A1 Deutsch marathon is on!

We’re almost through the first week of the Super Intensive A1 course at Goethe. Chuckle you might, but it lived up to every bit of its name. First week in and we already have a long test this Friday which will cover introductions and basic conjugations that we learned so far.

As it stands, my workplace is only a few blocks away from Goethe and here’s a photo of an attractive hanging garden using bamboo. Totally unrelated but it’s quite refreshing to see even the tiniest patches of green in this concrete jungle.



Intensive A1 German Lessons at Goethe Institut

I did it. I just paid a fortune for a German language lesson that will most likely cover my three semesters if I was still in university.

Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to invest in what I can take with me wherever I go. But more than the potentially newly acquired skill is also the relief from waiting. Learning something new, in my opinion, is the best way to pass the time while mein Liebster and I process the required documents to be together for good.

There are various ways to study for an A1 certification for German language proficiency but I took what to me would be most convenient with my work schedule and the commute distance. Luckily for me, Goethe Institut is just a stone’s throw away from where I am currently employed so going back and forth won’t be such a stretch considering Manila traffic.

Before eventually deciding to go with Goethe Institut in Manila, I toyed with the idea of self-studying to learn German. I found two useful resources for it (see Self-Studying German for Goethe’s A1 Exam and 5 wallet-friendly ways to learn German) but ultimately went for a formal class. There’s something about meeting new people while learning something new that excites me. So even if quite pricey, I decided to attend a formal course.

I was eyeing the Saturday only classes for A1 but I was told that the whole course is divided in three parts: A1.1 to A1.3, with each part taking three months. This is also not overwhelming on the pocket (although amounting the same) as the payment will be divided into three parts. However, a 9-month route to learn basic German will be tricky to squeeze in my schedule with this year’s travel plans making it not the best option for me.

With all that considered, I ended up with an intensive course that I must attend everyday from Monday to Friday at four hours a day. The next two months will definitely be quite exhausting as I will end up with about 12 to 13 hours of work time. Let’s see how I settle into a tighter schedule with paperwork to complete on top of travel arrangements to work on and work commitments.

While at the institute, I also decided to purchase the books required for the course and got a little bit giddy at the prospect of directing my excess energy towards something that will prove to be useful soon.

The books too didn’t come affordable. But in both books not only did they not scrimp on colorful illustrations with lessons chopped down thinly for easier processing, but also included a CD as a learning companion. In that way, maybe the selling price computes.

I’m quite anxious about the qualifying test that’s scheduled soon after the course finishes yet I know that it’s going to be fun preparing for it too! In the coming weeks, I’ll try to keep this space posted on my progress and let you know if the course is worth all that it took.




Edgar Guest: On Quitting

With the coming of a new year (a new day, week even) comes various resolves about quitting. There was a man who quit his job every 31st of December to refocus and assess whether what he is doing is what he would want to be spending his time on. The more typical fare would be to give up select vices and abandon negative traits serving as the fetter that keeps us from where we want to be.

A certain lightness and agility is required to move from one place to another. Stuck or not, whether we are able to bring ourselves to that new point is most often a combination of what we gave up to be there and how strongly we fought to keep from going back.

In this rather hard-hitting poem, Edgar Guest links grit with quitting and builds the meaning of both by asking whether we  are still able to obey our ‘rigid orders’ to ourselves when faced with not a chance to win but a likelihood to fail. He makes turning away from what gives joy a litmus test of grit.

It is human to be tempted to give up and settle with what is known to be the way things are. But we also know that we need to wake up and fight (the last of Woody Guthrie’s simply but powerfully penned New Year’s resolutions) to realize our dreams.

As the week opens, may you and I, have the grit to continue playing this tough game of making the body obey the mind (and not the other way around!).


On Quitting
Edgar Guest

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?

You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.

The long and short of it

Resistant in the beginning but I’ve somehow adopted a solid weekday routine: walking to work.

I live about 20 to 30 minutes on foot from work. The first few months were terrible just as most changes are. I hated the heat, people who rushed past me and some who took their sweet time walking as if filming a romantic comedy, and the putrid smell of dried urine lining every possible wall.

It wasn’t easy. I was walking while muttering to myself and inwardly letting out a string of expletives. There was a point when I blamed corruption for stop lights that don’t work and traffic enforcers who are found beneath a perfectly working traffic light.

There were days when I caved in and relied on an app to hail me a cab. But the more I take the cabs that I shouldn’t be taking, along came with it my worsened disposition. I hated waiting for the stop light to turn green.

That was about the time I quit cabbing.


I’m not the most patient person and walking relieves me from it. Within the time it took for me to get to work, I can go as fast as I please. Or take my time crossing, observing people, and trying to commit to memory plate numbers.

Walking offers a form of solitude while being ensconced in the company of noise. It is sometimes bewildering to find myself surrounded by so much movement and yet being oddly comforted by things that remain the same: the stop light on a busy street that only allows a 7-second crossing time for the pedestrian, that middle-aged man who would peddle (probably stolen) phones on the same spot, and the predictable succession of waiting for four traffic lights that separate me from the office to change colors whenever I get started with a red.

There were also good, extremely lucky days. And they were quite plenty too. A good, extremely luck walking day would be finding myself on the green as soon as I get to the first traffic light. But my most favorite of all is the ticking time bomb when I get just a few precious seconds to get across the street.

Many walks are forgettable. People’s faces, which cars almost ran me over and their plate numbers are forgotten as soon I get to my destination.

But I have also come to look forward to it: the constancy in the passing of cars and people, the color switches, and the route. Lucky day or not, just like living, I go forth with my usual walk and relish how time has revealed muscles and strength where there used to be none.

Naomi Shihab Nye: Burning The Old Year

The year 2015 sits on a very special in me. It is the year when I found myself without yet full. In every sense of the word.

Emptiness had been a constant companion. The first kind of empty was a personal loss that I learned so much from. The first kind of empty helped in getting me started with the many milestones that made the previous year magical. At first there was anguish for the feeling of being emptied out but after a while there is gratitude. Tremendous gratitude for the emptiness where I found what now fills my heart with a sense of quiet contentment and certainty.

It was the year when I worked on my physical well-being and surprised myself of the deep reserves of self-control that I never knew I had. I took my time chewing and appreciating how the individual components of a dish came together and was mindful of what my stomach was telling me. For the first time I stopped when I felt full.

Even as 2015 started out dim with what seemed like one loss after another; in the end it was glorious. With open arms, I welcome what 2016 brings while clutching tightly those that matter.


Burning the Old Year
Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Poem Source: Poetry Foundation
Photo by mein Liebster