Sunday, January 15, 2012

True confessions about the office

"What's happening? Anything we should know about?" A friend messaged. This was just one of many messages I received recently from people who read this blog fairly regularly, who have noticed that I haven't been keeping with my usual daily blog routine. Someone else had sent me a BBM: "Have you finally run out of things to write about?"

On the contrary, life's been full as usual and I have a backlog of notes and photos on my Blackberry in fact; but I just haven't had much time to write since the holiday break because I've been so busy planning Travelife Japan Night on February 16 and working on our upcoming Travelife February-March 2012 issue (out on the newsstands on February 15).


I also have a confession to make. I usually get home from some event or a dinner at about 1030 pm, and my golden time for blogging is usually between 1115 PM and 130 AM. And last year, I was able to do this almost religiously -- if not ridiculously, considering I put in very long days prior to 90 minutes of blogging every night -- for almost every day of the year. But recently, instead of blogging, I've been watching episodes of The Office (US version) in bits and pieces every night.

I watched The Office sometime back but I haven't seen it again in a long time, although I was perhaps one of the first fans in Asia of The Office UK version, which is the original The Office.

I was in London, you see, when it first came out and although the first episode was a little lame, things improved from the second episode onwards and I was hooked. I had to tear myself away from England to return to Asia as this meant cutting off my TV time for The Office; but when it finally came out in DVD, I made sure I got it ASAP.


By the way, I like Ricky Gervais' next project Extras even more. I haven't really liked anything else he's done after, but I think Extras is absolutely brilliant and even better than The Office. Lots of the jokes and references are very local, and the slang is very English; but if you're familiar with British culture, it's really hilarious.

It's such a pity, too, that Ricky Gervais only made two seasons of Extras. It must be a British thing because the other very funny British show that was produced on a limited run is the classic slapstick comedy Fawlty Towers. I could never understand why they ended this show at the height of its popularity.

But back to Extras. When I have a very long haul flight and I'm worried about running out of movies -- like when I ride a non-Southeast Asian carrier that still has limited movies. Or worse, a carrier that doesn't have video on demand in club class! -- I bring my Extras DVDs to keep me entertained. It doesn't matter how many times I watch it, I still like it.


Now The Office US version has had a longer run than the UK version so there's been more to enjoy. Admittedly, there's lots to criticize about it, but at the same time, it's very entertaining to observe the reality of mediocrity. There's also been more leeway for the director and actors to develop the show's characters and therefore make everything more interesting. I haven't been able to follow it as closely as I've followed the UK version; but recently I finally bought the last few seasons and I've been so enjoying watching them.

It's so nice to end my day watching this on my computer, and I actually have to force myself to turn it off if I want to get some decent sleep. As for tonight, you have no idea how much self control it took to force myself to write an entry instead of watching an episode of Season 6.


It's been a nice weekend, though, and yesterday was especially busy. Hyundai launched its 2012 events calendar book at lunch with a pretty big fashion event and I attended this since I was one of their 12 essayists -- they have 1 essayist per month and I'm March 2012. I enjoyed meeting Fe Agudo and the other Hyundai executives and also my fellow essayists. One of them said to me: "My husband and I love your magazine. It's so well put-together." That certainly made my day.

In the afternoon, a very nice and hardworking European lady with three degrees and a model's figure came over to my house for afternoon coffee. Not too many people travel as much as I do, but she's one of those who can probably outrun me in this department. And, interestingly, she's been mostly to those exotic places no one's ever thought of going to.


"What's your favorite place?" I asked her. And I'm not kidding you when I say that about 60% of the places she's been to in the last 36 months are places I can't pronounce or have never heard of. But her favorite place is one I certainly know of but have never ever thought of visiting. Until yesterday.

She said to me: "I love Pakistan."

Two things come to mind when someone mentions Pakistan to me: the cricket superstar Imran Khan and terrorists. In particular, Imran Khan had married a London socialite, Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of billionaire Jimmy Goldsmith, and the story had interested me because a transition from gilded luxury in London to I-don't-know-what-kind-of-existence in Lahore seemed unthinkable even to me.

After that, everything else I know of Pakistan has to do with terrorists: the hunt for Al Qaeda and the murder of a Western journalist who was kidnapped on his way to what he thought was going to be an interview.


And yesterday, hearing about Pakistan made me blink twice because just the day before, I'd had the opportunity to say yes to a trip to Pakistan and I'd actually said no. It seemed like too much chaos and too little of other things. But here was my friend who'd been everywhere exotic, saying she loved Pakistan the best.

Then she added: "Lahore is beautiful. Especially the old part. The houses of the wealthy are all very well kept and everything is intact. I've never seen anything like it. And the shopping is great and the food is so good. The fabrics and crafts you can buy here are just unbelievable."

I stared at her, trying not to ask the next obvious question. She's as blonde as a Barbie doll and Pakistan -- in case you were living on another planet until yesterday -- is prime anti-Western terrorist ground.

She almost seemed to read my mind, because she then said: "Oh, but I only go with locals. And I cover myself from head to toe so you can see only my eyes."

Covered or not, I certainly thought she was incredibly brave to venture to such places. And wow. I run a travel magazine and even I'd never ever thought of Pakistan as a destination. Until yesterday. Maybe I'll put it on my bucket list soon.

Hope you had a great weekend and best wishes for a wonderful week ahead from all of us at Travelife Magazine.

* * *

To commemorate the resilience of the Japanese people
one year after the Great Earthquake,
and to celebrate the beauty of Japanese culture.




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