Overture

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June 27, 2017 by hallyrh

Who would’ve thought the next post I’d be making is from the United Kingdom? 🤤

Three weeks ago, I never would’ve. Three weeks ago, I was a hair’s breadth away from mental breakdown! Visa was taking too long, enquiries to the UKVI were severely expensive, the long wait was chasing away my sanity.

The visa decision.

The agency received my visa on June 6th, after several sleepless nights and skipped meals (and 20 effing working days). I finally got a message from VFS (but no notifications whatsoever from the UKVI). 

Everything was a blur after that. Trips to the mall, meetings and orientations, messages from my superiors overseas, and excited messages exchanged with my fellow Blackpool candidates.

Tickets were booked: I was set to leave the 19th of June on a connecting flight to Manchester.

Full support from fam and friends.

My mother’s side of the family was super ecstatic when they found out! We went for an Independence Day holiday in a resort in Batangas called La Virginia. My cousins and I had a profound discussion about the human wonder that is Kuya Will after having a loud and intense game of Pinoy Henyo. 😄

The following day, we travelled to Zambales where we held a small dinner with family and close friends after a thankgiving novena and mass. Earlier in the day, I went biking, and inhaled the unique provincial scent of Masinloc. It was a smell I’d always associate with happy childhood memories, so I really took my time.

Way before that though, Friday before the Independence Day weekend, I went out with some friends from PSHM for dinner. I received a huge OFW starter bag full of food from Ma’am Lilian, which was actually really sweet. ❤😄

Saturday the 17th, I had dinner with my long time best friends. Always a good time with them, never a dull moment. There will always be an obscene amount of LOL when CamNerHall get together. 😂

And then on Sunday the 18th, we had a happy mother’s side send-off lunch at Fisher Mall courtesy of Tita Mel. My cousins gave me little trinkets for the journey and I took all of those goodies with me here in England. It included a windbreaker from Tita Connie, a tube of lipstick from Tita Ayie, a key chain from Faye, Starbucks’ 2017 planner from Ice and Julia, a beanie from Amiel, a scarf from Ate Ayang, and an electronic candle from EJ. (I loved them all obviously.)

We headed out to Laruan Cafe after our Fisher Mall lunch and had an intense game of Jenga, Pinoy Henyo, pick-up sticks and Bad Dog while on nachos, fries, sandwiches, and milk shakes.

Departure and arrival.

19th of June, in NAIA Terminal 3, there were no teary goodbyes at all between me and my parents, which was a relief, because I really can’t imagine what I would’ve done had my mom started crying. We all knew then that my departure was for the greater good, so there weren’t any hard feelings when I left. Of course I’d miss my parents terribly; but I’m 28 years old, and the proverbial spreading of wings is long overdue, haha! I want to make something for myself before I reach the big 3-0.

It wasn’t my first time on a plane, but it was my first time on a connecting flight. It was also the first time I was ever on a long flight, so I was excited about the in-flight entertainment.

I was such a noob I didn’t even know where the headphone jack was supposed to go. Haha! 😂

Anyway. Takeoff from NAIA was delayed for an effing hour, so instead of enjoying my first in-flight movie of the night, Fantastic Beasts, all I could ever compute in my mind was basically the speed that I would have to exert to make it to my next boarding gate.

I was supposed to have around an hour forty-five minutes of layover in HK, which was fortunate, because that gave me just about enough time to catch my onward flight. The moment we landed in Hong Kong, I darted off to my next gate (I took a screenshot of some guidelines in HKIA regarding onward flights). Luckily I didn’t get lost and found my gate easily. And even better, albeit inconvenient for others (hehe), boarding for the Manchester flight was also delayed.

The flight to Manchester was turbulent. The young British couple next to me were squeezing each other’s hands and cuddling together and I was just sitting there pretending that the socked foot of the man sitting behind me wasn’t poking my pillow at all. 😔 Haha.

I kept switching in-flight movies. I started with the Jackie O movie featuring Natalie Portman, and then I got a bit drowsy so I took a nap. Then turbulence kicked in, some cuddling and sweet whispering of reassurances ensued beside me, and so I tapped on another movie because FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

The Girl on the Train. Nudity. Tons of sex scenes. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch R-rated scenes with a cuddling couple beside me so I decided to go for a more non-triggering movie. Like Sing! But en medias res, my eyelids started getting heavy so I gave in, but not 30 minutes into the nap, I was jostled awake by another bout of bouncing turbulence.

I decided to watch Beauty and the Beast next. Romantic fairy tale movie on my screen, check. Romantic couple beside me all snuggled up together under a blanket in semi-darkness, check. Only things missing were candlelight and music and it was practically like someone’s anniversary night. (Sigh).

Breakfast rolled in about 30 to 45 minutes before touchdown: an omelette, some bacon and sausages, some fruit, muffins, and tea.

