6th Monthsary in Geneve et Annecy + Lausanne and Montreux visit :)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mein Freund and I celebrated our sixth month with a weekend visit to the charming French commune known as "Annecy".

It's a short drive from Geneva, and it came highly recommended by my supervisor, co-interns, host family, and friends alike (haha, the build-up!), so we were so glad because the place definitely did NOT disappoint.

We stayed at Hotel Central, which has the quirkiest design for its rooms and reception area (bonus that we got a balcony for a superb price). We stuffed ourselves crazy, happy that we were away from expensive Geneva (Ingo was right, one could never go wrong with French food!) We also walked around town, looked at key points of interest such as the Pont des Amours, and went shopping (half the price, compared to Geneva).  But my favorite would have to be our little paddleboat trip on the gorgeous lake itself, finding our little island, and getting lost in the beauty of our Alpine background.

Lake Annecy is said to be the cleanest in Europe (we can attest to how clear
the water was), and just walking around, despite the weather, is enough
to make one fall in love. :)

The week after, we drove to the Olympic Village of Lausanne, took a ferry to Chateaux Chillon, and hiked to Montreux for the 2014 Jazz Festival.


These trips are nothing but cherries on top, really, and could never entirely capture how wonderful the past months have been--from the Skype calls, WhatsApp messages, the way he'd cook for me and even bring me lunch, to our frantic moments when we're terribly stressed out, to shared celebrations for achieving personal goals. It's unbelievably comforting to find and continue to discover someone who seems to know the pains, joys, and hopes of your heart, inside-out.

No, it 's not easy, and yes, long discussions about differences and the need to respect each other's culture have come up several times but at the end of the day, we've found ways to resolve them.

With him, I don't feel like I have to beg for attention nor affection. With him, I see a soul I wish to come home to, everyday, for a long time. <3


30 Working Days in Geneva! :)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

I still squeak and stifle a cry at the cost of living, but despite my expense-related complaints from a land where a kebab or a simple cup of coffee will set you back by 10 chf (8+ eur) and 4 chf (3+ eur) respectively, where a visit to the cinema will require you to cough out 22 chf (18+ eur), where a visit to a coiffeur 40 chf (30+ eur) is enough to make your hair stand on end, where the cost of basic toiletries makes you want to swear off bathing, and where transport on the SBB can get even the most non-sporty person like me to think about setting a new Swiss record for walking, I'm still thankful because...

I SURVIVED 30 WORKING DAYS IN GENEVA, wooohooo!

Aside from the support I get from dear ones back home and abroad, I am massively blessed with the generosity and hospitality of the family who is hosting me. Ever since I arrived in the city, all knocked-out by the string of unfortunate events/challenges i had to go through to get here, Joana and her family have made it a mission to reverse my bad luck, and their kindness really set off a series of happy events. I could only wish that they continue to be blessed a million times over!

The mobile phone I lost (from my last update) in Basel that ended up in Zurich? It was shipped to me by the guy who found it, and he even added some gummy bears in the box (talk about sweet!). My personal laptop that accidentally got locked, which I was initially advised to ship back to Boston? Not only was it decrypted remotely so that iI could unearth my files, the IT guy who helped me even went beyond his duty by uninstalling certain programs and components. Now, it's running faster than before (crazy!)

I've also had a chance to bond with people, old and new, like Tin, a fellow VSO volunteer/scholar/development worker, who now serves as an M&E fellow at the UN!

And how do I even begin thanking the heavens for sending Ingo my way? Cheese alert: It's crazy, but so far, not a day has passed by without him making me feel so supported and [unconditionally] loved! Right after he completed his MSc in dublin, he chose to celebrate it by visiting me.

Work-wise, what an amazing ride it has been! My depressing, non-existent skills in the French language almost had me packing for the first flight home (I was too embarrassed about burdening people with the translation of certain tasks), but the encouragement and patience of my supervisors helped ease my discomfort about my limitations. Their openness even encouraged me to face this fear head-on, someday soon (new mantra: learn another language or die trying? haha).

