Filipina Elsewhere: Eula Gonzales

Read the series introduction.

I first met Eula nearly a decade ago in a copywriting job that I didn't enjoy very much. But I enjoyed her company, and she was one of the few friends I made there that I still communicate with to this day. I love her taste in books, and she's also a fine writer. Hopefully she'll write more about her great Australian adventure. Here she talks about battling homesickness, walking the streets of Adelaide, and making room--both physically and metaphorically.

Let's hear it for Eula.
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text. All photos in this post were provided by Eula Gonzales.

Name: Eula Gonzales
Current Location: Adelaide, Australia
Age: 29

What was your job back in the Philippines?
I was a Communications Executive for a global logistics company. I handled marketing and corporate communications which meant working with everyone in Country Office and also with Region and Global, from time to time. It was an interesting and challenging job at the same time because I got to do different kinds of things from marketing and corporate communications, events management, CSR, copy writing, collateral development to video production.

What are you doing now?
I'm taking an Advanced Diploma in Marketing and Communication at TAFE SA (Technical and Further Education, South Australia).

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
I wanted to try living away from home because I've thought about how a change of scenery can bring a change of perspective, not just in terms of getting better qualifications or pursuing studies but also having those experiences that push you out of your comfort zone and learn new things about yourself (both good and bad, of course, but they're still things that tell you who you really are).

Every time I go to a new place, whether abroad or in other parts of the Philippines, I would always wonder how it would feel like to live there (maybe for just a year or two?). I'd always try to imagine how a normal day would be like (walking around the neighborhood, taking public transportation, having daily encounters with the locals etc.) and I think that curiosity has always driven me to try new experiences. But I do have to be honest in saying that this big change I decided to take on has not been easy at all.

The fact of having gone thousands of miles away from home only sunk in after a few months of being in Adelaide. I remember that slow but steady realization of being halfway here and halfway in the Philippines. It's as if home is starting to feel like it's not just in one place. I remember what they would say about home being a place where you hang your hat. I think I might have two places now for my hat.

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
That I had only a few days to pack all my things, that I had to pick only 5 books (I brought 7, haha) I can bring with me, that I had to start from scratch, figure out the essentials like getting from point A to point B...those were fun

I guess my biggest challenge was staying focused on what I had set out to do because when you move away from everything that's familiar, you can get distracted/dragged down by that feeling of uncertainty about, well, everything (the routines, the security of having a job, having family and friends around, sleeping in your own bed, seeing all your books on your own shelves, knowing exactly which items to order from a menu, not having to worry about looking like a tourist etc.) The first time I felt homesick, I was crying and laughing to myself at the same time and it almost feels like I was going crazy. When I said goodbye to my mom at the airport in Manila, I didn't even become teary-eyed (I was thinking about getting on the plane as quickly as I can and hopefully, getting some sleep) but as soon as I landed in Adelaide and my sister called our mom and handed her phone to me so I can talk to her, I started crying.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
Surprising myself was the best thing that happened to me when I moved abroad. It almost feels like an extended retreat where it's just you and no one else is there to tell you how to take things as they come. I've never had so much free reign over what I can do in an entire day (well, of course, there's still some studying and I also have a part time job. But the feeling of only thinking about what it is that you'd like to do and not think too much about other people is quite refreshing. Growing up around such a tight knit family that's typical among Filipinos, I've never lived alone before even when I was already working so I consider this a milestone. It's something I didn't think I'd be enjoying this much.

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:

  • the best place to eat? It's hard to just pick one place because since I lived in Adelaide, I'd always hear someone say "Oh this place has the best coffee, that one's got the best burrito, and this one's where you can find great sushi etc." It's an adventure that you find yourself in and because there's always something happening around the city (oftentimes, there'll be festivals to go to), you'd eventually figure out which food trucks to go back to. My best bet would always be to go where the locals are. Choose the small places where the barista spends a few minutes asking about your day, they would often have the best food because they almost always own the place or are friends with the owner. 

