All posts by bisayainsweden

Spain | Side trip to Barcelona

Barcelona! Las Ramblas, I’ll meet you, we’ll dance around La Sagrada…

I just have been listening to this song from Ed Sheeran a few months back and I actually got to visit this city for 6 hours during the company summit in Spain. It was rather short but it was enough to decide that I should be back with RG.

Walkathon to the train station

The resort we were staying, Le Meridien, was about an hour away from Barcelona via train. I and 4 other guys, one of which is from Spain, all decided that we visit the city while in the country. The train station from the resort was a bit far as opposed to what the front desk personnel told us. On a normal pace it probably takes me 30 minutes or more to walk but we were in a walkathon to catch  the 1PM train so it took us less than 20 min. We finally made it to the station 5 minutes before the train comes and we had a bit of a problem. The ticket machine did not accept any of our cards, good thing one of the guys had euros with him so he paid for us. We ran on the other side after claiming the tickets and a minute after, the train arrived. We made it, barely.

Barcelona, first look

We got off the train and went into the light (out of the subway) and what a beautiful view it was!

La Sagrada!

An hour after, we arrived in Barcelona and our first stop was La Sagrada Familia. There is a subway that stops at the church so it is hard to get lost. I noticed that in blogs that I read, almost all pictures show that the chruch is under construction and so I asked the spanish guy why. His answer was:

The money they use to build the church comes from donations and often it runs out so the church always has the crane because construction resumes as soon as they have enough donations again.

It was an interesting fact and just like in the Philippines, churches rely on donations for construction. Nonetheless, the church is uniquely beautful!

Old town, new tourists

After seeing the famous La Sagrada Familia, we took the subway going to the old town. Here, we met with our Spanish friend’s friend who is part historian and he showed us around. We had our own tour guide who shares a lot more interesting story for it includes the finite details that a typical tour does not. The architecture, roads, walls, everything old is so lovely to look at. There is also a street in the old town that is called the graffiti street and our tour guide knew who painted what and why. It was so impressive.

Six hours well spent in the city of Barcelona! 

 

Spain | The company summit!

Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel and Spa is a 5-star luxury beach hotel in El Vendrell in the country of Spain and luck was on my side for I get to join the company summit within the month of joining. It was an all expense paid trip for 300 employees and was planned in a way that everyone gets more personal time than sitting down on a conference room with a power point presentation. Every day there is an activity and every dinner had a theme.

The 5-star Location

Ola España! 

Thursday, we arrived in Spain and a bus took us to the resort which is about 40 minutes from the airport. Everything was prepared so when we arrived at the resort, we only had to pick up our room keys, drop our bags, freshen up a bit and eat dinner. I had a bit of a problem, when I wanted to open my suitcase because my code did not work. I know the combination has never been changed but it just did not want to open up after several attempts. I called the hotel front desk personnel to have somebody force open the bag and right after i placed the phone down, I unknowingly moved the first number and when I pushed one last time, it opened. Talk about irony. I had to tell the guy by the door that it was fixed.  Well, gears break and probably that’s what happened.

A summit is not complete without a conference

Friday, we had a conference hosted by the CEO, he mainly talked about how the company is performing, market trends, important events and gave out awards to the different departments and people. In between the conference was of course fika,  where we got to socialize with our colleagues over coffee and pastries.

Team building by the beach

Saturday, we had our team building activity by the beach, no cheating allowed or we all die. Very simple rule. This was the shortest day of the summit, it gave us the time to sneak out and head over to the capital, Barcelona!

Warm weather is over

Sunday, it was time to leave the warmth of Spain in exchange for cold Sweden. We left early for the airport because it was that time where the Catalans will vote to become an independent country. From check-in to pass security control took us an hour. I thought it was because of the protests but then our colleague who was from Barcelona said it was normal. So, a tip? In Barcelona, be an early bird in the airport. After the security control, there was no information on which gate our flight will leave and it was also not printed in the boarding pass. We were lining up like the rest of the people and I noticed it was towards passport control. It felt wrong, I asked the security personnel and showed her my boarding pass, she told me which gate and it was a floor down. I was lucky, the other guy was not. He went through passport control and there was no way back unless you talk to the police. Good thing our Spanish friend and another Swede were there, they rescued the other guy.

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What I did

  1. Socialized – I shared a room with someone I only met the first time and she is really friendly so the bed sharing worked very well.
  2. Socialized – I shared tables with different people every meal and I met colleagues from different races.
  3. Socialized – I went hiking with 4 older guys I met during lunch, we got lost but found our way back to the resort.
  4. Socialized – I went on a side trip to Barcelona with another group of guys and discovered just how beautiful the capital is.

