Why we left Dubai


I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized for the lack of updates on this blog so I’m not going to do it now because I can’t promise to be consistent in writing with all the things currently going on in my life. But if you are reading this, thank you for still being here.

If you have followed me on social media, you may have come across posts where I mentioned that we have left Dubai, our home for the past 10 years and 11 months. To many, it was a sudden move, a surprising decision even, especially when I said we’re moving back to Japan – it’s shocking to some people who has heard me say I will try hard not to live in Japan again, after we left in 2007. (But that is another blog post to write)

I struggled for the time to be able to sit down to write this post and even thought of just closing down this blog and quit writing. But who am I kidding? I don’t know if I’ll ever lose my love for writing. Sentences have already formed n my head even before our flight out of Dubai took off and I couldn’t wait to be able to open my laptop and write away these thoughts.

Also, when you have followers on social media and readers on your blog, you feel some kind of social responsibility to be transparent, to share the goings on in your life, especially they have followed you from the start. And I really wanted to write this post to collectively tell our story for those reading this and for myself, as a reminder years from now why we made this big move.

There is not one single reason why we left Dubai. It is a mix of so many reasons that snowballed into the major but necessary decision to pack up and leave.

Reason #1: my work

“Life’s too short to do the things you don’t love doing.”

Somehow, this quote had been crossing my mind so often I wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t always like that. I am grateful to be given the chance to work in Dubai in my previous company with so many wonderful people who became not just my work colleagues, but my friends. My day job allowed me and my family to live in Dubai comfortably and indulge in life’s little pleasures like traveling outside of the UAE.

However, after many years, the stuff I do for a living has brought more stress than happiness no matter how I tell myself ,”get over it, this too shall pass”. Day in, day out, getting on the train, running to catch the time, sweating profusely during the grueling hot months (more than half of the year?!), sitting down from 8 am to 6 pm on mechanical mode going through papers and papers, putting in over time some of the time but feeling unappreciated, etc. And then repeat again till the last work day of the week. Lately, the theme of my life had been #WaitingForWeekends.

When you reach the point where you dread when the weekend ends and the work week begins, you know life has become stressful and unhealthy. When sometimes you find yourself half-assing your work, unconsciously, you know you need to put an end to it.

I know that sounds like a selfish thing. And there are bills to pay. Believe me, I have battled voices in my head saying, “you should be grateful you have a job!” or “the pay is good, the work is not difficult, why leave?” or “why don’t you just get up, show up, sit for 8 hours and wait for the paycheck?” and then on the other side, so many voices of reasons that would sum up:

“Are you sure you want to do the same thing everyday for the next ten years?”

And the answer to that was NO.

I guess when you work in a place that long, (10 years and 11 months for me in the same company), you would want some sort of change. I’ve asked for it but that change didn’t come and I didn’t see it coming at all. Doing something over and over again that long is not sustainable, at least for me. I feel my feelings weren’t normal because in my previous company, people have worked for 10, 20 or even 30 years. No one ever leaves (almost) that people didn’t believe I resigned and started to speculate and spread rumors that I was terminated. When I said I submitted my resignation paper last November 2017, there wasn’t a single soul who didn’t think I was joking. “Why would you?”

There’s also the lingering matter of my age. I’m 41 and it came to the critical point where IF I have to change jobs, I have to quit the current one NOW otherwise stay there till I retire. There was no change in the horizon with the current one and no, I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing day in and day out for the next 3,650 days of my life.

“So if you didn’t like your job, why didn’t you apply for other jobs, in Dubai?”

We move on to reason #2.

Reason #2: the kids

playing in the snow

There are several reasons worthy enough of a separate blog post that could be controversial to other families raising their kids in Dubai. Dubai is still a great place for families for many, however, PERSONALLY, I feel it wasn’t the best place for us anymore. The lifestyle didn’t fit what we wanted for our family.

I have a child who is transitioning into adulthood. She is 14, and while very open minded and sensible, I feel that living in Dubai as she transitions into this very important phase in life will not ready her or arm her with important life skills she needs and resilience when life is not so convenient and comfortable anymore in the outside world.

The other child is six years old and always happier when taken outdoors, not just for a period of time (cooler months in Dubai) but everyday.

Reason #3: the husband’s job instability

Background: we moved to Dubai because of my work; he was the trailing spouse.

To his credit, he really tried. He has come a long way from someone who didn’t know how to speak or write proper English sentences to someone who can negotiate business affairs using a language foreign to him. He is Japanese and only speaks Japanese language with me from the start. And in Japan where we previously lived, there is no need to use English.

In the past years when his job doesn’t work out due to various unfortunate reasons like salary was too low to compensate for the long hours, company downsizing, etc, he managed to get another and then another. He even worked in Saudi Arabia for a year while the kids and I remained in Dubai in 2016.

We decided, ENOUGH.

Now that we are in Japan, he can find something that would suit him better here. It’s his home country after all and as for me – I can manage to fit in, as I did for 10 years I was here before moving to Dubai. I can find something here should I decide to work (I have worked here for 5 years after graduation before).

Reason #4: there’s no forever in Dubai

Dubai is a transient place. More than 80% of the population are expats from 200 different countries…who will ultimately leave one day, it’s just a question of WHEN. It’s actually scary when you really think about it.

Why? The UAE doesn’t offer permanent residency – visas are tied with your job that if you lose it, you only have 30 days to either find a new one or exit the country, no citizenship offered as well.

It’s a temporary place where people come to earn and/or save.

