October kicked my butt

I can’t believe October has come and gone! It totally kicked my butt. After the short Chiang Mai trip, I went home for a couple of days to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. She didn’t want a big party so the three of us (together with my brother) had this fancy meal instead:

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Annnd then I got swallowed whole by work. I was super, super busy the past few weeks for a project. So I wasn’t able to do any blogging even though I wanted to. I was still able to read and I’ve been updating both Instagram and Litsy because I’m always online on my phone and it’s much easier to update stuff on those social networks that on my blog. But I miss blogging! So hopefully I’ll be able to work on some posts in the coming days (I said that before the weekend started and Monday is here and I’m still in the middle of this post). Let’s see how it goes. 🙂 I need to do a separate post about Litsy to talk about how I’ve become addicted to it. If you have Litsy, let me know! I’m Chachic over there. For book-related updates, this is my current read and my most recent purchase:

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I also bought these ebooks but Litsy posts can’t be embedded on WordPress so I could only link for now. Okay, I need to wake up early so I’m going to bed soon. Read any good books lately? Bought any titles that you’re excited to read? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

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Sense of Belonging

My smoked duck salad dinner while working one evening

My smoked duck salad dinner while working one evening

It has been a couple of months since I made major changes in real life and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. When I first moved to Singapore back in 2012, I had a very hard time adjusting to living in a different country for the first time in my life and being away from family and friends. It was one of the most difficult experiences that I’ve been through but I have no regrets because I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully, I’ve also grown both on a personal and professional level. When I made the transition to a new job a few months ago, I thought it would be easy to settle into this role. I figured that I’ve adjusted well enough to living in Singapore, and my new job is in the same industry as my previous one. I should have expected that in life, anything new would required an adjustment period! I have been trying to understand why it hasn’t been easy, and I don’t think it’s because of the company, the role, or even my co-workers (everyone has been as polite and professional as they can be). I realized that I can’t really say that I’m happy or comfortable in my current role (yet) because I don’t feel like I belong. Kind of like my presence doesn’t matter because I’m not making a relevant contribution (yet), which leads to feeling insignificant and lonely. This reminded me of a passage from a book that I loved, Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer:

“I can’t be the only one faking it. I’m not the only lonely small-town girl drowning in this big city. I’m not the only refugee feeling invisible and alone. I’m not the only one who wants to scream, “NOTICE ME! I MATTER!” Maybe everyone is faking it. Maybe they’re just better at it than I am.”

I know I matter! And I hope that I would start feeling like I do matter professionally in a few more months. I’d like to think that every newbie feels weird and awkward in the first few months, and that will change as time passes. A physical place where I would always feel like I matter is back home in Manila because that is where I’m the most comfortable and where I always feel like I belong. Virtually, I definitely feel a sense of belonging in the book blogging community. I feel like I’ve carved out a niche for myself, and I’ve found people who not only enjoy reading as much as I do but also read the same type of books that I love. I’m definitely not a famous or big time book blogger but it makes me happy to know that there are people who enjoy having bookish discussions with me and there are people who ask me what I think about books before they decide whether to read it. I have way more posts than followers on Instagram but I have a lot of fun taking bookish pictures, and friends have mentioned that they like seeing what I come up with. I’ve had authors respond to tweets or blog posts or emails, and that’s something that never gets old. I find myself lucky that I can even consider some of them friends, because we’ve had enough interaction to get to know each other. I’ve met so many lovely people in this community, and I still keep meeting more! With everything that’s happened in real life, it hasn’t been easy to keep blogging, tweeting or bookstagramming but I will keep doing all of those for as long as I can because I would miss it too much if I stop. I would miss the sense of belonging, the camaraderie, the blog comments, and the book recommendations. While I’m a firm believer of keeping blogging fun and not forcing myself to write a review or a blog post if I don’t feel like doing so, I will do my best to make more of a conscious effort to be an active blogger. For now, I’m here to stay because this is where I matter.

V.E. Schwab Book Haul

I survived my first week at the new job! To reward myself, I went to the bookstore and bought two books from this shelf… can you guess which ones they are? 🙂

Kinokuniya bookshelf - taken with Samsung S7

If you guessed A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab then you’re absolutely right! I keep hearing good things about both books from friends so I’ve been wanting to check them out. I know I keep saying I need to buy books in ebook format to save space, but the Kindle editions for these are still pretty pricey, and the UK paperback editions cost just a few more dollars so might as well get physical copies for the prettiness.

V.E. Schwab books

I hope I get to read these soon. Although I’ve heard that the second book ends on a cliffhanger. Maybe I should have waited for all three books to be released before getting the series? Oh well, too late now. 😛

As an aside, I finally switched from a Samsung S3 to an S7 Edge. The bookshelf pic above was the first one I posted on Instagram using the new phone. I got my old phone when I first moved to Singapore and had it for almost 4 years. I’m loving the upgrade, including having a way better phone camera. So expect nicer shots from me!

