Lately, my bracelet has become a good conversation starter. Some people from my team has become intrigued on my why I change wristwatches but never the bracelet. There is no dramatic story really, I don’t wear it out of sentimentality but rather to remind myself that I am made from sterner stuff and have no right to complain on the silliest problems in a first world country – like being unable to find Tide bar soaps in the supermarkets.
This is the Kadasig (which means Resilience in English) bracelet, designed and handmade by the Haiyan survivors of Tacloban. I was born in Cebu but grew up in Tacloban. I have friends and relatives who lost everything to Haiyan. I still remember feeling helpless when I could not contact anyone from Cebu and Tacloban for a couple of days while watching CNN described how Haiyan practically wiped out Tacloban. I remember feeling heartbroken when I saw familiar landmarks where I used to giggle and gossip with my girlfriends gone – ‘Mags’, the street barbecue stalls near the pier, Cindy’s, etc.
The Kadasig Bracelet
The bracelet is there to remind me that life could not get any harder than the people who lost everything to Haiyan, and I really have no right to complain that I walk 1.5 km under the merciless heat of Brisbane sun in summer or that the code I have been working on for the last 3 days is still not giving me the correct data or that I am sick of eating frozen food.
The people of Tacloban walked for hours to line up to get a chance to get a ride out of Tacloban, they went without food, water, electricity and some even without a home and yet they managed to bounce back. Whenever, I feel crappy and feels like the universe has conspired against me, the bracelet is always there to remind me how lucky I am.
I was pretty much in a funky mood all week last week. It has finally sunk in that I will be leaving Singapore for good and stay in Brisbane PERMANENTLY. Don’t get me wrong, Brisbane is a great city but just like anything in my life, the word permanent scares me. And it did not help that Karen, my only lifeline to Filipino sanity, will be leaving soon. It was also a horrendous week at work, I had to work on an audit and EAM work orders. I have to hunt for an apartment that I can actually afford and work out my flights back to Singapore to pack up. My toenail was hurting because I badly need a pedicure and I ruined my only pair of nude flats. To sum it all up, I was a wreck all week and no glass of wine, beer, Urbandub songs can ease the homesickness I was feeling all week.
So, it was a relief for me that before leaving Karen introduced to a young Filipino family living in Morningside. And it never ceases to amaze me how hospitable and warm the Filipinos are. I am not a friendly person. It takes time for me to warm up and open my thoughts to someone else, and it will definitely take a lot of time to welcome a stranger into my house. But this family just did that, opened their house to me, fed me my first home cooked meal in 2 months and took me to a picnic in Kangaroo Point just so I could appreciate the beauty of laid back living in Brisbane.
This view made me realize that my life in Brisbane will not be so bad
Ah Brisbane, after two weeks, the sun setting over the Story Bridge still stops me in my tracks. And after 2 weeks of living here, I still haven’t settled to the idea that I should get food before 7 PM if I want to eat cheaper, else I have to eat at the restaurants by the river again which will cost me a finger for a meal or Jimmy’s On the Mall or Hungry Jacks (the last made me shudder). So it was such a relief to know that we finally discovered that Spring Hill is within walking distance of Fortitude Valley.
Every time, this scene makes me stop and take a picture
Brisbane CBD skyline.
I was expecting to sleep the entire day on Australia day, the same way I normally celebrate Philippine Independence Day, Singapore Day and any other holiday for that matter. However, the rest of the data nerds dragged me out at from bed at an ungodly hour and somehow convinced me to board the train to Gold Coast. Great, another beach, I am from a country surrounded by the sea so I am not a stranger to beaches and people who are close to me know that I have high standards on 2 things: good, clean beaches and roasted pork.
Surfer’s Paradise beach did not disappoint, the sand, the shoreline and the sea are very different from what I am used to in Cebu but nevertheless I find it beautiful. An hour and a half away from Brisbane by train and bus, Gold Coast has a more beach-y vibe and I quickly fell in love with it because the atmosphere reminded me so much of Cebu – well, minus the karaoke and roasted pork.
While the skyscrapers back home are all tucked on the CBD area so that we will not be reminded of work when we go to the beach, it somehow looks great in Surfer’s Paradise
The moment I stepped out from Brisbane International Airport, the searing heat and humidity momentarily knocked me out. I was so disoriented that I briefly thought I boarded the wrong plane and landed in Dubai – yeah, yeah what idiot would thought that after going through immigration but I was tired, gassy and was seriously in need of a mouthwash, so I was the only idiot who thought I landed in Dubai. So there I was with my 1 luggage and 1 carry over, a bit disoriented from the 37 degree heat and a bit unsure of my future in Brisbane, which will be my home for the next 10 months.
