The year that was 2011

Tower ruins, Mui Ne, Vietnam, July 2011

 

As I’ve written in my post as I bid 2011 goodbye and welcomed 2012, 2011 was a year of somehow settling down, calming down. So I don’t know if there’s much to write about in the year that just ended. However, here are some highlights.

I miss blogging. I have not blogged or written down anything the whole of 2011. Well, I did write but of all it were papers for academic work. Although I keep a journal where I write my innermost thoughts and feelings but I stopped after a few entries. I guess I got so lazy and also so busy with school and office work (Aha! That’s a contradiction, eh?) that I have not opened my account for the longest time.

Paper Presentation. In May 2011, I had the opportunity to share the results of my research in the annual convention of guidance counselors. It was a first for me and I hope that it won’t be the last.

Travel. In July, I had the chance to travel with my mom to Vietnam. We stayed there for almost a week. We explored Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne, a seaside town about 6 hours away from the city. We sampled the delicious Vietnamese cuisine. I especially loved the pho (rice noodles), spring rolls, bahn mi, and many others. I was also amazed how cheap the fruits were. I heard that the coffee was awesome; too bad I don’t drink. There’s shopping too! Oh yes, going to Vietnam is a bit inexpensive compared to other countries. I would definitely like to go back but this time, to Hanoi.

Studies. This has taken most of my time this year. I’m not complaining because it was my decision to engage in further studies. The learning process is just amazing. However, it does get toxic and stressful at times, especially when accomplishing requirements and beating deadlines.

Hellos and goodbyes. This is really part and parcel of life, isn’t? There is a time for meeting new people, welcoming new additions in the family but there is also a time for goodbyes – temporarily or permanently.

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Goodbye and thank you, 2011! Hello 2012!

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, July 2011

What was 2011 for me?

Before I answer that question, I cannot help but think back and reflect on what happened in 2010. 2010 was characterized by major upheavals, changes and life-changing decisions. It was more of a rollercoaster ride and taking leaps of faith.

But 2011…it was more like a gentle, quiet and continuous breeze…of settling down and calming down after a storm. There were exciting and challenging events this year but the general feeling was that of contentment.

2011 was a year

of blessing,

of inspiration,

of enjoying and living the moment, and

of smiling and laughing heartily.

 

But it was also a year

of challenging myself to be better,

of continuously striving to achieve excellence,

of staying the course and not giving an inch, and

of constantly believing that there is a reason to HOPE.

 

I am grateful for 2011. It was awesome, fun, wonderful, and love!

Welcome 2012!

Looking forward to weekends

I have finally understood why a lot of people always utter the maxim, “Thank God, it’s Friday” during the end of the week and why a lot of people are looking forward to the weekend.

For the longest time, I have been working during weekends that I have not really had the time for rest and recreation. It’s as if weekends just passed me by.

And now, I am now of the many who look forward to weekends. I admit, I utter “Yes, It’s Friday already” with a big grin. Although, my weekends are still as busy as ever and sometimes more stressful. But now, there’s a big change to it. 😀

Home – Michael Bublé

I have heard this song twice – once during a wake and once during a wedding. Extremes, huh? Anyway, I loved the melody. I didn’t know the title nor the artist and I was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was lucky enough to have listened to the lyrics and google-d it! So, here you go…

Michael Bublé’s HOME:

Another summer day
Has come and gone away
In Paris and Rome
But I wanna go home
Mmmmmmmm

May be surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
I just wanna go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

And I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you
Each one a line or two
“I’m fine baby, how are you?”
Well I would send them but I know that it’s just not enough
My words were cold and flat
And you deserve more than that

Another aeroplane
Another sunny place
I’m lucky, I know
But I wanna go home
Mmmm, I’ve got to go home

Let me go home
I’m just too far from where you are
I wanna come home

And I feel just like I’m living someone else’s life
It’s like I just stepped outside
When everything was going right
And I know just why you could not
Come along with me
‘Cause this was not your dream
But you always believed in me

Another winter day has come
And gone away
In even Paris and Rome
And I wanna go home
Let me go home

And I’m surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
Oh, let me go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Let me go home
I’ve had my run
Baby, I’m done
I gotta go home
Let me go home
It will all be all right
I’ll be home tonight
I’m coming back home

 

I feel that it’s more than coming home to someone who loves you, as they say, home is where you (whoever that is) are. But it’s also coming home to the Father. So kindly take note: I would like to have this both in my wedding (if ever I’ll get married) and my wake and funeral.

First Day at Work for 2011

Today is my first day at work for the year 2011.

