Tag Archives: adventures

Elbi: Food, Coffee and Nostalgic Walks

Seeing men swinging small boards that said “Private Pool” on the side of the road made me feel restless because I knew we were close. A couple more minutes and we would arrive at the place I had been yearning for. The place that served as a true home during the days I was struggling with college and independence.

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The green road to my beloved Elbi (pardon the reflection of the tissue!)

IRRI-sistible!

We arrived in IRRI at 10 AM and grabbed breakfast at the cafeteria – a place I often came to as a student for cheap good food, with a view of the rice fields and the mountainous horizon. I ate a big serving of saucy roast chicken with rice, plus brewed coffee and a slice of cassava cake for dessert for only Php105.

The weather was a bit gloomy at noon and it rained a little, but it didn’t stop me from touring my friends and us from taking crazy photos. Actually, the bit of rain helped refresh the surroundings from the summer heat and the air became a bit cooler for a while.

I visited the pond at the back of the IRRI’s coffee shop, Bean Hub, which was closed at the time, and searched for the lone resident turtle to say hi. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it. Prolly it was sleeping in a corner covered by plants. I hope so.

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Man waiting for an Uber in IRRI?

Dairy-cious…

We left IRRI a little after lunchtime and drove to Animal Science, UPLB (University of the Philippines, Los Baños). We went to PCC’s (Philippine Carabao Center) Dairy Corner, where I used to buy fresh dairy products for a sweet treat after my PE or An Sci classes. My favorite has always been Milk-O-Jel (Php15, then and now❤️) – a small cup of soft carabao milk pudding with sweet syrup on top, sort of like leche flan. At this time, I also got Carakafe – coffee❤️ with carabao milk for only Php35. My other favorite items from Dairy Corner are their yogurts of different flavors and chocomilk. Obviously, all of their dairy products are made from carabao’s milk. They also have meat products. All so natural, so fresh, so delish.

After IRRI, we drove around the campus before heading out. I got off the car and bid goodbye to my friends who were returning to Manila. I, on the other hand, was staying for the rest of the day.

***

I checked in at One Providence, a dormitory near the campus that also rents out transient rooms. I walked along F.O. Santos street going to One Providence and discovered a few changes. Some old establishments I used to go to have been replaced by new ones. Most notably, Sizzlers, a restaurant located on the third floor/rooftop of a building, has been replaced by “Siblings.” I used to love going to Sizzlers for dinner because of the view from the balcony dining setup. It was quite a romantic setting. I bet Siblings retained that setup, although I’m not sure yet if they measure up to Sizzlers’ sizzling dishes (my personal favorite was sisig with egg).

Old street snacks

After resting for a bit in my dormitory room, I went out again for a walk, carrying my backpack with my notebook, pens and laptop. At 4 PM, my first stop was the small kwek-kwek (fried orange quail eggs) cart in front of Vega Arcade, right outside the UPLB gate. I bought a stick of four pieces (Php15) and resumed walking while dipping my kwek-kwek in my cup o’ spicy vinegar.

Along the way, I also stopped by Micha’s, a pastry and cake shop near Demarses Subdivision where I used to live. Whenever I was stressed out with acads (academic stuff), I would stop by and take out either blueberry cheesecake (I remember it’s less than Php100), cream puffs (Php12 for caramel-glazed, Php15 for vanilla-glazed) or chocolate chip cookies. Cream puffs were my favorite, so I decided to buy them this time. Prices didn’t change! I ate my caramel and vanilla cream puffs as I wandered on.

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There’s nothing like Micha’s cream puffs.

