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).

20431316_10154869034395003_2236479658412246564_n
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. 

20476080_10154711877121770_8306889717817772885_n
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

168428_490954174925_4794990_n
It truly pains me to post these photos!
254010_10150218845453744_3805631_n
Its safe to say I have no good photos of me BEFORE 2008
254425_10150218845528744_2302130_n
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.

IMG_3233
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.

 

Posted in Careers, london, Medical, Nursing

Chronicles of a theatre nurse: Chapter Two – Periacetabular Osteotomy and Hip Preservation

I was researching some images and videos over the weekend for a presentation that I had to do at work when I came across this video. Watching it and hearing testimonials from patients that have had their quality of life improved by this procedure really highlights everything about my work that I’m proud of. I also have a blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance on it! 

I’ve worked with Mr. Witt since I started at UCLH . I did his list twice a week every week during my first 18 months and I can really say that he’s one of the best surgeons I’ve ever met. He’s very precise and meticulous about his work. As his nurse, I find his list a challenge to manage because there are so many things to organise. Surgeons are also creatures of habit; they like consistency in the people they work with and they like their tools about them when they do their work. And you can’t really blame them because what they do is so complex, the best ones just make it look easy.

I remember when we did this video and others like it. There are usually surgeons from other hospitals watching, as Mr Witt is one of the few surgeons in London to do this kind of procedure. They called him an actor’s actor because even those surgeons aim to learn from him to improve their own technique. I have to say that I often forget that because of the stress of running his list. I forget how much of a privilege it is to see him in action. This video has reminded me why, even though I do a lot of admin now, I still make it a point to scrub for him when I can.

The procedure itself is incredibly amazing. Watch the video for a better understanding but essentially it aims to help people with developmental dysplasia, a condition in which the ball of your hip does not fully fit into the socket (acetabulum) causing it to displace; eventually these abnormal movements will cause arthritis, pain and later on, the need for a hip replacement using a prostheses.

A hip replacement, as I understand it, is not the best option for young people and that’s where PAO has helped a lot. I think the idea is to prevent the need for a THR later on in life by correcting the problem with the socket. It really is an amazing surgery. Pause it at the part where the scrub nurse is passing instruments and you’ll see me in action! 

This video has filled me with inspiration to tackle the work week again. I will remind myself of this feeling the next time I have to scramble for sets or wear a heavy lead gown for 8 hours. Or the next time someone asks me to call Interserve to turn down temperature in theatres. 😉

For more information about some of the surgeries we do, visit Mr. Witt’s website.

Posted in Filipino, friendship, london

The lost art of speaking your mind

I should add a disclaimer and say that this will probably be an unpopular post. It will also be an honest one. Recent events in my life have just inspired me to write about something that I’ve been meaning to speak my mind on for a long long time. 

Its my opinion that culturally, Filipinos have always struggled to speak up for themselves. I think in our country we’ve learned to just shut up and get on with things no matter how much we struggle because speaking up never changed anything anyway. In addition, I think we’ve always been afraid of open confrontation. For us, talking to a person about an issue or concern is often seen as being aggressive. 

The result is this passive-aggressive way of “fighting back” wherein we say nothing but we’re secretly fed up and furious, and rather than confronting the person involved, we go around talking to everyone else EXCEPT the person who should have been confronted in the first place.

I see this a lot whenever a group of Filipinos gather, both here in the UK and at home. If John had a problem with Paul, he would talk ABOUT him to every Tom, Dick and Harry but he wouldn’t actually talk TO Paul. Which doesn’t make sense because how would Paul even know there’s a problem if no one tells him?! 

Being honest with another person is scary as hell. You’re making yourself vulnerable, and you’re putting your relationship with that person on the line because you never really know how people will receive your honesty. I get it. Sometimes its easier to brush it under the rug, or vent your frustration by talking to other people and hope that the issue goes away. In the long run though, how healthy do we really think that is? Does it really solve anything?

The thing I like about being in the UK and being exposed to different cultures is that you learn so many things, and one of the most important skills I’ve learned is how to handle difficult conversations and how to resolve a conflict. I don’t just mean at work but in general as well. A little bluntness goes a long way. I used to be afraid of people who wouldn’t think twice about giving their opinion or saying what they really think but I’ve really come to value the people in my life who will say things TO MY FACE rather than talk about me behind my back. 

I don’t mean that we should all jump at the smallest issue and create a fuss. But we need to realise that we are all entitled to say what’s on our minds as long as we respect that the other person has that right too. Imagine if you’re having a conversation and you disagree about something that the other person said. What is so wrong about saying ‘I hear you, I get your side, but my opinion is this and this, what do you think?’ Or when someone has said something hurtful, what’s wrong with saying ‘hey, can we talk about when you said this and this. It just really hurt my feelings and I’d like to know why you said it.’ Or if you don’t like something, just say it. If you need help, don’t pretend to be all-knowing because there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with something. ASK FOR HELP.

