How to be myself

I have always known that somehow I transform into an entirely different person when I feel very strongly for someone (note that I am not using the four-letter word here on purpose). I become someone else, someone I don’t know and I don’t like too much, and for the longest time it has been near-impossible to control it. But I have decided that enough is enough. I want to take back my own sense of self, regardless, or perhaps most importantly when I have to deal with feelings for someone special. I want to be myself again, the best version of me.

How to be myself? Can I be the best person to answer that? My close friends could also very well help me with that. Some of them have seen me at my best and worst, and I value their thoughts very much. They have been treasures these past few days, regardless of time or distance. How can I survive without them?

I have to get my life back on track. My life has been interrupted for a while, so I need to get my focus back on the important things. I have to remind myself of the high-energy, free-spirited me. Strong and feisty. I have the ability to conquer worlds.

Day in and day out I need to actively remind myself of who I truly am. Because I know that at the end of the day, it is this self that will draw true love into my life.

Time to welcome back the real Abii.

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Olive-skinned

Lately I’ve been hearing that term, ‘olive-skinned’. What does that even mean? I have always thought that olives are colored either green or black. But I’ve heard colleagues call themselves olive-skinned, compare how “dark” they are from other friends or relatives… and I look at them and they look much fairer than me!

“When people say “olive skin”, they generally are talking about a slightly darker complexion, usually in the light brown range, that has a naturally-tanned look.” – http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-olive-skin.htm

Back home, I thought I had much fairer skin than most people. Colloquially they called it mestiza, and somehow it was effortless for me because that was my natural color. A lot of people were aiming for fair skin, and whitening products was big business back there.

I have not considered to artificially whiten my skin, and I don’t think I will. But right now I completely feel like the immigrant that I am. This is the risk of being in someone else’s country. I am no longer Snow White, no longer the fairest of this kingdom. I’ve never heard anyone call me olive-skinned or yellow-skinned yet, but I can feel how different I am from everyone else.

Perhaps I should use this realisation to my advantage. I should accept that I am unique, I am special, I am quite different especially in this new world that I am trying to conquer.

Finding Abii – Half-a-year in Straya

Today marks the completion of the first six months of my new life here in Australia, and indeed it’s something worth celebrating.

Let me explain the title for this post. Finding Abii… perhaps it refers to both discovering and rediscovering myself here in my new world. A fresh new start have given me a great opportunity to rediscover things about myself, my love for music, dance, and the learning endeavours I’ve put on hold or semi-abandoned in the past. Finding the time and opportunity here, there is a chance to find more of myself again.

Music, Dance, and the Arts
On my first month, I bought new guitar and have been fiddling with it during free time. My my dad also brought over my violin when he came over in December. That’s one more thing that I want to spend more time on, practicing how to make beautiful music on stringed instruments. I’ll be going for dance classes soon too. People who know me most know how much I love dancing. I want to spend more time on it in the coming months.

The city also abounds with so many different opportunities to enjoy and appreciate different kinds of arts. I enjoyed watching the Symphony at the Domain a few weeks back, just having a picnic on the grass and watching an orchestra under the stars. I would’ve enjoyed watching the Opera at the Domain the week after, but I’m sure I’ll have other chances for that soon. I might find time to visit the art galleries in the city too.

Health and Wellness
I am also lucky to have also rediscovered a healthier me here in Sydney. I no longer need my asthma or allergy medicines to survive the world. Just a little bit, and I’ll be off all maintenance medicine soonest. I’m also starting to rediscover a more fit Abii. With a gym downstairs from our apartment, there is no reason not to go or not to make time to go. Eating relatively healthier has been helping too. I’m starting to find a skinnier version of myself which was kept somewhere deep inside. So far, I’m down almost six kilograms since I arrived. I know I still have a long way to go to get to my target, but it’s a good and promising start.

Work and Learning
I was lucky to have found contract work with the Federal Government of Australia on my first two months in Sydney, and even luckier to have received a 3-month extension on top of my original 4-month contract. I must be doing something right, they must be satisfied with how I work to consider me for such. I still continue to search for a permanent job though, but what I’ve had so far is a good start.

I’ve also started on some studying and learning towards something I should have done a long time ago. It’s mostly self-study for now, maybe take some formal classes in the near future, and eventually take a certification exam. It’s a personal commitment I have to make good on.

Finding the lost self
Unfortunately, not everything about this new life is about finding or rediscovering things. I’ve also lost a little part of me somehow when I moved, and it’s something intangible and difficult to explain or put into words. As such, I am truly in the process of “finding Abii”, looking for a part of my sense of self, confidence, and independence that gave me the power to overcome all kinds of adversity in the past. It took some time for me to realise what was lost or missing in my self, but as they say, knowing is already half the battle. Now I can actively remind myself of “myself”, I should be back to my old self shortly.

