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!!

In The City That We Love

This video is compiled and edited by my good friend, Tepi Dayanghirang, from study tour. What can I say, she has done a remarkable job capturing some of our best moments in Europe. This was undeniably the best fall/summer of my life and everytime I watch this video, my heart gets filled and brazen with nostalgia and love not only for the new places I have been to and soon to see again, but especially for the people who I’m lucky to have shared the experience with. This was the best graduation gift one can ever ask for! And I can’t exactly explain to my parents how happy they have made me. But I will sure take the memories of this present to my grave. I hope I can go back and live all these beautiful memories again. One can dream.


I plan to do my own video of my journey, but my video editing skills or the lack thereof tells me it would take time and patience. I will post it as soon as the product exists already. (cross fingers)

Project G.Y.L.T

I have had enough. I have had enough of relatives visiting the house, telling me how big of a couch potato I already am. I have had enough with my mom and dad talk in front of me of how much I’ve horizontally grown in a month and how I am growing still. Clearly, I have had enough passivity for a summer that has just begun.

With that, I am beginning Project Get Your Life Together a.k.a Project G.Y.L.T tomorrow. It’s my supreme attempt to, obviously, getting my life together. It focuses on physical health (jogging+cardio routines), cooking abilities (must go beyond sandwiches, anything fried and instant ramen), mental/emotional stability (self-esteem and self-confidence check, must get over wallowing in self-doubt!), and time management (to me is the biggest challenge because I love stalling, stopping and staring, and procrastinating). I will be monitoring my hopeful progress in a month by writing in my journal everyday. I really think I can do this.

OK, enough talk. It’s time for real business. Who wants to join me? Project G.Y.L.T, let’s get it on!

Shit scared

I am aware that June starts tomorrow and along with that fresh start is my possibly putting a period to an already run-on sentence that is my summer vacation. I am flying out of London… and out of Europe for good. I don’t know when I’m coming back, but someday I hope I do.

I am moving to the States to rejoin my family and to look for a possible bright future. I am actually dreading this day to come. I’m afraid. More like shit scared or terrified. I tried finding an escape to this situation by listing things that I would like to do, namely: learning how to cook, joining some friends in a book review blog and doing it religiously, learning how to drive, starting on a diet and exercise, coming up with interesting pieces for my blog, or seriously growing potted plants (believe me, I bought sunflower seeds already). I tried really hard to sweep whatever I’m dreading under the rug, but it doesn’t work anymore. And now I’m wide-eyed staring at it.

What do you want to do, Cha? Will you study further? If so, what will you study about? Will you find a job? Do you think people will take you seriously? Or maybe you want to study and work at the same time? Can you handle it? Or maybe find some rich guy you could marry? Or you know what, surrender and just go back to the Philippines? What do you plan to do?

I don’t know. I really don’t. And no matter the many minutes under the shower I’ve spent thinking about it, I get a different answer and get more frustrated. I always make an excuse, like Oh I’m so young still I have a lot of time to think about what I want, but the hard part is my time frame in the form of my visa and its expiry when I turn twenty-one next March. I know I just can’t do nothing while I hear the clock tick. That frustrates me even more. Why can’t things be much easier?

Well, the best idea I have right now is to settle down first and figure things out when I’m there. Tomorrow, my ten-month countdown officially begins. Wish me the best.

Life in transit

Eight cities in thirty-four days (Berlin, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Amsterdam, Bremen, Rome). Five countries in thirty-four days. Thirty-four days living on twenty kilos of luggage. Countless hours spent in transit — via train, tram, subway, bus, bike, and plane. With two more cities to visit in the next month, can I now officially call myself a traveler?

“Anything is possible.” I repeat that to myself very often these days. I used to dream about this, going to different countries and ticking off items in my bucket list, but I didn’t expect that my fantasies would materialize as soon as now. I am literally going places, man!! I am seeing places that I used to only talk about enthusiastically with friends. I am walking on floors on which significant people have walked on in the past. Seriously, the feeling is overwhelming that I still shake my head in astonishment on how much of the world I am seeing in a span of a month.

However, beside this walking-on-sunshine feeling of experiencing new culture, speaking new languages, tasting new food, and meeting new people, there are also significant downsides to traveling that people don’t usually think about when they dream of backpacking or jetsetting. Oh, let me count the ways.

