Friday, May 22, 2015

My Journey Into Jade Culture

It began in Hong Kong. We visited the Jade Market, and while I found the bangles, bracelets and carved ornaments wonderful, I also sensed there might be something amiss.

Why? Because sellers' wares were all the same!

Hundreds of jade pi beads, Buddhas, mystic knots, bangles, of the same apple green color.

If I recall right, this color is among the most expensive kinds and yet we were able to haggle a 1000 HKD piece down to 300. 70% off a steal? Not really. What I found out later on after reading up is that many of the jade in these bazaars are inferior, acid-treated stones called B-grade jade. And yet the sellers will only tell you they are selling you "JADE". Perhaps they do not know what they are selling. Or perhaps they're really just shady.

According to a source: "The international jade trade is reeling from a proliferation of doctored stones that have appeared on the market since 1990, hurting sales and eroding confidence in the translucent green gem prized throughout Asia" (Denise Hamilton, p.D1). This has been going on for years.

The first jade object was found 12,000 years ago, in the Immortal Cave in Haicheng of Liaoning Province. Those small disks called pi were used in religious rites, for worshiping the God of Heaven. Jade was also believed to ward off evil. Furthermore, "the Chinese wore jade ornaments in daily life as an indication of rank and social status. For example, the households of many nobles and wealthy families were filled with all kinds of carved daily articles made from jade (Free China Journal p.1)."

It is sad to see that an object with such a rich and beautiful history has been reduced to this revenue-generating machine that has, literally, lost all substance and meaning...

These are the kinds of "jade" that are proliferating in the market. Details from Mason-Kay:

‘B’ Jade:

Acid-bleached, polymer-impregnated
jadeite jade

‘C’ Jade:

Acid-bleached, polymer-impregnated,
dyed jadeite jade - the dyed form of 'B' jade

‘D’ Jade:

Dyed jadeite jade
‘D’ jade almost always pre-dates
the polymer treatment era
(no polymer present)

There is no value in obtaining these items because they are, simply put, fakes--approximations of the historic stone. There are only two kinds of jade--Jadeite and Nephrite. And they sell for hefty prices depending on the quality.

I plan to learn more about this beautiful stone and obtain wonderful carved pieces for my own collection. To make sure I don't fall for these fakes, it's important to get from reputable sellers or get the pieces that are certified to be Grade A, untreated stones. I think I'll also invest in a 10x loupe magnifier to aid me in my quest for beauty.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Poetry, Fiction, Jade and Gemstones

Update! Update!

What have I been doing lately? Being distracted, that's for sure. I've developed a love for the gemstone jade, so these days I've been reading up about crystals and crystal structures, the resonant sound of real stones (as compared to glass and plastic), the market values of gems, and schools to take up gemology in the Philippines.

When I remembered that I'm also a writer during other parts of the day, I went about catching up on my poetry and fiction. And then I submitted them places.

Here are the places where I'll be:

"Heather" (flash fiction) - James Gunn's Ad Astra, 2015
"Dysmorphia" (poem) - Apex Magazine, 2015
"Soul Searching" (poem) - Liquid Imagination, 2015

And I'll also be popping up as a featured poet in Edwin E. Smith's Quarterly Magazine, with eight poetry titles in the suite to be published in the Summer 2015 issue (which will also be the Fall 2014 issue, but expanded)! Whew, this is a first for me and I'm shamelessly going to plug it here!!

  • Caretaker
  • Autopsy
  • Erasure
  • Broken Cisterns
  • Another Burial
  • A Conversation with Water
  • Skywalk
  • How to Plant Your Death

Happy writing!:)

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Universality of Pain?

The ability to feel may not be exclusive to humans and animals. It never was, we just didn't know or didn't want to acknowledge that even plants may have a pain response in their bodies.

