Hello Blog. Yes, I’m still alive, and yes lots of interesting things have happened since my last post this past March. Pregnancy has been tough on me and blogging, though always on my to-do list, was placed on my very lowest priority. Hence the 6 month break. So for my readers out there, I will now play catch up so please bear with me. I have typed up past posts these past several months, its just that I haven’t really published them because 1, they are unfinished, and 2, I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to be part of my blog. So FYI, you will see older posts slowly pop up as I do catch myself up with blogging.
Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading!
UPDATE: Due to a medical emergency in the family, Mr. J has asked that he be assigned to the San Francisco Office instead of US Embassy, Ethiopia. They approved it and we are now back and will live permanently in California, at least in State Department/Foreign Service time.
So Mr. J finally received a new assignment, our next FS tour for another 2 years. Drum Roll please…. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia here we come! We are happy that we finally know where we are going because like all foreign service families, it really is difficult to plan when you have no destination set in stone. So now we can schedule our pack-out and most importantly we can reach out to the school in Addis where Big E, our eldest will be attending high school.
I will definitely miss some of the perks living in Manila has provided me and my family. I will miss the easy access Manila provides when it comes to traveling to other asian countries. I will definitely miss the food and the restaurants I’ve come to enjoy on a regular basis. I will miss the friendships I have built with the most amazing people who have helped me settle into Manila living and whom I have shared all my good and bad memories with teaching me to be a better person and helping me push my limits to be a stronger woman. But most of all, I will definitely miss my family members with whom I got to share wonderful times and laughter that I will forever cherish and remember.
However, I’m happy that our chapter here is coming to an end because truthfully, each and everyone of us lived quite a spoiled life here. It was quite the surreal living and although the foreign service life will be at times “surreal living,” the reality is that one day we will no longer be in the foreign service and I’d like my children to not be used to nor expect the type of lifestyle we have come to enjoy while in Manila. Also, I’m excited to be leaving the terrible traffic behind, because quite frankly, many times over did I almost die (yes, I’m being dramatic but truthful) from just sitting in the car wasting many hours simply going nowhere.
Overall, I think Ethiopia will be good for us. Another new chapter for our family and future experiences I can’t wait to share with many. But first of course, we will stop in the US so I can have this baby girl!
This past January, it had dawned that the countdown to our family departing Manila had started. With that came the known fact that Mr. J and I should try and put in as much travel as we can since Manila was a great hub for that, knowing if we were to move back to the States or outside of Asia, travel would become minimal. Also, I knew Mr. J’s birthday was coming up, so I felt a little pressure to make sure that he would celebrate in a memorable way since it was the big 3-5 for him. Taking those two things in mind, travel and a special birthday, I figured that I would kill to birds in one stone and combine the two. What I came up with was a surprise birthday trip to Bangkok, Thailand for Mr. J.
At first I told him we were going to take a trip to Bicol since we cancelled our last trip late last year due to the volcano eruption. He definitely bought that until a couple days before our departure date to Bangkok, he realized that there were no evening flights to Bicol. I challenged him and told him that there were flight to Bicol in the evening and for him to go ahead and check online. But knowing that he wouldn’t, I didn’t give into the slight urge in divulging my little surprise. I stayed secretive until the end when our driver dropped us off next to the International curb of the NAIA 3 airport. We walked in and I loved that I was able to actually say “Surprise, we are going to Bangkok!”
By the time we arrived in our hotel room, all checked in and a little settled, there was a knock on our door. I think because I was a bit tired and feeling a bit nauseated due to my pregnancy, I had completely forgot that I had requested a birthday cake to be delivered to our room soon after check in. Luckily, the hotel didn’t forget nor mention it during our arrival. So that was a mini surprise for Mr. J. Before we turned in for the night, which was actually a little past midnight, Mr. J got to blow out his candles on his dark chocolate cake.
I didn’t have a crazy itinerary planned out for us because I just wanted us to enjoy Bangkok and not feel the need to be always on the go. However, I did plan a special tour for one of the days during our vacation. I will be saving that for another post. In addition, although Bangkok is also known for their temples, since we had just come from Cambodia, we were all templed out and didn’t go to all of them. For now, below are a few snapshots of our trip.
WAT PHO: The only temple we visited
CHAO PRAYA RIVER: Boat riding is one of the popular modes of transportation to getting to tourist destinations in Bangkok.
CABBAGES & CONDOMS: Where we celebrated Mr. J’ s Birthday
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
CROSSFIT BANGKOK: Mr. J was able to visit a Crossfit Box during our trip.
Although I thought I had already published this post this past November 2014, unfortunately, I guess I had failed to hit that button. Oh well, better late than never!
