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Dinner after midnight

sunset-heart-by-the-beach

I sat on a chair across the band; gulped cold beer from a bottle while waiting for our food. My companion left for the loo. The band began to play. I can see her from the corner of my eye, walking slowly with a basket in her hand. “Would you like to buy some peanuts?” she asked me. I gave a lazy smile and said, “no, thanks”. She sat on the chair opposite us, carefully placed her basket half full of peanuts on the table as she watched the band. She looked like she was 60 or 70 years old but I can never conclude as I only based my assessment from her and my mother’s appearance. She looked much older than my mom who is now in her late 50s.

Our food arrived; we ordered two courses but they were too much for just two people moreso that I eat less. I asked the waitress to give us one extra plate, spoon and fork. I placed food on her plate and gave it to her with a glass of water before we began eating as I didn’t want her to think that we are giving her our leftover. She accepted and thanked me shyly.

I was enjoying my food when I unconsciously threw glance at her and noticed that she seemed hungry. It was 8PM, a bit late for dinner. She must have eaten early before leaving home to sell her peanuts, I thought. “Let’s buy some of her peanuts later”, my companion said after noticing that I was looking at her.

After she ate, she approached us with a smile full of gratitude. She handed us two packs of peanuts. “Allow me to thank you for your graciousness with these peanuts. You know, I normally eat after midnight usually around 1AM when all my peanuts are sold. I would run to the food stalls near the park and ask for a soup which they give for free after midnight. I would then go home to eat my supper of soup and rice.”

We didn’t know what to say. We were hit with a pang but couldn’t show it. Instead, we told her we will buy 10 packs and pay for all of them. She insisted on giving us two packs for free but we refused. We knew that two packs could already buy her a decent meal so we urged her to accept the money. She did, thanked us wholeheartedly and proceeded selling to other customers.

After dinner we dropped by at the apartment, took six pancakes leftover from breakfast and brought it to four students with the peanuts. People say peanuts are food for the brain so the old woman’s peanuts were perfect for the students who were preparing for their exams until after midnight.


3AM meetup and life on the edge

I have this impulsive habit my friends call “Cambodia syndrome”. It was during my annual leave in June 2014 that I woke up at 9AM and declared I will go to Cambodia. All I did was check if there is a train scheduled to Aranyaprathet, a province in eastern Thailand that borders with Cambodia, then packed my bag and left. I didn’t know yet how to actually reach Siem Reap, where to stay or what exactly I should anticipate from the trip. I just wanted random things to happen without me making so much fuss planning about it. My close friends who know me well are aware how such a risk-taker I am. And I have lived life this way even before that trip to Cambodia.

Long train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet

Long train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet

It was summer. I just finished my first year at uni. I went to my cousin’s birthday party. She told me about her school and how it looked like one in the telenovela, Meteor Garden, with its natural beauty and a beach at the lower campus. I went home, woke my mom from her nap and told her I will transfer to my cousin’s school. This is where I’m good at, running away.

After graduation, I went to apply for a job. I did not get in. The interviewer told me I have a different potential and may pose risks to the company (private). He said, “I don’t think you belong here. We invest money training our staff but you don’t seem to be the kind who would stay longer.” So much about being honest on one’s passion.

I went home feeling bad about the result. Although it may not have been because I am not good enough, still I took it against myself. I was on a hammock feeling bitter when suddenly I thought about coming to Thailand. I chose Thailand because 1) I did not need a visa 2) It is geographically well-positioned in the region 3) I have this beautiful image of Thailand in my head – glistening temples, monks meditating – and it has a vibrant, friendly society. In less than a week I flew to Thailand. I told myself I will stay for just one year, work on whatever decent job I can get, explore the country, mend my chaotic and confused heart, get a headspace and decide which direction I want to take, then leave.

Six years after, I found myself having trouble getting around the fact that I am leaving Thailand in 8 weeks from now. This country that cradled me, the country now I call home, how can I be leaving it already?

