Monday, December 29, 2014

Around Bangkok in 3 Days

Normally, exploring a city would take more than a week to fully enjoy the place, the culture and the people.  But for some people who doesn't have the luxury of an extended vacation, a week is already too long.  Here's our sprint in the City of Angels - Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok was initially just our 4-hour layover from UAE going to Australia, but since we have a GC bound to expire soon, we decided to use it and spend additional 3 days in the city on our way back to UAE.  Our flight to Bangkok was on a Sunday at 4:00 pm.  I wanted to start our "sprint" with the Chatuchak Market unfortunately the traffic took us almost an hour to reach our hotel so the Sunday market was immediately off the list to visit.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bangkok: Foodie's Paradise

Asian food has always been a good motivation to eat out.  And among the Asian cuisines, Thai is always a winner.  A few months back, we were lucky to travel and celebrate three important occasions, my niece's birthday, our initial entry and my birthday.  Our last stop of that entire journey was Bangkok, Thailand.

If it weren't for a free accommodations we wouldn't have considered adding this country in our itinerary.  But since its expiring very soon, decided to do it.  Anyway, another reason to explore a new culture is a good excuse to extend a vacation.

I have been to Bangkok many years ago, with the whole family.  Back then, DIY vacation was not really a thing, so we spent most of our time hopping in and out of vans to visit every tourist attractions of the city.  We did a little exploring on areas near the hotel and the ones my parents were familiar with.  But this trip, my husband and I did most of the adventurous on-the-budget tourists do, DIY.

Maybe I should break down my posts into two.  This post will focus mainly on the food and the next one will be on how to go to places, well not all places in Bangkok just the ones in our itinerary.  So food!

Before leaving for Bangkok, I had to do some mega research on where and what to try in the city.  I'm a huge huge fan of Pad Thai despite it being seafood laden and I'm allergic to it.  Good thing though I can order chicken instead of shrimp.  

Pad Thai vendor
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saying Goodbye to an Alma Mater

I would have continued enumerating my Marisian highlights as what I have previously posted, but then I have a changed of heart.

It would be so fun to share more stories on how our speech lab gives me the creeps or the mysterious happenings during camping inside the campus.  The gossips and food shared on the red table that is not really red.  Or on how it never occurred to me why that space on the third floor of the library building is called Admin Bldg.  I could go on but then the inevitable point came where I needed to move out of that zone.  Yes, graduating.       

UCB - United Chrysolite Babes and Bugoys

In as much as most kids these days just can't wait to grow up and be a kolehiya, they don't really know what it is like to be a grown up.  They think they know - being a grown up means you have to be responsible.  Being a grown up you have to make decisions.  Being a grown up is just plain boring.

Saying goodbye to Stella Maris was bittersweet.  High school was so much fun.  Well for me it was.  High school meant I'm in that point where I can plan for my future but still remain childish.  I could joke around with my teachers and not be scared being graded while doing so ( I think!).  I have discovered that treating your teacher as some sort of a friend than a witch is much better for my learning.

Graduation could mean a lot of things for anybody  It was the culmination of all your hard work.  If it was enough for you to enter the world of collegiate.  It also means that you have to pass certain points to get into your preferred course.  It means you have to march on that stage with your head held high while your parents vigorously clap their hands knowing you have yet made a milestone in their plan for your future.  Graduation means you are almost ready to be an adult.

But for me graduation was something else, it was saying goodbye to all the 139 faces I see everyday for the past 12 years.  It was giving more space on the red table so somebody else could form friendships there.  It was returning all books so somebody else could learn from it too and perhaps doodle a little on the edges.  It was dancing one last time on the dirt covered ground for our field demo.  Pockets of good memories that could be a good topic when you meet up with old friends in the future.  That is just for me, I don't know what other 139 memories my classmates have in their pockets.

One thing is for certain though, we have one common memory that I am pretty sure that we will never ever forget.  Our graduation song.  You see, in Stella Maris we don't just adapt any inspiring song to be sung during our graduation rites, we make them.  So here is our graduation song, well just the lyrics, which sometimes I find myself singing while in the shower.

A Graduate's Farewell
by: Carnelian Class'96-'97

Look at us
See what we have become 
Feel our pride and happiness
See how far we have gone

We have reached the end of the path
Here lies the crossroads of life
Another adventure is about to begin
But do we have to say goodbye?