I woke up at 6 in the morning and made all the necessary preparations. I left the house at around 7 fearing that traffic will be bad. I was surprised that it was not that bad. Actually, I was in the office at around 7:20. I realized that classes and some offices within the area where I work will start tomorrow. Oh well…

I admit… I have so many backlogs at work. I even brought home some of it during the holidays so that I can work on them. But well, I didn’t have the time to do so. Anyways, even though I have some backlogs, I was able to finish two targeted tasks for the day. Yay! I will work on those backlogs little by little. I hope I’d be able to finish them soon.

Tomorrow, it’s back to my usual routine. 🙂 It’s time for hyper-mode!

My To-Do List for 2011

It has always been my practice to write my to-do list at the beginning of every year. For a quick review, this is my to-do list for 2010:

  1. Work on breaking my paper down to chunks and submit for publication or presentation – NO PROGRESS!
  2. Involve myself in research project/s – NO PROGRESS!
  3. Possibly enroll in another Master’s program or well, PHD program – SUCCESS! I’m currently enrolled in a PHD program in UP
  4. Travel more (and possibly with my mom) – SUCCESS! One local and 2 international travels! Winner!
  5. Spend less – EPIC FAIL!
  6. Save more – DOUBLE EPIC FAIL!
  7. Get in shape and shed off pounds gained during the holidays– I have to attend to two weddings (as of my last count) – PARTIAL SUCCESS! I did manage to shed off some pounds for my sister’s wedding but gained weight at the end of the year. By the way, I attended 3 out of 5 weddings this 2010.
  8. Read at least one book or two books per month – PARTIAL SUCCESS! I managed to read only 11 books this year; I lacked one book to complete the one book per month requirement. *sigh*
  9. Be active in community service again. – SUCCESS! Nothing beats being active in the parish and community!
  10. Work on my 4 secret tasks – SUCCESS! I managed to accomplish these 4 secret tasks although these  yielded different results – pleasant and unpleasant. No matter, the important thing is I have finished all the tasks.

For 2011, here is my to-do list:

  1. Travel. – One local and one international. For the local trip, I would like to go somewhere I have never traveled before, like Sagada, Mt. Pulag or Batanes? I would certainly like to go back to the US but if it does not materialize, I would settle for one Asian destination.
  2. Get in shape. Stay Healthy. – I will watch what I eat and exercise (Good luck to me!). I have managed to lose weight the last time because I went on a diet. I will continue with such program but this time, with walking. This also means that I have to be an obedient patient when it comes to doctor’s appointments and such.
  3. Work on breaking my paper down to chunks and submit for publication or presentation. – I really, really have to do this, this year. Otherwise, I’m dead!
  4. Be involved in a research project. – I really, really have to this one too or else, I’m dead!
  5. Work on publishable articles. – This I really need to do as well.
  6. Read at least one book per month. – I will just stick to the one book per month rule. I would be happy if this 2011; I’d be able to read 12 books.
  7. Seriously start with my saving programs. – I’m not getting any younger and I have to think of the future. I really have to start with these (I’m thinking of three); but I still have to study and choose the best programs.
  8. Work! Work! Work! – Meaning Raket! Raket! Raket! However, this is questionable as I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to do this. Provided that I won’t get sick as well!
  9. Study! Study! Study! – I really have to study well for my PHD subjects. This is going to be one helluva journey. I wince every time I ponder on how long this is going to take me to finish and how hard this is going to be.
  10. Settle/decide on a definite workplace. I have to decide by the end of 2011 where I am to go. That’s too far anyways, 2011 is just about to start. A lot of things can happen, right?

So, how about you? Do you have a to-do list for 2011? Care to share?

Reflecting on 2010: Lessons Learned

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

At the end of each year, I usually write about my reflections on how the year has been for me. I must warn that this entry might be sentimental or overly-dramatic, so those who are not inclined to be on the emotional side, kindly veer away from this post. Ha ha!

For this entry, I would like to share some quotes that would best describe the lessons that I’ve learned this 2010:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.”

Life has its ups and downs and it can really be a b*tch sometimes. For several years, I have been struggling and there were times that I was really on the verge. Those who know me know what I’m talking about it here. But I managed to hold on, with the help of family and friends, and of course God. I have learned to cope, “to dance in the rain.”

“One day at a time.”

This is one maxim that has helped me get through the difficult times. I kept on thinking that I cannot handle everything in just one go. There’s no reason for me to act like a hero and do everything in just a flash.

“Positive pictures come out from negatives developed in a darkroom. So if you find yourself lonely and in dark, understand that – Life is working on a beautiful picture for you.”

