Sunday, December 25, 2011

Life and celebrations in between

So it's been a while since I've updated, and to be honest, I haven't really had the urge to write. It's because of oh so many reasons...It's been a rough little while that really prevented me from wanting to share such a terrible and blah period in my journey. I fell into a bit of a depressive funk - one that was made me so gray and blue that it felt like a haze and I was idly walking through a thick fog of sadness that wouldn't lift. But the great thing about life is that eventually by hook or by crook, whether you have to claw your way out of it or just let enough time pass - everything gets better again. Unfortunately I woke up about 8 lbs heavier!


I missed the season of the Scorpio. It's my fave cause generally I love celebrating birthdays. A party just to celebrate the day you came into the world?! Done! But admittedly  this one was a struggle for me. Ever since I was 15 I always thought 32 would be the age that I'd be settled, have a partner and maybe starting a family...Somehow being thousands of miles away from friends and family while continuing my world adventures was not where I thought I'd be. Don't get me wrong - I am extremely blessed to be in this position and it is a path I chose, however, that doesn't mean that the transition from a carefree traveller to a corporate job, the death of several loved ones, being homesick and trying to make huge decisions about where I'm going to live weren't going to get me down. I tailspinnedand have been fighting my way out of for the last few months.  During that time I was pretty anti-social and boring. Shocker I know but it is known to happen everyonce in a while. And like all things in life, time eventually heals most wounds.  

This birthday also ended up being the most chilled out one. A Billion thanks to the FB greetings I got. Oh the most amazing bouquet of flowers and wine that my sexy twin, Chrissy Benz sent me.  Daryl flew in from Sydney and played best friend while I did the tourist guide thing/food thing actually. We took the fast ferry up the river, had drinks on a beautiful patio overlooking the river, went for a walk in the scenic South Bank, saw the views of the city up Mount Cootha and had dinner with a few other friends at one of the local steakhouses. We basically ate our way through the weekend, and spent my actual birthday at the Gold Coast with a yummy picnic and a swim on the beach. We had a great picnic of different types of cheese, salami, smoked salmon, mussels, fresh fruits, bread and crackers and Jo brought a chocolate cake. Later at night a few other friends came over with some wings and cider. There were no endless shots, no "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous Dirty Thirty" themed party. Yes, I felt I suppose life happens, but I just wasn't expecting to wake up actually feeling older...

Celebrating with friends in the Gold Coast.

She said - Be birthday sexy...this is unfortunately what we came up with. 

I got this bouquet from Chrissy at the office! Best surprise ever! 

Australian/Canadian/Japanese sized block.

CHRISTMAS = Summer?! Huh?

The holidays...I have to say, it definitely does not feel like it's almost Christmas here. In fact it's the least Christmasy place I've ever been!! And that includes living in an Arab Islamic country! There are hardly any decorations. There is no insane Christmas traffic because of shopping and there is definitely no "Oooh, will it be a white one this year?" when it's 32C and 80% humidity. Not being a huge fan of the season, at least I'm spared the endless Christmas carols that inflicts the rest of the world. Of course as I'm typing this the Bach choir started singing one in the Business lobby.  Ha.

I'm so ready for 2011 to be over and so ready to bring on 2012. This year has been the best and worst year of my life - filled with many ups and it's fair share of downs. I've spent the holidays reflecting and working out (hoping not to be lazy). 

Pros- No exhorbanent spending on pressies. And I shouldnt gain weight because I have to go to a zillion gatherings and parties (not quite true it seems). 

Cons - It's weird not having a "real" Christmas.  And yes, I kinda wish I was at at home bitching about how stressful it is and having to figure out my schedule could possibly fit in so many events. 

Actually, the reality is that I got into the spirit of it all on Christmas eve. We started out the day going to the Farmer's market to buy fresh goodies to cook, started drinking at noon and had the best "Orphan's Christmas dinner" - prawns, roasted lamb, veggies, chocolate oatmeal cookies with ice cream, copies amounts of champagne and ciders. The table was decorated and we had crackers with the hats and watched Love Actually and A Christmas Carol. It was a great night of feasting and drinking with friends.

Santa in boardies and a surf board. That's how he rolls  here.

Yummy yummy in our tummy.

We tried...

