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The Pandie Explorer is home to a Pandie – A Panda that loves to eat, travel, read, watch, innovate, and basically, live life! Follow my blog to know where to eat, what to do when traveling, and so much more!
Blog Tags: food - travel - asia - restaurants - reviews
Blog Added: March 24, 2016 12:38:55 PM
Audience Rating: General Audience
Blog Platform: WordPress
Blog Country: Philippines   Philippines
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Blog Rating: 3.09
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Studying at The Best French Language School – French In Normandy Part 1

With the magical power of Felix Felicis (Harry Potter reference :3), I was able to go on a 2-week cultural trip in France, sponsored by the French Embassy in Manila. First and foremost, thank you so much for still giving me this opportunity! I think that they figured out that I needed to learn French now...

With the magical power of Felix Felicis (Harry Potter reference :3), I was able to go on a 2-week cultural trip in France, sponsored by the French Embassy in Manila. First and foremost, thank you so much for still giving me this opportunity! I think that they figured out that I needed to learn French now since I wasn’t able to speak/write/listen well in my student exchange back in 2010. Like Tiff, you should stop putting learning French off, get going! This time, I’ll be going alone and it’ll be my first legitimate solo trip. I’m finally doing it. I’m just going with me, myself and I. Here’s to finding myself as well!

I was given the freedom to choose a language school anywhere in France with a budget of 1,200 euros that should cover the tuition and the accommodation. After researching for weeks, I finally settled on 2 schools based on reviews – French In Normandy (FIN) in Rouen and Accent Français in Montpellier. Both have excellent reviews on EducationStars on the teachers, environment and accommodations which were the 3 most important aspects in choosing a school for me. I wanted to SERIOUSLY learn and it shouldn’t just be all fun and games. I also wanted to be with like-minded people who thought the same and most of all, I wanted a host family who didn’t just view this opportunity as money-making tools. I wanted an authentic experience. These schools also accepted short stays (like mine) so I knew they got that covered. If I could only stay for months, I would! But I needed to work and I had my business. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know? They actually have a joint program as well which allows you to study 2 weeks in FIN and 2 weeks in Accent Français but… again time! Would have been perfect!

After narrowing it down to these 2, the deciding factors for FIN were:

  1. It was located in Normandy. I’m a history nut and the fact that D-Day beaches were located here and Rouen was the place where Joan of Arc was put on trial and executed… I just couldn’t help latch on to some affinity to Normandy. It was also cooler and coming from the sunny Philippines, I figured that I had enough of sun and Montpellier being located in the South of France, would be just too hot. I needed the cold air, not beaches! And did you know that according to my host mom, Normandy cuisine is one of the best gastronomical experiences in France. It’s famous for its apples (please get Apple everything, EVERYTHING!), apple cider, calvados (it’s like apple brandy), camembert cheese (coz Camembert is in Normandy, it’s a tad too strong for me though), and seafood. Oh glorious food! No brainer, I was going to Rouen.
  2. It had almost 100% positive reviews on host families. I was really scared at this part. Being an introvert, I am quite shy when meeting new people for the first time. What more if I have to live with someone who is a total stranger to me at first. I considered staying at a student residence at first but my last experience in my student exchange dormitory was not the best (maybe French residences weren’t really the best in general) and I didn’t want the hassle of searching food everyday. Plus if I was with a host family, I’d definitely eat and breathe French. Throwing insecurities to the wind, I chose staying at a host family and I consider it one of the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. NO REGRETS! My fear of not making friends, acting like a fool because I didn’t know the language, all disappeared because I got the best and kindest host family in the world! Well arguably. Shoutout to Mme. Valerie!
  3. Most of the reviews were in French. That could only mean that they really learned French right? Man, couldn’t believe that I was going back to school after 4 years!
  4. Class size was perfect. There were at most only 8-10 people in a classroom and in my experience, the smaller the class size, the better you learn! They also had weekday and weekend activities. I really wanted to do something other than staying in a classroom and this was perfect.

But trust me when I say 2 weeks is too short. If you are going to learn a new language and being a total beginner, 2 weeks might get you to give you conversational skills but you would have a hard time grasping more vocabulary and grammar. Just keep practicing if you can after 2 weeks or take my suggestion and study for at least a month or 2.

FYI, not sure if this will be a big factor for other students… but FIN uses a LOT OF COMIC SANS. Don’t ask me why. I was at first put off by this but I shrugged it off. They put Comic Sans in EVERYTHING. I’m glad I did shrug it off though coz that really didn’t mean anything. I think it just shows the wackiness of the teachers and I’ll talk about it after you scroll down.

