Between home and home

A very strange feeling this is. I’ve been away from home for more than three weeks, and I mean from my current residence in Sydney. I’m coming home soon, but I’m also leaving home in the process, and I mean our family home in Manila where I grew up in and lived until less than two years ago. I am excited to get back to my place and start the rest of the year, but at the same time feel that little bit of sadness as I again leave my original home and not know when I’m coming back next.

This trip has been a great opportunity to reconnect with people who have played significant roles in my life, both in the past and at present. I also rekindled my entrepreneurial passion and will be revealing my new business venture soon. I truly savored being able to celebrate Christmas and New Year back home like years past. Met up with my truest friends (who were in town) over coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or anything in between and shared so many stories that we have missed from each other. Spent time bonding with my sister and my cousins.

I somehow feel part of this world once again. But in reality, I am not. My current life now revolves in Sydney, and this is really just a break, a holiday from it all. Back to real life for me soonest. I’m not complaining though, cos my real life is also amazing. It’s just hard to reconcile that one cannot live two different realities at the same time.

See you next time Manila. ♥

Christmas came early this year

There are just so many things that should excite me in the coming days. There’s the Coldplay concert next week, the family trip pre-Christmas, and most of all, spending Christmas and New Year back home. There are even more exciting things coming early next year – Adele, travels, and so much more. But somehow I feel like I’m not as excited as I should be for all those other things.

Perhaps it’s because of the health-scare I’ve had in the second half of this year. It’s quite unsettling to be face-to-face with that big word – cancer. I had a solitary thyroid nodule which was suspicious on tests. They couldn’t determine from initial tests if it was benign or malignant, and a lot of parameters were pointing to a risk for malignancy. The only way they could find out is to take out the entire lobe and do a biopsy of the entire mass.

Hence, I headed for surgery mid-November. I’m super thankful to my mom who came over to help me out pre- and post-operation. And my brother who has always been great support. I was lucky that I got myself a good private health insurance earlier this year. I am also very happy that I have good doctors and an amazing surgeon.

Christmas came early for me this year, as two weeks after my surgery, my surgeon gives me the great news that my nodule was benign! It’s the best news for me all year. Thank God.

Let me savor this moment to realise how truly blessed I am.

 

Post script:
Being the inquisitive geek that I am, I have been reading and I continue to read about my entire thyroid nodule saga. So beyond what my doctors were telling me up front, I was also researching and reading relevant references in my own time, because I wanted to know what it was all about. My surgeon just confirmed with me the findings of the biopsy, and I am also reading more about it. I might do another post later on with the more medical side-story.

Sickie

One of the things I dislike most about being an adult is getting sick. Let me count the ways…

(1) I don’t like when I’m sick enough that I need to miss work, because this means I have to use up leaves (if I do have any) or go without pay for the days I miss work when I’m not entitled to paid leaves. It also means I need to catch up with work when I get back after a sickie.

(2) As an adult, I am expected to take care of myself when I am sick. That means taking care of all my basic needs even if I am not feeling well. This includes preparing food for myself, keeping the place clean and organised, and even laundry still need to happen. It’s challenging to manage one’s energy to be able to do all necessary domestic things when you’re not feeling well.

(3) Going to the doctor or the hospital is now typically a solo activity. No one is expected to take you to the hospital. You’re lucky if you have a good friend or a family member who is available and willing to go with you. Otherwise, you drag yourself out of your house, drive yourself (if you have a car) or take the public transport to the medical centre or hospital, and do the same going back.

(4) In addition, going alone to the doctor or the hospital means that you don’t have any emotional or moral support for anything that you may find out about your health. Maybe the closest alternative is having your family or close friends reachable by message or call on your mobile, but of course it isn’t the same.

(5) Missing activities and events when you’re sick is not fun. Sometimes even if you’re able to go, you can’t enjoy it as much and you usually have to leave early because you are not feeling well. Total buzz killer.

(6) Medicine and other related stuff are expensive! Even with health insurance, some consults and treatments also cost a lot. And as a responsible adult, you are now in charge of paying for all my own expenses. Goodbye shopping money.

