Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Circumcision for kids under 9

September 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I was a bit skeptical about my 8-year-old son having his circumcision done but it is customary for Filipino boys to undergo the procedure.  I’m pretty sure that I was more nervous about it than my son.  Fortunately we had a terrific doctor who came and did home service.  My son and his best friend had their circumcisions together and believe it or not, having a companion to go through the same thing really helped my little boy a lot.  The doctor gave him a local anaesthetic whilst he lay on a padded table reading a children’s book.  This took his mind off what they were doing and the doctor was very friendly and asked him questions about school and what he did whilst on holiday. The procedure itself took approximately 15 mins and my son and his friend were joking around after the procedures and did not find it at all traumatic.  They used a ring on my son which was preferable rather than using stitches.  He did have occasional pain which we managed with analgesics such as paracetamol and the doctor also gave us Instillagel which is a gel in a syringe which you can use on the penis to help with pain.  All in all the healing process took 9 days and he was back in school the day after the ring dropped off.

The World Health Organisation are now recognising the benefits of circumcision To all the parents who are worried about getting circumcision done for their little ones; it is a very short procedure and the more positive you are about it with your son, the less traumatic it will be for them. We have had a very positive experience and I am glad that I got it done when he was 8 rather than at an earlier age so he could understand the benefits, know the effects and manage his pain effectively. This was very much a partnership with our son.

Two thumbs up for the Samsung Galaxy Note

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

When I first handled the Samsung Galaxy Note, I was sceptical about its size.  More to the point, its enormity freaked me out.  However, for one reason or another, I kept getting drawn back to it and in the end signed up to the Samsung Android.

Am I disappointed?
On the contrary, I have been showing off my new gadget to anyone who will listen and dare I say, it is a tad bit better than the iPhone 4s.

My previous phone,the BlackBerry bold 9100 cannot be compared to the genious gadget of the Samsung Galaxy Note. I remembered when I first held my BlackBerry bold 2 years ago, I nearly cried because it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do.  At one point it nearly met its death on the kitchen wall.  However, I faithfully stood by it and to be honest it hasn’t let me down.  The Samsung Galaxy Note on the other hand has basically enthralled me from the outset.  Impressed with its versatility, I did think that nothing could beat the iPhone but Samsung have out done themselves with this beautiful `phab`.

Size isn’t an issue and though it may be a little big for the back pocket of a pair of jeans, how often does a lady put their phone in their jeans anyway?  That’s what handbags are for!

Applications are easy to get hold of and the Swype thing is kind of quirky and so easy to use.  I still have yet to get more out of the s pen, but in time I’m sure that will come.

This certainly has my vote.  Two thumbs up for the Samsung Galaxy  Note.

Traffic Sucks!

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I left work early today taking into consideration that the British government hadn’t properly prepared for the bad weather conditions. I thought leaving at 3pm would give me ample time to get home at least by 5pm and if I was really fortunate to catch at least 45mins in the gym. How wrong was I?

I thought I was well prepared. I figured my usual 30 minute drive from work to home would take roughly a couple of hours due to the snow. I brought with me 4 small bite size chocolates, a packet of mentos and a bottle of water. I resigned myself to the fact the journey would take as long and psyched myself up. Little did I know that my anticipated 2 hour journey would take a little under 4 and a half hours and I just thank the good Lord for gadgets like the mobile phone to keep me occupied whilst sitting in traffic that did not move. Yep, Twitter and Facebook has never been more entertaining. I got through the bite size chocolates and the packet of mentos but I did give up on drinking the water for fear of not being able to go to the loo. I did not want a full bladder to be the icing on the cake.

I am fortunate to be able to drive a 4×4 in the midst of the snow and I thank God that I changed my bald tyres a couple of weeks back. Though they were expensive to change, I believe God blessed me by knowing the bad weather would come and urged me to change it. I saw so many cars struggle on slip roads and lorry and truck drivers really put their foot on the gas but their vehicles wouldn’t budge.

