Home Sweet Home?

First off, Mabuhay! And hello from my home The Philippines!
For my non-Filipino readers, Mabuhay literaly translates to “to live” or “long live” in Tagalog, but we Pinoys often say it as a welcome greeting to visitors or when we start a formal greeting to a crowd.
JG and I have now been officially home 21 days, and as predicted it has been a long three weeks of adjustments and getting by. It isn’t all bad, of course it always great to come home, most importantly to see people you’ve missed.
Oman was a blast, and it really snuck up on us on how we found ourselves loving it like a second home; more surprisingly finding it difficult to leave. But like many of the Expats living there, and have eventually left, we were all just meant to pass by, citizens already belonging some place else.
I could just lie and say that everything is coming up roses, but as I mentioned we already knew that we had a lot of things to get used to again, both the good and the bad. I’ll keep dragging writinng on the bad as long as I can in this post, I just wanted to first highlight the good parts.
Eating Pinoy food and delicacies is definitely a positive part. Getting access to pork is really awesome, you can of course get in Muscat but at a much expensive price. But here it’s just everywhere. Today I got to eat Filipino style pork barbeque, ate it with vinegar on the side. Also had numerous breakfasts involvng Tocino, which is cured sweet often from the pig’s shoulder, rear or loin.

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ToSiLog short for Tocino, Sinangag (fried rice), Itlog (egg); photo from tocinoboys.blogspot.com

The other day, we passed by a stall that sold Bagnet (crispy deep fried pork’s meat) all the way from the Northern parts of the country. JG couldn’t help but point at it loudly as if seeing a celebrity in person, “Uy! Bagnet!”

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The crispy Bagnet of the north; photo from circuitmag.net

For me, I really like now being able to wear “tropical clothes”, or as my husband would call it,  my-attempt-to-look-like-a-European-on-vacation. I really have no idea by what he means by that, but in Muscat although it wasn’t really illegal to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts, I was still mindful of their Muslim culture and conservative views so I always tried to keep it as wholesome as possible. Not that I dress like a tramp now that I am in a more liberated place in terms of clothing, but it is nice not worry whether my skirt is too skimpy or not having have to wear sweaters over my tank tops especially during the humid afternoons, or that sticky moment when you know it’s about to rain.
As for JG, I think he is okay settling back to work in the home office, but more than that he is excited about finally getting a chance to go back to school. Years ago, he did not really have the financial resources to go and while we were abroad he never really had the time to do so, which is why he really made sure to set aside some money, making time, and is really looking forward to starting Graduate school next month.
Okay now that I’ve filled you in the good parts, I am sighing loudly as I dump on you the not so good ones. Like I kept saying, we already knew that the differences between Oman and here at home will force us to readjust to the many stressful aspects of living in a busy, very congested, urban city. The last time we came home for a month long visit we underestimated how living in a quiet laid-back city like Muscat has changed us, believing years of growing up in chaotic Manila couldn’t possibly be altered in just a couple of years.
So this time we told ourselves that we wouldn’t make the same mistake and just take things slow. But boy were we just unlucky. The first few days upon our arrival, it rained almost non-stop, last week three typhoons consecutively passed by the Phililppines. We did not mind it at first, we kind of missed the rain, as it only happened once or twice a year in the Middle-East. But in Metro Manila, rain, even a drizzle, meant some flooding, which consequently leads to heavy traffic, which in turn something we rarely came across in Muscat.
To make matters worst, we came home during a time when our capital is experiencing a public transportation problem brought by several issues concerning the train lines that go around the city.

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Monday mornings at one of our stations. The train lines these days.

This means commuting is like going through a struggle. JG and I have a small house just outside of Metro Manila in the mountains of Antipolo City, the capital of the province of Rizal where my husband grew up. In an ideal world where traffic runs smoothly, it would take about 30-40 minutes. But because it would take you at least an hour to get a ride, plus the hellish traffic, it takes us about 2-3 hours, sometimes four to get home. That means getting up at four in the morning so we can get to work by nine. That means at least six hours of our day, for five days a week, sitting in a jeepney.

