Sorry, not sorry

I was about to sit down with my tail between my legs, and write a sheepish apology for having been away from the blog for so long.

But, after 4.5 years in the Netherlands, the land of confident directness and zero apologies, this exceedingly polite, too-eager-to-please Filipina has learned to distinguish between the apologies that are necessary, and those that aren’t.

So, as the hashtag goes, I’m #sorrynotsorry…

… that I’ve been traveling for work. In the last two months, work has taken me to two of my absolute, most favorite cities in Europe: Berlin…

Berlin Brandenburger Tor

and Barcelona.

El Born Barcelona plaza

As someone who tends to joke I’m just a WAHM who sits at the computer in my pajamas all day, it’s a thrill to realize that my work as a freelance writer and producer can actually be… glamorous. Backing up footage in a hotel room with floor-to-ceiling views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Ocean can do wonders for one’s perspective.

Barcelona beach view from the W Hotel

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve been working a lot. Last year I had a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment, when I realized that I need to acquire more local clients in Amsterdam, and develop a network of contacts here as strong as the ones I left behind in Manila and Singapore. Because this is home now.

Well, I’m doing just that. Work has begun to trickle in from local businesses and entrepreneurs, some of whom are doing design-led, inspiring work that excites me (even if the pay doesn’t always).

These days, work takes up most of my writing time and brain. With what’s left over, I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve sought (and found) new things to love about Amsterdam.

WWIM11 2015 Amsterdam

I joined the 11th Worldwide InstaMeet hosted by the local Instagram community in another effort to bring my online life offline. I met like-minded explorers, discovered postcard-perfect spots in my own city, and became more addicted to Instagram than ever. Hmm, time to revive Instagramsterdam?

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve blown off work to go on weekday dates with my husband. Marlon has had a few weekdays off, and after dropping off Tala at the gastouder, we date like giddy teenagers. Shedding the mom-and-dad routine for a day, we get high on the bliss of afternoon movie matinees. We talk about our pipe dreams. We try “that place” we’ve been wanting to try (there’s always a long list).

ArtDeli Amsterdam

Then toss back a glass or two of wine before cycling back to reality, back to the daughter who runs squealing into our arms, and back to the household we have to keep running.

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve been cementing our life with traditions and routines. Friday lattes with my mommy friends at the new cafe with the awesome play corner. Afternoons at the playground and Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market. The food trucks of Rollende Keukens and the orange fever of King’s Day.

King's Day for kids at Westerpark

All of that takes time, effort, and energy—all of which goes into solidifying one’s sense of home in a foreign land. And I can’t do any of that from behind the computer!

Finally, and it should go without saying, that the one thing I’ll never be sorry for… is that I’ve simply been away being Tala’s mom.

Reading her books upon books, and singing her Filipino folk songs. Choosing her outfits in the morning (a power I won’t be holding for long), and searching for wooden legs for her new desk on Etsy. Wiping her hands of chalk after she’s gone wild drawing “polka dots” on her bedroom wall, and brushing her hair despite her toddlerrific efforts to resist.

Tala chalkboard wall closeup

Trying to act normal and ignore her throughout Hulk-sized fits of rage (quickest way to end it), researching her school options in our neighborhood, and worrying about why she suddenly seems to hate the babies at her daycare. Marveling at how quickly she falls asleep after a good long cuddle from me, at how much she needs Mama’s touch to feel calm, safe and loved. And so much more.

This is my life lately, a life that has enticed me away from the computer. I have nothing to apologize for, and everything to celebrate. What are you #sorrynotsorry for?

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2013: My Year in Travel

The plan for 2013, believe it or not, was to seriously cut down on travel. Looking back at the year in travel, that was clearly a fail.

We might have failed, but we didn’t fail miserably—we had so much fun doing it! Tala’s arrival only slowed us down for the first three months; it wasn’t long until we got itchy feet again.

Berlin Oberbaum Bridge street art

Berlin, Germany was our first trip of the year, and our first with Tala. Cheap eats, great nightlife, street art, Tala’s first museum visit, blogger meetups, and a redemptive visit to my favorite hangout, the Badeschiff, were some of the highlights that cemented Berlin as one of my favorite cities in Europe.

Monkey installation building Berlin

A monkey-covered building I saw in Mitte. Anyone know what it is?

Fueled by so much inspiration, I went on a blogging bender from just five days in Berlin. Look at all these posts!