So now let me walk you through the process so you don’t have to go through it blindly like I did.

PROCESS OF APPLICATION

First off, check their Youtube channel to see reviews of students, see the environment, the classrooms, etc.

1. Contact French In Normandy via any of their channels (but I prefer e-mail) of the course you selected.

You can even skype them! In this case, I chose General French Semi-Intensive because like I said previously, I wanted to attend activities as well. I think the price wasn’t too bad. DO NOT FORGET TO INDICATE PREFERENCES. I specifically asked for a host family/homestay with strong Wifi and who can speak English. This is not Paris and this is France so do not expect them to have good English. I needed someone who spoke at least a bit of English because all I knew was to say “Bonjour!” and some words. Didn’t know how to string a phrase or 2 together.
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Their page. Sleek! Check out all the links and courses
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Told you about the Comic Sans. This is what their registration form looks like. Not bad for accommodation as well. Eleri,their super kind Director was the one who even replied to my email!

They will send you a confirmation email with a welcome document and payment instructions after.

2. Pay via Bank Transfer or Credit Card and take their Online Placement Test.

I literally failed mine so don’t worry. I knew that I was A1 level, the lowest level meaning you know only a few French words but cannot form sentences. Or you’re just really knew to the language. If you do arrive on the first day and feel that you want to go to the next level, do not hesitate to tell them on your first after the first break in the morning.

Mélanie Raymond, their marketing director will e-mail you all the details once you have confirmed your booking. Btw, you may ask for airport transfers but since I’m on a budget, the French embassy booked trains for me instead. Odd route though since instead of traveling straight from Paris to Rouen, I went from Paris to Lille then to Rouen. Well at least I got to visit my old city! Man, memories.

3. Wait for your accommodation details at least 2 weeks before your arrival.

DO NOT PANIC (like me) because they respond quickly! If you have any requests even the smallest ones, they will definitely accommodate you! I asked for a place with good wifi, private bathroom and a kind host who speaks a little English and I got them all! Except the part when I asked to be situated near the school. It took me a good 30-40 minutes bus ride from my house to school but it didn’t matter and I actually liked it more because I get to see the whole town to city everyday. Rouen is VERY BEAUTIFUL. France generally is a very beautiful country.

Travel within Rouen is easy and straight forward and the first school day orientation always involves purchasing travel cards.

4. Prepare your trip! 

Book your flights, buy your travel essentials, research about the place and you’re good to go! I’ll post more about Rouen and traveling their in a separate post.

Once you have everything in order, do not forget to write a welcome message to your host family and talk how you’ll be meeting. Better to share photos with each other so you guys know what you’ll look like and finding each other at the train station or wherever will be easier. If you chose a residence accommodation, disregard this last paragraph. haha!

FIRST WEEK OF CLASSES

1. Arrival

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Train from Lille to Rouen! Woot woot!

 Arrive in Paris CDG and choose your own adventure! Get plenty of rest for the first day of classes the next day. As mentioned, I traveled 2 trains and met Valerie at the train station. Good thing I knew what she looked like. She had a car so we drove to her house. I was quite terrified though and kept mumbling odd French phrases and using Google Translate (VERY IMPORTANT) for the hard questions since I couldn’t explain (yet) why I decided to pursue French in Rouen to her yet. She knew how to break the ice though at her home when I arrived and quickly asked me if I wanted to eat cheese. Me? HELL YEAH I LOVE CHEESE! She had Chèvre though and not Camembert which I grew to love. Trust me when I say that the French always has a cheese course. They ALWAYS have it either lunch or dinner.

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I want that knife!!

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I LOVED MY ROOM! It was in the “basement” behind the garage so I had my own privacy.

IMG_1961 Lovely dresser. Portable heater as well. I did go during summer but I needed the heater at night. It was still cold in Rouen

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Own Microwave and cleaning area

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Private shower! 😀 The last guest though didn’t turn on the ventilation so there were dark spots beneath the glass. Valerie kept on apologising but I told her it was good!

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Had the TV and everything. Man I look so tired after that 24 hour trip!

2. First Day of School

To make sure I didn’t get lost, Valerie accompanied me and showed me which bus routes to take, which landmarks to remember and of course give me some tidbits about the place. Going there was a piece of cake. Nearest bus station is Jardin des Plantes which is a beautiful little park (where I caught my first Pokemon. Pokemon Go was released when I was in Rouen). Once you enter the school, you’ll see a bustle of students from all walks of life and age. There’s even a blackboard outside written with all the names of the new students and I did find mine (too bad no photo)! You’ll see a lounge and then near the entrance is a long table with all the materials for the coursework. Just find the folder with your name on it. Your host knows what’s up though and you’ll definitely get to talk to the lovely Suzanne who is in charge of the accommodation of all the students. You’ll be assigned to a teacher and a classroom. Here’s mine for the first week.

