07.14 touching down in london town

10:41am: On the Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Paris Nord

I am officially in love with London.  The last time I was here I stayed in Central London and did everything the typical tourist would do.  This time around, I stayed with Jaime Stuyck and his super awesome wife Christine in Fulham.  Also, hanging with locals totally made me see this city in a different light. Thank you to my personal tour guides, Gila (coolest cousin ever!)+ Guppy who spend two whole days with me showing me their London. Best way to see it, I must say!

Let me start from the beginning.  I land in London Heathrow a little nervous.  I am officially starting the European trip with an introduction to 15 family members from my Dad’s side I have never met before. Three of his half sisters live in England, making it a bit difficult for us Filipino Jesudasons to meet them. My (first) cousin, Steve Cuthbert, is supposed to pick me up at Heathrow with only  our Facebook photos to rely on recognizing each other. I have no idea what to expect from this day. My Dad’s sister, Jacquie, who is in a wheelchair has graciously organized a BBQ in her home in High Wycombe in my honor.  I have met maybe 3 of them in Singapore in the past, but only once each.  Esther, David, Jamie, Vicky, and daughter Lydia drove from Lichfield which is 3 hours away.  Evelyn, Ianthe, and Natalia came from London. Kury and her two daughters live in High Wycombe and they also came.  Plus of course, Steve and his wife who live around the corner.  The afternoon was brilliant and I have never felt so warmly welcomed.   I am so blessed to have such a big amazing family!  How amazing would it be to have a complete Jesudason reunion one day with all 11 siblings and their families! I cannot even fathom the logistics that would go with organizing that…

From the BBQ, Jaime and Christine picked me up and we made out way into London just in time to watch the World Cup final at a pub close to their home. With the Spain win, Jaime the Spaniard was beyond excited and the three of us celebrated after the pub with Tanduay Rum shots at home.  Thank THE LORD Spain won!  Not only because I was rooting for them – but for the fear of what kind of monster Jaime would have turned into! HA!

The Crazy Spaniard after the World Cup Final

The past couple days was a whirlwind tour around the city…. with GILA (I cannot even express the words to describe my excitement on seeing my cousin)!!!! I met her at Euston station and helped her find her way and settle into Andrew Fladmark’s (AMAZING) apartment in Angel (what a blast from the past to see him!).  Gila looks fantastic – skinny and tanned! The UK has treated her well that is for sure. After wandering around Andrew’s neighborhood, we met up with Guppy and the three of us headed to Southbank to have dinner with my cousin Dan De Sybel, Auntie Jacqui’s son whom I have never met (he could not make the BBQ).  Dan is super chill + wicked! I have such wonderful cousins!!!!  Anyways, we made plans for September to get blackout drunk before I head back home. True Jesudason style, I suppose.  After dinner; Gila, Guppy and I went for a nice walk along the Thames over Millenium Walk and around St. Paul’s Cathedral. A nice way to end the night.

Me with the Skinny Bitch

Dan + Guppy

Tuesday was lunch with the adorable Paolo Sarmiento with the usual G+G entourage. We had fish and chips on Oxford Street then spent the afternoon in the British Museum, where we saw everything the English stole all under one roof (LOL)!  Paolo had to head home for a concert, while the rest of us decided to explore some more.  A walk through Trafalgar Square (where they had a free outdoor live streaming opera show by the Royal Opera House), Leicester Square (we stopped for an Innis and Gun beer – delish!), the West End (so many shows I want to see!), and Chinatown ended with an all-you-can-eat Chinese dinner (at a Vietnamese resto, strangely enough) where the highlight was all-you-can-eat Peking duck! Jaime and Christine joined us for a drink.  Then the three of us headed home + stayed up for a couple more hours talking + laughing + reminiscing about high school/Manila days and people of the past. Went to bed utterly exhausted – but did not sleep too long as my next stop, Paris was calling my name early in the morning.  Rough life I lead eh?

Paolo is too cool for school. Gila is amused.

Bus ride home with the Stuycks

I have so much I want to do when I come back in September –  watch a Shakesphere play at the Globe, explore Borough Market and the Sunday Up Market, shop on Oxford, visit Harrod’s, and museum galore.  Not to mention everything else Guppy and Dan had suggested. Note to self: must plan ahead next time!