The US Embassy Manila Marine Ball 2014 was held in the grand ballroom of the beautiful Solaire Resort and Casino situated in what is called the Entertainment City of Manila. Seating 700 guests, this year, the celebration or should I say ticket sales were open to invited guests from other Embassies, Manila’s high ranking military personnel, and other prominent people whom are considered friends to US Embassy Manila. The Marine’s cake was quite massive this year making a great backdrop for pictures throughout the night which many took advantage of including Mr. J and I. The music was similar to last years, so of course, many were again unimpressed with the DJ pickings, but nonetheless, Mr. J & I danced to many songs that we actually did like that evening. .
As for the food, it was quite good and I simply remember eating most of what was served from appetizers, main course, and dessert. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take much pictures of the food. The program was almost like 2013’s Marine Ball but for some reason it seemed shorter and to the point this year, an improvement in my eyes. The Marine Ball is usually what I have dubbed the the Oscar’s of the US Embassy , an annual celebration of the Marine’s Birthday, hence, everyone came dressed in their formal best with their gowns and tuxedos, or military formal wear. I wasn’t able to take many pictures of the event only because I was busy mingling and dancing so please forgive the lack of pictures.
Happy Birthday Marines! Semper Fi!
Venue & Where we stayed: Solaire Resort & Casino (Main Ballroom): http://solaireresort.com/
Our Tux & Gown: Custom Boom Sason: http://boomsason.com/
Make-Up/1920’s vamp look: MUA Mr. Gio Flores: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gio-Flores-Make-Up-Artistry/356515020675
Thanks for reading!
Pregnancy #3 hasn’t been much fun lately due to early complications and my doctor basically ordering me to be on bed rest. Of course I’ve been taking it easy and have cut back on some things that would be exhausting or stressful like running, being on my feet for long periods of time, and avoiding carrying heavy objects like little G. However, I’ve decided that this pregnancy would not run my life or how I live it. Mr. J and I already cancelled our Bicol trip this past November due to the volcano (the reason for our trip), well, basically erupting. We were really excited to finally have the chance to climb Mt. Mayon, the volcano, but mother nature decided to intervene so we had to swallow all costs that we had already thrown into that trip. Therefore, when we booked our trip to Cambodia, I was definitely dead set on not letting this go down the drain as well. So even though my doctor said no vacations, Mr. J & I secretly left Manila and flew to Siem Reap. After all, we already planned, booked, and paid for the trip before my doctor gave her orders. Now I know what you are thinking. Why? How irresponsible! How dangerous for my health and the baby’s! Well, although Cambodia is definitely a “walking” tourist place, let me assure you that I did do A LOT of resting in our hotel room as well as sitting around during our temple tours while Mr. J did all the exploring. There was a great amount to see in Siem Reap, but we approached it as a very chill vacation. Below are our pictures from Siem Reap. So far, next to our vacation in Tokyo, it is one of our favorite trips that we’ve made since living in Manila. I think its largely due to the fact that we enjoyed the cuisine so much.
Airlines: Cebu Pacific – Note: You purchase your visa when you land at Siem Reap International Airport. It’s $30 per person. Hotel: http://www.diamondangkor.com/ : Best place ever! We would stay here again in a heartbeat. The location was perfect because we could walk to the Night Market and to Pub Street in less than 10 mins. The personal services and amenities the hotel provided were amazing. Breakfast spread was great! Tip: Contact the hotel directly when booking, which is what we did. They will provide you with better deals/package for your stay.
Transportation: Tuk Tuk as part of our hotel package. Other than that, you can walk tot he main areas.
Tours: We went to Beyond Unique Escapes Tours located on the main street of Siem Reap near Pub Street. We purchased our tickets to Circus and also our Cooking Class experience. They are very professional and provide pick up and drop off services.
Must Do’s when in Siem Reap: Temples, Cooking Class, Eating and walking around Pub Street, Experience a Night Market, Massages, and watch Circus. Thanks for reading!
Yes, bidding season has started. And so far, since I’ve written this post, Mr. J has yet to get an assignment for next year. So far, 3 panels have surpassed us and as always, no post given. So again, we play the waiting game, watching his list dwindle with every panel that goes by, and refreshed just by a little because we still want to stay out. Yet the list for overseas posts for DS Agents with families have lessened but no longer shocking to this family. So far, its slim pickings dear readers, yet, I still have hope that we will be able to get something good. And by good, I mean a country with a good school, , where pork is not banned, and decent internet. Ha!
It was a hard decision to make but Mr. J & I chose to place little G in Amerikids, found within the US Embassy’s Seafront compound. We equally heard good things and not so good things about it, but because it was close to work for both Mr. J and I and the majority of the Pre-K and Kindergarten kids of the mission are enrolled here, we decided to give it a try.
We met with the director along with other teachers who assessed him, after which they came up with an offered plan in that they would give our son a 2 week trial period. The purpose of this was to see what class he would fit into and to get him used to actually attending school.
