Posted in Books, Careers, Feminism, Lifestyle, london, Reviews

Book Review: The Great Chick-Lit-A-Thon

I always think that people who abuse chick-lit as being all fluff and no substance has never had a week where you’ve used your brain so much that you just want to sit down for a day and not use up any more brain cells. That is what a chick lit is for. Its not unintelligent; in fact, I think it takes brains and talent to write a good chick lit. I don’t think it should even be called chick lit, that term is absolutely sexist. Yes, these books are written for and by women but I think men can learn a lot from them too (It certainly won’t hurt their E.Q. )

I will defend chick lits with my life. I think there comes a point in your year where you absolutely need a good escapist read. I think people who disparage these books as being so far from literature should get over themselves. Of course they’re not literature! One way to avoid going through life perpetually disappointed is to adjust your expectations. Take these books the way they were meant to be taken: they are pure, escapist enjoyment meant to be taken on a beach holiday and read for relaxation. Once in a while they provide a good social commentary and that is why this genre exists, because it is relatable AF.

Ok, I’ve said my piece. Let’s get to the review.

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

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Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books of all time (talk about literature!). I love it so much that I’ve seen both the tv and movie version at least 10 times;

I salivated over seeing Matthew McFadden walking down Soho and I’m still kicking myself for not having the balls to get his autograph. I’ve read every spinoff of the book that has ever been released, even trashy ones such as Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and Elizabeth and Darcy. I even considered reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but stopped myself. So when I saw this book on a trip to Waterstones, I thought, why not?

Eligible is a modern retelling of the classic tale every woman out there (who hasn’t been living under a rock) loves. For the life of me, I cannot understand why out of all the bars and gin joints in the world Curtis Sittenfeld chose to set this story in Cincinnati. There could not be a less glamorous setting for a retelling. But I read on a review somewhere that the author came form Cincinnati so she’s probably killing two birds with one stone: writing about what she knows and shamelessly plugging her hometown.

Mr. Bingley (or Chip Bingley in this version) is an ER (A and E for those of us on this side of the Atlantic) doctor who was once a contestant in a reality show called Eligible, which I imagine to be something similar to The Bachelor. He went on it on the urging of his sister/manager Caroline and because he wanted to find love. At the end of it he just could not bring himself to choose from either of the finalists because he didn’t think what he had with them was real. He moved to Cincinnati and took a job at the University Hospital where his good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy was a bloody neurosurgeon (of course he is).

Liz and Jane are not the shy, innocent virgins that they were in the original version. In fact, Jane is nearly forty, a yoga instructor and has been trying to have a child through IVF for years. Liz is 38, works for a magazine and has been having an affair with her close friend, the married Jasper Wick (Mr Wickham) for a long time and has been stupidly in love with him for even longer. They are both called back to the family home when their father has a heart attack.

I found this to be a really clever retelling. The Bennets are just as ridiculous as in the original and Mrs Bennet clearly transcends generations, revisions and retelling because I found her just as overbearing and annoying. I think the book did a really good job of injecting modern issues while still keeping the theme of the original intact. And I guess that’s only to be expected because no matter how enlightened and progressive we believe ourselves to be as a society, marriage is still by-and-large a game. An eligible bachelor such as Chip Bingley is still eyed and sized by ambitious mamas out there to see if he’s the right fit for their daughters. I’ve talked about the pressure to be paired up and settled as you grow older in my previous blog and that’s hasn’t changed from when Jane Austen published her novel. The shelf-life of women has probably expanded a bit, but a woman in her 30s who is still single is still seen as an anomaly.

I like how this book tackles feminism and proposes the idea that to devote yourself to another person doesn’t mean having to give up being your own woman.

There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable book.

My Not So Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella

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I used to love Sophie Kinsella when I was in college. When I moved to London I found it a little hard to read her books because I thought they were unrealistic. Living in London is fun but its incredibly tough. Not everyone gets the glamorous jobs in advertising; we don’t all have fun Friday nights where we do all kinds of quirky things. In short, its not as perfect as her novels seem to portray.

Which is why I love this one.

