An Angel's Touch: Four Years Gone

Thursday, 28 January 2016

For the last four years, I have learned how to live a normal life without Keith. However, this does not mean that I am no longer in pain because I still am. I don't think the pain will ever go away. You just learn how to live through it.

For the last three years I have been asking family and friends to make this day a K Lighter Day by doing some of the things that Keith loved doing. However, this year I decided not to do this.  You know as a bereaved parent, your worst fear is for people to forget your child. Although you know that this will happen eventually, you still get scared. This is the reason why I have stopped asking people to remember this day as K Lighter Day. It is because I am afraid that no one will care anymore.  I mean, it really is okay because I know that I can't force people to do something they don't want to do, but as  a bereaved parent this can hurt. So I decided to just keep this to myself and just hold this day close to my heart. My family in the Philippines do their own thing. But my brother made a good point when my mother told him about celebrating today. He apparently said that it's better to celebrate his birthday rather than his death anniversary. Perhaps he is right. 
This remains my favourite photo of Keith. I took this photo the first time I went home to the Philippines. 
And this... I just keep thinking how Keith would have been like as a teenager. With his good looks, good heart and talents, God he would have been so popular.

Anyway, today I celebrate K Lighter Day as usual. I am wearing blue, I have played Keith's Favourite song Lighters and I have lit up a blue candle. These are the three things that I religiously do on K Lighter Days. But also, I won't be swearing and killing an insect today. Unfortunately, I do not play any musical instruments anymore (used to play a bit of guitar and keyboards) and I will not be able to paint as I still don't have painting stuff in our new apartment. One thing that I am still working on is praying. Forgive me but I was angry and couldn't do it. Besides, I have my reasons for keeping a  distance. My mother will not be proud of me for saying this but this is how I feel. Perhaps when you have gone through a few difficult times in your life and the universe keeps showing you proof that life is unfair, then somehow you will get confused and won't know who to trust anymore. But please don't judge me as I am  working on this now. After all, I was this girl who read the bible on weekends and prayed a lot a long time ago. And I know that Keith will not like this either.

To Keith- my angel, you will forever be in Mommy Tintin's heart. I will love you forever. Please continue to watch over us.

I am missing you big time.

So, on this day no matter what we are going through, I hope that we can still find a way to make this day a K Lighter Day.

tintin x

The First 7 Days in Wellington

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Sure the time has gone by really quick. We've now been in Wellington for a week and apart from battling with jet lag for five days, things have been really good. We are still staying at a hotel and will be here for another week. J and I were actually a bit unsure about living in a hotel prior to coming here, but it has been nothing but a good experience so far. In fact, we are starting to get used to living here now. Unfortunately, the room is not ideal for long stay so we have to move on at some point next week.

So what's been happening? Well, J started work on Monday. He has not started properly yet as I think the company gives them a grace period of two weeks to get settled and sort things out , but he has been going to work. This means that I have been left on my own majority of the time. At the moment I don't mind not doing as much because I am still technically on annual leave. But things might change when my career break starts on the 25th of January because then I will be officially jobless. Let's just wait and see what happens.

On Monday after J left for work, I went downtown to do some errands. I also took the opportunity to practice on photography. I know by now that Wellington is a beautiful city and I would like to take as many beautiful photos as I can. This time though, I didn't take a lot of photos because I was so tired and all I wanted to do was sleep, so I only took a couple of random shots on my way back to the hotel.
Photos taken from the Civic Centre

I'm not sure if the weather in Wellington is as crazy as England, but it certainly changes very often. Tuesday was particularly cold and windy. I just find it very hard to accept that after being told (by a lot of people) that New Zealand has a much better weather than England, I need to layer up in the summer. Perhaps I have high expectations of the weather that until now I am still in denial that Wellington is a windy city.

