Welcome!

Velkommen! Bienvenido! Chào mừng! Willkommen! Mabuhay!

Welcome to my blog! I’m a newbie blogger. I wish to travel the corners of the world, see God’s  magical works and share it with you…through my eyes. I reblog posts that caught my heart and I fancy writing stories for the weekly writing task. I also write my wonderful travels and some of my travails sans the tears.

 

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A day in the life of an English Teacher in Vietnam

What’s life like after CELTA?

Friday is more like my Monday. It’s busy with two classes, cooking baon for the weekend, and the routinary house chores. But today is rather easy-going. I started off lazily at half past nine with the sun shining at its peak already.  Growing up, I’m unlikely to get excited about summer.  But as I get old, I appreciate the rays of the sun reflecting through my glass door.  Sparrows literally chirping just by my window.  On a 28-degrees like this I feel like hanging out in a cool café with someone special or make a short trip in the nearest beach.  But life isn’t a walk in the park. It’s just a regular day in late March and I’ve got things to do. First, I spent a couple of silent moments looking out my balcony from the fourth floor of my apartment building. Up here, I watched the unhurried daily grind of the Vietnamese people below.  A few chi or older women were still lounging in red plastic chairs drinking coffee.

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I drank half glass of apple juice and decided to marinate the beef for some good old tapa.

I turned on the washer to get some bed sheets and pillowcases cleaned up by themselves. When I finished pounding the meat and soaking them in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and sugar, it was almost time to prepare for work.  Time is ever elusive.

It feels 32 degrees at half past noon when I walked to the bus stop armed by a black sunvisor and my new brolly with watermelon drawings—not very teacher like, I suppose. I work for a public school in District 5, which is just off the center of Ho Chi Minh City. The ride takes about 20-30 minutes but the waiting time for the bus sometimes takes longer than that. Today, everything was a breeze.  Bus 14 has arrived in less than a minute and my class smoothly went by like the wind.

A two-hour class may seem long but it’s actually short when you like the class you’re teaching. When I moved in Vietnam three years ago, I started-off teaching three hours every weekdays and on Saturdays a good nine-hour with, of course, breaks in between. Then, with the help of my friend, who was also a teacher, I got another job in a public school for two hours a day, three times a week, which was great.

Xe-om or motorbike for hire is pretty much everywhere in Vietnam just as jeepney in Manila or tuktuk in Bangkok. But they’ve got a reputation for inscribing lifetime scars on your skin or worse leaving you with a dismembered leg.  I’m just being modest.  Motorbike accident in Vietnam is dubbed the hidden epidemic by the locals because the exact number of death toll each year is either inaccurate or left unreported.

Hence, the bus is my main friend to go around the city so to speak.  And although it is far from the smell of Old Spice or Aqua Velva, it’s also far from a hospital visit. Not many foreigners take the bus to and fro work. I’m probably the only one of my kind or one in a few. The rest are, well, just in it for a one-time experience.  I get oohs and aahs from my students everytime they learn I use the bus system.  The locals with owned motorbikes, which comprised 80% of the population, hate it.  One because it’s slow. Two because it’s bulky. It takes so much space in the narrow streets of District 3.

And although it’s slow, I still have missed my stop going home. I don’t regret it just like I did when I’m still new in Saigon getting lost and learning Google map. I must have been so into my smartphone reading.  I know that bus 6 doesn’t stop directly at my street but then I thought of visiting my favorite park—Van Thanh—which is just two bus stops away anyway from the crowded neighborhood, where I live.

My evening class has ended last week and I’m hoping for more new classes come April.  The number of hours are very much important here because the salary of foreign English teachers is hourly-based.  Other teachers who are working for an international school have guaranteed salary of $2500/monthly but it means staying eight to nine hours in school from Mondays to Fridays.

I work for a language center and a public school with a handsome pay while enjoying lots of free time during weekdays.  A trip to my favorite chill place is just the right thing to do because I’ve got the rest of the day by myself.

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Van Thanh park has a poetic vibe into it that I love coming here every chance I get.  Aside from the coconut trees, flowers and well-manicured lawns, there’s a lake full of koi and a seafood restaurant housed in nipa hut cottages right into it. In the middle of the huge park is a sprawling tennis court and a nice pool. I once have enjoyed a dip and it sets me back at $3.5 for an unlimited hours of swimming and use of facilities.  It’s roughly the same rate I would pay for a hot spring trip in Laguna, which is a two-hour drive from the capital of the Philippines.  The shower room in the park is surprisingly clean for a public pool that is mostly visited both by locals and foreigners.  Vietnamese families with toddlers tend to go here during sundown.