My own recos, so far (I'm not sure if this list appeals to tourists planning to visit Adelaide because most of the places on it are based on those I've tried/enjoyed considering I'm on a "student budget" hihi)

- Try the German beers and sausages at Hahndorf Inn (it's in Hahndorf, a little German town, which you can reach by bus from the city)
- Coffee from Ciao in Adelaide Arcade or Argo near Victoria Square
- Sushi at Ginza Miyako (I enjoyed the Sushi Train experience, too. There are a lot of branches in the city, but if you want a good, cheap sushi place - there's one across the Visitor Information Centre along James Place in Rundle Mall, it's called Miyabi)
- Oysters at Cardone's Seafood and Grill along Jetty Road in Glenelg (or some fish and chips from Sotos in Semaphore)
- Cheese from Central Market
- Jamface Central at Central Market (it's owned by Poh Ling Yeow)
- For pancakes cravings, go to the Original Pancake Kitchen (they're open 24/7)
- Meatballs at Ikea (surprisingly good and cheap, too)
- Churros and hot chocolate at San Churro
- Waffles at St Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert
- Burritos from Salsas

  •     the best place to visit? 
I've always liked walking along any of the main roads - North Terrace is known as the Cultural district because you can find the museum, art gallery, state library and the biggest universities along this strip. If you're ever there for an afternoon stroll, try walking from the north end (start at the National Wine Centre where they've got self-guided tours; don't forget that Adelaide is known for wines so it's a must that you drink at least a glass or two) and work your way down so you can catch a nice view of the sunset. If you're into old buildings and just marveling at architecture, try walking along King William Road and walk past the Town Hall and the General Post Office (you can also take the free tram that runs along this street) and finish off with a stroll at Victoria Square or a have a bite to eat at Central Market. You can also walk or go on a bike (you can rent a bike for free: along the River Torrens and go on the Popeye ferry or a paddle boat. Or sit on a bench, have coffee and just watch ducks and swans and a few pelicans, too.

  •     the best thing to do? 
Explore. When I was still in the Philippines, I was already doing a little bit of research of the things to do in Adelaide and honestly, I found quite a few that I thought I'd enjoy. I was actually consciously keeping myself from going to different places all at once just so I can have that steady supply of new things to try/places to go to. And I've already been here for a year now but I still have quite a lot on my list. There's always something to do; you only need to know where to look and who to ask :)

Will you return to the Philippines? Or will you stay abroad? Why? 

I think I'll always want to come back to the Philippines, whether to live there again or to visit family and friends. Or just to look at how much has changed or how much has stayed the same. In the meantime, I'd like to try living abroad first and get settled and work fulltime after graduation.

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:

Make room. Not just physical room for all the new things that you're going to get after you decide to move out. Make room for those experiences that may or may not really change you, but just let them happen to you. Transformation comes when you're not in charge so don't just leave behind your old stuff when you pack your bags. Be prepared to grow both inwardly and outwardly. If there's only one reason why I'd keep on traveling for as long as I can, it's this - how it can embolden you to surrender completely and take chances.

Make the most out of every opportunity that comes your way - make friends, ask them where the best places are and what their days are like, and choose to abandon your assumptions about everything you know or have always known to be true. You can start small. Maybe, make up a little ritual for yourself - it can be talking to at least one stranger you meet every other day on your morning commute, trying out one coffee place after the other on your breaks, volunteering (this really helped me find my feet in an unfamiliar place and you get to meet a lot of interesting people, too) or if you're feeling homesick, try going to places you know you'd go to if you were back home (these were the book shops and city libraries for me) or to places you know you'd never go to if you were back home :)

Cheese at Central Market
Hahndorf Inn
IKEA meatballs

North Terrace

General Post Office

Adelaide Festival Center

Adelaide Writers Week

Elder Conservatorium

Art Gallery
Alpine Village Festival

Thank you, Eula!


Popular Posts