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Manila Traffic

We used to be able to do this before we left for posting, surrending wasting hours of our youth doing nothing, reading, or at the very least catching up on some snooze in the commute. Perhaps because like every hard working Filipino we really did not have a choice, perhaps because we just accepted that was how things are. But I guess four years in a place where the longest we’ve been stuck in traffic is 40 minutes tops, does shorten your patience a bit, perhaps it’s because you are given a glimpse of how much you can do in 2 or 3 hours, just sitting in a vehicle makes you realize all the time you are wasting away.
So we solved this by renting an apartment right next to the home office. Apparently many of husband’s colleagues have been doing this for years, some have even invested in buying expensive condominium units that they rent out when they are posted abroad. This saves the husband from the stress of having to go through the daily grind everyday, plus we told ourselves that we might as well spend the money we’ll be wasting for fare, on a place that can provide for a comfortable place to crash during the work week.
Which brings me to where we are now. At the moment I am sitting in an almost empty apartment, because all our stuff are still on a cargo ship somewhere between Dubai and India. The people running the building was kind enough to lend us a few things like a bed and a fridge, thus the getting buy part.
One of my main problems with this set-up is that we also opted to just live on take-out menus until all my cooking paraphernalias have arrived. This means staying healthy and eating right goes right out the window. Rice and a carbo-based diet is the ideal meal for most Pinoys, which is why joints that offer “all you can eat rice” are sure hits here. Meals usually cost around 150 php (roughly around $3). And what you will usually see is a plate 3/4 full of rice with the remaining quarter part for meat/chicken/vegetables. If it’s not rice, it’s noodles, or pasta. And since JG and I are trying to cut back on the carbs, we are left to just make do for now.
We have considered buying what we need, but it really seems impractical to have to live with two sets of everything once all our stuff from abroad arrives.
A note to fellow young diplowives. Leaving at the same time as our stuff is a rookie mistake for me, my husband said that it would’ve been better if we did it the other way around and lived in our last month in post in a hotel and shipped all our belongings ahead. Most especially since there you can easily get from one point to another, to get food etc. That way you get here with everything else at the same time.
We also predicted how it may be hard to get back into the circulation as far as social life is concerned. It is as if waking up from a coma, years passing us by, and realizing that almost everyone who were ones part of our almost everyday has found their own rhythm without you. They have all of course expressed how much they missed us of course, and took some time to see us, but mostly you can feel a certain akwardness brought on by years of not having seen each other.
Suddenly names and places, are unknown to you. My closest friends have chided to how my referencess, like in pop culture, are years behind.
Now I know why some Filipinos who have lived abroad have chosen to just completely migrate, because for some there really is no place for them here. Especially when they have established their own family and community off-shore. Of course we could not begrudge those we left behind to go off in our adventure, they love you just the same, they just learned and strived to live without you, and it seemed unfair to unsettle the normalcy they’ve established just so they can make room for you who suddenly decided to show up again. These things take time, a connection you have to rebuild and can never rush.
My situation has also left me to be in a place wherein I have left the same as I am, meanwhile everyone else in my life has gone through some major changes. Two of my closest cousins, and two of my best friends from college (married each other) have become parents over the six years that I was away.
When I saw them, looking at their adorable little kids, I couldn’t help but be amazed about the fact these once carefree crazy people have created human beings and are now responsible for their growth. I may have gone off in wanderlust and perhaps had some shift in perspective, but basically still the loud, sensitive, also crazy same old self. But that’s nothing to actually raising a person, for me that kind of thing forces you to be everything and anything you can actually be to provide the best chance for their children, admittedly a club that you can’t easily just be part of and relate to.
As far as my country is concerned, I mentioned that we here in the capital are having some transportation problems. But as the news says, we are at the brink of an economic take-off, and it seems a bit obvious to me in some aspects. High-rise buildings are popping up everywhere, and people seem to have more purchasing power judging from more malls, and the high-end signature establishments opening in them.
The transportation problem is of course effected because suddenly more of us can afford cars, for some the cheaper option of motorcyles, and so congesting the traffic even more. Nevertheless it’s still the same organic mega city that I know, filled with all sorts of people, and the method to its madness I have once again get to know.
JG and I are planning to see more of it, hopefully we find the time. And I for one is planning to explore Manila, and hopefully get to write about them. At least until all our stuff arrives…

One More Week

It is both sad and exciting that in one week JG and I will finally be finishing our first tour of duty as Diplomat and trailing spouse. Our experience between Tripoli and Muscat makes six years feel like a lifetime, but in some way it also feels like that afternoon writing my first post abroad seem like yesterday.
The past few months I have found myself busy taking care of things, preparing, packing away six years worth of stuff and memories. There’s also the anticipated paperworks, contracts and bills to be cancelled, and the surprise setbacks. Scratch that, I wouldn’t call such setbacks as a surprise, as it is the story of my life that something always goes wrong along the way.

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Four years worth of books, clothes, toys, memories, etc.

We’ve managed to settle such problems in time (of course in the hopes that nothing else comes in te week), which is why I have now found some time to write something down for the blog.
First let me say something about Oman, and this wonderfully peaceful place we have called home in the past four years. The other day I found myself emotional, even teary-eyed driving alone somewhere in between Shatti Qurum and Al Khuwair, I thought about how I will miss how laid-back everything is and that the hectic, noisy, busy, stressful, bustling concept of urban city life is non-existent here. Or if it is, only happens in certain moments of the day, in some particular pockets of Muscat.
Growing up in busy Metro Manila I have always thought I would go crazy living in quiet places, but here I learned how nice it is to wake up to birds chirping outside your window, and drawing out your curtains to a sweeping view of rocky mountains and clear blue skies, and a short drive away is a shoreline for everyone to enjoy.

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The always surprising rocky mountains of Oman

I always feel a little sad that I had very few chances to get to know the Omanis, but it is true what they say how hospitable and kind they all are, welcoming to
the presence of the expatriate community in their country with open arms. But I think I have mentioned this before, it says a lot about them that they choose to maintain the identity of their culture, always present in their neighborhoods, fighting the urge to follow other Middle Eastern countries with their sky scrapers and huge malls.
Before I left home to live abroad, I told myself that I wouldn’t let myself feel so at home wherever I get posted afraid that I would get attached to it so much I wouldn’t want to leave. I couldn’t stay long enough in Libya even if I wanted to, enough to establish a connection, and when I got here in Oman, I tried to be distant and kept reminding myself that I am but a visitor here, just passing by. But as one year becomes two you make friends, get familiar with its ins and out, without realizing it you find yourself falling in love a little everyday.
Of course The Philippines will always be home, the first love, and as a popular song in our country, the one you will always keep coming back to. But it would be foolish, and as I learned, futile to fight feeling something for a place that gives you chirping birds, rocky mountains, and shorelines everyday. It crept in slowly until you find yourself realizing this attachment. In my case acceptance came with the knowledge that no time soon, you are going to have say goodbye.
For most people, Muscat and Oman, may not be as axciting or as alive as say Dubai or the others. But for me Muscat’s tranquil environment is the perfect place to help a rowdy, talkative, importunate, young wife learn how to literally and figuratively settle down, listen, get some patience and get to know herself, especially in the quiet moments when she is alone in her cozy small home she has to run far away from all the comfort and support she had back home.
I wish I was a bit more consistent in writing about life and the culture here, but Iet’s just I was preoccupied with lots of things that kept me from sharing them. I also like to think that some memories I’d rather keep to myself, the same way there are some views you see no picture can ever do justice to it, so you just take it all in.
And with that I give a huge thanks to Oman, to Muscat, and how you will always have a fond place in my heart.
I do have some trepidations about going home, however excited I am to see family and friends. One, is once again adjusting to the hustle and bustle of city life. I’m afraid that falling in love with Muscat meant getting used to its calm, laid-back charm. It will probably take some time to get back into the rhythm of life in Manila, and getting reacquianted with the method to its madness.
The last time I was home, it took a while for me to get used to things again, and when I did I had to go back to Oman. The good thing about this is since we are staying a lot longer now, I can take things slow and get back in touch with the city’s beat in my own good time.
My number two concern about going back is finding my place amongst the people that I left behind. Social media sites is a blessing for persons abroad like me as it helps us keep in touch and keep tabs with friends and family, but it also kind of shows you that with you gone  so long their lives move forward without you.
It’s a bit of a morbid analogy but it’s like being in a coma but fully aware of the things happening around you, no matter how badly you want to participate and take part, you just can’t. And it isn’t just the birthdays and holidays that you miss out on, but it’s the moments in between, the inside jokes, conversations, shared laughter and grief, small triumphs and achievements, all those warm welcoming hugs and see-you-laters. How do you catch-up to all of that?
But it is of course part of the life I have chosen to live, where change is a constant factor, and change is almost always difficult. But I am always hopeful, at least for now that it will get easier the next time, and even more so the next time after that.
So I guess nothing else left for me to say other than, “See you all in Manila!”

