Photos: Bookfest @ Malaysia 2014

I figured it’s rather timely to post these while the book fair is still ongoing – just so people who love books as much as I do can still make their way to Bookfest @ Malaysia 2014.

It’s the first day of Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr) and here in Malaysia, it means that everyone gets to have a long weekend. No work until Tuesday for most people as our Muslim brothers and sisters celebrate the end of Ramadan and break their fast.

We had a long day today – we (along with other people from the Embassy) visited the house of the Ambassador’s chauffeur (he’s a loyal employee and has been with the Embassy here for decades) to celebrate Hari Raya with him and his family. It was nice to be exposed to their religion’s traditions which, I must admit, seemed really foreign to me prior to coming here.

And it was so heartwarming to see how his family is so tight-knit and are happy to see each other during the holidays. It’s like Christmas back at home but without alcohol and a bit more quiet. After that, my husband’s colleagues from the Embassy decided that we all drop by the Batu Caves (as it was only 5 minutes away) before going home. But I will write more about that next time. After the Batu Caves, we went home for a nap, caught the Philippine President’s State of the Nation Address via live streaming, then went to the book fair to check it out.

We weren’t disappointed. The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre was filled with books and people trying to get their hands on the titles they wanted. The best part about the book fair? All the books are on sale – some with even massive discounts. Here are some photos from the fair:

The halls in the ground floor were divided into two – the Chinese and English sections.

In the English section, there were lots of contemporary best sellers. From Dan Brown to John Green. There were also cookbooks, reference materials, art, design,  and even self-help.

The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan’s series on Egypt mythology, is being sold at the fair for 25% off

A lot of Young Adult (YA) books are available.

Nancy Drew titles are being sold in packs of 8 at RM12 (Php 163.98, US3.78, EUR2.81)

Oh, and did I mention that there were a LOT of people?

Oh, hello there literary rockstar. ;)

There’s a good collection of titles from Neil Gaiman. There was no copy of Stardust in sight, though. I hope it’s sold out. More people need to read that book. It’s just so beautiful.

Alvin and I’s usual bookstore haunt: The history/war/current events section. So happy that there were a lot of good books!

Have I mentioned that there were a LOT of good books that I’m dying to read?

There’s an area dedicated to comics – from your favourite Marvel heroes down to your choice of Manga.

Music and movies are also being sold – from vinyls to Blu-rays.

There are also vintage collectibles like these which are pretty popular here in KL.

Art materials and even Paint Art (a company that sells a canvas with a pattern which will make painting easier for you) have stalls inside the fair as well.

There are also toys, knick-knacks, and other collectibles. I’ve been eyeing these pretty miniatures. They’re cute aren’t they? But I just have nowhere to put them yet.

While the ground floor (Halls 1-5) houses the books that are for sale, a part of the fair called ‘The Lifestyle Section’ is also housed on the 3rd floor. It’s where you can buy gadgets, office and art supplies, as well as trinkets and even more collectibles.

Here’s Friedrich Staedtler, famous pencil craftsman from the 1600s (if I’m not mistaken) making ‘old-school’ pencils for the fair-goers.

Did I mention earlier that there were toys? No? Oh, there are. Kawaii ones at that. ;)

Hello, Doraemon!

Faber Castell, in my humble opinion, is one of the best makers of coloured pencils in the market today. Been a fan since I was a kid.

We ended the day with some takeout that we got from Suria, brought everything home and had a cosy dinner – just the two of us. Here’s a photo of our mini haul from today:

All of these for RM67 (Php915.56, US21.11, EUR15.70).

We got the Dan Browns for my husband as he likes fast paced books. I’ve read Digital Fortress before as well as all other Dan Brown titles except for Deception Point so I might pick it up after he’s done with it. Both Digital Fortress and Deception Point were sold at RM12 each (Php163.98, US3.78, EUR2.81).

I Used to Know That (World History) was also priced at RM12 (Php163.98, US3.78, EUR2.81) and I knew I just had to get it. The history nerd in me was demanding it. It’s basically a fast facts book that tackles the most important parts of world history. Perfect when you want to refresh your memory or when you’re trying to remember who the first female pharaoh was. It’s Hatshepsut, by the way. Yes, I’m showing off.

Mansfield Park was a book that I read when I was 7 years old. I got it from my school library and I think it’s high time I get my own copy. A steal at RM3 (Php41.00, US0.95, EUR0.70).

United States: An Illustrated History. Again, the history nerd strikes. No other explanation needed. Hah. Got it for RM15 (Php204.98, US4.73, EUR3.52)

Atlas of Military History – a gift to my husband which I bought then and there. Just because. I bought it for RM15 (Php204.98, US4.73, EUR3.52) but it shall be considered as conjugal property because I want to read it too. Many interesting battles are mentioned here – some of them happened in the Philippines.