I am so social now, I cannot wait for next year’s summit! 😀

Working in Sweden | From Aprons to Blazers

To land a job of my field was the most challenging in Sweden, to land at any job was next.

The first few months living in the country was fine, I started studying the language through SFI and it went fine. I would spend hours reading and watching Swedish shows to learn it as fast as I could. To me this was my ticket to having a job, at least that’s what a lot of companies I applied for made me feel. I have read a lot about immigrants not being able to get a job even when they are qualified for it because companies prefer Swedes and that connections are an important part of being employed. I did not want to believe it until I had my own dose, countless rejections from big companies . No interviews, just regret emails. The phone calls I normally received are from recruitment agencies doing preliminary phone interviews and then I did not hear from them again. I made several follow ups and had received several reasons why they can’t hire me like:  your visa is not eligible for a permanent position, our client wants to hire Europeans only. The first is not true, the second is racism.

Few months after I got my first job as a buffet attendant/kitchen help through a chef friend who works in a school kitchen. I was good match for the job not because I have the experience but because the company gets support from the unemployment office (instegsjobb) and that meant savings for them. I was happy that I was hired, that I can finally get into the Swedish labor market and hopefully get something better in a year. After a few months of working, I started to realize how bad my situation was. I got below minimum salary despite the fact they receive government support and since they are not part of the union, there was not much that can be done about it. The entire time, I felt I was taken advantage of. While it was a good way to kill time and earn a little, it was also eating up my self confidence day by day. I would go to the school cleaning the canteen or what Gothenburg calls ‘Bamba’ and then setting up everything needed for lunch and then cleaning up once it is over. It sounds so easy but it requires a lot of work of which nobody appreciates. Yes, breaks are hard to get. People around me made me feel I did not matter, they act superior, that they are better than me and sadly, i felt inferior.  The confidence I have built up for years was slowly slipping out of my hand, it was a struggle to hold it.

I never stopped looking for a better job while I was working in what felt like slavery in modern times. I joined facebook groups for professional women, met new people in my attempt to grow my network but it was not successful. I met helpful people who directed me to companies and referred me to but still nothing. I was starting to question my skills and experience that maybe I am not good enough. It was a good indication that my self confidence is on the verge of death. One day, I saw a post in LinkedIn for a Business Analyst position and it did not mention about being fluent in Swedish so I took another chance. The worst they can say is No and I am used to it after being rejected numerous times. A week after, I got a voicemail from a recruiter asking me to callback. When I did, she scheduled me for an interview and that moment was my happiest. Just landing on a personal interview felt like a big achievement. The interview went well and they liked me, there was just one problem; I did not have an experience with vehicle systems and they were uncertain if they can get me a client at all since a huge percentage of the market in Gothenburg has something to do with vehicles. I was a bit sad but then at least they liked me. 

Weeks passed and I went on a holiday to the Philippines and while I was in the middle of the waters in Coron I saw a missed call from the recruiter. I called back as soon as I arrived in the inn we were staying and she said they might have a client for me. As soon as I arrived in Sweden I informed her that I was back but by then she was on a holiday so I never heard anything for about a month. I have been thinking of quitting the kitchen job even before I visited the Philippines because of my employers and the low pay but has been pushing it back since there is not much of a choice anyway. I thought I can keep going until I was told that I was not working hard enough because it was not my line of work. My chef thinks otherwise, my colleagues think otherwise and they just crossed the line. I quit and my mornings have been happier since then. 

A few days after I quit, I received an email from the consulting company asking me to come over for a preparation for a client interview. He asked about my experience, talked about the client a bit and was convinced that I have the right experience to what the client was looking for. We went to the client and the interview started. It was not the formal type. It started with an introduction and they talked a little about the project and asked about my role. I had more questions for them than they had for me and the interview was done. The senior manager said they can provide the feedback in 2 weeks time since there are also other people on the list.

Four days later, the client called and I was hired. My mornings just got even better…

Writing this story makes me smile because this is a great reminder that:
I am a strong woman.
I don’t settle for anything I don’t deserve.
I am better than what I think.
I have a strong support system. A husband who loves me unconditionally. A family who listens.

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Philippines | Coron, Palawan

A trip to the Philippines for us is never complete without a beach escapade because the country is blessed with beautiful islands that attracts tourists from all over the world. We have been to quite a lot of islands when Rudolf was still going back and forth to visit me but not in Coron so, we had our destination. I never planned for anything until we reached the Philippines because it was during this time that terrorists are all over the news. I was scared mainly for Rudolf because he is white but he was not scared for himself so we pushed through with it. My younger sister tagged along and we spent 3 nights in the lovely island of Coron.

