I Hate Haircuts

One thing I never thought about before moving to Australia was having a haircut. At the time I left my country, a haircut costs about fifty pesos (about $1.25), if I recall correctly. I would say to the barber to give me a “barber’s cut” or “gupit binata” (bachelor’s cut) and he’d know what to do. He would get out his electric razor and buzz cut the side and back of my head. Then cut off the extra hair on the top of my head and my bangs. For the finishing touch, the barber would take out a classic straight razor (all Filipino barbers have one), sharpen it on a leather strap and shave off smoothly the back of my head near the neck. Afterward, he would dab rubbing alcohol to the part he shaved with the straight razor. Probably to minimise the chance of infection.

When I got to Australia, I was shocked to discover that haircuts for men was typically $18 (about P700)! Fortunately, there were barbers that offer haircuts for only $10 (about P390). Well, it’s still quite expensive if you convert it back to pesos but it’s the cheapest price I could find. I don’t really mind the cost of a haircut anymore nowadays. What irks me about having a haircut here is that I can’t seem to get one that I end up liking.

The system here is a bit different. First, there aren’t a lot of old-fashioned barbershops around (as far as I know, at least). Men and women go to have their hair done in what we would call parlours in the Philippines. That meant that women typically do the haircutting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying.

At the shop, I would tell my barber what type of cut I would like by saying a number (such as 1, 2 or 3). I’m not sure what it means even now but a “1” is the shortest buzz cut I could get off the side and back of my head. The bigger the number, the longer the “stubble” on the back of my neck. The number could signify the size of the clip used on the electric razor or the length of hair left behind in millimeters. I’m just guessing here.

After the barber uses the electric razor, she’d use here scissors to “blend” the hair so that my hair at the top of my head would shorten gradually as you go down to my neck where the hair was shaved with the razor. She’d also cut short my fringe (it’s what they call “bangs” here).

Here now is the problem. My hair tends to stick out when cut short enough. I usually ask for a number 2 haircut and in their attempt to blend my hair, they end up cutting the hair at the back of my head too short. So, I keep instructing my various barbers to not cut my hair too short because I don’t want my hair to stick out. But do they listen to me? Never. They still proceed to cut my hair as short as they could. I don’t get it. Wasn’t I being clear? They must not be used to cutting straight black thick Asian hair or something.

I figured that the rest of my hair wouldn’t be cut too short if I ask for a bigger numbered haircut like a number 3 maybe. It sure did the trick but the downside was that it didn’t look like I even had a haircut afterwards. What was the point then?

Early today, I had a haircut again. I asked for a number 2 haircut and added that the barber keep the hair at the back of my head a bit long. No luck. I might as well have asked for a flat-top haircut or a crew-cut. The only way to keep my hair down now is to use hair gel. And I hate using hair gel.

I’ll just have to endure this ugly haircut until my hair grows long enough to keep my hair from standing up which would take a week or two. I can’t wait.

Published in: on March 31, 2007 at 8:35 pm  Comments (7)  

So Cold

Warm or cold, I usually never stir from my deep sleep. That meant that when the temperature rises during the night, I’d start to perspire whilst I remain soundly asleep while Raquel is forced to get up to turn on the electric fan because she can’t go back to sleep due to the warmth. Same thing happens when it cools down in the middle of the night. Despite the drop in temperature, I just continue to sleep while Raquel is again forced to turn the heater on.

This morning though, it was so cold that I was forced to wake up and turn on the heater myself. The only reason Raquel didn’t notice the temperature drop was probably because she wore thicker clothes than me last night. After turning on the heater, I had to endure about ten minutes or so of freezing temperature before the warmth generated by the heater was able to overpower the coldness in the air.

I’m tempted to say that this is because winter is already upon us. However, the weather is a bit difficult to predict lately so maybe there’ll be warm nights yet before autumn ends. Just a couple of nights ago, it was so warm that we had to leave the electric fan turned on as we slept.

