Street Art in Chinatown-Little Italy, NYC

Art not just inside museums

The first time we drove into New York City via the Holland Tunnel, I hated it. The streets were narrow, full of grime, spit, candy wrappers, plastic bags and dirt puddles. A black rental town car swerved from the right to the far left end of Canal Street, hitting the Toyota Camry that was on a stand still. The town car driver stepped out and started cursing at the Toyota Camry’s driver.

Tempers flared from the cars behind us, honking madly, demanding our car to fly over the altercation between the town car and the Camry. Well, sorry bud; we still ain’t in that future.

Oh, we’re really in the big city. What’s so great about New York City anyway?

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The Slow Bone Barbeque in Dallas, TX

I do enjoy traveling, but after weeks of being away, all I want is to stay put. It’s been a month since The Husband been back in Texas and I am pretty darn happy about it.

One of the good things I do love Texas is the great barbeque. Albeit worlds apart from the Filipino definition of barbeque, which is more grilling over charcoals, Texas style barbeque imparts a different smokiness and sweetness to the meat from slow smoking it for hours on end. And the meat is so flavorful that putting sauce is almost a sin.

Because here, they do it right. Being the meat lovers that we are, The Husband and I looooooove Texas for their barbeque.

One of the notable places in the DFW metroplex is The Slow Bone.

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PUBLISHED ON RAPPLER: OFW in Dubai: Life isn’t as glamorous as it seems

The Burj Al Arab 7-star hotel: The one that put the glitzy city on the world map

When I first arrived in Dubai, I thought that all OFWs were rolling in the dough and living the high life that the glitzy desert city was all about.

I sat in the back of our friend’s newly bought American brand SUV that early morning, jetlagged. “Finally! Welcome to Dubai!” he exclaimed, keeping his eyes on the road, while handing me a nondescript plastic bag. I didn’t expect a welcome gift since picking up my husband and me at the airport at an ungodly hour was more than enough of a gift already. I opened the bag and saw it was an ultra HD portable camera.

Later that morning, my husband drove me to the nearest medical testing center as all Dubai visa holders were required to be tested for tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV. And everyone from all corners of the world, who was waiting for his turn, was donning polo shirts with thoroughbreds, crocodiles and laurel wreaths and lugging bags emblazoned with monograms and gold insignias. The deafening medical laboratory silence was broken with pings and bleeps from the mobile phone-of-the-moment owned by the Filipino nurse, who drew my blood.

Even later that evening, my husband and I met up with his friends for dinner and coffee. And everyone was teasing him to get a one of those monogrammed and insignia-ed bags as a wedding gift.

Apparently, every telecom engineer’s wife in Dubai had one.

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Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken Memphis, TN

Please do eat at Gus’s when you’re in Memphis TN

Americans looooooooove to exagerrate.

Maybe I’ve just been watching too much American TV and too often I’ve heard these lines on my usual channels: the Food Network, Travel Channel or TLC:
“I’ve died and gone to (insert food item here) heaven!”
“That’s freakin’ INSANE!”
“The best thing I have ever had”
“Its better than my mother’s cooking…Sorry Mom.”
“Its a religious experience!”
“Best (insert food item here) in the world!”

So you’ve actually eaten the world, the skeptic me would ask in my head.

But I think I’ve eaten the best fried chicken in the world (at least in the countries I’ve visited so far) is right here in America. It is rightly so that the place has the words “world famous” in its name. Because they should be world famous. They really do deserve to be world famous.

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The seals of La Jolla Cove, San Diego CA

Now this is where all them seals hang

The best things in life are free, as they say. And in La Jolla Cove, San Diego, this is so true!

You get to see seals up close and personal in their natural habitat without paying a ticket. Well, I guess all you have to do is drive yourself down to La Jolla Cove, San Diego, which is around 2-3 hours from Los Angeles and its surrounding cities, and then walk down to the cove.

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PUBLISHED ON RAPPLER: Life as an OFW: The grass is not always greener

My pastures were rather sandy than green (Dubai-Al Ain road, UAE)

I’ve always thought that grass is always greener when you are a Filipino working abroad. Hours upon hours of my days were spent on the Internet then, waiting for my long distance lover to log onto Instant Messenger to chat with me and tell me about his days in Dubai. Oh, how I longed to be by his side.

Often I found myself green with envy whenever he shared photos on the social network, grinning from ear to ear, monkeying around with his new-found friends, exploring the country where everything was new.

He was there and here I was, stuck in the humdrum Metro Manila routine: getting up before the sun rises, commuting and being stuck in traffic for a good two hours, slaving away for more than 10 hours a day in the concrete towers of Makati and getting home when everyone was asleep.

Seeing those photos, reading and hearing his stories and being at the receiving end of the fruits of his labor – a new digital camera, a new laptop, vacations in Tagaytay, Baguio and Pagudpud – I just knew that life outside the country was so much better.

No wonder millions of Filipinos leave the country for those greener pastures. It was one great adventure, an opportunity for better finances for a more comfortable life and then some.

But when I found myself in his shoes, joining him in Dubai, I realized that being an OFW isn’t necessarily always greener and it simply isn’t for everyone. Feeding on those greener pastures came at a hefty price; it was no free lunch or a walk in Luneta Park.

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Lessons from a year of living in the United States

Me at the Grand Central Station, NYC (Photo taken by The Husband)

All Filipino immigrants we’ve met remember the very day they’ve arrived in the US. I do and I remember it very clearly: April 25, 2013. It was a Thursday. The Husband and I, groogy from the 7 hour trip and a 5-hour layover at Amsterdam and the 9-hour trip into Atlanta, looked out the airplane window, amazed at how the landscape was greener than green could ever be. It sure was a stark and much welcome contrast from the muggy, bleak endless sand dunes of the United Arab Emirates. We were driven off the Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport disoriented with the unfamiliar surroundings.

Today is one year from that fateful day of arrival. I’m not as groggy and not as lost as I’ve definitely learned a whole lot from the experience. Here are some lessons I’ve picked up from this amazing year as a Filipino expat in the United States:

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The Donut Man in Glendora, CA

Wow!

Our landing in America has triggered an annoying obsession that The Husband wants me to shake off. I am obsessed with American doughnuts, the ones I’ve seen the cops down with black coffee in a styrofoam cuts in the movies. No, I don’t eat a doughnut a day to keep the doctor away (or more likely close by), but I do hanker for the popular local doughnut whenever we travel across the US.

Our trip to SoCal warranted a visit to one of the most unique donut shops ever: The Donut Man.

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