Osterbrunnen in Ingolstadt

 

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“Impressive work found in Ostermarkt where around 10,000 handpainted eggs adorn the King Ludwig fountain  for this year’s Osterbrunnen. “

In our neighborhood alone,the sight of pink, white and eager cherry blossom trees (or  Kirschbaum ) are now blossoming with beautiful pink and white flowers, signaling the spring days ahead. The sight of the white Spargels ( white Asparagus)  in the wet market this morning assures me that beautiful days of Spring ( Frühling) here in Germany have indeed arrived! The past days the temperatures soars high,a good 10-15 degrees, sunny and bright, and I can’t believe that we can finally stroll outside without our bulky jackets. Weather is perfect, every where I see, I see growth of greens from the trees and yes, a time to celebrate Easter soon.

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Here in Ingolstadt, Easter vibes  is so alive and arrives right on the 1st day of April,in the Osterbrunnen fest right along the Paradeplatz in the old town.The event started with a parade of music, opening speech from our city mayor, Christian Lösel, and the tapping of the beer keg or O’zapft is! If you want a free mug of beer, all you have to do is be there!

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The Ostermarkt will run from 1st of April until 17th 2017 from 10.00 ~19.00 Uhr. Around the Paradeplatz, there are food stalls which serves the local delicacies, a Karussel (Carousel) for children, and quaint shops selling Easter goods.My daughter was too excited to see the carousel but always afraid to ride it!

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Tell you frankly, Easter here in Germany is a big thing since aside from its religious significance, it also signal the arrival of Spring, the season of renewal. About 3 weeks ago, the shops were packed with all the decorations and different types of  decorations for Easter such as eggs, Easter bunny ( Osternhase) and so much more. I have never seen such frenzy as these in the Philippines! There are Easter Chocolate eggs as big as a basketball! Today I got 6 pieces of Easter eggs given away during the opening ceremony and we are literally walking in a red-carpet cobbled streets of Ludwigstrasse. There are so many freebies along the street, I even had a glass of white wine! There are face painting for kids and there is such a happy ‘vibe”, even the Biergartens are in full swing once again! Ingolstadt is a small city and yet with so many festivals to celebrate, you can never get boring.

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Since April 15, 2000, the first Ostermarkt was inaugurated by Mayor Hans Amler and was solemnized by Moritzpfarrer Leo Pöll and since then, this event has become one of the highlights of Spring.

Right in the middle of Paradeplatz in front of the Neues Schloss stands the decorated fountain, with the monument of the mighty King Ludwig of Bavaria. During the first festival, around 3,000 ( three thousand)  painted easter eggs in white and blue colors ( Grösster weiss/blauer Osterbrunnen Bayerns) adorns the fountain, but each year they are increasing in number. The whole fountain is filled with spring flowers and Easter decorations arranged in a  steel crown like specially made by trainees of Audi AG.Now, around 10, 000 hand painted Easter eggs are on display for everyone to see. Such a lovely sight and a heritage that Ingolstädter are all proud of.

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To decorate the fountain, it requires 500 hours to do the creative work of painting the eggs and arranging the steel crown and finally set up the fountain.Looking at all the eggs, it is intricately painted and crafted.Imagine 10,000 pieces!

What an impressive work and creativity!

 

Have you ever seen a fountain decorated with thousands of Easter eggs? How is Easter celebrated in your area?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday life in Germany: 14 weird things

Let’s face it,  expat life can be exciting, new place, new surroundings,  and definitely so many new routines, but full of mind-boggling  experience as well! Especially if you see a different culture that’s totally non-existent from the way you used to live before.Living here in Germany for the past months has been really great, but many times, I see things that totally cracks me up. But no matter how weird it may seem, I can’t deny that I am starting to love the German lifestyle. As an Asian Expat, here are some ” weird” things  I found here.

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The quaint view  from above  of my town in Germany

Have a laugh, or comment if you want, and yes, enjoy some time of awkwardness!

P.S. As disclaimer, these are all my OPINIONS and based on my personal experience. So, here we go!

1.German water comes from the Alps, they say it’s the best water in the world, how about the massivee Kalk?

I swear our kettle is a living testament for this! It has massive, hardened, irritating, Kalk inside. Tap water is super safe to drink but I find it so annoying to see the shiny stuff that floats on the surface of tea. Kalk is the reason why the pits of  shirts never get quite white, the grit on your wine glasses after using the dishwasher, the white stuff that clogs your clothes iron, the white stuff that remains after you boil water, the reason why you have to use 50% more detergent when doing laundry and the spots it creates after every shower is driving me mad. No wonder there’s an aisle in the supermarket dedicated for all the anti-calc problems!

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Germans love to drink Sparkling water and nobody likes water from the tap (Leitungswasser).

2. Sparkling water

Germans have a serious love-affair with ‘fizzy’ water ( or sparkling water). Water here is gold,you certainly CANNOT have a free water in the restaurant. Here, you pay for water and most of the times, they serve you with sparkling water unless you insist on getting the ‘still‘ water.The only water you can get at a restaurant will be bottled water with carbonation, or bottled water without carbonation.

3. Sprechen Sie Englisch? “A little” (or Ein bischenn)

I have this habit of asking Germans if they speak English, Always! But I always have the same response: Ein bischenn ( or a little bit ) . I observed that Germans are not boastful, or the bragger type. A country who has a very high standard of education and thousands of Ausbildungs and to think that most European speaks 2-3 language, and yet, seemed to be reluctant to speak in English, or shy in a way. Maybe they just want to appear silly. So now, every time someone says ‘a little‘, I  just assume they speak perfect English. I find this strange, but OK, they are Germans!

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No JAYWALKING in Germany.

4.Germans loves Rules and Order–Everytime!