I took comfort in the fact that every dark cloud has its silver lining and that every Good Friday has its Easter Sunday. With perseverance and patience, there will be rewards. And boy, this is so true. I was just so overwhelmed with all the blessings that have come my way. When God plans, he does it so beautifully and perfectly.

“Laugh often. Laugh your heart out.”

Laughter has also helped me through trying times this year. It helped that I have friends who can joke about things. They made me laugh when sometimes it was impossible to do so. People noticed that when I laugh, I laugh heartily (read: guffaw). This is something that I learned from a former professor, who laughs without restrictions. I figured that laughing should not be restricted, constricted or forced. It should come from the heart.

“Prayers can move mountains.”

Prayer has helped me with all that has happened to me throughout the year. It is one form of therapy. I don’t think I could have managed it all without prayers and of course, God’s help. There is a God; He is always with us and He will never abandon us.

I hope that these lessons will be of help, if the time comes. 2011 is another beginning, let’s welcome it with hope and with a big smile.

Have a Grace-filled New Year!

2010 in Retrospect

Japanese Garden, Maymont, Richmond VA, Oct 1, 2010

2010 was such an amazing year. Reflecting on the year that is about to end, so many things have happened that I came up with key words that would best describe it.

Blessings. Surprises. Possibilities. Opportunities.

Decisions. Beginnings (Hellos). Endings (Goodbyes). Challenges.

However, I have also listed some of the highlights of the year.

Graduation and Recognition: I graduated from my MA in November 2009 but it was only in April 2010 that I got to attend the College Recognition program. During the recognition program, my thesis got recognized as one of the finalists for the Best in Thesis category. In addition, my thesis also got shorlisted in the 4th Lourdes Lontok Cruz Awards for Best Thesis in Women and Gender Studies. I’m so thankful that my work has been recognized for its quality.

Licensure Exam: Last August, I took the Licensure Examinations for Guidance Counselors. I started my self-review sessions way back in May but barely had time to really study because I had to divide my time with work and my preparations for my US trip. It was a grueling and stressful two days for me but I’m so grateful to God that I passed the examination!

PHD studies: Before I left for the US, I also took the DATE (Doctoral Admissions Test in Education) and was able to hurdle it. I enrolled into the program during Second Semester and I’m currently working on 6 units. Honestly, I feel very unsure of myself as regards the subjects that I’m taking now, particularly, Individual Testing. Testing is one area in Guidance which I consider my waterloo. I’m not familiar with all the tests that we are going to administer and so I feel ill-equipped. I really have to do a lot of work on this area. There’s the challenge, I know.

Travels: I’ve been blessed to have traveled to different places this year. At the early part of 2010, I was able to go to the old city of Vigan, although the circumstances for the said travel were quite unpleasant. Then, at the latter part of the year, I was lucky enough to have been granted visas to the US and to South Korea. Last September, my mom and I went to the US to attend the wedding of my only sibling. I stayed there for a month and was able to go sightseeing in Virginia, Connecticut, New York and Washington, DC. This trip was not really planned and was such a surprise because I didn’t really expect that I would be granted a visa. I’m really grateful to God for making it possible. Thanks also to my sister who made sure that this trip would push through. And then in October, I went to South Korea with my friends. This trip was the “planned” one for the year. This was actually our “dream trip”, being the Korean entertainment enthusiasts that we are. It was a grand adventure and we had so much fun! I would really love to visit Korea again. God has certainly blessed me with these wonderful trips.

Seoul Heunginjimun (Gate) (Dongdaemun, South Korea, October 2010)

New Job: I have finally made the leap. The offer of a new job came at a time when I felt that it was time to move on and explore other opportunities. All I can say is that God certainly laid out His plans for me very well. He has such perfect timing!

Reading and Books: I finally had the chance to read books that are waiting to be picked up in my bookshelf. However, for this year, I think I managed to read about 11 books only. I lacked one book, to at least make it – one book per month. I just hope that I would have the time to read again, even though that I have started my doctorate studies.

Fangirling and Fandom: And I thought that my year would be without my fangirl tendencies. But no! Aside from my usual Kim Myung Min addiction, I was introduced to the world of Richard Armitage, an English actor. This paved the way for me to meet other people from all over the world who support his works. This also led me to read books written by English authors such as Gaskell and to watch English films or mini-series.

Richard Armitage

Weddings: My sister; a friend from my MA barkada; two friends from my undergraduate barkada; and one former co-worker, tied the knot this year. I was part of the Bridal Entourage in two of these weddings.

