Friday, December 1, 2017

Moments in 2017: A Reflection

Again, I have to say this, "Time flies!" I guess when one gets older, time suddenly passes by fast compared to when one was still a child. And look where we are now! Hello December! It's only a month before the year ends and I just want to take this moment to reflect on what my 2017 was/is all about.

This year has brought me to the happiest and saddest moments of my life.

I'll start with the saddest first. Saddest, because my grandmother passed away. I still remember that faithful day of  the 18th of April. It was about 5:30 am and I was preparing for the day when my phone rang. At first, I thought it was my alarm but then it was a call from my mom. She told me what happened and right at that moment, tears started flooding my eyes. We know my Lola is in a bad condition, we know that she's dying but you still cannot be prepared when that moment, death, actually happens. Up to this day, I still have thoughts of What if I traveled a day before instead of planning to go home on Friday, then maybe I will be by my Lola's side during her last breath? There is still guilt in me that I haven't done the right thing. When my brother told me the details of Lola's last moments, it's as if it's happening in front of me. He's a nurse so he knows what's happening and what's coming next. And now that I think of it, if I was there, I wouldn't be able to handle the situation in a calm way. I'm a very emotional person (though I rarely let others see what I truly feel) so I can just imagine the panic and drastic feelings I'll be having if I was there. But then again, I still wish I was there. I was hoping that my Lola would still get through it, that she'll be healed and get back to normal because I don't want her to die with a frail body. I don't want her to die suffering. I want her to die happy and in peace. But God has better plans than mine. In the end, what's important is that she's now with the Lord. I just hope she's looking at me now from the heavens. On a lighter note, I also hope that she's whispering to God my heart's desires.
Taken last February at the wedding of one of her grandchildren.
I really love the way she looks here. She seems very happy.

Happiest, because my dream of pursuing a PhD has finally become a reality. And I just couldn't ask for a better place than where God has put me now. I will always, always be grateful for this opportunity. Getting here was never easy but it's all worth it. I applied to a lot, and I mean really a lot, of graduate programs back in 2016. Then, I saw a scholarship announcement in January this year. I sent my application and, fortunately, I was one of the candidates who get into the interview stage, then another interview, and finally I get the acceptance letter. It was fast getting my visa but acquiring the exit clearance was a different kind of level. It was a nightmare, with all the bureaucratic and very slow processing of papers. I've never been so stressed and angry in my life than that. Two days before my flight, that's the only time I got my exit clearance. Anyway, as they say, all's well that ends well.

So, that probably sums up my 2017. We still have a month so let's see if there are still some surprises.

P.S. Oh, speaking of surprises, the other day I got a [bad] surprise. I got into my first bike accident here in Germany. I was in a hurry that morning and was supposed to transfer from the road to the sidewalk/bike lane but I haven't noticed the level was a bit high and the road was wet, my tire didn't get through and then, everything was a mess. I fell face down on the cement. Got some wounds and bruises in my face, a bleeding mouth, a loosened front tooth, and a big wound in my right knee. And a day before that, I got bitten by a mouse while in training. Life is certainly full of surprises! Huhu!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

500 Days of (Summer) Autumn

It's been a long time... I've always wanted to update my blog but it seems that I also always find ways/reasons to not write (e.g. tired already after a long day of work I'd rather sleep or just spend more time browsing in Instagram and Facebook). But now, I do hope to get back in track, even if it's just at least one post per month.

So let's get this going!

I spent the weekend in the quaint and lovely city of Oldenburg, situated in the northern part of Germany. This is probably one of my most memorable moments here in Germany so far because 
     1)it's my first solo travel out of Cologne (a.k.a. home base);
     2) I visited a dear friend (who's a former colleague and a fellow Master's student back in South 

I have to say I'm in love with Oldenburg. It's funny because when I told that to my friend, this was her reply, "That's what you also said about Cologne!" Haha! Yeah, she's right. Or maybe, it's safe to say that I'm in love with Germany.