(7) It’s always hard to decide if I’m too sick to go to work or to go somewhere or if I am well enough to do so. But I don’t have another adult to decide that for me, I am my own adult and I have to wrestle with myself to figure it out.

But most of all, getting sick never really feels good. No matter what illness – whether the usual colds or flu, body pains, injuries, short illnesses or persistent ones, minor conditions or acute or serious conditions – it’s always bound to make you feel bad.

And if you were wondering why I write about this, I am sick right now. Nothing serious but a whole lot annoying, and I’ve been semi-stuck at home for the past week. I’m doing my very best to be well enough to get to work tomorrow. I must.

2015 – The Year That Was

With just a day left for the year 2015, I could truly say that this year has been one of the most memorable year of my life, and no year as significant since 2007. Here are five highlights of my life in 2015:

1. It has been such a blessed year, and far too blessed because I was able to see the Pope with my own two eyes not just once or twice, but (more than) three times! During his visit in Manila this January, I was fortunate to be residing pretty near where he stayed, and most of his routes were a short walk from where I lived. Of course I seized every opportunity to catch a glimpse of him. I believe that the graces overflowed and I received it somehow. It was a great start to the year.

2. The start of the year also led to one of the biggest blessings of my life so far. It was on the last few days of January that I received a “reminder” on email, and I completed and lodged my Expression of Interest (EOI) to be a Skilled Immigrant to Australia. Just less than a week after I lodged the EOI, I got my invitation to apply for a visa. Three months after, in May, I got my visa grant as a Permanent Resident for Australia. In August, I moved here to Sydney and began a new chapter in my life.

3. I am truly happy to have spent more than half of this year working for USAID. It was an amazing opportunity, and I am thankful that I was able to work with them for an entire year (starting mid-2014). It was a great learning experience and have met a lot of interesting people, and hopefully was able to contribute something significant to the team. I would have loved to stay with the team and the organisation, but my new life in Australia was calling.

4. The year also had its challenges and sorrows, especially when my beloved grandmother got very sick and was hospitalized for a few months, and passed away later this year. I miss her terribly, and I still feel bad that I was not able to go to her funeral because she died two weeks after I left the country. But I am still thankful that I was able to spend a lot of time with her while she was still alive, and was able to tell her and show her that I loved her very much. I know that she knows that I will always be Lola’s girl, and she will always be one of my biggest inspiration. I continually seek comfort in the thought that she is now with Jesus Christ resurrected, the one thing that we’ve always believed in.

5. I have found a beautiful new chapter of my life here in Australia. I have been granted small and big blessings: I arrived with a vacant bed waiting for me; I’ve met new friends (mostly through my brother) and rediscovered old friends; I’ve been very warmly welcomed by (extended) family; I found a job 1.5 months after I arrived, and it was somehow related to the type of job I was aiming for; and I’ve had tons of opportunities to explore many different things and adventures that this new land has in store. After just five months, I am happy to be almost completely settled in. My family (mom, dad, and sister) all came over to spend Christmas and New Year.

With so much blessings in 2015, how can I ask for more?

And as always, no New Year’s resolution for me this time. Long ago, my New Year’s resolution was to never make any New Year’s resolution in the future, and that is probably the only one I was able to keep.

The year 2015 is already written and today concludes this year, but tomorrow begins a new 2016. And in 2016, I continue to pray, to hope, to dream, and to wish. Isa na lang ang kulang. Ikaw na lang ang kulang.

One Quarter

It has been three whole months since I arrived in Sydney to start a new life. Those three months seemed both so long and so short, an oxymoronic sort. How have I spent that quarter so far?

New friends, new job, new life. I’m also proud to say that I’ve lost weight since I’ve arrived. I’ve signed up for gym. I cook yummy food. I have setup my little room and made it my little home. I’ve bought flat-pack shelves and assembled them myself, and they now serve as my wardrobe drawers. I’ve picked out beddings to my liking. I bought a guitar and have learned a number of new songs. I’m rewatching my favorite series on Netflix during freetime. I’ve gone to national parks and beaches. I’ve had brunches, barbys, dinners, and drinks with friends both old and new. I enjoy good coffee every single day. 

