23 May 2018

100 Days in China: Dreams do come true

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.

Anything your heart desires will come to you.

If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme

when you wish upon a star as dreamers do.”

Hitting two birds in one stone? That’s not the right phrase for me. Setting foot on Quanzhou back in December 2017 broke all that negativities that I cannot return to China during my own expected time. It was a plain wishful thinking never in my life I could have predicted. And setting foot now on Beijing broke all that prejudice that I can’t fulfil even one of my travel bucketlist in the nearest future.

First let me just tell you the time I am applying for the renewal of my passport. My first passport expired June of 2015, that’s a year after my college graduation from Jinan University in Guangzhou. I should have renewed it before December 2014 because airlines cannot accept passports that are nearing expiration. But I only renewed it January 2016. Reason: I hesitated. I do not know if I will have the chance to go abroad because I have just started my career back then. The thing that forced me to do it is when one of my younger sisters is set to join Xiamen Summer Tour. She needs to apply for a new passport, so to lessen all the hassle, my mother and I opted to renew ours. I thought back then it will just be a waste of money, aside from getting a “national government ID”, it has no other use for me for the next five years. The day I got my renewed passport just brought disappointment. This does not make any sense, I remembered criticizing myself. But some part of me still managed to remain optimistic that there will be a time that my passport will be of use.

That passport lied stagnant for days, weeks, and months. Stress and burden also went heavier and heavier for days, weeks, and months. Then I started to seek for refuge. I thought of China. I missed all the places I found myself lying on a bench or a boulder, looking at the sky, closing my eyes and enjoying the peace and silence of the night. In Manila, how I admire bystanders doing the same thing I did. But I just can’t find genuine peace even in the most “peaceful” corners of the city. Dreaming of going back to China always comes in every time self-control and inner peace are lost. Will I see Chinese stamps on my passport again? Well, what I got at first were Taiwan stamps May of 2017. Five days in Taiwan, however, did not fill up the emptiness of China in me. I still long for it. I even dreamt of it (see my first post). My heart wanted peace, I wanted freedom. Wish ko lang sana magkatotoo. (I hope it will come true)

Finally I got a Chinese stamp December 2017 and another one March 2018, just eighty days ago. As stated in the first post, during my one hundred days here in Beijing, I am looking forward to be visiting the Great Wall and the Bird’s Nest. I was also earnestly hoping for a snowfall, but I did check the weather forecast before coming to this place, and it just made my snowfall wish hopeless. So I just convinced myself I am not seeing a snowfall at least for now.

Coming to Beijing is the first check I ticked beside the travel wishlist. I thanked God for this unexpected gift of coming back to China and having been set foot on Beijing is already “two birds in one stone.” My two other “Chinese dreams” will now be easy to fulfil because I have more than enough time to visit them (one hundred days, duh). So I was just waiting for the school’s arrangement on which of the Beijing sights we shall be going to and when. The school marked March 31 as the day to visit the Great Wall, which means we have to visit the Bird’s Nest by ourselves and perhaps lay an egg, just kidding.

Yes, it was March. Winter was bound to end. However, the weather was still between sub-zeros to positive single digit degrees Celsius. With this kind of temperature, fool is the one who have come from a tropical nation to say it is not chilly. I wore four clothes on top and two pants to survive. Winds were at times strong enough to blow little children away. No snow, just ice-cold feels. Fortunately we had heaters in our apartments. We all expect this winter wonderland without snow when we got here. Things remained the same until March 17.

Weather forecasts said it will rain in Beijing for the whole day that day. I was set to accompany the other two teachers from the Philippines (clarification: in contrast to the first post, I never knew I won’t be the lone PH representative, but it is really nice to have them here, especially they’re from Xavier School, the brother school of my alma mater, Tiong Se Academy) to buy more clothes to survive this kind of weather. As I was going out of the room, our class president from Thailand told me that it is snowing. I did not hear him very well at first, but he repeated and pointed towards the window. I rushed towards it and saw with my own eyes little drops of white falling from the sky. OH MY GOD! It is indeed snowing!

It was very light at first, it felt like droplets of water solidified in the air and falling slowly towards the ground. Once the little snow drops on your hand, it melts almost immediately. I and my classmates were walking with glee under the snowfall. Well, selfie generation as we are “legitimately” labelled, selfie here, video chat there. Every one of us, whether in proper winter clothes or in PJs were just in awe and obvious disbelief. How could there be a snowfall in the middle of March?