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.

2015 Goal achieved!

It was way back in 2012 when I decided that I was moving to Australia for good, and I envisioned to move by 2015. Since coming back from vacation in 2012, I have deliberately filled my life with little bits that always reminded me where the goal was – little kangaroos and koalas on my office desk and at home, a picture of Sydney Harbour on my computer desktop, and so many other things. And even the year, 2015, was deliberately repeated along with these little clues to my future.

Here I am now. A little bit over four months in, and excited to celebrate Christmas and New Year here in my second home. Things are falling into place slowly, but there is much that has yet to be achieved. But I’ve done the biggest leap.

Thank you 2015. Hello Australia. Welcome to my future.

Hello NSW drivers license ;)

This is actually as exciting and notable as getting my first job here in Sydney. I’ve been driving for over a decade in the Philippines, but as a new permanent resident here in Australia, I had to convert my Philippine drivers license to a local one. Now I’ve already gotten my full car license issued by NSW. Feels like I’m as good as a real local now.

It’s not easy though. Takes a lot of effort, but it’s doable. The advice I got from other people as well as researching ahead really helped too. I’m sharing the most important tips that helped me get my license here:

Tip #1
You can drive here with the regular full (non-pro) license from the Philippines, and there is no need to convert it to an “international” license. If you’re on a temporary visa, there is no need to convert it to an Australian drivers license as long as its still valid. But for permanent residents, you are only allowed to use it for three months from the day you arrive (or the day you are granted a permanent resident visa if you’re already here). Afterwards, you need to have an Australian drivers license to drive.

Tip #2
If you’ve been driving for more than 5 years in the Philippines, better get a certification from LTO before you leave the country. They can issue a document that shows when you were issued your first drivers license, because that information that does not appear on your current license unless you still have your first one. Also, make sure your license is still valid, of course.

Tip #3
First thing to do here is sign up to do the Drivers Knowledge Test (DKT). It’s a computer-based multiple-choice test on road rules. You can easily do that at any NSW Service office. Make sure that you review for it though – and review includes reading the handbook, and doing their practice test online at least 10 times (no kidding). The practice test is almost the same as the actual test, but the questions vary and are generated from a pool of questions, and taking the practice test lets you see almost all of the questions and answers. They also have a mobile app version of the practice test.

Tip #4
For the DKT, make sure that you bring the following documents – proofs of identification, usually a Passport and other locally issued ID such as Medicare, your Philippine license, and a proof of residence in NSW, usually a bill or a bank statement that include your NSW home address. Check their website to check other forms of identification that they may accept.

Tip #5
If you pass the DKT, they will usually issue a learners license (an L). But if you’ve been driving a few years (this is where the LTO certification is useful) and can already qualify for a P license or a full license, and if you still have some time before you wont be allowed to use your country’s license (you haven’t reached the 3 months mark yet), they may not issue an a L for the time being. Assuming you don’t need an L, next thing you need to do is book a driving test.

Tip #6
One of the best tips I am glad I followed is to book a driving test as far you could from the city. I had mine at Blacktown. The less busy the area, the better. They also advised to get a schedule at around noontime, so you won’t have to worry about schoolzone speed limits.

Tip #7
DEFINITELY go for driving classes, at least to practice for the driving test. Best to do your practice driving with a driving instructor from the same area where you are taking the test, because they usually already know the driving test route. I think one of the best decisions I made was to get a driving instructor who was also Filipino, because I had no problem with language barriers and he also understood why I drove the way I do. Made it easier for him to correct my bad habits. I took just a few 1-hour classes to get used to the route and to correct my driving style for the test. I also did some practice on my own using a rental car, but that’s mostly to gain more confidence driving here. 

Tip #8
Relax during the driving test. This really helps avoid any unnecessary mistakes that may make or break your test. Make sure you had enough sleep the night before, you’re not hungry, you’re hydrated enough, and you’ve gone to the toilet before your test. And by the way, I had another 2-hour practice just right before the test. I also used my driving instructor’s vehicle for the test. My instructor was very supportive and encouraging and I guess it helped keep me calm and confident for the test. 

Since I’ve been driving for eons and have had my license since 2004 (as my LTO certification states), I get a full unrestricted car (C) license after the driving test. For others, you may get a P1 or P2 license depending on how long you’ve had your license before.

I did not intend to provide the complete step-by-step instructions on how to go about getting licensed, but rather just give tips that helped me get my NSW license on the first try. You have to DEFINTITELY read their website carefully and decide on the best strategy for your situation. 

Hope this helps!

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. 🙂