Mixed matched perfection.
HOMEBOUND...just for a visit...

I may not be there for the holidays but I will be HOME in the New Year!!! Yay! I can not even begin to explain how excited I am to see everyone!!!  Goal? Try and see everyone that I love. 

Here are my dates: 

Jan 5 - 11 Melbourne - I have to explore that city! 
Jan 12 - 17 Vancouver - quick catch up with everyone
Jan 18 - 24 St. John's - Must remind Kalli and Dean that I'm the coolest Tita Ynah in the world!
Jan 25 - 28 Toronto - See the old university crew! It's been way too long.
Jan 29 - Feb 27 Back home to Vancouver. Somewhere in there will be trips to Whistler, Kelowna and probably Seattle! I run a tight ship. I'm pretty determined to see everyone I love in the regions that are feasible driving distances. 

*** I take advanced bookings and reservations for quality Charina time. Alcohol is not a requirement but it'll be a BYOB affair or will take place at some fave restaurant that I desperately miss! 

Plans for the New Year? Usher in a new Era. As much as I've enjoyed my time here in Brisbane and the friends that I've made, I'm really looking forward to being home, figuring out if Melbourne is better suited for me, exploring where I belong, looking for opportunities that are right for me and continuing my journey.   

Like a bird's view of freedom and peace
in happy blue skies;
I wish you the haze of 40 proofs,
the clarity of smoke-filled roofs,
and the pleasures of senseless nights.
Enjoy the fortunes of seasons
and the joys of new turnings.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!! May 2012 bring you health, wealth, happiness and love.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Best Reunion for the Saddest Occasion - My Eulogy for Nanay.

I'll miss those cuddles forever. Nanay 1920 - 2011.
The last little while has been a very intense and thought provoking time for me filled with all the emotions of loss pervading all facets of my life. I feel that I'm unfortunately getting to know the process of grief a little too much right now - the not so up moments, its downs and everything in between where in a fleeting moment it feels like you're going to be ok and fine, right before another emotion grips you into the throes of sadness or anger or resentment. To be honest, it's terrible. It absolutely sucks and I'm exhausted and I certainly don't enjoy being all over the place. I despise not being able to trust my own reactions to things - I hate, hate feeling this way - the emotional vulnerability and the rawness. I thought it'd be over now but it's not. I am impatient. I am angry. I have the shortest fuse I've ever had and I'm still crying at a blink of an eye. I feel unbalanced, unstable, homesick, sad, lonely and I have the frustration of not knowing what to do with myself. I know it's a phase and it too shall pass but I really would like to feel like myself again. Thankfully, I do have an amazing support system around the world and I am truly appreciative of that.   

One of the things that I am very thankful about is making the last minute decision to go to the Philippines for Nanay's funeral. I bought a ticket at 4pm on a Saturday for an 11:45 pm flight bound for Manila and 15 hours later I was with my family. It was one of the most whirlwind weeks of my life. Although it was a tremendously sad occasion, I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to reconnect with my family (BFFs included). There was certainly lots of tears but there was boisterous laughter as well.  It's those tight comforting hugs, the loving shoulder to lean on and the smiles that come with reminiscing fantastic memories that are truly priceless. We were all very close to my grandmother. The loss is simply devastating. However, like two sides to every coin, it was also the most touching and heart warming reunion for us as a family. I would not have traded anything in the world for those moments. 

I was given the difficult task of eulogizing Nanay and as promised am now posting it since between my apparent inability to hold the mic close enough to my mouth, the construction work outside the cathedral, my incoherent sobbing and difficulty breathing - most people did not hear it (yes, I can finally laugh about that now). 

Our hands - can you actually tell which hand is mine and which is Nanay's?
She loved taking pictures with the iPod.  
Ya think maybe I took after her a bit? I hope I'm like Nanay at 90 - Loved and still looking goooood!
Best back scratcher ever!
The day Nanay found out she doesn't like wine! LOL!
Her legacy = Our Family (not all are present here but all are definitely loved).
The Santos/Lamucho/Cruz cousins 

She'd have been happy we were together and smiling.
*** The Eulogy ***

Gusto ko ho magpasalamat sa inyong lahat (I want to Thank you all). Your presence, well wishes and prayers are truly appreciated. On behalf of our family Thank You all for being here with us. Today, I would like to honor Nanay's memory by sharing what she meant to us, our precious memories with her and most importantly by celebrating the life that she lived. Words can't describe how much we will miss Nanay. It is truly one of the saddest days to lose someone you love so deeply, admired unfailing and to us, the epitome of everything good and fair and beautiful in the world. 

