Summer ’21 in Florida

Our summer vacation this year in Florida was a mild version of a personal hell because of the 86C heat paired with 87 degree humidity. Considering that I lived in the Philippines for most of my life, Florida in the summer is a different kind of beast. It was hot, sticky, and I was sweating in all my nooks and crannies. Although if you do love this kind of torture, then sure, Florida is the place to be. While our main intention was for me to meet Nick’s dad’s side of the family (which was actually lovely, Grandma Pat and her boyfriend Ray 4ever!), we definitely took it as an opportunity to enjoy ourselves away from work and a have a little break from being dog parents. Here are my personal picks of things to do around the Tampa Bay Area:

Note: There is no beach on my list, because believe it or not, Nick and I are just bad at being at the beach. I personally would rather swim in a pool (at night) and lay poolside. And Nick does not enjoy burning too quickly under the sun and doesn’t like to swim anyway. We’re very antsy vacationers and like to be on our feet a lot when we’re on vacay.

  1. Breathe some fresh air and see some flamingos at Sunken Gardens. (St. Petersburg, FL)

Flamingos are Nick’s favorite (spirit) animals, so I was really excited for this one. It’s also my first time to see flamingos up close. They are cute, but weird animals. I mean for birds that are hot pink, they sure have the personalities to match. This place screamed Insta-worthy. Lots of beautiful plants and lush greens, flowers and koi fishies. There were also parrots who yelled “Hi baby” every ten seconds, which was fun at least for the first minute. We went on a Friday, so it wasn’t crowded at all. We also got a Groupon deal — $12 for the two of us compared to $30 so that was great.

2. Do some crate-digging at Jerk Dog Records. (Bradenton, FL)

Sign in front of the store

Whenever we travel, we try to make it a point to visit at least one local bookstore and one local record store (Support local!!). Nick is an avid record collector, so I have been influenced to enjoy this activity with him as well. For this particular trip, we found a cute little artsy hipstery ‘punk’ village in Bradenton and discovered Jerk Dog Records. It’s a small living room garage area converted into a store with the owner behind the register. The owner was very nice and talked to us about their little town. I learned something about cowpunk (don’t ask me more about it), Nick got himself an LCD Soundsystem record and I found myself a The Modern Jazz Quartet record in the dollar bin. Lovely.

3. Walk and bike along the Tampa Riverwalk — start at Armature Works, end at Sparkman Wharf. (Tampa, FL)

I definitely underestimated the heat when I suggested to walk this 3-miler park at 2pm. We started walking from Armature Works, after I had some Empamamas and a ginger lime margarita. By the time we reached the end at Sparkman Wharf, our shirts were drenched in sweat. We were not gonna walk back, so we rented those city bikes to at least enjoy some breeze while pedaling back to the car. It was the first time Nick and I biked together in a city. Well, second time actually, because the first one was in Seattle, with me on a motorized bike freaking out going over a hill on the way back to our hotel. It doesn’t count because it didn’t even last for two minutes. I always feared biking in the city, after that traumatic experience I had biking in D.C. At least this time it was more chill because I wasn’t biking beside 6-wheeler trucks and it went on for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed it!

4. Have a romantic date night at a rooftop bar overseeing the water. (St. Petersburg, FL)

We went to a rooftop bar called Pier Teaki at the St. Pete Pier. Love the view! And I love that there’s a trolley that comes every 15 minutes to pick up anybody who doesn’t feel like walking the whole strip. Food was okay. Their cocktails, I have nothing to write about. But great vibes!!! I was also already tipsy by the time we were there, so Nick succeeded on that one. 😉

5. Must-try: No Vacancy‘s frozen Pain Killer cocktail. (St. Petersburg, FL)

Hands down the best cocktail I ever had on this trip!!! It’s a frozen mix of two kinds of rum, a coconut cream orange juice, and pineapple. What a treat!