Death: The family bid goodbye to my uncle (my dad’s brother) who succumbed to lung cancer. It was such a shock to us that he was diagnosed to have the big C. I take comfort in the fact that he is now beyond suffering, illnesses and pain and that he and my dad, along with other relatives, are together now at the other side.

Friends: I am a people-person. I have been blessed with friends who are supportive and who would stick with me through thick and thin. This year, I have been equally blessed by meeting new friends whom I actually feel that we have been such for so long. I don’t know, call it – karmic ties, having the same wavelength, just being comfortable with each other, or just simply hitting it off. I am just so happy to have these beautiful and wonderful people in my life. I’m forever thankful to Big Bro for sending them to me. 🙂

So that was 2010 for me. Quite a year, huh? My heart is so grateful for all that has happened, be it good or bad.

Major major thanks, Big Brother!

Korean Escapade 2010: If you survived the tunnel, you’ll survive anything!

October 22 was another adventure. We started the day early because we had a guided tour that would take us to DMZ or DeMilitarized Zone. Our guide was really early and we were surprised that he knows a bit of Tagalog. Kuya Hong, as he preferred to be called, went to the Philippines to study English a few years ago. Furthermore, he has visited the country a couple of times together with his family. He also maintained friendships with his Filipino classmates.

Kuya Hong informed us that we would be traveling for about 40 minutes or so just to get to Imjingak Park in Paju. At Imjingak Park, we saw the Bell of Peace, which represents the aspiration for peace of humankind and the unification of the Korean nation for the new millennium.  To commemorate the 21st century, the bell weights 21 tons and has 21 stairs.

 

Bell of Peace, Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The Bridge of Freedom or Freedom Bridge lies in the area as well. It is the only bridge crossing the Imjin River and the only bridge which connects North and South Korea. It is said that about 13,000 war captives crossed this bridge crying “hurrah for freedom,” which gave the bridge its present name. (from www.koreadmztour.com)

 

Freedom Bridge, Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The steam locomotive, which was partially blown up during the Korean War, was also a sight to behold. There were bullet holes in it and of course, blast marks. It sat outside the Jangdan station in the DMZ for about 56 years after the Korean War and was preserved as a cultural heritage by the South Korean government.

 

Steam locomotive, Imjingak, Paju Korea, October 2010

 

There were numerous ribbons hanging on the wires in the area. The ribbons contain messages from Koreans or visitors. The content of the messages? I have no idea. I didn’t have the chance to ask Kuya Hong about it. But my guess is – it may be aspirations for unification.

 

Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

We then boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the DMZ.

 

Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The DeMilitarized Zone or DMZ a strip of land running across the Korean peninsula, serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. The most heavily armed border in the world, the DMZ extends 248 km/155 miles long and approximately 4 km/2.5 miles wide (from www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone).

Since there were lots of tourists that day, we proceeded to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. The third tunnel was discovered at the point of just 52 km away from Seoul, in the administrative district of Paju in 1978. The tunnel is 1,635 meters in length, 2 meters in width, and 2 meters in height. It is said that it is as large in scale as an army of 30,000 fully-armed North Korean soldiers to pass through within an hour.

A drawing of the 3rd tunnel, DMZ, October 2010

We got our protective hats on and then walked down the walkway which would lead us to the third tunnel. The walkway measures 358 meters, sloping downward. Going downward, I felt my knees and muscles in the lower part of my body protest with the exertion. Reaching the bottom, we then proceeded to walk the Third Tunnel which spans 265 meters. We were only allowed to walk until the third blockade and so we turned back and walked again another 265 meters. The real challenge was going up the walkway (which is 358 meters again!).  Going up, I felt my body getting pushed and pulled in different directions. My breathing was getting rapid and strained. I thought I would have an asthma attack but thank God, I didn’t.  We rested for a bit and then we went to watch a short audio-visual presentation about DMZ.

After the AVP, we returned to our bus and we continued on to Dora Observatory where we viewed North Korea from the observatory platform using a telescope. We were prohibited to take photos in some areas of the observatory. I had mixed feelings when I saw the highest flagpole in the world bearing the North Korean flag and felt that this was the closest I can get to North Korea, eh?

A portion of Dora Observatory, DMZ, October 2010

We only had 10-15 minutes at the Dora Observatory and then we returned to our bus to proceed to Dorasan Station. It is the last station in South Korea before the North Korean border. Its railway is located in Gyeongu line. However, this station has not functioned ever.

Dorasan Station, DMZ, October 2010

To Pyeongyang, Dorasan Station, October 2010

After our stop at the station, we boarded our bus to return to Imjingak Park. Kuya Hong then drove us to restaurant for lunch.