Now, because I had been exposed to the cold for a bit this morning, I think I may have caught the cold myself. I feel terrible right now. I couldn’t stop sneezing and my eye lids feel heavy and itchy. I’m very tempted to just take my leave from work and sleep this cold off at home.

The lesson for me here is that I should start to wear thicker clothes at night. I think it’s far better to wake up soaked in sweat in the morning (in case it was a very warm night) because I wore clothing that was too thick than to wake up with a cold for the rest of the day (in case it was a cold night) because I wore clothing meant for summer nights.

Published in: on March 26, 2007 at 12:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Blog Awards Finalists

Wow. When Raquel nominated our site for the 2007 Philippine Blog Awards, we didn’t imagine that we’d become one out of five finalists for the Best OFW Blog category.

We just wanted some exposure for our site at the start. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate being short listed. In fact, we think it’s a great honour! So, thank you to the judges of the Blog Awards for choosing our site as one of the finalists.

However, we have no illusion of winning this category as we’re competing with really popular blogs. I have a feeling that Batjay’s Kwentong Tambay already has this prize in the bag. Still, you never know. Good luck to all our co-finalists.

Best OFW Blog Finalists:

Published in: on March 24, 2007 at 8:03 pm  Comments (7)  

Lost vs Heroes

We are long time TV junkies. Unfortunately for us, not a lot of people we know are so we don’t get to talk about our favourite TV shows with anybody that much (but hopefully, that’s about to change as we just met another couple who are also into TV shows). Anyway, not having a lot of friends to discuss our favourite shows didn’t stop us from watching.

In months past, our favourite TV show was Lost, which was co-created by Alias creator JJ Abrams. Since we were also fans of Alias, we decided to give Lost a go when it started showing here in Australia. We almost didn’t even watch it because it was advertised as a Survivor-like drama. Although we both enjoy Survivor, I wasn’t interested in watching a non-reality-TV version of Survivor. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything like that at all. It was actually a mystery/sci-fi show and we both loved it. Personally, I love it for the mystery and the numerous arcane references.

It started with a group of people in an airplane flying from Australia (funny enough) to the US. On the way, the plane crashed in a desert island in what could be somewhere in the Pacific. Soon enough, weird things started happening such as a wild polar bear on a tropical island, a mysterious black smoke, dead relatives appearing, people with sickness were healed, and a lot more. I was hooked with the show because I kept on looking forward to answers to the mysteries introduced in previous episodes.

The need to know the answers to the mysteries seemed to be Lost’s way of hooking people to keep watching the show. However, it’s now in its third season and a lot of questions are still far from being answered. Raquel has already started to get tired of it all. And unfortunately, so am I. I really wanted to see it through but the very slow pace of the story is starting to get to me.

Well, now we have a new favourite sci-fi TV show: Heroes! It’s a story of different ordinary people who suddenly gained superpowers (like comic book super heroes) and their ordeals in handling their newly found gifts/curses. The characterization is just as good as that in Lost and it has a lot of mysteries and cliffhangers in it too. But unlike Lost, Heroes at least doesn’t keep a mystery hanging for so long. Although it doesn’t reveal all the answers to questions it brings up, it dishes out answers enough to keep viewers from getting tired of waiting for some resolution to loose threads.

So, I’ll probably still continue to watch Lost because I’m always still hoping to get answers to mysteries it had presented in the past despite my growing impatience with it. But I no longer look forward to it as much as I do Heroes.

Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 7:45 pm  Comments (4)  

Ikea hacker

Being in the IT business, I’ve associated the term hacker to mean someone who thinks up of a clever way to work out a solution to a certain computer programming problem and executes it successfully. The word has somehow evolved and could now be applied to a number of things in the real world and not just confined to the world of computers.

I’ve recently discovered a blog called the Ikea hacker which focuses on using Ikea products to create customised furniture and decorations around the home. It’s fun to see how Ikea fans take bits and pieces of Ikea stuff and transform them into something personal, pretty and functional. If you’re an Ikea fan, it’s definitely worth checking out. Who knows, it might even give you inspiration to create your own hack!

