In the venerable spirit of using this blog as my notepad, I thought I should follow up my introspective, beret-wearing New Year’s post with a bloodlessly practical list of resolutions. Or if not practical, then at least bloodless!
This year, I half-heartedly resolve to:
Learn Mandarin: Mandarin is the language of the future, or so they say. I’ve never been one to focus too much on the “usefulness” of languages, having already poured significant energy into study such burgeoning international languages as Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Bahasa Indonesia. (The fact that they were pretty useful when I was living in their respective countries only slightly mitigates my sarcasm.) That said, falling in love with Taipei last year provided a powerful inspiration, and I’m excited to escape the tyranny of phonetic writing and delve into a whole other approach to the representation of verbal ideas. The whole language-of-the-future thing might be more compelling if I wasn’t planning to confuse the bejeesus out of myself by taking mainland-oriented online courses that use simplified characters before spending a month in traditional character-using Taiwan. If all else fails, at least I’ll get to eat a lot of stinky tofu.
Prognosis: Proper Chinese writing technique is out of the question when I can bypass all the niceties of stroke order using the massive cheat of Pinyin keyboarding software – What a time to be alive! I doubt I’ll learn to read too many characters, either, beyond the ones that regularly appear on restaurant menus. That said, I think I’ll at least be able to speak coherently enough for the locals to reply with suitable condescension. (Just kidding – Taiwanese people are lovely!)
Get Not-Terrible at Piano: Three years ago, when I was bored out of my gourd during one of my many misbegotten “Hey, this place seems cool! Maybe I should try living there until I hate it!” experiments – this one in Davao City – I purchased a used Casio keyboard off the Internet. (Filipinos call keyboards “organs”, so if you see anyone selling organs online, you may want to read closely before rushing to call Interpol.) I met the seller, who turned out to be a nervous young man, outside a suburban mall to make the transaction. Within seconds of hopping off the bus, he proceeded to set the keyboard up on the sidewalk to vouchsafe its structural integrity. In my boundless cynicism, I still felt the need to see if it actually worked, so we ended up wandering between sidewalk kiosks looking for someone who would let us plug in for a few pesos. I stuffed a wad of bills into his hand and he hopped onto the next bus back to his hometown, as nervous as ever.
In the three years since, the keyboard has continued to defy the odds by not spontaneously catching fire. But unfortunately, my piano skills haven’t improved very much. I still stumble my way through level 2 Christmas carols while filling my head with ludicrous dreams of one day being able to tackle Liszt’s Paganini Studies.
Prognosis: I took advantage of the inter-holiday lull to get back into the piano thing, and I have to say that things finally started to click. I was able to plot the movement of my hands across the keyboard a bit more fluently, so as long as nobody starts sending me enough work for me to actually support myself in the new year (you hear that, clients?!), this may actually go somewhere.
Find A New Home: After five happy years in Manila, it’s time to take an indefinite leave of absence and search for a new home that better reflects my priorities at this point in my life. I’ll write more about my difficult decision to leave the Philippines once I’ve left the country. (Or then again, maybe I won’t, in case I ever want to come back!)
Prognosis: After my recent trip to Mexico, I am more enamored of the country than ever, and am looking forward to spending enough time there to see if I can really make a go of it. On the one hand, Mexico is a country with an abundance of wonderful tropical highland climates, delicious food, and kind, impeccably polite, fun-loving locals. Plus, I’ll get to practice my Spanish! On the other hand, I do end up hating pretty much everything after sufficient exposure to it, so this could really go either way.
Keep Blogging: This one’s pretty self-explanatory, I think. I could write some hooey about the powerful catharsis that comes with channeling one’s inner pain through the written word, but I think I just really, really enjoy writing about myself. And the fact that I can do it with a little bit of verbal dexterity reminds me that I’m actually good at things aside from petting my dogs really hard so that I won’t have to brush them.
Prognosis: Judging by my recent outpouring of verbal diarrhea, I’d say things are looking good! That is, until my life becomes so interesting that I can no longer be bothered to write about it. But don’t worry, because in the short term I’ll be continuing my cozy domestication back in Manila, meaning that you can look forward to such scintillating reads as “Putting Cardamom Into Your Coffee is Delicious” and “Here Are More Reasons I Think Dogs Are Neat, But Mostly It’s Just Because I Have Trouble Forming Meaningful Relationships With Human Beings”.
Become A Bodhisattva and Generously Forego Entry Into Nirvana In Order To Remain On Earth And Work for the Enlightenment of All Beings: On second thought, this one might be a bit overambitious.