Do what you love. Do it often.

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Five years ago (more or less), someone gave me a printout of The Holstee Manifesto. ¬†I’ve lived by this manifesto even before it became popularized and commoditized, but it did eloquently express how I think passion should be brought to life and how life should be well-lived.

I’ve always been a believer of following one’s dreams. I wear my passion on my sleeves and I wear it proudly.

So despite my work frenzy, I painstakingly allot time and effort to do things I’m passionate about, no matter how inundated I get, courtesy of my 9-9 job.

Passion and purpose are things that we should all live for. I don’t think I will ever stop pursuing mine.

Whatever yours is, it’s never too late to run after it. If you don’t know just yet, perhaps it’s time to figure it out. ūüôā

Embracing Change

Bella Expatria turned a year old this month. Although I wish I could have written more or I could have shared more, time will always be my adversary in terms of priorities and my long list of to-dos. That’s a given life truth for me.

I wish I had the luxury of even half a day’s worth of just being in a quiet, relaxing corner, armed with a cup of piping hot brew, while in the zone typing away my ideas and everything that I want to say. Truth is, I have to steal these moments.

This Bella made it to a year of writing and blogging. I have to be okay in celebrating this minuscule milestone, because finding the time to do it is already a feat in itself, let alone sustaining it for a year!

Celebrating this anniversary also made me look back and reflect on what has happened. It seemed like a lot has changed, but at the same time, it also somehow feels that nothing did. Quite the paradox, isn’t it?

For the past year, I’ve experienced a whirlwind of changes in my career, my life and my friendships that spun me in a frenzy. I forced myself to keep track and keep up, sometimes at the expense of my health and my sanity.

After everything has been said and done, it was as if I’ve traveled so far and I’ve accomplished so much only to go back to where I started a year ago.

In my head, I’m actually asking this question: “Universe, are you fuckin’ kidding me?

So is there are lesson to take from a year’s worth of journey?

I’ve been an expat for an accumulated total of 4 years now and I’ve been in Jakarta this time around for almost 2 years, yet I feel like I’m still in the beginning of things. ¬†I’ve experienced highs and lows and once again, highs of expat living. Just like any other chosen lifestyle, it has formed its own cycle that just needs riding through.

If there are lessons to be had for me in embracing change, or wading through it for the most part, I can summarize them in 5 learnings that I wanted to share. You don’t even need to be an expat to have these realizations. Personally, they were just more weighted for me because these reminders anchored me in moments of doubt:

1. Let passion and purpose become your truth north.¬†I will change roles, I will change companies and I will most likely change countries in a few years’ time but my passion and purpose as to why I do the things I do are very clear to me.

Perhaps this also comes with age and maturity. Being an aimless wanderer sounded cool in your twenties, but too careless and directionless in your thirties. At some point in time, everyone has to do some adulting.

My family and my career are the two main reasons why I’m an expat. Arshad and I pretty much carved our lives the way we did because we want to pursue our careers without compromising our marriage and our time together.

This is also the reason why we both chose to be in Southeast Asia. We want to be near Manila and KL, so we can pretty much fly in and out to see our family. The choice was driven by our priority: family.

2. People and relationships should be on top of the chain in terms of priorities.¬†Sometimes, we get side-tracked by long hours at work or we’ve got one project too many that we take our relationships and friendships for granted.

I’ve been guilty of the same thing. There were those long days that made me skip my phone calls to Manila or made me take a rain check when I’m just too exhausted to see friends.I assess myself every now and then when I’m becoming a repeat offender. I make it a point to keep in touch with friends and when I’m back in Manila or in KL, no matter how tired I feel, I go out of my way to see the people who matter.

The family and friends in your life will keep you sane when a tide of change hits you. ¬†In all the relocations I’ve made in my life, keeping a consistent and reliable circle of friends kept me grounded and made me feel rock-steady. Here’s the thing though: if you want to have reliable friends who will tide you over the changes in your life, you have to be a reliable friend yourself.

Even if you are far away, make sure you are present in your family and friends’ lives. Remember birthdays and special occasions. Pick the phone up and just make that damn phone call! IDD rates have severely gone down. Hell, we barely need IDD since we’ve got all the OTT platforms to make that video call.

3. Prioritize.¬†Which takes me to my next lesson learned: prioritize the people and things that matter. An expat’s life often requires a lot of traveling and being away from family and friends. This distance also means limited time, and limited time will require you to carefully select and schedule the circle of friends you get to meet every time you come home and visit.

This situation also makes you take a closer look on your relationships and compels you to shortlist the people who really matter. Although it may sound limiting at first, it becomes a filter on who really are your valued relationships.

At the same time, it matters to spend time with people who you become friends with in your host country, because you never know when things will change again – either for them or for you. Likely, you also keep an expat circle who have similar circumstances like yours. Most of the expat stints are within a 2-year range that comes with a renewable contract.

I’ve seen friends come and go, move from our host country to the next one. I’ve attended their send-off parties or at some point in time, they threw mine. The friends we’ve made will come and go – literally. If keeping friendships and valued relationships is a priority for you, make time while they’re still there.

4. Have a grateful heart. ¬†A life of gratitude is a life well-lived, for gratitude’s prerequisite is a positive life perspective. Being in a high-pressure industry and job,¬†I feel a lot of stress and I certainly get a lot of frustrations. What helps me get through long days is counting the accomplishments and blessings that I have – big or small.

I will never have everything. No one’s supposed to. It shouldn’t stop you from being grateful. Admittedly, I forget this because I’m always too eager to accomplish things. I get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I expected it to because I worked hard for them.