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When I got back home, my bedsheet has dried up and it’s time to cook tapa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s never too late to cook!

…my kitchen was as busy as the famous ‘pho’ stall on the street. I could smell the chicken broth with it’s fume gliding against the cupboard and into the exhaust fan. While am waiting for the tinola to cook, I polished the floor and did the dishes, ninja style. Then, I had a little sip of the broth after it boils. Perfect, I said, and felt my stomach growl. I hope she will like it.

A prequel to hospitality.

I jerked out of bed after saying my prayers. It’s past 10 in the morning and I’m expecting a guest in less than two hours. I changed my pj’s to an old skirt and made an unconscious glance in the mirror. For a split second, I thought of skipping the routine of facial scrub and foam but I had decided to wash anyway, as swiftly as I can. I could be in jjimjil bang now, where I would lie around lazily in chun gi to or Himalaya rock salt room, eating baked eggs and Korean ramen. But I’m a little worked up and blamed myself for it. I shouldn’t have slept too long! I had finished the scrub but didn’t continue with the foam as a form of punishment.

My mind is racing. I had to cook, clean and finish on time. I also plan to be neat and fresh when I meet my new friend, Diane.  She will be the 7th guest in my humble flat themed garden.  I remembered the plants and somehow managed to water them before I hurried out.

The next thing I knew I was buying some fresh chickens, moringa leaves, ginger and papaya from my local butcher’s and greengrocer’s.  My butcher was happy, I can tell, because I didn’t buy the usual $2.50 ground meat but a kilo of chicken.  Her eyes were glistening when she looked at me. And I had to say it again in her language, “mot kg ga”, to soothe her astonishment.

If I’m on a silly fastest to shop reality contest, I’d be on top of my game. With a big grocery bag on my left hand and an umbrella on my right—which served as my armor against feisty motorbikers in Vietnam—I walked my way back home briskly through the small winding alleys of Xo Viet Nghe Tinh.

The only delay that transpired this morning was the gate, which took an annoyingly 50 seconds or so before it sprang open. How can that gate act up when I had to give up facial foam and toothbrush? I must ask my landlady to change the battery of my key, I thought reassuringly.

By 11 am, my kitchen was as busy as the famous ‘pho’ stall on the street. I could smell the chicken broth with it’s fume gliding against the cupboard and into the exhaust fan. While am waiting for the tinola to cook, I polished the floor and did the dishes, ninja style. Then, I had a little sip of the broth after it boils. Perfect, I said, and felt my stomach growl.  I hope she will like it.

At quarter to noon, I’m in the shower slathering on my favorite milk strawberry body wash and scrubbing my arms, legs and back in an unorganized fashion. I was in a hurry. I put on some fresh loose shirt with an anime print and matching orange-striped skirt, brushed my long wavy hair and fold it up into a messy bun. There’s no need to tidy it up. Not now.  Thankfully, I had a moment to take in a long, deep breath.  As if everything was orchestrated, my preparation ends with a text beep from her the second I breathe out.

Renewal of lost passport

You’re away from your country of origin and you lost your passport? Here are the procedures to obtain a new one.

Note: Costs mentioned here are for Philippine passport holder. Requirements and steps are most likely the same for all nationalities.

(a) Fly back to your home country and apply for a new one as you did the first time. This would cost a lot more. Requirements are as follows:

1. You will need to get a police report at a police station in the area your passport was lost/stolen. Make sure that there is an English translation available, whether they write it in English or you write an English translation of the police report with their stamp. You can ask a Vietnamese friend to come explain it to them. (This is not directly a requirement for the Travel Document, but you will need to have the police report explained in ENGLISH when applying for a new passport since the DFA will not be able to understand the Vietnamese translation). After receiving the police report, you will need to have it authenticated by the PH Consulate Office.

2. Duly accomplished Affidavit of Loss form

3. 3 recent 3×4 cm pictures with white background

4. Photocopy of your old passport and birth certificate

The processing fees for the Travel Documents:
Rush (3 business days): 920.000VND
Normal (5 business days): 690.000VND

The processing fees for the Authentication of the Police Report:
Rush (3 business days): 805.000VND
Normal (5 business days): 575.000VND

After you receive your Travel Documents, you will need to go to the Immigration Office in HCMC to apply for an exit visa. If you want an expedite process of receiving the exit visa, you can go to a travel agency and ask them to process your exit visa. (Try FISC Agency: 12 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St., District 1, HCMC, VN, usually you can get the exit visa the next day).

