Friday, December 28, 2007

First Week in New Zealand

I arrived in New Zealand on Dec. 24, 2007 and it has been going so well. Had a wonderful Christmas at my cousin's boyfriends house, started to learn how to drive a stick shift, and went for an amazing hike today.

Christmas was very lovely ... the family that invited me in for dinner was so welcoming and hospitable it was absolutely wonderful. There was turkey, stuffing, good conversation, and all the trimmings. Of course it wasn't as great as being home with my own family but being around the world they made me feel right at home and it made things a lot easier. I had a really nice Christmas and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to spend it with such nice and warm people.

I have also been out once to learn how to drive a stick shift. Since I have decided to extend my stay in New Zealand my cousin has allowed me to go on her car insurance, however, I have only driven a stick shift twice when I was about 16 years old so I'm a little out of practice. Anyway my cousins boyfriend took me out the other day to learn how and let say about the 12 time that I staled the car I broke it ... well I didn't actually break it ... something let lose. However, we did have to get it started again by rolling the car down the hill and then jump starting it but that only lasted 10 min and then it completely died so we had to call my cousin to come give us a boost and then we got home where Gavin (my cousins boyfriend) changed the battery and cleaned it up and then it worked again. Wish I'm so happy because well I didn't want to have to pay for breaking the car on my first try out. haha.

Finally, today we went on a hike around Waitakere Ranges Regional Park which was such a nice time. We left around 930 am and started hiking around 1030 am and ended around 3 pm or so but it was great. We went through some woods to start, then some flat land with the beach in view, then through some more woods, then we fallowed the river up and then through some more woods and back to the car. It was a really nice hike and very interesting but lets just say I'm going to be sleeping well tonight. It was so nice to get out of the city, get some fresh air and a tan. Also, it was really great to get out and see some of the country ... I can't wait to get in some more traveling however first I need to secure a job and then I can have some fun.

Alright I'll write again when I have more to say about New Zealand but so far so good. I am relaxed and I'm starting to enjoy life again. I'm getting back my energy and enthusiasm which had been gone for a very very long time.

Cheers from Auckland

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Manila, Philippines to Auckland, New Zealand

So I have arrived safe and sound in New Zealand, however, it was not easy task. I left for the airport around 9:30 on December 23 which was about 4 hours before my flight which was really early but good thing I did.

The first thing that went wrong is that we got completely ripped of by the cab driver who made us pay 375 pesos for a 120 peso drive. I hate cab drivers in the Philippines but I just let it slide this time because I just wanted to get on the plan to New Zealand so I just paid the stupid fee.

Next, I get to the check in counter and the lady tells me that I was over weight with my baggage and I wouldn't be able to take it. I was like that can't be right I check on the website two weeks ago for how much I could bring. Then I asked how much would it be to take the extra baggage and you should know that I was 20 Kg over weight which would have cost approximately $500 USD which of course I didn't have however I had been saving money for the past 4-5 months so I did have extra cash on me. Well I'm standing in the middle of the check in counter with all my baggage trying to decide what to do. I had to get my baggage under $300 USD cause that is all I had on me. Also, to make it worse I'm sick (I felt like shit), I'm tires and hungover cause we had been partying all week, and there is a woman with a baby behind me that is crying like no tomorrow which I turned around a couple of times to look at cause well I really thought the baby was dying from its screaming and then the woman with the baby start screaming at me ... "what are you looking at, haven't you ever seen a baby cry, I can't make it stop, what is your problem" ... that is what came out of her month ... I couldn't believe it ... and yes she can make it stop feed it or pay some attention to it. Anyway I just turned away cause I could deal with that cause I just wanted to get on my plan and get out of the Philippines. Well the only thing I could do it rip opened my suitcases and start throwing stuff out so that is exactly what I did about 10 Kg. I just throw it to the side of the check in counter and by this time I'm on the phone with my parents and I'm in tears because I just can't deal with everything. So my parents finally get me calmed down a little bit but the people that are working for Singapore Airlines are speaking in Tagalog and I don't understand what they are saying and I'm trying to find out how much it is going to cost. Finally, I get it down to $266 USD to send my baggage which I can afford and then I'm like just get me on the plan. Then someone new comes over and is like you can't bring to carry on bags on the plan and I'm like on is a carry on bag and the other is my laptop. He looks at me like I'm crazy and then says Ma'am next time don't take so much baggage. I was like excuse me one thing I'm moving and second I checked on your website to find out and I followed the limits. Then he is like well do you have any family you can call ... excuse me again I'm a white Canadian girl in the Philippines do you think I'm going to have any family here. Like WTF and why can't I be traveling by myself. I don't need my family at my side 24/7 like in the Philippines. Anyway I pay the $266 USD which wasn't easy either because they had no change for the $300 I had and the girl asked to get a new bill for the $100 I had. I was like why do you need a new $100 bill I just got that today when I exchanged my money, anyway I didn't care I just went and got a newer $100 to make them happy but of course that is not what they wanted either they wanted change for the $100 but that is not what they said so I get the change for it and pay the amount. They start to check in my baggage and then they tell me that they won't be able to take care of my stuff and by this point I do not care what happens to my stuff cause I can't take it with me. I turn to them and I'm like well do you have a garbage can and they don't know what to say like it was against all there morals to throw it out so I repeat do you have a garbage bag or a garbage can around ... they continue to look at me like I'm crazy .... so again do you have a garbage can anywhere in this airport .... they are still starring. Then I just loss it I'm like listen I don't care what happens to my stuff throw it away, give it to charity, take it home to your own families (which they probably did) I don't care one way or another. Finally one guy is like I have a box we will put it in that, I was like fine I don't care. Then I finally get my boarding pass and I proceed to the gate. It is all over I think to myself and it pretty much is. I fall asleep right away when I get on the plan and the then the stewardess wakes me up and ask if I'm ok and if there is anything wrong cause I don't want to eat or drink but then I sleep right until when touch down in Singapore. Everything goes great in Singapore I get a coffee and a sandwich and I find my gate easily. Give my parents a quick call to tell them that I am fine cause they were worrying especially after I called them from Manila airport. I get on my flight to New Zealand and sleep the entire way.