I liken living in Dubai as part of the story of the Japanese folk tale of Urashima Taro – a fisherman who gets to visit a beautiful kingdom under the sea as a reward for rescuing a tortoise. The kingdom under the sea is like paradise and Urashima Taro lingered on, enjoying every moment, forgetting about the outside world. When he came up and went back to land, he was shocked to find out so many years have passed since the last time he was there.

Most expats in Dubai, us included, arrived thinking they’ll stay “just for a couple of years” but then the lifestyle is too comfortable, convenient and appealing, the malls so big, bright and shiny LOL, and we all end up making Dubai our semi-permanent home and before we know it, we’ve been living in this glorious city for years and decades.

And leaving gets harder and harder the longer you live in Dubai.

It’s a transient place and we’re all waiting for that “snap” that could be in the form of: you or your spouse losing your jobs and can’t find one before the 30 days grace period ends, you or your spouse’s company closes down and can’t find another company to sponsor your visa before the 30 days grace period ends, Dubai’s economy all together snaps and you become redundant or worst case scenario, war erupts in the Middle East (the UAE is peaceful right now and I think it will be for the next years…but then again, there’s no guarantee?)

So what if the “snap” happens tomorrow and we have no savings or when we’re 50? Where will we go? Will there be any companies to accept us back home or somewhere else?

We felt it is time to settle and build a permanent home.

ben walking in snow


We are all Japan passport holders, my husband is from here and we have family here (his side, our children’s grandparents who are so delighted with our move). Japan will always be that place we can base ourselves the easiest, move with least effort, financially, logistically. Here, we are eligible for social insurance and school for the kids is free.

Also, we feel it’s time for our children to get to know the culture and heritage that’s part of who they are.

Are we staying here for good? I don’t know about the “for good” part but “for now”, yes.

No matter how comfortable and almost perfect life is in Dubai, we are only there on borrowed time. With the visa, we are given the privilege to stay in Dubai/UAE. In Japan, we have the right to stay as long as we can.

One interesting thing about this move – much like when people in Dubai asked me why we left Japan, people here in Japan are asking me why we left Dubai – a seemingly modern day Utopia where everything is convenient; even the heat is a mild matter as we live in temperature controlled houses and sleep with our comforters even when it’s nearing 50C outside.

The grass is always greener on the other side, eh?


January 13th 2018 (that’s today in my time zone) would have been our 11 years anniversary in Dubai but we’re no longer there. I wanted to start the new year fresh and new so I chose to leave before 2017 ended. Honestly, I thought I’d write a really sappy post how I missed life in Dubai but not right now. I actually didn’t have time to grieve over leaving the city we called home for nearly 11 years. I was so busy with so many things like patching things at work before my exit, selling/giving away/disposing things at home and preparing to leave for the Philippines last month for my sister’s wedding. (Had several incidents even before we landed in Manila with Benjamin suddenly getting sick on the plane and we had to call emergency when we landed and then the airline losing 2 of my checked in luggage and typhoon Vinta got our flights to my hometown cancelled …who has time to be sappy about Dubai?)

And then this move to Japan.

I might eventually get nostalgic and write the sappy post someday but not today. I’m busy looking forward to the challenges we’ll all face. The kids’ attending Japanese school, me looking for a job (or deciding to stay at home!), looking for a permanent house etc.

Oh, and the harsh winter. I am more bothered of the cold, cold temp inside the house this winter to be grieving about the past.

I do have a passing thought and probably an advice to you expats thinking about leaving Dubai: don’t leave when Dubai is at its most gorgeous in the “winter” months, especially if you’re destination is the real winter world. You’ll miss and long for Dubai’s glorious sunshines in December.

Leave during the summer when you’re cursing your way out of the airport and happily looking forward to your normal world destination where you can stand outside without your arm pits transforming into waterfalls of sweat and you can breathe without being choked by 95% humidity.

Oh and one last thing keeping me from grieving?

I need a new blog name.

Sorry for the long hiatus. An update.

I’ve lost track.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the longest time in my ten years of blogging. Not writing anything for a month has been tougher than not eating chocolates for a month.  I expected it. I didn’t fully wanted it – semi-quitting blogging and all but it happened. I still couldn’t believe I did it, shrugging it off with thoughts like, “who’s reading anyway?”

Do people still read blogs? If you have been a visitor to mine before, are you still there?

I tend to blame the loss of my blogging mojo to social media – myself posting updates on Instagram, Twitter or my blog’s Facebook page that I lose the spirit to really sit down in front of my PC and write like a true blogger does. Like my old blogger self.

Then I thought I’d still want to write again so here I am. I still would like to read blog posts I wrote from x years ago, I am writing a part of my life’s story here so I will continue.

Moving on,

The holy month of Ramadan has started last month; we’re already halfway through it actually. I’m not a Muslim so I don’t fast but irrespective of religion, employees and workers in the UAE do get shorter work times. I only work from 8 am to 2 pm. I do extra hour of work every day to avoid the rush on the metro and the blaring hot sun at 2 pm (it’s still hot at 3 pm though) so I arrive home just before 4 pm. It appears that I *do* actually have ample time to blog and I didn’t because I was focusing on other things: exercising, playing with the kids as this month is bliss for working moms like me. I love Ramadan mainly for this opportunity to be with my kids longer.

And speaking of Ramadan, I just realized this is our 11th Ramadan in Dubai. ELEVENTH, people!

I admit, lately I’ve secretly wished every Ramadan is the last. More than 10 years in the UAE and I honestly feel our time is up and I am ready to move on, somewhere. But I just don’t know where. YET. I hope we come around to that. SOON.

