Archive | October, 2012

A slightly tardy 6 month digest

30 Oct

If only Philippines could take me out for a romantic 6 month anniversary and a walk on the beach! Alas, it can’t, nor could the entire population of the country, region, town or even my work so I will celebrate my adventure and toast to my own achievement by the best way I know how. Actually, I am also quite good at yoga, but I think it might be a little limiting to express how I’m feeling through asanas… I’ll stick with a blog post (for now…. Challenge accepted for later)

This post is a week late because in truth I have been thinking a lot about what I would write to give even the smallest semblance of an account of what I have been through in the last 6 months. For my awesome readers who I am sure consume a lot of content on the Internet, I have decided to reflect on these 3 months in themes: work, home, play and love. I have also decided to set a challenge for myself, and limit each theme to 1 sentence lang as I am known to be overly articulate… Who me?


I work with an organization that really needs my knowledge and skills and are grateful for everything I share with them and engage with people who know how to see through the eyes of their fellow man and know more than just what is happening in their own private world.


In 5 by 10 beautiful square meters, I get to do all the things that nurture me with only my gecko housemates to bare witness in my otherwise overexposed, celebrity life here


When else have I had the opportunity to choose between spending the whole weekend reading in bed or jumping on a minivan, ferry or plane for a mini-vacay, all complemented by the odd beauty pageant judging spot, dance performance, videoke afternoon or face painting birthday party?


(sorry but this theme requires more than one sentence)

I may be alone, but have never felt more love in my life. Yes in the conventional sense, feeling love from all my people back home who miss but support me, the volunteer community who are always there for me and from the Gubatnons who love having an Ausnoy volunteer in the hood. But also in my own love for Filipinos, the environment, the culture and history, love from feeling endless gratitude for having this opportunity and for the love I am able to give myself whenever I need it. When you’re physically alone, you realize the truth in the phrase “everything you need comes from within you”… You can’t rely rely on anyone else from minute to minute and you realize you do don’t need to.

So now I have more months behind me than ahead of me… The biggest change I have felt in myself is that it no longer scares me and I welcome it with super tanned arms!



Carabaos, wedding dances and creating public policy

18 Oct

What do these 3 things have in common? Why I did all of them in the last 5 days of course!

It’s Kasanggayahan festival in the Sorsogon province at the moment, which means lots of different competitions to be won and prize money to be chased. On Sunday, my friend Aileen texted me to see if I was free for her and the head of the agriculture department at my work to pick me up to paint a carabao for what else but a carabao painting competition.

“But I can’t draw or paint!” says I.

“Yeh but we might get extra points for somebody from Australia doing the painting”, they say, with only the tiniest hint of jest and far more sincerity.

Despite my obvious reluctance to paint an animal, I had spent the day painting people on saturday, and thought since there is no violence or cruelty involved, the paints are water-based and will wash off with the next rain and my dear colleagues were looking at me doe-eyed,I had to do it.

So I got there and the poor carabao was already fully painted white as a base. A picture was shown to me – they wanted to create a sea scape on the carabao. Luckily the marketing guy (tarp painter) from my work, Errol, was on hand to draw outlines for me. Alright, guess I can fill in outlines. Next draw-back…. no budget, so we only have red, white, blue and yellow. Well well well…. I am meant to be filipino, so I combined my filipino resourcefulness and year 7 art skills and mixed some other colours on a banana leaf and what happened? Mr Carabao won 2nd place and php5000 for the municipality of Gubat! Job well done.


20121018-203811.jpg20121018-203837.jpg20121018-203858.jpgLast week, I was asked to dance the role of the bride in a parade in the same festival to the song Pantomina, the Bicol national dance

“No worries! I love dancing!” says I. But of course nothing is as it seems in Philippines….


Wednesday bombshell: The dance goes for 10 minutes! Thursday bombshell: The route is 5kms! Friday bombshell: You have to rehearse all day Saturday, Monday and Tuesday (this I could not comply with – I had a workshop to deliver on Thursday!) Monday bombshell: We still don’t have a groom for you! Tuesday bombshell: You with your not 26″ “chubby” waist have to wear a dress made for a 25″ waist! Later Tuesday bombshell: We have a groom for you, but he’s 17!

Ahhhh if I weren’t such a serene person (hahaha), I would have pulled out. But a more appropriately aged groom was found (an ex-ballet dancer – beautiful!), my dress was fit and hair and make up was done…. and what do you know? I made a lovely, albeit sweaty bride. And guess what? With a shoestring budget and only a week of rehearsals, Gubat won best in costume and best overall, raking in a whopping php55000!!!






If I hadn’t been covered in grime, sweat, melted make up and confetti, I would have stuck around to celebrate! But after wearing a 7kg wedding dress for 6 hours in the blistering filipino sun, dancing and smiling my heart out and having 1 million + photos taken of me, I was not feeling super gracious.