When the roads are too many
And we're too confused to choose
There is his rod to aid
And keep our pace
And wherever these roads roads lead
However far
Forget me not my friend as you and I
Reach our lives farthest star

Everybody bidding goodbye
Going ahead with their own journey
But I love you my dear friend
And before you leave
I have something to say
Through the blowing winds of time
We will leave nothing behind
(some lines missing...sorry)

Look at us..see what we have become   

And the song still rings truth.  We may have all went our separate ways but a Marisian will always be a brother or a sister to the rest of the Marisian community.  So I guess it will never be a goodbye, maybe its just a see-you-later thing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Marisian Life

It's funny how you sometimes do pieces of writing about little things that reminds you of a colorful childhood and it ended up being shared... like a lot?  It's overwhelmingly scary.  But in a good way...I think. I write stuff and after I think it is decent enough to reread for later I throw it into the cyber void hoping that nobody will find it.  (I'm weird that way).

Anyway!  To continue my celebration of my coral year as an acceptable human being, this is my last piece on the place I have spent 12 years of my life outside my home.  My second home - Stella Maris.

My prep Class Picture - Section Butterball

When I posted the previous piece, a lot of my friends and classmates commented on what they miss about Stella, so I'm compiling my top 20 and it is probably the same thing as most of the Marisian readers.

Grade 1 Cosmos (The Talisay tree behind is the only tree that doesn't have "til-as" - yes because it has no leaves and its probably dead already)

1.  Buying a ruler from the cashier is a very daunting task.  It was in 2nd grade, when an activity requires a ruler and I left mine at home.  But since I will be needing it in the afternoon I still have time to get one without going home.  P.S. I don't know how to get home because I take a carpool so going home is not in the list of my options.  So during recess I rushed to the cashier's office and bought a ruler or at least tried buying.
                                Me: "Ms. Teves tag-ilan ang ruler?"
                                Ms. Teves: "Walang tag-ilan dito!" (and bangs her window)
     second attempt (lunch break):  
                                Me: "Ms. Teves, may ruler po kayo?"
                                Ms. Teves: "Meron.  Ilan?"
                                Me: " Isa lang po.  Tag-ilan?" (bang! the window closed again)
So what seems to be the problem???  Maybe Ms. Teves doesn't like me.  I ended up asking my classmate to buy one for me instead.

2.  The pseudo artist.  Still in 2nd grade, it was a Thursday and our teacher informed us that we will be drawing  our favorite animal the next day, so we need to bring our drawing materials.  The ever prepared me did more than that.  I asked my Tatay to draw me a rabbit which of course I submitted the following day.  My teacher was so impressed so she posted "my" drawing on the best drawing board along with two other drawings.  Not only that, since she was so impressed she entered me to this inter-section drawing competition.  I was so mortified.  During the contest I was sweating profusely and the the thought of drawing stick people during the contest was just plain embarrassing.  So what should I do???  I fainted. The end. 

3.  The Bell.  I can't remember what grade level I was then, but there was this thing that everybody does when the bell rings during recess or lunch break.  Nope, we don't break dance, we did the opposite.  We freeze.  Whatever you are doing, when the bell rings you just have to stop.  It was weird but everybody in the school did it.  It was funny.  I could imagine those who were drinking from fountain when the bell rings.

4.  Toilet particulars.  I have developed an early hint of OCD when it comes to comfort rooms.  I must say it all started when I was introduced to the elementary CR.  It was dark, dank and dingy.  The triple D.  And it stinks like big time.  I wonder why.  And so, I have used my "tall-ish" feature and sneaked into the high school CR when I needed to tinkle. One time, during recess, I slipped into the high school CR when the bell rang, I did my business hurriedly inside the cubicle and ran outside.  And I noticed that some of the people were giving me funny looks while some sniggered.  When I reached the line I realized that my skirt accidentally got inserted in my ruffled knickers. Yes.  Red-face moment.

5.  Jeepers cleaners.  A section is divided into 5 groups that are assigned to clean the classroom at the end of the day.  Whoever is the leader will be a powerful individual.  I think, the cleaner leader and the class president almost have the same power.  You know why?  You have the power to report a classmate to the teacher.  Whoever escapes cleaning will be punished.  That's how serious cleaning is in Stella is. :)   I was so dedicated in cleaning that in 6th grade, I volunteered to clean the classroom during lunch break.  During lunch breaks all classrooms are closed/locked but since our classroom was at the newly added wing to the school and our teachers stayed during the break, we can go up there and clean.  Unfortunately for us, the janitor saw us and reported us to the prefect.  I cried so hard when we were sent to the office of the school's Prefect.  It was my first time but not the last.  As punishment, we swept the hallway floor from entrance to the canteen.  Traumatic.