Another thing that annoyed me was lorry drivers blocking exit roads unnecessarily which made the traffic jam much worse. I thank God that at least I’m home safely and for really giving me the patience to sit through all that mad traffic. I tell you what though, I brought work home with me because I am not gonna sit through that again tomorrow.

Our Turkish Escapade

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Turkey wasn’t at all like I expected although I actually didn’t have any preconceived ideas (not sure if that makes any sense). Much of Turkey is still being developed but you couldn’t miss the Western influence in the form of cars, shopping outlets and of course McDonald’s and Starbucks.

However, I went for a two-week family break and that is exactly what I got. We stayed at the Apollonium Resort- part of Club la Costa. Ammenities were good and provided what we needed; – pool, restaurant but most of all we definitely got the sun.

I liberally covered my kids with sun protection and we tended to avoid the midday sun as the heat was unbearable so if you are thinking of holidaying in Turkey, temperatures can reach 42°C in August and there were some days where my hubby and I avoided the midday sun for the sake of the children because it was just too hot for them.

If you’re anything like us and want to see places we saved £££’s hiring a car and doing things on our own rather than going on scheduled excursions. For example to go on a planned trip with an organiser to see Ephesus (a must see archaeological site) would usually cost an adult £32 and a child £22 (approx.) so we were extremely happy with the savings that we made. Ephesus is a great place to visit if you like history.  For me, the Bible came alive and it was nice to be in the part of town where St. Paul himself visited.  However, be warned Ephesus is in open air and the heat can be a bit much for young children.  In fact it isn’t very child friendly as the paths were stony and the buggy was hard to push around.   If you do get the opportunity to visit Ephesus, wear a sun-hat or bring an umbrella to protect you from the sun’s rays and bring bottled water as the walk from top to bottom is 2.2km.

Another great place to visit is Kushadashi- a vibrant town where there are international ports where the cruises dock and shopping is a must. I couldn’t get my head around the ‘genuine fake designer bags’. The quality of the fake bags is very good not that I bought any mind you 🙂 oo and you must barter with the locals to  and try to get the best deal. Things like Jewellery and pashmina scarfs were also in abundance which make great gifts.

Turkish food was fresh and gorgeous and very healthy although I must admit I am now kebabed out!! Food wasn’t at all what I would call expensive. A kebab meal with salad and rice would cost about 15TL about £6 so very reasonable.  If you do visit the small town of Akbuk, try out the Garden Restaurant, their meals are delicious and with the scenic view of the mountain to the left and the sea straight ahead, you won’t ever forget it.

I was told before I left for our holiday that the Turks love kids which I myself found a bit odd.  I didn’t realise that my little girl would attract so many people’s attention in Turkey.  People would actually stop on the streets to coo and try to make her laugh and showed her a very friendly warmth that I as a parent didn’t find threatening in any way at all.

Driving in Turkey is like a walk in the park, very easy-going and stress free. There isn’t anything like rush hour traffic and  as far as I could see and there are only ever 5 or 6 cars ahead of you.If you are used to right hand driving, be prepared to the left hand drive but very easy to get the hang of.  Unfortunately petrol prices are the same as the UK with only a few pence difference but I highly recommend hiring a car for getting out and about and seeing a few places.

Milli Park, the national park near Kushadashi is a great place to visit where the locals go for a picnic and to spend time soaking up the sun.  I wrongly thought that it was a park where we would see animals and so forth but the main attraction is the sandy beaches so don’t be like us…bring your towels and your swimming costume.

Apart from having received stitches…well…8 steristrips across  a gash that I had on my leg for jumping off the pier…I would love to re-visit Turkey and explore the enticing places that we could not visit.

Insurance renewals are a con

July 6, 2010 8 comments

My current car insurance providers were going to charge me a whopping £891.15 for my renewal at the end of the month. A good £200 more than what I paid for last year.  I was adamant there was absolutely no way on earth that I was going to pay such an enormous amount.

