Leaving a piece of my heart in Chicago

I am currently in Houstan, Texas waiting for my plane ride back to Auckland. The past 7 days have been crazy hectic and exhausting, but I am so happy I took the spontaneous trip.

Two weeks ago, my mom told me that my grandfather in Chicago was terribly sick and the they weren’t sure how long he has. So my parents decided to fly to Chicago. I told them I wish I could come, but I had my exams (the psychology registration exams, probably the most important exam of my life) coming up in the next month (now it is only two weeks away). So I initially told my mom that I couldn’t make it.

I guess the decision did not sit well with me because the next day at work, I kept asking colleagues for advice even if I had already made a decision (or so I thought). It wasn’t until I told my supervisor about my situation when everything changed.

“Take it from me, family comes first.” 

In other words, go. So I did.

And while I am definitely not excited to come back to backlogs at work, papers that need to be finished, and study to be crammed, I think I am very thankful to have had the opportunity, and the push to go to Chicago with my parents to visit my family.

I did not realize how much I missed them until I saw them all again- relatives from mom and pop’s sides of the family. I did not realize how deprived I was of family connection until we got together again. You see, I did not grow up with a lot of cousins in the Philippines. We rarely saw my pop’s side of the family because some of them lived in their hometown province, while most of them had moved to the States. My mom’s half-sisters and brother also lived in the States, and while we try to keep in touch as much as we could, we also do not see each other often. And of course, when we moved to New Zealand, I had to say goodbye to family in the Philippines. We have family friends who are kind of like aunties, uncles and cousins to me too, but I guess you can’t beat the bond between the real thing. I am so happy, especially because I got to meet my baby cousins as well (children of my mom’s half-sister). I especially bonded with my two-year old cousin, and it is just so precious to be able to meet her at this part of her life. She’s so bubbly and energetic, and she keeps addressing me as ‘my cousin’ which is the sweetest thing. I love my mom’s side of the family- they are so nice to my mom and our family, that I never regarded them as half-aunties or half-cousins.

And of course, getting to see Lolo, was worth everything. We had spent a lot of quality time with them back in 2003 and 2005 when we visited Chicago, I was probably around 13 or 14. We had a roadtrip to Disneyland, and we lived in their house for a few months. It was really special. Lolo couldn’t remember us sometimes because of his illness, but when I told him about how my brothers still try to attack each other with straw wrappers, the way he taught us all when we were little, everyone swore he was trying to laugh. When I introduced myself as his granddaughter, his face suddenly lit up with a smile- and that is such a big deal because of his memory, and also because we thought his mouth was affected by the stroke. He could still smile afterall!

Mom looks so much like Lolo. She also inherited tha family’s humor. I am still amazed at how similar my mom and her siblings are in terms of their wit and silliness.

I’ll be ready to go back to work. My stress a few weeks ago when I was deciding on whether or not I should go seems to have shrunk, after this trip kind of put everything into context.




Looking back at 2015

As it has been a habit of mine, I now present my annual blog on the year that is about to come to an end. Interestingly, I’ve just looked back to the last 3 posts that summed up the last … Continue reading


The last few weeks of October have been very busy. Mostly because I was prepping (or worrying) about our second mock exams. The Health Psychology mock exams are a real test of mental and emotional strength (aside from the obvious academic exam that it is). Even my ex-lawyer classmate said she did not have to go through anything quite as hard. Day 1 starts with a 30 minute period where you can read a referral and try to calm your nerves before actually going in to the interview. After that is a 1 hour assessment interview with a patient (actor). You never know what you’re going to get. While interviewing is already nerve-wrecking enough, you must also try to forget about the fact that you have a camera with you in the room, which feeds your session into the next room where 3 examiners are watching you. After the 1 hour interview, you go straight into 3.5 hours of writing up your assessment report. You hand it in, and that’s the end of the first day…

…except it extends into the first night. See, once you hand in your report, you are given 2 case studies to research/prepare for over-night. Plus you have to make sure you brush up on whatever illness came up in the interview. You also need to have a good reflection of your strengths and weaknesses, and be sure you can justify whatever you wrote in the 3 hour frenzy. So basically you have to accomplish 3 things over-night: 1. Reflect on your interview and report (easier said than done because the second-guessing game begins here…did I say the right thing? did I miss any questions?) 2. Research on one case study that is usually in the form of another patient referral 3. And research on a second case study which often revolves around a research question. There is no rest for you. Luckily, I was the first person who did the mocks this time, which meant I started my interview at 9am and ended at 1:30pm. Last time I interviewed at 1:30pm, ended by 6pm, then got home at around 7pm. By that time I was already so tired and had little energy to do the over-night case studies. This time though, thankfully, I had enough energy to prepare…

Then comes the second day of mocks, which is the oral exam. It’s like having to prepare for the chopping board. 1 hour to present your case studies, and to get quizzed by the 3 examiners who watched you the previous day. After that, at the end of the day, they give us feedback on how we did… which is often the hardest part because by that time you are so tired already that receiving feedback and criticism can be a real challenge to one’s ego.


And I sometimes ask myself why I am doing this. Why do I put myself through this? One psychologist once said that we psychologists have one thing in common: we are very good at coping with exam anxiety. And in a way, this is true I guess, because there is no way that I would have reached this stage if I couldn’t cope with exam anxiety that well. Now all we have left is the real exam in Feb. Oh boy. At least I have a few months to keep working on my skills.

Growing can be painful. This process is particularly painful, but I was very glad to know that at least I have improved in some way.

Moving on to happier things, here are a few photos of some good things that happened during the last week.


I’ve been attending yoga classes for 3 weeks now. I’m starting to like what they call Vinyasa yoga…reminds me of our stretching routines when I used to do jazz in high school. However on Sunday morning I tried Yin yoga, which was a slower-paced stretching session coupled with mindfulness. It was good.


Strawberries!!! Strawberries often mean that summer is coming! Louis and I went to the Takapuna markets after the Rugby game (which by the way, we’ve won AGAIN! wooh! Go All Blacks!) and found stalls selling strawberries. We thought it was too early to be harvesting strawberries at this time but apparently there is a breed that likes the colder weather…it is very plump and juicy!


And here’s me enjoying a strawberry before yoga class.


An All Black Burger haha. Louis took me out to lunch after the first day of mocks because he knew how stressed out I was. It was really sweet of him, he left work then picked me up. Good thing too because it was raining so hard that day it would have been miserable going home by bus.


And here is Dan Carter, who I think is the hero of the rugby finals against Australia. I watched the game with Louis, my dad, and my brother. We woke up at 5am to watch the game live from England. Mom was up too, but she was cooking pancakes and bacon for our early breakfast. It was a really good start to the day. GO NZ ALL BLACKS! ❤