Saturday, December 3, 2016

Scuba Diving: My Lifeline

It has been about a year and five months since I got my open water license in diving. And I still stand by my proclamation: learning to scuba dive has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Referring to my last post, it is so easy to stay in your comfort zone and not bother yourself to try anything new. It may be out of fear, laziness, frugality, or all of the above (like me). Back then, I could've made a list on why I SHOULDN'T do it, but it only took a few moments of reflecting on how stagnant my life has become. It made me quite sad that the best weekend I could describe was "OMG THERE WAS A SALE AT SEPHORA!" 

After a few moments (hours) of self-pep-talks and convincing myself that the money spent on earning my diving license will be money well spent, I was like "Ahh, screw it. I'm doing it."
To my surprise, that seriously all it takes. A "Screw it!" moment. And the money I spent? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Looking back, I basically invested the money on happiness, adventure, and skills... and no one can take those away from me.

Since my very first dive in June 2015, I've earned my Advanced Open Water license and now looking at starting my Rescue Diver course.

Scuba diving has been truly my lifeline here in Jeddah. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me confidence and at the same time humility. Confidence, in the sense that I know I have training and earned my skills that sets me apart from being your average millennial. Humility, because I have (and always do) come across highly skilled divers who taught me that no matter what, you can ALWAYS do better than what you are now and that there's always someone better than you (and that's okay)... basically, don't get cocky.

In addition, diving makes me fall in love with the ocean each and every time. That nature will always leave you in awe and brings out the human in you. The human brimming with hope and ideas on how to better take care of the environment. If we take care of the ocean, we and the future generations will enjoy it more.
With that in mind, I wake up everyday thinking, "How can I be a better diver today?" Which can easily translate to: "How can I be a better me today?" 

It may not be diving for you. Maybe it'll be paragliding, a cooking class, or anything in between. As long as it makes you question yourself on how to be a better you, then that's your lifeline.

"Make the most out of yourself... for that is all there is of you."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Step Out of Your Niche


Aside from earning more money, why else would people choose to work abroad?

For me, at least, it's to immerse myself in other cultures.

I have been fortunate enough to grow up in another country, good old Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Being a not-so-open country, it's easy to stick to your own kind here. Unless you live in compounds like Sharbatly, Saudia, or KAUST, you don't get much opportunity to walk up to a person and become friends. Work, perhaps. 

Most expats I've come across prefer to just socialize with people from the same country, some even just the same city or region. Growing up, I went to a Filipino school. My family belonged to a Filipino Badminton community. Sure, I had foreign classmates and our badminton group has several non-Filipinos, but still, it's mostly our own. 

This is easy and common. Why? Because it's our comfort zone. We can already understand each other, same traditions, almost the same hobbies, etc etc. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Maybe to others. But to me, after more than 20 years of it, it got dull. I've been living here most of my life, and my Arabic is slightly above mediocre. Why? Because I never bothered to practice with my Arab friends and acquaintances. I never found the need. Why? Because I (apparently) restricted myself to just hanging out with the Filipino community I am familiar with.



Again, I am not saying I dislike spending time with people from my own country. My point is, what I've been doing completely clashes with my goal of immersing myself in another culture. I've missed out on a lot of cool things here over the years. Complaining that this city, this country, is boring me to tears was my fault mainly. 



One day, I decided to step out of my comfort zone. I didn't define myself as a Filipino Expat, I'm simply an Expat. I stopped labeling other expats as "Non-Filipinos." They're expats, just like I am. I started to feel drawn to them. My curiosity slowly surfacing once more. Apps like Tinder was a great help. Not everyone you match with requires a date or a romantic relationship. Most of them have become good friends and even introduced me to more people.


Not a fan of technological aid? Branch out from your current circle. Your friends may know people who can help you in joining groups that cater to your other interests. I was introduced to diving through a friend from my badminton group in Dr. Soliman Fakhee Hospital (Olympia). From there, I branched out and met even more people who like the same things that I do or even encourage me to try other activities. Widening your circle could prove beneficial not only to your personal life, but your career as well. Can't hurt to have more connections, right?

