One Year Away From DC

One year ago I enjoyed my last day in DC.  I had already packed out of my house and was loving life at the Fairmont Hotel in the West End. I woke up on that last day, probably a little hungover from the night before, and met a friend at Baked and Wired in Georgetown for breakfast.  We walked over to the Key Bridge Boat House and took out paddle boards to the middle of the river to watch the DC flyover.  After the flyover ended, we headed to lunch on the waterfront, I met my aunt for dinner that night, and  I finished off the evening at Sauf Haus to say bye to friends. 

Today I find myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia. I woke up, took my puppies out, and grabbed an uber to the airport.  I was lucky enough to win a free trip the Singapore for the Under Armour “Test of Will.” We had our briefing yesterday and the three others joining to compete in the test of will emphasized what a big deal it is for me to compete at Regionals, so the rep from Under Armour met me at the airport with a bag filled to the top of Under Armour Swag!

Two very different days, so what has else changed in the past year?

House

DC: 1 bedroom + office English basement apartment with patio and yard

Manila: 2 bedroom townhouse apartment

Neighborhood

DC: Up and coming neighborhood.  Walking distance to public transportation, restaurants, bars, and an awesome coffee shop. 

Manila: Secure compound in somewhat dodgy neighborhood. Walking distance to…a 7-11?

Commute 

DC:  5.5miles to American University – 35 minutes by bike up the biggest hill in DC ugh

Manila: 2.2 miles to Primal Ape CrossFit – 45-90 minutes by car

Social Life

DC: Trivia and/or happy hour during the week, out at bars or house parties on weekends

Manila: Social life revolves around gym and my workout schedule, very minimal drinking

Gym

DC: 1 hour CrossFit Class 4-5 times a week

Manila: I don’t even want to know

Household Chores

DC: Dishes daily, work together to do full clean every week or so, laundry almost daily

Manila: None, I’m a complete slob and live in a house cleaner than DC, thanks to a helper 

Vacations

DC: One major trip per year, small trips for long weekends

Manila: Busuanga, Bohol, DC, Thailand, Boracay, Baguio, and Australia, with Singapore, El Nido, Korea, Malaysia, and DC on the horizon

Free Shit

DC: No one is giving me jack shit for free, except maybe some beer and Jameson at Sauf Haus

Manila: Trip to Singapore and a bag of athletic gear from Under Armour

Under Armour Airport Delivery for Regionals


Let’s see what changes the next year brings. 

MGZ Visits, Part 3: Baguio

The third, and final, destination for Miranda’s SE Asia trip was Baguio. I booked a cabin owned by the U.S. in Camp John Hay. We packed up the car with lots of food for three days and our bags, and headed out.

The first part of the drive we got stuck in some traffic due to a bike accident, then it was smooth sailing. NLEX, a new highway, was wonderful.  It was smooth and traffic free.  We opted to take the “adventurous” older road after NLEX since it claimed to be 30 minutes faster.

As we were ascending a hill, the car began to lose acceleration power.  Just before some construction, it turned off.  We could not get it back on and had no idea what to do.  We had limited cell signal, and opted to just try and call the embassy.  They worked to get in touch with a towing company in Baguio to bring us up, but could not get a hold of them at first.  After about an hour, the car turned back on.  There was a light on, when the car turned on.  We looked in the manual and it said we could drive slowly with the light on, so we did.  Very, very slowly.  Then we hit a hill again and the car began smoking.  I turned it off an we quickly exited the car.

We were able to get in touch with the mechanic/towing company, they got our location and sent a private car and tow truck.  We were in the middle of the road, but thankfully in a position where we could be seen from a distance.  I got out of the car and pushed it a bit further off the road, I guess it helps to be fit.  An hour and a half later, we were sweaty and tired, but the private car found us.  The car was taken to a trusted mechanic, and we were taken to the cabin.  I was extremely thankful for all the help we got from the embassy, they even stayed in touch with the mechanic for the duration of our trip to ensure we would be able to return to Manila.

It wasn’t even too bad not having a car in Baguio.  We arrived a large “cabin” (house) in the middle of the forest.  For the first time since I arrived in the Philippines, I was in a place that felt peaceful.  The windows were open and a breeze blew through the cabin all day, the porch looked out on a forest and well kept garden, and each morning it was quiet.

Garden Outside the Cabin

 

View From the Porch

 

We ventured out to Baguio to see the most well known parks and Mansion, but we found that our time was best spent at the compound.  There were hiking trails, gardens, a historic house, and plenty of time for relaxation.  I will be back, hopefully often.

Wright Park in Baguio with the Mansion in the Background

The mechanic worked tirelessly on the car and got it fixed in just under three days.  He said  the radiator cap was not installed correctly, which caused the car to overheat.  Plus, he found a small crack in the radiator.  He was extremely helpful, they kept the parts to show the issues, and even called the check in on the drive home.  I have to say, it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a mechanic.