Arshad is better in doing this and he is my constant reminder that hey, you cannot imagine how many other people think how awesome your life is and here you are, sulking because you experienced a setback.

Every time I feel that I’m wallowing too much on my frustrations, I begin counting my blessings. I have yet to perfect this, but I’m learning.

5. Emotional resilience.¬†There are certain things that are just beyond my control, no matter how hard I try. ¬†What sucks is sometimes, although you’ve done everything you can, there’s still a lot of external forces beyond you and things just don’t work out the way you want it to.

An expat’s life will always be a sea of change – career, relationships, location. There will always be a curve ball. Grit and emotional resilience help me stay the course even in the toughest days. And emotional resilience doesn’t just mean being tough. It means managing the way you feel about frustrations, failures, unexpected changes and how you cope with them. Emotional resilience is about having that ability to keep your feelings in check so you can adjust swiftly, or even change your plans again.

Expat living is not easy, but at the same time, I can say it’s one of the best decisions that I’ve made: to leave my country and forge my career path somewhere else.¬†Life, whether you are an expat or not, will always be a trail mix of the good and the bad. I choose to see what’s beautiful, to focus on the potentials and the opportunities, instead of revel in minuscule defeat and setbacks.

In a way, my learnings about embracing change in the context of expat living is to keep an open mind and to always be positive. As clich√© as it may sound, the only thing that’s constant in an expat’s life is the one thing that most of us are either averse to or uncomfortable with: change.

 

Makassar in photographs

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending it in Makassar, the fifth largest city in Indonesia. Makassar is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, which is already near the sea and the equator, thus explaining the city’s hot weather.

My driver for the weekend quipped that if Surabaya had 2 suns, Makassar had 4! That explained why the 6:30am sun seemed to be in its peak like it was already 10 in the morning.

I didn’t get to stay long enough to explore the city and I was there for work, but if there is one word to describe Makassar:¬†seafood.¬†Okay, make it two:¬†sumptuous seafood.¬†

I wouldn’t mind flying back in of only to taste the fresh seafood once again.

 

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A drone shot of Makassar: aerial view courtesy of Arshad’s brand spanking new drone

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Fresh crab with salted egg yolk from Rumah Makan Seafood Apong

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Fish parape 2 ways: with spicy sambal sauce and sweet caramelized onions

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My favorite appetizer: seafood otak-otak with the spicy sauce on the side

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My Sex and the City cocktail being prepared at Aston’s On 20 Bar and Dining Sky Lounge

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Cocktails at¬†Aston’s On 20 Bar and Dining Sky Lounge of Aston Hotel

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Cocktails at Melia Hotel’s The Society

Container Turf: There’s a New Kid in Town!

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La Familia in Container Turf on a Friday afternoon

There’s a reason why us Southerners no longer bother to go to Makati or BGC to hang out. Aguirre Street in BF Homes, Para√Īaque, in particular, will always have something new. I get surprised every time I go back to Manila that there’s a new restaurant or bar opening in my ‘hood.

Last week, I went back to Manila for my annual executive check-up. Since this requires fasting, I was famished by 4pm. The family decided to head out to get some quick snacks so I can quell my rumbling hunger.

It was a perfect opportunity to hit the latest food park in our street: Container Turf.¬†We’ve been meaning to go every time I’m in town but the place was always packed! Not a surprise since there were loads of options to choose from in Container Turf. It was teeming with a lot of interesting concessionnaires, so much so that we had to go around twice because we can’t make up our minds what and where to eat!

For drinks, there is a bar at the center where cocktails can be had for P150-P250. I was happy to get a chilled glass of white wine for P150!

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Bella in front of Swig and Guzzle

I happily paired my white wine with Fromagerie’s cheese fondue, which is around P450,

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Cheese fondue from Fromagerie

serving 4 persons. Fromagerie also offers grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, which are nice vegetarian options that I’ll definitely try when I come back.

Arshad, on the other hand, tried the raclette cheese with potatoes and chicken on the side, which was interesting, but preference-wise, raclette is better paired with steak. Who am I to say that, though? I quit meat for a year now. LOL!

The family also tried the nachos from El Chapo’s, the meatless pizza from Ayan’s and Red Buffalo Wings Express’ spicy buffalo wings.

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Container Turf boasts of a 3-storey space where families and groups of friends can hang out to try different kinds of cuisines in one location.

During weekends, the place can be backed. I noticed that people started to pour in as early as 4pm. By 5pm, it was already tough to get seats!

Food prices are quite reasonable, from P150 РP450, which is definitely not bad in terms of price points. It also has Happy Hour, Buy 1 Take 1 promos for off-peak hours or during sunset. With the price this reasonable, no wonder most of the customers are millennials and teenagers!

As for Mi La Familia, let the photo below tell you of how they find the food park. My Mom wished that it had healthier options, though, since a lot of the choices were also deep-fried. I’m glad that there are vegetarian options, but I also wish that they had more. It’s a consolation that some concessionnaires were willing to take the meat out for me and replace it with more cheese or something else.

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La Familia enjoying our grub at the Container Turf

Here are some of the other interesting stalls at the food park. They have Indian, Korean and Indonesian cuisines, too!

The verdict: for reasonably priced food and booze in the area, it’s definitely highly recommended, although the market is skewed towards the younger gen and the (feeling) millennials. My friends and I are already planning a visit as soon as I’m back in town!

You can find more information on Container Turf below:

Address: 238 and 240 BF Aguirre Avenue,¬†Para√Īaque
Instagram: @containerturf
For other reviews about Container Turf, check these out: