Sunday 25 November 2007

New home. New friends.

My joyous days in a hotel are over. (Translate that to Tagalog and you know what I mean :P) No more free full English breakfasts. No more free unlimited high speed internet. No more free cleaning that everytime I get home my my bed's made up and there are clean towels in the bathroom. Oh why did it have to end?

I opted for a flatshare instead of living alone because not only it's cheaper, I'd also be forced to get to know other people. It's an opportunity to gain friends here. It's bad enough being assigned tens of thousands away from home, like I'm the only Pinoy in our building. It's even more depressing to cocoon myself from the outside world with December coming up. And besides I figured I can use the extra practice to speak in English at home. Oh diba parang kung sino akong sosyal na kelangan nag-e-english sa bahay, hehehehe :P

So I looked for a flatshare online and I got lucky. I found a house where there would only be two other single professional girls sharing with me. It's a storey house where there are 3 bedrooms one for each of us, a big sala, a dining room, kitchen and garden. It's fully furnished. It's just walking distance to/from office. But what made me decide to get this place was that the first time I met my landlord I immediately felt at ease with him. I reckoned I'd be in good hands with Metrobank, este with him as my landlord. He gave me a lift when I transferred here yesterday and even carried all my luggages up to my room. He even introduced me to a Filipina who's a friend of his wife.

And we immediately clicked with the his Filipina friend. Her name is Nory, short for Eleanor. Nory's actually a Canadian citizen. She immigrated to Canada during her late twenties, and guess what, she was also an IT developer - the reason why it was so easy for her to migrate in Canada.. hurray for us! But that's a "was" because she retired. She decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Nory's so sweet. The night before my scheduled moving in, she called me up at my hotel and offered me a lift. And yesterday afternoon she went here, with her husband John and their 4 year old son Robert, bringing a duvet for me to use and pizza for dinner. And just this morning her husband picked me up so I can have lunch at their house. I almost hugged her because she cooked rice, yey! It's something I haven't had the luxury to eat since I came here.

I stayed in their place for hours, playing with cute Robert (gwapo talaga ng bata, as in gusto ko ireto sa future anak ko!). We then went to Tesco for grocery. She taught me what stuffs to buy, dinner I can prepare on my own. She offered that I can go with them every weekend for grocery since they have a car. They're so nice. I just feel so lucky to have met them. I of course thanked Nory profusely. I guess I can't thank her enough. She just shrugged it off and said "Naku wala yun, alam ko kasi yang pinagdadaanan mo ngayon kasi mag-isa ako ng migrate sa Canada. Alam ko how hard being alone in a foreign country is." My heart swells because of their kindness. I wish someday I can repay that.

Sunday 18 November 2007

A day at Windsor

Last Saturday I woke up startled with the ringing of the phone on my bed side table. It was the Queen calling me. She wailed saying she couldn't understand why after 3 weeks of being here in London I still hadn't paid a call on her since Windsor Castle's just a few minutes away from where I'm staying. I apologized profusely to the obviously heartbroken monarch, couldn't think of an excuse, and to appease her I promised to visit her that day.

And so I went to Windsor. It was just a 15 minutes ride and one can already see the huge castle as the train approaches Windsor and Eton Riverside station. The first time I noticed it, It took my breath away. It's standing there seemingly proud of it's magnificence. It looks exactly like the castle in my childhood fantasies.

Queen Victoria's guarded the Castle's entrance

The trek up to the castle.

A butler opened the grand doors to the Queen's Audience Chamber where the Queen and her husband Prince Philip were waiting. I was amazed at how opulent the room was. There were paintings at the ceiling, paintings by Rubens on the walls, 3 huge chandeliers adorned the room and the furnitures were all cushioned in velvet - simply divine! I must have been gaping silly because the Queen smiled and her husband Prince Philip chuckled. The Queen despite of her age looked as fit as ever. And after 60 years of marriage, she and her husband still looked good together. They graciously showed me around the castle, amusing me with the history of every monarchs who lived there. I had difficulty taking in with my eyes the grandness of the surroundings. I couldn't believe that each chamber looked as opulent as the previous one.

