Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Simple Guide to Sydney Public Transit

Sydney Public Transit


If you are from LA like me, public transit isn't a phrase that you hear very often. In LA (and even Southern California in general), public transit isn't very commonly used, nor is it made to be very practical for most people. Most of us use cars to get everywhere, which is why we are one of the most congested places in the world. 

However, in many other parts of the world, public transit is not only much better, but it is much more commonly used by the average citizen. Living in Sydney has allowed me to greatly appreciate and enjoy public transit, despite some of its inconveniences it may have at times. Besides, it is a common mode of transit in most major cities of the world other than LA.

Talk to any Sydney local about public transit & most of them will say that it sucks. But I tell them that in LA, to go from the suburbs to downtown by bus (because there are not many train lines) would probably take like 5 buses and a few hours one way, whereas you can usually get by with 1 or 2 buses and an hour here. Their system is GOOD. At least, much better and easier to use than LA's. 

Opal Cards



To use any public transportation in Sydney, the easiest way is to use an Opal Card. It is a card that is used to tap "on" and "off" of whatever mode of transport you are using in the state of New South Wales. For trains and I believe ferries as well, you can only use an Opal card to get on. I don't think cash tickets are allowed here anymore, only on buses, but even then it can be a hassle to get a paper ticket on a bus. 

There are different cards depending on your age and status. There are 4 different types: 
  • Child/Youth: any kid aged 4-15 and any full-time NSW student over 16
  • Concession: university students and other people receiving special benefits from the NSW government
  • Adult: any person over the age of 16 
  • Senior Gold/Pensioner: anyone who is old enough to be considered a Senior in the state of New South Wales

You can get an Opal for free; all you have to do is "top up" the amount of money you want to put on the card. Different cards have different rates (adults pay full price fares), and so for the adult cards you can top up the following amounts: $10, $20, $40, $50, $60, $80, $100, $120. More info on other cards can be found on the Opal card website.

When I visited here for 10 days and we used public transit almost every day I was here, it costed about $30. However I stayed with friends, rode only buses (I rode the train once to go to the airport for a domestic flight), and sometimes rode in a car, so I would recommend a minimum of $40 for a 10 day stay. 


Main Forms of Transit
Buses 
This is by far the most common form of transit in Sydney! Buses are EVERYWHERE and reach most places. This is the form of transit I take every day I go to work. 




Buses have codes for the name of the bus and they always list where the route is ending with some of the suburbs/neighborhoods it is passing through. If you are heading to a major shopping mall (that is typically where buses start/end) then it will be easy to figure out where to get on, but if you are trying to get to a house or a smaller shopping center then you will probably want to download an app or use your maps app on your phone to figure out which specific route to take. 

Buses can go just within a particular city or it can stretch from the suburbs all the way to the Central Business District of the city. They are convenient in the sense that buses cross through most neighborhoods, even residential areas, making it easier to get to places. I only have one bus that runs through my street, but it stops at 3 major shopping malls and my stop is located just a few steps from my front door. 

Trains



Trains have to be my favorite form of transit! They make me feel like a city girl (after watching all the movies of people catching trains in New York City).  

They connect many of the major cities/suburbs to each other, and they run pretty frequently, running every couple of minutes during the busiest parts of the day. They are pretty self explanatory. *Fun fact: I rode a train for the first time on the Sydney trains back in the year 2000 when I visited family in Sydney for the first time!*

Ferries
Ferries run through the major harbors in the city of Sydney (with the exception of the Parramatta River in Parramatta, a city probably half an hour from Sydney city). I've only ridden on them twice and it's definitely a nice place to look out at the city from a different angle. 

From the NSW Transport website

HOWEVER, I will say that if you do tend to get seasick or dizzy from moving boats, I would recommend refraining from looking at your phone while on board, sit down, and if you can get a seat outside or near a window, do that! Also, unless you are going on the ferry at 12 noon on the hottest day of the week, it can get pretty chilly! If it's a summer night I'm not saying to bring a jacket, but it's just something to be aware of :) 

Light Rail
The Sydney Light Rail system is the last form of public transit for New South Wales, and there is only one light rail line running through Sydney. It is the tram system. 

I, personally, have never ridden on the light rail nor have I even seen them in Sydney (I have seen them in Gold Coast when we were there on our honeymoon last year). They aren't super common as far as I know, but I also do not live nor do I visit the city often. 

The line goes from Central Station to Dulwich Hill. It passes through Sydney's Chinatown and the famous Paddington Markets (kinda like a big swap meet or farmer's market) and it runs 24 hours a day, every single day.

