2016, You Were Amazing!

Saturday 31 December 2016

From taking that leap of faith to living the peaceful life that I have always dreamed of, 2016 has been one amazing year. There were small challenges here and there but nevertheless, I've had the best year of my life.  

There are so many great things to be thankful for in the last year but I am especially thankful for a couple of things: J, for taking the risk with me and taking me under his wings, and New Zealand for giving me the opportunity to reset my life, and  for the chance to build the "home" that I have always wanted with the man I love. New Zealand opened my eyes to a great deal of wonderful things and taught me a lot of valuable lessons. New Zealand will forever hold a very special place in my heart because it is where I found peace and genuine happiness. It is where I was able to spread my wings and lived a little more. 

And with the good life that  I lived in the past year are the wonderful people around me who infused so much positivity into my life. I am thankful to those who chose to stay, and to those who decided to let go- thank you also, for you have just created more room for better ones. Above all, I thank Jesus (yes, I am praying again) for all the blessings. I am going to say goodbye to 2016 with a very grateful heart indeed.

As 2016 was such a great year, I can only hope and pray for a steady year in 2017. I don't know what's in store for me but I am well-prepared for whatever the new year brings! 

For now, I wish everyone peace, love, good health and true happiness in the year ahead. 


I Wonder How Wellington Looks Like in December

Wednesday 21 December 2016

My Welly friends have started posting their summer photos and I can't help but wonder how it's like to be in Wellington in December.  I was looking forward to spending at least the first two weeks of December over there but unfortunately, our circumstances changed drastically. Summer Christmas was ruled out even before we left because we were coming back to England for the holidays regardless, so two weeks would have been enough for me to get that "summer Christmas feel". The last time I spent Christmas in a warm place was in year 2000 and I sort of miss it. For now, all I can do is use my imagination and think of those things that I would probably see if I was in Wellington this time of the year.

Before we left, the flowers were already in bloom. The lilies, dahlias and the daisies at the zigzag walkway by the church were flourishing. I've always wished I could pick those flowers whenever I passed by but they are privately owned. They were so beautiful it was difficult not to stop and stare at them for a moment. We were also lucky to see some of the most amazing flowers in Botanical Garden. The first time we visited it was close to winter, so there were no flowers at all. I'm sure by now, the roses are in full bloom too.

Oriental bay, no doubt is flocked by beach lovers. I've always wanted to hang out by the beach with a book and perhaps an ice cream but somehow I didn't manage to do it. I used to just enjoy listening to the people's laughters and children screaming in glee from our balcony.

And then there are the sailboats.  I'm sure there are hundreds of them in the harbour this time of the year. Even those times when the weather was rough, I saw a few of them out there. It was always fascinating to watch those boats from our living room window. 

Ah, the diving platform along the waterfront. There are definitely more keen divers queueing up for a jump by now. 

Karaka Cafe will be full of life, with bean bags already out in the area overlooking the lagoon. 

Sunsets will perhaps be more dramatic.

Walkways will no longer be quiet.

The Te Papa Sunday Market will be twice as busy.

Tiptop will be on the top. 

The bucket fountain in Cuba Street will be surrounded by children and adults alike.  It's really amusing to watch the buckets rhythmically tip and then pour its water contents from one bucket to another. 

I know it's the festive season but when I imagine Wellington in December, I think of many outdoor activities we could possibly do because apparently, the weather is better. Besides, according to my Welly friends, Christmas in Wellington is not as big as it is in London or in the Philippines. 

I know one day, I'll be able to go back to Wellington and maybe I'll go in December to get the real experience. 


The Day Things Got The Better Of Me

Friday 16 December 2016

There. I've said it.

Yesterday I said something that drew concern amongst my friends and family. Since I wrote those strong words, I couldn't stop thinking whether I have done the right thing or not. What was I expecting to get from all that? Affirmation? I don't know. I just felt that I needed to be heard. To defend myself. I know that I am a very emotional person and I have the tendency to put my emotions into writing (publicly), but not to the extent of  dishing out something that perhaps people did not need to know.