I land in New Zealand on Dec. 24 around 11 am and I get through immigration easily and was granted my 12 months Holiday Working Visa. I did have a few questions asked during customs because of the amount of baggage I had but by this point I told them that they are welcome to search all my baggage and I didn't care. Anyway they just let me go by and nothing happens. I go through arrivals and I see my cousin Jackie and I don't think I have been so happy or revealed in my entire life. It was like everything that was on my shoulders was lifted off. It was the greatest feeling ever. I was still tired and sick but something had changed.

Anyway I have been in New Zealand the past 3 days and I have been having a relaxing time which is exactly what I needed. Christmas was busy with family dinner and stuff but it was great to feel welcomed and be invited into someone else's home for the holidays. Every morning I have been getting up for a run on the beach which is so beautiful, it really beats running around Kingswood in a smog of pollution every morning. I have really enjoyed the past 3 days being in a clean environment, relaxing with a glass of wine, and getting some necessary sleep.

Well I'm happy to be in New Zealand and it has been a great experience in the Philippines but I'm happy and excited to start my new life here in New Zealand and I will definitely be keeping you all up to date on my activities. I have started to look for a job but since it is the holidays it is pretty quite around and not a lot of people are working but thats fine I'm not worried about landing a job. Also, I have a place to stay with my cousin which she has been taking really good care of me especially with the amount of wine I have been drinking.

Hope everyone had a Merry Merry Christmas :)


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas Everyone!!! I know its still a couple of weeks away but I don't know if I will get the chance to write again. Things have been so crazy here and it has been a really difficult time here the past two weeks but things are starting to look up. Yesterday I took my GMAT and unfortunately it didn't go as well as I wanted it too but I not really surprised. I have been studying my ass off the past two months but being aboard and dealing with emotional strain everyday I knew that I wasn't mentally prepared. So after the holidays I'll be looking into taking a prep course or something similar to get my quantitative skills up to par and then just take the test again probably in February ... maybe. It feels so good to have the test complete though ... it has been pretty stressful the past couple of months just working and studying but finally had a chance to go out last night and dance and drink all night which was so much fun ... I just needed to let go. I had a great time last night and I know that it was a Monday night but it was great to get out ... open bar all night and pretty good music ... can't go wrong with that combination.