Okay, but why do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

First up, because Oldenburg is so clean and peaceful. Even while we were at the city center, it has still a small town vibe for me, which I really like. And the park where we went, where all these photos were is just so beautiful!

I will always prefer nature than the city. Will always stare in wonder in trees and lakes and beaches than skyscrapers. This huge tree for example, just look at that golden foliage! It's magical and tranquil at the same time. Nature really has a way to captivate one's heart.

For the second and third reasons, I'll just reserve them in my next post because it's already 12:41 AM in this side of the world.

Oh, also, autumn is here and I couldn't be any happier!

Good night! Guten abend!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Motherhood and Backup Plans

I just have to write it now, lest I forget. So today, I experienced the sweetest moment here in Germany so far. As I was putting my bags in the taxi, a little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old with a bandage on one of his eyes, came near me and said Hallo. His mother was behind him. And I also said Hallo (which was kind of high-pitched, which I hoped doesn't sound weird). He was so cute and sweet he even went nearer but I was already seated in the taxi. As I was about to close the door, he pushed it and closed it for me. Seriously, I wanted hug and kiss him. And then, in a nearby bench, the mother and son took a seat and as I was there, inside the taxi, watching them, I realized I wanted to also have a moment like that. I wanted to, one day, walk with my future son or daughter, and just sit on a bench when he or she is already tired, and just enjoy every second of being with him or her.

In my younger years, I haven't really thought much about being a mother. But now that I'm a thirty-year old adult grown up, motherhood is something that I'm starting to dream about. To be honest, I never thought this day would come. My dreams used to revolve around two things: having a successful career and meeting the love of my life. Marriage and family only comes after that. Now, as I'm climbing the career ladder, I have to say I don't really know if I'll ever meet the right man but one thing's for sure, I don't want to put motherhood on hold forever. So I'll just continue and focus on my work and save, and I am giving myself an ultimatum, which is - By thirty five years old, if I am still not married, I will either adopt or have my eggs frozen and ask for someone to donate sperm cells and have in vitro fertilization. All of these options are expensive so starting from now, I really have to save little by little. Of course, I am not closing my doors when it comes to having the whole process of motherhood in the usual, natural way. I want to experience that also but...

...backup plans are needed, just in case.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quick Life Update

The past two days (up until now) have been the best days here in Germany, weather-wise. Yesterday, it was 31°C! It felt like home minus the freakin' humidity and I love it! So yeah, there's a legit summer day here after all. It's perfectly warm but I'm not sweaty. And that just makes me feel happy. I love the Philippines but one of the things I don't miss is the situation of being sweaty right after you get out of your home or apartment in the morning. Imagine the sun shining bright and the humidity in action and your skin is just burning and wet at the same time. Anyway, I'm just gonna make this post short and sweet because I still need to pack my things for tomorrow I'll be transferring them to my new apartment.

I don't know if it's just the weather but I noticed that for the past few days, I've been feeling good about myself. Remember my post about being insecure/not comfortable in my own skin here? Just this evening when I went to the street a few blocks away to do some errands (buy some groceries because hashtag adulting), I was walking comfortably and confidently. I was just at peace and happy inside. One of the biggest realizations I have since I arrived here is that I don't care anymore if I look different among the people here. I'll just live my new life the way it's supposed to be---filled with happiness, confidence, and being appreciative of even the littlest of things. =)

Also, one month and two weeks have already gone by since I first set foot in this new country that is Germany, specifically, in this beautiful city that is Köln (spelled as Cologne in English). I have so many things I want to talk about but I just couldn't find the time to write a blog post. So sorry for being a lousy blogger but hopefully I'll get back on my feet again and take on the world of blogosphere with so much enthusiasm (just like before). Haha!

So yeah, it's 11pm already, guess I need to start packing now.