In transition

I took an unexpected blogging hiatus the past few weeks. A month ago, I wrote about some huge changes that were happening in real life. I can’t believe it’s been a month! I apologize for the radio silence but a lot of things have happened since then. I got a job offer, accepted it, finished serving my notice period, had farewell lunches and dinners, took care of all the paperwork, booked a flight home and now here I am in Manila. That’s a lot of adulting in a span of just a few weeks. I was telling my previous co-workers that sometimes, it still amazes me that I’m able to handle adult stuff on my own. 😛

I’m spending a few weeks home until I start my new job in early June. Being home is always, always a good thing. But everything still feels so surreal, like I can’t believe I’ve really left the job I’ve had for almost four years and I’m starting a new one when I get back to Singapore. The new company has applied for my new work visa and I hope everything goes smoothly with that.

So, so, so. That’s just a quick update on real life stuff. I’m hoping I’d get more reading and blogging time while I’m on vacation. Although it’s also hard to find time because I’m busy running around to meet friends and family, and also to go shopping and buy things that are either cheaper here or not available in Singapore. I check and update Instagram and Twitter regularly so if you have accounts on those sites, we can always interact there. 🙂 And as always, if you come across books that you think I’d enjoy reading, feel free to recommend them!

Real life update

Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog because I’ve made some big decisions over the past week. While I usually only mention real life stuff in passing over here, my blog does get effected by major changes. The big announcement is that I’ve resigned from my current job. I like to keep my blogging and my professional life separate so I still won’t go into details about my job here. But I’ve had the same job for a little over three and a half years, ever since I moved to Singapore in August 2012. This is not a sudden decision on my part, it has taken me months and endless conversations with family and friends to get to this point. I’ve thought about it long and hard, weighed the pros and cons and everything. It’s not even an entirely happy decision because there’s more than a little bit of sadness mixed in. But I think it’s a good decision, and will hopefully lead to good things for me. The main reason why I chose to go is that I’m no longer happy where I was, for various reasons. I didn’t want to let inertia settle in and just keep doing the same thing because I was comfortable. I’ve decided that I’m ready for a fresh start!

I will be staying in Singapore until I finish serving my notice period, and I can stay another month as a tourist after that. I’ve already started the job hunt here in Singapore, but haven’t found anything yet. I’ve been having a few conversations but nothing concrete has materialized. If I can’t find anything here then I’m fine with going back home to Manila. I can take a bit of a break before starting the job hunt over there. I’m waiting to see how things will unfold, and of course, I’ll share any major announcements if there are any!

Interestingly, I had a job interview this week and I mentioned my blog when asked about what I like to do during my free time. I don’t think I’ve ever done that in an interview before because like I said earlier, I tend to keep my professional life separate from my blog. Maybe I’d say I’m passionate about reading and I enjoy having discussions about books, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned having a blog. That I post book reviews, participate in online events and reach out to authors and fellow readers all over the world. I decided to bring it up because a good friend said that it’s a great idea to talk about my interests and the things that I do outside of work because those activities also show that I have drive outside of the workplace. Because I’m not being paid to do all these things and yet I put in so much effort because I enjoy doing it. So I should keep doing that in future interviews.

The past week has been very tiring so I’m just trying to have a quiet weekend to recharge. Just catch up on chores and read something good. I’m also hoping I can squeeze in a review but let’s just see how it goes. Hope you’re all having a good weekend so far!

Making the Move – Part II

When I first moved to Singapore a little less than two years ago, I did a write-up of the bookish aspects of the move. I’ve moved to two different flats since then, but there weren’t big changes involved in those so I didn’t feel the need to give an update. This time it’s different and you’ll find out why in a bit. Just to give an overview, property is insanely expensive in Singapore so rent is my biggest expense per month. Studio or one bedroom flats aren’t very common here so people tend to share flats. Ever since I moved here, I’ve always rented one furnished room, which includes a bed, a closet, a desk and a chair. The first two flats that I stayed at had three bedrooms while my current one has four.

My first problem in moving was how to transfer the books from one place to another. I thought I didn’t have that much stuff so I decided not to hire movers and just put all my things in a cab on moving day. I thought boxes filled with books would be too heavy for me to carry so I put my books in suitcases instead. I managed to fill one large and one small suitcase with books. I was a little surprised that I had so many books because I haven’t been buying a lot of paperbacks or hardcovers since I moved to Singapore because books are pretty expensive over here. The books that I have here are mostly books from Manila, my US trip last year and some that I’ve received as gifts or review copies.

