me” could be that person. She addresses these thorny life questions, and so much more. I met her in person during her book reading and signing last Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble in Brookland. She read excerpts from her book, which dishes out lessons on school, jobs, and relationships. The book is difficult to categorize given its breadth of topic. It’s self-help, parenting, career advice, and memoir all rolled into one. The book, written over a span of ten years, was originally addressed to her daughter when she went to college, which explains the crossover themes of the book, and the tender prose and intimate voice in which it is written.

I arrived early at the book event and got the chance to chat with the Margaux. We talked a bit about her book, our love for writing, and careers. I felt an affinity for her when I learned that at one point she also worked for the World Bank, where where I work now as a consultant. Showing motherly concern, she gave me unsolicited and simple advice on how to get a staff position.

I bought a copy of Margaux’s book that I picked up right off the display showcase beside her. I asked her to sign and address the book to a friend who has been asking me for career tips, and worrying about not finding a job once she finishes grad school next year. She comes from a humble background, has paved her own career path, and is now studying on a scholarship here in the US. Hopefully she benefits a lot from the book, beyond the advice I’ve been giving her born mainly out of my own experience and decisions, some of which have not necessarily been the best I have made. I plan to give it to her as a Christmas present, although I could use one for myself. I hope she won’t notice the creased spine and the broken-in look of its edges by the time she reads it.

Returning to live in Washington, D.C.

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The National Mall taken from the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

I’m more than a month into juggling two jobs as a consultant, one at my old office doing some web and comms work, and another with the Climate Investment Funds on climate change and organizational learning. It’s amazing how things fell into place, how one lunch led to two coffee meetings, and then two contracts a couple of months later. I had an open plan when I came to the US- reconnect with family and friends, attend a writing workshop, and meet some old colleagues. If nothing came up in the work front, I was ready to pack and move on. But I only realized how much I missed the District as soon as I came back, and thought it would be nice to stay here for a while and find something to do.

“How long have you been in DC?” I often get asked when I reveal I’m not originally from the area, to which I have prepared a spiel of my DC 1.0 circa 20112013, and how I ended up again in the East Coast this time around. This bitemporal experience makes me appreciate this city all the more. I now look at the city with fresh eyes looking with delight at my old haunts, curiosity with new shops and buildings, and nostalgia with those that have closed down. Many of my fellow former JPAs have left, moving on to do their PhDs, or back home. People, just as with places, have come and gone.

Before I lived in Foggy Bottom steps from the World Bank and near the White House during DC 1.0, I’ve now moved farther to a friend’s house in the North East about half an hour’s commute downtown (that is, if the Metro is working- I’m looking at you, Red Line). But I get to work from home, or make that work from Brookland, where there are cafes and more dining options. I’ve established a daily routine: I wake up early and start working, walk to the hip neighborhood around 10 or 11 in the morning to grab an early lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon at a cafĂ© at a bookstore, then try to be back home before it gets dark. Weekends are spent on more walking and exploring other nearby neighborhoods or towns.

I make it sound like I’ve got this adulting all sorted out. Yes and no, depending on how you define “sorted out”. My work is far from stable and cushy contrary to how others may perceive it. And that’s fine. With these social and professional changes also come personal ones, mostly on realizing what matters to me: going for long walks, exploring interesting neighborhoods, keeping in touch with family and friends, and defining and redefining personal values and lifestyles. Whereas I only used to treat Washington DC as the city where I lived to work, it has become a more meaningful place where I live to live.

Woah, that’s a lot of introspection. Something to get us back to reality: Donald Trump just got elected President of the United States of America.