Tis the season

theme-christmasI love Christmas. In the Philippines, where I was born and raised, the decor goes up as soon as September starts. It’s a predominantly Catholic/Christian country entrenched in American consumerism so that’s likely why they go hard in celebrating the holiday. Growing up I don’t think I recall the months or days leading up to Christmas but rather have so many fond memories of that day itself. I am fortunate to have grown up in a large family and every holiday season usually involves celebrating with my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.

Over the last few years I’ve come to love the season, not for the day of gift giving but the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s in these weeks that we get a glimpse of humanity at its finest. There are hoards of individuals volunteering their services for the less fortunate, the marginalized and the sick. And then there are companies and organizations mobilizing to drive funding to the organizations that are the pillars to our social communities. From a macro-society perspective it’s a win-win for everyone.

With the recent loss of a loved one and just this week having heard about the shocking loss of an acquaintance I’m learning to understand that this season is about growth – not materially but spiritually. I’m not going to talk about religion or mysticism here but more so the growth of our self conscience. This is a time to observe the blessings or fortunes around you, to look at the silver linings, the positives in every occasion and reflect on how this has made the life you are happy with or rather has driven you towards working for a life you want.

In today’s world it’s easy to fall into despair but I’m a firm believer that we have to look towards the positive in order to accomplish greater things in life. The cycle downward is easy and the climb up is hard but it is always always worth it.

Ireland (ii): Land of the rainbows

I definitely did not expect Galway to be as great as it was. Upon arrival to downtown my senses were thrilled with all kinds of sights, sounds and scents.

13680697_10153604679976436_5415760361339878812_nCobblestone alleyways filled with al fresco dining, banner flags strung throughout the street, happy fiddlers playing such fun tunes and crowds of people flocked through each establishment. We checked out a few establishments for our first night. We had dinner at the only restaurant that was not overly full – it was an Asian noodle house. But then stopped at various pubs like the Quay, The King’s Head, The Cellar Bar for a pint. When we head back to our Airbnb accommodation we were surprised with a massive loud street party put on by Red Bull energy drink with a live DJ turning tables in a trunk out on the street. It was the craziest and funnest random party ever!

Our first day in Galway was pretty great, although the one thing that I noticed about Galway was that everyone smokes everywhere and the smoke made my eyes dry and my head hurt. Aside from that downtown Galway was beautiful!

13876613_10153604704576436_3723355539356678484_nWe decided to drive to Kerry to do the Ring of Kerry, backwards. We drove around the craziest narrow roadways and the scariest part was that large (I’m talking ginormous) tour buses drove around it. We didn’t pick the greatest day to travel there as the weather was not on our side but it was lush, green and full of sheep 🙂

The next few days spent in Galway were just staying around town lounging and adventuring around neighbouring sights. We checked out the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle & the Folk Park – both were definitely sites to check out.

13879475_10153604707611436_8167719958109592884_nThe last day my fiance took me for a drive further north of Galway, past Connemara. Our drive took us around some lakes and it was just breathtaking. We stopped at Abbeyglen Castle where I was surprised with a night’s stay…and my now beautiful engagement ring. I won’t go in too much detail but we arrived at the castle and were greeted with a champagne reception, a 5 course dinner and dessert then a beautiful cozy engagement by a fireplace.

 

 

A mid-summer dream: Ireland (i)

A month ago I, along with my then boyfriend, embarked on an adventure to Europe. We set out to meet his family in Ireland, party at Temple Bar for my 30th and then lounge by a beach in sunny Portugal. While we did all those things – the trip was just so much more than I could ever have imagined.

As a teen stuck at home with religious regimented parents, my escape came through novels and sometimes I indulged in the cheesy but gloriously romantic Nora Robert paperbacks. I remember picking up a particular three part saga set in Ireland which likely started my fascination for this country – along with the famous St. Patrick’s Day. Who wouldn’t want to travel to a country with beer, rainbows and pots of gold?

Well, it was as magical as I had imagined it to be!

13900145_10153604668826436_163431437208945735_nIreland is filled with lush greenery, meadows of sheep and horizons filled with ruins and castles and cliffs. Their little towns, narrow roads and the most wonderful people make this country one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. We drove to a little town in Wicklow called Gleanealy, checked out Black Castle, Glendalough, the Sally Gap and Britta’s Bay. Our B&B apartment right in Wicklow town called the River’s Inn was run by a friendly older woman with the strongest Irish accent. She brought us coffee and tea every morning which always came with a wonderful cheery chat.

Our second night in the country we were invited by my fiancé’s auntie to dinner – this was my very first experience with a large Irish family for a meal. I’ll be honest, I was very anxious and I don’t get anxious much. It turned out to be an amazing evening, everyone was so chatty and happy! It might have had to do with the yummy food that his aunt had laboured over, or the endless wine, or the glorious cheese!!! Needless to say I left feeling happy.

