Friday, October 6, 2017

Listen

I've been mindfully making an effort to live by my Guiding Star Touchstones this year.

A Touchstone is a message that connects you to your deepest wisdom. I use my Touchstones to remind me of what really matters and to guide me when I feel confused. Here's an exercise that will help you find your own personal Touchstones.

My Touchstones this year are:

Persisting Brings Joy (which I wrote about here)

Create to Feel Great

Listen

Today, I want to talk to you about Listen.

As I was crafting my Guiding Star plan back in January, I realized that I had developed an ugly habit - I wasn't truly listening to people. I would let them talk, but like so many of us, I would be formulating my response in my head as they were talking. Even worse, I would often feel my Inner Judge (she's a nasty son of a gun) mouthing off about how wrong said person was or how stupid said person was or if said person would only listen to ME.  But the worst realization of all?

I was using this habit on the people I loved the most.

I would do it to Beloved ALL THE TIME.

Starting January 8, I made a concerted effort (big words for I'm going to try very hard) to listen, to give all of my attention to the person in front of me. To just listen, not craft a perfect response, not tell a bigger, better story, not try to connect with them through a common thread (this habit, which I inherited from my father, is admirable, but taken too far, I find it actually makes me less connected).

Let me tell you - this Touchstone has transformed, yes, transformed my existence this year.  Don't forget, I'm out on the road in strange new lands with people who, six months ago, were strange new people to me. Reminding myself to listen to these strangers has created deep bonds with many of them. I honestly try to listen, to speak only when it is absolutely necessary, to give my colleagues the opportunity to complain or feel joyful or feel bad, to BE THEMSELVES. Many of them are no longer strangers to me.

Listening has given me great benefits as well. I am finding life to be easier when I listen. Situations that I would have previously gotten involved in are rolling off my back. I'm not reacting to every pebble that gets kicked up on the road of life. I'm not trying to solve everyone's problems for them.

Ironically, listening to others led to being listened to by others. It happened one night in Hangzhou, China, as I was enjoying a misty evening with 2 of my colleagues. The conversation started simply, with one colleague asking about my son. He asked and I talked, about my son, about how proud I am of him, about how I never expected to be a mother, about how I was frightened that I would be a bad mother, about how my son taught me how to be a good mother, about the blessing of having a good relationship with a strong independent child (that could read stubborn and mean, right?)  My colleagues did nothing but listen.

Two days later, I thanked one of those colleagues for letting me talk. I realized how much it meant to me when I started to choke up while thanking him. What a gift they had given me. A simple gift available to all of us.

Listen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Still Better Than Nothing

As I move through my 15 minutes of blogging today, this post from July of 2016 seems most appropriate.

Better Than Nothing

A favorite mantra of mine, particularly when I'm feeling overwhelmed.


20 minutes at the gym?  Better than nothing.



10 minutes working on that project that follows you wherever you go?  Better than nothing.



Sometimes that's all you can do.  As long as it doesn't become your regular approach, you're okay.

Like this short post.

Better than nothing.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a little boy lived on a farm in North Dakota. He went to a one-room schoolhouse. He would spend hours looking at the globe, tracing his finger over the shapes and strange names. 

"Mongolia. I'm going to go there some day."

Once upon a time a little girl lived in a little town in Wisconsin. She would make up stories and dance and sing into her hairbrush microphone, so much that her sisters and brother would yell at her to shut up.

"Some day I'm going to be a singer."

The little boy and the little girl grew up, met each other and married. Their marriage was typical, full of ups and downs, arguments and love fests, good times and bum times. Because they agreed their love for each other mattered more than anything else, they compromised over and over again. One year, the little boy would live out his dreams while the little girl worked to help him. The next year, the little girl would live out her dreams while the little boy worked to help him. Somehow, this arrangement lasted for decades.

Today is their wedding anniversary and they aren't together, 
but you don't need to feel sad for them. 

They aren't together because they are living their dreams.

The little boy is in Mongolia, seeing the wild horses and drinking yak milk.

The little girl is on a stage in Beijing, China, singing her heart out.

The only things missing are the globe and the hairbrush microphone.

Happy Anniversary, Richard.
I love you more.



The Glamorous Life, Beijing Style

Beijing, the capital of China. When I hear the word Beijing, I think Mao, bad air, and too many people. None of which are on my top 10 list.

Well, the air IS bad.

AQI of 175 today which means unhealthy, wear your mask.