As a kid mimosa plants were abundant in open lots where I used to play with friends. We fought over who could kick at the plant or blow air at it to cause its leaves to fold up. Back then I already had a sense that those plants feel, though maybe not in the same way that humans feel. Pain is often coupled with fear, that's why many people, myself included, are afraid to go to the dentist. A previous encounter with fire makes me cautious when handling the element.

But as for plants, pain maybe serves as an alarm of sorts--to defend oneself, to repair "wounds" from scratches and breaks, to regenerate lost parts and, for some carnivorous types, to catch prey... I can only guess the function of pain in plants, but it's definitely not the same with animals and people who have the anatomy to run/move away.

The Smithsonian presents an interesting experiment that may have people rethinking ethics (*ehem vegetarianism*) very soon.

The video can't be embedded but it's here:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Poor Student in an Elite School

An article from the Boston Globe explores exactly what its title specifies--"What is it like to be poor at an Ivy League school?"

I didn't graduate from an Ivy league school per se, but the Ateneo de Manila University comes close to the elite environment this article talks about. The sons and daughters of politicians, doctors, lawyers and business tycoons come to study in ADMU. I knew this from the get go. I had the option to study in the University of the Philippines or UP, but I got a full scholarship in ADMU. Having come from an exclusive girl school, Miriam, where I already felt the pangs of not having money to throw for parties and trendy things, I feared that I'd be left out in ADMU. But the full scholarship was too good an offer to pass, so I chose the Ateneo over UP.

True enough, my social standing stood out (at least to me) from the very first day of my freshman year. I noticed the branded clothes of all my classmates, their expensive bags, the smooth, fair skin of moneyed Chinese-Filipino men and women. I remember adjusting my dress-my-best Penshoppe blouse and suddenly feeling, well, drab.

The article painfully resonated with me. I didn't think it was something worth writing about until I read about how other students coming from a poor background "felt so out of place she might as well have had the words “low income” written on her forehead".

It can't be helped, I guess.

It's no one's fault that I felt the way I did. Perhaps it was MY fault for developing some form of inferiority complex. But to be honest, even as I reflect on things now, I don't know if there's anything that can be done about this. The article talks about forming organizations, unions or events to help low income "saling pusa" students to feel at home in the shiny world of elites. But won't doing so merely single out the students further?

The place where my social standing really stood out was in sports. I tried out for the varsity track and field team and got in. I trained as hard as I could under the hot, burning sun, while listening to teammates talk about their new Nike or Mizuno shoes. As a sprinter I needed to have my own spikes. Being that spikes cost around 5-6K Pesos at the time, I bought a second-hand pair from a classmate who used to do track in high school. When my teammates commented about how nice my shoes were, for the first time, I actually felt like I belonged.

But of course that was short-lived. I couldn't really bond with the team because they went out to parties and drinking sessions which my meager baon couldn't afford. I overheard a couple of comments about me being a kill-joy or not being very sociable but the truth was that I just couldn't afford the kind of lifestyle I was trying to live.

It's very true what one of the students in the Boston Globe article say, "Friends paired off quickly. “You’d get weeded out of friendships based on what you could afford."

Thus, I left the team.

Fast forward today, with a good, stable job, I've been able to pursue the sports that I love and gain some successes by winning in races and Muay Thai fights. I feel like I've fulfilled some childhood dreams at last. Issues resolved.

But here comes the realization. I am my social standing and it's not something that I need to play down or hide. I didn't come from a privileged background and IT MATTERS. Because I became who I am. I navigated my way through the glitz and glamour and still found my small awkward place that pushed me to make friends in a different way. I learned to take up a part time job in order to afford myself small luxuries like dinners out with privileged friends. Whenever I felt small and inadequate, I leveraged academics, skills and talents to prove myself to MYSELF. "See, there was another way to get here," I found myself saying. It wasn't social climbing, I don't believe it is. It was resourcefulness and learning the ability to adjust to difficult situations.

Most of all, I learned to believe in myself.

I'm glad I didn't go to UP just so I wouldn't feel left out. I'm glad I trusted my gut which said "this is where you belong" when I stepped into Ateneo grounds.