And in between staying here longer and wishing to go away, the much awaited vacation time comes again. This year, I managed to plan to include JAPAN. The last time was four years ago!

Four years ago means Benjamin was still in a stroller, only less than 2 years old, still breastfeeding!

benjamin at subway

It was during that time I really felt Tokyo is a city not meant for traveling families with small kids. I lived just outside Tokyo for almost five years and never really realized that…because I was single that time. For one, there are so many train stations without escalators or elevators. There were times I had to carry the child in one arm and a folder stroller on the other (the husband wasn’t with us that time).

subway scene

It’s hot in Japan in the summer so we took breaks from the concrete jungle of Tokyo to parks. If you’re around Shinjuku, don’t miss to check out Shinjuku Gyoen when you’re tired from all the walking and want to lie down on green grass.

benjamin at park

P and B in Tokyo 2

P and B in Tokyo 3

We’ll be in Japan for just 9 nights. It is not enough but I’ll take it. The weather in Japan in June is unpredictable but I plan to make the most of it, especially now that the children are older and they actually know what they want to do while in Japan: from simple things as wanting to eat as much ramen, gyoza or curry rice to shopping at convenient stores for different onigiris to exciting visits to the Ghibli Museum (even this excites me – Pristine was only 5 when we last visited Totoro’s abode!) and probably, I may sneak in a surprise visit to Tokyo Disneyland, weather and health permitting!

We’re visiting their grandparents north of Tokyo. They’ll be getting to know Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) for the first time!


The last time we’ve seen them was in 2009 and since they’re the kind of folks who doesn’t have an email address or WhatsApp, Facebook or anything online, they will be shocked how big the kids have become. (They have not seen Benjamin yet since he was born and now he’s almost 6!)


After Japan, we will be flying to where my parents live where the children will be spending their summer vacation. I hate to be away from them for about 7 weeks but they’re better off there than spend the whole day indoors in Dubai. If only I could stay with them for the whole duration of their summer vacation but alas, work awaits. I’ll fly out again to pick them up at the end of August.

I will be active on social media, mainly on Instagram and hopefully, I could have enough material to write blog posts about our travel to Japan this time. Benjamin is bigger this time so I suppose I could take lots of better photos too. I am excited. Meanwhile, I need to get back on my feet really soon – I am so sick with bronchitis that fully transformed into asthma. Very bad timing as I need to pack, plan, work and actually fly out in a few days!

When the fear of travel creeps in


Stockholm and Alexandria were on my mind and in my travel plans this year.

By now, you must already know what happened lately to these two cities: a truck being driven into a crowded shopping street in Stockholm and there was a church bombing in Alexandria during a Palm Sunday mass at a Coptic Christian Church just a few days ago.

Stockholm was an easy choice for my first visit to the Scandinavian region – and not just because I am a huge ABBA or IKEA fan. It is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, where lakes meets the sea, where beautiful island towns stitched together by bridges and ferries creates an irresistible allure.

IMG_9797 wm

Alexandria on the other hand is home to my daughter Pristine’s best friend, Laila. Laila and Pristine had been friends since kindergarten. They love each other like crazy that summer vacations became agonizing and unlike most kids who enjoy no school days, they count days till they meet again. It’s very difficult to peel them off from each other on the first day they’re back to school.

Laila’s family migrated to Canada five years ago and at the tender age of 9, my daughter felt the hardest part of being an expat – losing a friend through relocation.

Laila transferred to a school in Canada while maintaining contact with her best friend in Dubai, however, due to the huge time difference, the girls rarely sync their time for Skype but when they do, they are both grinning from ear to ear.

Now, after five years, Laila’s family with their resident status in Canada all settled, they are going back to their home in Alexandria for vacation! Isn’t it just a 3 hour flight from Dubai? Laila’s mom buzzed me last week to share the good news and asked if we could surprise the girls to meet and spend a few days with them in their Alexandria home. I’ve made arrangements for the kids to spend summer at my parent’s home in the Philippines for the entire months of July-August BUT I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to go to Egypt and for my daughter to see her bosom friend again so a couple of days ago, I called up the travel agent and asked to reschedule our flights out of Manila so we can come back to Dubai earlier and fly to Alexandria for the remainder of summer.

Cue my mother’s voice: “Wait, what? You’re going to Alexandria where there was a bombing incident? And you’re taking the kids, too?!”

I will not lie. I am anxious.

And you ask, well, if you are that anxious, then why go? Why not just stay at the comfort and safety of home?

I guess that the problem with me is that, even if I sometimes get scared of travel, that doesn’t stop me. I always have this familiar mix of excitement and apprehension that comes before every excursion, especially to places I would visit for the first time.

Especially, if I am travelling with the kids.

Especially travelling to vulnerable areas this time (Egypt).

Then I do extensive research and preparation, be brave and walk out the door proudly but then, as I sit on the plane looking out the window as the carrier pulls away from the tarmac, I ask, “what am I doing? Am I making a right decision?” It’s a crazy mind game inside my head.

It’s unfortunate that there is so much hate and violence in this world right now that makes travelling to some places difficult, scary or even impossible. I feel lucky to have visited Istanbul and Jordan (I was shaken though as only 2 days after we left Jordan, there had been a terrorist attack at one of the popular tourist spots) during more stable times.

I wish I had seen Damascus (Syria), one of the oldest cities in the Middle East before the war.

It’s sad to know that many people might never see these places for a while due to fear of safety.  (And those are very legit fears.) However, I found some tips how to stay safe while travelling to risky countries which was informative and logical.