Nobody EVER  jaywalks in Germany. Everyone obeys the rules! They have a thing with Ordnung    ( or order) most especially traffic rules and Recycling. So from someone who came from a traffic congested Manila and chaotic driving maniacs from the Gulf road in Kuwait, observing traffic and driving behaviour in Germany is something fascinating. From my experience, drivers are  super polite, nobody shouts in the road, I have never seen road rage as often I saw in Kuwait and  the one thing that you will never find in the Gulf countries– they always gives way to pedestrians. There are many zebra crossing and people with disability are always given proper consideration. Just don’t walk in their cycling lanes or else, you’ll get angry stares and the bell will absolutely ring twice!

 

5. It’s a bad luck to wish someone “happy Birthday “in advance.

I didn’t know that greeting someone when it’s not yet their birthday is considered as bad luck for Germans! Never ever greet in advance to a German or you will receive angry stare, probably a long silence.There’s a saying that sums up the German mentality nicely: “Du sollst den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben,” or, “You shouldn’t praise the day before the night.” It means don’t be sure of something until it happens, because then it won’t happen. So wishing someone a happy birthday early could mean they won’t have one, or more precisely, that they’ll die.

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Big flat buttn for a job well done!

6.The thing about German Toilets

No hose.No Bidet. For ladies you know what I mean. Back home and while  I was still living in Kuwait, we have water hose beside the toilet bowl. But here,not a single one. Germany loves everything that is energy-saving, water saving, and environment-friendly. If you want to live in Germany, get use to toilet papers.More funny thing is, in our apartment,our toilet (Bad) is facing a major busy road, so when you do your business, you have a view! Imagine that!

Another thing, all German toilets have big square or rectangular buttons. A big button for a job well done!My daughter loves to push this because it’s so easy, totally different from toilet bowl designs I grew up with a push valve that you pull to release water.

7. Big Light Switches and Kid-friendly outlets.

Apparently the little light switches that flick on and off in Kuwait and from Philippines just don’t cut it in size for the Germans. Here, they have these massive buttons  that allows for an easy on and off. Have you ever tried to turn on the light in the dark feeling the entire wall before finding the switch? Not in Germany! In our basement where the laundry area is located, there are lights in the corridor which switch off automatically after 1 minute. I was feeling creepy the first time I experience this because I was waiting for the light to be out, no matter how I push, it’s still ON.

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Roller shutters in windows  Germany

8.Jail Blinds and every windows with Roller shutters 

We have large windows that also serves as doors in our living room and bedrooms.Talk about functionality, here in Germany, most homes have this type of windows. The light flooded our house on a sunny day and I love that. All our windows have roller shutters and many German homes have the same blinds. Though it offers a guaranteed sleep in the pitch black, I find it rather spooky at first. Around 6pm when it’s starts to get dark, you can hear all the shutters being put down. If you walk in the streets at night, it can really be so silent. So totally different from Philippines. In Germany it is not always so easy to know what your neighbors are doing.

9. Wide Open Windows and sometimes, curtain-less!

This is possibly the best window there is! I feel so free when I wake up, open the window wide and hang half of my body outside for some crisp, clean, fresh morning air. The levers on these windows don’t only open sideways but from the top too! You can decide to tilt it to let some air come in, or open it fully sideways.the best thing is, everything looks so modern with clear windows and no squeaking hinges.

10. They Have Style When it Comes to Buying Groceries

Perhaps not every German, but when here in Bavaria, almost all the locals I see are shopping with wooden baskets. Here in Bavaria, in the old town during weekend market, the sight of people shopping with wooden baskets is so idyllic. I see so may of these little wicker baskets or little canvas bags, some are even attached to their bikes. Way to take the reins on eco-friendly shopping Germany! There is also the trolley that the old people use to get groceries. I have never seen something like this in Kuwait or in Philippines.

And yes, you need to bring your own bag when you buy groceries and you pack your own goods!

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Life in Germany : Two duvets in 2 separate beds, Two is better than ONE!

11. Square Pillows and Double duvets in two separate beds

Yes,Germany is one of the countries here in Europe and in Scandinavia that uses two beds, two duvets for a couple’s bed.This was a total shock to me when I first saw it. I love the idea of comfort, more sound sleep idea that you get from it, but I am never fan of this square ( 80 x 80cm )  pillows. I don’t like it and it’s a pain in the neck.

12. Sunday is really a Quiet Day.

On Sundays, ( or Ruhetag )  it is illegal to mow your lawn so don’t ever think about it. Your neighbor would probably won’t approve. It is considered rude to ride your loud motorcycle. Basically, you shouldn’t use any mechanical or electronic device that makes noise. If the walls are thin between you and your neighbors, they might ask that you don’t do laundry on Sundays (which is when I do laundry). German’s like their quiet time so they just keep on cycling all through out the day especially on a bright, sunny day!

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Walking on a dreary winter, on a frozen lake!!

13. They love the Outdoor life.To the max!

Okay this one is no- brainer. Back then in Kuwait, people also flock outside especially when the weather is cooler and mild. But here, what surprises me is how Germans love outdoors no matter what the season is. People are cycling in winter. Walking their dogs every single day. Sunbathing in the parks in summer, and get a ‘tan’ sitting on cafes with strollers and everything on bright sunny days on weekends. On Saturdays, people flock in the wet markets to get fresh produce, at the same time eating weisswurst and beer at 10 am! Old people are super edgy, hiking and do nordic walks. Even young people walk with the “magic stick”.Children live half of their day in the parks and playgrounds. For Germans : There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

14. Remember that Eis is not Ice

I am used to having ice cubes in my beverages. I am never a fan of drinks without the chill, unless its coffee. But in Germany, putting ice cubes in drinks is not common, and if you want ice for a drink, you may want to ask for “Eiswürfeln” (ice cubes) instead of simply “ice” to avoid confusion. Also, Eis means ‘ice cream’ so be careful when ordering. In Germany, eating an ice cream on a cold days is also very typical!

