What's Your Glass Castle?


Have you come across something inspiring online, lately?


My usual (boring) Saturday night is what the millennials are calling these days, "Netflix & chill!" But some nights, I would usually do, "Youtube & chill!" ;)

I find more fascinating and inspiring stuff on youtube! But you get to dig deeper though. A perfect example of this, is how I came across a new movie, The Glass Castle, starring Naomi Watts. 

Honestly, I just clicked a video that says, "Naomi Watts Could Have Been Jimmy's Wingman for Nicole Kidman" and that's how I learned about her portrayal on the new film, which was based on a memoir novel of Jeannette Walls.

So I did a few research about it and about the writer. What I found out has somehow struck a cord to me. Although I may not have read the novel yet, but her talk (video below) was really inspiring and something all of us can learn from. It's looong but it's really worth your time. Like seriously.

I, too had a rough, emotionally battled childhood. We were poor, too. And I grew up being intimidated by some family members and having to live on hand-me-down-things. I know one day, when I'm ready, I can tell more of my story.

For now, my own take away from Jeannette Walls' story is that, my battle scars made me stronger and hopeful. There came a point in my life that I blamed myself for all the wrong things that have happened to me, but thankfully, I was able to realize, with God's grace that I will never be where I am today and what I have become now, if not because of my battle scars.

It wasn't easy to be where I am now.


But I really persevered to be the better version of my past, of my own childhood,

so to speak.


And that's also why I choose to be a teacher as well, because I know by being one, I am somewhat bringing hope and joy to the children, who may or may not be given the kind of love and attention they need.

For me, that's my Glass Castle. It is the fact that I consciously live a life of survival, gratitude, hope, courage, and compassion, each and every day. And I hope that I get to bring some of that with the people around me.


There is no such thing as smooth. If you’ll look close enough, silk got texture. We all have our texture. They are our scars. They are our story. Some are visible. Some are invisible. Some can be seen. Some are on the inside. Some of us are lucky enough to have a silky texture. Some of us our lucky enough to have rough texture. And together all that texture makes this crazy, big, quilt of society.
— Jeannette Walls

Did you know about this book and story? What's your Glass Castle?

From Vitoria, Brazil

 

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?


I'm a Filipino, and perhaps the only one, to my knowledge-- who lives on this coastline city of Vitoria, in the state of Espirito Santo, in the southeast of Brazil.

I wanted to tell you and explain to you, from my part, of what's really happening here.

Since Saturday, February 4, 2017, all sorts of violence have taken place in the whole state of Espirito Santo. We are talking about robberies, homicides, hijacking of cars, looting of stores, and assaults. It's not safe to be out in the streets, so to speak.

Why?

This was the result of the ongoing strike of the family members of the military police (Polícia Militar), mostly women, who are barricading the stations to prevent the policemen from doing their job into the society.

Their outcry?

They were promised three years ago for a salary increase. But up until now, they have not received such raise nor are they even getting close on having that raise this year. The negotiations on live TV was unbearable to watch.

The result?

Bandidos or bandits, that's what most people call them here-- took advantage of the time and opportunity to take whatever they can, whatever they could, and whatever they should from anybody. Some of them were heavily armed with guns. While the others took a ride on this bandwagon, as they loot grocery stores, electronic shops, and shopping malls. 


It was a horrible nightmare that no one expected to happen. Media outlets make a reference to this weekend with the movie, Purge


I have always considered Vitoria, a very safe and peaceful city. Honestly, I had no idea that such horrible acts were taking place until the school I worked with, posted on their Facebook page that our first day of the school year was being suspended for safety concerns of all our students.

It was only until then that we were able to understand the scale of the problem when colleagues and friends started exchanging messages, even adding graphic videos & photos of some of the crimes that were posted on social media.

I still wasn't convinced myself, thinking that they might just be exaggerating the news and whatever they received from their news feed. Because in my neighborhood-- Sta. Lucia, no such thing was happening.

Not until I witnessed and took this video last Monday, around noontime-- on a broad daylight, no less, right under our building! Thankfully, no one was killed or shot after this. Although, this wasn't just the tip of the iceberg. 


