I fell in love with Baler and surfing

As the Philippines is surrounded by water, surfing is a relatively common sport to pursue here. My dad, as it turns out, grew up an area with perfect waves for surfing. At the end of my stay with dad, they took me to Baler in Aurora where I discovered my new found love for surfing.

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Baler is a magical place. So magical I can even see myself staying here for a long period of time. Filled with relaxed, friendly, welcoming locals, who are really there to make sure you will have a good time. You’d see people of all ages on surfboards, from children doing crazy tricks on the waves (yeah, I felt super self-conscious with them around as a first-time surfer), to grandparents still rocking their surfboards in the water. If they’re not on their surfboards in the water, you’d see the locals on their bikes or longboards, cruising down the long boardwalk by the surfing beach. Their lifestyle really is sleep, eat, surf, party, repeat. Surfing 6am in the morning and again in the afternoon, eating and napping in between until you end your day with a beer. Surfers are my new favourite type of people. If medschool fails, I’ll retire to the beach with a surfboard and spread love to the world with my ukulele. Sounds like the dream to me.

It’s hard to describe the exhilarating feeling when you’re surfing a wave on a surfboard. The adrenaline kick of cruising on top of a wave, taking you to shore. Kuya Doods my surfing instructor from Baler Surf School was very patient but supportive. He was so good that he already managed to get me surfing on my third wave during my first lesson. By the end of my one hour session, I was already longing for my next lesson the next day. Really, I couldn’t sleep because of my excitement and even watched Lilo & Stitch in true surfing spirit. Nevertheless, I managed to sleep 4h and woke up at 7am again to go surfing. You can say I am now hooked.

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The next day came and after the end of my second one-hour session with Kuya Doods, I am now ready to take on waves by myself. Bring it on!

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Thank you Kuya Doods for introducing me to my new-found love for surfing, and my family for bringing me to Baler. I’ll definitely be back. Next time I’ll bring more people and definitely stay for longer than just overnight. Next time I’m back, you’ll see me cruising the big waves, I swear!

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Baguio for the weekend

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When I was baby, my family and I lived in the US for a while owing to my mom’s studies. As it is common in the West to have cut down pine trees as Christmas trees, we had that during our time there. We wanted the same when we moved back but as the Philippines is a tropical country, they’re not easy to come by. Except for in Baguio. Therefore during one Christmas, we decided to make the trip to Baguio to get a “real” Christmas tree. So ever since I was a child in the Philippines, I have known Baguio as the “cold” city where Christmas trees grow. Which is basically what it is.

Baguio City is a city created during the American occupation for Americans to stay in to escape the heat of the summer, as it is high up in the mountains and is cooler. You actually see people wear winter clothes there. I visited for the first time after perhaps 20 years last year, and again over the weekend. The “cold” reminded me of home!

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As Baguio is known for their cool climate, it has also become known as one of the few places in the Philippines where strawberries grow. Therefore, aside from their famous ube jam (ube is a Philippine purple sweet potato) from the Good Shepherd (a convent reknown for making and selling Filipino delicacies including this), strawberry flavoured everything is a delicacy here – I had to try their strawberry taho (a Philippine sweet street food composed of tofu and tapioca pearls in sweet sauce) of course! The streets were filled with small stores selling Baguio delicacies, and I came back with at least a whole bag full – we’ll see how many make it back to Sweden.

After dad’s Rotary Club induction for the club in Baguio (the reason why we went to Baguio in the first place), my little brother and I decided to visit the night market, where they sell secondhand clothes or more excitingly for us, street food. I finally got to taste my favourite kwek kwek (deep fried quail’s eggs in batter) and eat some sweet corn in margarine – yum!

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The beautiful garden at BenCab Museum

The next day, just before leaving to go back to Subic, my family took me to the BenCab museum, home of one of the Philippines’ national artists. I have been to several art museums in the past, but this one was different. Apart from the art exhibited by BenCab himself and other Filipino artists he promotes, there is an amazing garden in the back, which is a part of BenCab’s personal garden (he lives next door). With an amazing and serene location like that, with a view of the mountains of rainforest, it’s not surprising BenCab can be so inspired to create such beautiful art. ❤️

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Tallinn for a weekend, why not?

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Hello from the old city of Tallinn! 😀

I’m a very work hard play hard type of person. I take my work very seriously, and I take my breaks very seriously. So my friends and I wanted to go on a cruise from Stockholm to Tallinn for a weekend, why not?

I left Värnamo Friday morning to get to the ferry in the evening. Yes it takes about 5h to get to Stockholm. Afterwards, my friends and I were on the boat and had an amazing time from beginning to end.

Party. Friends. New friends. Brazilian acrobats. Some Tallinn. Some singing. Party.

