New Book Smell

Today, I bought a book for the first time in quite a long time. For the last few years, I’ve been doing all my reading on a tablet in an effort to reduce any travel weight whenever the time came for me to move country again. It’s definitely convenient, but it just isn’t the same as reading an actual book.

I was a bit surprised to find out that books are still expensive — particularly when it’s a newly-released hard cover book. Luckily, you can get some pretty good discounts if you pledge your allegiance to a bookstore by means of a membership card, which is precisely what I did. Extra bonus was that the membership was free (unless the woman just forgot to ask me for my money to pay the membership fee).

So now I have a lovely new book to sniff, and I was actually pretty excited when I was unwrapping it. It was perfect in every way, until I realised… that the discount sticker didn’t come off with the plastic cover… and that it was stuck directly onto the book sleeve.

You monster.

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It’s (Not) More Fun in the Philippines

The Philippines love their acronyms, so here are a few that I’m dealing with at the moment:

OFW – Overseas Filipino Worker

OEC – Overseas Employment Certificate

POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Agency

DOLE – Department of Labor and Employment

Sample sentence: I’m an OFW in need of an OEC that’s issued by POEA but requires clearance from DOLE before issuance.

First of all, well done to POEA for having your evaluator mislead me into thinking that the 2-3 week waiting period was DOLE’s fault. Her display of empathy was convincing as she spoke about how awful she felt that we were being forced to wait on one person’s signature as we risked losing well-paid work. I fell for it when she told me that they, at POEA, work quickly and efficiently to serve and support OFWs.

What she failed to tell me, however, was that before my documents could be sent to DOLE, they would need to go through several departments within POEA to get signed off. Two weeks have gone by, and those signatures still haven’t been collected. She did inform me, though, that they made up the figure of 2-3 weeks and they sort of just hope that it gets done within that time.

I had to attend the mandatory PDOS (Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar) as a requirement for receiving my OEC. When it started, the woman facilitating it asked for a show of hands for first-time OFWs, to which roughly half the room raised their hands. She then asked if there were any veterans in the room — anyone who’d been an OFW for ten years. One man raised his hand. She then went on to say that the seminar was really meant for first-time OFWs so the rest of us were free to day-dream for the rest of her presentation, as long as we didn’t day-dream about her.

A few people laughed, but I was far from amused. She basically just told us that we didn’t have to be there, but we didn’t have a choice about it either. Plus the fact that I’d just sat in rush-hour traffic for an hour and fifteen minutes to travel the 5 kilometres to get there — a ten-minute drive without traffic.

The two things I took away from the seminar were:

  1. Don’t become a prostitute
  2. Buckle your seatbelt on the plane

The other thing that I’ve had to deal with is the medical. They’re asking me to provide this even though my visa and employment pass have already been approved with a previous medical that I’d already done. This can’t be done at just any clinic either, it needs to come from a DOH (Department of Health) accredited clinic.

The first piece of advice I was given was to look for the one closest to me and just get it done. The closest clinic turns out to be 10 kilometres away. The second piece of advice I was given was to do it once my clearance was released so that the medical wouldn’t expire again (because I should expect another three months to pass before you release my papers?!).

I called the clinic to enquire. The woman on the phone tells me that she’s unsure if they do medical checkups for Malaysia-bound OFWs. I’m confused. What does that mean? So now it’s not even about finding the closest clinic, but finding the closest clinic that caters to the country you’re bound for. The ridiculous thing is that it’s not even an international requirement but a local one. Malaysia is never going to see this medical, it’s for POEA. She then tells me that results are given after a week. I was under the impression that I could get the results within the same day.

I must have called over ten clinics before I found one. The prices and release of results varied for each one, but none of them were cheap. And to think that every single OFW has to pay that just to leave.

It’s coming up on three weeks now since this whole fiasco began. I’ve been lucky enough so far to have an employer that tells me they understand that it isn’t my fault, but I know they’re suffering, too. They hired me for a reason and they needed me there weeks ago. They’re losing money for every class that needs to be cancelled because the teacher who was meant to be there to teach it isn’t there. They’re potentially losing credibility because of it. They’re possibly regretting hiring me now because hiring someone else could have meant that they could have avoided this entire situation.