Have a great evening! Oh, let's change it, HAVE A GREAT LIFE everyone!!!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Avène: First Time User

Since I am currently having acne breakouts, I decided to drop by the Apotheke (German word for pharmacy) this afternoon to see what skincare products I should take. The lady at the counter asked my skin type and I told her combination skin (oily on the T-zone, dry on the sides) and acne-prone. She then recommended the Avène Cleanance EXPERT line. I've never used Avène before so I thought, well why not give it a try. Here they are!
Avène Cleanace Cleansing Gel for face and body - €13.90
Avène Cleanance EXPERT Soin-Emulsion - €14.90
Avène TriAcnéal EXPERT Soin-Emulsion - €15.90

Basically, the line targets breakouts without irritating the skin. According Avène's website:
  • The Avène Cleanace Cleansing Gel for face and body is a soap-free gel cleanser for face and body which harnesses a combination unique ingredients that eliminate impurities and excess oil without stripping the skin.
  • The Avène Cleanance EXPERT Soin-Emulsion is an award winning comprehensive treatment that targets the appearance of blemishes at every stage. The moisturizing formula helps regulate oil production, smoothes skin texture and reduces inflammation and the appearance of blemishes.
  • The TriAcnéal EXPERT is an evening moisturiser that comprehensively targets blemishes, marks and the first signs of ageing, so that those looking for clearer skin and anti-ageing care no longer have to compromise.
So tonight, I already used the Cleansing Gel and the TriAcnéal Emulsion. The Cleanance Emulsion, on the other hand, will be included in my morning routine.

I don't want to set my expectations high but let's see if these products can tame my raging skin.

Will update after one month (15th of September).


P.S. I also got 2 mini freebies! =)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

New Kid On The Block

Three weeks and two days have passed already since I first set foot here in Germany last July 13, 2017. As I've said in my previous post, it was a dream of mine to pursue a PhD degree in biomedical science and, finally, it's now becoming a reality. Getting here was never easy. It was hard work, determination, perseverance, support of the people around me, faith, and most importantly, God's mercy that got me through all this. Whenever I remember all that I've been through, sometimes I can't help but get teary eyed.

Right now, I am still adjusting in my new environment.

First let's talk about the weather. It's summer but sometimes I do feel like it's autumn or spring. The weather here can get a bit crazy within the day. It's drastic, from 29°C where the sun is shining bright with cool breeze to 12°C where the rain is pouring with nearly freezing winds. There are days where it's nice to walk around but there are days where you just want to stay in the comfort of your bed. One thing that I've been doing is constantly checking the weather update just to be prepared. I also got an umbrella. In preparation for the colder months ahead, I am also planning to buy some jackets and coats.

Second, let's talk about the people. Stereotypes about Germans include being unfriendly, cold, direct, and are not into small talks. In my thee weeks here, I encountered some that look unfriendly and cold at first but actually they are good people. The thing with stereotypes is you compare a culturally different group of people with another group. So for me, coming from the Philippines, the norm is giving a warm welcome, showing that bright smile and greeting, to someone new. But here, on the day I arrived, I wasn't greeted by a smile and warm welcome from the reception personnel at the institute. It's just like, let's get down to business. "Why are you here? Who are you looking for?" etc. He's very direct. I wasn't offended or something because I've prepared myself about the German stereotypes. I think getting on to business is their norm here. Surely they'll look unfriendly if I compare them to the norm back home but that's what stereotyping is all about, it just compares. You can't judge someone whether he/she is a good person just by stereotyping.

When it comes to my supervisor and colleagues at work, I'd have to say they are warm and friendly and easy to work with. One of my hopes here is to have  a good and professional relationship with the people I'm working with. The night before my first day at work, I was very anxious. Good thing, that first day went smoothly. Also, it's nice that my supervisor is not intimidating and has a passion for what he's doing.