For the costs and requirements of obtaining the exit visa from the Immigration Office or the travel agency, you will need to contact them directly.

(b) Your second option is to apply directly to the Embassy of your country. I recommend this option for those who are not in a rush to have a new passport. Here are the requirements.

1. application form
2. valid government ID
3. affidavit of loss with photocopy of the data page of the lost passport
4. DFA authenticated birth certificate
5. DFA authenticated marriage certificate (married women only)
6. police report with English translation
7. processing fee is 3450.000 dong
8. processing time is four to six weeks

Filipinos in Vietnam wait for the consular mission, which happens twice or once a year.

Consular mission is the chance for Filipinos to apply for:
1. renewal of passport
2. first issuance of passport
3. report of birth
4. renewal of lost passport

Philippine Consulate General:
40-5 Pham Viet Chanh Street, Phuong 19, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.

Philippine Embassy in Hanoi:
(+844) 3943 7873 (Ext. 114)
(+844) 3943 3849 (Ext. 114)
General matters: hanoipe1977@gmail.com
Consular matters: hnpeconsular@gmail.com

Both of them responded to my queries about lost passports, cost, procedures and what not.

Please contact them directly for other concerns.

Thanks to Ms. Janice Paglinawan from the Philippine Consulate for all the information she gave me. All the words related to procedures, requirements, costs and tips are from her.

Passport hiccups and a forced “hero”

Losing a passport. Has it ever happened to you? I pray not. We all know that the process of replacing it is daunting. It would cost a lot of money and most especially—precious time and effort! It’s like a disaster. All your travel plans will crash down right before your eyes the second you found out it was gone.

I trudge through despite the odds. Those three long nights were heartbreaking. I had mustered all my courage to retrieve it. I must have it back! And THANK GOD, I DID.

Let me tell you the story. To begin with, it wasn’t an easy battle for it was a fight between a foreigner and a Viet Cong! And you know how Viet Congs are during the war, don’t you? They were fierce to say the least.

Now, 50 years after the war, Vietnamese have this idea that it’s OK to rip off foreigners. They are filthy rich, anyway. But it isn’t an ultimate truth, no. Not all locals are like that. Some Vietnamese are helpful and honest. Likewise, some foreigners are not rich (and not filthy too!). Some have only less than $50 bill in their old, black Marc Jacobs purse. And that some includes me.

It’s a puzzle why he isn’t giving back my purse. I have only less than $50 in it with a few membership cards, two ATM cards, grocery receipts, bank deposit slip, bus tickets and a passport.

My Filipino friend could only guess it’s a PASSPORTNAP. A random passenger rode his car, paid the cheap cab fare and left…without her purse! Great. The driver unzipped it and found nothing grand in it. He doesn’t know Marc Jacobs too, nor how to pronounce it. He gave a deep sigh. But then he saw a foreign passport. Ting! Ideas were coming. I guess my passport spells $$$.

So, I thought of rewarding some money.

Thanks to CCTV, we got the details of the cab. My landlady volunteered to phone the taxi company. Vinasun then provided us the mobile number and name of the driver.

Everything I needed. Awesome! At this point, I was hopeful. I can have my passport back in no time.

He was then informed by my landlady of the 1,000,000 dong reward in exchange of my passport. I was asking for the passport only not the whole ensemble.

The driver’s response was “No, I didnt see it. I went to the car park after driving her home and even the cleaner of the car didn’t see anything.”

Hopes down. Vinasun advised us to wait a little longer and they will do the talking. Hopes up.

I sleep. I woke up, pray. I eat, do the laundry, pray. I go to work, go home and pray again. I did all I have to do while waiting. I waited the whole Thursday. But Vinasun isn’t contacting us. Two nights have passed by already. I must do something.

Then, I remembered the saying…

“Sometimes people change not because they see the light but rather they feel the heat.”

I got on my feet and turned on the heat. I asked the help of my Vietnamese friend to do a little translation for me. I called the driver. We talked for five seconds then hung up. It was useless to talk over the phone; I have terrible Vietnamese accent and he couldn’t grasp English. Let the text messaging do the talking. Message sent!

The message: I will report you to the police if you don’t give back my passport.

After one minute and a half, my mobile beeped. It was a message from my landlady, the person I wasn’t expecting a message from.

The message: Hey, the driver has just called me, he said he found the one who keeps your purse, this is the cleaner.

Daebaek! merci! muchas gracias! arigato! salamat! I was in cloud number nine.