And then finally, I was officially in Manchester. I headed out to Immigration, no questions were asked, really — I was just reminded by the officer to claim my BRP down at the post office in Preston — and then I went to baggage claim. Gawd, my luggage took ages to appear on the carousel, you could imagine the nerves! Haha! But when they finally did, I struggled for a bit cause they were both pretty bulky wheelies, and then I hewded out to Arrivals completely disregarding the Customs counter. 😂 As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t have anything to declare. Cause I read on the guidelines that it was mostly for large sums of money or cigarettes and liquors and stuff like that, in bulk. 

And so I went through the final door and spotted Courtney waiting for me, holding a board with JANE LEWIS INTERNATIONAL on it. I waved, she waved. And then it hit me:

I’m actually in England.

Courtney and Preston.

I’ve actually met Courtney before cause she was there when we were interviewed at the Dusit Thani last year. We lugged up my bags into her car, and then drove to Preston, talking about basically anything we can come up with during the ride.

Preston was the first town in England I ever made rounds in. It was beautiful, and the weather for me was magnificent: shining sunlight, cold breeze. It was basically paradise compared to the constant halfway-through-boiling-point heat in Manila. There were lots of old buildings and there were red box phonebooths!!! Aaaack! I just had to take a picture. Courtney kindly indulged in my full-on tourist mode and took the photos for me. I was so thrilled! Wide-eyed and captivated by absolutely everything I saw. HAHA!

We claimed my small purple BRP card at the post office. The woman behind the window had to ask me how old I was because I apparently looked young. Well I get that a lot. Some of the people here think I’m high school age. I just tell them it’s because I smile a lot — and it is true. Except maybe on bad days. But everybody has bad days.

Helen and Blackpool.

After that, we went straight to Blackpool. I finally met Ms. Helen Knowles in the flesh. That was when I parted with Courtney. She took me to some offices in the hospital, introduced me to some people, and then we sorted out my accommodation. And then we went to a local mini-grocery to get some of my necessities — mostly food and water — and I got to ride on her sweet two-seater, top-down Benz! WOW! The cars in England are actually quite posh, to be honest. Audis, BMWs, Range Rovers, VWs, Volvos, and Lexuses are just casually rolling by my apartment window. In the expressway I even saw a flaming red Ferrari. I told Courtney, you know what, in the Philippines, if we ever saw luxurious cars like those in the freeway, we’d instantly think that they a.) Belong to a politician, b.) Belong to a celebrity, or c.) were obtained illegally. 😂

After the Co-op, Helen kindly drove me back to the flat and then I finally got to take that much-needed shower. And then I laid in bed and uploaded the eff out of my Preston pictures. 😆 I also unpacked my bags, loaded up the drawers, and while doing it, called my parents. Showed them the rooms in the flat. They were ecstatic that my living quarters were clean and comfortable. 😊

To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the lack of air conditioning when I first came. But as the days crawled past, I realized that air conditioning should be the least of my worries – as Blackpool weather can go down to 12 degrees – and that’s their summer weather! 17 degrees and they’re all wearing tank tops and floaty dresses! Back home, people would be donning jackets and hoodies and would shiver and avoid the shower all day. 😂

Adapting.

And so the following day marked the beginning of a new chapter in Hally’s 28 years of life. I was nervous about my english skills. I mean I think I’m OK with writing and listening to english speakers but I’m not that confident in actually speaking the language. But I had to, of course.

I also acquainted myself with tbe kitchen appliances and the washer. I found the instruction manuals in one the drawers, thankfully. The first time I used the cooker, I burned my chicken dinner but like I always believed, I am built from every mistake I have ever made 😄. No chickens or any other foodstuff have been burned in that cooker ever since. (And I know it’s barely been a week, but give me some credit. We didn’t even have an oven back home! 😄) 

I was taken to the HR office so I could fill out forms for Occ Health the day following my arrival, and I was also introduced to Gill, one of Helen’s colleagues. That morning, we took a trip down a bigger supermarket (Tesco’s) and bought more stuff. And then after lunch, we took the bus to the Town Center, and the moment I set foot down the cobbled streets, I was all 😍😍😍.

It’s even more beautiful than downtown Preston. And there were more options, more shops, more places to eat in. There were so many people, little bargain shops where mostly everything was for a pound. There were tourist attractions, theatres, there was a tram. The Promenade. The Winter Gardens. Hounds Hill. The Blackpool Tower. Pleasure Beach. The Piers — North, Central, and South!

With Gill and Helen’s help, I opened up my bank account at NatWest after that. It’s where my salaries would go monthly. I only recently got my debit card from the post. I should probably set up with online banking soon.

Anyway, the following day, Thursday, I got my badge from the HR office (very quick), and then we walked to Newton Drive to the Health Centre. And then we headed out to Occ Health where my previous immunizations were assessed. I got shots for Hep-B and MMR, and then I got some blood drawn for a few immunity tests from Pathology. After that, Gill took me to Stanley Park. I went by myself that same afternoon.

