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How Tin ended up in NZ :)

My decision to move to New Zealand was not as easy and exciting as that day I had my Dubai Surprise. But now, after almost 4 years of living here, in the Land of the Long White Cloud, as I look back and think of August 2007, I can’t help but smile and thank that young Tintin for making the hard but right decision of making the move and enduring the heartache. And now, I am sharing it to you….

Mid 2007 and it was the time when recession was starting to hit Dubai. A lot of workers being sent home, laid off. I know some Filipinos who were given their month’s notice. I saw the look of sadness and disappointment on their faces. I felt what they felt that time. Sad times are about to come, I thought. I was scared that soon, it will be my month’s notice being handed to me…

In the midst of all this, I received an email from a former colleague who just moved to NZ with his family. He asked me if I’m interested in working for the same engineering company he’s working for. He thought of me right away as their company is looking for someone young with my engineering skills. Also, he tried to sell me NZ’s tourism and said that NZ is a beautiful country and I’d really love it there. Haha 🙂 I told him, to be honest, I don’t know where New Zealand is and the only time I’ve heard of NZ was on a milk commercial with cows and a flock of sheep running on the hills. Bwahahaha 🙂

So yes, I sent him my CV. I got a reply from my to-be manager in 15 minutes. He wanted to discuss things right away and was very keen on talking about salary and visa. I didn’t reply right away, I thought I needed to talk to my then boyfriend. After our talk, I realized I just felt overwhelmed with my colleague’s email, the fast reply and the eagerness of the company to hire me. I realized I can’t leave my boyfriend. I love him and I can’t leave him. I didn’t even consider that I might be laid off anytime soon. I was so in love. I didn’t know how to reply to the email from New Zealand, but I had to tell them about my relationship. I emailed them the following day. The manager replied that he is quite sad that I can’t move but told me that if I change my mind and the position is still available he would really be keen to hire me.

A couple of months passed. Recession was starting to hit Dubai hard. A lot of stories of people sent home and a lot of us didn’t get pay rises. My boyfriend and I were trying to apply to other companies in Dubai but we we’re not lucky. Then I came across an ad on google with a link to a youtube video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbxYZ97yNkI&list=FLPBLbRjyJpcZxNCquYxHBDg&index=5&feature=plpp

It was a video about New Zealand, the country, the people and the song was one of my favorites when I was still young. I then searched New Zealand on google. The whole afternoon until night, that’s all I did. I thought of the job offer I declined. I felt gutted. I watched the video again. At that moment, I wanted to go. I really want to. First thing the following morning, I emailed the manager in New Zealand and before lunch, I got a reply. He said that is very happy to get an email from me, the position was still available and if I am sure I want to go to New Zealand and work, he is very much willing to help me with all the paper and immigration work.

I was stunned by this email. I felt a different kind of happiness. I got excited. A new adventure in a new country somewhere in the Pacific. I thought, 2 months after declining the job,  it’s still available and the manager still eager on hiring me – this job must really be meant for me! 🙂 I emailed the manager, ‘Yes I am interested and I want to go to New Zealand and live and work there’. After that, I started thinking how to tell my boyfriend.

It was another long, emotional talk, mostly I wouldn’t mention here as they are too personal, full of drama and would probably bore you guys. But in the end, we agreed that I will go there first and he will follow me. I believed him. I loved him so much and that decision made me so happy. I am moving to New Zealand and he will follow me and we’re gonna live happily ever after. 🙂 Hahaha

The processing of my papers to NZ then started. A lot of emails and calls from New Zealand to Dubai were made. A lot of trips to Immigration NZ in Dubai, medical check-up, blood test, paper work, paper work, paper work… After less than a week, I finally got a visa, and not just a simple work visa, it’s a work to residence visa! This is the visa that my would-be boss offered to help me get. (I wasn’t fully aware at that point how this type of visa would be of so much help to me.) I thought that this is too much luck for me, just too much. I felt so blessed. The following day, when I emailed the manager I already have the visa, I found out too that they will pay for my airfare and that they will refund the whole amount I spent processing the papers. Tintin is so BLESSED! 🙂

Everything was set in place. I have my visa, my plane ticket, I’ve handed down my resignation… The plan was going well. My boyfriend was set to follow me in a few months. I was happy. I was very happy.