Some tips for going to the fair:

  • Take public transportation. We witnessed a long cue towards the parking area at KLCC today.
  • Eat before going and bring some water. You will get dizzy inside easily with all the people.
  • Bring a canvas bag (or maybe even a small trolley) if you plan to shop. Books can be heavy!

The book fair started last 25 July and will run until 3 August. They have a pretty good selection there so I am sure anybody will find something they will like. Though I was a tad disappointed that they didn’t have Inside the Red Border: A history of our world, told through the pages of TIME magazine. I’ve been dying to get that book – preferably discounted as it’s a bit pricey. I’m kuripot (a cheapskate) like that.

An entrance fee of RM2.50 (Php34.16, US0.79, EUR0.59) will get you in and they will also give you a catalogue so you can plan your purchases and you can check which ones are available or will be included in their Daily Specials board for further discounts.

2014 Book Fest Catalogue.

If you’re into charity, the organisers will also give you a chance to donate. You can buy 4 bookmarks for RM10 (Php136.53, US3.15, EUR2.34) and a portion of that amount will go to Popular Bookstore’s (the bookstore chain behind the book fair) Read On, Dream On campaign.

Cute, aren’t they?

Bookfest @ Malaysia 2014 is currently happening at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC).

It is located at: Jalan Pinang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

For the map, click here.

It is open from 10am to 10pm.

Entrance fee is RM2.50 (Php34.16, US0.79, EUR0.59) per person, per day.




Creative juice: Batik painting lessons

As mentioned in the previous post, it’s basically hard to get bored in KL. I guess that’s why a lot of expats choose to move to this city or other neighbouring ASEAN capitals due to vast amount of things you can do, places you can explore, and new things you can try out.

A couple of weeks back, I went with a couple of ladies that I met at the International Women’s Association here in KL to a Batik Painting lesson. I’ve always loved painting and doing something creative with my hands so when they told me about this activity, I knew I just had to go.

So at around 9:30 in the morning, I found myself walking to Kompleks Kraft (KLCC) which was a mere 10 minute walk from our condo. Yay!

It’s quite easy to spot along Jalan Conlay as it’s right next to the pretty Royale Chulan Hotel.

Kompleks Kraf is HUGE. And the Batik Painting area is just one part of it!

There are so many things to see and buy at Kompleks Kraf. If you’re looking for high quality Malaysian art, clothes, and souvenirs – this is the place to go aside from Central Market (Pasar Seni). I was going to take photos but most of the store keepers inside the complex won’t allow it.

It’s a popular place for field trips (there were two busloads of school children the day we went there) and tourists as well due to the regular events they have there that showcase Malaysian culture.

Okay, so back to Batik Painting. In case you’re wondering what Batik is, it’s Malaysia’s textile art popularly used on Malaysian traditional clothes. It’s a bit similar to Indonesian Javanese Batik but has smaller and more detailed patterns.

We were told by our instructor that while Indonesian Javanese Batik is often made through free-hand brush painting, which can be hard for people who don’t have any prior experience to painting, the Malaysian version is a bit easier.

Malaysian Batik uses a device called a canting to draw the pattern over the cloth using hot wax. The wax will then be your guide to painting as it stops the paint from spreading further (paint used for making Batik tends to spread way too easily and may even cause you to have mini heart attacks while painting). But there are also some Batik producers who use wooden blocks to outline the patterns instead of a canting.

It’s an activity that’s not just for children – teens and adults enjoy it too.

I chose a simpler design that I deemed easy enough for a first timer like me – something flowery. Out instructor gave us a pencil and told us to write our names somewhere in the canvas. She took it and traced wax using the canting over our names. A cute way to personalise our future works of art.

Pretty colours! Be adventurous and don’t hesitate to use your palette for mixing.

We were given brushes, paints, little cups of water and tissue to use. The activity was a lot of fun and a good chance to make use of your creativity. We were mixing colours and I was having a great time fiddling with gradients – I think the way the colours shift from light to dark on the patterns are just too beautiful.

Halfway through the process. What do you think?

Some tips for first timers:

  • I learned that the colours tend to lighten up once they dry so build up on the paint if you want to retain the dark shade.
  • Careful with your strokes. Paint used for Batik spreads easily so most of the time, even just dabbing the brush is enough. It’s actually fun to watch the paint spread then stop once it hits the wax. ;)
  • Want to make the colours lighter? Just dab water onto the canvas. Water is also very useful when experimenting with gradients.

