dat feeling ….

11 Mar

…. when you find that sweet spot in bed and then you have to pee


…. when you accidentally address someone as “Michael” instead of “Mark” on an important job application cover letter


…. when you’re surfing and a nappy hits you in the face


…. when you wake up thinking it’s 6am but it’s actually only 3am and you have 3 more hours


…. when there are so many geckos, ants, beetles and mosquitoes in your room you just let them have it



…. when someone gets choc coated macadamias in their care box



Everybody is doing amazing things!

1 Mar

Chatting with a friend the other night, she told me she often mentions me in conversations she has, referring to me as the friend who is “doing amazing things overseas”.

Earlier that evening, I had spend the early twilight hours in a 3x5m patch of dirt in the next street over from my apartment playing with a bunch of neighbourhood kids. One little girl, Kimberly, around 9 years old had attached herself to me as my games assistant.

We were playing a combination of overhead and tunnel ball with a lot of babies involved not knowing how to play and the subsequent cheating that followed and elastics (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales! Inside, outside, puppy dogs tails!). While we were doing this, a rich looking lady turned up. I knew she was rich because she had fair skin by Filipino standards, a fake chanel purse in tow and turned up with her daughter holding a bunch of pirated DVDs freshly purchased.

Kimberly, my assistant, was sitting next to me chatting away when the lady said to me “oh you’ve made friends with her, the black one”, referring to the colour of Kimberley’s skin. Immediately, Kimberley stopped chatted, her shoulders slumped and her glittery eyes went down to her lap. “Hey Kimberley”, I said quietly, “Do you think I am beautiful?”. “Yes!!” She said wholeheartedly! Me: “Do you think I’m fun? Do you think I’m funny? Do you have a good time playing with me?” Yes she said to all these questions! “Well”, I said, “look at the colour of my skin. It’s even darker than yours! And if you think I’m beautiful and fun and funny and good to play games with, then that means you are too”.

I will never forget the smile that broke from cheek to cheek and made her eyes sparkle at that moment and she became my games assistant again.

Working on a development assignment is pretty pretty pretty good. I feel like I have done meaningful work and shared a lot of my professional knowledge and experience with my organization and made significant contributions to my community. But I haven’t done anything they wouldn’t have done themselves in their own way and on their own time. When I look back on this experience, I won’t remember the key performance indicators like how many people attended a training workshop I held, or how closely I followed the policy cycle to develop the comprehensive land use plan. I will remember moments like making Kimberley smile and know even just for that afternoon that there is more to beauty than the colour of your skin.

So on paper, it seems like doing a development assignment overseas is a pretty amazing thing. In a lot of ways, it is and I feel proud of myself for everything I have achieved here. But to be honest, I don’t know anybody who isn’t doing amazing things…

So many of my friends are doing it in their jobs – enabling the creativity of future generations of young people, giving people the tools to move through their journeys with kindness, showing people attention and care, speaking for people who can’t, capturing and sharing beauty with others, creating environments for people to thrive and so many more. Also, I feel like my friends are doing amazing things outside of work by moving consciously across the earth, sharing so much of what they have with others, including the simplicity of laughter and joy.
Lots of my anxiety around leaving this place and going home has to do with leaving this opportunity where no matter what I do, the fact that I am here doing this job means I am “doing an amazing thing”. But I was reminded of the importance of the small amazing things like in that experience with Kimberley. I had moments like that before I came and I will again, without the fanfare of an international development extravaganza overshadowing everything else. I will exchange inspiring Filipinos for inspiring people back home who can help me continue to do amazing things and with whom I will do amazing things together in as many moments as possible.


My pathetic little electric stove

25 Feb


My pathetic little electric stove that my grandma bought me on my first weekend in the province from Legazpi City just gave up, only 55 days to the end. It kinda went on fire, spat out a few slivers of sneaky garlic and made a horrendous popping sound before i quickly unplugged it and left it to just look pathetic and cold.

I didn’t cry which was quite the miracle (“stop getting attached to inanimate objects!!!” said a certain someone right now). Obviously if I had cried it wouldn’t have been because I was emotionally attached but because I could have looked at it as another blow I didn’t need at this tumultuous time in my adventure. Like when my ukelele broke or when I missed the Gubat bus from Naga.

But while it couldn’t have been a worse time to have a stove you use everyday break when you were just about to make a curry laksa, it also couldn’t have come at a better time because last night I intentionally made a resolve to look at things in a different way.

As you know, I have been freaking out a lot lately about coming home. The usual stuff that I won’t bother getting into now. But in a nutshell, after a couple of weeks of crying more nights than I would like to admit about leaving here and going home anxieties, I decided to just enjoy everything I have here while I can.