We left the school with the snow getting more and more heavier. We might be enjoying the snow but there’s actually a “consequence”, it went colder. We were waiting for the public transport for more than ten minutes and my body was starting to shake. Thank heavens some colorum vehicles showed up and offered a ride. My co-teachers from the Philippines could not bear the cold, I think, so we agreed to the driver’s price and went to the clothing store. The snow persisted until noontime. By the time we went back the school, there were whites on the plants and trees. That’s when I started to take photos and selfies. More students were at the school grounds to take pictures of the “late winter phenomenon.” I can imagine the foreign students who waited for the entire winter for this but the snow was such a spoiler in the time they expected it to come. I was happy for them, most especially, I was happy for myself, finally I saw legit snow, it came from the sky, not from the hands of my brother who used to get “snow” from the fridge and out of the blue would just throw at me hahaha.

The snow activity subsided few minutes past one in the afternoon. All of us were talking about it, in every social media we know, the feels still remained until the next few days. It was really fun to be in the snow, but I wished I could have another chance of experiencing it. Some of my classmates remarked that they are not expecting anymore, once is enough. But I knew there might be another chance, especially after reading the comment of Ate Jan (my churchmate in Manila) that she had experienced snow in Hunan (which is way south of Beijing) in the month of April, I kept my hopes high. Well I thought to myself, with or without second chance, I am satisfied. I have just hit the third bird in one stone.

The “snow thoughts” were set aside for the moment as we prepare to visit the Bird’s Nest and conquer the Great Wall. It was the next two Saturdays after the snow event. March 24, I, together with my classmates, a.k.a. new found friends/cohorts in shenanigans toured the Beihai Park (the ancient park west of the Forbidden City) and witnessed the beauty of the night with the Bird’s Nest illuminating the scene. All of the people coming to see the Beijing Olympic stadium all had joyous faces, but I had another reason to smile upon seeing the Bird’s Nest: it is the fulfilment of my dreams, of my family’s dreams. Earlier that day, two of my sisters just graduated with flying colors, one from elementary and the other one from senior high school. Seeing the Bird’s Nest coinciding with my sisters’ graduation is a remarkable moment. It was just my twenty-third day on Beijing, but it felt everything is sulit (worth it). Take note that I haven’t set foot on the Great Wall yet at that time. But the best is yet to come!

With the Great Wall still left on my Beijing wishlist, it felt good to be finally the excluded in the list of the “fei hao han” with literal meaning of “not a true hero.” Mao Zedong once written that “A man who has not been to the Great Wall is not a true hero” to emphasize its historical significance among the Chinese people. Some Chinese colleagues at my school sometimes refer to this saying whenever they learned that with my four years of studies in China, I however haven’t been on the Great Wall. Okay… I sometimes feel bad about it, but I always reply saying, there will always be a chance. And that chance came on March 31. Though it is Black Saturday, we are in an atheist nation so Black Saturday is just a normal day for them.

We went to the Juyongguan section of the Wall, because the famous Badaling section is teeming with tourists and it won’t be fun if we go there. Inside the bus, we all looked outside of the window every time we passed by a mountain to see portions of the Great Wall. After several minutes, we got excited upon seeing the Wall sitting on a hill, but the fun actually started when we start climbing the Wall. Oh boy it was not as easy as you think! While it seemed okay when you look from afar, but the terrain is steep and the distance between steps are high. Some of my schoolmates did not make it to the top of the hill due to exhaustion. I am stout so I had to make stopovers so that I can continue climbing. There were some interruptions due to selfies and groupies. Finally after an hour, I’ve reached the top! True enough, the Juyongguan section of the wall is fun because tourists are few, no other people bothering you with words like “can you be a little faster?” “oh what a slowpoke” “excuse me, you’re blocking my view”. In fact, I had a section of the wall all by myself; well it was only for several minutes until lots of elderly people, retirees I guess, climbed up to reach the top.

So in just one month:

I’ve set foot on Beijing;

I’ve experienced snow;

I’ve visited the Bird’s Nest;

I’ve been to the Great Wall.

So “two birds” even “four birds in one stone” is not appropriate anymore. It was like I have hit the jackpot.