Published in: on March 21, 2007 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Water wise

With recent talks of stage 4 water restrictions being introduced by May 1 if the rains still don’t come, everyone is being encouraged to save water as much as they can. Australia, being a dry country in the grip of a drought, has a need for some good drenching (preferably soon).

We’ve been trying our best to do our bit by conserving water at home and had stopped watering the lawns way before the stage 3 restrictions (all lawns cannot be watered during stage 3 restrictions). What used to be green lawn in our backyard is now nothing more than brown, parched soil with patches of green, very resilient weeds. Most of our plants only get watered during the assigned days (Wednesdays and Sundays for us) and mostly with just greywater saved from the shower/bath. I also tried to harvest the waste water from the washing machine last weekend so that our plants would have more water to drink but that didn’t go well. How was I supposed to know that the hose had to be a certain height for it to empty the water from the machine?! Oh well, better luck next time then.

We’ve also tried taking shorter showers, with hubby having more success in this area than I do although I’ve also improved a bit. We also haven’t had our car washed in ages – hubby calls the current state of (un)cleanliness of our car a “badge of honour”. Aside from having the windscreen cleaned whenever we’re at the petrol station, we don’t really mind the dirt anyway. We’ve also long figured out that sweeping paved areas with a dry brush is both good exercise and quite effective.

We got our water bill last week and was pleasantly surprised that our household water use has continued to fall and way below the average water usage for a couple. Apart from lower water rates, it’s good to know that we’re doing our bit in conserving our precious water in whatever little way we can.

Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 12:58 pm  Comments (4)  

Finally, an update!

Apologies to regular readers of this blog for the lack of updates lately. Work commitments, managing our home, future travel planning and some vegetating in front of the television have filled most of our time off lately. Nothing exciting really except we’re nominated for The 2007 Philippine Blog Awards in both the Main: Personal and Special Awards: Best OFW Blog categories! Yay!

Some of the nominated blog owners have expressed surprise on having their blogs nominated but no such shock for us. Why? Well, because I nominated our site to both categories myself! Hubby and I have no illusions in winning either category as there are some heavyweights in the list that have a wider audience and better content. No harm in trying though and hey, it’s still free advertising to let other people know that our blog exists. A win-win situation, wouldn’t you say?

Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 12:24 pm  Comments (3)  

ASX sharemarket game on

Do you have what it takes to make $50,000 virtual dollars grow within 14 weeks? Or perhaps you just want to learn the basics of going into the sharemarket without plonking down your own hard-earned dollars?

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is hosting another one of its sharemarket games wherein each registered player would be given a hypothetical $50,000 to invest in shares. Its free to register and play so if you’re interested, registration is now open. Westpac, the game’s sponsor, would be offering a $5,000 share portfolio to the national winner at the end of the game. Learn more about the game here and here. The game would run from March 29 until July 5.

I joined the previous share investing game and made a respectable $5,000 for my virtual $50,000. Sure, there were heaps of other people who made their money grow more than I did but I thought it was good for my first try and was an okay outcome for someone who didn’t trade all that much during the game. I basically just bought some virtual shares at the start of the game and just held on to most of them until the end of the game. I plan to get more involved in the game this time around and see if my imaginary portfolio fares better this time around.

Published in: on March 6, 2007 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Trip to Bohol, Day 2

As you can tell by the delay in this next installment of our Bohol trip story, I’m a bit busy lately. I’m already starting to forget the details about the trip! I now have no choice but to abridge the story a little (which I’m sure some of you actually prefer). With that, I continue my narration.

The next day, we woke up, had breakfast at the glorious beach and decided to cancel our scheduled tour for the day. Instead, we wanted to give the island of Balicasag a look since a lot of people at Alona beach seemed to recommend it. Supposedly, it’s a great place for scuba divers and snorkling enthusiasts. Mind you, Raquel and I were neither but if we want to give snorkling a try, it might as well be in a beautiful spot such as the waters the surrounded Balicasag.

