Friday, April 30, 2010

Why Judah Can’t Teach

(In which it’s harder when you hide.)


“You have a really good job. Look. We have the same age but I’m still a student while you’re already working. But frankly speaking, I don’t think I can stand your job.”

I looked away from my computer and looked up to Judah. He was wearing his black long sleeved polo and he stood like an instructor lecturing a child. His turned his back to the light so his face was darker. But he wasn’t regretful or apologetic or even fearful that his comment might be taken negatively. He has always expressed his opinions with abandon. He knew he can always tell me what he thinks. I wasn’t offended. But of course I wanted him to explain himself. So I waited for him to continue.

“Well, teaching is a gorgeous job. But I think I can’t do it.”

“Do what? Teach?” I couldn’t wait to understand what his point is.

“I can’t deal with losing special people every time the classes end.”

I gave out a sigh that told him I understood. He sat on his chair and thought for a moment. Then he spoke again.

“Master,” he said; his face now serious with curiosity. His habit of addressing me in this very inappropriate manner started as a joke. It was inappropriate because we were not in an old Oriental society and because I am not even close to being a master. ”I think it’s hard when you met good friends and then you had to say goodbye to them, right? And I think it’s not good when you’re used to seeing people go. Like that is just normal. I don’t like that. So that’s why I can’t be a teacher.”

I took deep breaths. I have tried several times to evade this topic but it is always brought up when students are leaving. One of my previous students, Jean, also pointed out that getting used to this situation makes one’s heart harder. But now, I believe I just have to defend an aspect of my profession.

“Well, it is hard. But this is what we do. It’s hard to see students leave but that also means they have learned. And they have to go out and use what they’ve learned. That’s better than having them stuck. Just like you, I also feel sad and I don’t like this situation too. But teachers couldn’t be lugubrious because there are people waiting for us. There are people like you waiting to be taught. I cannot face the next student with gloominess over your absence. I have to deal with him or her with a glad face and anticipation that this will be a good experience for both of us – learner and instructor. Now that’s harder. There is even no time for us to be sad.”

It’s his turn to contemplate. Then he nodded.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing and Bitching

(In which what the last thing I wanted now is censorship.)


Half a decade ago, whenever I wanted to let my feelings out, I just grab my diary and pen. And then I could enjoy all the liberty of writing about the very emotional and even useless feelings or issues that I had. But then the idea that my exclusive access to my diary that I thought was an unwritten law was broken the moment my mother took me to task for cutting classes (which she wasn’t supposed to know). That is the main reason why I don’t feel like keeping a diary anymore. The other reason was that manual writing is such an exhausting job considering that I have been used to using the keyboard.

That’s actually a good thing because I feel more comfortable tapping the keys to transfer my thoughts into text than subjecting my right hand to the awkward and painful job of producing cacography. Also, the ideas come when I’m in the office. It always seemed like a win-win situation.

But the situation today is a Catch-22. I feel bad. I feel confused and annoyed the moment I took the van to the office and listened to the other passengers bitch about other people. And now I feel bad again – humiliated and intrigued. I wanted to type their names and call them names. Yes. Right into this blog. And yes, I don’t have the guts to actually tell them they suck.

Thank goodness I am not mad enough to forget that this will be published on a public blog. If not, that would be my next worst blog vomiting since the insult last September 11.

Oh well, where’s my diary?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reading for Self-Discovery

(In which a turn of a page is a step closer to me.)


I just knew I found a good hobby when people started sending me text messages without the usual questions of what I am doing at the moment. Instead, they are armed with a good guess – I am reading. And my thoughts were just confirmed when my father eyed my secondhand books with wonder. He must have been thinking of how much I’ve been spending for those things that only made my tiny box of a room more crowded and added another layer of blackness to my already dark eye bags. Nevertheless, I just knew I am doing things right.

I have loved books ever since preschool. Running my fingers over the smooth cover of a good-smelling new book brought happiness beyond description. And finishing a book feels like gaining a new friend. However, most of the new books I was able to lay hands on are the ones given free in school. No matter how much my parents took delight in seeing me read, they hardly had enough cash to purchase children’s books so I had to settle with really old books with yellowish pages that were so crisp they might be torn when I flip them. Sometimes, there were torn or missing pages and I had to guess the words or invent my own ending for the story. I never consider them bitter experiences though. I wouldn’t have appreciated reading the way I do now if I could easily get the books I wanted by just pointing to them at the counter.

I started purchasing books about a couple of years after graduation and it felt great. Not only because I worked for it but also because I do not have any deadlines to meet and penalty to pay after returning it to the library late. After a book, I got another one. Then another. I do not care if it’s a bestseller or it’s crappy or brand new or secondhand. I just do whatever will assuage my thirst for reading as if I’m making up for the years I missed because of poverty. I do not mind if my sister thinks I have too much books on the shelf or my father thinks it’s a waste of time and money. I just knew that by reading, the childish happiness I felt so long ago was relived. And I find a part of me waking up after each novel; there’s an insatiable urge to read more after every story. There is a call for further understanding of literature. And a stronger desire to share what I learn through writing. Reading for me has become a regular journey through time and space and a thoughtful walk along the hidden alleys of my inner self. Perhaps it may lead to something closer to finding what I’ve been searching or just another search. But I knew I just have to keep on travelling.