It’s beautiful, Stanley Park. It’s a relatively quiet and serene place, but people keep telling me to steer clear beyond 5 PM and I guess I could understand why. I bet at night, some of the rowdy teenagers and a few suspicious characters lurk behind the bushes there or something. So yeah. But it would be nice to spend a quiet afternoon there just reading. Contrary to popular belief, my hobbies and habits, you can say, are mostly old lady-ish: I find enormous joy in sitting quietly with a book in my lap. Incidentally, I also pee like every 5 seconds. 🤣

Trust Induction.

Helen took me to the Education Center that morning. I was in a room with fellow newbies, and several people from the Trust popped in and shared with us their roles and services and stuff. I’m not gonna lie, I was nodding off in some places. But the afternoon sesh was more interesting cause it covered infection control and body mechanics and basic life support, so those were more in our fortes.

And then before I knew it, it was time for my very first weekend in England.

The Blackpool Filipino community.

I’ve known Ate Maria from last year cause she was one of the delegates the Trust sent to help interview Filipino candidates. She was like the ate among the ates in Blackpool for that reason, and I immediately warmed up to her — and to everybody, basically.

She visited me in the flat after her shifts I think twice over my first week. They even brought me a bag of rice. It was so nice that they kept checking in to make sure I was doing OK by myself. 

And then I got a breakfast invitation from Kuya Ronnie. They picked me up from the flat Saturday and we had practically a feast of a breakfast in Tita Fe’s house. After that, I met Ate Maria down at the bus stop near Occ Health and we took a bus to the Town Center where she showed me how to get to the Filipino Store. She also took me to the British Heart Foundation where I bought a blouse, a book, and a bag, and then back to the One Pound store (was it?) for a few more necessities. We took the bus back after. Not 30 minutes back into the apartment, Tita Luzvi was calling me on Facebook for a barbecue. I met loads of great people there in Claremont and again, fed myself to the point of exploding 😂. In true Filipino spirit, they packed me several containers of food which I carried back with me to the flat. Now I have enough food in the fridge to last me a famine! 😄
It’s not yet over, though: dinnertime rolled by and Tita Luzvi and I made our way to Kuya Ronnie’s anniversary party. Another delicious feast, and even more takeaway food. Not a surprise that I slept like a log that night. 😄

Sunday, I was picked up by Ate Liza and Kuya Richard and their two lovely daughters for our Sunday obligations. In the church, I met other Filipino fellows, and some new foreign friends including Tom, a British man married to a Filipina who was fond of baking Filipino goodies and distributing them for free after Sunday service. It was so sweet. I couldn’t believe such hospitality still exists. 😄

I kindly asked Kuya Richard and Ate Liza to drive me over to Claremont where I was supposed to meet Tita Luzvi and Tita Myra, as we were scheduled to go to Manchester. Unfortunately, there had been some kind of a mix up with the time so we ended up coming over to Tita Emma’s house for lunch instead (some yummy Shepherd’s Pie) after a quick trip to a store called Steals in Poulton. Tita Myra caught up with us not soon after and we went to yet another branch of Steals in Cleveleys. 😄

After that, we drove to Tita Myra’s house and we chatted over a box of Domino’s Pizza till about 9 in the evening, and then they finally drove me home. 

Needless to say, my digestive system worked overtime during the weekend 😂. Filipinos and eating: not one without the other. 😄

Skills development.

After that blissful weekend, it was finally due to start some serious business. I was going to be slowly introduced to the goings on in Victoria Hospital — that’s what I came for after all. And so Helen finally released me to be with whom they fondly called “The Sharons”, and over the past 2 days, I’ve been working closely with them as part of my slow transition into the more clinical aspects of the Trust. They’ve been really considerate and accommodating. Everyone has been, actually. I’ve had nothing but pleasant days over the past week.

Yesterday we made comparisons between my shifts back in the Philippines and shifts here in England, and then we toured around the hospital to get a picture of patient flow. I was introduced to clinical pathways and the BVH website for employees. She also gave me an overiew of the OSCEs. 

This morning, I had basic personal care and obs, as well as a bit of documentation. And we’ll be continuing over the week, till the awaited feedback from Occ Health arrives.

So basically…

Everything’s been a blur. Just last week I was making quick trips to the mall back home to get some stuff I’d need for my move to England, and now I’m actually here!

Walking at a brisk pace back to Home 8 with a coat on because it’s 12 degrees outside. Fishing for my keys. Making small talk when I happen to bump into one of my flatmates (whom I rarely ever see). Videochatting with parents. Making my own dinner (mostly just reheating stuff from the fridge). Blogging about actually being in the UK.

It’s all so surreal!!!

I’m still really taking it all in. My entrance into the the UK has been pretty amazing, actually, and I’ve got the Pinoy Community and the kind people from Jane Lewis and most importantly, the BVH staff to thank for it. And of course I’m eternally grateful to my God for giving me a supreme amount of blessings, and I will probably always be in awe of all these little miracles He keeps giving me — like the fact that Kuya Ronnie used to be a student of my mom in primary school. Who knew! 😄 Small world, right? 😄

I can’t wait till the others get here! 😄

Next post: a blow-by-blow of the application process for my fellow nurses in Pinas who are looking to work in the UK.

😘

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