Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kulit Co. Paris on a cold Monday

Posted: 11:23 PM (Manila Time) Nov. 14, 2003

DOES anybody out there know how to prepare tuna adobo?

I spent half of my last few days in Manila trying to convince the cook to teach me all the Filipino recipes that she had mastered through many years of experience. For some odd reason, that was when she started cooking them only when I was out of sight. Afterwards she would feed me first, and then discuss the recipe.

I'm on a six-hour break between classes. It is a cold Monday afternoon; the sun is pretending to be warm. I'm beginning to miss the good ol' islands! I heard about the major multimillion-peso cleanup that made parts of Manila look super brand spankin' new. I wish I had been there to experience it, because that (sadly) doesn't happen every day! Should we invite important foreign personalities more often? Maybe then we could sustain such a positive attitude and finally jump off the top of the list of the world's polluted cities.

A PEEP into KC’s life.

At this point, I am attempting to thaw my lungs with every inhalation of heater air. It is very difficult to be slumped in one of these velvety couches with a book or a music player, pen and paper, or a Kir Royal in hand, and not be transfixed. Parisian cafes are far from being overrated. Many of them are as breathtaking as they are touted to be. I'd dragged you out for some tingly thé à la menthe (hot mint tea) or chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), if you were here. Spending quiet time like this stirs up my senses. I daydream about sparkling Philippine beaches, and laughter that bubbles up from the belly, something Pinoys do so effortlessly but is almost impossible to hear in these parts.

I am hard-pressed to imagine being a traveler in Paris in 1789, during the run-up to the French revolution. I recently read up on the unfair tax system at the time, the uprising against royal rule, shortage of cheap bread and beheading of guilty nobles. Even so, the thought of seeing the city from a hot air balloon, getting from place to place in an old-style stagecoach or on a piggyback ride that you could pay a "gutter leaper" for, excites me. Yes, I mean more than hopping into an expensive Mercedes cab that often comes with a chauffeur, in itself a mini-adventure.

Paris is a truly beautiful city, with cobblestone streets that have the power to make you randomly click your heels in the air. Although poodle doodle seems to be a pedestrian staple around here, this place is meant to be seen on foot. When my feet are resting, however, I must say I still get to have the most interesting conversations with Parisian cabbies. I've had discussions ranging from the nearest and best chocolate shop in the area, to the global issue of terrorism, to corpses of local senior citizens found in their apartments after the recent heat wave.

There was this taxi man who told me about his life story. He was married to a Frenchwoman, but they divorced after he cheated on her with a beautiful Filipina that he met in Thailand. At that moment, I didn't even bother divulging my country of origin, or what I thought of Frenchmen. I had been warned not to smile, and that was exactly what I did (not). The French find smiling "for no reason" strange and suspicious, so that was rule no. 1. Sure, they have the habit of staring. But rule no. 2 is that you should never stare back, unless you want to respond to a pickup. Also, I had been told to maintain a very neutral facial expression. In addition to this basic lesson in deportment, I have learned a little French, including PG-13 phrases-and this, my dearests, I don't need to elaborate on.

TWO KCs are better than one. KC Concepcion with KC Montero.

Before you begin to think that I casually take a cab ride home everyday, let me tell you that I have learned to take the public transport. And before you say, "O, ngayon? Okay lang, Paris naman e," ... stttoppp! Things get interesting here! People say if you can survive in Paris, you can survive anywhere in the world. Impossible? Believe it. No other form of commuting can beat the lovely Metro experiences you can get here for free (when you get the chance to pay less or nothing at all, take advantage). Since I arrived in Europe three months ago, I have had several risky, but extremely amusing, commuter encounters. I just know I will one day get arrested for carrying a pepper spray, which is illegal here (a friend from Kuwait thoughtfully gave me one).

I once came home after an evening Math class with a leg drenched in rhum after drunken Arabic-Italian men rammed each other against the doors of the train and launched into a fit of little-boy wrestling matches that didn't quite end on a very wholesome note. Although there is usually no need for the spray around here, I must admit I am enormously relieved each time I step into the little dollhouse that I call home! Yes I live alone, and to that I say have faith in terrain unknown.

Today is a good day. God sent an abundant supply of extra doux tissues to help out with my cold, and although I was a little bit deranged this morning (I almost placed my shoes in the refrigerator), I was certain there would be, as there always is, something magical in the city that will help me get through the day. My most cherished girlfriend told me over a long-distance phone conversation: "Happiness is not because of; it is in spite of."

So, in spite of the spirit of Manila being vacuum-packed inside me, I am happy that it is there at all. Manila it was that first taught me to smile, to love, to connect, to embrace people and laugh with them. And it's what makes it warm in here, especially on days like this one, when I feel my head is right about to freeze up and snap off my neck.

'Til another Saturday then ... here's to Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love!

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