I won’t go into much detail, but after just 4 days, the teachers contacted Mr. J and I and told us that they will not finish the offered 2 weeks and that they believed our son was not ready for school. Let me be clear and to be fair, little G did cry everyday (off and on) which they stated at first was “normal” since it was his first time going to school, but after the 3rd day, they believed his crying was “traumatizing for him and for the other children of Amerikids.” WTF?! Let me also mention that he was only allowed to attend 3 hours per day for him to get used to school. After this, now I really was curious about the accreditation of this facility. However, we thanked them for their time (note the director didn’t even bother to speak with us) and for their “effort” and left with our 3 year old.
I believe that this experience was indeed traumatizing for him. Because here we were bringing him to a new environment, and just when he was getting used to some type of routine (the dressing early, driving to school, being left alone, knowing his teachers, recess, etc), we were forced to take him out of it. I thought all that occurred was unprofessional and was in fact a breach of an oral service contract. Yes, that is my legal background peeking out. If we were really bitter people, I would have sued them for their breach which caused emotional detriment/trauma to our family. But that’s just too much for a school we realized did not deserve our effort, nor did we want to force the teachers, due to a lawsuit, to teach our child. So, instead, we searched for another school.
Hence, we found Appleseed, Montessorri. Little G had to go through the whole “first day of school” process again but he adjusted well. We quickly learned after a week of little G’s attendance that Appleseed was a great school and great fit for our little G. In fact, Appleseed had an internationally recognized curriculum, Mr. J, Big E, and myself were Montessori children, and the best part was that it was situated in a building that was walking distance from our home. In the end, the most important part was that our little G is now in a school he enjoys attending (he only cried the first 2 days), has teachers who are willing to provide him the proper instruction and care every child new to the school environment needs, and continually shows positive academic growth.
THE NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM
Located in Shilin, Taipei, The National Palace Museum is an antique museum housing a permanent collection of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, a little less than 700,00 pieces, allowing it to boast as one of the largest in the world. With the majority collected by China’s ancient emperors, this collection showcases over 10,000 years of Chinese history, from the Neolithic age to the late Qing Dynasty. Hence, due to the nature of our short trip to Taipei coupled with the fact that Mr. J is quite the history buff, this museum was one of our stops while visiting Taipei.
You’d have to excuse the fact that I have only a limited number of pictures in which the majority was taken outside the museum. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside the exhibits. I would have loved to have shared a shot of their most treasured relics, a jade Chinese cabbage with a tiny locust camouflaged resting on its leaves.
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
Since we were already in Shilin, a trip to Taipei would not have been complete if we didn’t visit one of its many night markets. Come on, Mr. J and I are complete foodies, and although we love our nice restaurants, street food is as of equal importance in our eyes, and Shilin Night Market did not disappoint. Getting off at the Jiantan Station train stop, we walked straight towards the underpass and simply followed the masses of other people who were walking towards the very bright lit area.
Let me warn you, this place is not for people who suffers from claustrophobia or germaphobes. Nor is it a place for one with a sensitive stomach. However, this IS also a place for those looking to bargain shop for mostly any item you can think off. From disposable eyelashes, makeup, magnets, shoes, electronics, or clothing to name a few, Shilin NIght Market is your one stop shop. Again, our main reason was to sample as many stalls or carts as possible offering foods that we have never tried before over shopping. GASP! I know, I’m a shopper, but really, the food was why we ventured to this place. And as you will see from the shots below, it offered quite an abundance of tasty food.
Thanks for viewing!
TAIWANESE HOT SPRINGS
Clean and safe to drink, Taiwanese hot springs are commonly used for spas and resorts, a go to for locals and tourists. So, Mr. J and I turned to the trusty rail system and chose to set aside half a day just to venture to what is called Beitou District, where we visited Thermal Valley aka Hell Valley and enjoyed a stay at Villa 32, a resort known for its privacy, exclusivity, and beautiful space. Unlike many of the hot springs locations in Beitou which are public, for about $100 an hour, the husband and I were able to privately enjoy our own suite, which allowed us to simply give in to the relaxing heat that the running hot springs provided.
Yet another tourist must-see, soon after we enjoyed a quick meal in the Beitou District (sorry no pics of our dishes because I was just starving) we rode the train again and got off at the Taipei 101 stop for the second leg of our day. To compare, I would say that Taipei 101 is what Empire State building is to New York. Now THIS place offered a city view, though I wasn’t too keen on the prices they were charging to get to the top. Looking like what Mr. J calls a stack of Chinese take-out boxes, the Taipei 101 building also houses the most luxurious couture and name brands the international scene has to offer. From the houses of Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton, if you have cash to burn, this is a mall destination not be overlooked when shopping for the finer things in life. By this time, our feet were killing us because, well, we did a lot of walking. Hence, we sat down in the middle of the architectural mall, surrounded by the fancy name brands and enjoyed some afternoon tea and treats while we rested our feet.
Thanks for viewing!