Thoughts on Culture Shock

It was my first time to be away from home for this long, 5 months to be exact. I used to be a researcher and I am used to being in the field for a few days or weeks but I have not been out of my country this long. So the first few weeks I have been in Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed by the new environment, culture, and the beauty of the city in general.

A few months after, I started feeling exhausted and frustrated with the language and the way of life itself. I find it difficult to go to stores, shop, and go to places on my  own. I had a hard time learning the language the first few months and I got exhausted of being surrounded by non-English speakers most of the time. It was frustrating when people around you couldn’t understand you most of the time and I felt lonely and sad.

Having no people to call friends, no relatives, and no job to get me motivated in going out, one day I found myself wondering who I used to be. I lost my sense of self and I couldn’t tell  what I like, want, or prefer anymore. Nothing seems to remind me of what I used to be, used to have, and what I wanted in life. I felt lonely, alone, and sad.

The following helped me gather myself up and face the challenges and difficulties:

1. Talk. It was helpful for me when I started talking about my feelings, struggles, and dreams to have in the future. I tried calling up close friends who are halfway across the world and I have tried writing journals and diaries for my own consumption. The key here is to let things out of your chest. It was very helpful when I started having good conversations with old friends about  life or just about nothing at all. It was really great to talk about silly things and just had a good laugh.

2. Love yourself. Sounds easy but it is quite difficult when you are quite confuse just like me. I find ways to appreciate myself more, acknowledge both fears and happiness I have, and every little step I make to cope with my everyday life. Some people say talking to yourself in the mirror helps too. But for me, just by acknowledging everything I do and every little milestone I accomplish is big enough for me to get through every single day.\

3. Look for support. Try opening up to the people you trust and the people who can lend you their ears without pushing their own beliefs and standards. The least you need is to have people telling you that you are not handling things right. You would need someone who understands where you are coming from and willingly listen to the same stories you would tend to say over and over again. It sounds easy but I find it difficult too.

4. Go out. Get some fresh air and take a walk in the park when the weather is fine. Listen to the chirping birds, kids playing the playgrounds, or just enjoy the scenery. Most parks are beautiful especially the trees and the flowers. Or you can try joining local organizations or groups in your area. Instead of enhancing your online presence by spending most of your time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, go out instead, and look for people you can chat with or talk to in person. For me, I tried taking a language course and I find it really nice to talk to people who share the same sentiments with me. Exercise and other activities help alleviate the feeling of being alone and lonely in a new city.  Exercising for example, produces, what people call a natural pain reliever, endorphins which can make a lot of difference in coping with stressful or challenging situations. It is produced by the nervous system that helps people deal with pain, stress, moodiness, fatigue, anxiety, etc.

5. Find your way. Start embracing the culture and the way of life. Find time to explore the city on your own. it is liberating to be independent and be able to go to places without fear. Take your time, no one has to hurry, and take one step at a time. Read newspapers, be aware of the current events, learn about their culture or way of life. I think the thing here is to enable yourself to get integrated.

I know it is not easy and there are times you would still feel alienated.  Give yourself time to adjust and get familiar with the new environment. Time will come detachment, stress, and confusion get better.  Laugh at small things, be silly or crazy, have fun, and never ever forget to celebrate every milestone you accomplish.

Individual Differences in Relationships

This is about my early morning thoughts on individuality or individual differences. I like reading about personality traits, how to understand people in general, what makes one different from another, and other stuff.  Psychology is one of my interests but I am far from being a psychologist.

This morning, I had the chance to ponder on how individuality or individual differences play an important role in a relationship. How can a relationship grow and flourish despite the couple’s differences on choices, perceptions, beliefs, characters, and principles they live by. True, that at one point or another the couple has to have other common grounds aside from love. For example, they may have different likes on sports, fashion, stand on politics, food preferences, and values. It doesn’t mean that if one likes spicy food the other has to like it too. If one likes black clothing, the other one doesn’t have to wear black clothes as often too. Little things and minor stuff but can also be applied to bigger issues like politics, principles, and moral standards.

According to J.M.Williamson (2018), “individual differences are the more-or-less enduring characteristics that distinguish one person from another and thus help to define each person’s individuality.”  The differences are shaped by education, culture, environment, beliefs, and experiences. There are different ways to assess or evaluate individual differences such as extraversion-introversion, agreeableness-disagreeableness, conscientiousness-disorganized, openness-closed-minded, and neurotism-emotional stability. If you want to know about these stuff, you can find it here.