I don’t know if it’s nearly over. I don’t know what sort of place takes over two weeks to process a document. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get this done. This entire thing is meant to be for the well-being of the OFW, but it really feels like it hurts a lot more than it helps.

Finding a decent job isn’t easy. POEA and DOLE need to fix this insanity. When people tell me that there’s a delay because there’s been a change in signatory, reorganisation in departments, and lots of meetings going on, that is not acceptable. The people shouldn’t have to suffer for your lack of organisation. How many people have lost jobs because of this? How many companies have blacklisted Filipino employees because of this? How many qualified, talented Filipinos have lost opportunities because of this?

People say to be patient and wait it out because leaving without compliance will cause problems for me in the future. Being unemployed causes some pretty big problems, too. That’s the trouble with this country. The people are told to just bear it and they do.

Don’t even get me started on the Grab/Uber lunacy happening right now.

It is definitely not more fun in the Philippines.

Pursuing Creativity

I’ve been out of the classroom for a few months now, so I don’t have any teacher stories to tell, which should explain the lack of updates/posts. I do, however, have a job interview next week that I need to prepare for because it’s a pretty big one and I definitely, definitely want it. My only fear at this point is that I’ve been on a break for too long and that I’ve already forgotten how to lesson plan and teach (but that doesn’t happen, right?).

Back in January, I mentioned that I picked up a new hobby in brush lettering, doodling, and bullet journalling. I’m happy to report that I haven’t given up and I’m still at it.

Because I’m not really busy in terms of having a schedule, the bullet journalling has taken a back seat, but I still have a lot of fun creating my monthly spreads/calendars.

Every week, I try to create a mandala – “a complex abstract design that is usually circular in form” according to a Google search for a definition. I find the process very relaxing and almost meditative. Depending on how intricate I decide to make the patterns, it could take several hours to complete one. If I choose to do something a bit more simple, though, I could be done in an hour or less. I think my record so far is four hours in one sitting. Most times, though, I will take a break and do a little bit every day because it can be torture on the hand to go non-stop.

The area that I’ve focused on the most is brush lettering. This is something that I’ve been practising daily, sometimes a lot less than I should, but I do practise nonetheless. I joined an online class where I gained enough confidence to share my work and it got positive feedback which then led me to join two daily lettering challenges on Instagram. The challenges give you a prompt, usually a word, and you create something based on the prompt.

With all three creative pursuits, I enjoy the challenge that is presented in attempting to create something new, something different from the one before, something unique. Some days, it can be really difficult to get inspired, but I think that’s part of the process.

I honestly think that if I had jumped straight into another job after my previous one, I would never have done any of this creative stuff. I would have established a routine and I would have watched Netflix on my days off. I may not be great at any of it, but at least I know that I’m capable of it and that means a lot to me.

These are definitely things that I will make sure to keep in my routine once I’m back at work.

2016 Highlights

I know that it’s basically halfway through January (where has the time gone?!) but I feel like I sort of neglected this blog in 2016, so I just wanted to post something to make up for it a little bit. Here’s a recap of the highlights.

Hanoi. The delicious food, the beautiful ceramics, the quaint scenery, the wonderful people.

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Paper. IH CYLT certificate, met the legendary Jim Scrivener and got him to sign his amazing book, and Best Teacher of the Quarter Award.

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Travels. I was able to do a bit of travelling which my passport was quite happy about.

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Stationery. It was a good year for stationery.

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๐Ÿ™‚

Brush Pens

While I was browsing through Pinterest discovering the art of brush lettering, the most recommended pens were the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. There were pictures of the pens in the posts, but I had no idea how big they were until I actually saw one.

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The people who do the tutorial videos online make it look super easy. I’m still practising. ๐Ÿ™‚

New Year, New Hobby

I’ve always had a thing for stationery for as long as I can remember. I don’t know why. I remember being in grade school and spending my allowance on things like pencils with smiley faces on them or erasers shaped like fruits. They didn’t erase particularly well, but they were nice to look at.

Before I moved to Malaysia a few years ago, my addiction to Post-Its slowly crept in until it reached ridiculous heights. While I was in Malaysia, the pen hoarding began. I think it started with the Sharpies. My time in Vietnam created some kind of monster. I think it was because I felt very stationery deprived there that when I was able to set foot into a properly stocked stationery section, I just wanted everything. And I bought it all.

