Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Prelude to My Expat Tales

It's been months since I last wrote something here. And during that period, a lot of things have happened. I actually don't know where to begin. 

Truth is, I have been meaning to get back to putting thoughts in here, but of course, I'd say 'I can't find time ' excuses to save my ass. That's bullshit. It actually took colds and cough to push me to sit (lie a bit down actually) and start typing.

The last entry I wrote told my short-lived vacation in Kuala Lumpur (and a bit of Hanoi) last March. Shame that it was just part one, I think of what was supposed to be a blog series on an awesome trip. Fast forward a few months later, I am now living in Malaysia, Selangor to be more specific, Petaling Jaya if you want to know more. I cannot believe that at 25 (I actually moved when I was 24), I'll be away from whatever comfort Manila has given me all these years, in exchange for luck and adventure. 

If you have been following my Instagram, you would have probably seen all sorts of schemes I have been doing/ going to for the last five months. It's crazy. Sometimes, there were blergh, blah days, and sometimes there were really good days. It also helps that I have made friends here, all of whom are also living away from their families. The person I consider my best friend, EVER has been a huge help - from dinner, to movies, emergency and every other week sleepovers when things get crazy, and even bread toaster! (Although he'll leave in a few months). Life has become more bearable in PJ, despite the moments of homesickness, heartache, money draught, and hungry pangs.

I miss Manila (and Hanoi if I can just squeeze that in), but Petaling Jaya (some weekends it's Kuala Lumpur) has been so nice to me. I hope my new home treats me well in the next two years.

Now, excuse me while I try to get back to my lazy ass again, because duh, it's a weekend... And duh, I'm sick. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Malaysia Day Two

So you've read about the first, fun-filled day in Kuala Lumpur. Now I'm writing about the second day, a.k.a. the day when I finally saw Bloc Party in the flesh.

Sorry, I'm not sorry about my face.
FMFA was on the second day and the giddy fan girl in me woke up earlier than expected, but decided to stay in my room and do a bit laundry. One thing I learned from this trip is not to over pack and just bring laundry soap. Well, I kind of over packed and brought a bar with me so I still got home with so much clothes. I want to master the art of packing. Although I know how to efficiently pack stuff in my backpack, I think I should improve on editing what I bring along. 

So anyway, back to FMFA... Martin and I left Seputeh around 4PM, after our supposed cab failed to fetch us from his condominium. Luckily, there were buses in KL Sentral taking festival goers near Sepang Circuit where the concert will take place. We arrived just in time before Temper Trap, because I wasn't really interested with the other acts, plus I didn't really want to stand for some more hours. We arrived around 5PM, we stayed until 2AM so just imagine how excruciating it was. 

A few more minutes and Temper Trap came to stage. To be honest, although I have their entire discography, I was only looking forward to "Sweet Disposition."

Sweeeeet Dissssposition...
The next band I was waiting for to perform was fun. and program said they won't be on stage until 9PM. Martin and I took this time to freshen up and load up on RM10 bottled water. Ridiculous. Because we wanted to wanted to get a good spot for fun., we headed back to the Flamingo stage before Rita Ora was done. There's still Psy in between before fun., so we had to stand at the back for awhile and wait for the crowd to disperse. They didn't. Actually, a lot more people came when Psy was on stage. And although they only know "Gangnam Style," everyone was happy he sang it twice. TWICE.

That is Martin, enjoying Psy. Although he won't admit it.
And then, fun. came... after almost an hour of delay. We got a pretty nice place in the middle of the grounds and I was contented of where we were although there were people bumping me and everyone was so sweaty. I hate huge crowds and there was no air coming in, so I had a hard time breathing because we were stuck in the middle of a humid, really hot place. But it was alright, fun. had a really good performance. They didn't sing my favourite song, All the Pretty Girls. Sad.

There was so much light, I can't take a decent picture, haha
This one is dedicated to Lian and Lena Dunham, my BFFs.
And because Martin knew I'm a huuuge fan of Bloc Party he asked me if I wanted to go front row. Of course I said yes, so he dragged me from where we were until we finally got there. I'm impressed how he did that. 

There was another band before Bloc Party so we waited for 45mins more, just to save our spot. There were people trying to get our place and being small and incapable of pushing people, Martin had to do it for me. He's the best concert companion, I tell you. 

Around 1AM, when the concert was supposed to end according to schedule, my life flashed before me. Bloc Party came on stage. I was jumping gleefully, going really crazy. I cannot believe the band I was waiting for eight years is finally here. The sweetest thing, Gordon Moakes was in front of me. I could not even. I wish I brought a better camera because my iPhone can't take the awesomeness of the Bloc Party stage lights. 