Would you believe, I haven’t eaten fastfood since I arrived? Never gone for McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Oporto, etc. etc. There’s a lot of other choices for food, and I could also prepare my own. Also, never had Starbucks coffee, cos coffee everywhere else is great.

I work in the city during the weekdays and take the train everyday. I’ve also taken the train to some suburbs to visit some friends. I walk to church on Sundays. I take the bus to get around our area. I’ve also started driving. 

And if you were wondering, I don’t really feel homesick. Perhaps it helps that I have my brother around. I also get to videocall with the family back home. I am updated with what they do. Also, perhaps I’ve gotten used to being by myself since I’ve spent weekdays in the condo away from home and just went home on weekends for a year before I left the country. My good friends are reachable online if I need them. And I feel generally emotionally independent, I’m ok just being by myself. 

What else? Perhaps, there are a number of things that I’m still working on, and other things I continue praying for. But I feel that everything will turn out well. 

Maybe I’ll give another update at six months. 🙂

Hey Senti

There’s the senti version of myself that I have been trying to avoid throughout this process of tying loose ends, packing up, and getting ready to go. I am really not good at goodbyes whether its with people, places, or special little somethings.

I can still even remember my 10 year old self saying goodbye to the house (apartment) that I have lived in my entire life (at 10). It was one big cry-fest saying goodbye to my best friends, and even to the littlest nooks and crannies of that humble apartment. I’ve been living for the last 20 years of my life in the “new” house, a bigger and better one in a better neighborhood… But my mind will always remember how each furniture lined up around the rooms of my childhood home.

I also am so sentimental about my grandmother’s house in the province, the one I went to almost every summer vacation until my mid-teens. I remember its smell, and the details that almost never changed for the longest time. The house has already been sold a number of years ago, and it’s somehow better that we now have our grandmother much closer to watch over. But her house will forever be etched in my mind the way it was.

Shit. It’s not easy not to cry now. Imagine how many years ago those memories were? They seem like they were just yesterday.

In a few days more, I’ll be leaving the condo I stayed in for the last year. Then I’ll be leaving home and bound for a country I’ll be calling home for the next years. Of course, my parents house will still be there, still the same – but I will no longer be there, and I will forever be changed.

I should be looking forward, being oh so excited about what the future holds. I am, but I can’t deny that there is an extremely senti part of me that can appear out of nowhere at any point. I need to keep myself busy, to keep looking forward. I don’t want to be hindered by my sentimental self from being all-in on this grandest transition of my life.

Things fall into place

Sometimes, grand things happen like some unseen cosmic hand putting all the pieces into place for big transitions of my life, like winds blowing me a certain direction to where I am meant be. I would not refer to it as fate because I know I still have the power to decide. But sometimes chances and opportunities make the things you desire most be just within your reach with ease.

Last year, I had the great opportunity to be considered and accepted to work for USAID. Transportation and accessibility is one of the important considerations I always take when making transitions, but the universe just conspired to give me what I needed at the right place and time. My cousin was about to start in medical school almost the same time as I was to start, and the 2nd room in the flat where she was to stay became my home during the weekdays. The same place allows a 15 minute walk to and from work every day, instead of the 1.5 to 2 hours drive or difficult commute from our family house. If I started earlier with USAID, the flat would probably have been still occupied by previous tenants. If I started later, my cousin may have already found a different flatmate. It made a big difference, and I get my first chance to live on my own. Everything was just at the right time.

Perhaps its also like that this time around. I am about to move to Sydney, Australia soon. Earlier this year, I was able to get an invitation to apply for a visa just a few days after lodging my EOI, and then get my visa grant within three months after lodging my application. The timing of the visa grant allows me time to stay just to finish my initial one year contract with USAID. I am leaving within a few weeks of my current bosses’ transition to their new postings in other countries, just about the time that our team is transitioning to the new bosses arriving. I’m leaving just before my cousin starts the new school year in med school, and a classmate of hers will move in to my room almost immediately after I leave (and she does not have to transfer mid-school year). One of my kuya’s flatmate in Sydney is leaving just before I arrive there, and the vacated space/bed will be available for my use for my first few weeks (I would not need to sleep on the floor!). I also had just enough time to save some funds to use as I start a new life in Sydney.