Recently though, I have been quite disturbed by some recurring events in my life that almost drove me to emotional distraction. I was over thinking and feeling like I have never done anything right in my life. Whoa! For a moment, I thought I was losing myself. But then I searched deeper and realised that it's all been about how people have made me feel in the last few years. Something triggered that nagging feeling that no matter what I do, I will never be enough for anyone. They will always ask for more and look for more- in me or elsewhere. For so long, I managed to mask out that feeling of inadequacy. But somehow, it found its way out and started to creep all over me. Needless to say, I succumbed to defeat.

I broke my own rules and suddenly forgot the woman who went through hell but fought back and came out a winner. I lost her. Almost. Well, I probably did lose her because I was able to say what I said. Do I regret it? Not really. I suppose sometimes you have to be weak to remain strong. I was weak because I gave in to negativity, but I remained strong because I was brave enough to let my voice be heard. I know a lot of people saw it as something out of my character because they probably know me as someone who is strong and not easily fazed by what other people say. But sometimes I think at some point, you have to be that someone people didn't know about. In my case, being that person gave me the courage to say what I needed to say. And I said it and that's just that.

Today is another day.

So I went for a run this morning. Running always gives me the opportunity to reflect on my life. On a lot of things in fact. And running through the bitterness of the cold winter wind, I was reminded of the two things that I know very well and used to tell myself to make me feel better:

1. That I don't owe anyone any explanation. People can judge me for all they want. I know myself more than anyone else. 

2. I cannot please everybody. And I am not here to please anyone in the first place. So, if I am not enough for them (despite doing the best I could), then tough.

Because of what I said, I received many comforting words from family and friends. I have nothing but gratitude to those people who came to my rescue and were quick to remind me of the person I truly am. I am very grateful.

And yet again, I tripped. But as always, I was quick to pick myself up. I am hoping that This will be the last time I am going to write something like that. So help me God. :)


High Tea at Louis Sergeant

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Two nights ago, for the first time since 2001, I felt homesick. I suddenly missed Wellington so much that I actually cried. But instead of making myself a cup of tea to "make everything better", I found myself flicking through my camera and was comforted by photos of beautiful treats. It was that time when we went for a NZ$37 High Tea at the much raved about Louis Segeant in Featherston Street.

As soon as we entered the Salon de The, my eyes caught an array of what I could only describe as edible art. It was like going into a museum of desserts. They looked so beautiful, I wouldn't even want to eat them. 

I originally booked a table for four but at the last minute, one of our friends decided to join us. When I informed the staff, she immediately dressed another table. She was very accommodating.

I would say that Louis Sergeant is a contemporary tearoom with a classic touch. When we went there, only a couple of tables were made for High Tea. 

To begin with, the staff went through the tea menu with us. There were only six to choose from but they all seemed delicious. As I am a big fan of green tea, I asked for the "Soleil Vert". My friends on the other hand, went for the "City of Lights" and "4 Saisons". We shared three gigantic pots of tea between us. 

And then the sweet treats came in a three-tiered trays. As delectable as they looked, I could have just stared at them and took photos of them non-stop. They were prepared delicately and presented beautifully. If I can remember it right, we spent a good few minutes taking photos of them little treats and comparing  ourselves with professional food bloggers. 

The treats tasted very good although I didn't appreciate the chocolate mousse that much. But I guess I am  biased  because I generally don't like chocolate desserts.

All in all, I had a good High Tea experience at Loius Sergeant with my good friends. However, to me, it lacked that girly vintage experience that my friend Ei and I were expecting. We prefer the traditional high/afternoon tea with its intimate ambience, like Martha's Pantry for example. That's just us though.

And that was it.  Looking at the photos and reminiscing my high tea experience with my Welly friends instantly cured my homesickness.

I wonder when and where my first afternoon tea in London (after a few months) would be.

tintin x

What Helped Me Survive My First Four Weeks In London

Tuesday 6 December 2016

I have been staring at my computer for the last four hours, completely unsure whether I should even bother writing about our challenging move from the "coolest little capital of the world" to er, "smokey" London, or just forget all about it and move on to writing about my New Zealand experience instead. But here I am now. I somehow managed to write that long opening sentence so I might as well continue.