6. Must-try: Pig Out BBQ‘s fried mac and cheese. (Bradenton, FL)

Fried cheese bombs, I’m definitely here for it!!!
The toilet was also there for me minutes later. >.<

7. Hang out at Grassroots Kava House and play Bandingo on Thursday nights. (Ybor City, FL)

So we didn’t smoke cigars, nor did we eat a Cubano at Ybor City, which everybody else and their mother recommended. We went the coffee route. What’s ironic is I didn’t order kava that time we went, considering I have never had it before. I thought Kava was the name of the cafe, honestly. A little bit of trivia for those of you who aren’t familiar, kava is a plant from the Pacific Islands consumed for its relaxing and calming effect. I would imagine it brings the same lightheadedness that consuming alcohol and weed would. They actually serve kava cocktails on this place. It is a bar, after all. Really interesting vibe and an unusually goth-like clientele who enjoyed playing musical bingo on a Thursday night.

8. Do some window vintage-shopping. (Sarasota, FL)

I found this vintage telephone at this store called Scavenger’s Marketplace in Sarasota for 20 bucks. I was convincing Nick to agree with me that it was screaming for me to take it home so I can put it in our living room. He didn’t agree and made a point whether I can make space in my luggage for it, so I ended up not getting it. /sad/ I still think about this telephone to this day. By the way, I fell in love with that store! They had all these cute vintage finds and tchotchkes for a good price, I liiiiive.

9. Go to the casino and win in roulette.

This is the only photo I had at the Hard Rock Seminole Heights, because I was busy winning at roulette. lol I took my winnings to buy us some nuggs and some fries. What a successful night. 😉

10. Spend an afternoon at the Ringling Museum. (Sarasota, FL)

We went to see The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on a Monday, so it was free. I love European art, so this one was a winner for me. We had a great time walking through Baroque and the Renaissance eras. The particular room that stood out to me was the one with still life art. Paintings of food as real life people – if only I can remember the artist!!

I got smarter.

Starting March with the belief that “Life’s still tough, but I got smarter.”

It’s Pisces season!! And it only means one thing, it’s birthday season for me! And it’s also Mercury retrograde in Pisces, so fuck y’all. This is what life’s like everyday for us. FEEL EVERYTHING and FEEL NOTHING at the same time. Watch all Pisceans in the world get together for one giant emotional fest. We are not apologizing for it, Aquarians.

Third month of the year and I finally feel luck sticking by me. I feel more empowered recently — feeling like I’ve been making the right choices and decisions. Also stepping away and saying goodbye to things and people that really are just clutter in my life. I’m getting smarter when it comes to whom I spend my energy on. It’s really a mini success for me, because I have always suffered setting boundaries on what I give and the time I make available to people.

I’m really surprised that after getting a flu shot, my immune system got 200% better. It dawned on me how weak I was last year. Just one night out of drinking will give me flu the next day. I think it’s also domino effect since I continue to shy away from super late night outs in a row. I’m managing my time properly, which is a BIG SURPRISE. I have bad time discipline. A lot of good things have been happening and I just need to maintain my system and routine. I’m probably lacking in the exercise (fitness) department, but I’m working on it. This gal will sweat it out soon (hopefully lol).

This weekend I have a big party in “a cabin in the woods” in the Poconos and I’m so excited to just hang and chill with my village of supporters and friends. Will post pictures soon! But for now, I’m hoping the good energy gets sustained to get the party going. 🙂



It took courage.