Over to you – are there any places you’d wish to visit but can’t or won’t due to fear of safety?

How I got my Japanese family name

wisteria in japan

I was doing the car registration renewal process a few days back when the Emirati guy behind the counter at Tasjeel chit chatted me while he holds my car registration card, “So you are Japanese? You have a Japanese family name and nationality but you look Filipino!” If I attempt to count this kind of query every time someone gets hold of my personal documents like passport, driver’s license, etc, the count would be the same as the number of hair strands I have. It’s a question I get all the time since I changed my nationality more than a decade ago.

“Oh so you are married to a Japanese that’s why you have his family name!”

Uhm, actually no. But more often than not, I just say yes and move on.

Today, I am going to share something about Japanese family names and how I got mine because – today is the anniversary since I became a Japanese citizen. I just realized that when I saw the above photo on a travel website. So here goes,

Japanese family names, in most cases are derived from nature. The family names usually consists of two kanjis (Japanese characters), a combination between the “geographic feature” group and the “adjective” group.

Here are 30 most common geographic feature used in surnames, plants and villages included:

japanese family names 1

As for adjectives, the most common are probably these ones (note that the 2 first are not adjectives, but act as such as they do not mean anything by themselves) :

japanese family names 2

The order can be both, geographic feature/nature first then adjective next or adjective first then followed by geographic feature/nature. For example, there’s Murakami (mura (village) + kami (above)) and then there’s Uemura (Ue (above) + mura (village)), both using the same two kanji’s though the other kanji is read differently when it comes first.


I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years when I decided to apply for naturalization. Applying for naturalization (citizenship) requires applicants to choose a Japanese name according to their wish. Basically, I could choose a Japanese first name and family name, ANYTHING that I like. I was in a relationship with my then boyfriend now husband for three years that time and we brainstormed what name I should use – honestly, it was kind of weird to rename myself. What if someone calls me by my Japanese name, how many times would they have to shout, for me to recognize it is actually my name they are calling out?

We learned that for the first name, we can use a foreign name to be written in katakana (katakana is most often used for transcription of words from foreign languages). I decided to retain my original name Grace as not to complicate my life too much but then what family name would I use? Or create for myself? I had only a week to decide.

Since we were contemplating on getting married anyway and I actually liked his family name, I asked him if I could use it. And he said yes.

The first kanji is FUJI, which is this.


Fuji means the wisteria plant in Japanese. Isn’t it lovely? I even like the word. WISTERIA.

(You might associate the word “fuji” from Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and most popular mountain. However, the Japanese character or kanji for fuji in Mt. Fuji and fuji in my name is different, though their reading is the same in English. The Japanese language is complicated like that.)


Years before I met my husband, I’ve read a feature of the oldest wisteria plant Japan in the pages of an old National Geographic from the school library when I was in high school. I thought it was BEAUTIFUL and wished I could see it with my own eyes. Whenever I’m asked what’s my favorite flower, I’d say wisteria and people back home look at me with blank stares.

I’ve never seen a wisteria plant till my first spring in Japan in 1997. I chanced upon an old wisteria tree in a park near my school!


The next kanji in the family name I chose is MAKI, which means to wind, to turn or wraparound. The visual description of FUJIMAKI would be wisteria flowers wound up in a wreath of sorts.

So that’s the story of how my current family name came to be – although my husband and I have the same family name, I did not get this from him through marriage. I was already a Fujimaki before we got married and in Japan, one is able to retain her maiden name even after marriage so we’re technically two separate entities of Fujimaki’s.

(That even if we did not end up together, I would still bear the name “Grace Fujimaki”.)


Photo credit

It’s been 1o years since the last time I saw a beautiful wisteria. I miss it but every time I see or write my family name, I can’t help but have this vision of walking through a canopy of wisteria flowers over my head on a beautiful day in spring.

5 Things I’m glad I did before turning 40


When 2016 rolled over, the first thing that came to my mind was – this is the year I will be 40. The thought of being four decades ‘old’ didn’t actually bother me. But then the annual birthday blues hit me again. Around this time of the year, I just want to curl up in a ball and toss obscenities at the world.

I know why it happens and yet I fall for it year after year after year. There’s one big, nasty word that has everything to do with why birthdays end up being exactly the opposite of what we think they should be: expectations. When another year rolls in and our expectations aren’t met, we end up with feelings of disappointment, depression, and sadness. 

I woke up at 1 am this morning, no scratch that, I was half asleep, half awake at that time of the night envious to the snores of my children sleeping at my sides. I checked the news (I know I should kick the habit of sleeping with my phone!) and found out another massive quake hit Japan with imminent tsunami at the same Tohoku region devastated by earthquake and tsunami combo in 2011.

Suddenly, I felt small and mostly selfish with my birthday blues. Here I was, alive, safe and have everything I need but choosing to sulk.

I got up and grabbed my Moleskine note to write a few things I am glad I did/grateful that I did before I turned 40. Here they are:

1. Started and maintained a diary in my teens

I’ve always been the one who can better express in writing than talking so I started to write/document the goings on of my life since I was probably 12 or 13. It’s old school blogging and I am glad I did that because it’s always a joy to read my old diaries now that I’m 40.

And writing was therapy for me at that time, always been.

Diary writing is actually one of the habits I am very keen for my daughter to take on because it don’t only develop writing skills but a great thing to look back on.

2. Studied, lived and worked abroad in my twenties

I am grateful to be given the chance to study abroad (on a scholarship program) to Japan when I was 19. The diploma isn’t the only thing I got out of my four and a half years in the university – I gained resilience, self confidence and courage (to battle homesickness and the challenging academics at the same time). I also had the opportunity to discover a lot about myself while gaining an understanding of a different culture.

