Friday, August 28, 2009

A Reading Challenge

Since what spare time I have is mostly devoted to reading and I follow a couple of book blogs, I recently became aware of a World War II themed reading challenge. After some consideration (and the fact that I've already read and own more than 5 books set during WWII), I decided to participate.

WWII has always been an interesting subject for me, especially since Nazi Germany was the main subject of my 'A' Level History exam, which I sat (gulp!) 15 years ago. I did hesitate to join this challenge though, because I'm not much of one for writing book reviews. I enjoy reading them, but on the whole feel that reading is such a subjective matter that it's hard to say with conviction that a book is great or awful or something in between.

I've read reviews extolling books I thought were rubbish and trashing books I thought were great. More importantly, rereading books has shown me that perceptions change with time. Certain books that blew me away upon first reading didn't impress me at all when re-read, while other books just seem to get better every time I re-read them.

Still, the WWII themed reading challenge is one I will rise to. My books to re-read between now and the year's end will be:

Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Dancing With Eva - Alan Judd
Number the Stars -Lois Lowry
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes - Eleanor Coerr
Fatherland - Robert Harris
The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

If I can get a find these books that were left at my parents' house when I moved out a few years ago, I will also re-read:
The Summer of My German Soldier -Bette Greene
Boy At War: A Story of Pearl Harbor - Henry Mazer

My copies of Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Schindler's List were borrowed by different people years ago, and I suspect I will never see them again. This is the saddest thing about lending out books you think are wonderful and want to share with other people. Many don't respect ownership and forget about them, or re-lend them out. I thought I'd learnt my lesson but still have a list of beloved books I hope will some day be returned to me. Others I have simply replaced with new copies.

Time is ticking, and while Little A sleeps, I must get reading.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lady Luck

There is that very well-known saying about a door closing and a window opening. It seems to apply to things other than romantic relationships and employment situations. This year, my family have been extraordinarily lucky when it comes to winning raffle prizes. At a time when both Big A and I are out of a 9-5 job, the little perks that come with winning these prizes make our day.

The Cruise that Could Have Been
A few months ago, my husband and father played together at an annual golf tournament. During the awarding ceremony, families were invited to attend, so Little A, my mum and I trooped along. The food was good, but the place was crowded and it seemed to take far too long to call out the winners. After the announcers said that succeeding prizes would not require winners to be present, we bundled a sleepy little boy into the car and headed home.

20 minutes into the 45 minute drive, Big A's mobile rang. Someone on the other end was shouting "Where are you? You just won an all-expenses paid, business-class return airfare included, 7 day Alaskan cruise! You need to be here to claim it or they'll award it to someone else!"

Apparently, the tournament's major sponsor decided at the last minute to award a special door prize which required the winner's presence to be valid. Special indeed. They had to draw three names before someone actually won the damn thing. Big A's name was the first one called but as we had left, we forfeited this chance.

Consolation Prize
Not long after this wonderful opportunity at a cruise slipped us by, Big A played at another golf tournament. This time he won, and was present to claim, two sets of hotel stays courtesy of the sponsors. One prize was an overnight stay for two with breakfast at a premier city hotel and the other, oh joy, was two nights at a spanking new, beautiful (and extremely expensive) beach resort. Both stays were valid for one year from the issue date, so we have two lovely mini-breaks to look forward to.

Apart from these fabulous prizes, Little A and I managed to win some little treats as well. I submitted a short paragraph to an online contest and won a delicious slice of cake from a charming bakery, and emailed Little A's photos to two entrepremums and won him some stuff without even knowing there were contests ongoing. We won a magnetic wooden puzzle and some great clothes.

We're keeping our fingers crossed and buying lottery tickets every week now. Who knows, we may just hit the jackpot, with the way our luck is going.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Blast From the Past

Lunch at my parents' house yesterday. Little A plus his six cousins, my sisters, our husbands and my mum and dad made for an entertaining Sunday afternoon.

While Little A was being his antisocial self, playing alone upstairs while his cousins were in the pool, I was attempting to sort through the dozens of boxes that filled what was once my bedroom and is now a massive storage area.