6.  The Talisay tree.  The school ground is surrounded by big Talisay trees.  And each tree has this concrete bench around it.  It serves as a hangout place for everybody.  But there are two or three particular Talisay trees that breed the most hideous "til-as" ever.  When it gets in contact with your skin it is crazy itchy.   I have only loved those kind of trees when I reached high school.  The two trees fronting the high school building are the best places to copy assignments and people watch.

7.  Cheering grandslam.  We never won.  No matter how cute our cheer leaders were.  Or no matter how loud we were.  No matter how funny our cheers were.  We just can't have the title of a winning batch.  This is probably a curse.  Curse of the Che Che Bole.

8.  The short cut.  When an additional wing was built at back of the existing elementary building, a short cut was made so you don't have to go down just to go to the next building.  Rumor has it that a white lady guards that pathway.  That's why I never pass that short cut alone because I sort of believe it.  Or maybe because I'm just a scaredy cat.

9. Chit or Cheat or Cheet.  I will never know the correct spelling.  This is the money we used during special events in school a.k.a. Sportsfest and Foundation day.  Its one of the events in school I usually look forward to because I don't get to wear my uniform and we can buy junk foods that are usually sold outside the school.  But we don't use the real money, we change it into this sort of play money thing.  We call it "chit/cheat/cheet" I don't know where the term originated.

10.  The first time I fell in love.  No!  Not with a boy! I fell in love with books.  Who knew about love during elementary days?!  I haven't discovered comb at that time yet.  Books just took me to places.  That was the time when I wanted to be as adventurous as Nancy Drew or have a twin like Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.  And this affair with the books have flourished until now and I think my friends still think I earmark the parts of "the birds and the bees."

So I have to cut the list short and make another post.  Like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and even Twilight have to cut their final chapter into two movies.  It's not because I wanted more attention (you think?!) but the post is too long already and I'm probably boring you.  So, off to the next page!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How I Survived Chinese School

It was 1986 while the Philippines was still singing the theme song for People's Power, my parents realized that having me ran around the entire day will only bring more scabs on my knees and nothing else.  So they have decided to enroll me to this good school that could probably give me the right education I need and be a productive citizen in the future - a Chinese School.

Me and my kababata Miss J

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

5 Realizations Before Turning 10

I love mornings.  Everyday while I'm preparing breakfast, I can look out of our kitchen window and see our neighbor's help doing about their usual morning routine.  At around 7:15 am a lady will go out from a smaller building behind the main house which I assume is the kitchen carrying a huge tray with some food on it.  It is probably food as it was covered with shiny cloches.  Then after some time a man will also walk by from another small building still at the back of the main house carrying a big garbage bag, he'll take the service gate which is near the servant's quarter going outside the compound to throw whatever he was carrying.  Like clockwork, I witness the same routine every morning.  Its nice watching them do their chores unaware of me watching them.  After typing this I feel like I'm already invading their privacy.  Oh well.

Where was I? Yes, mornings.  I love it.  It reminds me of waking up in our house in Davao city.  At 5:30 am our house is already bustling with ordered chaos.  We have a bakery attached to our house.  So pandesal and a lot of other noises greet us in the morning.  Pandesal served piping hot for only 0.50 pesos.  At least that's how I last remembered it.  *Sigh* Simple life.  How I long to have those days again.

In a few days from now, I'll reach my coral year.  Yes, I am way up there already.  And the number just reminds me a lot of things, like simpler things.  Back then before I turned 10 years old there are just some things I should have not taken for granted.

Realization No. 1:  I am a girl and not a boy.  Before I was introduced to dolls and kerokeropi, I like playing with guns and running around with the boys in our village.  My Tatay made me this wooden toy gun which I put inside my pockets like you do to a holster.  I would wear a maong jacket and a fisherman hat and chase the boys like Fernando Poe Jr. or Erap Estrada would do in the movies.  (Sorry Robin Padilla and Jeric Raval came into the picture at a later year.)  My nanny would chase me while I ran and climb the gate to play with the village boys in the afternoon just to skip afternoon naps which then leads me to my realization number 2.

Photo taken from the Net

Realization No.2:  I should have taken those afternoon naps, maybe I would have been taller than I am right now *wink*.  Before the time of cable televisions, iPads, Xbox and what not, playing outside the entire day until its dark is the most important part of my daily life.  But this realization took quite some time because while in elementary I was tall.  I mean, I'm one of the tallest girls in class.  When we line up for the flag ceremony I always stand at the back as I am taller.  While my grade level increase my place in the line moves further in the front.  I ended up as one of the smallest in our class by the time I graduated high school.  Bummer.