Back home, it could be easy to get stuck in the bubble of my own experience, but studying abroad taught me that there’s so much more out there.

3. Got married and had kids

I put an end to bad dates before I turned 30 25.

Research suggests you’re more likely to marry a true peer and someone whom you have lots in common with if you marry in your 20’s as opposed to later. It makes sense. Couples who get married in their 20’s often meet in college, a time in your life when you’re surrounded by people who are of similar age and background and have similar interests. It’s easier to find someone who’s the yin to your yang in the classes, clubs, and extra curriculars you’re interested in, than it is to sort, or swipe through a random assortment of prospects online.

The husband and I met at the university in Japan and got married 3 years after graduation.

I had my first baby at 27 so now at 40, I have a teenager as my able travel travel buddy and whom I can talk and confide to like a friend and laugh with my silly jokes! On the other hand, my second child was born when I was 35 so feel I am still a ‘young mom’ and when he is 10 and big enough he could be my new travel buddy when the older one is off to college far away.

4. Travelled as much as I can (even if alone)

I went to places within Japan (only because I faced visa related challenges with my previous passport) – took railway short trips, climbed mountains, explored onsens (hot baths on natural springs) sometimes with a group of friends or if they are not available, alone.

Yep, alone, even when I was in a relationship.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The man who goes alone can start today but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

I was never uncomfortable with going solo (introvert alert!).

Except for trips home to see my parents to show the baby, travel for me took a back seat for a while. However, I picked up what I left off by travelling alone again when Pristine was 8 to Thailand for a blogging gig (!), when Benjamin was 2 to Turkey (another blogging gig!) and last year when I went off to Austria, just because.

5. Took care of my health

Although still a little frumpy than I would like, I am still glad I didn’t take my health for granted when I was younger.

I’ve always been active, conscious about food and adapt a healthier lifestyle because I have my parents as fitspirations. My father late into his 60’s still plays tennis 6x a week and do not have prescription meds to sustain him. My mom is super strict with her diet and can say no effortlessly to carbs and sugar, something I am still working on! They look and feel so much younger than their real ages.

While I had health setbacks earlier this year with a mild herniated disc from doing too much weights and plantar fasciitis (so much better now, thank God!), right now, I am happy to report that all my blood work are excellent and everything is normal – blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, etc.

And today I woke up, I am not in pain and that is ENOUGH. Health is wealth. As long as I wake up painless and can carry myself, I feel I can do anything.

BONUS tip: Take care of your skin too even if you’re still tight and plump and perky in your twenties. Never sleep with makeup on, exfoliate, hydrate and moisturise regularly so you could thank yourself when you look at the mirror the morning you turn 40 🙂

I felt better writing these five things. Now, where’s that cake?

What I learned from living alone again after 13 years


I think there are two types of people: one who loves being in the constant company of people and people who find solitude when alone. The alone but never lonely kind of people. As weird as it sounds, they do exist.

Recently, I lived alone in our two bedroom apartment in Dubai for a few weeks – the husband was away for work and the kids were at my parents’ house in the Philippines to spend the rest of their summer vacation. It’s a little lonely without the little humans in our home but I know they are better off there than be cooped up indoors here in Dubai because outside is hotter than hell.

Anyway, the last time I lived alone was in 2003, when I was single and working in Japan. To say that I’ve forgotten how to live alone would be an understatement. It’s only a few weeks, but here are some things I’ve realized from living alone again, after a long time:

1. You will find out if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

As if I needed further confirmation aside from getting an INFJ personality as a result of my Briggs Myers personality test, living alone made me realize how I can be alone at home and not feel lonely. Ok, at times I do get lonely but not dying of loneliness kind of lonely.

Maybe it’s the thought that I know this is only temporary or the fact that my life had been non-stop crazy chaotic since getting married and having a baby thirteen years ago that I find this little break kind of invigorating. I go to work, go home and on weekends, I only go out when most required (when I run out of food!). The weekend would pass where I don’t see a soul but I’ve never felt more refreshed.

P.S. I can’t believe I am totally ok with just staying at home sitting on long stretches of time writing blog posts like this. Pajamas all day. Boom.

2. More time but it doesn’t necessarily equate to doing more things

When I thought living alone without my husband and kids would give me more time to do the things I wish I had more time for, like blogging, reading or redecorating, the joke’s on me.

True, I’ve done this before, living in Japan for 7 years alone but I’ve forgotten how it is to be the captain of your ship without any crew – from doing the laundry, to cooking, to washing dishes, ironing and all the other chores. By the time I am done with everything after work, including taking out the trash at night, it’s already 9:30 pm and I don’t have any more energy left.

And when I finally find a chunk of time, I sometimes fall into the deep , bottomless abyss called the internet.

3. Preparing a meal for one is more difficult

I first knew the struggle of cooking for one when I arrived in Japan in 1996 and lived in a dormitory inside the school having my own room. Prior to that, I used to cook for 8 back home. I’ve almost forgotten that struggle till late when I had to do it again.

I end up eating the same type of dish for days…

4. Routines sometimes fly out the window

When the kids were here, we aim to follow certain routines, most importantly fixed times for eating meals and sleeping. We aim to be in bed by 8:30 pm during school/work days and we have been following that with great success.

Being alone makes you do anything you please and that could mean irregular meal times, skipping main meals because you have stuffed yourself on Doritos (I want to convince myself this is just PMS), watching reruns of a favorite old tv series, overdosing on social media and doing all kinds of distractions known to man.