I have to add the random strangers I met outside of work. I'm very fortunate for all the act of kindness I experienced from them. I remember the day I arrived here. Jet lagged and all but I have to buy some adaptors. Using the map given by the HR, I was at the Lindenburg station looking at my map. A lady approached me and asked if I needed help. I must have looked like a lost child but I truly appreciate her gesture. Then one Saturday, I was again in Lindenburg station but the shop where I buy tickets is closed. While inside the tram, I asked a girl (whom I thought is Korean but is Chinese) how to get a ticket and she helped and taught me on getting the ticket from the machine in the tram. Also, she's a Master's student at a nearby institute who's also studying biomed so we had some conversation about our background and studies. Another Saturday, I went to the laundromat. I was looking at the directions but they are all in German. I was dead smack figuring how I'll wash my clothes. An old man asked me if I needed help. He explained one by one all the things that I have to do. He's so good in teaching every single detail I have to know, from getting the detergent in the machine to operating the washing machine to using the dryer. He's even giving me his detergent but I was shy, so I just bought one from the machine. I did some errands in the grocery and then came back to the laundromat and then, we had a good talk. He said he is the one doing the laundry of his clothes and his wife's because his wife is sick, multiple sclerosis. When he learned that I'm doing my PhD, he said that he had a neighbor who used to work at my institute. It's really a wonderful experience talking to him and realizing that he is such a good man. There's this time, while apartment hunting, I was so hungry I went to the nearest bakeshop. I only bought a slice of pie but the lady got three more breads and gave them to me as a gift. I will always be thankful to them for all the help and genuine act of kindness! I hope to also give back by helping other people.

Third, let's talk about how I'm handling some of the not-so-good stuff. Since I am a foreigner, I can't help but compare how I look with the people here. Clearly, I am different - from head to toe. The color of my hair, the color of my eyes, the color of my skin, the shape of my face, the built of my body...I am way, way different from them. They all look like models and dolls in my perspective. Yes, I have to say dolls because most of my dolls when I was a child were blonde, fair-skinned, with blue or green eyes. They are not discriminatory, but deep inside, I can't help but feel like I'm the only thorn among the roses. I'm starting to become self conscious and insecure in my own skin. Sometimes, I feel that I'm too old to be thinking that way. I'm an adult and an adult should know what is right. And that is to accept how different I am, to be content and happy with how I look, and to celebrate the diversity of people. For now, everything is still a learning process. It is my hope though that one day, I'll be able to embrace and celebrate my uniqueness and how diverse the humankind is all over the world.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dreams to Reality

It's been a week already since I arrived and a simple way of celebrating is by strolling and exploring the areas surrounding the institute. After work, I bought a chocolate-filled croissant and ate it while walking. While enjoying the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze, the beautiful architecture of apartments, and the people just passing by, I still can't believe that all this is happening.

What was once a dream is now a reality.

I will always be thankful to God because, indeed, everything is perfect in His time. I may have waited several years, but everything is more than I had hoped for. To my family, Mama, Papa, and Nikko, for supporting me every step of the way and for loving me, even in my most unlovable moments. To my Lola, for being a big part of my life; you are an inspiration, and I hope I make you proud up there in heaven. To my mentors, previous teachers and supervisors at work, for imparting knowledge and honing my skills. To my friends, for listening to my rants and anxieties and for cheering me up (You all know how paranoid and negative I can be sometimes). To my current supervisor, for believing in me and accepting me even though I come from a different field (from plants, I will now be working on mice, though I have yet to learn how to handle them). To my scholarship provider, the Marie Curie Fellowship, and my host institute, the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, for equipping young minds into becoming the scientists they ought to be. Thank you very much!

To all the dreamers out there, young and old, if there's one thing I've learned in this whole process, it is to never give up on one's dreams. But I tell you, it's easier said than done. The truth is, you need to work hard for it, try over and over and over again even if you fail. Trust me, I know how it feels. Also, there's definitely a moment where you would cry hard on it. It will be emotionally exhausting but never let that stop you. And most importantly, you need to talk to God, pray if your dream is really His will for you, and if it's not, pray that He may lead you to the path He has destined for you.

Sharing Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hallo Deutschland

Yes, I have to type it again.

Hallo Deutschland! Finally, what was once a dream is now a reality!  

Sharing some snippets on my travel to Germany.
Golden hour

Sea of clouds

A view of Munich

Munich getting closer every minute

Touchdown Cologne

First glimpse of Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom in German)

A pretty house near the institute

Monday, July 3, 2017

Catch Up With Good Old Friends

Where did the time go?! We're already halfway through the year!

