Blog Post

Off to the Other Side of the World. (Living in the Philippines)

I successfully escaped the perilous tundra that was the winter of 2014 in Northern Ontario. Much like my robin friends, I am comfortable in a number of climates but tend to migrate towards giant (massive) abundances of fruit. I could probably down a few worms if I absolutely had to. Maybe.

I flew through chilly Toronto, less chilly Tokyo, barrelled through crazy Manila and finally settled down in Naguilian, Philippines. I say barrelled because the driver, (after silently praying, kissing his rosary and placing it on the dashboard,) took off like he just knew the light of god would careen all obstacles from the road, providing safe passage for us to drive at the speed of that very same light. The few hours of calm window-viewing tourism I had planned were replaced with a wild carnival of blurry bright colours, backed by a sorrowful soundtrack (sang beautifully by the driver) of brooding love songs.
image
We arrived in Naguilian. I was stoked. The sun shined bright, the motorcycles and jeepneys provided a rainbow of loud colour, locals smiled as they passed. Mango trees, banana trees, bright red tomatoes for the picking.. I made it!
I settled in to Naguilian life, walking to the market every morning to buy some fruit and observe my surroundings. I found some paper and started entertaining myself by drawing the little differences and similarities that astounded me while adjusting to daily life. So much was the same, but completely different. Shopping, walking, everything.

Fake tan

Whitening cleanser

Canadian Traffic

Filipino Traffic

Compost

Active compost

Carpooling

Carpooling Philippines

Business plan

Initiative

Shower spiders

Lizard shower

Hecklers

Gentlemen

There were so many. In my experience, in order to get help at a retail store back home you have to flag someone down. Here, you can literally feel the breath of the woman behind you waiting while you rifle through T-shirts. I had some very intimate moments while finding things in stores.

The Massacre of Sweat and Fire
After the initial doe-eyed tourist effect wore off, I began realizing that the apartment I had felt a lot more like a sweat shack. A sweat shack that could have easily and effectively been used for interrogations. The only escape I had from the heat was the freezing cold shower. My room had a bed, a plastic table and a fan. The room itself was nice and simple. The constant freeway of fire ants (three lanes of steady traffic) traveling along the edges of the ceiling was another thing entirely. Itchy, bitey, angry ants. I sought heroic assistance to reroute the ants, but they were persistent. Countless colonies had claimed that apartment as their territory long before this little Canadian showed up.
Ant attack
Brave, itchy and naive, I fought anyway. I made little circles of bug lotion around drain pipes, the shower head, windows and doors. I wrapped toilet paper around a long knife and climbed up to the high ceiling, smearing lotion across the most popular ant holes used for entry to my torture shack. I made a protective barrier around my produce and stared defiantly, crazily, at the walls. I wrapped my sheet up like a sweaty straitjacket and still woke up with new bites. What I ultimately learned was: They will find a way. They will always find a way.
I decided my time would be better spent out front of the apartment, still incredibly hot but less ant-trapped. Birds singing, dogs barking and BBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
Birds singing…. dogs barking and BBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Motorcycles driving by at 10 second intervals. Conversations become stunted when you have incredibly loud motorcycles and scooters driving by at 10 second intervals. I sucked it up and stuck to reading, eating fruit and playing 10 second bursts of ukulele.

