Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Success Farewell Celebration

My Dutch colleague Isabelle found a brilliant new job which calls for a grand jubilation. So we went out and celebrated the evening (last night) together at the Stadscafe Van der Werff in Leiden. The café restaurant is remarkably charming overlooking the hushed river by the bridge right before entering the Centrum.

She´s one of my selected friends at work and in fact I felt quite honored that she decided to celebrate her success with me. She has accepted the position of Sales Director for a Dutch flower company. Her responsibilities will mainly be establishing and building the flower market in Russia, then later to other East European countries. She speaks Russian and is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Russian Politics.

The new company will also buy her a flat in St. Petersburg, all inclusive with a chauffeur waiting at her doorstep. A lady Expat commuting in Russia is not practically safe especially if you are all by yourself in the big city. She gets to jet set between Holland - St. Petersburg - Moscow – Holland for the next several months. Aside from the freedom of being able to implement her business ideas, be mobile in her work (meaning she can work at home if she´s not traveling in Russia), she is given a fantastic figure for a salary. ---Oh dear, now I envy her, haha!

She´s taking off to New York to visit her American BF in 2 weeks and will make known her resignation the week before she leaves. I will miss her at work.... she´s one of the sane intelligent beings that I can equally get along with.

Her new female colleague (actually her boss, the General Manager) joined us in the small party, together with her husband who´s an Anesthesiologist.

In summary, we had an enjoyable evening altogether. I drank too much red wine and it was 12 midnight by the time I was home.

And now at work... I am thinking of seriously moving on... actually I have been having these thoughts for a loooooooong time now.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Sparen = Saving

How much do you save? Or do you save any at all?

Realistically speaking, we can only save what is left after expenses, right? Which brings me to the next point, how do we actually qualify and quantify our expenses? Are they needs or wants? Or worse, are we that extravagant that we have almost become a poverty statistic? I guess some are already without them knowing it.

Many people are duped into thinking that they have money because they can spend… but in fact they are living a life of deceit, a life based on credit lies. What’s piteous is more and more financial institutions sustained their existence through the profits leeched out from these sorry individuals. Don’t you just hate those spam emails offering credit to people who are already half dead, almost drowned on credit? Hah, the perfect solution: a buy-out of your credit!

Crucial question: “What is your attitude towards saving, towards the future…. and towards money?”

Ideally, a sound individual can save 20%-50% from his/her net income. Achieving the 50% mark or higher is self-discipline by identifying --what can be done without.

It also takes a lot of maturity not to succumb into the -competing with the Joneses- otherwise you will wake up one day or everyday (?) with a red account for breakfast. What you have actually bought for yourself, where in reality you can’t really afford, is therefore short lived, and thus, very irresponsible.

So another question: “How does one become financially responsible?”

Let us take a look at the frugal Dutch as an example...

The gemiddeld (average) Dutch family has at least € 25,000 (US$ 31,000) in their bank account. The gemiddeld Dutch individual saves at least € 300 to € 500 a month. Do you think that's enough or too low? These by the way the average working class, holding blue collar jobs. The white collar experienced professionals puts in more of course.

But I noticed, the new generation (20+ year olds) are saving less, are spending more and using credit. Times indeed have changed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Asian Princess

Ah, uiteindelijk (finally), I have a nickname in the office: The Asian Princess

I honestly have no freaking idea how this moniker came to existence. Colleagues used to call my kingdom (actually my work space) as the -Asian Persuasion- and -The Asian Connection-.

I really don't mind though, in fact I enjoyed the fun titles.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A different kind of Dutch Birthday Party

Did I say that it´s birthday season?

My sister in law turned 41 last Sunday. Being a nature lover, she decided to celebrate her birthday in the forest, in the Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug in Doorn.

The bos (forest), Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug, summer and fall.

The kids (my nieces and nephew) were flashing their huge smiles at me whislt getting all warmed up for the walk. On their arms were tiny rattan baskets. We will be picking castanes, acorns and chestnuts along this little journey.

The Birthday Walk

During the walk, we saw several colorful and huge mushrooms and believe me when I say huge, they are GIGANTIC, like the size of a plate. This particlar mushroom was in red and orange colors. Somehow my mind was thinking of faraway Snow White and her 7 Dwarfs, hehe.

Then everyone started giggling when we came across this other mushroom, which was really shaped oddly... like a piemeltje, says my 8 year old niece. Piemel or piemeltje means a PENIS! Haha!

At the end of the hike, I was able to collect a scrubby acorn branch with tiny acorns hanging glued to it. It now bedecks my living room.

We then moved to the proper birthday part -- eating of the tart and drinking the coffee and choco. Sister in law then took out the goodies and placed them in the bench.

Thus, after enjoying the apple and nut tarts, the kids quickly dispatched to play football with the dads. Of course, the Dutchman being a little boy at heart didn´t miss the opportunity. He joined.