And with that said, here’s my finished product (taken with my iTouch 4’s camera – I can’t seem to find the photo that I took with my Sony – so it’s a bit blurry):

Makes me feel just a wee bit proud.

My husband loved it when he saw it and we’re thinking of having my artwork framed. It will look rather nice in one of the rooms. You can have your artwork washed to have the wax lining taken out. It will leave white lines in the place of the wax but you also run the risk of the paint getting lighter.
Kompleks Kraf (Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex) is located at:
63, Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur, 50250, Kuala Lumpur, WP Kuala Lumpur 50450 Malaysia
For a map to the place, click here.
The activity costs between RM25 to RM30 (Php341.39-Php409.67, US7.88-US9.45, EUR5.86-EUR7.04) per person.
Got questions or just want to know more? Don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail or leave a comment below.

Changes and boredom

KL is such an expat friendly city. It’s like Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Manila (yes, people! Manila is expat friendly! Come see it!). There are so many different things you can do that it’s actually hard to get bored.

Which is a good thing since my husband worries about me getting bored (which might lead to me getting cranky) here while he’s in the office. See, back in Manila I worked as a full-time journalist. I did TV and multimedia and was always on the go. I was doing things like this and before that, things like this and this. I’m pretty much out all day till a bit late at night – like 5 to 6 times a week.

I did stories on diplomats, foreign policy, and politicians. I covered the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice and did stories on the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea issue. I met lots of fun and interesting people. I also did stories on art, beauty, fashion, travel, and food which you can find here. It was so much fun but I was as crazy busy as my husband was back in the home office, making the move here to KL a welcomed change. Now, only one of us is crazy busy! ;)

definitely and obviously miss my job but the time to lie down and actually get to do some reading (I brought a lot of my books from Manila!) is such a glorious feeling! So different from squeezing in a couple of pages while my crew cab zig zags along Manila traffic!

Sometimes, I wake up basically asking myself: Do I really have free time? Or am I just forgetting something?

There are household chores, of course. But I’m lucky since my husband is always very helpful during the weekends when we do major cleaning. And I like to squeeze in a 1-hour run or short cardio exercises (like 10 minute routines) every now and then just to keep my blood pumping nicely and to get a bit stronger. At 5’6 1/2″, my weight hovers between 110 and 115 lbs (ideal weight is 128lbs). If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to maintain this and not go back to my 99-105lbs weight range in college (wearing XXS! Crazy!). 

This was me back in college. I did modelling part time and this was one of my favourite photos of myself back then. It’s Wednesday so please forgive the #GPOY post. I was 99 lbs and still had the bad habit of smoking like a chimney back then.

Man, I used to be like skin and bones which was helpful when I was modelling part time but not when I was already doing real-life, full-time work.

Ok, here’s a non-modelling photo. Also at 99lbs. My mother used to tease me that I wasn’t being fed enough but I actually have the appetite of a fat, fully-grown man. It was the vices, I tell you. So kids, don’t smoke! It will make your lungs weak and your running slow.

I didn’t want to look like a sickly kid on camera. I won’t have any credibility talking about the South China Sea if I looked like I hadn’t eaten in days. Right before I became a journalist, I decided to ditch the cigarettes and slow down on the liquor. That did wonders to my health. Now, I’m still underweight, wearing XS clothes – but at least my cheeks aren’t hollow anymore! Now I’m hoping to get into an S-M range soon enough and be a bit stronger and healthier – so I can make up for all the ciggies I consumed all throughout high school and college due to stress. (Sorry mom!)

Taken during our quick weekend in HK a just a couple of months ago. I don’t look starved anymore here. Definitely looking healthier after 3 years of not smoking and occasional (wink) drinking.

I’m also not allowed to work here in Malaysia since I am considered as a diplomat’s dependent. It would’ve been fun to work for a news agency or maybe a magazine here in KL. They have lots here and even local versions of the well-known international ones. However, our Ambassador, (Ambassador M) told me that I am not hindered from doing volunteer work. Sooooo, I’ve been thinking of doing some ‘voluntary’ writing. Just so I won’t get rusty. He also gave me the phone number (out of the blue) of the current head of the ASEAN Ladies’ Circle. “Call her and volunteer,” he said knowingly during a small party at the Embassy. We’ve known each other in Manila, before my husband and I even got married. I’ve also interviewed Ambassador M over a couple of issues before so he knows my kind of life back in Manila. He and Alvin have been very helpful in keeping me occupied.

I’m actually excited to volunteer. I hope I can help out in some charity work or a couple of fund raisers – I think fund raising for a cause I’m passionate about is another one of my hidden talents. 

