Have I ever told you that I’m a big fan of Nicholas Sparks' books?
Okay, so I just finished reading one of his novels titled The Last Song. It took me a month to read the first half and took me just two days to read the second half. I find his books start out very slow and don’t pick up any steam until the second half. And, then, voila, things get quite interesting and emotional. And, inevitably, I find myself crying because someone always dies in his novels, you see. Even though I know that the dying person is going to die, I’d be like, please don’t let him or her die. I’d be praying for miracles, along with the other character(s) in the novel. I’d be praying that the author would prove me wrong in my expectation and, for once, let the dying person live. How crazy is that, huh? It’s just a novel after all. I have to laugh at myself sometimes.
By the way, there’s a movie made from it, but I didn’t get to see it. I don’t think it did too well in the theaters, though. But, I sure cried a river when I was reading the last quarter of the book. I’m such a sucker for novels and movies that make me cry or laugh like that. That’s probably why I always wanted to write sad or happy stories.
Yesterday, Wednesday, June 16, 2010, was a gorgeous day here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Even though I had just gotten off work in the morning from working the night shift, I couldn’t allow myself to go to sleep and let another beautiful day slip by. Hubby was at work. I asked my niece (who had worked the shift with me) if she would go sightseeing with me. She said she had to go to sleep. She’s been sleep deprived. I asked friends who were not at work. They all had things to do. I would normally ask my daughter to do things with me when she happens to be off, but her husband was off also. They’re newlyweds and have conflicting work schedules so, when both of them are off at the same time, it’s a real treat for both of them…which was why I didn’t even bother asking her.
A little voice inside told me, You don’t have to depend on other people to accomplish what you want to do. Just do it. That was exactly what I did. I packed some snacks and some bottled water. I packed my laptop in case I decided to do some writing wherever I was going. At 9 a.m., I got into my car, made a bee-line to a nearby ATM, and then got on I-80 west, not knowing where I was going. All I knew was that I had to go somewhere, away from town, where I could enjoy nature and the glorious day.
First, I thought of going to Crystal Lake or Granite Reservoir to relax while I write my novel, or to Vedauwoo to do some hiking. That’s only a 35 minute drive from town. Then I remembered my bad experience with a stranger in Vedauwoo three years ago. I axed the thought immediately. I then redirected my car’s path south on I-25. I called my husband. “Hon, it’s a beautiful day and I felt like I’ve been cooped up all year long, I’m going out for a drive.” There was silence. Then he said, “Okay, keep in touch.” His voice was flat and controlled. Even though we’ve done a couple of weekend trips outside of Cheyenne during the winter months, it was not enough for my adventurous, spontaneous, and restless spirit. Also, the weather on those days was not anything like yesterday’s—warm and sunny.
There I was going almost 80 miles an hour on the interstate and at the same time brainstorming where to go. I thought of going to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It’s too far, I told myself. Besides, I dreaded going through the Denver traffic. I’d be late for a 5 p.m. dinner with some friends back in Cheyenne. I was getting close to Fort Collins, Colorado. Think fast, I told myself. I decided to go to Loveland and park my car by the lake there, underneath some tall oak trees. The lake is neither desolate nor isolated. There’s no reason for me to be scared. It would be a nice place to write.
I passed the first exit to Fort Collins and immediately got hung up in bumper-to-bumper one-lane traffic that crawled along foot by foot. Oh, how I wished I’d taken that first exit. Too late. I had to suffer along with the rest of the crazies who decided to be on the road yesterday. I wonder if they had the same intention as me.
There was road construction everywhere. It was already 10 a.m. Instead of enjoying myself with nature somewhere, away from civilization, I was stuck in the middle of highway traffic with suburban noises, activities, and sights. I had to change my destination yet again. So, I got off at the next Fort Collins exit. I could have taken College Avenue and headed south to Loveland. Instead, I drove past College Avenue and drove all the way to the end of Prospect Road. I didn’t find anything exciting there…just housing subdivisions. I turned around until I hit a major road that runs north/south. I headed south. My bladder was very full; I had to go to the restroom with great urgency. Thank goodness, I came upon a gas station with a convenience store. My, oh, my, what a relief that was. I bought a small bag of chips. I didn’t really need it. It was just my way of thanking the establishment for saving me from my personal crisis. I asked the sales clerk if there are any scenic places to visit in the area.