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I hope that this helps a little bit with travel in Sydney when you decide to come out and visit! This post is not sponsored by the Transport NSW but I thought I would share some tips and basics if you decide to visit Sydney one day. You will not need a rental car and you will save tons of money this way :) 

Did I miss anything? If you have any specific questions my inbox is always open! I will be posting more Sydney travel-type posts talking about the logistics like travel and also legal aspects regarding moving here and my experiences, so if you are thinking about visiting or moving to Sydney anytime soon keep an eye out! Until then, check out my other posts about visiting/life in Australia xx



love always, Kriselle


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Top 5 Filipino Comfort Foods

Filipino Comfort Foods: sinigang, dinuguan, arroz caldo, lechon kawali, tosilog


I feel like my last few posts have been a little heavy so today I've decided to talk about something that everyone loves--food!

When you ask most non-Filipinos or even non-Asians about Filipino food, most of them will say lumpia. It's not bad to say that because of course, it is a dish made typically for parties and because most people are familiar with Chinese egg rolls, these are an easy transition into Filipino food. 

So today, I'll be talking a little bit about some favorite Filipino comfort foods :) I asked a few different groups of people for opinions on this, so I'll be posting based on the top 5 answers!

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1. Sinigang

This is sinigang na baboy! Photo credits to Casa Veneracion


This is by far my favorite food as well as many many Filipinos! Sinigang is a tamarind-based stew with a very sour taste. It's always some kind of meat with a lot of veggies. There are 5 main types of sinigang: 
  • sinigang na baka (beef sinigang)
  • sinigang na baboy (pork sinigang)
  • sinigang na hipon (shrimp sinigang) 
  • sinigang na isda (fish sinigang)
  • sinigang na manok or sinampalukang manok (chicken sinigang) 
Honestly, the broth and the veggies are my favorite part of any sinigang but my favorites would have to be the sinigang na baka (the way my mom makes it) and sinampalukang manok. The chicken sinigang varies slightly from the other versions and usually has more ginger and actual tamarind leaves in the broth which are very yum to me. 

This is a dish that is meant to be eaten with rice, unlike most stews/soups in other cultures where it's okay to eat it on its own. I mean you can definitely eat this on its own but if you're with Filipinos you will probably be eating it with rice. It's perfect for a cold or rainy day outside but honestly no matter the temperature I will gladly eat this because I love it so much. 

2. Arroz Caldo/Lugaw/Goto

This version is arroz caldo. Photo credits to ParTaste

This is a breakfast staple in Filipino households! I remember as a kid when my dad would go to the goto place to buy goto & puto (Filipino rice cake, not a Spanish bad word) for us to eat. 

This is our version of congee or porridge. There are different variations, hence the different names. We also like to top it off with calamansi, or a citrus fruit found in the Philippines. Think of it as a cross between a lime and an orange (green on the outside, orangey on the inside) and the taste is slightly tangy. It's even a popular juice in the Philippines!

Anyway, here are the variations: 
  • Arroz caldo: the spanish wording for it, but also the version with chicken. 
  • Goto: the beef tripe (stomach lining) version
  • Lugaw: the plain version with no meat. 
Usually, there may also be a hard boiled egg in it and it is usually topped with green onions. Most people eat it for breakfast or merienda (midday snack). Just thinking about it now is making me hungry, haha. 

3. Silog

This is another Filipino breakfast, and "silog" is the suffix used in the dish with the type of ulam (or meat) being the prefix of the word. Silog is short for sinangag (garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg usually cooked sunny side up or over easy). 

Tosilog, or sweet pork as the ulam! Photo credit to Ang Sarap

Main types of silog: 
  • Tapsilog: Tapa (a form of beef) as the ulam
  • Tocilog: Tocino (sweet pork) as the ulam
  • Longsilog: Longanisa (pork sausage that can be sweet, spicy, or garlicky) as the ulam
  • Spamsilog: Spam (canned pork) as the ulam 
It is such an easy and classic breakfast, which is of course why it made it onto this list! There are other variations beyond this; for example, Filipino fast food chain Jollibee has a hotdogsilog where Filipino hot dogs (they are colored red and slightly sweeter than American ones) are the main meat. We love our meats. 

4. Dinuguan

The infamous "chocolate meat," a favorite of many. Photo credit to Casa Veneracion

This is a fun one, haha. You may have heard it before or you may have heard of it as "chocolate meat," but no, it is definitely not chocolate haha. 

Dinuguan is a dark brown colored stew made with pork blood. For many people from western countries it sounds weird but you also have to remember that people from most parts of the world don't waste any part of the animal. Which, although I don't like dinuguan myself, is a great thing because as a society we waste too much already. 