A couple of days ago, I thought about getting one of those home-based job things that my pregnant friends told me about. They say it’s a good way to get some extra income when you’ve got some free time so I tried to check out some sites that offer those things. I made an account, applied for a couple of them, and ended up deleting reply emails from those that I applied to before I even read them. I know I won’t be able to stand it. (And I’m sure my friends were only able to because they were pregnant and not allowed to go out most of the time. ;) I know you well, Lara and Lanel!)

See, I associate the home to a place of relaxation where I can shut down or reboot when I need to. A place where I can read and do some personal writing. I really don’t see myself becoming a slave to my computer for most of the day while not being able to get some sun or actually meet people (interesting ones that I can write about, I hope!) in the flesh.

I’m into blogging but that’s mainly personal. I guess I’m just too much of a free-spirit to be tied down like that. And when Alvin and I finally decide to have kids, I’d want time to look after them and not be glued to a screen all the time. It becomes boring if you do that everyday. I might just turn into a monster wife. Haha!

I’ve been told that such jobs can be demanding and I’ve told a couple of friends that If I’m gonna have a job that’s gonna make me busy, I’d want something like my old job since it’s more fulfilling for me. If it’s like writing remotely for an organisation like say, UNICEF or UNESCO, I don’t think I’ll feel unfulfilled. However, people from the UN Information Office in Manila told me that organisations like that need their writers to be physically present in their offices.

I guess we’re all just different people and some things that suit others, even my friends, can be something that I won’t be able to stand. Even Alvin knows that it will bore the hell out of me as I’m the type of person who likes being where the action is. So I will keep going out and find some things to write about and share it with you either here or some place else on the internet or print. 

The past few weeks have been great. We’re approaching our first month here! Wow, time flies fast when you’re really having a good time. During the past weekends, we’ve done lots of furniture hunting and more exploring around the city. My husband is so good at researching for places where we can go next! There’s a long weekend coming up so I guess I’ll have more material soon. To think that I have a couple of pending write-ups already – I’ll write about our afternoon in Putrajaya and our little walking adventure to Jalan Alor (for some Chinese food!) soon. I really want to keep this blog updated and make it a helpful little place on the internet for tourists who might want to visit Malaysia, Philippines and other places I’ve been to which I plan to post here as well.

Two weeks ago, I met other expat-wives through an organisation here in KL. There are lots of international organisations here, by the way. I think there’s one for every kind of expat – a wife, a diplomat, somebody working in ___ industry, etc. The expat-wives’ org recently went on a Batik Painting lesson and I tagged along! It was a fun experience and I was able to exercise my creativity! I’ll post about that soon as well.

Another thing that keeps me busy is having a good time with the people from the Embassy. There were a couple of going away parties for the people whose tour of duties have ended, there was a time when we went to a hotel lounge with Ambassador M and some of his Filipino businessmen friends to see a Filipino band (writing about this too!) and some mini get togethers which I think I’ve already posted photos of here in the blog and on my Instagram.

The Solianos: An all Filipino family band now on its 4th generation here in KL

Ambassador M always tells us that life at post can be hard or even lonely because you’re away from family so it’s up to us to make it fun. I see his people are busy all the time – including my husband who sometimes gets home at 9pm. There’s lots of work but everyone seems satisfied and fulfilled by what they do and it’s really cute when they have get togethers where there’s food and singing so they can blow off some steam.

I’ve heard from several expat-wives and read online that the major enemy when they’re abroad is boredom. And so far, I’m the farthest thing from being bored. So stop worrying about me, husband! ;) I won’t be joining the fabled ‘Bored Diplomat’s Wives’ Club any time soon. 



KL Adventures: History in the heart of the City

Ah, so touristy of us! But you see, here’s my travel philosophy: Do the touristy stuff first, then do what locals do. Don’t you dare leave the country without doing both or else, the experience would be somehow half-baked.

You see, I believe that touristy places are ‘touristy’ for a reason. (Read: When I say touristy, I don’t mean tourist traps!) They’re popular because they’re worth a visit. I’m a sucker for museums, national parks, and monuments as they are great places to learn more about the country’s history and people.

So – for my husband and I’s first free weekend here in KL, we went to Merdeka Square, the KL City Gallery, and the Central Market. Along the way, we were able to pass by beautiful vintage architecture as well as Masjid Jamek (This was around 3 weekends ago so I’m kinda late in posting this! So sorry about that – been rather busy).