There is no reason for me not to believe that things fall into place somehow, when it’s meant to be. Things will not be complicated, sometimes you find it served to you on a silver platter. All you have to do is not hesitate, get moving, and grab that opportunity. I was not meant to move to Singapore. I was not meant to take up my masters degree in Europe. Just when the time was right, I find myself drawn by the waves of this life to Australia.

I can’t help think that when I finally find the love of my life, things will just fall in to place, just like these other beautiful changes that came into my life.

Sa dulo ng kalendaryo…

There is an old Filipino saying “wala ka na sa kalendaryo” (you’re no longer on the calendar) typically referring to women (or sometimes men) who are beyond the age 31, which is the highest number you can reach for a calendar month. They usually use this phrase to make you panic if you’re still not married when you reach 31 – “nasa dulo ka na ng kalendaryo, wala ka pang asawa” (you’re already at the end of the calendar but you’re still single). It’s as if when you get beyond the calendar unmarried, you’re doomed.

So, I’m already 31 years old as of a few days ago… and not yet married. I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment. Does that bother me? Not really.

The use of this phrase had become more rare as the years of late, perhaps because most of the people in my generation have started getting married much later than the generations before us. Most of my friends started getting married from age 28 up. Only a very few started families before 25. A lot of my friends right now are still single.

Some older friends and colleagues (belonging to earlier generations) often ask why in this generation most are getting married much later. Maybe it’s because there is the greater desire and need to be financially stable before settling down. Or perhaps it’s because there are so many things to do in the world now besides starting a family. There are so many time- and attention-consuming activities around, like traveling, post-grad education, hobbies, etc. We are more entertained and distracted now with other things, so getting hitched is oftentimes a non-priority.

But that’s not to say we’re not interested in settling down. Personally, it is in my mind and plans for the future, hopefully once I find the right person to spend my life with and raise a family with. However, I am not pressured or panicking even if I’ve already reached the end of the calendar. I’ll let it happen in its own perfect time.

The long road that leads to Oz

I’m set to move to Australia in a few weeks time. Somehow, I find it amazing to look back and realise how slowly things fell into place, and how the timing was on spot. I’m guessing that the long road started in 2012…

I worked for The Mind Museum for 4.5 years, and it was finally created and opened to the public in early 2012. I left the team in 2012, and while in between jobs, went on a vacation for a month with my family in Australia to visit my brother who was working there. We were able to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Gold Coast, and meet up with our other relatives.

There was something about Australia that captured me during that very first trip. Something that somehow felt like home, and I truly felt that it was a place I would love to settle in. Perhaps there’s a lot of things and factors, not just one reason, why the place seemed more welcoming than most other places I have been to.

When I went back to Manila, I still had two pending tasks to work on – find a new job, and prepare for an application for scholarship for a Masters Program in Europe which I have been planning for the longest time. I took my IELTS for the scholarship application in November 2012, and got good scores. I put together my application for the scholarship and submitted it in December 2012, and again in December 2013, but I was out of luck. There were only 12 slots while there were hundreds of applicants. I was not offered the scholarship both times.

In December 2012, I was accepted by an Australian company operating in Manila to work under a project of AusAid (now DFAT). I started with them January 2013 and had an initial one year contract, but I decided not to complete one year and left in June 2013. I moved to a retail company and worked as a business systems analyst, a work which was much more closer to my qualification as Industrial Engineer. I stayed with the company for an entire year, until I found an irresistible opportunity and was offered a position under USAID.

During this entire time with these three different companies, I was already researching and preparing documents for my application to Australia. The plan was to apply as a skilled independent immigrant, as an Industrial Engineer. I was finally able to put together all the requirements for the competency demonstration report and submitted it to Engineers Australia in September 2014. The IELTS I took in November 2012 was the same IELTS results I used for this.