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First classroom on the left! It was quite small but we were only a few students. Just too tight at the front

 

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Another classroom.

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There are bulletin boards in the hallways filled with information and sign-up sheets for activities. There’s one activity everyday in the afternoon and also excursions for the weekend.

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Love that the motif is red. <3

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Students and teachers. Can you guess who’s who?

First thing you’ll ever do is a short oral “exam” where basically the teacher asks you basic questions like what are your hobbies, what’s your profession (Awoo! Awoo! Awoo! xD), etc which… I FAILED miserably again because I absolutely did not understand the first question at all. I just gave her a blank stare and told her if I can speak in English. HAHA! So do not worry on making a fool of yourself. I did that but they still accepted me. Oh this school had really good teachers.

After that, you’ll be huddled out again and given new class assignments and surprise surprise, I was in A1 with Teacher Camille. My classes were to start every 9:30 AM until 11:00AM for the the first half then 11:30PM to 1:00PM for the 2nd half. I was free to do anything in the afternoon but for the first day, the newbies get to go on a free walking tour of the city center.

Here’s a sample schedule of the activities as well

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Translation: Monday afternoon extra activity focuses on Grammar, Tuesdays you get to participate in some role playing in theatre, Wednesdays all about reading, Thursdays are for watching movies, Fridays are for hardcore French grammar and Saturdays are for traveling.

So going back to the first day, check out the famous historical city center. My teacher said that everything here is named after Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc in French. Haha and he wasn’t kidding at all! There were streets, squares churches and buildings all named after her!

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Love this city view!

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The Gros Horlage (Giant clock)! More info on this in another post. You can go inside and get a 360 view of Rouen. IT IS GORGEOUS.

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I love the blend of Europe’s old and new

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The magnificent Rouen Cathedral. It’s a beauty of Gothic architecture. Seriously, it’s like the pages of The Pillars of the Earth coming to life (Go read that book)

Now that you’re somewhat settled in after the first 2 days, let me share you on how to maximize your limited time here to truly learn how to speak French. You’ll learn that it’s definitely possible to go from zero knowledge of the language to at least some knowledge. Buuut I think the post is getting too long. Part 2 will be devoted to all my suggestions to becoming a conversational French speaker.

Hope you guys were able to glimpse the first part of French In Normandy. For any questions, feel free to contact me.



The Art of Being a Polyglot (And How I Wish I Were One)

AN EDITORIAL Sometimes, I just wish I had a photographic memory like Sherlock’s. Oh the possibilities that it entails! Your brain will such be a powerful database and pulling data out would be so simple. You’d never forget anything. And one BIG advantage of it as well is that you can become a polyglot. Jose...

THE art of being a polyglot

AN EDITORIAL

Sometimes, I just wish I had a photographic memory like Sherlock’s. Oh the possibilities that it entails! Your brain will such be a powerful database and pulling data out would be so simple. You’d never forget anything. And one BIG advantage of it as well is that you can become a polyglot.

Jose Rizal, Philippines’ national hero is one. He could speak 22 different languages at ease (how he found the time and resources to do it back when there was no Internet, I’ll never know) and was very intellectual. I can just imagine that he had no problem traveling around Europe and meeting people and talking to them.

Having come from a country where everyone speaks English and where most of the ABC market would rather speak English than Filipino (hello, self!), I was never good at speaking my country’s language. Let’s not forget the fact that I’m also Chinese with the pressure of learning Mandarin embedded in my brain since I was young so I had to learn 2 Chinese dialects as well. But my love for English was stronger and I embraced anything English. I wanted to be English. I wasn’t exactly the most nationalistic citizen.

But then I was fortunate enough to be able to travel around different places of the globe when I entered my 20s. Starting with my student exchange stint in France back in 2010, I started to see more of the world. I thought that I’d be quite alright because I was very fluent in English and I knew that I’d be able to talk and walk my way. Then my travel Colombia happened. Then I went to Korea and Japan this year. Every time I went to a different country, my appreciation for English… kinda mellowed. I went to countries that prided themselves in speaking their national and native language (well okay, English is an official language in the Philippines but not the native language) and if you travel outside the capital city, there were hardly any people who spoke in English. It was SO DIFFICULT and there was a huge language barrier. There’d be an invisible wall created between me and the person I was talking to whenever I speak in English. I’ve always felt that people I spoke to would think “OH, ANOTHER TOURIST.” and have created this certain prejudice against me.

