How To Reserve Flights For Your Schengen Visa Application (Without Paying The Actual Flight)

As you know, I’m on the hunt on my DIY Acquiring the Schengen Visa Adventure (read: no travel agents). So I’m collecting information and this has taken to me to many wonderful places in the internet. As promised, any gold nugget of information will be shared.

Well I found this website called Dream Euro Trip and it’s owned by a very vivacious schoolmate (yay University of the Philippines!) and he has some wonderful resources on how to actually go to EU, which, as Filipinos, can be a daunting task. I hate that part of my passport because we are stereotyped as illegal immigrants and most countries are cautious of us now. ARRRRGH! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t be illegal! But then again I understand the point of illegals because if acquiring a Schengen Visa is difficult and then you are suddenly in Spain, will you be willing to submit yourself to the uncertainty of being granted a visa or not, now that you’re in the place? It’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, I will post his article here, where he offers his service for that requirement called flight reservation. Do you know how to do it? Well I had to ask several people first, but now, fret not because it’s here and it’s online!

How To Book Roundtrip Flight Reservation For Visa Application Without Paying The Actual Flight

by DJ Yabis, originally posted here

If you’re applying for a Schengen visa (or any other visa for that matter), most of the time the embassy requires you to submit a flight reservation or a flight confirmation and you wonder what exactly that is. I’ve been getting a lot of emails about this from readers and I might as well just create a blogpost to explain it and help you get one easily without paying the actual flight cost and without leaving your house (check the end of the post how to do it!).

Here’s what the embassies require from their official websites:

Details regarding the means of travel for the outward – and return journey (details regarding the airline), proof of reservation of a roundtrip ticket – German Embassy

Roundtrip flight booking (please do not purchase your ticket unless your visa is granted) – French Embassy

Copy of the roundtrip airline reservation with Passenger Registration Number (or reservation number) and travel itinerary. The reservation should prove that the stay in the Schengen area does not exceed 90 days. It is recommended not to buy the ticket until the visa is granted. – Dutch Embassy

Copy of your confirmed flight reservation – Belgian Embassy

What Is A Roundtrip Flight Itinerary, Flight Confirmation Or Flight Reservation?

I know a lot of you are confused about this. I was too! Some questions that ran in my mind were: Do I really need to book a flight? What if my visa is denied? Where can I get this flight confirmation? How do I get a confirmed flight reservation? Do I have to pay for the flight now? Do they need to see itineraries from Skycanner or something but they don’t need to see that I’ve actually booked and paid for those flights? How does one get a “confirmed airline reservation” without buying a ticket?

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!?

Please stop banging your head against the wall. It’s actually VERY EASY.

A flight confirmation, reservation, itinerary or whatever they call it is basically just a piece of paper that shows a flight itinerary which you can easily get from a travel agency. Not all travel agencies issue this though so it does take time and money to find a travel agency that will give you one. The travel agency has access to flights and can make the flight reservation for your Schengen visa purposes. Most of them charge differently for this and rarely do you find one that will issue it for free.

In short, it’s basically just a formality for visa application purposes.

Below is a sample of a flight reservation so you can imagine how it looks like. Note that the travel agency only “reserves” the flight for you so you don’t actually pay for the flight. It is recommended that you only book your actual flight AFTER your visa is approved. You can book your flight on your own or via the same travel agency. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to actually take this flight. And you don’t need to cancel it after or anything like that. It’s just for the embassy.

Sample Flight Reservation For Your Visa Application

sample flight reservation for visa application

flight itinerary template for visa application

How Can I Find A Travel Agency That Can Issue Me A Flight Reservation/Confirmation/Itinerary?

Well you have to know a travel agency near you and ask. Repeat process until you find one which can create a flight reservation for you. Each travel agency charge differently for a flight reservation. I used to hop from one travel agency to the next in Malate just to have it. Under the scorching sun of Manila and the bitchy people at these agencies, it was no fun to do it!

How To Get A Flight Reservation For Schengen Visa Application Without Leaving Your House And Without Paying The Full Price

I HATE EMBASSIES AND VISA APPLICATIONS like you do so my goal in life is to make it less stressful and easier for everyone of us. If I can help one person everyday I am happy. Lots of good karma for me.

So I have created a solution to this flight reservation issue and partnered up with Travelta Tours and Travel, an authorised travel agency which can book your flight reservation and email it to you so you don’t have to waste time looking for a travel agency and you don’t have to waste money going around to find one. All you have to do is print it! Voila! You will receive something like the sample flight reservation I showed above. The flight reservation fee is 20 euros. 

This service is available to everyone around the world who needs to apply for a Schengen visa or any kind of visa.

Why is this amazing? Because you don’t need to go anywhere and waste your precious time, not to mention sweating under the scorching sun looking for a travel agency.

If you’re interested to avail of this service, here’s what you need to do:

1. Order the flight reservation online per person and pay using your credit card or Paypal (if you don’t have a Paypal account just click “Pay with my credit or debit card” at the bottom right of the page, no problem!).

2. Send an email to flights.ph@gmail.com with the Subject: Flight Confirmation – Your Full Name (for example, Flight Confirmation – Anna Batungbakal)

3. In the email, please attach a scanned copy of your passport or a photo of your passport (they need this info to create your flight reservation) and include your departure dates and destination(s), your visa interview appointment date and location. Note: Please DO NOT attach other things besides your passport. If you already paid, the travel agency will see it so no need to include your paypal confirmation. For example:

Hello!

I’ve just ordered the flight reservation service. I’ve attached my passport photo and below is my itinerary:

Manila – Frankfurt – January 12, 2015
Frankfurt – Manila – February 14, 2015 (OK, how sad is this that you’re flying on Valentines?)

