19 September 2009

Savior, thy name is Leukoplast

The answer to complete boxing happiness is worth 70 bucks.

Or less. Can’t really remember. It was that cheap.

I’ve been using Leukoplast tape for several sessions now to directly protect my knuckles from getting beaten up—and so far, no wounds, no swelling. What an amazingly useful thing.

Leukoplast, which one can buy at any drugstore, is mainly used to secure dressings because of its highly adhesive properties. But upon the recommendation of a friend, I now directly apply layers of Leukoplast (4 or 5 strips will do) on both sets of my bare knuckles prior to a boxing session. The tape rigidly sticks to my skin, thus protecting it from the repeated impact of gloved fists on my trainer’s mitts. Combine Leukoplast with my gel-cushioning wraps, and I am uber protected. Just some redness on my knuckles after all that punching but at least no bloody mess. So far so good.

I was excited to hit the boxing gym after I got back from Thailand. Work kept me busy, so I was finally able to box last Thursday.

To my surprise, the gym was noisy and packed when I arrived 30 minutes before closing time. Usually around that time, the number of clients would be dwindling. I had the sinking feeling I’d have to wait for quite a bit until Ryan would be able to focus on me, as he was usually one of the busier trainers there.

In the middle of the crowded training floor, Ryan welcomes me with open [and sweaty] arms and a loud “Thailander! I missed you!” Loud enough for the other people to hear.

I roll my eyes but laugh just the same. Clearly, I am one of his favorite students. (Or should I say favorite object of torture?) He enjoys seeing my utter discomfort whenever he draws attention to me. I don’t know why he gets a thrill out of it.

I felt strong that night. But because the time I had left to box was so limited, I just managed to do 10 rounds straight with Ryan and then 200 crunches afterwards. I didn’t want Mang Jun, the maintenance guy, to wait long until I was done with crunches and a shower, so I just promised myself to do 200.

Ryan had me do a lot of uppercuts this session, which I found brutal for my wrists. I’m always deathly afraid of spraining my wrists, so sometimes I hold back, not punching hard enough when delivering an uppercut. But my trainer could tell I was being such a wuss and had me continuously doing uppercuts, especially on my right, which was the weaker one.

An hour or so later, my wrists were so sore, the shampoo bottle I was holding felt heavy in my hand as I was taking a shower.

My knuckles are well-protected now, thanks to Leukoplast. But what about my wrists?? Guess I have to start wrapping them with something as well.

15 September 2009

the biggest loser

Yesterday morning, my first Monday back at the office after my Bangkok training, I stepped on the weighing scale--and encountered the biggest surprise so far this week. My weight is now down to 90 lbs!

Before I left for Bangkok, I was at 94 lbs. Still within my ideal weight range and relatively healthy, in spite of the lack of exercise I've had the past couple of weeks. I managed to do an hour of boxing and 500 crunches the day before I left for Thailand, but I don't think that's the real reason I lost so much weight.

It must have been all that walking around the city of Bangkok and the healthy Thai food that I ate most of the time. No wonder Thai women are so skinny. They hardly put on weight even if they're fond of Swensen's ice-cream cakes. The spice in their food probably does wonders to their bodies. This is one of the reasons I love Thailand!

Anyway. While munching on salad greens over lunch on Monday, the girls in our fundraising and sales teams have made this blood compact of sorts to shed off 10 pounds within a month's time--in the form of a contest. The biggest "loser" every end of the week is considered to be the person who has lost the most weight in terms of percentage loss (e.g. 5 lbs lost out of the expected overall goal of 10 lbs for example would results in a 50% weight loss) and exempted from giving a weekly Php 50 penalty. By the end of one month, the overall winner will receive the whole pot of money. It was an exciting challenge and opportunity for everyone in our team to lose weight.

Can I join??? I asked excitedly.

And all six teammates turned to give me their most withering stares.

"You are exempted from joining! And Reggie too!" Tintin declared vehemently. Apparently, they have made the collective decision to ban Reggie and me because us two were considered to be stick thin already. Daaa-yum. I would have loved the challenge, but then come to think of it, I didn't need to lose weight.

Tricia is currently on a fruit diet, so she set her weight loss goal at 8 lbs while the other five decided on losing 10 lbs. Pam announced that she wasn't joining, as dieting wasn't her thing--and I had to agree with her on that. I mean, for the life of me, I could never imagine myself going on a fruit diet. I had a big bowl of hot and spicy Mongolian food that Monday lunch, plus my 290-calorie Starbucks Caffe Mocha, and I wasn't about to give that all up. Besides, I needed the carbs to burn for boxing and running.