I reasoned that I could put these to use in the classroom. But who was I kidding, there was absolutely no way I was going to let the kids have them after I’d seen what they were capable of doing to whiteboard markers and pencils I’d lent them. So my pens sat mostly unused.

Late last year, I discovered bullet journaling and brush lettering on Pinterest. I was initially drawn to brush lettering because the addict in me saw new pens that could be acquired for my collection. Also, I’d always been interested in calligraphy but had never quite gotten into it (regrettably). Bullet journaling, on the other hand, gave me a way to be creative – something that I’ve never really thought of myself as. The two of them together equals a use for my pens.

So this year, I’m trying to explore my creative side – whether or not I have one, and if I do, how much of it do I have? I’m trying to do something creative every day, even if it’s something as simple as lettering practice (because that stuff is not easy). I don’t think I’m completely terrible at it and I actually find it relaxing and enjoyable. Plus, my pens are getting used like they’re meant to be.

I’m really good at starting things and not sticking with it, but I’m hoping this will be different. I’ve just started so I’m not confident enough to post any of my work yet, but at some point, hopefully, I will.

Also – disclaimer – I’m not using this new hobby as an excuse to buy more pens.

 

Cleaning Up

I ideally wanted to start this process months ago, but every time I told myself that I’d do it next week, sleeping in was top priority. I started cleaning out my cubby at work a few days ago — though if I’m being completely honest, I have two cubbies when we’re really only supposed to have one. Today, I started with the files I’ve been keeping at home. I have made a few observations.

Observation number one: Way too much paper. Course book pages, worksheets, templates, lesson plans. It’s no wonder I have two cubbies. What accumulates over the course of a year is a shocking amount of paper and I couldn’t help but feel absolutely wasteful about it.

Observation number two: I’m not as organised as everyone seems to think I am. If I were, I’d be able to have just the one cubby and I wouldn’t be drowning in so much useless (and wasted) paper.

Observation number three: Dust, cobwebs, and rust. If something has been sitting in the same spot for a long enough time for it to gather dust and have cobwebs built all over it, it must be safe to assume that it’s not really a useful thing to have. Also, metal paper clips are nice, shiny, and look more professional than the colourful plastic coated ones, but if left to sit in a file, untouched, for an extended period of time, it will get rusty along with the paper it happens to be making contact with. I don’t know if that’s just an Asian thing with the weather and the humidity, but I am definitely swearing off metal paper clips. The same goes for staples, unfortunately, but I don’t think I can swear those off.

I will definitely try to get rid of as much as I can since I aim to travel as light as possible upon my exit. I will do my absolute best not to be too sentimental and step away from the hoarder mentality ofย I might need it orย it might be useful some day. May be easier said than done, but we’ll see how it goes, I guess.

Stationery 2

It’s no secret that I love stationery. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a thing for pens since I was a kid. 

Here are the contents of the pencil case I bring with me to work. 


This is one pencil case. This is probably less than half of the total amount of pens that I actually own and have with me right now. 

Whoa. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Fridays are My Mondays

I used to work regular 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday jobs and it was always great when Friday came along because it meant it was the last working day of the week and then it was the weekend — two whole days of doing absolutely whatever I wanted, which was usually just staying home, in bed, all day (since it’s normally way too crowded anywhere at the weekend anyway).

For the last eight months (I’ve been living in Hanoi for eight months now, by the way), I’ve been working with a different schedule than what I’ve been used to. For one thing, I do split-shifts at the weekend, so I start in the morning and finish at night. During the week, I start teaching in the evening which leaves my mornings and afternoons free to sleep in or run errands or do other things — coursework the last three months. I get two days off and then I start again on Friday. The thing about Fridays is that I teach two classes which means that I end quite late and it’s the latest day in my entire schedule. So when people write ‘Hurray for Friday’ posts online, I can no longer relate because Fridays are my Mondays.

Summer is coming, though, so that will mean a change in schedule — different days off, different teaching times, and new classes. It’s madness from what I’ve heard from my colleagues who were here for previous summer classes and they say that I can expect my hours to double. I suppose I’ll be able to see for myself soon enough and at least the course is out of the way (more on that in another post soon).