It sounds totally obvious I know now that I say it…

So after my pathetic little electric stove gave up, I texted my counterpart sir Junie, the best man in the Philippines, to see if he knew of someone selling a second hand or just cheap stove that could see me through the next few weeks. He texted me not 5 minutes later saying he was downstairs and would take me to find either a new stove or someone to fix my stove. I jumped on the back of his motorbike, side saddle, and just watched everybody in the street wave or call out to him and he would occasionally yell out to someone something about my stove…

When the stores were closed and the man who some other man who some other man told us to go and find said it couldn’t be fixed, he told me he would text everybody he knows to see if I could borrow one so I don’t have to buy a new one with so little time left. He will do it you know. Because that is the sort of kindness I am surrounded by everyday.

Like when he drove me to find this local man who makes guitars when my ukelele broke and asked him to fix it. Or when the coconut donut man (yes coconut donut – the most amazing dessert ever) got yelled at by the other snack sellers at the terminal for selling us the donuts from the doorway of the bus, holding up the whole Philippine National Highway in the process, just cos I am his suki (regular customer).

Or when my landlady gave me a rose and some hersheys on valentines day. Or when a tricy driver kept driving around checking on Carrie and I just to make sure we didn’t change our minds about walking in the rain. Or all those times when somebody I have met once, and who often I don’t even remember meeting, sees me in the street or on public transport and asks me how I am or reminds me of something I said when I first met them.

I was crying yesterday (of course) about saying goodbye to people like this in a few weeks. But since my resolve, I have decided to save the tears for the actual goodbye and just enjoy them now while I can. It is an unfortunate symptom of our modern life that all too often people who don’t know you aren’t kind and so refreshing to live among people for whom kindness is first nature.

I am also going to get me a fresh young coconut, Philippines gatorade, for P10 while I still can, since crying as much as I have been is totally useless and is also incredibly dehydrating.

79 seems like so much less than 80!

31 Jan

Or so I was told yesterday, when I went to bed last night with 80 days to go before I got home and woke up this morning to just 79!.

I’ve been going through so many emotions lately I couldn’t possibly have captured one for long enough to blog about it. One minute, I’ll be waiting for my coconut milk to be made in the market with my lemongrass, ginger, tofu and veggies in my bag that cost me less than $3 and I’ll be like, how the hell am I gonna survive at home (with winter looming no less) and not a dessert mango, daily or otherwise, in sight.

Nek minnit, a 5 hour bus trips turns into 5 bus trips over 9 hours and I’m like “get me the hell out of this country”…. but not to home. But I do wanna go home, cos I wanna go to class and hang with my pals and kiss my cat, complain the whole way up the 1000 steps and catch a scheduled train. But I don’t wanna go home, because that means I need to do the full time job of finding a full time job when an election just got called and nobody knows what’s what.

See what I mean? It’s like trying to catch a snowflake. (side note: is that the phrase? I was never good at using those kinda phrases. Some might remember a certain “if wishes were fishes” argument…)

I had my last monitoring and evaluation meeting last week. I thought I would have to show them the work I had done this year, so to avoid this, I left my macbook at home (“oh crap sorry didn’t know you would want to see actual work!”). But actually it was more about how I can exit smoothly so my organization is happy and even a little about how I am going to take care of myself in the next few likely emotional and confusing months. It gave me some good stuff to think about.

True to the sector I work in, it was recommended that I have a “strategy” for transitioning back into Melbourne life and managing my reverse culture shock. I am having one of those moments right now where the thought of going home makes me feel a bit sick…. so I won’t think too much about that strategies actions at this stage.

But I think the overarching goal of the strategy (yup I’m pretty good at my line of work) is to spend the next few months enjoying everything I love about this place I call home now while at the same time allowing myself to look forward to all those things I have missed about that other home that seems so far away.

So lots of coconuts, mangoes, surf and walks down the street while also checking out the events calender at the Wheeler, unsuspending my yoga membership, getting the book club list from the girls and maybe even letting myself look at the produce list at New Harvest.


29 Jan


The photo above is of the stamp Philippines immigration gave me upon leaving the Philippines…. What a country!

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that I was more excited to be going to Singapore than I had been to go on trips around Philippines. I fear i have been here too long, have become too accustomed to the beauty and hang around with too many expats who love to be cynical about this beautiful place in which we live!

Nothing like a trip to somewhere like Singapore to make you appreciate the place you live. Didn’t hurt too that finally I got an overnight bus from Manila that didn’t throw any drama at me. Got home in 12 hours, the time they say it should take. Hooray!

Our dear friend Aun lives in Singapore with his wife in a hipster neighborhood called Tiong Bahru. Singapore is beautiful, clean, it works, they have amazing food and it is a true definition of cosmopolitan. However, I felt there was something missing. Everybody was just a little too well behaved, it was all a little too perfect, everything was just a bit too easy. I don’t mind a little drama and grit to make things exciting which then makes you appreciate more moments of stillness.