People I've usually just given a polite smile to at work, I now do my best to talk to them at least once a day learning more from their culture. My Arabic has even improved through daily practice with my co-workers. I've been discovering more places to visit. Heck, I might even write about them someday. 

Long story short, IF you want to widen your circle, if you want to grow, if you want change, try and step out of your niche. Strike up a conversation with that Egyptian colleague of yours about when is the best time to visit Sharm El Sheikh. That Saudi receptionist who always greets you everyday at the office? She could be a potential diving buddy. That British dude you have Spanish class with? He might be interested in having a tour guide on his first visit to the Philippines.

You never really know unless you try and talk to them, right? 

Who knows? If I branch out far enough, I might even meet you.



Your potential annoying friend,

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Blog CPR & Scuba Diving in Jeddah

Hi there!

If there ever was an award for Most Neglectful Blogger, I might be in the lead.

I'd be lying if I said nothing worth writing about has happened. In fact, a lot of things happened. I just couldn't find the time to tell you about it, or at the very least, I couldn't find a way to make it worth reading.

A friend told me to just try and write and the words will just flow, so that's what I'm doing.

One topic that I've been really eager to share with you is my diving adventure.

I finally got my license as an Open Water Diver. Cue trumpets!


Words fail to describe how amazing it is to dive. My only regret is not doing it sooner. 

The PADI Open Water diving course wasn't as difficult as I expected.

The course consisted of 3 parts, which were the Knowledge, Confined Water/Pool sessions, and the open water dives. After that, you take the certification exam.

The first part of the course was the Knowledge part where your instructor orients you, lets you read the provided book and answer its quizzes, and watch the videos. Not every exciting, but easy enough. 

Then came the pool sessions. It seemed difficult for my instructor at first to get a pool for my scuba buddy and I since he was a male and we were female. As most know, mixed gender groups can only rent a pool if they're a family or related. Most private pools can be quite expensive. It's easier for the males to get pools, private or scuba training. Welcome to the KSA.
And so came the day for our confined water dives where we were introduced to using a regulator, setting up our gear, and other basic scuba diving skills. I'm just putting it out there, wearing the wetsuit was (still is) a challenge. Especially in the blistering heat.

I remember well that first plunge in the water in full gear, regulator in my mouth. It was exhilarating. And this was just the pool! Using the regulator for the first time, was weird, wonderfully weird. It took a while for me to get the hang of it since I was breathing too fast in the beginning. I didn't want to get out of the water. 

Weeks passed and we were ready for the sea. It took a while for us to get to this step because our schedules kept clashing. I did manage to retain some of what I've learned. Whew!

If you and your instructor meet regularly (like once/twice a week), you can finish the course in a month.

Our instructor brought us to Bhadur Resort in Obhur. Upon entering, you fill out the usual (name, iqama #, mobile) and pay SR 100. Entrance price is the same with La Plage.

Bhadur Resort
Image source here

Still haven't completed your gear? Worry not. Most, if not all, diving resorts here in Jeddah provide rentals. You should have at least the basics though:

1. Wetsuit
2. Fins
3. Boots
4. Mask
5. Snorkel

My diving peeps are always kind enough to lend me some of their gear like a BCD, regulator, and weights. The tanks, I rent out at the resort (SR 30 per tank/refill).

Diving really has been such huge blessing for me. I should have done this a long time ago! If you're facing the decision whether to go learn diving or not, PLEASE DO IT. It's a costly hobby, yes, I'll admit that much. But if you spend wisely on gear and limit your escapades to maybe once or twice a month, it's worth it.

Untitled
My diving buddy & instructor

Untitled
Kindred spirit under the sea and myself :D


Contact your local dive center now, like Natlus Divers. If you're interested in my instructor (he's awesome), please let me know by leaving a comment. Looking forward to dive with you soon!


Yours,


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Strayed

First and foremost...


Quite late on the greetings, I know. But, that doesn't stop me from hoping that y'all had a wonderful Eid.