I received a small trophy today….

… Not sure what it is for exactly, but it’s a special award, I think mainly for participating. For the past few weeks I have been attending a community exercise with fellow Filipinos living here in Muscat and today there was a sort of contest, an “Aerobics Marathon” as they dubbed it.

Part of JG’s job is to attend activities organized by the many clubs and/or organizations of the Filipino community here in Muscat, and a couple of months ago he was invited to help open this exercise activity led by a group of Filipino professional fitness instructors. And because it came in a great time where JG and I are seriously trying to get fit, I decided to have a go at it.

First let me use this blog to congratulate the said organizers. I thought this is an excellent idea because it simply but profoundly helps many by sharing their knowledge and skills. Especially here in Muscat where there are a lot of fitness centers but charge really expensively. And health I believe is one of the things overseas Filipino workers should take care of.

Life here in Muscat can be a bit laid-back. Not much distractions as compared to other busy and hectic metropolitans. You go to work, come home, occasionally you go out, and gorge at the many awesome places to eat at the malls or elsewhere. The weather is also a cause to get unhealthy especially during the hot season when the heat would make you really too lazy to move, and just sit on the couch with the AC in full blast, watch TV and munch on humongous bags of chips.

I know this, because this is somewhat what has happened to me and a lot of the many others I know living here. Many of us who hardly noticed that we were no longer physically moving our bodies to help it regulate everything we consume and keep body parts and organs in top shape. Many of us who suddenly found ourselves overweight and just shrugged it off as a part of life.

Back to the Filipino community, I know that during the colder season, the most popular form of gathering aside from the Tagalog Catholic Mass every third Friday of the month is the weekly basketball tourneys. This is also great, but in terms of fitness and health only benefits the men who are participating. Another downside to this gathering are the Filipino food sold, which are too good, with its nostalgic appeal and of course delectable taste, to pass up.

This is why organizing a group exercise open to everyone, led by professionals, is a great idea because it can be a benefit to a great deal more. And I think it’s really great that they decided to lend out a hand to Filipinos living here.

Photos from the organizers's Facebook Page

One of the these ladies is Me, not going to share which… sorry Photos from the organizers’s Facebook Page

And so I found myself driving to the said event every Friday night with a growing number of my fellow kababayans. This is a big deal for me because this is the first time for me to be participating in an activity that requires doing things outside my comfort zone. Most specifically the dancing part, most specifically the gyrating parts or as Mylie Cyrus has popularized  – “twerking”.

The hour-long exercise usually composes of Zumba exercises, and many aerobic routines that require hip thrusting, booty shaking, and often times hair tossing. If you know me, you would understand, I walk like an awkward teenage boy and has the grace of a Mason (not the members of the Knights Templar, but the ones that layeth bricks for a living). Most of my family, especially my brother and mother are great dancers, but alas I was cursed with genes that has the  flexibility of a tree branch.

My Mom said that I just need to let go a little, or a lot, and try not to be too self-conscious of how I look. The problem here is I do not seem to have the irrational confidence most people seem to have when it comes to dancing, the kind where you feel you are capable and truly good at something but in reality really looks weird doing it. Whoever said to “dance like no one is watching” seem to have gotten through to a lot of people, but not to me. I am always aware of how stiff my hips are and their incapability to gyrate and/or twerk, and even if no one is watching, I know, and so I try to avoid doing it in public or otherwise.

Nevertheless, I participated in that exercise activity because dancing, albeit rigidly, is also a great cardio work-out.

My Special Award trophy of Participation

My Special Award trophy of Participation

But unlike jogging, dancing is less meditative and serious, more spontaneous, and quite simply more fun (The fun aspect I use whenever I do a variation of the parts where the twerking is required). I participated because I like the idea of community dancing and being a part of others like me who are away from those we love, and would like to break from the monotony of the daily habits that’s causing some of us to get fat and lazy. Both amongst those who are truly really good at it, and the others who have the irrational confidence that they are too.

I have been to many Filipino events, but almost always as the Diplowife. As JG’s wife my participation was mostly a supportive role, a plus one, and therefore more of just an observer. And so not only was this a great chance to get out of my comfort zone (well sort of), but it’s also an opportunity for me to finally feel truly a part of the community here.

