I Decided to Stick Around and Stay

Four years down, more to go!

Four years ago today, God sent me to this city – Jakarta. My first out of the country trip. Took a risk. Travelled alone. Stepped into into the unknown. What I was sure of then was the promise that wherever God sends me and leads me, he will feed me. God provides. God is good. He is faithful. Always.

My initial plan was to stay for 5 years, so I only have one more year left. BUT I think I will stick around a bit more. I’m loving it here so far. I’m so blessed to be given the opportunities Ive had here. I really never thought that I would now be calling this city ‘home’.

National monument of Indonesia (Monas) at the background

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Short Bali Trip – A Weekend Escape

This is a long overdue post as we went to Bali six months from now but at last, I got time to write again and share my 2-day Bali adventure with you.

In my line of work, you rarely (or never) get an opportunity to file for a vacation leave and go anywhere you want. Thus, what I usually do is check the school calendar for long weekends and holidays and plan ahead. If you have read my previous posts, most of my out of town trips fell on long weekends, or even just over a regular two-day weekend.

One of my resolutions this year was to travel more, explore new places, and learn more about the world and try new things. Life is short so you have to live life to the fullest.  So that was what I did. One Friday afternoon, right after work, I boarded on a plane with three of my friends to Bali.

Since we only had the weekend to enjoy Bali, I did a lot of research on how to visit as many places as we could to make the trip worthwhile.  After a well-thought Bali itinerary, I booked a ticket, contacted a homestay and a rental car + driver for two days. Rental cars are very helpful when visiting Bali because public transportations don’t have any access to most of Bali’s attractions and tourist destinations. Moreover, it saves you time and energy. And by the way, if you’re not happy with the price, you can always haggle. 🙂

We arrived in Denpasar around midnight since our flight was delayed. As soon as we reached our accommodation, we checked in by ourselves, settled in and dozed off to sleep. Just in case you’re curious, Miss Anita, the owner of the guesthouse we stayed at was in another town and she told us to just check in by ourselves.

Day One

Our Day 1 itinerary is the Countryside/Bedugul Tour.

We visited Taman Ayun Temple, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Wanagiri, and the famous Handara Golf Gate. Tanah Lot was on the itinerary, however, it rained heavily in the afternoon, so we just decided to go home.

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Taman Ayun Temple

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Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

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A part of Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

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Wanagiri Hidden Hills

The iconic Handara Golf and Resort Gate

Day Two (Last Day)

We woke up as early as 4:30 am to catch the sunrise in Sanur Beach. Although the sun didn’t show up early, we were still thankful to be one of the earliest to arrive there as we have found a perfect spot to sit and wait for the sun to rise. From Sanur Beach, we went directly to Seminyak Beach for breakfast and a morning swim.

After enjoying the beach, we went back to the guesthouse and packed our things. We then checked out and went to one of the most famous restaurants in Bali- the La Laguna – for lunch. The restaurant is only a 5- minute ride from the guesthouse. We booked a reservation ahead just to make sure we have a comfy place to eat and relax because based on the reviews, it will be jampacked in the afternoon.

When we get to the restaurant, the place wasn’t crowded yet. Good thing we decided to have an early lunch because an hour after, more and more guests were coming. After enjoying the breeze and the good food, we wander around enjoying the vintage, chic vibe of the place. There were a lot of Instagram-worthy spots in almost every corner of this place (even in the toilet!) and we couldn’t help ourselves but take a lot of pictures!

It was hard to leave this pretty place but work is calling. So, we decided to leave the Mexican vibe in La Laguna, went to the souvenir store and then headed back to the airport. If only we could stay a few more days…

Our Bali trip was short but amazing. It was the perfect weekend escape – just what I needed to be rejuvenated for the week ahead.

My First Apple Picking Experience

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, a tropical country boasting of a variety of fruits. On top of that, I am more privileged to grow up on a rural family farm planting different crops and fruit trees – ranging from jackfruit to mangoes, to guava, marang, and santol fruit trees and the list goes on! Even in our yard, we grow pineapple, star apple, and sugar apple. However, we didn’t have an apple tree!