Anyway, nothing much happened on Eid break. I slept... a lot. That's pretty much it.

Exciting, I know.

On my last post, I mentioned the following:

1. I finally have my own room
2. I'm taking diving class
3. No more dating apps
4. I was on vacation

In the beginning, all of 'em were true, now, it's 3 out 4. I'll let you guess which one ended up in failure.

Go on, make a wild guess.

Yeah, I jumped off the wagon on #3 there. Sometime between me posting that and today, the harsh reality of a long distance shtick bit us in the ass. Sure, I was upset for while, but you gotta move along, eh?

My friends when they see my Tinder-ing



Not all matches on Tinder end up on dates anyway. Most of 'em end up being really good conversationalists and few even can become good friends. It's always nice to make new friends.

Well, that's it. I just wanted to put it out there. Transparency and whatnot.

I'm hoping to post about my vacation soon. There's just A LOT of photos and so little time (i.e. super lazy) to sort them out.

Until then.

XO,

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Life Lately: Vol. 1

First of all, I'm sorry for going AWOL. Life has just been such a nut-kicker this past few months. I should learn how to better handle my time.

What better way to get back on the blogging saddle than with a "Life Lately" post? I've been meaning to do one for some time, and now's a good chance I think.


1. Finally have my own room


 
After all these years, I finally get a room to myself last January. I was supposed to do a post on how I decorated it. Perhaps I still can, since it has no decorations. Just your basic bedroom furniture. Hehe. Perhaps I might do a post or two when I decide to redecorate (God knows I need to, posting and redecorating).

2. Diving Class


 

I've been told by a lot of people that the Red Sea is a beautiful place to dive and that I should take advantage of the fact that Obhur or Al Lith is just an hour drive away.

So I decided to take diving class. Finally. I've only had a couple of pool sessions so far, I'll tell you  more about it in a next post (and after I, In Shaa Allah, get a GoPro... heehee).

3.  Bye Bye, Dating Apps


 

Yeah, you read that right, I uninstalled both Tinder & OKCupid. Not, it's not because I lost hope, quite the opposite actually, I finally found my hope. Cheesy, ain't it? Haha.

Let's just say there's this guy I've been chatting with for a while and things are going good, except for the fact that he's 7,000 miles away and 9 hours in the past (much poetic, such wow). Why uninstall the apps then? I dunno, perhaps it's because this dude doesn't make we want to match with anyone else. Haha. We'll see.

4. Upcoming Vacation



This part, I'm reeeeeally excited about. I haven't been home in a year (Duh, annual, haha). Can't wait to see my family and college friends. Stay tuned for posts about the places we're going to invade.


Well, that's it. The past 4 months weren't that spectacular and fruitful. Hopefully June will be way better.


Here's to no more absences on blogspot! <3

XO,



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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chun's Bistro

Friday is the only day I get to do something healthy, which is play badminton at Olympia. Friday is also the day that my mother is too lazy to cook and drags us to whatever new restaurant she discovers on her Facebook news feed.

Chun's Bistro is a Chinese restaurant that my family and I have been overlooking whenever we were in Tahlia. Only recently when Mom saw one of her Facebook amigas post some mouth-watering photos of food from Chun's Bistro did we have the motivation to give it a go.



Usually, I'm not fond of going to Chinese restaurants because my mom is an amazing cook and can whip up most of the dishes you find on a Chinese menu at the convenience of our home (I'm too lazy to go out). Also, most of the dishes are too familiar or I consume so frequently that I'm not too curious to order. But hey, food is food, and besides, I couldn't pass up a free meal.


From the outside, Chun's Bistro looks huge and has more than one floor. In the ground floor was the singles area for men, the family area was on the 1st floor and was accessible through a tiny elevator (of course there are stairs for the claustrophobic or exercise-conscious individuals).

Somebody was camera shy
The family area was (it seemed like) divided into three areas by some dividers. We took the table directly across the elevator which was in the middle of the three sections. I think the one on the left had two tables, the one on our right had a large one, larger than the one we had.