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It was an amazing weekend, but now time for my final week in primary care in Värnamo. Here’s for a well-deserved getaway – until next time but for now, time to work hard. Hope you all had an amazing weekend, and have an amazing week ahead!

workworkworkworkworkwork

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My utomlänsplacering turned me into a local jetsetter

This week I started my first “utomlänsplacering” which means a placement outside the county of my medical school. I’m currently placed on a two-week dermatology placement in Jönköping, Småland.

My friends also placed in Jönköping and I left Sunday evening and arrived at our apartments in the hospital grounds, provided by the hospital. We took our keys from the emergency room (“What was the first think you did in Jönköping? Go to the emergency room of course, ha!” -.-) and went to our temporary accommodation for the next two weeks.

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This is the beginning of the Jönköping hospital grounds, isn’t our apartment building beautiful?

I was worried about how the accommodation would be recalling the nightmare of accommodation we received back in the UK (see photo below), but one can say that I was positively surprised to say the least. THE ACCOMMODATION IS AMAZING!

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This is the accommodation bathroom provided for Manchester medical students based at Blackburn hospital… our accommodation now is definitely a step up #nightmare

Apart from the beautiful exterior, our apartments were MASSIVE! Two separate bedrooms for my roomie and I (it’s probably the biggest room I’ve ever lived in that’s not a hotel), a big hallway, a fully equipped kitchen etc. Free wi-fi, clean linen, pillows and towels to take downstairs, access to the free laundry room, a little library and a TV. At least they definitely thought about our comfort as “travellers.” To make things even better, there’s a full shopping centre right across the road from where we live in the hospital grounds.

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I’ve been to Jönköping once before with my choir but I don’t remember much from the city. Therefore, being a true traveller, I was quite excited to explore this new place.

We came to our first day yesterday at the clinic and was warmly met by the staff. We have never been so warmly met before! We received our little introduction booklets, keys and decided our schedule amongst us. We found out that it is obligatory for us to travel to different cities as a part of our placement, and I was the “unfortunate” one who gets to travel to two different cities two days in a row.

welcome note for us medical students at jönköping ryhov hospital!

Look they even made us a little welcome note posted on the board!

So this morning as I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the train which will take me to Värnamo where I will be during the day. The travel there takes 2h, which is basically the same time it took me to go to Jönköping from my medical school Linköping. And it costs 80kr each way (about 8 euros each way – my student wallet is crying). Tomorrow, I will be going to Nässjö, which will luckily take less than 2h to travel to.

Four cities (Linköping, Jönköping, Värnamo, Nässjö) in four consecutive days. I never realised that going to medical school would mean this much travel. I guess we just need to get used to it since in the end, we need to go to where our patients are. And not everyone will be lucky to have all their patients at the same place as oneself. Luckily, I enjoy being a jetsetter anyway.

I really need a driver’s license.

10 Typical Chicago places I visited in Chicago

It has been just over a week now but I am still having my Chicago withdrawal.

I was very fortunate to have my loving family take me to the “typical Chicago” places to go to, and act like a local. Except for the part when I need to ask the cashier to tell me if I have given them enough change since I didn’t know how much a dime was worth… Apart from that, I totally blended in!

Here are some places my family took me to which I definitely think people should visit when going to Chicago.

1. The Field Museum

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I thought it was pretty timely that I had watched Jurassic Park on the plane the day before… Definitely bringing my future kids here, with the hope of sparking an interest in science in them! Yes, I thought that far ahead.

2. The Shedd Aquarium

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Have you ever felt a sturgeon? Have you ever petted a sturgeon? Nope didn’t think so. That’s why you need to go. And also to see their amazing collection of species of course!

3. Portillo’s

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Their Italien Beef sandwich is to die for. Who knew a soggy sandwich could be so delicious! Also, the meatiest sandwich I have ever eaten. Just writing about it makes my mouth water…

4. The Bahá’í House of Worship

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I had never encountered the religion before, but now I know that not only do they have a beautiful building, they also have beautiful messages that they share to the world. So beautiful I even wrote a blog post about it!

5. Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”

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If I was taller then I could look like I had the Bean with the reflection of the city of Chicago as a beanie… but unfortunately I was unlucky at the genetic lottery. Nevertheless, I love this bean, I find it quite adorable hehe. Definitely my favourite symbol of Chicago – isn’t it the most famous symbol of Chicago too?

6. Milennium Park

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The Bean is a part of Milennium Park, but for tourists like me, we might not know that. If my cousin didn’t tell me to walk on the Milennium Bridge I wouldn’t have seen the figure 8 ice skating rink. The first figure 8 ice skating rink I’ve ever seen actually. So if you’re by taking photos by the Bean, don’t forget to continue to see the rest of the park too!

7. Pequod Pizzeria IMG_0459

Everyone knows that in Chicago, one must eat a deep dish pizza. Apparently, one of the best deep dish pizzas out there are made by the small family-run restaurant called Pequod Pizzeria. Frequently receiving awards and highly rated on TripAdvisor, what could go wrong? Also, you only need one, max two slices to be full… Yum!