Well I guess it’s because I’ve always wanted to EXPERIENCE a city or a country like a local. I wanted to learn more about their history and the culture of the people. I didn’t want to just pass their country, take a photo and that’s it. I wanted to be an explorer and adventurer! Thankfully though, I was given the opportunity by the French Embassy to finally study French formally in Rouen, Normandy, France for 2 weeks last month from July 4-15. It was incredibly short but OH MY GOD did it open my eyes. It was like unearthing a treasure chest or getting hit on the head by a baseball. The convenience of speaking French, of learning a new language and being able to convey yourself in another the native language of a foreign country was so amazing. It was hard, don’t get me wrong. It was definitely hard but as I did have basic knowledge of some French words, I was able to get past my first week without much trouble.

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God made me understand something in this trip. I’ve always wondered why He chose me and why He gave me this particular trip. It’s not like I’ve never been there but I now have a different view of traveling. If you’ve read my 10 Things We Wish We Knew Before Going To Korea post, my number one tip was to learn a bit of the language because of the language barrier. I just shrugged it off as a tip first but now I fully understand why learning the language of the place that you’ll travel to will make you fully appreciate the place. I found out that not everyone spoke English. The previous dormer of my host family was a Korean but she couldn’t speak English but knew how to speak fluent French so speaking to a Korean in French was mind boggling to me at first but then I thought about it afterwards and thought, “Man, that was cool.” Everything looked better when I thought things in French. French food became even French-ier when we tried ordering it in French and of course I was able to translate for my dad when my Airbnb host could hardly speak in English. It was also one of the best Airbnb experience ever as well.

Check out my post here about my experience of studying at a French Language School. I just needed to get this off my chest.

English now isn’t the most important language in the world. Some tout Mandarin that it’s the next universal language but I say that each language is important in its own right. Learning a new language will not only make you travel better but will make you live better as well. Learning is HARD. VERY HARD but this will make visiting a new country less daunting.

I cannot wait to learn my next language. English, Filipino/Tagalog, Fookien, Mandarn, and now French. Hoping to relearn Japanese or learn Spanish next time.

What are your thoughts on this? What languages are you interested in learning?

To the next adventure!

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Having A Hoot At Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe in Akihabara

“… fukuro, the symbol of the owl is a lucky charm to welcome good fortune. The word fukuro is also synonym for “fukurou” in Japanese which means protection from hardship or a lack of hardship or trouble. “Fu” meaning no, and “kurou” meaning hardship.” – Google I loved animals ever since I could remember. Call it...

“… fukuro, the symbol of the owl is a lucky charm to welcome good fortune. The word fukuro is also synonym for “fukurou” in Japanese which means protection from hardship or a lack of hardship or trouble. “Fu” meaning no, and “kurou” meaning hardship.”

Google

I loved animals ever since I could remember. Call it the influence of Western culture where I see friendly talking animals but all my life, I’ve never been afraid of animals. So when during my research for my Tokyo trip I found out that there was an owl cafe, I knew I had to go there. I MUST GO THERE. I love fowls and birds. My family has around 5 parrots and has experience raising quite a few birds already but I’ve never held an owl before.

Good thing my friend wasn’t creeped out by these gentle big-eyed wonder so WOOT WOOT, we were going to Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe. Akiba because it is located right in Akihabara district (which is turning out to be my almost favorite place in Tokyo. I just LOVE this place).

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CUTE OWLS

Sure it may have that cafe word attached to its name but trust me when I say that they offer no food or drink here. What Akiba Fukurou offers instead is food for the soul. Who knew that spending quality time with around 30 owls can give you such tranquility and peace? With only classical music playing and the gentle voices of the owl trainers and owners, you just can’t help but sit back and relax with the owls.

But there are guidelines and rules to follow. You cannot just fondle or yell at the birds. You also have to respect them and your fellow “owl-mates”. Even reserving a coveted spot in the owl cafe is already a battlefield so I’d like to make things easier for you. Entrance fee is 1,500 yen by the way so bring cash. Presenting…

THE PANDIE EXPLORER’S GUIDE TO AKIBA FUKUROU OWL CAFE

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1. Reserve a spot via E-mail (TIP: USE BOOMERANG FEATURE IN GMAIL)

Before you go reserving, first check out their closed off dates here. They open at 12 noon then close at around 6-7PM with breaks in between so definitely go check out that link first before sending an email.

Akiba Fukurou only accepts reservations 20 minutes to 3 days before your arrival so no early reservations and no late reservations but in my experience, you have to reserve 3 DAYS IN ADVANCE so you can ensure a slot (so for example you wanna go on January 4, 2016, send an email on January 1, 12AM, STAT! How do you do this in your busy day?