This entry is supposed to be posted on the last day of June (because I don't have any posts for that month) but LIFE happens. So, I'm just dropping by, trying to keep everything sweet and simple.

It's important to make time with people who have been part of your "old" life. Twelve years ago, I met four wonderful girls in a dormitory in college. We were roommates for three years. And I tell you, three years isn't a short time. Spending days and nights for three years in one room has allowed us to get to know each other - the good, the bad, and some of our quirks...

They are actually one of those people who really know me and my not-so-easy personality. Hehe!

And now, even if we already live in different places, have different careers, different set of friends, it's nice that we still get to see each other. They are actually a breath of fresh air in this busy and stressful life that is adulthood. It's just nice to catch up, reminisce the good old days, and simply talk about anything under the sun.

Oh, and we also did some shopping...because GIRLS!

SM Aura

BGC High Street

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Life These Days

A few weeks ago, in a newly opened bookstore in town, I decided to browse and buy something interesting to read. It took me about half an hour to get through most of the stuff. Then, as I flipped the pages of the book 365 Days of Wonder, I found this:

Such an interesting thought by Edward Morgan Forster. And I guess, in one way or another, this applies to most of us. I, for one, have just experienced what it's like to let go of my initial plans and go with what life has in store for me. But just to clarify, this doesn't mean that we just wait for what's going to happen without having some sort of plan or setting some goals. It's still important to have them because they will be our guide, our map to living the life we want.

I have always wanted to do a PhD abroad. After finishing my Masters in South Korea in 2013, I went back to the Philippines to prepare and search for PhD programs and, at the same time, to work. In 2015, I started reviewing for TOEFL and GRE, and took both in October of the same year. My plan was to study PhD in the United States which requires TOEFL and GRE. My TOEFL was good, however, my GRE was a disaster so I reviewed again and planned to retake in the coming months. In 2016, I started emailing professors and applying to various graduate school programs (mostly in Europe and Australia since I haven't taken my GRE yet). Then, US elections came and the results made me rethink about my plans. The US economy looks fragile and funding for research was not that high. Now, this is the part where E.M. Forster's quote comes in. I decided to let go of my plans of doing PhD in the US. I abandoned it but I did not abandon my dream of pursuing a PhD. I knew that I just have to look for other options. I still continued to search for programs and vacancies. Then, in January of this year, I found a scholarship announcement for PhD Studentships at the site of Nature Jobs. I submitted my application to the coordinator and it was forwarded to the Principal Investigator (PI). The PI then contacted me. And the rest is history... Haha just kidding! To make the long story short, after getting through interviews, I was finally accepted! *insert HAPPINESS*

So, in everything that we do, I think it's important to be guided by our dreams or goals but also (as what E.M. Forster said) be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lola Luisa "Loleng"

Been missing my lovely, wonderful, and courageous grandmother every single day.

Mahal na mahal po kita Lola. (I love you very much grandma.)

I hope you're having a grand new life up in heaven!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

See You Again Lola

It's been eight days since you left us and my heart still hurts.

I miss you deeply, Lola*.

Whenever I walk in your room it's as if you're still there, lying in bed. But I'd like to remember you sitting on the porch, waiting for me, and seeing your big smile whenever I come home. Or when you're sipping a cup of coffee, asking me if I already have breakfast. Or hearing all your stories from your (difficult) childhood to how you (together with Lolo) worked so hard just to send your children to school until they finished college.

You lived with so much strength and courage, even in your last days.

I know the time will come when you will meet God and I only have one favor, I pray and ask Him to give you a big hug. But more than that, I know that God will shower you with eternal love, peace, and happiness.

*Lola is a Filipino word for grandmother.
  Lolo is a Filipino word for grandfather.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Holy Week

The Lenten season or Holy Week is a way of remembering the suffering and passion of Jesus, dying on the cross to save us and His resurrection on the third day, which is on Easter Sunday.