Tala’s first flight, my first giveaway
Street art sightings in Berlin
Nhow Hotel Berlin
Breakfast in Berlin
Berlinische Galerie
Date night: Berlin edition
A walk to remember
Badeschiff: The return

Alicante Spain beach

As a couple, patience is not one of our virtues. That really showed in our spur-of-the-moment weekend in Alicante, Spain—the result of a too-long winter, a dismal spring, and a summer that seemed to take forever to get to Amsterdam.

Extra large mojito Alicante

Oversized sparkling sangrias (plus mojito o’ clock !) on the beach, cooling off in the Mediterranean Ocean and excellent restaurants mere steps from our hotel justified our spontaneous and kinda crazy getaway.

Alicante: Playa Postiguet
At the beach with baby
Out and about in Alicante
Alicante: Where to eat (and eat and eat)
Maastricht Selexyz Dominicanen

Closer to home, Maastricht was another weekend destination we revisited this year. Good food, contemporary art and a visit to one of the world’s most stunning bookstores made this a fun and fulfilling weekend drive.

Weekend in Maastricht
Selexyz Dominicanen: Heaven for booklovers
Bonnefanten Museum

Naxos port

Greece was actually the only trip we had planned to take this year. As the Big Trip of 2013, Greece did not disappoint. This country captured my heart with its warm and friendly people, mouthwatering food, picturesque villages and beautiful beaches—not to mention the underlying thrill of its epic history and ancient myths. We loved our time in Naxos…

The beautiful beaches of Naxos
Exploring the port of Naxos
Away from it all in Apiranthos
Traditional charm at Taverna Lefteris

Santorini sunset

and ticked a big one off the bucket list in Santorini—even if a sick baby and husband made our trip less than ideal.

7 great places to catch the sunset in Santorini
Oia: Postcard perfect Santorini
Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini
Greece: a few last things

Dusseldorf Christmas market ferris wheel

In December we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Christmas markets in Dusseldorf, Germany. Gluhwein, gingerbread and gallivanting in the cold got us all revved up for Christmas and put us in the holiday mood for our trip to Manila.

Not bad for two first-time parents with a new baby, eh? What a year it’s been… and it’s not over yet! This weekend, I get to strike another long-awaited destination off our travel wishlist in celebration of our sixth wedding anniversary. I’m so excited!

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Badeschiff: The Return

To cap my series of Berlin posts, I’m happy to report my return to the Badeschiff!

Last year, I was delighted to discover this awesome hangout and barge-turned-pool floating in the river Spree. But because I didn’t pack a swimsuit and have a serious case of Asian modesty, I was forced to sit on the deck, stewing in my own envy as everyone enjoyed a swim on a sizzing hot day. Everyone except me!

This time, I came prepared. I made sure to return on the warmest day of the week, during a weekday afternoon, to avoid the huge crowds of my past weekend visit.

Badeschiff Berlin weekday afternoon

It was super easy to grab a seat, which was a relief after my previous sardines-in-a-can experience. People were killing each other for these deck chairs last year.

Badeschiff Berlin white canvas sun loungers

Not only did I return with a swimsuit,  I also brought a friend—the Diplomatic Wife, freshly relocated from Jakarta. And oh yes… I brought a baby with me too!

Badeschiff with baby

The summer heat made Tala drowsy, putting her to sleep most of the time. Occasionally, her tiny feet would pop out and she’d wiggle her toes, letting me know she was awake and in need of a little attention.

Tala's toes

Notice the mole on her right foot? According to Filipino superstition (my mom is big on them), a mole on your foot means that you are meant to be traveler. I have one on mine, too!

Anyway, Daddy joined us after work, which was fun…

Tala at the Badeschiff Berlin

… and together with The Diplomatic Wife and her Diplomat, we all just kicked back with a few beers and chillaxed in the sun. We may have had to deal with a poop explosion or two, but I’ve accepted it comes with the territory now. By the way, in this picture you can see the Nhow Hotel Berlin, where we stayed, on the right.

Badeschiff Berlin deck chairs

A huge thank you goes out to The Diplomatic Wife for being fab company, for teaching me the right way to put on sunblock, and for watching Tala while I finally took that swim I’ve been longing to take. I was as happy as a seal, and just about as large, too—so the pictures of me actually swimming in the Badeschiff will never see the light of day.

I’m always the one behind the camera, so it’s really nice when we have a friend around to take a family photo!

Family photo Badeschiff Berlin

Our sun-drenched afternoon at the Badeschiff already feels like ages ago. It’s been dismal and cold here, so we are chasing the sun this weekend with a last-minute escape to the Costa Blanca in Spain. I hope to share some sunny pictures and Spanish stories when we get back.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

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Date night: Berlin edition

Since our first post-partum date night was such a success, Marlon and I decided to make it a monthly commitment. This month’s date night was extra special because we did it in Berlin.

