In Transit: Jakarta to Manila

I am writing this at Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta waiting for Cebu Pacific counters to open. My flight is in four hours bound for Manila. For the first time in my not so young life, an airline counter is closed for check-in for an international flight (THAT’S IN FOUR HOURS).

Keeping my composure – or at least trying to by writing my thoughts down – I decided to look for a place where I can sit down and chill. I walked around looking for McDonald’s (what else) because they have cheap and good coffee. It does not exist in this airport so I settled for the next best thing: Starbucks Old Town White Coffee A&W. Another mystery to me: How can A&W exist in this place and not McDonald’s?

I went in anyway. I saw power outlets by their tables so that’s definitely a place to go. It had wifi too (but at this time of writing it’s not working). Like any A&W, it came in stark brown and orange theme, with the rootbeer float on display. Unlike any other A&W outlets (in MNL anyway), the bear mascot is still there! Flashback to 1994 when I was seven and I popped my root beer float cherry – that bear was a witness to it.

What I’m saying is, this joint is a freaking time warp. The place feels like it’s stuck in the late 90’s or mid 00’s the latest. It’s ancient and worn but it’s clean and, well, friendly. Too friendly in fact that it doesn’t care almost. I like that. I like places that give customers independence and that is rare in Asia.

Too many a commercial establishment have that badger of a staff constantly staring at you and asking if you’re all right. I don’t like that, although I know the management means well, like trying to force a slave on you, but man I see it as invasion of privacy.

So I’m back here, charging my phone, writing this down and just… watching.

The default hairstyle of flight attendants are French Twists. They don’t give out spoons and forks here, which is weird for me. On my part I ordered myself root beer (in honor of the memory that is A&W), brownies and perkedel – which turned out to be the Indonesian version of bubble and squeak/potato croquette, which doesn’t really need cutlery for me – but I got served spoons, or plastic hooks which resemble spoons. Innovative product design perhaps, but it kinda reminds me of the stool collection sampling tool you get at the lab.

The rest of the population in the midst is ordering fried chicken and rice. Everyone is eating by hand. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not by any means squeamish but I am a bit culture shocked. It’s so different. Back at home – you can only eat by hand at home. I get two spoons for scooping out my float and brownies (the bigger spoon on the picture is for the drink – I’m spooning a drink and I can’t fork the cake) but… no spoon and fork for… a proper meal. It’s cool though. Again, product design. Their rice is packed in a paper pocket, like a sandwich so that you won’t have any problems with grains sticking on your fingers. The rice is shaped like a burger bun so you actually bite into it like a burger. The chicken, well, is still a chicken and will forever be finger food. I’ll only comment if they will give out sticks to pick french fries with (which I saw in the school I’m working for – WTF).

I see promotional posters that say “True Love Comes In Pair” for the brownies. Shame how one letter can change the whole feel of an international brand, but oh well, remember remember – it’s not their first language so don’t judge.

Okay let’s go to set meals. The Good Friends Meal is for 4 people with 4 pieces of rice, 4 glasses of drinks and 8 pieces of chicken with 2 desserts. 2 desserts and 8 pieces of chicken. Hm. The Good Family Meal, arguably for the family, comes with “9 Chicken”. No rice, no dessert, no drinks, just 9 Chicken. I don’t know about you but their promotion guy is a bit funky in my opinion.

But after that’s all said and done, I have to say: it’s nice here. It’s not the perfect place that’s for sure but it’s real and that’s what matters. It gives great food (tell you what: root beer and fresh brownies – what can go wrong?), snappy and smiley service, and clean surroundings. For a place that serves people who are tired, anxious, jetlagged and fucked over by plane companies, this place gives out the comfort that travelers need.

Why Teach Abroad?

Teaching, they say, is a noble profession.

I say teaching is like any other profession: it requires focus, professionalism, sacrifice and sense of humor. Where the noble part came from, I don’t know but for me that’s making the teaching profession look better than it should.

But I know I can say this of teaching though, that it’s not stagnant. Every day is a different day, it’s very social as you get to talk to people (little people), it’s creative because you can twist a lesson to suit your teaching style (not fully creative though as you have parameters to work on, thanks to the curriculum), and you get to be loved by children – priceless! Then of course, travel.

