Saturday, July 09, 2016

Volunteering Tales Part I

As usual, I feel bad about not being able to write anything here for over a month BUT STILL I don't do anything about it. So while I was able to snuck out a few minutes away from all the lesser important things I have in my life AND while still inspired, I'll have a go at it.

This has been in my head for a while I need to set it free. So.

Disclaimer: I'm not making this up nor being fastidious. 

I've been on the road for quite some time already that I've gotten used to Western behaviour and the ocean of differences that we seem to have (and by Western I meant European and North Americans). I'm not talking about religion, culture, nor belief here. These observations and experiences are based solely on working, OKAY, volunteering ethics.

Ever since JC joined me in Peru, we have been fortunate enough to have volunteered together in a backpacker hostel and in a retired couple's private property (where I am currently typing all these thoughts). The work is simple and manageable, some days it can get busy but nothing that we couldn't handle ourselves. We do, however, seem to always run into a problem with fellow volunteers with bad working behaviour and annoying habits such as:

  • Lack of care with what they're doing. Tasks as simple as cleaning are done half-heartedly or not done at all which could mean double job for someone else. Ex: cleaning a wet, muddy bathroom floor with dirty mop, purposely leaving dishes unwashed on their shifts so the volunteer on the next shift would do it, etc. I mean you are volunteering in a backpacker hostel so you basically know what you got yourself into.
  • Not knowing the difference between distilled water and vinegar. Someone actually mopped the floor using vinegar I wanted to cry.
  • Not giving a fuck over clogged drains that they themselves created by throwing all the little stuff on the sink, not bothering to clear and throw them away on the garbage bin like any normal human being would.
  • Using kitchen sponge for cleaning non-dishes related stuff. *cringes*
  • Leaving unwashed dishes everywhere (Okay I have an issue with unwashed dishes if you haven't noticed yet).
  • Not cleaning up right after prep/cooking session.
  • Antsy to leave shift 30 minutes before it actually ends.
  • Working as little as possible. If left unsupervised, won't do what should be done at all. The annoying thing is they do get away with it which leads me back to what I previously said, double the work for someone else.
I am not perfect myself, I am also guilty of procrastinating sometimes but not to the point where I let someone else do the job that I know I should be doing. I may be a bit of a stickler when it comes to washing dishes and kitchen overall tidiness (everyone should, imho) but it's a common courtesy to clean up after yourself, right?! Are they insensitive or am I too sensitive? I'm not too sure about all this but I suspect our [different] backgrounds may have something to do with our work behaviour.

Back home I've always hated cleaning chores but after doing it for a few months now I've learned to appreciate, even liked (gasp!) it. We may not get paid for what we do but it's no excuse for doing a lousy job. 

Guess this post turned into a rant post, eh? Oops.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


In Manila I've officially turned a year older but since Peru is 13 hours behind, I won't be for another 2 hours here.

Walking in Miraflores to Barranco

It's weird. Ever since I turned 30 I made it a point to celebrate my birthday out of town. It's my first time to celebrate it out of country, away from JC, friends, and family (and by family I meant family of JC and a few friends' family). I have no idea what to do tomorrow but I'd really love to treat myself. Perhaps I'd finally allow myself a fancy meal (missing good Japanese meal badly!) or a slice of cake or finally watch Civil War if I find a cinema playing it with Spanish subtitles instead of it being dubbed. All these I have to do in the first half of the day before my cleaning duty starts in the place where I'm currently volunteering.

Or I could walk again to my favourite, secret park in Malecon. Sit, stare at the sea. Mull over what I'm doing with my life, map out my next route, agonise about money, give thanks for everything.

Belmond Malecon, Lima

Despite all the fears - founded or unfounded - I don't think I would change a thing about my recent decisions in life. Except maybe that time I still went, for the THIRD time, and typed an incorrect PIN code on my ATM card. I'd probably still have that card with me today.

¡Maldita sea!

Pierola residents

Spending versus splurging. What would it be?

Friday, April 29, 2016

I'm Back In The Big City!

After spending 3 weeks in a lemon farm with the best co-volunteers ever (will write about that experience later), I trudged my way back to Lima, Peru because 1) Chile visa was expiring very soon, and 2) I did not get a volunteering gig in Paracas.

It still worked out though as I landed a last minute volunteer work in Lima and since JC will be arriving in less than 3 weeks, I figured might as well spend it here. I'm so glad the house rental (not hostel) I'm staying in right now is in Barranco! I have my own private room. Period. Haha. Let's just say the work I'm doing here are typically the things I avoided at all cost doing back home. :| That being said, I can't wait to get out of here and head north. I'm eyeing Huaraz region so crossing my fingers we get a volunteer gig there.