My Not So Perfect Life is a glaring reality check on what social media has done to us as a society, especially for the younger generation, the so-called millennials. I think that we’ve all always felt the pressure to be perfect: the perfect daughter, the perfect employee, the perfect woman. With the advent of social media, there is an added pressure to not just be perfect but to make sure that everyone else knows it. To be honest, I sometimes hate looking at social media feeds, especially when I’ve had a particularly tough day at work or if I’ve had to re-think my holiday plans because I just can’t afford it. I see my friends’ posts and they just seem to be on holiday all the time and I find myself thinking, how in the hell did they find the time and money to do all that? Or I look at other people’s blogs or vlogs and think, mine will never be as interesting as that, my life just isn’t that instagrammable.

Truly, don’t ever go on Facebook or Instagram if you’re not feeling good about your life. 

This book tells the story behind the social media posts. It dares to say that there’s a story behind every perfect post. People project what they want to project into the social media world because they feel the need to maintain an image. Not all of it is real. We shouldn’t lose sight of who we are just because we inspire to be instagrammable. We shouldn’t bend over backwards to make other people think life is perfect because guess what? No one’s life is perfect. Not even movie stars with their blogger poses. They go through their ups and downs the same way as we do, they probably just hide it better. And maybe they have more expensive drinks to process their grief, but grieve they do nonetheless.

I loved this book. I finished it in one sitting. At one point, I felt the need to book myself into a glamping campsite just to see what the experience is like.

I think this book has an important message, especially to the young women of today.

Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me.

Life isn’t always instagram-perfect but you don’t want it to be. You are more than your social media feeds, you do not need to maintain an image. Be real, be you, be better than Facebook.

 I would definitely recommend both these books for people who are looking for a light easy read as we near the end of summer. Enjoy, bookworms! 

 

 

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

Book Review: A Knight of The Seven Kingdoms

I cannot believe we’re down to two more episodes in the current season of Game of Thrones. What will I do with my Mondays now? I might actually need to think about work instead of whether or not my favourite character lives or dies! In fact, I might get so upset over the loss of GoT that I will do a dracarys on my way to the office and breathe fire over the good people of London.

Could it be any clearer that I am a huge Game of Thrones fan? 

I first watched this show on the recommendation of my good friend Katie. Well, I read the books first, and it really went into more detail than the series ever did which is probably part of the reason why I got so invested in the characters; I knew their backstory from the books. I wouldn’t compare the books to the series though because I think they’re equally good. There are things that the series has done, like making Robb Stark a more central character before his tragic demise, that I thought worked really well. 

Anyway, I ultimately finished the books and like many others I wait with bated breath for Winds of Winter to come, which from the sounds of it now seems like it will be thick enough to kill a full-grown rat. The tv series has overtaken the books though so I think that will be confusing, keeping all those storylines separate. But I can’t complain when we have episodes like ‘The Spoils of War‘ which is 40 minutes of television heaven. Plus having the R + L = J theory confirmed last season was one of the most gratifying moments in tv history. 

I bought A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms so that I would have something to do in between episodes and because I love everything that has to do with Westeros. I think George R R Martin has done a stupendous job of building this fantasy world with its own history, geography and legends. I mean, I would be just as satisfied reading about the events leading up to Robert’s Rebellion as I would be reading recent Westeros events.

By this time, all these names are as familiar to me as my own. Targaryen. Stark. Baratheon. Lannister. When I see them mentioned in this book, which takes place about 100 years before current GoT events, I get a little thrill. This book is actually a collection of 3 novellas telling the adventures of Dunk and Egg, also known as Ser Duncan the Tall and the future king himself Aegon V Targaryen. Aegon is Mad King Aerys’ father. He was so obssessed with having dragons in the world again that he burned down his palace in Summerhall around the same time that Rhaegar Targaryen was born. 

Ser Duncan is a hedge knight. I’m not sure what that is exactly but it seems like one step short of being a sellsword; a knight who sells his services to any lord. He meets a bald-headed purple-eyed boy in a tavern on his way to a tourney in Ashford. Unbeknownst to him this precocious boy is actually Aegon but he nicknames himself Egg. He unwittingly takes him on as his squire as he enters the tourney where, as fate would have it, Egg’s brothers and uncles are also competing. 

The stories that follow are rich in Westerosi history. Its funny with a touch of adventure and at time unexpectedly moving. Its even more moving when you consider the fact that Ser Duncan was with Aegon through his unexpected rise to the throne and served as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard all throughout his rein and until the end of both their lives (he too died in Summerhall). 

