Monday, February 28, 2011

Tweak the tongue: Expats, accents, and adjustments

Filipino expats stand out whether we like it or not. We don't look like the general population, unless we seek sanctuary in Little Manila, Chinatown or some such cultural enclaves. We don't sound "normal" to the ears, normal being defined as whatever the natives are used to hearing.

It takes some effort to twang the Filipino accent enough to be understood and deemed acceptable in the U.S. Some of us who arrived here as children make the transition more naturally, although not without some initial taunting from playmates. Some of us slip back into short 'a's when we let our guard down. Some, particularly in our parents' generation, never quite make the transition.

For the first six months or so after my arrival in 1985, I resisted twanging like the natives. It just struck me as pretentious, and I resented having to change who I was just to fit in. What was this, junior high? Eventually I gave in. I got tired of being quizzed on where I was from and being asked to repeat myself. Life seemed simpler if I could have a regular conversation that focused on what, not how I said things.

I don't know the young man in the following video, but it captures in a humorous way what we expats experience when we transplant or get transplanted abroad. He's from Canada. Apart from the late Peter Jennings' classic way of pronouncing "about" as "aboot," I can't tell a Canadian and an American apart.

If the video doesn't play, here's the link: The Filipino accent

Have you had to change something about yourself to fit into your environment?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Writers' rooms: Does your reality match the fantasy?

Fixer-upper for a writer, originally uploaded by scrollwork.
I was never one for public blogging. It sounds too close to public flogging. Coffee shop composing? Shudder. I could never write with someone possibly looking over my shoulder. I tried bookstore blogging once—the books and mags were much more interesting than whatever I had going on inside my head. I fled my laptop without finishing a single post.

Still, the idea of a writer's enclave strikes me as romantic. I snapped the picture of the turret-shaped structure above with that in mind. For all I know it could be a guard house. Or a parking attendant's station. Who knows if it really would spark inspiration? I might be too self-reflective: "Look at me, sitting in this perfect little spot, doesn't it look like I'm a bona fide writer?" 

Apparently, the scene in which writers create their scenes holds much fascination for people. The Guardian, a U.K. publication, featured a few of them. What they said about their spaces was as revealing as the photos. I had a "me too!" moment over these ones. (You can click on the writers' names to see the full interview and pictures.)

Anyone who works at home needs a refuge from the rest of the household, as far from the house as possible, and definitely without a phone. Mine is in one corner of the garden, overlooking a vegetable patch and young orchard, and I feel great happiness in it. I am hassled only by the cat - a catflap would reduce the inconvenience.

It doesn't look very tidy, but from childhood I have loved provisionality in a room, something thrown together…

I have a fair assortment of pictures and cards, too. They help engender words.

I use Jstor and Google constantly, so that sitting here, surrounded by my knick-knacks and fetish objects, I am both at peace and fully connected to the world outside. I don't mind being on my own in this little world for hours on end.

After glimpsing their spots, I was shamed into putting a token amount of effort into my own spot.
I noticed most of these writers had books nearby. My desk faced a blank wall in the dining room. I don't like stockpiling books or CDs. I borrow them from the library and promptly usher them out. I never re-read nor re-watch anything, so owning them would be pointless. But we are not without a bookworm in the house. The hubby's secret packrat tendencies are evident in the piles of books that sit at his desk and clutter the couch. We have a presentable enough bookcase in the living room, which has the added photogenic feature of being adjacent to a window. Voila! Instant blog photo opp and YouTube opp. 

Drool away...and then tell me in the comments section what your creative space looks like, if and how you want to change it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

An egg, a leg, and the wild swing of life online

For someone who avoided Facebook for years, I've taken a ride on the wild side of online networking lately. Some of my encounters have made me want to swing out as far as I can, let go of the hand grips, and drop off the face of cyberspace.