“Absolutely,” she said with a smile. “Horsetooth Reservoir is just up on the mountain.” She pointed to the west. “Just turn right on that road there.” She pointed out the road to me. “There are places you can park and picnic. And lots of hiking and biking trails, too,” she added. I thanked her and followed her directions.
I drove a mile before the road zig-zags up to the top. When I reached the top, I looked down below. The view was magnificent. I drove further around the lake, stopping every so often to take some pictures and enjoy the view. The woman was right. The reservoir is beautiful. It’s also huge. It is much longer than it is wide. I couldn’t see where its length ends. The water was clear blue. So blue that it was hypnotizing.
The sun was already way up in the sky by the time I arrived there, but the temperature was still comfortable. There was a light breeze, just enough to move the air. For the most part, the sky was blue. Only a few clouds could be seen. I drove further still and came upon some vacation homes and a small marina.
It was the middle of the week, so most of the boats were tied up there. Only a handful of boats were racing across the water. A colorful sailboat was sailing on by, as well. I watched it until it disappeared from my sight. I had only driven a third of the way around the lake, but I wanted to have lunch with hubby.
I looked at the time on my dashboard. It showed 11:11 a.m. I called hubby and asked if he’d eaten lunch already. He hadn’t yet. I asked if he could wait until noon. He said he would and asked where I was. His voice was still flat and controlled. As usual, I miscalculated the time. I was 38 minutes late picking him up from work. But hubby was understanding.
One of my chores while living in the barrio with my oldest sister and her family was to fetch water. It was also one of my niece’s chores. So, every day, the two of us would go to the river to fetch water in the morning after we woke up and then again in the afternoon after school.
We carried large earthen pots over our heads to transport the water. I attribute this practice to be the cause for my stunted 5’ 1” height. Judging by the size of my feet, I should be 5’9” (I’ve always wanted to be this height.). Just think what I might be able to see over the fence that now goes unseen - or be able to reach at that height without having to ask someone to get it for me. Alas, the damage was done. Now, I can only imagine what life would be like at that height. I think I’ll sue my sister for child abuse. Perhaps my niece will join me in my lawsuit. After all, her growth was stunted, too.
Sorry, I got sidetracked. Anyhow, at the river, we’d pick a sandy area about twenty or so yards from the river and then we’d dig us a water well. We’d dig the dirt out until we hit water. We’d keep digging still until there was a sufficient level of water to be scooped out. The deeper the well, the more water there was to be had. Of course, the water would come out brown and dirty-looking at first. So, we’d keep scooping the water out, removing the fine sand and the brown water.
Eventually, the new water that would seep into the well would be crystal-clear. So, even if the water in the river was the color of milk chocolate after a heavy rain, the water from the well would eventually be crystal-clear. That, my friends, was our version of a water filtration system. Many times, there’d be wells made already; so, we didn’t have to dig a new one. We just had to remove the old, standing water from the existing one until newly filtered water filled the well again.
Each armed with a coconut bowl in one hand, my niece and I’d take turns scooping water into our own large earthen pots until they were full. To be a great water scooper, you have to follow the techniques of the natives. You have to scoop the water ever so slowly, trying not to stir up the fine sand at the bottom of the well. Otherwise, you end up with a sandy and cloudy pot-full of water, which is not the result you’re looking for.
Well, folks, that’s all for now. See ya’ll here next time to read more about my life as a Native.
Shocked, are you? Sorry to disappoint you about my goody-two-shoes image that some of you may have about me. Can you forgive me? It was all in my past, you see, and it was so long ago. I was the same person then as you’ve come to know now, only younger, naïve, and oh so innocent back then.
Without further ado, here’s my story.