*all photos are taken from the book and are original works of the illustrator specified in the cover*


I didn’t think I’d get through this book so quickly. It took me ages to finish one GoT book (oh God, Clash of Kings was tedious) but it only took me a day or two to finish this one. The illustrations were lovely and helped a great deal. I can imagine reading this book to my children someday in the future. I loved Ser Duncan and his almost foolish sense of nobility (hello, Ned Stark) and I especially loved Egg. These books are a great addition to the world of Game of Thrones and I hope GRRM will live long enough to finish these tales and maybe even write about Rhaegar and Lyanna. I would love a romance novel set in this world, just saying. 

All in all, this was a great book and one I would recommend to any fan. 

Posted in Careers, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery

My first week of being 30 and I’m surprisingly adjusting

I always knew 2017 was going to be difficult for me in terms of bearing the weight of society’s expectations. Two of my best friends got married this year, two had their first babies. Add the fact that I turn 30 this year and someone might as well be holding a ticking clock over my head (a ticking clock that sounds suspiciously like ba-bies, ba-bies, ba-bies, ova-ries to the sound of my mother’s voice). 

I spent so much time thinking about turning 30, almost as soon as I turned 29 in fact. I had grand plans: I made up a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30 (of which I ultimately did maybe 5); I booked an annual leave for 2 weeks because I wanted to celebrate with a bang; I looked up flights to Vegas and Turkey and Santorini. I saw my 30th birthday as this looming deadline and I wanted to do anything and everything before this dreaded day arrives.


As always, reality got in the way; life – and living it- got in the way. I forgot all about my list. I forgot to be afraid of that arbitrary finish line that really only existed in my head. I got busy; I faced new challenges in my career, I was working towards getting my citizenship, I had extra curricular activities that needed my full attention and a blog to maintain. In short, I got busy living my life to be worried that it doesn’t measure up to everyone else’s.

And it was the best thing that could have ever happened.

A lot of people told me that 30, as cliche as it may sound, is really just a number. And its true. Your life doesn’t stop, or have to necessarily change, when you turn 30. Like, there are people who say you have to start thinking about settling and sorting out the future when you turn 30. I’ve been thinking about my future since I was 10. I’d like to think I have most of my life sorted, that I’m exactly where I want to be. But then again, if I don’t have my shit fully together, if there are still some things I’m figuring out, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should try to mininise living our lives by numbers. Marry at 25, 2 kids and a successful career by 30, a mortgage in 2 years – the truth is, there is no one life map that fits all. There is no timeline that you need to follow. You get married because you’ve genuinely found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. You have kids because you find fulfillment in being a parent and because you’re ready. You buy a house because you have a family. And because you’re ready. You are not obligated to do all of these things because you’re 30.

That being said, turning 30 does mean that you have to have a certain level of maturity. There are things that I wish to be better at and while I don’t need to wait for my birthday each year to start doing them, it seems like as good a time as any to start. So I made a shortlist of things that I WILL do this year:

I will take better care of myself

The only thing that’s true about turning 30 is that you’re not as young as used to be, physiologically speaking. Your body and your health become more high maintenance as you get older, that’s just a fact. Which means I can no longer afford to have a chocolate binge after a stressful day at work (which is almost every day). My family has a history of high cholesterol and heart disease. I have yet to lose all the weight I gained in 2015 (and have continued to gain since). All of this ends starting today. I will make a more conscious effort to eat healthy and exercise at least 4x a week.

I will save more money

Some people think that the answer to every financial problem is to find a job that pays better. Its not. The answer lies in living within your means. Cut out things that are not strictly necessary. Do I really need to have an expensive meal every weekend? Do I need more books? Do I need more shoes? Can I afford to go on that holiday? I may not be sending any kid to school or saving for a mortgage, but I do need to save for the rainy days. This is something I need to take more seriously this year. 

Collect memories and experiences rather than things

In keeping with saving money, I need to be more selective about the things that I DO shell out for. Travelling is fine, buying a designer bag is not. I mean to each his own right? If owning a Prada bag makes you happy, more power to you. But I personally feel I should be investing in things that keep me sane, centred and happy on a higher level, not just materially. I am not going to suddenly become a minimalist (let’s be realistic) but I will try to be more careful about what I spend on. 

Simple 30th celebration at home. Birthdays are about spending it with the people who matter most. Thank you everyone for coming!
Finally joining the 30 and over club!