But there was another thing that made my complete wishlist more complete.

April 4. We were all prepared to have a good night sleep and completely disregard the “fake” weather forecast of a snowfall because it will be holiday the next day (the Pure Brightness Fesitival, or the “All Souls Day” of the Chinese). I was literally on my bed when my Indonesian roommate suddenly said “it is snowing”. I looked outside my window and EVERYTHING IS WHITE! I changed back to my winter attire and knocked on the doors of my classmates and they were also thrilled to see the HEAVY snowfall and the whiteness of the surroundings. We were all shouting like children as we step on the snow. On the school grounds, almost all of the students, if not all, were there, some extending their arms towards the air feeling the snow dropping on them, some danced in the snow, some attempted to make a snowman, some threw snowballs at each other (I ridiculed people bringing umbrellas but that’s when it becomes useful). I remembered when I told my students if there’s snow, I would lie down and wade. I did, but for a short time only, I never knew it will be real bone-piercing when you do it, now I know hahaha. I roamed around the school and whenever I take pictures, I can only say that coming here to Beijing is everything but a surprise.

One of my students messaged me on Facebook. He wished he could experience the same feeling I had with the snow falling around. I told him, just believe like I did. But I forgot to tell him that before believing, we have to dream first, because it is the first step. I am 25. But I still do not stop from dreaming and believing. I am not afraid to tell everyone that I still dream and wish for something to happen. So do not suppress your mind to dream and believe. Dreaming is free, it does not have an age limit. Don’t tell other people that dreaming is “only for kids”. Maybe for some people, dreaming is their only way to convince themselves there is still hope in life. If you know a friend whose dreams have come true, don’t forget to congratulate them. Be happy for them. If you had yours coming to reality, for sure they will be happy for you also.

(To be continued…)

01 April 2018

100 Days in China: Welcome Back

Don’t tell me I’m dreamin’, ‘cause if I’ve been dreamin’, I don’t ever wanna wake up.

So in love with this feeling, tonight I’ll be sleeping, sleeping with my eyes wide shut.”

It wasn’t my first time to fly solo. Whenever I do, it makes me feel I’m an adventurous person. As most passengers were, I was also excited and nervous at the same time. A lot of “what ifs” coming in. But adding to the formula of my emotions was worry. I was worrying about the work I will leave behind, you know the grades and school year finalization. I tried to amuse myself by talking to OFWs (yes peeps, THIS introvert talked to strangers) as we wait for our turns at the immigration clearance. Worrying suddenly disappeared when everything was starting to get real upon entering the passenger waiting area, lots of Chinese people are there and Mandarin + Hokkien conversations filled the place, no more Filipino words can be heard.

I opened up the pages of my passports (the old and the current one are bonded together for Chinese visa application process). I looked at the stamps and tried to make a chronology of events since my first flight out. September 2010, July 2011, August 2011… March 1, 2013. Wait, what? March 1, 2013! The exact time of the year five years ago, I was a junior at college back then. I never knew five years later I will be back! Oh Thank You, Lord!

“Ni hao! Welcome aboard!” greeted the stewardess as I get on the plane… I was seated in a row without any seatmates, so instead of seating on the aisle seat, I preferred to be seated at the window seat. It was my first window seat since my last flight out of PH in 2013, I remembered that window seat is not just a window seat, but an exit seat, which meant more responsibility to the person seated in times of emergency. The plane took off, and few minutes later, I saw the full moon. It was large and luminous. The child inside me suddenly came out as my eyes followed it. Of course, as a millennial, I took a picture of it as it passed by my window.

The flight was boring and my only entertainment is the music from my cellphone. Good thing, there was a woman with an infant who approached the seat that I was originally seated on and she asked my permission if they can sit next to me. I gladly “gave them permission” (as if I own the seats) and watched the mother carefully attend to her several-months old baby. They’re so cute. Free dinner was being served to us, the mother gave her baby’s share to me, she only took the fruits. I was shy at first but she insisted. Thank You Lord again, I have bread and cake for next day’s breakfast.

