Happy, Quiet Birthday

Time flies, doesn’t it? I still remember the cold winter days like they were yesterday…

It was my birthday last week and we quietly celebrated it, just me and the wife. After a toxic work week it felt like a quiet birthday weekend was long overdue. Although I must admit, the celebration was month-long considering that I have received some of my birthday gifts really early and the anticipation of the things we were about to do kept me going.

I somehow lost my wife’s little JBL bluetooth speaker so she got me this one which is big enough not to misplace it. 🙂
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We have been searching record stores and flea markets for weeks now for some quality second-hand vinyls.

Also, a few months back we got tickets to Sam Smith’s concert here in Berlin and it was just a few days short of my birthday. To be quite honest, I did not expect such a great show. He’s just adorable and a great performer and I’m glad I didn’t give away our tickets or else we would have missed out on all his cuteness. 🙂

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Then on the first day of my birthday weekend, we had theatre tickets to see Die Therapie, from Sebastian Fitzek’s book of the same name which I have written little bit about here. I really loved the book so, sadly, I already knew the twists but it was nevertheless a really good performance and I realised that I actually do like going to the theatre and will be looking out for more shows in the city.

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So on the day before the birthday itself, we checked into the Hilton Berlin. Last year we were in Warsaw and got a great deal on a room at the Hilton hotel there and just loved everything about it, especially the breakfast buffet. Since we decided to stay home this year, we chose the Hilton again mostly for the breakfast but also because I got us a room with a view at a discounted price.

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The hotel is right at Gendarmenmarkt and from our window you can see Deutscher Dom from up close. Waking up to all this was the whole point. We also had access to the wellness area and executive lounge that served snacks and coffee and wine so I can really say it was worth every cent.

We lost track of time the night before my birthday when we took advantage of the facilities of the hotel by going to the gym, then the pool, then the sauna and next thing we know it’s already late in the night when we were ready for dinner. We went out and walked around Gendarmenmarkt looking for a place that still served warm food at 10 PM and ended up at a Bavarian brewery and ate crispy Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle). Really, Keto has not been more fun than that night, indulging in what we Filipinos would call crispy pata without any guilt whatsoever.

After our dinner, we walked through Gendarmenmarkt, appreciating its stillness. The moon was bright and only few people were out considering it was a Sunday night. While waiting for the clock to strike midnight, we took a few photos.

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On the day of my birthday and after checking out, we stayed a bit longer in the area since we don’t really get to roam around there like tourists do and just pretended we were one of them. Really, I can’t even remember the last time I stepped foot inside Galeries Lafayette. Since we have been on Keto for almost two months now, we skipped the whole birthday cake thing and I chose something I get to eat even less often – oysters. We had lunch at Seaside Fish & Seafood Bar for my oyster fix and I was positively surprised. It’s the only restaurant of its kind that we’ve found in the city so far and has instantly become one of my favourites. Fresh seafood reminds me of home. ❤

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My this year’s idea of a birthday cake.

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Soon the day was over and we went home feeling relaxed and I have been receiving birthday greetings by the minute which is always a great way to spend the day.

When I got back to work doing the AM shift, the table was set with flowers and cakes and gifts, a tradition we have that I usually coordinate. But since this time it was my turn at the receiving end, I did not know what to expect. I was even scared that they will all just forget about it. This clearly wasn’t the case, though, and I was glad to be back at work again. They even made a low-carb cheesecake that suits my current diet situation. 🙂

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More greetings came in that day from my colleagues and everyone politely asked if I had some sort of celebration. I always replied that I had my peace and quiet, which I seemed to value more these days. I don’t really miss having a birthday party with food and drinks and friends and family and lots and lots of gifts, or even having to spend it somewhere far from home. I’m not saying that I will only ever be spending my birthdays like this in the future because I might want to throw a party or two at some point, but I am sure that I’d be happy to have some days like this one – just me, the wife, and a view.