To say it's crazy and tense around here--- is an understatement. People are literally afraid of going out, supermarkets have long queues, businesses came to a halt, public buses stopped their service, and innocent people lost their lives. I continue to pray that this, too shall pass.

I want to understand and empathize with the heartbreaking stories from this side of the world. I want to tell you all that this is not the Vitoria that I love. I want to paint you a beautiful picture of what it's like to live here. I want to give you the information that I was able to sleep peacefully last night. That I was able to do grocery shopping today. I am safe and this is what I wanted to share to the world...

While I want to say to my friends, colleagues, and all the Capixabas here in Vitoria. You are not alone. You should not be ashamed of this. It's very easy to put a blame to the policemen, to their families, to these bandits, and to the government. But in times like this, your compassion and kindness can go a long way. Keep in mind that most of these people have felt oppressed their whole lives. Try walking in their shoes. Then maybe, we can all stop the blaming for now. This may seem like a war zone here, but this is nothing compared to the people who are living in war-torn countries. There are more people and countries suffering more than what we are suffering here right now. 

You are still lucky. Very lucky. 

And I may not be in the right position to tell you of what to do. But what about just bringing in the good things instead of the bad?

So let me remind you through these pictures of how beautiful Vitoria is...


And we all wanted to protect and keep the beauty of Vitoria.


The only way of doing it, is to STOP HATING. Hate will be another form of defeat. Hate will only make matters even worst. So let's start a conversation other than hate and anger. Let's start from...



What do you love about Vitoria and what can you do to help?

US Tourist Visa vs. Schengen Tourist Visa Application (OFW guidelines)

 

Got plans of applying for a US or Schengen visa soon?


As a Philippine passport holder, it is a bummer to travel to most countries in the world without a tourist visa. And it is even harder to obtain one just for Europe and the US alone.

I suppose it is even a different process when you're an OFW living abroad to apply for these visas, just like me. I know a lot of you wanted to do it but never took the courage to do it--- because you think it is too difficult to apply.

Well, yes, it is. And quite stressful, in fact. But if you're lucky enough, it's really self-fulfilling.😍

Here's the thing if you're an OFW--- as long as you're with legal working status in the country you're residing right now, you're very much eligible to apply for these visas. You don't need to go back to the Philippines just to apply there. 

On that note, I would like to share my experiences of applying for these visas while living away from the Philippines.


For a US (B1/ B2) tourist visa application & guidelines


I was working in Beijing, China at that time. And I was referred to a travel agent by my good friend, Maricel who has also helped her with her own US tourist visa application.

Basically, I have to prepare all the documents to be presented, while the agent did the whole application on my behalf. But the whole processing steps are pretty much the same in all US embassies around the world.


HOW TO APPLY

*The steps below were taken from the US embassy-Philippines website. Check out the official US embassy website in the country you're residing/wanting to apply, for complete details. This is just to give you an example of the whole application process:


Step 1
Pay the visa application fee. $160.00

Step 2
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 3
Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:

Step 4
Visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You will need to bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photograph, your current passport and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

  • Your passport number
  • Your MRV fee payment receipt number
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page

Required documents

*I was on a working visa in Beijing, China. All documents I presented were all supported by my employer when I applied. So you should have a kind boss to help you comply with the following documents...


  • Current proof of income, tax payments, property or business ownership, or assets.
  • Your travel itinerary and/or other explanation about your planned trip.
  • A letter from your employer detailing your position, salary, how long you have been employed, any authorized vacation, and the business purpose, if any, of your U.S. trip.
  • Criminal/court records pertaining to any arrest or conviction anywhere, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned.
  • Bring an employment letter from your employer and pay slips from the most recent three months.
  • Bank statements to support your financial capacity for the length of your trip.

In my case, my travel agent advised me to print out pictures of Frenchie and I, and his passport copy to support my reasoning that I was traveling to the US with him. Which was ironically, the only thing they looked into my documents.


