OFW: Overseas Filipino’s Wife

Three years ago, I got married and subsequently packed up my life in Manila and got on a plane to live in the land of the rising sun with my husband of one day. I was nervous. I was scared. But, my heart was full of excitement and my feet, ready for adventure. I was officially a trailing spouse.

 

The term “trailing spouse” is attributed to Mary Bralove who wrote an article for Wall Street Journal in 1981 about businesses adapting to the needs of expat personnel and finding professional positions for the trailing spouse. The phenomena of trailing spouses are often seen in diplomatic, military, government positions and in the private sector, too.

 

Don’t get me wrong, though. I use the term without any derogatory intent. The term has been under fire of late because it connotes mindlessness and submissiveness. It ignores the ridiculous amount of discussion that accompanied the decision to migrate to another country. People prefer using “Accompanying Spouse”, “Spouses Traveling and Relocating Successfully (aka STARS) or my favorite term “Overseas Filipino’s Wife”. Whatever the preferred name is, moving to a foreign place can be hard. I knew that I was leaving everything behind –my family and friends, my career and everything that meant something to me.

 

Sacrificing Professional Goals

Oftentimes, the trailing spouses give up their professional career (and financial independence!) to keep the family together. It was very clear right from the start that becoming an OFW family was not an option for us. We decided that giving up my work is the best choice.

 

Loss of Identity

It might be a little hard to accept the new role. The trailing spouse is labeled as just that—a spouse who is trailing along. While in a Nihongo language class, I was taken aback when the teacher referred to me as the 主婦 or “wife”. I am more than just a “wife”, aren’t I? However, the government only recognizes me as a dependent and spouse of a resident.

 

Barriers

Language, culture, mobility barriers are just some of the issues a trailing spouse have to address. Expat packages usually arrange for classes, house help and drivers, and introduce the spouse/family to community. Local hires have to handle all these by themselves.

 

But, how do I prepare myself for the many challenges ahead? The inner geek inside me did what a geek would do—read up on other trailing spouses’ experiences. Here are some of the gems I found useful:

Bring one or a handful of mementos and nothing more. It can be photos, memorabilia from your trips, a favorite book, your kid’s favorite toy and blankie or something that reminds you of home. When you have moved houses and countries often enough, you will find it easier if you only bring the essentials. Things can be bought once you’ve settled in. Also, it allows you to reinvent yourself!

 

Settle in at your own pace. There is no need to rush into getting settled immediately. Take your time to research the best places for certain things—schools, restaurants, sports clubs, or parks.

 

Join community activities. It provides you opportunities to meet the people in the neighborhood, find out information you cannot get in any handbook and at the very least, enable you to enjoy activities with like-minded people. I met good friends by joining community language lessons.

 

Explore your new surroundings. You are in a whole new place— the food, the music, the culture are all new. Enjoy it with your family and new friends.

 

Stay connected. With technology’s help, everyone is just a swipe away from you. Call, send a text, or leave a video message! Live streaming, when appropriate, would let you join in the fun. Hopefully, it would make you feel less home sick. Missing your previous home isn’t all that bad, anyway.

 

Bloom where you are and enjoy your time away!

 

 

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Hanami aka Cherry Blossoms Viewing

It’s almost springtime! Sakura forecasts state that full bloom will be on March 26.

Re-read a previous post about cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo. Share your own tips on the comment section!

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It’s my third year in Tokyo and I still get super excited when spring comes. Not only because it means winter is (almost) over, but also because it means cherry blossoms viewing is near!

Whether you’re visiting or living in Japan, a certain level of preparation is important to experience the best hanami outing.

Tips on Cherry Blossoms Viewing in Tokyo
(1) Know the flower and when they bloom.
It is quite easy to mistake plum blossoms with cherry blossoms. They don’t bloom at the same time. Find out the perfect viewing time through this forecast site.

(2)Choose the appropriate park.
There are many parks to choose from and they’re all wonderful and spectacular.

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However, I prefer Shinjuku Gyoen because they don’t allow liquor and smoking. I’ve been to some parks that allow these and the crowd does get a bit rowdy. I also don’t want to inhale second…

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Shake Shack Tokyo

Sari-Sari Stories

When in Japan, people think of sushi, tempura and ramen. Once in a while though, I crave for American burgers!

Shake Shack lovers rejoice!