  • I hate packing and unpacking my luggage when I’m moving from one city to another.
  • I hate worrying about how to bring my luggage up or down a four-storeyed apartment, dorm, or hostel with no elevators in the building
  • I hate that my cellphone’s battery is always on low or dead whenever I am at the airport or train station and need to contact someone.
  • I hate when my camera suddenly has low battery or no more memory space when I’m about to take a picture of a really breathtaking scenery or a video of a very happy moment.
  • I hate wrong weather forecast.
  • I hate 7 am flights.
  • I hate delayed flights.
  • I hate cancelled flights and only knowing about it minutes after because the announcement was made in a different language.
  • I hate having to go through airport security and having to let go of my favorite body mist just because I was rushing and I forgot to put it in my check-in luggage (damn I’m still frustrated about it).
  • I hate it when I fall asleep in the plane just in time when the flight attendant comes by for a snack and they never wake me up.
  • I hate the back and feet pains that I get from walking so much the whole day carrying a heavy body bag.
  • I hate realizing that dirty laundry has already piled up.
  • I hate having to lose my favorite socks in the laundromat.
  • And much more…

But then again there is nothing a good night shower, a good night sleep, and some chocolates at the end of the day couldn’t fix. I only used to dream about going to places and now that I am currently living in the dream, I don’t think there will ever be enough reasons for me to truly hate and complain. I should really learn how to travel smart. : )


DSC02560Back to zero. Back to starting point. Back to searching for another ultimate goal. I took a vacation to Europe knowing that it would be an escape from the reality of a future that I have to figure out soon. I would love to move on in my life, but I am still enjoying my winter.

April 03, 2013

Photo taken near the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Berlin, Germany

Hello, Berlin!


How do I begin a post about me walking on a dream? Everything came by so fast. I remembered that time weeks ago when I was still stressing about senior finals week. Two weeks later, I am already a bachelor degree holder and an official graduate of the Ateneo. Now, at a glimpse, I am finally here in Berlin and I am chasing the dream.

I am just filled with thrill and amazement with everything that is happening in my life and I still slap myself in the face to check if everything is real, although I don’t feel a thing because my face feels numb due to the cold winter-like April wind blowing.

Just to give you an idea of the faces you will regularly see in my blogposts for the next four weeks, here are my newest tour buddies!

That is me on the left and on the right is my housemate, Meg.

On the left is (Daddy) Lance, our study tour leader, and on the right is Bee.
On the left is (Daddy) Lance, our study tour leader, and on the right is Bee.

In this picture are coursemates and batchmates, Athena and Gio.
In this picture are coursemates and batchmates, Athena and Gio.

These are roomies, Matt and Mon. Matt and I will be on the same class for German B1 on Tuesday.
These are roomies, Matt and Mon. Matt and I will be on the same class for German B1 on Tuesday.

These are Tepi and Yana. We call them the bestfriends.
These are Tepi and Yana. We call them the bestfriends.

This is a picture of us in NAIA Terminal 1 waiting for everyone to arrive. Second to the left is Frau Velasco, our German professor. On the rightmost side is Jay. I think he is the most quiet study tour buddy we have. Others who are missing in the pictures are Nico and the 3 Pandas: Kyle, Keisha, and Mommy Lia.

It is the coldest April in a hundred years.” That is what Frau Velasco told me in the NAIA Terminal 1 airport when we were checking our luggages in. She said that in all the years of organizing the study tour, this is the only time that she will be going to Germany in April covered in snow. She thought maybe she had to change much of our itinerary because a lot of them suited spring weather, like dining al fresco or watching flowers bloom. I was so terrified, because I had this fear of the cold. More than that, I never experienced winter weather before, so experiencing Berlin in snow is a first.

It may be because of me expecting the worst, but when we arrived in Berlin at -1 degree celcius (I was already wearing my thick and heavy coat on), it turns out that I loved the cold more than I feared it. It’s like my body felt ready. I was just so ecstatic cause I saw snow everywhere! You bet I was damn excited!

Wilkommen bei Deutschland! This was shot in the airport of TXL in Berlin.
Wilkommen bei Deutschland! This was shot in the airport of TXL in Berlin.

