Thirty Days Ago…

Out of nowhere, the sounds of drums permeate through the air. Houses all over the place start to light up, and the scent of breads beckons, as if it is signaling people to partake of it.

It is three o’clock in the morning here in Ankara, and it is the first day of Ramadan. Only the sound of the drums outside have reminded me that I should wave up for the sahur meal, which is the pre-dawn meal that accompanies every single day during this holy month. In simple terms, Muslims are to abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset, and are supposed to keep away from foul language and unacceptable behavior as well.

For the pre-dawn meal, I wake up Khaleel so that he can help me prepare some food, while Partick is having a deep sleep. Our menu for the day is composed of bread, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, tea, and water. At least, I’m thankful that we are fortunate enough to have these dishes in our kitchen, for quite a good number of people don’t have a lot, believe it or not.
Afterwards, we put the dirty dishes and utensils into the dishwasher, we wash ourselves, take our ritual ablutions, and then we wait patiently for the azan to be called so that we can pray the morning prayer before going back to sleep.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the call to prayer is sounded. We wait for it to finish, then we pray promptly and then we go back to sleep.

We say welcome to Ramadan under our breaths.

Five hours later, I wake up, knowing that I need to return the books that I have borrowed from Middle East Technical University, which is 45 minutes away from the place that I’m staying.
Even though it is just eight in the morning, the sun shines very brightly, and along with it the dry, hot weather. However, the wind blows from the east every now and then, making the hot summer weather of Ankara look like a walk in the park.

The streets are empty, and I assumed that people should be at their homes right now on a Saturday like this, either sleeping or watching television with their families inside their apartments.
I board the subway to school, and then I started to think about this year’s Ramadan. Thoughts like “this would be hard”, “the food will be nice later”, and “it would be tiring” started to ring in my head like bells clamoring for attention. However, I did not pay any attention to it, because I know that this month is not just for the stomach and the mouth; it is a month for the mind and the heart to contemplate and to feel the realities of this world.

As always, each day from dawn to sunrise here in Turkey ranges from 16-19 hours, depending on which side of the country one is residing. However, if one is already accustomed to it (and one keeps being busy doing something; ironically, this is one of the most effective ways to kill away the time), then the time should just go away like a silent breeze.

After boarding two trains, embarking on a shuttle bus and walking for ten minutes, I reach the library with my books inside my sling bag. The trees inside the university make sure that it is always relaxing and refreshing despite the summer weather.

I return the books to the clerk, then I immediately go to the nearby computer lab to surf the Net and try to find some ideas for my writing, as well as to play some browser games. Not the best way to spend the day, but I find nothing to do in this weather.

Time passes by, and by the time I finished my work, it is already 5 in the afternoon. One of our Turkish friends invited us for iftar, which is basically the fast-breaking meal that occurs after sunset.

Three and a half hours to go before sunset.

I go the same way I went before, back to the house. Within an hour or so, I tell Khaleel and Patrick, another one of my friends, to change clothes and prepare to move out.

Anyone can tell you that having a meal during sunset in Ramadan is one of the best things about the month. It is not just about the cuisine; it is also about the moments and the little talk that one shares with friends and acquaintances in the table.

When I made sure we were all fit to go, we went out with happy smiles in our faces.

Not having food and water for 18 hours does not matter at all if one is reminded of three things: Firstly, this month is a time for worship and contemplation for one’s self-improvement. Secondly, that this period is a perfect way to remind ourselves that there are lots of people who are less fortunate, and whom we should extend a helping hand. Finally, and probably one of the most important things about this month, is that one learns to improve one’s bonds, whether it be with family, friends, or simply the odd pedestrian on the road.

The first day of Ramadan is about to be over.

And I can say with confidence that it has ended…in a happy and sweet note.

La-la-la-la.

As far as I can remember, age is like a song. It has its intro, chorus, climax, instrumental, and coda…

A lot of people do not like codas. No one likes their stories to end badly, no?

But endings just happen. Every story has to end.