Before I started teaching, I thought the biggest perk was the holidays. I was wrong. Teaching proved to be quite stressful that you actually need to have holidays – like the children need holidays. It’s not a perk – it’s a must. But the other reasons are totally valid, it feels like you’re in the service sector but it’s more personal as you get to develop minds and people.

I grew up in an international setting and I knew I wanted to travel the world. I just didn’t know how. I tried to be a doctor because my psychiatrist-uncle travels around the world working for the United Nations, and it’s always an all expenses paid trip. I loved looking at this display cupboard full of turtle sculptures from Indonesia, glasses from Czech Republic, paintings from Japan – I want that.

So I went to medical school armed with a very different motivation compared to my classmates’ and of course, I flunked. Then I tried teaching in an international school. From medical school and the government office full of locals and the usual Filipino bureacracy, international school teaching for me was back to feeling at home. I can be weird and not judged because, hey, it’s cultural (I’m such a prick). I met various people there that honed my worldliness (hahaha). I get to learn about their culture and learned to be open and tolerant, and not to mention admire the diversity of it all!

My headteacher was from Honduras, the deputy principal was American, the English teacher was British, my Filipino friend there was an ASEAN tae kwon do athlete, the other one was brilliant SEN teacher/cougar and my best friend there was filthy rich and teaching was her hobby! It was colorful and fun. We were housed in a middle of a jungle and all we did after school was cook, go to the beach and play Nintendo wii.

In the next international I worked in, I met Ash. I grew from hanging out with friends to hanging out with my man, who happens to be of a different nationality from me! It is all about growth, and I’m lucky that I have someone I can share intimate details with and learn a different perspective while talking about it.

International schools put a premium on the diversity of cultures that there are always festivals to make the foreigners feel at home. You have to consider that these people left their comfort zone and that is one heck of a difficult thing to do, so you give them stuff to do and things to enjoy, and of course, more money.

I learned that everything changes when your title is an “expat”.

So that’s what I did. I moved countries.

It’s not the easiest thing to do because you just left your whole world but it’s a goddamn great experience to be treated really well (read: spoiled): We are always asked what we need, the owner of the schools treated us to different places (in Hatyai), we never got no for an answer whenever we make a request, may it be school supplies or travel itineraries. It’s so easy to get what you want because the company doesn’t want you unhappy because if you are, you might go home – and they spent a fortune on you! So they have to have a return of investment from you (which means the goodness you experience is fake lol).

However, to sum it all up, teaching internationally is a dream because I can develop my profession in strange and exciting places I wouldn’t thought I’d be in. In international schools, I work with excellent resources and having highly motivated kids make it easier to work. I also work with very compentent teachers because international schools have excellent standards. My adaptation and EQ skills are constantly tested. I know I am a more patient person now. And I can save more now, plus I have enjoy a different kind of respect from the locals, so that’s good. And of course I enjoy a lifestyle that enables me to dream and travel!

At the end of the day it is still a job, and because of the perks, you have to work hard to get to that level. But if you love what you’re doing, or at least you’re doing it for a purpose, you know you will do whatever it takes to be happy, and this is what it is.

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.

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!

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).

Third World Issues: Visas and How to Get Them, Tips and Tricks

I will go to Europe this summer. I want to be with my man and nothing can stop me, I have yo be with him. But first, I need to get a visa for Spain.

I am seeking out a lot of resources for this so that I’ll come out prepared.

Unlike First World countries, people from… uh, unfortunate countries like the Philippines have to go through a lot of bureaucracy to get to another country. It sucks. We have to prove that we will not leech the host country of their resources.

There are many horror stories of being rejected of a visa just because of suspicions. I hate that, I just want to travel, stay with my man and be happy. I’m not gonna work or rob their population of jobs/social securities, but of course they won’t know that.

Here are a couple of articles that I found that will be helpful to you, if you are seeking a visa for EU. I know it helped me!