Monday, March 28, 2016

25 Things I Learned on my First Month in Chile

Just like that another month has passed. Not only am I celebrating my third month on the road, I am also celebrating my one month of living (or crashing in my friends' apartment) in Chile, specifically  Valparaíso . What happened after I left Arequipa, Peru? How is Chile? Any interesting new experiences/knowledge to share? Fret no more as I present to you 25 things I learned on my first month of living in Chile.

1. Chile is expensive. Before I left Arequipa, 100% of the travellers I talked to that have been to Chile warned me how ridiculously expensive it was down there. Of course they were right. Still, I find comfort in the fact that there's another place in South America where tourists like me find it more and annoyingly expensive than ChileArgentina.

2. Prepare for long bus rides. If you can afford domestic airfares, good for you mate, I envy you. Chile is a long but narrow country that stretches over 4,300 kilometres (by comparison Philippines is about 1,850 kms). One of the best decisions I made here so far was breaking my trip from Arequipa to Valparaiso by staying an extra night in Arica, a small border town located in northernmost part of Chile. From Arica I took a 31-hour bus ride all the way to Valparaíso covering roughly 2,043 kms. That's like half of the entire stretch of Chile. Typing about it makes me tired already.

Kids swimming in the middle of a public park. (Arica, Chile).

3. You can break down your trip, hello. If you can't stand long-distance bus rides, there's plenty of places to make a pitstop. I only did it because I have friends in Valpo (what locals call  Valparaíso) and thought I had a work exchange waiting there for me.

4. Chile has a very diverse climate. From Arica to Valpo, I reckon 70% of the view from my window was of desert. Small oasis are rare to be seen. But there are also those that are huge enough to be a thriving city like Iquique. Valpo, located in the centre of Chile, enjoys a Mediterranean climate. I arrived at the tailend of summer here so it was mostly warm and sunny during day but cold at night. Parang Baguio weather. Only difference is Valpo is at sea level. When I went to Santiago on a daytrip, I saw hectares and hectares of vineyards. Down south is a whole different story. Hopefully, together with JC, we'd be there by spring.

Approaching Iquique, popular surftown.

5. Chilenos speak really fast Spanish it's insane.

6. Aside from speaking really fast, Chilenos tend to drop their 's' as well as end of syllables. Example: Buenas tardes becomes buena tarde, Lunes a Viernes becomes Lun a Vier. NKKLK. If, like me, your Spanish is super basic, you wouldn't understand a thing. I didn't. Most of the time when talking to the neighbours or vendors, I have this stupid look on my face that I don't even try to hide hahaha.

Save me from this dino este myself ata.

7. Related to above. Once while strolling in a supermarket, I overheard this couple saying Mickey Mau to their toddler kid while pointing to, of course, Mickey Mouse. Ang tinde! :))

8. They LOVE their completos. Completos are the Chilenos' version of the American Hot Dog. It has hotdog locally called as vienesa topped with chopped tomatoes and onions, mashed avocado then slathered with an insane (and disgusting after you realise what mayonnaise is made of) amount of mayonnaise. Completos food chain/stalls/vendors are everywhere. So far I had 3, one in Arica, 1 in Santiago, and 1 here in Valpo. The completos I had in Arica was the best so far. It was huge and came out cheapest of the 3.

A completos stall in Santiago, Chile

Best completos I had so far. This was in Arica, Chile.

9.  Valparaíso is a beautiful and vibrant city. It's filled with colourful cerros and streets, artists in every corner, artworks in every space. No wonder it is Chile's cultural capital. Very bohemian.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

10. If you have limited time in Valparaíso and have to visit 2 cerros only, make your way to Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion. Juiceko. Umaapaw sa pagka-hipster ang vibe ng mga lugar na yun. :))

11. They take their wall arts seriously. They make lovely and amazing arts even in places you didn't think you'd find art.

Valparaiso, Chile street arts/murals
A few of the thousand murals found in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.

Valparaiso, Chile street arts/murals

12. There's tons of people selling various whatnots along the streets of Valpo. What the bar guest I met in Arequipa said was true, we could actually sell something, ANYTHING here if we're cash-strapped.

13. There's also tons of canine friends roaming around the streets. People even leave water and food for them outside their steps or near posts. The downside of this tho is the poo smell everywhere.

A makeshift doghouse I found on the street somewhere in Cerro Concepcion.

