Saturday, August 23, 2008

Congrats to Ron and Donna

We’ll they did it – they've tied the knot. My nephew Ronald and Donna made it official as husband and wife in a civil ceremony. Ron is the person I had written about -- in particular, changing his diapers as a baby -- in my previous blog about my raspberry-induced recollections of long ago summers in Bainbridge Island. I wish I was there to offer, personally, my best wishes to them.

The following photos were “pirated” from Miss Gracie’s flickr account:

I first met Donna about eight years ago when her basketball team was looking for a coach and I volunteered to coach the team. In the basketball court, Donna was always determined and gritty, although she was shorter than most everyone in the court. She accompanied us, six other guys made up of family and friends, on a three week backpacking tour of western Europe during the summer of 2002. She managed well among a group of guys during the trip. She is fairly independent, outwardly confident, and very candid. I am glad she joined us because she made our trip much more interesting and enjoyable. I have also noticed Donna’s interaction with kids. Kids tend to gravitate toward her. They really enjoy playing with her, and most importantly, she enjoys being with them. Donna is passionate about her convictions in human rights and social injustice.

I have had many profound conversations, about many subjects, with Ron. In many conversations (somehow they are almost always during late night/early morning) and correspondences (thru e-mails since I have been overseas) with Ron for the last 4 to 5 years, he has often confided to me his unequivocal love for Donna. I have always been very close to Ron. He tends to value my opinions, views, and outlook on many subjects; likewise, I value his. During my visits back to Seattle, Ron would try to get some private time with me to talk. Because of my hectic schedule whenever I visit, I did not always find time to talk to Ron. I have not had much opportunity to spend quality time with him on my last few visits. But I know Ron quite well -- he has his head on straight.

A favorite song of mine is David Gray's Babylon. The song lyrics remind me of some of the sentiments that Ron has professed to me in many of our conversations about Donna. The song's chorus includes the following line: “The love that I was giving you was never in doubt.” This line, I think, speaks volume of Ron’s sincere love for Donna.

I don’t have a good video camera, only the video portion of my mini-digital camera. Sorry for the bad quality of the video, audio, lighting, and especially, the singing. But since I couldn’t be there in person, I thought I would offer something special. I dedicate the following video to Ron & Donna.

Donna and Ron make a good couple. They are perfect for each other. I extend my congratulations and best wishes to Ron and Donna.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Memories of Summers From Long Ago

There are things that bring back memories suddenly – it could be the music that you hear on the radio, it could be the taste of food, or even a photograph. Most of the time, it is unexpected. It is hard to explain how these memories are triggered. I experienced a similar moment a couple of weeks ago while eating something that I haven't eaten in a long time.

I purchased a cup of fresh raspberries. I don't usually purchase fresh raspberries because I am not too fond of eating them fresh – the taste is a bit tart when eaten fresh. I love raspberry jams and jellies; I like them in desserts such as pastries and ice cream; and I love them when mixed in icy drinks or shakes. But because of my recent push in changing my diet to eat more fruits and vegetable, I purchased a cup to eat fresh.

The first couple of raspberries in my mouth made my face pucker; at the same time it also brought back years of fond memories back when I spent my summers as a youth in Bainbridge Island helping out in my sister's strawberry and raspberry farm. The last time I had eaten fresh raspberries was probably the last time that I had picked them in Bainbridge Island. While picking berries, every so often, a berry makes it to your mouth rather than the canister where the picked raspberries go.

I spent countless summers from 1975 until I moved to Southern California in 1988 in Bainbridge Island. It was a lot of hard work for everyone, but they were also happy times. Family members would schedule work vacation during these times to be able to help out. No, there were no summer trips to Disneyland or camping trips to Yellowstone; there were only the summer trips to Bainbridge Island. There were others outside the family that would help. I remember my first summer in the Island when a group of Native Indians from Canada helped out. There were also a few year when a Vietnamese family from the island helped out.

Raspberries were picked using cans, the same size can that the large drip coffee are sold in, that have ropes built into them to be able to wrap it around your waist. For the more advanced pickers, they also come in the double-can variety. After the can is filled, it is emptied into a wooden, "cannery" flats or if they were going to road vendors or markets, they are emptied into a smaller carton box.

I was a very slow picker, but not as slow as Glen. I could never surpass Leah's and Sonya's speed in picking raspberries. Sonya was unbelievably fast picker for a small young girl. I used to say that the reason why she picked so many so fast was because she "skipped" a lot. Skipping means leaving some ripe berries unpicked. Ideally, when picking berries, you want to get as much as the ripened berries in your row as possible. In reality, I was a slow picker and always intent in picking each and every ripe ones in my row. You could call me very inefficient when it comes to picking berries. Ideally, you want to pick as much as possible, even at the expense of skipping a few.

