Waiting in Limbo

Recently I wrote about my final days in Hong Kong and how I am absolutely ready to start a new life in Amsterdam! Today would have been the day that I race to grab a taxi, then en route to the airport, book my flight and hop on a plane to the Netherlands, all within the span of two hours!

Or at least this was how I had it all planned out in my head…

Here is the current unfortunate situation which I find myself in: All my possessions are packed, my apartment has been spring cleaned and I have given or thrown away all my toiletries, cooking essentials and junk that I have accumulated over the last six months, so now I find myself in a barren apartment, living out of an unsettlingly overpacked suitcase.

Furthermore I have left most of the expat Facebook groups, leaving me slightly vulnerable and understandably lonely, as it is common knowledge that you do not enter a country before joining every expat Facebook group, from “Expats who read in Hong Kong – The Book Club” to “Expats who like to dance – Salsa for expatriates in Hong Kong” and you certainly do not exit these groups whilst still in the county.  In both of the above mentioned groups, I was a pillar in the community, and leaving them was done with a very very heavy heart.

Gut sitting in blue track suite, sipping what may be his last beer in Hong Kong.
My travel tracksuit, I bought especially for convenient inter continental travel.

The only slight hang up is that the Dutch Consul still has my passport and I am still waiting for them to let me know when I can pick it up with my works Visa approved.

It is actually the only factor holding me back and worst part of all is that there is nothing I can do about it.

I called the Consul as soon as I woke up, only to be told by the voice messaging service that the Consul is still closed and that they will only open at 09:00AM. This prompted me to call again at 08:30AM and also at 08:59AM, just to be told again the Consul will only open at 09:00AM.

When I called at exactly 09:00AM , my call was answered in a very thick Dutch accent by a very friendly and stern, Bianca, who I assume is not on the premises at the Dutch Consul, but actually in a call centre somewhere in the Netherlands.

Bianca requested my tracking number and after a slight pause, she told me that my Visa application has already been processed, but could technically be anywhere in Asia and there was no way of knowing exactly where it is…

She went as far as telling me that I may only receive my passport in the new year.

Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

Actually, I really believe that everything happens for a reason, and that I will leave Hong Kong exactly when it is meant to happen but this does not stop me from wanting it really badly.

My ex college told me that the secret to life is to really want something, it must be a burning desire, you really need to feel it, but if it does not materialise then you should be perfectly fine with it. It sounds rather contradictory but it actually works in perfect harmony.

With this philosophy, you allow yourself the pleasure of getting really excited about something but you also spare yourself the disappointment if it does not come to fruition.

I am always a naively optimistic, positively positive, optimist who in most cases believes that a situation will always turn out for the best, so with this mindset, the idea of getting my passport in the new year, never even crossed my mind.

I really thought that even though the Visa application process can take up to two weeks and it is the holiday season, I could still get the Visa in a couple of days, so yeah that is the naive optimism which may be shattered today but its has payed off tremendously in the past.

So here I am today, waiting in my favourite little coffee shop where I routinely bought a flat white and a salmon, cream cheese and  poppy seed bagel. This morning I deviated from my routine and bought a standard breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toast, this may well be my last breakfast in Hong Kong or it may later turn out to be my first breakfast of 2018.

Bags, shoes, outfit and skateboard stacked against a wall and ready to go.
Bags are packed and ready to go.

*South Africans

Three nights and counting…

Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, this is all that I have left before leaving for Amsterdam on Wednesday… Or at least so I hope.

I was actually planning on leaving Hong Kong a few days ago, which would have allowed me to spend Christmas in Muiden, a small city outside Amsterdam, with my girlfriend and her family in their super cosy family home.

Unfortunately my dreams of pyjamas, cuddles, Christmas treats and hot chocolate was stopped dead in their tracks before they could ever realise due to a delayed visa.

Actually it was not delayed at all, in fact it was processed in record time but in this case record time was just not fast enough.

About one month ago I was hired by Beerwulf (the lead online craft and speciality beer retailer in Europe)  as a senior frontend developer, this was amazing news.

The process would most likely have been a breeze had, I been an European citizen, but due to my South African heritage, Beerwulf had to sponsor me with a higher skilled working visa and this naturally takes some time.

The process was started a few days after I signed my employment contract and then it took two weeks for the Dutch government to grant me my work Visa. Once granted by them, I also had to follow several steps to get the process going on my side.

I immediately started with process. The first thing that I needed to do was to apply for an appointment at the Dutch Consul in Hong Kong via their online scheduling system and to my horror, the earliest appointment was for the 31st of January 2018! Off course this was out of the question as I had been planning to start my new employment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, no later than the 2nd of January.