Shake Shack opened late 2015 but we’ve learned our lesson from Dominique Ansel’s. Don’t. Just don’t. Not on the opening day. Week. Month.

But, still. Look!

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Look at that line. As far as the eye can see. The secret is to time your arrival, a few minutes before opening but not too early. We got there 10 minutes before opening and still had to wait for close to 45minutes. However, don’t worry too much cause you’re in Japan. People are considerate and don’t dilly dally.

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Since it’s winter time, they had several heaters for their outdoor sitting areas and blankets to keep you warm.

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Double-patty Shack burger

It tasted just like I remembered. Juicy, oily and butter-y. The beef patty is thin so I do prefer…

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Eggs ‘n Things

Sari-Sari Stories

After a long day running after Little A, we went to Eggs ‘n Things for dinner. It was just 5pm but it was dark and more importantly, we were hungry!

You don’t have to go to Enoshima for Eggs ‘n Things coz they have many branches in Japan (and Hawaii!). This branch though didn’t require a 45 minute wait for pancakes and breakfast fare. Thumbs up!

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They have outdoor seating but it’s winter and they’re on the seaside so…….inside we stayed!

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The serving was huge! Actually the server told us we ordered too much ? but we thought she was just underestimating our hunger.

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This is a side dish acai bowl. It’s cereal topped with frozen acai berries and then further topped with bananas, pineapple, strawberries, blue berries, raspberries and mangoes! It was surprisingly good but how can you go wrong with fresh fruits.

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These pancakes were so fluffy and…

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Kamakura Day Trip

Sari-Sari Stories

I’m sure you’ve seen this image before:

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It’s a gigantic bronze Buddha statue in Kamakura (Hase station). It weighs 93 tons but it’s hollow and you can actually pay 20 yen to go inside. Rudyard Kipling wrote several verses of this daibutsu. The temple is rather small though so we only spent half an hour here and decided to go some where else.

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The surrounding area has a lot to offer. More temples, little shops and restaurants. But since Enoshima was a train ride away, we decided to go there instead.

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Enoshima has a little island you could explore for a day or two! You can even see Mount Fuji on clear day.

IMG_6691.JPG was not a clear day

You can climb up the mountain to the temple and find this:

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A love lock fence.  You can also ring the bell for eternal love ❤

It’s nice to visit in Autumn and see…

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Christmas 2015

Christmas here isn’t a big deal. It’s the equivalent of Halloween or Valentine’s day in Manila. Some celebrate, others don’t.

To inject some Christmas-y feeling in our house, Little A and I tried to make some salt dough ornaments. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on *tried*.
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Ingredients to make the salt dough: half-cup water, half-cup salt, 1 cup flour plus some more for kneading. Looks easy enough, right? Best if you can add the water a little at a time so you can manage the stickiness. Roll them out and shape as desired. Then, bake at 100c for 3 to 4 hours.

I wrote out the ingredients so Little A can follow based on the drawing.
 
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I over baked them! You see, I didn’t check the temperature and proceeded to bake everything at 160 :O.
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That was supposed to be a handprint. Oh well. Came out like focaccia bread.

 
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We painted them but they ended up tacky. I think it’s because you’re supposed to use acrylic paint. We couldn’t be bothered with it and used watercolors. Hahaha! Makings of pinterest fails.

So I tried to dry them in the oven. I over baked them again and they all turned into charcoal! Someone hasn’t been a good girl (me!). No pictures of the burnt stuff. Our kitchen still smells!

We’ll try again next year.

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In the meantime, we made another Christmas craft.

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Made out of these materials we had in the house.

 
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Merry Christmas, everyone!

Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo

Sari-Sari Stories

It might not be obvious to you, dear reader. So let me say it out loud…I love sweets–cakes, pies, ice cream and all sorts pastries. You might also not know that I used to be a cake decorator. My sisters and I ran a small baking and decorating cake operations. Ever since I came to Japan though, I haven’t had the opportunity to decorate cakes anymore. (My sister still does <shameless plug>).
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Oh, how I miss it! Once in a while though, I’d surf Le Cordon Bleu’s site to daydream (‘coz free!) about attending their patisserie course. Just a few months of intense baking and learning from the best chefs!

One time though, I saw a posting for a Master Class to learn from Frédéric Madelaine. I actually thought we were going to learn how to make madelaines when I signed up! They don’t announce what you will learn until the class itself…

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