While looking at this beautiful tower, I remember myself looking at the restaurant’s menu before I order my pizza. Then I remember the posters at the restaurant’s wall. Wow! I couldn’t believe I am actually in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Never in my life I had dreamed of coming to Italy. It’s just too impossible for me to step on the land of Europe. It was just last year (2013) when my boyfriend and I planned about the possibilities of experiencing the life in Italy by becoming a volunteer. But anyway, I’m not going to talk about that now. I want to share my experience and the awesomeness of Pisa.
My friend and I traveled from Florence to Pisa by train for about an hour and arrived there around 11AM. We took the cheapest train, of course. The Trenitalia Regionale is only 7.90 Euros from Florence Sta. Maria Novella to Pisa Centrale. We bought our bus tickets (1,20 Euro) at the kiosk inside the station and waited for the bus to the tower just across the train station. I forgot the bus number but it has something like “Rossa”, so I’m guessing that’s the last station.
On our way to the tower, we crossed the river and found beautiful places. We planned to walk when we go back to the station. “Wow! Wow! Wow!” were my words when we finally saw the leaning tower and the cathedral. They’re amazingly beautiful! The Cathedral of Pisa is just beside the tower. Ok, I’m just going to show the pictures now, they’re more important than my words.
So the plan to walk going back to the station did not happen. Before going back to Florence, we went to the place called Lucca. We just paid about 3 Euros for the train and we spent like 40 minutes there and we back to Florence. Ok, Lucca is also very beautiful but we did not stay long because I needed to go back to work that night. But anyways, here are the pictures of Lucca and their vintage market there.
A day trip is fun. I mean, leave in the morning and come back in the afternoon or at night. I’ve done this a few times and the latest one was the best. We went to Lugano, Switzerland from Milan, Italy. We left our friend’s apartment at 8 in the morning and waited for the subway train to Milano Centrale (train station). We already bought our 2-way tickets to Lugano ( 23 EUR 1 way per person, Trenitalia) so we already know our train schedules. We ran to find our train because we only had few minutes left (Ah, I remember how we ran as fast as we can when we were in Rome!). We left Milano at exactly 9:10AM.
The train stopped somewhere (maybe at the border) and the men in uniform went inside and checked our passports. Again, like the immigration officers, they were also wondering why I have 2 valid passports (the old one will expire next year). Whatever! Anyway, as I was told, they did not stamp on our passports, they just checked.
We saw the lake while we were on the train and we were so excited to go! After an hour we finally arrived in Lugano, Switzerland! Let me tell you something about this city. Lugano is located in Southern Switzerland, the people speak Italian; it is situated at an elevation of 273 m (896 ft) above sea level. It is the 3rd important city and financial center in Switzerland, next to Geneva and Zurich.
We had no itinerary or plans. We looked for the tourist information and there’s none. We saw the funicular and I thought that funicular will gonna tour us around the city. I had read from an article about funiculars in Lugano. But they should be expensive, not 1EUR. But anyway, I was so excited again, but after like a minute, we stopped. The funicular only brought us down the city and did not tour us. Ok fine!
We walked and took pictures and then we finally arrived at the lake. It was breathtaking! The lake and the mountains are so beautiful! We continued to walk until we arrived at Parco Civico. It’s a very beautiful park beside the lake. We had a little picnic there. We ate lunch and took lots of pictures. And then we saw this fountain from afar and we decided to go there. Sad to say, my camera’s battery was empty before we reach the fountain because we took lots of pictures on our way and my boyfriend’s camera’s battery was low. We only took like 3 pictures near the fountain and all our cameras were dead.
We were looking for restrooms but there’s we couldn’t find, so we decided to eat at the restaurant so we can use their restrooms. We found this fastfood near Manor (like a department store near the funicular) and their foods were very affordable. They accept either Euro or Franks.
Our train back to Milan will leave at the 5PM. We bought chocolates and some souvenirs near the lake and we hiked back to the train station and waited for our train (which is from Zurich).