This is how snowy it was outside. It was just beautiful (but really cold) hahaha.
This is how snowy it was outside. It was beautiful, but really cold.


Waiting to cross the street
Waiting to cross the street

What nice weather to walk the dog outside!
What nice weather to walk the dog outside!

We were assigned to stay with the Schulz family, with Stefi and Karl. They live in a flat on the 5th floor in a building in Levetzowstrasse. By the way, there was no elevator, so we felt bad that Karl had to carry our luggages up until the 5th floor. It was a pain and a struggle!

Anyway, Stefi is a sociologist and Karl is an architect. Thay have kids, Yana and Oler, and they also have a grandkid, Luisa, Oler’s daughter. They are a nice couple, very warm and accommodating. They are also fairly good in English, so it was not hard trying to start a conversation. It’s really not hard to engage them in conversation, because they were cultured and open-minded. We know we are going to have a fun stay at their house.

It was Easter morning when we arrived, so after we settled down, they told us that their family is coming over to have lunch and meet with us.

DSC02172The one on the right is Yana, the younger child, and the one on the left is Luisa’s mother. This is how the lunch table looked after everyone was done eating. The food was really great and Stefi prepared all of it. There was Easter bread, yummy ham and salami, pig, obst and gemuse (fruits and vegetables), and coffee and tea. I would say it’s a nice lunch to have on a ver-winter-like day.

Look! It's Luisa! On the left is her grandfather and our foster dad, Karl. Luisa is just so cute! She has these beautiful bright blue eyes which I think she got from his father and grandfather.
Look! It’s Luisa! On the left is her grandfather and our foster dad, Karl. Luisa is just so cute! She has these beautiful bright blue eyes which I think she got from his father and grandfather.

This is Stefi, our Mutti. She was telling Luisa to eat her Milchreise, in other words, rice with milk.
This is Stefi, our Mutti. She was trying to take a picture of Luisa eating her Milchreis, or rice with milk.

After lunch, Matt called us and asked if we wanted to roam around the city. Well, if there was something I super loved about Berlin, it’s their transportation system. With their U-bahns (underground trains) and S-bahns, one can easily go all around Berlin. It is my dream to see the Philippines have this kind of efficient and citizen-friendly public transportation system.

We were set to meet in Alexanderplatz, which was four train stations away from where we’re coming.



Some funny stories while we were on our way:

  • We didn’t know how the trains would open. Of course, knowing that it’s Germany, we assumed that it was automatic! But since it was not, and in the spirit of finding out how it opened, I thought that my ticket had this code which the train door with a sensor could detect. Haha! So stupid! We didn’t know that you just have to push this button in front of the train to go in and get out.
  • We didn’t know that the month-long ticket that we have would apply on April 1, so we rode a train on March 31 without a ticket! We were so clueless. Good thing there was no control or security to check around. It turns out that the train system here in Berlin is a tiwala system (as Gio would call it). There are no turnstiles or machines to check if one has a ticket, so they trust that people who ride the train have tickets. They just let a security person roam around and check on people randomly. Once they find out that you don’t have a ticket, they will charge you for 40 euros. It would be really awful if we got caught, but our foster parents taught us that if it did happen again, we should just pretend like we don’t understand what they are talking about. Clever enough!
  • We didn’t have a contact of Matt aside from Viber, so we didn’t know where to meet him. We just know where the place would be, but Alexanderplatz is really big! So we looked for a place with wi-fi. We decided to stay in Al Teatro for a while (it’s an ice cream place!) to get wi-fi, but after I decided I’d eat Pistazie (pistachio) ice cream in the frickin cold weather, it turns out that the cashier didn’t know its password and only the boss which is not around knows about it… Impossible! Oh well, the ice cream tasted that good I didn’t give a damn. But after the waiting and all, we were still able to meet Matt. We met Matt and Mon and Matt’s cousin and her German husband.


After meeting up, we decided to find a church where we can hear mass or just visit since it’s Easter Sunday. There was one near our place but it was closed, too bad. At least for the next week, we already know where to go to hear mass.

All in all, it was a really good day! A safe flight, snow, Easter eggs, and BERLIN!!! All went well and better than expected.

But it is really cold.