 

There you have it!  Do you also find any ‘strange’things in your country now compared from what you’ve used to?Feel free to share in the comments!

Stay tuned for more stories like this on my next post about Everyday Expat Life here in Germany.

Any thoughts? If  you enjoyed this post,  you might like to read more stories like this, here are further reading;

Bavaria in 100 Days!

25 Surprising facts about living in Germany

Why is it more Fun to be a kid in Germany

Servus ! How to say Hello in Bavaria

Tschüss !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artwork : Mothers of Daughters

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Mothers of Daughters original painting (36 cm X 48 cm aquarelle // justbluedutchArt)

“Kids make life the best kind of busy… “

This artwork is inspired by my current 24/7 lifestyle  : being a mother, one of Mothers of Daughters series of paintings.

Nobody warns me that being a parent can be tough.Most of my friends have a teenager by this time and they are through with the long and winding road of raising tiny toddlers.The thing is, parenting  has no day off, it has no monetary appraisal. It doesn’t come with a job description, I can’t resign, nor I can’t slack off.  Pre-baby, there has been no apprenticeship. No on-the-job training.

Motherhood is  a l-i-f-e 24/7.

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Mothers of Daughters ( Aquarelle original painting )

One of the subjects I love to work on in my artwork is doing my  version of a Mother & Child painting.  I love things that resonates life and something that I could relate into. I am not that good (yet!) , I am still a work-in-process on both fields– being a mother and as a visual artist. I don’t even think that my artwork could get attention from others who are far by better than what I am doing. But I am truly humbled whenever I get compliments. I still have a lot of things to learn. Everyday as I play with my brush and colors, I discover techniques that works best with the result that I wanted to achieve. Sometimes it becomes a lot of mess, disappointments, my fingers hurt and my mind gets tired. But then, I don’t quit. I continue to create the thoughts in my mind into images.

Same goes with motherhood & parenting, everyday, I am faced with challenges, but there’s no turning back. I know that having a toddler is just a temporary stage, that soon she will be independent on her own, and that I, have my own life to tend too.

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Mothers of Daughters ( JustbluedutchArt)

It is not easy being an Expat Mother.

There are times I feel isolated and it’s a real challenge to live independently, without your immediate family and relatives to ask for support, especially my mother.We only rely on online chats and messenger the most. It’s our lifeline for being separated miles apart. I have learned to act upon instincts and be strong. For about 9 months now, I am glad that I have found new friends here in Germany , ( and they are all wonderful!) and that my daughter is doing well. She had precious milestones lately that really took us by surprise! It’s just great to be able to break the language barrier and felt that I belong here now,  although still I feel not totally 100% at home, but at least I don’t feel like a visiting tourist.

Yes, mothers of daughters are something special to me.

 

The great thing is— I need to remind myself  that apart from being a mother, I am still a person, woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. My life doesn’t end the moment my kid came into my life and Yes– I am capable in other fields in life too.

If you don’t have a child, then this post might not interest you. Or you are still single and  you can’t relate to this post, or you’re through with having babies and that you’ve passed this stage already.You are through with raising kids. But for someone who have high hopes of having a child someday, I hope someday you experience the joy that I am having now while raising my tiny human and not so much of the sacrifices that goes with it. It may not be the most comfortable lifestyle, but soon, this stage will pass.

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 If ever I would raise a child again ( not that I am hoping for a 2nd! ), but what If I have the chance to re-do the Parenting process, what about then?

What would I do ;

“I’ll build self-esteem first and tidy up the mess later “

“I’d finger-paint more and point the finger less “

“I would do less correcting and more connecting “

“I’d take  my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes “

“I would care to know less and know to care more “

“I’d take more hikes and walks with her “

“I’d stop playing serious and seriously play “

“I would run through more fields, jump in muddy puddles, and gaze at more stars”

“I’d do more hugging and kissing and less tugging “

“I would be firm less often and affirm much more “

“I’d model less about the love of power and more about the power of Love “

One question for you, what would you do if you’ve given a chance to raise your children once again?

Any thoughts ?

Also, let me have your opinion about this artwork. I really  appreciate  comments and feedback so much.

If you’d like to see more of my artworks, you can check it out Here or follow JustbluedutchArt in Instagram.

My first Vineyard walk, a taste of Moselsteig!

 

There is something medieval, in the best sense, about these vineyards. The sheer work invested in them over generations, the effort of planting, tending and harvesting vines, each attached to a stake, all by hand, on 60-degree slopes, beggars belief; but the effect is of a communal work of art, a glowing tapestry of vines.” -The Telegraph

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Steep , picturesque view from the vineyards in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany

My Unforgetable Vineyard walk— My first taste of Europe’s Leading Quality trail, the  Moselsteig (or long-distance trail ),the finest Riesling wine,and the sparkling winding beauty of the Mosel river, Weinfest ( wine fest) all came by surprise! The Mosel Valley, a gorge the river carved between the Hunsrück and Eifel hills, and the valleys of its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer rivers offers a beautiful hiking trail for all ages.

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Up close and personal with Riesling grapes.

Germany has nearly 240,000 acres of vineyards. About 88 percent of this area is planted in white and 12 percent in the red grape variety. You won’t believe it,  but there are also vineyards in Philippines, like the Gapuz grape farm in Bauang, La Union, but for me, the sight of vineyards is totally unknown. I have never seen one until I came to Europe. Before, I’ve only seen it from the movies and from books, let alone seeing a local winery ( or Weingut) , and tasting the wine of course.