Quite unexpectedly, I've been recruited into a group that posts pictures of Females in Fishnets; "rewarded" for documenting a trauma-induced aversion to food blogging; lectured on copyright infringement; and reminded that I am quite possibly losing my spunk and spark as an older worker overshadowed by go-get-'em Gen Y'ers. All in the last week or so.

My real life seems idyllic and pastoral in comparison, phew. Thank God I have one!

Let me explain. I've been site-hopping like a tourist with hot Vegas winnings. I was a little drunk on the idea of being a bonafide though yet undiscovered online brand, what with the soft opening of my Swoosh by Scrollwork shop on etsy (shameless plug! but it's my blog) and the ensuing attention paid to my young blog (there I go again!)

There's real-time life, and there's the carefully crafted online realm. I spent a lot of time in the latter last week. Escapism always held sway over me, even as a child. I read each volume of the World Book Encyclopedia one summer— but only the fairy tale section. By the way, a moment of silence for the demise of hard copy encyclopedia...I miss the smell of our musty home library.

At the University of Santo Tomas (Manila) as a Lit major, I joined a debate about whether or not contemporary literature should function as a magnifying lens on society's ills. I pressed for greater accountability for the journalists, leaving us "art for art's sake" writers free to pursue our escapist concerns. I thought I was in my element, too, silencing the cavernous auditorium with my pithy opinion, until a commenter afterward noted that he stopped chitchatting just to hear my deep voice. He didn't remember a word I had said. I had been pleading for permission to escape the burden of excoriating martial law and the corrupt Marcos regime, and my audience had already escaped that humid afternoon via my voice. 

As an adult I am ever on the lookout for various avenues to transcend the right now. How could I resist the siren song of the three enchanting W's for very long? www-dot-anywhere-but-here took me places in guises of my choosing.

So last week I was on Flickr, a photo-sharing site; Darren Rowse Digital Photography School; etsy, a vintage and handmade global market; and Brazen Careerist, a Gen Y-pandering (oops! too harsh?) version of LinkedIn.

Does this girl not have a day job, you're wondering. Um, no. I work evenings, OK? And please, it's woman, not girl. Just sayin'.

  • On Flickr I posted a picture of my leg right after I took off some really tight fishnet stockings that I'd worn while teaching dance for three hours. To me it was photojournalism. To others it was something else, apparently.
  • On etsy I asked sellers how they'd react if I used a photo of one of their wares on my blog without asking for permission.
  • On Brazen Careerist I responded to a thoughtful young man's query on how best to encourage older workers to regain their gusto for work.

If you went purely by the personas I concocted/seem to have been assigned by these various Internet communities, I am simultaneously:

A) A pupil-dilating exhibitionist with a predilection for racy hosiery;

B) A blundering idiot in the hallowed blogworld of foodies—and therefore a freak show; 
(with 1,574 gawkers to date)

C) A blogger with a pitiful following and possibly objectionable content;
(On the flip side, I might also be the blogger whom fellow etsy sellers would appreciate to death for featuring a picture of their work)

D) A wizened baby boomer with a cautionary tale for today's up-and-comers.
"Grandma's Table" tells the tale of an impatient adult son who banishes his feeble mother from the dining table because she shakes and spills things. She has to eat alone by the broom closet. The son has a come-to-Jesus moment when he asks his block-building daughter what she's making and she replies, "A table for you and Mommy for when you get old." Memo to the Gen Y'ers: What goes around comes around.

What did I learn from my forays into these villages? 

  • Flickr viewers do not read blogs. At least not mine. If they did, I'd have seen a spike in my page views from the 1,500+ egg spectators.
  • Etsy sellers are a feisty, candid, opinionated bunch. Kinda' like me.
  • Some Gen Y'ers are mature leaders I would love to work with; some are full of themselves. Just like the generation I'm a part of, and generations to come.
  • People who don't know me but read my online comments are more likely to sign up as followers of my blog than people who personally know me but secretly dismiss my blogging as a diversion from real life and the unsavory reality of unemployment. To the former, a cup of virtual tea; to the latter, to quote an etsy seller, "A fart in your general direction."