My visa interview is on December 5, 2014 in Manila, Philippines.

xx,
Anna Batungbakal

4. The travel agency will process your flight reservation within 2 business days (not including weekends!). You will receive a PDF of your flight reservation and a link with your unique booking code via email which you can access anytime. If you book it on weekends, you will receive it on Monday. People rest, too, you know? So you better book it in advance and during the week!

Extra notes

a. If you are flying from cities with multiple airports, please specify the airport as well if you have a preferred one.

b. This flight reservation fee is applicable for roundtrip flights only (or two flights to any destination). If you want us to reserve three or more flights, let us know via email.

That’s it! If you need rush processing or there are 3 or more of you, read below. If you have more questions, check the FAQ below or post on the comments and I’ll answer it.

I hope this helps. Be an angel and share this to your friends who are applying for a visa.

Rush Processing

If you’re desperate and really need the flight reservation within 24 hours, we can accommodate you. We will try to do everything to make the flight reservation as soon as possible.

Order the rush flight itinerary online  and follow the same instructions above. Don’t even email to ask if we can create one for you. Just order it. We see orders immediately and will act on it asap. We will refund you anyway if we can’t book your flight reservation before your visa interview.

Note: Travelta is based in the Philippines and follows the timezone of the Philippines for its work hours which is 9 AM – 6 PM.

Kicking Homesickness by Going Places: Koh Chang

*Featured Image and editing courtesy of Ashley Andrews, (c) 2014 :)) thank you! Xxxxx

When you’re an expat, it’s almost inevitable for you to feel homesick, or even worse, homeless at times. It generally occurs when you have a series of frustrating events happening at work, which – honesty world speaking – is the main reason for why you are living in such a place. You get to ask yourself, WTF am I doing here?

Then you go to a quiet corner of your mind and meditate on your reasons, thereby putting your goals and your purposes in place. You feel at peace, and hopefully realise that a) it’s only temporary, and b) it’s not a bad life, only a bad day.

Unfortunately, this moment of peace happens to me after I alienate my support group, which is annoying for me because I know I have scored bad karma points, leading me to tell myself (over and over again) to chill and relax.

That’s the reason why I told you to pack home.  Because in these moments of self-inflicted suffering, you have to be reminded of your purpose, of your direction. For me, these are pictures of my family and my boyfriend – cheesy as it may sound (better get used to it because I don’t mind being called cheesy), but I get my peace and strength from memories I have of them in my head.

Today is one of those days, and naturally I sat down in my bed, clicking through folders and folders of pictures of wonderful memories. I saw Koh Chang pictures.

Koh Chang is the second largest island of Thailand after Phuket (whodathunk Phuket was an island?! I overheard this factoid while doing a visa run and google confirmed it, ah the glory of eavesdropping) and it literally means Elephant Island as koh means island and chang means beer elephant. It is mountainous and it is a massive National Park, meaning it cannot be developed. Only 3% of the island can be developed and I think that’s why it remains so gorgeous.

It was my first taste of abroad, having my first valentine’s celebration with my man there too. There were so many firsts happening there in my life, like seeing elephants in a field (though sadly chained), dipping into a waterfall, falling off a tree, among others. The island was so significant for me, it feels like it’s home. Like, the type where you’d go to when you have a boo boo, and recharge there to feel safe. I’ve gone there three times this past two years, and it was always sweet. And recharging.

And recharge you do. Magic Garden is one of the best places to stay in as you feel right at home. I can lounge around in their bean bags and learn Spanish all day long. I can people watch there while lying down deep within the jungle with a bucket of gin and tonic. Another place to stay in is Little Eden, which actually lives up to its name. Rather pricey for the island, it’s clean and quiet and it offers very nice, new bungalows in the jungle. I’m proud to say there’s no TV there (my sort of place unless there’s a UFC fight), like Magic Garden. Oh and they make awesome food there. It may be funky sometimes (I give up expecting perfection when it comes to “Western” food in TH) but it’s always fresh and tasty. Case in point: I crave Magic Garden’s tofu burger like a pregnant woman sometimes. It’s that good. Oh the relish of that thing.

IMG_1049

White Sands Beach is the liveliest part of that island but I’m glad to say that it’s nowhere near as hedonistic to the party scene in Samui. It still has a nice laid-back vibe but I fear that it will go soon because Koh Chang is getting famous!

There are so many places in Thailand catering to tourists but none of them has got the real charm of Koh Chang, which is rustic and charming at best. It can be really cheap to stay in too, but I guess the best part of it is the authenticity it emanates. You know Thailand, most touristy places are manufactured: Koh San road, floating markets, Elephant Camps, the whole bohemian vibe of Chiang Mai, etc, to lure tourists in. Expats like me get disappointed in turn.

Koh Chang is different because you feel like a local. No one hassles you to buy things, no one gives a fuck about who you are, and most importantly, the international-local population there is almost equal (like Samui) – hence perhaps the local feel. Oh and speaking of Samui, it kinda feels like a secret as most people go to Samui or Phuket when they go to Thailand.

One day, I’d like to go back there with my man. I don’t think I can go back there alone (the feels), but tonight, let’s. Even if it’s just in pictures.

10 Common Questions Teachers Are Asked During The Recruitment Process

I have had 5 workplaces in 5 years, so I think that kinda makes me an experienced job interviewee. Do you know that it’s prime time to look for teaching jobs right now? I know we have had the article How To Ace Your Job Interview but just let’s have another practice before you jump into that interview.

The following article is one of the best resources I have read regarding teaching job interviews. I found it on the teacher recruitment site called Cassidy Education. That blog has some useful articles (it’s new though, so you have to wait for it) on education, especially about SEN teaching. Anyway, here goes.

10 Common Questions Teachers Are Asked During The Recruitment Process

Originally posted on Cassidy Education 

In preparation for your interview, we’ve assembled some common questions that will likely come up during the interview process. See our list of hints and tips below:

Question #1 – I walk into your classroom during one of your lessons, what can I expect to see?