Do what you love and love what you’re doing

I know that having a stable job and a career becomes more important as you reach your 30s. Everyone seems to measure success by how far you’ve climbed the career ladder. I disagree. Having ambitions is all well and good; aspiring to a better position and a better pay – that’s all fine. But I think being happy at what you do, and still being able to have a life outside work, is the true measure of success. Its no secret that I turned down a high-paying, higher-ranking job offer last year because I didn’t think I’d make as much an impact and because I didn’t think it would make me happy. I would rather stay at a job that will make the most out of my skill set and that will give me fulfillment.

Don’t be afraid to try new things

Like I said, just because you’re no longer a teenager doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for new experiences. Besides, I was always a late bloomer so I’m pretty sure there are a lot more experiences to be had. I just need to stop being so scared all the time and just try. There are things that I’d like to try but have always been afraid of, but the only other thing that’s true about aging is that you have to take every chance and every opportunity because life IS short. 

Give dating another go.

Ah, everyone’s favourite question to a woman in her 30s. Why are you single? When are you planning to settle down and get married? I hate getting asked this question because it implies that there’s something wrong with being single in your 30s. Well, excuse me for being a little too busy to care. But. Lately I find myself thinking that maybe it IS time to get back to dating again. Not because society expects me to but because I want to. I gave myself a hiatus because I was so tired of all the bad dates and the dates that seemed to have gone well but always end up being a disappointment. I’ve kind of closed my mind to the idea of meeting someone because I was tired. I think its time to be open once again and just put the idea to the universe at large in the hopes that the universe will cooperate. 

The one thing I hate about dating is that you make yourself so vulnerable, and I hate making myself vulnerable to anything. I feel like I have this wall all the time because I don’t want to risk being hurt. If someone gets to close, I go ‘dracarys’ and blow that opportunity out of the water (lol, GOT reference!). I sometimes don’t even realise I’m doing it. I have to be better at being more open and less afraid.
Ah, my 30s. People say it only gets better from here and I’m quite hopeful that it will be. I will be stronger. I will be wiser. I will probably fail epically on some of the things I set out to do but I have never been a quitter, and I’m not about to start now. 

Happy 30th to me! 

Posted in Careers, friendship, Moving to London, Travel, United Kingdom

The Payoff: Why I’m Proud to be a One-Time Clinical Instructor

Teaching is in my blood.

I come from a whole family of teachers, spanning maybe two generations. As a kid, I used to earn my allowance by tutoring my younger brother and sister. I very nearly went insane in the process but it has prepared me for my future as an educator. Believe me, teaching your own sibling is an experience you don’t want to have in perpetuity (haha, Game of Thrones reference).

My father didn’t want me to be a teacher because he thought I would have more of a future as a nurse. At the time, there were not a lot of job opportunities in the Philippines and everyone was desperate to get out of the country. Nursing was a one-way ticket to a better life. Ironically, when I started studying nursing the demand for nurses internationally started to decline; there was a recession in the US and the UK and not a lot of countries were hiring out. But that was okay, because I knew as soon as I graduated that I wanted to be a clinical instructor in my alma mater and train future nurses.

My two years as a clinical instructor were some of the best and worst years of my life. I started out as this wide-eyed, dreamy and idealistic teacher fresh from uni and with all cylinders firing. I wanted to not just teach students, but to inspire them as well. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to be that one teacher they’ll remember for the rest of their life. 

You know what they say about good intentions and the roads they pave.

Not that being a clinical instructor was hell. But. Reality sort of got through after a while and I realised that the job was way more difficult than I thought it would be. I especially had a hard time balancing between going the extra mile and getting too close to the students. I may also have disagreed with some of my more senior colleagues about our role in our students’ lives. I believed (and still believe) that it was possible to stay impartial and objective without being detached. I think that extra touch of the personal is what makes a student-teacher relationship special. I have gotten into a lot of trouble for clinging to that belief. But I had hell of a good time because of it.

In my first year as a clinical instructor, I threw everything I had into teaching. I was organised, I gave every student individual feedback, I listened to their problems, both academic and when they wanted support about the more personal aspects. I got creative and looked for ways to make learning fun. I still remember organising an Amazing Race-like activity around the campus at the end of every rotation. I think I may have also built a reputation for being really strict, which I never intended but turned out to work really well for me. I think a little dose of fear is healthy. But I didn’t want the students to do the work because they feared me, I wanted them to do it because they see value in doing it.

