Back to the Philippines after 10 years – Part 1

While the Czech Republic was knee-deep in snow, we went for a short trip to my motherland, the Philippines.  It was the first trip for my family to this land of eternal sunshine, and we all enjoyed it immensely.

Our first few days were spent in Manila, where I was able to meet and spend time with my long-time friends.  We stayed at a hotel in the Makati business district.  I specifically chose this location because it was not too far from the airport and close to one of the popular malls in the city.  Prior to our trip, I’ve read news about the worsening traffic in the metro, so I decided to have us stay in a place where meetups will be convenient and a trip to the airport will not melt the snow folks who are travelling with me.

It was great bonding with my friends again and I was happy that my family instantly became comfortable with them.

After 3 days, we flew out to Bohol, where we spent the most time in.  Everyday there was something in the itinerary.  A few of the places we visited were….

SONY DSC  The exotic animal park in Loay, where my son and my husband fearlessly petted a snake.

The idea seemed cool, but it was not to my liking.  I would rather watch them at a distance.  On this trip, I was also able to show my kids where the rice comes from.

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If you have ever met a Filipino, you would know that we love rice.   It is such an important element in our culture.  I have yet to meet a Filipino who doesn’t like rice.

Another famous attraction that we visited is the Loboc floating restaurant.

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I have been to this restaurant several times during my younger years, and I was quite happy to go back there.  I have noticed a few improvements from the last 10 years.  The port is now well-built and those boats themselves had a little face lift.

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But what amused me though were the air-conditioned bathrooms.   Finally someone figured out that a restroom should live up to its name — a place to rest.  Those restrooms provided visitors a much-needed respite from the tropical heat.

On this same journey, we also hit another major spot, the Chocolate hills.

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The hills were not very “chocolatey” on this visit because it was just the end of the monsoon season.  Every day it had its daily dose of rain.

On the way there, we also dropped by the Bilar man-made tropical forest, where we paid a visit to the all-knowing Tarsiers of Bohol at a conservation park nearby.

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Before heading out for home, we decided to drop by a butterfly sanctuary where there was much fun to be had.

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We had a very funny guide who told us that he used to work with a Czech volunteer.  It was interesting to know that like Filipinos, Czechs are also everywhere.

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Like this Czech butterfly for instance.

Stay tuned for the next part of this butterfly’s Philippine adventure.

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The Art of Waiting

I only have one week left before I get to meet my daughter. Somehow, it seems like such a long wait. I am quite excited and nervous at the same time. To keep me occupied, I have busied myself arranging and re-arranging both of my children’s rooms. My nursery is still unfinished at this point since I am still missing one more detail.

Anyway, here are pictures of my son’s bedroom now.

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I didn’t want to do any painting so I decorated the bare walls with decorative stickers instead.

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The windows currently have automatic electronic blinds, but somehow I feel like it may need some curtains.  But the thing is, this house is passive and we need to absorb the light from the sun as much as possible, so I am still re-thinking it.

Anyhow, I’ve also been trying to eat healthily these days since I am really HUGE now.  I’ve already gained 15kg (33lbs), and for someone who’s short, that is not good.

Anyway, I found this all-natural juice from my neighborhood store and I’m loving it now.

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With one more week to go, I hope I don’t gain any more weight. Otherwise,  I may be running like crazy after my daughter is born just to shed off all the weight I’ve gained.

 

 

 

Weekend Photo Challenge – Eating

My friend Eszter at Kukolina created this challenge to showcase one’s outfit for the day or some random baby photos describing the topic for the week. In my present condition, I decided to opt out of the first challenge since I am not very comfortable with my figure right now.

The topic for the second challenge this week is eating. So here are a few pictures of Jakub doing just that – eating.

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This was taken this afternoon as he was devouring his afternoon doughnut snack.

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I can’t believe how much he has grown.  This was how he used to eat.

Have a great weekend!

 

Slivovice: The Unofficial National Currency

The Czech Korun is the Czech Republic’s national currency. But do you know that they also have an unofficial currency? Yes, folks. It is the Slivovice (plum liquor).

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Slivovice is a distilled wine spirit made from plums. It is widely produced everywhere in Czech, but primarily in the region of Moravia, where my husband is from. To produce slivovice, the plums and their ground kernels are initially crushed and pressed. Yeast, starch, and sugar may be added to the juice, and the mixture is then allowed to ferment. After some time, it is brought to a government-certified distillery for the final step in the process. In the olden times, the whole processing of slivovice used to be done at home. However, to prevent errors in the distillation process (production of methanol), home distillation is now banned. Besides, it is also a good opportunity for the government to collect taxes on the product.