It was such an amazing day. The next time we’ll go out for adventure, I should always make sure that my camera’s fully charged.
I don’t usually travel with cash. I only had 150 Euros in my wallet when I came here in Italy. I prefer carrying a card. My Union Bank VISA card in Philippines works in Thailand and my Krungthai VISA card in Thailand works in Philippines. I opened another account at Kasikorn bank a month before my flight to Italy, thinking that I could use it in the new country where I am going to stay.
When I ran out of cash, I went to the ATM that has VISA logo to withdraw. I can’t withdraw at BNL to I went to Banco Firenze, but still I can’t. I read in the internet that the maximum withdrawal is 250 Euros so I guess I exceeded. I went again and withdraw few Euros but still it did not work. I called the Kasikorn Bank in Thailand and they always hang up. Finally after 20 minutes I was able to talk to a good operator. She got my card number and said it is active and can be used in any ATM that has PLUS logo.
I search an ATM that has PLUS logo in the internet. I got my map so I can locate them easily.
There are only few in Florence. I went there and tried 3 ATMs. Guess what happened! My card was denied again and again. “WE”VE BEEN INSTRUCTED TO RETURN THE CARD”, “CONTACT YOUR BANK” “THIS TRANSACTION IS NOT AVAILABLE” those were always the words.
I am hopeless. I guess I might send the card back to Thailand and ask a friend to withdraw the money. For now, I have to live with my 2 Euros and few cents. I can survive.
Few things I’ve learned; before traveling, make sure to call your bank and inform them that you’ll be traveling abroad. Ask or search in the internet if you can withdraw from the country you’ll be going. Make sure to have cash in your wallet, dollars or euro. In my case, since I won’t be going back to Thailand, I should have withdrawn my money.
I arrived at Rome Fuimicino Airport around 8PM. I was very excited to see my boyfriend. He said he’s going to wait at the airport. It took us 15 minutes to meet because there were so many people. I went to the telephone booth but the lady told me to buy a card. I don’t need to call for a long time so I texted him using my Thai mobile phone and got a reply.
My heart jumped when I saw him! He hugged me and helped me with my luggage. He already bought 2 bus tickets to bring us to the Termini, the train station.
Our train ticket going to Forli says that we have to get on the train at 6:20AM, so we have like a night to spend together in Rome. We left my luggage at Termini (train station). We walked to the Colosseo (the famous Colosseum in Rome). It took us about an hour to reach there because we always stop to take pictures. Ah, my feet hurt from walking. Taxis are so expensive so we just have to walk. Thanks to him, he carried my backpack because it’s too heavy. He carried 2 heavy bags. Great boyfriend! J
All the pain vanished when I saw personally the Colosseo! Amazed, mesmerized, impressed and happy were my feelings upon seeing the awesome Colosseum. It was built hundreds of years ago but it still looks amazing!
We took more pictures and we went to his friend’s apartment to sleep.
We set the alarm and we woke up at 5am. We walked to the bus stop, got my luggage and paid about 10 euro. We only have few minutes to run to our train. We cannot miss our train, our ticket costs 78 euro. We ran as fast as we can. We got on the train! We could have missed it! Thank God!
What I learned from Rome? There’s a lot of walking because taxis are very expensive. I should wear very comfortable shoes next time we’ll go around the city. It’s okay not to buy a bus ticket because nobody’s going to check specially at night. When it’s time, it’s time. Every minute, every second counts so when you miss your train, sorry.
I’ll go and visit more places in Rome next time. 😉
Everything was ready days before my flight to Rome. Visa, luggage, plane tickets, bus ticket, train tickets, etc. I went to Bangkok to get my new passport and then wait for my flight. I arrived in Bangkok early in the morning and headed directly to the Philippine Embassy, I carried all my stuffs, about 30 kilograms in all.