I supported extra-curricular activities with gusto. I may not know much about playing basketball, but I love the sport and I was there for every game. I cheered every win and commiserated with the team for each loss. I also knew that the best way to get over a loss was to eat and drink so I used to buy food for the team, so much that some of the boys still message me to this day to ask for pochero because that’s what we used to have when we ate out. 

I think that first year was awesome. I look back on it now and I’m grateful. I wouldn’t do anything differently even though some people are of the opinion that I got too close. Maybe I did. Maybe I was too young to be a clinical instructor. I was mentoring students who were only 2 or 3 years younger than me, its kinda hard to be an authority figure with that narrow an age gap. I think the lines were a bit blurred because of that, and with others the lines were more blurred because of natural chemistry. I think that there are people in your life that you will just naturally get along with and gravitate more towards. Some of the students were my friends. However, because they were my friends, I worked even harder to stay impartial within the context of our professional relationship. 

I think its a huge leap from being friendly with students to assuming that I would compromise my integrity for them. 

In my last year as a clinical instructor, I was unfairly accused of leaking exam questions to a group of students. I have never spoken openly about how upset I was about this but I do so now just to get it off my chest completely. I WOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING. It goes against every principle I have in life. Teaching is my passion, and I cannot teach without integrity. Why should I work so hard to teach students if I’m going to give them the easy way out anyway? If I did that, I would be cheating them and selling them short because it means I have no faith in their ability to pass an exam. I don’t think those who used my name so carelessly to cover their mistake or those who were so quick to judge me ever realised how close they came to snuffing out that spark, that love I had for teaching.

But I refused to let them defeat me. 

I still don’t know who leaked the exam. There were other clinical instructors accused with me but I got the full force because of the kind of relationship I had with the students. In hindsight, maybe I was guilty. Guilty of not setting more boundaries and protecting myself from accusations like that. I learned that lesson the hard way. 

Still its hard to regret the choices I made when I have so many students who tell me how much of an impact I’ve made in their lives. I can’t bring myself to be overly bitter about that experience because its made me stronger; and it was ultimately the catalyst that led me to London. 

And I’m happy that I never gave up. Because I would have missed out on the payoff. The payoff is seeing your babies graduate; the payoff is seeing them all become nurses in their own right. The payoff is seeing how successful they’ve become and reuniting with them halfway round the world from where we came from and having drinks by the river Thames. 

Batch 2011. My first students and first babies. You’re not supposed to have favourites, but what the hell. This batch is definitely mine. 🙂

Batch 2013. My other favourite and the ones that supported me the most when shit hit the fan because they were loyal to me and to my sister. 😘
Well done to us, Sir Jo! Hahahah

With Marj the New Yorker on her first visit to London. First of many! Haha
With Rayann, New Yorker number two! 😘

I am so incredibly proud of the work we’ve done with these students. They’ve turned out better than we could have expected and Joseph, I think we should give ourselves a pat in the back, partner. Job well done.

Kudos, Velez College – College of Nursing UK Chapter. 😘

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel, United Kingdom

In An Alternate Life, I Would Have Been an Oxford Fellow…and other thoughts on an Oxford day trip. 

As my followers know, I’m not able to travel much this year because a) I needed to save at least 3 grand for my application to become a UK resident and b) I’ve used up most of my annual leave entitlements to go home to the Philippines in January. I usually have a birthday trip each year but this year I decided to spend my birthday at home. There’s plenty of interesting places to see in England anyway (I can’t go to Scotland because apparently there’s a massive festival that starts in August and flights to Edinburgh are horrendously expensive; ditto, Belfast). This last weekend my friend Jo, my sister and I decided to visit (re-visit in my case) two of the country’s premier universities. 


When you hear Oxford University anywhere in the world, you automatically associate it with prestige and excellence. The university has produced a lot of notable alumni and a record number of prime ministers. Among its list of fellows are CS Lewis (author of Narnia), JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Theresa May (I don’t know how proud they are of this), David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Lawrence of Arabia. 

Also, they filmed Harry Potter in Oxford. Ironically, for a university renowned the world over for a great many things (The Bodleian library, the Oxford University Press etc) most tourists want to see where the dining hall of Hogwarts is, or where they practiced dancing for the Yule Ball, or the grounds that Daniel Radcliffe walked in for the first Harry Potter movie or where Minerva McGonagall received the first years in that classic Philosopher’s Stone scene. 