They won’t be holding the exercises in the following weeks, I think most of the organizers will be going home for a vacation and by the time they resume I will have already left Oman for good.  Today is my last day to be attending, which is why receiving the trophy seems fitting and genuinely appreciated.

Paris 2.0 and The Beginning of the End

JG and I just got back from a week long vacation in France. I don’t know if I’ve explained this in previous posts, as a couple we don’t go all out on special occasions like birthdays, anniversary, or holidays. Sometimes we go out for a simple dinner date, we don’t exchange expensive gifts, and there are times when we would just spend it at home. But once a year we would use all the money saved from all the occasions we skipped  and go somewhere, something I’d like to call the one-time-big-time annual vacay.

Paris was the first trip that started this tradition, and it was a great experience as I explained in previous posts. We initially decided to go on a Sound of Music tour in Salzburg this year, but we thought it would be great to come back. Mostly because we wanted to conquer France with a vengeance.

I think I briefly discussed a snobby bus driver, and getting overwhelmed at finding Mona Lisa in my post of our first visit five years ago. But looking back now, we seemed to have found ourselves in over our heads. Because even though it was a great experience to be able to see one of the most famous tourist destinations ever, back then, we sort of had no idea how to go about attacking this great big place and how to experience it as much as we can.

JG planned our trip then as best as he could I know, and we had a generally good time, but again so much to see, so little time, no idea how to do it in a smart way.

On our first trip we just went head-on and hit as many of the tourists destinations as much as we can, without having any idea what to expect. What this did was exhaust us to the point of not fully enjoying where we were because we got too tired trying to find the place to too hurried trying to squeeze in all the other things we wanted to see.

One of the mistakes I made was that I allowed myself to get distracted, I’d see this shop and spend hours thinking about stuff to buy, thus wasting even more time on the more important things on the itinerary.

What did this naive and newby approach also  did to two very young and still hot-headed newly weds was create friction that started several heated arguments. Suffice to say that the city of love left some ironic memories of petty bickerings and cold treatments.

Case and point of how clueless we were was going to see the Eiffel tower. Of course you’d go there to get this great romantic picture together, and so went we did. It wasn’t all that bad seeing the famous tower up-close but both of us soon realized that getting a good angle of the whole thing that close was a bad idea. It’s a good thing I don’t show pictures of our faces in the blog, because now I have a convenient excuse not to show you our horrible pictures that looked like we photoshop-ed half our faces on side of a postcard that showed one leg of the tower. Not even ONE decent picture together…

                    Imagine a sweaty girl and/or an even sweatier chubby man on the corner of this picture…

But now, five years and about nine other European cities later, I am pretty sure we now had a pretty good idea how to go about things. One of the best things we discovered over the years and our other trips are the free walking tours of Europe. It’s not exactly free, but they are a tipped-based scheme where funny and very informative tour guides takes you  around the famous spots, tells you it’s history and interesting anecdotes, and at the end of the tour you decide how much you think the tour was worth. You can even just walk away without paying if you think you weren’t that satisfied at all to give a tip. We usually take the Sandemans New Europe tours, and so far we had never been disappointed enough not to pay.

The tours eliminates tourists from walking around a big place like Paris like headless chickens not knowing where to go. It’s also a great way to learn about the city in a funny and more interesting way, especially if the guides are really good. (For example the guy in Berlin did a great job of eerily telling Hitler’s final moments in the area of his bunkers. Another is the hilarious American lady who told the story of guy who wandered into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom in London). Our tour guide in this recent Paris visit is bubbly Nancy, originally from Yorkshire, but fell in love with the city so much that she decided to talk about it for a living.

We also got better at taking their subway systems, most importantly buying a five-day ticket (in the Philippines what we call a stored-value card). During our first trip to Paris, every time we used the Metro, we would buy a ticket, which 1, wasted time; and two left you with a wad of train tickets and heavy pocket full of coins.

We got a lot better at planning our trip, this time, agreeing before hand the things we wanted to see, and places we wanted to visit. Not to mention, setting a day for just buying the stuff we wanted, including finding out where exactly to get them.

Some good news and bad news is that we were able to find a great place to take an awesome picture with the Eiffel tower. There is an area somewhere a bit further out of Paris on a hill called Trocadero where you could finally get an awesome view and a finally take that memorable photo. The bad news is, thanks perhaps to the Internet, everyone else is also there, as well as some constructions that are taking place. And if that is not bad enough, the angle of the sun was not agreeing with us that day so our pictures looked a bit dreary. I guess some things are really out of your control. Also JG and I are quite shy about bothering people to take our picture for us, so we mostly end up taking it by ourselves.

The view from Trocadero in Paris

The view from Trocadero in Paris

On this subject I would like to add that we refuse to purchase and use the now widely-used contraption called the selfie stick, which some would say is perfect for lone travellers like us, but alas we both agree that we are too old for such things and feel kind of silly waving a stick around just to get a picture.

And finally perhaps the best thing about our come-back visit to Paris, which is also known as a walking city is as compared to our other trips we are now slimmer and fitter. Some of the arguments I mentioned earlier were brought along by fatigue and staminas that were easily defeated by a flight of stairs, weak respiratory and cardiovascular systems that were rarely tested for long walks, and undetected diabetic symptoms that affected our moods and energy. Thanks to a now healthier lifestyle, we felt stronger and sturdier as 30 year old farts, than we did as fat and stubborn twenty somethings five years ago. The commute to Tracadero, took a bit of a walk transferring from one subway line to another, climbing several staircases, last year that would have been unthinkable, but as we brisked along for that stunning view, we found ourselves smiling at each other realizing how better it feels, and how lucky we are to get this second chance to experience it this way.

Finally, the reason we decided to come back and redo Paris is this is probably our last European trip in a long time. This vacation is actually one for the road, as we are now counting the days to the end of our first tour of duty. In the Philippine Foreign Service, one tour takes six years, and so two unforgettable years in Tripoli and four quiet years here in Muscat will come to a close in a month or so. So we thought it would be nice to come full circle and come back to France as wiser, stronger, better versions of what all the yearly trips has a molded us into.

