New Beginnings.

Hello World!

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on this blog. I’ve been up to a lot of amazing things in life and I can’t wait to share it. One thing is for sure: I’m hungry for growth and learning. Life has been throwing me some big hurdles but also the greatest successes.

With that being said, I’m starting a new blog in a different platform. I’m designing the layout and really working on it (after my day job and when I’m not in my digital marketing class). I’ll share everything once it’s set but I promise it’s going to be so great!

GOALS

Goals. This 5-letter word carries so much worth. I see it as a great measure of success and also a good basis of character. People who set goals aspire for greater things and are often bold enough to dream big and pursue whatever it is they want.

Goals are amazing, especially the part where you get to check off the ones you’ve achieved. It’s funny because as we aspire to achieve our goals, the way to get there is like this highly elevated mountain climb. It’s so hard sometimes but then getting to that sweet victory has so much worth because you know you worked hard to get there. It’s definitely hard earned.

Okay, here goes crushing goals! (Insert the bicep flexed emoji)

Post Travel: Singapore, Australia, New Zealand

I’m high off travelling. Seriously. I just got back last week from one of the most amazing trips I have ever done. Every time my friends ask me how the trip went, three words come out of my mouth along with a facial expression of ultimate satisfaction: “IT WAS AMAZING!” I shook my head and cried at how crazy good everything was. Yes, crazy good. My grammar is on point right? But that’s really how the entire trip went.

I got to revisit my beloved second home, Singapore. I was able to show my friend Nikka around. It was her first time being there and travelling in general. It was cool to watch her appreciate the beauty of Singapore because I got see how I probably wouldve looked like when I was in her position last year. She loved it and I got to relove it. Singapore will always be one of my favourite places. It was as pretty as I remembered it.

We flew to Sydney after 5 days in Singapore. Sydney was surprisingly like Toronto except with the accent. I mean, what did I expect? We landed into a city.  But I mean, Tokyo is a city but it was still a lot different than Toronto. Sydney was gorgeous and pretty but had all the elements of what cities usually have so it wasn’t as thrilling to experience their culture. Actually, it was very similar to ours. My friend Gillian asked me if we felt any culture shock coming in and we quickly responded with a no. A girl we met at our hostel described Sydney with these words: “Europe meets San Francisco with a splash of Asia”. Europe because of all those houses by the coast. Like that picture in Greece with the blue houses. We even saw the most gorgeous cemetery by the coast facing the water. It finally hit us that thats what people mean when they say they want to die by the beach. San Francisco because it had the North American element it. And Asia because of all the authentic Asian food on every street corner. I guess its easier for Sydney to capture that authenticity because they are so close to Asia. Unlike North America where even a bowl of ramen is butchered. We petted koalas and fed kangaroos. We took selfies with them. It was such a cool experience!! We were such tourists to visit the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, 7 beaches, etc. We got to watch Aladdin in Sydney on broadway!! It was amazing!! We were in Sydney for a total of 9 days so we milked the heck out of that place. We almost felt like locals when we left because we got to know the place so well.

And then we went to Queenstown. The most amazing, gorgeous, surreal, beautiful, picturesque, I’m running out of adjectives, perfect place. It was so stunning I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nikka and I cried, legitimately out of awe. Sitting and thinking about that place right now is getting me teary eyed. My gosh, Queenstown is a gem. It couldn’t be more perfect. We were surrounded by mountains with snow on top of them and calm waters. There were birds flying around and people walking around town so happy. They sold the best food. You can actually taste how natural and organic the food was. You can even drink out of the tap water in the bathroom. That’s how clean their resources were. We drove 5 hours to Milford Sound and we saw nothing but perfect scenery. 5 hours flew by because we enjoyed the view so much. We even stopped several times on the side of the road to take pictures. On the way back to Queenstown from Milford Sound, it was coincidentally sunset. So there we were, driving on the coast of the mountains, seeing the water, mountains, a sky with the colours of purple, pink, orange and yellow. Plus, the town was starting to turn on the city lights. So there it was, when a perfect town couldn’t be more perfect and then it throws you a view like that. You think I’m kidding when I describe this dreamy town but I’m really not. Nikka and I kept telling each other to let us know when this dream is over because its too good to be real. Usually, people say, “my dream turned into a reality”. But being in Queenstown, it was backwards. “This reality is a dream”. Needless to say, we didn’t want to leave. It’s funny because people we met in Australia who knew about our plans of going to New Zealand told us that 5 days is too short! They insisted that we change our return flight and extend our stay. We giggled and told them it was impossible to do. We finally understood why they persisted we stay when we got to Queenstown. It was one of those places you can never get tired of seeing and walking around in. We met this one girl from Montreal who only planned to stay in New Zealand for 3 weeks for  vacation but has now been there for almost a year. She decided to stay and work there. She’s not planning to leave anytime soon and is making do with her backpack life. You know the place is amazing when it can make you stay even if you’re alone and only with a backpack. Anyway, that’s enough with my rant about New Zealand. I always heard of it being so pretty but I didn’t think it would make me love it as much as I did. Don’t be surprised if I end up doing a part 2 of that trip.