Wednesday was a very productive day for us. We actually went around to look for some apartments. Actually, we only saw two apartments  and instantly fell in love with the second one. If the view is anything to go by, I think we have found a very good apartment. 
The view from the apartment

We went to sign the tenancy agreement today and paid the deposit, so yay! We finally have a place we can soon call our home. 

I also finally went for a run after a few months hiatus. The weather was perfect for a run but I only did  a short distance because I was feeling dizzy. I am hoping to run more in the coming weeks though.

We have also been eating out everyday as it is quite impossible to cook in the hotel at the moment. We have a stove inside the room but then there is not enough space to prepare the food and store it afterwards so it's not ideal really. We have found a few good restaurants in the neighbourhood, so I will be writing about them soon.
Croque-Madame  with fries and salad at Museum Hotel, $19

I am glad that despite my very bad jet lag, we were still able to enjoy our first week in Wellington.  There will be more to come for sure so I hope that you will continue to join us in our journey.

tintin x

The Journey To Wellington, New Zealand

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Why New Zealand?

I came to New Zealand by chance I would say. It was around spring last year when J mentioned that he has always wanted to work for a company called WETA in New Zealand. I didn't know anything about Weta at that time but it sounded very interesting to me. So when he said that he actually had a job offer but he wasn't sure if he should take it, I told him to just go for it otherwise he might regret it. I felt that it was too good of an opportunity to miss. Although I told him I would go with him (even if he didn't ask me), it was still a very hard decision for him to make. Understandably, he had to take a lot of things into consideration. And while it took him at least three months to take the job offer, it only took me five minutes to say I  am going with him. :)

So in the summer he finally signed the contract and immediately after, I asked for a sabbatical leave. I don't know but it all came so easy for me. All I can say right now is that I am so blessed to have worked with the most considerate and caring people.

Fast forward January 2016 and we were on our new journey down under.

The Journey

We flew from Heathrow airport with Emirates Airbus 380. It was my first time on the Airbus 380 and I must say, it's pretty impressive - and I wasn't even traveling on first or business class. It's more spacious (definitely more leg room) than the regular carrier and their seats are far more comfortable. For the first time in all my travels, I didn't have a stiff neck. I actually managed to sleep upright for a few hours without too much trouble. And although we were advised to get a neck pillow because of the long flight, we didn't actually need one. The airline cushion was perfectly fine. Their toilets are better too I think. Honestly, I can barely remember how the toilets in Boeing 777 were like. I am really bad at getting up and  using the toilet when I travel.  Anyway,   as usual the crew was friendly and helpful - one thing that I really love about Emirates. Not to mention their in-flight entertainment. Emirates is known for  their good entertainment but I don't use them as much as other passengers might do  because most of the time, I fall asleep even before the plane takes off. I always listen to music though and sometimes I also like to keep track of my flight. I also try and watch at least one movie if I am not too sleepy. By the way, much to my delight the A380 actually has a USB charger and a free wi-fi so I was able to send messages to my family and friends while in the sky. Such a treat.

Our first layover was Dubai for three hours where a lady gave me the wrong information because she assumed that I was going to Manila (probably because I am a Filipina). I wished we could have stayed longer to see the place, but at least I got to see the beautiful sunrise.

While for some airplane food is important, not so much for me. I even often skip my meals because I sleep a lot. I would only ask for peanuts or cup noodles randomly. Perhaps if I were to have one meal, it would be breakfast. I just love eggs so much that I will wake up especially for them. 

More than 23 hours on the plane and 6 hours layover  in two countries later,  we finally arrived in windy Wellington on Friday the 8th of January around 4pm. The whole trip was a lot better than we both expected. Most of all, there were no major delays. And although the trip was long, it was fairly organised. To be honest I was a bit worried getting through the customs. I don't have any visa. I came here only with my British passport (which allows me to stay here for at least 6 months), so I was thinking of the worst possible thing that could happen. From Melbourne to Wellington, I kept thinking about "Nothing to Declare"- if you've ever watched the series, you know what I mean. I imagined myself being held at the customs and being interrogated by some men with strong Kiwi accent. But it turned out that I was worrying for no reason at all. Thank God for that. 