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07.10 in a new york minute

7:01pm     NJ Transit Train to Newark Airport

Whoa. 24 hours in one of the best cities in the world did not disappoint! Upon landing in Newark last night, I jumped on the train right into Manhattan to meet my dear friend from high school Stef Walmsley at NY Penn Station.  With the flight leaving Chicago about an hour delayed, I got to Penn station at 10:45pm.  The station and the streets are as busy as ever with people everywhere.  My eyes were big and full of excitement. I do not think I will ever get used to NYC! It was nice to be back despite the chaos, which was strangely comforting. Following Stef’s text to meet her at the corner of 7th and 32nd, I rush out the exit like the New Yorkers around me and I literally bump into an unexpected face from the past. Adham Zaki is standing right in front on me looking just as shocked as me! Only in NY would something this surreal happen.  It has been maybe 8 years? And yet, he looks like he has not aged a day since our high schools days in Manila and conversation flows like no time has passed. Amazing.  I am so lucky to have gone to an International School where I know someone in practically every major city in the world. I will never be alone after all!

Stef shows up and we have a laugh about the random encounter. We cab up to her lovely studio apartment in the upper east side, freshen up and head out.  We are meeting some of her friends in a Filipino resto called Café 81 in the East Village.  As I walk in, I feel like I have walked into a typical Quezon City bar. Pinoys everywhere! We order Kalamnsi vodkas, munch on lumpia Shanghai, and I see about 5 or 6 unexpected friends + acquaintances from Manila that live and work in the city.  The night out made me realize that if ever I end up living in NY, I will never be lonely.

BUT…. Today was a magical and memorable day.  Not only was it my bestie, Helen Gomez Andrews’ birthday, but I also got to meet her beautiful baby girl Mona Oisin Andrews for the first time.  See the beautiful ladies in the photos below. I have completely fallen in love with this little thing! Helen makes motherhood look so easy – and looking completely fabulous despite only having given birth last week.  Mona, or Oisen (pronounced Oh-sheen, as her parents call her) is so well behaved. She slept the whole time during our 2 hour dim sum lunch in her carrier on Helen’s belly.  I’m so impressed and so proud of my Helen! To see one of my best friends entering this chapter in her life makes me so happy – but sad I cannot be there 24/7 to live it with her.  The same goes for Dina and Vava in Manila.  I cannot even think about the pain of missing my best friends the way I do because I am so afraid of the real emotional pain I know I will feel.  There is nothing I want more than to also meet Dina’s Bella… my inaanak (or god-daughter for the English speakers).  Sigh… will there ever be a time I can say there is no one I miss at this moment because everyone I need is right here? That is my biggest wish.

Miss Helen and beautiful Mona Osheen (aka Gorby)

They nicknamed her Gorby because of that cute birthmark. Love her!

One more shout out to Miss Stefanie. Thank you for taking me in last night! And more importantly, thank you for introducing me to the Shel Silverstein story of “The Missing Piece finds the Big O”.  I am not sure what I am looking for in Europe, but once I find it I will know.  I will savor that chorizo sandwich at Burough Market in London just for you.

I leave you with the story of The Missing Piece. I hope this touches you the same way it did me. Au Revoir NYC, see you in a New York minute!

07.09 ciao for now vancouver

I am finally doing it.  This is the year I will face my fears. Some on purpose… others by complete and uncontrollable circumstances that will, and have been, life changing.  I know I will realize that I am stronger than I think I am.  What a turning point this year has been.  For those of you who know me, and if you are reading this, that means you most probably know the details of my 2010.  So I will not go into the big sob story, as this blog is supposed to tell the story of my “Eat Pray Love/How Stella got her Groove back” European adventure, right?!

Leaving Vancouver and saying a temporary goodbye to my friends and family has really shown me that there is no doubt in my mind that Canada is my home.  I could never leave the beautiful city + amazing people in it permanently.  I am deeply touched by the gestures made by my amazing friends in my last few days to help me get on my way.  I cannot thank you all enough! I already miss you all and I have barely left.  You know who you all are, thank you and I love you for making my departure something to remember and to hold on to during the times of loneliness that I know I will encounter.

I am now on the plane, mid-flight, en route to New York via Chicago from Vancouver.  As my plane left the YVR runway, I could not help but burst into tears – not even caring what the two strangers sitting either side of me were thinking. (Yes, I am stuck in the bitch seat.) Today represents the official beginning of my new life (hopefully getting the bitch seat is not a metaphor for this bold statement).  Spending some quality time with myself, I will get to know myself in a completely different level.  I am going to learn, grow, laugh, cry, love, hate, eat, drink, shop, discover, rediscover, get angry, be happy, miss people, get scared, get excited – you name it. Every feeling and verb you can think of I will probably feel in the next 3 months. All by myself (well, with a few exceptions as I am visiting people I know!). But I will conquer all my fears of loneliness and learn to depend on me and only me.  So these tears running down my cheeks are tears of joy I suppose, but also grieving and saying good-bye to the past that has helped shape who I am today.  For that I will be forever grateful and would not change anything about it.   So readers, here goes nothing.  Wish me good luck and good wishes! Think of me often. As I am no doubt thinking of you.