I’m still twenty years old, and as far as I can remember, I’m at the peak of my physical, if not mental, capabilities. Sure, I got tuberculosis at the end of the day, but it does not really seem to bother me that much considering that I got some good medical care. I was lucky.

However, after that episode, my body started to respond as if it was tired. As if it was an old man.

Age is something that I try to ignore, but believe me, once the body starts to do its job, you’ll never fail to notice that you are already getting old.

I can see what the hell is happening to me: I’m starting to get fat very slowly (my weight was 55 kilos for the past 10 years or so), and my height has stopped from increasing.

Basically, it’s game over.

Physically, age is crazy.

However, as far as my mine is concerned, almost nothing has changed. At 20, I still have a lot to learn, and I still have a lot to see.

I still want to travel and I still want to do a lot of things.

As far as my body allows me to do so, I will do both the things that I want and the things that I need to do.

I feel that I still have a lot of things to do.

This is why I don’t want to think about age, because thinking about it just makes one more haggard.

I still want to get a lot of things after college.

I still want to do a lot of things.

I still want to finish my list.

Age does not seem to matter, as tomorrow is an important day for us Muslims: the Eid’l Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

It is a time to be reminded (note: reminder for myself) that there is always a time for happiness in the middle of everything.

And oh, not to forget the spiritual experience that comes with it…

I’d like to greet all my brothers and sisters in faith “Eid Mubarak”!

Hoping that Allah will bring blessings and prosperity to everyone…

Despite the fact that time goes by and people age, the celebrations never fade away.

Guess it’s time to celebrate and bask in the atmosphere!

Take care. Bye.

For more: Age-Old Questions

Thanks for your time!

Trip to Somewhere

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Now time to think out of the box.

If I were to travel around…without thinking about the monies and the time constraints, I would like to be able to travel to Amasra, which is somewhere in the northern part of Turkey. It looks something like this (Looks like a nice place to settle down, no?):

580_amasra_turkey

Then, I would like to go to Diyarbakir, a city in the eastern part of Turkey, which is renowned for its iconic walls (and its nice food as well):

disneylandda-diyarbakir-surlari-ilgisi-11

Then, I would like to go to Mardin, which is a city in the southeastern part of the country, home to many cultures and ethnicities and languages. And of course, the city looks very, very epic, especially at night, as seen here:

mardin

Then, of course, it’s time to go out of Turkey: First Spain. I would like to go to Ibiza, well, many of you know this place anyway (remember 1973 by James Blunt? Yeah, this place has inspired this song…and many other songs as well!):

Ibiza50acbdb9b74722

Then to Cordoba, which is well-known for its distinct architecture and loads of history:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then to so much other places! In short, I just want to see a lot of sights and experience them! (Disclaimer: I’m not a very good photographer, so I guess I will not have in terms of pics once these travels become real!)

Well, it certainly looked liked a pictorial, but I could not find the time or the words to describe what I want to say! Hope you like it!

More trips, please!

Note: These pics don’t belong to me; they have been taken from various sources in the Internet. Am I supposed to invoke “fair use”? LOL.

PS: I’d like to attend the world’s largest LAN party in Sweden, even once in my life:

1258935516_dreamhack_sweden

This is called “Dreamhack”. Just search it on Google, folks! All sorts of computer games are being played here, from DOTA to Left for Dead; from strategy games to card games! All are welcome here!

PPS: I want also to see Zurich in Switzerland. Easy chocolate, folks!

zurich

Well, I guess that’s all!!!

More BFFs please!

Well, I am a person who has gone through many stories and stages in life, and yeah, what is life without a small circle of friends?

As a person, I must say that I was really lucky in terms of having BFFs even when I was back in high school: Sure, I was not the best guy around or the most popular guy in school, but I was still really lucky to be able to have a couple of friends with whom you can share all sorts of ups, downs, and twists 24/7.