Walk Like an Egyptian (How I lost my sanity)
First off, let me just say that I love Naguilian. I love the greenery, the adorable dogs, the random hilarious chickens and even funnier goats. I love the amazing mountain-top views that can’t be explained or photographed with proper justice. I also love the locals. I have never seen so many smiling, happy people in one place. I almost offered some of my airplane suckers to a group of adorable kids that were waving at me shyly before realizing that I was a stranger offering candy to children. I love this town.
The apartment however, I did not love.
I was located on a fairly busy residential street full of noise and activity. A quiet local, sitting where I was, might experience a few exchanges throughout the day. As it was, I was not a local and am instead a foreigner easily distinguishable by my skin colour and facial features. What started off as pleasant eventually became anything but.
Imagine living in a zoo for a month. You are a rare species, flown in from faraway lands.
Robin beast
Visitors gape at the way you can crack a watermelon open and eat its entire contents. Children point. Day after day. They don’t stay long but the zoo is open all day and the reactions are always the same. The smiles warm your heart, but most just stare at you with curiosity while you go about your day. You seek out a spot seemingly hidden behind your sweat shack to lay down but you look over only to realize that a cluster of people have gone out of their way to gather on a side path and stare at you. Alarmed, you lift your hand to wave. They only stare, talking amongst themselves in a language you do not understand.
That, my friends, is the precise moment that I lost my sanity.
Right there. Laying on the concrete in the searing heat. All of my collected frustrations gathered in to one supermassive ball of magma that proceeded to erupt out of my face and limbs. I threw myself semi-upright and began dancing around in an ape-like fashion. I scratched my head, tossed my books and ran in a circle like the animal I had become. Then, something resembling thought said “Why not?” and proceeded to do the ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ dance. I attribute my ape-dance to several things, one definitely being my own underestimation of how much heat affects the brain.
One thing I can tell you for sure is that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The Escape
Shortly after my ape-isode, I traveled to the nearby town of Bauang. I stayed in a budget resort next to the sea where I made friends with a few of the venders that would come by to sell stuff to the old and rich tourists having lunch with their adolescent Filipina girlfriends. The market (fruit! everywhere! yes!) was much further away from my base than the one in Naguilian, so…
I flagged myself down a tricycle and hopped in.
It was an amazing experience.
Riding in a tricycle is a lot like sitting in a ferris wheel cart with no seatbelt or doors but instead of going up you’re being zipped down the noisy highway. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and cheap! The colourful jeepneys are also a blast. You grab on to a bar and heave yourself inside while passing your fare to the person beside you and (traveling hand by hand) up to the driver. I will definitely miss these exciting, independently owned methods of public transport.
Transport Philippines

Where I’m at Now
I am now back in Naguilian, a nice 20 minute walk away from my old sweat shack. I wake up to adorable baby goats leaping to and fro, cows chewing endlessly and dogs chasing each other around. I eat my fruit and feed the peelings to Billy the ugly goat, we butt heads for a bit (literally) and I scratch the little space between his horns.
My conversations with newly acquired friends are still very stunted..
I like to dance kayat ko
As are some of their conversations with me..
I love you
But I’m slowly learning the dialect and making friends.. I’ll take all of the smiles I can get! Flying back to Canada in a few days, but there will always be a place in my heart for Naguilian. Driving a motorcycle down a path surrounded by rice patties, animals and beautiful greenery has been one of my favourite experiences in life so far.
I’ll definitely be back.

Happy day! Whatever time of the day it is in your town!

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How I Feel About Internet DIY Tutorials

Up at Night

DIY Mask YouTube

Simple DIY Mask, Seriously!

Simple Ingredients!

Rest Nuggets on Face

I might be over-exaggerating a tiny bit. But often enough the fact that the ingredients are so ridiculous leads me to believe that they must be really, really damned good. I usually end up on a wild goose chase only to come to the bi-monthly realization that olive oil is pretty much good for everything. I don’t need your beard trimmings for exfoliation, Clint. Damn it.

God Damn It All

Hello March!

Things I Learned in Mexico (Part I)

Upon my visits to Aconchi and Banamichi, I picked up a few useful little tidbits for you to reflect on should you decide to travel south of the states. Some I learned only after becoming so infuriated to the point where my brain flipped a sort of internal lever causing my extreme frustration to wormhole in on itself and become peaceful acceptance.
“Oh,” I said happily. “That’s just the way it is here.”

Rooster Wake Up Calls

This, I learned on my very first night. At three in the morning. Then at four-ten. Then five-thirty. The only thing you can really do with this one is try to incorporate it in to your dream, although any dream with a loud wailing screech that sounds like it’s being dragged over gravel would probably be a bad one. So maybe not.

