Back in Circulation

I guess I’m back in circulation. This is my first blog post after two whole months, even though there’s so much happening in my life right now. This is my first post as a resident of Australia. This is more an intro and I don’t expect to put much substance in what I am writing right now. But I’m hoping this would get me started again.

I’ve also thought about the title of this blog: “Quarter Life”. Maybe some will say that I’m already far beyond that at 31. But I have decided to keep it, since I already have a good number of posts and followers, and the domain is already paid for the next few years. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m still far from the mid-life crisis, so perhaps its ok to stay put right here. 

So here’s where my new story starts. My new life begins in Australia. The wild adventures of Abii continues…

Loopy

I find it quite strange and amazing to realise that I was also in Cebu during the exact same days just two years back. The previous trip was also for work, albeit I’m working for and with an entirely different organisation now. But just the same…

This realisation was thanks to Facebook, which now shows you what you posted on the same day in the years past. So, I saw my mirror selfie with the Cebu shirt on, as well as my close-up shot of the lechon (roast pig).

I also remember not being able to stay at that particular hotel last time. My then-assistant booked me in a different hotel despite the fact that the venue of the activity I was attending was there. But this time around, I was finally able to stay there, after two misses. I got a good rate too, one within my official allocation. And I got a great room, a corner unit with a king bed. Super.

And did I mention the lechon? With all my trips to Cebu, no matter the purpose, I make it a point to bring home lechon, or at least eat some during my stay. But usually it’s really take home lechon for me, and this time is no exception. Five kilos of sumptuous Cebu lechon in the box. Yay.

Aside from lechon, there’s the danggit and pusit (dried salted fish and squid), and some dried mangoes. That’s about it.

No touristy trips this time. There was none the last time too. I’ve been a tourist in Cebu several times before and I’ve seen most of the tourist spots, so no problem. It was mostly just work this time, as with the last one.

Interesting when life loops in on itself every now and then, no matter how simply or profoundly.

A movie throwback: Before Sunrise

before sunrise“Before Sunrise” was a 1995 movie starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It’s a movie I have not watched before, until tonight. I’m trying to catch up as much as I can on movies, trying to explore some recent, old, or ancient movies that I can get my hands on. I got a copy of this movie whilst searching for the “before” series, including “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” (2013). I would probably try to watch the two sequels in the next few days or weeks, but for now I only know of the first movie.

To be completely honest, I found the movie a little bit dragging somehow. Perhaps because of the constant tone and feeling to the movie throughout, from start to finish. It was not bland, though. There were no highs or lows during the entire movie, just a constant sense of romance, a simple story-telling of an exciting kind of “love story”. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful story and movie.

Quite interesting, too, to be familiar with that kind of story, that kind of romance. It did remind me of something, of someone. To be traveling in a strange place, to meet people, to fall in love with someone who you’ll never know if you’ll ever see again. That perfect situation actually rids you of the fear of falling in love – the fact that there are no rules or expectations, that you take everything in at that very moment, not thinking about the past or the future, not considering the “realities” of your life.

Let me not get into details. What I can only say is, I can relate.

The Next Great Train Ride

In keeping up with my old post comparing career paths to a series of train rides, I shall write again about my next big career “adventure” in the same line…

I’m jumping onto a different train again. A grander one. Possibly the one that I have been waiting to catch for quite some time.

Soafter I’ve made myself comfortable in my most recent train for an entire year, it’s time to get off and move to the next one again. Despite the meager comforts of the recent train, it has challenged and improved me both professionally and personally. I have worked well and learned much in such short time that I spent there. I have met new people, have become well acquainted with a number of them. I have also encountered some “difficult” individuals that I never knew even existed, and was able to properly deal with them.

This time, the transition from one train to the next was quite unexpected but wholeheartedly welcomed, somehow abrupt and immediate. I did not need to wait for the next train, nor did it wait for me. I had to jump on it as soon as I can, my feet barely touching the platform.

I don’t know what to expect at this point. There’s mixture of both excitement and nervousness for all of the unknown. I’ll start discovering what this new opportunity has in store for me soon. I’ve heard this one moves at quite a fast pace, and I have to adapt quickly and be at my best to stay balanced and keep up with the pace. But I’m quite optimistic that this will take me places and possibly take me faster and farther than I can imagine. A move from a rickety steam train to a bullet train perhaps?

Wish me luck.

The Climb

We went on an adventure two weeks ago, set off early morning to Capas, Tarlac to embark on a hike to the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

The base camp in Tarlac was about 2.5 hours drive from Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila), sans the traffic, because we left before daybreak. At the base camp, we registered with the tourism office, with the help of our tour organiser. The payment to the organiser and the tourism office are usually paid separately. Once everything was arranged, we set off on a 4×4 military-style jeep across the lahar-laden terrain.