I claim to have worked hard on the farm, but a lot of times I stayed in the house to babysit the kids and “bossed” the kids to help me clean the house. I did not wake up in the wee hours in the morning, nor endured the scorching sun or get drenched by the rain picking berries. There were no days off during berry season. It took two to three days to go thru the whole raspberry orchard. Usually, raspberry bushes are ready to be picked again after two days. If you took a day off, ripe fruits would start to drop off from the bush due to over ripening. I would help, but it was usually after 8 AM when I got to the field, would take breaks as often as possible, and when it would get too hot or too wet, I would complain like heck until they sent me to the house to take care of the kids. The hard work was done by my sister, her husband – Mng. Tommy, and my mother. They were the ones out in the field from sunrise to sundown. They would pick berries until it was no longer possible to see the ripe fruits. Because it gets dark late during the summer, sometimes it lasted until 10 at night, if there were orders from the market.

There were always other people helping out, especially on the weekends. During the summers in Bainbridge, there were always younger nieces and nephews dropped off from Seattle by their parents for me to babysit for a couple of weeks. Or in some cases, they would stay the whole summer. Ron got to spend full summers in Bainbridge Island as a baby, prior to his Tatang and Lola arriving to Seattle, because there would be no one in Seattle to babysit him. On weekends, there were usually many family members or other relatives visiting from Seattle. The living room floor and the basement “big” room were the places where the visitors slept.

We had easy access to the Indian reservations at Suquamish for purchase of fireworks. We had plenty of vendors to choose from. We went there every time there was a younger relative visiting from Seattle. It seemed like fireworks were almost a lure for the kids to go to Bainbridge Island because they can get a good collection of fireworks. From the "Crazy George" stand to the "Cheapest Fireworks in the World" stand, fireworks could be had up the ying yang. We tried to find the stand that could give us literally the best bang out of our bucks. Because of the wide open yard and the farm field at my sister's place, you can fire up any type of fireworks without any concerns for neighbors and their houses. The highlight of the summer was always watching the 4th of July parade in downtown Winslow --- fighting for candies thrown by people riding parade floats, waiting for the Strawberry Queen’s (Auntie Aida) float since she had the most candies to give away, and partaking in the festivities afterwards, whether it was playing the carnival games or sampling the food for sale.

I look back at all those times with fond memories. The times we would go to Battle Point Park to play tennis or basketball; the late afternoons collecting all the aluminum cans and beer bottles after a Little League baseball game or a community league softball games – back then we were able to collect enough recyclable materials every couple of weeks and cash them in for pizza treats at Pietro's or Campana's in Silverdale for 6 to 8 people. Or making kool-aid or Tang ice pops. I guess popsicles were a bit more expensive then. It is not like nowadays where you can buy a bag of popsicles at the grocery store at the beckon of a little kid. The hot days spent on the slip and slide, and afterwards getting scolded for wasting water and using up all the clean towels. Playing basketball and h-o-r-s-e on a dirt surface using a rickety rim on a plywood backboard and torn up net. I played my best basketball on that court because I knew where the potholes were and the backboard's sweet spots for bank shots. The time spent keeping an eye on the cherry tree to see where the ripe fruits were going to be. There was only one cherry tree that produced sweet fruits – you laid claim to any ripe fruits that you find and it was yours to somehow find a way to pick them or risk losing them to others that may find them later on. Feeling the warm summer breeze on your face in the late afternoon riding in the back of the old yellow pick-up truck, along with many flats of berries secured-by-ropes to be delivered to the cannery or the cannery pick up point. The countless late afternoons perfecting my topspin forehand playing tennis against Jun, Glen, or Cathy. Jay catching a perfectly spiraling football thrown by me. Playing a competitive game of 21 at Alex’ basketball court. Watching Leah dance to a Madonna song played from a tape on her boom box. “Shooing” Spunky away, the always curious cat. Waiting to catch the soaring softball thrown high by Jojie. Buying French fries at Ke-Lin or ice cream treats at Silverdale’s Dairy Queen. Cleaning up baby Ron from his soiled diapers. (No sh*t Ron, or should I say “sh*t yeah” --- one of the few unpleasant memories from that time.) Helping Sonya gather the air-dried clothes hanging on the clothesline in the backyard. Watching scary, rented VHS, movies in the big room downstairs. These are just some memories of my summers spent in Bainbridge Island. I have plenty of rich memories of those carefree days --- memories that always bring a smile on my face and memories that are forever etched in my mind.