We overcomplicate things when we don’t say the things we should at the moment when they should be said. We involve a bunch of people that should never have been involved in the first place because we’re too much of a coward to confront the person we should be confronting. This is all the more true when we’re dealing with friends. 

It is so much harder to admit that a friend has hurt you compared to a colleague or an acquaintance. But true friendship can withstand a little honesty, I think you can only grow as friends if you deal with issues as they arise. I once had exactly 100 minutes of phone conversation with my friend Dengei so we could mend our friendship and now we’ve been close friends for more than 10 years. 

My friend Christine once sent me a really hurtful email when we were 18 or 19 outlining the many ways that I have hurt her and my response was to not confront it and avoid her. Thank goodness our friendship meant enough to her that she initiated a conversation where she explained that all she really intended was for me to know her feelings, not to end our friendship. Its been 12 years since that incident and she was and still is one of my best friends, and we laugh about her “hate mail” from time to time. The strongest friendships I had are ones where I always know where I stand. 

I’ve digressed a little bit. 

Seriously though, one of the things I’ve reflected on this week is about being honest and upfront with other people. I hate that backbiting and gossiping about people behind their back is so entrenched in our culture, and I include myself in that number. The one thing that I try to do though is self-check and self-regulate: I never say anything about a person behind their back that I’m not comfortable saying to their face. If that’s weak, I’m sorry but its all I got. 

So let’s all learn to be a bit more honest and speak our minds as appropriate. We save ourselves a lot of stress, frustration and misunderstanding that way. 

Posted in fitness, Lifestyle, london

5 Life Lessons That I Learned From Muay Thai 

We’ve come to the end of the week and despite my busy schedule I managed to squeeze in two muay thai training sessions this week, and I am damn proud of myself *pats myself on the back* 

I really feel the difference between a week where I’ve not trained at all and a week where I’ve trained at least once. You would think I’d be less stressed and less tired when I’m not training but I’ve actually been more tired. Its also interesting to note that I’m also more irritable, less patient and more likely to respond negatively to stress when I don’t workout for the week. I’ve come to realise that the things I learn during muay thai training also translates into life lessons that I can apply in daily life, and its what keeps me balanced and centered. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this week.

1. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.

Training sessions, especially one-to-one sessions, are not cheap. But as my coach says, you’re investing in your health and body. All that money you’re spending on wine and beer and I don’t know, Chinese takeaway could all be put to better use if you save it to invest in training. And honestly, it cost me maybe two or three extra shifts, and maybe a weekend shift. But its so worth it. Its like with anything else in life, you will find a way to achieve the things that are important to you. If you’re not motivated to work hard for something,  you might want to ask whether you really want it and if its something that you should be doing. 

2.The best fighters are also the most intelligent 
I’ve come to a point in my training where I don’t just practice the technique but we also sometimes do touch sparring and drills where I have to find my shots and really think about how I can do the most damage to my opponent. I also have to have the presence of mind to remember to defend against my opponent and to use everything I have to block the other person’s shots. I’m surprised about how much mental activity is involved; it makes training more challenging but also more fun. Its like at work: doing something that mentally stimulates me, such as learning a new procedure or teaching a new starter, are the things that are most rewarding.

3. Anything worth doing is worth doing right

Its not enough to just go through the motions of punching or kicking, you have to do the proper technique and you have to commit to it and give it everything you’ve got. I used to just punch to hit the pad. But my coach said I have to imagine that the pad is an apple, and I want to punch through it to get to the core. I think my punches have really been connecting more ever since we did that little exercise.

So if I’m doing something in life, I’m going to do it the way I punch. I will commit to what I’m doing: ‘just okay’ is not good enough. It has to be right and I have to know that I gave it my best shot.

4. Its what you do when it starts to hurt that matters 
I’ve paraphrased what is apparently a quote from Mohammed Ali when he was asked about how many sit-ups he can do in one sitting. He answered that he doesn’t know because he only starts counting when it starts to hurt. At the end of my training session on Thursday, just when I thought it was over and I was home-free my coach asked me to do 30 sit-ups. And when I’ve finished that after nearly dying, he quoted Mohammed Ali and asked if I had it in me to do 10 more. How in the world do you say no after that?! So I did it. I managed to reach deep into myself and found my last bit of strength to do 10 more, and I was more proud of those 10 sit-ups than anything else I did that day. 

