I Must Be Crazy But Yes, I Did Quit My Job

April 2011, Kocaeli, Turkey

As I was waiting for the bell to ring signalling that tenefus, the Turkish word for break time, is finished, I decided to browse through Jobstreet, Philippines.

I have been living in Turkey for almost 6 months then and fell in love with the country. I was seriously contemplating not to come back. My Turkish friends were even offering me possible ways on how I can stay longer and later on finally settle there for good. But I know I need to come home.

I broached the idea of staying longer than my supposedly 8-month sojourn in Turkey to my Mom one Skype conversation that we had. Her reply was short, “Come home first then let’s talk about it.” I kind of feel she’s not so crazy about the idea. I was actually having this funny thought that the moment I land in the Philippines I will be shackled or be put in a straight jacket never to be allowed to leave the country again.

Anyway, the bell still has not rung and my attention was caught by one interesting job ad. One company in the Philippines is looking for somebody with teaching experience who would not mind travelling extensively in Asia.

My eyes widened and my heart started beating faster. Are you kidding me?! Is there really such a job like this?! It is like every person’s dream!

I checked myself. I have teaching experience and I definitely wouldn’t mind travelling extensively!!!

I quickly edited my curriculum vitae and composed a convincing cover letter. Then I sent my application. Exactly 2 hours later, I got a reply from the CEO. He is scheduling me for an interview.

I had a Skype interview a few days after with my internet connection acting up. I was seriously pissed off that my net was intermittent that time and decided to play a joke on me on that very same day that I was seriously praying everything will go right. I was very scared that I won’t get the job. After almost an hour of faulty Skype conversation, I just received a message saying my connection is so bad. That he doesn’t want to continue the interview. That can I just please check my mail as he sent me something there.

I was fumbling through my mail and was ready to have a heart attack as I wait for his message to load. My eyes almost fell out of its socket. It was not what I expected. I got the job. I shrieked. How in the world can this happen?! Things were not going right and yet I got the job. I must be one lucky girl.

So there. The idea of staying longer in Turkey vanished. It was replaced by the excitement of coming home and starting anew.

Back to the Present, Philippines

So what do I really do for a living?

This is the question people ask over and over again.

Family and friends call me Dora. Now you see me, now you don’t. Now I am home, the day after I am off.

I have this habit of uploading photos in Facebook of places I am currently in. To FB snoopers it appears I am forever travelling, always on a holiday, living such a good life. For me it is more of security. Call it leaving traces. Just in case.

Facebook has become my connection to my family back home. Overseas call is expensive and we are not the type to call each other just to inform what we had for dinner or that we have brushed our teeth and we’re ready to sleep. So any updates in Facebook is enough for my parents to serve as a signal that their daughter is still alive.

I was in Australia one time and was able to talk to my Mom over the phone. She said they were wondering what happened to me because my wall has been inactive the past couple of days. I told them not to worry and assured them that I am very much still alive.

Anyway, going back to the question, so what do I really do?

The job title says International Trainer. I work for a software company whose product is a hospitality system. The company’s clients are mostly hotels and resorts in Southeast Asian countries. Everytime there is a new installation, meaning a new hotel or resort who bought the software, I have to fly there to train the staff how to use the system. People don’t really get what I do so I just give them the simplest analogy I can think of. Imagine buying an Ipad but then you realize you don’t know how to use it. That’s where I come in. I will teach you how to use the Ipad.

Neat huh? That’s how I get to travel all the time. For free.

I joined the company last July 2011, a mere 2 weeks after I landed back from Turkey. It has been 15 months since then.

And after 54 stamps in my passport.

After dodging a 50-year old General Manager inviting me to join him for a swim privately.

After living in the middle of Celebes Sea

After having my first taste of scuba diving

After jumping from an oil rig

After living for months in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and being so familiar with the Golden Triangle like the back of my hand

After holding hands with somebody while staring at Petronas Towers

After seeing the highest and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world

After meeting lady boys in Singapore who taught me a thing or two about life

After living in hotel rooms all alone making sure that I am safe and alive the following day

After dodging scary men trying to pick up a lovely lady who doesn’t deserve to eat dinner alone in such a nice place

After mastering the art of sleeping in airplanes

After discovering a lot of different ways on how to entertain myself in airports as I wait for my flight

After becoming an expert in packing my luggage in 15 minutes (as what I always claim)

After developing muscles as I lug around my heavy luggage as there is nobody to help me

After befriending tons of taxi drivers as I transfer from one place to another

After gaining weight and lots of new friends

After falling hard for somebody in the Land Down Under and having my heart badly broken

I decided to quit.