I disembarked the plane near midnight. Cold weather was immediately felt as everybody rushed to get our luggages in the Quanzhou airport. I was also rushing because the room that I rented for a night might be closed for check-in and I might sleep outside for the first time in my life. Outside the airport  were taxis and the colorum vehicles. All of them have the same intention, which is to get more money from the arriving passengers. I took the taxi hoping I can pick an honest driver, but I only found a driver. Thinking that I could not afford to waste more time, I just agreed to his price and we sped off.

I arrived at the general location where the house is supposed to be located. The actual house was really hard to find, for it is situated in a compound and its alleys and houses are not properly organized. I actually left my luggage at the entrance of the compound and started looking for the house. My fingers were crossed that I can locate the house fast enough so that I can go back to my bags. No one wants to have their bags stolen. I checked the number of each house I passed by, all of their doors were closed. Oh shoot! I could hear dogs barking! I never thought dogs will take part of my adventure! Luckily no one came out of their doors to make false alerts of a burglary. Or else it will be my first time in jail ever! The search ended when I finally saw a house with its doors widely open (yes, doors widely open). I checked the number and it matched the address the owner provided in the website. I rushed to get my bags as I can hear more dogs howling and barking and safely made it back to the house.

I entered the front gate door and saw the small front desk, there’s no one to entertain me. The door of the actual house is also open. I asked many times if there is somebody actually there. No one answered. I started to worry, I don’t have China cellphone number, how in the world could I reach the owner? I read all the posters and flyers around the house and there’s a WeChat QR code (used for making payments and adding WeChat contacts), Wi-Fi SSID and password. I used the WiFi without really asking for permission (I am desperate!) and added the owner in my WeChat. I informed him that I am at the front desk and wants to check-in. He just answered that he actually opened the doors for me and will just process the check-in whatsoever the next morning. As in woah! See how secure China is! Anybody could just get inside their house and take everything away! With the thought of that, I asked if I can close the front door for him to which he gave me permission. Maybe he was just waiting for me and he can finally sleep once I arrived. What a nice gesture!

As I returned from closing the doors, I suddenly heard someone speaking from the living room, I looked around but there’s no one. Don’t worry I do not believe in ghosts. Oh, there’s a webcam and with that he can actually see me. I greeted him and asked which room should I get in for the night, he instructed me to go to Room 101 (with the “CAT” cloth draping at the door) and get the beddings and pillow cases. At last! A sigh of relief as I turned on the lights and set myself in the room. Meow! Meow! What the hey! On the bed there was a cat! It jumped out of the bed and went outside. I missed my home and our cats instantaneously. I followed it and took a video of it (which I posted minutes later on Twitter).

Going to the next day, I only had little sleep. Aside from arriving at the house at around 1AM, I was not fully aware that I arrived at China on the day of the Lantern Festival. I can hear loud bangs and long sounds of firecracker noises as early as 3AM, and there was another one at 4AM and 5AM. I finally got up by 7AM as I prepare for my next flight, a dream-fulfilling Beijing-bound flight. I finally met the owner and finished my delayed check-in process. The guy and his family are very quiet, but I can feel they are really good people. As I organize my things, I felt I was missing the place real fast (that’s one of my “sickness”). I need to be at the airport by at least 11AM, but I stayed a little longer past the time as I waited for the owner to come back from the market. He arrived with his daughter with all the food and proceeded straight to the kitchen. His father called him out and informed him that I am checking-out. He went out and I gave him a twenty-peso bill. He asked what it was for, I told him he can keep it as a tiny souvenir from the Philippines. I had several twenty-peso bills with me, originally intended to be given away to my classmates during the training, but I was so touched by his unique style of hospitality, especially those opened doors, ensuring that I have a room to spend the night, I knew he cannot hide his gladness when he took the bill. He sent me off to the compound entrance and bade our goodbyes. Guess I made a new Chinese friend now.

The flight to Beijing was a bit different with the Quanzhou-bound flight, I owned the rest of the seats in my row once again, my only companion was my hand-carry luggage, but this time I did not sit on the window seat ‘cause I don’t like direct sunlight (it was not my practice to close the window for emergency purposes). On top of it, the undeniable excitement that I was finally setting foot on Beijing… aside from the cold weather, pollution and traffic, I was thrilled about finally having the chance to experience the Chinese capital, Bird’s Nest, the Great Wall, and if possible, a snowfall. The plane’s interior temperature was getting colder and colder as we neared Beijing airport. But “the cold never bothered me anyway!”

