Roadtrip: New England

Adobe Spark (1)

Before I tell the lengthy account of my week-long vacation, please enjoy the songs I loved from playing my song library during the trip!

I went on a roadtrip with my boyfriend. It was a good mix of nature and city. We went from Toronto to upstate New York to Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and, finally, New York City.

When it comes to lengthy roadtrips like this, it’s always advisable to get a second driver. You can cover more area and save energy for more activities if you can distribute the driving to more than 1 person.

If you know someone working at a hotel, ask whether you can get discounts as their relative or friend. Big hotel chains may have those kinds of benefits for their employees. Take advantage of it, especially when you’re going to a place like New York City. It’s a good place to pig out, and your hotel savings can open your wallet up to more food cravings, and gifts!

We didn’t really plan every little thing in this trip. We just decided to go away for a certain number of days and decided which spots to check out. We booked our hotel stays usually a night or two before we arrived at our destination. It usually freaks me out when there are no plans laid out. My boyfriend enjoys going with the flow. I now realize the value of his spontaneity. Vacations cannot be too regimented. There’s no specific time to enjoy yourself. You just have to enjoy now, wherever you are. Of course, this comes with the risk of spending more. But, this is why we save for vacations. Vacations are not the time to be uber-stingy. You can be thrifty but live a little.

There were times that really tried me during the trip. I have very high standards when it comes to toilets. One of the inns we stayed in at one of the small towns we visited gave me nightmares. I may be exaggerating but I clean my own washroom – a less than immaculate washroom irks me! That’s why I’m writing a paragraph about it. It offends me that I’m given a service as if I didn’t pay for it. We found a cheaper inn where the people were nicer and the place spotless, the following night. Thank the lawdddddd!

We wanted to set aside the biggest chunk of our budget in New York City. So, we ate a lot of turkey sandwiches from upstate NY to Rhode Island. We were amazed at how cheap ready-made food were. We were more amazed that fruit was very expensive. For a country that has plenty of arable land, this didn’t make sense. But, damn, I learnt to love turkey sandwiches. I’ve become an expert at making them. The recipe is easy: sourdough bread, hummus (preferably with tomato and basil), pepper jack cheese slices and turkey slices. The entire thing costs less than $10 and makes 4-6 sandwiches. Bring a water canteen with you. Buying bottled water can really become expensive. If you like your water cold, hotels have ice machines on each floor.

I’ll write about the New York City leg of our trip in the next post because NYC is an experience of its own.

We needed a vacation and we got what we needed. Traveling always gives one some perspective into the goings on in their life. There was a point in this trip where I started to miss Toronto. It’s not perfect here but I am proud to live in this city.

Coincidentally, this trip is the first trip I made as a Canadian. I am proud to bring that identity with me everywhere I go now. And I make sure that people think of us as good tourists. We signal before we turn or change lanes. We don’t litter nor spit. We don’t talk loudly because we don’t own the space. We treat locals kindly because it’s their home and we’re guests. We don’t trample on vegetation because ecosystems are fragile. I’m not writing these to brag. I’m writing these to remind fellow tourists that the places we visit are the places some people call home. Please respect their home.

Shoutout to the people of Vermont. Your towns are clean and you have good driving habits. Drivers in Vermont actually give way to emergency vehicles, and drive on the slow lane when they’re slow, fast lane when they’re fast. Plus, we like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Bernie Sanders. We also liked the double cheeseburger at Al’s French Frys in South Burlington.

And while you’re on the interstate roads, check for an IHOP nearby. The mozzarella sticks are worth the stop. Also, I’d like to mention the abundance of Dunkin Donuts branches during the trip. The last time I ate at a Dunkin, I was probably 16 or younger. It was such a 90’s thing to get doughnuts from Dunkin. Before we left the US, I had to get the munchkins. I know we have Timbits in Canada but my childhood can only identify with Dunkin Donuts munchkins. I’m usually an emotional mess when it comes to these things but I held myself together while eating a piece of little nostalgia.

We’ve done California before and it was a paradise. We have New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut (briefly) on our list now. The US is an exciting place, I must say. The terrain is varied across states and there’s all sorts of interesting things and people within those states worth discovering. I actually wanna experience the music scenes in Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago next time. I’m always game for another roadtrip!