If you are from any bustling SEA city like Manila and Singapore where everything seems within reach 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, then you are in for a big change in Brisbane where all the shops closes even before you see the sun sets. Sorts of remind me of my stay in Rotterdam where I had to run to the Chinese takeout restaurant from the central station despite freezing temperatures just so I can have a decent meal. The office had arranged an apartment (no hotel, yey!) for me downtown so that I can walk to the client site everyday so a visit to the grocery is a must, and for my visit to the grocer, boy was I surprised. If you think Singapore is damn expensive, then Brisbane is way, way more expensive. I still could not get over that a small bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo costs 6 AUD whereas the same bottle in the Philippines will only cost like a dollar. Nevertheless, if I want to survive, then I should quit complaining.
So, on my first weekend, my fellow data nerds who have been here for half a year now took me for a stroll around the quiet city of Brisbane.
Data Migration Consultants’ day off
Okay, I have always considered myself a bit of a nerd, albeit a socially balanced nerd. But I have prided myself that I have never attended any nerdy conventions, seminars, whatever you call them – cosplays do not count as nerdy because it promotes creativity. My luck had just run out when my boss told me to attend the SAP TechED in Bangalore and get my hands dirty on SAP MDG – as if I can actually learn something that complex in 3 days.
So despite Mike’s lengthy email that I should stay and help sort out if switch gear is an asset or a location in Maximo, I had to fly to Bangalore to attend the biggest gathering of SAP geeks, umm, practitioners in Asia.
As a Philippine passport holder, you can get visa on arrival in Bangalore airport. Just bring all the necessary documents (hotel reservation, reason for staying, plane tickets), passport size photos and 60 USD. There is a lot of waiting for them to issue the visa on arrival and I arrived at midnight with a full bladder, trust me, the wait was NOT fun. Continue reading
I met Dipty the day I joined BackOffice Associates Asia, she was asked to provide me my access to the sandbox. I was based in Singapore and she in Bangalore. We knew we were both going to a data audit together for the next couple of weeks so we spend our days chatting in Lync wondering what the hell a data audit is. I thought SHE was a boy. And she thought I was a BOY.
I met Elakki over beer nights in Draft but prior to that his name came up when he won an award as the best new consultant (which I was also nominated but since I was 2 weeks into the company, I was disqualified. Never mind, I won the other award anyway so that’s fine). He was working on another project in Makati and I in Ortigas. I thought HE was a girl.
The three of us got together for the first time on my birthday and I got conveniently drunk enough to forget I am actually considered an old maid by Indian society standards (as Elakki pointed out without any qualms). The project manager was constantly exasperated with us because the three of us were all mule headed so instead of typing each of names in his ‘novel like’, lengthy emails, he called us D (Dipty), E (Elakki) and G(Me!) to save himself time. At first I thought it sounded awful, when you read it across its DEG and sounds very conyo for DOG. But if I flip it back its GED which sounds like a gay lingo equivalent of GOD (like Oh My Ged!) so I guess it didn’t sound that awful. Somehow, the acronym stuck so now everyone in the office knows who D, E and G are.
So one day these 3 geniuses decided to go on a road trip to Tagaytay. How to go there? Nobody really knows but E was a macho guy and assumed the role of navigator and planner since he knows first-hand what geographic idiots me and D are (D got lost INSIDE Robinson’s Galleria trying to find the exit to Holiday Inn). E said he has a very detailed plan – we go to EDSA (he calls it E-D-S-A so it took me awhile to understand what he meant), get on a bus to Tagaytay, get down in Tagaytay and find a hotel, spend the night, go to Taal and come back to Ortigas. Ahhh..okay that was a very detailed plan indeed. So even without hotel reservation, off we go! Continue reading
I actually have no idea that some people I actually know do read my gibberish writings from time to time, one of them pointed out why I haven’t written anything about my stay in Accra, Ghana – no matter how brief it was. I wrote so many about Kenya but no mention of Ghana (except for the rice evolution in the canteen as he pointed out), it is not that Ghana is not worth mentioning – I just do not remember whatever I did in Ghana 4 years ago apart from going to work in Tema (which is an hour away) and conducted PP and QM Train the Trainer workshops. I actually have to dig up my old external hard disk if I really do have pictures in Ghana just to prove I was actually there. I now know why I haven’t written anything about Ghana – because I did not do anything blog worthy over there to begin with. The nearest adventure I actually had was the hunt for ‘galanga’ leaves for hours because my Thai flatmate wanted to cook Tom Yum for me.
I know most people know there is a country called Ghana but have no idea why people actually visit this country. I hear you, I can still remember the Philippine immigration officer’s face when I told him I am going to Ghana. ‘Where?’ he asked. Ghana – G-H-A-N-A, in Africa’ I replied. Man, that look of bewilderment was precious. So in case, out of the blue you want to drop by in good ole Ghana, then read on. Continue reading