Install BOOMERANG!

It is a Chrome/Firefox browser extension that lets you send scheduled e-mails. You can use this for reminders, reservations and a lot of things. Be creative with it but for now, we use it for scheduling at Akiba Fukurou. Check screenshot below.

boomerang

Image from talktogamer.com

Use this e-mail template  with subject title【Reservation♥request】 (yes include that heart)  to akiba2960@gmail.com

・1st choice《Date/Sample       Time/   17:00-18:00》

・2nd choice《Date/Sample        Time/   12:00-13:00》

・3rd choice《Date/Sample       Time/   16:00-17:00》

・Name《Name》 

・Mobile《+number

・Adults《Number》

・Is this your first visit? 《Yes/No》

・Your country’s name 《Country》

 If you follow this post exactly, you will then receive a confirmation email from Akiba in a matter of hours! This email will give you details of the map and owls.

2. Go to Akiba Fukurou Cafe (Do not Get Lost!)

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Akiba provides a comprehensive guide and map in ths link complete with photos so please do save it. Go there 15 minutes early to not be too early or too late but you may go earlier. This is what the cafe looks like from the outside except there will be stools there for people who are waiting in line. You can sit and if it’s almost your turn, one of the staff will give you a “menu” of owl care and what to do and not to do.

3. HANDLE OWLS WITH CARE (strictly for an hour)

Once inside, do not be shocked if you find an owl just 5 feet away from you. There will be clothes rack and honest to goodness I almost jumped when I realized there were owls right beside it. You will enter into the owl room at once and you will take some time to get used to it, unless you’re the owl whisperer. xD It’s a small place so you will feel a bit crowded with the other folks. Your hands will be sanitised and the staff will explain which owls are on break and which ones can be held. Green means GO while pink means NO, the owl is on a break. Purple one I think means you need assistance with staff. Just remember that, NO PETTING THE OWL. It is not like a dog or cat that you should pet on the head happily. A gentle tap with your finger is allowed (though maybe I added 2 more fingers LOL if you’re brave).

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The Akiba Owl Family!

TIP: CHOOSE YOUR SPECIFIC OWL EARLY ON SO YOU GET FIRST DIBS. I didn’t decide early so some got the owls I initially wanted first but no biggie. You choose 2 owls MAX.

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If you choose a large owl like me (I got the biggest one! Spring Onion’s his name), you won’t be able to walk around much because he only stays in one particular side of the room and he’s best friends with a specific owl. It bummed me quite a bit but I got to hang around with Spring Onion for a good 10 minutes. You could tell he was perplexed at me, the human. haha! Such an adorable owl!

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I also got Charles Xavier because… yeah I’m a Marvel fan and I wanted to hold a nocturnal owl. Did you know that not all owls are nocturnals? That was a huge revelation for me. Owls with black eyeballs are nocturnal to absorb the light better I guess while those like Spring Onion with yellow tinge in the eyes are active in daytime. AWESOME LEARNING FOR THE DAY.

MORE PHOTOS! These creatures are so smart and curious!

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Izzy’s cute little owl!

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You can have your photo taken as the staff has set up a professional booth and they’ll give you a photo for free via email! They’re honestly so kind.

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4. LEAVE FEELING YOUR MOST RELAXED SELF IN YOUR TRIP

 I left feeling reenergized after all that hustling and bustling in Tokyo. I honestly wanted another hour in there but I only had limited time. I wish I could have held a smaller owl like my friend Izzy so you could go around the room and you can actually pet more. HAHA!

I definitely recommend going to Akiba Fukurou if you have the time in your Tokyo trip. It’s definitely a unique and interesting trip that you’ll be dying to go again in your next one.



Get More Savings And Discounts With Shopback! (Plus GIVEAWAY!)

Everyone knows that online shopping is here to stay. What’s even better is that other than a specific store’s normal sale, you now can check out other sales from other stores at the same time, all in one page. We couldn’t have been born in a better age for shopping! So I’m now going to...

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Everyone knows that online shopping is here to stay. What’s even better is that other than a specific store’s normal sale, you now can check out other sales from other stores at the same time, all in one page. We couldn’t have been born in a better age for shopping!

So I’m now going to teach you how to get even MORE SAVINGS from sites such as Lazada, Ebay, Ensogo, Agoda,  FoodPanda + many more. You can now sign up at Shopback where not only do you get discounts, you even get some of your cash back. It’s as simple as that. Once you have purchased an item, you’ll automatically get some points which are convertible to cash and use this in the next time you purchase. It’s crazy simple and easy to use.

