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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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!

Gyukatsu Motomura

I’ve seen drool-worthy instragram posts on gyukatsu but the 45 minute waiting time just doesn’t appeal to me. Also, the beef is fried for less than a minute so it’s not suitable for the little girl.

However, when I met up with Kim and her husband on my own (gasp! Without Little A! ), we ended up eating at Gyukatsu Motomura 牛かつもと村。We were in line for 1.5 hours though but we made do and caught up with stories while in line.

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Continue reading

Ramen Burger

After an afternoon of water play, we looked for a shop that makes ramen burger in Nakano. 

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Tita Sil was the one who found this restaurant!

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The Original Burger made with 100% angus beef patty smoothered with their secret sauce (onion based) with a side of tortilla chips (780yen)

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The Works is the original burger that comes with bacon, egg and cheese (1100yen)

I liked The Works better because…bacon. Kidding aside, the patty is very flavorful and juicy albeit thin. You can order double patties if you want though. The noodle buns are packed so it won’t disentangle on you when you bite into the burger.

I’m not sure if it is something I would keep going back for but it does make for an interesting snack. For a smallish burger, it is more expensive than your regular fastfood fare.

It’s located at 2-28-8 Jiraigen Building, 2F
Opens at 11am
Eat in, Take out ok.

A New York Day in Omotesando (Part 1)

I like Omotesando. It has all the foreign things you need. image And sometimes, you need lobster roll! Luke’s Lobster serves 3 types of rolls. image Lobster image Shrimp image Crab

The rolls are buttered and toasted, swiped with mayonnaise and filled with awesome seafood that has secret spices and bits of cold butter.

They also have seafood mix and match wherein you can get lobster with shrimp, shrimp with crab, lobster with crab. Set meals are also available for an additional 400yen, you get chips and a drink.image They serve several special alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. The ginger ale soda looked particularly interesting specially on a hot sunny day.

Luke’s Lobster is easy enough to find.

Valdirections: go to Omotesando station, take Exit A1. Turn on the corner of Kiddyland and you’ll find it on the first corner on your right.

Enjoy!

Ukai Tei Omotesando

Let me start with this:

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A cart of desserts for your picking. 

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This is after they serve your main dessert.

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I asked for the classic starwberry shortcake. They served it like this.

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L had the pistachio éclair with ice cream

But first, the entrance photo taken by Little A.

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Our reflection on the lower left area.

We were seated in the salon and served hot tea while waiting for our private room. Normally, counter seats are offered so you can see the chefs working on the teppanyaki. But, they dont allow kids under a certain age to sit there so we were given a private room instead.

Once we were shown inside, we only had to wait a couple of minutes before the gastronomy magic happened.

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Marinated small prawn with asparagus baba (what Little A call bubbles). It was so flavorful too!

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This was supposedly a cold onion soup but we wanted hot soup so they swapped it wih clam cream soup.

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Sauted Bream. It sounds so simple, right? But it was so good.

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The chef is shaving mushrooms on top of the grilled fish.

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Fresh ingredients and high skilled chef make my tummy really happy.

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Next up. Ukai tei’s top quality beef. We didn’t upgrade the beef to *best* quality because L and I agreed that best quality might be too calorie-fic for us! Also, we just ate steak the other day…so…

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Look! small but omg, so rich!  Do you see the garlic chips? How amazing are those? The onion strips were sweet!

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Close up of wagyu

Little A was meh on the fish. Ate only a little. But, this dish? I was too slow in preparing her fork, she just used her hands to feed herself!

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Afterwards came the meal which consists of fried rice, pickled veggies and miso soup. To make sure you are full, teehee!

Then, we were whisked off to the dessert parlour where we had the most amazing dessert spread. We shared a platefull of petit fours and drank coffee (in my case, milk with coffee) while Little A roamed around the room and squealed in delight (cakkkeeeees!)

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Another look

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Strawberry pudding that is also part of the trolley desserts.

Ukai tei is one of the best lunches I have had recently.

Website here
5-10-1 OMOTESANDO-GYRE 5F, Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
TEL.+81-3-5467-5252
Reservations can be made online

Hanami aka Cherry Blossoms Viewing

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 hand smoke.

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There are also parks like Chidorigafuchi Ryokudo which offers more than just hanami. You could rent a boat and paddle your way into the magical scene. Wait until sundown and the place is lit up. This is one of the most popular parks though so, it is hard to find a place to park your mat.

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Inokashira Park is another nice park and once you’re done, you can even go to the zoo with your kids afterwards.

I’ve never been to Toshimaen Amusement Park but I’ve read reviews that it’s a good alternative to your typical hanami viewing.

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Ueno, Koganei and Zenpukuji Parks are also great.

Tokyo Midtown is one of the nicest places to view cherry blossoms. They even have a food truck that sells snacks and champagne!

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8 parks for you to enjoy!

(3) Bring or buy your hanami arsenal

3a Mat
This is essential in hanami-ing. Where will you sit and enjoy the magnificent view? The ground? No, no, the proper way is to use a mat. It also serves as your reservations in case you want to wake up early and pick the nicest spot at the park and return later in the day with your family amd friends. Yes, everyone will respect your reservations. No one will move your mat or take your belongings. It’s a wonderful place, Japan.

100yen shops sell all kinds of mat so drop by one before you head to your park. Feel free to buy other goodies such as paper plates, plastic spoon and forks, chopsticks, cups, wipes. (I know how wasteful this sounds but let’s not get into it now). There are also mat fasteners so your mat won’t be blown off by strong winds.

3b Food and Drinks
You can make your own bento or buy them in your neighborhood konbini but remember, the nearer it is to the park, the more crowded it will be.

Ubiquitous vending machines found all over the metro. You won’t beed to lug around heavy drinks.

But, if you’re interested in wines, sakes and beers, place them in your water cooler and throw a bag of ice inside.

3c entertainment
Some stay an hour, some for hours on end. Some bring games, some bring stories. Bubbles work for Little A.

3d camera
The ephemeral beauty of sakura…capture and post them on your Instagram account. For a week, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were full of cherry blossoms!

3e desserts
What’s hanami without desserts? Our favorite is Isetan’s depachika to buy these lovely shucreams. Fruits are also available!

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This post is late. Hope this helps you in Hanami 2016 (and beyond!)

Shinjuku Gyoen
Chidorigafuchi koen
Inokashira
Toshimaen
Ueno
Koganei
zenpukuji
Midtown

Happy cherry blossoms viewing!