Now I’m back and travel sick. Like, I don’t want to be home kind of sick. I have to save up and find a big girl job. Hopefully I can travel again soon so I can be feed my travel hunger and keep my sanity. Until next time.

Mission Trip 2016: Iloilo City

It’s our third day in Iloilo City now and it’s been a thrill. We are not surrounded by stunning view or calm water. Instead, we are surrounded by inspiring and beautiful people. More than anything, this time in Iloilo is special because we get to interact with bible school students and pastors who are on fire for Jesus. To be honest, it’s very intimidating for me here. One of the pastors, Pastor Veron, she preaches with power through a lot of screaming and pointing directly at you. When she prays for you, she’ll lay her hand on your head that will get you to fall down by pushing you a little bit. The church I come from is slightly more conservative so this is very new for me. Regardless, it’s always good to be taken out of your comfort zone when you’re challenged but you know that God is stirring something inside of you.

I shared that particular experience with my friend here in the Philippines because I didn’t understand it. She explained to me the spiritual encounter in it and when it happened to her. She said when the pastor laid his hand on her forehead, she felt her knees go completely numb like they’ve been broken off. She said when she fell backwards and fell on her back, it didn’t her at all. I guess I have yet to experience that kind of spiritual encounter that’s why it surprised me.

Yesterday, we went to a women’s prison. Yes, a prison with 109 females. There were 5 cells. Each one lacked bed space for the amount of women that contained them. Coming in, Nikka and I were nervous. We didn’t know the reason for them being there and it scared us. When we ministered, they listened so intently and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It was amazing. We took pictures with them after and they even showed us inside the prison cell. They were very kind and that gave us relief.

Let me share the bible students’ life here. Six days a week, they have bible school from 9am to noon. They take a lunch break until 3pm and that’s when they pray for 2 hours until 5pm. Once 6pm hits, they have a service called Revival Meeting that goes on until 8pm. I forgot to mention that they wake up at designated times in the night to pray together. On Fridays, they pray from 10pm until morning at 6am. And on Sundays, they have multiple services. It looks to me like bible military. It takes patience and disciple I’m sure. Our friend Frelyn told us that they once fasted for six days. They drank broth and that was it. I commend them so much for everything they do. That must be physically exhausting too and yet in our church in Canada, a 2-hour service is already hard to sit through for a lot people. I’m seriously learning so much from people here.

The mission has been done for about a week and a half now. I’ve been spending time in my hometown since it finished. I still have some memories left from our time in Iloilo City that I’ve yet to mention so I’d like to share them now.

The following day after ministering to the women’s jail ministry, we went to two other men’s prisons in an island caled Guimaras. We made the trip around noon and took a 20-minute boat ride to get there. Mind you, the sea was a tad windy, like a storm was starting to come in but we pushed through our mission. Once we got to Guimaras, a jail truck had come to pick us up. You know, the ones they use to transport inmates in. Talk about experience and thrill right? I added that to the list of other transportation modes we used in the entire mission trip. We got to the jail and ministered to the inmates. We shared about the love of Jesus that knows no bounds and the spiritual freedom that only comes from accepting Him. We gave out bibles that were written in their dialect and even distributed food to them. It was such an awesome experience that I’ll never forget. We headed to another jail shortly after and shared again. I even bought a coin purse as a souvenir from one of the inmates.