I always say that we should be wise in our purchases and I can’t think of anything wiser than using Shopback in purchasing in sites such as Lazada anymore. Why buy at regular price when you can get it cheaper for the same quality and condition?

Sign up using my link and instantly get when you shop using Shopback:
– At least 1.5% – 4% Cashback on Lazada
– At least 5% Cashback on ZALORA
– At least Php400 Cashback on Agoda
– At least 7% Cashback on foodpanda
– At least 4% Cashback on Ensogo

Check out their bestsellers here but first you have to sign up using this link before you can purchase.

To make it even more fun for you guys, I’ll be giving away one Snapsacks bag of your choice from this photo ONCE I hit 200 shoppers who have purchased using my link. Yup! All you need to do is

  1. Sign up for Shopback using this link.
  2. Purchase ANY item. It can be worth 50php!
  3. Comment “I just bought ___ at Shopback.”

Simple as that 🙂

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Check out this video for more info on Shopback!

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/DfO7u9pt_kU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 



How To Get A UK Tourist Visa From The Philippines

Before I start, I just want to say that seriously, I think getting the UK visa is the most nerve wracking visa experience I’ve ever had just because I never got the chance to speak to a person in the British embassy in the duration of the whole application process because it goes through a separate agency called VFS...

Before I start, I just want to say that seriously, I think getting the UK visa is the most nerve wracking visa experience I’ve ever had just because I never got the chance to speak to a person in the British embassy in the duration of the whole application process because it goes through a separate agency called VFS Global Services. So yep, they’re not hands on and frankly their process was the longest compared to other countries for me. I got my visa 13 business days after showing up in their office but in reality it’s 15 budiness days if you count the online application process. FYI, I already have Schengen, Japan, Korea, and China visas when I applied for UK visa so my situation could be different from yours. Here I’ll try to give a simple and comprehensive guide on how to get a UK visa.

How To Get a UK Tourist Visa From The Philippines (With a Philippine passport)

How To Apply for a UK Tourist Visa (2)

1. Make Sure You That a SHORT TERM Tourist Visa is the proper visa for you

Are you going to London, Edinburgh, Dublin to roam around the cities and have fun or are you seriously looking for a job? You have to keep your needs in check and make sure to apply the correct visa. Do not lie on the application and for that matter, never put false information on an application form. The web of lies that you will weave is not worth it.

Here are the reasons that qualify for a tourist visa or as they call it, a Standard Visitor Visa

  • apply at the earliest 3 months before intended travel date
  • for leisure, eg on holiday or to see your family and friends
  • for business, or to take part in sports or creative events
  • show that you’ll leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • show that  you’re able to support yourself and any dependents for the duration of your trip
  • show that  you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey and any other costs relating to your visit
  • show that  you have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules

More information in this link regarding eligibility, documents, etc.

2.  Prepare These Must have documents

  • Passport that is valid for more than 6 months upon travel (if travel date is January 1, 2016, passport should still be valid until June 1, 2016).
  • Latest Photo measuring 45mm x 35mm (contact Photo agency, they’ll know the size) with you wearing collared shirt or blazer
  • Photocopy of passport first page
  • 6-month bank statement
  • Original Bank Certificate (show money should be enough to cover your stay)
  • For those who have support/sponsor, Affidavit of Support plus COE & Bank Statement of Sponsor
  • For the employed: Original Certificate of Employment  and ITR Form 2316
  • For business owners/self-employed: Photocopy of Business Registration forms & ITR
  • Itinerary of Stay detailing where you’ll be touring and staying
  • Proof of accommodation (Booking.com lets you reserve hotels with FREE cancellation. Used this and printed confirmation out)
  • Original NSO Certified Birth Certificate (not really required but I added for good measure)
  • Marriage Certificate (optional)

For further reading, you check out the PDF file of supporting documents to really confirm what documents to bring but these are what I brought as an employed citizen above 18 years old. First 2 are the DEFINITE MUST HAVE requirements.

3. APPLY EARLY & Fill out the online application form

Filling out the UK visa application is quite tedious because of the length (it is definitely LONG) but it’s also very convenient because hey, no writing it down by hand! But if you don’t have a Desktop, I suggest you borrow someone’s laptop or desktop now because you would need to print the whole thing. It may seem quite long but you have to be very detailed in each answer. Let me walk you through the process.

a. Go to this link and start your registration using the latest Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Register by creating a password. You will receive an email with a link to confirm registration then use that to log-in.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.14.25 PM

Tada!