Its like everything else in life. You will get tested, you will face challenges and some of them will seem insurmountable. But that’s when it starts to count. What you do when the going gets rough is the true measure of your strength. So dig deep, and find the will to do just a little bit more.

And finally…

5. Always remember to breathe

Its such a small thing but it makes all the difference. We are encouraged to make sounds during training, and I’ve always felt really self-conscious about it. But I’ve come to realise just how much it helps my breathing. When I’m doing rounds I sometimes forget to breathe, and that’s when I get tired. I have to remember to breathe, slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth. I’ll be okay if I just remember to breathe and be centered.

When my life is in chaos, both personally and professionally, I sometimes do so much and get so stressed out that I forget to breathe. Its when I stop to calm myself that I’m able to see through the problem to a possible solution. Breathe. It makes all the difference.

Posted in Brexit, Careers, london

Someone’s always saying goodbye…

Today I say goodbye to another one of my friends. I’ve always been opposed to the idea that you don’t go to work to make friends. I mean, if you’re anything like me (a little bit of a workaholic) you spend at least 37.5 hours a week at work. You have to at least try and like the people you work with. In that respect more than anything I’m lucky to be working where I’m working, because I’ve met people along the way that I can genuinely call my friends.

However, its the nature of jobs in central London to have such a high turnover rate, especially when it comes to the nursing profession. Its just too expensive to be living or commuting to London, so when opportunities come elsewhere most people jump at the chance. Add Brexit to that mix (and the unstable value of the pound versus the Euro), well, let’s just say I’ve said goodbye to far too many people in the past year. At least this last one is just leaving the hospital, not the country.

Work is going to be a much more lonelier place without her. She’s the type who won’t say much but who will speak up when it matters. She will listen to me and support me in my endeavours. On the other hand, she will let me know if there’s something I could be doing to improve things. They say you’re led to friends who will help you grow; in addition I think we are naturally attracted to people who are the opposite of us. I tend to be overexcited and sometimes overly optimistic, and most of my friends are calm, grounded people who will slow me down in a good way. Mostly, they’re people who will always be there even if its just to listen.

I hate goodbyes. I’m also not a big fan of change, however necessary it may be. Sometimes I wish I could live in an everlasting present where things would just stay the way they are. But. People have to move on to wherever life and opportunities take them, and we can only try to keep that connection despite the distance. 

To all my friends who have left or are leaving, you take a little bit of me each time with you and I will really miss you guys. 😭

Posted in london, Music

The day I became a willing Victim: The Killers at BST Hyde Park 2017

Disclaimer: major fangirling ahead.

You reach a certain age where its just ridiculous to queue up early and wait 12 hours for a band to come on, boiling and sweltering underneath the unusually blistering London sunshine, no food, minimal water due to fear of peeing and losing your spot…I am delighted to say that I have not reach that age yet. At least, not when it comes to The Killers.

The only birthday present I asked from my sister and pseudo-sister was that they queue up with me at 7am so that we can be first in line when The Killers headline BST Hyde Park. And bless their heart, they were there with me right from the start, and they weren’t even as big a fan as I was. All they asked for in return was a Sausage McMuffin from McDonald’s. We came prepared with fully charged phones (on airplane mode), powerbanks, Kindles, playing cards and anything we can think off to pass the time. I even bought a super cool chair from Amazon that looked like an ordinary picnic mat but actually has like a stand so that its like an improvised beach chair.

I bought the chair for my friend Katie, the coolest mum-to-be I know. Almost 6 months pregnant and she was willing to try and make it through the day and watch The Killers with me. She was sensible about it, she did her research and did everything possible to enjoy while keeping the baby’s safety a priority. She never complained about the discomfort, although I’m sure she must have been worried. I know I was quite anxious. Especially since to my everlasting surprise, we managed to nab the best spot in the world right up front, leaning against the barrier with no hindrance to our view of the stage.

Katie, Cat and Me. 😘
My sister Arlene, my adopted sister Romelyn, me Cat and Katie
Best spot in the house!
Calmly reading her Kindle while waiting for The Killers. #pregnancygoals

I have to say I’m so happy to share this with not only my sisters but also two of my closest friends, Katie and Caterina. Cat has seen them in Milan and from the start, she offered to go somewhere safe with Katie if the crowd gets too much because she said I deserved to be up front enjoying myself. She wouldn’t even allow me to feel guilty about it. Do I have the coolest friends or what? Spoiler: we made it through the entire show through sheer will, determination and by working together. BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE.

And the wait was worth it.

From the start of the set, The Killers electrified a crowd of 65,000 who had waited the whole day to see them. I’ve been to concerts like these before but I have never felt such engagement from the crowd. Most of them knew every word of the lyrics, and almost everyone could belt out a well-known line. The Killers knew what their fans wanted and they delivered hit after hit after hit. It was a setlist designed to please the fans rather than to promote an album, and it was awesome. 

