Archives for the month of: December, 2012

What a year it has been. I know we all say this every year, but this past 12 months has gone exceptionally fast!

Our year started off with a big bang, well, perhaps not literally but you know what I mean. Smack bang in the beginning of January I came down with pneumonia. No idea how I caught it (I secretly blame public transport!) and for a few days I thought it was just a bad case of the flu. After trying to fight it myself my body just couldn’t cope anymore and off to the ER I went. After a week in hospital and a month off work I eventually returned to life. But it took me a good 6 months to feel mostly back to normal. This completely messed up the beginning of our year but that’s life!

We didn’t get up to much after that. Partly because I didn’t have the energy but also because we enjoyed the downtime. It cut out much of what we’d hope to achieve in 2012. The house is pretty much the same. We have grand renovating plans but all in good time! We are in no hurry.

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Its been an eventful year for work. Simon’s team went through a restructure so he decided to apply for roles else where in the bank. It was a stressful time but he was successful in obtaining a new role in a brand new team. I am so proud of him! I on the other hand had some big changes at work which has meant a trip overseas for work. Change is always exciting and I am enjoying the experience. I have been in Manila (Philippines) for the past month and will spend the first 2 months of the new year there also. When I return, I will start a new role (still as Team Leader) in a new team. Looking forward to the challenge.

The pups keep us on our toes. They turn 2 in March and have started to mature. They are ultra cute. Jerry is very sweet and loving and will constantly follow me around the house. But he does have a grumpy side.

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Jemima loves cuddles but is equally independent and prefers to be surrounded by us observing (clearly top dog!). This year though she has needed a lot of special attention and care – as well as extra cuddles!

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She has shown her anxious side this year (destroying the laundry door was one clear sign). She has anxiety issues and doesn’t like being alone (even with Jerry around) which proved a trying week for us trying to help her. She lost some weight and it involved many trips to the vet. but she is now on meds which has helped her greatly and she is much more happier and content. So all round a much more happier set of pups and an even more happier set of owners.

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Other achievements for the year include buying a new car (Mazda 6) which we LOVE! Or maybe its just me that loves it……hmmm. I also took a trip to Tasmania with a friend. It was very relaxing and Tasmania is beautiful. Oh and we painted 1 wall……….at this rate we will be completing renovations in 2050.

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Its been a quick year but also a long year. We are looking forward to starting 2013 healthier then 2012’s beginning (touch wood!) and are looking forward with what the new year will bring. Hoping to do more house renovations and maybe even an oversea’s holiday!

I’m flying back to Manila tomorrow morning so my next blog update will be all things ‘Pinoy’.

We hope you all have a happy new year.

Love Kathleen XO

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I’m home!! Its good to be back. It was a nice sunny warm welcoming Sunday. Simon picked me up and we went straight home to the pups! I’ve missed my little family so much!!

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Was a bit of mayhem getting here. Saturday I spent shopping at the markets in Manila. Had leisurely stroll back to the hotel. Was mostly packed until I received a call from the airline asking me to get to the airport asap as my original flight had been delayed meaning I would miss my connecting flight home from Singapore. So I did the mad dash to the airport and raced in with a little time to spare to catch an earlier flight. Just as well, as my original flight was delayed by 6+ hours which definitely would have caused me to miss the connecting flight. It would have been a ‘not happy jan’ scenario!

Its Christmas! Where has this year gone? Being away for the past month has completely thrown my Christmas routine. Managed to finish some of my Christmas shopping this morning. Crazy! Oh and sorry for the lack of Christmas cards from us – none existent this year. Too hard with me being away in Manila. And its the same with our house being decorated too. Sadly the below picture is the extent of our decorations this year. Just didn’t have the time or feel the need, Simon didn’t want to go to all the hassle of getting them out and me not being around to enjoy it.