I therefore went on a comparison website for car insurance and actually got a deal saving me £230.00. Hence my car insurance would only cost me £660.00 for the coming year.  The crazy thing is that the saving is actually with my current insurers.  I  phoned the insurance company and told them that I went to a comparison website and got a better deal on-line albeit with the same company and refused to pay the price on my renewal letter.  They were apologetic and renewed my insurance with the on-line price.

If you’re anything like me and want to save a few bob, make sure that you shop around before you renew any kind of insurance – motor, car, travel, contents etc.. I can assure you that  on-line window shopping for renewals of any kind will save you money.  Click here for my most favoured comparison website moneysupermarket.com

Share

Crab Mentality and Filipinos

June 19, 2010 9 comments

I have been in business for a decade now and have dealt with many nationalities. The majority of my dealings have been fairly positive and I constitute that the negative dealings that I have had have been down to individuals rather than nationalities per se. However, one must be cautious of stereotyping nationalities. Some might say the British are pompous and autocratic.  Others may describe the Americans as obese.  Whilst others may see the Germans as icy, blond and blue-eyed.  These descriptions are stereotypes and are indeed not my own opinion.

However, taking into account that stereotypes is a belief system which needs to be overcome, there must also be an element where nationalities need to consider why they have been stereotyped. Being a Filipina myself, I am sad to say that I have met a handful of Filipino’s who have crab mentality. Crab mentality is a way of thinking best described by the phrase “If I can’t have it then neither can you”.  It is about envy and  can involve putting people down, not allowing others to flourish or when they do flourish, finding fault with their success in order to pull it down or simply having the mindset that “I’m better than you”.

Crab mentality is prevalent in most areas of life but I am going to emphasise it within the business realm.

I had a conversation with a good colleague of mine who was recommending our company to another organisation.  He conveyed to me their conversation. He was asked first off before even describing our principles and our work ethic, if we were Filipino to which he said ‘yes’. They replied ‘Oh, we don’t work with Filipinos’ which he thought was ironic and simply stupid because they themselves were Filipino.
I’ve worked with Filipino’s who try to learn every aspect of the business, try to steal clients and go off on their own business venture only to fall flat on their face.

Do Filipino’s have an incredible appetite for greed? Greed of success or money? If we could all work together and combine specialised skills and knowledge we could accomplish bigger and better things where everyone would and could benefit but it appears that the thinking of our race is one of narrow-mindedness.

Whilst on a shopping trip in the Philippines with my father, I was stuck in the supermarket line for not less than 30 minutes. When I went to inspect what was going on, I found one teller putting items through the till and one packer.  The customer or should I say a line of customers on various other tills waiting for the packer to finish packing. Is it so hard for the customer to assist with the packing in order for the time to pass quicker?  Four hands are better than two right?! I was so annoyed at the fact that the customer just stood there with their arms folded whilst their items got packed. Could this example of crab mentality be a minute reason or a contributing factor why Philippines is still a developing country?

‘It is said that we Filipinos have crab mentality and so we do not attain the progress and prosperity we have long been aspiring for, that it is practiced only by us Filipinos, and that we will remain a poor nation if it is not plucked from our selves’ says Royeca for The Philippine Studies

In light of that I have found 2nd or 3rd generation Filipinos who have been brought up in Western Culture do not have the above traits. Maybe education is the key after all….

Share

What to do when things get you down

May 7, 2010 2 comments

Today has been a manic, strange and weird day.  A day that I actually do not want to have to repeat.  Mountains of paper work spread over my desk which I have been trolling through very slowly, my one year old is feeling a bit poorly and I just feel a bit deflated and unmotivated albeit, the work still got done.

Sometimes, you just need some kind of ‘pick me up’ so amongst all the paper work that I did…heres what I did to get a smile on my face

1.  I painted my nails

I needed some kind of beautifying treatment for myself without having to spend any money.  Looking at my nails pre-polish made me feel quite ill and embarrassed.  I’m not a very good self-manicurist but actually pushing back the cuticle did feel quite therapeutic and the end result, hands and feet looked much better which on the outside made me feel much better.