Going back, these are a few things to remember in managing individual differences in  relationships:

  1. Communication. It is very important to talk about the things you are passionate about, the things you like or prefer, how you want to be treated, what you dislike, and other stuff. This is number 1 on this list, but I have to admit, this is what I am struggling in most of the time. I think it is important to find a way to communicate nicely, that is without having to argue or fight over little things. Arguments are inevitable but it is possible to discuss issues properly and one issue at a time.
  2. Respect. It is inevitable to disagree sometimes and to have differing views on things. Let’s not push our beliefs and likes. We have to know our own boundaries too. For example, it is okay for a partner to talk about domestic issues with close friends but it is not okay with the other we have to respect that and know the extent of information we can share with people we trust. Individual
  3. Acceptance. Let’s try to understand where they are coming from.  We don’t have to agree on everything but it helps in avoiding arguments if we accept people for who they are. There is no perfect relationship and nobody is perfect either. Acceptance starts by acknowledging our own flaws and by understanding our partner’s flaws and shortcomings too. Researches have shown that solving differences are easier when partners feel accepted.
  4. A common ground. We may have differing opinions and such but there is always something people can agree on. Meet halfway, I think that’s how to put it. Look for things that both parties or sides can compromise, agree on, and can be happy about.

Relationships, in general, require hard work and conscious effort. Having individual differences don’t mean that things will not work anymore. Whenever I find myself in such situations, I try to remind myself of the four (4) key factors I have mentioned earlier. I am not trying to say, though, that it is easy all the time. 

 

 

 

 

A Day’s Travel to the Berlin Wall

History, a word I used to hate when I was a kid. It was part of the school curriculum in grade school, and secondary & college levels. I had quite a few history subjects back then where I learned about how both my country survived and regained its freedom after being colonized by a couple of stronger forces. Back then, that was the only thing mattered to me, how we survived and regained our freedom and to pass the subjects, of course, by memorizing important names and dates. Nothing more.

Last week, I have been to Berlin in Germany. During our visit, we stayed mostly in Potsdam and was able to see Berlin for a day, but then I was able to see a few of the tourist spots in the city. One of these places was the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Wall, 1963
Berlin Wall, 1963.

It used to be a concrete barrier separating East and Western Germany during the Cold War from 1961-1989. The heavily guarded wall was a symbol of the power and communist dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It affected the lives and welfare of the people from both sides and a total of 140 people died at the wall during the Cold War.

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The photo above shows the memorial of the wall. They have exhibits of photos, videos, and documentations of the Cold War. It dawned on me how important it is to be aware of how things happened in the past and that going down the memory lane is worth the while. It was somehow painful to know how it changed the life of the people back then.

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Guard Post

The wall was torn down in 1989 and marked the success of the peaceful revolution. To know more about the tours and such, you can find the details here.

 

Attempt on Macro Photography

I lost a portable drive full of photos and memories years ago. I lamented and grieved over it for a while and I learned to finally moved on and just let it go. I reckoned it was not worth crying over spilled milk but, surely, it was painful.

Today, I thought of checking out inactive social media accounts and I stumbled on a few of these photos. Not that good as I didn’t have the necessary skills and camera for macro photography and all, but, I am still happy to chanced upon them. Let me share them with you.

A Green Lizard A green lizard.

Lampunaya flower  A flower.

Wild Flower And another flower.

It feels good to look at old photos as they bring back good, bad, and bittersweet memories of the yester years.

Legal Alien in Austria

It has been a while since I found myself in the beautiful place of Vienna, Austria. My kid and I moved in April 2019 to be with my husband. I have never dreamed of leaving home moreso the life and career I built but there are things we do for love. Then one day, I found myself sitting on the plane bound for Europe.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived here was the flat landscape of the city. The mountains seem to be far from sight and no to minimal bodies of water as compared to my home country at least. The temperature was cold for me, it was around 10 degrees when we arrived and I was shivering when we got out of the airport. Nonetheless, the place is nothing less than beautiful and amazing.

The city is clean, organized  and not crowded at all. I was raised in a

 

 

tropical country and had always been exposed to tourists all year round, especially when the city was declared as one of the seven wonders of nature in 2013. And the province is surrounded by seascapes and it doesn’t take that long for you to see one. Vienna, on the other hand is different but in a nice way. I can only compare it to the Philippines for now as I haven’t been to other cities yet. Or for this context at least.

The first few days were spent visiting different parks and grocery stores. Yes, shops and grocery stores were part of the itinerary.  Well, basically to locate stores in case we needed anything while the husband is at work. The parks are all amazing. Clean and serene I must say. For the first time in my life I can say I found peace and solitude. No honking horns in most places, no people talking so loud and shouting, nothing but the sound of wind, chirping of birds, and the laughter of the few kids playing in the parks.

For four months now, I  can say I never felt homesick at all. Not sad but more amazed how my life turned upside down, in a nice way.  Everything still seems so surreal but I am happy I took the first step. Life is so amazing and wonderful and that’s where this entry is about to end.

