Category Archives: Asia

Bad Diplomats?

Our neighbor host parties (dinner?) next door at least once a week, always on a weekday.  Always ends close to midnight.  Their guests all leave at once, are always very loud, laughing and chatting and hanging out in front of our front door before saying their final goodbyes and taking the elevator.

When you take the elevator in my building, if you make a right, there are only two apartments – mine and the neighbors.  Mine comes first, and it’s about 15-20 feet from the main elevator, the neighbors’ are at the end of the hall.

Our walls are made of concrete – when my neighbors have their little events, we don’t hear a peep.  When you gather in front of my front door and chat loudly, however, the noise travels through my apartment reaching every bedroom, since all our bedrooms face the living room (video tour here), added to that, the wooden floors are great at making sound travel.

When Lily hears the loud voices echoing through our apartment, she responds the same as any dog:  she barks.  Loudly.

A couple of weeks before I gave birth, I finally decided to attemt to put an end to the loud noise, the last thing I wanted was to have a baby awake all night because of people hanging out by my door.  So on a Tuesday at 11:30pm, I went out and told the group of 10 people hanging out to please be quiet, we were trying to sleep.

The noise got better and for a little while, if there was anything, it would be passing noise, no one was lingering here.

Then it restarted.  To make matters worse, guests started going to the hallway to have lengthy phone calls, right in front of our door.

So sometimes Karl goes out and asks them to please be quiet, we have a newborn baby sleeping.  Sometimes I’m the one who asks.

Yesterday, the neighbor angrily accosted our helper to complain to her that we don’t own the common hallway, and we are bad diplomats for asking people to be quieter.  Because don’t you know such guest was the president of XYZ company?  And another president of ABC company?

Say what?!? 

Am I the only one that expects MORE from people in high positions?  Consideration for others is not something you’re exempt from just because you have money, but if you do have money, I expect you to set the example for everyone else!  And truth be told, let’s be honest, I don’t care if you’re the Queen of England!  It’s the middle of the week, late at night, if you want to be loud, do so in your own apartment where the insulation keeps my baby and my pets from getting aggravated!

It’s going to be really really really hard leaving Manila.  I’m going to leave an amazing group of friends behind, and board that plane with incredible memories.  But this kind of crap?  This sense of entitlement that some have just because they have money?  I won’t miss it at all. 

(Want a more drastic example?   The men who murdered George Anikow were granted bail 3 months ago, despite having coldly murdered the former marine and spouse of a US diplomat – the murder itself happened because rich kids were told what to do and did not like it.  It was all caught on video, but the video, where Anikow is seen running away, then tackled and stabbed by the four men, was not considered to be enough evidence.  And then one wonders how some of the richer folks here get this sense of entitlement.  Well, because they can.)

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines

Boracay!

As I mentioned before, as we are getting ready to leave the Philippines (in 25 days!!!), I was sad that we had never been to Boracay, the most famous beach in the country.

Stories of crowds and the partying atmosphere might excite some, but actually kept us from going there. Personally, I hate crowded beaches – I like my space, my quiet, my peace. To add to that, tickets to Boracay are just as expensive as international tickets, so we chose to go to places like Hong Kong, Taipei, Jakarta, Shanghai, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Seoul, Bangkok, (etc, etc) instead.

But splurging for a 5-star stay at the Shangri-la in Boracay sounded like the perfect way to end our time in the Philippines, plus an easy first trip with a newborn!

Ellie did great on her first plane ride, I nursed her on the way up and down, as everyone recommended in order to keep her ears cleared, and she slept the rest of the time.

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We got to the resort, and immediately fell in love…

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The view from our room didn’t hurt…

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We spent the next few days at the private beach in front of our room, the water and sand were gorgeous!

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And as Karl and Ellie took a few naps at the beach, I was able to explore the grounds and check out the pool (which oddly enough, was heated, so it was super uncomfortable in this sunny weather…).

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I also visited the other private beach, which was much smaller, but being next to the pool, also much busier…

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But from there we could see amazing sunsets… (No filters needed – actually, for any of these pictures, everything looks exactly as it did on my camera!)

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Traveling with Ellie was great too! I wore her on my Beco Gemini, which instantly makes her pass out, so we were able to go out to dinner every night, and she was completely oblivious to it! (I’m getting really good at eating above her head…)

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And to add to my joy, Ellie loved being on the beach!

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And she loved the water too!

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(Except when Karl held her…)

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We took advantage of the free shuttle and checked out the “real” Boracay as well…

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But around the beach area, and specially the boardwalk, it was all so noisy and crowded, we were relieved we decided not to stay there!

The only hard part of the trip was leaving this behind…

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I’m so happy we went to Boracay, and despite the extra expense for the flights and to stay at the Shangri-la, it was absolutely worth it! The place was paradise, and it was a super easy trip with a newborn too (after all, Ellie wasn’t even 8 weeks!).