Yes, I must have gone crazy, you’re saying.

How in the world can a person leave a job like that?! It is everybody’s dream!

It was actually my dream too.

I clearly remember that time when I was in Turkey. I was so bored and homesick that I decided to create a description of my dream job.

They say be careful what you wish for. They might come true.

Mine did. This job fits like a tee.

But then I realized that life has this uncanny way of catching up on you, of making you realize stuff, of making you understand that what you want a year ago may not actually be what you want a year after.

It was this time.

At one point you have to loosen your grip and let go.

At one point you just will realize that there’s more to life than this.

At one point you have to make unpopular decisions.

At one point you wake up one beautiful morning and realize that it doesn’t feel right anymore.

At one point you will know that their part in the story needs to end.

And it has ended.

Today is my last official day at work.

I actually don’t feel anything. I think I have grieved over it two months ago when I submitted my letter. Today, I just feel free.

I don’t know what the future holds. I am throwing caution to the wind again. With how my life has turned out the past thirty years, I kind of believe it won’t be that bad. That there are more stories waiting to be told. That there are more adventures waiting to unfold. That there are more surprises ready to be revealed. In time.

But for now, one thing is sure. Tomorrow when I wake up I will be officially unemployed.

And I love it.

Firefly Watching

October 19, 2012, Sekinchan, Selangor, Malaysia

I have barely entered the hotel room that S and I will be sharing for a couple of days when she started filling me in on the firefly watching trip that she has arranged for both of us the following day.

We were in Sekinchan, Selangor. S has been in the hotel a few days earlier having a head start with some accounting stuff. I came a few days later. I enjoyed some days off to celebrate my birthday.

The hotel is nice. It is located in one small fishing village or kampung as what locals call it and boasts of a nice sea view and an ikan bakar or a fish restaurant to complete the experience.

The place has just opened last August so everything is still relatively new. We love the room because it is spacious with nice fixtures save for the rug that S hates to bits and the bathroom which should have seen a better planning. Anyway, the combination of green and white adds freshness to the place. We enjoyed our time there.

Going back, S has been so excited about the fireflies because she was informed that there are only two of this kind in the world, one in Brazil and one here in Malaysia. I very well informed her that we have that very same attraction in the Philippines and it is divine.

Many thanks to Aan by the way, the front office staff who fixed everything for us and acted as our hostess in their cute little fishermen village. She was so patient and kind driving us around even though we drive her crazy.

Since the hotel is located in some secluded area, it took us about 30 to 45 minutes to go to the park. We were told that lines could be very long sometimes as tourists really flock to see those Christmas lighty insects.

I guess we were lucky. There was no line when we got there. They asked us to wear a life vest before hopping on the quiet motorized boat for safety reasons and then off we went.

The trip lasted for about 15 minutes or so. It wasn’t that long. For the price of 15 RM, S and I thought it was expensive. The distance of the river cruised was very short and no background at all was given about the fireflies for better appreciation. Also, taking photos were not allowed.

I cannot help but compare the recent firefly watching trip I had with my sister last April in Donsol. This trip in Selangor pales in comparison to what we have in the Philippines.

I remember we started gathering by the shore at around 5 PM, just in time  for the sunset. This shot was taken using my point and shoot camera and no editing has been done, I swear. That’s how vivid and breathtaking Philippine sunset can be.

Then we started canoeing through the river as the sun was showing off and the dusk is falling. How romantic can those colors be??? My sister and I were kicking each other in the boat complaining why the hell were we stuck with each other in such a romantic setting meant to be shared with somebody we can hold hands with.

Oh well, we only have each other so we might as well just enjoy it as sisters.

The view was really breathtaking as we cruised the river waiting for night time to fall and see the beautiful transformation of those trees which would appear like burning bushes later on.

A guide hopped on the boat too. He was an out of school youth before who was then trained by the government to provide tour services to guests. He gave us a background about the place, about the river, about the trees that fireflies frequent, what they eat, how they smell, why they sparkle etc. I wasn’t really listening attentively as by that time, the fireflies started appearing and I was smitten.

My trusted point and shoot was not powerful enough to capture the beauty I was witnessing. As what a friend once said, there are some things in life that are meant to be experienced, just experienced. I guess that was one moment. It was just so beautiful.