Anyway, back to the stew :) Dinuguan is spiced with garlic, vinegar, and chili, along with the pork blood, so it has a tart taste, which is why I'm not a big fan of it. As a kid I didn't like it because I thought it looked nasty, but now that I'm older it's more so the taste. However, if there is absolutely nothing else to eat I will eat it with rice, which I'm sure you know we eat everything with by now. haha. 

5. Lechon Kawali

This is not exactly a "comfort food," but many of the people that I surveyed really love it for its crispiness and fattiness but also because for many, like me, it reminds us of our childhood. 

The deep fried goodness of lechon kawali! Photo credit to Choose Philippines

It is pretty much fried pork belly, known for the super crispy skin and the very fatty meat. Because it's very fatty people either love it or hate it for health reasons but besides that it's pretty delicious. It is usually served with Mang Tomas, a very common brand of lechon sauce. It's kind of a gravy, but it is much more peppery and vinegary with traces of liver in it (which I didn't find out until just now!). I, personally, don't usually use Mang Tomas with my lechon as I prefer to savor the crispy skin as it is, but most people dip their meat in it and it's delicious. Again, this is also typically served with rice but nowadays more and more Filipino restaurants trying to appeal to a more younger and westernized crowd serve it as an appetizer with no rice. 


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Okay I'm really hungry now but I hope this gave a good taste into Filipino food beyond lumpia! Which one is your favorite or which one would you try if you haven't had any of them? Let me know if there are any other foods that I missed! I might just write a part 2 to this :) 



love always, Kriselle

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When You Have to Give Up A Dream


Sometimes, giving up a dream is the best decision you could make. And you won't regret it.

I am sure that today's title is a little depressing-sounding, but don't worry, today's post will not be. Giving up dreams always suck, but for the case of today's post, it is not the worst thing, nor is it the end of the world. 

Recently, I had to give up one of the longest dreams I've ever had in life--to attend a Bible school that I discovered when I was a freshman in high school and study music (or to be specific, worship). 

Although it is not a main focus in my life anymore, one of my biggest passions I've always had was to sing. As I got older, I wanted to focus on singing in the church as a ministry instead of performing in front of crowds in an effort to become the next star. In the time of my life that I found Hillsong College, I was just starting to get involved in my church at the time and I had discovered the band Hillsong United just a couple years beforehand. Even though you should technically not be getting fanatical about a church worship team, I didn't realize that at the time and so the idea of attending a school and learning from all these amazing worship leaders sounded amazing to me. 

Unfortunately, I encountered a few issues with this: 

1. At the time, the school did not offer a bachelor's degree like a traditional college/university (although they do now), and getting a degree was a big deal to me. 

2. Tying into number one, Hillsong church is done differently than what my family is familiar with. And if I were to have gone to a school on the other side of the world to study music that is intended for church and not even get a full college degree for it, I knew that I wouldn't hear the end of it. My family pushed my sister and I very hard to get college degrees before doing anything else, especially because so many of my family members, including my mom, were not able to get them themselves. 

Long story short, I would've studied music and I wouldn't have gotten a degree, and quite frankly I did not want to deal with any backlash I would've gotten for it (and I'm actually glad I didn't go right out of high school), so I decided that I would go the traditional university route first then see from there. 

As I went through high school, although I thought about Hillsong College every now and then, it just didn't seem like a realistic dream for me, not because I couldn't do it, but it just wasn't a priority in my head anymore. Darell and I would talk about how awesome it would be to get married after university then someday go there, but we weren't being too serious when we said those things. 

However, in university, the dream started creeping back into my life. 

First, it was finding out my home church's head worship leader at the time had graduated from the school. When we attended Hillsong's first conference in LA that year, the college came up again. Then I had a friend decide to leave university for Hillsong College the year after (she's still going there and since then I've had another friend from high school go as well!). 

Of course, these all could've been coincidences, but then Darell took the leap and went for it. 

I didn't believe him in the beginning but then he went for it. It was hard on our relationship at first because I had known of so many people who went into long distance relationships expecting it to work, only for it not to work. But we made it work, and I moved to Sydney a few months later. 

So close, but so far

For the past year I have been so close, but so far. Having my boyfriend-then-fiance-then-husband as a student at my dream school surrounded me with the people and the culture without actually being a student and paying for it. I got to know a bit about the program I wanted to do and even attended the year-end showcase that first year students do, which got me really excited to go back to school! I had already gone to school for the "stable" job and now wanted to do something just for myself, something that had been on my heart for 9 years. I even applied & gotten into the school and was one day from starting my enrollment!

But then I had to give it up. 