Dinhs' TIPS for the US visa interview


  • Schedule the interview early in the morning. I believe the visa officer are 'nicer' as compared with the 'grumpy' ones in the afternoon. 😉
  • Come in presentable clothes and less valuables. They are super tight with the security that you're only allowed to bring your documents in the embassy premises. No mobile phones and any bags allowed inside.
  • File your documents in an organized folder. Don't place them in an envelope.
  • Stay cool and keep your calm, no matter how nervous you are. Trust me, it's one of the most nerve-wracking interview of your life--- but just smile and relax!
  • Interviews can vary from two minutes to an hour long. In my case, the officer grilled me for the purpose of my trip-- for almost 30 minutes. This was back in 2014, so I told him that my boyfriend and I wanted to go to Brazil for the World Cup and since it's going to be a long trip, we decided to have a stop over in the US for a few days before moving on. 

It was then he decided to ask me questions about Frenchie, and if I have supporting documents about him. In other words, he's just making sure I'm not making up an imaginary boyfriend who wanted to go to the US and Brazil with me. So I showed him the passport copy and several pictures of us on our trips together. He also asked me about my job and what was my plan after I come back to Beijing or how long do I still have to stay in the foreign country, which I considered home for eight years already. I was so confident with my answers that I felt like I'm Miss Philippines for the Miss Universe 2014 beauty pageant! He never once looked at my other supporting documents but he did step out of the window and ask his colleagues about my case while showing them my papers. I guess, they're trying to weigh in the possibilities of me becoming yet another illegal alien in their country. 😋

  • My best interview advice: give them enough reason that you don't want to stay in the US, illegally

After what felt like an eternity, he came back and handed me a piece of paper and said the magical words at that moment, "Congratulations, you can pick up your passport in seven days. Here are the details. Have a nice trip!" I said my 'thank you' with a huge grin on my face.

Whoa! Nailed it!!! I was granted with a 10-year multiple entry visa. 😍

Fact: I was denied on my first visa application because of my reasoning (that I was traveling with Frenchie to the US) and I didn't bring any documents or whatsoever about him. The officer didn't even look through my files. He just said, "I'm sorry, I can't give you a visa right now due to lack of supporting documents." I wanted to reason out that it was ridiculous that my application has nothing to do with Frenchie and his existence. Yet, of course I didn't say a word about it. It was less than 10 minutes! But I re applied a week later and the one I wrote was in reference to my second try. So in a way, I was a bit more confident. 😉


For a SCHENGEN (FRANCE) Tourist visa application & guidelines


I applied for a short-term visa in October of last year. For a SCHENGEN tourist visa, this will basically give you access to most European countries that are part of the EU (except the UK). Which means that you have to pick a European country/embassy to apply with. In my case, I choose France for a very obvious reason. Unlike US visa that you can apply anytime before you decided on your travel dates, Schengen visa requires you, at least 1 month and no longer than 3 months before your travel trip to apply.

Since I live in Brazil, that's where I applied. But Brazilians don't need a visa to travel to France, so the consulate in Rio de Janeiro are only dealing with few foreigners who are applying for a visa on a daily basis, that they don't have another agency for visa applications just like the set up in the Philippines and in China.


How to apply

*Check out the French embassy website in your country/region for specific details and required documents. The application steps below are based from my own processing experience while in Brazil.


Step 1: BOOK AN APPOINTMENT

Frenchie did the online application on my behalf because everything was in French.

Step 2: FILL OUT THE APPLICATION FORM AND PREPARE DOCUMENTS

Download the visa application forms and fill out two copies. Prepare all supporting documents.

Step 3: GO TO THE VISA CONSULATE/EMBASSY ON YOUR APPOINTED TIME

With all your supporting documents, arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointed time. Keep in mind that the security check could take some time. Look presentable and respectable.

Step 4: SUBMIT APPLICATION, PAYMENT DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOS AT YOUR APPOINTMENT

Make sure of your passport validity or expiration date. Prepare the 60 euros processing fee or the equivalent of the sum in local currency. Be ready to have your biometrics done.

