The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

An office book club read, The Underground Railroad was compelling and unfiltered—a refreshing change from somewhat controlled environments. To me, the main character was intelligent though uneducated. I found myself triggered as I came upon the main character’s harsh realization about life: equality is but an illusion.

underground

The Underground Railroad took me through an emotional roller coaster.  Here are some questions that I asked myself as I read the book and some snarky questions-as-answers from yours truly because fake closure:

How do you know whom you can trust?

You don’t. You don’t know if they’ll help you, and they do. You think they’re going to help you, but they won’t. It’s hit or miss, so how incredibly lucky can you get?

Why would you risk your life for another person?

Why does anyone do anything anyway? What makes another person’s life more valuable than yours? Can you even make a difference? Will anyone even care?

Will you take a leap of faith?

How do make that life worth living?

Read it. I hope it sparks a fire in you as well.

Bookish Plug: Another book that got me triggered as well was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Where to start for this one? I admit that it took me a while to read this book. Now that busy season is almost slightly maybe but only for the meantime over, I was finally able to finish this book. I only wish that I’d begun this book not-during-busy season, but we can’t all win, can we?

So… just in case I’d have free time or not be too pooped to read, I brought this book everywhere to the point that I almost ripped the dust jacket as I tried to stuff the book into my backpack. (I’m sorry, book.)

 

I love this book because it’s about family, and it’s pretty much an origin story. (Where did I come from? How did I get here?) As I read, intermittently, I remembered my own grandmother telling me tales of her youthpiece by piece and at different points of my childhood. In the same way I’ve always loved hearing about old family stories, e.g. my mom living in a boarding house; my grandmother hiding in the jungle during the war; my mom and my aunt preparing a chicken for dinner, I absolutely enjoyed reading about the most enigmatic grandfather ever.

Some themes in Moonglow that are very relevant today: PTSD and mental illness; family ties and unconditional love; pursuit of one’s passionya know, things like that. It’s a great bookI feared I would spoil it if I raved too much, so I just vaguely listed things out to get it out of the system.

PS I met Michael Chabon. I decided to stop by my fave bookstore, Books on the Park (see here for reference) one beautiful spring evening, and I noticed that there were more people than usual at the bookstore. I turned out that Michael Chabon was going to give a reading, so I stayed since I was already there anyway. I went home a happy camper; Michael Chabon signed my book, yay.

Even with its battle scars (lipstick stain included), what a beloved book this is.

Masungi Georeserve

I capped my trip to the Philippines with a “hike” at Masungi Georeserve. I added quotation marks because it was essentially an active and engaging tour of the reservation. We had a park ranger take us around and educate us on different aspects of the reservation. There was a good mix of natural and man-made spots at Masungi — it was like an obstacle course, for which reason I found my visit to be an unusual hike.

Since Masungi is a protected area, there are some rules that must be followed. The park ranger gives an orientation at the beginning of the visit, but here are some rules that stuck:

  1. Wear your helmet. The reservation protects, among other things, rocks that formed below sea level long, long ago. With these come interesting caves that are part of the trail. The point of wearing the helmet is to avoid scraping your head on the cave ceiling. I felt the ceiling scratch the surface of my helmet as I walked through some caves, so OK, I get it.
  2. Don’t make extremely loud noises. Your loud voice will echo throughout the reservation and may potentially scare off some animals that the park rangers have worked so hard to provide a sanctuary for. We had fun, bitter, and sawi (translation: broken-hearted) conversations during the visit — even our park ranger joined in — so talking is OK, being obnoxious not so much.
  3. Do not litter. Please. People should learn to respect and protect the environment. The Philippines is rich with natural beauty, yet so many take this for granted. This may be extreme, but let’s not let it ever get to the point of no return e.g. Pasig River.
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