Here in the Philippines, the Holy Week is a public holiday from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Usually, people go to their homes in the province to spend the Holy Week with their family. I, on the other hand, was all alone in the apartment. I wasn't able to get a ticket going home since the buses were already fully booked. It's probably one of the loneliest moments I've had in Los Baños. Also, my grandmother's condition is not good. She has lost appetite and is experiencing muscle atrophy. I went home two weeks ago to spend time and take care of her even for just a few days but this Holy Week, I wasn't by her side. She's in my prayers though. Always.

This Holy Week is probably one of the loneliest but it's also one of moments where I really prayed hard, not for myself, but for my beloved grandmother. It has also given me time to reflect about life and to go back to what Jesus did for you and me.

We can never repay what Jesus had done for us, dying on the cross to save us. But one thing we can do is to have a deeper relationship with him.

Happy and blessed Easter everyone!

P.S. Dear reader, may you include my grandmother, Luisa or Lola Loleng as I fondly call her, in your prayers.

image source here

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Never Give Up

If you remember my intro in my post about Pinto Art Museum - about my life these days and that I have some great news to share. I think now is the time to talk about that. =)

Finally, finally! I've been accepted in a PhD program! (This gal is a bit teary eyed right now.) It's been my goal for several years already (all my entries can be found in the label Road to PhD) and now, it's starting to become a reality.

I would say the whole PhD application process was not an easy road. I applied to a lot of grad schools and emailed professors in different countries since January 2016 and every time, it was either "There's no vacant position." or "You are not accepted." or no reply at all. It was depressing and emotionally draining. Every time I get rejected, I checked another school, another professor. And then I get rejected again. It came to a point of even asking myself whether I still deserve to do a PhD. Self-pity and weariness took over. That's the point where I realized I need to surrender my dreams to God. One weekend this January, I had a very honest, soul-baring talk to Him. I prayed, cried, demanded answers, and just said every single thing that's running in my mind. I did not hear any answer at that moment but after sometime, I got the answers. Things started to fall into place. On the fourth week of January, I received an email from a scientist in one of the PhD programs I applied to at the start of this year. It was very encouraging. Week after week, interview after interview, prayer after prayer, I was finally accepted in his group. I've been meaning to do biomedical research and now it's finally becoming a reality.

So, I guess, what I get from the whole experience is that it's a test of patience and perseverance - that we should never give up on our dreams no matter what, no matter how long it takes. And that it's also a walk of faith - that God's plans are what's best for us and His timing is always perfect. And He has given me people who also play a part in making my dream a reality:
  • my family who has always been there for me since Day 1, who has always supported and loved me, especially in my unlovable moments;
  • my previous supervisors in the Submergence team, advisers/professors in my undergrad and masters, and supervisor in my current work, for not only sharing their knowledge but also for influencing and helping me navigate in the field of scientific research and for the recommendation letters they made countless of times in all my grad school applications;
  • my friends who have been a shoulder to cry on whenever I discuss my PhD dream and the rejections I encountered along the way and who also lend a helping hand during the interview process (someone became my consultant and gave some interview do's and don'ts and another came with me when I needed to do interviews at the office and one time, we even spent the whole night at the office for a late night interview).
I will forever be grateful and honored to have all these amazing people in my life.

Ultimately, my dreams and sacrifices, my achievements and failures, every bit of my being, I offer them all to God. To God be the glory! 

Before I end this post, here's a gentle reminder for all the people who are chasing their dreams.

image source here

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Works of Art

Sharing some of my favorite artistic creations at the Pinto Art Museum.

Bright, Cheerful and Pleasant Acts by Arya Balingit (Oil on Canvas)

How realistic looking is she? Loving the color combination and the blending.

Looks like a sketch using a pencil but it's actually made of thread on silkscreen.

This doesn't look like it but it's actually made of threads. Can you just imagine how much work was put into it?

Because sometimes, we just want to goof around - us trying to portray the two birds.

Wires, wires, wires everywhere! An artwork installation made of wires.

When technology meets art. X-ray films and photographs in one.

Fall of the Carnal Being by John Marin (Oil on Canvas)

My most favorite! There's something very compelling when you look at it.
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