The Windsor Castle - lovely, isn't it?

We then went to the St. George's chapel, which was also inside the castle. Walking around the chapel was deeply affecting knowing that many royal marriages happened there, many monarchs walked the same halls, they prayed there and some were laid to rest there. There are a few chantries - built by some royals around the chapel. A chantry is a chapel inside a church (in this case St. George's) endowed for the singing of masses for the chantry's founder after his death. Among the other things showcased inside the chapel are King Edward III's 6'8" sword and the coat of arms of the Order of the Garter knights.

Entrance to St. George's Chapel

My heart leaped when I saw William waiting for us outside the chapel. He seemed taller than I last saw him but I couldn't quell the feeling of dismay that he's looking more like his father now than his late mother. But still he's handsome. He stayed with us during the afternoon tea and he was very entertaining. William and I share this profound friendship after we decided to let our relationship not move a step further. Because we know we can never be together - a future King can never court, let alone marry a woman of no breeding, no royal titles to offer from a faraway Asian country. The British people will clamor for the downfall of the institution if he'll prefer his desires over his divine duty of governing the country. He has my utmost respect for choosing his that duty over his heart. He's simply returning the adoration the British people have for him - some say they love him more than they love his father.

I enjoyed my stay my visit to Windsor, regretting not doing it sooner. I'll call on the Queen again one of these days.

Yeah yeah yeah, the above about meeting the Queen and William who has always been the prince in my fantasies were all a product of my overactive imagination. This imagination of mine has been working overtime since I arrived in England :p But I did go to Windsor - and it's every bit as opulent as I described :) Just go to my multiply site for the rest of the pictures.

The future HRH Princess of Wales

The changing of guards ceremony.

Lizette, pwede na ba to for Christmas instead of McSteamy?


Sunday 4 November 2007

My 1st jologs moment in London

Yesterday I boarded the train to Waterloo on my way to meet my friends for the Original Tour sightseeing in London (refer to this link if you want to see my pictures of that said tour). I took the seat across a Pakistani-looking guy and immediately I took a book from my bag since I expected a long ride - around 40 mins. It must have been 15 minutes after when I noticed the guy leave. I continued reading and was engrossed with it for several minutes when suddenly something caught my eye... there was a black bag under the seat he vacated. So I walked over to the ticket inspector and told him about the bag. I watched him opened the bag with my heart pounding because I was remembering news about bombing or terrorist attacks in London that happened before. Another passenger who also got alarmed also watched. Well there was nothing of importance inside the bag. It just contained what seemed like plastic bags. After the ticket inspector examined the contents, he announced that it's safe, that there's nothing to be worried of. Just then the Pakistani-looking guy appeared coming from the rear of the train. He informed us that he just went to the toilet. Hearing that, the truth that I caused a commotion out of nothing sank in. I hastily apologized to him. He looked at me and suddenly laughed, saying "You thought it was a bomb!?!". The other passenger had the gall to join laughing, which made me want to scowl at him because of course he had also thought it was a bomb - traitor! I was so embarrassed, and I couldn't admit to the Pakistani-looking guy that it was exactly what I was thinking because he looked like a terrorist. So I just grinned sheepishly and threw off an excuse mumbling, "No, I thought you already got off the train, and I was worried that you forgot your bag..." But the guy didn't buy it, he continued laughing and he said "don't lie, you really thought it was a bomb". Oo na, oo na! Buti na lang, the ticket inspector jumped to my rescue telling him that I did the right thing, that it's better to be safe than be sorry. Thankfully the Pakistani-looking guy, as well as that other chismosong passenger, nodded in agreement. He sat again on the seat right across me and I swear he kept on smiling at me until we reached Waterloo.

Friday 2 November 2007

London baby.. yeah!

I'm here! I'm here in the land of Prince Harry (who's under investigation by the way because he apparently shot 2 protected birds... tsk tsk... naughty Harry). I'm here in the land where people speak in a cute accent that makes me bat my eyelashes and drop into a curtsy. I'm here in the land of cute guys that seem to literally pop out of a fashion magazine (too bad because most of them are obviously a decade - shocks decade - younger than me and it doesn't matter anyway because still Harley is way more cute). Oh yes, I'm here in UK, specifically London baby, yeah! Bloody great. Bloody fantastic. Bloody awesome!