The guide was able to take hold of one firefly without killing it and showed us how it looks like up close and personal. He also asked us to smell his hands afterwards because he said these insects leave a very aromatic smell when touched. I agree. The insect smells like it has just taken a bath or something.

The trip lasted for about an hour and a half to two. We left the shore around 5:30 PM and was back at around 7:30 PM ready for our lovely meal.

So yeah, the trip in Selangor needs further improvement and more personal touch to be worth the time and distance of people coming to see it.

Anyway, we were famished after. And since the hotel we were in is far from civilization, we decided to eat something that we won’t be able to find in the 10 km radius of the hotel. We had Secret Recipe and Pizza Hut! 🙂

The meal was ok. The staff of the pizza place must be tired or something. They brought us a wrong pizza which was almost half finished when we noticed there were no pepperonis and they were a little bit slow that we needed to follow up our orders several time. The taste of the food was also blah. Thank gad for the cake. That was the life saver.

Still, it is not everyday that I get a chance to go to Selangor, go on a firefly tour and spend time with these lovely ladies. It was very memorable and a lot of fun especially since looking at it now, this could be the last.


Thanks Aan for teaching me how to manipulate those F and ISO setting in my camera. I still cannot fully get it but yeah, I am getting there. 🙂 And, we are looking forward to seeing an addition to your portfolio. Your photos are great. Open a blog soon and let us know the link. 🙂

Phuket and Krabi: A Thailand Quickie

The real reason why I got sold with the idea of going on the cruise is the shore excursion. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. Those floating markets haunt me. I wanna see them.

I know there won’t be an opportunity to see them in this trip as we will be in Phuket and Krabi but still, Thailand excites me.

I know the two shore excursion day trips won’t be enough to satisfy the curious in me. Of course, two days will never be enough for any country I would love to get to know better. But I am taking it. Better than nothing.

In the cruise, guests are given options on what they can do after docking. They can stay in the ship or they can go out and enjoy. We’re too young to stay in the ship and waste a wonderful opportunity to have a glimpse of the country.

For shore excursions, pre-enlistment and pre-payment is needed. I didn’t do any research for this trip so my sister and I just relied on the brochures they are handing out in the ship and the suggestions of the receptionist in charge of booking the trips.

We chose a Patong Beach trip in Phuket. I don’t know anything about the place except that it sounds familiar. I think Philipp, a German friend I met in diving who was then living in Thailand, mentioned that place several times to me before. So yeah, we signed up and was raring to check it out.

Patong is such a touristy place. What do I expect? I found the place too funny and entertaining. It is a very nice place to people watch and get caught up with the scene. A lot of tourists are whiling away their time sunbathing, swimming, engaging in water sports, drinking, flirting or just plain checking people out.

My sister and I enjoyed going through each and very shop, dodging aggressive sellers, checking out good looking guys and just inhaling all the novel things we don’t get to see in everyday life.

Like these:

Almost naked men wearing neon pink shorts in the street.

And another neon-pink shorted lady.

Like a badly dressed wrestler and his luggage.

Some out of place and badly designed buildings.

Gives you a fairly accurate idea on who frequents this place often.

A roving advertisement for a Muay Thai match.

Some interesting street food which is not very different from ours.

And this egg I would have wanted to try except that I forgot I was with my fussy sister.
So we ended up here, a not so authentic Thai place to grab some bites but comfy anyway. My sister loves comfy places.

We weren’t able to do much shopping. The quality of goods sold is not worth the money. And the prices are exorbitantly higher than in Bangkok, says my sister.

After several hours of roaming around, we boarded our tour bus and headed back to the ship.

First shore excursion done.

The following day we booked a 4-Island Tour.

The names of the islands except for the first one escape me now but they are all lovely and charming in their own way. I must say Pranang is my favorite. It was still not swelteringly hot when we got there and a dip in the water was still very relaxing.

The second stop was an island where the sand was not as powdery as Pranang.

They even have grass growing on the sand.

But they have this fiery saving grace which kept me gulping my can of cola again and again. I love their yummy Thai mango salad. I was trying to negotiate with the salad maker requesting that I don’t like those tiny black crabs in my dish. They kept talking to me in Thai. I was trying to use my hands saying I don’t understand. Then one local tourist saw my discomfort and talked to me in English. “Where are you from?”, she asked. “Philippines.”, I replied. “Oh, you look like Thai people.”, then she smiled.

