Archives for the month of: January, 2013

What a crazy week. At work. In general. Thankfully it has gone reasonably fast. And waking up to views like this every morning from the hotel make a great start to a crazy work day.

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At work I get some amazing views. Manila weather is temperamental. Not at all like Melbourne. A good weather day in Manila is based on the amount of smog. And some days are terrible. But on one particular day the views we were getting were……concerning.

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I was busy training my group of staff until I noticed the above view from work. It was a fire. (And yes church friends, that white building with the spires is the Manila Temple). Sirens were going off everywhere. It was a big blaze and near my hotel (concerning!). After the excitement, we went back to work. Until………….

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An hour later we heard more sirens. So off to the window we went again and around the corner we spotted more smoke. Its on the opposite side to where the first one was but this time we could see the flames (not able to capture it on camera). This fire was in the slums. The staff were telling me it was probably some shanties that had a dodgy appliance inside. And because the shanties are made of light materials, they burn quick and fast. Its sad.

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And then, the next day, another fire. In a slightly different location to the first fire (and no where near where the second fire was). This time though, it looked smaller, but it made the local papers. It was a group of houses that unfortunately burnt to the ground because of dodgy electrical wiring. Terrible for the occupants. I’m hoping that my hotel has good electrical & appliances…..!

On a completely different note, my staff and I had a trying week. We had to say goodbye to some colleagues and it was an emotional time for them. They have worked really hard this week so I promised them a treat. I’d already given them tim tams, vegemite, & krispy kremes in previous weeks. This time I asked them what they would like. They liked the Krispy Kremes but said there was an even better doughnut place in the Philippines called J.Co.

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A new store has opened near our office so I went grabbed some for the class. They look like krispy kremes on steroids. The colours are so vibrant (all the more additives I’m sure) and are much cheaper. They are lighter in weight so you don’t feel like you’ve eaten a fattening doughnut. And they have awesome flavors – the oreo one (Top, 3rd from left) is my favorite!

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*Some of my group – the minute you pull out a camera, out come the poses.

They loved the donuts and are always so appreciative. Working with these people is fun and challenging and different. We are a close group and they support each other all the time. If anyone is struggling with the learning, someone is always there helping them. Its great.

So we ended the week on a high (A doughnut high!) and are looking forward to our long weekend. The staff get the Australian Public Holidays so we are all super excited for the long weekend. And especially me as Simon arrives tomorrow. What more could I ask for!

Love Kathleen XO

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Where do I begin with Greenhills. Lets just say I’ve been there 3 times now and each time I go back I struggle to see everything, there is so much! Greenhills is a big indoor shopping area with hundreds and hundreds of stalls that sell everything you can think off. Mens clothing, Womens clothing, shoes, handbags, electronic’s, things for your pets, plus so much more. This is the place where you buy all the knock off items you can think off. And everything is cheap!

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Men’s clothing at this place is brilliant. Off course if you buy a brand name, its generally a knock off but the quality is perfect. I bought some men’s polo shirts (Ralph Lauren) that are amazing quality and awesome colours. When you want to buy items, you have to barter. Hmmmm I’m not so great at this. Whatever someone asks for, I tend to just go ‘ok’ but here, it is expected that you barter. And they will always try the line ‘give you special price, first customer’. Always first customer, it could be 10 o’clock at night and they have made lots of sales but will always say to you ‘first customer’.

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*One of the never ending lines of knock-off handbags

Ever wondered how so many people walk around with Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Marc Jacobs, Gucci or any other famous designer handbags and dont really look like they could afford it? One word: Knock Off’s. There is no other way. Its become so infectious buying these handbags that everyone does it. Everyone here in the Philippines carries one. And I’m not just talking the well off classes of people. I’m talking the low income individuals. People who cant afford to buy clothing or put shoes on their feet yet carry a Chanel handbag. It just doesn’t make sense. Before I came, everyone told me about the knock off’s but I am the sort of person that prefers the real thing. I highly doubt’d i’d be interesting in buying copies.

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BUT – I was walking past this one stand and there it was! A BEAUTIFUL black leather Prada handbag that is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. I can hear you all now saying ‘but its a knock off, why would you want a knock off’……but here’s the thing. Its perfect, like literally perfect, and the name brand means nothing to me. I don’t have famous brands in my wardrobes, just don’t for a number of reasons. If I like something, I like it because of how it looks and makes me feel – and this bag made me feel sexy! I could totally see myself walking into work in some black heals, matching winter jacket and this handbag. The quality of this bag was amazing and for it to make me fall in love with it, it had some amazing powers. It generally takes something special for me to love it.

I’ve learnt that there are 3 types of knock off’s – B grade (rush jobs, mass production, quality of the stitching is good but not perfect, easier to tell its a copy), B grade (slightly better standard, better stitching quality and feel) and Replica (exact copy, perfect stitching, could maybe get away with people thinking it was the real deal unless they had a trained eye in handbags). This bag was Replica – which meant it was expensive (Philippino expensive). Trust me to fall in love with a bag that is the most expensive. For example, the knock off B & A grade Louis Vuitton’s go for between 1000-4000 peso ($23-$93). This gorgeous replica Prada bag goes for 11,000 ($257). I don’t know what came over me. I said I wasn’t going to get sucked in buy it. But I guess I like what things look like rather then who made it so i was bound to get bitten by the knock off bug at some point. I was a good girl and put the bag down. But its haunting me. I cant stop thinking about it. I may need to go back……………and get it…….maybe. I just wont tell Simon 😉

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The other thing I love about Greenhills is pearls!! I had no idea but the Philippines has a lot of fresh water pearls. These are the real deal. I checked. Had too. I wasn’t going to buy knock off pearls. I’m no pearl expert but i did some research and discovered there are several ways to tell if a pearl is real.