I have never seen an apple tree in the Philippines. Was there even one?  Hmmm… None that I know of. So imagine how excited I was when I found out that we are going to go apple picking (my very first time) on our trip to Malang.

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Malang is the second largest city in East Java, Indonesia. From Jakarta, it would take you around 15-17 hours by economy train. It was my first time to travel by train this long and I would not try it again. It was a promo fare, only around 200,000 IDR round trip. Yes, it was way cheaper than executive/business trains, but I would not recommend it. It was too slow and the seats were very uncomfortable.

When we arrived in Malang, I didn’t expect that we were going to stay at Batu City. Batu City is one of the most visited places in Malang for its apple orchards. In fact, Batu is called the “Apple City, offering several apple picking tours to visitors. There are are a lot to see and do in Batu, but apple picking is sure is included in everyone’s itinerary.

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Luckily, since we stayed at Batu City, we don’t have to go somewhere else far to pick apples. There are a lot of apple orchards we can choose from near the villa where we stayed at. There are even apple trees in the front and backyard! Our host even offered a tray of apples when we arrived up until our last day.

 

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Apple farm just a few steps away from the villa! 

 

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Orchard visit early in the morning!

 

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Beautiful apple tree flowers

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We visited a few orchards but it was only during the last day when we finally went apple picking. A farm girl myself, I am not new to harvesting fruits, of course!  However, there was something really different about being in an apple orchard for the first time. I felt like a little kid. I could hardly contain the excitement and took a bite of the first apple I picked even when I was told it has to be washed first!

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It was a private orchard, not for apple picking tours filled with tourists, so we were the only ones there. Spell L-U-C-K-Y! The orchard was so huge. It was so fun to go around looking for the best- looking apple. We filled the two bags to the brim in only a few minutes! Of course, we brought to Jakarta with us the bags of apple we picked as well as apple chips made by the locals themselves.

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My first apple picking experience was fun and unforgettable and I hope it won’t be the last.

 

Why Am I Still Single?

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Why are you still single? When are you getting married? What are you waiting for? 

Oh, these five fateful words I so despised.

I’ve been asked these questions a thousand times already – My parents, siblings, relatives, friends, coworkers, and my seventh-grade students, and even from a random grab driver. Just this week, I received several comments and questions from friends about my status.

Failed relationships and Fears of the Future

When I was younger, I’ve always wanted to get married and have a family. I love attending weddings. I love seeing couples getting engaged. I love seeing #relationshipgoals  #familygoals posts on social media.  I always pictured myself having a pastor for a husband and having great kids. I love kids. However, now, I wonder if marriage is in the cards for me.

I started dating in high school, I was very young then and I didn’t even know what love really means. We parted ways after high school and I haven’t dated since then. Not until I turned 25. I met this guy who I thought was the one God has for me. But I was wrong.  It lasted only a few months.

After the failed relationship, I’ve had self-doubts and fear – the fear of being alone for the rest of my life.  Those fears didn’t vanish overnight. Many nights I cried myself to sleep thinking if I would ever get married. Insecurities crept in and I felt miserable for a while.

Those were the times I missed out on God’s peace and joy because I keep on forgetting that my identity and security comes from Jesus alone – that it is only He who can truly satisfy the desires of my heart (Psalms 107: 9; Psalms 16:11). I am loved by Him and I know that He always has the best for me, whether He answers my prayers or not.

 ‘If You’re Single, You’re Alone’

Have you ever been told that ‘if you’re single, you’re alone’ or asked a really dreadful question such as ‘Who will take care of you when you get sick? You will die alone!’

My response to these questions would always be “Do I need to get married just so someone will take care of me when I get sick or when I die?” Aarrgh!

I have heard of this ‘lie’ many times already. I’m not worried, though. I have my family who loves me and a lot of friends and prayer partners who are my support systems. You know what, for most people, marriage is the best thing that has happened to them but for some, it didn’t work that way. Even for Christian couples. Sadly. Marriage doesn’t guarantee everyone happiness. So don’t pity me.