See, we had two options: 

  • Dive in head first with blind faith that God would provide and attend the school of my dreams while also being in debt and both of us working very limited hours due to our packed school schedules. 
OR
  • I give up the dream and potentially regret it for the rest of my life but not be in a hole of debt and for the first time in two years finally give myself an extended period of time to rest and not overwork/burn myself out. 
The day before we had to make a decision, we attended church and I went down to an altar call for the first time in who knows when. I prayed and cried out to God because we honestly had no idea what to do. We could see our lives going either way. 

That night, I didn't receive a clear answer, but instead I received peace in knowing that regardless of the decision, we would be taken care of. 

The next day, Darell & I talked to admissions to see if there was anything that could've been done for us, but there was nothing. We talked out all of the pros and cons and talked to a couple people close to us about it, and it wasn't until we talked to one of our married friends that the answer finally became clear. 

He said that he & his wife had been in a situation similar to us before where they chose the debt over the "safe" route. Of course for them it was worth it and God had provided for them every step of the way but the burden they had to carry as a result put a strain on them individually and as a couple. He said although he knew God would somehow provide a way if we both chose to go to school, he also said God would honor our choices to be good stewards with the little that we did have. 



What I took away from that conversation is that God is faithful, but it's also good to be wise. We've been on edge financially for the last year so we decided it was time to go the safe route and be wise with what we had. And honestly, I feel perfectly fine. It really sucked to have to come to the reality to give up a dream I'd had for as long as I could remember, but I am at peace with my decision. I don't feel any anxiety about it.

Many times we hear of the stories of people who took the leap of faith, having nothing and everything working out in the end. And those stories are great; I don't want to minimize the greatness and faithfulness it takes to live like that... because I often live that way too.

But, I think that it is also important to recognize that going the safe route, if well thought out and not done simply out of fear, is also just as brave to do. I remember a sermon in my old youth group about sacrificing something you really want and giving it up to God and how He will see your sacrifice and honor it. He blesses those people as well.

If you are in a crossroads and are unsure of what to do next in your life but are scared of regretting your decision, I urge you to pray hard and seek deeply for the pros and cons of both decisions and also seeking why you, deep down in your heart, may want to make those decisions. I hope that you are encouraged and if you ever need to talk to someone, my inbox is always open. Until next week xx



love always, Kriselle



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

6 Months of Marriage + Wedding Photos (FINALLY!)

Last week, the hubby & I celebrated 6 months of being married! Woo! Six months isn't a lot, but it's hard to believe sometimes how fast time passes. For us especially, since we dated for so long as well, getting married was the cherry on top of many things happening in our lives last year. So to get to the 6 month mark already was amazing and unbelievable. 


All wedding photos featured are courtesy of Alexandra Burnett, who gave me exactly what I was looking for in wedding photos!


I also thought that this would be the perfect excuse to finally show wedding photos here on the blog! I posted a good chunk of them to my personal Facebook and I post couple photos of us on Instagram every now and then, but I think it's now the time to finally show a glimpse into our wedding day. 





It was a cold, rainy day in the middle of Australian winter (July 20th). Funny enough, it rained the day we got engaged too. They say that it is good luck for it to rain on your wedding day; I saw it as renewal and refreshing of us as we enter this new season of our lives. Despite the rain and our ceremony being outdoors, we made it work and it did not stop us at all.



Wedding Day makeup -- nothing too extravagant here, we were on a budget and made it work :)



We only got engaged 6 weeks prior to our wedding so it was the culmination of a very busy, somewhat rough few weeks. It was great. I won't talk too much about the process of planning the wedding because I will save it for another post, but I will say that other than it being worth it, everything came beautifully considering our low budget we had for it. I'm pretty proud of myself, hence me writing about the wedding planning process in another post :)






We got married at a Chinese garden at an aboriginal reserve not too far from where we live. It was a beautiful backdrop for our ceremony, and because we were on a budget, we later had our reception at a friend's house.












It was a small, 40 person wedding that was nothing the way we ever thought our wedding day would turn out, but it was such a special and perfect and amazing day. I wouldn't change any part of it.










We do still intend on doing some kind of wedding or formal celebration when we move back home to America in a year or so to have our families formally become one and to meet each other as well! Until then, I just want to appreciate my blood relatives here in Sydney, as well as our friends that we have come to call family as well. (BIG shoutout to our wedding photographer, Alexandra Burnett for the beautiful photos!) I will mention this again when I talk about my wedding planning process, but honestly this couldn't have been done without them.

















Friends, family, brides to be, or even just someone who stumbled upon my blog by chance, I hope you enjoyed our wedding photos! If you or someone close to you is planning a wedding, I hope you got some ideas through our photos, but stay connected with me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or send me an email if you have any specific questions, as I will soon be writing a post on planning a less than $1500 USD wedding in 6 weeks :) Stay tuned!


love always, Kriselle