Roaming around the nearby towns made my thoughts and my eyes  wandering constantly. I see grape vines everywhere, the steep vineyards seen along the road ( Wine road) have the names of the owner or ‘Weingut‘ .Grapes vines even right at the doorsteps of every house, creeping through their walls and fences, and decorating their garden. A distinctive product of this region is wine from the Riesling vine.If you visit a wine region like this, it is impossible not to learn anything about the wine industry.The grapes of the Riesling vine stock are small and contain a large number of seeds. They need a longer time to ripen, are harvested in late October, November and even December, and don’t produce as much juice as other types of grapes.

An excerpt from Wines of Germany :

Mosel’s Vineyard area (2003): 9,533 ha / 23,555 acres · 6 districts · 19 collective vineyard sites · 500+ individual sites

Grape varieties [white 91.7% · red 8.3%] (2003): Riesling (56.8%), Müller-Thurgau (16.1%), Elbling (7.2%) an ancient variety cultivated by the Romans and because of its pronounced acidity, often used as a base wine for Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine as well as Kerner, Bacchus and Spätburgunder.

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Grapevine crawling in the walls of the restaurant in Monzel

A Roman poet described the Mosel as “bigger than the Nile… nobler than the Tiber 

If I could freeze moments from this trip, it would be up there in the hills covered with greens, lots of green vineyards of grapes. Watching the river makes a winding turn and admiring caste ruins nearby, I felt like I’m in a dream.I was admiring the view at the same time carrying my sleeping daughter. Pity she missed this view, I am sure she will be so busy pinching the globes of grapes hanging so plump and eager for the sunshine.

From our starting point in Monzel, we walked through  the banks of Mosel river in front of the Weingut Schloss Lieser and watch the ships go by. On a grey cloudy day, Mosel is still beautiful and the view of the steep vineyards  covered in light fog makes it even more enchanting.

What is distinct when you visit this place is that the river banks rise so sharply that the vineyards carpeting these slopes are among the steepest in the world, with some planted at an astounding 70-degree gradient. On these precipitous inclines, nearly all labor must be done by hand. That includes tying each vine to its own eight-foot wooden stake, and carrying up the slate soil that has washed down with the winter rains.

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Admiring the ‘ ‘Gold’ of Mosel valley

We reached Traben-Trarbach, which was overlooked by the ruins of Grevenburg Castle, and was once the second largest wine-trading town in Europe after Bordeaux, and this legacy can still be seen, not least in the labyrinthine network of wine cellars beneath the streets, which you can explore. We decided to walk through the town and  cross the bridge, admiring the architecture around town and  its Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) which dates  from the late-nineteenth century, and the imposing castellated towers of the Brückentor, the bridge that links Traben with Trarbach.

 

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Hiking through the vineyards, from one to another is an adventure – add the fact that so many ruined castles on almost every river bend makes the hike so picturesque.I was not prepared to see the expanse of beauty in the Mosel valley, let alone fall in love with the Riesling wine. I guess that If you have tasted something so good, you would always compare its taste to other types.I am not a wine drinker, but a sip of Riesling white whine is always a treat.

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The vineyards are named after their winery owner

Riesling wine is delicious, they are also relatively low in alcohol.With levels often as low as 8%, you can have Riesling in the midday lunch and it doesn’t have unduly impact on a scenic afternoon walk.Whether trocken (dry), feinherb (medium-sweet) or süß (sweet), they were all chilled and fruity.After our day trips, we sit down in the balcony for an enjoyable treat- a sip of glass of wine!

To cap our Vineyard hiking adventures, we are rewarded with this view. Now who am I to complain?

 

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Not to be missed when you are in Mosel- the Burg Eltz. is located just up the river valley from the Mosel river  and home for the legendary Eisenköpfe (Iron Head) knights and is one of the best example of a medieval castle in Europe.Every stone in this castle is original.

Even with a baby worn around me, I was able to climb the steep vineyards, discovered castle ruins, and yes, found a fairy tale castle along the way!

 

Any thoughts ? If you enjoyed this post, and you  like river views , check out why the River Danube is the most photographed river here in Bavaria, plus, you will always be rewarded with a stunning view of the Neues Schloss as well.

Also, if you are in Instagram, make sure to follow JustbluedutchArt to see some of my personal artwork!

 

 

 

The Green windows of Failaka’s Heritage Village

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Green windows in Failaka’s Heritage houses

I visited Failaka Island in Kuwait sometime during one Eid celebrations.I think I have been to almost all of Kuwait so one time, out of boredom, we booked our trip for Catamaran under Heritage tours to visit Failaka island. I love island hopping and beach getaways but a trip to Failaka is totally off-beaten.

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Heritage houses circa 1950.

Well,if you don’t know, Failaka is an island , 20km off the coast of Kuwait city.Before the war, people used to live there.This island was totally deserted by its inhabitants since the Gulf conflict and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.It literally looks like a ghost town, totally different from the skycrapers of the Kuwait skyline as you approach the city. If you are into war relics, desert life and archeology, Failaka might give you a pleasant experience.Of course, seeing the wild camels and eating inside a traditional tent is also a treat!

One of the memorable sights I have seen in Failaka was visiting the Heritage Houses with green windows  and doors as well.In Failaka Heritage Village, there are 40 Heritage houses. Visitors who wanted to spend a day or more here can rent these houses which can accommodate 5-15 guests.

The architecture is totally different, mostly made of timber, wood and rough finish. It’s the green windows that really captures my attention since it is so simple, really a cultural heritage.Heritage house is the typical Kuwaiti traditional house, it is the norm of dwelling for local Kuwaitis since 1950’s. These vacation rental houses can’t be considered as hotel or even star awarded due to their very heritage nature.They are periodically enhanced and restored by skilled craftsmen to retain its character.

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Green windows, a unique architecture feature in Kuwait’s Heritage house.