It didn’t take us long to find somebody with a boat to ferry us across the sea to the island. There were numerous locals with boats on that beach. The guy we went with, a security guard/life guard at one of the many resorts there, told us that the fare was P1,000. Not bad since it was also the same discounted offer of our hotel’s grounds keeper from yesterday. The deal was that the boat would take us to Balicasag and wait for us there until we wished to head on back to Alona beach.

We returned to our hotel, got our swimming gear and walked back to the beach. Before we were able to get back to the spot where we talked to the guard, a couple of locals approached us. They were both 20ish, well-tanned from over-exposure to the sun and wore very worn-out clothes and flipflops.

When the two told us that they were going to take us to Balicasag on their boat, I informed them that we already hired someone to take us there. They then claimed that they were the ones we actually hired. I didn’t believe them at first but after explaining that the guard was their friend, that he had asked them to meet us halfway, and that he told them what we looked like, I conceded that they were telling the truth.

The two led us to their boat — a small fishing outrigger canoe (bangka) retrofitted with makeshift seats for passengers. There were life jackets on the boat but we weren’t asked to wear them. Besides, the styrofoam blocks of the jackets that likely made its wearer float were not at all sewn in the jackets. After seeing the state of the boat and its lack of usable life jackets, I started to worry.

The one with the woven hat pushed the boat away from the shore and jumped on board. The pilot, who seemed to be younger than hat guy, pulled the cord of the motor to start the engine. VROOOOM!

We were both surprised by the amount of noise the engine generated. We didn’t pay much attention to it at the beginning though. It was still bearable anyway.

The boat sped off to the small island over the horizon. The shallow green waters suddenly turned deep blue as we got farther away from the beach. Our boat was racing across the choppy sea in that beautiful serene cloudy day.

I couldn’t supress my smile. I was thoroughly enjoying every moment of that boat ride. I love the feeling of blowing wind on my face, as well as the light spray of water on my skin as the boat plowed through the waves.

However, my smile began to falter after what must be 15 minutes on the boat. The beach behind us has receded from our view while we didn’t seem to have gotten any closer to Balicasag island ahead of us. It didn’t help any that the waves started to grow bigger with every passing minute.

I thought to myself, it would be very bad if something were to happen to the boat and we get stuck there in the middle of the ocean. Then, it happened! The motor stopped.

Raquel and I both looked at the pilot behind us for an explanation. He seemed just as baffled. Hat guy strode across from the front of the boat to the rear to talk to the pilot in their native tongue. After a brief discussion amongst themselves, hat guy turned to us and said: “Sir! Yung propeler, durog! (Sir! the propeller, it’s destroyed!)”

He held out what looked like a small spare propeller in one hand and a rust encrusted wrench in the other. He told us that he just needed to fix it. Just? He removed his hat then jumped into the water while the pilot looked on.

Clang! Clang! Clang! You could hear hat guy banging away underwater as he supposedly fixes the broken propeller. Great. The waves were growing stronger and we were stuck halfway between the beach and the island with no life jackets. If hat guy couldn’t fix the motor, we didn’t even have oars to paddle our way back to the beach. I looked around and decided that if we ever capsize, Raquel and I could always jump for one of the bamboo outriggers of the boat. It would be a long swim but at least we would be afloat.

After what seemed like an eternity, hat guy emerged from the water and boarded the boat again. The pilot gave the motor cord a pull and we were back in business. We were back on course toward Balicasag.

Another 15 minutes or so passed and the sea around us turned green again as we entered more shallow waters. I could now definitely see the trees on the island more clearly and I even saw a water tower. We were definitely almost there. Just as well. We were starting to find the noise of the motor unbearable.

We saw another boat just floating a few meters away from the island shore with people scuba-diving around it. The water was no longer choppy and it was crystal clear. I thought it was perfect for diving, definitely.

Soon, we saw the Balicasag Island Diving Resort, the only resort on the small island. It was so small that we were able to circumnavigate the island’s beach on foot in a matter of minutes.

We finally got off the boat after “docking” near the reef-like beach of the island. Hat guy told us to do what we wanted to do in the island. Him and the pilot would just wait for us to come back. Apparently, there is also a small village on the island and they are friends with the locals there. They were just going to hang out there with their buddies to play pool, have a siesta, have a drinking session or whatever it was they do there.