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My sister Michelle and I have built a yearly tradition to make a gingerbread house on Christmas Eve. Last years looked a tad pathetic so a lot of planning went into this years. She did a great job organizing it! Putting it together was fun and we stuck to a colour coordinated theme of green, red and white. The picture below speaks for itself! Looks amazing!

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Christmas day will be spent roasting some turkey and ham as well as some lamb on the barbie. We are having dinner at the in-laws and will be helping with the cooking. Looking forward to the feast. I might also stick the Christmas tree up at their place. Cant have Christmas without a tree.

I was spoiled this morning. Santa came early. Simon made me get up early and took me to Knox  We went back to the Pandora store and he bought me a bracelet (the ones you add the charms too). I got to pick whatever I wanted, choose a couple of the charms and am having a fun time planning what other charms I might get. Spoilt!!

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Simon and I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas day together and enjoy spending time with your families and friends. I will be thinking about the year that has been and remembering to be grateful for everything that I have.

Merry Christmas!!

Love Kathleen (& Simon) XO

 

 

 

A group of work colleagues and I took a road trip on the weekend to try and locate a popular site seeing spot for tourists. It involved a 3 hour drive (which we initially thought was only going to take 1 and a half hours) through the country side and we got to see some fabulous sites. We were on a mission to find a waterfall called Pagsanjan falls.

Driving through the country side was lovely. Except for when we were stuck in traffic – yes, there is heaps of traffic in country towns. We also passed a lot of shop fronts selling coffins….yep, burial coffins. Driving through the country side you see a lot of rice patties. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Much nicer looking in person!

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When we finally arrived at our destination, we had to get out and barter for the price of being taken to the waterfall. The first place we went to tried to rip us off and wanted us to get out of our drivers car and into theirs (which we all refused to do for a million reasons). So we drove to the Mayors office who directed us to a better place to organize the trip. We met the people, a colleague did the bartering then we were off.

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In groups of 3, we each got into long shallow canoes where we had to sit in the middle to ensure the weight was distributed evenly to avoid capsizing. I must point out that I was completely out of my comfort zone and the last thing I wanted to do was capsize and fall in a river with snakes and who knows what else!! But that didn’t happen. After we climbed in, 2 local men, 1 sitting on each end, paddled us up the river. It was so nice and relaxing (eventually!) and we got to see parts of Manila that were so special.

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We saw children laughing and playing in the river. Women washing clothes and using massive rocks to beat the clothes against. Men sleeping in their own canoes. Shanties (peoples homes) put together using bamboo and branches. It was amazing. And makes you feel very grateful for what you have.

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The men paddling our canoe are super strong. There are a lot of rapids so they would get out and literally push and carry the canoe (with 3 of us in it) up the rapids. Amazing!

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The views were picture perfect and the sun was heaven. It was the first day that I have seen a clear blue sky in Manila (without smog). And the fresh air was divine!

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Along the way, the views were amazing. The greenery was so beautiful! And was incredibly relaxing just sitting in the canoe enjoying the view.

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This is what the canoes looked like. Not the best picture but the only one I could grab. They are very shallow so water would continuously come in whenever we went over a rapid. It was a warm day so the water was incredibly refreshing.

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How can you argue with views like this? Life changing!

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After the relaxing canoe ride, you could eventually hear the sound of rushing water. It was a clear indication we were approaching the water fall. And it was BEAUTIFUL!

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This was so beautiful to see in person. Unless you went by canoe up the river, you would have no idea the waterfall existed  I googled the water fall and apparently it is considered to be one of Asia’s top water falls.

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If you wanted to experience the water fall up close and personal, you could get on a bamboo raft. The locals then drag the rafter along the water to the water fall via ropes.  They take you under the side of the water fall (not directly under it) and let you experience the intensity of it. You are not strapped in so you hold on for dear life. I didn’t do this. I knew if you fell off the raft, you’d drown and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (in other words I chickened out!). You’d never be able to do this in Australia. Just not worth the risk! But people love it!

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Apologies for the ugly shot of me, just love the water fall!