I was pretty lucky that the previous two rooms that I rented before had bookshelves, so I didn’t have to worry about where to put my books. However, the room that I moved into doesn’t have bookshelves. I thought about just getting clear plastic boxes to store my books in but when I got to Ikea, I found out that they have some affordable bookshelves. Getting several plastic boxes would have cost just as much as one bookshelf so I decided to just get the latter. I ended up buying Trysil drawers (to keep sheets, towels and clothes in because surprise, surprise, I didn’t have enough closet space) and a Billy bookshelf. That was the first time I’ve ever bought furniture from Ikea because I have always been worried about accumulating too much stuff that it would be difficult for me to move around in Singapore or to move back to Manila. But hey, I needed storage space so I went ahead and bought these. Although I had minor difficulties in putting these furniture pieces together, I still thought it was a lot of fun:

Moving - Trysil and Billy

I was pretty happy when I was finally able to unpack my books:

Moving - suitcase to shelf

I chose just the right size of Billy for the number of books that I have:

Moving - filled bookshelf

Aside from the Ikea stuff, I am now also the proud owner of a used armchair. I’ve always wanted to have my own armchair because it seemed perfect for reading. So when I found out that the owners of the flat were selling a one-year-old armchair for less than half the original price, I went ahead and grabbed it. Ha, even if it’s cheaper than a brand-new one, this armchair cost more than both the bookshelf and the drawers. I’m making good use of it though – I’ve curled up to read on it and I’ve also fallen asleep while reclining.

Moving - armchair

As you can see, my reading corner gets a lot of natural light during the day. But on weekdays, I do most of my reading at night and the light in my room isn’t bright enough for reading. I bought a book light but it gives up on me after 30 minutes or so. I thought about buying a stand lamp but I think they’re quite pricey at around SGD60 (USD47, PHP2131). This is why I’ve considered buying a Kindle Paperwhite even though my Kindle Touch is still in good shape. I’ve heard rumors that there will be a new version of the Paperwhite that will be released this year so I’m thinking of just waiting for that. In the meantime, I’ll make do with the desk lamp that I have (I have to prop it up on my lap when I’m reading on the armchair).

Quite a lot of changes from my previous room with the light situation as the only big problem. I’m open to suggestions if any of you can think of a solution. Also feel free to share your own stories about moving from one place to another and how that affected your life as a reader or book blogger.

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Edited to add:

I forgot to include pictures of what the wall above my bookshelf and desk looks like. I taped some scrapbook sheets, gift wrappers and a calender of The Hobbit, which I received as a gift last year:

Moving - scrapbook sheet walls

Here’s a closer look at the scrapbook sheets because some of them are book-themed:

Moving - scrapbook sheets 1

Moving - scrapbook sheet 2

I love this clever play on periodic table elements.

I love this clever play on periodic table elements.

Last but not the least, here’s The Hobbit calendar:

Moving - The Hobbit calendar

Making the Move

I realized that I really haven’t talked about what it’s like for a reader and book blogger like me to move from Manila to Singapore. I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time on that topic. One of the biggest advantages to moving to Singapore is I now have access to a good public library. I’ve never had that before and I keep taking advantage of the fact by borrowing books that I’m interested in even though I don’t have the time to read them. I keep returning unread books. I used to go to the library every weekend and I would put up a book haul post of what I borrowed but I’ve stopped doing that because I don’t always end up reading the books that I mention. Also, the Singapore Public Library is active on both Twitter and Instagram so it’s a lot of fun to connect with them over there.

Library November 18

The downside is that books in Singapore are a lot more expensive than books in Manila. I don’t know why that’s the case because the editions are the same – some are US editions while some are UK editions. It’s not like in Australia where they publish local editions for the books. I think the prices are on par with Aussie book prices though: about SGD 25-50 (PHP 825-1,650, USD 20-40) for trade paperbacks and hardcovers while about SGD 15-30 (PHP 495-990, USD 12-24) for mass market paperbacks. I miss being able to afford books. When I was in Manila, I would regularly visit Fully Booked to buy books whenever there was something that I wanted. Or I’d drop by the store while they’re having a sale because 20% off books is a good deal. Here in Singapore, I do wait for bookstores to go on sale but even with discounted prices, books are still cheaper in online sites like the Book Depository. This is why I splurge and buy books like crazy whenever I go home. Also, I keep grabbing books off my own bookshelf back home. I try to squeeze in as many unread books that I can in my luggage.

Singapore book prices

Aside from book prices, I also miss hanging out and chatting about books in person with fellow Filipino Book Bloggers. Book bloggers and readers are active about discussing books back home in Manila. I haven’t had a chance to meet Singaporean book bloggers or readers yet. I do chat with Liyana of LiyanaLand on Twitter from time to time and I hope we can eventually meet in person. Although now that I think about it, work keeps me busy and there’s usually something that I have to take care of during week nights and weekends so I’m not sure if I could participate as actively in the real life bookish scene as I did before. The rarity of my posts here on the blog is proof enough that I don’t get to read and blog as often as I’d like.

These are the major changes that come to mind when I think about my move. What about you, have you had to make adjustments as a reader and a blogger when you move from one place to another?