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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”



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!


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!


Cooking for one

9 Jul

I have decided I am going to become an amazing cook. If you know me well enough, you will know that when I make a decision like that, I always make it happen. My favourite example was the first time I went to Falls and I told my girlfriends I was gonna hook up with a guy from Canberra so I would have a friend when I went there on high-flying government trips. HA! They laughed…. as if you’d find a guy from Canberra at Falls in Lorne, let alone a guy worth hooking in with. Oh but who was laughing when that I did at 7pm on new years eve?

But as usual I digress. I could cook before I came here, but was messy, wasteful, overly elaborate and trying to cook ayurvedicly, which does not alway equal deliciously. Here, trying to live as the locals do and being in a remote location, I buy what I can find and cook with what I have in the kitchen, plus a surplus amount of beans, quinoa and yoghurt cultures sent to me by my loving mother in my balik bayan box, more food than anybody could ever eat in a year, especially someone who almost never eats lunch because it is way way way too hot.

I’m trying to do it ready steady cook styles, where you just have a couple of ingredients and work with those. Carrie gave me the initial idea of this and then Kezza of course took it to the next level by filming herself narrate her ready steady cook challenge to send to her mum. I feel the icing on my impressive cake will be what I tell you I am working with:

  • A single burner electric stove (dunno what I plan to do when there’s a brownout)
  • A toaster oven
  • A food processor and stick blender
  • A rice cooker (of course!)/steamer (used for steaming way more than rice… I have had rice in my house once since arriving)
  • A kettle
  • A yoghurt maker (thoroughly unnecessary for this climate)
The best thing about this process was acquiring all the necessary tools to become an amazing chef. What?! You mean a dish drying tray doesn’t come with the house? Sorry… WHAT? You mean can openers don’t just appear when you need them? And EXCUSE ME? You can’t buy a sink plug anywhere in Sorsogon and you have to wash your dishes in a bucket with hot water boiled in a kettle?

Haaaaaaayy kapaso! (oh it’s so hard!)

PS I realize these photos would look so much more impressive if I photographed them using my DSLR, but I haven’t overcome the messiness whilst cooking so my hands are always too covered in something to touch my precious Nikon (mwah mwah mwah I love you Nikon)


Satay tofu


Italian poached eggs with bell peppers


Roast vegetable and quinoa salad with sunflower seeds, feta and dukha (made by the lovely Carrie) with felafels and homemade hommous


Peanut butter and banana smoothie


Spinach fettucini with garlic broccoli (broccoli is such a treat here!)


Leftover garlicky, broccoli-y olive oil and since the olive oil is from Australia, absolutely no wasting, so VOILA, garlic bread


PBBSM smoothie, made to look so much fancier in my new milkshake glasses

A fiesta season love affair

5 Jul

Pinoys love a fiesta. Every barangay has a fiesta plus there’s the town fiesta, so I have eaten plenty of buko (coconut) salad plus sticky rice over the past 2 months. Yes, 2 months of fiesta season in Philippines! I did however get to eat some lettuce tomato and onion at the Bagacay fiesta as that’s what it was understood that vegetarians eat. Oh Philippines and your love affair with fiestas and meat… I’ll have you understanding vegetarian food by the time I’m done here!

Fully decked out tricy

Philippines National Army

Hello Kitty getting amongst it

Pa ra pa pum pum!!!

Little girls as beauty queens

So many cool dudes in Philippines, even in marching bands


Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!

31 May

There’s not a lot to do out in the provinces. Since the dawn of pirated movies, people don’t even bother to go to the cinema, so the cinema in this town was shut down a few years ago. Even though kids play out in the streets and down the beach, the adults are too busy working to have any spare time for recreation, except for endless lunches, dinners and snacks. Apparently people will attend the opening of a letter here if there’s a free feed involved… not unlike meetings back at FCC (although I hear with austerity measures, catered meetings are a thing of the past!). So it’s fiesta season in the Philippines, which means people, even adults, are out on the streets enjoying the free fun in droves.

Last week I was invited to periyahan, which is a month long fair-type set up with games and prizes and snacks and of course videoke. The prizes for all the various games included sardines, catsup, chips, cola and other snacks, all for a bunch of loose pesos. A couple of nights later, I was witness to one of Philippines main loves – the beauty pageant (the other love is basket ball). It was the talent portion of the Ms Gubat competition and my what an affair it was to behold! I used to be a dancer, so I have seen my fair share of tutus and tantrums, but that was nothing compared to this. Cheers for the favourites, snickers for those who went against the grain and tears at microphones that didn’t work, and the whipping out of a second talent when the first talent didn’t get much of a reaction. The coronation is this saturday night, for which I will be a judge, and yes, also a guest performer. Haven’t listened to much of pers lab yet. Wish me luck friends…

Why did the chicken cross the road?

15 May

To get to these gorgeous guys on the other side of Barangay Dita, about 2kms from the Gubat town centre.

Why play indoors when you can be outside riding a broken tricy with your friends?