I’m moving to Australia for grad school at the University of Sydney, another impulse of mine. With the little time I have left, I juggled between finishing work, putting my life of 6 years into boxes, making arrangements in Sydney and meeting friends.

Last Sunday, I told my friend Art that I’m leaving and it would be nice to see him. This man being a troll told me we can meet 3AM at Burger King (open 24 hrs). Perhaps he didn’t know who he was talking with. Of course I agreed and he suffered from his own trap! It was an amusing experience though, meeting at 3AM! Like, who would do that? Although what started as amusing ended up to be embarrassing for me, having to meet his mom at his house who must have been thinking what kind of a woman would allow a meetup at a wee hour.

I left his home at 6AM and walked to Benchasiri Park. I guess about an hour walk can only get you numb for a minute. And then a pang… wrench.

Benchasiri Park, Bangkok

Benchasiri Park, Bangkok

It was when it started to sink in that I was leaving, for real. I’ve been living life on the edge; always going beyond my comfort zone. Thailand has become a comfort zone and this was probably why I decided it’s time to leave, among other reasons. But why has it become this hard?

I guess it’s because my spontaneity has led me here, a country where I had a life all by myself away from the shield of my family; a country where I battled with my own demons; a country that opened my eyes to a vast horizon; a country that showed me the beauty of imperfections, the possibility of new beginnings. It’s the country where I met the person who makes saying goodbye the hardest.

Want to be spontaneous? For once, try to let go of fears and just go somewhere for some adventures. All you have to do is identify certain places or countries you want to visit, check and book cheap accommodations HERE then off you go. Oh of course, once you find cheap places to stay you also have to book your flights if you need to fly. Enjoy the uncertainty!


Smile with your eyes

Photo by miaymarch.com

Photo by miaymarch.com

I’ve always considered New Year as a symbol of hope and renewal. I welcomed 2015 with positive anticipation. And for the first time in six years, I get to spend it with my family. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted it to be my “kick-ass awesome year” ever, some things are just out of my hands. My yet to be resolved past mingled with dramatic changes in both my present and future professional and personal life.

If there is one word that can epitomise my life in the first quarter of 2015, it will be ESTUARY.

Amidst all these lies my resolve to empower myself.

Being a photography enthusiast — as you may have noticed from most of my Facebook and Instagram posts– I wanted this transitional stage in my life captured. This became more timely with my birthday turning me to the last year of my twenties.

As fate would have it, I bumped into the blog of Mia and saw her “Love you now, love you more after” photoshoot concept. Reading about this session felt like reading my thoughts on screen. She nailed what I had in mind.

“Smile with your eyes,” Mia asked me several times. It was my first professional photoshoot so I would have felt like a star in front of her lens. But no, all I had were unwelcomed thoughts flooding on me. I felt I was not okay yet. I didn’t want to pretend to be smiling sweetly but felt like in an emotional tornado inside – yep, going to Sydney in less than 3 months from now creeps me out like anything too. Change is always scary, huh! – The worst deception is that of our own self, indeed.

I was once asked what it is to be an empowered woman. My response was simple: an empowered woman is one who is able to make informed decisions for herself and is able to maximise her full potential.

And then it hit me.

Mary Antonette Abello

An empowered woman is one who is able to celebrate her strength and vulnerability; embrace her brokenness and nurture her inner power; forgive her past and high five the future as she can’t be truly bothered by it yet because being in the present moment is paramount. Amidst any storm she will carry on. She will choose selfless love over possession and integrity over personal gains. She will not be crippled by discrimination, abandonment nor injustice. She will rise, speak and act. She will respect herself.

She will smile with her eyes.

Cheers to womanhood! And this may just be a kick-ass awesome year after all!

P.S. If you are in Bangkok and up for a photoshoot for yourself or your family, then Mia (photographer) and Erika (make-up artist) is the team for you. What makes them different from those in the studio is the personal touch. They make sure you are comfortable and they allow you to take your time. And they are sooo fun to be with too!