Long story short, I can therefore conclude that the study saying married people live longer than single people could be true.

Unless the marriage is unhealthy, unhappy, and it contributes significantly to stress, emotional strain…then that can be lethal to your health and emotional well-being and you’re well off staying single.

For me though, I personally think, I’d live longer with my family around.

5. THIS: The constant fear of something or someone in your house is sometimes irrational and dramatic, but so real.

Every break in the steady silence, the slightest creak and squeak makes you imagine a thousand and one possibilities of what it really is. Once I heard something fall in the kitchen but I never bothered to check what it is. When I woke up the next morning, there was nothing on the kitchen floor…

It’s also frightening to look up at the mirror after rinsing the foam out of my face when washing. My eyes are closed till I grab the towel and turn my back from the mirror and run back towards the other room!

BONUS: Your smartphone can become your room mate. And it’s not good or healthy.

Whenever I can’t sleep or get up in the middle of the night, I just stay in bed and reach for my smartphone to scroll through social feeds, send messages to sleeping people living on the other side of the globe, read news and self-help articles to soothe me back to sleep (who am I kidding??). Before I knew it, I had blown hours of “alone time” and the sun is already peeking through the curtain. Then I’d feel guilty being too connected to the screen and completely disconnected with myself.

Morning comes and I’d murmur,

Way to go, self. Another groggy time in the office today.

So, enough about me and my realizations on living alone. How about you? Are you living alone? If not, when was the last time you lived alone?

Top photo for illustration purposes only, taken from Google images. That’s not me or my house.

Where we stayed: The Bellevue Bohol Resort

bellevue entrance

If you have read my previous travel posts, I am all about travelling for less. I believe you don’t have to be rich to be able to see places and we’re fine with budget travel: staying at basic accommodations, use public transport, simple meals and fly with budget airlines. However, there are times when a life celebrations call for a little bit of luxury, those out of this world experiences you must enjoy even for once in your lifetime.

This year, 2016 my parents are married for FORTY years and that day too, on my father’s 67th birthday. Now these folks, my parents…they have been raising six kids tirelessly and still continue to dote on their grandchildren. Oh and if I remember, they didn’t go for a honeymoon trip, either! I do think they deserve a much needed break and a taste of luxury so I took them to The Bellevue Bohol Resort in Panglao island!

Mama and Papa has not traveled much within their own country for pleasure, together. They are not used to traveling for pleasure (duh, who has the time and resources when you are raising six kids!) and are anxious with what comes with travel, in July in the Philippines when it’s rainy season, especially if it involves getting on a boat overnight, hopping to another island.

Can you imagine how much I prayed they’d say yes?


The Bellevue Bohol Resort is in Panglao island, located southwest of Bohol and east of Cebu. Just 15km from Tagbilaran, it works just fine as a base for exploring the rest of Bohol. We traveled from our hometown of Cagayan de Oro City aboard Trans Asia ship going to Tagbilaran, the capital city of Bohol. The ship left at 7 pm from Cagayan de Oro and we arrived at 4:30 am in Tagbilaran the following day. Sounds like a long trip? Nah, you can barely feel it since you’ll probably be sleeping through the whole 9+ hours sea journey.

Related post: Travel guide to Bohol island.

The resort is located at the opposite side of the already popular (read: sometimes noisy, chaotic and crowded) Alona Beach strip where night life is reportedly exciting. But this staycation was for my parents who are in their 60’s who never cared for night life even in their 20’s so the location of Bellevue Bohol Resort at a more secluded part of Panglao island meant more quiet time with family and more privacy.


When we arrived at the resort, we could smell the sea once we stepped out of the van that picked us up from Tagbilaran port earlier. The reception area is not a typical hotel reception, it’s open air from the entrance…

bellevue resort entrance

…and onto the koi pond, beautifully manicured gardens, infinity pool and the beach!
to the beach

hashtag bellevue 2

The reception staff who greeted us when we arrived guided us to the elevator immediately. But wait, we are yet to check in, right? Yes – but you can do the check in process from the room! I love hotel/resort features like this. We just arrived at 4:30 am from an overnight boat journey and the bed wasn’t really comfortable so it’s a big plus to go straight to the room and fall face flat on the bed.


bellevue facade

First things first, we were upgraded to the Presidential Suite! Now, there are more than 150 rooms in the whole resort but only ONE Presidential Suite. My jaw dropped to the floor. I am so happy for all of us! And it wasn’t only my jaw that I had to pick up from the floor when we entered our newly assigned massive room! My parents too, and the kids and my brother, all of us! (Click on each photo to enlarge)

[envira-gallery id=”53468″]

The Presidential Suite is so well and functionally designed that anyone walking in or staying would think: I want my house to be designed like this! The interiors even have my favorite color of orange and teal (the colors of my blog!).

The Presidential Suite features two bedrooms with their own balconies and living areas. Furthermore, it has its own fully-functional kitchen and granite-topped bar. You can always request for cutlery set, pots and pans, if required. It’s perfect for families or group of friends. It was perfect for us: my parents in the main room with a king sized bed (they are still in shock with their luxurious room, bathroom and balcony) and me, the kids and my brother on the other room.

happy mama and papa

When we’re done with the check in process, it was sunrise and we all had to rush outside. We didn’t want to miss this view!

sunrise 1


What’s a resort life without checking out the beach? The beach front had powdery soft, white sand which is regularly maintained and cleaned. There are several chair lounges with umbrellas.

bellevue beach 1

bellevue beach 2

The water wasn’t too deep though and you can only swim through the shallow part as there are lots of sea grass at the deeper part. I know some won’t mind.

bellevue beach low tide 1

bellevue beach 3

If you’re not into swimming, there are several water activities available like paddle boarding, kayaking and so much more. You just have to ask the diving center. Panglao island has several smaller island within its vicinity and the resort offers day trips to those island (Virgin island, Balicasag island or Pamilacan island) for dolphin watching! The motorized boats leave as early as 5 am.