Marlon & Deepa date night Berlin

We hired a babysitter for the evening, fed Tala and put her to bed before setting off. Before leaving our hotel, we just had to stop and take a few outfit photos by the street art park along the riverside. It is such a highlight for me when I get to wear non-nursing clothes!

Berlin has some amazing nightlife, but since we were exhausted from the day’s activities—a conference for Marlon, wrestling with the stroller and public transport for me—we weren’t too ambitious. We just wanted somewhere nearby with a cozy, intimate atmosphere and superb food.

Bar Raval Kreuzberg Berlin

That’s exactly what we got at Bar Raval, a tapas bar right beside the Görlitzer Park (which I hear is a prime spot to catch the sunset). With the huge windows thrown open in summer, it’s a great place to watch the hip Kreuzberg crowd stroll by. I didn’t see a single baby or child while people-watching, so this was the right choice for our baby-free date night.

Bar Raval al fresco tapas Berlin

We were attended to personally by one of the owners, who put a stop to our gluttony after we had chosen five small plates from the speisekarte. “I think you should stop here,” he said gently. Point taken, señor.

Luckily, the fantastic tataki of Iberico pork made it into our party of five. “People come back here just for this dish,” he said. For this—lightly charred and crisp on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside—I would, too. Also, I can’t go to a tapas bar and not have pulpo (octopus); they do a delicious one here, served over warm and creamy potatoes.

Bar Raval Berlin tapas

Bar Raval is not a budget eatery by Berlin standards, but I thought it was terrific value: five (generous) tapas plates, two sinful desserts, and four glasses of Spanish red wine for a hair under €40. The babysitter was more expensive than this meal, but I guess I have to get used to that.

Night view Friedrichshain over the Oberbaum Bridge

We capped our date night with a romantic evening stroll over the Oberbaum Bridge back to our hotel. The lights reflecting off the river almost made me forget about the aroma of pee welling up from various nooks in the bridge. Oh Berlin, you sure know how to treat a girl.

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Berlinische Galerie

After Tala’s birth, I find myself approaching things that I used to do pre-baby almost as if I was doing them for the first time. Whether it’s going out on a date to traveling, part of me is now more cautious and curious—can I still do this or that thing that I loved to do? How will that experience change for me now that I have a baby?

So I really wanted to visit a museum while in Berlin. Marlon and I love museums—as boyfriend and girlfriend, we used to have sketching dates at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, and we always try to include a museum in every city trip that we do.

We love art museums in particular. An art museum seems like a quiet and contemplative temple, where silence is required for the thoughtful consideration of art. You never want to be the mom with the screaming baby anywhere, much less in a cavernous space that’s prone to echoes. But, inspired by Jenni Fuchs’ awesome post on kids in museums, I decided I had to try.

Berlinische Galerie

For my starter museum-with-baby visit, I chose the Berlinische Galerie, a museum of modern art, photography and architecture in Kreuzberg.

Berlinische Galerie-foyer

It’s a beautiful space, all cool, white concrete, definitely a good one to be in on a sweltering summer day. With just two floors, it’s a small and manageable museum, perfect for a few free hours in Kreuzberg.

Berlinische Galerie architecture stairs

Some of my favorite works from the museum’s collection included Emilio Vedova’s Absurd Berlin Diary, which was like walking in a landscape of paintings that had been freed from walls.

Absurd Berlin Diary by Emilio Vedova

At the time of my visit, the collection showed 100 years of art in Berlin, from 1880 to 1980. Turn-of-the-century Berlin was almost innocent in its art…

Lying Nude (1889) by Lesser Ury

Lying Nude (1889), Lesser Ury

… but the two World Wars changed all that.

Berlinische Galerie The Conformist-Mourning Mothers

The Conformist Turned Wild (1920), George Grosz & John Heartfield;
Mourning Mothers (1948), Fritz Cremer

The belle epoque of languid, glowing nudes disappeared, and the broken soldiers and mourning mothers of wartime took its place. I was struck by how politically charged the art became, and what a dark and complex history Berlin’s artists had to wrestle with. Another layer of this amazing city, peeled back and revealed for me to ponder.

I savored a couple of good, contemplative hours in the Berlinische Galerie—and when Tala started to cry, I didn’t get any dirty looks from anyone! I just sat facing a wall without any art, facing away from people, and nursed her in that cool, white space. It was pretty relaxing, actually. On my way out, one of the museum staff even helpfully pointed out the changing room for me to use.

So, museum with baby: check! I think I have the confidence to attempt a bigger one next time. The newly renovated Rijksmuseum, perhaps?

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