The views were amazing, being able to witness how other people live, watching money poor happiness rich children splash in the river and seeing the locals cherish this waterfall was a life changing experience. Its perfect!

Love Kathleen XO

What a fantastic weekend. And it went so fast, i’m tired but loved every minute of it.

Saturday was my birthday. After enjoy a yummy birthday cake the previous day at work, it set the perfect tone for my birthday. A friend (work colleague) suggested we go to a place called ‘The Enchanted Kingdom’. It is a theme park with heaps of rides and attractions.

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The best thing about this theme park was that if it was your birthday, they let you in for free. Perfect! So I didn’t have to pay to get in or for any of the rides.

The theme park’s character is the magical wizard. Don’t ask me where it comes from, no idea, but given I got in for free and it was my birthday, I was in a happy mood – hence the random ‘hugging the wizard’ photo (sorry!). And I figured, all the Asian tourists were doing it so I should too!

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The best thing about getting in for free, was that I got a special wrist band that let all the workers know I didn’t have to pay for anything (because it was my birthday) and every worker i spoke to or passed would wish me a happy birthday, it was great!

The first ride we went on was the merry-go-round. How could I resist it. Everyone loves this ride!

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Now I probably should have thought twice when we decided to go on this next ride. It seriously didn’t look that bad and I didn’t think it went that high in the air (compared to the one on the gold coast) so all of us being hyper stupidly decided to do it. It slowly takes you up very high then suddenly drops. When I realized it kept getting higher and higher, I started to freak out and had changed my mind but it was too late. It drops suddenly and you realize your stomach got left behind. Amazing ride but gut wrenching!

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We also went on a roller coaster that went forwards then backwards, another gut wrenching ride. There were many water rides too which I loved but had to try very hard not to get water in my mouth.

Lunch involved Pizza (not like me at all) followed by go-karting (I clearly must have lost my mind on one of the rides as I hate go-karting). Both things that Simon loves, I must have been channeling his thoughts that day.

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And just to get the record straight, I am the worst go-karter ever. I’m simon’s worst nightmare, a granny driver. However these karts were so old and would probably fail Australian standards. They were incredibly hard to steer and mine constantly sounded like it was going to explode when I pressed the pedal. The tyres were so worn down that I’m pretty sure one of mine was almost see-through.

The day was followed by a wonderful dinner with some more work colleagues at one of asia’s top 20 restaurant – Aubergine. The head chef use to work at the Mandarin Hotel (where I am staying) and is known for his good cooking styles. It was a fabulous dinner with yummy food.

Was a great day all round. Stay tuned for the next blog post – went on an awesome canoe ride. Life changing experience!

Love Kathleen XO

I love Friday’s at work. Everyone is relaxed, we can wear casual clothes and its the lead up to the weekend. Perfect! But yesterday wasn’t exactly the perfect day I’d expected. I received an email in the morning advising the building management were going to be running a fire drill that day. ANZ doesn’t own the building, they are only on 4 floors. There are many other companies in our building and it is the building managements responsibility to have emergency evacuation procedures in place.

At first, I didn’t think anything of the drill. We do them at our office’s in Australia all the time so it wasn’t a big deal and I thought it was great the same thing was happening in Manila. So 10 O’clock rolled round and nothing happened. I’m learning there is ón time’ then there is ‘Manila time’ so eventually (late!) the drill started.

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Now perhaps I have blonde moments more then I realize but I hadn’t really thought about what would happen in the drill in terms of getting out of the building. Any smart person would remember that you cant use the lifts. That’s fine, no worries, right?! Well!! The building is 32 story’s high, I was on the 29th floor. THE 29th FLOOR! Hello stairs!!

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That’s right people, I had to climb down 29 flights of stairs……………….Thankgoodness I wasn’t wearing heels that day! 29 flights of stairs is A LOT! Initially I thought, that’s cool, I can easily climb down. Climbing up would be worse so suck it up Kathleen. But by the time I got to 10 flights left, my legs were like jelly. Everyone’s was!