When we arrived at the Customs area there were four officers checking passports - two men in the middle and two ladies each side. We were at the back of the queue, so I had time to study the officers. I knew instantly who I wanted to check our passports. I prayed as soon as I realised that the lady on the right was the nicest. I kept counting the passengers and calculating whether or not we would have her. When we were finally next in line, I got really nervous because although the lady has already stamped the previous passenger's passport, one of the men was also almost finished with the Italian couple. God, how he grilled them! Luckily, the lady shouted "next" first so I ran to her, literally. I'm not sure if J noticed all this but I knew I had to work some magic to make our entry to New Zealand stress-free. So, I handed my passport and with my biggest smile, I said "hi" to the lady. She looked at my passport and made a statement. Not a question, but a statement. She said to me, "You're here to visit". She didn't even look at me but I answered "yes" anyway. Then she stamped my passport and turned to J. She said to him, "And you're working". That was it, we were both cleared in less than 5 minutes. J told me later that the lady didn't even look at his visa. I wasn't really expecting the whole process to be as smooth as that. The universe was definitely on our side all the way. I am very grateful. So we got out of the airport really happy. We were picked up by a Weta employee who drove us to our hotel. 

It's apparently summer here. Yes that's true, but in an hour we saw how the weather quickly changed. The weather got colder as the evening drew closer. At one point, I thought it's colder here than London because of the wind. It's ridiculous that I had to wear a jumper in the summer sun in New Zealand - where everyone says has a better weather than London. Anyway, I've only been here a day so I should really give the weather a chance.

What have we done so far?

In just 24 hours, we have done quite a lot. Well, sort of. Yesterday, shortly after we dropped off our stuff at the hotel (we're staying here for two weeks until we find an apartment), we went around for a bit. I must say, the ambience in Wellington reminds me of downtown San Diego in California and I like it. There were not many people yesterday considering it was Friday. Now I believe that there are more sheep in New Zealand than people. And for this, I love it here already.

One of the first things we did was to walk along the harbour. It was pretty windy and we were a bit tired so we didn't really walk very far. But at least we got the "feel" of the city, and it was really good.

Maybe a walk was not a very good idea after a long haul flight. We got desperately hungry to a point where we no longer knew what we wanted to eat. So we opted for a Malaysian restaurant close to our hotel called "Istana Malaysia". The restaurant was quite full and the staff was friendly so we thought we'd settle there. The food came quite late - well, for hungry people like us I suppose. But we noticed that for a packed restaurant, there were only three waiters plus an old lady (who probably owns the restaurant) who cleaned the table and was in charge of the bills, and three men in the kitchen. This explained why the service was slow. And then the food came and although the restaurant has good reviews on tripadvisor, we didn't quite agree. I mean the food was okay, but there was really nothing special to it. I ordered Mee-goreng which I finished in all fairness   but only probably because I was so hungry, but it was salty and too oily. J ordered the chicken korma which to him was tasty, but looked really watery and there were only about four small chicken chunks in it. And the rice looked like it was old and was taken from the bottom of the pan. Perhaps we should go back there another time when we are no longer tired and very hungry. 
Mee Goreng,  $17.90
Chicken Korma, $18.90
Steamed rice, $2.20

Istana Malaysia
1 Allen Street
Te Aro

After our not so good food experience the night before, we tried our best to find a better place to eat today. We discovered that the main downtown wasn't really the place we went to yesterday. This only meant that there were more restaurants to choose from. And yes, we finally found a good place to have brunch. It's a cafe called "Floriditas" in Cuba Street. Delicious food. I ordered the "scrambled egg on ciabatta" but asked for the egg to be separated, while J ordered "poached egg on ciabatta with vine tomato salad". The food looked really plain and simple, but they were very tasty. We liked it there so at some point in our stay at the city, I'm sure we would visit this place again.
Scrambled egg on Ciabatta, $11
Poached egg on ciabatta with vine tomato salad, $16

161 Cuba Street

When we woke up this morning , we felt more rested so we went for another walk, this time really longer. We now have seen the whole of downtown Wellington, had an ice cream and attempted a cable car ride (the queue was very long so we decided to go back another time). The weather was so good. I felt so happy to see the sky so blue. What made my day even better was the kid playing the violin, he reminded me of Keith and he was good.