I haven’t been to Malaysia before and though my husband has been here a couple of times, he has never set foot in most of Malaysia’s historically important places. IMHO, going to KL just for shopping and not really appreciating the place is a complete waste of time and funds. The city is so rich with culture and diversity – it’s a must to get out there to learn and experience everything first hand! Well, the husband does admit that his travels prior to meeting me were complete brouhahas and now, getting to visit new (and even old places) are more fun cos he now has better company. We’re cheesy like that. ;)

Where was I? Ah, our little field trip right smack in the middle of the city. We left the house at around 11 in the morning. The sun rises and sets pretty late here in KL this time of year so it wasn’t that hot yet but I still opted to bring a water bottle and stash it in my bag as we will be gone the whole day and I knew there will be lots of walking involved so I dressed for comfort.

We live within the City Centre otherwise known as KLCC and it’s pretty easy to get to our destination via the LRT (Kelana Jaya Line). For tourists, this is also the best way to get around the capital as traffic here can be pretty heavy. The best station to get off from is Masjid Jamek which is only 3 stations away from KLCC and 2 from KL Sentral (where a lot of the hotels are). The train ride costs RM1.60 (Php21.91, US0.50, EUR0.37) per person, one way.

It’s a bit of a walk from the station to Merdeka Square which is our major destination but it’s the farthest thing from boring. One of the fist things you will see after getting off the station is Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque) which is also known as the Friday Mosque. Yes, the train station is named after it so it’s easy enough to remember! :)

Masjid Jamek. One of capital’s oldest Mosques.

Built in 1909 at the junction of the rivers Klang and Gombak, this mosque is a sight to see. It used to be KL’s main mosque until Masjid Negara (National Mosque) opened. The was built over the first Malay burial site in the city and is known for its beautiful facade which is a mix of Islamic, Moorish, and Magul architecture. Right after the mosque, you will see a small bazaar with a good number of stalls selling clothes, food, and other knick-knacks.

As you go further down the road, you will see the Old Market Square (Lebuh Pasar Besar) which is lined by old, beautiful buildings with Dutch gables. Yap Ah Loy, the founding father of Kuala Lumpur, rented out several of the establishments in Old Market Square to businessmen back in the day.

Vintage architecture. Both sides of the square are lined up with old, beautiful buildings

In the middle of the Old Market Square is the Clock Tower known for its distinct Art Deco design. It was built in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI of England.

The Clock Tower. Bonus: Check out the tower’s base for some unique sunburst motifs.

By that time, it was a little over past noon and my husband and I were already talking about getting some lunch. Food is something you will never have a hard time with in KL – good food comes cheap and restaurants and hawker stalls are in almost every street. We stopped by one of the smaller eateries near the Clock Tower and I ended up ordering this:

Some sort of sweet sauce over chicken. Doesn’t look much but tastes awesome. Our meal that day cost us RM24 (PHP328.68, US7.56, EUR5.59) – this included drinks and a side order of hakao (shrimp dumplings)

A couple of tips: One thing you should know about ordering in the Malaysian version of eateries is that you should learn to tell the server when to stop putting food on your plate – otherwise, they will just keep dumping rice and veggies to go with your main dish. They are VERY generous when it comes to servings. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you should also ask whether the dish you’re getting is spicy or not. When they say ‘a bit’, it means that it’s still quite spicy and when they say ‘yes, it is’, it means it’s on the ‘i-can’t-feel-my-tongue-anymore’ level. They will also add sauce to your rice to add more flavour – sauce that usually comes from other spicy dishes (even if you ordered a non-spicy dish). So if your tolerance for spice is on the lower side, do be careful and tell them that you can’t handle it. Most of the servers are very accommodating anyways. When you encounter a server who’s not that good in English, expect a lot of pointing and a short game of charades. However, most people in KL can speak English so it shouldn’t be a problem. I, however, sometimes have a hard time understanding thick Asian accents. Just ask them to say it again nicely – they always accommodate.

I was gonna take a photo of Alvin’s order but he was already happily eating. Heat and walking makes my husband very hungry so I didn’t have the heart to stop him from devouring his lunch. ;)

We then proceeded to the KL City Gallery where they let visitors in for free. Here, you will get a chance to learn more about the history of Kuala Lumpur. Entrance is free, by the way, and they  also have maps and other city guides (also for free!) which you can just grab and use to make going around KL easier.

The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. Free admission and free WiFi. Perfect spot for tourists to upload their latest photos on Instagram and not be charged for roaming. ;)

The Moorish-style building that houses the City Gallery was built in 1898 and was formerly the government’s printing press. Inside, there are various displays showing the history of the city.

There was also a video showing the day when the Union Flag was lowered in Merdeka Square for the last time. It got me a bit excited and I had my nerdy smile on while watching it.

Informative displays on the history of KL

But the City Gallery’s main attraction is the 50ft-wide KL City Model that accurately shows the city’s skyline. You enter the room where the model is in small groups and you are treated to a short video presentation about KL’s history, its present status, and the future developments for it planned by the government.