The traditional houses are the only genuine article in Kuwait and also GCC countries. They are all set into the village streets (Fereej) , all the streets and houses having their own names.Look at the shadow cast from these windows, totally enchanting.In the hot, humid summer months, the sight of green windows and doors can give a refreshing look.

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Green vine, green windows 

Notice also that in Kuwait, the use of grills (or bars) in windows is very typical. When I saw this, I felt like I am behind bars, making you feel like a prisoner.These type of windows are called “double casement”which opens from the middle.Totally closed, maybe for functional use because of the climate.

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Heritage house built in 1950’s.

When life was slower and simpler, these type of houses gives warmth and comfort to the locals.Placed against an earth tone wall finish, it looks like a breath of life.

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Green windows in the Heritage house in Failaka, Kuwait

I would recommend to visit this place if you are in K-town. It may not be a super attraction, but it is really a place where the past speaks louder than the sights. The war-torn almost barren landscape, the rusty war tanks, the bullet shots in every wall, and the memories of the war is actually the air you breathe.

Green color is the color of life, a symbol of renewal, of nature . Just like these windows that reminds me that out from a gloomy past, the future could still be bright, that life in Failaka can still be safe.

Also,want to know why you should not miss the sunset in Failaka?Read more Here.

How do you feel when visiting war-torn places? How was your experience?

 

This post is inspired by this week’s DP Photo Challenge :It IS Easy Being Green!

One at A Time : Lesson from the Daffodils

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Yellow Daffodils from our garden

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head..and whisper to her neighbor, Winter is dead…”

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Dancing Daffodils : Standing yellow and proud. The brave soul who was not afraid to bloom despite the ugliness around her.

I know from the early signs of Spring that it can’t be far behind if there are Daffodils and today, my heart is filled with warm thoughts seeing the mass of Daffodils in our garden,  in full bloom. There are still so many bulbs sprouting from the other bed.This is a new sight for me, since its also my first time to experience Spring here in Germany. Excuse my delight, but yes,I love these pretty yellow thing! What about you?

Nature always have a way to remind me that I am now living in seasons. That just like any wild flower,I must allow myself to grow in all the places  that I never thought to be.My sight seems to have the ability to meet my every day need with effortless perfection. I find that when life gets to be too much heavy and everyday troubles bubble up and over, a time to relax the mind  is much-needed, accompanied by a walk in the fresh air, can in an instant, calm…no matter what the season.

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The first bloom of Daffodils from our garden  brighten up our home.

To tell you, I think there’s just something about Spring. I remember months ago, I planted some bulbs in the garden. I’m no experience gardener but I hoped that it will grow , and hopefully, bloom. After the snow melted from our garden and I saw the budding sprouts pushed themselves slowly, their baby leaves are winding up, greeting the warm sunshine.

I thought it will never come out. I almost give up.

But then one bulb sprout after one another, one at a time.

Two months ago,  I was heavily  burdened with anxiety, with a deep anguish. My feeling like the gloominess of cold winter.As a parent, I don’t know what to do. My daughter have a speech delay and did not say a thing or two in her 2.5 years. Whenever people would ask me if she is talking already, I don’t know anymore what to say. I was in the brink of having her checked-up and getting a professional opinion. She is one happy, very active fireball of energy, a tiny Goblin. She is so active and yet, when it comes to talking, she was lagging behind. The thing is, she perfectly understands English & Deutsch, follows instructions in both language, but no talking. My friends say that for children who were born with multiple languages surrounding them, speech can come late. I used to believe in this too.

But the anxiety continues.It robs my joy every single day. I kept on asking why…and When?

Two weeks ago, she surprised me and my husband when all of a sudden, she just blurted out “Mama“! I couldn’t believe it! Did she just say whaaattt? Then “Papa“follows, and many other words, she sings and reads the alphabet now bilingually, recites the numbers, even perfected the spelling for her favorite animals and colors. Her favorite word so far is “Rot” ( German for Red) . Her vocabulary has grown so much in a span of 2 weeks. I find it so great when she replies now whenever I am asking her simple questions.

I have learned so much from this experience.As a parent, it humbled me knowing that I almost lost my faith in my child.That I need to wait patiently. Raising a child indeed comes One at a time.

Happiness came in when I witnessed this milestone in my daughter’s life.There have been millions of times we have sung the same song, read dozens of books, and talking day after day. But then,milestones doesn’t come in an instant. It’s always One at a Time, one baby steps at A Time.

Spring will come and so will Happiness.

So I’m holding on. I know life will get warmer. The yellow Daffodils in my garden  reminded me to keep the faith. Just as their petals turned up towards the sun, I need to move toward my goal and desires one step at a time-often just baby steps and learning to use the accumulation of time.That when we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things.

My daughter is talking now. Talking too much. It’s music to my ears.

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The Daffodils in my garden are dancing. Swinging when the wind blows.

Fresh beginnings.

New life.

Rebirth.

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Who could ever imagine that out of these wild flower comes a great wisdom.

The Daffodils and other wild flowers, the delicate, intricate, unassuming flowers. Especially the early spring flowers who find themselves among the first to brave the unstable elements. The ones who have the quiet strength to weather the cold winds and last few spits of icy snow as they tenderly open themselves for all to admire.

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No matter what you ask of the Daffodil, it will still wait until Spring to bloom. From this I learned we all open up when the time is right…

Do you like Daffodils?

What do you look forward this coming Spring? Share your comments below.

 

 

Sky and Galaxy effect Artwork

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Galaxy skyArt adorns one corner of our home

Watercolor is one of my favorite painting mediums to work with because it renders transparent, delicate, and ethereal results. At the same time, watercolors dry fast and you can finish a painting in a few hours. If you don’t have much experience with watercolors, take your time and enjoy the ride as I did.