1. By the texture of the pearl – it should feel slightly grainy. If it feels perfectly smooth, something is wrong. And the pearl shouldn’t been 100% perfect. It will always have some slight imperfections.

2. It should feel heavy (but not rock heavy) and cool on the skin. You can easily tell with fake pearl strands that they are cheap and can be thrown around.

3. If you rub 2 pearls together, it should make a powder – fake ones cant do this.

4. You should be able to hold a flame to the pearl and it wont affect the pearl at all. I did this several times at Greenhills with a lighter – definitely true!

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I love the pearls. There are so many stands selling the pearls and they are beautiful. You pick the strand of pearl you want and they will make it into a necklace or bracelet. There are also earrings, broaches, and rings. It is beautiful.

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The ladies that sell the pearls are so passionate about them. Yes, because this is how they make their living but also because they have a true love for the Philippines and how pearls are grown so easily here. They have a unique talent for making the pearls look beautiful and turning them into gorgeous jewellery  They are so quick at making them into a necklace, it is a true art form.

Love Greenhills and all the funny sites you see. And all the bargains you can get. Whether you’re a knock off person or not, or a pearl person or not, its a fun place to shop.

It is a place of refuge when work has been full on. And I am not looking forward to Monday as I have some unpleasant tasks awaiting me. Think of me this week as I’ll need all the positive vibes and prayers you can give.

Love Kathleen xo

What a long week. I feel like I’ve been living at work. I literally go to work, home to eat/gym then sleep – that’s it……. Its been a stressful week at work. A million things happening at once. So I always try where possible to unwind and relax. I think I must be sick in the head to say this but going to the gym and working out completely clears my mind. It wasn’t easy, I hate working out but I’ve needed to in preparation for Oxfam. So It has taken weeks but the gym has finally become my place to clear my mind in preparation for a good nights sleep!

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*Gorgeous fruit and veg

I’ve also been trying to eat healthier. It is so easy to order all the fattening things from room service and pig out on snacks at work. But thankfully I’ve found a supermarket that sells aussie foods!!!! Score!! So happy because I’ve been able to eat yogurt (Philippines yogurt is not so nice and is full of sugar), cheeses (hate American cheese, its everywhere here) and plenty of fresh fresh fruit. This supermarket has become my friend.

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I love wondering the supermarkets and seeing all the weird and different food items. And comparing how cheap everything is compared to back home. But another thing I love is how the locals do their shopping. Only the higher middle and upper class Filippino’s would venture into a supermarket. Everyone sticks mainly to road side stalls. I pass these sights every morning on the way to work.

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*The freshest banana’s – i’ll never be able to get one at home that tastes just as good

The road side Fruit and Vegetables are so fresh, its amazing. One of the locals told me he buys it from a farmer out in the provinces and peddles (thats right, on a bike) it back to Manila for sale. He makes a small profit but lots of people buy from him. The produce is so fresh and looks completely different to the store bought groceries we buy back home. I never really thought much about the quality of food we buy. I’ve heard people mention that the fruit is stored and frozen so we have year round produce. But looking at the way the Filippino’s eat – they stick to fruit and veg that is in season and nothing is frozen then thawed for sale. The fruit here has got to be the best I’ve ever had.

image*Left hand side is filleted fish

As for their meat and fish. Lets just say i’m not brave enough to try it. The butchers cut up the meat on the side of the road and let the blood drain into the street – not a pretty sight and at one stage I was tempted to become vegetarian. This is a picture I will not be showing you! Once the meat is prepared and fish cut up, it sits in the sun. Temperature’s here at the moment is around 31-32c so the meat is warm and I’d hate to think what the fish smelt like. But the locals buy the meat/fish same day they cook it so I guess that’s not too bad right?

Its been fascinating learning and watching how another culture lives. I’m loving the experience!

Love Kathleen XO

Well I’m back! My break over Christmas went so fast. Christmas was nice and New Years was relaxing (sort off, slightly stressed about going back to Manila). Whished I had had longer at home. Simon spoiled me – got to go to the Pandora store and buy a bracelet. I picked some gorgeous beads and can’t wait to wear it! I haven’t brought any of my imageexpensive jewellery with me as it is too risky to loose it plus it brings unwanted attention from the locals. They all think I’m super rich (I wish!) so the less attention the better! Simon also gave me a Pandora watch for my birthday a month or so ago. So I’m desperately looking forward to wearing the bracelet and watch!

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I flew Qantas this time. Heaps easier then flying Singapore airlines as I didn’t have to stop over in Singapore. I flew domestic to Sydney (bad turbulence though so felt sick as a dog) and then caught a flight direct to Manila. It was a long day but much easier. I hated with Singapore airlines having to wait for a couple of hours at an odd time of night just to get home. Singapore is a slight detour off the path to/from Manila where as Qantas is quicker and direct!

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I picked a window seat this time – best decision ever. Got to see amazing views. Loved it!

I’m hoping the next 2 months go fast. Looking forward to the challenge at work but also looking forward to Simon coming over on Australia Day! I am a bit home sick this time which the break home has probably set off but I am looking forward to the many new adventures ill have here!

Love Kathleen xo

PS: Did this all from my iPhone so I hope this blog post looks ok!