Awesome Blogger Award!

Warning: This post will be heavily peppered with Tagalog.

Jolina girl, thanks for the nomination. Mabangis na kung mabangis ang taste sa indie music. Kaka-flatter, ‘kala ko ako lang may trip sa sarili kong playlists. HAHA.

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Tag it under #awesomebloggeraward in the Reader.
3. Answer the questions your nominator gave you.
4. Nominate at least 5 awesome bloggers.
5. Give your nominees 10 new questions to answer.
6. Let your nominees know they’ve been nominated.

1. Excluding social media and blogging platforms, is there any other website that you constantly visit?
Yes, very rarely though. Almost everything I do online is connected to social media. But, if there’s one website that I really took a liking to all these years, it’s Project Gutenberg. It’s a collection of books for which copyrights have expired, meaning old but very much FREE books. Back in uni, I read a copy of Japanese Fairy Tales from here.

2. Let’s say I want to start a twee pop band. Raw guitar sound, anti-folkish vibe, and tamad-tamaran school of singing a la Zooey Deschanel – care to suggest a band name?
LOL at ‘tamad-tamaran school of singing.’ Twee pop like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart pero antifolk din like The Moldy Peaches. Then Zooey’s She&Him.


My Maudlin Career, after a song by Camera Obscura.

3. If I were to visit your city, would you meet up with me so we could make chika chika in person?
Yes, girl! DE-FI-NITE-LY. Let’s have mango lassi and make lakad through the trail or the rich people houses at Rosedale Valley. Or Distillery District to chibog-chibog while making lakad on cobblestone alleys.

4. Do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not?
I identify as one because I believe in the equality of opportunity and outcome for all sexes. I seriously think we can become a better society if these were available to everyone, cases in point: Scandinavian and Nordic countries.

5. Would you ever consider going vegetarian?
I have and I tried it for a week. I felt less bloated and I ate more often without feeling disgusted about myself afterwards. I should be vegetarian but BACON, salami, prosciutto, oysters and bangus.

6. What do you think about President Duterte’s term so far?
Biased ako girl ’cause I was raised in Davao City and I’m a proud Mindanaoan. I lived what he did for my city and I’m forever thankful. He’s more productive than other presidents, I’d say. Because of his ‘antics,’ we’re no longer an afterthought in international politics. Dati nahihiya ako every time previous administrations kissed US’s ass. Akala ko apathetic na tayong lahat pero, when he started campaigning, nakita ko na interesado pala talaga sa pagbabago ang mga Pilipino. Whether people agree with his politics or not, no one can deny that he initiated a lot of conversations around Filipino history and what that means for us now.

7. Favorite book?
I read nonfiction and poetry, mostly. I enjoyed reading The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind The Myth of The Scandinavian Utopia.

8. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?
Rule My World by Kings of Convenience.

9. Do you ever get hit by a sudden feeling of loneliness? How do you deal with it?
Yes. I tell myself: ‘At the end of the day, we’re all alone. Start getting comfortable with it.’ It sounds depressing, I know, but it’s the truth. The best thing you can do with that truth is make peace with it.

10. Anything you want to achieve before the year ends?
Be a good, if not better, student. Ang expensive maging student tapos ‘di gagalingan. Sayang ang time and money, ‘di ba?

I can’t nominate anyone yet because I’m quite new here. Siguro pag matagal-tagal na ‘ko dito, I will.

Salamat sa nomination, Jolens.

Newcomer Pt. 3

One phrase: Show up.

When you move to another country, it’s a given that everything will become unfamiliar. But, give it time. I’ve been in Canada for 5 years now and I only really started to have friends around 2-3 years ago. Before that, it was a blur of acquaintances and coworkers that stop communicating after you or they leave the job.

In my first few jobs, I noticed that people bonded over attending the same university. Now, I’m in university, I notice that people bond over attending the same program or the same classes. Because you’re a newcomer, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet someone at work who went to the same university.