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.19.40 PM

b.  Fill out the Standard tourist visa type CORRECTLY. Cannot stress this enough.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.22.47 PM

You will then see a dashboard with all the steps that you need to go through. Follow it and once all the steps have turned green (which means you’ve completed them), you can now print your application form and bring it on the submission date at the agency. But first, let’s click Go To Application

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.24.07 PM

c. Complete online application

These are the sections of the application that you must fill out. Prepare your old passports with visas because you will need to input all old passport details + previous visas. Prepare your hotel details, ITR tax details (yes they will let you input EVERYTHING. See second screenshot).Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.27.30 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.30.10 PM

Yes, ALL DETAILS

In the additional information field, you may want to specify if you need a multiple entry visa or if you have a sponsor. Offer any details that will show that you can support yourself and that you will not be returning to the Philippines.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.35.44 PMd. Book an appointment date and time

You will be able to choose a date. I had a hard time booking though on Google Chrome so you may want to use Mozilla Firefox or another browser if you encountered the same thing.

e. Pay 132USD Online

You will need a credit card to pay your visa processing fee. Unfortunately it is quite expensive but it’s the cheapest option. You will need to wait for 15 business days for it so PLEASE APPLY EARLY to save you from stress. I didn’t apply early so I was a wreck.

After paying, you will be receiving 3 e-mails. Please print them

  • Appointment confirmation email with reference number (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Payment confirmation
  • Application confirmation

4. GO TO VFS GLOBAL AGENCY 15-30 MINUTES EARLY

You want to be earlier than your indicated appointment but you don’t want to be too early because there isn’t any room for waiting. They will not let you in the office if it’s not 15 minutes before your time. There are A LOT OF PEOPLE no matter what time your appointment is and you’ll be among a lot of very early applicants if you go any earlier. The building houses VFS Global agencies for A LOT OF EMBASSIES. You have Australia,Canada, New Zealand, Spanish, Croatia, French etc to name a few so yes, go there 15-30 minutes early. Nothing more or less.

Their office is located at
VFS Manila Visa Application Centre
Mezzanine Floor, Unit M01 Ecoplaza Building
2305 Chino Roces Ave. Extension
Makati City 1231
Manila

eco-plaza

What the building looks like. Head up the escalators since UK visa is on the 2nd floor.

ukvisa3

Where you will line up.

TAKE NOTE: DO NOT BRING A LADIES’ BAG OR BACKPACK if you have no chaperone or a friend with you because you will not be allowed to bring ANYTHING inside other than your envelope with documents, wallet, mobile phone on silent mode and a book. I had to get a locker (PHP80-150 if I’m not mistaken, such a waste) which really irked me because I didn’t read about it in any of the guides I’ve seen online.

4. FILL OUT FORM + get biometrics taken (PONDER THE BROCHURES INSIDE THE OFFICE + BRING A BOOK)

What I like about their office is that everything is very efficient. The whole process took only 45 minutes (my commute was even longer. OH PHILIPPINES!). Once you go to the counter, they’ll hand you a form to fill out and then guide you to the proper entry for the UK visa which was on the right. There’s a separate office where there’s a waiting area. There are British embassy volunteers who will help you explain the form and on how to arrange your documents. They will offer add-on stuff that you can purchase like the London Oyster card but upon checking, it’s more expensive at the embassy. You guys may not be as lucky if there are a lot of applicants so bring a book inside to read. Makes the time go faster I swear.

You will get a number from the first counter and once it’s called upon, you will talk to a guy who will go through all your documents. He did say separate the originals and photocopies so make sure you do that. He will ask you additional questions if there are clarifications needed but since I placed everything in the proper order and had no missing documents, we finished talking in around 3-5 minutes. You can also avail additional services such as SMS Text service and Courier service by 2GO which is an additional 150PHP and 500PHP which I availed respectively.

I actually will rant about the SMS Service in the next section. OMG.

Then I had to wait until I was called for biometrics. It’ll be in a small room with a person who will be getting your photo and fingerprints. You will be given a pickup slip which you can use if you will pick your passport up once it’s ready.

Then it’s all done! All you have to do now is the worst part – WAIT.

4. WAIT FOR 13-15 BUSINESS DAYS

I am a self-confessed impatient person and a worry wart so this was the most nerve-wracking part for me. I availed the SMS Service because I thought that I’d be able to get real time updates (which they promised!) like “Your application has been sent to the British embassy” etc etc but NO. You DO NOT GET THAT. You will only get 1 SMS service that say

“The processed visa application for REFERENCE NUMBER was received on June 3, 2016.”