For almost three years, I was a nudist. But before I became a nudist, I was this spoiled city girl—a daddy’s girl—who lived in a house with modern amenities like indoor plumbing and electricity. You have to understand that in the Philippines at that time, some 40-odd years ago, this was living well above the poverty level.
Unfortunately, all that changed when my father died. My mother had married my father when she was only fourteen years old. (They had to lie about her age, saying that she was sixteen, so the Catholic Church would marry them.) Other than owning her own businesses, that my father had financed, my mother never worked for anyone during her entire married life. Unfortunately, due to her being illiterate, every single one of her businesses had shortly gone bankrupt within a year or two. Therefore, when my father died, she had no marketable skills. In short, she had no means of supporting us, her three youngest children. (There were nine of us, and I was the youngest.) My much older, married siblings offered to take us into their homes.
I had just turned seven years old when my father died. Six months after his passing, I went to live with my oldest sister and her family in one of the most remote mountain regions of the Philippines, where my sister and her husband taught school.
When I first arrived there, I was shocked to see people naked, bathing and swimming in the river. I’d never seen naked people before, aside from seeing my own body when I was showering in privacy. I’d never gone swimming before either, so I didn’t know how to swim. I also didn’t have a bathing suit. In the beginning, I just observed everyone. Then I went wading in the river with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Kids there thought I must be crazy or something. All eyes were on me each time they saw me in the water fully clothed. When I eventually learned how to swim, I found out that wearing my t-shirt and shorts made swimming much more difficult. They were dragging me down. My niece, who is two years older than I, went swimming naked, and so did all the other kids our age. I decided to become one with the natives; I had to adapt to their lifestyle.
Even at my young age, I felt embarrassed to be naked, even, amongst the throngs of other naked people. I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable. However, the feelings didn’t last for very long, because then, the other kids didn’t pay much attention to me anymore. To them, I was just another nude body. I didn’t stand out in the crowd anymore. So, for the almost three years that I lived there, I was a nudist.
You’re probably asking yourselves what the adults did, eh?. Well, from what I recall, the native adult, married women would normally be dressed in their woven wrap-around skirts with no tops on. I don’t think that they wore underwear, either. I know what you men out there are thinking and imagining. But go ahead, it’s a free country. Just don’t be blaming me for any ill/good effects of your thoughts and wild imagination. You’re on your own on that one.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was talking about the women. Anyway, when the women took their baths, they’d go to one of the more secluded areas where there were a lot less people. They’d unwrap their skirts, being careful not to show their pubic hairs to anyone, especially to adult males, by repositioning one leg. (Just in case there were any adult males out there in the bushes, peeping…I wouldn’t know.) Once they put their skirts neatly on the ground, they then put their hands over their pubic area as they walked to the river until they submerged their bodies in the water waist deep.
Come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing adult males taking baths where we bathed. Perhaps they took their baths somewhere else. I’ve never seen my sister go swimming or taking a bath in the river, either. I remember her taking baths in the makeshift bathroom outside of their house, using the water that we fetched from the river well. I suppose she was too proper and modest to be one of us nudists.
My life as a nudist had to end though when I went to live with my other sister and her family in a province where nudity of any kind was considered a taboo. Also, as I became a young adult, I became aware of all the changes that my body had undergone. With that, I became overly self-conscious again, to the point that, for a short time into my marriage, I didn’t even allow my husband to see me naked! Poor man. He had to use a lot of his imagination, I suppose.
Well, that’s all folks!
If you’ve enjoyed this one, be sure to check in every now and then for more stories about my life as a native.
I was inspired to write this post while I was making a comment on one of Lilly's blog posts.
I’m going to tell you of the Love that made me the happiest girl in the world. I was seventeen. He was twenty. I had been working at a “Sari-Sari” store for a month when he and his older friend came by. He paid for his purchases and we exchanged sheepish smiles. I thought he was very handsome. At the time, I didn’t know what he thought of me or what he was thinking when he smiled at me. I was sure he smiled at me out of politenes and not because he thought I was pretty. Besides, he probably had lots of gorgeous girlfriends already. But for me, it was “Ooh! La! La!”