Their menu, much to my mother's amusement, was in tablet form. We all huddled over the tablet to choose our orders (the waiter only gave us one techy menu).  After a while of endless back-and-forth scrolling, we called Kabayan and ordered.



From what we ordered, here are my favorites:

Sizzling Tofu at SR 38
I am a carnivore and I still need to be forced by my mother to eat my veggies. You can already imagine my reaction when Mom ordered tofu. But, to my surprise, the Sizzling Tofu was quite good. Tofu itself didn't really have much flavor (it's tofu, duh) and the sauce did most of the work. It was delicious, the tofu wasn't too mushy nor too rubber-y (I've had bad experiences with Tofu and Tokwa before). I'd order this again, fo' shizzle.

Oyster Beef at SR 45
The Oyster Beef was another favorite. Not really a new taste for me, but I gotta say it was cooked wonderfully. The beef was so soft and tender, but not too much that it crumbles. It was juuuuust right.

Garlic Mussels at SR 55
The mussels were the main dish that Mom wanted to try out, it was what her FB amiga recommended. Tasting it, I would definitely recommend it, too. The mussels were full of flavor and not too chewy, cooked just right. I could've finished the whole plate myself, hahaha!


Up next, we have the S.S. Spare Ribs (I forgot the actual name, I just copied what it said on the receipt). You definitely have to eat rice with this one to balance out the strong savory flavor. It was a bit salty for me and at the same time kinda sweet. The beef was so tender it just melts in your mouth. I'd order this again, but maybe ask the chef to cut out some of the fat since it's already oily.

S.S. Spare Ribs at SR 48
Other than those, of course we ordered the always-present rice dishes, a beef one and a shrimp one. Both were at SR 25. Good for 3 people, or 2 very hungry ones.

Beef Fried Rice at SR 25

There were a couple of dishes that they picked out that I wouldn't include on my next visit there.


Cucumber Salad at SR 20
The cucumber salad was okay. But I wouldn't pay SR 20 for it. I can whip it up at home easily. It was basically sliced cucumbers with some vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper. If they added anything else, I didn't notice. 

Garlic Spinach at SR 25
The garlic spinach was another "Okay" dish. It was delicious, but not really a Wow kind of dish. I've had better. The portions were generous enough, so the price was reasonable. 

I saved this for last, because I was really disappointed in it. 

Steamed Dumplings at 25

We were debating whether to order the fried or steamed ones. We ended up with the latter because the waiter said it had more pieces compared to the fried ones. We obliged since we were expecting a couple of more people to join us for dinner.

It tasted kind of raw, the wrapper was too thick, and it had this weird aftertaste. I tried it with the sauce, and I found it was way worse. Maybe that's a little too harsh, but I had to swirl some iced tea in my mouth to get rid of the taste. 

All in all, I liked Chun's Bistro. The food was great, prices were quite affordable, and the portions were satisfying. It's a great place for dining with a group. The receptionists and waiters were very friendly and cheerful. Even gave us these coupons and cool chopsticks.




Go on and give it a try. Don't forget to tip your waiters!



Forever Hungry,




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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Arirang Korean Restaurant

Jeddah is an awesome place for dining out. A lot of new restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine styles are everywhere. Mom was too lazy to cook and that only means one thing... we get to dine out.


Our usual destination mostly included Filipino restaurants like Wajbah or Oriental, and from time to time we go to Texas Roadhouse or Steak House for a meat-binge (Dad and I are carnivores, rawr!) or spoil ourselves with sushi at Sakura. We wanted to try something different and decided to try out this Korean restaurant called Arirang our neighbors recommended.

The place was a bit difficult to find because it wasn't visible on the main roads. You had to really go into the neighborhood to find it. It was made even more difficult that it wasn't very popular yet so it wasn't popping up on google maps when I tried to search for it. We relied on our neighbor's directions  but still ended up asking the residents there where the restaurant was. After what seemed like 20 minutes of circling around, we finally found it.