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(Had my sister not broken her leg last month, she would have come to Berlin to be with us on my birthday. Not sure what our plans would have looked like then, but I’m sure it would have been a fun day nonetheless.)

The thrill of living in this city is still the same as when we first moved here almost two years ago. We get lazy sometimes but it’s satisfying to know that to avoid boredom, all we have to do is get out of the house, maybe drive a few kilometres, and we’ll see something we’ve never seen before. ❤

My experience with PCOS

In 2011 I stopped having my regular periods. It would take about three months for a new cycle, at one point I had even gone up to six months without a drop of blood. I had never been one of those women who expected their periods every 28-30 days, sometimes it came earlier but most of the time up to a week later. Still, it wasn’t until that year that my cycle has changed dramatically.

That time I thought it may not be so bad to miss my period from time to time. I eliminated the chance of pregnancy immediately (for obvious reasons), so I asked myself, what do I need my period for anyway? For one, it saved me money for not having to fill up my tampon stash for months at a time and, honestly? I don’t know of a single woman who enjoys being on her period.

But I also remember that year to be the start of the darkest and most painful time in my life and it went on for up to three more years. I was a mess.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I sought the opinion of a doctor – my first time ever to meet with a gynaecologist. I did not know what to expect. It wasn’t because I was uncomfortable talking about my female problems that I waited this long to go, but another symptom of depression is procrastination and for that reason I never really found the energy to go until that year.

My gynaecologist that time was a sympathetic woman who made sure I was comfortable. She ran some tests, including an ultrasound that gave me the chance to also see what the inside of my uterus and ovaries looked like. When we were done with the ultrasound, we were at her desk again and she grabbed a book to explain to me what was really going on. She showed me a photo of ovaries which resembled what I saw in the ultrasound. Then she showed me another one that suggested what they were supposed to look like. She explained to me that this was the reason for my irregular cycles and gave me a name for it: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

She asked me about all the other changes I’ve noticed in the past three years. I told her that it was the time when I started gaining weight (10kg in a matter of months!), and that I had been depressed – all of which, she explained, are symptoms of but may or may not be caused by PCOS (the weight issue, though, was likely caused by PCOS because of its drastic gain and the inability to lose weight despite of my humble attempts at dieting and exercise).

At this point I was worried about what this really means for me. Will I have to take pills? Change my lifestyle? Can this lead to other, scarier illnesses or diseases? No, yes, yes.

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Forgive me for not finding the real source of this image but I really do think it’s the best visual representation I’ve come across so far.

Because I said right on that my plans for the future do not include bearing a child, she said there was no need to try to correct this with the use of pills and regular monitoring. What I could do, was try to eat less carbohydrates just to help reduce the symptoms because my body can’t handle high levels of sugar. Exercising, she said, is of course always recommended but I should manage my expectations because it will be much harder for me to actually reach a physically fit status than it is for others. The risk of diabetes is very high, also considering the fact that both my parents have it.

She couldn’t give an explanation as to why I have PCOS. She said that about 20% of women have it and there is no actual cause, it just happens. It was frustrating, of course, it still is, because it’s not exactly satisfying to hear from a doctor that there is no cure for what I have. It felt like I had lost total control of my body and and it’s hard when you can’t blame it on anyone or anything, not even yourself.

It’s been years now since that first visit at the doctor’s. Since that time I have had some semi-regular periods for months at a time (about every 30-40 days) but every now and again I still have to wait up to 4 months for the next flow. Exercising, as I have been warned, has been extra exhausting given that I don’t get the results I am aiming for at an average pace but I try not to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to that. Dieting, on the other hand, has been the trickiest part. I was confused by how I was supposed to lessen my carbohydrate/sugar intake when I was pretty sure I was consuming much less than the average person. You will not find sugar in my coffee or tea and I drink soda only on rare occasions. I would only ever use sugar in baking but when do I ever have the time to bake? And unlike most Filipinos, I never felt the need to have rice with my food every time I eat and I can go months without a serving of rice. Same with potatoes, pasta, and other high-carb staples and I’ve always preferred dark bread over white which I believed at that time to be a better alternative. It was so confusing and I did not know what to eliminate from my daily intake when I know most people feel fine eating all this food and more. But I am not like most people. Not anymore after hearing the truth.