Yes, I know they were mostly photos of the bassist because I'm in love with him.

I was still feeling high after their performance when Martin said we should stay for a bit. I was fine with it because I was expecting Bloc Party would come out anytime soon. But they didn't. I was on the verge of telling Martin we should head home when I saw the bouncers giving out Bloc Party's setlist. I knew we had to stay. They gave out all three, but then someone saw another setlist stuck on the stage... and it was Gordon Moakes'. I used all my bullets just to get the setlist from the bouncer, but I guess it didn't work because he was acting like he can't hear me. I said I'm the only girl (didn't work) that I'm not from Malaysia (didn't work) that I came all the way from Manila to go to FMFA (didn't work). 

So what Martin did, he snatched the copy from his hands. He got it for ME!!! I think I said I love him so many times after. He's the best, I tell you.

Next days in next blogs!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Malaysia Day One

It's been almost three weeks since I got back from my most recent trip. And while I am still busy slaving myself to my laptop, trying to gain back what I spent for that 10-day out of the country trip, I am taking a break to tell and show some wonderful things about it. 

I'm just going to tell about my trip to Malaysia, because Vietnam has already been told several times in my blog, and I know the minute I started talking about Hanoi again, I'll end up gushing. Plus, I didn't take many photos during my return, because I wanted as much as possible to spend more time with my friends, Austen and Ryan, and less sight seeing. 

The main reason I went to Malaysia is to see my favourite band, Bloc Party in FMFA. I was originally scheduled to go to Kuala Lumpur in November, but then I had to make changes because I thought there's no chance of seeing the band I have been fan girling to for so many years to bring their talents in Manila. So I immediately bought new set of tickets to KL and took advantage of Early Bird Discount for FMFA. Much to my surprise when somebody posted that Bloc Party's holding their first concert here. But I wasn't disappointed because aside from them, I also got to see fun. and Temper Trap. Not bad, right? Also, Psy who sang Gangnam Style TWICE. 

Arrived very early in Kuala Lumpur and despite it being one in the morning, it was unutterably hot. The very humid city is even hotter than Manila, but looks much the same, with enormous buildings and blinding lights. I spent my first night in a hostel, my first time EVER, because my host (who I have forgiven before I even met him!) was not able to pick me up in KL Sentral. I was there, maybe for an hour thinking where to go. I was tired, hungry, and desperate for a shower when I decided to screw my plan of sleeping in the train station. I wasn't even sure if that is possible, though. So I searched for the nearest, possibly cheapest hostel to get some shut eye. In about a thirty minutes, after a shower and fixing stuff, I finally slept. Hostel life isn't easy, especially when most people are already snoring when you arrive. 
I have seen far worse signs, but this is one of the funniest things I saw in my hostel.
The next morning was filled with many awkward firsts, as I struggled my way around the hostel, eating and barely talking to other guests. I'm not sure if you've had the same "first day jitters." I didn't bother making any more acquaintances, as I was so worried about my host. When I got back to my room, I received a call from him and my life became a better place again. Next thing I knew, I was off to my first mall, where he lived nearby.

Well, my first bus ride. A man paid for my fare.  Saved me RM 1.80
I met the very charming Martin, my host in one of KL's biggest malls, MidValley. We walked from the mall to his condominium under the sweltering heat. Then went back to the same centre in the shorter, more shady, but very dangerous way. It was fun crossing highways, going through fences, and under the flyways. I was just too happy to meet him finally, and get to the other side alive. The first agenda of the day was to look for Borders, because no matter where I go, I always look for bookstores. I'm not sure if Martin was amused by my marvelling on supposedly the biggest bookstore in KL, but told me it's in the same mall. After dropping me off in MidValley and reaching the bookstore, I made my way back to the city center, at freaking 12nn.

While waiting for the train from MidValley to KL Sentral
Luckily, my host was kind enough to lend me his LRT card and it saved me tons of Ringgits because I'm the roaming, but easily gets lost type of girl. I cannot remember how many times I rode a different train or got off the wrong stop. But it was fun getting lost, just don't mind the excruciating heat. Kuala Lumpur has a pretty impressive transportation system. I really, really liked their trains, which go in some schedule so you don't have to wait long in train stations. My host lived pretty near Seputeh's train station, more like 10 minutes walk from his place. I didn't mind walking, but during the first few nights, I was so paranoid, I end up running from the station to his condo, flashing my led lights. It was crazy. 