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What it’s like to be a traveler from a 2nd world country: Visas Issues

by Elena of Elena’s Travelgram; sourced here

When I was a kid, all I wanted was to grow up faster and travel around the world. I’ve stared at the map hanging over my table for hours and circled cities I’d wanted to see. Eventually, the map was all painted in different colors as there were way too many circles.

I thought all I need to is to become an adult, make money – I wasn’t sure yet if I’d wanted to become a ballerina or a stockbroker – and embark on the RTW trip.

All so simple

Finally growing up and getting a decent-paid job when I was 19 and still in University, I managed to save enough money and learned that traveling the world is a bit more complicated than I’ve imagined when I was 7.

The thing is, I come from Kyiv, Ukraine in case you didn’t know that about me yet – a 2nd world country, still developing and trying to become part of European Union one day. There are visas and other restrictions that won’t allow me to travel wherever and whenever I want.

Working and holidaying in Australia or New Zealand, roaming for months around Europe and living in whichever city I wish, scoring frequent flyers miles from credit cards sign ups may not be the option for me….but I still manage to live the life I’ve wanted – of travels and endless exploring. I believe you can do it too!

Can I have two, please?

Besides, there are a lot of travelers from all over the globe who manage to travel despite their passport curses like DJ from Dream Euro Trip, Savi and Vid from Bruised Passports and Vikram with Ishwinder from Empty Rucksack Travelers who nailed the art of getting visas living abroad long term and feeding the wanderlust passion with new and new destinations.
I hope this post will inspire travelers like me and pretty much everyone from non-Western countries to finally start living the life you really want – full of travel and wanderlust.

If you come from somewhere outside EU, United States, Canada, UK, Australian or New Zelanad, You need to get a visa to pretty much everywhere.
[Check out this infographic for more details – How Powerful Is Your Passport?]

And by getting a visa I mean not just showing up at the passport control at the airport, paying a visa fee and having a stamp smashed in your passport, but of a twisted, complicated procedure that includes compiling piles of documents, getting them all the Embassy and waiting at least a week for the results.

There are visa-friendly regions like South East Asia, Middle East, Africa, Island Countries and most of South America who would issue you a monthly visa with no questions asked. Just bring your passport, pay the fee and show some bookings paid or not.

Schengen States visas are way trickier to get! Talking of tourists visas for a 90 days max stay each six month.

You need to present quite a bunch of documents including, but not limited to:

– A bank account statement with all the transactions for 3-6 month and balance that will cover your trip of 60 euro min. a day excluding your accommodation costs. Okay that’s 8000 euro for a 3 month trip. Anyone ever spent THAT much?!

– A letterhead from your employer stating that you are allowed to go on vacation and that your workplace will be kept. Plus your monthly salary and preferably yearly income indicated too.

– Booked and often fully prepaid hotel reservations + conformations from hotels, sent by fax and on special blanks that prove your payment + booked/paid air tickets.

– A medical insurance covering the whole period of your stay.

Plus application form filled in correctly and a few copies of some other documents.

You need to read the requirements of the specific country you’re applying to as the may differ slightly from state to state and follow them. Bring each and every document required.

Biggest Visa Issues
– Visa rejection rates from some “unfriendly countries” are still high. If you are a single attractive woman in your twenties, without a trust fund or a sugar daddy, your application will get extra attention. You may be considered a potential illegal immigrant or that word starting from letter “W” that I find really offensive to write here.

– Nope, you can’t just say that you’re going to Couchsurf or stay at spme friends’ place. House Sitting? There isn’t a special column in your application to explain that either.

In case you’d like to stay with your relatives or friends, one of them has to send you an special invitation stating that you will live at his place and he would take full responsibility of you returning home once your visa ends.

– No to open itineraries. Still haven’t decided when are you going to fly back home? Duh, you ODD TO present a return ticket with a fixed date!

– In case your visa’s refused, it’s all your problems of how you gonna charge back the bookings. Low cost and cheapest airfare are usually non-refundable. So does the visa fees Loads of money wasted.

– I’m a freelancer. I do odd seasonal jobs. I’m an artist and sell artwork. How could I get a letter from an employer?