It wasn’t all that perfect, but still it was awesome none the less…

Jogging Is The Worst!

ann-perkins-jogging

This is my new favorite quote. Today alone, I must have said this three times in a span of an hour. And yes, it was in that hour that I was actually jogging.

 

Let me back-up a bit. I don’t normally talk about JG much in the blog, mostly because he doesn’t like it if I do, but today I am willing to make an exemption at the risk of him getting mad at me. See when I met him a little over 13 years ago, he was on his way to becoming really fat. I know fat is such a mean word, I could say, obese, on the heavy side, words and phrases like that, but we he was, well in the universal vernacular, fat.

 

For years and especially when we got married I had compelled him to try and live a bit healthier, and watch his weight, and do some exercise, walk for a few mintes at least. I was truly deeply afraid that he was going to die of a heart attack and leave me a widow. And I wasn’t kidding because everytime we would see a doctor for regular check-ups everyone of them would be surprised at how he hasn’t keeled over yet with his shockingly high blood pressure.

 

I am also compelled to explain that convincing a very intelligent person to do something for you is very difficult. I remember epic fights wherein philosophical points of view of the freedom to choose the way you live is main theme of such heated debates. He would argue that life is short and the existence of heaven is yet to be proven so one must live as one prefers. I remember him saying that he would rather happily die young eating a huge Baconator burger and not wasting precious reading time, than live a long life forced to eat broccoli and all the garden variety food and exercising. Quality over quantity, and all that shitake mushrooms…

 

JG, bless his heart is a good man, a great one, unique in his way, and I would always say that I am lucky to have found such a smart, kind, principled, honest, and hardworking fella. Except for the fact that he had the eating habits of seven year old, who prefers everything fried and chugs sodas by the litres. I have mentioned in previous posts that travelling with him is such a great experience because of all the historical facts he knows and shares, what I don’t share are the frustratingly slow walks and how he refuses to go anywhere uphill or places where there are no elevators to take you up.

 

And as the years passed, I gradually just gave-up, hoped for the best, and over time succumbed to the carefree eating myself. Of course I am not being all self-righteous, although I liked eating vegetables unlike JG, I also liked eating instant noodles, chips, puffy marshmallows covered in chocolate, extra-servings of rice, and large fries and drinks to go with my Big-Mac. And since my husband pretty much did not care what I looked like, getting fat myself wasn’t an issue, plus the fact that I am not the least bit vain.

 

And so a little over a year ago, we found ourselves turning 30, and unhealthy. At this point  I suppose at the back of our minds we knew the risks this does to our well-being. I stopped nagging him about it and while looking at pictures of me during my birthday trip to Ankara, I sighed at the fact that my neck has all but disappeared and that I hadn’t seen my clavicle bone in years.

But alas, one day during said trip, JG suddenly asks about this gym that has been mentioned to us since we arrived in Muscat and had ignored since then. And when we came back home one of the first things he did was sign us up as members, immediately followed by buying exercise gear, and started the slow and painful process of getting fit.

 

And so the jogging part. It is strange, but no other way to explain, except that my husband seemed to have caught a bug for running. It is as if the old JG who would happily leave his wife for a good book and a Baconator, has found a new mistress in the form of jogging. Now a days, he buys books about it, watches documentaries on the triumph of marathons, follows sweaty looking bloggers who reviews shoes, specially formed earphones designed to never fall off your ear, tips on how to avoid nipple chaffing, and proper techniques on breathing and running stance. HE RUNS EVERYDAY! Even in days when he is sick, even when the weather is bad.

 

At this point in the post I am happy to announce that he has since lost about 30 kilos off his weight, he is still in the over-weight section technically (in the BMI chart) but is now watching what he eats, hasn’t had a slice of pizza for months, and most-importantly is the proud bearer of a normal BP! A complete turn around.

 

As for me…

 

One of the things I took from this experience is that I suppose getting healthy and fit can never really be forced into a person. It is as if JG just woke up one day and decided that he was really going to do it, and on that aspect, I suppose I regret to say that my healthy AHA moment has yet to come. Which is probably why I detest jogging so much these days, especially about the fact that it seems to be working so well on JG and not on me. I think I like swimming better, swimming holds a special place in my heart because it was all I did back when JG was left in Tripoli during the whole arab spring phase four years ago. For an hour or two I was forced to just concentrate on taking in air and blowing it out at every stroke so I won’t drown, and in the process forget my concerns, and clear my head.

 

But to be honest, I really get what Anne Perkins was saying on jogging. I find myself bored especially during runs when my phone runs out of juice or when Freddie Mercury singing Don’t Stop Me Now has long lost its motivational beat. I get distracted by the littlest thing, and at times gets really irritated when dirt or worst a fly shoots into your open mouth, one you have to keep a gap because breathing makes the heavy feeling of your lungs and the burning sensation at your calves a little better.

 

The worst part, while jogging, unlike swimming, I am left to deal with the clutter in my head, the dishes I haven’t washed, the appointments I need to keep, loved ones I miss, regrets, embarrassing memories, shortcomings, failures. I know, I know,  the inside of my mind is depressing, but tell me do you really think about happy thoughts when your heart rate is at double the normal pace, your mouth is dry of thirst, and your lungs heavy with the short puffs of breath you take?

 

Being the supportive wife that I am, I could not complain everytime I am dragged to this thing that seemed to have saved JG from an almost certain path to a cardiac arrest. Admittedly I too have lost some weight and is slowly getting my neck back, but more than that now,  I too am curious to catch the bug, to get that high my husband seemed to not get enough of, and comes back for more every day.