New food places

After a couple of minutes of walking along Lopez Avenue (Grove), I was kicking around whether I was going to eat at an old favorite or try a new restaurant. I decided to do…both! At 5 PM, I went to Bibap Korean Restaurant, which was a new find for me. I gave my order at the counter and went up to the second floor to find a low dining table setup. I sat on my floor cushion as I ate my jajangmyeon with delicious side dishes (Php135), while watching some Korean music videos on their TV. At this time on a Saturday, there are not many people at Bibap—in fact, I was the only one enjoying the solitude of the restaurant. On the other hand, perhaps it was too early for a heavy meal…

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Picture-perfect vanilla ice cream coffee at Productivity Cafe

Meanwhile, Productivity Cafe just on the other side of the street had a lot of occupied tables. Since my old favorite, Coffee Blends, was for some reason closed on that day, I decided to try a new coffee shop. Productivity Cafe was a small coffee place on the second floor of a new commercial building along Lopez Ave. that offered a special space for students to concentrate on their acads and for alumni like me to just blend in. When I entered the cafe, I almost thought I walked into a class. On one side, there were four long tables occupied by two young people each, who were perfectly lined up with their laptops set on the table. I occupied a small square table in another corner overlooking the road and set my laptop, notebook and pens on the little surface, with a smaller space for my vanilla ice cream coffee (Php99). Productivity Cafe encourages silence as respect for students who’re trying to work and plays soothing music that makes you feel more like you’re in a spa. It’s a good thing they had bright lighting, else I would have dozed off on my table.❤️

Eatsumo, always

I stayed at Productivity Café until around 8:30 PM. I crossed the street again to transfer to Eatsumo, an old favorite Japanese restaurant, for a second fill. I admit it’s not authentic Japanese, but I still love their donburi and california maki. Their meals were tasty and cheap—served justice to my scanty college budget. Whenever I craved for some Japanese meals, this was where I ran to. This time, I ordered the usual—”toridon,” chicken and egg donburi (Php70), which I found weird at first because I knew it was “oyakodon.” Anyway, tori meant bird or chicken in Japanese, so technically it’s not wrong to call it toridon!

I sat alone on a table while watching other students enjoying their meals and chatting with each other. I used to be like them—dining with a friend and ranting lightheartedly on after a stressful day of boring classes and demanding professors. Although, sometimes, I would just enjoy a meal alone and just be thankful for having the time to run away from papers, go out and chill.

Old nightly habits, nostalgia

After my dinner, at around 9:30, I walked around a little more. I passed by CDC (College of Development Communication) and remembered the nights I used to walk by this place filled with students chattering among themselves or practicing a class presentation or just waiting for friends they were meeting up with. I remembered the nights I used to walk by this place to meet my Dev Com friends. Strangely, as a Com Arts student, I used to have more close friends from CDC and other colleges. If I could be honest, I’d say I didn’t really match the wavelengths of my Com Arts batchmates. I saw them as loud, dynamic and high-maintenance. Their sassiness was a bit intimidating for me. I found it easier to get along with peeps from CDC and Engineering, who were more easygoing and scruffy (in a cute way!). But later on, I also got to meet good friends in my own college who made me comfortable and happy.

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My beloved college, CAS

Past CDC, I walked by the old CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) building with so much nostalgia. At the start of every semester, this was where I fell in line for several minutes to claim the most coveted Form 5 (Certificate if Registration). (And then, I would fall in line again for hours at the Admin office for payment of matriculation and at the University Registrar for stamping of Form 5 and class cards.) This was also where I endured classes with wall fans blowing warm air on our faces in summertime.

It was certainly not easy in college, but it will always be something I’d be willing to relive over and over because every end of the day was rewarding after you finished all of the day’s tasks. At the end of the day, there would always be friends, good food and fine coffee that would ease all the stress. I love you, UPLB.

Sunday morning

In the morning, before heading back to Manila, I decided to grab breakfast and coffee and chill a little more at Cafe Ella, probably the only cafe in Elbi that’s open at 8 AM on Sunday. Cafe Ella is also a nice place to hang around, with its cozy interior and free Wi-Fi. I tried for the first time their classic meaty red sauced pasta (Php175) and brewed coffee (Php65). When I was in college, I usually ordered fish and chips and caramel macchiato. I only went here when I was feeling lavish (when I had extra after paying rent!) because Cafe Ella was a little too expensive for me.

