Happy birthday …..

 

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For a friend’s 40th birthday ….

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Pine trees represent a strong character and steadfastness. They cling to rocks where others cannot survive.

Plum blossoms represent beauty and optimism. It flowers in the cold of winter, bringing hope in the face of adversity.

Cranes represent fidelity, longevity and good fortune. They are fabled to mate for 1000 years. A symbol of enduring love.

Red and white for happy and auspicious occasions!

I’m back!!!

It’s been a long time between blog entries but I’m officially back and coming to you from the wonderful Brisbane in Australia. Our expat sojourn is over. We’ve staggered through airports (“Yes we ARE moving country”), adjusted our eyes to the quietness of Australia (“Where’s all the traffic?”), rediscovered our home, reacquainted ourselves with our family/ friends/ cat /neighbours, negotiated a new school/ activities/ business etc etc. It’s been HUGE but great. Living in Oz is VERY easy and I hope we can all hold onto that. I love that our 6 year old still thinks it’s cool you can drink water out of the tap! And I LOVE sleeping in our bed again!!!

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More on the business ventures (both of them) soon …. plus a new adventure – New Zealand in the New Year. The first for quite a while. Til next time ….

Pinoy Christmas & Farewell

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It’s been a big week for us. We just found out we’re returning to Australia on the 5th of January – 6 months early! Our Philippino adventure is nearly over ….

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Whilst still trying to help in any way we can with the typhoon relief efforts I’m also sneaking in some shopping. Pretty reminders of the Philippines. Capiz (shell) Christmas decorations. Amazing traditional textiles.

The top fabric was made by an 87 year old woman from Ilocos. Elena Pila Panela.

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This one is from Mindanao.

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Aren’t they stunning? And fantastic souvenirs.

Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan

Like most people we’re struggling a little to comprehend the scale of it all. On one hand it is life as per normal for us (we had some wind and lost power for a while) but we are very aware of the destruction so close to here. We know people who have family in evacuation centres or are unaccounted for. We’ve been to some of these places or friends are just back from them. One of the few images to come out of Coron (one of the hardest hit places) was of the hotel we were booked into for Christmas – smashed. The airport there destroyed. It’s all a big step closer to home. The news coverage is just heart breaking

Please consider donating to the Red Cross to help the poor people of the Philippines.

www.redcross.org.ph/donate

Not a travel blog?

My husband commented the other day my blog was looking heavy on travel posts. “What happened to the business development stuff?” Good question! Short answer is HEAPS of REALLY fun travel!! Keeping my eye on the business ball whilst making the most of our expat stint has been a little tricky. The time frame was 2 years whilst we’re here in Manila and honestly it was just too long to keep focussed. It’s lurched along in spates of enthusiasm …. then sat idle for weeks …. punctuated of course by trips of a life time!

But our time is running out here and all of a sudden I can see it’s finite (read emerging sense of PANIC). You had 2 YEARS!!! What do you mean you’re not ready to go??

So heads up people. It’s business business business coming your way …. except maybe that trip to Vietnam next week …. and that island at Christmas …. and did I tell you about the awesome fares I discovered to Borneo ?? …. Oh dear …. I would make a brilliant travel agent!

Backyard beauty ….

I live in what is nominally called a “bird sanctuary” but to be honest I see very few birds. A lot of sparrows and not a lot else. A few glimpses of something colourful in the distance and occasionally some pretty bird song. That was until this guy came along. Obviously I would have preferred to have met him while he was still alive – but I didn’t even know such beautiful little creatures existed ….

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It really makes me wonder what else I just don’t see! Might be time to practice being more attentive? Less distracted? Open my eyes ….

Feels like Australia

As an expat Australian family living in the Philippines we have lots of new experiences. This was one which completely took me by surprise.

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                                                                            (Image via wikipedia)

For those not up to date with Australian politics it’s just been election time and voting in Australia is compulsary. Being away from the shores of our lovely land we were required to visit the Australian embassy. A new experience for us. It’s located in the financial centre of Manila and the first thing we noticed there was SERIOUS security. We’re sadly quite accustomed to seeing men with big guns but this was different. The big guys, guns, dogs and electronic passes were not just for show. Ironically such “safety” measures always make me very nervous. My hackles went up instantly. A funny, little old lady almost immediately asked us if we were Australians coming to vote. Despite the swarms of people we were still conspicuous. Anyway she was there to do the same thing so we tagged a long with her to our first check in point. After showing passports and filling out forms we got electronic passes to make the lifts work. We weren’t told which floor we were going to but only to swipe the panel on the right and it would stop at the correct floor and we were to turn left as we exited. And so we did.

Then it began. Despite more bag checking, scans etc things changed. The coat of arms, the photos of Australians, the Aussie accents and a thousand other subtle things I couldn’t even identify. It FELT like Australia. Even as I type this and remember I’m teary all over again. It was the most bizarre and unexpected thing! As we left I felt desperately home sick. I just wanted to stay and talk ….

For me this was the first time in 15 months I have felt “at home”. I don’t socialize with any Australians here – not deliberately – so I don’t even hear Aussie accents much at all. The whole thing was such a bolt from the blue.

Anyway, afterwards we battled some serious Manila traffic to go and have ice creams and a play in a nearby park. We cursed the traffic all the way, lamented the lack of nice outdoor spaces but then gave ourselves a quick slap and enjoyed our ice creams. Fantastic Italian gelati and less than $1AUD. For all the negatives there are plenty of positives too. So that’s what we shifted our attention to. The moment passed and we all moved on.

I have to go back to the embassy soon to sort a new passport for my eldest son and I’m curious to see what its like second time around ….

Move over Indiana Jones ….

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If you love a bit of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft style adventure get yourself to Cambodia! Exploring moss covered ruins in the midst of the jungle is brilliant fun. We spent 3 days in Siem Reap and we all wanted to stay.

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For us Angkor Wat was the least of the attractions. It was very impressive but quite well restored and almost museum like. None of the atmosphere that Ta Prohm and Preah Khan had. Bayon was pretty incredible too. They were what we went for! You just never knew what was going to be around the next corner.

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Aside from the obvious attractions the people were incredibly hospitable. The food was absolutely delicious. Our accommodation divine. If you’re looking for an alternative to the stock standard, big hotel arrangement (that could be anywhere in the world) check out Sala Lodges. Restored Khmer houses set in lush gardens complete with rice paddies and a chorus of frogs. Had Siem Reap turned out to be awful we really could honestly have just stayed put! On the first night, after a pretty awful night flight, my 5 year old crawled under his mosquito net into bed and gave me a big smile. “I love it Mum. It’s so beautiful. I love everything!” We thought so too.

Given we travel so much we tend to keep a tight leash on accommodation costs. This time we added just a couple more dollars and it was absolutely worth it. This is a first for us …. but maybe sometimes the accommodation can be a destination too?

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All in all it’s going to be a hard act to follow ….

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