Full Proof Tips That Worked Out For Me

Passport

– Try getting a visa from the friendliest/easiest country

For Ukrainians: that’s Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Spain. I believe a quick Google search will return a list for your country too.

These guys are often okay with non-paid bookings (that you can cancel afterwards) and non-paid plane tickets and are likely to issue you a visa for a longer period of time then you requested in the application form.

– Build up your visa karma.

Get an easy country short term visa, then get the next one, most probably it would be longer one. Apply to the same country Embassy a few times and you’re likely to get the max visa 180/360 days.

In case you already have visas from UK/USA/CA in your passport – your passport karma multiplies in ten times.

– Register as a private entrepreneur.

It solves the problem with working freelance and asking papers from your employer all the time. The bad thing – yeah you’ll have to fill in the tax declarations and pay taxes by yourself. (Total nightmare in Ukraine!)

– Try getting a visa in the neighboring country.

So, France issues longer visas valid for 1-5 years (though, you are still not allowed to stay longer than 90 days in half a year, but your visa is valid for 1-5 years. No need to make visa runs each other month) for Moscow and St. Petersburg applicants.

I came across news the other day where the Italy Embassy officials claim they don’t issue year-long visas (180/360) to anyone. They just don’t have this type of visa! And then one of the journalists shows a Russian passport with a yearlong visa issued by Moscow Embassy. F*chen double standards.

No one prohibits you from getting a visa in another country and there’s no need to be a citizen or resident.

– Provide extra documents that prove your intentions of returning home.

It could be something like providing documents on owning a car or an apartment.

I’ve read of some people who indicated that they are leaving one child at home and bring another one to the trip, just to prove the officials of their solid intentions to return.

How can you explain it to a kid that he has to stay with the granny when his sis is taken to eat gelato in Italy?

In 00s some EU embassies required you to check in when you return. In case you failed doing that in 3 days upon your return, you get to the blacklist a.k.a forbidden to enter any Schengen state for 5 years.

Some travelers were to leave cash deposit (a.k.a the deportation money) at the Embassy. It would have been returned back to you upon your arrival to Ukraine when you come to check in.

I’m happy it’s no longer true these days…

– Fight for your rights!

In case you got your visa refused, but you are 100% sure you did EVERYTHING correct and your intentions are crystal clear, be the angry traveler!

Make a scene, demand to meet the council directly, issue an appellation request, write letters and make angry calls. Do whatever needed to get all the possible attention to your case.

My friend had a two-year work contract in Poland with a local University. She needed to renew her visa for the 2nd year and was denied for no apparent reason.

After making a huge scene and meeting the Polish Consul directly, she got her apology and a visa glued over the denial stamp.

It turned out she came on the wrong day, when a particular embassy employee had bad mood or whatever.

My documents (one copy of plane tickets for the 1st trip and hotel booking for the 2nd) didn’t make it to the Embassy and were lost by someone from the visa center where I applied. (And I pay these people 25 euros to pile up my papers!)

Unless, by some lucky chance, I’ve gotten a call directly from the Embassy official, I would be refused in my visa.

It is the people who make the final decision. Everyone can be wrong. Be persistent and take the courage to prove that!

Bad-ass visa advice*
*I don’t encourage anyone doing this. Use your common sense.

– Try getting a journalist id card.

No one likes bad publicity. Mention that somewhere in your application or try applying for a journalist visa directly. On a personal interview that may be held in some cases, mention that you are freelance writer, have a popular blog, appeared in New York Times, whatever. Oh and don’t forget to say how you love your home country!

You can write for a local mag or paper and jet ID from them or purchase a fake one.

– Enhance your credit card statement a bit.

The more money you have – the wider the doors will open in front of you. Yeah, everyone love rich holiday makers who leave a lot of cash and invest into the country’s economy. But what about young adults, twenty-something travelers and backpackers? I think 8000 euro for 3 month in Europe is a ridiculous amount of money!

So, lend cash, put it into your bank account, print the check, withdraw it and present the grand total to the officials.

Or transfer your savings to your primary account. Just try not to over-do that. As Polly’s and The Russky experience proved – a very large amount of money can draw unwanted attention and suspicions resulting into visa denial.