Sundays and holidays will make you realize that the students are the life of Elbi. When there are no classes, there are not many establishments to go to. Most restaurants and cafes are either closed or open late, and it’s hard to find a nice place to hang out especially in the morning. Without the young people, Elbi is like a ghost town.

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I’ll keep coming back to you, Elbi! Love you.

 

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Discovering and Loving Hong Kong

[DAY 1]

Finally. After 5 years, I finally obtained a second stamp on my Philippine passport.

Last February 16, I boarded a plane bound to the original and a big contender of Singapore in being the Asia’s World City. Incidentally, the first country I ever went to was Singapore. But I won’t be going on comparing SG and HK, as both are, although similar in a lot of ways, boasting specially unique experiences.

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Touchdown Hong Kong!

Awe-inspiring discoveries

The eager tourists that we are, I and my friend excitedly hopped on the A22 bus going to our destination, Kwun Tong, and went straight for the front seat on the upper deck. It was a smooth and chill ride. The bus wasn’t going too fast.

The first thing that I noticed and that filled me with awe is the realization that Hong Kong is actually surrounded by mountains. Honestly, I didn’t know that! Did you? So, you can imagine how excited I was turning my head left and right, up and down, mouth agape the whole time, admiring the scenery unfolding before me. To add more to this childish newcomer excitement, we passed over at least three bridges that offered a wonderful view of the city, the water, and the mountains.

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Helpful mr. driver checking directions for us!
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Mountains unfolding (click for more pictures)

Avenue of Stars (almost)

We got off at Kwun Tong Town Centre. We got a business meeting over and done with before we dove for our hotel beds at Newton Place Hotel. We didn’t waste much time relaxing. After a few hours of refreshing, we set off for Tsim Sha Tsui to find the iconic Avenue of Stars and some good food. From Kwun Tong, we took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui.

We reached an esplanade and excitedly assumed it was the Avenue of Stars – hurray! Only later to find out that we were taking photos and selfies at Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. It wasn’t bad. The view of the cityline was great, especially as the sun set and city lights gleamed.

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Beautiful Hong Kong cityline view (click for more pictures)

Discoveries on foot: shopping and good food

We walked to find Ashley Road and had a filling dinner at Delicious Kitchen. I was impressed with the crew’s quick and helpful service. Only a few minutes after we gave our orders, a big serving of sliced pork with garlic pepper cabbage (72 HKD) was served for me and a big plate of yang chow (45 HKD) for sharing. Ah, I got my stomach so full!

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Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (click for more pictures)

Still, I had space for a post-dinner snack of yummy egg puffs. We stopped at a snack shop on the side of the street, and there I found my favorite HK street snack. Egg puffs are like empty round cookies with a creamy surprise inside.

We rode the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui Station to Mong Kok, and after that we were full force on foot! To burn some of the calories we consumed, we walked the long stretch of Ladies Market, filled with bargain items from clothing to accessories and lots of HK souvenirs! I thought “I ❤️ HK” shirts were cliche so I got “I ❤️ HK” bags (55 HKD for 2) instead!

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Walking at Ladies Market (click for more pictures)

An interesting thing I learned about Ladies Market is that the sellers are very! persistent. They drive a really hard bargain! At the first stall I stopped to look at chopsticks, the lady offered me a set of ten for 120 HKD and I thought, nah, it’s over my budget. As I began to walk away, the lady held on to me and offered it for 110 HKD, 100 HKD, until I finally gave in to 80 HKD thinking, wow, that’s a great deal from the original price! Only later for me to find out that there was another stall that offered the same set of chopsticks on sale for 20 HKD. Ugh! I’m not mad, though. The lady was good, and it was a funny learning experience. As you go farther, you’ll definitely meet a lot of the persistent lady. If you’re weak-hearted and poor at saying no, then you’re gonna have a hard a time. I knew I’m a bit softhearted, so it was really a struggle to look around. I just looked at items from a distance instead of entering the stalls just so I could avoid the sellers’ arm-twisting.