So, I did a few things to (1) socialize and (2) practice my spoken English:

I volunteered for a couple of film festivals. Growing up, I used to watch international films on Saturday nights. There was this one TV channel that would feature them late at night. They were really obscure in my home country. It was quite difficult to discuss “Farewell My Concubine,” “Postmen In The Mountains,” and “Not One Less” with people I knew. I continued watching what I used to call “offbeat” films in university (back in the Philippines). I met a few people who shared my enthusiasm for these things. I even found a personal bootlegger to get me weird films for a lower price because we both knew no one would buy those. That’s how I learnt about “Volver,” “Where Is The Friend’s Home?,” and “Welcome” (2009). In Canada, volunteering was a nice way to talk to people from different walks of life who had the same love for film. I also enjoyed the freebies that came with volunteering.

Whenever I got invited to a party, I showed up. I didn’t care if the only person I knew in that party was the person who invited me. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin that being a wallflower is not something I find negative at all. Sometimes, people do approach and make small talk. You don’t have to force rapport. If it’s there, it’s there and you’ve made yourself a new friend. If it’s not there, that’s perfectly fine too.

I enrolled in some hobby classes. The Toronto District School Board has this program called Learn 4 Life and it has seasonal evening classes. It can be anywhere from basic French to sewing. Community Centres have sports facilities that may be free to use. The Art Gallery of Ontario has art classes too. Or, go to Meetup or Eventbrite to find your niche.

Some nights, especially in your first couple of years, will be lonely. But, if you put yourself out there, you’ll find your tribe… or tribes. Sometimes, you won’t even need a tribe to just do what you want to do. Grab a pint at a local pub because you can. I go there for the Irish music. I often go to art galleries and museums alone because I enjoy looking at artworks in silence.

The opportunities are there, you just have to show up.

I used to feel homesick a lot. I still do, from time to time. It’s still very important to keep in touch with your friends from your home country. But, I’m sure you have room for new friends and new experiences. You have a new home here in Canada, so start feeling comfortable.

In the next part of this series, I’ll write about future plans; because everyone needs to have at least one.

Other parts of the Newcomer series are available here:
Part 1
Part 2

Newcomer Pt. 2

Disclaimer: I’m not a legal or policy expert. I’m writing based on my own experience and I recognise that this may be different from another person’s experience, especially if that person lives outside Ontario.

I’m assuming that before you arrived in Canada, you are well-educated and most likely the best in your field in your home country. Unless you came here as a skilled worker (like a caregiver), it will be challenging to find work in the same field.

You’ll hear the phrase ‘Canadian experience’ in your job search. 100%! This means having work experience in Canada. So, regardless of your expertise, say being an engineer for 20 years plus with several projects under your name in your home country, Canadian firms in that field will be hesitant about hiring you. I’ve met several people in Toronto who’ve had successful careers in their home country but moved here because they wanted something better for their family, only to find themselves driving an Uber, cleaning toilets or delivering pizza.

The Canadian government made some initiatives to address this underemployment. Universities offer bridging programs, as in the case of foreign-educated nurses and doctors. I think Canada will benefit greatly from the talents of immigrants. I personally find it unfair that highly experienced people are stuck in service jobs when there are several sectors in the job market that barely have any applicants, and the only thing stopping these people from applying is ‘Canadian experience.’

So, what did I do?

I started in service jobs, from fastfood restaurants to hotels. I looked for tasks and acquired skills that I can transfer in the next best job I could find. I used my customer service experience to land a position in the mailroom. My boss sent me to different assignments outside the mailroom too and that gave me experience with reception. Reception led me to office administration work. The entire process took me 3-4 years.

My heart is in health and science, though. So, I went back to university last fall. But, that’s an entirely different blog post.

So, here are some things to keep in mind. Determine whether your occupation is regulated in Canada. If it is, regulatory bodies will let you know what you need to practice in your field here. It might involve some schooling. If it does, make sure you have enough money to fulfill your basic needs while you are in school. Do the math. You might need to work for a few years or maybe 6 months, depends on how long you’ll stay in school. If there’s no regulatory body for your occupation, some of my older friends suggest getting your foot in the door. It may mean starting as a cleaner, mailroom guy or volunteer. In this case, networking will be your friend.

It’s hard work, I know. Sometimes, you’ll feel worthless. I did. Other times, you’ll find yourself questioning whether you made the right decision on moving here. You made the right decision, I’m sure. Canada is a great country for so many reasons (that may need its own blog post too). I can tell you one thing: if you work hard enough, you’ll see the fruit of that hard work.