City Model. Detailed buildings that make up the unique KL skyline

We made it! Just across the City Gallery is Merdeka Square or Dataran Merdeka in Malay. Malaysia’s ‘Freedom/Independence Square’ is home to the country’s tallest flagpole which marks the spot where the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the Malaysian flag was first hoisted at midnight on 31 August 1957.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building which houses Malaysia’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture is located in front of the square.

During the World Cup, the public would gather at Merdeka Square during the wee hours of the morning to watch the games live. Supporters of the different countries playing in the last couple of rounds would come together and cheer for their bets.

A beautiful, Victorian Fountain can also be found at the square.

One other thing I like about KL is how serious they are when it comes to preserving nature. Aside from several nature and even bird/butterfly parks in various areas of the city, KL also has trees lining up their roads – trees that are hundreds of years old! Some of them were already around back when the British were still in control of the Federation of Malaya.

One more thing I love about KL having lots of pretty trees is that they play a huge role on how even though it’s really hot and sunny here in the city, it’s not as humid as you would expect it to be and there’s always a bit of wind to help you cool down.

Nature therapy in the city

Our last stop for that day was the Central Market – a haven for Malaysian crafts, jewellery, furniture, and some other knick-knacks. The Central market is a sky blue building that’s easy to spot even from far away because of this:

A couple of stalls are also located under this walkway cover designed like Traditional Malaysian Kites

It’s a great place to buy souvenirs and traditional decor for those who are thinking of  going for an Asian theme for their homes. Here are some cute finds inside:

Vintage Chinese decor and collectibles

If you’re from the Philippines, this place will certainly remind you of Greenhills or Tiendesitas

Totes pretty, yes?

Beautiful, handcrafted jewellery. Ah, they never fail to make me go googly-eyed.

Chinese paintings. There are some Hindu and Malay-themed ones too

Some kitties for luck

I was totally in love with this store and will most definitely come back for their rugs. I’ve been having a rug and bed linen obsession lately. I guess it’s a phase most new wives go through? Or not?

And of course, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to goof around with my husband. Most people here often think that he’s Chinese/Japanese/Korean rather than Filipino – some locals even talk to him in Chinese. Well, it’s nothing new. It also happens in Manila. One of the Ambassadors I personally knew in Manila even told me at a reception: “Oh, so you’re married to a Japanese diplomat? I thought you said Filipino, the last time we saw each other!” I was teasing Alvin that he would blend easily here in KL and that maybe, when he’s not too tired during the weekends, he can do this for fun with the tourists:

Seems legit, right?

That’s it for now. Took me a couple of days on and off to write this as it’s been busy at the Embassy and at home.

I find myself seeing my husband’s colleagues and bosses a lot (Yay!), joining expat organisations in some of their activities (Again, yay!), and even squeezing in some professional writing for a couple of features that I will sending back to Manila (Yay, work!).

I don’t feel like a housewife on some days, to be honest. But hey, I’m having so much fun. I promise to post here again pretty soon. More travel and beauty stuff, yes? Lots of nice things to see and try out here in this city after all. ;)




Now I don’t really remember anyone saying that moving to a different country and starting a new life (read: from scratch) was easy. That’s because though it’s fun and exciting, it’s no walk in the park.

It’s been 13 days since we arrived in KL. We have finally moved into our new apartment – a two bedroom, three bathroom unit with its own storage room. It’s huge for just Alvin and I and I feel like it’s empty most of the time. And that’s because it is still quite that – empty. We’re taking it slow when it comes to buying furniture as we want the condo to look exactly the way we’ve been planning without breaking the bank.

So far, we’ve purchased the essentials and we’re predicting my decorating plans will take about 3 months to fully materialise. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that I stick to my deadline and that I am able to have everything running by then as guests ranging from family and friends will be arriving in just a couple of months.

We were told by most of the people from the Embassy that KL is a post where you would definitely be getting lots of visitors due to its proximity to Manila. No complaints there, I say. As most of my friends and our family (even the ones in the Western part of the world) are already making plans to come over and it would be nice to show them around.

Speaking of visitors, the Ambassador recently hosted the son of one of the DFA Undersecretaries who was on a short trip to KL with his friend. We had dinner with them that night and shared lots of great stories over food. I had the pleasure of getting to know the Undersecretary back when I was part of the media, covering the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) back home. The Undersecretary’s son is fun and smart – just like his dad. My husband and I had fun pointing out their similarities as he seemed like the exact (only younger) replica of his father.

As for the rest, Alvin and I have been adjusting quite well to the new environment. It’s a good thing the weather is similar to that of Manila (only less humid) so we didn’t have any problems with it. Though I’ve been able to withstand up to minus 15 in Sweden already, I’m still rather sensitive to the cold. I’m pretty sure my husband is too as he has lived in a tropical country all his life.