My first BFF was actually a guy named Ahmad. He was in the senior year, and we usually spent a lot of times together; be it doing fantasy characters, taking about religion/politics, or simply discussing school stuff and whatnot.

We always had different dreams, we argued a bit, and yeah, everything seems so generic no?

But life seemed had a different way to do things, and after he graduated, we almost never kept in touch except for a few phone calls. It seems that life has finally caught up to him.

Life is different without someone to share it with.

Sure, you may have the best villa, the best networth, or the most satisfying job either.

But the thing is, without finding someone to share these things, life seems to be lacking something.

That’s what I believe at least…

I believe that friends can always give each other some personal space while being together at the same time.

My two cents.

I feel so distracted and messy today, so I guess this is it and spare me the violence please!

For more better stories, go here! Thanks for your time and patience!

The Losers’ Club

It is a Saturday morning, and Mark Clement is still lying on his bed despite the fact that the weather is nice outside. Surely, he can hear the birds chirping happily in the background, but he does not even care at all. He has just gone through an awful week, one that is marred by many failures.

Dumb Polandball physics. Yeah.

His things are scattered all over the room, as if it was struck by a hurricane; he is too proud to admit that he is a loser and a failure, even in the world of online games. He is hanging on to dear life by the skin of his teeth; in fact, his professor in French has given him a passing grade of 60 “out of humanitarian reasons”.

He dreamed to be an academician at a prestigious university in Europe or a governor at a province somewhere back in his country, where ther are beautiful beaches and forests and lots of corruption, but after a series of hard and neck-breaking projects that brought his grades to the “breaking point”, he is not anymore hoping that he could do anything about it.

He did not have a future. He did not know how to deal with the world, and if he ends his college, he will have no more scholarship…and bam! He’s gonna need to find a job in a fast-food chain or elsewhere. In other words, he’s gonna be a freaking loser.

Why the heck does this happen to me?

He plays a lot of Call of Duty and in fact he even won some minor tournaments with it, but he could not get himself beyond being amongst the 1% of the pack. And 1% of the pack means being amongst the top 5000 players: Sure, he gets to join and even become a master of the top clans, but he would not be able to join the top-flight teams with sponsorships, salary, and all that nice stuff.

Mark Clement. Living in a studio apartment with nothing but 400 US dollars per month. Dang.

He starts to stand up, goes to the sink to wash his face, and opens his laptop, opening his Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, and all sorts of other social networking sites. He is still shaken by the fact that he has been…XXX…, and right now, his face looks that of someone who has just lost one million dollars.

Then someone calls him. It’s John, who is one of his Call of Duty buddies.

“Hello?”

“Yeah?”

“Dude, we have a match three hours from now. You up?”

“Yeah, I guess I can deal with it.”

“Okay, then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

So, Call of Duty again? Mark always thought of the Mercedes de Brazo cake that is inside his fridge; it was one of the things that made him feel alive, and it is one of the things that made his life a little bit more delicious. It also reminds him of his family back home, and whenever he eats the cake, he is remi

He takes a spoon and plate from the cupboard and he cuts himself a slice of the tasty cake. He knows that he will not have the time to savor it once the games begin; after all, Call of Duty matches are very notoriously known for their high pace, high adrenaline, and high amounts of cursing and trashtalking.

Afterwards, the exhilarating taste of the of the meringue made him remember of his ambitions of being a successful businessman. He wanted to get rich, to get filthy rich, to buy a mansion in the Alps or to get a villa or two in Ibiza. Unfrotunately for him, that never seemed to happen, as he was “forced” to take up Public Administration.

Then, John comes in while playing the song “Break” by “Three Days Grace”, and the following lyrics have hummed into his mind:

Break away from everybody
Break away from everything
If you can’t stand the way this place is
Take yourself to higher places

He thinks: Yeah, sure, we can get into higher places. But is the real world really that accomodating? Meh, I don’t think so.

He stares into a blank wall, and John pinches him.

“Ow, John!”

“Come on man, let’s go and start playing!”

“Yeah, yeah, right. With whom we are playing?”

