17 January 2016

Holidays in the Philippines

December 24th, 2015 - January 3rd, 2016

Sky Ranch in Tagaytay City
Despite knowing I'd probably end 2015 and start 2016 broke as heck, I decided to still spend my holidays back in the Philippines. I got to spend Christmas and New Year's in Tokyo and Nagano, Japan last year and I found it too quiet for me. Like what our country's tagline says, #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines, and it really is!

If it were up to me, I'd go straight from the airport to the beach, but my short visit only allowed me to meet with friends within the greater Manila area.  Anyway, here's how I spend my holidays for this year:



December 24th
Spent Christmas eve in Osaka around the Dotonbori area. Met a few friendly expats in Osaka, experienced staying at a capsule hotel for the first time, and tried Osaka's famous Pablo cheesecake. 

03 January 2016

OFWs and terminal fee refund


I unexpectedly received extra money at the airport today! I used the extra Php550 to buy some pasalubong (omiyage) for my friends back in Japan. 

How? I got a refund of my terminal fee because I'm an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). OFWs with Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) are exempted from paying  the travel tax and terminal fee when departing from the Philippines. However, these two are automatically included in the plane fare we're paying the airline upon booking, thus we have to go to a certain kiosk/office at the airport to get our refund. 
 
What you need to avail of the refund:
1. Printed copy of your confirmed itinerary which shows the total amount paid.
2. Passport
3. Boarding pass
4. OEC
I only received a refund of the terminal fee because my airline did not charge me of the travel tax. I am not sure if it will be the same for your airline, but make sure you have a printed copy of this part of your itinerary because this is what the staff is looking for. 

Where to get it:
I could only tell you where exactly to get it at NAIA 3. After the final x-ray of your stuff (the one after the immigration interview), turn left from the counters and you'll see a small doorway with the sign that says "Terminal Fee Refund." There were some instructions that are easy to see so I doubt you'll get lost. 

And there, enjoy your refund! It might be a small amount, but it could already afford you a few boxes of polvoron and tarts. Happy 2016, mahal kong kababayan :)


20 December 2015

My simple joys as a teacher


12.18.2015

I was assigned to teach at Takehara today, one of my schools while I was still living in Kure. It takes almost two hours by train from Hiroshima to Takehara, but I didn't really care. I was so excited to see my Friday students and parents because I never really got to say goodbye to them while I was still teaching there.

While in the classroom,I heard some footsteps on the stairs and knew that some students and parents are coming. The door swung open and I wasn't prepared for what happened next. My student's mom gave me a long tight hug and she looked genuinely happy to see me! 

My student was not too happy though. He sat at the corner of the classroom, crossed his arms, and started to sulk. Wasn't he happy to see me? :( He's not usually like that though.  She talked to him and I kept hearing my name throughout their chat, but I can't understand anything they're talking about. His mom tried to explain to me in Japanese that something happened at school (something about his teacher) that upset him. When his mom left, I told him we're going to play tons of games and have fun. I asked him to give me a "super high five" where he has to jump to actually reach my hand for the high five. That immediately made him smile! He seemed to be have fun with his classmates for the rest of the lesson. 

Simple things like this remind me of why I left my career at the university to teach kids. True, I don't understand much of what my students are telling me, but we still laugh a lot in our classes nonetheless (or maybe that's why?). What I appreciate about my current job is I get to go to different places, meet a bunch of kids with different personalities that it doesn't feel like a routine. You just can't expect every day to be the same. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that students act surprised when they find out I'm already 27. They said I look like I'm 23! Haha these kids.  


Those times when the Japanese hospitality just blew me away




What was I thinking leaving home where it's warm and comfortable? Did I really just quit a stable and well-paying job? Why am I even here in this foreign country surrounded by people whose language I still barely understand? 

These exact thoughts were running on my mind while I was getting a pizza-looking bread from Andersen's counter. 

And then there was a loud clang when the tray and tongs (and bread!) crashed on the floor. Why am I such a klutz? 

I apologized profusely to the guy behind the counter who rushed to help me clean up the mess I just made. I said I will pay for the bread (it costs around JPY200/PHP 65). He muttered something in Japanese, but all I could understand was atarashii. He then handed me a clean set of tray and tongs. I thanked him a hundred times and got myself another bread, same as the one that I just dropped. I was so embarrassed I just wanted to get out of Andersen as fast as I can.