The other day I decided to clean out my palettes and I don’t like to throw away the left over paints. I come up to this idea of Galaxy and Sky effect painting and men, I love it!The results are far better than I expected. I’m a newbie and this technique is easy to work with, if you have the patience and determination to create patterns by motivating the flow of color in your brush, then this might be your kind of Art theraphy!

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Galaxy and sky art painting

Painting is expensive. The equipments and paint itself are costly.The good thing is, I used the minimal tools, mostly the ones that I already have. I don’t like complicated process in painting (not yet!) so I always opt for easy and handy tools.For beginners, make sure you have these on hand.

  • Water
  • Profimaler ( Professional)  Watercolors or Professional/Artist Watercolors (For more information about watercolors/which watercolors to buy, see All About Watercolor Paints)
  • Watercolor Paper
  • Paintbrushes (Size 1 for the details, and sizes 3 and 6 round brushes to paint)
  • A Paper Towel (to soak up excess water and paint)
  • White and Black Acrylic Artist’s Ink
  • Salt ( I used the big grain)
  • Liquid Frisket {Art Masking Fluid works too}
  • Ruler

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For this project, I did a lot of wet-on-wet washes, that is applying colors on a wet surface. You need to make sure that you have the ‘shiny’ effect of the water before applying your brushes. Once the glistening effect is gone, your brush will just make a mess.I also apply on a colored surface many times especially if I wanted to highlight certain areas.

I know I can’t be the only one who had never thought to use watered-down white ink to achieve a halo effect around stars. I am in love with the creativity behind the watercolor art tutorial that I used as my guide. I’m telling you, this is all self-taught. I realized that If you really wanted to create something, you will be driven to learn things.

The finished project is impressive, but the project itself is wonderfully simple to make! There are times that I felt really good after I finished doing a painting and this is one of them.

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Loving all these colors

I created some postcards and some A4 as well as in A3 sizes. Now all I need is to find a nice frame to perfect the effect. These are great to display in your walls,especially if you are like me who likes minimal decor. There is something surreal about seeing your artwork adds definition in a room.IMG_0027

There’s something ethereal about nigh skies with lots of stars, and the creative image of galaxy always brings fond nostalgia to me. I love astronomy and the beautiful world up there and I am so glad that I could create something like it. Sky is the limit, your colors, your strokes, and your imagination will mold the patterns into a masterpiece.

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Do you fancy  this kind of painting? If you have the chance to purchase one piece of artwork by masters, which one you wanted to have?

Also, any thoughts on this painting? I would love to hear your comments!

If you love this post and would like to see all my other Artworks, you can check out JustbluedutchArt in Instagram and If you’d like these babies to display in your living room, let me know!

 

 

 

Konichi-WOW: Parenting in Tokyo,the world’s largest City |Expat Mama in Japan

 

 

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Victoria and her adorable son, William, a Lego Aficionado! (AmericanExpats in Japan)

It’s time to get to know another awesome Expat-Mama!

We had an amazing series of wonderful Expat -Mamas & Papa around the World last year, and to start off this year, we have a very interesting feature —Victoria, an American Expat-Mama living in Tokyo, Japan with her husband,Nicholas, and their handsome young man, William (2.5 years old).

Konichi WOW: Parenting in Tokyo, the World’s Largest City

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Living in Tokyo- the largest, and probably the most fascinating city !

Tokyo in a glimpse

Tokyo-The most populous city , probably the most bizarre and yet fascinating metropolitan with more than 35 million people living in it.Tokyo is not only known for iconic city that was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2020 Summer Games,but it is also one big magnet for Expat families. Japan regularly touted as the safest for children and was the 4th (fourth) best place to raise children, according to HSBC’s 2014 survey results.Tokyo is one of safest capital cities in the world, too.

Only in Tokyo that people reserve their seats in Starbucks by leaving their wallets and designer bags on the table!  In general, residents respect personal space and privacy, and public spaces are remarkably clean.

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Adventures with a toddler on the move

Victoria’s Background

Victoria is the  Lifestyle Travel Blogger behind teafordinosaurs.com. Originally from Chicago, she spent the past ten years of her life living in Milwaukee.  When her husband received a job offer in Tokyo, they chose to embrace the adventure.

Pre- baby, she was a Marketing Director for a nonprofit organization. In her free time, she managed an online shop and danced professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers. Post- baby, she chose to be a stay at home mom. She continued to manage her eBay shop and added an Etsy shop to the mix. In preparation for their move to Tokyo, she closed up both shops and shifted her attention to creating a blog about travel, expat life and parenthood.

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Livin’the Expat life in Tokyo!

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects – (food, leisure, nature, quality of life, childcare, education etc.) local customs & culture, attractions, family oriented activities and raising your kids as an expat.

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Enjoying a train ride with Daddy !

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Tokyo is quite different from Milwaukee as you may have guessed. The streets are crowded, there is a language barrier, driving is weird and we are away from our friends and family. However, it is also very safe, surprisingly quiet, and extremely accessible even with a toddler in tow.

On City Living

 For the most part, I love living in the city, especially Tokyo. There is always something to see or do even with a toddler in tow. Our apartment location couldn’t be any more convenient with a metro station right outside and 24 hour valet parking at our building. Still, getting around via train or car or taxi just takes a while. I miss walking out my back door, hopping in my car, and being somewhere, anywhere, within 15 minutes. The train is always at least 4o minutes for me because I’m traveling with William, and although traffic isn’t crazy, it goes slow and there are a ton of traffic lights. Having said that, even walking places takes a while due to all the lights and the fact that no one jay walks. People follow rules here and jay walking is illegal…

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The Kawaii culture

This is the Japanese word for cute. We hear it a lot due to having a blonde, two-year old in tow. Of course everyone wants to hear that their kid is cute but a couple of times people (harmless) have rubbed William’s head which is pretty strange. I just hope they’ve gone on to receive plentiful riches from the good luck they’ve acquired.

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Tokyo is very kid-friendly. Restaurants have kid settings and cups. Train stations have elevators. Department stores have play areas. Family bathrooms are everywhere. Talking about food, It’s all good, and you can find any cuisine you want.

One of the first things you learn about parenting in Japan is  that even very young children are expected to be independent and self-reliant enough to go to school unaccompanied, even if it means taking a city bus or train and traversing busy streets.

On Preschool

We decided to send William to school about three months into living here. We wanted him to interact with other kids his age, become familiar with listening and following a routine outside of our home. Plus, let’s be honest, Momma needs a break! I toured roughly ten different schools and on the low-end figures were coming in around $6,000 – $8,000 a year for two, half days a week. I’m all for early education but that is some serious cash to shell out for 7 hours a week! Eventually, I found a nursery school that fit our budget and needs for this year. It’s not my dream preschool, but we like it and it’s perfect for William’s first “school” experience.

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Where is ‘Home’ for an Expat Kid? 

On Language Barrier

 It’s not impossible to get around or enjoy Japan without speaking any Japanese. Most signs and the entire metro system are also in English. Hotels speak English and restaurants usually have an English menu or the point and nod works. Still, when you’re actually living here and say, want to return a sweater, it’s frustrating. More so frustrating because we take a language lesson once a week and I still feel like I don’t have the words when I need them.

Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the common adjustments or struggles you’ve overcome?

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Off to a new adventure, new chapter!

Relocating with a two year old was relatively pain free (aside from breaking the news to your family and friends). Our son adjusted remarkably well and now at about 2.5 is starting to grasp the concept that we have two different houses that are very far away from each other.

My parenting style hasn’t changed too much since living in Tokyo. If anything, I am much more relaxed about letting my son explore and interact with new people. We are fortunate to live in a huge city that is extremely safe, of course it’s not perfect but it’s much different from the constant “stranger danger” mentality of the States.

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On Work-Family Balance

One of our biggest challenges was adjusting to the work life balance (or lack thereof) in Japan. My husband works much longer hours than back home and it took a few months to really find a groove and get acquainted with our new normal. I think what helped the most was allowing our life here to be something entirely different from we were used to back home. New place, new routine.

What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )

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Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

I am very happy to be raising an expat kid. We have been able to show him so much of the world before he’s even turned 3! Although he may not remember all of the experiences, I absolutely believe it has strengthened his ability to communicate, problem solve and understand the world around him. An obvious downside is being away from family, with such a huge time difference, phone calls can be tough. Going home twice a year and having family come to visit us here in Tokyo is a huge help and makes the time go by much faster also. As a bonus, we’re getting really good at taking looonng flights!

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

At about two months in to living in Tokyo, I realized that making friends would take some effort. I created a playgroup via Facebook to bring together expat families within our area of the city. I enjoy planning the monthly events and love that the group members are able to network with one another. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone especially when you are all in the same boat of trying to figure out life in a drastically different place.

Thank you so much Victoria for being part of this amazing series and sharing your life with us. It is a pleasure to meet you!

P.S.

All images used in this post are owned by Victoria and TeaforDinosaurs Blog. Should you want to use it, please mention or do inform her.

Want to follow TeaforDinosaurs ‘s Expat adventures in Tokyo? Follow Victoria in her Instagram account Here and her Facebook page .

Enjoyed reading about Expat parenting story like this? If you love this post, please share it with your friends and if you wanted to share your own Expat Mama/Papa story, please drop me an email in justbluedutch@gmail.com or leave your comments below!

 

 

Postcards from Kuwait | Atop

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The cityscape of Kuwait on a clear ( dust-free) day .

Before we left Kuwait last year, we were fortunate enough to visit the Kuwait towers.This is a must-thing to do  for us since we don’t know if we would ever set our foot back in this place ever again.It’s several times already for me, a first time for my husband and my daughter. Luckily, it’s just in time for its re-opening after long years of being closed for renovation.This time, I’m more excited for my daughter to be on top of the towers and enjoy the cityscape of Kuwait.

Did I ever feel the heat up in the Kuwait Towers? No, not really. The temperature was good from this altitude and there’s Air Conditioning of course!

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On top of the 2nd spherical dome of Kuwait.

Now a 2-year old have no idea of what’s up there on top.If she love the views, I don’t know but obviously,she’s more interested in walking through the revolving deck and licking the railings.At this point, she doesn’t have any remembrance of this experience yet,but once she grow up, she can see her photos of herself being on top of the most important landmark in Kuwait, her birthplace.A place that she spent her first year of life. This place would always be special for all of us,  and to her.

The view of the Arabian Gulf from above is stunning, the promising skyline of the skyscrapers in Kuwait namely the Al Hamra Tower, the Kipco, Al Tijaria,Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) and others provides a fascinating vista on a clear, haze-free day. The typical  beige urban areas, the nature-less landscape, the tempting Aqua park beneath the towers, and the hustle and bustle of the Gulf road. These things make this area very prominent and touristic attraction.

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Up above, there’s a reflective wall where you can see yourself in a twisted panoramic view. We had fun playing with photos. It looks surreal, like a myriad of reflective glass. This is one of my favorite photos taken here. For me, It’s so different to see this place because my focus is on my daughter. I felt like it had a different meaning for me , regardless of the same scenic views I’m seeing. Like a tower, we’ve managed to overcome our struggles here, sandstorms, the heat and all. We’ve been through ups and downs in our life spent here but in the end, we surpassed it all.Now, these views are all nostalgic memories, a beautiful postcard.

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It’s not hot up in here, Mama !