“Jimmy, Marco, and the gang. You know, we’ve got a clan match.”

They open their computers, and they log in into Steam…

Back into the virtual world.

And he hopes that they can get that break this time. But maybe the real world is not such a drag after all…

Maybe…

Well, this is actually one shell of a type of story that I wanted to do ever since I was trying hard to write stories…I really wanted to write stories about gamers, and about how games touch their lives in various ways.

Hope you enjoy!

Here’s the prompt: Mystery Ending

Songs and Life

As I hear the songs on my playlist, I get a sense that I feel alive, despite the fact that this Ankara summer is almost killing me at 40 degrees…Well, assuming that the humidity is not that bad of course.

Music is a big part of my life; whenever I’m alone, it comes as a handy companion especially whenever I cannot have my books with me or whenever I get tired of them on the road.

This summer, three things define my life: summer school, bits of personal problems here and there, and some other unfinished business. And as I said above, I have lots of songs on my playlist: hey, there’s some 400-500 of them on my memory card, as well as some 100-200 on my cloud storage, so how the heck will I choose my most favorite song?

So much for the intro. Now I’d like to get to the point.

Right now, my life seems to be trekking on a path without a clear direction; it seems that I’m wasting a bit of time here and there. I know that I am doing something, but I still get the feeling that it is not enough, that I’m just living an empty existence, and that I’m just a freaking tryhard who tries hard and basically falls short.

I don’t like to make this blog post into a rant post, hey, this was supposed to be a place where I should talk about the music that defines this time of the year, no?

But sometimes, I just get the urge to do so, and I hope that you don’t get tired of my occassional rants. I’ll be going out for some soul searching after I spend my time in front of the computer…this may just be very well the thing that I need in order to rejuvenate myself.

Here’s the link: Metallica-The Unforgiven

I think that this is the song that closest relates my feelings right now. After all, life is a struggle and is a place where one just doesn’t shine good enough…

Here’s some of the lyrics for some context:

They dedicate their lives
To RUNNING all of his
He tries to please THEM all
This bitter man he is
Throughout his life the same
He’s battled constantly
This fight he cannot win
A tired man they see no longer cares
The old man then prepares
To die regretfully
That old man here is me

Yeah, life is hard, but one can’t just run away from it, no?

I just hope that I don’t have a bitter life at the end of the day. After all, people all have their ups and downs, no? And what is life anyway if it is only experienced in a straight line?

A few words from somewhere:

“The path to heaven is full of tribulations and troubles, while the path to hell is full of easiness and pleasures.”

I think this should remind me that there’s always value in trying to be human.

Today’s prompt: Musical Markers

Setting Forth: Forays Into Life

I always remember that when I was a child back at Zamboanga City, my parents would always prod me to become a lawyer or a doctor or a politician, saying that “these are the three ways to be filthy rich quick and fast”. We did not have a lot of money back then; we were just a lower middle class family trying to find a place to finish our university education. Surely, things changed when I got a scholarship from the Philippine Science High School (I could have easily became a biologist back then, get a few scientific prizes and have a good amount of money on research), but then, getting another scholarship to a Turkish charter school and going to that particular school had probably changed my life in a much profound way.

Well, I always dreamed of being one of two things: being a biologist and/or being a pilot. I imagined flying the skies using a Boeing Jumbo jet; I imagined creating something that would change the world. And all this time, people told me that I was crazy…well, that was the kindest of words that they ever used, to be honest.

I saw adulthood as a time to work; a time to have a bit of fun, a time to experience the reality of life, maybe get fat and realize the better things in life other than money. Sure, I’d like to have a house, a vehicle, a family, a something…but life is pretty content. That’s what I supposed when I was back in high school, living in an era similar to the Dark Ages.

Well, I never supposed that I’ll have to deal with my own insurance bills when I became a college student. And right now, I’m 20, I’m about to graduate from Middle East Technical University here in Ankara, I’m about to pay off my yearly insurance, I’m taking up summer school, I have plans for this and that, I’m expecting that I’ll break out into the literary scene one day, blah blah blah.