And Mr. Flowers? Well he was the consummate showman. Strutting out with a pink leather jacket, well, the lyrics says it all: ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at The Man. But apart from the strut, the swagger, the charisma and that voice, it was also plain as day that he was so damn happy to be there.

Ive got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.
I don’t mind if you don’t mind, cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine
When every one’s lost, the battle is won with all these things that I’ve done.
He admitted that Read My Mind was his favourite part of the night, got the crowd through the rousing chorus of ‘I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier’ and embodied Mr Brightside during the night’s final song. You know you’ve achieved something when you don’t have to sing the lyrics of your band’s signature song because the crowd is doing it for you.

It was awesome. I have never wished so badly for the night to go on forever but all good things must come to an end. But I have enough memories to last me a lifetime. I am now and forever will be a Victim. Thank you Brandon, thank you Killers, you were worth the wait. 

​​

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Saving Berwick Street Market, and the simple pleasure of eating street food

Yesterday, I was having one of those rare occurences in my life: a weekday off, and my sister and I decided to go out and get our nails done in preparation for the big wedding this weekend. I rarely venture around my street on weekdays so while I knew that Berwick Street is a popular place for people around the area to have lunch, I didn’t quite realise its impact on the people who work in and around Soho until I saw a sign thanking people for petitioning to save the Berwick Street Market.

I’m sure I got the flyer in the mail, but it must have been one of those weeks where I was working 70 hours a week and anything that had nothing to do with the nhs or orthopaedics were pushed to the back of my mind to be attended to later. So this market has apparently been independently run for about 300 years but the Westminster City Council is aiming to privatise it (ugh, story of our lives) so someone started a petition at change.org. 

I am not socially conscious and I don’t always fully understand the implications of privatisation. But I do understand tradition, and how important it is to have continuity, the pleasure one takes in carrying on a routine. 

When I was in high school, there were two or three street vendors who would sell fish ball, squid roll and fish tempura outside the school grounds. They’d have these mobile frying pan thingies where they would fry these delicious treats after which they’d be skewered in barbecue sticks and we would be able to dip them in the selection of sauces provided (sweet, chilly and this vinegar mix that to this day I can’t quite recreate). 

It probably wasn’t the most hygienic thing in the world, but in the Philippines, we weren’t much fussed about those things. I think as a result, we as a people developed strong stomachs and, short of actualt typhoid, can tolerate pretty much a range of food-borne bacteria. We were all perfectly capable of asking our parents to buy these things in the supermarket to have at home, but it just wasn’t the same as queuing up with all the other skids after school just to have fried fish ball. It became part of the after-school socialisation routine. 

It was even more special for me because I was raised quite strictly as a child and I never stayed late after school on account of the need for me to study AND tutor my younger siblings. But on the rare occasion where the driver would pick us up late, i was right there queuing with all the other kids, excited at the prospect of eating a simple street food. 

I think my love of street food and street markets stemmed from those days. When I travel, I have never been able to resist the lure of the street market. When I first arrived in London, I went to all the markets: Borough, Brick Lane, Camden. London is full of them, especially in the summer, and they’ve become a tourist attraction as well as places to eat. But Berwick Street is special. Its local and its home. I feel kind of bad that I didn’t do much to preserve something that’s been here since before I was born, but I promise I will try to patronise the local businesses here as often as budget allows. 

The food really is tasty and quite affordable too. Usually of Meditarranean and Lebanese origin, they offer a selection of gyros, falafels, lots of lamb, wraps, halloumi, etc. There’s also a fresh fruit and vegetable stall if you don’t feel like trekking through nearby Chinatown to find produce. Seriously, I love that I live so close to this. Hopefully, it will be around for a long long time. 

Posted in london, Music, Stress Relief

I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier….my top 10 favourite Killers songs.

I opened the mail a couple of days ago and found my concert tickets for the Barclaycard British Summer Time concert at Hyde Park on the 8th of July, headlined by my favourite band in the world, The Killers!!!

Ok, so I’m a little late hitching my star to this particular bandwagon (maybe a decade late, in fact), and some may argue that The Killers reached their peak with Sam’s Town and that no song they’ve ever released has ever come close to the gloriousness of Mr. Brightside.

I SOOOOOOOO BEG TO DISAGREE.