Next time, I’ll write about homesickness, making friends and going back to school in Canada.

For Part 1, click here.

Newcomer Pt. 1

5 years ago, exactly this month, I arrived in Canada.

Before the plane landed, I didn’t know if I was supposed to wear an extra sweater. I heard spring had just started and it might be a little chilly still. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed were the CBSA officers. They were huge! They meant business, guys. We were moved into this cubicle for an interview. I don’t remember much about it. I was too excited to see my mother and too nervous about adapting to Canada and Canadians.

“Will I be okay?”
“What will they think of me?”

Finally, I saw my mother and one of her friends offered to drive us to our new apartment. It was almost midnight. The streets were empty. The buildings were mostly made of exposed brick. The architecture is totally different from where I came from, which is a tropical country. Our apartment was almost empty (not for long though!). The heater beneath the windows really stood out for me. I never really needed heaters for over two decades until that day.

I don’t ever remember being tired or hungry. I do remember being anxious. I was very aware that I only knew my parents, my brothers and my aunt here. Nobody else. I left my friends and my comfort zone on the other side of the world. I knew I had to speak English every day from now on. I also had a feeling I will need all the guts I could gather if I intend to succeed here.

Next morning, we lined up for our SIN cards, OHIP, opened bank accounts and even got ourselves library cards. Back then, we didn’t have anything else but TV and basic furniture in our apartment. So, if we needed to print our resumes to apply for jobs, we went to the library.

I would like to especially mention the genius that is my mother. We did all of the above within 2 days. She planned it really well, so that we can just walk from one office to another, and back to our apartment. At the time, the only person who had a job was my mother. And, having to pay for tokens for a total of 5 people was quite expensive.

Next time, I’ll tell you about job searches and navigating services in Toronto.

I’m writing this series hoping that a newcomer to Canada will chance upon it. I’m also hoping that my experiences settling in my new home will help someone out there make sense of a possible rollercoaster of emotions they might have as they discover different aspects of living in the Canadian society. And, if you want to start a conversation around this topic, feel free to leave comments or send me a message.

Not Just Kids

I rarely talk about this now because it’s been a long time.

When I was bullied, the reasons that got me through were (1) my family needed me to succeed as there was just no other way, (2) the handful of teachers who saw through my strange behaviour at school and actually listened, and didn’t think that “maybe you’re overreacting” is a good advice to a confused teenager, and the (3) few wonderful students who saw beyond the rumours and offered me their friendship when I doubted it yet needed it most.

Adults need to see cruelty as it is. “They’re just kids,” is never a good excuse to not address those involved. Removing accountability from the bullies only encourages them to do it more. Once a bullied child knows that the adults can’t be trusted, they become withdrawn and will no longer trust you or listen to you for anything else (I’m talking parents and teachers). They look for authority or heroes elsewhere.

If you are bullied, don’t fight the pain. Feel it and move past it. Then clear your head and do something about it. It will be hard, trust me, but trying is worth it.

Report incidences to teachers and parents. Keep a document of everything that happened. Adults will ask you for details and you need to be ready if you want to be taken seriously and if incident reports need to be filed. Should your school fail to act on your report, escalate. Seek support groups online for recommendations on how to move forward with your report. They may be able to provide psychological and legal assistance.

Focus on your studies. Pursue other interests and make friends outside school. Spend more time with your family. The bigger your support network becomes, the less lonely you’ll feel. And if you don’t have to deal with troubling emotions, you can concentrate more on important things that need to be done, like college applications, or just the future, in general.

Remember, when you grow up, you will meet people that will remind you of your bullies. Take this as practice on not taking bullshit from anybody. The real world will want you to be brave and grow some thick skin.

But, the real world is also full of good people, more of it, actually. This is why you need to find your tribe somewhere else if you can’t find it in school. You need to remember that there are good people. Not everyone’s out there to get you.

See, I’m grown and I’m glad that more people are bringing this issue to the fore. The bullying has long been over and life got better. Have hope – life does get better.

These suggestions and resources are the ones I wish I would have known and done back then. It may be different to anyone being subjected to bullying right now. Ultimately, I hope that you realize you can actually do something about the situation and most things in our lives are temporary. People come and go, bullies included.

I hope these words help.

Now, enjoy this video of Aziz Ansari. xo