At touchdown, I can’t wait to get out of the plane. The plane took a longer time to make its way from the runway to the jetbridge. Beijing Capital Airport must be really big! Stepping out of the plane greeted the cold weather, way colder than in Guangzhou and Quanzhou, considering it was only half past four in the afternoon. Hashtag-Beijing-here-I-am! Finally after years and years of wishing and dreaming! Thank You Lord!

After that momentarily jubilation going into my head, I focused on looking for the guy that I will be meeting at the arrival area. I was looking at the cards waving around, there were different names and different entities written on it. I forced myself to roam around the airport looking for that guy, it was embarrassing for me to do it, it was like a kid looking for his mother around the hall and people started to take notice of me. I told you, Beijing airport is BIG. I nearly went back to the baggage claim area just to make sure I never missed a placard. I don’t have China number so I have no way… no, there’s actually a way. There’s a China Mobile store at the opposite side of the terminal. I walked once again passing the same people who are feeling a little bit annoyed by me getting around. I tried to buy a SIM card but I did not continue with it because the SIM won’t work with my phone, I just asked if I can use their phone and call a person for free. Guess what, they agreed. That phone call was the end of the airport leg of my adventures as I finally found the point person (he was standing at the gate!), I went in the car, I’m on the freeway, I’m in the college campus, I’m in the dorm.

I was 7:00PM. I went outside and looked at the fireworks as it lit up Beijing skies. It was as if China is welcoming me back. But yes you’re right, it was the night of the Lantern Festival. But looking at the fireworks only made my hunger worse, I went straight to the canteen to eat, only to find it is already closed. As for my ultimate challenge, I walked through the coldness of a sub-zero night, with little light around, to buy burgers (buy-one-take-one-free for only RMB15, roughly PHP120). Those burgers kept me company. My roommate has not arrived yet.

I laid down on bed reflecting on the events that turned out. I was preparing to leave Manila the previous day, the previous night I was looking for the house in Quanzhou, everything happened so fast that in just 24 hours, with all that trials of a non-direct flight, I am now in Beijing. Nevertheless, I thank the Lord there were no delays and other major inconveniences during the two flights, and most importantly, He made a way for me to finally be on China again, Beijing in particular, a city listed on my travel wishlist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:JoeCo0327/Travel), now a checkmark is ticked beside it. This was only a dream before, now I can inhale all the Beijing pollution and hear all the Beijing accent. I don’t need to sleep just to see myself back in China once more. Well, if this is a dream, please don’t wake me up. I am just beginning to enjoy this exciting and bumpy ride.

(To be continued…)

11 March 2018

100 Days In China: Prologue

You can call me “King of Wishful Thinking.” Like everybody else, I tend to wish for a lot of things to come true. But I would not be “King” if there’s nothing worth noting. I make it a habit. I do it when I get bored, when I check exam papers, when I wander around Manila, when my excretory system works in the CR, among others. I wish for things that may happen, and I also wish for things that have no chances of even existing.

One night last year, I dreamt of being back to China, the setting was in the school canteen, I conversed in Mandarin, I wore winter clothes and the people I am talking to were from other countries who can speak Chinese as well. When I woke up, I was happy. I saw myself back in China at least in my dreams. Those were the times that I felt dead tired because I worked twenty-plus straight days (Saturdays and Sundays were not in my resting programs yet) my only time for rest is going home, eat and sleep. So seeing that in my dream gave me some reason to get over negativity.

Wishful thinking entered… I think I can earn money and give myself a treat to China. Nah. Hard thing to do. Adulting is hard, you know. Earning is a big word. Or maybe I can join the teachers in the China Summer Camp and be a teacher-guide. No, no. I plan to relaunch my webcast next year. Or what if I can drain all my resources and just go! Hell no! No, I can’t do that. Who wants screaming and shouting for breakfast? Before I left the bed, a soliloquy, sana makabalik ako kahit saglit lang (wish I could go back even for a short time).