It was rather cold for autumn though, averaging between 7C to 8C but luckily the weather cooperated. It was dry with light but no sun. Trust me… it is an amazing experience to stand still in the cold autumn forest sipping hot chocolate milk with your freezing bare hands!

Walk Routes...

You can choose 3 different routes for walking, see the color coded sticks. I had no idea which route we took, I was just a follower!

The Dutch love nature-outdoors (hear: Greenpeace, environmental policies). This isn´t my first forest experience though. I think this would have to be the 4th or 5th in my just 2 years here in NL. Something like an accomplishment of some sort, perhaps? Hehe.

There was also a small Dutch castle now transformed into a Conference Center called Zonheuvel (pronounced as zon-ho-fel) which is situated right in the forest. Dutchman and I toured this area and it lead to a coach house (for horses), a square, a restaurant and finally to the hotel at the back.

A different kind of Dutch birthday party indeed... and a perfect Sunday.

Visit Period: October 2004
Destination: Doorn (Utrechtse Heuvelrug - Utrecht), The Netherlands

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Flashback Foto's in Early 2000

These foto's are already 4 years old! (I was 30 that time)

I feel cute, hahaha! Pa-sweet is not me, bitch be it *LOL*. Dutchman actually do not like this foto. I guess it's too sweet for him.

Up close... darn, I have such a huge face back then!

Makati working girl. The foto Dutchman fell in love with. Well one of the foto's... hehe.

How I look now at 34, 4 years later (taken this year, several months ago). Feeling and looking old, er MATURED...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kasteel de Haar (Castle de Haar)

Intermission - I will post later my Business Travelogue Part II because I can’t resist sharing my exquisite castle experience yesterday!

Introducing, one of the beautiful castles in the Netherlands (near where I live yeah right, hehe), Castle de Haar in Haarzuilens.The whole set just looked so theatrical, like it jumped out straight from the fairy tale book. Indeed very stunning and breath-taking!

The castle facing the frontyards.

Right after we did our weekly grocery shopping, I dragged Dutchman to visit this castle yesterday Saturday. And I am so darn glad I lugged him behind. I mean gosh, look at the foto’s... I feel like a little girl in the candy shop!

Prachtig (Beautiful). Simply magical, mystical and enchanting.

Notice that castles always have a slot gracht (moat - closed canal)? They say it's for protection if invaded. The only thing lacking in this foto is the glamorous and fiery creature - the dragon!

The castle also stage parties, mainly for kids. I think it’s a very thrilling adventure for little boys and girls to celebrate their birthdays in a real castle. Harry Potter stories come to life ;-)

An aerial view of the castle grounds during winter. You can’t see the bigger labyrinth in this foto where Dutchman and I played. The castle ground/s is so vast spanning acres of land. Also not shown in this aerial foto is the huge royal lake-pool (like the Taj Mahal, but much almighter) on the right side of the castle with nature gardens on each parallel side.

Foto Credits: Kasteel,, Siebe Swart

Visit Period: October 2004
Destination: Haarzuilens (Vleuten - Utrecht), The Netherlands

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Business Travelogue Part I: The Departure and the Flight


My suitcase is heavy… heavy enough for a 156 cm. woman let alone drag it all over the airport. Thank God for trolleys! Still it is a pain to load the massive thing into it.

Here’s the dilemma, I over packed. So now I have to make sure I can get away with this. Knowing KLM, I must find a way! The airline is very notorious in sticking to the 20 kilos limit, no ifs and buts. Hmm, my colleague (let’s call him McDee) traveling with me, he’s male and fortunately we all know that most men travel light. They have this habit of picking and packing only the necessities in life. I was right.

So I called him, “Vraagje, hoeveel kilos heb jij?” (Question, how many kilos do you have?)

Misschien onder de 12 kilos” (Maybe less than 12 kilos) he replied.
Zullen wij de check-in samen doen?” (Shall we check in together?), I said, with a big grin all over my face.
I actually arrived in the airport earlier than McDee because I planned to buy some souvenirs for my customers. I have 30 minutes before I meet him right across the KLM check-in counters.

15 minutes is up and I still couldn’t find what I want for the souvenirs. 25 minutes and counting, then my mobile phone rang. It’s McDee announcing his arrival, - shit. I have to hurry up, so I ended up buying those popular white and blue Delft ceramics and tin can boxes in different variety and designs, all filled with Dutch candies and goodies in it. I think this will suffice.

McDee was grinning when he saw me. I grinned back upon seeing his somewhat light and small suitcase. We proceeded to the KLM check-in counter and voila, our total baggage weight was almost 40 kilos. My suitcase was 28+ kilos alone! The check-in clerk told us with a big approving smile, “Precies gepast.” (Very precise.)