There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Oxford Chronicles by Melanie M. Jeschke

(In which I still giggle about romantic clichés.)

I bought the new edition of The Oxford Chronicles by first-time novelist Melanie M. Jeschke which includes Inklings and its sequel Intentions. The combination of the first two parts in one book made the reading terrible long. At the end of the book, I felt the need to purchase the third part (Expectations) and the prequel (Evasions) not because the tandem of Inklings and Intentions was wonderful. Here’s why.
On C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Reviewers of the book commend Jeschke for writing such a great novel and recommend the book to the fans of C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. However, as far as I know, Jeschke just included parts of their biographies with more concentration on C.S Lewis’. I suppose that hard-core fans and even some less enthusiastic ones might have already taken note of those. I was actually expecting a critical discussion of their works in the meetings by the new Inklings society sponsored by the fictional David MacKenzie. It would be really thrilling to see this done on the next books, instead of just having the authors’ names and works mentioned in conversations to the extent that it seemed like a desperate approach to give the novel a more erudite feel.


The story takes place in Oxford University, 1960. Sadly, I was trying in vain to feel the setting until the end of the book. It seemed that had it not been for the mentioning of C.S Lewis’ death, the appearance of J.R.R. Tolkien in one of the students’ meetings and the French twist, the story could be mistaken to have happened in the present. I believe it could have been better if a historical event that would create another impact on the characters was included in the novel, so the characters won’t seem to inhabit a world of their own, separate from their time.


American Christian Katherine Lee Hughes – pretty, rich, charming and intelligent – went to Oxford University to study and was tutored by the 25-year-old Christian don David MacKenzie, a fabulously smart, athletic and handsome gentleman. But Kate (Katherine) was also being pursued by the dashing Lord Stuart Devereux – a gorgeous but sycophantic nobleman who acts like a gentleman when sober. I hope the author didn’t intend them to appear like characters in a fairy tale with all their aristocratic beauty and demeanor only twisted by a little darkness required when they are in a somewhat antagonistic role. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that they are almost physically perfect.

And speaking of someone being physically astonishing, David’s mother Annie never cease to amaze me every time I read how miraculously slender, beautiful and youthful she still is after giving birth to seven children and being a homemaker round-the-clock. Yes, it’s amazing. But I doubt if it’s realistic.

The Romantic Plot

Aside from the David-Kate-Stuart love triangle, another angle was made. Charlotte, the (yet another) seductively beautiful ex-fiancée of David makes her way to complicate the already complicated chain and make it difficult for David to maintain his Christian plan. Every time he tries to convince Kate that everything’s done between him and Charlotte, the latter devises a way to mess things up in her desperation to win David back.

David’s friends and family, who are Christians, are always ready to help and advise him since all of them want him to end up with Kate.

That’s basically it. The lack of a more complicated plot actually makes the reading more like watching a cheesy soap opera.

What I Really Wanted To Say
Inklings and Intensions talk about the start of David and Kate’s romance set in Oxford and end with their first kiss at the altar after getting married. It is basically a novel about how a couple find their way to true love by trusting God. It also deals with the conflict between appearance and reality. What people see as truth may not be the reality. People easily believe what they see or what other people make them see that they entirely miss the truth. Also, it talks about the conflict between Christian values and the current fashion. In the novel, Kate and David succeeded not only in saving their sexual purity before marriage but also their first kiss in a society where chastity is a thing of the past. I actually have nothing against the values in this novel.

However, with its descriptive paragraphs which are not very stimulating to the imagination, overly romantic males and somewhat immature females as well as a soap opera type of courtship, I believe what really made this novel earn incredible reviews are the values of chastity and purity and the classic and erudite atmosphere of Oxford.

I am looking forward to the next series to find out if there will be discussions of literary works of English authors and if more attention will be given to the other characters especially to Stuart Devereux. I believe he is the most interesting character in the novel. He is a lord, a royalty – someone who physically has it all. But he has the most complex personal history (and attitude) of all the characters. His existence is brought merely by the need of an heir. He has an opportunist and a philanderer as a father and an alcoholic as a mother and he resents them both. It would be noted that he himself has difficulty controlling his alcohol intake and behaves lasciviously when drunk. He seemed to be a major threat to Kate and David’s relationship but ended up as the one who saved the couple’s wedding. It would be good to know if he sought and found redemption.

On a lighter note, I must admit something in the novel touches me that I found myself giggling to funny scenarios and sigh at the romantic and cheesy moments. After reading the first two installments, I was filled with ambivalence.

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