Work hard, play hard. Snapshots from the Fete de la Musique
in Geneva. Getting cultured by day (upper right) with classical music.
All hell breaks loose at night. Upper right shows a spontaneous dance party 
to the music of a Brazilian band. Lower left features the enchanting 
but powerful music of this Peruvian group. Lower right shows the site
of a fountain by night, and a wild, disco spot at night.
I was too much of a chicken to go for a dip :D

I'll also probably never get over how amazingly small, big, and seemingly connected the world is. For instance, I've been looking for the contact information of a key interviewee for my thesis on Typhoon Haiyan, only to be sent to a briefing by the Philippine mission in Geneva where the government contact I've been targeting served as the main speaker. Wooozaaaa!

And then, days ago, while furiously scribbling notes in a crowded room at the UN while listening to updates on the Central African Republic, I heard the chairperson introduce an all too familiar name in the panel----it was one of my professors from Dublin (the one I had a major professional crush on, no less) providing details about the humanitarian response from an international NGO's perspective!

Two days after, I was invited by another supervisor to the briefing on Iraq, only to find out that my former boss (the Philippine resident coordinator who is now deputy special representative/humanitarian coordinator to the country) was the one presenting the updates via videolink!

To cap off the workweek, I managed to meet two very inspiring graduates of my course. One was kind enough to meet me over lunch, and gave me the lowdown on the challenges of being an international development/humanitarian worker in Geneva, while the other was generous enough to meet me for coffee and offered to facilitate introductions to personal contacts who are relevant to my thesis!

So before I get accused of hoarding all the exclamation points in the world, here's a sincere wish that the coming weeks will bring y'all joy and a growing spirit of gratitude!!! Sending a chock-full of love and smiles, wherever you may be!!!


Bisous,

Hallstatt's Cheshire Cats

Monday, 14 July 2014

And just like that, half a year of happiness.

Oh my. How time flies!

***

On my first trip back to Ingo's country in April, we visited Hallstatt, a beautiful, historic village in the Salzkammergut Region of Austria. while happily enjoying the short boat ride to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, we were randomly spotted by a group of students filming a short travel documentary about the place, and were interviewed about our reasons for choosing to visit.

As the foreign visitor/main instigator of this leg of our holiday, I took the liberty of answering, not knowing that the group would include the clip... the entire clip. So much for my request to edit out the last part!

Months after, the group sent us this... a welcome surprise on our sixth (oh, how he used to shudder at the idea, haha) "monthsary".

Timestamp 4:09+ was both a funny and cringe-worthy reminder of us 
looking a lot like two Cheshire cats. :D


Crazily grinning from ear to ear,


Southern France

Sunday, 6 July 2014

In May, my Freund and I decided to walk down memory lane by revisiting Montpellier, where he lived and studied during his undergraduate days as an Erasmus scholar.

My stress level was shooting up like crazy because it was the last month for formal lectures and school requirements, so I wasn't sure whether it was the smartest thing to have a quick getaway in the middle of it all. 

I'm so glad that while Ingo is a crazy, driven soldier when it comes to accomplishing tasks (I swear, I look like a delinquent when compared to him, nakakahiya, haha!), I love that he's also such a great advocate for work-life balance. No, actually, I'd like to believe that we balance each other off. When he is a little stressed out with deliverables, he invites me to remind him about the importance of "strategically relaxing" to get one's second wind. It feels amazing to have him both as an... *warning, cheese ahead!* SO and a friend. I've never felt so supported! 

As usual, we decided to just meet up in France since he was flying from Dublin, and I was coming from stormy Germany (thank God my Eur 19.00 Ryan Air flight didn't get cancelled!) What I didn't tell him was that although I had no problems about traveling alone, I was concerned about going to France without knowing the language. 

Contrary to urban legends, I didn't have any traumatic language-related experience when I first visited (Paris) France years ago, but since my plane was landing in Bezier, a relatively obscure airport I've never been to before, I was still a little anxious about finding my way to Montpellier. 

Then again, I love being on my toes too when I'm in a foreign place, so I went ahead, full of hope that my research was accurate and adequate. Thankfully, I did make it without a hitch, and all the people I asked directions from where so nice! The fact is, they mostly spoke to me in French, but I have no idea how I managed to understand what they said! I say it's the power of context clues, hahaha.

It was nice to walk around Montpellier to visit landmarks like the Place de la Comedie and Arc de Triomphe, but personally, I enjoyed seeing the place and what it means to him more. Just passing by the most mundane places---his old residence, gym, hangouts, butchery, etc.---and hearing his stories about his days there, was so heartwarming. He said that he has been meaning to revisit Montpellier for years, but sharing it with someone makes it more special (*coughs* I have to agree). I seriously cannot wait until he visits the Philippines!