Feels Like a Bug

This second one I also learned very quickly. You’re enjoying a book, sitting in the sunlight and listening to the sounds of nature. You feel a light tickle on your foot. You automatically think that it’s a leaf, the wind, or just your imagination, right? It’s not. It’s a “chapuline”, one of many giant mutated grasshoppers. They don’t seem to want to hurt you, but then you look over and see a massive hovering beetle-type thing checking you out as a tasty snack. This unidentifiable beetle-thing completely terrified me during my first trip. The only advantage is that it first announces itself with an ominous high and low humming sound that drowns out everything else. When it starts quietly and you think for a moment that someone is starting a machine far away, it’s the beetle thing. Run away.
A nice lady came to visit me in Banamichi with her 99% spanish speaking grandmother so I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask the girl what kind of bug this was. She was very sweet and told me it would likely be harmless and that I needn’t worry. I saw it hovering at the top of a big palm tree and pointed to it, indicating that was the one I was talking about. The girl looked at her grandmother, asked something in spanish, and the grandmother looked at me with wild eyes. She then started making angry hand motions and miming something taking a huge bite out of her arm. The girl smiled apologetically. I went back inside.

These are the first two of many useful tips I discovered, I’ll post the rest in future parts as I make them. Hopefully you are a little more prepared now than I was.

What Happens to Pedestrians During a Canadian Winter


Walking in the summer time….

Walking in the Summer TimeWalking to Car in the SummerBeautiful Day Summer

Then comes the winter….

Walking in the WinterWalking in the Winter 2Walking Past Car in the WinterWalking Past Car in the Winter 2Staring at Car in the Winter
Come on, just let us pass. I’ve had a few stare-downs this winter. It’s difficult to let your love shine out when your nostrils are freezing shut.

Sincerely, a frozen Robin.

Enter the Robin

So far nothing has exploded. This is good. I never once imagined I’d be starting up a website or using FTP and PHP code (similar to editing old myspace profiles – but on crack.) Despite this, I am here typing madly away on my computer with a copious amount of tech-gunk swimming around my noggin and surely a few new grey hairs to accompany it.

thisisme1smallerMy name is Holly Robin and I live in Sudbury, northern Ontario.  I’ve been doodling for years, from crushing crayons in kindergarten to creating elaborate paintings on pieces of foam. Instead of working in the art business, (Don’t like that drawing sir? In to the garbage it goes! Here are five more! Har har har!) I spend a lot of time doing small projects for people and making drawings for fun. I admit I use most of my free time being reclusive. If I’m not drawing then I am probably reading, playing games, writing music or eating. It’s usually eating. In an impractical world, if I could have a house made of delicious food, I wouldn’t. I would be living on the street. I would be laying in the remains of my once-beautiful home, hugging my stomach in the fetal position. My dog, Fork, would be licking the fruit juice off my face and wondering innocently why I was in my current predicament. So I think it’s safe to say I’m a regular in the grocery store. Due to the peculiar limitations I have on what I consume, (gluten-free vegan) whatever I can eat, I devour. My father once suggested that upon visiting, he could fill grocery bags full of leafy greens and hang the handles off of my ears so that I can graze all day with more convenience. Good thinking, pa. In the face of such quandaries, I have become a firm believer in that the best kind of creativity comes when you aren’t left with very many options. You might be surprised by how many delicious creations you can make with so little ingredients! I am still discovering new fruits and vegetables that I love (and some that I absolutely hate, hello daikon!) to make in dishes.

Nyaaaghhh foooooood

“Nyaaaghhh foooooood”

Obsessive relationship with food aside, I decided that I need a platform other than Facebook I can use to upload my drawings, paintings and doodles of things that I find funny, tasty, scary, pretty, etc. I don’t exactly like the idea of posting all of my little creations on some big corporation’s website only for them to be sucked in to cyberspace when some scandal causes the big guys to shut their business down. I have many things I’ve wanted to upload over the years but have hesitated due to the sketchy social networking terms and agreements. And so here we are! Everything I post (from rants to drawings of diabolical super-villain yorkies) will go on the main page, and my strange collection will .. collect.. in the Art page. I’m still figuring out how to work this thing. Don’t judge me.