Before Nanay was our Nanay, she was a Reyes daughter, a caring sister to her 12 siblings, a good friend, a supportive wife to Tatay, a loving mother to her daughters, my mother Thelma Cruz and my Tita Vicky Lamucho. She was the best grandmother to us, Charmaine, Cheryl and me, Charina, to Sunshine, AJ, Dindo and Moonbeam. And ultimately sa kanyang mga apo sa tuhod (to her great grandchildren) si  Marshall, Dawson, Dean, Kalli, Cheyenne, Aili, Jaiden, Jed, AM, and Sky. 

Nanay means everything to us. She is our one. She is our all. We are who we are because of the love she gave us and values she taught us. Somehow, she was always there for us - through the most difficult times in our life, our challenges, hardships, heartaches and specially through all our times of happiness and triumphs.  She was our supporter, our cheerleader, our rock. She was extremely loved by all of us and most of the time nagkukulitan kameng mga pinsan kung sino ang pinaka faborito at mahal ni Nanay (The cousins would all tease each other about who she loved the most). She would always say, "Mahal ko kayong lahat" (I love you all). Nanay was always so fair. Masyadong fair nga eh (Too fair in fact).

Imagine ha? Kilala nyo ang mga familia namin (You all know our family). Meron sensitive, may happy go lucky, may poet and artist, may mga strong willed and matapang, may mga tahimik at mahiyain (quiet and shy). Pero si Nanay - Pinalake nya kameng lahat (But Nanay, she raised us all).  She was the rock that stabilized the foundations of our family.  She was our protector and the glue that made us strong. Nanay was magical because she managed to love us all in a way that was exactly what we needed. Ang galing nya (She was amazing), because she always knew what to say and do to make the world right again.   

Among many things, She was also loving, funny, wise, supportive, giving, kind, thoughtful and truly selfless.  Lahat ng puwedeng niyang ibigay binibigay nya (Everything she could give she always did). She lived her life with admirable grace and dignity. Nanay was a woman of Faith.  Of Compassion. Forgiveness. Of Gratitude and most impressively of  tremendous STRENGTH. She has been and will always be our beacon, our moral compass and a source of strength and love that will never be forgotten and will always live in our hearts. I believe that she will always be there to guide us in spirit and in love.

To me, she was honestly the perfect Grandmother - Nanay was very traditional in a non-conventional way. She was a devout Catholic who let us be spiritual in our own way. She was fearless and brave. She had the best perspective on life. She taught us to have a zest for living, to take things with grace, pride, humility and face life with a smile and hope despite whatever trials or tribulations may come your way and to have faith that God will provide. Ang favorite saying nga ni Nanay was "Bahala na ang Dios." (Her favorite saying was, It's up to God.) We thank God that he blessed us with Nanay, that she lived a good life and that  He ultimately took her painlessly.

Her legacy is us, her FAMILY. She lives through us - our values, our hopes and dreams. We embody everything she taught us. In many ways,  we are all different versions of who she was. She taught us that family is the most important thing in life.  Nanay instilled the values of love, acceptance and support. She was and will continue to be the ultimate example of virtue and strength. All of our memories of Nanay ends with her always smiling, or laughing and saying the perfect thing kahit pinanagalitan na kame (even when she was getting angry at us). She was full of the kind of wisdom that we all aspire to have in our life, the kind of advice that will never steer you wrong or ever regret taking, the kind of knowledge that comes with a life fully lived. 

Nanay aged beautifully and gracefully. Stricto raw siya noon (She was apparently strict). Pero sa tutuo lang (But to tell you the truth), all I think of when I think of Nanay was how amazing she was, how beautiful she sounded when she hummed, how peaceful she looked when she prayed,  ang contentment nya when she enjoys her pagkain and mierienda (how content she lwas when she enjoys her food), the way she would light up when she played with her apos (grandchildren), how wise she was when we asked for her advice and opinion. Mostly, it's her joyous laugh I will always remember. Grabe ang sarap tumawa ni Nanay (Did she ever love laughing). 