I went to the counter and, in the best broken Japanse I could muster, asked the same guy to let me pay for the other bread I just dropped. 

He still refused. 

Just this morning, I was bawling my eyes out because I wanted to go back home, and then something like this happens. All I could think of was to thank God for giving me moments like these that just turn my days around.

Not the first time. 
I had been crying since I got on the plane from Manila to Osaka. When I finally reached Willer Express Bus Terminal in Osaka, I'm already drained. I went to the terminal cafe to grab something to eat (only because I know I have to eat something.) I ordered pasta, but I couldn't finish the whole thing. I asked the staff to wrap the leftover for take out instead. I thought I could eat it during my 6-hour bus ride to Hiroshima.

After waiting for a good 15 minutes for my pasta, I approached the staff at the counter and asked about my pasta. All I got from their Japanese is "gomi," and the girl said that my pasta is "lost." I said it was all right and just when I was about to leave, the guy  behind the cashier handed me the menu. I think he was asking me to tell him what I ordered. I told him to not bother, that it was really okay. 

He insisted though and pointed on the menu the pasta I ordered. I nodded, but kept saying "Daijobu desu." Before I knew it, I heard the ching of the register and he handed me back the amount I paid for the whole set which was about 800 yen. I just had a free lunch! 

From a stranger walking me to the mall I was looking for to a bunch of strangers who asked me to ride their car with a car navigation system so we could find my classroom...I could go on and on about all my experience with the kindness of the Japanese. 

If I didn't take this job, I wouldn't experience firsthand a culture so different from mine. I wouldn't have known just how kind and helpful most Japanese are.  I wouldn't have learned that at this age and time, it's still possible to lose a wallet and have it returned to you on the same day with everything still in tact. Or leave all your valuables on the table and expect them to still be there when you get back from the restroom. 

More importantly, I wouldn't have met all the great friends I met in my few months here, Japanese and foreigners alike. 



13 June 2015

Think positive. Feel positive.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Kawaii girls I met at the International Center.

I covered at my old school the past two days. I was excited to see my old students, but part of me also dreaded having to teach the younger students in this school again. This was the school where one of my students had an injury. His classmate accidentally pricked his cheek with a pencil while we were playing with the crocodile dentist.

Ahhh. That crocodile dentist. 

The Crier and the Croc Dentist
Most students love Wani-Sensei (Teacher Crocodile, that's what the kids call him). He's quite famous among my students. There's even a junior high school who says wani and then starts looking for him in the classroom the moment she arrives. 

There are those who get scared when they meet him for the first time though. One of them was my student earlier. Let's call her Rica.
                                
I was instructed by my performance supervisor not to use the crocodile dentist with Packet classes (mostly preschool age). Rica is not in a Packet class. I figured their class is old enough for the crocodile dentist so I went ahead and used him in the lesson. Everyone liked him. 

Or so I thought. When Rica pressed a tooth (using a marker), the crocodile "bit" her. Everyone laughed and cheered, and that made her cry. Of all the students, why her?!  

That's when I remembered that she was also the same student who cried when she wasn't able to finish our coloring activity in one of our lessons many months ago. 

Not again. It's like she decides to cry each time a lesson is about to end. It was frustrating because 1) Her mom saw her crying and 2) I had to file another incident report involving Wani-sensei. 

With a lot of gestures, I tried to I explain to her mom what happened. Good thing Rica was okay and was even smiling when she left the class that day. The super high-fives did the trick.

Little Ms. Sunshine
So I was still feeling a bit down that one of my students cried and it was because of the crocodile dentist again. 

I'd probably get in trouble with my PS this time. She probably will ask me to get rid of the crocodile dentist altogether. I really hope not though!

These were the thoughts running in my head when the students for my next class started coming in. I was excited to see one particular student again for this class. Let's call her Sunshine. Sunshine is the only girl in this class and she behaves well despite being surrounded by five loud boys. 

Sunshine was all smiles when she entered the classroom. Her mom told me that Sunshine was actually counting the days when she will see me again! I asked her mom if I could give Sunshine a hug and she was like "Of course!" *Warm fuzzies*
                   


Shift of focus
When all my lessons for the day were done and all the students have left, I had to face the paper work. While writing the incident report about Rica, I was feeling down again. All these negative thoughts started creeping in again. What if my contract doesn't get renewed because of all the recent incidents in my classes? What if Rica's mom is actually angry? It was the second time that her daughter cried in my class after all. 