Old Divinity School where they filmed scenes from Harry Potter, such as when they practised dancing for the Yule Ball 🙂
This is also where they filmed the Harry Potter infirmary scenes
 

The day-trippers at Christchurch College

We initially booked a free walking tour with Footprints and then upgraded to a University Tour because I fell for the blurb on the poster that said we could visit the colleges and the library. The reality fell short of my expectations and I think we would have been better off with our original plan and saving ourselves £15. We weren’t able to get into a college because they changed their rules about the size of the group that can be pre-booked. Travel tip: if you want to go into one of the colleges, don’t do a group tour. Do your research and pre-book your own tickets if they give you that option. The queue for some of the more famous ones, like Christchurch College (with the Hogwarts dining hall and where Lewis Caroll was inspired to write Alice’s adventures in Wonderland) were incredibly long. 

This is actually my 5th visit to Oxford but only the 2nd one that actually lasted more than 2 hours. The other three were part of the Evans Evans tour package that included Bath and Stonehenge so they were incredibly abbreviated. The first time I came to Oxford we stayed overnight. I think I had only been in the UK for four months at the time and I was still adjusting; I don’t think I was able to appreciate it as much as I do now. Plus there were 11 of us during that trip and we were all incredibly different: I was interested in the history and the university’s achievements; the others were concerned about where to eat. That’s why I loved this trip because first of all, Jo is easy to please. He may not be the world’s biggest fan of Harry Potter or of classic literature but he appreciates it – signs of a seasoned traveller. Second of all, I was with my sister who DOES share my interests; we’ve read the same books and can geek out over the same things so it just made going around Oxford more fun. I guess that’s another two travel tips I can give. Don’t come to Oxford for more than a day trip and make sure you know what to expect. Its a university town full of history, its not exactly the world’s most exciting city. 

I revisited some of my favourite Oxford spots for the nth time: the Bridge of Sighs, the Sheldonian theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and others. I don’t actually know why the Bridge of Sighs has been replicated so many times (there’s one in Cambridge as well), its pretty enough I suppose but the original one in Venice actually has a gruesome history: it leads from the Doge Palace to the prisons and would give prisoners their last view of Venice and the Adriatic before being incarcerated, and apparently they’d give a sigh at such a sight hence the name. In Oxford, all it does is lead students from one part of New College to the other. 🙄

Bridge of Sighs
Radcliffe Camera. Camera means room in latin.

The Bodleian Library is a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read the All Souls Trilogy a couple of years back. This library’s got publishing rights so they are entitled to receive a copy of every book that’s printed in the United Kingdom. That is A LOT of books. I wonder if there’s an opening for a librarian post there? Lol. Needless to say, they’ve had to build a place for all the excess books. They’re now kept in the New Bodleian or the Weston Library, which also houses some other treasures like a copy of Shakespeare’s folios, an early edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poems, a copy of Handel’s Messiah and others. The rest of the books are actually underground. There’s a tunnel that leads from the Old Bodleian to the Radcliffe Camera (which is actually a reading room). This underground passage is the reason why sometimes you’ll see a student go into the Radcliffe and seemingly never come out because they’ve already exited in another part of the city. 

The Old Bodleian Library

The weather was a bit uncooperative so we stopped by an apparently famous pub to have some lunch. Legend has it that an ex-prime minister of Australia once held the world record for the most number of ales drank in a period of time or something like that. Bill Clinton, who was a Rhodes scholar, apparently “smelled” but did not take marijuana while he was in the same pub. Let us all laugh together. I’m sure their ale is quite nice but I’ve never acquired a taste for it. I had my usual Reikorderlig cider instead. 


After lunch we went to another pub called The Bear, which is more of a “town” pub. Our guide said there was once a rivalry between the “town” people and the university folks. It turned brutal one night and a few students ended up dead, which is why for many years the mayor of the city had to pick four citizens in a ceremony where they apologise to the vice chancellor year after year after year until someone figured out how stupid that was. Anyway, so The Bear was a town pub from which vantage point people used to watch bear baiting, hence the name. How barbaric. Now its more known as being “the tie pub” because the old barkeep collected ties from people and framed them. 