Yeah, I get that a lot. I look Malaysian, Indonesian, Cambodian, dark Chinese, Burmese and all those countries in the South East Asian region.

And I can’t help but be amazed how some people are dressed for the beach.

But this couple is cute, I must say. 🙂

Third stop was to snorkel somewhere. The corals were mainly dead but there were still some interesting fish swimming around. Thanks to the bread that the boatmen gave us, the fish all started swarming in.
The last stop was this island. It was already irritatingly hot and being Asians, we don’t like the sun that much as compared to the Europeans basking in all their skin cancer glory.

I guess you can deduce from these pictures how we shun Mr. Sun come midday. It may appear funny but who’s laughing later on when we appear younger than our years next to our western counterpart. Tell me. 😉

After our fill of staying under the shade while people watching, it’s time to go back to the ship.

The island tour was worth my 5-shades darker skin afterwards.

Super Star Libra: An Accidental 30th Birthday Holiday

March 17, 2012. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It was a lazy Saturday morning. I found myself with nothing to do.  I usually need to work on Saturdays when I am on business trips out of the country. That day was different.

I got an invitation from Steve and Kwang Yi. They want to check out the ongoing travel fair in the city. With no better alternative to consider, I counted myself in.

I went to the fair just to snoop around and grab as much freebies as I can get. Take for instance this pic.

I saw this kangaroo mascot approaching me carrying cute give away fans. I LOVE FREEBIES and I got several plus a pic with the mascot to boot.

I didn’t realize that it could be a premonition to my surprise trip to Australia 2 months later. Or maybe I was just overanalyzing. Anyway, I digress. These two guys came to the fair with a mission. They want to book a cruise.

It has been Steve’s lifelong dream to be in a Star Cruise. And now that he found the perfect person to finally fulfil that dream, there they went ready to get listed.

And there I was too. I was enjoying listening as the salesperson explains to Steve what are included in the cruise. I sat there patiently. Neat stuff. Malaysia and Thailand. 4 days 3 nights. Unlimited food. Superb ship performances. Shore excursions to Phuket and Krabi. Sand and sea. Good life.

And then I heard Steve closing the deal. He is booking for three. Wait… I was like… “What the hell?! Who is this third person joining you on your special trip?! Who the hell is this third person joining and intruding your time together?” Steve gave me a weird look. “You’re joining laaaaa.”

My jaw dropped. I was like… What?!!! Are you crazy?! I did not sign up for this. One, I find the trip too pricey. And two, I don’t want to be a third wheel!

Arguing with Steve is pointless. Too pointless that he even managed to convince me to book for two persons, just in case I find a boyfriend before the cruise. He was a little too optimistic. After paying right there and then for the trip (which I must say I was totally unprepared), I have to rake my brain to figure out who that 4th person will be.

Actually, after everything has sank in, thinking for that fourth person was a no-brainer. That spot belonged to my sister. Who else? My sparring partner and forever partner in crime.

And when I did manage to inform her a few days later that I booked her a cruise, there were no hurling of accusations of who the hell am I arranging her life thinking she would want to join me in the cruise. After asking me for the date and marking it in her calendar she started daydreaming on what clothes to bring.

October 14-17, 2012

I chose the date for the cruise. With my weird schedule of not knowing where I will be one week from now, it is so difficult to forecast the future. But since those dates were closest to my birthday, I can always beg and plea to my boss to let me go on those days. It is my birthday after all. And I think the omens are up. It is Super Star Libra. My sign is Libra. Yeah right, self-serving bias. Everything is about me.

Anyway, I was so scared that my sister won’t be able to make the trip. She is still recovering from her spinal fusion surgery and I am not so sure if she is up for it. Guess what?! I learned that an upcoming cruise hastens recovery. She was up and about ready to get in that ship.

We were the only Filipino cruisers in Super Star Libra. It didn’t mean we felt left out. Most of the staff are Filipinos! And you can just imagine the joy they feel everytime they overhear us talking in Filipino. “Pilipino kayo?!” And then they would welcome us so warmly. Haaaaaaaa! We felt special.

We were in deck 7. The salesperson managed to convince us to book a room with seaview. I couldn’t care less. I won’t be spending time in the ship looking out the window anyway.