Before we went snorkling, Raquel wanted to explore the island first. So, we walked beyond the resort grounds and found ourselves in a small village right there on the small island. There were nipa huts, a small wooden stall that served as a sari-sari store, pigs in pig pens, goats tied up to a short stake on the ground, etc. I actually loved every bit of it. It reminded me of other small towns along Manila’s outskirts that I’ve been to and loved when I was younger.

However, I felt uncomfortable being a stranger there at first. Who knew what the locals were thinking as we strode through their village. Were we trespassing? Were we welcome there? Would they solicit money from us because we were tourists? Surprisingly (at least for me), the people there were actually very nice. The children greeted us cheerfully in English, some of the older ones just smile and the rest didn’t mind us being there at all.

When we got back to the resort, we hired some snorkling gear and an instructor. He instructed us to breathe with our mouths through the pipe would remain exposed above water while we were swimming and not with our noses. I already knew this beforehand yet still found it very difficult to follow that instruction. It was tough trying to override my instict to breathe through my nose.

After teaching us the basics at the resort, we started walking toward the beach. As we neared the beach, I kept looking for the boat we would board. I was surprised when the instructor continued on walking past the coral-laden beach and in to the shallow waters. There would be no boat. We would do our snorkling right then and there. Raquel who doesn’t swim much to begin with was closely supported by the instructor while I was left to my own devices for the most part.

I thought that snorkling would be a wonderful experience. To be able to see what was underwater like I was above ground would have been spectacular. I only then realised that without my glasses on, my view of the ocean floor wasn’t as clear as I had envisioned. I also found myself fighting the somewhat strong currents that day. Even though I was swimming with all my might, I was only moving slowly in the direction I wished. After a few minutes of struggling against the waves, I started to feeling exhausted and my muscles began to ache. I had to stop. I just stood on one of the underwater boulders and dipped my head underwater to look at the small fishes around me.

Meanwhile, Raquel was guided by the instructor to the place he called “the wall.” It must be where the border between the shallow corals and the deep ocean floor. Raquel soon returned because she was also having a tough time snorkling. We eventually decided to give up snorkling and just return to dry land. We figured that we still got our money’s worth.

After having lunch at the resort and taking a few minutes’ rest, we felt it was time to leave the island. Just as well. While on the boat, as we left Balicasag behind us, the sky grew dark. Clouds began to gather, the wind blew stronger and the water grew rougher. Our boat was literally skipping across the waves as we sped off toward Alona beach which seemed to be very far away still. I looked back and I could still see that Balicasag island was still quite big in my field of view. That meant we hadn’t gone far yet and we were still a long way from the beach.

The weather was worsening by the minute. It started to rain as well. While we were being drenched and rocked about in that wild water ride, I tried hard to forget the incident we had earlier concerning the boat’s propeller. I was just happy that the propeller broke off earlier when the sea was calmer as opposed to that moment in time. I just told myself that it was unlikely to break again because it had just been fixed.

As if the weather and the state of our boat weren’t enough to make me nervous, another boat much like ours was speeding through the waters from our right and apparently, in an intercept course. There were six men on the boat and they were all wearing makeshift hoods (extra t-shirts wrapped around their heads and covering their faces). I hoped to God they weren’t what I thought they were: pirates.

Just when I thought the other boat was about to block our path, they continued straight on their original heading. Whew. They weren’t pirates after all. Probably just fishermen fleeing from the worsening weather. They probably had hoods on to keep their heads dry from the rain.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the water began to calm down and the sky partially cleared. Soon, the water was shallow once again and we could clearly see the beach ahead of us. I was so happy when we got back to the beach that I almost kissed the ground. We paid the boat guys and left the beach partially deaf from the terrible noise made by the boat’s motor during the trip back.

I thought it was enough excitement for one day. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the calm and controlled water environment of the hotel’s swimming pool. It was a wonderful way to end a very stressful day.

Published in: on March 1, 2007 at 10:10 pm  Comments (4)