 

Check back to me in a month or so, perhaps by then I can tell you differently, for now, I am just happy to get what ever benefits it gets me, and for making my husband seem almost perfect.

Here’s the thing…

… I imagine I am starting to sound annoying every time I start a post on why I haven’t been consistently, well, posting… But I think it’s mostly just me punishing myself about my lack of follow through in maintaining a regular blogging habit. I drive myself crazy thinking about whether or not I should explain my reasons, it used to be just plain old laziness, now it’s a bit more complicated. If you are reading this and you are curious and would love to spend a few minutes reading a long e-mail from me, let me know down at the comments section, and I will try to find the time to explain.

 

I did explain to my new friend and fellow diplowife who is posted somewhere in Asia, I met her through the blog, she wrote to me and it started an exchange of long e-mails of what I think are somewhat two kindred souls who found each other. To be clear, I haven’t really met her in the flesh but as I told her, reading her blog, and exchanging our e-mails, it felt as if I had a chance to talk the same person I was six years before when I was a new bride swept away in another country with my diplomat husband. Anyway, it’s good to find someone out there who shares a lot of the things I feel and are concerned about, and as I was saying earlier, there is one person who knows my reasons for questioning this blogging thing that we do.

 

Meeting her and getting to know her, has however reminded me of the good thing about blogging which is as previously stated  finding fellow diplowives like me. Plus, I seem to be getting a lot of traffic lately, more people following me on Twitter and stats consistently being seen, despite my old old posts. I also received a lot of kind and encouraging comments about not stopping, so those too are very much appreciated and would like to let those of you know that warms my heart very deeply.

 

Although this weird emo-post is in no way another pledge to constantly do this, like I said, I have some issues regarding blogging, what to write about, what not to write about, etc. And of course there is also the laziness part, that variable is still there, and is still a big hurdle to get over in most cases.

 

So there, just saying…

Of Mountains and Sperm Whales

Some weeks ago, I went to visit The Oman Natural History Museum. I have always felt bad that I haven’t been the most eager when it comes to exploring this city I have been living in for the past four years, the other day while perusing a book about Oman, I found out that the said Museum is located just five minutes away from the Embassy.And I thought it would be great to go to a place where I can learn about Oman’s Geoloy, its flora and fauna.

Natural-History-Museum

Located inside the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, the Museum has a great collection of Omans’ natural treasures.

When I first arrived here it is one of the main things that I really found fascinating are its rocky mountains. And even today four years later, every time I turn a corner and see the mountains I still find myself at awe seeing it as the city’s background. Anyway, the Museum has this wall that explains how the rocky mountains of Oman came to be. The Hajar Mountains of Oman is a result of the peninsula where the country sits being moved, pushed, crushed in a span of about 800 million years old.

mount

A picture of the Mountains here in Muscat near my neighborhood.

Some people might find it boring to look at old rocks and dead shells but I always find them fascinating, small connections that we have from the past. The Museum has a bunch of really old rocks and shells, some dated as old as 70 million years old.

Oman also has a very vibrant wild life, of course you would have to really make your own exploration in order to really see them, but the Museum can give you a bit of a glimpse of that with its collection of stuffed animals.

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But my most favorite part of the museum is found in another small room outside the main hall. In the late 70’s the remains of Sperm Whale washed up in the Omani coastline. They preserved the remains (according to one Omani who was kind enough to walk us around) by burying it under ground for a time until it was okay to uncover its bones.

The Museums Main Attraction.

The Museums Main Attraction.

It is of course not as big as the other Natural History Museums in other major cities, but one of the great things about living here in Oman is that even in the city nature still seems so close by. Living in a very urban Manila, waking up to birds chirping, clean air, and mountains and flowers surrounding my everyday is something I was never used to. Here in Muscat such things are always around you and the country has done a great job of not taking it for granted and making sure to co-exist with it.

A Night at the Opera

 

One of the many attractions here in Oman is the Royal Opera House. It’s one of my favorite places here in Muscat because its building’s design makes me think of Babylonian architecture, and it’s one of the very few opera houses  in the Arabian Peninsula . In fact, I think the only other Arab country that has an Opera house is in Egypt. I read somewhere that they were going for 16th century Italian Style Opera when they built the place, and I guess that part can be seen in the way the stage was built which can seat about 1400 people and has state of the art equipment including collapsible floors to accommodate a bigger stage if needed.

"Royal Opera House,Muscat (Oman)" by Pravinpisolkar - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Royal Opera House,Muscat (Oman)” by Pravinpisolkar – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It had been opened only a few months after we arrived in 2011 and it took us about a year to be able to watch a show. Aside from Operas and Concertos, the ROHM also holds presentations from different countries and cultural performances. My first experience of the place was when we were invited to see Japanese Wadaiko drummers which was by the way an awesome performance.

As a treat to our Moms who are visiting us here in Muscat, JG and I thought of taking them to a night out to see an Opera. Personally it was one of the things that is on my bucket list so I was really excited to be able to check that off. There were some apprehensions because I was afraid I would find it boring especially since Operas are mostly or entirely in Italian I would find myself lost in translation. Also I always thought that such events were too posh for me, since the opera has always been one of those things you hobnob with those in higher social status, rubbing elbows with the fancy and all that.

Funny thing about that night because it seemed the kind where nothing went our way. We originally planned to have dine-out before going in the theatre, but decided to eat-in afraid of looking over-dressed in our favorite casual food joints. That made us very late in leaving the house, which was aggravated by some road blocks, causing some heavy traffic, which was frustrating since traffic is not a common thing here and the one time you are running late that is when you find yourself stuck in a gridlock. Feeling lucky manage to get on time, running to catch the opening curtain, at the entrance I was however stopped because apparently my outfit was too short and there was a dress code that mandated clothes for women that at least reached the knees and mine was like two measly inches above them. The good thing about running late was that perhaps he was anxious to get everyone in on time, I was able to convince the guy to let me in if I promised to wrap my scarf around my dress. Let’s just say it did not do well for my get-up but rules are rules, and admittedly I should have known better knowing this is still of course a Muslim country plus the fact that it was plainly written at the back of the ticket (that I neglected to read) that there was in fact strict rules on the dress code.