It was really dark out by the time we finished. When we were driving back to the Port, a very heavy storm came in and there were also no streetlights. There we were, in a jail truck, driving in pitched darkness surrounded by trees, thunderstorm, lighting, and pouring rain. Oh, and with no other cars on the road but us. I’d also like to add that we decided to sit on a little bench on the edge of the truck where we got extremely soaked. The 40minute-something ride to the Port consisted of a lot of praying and just silence from us. Usually, we’re loud and crazy but in that moment, we were just quiet. The drive was already difficult but we were thinking about the boat ride back to our homes. If it was raining ridiculously hard, we could only imagine how crazy the sea was.

We got to the Port safely and thanked our amazing police officer driver for getting us there. Now, we were about to hop on a boat ride that I imagined to be as shaky as a rollercoaster. We got on the boat and my heart got nervous. I was praying because I needed God’s reassurance that He held that boat and would take us to our destination safely. At the same time, I felt at peace because I knew He was with us. As expected, the boat went up and down through giant waves. Titanic was on my mind and I was also thinking about all the times I should’ve learned how to swim. We all know that swimming is one of those staple skills you should have and I finally realized that “Yup, sounds about right”. Also, there were like 10 life jackets for at least 30 passengers. So I guess the system of use is based on who gets to dibs them. Low-key, I was eyeing the one closest to me just in case ahah. Of course, we got to our destination safely but I would never forget the spiritual, physical and mental exercise of that experience.

Just a couple of days after, we wrapped our time in Iloilo City and our mission trip overall. It was such a rewarding time. I felt revived, humbled, spiritually fed, renewed, and grateful. As a bonus, I also gained a few extra pounds J We got dropped off at the airport by our lovely friends and family. I call them family because they are that to us. Unexpectedly, we cried at the gate. A lot. Just writing this post makes me miss them so much. We all grew friendships and familial relationships with them and it sure wasn’t easy to say goodbye. That wrapped our mission trip, two full blessed and amazing weeks that I will forever be thankful for.

Mission Trip 2016: Canlaon City

We just wrapped up our mission trip in Canlaon City and are now back in Iloilo City to continue the mission. This blog post is a recollection of the joy and fulfilling experience we had. As we got on a van yesterday from our hotel to leave the city, my heart was aching. I felt attached to the place and especially the people in the span of 4 days that we were there. We met Tita Jenny and Pastor Willy when we arrived in Sipaway Island and spent the entire week with them as we travelled to Canlaon where they’re from. They became our parents. We laughed and grew such a close relationship with them. When we had to say goodbye yesterday, I felt my heart tug. I didn’t want to leave. I was starting to feel that ache I remember so vividly when I was leaving Singapore last year. It’s hard to leave when you don’t know if you’ll ever see the people you’ve grown to love again or if you will in the future, when that would be. It sucks. We also became friends with the people who work at the hotel, from the waiters to the helpers. We met Gensen, Glen, Jinel, Rommie, and Jerome. There’s this sign as you walk up the stairs of the hotel that says, “Come as guests and leave as friends”. I was mentioning it to Rommie and told him that we turned that into a reality. I was pointing at the sign but he was confused and thought I was talking about the sign that said, “Watch your step”. We laughed hysterically for that moment. We hugged them all goodbye as we left. It was such a heartwarming experience to meet them all but it’s a bit difficult to leave, having only spent such a short period of time with them. Hopefully we can reunite with them one day and see that beautiful place they live.

Canlaon City is different from Sipaway Island but equally beautiful. The peak of the city is Mount Canlaon so we spent a few days going up that volcano to the schools and churches to distribute school bags and do the feeding program. The transportation mode to get up the mountain was very risky but ridiculously fun. An old pick up truck arrived at our hotel and we were told that that would be our ride to the mountain. They put a plastic bench on the back of it and another long piece of wood. The six of us sat on those chairs, which were barely mounted on the truck with a thin rope. We had to basically plant our feet on the ground as we went up the volcano through a rocky and steep road. You could see the fear in our eyes during those rides. We laughed in nervousness. I know Tito Kinh was praying as we went up the mountain because of how unstable the ride was. At one point, the plastic bench was starting to slide down as we were riding up the volcano and we screamed in fear and then laughed after at the relief of still being alive.