 Single and Doing Just Fine

I am 31 now, still single, but happy. Happy that I’m able to do things that most married people (especially with kids) cannot do anymore. There’s so much freedom in my schedule! I can slouch. I am able to go on random travels.  I can go home late at night. I can buy anything and do things I want without having to ask permission from someone. I only take care of my laundry. I am able to read a book or sleep in my bed uninterrupted. More than that, I have more time to commit myself to the church’s ministry God has entrusted me.

Yeah, okay,  I admit it sucks sometimes especially the fact that you have to put up with the constant pressure and receiving a barrage of comments such as ‘You need to find someone to share your happiness with’, or ‘Life is better when you’re married’, as if life is miserable when you’re single when it’s definitely not.

Being single feels so liberating. I don’t need constant approval and validation from anyone. Honestly, at this point in my life, I find it hard to leave the ‘comfort zone’ of being single.

Trusting God in Every Step of the Way

I once asked God why I haven’t met the right man or would I ever meet him.  I don’t have the answer yet. Many people have been praying for me up until now – my family, friends, the church, etc. I prayed for it. Yes, prayed. Past tense. The last time I remembered praying for it, it was more of an ‘If it’s your will Lord, let it be done’. My friends have told me to keep on praying and trust God’s perfect timing. Don’t get me wrong. I stopped praying not because I have given up on it but because I believe God is taking care of it. My job is to be patient and trust Him in the process. In my heart, whether I get married or not, I have peace about it. I am perfectly okay with it. I am not going to wrestle with Him.

God Knows What is Best for His Children

I love my singleness and it doesn’t bother me anymore. If I am meant to live my life single forever, then so be it.  Perhaps, being single would get me closer to God and wholeheartedly commit myself to the ministry He entrusted me to – much more than if I have my own family.

Or perhaps God is just delaying my marriage because he is still preparing me or my future husband for it.  One thing I am definitely sure of, God never withholds what is the best for His children. (Psalm 84:11). He has great things in store for my future. (Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Top 5 Things to See and Do When You Visit Bogor Botanical Gardens

Bogor Botanical Gardens is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bogor, Indonesia. It spread about 87 hectares containing over 15,000 species of plants and trees all over the archipelago.  It also has around 50 species of birds and bats.

The Bogor Botanical Gardens is said to have been initiated by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the Governor General of the East Indies during the British reign in between 1811-1816 but were officially established by the Dutch in 1817. Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt, a botanist, who was then the appointed Director of Agricultural business, transform the gardens into a botanical garden. In the present, the Bogor Botanical Gardens functions as a center for plant research and conservation.

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I visited Bogor Botanical Gardens with a local friend Hana. It was just a spontaneous trip, nothing planned. We just wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta and to catch up as we’ve never seen each other for a while. The night before, we decided to visit the Bogor Botanical Gardens – both of us are first timers- and we were not disappointed. If not for the lack of time, we would have loved to stay a little longer.

You don’t have to be a botanist or a plant lover to enjoy the place. There are tons of things to see and do in the place that one day is never enough.

Here is a list of my top 5 things to see and do when you visit Bogor Botanical Gardens

  1. The Bogor Presidential Palace

Originally built almost 300 years ago, the impressive out of town Presidential palace is no doubt my most favorite because it is undeniably beautiful. The palace is beautifully landscaped and is surrounded by lush scenery.

 

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Sit on the benches or on the grass and just admire the beauty of the palace yard. The fountains, the pond full of pink lotus flowers, and the lush scenery can take all your worries away, even just for a while. There are also a few statues in the area, including the Hand of God statue in the palace’s backyard which is accordingly a gift by Sweden to Indonesia almost 50 years ago.

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Note: You will only be allowed to enter and see the palace with a special permission from the office of Indonesian Secretariat.

  1. Astrid Park

Astrid was created to welcome the wife of King Leopold III of Belgium, Queen Astrid, in her visit to Indonesia in 1929.

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 This beautiful park inside Bogor Botanical Gardens is another thing you can’t miss. The surrounding lush trees, colorful flowers, and lots of green space make it a favorite place for tourists to behold and enjoy.  You will definitely enjoy the tranquil scene and peaceful atmosphere here.

Another thing to enjoy at Astrid Park is the beautiful fountain in the middle and the breath-taking giant lotus pond which is even more beautiful when the lotuses are in full bloom.