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After a 1-hour ride on the 4×4, the vehicle parked about a large open area, and we began our 7km hike on foot. Indeed, 7km seems not so very far, but if you consider that the terrain is all volcanic sand and rocks along the banks (or rather, criss-crossing) of a mountain river, and all uphill, you will realise that it is not a walk in the park. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike the entire 7km uphill.

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The climb was all worth it. The crater lake was a beautiful sight to behold. We arrived at the crater lake mid-morning, and was still fortunate to find some shade made by the rim of the crater along the banks of the lake. We had about an hour just to sit there in the shade, look out at the lake, and just relax.

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Just recently, they have already disallowed swimming in the lake. I think they just imposed it this January (2013), for a good reason. According to stories, someone died a few weeks (or months) back, not because of drowning, but because of poisoning after ingesting water from the lake. Besides the usual sulfur, the lake is also high in other heavy chemicals, especially Arsenic, which is well known as an instant poison.

Near noon, the sun caught up with the crater and we had to seek shade, and then have lunch. There’s nothing to buy there, except for drinks which are P100 per bottle (about US$2.5, but honestly x3 of its regular price at the city). We brought chicken and rice meals with us for lunch, and different snack items we’ve been munching on throughout our climb.

After about three hours at the crater lake, we already decided to start our descent. We went down the same way we came up, and somehow the descent seemed a little bit more difficult in terms of traversing the terrain. But speed and effort was not the problem, just the balancing while shifting your weight downwards on the rocks and stones. It was one hell of a leg workout.

The return ride on the 4×4 was extremely dusty too, mainly because the terrain was a lot drier than during dawn, and there were a number of other vehicles ahead of us. It is good to have a shawl to cover the mouth and nose, and shades to cover the eyes. Covering for the head/hair is helpful too.


Some advise to those who intend to go on their own Mount Pinatubo adventure:

  • Try to look online for discounter vouchers. Or just research online the different groups and companies that organise trips to Pinatubo. Sometimes, the packages can include the transportation from Metro Manila, and even the meals. As for us, we chose to bring our own vehicles and bring our own food.
  • Keep your bag light. The most important things to bring/use are the following:
      • food – lunch; some snacks to eat along the way, such as sandwiches, cookies, and chips; candies and some sweets
      • drinks – water will do, but better to bring some hydrating drinks too such as gatorade. Best to bring at least two liters worth of fluids, unless you’re willing to spend money on the P100 drinks along the way
      • scarf, shawl, bandana or sarong – useful for a lot of instances, such as for keeping warm during the early morning, a covering for the face and mouth during the ride and the climb, and something to sit on at the banks of the crater lake… and perhaps a lot of other uses
      • hat or cap – to cover the head from the heat of the sun
      • trekking sandals – better to use this than rubber shoes, because there’s a lot of instances that you will need to cross the river
      • breathable clothes – I would advice to wear shorts or short pants, and sports shirt or singlet; bring additional clothes too, just in case you will need to change
      • light jacket – not sure if this is always applicable, but our January trip was very cold during the morning, and so the light jacket was really useful
  • Put all your stuff in a backpack

I <3 Gold Coast

Gold Coast is one of the best places I’ve ever been to. It was paradise for me. The beachfront extended long beyond what your sight can reach. They say beach extends more than 53 kilometers, that’s so much more beach than I’ll ever need in my lifetime. There’s a lot of beautiful sand to lie on. The seawater was still cold when we were there, but it had good waves worthy of a little swim or a nice surf. The main segment of the beach is even called Surfers’ Paradise, and the place is very worthy of the name.

Gold Coast, of course, boasts of its exceptional coasts and beaches. In addition, there are a lot of other recreation places and attractions in town. There’s Movieworld, Dream World, Sea World, White Water World, Wet n’ Wild, Australian Outback Spectacular, Paradise Country, among so many other attractions around.

While we were in Gold Coast, we stayed in the Surfers’ Paradise area, in the Q1 hotel. Q1 hotel is the tallest building there, and one of the tallest residential buildings in entire Australia. They had a viewdeck at the 77th floor from where you can see almost the entire Gold Coast area, and maybe even nearby areas. There is also an option to go up even further on top of Q1 to its spire, but it requires an additional pay, and you will need to be strapped to a full body harness to step outside the building at that height.

We had a VIP pass, which allowed us unlimited entry to Movieworld, Sea World, and Wet n’ Wild. We had limited time though, so we just got to go once to Movie World and Sea World, but no longer had time to go to Wet n’ Wild.