Time has surely gone by pretty quickly. It's now more than a month since we arrived back in London. Everything is good now but seriously,  it has been quite a stressful four weeks. I was already uptight even before we left Wellington, but my anxiety only grew deeper as days went by. As I watched stress unfold before me, I became more and more distant. I consciously blocked every positive thought about this place that I once called home.  I just didn't want to be here. I wasn't ready. It didn't help that I was constantly being reminded of the reasons why I never wanted to come back.


Personally, I've had numerous bad encounters with people in London. First of all, my soaring (Bristol) confidence was knocked down to zero by a Type A Londoner. This may just be one thing, but it is a big thing for me because I never got my confidence back since. And then, as months and years went by, I met Londoners who made me feel like sh*t. It's not even about the rudeness or the arrogance of Londoners anymore because you find these kind of people anywhere you go. It's those little acts of un-kindness (and unfair judgement) that always gets me.

So when I overheard someone at the hotel cafe reacting to the staff with something like, "oh, they've been hanging out there all day?... I would be really annoyed if I didn't get a seat", I was deeply offended. Yes, we have been hanging out in that little corner all day, after a 26-hour flight, looking for a place to live. While she just arrived at the cafe after what it seemed like a shopping spree (based on the designer bags she was carrying) in time for the free cheese and wine. I could imagine how stressful her day has been, so perhaps she just needed a drink.

And then in the lift at the hospital, after an awkward chit-chat with someone who I don't even believe genuinely likes me, I was told off by a  stranger for carrying a bag bigger than myself. Basically, I accidentally hit her with my bag when I turned around to speak to a colleague. Of course I apologised, but sorry wasn't enough. She had to say something.

Ah, people.


Whether you are in a car or on foot, there's a painfully suffocating traffic everywhere. Add to that the endless road works and road diversions. Not to mention closed pavements.

And then the tourists apparently. To be honest, I can understand why tourists walk very slow, why they congregate and get in the way, why they don't read the signs and stay on the left side of the escalator and so on. It's the know-it-all Londoners that are hard to understand. They have the audacity to complain about the tourists when they can't even walk with a purpose. And even when they do, they do so carelessly. And then they flock on pavements smoking cigarettes and/or drinking alcohol. Hayyy.  

The Weather

To be fair the weather has been really good the past few days, but when we arrived in London, it was gloomy, cold and raining. I was hoping for a dry and mild autumn weather because I already had really bad weather experiences in Wellington for the last five months, but I guess I was a fool to even wish for a good British weather. I just have to accept that I will still be layering up for the next four months at least. That's nine months of cold weather for me. Yuck.


I can't honestly remember having inhaled so much smoke in Wellington as I have in London in the last four weeks. And I only mean cigarettes. God, imagine walking on the streets of London in a zigzag because you're trying to avoid smokers.  Most of them are inconsiderate too. They won't even stop blowing smoke even if they already saw you coming. Grrr.


Shortly after we arrived in London, we immediately searched for flats. We basically didn't have time to entertain our jet lag. It didn't matter if I was falling asleep at 3pm and wide awake at 1am. We had to find somewhere to live. Sure, moving home is undoubtedly a very stressful experience, but moving home after living abroad is definitely far more distressing.

After five grueling days, we decided to take the first flat that we saw. The process went on smoothly initially until the referencing palaver. I couldn't understand why they had to do everything twice.  And when this was  finally sorted , the worst thing happened.

We were already on our way to J's parents when the agent phoned J telling him that because he was on "probationary period" at his job, we needed to pay 6-months rent upfront. I wanted to throw up. I never heard of such thing before. As J's mom said, we're not in our 20's. We're adult professionals who have decent jobs and excellent references. But apparently, it's the rule. I was afraid we were going to lose the flat. I just didn't want to go through the tedious process of ringing agents, viewing properties and filling endless forms again. I just wanted to rest. At this point, I was already very tired and ready to give up. But J wasn't.

We eventually got the keys for the flat after careful consideration, active negotiation and incessant nagging. Of course, the unfurnished flat came with a price too. But that's flat-hunting in London for you.

Although I had a stressful time, and immediately found reasons that made me ambivalent about coming back to London, I know that it will take a lot more for me to turn my back completely on something that made me who I am today. So, instead of entertaining those negative thoughts for longer, I focused on the blessings that really helped me survive this transition without having a breakdown. 