Photo taken from the net (I'm not this cute)

Realization No.3:  Remember I mentioned above that we play until it was dark?  Part of my activity then was also reading outside.  Not books of course but comics!  And when I say comics not Archie and His Friends comics but those comics with 10 pages that are sold in sari-sari stores.  A small store near our house sells cigarettes, candies and other grocery stuffs display this kind of comics.  For those born during the 80's I guess the Tagalog Klasiks, Pinoy Klasiks, Komedi will sound familiar.  I'd stay outside that store pretending to man the store for the old lady, and if she's not looking I'll take one of those comics and read it under a very dim  street light.  I ended up wearing glasses at an early age.  Realization conclusion, I should have ran away with it and read it inside our brightly lit house.

Photo taken from the net
Photo taken from the net

Realization No. 4:  There are boys and there are other kind of boys.  In kindergarten, I think I had my first crush.  He was this frail looking boy who sits in front of me.  In preschool, we are required to sit on the floor cross legged and since I was a bit "taller" I sit at the back.   I stare at the back of his head everyday and it makes me smile when he turns around and looks at me with those big round eyes.  I remember one time he touched my hand while he was talking (I can't remember what we were talking about probably something to do with boogers and all), I can still remember my face warmed when he touched me (yes I developed those feeling early on, I blame the Filipino comics).  He was a talkative boy and laughs a lot and dances a lot.  One time because we were so noisy our teacher wouldn't let us go home so the girls started crying and he, well he just started doing the same but in a chicken-dance way.  My teacher was so angry she pulled him using her wooden cane ( I think that incident should have been reported).  So he cried more.  Among the boys he was the only one who cried.

Realization No. 5:   Never skip on eating rice.  You know how are kids are during dinner time.  Very unpredictable.  One minute they like fried chicken the next time they think its poison.  I was one of those kids.  One night, my nanay won't let us drink our Milo if we didn't finish our dinner.  I don't feel like eating rice then because well, I'm a kid.  My sister, good girl that she is, cried while she forced herself to swallow spoonfuls of rice and chicken.  While scheming me, got another plate took a tablespoon of rice smeared it on the new plate and ran to my nanay to show her I finished my plate.  She clapped happily and was about to make me some Milo when she saw my original plate.  Yes, I got an earful of loving words.  Now, as much as I want to eat as many rice as I can cook, I just can't anymore.  No, I'm not allergic.  Let's just say rice makes me swell like a balloon.      

Monday, September 1, 2014

My First Almost Hala Bira!

It has been discussed a hundred times in school and more during family dinners even the news features it during January but I never get to experienced it until this year - 2014.  In the Philippines, January holds one of the most prestigious festival in the country.  This festival is in honor of the child Jesus or commonly known as the Sto. Nino.  Most provinces in Visayas celebrate this feast on a Sunday of January.

The festival's highlight is when the Sto. Nino is brought out from the convent into the Main Church and the tribal dance parade.  Plenty of the locals flock the church to witness the Sto. Nino and to have the chance to touch the statue for healing powers.  It was believed that if you touched the statue you will be healed with any illnesses.

Luckily, I have relatives to take us to the church and take part in the ceremony.  After a short ride from Boracay pier, we were fetched by my cousin to go straight to Ibajay.  That is my father's hometown and where the Ati-Atihan will take place.  Before you get confuse, Ati-Atihan in Aklan is celebrated on different Sundays depending on the town.  It is common knowledge that Ati-Atihan is on January 15 but this is only in the city of Kalibo Aklan.  For Ibajay, it is on the 3rd Sunday of January.  We were there on the day before the festival so just in time that the Sto. Nino will be brought out of the convent.

We arrived at the church around 11 am.  This is usually the time the Sto. Nino will be carried to the Church from the Convent.  The church ground was teeming with locals and tourists who are all dancing in the drum beats of the bands who are basically circling the church.  It was loud, hot and sticky but the atmosphere is just amazing.  Everybody was dancing and smiling.  Some people were already smeared with "uling." It is a ground charcoal wet with water and is used as make-up during the festival.  While me and my husband were looking too clean, a lot of passers-by smeared us with "uling."  My husband got more uling on his face than I did.  To think he was taller than most average Filipinos there, people reached out to put some uling on his face.  Well, good for him. 

When the Sto. Nino was carried out, people followed it inside the church, my cousin told me we should get inside and hopefully touch the statue.  The throng of people inside the church was just too overwhelming.  We were pushed in every direction.  Good thing no stampede happened and I was not trampled over (which I was already thinking might happen during the entire course of being pushed inside the church).  We were able to go near the Nino.  I whispered a simple prayer when I received the shirt my husband threw to touch the statue.  I haven't done this before but it won't hurt if I believe.