I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to have spent so much time with her in this last year. She never lost her sense of humor. 

Me: Nanay, I love you. 
Nanay: I love you too...3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ! Comes complete with laughter.

Me: Nanay, sino ako? = Who am I?
Nanay: Bakit, di mo ba kilala ang sarili mo? = Why don't you know who you are?

Or she would say: 
Nanay:  "Galing ka sa akin" = You came from me. 
Me:  Nanay, apo mo ako. = I'm your granddaughter. 
Nanay: She'd look at me and smile and say "O, pareho yun diba?" = Same thing isn't it?

Me: Nanay ilan taon ka na? May 70 ka ba?  = Nanay, how old are you? Have you reached 70?
Nanay: Wala pa naman. Mga between 61-65 para sigurado. Baka sabihin ng mga Tao na nagpapabata ako = Nah, not yet. Uh, somewhere between 61-65 - just to make sure. I wouldn't want people to think I was trying to be younger than I am! (Said at the young age of 90)

Me: Nanay, Ganda mo naman... Nagmana kme sa iyo = Nanay, you're so beautiful. We all take after you.
Nanay: Kinuha nyo na lahat! =  Ya, you all took it from me! 

Q: Kumusta Nanay? = How you doing Nanay?
A: Nahihilo ako. = I'm dizzy
Q: Ano Nanay? = What?
A: Nahihilo ako. = I'm dizzy
Q: What? = What? :)
Nanay: "I said, I'm dizzy."

Me: Nanay, what would you like?
Nanay: What your like is my like. 

Q: Kumusta ang tulog mo Nanay? = How was your sleep Nanay?
A: "To be continued..."

And with that, I pray that she may continue her sleep in heaven...I know she will always be with  us, smiling as she watches over us. Thank you for everything Nanay. We love you.

 Best Grandmother Ever!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thankful Down Under - Canadian Style

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday ever! To me, it basically comprises of everything I LOVE – it comes with a long weekend, you get to spend quality time with friends and family (without the stress of commercialism and presents), early day drinking (cause who doesn't like sipping on wine early and waiting for the turkey to cook), it's not religious in nature and of course the ridiculously gluttonous yummy food. Basically, it's a time to be completely thankful and appreciative of everything that you have in your life...What's not to like?

This is the time when I get really homesick and miss everything that I love in Canada - the coming of a new season, the beautiful golden hue of a clear autumn day, the smile of pine, the changing color of maple leaves. I wish I was there with everyone - It makes me sad that Vancouver was almost a lifetime away – certainly it feels like it’s been too long. So, I made sure that I had a phenomenal Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend! I ended up having 8 people over for dinner – I have never cooked that much in my life! The whole prepping/cooking took something like 14 hrs. But I was so proud of how the whole thing came out! I must say, I was quite impressed with myself - if I may say so! Not sure that’s going to happen again (at least I won’t cook everything! Although everyone offered to help, I just wanted to have things exactly the way I wanted it and what I was craving. Anyhow, you guys would have been proud of my impressive effort.

Menu – My piece de resistance:

  • Turkey – I actually brined it for 12 hours with a salt, garlic, fresh herb before I stuffed it (homemade) and cooked it. For 6 hrs! I can not believe how moist and perfectly brown it came out! 3.8 kilos – I was hoping for more left overs but it was devoured!
  • Homemade Stuffing – whole wheat bread, Italian sausages, celery, fresh herbs, apples and cranberry
  • Chili spiced gravy
  • 2 types of potatoes – Scalloped and chive and parsley mash
  • Sautéed cauliflower, beans, carrots with a balsamic, honey soy sauce
  • Glazed carrots with almonds
  • Garlic roasted Squash and Pumpkin
  • Red Wine Apple Crumble with Maple Walnut Ice cream