The truth is that you think adulthood is easy, but once you get there, you’ll realize that you want to go back to childhood at a certain degree. Why bother with problems (or other people’s problems) when you can have an easy and smooth life, right?

The thing is this: I believe that a victory without struggle is a hollow one. I believe that stars won’t shine without darkness, and the real value of the sun is never appreciated unless the night comes and “devours” it. Surely, young adulthood is pretty hard, with all the responsibilities and the catches that come with it. But at least I’m quite thankful that I don’t have to get into the “9 to 5 rat race” just yet, which, at that point, the whole dimension of what “adulthood” means changes once again.

There are times that I just don’t want to do anything, but I force every nerve and every muscle to do that thing…maybe because it is important or it is something of value. There are times that I feel frustrated and I’d just like to throw my body over the wall, but I keep on going, maybe half-blind, maybe half-broken.

Because I know very that at the end of the day, the harder the hardship, the sweeter the endings that happen. And oh, it does not just happen in fairy tale stories!

I’m 20. I have nothing but a couple hundred of dollars in my pocket. I’m a college student in my senior year who is trying to be idealistic-realistic-modernist-westerner-blah blah blah, and who eagerly wants or wishes to be admitted into a MA/MFA program in Creative writing somewhere in the US/UK/Australia/the Philippines. La-la-la.

And I know that I can do something not just for myself, but also for the ideals that I fight for. Oh, by the way, wish me luck in my forays into the world of work! Shouldn’t be that hard, no?

For more angles…Thanks for reading!

On a Train

I have just came out from a freaking midterm examintaion for my summer school classes, which, I should say, is very stressful, useless, and time-consuming, so I’ll be honest and not mince words with you: I am not a talkative person when it comes to strangers and acquaintances whom I never, ever had a chance to open up with. I am not the kind of guy who talks to people whom I do not know, because as far as I am concerned, my time inside public transportation is my time for retrospect, reflection, serious reading, name it!!!

The reality is that I am in a freaking foreign country, and as long as I do not wear a headset or earphone, someone will always try to talk and open up conversation in about one of five cases when I’m boarding the bus, and one out of sixteen cases when I board the train. In this case, I try to be as polite as possible, especially when it involves people who are older than me. After all, I do not want to offend anybody despite the fact that they are eating through my private time…

However, when it comes to <insert expletive here> high school students, I usually tend to get away from them as one would get away from a leper. They are f*****g immature and have the tendency to ask stupid questions, except for a few remarkable persons, of course.

Unlike most people, I am a bit sensitive about my personal space, despite the fact that I’m between being an introvert and an extrovert; besides, I am just learning to open up to people because I did not have a freaking life in high school. So, that should explain a lot of my postering…

Anyways, I’d like to have space for my mind to wander or to be “peaceful”, and as of this moment, the only place where I get it is whenever I pray and whenever I’m on public transportation, so I hope that people will understand whenever I try to be laconic and limited as possible…

I know that most people have good intentions and are people who just want to connect and to learn a lot of other people’s culture. But they must understand that people have their own concerns too, and I hope that me being honest and direct does not make the the equivalent of a snob and a no-lifer who is just intolerant of other people.

That’s just me saying.

Take care…

FAST PROMPT.

Good luck and have fun!

 

War Stories

I’ll be downright honest with you: this is not my own story, it is actually the story of my cousin who has served in the Police Task Force in the Zamboanga City crisis, which I also experienced almost a year ago. He tells this tale while he taking a break from the battle as more reinforcements have arrived on that day.