Once we got outside (YAY!) we had to stand in the heat and humidity whilst they completed the evacuation  I normally don’t mind the heat but after climbing down all those stairs, I wanted aircon!

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The building management did a great job of the drill. Its nice knowing these things are in place no matter where you are in the world. The police came and helped control the traffic on the main room we are situated on. They also put tape up to corner off the building.

Now its not everyday you get to participate in a evacuation drill in a foreign country – but this was funny! The building management brought out several fire extinguishers and placed them on the little car park in front of the building.

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They encouraged anyone who wanted to have a go at the extinguishers to come forward and they would be shown how to use them. I thought they would just get to pull the pin’s out and blow them into the empty barrel (you can see in the above phot0) but I was wrong!

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They poured petrol into the drum and set it a light. The crowd loved it and on an already hot day, the heat from this was even more uncomfortable. Good on them for having a go!

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Didn’t take them long to put it out. This was definitely an experience. Just another day at the office!

For the rest of the day my legs felt wobbly (that was my gym work out for the day!) so being in the aircon’d office was a relief. Towards the end of the day, I had a lovely treat. My staff kindly surprised me with a birthday cake!

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They knew it was my birthday on Saturday so they each put in a few peso’s to buy me this beautiful cake. They asked one of my colleagues what my favorite flavor was – chocolate!! They know me so well 😉

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It was the best surprise as I had been feeling a little home sick knowing my birthday was coming up and I was away from home. They are a fantastic group of staff and i’m thoroughly enjoying working with them. The cake was sooo yummy and after having walked all those stairs, I deserved the 2 pieces I ate!

My birthday has arrived and I have lots of things planned today. Off to a theme park called Enchanted Kingdom then out to dinner tonight with a group of work colleagues. Looking forward to it!

Love Kathleen XO

The traffic in Manila is always a joy to watch and the ride home from work is always interesting.  There are so many cars and with Christmas around the corner, the amount of traffic is double. It is now taking us 1 hour and 10 minutes to do what should be a 15 minute ride home from work. Its like a parking lot some days. Cars everywhere, people changing lanes whenever they want or even people riding in 2 lanes – its crazy!

One interesting thing though – On the highways, there are always people walking between the cars selling drinks and snacks. This is the way they earn their living and I need to say, they are incredibly brave men!!! It would be like standing on the Springvale road, no joke. I don’t know how these people do this job, it is a miracle they are still alive.

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Now that the traffic is getting heavier, the cars cant go as fast but I certainly wouldn’t be putting my hand up to do this job. One of the workers had his son helping him today. Mayhem!!

They advertise what they are selling by holding up the empty packets or drink containers. Occasionally a local (or Pinoy as I discovered filipino’s are called) will stop to buy something. I’m not sure what the cost is but can guarantee it would be cheap. Once the traffic starts moving though, the car needs to move too so the seller will run along side the car until the sale is complete. Full on! There are also people selling peanuts in big buckets. People can buy them by the bag full.

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The other crazy thing that I still can not get use to is the unique ways the locals ride their transport. Exhibit A below!

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Crazy! And the drivers are doing normal speeds. Anything up to 100 and i’m sure faster on the country roads. The locals are so casual about it too. Casual in the sense that there is no fear of falling off, or getting hurt etc, its just a normal everyday ride.

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Occasionally in the morning, we see this truck that is carrying at least 100 workers in the back – the back is open, like a tray truck. No one is strapped in but really, they don’t need to be because they are packed in like sardines. Its the most funny thing ever. Desperately wish I could get a photo but it is always dark at that time.

Gosh I love watching the traffic. At first it was such a culture shock that it stressed me out, now its become so funny, I think I might actually miss it when I go home.