The Difficult Countries
I’d love to visit the United Kingdom so much!

– London?
– Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.

But you know what?
That’s not gonna happen any time soon! The UK Embassy is one of the toughest and issue most visa denials for UA citizens.
My boyfriend even has one. An ugly stamp at the end of your passport, drawing attention of other embassies. He wanted to visit his relatives in Scotland; yet the Brits didn’t think it could be possible.

I’m planning to hit on Spain in July and I’d love to visit Gibraltar too:
– The only colony in Europe,
– The only place with monkeys in Europe
– And the only piece of land on the continent belonging to the Great Britain.

Even for a day trip I have to go to the British Embassy back in Ukraine, pay around 100 pounds visa fee and wonder if I’m getting a visa or not. Again, that’s a huge sum that I’m not ready to give it out for less than a 24 hour stay!

My advice for getting a UK visa
– Try enrolling for a conference and ask them for business invitation.

– Au pair is popular in GB. So in case you love kids….

– Enroll to a summer school, language course; try landing an internship or search for other educational opportunities. But be ready to work your ass hard to prove how cool are you and write tons of motivational letters if you want to get a funded.

United States of A.

These guys are really hardcore. Their application form is an endless list of questions with some extremely weird screening questions like:

– Have you ever sold drugs?

– Do you belong to any terrorist organization?

(Yeah…sure. I’d be telling you all of this in case I ever did)

You are requested to present all sort of documents from birth certificate to college diploma, your yearly income, all taxes reports and so on. Get a personal appointment and go through an interview. That’s the most important as usually the person you talk to makes the final decision.

Do not be nervous, be ready to answer all sort of questions.

A fun (sort of) story happened with my Dad. On the interview he was asked if he has a PhD.

– Yes, in Nuclear Physics, but I haven’t been working in the sphere for decades already.

– Please, provide us with full list of your academic papers published with proper references, a brief annotation of your thesis, all the people and projects you’ve worked with and so on….

His application has been scrutinized for a month, but he got his business visa eventually, yet for a shorter term that he originally requested.

My Advice for getting US visa
– Work and Travel Program.

Work as a waitress, on the assembly line, sorting fish in Alaska or selling ice-cream in LA for 3-4 month. Make enough money to pay off the ticket price, program fees, evening beers and a brand new IPhone. Probably, you’ll even have some money left to travel around the country a bit.

A lot of my friends did that back in college. It was fun and they did bring some cash home. Most of them didn’t travel a lot. Two-three days in New York and a few weekend trips around the city they’ve been working in.

– Get an invitation from a US citizen (friend or relative) who will claim that he’s taking whole responsibilities for you to return home and will fund all your travel.

– Or land a job within an American company back in your country. Work your ass hard up the corporate ladder and become a big boss who would be invited for business trips to the main office. You could try becoming a programming ninja and your American customer may offer you a position in the States eventually. Some of my friends got job offers and moved to the Silicon Valley and Palo Alto. (But that’s actually more like advice on how to move to the United States).

– and there are plenty of grants and scholarships available for non-EU citizens, covering your tuition fees with minimal money left for living.

But again, it’s more work than play, but a great option to consider if you’re either interested in an academic career or simply would love to do the college thing one more time 🙂

And there countries left like Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland who have their quirks too and won’t be eager to issue you a visa.

New Zealand, I’ll get to you one day! New Zealand, I’ll get to you one day!

Yet, there’s nothing impossible!

You can get a visa anywhere you want.

Seriously, absolutely anywhere!

Just pick the right strategy, be persistent and follow the rules, no matter how unfair they may seem.

Did I skip any opportunities? Do you have something to add? Or would like to ask anything concerning visa application process? I’d be happy to help!

Some Tips For Sending Your Balikbayan Box

Unlike most Filipinos, I don’t send balikbayan boxes. Hell, unlike most Filipinos I don’t even send money home. My situation works on the flipside: My parents send me money. Blame that on not having a bank account here in Indonesia, but more on that later.

