Over Christmas I decided to take a break from my life in the Philippines, to go home and spend time with my family. I’ve never not spent Christmas with my family and I don’t plan on changing that now, so I made the long journey home on the 23rd of December. I had a nightmare going through immigration at the airport in Mactan; it turns out that leaving the country and coming back is surprisingly difficult for expatriates. I’d actually spent 4 hours at the immigration office several weeks before, in order to get the right documentation in order to leave the country without it affecting my VISA application. However, despite waiting all this time for it to arrive and having to provide finger prints for both hands several times (as well as height and weight measurements), I still encountered difficulties. Anyway now that I’m back I think it’s being sorted, but it definitely put a downer on the start of the trip.
After watching a lot of films on the plane starring one of my favourite actors Tom Hardy (Lawless, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), and Ted, several episodes of Suits, and having 3 different meals with rice, I arrived at Heathrow the next day at 5am. The rest of the day I was pretty much sleeping and my jet lag lasted nearly the whole week. The next day was Christmas day, which I spent at home and some of my extended family came round. I realised that what I had been missing so much was English food, particularly roasted meat with vegetables. In the UK I used to take a lot of care in my diet and I would steam vegetables with every meal, something which now seems like a luxury compared to the food I’m provided with in my office.
This was followed by trifle and flaming Christmas pudding…
After dinner we played a few games, had a quiz and opened our presents, a typical Christmas really. There was so much turkey and dessert, that we had the leftovers for days afterwards.
The next day I spent mostly sleeping off the jet lag and then went round to a friends house to play poker, which gave me a good chance to catch up with my mates – playing poker was another thing I hadn’t been able to do in the Philippines. Then the next couple of days I spent resting some more before I went out for the first time since my return.
I met up with some friends from University and we went for dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, before heading to Soho where a friend of a friend was having their birthday party. When we eventually found the bar, it turned out to be in a, shall we say ‘less heterosexual’ venue… We had some reservations about entering but as it was free and that was where the event was being hosted, we took the plunge. Despite the butch, aggressive lesbians and several lingering stares from old men, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. Besides, the venue is less important than the company and it was good to be with people that I’ve known for years. The next day I came back home, albeit slightly hungover and in horrible conditions.
Next up it was already time for New Years’ Eve. I had a few options but in the end I went to a bar in Camden called Shaka Zulu. The bar was littered with African sculptures and the aesthetics of the place were really unique. It also gave me the chance to dress more smartly than I ever need to in the Philippines – I’ve never had to wear anything better than casual shoes and tshirts on a night out here, and I missed dressing up.
Some (blurry) photos of the night are below;
My flight back to Cebu was at 1130am the next day, so it was always my intention to be sensible with the amount I was drinking/the time I got back. Unfortunately I had more than I was planning on and didnt get home till around 4am. I also managed to lose the ticket for my coat in the cloakroom, and unsurprisingly, I wasn’t able to retrieve it without the ticket. Anyway, minus a jacket, I got up to pack my bags at 730am the next day, including my newly acquired PS3 (with a lot of bubble wrap) and several DVDs.
I had many concerns about the journey back;
1. I was hungover and had very little sleep.
2. I was worried I would be over the baggage weight allowance and have to pay an extra £60.
3. I was worried that my PS3 would either break or get taken.
4. I was worried that my suitcase wouldn’t make it onto my connecting flight at Hong Kong.
5. I was worried I would have difficulties getting back into the country.
6. I was worried I would get the aisle seat on the plane.
Despite my concerns, the journey went without a hitch, apart from points 1. and 6. However, I slept it off when I got back to my apartment and although I had the aisle seat, the two guys next to me didn’t get up once, so thankfully I didn’t have to move at all. The only difficult part of the journey was when I got to baggage reclaim. As I had several important items in my baggage, it made me even more nervous when I was waiting for it to come out, which was exacerbated by the fact that I had to wait nearly 30 minutes for my bag to appear.
Finally, thanks to all my friends and family in the UK, and anyone reading this blog – I wish you all a great year ahead!