13895286_10153604669906436_1841810436899885581_nIrish people are just such happy people. For my 30th birthday I rallied up my boyfriend’s siblings and dragged them out to Temple Bar to celebrate with me. Temple Bar is an area in Dublin full of pubs, bars and eateries. While the most touristy bars had loads of people there were no fights or anyone showing aggressive behaviour. Sure there were those who were quite drunk but bouncers/door security aside, everyone seemed to be in a happy and peaceful drunken state! This area was mostly filled with tourists but this was my general observation as I traveled throughout the counties in Ireland (as I was of course stopping at pubs and bars along the way).

At the end of our first week there we attended a christening for my fiancé’s god-daughter who is one of the cutest wide eyed chubby cheeked ginger babies I have ever met. After the christening we were again served with glorious delicious food. I was definitely beginning to see the parallels in the Irish culture with my Filipino one!

 

 

 

Hold fast, stand firm.

When I was nearly complete with my undergraduate degree in economics I remember sitting in one of my classes where the professor broke society down into supply & demand graphs. There were those that consumed, and those that provided for the demand; some small business, larger corporations and then the very elusive select top uber groups that held the monopoly of the world’s economy within their control.  Am I mixing up my sociology/economics courses? Maybe – but in today’s news it seems that everywhere you turn there is some insane series of events (horrific and unbelievable) that seem to be enforcing the perspective of “my people”. I’m not belittling and want to fully admit my bias that I have not been primarily affected. If you stop to look at the macro perspective with all the recent events and the news we see – it seems like all of it creates feelings of us vs. them.

When Trump started his campaign the news went nuts with his proposition of building walls and segregation, little did we know this was just the beginning. Throughout his campaign news coverage of riots and racial cards were brought to the forefront. Awareness of this was one thing but for some it seemed to bring people to rally on one side versus the other. Then Brexit, then the horrible horrific shootings in America – what is happening in society today?  Then even more local, the Vancouver housing market asking us to shut our doors to the foreigners – yes I believe they are part of the reason for the insane pricing hikes but the conversations that are stemming from this are really quite racial. And with all that’s happening in the common wealth nations there is little to be seen or said about what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s like it’s been completely removed from our news so we can focus on the shootings, the protests and the injustices of North America and the privileged European countries. Who is controlling what we see and why are they feeding us this?

I opted to change my path in university and did not pursue my major in economics, adding another four years of study, because I refused to see people as cattle. I refuse to let the select elite garner influence how I feel about society or how I treat other human beings.

Yes, we need to update our justice & learning institutions, we need to eradicate racial perspectives of difference and through all of these events we must remember that we are one human race.  There is no separation. We don’t need to side with one or the other. We are one people. That is what I choose to derive from all the chaos of world events today.

Social media has woven us into a tighter and more knowledgable social community. Here’s to holding your virtual hand and hoping for a better now.

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Cancer

This topic is a heavy hitter. It seems that nowadays most people are unfortunately familiar with this disease. Cancer as everyone knows is the uncontrollable growth/division of abnormal cells within the body. Is it the increasing prevalence of social media or is our society growing susceptible to cancer?

In 2010, the year I graduated from my bachelors degree, I planned to travel around the world to celebrate my graduation from university. Those plans changed when I found out that my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I consider all my family close, my aunt lived with my family for the first 7 years of my life. So I decided to stay in Manila for three months while she underwent her mastectomy and chemo treatments. It was also during that time that her son, my cousin, Noel had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He passed away five months after he was diagnosed; two months after his 8th birthday. My family was devastated and at a loss, I still am. In the next year my aunt, his mom, had been cleared of her breast cancer so there was the silver lining.

Last August I had learned that my aunt’s cancer had come back. It’s a devastating feeling really and I’m not the one going through it. Chemotherapy is a painful process and it drains every ounce of life you have in you. It took a while to get her motivated to want treatment and to see hope for a cure but she came around to it.

Last week I was told that her cancer has spread. There are tumors all over her stomach and right outside her liver. I’m at a loss of how to describe what I feel or what I think but know that I need to do something. I’ve suggested natural alternative approaches, of course to her approval, but for now I need to feel productive. So I am reaching out to you, my blog readers, friends & family for support.

I’m weary to start a personal funding page as I know that there are so many causes and people that deserve so much and I know I personally have so little.  Prior to being told about my aunt’s condition, I was in the process of launching my virtual administration & marketing support business: Projects by Maria.

I’ve decided to contribute my profits towards her treatment this year because it’s the very least I can do.  If you know of a small business that might be interested in my services please forward my information or check out my Facebook page.

 

ProjectsByMaria Site Logo 2

 

House Special Surprise

My boyfriend and I went on a double date last night at a new restaurant in Yaletown at House Special. We were invited as my friend knows the owners and I went because I hadn’t seen my friend in a long time. I was told it was a Vietnamese restaurant so I expected pho and rice noodles. To my surprise their dishes were beyond any regular Vietnamese restaurant.