Hooray! I just survived my first week of grad school. I still honestly can’t believe it. I am now a graduate student! First one in my family, my goodness! I just announced it on Facebook, and yes, that makes it official. And yes, I am claiming full responsibility. People just don’t know the amount of work it takes to apply to grad school, and more so if you are an international student. Getting into a Master’s program in New York University (NYU) is the first big hurdle that I conquered and I would consider a success. I’m still sliding into a routine and I am honestly surprised that it is gelling with me nicely. I mean, a full-time job, a weekend job, and part-time graduate school. HELLO! I’M A SUPERHERO at this point. It’s really all about time management, I’m seriously getting that now. (And I just had a fun time out last night, don’t count my social life out lol)

I am truly overwhelmed with all the support. I’m getting super scared and anxious to be imagining the challenge of finishing this and the arduous task of finding a job after this. With everything, I believe God put me in this position because He knows I will thrive in it. He will not leave my side and will hustle with me all the way. I am 110% nervous on this journey and I am because of everything (my whole life) that is riding on this. But at the same time, in my heart of hearts, there is not a tinge of hesitation. I know that this is right for me. No question of a doubt. I see a path. I see a future expanding right before my eyes. And I’m so ready to put in the hard work.

I finally did it. I JUMPED. Oh, what courage!


The honest truth is I welcomed 2019 in my mismatched pajamas, a bare face (literally, without a gloss on my lip, not even moisturizer), and sprawled on the couch. My new year came through the door quietly, and I let it in calmly with no fuss. I think this is the first time that I consciously greeted the new year like this. I used to always dress my best and get so upbeat. I’d make a lot of noise, jump and run around the house in my polka dot outfit with coins bouncing in my pocket for good luck throughout the year. This time around, I felt the adult me take over. To welcome the new year in a formal business fashion. That ‘let’s make a deal if you treat me right’ statement. I just wanted peace and quiet and a really good sleep.

Every time a year starts, I always try to get a general vibe of how the year will transpire. For 2019, I see an exciting, record-breaking, successful yet challenging year. In 2018, I definitely pushed the envelope, taking more risks and thus meeting the side of myself that I didn’t realize existed. I finally met her — the strong-willed and courageous one — and I think in 2019, she will unleash her beast full-fold. In 2019, she will be bold and audacious. She will be brave enough to show the world who she really is and what she is about. It’s her show now.

Well, my first week of January has been pretty low key and uneventful. Just about right and what I deserve, since the last three months of 2018 I have been a hot mess. So I had a painful breakup. I came to face the fact that dealing with heartbreak really ruins your orientation in life. You get confused about yourself, your doubts and insecurities start creeping in, and you feel lost and blindsided. It really throws you off. That’s exactly what happened to me. I thought the bullet missed me. I thought, ‘I’m a strong girl, I don’t get hurt’. I thought the breakup left me unscathed. The truth is, it was just a ruse. I was just ignoring the blistering wound festering in me that one day started hurting so much. And when I saw it, I started pushing on it, so more blood, self-loathing, and anger came out. Pain changes a person. It even turns some into monsters. I became a self-destructing monster. But enough about that. I think that I am over it — mostly.

The intention this year is to focus on what matters, which is my well-being and what needs to be done for my career. I think coming into the year, I’m bringing a new sense of maturity. I’m not as anxious as I used to be about where my life is going. Whenever I feel down, I always go back to 5 years ago in my life when I started from nothing — with zero idea of who I am, a transplant from the Philippines not knowing what career I can have here in the U.S. But fast forward to today, I’m still here, working and figuring it out. It doesn’t mean that everything is clear and certain now. The secret is finding the will to live — hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe tomorrow brings more inspiration. Maybe tomorrow I’m luckier. Maybe tomorrow I find more motivation. As long as that hope is alive, I just keep on going. I don’t think it really matters if everything makes sense or not yet, but if I ask myself am I happy? Yes should be my answer. And if I am not, how can I be happy? Happiness is what we should aim for. I stopped making excuses years ago and that change of perspective really did good to my life. When we stop playing victim in our own stories, when we stop blaming the world for our circumstances, and start acknowledging the fact that we can actively turn things around to our favor, achieving little successes that may not be exactly what we want but something close, it is considered a win. Let’s take control of what we can in life and run with it.

