Thursday, July 04, 2013


Sometimes the phrase sounds a little passe to me, but I mean this literally: I am overwhelmed with gratitude. As often happens after a trip abroad, I return home so completely grateful for my life here. Granted I was overtired on my return, but even seeing our mountains and lakes, blue skies, orchards and vineyards, I got really tearful while descending in the plane yesterday.
I've experienced "happy to be home"  many times before, but never to this extent. When I got home, I must have spent a half hour walking around my home feeling "wow". This feels luxurious, like I'm at some upscale resort or something.
I felt giddy in the shower having water that heats up quickly. On the trip I only used a bar of soap to shower, so having shampoo and body wash felt like an over the top indulgence. The water pressure is perfect, the towels felt impossibly soft, there were two cute pups to greet me as I towelled off, tons of room for shavers and toothpaste on the counter, even an ELECTRIC toothbrush! I was thirsty and could drink cold water from the tap!!!!!
My coffee tastes out of this world, I have a car to drive instead of having to call for a taxi and hope he's not going to rip me off, my clothes have drawers and are clean and by some miracle I can wash them when I want instead of hoping room service doesn't forget again to pick them up.
I can make calls on a cell phone without having to worry about roaming, there's a fridge full of food that I recognize, my TV is crystal clear and wifi works unbelievably well.
My family and friends left my home in impeccable shape, the plants and flowers are all healthy, the lawns are green, the floors clean and dishes done. My dogs BARELY ate my couch, and haven't left my side since I returned.
I shared a slideshow of my pictures and HD videos on a 51" TV last night with my Dad and step mom, followed by some funny YouTube videos. On a TV. Do we live in the future?!
I spent an hour picking through dozens and dozens of work emails with delicious coffee and fresh fruit.
My egyptian cotton sheets and fancy memory foam mattress were almost embarrassingly comfortable last night, not to mention a queen size mattress that now feels gluttonous in size. Do I really need all these dressers and drawers. An ENTIRE closet just for shirts and sweaters and pants? THREE pairs of pj bottoms to choose from? I can wear a soft cotton shirt because its not so humid and sticky and I didn't have to dig through a suitcase to find it.
I'm currently sitting on my patio swing on my work laptop but I could have been using my iPhone, iPad or PC up in the den. FOUR devices to choose from, this is ridiculous.
I think the big difference this time is that I really connected with some locals while I was there; sweet, good people that are happy and fulfilled yet live a much simpler life. I found myself withholding the full truth of what life is like here when talking with them because I was a shy about how spoiled we are. They work harder and longer days than we do, and for far, far less. They pray more than I think we do, say "sir" and "ma'am" at every opportunity, smile all the time, are generous and gracious and polite, and gorgeous.
I'm sad to leave the Philippines behind (for now) and I miss my new friends. I can't wait to connect with the DOZENS and dozens of close friends and family that are here.
I have two lawns to mow (with an electric mower, no less) and laundry to do in the comfort of what now feels like a mansion, and the next four days off work to indulgently deal with jet lag - waaaaahhh.
I feel spoiled, frankly a little embarrassed, and beyond grateful.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Hello BC!!

We arrived @ YVR without incident, but also without sleep. The kid in the seat in front of me did, in fact, shriek for most of the flight, and some little punk behind me kicked my seat no less than 50 times, usually just as I was nodding off.
I motioned him to me as he was returning from the bathroom and had him lean in so I could whisper. "I'm going to need you to go ahead and try a little harder to not kick my seat, mmkay?" Pat on the shoulder, sent the asshole on his way and he was good for about 2 hrs. I think I've been awake for almost 2 days now but feel surprisingly well.
Seeing our mountains fills me with happiness. I'm seeing weather reports of 35 degrees in Kelowna but there's still snow on those majestic beauties. God I love our province.
I should be boarding any time now, and probably home within 2hrs. Can't wait to hug my pups and dad and Sharon!!

Flight PR118

I believe we're on a 787, seats 320 or something like that.
The only child crying and screaming in the terminal is now sitting in the row in front if me. Lol. Keeps making eyes at me, though, so we might be good. Mom's a looker,  too, and I think I can take the dad. Lol
13.5 hrs and I'm in Vancouver! My travel app is dramatically telling me that I have 0 minutes to make my connecting flight, but I think that's a bogus warning.
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Peace out!

I leave in 15 min!
4hrs drive to Manila
2hrs wait c/o security
13.5 hr flight
2.75 hr layover in Vancouver
Arrive Kelowna @ 4

Monday, July 01, 2013

Last day

Well it's here, my last day in the Philippines. I leave tomorrow morning at nine allowing four hours to get to Manila. 

I spent the majority of my day watching my laptop reboot trying to address some problems being experienced at the plant here. I feel like such a poor white boy but lack of reliable Internet and the inability to use my iPhone while abroad because of data roaming charges is really frustrating!

So, the morning was a write off but my afternoon should be much more enjoyable. The rains have stopped again and the sky is blue. I've got some company to do a little bit of shopping and have some dinner so it's nice that I won't be spending these last hours alone. 

I've only taken a single photo today and it's another one of my first world problems. I was very excited to have eggs Benedict for breakfast but received the following:

If I've learned anything while here it's that we've really got things good in Canada, to the point where I'm almost embarrassed about it. I hope this renewed sense of gratitude for my life back home doesn't slip away anytime soon. (Which is why posted of the photo above, it feels ridiculous to be disappointed by breakfast. I should simply be grateful for eating! So I am!)

More later...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mt. Samat

On Saturday the owner of the bar/restaurant next to the hotel offered to take me for am hours cruise around the city. We went through some walled communities that were surprisingly nice. It occurred to me that I'd been driving through some poor areas to get to/from work. Seeing these neighborhoods game me a dangerous "hey, I could get into this" kind of feeling.