My friend Vins wanted me to look for this specific place where Bea Alonzo shot a scene for one of her movies. After looking for it in Google, it led me to this place:

Can't seem to find my panorama shot, but this is pretty much  it.
This lake is Titiwangsa. I walked miles from the station to get to this place, so it was a relief to sit for a while, watch people, and look over at Petronas from afar. My next agenda was to get to Petronas, and thought it would be an easy trek. Of course I was wrong. It was waaay over the other side. I was not even far from Titiwangsa and I was already sweating and so tired I looked so harassed. I kid you not. Good thing, a group of Malaysian students were kind enough to tell me which way to go, with one of them actually driving me to the towers, even if it was out of his way. You already know this story from previous post.

After a brief ride, I reached Petronas Twin Towers!!! I'm not really a fan of skyscrapers, but Petronas was just too majestic, I couldn't even. It's no wonder a lot of tourists troop over to KLCC to get a glimpse of this beauty. If I had much more money, I'd go all the way to the top to get a view of  the entire city. 

Ah, no one to take a photo of me against/ carrying the towers. I would have loved to  do those 'stunts'

Some more photos of the towers from 3PM to 7PM. Sunset was at 7:30PM so...
I didn't realise I spent so much time around KLCC, just oggling at Petronas. I spent some more time inside the malls, like Berjaya and Suria KLCC, but just to get some cold air. I was probably too tired, all I can remember was lying down in KLCC park until 7PM, because I really wanted to wait for sunset, but it was getting 'late,' I decided to go home. 

And it was such a bad idea to stay until 7-ish because I caught the human traffic in rush hour. Not comparable to us, because KL-ites are disciplined to fall in line and wait for their turn when riding the train. But too much people, was TOO much. I went from LRT Putra line to KTM Rawang-Seremban line. There were too much walking and I was just so happy to end my first day in KL. But because my memory always fails me, I ended up crossing the other side of Seputeh, I had to go through a scary under pass and of course ran my way to  Martin's condo to get there fast.

Never Forget.
Good thing when I arrived, Martin was already there, home from work. I took a snapshot of my view from his place. I don't know why I didn't take a morning version. It was beautiful in the morning, especially at sunrise, which I saw that one morning when I woke up early. 

All the KL Lights. Petronas, sadly is on the other side, where there's no window
Martin and I ended our day with his karaoke app. And because karaoke brings out the competitive side of me, stayed up pretty late trying to beat each other's scores.

I guess this entry is pretty long, so I will tell more stories of the next few days in upcoming entries. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nobody to Somebody

"Some stranger took me from Titiwangsa to Petronas today." 

"Weren't you afraid?"

There was a brief pause before I finally told Martin, "No. Actually I never really thought about it until now."

Funny my host asked why I wasn't scared when he was also a complete nobody to me until the morning we met... Which was on the same day this happened. 

I have always had trust issues. I don't remember when and how it started, but I know I'm never the trusting type of person. Sure, we could talk about our secrets and tell each other the darkest stuff about ourselves, but it takes time, even years before I finally lay my elusive trust on you.

But since I started travelling on my own, I realised I'm trusting my life more to strangers than I actually trust people I've known for so many years. It's quite ironic to think that I am more at ease with unknowns, rather than those who knew me almost since birth. I have grown accustomed to living with people I have only met for a few days, all thanks to Couchsurfing. I have also eaten, walked, and spent happy hours with locals who despite having a hard time conversing in English, take the time to help me plan out my itinerary and without a miss, direct me to where I am supposed to go. I look back and think I could have gotten some serious trouble if I weren't so keen. Imagine, a petite girl, with very poor eyesight, who looks like she can't kill a bug to save her life, hanging out with complete 'aliens'. Luckily, three countries after (including the Philippines) I am still here alive, unharmed, and still have all my belongings intact. It's also amusing that those people you think you know and knew you way back are those who sometimes lead you astray.

Sometimes, I wonder what I was thinking when I joined those people because I would never talk to anyone I don't know. Usually, I think twice before I go with or talk to someone, as what I was taught. But recently, I give in to blind trust and eventually follow my instincts. I guess that's the good thing about travelling alone. You are forced to get out of your comfort zone, speak up, and immerse yourself to a community completely new to you. Maybe without thinking about it, my problem with opening up and trusting people have become my motivation to finally open myself to others. 