 

Responsible #Tourism: Yay or Nay

Travelling to different places is indeed refreshing, invigorating, and relaxing. The old adage tan lines fade but memories last is quite true. Before you find your way to any tourism destinations like Palawan and other places, it is necessary to do a little homework on what does a responsible tourist has to do. It may sound so negative or kill joy but once you set foot on a beach or an island, you don’t just grab any marine resource like a starfish for posterity’s sake. It is saddening to see how people disregard the possible effects of their actions whether positive or negative to the ecosystem.

Few months ago, photos of a group of people were circulating the internet showing each of them holding a starfish. And when someone informed them it is not allowed, these people carelessly tossed the starfishes back to the sea without regard.

Image result for deped teachers in Balabac throwing starfish
Facebook/Zach Villaver

Frustrating. Starfishes are not supposed to be exposed to air as it will damage their vascular system which allows them to move, digest, and breathe. This is an exact example why responsible tourism is necessary. We may never know exactly about the dynamics of ecosystem but we can at least be responsible for our own actions and how we affect not only the people around us but other living organisms as well.

Starfish tossers
Facebook/Zach Villaver

Being aware and informed doesn’t hurt at all. Before you take your swimsuits and take the plunge I suggest going through the internet for a little homework is necessary. Be aware of the basic environmental policies implemented your next tourism destination such as waste disposal, animal protection, conservation initiatives and the like. For basics, I have here a few to take note of.

  1. Practice waste segregation and proper waste disposal.
  2. Refill water bottles at designated stations.
  3. Read signage, flyers, and information sheets.
  4. Attend information dissemination and tourists orientation.
  5. Take nothing but photos. Don’t take little things with you such corals, stones, and etc.
  6. Don’t touch any living organism without knowledge of proper handling.
  7. Don’t stand on corals or touch them as it may cause permanent damage.
  8. Support local vendors and tourism operators.
  9. Do not introduce any foreign food or object to indigenous peoples.

A little homework doesn’t hurt, indeed. Besides, that’s the main point of travelling, to learn about different places and cultures.

Port Barton, Palawan: A Tourism Attraction

Sand, sun, and the sea! The usual thoughts when we are thinking of summer. In tropical countries like the Philippines, summer is usually from March to May but we can already feel the weather as early as mid-February. We hardly have rains these days and the temperature has started to go up to around 28-30 degrees.

Palawan is one of the tourism attractions in the country. It is known for its white sand beaches, pristine environment, and diverse flora and fauna. Among the common stops are El Nido, Coron, the Underground River, and Honda Bay. Aside from these, there are still a lot of undeveloped destinations worth the while of every tourist who wants to see the best of nature in the province. Springs, falls, century-old trees, and lakes worth the hike are still being developed to be opened to public sooner or later.

Among the common destinations where you can enjoy white sand beaches with minimal to no tourist influx is Port Barton in San Vicente. It is located in the northern part of the province. From the center of development, Puerto Princesa City, it only takes around 3-4 hours travel by shuttle vans and buses to get there. I have here a map of the country showing where this beautiful place is situated. This is my personal go-to place whenever I feel tried of the city life and would like to enjoy listening to the waves in the sea.

From Travel-Philippines website.

As a tourist attraction, Palawan is quite busy during summertime. It is common to see a lot of tourists in the streets, terminals, and at the beaches like El Nido, Coron, and the like. It is exciting but it can be quite exhausting too. Please don’t get me wrong, but isn’t nice to enjoy the beach with lesser people around? Be able to hear the waves, birds, and enjoy sunset with lesser crowd? If you are looking for such place then Port Barton is the place to be. Let’s take a look on what we can do there on during summer.

Island hopping is available if you want to see other islands and beaches such as Starfish & German Islands, and the tortoises at the Marine Sanctuary. I strongly suggest to avail this because each of the islands is worth seeing and you’d get the chance to be amazed by the tortoises at the sanctuary. Aside from these, there is also a falls worth the hike to enjoy nature from a different perspective.

Port Barton, San Vicente

Here is a photo of Port Barton Beach where all the boats available for island hopping are found. Everytime I found myself in this place, I take the time to hang around until sun down. It’s refreshing. If I can only afford to leave my job and settle here for good I’d probably will.

Port Barton, San Vicente

About food, there are a couple of local restaurants available until around 9:00 in the evening, both for meat-lovers and vegans. Yes, there are vegan cuisines in the area too at affordable prices. A few bars are open at night and those by the beach are open until midnight.

Accommodation is one important factor in choosing a tourist attraction. Port Barton offers various accommodations to choose from. There are hostels, bed & breakfast, glamping, and resorts. I stayed at Nellie’s when I was there. It is a family business owned by very hospitable and nice people.

Palawan is, indeed, the last ecological frontier.