When we got up the school, the view was overlooking mountains and rice terraces. It was another surreal sight that’s barely comprehensible. You could see how God carefully designed and created such beauty. It was marvelous to see. To the residents of that mountain, they’re so used to that beauty it’s like nothing to them. From an outsider, I can tell you, they live in one gorgeous place. It is so serene and so fulfilling. Another strikingly amazing part of Canlaon is their way of life. It is so simple but so satisfying. I’ve mentioned this in the last post but the thought of their life’s simplicity continues to humble me. They remind me to be grateful for my life and God reiterates how he has blessed me financially. God has poured out so much into my life and He is now opening my heart to really show me that. He’s showing me how I could be a blessing to others in the most humble way. He’s didn’t stuff it in my face and say, “I gave you a blessed life. Now go and pay it forward”. Instead, He showed me their lives and opened up my eyes in the most heart-warming way to be a vessel for Him physically, mentally, spiritually and financially.

This mission trip has rekindled my heart for the Lord. Prior to going, I was so distant from Him. I was in a dry spell and I contemplated if I was the right person for this mission trip because my heart wasn’t burning for it. A few days before we left, we joined prayer meeting so they could pray for us. One of our church members said, “You are God’s chosen vessel. He chose you this time to go and serve. He knows you’ll be the one fulfilling His work in the Philippines”. That gave me comfort and reassurance that maybe, I was the one destined this time to serve. Now that we’re nearing the end of our mission, it overwhelms me that they were right. He really chose us and we are the perfect ones destined for this. We gave away gifts as reward to the children but more than anything, I’m the one given a priceless reward. I am given a burning fire for the Lord and a rekindled heart. I feel so close to Him and so alive to pursue Him. God is so good at what He does. He took us on this trip with multi-purpose reasoning, to be blessed and to be a blessing to others in ten-folds. I feel so full…full of life and joy.

The simple life in Canlaon reminds me of my past and it takes me back to a place so familiar. Maybe this experience is so rewarding because I remember that feeling of having everything I needed and more. Half of my life was spent living in the mountains, a similar lifestyle than the one here. Looking back now, we didn’t have much but we were so happy. I had the best childhood.

This mission trip reminds me that life doesn’t have to be complicated as we make it. When we struggle to decide between two job offers or multiple university choices, we just have to be simple in our thinking and let God lead the decision-making. So whether we’re privileged with multiple offers or just one opportunity in life, we should always act in obedience to the Lord and let him unveil our steps. After all, He’s the author of our lives.

I’m excited to continue to serve on this mission trip for a few more days until it comes to a close. I know that God will continue to grow my faith and will continue to use me to do the work for His kingdom. I’m going to do another blog post of our time in Iloilo City. I know it’ll be another amazing week.

Mission Trip 2016: Sipaway Island

At this moment, I’m sitting in front of indescribable scenery. My eyes are watering with joy. I can barely comprehend this beauty. Let me describe it to you in words. In front of me is a large body of water, either a lake or some ocean I’m not sure. There’s a large breeze and just utter silence. It’s just me here. And then, there are these mountains that surround me, hundreds of them. The sun is also setting so this picturesque view is so beautiful it seems surreal. The people who live here have one crazy sight. I can’t stop shaking my head. I do it all the time unintentionally and I always catch myself doing it mid-way. I think it’s my bodily expression of denial… like, “how can this be real?” Places like these shut me up. I don’t know what else to say… my Creator has got one amazing eye.

Here’s why I’m in Sipaway Island. I’m on a mission trip. I came here with three other members from my church. We left Canada June 24th and have been travelling for 3 days. The flight inclusive of stopovers was a total of 30 hours. Once we arrived at our first destination, Iloilo City, we made our way to God is Good Church for Sunday service. It is now our third day. We have taken big and small planes, big and small boats, a taxi and a church van. It has been so exhausting to be honest but at the same time, so humbling. Not only are we learning to live as minimalists but also appreciating how privileged we are in Canada.