Of course, I’ve heard of Mr. Brightside, I mean what self-respecting nearly-30, One-Tree-Hill-and-The-OC-watching female didn’t? It was the soundtrack to a lot of angsty YA TV series back in the days when Chad Michael Murray was a big deal. However, it was only when I moved to the UK that my love for The Killers was cemented. One of my favourite surgeons has the entire Killers back catalog on his iPod and would often play them while operating. Its how we celebrate finishing a heavy and tiring Thursday list.  When I really listened to the lyrics of ‘Read My Mind’, I loved it so much I played it on repeat one Sunday, much to my flatmates’ annoyance. Needless to say, they now know how to sing the song’s very catchy chorus.

So in celebration of the upcoming Killers concert, I’ve decided to do a list of my top 10 favourite Killers songs ever. Most of the songs on this list won’t come as a surprise to any fan, but I’ve always loved reading about why fellow music lovers enjoy particular songs because we all love them for different reasons. So…enjoy, fellow victims!

(***disclaimer: major fan-girling ahead!)

10. Just Another Girl

This one is a lesser known track from their Direct Hits album. My sister actually introduced me to it when she was learning their songs so that she’d be able to sing along during the concert. At the time, I thought I already knew all of their songs but apparently I missed this one. There’s nothing special about it, I just really like the beat. And the video featuring Diana Agron.

Favourite line: “All of my friends say I should move on, she’s just another girl: don’t let it stick into your heart so hard.”

 

9. Spaceman

My friend from college, Cyril, introduced me to this one. I still remember singing along to this when we were revising for the Philippine National Licensure Exam, affectionately (or not so affectionately) called the Boards. At a time when I was so nervous of failing one of THE biggest exams of my life, this helped relaxed me and I’ve associated it with good memories ever since.

I don’t really get the lyrics. But its catchy and amazing in a weird kind of way.

 

8. Somebody Told Me

“Somebody told me that you’ve got a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year…”

I’ve listened to this song a million times and I still don’t understand if Brandon was implying the boyfriend was feminine looking, or if the girl he currently fancies in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Either way, its one of the catchiest lyrics I’ve ever hear in my life.

 

7. Smile Like You Mean It

I just love the strings on this one. And because of this live performance; the violins make me want to weep.

 

6. A Dustland Fairytale

“…and the decades disappear like sinking ships but we persevere. God gives us hope but we still fear what we don’t know.”

 

5. This Is Your Life

“…the sky is full of dreams, but you don’t know how to fly. I don’t have a simple answer, but I know that I can answer: something better. Wait for it.”

So whenever I feel like settling for the mediocre in any and all aspects of my life, I listen to this song and I’m reminded that there is wisdom in waiting. 🙂 And also, I am in love with the crowd in this performance:

 

4. Human

“..and sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door. Close your eyes, clear your heart. Cut the cord.”

Ah, one of life’s deepest questions: Are we human or are we indeed dancer? On the 8th of July, I most definitely AM dancer.

And really, I can’t decide whether I love the upbeat version or this really solemn piano version. In fact, I refuse to choose! I love them both.

 

3. All These Things That I’ve Done

The lyrics are weird, they may not even make sense, but damn if this isn’t one of the best songs ever written. Sing with me everybody: I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier….

 

2. Mr. Brightside

To illustrate just how big this song is, ladies and gentlemen, I present: The Memes. 

I defy anyone to listen to this song and NOT sing along. At the work christmas party last year, my feet were literally dead and I’ve already had far too much wine that I was sat in my chair with my legs propped on another chair. Then this song came on and I was like, bitch let’s go. :p

 

and the winner…

 

Read My Mind

There are no words for how much I love this song. When I’m in a bad mood, I listen to, write about and post this song on social media. There is something about these lines that really speak to me:

“So I don’t mind if you don’t mind, cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine…”

Seriously, the entire song has lines that are instagram-caption-worthy. I love love love this song. If they don’t play it on the 8th of July, I will DEMAND  a refund. Thankfully, I know for a fact that its always on their setlist. 🙂

Brandon Flowers says this is his favourite song, and that its special, and that they can feel it overtime they play it on gigs. I know exactly what he’s talking about.

 

And of course, a very special shout-out to my song.

Sam’s Town – this transcends list. Like this song cannot be placed on any list because it. is. amazing. 🙂

Posted in Feminism, fitness, Lifestyle, london, Stress Relief

This Girl Can

After work today, I went to my muay thai training session at London Fight Factory. I’ve been going to that gym on and off for about 3 years now. At one point when I was experiencing probably the lowest point of my life, I think it probably saved me from giving up or going insane. My friend Aaron first introduced me to it. At the time, I was significantly less confident about my physical abilities. I thought I’d better stick to what I knew best (Zumba) and save myself the embarassment. But he was so passionate about it that I decided to give it a go. And while I may not have been as consistent about it as I would have liked, it has remained one of the most enduring parts of my fitness routine.