I immediately called the Dutch consul and after several conversations, emails and a lot of pleading, I was granted an appointment 09:00AM the next morning, this was Monday, a week before Christmas.

The following morning I was there with all my documentation, passport photos and  the pleading eyes required to get the necessary assistance. In my heart I knew it would be a stretch, I mean just the fact that I was already granted an earlier appointment was already a stretch but alas, upon leaving the Dutch Consul after handing in my completed paperwork, I gave Tracy one more teary eyed look and mumbled something about Christmas alone in Hong Kong. This would surely do the trick, I naively thought.

The big thing is that they need ones passport which I handed in my passport at Tuesday 09:00AM, it then had to be shipped to the back office in Beijing, there it had to be approved, processed, examined, fraud checked and then shipped back to Hong Kong and in order for me to be in the Netherlands for Christmas, this had to happen before Friday, so like I said, “This would do the trick, I naively thought”.

After handing in my passport, I called the Dutch Consul several times over the following days, even my girlfriend called them trying to speed up the process. On Friday they informed us that my passport has been mailed back to Hong Kong but it would not be here before Christmas 😦

In defence of the Dutch Consul, they were always super helpful and super friendly but unfortunately all our calls, tears and prayers (yes we did pray) did not increase the speed at which the government official graced the pages of my passport with their tired stamps.

Hence this post and hence me still being in Hong Kong for Christmas.

So is it disappointing to still be here?

Well I did have my hopes up about spending Christmas with my girlfriend and her family and about making the big move to Amsterdam (I am packed and can be at the airport in 45 minutes) but actually it is ok… I have been invited by my (ex) manager from Palo-IT to spend Christmas with her and some friends, which I am really looking forward to and I also have time to say farewell to Hong Kong and all that goes with it.

It can be easy to forget but Hong Kong has been great and it has also been great to me and it will stay in my heart forever. ❤

Back at Kuala Lumpur airport en route to Bangkok

Little restaurant where I am writing this post.
Little restaurant where I am writing this post.

It was almost two weeks ago that I was also here at the Kuala Lumpur International airport, blogging about my final days at Suwit Gym in Thailand. Well here I am again, this time I am blogging about my final days in the Philippines.

My last week at Boracay Legacy gym went past in a blur. I contracted food poisoning and this stole an entire day from me, which I spent lying in bed, nursing my dehydration with blue Gatorade.

In six months of traveling through South East Asia, regularly eating street food and drinking water or tea from jugs on the table, I had never once contracted food poisoning. The closest that I came, was a slightly upset stomach, which was more than likely my own fault, caused by dousing my food with enough chilli to kill a small elephant.

But this time it was different… I was completely void of all energy and strength, simple movements were a real struggle and I could not stomach any food, I only just managed to keep liquids down.

It was not only me who fell ill, another trainee and one of our trainers also got very sick and their symptoms aligned perfectly with mine. The strange thing is that we were five people who ate at the same place and three of us got seriously ill, whilst the other two were fine. We may have all had different food but I cannot recall exactly what I ate.

Apart from the food poisoning, two girls, who train with me, had an official boxing match, this will be its own blog post and we had a barbecue party at the gym, also a post on its own and I also had a few final great training sessions.

So I have a lot of writing and catching up to do but right now I need to head over to my boarding gate to catch my red eye flight to Bangkok.

Impressive airport ceiling.
Impressive airport ceiling.

Back in action at Boracay Legacy Gym

I woke up feeling a whole lot better today, my energy levels were still not 100% but I was ready to train. The wind was so loud, it drowned out the roosters, that normally wake me up. I did not think that there will be beach conditioning due to the windy weather, but at 8:00 AM I got ready for it anyway.

Despite the windy weather, the group gathered and we made it down to the beach, where we had another intense session of sprints, jumps, crawls and push ups on the beach.

It was not the hardest session ever, we have had worst but I was thankful as I am still recovering from the flu.

13933228_10153771219986200_1082873407_n

13933320_10153771220026200_1331284617_n

13940096_10153771240366200_952583621_o

After the morning session Tim and I went for fruit shakes, I had a banana, peanut and chocolate shake, no sugar. Melissa who runs the little shake and breakfast shop already knows the drill, no sugar and no milk, just the fruit, some cocoa powder and ice, simple but makes for a great shake.

We were planning on doing boxing training after our shakes but training had been cancelled, which again, I was thankful for and took the time to rest before going out a few hours later for lunch.

Lunch was at our old time favourite Na-Meet, we had the usual of rice with a couple of side dishes, delicious home cooked food.