2.  I redid my Curriculum Vitae (CV or resume)

Owning a business can sometimes be mundane and the effort to go out and re-market is actually what has made me feel ill….. I’ve got back to the stage where one care home is running smoothly but all the profit is being poured into a second supported living project which is quite draining on finances.

Anyhow, I re-did my CV, and I was pleasantly surprised with all my key achievements and my career progression.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of things that we have done in the past to pick us up and when the going gets tough, because we’ve gone through similar trials before, we know that we can pass through it.

3.  I did something for my children

Yes, as mothers we do something all the time for the children but the majority of the time the tasks are routine.  This time I really made the effort to listen to the kids, talk and play with them.  Working from home is an extra pressure for moms because we have to juggle home life with business and picking up that business call when the kids are home is never an easy task.  It felt good to give something back my kids when they totally deserve it.

4.  Spend time with God and reflect

I haven’t done this part yet as the kids are still up but  I’m looking forward to spending time with the Lord  tonight because when all is said and done, I know He alone can be the only one to lift me up.

Share

#Labour have made college owners wealthy

April 29, 2010 5 comments

Many good colleges have been closed down because of UK Home Office politics. First of all the Labour Government implemented an immigration tier system wherein educational establishments were required to be licensed with the United Kingdom Border Agency. These establishments have their tier rating and licence published on a Government website which is updated on a daily basis. If a college is removed from the list for whatever reason, this has a profound effect on the students that are applying from overseas who may have paid thousands of pounds for their tuition.

A prospective student may have applied at the British Embassy on the day where the college has its name published on the Government Tier 4 Register. However if by chance the college has its name removed from the Tier 4 Sponsor Register the day after the prospective student has applied, the application is left on hold until an outcome has been achieved which from experience can last several months.

For students in the UK there is guidance from the UKBA that if a college has its license suspended the student can continue to study at the college but not all students are aware of this guidance and it causes unrest amongst the students who come to the UK to study.

Thousands upon thousands of pounds have been paid to colleges from genuine prospective students and genuine current students for their course fees yet when a college is closed down by the Home Office, I don’t know of any individual who has been reimbursed by their college. Many people have tried to get their money back. There doesn’t appear to be any onus or requirement from the Government to the college to reimburse any paid money to students.

What I personally have seen happen is:
Colleges close down. Owners leave. Owners take money. Owners get rich.

Home Office don’t take any accountability or responsibility for the foreign students and don’t hold the colleges to ransom to pay back any fees to students when they suspend or close down colleges.
Colleges aren’t immigration specialists. UKBA need to work with colleges to sort any issues the Colleges fall short of and take into account the needs of the students. If UKBA worked with colleges to sort out their shortcomings, colleges would still have to pay their TAX providing money for the economy and students would be able to achieve the qualification that they came to the UK for.
According to a Broadsheet Newspaper April 14 2010, the UKBA ‘lack morale and leadership’ and this is certainly reflected in their customer service. The UKBA staff are bullies and perceive and assume everyone is doing something wrong.  Click here for story UK Border critised by its own staff.

If the Government publish a list where Tier 4 sponsors are licensed should they not be accountable to the people who make a choice from that list? If only there was a group of people to take the Government to court to get back the money that they have lost for one minute the Government say a college is licensed and then the next minute they remove them. Where does that leave the student?

This a subject I feel very strongly about and would greatly value your comments so please feel free to write them below.

Want to vote but don’t understand politics? Here’s a helpful guide #ukelection

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Everyone who is registered to vote in the UK should vote.  Why?  If you don’t vote, your vote will end up going to whoever has the most votes, which may well be someone you really don’t agree with.  So vote yourself and don’t let the majority vote for you.  