While waiting for my Engineers Australia (EA) certification, I already created an account on SkillSelect. The only remaining requirement to complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) was the certification.

My passport was expiring in mid-2015, so I decided to renew it around middle of January 2015. I was still waiting for my EA certification, and was expecting that it will take a few weeks to a few months upon lodging my EOI before I get an invitation to apply for a visa. Before the end of the month, I received an email from SkillSelect:

“You currently have an EOI in draft status in SkillSelect. If you complete and submit the information in your EOI, you may be eligible to be invited to apply for a visa in the next invitation round.”

Immediately after receiving this, I emailed Engineers Australia to follow-up on the certification, since I was expecting their response by late December or early January. The next day, I receive a response from them saying that my certification is actually already in the (snail) mail, but they also sent me in the same email a scanned copy of the same. Since they already gave me the scanned copy, I uploaded it on SkillSelect and finally completed and submitted my EOI.

Two days after, I get an invitation from Western Australia to apply for state nomination. On day three, I get an invitation to apply for a skilled independent visa 189.

Things were like on steroids since then. Can you imagine, I get an invitation to apply for a visa just days, not even half a week, from the time I lodged my EOI? The timing was indeed perfect. The I realised, I was still waiting for my new passport to be shipped to me, and I can’t submit my visa application until I have it.

Two weeks after, I receive my new passport. I prepare all the documents required, have them certified as true copies again, scanned and uploaded them, and lodged my visa application. That was the first week of February 2015. They say it takes around 3 months processing for these types of visas.

I receive a request for more information by the end of March 2015. I quickly worked on getting the additional document requirements that was needed, I was given only 28 days to provide a response to their request. I was able to complete everything and have them certified as true copies exactly on the 28th day, and submitted them immediately. That was the end of April 2015.

Just a little over a week after, I got my visa grant notice. It was finally time to start planning and working on the big move.

I’ll just be completing my original one year contract with USAID. Just in time, I’ll have just one week to pack before I fly out. Also, I’ll be leaving my room in the condo just right before the start of the next school year for my cousin, and just a good time for someone else to replace me when I vacate the condo.

It may have been a relatively long road to get here, but it was a rollercoaster towards the end of the ride.

Cooking Master Girl – Pre-hypertensive Edition

I have a bit of a challenge lately, having had my blood pressure up to pre-hypertensive level consistently for the past week. I never really monitored my blood pressure level before, but I wasn’t feeling well at the start of last week, and they checked and found out that my BP was a bit on the high side. Indeed, I have the genetic pre-disposition to hypertension, but it was as if there was a switch that turned on when I reached 30. Last November my BP also already went up. Seems like I really have to do something actively about it now.

Thus the real challenge: what should I eat? I know that I should avoid fatty and salty foods, and thus fastfood, most processed foods and instant foods should be avoided. Therefore I have to prepare my own food five days a week at the condo, and I only have a microwave and an oven toaster to make do with. I have to be a little bit creative.

Armed with a little research, I made my way through the supermarket earlier with a revised grocery list. I got back to my place after, and removed the instant noodles and canned meat from my pantry. I have to avoid them at all cost now.

For dinner, I prepared grilled chicken in the oven toaster and put together a simple salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as dressing. I took pains to marinade the chicken in everything except salt – I put calamansi (a local lime), olive oil, and some spices. It tasted ok so far, but i’ll probably still add some more spices next time.

I got a lot of grains for brekkie – rolled oats, wholegrain cereals, muesli. I also got high-calcium low-fat milk to match. That should keep my tummy entertained in the mornings for the next few weeks.

For snacks I got fresh fruits, unsalted mixed nuts, and low fat yogurt. I also got wholegrain loaf for whatever – for sandwiches, for pizza bread, or just as a match to anything for meals.

Let’s see in the next few days how things work out. Hopefully there will be enough variety, enough flavor, as well as reduced salt and fat in everything I eat.I’m also hoping that I’ll be hsppy with the food I prepare so it will be sustainable. Once I have my blood pressure under control without the need for medication, I may be able to throw in the occasional fatty and/or salty treat.