Today I had lunch with my friend XX and his family, in his home, which is one of the best residences of its kind in the Philippines. They'd all just come back from skiing holidays over Christmas and New Year and it was their first family lunch for 2012. XX was kind enough to invite me to join them as I know some other people in his family anyway, and it was a very nice way to spend Sunday.
FORMAL AND HEALTHY
XX's family lunches are pretty formal affairs with waiters bringing plated courses of food coming one after the other just like in a restaurant. It was all healthy and Filipino today, and very good. We had sinigang to start and I only got a little bit because I actually don't like sinigang much. But after tasting it, I really regretted just getting a bit as it was delicious. And the waiter who served it didn't come around to my side of the table again -- I guess because there were a couple of other courses coming up anyway.
You're also expected to bring good conversation to the table, so each family member has really interesting stories to tell -- even the littlest members. Moreover, everyone in XX's family lunches has to give an update of their life since the last get-together.
SKI-CRAZY AND LOVING IT
And so much of the talk around the very large round table today centered on skiing as they're all crazy about it and over half of the table had gone and spent the holidays together in one of the toniest ski towns in North America. So many celebrities head to this ski town for the holidays and, among many others, they'd seen Matt Damon, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffiths. Apparently, Matt Damon looks much older than in his movies, Antonio Banderas isn't as tall as you would imagine, and Melanie Griffiths keeps herself really fit.
They all learned to ski at about the same time as they learned how to walk so they're ski-mad and great at it. And I am so not a skier. So XX then recounted to everyone with some glee a BBM exchange about skiing that we'd had over the holidays, between Manila and his very posh ski town -- much to everyone's amusement.
WHAT IF YOU ACTUALLY DON'T LIKE IT?
XX had sent me a photo via BBM from the slopes, you see, and after seeing it I'd replied back: "If I actually liked skiing, I would be seriously envious of you."
He immediately BBM-ed back with a hint of incredulity: "You mean you don't ski?"
I'd had skiing lessons in Tokyo, Australia, New Zealand and New Hampshire. And my weekend home in Japan is about 15 minutes away from the best skiing nearest the greater Tokyo vicinity. But I'm 100% hopeless at it. So I'd replied: "I never undertake things I can't be good at."
I've got so little spare time. What's the point of spending it doing something I'm lousy at? But what then followed from XX was a long-distance discourse on how some things are worth doing just because you enjoy it and not necessarily because you're good at it.
I completely agreed, but I just didn't have the heart to reply then -- to this ski-mad group of people -- that not only do I suck at skiing, but I don't enjoy skiing either.
I'M FROM MARS AND THEY'RE FROM VENUS
But today I was put on the spot in front of his whole family, all tanned and fit after two weeks in the snow. And they looked at me as if I was from Mars, since I was obviously the only person at the table who didn't ski, and didn't like it.
So finally I had to tell them my I'll-never-do-it-again ski story, set in New Hampshire years ago. One evening I was with some Filipino friends having dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Boston on a Friday night at about 10 PM. It was February and suddenly it started to snow heavily.
"Let's go skiing!" One of them said, and to which everyone except me enthusiastically said "yes" to. I'd done it before and even taken lessons from a pro; but skiing was just not my cup of tea. But somehow I was persuaded to join them after the five Pinoy guys in the group all gallantly offered to guarantee a stressless experience.
So there we were in New Hampshire the following morning and soon I was on a medium bunny slope attempting to navigate down when I tumbled over. Of course the five gallant guys rushed to my side and helped me up. But after this happened a couple more times, they all decided to head in different directions, all conveniently too far away to observe my next few tumbles.
So, anyway, that put me off skiing for good. And at lunch today, everyone thought it was a pretty funny story so they sort of forgave me for disliking skiing so much.
JUST WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
Then in the evening, two of my closest friends came over for dinner and literally took kilos of psychological weight off my shoulders with very good advice about some things I'd been mulling about in my head with great distaste. Call it an epiphany moment, but it certainly reminded me of exactly what good friends are for.
I fed them Malaysian-style shrimp curry, garlicky mushrooms and a spicy squid dish, and in exchange they'd provided me with the first sensible advice of the year.
Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
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