So the creating public policy part of this post seems a little pale in comparison to painting water buffaloes and winning dance contests. But sometimes I like to illustrate that I came here for a reason and sometimes, in between my various guest appearances and media slots, I am getting the job done like a boss…. or at least, slowly but surely getting the job done.

Was super inspiring to hold an consultation workshop where the people who came really knew the community and wanted to create a better Gubat and weren’t coming to complain about seagull poops and footpaths and hoon drivers and what not.




A great week in the life of an AYAD in the Philippines, where it is more fun and this weekend I am off to Bacolod, the land of Kezza and Rad for an amazeboobs volunteer reunion and a masquerade-themed festival, Filipino style!

30, 33 and 37 going on 13

13 Oct

Just got back from an epic 8 hours of 3 way joint birthday party fun at a private cold springs on the mt bulusan, the volcano near my town.

My friend Aileen at work invited me along for her birthday and since it was 3 way joint they hired a jeepney, cooked up a picnic to feed a small army (new Zealand maybe) and bought literally a keg of cheese flavored coconut milk ice cream.

We spent the day eating, swimming, eating, playing charades, eating, face painting, eating, hanging out and eating on the way home. A game called rape-rapan was suggested, where players simulate, in a somehow playful way, rape. So glad it didn’t get picked up.

Had such a fun day eating the vego food they had so carefully prepared for me and enjoying hanging out with Aileen’s friends who are so Gubat, so Filipino and so joyful. Top-loaded on the jeep home so if I wasn’t already full before, I definitely am now after consuming god knows how many bugs every time I opened my mouth to say something.









7 Oct


Follow for a bit of #veganfoodstagram, #vegetarianfoodstagram, #cutekids, #stockimagebf, #cheerupwithanasspic, #ohnoamiahipster, #cutemingming and many other hash tags you won’t wanna miss!



Krafternoons with Karen

6 Oct

When someone you lava gives you an iPad for your bday and you’re a volunteer too stingy to fork out the cash to buy a case to protect it, what do you do? Why do as the Filipinos do and make one out of stuff you acquire!

So I made this case out of bubble wrap, magazine pages, a plastic Manila folder with a clip seal and a crap load of sticky tape. I had planned to do a little step by step blog but I made it up as I went along and it looks pretty povo so no one would want to recreate this! However, I think it adds to the charm don’t you?









Yes I was watching a movie as I was crafting away…

Ps I also decided my jars needed labeling!


Maganga Skanda from down under (feels like a chunder)

4 Oct


Not another goodbye! This morning I said goodbye to my holiday and my dear friend Skanda after an amazeboobin’ holiday in Cebu, Bohol and Malapascua. I am happy to be home after so many hours in transit every couple of days, but I miss Skanda already and laughing with him many many minutes over 10 days made me super homesick for my friends at home. Weird I know, considering I was surrounded by white sand, unbelievably clear waters and delicious vegetarian food, but that is the tyranny of homesickness unfortunately.

But way way way more good than bad! My highlights? So many hilarious and awesome moments but here are a few:

  • Learning about butterflies reproductive systems and habits in Bohol
  • The Mr Bean movie coming on tv at Bohol Bee Farm after an already amazing day
  • The opening number of the CPDRC dance program “do the hustle”, then many amazing dance numbers including of course GANGNAM STYLE
  • Following the lights in Cebu near Ayala to a “KTV” bar, which was actually a titty bar with a midget dressed as Robin Hood on the door
  • Our triumphant return to the club after getting kicked out for Skanda wearing shorts and thongs, this time with slick jeans and lace up shoes
  • Sitting on a guys lap in a club because I didn’t see him there, him throwing me violently off him
  • Arriving at Evolution beach resort after a massively seedy, long, hustling trip to Malapascua from Cebu to paradise and a vegetarian menu
  • Learning about shrimps hitching rides with sea cucumbers and fish contracting lobsters to build burrows for them (hung out with too many divers)
  • Constantly referring to things as “mr” or “this guy”, especially mr jager and his friend mr coke. Related, reminiscing Michael Bluth and George Michael Bluth and their Mr Manager dialogue….
  • And the look on Skanda’s face after he got sunburnt, somehow, yet again, every time.

Oh maganda Skanda, real good times my friend. So sad to say goodbye !

It was weird to come home to my silent apartment after 10 days of constant stimulus in the form of free wifi and cable tv and jeepney routes and restaurants and hustlers and malls…. but the peace came to an end when my downstairs corner store started playin techno remixes of popular christmas carols at the end of my yoga practice. Apparently it’s Christmas already?



Oppa gangnam style!!!

1 Oct

Best thing I have ever ever seen!!!

click here to see video!