This afternoon I had an interesting training session. We did our warm ups and was immediately told to wrap our hands and put on our gloves. We were paired up with a partner and did two rounds with that partner before moving on to a new partner.

My first partner was great, he is very fit Filipino boxer, who clearly has some great experience, he gave me a real run for my money with his ducks, dodges and side steps, very good session.

After two rounds I moved on to Christiaan, with whom I did spar with before but very lightly. Today it seemed that he had some kind of score to settle up as he threw punches hard enough to take my head right off. Keep in mind, the sparring sessions are supposed to be without real power, therefore I don’t even wear a mouth guard.

So after repeatedly asking Christian to take it easy, the coaches also told him to control his punches from the side, I realised that I have to fight back. One of his weaknesses is his fitness, I definitely have the upper hand when it comes to raw fitness.

So I started dancing around him, staying out of range of his punches and just coming in close when I wanted to attack. I could immediately tell he was frustrated with my tactics as he was hell bent on hitting me even harder.

After dancing around him a couple of times and also hitting back with all the power I had, he stopped me and said, “You are hitting hard.”, I said “Yes off course!” and showed him my bleeding lip where just moments before he threw a straight punch which I could not block and the inside of my lip exploded.

The last few seconds we went very hard, it was more than just sparring, it was a personal little battle but it was still good fun. In the end we bumped gloves and moved on but I am sure that I could take him if we were to have a proper one on one boxing fight.

My third partner was Leah, yes a girl who packs a mighty punch and also knows some pretty wild combos. By the time I sparred with her, I was exhausted and barely finished the two rounds.

It was great. I think to really compete I need to take a private lesson or two which I might do tomorrow or Thursday. That is it for today, here are some more Boracay shots.

IMG_9519

IMG_9608

IMG_9520

IMG_9521

IMG_9610

IMG_9611

IMG_9612    IMG_9518

IMG_9516

IMG_9515

Boracay Legacy Week Two

This is my final week here at Boracay Legacy Gym and also my final week of training before heading back to South Africa. I have a lot of traveling ahead of me.

Firstly I will fly to Manila, from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Dubai and then from Dubai to South Africa.

It is going to be a bitter sweet journey.

I skipped two days of training as I have been ill with the flu. I have noticed a pattern in my body, when it comes to getting the flu, it seems to happen when I travel and when I train really hard. I also got the flu whilst training in Thailand and was out for a few days and before that, I whilst training for the Iron Man, in Vietnam, I could feel a flu developing but I managed to fight it off with loads of vitamin C and coconut water.

I am always very weary to train whilst being sick, as I have a vague recollection of a story told by my grandmother, that my grandfathers brother passed away at the age of 21 from a heart attack caused by over exerting himself whilst he had the flu. If I remember correctly, he played a rugby game and it was the last rugby game he ever played.

So I have no quarrels with taking a day or two off to fully recover and then go at the training harder than ever.

I can already feel that my body has almost won the fight with the flu, by tomorrow I will be back up and ready for action. I waas really hit hard with the sickness and spent the entire Saturday in bed. All the other trainees went out but I was confined to my bungalow.

One still has to eat even though one is sick, here are some of the munchies from the island:

This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.

Skewers at Namis.

Nami's skewer.
Nami’s skewer.
At Nami's you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
At Nami’s you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the  side of the road.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the side of the road.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.

 

Boracay Paradise Island Training Day Three

I want to dedicate this post to Boracay and the Philippines. I have been traveling for the last six months, all across South East Asia, and to be honest, I was exhausted.

After I finished my time in Thailand at Suwit gym, I was ready to go back home, to the creature comforts that one is use to. Your own food, your own customs and cultures, and off course your family and friends.

But when I arrived in Philippines it awoke my sense of adventure and I currently feel like I can keep traveling for the next few months, especially Boracay island, it is truly one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited.

Below are some photos of the beach where we do our strength and conditioning class.

IMG_9496

IMG_9495

IMG_9494

IMG_9491

IMG_9489

IMG_9488

IMG_9487

IMG_9486

IMG_9485

IMG_9484

IMG_9483

IMG_9473

IMG_9470

 

IMG_9469

I have been very lucky the last two days as the weather has been perfect. It is currently rainy season and apparently the days before I came, it rained none stop.

So this morning we kicked off training with a run through town, down to the beach, it was a short easy paced run followed by a quick dip in the ocean. Our dip was cut short when the trainer and the rest of the trainees arrived.

We were immediately summoned out of the ocean and instructed to go on another run along the ocean. This time the run was not easy but fast paced as the instructors edged us along.