And Mao does still exist here.

The entrance to the Forbidden City.

And there are people, LOTS of people here.

Temple of Heaven with lots of people.
But Beijing is so much more than bad air and Mao. There's a vibrant, cosmopolitan feeling in the atmosphere. Young people ride by on bikes from one of the many bikeshare companies, fancy cars (Lexus, BMW and Mercedes are big here) drive by and the crowds are loving Sister Act.  The first night, while heading to the Great Leap Brewery, I felt like I was walking in Paris. I did. The beer scene is hopping (pun intended) and food of all cuisines is easy to find. Last week, I ate American Barbeque with another excellent Chinese beer, Slow Boat. FYI, most of these beers seem to have an ex-pat partner or two.

Once again, China has surprised me. Yes, dodging parked bikes and aggressive cars while wearing a face mask is tricky, but I'm okay with that for three weeks.

Go ahead! Park it wherever you want!

How they look after the bike company workers clean up.


I've tried to see as many sites as possible. Beloved joined me this week (he's now off to Mongolia for a few days) and we packed in even more, including:

 the Lama Temple, which is a must-see in my opinion.







Summer Palace (which was mobbed the day I was there)



Great Wall, of course. Actually, I went there twice, once with my colleagues and once with Beloved.



Forbidden City, which is HUGE




Walking is an absolute necessity here, as is patience. Beijing is home to 22 million people and most days it feels like that many are visiting as well. I'm having no problem reaching 10,000 steps a day!

Don't forget that I also go to work every night (twice on Saturdays and Sundays), spreading love and joy. I am truly embracing the magnificent abundance and navigating gracefully (my Guiding Star slogan).

Our run here in Beijing ends on Sunday. Beloved returns from Mongolia and we head to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors on Monday. Then it's on to Shanghai for 2 weeks there.

There's so much to tell you, but this must be enough for now. Please feel free to ask questions by posting a comment here on Creatavita or on your favorite social media platform.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Glamorous Life, Shenzhen Style

Oh boy, where do I start? There have been so many adventures, and off the stage. I'm still thriving.

First from our time in Guangzhou, which was now 2 weeks ago.

Nap time is big here in China. As it should be. The only surprise?  Public napping. Extraordinary public napping.

See these folks? I thought they were an art installation.


Hey, in my defense, they're sitting in a space in the gorgeous modern Guangzhou Opera House. See for yourself:

The opera house is behind me

One part of the opera house


Look, I stood there for at least 3 minutes, trying to determine if they were real people and decided they weren't. I was even impressed that the guy in the front had a Bluetooth gizmo in his ear. So I snapped the photo. And then the guy in the back turned the page in his book!

Only later when I saw more people in the same position in a food court did I realize what a phenomenon extreme napping is in China.

These Buildings. I tell you, the architecture is amazing. Look! These are from last week in Shenzhen

Can you see how the sculpture starts on one side of the building and ends on the other?


Shenzhen Poly Theatre
There was no way I could get enough photos to give you a true sense of the many modern buildings in Shenzhen. However, the modern buildings didn't mean good Internet. This was the first week that we encountered how the Internet works in China. Our hotel had weak Internet (much like I've experienced in the US), but when combined with needing a VPN, it was a failure. Hence, I had trouble uploading photos and posting.

We're starting to see ourselves in the publicity.
Yes, that's me - back row on the left.






My Anxious Imagination

Here I am in China, the mysterious empire on the other side of the planet. Three weeks in (I'll be here for 10 weeks), I am finding it fascinating, much easier to get around than I expected and nowhere near as intimidating as I had imagined.

Imagined. That is the key word here. Boy, what I had imagined.
I didn't imagine this.

I imagined this.



Leo Babauta of Zen Habits calls it the stories we tell ourselves. Let me tell you about the stories I had told myself.


Let's talk about my travel to China. The story I told myself was that this trip (which consisted of a short flight between Philadelphia and JFK, and a direct flight from JFK to Guangzhou) would be horrific, destined to be one of the worst I have ever taken in my life.


I was wrong.


How did I get there? It's a question worth exploring because inside the answer is a key to so many triggers for my personal anxiety, which I'm going to guess is similar to your anxiety.


Online Reviews - I dislike online reviews. Even though I know the best approach to online reviews (throw out the top and bottom rated ones, read the middle), the negative ones seem to form my story. And once that negative review is in my head, I can't get rid of that information.  So when I read the numerous negative reviews for the airline I was flying to China, I was convinced this trip was going to be a disaster.


