SNOW COUNTRY, arguably Yasunari Kawabata's masterpiece, is about a rich man from Tokyo who travels to an isolated town where the snow can be as high as four to five meters in depth during winter. This man, Shimamura, meets a young provincial geisha, Komako, and falls for her.
The town, which remains unnamed throughout the story, is famous for providing paid female companionship, a staple of the local economy. Men, both single and married, would often travel alone to far away places—in this case, a cold town—to get away from the busy and stressful life in the city and to avail themselves of such woman comforts.
The novel begins with a train ride. Shimamura sees a beautiful lady traveling with a sick man. He cannot keep his eyes off her reflection in the glass. Her name is Yoko. He keeps thinking of her.
During this vacation, the married Shimamura meets Komako. She is a rural geisha. Unlike their city counterparts, geishas in provincial places at the time were in the same social class as prostitutes. They meet in the famous hot springs. She visits him in his room. They walk around town together.
I TREATED MYSELF to a full-length Spanish animated film after I got back from church. Chico y Rita (Chico and Rita) is directed by Fernando Trueba and designed by Javier Mariscal, a Spanish graphic artist.
The movie is set in Havana, Cuba and New York City in the 1940's and 50's. Latin jazz was the prevailing music of the time, and Cuban singers and composers, if they were good enough, were given the privilege of performing in the best clubs in the USA.
Chico is a handsome pianist who dreams of making it big one day. He meets Rita, a club singer whose voice captivates him all at once. It occurs to him that he should convince Rita to join him in a contest where a 500-peso prize and a profitable contract are at stake. They win the contest, and American producers discover them.
1. ME, WAKING UP at 4 am every single day, when the rest of Manila was pretty much still in REM sleep.
2. Doing anesthetic pre-evaluations at 5 am, with the patients either sleepy, anxious, nervous, or overly conscious of their morning breaths when I asked them to open their mouths as fully as they could.
3. Praying that I'd get a good case, so I could perform the required number of procedures.
ON MY FIRST week in Anesthesia, I was mostly a tambay at the OR, hanging out beneath the curtains, looking at the ECG while the operation was going on, until the residents would ask me a question, and I would smile my smile that meant, "I honestly have no idea, Ma'am." I barely did tracheal intubations (inserting a tube inside the patient's trachea so he can breathe during surgery) or spinal blocks (puncturing through the layers of the patient's spine just enough to let the cerebrospinal fluid flow).
I'M ALWAYS ON THE LOOK-OUT for good TV series. By "good," I mean those shows with original plots, crazy characters, or funny punchlines. Depending on my mood, I enjoy both serious shows and sitcoms. Sometimes I want my shows to not require too much neuronal input; other times I want to get stressed watching them. The only requirement is that I should care for the characters and relate with them.
I don't particularly like drama, except for The Good Wife, and I have a special revulsion for shows with teenage lovers on them, like Gossip Girl, or anything to do with vampires, although I did get to watch some episodes of Vampire Diaries but was irritated by how the characters repeatedly mentioned "Elena" and "Katherine" like they were mantras. Among my favorite TV series thus far include (and this is in the order of how I love them): Breaking Bad, Generation Kill, The Good Wife, Gavin and Stacey, Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, and Big Bang Theory. Of course I watch many other shows in between, but I couldn't, for the love of me, beat my brother in this area.
Kurt Vonnegut's Armageddon in Retrospect was my alternative reading material. I had read it intermittently, having started on parts of it while the eye of the storm momentarily passed through the Emergency Room, and continued on it while I waited for the Anesthesiology resident to allow me to do the spinal anesthesia block.
Published posthumously, the book is a collection of 12 essays and short stories, with themes ranging from the author's speech delivered in Indianapolis in 2007, to his World War One experiences, and the bombing of Dresden. Many of the stories remind me of Slaughterhouse-Five, probably Vonnegut's most famous work, which is about an ill-trained American soldier captured by the Germans.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I REMEMBER how surprised and daunted Renan Laruan was — one of my brother's housemates, also an old friend from our side of the country — when he learned that he qualified as a writing fellow for the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program. The mentorship was to last for two weeks, to be facilitated by the playwright Glenn Mas to inspire budding writers to pursue theater.
I, on the other hand, felt like it was bound to happen somehow. Renan is the artsy-farsty kind of guy, having recently qualified into an art history program at the University College London, worked as an intern at a recent art fair in Hong Kong with a European company, and apprenticed at a Philippine art restoration project. He lives and breathes art. On his study table are old books on art, photography, and philosophy. Even the pieces of literature he reads are hard to understand — he introduced me to David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, and I would frequently see him reading books and essays that would otherwise lull me to sleep or leave me wondering, "Did I just not get that?"
THE TRAUMA WARD, in all its blinding whiteness, resembles some scenes from shows I enjoyed watching in the past—namely, Downton Abbey where Lady Edith Crawley distributed letters among wounded soldiers, many of them with bandaged heads like Lazarus; and Atonement where the young nurse Briony Tallis changed the sheets and brushed the bed pans as the stern chief nurse, also a nun, looked on.
WHEN I WAS STUDYING at the University of the Philippines Diliman, I spent a lot of time at Palma Hall, or what we non-freshmen people called AS (short for Arts and Sciences; it used to be the home of the College of Arts and Sciences, if my memory serves me right). When I was a freshman, my brother had to force me to call it "AS" lest people think I was a newbie and trick me into rushing to the non-existent TBA building.