Life outside the semicircle

I moved abroad seven years ago, after Marlon and I were married. In those seven years, I’ve missed many things from abundant sunshine and ripe mangoes, to good restaurants and sharing wardrobes with my mom and sister. But the biggest hole in my heart was the one I made when I left the Ateneo Chamber Singers.

With ACS in Riga

Before the competition in Riga

Since I left, my ACS family—because that’s what it is, really, a family—has changed. Many of my closest friends have moved overseas and moved on to other things, replaced by many people I don’t know very well. Still, I jumped at the chance to be reunited with them in Vienna and Riga. Sitting in the audience, face to face with what I had given up to pursue this life, I felt quite confronted—by loss, reality, I don’t know what to call it. It’s more than nostalgia, and more than I could ever recreate by joining another choir or making new friends.

Ateneo Chamber Singers at the World Choir Games Riga 2014

Sitting in the audience at the World Choir Games

I wondered why I was sitting outside the semicircle, listening to beauty instead of creating it. I wondered why I wasn’t singing anymore. I wondered: what is my song? What am I an instrument of? Listening to my friends’ voices soaring, I wondered if I had maybe, somehow, over the years, lost the part of me that could soar. (There are very few experiences that allow one to soar. So if you find one, seize it.)

ACS wins Musica Sacra at the World Choir Games


Yes, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster— a contemplative, almost spiritual experience. The sound of ACS singing tends to do that to people. After all that wondering (and quite a few tears), the answers came. There were no words, only pictures—images of everything I love about living here.

ACS in Riga

I’ve been away from home a long time. I don’t hide from the sun anymore.

Life requires different things of us at different times. Once it demanded me to let my voice soar in packed churches and concert halls, together with the voices of friends I knew so well that I literally knew when they would breathe. Now life asks me to hush and sing softly to my baby in the silence of her room, for an audience of one.

Seeing what I’ve been missing out on was confronting for me. But confronting the result of my choices made me realize that that’s what being an adult is all about. We live with the choices we make; we make the most of them; and we make a life we love out of them.

With Tala and Marlon at the World Choir Games

Keeping Tala quiet (and occupied) during the competition

So this is what my life as a choir groupie was like. It inspired me to return to my “real” life—to Marlon, Tala, Amsterdam, Europe—with a renewed commitment to what I’ve chosen, and a deeper determination to make it truly worth what I’ve given up.

Related reading: For an insider’s perspective, check out this blog post by ACS alto Trina Belamide.

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Party at the park

What a gorgeous weekend we just had! After two full weeks of rain and cold (I’m talking 13ºC here!, the sun finally made an appearance just in time for a special afternoon party at the park.

Tala at Romy's party

It was a double celebration: a going-away party for Peggy and her family who are moving to Sweden very soon, and a birthday party for her eldest girl.

I love Europeans’ fun and casual approach to children’s parties—no big catered buffets or hired mascots here, just homemade goodies made with love, colorful decorations strung up on trees, and children playing in the grass and sunshine. I won’t give away too many pictures from the day, I’m sure she will post some photos on her blog too.

Birthday party decorations

Whether it’s The Hive or a children’s party, this woman always makes it look effortless! Peggy masterminding the celebrations behind the scenes (and behind the decorations).

Mom behind the scenes

It was just a happy, relaxed time in the sun with friends (from blogging, how wonderful is that!) and of course, family.

Birthday party at Oosterpark

Family photo Oosterpark

It was Tala’s first party too! Although she eyed the cake with great interest, she will have to stick to milk for a long while. Sorry, my love. You’ll get your turn.

Mmm... cake

This was just such a lovely afternoon (and the sunshine so rare!), I had to interrupt my stream of Berlin posts to share it. But there will be more Berlin posts (some of my real favorites from this trip!) this week for sure.

How was your weekend?

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Birthday dinner: Brasserie Witteveen

One of the places that I like to go to in the Pijp is Brasserie Witteveen. My friends with kids like it because unlike the typical Dutch cafe, Witteveen’s wide aisles have lots of room for strollers. I just think it’s a really good-looking place to meet someone for lunch or a drink, thanks to the combination of sleek design with cozy elements like the seamless, 16-meter leather Chesterfield couch.

Brasserie Witteveen

I’ve always been curious about the private dining area at the back of the restaurant. Since Friday was my birthday, I thought it was a good excuse to finally check it out for myself.

Witteveen private dining area

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Amsterdam after dark

One of my weaknesses as a tropical-blooded person in a cold climate is that I tend to shy away from going out in the evenings, especially when the nights start to get longer and colder. But when I do end up going out at night, I always end up happy and thankful to live in a city that looks so pretty after dark.

My friend Michelle’s birthday last weekend was another chance for me to savor Amsterdam by night. She kicked off her celebration with drinks at the Sky Lounge of the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel beside Centraal Station, and the pleasant weather allowed us to stay out on the terrace to enjoy sweeping views of Amsterdam by night.

Part of the Sky Lounge terrace overlooks a side of Amsterdam tourists normally don’t see: the broad expanse of the IJ, with (from left to right) Westerdok, Centraal Station and the Eye Film Institute

… as well as the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ (Music Hall on the IJ), the Movenpick Hotel, and Marlon’s former office building. This is where the big cruise ships dock when stopping over in Amsterdam; there’s one on the lower left of this photo.

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Summer at last!

You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much about day-to-day life here in Amsterdam. Well to tell you the truth, apart from the traveling, spring and summer have been less than inspiring… and the weather has been mostly to blame. Weeks upon weeks of pouring rain and heavy gray clouds made me wish I was somewhere else, and you’ve seen that here.

But this week, things have changed. Summer finally came bearing its gifts: near-cloudless blue skies, blazing sunshine, and a transformed city. Amsterdam in the sunshine is colorful, cheerful, and so very alive—and I’ve spent the last few days offline in an effort to make the most of all that.

This late summer in Amsterdam brings with it the realization of things I once took for granted: walking to the corner store in shorts and flip-flops, enjoying a bowl of cereal with cold milk for breakfast, deciding that you want ice in your drink, getting a tan, even the feeling of breaking into a light sweat without moving a single muscle. (If you only really have to get sweaty a couple of times a year, it’s not so bad.)

But it also brings with it new pleasures: playing with babies and laughing with friends in a lush green backyard, driving to a beach where you never get burned no matter how long you stay in the sun, reading a new book in a sunny public park, throwing steaks and salmon on a barbecue grill (and eating them with salad, not rice). It’s funny how barbecues have become such a huge pleasure because the weather they require is so rare. Back home, there are barbecue grills practically installed on every other street corner, and we don’t even think about it.

So, I’m going offline again to enjoy this elusive, precious summer and all the little things I may again take for granted someday. (That’s humanity for you.) But please come back on Sunday for a special brunch treat… one that’s been way overdue! And of course, there will be more Iceland adventures next week.

Happy weekend!

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