Things that I’m THANKFUL for:
  • Having friends and family that are truly amazing!
    • My family for being insanely intense, funny, amusing, brilliant, strong and supportive about everything
    • My best friends - despite living in different countries/locations – still managing to be there ALL the time! How impressive are they?!
  • Skype, Facebook, my iPod, net book and all forms of technology to help – although I’m disappointed that we are not in the “Beam me up Scottie” days yet.
  •  Being able to explore options in a different country
  • Having the opportunity to travel and see new places and meet amazing new people
  • My new and growing Brisbane crew - especially Nick, my adopted lil bro that makes me feel I have family here.
  • The Hub & Natsuki - Awesome place to live and an excellent roommate!
  • Being able to start a new tradition and introducing Canadian Thanksgiving
  • Day drinking with awesome company during Thanksgiving and being in bed before midnight
  • Australia’s relatively strong economy & appreciation for recruiters
  • Having the necessary skills and experience that companies seem to want
  • Being healthy & strong (working out to get even stronger to follow...)
  • Caffeine - without which I would not be effective or survive at work
  • Earning money again
  • My grandmother continuing to fight and be relatively healthy
  • Medical technology and it’s ability to help people find cancer (it’d be better if we can finally find a cure though)
  • Having the opportunity to seek personal and professional happiness (still working on this)
I hope everyone had a great Happy Gobble gobble day and had the opportunity to be Thankful for all the wonderful blessings in your life! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BrisVegas = Home...for now!

And finally, an update! It's been a very busy, emotional, stressful, interesting last month.

I've now officially "moved" to Brisbane, I've miraculously found a wicked place that is in a wonderful location and I was full on job HUNTing! All of this happened under what I called my "Productive and Panic" mode. So much has happened in the last little while and I'm finally at a point where I can write about it. But first, my little side trip...

My most expensive weekend ever - $ydney.

THEME- It's a small world after all :)

I took a fun road trip with my lil brother Nick to Sydney. Here's a lesson I'm going to share - Do NOT have a patch, drink alcohol and smoke at the same time and then go for a 12 hour road trip the next day. It is unbelievably terrible for your system. Ironically instead of seeing Daryl (one of my closest friends from Vancouver) I end up staying with Charbi (who I met on my clean up dive in Thailand) and partying with Kat (met in Bolivia) and Tony & Mark (Same Same but Different Laos crew). Does the world ever get better than spending time with friends from all over the world?!

  • $5 martinis at Darling Harbour. Yum. Probably the cheapest thing from the trip.
  • Celebrating Mark's birthday by doing a pub crawl with the gang! Although he smoke bombed at 9pm!! May have been the Jäger shots...
  • Making the most of the crappy weather and trying to take wet tourist jumping shots outside the Sydney Opera House! Outcome = not so successful
  • Sitting for 5 hrs at the Lowenbrau in the Rocks drinking Mango Weizen with the girls. 
  • Buying a bottle of wine and drinking it from a brown paper bag on the ferry from Manly to Downtown Sydney. Yup, Charbs and I = classy broads. 
  • Teaching my Solid 7 theory and going Solid 7 hunting. 
  • Hearing: "Charina, people travel the world just to meet a person like you.  Aw!!"
  • Experiencing the Birkley Housemates dinner with Shandi and Uno. 
  • It was the rainiest weekend in $ydney so far this year.
  • Finding out that my waterproof winter jacket is NOT waterproof. Mom, terrible! I can't believe that's what you brought for me!!
  • $ydney is ridiculously and terribly expensive. That's what my VISA says. 

                                 Classy We Know                                       How cool is that? 

One of the rainiest days in Sydney ever! But we made the most of it. I'm pretty sure the bottle of wine on the ferry helped us! We rallied oh yes we did!

We stayed so long in this bar that we ended up on their website!

Sitting at the Rocks with great friends, gigantic mugs of beer.

Happy Birthday Mark! Next time you've got to last past the 5th Jager shot!! :)

Dunno why it has that nickname, but apparently 
Brisbane = Brissie aka Brisvegas.

After a glorious 6 weeks with the girls - Shout out to Nina, Jacqui and Heidi, it was time for me to find a place, build some roots and figure out exactly how different Australia is to Canada. Being the 3rd largest city, it's very similar to Vancouver at around 2 million people. It's got a town feel to it with big city amenities and a river that winds through the whole city. It's divided into tiny neighbourhoods - of which I'm still trying to learn but the public transportation seems impressive. They have a City Cat that takes you around the river, a train system that links the whole area all the way out to the Sunshine Coast in the North and the Gold Coast to the South and buses that seem to impressively run on time. I live in an area that is a kinda hybrid of Commercial Drive meets Gastown. 