Can I just take a moment to say how much I love the British pub culture?
Not that I condone an excess of alcohol, but I don’t see anything wrong with social drinking. I also like how families can go to a pub, and the tradition of fathers buying their sons their first drink. In the Philippines, we do most of our drinking either at a house party, a place by the streets, some hole-in-the-wall or a club where we have to dress up. Needless to say we would never dream of going there with our parents. There’s no place where people can just hang out after work to have a pint. Pubs are great; and god knows we need them in the winter when there’s nothing else to do in London. Lol.

We went to Christchurch college next, well, not inside because it was closed by the time we got there but we got a good view of Christchurch meadow which inspired Lewis Caroll. We ended the day at Blackwell, one of the biggest bookstores in the country. I predictably ended up spending a ton of money on books but its money well spent. I’ve always imagined myself reading at Blackwell’s like Diana in The All Souls Trilogy. 

Christchurch College, built by Henry VIII
Christchurch meadow. Spot the hole where the rabbit went into! 😂
Reading Narnia at Blackwell’s. Best way to end the day.

In fact, in an alternate universe I think I would have liked being an Oxford University Student. Taking the entrance exams, getting into one of the dorm rooms, having my first lecture and knowing the history of the hallowed halls I find myself in, sitting my exams while wearing my robes, becoming a fellow…I think I would have thrived in that kind of environment, I’ve always felt most at home in the academic environment. 

The forbidding gates of All Souls College, one of the most exclusive colleges in the university.
Apparently, the entrance exam to All Souls consisted of someone giving you one word and you have to write everything you know about that word. Can I have a choice? I think the word ‘love’ would do nicely for me. 😂

Either that or I would have become obese with stress (stress-eater here). Wouldn’t it be nice to be abl to provide my children someday with the opportunity should they wish it? Imagine the endless possibilities they would have when they graduate. Oh well. One can dream. Ultimately, as important as your education is, its what you do with that education that’s more important. I went to a humble school in the Philippines and I still somehow made most of my dreams come true. And that’s something to be proud of as well. 

Posted in london, United Kingdom

Life in the UK and the road to residency

The countdown begins. In approximately 30 days, I will be eligible to apply for an indefinite leave to remain (residency) in the UK, one step closer to being a British citizen.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get here. I’ve always been very open about the ups and downs of living and working in London although I’ve kept some of the hardest experiences to myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. As one of my clinical instructors once said, you can’t feel the measure of the treasure without the pressure. Or something to that effect.

One of the things I have to do to get residency is pass a Life in The UK exam where 24 questions will determine whether I’ve learned enough about this country’s history, culture and government to earn the right to becoming a resident. I meant to study for this exam well in advance; I bought the book ages ago but as always happens with the best-laid plans, life interfered and I find myself cramming for the darn thing over the last weekend (my exam is on Wednesday).

I mean, its not the hardest exam I’ll ever have to take but I’ve never been comfortable about not reading all the materials for an exam before I take it. This stems back to my days in college when I would read all the books, do research and borrow other people’s notes on top of my own already extensive ones just to make sure I’ve covered everything. I probably gave myself more work than was necessary.

I suppose I could pass this multiple choice exam with just stock knowledge and a little bit of revising. I’m quite fortunate that I’ve apparently been preparing myself for life in the UK before I even got here. I always loved history. And I’ve been fascinated with British history since I started reading Philippa Gregory and after finishing a book of hers I would inevitable look up more information. Believe it or not, reading romance novels also helped because they’re mostly set in historical times. I’ve also read a lot of classic British literature so that part I’m mostly comfortable with.

I was revising yesterday and I could not wrap my head around notable sports and sportsmen. In that arena I’ve always been more American I think. More specifically, the only sport I’ve ever followed closely is basketball so I found myself scratching my head when I get asked questions during the practice exams about the woman who sailed around the world one-handed or who led the British team to a world cup victory in 1966. The political and judicial system were also a struggle for me and while I hope I never have reason to need to know what a crown court is, I can see why all these things are relevant.

All in all, I will be quite busy with this and other residency requirements over the next month but I will try to blog with some kind of regularity. I will also be turning 30 in a few days and you can bet I’ll have something to say about that! 

Cheers, blabbaholics! 

Posted in Careers, Filipino, friendship, london

5 reasons why catching up with college friends is awesome

Last weekend, my friend Jo arrived in London – the first leg of his “dirty 30” trip which will see him travelling to 42 different countries. I thought I’d take advantage of his visit to organise a semi-reunion for other people in my year who are also living in London. I booked a table at The Garden Gate so we could have drinks like proper adults (lol) and pretend we like Sunday roasts when really we just wanted to go have dim sum in Chinatown (where they have rice, a big deal for some of us! :p).