Possible responses:

  • Enthusiastic discussions
  • Clear progress being made both orally and written
  • Engaged students
  • Well-behaved and respectful students

When responding, elaborate on your experiences, achievements and student results.

Question #2 – Describe an account of when you have adopted a behaviour management policy and the effect this had on your students?

When providing your example, remember to explain why the need for the policy in the first place, how you implemented it and the response of the students.  It is also good to demonstrate your own growth from this experience and discuss how you could implement/adapt/improve such a policy in the future.

Question #3 – If I spoke to one of your colleagues, what would they say about you?

The question is really trying to get you to demonstrate your own contribution to school life, not just for students but your peers also.  For extra points you can detail how you wish to be viewed by your colleagues in the future, this is especially important if you are applying for a senior position.

Question #4 – Why is (insert any subject here) taught in schools?

This question looks obvious on the surface but it can be quite a difficult question to answer.  This is more evident when the subject is Maths or English etc as the answer appears obvious initially but when trying to validate the inclusion of said subject in the curriculum it can be very difficult to quantify.

Possible responses:

  • To enhance other subjects
  • Improve a student’s career prospects
  • Encourage independent learning
  • Develop skills (Literacy, numeracy, ICT, etc)
  • Promote self-discipline
  • Improve health and fitness

Your responses will of course be dependent on the subject you teach. Be honest and think outside of the box, provide realistic reasons and support with good examples of how your subject has enriched the life of your students.

Question #5 – Why do you want to work in special education?

Be honest and explain your reasons, remember that your interviewer is looking to see that you understand a need for education over just simply caring for students with Special Educational Needs.

Question #6 – Random question based on an inclusion in your CV.

This is another reason why your CV should always be up to date and only contain genuine qualifications and experience, that way you don’t need to prepare for this too much.  Be honest and answer fully, providing details and examples wherever necessary and possible.

Question #7 – What is it about our school that makes you want to work here?

It is important that you demonstrate to the interviewer you have done some background work about the school and you have specific reasons for wishing to join the school.  Initially you will need to scour their website to familiarise yourself with the school, their policies, campus, etc.  Pick out something that genuinely appeals to you and for extra points, identify some reasons based on your visit and experiences during the interview process.

Question #8 – What do you think students look for in teachers?

To be: fair and consistent, enthusiastic, humourous, passionate about their subject with an ability to involve everyone in the lesson and encourage contributions.

Question #9 – Can you evaluate your one-off lesson?

Teaching a lesson as part of the interview process is often a source of anxiety, but it shouldn’t be, it’s a great way for you to evaluate the school and for the interviewer to evaluate you.  The interviewer will want you to be honest and be self-critical when necessary but also recognises what went well.

Question #10 – What do we lose if we decide not to offer you the position?

This is the closing question often used by interviewers, they want you to sell yourself, let them know what you are about and how you can enhance their school. Remember to be confident and enthusiastic, this is your chance to close the deal.

Right! Now that you’re ready for the interview, let’s take a look at what jobs are currently available.  Click to view Live Jobs on Cassidy Education website or submit your CV so we can aid you in your search.

Acquiring The Schengen Visa: Part 1, Requirements

Ah, the Schengen Visa. The golden ticket to Europe to those who are unfortunate to have been born in Second and Third World countries.

I am going to document my journey on getting this visa to help the others who can’t have proper information about it, because right now, doing it, I can’t seem to find answers to my questions.

Last night, I cleaned my inbox and I saw an email from the Spanish Embassy stating that I cannot apply for a visa here in Jakarta because I don’t have a residence permit. Man my heart broke into tiny little pieces. Since December, Schengen Visa going to Ash was all I’ve been thinking of. And now, 3 weeks shy of actually lodging an application to them, I am being told that I can’t. What a joke.

So guys, lesson. If you don’t have a residence permit in your foreign address, you are not eligible for a Schengen Visa.

Now what am I going to do? Fortunately, Philippines is a mere 5 hr plane ride away so I can go there and lodge my visa application there. So that’s what I’m gonna do. I don’t know how long a Spanish Schengen visa application will take me but I’m hoping it’s not going to take long (like 5 days? Is that even possible?). At least that’s one of the options, and so far the most obvious one. Any more ideas are welcome as long as it doesn’t involve chopping and boxes.

Anyway, these are the basic requirements for obtaining a Schengen Visa:

Schengen Visa Requirements for Filipinos

  • Fully accomplished and signed application form
  • Valid passport (valid at least 6 months from the date of travel)
  • Photocopy of valid passport and former visas (colored photocopy recommended)
  • Passport-sized photos in white background
  • NSO Authenticated Birth Certificate
  • NSO Authenticated Marriage Certificate (if married)
  • Invitation Letter addressed to the Embassy if a friend or relative will accommodate the stay of the applicant in his/her house or residence. In Spanish Embassy this is called the Carta de Invitacion. The letter of invitation however is required to be made by a National, Citizen or Foreign Resident in the country you are applying this visa. This letter of invitation must be supported and accompanied by a document of identity or permit of stay. This Invitation Letter usually has a format and can be downloaded from the embassy or consulate of the country you are applying your visa.
  • Roundtrip tickets (officially confirmed by the airline)
  • Detailed itinerary which includes departure and arrival time and dates
  • Hotel accommodations vouchers and booking receipts
  • Proof of Financial Capacity, Income and Sufficient Funds which include the following:

Bank Account SOA (Statement of Account for the last 3 months)

Bank Certification

Updated Passbook

Recent ITR (income Tax Return)

Credit card billing statements from last 3 months

  • Certification of Employment signed by your company (if employed)
  • Approved Leave of Absence
  • Travel Order (if working in the government)
  • Business Registration Certificate (if Self-employed)
  • Travel Insurance from Accredited Schengen insurance companies
  • Visa processing fee (per embassy requirement)
  • Affidavit of Support and Consent from both parents (for minors only)
  • DSWD Clearance for minors not travelling with parents (for minors only)

So there you go, hopefully, that will inspire you to go out there and explore. As for me, I’ve always been inspired to go to Europe hahaha! And nothing is gonna stop me from being with him, because that’s what you do for love. Lah!