Bottom line is, my 2019 carries a lot of hope. I believe them when they say it’s a year of MANIFESTATION. I’m excited for the coming months! A lot of work to do and boxes to tick. Also, here’s to writing more. Truthfully and organically, as they would say. Let’s get on it. 🙂


Have a day where you don’t talk to anybody. Be unavailable to everyone but yourself. Take this time to recharge and replenish. To everyone who needs you and demands your time, they can wait.

Check yourself. Are you alright? Are you rested? Are you happy? Reflect on your current situation. It’s important that you are still present. And that you don’t over-exert yourself. You work best and love best when you are at your best.

Take breaks, it is necessary.

Selfish in its own right

Today’s reminder is about demanding your place in a relationship / situationship.

I used to always accommodate people I date. I adjust myself in order to be not too demanding and not too lax at the same time. But after a lot of pondering, I thought, “Hey, what about me? How about my feelings? Have they considered my wants and needs?” Most of the time, we get lost in the idea of pleasing the other person that we neglect our own needs and desires. It is okay to ask yourself, “am I being appreciated in this relationship? Am I getting the same effort of what I’m giving?”

It is never selfish to demand what would make you feel secure in the relationship. So what if you look clingy? So what if you think you’re too demanding? This is your relationship. State the terms of your peace and happiness.

It is okay to demand the same level of attention, time, and affection of what you are giving. It is only acceptable. Remind yourself: this is your relationship, too.


I am done pinning my self-worth on other people’s acceptance of me. I am important because I know who I am and I know my value. I get it, I will meet people who will not see me for who I am and won’t treat me the way I would like and deserve. And that’s okay. I will walk away and accept it. That’s how life is. You give yourself to someone you hope is worthy of you, and in cases that you fail, you hurt but you try again.

I know that the person who is worthy to receive my love will value my time, my attention, and my whole person. I can’t wait to meet that person one day. But for now, I am worthy to have me.

I know, but still.

I know that we didn’t love each other. I didn’t love you, in the sense of the word. But I admit, it hurt to be treated like crap. I was hurt because I cared — and fuck that. I was hurt because I voluntarily shared pieces of me with you. I shared my vulnerabilities with you — when I didn’t have to. And now that I think about it, maybe I did love you, in the sense of the word.

I know I didn’t matter LIKE THAT to you. But still, you could have done better with me towards the end. I will not get the time back. I will not get that time when I was hurting over how ignored me. That time you were pulling away, acting like we didn’t just share a bed the night before. You clearly know how to make someone feel small and insignificant. Did you know how hurt I was? No, because I didn’t matter LIKE THAT to you for you to ask.

Now you say you miss me? Bullshit. You cannot just go your way and say that any time you want. I have nothing to give you. Not a reply, a thank you, or a how are you. Nothing. You don’t get to hear from me. I gave you too much before. And I’m glad I didn’t give you everything.

The Unpopular Immigrant Story

There is an immigrant story that books and the media fail to cover. It’s the story of the international students who walk the long road to becoming immigrants in the United States. It’s a story I identify with and a story that you will hear today.

Four years after my departure from my beloved home country, I still have a number of friends who ask me “What exactly are you doing there?” They know I’m not a green card holder and I’m not a U.S. citizen either. It’s a question that always lead me to my scratching my head before I answer. How do I explain what I’m doing to someone who wouldn’t understand the struggle? Because the answer is not black or white. It’s gray with a tinge of blue and specks of brown and, okay, hints of green. To put it bluntly, it’s shit.

Me: I am an international student here in the U.S. But I also do work on the side.

Friend: What work?

Me: Some work.

Friend: Okay. And what are you studying?

Me: Some studies.

That’s the best answer I can come up with. And I know, given my vague answer, that my friend is not far from thinking that I am an illegal alien in this country.

Okay, you want the real truth? I am not an illegal alien. I have a legit valid non-immigrant status. I am an international student and I study at an ESL school. “Study”. Now this answer opens another bag of worms. My friend goes, “But why?? You don’t need to study English.” I probably don’t, but I NEED it so I can stay here.