So I arrived at the Philippine embassy around 9AM, left my luggage at the security and excited to get my new passport, anxious about my picture. I waited for my turn. When it was my turn, I gave the receipt. He asked for my old passport, I thought he’s just going to look at it to check if it’s really me. He went inside and looked for my new passport. I saw him from the window that he’s doing something with my passport. I called him and told him not to do anything with the old one because my visa there. The lady inside shouted at me saying, “Mag-antay lang kayo (just wait)!) He came back to me and handed my new passport and then the old one. My eyes almost popped out and my heart stopped beating when I saw the holes in my old passport. I screamed, “What did you do?? My visa to Italy is there! My flight is on Monday! ” He said, “You cannot have two passports at the same time. We should cancel the old one. We only cancelled the passport, your visa are still valid.” He told me to go to the Thai immigration to make sure. I told him I don’t care about the Thai visa because I’m leaving, I need my Italian visa. I was really disappointed, I really cried because I did not expect it. How can they cancel it when it was extended for 2 years and the expiration will be on June 2015!?
I Asked help
I called the Italian embassy and asked about it. The lady said that when she checked, it’s still valid but she doesn’t know about my case if OK. I kept asking her questions and wasn’t satisfied with her answer. I went to the Italian embassy, asked another lady and she told me that they cannot do anything about it, I better get a new visa. But I cannot wait for another 2 weeks. So she told me that I should then pray that the Thai immigration officer will allow me. Immigration I know I cannot sleep well that night so I decided to go to the airport to ask an immigration officer. A friend (my boyfriend’s sister-in-law) went with me. It was really late at night. I asked the information where can I find the office of the immigration officers. She then called someone and handed me the phone. The lady officer asked what kind of visa I had. I told her is an Italian visa. She said she knows about the Thai visa, not the Italian but she thinks it’s okay. So we went home without any sure answer.
I decided to fast a day before my flight. Yes, fast. That means I won’t eat the whole day and just pray to God to answer my selfish prayer. I know fasting is very effective. I’ve done this many times and all my prayers were answered yes.
I went to the airport alone. The queue was not long, I was early. I checked in, the woman got my 2 passports with her eyebrows connected. She asked me some documents because she thought I’m going to marry an Italian. I told her it’s Motivi Religiosi. She nodded and gave me my ticket. I lined up at the immigration, when it was my time, I handed the immigration officer my 2 passports and my ticket. He looked at them and asked another officer, I don’t understand but I know they were talking about my passports. I was so nervous. I prayed. After awhile, he stamped and wrote at the new passport, something like “the visa is at passport number XX2988***. He then gave me my passports and I thanked him in Thai. I can still remember the day I got my new passport. I was at the backseat of the taxi and was crying out loud. I thought I cannot go to Italy on the scheduled date. I thank God for everything. I owe Him again. I arrived in Moscow and then to Rome. 🙂
Perfect attendance. Perfect place. Perfect budget. Perfect mood. I felt like everything was perfect when we went to Cebu. It was our great reunion. It was the first time we were all together after we graduated in high school at Matutum View Academy in 2004. Yes, we always see each other but we were not always complete. Some are busy, some went to other places and some had different lives. So when the Cebu Pacific had their promo fare, we grabbed this opportunity to tour around Cebu in just few days.
It was Kikiss and Anne’s first trip outside Mindanao so they were very excited. Meanwhile, other friends who were already in Cebu, Louie Jane and Ghay2x were also very excited. We met Ghay2x near her apartment and Louie Jane at Ayala Mall.
The following day, we went to the Capitol Church. Spent the Sabbath there and met friends. We also went with the youth of Capitol church in their children’s ministry. Too bad, we don’t have pictures inside the church and when we did the children’s ministry.
We also went to other tourist spots around the city like the Magellan’s cross and the oldest church.
Sunday morning, we went to Pandanon Island. It’s an island about 2hrs away from Cebu via boat. We were all excited (even if Daisy Jane lost her phone a night before) to go to that small while island. We packed our things, cooked our food and spread our wings to that island.