Bad Customer Service - The airline industry struggles with providing high-quality customer service (I hope that sentence made you laugh out loud.).  This same airline with the negative reviews has a seat reservation system that is inconvenient to say the least. It was impossible to reserve my seat online. Which meant I had to call one phone number to find out I had to call another phone number, then talk to a service rep who was clearly having trouble communicating. So he hung up. So I called back. He didn't hang up this time, but there was plenty of silence, as I heard sounds in the background (is he making coffee? is he in an office or his house? where is he on the planet?), received short answers, and finally was asked for my credit card information. You anxious for me?


This airline's website also states a carry- on weight limit of 5 kgs, which is about 11 pounds. 11 pounds for carry-on??!? Look, I'm good at keeping my weight limits down when traveling, but even I think 11 pounds for a long-haul flight is ridiculous. Do I pack 11 pounds or go with everything (which was about 16 pounds) and hope they let me on the plane? And yes, I was once stopped from taking an overweight carry-on onto a long-haul flight, and yes, I have not forgotten that experience.

Her Experience Will Not Be Your Experience - I love this phrase, given to me by Tara Tagliaferro. Unfortunately, I forgot it. Since some of my colleagues had had a negative experience with the demon airline, I convinced myself I would also have a negative experience.

Mental Tape Loops - once they're going, they're going. I have a heck of a time getting them to stop.

This all combined to make me a pretty difficult person to be around. At one point I yelled at Beloved, "Look. I know I am not handling this well. I am trying and I am failing.". He just looked at me and went back to his crossword puzzle. Smart move on his part.

So what did work?

Live in This Moment - which is really challenging for me when I'm feeling this anxious. But it works. I remind myself to live in this moment, not the one that just went by, not the one that's around the corner.

Trusting My Gut - which felt completely confused. I would literally stop myself, breathe, ask myself what was the best thing to do in this moment, wait for an answer and go on. I wasn't entirely successful (see yelling at Beloved above), but I tried.

Get Away - take a vacation from my anxiety. When I was as packed and prepared as possible, I dropped it all and went for a walk in Valley Forge National Park with Beloved. I looked at trees, I watched tourists, I felt the fresh air on my skin. This was the best thing I could do with my time and energy. At the end of the walk, I felt more settled and had a much better perspective on my life.

The trip? Ended up being one of the easiest long-haul flights I have ever taken. My flight from Philadelphia to JFK actually landed early. I was the first person to check in for the flight to Guangzhou. No one batted an eye at my carry-on. The customer service rep goodheartedly agreed with me that the seat reservation system was inadequate. The flight left on time and was comfortable. The food was airline food. Hey, we're not looking for miracles, just less anxiety!

And here I am.
Writing this for you, three weeks later, it is hard to recall how anxious I actually was. I mean my stomach is tightening, my hands are getting cold and my brain is looking for something to be anxious about, but I am realizing that all of this is still an anxious ol' story I tell myself. Living through this anxiety made me realize how I can work with my anxiety and not let it win every time.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Persisting Brings Joy

Yes, that's the theatre.
The Poly Theatre Shenzhen.

Creataviters, it happened. One of my Guiding Star Touchstones, Persisting Brings Joy, worked.

After 100 performances covering the role of Mother Superior and appearing nightly in the Ensemble of Sister Act, I finally went on as Mother Superior.

Ni hao Shenzhen.

I've been wanting to tell this woman's story ever since I met her. I'll admit, when I was offered my current contract (covering the role, not performing it regularly), I was disappointed. I even shed a few tears. This woman lives in my soul. I know her like the back of my hand. We have much in common. But I sucked it up, realized my good fortune and opportunity, and moved through the disappointment so I could come to Asia with a bunch of really good folk.

Going on is always full of emotion. Somebody else is sick or injured. And in this case I really, really, really like (okay, let's call it love) this person - Rebecca Mason-Wygal. If you look up the word professional in the dictionary, there's a picture of Rebecca. But guess what. She gave me advance notice, she sent me hints telling me to make sure to find the handkerchief and crucifix, she even gave me a present! That's right, no petty jealousy here.