It just makes me think about how quick we are to judge ourselves and say ‘I could never do that’. When did we develop this mindset that there are things beyond our reach? When we were kids, we used to be dreamers. We used to believe in magic and in the impossible. More importantly, we used to believe in ourselves. I sometimes envy the innocence (and blissful ignorance) of children. They haven’t yet learned to put themselves in a box nor to place limitations in their abilities. They still believe they can be the next prime minister or president, or be an actress, a ballerina or martial arts fighter. Check out these kids doing warm up for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training today at LFF. IMG_5476

This stopped me in my tracks first of all because it was so darn cute, but also because it just inspired me. I mean, not all of these kids will be fighters. Some of them are probably going to be awkward executing all those moves. But they will always remember the fact that they tried, and they had fun with it. I will think about this the next time I need inspiration. Because you know what? The fact that I’m out there and trying already makes me better than half the population who are spending the afternoon watching the telly.

 

There were a lot of adverts on the tube and other places a couple of years ago celebrating the active woman called This Girl Can, and it really stuck with me. This one in particular:

TGClap

Sometimes I forget that the only limitations I have are the ones I place on myself. If I want something and I work hard enough for it, there is nothing I can’t achieve. This girl can. And if I can’t just yet, I will never stop trying.

So here’s my own rough muay thai training session. Cheers, blabbaholics. x

Posted in london, Travel

I See London, I see Sam’s Town Part 3

But I know that I can make it, as long as somebody takes me home every now and then…

When Brandon Flowers sang Sam’s Town at the Royal Albert Hall to the thousands and thousands of Londoners who came out to watch the Killers, it just gave me chills. The last line from the song (quoted at the end of this post) probably says everything that I need to say about how I feel living in London. Despite its faults, despite the struggles, I absolutely love being here.

LONDON AND ME: A LOVE STORY

Honeymoon

The journey to this kind of contentment takes ages, and the best thing is I’m still on that journey. Here I am, five and a half years down the line and I’m still discovering new things to love about London. My love for London is what I imagine being in a relationship is like. You start off with stars in your eyes and you get swept up in the romance of it all. You visit Big Ben and Tower Bridge, or stroll along Southbank or walk down Pall Mall towards Buckingham Palace – you know, touristy stuff – and its like those first few dates when everything seems perfect. I think that first year, London could do no wrong in my eyes. I arrived on the tail end of 2011 and I rang in the New Year by watching the famous London Fireworks at the London Eye. The amount of people who turn out for that, and who are willing to wait 7 odd hours in the freezing cold for a 10-minute firework display, simply boggles the mind. I’ve watched it twice and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. But back then, I was in love with the wonder of it all that I barely noticed the crowds (or the struggle to hold your pee in because the journey to the public toilets was more difficult than climbing a small mountain).

The fireworks display that year was extra special because 2012 was the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The atmosphere that year was electric, I could not have timed my arrival better if I tried. I threw myself into the celebrations that year with the energy of a woman possessed. I waited three hours in the rain for the Royal Parade down the Thames, jostled elbows with the crowds near Trafalgar Square so that I could catch a glimpse of the Royal Family as they made their way to Buckingham Palace, watched the London Olympics Opening Ceremony in the park with my friends, bought tickets to the games, and celebrated a job well done with the rest of London during the Closing Ceremony (which fell on my birthday!) on a special viewing area at Westfield-Stratford near the venue.

 

 

I gradually adjusted to adulting. I learned to do my own laundry, set up my own Wifi and even cook. I was doing well at work, but it was probably the first time in my ambitious existence that I focused less on getting ahead in my career because I was too busy “living the life”. All I wanted was to get paid at the end of each month so that I can pay rent and do fun things. I refused bank shifts because it took time away from my exploration of all things British. I fulfilled a childhood dream to watch the Backstreet Boys  in concert (don’t judge me!) and followed that up with what is still one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life, watching Coldplay live at the Emirates Arena during their Mylo Xyloto tour.

The Seven-Year Itch

Inevitably, the excitement wore off. Winter began and whilst I used to scoff about Seasonal Affective Disorder when I was studying about depression at uni, I sure wasn’t scoffing when I started to feel really blue as November kicked in (I still do sometimes). I discovered that I actually needed the sun, and the shorts days and long nights really got to me.  I developed a love-hate relationship with the London Weather. The first time I was running to catch my bus with groceries on one hand and an umbrella on the other because it was raining so hard, I think I nearly cried. Reality really does bite. The honeymoon was over. I started to think about what it really meant to live in London. Why am I here, so far away from family, friends and everything that’s familiar to me? Am I here to just do a job so that I have enough money to go to the Philippines every year because that’s where I think my life still is?