My mother is a pack rat. So is my mum-in-law, apparently. I wonder if this is something that is passed on genetically or acquired over time? Big A and I are anti-clutter and live in a flat that is severely lacking storage space, and since I periodically have urges to spring (summer, autumn and winter) clean, things are pretty much in order at our flat. Still, there are things one needs to keep. Mementoes from the past that one wants to look over from time to time. Things you treasure - photos, old letters and such. I found one box full of mine, hidden quietly in a corner of my old room, and took it home to sort through.

In this box were pieces of my life over the past 33 years. Most of my milk teeth and two molars that were removed prior to my having braces at age 18. The tin piggy bank I had filled with coins in childhood. My timetable, GCSE exam schedules and some notebooks from school in the UK. A few old diaries. Still sticky puffy stickers I'd saved of 80s toy characters. Four albums and half a dozen envelopes of stamps. (I wonder if those will be worth anything now, and hope I can find out.) Finally, the little leaflets that came with my most precious toys, toys that would fetch a fair price now on eBay, some of which are still intact.

The brochures I kept were those of my pink rosebud-bodied Fisher Price Mandy doll, Rainbow Brite and her friends (I had Rainbow Brite and Twink, Shy Violet and IQ Sprite, and Starlite), the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls (mine were Apricot and Hopsalot, Apple Dumplin' and Tea Time Turtle and the ballerina Strawberry Shortcake), a first-release Popples plush toy, the Wild Puffalump elephant that sat on my bed at boarding school for 3 years and the birth certificate of my Cabbage Patch Kids doll.

Funny how some habits start young. I still keep the leaflets and instruction manuals that come with Little A's toys, and wonder if one day they will become collector's items too. Time will tell.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Yellow is typically known as the colour of cowardice. For one woman and one nation, however, it is the colour of courage, honesty and a return to democratic rule.

Many years ago, an activist was brutally slain on the tarmac just as he stepped out of an airplane. His widow, a housewife and mother, picked up the cudgels and eventually overthrew a corrupt dictator who had been in power for 21 years. She became the country's first woman President and Time Magazine's 1986 Person of the Year. A yellow dress was her trademark, along with the "L" sign formed using the thumb and index finger. The peaceful revolution now known as People Power has gone down in history books and serves as a benchmark for non-violent protests all over the world.

Today, an entire nation mourns the passing of this amazing woman. While her period in office was not an easy one, and the country she once led still remains largely mired in corruption, what she achieved was rather phenomenal and no easy task.

I was seven years old when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated and nine when Cory Aquino became president. While I may not remember the dictator's rule as well as my parents do, I have a fair few memories of the days leading up to the EDSA Revolution.

I remember going to my dad's office in the center of the business district and throwing yellow confetti straight from the shredding machine into the streets via the fire escape, as the people below shouted for Marcos to step down. I remember walking along that street with hundreds of other people, wearing a yellow Ninoy shirt and chanting "Laban! Laban!" (Fight! Fight!)

I remember my parents stories about guarding the ballot boxes during the 1986 snap elections, especially my mum crying as she told us how my dad and his friend stood up to armed goons by throwing chairs at them to get them away from the ballot boxes while she and the other women hid in the restroom with their boxes, just to keep the votes safe.

I remember my parents telling us to pray, again and again, as we made what seemed like hundreds of sandwiches for them to take to EDSA as they joined the human barricades. I remember spending days at the house of some Australian friends who lived right down the road from the military chief who eventually changed sides, joining the people and helping to bring down the dictator. Later, this man became the 12th President of the Philippines, after Mrs. Aquino's term ended. I remember the impromptu street party thrown in front of this man's house when it was announced that the dictator had fled and the people had won.

This was history, though I was too young to know it. Now, as I recall those days, I feel awed and proud to have been a tiny part of it.

Much work must still be done in this country to make it a true democracy and the nation its people dream it can become. I hope and pray that this happens within my lifetime. Meanwhile, it is safe to assume that this amazing woman, who led a nation, is now happily reunited with her husband in a perfect afterlife where there is no corruption or political strife.

For the nation in mourning, yellow will always remain the colour of courage.