Cost of Living: Thailand

I think it’s true if I say every expat wants to know if she can “survive in this new country with this salary”. It’s a smart question to ask after all, especially since your brain is still getting itself around the fact that your currency isn’t the same anymore. Truth be told, I still can’t get the fact that I’m a millionaire here in Indonesia (everyone is, don’t worry, I’m far from rich) because of their weird currency setup. It’s difficult paying your 2M groceries you know. All that paper. Damn. But I’m not complaining, gimme my millions!

Anyway, I think it’s worthy to have a cost of living article just to compare spending habits and lifestyles place to place. I know for a fact that my lifestyle has changed from being a yuppie, middle class bourgeois in Manila to being a backpacker teacher in Thailand to being a normal (I think) expat here in Indonesia. Add the fact that I am saving up for Europe at this point so there’s that.

Anyway, thank you to Ajarn.com by the way for inspiring this post.

Currency references: 

33 Baht to one US Dollar
50 Baht to one Pound Sterling
37 Baht to one Euro
25 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.74 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Working in Hatyai, TH

Monthly Earnings: 30, 000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I take home around 30,000 baht a month from my job as a Prenursery Teacher in a British School in Hatyai. I started at 25,000 but upon learning that my co-teacher who technically hasn’t graduated yet is earning 5,000 more (she’s Australian and I’m Filipino), I complained and got a raise. But everyone still got a raise so yeah, there’s that.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Nothing, really. I don’t know why, but even with my partner contributing to expenses, we constantly find ourselves with no savings. That’s because we are both settling in in that place. There’s always something to buy, like a blender or a toaster or a Scrabble. Plus we don’t skimp on food. And we eat well.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My boyfriend and I rented a studio apartment for 6,000 a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

My school is a 15 minute walk, so there’s nothing there but we go to the gym everyday and that takes 40 back and forth from the house for the two of us. So that’s automatically around 1,200 a month, not to mention trips to the mall on the other side of town and some emergency tuktuk rides when it gets too late. Let’s say 1,500.

b) Utility bills

We pay around 2,000 baht. We use a lot of aircon because the boyfriend works at home and it gets hot and humid in the day. At night we use the fan sometimes.

c) Food – both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We eat at home a lot because we are vegetarian but we treat ourselves to guilty pleasures like pizza, chips and burgers! Beer and whiskey also takes the budget, so let’s say around 14,000 (holy shit). That’s 2k a week on groceries so that’s 8k a month plus liquor and cigarettes.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Yeah as mentioned above liquor and cigarettes cost about 6,000.

e) Books, computers

Zero expenses because… piracy!

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Pretty good but I know we have a lot of expenditures on luxuries like alcohol, etc. We should be saving more.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real ‘bargain’ here?

I think food is way, way cheaper here, if you are not choosy, like you can get your fill for 65 egg noodles (but not soul satisfying). Saying that, the usual Western food that I’m used to is an acquired taste here hahaha! So we pay an extra for premium Western Food. That’s why we cook at home. The boyfriend is an excellent cook but the imported ingredients for our culinary repertoire is quite pricey too. Oh well. Food is our weakness.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I think 50,000 will be a really good minimum. In my mind, that will enable me to have my bourgeois MNL lifestyle which includes Starbucks, clothes and gifts to the boyfriend, travels PLUS SAVINGS.

How To Travel Abroad a.k.a. The Tao of Traveling

Yes, I fully intend to impart my wisdom to you, gathered through priceless experiences that made me grow

So on my Instagram feed, I discovered my high school classmate’s pictures of her and her “boyfriend” and they have fucking amazing pictures. Like, you know, Instagram-worthy. In a magical place: Bali. With thoroughly insightful captions about life and love that you’d think Bali makes everyone into an Elizabeth Gilbert (of the Eat, Pray, Love fame) clone.

I know I risk sounding bitter here, but I’m just disappointed that with all those artful pictures and thought-provoking captions, I learn that those captions were lifted from the internet. WTF, I hate that. I felt deceived. Duped. Like admiration has been misplaced. Although it is my bad that I googled the caption (I’m such a condescending prick sometimes), I was hoping it won’t get a hit. Unfortunately and to my dismay, it did. And here it is.

As a reaction to that, let me present my Tao of Traveling, as per guru Ella. Here goes:

1. Pack home. People tell you to make a list about what you love about your home before leaving it, but that is too time-consuming and it is bordering on fake, especially if your are root-less like me. I grew up and got uprooted in a place where I can’t call home now.  For me, pack stuff that would remind you of home – not the geographical home – but rather the things, the home that you know would ground you and make you feel safe and loved ANYWHERE you are in the world. They are timeless and “place-less”, therefore universal. I always take pictures of my family and Ash with me, also the birthday postcard Ash gave me, they are my home. If things get rough, I look at these things and go home to my safety place in that little corner of my mind, reminding me that this is only temporary and that I will go home to them one day.

2. Plan your trip. Make a list of the things you want to do on that journey of yours and make an itinerary. This will most likely be not followed because of the unpredictable nature of these kind of trips, especially if you are backpacking across Asia, but what this gives you is a sense of direction and goals. Read up about the place on the internet, get inspired by other adventurers’ tales, and hook up with a local to be your guide once you have arrived. Have fun, be smart though.