Late night coffee and sleepy kitties

After we got out of Ladies Market, we just walked around and along the streets of Mong Kok until we found a building that had a tiny poster that said “Cafe de Kitten ➡️” The building looked more like an old residential building than a commercial center. But the words kitten and cats rang in my ears, which compelled me to check it out. I and my friend took the elevator to the 7th floor where the cafe is located. What we found was a tiny piece of heaven for me and a loving little haven for cats.

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Entrance to Cafe de Kitten, Mong Kok (click for more pictures)

Cafe de Kitten is a small hole-in-the-wall that can accommodate no more than 20 people at once. When you enter the cafe, you will be greeted by sleepy and indifferent Garfields that will only stand up and approach you if you have cat food to offer. Their cuteness offsets their indifference. There were many cats in the cafe that I couldn’t count. All of them are healthy and well taken care of. The two owners are undeniably cat lovers and are also hospitable to their visitors. They even offered us a free taste of some of their cakes!

Cafe de Kitten lets coffee and cat lovers enjoy the place for a minimum order of 78 HKD per person. We came in at around 10 PM, and we were worried that it was closing, but thank feline gods they’re open late – until 1 AM. I sipped on my minty iced coffee while trying to lure the cats to walk to me.

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The only time it opened its eyes. Funny!
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This cat was like this for at least 3 minutes LOL

Getting home

At 11 PM, we bid goodbye to the cute kitties and the sweet owners of Cafe de Kitten and went out to the street with no idea how to return to our hotel. We walked around checking information at bus stops because we assumed MTR would be closed at that time. After asking a few helpful locals, we headed to Yau Ma Tei MTR station after being told that we can still catch the train.

We got back at Newton Place Hotel around midnight. We slept with an old Chinese series on the TV, which we enjoyed watching despite not understanding a word they said.

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View from our hotel room

 

Mt. Pulag for First-Timers: Budget Guide & Tips

I am not a pro. Pulag was only my third time to trek. But I have learned a lot, which I am taking note here just in case some first-timers come across this entry.

Like I have shared in my previous entry, Mt. Pulag is intense for the heart and body. It is important to be prepared against the cold weather and the backbreaking trek.

For first timers, we are most likely not prepared with the gear and other implements needed for the trek. I had to do some shopping myself. So, I am sharing here my shopping list divided into categories, along with some notes.

Group tour package

It was only I and my college friend, but we joined a group tour so we also found new friends! There are a lot of group tours offered online. You can do a quick search on Google or on Facebook and compare the deals. One friend told me that he availed a Php2,500 tour package during his time.

group-tour

Recently, the park management set stricter rules for hikers. Based on our orientation at the DENR regional office, the number of hikers per group has been limited to 20 and the total number of climbers per day is also limited. It is advisable to ensure that reservations at 09291668864 or 09199951316 is made before the scheduled trek. Mt. Pulag National Park also has a Facebook page that serves as a bulletin where they post updates on weather conditions and other announcements to climbers.

Basic Gears

I was on tight budget, so I took the time to scout cheap gears.

gears

Lazada and Daiso became my good friends. The bag I bought from Lazada was not very durable but it stuck out to the end. It was easy to carry, mind you. You are not going to carry the bag during the hike anyway. We left our bags in the tent and brought a smaller bag to carry important belongings and some trek food.

The hiking shoes I got from Fila (always on sale!) were for casual hiking but they lasted gracefully! Now, I use them for jogging.

If you plan to make hiking your regular activity, then you can invest on more expensive, certified trekking gears like Merrell, Adidas, etc.

Personal toiletries

I also did some shopping for toiletries because I refused to bring big bottles of shampoo, lotion, etc. that would only make my baggage heavy. Mostly, I bought sachets or pocket-size bottles so that they all fit in my kikay kit (small pouch).

toiletries

Armory

Yes, we need armory—against the cold!

armory

I’m going to tell you now, above is the list of only the things I brought. They were enough to endure the chill during the trek (we actually had to remove our jackets along the way; it gets a bit hot as you tire yourself out) and the low temperature at the summit. But definitely they were not enough for me to sleep peacefully in the cold night.

crucial

So, be sure to pack what I failed to bring: a fleece blanket, a thermal jacket and a sleeping bag. An insulator sheet is also very important, but local stores rent them out so just renting will also help lighten your baggage.