While I was writing the lesson report for the class that Sunshine attended, I realized that out of 20 students that I taught today, only one of them cried. And that even happened 5 or 10 minutes before the end of the lesson. Most of my students actually had fun, so why am I fixating on just one student who cried?

Why do most of us have this tendency to focus on that one little bad thing that happened and let it ruin our day? It's like being scared of flying just because of what we see on the news. It's not like the news actually reports about the thousands of flights that leave the airports and actually land safely and without any glitch at all. 

I resolved to not think about the incident and focus on my Little Ms. Sunshine instead. If I don't get in trouble (and Wani-sensei, too), then good. I'd be really thankful. If I actually get in trouble, I will just have to deal with it, learn from it, and move past it. Like how I did with the past incidents in my classes.

While writing this, I received a message that cheered me up even more. One of my Japanese teachers, Reiko, told me that one of the parents said I'm doing well in teaching her son. That means a lot to me, especially because this parent is also teaching English in one of the local schools.

If you think about it, there are so much good things happening to and around us. Like the weekend, for one. Let's all try to fix our eyes on those. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

"...Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Philippians 4:8b (NIV)
                      

P.S. 
I wrote this entry at my favorite restaurant, Coco's. When I was paying for my meal, the staff didn't let me pay for the drinks (JPY290  (PHP106 / USD2.35)! Positive thinking could definitely attract more good things. But even at times when it doesn't, it's not like letting the "bad" things get to you will make things any better. So, Philippians 4:8!

Another update!
My performance supervisor (PS) told me just this morning that I should consider not using the crocodile dentist altogether because she thinks I'm "not using it with enough good judgment and it's leading to incidents." That actually stung at first. Oh well. Sorry kids, Wani-sensei will be on indefinite leave for now :) 


12 May 2015

Unplugged Part 3: Is this old Japanese guy asking me out on a date?

Can't wait to sit along the riverside with Noli
I chatted a bit with the two Japanese women before they went on to distribute their tracts to other tourists. Not long after, a Japanese guy who was biking at the park approached me. He parked his bike in front of the bench where I was sitting and asked me (in Japanese, complete with gestures and all) if I'm alone. 

He then sat at the other end of the bench and asked if I'm Filipina. I was surprised because usually, for some bizarre reason, people ask if I'm American. I asked him if he knows a lot of Filipinas because there are many Filipinos in Hiroshima. I don't think he understood me but he nodded. 

He kept talking to me in Japanese. Once again, Sumimasen, Nihonggo wakarimasen came in handy. He still kept talking to me though and eventually asked me if I could eat and drink with him. I smiled and politely declined. He finally left me in peace after that. 

Fell in love with pretty walls of Doutor along Hiroshima City's Hondori
I wish I could claim that I could manage my time better and spend less time on social media now. I'm still getting there. I appreciate the benefits of social media because just like books, it brings me to so many places I couldn't get to just yet. In vivid, colorful pictures at that. I just have to make sure that I'm not actually spending too much time online that I actually can't enjoy my present environment.

After the creepy old guy left, I got back to daydreaming about the day when I could finally walk this park with my family, or sit on the very same bench with Noli. All these wouldn't have happened if I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, stalking other people's online life :P


Part 1: Wonderlust (sic)
Part 2: Learning about a new religion






10 May 2015

Unplugged Part 2: Learning about a new religion


4.12.15

I sat on one of the benches facing the river and the Atomic Bomb Dome after I had my lunch. Peace Park is, indeed, peaceful. The bleak history behind the park probably helped keep the atmosphere serene despite the stream of tourists that visit the park.

Out of nowhere, two Japanese ladies approached me and gave me a pamphlet. I knew they wanted to share their religion to me. I told them I cant speak Japanese, but "Sumimasen, Nihonggo wakarimasen," didn't really faze them. I found out their religion is Nichiren Shoshu. It was the first time I've heard of that even though, according to Wikipedia, they have two temples in the Philippines.

I told them I'm a Christian. The woman who can speak a little English went on to tell me that "Jesus is weak because he died." Yep, those were her exact words. Apparently, their god didn't die because he was protected by his soldiers. 
                                                                                                                                             
I told her that Jesus died and "lived again" after three days, although I don't think she really understood what I said. They were actually really nice and, even though I don't believe in what they wanted to share, I still admire them for doing what they do.

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