We need to talk about this pool. I think I’ll never run out words to describe it. It’s easy so say this has been the best pool I’ve been to so far. The infinity pool style stretches out the view to the sprawling open sea. The depths are 2 feet, 4 feet and 12 feet. The 2 feet is for the kids and it’s very big, look!

bellevue bohol pool

The water is temperature controlled too so it was easy to convince my parents to dip in. I tell you, they are not pool people. But here, they swam till they were sore! My mama loved to just sit by the pool with the kids in the morning. Oh such precious moments.

grandma and p and b

We loved swimming in the late afternoon, when we’re promised the island’s glorious sunsets.

pool sunset

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT BELLEVUE BOHOL RESORT (and why you should stay here!)

As if it’s not obvious how we loved everything about the resort from what I’ve written above, I’m not done yet. The food was excellent. The buffet breakfast is extensive with traditional Filipino, Asian as well as international food and the selection they have are satisfying. Thumbs up to the taste too!

* Lamian, the restaurant name means “tasty or delicious” in Visayan dialect and for sure they lived up to the name. The restaurant serves guests all day. We had buffet breakfast and lunch and though a bit pricey but it’s not everyday we get to celebrate something special and my parents’ smiles made it worth it. They’re very simple people who’s not into buffets but they loved the food at Lamian. It’s not a “just because” buffet. The quality of food is something else – thanks to locally sourced ingredients and chefs who take the renowned southern taste of food to the next level. My father who rarely eat pork loved the humba, an authentic Bisaya dish of stewed pork with sweet and tangy taste.

breakfast collage

Other amenities in the resort include is the Game Room that is open until 8 pm. There’s a soft play area for kids, air hockey, Foosball, table tennis tables and an arcade basketball shooting machine FREE for all guests. There are also computers, PS3 setups complete with competitive games. They also have some books, DVD’s and even board games you can borrow.

bellevue play room

Ah, the grandeur that is Bellevue Bohol. It was a great time in paradise. I could understand why so many families were there and staying for a stretch of days to a week. It’s a wonderful resort to stay with the kids (more about that in the next post). The only bad thing about it is that you would be sad when you leave.

plant in the beach

Here, it’s not just the sea, sand and sun (and the infinity pool! and the food!), the truly warm hospitality natural to Boholanons (natives of Bohol) really shines through and made our experience much more special. Thank you, Bellevue Bohol Resort team for taking care of us. We will never forget our short but very relaxing and memorable stay at your property. Thank you for the surprise complimentary cake for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary AND another one for my father’s 67th birthday.

bellevue staff


Though I believe that it’s not required to splurge on important life celebrations (even my wedding was ultra simple), my parents deserve this little luxurious break. I am truly grateful for these two people who stood through thick and thin, in good times and mostly during bad times for me and my five other siblings. Where would we be without them?

Happy 40th wedding anniversary, mama and papa. I am happy to see you happy like this. I love you!

mama and papa 40th wedding anniv

To learn more about The Bellevue Bohol Resort and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We were guests at The Bellevue Bohol Resort, however, there is no obligation to write a favourable review, all thoughts and opinions are mine.

It’s been a while

Benjamin bubble

I drifted from blogging for a while. And if you may have noticed, on social media lately too (though I am still posting on Instagram but not Snapchatting, tweeting or updating my personal Facebook). 

But these past days or weeks have not been idle. I’m still working full time, taking care of the kids at home, writing on my Moleskine planner using a pen in my hand. Making travel plans and actually went off for a quick and short travel. That was therapeutic. We’re also having some life changes that requires me to focus on more urgent and important things that blogging has to take a back seat. It took some time to stabilize and adjust to the new routine.

Biggest part of my absence is that…I’ve not been well.

The status of my health had been a roller coaster ride and I didn’t write about it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested to know anyway (except my mother). I’m writing it now to justify my absence (a little!). I’ve been almost completely bedridden for a week due to pain in my hips and outer thighs that run through all of my left leg. I couldn’t walk. Do you know how scary it is to think, “what if I wouldn’t be able to walk again?” I’ve been crying a lot and pain is only the secondary reason. I could not accept the thought of not being able to walk again. 

I am better now and finally know the root and cause of the on and off lower back pain, piriformis syndrome and sciatica for this past, maybe 12 months. I used to just treat it myself by resting or doing some stretches but this recent one literally stopped me in my tracks because I couldn’t even get up from bed anymore or walk, or sit on the toilet without wincing in a type of pain that could knock out senses. I have finally undergone all the required tests and got the diagnosis and being treated for it. I have lumbar herniated disc – a part of the disc between the vertebrae protruding out and pressing on a nerve causing pain and numbness. I’ll be in therapy.

Anyway, I mentioned travel. I did get away for a while with the kids and my sister to Prague. It’s probably my favorite city right now though that’s where my injury worsened. It’s the first time I brought my 4.5 year old son Benjamin to Europe and while he was such a trooper, he still naps and wouldn’t care where we were. If he sleeps, then I have to carry all 16 kilos of him, which was no big deal – except that I had to carry him while climbing 208 steps up to the Prague Castle.