So far, I have spent nights sleeping on the couch and beds of three different people who I just met weeks before. Walked around with a fellow traveller I have only talked with over e-mails and sms before meeting up in real life. Exchanged stories and itineraries with a nomad I met on a plane. Ate at sidewalks with strange menu and not thinking about what I am actually eating. Rode a car with a man who only asked for my blog address in exchange for his kindness (hello, if you're reading this!) Going from one place to another with someone who was kind enough to pay for my fare and the list of awesome experiences with strangers pile up every time I set foot on a new destination. I have also maintained good relationships with most of them that some have become my close friends! These people have also helped shape some of my thoughts and have been instrumental with my life path. I find myself coming back to their stories every time I think about my future. 

Maybe I'm just lucky enough with my encounters. Maybe it's the heaven telling me it's okay to trust. I'm not so sure of the reasons why all of these are happening. But one thing is true, these people are responsible for the greatest things I have ever experienced throughout my trips. I could not imagine how my travels would have been if it weren't for them. 

Here's to hoping I get all the luck in the world and meet more wonderful strangers along the way. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why Some Things Do Not Work

There has been so much stuff written about first love. Some say it's bittersweet, others said it's worth it, some are even wishing it never happened. It could be many things, but forgettable is not one of them. 

I remember mine like it was yesterday. When you're seven and attracted for the first time, you will think it is love. Maybe it was more of a crush, because what would a first grader know of such things? He's older, funnier, and wiser. He didn't smell, always tidy, and reserved. My adult self would like him so much. Every day when we're called to class, I was so excited my heart literally skips a beat. One time during our practice, I forgot my poem and felt embarrassed, not to my teachers, just to him. I noticed that I was more conscious when he's around. He has become my motivation and the reason why I did better in English classes as compared to my other subjects.

When he left school after a year, I thought things would be different. I have not really talked to him and there was probably no other way to look for him so I bid memories goodbye and went on with my life. There were no emails, no Facebook, or Google to search for him. I was eight and had no capacity to look for people. I gave up.

But a few years after, with the influx of text messages, I finally got a chance to talk to him. Our exchanges were something I looked forward to. I was twelve when I finally realised I was in love. It didn't happen instantly. But our situation was not that easy. I was young and not ready. I wasn't even sure if my parents will allow me to go out. So the futile attempts to have a relationship was aborted. I had no choice, but to forget. So he and I decided, we'd be friends. That's it. That was probably a stupid, but an effective remedy at that time. Because really, conceal romantic feelings with friendship? Yes, that would totally work. (Sarcasm)

Our friendship went on for a decade, maybe even more. In a span of ten years, there were times when we'd talk about getting together, but we never really got a chance to. How we have always attempted to give it a shot, but circumstances begged it won't work. He and I remained friends, very good friends that sometimes when good things happened to me,  he was the first person to know. How my ex-boyfriends asked me to stop talking to him, but I didn't because why would I? I made myself think that I am not in love with him because THIS will not work, because duh, friends don't fall in love. That's the cardinal rule of friendship, don't fall in love or else friendship is doomed. 

But you know how fickle minded women are. Why not take it to the next level? And when we finally made a plunge, it didn't work. My worst fear took place and I didn't know what to do. I thought I was too comfortable with him. I am not really sure how he felt. There were good days and there were bad days. We didn't fight, probably because we know each other well, if not too well. But things, no matter how hard you make it happen, will now work. We have tried, but it did not succeed. My old school love is now one of my worst heartbreaks. 

There were times when I thought, I wish nothing happened because I did not only lose a lover, but I also lost a friend. There were so many times when the world told us, told me THIS WILL NOT WORK, in bold, capital letters, but you know, I was stubborn and in-love, and unbelievably stupid. I believed we could make it. It was painful. This person you thought you knew how to care and love, is completely a different person from how you imagined him to be. It might not be Earth shattering, but it was close. 

But the heartaches aside, I am happy he has such a positive effect on me. He's one of the reasons why I went to study Journalism. He's the reason why I watch, read, and like certain things. He's the reason why I cringe when 'stuffs' and 'did + past tense of the word' happen. He taught me well. 

He was my first love. I'm pretty sure, I am not his. But ours could have been a love story worth telling to. And no matter how many kisses and hugs come in the future, the feeling shared with your first love is hard to forget - the mushiness, the intensity, the whirlwind emotions. I have read somewhere that your first love will eventually become a benchmark to your succeeding relationships. Which is sad, because I want the next person I fall in love with be himself. Not some replica of the past. 

They say, there's a minute chance of ending up with your first love. There is no right formula or spell to end up with the first person you have ever fallen in love with. And when they're done,  you have to move on.

I struggle with this resolution every day. He has been a part of something wonderful, but it's over. He could be the first, but the most important thing is to find the one who will and will be the last.