CrossFit Games Pacific Regional 2016

Before I continue my 3 part series about my trip with MGZ, I have a nice little update on my previous post, Playing The Leaderboard.  At the end of the five week online qualifier, the CrossFit Open, I finished in 8th place in the Asia Region.

My score was not solidified until I sent in the requested video.  I sat anxiously until I was told it was accepted and I received my invite to the CrossFit Games Pacific Regionals.  I will compete in Wollongong, Australia the weekend of May 13th.  In addition to my advancement to Regionals, I was also named the “Fittest Female in the Philippines.”  I will receive a certificate and shirt…well maybe, last year people just got a certificate, womp womp.

I am very excited to compete in Australia, unfortunately, athletes must pay for the travel, hotel, and entrance fee for the event, so I’ve started a Go Fund Me.  To my surprise, I was able to raise almost my entire goal in 24 hours, but haven’t had much movement since.  If I reach my goal, I plan on increasing it to raise money to fly a coach in with me.  It would be sad and lonely to be in the athletes area without a coach.

SUP Dog

We finally got out on another adventure.  At 7am on Sunday morning we met four friends and our guide, Tono, at a gas station off of SLEX. Only about 1.5-2 hours later we arrived at Taal Lake, a crater lake inside Taal Volcano. Tono gave a thorough overview of proper stand up paddling technique and we headed across the street to the launch site. 

Before heading out to the water

As you can see, I had Xena with me. Xena coupled with the fact that two people in the group had never done SUP, meant we were doing a short(er) beginner paddle. We spent about an hour and a half paddling around the lake. The view is amazing, a lush green forest, perfect glassy lake, and a volcano in the middle. The longer paddle, which we will do next time is a 12km paddle around the volcano. Also on the to-do list is to hike up Taal Volcano and see the inner crater lake (a like in a crater, in a lake, in a crater). 

Paddling with Xena presented a whole new challenge. For starters, I forgot the peanut butter I had planned on giving her to make her happy to be on the board.  So, she was not the happiest pup at the beginning.  She fell in early on, thankfully she had a life vest on with a handle so I was able to easily pick her up and put her back on the board.  It took her about an hour of pacing up and down the board to figure out the safest thing to do was lay down.  She chose to do that directly below where I was standing, I think that was where she felt safest.  All in all though, I think she got over her fear a little, we will keep trying – next time I won’t forget the peanut butter.

 

Xena’s first time on a SUP


We finished the day with a delicious meal at Balay Dako in Tagaytay.  This massive restaurant has amazing views of Taal and delicious food.   We ordered a ridiculous amount of food, and all of it tasted great.  Family style was definitely the way to go, that way we all got to try everything.  To top it off, the bill was only 800php per person.
 

View from Balay Dako

 
I can’t wait to head out and do the 12km paddle around the island! Here’s to more adventures in the coming weekends.

A Weekend of Celebrations

I witnessed my first proposal.  I was rowing away on an erg while another group of coaches did sled drags with a long rope.  One coach asked his girlfriend to hop on and pulled her in, got down on one knee, and proposed.  Of course, that meant we all got to celebrate.  We went to People’s Palace for an amazing dining experience.

In order for you to truly understand why it was so awesome (which it really was), you have to also understand what other dining experiences are like.  Generally you wait a while to order your food then the food arrives one plate at a time, with up to an hour wait from the first delivery to the last person’s food deliver.  It then takes a long time to get a bill and then we have to tell them we don’t pay VAT and wait another hour.  It’s a more pleasant experience to eat at home.

We sat down at the table and were lucky enough to be there with the head chef, so he ordered for us.  Within five minutes of him ordering, our food arrived at the table.  We asked if it was just because he was there, and he said no, he enforces a 5 minute ticket time.  Once the order comes in, it should leave the kitchen within 5 minutes.  The waiters also don’t take notes, they just memorize the order.  To top it off the food was phenomenal.  From the pomelo salad to the sticky rice with mango dessert, there wasn’t a single dish I didn’t enjoy.

I tried to figure out why the service could be 1000 times better at People’s Palace than every other restaurant I’ve been to here.  Apparently after six months or so working somewhere, the company has to start paying benefits.  Instead of doing that they just fire them and move on to the next person who is eagerly awaiting a job.  It’s not worth the time to properly train the wait staff.  I assume, that at People’s Palace they are willing to train their staff, because they are also willing to keep them.  Now, I have not been able to confirm that training and money is the reason service is poor relative to what I experience at home, but if that’s the case, it’s certainly a sad reality on the part of the businesses.  Unfortunately, there is a high demand for jobs, so it’d be challenging to convince a business owner to retain employees at a higher cost when it doesn’t stop many people from dining out anyway.

Onto the next celebration, or party.  A going away party for one of my swolemates.  He’s not only someone I work out with, he’s also the one who got me in contact with my gym.  We booked a cabana at the Palace Pool Club.  It’s exactly what it sounds like, a nightclub with pools.  Thankfully it was not Saturday night, I can only imagine how crazy it would be to party in a pool and how many drunk injuries there would be.  The idea is pretty sweet though, especially given how hot it is here.