Step 5: WAIT FOR THE RELEASE OF YOUR PASSPORT.

Waiting is approximately 2 to 3 weeks to receive a short-term visa and approximately 2 months to receive a long-term visa. But it may take longer if they ask for additional documents. 


Required documents

*All the following documents were organized in two separate folders (one folder for original copies and the other folder for the photocopies). Make sure that you organized them in the order they were asked (with big paper clips). These documents were also in accordance with my Brazilian work status visa.


  1. Foreigner's ID card, Carteira de Trabalho, and CPF card
  2. Work contract
  3. 3 months salary slip
  4. Passport (and photocopy of each pages)
  5. Hotel reservation or Letter of Invitation from a French national (I opted for the later)
  6. Flight ticket (The travel dates should coincide to the number of days of your stay)
  7. Holiday declaration from your employer 
  8. Application form (filled out but don't paste your picture on it)
  9. ID picture (passport size)
  10. Travel insurance (covering at least 30,000 euros)

Please note that before setting up your visa appointment all documents are ready and in proper order. Check out www.skyscanner.com for flight tickets; check out www.booking.com for hotel reservation; and checkout April International Assistance for the travel insurance package.


Dinhs' tips on Schengen visa


  • Unlike the US visa application, Schengen visa don't have a thorough 'interview' with the applicant, or at least that was in my case. The visa officer only asked me about the purpose of my trip. When I answered I was going to spend my Christmas holiday to visit my French boyfriend, he didn't inquire anymore. Ahh, the French way! 😉
  • Always listen to the officer's instruction very clearly. I had a 'grumpy' one, so I was so nervous of him that I barely could hear his voice from the other side of the window.
  • When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions politely.
  • Just relax and smile.
  • And the most important detail: The officer WILL NOT TELL YOU, a ''Congratulations'' or ''I'm sorry'' speech because you will only know if you were granted a visa or not when you finally received your passport. Reason for this is, they have a different person that conducts the thorough investigation on your documents and who will grant you a visa.
  • So all you need to do is wait for instructions on your e-mail and pray for one stressful month until it arrives! 😉

The visa officer gave me a piece of paper like a receipt that he received my application. He only instructed me to submit my additional documents through email.

So imagine me as I danced my celebratory moves when I received and learned that I got a 40 days stay, multiple entry visa for six months to Europe. Yoohoo!!!


Was this helpful to you? Please do share your own visa application experiences.

Gratitude for 2016

 

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR 2016?


2016 was a great year for me. It was even awesome in many ways.

However, it also saddens me to think that as a world and as a member of humanity--- 2016 wasn't pleasant. Syrian war is very much happening as of this writing while my beloved Philippines is a divided nation because of our president-elect, Rodrigo Duterte.

But like every year that passed by, regardless of how it was for me, I always see it as a grateful year. Because in many ways than one, challenges make us stronger. Pain gives us a healing lesson. Above all, we learn so much about of ourselves and our individual capacities. 

And that makes us--- extraordinary!


What am I grateful in 2016?

I'm grateful for the time well spent with my family. After living in the farthest part of the world--- that is, South America it was such a wonderful feeling to be home for the holidays in the Philippines. Despite the longest journey I did and a very expensive flight, I'm grateful to hug them all. Nothing could really replace, family love.


I'm grateful for the new adventures. I did two awesome adventures in 2016--- Hang Gliding in Rio de Janeiro and Paragliding in Espirito Santo. I love how these bucket lists of mine are slowly being checked almost every year.


I'm grateful for the awesome events I attended. For 2016, I was able to experience two of the world's biggest event that happened to be in Brazil. The fabulous Rio Carnaval that takes place before Ash Wednesday, every year. It was my first time and I had such a crazy time! And the summer (Rio) Olympics that takes place every four years. It was my second Olympics. My first was in 2008 Beijing.


I'm grateful for my solo travel in Itaunas, Brazil. Every year, just after my birthday, I make it a point to go somewhere on my own. It has been a practice of mine since I turned 30. It's the best gift I could give to myself. Because frankly, no amount of material things could replace the experience, the journey, the lessons, and the happiness it brings. I feel liberated and rejuvenated for doing such thing.