We have one more trip scheduled before we leave, spending a weekend in Puerto Galera (which involves a drive + boat), and I ended up scheduling a trip with the girls from MADS back to Siquijor – 6 moms, 7 babies, 1 yaya. Now THAT should be interesting… Stay tuned… I’m also hoping procrastination to pack will give me a chance to finally catch up on all the trips I’ve taken in the last few months and failed to blog about!

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service, Philippines, Pictures, Travel, Travel Review, Traveling in Asia, Trips!

Away at Sonya’s Garden…

After a failed attempt to spend a nice and relaxing weekend in Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, I’m looking forward to 3 full days enjoying the beach and (hopefully) sun in Boracay!  We leave in a few hours and I couldn’t be more excited!

I had such high hopes for Sonya’s, after all, their rooms are made for relaxation (if you ever go, ask for the Chamomile room below):

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And yes, Lily was welcomed too, which was a big plus (wish I could take my little puppy everywhere!).  Sonya’s is such a nice contrast from Manila, and having been there for lunch before, I couldn’t wait to spend the weekend (dogs are welcomed in the restaurant too!).  Who wouldn’t want to relax here?

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Entrance to our room:

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We had an amazing lunch at Antonio’s (everyone insisted that I’d go, I’m glad I listened!), wish I knew Lily was welcomed there too though.  The atmosphere at Antonio’s was also great!

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When we got back to Sonya’s we had a spectacular massage  (HIGHLY recommend their signature massage! One of the best I’ve had!).  We went back to the room to relax and read our kindles, when the super loud music started.

Yep, they forgot to mention they were hosting a wedding at the restaurant that is just a few steps from the rooms.  So we went from hearing the birds outside to feeling like we were in a club, ready for some fist-pumping…  *Sigh* 

I have no idea why with two big restaurants they chose the lower one near the rooms to host the party instead of the upper ones, which would have been far enough that the noise would not be bothering the guests.

It wasn’t even 6pm, and I knew the party would be going on until late, and I didn’t expect the wedding to be quiet (it’s their one day, you know?  I wouldn’t even think of complaining to keep the noise down!), so we decided to cut our losses and leave.  (Karaoke was starting up then, and though Filipinos are amazingly talented, not all of them can sing, and that was clearly obvious by the sounds of it!)

Sonya’s staff was wonderful and totally understood why we were leaving (and apologized as someone should have warned us about the wedding when we made the reservations – if we knew, we wouldn’t have booked it).  They refunded our 50% deposit without hesitation, and we headed in a 3 hour trek with traffic back to Manila.  It was still a nice day so it wasn’t a complete loss, but I was so so so disappointed that my weekend of relaxing in a quiet environment that smells like flowers (because the area really does smell like flowers – such a change from Manila!) was a fail.  And with less than 40 days until we leave the Philippines I wouldn’t get a redo.

I still highly recommend Sonya’s Garden if you want a relaxing weekend away from Manila, just make sure they aren’t hosting any events when you’re there.  We had dinner on our way out, and I was disappointed with the food.  Though the menu is the same, lunch was way better the few times we’ve eaten there, so if you just go for one meal, do lunch, not dinner.  (The food for the guests at the B&B is different though, but we never got to try it.)

Now hoping relaxation will finally happen in a few hours!  Boracay, here we come!

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Filed under Asia, Philippines, Travel, Travel Review, Trips!

50 Days

We’re officially in the “leaving Manila” countdown.  In 50 days, we will hop on a plane with our baby, dog and cat, and say goodbye to this place that has been our home for the last 2 years.  A place we might never come back to.

We arrived as newlyweds with our pets (Lily was still tiny at 5lbs!) and will be leaving with a 3 month old baby…

I have very mixed feelings about leaving.  6 months ago, I couldn’t wait to get back to DC, the fact that my pregnancy hormones were flying high, also meant that my patience for the Filipino-way (“wait a while, ma’am”) was at a minimum. 

Since then, I have made incredible friends through the MADS playgroup, and know a ton of other moms with babies around the same age as Ellie, and it would have been SO much fun seeing them all growing up together!  Plus, since our baby was born in the Philippines, it now holds a special place in my heart as well. 

We still have a lot to do.  I know I want to do some shopping prior to leaving (sorry, Karl…), and I am off to Divisoria for what will likely be the last time next week.  Hope to add another trip to Greenhills soon too!

There is still a lot of sorting to be done (what comes with us?  What goes in the air shipment to DC?  What goes straight to Brazil and we can live without for a whole year?).  We need to sell our car, I need to start going back to the gym if that Marine Corps Marathon goal will become a reality, the pets and baby need their last immunizations (both due in a few weeks), baby still needs to be put on our orders (so she’ll “exist” to the State Department) and once that’s done we can finally book her ticket.

I am going to miss this place, and I am going to miss living in Asia.  I truly hope we come back one day (not necessarily to Manila – I hope we get to live somewhere different, because that’s part of the experience, no?).  I am going to miss exploring new countries and exploring the Philippines beautiful islands.

Now that I have a little over a month to go, I am not ready to leave.  I am so not ready.  And it breaks my heart that Ellie might never get to see the place she was born in.

I’ll be leaving the Philippines in 50 days.  But a little part of my heart will be left behind.

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service