Arirang is located inside Mosadia Hotel, which seemed like an apartment home turned into a hotel. We were greeted (well, not really greeted, more like "I acknowledge your presence and I shall direct you to where it is you need to be) by a receptionist at the cozy lobby and pointed us to the restaurant. It was pretty quiet and seemed like business was slow, which I liked because I hate crowds.

At the restaurant we were greeted (like genuinely greeted) by this man, who I shall refer to as Brother (shame on me I forgot his name), and lead us to a table.

Brother (far left) making sure we were comfortable.

The place was empty except for us and another table with two gentlemen. Also, it seemed like Brother was the only one working there. 

Truth be told, we were kind of skeptical when we saw the place, being used to popular dining places and all. It was too quiet, even for me. Mom had half a mind to leave but I insisted that we stayed since Brother was already setting up the table, plus, I was starving and too lazy to leave.



Now the thing with trying new cuisines is most of the dishes seem alien. Another obstacle was most of us weren't adventurous in trying new food. We kinda wished our neighbor tagged along to order for us. There's always next time, I guess. We just ordered those dishes that seemed familiar to us.

While we were choosing from their menu, side dishes were served. Dad was pleased because there was a lot and the portions were generous.

Kimchi
While we were choosing, Brother passed by with a dish ordered by the two gentlemen at the other table. It smelled heavenly and we ordered it for us as well. We didn't even bother to ask the name. I can tell you that it's stir fried crunchy-yet-chewy chicken with chili, and boy was it delicious... and spicy... really spicy.

Perfect complement to beer in my opinion. I highly recommend this.

Aside from that, we ordered two shrimp fried rice, tofu soup, deep fried beef, and sizzling shrimp with mushrooms. We asked Brother what dish does he recommend we order and told us to go for bulgogi (grilled marinated beef). The two gentlemen ordered another beef dish (we basically just copied them, hehe) which Brother said wasn't on the menu but will gladly tell the chef to cook it for us, and so we ordered that as well.

 Bulgogi. Tender & delicious, but not really a "wow" kind of dish for me.
Tofu Soup (SR 15). Good for the cold weather. 
Special sizzling beef dish (middle) that wasn't on the menu. Pretty good. Tasted a lot like tocino.
The one on the upper right corner is the deep fried beef, basically beef strips dipped in batter and fried, that's it.
I wanted to try those dishes (shabu shabu, I think) where you get to put them in a hot pot yourself. Unfortunately, Arirang doesn't have hot pots where they can put on the customers' tables. But the chef can cook the dish for you.

The dishes' costs' ranges from 30 to 60 SR. The soups cost only about SR 15 per bowl. I don't remember seeing a menu for special drinks but I remember that I wanted to order iced tea and Brother said they only had sodas. All in all, the food was great (except for you, deep fried beef) and we were very pleased with their generous portions and fast service (maybe because there wasn't a lot of people).

We asked Brother to have our leftover's wrapped to go and to give us the bill. He came back with our takeaway and bill, and some complementary special drinks (Awwww, Brother!)

Sugary sweet Cinnamon slush. I liked it. Mom didn't.  More for me then.

Though Arirang doesn't offer the best ambiance, their food and generous portions are worth your money. I can see myself coming back here, especially for that awesome spicy crunchy chicken.





Forever Hungry,

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

ATV Fun at Bharah

After a hectic week of preparing for the holidays... no, wait... WORKING over the holidays, I'm finally back on my blog. Hehe.

I've been in Jeddah since I was 6, but I can't say I know the ins & outs of Jeddah. There's not much to do but work, and dine, and shop. It gets boring and oftentimes we get stuck in a rut. So when my friend Sharky invited me to go ATV riding in the desert, I didn't hesitate and agreed on the spot.


It was Sharky's mom & her colleagues' outing and we just tagged along. Imagine that, those senior women came up with better plans than us self-proclaimed cool young folk (shame on us, Sharky).

Days before the outing, Sharky and I were already planning our outfit since we found out we could ride the ATVs sans abayas. This was a pretty big deal, because we don't usually plan outfits or get to flaunt them very often. The weather was cold and that made us extra excited because we get to wholeheartedly experience "sweater weather!"