Listed below is an outline of each party's manifesto for 3 issues - Economy, Jobs and Welfare and Crime, which affect the majority of the general public.  I’ve only taken up the three major parties, Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats but it would be useful to you to read what the other running parties have to say.

 
 

ECONOMY 
 

CONSERVATIVE
  • Stop Labour’s job tax for employers
  • Only millionaires will pay inheritance Tax
  • Recognise marriage in the tax system.  Make Britain the most family friendly in Europe
  • Stop tax credits to families with incomes over £50,000;
  • Cut spending on Child Trust Funds for all but the poorest third of families and families with disabled children;
  • Cap the biggest public sector pensions above £50,000; and
  • Introduce a 5 per cent pay cut for Ministers, followed by a 5-year freeze, and a 10 per cent reduction in the number of MPs.
LABOUR
  • Help people who have lost a job or income stay in their homes by helping them with interest payments
  • Create 200, 000 jobs to help people who have lost their jobs get back to work
  • Support businesses by giving increased tax relied on business investment, allowing businesses to plan ahead and invest in their companies
  • Help businesses starting out by cutting business rates for one year from October.
  • Make sure that businesses are able to access the credit they need.
  LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
  • No income tax on the first £10,000 you earn
  • State pension will be increased in line with earnings, prices or by 2.5% whichever is the higher
  • Stop banks and energy companies charging unfair bills and charges.
  • Give grants to schools who want to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings.
  • Ec Cashback for families who install green technology for one year only
 JOBS AND WELFARE 
CONSERVATIVE
  • Offer support to the young unemployed by referring them on to the Work Programme after six months of unemployment
  • Give young people the skills they need to get a sustainable job for the future by finding 200,000 apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, work pairing and further education plans
  • Build a network of business mentors and offer substantial loans to would be entrepreneurs, supporting self employment and franchising as a route back into work
  • Create 10,000 University places this year and fund the cost by giving graduates and incentive to repay their student loan debts to the taxpayer ahead of schedule
  • Abolish tax on new jobs created by new businesses in the first 2 years of a Conservative Government
  LABOUR
  • Labour is investing £5 billion t help people back into work and guarantee a job training place for all 18-25 year olds out of work for six months
  • Achieve an 80% employment rate by helping people get back into work and keep that at work.
  • Build a fair and family friendly labour market where everyone has the opportunity to develop their skills and experience
  • Assess everyone receiving incapacity benefit or income support on the grounds of disability to move them onto Employment and support allowance so everyone who is able to work will have access to greater support
  • Provide better incentives for lone parents with younger children who want to work for just a few hours a week
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
  • Launch a £3.3 billion economic stimulus package that will create 100,00 jobs.
  • Support young people while they get valuable work experience by paying anyone undertaking an internship.  This will help employers who want to offer young people work experience but cannot afford to pay them
  • Work with employers in the private and public sectors to ensure that there are a wide range of opportunities available
CRIME 
CONSERVATIVES
  • Want to reduce the amount of paperwork involved in stop and search so that the police will have more time to get out on the streets
  • Give local people direct control over the way they are policed
  • Comprehensive plan to fix broken society and work with families to bring a stable upbringing that young people need to help them avoid a life of crime
  • Zero tolerance approach to knife crimes and drugs from our shores to our streets and introduction of Border Police Force to stem the flow of drugs into Britain
  LABOUR
  • Local neighbourhood police spends 80% of its time on the beat
  • Step up work to prevent low level crime and disorder by tightening controls around lap dancing clubs and the mis-use of alcohol
  • Tougher sanctions against parents of a person who breaches an ASBO
  • Invest in targeted campaigns against knife and gun crime and gang culture and tough new powers for the police.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
  • Pay for 3,000 more police on the beat
  • Live local people a reals say over their police force through direct election of police authorities
  • Reduce the ill-health and crime caused by excessive drinking
  • Replace short-term sentences with rigorously enforced community sentences
  • Give people a direct say in how petty criminals and those who engage in anti-social behaviour are punished
Who will I personally vote for? Each party has something to offer but I am personally going to vote for Conservatives for the following reasons: 
  In relation to business  As a small business owner, the Labour Government did not help with the introduction of the minimum wage in 1999. Now with recession also hitting UK shores, as an employer, I have had to comply with UK legislation by paying the minimum wage and yet this year many boroughs will not be paying the usual 2% rise in line with inflation and running cost of client care.  Whilst I have been blessed to be able to stay afloat, more businesses went bust in Labour Government than at any other time. Now with this in mind, I want the country to get out of debt and I don't believe that the Labour Government will be able to do this at a pace that is required to keep mortgage interest rates low. In addition the recent raise on National Insurance is another blow on businesses as a whole. This is a tax on business. I want a Government who can create a stable economic environment allowing me to grow not hinder.    In relation to Europe  Imagine having a country where the final say is not with the British Government but rather by a group of countries who neither know the British people, its beliefs or its values. The Conservative Party believes that ultimate, final authority should stay in this country, in our Parliament and not with the European Government. The Labour Government broke trust when they did not allow a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.  Instead the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party supported the Lisbon Treaty and it was absorbed as part of European Law, which can now not be reversed. Not only did they break their promise of a referendum, they betrayed democracy. They made a decision without consulting and allowing the British people to vote. Would you allow the Labour party to do this again? Whilst some boroughs, where there is a Labour majority, have had their council tax knocked back (I believe this to be because of the upcoming election) I want council tax to stay low not just for the election period. The conservative party want to freeze council tax and raise the basic state pension. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies Londoners are 'paying £1,200 more tax under Labour'.    Local Government  I have been most impressed with my local Conservative Councilor. Although I have only met him once, he endeavors to keep his ward informed with regular communication and he responds back with much efficiency. I haven’t met any of the other parties but in all the time that I have been living at my home, the Conservative Party is the most visible.