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  1. The Enormous trees and Giant Roots

The garden boasts of a wide arrange of plant and tree species everywhere in this garden.  The beautiful selections of these massive, enormous, gnarled, old trees (some a century old) are a few of the reasons why this is a must-see. The sad news though is that in October 2015, the oldest tree, The Lychee tree which is estimated to be 194 years old fell down after a heavy rain in the area.

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Walking under the canopy of the enormous trees and their foliage is always a great feeling but standing in the middle these huge roots is another story.  I felt like I am in an enchanted forest – like these roots are doorways to another kingdom, you know, they suddenly open and WHOOSH!!!! I am already in another world!!! Just like in the movies. Hahaha.  But no, I am in the real world – the world of gigantic, gnarled trees.

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  1. The Orchid House

Who doesn’t love orchids?

Inaugurated in 2002, the Orchid House which is around 800 square meters, is one of the many beautiful places you can check out when you visit Bogor Botanical Gardens.  This is an in situ conservation in an ex situ conservation area.

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The place boasts of an impressive collection of around 500 different species of orchids native to Indonesia.  From white to yellow to pink to purple – different colored orchids can be found here. They also have collections of colorful hybrids of orchids in another wing of the Orchid House.

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  1. The Broken Heart Bridge

So what’s special about this bridge?

The color? The sound of the rushing river or the view surrounding it?  Nah, nothing is really special about this bridge, except maybe for the myth behind it.

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Legend has it that whenever a couple crosses the bridge together, their relationship will be over. But hey, that’s just a myth. Just cross the bridge when you get there or if you happen to believe in myths, just don’t cross together. Let your partner wait for you on the other side of the bridge an hour later. Hahaha.

The river has a lot of garbage though. I hope that the admin will do something about it.

There are a lot of other beautiful places to visit in Bogor Botanical Gardens. However, we don’t have enough time to wander around and check out all of them.  I would definitely go back.

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Entrance

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Get Around

The gardens are open daily to visitors. The entrance fee is 14 000 IDR for local tourists and 25 000 IDR for foreigners.

Getting around the gardens is easy with paved walkways, signs, and beautifully landscaped lawns.

How I Got There:

From Jakarta, my friend and I decided to use train to Bogor, although we initially thought of going there by car which was a good decision since it was a weekend and we wouldn’t want to be stuck in the traffic and the Bogor Botanical Gardens is just short walk away from the Bogor train station so it wasn’t too difficult for us to get to the place.

Take note that Bogor is only a few hours from Jakarta so it is packed in the weekends (and on public holidays) with visitors from Jakarta and nearby provinces and even tourists from all over the world.

Transportation Options:

From Jakarta, you can also reach Bogor by car, bus, taxi or you can rent Grab Car or Uber which is way cheaper than a taxi.  There are also numerous buses going to Bogor departing from different parts of Jakarta, even from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. So yes, from the airport, you can directly travel to Bogor.

 

Begin Again

Life happens. Suddenly, you just stop writing. Has this ever happened to you?

I took on a very long break from writing. It’s been eight months since I last sat in front of my computer to write. Eight months?! Yeah, it was a very long break. Shame on me! But, I’m sorry, not sorry. No apologies necessary.

I actually had a lot to write about, the wonderful (and the not so wonderful) moments in my life and the beautiful places I had been to in the last few months. However, life gets in the way. Suffice it to say, life sometimes necessitates a break.

Work was very demanding last year, I could barely catch up. Honestly, the day to day work responsibilities was overwhelming it took its toll on me. I got sick a few times last year and living alone when you’re sick is like hell. You have to help yourself or you’re not going to survive.

So I give myself permission to take a break. I dreaded it but this was an intentional, self-imposed choice. Writing has to take a back seat for a while, although it turned out longer than I wanted it to be.

Now that the New Year has come, I will resolve to come back stronger than ever. I’m back on a writing hiatus. Yes, I am excited to write again, to begin again.

Palayangan River Rafting Adventure in Situ Cileungca, Bandung: An Adrenaline-Fuelled Ride of a Lifetime

Hellen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all”.