As for my story, it did not involve any cringe details;it was more about the life behind the scenes, the life that war brings to the suburbs (see 9/9/13), so I guess I’ll leave the floor to him:

It was the second day of battle, and as we went towards Lustre Street to redeploy our troops, all I can see was blood, gore, and death in its most primal form. There were bodies everywhere; bodies of soldiers, of rebels, and of civilians strewn around like manikins, and almost no one dared to get them lest they be picked off by the separatist snipers…

The corpses were beginning to stink; there were different kinds of corpses, some new, some rotting, some decaying, and some flowing with blood as if they were forming a spring of it or something…Me and my comrades were accustomed to the smell due to our training and experience, however, our newer comrades were not as hardened, and they covered their faces with thick cloth to block the obnoxious and horrible smell…

They were saying in the news reports that there were only a couple of dozen wounded or dead, but that’s a freaking lie, bro, that’s a freaking lie: In that street alone, death comes by the bundle. There’s so much of it that one can just easily fill half the morgues in the city with the dead…

If you were there, I am pretty sure that you will not last there for more than five minutes. Even the media reporters simply get the hell out of there…Did you hear the expression “gateway to hell”? That’s the phrase I can use to best describe the experience.

It’s not funny being out there. Dealing with death while trying to do a full-assed job is so freaking hard. Be thankful where you are now, and don’t forget where you have come from.

(After that, we drink a few glasses of iced tea, and then he says his farewells as his scanner indicates that his battalion should be ready to join the next attack. Our house is just actually 20 minutes from the battle site itself, and the sound of artillery, bombs, and heavy gunfire can easily be heard in the distance. Anything that happens, whether it be tracer bullets streaking, firs blazing, or explosions rumbling: I can clearly hear these things in the house.)

War is never pretty. Thinking about it, I feel that the very thought of war alone makes me cringe already with horror towards the very act of it. Why do this? Seriously speaking…There’s nothing I could say.

Each one has a tale to tell, and I urge you to read them too! Good luck and have fun!

And Then…

All I can remember is that it started raining. We were enjoying the summer pretty well; hey, who does not want a dose of the Mediterrenean weather? We were eating watermelons, melons, and green grapes, all directly fresh from the orchard; the rain did not seem to cause us any trouble.

And then the first balls came down very slowly, as if they were from a slo-mo replay.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

At first, it felt like melted snow. It felt so cold, while it felt so…refreshing at the same time.

Wait. What does melted snow do in summer?

Wait…wait…

Hail-sh*t

Then a child came and asked me:

“Is it winter? I thought we were in the middle of…”

Without wasting any time, I quickly shouted in the manner of an 18th-century artilleryman:

“Go to the nearest cover! Incoming!”

I took whatever fruits I could: I was lucky to have left all my other belongings at the nearby 5-star hotel. Well, so much for having a break between conferences…

Then the big guns came. Hailstones the size of pebbles rained every second; it sounded like a minigun firing its lead at full power.

God. What did we do to deserve this crap? Is this climate change?

In the meantime, people murmured around me about their swimming pleasure being interrupted by this force majeure.

If only these people realize that there are much more important things than pleasure: Be it the issues of the world…or simply living much better lives. Oh wait, what the heck am I doing here in the first place? This seems so hypocritical and humbug to me…

Well, I did not want to be a freaking humbug and know-it-all, so I just tried to symphatize with the people around me. The only person…or shall I say being that I really had real sympathy, was the child who asked me that earlier, standing by his mother at a corner of the lobby.

Then the golf balls came falling down from the sky: It is as if the end has arrived.

The sound was unbearable; in addition, we can clearly see the glasses broken one by one, with people around me instinctively ducking every now and then.

I can clearly see the fear in everyone’s eyes. Well, I don’t know if I am calm or composed or whatever, but I’m pretty sure that all of us have fears inside.

And then…

And then the hail stopped.

It lasted only ten minutes, but as far as I can tell, everyone’s beach experience has been wrecked literallty: Tents were crushed; umbrellas were shredded, and shards of glass were everywhere, making it very, very dangerous; adventurous at best to wander around the beach barefoot.

What I did was I sliced one watermelon, took a seat, and opened my mobile phone.

Beach’s over for today, I guess.

Come for more stories!

Nature can be very unpredicatble at times, no?