I'm sure I will be seeing more of blues in the next two months or so. Wellington has so far given me a good impression. I like it here already and I am only hoping that this feeling will continue for the rest of our stay here. I'm really looking forward to the next days, weeks and months. God only knows what's in store for us, but right now, so far so good. 

And there you have it, the journey down under has begun. Stay tuned (only if you want to).

tintin x

Thank you, 2015!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

This year, love and time definitely prevailed......


This time last year (2014), my family from the States all went home for the holidays. There was apparently a family reunion and I was not sure if I was going to make it. I was gutted because I was caught between spending time with my family whom I haven't seen for more than a decade and sorting out my finances. Yes, I didn't have much money back then as I spent a ridiculous  amount of money the whole of 2014 trying to  get over a break -up. But that was not the point really. Anyway,  I have learned my lessons the hard way since and have become a little more sensible with money (I hope).

And so I went home, thanks to my friends who patiently made me realise that family is far more important than money. Although I went home with less money than usual, this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Really, there is nothing more important in this world than to spend the New Year with the people you love.
Mi Familia
My cousins from Montana


Of course, I fell out with some people again this year but that really didn't faze me. Although I believe that I was judged unfairly,  it doesn't really matter because at the end of the day their opinion of me doesn't define me as a person. I am just grateful for the few friends I have left in London for they are the ones who inspire me to become a better person. They're the friends who are strong within reason.

With Kristy, loyalty doesn't mean having to choose between friends. Her loyalty simply means being a good friend (equally) to all her friends regardless of whether they are divided or not. Kristy is one of the most genuine friends I know. I love her to bits.
The photo bomber though

Mr S and Katie are two of the people I admire the most. Mr S for his dedication to his profession and his wisdom,  and Katie for her maturity and humility.  They are two of the most beautiful people I have ever met. Their friendship means so much to me and I am very grateful to have them in my life. And this year I am glad that we were able to do more  fun things together outside work, like watching "The Lion King", dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and random dancing at a club in Soho until 3 o'clock in the morning (on a weekday). These are simple things that definitely make life more worthwhile.

Marvie is one of my best friends in university. And although we have lived in the same country for 13 years, it was only last year that we started hanging out again. I am very thankful that this year, we both have made more effort to spend more time together and be there for each other. This lady is definitely a friend that is worth keeping.

My colleagues T and H represent the whole of the V@ST (Vascular @ St Thomas') team. I am so blessed to have been a part of this amazing team. To be honest, they are the best team I have ever worked with. And yes I can say that after just 3 years of working with them. 

I can only be thankful for these girls for putting up with me. I know I have my days and I am not always easy to work with, but these girls have been fantastic. They have helped me and supported me all the way through.

Finally, my new found Filipino friends at work. It's always nice to have friends that remind you of home. With these girls, chika only means updates on our own lives and food. 

Special shoutout to Charlie Boy (who took the photo below) for always making sure that we are all well-fed whenever we are together (which is only once a year by the way). And to my Ate Elvie for simply being there for me.

I will forever be grateful to these girls.


After a year of hiatus from  travelling, I finally went to Italy this year. And one thing that I am most grateful for is the fact that I was able to travel with my adopted family in Bristol for the first time. 

I am simply blessed to have been a part of this family. I have been friends with Mama V for more than a decade, and now they have become my family away from my family. I know I can never repay whatever goodness they have shown me through the years. They are one of the kindest and the most caring family I know. They are such a blessing.