And that’s about it. They will only text this to you a DAY BEFORE you receive your passport without telling you that they’ll be sending your passport so when I didn’t write an authorization letter for my house help to receive the passport the next day when I went out, I couldn’t receive it and only got it on Monday. You need an ID by the way if you want to receive it from your home. I am just so bummed out that I paid 150php for a single text message. It’s crazy.  So my advice, DO NOT GET THE SMS SERVICE. Just wait for an e-mail confirmation that your application is ready which is basically the same thing but free.

Okay rant over. haha! Sorry guys.

So I initially thought that I’d be able to get the UK visa earlier because my friends who had Schengen visa raved about how quick the processing was. She applied around 2014 and only got hers in 5 days so I was confident as well. Unfortunately the case didn’t apply to me. I had to wait 13 business days after the appointment to get mine in the mail. But do not worry though because the British just like the Japanese, do things on time. You can e-mail them for any inquiries regarding your application but in my experience, they will just send a generic message that says that every case is different and duration may differ. But do not worry, they will definitely process it in 15 business days. I am just setting your expectations.

If you do want to get it earlier, you can but with a fee. They have different User Pay Services in this link. They have the PRIORITY PASS which is PHP10,800 if you want to get your visa in 3-5 days for this kind of visa. Only get this when there is an emergency or if you are in a rush. It is quite pricey because it will be on top of the 132USD that you already paid for. You can pay this 10k online or in person when you submit the documents.

5. GET YOUR APPROVAL. GET READY TO FLY!

Now of course last step is getting your passport! The sweetest thing that can happen in your morning is receiving the passport with the UK visa stamped on it. I was so nervous even though I submitted a complete application but there it was! <3

uk-visa-for-thai

KEY TAKEAWAY

The most important thing I’ve learned is to not panic and get all your documents in order. If you are able to prove all your documents, applying for a UK visa is a piece of cake. Just set the correct expectations of waiting times and the UK services, you’re all set. Remember, the British are always on time so HAVE NO FEAR. You will be able to get your visa on time if you time it well.

I hope that I’ve helped you in some way. It was my first time to apply for a UK visa and I want your first experience to be better than mine. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave a comment. 🙂



Should the Canyoneering In Badian, Cebu Be Suspended?

Recently I saw this article that mentioned that Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu will be suspended soon because of the recent accidents that have happened to tourists. For those unfamiliar with canyoneering, it’s an adrenaline-pumping activity for daredevils that involves walking, climbing, jumping (LOTS of it), more walking, swimming and slipping. And for Badian, you have...

Recently I saw this article that mentioned that Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu will be suspended soon because of the recent accidents that have happened to tourists. For those unfamiliar with canyoneering, it’s an adrenaline-pumping activity for daredevils that involves walking, climbing, jumping (LOTS of it), more walking, swimming and slipping. And for Badian, you have to traverse the trail starting with a 20-foot waterfall jump and ending it with a 35-ft one.

WHOOOOOEEEYYYY WHOOAHH OMG.

I can be a daredevil sometimes because I love crazy rollercoasters and I have climbed grade 3 mountains before but I am really not keen on activities that have a high percentage of risk (on my life). I need to know if I am safe at all times when doing the activity. Just like a rollercoaster, I tend to ask questions such as what is the safety history of this rollercoaster? Are safety equipment in place when performing the activity? What precautions should I consider?

Yes I am a worry wart but a responsible one I’d like to think so.

This is the reason why I never tried Canyoneering. I went to Cebu last year with my friends and when even my friend who was a resident of Cebu discouraged us from participating in the activity, I knew that something was up. Disregard the fact that it was raining during our trip to the Badian Falls, he was still hesitant for us to go through the activity because there was no standard rules and regulations for the activities. True enough, the governor of Cebu reported that they are not ready this kind of high-risk tourism. The groups handling the activities are probably not licensed to tour the groups because there is no license yet for such extreme activities. Some do not have the proper equipment or do not tell its customers on what the proper dress code is.

It would have been beautiful though. Look at these shots! This is why a lot of people still go through it because it’s amazing to see nature in its unspoiled form. It’s also quite remote and the colors of the wind nature is pretty beautiful and you get to be in the middle of it all!

Caynoneering

Photo from my friend Michelle

Cayoneering Badian

Look at them go!

Canyoneering CebuDo you dare jump? I think I’d be stuck for 30 mins xD

Guess what I’m trying to say is I’m all for extreme sports but everyone should know what they’re getting into. Canyoneering in Badian is not as safe as it should be in my eyes so it’d be good for the tourism board to check on how they can regulate and standardize the activity. I’m all for safe and fun activities.

I confess that I am no daredevil, but are you? What are your thoughts on extreme activities? Would you try out this canyoneering activity?



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