The Movie World was something similar to the Universal Studios in Singapore, both in content and in size. Would’ve been nice to stay for an entire day in Movie World. There were a lot of nice rides and shows, rollercoasters, and such. There was also a parade of their characters in the late afternoon. We got to ride the Superman rollercoaster, but we didn’t get to experience a lot of other rides because lines were so long and we only had one entire afternoon there. I enjoyed the place nonetheless

The Sea World was amazing. I’ve been to Sea World in San Diego before, but that was more than ten years ago that I can barely remember how it was. Sea World in Gold Coast was big, and it had a number of big enclosures for different marine animals – dolphins, manta rays, sea lions, and sharks, among others. There was also a huge place for some polar bears. We did watch most of the main shows, but didn’t get the time to ride the rollercoasters again.

We went to Paradise Country too, a good place to see a bit of Austalian wildlife. Of course we didn’t want to miss the chance to see koalas and kangaroos. There were also horses, sheeps, and other animals. It was just a good morning visit, and you can opt to have lunch there too. The place is just a kilometer or so from Movieworld.

We also took good time at the beaches. How can anyone not be drawn to spend time at the beaches of Gold Coast? How I wish I knew how to surf though, because it seemed a wonderful place to surf. A good place to bake under the sun to, and I love sunbathing.

A lot of people say that Gold Coast is the vacation capital of Australia, and I would totally believe them. There is so much there to enjoy, and a week is not enough to get to do everything. Perhaps you’ll just keep coming back. And yes, I plan to come back again someday.

Canberra Sights

My dad’s cousin and his family took us on a road trip from Sydney to Canberra on our first week in Australia. It was a 4-hour drive away from Sydney, and we went there just for a day trip.

The first place we visited was the Parliament House. According to http://www.aph.gov.au : “The home of Australia’s Parliament and the meeting place of the nation, Parliament House is located on a 32-hectare site on Capital Hill and is the focal point of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. It was opened on 9 May 1988 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.” Contrary to the usual impression that the capital city of Australia is one of either Sydney or Melbourne, it’s actually Canberra, which is located in the middle of the two. There is not a lot about Canberra as a city besides being the Capital of Australia, and precisely because the city is really just built geographically in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne to serve as the political centre of the country.

Visitors and tourists are allowed inside the Parliament House, but not before a security check comparable to an airport. A lot of areas inside the Parliament House were available for access to visitors, including the Great Hall, the Parliament House Art Collection, and Senate and House of Representatives Chambers (when there are no ongoing sessions). You can also go up to the green roof-deck of the building, which actually inclines downwards to the first level, serving both as part-roof and part-facade.

Next, we went to the Australian War Memorial Museum. According to http://www.visitcanberra.com.au : “The Australian War Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of Australian men and women who served in war. Visit one of the world’s great museums; an outstanding archive and centre for research into Australia’s wartime history.” It’s a pretty interesting place, but I couldn’t appreciate it in its entirety because I was not familiar with the history of Australia, especially their war history. But it indeed is very remarkable how Australia give so much thought and effort to remembering all their heroes and fallen during the past two world wars.

Lastly, we went to the Floriade festival, Australia’s celebration of the coming of spring. Floriade 2012 was a month-long festival, open from 15 September – 14 October, 2012 at the Commonwealth Park in Canberra. They plant a lot of different colorful flowers in a number of garden beds, in beautiful designs. (http://www.floriadeaustralia.com/)

Walking Sydney

I had almost two weeks in Sydney during my trip to Australia. The purpose of our trip was mainly to visit my brother, but we included a lot of sightseeing. There is just so much to see around Sydney.

Town HallIt was good that my brother’s place where we stayed is smack in the middle of the city. He has a condo along George Street, and if I understand correctly, it’s one of the main roads within the city. Almost everything was within walking distance and we were able to take advantage of this.

 

Hyde Park was two blocks away. It was a wonderful big park, although I don’t know how else to describe a beautiful park besides mentioning the nice big trees, the lush green grass, and the amazing fountains, and the lovely park benches. There was also a small war-memorial museum on one side of the Hyde Park. On one end, you can already see the St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was just a good place to walk to and around.

 

The Town Hall was right beside the condo, although we never took time to have a look inside. However, there is a free walking tour around downtown Sydney that starts infront of the Town Hall twice a day. We joined one walking tour one morning, and it showed us around the different sights and structures around the George Street area, ending at the edge of The Rocks, near the Circular Quay. The entire walking tour took around 3 hours, but it was a very leisurely walk, together with a crash course in Sydney history.

 

 

Sydney structures and architecture are beautiful, and something different to me. Their old buildings are very ornate, reflecting such a rich history as a Commonwealth colony. It’s good that they are able to preserve a lot of these buildings downtown, if not all. The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) building was pretty interesting too, the way it has been re-purposed to be a high-end mall, and yet retaining that old-English vibe. It is a wonderful mix of the old and the new.