After the run we did our warm up session followed by four sets of high intensity exercises on the beach. I counted at least five Chinese tourists taking our picture as we were frog hopping up and down on the sand. It was an intense workout but having the ocean right there is extremely rewarding, we spent at least twenty minutes afterwards just wading around in the water, allowing our muscles to relax.

Once we were done, we headed over to Melissa’s (our local breakfast hangout) for some fruit shakes and omelettes.

IMG_9472

After breakfast I was exhausted but had some work to do, so the rest of the day was spent banging away at my keyboard behind my computer screen. I was planning to go down to the beach for a swim again but I could feel that I had already sunburnt a little bit.

In all honesty, it was hard for me to go to the afternoon training, physically I had a lot of energy but mentally my mind was slowing me down. I think that because the training is so hard, my mind tried to convince me to rather stay behind the computer screen and work, just skip the training but I fought off the mental fatigue and at 4:00 PM I was back in the gym.

We did not do any radical fitness regime today, instead we just boxed. At Suwit gym the training was all about Muay Thai, at Legacy it is all about Western Boxing. Two completely different arts.

Each trainee was paired up with a sparring partner and had to do two rounds with them, before switching to the next partner, this cycle repeated itself five times making it a total of ten rounds in the ring.

Four out of my five sparring session were great fun, we took it easy, only exchanging the odd light blow here and there, as we do not spar with power, but then there was Phillip, the German, who has been training here for the last four years…

He decided to not take it easy and I ended up taking several hard punches to the face and one punch to the ribs which actually knocked my wind out. It was one of the hardest sparring sessions that I have ever had but I enjoyed it. When I touch my face I can feel exactly where all the punches hit and especially on my nose, it really hurts when I touch it but nothing permanent.

After training me and some of the guys went into town to get some dinner. We ended up having burgers and fruit shakes and for some desert we just got some sweet tea.

All in all a great day of training, my body and face is aching all over but luckily I have tonight to rest, the next session is only tomorrow morning 🙂

Boracay Legacy Training Day Two

Another day has passed in the Philippines, so that means two training sessions and my first day of doing a complete morning and evening session. Tuesday our morning beach session was cut short due to the high tide.

Needless to say it was tough, really really tough. The morning session kicked off with the warm ups and was followed by high intensity fitness exercises. Once we were all moaning and groaning, we had to to partner up and practice several different techniques during several rounds of boxing. We also did two rounds of sparring where I was beat down by an experienced boxer from the States. I am still struggling a bit with my flinch reflex but it is getting better.

Here at Boracay Legacy Gym, the focus is on Western boxing and not Muay Thai, making the training very different to the training at Suwit gym. It is very hard to compare the two places as both are very different and focus on different types of training. Both are excellent choices to do training at but it really depends on what you want to work on.

IMG_9467

IMG_9466

I almost went to bed after the morning session but my hunger kept me going. For breakfast, myself and another two trainees went down to Melissa’s which is the go to spot for post workout shakes and meals. I had just that, an avocado and banana shake as well as some garlic chicken with rice.

After the meal, I went back to my bungalow, which is both my bedroom and office,to get some work done. The bungalow is really growing on me, apart from the mosquitos and the REALLY loud geckos I could actually live in one of these. If you do not know how the geckos in Asia sound, listen here. It is amazing that such a small lizard can be so loud.

I went down to the beach for a quick swim, where I bumped into Nic, another guy who trained with me at Suwit. Nic spotted me as I was doing handstands on the beach, he saw some guy doing handstands and thought to himself, “that must be Siegfried.”

It was good catching up, he was supposed to train with us but injured his knee. It has been giving problems for the last few years and with the high intensity boxing exercise, the problems just got worst. We will be going for a run before the beach conditioning class tomorrow.

I barely made it back in time for the afternoon session. This session our fitness exercise consisted of doing a circuit of various ab exercises, jumps, lunges, push ups, pull ups and a lot more. All in all it was around 16 exercises lasting two minutes each with one two minute break in between. It was absolutely devastating but great exercise.

In all honesty, fitness wise, I could handle the exercises really well but energy wise not so much. After a few minutes into the circuits, I was completely drained but I willed myself to go on and finished with the circuits.

I will make sure to eat a banana or two before training just give my body some fuel to work with. I did eat some boiled eggs before training but I have never heard of some one eating eggs for energy 🙂

For dinner, a bunch of us went to a restaurant part owned by a trainee who does the beach class with us. The view at the venue is insane, providing you with a 360 degree view of the island. Once you see the island from this view, you realise how small it actually is.

I had some BBQ chicken, rice and veggies and washed it down with a banana/mango shake, a light beer and a bottle of water.

BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.
BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.