From there we went to the war memorial Mt Samat. Its a tribute to the fight the Filipinos put up against the Japanese in the face of certain default. Suffice to stay it was a pretty horrific story.
Speaking of stories, there's an enormous cross at the site - 36 stories high. There's an elevator that leads to the top and offers an amazing view of the surrounding area.

I have one last follow up for work tomorrow and I really hope to have Tuesday off to get one last excursion in before I leave on Wednesday.

You call this a monsoon?

It finally rained last night. The timing couldn't have been better as I'd already done all the sightseeing I wanted (pics to follow) and was going to spend the rest of the evening hanging out with the same driver.
He took me to a great little spot for an authentic Filipino dinner. Two types of goat (one spicy and one just plain delish) and finally the lechon I'd been wanting to try. It was all terrific, especially the mango shake. They seem to really like their shakes out here and I'm a convert now.

This was the drive into Olongapo:

People were stepping off the curb into "puddles" up to their knees!! So we headed indoors for some pool and socializing. I ruin the photo but Akih was a stunner! My new favorite Filipino. sigh.

Today it continued to rain so I spent the day indoors relaxing. Started it off right with a Filipino breakfast of fried eggs, beef tapa, tocino and garlic rice.

I've got to head into work tomorrow, one last time (fingers crossed) and hopefully I'll have Tuesday free to mess about.

I'm torn: one one hand I'm stoked about returning home, but on the other I love this place and would like just another month or two to get it out of my system.

I'll post pics of yesterday's excursion after I finish this awesome pizza. :)

Friday, June 28, 2013


I'm an expert traveller now because I've figured out how to get a napkin without ringing the bell

Here we go!

Breakfast is on its way, got my coffee and OJ, and it's a beaut again today!

First day off!

Work went pretty well today! 7 or more months of work and preparation was tested today and my software held up! Well enough that I've been granted a weekend off for good behavior.

I've arranged for a driver tomorrow that will show me around for about 5 hours for about $100. I could probably talk him down a little, but frankly I could care less at this point. What's a hundred bucks when work has paid for the flight and hotel, amirite?

I know we're likely going to the site of some giant cross on a mountain. I don't know the back story yet and frankly don't need to. I just want to see more of the countryside, enjoy some views, snaps some pics, eat some food, have some laughs and relax.

On Sunday I've got another guide. My cousin's Filipino wife's dad has offered to put me in touch with HIS cousin who lives nearby and apparently is happy to show a foreigner around. The generosity threw me at first, but I eventually came to and said absolutely! I'm going to request that we try and find some lechon, I read about it a number of times when researching the Philippines before I left so its definitely on my mini-bucket list while I'm here.

Spent an hour or two in a bar tonight listening to a drunk Swede and an Austrailian warn me over and over that I'm doomed. Over and over and over. Since I'm white and single I'm supposedly going to have women throwing themselves at me and I'll end up falling in love. Oh lawd, save me now!!!

Speaking of which, I made an adorable little buddy. She's a waitress at one of the only two restaurants near the plant I'm working at. Jelly Ann is her REAL name, but like most Filipinos she goes by a nickname most of the time. Lilian. Her NICKname is Lilian. Weird. But who cares, she's adorable. All this time I thought she had the cutest little demure smile, but on the second day I realized she was simply hiding braces. lol

I can't remember if I posted a pic of where I'm staying. Its right here, pop by if you're in the area!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Almost time for a vacay

Whoops, haven't gotten around to posting for a couple of days. I'd expected I could post quick ones from my phone, but I've since learned how quickly one can burn through a roaming data plan so I only work on wifi now.

I love this place. When I'm not working, I've spent most of the time being driven to/from work and the drive gets more beautiful every day. The weather's been perfect which helps of course. The traffic initially felt chaotic but I'm pretty accustomed now. I'll need to be careful not to be passing people on the right when I get back home!

I guess my last post was Monday. So what's happened since then?

  • Tuesday night was as simple as a shower, dinner and catching up on email and texts. The evenings fly by so quickly.
  • Wednesday I got dropped off in Olongapo to meet some friends of friends. Its amazing how hospitality works here. My cousin married a lovely Philippino girl and a few days ago her father "friended" me on Facebook and has since offered to look up some relatives in the area to pick me up and show me around if I so desire. I think I might take him up on the offer for Sunday.
  • Tonight I'm wiped after a fairly full day at work and now a very full belly. This week it feels like I've eaten more seafood than I have in my entire life (I used to really dislike seafood). The last few years I've found that things I didn't think I liked or normally wouldn't have tried are actually quite good! But, tonight I fell back to comfort food for a change and had a surprisingly good pizza.
Okay, time for some random snaps.
a nice view on the way home

lots and lots of rice fields

gorgeous area on the way to work

one of my favorite parts of the drive to work

coconut water. comes with a spoon to scoop the flesh out

my favorite pic of the trip so far. the view on the way home (briefly)

I'm here for breakfast every morning @ 5:15a and sometimes dinner.
tonight one of the waitresses was so cute and shy when she said she remembered me from the other night then kind of hovered around for a while. I didn't marry her.

same place, but inside. that's how I do breakfast now. :)

my super awesome and less than photogenic driver: Rhey

do whatcha gotta do to get to work on time, mang

sunset on the way home - love that mountain in the back ground.
no, I don't know its name. what am I, an encyclopedia?

missed my pups immediately. almost asked the driver to let me out so I could hug the little guy

km #1 of the Bataan Death March. Pretty morbid story but big history here.

don't have to ask me twice. especially the way he was driving. geesus



sunset tonight - and I'm out...

typical driving here