View of Brisbane from Kangaroo Point

One of the many bridges that cuts through the winding Brisbane River

The Sydney girls coming to visit.

Man made "swimming pool". It's the "beach" of Brisbane in South Bank.

HOME sweet HOME!
So now I've moved into a cute 1 bedroom shared accommodation in New Farm, that is stumbling distance from all the bars, walking distance to downtown and close by all the necessities. I also completely lucked out with my quiet Japanese roommate, who is actually a completely cool chick (I panically asked her to move in with me after talking to her for 15 mins! Not usually my style, but so far so great!). It's a wonderfully cosy place that kinda reminds me of university! We have a little kitchenette, where I've been cooking up a storm already, a balcony that looks out into our neighborhood and lots of window to let in the sun.

WORK - I think I'm not backpacking anymore...
I had been maniacally job hunting - I had forgotten how daunting it is to cold call, apply online and walk into businesses. But it's wonderful to get back into the swing of things. Slowly but surely, I'm learning that there are tons of differences with work culture/'s coming as a bit of a shock, but so far, aside from being way too impatient, I've been fascinated by the process! But it's coming along and I'm hoping to find something good and excited to actually experience Australian work culture. We'll see what is in store for me - back to the corporate world or working at some funky cafe. It seems that despite 1.5 years of traveling, my default setting is appparently to apply for stressful jobs! Mmm, now what does that say about me?!?! So perhaps, I'll actually broaden my horizon and see what else this country has to offer...that or I'm back to recruiting again. Seems they love recruiters here...which is great considering it's my background. Do you know, they even have a recruiting companies for recruiters?! Insane but hey, plenty of potential opportunities there.

So fast forward to mid September and I'm now trying to get use to being at an office 40 hrs a week in a suit. I'm working as an "Associate Consultant - Engineering and Infrastructure" - basically sourcing for Engineers (which, by the way, if you guys know any experienced Civil/Electrical/Mechanical Engineers in Mines, Infrastructure, Oil & Gas, Roads, Water I'd be interested). But I digress! I'd be lying if I didn't say that I haven't had my freak outs but the 13th floor view overlooking the Brisbane River, being "productive", learning about new industries and most importantly my bank account is happy that it's getting replenished! 

WaterFront Place - where all the recruiting magic happens.

First post work drink. Much needed and deserved! :)

Notable awards of late:
  • Best Non-date Date - Goes to Nina - We went hiking in the bush, walked around Montville, a quaint town with cute shops and a phenomenal view of the valley. We shared a glorious late lunch with a bottle of wine in a garden while listening to live music with one of the most angelic voices I've heard.  We bought mini desserts, fresh strawberries, champagne and drank it on the beach. We then headed to O'Malleys to people watch and met the most random interesting characters. There was the unplanned long hike at Noosa Heads as well!

  • Best Nickname Giver - Charbi - Teletubbie.  Nuff said. 
  • Most Oblivious - Me. It's amazing how I can still be so shocked and surprised by things. It's kinda cool. Sorta. 
  • Best Umbrella - 4 Seasons. Classy and you seem to find them randomly in bars everywhere in Sydney.
  • Coolest Slang - The Aussies. It's all shortcuts: Arvo - afternoon. Devo - devastated. Derro - derelicts. Avo - Avocado. Sandwich - Senga.
  • Wicked Random job - I helped a friend wax and buff his plane.
  • Best Friend - Daryl! He came down for the weekend and spoiled me with awesome treats (ie. we ate way way too much and too well ;) It's been over 4 years since we've seen each other and we made sure we made the best of it by celebrating over great food, champagne cocktails and way too much wine! Thanks buddy!!

  • Best Dessert - JellyFish - Bread and Butter Pudding with Truffle Anglaise and Salted Almond Ice Cream! Yum!!
  • New Fave - Fireworks from a Bridge! Daryl was here for the  kick off of the Brisbane Festival and we saw the fireworks from my neighborhood. 

  •  Healthiest moment - Running Bridge to Brisbane. Nina and I rocked. I ran it at 36:27 - I'm pretty proud considering my smoker's lung!

So as you guys can tell, life is coming along in Brisbane. I've started to meet people, I'm getting out there, I have a job, a home...I'm definitely trying to make the most of it here!