14. If you live in one of the cerros (which I do), prepare for extensive leg workout. I live in an area where it takes 20 minutes to climb down to centre and 30-40 minutes to climb back. Most of the streets here are really steep with equally steep stairs it's not even funny. I walk a lot so I can save money.

Lots and lots of stairs huhu

Another route I take whenever going to the city centre. Quite a hike!

15. Cars going up to the cerros are called collectivos but they look a lot like brand new taxis we have in Manila. I noticed there's a lot of women driver here (yay!).

16. There's no McDonald's in Valparaiso. Nor KFC. If you want your Mickey D fix you have to go to Viña del Mar which is 20-30 minutes travel via micro bus.

17. I finally found a decent mall. It's also in Viña del Mar.

They have Chuck E. Cheese's but I don't know how it works haha.

18. I see many locals, even as young as high school students, with tattoos. They love tattoos which are curiously located in unconventional parts of the body.

19. Sadly, the cuisines here are not too varied. I am surrounded by completos, empanadas, chorillanas, choclos, papas, and other oily or fried food. Good thing we cook our food at home. I'd rather eat a peanutbutter sammich than stuff my face with overpriced, mostly fried and oily food.

20. There are plenty of supermarkets here and I've been to all of them haha. It's a guilty pleasure and often the highlight of my day whenever I go out. Sometimes I come inside, stroll, and look around without buying anything. Just admiring the variety of cheeses this one supermarket have over the other three.

Okay these pictures will be funny only to Pinoys hehe.

21. One supermarket, Mayorista 10 (which sells some of the cheapest products compared to others), do not sell soy sauce. I was walking back and forth the condiments aisle and couldn't for the life of me find a soy sauce but they have an entire aisle selling only cooking oil.

Kikkoman soysauce are super expensive here!

22. Chilenos are good-looking bunch. If the Peruvians have nice bums, Chilenos got nicer bums. Hehe.

23. Women LOVE their midriff tops. It's really a thing here. But soon as it gets cold everyone sports their coats and boots.

24. They have this strange but beautiful eye colour that I can't quite make out because I can't stare too long. It'd be rude.

25. On Sundays, streets of Valpo becomes almost a ghost town. Most of the establishments are closed, not much cars on the street. Even the vendors that usually line the streets are nowhere in sight. Goodluck finding your suking tindero for that cheap veggies or walnuts.

Friday, March 04, 2016

On Fixing 404s And Advertising Myself

Google sent me an email today to inform me that there has been an increase on my 404 pages recently. I knew this would happen when I started moving my significant travel posts in another website. The move was mainly to realign all travel posts in one repository since this website has more personal and informal content than the other one I made 2 years ago. Also, to generate a more specific target which eventually could convert to income.  It's a long road I have to take and involves a lot of work since I don't know a lot about these stuff buti na lang I now have the time and we have Google.

This  means I couldn't ignore it any longer and have to find an immediate solution. So I did the easiest fix I could. I made a template message informing users that the page they are looking for has been removed and redirected that page to homepage. Easy peasy but I know it would hurt this website.

Now, I am including the link to that travel website to those handful of users who came here will not (hopefully) have a bad user experience by leaving empty-handed. It's still a work in progress so  it's very basic. One day it will be pretty too (but highly depends on how fast I absorb all the coding and website tricks I'm currently learning).

I know not many people come here to read my thoughts, after all this website was initially created to record my personal thoughts and experiences.

But macncheeseontheroad is slightly better, informative, and worthy of your precious time. You can ask my friends to confirm this: I don't really sell myself to the public but perhaps, in this modern age of technology and digital living it's about time I put myself more out there. No better way than to start advertising myself now.

Please share the word. Also, YOUR support is highly appreciated. Please and Thank You.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

21 Things I Learned From My First Month Of Living In Peru

Today marks my first month in Peru. How time flew so quick. To celebrate surviving my first month, I made a list of things I learned, observed, and experienced the whole time I was here.