Anyway, why am I posting an article about packing balikbayan boxes if I don’t do it? Well, a package is a package and whether or not you’re from the Philippines or Spain, packing and making sure your package  arrives and not vandalised to your family is of the utmost importance. That, plus the fact that I was googling if I can bring some Filipino produce in an international flight without having customs officials having a go at me (I want to bring some calamansi here in Indonesia). I stumbled on posts about packing for balikbayan boxes and thought that anyone who does balikbayan boxes should read this!

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Things you should know when sending a balikbayan box

by Art Tibaldo, originally published here

AN ELDERLY missionary sister queuing in an airport in the US was asked by a terminal attendant if she was certain that she’s bound for Manila. When she answered “of course I am”, the guy’s next question was “but how come you’re not towing a Balikbayan Box?

Whenever a relative arrives from abroad, the most interesting part that comes after the meeting at the airport is the opening of these boxes. Some arriving Balikbayans often shift their filled boxes ahead in time for their arrival and there are varying stories that we have heard about. Let’s take the case of a certain Mrs. Sonia De Vera, a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, who sent a package last February 2006 to her family in Iloilo?

According to the story posted in the Consumer Welfare corner of the Department of Trade and Industry website, Mrs. De Vera contracted the services of a consolidator, ESQ Logistics, Inc., to deliver the package, declaring in the packing list that the box contained personal effects – letters, pictures, canned goods, toiletries, clothing, bottles of perfume, and a new pair of Nike basketball shoes – her graduation gift for her eldest son.

After a month, the package was delivered to her family, seemingly in good condition. But when the box was opened later, they discovered that several items were missing. Her husband then reported the pilferage to ESQ Logistics, who said it would investigate on the matter.

One of the missing items was the pair of basketball shoes, in which Mrs. De Vera had inserted 1,000 rials, something she did not declare in the packing list. Upon coming home to attend her son’s graduation, she followed up the status of their complaint with ESQ Logistics. President and CEO Mr. Edgardo S. Quezon informed her that the company will pay the cost of the lost items amounting to P10,000 but not the 1000 rials, which Mrs. De Vera claimed she inserted in the sole of the basketball shoes.

Mrs. De Vera did not agree with the offer of Mr. Quezon and demanded that she be refunded P25,000 to cover the cost of the lost items and the 1,000 rials. However, Mr. Quezon rejected this claim, so Mrs. De Vera filed a formal complaint with the DTI-Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB).

Upon PSB’s verification, it was discovered that ESQ Logistics, Inc. is not accredited with the PSB, therefore operating without the requisite license.

During the mediation, Mr. Quezon said his company could not ascertain how the box had been pilfered but reiterated that they will shoulder the P10,000 cost of the missing items. As for the accreditation, Mr. Quezon promised to immediately secure accreditation with the PSB in order to operate legally.

But Mrs. De Vera still insisted that she receive P25,000. The PSB informed her it is illegal to put money in balikbayan boxes. What she did was tantamount to smuggling. The box should only contain items declared in the packing list provided by the shipper and verified by the cargo consolidator. In this case, Mrs. De Vera misdeclared her packing list to conceal an item that is not allowed to be included in balikbayan boxes. This can actually be a cause for the forwarder to file a case against her.

Following are tips in packing and preparing balikbayan boxes: List all items to be included in the box. Indicate the cost of the items, if possible, specially for valuable ones. Make at least 3 copies of the packing list – for the shipper, the consolidator, and the consignee. Money and jewelry should never be put in the box or inserted anywhere in the box. Have the items in your balikbayan box checked and verified by the consolidator against your prepared packing list.

When the box is received by the consignee, check first if there are any indications of pilfering. Open the box in the presence of the person who delivered it and check if the items are complete as indicated in the packing list. Immediately inform the consolidator of any missing or broken items. Make sure that the forwarder/consolidator’s delivery agent in the Philippines is duly accredited with the PSB. You may call the PSB at (+632) 751.3304 / 751.0384 locals 2512 and 2513.

You can also send your feedback and queries to konsyumeratbp@gmail.com. For in-depth information on consumer issues, listen to Konsyumer At iba pa every Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. over dzMM 630kHz. For consumer complaints, call DTI Direct at 751.3330 or Text DTI complaint and send to 2920 for Globe and Smart subscribers.