 Unfortunately we were not able to stay longer as our flight going back to Manila was on the same day.  Perhaps another year to witness the tribal dance and yes get to know my relatives in Ibajay more.  Maybe the next time I come back my wish will already be granted and I'll get the chance to do the "sad-sad" and sing "hala bira!" 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fun Under the Boracay Sun

Today was one sweaty day.  After a tedious house hunting, smooth shifting and finally settling in, I was able to do more of my regular chores now.  One of which was doing some bank visits, so I have to venture the desert heat.  And it was absolutely torturous.  Good thing though it was windy and I have my handy umbrella to keep me shaded.  The warm wind and the scorching sun reminded me of our short getaway to the island where the party runs 24 hours - yes, it is Philippine's very own Boracay.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

The Life-In-Abu-Dhabi Calculator: Chapter 4 - Food and Grocery

Once you have settled in to your little comfort zone.  Next to consider is how to feed your tummy.  We don't want to forget that.  Food is the most basic necessity of every living and breathing entity.

If you are the cooking type, it will help you save a lot in your daily expenditures.  Most Filipino opt to cook as ingredients are cheaper and almost everything is available.  If you are just renting a bed space some landlords/caretaker lend their cooking utensils to the renters.  The thing is you have to wait for your turn if in case one tenant is using it.  So if you have extra cash buy yourself a small rice cooker, a small sauce pan and a frying pan.

Some of the things you would also be needing are spoon and fork, a mug, some bed sheets, blanket and pillow case.  There are some bed space that only provide mattress so you need to buy a pillow too.  Before using the provided mattress check with bed bugs.  It is a must.  Before I came here I didn't know what bed bugs were (don't judge!).  So my first week, my legs were full of red blotches.  I thought it was just allergy, turned out I was feeding a huge population of bed bugs on our new mattress!! The mattress was new but the place we rented was just full of bed bugs.  I guess they were there first before we did.  We have actually invaded their space.

So where to buy these stuff?

Abu Dhabi is full of grocery stores and supermarkets.  So you can choose where ever you want to buy your groceries from.  For specialty stores there are some small grocery shops that sell ethnic ingredients.  For Filipino ingredients the go to place is the Green House and Queen Saba.  There are two Green House stores in the city one is corner of Najda St., and Electra St and one is along the old airport road.  The Queen Saba store is in Tourist Club Area behind Al Salama Hospital.

Before we used to have a flatmate who is from Kazakhstan and she usually cooks her native dishes over the weekend.  Ingredients were particularly difficult to find in local groceries and she told me, she got it from a store near Russian Embassy.  I don't know the name of the store, so if you are looking for some Russian ingredients or cooked meals have a little tour around Russian Embassy area in Hamdan.

For Chinese ingredients, there is a Chinese store along Salam St., They have almost everything you need when you want to make your own "shabu-shabu" at home.  For Indian ingredients most of it are readily available in big supermarkets.  It is the same for Thai but a wider range of spices and sauces are available in Choitram.

So how much are you going to allot for the necessities?  Here are some of the prices of grocery stuff as of 24 April 2014:

Small rice cooker - price starts at AED 49 and up, depending on the size and brand.
Sauce pan - price starts at AED 15 and up
Frying pan - price starts at AED 15 and up
bed sheet - price starts at AED 10 and up, depending on the size
blanket - price starts at AED 10 and up, depending on the size
pillow - price starts at AED 15
Jasmine rice - AED 27.00
egg - AED 3.75 for 6 pieces pack
milk - AED 4.50 for tetrapak and AED 5.50 for bottled fresh milk
cooking oil - AED 6.50
coffee - AED 15.90 for Nescafe three in one box of 28 pieces
chicken - AED 9.00 for whole frozen chicken 800-1000 grams a piece.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The-Life-In-Abu-Dhabi Calculator: Chapter 3 - Transportation

Roaming around the city is one way of familiarizing with the place.  If you are a newbie going around Abu Dhabi it is advisable that you take the taxi.

Taxicabs here in Abu Dhabi is not so expensive compared to Dubai.  Flag down rate is around AED 3.00 during the day then a bit pricier by night which starts at AED 4.00.  If you will be riding the taxi around 9 pm and up minimum charge is AED 10 even if the meter reads less than AED 10.  Another plus point when taking the taxicab is you can be assured that you will reach your destination faster and safer than by taking the bus or by walking.  Taxicabs are the best solution if you want to be fresh and on time for an interview or to get to the office faster.  It would be difficult to get a taxi during school days, so better be early to avoid the morning rush.  You can also call a cab through number 600 53 53 53 to pick you up.