Then there's the other cover, my best friend on this tour, Megan Opalinski. Like me, she's also covered this role before and not gone on. Only by the luck of the draw (we'll be switching the roles we're covering very soon) did I go on this week.  Guess who came up to me during the show with many thumbs up and "you're doing greats"? Guess who was the first one to hug me after the curtain dropped?  And I don't mean a fake, sure you were okay, I'll take one for the team hug. I mean an authentic, boy, am I proud of you, congratulations hug. Yup, Megan. Her picture is right next to Rebecca's in that dictionary.

What did I realize from this experience?

Discipline Works. You know, I don't think of myself as disciplined, but I am. I have a very specific routine as a cover (which is coming in another post). I'll tell you right now, it involves daily review of my lines and staging, as well as daily vocal work. It also means I am keeping myself rested and as healthy as possible. That means making choices about when to socialize and when to go to bed. Not always fun, but I'm here to perform a show first and enjoy myself second.

Together We Are Strong. I used to fail at this concept. Epically. I felt so insecure, I thought I had to hang onto all of the marbles for myself. I would close off from colleagues who were just trying to be my friend. Thank God I've figured out what a waste of energy that was. Rebecca and Megan were not the only colleagues who stood next to me, gave me encouragement or offered to help. And what a difference that made.


That's a wig.
Be Prepared. Which is really an offspring of Discipline Works. Will I go on again? One never knows when one is a cover. My job is to be prepared and that's what I do. I wake up every day and know that my priority is to be prepared. The rest is up to someone else, so I don't even think about it. I have enough to do making sure I'm prepared.

That's Megan behind with the big authentic smile on her face.
I have so much more to tell you, but it is time for me to rest. Now you get out there and persist. Because joy is around the corner waiting for you.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Day In The Life, Part 1


In May, I asked you what you were curious about. What did you want to know from Creatavita? One of you (thank you for the comment, Unknown) requested a post about my daily life. As I said in my comment, I didn't think that would be of interest. I was glad to find out it would be...at least to Unknown. I started composing a draft about my daily life and was quickly stymied. Writing this was more challenging than I anticipated. How DO I spend my time? How do I write about it without sounding inane (10:45 - bathroom break)?

So, another series of posts is born, because the daily life of a touring performer differs greatly, depending on what part of the process the project is in.

Today, I'll start with a day in the life when I am in rehearsals. I'm intending to write at least 3 more posts in this series. Why? My schedule is a bouncing ball and I believe knowing about said schedule would provide insight for many of you.

I'll start with a day in the life, New York City rehearsal style, in April 2017.

6:30 am - The alarm goes off. I always start everyday with my gratitude practice (I focus on my Guiding Star slogan and think of three things for which I am grateful). Once that's done, my feet willingly hit the floor.

I can't believe my good fortune. I'm staying at the East Side apartment of a very generous friend. The apartment, like most Manhattan apartments, isn't large, but it is comfortable. When my friend is in town for work, I sleep on the pullout sofa (it's really comfortable). When she's isn't here, I get the bed. She's high up in the corporate world, so her hours are even longer than mine. Consequently, when I'm here, I'm usually alone.

I prefer to start the day quietly and slowly, Hence, the next two hours are filled with:
Coffee and reading the paper (yes, I still read the paper, and you should too)
Breakfast
Prepare lunch
Shower, dress and pack for the day (I've usually prepped the night before)
Vocalize and review material for today’s rehearsal.

8:45 am - Most days I walk to work. I allow 45 minutes so I'm sure to be early. If I choose to stop for coffee, or walk a different route, I know I'll have time. I also use this time to talk to Beloved. Occasionally, I take the subway, but since I enjoy the morning walk and find it an excellent easy stretch, that's my first choice.

9:30 am - I arrive at the rehearsal studio. Rehearsal doesn't start until 10:00 am, but I HATE BEING LATE. I find it beneficial to have this time to take care of questions or just socialize with my new colleagues. Then there's going to the bathroom. While this might seem severe, leaving rehearsal to go to the bathroom is frowned upon. Texting or taking a phone call is also a huge no-no; it's best to take care of all personal business before rehearsals start.

10:00 am - Alright, let's head into the first rehearsal session of the day. Usually, there is a 10-minute break every 50 minutes, but since this is a non-union production, that is not required. As we get further into the process, we're more likely to work through break times.

Rehearsal for a show like Sister Act (specifically, for the Nuns) is intense. We have intricate vocal harmonies, which switches from 2 parts to 3 parts to 4 parts and back again, all in one song. We have "ography"; while the movement for this show isn't classified as dance, it is complex and there is a LOT of it. Then there's the scenes where we aren't dancing, but we are singing or just being. We start the rehearsal period working each element separately, combining them by the 5th day of rehearsal.