Ben at Prague castle

I’m not going to linger on that mistake I made – I could not let Benjamin NOT see the view from the top. We had a great time and I can’t wait to share our stories while there. For now, I just want to say hello – I am still here. Hope everything is well with all of you.

World Art Dubai 2016

Ariane art 1

Did you know the art event last week at the Dubai World Trade Center? Were you there?

World Art Dubai brought together global and regional accessible artists and galleries, and introduced them to the international community here in Dubai. The massive exhibition hall at the World Trade Center temporarily housed a collection of several hundred modern, contemporary and fine artworks comprising paintings and prints, photography, sculpture, installations, performances, mixed media, new media and more – presented by international and local artists and galleries from across four continents.

I was there not just as a visitor.There were a few artists from Japan and my husband and I were to do translation/interpretation work, to become mediums between the (mostly Japanese only speaking) artists and the visitors.

(It wasn’t in the plan that I’d be there but the husband needed to leave the country for urgent work so I need to substitute for two days.)


This was the booth assigned to me. The image in the painting is Bodhidharma, the father of Zen Buddhism. These were creations of a 70 year old Japanese Buddhist monk who is inspired by the teachings of this zen master. He has a pretty interesting life story which I loved sharing to the visitors.

Ariane art 2

My younger sister (that one in the photo – she is very good at drawing by the way, one of the artistic ones among six of us) came to see me on the last day and I told her I had so much fun being there – I met so many people from all walks of life and everyone had snippets of interesting stories to tell as to why they love art, or why they are in Dubai, etc. I met people who came to Dubai all the way from far away places. The rarest place I’ve heard? From REUNION ISLAND. I mean, how often do you meet people who say, hello, I’m from Reunion island?

 Anyway, the event lasted four days, 7 hours each day. (We were given an hour of break every day)

World Art Dubai 2016 from Sandier Pastures on Vimeo.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about art except that it’s an expensive hobby – both for the artist and the art buyers. And that the value is only understood and justified by them (artist and buyer of the art). For the life of me, I could not comprehend abstract work. It always reminds me of the time my son opened the cap of his coloring pens and all the different color inks leaked out and he swished and swooshed it with the palm of his hands.


Did I mention the event lasted for 7 hours each day? I was there for 2 days, standing most of the time for 6 hours. Like, 2-3 hours stretch and I tell you, it is not easy. Sure, it was a wonderful opportunity to make some tidy spending money but that didn’t change how I felt nor did that mask the pain in my feet, balls of my feet, back, etc. On the last 2 hours, every minute was agonizing, I took few deep breaths and a couple of seconds to get my mental bearings and reset my brain for the next visitor. Sitting down wasn’t an option because there are people coming in the booth and asking about the art.

And I wasn’t even wearing heels!

So much for thinking that sitting down for long hours (nature of my real day job) was tough – standing for long hours is definitely tougher. I cannot imagine how store clerks and people who work with retail at busy department stores manage to stand for long hours and then do it again the next day. And the next and the next. By 9 pm when my ‘work’ ended, I surely looked like a painting of death.


At the last day of the event when everyone was saying goodbyes and the organizers thanked each of us for the job well done, I silently told myself, I am the one who should be thankful. Because of this, I learned something, became more aware and grateful for something.

I was at the art exhibition for only a short period of time but I came to appreciate something…and ironically, it’s not art. I did not instantly transform to an art lover although I am really impressed with artists and their talents. A talent I do not have.

I have come to appreciate the people who do this – standing for long hours for work, every single day. And especially to those not paid fairly.

The next time you come across a grumpy sales lady, cut them some slack (especially towards the end of their shift). What they do is really, really tiring.

Last afterthought: I’m not going to complain about sitting for long hours again. I have the option to stand and walk around once in a while anyway.

How does watching a sunset make you feel?

aboard metro

The one thing I look forward to when going home after work and aboard the Dubai Metro? Sunsets. I know they are beautiful and Instagrammable. I wish more would really notice and appreciate the show in the sky at the end of the day, no matter where they are.

I love that for a few minutes, the sky is a spectacle of color — and then it’s over. I am drawn with sunsets not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting, just like my commute (only 10 minutes). And just like life too. Every day and every moment is fleeting. I want to stop and appreciate some of the things, even for just 10 minutes.

aboard metro 2

burj khalifa sunset

Zoom in and there you go, the silhouette of the high and mighty Burj Khalifa along with the array of tall buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road in the horizon. I arrive at my stop and when all the passengers hurry to the escalators to the exit, I stay for a while at the platform and just look at this.

sunset at DAFZA station

Then I get home and see this. When I greet my children at the door a few minutes late than usual, my daughter would ask, “Oh, the sunset today was nice huh?” She knows what I was up to.

sunset at home

There’s a reason sunsets are timeless and constant themes of poets, writers and romantics — they’re inspiring. Most people only take time to look at it during vacations. I don’t want to wait for my vacation to enjoy the sunset so I watch out for them every day on my ride home. Some days they’re spectacular, sometimes not. I still do appreciate both. 

So back to the question: How does watching the sunset make you feel? It makes me feel calm, peaceful and grateful, like, thank-you-for-another-day-of-life-grateful. Next chance to see the sunset is tomorrow, give it a bit of your time. I promise you it’s worth taking some time off the screens of your smartphones.

** I took these photos with my phone so they’re not too sharp or clear. No edits were added except for cropping some pics and putting the watermark. These photos does not do justice to what you can see with your naked eye.