Up to that point, I had never considered myself attractive at all. Otherwise, I would have had boyfriends left and right, you know? But I didn’t. Oh, wait; there was a man who pursued me when I was sixteen and he was 24. But that didn’t count because, every time he came to the house, mother was there supervising and we were separated by this huge dining room table. No holding hands and absolutely, no kissing! It was a good thing, because I was not attracted to him at all. Not even a little bit. I was just being polite to him because mother told me not to give him any reason to disrespect me or to harm me. The very next day of my high school graduation, I rode a bus with my oldest sister’s niece (on her husband’s side) to go to the city and live with my sister, who now lives here in Cheyenne. I was sixteen years old. I snuck out of town, without informing the man that I was leaving. I was so relieved to get away from him.
Okay, back to the young man. The next time he came by, he smiled again and my heart fluttered. I told myself that if he kept doing that I was going to fall in love with him for sure. Well, the smiles kept happening, but that was all that was happening between us. By then I was definitely falling in love with him. I sensed that he was a very shy person, as I was also.
One day, after paying for his purchases, he went outside ahead of his friend. His friend told me that “his friend” outside likes me a lot. Well, you probably know exactly what was happening to me by then. Yep, you’re right. My heart jumped for joy. I felt really flattered. My heart was singing from that point on and never stopped until our next meeting. Of course, I thought about him the entire time, as well.
The next time he came by, I was going to talk to him more when he came to pay for his purchases. As I was thinking that, a very attractive young woman of about nineteen came into the store. She got what she needed, paid for it, and then left. When my prince came to pay for his purchases, I was about to engage him in a conversation with me when he asked me if I knew the woman who just left…and if I knew her name? It was a good thing that I didn’t tell him the things I wanted say that day. I’m sure you can imagine exactly what I was feeling after that. Yep, you’re right again. Boy, was I crushed! My heart stopped singing that very instant; I cursed myself for being duped into thinking that he liked me, just because of what his friend had told me.
He still came to the store after that, and we still smiled at each other. However, those very smiles that made my heart sing were now making me hurt inside. I wished that he wouldn’t come anymore, for seeing him pained me too much.
I don’t recall what I said when he asked me if he could take me out to lunch on Saturday. All I remember was that we went out to lunch on Saturday. (I was eighteen years old, by this time, when he got around to asking me to go out on a date.) He played some music on the jukebox as we ate. I was very happy, but tried not to expect too much. I tried to temper my excitement because of what had taken place before. I wasn’t going to let myself get duped again. I enjoyed myself. I wasn’t sure if he felt the same way because, after that, I didn’t see him for a long time. So I thought, well, perhaps he found me dull and boring. I was probably not his type.
A month or so later, he came to the store, telling me that he just came back from Korea. He again asked me out for a date. I said “yes” and soon found myself hopelessly in love. We went steady and dated seriously for two months before he received orders to be reassigned back in the U.S. He tried to extend his stay in the Philippines, but his request was denied. We were both disappointed. We parted ways without making any promises to each other.
I was shocked when six months after he left, I received a letter from him, asking me to marry him. He even wrote my mother a letter, asking permission for my hand in marriage. Well, that boyfriend of mine has been my loving husband for thirty-two years now, and counting.
Love is a battlefield. It cuts like a knife. It burns like hell. It turns your life upside down. It makes the world go ‘round. But all in all, Love is a many splendored thing.
In order for Love to survive, Love needs love. Love needs affection and tenderness. It needs respect and patience. It needs commitment and devotion. It needs laughter. It needs sunshine and nurturing. It needs forgiveness. It needs to be expressed and shown—through words and through actions.
For those of you whose hearts are seeking, this I can impart with you: Love is worth the pain and struggles. Just nurture it so that, in the end, you reap the sweet fruits of your labor. Go ahead; take the risks until you find your soul mate. Cupid is just around the corner. Good luck and best wishes.