The DMZ tour was one eye-opener of an adventure for me. I cannot imagine the pain of those South Koreans who have families in the North or vice versa and not be able to see them for a very, very long time. Very tragic!  But the most striking and unforgettable part of this trip was the TUNNEL! The tunnel experience was one-helluvan adventure. Among my travel buddies, we now share a joke, if you’ve survived the tunnel, you can survive anything! It was that challenging!

Korean Escapade 2010: The Saga of the Ninjas Continues

Still October 21…

We left Nami Island at around 4:00 in the afternoon and took the cab going to Gapyeong Station. Our next stop was Petite France, which was located near Cheongpyeong Station. We were lucky because the train going to Cheongpyeong was arriving in a few minutes. From Gapyeong to Cheongpyeong, the travel time was about 20 minutes. We arrived at Cheongpyeong station around 5 in the afternoon but there was no sign of the shuttle bus which would take us to Petite France. We decided to take the cab…again. The trip to Petite France was like going to Baguio or Antipolo with all those blind curves and zigzag roads. There was a time during the brief ride that we felt that we got lost but we arrived at Petite France after 30 minutes.  Imagine our relief to know that we were finally there!

 

Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

Since we only had 30 minutes to explore the place, we immediately went to the sites that we wanted to visit.

Petite France: Retracing Kim Myung Min’s (Kang Mae’s) steps in Beethoven Virus

Petite France is a French cultural village set in the Korean countryside. Petite France serves as both a French cultural village and a youth training facility (Goseong Youth Training Center), and consists of 16 French-style buildings where visitors can lodge and experience French food, clothing, and household culture. ‘Petit’ means ‘small and pretty’ in French, and this village is located on the hilltop overlooking the beautiful mountain scenery of Homyeongsan (Mt.) and the clear surroundings of Cheongpyeongho (Lake). Building heights were adjusted using natural hills, and every house in the village were arranged to overlook the lake. Such structure disposition and internal decoration of construction materials, rooftop, windows and floor are all French. (From http://www.korean-city.blogspot.com)

 

Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

 

View of the lake, Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Array of buildings in French style, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

A portion of the amphitheater, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always wanted to visit Petite France because it was one of the filming sites of Beethoven Virus, one of my all-time favorite Korean dramas. Moreover, it is the location of the study room of Maestro Kang Gun Woo or Kang Mae, played by the brilliant Kim Myung Min.  I may not have met Kim Myung Min himself but it was a great comfort for me to have visited his study room when he portrayed the acerbic tongued Kang Mae.

 

Kang Mae's table and chair, Petite France, October 2010

 

A portion of Kang Mae's office, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did not have the chance to explore the other buildings because it was already 6 in the evening. Our main problem was getting out of Petite France because it was such an isolated place. We asked the receptionist for help and so she contacted two cabs to fetch us. While waiting, we felt the air as it turned colder. Good thing the cabs arrived after 15 minutes or so.

We arrived at Cheongpyeong station in time for the arrival of the train bound for Cheongnyangni. We thought that we missed the train already and we had to wait for an hour for the next.  We were indeed lucky!

Since the ride was one hour, we had time to decide that we had to re-schedule the Lotte World trip for another night as we might not be able to make it. We decided to have dinner first at Dongdaemun and then visit Chonggye Stream which was nearby.

 

Dongdaemun, South Korea, October 2010

Dining at a Korean Restaurant

We were so hungry, we could eat a horse! We picked a fancy Korean resto which was established in 1972. When we got there and looked at the menu, we wanted to go out and look for another place. So expensive! However, we figured that we would eat in small restos the following nights so that we are still on the budget. Hahaha!

Side dishes, Korean restaurant, Dongdaemun, October 2010

And so we ordered pork spare ribs, pajeon, bulgogi. Of course, a Korean meal is not complete without the side dishes or banchan, which could consist of 2-12 kinds. Of course, kimchi is usually included.

 

Pork spare ribs, Dongdaemun, October 2010

I’m a great fan and lover of pajeon. However, I fell in love with bulgogi! This is one dish that I have not had the chance to eat often in Korean restaurants in the Philippines. But the authentic bulgogi was heaven! I. LOVE. IT. SUPER.

 

My new love, BULGOGI! Dongdaemun, October 2010

After dinner, we headed to Chonggye Stream for some picture-taking and some walking. We decided that we would walk back to our hotel for some exercise. However, when we realized that we were walking for a much longer time already and no sight of our hotel still, we decided to  get a cab because we were all dead tired. On our way back to the hotel, we found out that we headed the wrong way – we walked farther from the hotel instead of walking towards it. What an adventure!

Oh well, the most important thing was that we got back safe and sound.