We also went to Taoist temple after we went to Pandanon island. We were exhausted but it was fine, we want to spend the remaining hours together wisely.
And then we went to ride the Kart and raced. It was definetly super dooper fun!
Well, I guess it would be years from now to be reunited again (completely). My friends went back home and I stayed in Cebu while waiting for my flight to Bangkok.
I know South Korea because of the Korean dramas I watched. I think they have the most beautiful four seasons in the world. When I joined the 1000 Missionary Movement, I was assigned in Philippines and was transferred to Seoul, South Korea. I was then excited but scared. I was excited because it will be another experience in the most wonderful country in Asia(for me). Well, I will be a missionary teacher and I was scared because I am not really a teacher by profession. But I know God will guide me and will help me because He called me to be there.
I was assigned in Taereung SDA Church and became a teacher in Newstart Education Center. The church was kind of big. It’s 6-storey building including the offices and the kindergarten school. It also has 4 pastors and more than 500 church members. I live with my 3 co-missionary teachers, Jenny and Melanie in a very nice (for me) missionary apartment near the church. We are working for about 10 hours a day (including the making of homework, vocabularies, exams, etc.), 5 days a week. Weekends are the best days for us because we can rest and can go around the beautiful city of Seoul and meet our friends.
My friends are also around the city. We can just meet anytime we want. Michella Gonzales, my batch mate in the missionary training was just 20 minutes by bus. Gladys, my missionary friend in Batangas was just a subway away. The transportation is excellent. Buses, taxis and subway stations are everywhere. You can reach any places anytime you want. Well, the fare isn’t cheap though but the vehicles are quite good. I think Seoul has the best transportation in all the places I have been to, so far…
The places are really beautiful. I’ve been to Seoul tower or Namsan tower like 5 times and enjoyed the night scenery there. Children’s Grand Park is also awesome; it was really crowded during the Children’s day. Gwanghwamun Square is in the center of Seoul; we went there for ice skating during the winter and for picture taking during summer. King Sejeong’s monument is also there. The palaces are everywhere. I actually forgot the names of the palaces I’ve been to but you can see the rich culture of Korea. I also went to the Korean village where Korean houses are there. Ttukseom Resort in Han river is one of my favorites. Most of the times I went there to rent bicycles with my friends and biked along Han River. I also went there and had a date with myself. It’s really nice during the night. You can see the city lights across the river and it is also safe. Well, actually, I felt safe in Korea.
Korean food are great! Bibimpap is mixed rice and vegetables with gochujang (chili paste) and it tastes really good. Kimpap is rolled rice with vegetables and cheese or tuna. Toppokke is a rice cake with fish flavored thing. Eating ramyeon (ramen) is best with kimchi. The black noodle, beef soup, and mandu taste great! They also have cold soup during the summer. It’s actually a soup with ice floating on it. The also have pizzas. The Pizza School is I think the best pizza store. We always say we are getting our master’s degree in pizza there. Hahaha! Their cheese and sweet potato pizzas are simply the bests. Ah, I ate a lot and I gained too much weight! But few months after my surgery (I had ovarian cyst and had a surgery at Seoul Adventist Hospital), I exercised and lost 4 kilograms. Thanks God!
The always said that working with Koreans is kind of difficult. They are bossy and hard workers. They also said that Filipinos are discriminated. Well, for me they are hard workers but working with them wasn’t difficult. I also didn’t feel discriminated. I felt discriminated by my fellow Filipino and some foreigners but not by the Koreans. Yes, we had too much works in the school but it is always paid with nice smiles and extensive meals at the fine restaurants by our bosses.
I knew I am not going to stay in Korea for the rest of my life but the experience is too overwhelming. My friend Gladys said, “Korea is a fairytale. We have to go back to our own world.” I agree with her. While staying there, I bought anything I want; clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics, etc. (not the really expensive ones), ate the tastiest foods in the world and went to the places where I only saw on TV. But I knew that I am not going to stay there forever. My mission with the kids was over and I need to move forward.