What we did:

When we arrived in Busuanga airport, we picked up flyers with different tours from different agencies and started planning while in the van. The trip from the airport to the town took about an hour and it was arranged by Macky’s Hidden Inn, our home for a couple of days.

All of our activities were booked through Ocean Pearl Travel and Tours because we found it to be the most affordable, their tour included towels and snorkeling masks which means we do not have to pay 150 each for the mask.

  1. Climbed the 700+ steps of Mt Tapyas – Bring a bottle of water going up, you need the water. I made several stops in between because I need to catch my breath but the view was amazing. I bet sunrise and sunset looks stunning from here.
  2. Relaxed our tired legs in the hot waters of Maquinit hot spring – It is 30 minutes trike ride away from Coron town proper. The entrance is 200 pesos per adult and I recommend going there after sunset because the water is hot! They say the water is around 40 degrees Celsius so imagine soaking in hot water with the glaring heat from the sun.
  3. Explored a bit of the town-
  4. Joined the Coron Island Ultimate TourWell it says ultimate so we took it as our first island hopping activity and we had a great time snorkeling! I say if it is your first time in Coron, try this tour.
  5. Joined the Escapade tour – After an entire day of snorkeling we decided to do beach hopping and went to 3 beautiful islands. Bulog Dos was the best beach for us in this tour. This is also where the famous Two Seasons resort is located.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at Macky’s Hidden Inn because of these reasons:

  1. They had a rainy day promo which was 1000 pesos per room.
  2. They have few but good reviews in their page. When I was reading up reviews of different places to stay in Coron I got tired of the famous ones because half of the write ups are so bad so I settled for something that only had a few.
  3. Responsive staff.

Review: It is a bit hidden, less than a minute walk from the road, which makes it quite as well during the night. The room where we stayed, 1C had a noisy air conditioning unit but since we were so exhausted after an entire day of island hopping we survived the sound. The staff are friendly, they respond to our questions and requests nicely. They do not overcharge for breakfast, 100 per person for a normal Filipino breakfast was good enough. They had free water and we could buy food from outside and eat in their dining area.

Where we ate:

The first meal was in Island boy and we were just not happy with the food. It was overpriced and did not even taste good. The next time we bought barbeque outside and ate in the inn and we enjoyed it compared to Island boy. Jelly’s grill was probably the best restaurant we have eaten in Coron, their food was delicious and reasonably priced.

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Hongkong | Around the city in 2 days

Less than a year living in Sweden and we were on our way again to visit the Philippines! We could have went all the way straight but we thought that it could be fun to visit at least one Asian county before Cebu so we decided to stay in Hongkong for 3 nights. Travel time wise there was not much of a difference, we still had to endure 20+ hours of flying and waiting to get to Hongkong from Sweden. When we arrived, we immediately bought the octopus card for it is apparently very useful in Hongkong and the remaining balance can be refunded after the trip for a fee of 9%. We took A21 bus from the airport going to our hotel and we were told by the driver that our stop has passed when we asked so we went down and started walking with our luggage. Along the way, a lot of foreign people (non Chinese) were offering us a room to stay and they were everywhere in Nathan road. After going through what felt like a maze, we finally reached our hotel.

What we did:

We played lost tourists as usual. We had 2 full days in Hongkong and as always we do not have a detailed itinerary of the trip. We set 1 or 2 places to visit and we are done, the main goal is always just to get a feel of the city we are visiting, try local food and not be stressed with a piece of paper.

“It is in getting lost that we sometimes see the beautiful unknowns.” – #thegumbschstravel

The first day was wet. It was raining and not just raindrops but it was as if somebody was pouring buckets of water from the sky. We went out for breakfast and was a bit disappointed because of the heavy rain but to make the most out of the situation we thought we do indoor activities instead. After breakfast we bought a tram card day pass and headed to the Central. We were walking around the mall called Landmark and were feeling poor with all the branded and expensive boutiques we passed by. We checked the window and noticed that the rain has stopped. Since the tram peak was walking distance (everything is if you have the time) from where we were we took the chance.

