Heavy Heart

Little discoveries brought to you by my heavy heart (note: not broken). My friend and I ended up at this courtyard which was formerly the military families village. 

I've been overly dramatic lately. Well not that I bawl my eyes at every given situation, but my heart feels very very heavy. My hormones are out of whack, so maybe that's partly to blame. However, there are some issues that need to be sorted out.

You see, these are the times when I want to book the next flight to Manila and just hop on the plane, never mind my job. There really are things I want  to change, but I have no control over them.

Sorry for being too vague, I still do not have the courage to pour what's in the depths of my heart, of what I truly feel. But I'm disappointed at how things are, of late. I'm certain God hears my prayers, and someday He'll light the way.

I know cannot just sulk and wallow in self pity.I remember my Mandarin language teacher telling me that we are not supposed to feel bad about our lives, to pity ourselves. We should take it as an opportunity to improve, to work hard and make ourselves better individuals. These words have since been etched at the back of my hand, kept inside my heart.

I try to let go of all these emotions when I'm at work, and replace all negativity with smile and optimism. I appreciate the presence of friends- conversations over afternoon tea dates. Last Saturday, my friend and I went out for our long-overdue tea date. It was pouring hard so we hailed a cab at the City Hall station, gave the address to the driver and found ourselves at an old courtyard. There seems to be no coffee-tea shop place here, I thought to myself. The driver must have heard my thoughts and told us we have to walk over the courtyard, and we'll see the coffee-shop right across. The location was just too pretty, we learned that it was formerly the military families village. Ah, what discoveries my heavy heart can bring.

I also shared this bowl of fresh mangoes-strawberries-mochies shaved ice last night with a good friend. It did help a bit :)

Lighten up, my heavy heart.

Philippine Independence Day

Last Thursday, I was invited by the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) to attend a cocktail party in celebration of the Philippines' 116th Independence Day. MECO is the representative office of the Philippines to Taiwan in the absence of bilateral ties. This year's celebration is pretty memorable after the Taiwan-PH rift last year, when our coastguard reportedly shot a Taiwanese fisherman.

Amb. Basilio, MECO's resident representative in Taipei, said Taiwan-PH relation is now back to normal after having gone through the most severe test (Side note: The Ministry of Labor Affairs almost did not approve my work permit application at the time. They stopped processing Filipino work permits from May to August because of the conflict.). The Independence Day celebration was held mainly to give thanks to Taiwan, for all the relief efforts and donations they have extended after Typhoon Haiyan.

Fellow Filipinos gathered at the Shangri-La Plaza and enjoyed a feast of Filipino cuisine. It was nice seeing many familiar faces- those we usually see in Zhongshan (which we refer to as Little Manila), or at churches with Filipino communities, even the people working at remittance centers, to our Filipino-Chinese doctors.

We enjoyed the desserts- turon, sapin-sapin, mango tarts, leche flan and the halo-halo bar. They also served salpicao, camaron rebosado, beef roast, and lechon de leche. There was a raffle draw where several airlines gave away roundtrip tickets to Pinas, and the grand prize was well, a flat screen TV. My former colleague from China Post could have won the raffle, but because he left early, they had to re-draw. I wanted to go up the stage and claim it on his behalf but my boss was around hehe. My churchmate, Ate Era who works for Dominican School, won the grand prize and I'm pretty sure the TV's on its way to Manila now.

With my friends Martin, Kuya Ronald and Kuya Ferdie- all working in Taipei

The Bukas Palad Choir flew from Manila and was invited to perform 3 sets. My friends and I were singing along the entire time and caught some Taiwanese glancing and smiling at us. Yes, we grew up listening to Bukas Palad songs, kulang na lang sumayaw din kami nung kinanta yung "I Will Sing Forever."

I had a nice week, and hoping to have a nicer weekend. Here's what I'm doing now- brunch in bed. What a lazy Saturday.

Lastly,  I just wanna share a photo of our Strawberry Cheesecake Frappe, which Starbucks should rename as "Diabetes in a cup." And because sharing is caring, we had to split the calories too- we ended up dividing this into 6.