A few weeks in Abu Dhabi and you'd want to hop on that bus and explore more of Abu Dhabi.  I did that once, when I was still new here, I decided to be adventurous and took a bus ride.  Took the No. 54 from Hamdan going to Al Wahda mall.  After a few rounds in the mall it was time to go home.  From the same bus stop where I got off, I took the same bus and imagine my fright when the scenery was no longer familiar.  I ended up in Umm Al Naar Petroleum Institute.  Good thing the bus drivers were nice and informed me that I should alight from the bus stop across the mall.  Lesson learned the hard way - I got an earful from the hubby for that.

Anyway, here are some tips when taking the bus:

a.) Bus No. 5 Landmark stops:
                  -  Abu Dhabi Mall
                  -  Tourist Club City Air Terminal
                  -  Central Souq Market/ WTC Mall
                  -  Hamdan Center
                  -  Spinney's Corniche
                  -  Marina Mall

b.) Bus No. 8 Landmark stops:
                  - Lifeline Hospital
                  - Khalidiya Mall
                  - Philippine Embassy

c.) Bus No. 9 Landmark stops
                 - Philippine Embassy
                 - Marina Mall

d.) Bus No. 11 Landmark stops  
                  -  Al Wahda Mall
                  -  Philippine Embassy
                  -  Spinney's Corniche
                  -  Marina Mall

e. Bus No. 54 Landmark stops:
                  - Hamdan Street/ Al Salama Hospital
                  - Central Market Souq/ WTC Mall
                  - Al Wahda Mall

Bus fare is AED 2.00 if within the city, outside the city would be AED 4.00.  Before boarding the bus be sure to have enough change.  Bus cards or "Ojra Bus Pass" are also available in the amount of AED 30 for a week or AED 80.00 for one month.  For more information regarding bus fares, cards and routes click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Life-In-Abu Dhabi Calculator - Chapter 2 Accommodation

So you have finally landed in the land of the zaby.

What's the next move?  Look for an accommodation, of course.  Some of you who ventured to visit UAE for employment usually has a contact here to assist you in your adventure.  If its your first time to go outside your own country, the first week would probably end up as the sight seeing period.  You would be so overwhelmed with the activities and the culture you are currently in.  The food, the place and even the people are just so interesting.  But after some time the excitement of being in another country subsides a bit, then you'd start thinking about why you came in this country.  The constant issues here for expats are housing and employment.

Finding a lodging where you are comfortable, near where you will work and cheap is very hard to come by.  Something is always missing among the three factors stated.  One factor will always be sacrificed.

To continue reading click here.  Thanks!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Life-In-Abu Dhabi Calculator - Chapter 1 Visa

I have been frequenting this forum where questions are posted about what needs to be done to go here in Abu Dhabi, or what is the average salary that could keep you comfortable living here or just how much everything here in UAE costs.  So I have decided to break down necessary parts of living the life of an Expat here in UAE with numbers.

To continue reading, click here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Around the World in 4 Hours... or so

I think one of the best things in life is to travel anywhere in the world and discover food, culture and pocket a handful of memories.  Of course, its easier if you have enough money to back your journey.  But, here in UAE you can have a taste of what is like jumping from one country to the other without zooming in and out of immigration counters (we know how harrowing that part is!).  In one night and in one place you can finally say you have traveled the world.  Where else?  Dubai Global Village.

The Dubai Global Village is located along the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road.  Its hard to miss especially if you are on your way to Dubai.  These entertainment park is so huge one night is not enough to visit all the countries exhibiting in it.

It opened on October 5, 2013 and will close on the 1st of March 2014.  Basically the park is opened during colder season.  When we visited Global Village, we left Abu Dhabi around 4:30 pm and we arrived there around 5:45 pm.  As I said, it was not hard to miss because its along the highway going to Dubai.  The hard part was finding a parking spot.  That was a Friday so the parking lot was fully jammed.  We did a little waiting until we could find a spot.  It was a bit far from the main entrance, but still better than hanging out inside the car the entire night until a slot is available.

There were plenty of counters where you can buy the entrance ticket.  It's at the right side of the main entrance.  At AED 15.00 per person, the slightly long drive going there was worth it.  Once you get inside it was chaos.  Chaos in a fun way.  The tuk-tuk by the entrance was enough indication that it's going to be one heck of a fiesta of culture inside.

Once inside, we were so overwhelmed with so many people, food stalls and shops.  We can't decide what to do first.  There were so many food I'd like to try it was confusing.  So we did the smartest thing to do when smacked inside a huge amusement park.  Studied the map.  Since it was almost dinner time, we have decided to hunt Philippine's (of course!) area so we could eat the food not readily available here in the city.