For a full manifesto of each party visit


Labour

Conservative

Liberal Democrats

For another useful site for comparing parties visit up my street

My travel saga caused by Icelandic Ash Cloud #getmehome

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Having arrived in Hungary on April 14 for a business trip, I was unaware of the Icelandic eruption or the chaos that it was causing around the world until I myself started to confirm my flight details back to the United Kingdom on the April 16.  I was informed by my hotel that the airport in Budapest was closed until the evening of the 17th which was when my flight was. My business partner and I checked with the airline to confirm that the flight was cancelled and requested that they put us on the next available flight to the UK. They were not able to do so because they already had a list of passengers who had made reservations before us and the next available seats were not until the April 23.  They had also informed us that they were not in a position to pay for any expenses such as hotel fees due to being stranded.

We then resigned ourselves to the premise that our travel insurance would pick up expenses the airline would not cover and stayed an extra night at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Hotel, Budapest (Castle District) and the staff were very accommodating and helpful sympathising not only with our circumstances but also that of our fellow guests – some of whom (mostly Americans or people travelling to America) were told that air travel was not possible until April 21st.

This was the first time I had been away from my recently turned one year old ( I have two kids) and to have left her with my thankfully supportive husband, I was already feeling overcome with guilt and my arms longed to embrace my children.  I was therefore determined not to spend another day in Budapest even though my colleague was prepared to ride out the ash cloud in the hope that flights would resume soon.

I, on the other hand followed my heart and funnily enough, my colleague went along with my plans. The same evening at Eastern Railway Station, Budapest,  having waited in a queue that never seem to end I met a fellow Brit who had only come for a one hour meeting to Budapest on the 17th.  He was meant to have flown home the following day but ended up being stranded for 4 days.  He was no longer willing to leave it to chance and was eager to get whatever train went in the direction of the UK.  Having shared my story of being stranded, he just simply said “Do whatever you can to get back to your children”.  His words made a small knot in my throat and I could feel the tears start to well up in my eyes.