Headway's Christmas party was this past Saturday and it was very well put together. We had a four course meal and good conversation, however, I did leave early cause my test was Monday morning but one thing I must say about the Philippines is that their catering and partying stills are very well put together. Anyway it was really great to enjoy a Christmas party because I don't really feel like its Christmas time ... I think its the whether and well we don't have a tree or anything like that. However, Gosia and I will be making Christmas cookies this weekend so it should be a great time :)

So my big adventure from last week was my fight with the cab driver in the middle of a business street. Imaging this ... busy busy street on a Friday afternoon around 4 pm and its pay day so it is even more busy then usually and since Filipinos have money from pay day they all decide to take cabs so its really hard for me to get one. I have been trying for about 30 min which is not actually bad and then one cab is dropping some people off and I am about to get in. The people that are getting out of the cab only have 500 pesos and of course the cab driver doesn't have any change for them ... if you ever come to the Philippines always keep some small bills on you. So I search in my pockets and I can get about 300 pesos in change so I give that to the cab driver and he gives me the 500 peso bill from the lady and then he gives the lady my 300 so she paid two hundred for her cab drive ... which was fine cause I was going to get in the cab he would have taken me home which is like a 90 or 100 peso drive with meter and then I would just pay the cab drive the 200 pesos on top of what I would have owed him so it would have been easy to get change for the 500 I had and I thought I was doing this guy a favor. Well it wasn't that simple when I get in the cab "Ma'am 250 pesos" ... excuse me ... remember its only a 100 peso ride at the most. "Ma'am 250 pesos" ... "No boss meter" ... "250" ... No meter or I'm taking the bus" (which I know how to take but I was really tired and just wanted to get home). So by this time I'm tired, sweaty and pissed off at the cab driver for trying to rip me off. So I just get out of the cab cause I don't put up with that bull shit. Anyway it had slipped my mind that I owed this guy 200 cause I was so mad that he was trying to take advantage of me. I start walking away from the cab and then he gets out and runs after me saying "Ma'am 200, Ma'am 200" and by this time I'm so pissed and we start arguing in the middle of Shaw Blvd and Shaw is not a popular place for white people so I get looked at all the time even when I"m just trying to get a cab but now I'm hysterical and I'm yelling at this guy and of course I'm making this big scene. To make it worse he can't speak English ... all he can say is "Ma'am 200" and then the traffic guard comes over (a lady) and she can't speak English and all she can say is "Ma'am you owe this man 200". Now I would definitely have just given the cab driver the 200 pesos but I gave all my change to him earlier and I'll I had now was 500 and I'm still pissed that he tried to rip me off. Now were outside yelling and its hot so I'm sweating and I'm tired and feel like shit and by this time I"m crying cause I don't know what I'm going to do. The cab driver wanted to take me to a store so I could buy something and pay for the cab ride there to get change but I really didn't think that was the best solution for me plus I was the one that was trying to help him out in the first place. Anyway Shaw is only 2 minutes away from my work so I called Rey (one of the employees that is always around to help out when he can) and I asked him to bring change for 500 pesos so Thanks to him I paid the cab driver the 200 pesos and then Rey and I went back to the office. It had to be one of the worst experience I have had here. Rey said that it was because it was close to Christmas and a busy Friday afternoon that he was trying to rip me off but that seems backwards to me ... if its close to Christmas don't you think that they would be in the Christmas spirit and not try to rip people off. It true though they think because its almost Christmas they can try to rip you off because you will be more giving. Don't get me wrong I give a tip whenever I can and if they don't ask and they do a good job I don't mind giving extra but every cab I have got into the past couple of days I have had to asked several times to put the meter on and then they would say "Merry Christmas Ma'am" like that is going to change my mind. Anyway that was my cab driver experience that I had last week. I definitely laugh at the situation now but at the time it was so messed up and a terrible experience. I hope that if any of you come to the Philippines you will never have to go through something like that.

Well I'm off to New Zealand in less than a week and I will be having a great vacation and time away there. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and a great New Year.

Take Care :)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Filipino Life Update

Its December and Christmas is in less than a month. Crazy Right. Well it doesn't really feel like Christmas here without snow and without any of the traditional stuff we do in Canada its pretty hard to get into the holiday season but I'm managing. Next weekend will be our office Christmas Party so maybe that will get me into the spirit of things. So everything is planned for New Zealand pretty much ... have a few more things to rap up but its coming together. I can't wait to get out of here for a bit and have a vacation and get some rest.

It's been pretty stressful around here lately with the GMAT test coming up and my manager leaving the company a month ago. The GMAT should be ok I have been studying really hard but if I don't do how I want the first time I will just do it again.

Philippines is going ok ... been tough the last couple of months. Culture difference can get really annoying and it can be difficult at times but that is what I came here for to learn about the differences and open my eyes to a new culture.

Back to work ... I'll write more in the upcoming weeks probably before, during or after New Zealand depending on time availability.