1. An Amazing Partner
- People say that it is during these hard times that couples tend to fight. We didn't even snap at each other. Promise. I guess what I am trying to say is that moving home becomes easier when you have a partner who treats you like a partner. That person who works with you in every step of the way. That person who manages to keep calm, even if he has reasons not to. That person who will not raise his voice at you,  even if things become terribly frustrating and you have the nerve to be annoying. That person who prioritises your comfort as much as his. That imperfect person who will take you under his wing - unconditionally. 

Ah, I can go on but I'd rather not. I'm just thankful that J is such a calm, rational and organised person.

2. A nice-ish place to stay while flat-hunting
- One of the most important things that we did after we decided to look for a flat straight away was to find a nice temporary base in London. We booked a room at this boutique hotel in Soho which to us was more like a pod, but actually really convenient. It also helped that we knew which areas in London we would like to live, so this hotel was a good base for us. They also had free cheese and wine every evening, and their breakfast buffet was delicious. 

3. Supportive and helpful parents
- J's parents made me appreciate the things that I DON'T have. I mean, I have parents but I don't think they can provide me the support that J's parents are giving him. Not even emotionally. I believe that my parents have stopped supporting me in any way when I started earning my own money. But let's not get into that drama.

Seriously, we wouldn't have done this international move twice without J's parents' help. All I can say is that they're really amazing, and I will forever be grateful for everything that they have done (and still continue to do) for us. J is one of the luckiest sons I know.

4. A friend or two who can listen
- There is nothing more therapeutic than to be able to share your challenging times with a friend. Having not moved on from Wellington, I needed that friend who could understand why I was anxious about coming back to London and why I was being anti-social.

5. John Lewis in Oxford Street
- Ha. I never realised how convenient John Lewis is until we spent an average of four hours a day in the store when we just moved in. They have almost everything that we needed to furnish our flat. Definitely one thing to bear in mind when buying furniture or bits and bobs for the flat. Their customer service is also fantastic.

6. A beautiful flat
- In the end, all the stress was really worth it. We are now happily settled in a flat that we truly love. 

Apart from my personal issues with London and the few glitches along the way, we definitely enjoyed the whole process of moving.

I know life will never be perfect but right now,  all I need is to go back to work ....... and a baby. :)

tintin x

Thank you, Wellington! Thank you, New Zealand!

Tuesday 1 November 2016

So, this is it. Tomorrow we will be flying back to London. Right now, I can't even think of anything to write about my life changing experience in Wellington. I am overwhelmed by everything that has happened in the last ten months. 

Until four months ago, we were considering to extend our stay in Wellington. I was even already in the process of applying for my Nursing Registration. However, it only took one person to change everything in a whim. J decided not to renew his contract with his company not entirely because of his job, but because he could no longer tolerate the bullying. As someone told me, people nowadays leave their job not because of the job, but because of the people they work with or for. And I couldn't agree with her more.

Ha, ten months. Although my life in Wellington was in no way perfect, I can confidently say that it's been the most amazing ten months of my life. New Zealand has been so wonderful, it brought so much positivity into my life.  All I can say now is that I'll probably be talking and writing about New Zealand for a very long time.

Sadly, I am not looking forward to going back to London because there is something about London that scares me. Ha, it's funny how I am now scared of the place that made me more resilient. But I know that I shouldn't let this fear hold me back because after all, I've had a good life in Wellington and this will always remind me to keep that fire burning inside me. This is the fire that allowed me to get hurt but made me more capable to love, the fire that taught me how to sacrifice, and the fire that gave me the strength to fight. This is the fire the lights up inside those who are kind, selfless and righteous. :)

So it's time to say "Cheerio, Wellington". Thank you for making me a better person than I was ten months ago. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for the beautiful friends I have met along the way. Thank you for the many beautiful memories. Most of all, thank you for the chance to start a new life with the person I love. Just thank you.

You will always be in my heart and  I will miss you big time.

I promise to visit you again one day.

tintin x

My Fabulous Experience As A Stylist At Dress For Success in Wellington

Friday 21 October 2016

Never in my life did I dream of becoming a Fashion Stylist. Yes, I love clothes but I can't even dress  myself easily at times. In the past, I used to consult one of my friends who is a legitimate fashion stylist for some tips on how to dress up for certain occasions. But now, perhaps I can say that I can put on together a good ensemble confidently without having to ask for anyone's opinion. It's all because of Dress For Success (DFS), a non-profit organisation with a mission to "promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and life".