My trip to Paris was indeed unexpected. I wasn't planning to go to Paris at all (not even in the next few years), but a special person called  Aida (my sister from another mother) made me go back in no time. And I'm so glad I did.

God knows how much I love this girl. She has always been my rock even if we don't actually see each other very often. I guess almost 30 years of friendship says it all.

Little Detours

I only have 7 months left before I hit 40 and as much as I am embarrassed to admit, so far I have only managed to cross out 7 from my 40 before 40 list. This has made me realise that we can't really plan our lives sometimes because the universe almost always has a better plan for us. 

Most of the good things that happened to me this year were unplanned. I finally went to some places that I have always wanted to go to, but never had the chance. I also went to places that brought a different meaning to my life.

Take Cambridge for example. I have heard a lot of beautiful things about this city in the past but really didn't make an effort to go. In fact, it has slipped off my mind until one day J reminded me of it. I'm glad he did because Cambridge is such a beautiful place to miss.
Trinity College, Cambridge

Newcastle on the other hand is a completely different story.  Of course I have heard of it before but I really didn't have any reason to go there. Honestly? It was never on my list of places to see. But mind you,  I have been there twice this year - not because of the city itself but because of some really nice people. 
Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Newcastle

Making dreams come true

When I turned 38, I promised myself to make most of my dreams come true before I turn 40. Although I didn't achieve that much this year, I am still happy that I was able to do two things that I have always wanted to do- watch The Championships and see the sunflowers in Tuscany.

I am grateful to J and his parents for giving me the opportunity to watch The Championships. I got more than what I expected and it was such an amazing experience.
The Championships

And do I need to say more about the sunflowers? I suppose by now, anyone who has been following my blog and my social media accounts would know  how much I love sunflowers.
Sienna, Italy

The Journey

In Spring 2014 while having an afternoon tea with a friend in Liverpool Street,  I dreamt of  "the guy in light blue shirt" who would give me all the Balenciagas and the Bottega Venetas I want. That guy in light blue shirt who would do everything and anything that I ask him to do. The guy who would love me more than I love him and prove it to the whole wide world (or web maybe) . I came up with this idea because at that time I felt like I was deprived of all the love and affection that I deserved. I felt that I didn't get all the material things that I wanted because I was far too ambitious or perhaps I simply wasn't worth it I suppose. But then I woke up one morning and realised that my idea of the guy in light blue shirt was purely an illusion. I realised that the girl looking for that guy was not really me. Perhaps I created him because I wanted to take revenge and prove to some people that I deserved to be treated better. But in reality, all I really needed was the guy who will love me the way I deserved to be loved, the guy who will not hurt me and the guy who can see my worth.

And then one day I may have done something right because the universe took over and gave me exactly what I needed- Mr Grey aka "the guy in light grey t-shirt".  See, in this life you don't always get what you want. Most of the time you are given what you need. 

Eighteen months since I first met J and now we are about to embark on a new life together down under. Ha, perhaps there is nothing more to say to that,huh?! But honestly, this opportunity came at the right time. After I came back from the Philippines in January, I felt like I needed to go somewhere unfamiliar where I can start over again. Don't get me wrong, I love living in London but after all the not so good things that happened  not so long ago,  I felt like I  needed a break from all the hustle and bustle of the big city. Only then I thought would I be able to find myself again and hopefully live a better life. But then J came along and that's when my life turned around (in a very positive way). Perhaps the universe really knew what I needed to start a new life as he didn't only give me J but also the only Christmas gift I asked for this year - FREEDOM. The freedom to properly start a new life.

2015 has definitely been a better year for me. I am very blessed to have all these people in my life. Of course there are other people I failed to mention on this blog who were a big part of my 2015 and who has helped me in one way or the other. I am equally thankful for them.

So, as the new year approaches, let us carry the fire inside us - the fire that burns inside the heart of those who love, who get hurt, who sacrifice and who fight. The fire that lights up inside those who are kind, selfless and righteous. 

tintin x

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