After Montpellier, we also went to Carcassonne. He had been to this medieval city years before and had no real reason to revisit it again, so imagine how grateful I was when he agreed to be my self-appointed tour guide. We were so glad that the weather cleared up a bit when we got there, despite the all-day rainy forecast.

To end our trip, we drove up to Cote D'Azur to get a piece of Nice. While I'm still a bigger fan of the Philippines' crystal-clear waters, now I can more or less understand why this is a popular choice among Europeans.




Holy Week Visits and Trip to Salzburg

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Finding at least seven churches in Salzburg wasn't difficult at all. They had one at almost every corner!

Visita Iglesia in Salzburg :)

For the rest of the Easter holiday, we spent time enjoying what his motherland has to offer. Some of the highlights include checking out the sites that appeared in the Julie Andrews film, The Sound of Music; visiting Halstatt, a cute lakeside village that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; taking the funicular to see the Salzkammergut area; trying out local Austrian food, especially the famous dessert, Sacher Torte. :)



Thankful to rediscover and be reinvigorated by an unconditional kind of love.

Feeling the Pinch

Sunday, 18 May 2014

I look at my blog and it reflects just how busy I've been in the past few months. I'm shaking my head for being so bad at updating this blog for family and friends, not for lack of happy stories to tell, because I haven't really had the time to breathe in between. Hayyyy!

Last month, I did the Visita Iglesia and I celebrated Easter holiday with Ingo in Salzburg and other areas in Austria. That country, oh my, has absolutely some of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen in my travels, and it didn't hurt that I had someone special (a local!) to spend it with. Just recently, we went to the south of France to visit the charming city where he lived as an Erasmus scholar during his undergraduate years. Sharing the trip down memory lane proved to be wonderful, as always.

For school, I finished two very important learning stations, and I was really happy about our group's outputs. One program was mainly focused on an HIV/AIDS program in Swaziland, while our proposed project dealt with media and development communications in Zaatari camp in Jordan. We also had an ammmmazzzinggg training with the German Red Cross about "Safety and Security" in the field and I was super lucky that I managed to survive, despite not being the most physical-fit person in the world, haha.

As for de-stressing, I squeezed in some time to visit the majestic tulip farm in the Netherlands with friends and now, after completing the semester's lectures, I'm treating myself to some crazy time with my French travel buddies Brenda and Celia before our finals.

I am so antsy and I can really feel the pinch because in about two weeks, I will wrap up my stay in Germany, and that means A LOT of things to tick off my my to-do list, from finalizing my research proposal, to packing and hauling and shipping stuff to Switzerland and the Philippines, to closing accounts, ending my contract in my current room, etc. No pressure!!! :-o

I finally got my official invitation for my internship (hallelujah!) so I'm now allowed to be excited about moving to Geneva (yay!). Except for the atrocious cost of living there (the hardest budget challenge I'll ever encounter *sniffs*), I'm thankful for the opportunity to be chosen for my new gig and for the miracle of finding a room through a friend of a friend of a friend (phew). Oh, and there's another thing that's keeping my awake all night---the prospect of flying home very soon is also on the horizon!

I really wish I could have the discipline, stamina, and time to keep track of all these wonderful memories as soon as I get some down time. For now, leaving you all with an idea of how crazy my classmates and I could get when we actually have time to squeeze in a quick, refreshing vacation.


After the long ride from Bochum to Strasbourg, 
we were all so happy to find this sweet little room for us.
Weee, Viva la France! :D


Bisous,

"#30" ≠ "The End"

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

It can also mean an awesome, inspiring and new beginning.

Sending lots of love today to "I", the man who has been making my heart smile. <3 Never thought turning a year older could be this wonderful!

Adventure is out there!

We may not be "absolutely" certain (who is?!) about where we're going, and we might not know how much time we'll need to get "there". One thing I'm sure of though is how safe, secure, and loved I feel right now.

There really are very important, life-scarring changing lessons that can be learned after getting thrown under the bus... I guess life really is about getting up, trying and trusting again.

Here's to embracing and starting this fresh journey, (hopefully) sans the baggage.



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