Because this show requires so much movement, there's no dressing up for work. My uniform consists of workout clothes and sneakers. Comfort is a must. At first, this is great. Even though I splurged and bought most of my rehearsal clothes at Athleta, by the end of week 2, I'm tired of them. I'm dying to wear real clothes.


This is us in April.


This is us in May.

One of the travails of this rehearsal period is the climate control in the rehearsal studio. First cold, then hot. Those of us moving are hot, while those sitting are cold. The door has to stay closed because of the sound and that heats up the room. Just right doesn't exist.

2:00 pm - Lunch. We get 60 minutes for lunch, which can get easily swallowed up. I usually like to get some fresh air on a lunch break, but the area around this studio is congested with no green spaces close by. Most days I bring my lunch and stay in the building. This gives me more time to eat (standing in NYC food lines can suck up a lot of time) and leaves more money in my pocket. This is also the only opportunity of the day to return phone calls, emails, texts, etc. Brush my teeth, use the restroom, chat with my colleagues and we're back. The 60 minutes zooms by.

3:00 pm - Back to work. It's a repeat of the morning.


6:00 pm - Rehearsal day is done. I take the subway home or walk, possibly run an errand (hello CVS) and eat dinner. Most nights after dinner, I study. That's right, I study. Because I do my best work up on my feet,
I rearrange the furniture so I can get up and practice blocking and choreography, being careful not to break anything! I take breaks to work out, write for Creatavita, and interact in my digital world.

I'm in New York, so you'd think I'd see some theatre or get out. I do. I get to two shows and I see friends for dinner three times. Yes, that's all. Disappointing, right? Folks, I'm just too tired at the end of the day! Besides, I know I need to use the energy I have left to work on the material for the next day. I'm here to do a job and it is my intention to do the best job possible every day. Being prepared is key to making that happen.

10:30 pm - I'm done. I crawl into bed with a book, content with a good day's work, ready to rest my body and brain.




Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Glamorous Life Guangzhou Style

I know the videos aren't working.
I'll see what I can do when I get back from my 2-show day.
In the meantime, enjoy Guangzhou with me!

Well Creataviters, here we go. China.

I can't tell you how many times Beloved and I have started to plan a trip to this country. Every time we have been sidetracked. Visiting China felt so overwhelming. We didn't know where to start. All the questions - what cities do we visit? how long do we stay? do we visit Tibet? do we visit Mongolia? do we do it alone? - would stop us in our tracks. Hence, one of the main reasons I took this Sister Act contract was to get to China. I would have a purpose and an itinerary. I'd see at least some of the country (as will Beloved. He'll be joining me for 2 weeks).

So...here I am, at the end of the first week of a 10-week stay. The itinerary is here.

Next to our very Western hotel. More bikes to come.

One week in, here are some initial impressions, along with photos, because I know some of you love photos:

I get a sense of a country as soon as I step out of the airport. There's something in the air. My sense of China? Much better than I anticipated. There's a hustle and bustle here in Guanzhou, but I'm not overwhelmed. I assume that will change when we get to Beijing.

The people move with a purpose, but the notorious Chinese rudeness has not appeared...yet. I was told that due to my Western physical structure and blonde hair, I would draw attention. I see the occasional child look at me, and I saw one man take photos of a group of us, but that's been it. I sense that people are, as we say, living their best lives, and aren't necessarily concerned about others that look different.

One of the scattered photos.
This from our trek at the Baiyun Scenic Area.
Guangzhou is cleaner than I expected. The air is cleaner, as is the ground. I expected thick smog, unkempt public places and disgusting smells. I am surprised by the amount of green. On Tuesday, I trekked with five of my colleagues to the Baiyun Scenic Area. We climbed steps, we walked, we got lost, we sweated, we couldn't get a cab, we finally found a bus home, we had a great time. There are photos scattered throughout this post.

Language and cultural misunderstandings are going to be a part of life. I need to get over it and eat the dumplings, even if it isn't exactly what I thought I was ordering.

Connectivity is currently slightly challenging.  Our hotel has great wifi with a built-in VPN. In most cases, accessing free wifi requires a Chinese phone number (you need a verification code, even at Starbucks), which I don't have yet. While there is internet in the theatre, we are not allowed to use it. I'm not sure why, and to tell you the truth, I kind of like being disconnected. I'm forced to look around me and talk to people, or read a book or knit instead of mindlessly scrolling Facebook.