Right now I have finally come to a stage where I have accepted my fate and decided to take back control over my body. I understand the risks of PCOS for my health while I age and the best I can do now is to become aware of these and try my hardest to prevent them from happening. My primary goal right now is to get my period every month as a proof that I have been doing all the right things. I am fully focusing on my nutrition now more than ever and I am excited for the results!

I will be creating a separate post soon to elaborate more on my trials and errors in having PCOS focusing on diet and nutrition. As I am writing this, I have been on a low-carb high-fat diet for four weeks which I intend to keep up for a couple of months before reintroducing some good carbohydrates into my body.

Although PCOS is common, I don’t get to talk to a lot of people who also have it so I’d love for you to share your experiences with me and maybe we can get through this together! 🙂

Not a Travel Blog – Here’s my life nowadays

I know… Shocking, right? I just scrolled back through my last five posts and all of them are travel-related. Well, I really don’t want to give out the impression that all that I do (or at least all that is worth mentioning) is travel. It’s really not. And even if I had the money to do just that, I don’t think I would because that will just remove the excitement from it all. Don’t you think?

I was at my sister’s 30th birthday party the other weekend and witnessed a packed pub filled with her guests, all of them are people close to her. I didn’t even know most of them, some I’ve never even heard about. I realised that by the time I turn 30, it will be unlikely that I throw a party like that. By that time, I will have been about just as long here in Germany as she is now but I’m just sure I will not even know that many people let alone be close with them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for her and for her eventful social life and I have long accepted the fact that I am not the outgoing and friendly one in the family – probably also because growing up, I did not have much of my own friends until the time I got to school and I usually just tagged along whenever my sister wanted to go out with her friends because she wasn’t allowed to go unless she brought me with her. Sometimes I still find it easier to befriend her friends than making my own. Trust issues? Probably.

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But first, check out this unicorn fondant cake my cousin and I made for sestra’s birthday.

Now, getting to my point: I am at a time in my life where I am actually truly happy. My marriage is doing well, I have a job that I love, I get to spend time with the few good friends that I have here, and I live in this vibrant city with a lot of opportunities to be a more open and better person. So I guess, for my own standards, my life is pretty exciting as well.

You see, traveling is not the only exciting thing in my life, but rest assured it’s the one thing that inspires me the most to do everything else. In fact, I have just started an A1 language course in Spanish which I am really stoked about! Every Monday and Wednesday evening I go for a couple of hours to the community college downtown for fast-paced lessons in Español. It took little convincing for my employer to give a little more flexibility on my work hours on these particular days (because I work shifts) – I told them I intend to use this foreign language for work as well so I hope I learn fast.

So why Spanish? When I was 12 years old, I’ve found some of my father’s course manuals which he had bought back when he took a language course himself. He’s never finished the course but he was happy when I told him I wanted to pursue it. I had been to Spain myself, and the goal is to go there or to any Spanish speaking country at least once a year. This is something I had kept up since 2015 and this year in December we’re going to Tenerife. It will also be my first time flying with the airline that I work for, finally!

Just the day before my first Spanish class, we were on our way back to Berlin from Bonn and I asked the wife to make a stopover in Kassel for documenta14, an exhibit I had been wanting to go to for months that was about to end. The most significant exhibit on this year’s event is the Parthenon of (Banned) Books, which is a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, covered in thousands of banned books from all over the world.

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And because the exhibit was nearing its end, they started giving away the books on that very day and I picked up one of the many copies of El Príncipe. There were not many options because they only put out a limited amount and most of them were copies of the same book but it felt like a good omen to me because it’s in Spanish and, who knows, maybe about a year from now I will be able to read and fully understand it!

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Coincidence? I think not!!!