If you choose to be an international student in the United States at a college or university, you need to have kaching in your kapow. I don’t know what I just said, but you need bucks. Thousands of bucks. At least if you’re looking to apply for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree for a year, you need to show an estimate of $25,000 – $100,000 in your bank account… Or your sugar daddy’s bank account. Or whichever person you find who would be glad to sponsor you, good luck. Yes, if you don’t know it yet, to say that you will avail of an American education is usually a joke. An expensive joke.

If you’re an international student who would enroll at a college or university, you are required to take a full-time study which should not be less than 12 credits. Mind you, the usual price for 1 credit at a community college, the cheapest you can find, is $600. You do the math. You need at least $7000 for one semester. And that could be you learning basic foundational courses like Math, English, and Science… which you already did in your past life when you completed your Bachelor’s Degree in your home country.

Now, let’s say I will go for the international student option, but I am poor and I don’t have a network of capable sponsors. What can I do? My family lives here in the U.S. (legally) and I want to live here too. I don’t want to leave just yet. Do I just give up? Maybe I do have other options.

Enter English for Second Language schools aka  ESL schools. An ESL school is a different breed of school. They accept international students on F-1 visa, but the full-time study only costs about half of what you spend in one semester at a college or university. Let’s say $4000 for 2 semesters or a year of school. Good enough. I found a legitimate way to stay here and “perfect my English” while I’m on it.

On to the next problem, international students are not authorized to work in the U.S. The only exception is if you found a job on campus. If there are no jobs available on campus, how are you going to live then? This is the major problem that people like me who take this route live with everyday. I am an adult and I’ve reached past that point of mom and dad being responsible for my breathing, my eating, the roof above my head… my makeup, my happy hour margaritas, and (duh) my avocado toast brunch-driven millennial lifestyle. Because we have to survive (and let’s be honest, a lifestyle to maintain), we need a good source of income. In comes the side jobs aka waitressing, bartending, coffee-making, babysitting, caregiving, old people-sitting, dogwalking, etc. In Manhattan, it is a LEGIT source of living, I kid you not. Babysitters make more money than you in your office job that you feel so smart doing. I’m talking about $100 a day playing with kids and dropping them off at ballet classes and soccer practice. It is a good source of living, but you ask yourself, is this really the life that you want? Is this something so sustainable that you’ll be doing for the rest of your life?

I’ve spent two years at an ESL school, so why am I doing this again?? And why are there so many foreigners like me who are doing this? Being in a community of ESL students on F-1 visa here in the United States, I must know of a thousand reasons why. And all are sewn by a common thread. We are people who have Bachelor degrees in our home countries who decided to take a risk and get better chances at a country that appreciates and pays hard work. It’s definitely not an easy life. I have made a lot of friends who left the familiar, jumped out of their comfort zones to provide a better living for those who they left behind or to provide for a better future.

But what exactly does our future look like? The hope is that we can actually convert our status into something that allows us to live and work here, without the constant worry of Trump suddenly kicking out all international students. There is a way which is finding a company that is willing to sponsor you for work, but that road is also congested and demands 10+ years of work experience. The hope is that some kind of magic happens where work authorization cards grow on trees and it wouldn’t matter whether someone is a non-immigrant in this country. Can’t we be allowed to work anyway? Because when you have been a U.S. resident for more than 5 years, can’t that count as residency yet? Immigration is a real tricky thing.

We are not undocumented immigrants, but we are the almost-immigrants nobody really knows a lot about. We just live in the seams, hoping that there would be a quick and easy solution to all of this paperwork, that doesn’t involve having a fake U.S. citizen marriage.

I can’t blame the people who choose to live their lot here. It clearly is better here than what we left behind, but nobody really grasps the difficulty of figuring out a way to stay for good when you don’t have the benefits of a U.S. citizen. And it haunts you in your every waking day.