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(The photos above I took during a tour of the Opera House two years ago.)

Surprisingly though, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole thing. We saw Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, which is basically

Opening Scene from Manon Lescaut. Photo from Y Magazine Facebook page.

Opening Scene from Manon Lescaut.
Photo from Y Magazine Facebook page.

about a woman who fell in love with a man who would do anything and literally go to the ends of the earth with her. Sadly Manon’s desire to live a more financially comfortable life has prevented  them from an otherwise humble yet happy life and consequently leads them into a tragic ending. I could say that an Opera is quite different from a Broadway musical because all the acting, dancing, and stage props is only placed second to the music and the singing prowess of the actors on stage. It’s hard to explain but you can’t help but just be amazed at the range and control they have over the high notes demanded of the music (Autotunes has got nothing on these guys). I also found myself reacting to moments in the story like when the lovers confess of their love and the orchestra’s music would swell to create this really powerful scene. It was also interesting to think that this theatrical musical has been performed over since 1884, and just like a great old painting or a historical artifact it’s a connection that we have of the past, in a world where almost everything has gone digital, a beautiful artwork and form of entertainment that is still enjoyed and celebrated hundred years later.

And in case you are wondering, above the stage is a big electronic sign that translates the lyrics of the songs into English and Arabic so being lost in translation was not a problem after all.

... a Puccini Opera at the Royal Opera House...

A shot of the theatre taken during intermission.

 

 

Hello…

… long time, no blog…

As you may have noticed, I have taken a long hiatus. My last post was my year-ender special where as I have reviewed thankfully did not promise to post more entries as a new year resolution, so I don’t really have to feel bad about that.

There seems to be plenty of reasons for me to have stopped writing, and it would be pointless to enumerate them. I have begun several drafts over the course of the year, but found myself unsatisfied with the result towards the middle. And even if I did finish an entry that seemed good enough, the mundane requirements of life would demand my outmost attention and such blog posts will be eventually find itself too stale to be even be nibbled at by the few readers that I have.

To be honest, one of the main reasons is that I seem to have lost confidence in my ability to write. One of the main reasons I started blogging is so that I can have a place to practice the only skill I know I can do well. Like a pianist who needs to keep their hands and fingers flexed and nimble, I wanted a way to keep at it and not lose touch. But I often found myself thinking whether this skill will still useful to me in the future?

There is also the fact that I seem to have lost any interest to write anything to write about, something I thought at least interesting. Thought of why anyone would be interested in reading about my life as a trailing spouse, darken my initiative to share my experiences.

Nevertheless, here I am again, up at 3 in the morning, making use of the quiet when my immediate proximity is asleep, collecting my thoughts and typing it down in the hopes someone would find it worthy of their time. Tonight I choose to be bold and leave my doubts asides, at the risk of sounding weird or sharing too much, this post I will publish, if at least to get the ball rolling again.

I thought about getting rid of the blog, chucking it out altogether. I thought it will be close to an entire year since I put something up, perhaps I have lost my right to be visible again. But I think about my previous posts, and the days and nights, I sat telling the invisible universe in the web of my life as a diplomat’s wife; and find myself losing to the sentimentality of it all, not wanting to throw away all those memories, both good and bad.

And so, here I go again… I’m not going to promise to be more prompt and regular in posting entries, all I’m saying now is that I’m not ready to give-it up yet.

Updates on how I am… Let me begin in saying how time flies, and yet it seems I have gone through an entire lifetime. In exactly eight months, JG’s first tour of duty will be ending and I will be coming back to home. I cannot even begin to write about all the things I have in mind about that, so I will leave it for another post. But I am in that phase when you feel something beginning its end. The funny thing about this is the afternoon I wrote my first entry while at post in my house in Libya is still fresh in my head, the feeling of nervous excitement as I looked forward to my life as young new bride, in a new place, my whole life ahead of me. Now my anxiousness is geared toward the slow and inevitable process of untangling myself to this life away abroad that I have gone used to.

Here in Muscat, I will definitely miss the quiet solitude I have come to enjoy, but is definitely looking forward to getting away from its punishing summer heat and coming home to the erratic tropical weather of Southeast Asia. Eight months is relatively quick here, but that is still about 243 days, around 5843.8 hours to go through.

In a more existential sense, I can definitely say I feel different. Different from who I was that afternoon in Libya when I posted my first post abroad, even different from the person who posted my last entry December last year. I guess it’s the turning 30, it really does make you notice that you are older. But for me it did not go BAM! and hit me straight on the forehead the second the clock ticked 12 on my birthday. It was instead, a gradual understanding in moments when you begin to analyze yourself, who you are, and how you handle things in everyday life, how you should handle yourself in life. It gave me a gentle poke each time I made a choice, a decision. The constant quiet nag deep in my thoughts whenever I prompted to release an emotion, be it anger, or cheer, whether or not such an opinion is worth sharing on facebook, whether or not anyone would care about what I think. Taking pause in considering the repercussions of each movement and action.

In assessment I can say that I generally like how I turned out to be as a grown-up. Considering what I went through in life, I am objective in surmising that I turned out okay. Granted I do have some reactions, suggestions, often violent reactions to some aspects, like in body and personality, perfection is not something I wish to achieve for me. Nevertheless, I believe there is always room for improvement.

I’ve also been doing a bit of exploring around this city I have been living in for the past almost four years, some I have been to before, some I am ashamed to say was a long-overdue visit. So here is to hoping to finally something to blog about. On the diplowife side of things, not much to report except for the routine stuff.