We live in a wonderful world filled with exciting things to see and do.  Life is meant to be lived to the fullest and by living life includes taking risks and daring yourself to explore and savour new experiences anywhere and everywhere life takes you.

 

What was the most exciting, adrenaline fuelled, emotion-filled adventure in your life?

I’d have to say mine was the Palayangan river rafting adventure at Situ Cileungca, Pangalengan, in Bandung. Days before the trip, I googled the location and saw great, stunning action packed photographs of the adventure. I had never been on a river rafting before, so I knew this would be exciting.

 

Before the rafting adventure, we were taught of safety measures and commands on how to work it as a group. The orientation took a while as we were all cheering and laughing.  Most of us were beginners and we were so excited for this adventure. After the safety orientation and prayer, it was time to step into the raft and start the journey.

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There were six of us in the raft, including our guide. Our guide was a small, skinny man and that actually made me a bit hesitant. In my mind, I was thinking of how this man could possibly save all of us in case our raft turns upside down? However, left with no choice, I trusted him. I knew he is experienced and well trained so he surely is acquainted and aware of the possible obstacles along the way.

 

I adjusted my helmet, tighten my vest, and glanced excitingly at the rolling, churning river in front of me. When we climbed into the raft, I honestly had mixed emotions – I was excited but nervous I wasn’t scared until our guide told us to ‘ berdoa dulo” (say a prayer to God first). I was scared of being thrown overboard, colliding with rocks, getting bruises, and other worst case scenarios I could think of. Nonetheless, I trusted God that he would protect us and keep us safe. One more final instructions and the river took us to one of the most memorable adventure in my life.

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As we navigate through the waters, large rocks that seemingly appear from nowhere tried to snag our raft. There was no one paddling except for our tour guide. Well, I was also surprised about that and at first I didn’t understand why bringing a paddle was optional because I really thought it was vitally important to maintain stability of the raft. Little did I know bringing a paddle would cause us more harm than safety as the rapid waters push us to and fro.

We were enjoying the calm area of the river and the beautiful scenery along the way when the guide suddenly shouted ‘BOOM!’ (This is a command for leaning in, heads down, hold firmly to the rope, squat on the raft’s floor. If executed correctly, this should keep you in the raft.)  I gripped firmly into the rope, squatted, and waited for what was going to happen next.

A waterfall awaits us!

Wait, what?

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In a blink of an eye, we went vertically down the waterfall, dumping all of us in the rushing water. It was as if the world stopped for a second. I have no clue what just happened. Then I realized I was still alive! I thought I fell out of the raft as I could feel the raging waters fell heavily on my back! But no, I was right there, in the raft. Sadly though, my friend Dicey got her chin cut. She accidentally bumped into my helmet. We had to stop for a while and got her first aid. One of the aides handed us crushed leaves to help stop the bleeding.

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After the first aid treatment, we continued the journey. We have still a long way to go. We stopped at the rest area for some snacks, water, and of course rest. The crew there also gave Docey bondage for her cut.

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We really never know what lies around the bend of the river. One moment you’re enjoying the swirls of the river and admiring the scenic view, the next time you are stuck in between rocks, with the water coming down from waterfall filling your raft.

When this happened to us, the guide told us to not panic, although I did. But yeah, panicking is a waste of time. In my mind, I keep on praying that we will get through it. Then our guide commanded us to get up and threw all our weight to the other side of the raft, until we were finally fine. An aide also arrived and pulled our raft downstream. By that time I think the guide just wanted us to go for an unplanned swim or drink the water from the river!!!  Trust the experts, they say. Yes, the guides knew exactly how to handle any type of situation encountered while on the river.

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We had quite a lot of exhilarating ‘BOOM’ moments! Amidst all the terrifying rocks and wild waters, it was so much fun that we still managed to shout and smile through the splashes of the water and through the flashes of the camera we never knew where. What a pure adventure that was!

 

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The moment we get to the end of the adventure, with eyes closed and a grateful heart, I thanked God for his protection. On the way back to Jakarta, we had so many stories to tell. What a memorable, adventure-fuelled Palayangan river rafting  – truly a ride of a lifetime.

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