Friday, 4:00 am, after only 2 hours of sleep, my phone alarm buzzed and flashed with the message "GET UP! TIME FOR SOME ATV FUN!" I was exhausted and had half a mind to turn it off and send Sharky a message saying I was cancelling. Then I thought, "Sharky will never let me live it down." So, I got up, and was thankful I slept in my outfit so all I had to do was brush my teeth, freshen up, and chug down some coffee.

5:00 am, we were off north. None of us had breakfast, and most of us had tiny bladders, so we had to make a stop at McDonald's somewhere in Obhur.

You know you've found a true friend when they offer to buy you food. Sharky is <3

After relieving ourselves, we took our breakfasts to go and ate in the car. Tip: On long road trips and you find yourself a decent bathroom, even if you don't think you need to pee, you make yourself pee. 'Coz you won't find another bathroom for miles.

 

Not long after, we reached our destination. Now, I'm a very "navigationally challenged" person, so don't expect some directions from me. Luckily, I had a good internet connection and marked my location. You can find the location on google maps through here. You can also try to google "Desert Safari Bharah."





We got there at around 6:00 am and were greeted with icy winds and a gloomy sky. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed at the surroundings, trash was everywhere. Not a total dump, but you can tell that previous visitors didn't care where they threw their water bottles and nobody bothered to clean. We were here for the ride anyway, not the sights.






We paid SR 60 each for an hour's worth of riding the ATV. I don't think this was a pre-arranged deal, we just arrived and paid. 

Admittedly, I wasn't too excited to ride after I saw how dirty the surroundings were (I'm snooty from time to time) and my spirits even sunk lower when the people there told us we should keep our abayas on. Too bad, because Sharky and I were looking forward to flaunt our OOTDs.


Sharky looking a little too cool.

Anyway, it was too late to back out, so we were like "F**k it" and got ourselves rides. The ATVs were very easy to operate. All you had to do was push a button (the kind you find on bicycle bells) to make it go and pull on the brakes to make it stop, easy-peasy-Japanese-y. It was a bit stiff to maneuver at first. The rest of the buttons and pedals were just for display, the horn works though, so... yay!



In the beginning, we were either going too fast or too slow, but we got the hang of it quickly. As we went on, we were told we could remove our abayas because we were far enough from the highway. Please note that you still have to dress modestly, regardless of climate (long sleeves, scarves, and trousers) , even if they said it was okay to remove your abayas. It is STILL Saudi, after all.

The moment we did, it was like a symbolic gesture of freedom. We felt, lighter, brighter, and most importantly... free. We had that twinkle in our eyes, the wind was blowing in our hair, and our fingers itched to rev up our ATVs.




It was exhilarating. There were times we went so fast that we almost toppled over when we tried to turn. The only kill joy was when our ATVs got stuck in the sand and we had to get off and pull them out. Most of the time the people in charge helped us out, so it was all good.

I got stuck T_T
Stuck again.
There were little peaks around and Sharky and I decided to climb it with the ATVs first, and failed. The sand was too loose and they just got stuck. So we went on foot and did a little photo shoot.

Not the best footwear for sand. Lesson learned.

Doin her best "tourist" pose


Almost missed a step. Had a mini heart attack. Did not react well.
Sharky: WHYYYYYYYYY
Overall, it was an awesome experience. It was a nice change of pace and we plan on doing it again. If you plan on going there, go early morning so it won't be so hot. Also, wear long sleeves, scarves, some goggles if you have (there will be sand in your face, guaranteed), and some proper footwear. Make sure your abayas aren't too long or too billowy in the event they won't allow you to remove it. Makes it easier to ride. Bring some food as well or buy some along the way. They don't serve food there. If you're gonna bring your camera, you're gonna need to clean it afterwards, there is sand EVERYWHERE. If you have a protective case, then you better use it.

I hope you guys can give this a try and let me know how you liked it.

Until my next escapade. <3


XO,


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