Making it work: couples therapy with London :p

Ultimately, I made the conscious decision to stop being a tourist and really live in London and all that entails, horrible weather and all. I learned a lot of things that year, and while my previous post dealt with how to get started in London, I think this one is more of a guide on how to be really live and be happy here.

Accept the weather

Now this was something I struggled with. I came from a tropical country where it would be 30 degrees Celsius even with a storm raging. Everyone you’ve ever met who told you about the constant, seemingly-never-ceasing rain in London was not kidding. There are times when it rained for two full days nonstop. I hated it. I’m a shorts and flip-flops kind of girl, I hated wearing closed shoes and jackets. I cannot (and still can’t) layer to save my life. I used to moan a lot about the weather. But now I’ve learned to embrace it. I bought myself a pair of Hunter boots and an all-weather warrior jacket from Hollister and that was that; I had my battle armour ready for the next torrential downpour. I bought a sturdy umbrella that wouldn’t turn itself inside out with the next strong gust of wind. I learned to plan my activities around the weather. My friend visited me a couple of years ago and commented on my almost obsessive hourly checking of the weather. She had obviously never experienced going out in shorts and Toms because it was sunny when you left the flat and then two hours later, you’re soaked to the bone because it had begun to rain. Do not underestimate how much of an impact the weather will have on your London life.

Love your job

Most people will tell you that they’ve taken a job abroad so that they can travel, and that’s what keeps them going: the thought of going away every couple of months and exploring the world. That’s all fine. But realistically speaking, you won’t be able to travel more than twice in a year. Maybe if you take short weekend trips you can stretch that to four, but the fact is, a lot of the time you’ll be caught up in making a living. The average nurse spends 37.5 hours a week at work, more if you do bank shifts (overtime). Honestly, I didn’t love my job as much as I should have, nor did I give it the appreciation it deserved for being the reason why I’m in London in the first place. Maybe my first job wasn’t really the right fit for me, but the one I have now is. Part of the time I’m working in a speciality that continues to excite me, but most of the time I’m doing what I love and do best: teaching.

IMG_7896
Me in the office the very first time I got my practice facilitator uniform

Its the kind of job that challenges me, frustrates me, pushes me to my limits and ultimately, gives me that sense of achievement that only comes when you know you’ve made a difference. Don’t get me wrong, some days I feel like doing a primal scream or burrowing underneath my duvet and never leaving the apartment. But the good days outweigh the bad. Having a job I love has kept me sane even as it makes me insane.

 

Develop a hobby or a passion

I have to be honest. I haven’t been listening to this part of my survival guide for the past year because I’ve been too caught up with work. I feel like I’ve taken on the problems of the world on my shoulders, I’ve forgotten the simple fact that the world will go on turning with or without me. I am irreplaceable to no one except myself. This is part of the reason why I’ve taken up blogging again. I used to write and write like there’s no tomorrow, even if no one would ever read it. I wrote for the fun of it. I used to go dancing twice a week and training every other day. I used to go for runs just because the weather is good and I feel like it. It’s really essential that you have a work-life balance, and -what’s that saying – that you don’t get too caught up in making a living that you forget to live. The people who have enjoyed living here the most are those who have made the most of what the city has to offer. They do yoga, go wall climbing, joined running clubs and others. For those who less physically-inclined (like me), there’s book clubs and social groups that you can join to keep the monotony at bay. Push yourself though, I never thought I could do Muay Thai but I’m not only doing it but loving it.

Meet new people, not just fellow countrymen

When I got to London, the Filipino community was pretty much established. Most of them were people who went to the same school as I did, acquaintances more than actual friends. But it amazes me how much being in a foreign country together forges a bond. No one else will know what its like to be living and working abroad apart from the people who are having that same experience. However, I didn’t want to limit myself to the Filipino community. I’m living in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. I love to talk (hence, blabbaholic) and I have a genuine love for getting to know people and gaining new perspectives. I think one of the reasons why I love my current job is because it allows me to get out of my comfort zone and actually network with people. And the more people I meet, the more I’ve realised that people are essentially different but the same, and that those differences should be embraced and celebrated. 

My boss is Scottish and my vocabulary has gotten so much better ever since I’ve started working with her. I’ve also picked up a couple of quintessentially Scottish words, the kind that have no English translation. There are no words to express how much I’ve matured as an educator because of her advices. One of my closest friends is Australian, and she’s taught me to see things from a whole different perspective, and to stand up for myself every once in a while. She’s also brought me to a sports bar to watch State of Origin and got me to cheer for Queensland against New South Wales, and to wear red in support of “my” team. Another one of my best friends is Italian, and she teaches me Italian swear words and brings me cheese from home. She’s also one of my most avid cheerleaders, and she always reminds me to love myself and to look at the mirror and think, “I am beautiful”.