Speaking of the theatre, wow. Incredible building surrounded by more incredible buildings, a beautiful huge pedestrian plaza with fountains and small green areas (complete with walkways) and access to food. Lots of food - interesting, not interesting (hello McDonald's and Starbucks), and very reasonably priced.

I wanted you to see the beautiful ceiling.





The opera house is behind me.
The weather is currently VERY hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday and today), which would be okay, but the air quality disintegrates quickly. Yesterday and today are both rated as unhealthy by my app, AirVisual. So far I'm okay, with just a bit of burning sensation in my eyes, but some of my colleagues are really struggling. 
This was a good air quality day.

Don't forget the green when the air is nasty.
So much more I have to tell you! Stay tuned.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lessons From The Boss

I found an article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer that merits passing on. There's some valuable ideas in here; it's definitely worth the click.

Don't let the title (10 Business Tips from Bruce Springsteen) scare you away. These tips are gold for a creator like you.

My two favorites won't surprise anyone who is a regular reader of Creatavita. They are Learning for A Lifetime and Have a Hungry Heart. What are your favorites?

You'll find the article here.

Off to China next week!



Monday, July 10, 2017

The Glamorous Life Manila Style Chapter 2


Last Monday, after 5 days of jet-lagged rehearsals, press events and performances, we were released from Queen of Angels convent for THREE entire days. During a run of a show, it is typical to get only one entire day off, but we had 2 performances cancelled here in Manila. While I love performing this show, I was thrilled to have the extra time off to breathe unfiltered air and explore the city.

My colleague, Ashley Masula, found a fantastic tour guide and away six of us went on Monday.  The first observation I have for you - you're not alone. I thought I was the only one dying to get outside. Nope! The first stop was Rizal Park and as each one of us stepped out of the van into the hot, muggy air, most of us took a deep breath and sighed, "ah, fresh air".  I know, I know, your idea of fresh air is not a tropical urban environment. But after 5 days of filtered air systems, authentic air felt great!

One of the many impressive statues in Rizal Park.

Don't forget, we're in a developing country. 

Come on, I'm hungry!

Fort Santiago, from the Spanish colonial period.

Looks trendy now, but as recently as WWII,
this dungeon was used for crimes against humanity.

Lunch was the best - a stop at a seafood center, the type where you pick out your fresh seafood on one side and head to a restaurant on the other side (we went to Seazar's Seafood), tell them how you want it prepared and have a feast. We had grouper, mussels, shrimp, crab, calamari, seaweed (tasted a bit like a pickle to me), spinach, vegetables (we're always trying to find good vegetables) and fresh coconut water. I was too busy eating to take photos of the food. Trust me when I tell you it was fantastic. AND...$16.00 per person.

We did not eat this gorgeous lobster.
We DID have fun with Arthur.

Some of the choices.
Decisions, decisions.

Fresh coconuts!!!


We also visited a Jeepney "factory" and the world's only bamboo organ.


Super-styling Jeepney.

No video allowed during the organ performance.
Let's just say a few beats were dropped in Amazing Grace.
Still, a very mellow sound.

I am so lucky to have wonderful colleagues and traveling companions.
One of the perks of being over 40 is the many people you meet in life. This perk worked out beautifully for me Monday evening, as I was taken out on the town by a friend of a friend, Arnel Banas. Arnel and our mutual friend, Andre Acosta, (who lives 5 minutes from me in the States), had plotted and planned to make sure I would enjoy a marvelous Filipino dinner. Which I did.

Andre insisted that I have a mango shake.
Fantastic!

Just SOME of the food. See the beautiful setting?
This restaurant, as you can see, sits out in Manila Bay.

One must eat dessert in Manila. Or two.
Cafe Adriatico, again insisted upon by Andre.
Good choice!

To wrap up this post, just a few more photos.

Filipinos love to take photos.
This display is set up outside of MOA - Mall of Asia!

Halo-halo, another delicious dessert.
Think parfait with flan, sweet gel pieces, syrup and ice cream.

Um...yeah, I had another mango shake or two.

The biggest rice basket I've ever seen in my life!

I'm leaving Manila this evening. I have been touched by the graciousness and ease of the Filipino people. While this country, like so many countries, has serious problems, the people are its finest asset.

Salamat Manila!