About Me

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I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Philippines in my Rear View Mirror

A lantern festival in Chiang Mai
I'm so excited to announce that tomorrow - October 1st - I'm flying to my next country, Thailand - to the city of Chiang Mai to be exact.

You can expect lots of posts from there, but I'm not done with the Philippines just yet as there just wasn't enough time to cover everything! I had so many wonderful adventures here that I'm feeling a bit maudlin about going.

However, my mission is two-fold and I found I'd fulfilled them for the Philippines. Throughout my travels I'm trying to accomplish two things: 1) to see as much of the world as I can manage 2) find a likely place for retirement away from the States.
On Virgin Island

Although I did find paradise here - the beautiful island of Bohol and the smaller resort island of Panglao right next door - and vastly enjoyed my time here, I also found it was more of a vacation and less of a lifestyle for me. The other cities in the Philippines I visited are just too chaotic and depressing outside certain sanitized areas.
Waves in a storm

I'm so glad I started here. I've always enjoyed the Filipinos I've met and admire their hardworking and kind natures. I venture forth towards my new adventures with just a tad of sadness.

Goodbye P.I.!
The shoreline off the bridge between Bohol and Pangloa Islands.

Eating in the Philippines

Lumpia up front!
As I was planning my trip to the Philippines I kept saying “I can’t wait to have the lumpia!” For those of you who don’t know, lumpia is a Filipino spring roll and of all the types of spring rolls or even egg rolls, lumpia tops my list for flavor and texture. So naturally, my first meal in Manila was lumpia and rice and it cost me a whole dollar. The rolls at this little tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant were great, as was the adobo (a dish with chicken, pork or beef stewed in vinegar, garlic and other spices – yummy). Frankly, these was one of best meals Vanessa and I shared in the Philippines. I finally had lumpia again today, my last day in the Philippines, at a chain called Gerry’s in the mall. It was good, but I’ve been searching for lumpia for nearly a month and only managed it twice.

International buffet at Uno's in the Waterfront Hotel.
 We’ve had some wonderful meals here, especially at Café in the Ruins in Baguio and Uno, an international buffet in Cebu, but we’ve also resorted to McDonald’s once, Jollibee’s (the Filipino equivalent of McDonald’s with terrific fried chicken) and I’ve even visited Dunkin Donuts a time or two in Alona Beach. 

I found a consistently good café in Alona Beach called Trudi’s Place and had six meals there in eight days. Most of what was available in this little resort town was disappointing. I even tried a pizzeria owned by a European (I thought Italian at first but listened a little harder and realized he was from a region I couldn’t identify). The pizza was unrecognizable so I opted for spaghetti. Big mistake.

Jollibee's delivers! So does McDonald's!

My advice to anyone traveling to the Philippines is rely on guidebooks for the better places to eat, stick with traditional Filipino when you can and don’t expect American dishes to taste like you’re used to. It’s hard to beat pancit (a noodle dish that varies a lot but is always quite good), adobo and lumpia if you can find it. Vanessa and I also noticed that the eggs here are delish and always cooked well. In Cebu, the Lonely Planet guidebook led us to Rico’s, a place our taxi driver said was famous, where we tried lechon - roast pig, the national dish. I think one of the great pleasures of traveling is trying new and different foods.

Happy eating!
Fabulous chicken curry at Trudi's Place.

Monday, September 28, 2015

People are the Greatest Adventure of All

Danny, Thomas, Siprian and Jeff.
Some of you know I’m a former journalist but few know that my favorite part of being a reporter was interviewing people. As a shuttle driver, I continued the interviewing, although most of my passengers wouldn’t have known that’s what I was doing because I spent a lot of time connecting before I really dug into what their histories were or what made them tick. People interest me endlessly. 

I’ve been a bit put off here in Alona Beach, not by the locals but by so many of the foreigners who seem so distant. I’ve made several connections with Filipinos, rather easily, but getting past “hello” has been difficult with most of the European visitors. Today was a wonderful surprise.
Leah and Norma, who take such good care of hotel residents.