Its my birthday this Saturday ( 😦 sad face for not being at home & missing Simon and my family/friends) but my colleagues have heaps of things planned for me to help celebrate so I’m starting to look forward to it.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Love Kathleen XO

Across the road my from hotel, there is a park that has a great Christmas light show. It has massive tree’s that have a light show on every night for Christmas. It is amazing! And this is where I need to say Filipino’s know how to do great Christmas lights.

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The show lasts for about 20 minutes and is the most amazing light show I have seen.

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My iphone captured the most amazing pictures. Off course, with the help of instagram it brings out the brightness of the lights. The show was designed by a world renowned light designer (cant remember what his name is).

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There was strobe lighting which was so full on, it was a bit too bright to watch. And anyone with epilepsy – avoid!!

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The lights were timed perfectly to music and changed colours every minute or so. They also moved up and down, and even gave an effect like it was snowing. The park is crowded whenever the light show starts. Filipino’s love it, and so do i!!

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*blonde moment perhaps?!

I’ve been working in the Manila office for 2 weeks now and have made some lovely friends. One of them is Armie. She is the sweetest, prettiest and nicest person. Within a week of knowing each other, she invited myself (and another work colleague that I am traveling with) to her son Luke’s first birthday party. First birthdays are important to Filipino’s so they invite a lot of people. She was so kind in inviting us.

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Armie and her son Luke (the birthday boy)

Filipino’s are very religious people (generally catholic) and for some, it is very traditional to bless the child on their first birthday and provide sacrament to the friends and family members. So the priest came and did an abridged version of a catholic service, then the party began.

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The room was set up to seat 100 people. To me, it looks like a wedding reception – definitely a big event for a first birthday. The tables were all decorated in blue to match the theme and they provided a full buffet dinner. There was a lot of food. Sadly, I left too early and missed seeing the roasted pigs. This is very traditional.

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The theme was Mickey Mouse. Filipino’s love mickey mouse and I constantly hear the M I C K E Y song being played in the shopping centres. They had gift bags for all the kids and party hats with matching party blowers with mickey mouse all over it for the adults. They also gave everyone a printed t-shirt that had a picture of mickey mouse and Luke’s date of birth.Very different to birthday parties in Australia.

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They also had a photo booth where you could stand in front of a mickey mouse back drop and have funny photo’s taken. You could use dress ups and have group shots with friends. It was a lot of fun.

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It was great experiencing how another culture celebrates a birthday. This isn’t an ‘every year’ event but rather a special occasion as they believe first birthdays are very important. The grandparents are very proud of their grandson and I’m learning that Filipino’s are very family orientated people. They love each other so much and take great care of their children. As much as this is an over the top birthday party, it was a great event and I loved watching the tradition.

Love Kathleen XO

Everyday, I start work at 6am so our driver picks us up at 5:30am and drives us to the office. The traffic is quiet light this time of the morning however coming home is a different story. We finish at 3pm and each day our driver is waiting for us in a car park out the front of the building. Not many cars can park there and this is probably a good reason as trying to rejoin the traffic at 3pm during the busiest part of the day is mayhem. The traffic is crazy, people don’t stay in their lanes and everyone honks. Cars wont stop for you!

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Meet MoiMoi

This is where MoiMoi comes in. Everyday when we leave, our driver pays MoiMoi 5 peso ($0.11 cents) to help him back the car out of the car-park to get onto the road safely without getting hit by other cars so that he can join the traffic to take us home.

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MoiMoi is the bravest person I know. If I could show you how bad traffic in Manila was, you’d understand. Even when I go to cross the street, regardless of if there is a zebra crossing or the little green man is flashing for pedestrians to walk – the cars DONT stop! I risk my life 🙂

So MoiMoi helps the drivers back the cars out. He wears a t-shirt, shorts and thongs (flip flops to Filipino’s) and has a fluro yellow and orange hand that he waves to the drivers to get them to stop and a whistle (which he blows continuously) to get all the drivers attention. Without him doing this, we’d either be stuck in the car-park forever or we’d get hit by other drivers.