Because I was banned from the, er, Biggest Loser competition, I was appointed judge. Today, Tuesday morning, would be the start of the contest, and just like in a pre-boxing match, I had to weigh in all six participants and note down all their respective stats. And then I would have to weigh them every Friday, for the next 4 weeks. The weighing scale to be used would be, of course, the one located right in my work area.

I am seriously psyched for my teammates. Who's going to be the biggest loser, I wonder??

14 September 2009

Belated Happy Roald Dahl Day!

September 13 is Roald Dahl Day. I was in Kinokinuya last week and I saw this huge poster about it. Made me actually wish I had my own children to celebrate it with.

There's even a website wholly dedicated to the beloved children's author's official day: www.roalddahlday.info. Ain't it the cutest?

In this website, kids, teachers, store owners, and basically anyone who's a fan can celebrate Roald Dahl Day by using any of the suggested ideas listed here. Available for downloading are complete "Roald Dahl Day kits" and these can be customized, according to how you wish to celebrate this occasion--whether as a "splendiferous" day, as a "whizz-popping" term, or as long as a "gobblefunky" year. My favorite event toolkit consists of quizzes on his books plus Matilda-themed games. Wild!! How I love Roald Dahl.

13 September 2009

I miss blogging!

Back in Manila after 7 days in Bangkok. Had a majorly good time in the land of smiles and spicy food. Was there for training on UNICEF's web content management system, RedDot. The only description I can think of for RedDot is that it was simple and complicated at the same time. Harhar.

I'm going to cheat here and just list down what I liked best about those 7 days:

1. Staying in a fabulously cheap hotel located in the middle of the shopping district. Marge and I then had more money to burn. YAW-hoo!

2. Thai food, of course. I had tom yum every single day. And all sorts of spicy dishes.

3. Shopping. I've never been much of a shopper here in Manila. I don't buy clothes and shoes often, but Bangkok, with its dizzying array of stores and night market stalls, seems to bring out the shopaholic in everyone. Bought shoes, bags, a top, little souvenir stuff for the people back home, and loads of skin care products that one couldn't find in Manila.

4. KINOKUNIYA BOOKSTORE!!! Spent 3 hours in the Kino branch of Siam Paragon and combed all the bookshelves. The store, with all its titles and editions, was so beautiful, I almost wept. Spent more than I should have but at least I'm happy with my purchases. I made sure to buy only the books I haven't seen back home; nearly bought a copy of Joseph Heller's Closing Time, and then I remembered seeing one in Fully Booked.

I went back to Manila with 6 books plus 3 Foxtrot titles for Ryan, who was salivating on the other end of the line when I called to tell him I was standing in front of a stack of Foxtrot comic books.

More on my book purchases in another entry, because it deserves a separate blog post.

5. Riding the BTS Skytrain to and fro training and shopping. I love the city's Skytrain! It was fast, efficient, and the people were very nice and respectful in the way they went in and out the train. Wish I could say the same for Manila's MRT. The people here like barging into the MRT before they allow the other passengers to get out.

From the hotel to the training site, it takes me less than 20 minutes to ride the BTS to Siam, switch trains, get off at National Stadium, and walk a short distance to the training venue. No traffic at all, unless one takes a cab.

6. Thai massage. Had two wonderful massages while I was in BKK. Nothing abso-posi-lutely beats an authentic Thai massage. The kind of massage wherein you're twisted like a pretzel in all sorts of ways and your spine feels re-aligned afterwards. The spa was located right beside my hotel, which was perfect.

My masseuse was so good in making all the soreness and pain in my muscles go away, I simply had to know her name so I could request for her massage services the next time. She giggled and said in broken English, "Is hard to say name. Very long. So remember this number only." And she pointed to the number "70" which was embroidered on her spa uniform.

I couldn't believe my ears. Having one's identity reduced to a mere number just didn't seem right, even though the spa was very clean and pretty and treated both clients and staff very well.

7. Learning new things such as the cool stuff you can do in RedDot. RedDot can be pretty frustrating at times, but the training left Marge and me with huge desire to revamp our UNICEF Philippines website. Exciting times ahead!

8. Starbucks near my hotel and especially near the training site! I could take my pick of branches, actually. The coffee was more expensive than Starbucks Manila; my grande-sized nonfat Caffe Mocha with whip cost THB 120, which is equivalent to PHP 180. Highway robbery. But Starbucks in Thailand had those cool debit coffee cards where you can load some baht and then use it to charge your coffee purchases. It was so convenient. We don't have that in the Philippines.