On the way there, we slip into some countries and checked their products.  I particularly love Spain.  Their cheese and the hand made items.  There is this shop that sells beautiful printed dresses and pants, I wanted to buy some but it was just too expensive for my liking.  Have to pass.  Then we found one small food court that says Thai restaurant we checked out the stalls one of them serves kwek-kwek.  It's the one most of my companions were dying to eat.  The food court doesn't have enough tables and chairs to accommodate all diners.  So we have to wait and quickly move in in case a table is vacated.

After a quick dinner, we set about roaming the entire place and win some minion at the game fair area.   The place was just too huge.  Every country featured in the village offers a lot of their products and food.  There was even a traditional dance from the Palestine booth.  It was difficult to look for the rides and game fair.  When we reached the dhow indicating the country of Kuwait, a small walkway lead to the rides and game fair.

The rides were all so scary.  I'm not a big fan of carnival rides.  I feel like I'm going to pass out just by watching the people scream their brains out with all those rides.  I love myself, so I rather watch and be happy for those who like to torture themselves.  I wanted to win those big minion toys.  A lot of people were carrying huge stuffed toys that they have won from the games.  I wanted one so badly.  In order to avail of any rides and games you have to buy a card where your money would be converted into credits to be used in the games.

We have spent like almost AED100.00 just to win one freakin' stuffed toy.  Maybe we were unlucky that time.  At least, we had fun playing it.  We even get to ride bump cars one person free!

By 9 pm there was a fireworks display.  My brother and I was so elated.  For somebody who hails from the city in the Philippines where fireworks are banned, it was already something for us.

We were not able to full roam the area.  It was getting colder and our feet were already tired from walking.  We didn't even get the chance to buy more food from European stalls.  Such a shame.

It was a fun night of discovering cultures and exotic food.  Losing on games but having a good laugh.  We went home without the most coveted stuffed toys but we promised to be back in the hope of finally winning one.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Documented Expat

Being an OFW, (well used to be one) but being married to one is not all fun when you are going home to your own country.

One would think, you don't have to worry about documents and identifications if your destination is yous hometown.  However, that is not the case for Filipinos.  I must say, we just love to make everything so complicated.  We adhere to these laws not knowing exactly what it is for.  Yes, I am talking about OEC, Pag-IBIG payment and SSS.  You need to pay for all these documents before flying back home.  Or for some, before going back to where you are located abroad.

I must admit, I have never understood why our government requires everybody to have all these documents.  Okay, the SSS (Social Security Services) is helpful.  It is sort of your bank where you get to loan if in case you need additional cash.  Ever since I started working, I have already contributed to SSS and never had the chance to use it.  Some warned me that idle accounts are sometimes used by other people.  How can they call themselves Security Services if the member won't be secured with their system?  Then the Pag-ibig membership, if you are buying a lot or a house and lot in the Philippines, it is better if coursed thru Pag-IBIG. I'm not really sure about it too.  And last in the list is the OEC - Overseas Employment Certificate.

Before I plow further with my dislike on the issue.  Last December 2013, while I was preparing for my brother's visa going here, I was informed by the travel agent who processed it that aside from securing an Affidavit of Support, I also need to provide an OEC so my brother won't be hold at the Philippine Immigration counter.  That's the thing, every time I apply for visa a new requirement comes up.  Philippine Immigration just can't seem to make up their mind.  They try to stop people from going out of the country - why?  Can the country offer better opportunity compared to what these hopeful OFW's wll be earning?  Sigh.

Anyway, those new requirement pushed me to visit Philippine Embassy here in Abu Dhabi.  So aside from the Affidavit of Support, I have to apply for an OEC, but since I am not employed we have to get one for my husband.  We visited the embassy around 3 pm and was informed that they only serve 300 people per day.  We were advised to come early so we could get a priority number.  The following day, we were surprised when we got there, at 6:30 am there was already a queue.  It was DFA Davao city 2008 all over again.  Some people were already there as early as 3 am.  Who does that???  Apparently Filipinos itching to go home for Christmas.

Anyway, at 7:30 am, somebody from the embassy was distributing forms to be filled up. The first 150 will be served in the morning and the remaining 150 will be in the afternoon.  Warning to those who will be getting their OEC during December, start early and take the day off as the process will take up the entire day.  And it won't be a Philippine institute/service without fixers.  Yes, even abroad they still thrive.  One "Ate" was lurking among a group of people who was giving unsolicited advices and suddenly say "madali lang namn po yan, pwede ko po ipasok yan dun para mas mabili..."  Alam na!  It is so typical Filipino.  It is embarrassing.