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Velez College, College of Nursing Batch 2008, London Chapter (lol)

It was one of the best weekend I’ve had in ages. Don’t get me wrong: I am a big believer in expanding my social circle and meeting new people, everyone knows that. However, there’s something to be said about being people who went through the same experience as you did, who knew you before you shed all your baby fat, who knew you when you perhaps weren’t quite at your best. Here are some of the reasons why catching up with college friends is a blast.

They get your jokes.

I’ve always felt really self-conscious about making wisecracks and jokes because English isn’t my first language. I think some of the punchlines fall a little bit short sometimes because something gets lost in translation. Speaking in my native tongue, in my city’s dialect in fact, changes that. Not only is it comfortable, there are some truly funny words in the Cebuano dialect that just do not have an English equivalent. You also laugh over the same things and you’re not too worried about offending anyone because, let’s face it, its not like the Philippines is all that concerned about political correctness. So yesterday I’ve laughed harder than I’ve had in a long long time.

There’s always good gossip.

I don’t mean gossip in a bad way; and its not like we spent the night digging up scandals about our former classmates. But it was just a great way of catching up with the other people in our year as well, kind of like a “where are they now?” kind of thing. Or because we’re at that age where everyone is settling down into relationships, it would be more accurate to say that the topic of conversation is more like “Who married who?” and “Who’s still single?” and “Will so and so end up with so and so?”. Also, we were a class of 250 students give or take a few; everyone’s romantic history (from the scandalous to the disastrous) is an open secret – and a cause for much reminiscing and good-natured ribbing.

No one else will ever quite get the “Velez College” experience.

Studying Nursing is difficult enough; at Velez College they make it extra hard on purpose. There’s no one who will understand the experience quite like a Velezian. Swapping stories of our college days, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the tough times and the times that have us aching with laughter…I truly think its good for the soul. We’re able to look at that experience and where we are now and have a laugh. And realise that it was all worth it, because it helped us to get where we are. Dean Lumbab, wherever you are, I hope you’re looking down on us and feeling proud of the school that, whilst it doesn’t bear your name, is a school that you built on your meticulous standards and principles. 

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Proud Velezians taking a photo at that famous red phone booth

Everyone’s made it, one way or the other.

There are different measures for success. And as one of my students once said, when everything’s said and done success without happiness is the worst kind of failure. Whether you’ve climbed the career ladder or raised a beautiful baby boy (or girl), it warms the heart to see everyone make the best of their lives.

You can be yourself.

Transformation and starting over are all good things. I truly believe that a person shouldn’t be placed in a box. There’s always room for you to grow and reinvent yourself. The reason why I love London so much is because I have the freedom to try new things, things that no one who knew me would ever have dreamt I do. Like muay thai for example. I was 30 pounds (15 kilos) overweight in college for god’s sake, I could barely complete a circle around the track in the local sports complex. So I was happy to be in a country where no one knew me and where I’m not being oppressed by people’s preconceived notions of who I am.

But.

Sometimes its good to remember that girl who struggled to accept her looks and her body; who spent four years nurturing hopes of getting out of the friend zone; who was perhaps not as confident but who learned that you should never let them see you sweat. I am grateful that I was once that girl, and I like being reminded of it in case I ever get too high on my high horse. There’s nothing like a good college reunion to remind you to be grounded in humility, BELIEVE ME

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It truly pains me to post these photos!
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Its safe to say I have no good photos of me BEFORE 2008
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These photos are a reminder to GO TO THE BLOODY GYM. hahahah

With these guys, there’s no use pretending to be anything other than you are because they’ve seen you at your worst. They call you on your bullshit because they’ve earned that right by virtue of the length of your acquaintance, and the experiences you’ve shared. So really, all that’s left to do is just be yourself – well maybe, a slightly better, much improved version. Angela 2.0.

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ahh, much better. :p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t get to go out as much; adulting means we’ve got responsibilities now so we can’t stay up as late as we used to. By 11pm, people were already thinking about the long day shifts they were doing the next day rather than who’s pouring the next shot of whiskey. Still, I had a lovely time catching up with my friends over Jack Daniels and Coke, and I will continue to look forward to the next time we can all come together.