One week before my flight to New Zealand, I found a letter on my desk. I knew the writing right away. It’s from my boyfriend. I won’t mention everything that was on the letter, in summary it just said that he needed to go back home to Egypt as his family called him that his mother was sick. Tears fell and I felt in my heart that I can’t leave Dubai without seeing him. I was about to email my would-be manager that I might postpone my flight because I need to wait for my boyfriend’s return from Egypt, but he emailed me first. The email expressed his happiness that in 1 week I’ll be in New Zealand and he just wants to make sure, all that I need is in place and I won’t have problems flying and with the immigration when I arrive.

I didn’t send my email. I tried to call my boyfriend for days but there was no answer. A day before I left, I finally received a message from him, that he’s sorry he won’t be there to see me before I go. But I shouldn’t worry, he will follow me. I was quite hesitant to believe him. I had the feeling that there was something wrong. I read his email again. I didn’t want to go to the airport but I can’t turn back now. I signed a contract for a company in NZ and it’s less than 24 hours before I fly.

I ended up at the airport the following day, my eyes sore from crying the whole night, tired and sad to leave Dubai. My very close friends from work dropped me at the airport and said their goodbyes. I cried more. They told me to take care of myself and never lose hope. My bestfriend, she hugged me tight and told me, “If he follows, good. If he doesn’t stay. Stay in NZ. Be happy.” 🙂

I cried the whole flight, from Dubai to New Zealand. I wanted to stop but my eyes just don’t want to stop producing tears. I arrived in New Zealand safe but with eyes very sore and red eyes.

I eventually broke up with my then boyfriend.  He didn’t follow me. I don’t even know if he really had any intention of following me. I don’t think I am anymore interested in knowing whether he had any.  I was so in love that time. My way to NZ was not very easy on my emotions. I learned a lot of things the hard way, mainly because of how I handled my emotions I reckon. 🙂 I learned not to base decisions, specially life decisions solely on a man… Never to let my emotions overpower my whole system. There are times that what the heart feels is more important than what the mind thinks; but I also have to know when the fairytale ends and when reality begins… I learned never to turn down opportunities, maybe I won’t be lucky the next time. I learned that it may take time for me to finally be with the man that will love me and stay with me forever, he may not even come, but till then, I should enjoy my life, never hesitate to travel and experience new adventures! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ve been in New Zealand almost 4 years now, and I can say I never regret anything. My life now is worth every tear and pain I felt. I am stronger and I am tougher. I love my life now.. Not everything is perfect but I am HAPPY. I feel contented. I love myself, my life… 🙂

I now also recall what a friend emailed me 4 years ago…

“You cry all you want now. Cry until your eyes can’t produce tears. Feel the pain now and cry as much as you can because tomorrow, I’m not allowing you to cry anymore. You didn’t lose anything. Your heart is still there, it’s not broken, it’s just in pain. You’re a beautiful, talented young woman who’s got a lot of adventures to experience. You’re 23! He lost you and you didn’t lose him. I assure you this, without any bitterness intended, there will come a day he will regret he never followed you. He lost you!”

Now as I look at this email again, I smile and think, yeah, he did lost me. 🙂 LOL 🙂

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Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai…

Before I went to Dubai, the only thing I know about  Islam is that they don’t eat pork and that Moslem men can have many wives. That’s all I know about Islam. I was born in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic school from primary to highschool. All I know is how to be Catholic. Lol. My first encounter with a Moslem was in University. That school have no requirements other than passing the entrance exam, so any person of any religion from any part of the country or even the world can go to that school, as long as you pass their entrance exam. I had a blocmate (person of the same course) who’s a Moslem from Mindanao. Let’s call him by the name Yusof. He didn’t tell us much about Islam, aside from the fact that he don’t eat pork. My knowledge of the Moslem world didn’t improve at all because of him. Hahahah

Anyway, so there I was, 2006, in Dubai and it’s my 2nd month there. We were in our shuttle to work (our office is in the middle of the desert) and our Administration Lady reminded us that it’s the start of Ramadan and it will be polite of us if we just stay inside the office pantry when we have our coffee, eat our snack and lunch or even drink water.  This is to show respect to our Moslem officemates who are observing Ramadan. She then explained to us, the so called “new employees” who just arrived in Dubai, that Ramadan is a month-long fasting during daylight hours, around 6am to 6pm for the Moslems. During fasting, they are not allowed to eat, drink and even have sexual intercourse. That act is to redirect them from worldly activities and cleanse their souls. She didn’t explain much but I was able to get the gist of the concept of Ramadan. (I read more about it later on.)