I found DFS through Volunteer Wellington in March when I was seeking for volunteer work. There were only three words from the advertisement that convinced me to volunteer for them: Dress, Success, Women. I knew that this  was something that I wanted to do. 

I submitted my CV and a cover letter online and almost immediately, I received a phone call for an interview. That was my first ever interview in Wellington and it was all very casual. It was more like getting to know each other than anything. I was hired right there and then and was asked to go back for induction and eventually for training. 

I first trained as a clothing manager. My role included checking donated clothes for any stains or damages and then sorting them into different groups (client, sales and donation to another charity). I never thought that doing such thing can be both so entertaining and therapeutic. I must say that women in Wellington are very generous and they (based on what they donate) have genuine desire to help other women. The amount of donated clothes, shoes and accessories that we sort can be so overwhelming sometimes. We get all sorts of stuff. Most of them are obviously used but some are new (with tags on). We get a number of designer clothes  too. There are some occasions however, when we get stuff that has been very well loved, in which case, we pass them on to another charity.

When I've gained enough knowledge and confidence, I trained to be a stylist. I was skeptical at first because I had zero styling experience. I never had to dress anyone before other than myself, so I wasn't sure if I could do the job.  But then I realised that perhaps I would never get another opportunity to be a stylist again, so when people started asking if I was going to train as a stylist, I just said yes.

As part of our stylist training, we had to learn how to dress a mannequin. Believe me, dressing a mannequin can be quite intimidating. First of all, they're much taller than me (haha). And of course they have that perfect body. Not to mention that they have removable body parts. I have never experienced dismantling a mannequin before and although seemingly simple, I struggled a lot. It was even more challenging to assemble it with clothes on. But I got there in the end with the help of my fellow volunteers. It was such a fun thing to do.

Honestly, dressing the mannequin was a revelation to me. I have put together outfits that I wouldn't personally wear for interviews before. I came out of my comfort zone and experimented on mixing colours and patterns. As I continued dressing the mannequins, I slowly moved away from monochromes and neutral colours. On my second mannequin dressing, I introduced a bit of colour (pink)and used a patterned skirt (which is not obvious on the photo) and a gray jacket.  During that time, I couldn't completely get away from the greys just yet. :)

And before I could style any client for real, I had to do a few mannequin dressings, two styling observations and two supervised styling sessions. It was only after then that I became a "stylist".

I will never forget my first official styling session with a very delightful lady. She told me that although she was excited, she was also nervous because she never had this experience before. She apparently couldn't recall the last time she actually shopped for clothes and therefore was excited to try on some. She said, "this is going to be fun", and I knew then that this was going to be a positive experience for both of us.

After discussing her clothing preferences (trousers), I took her in the dressing room and asked if she was willing to try on any dresses at all. She said she hasn't worn a dress in years but was up for the challenge. I gave her four dresses to try on. I stood outside the dressing room and instructed her to use the whole body mirror outside when she was ready. All of a sudden I heard her say with so much glee, "Wow, I love it". That was only the first dress she tried on. When she came out to show me the dress, she was twirling. We both laughed. I could tell that she was happy with the dress but I wasn't going to let her settle with it. I asked politely if she could try the other dresses as well just in case they suited her better. She happily obliged and she loved them all. Unfortunately, I could only provide her with one dress at that time as it was her first dressing. In the end, she chose a monochrome slim-cut dress. She looked absolutely fabulous in it. The look on her face was priceless. She couldn't stop giggling. I gave her a nice jacket to go with the dress, a shoulder bag and a pair of high-heeled shoes. 

She couldn't stop thanking me afterwards. She told me that this was one of the best experiences she ever had and that she thoroughly enjoyed it. She gave me a hug and thanked me over and over again. She actually said while looking at herself in the mirror, that she was more confident and was absolutely ready for her job interview. What hit me the most was when she said that she would definitely pick herself up from that time on and would never look back. She left the office in her Dress For Success outfit. No, she didn't have an interview that day.  That's just how confident she was after our session. Oh, I forgot to mention that she came to DFS in baggy sweatshirt, jeans and trainers.

