The other university setting

If I'm going to keep up with my half-imposed isolation at work, then I should be having lunch alone! Then again, I don't really have a choice - today, for one, I discreetly observed who among the team will eat lunch last. Two went down at ten in the morning to get lunch. Another actually has packed lunch, as always is the case. The last had a hotdog sandwich, which probably bordered between store-bought and home-brought.

But I couldn't care less. I've always left my desk for lunch anyway, sometimes bringing something back, especially when I can't afford to lose time. Lately, though, I've been finishing all my tasks with at least thirty minutes to spare - blame it on me being too punctual, as Raisa somehow reminded me - so I've had time to explore the restaurants around Pearl Drive. And about time, I think, else I die from eating either fastfood, or those quick-heat meals that don't really go well.

First thing I realized yesterday was, despite Ranice's assistance, I'll never find Munch Alley here. Perhaps it's been replaced by another restaurant, if you actually looked behind the nearby Starbucks. But there's quite a lot of restaurants here, thanks to an office crowd and two schools; it puts me in between two distinct stages of my life. Then again, every time I get lunch, I see myself surrounded with college students, and it feels like I've never really left. Whether that's a bad thing, we'll still have to see.

Yesterday, I was at this place that serves Persian cuisine. Well, it only has kebabs, a few other things and the expected shawarma. And the kebabs I got with rice was, well, not in a stick, which made me wonder whether I actually got my order. (I did.) There was one big table, with a fairly rambunctious group of students, laughing while taking care not to snort out any of the buttered rice. A girl comes in - you know, the usual petite girl that gets my attention - and sits with the boys. If the scenario feels familiar, then yes, it is familiar. Even the numbers have The Venue written on it, perhaps because the place is owned by the same people. The Venue, by the way, is upstairs.

Today, I was in a restaurant beside it. It feels like a culture clash, really - a Route 66 neon clock, a Chinese calendar, a Taiwanese LCD telly showing Whitney Houston music videos, and a shelf full of manga. The owner is Japanese - the restaurant's name says so, plus the fact that he won't take my order because he won't understand a thing I say. I had one of their rice burgers, which came to me in a temperature not suitable for eating, but I managed to eat it and feel torn between McDonald's and my old sushi cravings. And a group of girls were singing along to The Greatest Gift of All. What a coincidence.

I have this mindset, perhaps aided by my sister's studies in DLSU, that all college students have to be younger-looking than me. Then again, I graduated on time, in a three-year course, and I'm accelerated by a year, to boot. Do the math, and you'll realize that I'm two years early into the workforce. If we consult destiny again, we'd learn that this is a way to ease me into the supposed hurtful realities of life, but maybe not. Pearl Drive may be a miniscule university district, but it isn't Taft Avenue - it's devoid of the quirky characters, and the hustle of the LRT. Ortigas Center, in fact, feels manicured compared to EDSA, a fact that I can't overlook whenever I go home, and walk from Belvedere Tower to Starmall for the illegal shuttles home. Oh, but our realities are all different, and perhaps your cases will be miles away from mine.

Perhaps I should eat those quick-cook meals at 7-11 again, just to feel a bit more like a legitimate employee than a newbie lost in a student's world.

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