The company is going through the cost cutting program so we had to take economy class. Yeah right, so much for dreaming of business class, LOL.

From Amsterdam we flew direct to Kuala Lumpur (about 12+ hours) and had a stop-over for an hour. From Kuala Lumpur it will take another 3 hours to Manila.

The whole flight was not so eventful. I was stuck with McDee and his incessant questions about what to and what not to expect in and about the Philippines, the Filipinos, the culture, the food, etcetera and etcetera. It has brought me to near hysteria. What am I? A travel agent or a tour guide? You know the drill with curious foreigners, they can get irksome after some time with all the questions. Worse, he has a problem with long haul flights as he cannot sleep. I saw the agitated look in his eyes when he took out the sleeping pills he brought to show me the proof. Darn, I am not going to mommy him to sleep so I must devise a plan.

Dinner was served (I am not fond of airline food by the way) and we both had those tiny bottles of wine. I told McDee that the best way he can sleep is to get drunk (bad advice actually lol). Heck I don’t want him bothering me the whole flight so might as well convince him to get drunk!!! Myself, I don’t mind getting drunk at least this will make me sleep like a baby. He succumbed to my advice and called the flight attendant for a 2nd serving of wine, 2 tiny bottles for us... then another round, the 3rd serving came. In just a matter of minutes I was fading away, far away from the conscious world. McDee on the other hand took his sleeping pills. That’s the last thing I saw before I drifted to lala land.

I was awakened by the smell of food from the kitchen cabin, it must have been time for breakfast. I had no idea how many hours I slept, perhaps more than 6 hours. Looking to my right side, the 1.85cm. McDee curling in his seat is still in la-la land's dreaming state, so the wine and sleeping pills worked. Hmm, he better be thankful to me. On the other hand, I can see why flying economy for tall people is a torture. On my left side is this Asian girl who never spoke a word to me nor even smiled. Maybe she’s Malaysian because when she spoke English to the flight attendant, her accent was un-Filipino.

McDee stirred in his seat. He is awake so I said “Heb jij goed geslapen?” (Did you have a good sleep?).

Ja vreemd, dit is de eerste keer die ik in een lange vlucht heb geslapen!” (Yes strange, this is the first time that I slept in a long flight!).

Indeed strange as he recounted to me that he flew 2x to Asia for holiday in the past and stayed awake the whole time even though he took sleeping pills. Haha, I guess the wine did work.

The airport was very modern and clean, and if you ever dare to compare our junk NAIA or even our supposedly new flashy Centennial Airport, then I bet you will hide behind the counters.

To start, they have this colossal nature glasshouse in the heart of the airport's vestibule. What’s also impressive is the Metro going inside the airport, and I mean really inside the airport. In the Netherlands, Schiphol airport has the trains connected underground, but with Malaysia, you get off from this groovy Metro train into the departing lounge.

The whole airport though was full of hooded women, reminding me that Malaysia is a Muslim country.

Anyhow I had a smoke while McDee was calling his girlfriend.

LAST MINUTES before Touchdown
We were back in the plane, 3 more hours and it’s HOME.

When the pilot announced that we will be approaching our final flight descend, and I could feel the plane going down languidly and I swear, I have these outlandish tight knots in my belly. Man, it’s been dang 2 years! I tried fighting back the anxious feeling but McDee noticed it.

Ben jij zenuwachtig?" (Are you anxious?), he teased me.

Nee...” (No) I replied.

He laughed teasing me again, “Ik zie het J...” (I see it J...).

Damn, maybe I should throw him over board(?), but then again that didn’t bother me much. I got so fixated with the bedlam of throbbing mix emotions in me, like bizarre butterflies flying in different directions inside my stomach. Can anyone actually relate? I guess I have missed the Philippines so much, so much that the anticipation for this 10 day (business) trip is over powering me...

Bump. KLM just landed.
(to be continued...)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I am back in the Flatlands!

It is very very strange but I felt like I am home...

My plane landed this morning Wednesday before 7am and I was home before 9am. The Dutchman was at the door when I arrived ready to leave for work. The first thing that came out from his mouth when he saw me was (he actually screamed), “Your hair is red!

And would you believe I survived the jetlag and I´m at work now typing this entry? (I was at work 11:30am!)

In the coming days, I will write my 1 Week Business Travelogues in the Philippines… from the baggage limit problem at Schiphol airport before departure; to the maniacal cab cruise along EDSA in Manila, my Dutch colleague actually thought the driver planned to murder us(!); juggling 6 business meetings in a day and bustling to and fro Ortigas - Makati route in unadulterated traffic plus pollution; meeting and dining customers till 22:30 (10:30pm); the change of atmosphere when we touched down in unhurried Cebu, our last leg in this strenuous business trip; and the interesting people I met during the flight back to the flatlands.

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