Anyway, came lunch time. Everyone was hungry and everyone went into the pantry to eat lunch. We were all huddled together in the pantry that wasn’t even enough to fit half of the Filipino employees in our office. Now, all non-Moslems are inside it. Its quite a funny scenario. It was like a crime to eat and anyone seen eating will be executed. But it was entertaining too. Some were eating while standing. Those who were fast enough to go to the pantry first get seats and table to eat. Those who are slow, either wait in vain or just eat while standing, leaning on the wall. Even when some of us are done eating we still stay inside the pantry but give the seat to another person. But yeah, we still stay there just for the fun of staying there.

Lunch time!!! 🙂

It was during this time too that I was able to really observe our Japanese bosses. They don’t really talk to us much. They just stay in their seats and still work while eating their lunch. Some of the crazy Filipinos leave the pantry when the Japanese bosses arrive and want to eat their lunch. I stayed and chat with the others just to observe them. One of them, he always take a photo of his lunch before he eats it. I found out later on that his wife makes his lunch and he loves his wife so much he takes a picture of it before he eat the food. I had a weird theory about this, what I was thinking that time was that maybe, when he gets home, his wife asks if he liked his lunch and there was an instance he forgot what it was and the wife became sad. So for him not to forget, he takes a picture of it before he eats and so when he gets asked, he knows. Almost everyone in out office thought this theory is crazy. LOL… The other Japanese boss, he eats very quick, without talking, chews fast like there’s a time limit. Another was very organized when he eats, always in poise. These Japanese bosses of ours are really interesting. You will think since they are all Japanese, they have the same manners, but no, they each have their own uniqueness that entertains us a lot. My favorite is the one who talks a lot while eating. Well he talks more than he eats. He’s often left by himself in the pantry. Well, that’s during the Ramadan period.

Another observation was the foodcourt situation at the big malls like IBN Battuta and Mall of Emirates. There was this one time we went to the mall during Ramadan and we went past the foodcourt and it was covered with some black cloth. LOL… Imagine a huge piece or whatever of black cloth attached to the ceiling covering all those tourists and non-moslems eating so that the moslems won’t see them. We can hear the clattering of spoons and forks!

Most foodcourts and restaurants are just closed and don’t serve food until after 6pm, when the Moslems are allowed to eat too. If you’re on the road during this time, you will see like a gathering of Moslems at a park sharing food and eating together after praying.

This was my first Ramadan in Dubai. The following year, I was more prepared for it, was not much of a shock anymore. Only the second time, I was dating  a Moslem guy and he won’t even talk to me during the day! Fasting to its extreme sense! LOL 🙂

36 Hours in Hongkong and my LUGGAGE! :)

So we landed, a heart-pounding landing! After the clapping and rejoicing that we’re still alive and luckily, no one puked inside the plane, passengers started getting their stuff from the compartments. Everyone’s in a hurry to go out. It’s like there’s a time limit and when you’re still inside the plane when the time expires, they won’t let you out. I just sat on my seat trying not to be dizzy.

It was horrendously windy outside with some very serious raining. There’s a storm in Hongkong. I thought since I have a 3-hour stop-over, the rain would probably stop and that in my flight toDubai, the take-off won’t be as “challenging” as the landing in Hongkong. So I searched for the gate number on my boarding pass where my connecting flight carrier will be. It was so crowded in the airport that moving and seeing where I’m exactly going was another challenge, given my height. LOL  🙂 As expected, I got lost and instead of going to the right end where the gate I’m looking for is, I went to the other end. I checked the screen showing all the flights going out of Hongkong to check the boarding time of my flight. My flight wasn’t there. And all those flights shown said it’s all delayed! OK, so I had no idea what to do. I eventually found the gate number I was looking for and found some familiar faces, Filipinos on my flight from Manila. They were all waiting, some people ranting that they need assistance and they want to fly soon! One of them was the woman with the kid (lady who looked like she was having seizures during the landing attempts of our plane!). I thought, woman, you’re scared to death with our first flight and now you want to fly again with this weather?? You gotta be kidding me!

Some hours passed, 1… 2… 3 hours… our flight still wasn’t on the screen. I started to get hungry. I felt so tired sitting there, thinking what if the rain won’t stop? How long am I gonna be here in Hongkong? Are the heavens not happy that I left The Philippines? Then all of a sudden, some Cathay Pacific staff went to the gate and announced that we won’t be flying anytime soon. They gave us call cards to call the people we need to call. I got 2 and searched for the phone booths. I found it but there were hundreds of people in line to make their calls. Ok, I waited again.