The people from the Embassy are all welcoming so I guess that helps a lot with the adjustment. My husband’s colleagues are all friendly and pleasant so it’s always a joy to see them. Last night, we had an ‘emergency party’ to celebrate the birthday of Johann.

Johann, along with a team from the embassy just came back from a trip to Sabah where they did a 2-week consular mission. Alvin has promised to take me with him when it’s his turn to go and the Ambassador agreed that I should come as well to see how the Embassy is working on helping the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Filipinos there.

I’m excited to go and see it for myself as Johann’s stories got me really interested to see the plight of the people in Sabah.

Back in Manila, the Ambassador told us that KL is not like any other posting. And he’s right. It’s a complete post with vibrant economic and political relations topped with hundreds of thousands of Filipinos needing consular assistance and other sensitive issues.

So when people found out that my husband volunteered for this posting, people were like: ‘Are you crazy?!’ He was already being offered postings in Milan or San Francisco but he declined (nicely, of course) and picked the challenging, busier neighbour instead because he wants to learn all the aspects of Philippine diplomacy – he wants to see everything at work and learn from his bosses while being able to help our kababayans (fellow Filipinos) in Sabah to become documented. Hearing my husband talk about these things only makes me prouder of him. I’m just so glad I married a good man with so much compassion for others. Though that’s not really obvious most of the time to other people. My husband is the quiet type (but he can be very talkative and opinionated once the ice is broken) with a constant poker-face. Which some say is good for a diplomat but is sometimes confusingly-funny if you’re his wife. Haha!

When we got here, the saying ‘hit the ground running’ became literal. Alvin had to learn a lot of the things happening here in KL fast (and he’s still learning) and I had to get accustomed to being at home a lot and working on making the condo homey. Staying at home was really not my forte back in Manila as being a journalist, I was always on the go. But I’m starting to enjoy the peace, quiet, and the time to read. I also have more time to write about the things I really want to write about but those will get posted maybe a bit later on. ;)

I’ve  got three events to go to this week – two with my husband and one on my own. I guess the Israeli Ambassador to Manila’s wife, Mme. Eti, was right when she told me that being a trailing spouse will sometimes mean looking at all your clothes – from your formals all the way to your casuals – and still having a hard time looking for something to wear. I did a bit of shopping before we left but somehow, I can’t decide on what to wear. I’m excited to meet other trailing spouses though and make new friends!

More later,


Hello from Kuala Lumpur!

Hello from Kuala Lumpur!

We arrived in Malaysia on Wednesday afternoon and I am loving Kuala Lumpur so far!

We’ve only been here for over 24 hours and we’ve already reserved a condominium unit where we’ll be staying for the next couple of years – all thanks to Alvin’s new colleagues at the Embassy. They’re all so nice and welcoming which basically completes the package. We’ve been discussing how lucky he is to be selected for this post (and his first posting at that!) as it’s one of the Philippines’ most important. The relations are multi-faceted, our Ambassador is a very intelligent and hardworking man, the city is beautiful, everything here is just so convenient, and the cost of living is actually lower than other posts.

So basically, he will be learning a lot from his new boss and colleagues while enjoying the perks the city has to offer. He will be very busy though because he will be swinging between the embassy’s political and economic sections, handling important issues. But that only makes him more excited due to all the things he will learn and the training he will undergo by working with some of our country’s top diplomats. I’m so happy for him!

As for me, I’ll be very busy in the coming days, making our place liveable. This weekend, we’ll be going out to buy our first batch of furniture. We’ll be renting an unfurnished apartment so I will be able to go crazy on furniture and decor shopping.

To be honest, prior to our move to KL, I have already set my sights on a couple of prints we’ll be hanging in the living room. I saw the prints online, fell in love with them, and was just too happy when I found out that the shop that makes them is right here in KL. I don’t need to have them shipped anymore, costing me less money! Yay! We even received beautiful photographs from a friend’s photographer boyfriend which I will have framed in the coming days – I will be using them to decorate the guest’s room and dining area. I’m just too excited that I’m already blabbing about my domesticated plans.