Other expenses (mostly food *wink!*)

I tracked my spending along the way, so I’m also sharing it here. Food at the ranger station is not only delicious and reasonable but also healthy. They have a lot of vegetables and use brown rice. My favorite snack was vegetable ukoy, a must-try!

Notice that a medical certificate is included in the list. It’s because it is now required by the park management.A lot of groups usually stop over Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital to get a medical certificate. It is much cheaper than getting one in the city.

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For a worn out amateur climber like me, massage was much needed. So, upon arriving in Manila, I took a taxi straight to a hotel, took a shower, availed a room-service massage and went straight to sleep. Worth it!

total

For Php8,000 give or take a few bucks, you can avail a Mt. Pulag tour package and complete your checklist of gears and armory (which you can use again in the future). Not bad for a first time!

Intensity lvl: Trek to Mt. Pulag

My Mt. Pulag experience was intense. Intense for my poor legs and intense for my heart, literally and figuratively. My favorite and the funniest part was the blowback of my underestimating the climate and the trails of Mt. Pulag.

Baby it’s cold outside ♪ ♫

I knew the temperature in Pulag could hit below zero. I knew it could get much colder at night. I knew because I had been warned. I, however, had been overconfident. I come from a relatively cold town. I have endured the cold and wet weather in Baguio City with one piece of jacket. I’m in a tropical country that has never seen snow. How much colder could it get up there?

On the drive up to Benguet, I was wearing regular leggings and a long sleeve shirt. When we reached Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital in Bokod, Benguet to get our mandatory medical certificate, I donned my oversize jacket. Once we reached the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office in Ambangeg for registration and orientation, I grabbed a cute Pochacco fleece scarf from the roadside stalls of local sellers. When we arrived at Ambangeg Ranger Station to set camp, I could feel faint quivering in my hands and chest.

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Foggy Ambangeg Ranger Station!
The place was beautifully foggy! The people looked pretty with their naturally glowing red cheeks brought about by the climate they live in. Am I in Iceland?

At first, I and my college roomie, who was my companion this time, were resolute on using only garbage bags as groundsheets inside the tent. Later on, we grabbed an insulating sheet for rent in one of the local stores and borrowed one fleece blanket from our group leader. Later in the night, that insulating sheet and that blanket were going to be life savers.

Unfortunately, one blanket was not enough for two roomies. We were scrambling for the blanket. In the end, I positioned myself by my roomie’s feet, close to the bags which helped warm me up a little, and curled up inside my oversize jacket like a hedgehog. Shaking like a leaf, I slept restlessly.

I was thankful when our leader started banging on people’s tents, which meant it was time to get up and prep for the early morning hike. We got up around 12:30 AM, gobbled up some creamy hotdog macaroni soup, and set out to trek.

It’s the climb ♪ ♫

After the first few minutes of upslope trekking, my chest started to pound rapidly and I had difficulty breathing. I thought I was going to faint but willed my legs to keep walking as I didn’t want to get left behind. I know, it was crazy. Every time there was an upslope, my heart began to race and I had to struggle to control my breathing. Luckily, it got better as we got farther. But I wished I had actually trained before the climb. I had previously trekked to Mt. Batulao in Batangas a few years ago and it was child’s play. Mt. Pulag, on the other hand, is not Luzon’s highest peak for nothing.

Mt. Pulag actually has four peaks, Peak 1 being the highest and where you can find the legendary wooden “Welcome” sign post. After about three hours of trekking, we settled at Peak 3 to wait for the sunrise.