To be honest, when I began this journey, the only reason that made me stay is because I don’t want to take the chance of not seeing my family again. I knew back then that if I opted to stay behind, I would be risking not seeing my family again. So right after college, I packed my bags with no certainty of what I was gonna do and let Jesus take the wheel. I did that. And I’m here now. I’m still at a place where nothing’s certain but I just continue to carry the hope that tomorrow will bring some sort of solution to my problem and I would be able to live free and travel to Europe without worrying if I can ever come back to the U.S.

My parents just got their green card two days ago. I tell myself that I don’t have to fight so hard to be here anymore. I can find work in another country and try my chances elsewhere and my parents and brothers can just visit me. But then I fell in love with Uncle Sam. I fell in love with my life here. I fell in love with what I slowly grow up becoming — independent and carefree. And I don’t see myself living this kind of life in my home country or anywhere else just yet. Now I have a different reason to stay but the circumstances are the same.

I don’t know how this story ends. I’d just have to live everyday and see the opportunities unfold. It is so cliche, but everything really is uncertain. Wherever you may choose to live in this world, life has a way of challenging you and hitting you with roadblocks. It may not be immigration issues, but it sure is something else. You just continue hope that you’d have enough strength and stamina to face it all. With a little help from friends and family… and some vodka. 😉

And that is my immigrant story.





These past few days have been a bust. As much as I try to control things in my life, there are always these little details that are out of my grasp that get in the way. So now I find myself at a buffer zone and the looks of my near future are still a blur.

Some deets on my life lately:

  • I have been accepted to the Masters program of my choosing and I’m waiting on the results of my chance on a scholarship. That’s the only way I can accept the offer to the program anyway. To be honest, I’m also doubting whether I can really study full-time again. Do I have the grit to study again? I’m a little afraid to go back to school, but at the same time, I know I have wanted this for so long.
  • I have a pending employment application that I have to wait results for in May or June. Will I push through it if it did get approved? The good thing about it is SECURITY. I have imagined for that day to come in so many ways. Now that it’s near and so damn possible, I’m not sure if it’s right for me.
  • A friend offered to be roommates with me and she wants to move to a new apartment this summer. I have to make a decision quickly, because we need to find a room we can afford together. Moving is such a hassle and I don’t know if I’m ready for a new set-up or higher rent.
  • I recently decided to do a diet/fitness lifestyle overhaul and I’m trying my best to keep up to it. I have been making and eating healthy lunches, zero-carb dinners, smoothie breakfasts, taking 5k runs around the city twice a week, and the whole thing is just so tiring! I wonder how people can maintain this on the daily. (I have a serious issue with routine and discipline.)
  • Lastly, there is an e-mail lying around my draft folder, with me asking for a salary raise. Due to wanting to get the timing right, it’s been lounging in that folder for two weeks now. I’ve been pushing myself to work harder just to justify my request even though I know that I have deserved it since the beginning of the year. I don’t know when I’ll press send. It’s driving me insane. “Charmaine, grow a backbone. You deserve this,” is my speech every night.

So yup, that’s what’s been happening in my life. There are so many things bogging me down and the stress and anxiety is creeping up slowly. I hate it. I hate dealing with all of this adult stuff. I wish I can go back to being a kid again, when my worst problem was a math homework that my mom can help me answer.

The only thing that makes me happy about this is the achievement after three months of hard work that has got me to where I am now. Truth is, these problems were brought on by my actions that I did out of the desire to have a better life and a better career. Because of my desire of security and stability, I now find myself in a place of endless possibilities. I am proud of what it all led to. Although, I would say that there are days that I still feel lost. I am never 100% sure whether I’m doing the right thing. I just know that doing something will open more doors for me and will take me somewhere at least. After all, actions make half of the dream-chasing. As Ally Macbeal says, “I actually like the quest, the search. That’s the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to. What do you know? I’m having a great time and I don’t even know it.