The pool was nice, they had some floaties for us to jump around in, the mojitos were delicious, and so were the burgers.  We were the only ones there for a while so we used the open dance floor space to do the typical CrossFit thing, drinking relays.  Handstand walks, push ups, and squats, plus chugging a beer.  All in all, it was a pretty fun day.

I’ll see if I can get photos from other people this weekend since I failed miserably at taking them.

When it Rains, it Pours

I’m not trying to be depressing, just stating a fact about rainy season here.  When it rains, it pours.  It’s madness.  When I first arrived, it would rain for about 20 minutes and I thought to myself, “wow, rainy season isn’t that bad.”  I was questioning if rainy season had actually started.  Now I know, it hadn’t.  I also know that rainy season has officially started.  I wish I could video the extend to which it rains, but I don’t want to go outside.

I have learned to be very grateful for two things: my high clearance vehicle and a somewhat covered deck off my room.  There was about 1 foot of water on the road when I left work earlier this week. As all the low clearance cars were stopped and debating if they should go or turn around, my jeep plunged right in.  Then I got home and had to take Xena out.  She hates rain.  So, we decided to let her out onto the patio to pee.  Okay, maybe a little gross, but the ground gets wet and washes it away, I don’t have to get drenched (which takes only 5 seconds of standing in the rain), and I don’t have to deal with a drenched dog.

Rainy season does bring about cooler weather though.  The gym felt cool, going outside in the morning means not carrying Xena from one grassy patch to another so her paws don’t get burned, and I’m not sweating after 1 minute of being outside.

All this talk of Xena (follow her on instagram at xenawarriorboxer) and I haven’t posted any new photos of her.  She’s grown a LOT!  When we got her she was about 10lbs, now I think she’s about 20.  She’s fully vaccinated and can explore the world. We go to puppy school once a week on Fridays and she has gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go.

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She gets VERY excited to see dogs, and plays the way boxers do. Unfortunately, most dogs don’t appreciate her play style.  Poor girl, she will calm down eventually (right? In like 4 years…) Until then, I guess it’s soccer balls and big dogs for her.

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We are all looking forward to some beach time in dryer weather and family visits at the end of rainy season.  In the meantime, we’ll be outside as much as possible between rain showers.

Biking in a Developing Country

When We lived in DC we biked everywhere.  Not because Mark and I couldn’t afford a car, but because it was faster (we also had Fred, my aunt’s ’88 pickup truck on loan for a year which we generally just used for the grocery store).  It was great to be able know I wouldn’t get stuck in traffic, I wouldn’t have to drive around for 20 minutes trying to find parking or have to pay for parking, didn’t have to pay for gas, and I got to enjoy the nice – and not so nice – weather.

Prior to my arrival in Manila I spoke to a handful of people about biking, everyone said it was not an option and that people don’t bike here.  The reason I was generally told I could not bike is that it’s not safe.  My first day here I bought a mountain bike.  It sat untouched near the front door for a little over a month, until last week.  Last week I pumped up, ok Mark pumped up, my tires, brushed off the dust on my helmet, threw on a sweet pair of Sperrys with socks, and hopped onto the bike.

  
I survived day 1 and even did a day 2!  I skipped day 3 because I had to work late.  So what was it like?  Well, it was quite warm.  I did have to stop a lot more than I would in the US and dodge a number of obstacles like push carts, people, mopeds, and jeepneys.  I have never smoked a cigarette before, but I’m pretty sure my bike commute added up to smoking one.  There’s a lot of smog coming out of cars and buses.  That being said, it was about 40 minutes faster than driving, liberating to pass all the cars, breezier than I expected, and I’m pretty sure that the roads are smoother here than DC.  Yes, that’s right, the roads were smoother than DC!  I’m also quite sure it wasn’t just the sweet shocks on my new bike.

Just like DC, I felt a common bond to my fellow bikers.  Maybe it was all in my head, but they still gave the friendly nod, and the general awareness of each other that was not as an enemy like cars.  This also goes to show that plenty of people bike every single day and how easy it is not to notice these bike commuters.  Sure they are all male here, but many of the bikers in DC are also male.

My safety, however, was a concern to my coworkers.  They told me to be careful since I am a woman, especially since I have a backpack on, which could make me look like an easy target.  I’m still undecided on this.  Okay, I didn’t feel completely safe at night, but there are always lots of people on the road and if I’m on a bike it might imply that I don’t have tons of money and may not make the best target.  This could be naive of me though.

All in all, I think it was a pretty positive experience.  I can get a mask to help with the air pollution, wear longer sleeves if the sun is beaming too much on my pasty northern american post-apocalyptic winter skin, and fasten a front strap to my backpack to make it more challenging to steal, and maybe just carry my knife in my pocket (not so sure about the last one).  

I learned that despite what everyone thinks, it is not too difficult to bike in a developing country. Just be smart, pay attention, be comfortable on your bike, and share with the world how awesome biking is.  It will, after all, help with the air pollution, which in turn makes biking more enjoyable.