I went on a padi boat adventure with a group that consisted of 10 Chinese nationals, two young Polish men and a New Yorker. Once we were on our first island, friendliness broke loose and I was happy to chat with Jeff, the New Yorker (who really helped me in getting on and off the boat) and Danny, a young Chinese extrovert who was simply charming. Siprian and Thomas, from Poland, were all smiles and totally engaging. By the time we were on our way back to home base, Alona Beach, the entire group had bonded and there was no longer a language barrier. 

When I returned to my hotel, I heard a voice calling out with an Australian accent, “I saw you this morning.” Turns out the voice belonged to Rhett, who had landed in our resort the night before with his sister, Lee, and her husband, Glen and he had spotted me in the overcrowded jeepney that transported us to our padi boat (that was quite an experience!). I really enjoyed our lengthy conversation on the Philippines: the shock of Manila and Cebu, the beauty of Boracay, the expense of ordinary things in a resort area and most importantly, travel in general. As a group, they were really well-traveled. I reveled in just conversing.

Mom and her daughter, visiting from China.
People fascinate me. Connections, no matter how brief, are my life’s blood. I can’t wait for the next encounter.

Friday, September 25, 2015

We Are Not That Different

Filipinos love malls too!
Lining up for a buffet is the same everywhere!
Most of us work in some form of jungle & keep smiling anyway.

We love our kiddos...
Aspiring to the middle class is a world-wide phenom.

They say a picture is a worth a thousand words. They may be right.

What I Love About the Philippines

Now that I’ve been in country for about three weeks, I have definitely grown fond of several distinctly Filipino quirks and institutions. So here’s a working list of the “Best of the Philippines According to Kathy”:

The kindness of the Filipino people and their generally happy nature. So many Filipinos living here have very little to smile about, yet they do – easily and frequently. Today, while I was strolling in the rain with my umbrella, I passed a young man who was sitting outside a café. I glanced over and he smiled widely and said, “It will be better weather tomorrow, ma’am.” That small gesture meant a lot to a solo traveler far from home.
Trudi's! Right on Alona Beach

Having been both a cab driver and a shuttle driver, I just have to take my hat off to the professional drivers of this country. How they manage to get through a day without having an accident is a mystery to me. Vanessa and I constantly shook our heads while she was here at the fact that we did not see one fend-bender – amazing. And a special thank you to people who will never read this, our Baquio drivers Edwin and Arnold who literally gave us free tours as they drove us around the city and Jereme, who took us on our Bohol tour. Good men all.

I love – LOVE – the food here. I have found my own little café – Trudi’s – right on the Alona Beach and through four meals the food has been consistently wonderful. I’ve had the chicken curry, pictured here, twice! 

The Filipinos love their cakes and bread so everywhere you go there are bakeries. Having a sweet tooth myself, I’ve enjoyed mostly window shopping the goodies, but have had one heavenly piece of cake in Baguio.

Every taxi driver has had their radio on and tuned to American oldies, and I’ve overheard several people singing out loud, without restraint and with no cares as to whether they are any good or not. Karaoke is big here. 

The people of the Philippines are 85% Catholic and one lovely ritual they have is to genuflect repeatedly. Every cabbie did it before taking off and even the boat pilots before each trip down river. Even though I’m a non-believer, the act did make me feel somehow safer. Charming.

The landscape here is either lush and green beyond belief or vast expanses of water rimmed with mostly white sand beaches or mangroves. For the simple beauty of nature, I doubt that the Philippines can be beat.

I have been asked how old I am repeatedly here; it’s not an inappropriate question in this country and age is not a disease or disability either. I have been granted respect and not a small amount of awe because I’m out in the world doing this adventure thing by myself at what Filipinos believe to be an advanced age - 63. In fact, we had one cab driver in Cebu who complained of how terribly old he was and it turned out he was only 54. I told him that in the States he would still be considered pretty young. He didn’t believe me. 

I’m sure there’s more that will come to me later, but for now this is my salute to the Philippines. I’ve enjoyed my stay so far.