  1. You can subsist on 14 Soles (roughly PhP190) worth of food budget for 3-4 days. Cooking is an essential skill you have to acquire when traveling slow. 
  2. On my first day of work in the kitchen, I was forced to cook an omelette for a customer. I've never done it back home (yes, I am awful like that) so imagine how I murdered my first omelette. I apologised to the guest but he was fine with it. Oh, did I mention I forgot to put salt on it? ✌🏼️ +_+
  3. If you are not a loaded traveler (I mean come on first-world-citizens-who-claim-themselves-as-budget-travelers, you clearly haven't got clue of third-world-travelers-on-budget), buy your beers from supermarkets and drink it outside. Sit down in one of the many parks, sip on your cerveza while people watching. Beers in hostel bars are expensive, that's how they profit. Ssshhh. 
  4. Canadians are the nicest bunch of travelers I've ever encountered behind (and outside) the bar.
  5. I met a few really nice American couples (they are out there, just rare breed!) traveling South America; BUT
  6. I also met young American women who were the WORST. Let's just say they couldn't hold their alcohols, wrecked havoc in the hostel and pretty much caused an embarrassing scene which we still talk about until today.
  7. Peruvian women are so gifted. I could stare at their bums all day and not get tire. 
  8. Reggaeton is a huge deal in South America. You will hear it everywhere so get used to it. Or better yet, learn to enjoy it.
  9. Don't leave Arequipa without eating Chicharrones. Preferably those found in Mercado de San Camilo. 
  10. When being introduced to a local for the first time, kisses on the cheek are normal.
  11. Also, a peck on the cheek before you leave. A simple ciao won't cut it.
  12. I am still mistaken as a Korean.
  13. There will always be friendly and curious travelers, talk to them.
  14. But be wary of old travelers, they could be grumpy. Smile and suck it up.
  15. Even if you've traveled extensively, someone will always have better travel resume than yours.It's mindblowing how they could. 
  16. Dutch are the second nicest bunch.
  17. I like Peruvians because they do not stare at me. They do, however, stare at my feet whenever I walk around in my flip-flops.
  18. It is RARE to see Arequipeños wearing flip-flops. They ALWAYS wear shoes.
  19. In Lima, you can get away with flip-flops and pekpek shorts on summer. Everyone's showing skin, even the oldies (eyelovet!). 
  20. While accompanying a few friends for a late lunch, an old but obviously drunk man gave me a shiny un Sol to remember him by. Kinda weird but hey, I wouldn't say no to an un sol!
  21. Rest assured when I serve you your cocktails, they are clean. It's my takeaway after working for more than 3 weeks in a hostel bar. ;) 
I will be heading to Chile next week, stay tuned for my long-distance bus stories (huhu). Include me in your prayers if you are one of my friends who does. 😁

Ciao ciao!

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Valentine Post But Not Really

When I woke up today at 6.30am, I looked for my phone and opened Facebook like I usually do. While scrolling down my feed, I saw my cousin's status announcing that our grandmother, the woman whom I was named after, has passed away.

I was surprised but calm. Then I went about today's activities. It's a Sunday so I'm in charged of kitchen. Once I was done prepping the kitchen for breakfast, I had a little down time. I decided to post about her passing away in instagram. It was while composing a caption that everything sank in. I allowed myself to mourn and cry a little.

The hardest bit of her passing away was I never got to say goodbye seeing as I'm on the other side of the world. But I do think that she will forgive me for it. We might not have the closest relationship, like my cousins have with her (since they all live in one house), I know ours was one of mutual admiration. I admire her for her courage to endure everything that had been hurled her way, for taking care of her (too many) grandchildren even if it meant giving up something for herself. My cousins, aunt, and uncle are the luckiest because they got to live and spend so much time with her but oftentimes I can't help but think that they drove her to the extremes and eventually it wore her out. She was aware of it but she chose them still.

I heard the reason why a certain cousin hated me then and made my life miserable - back when I used to lived in the same house during weekends - was that because I was her favourite. I never believed it. How could I? I didn't see her for almost seven years (I was shipped off to the province, came back when I was about to start University) and my mother isn't exactly well-liked in the family (let's just say she is the black sheep so initially, I thought everyone wouldn't like me as well).

My cousins had all the advantage in the world so why would she choose me? As I grew older, I realised that she might not really have uttered those exact words to anyone. She might, at some point, talked and bragged about how I was in the best University in the country, how I was a scholar blah, blah, blah that my cousin thought of me as a threat. Our grandmother got sidetracked for a while and she did not like it. I admire her sneaky way of getting into someone's head although I kind of paid for it for a few years.

When I told her about our trip to South America, she was genuinely happy and excited for me. I heard it in her voice and saw it on her face, how it lit up after hearing I was flying to the other side of the world after years of saving up for it. Her approval meant a lot to me. I'd like to believe that she approved most of my life choices, like not marrying at an early age like everyone else in the family had lol.

Wherever you are, I hope I made you proud. Sorry I was not there to hold your hand one last time.

Rest now, Lola Sarah. Say hi to Lolo for me.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First Month On The Road!