If there is one thing my sister and I realized while in the cruise, it is that we can come up with a million excuses not to get up from bed and leave our room unless necessary, necessary being eating and going on shore excursions. Steve and Kwang Yi were telling us we paid so much and we were just in the room all the time. They were saying, “Why don’t you use the jacuzzi? Why not take a dip in the pool? Why not go to the gym and sweat some pounds? Why not wake up early to see the sunrise?” Are they crazy? We were perfectly fine. This is the life. Lying in bed is the life. 🙂

Food is overflowing. My sister is giving me that nasty look everytime I will get up and refill my plates. I was just unstoppable. We have breakfast, lunch, tea break, dinner and supper everyday. Look who never missed a meal? I will drag my lazy butt to the different restaurants to eat even when I am full. And I would literally get angry with my sister everytime it takes her an awful lot of time to prepare and get dressed because I was counting the time left for me to try all the dishes. She was wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Well, I am hungry. That’s what’s wrong.

The upper deck is where most of the activities are happening. The pool looks very inviting but because of one “snooty” reason that is too snooty to reveal, my sister and I decided to pass.

Performances at night in the ship’s lounge were also very entertaining. Some ala broadway show, magic show, adult show (that my sister and I promised to attend but we slept our butt out and missed it) and a cruise staff performance whiled the night. Taking photos was prohibited except for the cruise staff performance.

My most favorite show was that of the cruise staff, though. Not because it was perfect but because my heart was swelling with pride. Most of the performers are Filipinos. Haaaaaaaa!

To say that I enjoyed the trip is an understatement though I am not really sure if I will do it again. I realized that walking on real streets and seeing people in “real” action is more of my cup of tea. The shore excursions made up for it though I must say it was a tad too short.

But no complaints. It was a grand trip. It was a grand gift. It was a grand welcome to my third decade in this world. It deserves a grand gratefulness.

So thirty, it is official. Welcome aboard.

Yes, I Would Love Another Glass Of Tea. Lutfen.

Yes, ever since Fernanda, a very good Brazilian friend who made my stay in Turkey very very memorable, posted this video on my Facebook timeline last December 14, 2011, I have been obsessed with the book.

Yes, the book was such an embodiment of everything I love about the country.

Yes, when I tried looking for it in our local bookstores, I was not surprised that I can’t find it.

Yes, I was so thrilled when I saw this posted on my timeline last September 9, 2012.

Yes, Elsa or Lola, as what I endearingly call her who was one of my lifesavers in Turkey, caught my obsession with the book. She got infected herself. And since she lives in Turkey now there is a higher chance for her to find that book.

Yes, she found the book after searching high and low in one kitaphane aka bookstore in Istanbul.

Yes, Lola was such a good soul to remember me that she packaged that book and sent it some hundred miles away from Turkey.

And yes, after months of obsessing if I will eventually get hold of the book, it arrived. Actually, I think it arrived a long time ago but since I wasn’t home for the last three weeks I think it was my Dad who received it and forgot to inform me that my long awaited package has landed thereby reaffirming my belief that Philippine post office really works.

Yes, I am so so so ecstatic. 🙂 Especially since it also came with this,

Yes, it is one of my favorite Turkish delights. 🙂

Cok cok cok tessekur ederim tatlim. As what I wrote in my last birthday message to you says:

Lola!!!! From that time I saw you in the Turkish embassy in the Philippines crying in your sleeveless shirt and nice Adidas shoes complaining how Dasma is ripping people off with their stupid policies inconveniencing people, I have admired you from afar (and was actually silently laughing at you for wailing like a baby). Never did I know that our lives will be changed by that fateful day. I never thought you’d communicate with me and be a Good Samaritan to a poor Filipino having a difficult time in the land of Ataturk. You were my angel all those time. Thank you so much for sparing your time, money, extra room, and several cups of coffee to spend time with me. I hold them dearly canim. Life in Turkey would have taken a different spin if you weren’t there. I could have just packed my bags and left. You helped me see the beauty of the country by letting me meet your extended Turkish family and seeing who the real Turk people are. And with your special day here, I can only wish all the good things that this life can offer. More travels, adventures and misadventures, newly discovered coffee shops selling real coffee, nice running shoes for that 10 km you were preparing for, good cheese, nice wine, good book and a lot of the simple pleasures in life. Let’s travel again soon tatlim. Let’s believe it will happen again. Insallah. Enjoy your day and happy happy birthday!!!!

Yes, my wishes are still the same. You are such a good soul. You never fail to care even across the miles. 🙂 Ben cok cok coooooooooook seviyorum. Sus! Insallah haydi gorusuruz sonra!