I'm grateful for all the approved visas I got in 2016. As a Philippine passport holder, it is quite difficult to obtain or travel to foreign countries without a visa. I'm really grateful that through the guidance and help of some dearest people in my life, I was able to be granted a Brazilian work visa and Schengen tourist visa to France. Now more than ever, I have mastered the stress of having to go through each screening process and grilling interviews. Hashtag singleAsianwoman be like. 😉

IMG_1192.jpeg

I'm grateful for all our #FrenchieAtPinay reunions and adventures. Since Frenchie and I are in a long-distance-relationship for quite sometime now, the only way to make it work is for us to meet every six months. Thankfully, the Brazilian school calendar (February to December) allows me to have longer holidays that are also in-sync with Frenchie's schedules. In 2016, we were reunited in Singapore, Bali, the Amazon, and in France!


I'm grateful to be surrounded by inspiring, amazing, and wonderful women. My highlight of 2016 is meeting women at work who are all beautiful, artistic, and strong willed in their own individual rights. I love what I learned from each of them. Our diversity, cultural backgrounds, and religious beliefs make us united with our love of learning new things about each other and sharing life experiences being away from our own home countries. Our differences make me very hopeful for our divided world, because we are a true testament that regardless of our skin colors and nationalities, we respect and love each other. I mean, how many of us would be lucky to have girlfriends from Bermuda, USA, Ghana, England, Canada, Brazil, and the Philippines?! Can you just imagine our daily conversations throughout of 2016 about our students, life & family dramas, relationships, cultures, and travels? World-dominating! 


I'm grateful to be able to reach out to many friends and families through this blog. It was a conscious effort on my part to work on this personal project of mine. It was long and strenuous. But I am really happy of the result. Probably my best best achievement in 2016. For it is my wish and desire to inspire young girls and ladies to become the best versions of themselves by sharing my own personal journey and experiences. So thank you for ALL OF YOU THAT TOOK SOME TIME TO READ THIS BLOG. I love you all.


Above all, I'm grateful to continue doing what I love to do--- teaching. Nothing else in the world fulfills me as a person than knowing that I am able to teach children what they needed to learn early on with their lives. I love how their cuteness, innocence, and pure souls make a huge impact in my own life. I love how we all learn and teach from one another. They all bring joy and pride to me. And for that, I am really grateful.😍


How was your 2016? What were you grateful for?

Life Lessons Learned Through Travel

 

"For the people who never travel

or see the need to travel.''


I personally have never understood the need to travel, early on in my life. But when I finally decided to do my first ever solo travel trip at 30 years old-- my life and my perspective on how to live it, was totally changed on a bigger scale because of travelling! 

I have understood that we are not meant to just learn new things from what our parents tell us, from what our schools teach us, from what our society expects from us, and from what people think of us.

Because at the end of the day, we don't choose a kind of life--- WE LIVE ONE. 

So ever since, I promised myself to live the life of meeting interesting people, experiencing the fascinating cultures, and taking every inspiring moments as life-long lessons to share, just like on this video below:

1. Life is short.

2. Go against the herd.

3. Embrace the unknown.

4. Trust in your path. 

5. Dream big and ask help from others.

6. People are good-- everywhere

7. Realize you are your own creator.

 

 

May this inspires you that no matter what, you can always find a way to do this-- see the world, take risks, and get out from your comfort zone.

Your Body Language

 

on this ted talk, Amy Cuddy shared on how her body language changed her whole life--- that might also changed your life.


Why you should listen

Amy Cuddy wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. Early in her college career, Cuddy suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said she would struggle to fully regain her mental capacity and finish her undergraduate degree.

But she proved them wrong. Today, Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom. And her training as a classical dancer (another skill she regained after her injury) is evident in her fascinating work on "power posing" -- how your body position influences others and even your own brain.

 

Did you find this talk inspiring?

did you ever have a feeling you were not worth it?