All those memories, just from my first mouthful of fresh, tart raspberries. I will have to do this more often and endure the tartness of raspberries so I can relive the precious memories of Bainbridge Island.

I don’t have many pictures of my summers spent in Bainbridge Island. If I do, they have not been scanned electronically. But I know many family members have their collection of pictures from that period. I would love to have copies of some of those pictures.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My New Car & Pix from Camping

I am still busy as ever at work. I spend about two to three days a week on the road, visiting other US facilities in Germany to scope out upcoming projects by visiting with project sponsors and customers. The rest of the week, including weekends, I am putting together the contract packages (scope of work, request for proposals, cost estimates, etc.) for new projects. This past weekend, I worked 6 hours each day. I am counting down to 30 September, which is a little more than seven weeks away, when most of this madness will die down.

On a better note, I finally purchased a car. I have managed to get by without a car for more than a year in Germany without any major hassle, but there were a few things I missed out on without a vehicle. I bought a Mini Cooper Clubman. When I was looking at the Minis, I was only considering the basic Mini Cooper model. I figured that if I were going with the Mini for its small size, then it does not make sense to get the Clubman model because it no longer has the “Mini” size. But after visiting the showroom and checking out the Clubman model, it diminished my concerns about owning a smaller car: Room for passengers in the back seat and storage. The Mini Cooper basic model definitely did not satisfy the concerns, but the Clubman model did. The Clubman has fairly ample room in the back for passengers – I sat in the back seat to see how much room there was. Also, there is sufficient storage space in the back, including a special area in the back under the seats that can be opened for additional storage, similar to the area where a spare tire is stored in most cars’ trunk. They are all out of 2008 models, so I ordered a 2009 model. The car is chili red in color with black trim and black front stripes. It gets a decent gas mileage, which is always a plus, with the gas price skyrocketing. I should be getting the car in late September.

chili red cooper clubman, front

chili red cooper clubman, back

Now on another subject, my previous post extolled on how successful this year's event was. I will post a few pictures on this blog, but all my camp pictures can be seen on my flickr account once I get a pro account. Right now I am limited to how much I can upload. I will keep you guys posted and provide a link to my flickr account.

The golden pan award for the best cook during camp is given to Manong Joey for the chicken curry during the Friday evening dinner, and the dinardaraan and pinapaitan for dinner on Saturday. The photo below shows him putting his finishing touch to the chicken curry that was enjoyed by everyone.

Chicken Curry -- mmm mmm good

Not too far behind is Manong Edgie for his diligence in preparing most of the breakfast dishes on Saturday and Sunday such as longaniza, daing, fried rice, sausages, etc. By default, he was also the Iron Chef winner for the beef barbecue contest.

iron chef winner

Best service offered during camping goes to Edward for the much needed back massage I got. It was so relaxing that I fell sleep while being massaged.

camp massage

Chris D.wins the athlete of the camp. He won all the basketball events. Chris shows his gravity defying b-ball skills on the photo below.

Chris D shows his flying abilities

The biggest compliments goes to the Games Committee for all their work in planning games and activities for the kids. The kids managed to enjoy themselves throughout the duration of the camp.

Building a moat to protect the sand castle.

Building the moat for the sand castle

Ina is having issues with her kite. Gavin is trying hard to hang on to his kite. As you can see, grabbing on the kite string with his dear life is even more important than keeping his pants up.

Gavin and Ina flying kites

I am not sure who Cameron is rooting for, but I am pretty sure her team is winning.

Go Team!

The kids are having fun playing with and in the sand. It soon turns to mud when they start adding water. Their parents have much more fun cleaning the kids afterwards.

Playing with sand

Playing connect four with Janice. Jeremy, you better watch out --- I am ardently practicing for the next time we play "connect four."

Playing connect 4 with Janice

I was invited by this group to join their “no shower for the duration of camp” club. I was honored to be invited, but I politely declined to join their esteemed group. Eww!!!


I had a super-terrific time at this year’s camping event. Although I spent a lot of time sleeping because of jet lag and the weather turned sour for a bit on the second day, I still enjoyed my time at Nehalem Bay, Oregon.

I enjoyed the food:




I enjoyed all the activities and playing with the kids:






And I especially enjoyed the company --- all the family and friends who were able to make it this year:













I forgot to extend wishes to those with July birthdays. Happy Birthday to Maria, Jason, and Mng. Eden. And to those whose birthdays fall in August: Cameron, Nathan, Janice, Marcus, Jun, and Mng. Joey, I also wish a wonderful birthday.