On our first year here in Czech, my father-in-law brought us to a private distillery where he brought his own fermented products ready for distillation. It was interesting for me to witness the distillation process, but equally interesting to witness the eager faces of the men waiting for their final product. They take pride in the percentage of alcohol from their mixture. The usual strength of privately-produced slivovice is 50%. Most commercially-produced products have lower strength. On that particular event, ours had 55%. My father-in-law was beaming with pride.

Since my father-in-law is a slivovice hobbyist, we need not make our own as we regularly have a constant supply of this product.  He makes gallons of it for his own private consumption and for distribution to his 2 sons.

This past weekend, my husband and his father were working on our driveway. We don’t own a cement mixer and had to borrow one form our neighbor. It was such a big help and we were very lucky to have such kind neighbors who are ready to lend a helping hand when needed. As a sign of gratitude for the favor, I asked them if I should bake a cake that they may bring with the mixer when they return the equipment borrowed. They were both laughing, as they said: “What do you mean cake? Slivovice. That’s what we’re bringing. It is the Unofficial national currency.”

That day, I had another lesson in Czech culture.

My Growing Belly….and Family

I am now on my 35th week of pregnancy and as anxious as ever to give birth.  Albeit, life had never been more hectic lately.  I had been keeping myself busy with arranging my children’s bedrooms and making checklist after checklist of all the things we would need for the baby while at the same time checking my toddler’s needs.    One tricky thing about raising children is that they grow very fast – literally.  With the changing season, I have to constantly check that my son has adequate and appropriate clothing for the day’s weather.  Last season’s pants are now too short, and although he didn’t gain much horizontally, some of his shirts are also getting shorter.  I know that I will not be able to do a lot of shopping when the baby arrives, so I have now stocked up on some fall and winter clothing.  Plus, I made sure that all his vaccinations and doctor and dentist check-ups are up-to-date, and made an effort to schedule some of these appointments ahead of time so I will not have to worry about it when I have another child to take care of.  As you may notice, I am a freak when it comes to organizing things.  I believe that in order to be successful in anything, adequate preparation has to be done and that means everything has to be well-organized.

I have also been reading about how to help older siblings cope with the arrival of a new member of the family.  It is said that since all the attention will now be focused on the baby, it is important for parents to be mindful of the older child.   My husband and I have already talked about it and we have decided to involve Jakub in everything that has to do with his sister — from helping out with diaper changes to being on the lookout for hazards that may be harmful to the baby.  Almost everyday, I remind him that he is going to be a big brother soon and I am happy to note that he exhibits a certain sense of pride in his new role.

Anyway,  we had a maternity photo session last week to document the anticipation of our little one’s arrival.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite shots.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It is normally difficult to get a toddler’s full attention in this type of activity, but my little boy was surprisingly enjoying it.  He was willing to oblige to every pose and was always excited to check out his own image in the camera after a shot was taken.

Here’s one of my favorite photos.  The big brother communicating with his baby sister.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

She is already loved.

Photo: Jan Strnad
Photo by : Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

My growing belly….and family.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

We still have about a month to go before we finally meet her.  I feel SO HUGE that it seems like there’s no more room left for growing.  This is the longest month ever.  Although I am suffering from all the discomfort that pregnancy brings, I am happily looking forward to finally hold my little girl in my arms.

Easter Fever

Next to Christmas, Easter is the biggest celebration here in Czech.  Although there a number of Christians in the Czech Republic, its is not a serious religious celebration.  Easter is now limited to the beginning of spring since during the Communist era, its religious connotations were suppressed.

The other day my husband asked me to buy a whip for my son.  Yes, a whip(pomlázka).  Not to whip him, but to whip me.  It is a long held tradition over here for men/boys to whip the women during Easter.  It is believed that whipping chases away illnesses and bad spirits and bring health and youth for the rest of the year to anyone who is whipped.  In return, girls reward boys  with a painted egg, or a candy.

Since it will be our first Easter here, we are celebrating it with my husband’s family.  I do not know how to make a whip or hand-paint eggs so I bought them from the Easter market.  Easter markets are also very popular over here.  Like Christmas markets, you get to see crafts and  food items sold in the stalls.  The atmosphere is generally festive and both locals and foreigners flock these markets.

Prague Old Town Easter Market

In my husband’s family, boys outnumber girls.  I expect  a lot of whipping and a lot more eggs.   When my husband told me about this tradition, I thought it was weird.  It gets even weirder when Easter Sunday is actually celebrated on Monday.