I was proud of myself that day because I knew that somehow, despite being new, I was able to do the job right. But most importantly, I knew that I made a difference in someone's life. 

Volunteering for Dress For Success has been such as rewarding experience. For me, it was not about putting an outfit together successfully and making my clients look good. It was actually making them feel good about themselves. Every client that I have dressed so far left our door with much more than clothing. They left feeling special and with much more confidence, hope and determination to succeed. As Nancy Lublin (founder of DFS Worldwide) said, "only about 25% of the Dress for Success programme is about providing clothes, the other 75% is about building self-confidence". And to be honest, I am also more confident now knowing that I can dress someone for success.

Behind my success as a clothing manager and a stylist at Dress for Success were the fashionable ladies that I had the pleasure to work with. It was so amazing to be surrounded by women who are passionate in helping every woman succeed. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have worked in an organisation, where women empower each other to do better in life. 

So, if you were wondering what I've been been up to in the last seven months, here you go. I was doing something really amazing and valuable. 

I left Dress for Success on Thursday with another feather in my cap, and I will forever be grateful to the organisation for all the lessons that I have learned, for all the skills the I have gained and for all the friends that I have made. I hope that I will be able to continue volunteering for DFS in London.

tintin x


After volunteering at DFS, I vowed not to complain about not having enough clothes to wear ever again...

The Southern Clifftop Track and Whitireia Walkways in Porirua

Monday 17 October 2016

The train ride to Porirua for our Whitireia Park walk completed my public transportation experience in Wellington, and I have my friend E to thank for that. It was indeed a very pleasant 20-minute journey from the city and very cheap as well (NZ$11.50 return). Not a bad choice for mode of transport to get in and out of the city in my opinion.

From Porirua station, we took the bus (220) to Titahi Bay where we had lunch first before we commenced our walk. After that, we walked all the way to the end of the beach. Unfortunately, there was no exit from there so we had to go back up the hill to continue with our walk. On our ascent to Stuart Park, we were rewarded with beautiful views.

The track was paved with small rocks scattered in some areas and it was quite steep, so it took a little bit of an effort to climb up. This part of the walkway provided a good view of the Mana island though.

We walked all the way to the "Sewer Outfall", where we were greeted by a health warning because the water in that area is apparently not safe. It is, however a good spot as you can see some parts of the South island from there. 

We decided not to go farther than the Sewer Outfall because we were not sure if there was a way out, so we retraced our steps and continued our journey to Whitireia Park. We followed the paved track until we reached the main road. We passed through a couple of parks here. From there, we took Pikareri Road which we missed the first time because the signage was not very clear. This led us to Tiketi Road and eventually to South Beach Road. It turned out that we were not even halfway through our walk yet at this point. 

Originally, we wanted to take the Richard Street entry to Whitireia Park. However, after spending a good few minutes deliberating whether we should take this route or not, we followed our instincts and gave the cliff walk a miss. We were not brave enough to walk the narrow track on top of the cliff after seeing this sign:

I mean, we could still have taken this route but that would mean (on my part) crawling until we got to the top. :)

Our time wasn't definitely wasted though because at the top of the street is this stunning view:

Feeling defeated for not taking the risk of walking along the cliffs, we had no choice but to take the less steep route towards Transmitter Street. This was much easier as the road was wider and sealed. 

When we arrived in Onehunga Bay at the bottom of Whitireia Park, it was almost half past five. It was about four and half hours ago when we started walking and we still had at least an hour to go, but neither of us complained of tiredness. Instead, we carried on chatting and taking selfies. :)

Then we were finally on the last part of our walk from Onehunga Bay to Onepoto Bay. The track was narrower on this side and mostly sand and gravel.

The sun was still high at that time and it was beautiful how it shined through perfectly aligned trees. 

When we arrived at Onepoto Bay, we saw a couple of black swans. They were beautiful.

And so was the bay...

We finally reached the bus stop just after 6pm, but we still had to wait for at least 20 minutes for the bus to arrive. Oh well.

This was the longest walk I've done so far and I am grateful to have done it with my friend E.

tintin x

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