I might have covered the entire post with my rant over my experience at the Philippine Embassy here in Abu Dhabi.  Additional infor for those who needs direction going there, bus numbers 8, 9, 10, 11 and 161 passes by the area.  Or if you have extra cash you can always take the cab.

I hope, one day the system will be fixed.  A better service will be provided for the OFW not just for the documentation but also for those who really needed assistance.  OFW's are worth more than a  dozen of Vhong Navarros, you know.  I'm just saying.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chicken Kitchen - First Chow Test of the Year

As 2014 kicked off with quite a bang, we started our "nom-nom" adventure with a chicken meal.

In one of those Fridays where we don't have a specific activity set, we found ourselves wandering around The Gourmet Republic of Al Wahda Mall's extension.  At 11 a.m. most of the restaurants there just opened.  So not much diners in the area.  Or maybe because only a few knew about the area.  On that floor, there was the Mc Cafe, Papa John's, Burger Bureau and Chicken Kitchen.  Since I was craving for anything chicken and fried we decided to give it a try.

The menu was simple, all chicken!  What else?!  I was sort of missing this fried chicken patty back at home so I scanned the menu for something similar to it.  Luckily there was, I just hope it tastes as good though.  I ordered the Chicken Schnitzel with fries and sauteed vegetables while hubby ordered the 1/2 rotisserie chicken and corn as side dish.  We ordered fountain soda a.k.a bottomless soda drinks.  I asked if I could get a glass of service water, turned out they don't provide one so I have to order a bottle of water. Bummer.

Our orders came after half an hour.  I don't know why it took that long, considering there was only me and my husband as their first customer.  They could have been prepared at 11:00 a.m.  Anyway, we were surprised with the size of the plate my order was placed.  It was huge.  I mean really really huge.  It took almost half of the table.  Presentation wise it was appealing.  So we dug in and first bite was okay, second bite it was not as appetizing as it looked.  My stir-fried vegetables were all so soggy and overcooked.  The chicken was coated with something sour and it just doesn't blend well with the crispy coating.  Husband's order was acceptable but honestly it was not as good as Kenny Roger's Roasters as what the waitress was bragging about.

The serving was huge.  So I was ready to pop when I finished 2/3 of my plate.  The over all experience was mixed.  The yellow rice that go with the roasted chicken was good.  The roasted chicken was juicy but not so tasty.  For the schnitzel, better not order it again.  It's not that good.  Unless you like crispy sour chicken for your meal.  We paid a total price of AED 125.00.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shakin' Shake Shack

The food adventure continuous.

A while back, I posted a blog about checking out IHOP in Dubai.  Next to the restaurant is another joint that looks interesting.  It was a burger joint that doesn't have too much decor on its interior but the queue is long it's a sign that they are probably serving good food.  It certainly is all about the burger at Shake Shack.

Who would have expected that a restaurant with a name as Shake Shack spells fab burgers.  Of course, beef burgers often go hand in hand with a vanilla milkshake.  A lethal combination to guarantee a coronary blockage.  But! Let us forget about that for awhile, besides, I haven't eaten a beef burger for months already.  Beef is not a star on our grocery list - so it is always a treat to have some.

Since visiting Dubai is always reserved for long weekends and holidays, we thought testing Shake Shack goodies will just have to wait.  So while I was hungrily checking their menu, turned out they have already opened one in Abu Dhabi at Dalam Mall.  Hooray!

Truly Dalma Mall is a dark horse when it comes to shopping and dining.  I'm beginning to like this mall already.  As you would know, I am partial of Al Wahda mall.  Aside from being near our home it has everything I need.  Anyway, the Shake Shack is not hard to miss as you approach the mall a signage in metallic silver can be seen from afar.

The menu was not so extensive.  It was basically burgers, fries, hotdogs, shake and frozen custard.  For the menu click here.

The ambiance of the restaurant was lay back and relaxing.  Late diners occupy some of the wooden tables with an engraved logo of the joint.  It was pretty cute.  Also, it was noteworthy that their wooden chairs are really sturdy.  The design looks like the basic foldable picnic chairs but it holds.

So here is what we have ordered:

Shack stack - AED 37.00
Single Cheeseburger - AED 28.00
Single Shack Attack - AED 21.00
Single Design your Own concrete - AED 12 + 3 (addition of Peanut Butter Sauce)
Cheese Fries - AED 18.00

The overall meal experience was satisfying.  I was not so happy with the concrete.  I was expecting it would be like milk shakes.  I guess I ordered the wrong item.  Turned out the milk shakes were at the other side of the menu.  My mistake.  Usually frozen goods are listed right next to the desserts.  My husband liked it though.  We'd probably visit it again the next time we visit Mussafah area.