Kuala Lumpur’s City Centre is basically a huge shopping complex. Not really a shopaholic but it’s nice to know that they have 3 major sales here annually where malls go crazy when it comes to dropping their prices. The next one is this July and I’m already seeing signs that say “Sale”. Great! Just in time for our furniture buying spree! I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and my fingers crossed for beautiful, discounted pieces. :D

But first things first. We’ll have to submit papers, photos and other requirements for the stay, open bank accounts, get local phone connections – and do other errands that will make living here in KL official. Everybody at the embassy’s been so helpful, Rommel from the political section and his wife Grace who works at the cultural section even showed us around a bit today. We all had lunch at Din Tai Fung and Pavilion where I over-ate and then we had dinner at one of Alvin’s bosses’ house – Ms. Tonette. KL is like food heaven and we are being fed like crazy (Filipinos bond over food!) so I really need to find a yoga studio soon or start running at KLCC park as soon as our running shoes get unpacked.

More later,

On Keeping Calm and Goodbyes

The big move is in a little over two days. The husband says he’s already starting to feel excited. I, however, am the exact opposite. Maybe it’s because of the gazillion errands and meet ups we have to do. Even the countless dinners with friends don’t really feel like good-bye.

Thank goodness, the husband is getting assigned somewhere near. I won’t have to miss friends and family in Manila too much as we will only be a couple of hours away and we’ll definitely get a ton of visitors all year round. Even family from Europe (though they’ll have to fly for about 12-14 hours direct) are already talking about coming over this year and early next.

I’m not even anxious. I should be, right? I SHOULD feel something. But there’s nothing. No heart thumping, no squealing, no smiling at the thought of flying out this Wednesday and starting out a sort-of-new life with the husband in a new place.

It reminds me of our wedding in October. This was exactly how I was. Normal. Normal despite the upcoming life-changing event. While other brides all over the world were screaming, dancing, and getting all giddy just days and hours before their wedding, I was surprisingly calm. I was looking forward to marrying Alvin, the love of my life, and spending the rest of my life with him but somehow, I wasn’t as emotional as how a normal bride should be. On my wedding day, as I walked down the aisle, the dam holding off all my emotions broke and I had a wave of panic attacks (which weren’t that obvious, thank goodness) as several levels of happiness, excitement and a tinge of sadness because I won’t be living with my lola (grandmother) anymore went through my nerves. I ended up crying during our vows because I was extremely happy and giddy. I know, it’s crazy.

Okay, back to present day. It would be very awkward if something similar will happen this Wednesday. Come to think of it, I actually cry a lot in airports. The worst was in 2008 during a short meet-up with my Mom in Schiphol while I was on my way to Tel Aviv. That’s another story. Point is: I hate crying in public though I end up doing that a lot before. I’ve actually gotten pretty good in holding my tears back by now.

But I’m really emotional when it comes to my grandparents. So there’s a 70/30 chance I might end up bawling my eyes out this Wednesday as I say goodbye to them. Growing up, I spent most of my time with them. By the time I was in college, it was I who’s been doing a lot of looking after. They’re still strong for their age, mind you. And we’ll only be a couple of hours away. However, I will not be able to stop myself from worrying more over them because I’m in another country. Which is so different from being in just another city! (Cities in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, are like literally right next to each other – unlike in Europe)

My lola cries a lot. If she starts crying at the airport, I’m gonna end up doing my tough-cookie act and pretend that I’m annoyed she’s crying. Or maybe I will cry too. Which will be awkward-er. And embarrassing. You see, I handle awkward situations like that in two ways – either I end up crying too or I start acting mad (This is a very effective tactic for hiding your tears). I have a hard time coping and very unpredictable, to be honest. I can’t even predict my own reactions. So there’s a possibility that I might cook up something new this Wednesday.

So yes, it still bothers me that I am THIS calm. I thought that “Hey, maybe if I write about it, it will make me feel something and will lessen the blow on Wednesday!”

Nope, still nothing.

And it’s not just my grandparents. Leaving my friends behind will also be very sad. My husband is confident that I will make friends in our home-for-the-next-six-years in no time due to my personality. But there’s just no stopping me missing my friends. While I love meeting new people and find excitement in getting to know and starting the friendship process from scratch, I also love how my good-old friends get me like we’re lovers of sorts.

A look is enough to let one of them know that I’m already cooking up something crazy in my head. The laughs, the stories, won’t really be the same even if they’re told via Skype or Viber. But I have faith that we’ll make this work. If couples can do LDR, so can we!

I know for a fact that I’m looking forward to my new adventure with Alvin. It’s like we’ll be re-starting our lives from scratch. It will be hard, but I’m looking forward to the challenges and happy times we’ll be having. It’s gonna be like a six-year honeymoon. I look forward to cooking, baking, reading, traveling, and having more time in my hands to write (I hope).

Now, feelings and my abnormal heart: Can you give me the heart-thumping, over-excitement feeling already? Just so I’m prepared for our last day.



Update: Was able to save myself from public humiliation by holding back my tears. Comforted myself with thoughts that they’ll be visiting soon and are bound to be fine while I’m away. ;)