3. Pack money, or at least be armed with a sufficient amount of it. In that list, it said, Pack Band Shirts. Actually, lemme quote that because it seriously reeks of 20 year old, Generation Y, hipster vibe:

3. Pack band T-shirts
.

This is not as silly as it sounds. I make a lot of friends just by wearing my Beatles or Strokes T-shirts. Music has a powerful way of bringing people together, and even though no listening is involved, people like to come up and talk about how much they love the band on my shirt or their experience at the concert and so on. This is a lovely and easy way to spark short-lived conversations with pretty cool strangers. And if all things go well, you’ll make plans to a jazz bar that week and become best friends.

Is this screwed up or what?! Who wants to be friends with a poser who packed fucking band shirts just to talk small talk with people who love music? This has a makings of a psychopath checklist, “How To Lure Victims”.

Look, my advice is, have some money as a safety blanket because you don’t know how much you’re gonna spend. Yes, do research on the cost of living, good. But you’re new, you’re stimulated, you wanna buy everything, but pause on that. If push comes to shove you have to go home because of an emergency, you’re covered. Even better, if the place sucks and you decide to go to a different place, you have money to do so. Trust me. Money makes the world go round.

And personally, you don’t need band shirts. Fuck that, go talk to people. Go to that Jazz club, own the place and talk to people. DO NOT DEPEND ON SHIRTS FOR SOCIAL BROWNIE POINTS BECAUSE THAT’S A LOSER THING TO DO AND YOU ARE NOT A LOSER.

4. Be mindful. Okay that list says be aware of current events. You don’t need to be, especially if you’re in a place where they don’t have English newspapers. What, translate their newspaper just to be equipped? Yeah sure I can read BBC.com or CNN.com, but if you are mindful enough that this is not your own country and be respectful of their laws and culture, you’re fine. In fact, that’s what I’d encourage you to read on: their culture and laws. Not only you’ll appreciate the country more, but you’d have a different insight when you experience the whole culture of it.

5. Meet locals. In that list, she says meet old people. I say, talk to everyone, young, old, rich, poor, whatever. But locals are gold. They are living artifacts of the place and tell the best stories, although yes, older people are interesting because they have experience with the world and have more to say, young people have hopes and dreams for that new place. Workers can tell you problems with their economy or how economy is. Let’s just say, they give you enough material for your insight.

6. Take pictures, and document it. The list says don’t take electronics. You serious? You are abroad and alone, bring your phone because you don’t know what might happen and you may have to call your parents or the cops, you know? I know I sound pessimistic but hey, it’s not a fairy tale world out there! I know it means to clear your mind of what’s happening, disconnect to the world. Yeah I get that, but please, not when you are out exploring. Do that when you are in a controlled environment, like a bungalow. Anyway, take pictures and document it. One day, you will look back and tell yourself, hey I did this, and I want you to be proud of yourself for being independent and strong while looking at that photo. Write a blog about it too, and share your experience. If you’re shy about it, write it down on your journal. This will, believe if or not, make the journey more memorable.

7. Immerse yourself. Don’t be afraid to get lost, try new food, stay up late at night, people watch, be alone. This journey will open your mind to different options and I want you to optimize the experience by taking it all in. You are there for growth and learning and that’s what you’ll do. After this trip, you’ll come out at a better person with an understanding of the world. Get lost (I said that with love).

8. I will quote that list here because it’s beautiful:

Don’t be worried about it ending
.

The hardest part about traveling is knowing that the moments do not last forever. However, this time around, I learned to not worry so much about becoming weary after going back home. The most important part is to know that at some point in life for some period of time, a part of me walked across the Vlatava River looking along the colorful buildings of Prague on the way to school. Somewhere inside me, that moment will always resonate. I think that moments and experiences never leave you if you let them affect you.

Ending something fun will never get easy, but you’ll get used to it. Have fun and take care, I wish it won’t be your last trip!

How Being in A Long Distance Relationship Makes You A Better Person

“How does that work?” people ask when they learn that I’m in a long distance relationship (LDR).

“Aren’t you worried?” “He’s probably keeping something from you!”

Man, tell you what. It’s annoying to answer these questions again and again like a broken record, even if I love talking about my man and that I constantly gush about him. These deeply probing questions always pop up in conversations with people – strangers mostly – that I want to set the records straight once and for all.

Although pop culture states that LDR is doomed to end, science actually proves it wrong in many studies. Boo-yah!

I am proud of us, me and Ash. We have weathered through a lot of shit to get to where we are now. Although still nowhere near each other geographically (we are working on that, that’s why you can see me posting about Schengen Visa stuff – that’s me making moves to be there with him in EU), we have experienced a lot of highs versus lows. We know more of each other, and I think we are more intimate and closer to each other compared to those who have Geographically Close Relationships (GCRs).

Although yes, I miss him a lot. Waaaaay lot, you can’t even imagine how much I miss him even if we talk for five hours each day. It’s the little things I miss most, seeing him chill to his podcast while Facebooking early in the morning; or cuddling him before we sleep, or watching him lift weights in the gym, or having that special scent about the house when we have been living together, but still I am grateful that we (he) choose to spend our precious time with each other. Our conversations run from serious, scientific, emotional, scary stuff to plain silly and fun. We laugh a lot and we play sometimes. We share our days, our ideas, our plans and most importantly we dream together and kick ass together. We make things together even when we are apart. We’d have dates. We’d celebrate birthdays, graduations, moves and acquisitions. Anything and everything we can celebrate, we do.

Maybe that’s why it works, because we celebrate all things, big and small. We try harder because there is a time and space that we have to compensate for. I can’t touch him to make him feel how much I love him. I can’t look into his eyes the way I’m supposed to because he’s made up of pixels now. I can’t squeeze his hand to show support. I can’t cook for him to show my appreciation for him being his awesome self. So I try to show him how much he means to me every single chance I get, be it with texts, gifts, pictures, sound clips, even thumb kisses and shared games and Pinterest boards. And I think that how love is supposed to be in the first place.