After an hour or so, another announcement was made by a Cathay Pacific Staff. They weren’t sure when the flights will resume, they have no clue when the rain would stop and due to all flights since that morning being delayed, it’s guaranteed that we’ll be there overnight. They asked us to fall in line and have our boarding pass out. They handed us $500 HKD each for food for the night. They also gave us some blankets and tiny pillows. They said that there was not enough space in the airport hotel to accommodate everyone stranded and only those in business class were accommodated there. I was so exhausted and tired and hungry that I didn’t have the energy to say anything; I just accepted the money and the blanket and tiny pillow. Again, the lady with the kid was the first one to rant. She said that we all deserve to be accommodated somewhere comfortable to sleep. Others followed with complaints. The CP Staff said that they’re not in control of the weather and that’s the most they can do, give us money and blankets.

So I got my blanket and pillow and money. I searched for a place to eat and I ate. After that, I went back to where the other Filipinos were and got myself a place to sleep. The tiny pillow was of no use so I used my hand-carry bag as pillow. I got the blanket out of the plastic but it was damp and it smelled like feet. I threw it away and got my hoodie and used it as some sort of blanket. I was starting to fall asleep when a baby started to cry; then another toddler, then a kid screamed, then the mother trying to make the baby stop crying started to talk baby talk that was annoyingly loud enough to be heard. I wasn’t able to sleep. I just lied there staring at the airport ceiling, hoping I was dreaming and that when I wake up, I’m in Dubai already. It was still raining outside, thought not as hard as it was that morning. I checked the time on my watch, it’s almost midnight. I managed to get a couple hours nap though it can’t be really called one as I tend to get up everytime I hear a baby’s cry or people ranting. I checked my watch again, almost 6am and the sun was about to rise. The rain got tired and it already stopped. I looked around and people, looking like zombies due to lack of proper rest, were starting to get up and gather their stuff. Some were already looking on the screen to check if there’s any progress on the flights.

I was feeling so queasy and dirty and muggy and I really needed to change my underwear and wash my face. I was tired and hungry and lost at what’s gonna happen or when we’re gonna fly. It was after lunch time that Cathay Pacific started to gather all of its passengers again and released new boarding passes. It indicated that we’re flying around 7pm and hopefully the weather stays calm. It was only 1:30pm that time. Another 5.5 hours to wait.

Eventually, time to fly again came. The take off was smooth and I slept almost throughout the whole flight. I was so tired. The flight attendant woke me up when it was time to eat and when we were about to land to Dubai. I looked out the window and saw some very bright lights. At that time, a big smile was formed on my face again. This is it! I am on the airspace of Dubai and we’re about to land.

We landed smoothly. The plane finally came to a stop and again, people got overly excited on going out of the plane and everyone hurriedly reached for their luggage in the compartments.

It was my turn to step out of the plane, I took a step and this very warm gush of wind welcomed me. (it felt like a hairdryer was directly in front of my face!) It was the warmest welcome from Dubai! 😉

So I walked towards the airport together with my now flying buddies and headed to the immigration counter where we got our passports stamped. Next was to get our checked-in luggage. Another announcement from Cathay Pacific, (they really loved us!), our luggages were accidentally placed in another plane and that plane is still in Hongkong! They asked us to leave a contact number and that they will contact us once it arrives.

It was almost 1 week since I arrived when they called our office and informed me that I can pick up my luggage from the airport. I had to buy some clothes when I arrived as I don’t have anything to wear to work. I was quite happy to see my luggage, sealed with packaging tape. My name on every space available wasn’t there anymore as water washed it all off. (apparently due to raining in Hongkong). My luggage was kind of dripping with water when I picked it up. I opened it at our flat and it wasn’t a very good sight to behold! All of my clothes were soaked in water. The food, specially the rice cake that I was supposed to give to a fellow Filipino was already spoiled and soaked in water too. Everything was just mixed inside my luggage. No one stole my bag or tried to put some lethal weapon or drugs inside, but the rain water found its way. 🙂 How lucky can someone be? Hahahaha

So there you go guys, my unforgettable journey to Dubai in 2006 that I don’t think I will ever forget. EVER! 😉

My next posts will be mostly about my work there and touristy things to do when in UAE! 😉

Hope you enjoyed reading! 😉