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He also helps guide drivers into the car park and assist them on where to park. Everyday he does this, no matter what the temperature. He works across the road, doing the same thing in the morning. Then comes across the street to our car-park and continues working right through the night. He isn’t employed by the building, he owns this patch of car-park – his domain. And I’ve been told if anyone was to ever invade his working space, there would be hell to pay! He makes very little money but all the drivers respect him (and I’m sure so does the staff) and it is the ‘done thing’ to pay him for help.

He is the nicest man. At first he was too shy to speak to me. He had a lot of respect for me and once he plucked up the courage, we had a great conversation. He works very hard, all day everyday. He showed me a picture of his 14 year old daughter in her school uniform. He is so proud of her and i’m sure he works so hard just for her. I really do have a soft spot for MoiMoi. 5 peso’s really isn’t a lot, but to him, it is everything. Maybe what I should do, for every comment made on this blog page, i will give him 5 peso’s, Lets see what happens!

Love Kathleen XO

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*MoiMoi let me take his pictures and has given me permission to write about him.

I hadn’t planned on blogging everyday but I just couldn’t resist after the funny language barrier that occurred with me today.

Filipino’s speak very good English, but much to my dislike it is all american pronunciation and on occasion I struggle to understand what is being said and they struggle to understand me. I try really hard to speak as slow and clear as possible so that when people serve me in a restaurant or a shop, they can understand what I am asking for. Many of my conversations have led to blank faces. A complete language barrier where they cant understand what I’m saying or asking for and I cant understand their response. Hand signals are then created (by the time I get back I should be an expert at charades!) in which after many repeated sentences, we finally understand each other and are both happy the conversation (what should have been 1 sentence, turned into a 10 minute conversation!) is over.

But today, a really funny thing happened. In my building, there is a McDonald’s down stairs – dangerously convenient. I’m up at 4am so breakfast is generally eaten at 5am so that I can be at work before 6am when my team starts. Its an incredibly early morning and by the time 8:30am hits, i’m starving. So I’ve been going down to the McDonald’s and ordering a plain English muffin with butter.

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My work

I initially thought this wouldn’t be too hard for them to do as I get the same thing in Melbourne occasionally (its on the menu after all). So asking for the English muffin was easy and the lady taking my order understood my request – Except – when I asked for butter. I got the blank face response. So I said it again “with some butter please?”. She still didn’t understand. The word butter was not in her vocabulary (or so I thought) so I had to keep repeating it about 5 times – hand signals included. I was almost tempted to go behind the counter and find it for her to show her what I meant.

All i wanted was a little individual packet of butter, which they gladly provide once they realize what I am asking for. Everyday this has been happening, and everyday I just couldn’t understand how one little word was so confusing for them. Even the little packet the butter came in said ”Butter”.

So after much thought about it, and frustration having to repeat the same conversation everyday, I was talking to a work colleague (Aussie also) who suggested I asked my team (who are Filipino) what the problem was/what the possible language barrier could be.

So I did. I repeated the story but the minute I said ”Butter” they stopped me. Turns out I have been pronouncing it as ”Butta” – dropping the R which is a very Aussie way of saying it. What I should be saying is “Budder” with more emphases on the R – very American way of saying. They then told me because I was pronouncing butter as “Butta” I was confusing the lady with a Filipino word which sounds exactly the same. The word is “Bata” which stands for small child or kid.

So the poor lady in McDonald’s was serving an Aussie foreigner who was asking for a plain English muffin with some child please.

THE most hilarious conversation ever!! I was so embarrassed but it was so funny at the same time. The poor lady at McDonald’s must think i’m a weirdo! Next time, I’ll definitely pronounce the word butter with more effect on the ‘r’. My group thought it was so funny. They all burst out laughing! For the rest of the day, we had smiles on our faces from how funny the whole thing was.

Tomorrow, I’ll definitely pronounce the word American style!!

Hope you find this as funny as I do!

Kathleen XO

 

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