We communicate a lot because of that. I don’t think our relationship would survive without FaceTime and iMessage though. Digital technology works like a dream and because of that, I need internet and wifi altogether. Seriously, I’d get panic attacks when internet isn’t available for us to use, especially during the early stages of the relationship. But because we only communicate digitally, and sometimes he is busy, we talk less but with more meaning. Communication is optimum because we feel like we don’t have enough time. There is no boring stuff to talk about as well because I just have to know everything. Seriously, we bond about how I pray, or how long he walked in the mountains for (3.4 km), so what normally gets to be overlooked in a GCR relationship gets more love in our team. And when we reunite, it’s always better. We understand each other and give each other their needs.

We don’t play games and we are honest to lessen miscommunication. Miscommunication while apart is evil and toxic. It hurts even if that was an honest mistake. We always try to avoid making each other feel bad. So we talk about intimate things that would make you vulnerable: what hurts you and why? Why did I make you feel like that? What can I do against that?

Being apart also makes it more romantic because we always look forward to the day we meet again, which, honestly, is a day we don’t know when. It gets easy when you put a date on it, but the possibility of having to meet earlier than that date, of making surprise visits make it exciting. Because of that, we flirt and court like young teenagers raging to see each other because the longing for each other is so intense that it fuels our desire and passion in the relationship. You miss out on the mundane and focus on the things that matter, things that, er, liven up the imagination because  and it makes things hot as well.

It’s like this: you’re alone but you’re never lonely. I can always feel his presence. I think about him all the time. People think when you’re apart from your partner you go ahead and look for someone else. This doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t even enter my mind. Primarily because of values instilled in me like loyalty and discipline, and of course, I’m in love and this is the most important factor because it doesn’t become a chore then. I’m pretty sure he is in love too, and we are both committed to each other. See there are thousands of choices out there: I can opt to hang out with my friends, stealing our precious “us” time. I can always spend my money on traveling to other places like Bali or Vietnam, stealing our precious funds kept to see each other. I can always choose to ignore him, to delete him from my Facebook, my contacts list. Same with him, he can always look for another woman and ignore me for the rest of time. But no we are with each other and I choose him because he makes me happy, I love him. Even if we have argument, we don’t let go because, well, we are committed and passionate and in love and we understand that all relationships have ups and downs. Obviously, distance breeds trust. We don’t have a choice on that almost, I mean, I can’t see how or who he is interacting with outside our phone calls, I can’t check his phone for mysterious messages, even his Facebook activities late at night when I sleep, I can’t pry in (though obviously I won’t do this because of just privacy issues – I was bred with thorough values). It’s a leap of faith. Believe it or not, it’s positive trust that wins over. Sorry, naysayers!

For everything else, being in a long distance relationship surely made me emotionally mature. I am a late bloomer in this relationship thing having my first boyfriend when I was 24, and this is that relationship. I have gone from being a jealous bitch, a paranoid girlfriend, an evil genius attention seeker, a scared little girl to hopefully, a strong, smart and independent woman who is devoted to her wonderful boyfriend.

Overall, I think, the best thing about us is that we don’t choose loneliness because we throw ourselves to hobbies that would enrich us and make us better for each other (like me blogging now lol) and it makes us more confident, stronger and happier people, making us better partners because we radiate that strength and bounce it off each other, not drag each other with it. That way, we know we choose to be with each other even if we know we are fully capable of being independent. It’s a nice feeling to have when you’re chosen. At least I know I am special and worth sacrificing for in someone else’s life. And I want that man to be happy.

Reasons Why I Love Thailand

One morning, I woke up up with a longing for Thailand. I don’t know why, but instead of getting homesick for the Philippines, I miss Thailand more.

I know Thailand has become a cliche for so many travelers, that if you are a “cool” one (read: hipster), you avoid it. True enough, Thailand is a magnet for backpackers and retirees. However, I had so many experiences in Thailand that has shaped me to who I am now. I have taken so much in terms of knowledge, and frankly, I think I have grown more in my nine months in that country compared to my sheltered twenty five years in my home country.

Why Thailand? It’s beautiful. Not physically, because it looks like the Philippines and they both look familiar, but the infrastructure: roads, internet (oh, internet), 7/11s, transportation, food – it’s really easy to live there. The culture? They don’t care about you, in fact, they turn their back to you when they know you can’t speak Thai. I thought that was rude at first but I adjusted to that. It’s soooo different to the Philippines where everyone would bend over for you to tend to your needs. I also find Buddhism refreshing at first because they weren’t as judgmental as Catholics. Oh and all the gold is pretty, even if your mind is telling you how outrageous it is to spend precious metal over monuments.

In Thailand, I learned how to live alone in a room without a fire exit thereby having me planning a fire escape route, with a landlady named Porn calling me at 6am to wake me up, and by 4 pm leave a bag of fruits on my door. I have buy food from the street (tricky for a vegetarian – so I learned a bit of Thai), open a bank account without actually speaking, move houses alone in a foreign country because the school didn’t help, travel locally in a different language (without interpreters at that – yay!).

I learned to live with my partner which was a welcome change from living alone but still a change nonetheless. I learned how to keep house (I need to improve on that) and with that I learned that small spaces are not easy to maintain because you tend to think, nah, it’s only small, easy to clean this – and never get around to doing it. I learned how to carry a microwave at the back of a motorbike because taxis didn’t exist in Hatyai and the tuktuks cost a lot for a 3 block drive. I learned to pack my life in two backpacks and needed to let go of unnecessary baggage, especially when you are traveling for a month in two countries. I learned how to move with a pack of visa runners, how fear of Thai immigration can bond a motley crew of foreigners begging their host country for a few more months to stay before the visa, and how quickly those bonds disintregrate when you get hold of your visa.