A couple of years ago, I tried a social group called Thinking Bob, and I thought it was fantastic. I got to meet so many new people while doing activities. I learned that I have the courage to walk up to a group of strangers and socialise; because of this group, I had the guts to step up on stage in front of a rock band and sing ‘Proud Mary’ like I was Tina Turner, complete with the dance moves. It was exhilarating to be with people where I can be someone besides usual myself. There’s comfort in the company of strangers because they have no basis with which to judge you, seeing as they don’t really know you.

There’s nothing like the home crowd though…

I’ve met lots of people and I love it. But there’s something to be said about having the kind of friends who you just know will help you bury a body if you ever decide to murder someone. The kind you can call long distance at 3am because you’ve just unlocked one of life’s important achievements. The kind you can have two-hour conversations with just because. So stay connected to the friends who have known you long before you ever landed on Heathrow.

Travel

Yes, travelling tops every 20-something or 30-something year old’s list of things to achieve. There’s so much fuss about travelling lately, and so many travel blogs or vlogs about exploring the world and finding yourself while getting lost in some random city. There’s a reason why there’s so much hype, because travelling changes you in so many ways. I’ve always loved and read about history, and travelling gave me so many opportunities to visit places that I’ve only ever read about in books. The first time I entered the Louvre gave me the most surreal feeling. I think I cried when I entered St Peter’s Basilica and when I finally got to walk down the gardens of Versailles. I had authentic German beer in Berlin with friends I met on a free walking tour; I visited Anne Frank’s attic and felt profoundly sorry for the innocence that was lost there. I visited a concentration camp and got up close and personal with just how low humanity can be brought to when driven by greed, hate, prejudice and desperation. I toured the canals of Venice, prayed in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and enjoyed aperitivo along the coasts of Italy. Each time I came back from travelling, I came back not quite the same person, but more. So yes, before Brexit fully comes into its own, travel. A lot.

 Stay connected to faith and family

I put these two together because for me they are one and the same. My faith and family keep me grounded, and give you a reason to go on during days when everything just seems to be going wrong. By faith, I don’t mean religion. I am not at my most eloquent when talking about spiritual matters. But I suppose by faith I mean just having the belief that everything will be ok in the end because there is a plan for you; and that you are here for a reason. And if you get that kind of faith by going to church or praying or meditation, it doesn’t matter as long as you keep the faith. I think when we stop believing and we stop hoping, that’s when we stop seeing the beauty in being where we are. Its happened to me a couple of times, and each time it helped to go home and spend time with my family.

Because really, there is no substitute for having family. There is something to be said about people who have to love you no matter how horrible you are simply because you share the same blood. When I was having a bad week at work a couple of years ago, I cancelled all of my extra shifts and hopped on a plane to Switzerland, where my nearest relative was. I didn’t have an itinerary or any kind of plan, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to be somewhere else and be with someone who has no expectations of me. I think when my sister moved to London last year, I breathed a sigh of relief. Life just got a little easier (and my waistline a little thicker, she’s such a good cook!).

I try to go home to the Philippines every 2 years to see my family. It recharges my batteries like nothing else can. One of the highest points of my life was when I got my entire family to go on a Eurotrip with me last year. Seeing London through my dad’s eyes brought me back to those honeymoon days when everything was new and wonderful. They made me love London again, and made me love London more.

Take care of you…

Home isn’t a place, its a feeling. Its the feeling of belonging somewhere, of being somewhere where you can learn new things and explore other parts of yourself but still have a place, and people to turn to, where you can just be you. And YOU are important. You are allowed to be selfish and to pamper yourself every once in a while. Have a mani/pedi, get a gorgeous haircut, buy that dress that fits you like a glove. You deserve it.

A happy ending

The truth is, the book doesn’t end when you find happiness because happiness is an ongoing thing. I have come to the conclusion that no one is every truly always happy or always content, we go through cycles of happiness and contentment. More importantly, we have to work for it and not be passive observers of our life, because as cliched as it is , life really is short. Your circumstances can change in an instant. Have you made the most out of this experience or are you still waiting for life to happen to you? Wake up and smell the roses: that future that seemed so faraway is happening now. You’re an adult, deal with it.

I’m going to stop blogging now and go out to re-explore this city that I love so much. I didn’t come here expecting to find home, I thought it was enough for me to have a job, to earn money and to have the chance to travel. But home is what it has become. It’s my Sam’s Town, and I could not be more grateful for that.

You know I see London, I see Sam’s Town
Holds my hand and lets my hair down,
Rolls that world right off my shoulders.
I see London, I see Sam’s Town now.