8. Superdawgs

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Coming from Europe where drive-thrus are not as popular as in Europe, visiting a restaurant which builds on the concept of eating in your car was quite exciting. You park your car by a machine, order, wait until the waiter/waitress gives you your food in your car and then finally eat/or drive away with your food! However not only was the concept exciting, the food was pretty good too. Delicious Chicago hotdogs – with no ketchup or mustard. Apparently it’s a crime to put some on.

9. Chicago Premium Outlets at Aurora

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As I love shopping, especially if it’s good quality branded stuff at cheap prices, this place was like Disneyland for me. Here we are after over 6h of shopping at Armani Exchange. As you can see, I was still going strong. If you guys are wondering, I’m trying an entire outfit (blazer, skirt and shirt) for under $100! I ended up buying the skirt and the blazer. I know, that place was amazing. 

10. Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

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And of course the famous Skydeck at Willis Tower. I’m normally scared of heights but for this amazing view of this amazing city, it wasn’t hard getting over it. ❤

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Chicago until we meet again! Did I miss any sights? If so, where do you think I should go next time I’m in Chicago? 🙂

7 typical American things I did in Chicago

After watching all those American TV shows and movies, the everyday American life was quite exciting for me. What better way to visit a country than to be like the locals right?

1. Stay in the suburbs

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Here are my aunt and uncle plowing the snow and me not helping hehe… #suburblife

2. Overeat like a true American

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The biggest buffet I’ve ever seen in my life.

3. Drive literally everywhere

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Once my friend even drove us to the other side of the parking lot where my cousin’s car was parked. It’s true, everyone here has a car. And it’s a big deal to walk apparently. 

4. Make friends with strangers within minutes

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Meet our new friend from the elevator up!

5. Shop at Walmart

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They even have blood pressure machines!!! #excited

6. Eat at a drive-through

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At Superdawgs you park your car by a machine and the staff come out to give you your food in the car! Nomnomnom

7. Shop like a true consumerist

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Three days worth of shopping. I came at the best time aka, clearance of clearance time!

Topped with my accent, I think I blended in quite well. Hmm, maybe I could live here after all!

Chicago Day 4: Retail therapy and reunions

When people asked me why I randomly decided to come to Chicago for five days, I tell them, to shop. And everything else of course.

As a request, I told my family that I wanted to shop on the later days, so that I’ll just use all my leftover money at the end for shopping. So we did.

My cousin took me to Chicago Premium Outlets (Aurora, IL) where we literally shopped for over 8h straight without taking breaks. No food breaks, no sitting breaks, just continuous shopping. Fitting shoes and clothes, shopping bags. It was heaven.

What made the day even better was that an old friend of mine who I met in Sweden two years ago came out to meet me there too! She was with my cousin and I during the entire shopping tour, and we all even bought matching Coach bags and Blackhawks shirts. Nicole is probably the only person who can top my energetic-ness, extreme positivity and talkative-ness. Which is why we made a direct bond since last time we met, and have continued to keep contact ever since! Isn’t it nice to have friends who you don’t meet for years and then when you see each other again, it’s like nothing has changed?

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After all the shopping, despite our tired legs and sore arms (they’re still sore until now), my family took me out to experience the Chicago nightlife. We went to Mad River, where another old school friend met me up too! Two reunions in one day, it can’t get better than that. Or wait it can, because I bought a wristband for $20 which gave me unlimited drinks until midnight. #onlyinamerica

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It was a great night, and with that I even got one of the best “getting-hit-on” stories I have ever had. And I will end this structurally challenged blog post with that story, before I board my plane back to Stockholm.

A guy by the bar who turned out to be a birthday boy and “from” my hometown Manila, Philippines (Filipino born and raised in Chicago) bought me a drink. I returned to my friends and before we left the club I thought to say goodbye to him and greet him a happy birthday.

Me: Hey I’m leaving now but I hope you have an amazing birthday!
Him: Before you leave can I give you something?
Me: Yeah okay what is it?
*he kisses me on the cheek*
Him: I think you’re really cute and I’m sorry but I’m new at this…
*he takes my hand and kisses it*
Him: But I hope you had a great night.

Isn’t he the most adorable guy ever? Why aren’t all guys like this?! 

It was not only a great night, but the best last night I could ever have in Chicago. I hope his birthday was a good one too. Once again the American friendliness never disappoints!

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It was a great trip. I will miss all the friendly Americans I met, all so warm and welcoming. I will miss being greeted everywhere I go. Heck, I will even miss overeating like a true American. However most of all, I will miss my amazing family who I now met for the first time, and definitely not the last time. I know because I promised Lola (grandma in Filipino).