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Sun is peaking, I am looking
It was exciting and refreshing. While the sun was taking its time to reveal itself, I took the time to shut up, while everyone else was busy engaging in group selfies, and appreciate the surroundings. We were surrounded by Mt. Pulag’s trademark of sea of clouds. If we actually analogize it to the sea, this time was at low tide because the sea of clouds was a bit far away from us but nonetheless did not fail to amaze us at all. The surrounding ridges were like rocks sprouting out of the beach during low tide. Looking from a distance, the grassland seemed so soft; for some reason, it reminded me of Bohol’s chocolate hills.

Taking pictures was a funny struggle. Everybody was wearing thermal gloves to fight the heat, but we had to take them off if we wanted to take photos using our touch-screen phones. My hand was turning pale and numb, but it would be such a waste to not take photos. The magnificence of the sunrise on top of Mt. Pulag was a memory I wanted to remember in my photos.

At 6:45 AM, we started the trek again and reached Peak 1 after almost an hour. The sun was already shining brightly above the clouds yet we could still feel the icy chill in our skin. Once again, there was nothing else better to do than take in and appreciate the gift of nature. Before trekking back down, we fell in line to take a mandatory photo with the “Welcome to Mt. Pulag” sign post.

We endured the pain in our legs and feet and continuously trekked downhill for the next two or three hours. It was okay, although whenever there was an upward slope, even the slightest, we automatically stopped for a break because every time, it made us feel the exhaustion.

So I face the final curtain ♪ ♫

After the trek on the long wet and muddy trail, we definitely had to clean up. If I had a choice, I would rather not get in the shower. But with all the sticky cold sweat inside my sweater and all the mud on my legs, I knew I could not bear the filthy feeling.

There are shared bathrooms right at the camp, but don’t expect them to have a heater. I jumped all around after my first splash of water. After a few minutes, my hand turned pale white and I couldn’t really feel much anymore. I couldn’t tell for sure if I still had soap on my body because I couldn’t feel it!

I went out of the bathroom shivering—but satisfied. It’s time to go home, and I’m going home refreshed!

Tips and tricks for first-timers on my next post! ☺

Wrap Up 2016 to Kick Off 2017

It’s been a while.

2016 passed without an entry, huh? The past year seems to have passed by quickly. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

Certainly, there will always be shoulda’s, coulda’s and woulda’s, but I’d say 2016 had been generally great for me.

I refuse to settle in something that doesn’t give me a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Still in the quest for the best career path, I was in a roller coaster of employment from the BPO industry to advertising to business development with a pinch of marketing and events. This year, I am continuing my quest. Although it doesn’t look good that at this age I haven’t established a stable career for myself, I refuse to settle in something that doesn’t give me a sense of fulfillment and purpose. And I guess that’s really what I’m looking for–purpose.

I don’t really like to deprive myself of love and happiness.

Last year, I definitely ate a lot. Drank less alcohol and consumed coffee way too much. I used to limit my consumption of coffee due to health and financial concerns, but I just love coffee! And I don’t really like to deprive myself of love and happiness. So, I went out, traveled, deviated from the big mainstream coffee shops and started to appreciate local cafés more. Thankfully, I haven’t exploded with all the caffeine and sugar in my system.

On top of all, 2016 had been the most travel-filled year for me. Looking back, I’m not sure how I got the money I spent for all these trips, but I did it! I outlasted Baguio climate, camped at the unpretentious Nagsasa Cove, survived the restless waters in Cebu, defied the stormy August weather in Boracay, and wandered through Davao. Should I also count my trips in my own proud hometown Tagaytay?

I spent time with, drank coffee and went to places with friends. I also spent more time with myself. Continued to enjoy my self-indulgent pleasure-seeking independent middle-class working life. Got to know myself at least a little bit more.

I may have missed writing on my blog but I definitely widened my horizons by writing for online websites and writing speech projects. For this year, I have resolved to write again and write more. I will bring back life to my blog and explore more avenues of writing.

I will write about coffee, about travels, about solitude. All the things that matter to me. And all the things that don’t. Writing about things I care about will keep me satisfied; writing about other things will help me stretch my capabilities.

2017 will be a great year to write and drink more coffee.

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