  1. Took the tram to Victoria Peak – We were lining like everyone else to the ticket counter to buy the ticket only to be told to go directly to the entrance because we had the octopus card. We proceeded to the entrance, tapped the card and took the tram all the way up. Half of our view was covered by fog though, I bet it looks a lot better on a sunny day. 
  2. Walked to the Avenue of the Stars – Our hotel was not too far from the Avenue of the stars so it was easier to visit. We managed to be here before and during the dark sky.
  3. Rode the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car – I am scared of heights, just looking at the cable car and imagining myself in there makes my heart beat faster and my knees shake. I was not so convinced of the idea but the assurance from my ex boyfriend that it will be fine because the cars are from an Austrian company (yes this is true) helped me get over the fear by an inch. We took a one way ticket just in case I chicken out after the first ride. It was not bad, not at all. In fact, I enjoyed the cable car I can ride it again! 
  4. Climbed 268 steps to get up close and personal with the Big Buddha – It was not too high but I still had to take a few stops to catch my breath. After the Big Buddha, we took the bus going to the tram station and it was fun to try another route going back.

     

  5. Shopped for my new iPad – I have always wanted to buy a newer one for my 2nd hand iPad mini before was getting slower for my games and it only had 16GB of memory. I have checked out stores in Sweden and was only aiming for a 32GB because it was affordable for me but decided to buy it when we are back from the holiday. When I checked the apple store in Hongkong, the amount it costs to buy a 128GB iPad is the same as that of a 32GB in Sweden so of course I took the chance. Apparently, it is tax free there that’s why it was a lot cheaperIMG_5684
  6. Wandered around the streets of Hongkong and got lot lost a few times – This is why we do not have an itinerary, we end up getting lost anyway :P.
    Hongkongs skyscrapers are fun at the same time scary to look at for someone who has fear of heights like me. It seemed like there is always a tall building everywhere we looked.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at Butterfly on Prat for 3 reasons:

  1. Good reviews online.
  2. Reasonable rate.
  3. Location.

Review: We love the hotel. Should we decide to go back we will stay here again. They did not have the breakfast option but it is not much of a deal for they are located to where a lot of food shops are.

Butterfly on Prat has:

  • Friendly staff.
  • Beautiful, clean rooms.
  • Close proximity to a lot of restaurants and small eateries.
  • Close proximity to the tram stop.
  • Close proximity to the bus stop going to the airport.
  • A mobile phone with internet for their guests to use in going around the city.

 

Where we ate:

In this trip, never in a fancy restaurant. Food in Hongkong can be expensive but it can also be affordable if you aim for the cheaper places like we did. We loved our food and we did not have to pay too much. Dimsum is heaven!

 

Gothenburg | Botanical Garden

I have never been to the Botanical Garden so we decided to pay it a visit. It was cherry blossoms season and I saw a lot of posts in instagram taken from the garden so I found another good reason to go.

Pay the entrance

There is nobody by the gate to collect the entrance fee so one can easily ignore it and get in for free, but how selfish is it to only enjoy the place and not help in maintaining it. Drop the money or swish it away!

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Appreciate the flowers

Twenty kronor entrance fee and we got so much more than what we paid for and expected. The garden was blooming! We were greeted by flowers in the entrance and everywhere else and it was fascinating to see tulips from the ground and not wrapped in a paper or in a bouquet like how I normally saw them in the flower shops back home.

Never miss the viewpoint

There are signs inside the garden including directions going to the viewpoint. It is not too high but you will walk on rocks to reach the top. It could get slippery when wet so watch out. From the viewpoint you could see the city including the fountain from Slottskogen if it is on. The view from here is spectacular because you will see that a huge part of the city is still green. This is one of the many reasons why I love Gothenburg.

Walk around

Walk and take pictures, the garden is beautiful and clean.

Rest, nap or play

A normal view in Gothenburg on a sunny, warm day is people in the parks or gardens having picnics or just hanging around enjoying the sun. The Botanical Garden is not an exemption, a lot of people go here just to relax under a tree or have a picnic while the warmth lasts.

Har du besökt botaniska trädgården? Vad tycker du? (Have you visited the botanical garden? What do you think?)

Gothenburg Coffee Shop | Baka Cafe & Bistro

Part of the Hisingen visit was to have fika at one of the coffee shops where we have the Enjoy discount. The shop is called Baka.

Location: A few meters away from the Eriksberg crane. It is easy to find.

Place: Average size for a coffee shop I would say. They have wooden tables and chairs inside which is quite cool for me.

Food: The shrimp sandwich was amazing! Homemade sandwich with really fresh shrimps and tastes great. We would come back here again just for the sandwich.

Service: Good, we only had a sandwich and cold drinks so we did not have to wait too long.

Price: Since we only paid half of what we ate, it was cheap for the quality of the sandwich we got. It is still affordable though if you do not have the discount.

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