Right now, we’re somewhere very far and secluded. We’ll be here for a week, which means, learning to shut down electronics and anything that distracts us from the world. Instead, we’re here to dedicate time and effort by helping people find the love of their lives, Jesus Christ. We are here to share that the gifts we brought are temporary and the gift that is eternal is in our Saviour Jesus Christ. The material gifts we have are platforms or bridges to reveal to these children who Jesus is. It has been such a rewarding experience.

Everyday on this island feels so serene. Life is so simple yet so fulfilling. We have been waking up around 4am because Nikka and I are still jet lagged. It’s been routine to just relax or do devotions when we wake up and then around 5am, we walk up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. We have been doing this since we got here and it never gets old. And then, we’ll usually have breakfast as a team around 7am. Our mission starts at 9am to distribute the school bags or participate in the feeding program. The hour after breakfast between 8am to 9am is usually spent on the balcony of our room or the sitting area by the water with a cup of coffee, again marvelling at the view. Actually, it’s a lot of talking with God in the most peaceful way.

I’m continuing this blog post now from a small city very high up the mountains called Canlaon. Again, this place is a whole other level of awestruck wonder. I’ll describe it in my next post. Let me just share the most glorious last day of our time in Sipaway Island. We woke up around 4:30am. At 5am, Pastor Philip wanted us to swim during sunrise. We were all by the water around 4:45am and caught the most amazing sunrise I have ever seen in my entire life. It touched my heart so deeply that I still have a picture in my head of how wonderful and perfect it looked. While the sun was rising, the rest of the team swam in lukewarm, crystal clear water with the fish. Meanwhile, the sunrise is accompanied by surrounding mountains and the most beautiful sky. On top of all this, the area was all ours. We were the only ones staying at this old beach house so it was just the 8 of us enjoying this perfect place. All you could hear were faint sounds of motorboats of the fishermen in the distance, roosters crowing, birds chirping, the waves in the water, and us laughing. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my entire life. It couldn’t be more perfect. It stunned that the most beautiful view I would ever see happened while doing the mission work for God. We’re in a different city now but thinking about that time still makes me feel so warm. After the morning swim, we enjoyed our last breakfast on that island and hopped on a boat at 6:30am to make our way to Canlaon City.

The travel bug really bites!

Yes, the travel bug exists and this extraordinary bug bites you. In fact, it bites painfully. This bite also lingers in you forever and I don’t think you can make it go away. It taps into the core of your being and makes you re-evaluate what you dream and live for. It’s weird I know but that’s why it’s special. Most people hate bug bites but this kind is the one you’ll love and thank that it bit you.

Part of its task is taking a giant chunk of money out of your bank account, maybe even eating up all of it (hopefully not but it happens). The weird part about this travel bite and feeding the itch is that you don’t mind the huge splurge because you know the entire journey is extremely rewarding that it trumps the expenses. People were saying I could’ve done so much with $12k but they were wrong. What I experienced was priceless.

Travelling generates satisfaction. For me, it feels like a life investment. That’s a huge claim but that’s really what it is. The trip expenses yield intangible rewards. You reap memories from adventures and excursions you embark on, new friends that were hostel mates or people you just bumped into and built friendships with, stamp filled passport pages from all over the world after paying all those visa fees.

When I got back from my trip last year, I felt this deep sadness for about three weeks. I tried to explain it to my friends but they didn’t understand me. I couldn’t even understand it myself. I thought I’d be so excited to see my family and friends again but it wasn’t like that at all. I didn’t like that I was back at home and back on a routine again. I was back to seeing the same places and the same people again everyday. Grasping that thought didn’t excite me. That’s when I decided that from 2015 and onwards, I’m going to a some place new every year to feed my travel sanity.

So here it is. In less than a month, this travel itch is being soothed and I’m so excited. First, I have the privilege of spending 2 weeks on a mission trip in the Philippines. Then, I’ll be spending a week revisiting Singapore. I’ll be in Sydney, Australia for another week feeding some kangaroos and then New Zealand for one week to go bungee jumping and explore. I’ll be blogging regularly again. All I’ve been doing the past few days is spend countless hours researching hostels, places to visit, things to do, visas, etc. These next two months are going to be indescribable.