The following day, there were still a little hiccups. He was acting hesitant to give it back to me in the agreed time. He said he was busy. I heard a lot of excuses. I feel like I will lose the chance of him surrendering my passport if I let one of his excuses in.

So, I phoned Vinasun myself and asked for the manager. I told her everything. I even told her that I will report him to the police. We have evidence and that I have flight the next day.

A couple of minutes later my landlady told me that the driver is on his way to the cleaner’s house to pick up my purse. She then suggested to give the driver a transport fare for the cost of going to the cleaner’s house. I agreed. She also messaged me saying: “I just ask in case he asks for deliver fee,he said to me that he dont cost any.”

Sounds like a noble man?

He arrived at 9:55 a.m. He was wearing a red shirt when I saw him. He was sitting on his moped, smiling here and there while chatting with my landlady. My hero.

I went up to him and thank him. Then, I hold out my hand to give the reward. He smiled and waved his head no.

My landlady walked away to get a paper. I tried to give it to him again. In a snap, he hold out his hand with a big grin. Then my landlady came back and handed a “receipt” as requested by the driver. He got it and drove away on his moped.

My landlady said, “he was a good man.” I smiled and thought to myself, he was constrained to be.

Moc Bai

Moc Bai is not in my best 100 place in the world but…

Moc Bai is not in my best 100 place in the world.

But…

For foreigners in Vietnam who need to do a quick exit out of the country and get their passports stamp, Moc Bai Border in Tay Ninh province is just the right place. It’s 70 kilometers away from the city and it takes about two to three hours travel time depending on where you ride the bus.

If you live in District 1, go to the bus terminal in Pham Ngu Lao and find bus 703. This is the only bus with a direct route to Moc Bai. Outsiders, like me, who don’t live in the expat area can still catch the bus without going to Pham Ngu Lao. If you live in  D5, D10 and Phu Nhuan, it’s better that you proceed to Ly Thuong Kiet and find the nearest bus stop along that stretch. Make sure you’re on the right side so that it would go to Moc Bai and not back to the terminal.

If, however, you live in Go Vap and somewhere in the countryside like D12, I suggest you go to Truong Chinh, where bus 703 passes through just after it drove past Cong Hoa.

Cong Hoa is one of the main roads in Tan Binh District. Expats who live there can opt to find a bus stop along that stretch. I haven’t seen lots of bus stop though and it could be quite intimidating to cross the road.

Travellers to Moc Bai must catch the earliest bus trip which is at 6:00 a.m. You won’t like the place much when the sun is shining so brightly and the surrounding is dry, humid. Bring jugs of water, put on sunscreen and muster lots of patience!
The last trip from Moc Bai to HCM is at 7:15 p.m.

The total expense for this trip is only 180 vnd. That includes round trip bus fare and the fee for entering and exiting Cambodia.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have to pay no more.

Expect restaurants and food stalls to be out of scene here. There are two duty free shops here though if you want to buy some snacks.

Pray, your trip is not as sad and exhausting as mine. When you feel like it is…just count your blessings!

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{Reblogged} Old & Wise

I share the same feelings. I have a soft spot for the elderly, I just can’t explain why. Looking at old, white-haired men or women, walking alone or with someone, peacefully sipping a cup of coffee or just simply sitting on a bench with his (white-haired) significant other is just amazing.

Amsterdamming

Whenever I look at the photos I`ve been taking throughout the years in various places, I notice some recurrent themes. Although I don`t particularly intend to photograph one subject or another, there are definitely some things that get my attention more than others.

One of these recurrent themes is old people. My heart always melt whenever I see an old man or woman having a nostalgic aura, a certain note of kindness in their eyes and a smile on their faces which to me translates into the appreciation of the time which has been generous to them.

Prague:
Prague

Barcelona:
Barcelona, Spain

Bucharest:
Romania

Città della Pieve (Italy):
Italy, Man at Café in Città della Pieve

Lisbon:
Lisbon, Women Chat on a Street in Alfama

Orvieto (Umbria, Italy):
Italy, Man Reading in Orvieto

Paris:
Paris, Autumn in the City

Rome:
Rome, Woman on the Street in Testaccio

Prague:
Prague

Lisbon:
Lisbon, Man on a Bench in Praça da Figueira

Rome:
Rome, Man at Window in Testaccio

Citta della Pieve (Umbria, Italy):
Italy, Città della Pieve - Reading in the Shadow

Lisbon:
Lisbon, Man and Pigeons in Alfama

Amsterdam:
Amsterdam in Summertime (2012-2013)

Montegabbione (Umbria, Italy):
Italy, Man in Montegabbione

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