Until next time Chicago, you have been amazing. But first, time to go home and become a doctor!

Chicago Day 3: Downtown Chicago

I am and forever will be a city girl.

Being raised in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and Scandinavia, I love the big city. However, sometimes I do feel that Stockholm isn’t big enough. Where are the big buildings? Where are the high rises?

I needed a quick-fix for my big city withdrawal since it’s been a while. I wanted to be surrounded by the hustle and the bustle again. At least right before I move to the small and relatively quiet city of Linköping. So then I thought, why not use my miles and visit Chicago?

There is something about getting lost in the concrete jungle, surrounded by buildings towering the skies. It makes one feel like a small fish in a big pond. A small fish, being part of something so much bigger than itself, just waiting to be discovered. It leaves me with the feeling of optimism and hope, that venturing into the big unknown will actually lead to great things. Which is the mindset I need before I start at my new medical school next week.

Chicago, with your tall buildings and actually extremely kind people, you are exactly what I needed. The bean reflecting the beauty of the buildings around it and the Willis tower to appreciate the view from above. You are amazing. And I promise to come back to you. Soon. Because I love you. ❤

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Chicago Day 2: the Baha’i temple

Today we visited the oldest living Baha’i temple in the world. I have never heard of the religion Baha’i before so this was definitely something special for me.

When my family told me about visiting this place of worship, my only expectation was to see this beautiful building by the lake – and take loads of photos of course. Little did I know, not only is this building beautiful, so is the message it brings.

At the Visitor’s centre of the temple, they have a great exhibit of the Baha’i faith, including a video of its history and the history of the building. It was there where I learnt what the faith entails, and was captivated of their teachings. The faith strives for spiritual unity of all mankind. They advocate for the oneness of God, religion and humanity.

The Baha’i believe that there is only one God who has manifested himself through various ways and religions, but they are essentially the same God. The past Divine Messengers like Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc., have each brought their teachings to address the needs and conditions of humanity of their time, but have all reflected the same Divine purpose. The Baha’i believe that the final Divine messenger was their founder Baha’u’llah, who gave the message of unity for all.

“God…is and hath from everlasting been, one and alone…eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

In addition, they believe that all humankind have been created equal but are coupled with diversity. We are all created differently, but essentially we are all the same.

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

All prejudice should end, as there is unity in diversity.

as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord.”

Today I was introduced to a beautiful religion who strive for oneness of the world. Optimistic and idealistic, but that is exactly what we need in the world right now. For the Baha’i, it is not about showing why one religion believes in something “wrong” or why we all look different from each other and behave differently. For the Baha’i it is not about focusing on our differences but rather, celebrating what we all have in common. And that is beautiful. This is a teaching we all should live by and if we did, I’m sure the world would definitely be a much better place.

For more information about the Baha’i temple and its faith, click here.

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Chicago Day 1: Dinosaurs and fish

Today was Martin Luthor King day, which also happened to be Free day on museums. What better day to visit than today? Well, if you disregard the cold and the swarms of people everywhere. Nevertheless, what better way of celebrating Martin Luthor King than through education!

To start my authentic Chicago adventure, my family decided to take me to the famous Chicago museums at museum campus via train. After a few stations, we hear a woman from the other wagon run up to the driver sternly telling him about what seemed like a medical emergency. The driver goes out, then returns talking on his walkie-talkie continuing the train ride without saying a word.

Half an hour later, the train stops again. We hear some screaming on the platform. We hear the driver announce that we are put to a halt because of a police emergency (what seemed to be was drug dealing). After his announcement though, the people around me returned to reading their newspapers, and looking at their phones, completely indifferent. I on the other hand was on the edge of my chair, waiting for updates in excitement. I guess you could tell I was definitely a tourist. Eventually the emergency was over, and the train continued. When we finally got to our destination, my cousin said: “After all my years of taking the train whilst growing up here, I’ve never had a more exciting train ride.” Well, the same goes for me too, that’s for sure.

When we finally got to museum campus, we continued our plan of visiting the Field museum and its awesome dinosaurs and then the Shedd aquarium to see their amazing collection of species – I even got to pet a sturgeon! Both museums were absolutely amazing. After that, we went back home, pretty tired from our day of museum-ing.

But my Chicago adventure didn’t stop there. My cousin let me try the famous Portillo’s Italian beef and cheese fries (which was incredibly delish by the way), and took me to WALMART! I know I shouldn’t be too excited but… WALMART! A 24h WALMART!

I finally did it. I finally visited one. In an area not incredibly fancy with people passing for being part of the PeopleOfWalmart.com. At 10pm in the evening. My days of wondering how a Walmart was like from all the TV series and movies are over. And so is my pocket money budget of buying random things.

My Chicago trip is off to a great start!

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You may think it’s sunny and warm, but no man it’s -16°C and I’m freezing my butt off while taking these selfies…