In Thailand I learned how to be patient, open and understanding. I had to be independent in more ways than I can imagine. I had to be dependent on my boyfriend when I thought I can do it alone. I appreciate living alone but enjoyed it with my partner. However, I know that I can’t live with anyone now, except him.

I have learned how my body works, especially with the lax Thai pharmaceutical laws. I didn’t have a medical insurance there but drugs and medicine were cheap and ubiquitous. I had WebMd on my fingertips, and the frustrated pharmacist just wants to give me what I want to send me away. I diagnosed myself and healed myself pretty well but the hormones I took for contraception didn’t work as expected. For a country that has a very sexy stereotype, I thought contraception was an easy part of life but hell, no.

I learned how I seem to appear to people, they think I am Thai. When Ash and I are together, they stare at us because I speak better English and they think: Thai? Not Thai? WTF?! Ash and I are pretty sure that they think we are a sex worker-sex tourist couple as well as with most Thai women – Western man stereotype. I had trouble with that at first but finally managed to say “fuck it, fuck them”. I have learned to communicate via charades and body language because of the language barrier. When words can’t say what I mean, I have to act what I mean then. It was tough but I had to do it.

I have learned my boyfriend’s love language, his little quirks, how his mind works in the wee hours of the morning, when he is jetlagged, when he is happy. I learned how to expect and not expect, how to talk to him and reach out. I have learned how to distance and give space and not be bothered about it (well, not as much as before). I learned that I enjoy him and his presence a lot that words are not enough for me to clearly paint the picture to you. I learned that it’s a different ball game when you’re apart and when you’re with each other. I learned to travel with him and found it very intimate because traveling strips you down to your core and it is during those moments of magic happen as you share your discoveries.

Thailand is very special to me. I can say that it’s my mentor. It challenges me A LOT and it’s not easy, but like a best friend, it will give you a good time through bad times. So cheers, and  kop kun kaa.

Interesting Facts About The Philippines

Last night, while I was researching for my visa requirements for the EU, I typed in Filipino because, well, that’s what I am (there are specific requirements for every nationality hence the specificity). For some reason, maybe a glitch, google indexed travel blogs GOING TO the Philippines, not the other way around, to my pleasant surprise because, hey I get to appreciate my own country.

My country is beautiful, no doubt. But it’s weird. Like any other country I suppose but I did not really look into my country like this before, from a distance. I honestly don’t consider myself a citizen of my country sometimes because, well, I feel like I can belong anywhere now (unless visa restrictions remind me which is a ballache). It’s all the same stuff packaged in different material. You know. I just need to find the best packaged goodies.

Anyway, looking at your country from another country with a different perspective is something wonderful. It definitely gives you a sense of being a tourist. I’m humbled. When you go out of your country, you become an ambassador. You have a burden to uphold your citizens and motherland while you walk around the globe because you carry their name on your passport and in that passport it says they are begging for other nations to help you when you’re in dire situations. It’s cool.

Anyway, here goes my discovery the blog True Nomads.

And my reactions in italics. Lah! #pundit

philippines-island

1. The Philippines has a population of more than 90 million people and an annual growth rate around 2%, making it one of the most populous and fastest growing countries on Earth. Hence we need that family planning law the church is banning. They are banning it because the heavens won’t let us in if we use condoms – E.

2. According to the customs and traditions in Philippines, it is not considered good manners to open gifts immediately when they are given. Tell that to my nephew! Well, I didn’t know this was Filipino. I thought everyone in the world did this! This explains the boyfriend’s reaction when I delayed opening my birthday gift (silver elephant anklet which I dearly miss) last year. I’m sorry babe, I didn’t mean to offend, it’s cultural! I always feel like a prick for saying “It’s not my fault, it’s cultural”

3. The original inhabitants, the Negrito, now number only about 30,000. Local versions of our Native Americans and Aborigines. Colonists are powerful aren’t they?

4. The karaoke was invented in the Philippines and not Japan. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Filipinos and karaoke should be up there with the generalities like milk and honey, coffee and cream, ebony and ivory.

5. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, totaling about 300,000 sq. km. (117,187 sq. mi.). Right, okay we are surrounded by water. I can’t swim though. Screw that.

6. The Philippine islands are mountainous, and seismically active. Earthquakes are common, and a number of active volcanoes dot the landscape, such as Mt. Pinatubo, the Mayon Volcano, and the Taal Volcano. The Philippines is also one of the newest landforms to have sprouted from the bowels of Earth, thanks to its volcanic activity. I fear that we will sink soon though, because of global warming. If that were to happen, it’s as if the Philippines didn’t exist in the world cosmically speaking. Aw.

7. Philippines boasts of a coastline of 36,289 kilometers. However, it still ranks fifth in the world for having the longest coastline. This fact would be interesting for me if I can find this useful. I used to have a seaweed farm. With a coastline of 36, 000 km location won’t be a problem, right? Wrong. Most of the beaches are cantilado – meaning it has an immediate steep drop that’s not safe. That made my parents extremely paranoid about me going to the beach (we lived by the beach and I was kept on strict watch), hence I can’t swim. This makes most beaches unsafe for having fun but man wildlife thrives very well, making the Philippines’ biodiversity very rich. It also fends off tourists and investors (my seaweed farm!) which preserve the natural beauty of it all, so overall, no complaints.

8. Philippines is the only country in the world whose flag is hoisted upside down when the country is at war. This is one of the things you learn in Grade One. It is indoctrinated to you every morning when you sing the national anthem and be a flag raiser. You can never put the red part of the flag up unless you want war, or in a war, or else you’re gonna be at war with your teacher. This fact is so ingrained in my mind as a big boo boo that whenever I see a Philippine flag having the wrong side up, I get the bejeebies, like I’m gonna get punished by my Grade One teacher.

9. Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippines for Spain in 1521. During the next 300 years, Spanish Jesuit priests and conquistadors spread Catholicism and Spanish culture across the archipelago, with particular strength on the island of Luzon. I have a godmother who travels around the globe. She is, I think, a professional student. Anyway, when she was in Portugal, she got me this book called First Man Around The Globe, which talks about Enrique, Magellan’s Filipino slave who went back to Spain after his master died (HAHAHA). He is the man who brought Magellan, who is Portuguese and not Spanish, to the Philippines. Of course, that meant Spain colonizing our country.

10. On July 4, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines was established. The early governments struggled to repair the damage caused by World War II. Trivia time: The Philippines celebrated Independence Day on July 4 like America. Technically, on July 4, 1946 American colonization ends here, or at least the Americans say so in The Treaty of Manila. Of course they chose July 4 to coincide with theirs making us feel like we are still Americans. Diosdado Macapagal changed that in 1962 stating that we were independent and free [from Spanish rule] since June 12, 1898. I don’t know why American and Japanese colonization was overlooked but hey ho. I does look good being independent for a longer time.

11. The nation got its ‘Philippines’ name after King Philip II of Spain. Because Magellan was commissioned by this guy.

12. The “Conus Gloriamaris”, which the rarest and most expensive seashell in the world, is one of the 12,000 species of seashells found in the Philippines. And about 488 coral species, out of the 500 coral species known worldwide, are found in the archipelago. Biodiversity is synonymous to Philippines. End of story.

13. Mount Apo, found on the island of Mindanao is the highest point in Philippines. The height of this mountain is 2,954 m. This is the land of shorties, as even the tallest peak is short compared to other countries’ tallest peaks.

14. The yoyo was invented as a hunting weapon by the ancient Filipinos, probably in the Visayas. I didn’t know this prior to reading this article. How badass is that?

15. Philippines is known as the ‘text capital of the world’ because of the large number of texts sent to-and-fro by the people in one day. We love to talk. Texting is effective, fast, and cheap. All things Filipinos like.

16. There are 175 individual languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages while the 4 others no longer have any known speakers. This explains why the country is never united. There are language barriers that exist EVERYWHERE. This is also why Filipinos can adapt anywhere in the world because, well, when you have a different language, you have a different set of traditions, values and well, culture. We are trained in our homeland to be intercultural already.

17. Manila, the Philippine capital, is the world’s most densely populated city in the world. With a population of 1,660,714 and an area of 38.55 km², it has a population density of 43,079/km². Manila is too packed, too dirty, too noisy but it’s filled with happy, smiley and friendly people you can never meet anywhere else in the world. It all balances out.

18. The Philippines is the largest supplier of nurses in the world. We are good at taking care of people. In fact, we love taking care of people.

19. The Philippines is home to the Rice Terraces in Northern Luzon, often called the 8th wonder of the world. Haven’t seen this so I can’t give an honest “OH IT’S TRULY BREATH-TAKING!” kinda opinion. Looks good in pictures though.

20. Erythromycin was invented (Discovered) by Filipino Dr. Abelardo Aguilar in 1949. He sent a sample to Eli Lilly, who promptly stole the idea and patented it. Erythromycin is used for people are allergic to penicillin, and saved millions of lives. We are also a nation of doctors. The first Asian woman pediatrician who graduated from Harvard is a Filipino named Fe de Mundo (how apt her name is Fe of the World).

Employment Certificate for Visa Purposes (Schengen Visa)

So I want to go to Spain this summer and now I am saving (A LOT) and slowly gathering my papers here and there. I am picturing myself as the wife in Gone Girl minus the psycho side (hopefully) – you know how organized she is? Ticking her calendar day by day? I want to be that. One of the requirements of the Visa (for Schengen Countries, short term or long term) is the Employment Certificate. I was looking for templates for my HR to conveniently copy and I stumbled upon this gold block of a blog! In this post she talks about, well, her employment certificate. The author is Karlota, a Bisayang Pinay like me and she is a self-made Pinay like me! Who fell in love and moved continents to be with her man just like me! Moving is happening hence this! Hoping this will be of use to you as it was with mine.

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Employment Certificate for Visa Purposes

by Karlota, originally posted in here I’m still alive. Obviously. 🙂 Just going through something “interesting” lately so I am not hooked to wordpress as often as I wanted to. I will of course broadcast updates if anything comes to a fruition. Or maybe not. We will see. Anyway, parents are saving money in case they get to travel to Europe someday. While going through the requirements, mom asked me about Employment Certificate. I don’t worry about this stuff because I just go to our Human Resource office and request for one and they create it for me. Easy Peasy. But in case one is working for a veryyy small company who do not have any idea at all how to make one, I thought to write a sample so you can create it yourself and have it signed by your manager only. The important thing to remember about Employment certificates are the following: 1. It has the company logo at the top of course 2. It mentions your position and the starting date of work 3. It mentions your salary and the days of leave from work For all tourist visa applicants, good luck!

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EMPLOYMENT CERTIFICATE

To whom it may concern:

This is to certify that Jane Doe is a bonafide employee of Spartan Incorporation Services from January 10, 2005 up to the present. She is currently working as a Marketing Supervisor under Beaujolais Department and receiving a basic salary of Php 584,210.00 annually.

We hereby certify that above-mentioned leave has been granted to her from September 2-20, 2012. She will never do business in your country.

This certification is issued upon the request of the afore-mentioned party for Visa Application Purposes.

Issued this 19th day of May, 2012 at Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines.

Signed by:

Luzviminda Rosal

Manager