It was no surprise to everyone (at least at school) that I finally went back to China last December 14. It really was a short notice! I was only informed that the school wants me to accompany a student at an awards ceremony in Quanzhou six days prior the departure date. Oh if you can just look at how my face gleamed with smiles about learning that after months of dreaming and longing, I can set foot again at my beloved second home! My Facebook post of me posing with a smile is a testament to it. I was so glad I saw the places I visited in Quanzhou back in 2014. In addition to that, I got to taste legit Chinese food and feel the breeze of a natural cold weather. It was only for two days and two nights, though. We had to go back the day after the awarding. Nakakabitin (Felt not enough). I wished I could go back again. But I knew it won’t be that easy, given work and time constraints. So I thought I should stop craving for China for a while.

January 7, my phone rang. It was a cool Sunday morning, I should be oversleeping that day. The ringing stopped. Okay, then. But it rang again! Oh, it’s our school principal! Despite the wondering why she called me up on a Sunday, of course, I answered it. Unexpectedly, I opened a genie in a bottle. It was a phone call informing me that I am considered to join the “One Belt One Road” Chinese Teachers Training Program for a hundred days. It is set March 3 to June 11. And say what, it will be in Beijing, China! At long last, I can be on the Great Wall and have a pic of me with the Bird’s Nest! The Principal asked me if I would accept, because I would be the Philippine representative to the event. You don’t even have to guess what my answer is!

I told my mother about it first and then my siblings. It took me a while before I finally told my students (Grade 8 first, then Grade 11, Grade 12 and Grade 10) that I might not finish the fourth academic quarter with them because of this blessing, much to their surprise, because I am setting foot on China, again, just after three months.

Leading to the day of my flight back to China, my lessons in all of my grade levels were fast-paced, because I need final grades or at least 95% of my raw scores in before I leave. Thank God I was able to do it because the Principal told me to start planning as early as January. Students took notice of me as the days passed, some of them telling me that I was getting more and more excited. Well, who would have thought that of all Chinese teachers, some of them are certainly more deserving than me, I, who has not achieved anything yet in this field, am going to China and represent the Philippines, most especially right now when China has welcomed our country with open arms once more. Moreover,  meeting friends from different countries is one of the most awesome things on Earth. Whoever is in this place, they should be really excited, too.

March 1. People usually don’t feel like working on the day of their flight. But I still went to work, not because I am workaholic, but to bid farewell to all of my students and to everyone at school. It was a bitter-sweet feeling, from the day I was made known of the event until the day I leave my place in the faculty room near-empty (it used to be filled with books and papers), I realized time did not wait for me to be prepared for these goodbyes. I made sure I have pictures of the students I have handled in junior high, because by the time I come back, some of them might not be in Tiong Se anymore. As I bid goodbye to my colleagues, they all wished me luck. I left the school, with the rays of the setting sun touching my face as I walk towards home. It was about 5:30PM.

That night as I prepare to leave the house, I told my sister, “Ang bilis talaga ng panahon, parang nakakabigla ang lahat.” (Time is really fast, everything seems to surprise me.) She consoled me by saying it will be okay. On the road to the airport, my heart was giving signals like “Oh, you sure gonna miss Philippines and everybody, you ought to get sad,” but my brain was telling me “Yeah right, why am I feeling sad? One hundred days only, duh? You’ve been away for four years, remember? Going back to China, isn’t this what you wish for? If you’ve done it before, why worry now?” Giving sarcastic questions to myself helped me to man up and face everything. So I faced the entrance of NAIA Terminal 1 and went in.

(To be continued…)

12 April 2017

Finding Easter: How do they come up with a date?

I will not give a long introduction to make this post as brief as possible, but I am sure there are people who still wonder how in the world do they know when the Holy Week is in a year.

I am no legit scientist to talk about deep concepts, but I really want to share my knowledge on how to find Easter in a much simpler way.

09 April 2017

Songs that Bring Back the Old Times (Part Three: Hear Me Out)

For the first part of this blog series, please click here.
For the second part of this blog series, please click here.

Introduction. High school days, yes, it is indeed one of the most memorable moments in our lives. It is when we had our first crushes, first heartbreaks, and for some, first taste of "romantic" relationships.

To some of my closest friends, they knew what I went through. They may be laughing while they are listening/reading the words and songs that I am about to post here, because they may remember everything, all my crushes and all the stupidity that I did, all the moments I had in China and the Facebook posts that said it all.

It is good to know that we have songs to relate to the events that made us. It is consoling to have songs that can actually speak our hearts out.

So, to all the readers that happened to pass by this post, there's only one thing I ask of you...

Hear me out.