IMG_7566Upon walking to the door I was greeted by cute paper lanterns strung on their patio with industrial brick of Yaletown as the backdrop made me feel as if I were in a different city. Walking through the door you are immediately greeted by an big open bar seating. Their menu was simple, and amazingly affordable with their share plates. Their tapas style Vietnamese cuisine was one of the first surprises of the night.

Our group ordered a few dishes but my favourites, that I now crave, were the spring rolls, crispy ribs, Saigon steak and Vietnamese pork tacos. I should have remembered the proper names for these dishes as they might seem like the ribs/steak/tacos you can get anywhere but they really are not. I’ve never had ribs so juicy and savoury at the same time, the meat literally came off the bone. Their pork tacos were very different from your average taco as it was more like a crepe wrap made with coconut than a flour or corn tortilla shell. I thought that the big seller for me was that everything tasted fresh. From the basil to the beansprout it all tasted as if it were just delivered that morning which was a surprise as I’ve been to far too many pho diners with I feel I should have been more adventurous and gone for salads and their pho but that just means I have more of a reason to come back.

My boyfriend who claims that he is not a fan of Vietnamese food (I didn’t tell my friend this ahead of time to save face) was suddenly converted and already wants to go back. Their wine & beer menu along with the already happening buzz in Yaletown leads me to predict that this restaurant will be this summer’s social dinner destination for those wanting to explore a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine.

 

Money, money, money

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t work for money. My current and previous co-workers know that I will go above and beyond my work hours to pitch in and make sure projects are completed. Money was a term I labeled to be an unnecessary. I was living my idealistic and socialist life until recently.

It’s quite difficult to live in a consumer driven and high tech society today. All my life I have been conflicted with this notion of the haves and have nots and its relation to money/wealth. While my definitions of success or wealth are not directly tied to money, looking back the dollar bills are what have actually played a part in my stability and opportunity to explore. Without an income I wouldn’t have shelter and food for my wellbeing & health. Without money for transportation I would not have access to go where I needed to help others; I use my own money to volunteer whether by donation, transportation expense or even just time. You get my drift …

Quite recently I’ve come to challenge my perception and run head on to tackle my understanding of the importance of money. Earlier this year I was approached on social media by person I knew who worked for a booming high tech company. They had let me know that their company was hiring a marketing manager and asked if I was interested. I had let them know that I was happy at my company and I was still completing my marketing management certificate but would consider it. Then I asked them what the salary rate was and sent them the range that I felt comfortable with. I never heard a response. Three months later, a position at the company appeared and reminded me that I hadn’t heard back from my contact. I went back to our message thread and asked what the challenges were. She had called me and let me know that she was put off that I had started asking about the salary. And in my mind, I thought it was a rational logical step to ask for salary information when trying to consider a new opportunity. But she clearly sounded disgusted, hence the lack of any response.

This experience was so un-nerving to me. I brought it to my private Facebook group of amazing women who call themselves ‘the Girl Gang’. The Girl Gang is composed of a wide spectrum of women who are employed/freelance within various industries in Vancouver. The common thread we share is the passion to drive women forward towards gender equality. I brought my concerns to the group and asked for their opinion as I didn’t realize there was a faux pas with discussing salary rates in job applications. I received various supportive comments that echoed my sentiments that asking about salaries and income is a logical step in the employment process as it is an exchange of services and time for money. They also voiced that men and most assertive women have been doing this for ages and that its the path towards successful employment occupation (as you typically work for the value your company places on to you through your salary).

There was a comment that I believe mirrored the sentiments of my contact. The comment expressed that the tech industry is quite competitive so candidates need to set themselves apart from others to distinguish their qualities and that I should be asking what I can contribute to the team instead of what I will be making. I understood where they were coming from as that is exactly what I consider when going through the notions of the job hunting process. In the end I understand that they are looking out for their company. And I, as a woman who is trying to nurture growth in all aspects of my person, am looking to see the benefits for all parties involved.

Why are questions of salary and income judged upon like this? It feels like the hiring process still uses some personal bias to judge the fit/credibility of an applicant with the first few questions. Are women or people in general not able to ask information without it infringing on their application? People have families, mortgages and financial needs to fulfill that determine their the quality of their life satisfaction – if they aren’t able to ask these questions in the beginning and find out later that it’s not up to par then wouldn’t it be wasteful to everyone’s time? How is it that the concept of “money” is looked at so negatively as a bad motivation when occupations like “account sales managers” exist to push companies forward through commission based sales?

There is an understanding that when you apply for a job, most especially in a competitive industry, you have to do your research and salary research is one of them. I definitely understand that however how does this one question deem the candidate unattractive? Especially in the experience I had. Let’s be honest here, money drives our consumer driven society forward. Yes, it is a conduit and our focus should not be ‘money’ but if we were to take it at face value instead of beating around the bush everyone would be better off.