 

 

The Westfield mall was also close by. You can practically get from QVB to Westfield and Pitt Street through the basement shops. Westfield is their big, high-end mall. They have mid-range stores at the lower levels, and a good food court at one of the upper levels. You can also access the Sydney Tower Eye through Westfield mall.

Paddy’s Market and Chinatown was also around the vicinity. Although their Chinatown is not as “Chinese” as the other Chinatowns I have visited, here in Manila and in Singapore, it was also a pretty interesting area. Paddy’s Market is a covered, flea-market style retail area, and there are also a lot of things you can find there, both dry goods (clothes, household items, toys, souvenirs) and wet goods (fruits, vegetables, and meat). It’s a good place to buy souvenirs and “pasalubong” (take-home gifts for family and friends).

The Circular Quay is a long walk or a short bus ride away. From there, you can take a ferry to most of the ports around Sydney. It also gives a good vista of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on opposite directions. Unfortunately we did not have the time to go climb the Harbour Bridge, nor walk to the Sydney Opera House. We did, however, take a ferry to Manly Beach and explore the area. Manly Beach is a good place to hang out, sunbathe, swim, and surf, and it’s pretty near the city and very accessible via the ferry.

Speaking of beaches, we did go to Bondi Beach, but it’s a bit of a drive from the city. We did not get to swim because it was pretty cold during that time, but there were number of Aussies doing their sunbathing. We decided to settle around the grassy area and have a picnic. We also got to walk around the area, with a number of food places and stores around.

 

Darling Harbour was also a short walk from my brother’s place. Darling Harbour is a busy area but also relaxing in a way. There are a few museums around Darling Harbour including the Maritime Museum and Madame Tussauds along the harbour, and the Powerhouse Museum a short walk away. We did not go to any of the museums though. I went on a solo walk there one late afternoon and just spent some time around the Tumbalong Park and beside the harbour. On another occasion, I was there with the family and we had dinner as we waited for the Saturday evening fireworks.

Whatelse? Hmmmm… Maybe I should also mention Woolworths (or Woolies!) right across Town Hall. We were getting foodstuff from Woolies almost every day, and it was just a tumble away from the condo.

Perhaps if I had more than two weeks in Sydney, I would be able to see more and explore more of the city and the nearby suburbs. I would also be able to spend more time with the extended relatives. Aye, I’ll definitely be back, I’ll find a way.

See you again Sydney.

Always Somewhere

Wherever you are, it’s always good to remember one thing – you are not somewhere else. You can only be in one place at any specific time. It’s good to acknowledge where you are at the moment. You can always try to compare, but not one place is above another. There is always the good and the bad. Sometimes we get to choose where we stay long term, but most often than not, we are helpless and we just remain where we can.

It shouldn’t be as bad as it sounds. We should never feel stuck where we are. We should learn to appreciate what is available to us wherever we are. Eat what’s available around. Drink the local sodas and beers. Visit the parks, beaches, and museums around. Go bar hopping. Whatever activity your heart desires, if you find it available where you are, then go for it. If not, then find something else to do.

We usually tend to not maximise or take advantage of experiencing what is available in our locality. I know of a lot of people who don’t really go around unless they have some visitors to take around. On the other hand, they spend so much to travel elsewhere and explore other places, when they haven’t really explored their own city or country. Even I am guilty of this. Would be great to do otherwise though.

I’m doing whatever I can here in Australia. Mostly I’m at the mercy of my family, and my schedule completely depends on them. But I do try to experience what I can with each trip and tour that we take. Still midway through my trip now, and still looking forward to the next few days of experiencing things Aussie.

After my trip, I’ll go back to my beloved Manila. Maybe I’ll spend more time exploring my own “backyard” from then on, even go shopping in the usual malls and flea markets. I will find time to visit the museums that I’ve never visited before. I’ll spend time in parks. There is no need to travel abroad elsewhere to do all these.

How well have you explored and experienced your own cities or countries?

Time Flies (and so am I)

Sometimes I forget, but I am almost always reminded every time, how time flies. Six weeks surely passed by like nothing, even though I was initially afraid that it would crawl and leave me longing for it to end. But indeed, it passed by like it was nothing. I thought I would have enough time to do everything I needed to do during this transition period, but I wasn’t able to. I’ll just do the rest when I return.

Now I’m leaving for another trip, and this is probably the longest trip I’ll be taking since 2005. But it is just three weeks, and I’m pretty sure it will also pass by so quickly, especially because we are set to do so many things and visit so many places. So excited.

By the time you read this post, I’ll probably be boarding or already on-board the plane, or have arrived down-under. I don’t know if I’ll have the time to write while on my 3-week adventure. The up-side to this is I’ll probably have a lot more stories to tell after.


So kiss me and smile for me,
Tell me that you’ll wait for me,
Hold me, like you never let me go.
Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane,
Don’t know when I’ll be back again…