As for my little Goblin, she’s only 2 but she have collected so many postcards from the top countless times already.She love all the fast elevators and steep views from all her journeys.From hanging out in the highest Rock museum in theMunich Olympic Tower, climbing the Austrian Alps, even napping through the cable cars above and marveled the beauty of the Zugspitze-Arena in Austria, enjoyed the fairy tale journey into the steep magical Burg Eltz castle, making a mess inside the Windmills, learned to step in the steep, claustrophobic Cubic houses and exploring the old ruins of castles along the river Moselle.

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Looking up to the three dominant features of this Tower.

She’s not even three and she have these views already! She have been to places before she even learned how to talk…

As for us, we continue to collect postcards, be it from the top or seen from the grounds.

 

Loved this post? If so, please follow me on Instagram to see more photos like this.

Post inspired by DP Photo Challenge | Atop

My Island-hopping with a Banca

Adventure is worthwhile.” ―  Aesop

 

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“Every man should pull a boat over a mountain once in his life..”.{ Werner Herzog}

I grew up in the second largest archipelago in the world, and with 7,107 islands with 36,289 kilometers of coastline,the sight of Banca ( Banka in Tagalog , pumpboat or  canoe ) is as common as hundreds of  typhoon-visits I’ve seen in my whole life! Although, we didn’t live near the sea, my childhood is filled with family swimming trips and beach getaways with friends. A country with tropical climate and abundance of water sports, it is very easy to indulge in the beach and explore nature through a tiny fishermen’s boat. The banca, also known as ‘pumpboat‘, which has 2 large outriggers which are usually made of ‘Bamboo‘to give the necessary stability.

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Accidentally we found another beautiful island…

Just like any firsts,  my first Island hopping experience was unforgettable, at the same time, liberating.  I said this because when you ride a banca, you will lost all your inhibitions, your sea & motion sickness , tensions, and fear of the waters will be gone. ( At least it works for me! )  Thoughts like ; ‘Is it strong enough? Will I reach alive in my destination?  or what if it suddenly sinks? ‘. Totally morbid thoughts!

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Sitting at the dock of the Bay { Soundtrack of my Life}

When you go on an adventure boat ride, it seems that the boat absorbs all your worries and transport you into another world, literally. Every move, the roaring motor sound it makes, the way that the boatman pull and start the engine, every push of the paddle and waves creates a magical nostalgia. This is how every island trip becomes special to me.Imagine owning an island for a day? Or sleeping under the stars, endless bonfires and the beach as your backdrop!

As each banca has its own personality, so as the journey. There is something so raw, exciting, and at the same time exhilarating about sitting in a wooden rugged ,slim boat where you can see the  fishes swimming, your face get wet from the splashes of the tides, and the open view of the sea that makes your horizon like  blue infinity.

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Our rental Banca during  Island hopping 

The banca is as typical as the colorful Jeepney, but  only 20 % of about a million bancas are registered. Uniquely, all of them have a name. Yes,you can recognize them in their flamboyant writing such as ‘Princess of Coron‘, Poseidon, Madonna or Seahawk. Most bancas are normally named after their owners, like the name of the hotel and resort, their son, or daughter. Isn’t nice to have a boat named after you?

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Waiting for the next destination…

I have boarded the largest sailing ‘Dhow’, the Al-Hashemi in Kuwait and explored nearby islands through a modern Catamaran, but my excitement can never surpass  the time when the wind blew over my face when I am on board in the little,skimpy, noisy, and colorful Banca. Have you ever wondered how a banca is made? If you watch the Secret Life of a Banca then you will realize how special it is.

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Unique cone-shaped bancas we used to explore the craters of a volcano

After the devastating  typhoon Haiyan, around 30, 000 bancas were destroyed, debilitating  the poor fisherman’s source of income in the Philippines. The old Banca  is being honed and re-engineered from the old model with the new through the use of fiberglass boat technology.Aside from its touristic usage, the Philippine bancas are now being built better, to empower the local livelihood and to weather the storms of the future. They are not just for photo shoots and having some fun in the islands, for the locals in the coastal areas, the banca  is the way of life and a way to live.

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Our rental banca in the midst of limestone rock mountains

If you’ve never ridden a boat, maybe the sight of a banca might intimidate you. But trust me, they are the  most reliable mode of transport to cross the sea, river, and lakes and wander through the mountains into the best-kept hidden paradise. Bancas are relatively robust if they run to ground since they have no deep-set keel or a centre board (sailing boat). But their maneuverability is relatively limited due to the flow resistance of the outriggers and the small oar blade. They are only partially ocean-going. Bancas can differ in degree of motorization, forms, sizes and colors.

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Bancas in front of the houses in the local neighborhood in Negros Oriental

I have seen smaller paddle-bancas. Children who lives along the coast  uses these boats as their playground. At an early age, they are taught to swim and  join their parents to go fishing.Poorer fishermen have only a paddle-banca but at night, they join the bigger motorized boats to catch more fish. The sailing-banca are seldom used but can only be seen in the southern regions of Sulu, especially used by Badjeros. They are famous for their colorful sails. In Boracay island, I saw bancas with blue sails docked on a bay during sunset. They look spectacular in summer!

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A beautiful day to sail

During island-hopping, the banca is usually provided and arranged by the hotel we are staying. They have their own boatman, with a guide and they are all experienced in sailing. They provide life jackets and are very flexible to our needs.While exploring the island, snorkeling, and swimming, our rented banca is just there, waiting  patiently . Everytime we hop on back to the banca, I know that the next adventure awaits.

“The sea is the same as it has been,since before men ever went on it in boats”

{ Ernest Hemingway}

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Until then…we shall sail together again.

 

Have you ever ride a small boat like the banca?

How was your experience?

If you love reading this post, share it with your friends and leave your comments. Thank you once again for stopping by and see you in my next island hopping adventure!