Last week, 24Oct, Steng and Jaspher dropped me off at NAIA1. I was 3 hours early for my flight which was a good thing because when the KLM people weighed my luggages they were 6kilos in excess! If I had no more time then, I would have paid the 19k fee (they charge 30 Euros per kilo). Of course I refused to pay such amount so in the middle of that airport I opened my bags and removed the heavy stuffs that I could do without - wala akong pakialam na nakatiwangwang na mga undies ko for all to see. Proud naman kasi ako dahil filtered na yun, meaning di ko dinala yung maluwang na ang garter or yung may butas, nyehehehe :p After countless times of weighing and opening my baggage again to see what else I could remove (I had those stuffs left at the airport for Mau to pick up), I finally managed to lower the baggages' weight to the maximum allowable weight. Even with that much hassle, I was still all smiles when I traipsed towards the gate where I should wait for boarding. Because nothing, absolutely nothing could ruin that day for me.

It was one heck of an adventure because not only I was travelling alone, nobody was assigned to meet me at the aiport. I must have had the exact feeling the country mouse felt when he went to visit his cousin who lived in the city. I just had to rely on the fact that no one's a dimwit enough to mug me because no one would expect a Filipino like me carrying a sizeable money in pounds. I decided to hail a cab and was relieved to notice that every cab waiting at the airport had a CCTV camera inside. But I was astounded when we reached my hotel. That was when the cabbie told me the fare was 50 pounds - bloody hell that's 4500 in our money! I made a mental note then that I should never ever convert pounds to peso while spending money here because I might end up miserable throughout my stay.

London is so beautiful. Though I am here in the suburbs because here's where my company is located, the place is simply lovely. It's like one big Disneyland minus the amusement rides - the brick roads and houses, double-decker buses, manicured trees - they have some sort of imposed architecture in every house or building here. Walking to/from work brings me across the Thames river (pictured left) and the beauty of the surroundings that I pass by always sends me into a contemplative mood - parang gusto ko magmuni-muni about life, beauty & love, like parang gusto ko magpaint or mag-compose ng poem :p

Thames River

Town hall - isn't it cute?

It's cold but still manageable. It's like walking with full blast aircon following you around. I hope I can survive the winter - I have low tolerance of the cold you see. I shiver easily. Work is also interesting. In our team there's only 6 of us - 3 Britons, 1 French, 1 Spaniard and I'm the only Asian. Britons are very soft spoken and I absolutely love their accent. They are also very polite and they do behave gentlemanly - like they'll always open the door for you. Their work ethics are also very commendable. They work nonstop, almost not even pausing for lunch, like they usually take their lunch at their desk eating while they continue working. But no matter how busy they'll usually rush home after completing the 7.5 hours work per day. Because they say there's life after work - they're anxious to spend time with their families. Britons are also health concious. I notice that most of them have baon na fruits for elevenses (snack in the morning).

I roamed around Central London on my own last weekend. I took the train and then bought a one day bus pass. I went first to the London Bridge - a fitting place for my first Georgia-was-here UK list. I then followed a throng of tourists to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. Next on my agenda was St. Paul's Cathedral but unfortunately I got on the wrong bus and napadpad ako dun sa slum area ng London. It's like a settlement of immigrants because there were many Pakistani & Indians nakatambay sa streets - the part of London na madumi. Good thing I found my way out from there in no time. At St. Paul's I attended the Evensong - choral service in which the St. Paul's Cathedral Chorus sang the prayers in English and Latin. I almost cried because it seemed like a dream that I was actually at St. Paul's Cathedral attending a church service. The cathedral is simply divine. The paintings and carvings on the ceilings seem gilded with gold. Unfortunately it's forbidden to take pictures inside. I just resolved to light a candle just thanking Him of the wonderful blessing of being here.

St. Paul's Cathedral

The Tower Bridge

Tomorrow I'll go to central London again but this time with friends - they're SAP developers who are here for training. Yey since may kasama ako :)