Somethings to look forward to…

... a Puccini Opera at the Royal Opera House...

… a Puccini Opera at the Royal Opera House…

10710958_10152536972414542_5889965436410146455_n

… and the fossil of a Sperm Whale at the Natural History Museum.

A Year of Accomplishments: The Annual Year-End Review

It is another quiet New Year for me and JG here in Muscat. Back in the Philippines, New Year’s Eve is a boisterous and fun time, filled with fireworks and festive feasts in every home, but here in a Middle-Eastern country the coming of a new year is celebrated in contemplative and serene way. Which is something I really like, because it helps you think about how you fared in the year that has past and helps you breath in calmness your approach to the coming new.

2013 for me I think is a year of accomplishments, and two major events has come to mind. The first I played a very small role in, but it was a project that I really cherished because it was something I really believe and thought was something that was really significant and noteworthy.

I will always feel proud about being part of creating this book because living abroad one of the aspects that caught my concern, are the Migrant kids, especially the thousands of Filipino migrant children, whose lives are uniquely growing as they are bound by the need to be with their family, in sacrifice to not being to get live in their homeland.

The Finish Product

The Finished Product

I have always wondered what they feel about their life, what they think about it, and how their young innocent minds manage to deal, and this book has really given me a great wide glimpse of all those questions. I am also happy that through this, their stories, and artworks, can be means for them to be heard, and at least be noticed.

Another big accomplishment for is that this year I have finished and attained my Masters Degree! In the practical side of life, a trailing spouse has no need for such attainments, because one of the catches of this life is that dreams of following any professional career will often have to take a step back as it is sometimes difficult to have coincide with your duties to your diplomat of a spouse.

Nevertheless, who knows where life may bring us, and I strongly feel that getting more education strengthens a person’s character. I don’t know how this degree may help me, but whatever it does or doesn’t just the process of going back to school was really a blast. It wasn’t easy, and there were days when I asked myself what they heck did I get myself into? But as I slaved long nights studying, writing papers and homeworks, preparing for exams, I could myself growing with every new knowledge I gain, just as music fills the soul, and as food fuels the body.

One of the best parts of the whole experience was writing the final paper, which was really something I am proud about. During such times, I was simultaneously involved with the book project, so I thought why not get inspiration for my thesis from it. I am not going into the boring details but suffice to say, the paper is a look at the lives of migrant kids living here in Oman, and how Social Media helps them connect (whether or not it does) with their homeland.

Writing the Thesis...

Writing the Thesis…

Writing the paper helped me get a chance to interview such kids in a more in-depth manner which was really something I took a lot from. Not just about Social Learning Theories, migration, and Social Media effects; but dimensions of growing in culture vs. nurture, the dynamics of parents and their kids, and the minds of today’s generation.

Anyway, I liked going back to the academic way of life so much, that I am seriously considering going for the coveted Doctorate degree. So wish me luck on that…

In the Diplomatic front, I along with a small group South East Asian Ladies put up a group that has really accomplished a lot this year, including a most successful cultural and charity bazaar, and several other projects you could not believe little wives could ever do.

bazaar2

Travelling, I went to Amsterdam and Brussels which was a cold springtime but nonetheless another notch at my globe trotting expeditions. Favorite part of the year was going home which turned a bit hectic and daunting, but was also filled with great views and family time.

This was also a sad year for the Philippines, as it will be the year when the biggest storm ever recorded in the history of the world has chosen to test the spirit of the Filipino people. It will probably take a few more new years until some may look back at it without being sad, but loss is always a time to start again and appreciate life anew.

SAVE PH

In between all these things, were some downtime, and as I always say, the quiet and slow-paced life here in Muscat has made me examine myself especially in my alone times when JG is away at work and I am left to run the small but necessary details of our life like laundry, meals, bills, and plumbing. I turned 29 this year, and has definitely felt the age, not just in body, but in maturity. Not to jinx it, but I feel calmer now, more patient, and in some little way has gained some confidence, partly due to the Master’s degree, and mostly from the experience and wisdom getting older entails.

So here I am looking forward to 2014, while I welcome the challenge of new accomplishments to, well, accomplish. but there is a possibility that this would be our last year here in Muscat and the beginning of the end of our second posting.

Leaving Libya was a bit abrupt for us, so there wasn’t really much time to really enjoy and properly say goodbye. And I hope that Muscat be a different kind of parting. Hopefully some opportunities to see more of this beautiful country, but mostly I hope to visit the beach or a park once in a while and relax in it with a good book.

Spring this new year I will be turning 30 and I am bit nervous with getting what JG calls the mandatory coming-of-age passage where you freak out about getting older, and coming to terms with saying goodbye to your youth. JG certainly had his moment, and I wonder how I will handle the big day. To be honest, I’m actually okay with it, I like the feeling of getting older, and I really think that age is a matter of perspective, but JG insists that even though I don’t feel it now, he promises that it gets even the best of us, so that’s one thing to look forward to.

Oh you might be wondering, especially if you have been following my blog over the course of five years, the question of kids in the new year. I kind of got married younger than I expected, and while JG and I welcomed a baby at any point, I was honestly a bit not so ready myself. But one Wednesday, I forget which month this year, I remember it was one of those hectic days, and I asked myself if I could have handled such a time if I had a baby to take care of, and a second of thought later, the answer I have myself was a surprising “definitely”. Sadly that remains a question for the greater cosmos to answer, but it is good to know that I am in a point in my life when I would gladly welcome such a precious gift should it come our way this year.

So here is to another year! Actually just as I am with praying, I don’t wish for the specifics, like more money. or new stuff, I just mostly hope for the safety, good health, and genuine happiness for me and especially the people I love dearly.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!