However, after plenty of drama in Philippines life, it was exactly what we needed for 4 days. Aun was an amazing tour guide, people watching at Singapore laneway people watching still has be bursting into sporadic giggling and I got to spend plenty of time with my fave K Lo.

Happy birthday my friend, or as some would say “saltwater wells in my eyes”


Dunstan checks in

13 Jan

Happiest 26 birthday to my pal, my gal and my number one blog stalker, Kate!

We went to high school together, but didn’t really get to know each other until we were around 20, in a fairly usual way, through a boy. She started dating a mate of mine from Uni and suddenly we were going to trivia nights, holiday ranches and generally hanging out together.

Her and this dude didn’t work out (in part because he’s a bit of a dick and loves the ladies, especially friends of mine) but I got to keep Kate in the split. And thank goodness.

Sometimes I don’t hear from friends back home for days or weeks, but I speak to Kate over trusty old viber nearly everyday. She can be stubborn as a mule, but this also means she holds firmly to what she loves and believes in and being fairly strongly that way inclined myself, it’s something I deeply respect in others.

Sometimes I’ll say something to her in passing and a day or a week or a long time later she will tell me she thought a lot about and looked into whatever it was that I said we’ll have a great talk about it.

Kate is very beautiful but sometimes girls don’t notice it until the guys do because she doesn’t wear her physical beauty like a medal like so many beautiful girls do. You notice her smile, but you also notice how quick she is to laugh, how she’ll argue if she doesn’t agree with you, she’ll firmly support you if she agrees, she doesn’t offer stupid advice when you don’t need it and haven’t asked for it, when she’s sad about something, she won’t make a big deal of it unless you poke and poke and she’s open to new ideas, experiences and love.

Happy birthday Kate! You’re not old at all – when we’re 36, we’ll look back and wish we were still 26, you know it! Thanks for Thailand, Thai rose, Sydney, Meredith, big mouth, la Roche, Hollywood karaoke and everything in between!

Xoxo 20130113-165441.jpg





Here comes the rain again

10 Jan


It’s super raining in beautiful Gubat right now. The third day of super rain since I’ve got back, although it’s been generally raining everyday.

At 4.30 there was a brownout, so I left the office to get some supplies for a couple of surprise birthday craft projects I am working on (hopefully neither of the recipients reads this post) and I finished stage 1 of crafternoon and it’s only 4.52pm.

I’ve sat down to do one of my favorite activities in the world: read. Up there in faves are yoga of course, surfing, floating in the sea, laughing loud and long with friends in cafes and restaurants, writing, picnics, cuddling with my love, kissing my cats head, cooking, eating, watching people cook for me, playing Sunday flip and trying to remember movies actors have starred in while watching them in a movie presently. There might be more, but that’s all I can think of right now.

I’m currently reading saltwater Buddha by jamail yogis, a book about zen and surfing, and the handy feature on the kindle is telling me I’m 54% in after reading for 3 hours. On Tuesday, I read (and bawled openly and loudly over from around 40%) the fault in our stars by john green in 4 hours.

conversely, I started reading the song of ice and fire series in August and only just on Monday did I finish book 4. George R. R Martin is my frenemy – what a story he tells but what hard work for someone who never reads this genre to read. Why say breakfast when you could say “break my fast”, or uncle when you can say nuncle (old timey language for mine uncle) and why say you got your period when you could say I am now a woman flowered. So… As u can tell, frenemy.

Oh I’ll read book 5, but I’ll try and read 4 books I’ve had on my to read list before I get swept up in it. Then I’ll rage over the current lack of book 6 and fear the death of dear George before he can finish penning book 7. What a gift to write such compelling fiction.

So I thought, just for my own fun, I’d share all the books I’ve read during my volunteer year that took me to a different place, which you sometimes need when times get tough. Hopefully you’ll find something you like!

Illustrado – miguel syjuco
Never let me go – kazuo Ishiguro
A thousand splendid suns – Khalid hosseini
The great gatsby – f. Scott Fitzgerald
The hunger games trilogy – Suzanne Collins
The eyre affair: a Thursday next novel – jasper fforde
Atlas shrugged – Ayn rand (another corker that took me several weeks to finish. Have you seen the size of that thing?)
Eating animals – Jonathan saffran foer
Pacific rims – rafe bartholemew
The fault in our stars – John green
Currently reading saltwater Buddha – jamail yogis

And yes of course, 4 song of ice as fire books and one more to go.

Looking at this pathetic list I realize how much the song of ice and fire books have bloody well consumed me. I swear, heaps of those books I read in like 2 days, just Martin writing in a different language and introducing 7 new characters every time he kills one off and rand explaining every minuscule detail of the rail business held me back!

On my current to read list before reading book 5…

Brave new world – aldous Huxley
The omnivore’s dilemma – Michael pollen
On the road – jack Kerouac