And just like that, 31 days have passed since I left Manila.

Thirty-one days since I've last cut my toenails. Okay gross.

I've experienced winter (mild winter like what everyone kept saying) in Europe, traveled to 5 major cities, seen very famous landmarks, experienced very efficient transport system, stayed in European hostels (every hostels looked mediocre after that), drank a few beers, ate Belgian chocolate (and waffles!), walked too many kilometres, broke down one night due to solitude exacerbated by the freezing weather, flew from -5C to 26C with all winter accessories on.

Currently calling Arequipa, Peru her home base in the next 3 - 4 weeks (depends how everything pans out here). I am doing a "volunteer" work in a hostel in exchange for free accommodation, free breakfast, and staff discount on other services. But before arriving here, I was panic-stricken in Lima when I couldn't find a place to volunteer. I had to pay for my nights in the hostel, although which isn't much but still money going down the drain. I even had a very emo conversation with a friend who gave me his full support believing I could find one soon enough. I just had to be patient.

Lo and behold, when I went back to my hostel in Lima after a stroll in the beach an email was waiting for me. I didn't waste time and immediately traveled to Arequipa. It was a tiring 16-hour journey to the mountains of Arequipa. But I wasn't complaining.

I miss Jollibee, our malls, how there's so many restaurants/fast food chains to choose from (in short food diversity), my friends, and JC. But since this is the life I chose now, I gotta stay tough. hang on, count the days down before JC and I see each other again!

Life here is simple, days slow. It's weird to have so much time in your hand when back home I had barely time for all the things I wanted to do. Pero juiceko I need to find some online part-time job ASAP so if you know anything please hook me up! Thankz pow.

Anyway, goodluck to me in the coming months. Cheers to one month of making it! I 

View from our hostel balcony

Friday, January 22, 2016

Happy New Year, Happy New Post! (Part I - UK)

It's been ages since I wrote nonsense here. I've mostly been throwing down my thoughts in my instagram account but I dunno, I can't dump every single photo there that I find interesting just because.

SO MANY THINGS HAVE HAPPENED. Let me list those down:

  • I QUIT MY JOB! All caps for emphasis. December 18 was my last day at work which was spent doing last minute transition stuff and exchanging gifts with 3/4 of my team. Sad that I was leaving but excited for what's ahead. ;)

  • I spent New Year's Eve in a hotel pub somewhere in Southend-On-Sea. For those of you who are too lazy to google where that is, it's in Essex, UK. Yes, I finally made it in UK!
In case I forget where I was

  • I saw the Stonehenge!!! Unbelievable how many people were there. Apparently people are not deterred one bit of the winter weather. It was so damn cold. And windy which made it worse!

  • Had a proper English Christmas meal with the family of my host. It was so nice to have experienced how they celebrate special occasions this part of the world. I especially loved the crackers (that thing on the plate)! It's a cardboard tube usually wrapped in colourful paper. We crossed our arms to form a circle, each person holding one end of a cracker, then pull the cracker to reveal a gift, paper crown, and a joke inside. So cool! I got a nail clippers by the way.

  • Sherlock special! I need not wait for hours to download it in torrent haha.

  •  London Underground! Although I stayed 2 hours drive away from London, my friend and I made a few day trips here to see the usual sights.

As mentioned earlier, on New Year's Eve we went to 2 pubs. The first was a local favourite called The Last Post

The second was at The Railway Hotel where we rang in the New Year along with 100 (perhaps more) other souls. Absolutely no fireworks, just loads of beers chugged, hugs exchanged, and British songs sung (my favourite was Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now after Auld Lang Syne!). 

  • Visited London icons.

  • Visited museums. They have the best, FREE museums!
Science Museum London

Natural History Museum

The star of Natural History Museum - Dippy, a the Diplodocus - is on display at the central vaulted hall near the dinosaur gallery.

  • Hunted this TARDIS.

  • Got drenched in typical London style. 

  •  English private schoolboys on a field trip + Tate Modern = dedmahin nyo na plz OOTD ko.

  •  Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre. Rachel Anne Go = Pinoy pride!

  •  A walk on the Millennium Bridge bcos Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London was fullybooked for like the next 2 weeks :(

  • Nando's!

  • These lads.

And I swear, too many things in between. I am so thankful for the things I saw, food I got to try, the new and oftentimes funny experiences I had, roadtrips (traffic-free roads damn!), a few shenanigans here and there, the family that adopted me for 11 days and most of all, the opportunity to travel. I hope I could come back again. Til next time, UK!

Next: Barcelona!