Taipei Series: English-speaking doctor

The almost 4-day long weekend had left me with so much free time. And because today is a no-work Monday thanks to the annual Dragon Boat Festival, and I have nothing to do (too hot and humid outside), I thought of writing my first check-up experience here in Taiwan. I was not too sure if I should be blogging about it, but it was a very happy and pleasant experience for an expat like me.

I left work a bit earlier than usual last Friday to see a doctor. It was so nice of my good friend Hana to accompany me for the check-up, otherwise I must have looked really stupid waiting in line. And appearing very nervous.

It is rather difficult to find a doctor who can speak good English here in Taiwan. Sure there are a lot of doctors educated in the US, but I want someone who is well-recommended. I've heard of horror stories, so I was hoping my experience will be a good one.

There are two types of doctors here- those who studied Western Med, and those traditional Chinese Medicine doctors. I used my Googling and researching skills and thankfully, I found a doctor in Taipei who has an overall positive review from a certain online forum. And guess what, she is Filipino-Chinese!

My heart was beating very fast before the check up. Please note that this is like my first official doctor's appointment after 5 years of living here in Taiwan (the first unofficial one was a so-so experience when I slipped and hit my head on the wooden side of my bed- after Xray I was given a medicated gel and was sent home).

Hana was with me at the waiting area, laughing so hard upon seeing me doing some deep breathing exercise when the nurse called my name. I entered the clinic and the lady doctor immediately asked with a warm smile, "You're a Filipino-Chinese?" She knew because I wrote both my English and Chinese names on the paper.

I told her why I came to see her. She looked motherly and smiled a lot. She must be in her early 50s. My main concern was that my left chest (okay, when I say chest I mean breast) has been painful for a few days now- not the swelling kind of pain, but sporadic piercing pain. Even when I'm working, I have to stop for a while to let the pain subside, especially when typing. During the check-up, I must have looked so red and nervous, Dr. Bernice told me to relax. She felt tiny lumps on both sides but she said the left one is more pronounced. She then ordered an ultrasound. I thought she will ask a sonologist to do it, but I was surprised when she told me to wait for her downstairs at the ultrasound room.

We waited at the hall while Dr. Bernice attended to her first two patients. She is really very friendly- the online reviews were very accurate. When I went inside the ultrasound room, she immediately started a conversation to make me feel at ease. During the process, she was asking about my life here in Taiwan and I could tell she's really listening with all the follow-up questions that she came up with. We spoke in Fookien and Taglish- I felt so homesick right away. We're practically neighbors in Manila, and she graduated from St. Stephen's, while I went to the school right next to it- Chiang Kai Shek. She's even encouraging me to live and settle here in Taiwan, because life here is so much better, she said.

Going back to the ultrasound result, her initial diagnosis was correct. I have fibrocystic breasts but she assured me that there is really nothing to worry about. Fibrocystic breasts tend to get especially painful a week before the monthly period (so true because I got mine days after the check-up, which probably explains the heightened pain). She scheduled me for a baseline ultrasound the following week as well.

I'm very happy with my first doctor experience here in Taiwan. I'm not the kind of person who would make time to go see a doctor when I have a flu or persistent cough. I'd usually take OTC drugs and I'll be okay, but this time was different. I cant wait to see Dr. Bernice again, she's such a lovely person.

So yes, you should also go and have yourselves screened if you're feeling uneasy about something. I'm still scared with doctor visits but hopefully with Hana around, I'll learn to be more confident.

If you need to see an English-speaking gynecologist in Taipei I highly recommend Dr Bernice Chen in Zhongshan Hospital. Her Chinese name is 陳明治 and you can look her up on the hospital's website. The whole check-up with ultrasound and consultation fee was only NT$380 (that's around Php 550 or US$13), using Taiwan's National Health Insurance card. Appointments can even be made online. I hope our health system back home can also be something similar. We pay our health insurance every month through salary deduction, like Philhealth but definitely with better benefits and services.

On another note...

P.S. Dragon Boat Festival means eating 粽子 or rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. In Manila, the Filipino-Chinese call them ma-chang. I had this for lunch this noon prepared by the aunties in church. The story behind eating ma-chang and the dragon boat festival originated ages ago when a Chinese poet named Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. Because locals admired him so much, they raced in their boats to try to save him and retrieve his body. They dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body.