The only downside to Starbucks in Thailand was that they supposedly charge you an extra THB 15 for the chocolate sauce on top of your Caffe Mocha. How weird is that?? I had a bit of an argument with the baristas on several occasions and insisted that the chocolate sauce was part of the Caffe Mocha recipe to begin with--and I know for a fact that if an ingredient is really part of the recipe, one shouldn't be charged extra for it. Heck, I know my Starbucks coffee, thank you very much. The baristas eventually gave in to my argument. I wasn't being a bully; I just knew my points were valid.

9. Khao San Road. It was Marge's birthday last Saturday, and she wanted to usher in her birthday by hanging out and drinking in Khao San. And oh my God did we drink. Went out with Belle and some of our regional colleagues and drank a whole lot of SangSom, the local whiskey mixed with Coke. It was sweet and lethal. Khao San was so alive with music, bright lights, people having fun and getting wasted, vendors selling all sorts of things from street food to dreadlock wigs to rubber lizards (what the hell), and flowing liquor. It was a real blast hanging out with the group. We were so noisy, yelling out a countdown to Marge's birthday Times-Square-on-New-Year's-Eve style. And then total strangers were coming up to Marge, hugging her and wishing her a happy birthday. I'm pretty sure she had one.

10. The best thing about this trip? Meeting new people in other UNICEF country offices and ending up being good friends with them! I mean, after 5 days of training, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, how can you not?

I miss my training mates already: sweet, giggly Tsolmon from Mongolia, Prayi (I hope I got the spelling of her name right) from Korea, Cindy from China (one of the nicest girls ever), and Joseph of Fiji, who totally cracks me up because he likes to confuse Tsolmon by deliberately giving her the wrong instructions (and I end up correcting them). Joseph and I more or less have the same technical competencies, so it was good to share best practices on that level. And then there's Dike of Indonesia, of course, whom I've met before in a previous workshop/training, so it was nice to see a familiar face. We call each other by our last names, laugh hysterically, and just basically hang out in class and after training hours.

Nat and Kritsada from the Bangkok regional office were great companions, especially Nat, who took me to lunch several times and offered to accompany me to Starbucks for my after-lunch coffee. She and Kritsada were also so kind in helping me plan Marge's birthday cake surprise. We had a delicious ice-cream cake from Swensen's delivered to our training venue last Friday afternoon, and surprised Marge by switching off the training room lights, carrying in the cake, with everyone singing 'Happy Birthday' while she blew out the candles.

Valerie, our RedDot trainor based in UNICEF NY headquarters, is definitely one of the sweetest, most engaging persons ever, and learning RedDot would have been absolutely boring if she wasn't the one handling it. Some aspects of the training were basic to me, but a considerable number of participants (there were 27 of us in total) encountered a bit of struggle in mastering the stuff--and Valerie was so funny and patient handling all of us.

It also felt nice to be asked for help by the others in Photoshop; I mean, I only knew basic to intermediate stuff in Photoshop and am no expert, but it was a good feeling to share what knowledge I had to others who had zero experience with Adobe Photoshop.

And when Valerie asked me last-minute to present to the whole group (with my regional boss looking on and asking technical questions, gulp) the web analytics tool that UNICEF uses, I was a little alarmed and flabbergasted. First of all, it was a big shock to find out that none of the country offices in our region were using Urchin (the web analytics tool) except for the Philippines. Secondly, I was also relatively new to Urchin, and just learned my way around it, generating the reports I needed and making my data analyses from there. So it was pretty funny for me, standing in front of the "class" and teaching them how to draw up web data reports by going on the Philippines' Urchin live system, to use filters, to make the proper analysis, etc--because I was no expert myself. I'm just glad Valerie and I did well in answering the others' questions (and there were some hard ones, really) about Urchin.

I went to Bangkok with the original intent of learning from the trainor, and ended up doing a bit of trainor work as well, which was a nice experience.

The other participants were from all sorts of places like Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia. The beautiful thing about working in the UN system is that you become exposed to various cultures and you learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each one. I wish more people could experience the kind of training and exposure I'm having, and I wish UNICEF would still continue giving me such wonderful learning opportunities.

Bangkok, you haven't seen the last of me, I hope!

01 September 2009

What’s on my desk today?

Just one big mess of direct mail materials and UN documents to read.

Busy, busy, busy.

The green mailer is my latest newsletter campaign, which will be dispatched next week to our donors (yehey!). I have two other direct mail campaigns to handle this week. Printing to start the week after (while I deal with online fundraising and a multitude of other things), and then letter shopping and dispatch before the end of the month.

People may think direct mail fundraising is easy, but it’s really not—and the technical demands of the job make me hyperventilate sometimes.

The coffee on my desk is to keep me sharp, the lemons to make my cough go away. The painting is to keep me relaxed, and the books are always there to make me stay sane.

My messy desk serves a purpose.