Finally, our number was displayed on the overhead monitor  and we were greeted by a very helpful ticket lady who helped us get train tickets for the following morning from Budapest to Munich to Mannheim. There were no available seats from Mannheim to Paris but the lady encouragingly said maybe that would change when we got to Mannheim.

Our journey started at 7am the next morning, with many anxious people striving to get to their final destinations.  All I could think of was at least I was on the move and not hanging around in Budapest for flights to resume.  The journey itself from Budapest to Munich and then to Mannheim was uneventful.  However when we arrived at Mannheim to get tickets to Paris, no seats were available until the following evening.  It felt as though I at least, was grasping at straws.  With desperation, I asked the lady to check if there were any seats on first class – nothing.  Then her colleague came behind her and asked us to speak to the conductor to see if we could get on the train when the train arrives at the platform.

My heart was really thumping in my chest and I turned to the social media and twittered asking fellow twitterers to pray that we could get on train to Paris even though there were no available seats – Thank God the conductor let us on and we were not the only passengers on board with no tickets.  The train was jammed packed with people.  My seat along with my business partner was outside the toilet, on the corridor of the train on top of my luggage. Still, it was a feeling of elation and I thanked the people who made the effort to pray on twitter.

I had been using my Blackberry to instant message my brother who was providing us with the very latest travel details and apparently we were unable to get on a train to London as we would arrive in Paris at 11pm and the last train to London would have left at 9pm.  The ticket desk in Paris was closed when we arrived, hence we were not able to make reservations.

We ended up looking for hotels near the train station in order that we could get up early to get tickets but all the hotels we went to were full.  Our last stop was at the Ibis Hotel which looked pretty decent but again we were told that they were completely full with no vacancies at all.  I then asked the receptionist if he would mind us staying in the lobby for a few hours as it was already midnight and we would need to be at the train station at 6am, he promptly informed us that it was forbidden for us to wait in the lobby and just as I was about to leave, my business partner sank into an armchair feeling tired saying that she just wanted to rest her feet for a few minutes.  I guess the receptionist took pity on her and said if we were sure to leave before 8am, he could give us a room.  I said we would take whatever he had.  We ended up with their top suite which was such a blessing and promised we would be out of the hotel by 6am.

The following morning when we arrived at the Paris Est train station, the queues were already long and we were told by the ticket lady that there were no available seats on Eurostar until 8pm that evening.  However, she said that we might have better luck at the Eurostar ticketing office located at Gare Nord.  So off we trotted to the ticket office from Paris Est to Gare Nord train station where we were confronted by Eurostar security who would not allow us to get to the ticket office saying that trains were full and there were no tickets available until Friday.  They directed us to the ticket machines as the ticket office were not selling tickets which I could not believe. Whilst my business partner debated with the security guys, I tackled the machines and it was true, every hour I punched into the machine, there were no available tickets not in economy and not in first class.  Another English couple I conversed with said that they bought tickets for Friday.  I must have been on the ticket machine for at least a good twenty minutes and another passenger, I presume must have thought that I was just messing around with the machine asked me to get off it so he could reserve his ticket.  I bluntly replied to him that there are other machines and I like him was trying to find a reservation.  We eyed each other for a minute or so as I was not willing to budge and he fortunately moved on.  With much determination and prayer, I did manage to get tickets for the 8:45pm train the same evening and felt sorry for the couple who reserved seats for Friday but I guess were not persistent enough with the ticket machine.  I did try searching for them afterwards but didn’t manage to locate them.

Having got our tickets from the machine, my business partner said maybe we could exchange them for an earlier train.  So with our train tickets to hand, we waved them at the security guards who let us through and started queuing at the ticket office.  Other security people approached us in the line telling us that waiting in the line was futile and a waste of time as there was nothing available but my business partner told them to just let us try as that was our right to do so.  We must have waited about an hour or so when they announced that there were tickets available from Brussels to London and that the train would arrive in London around 4pm.  We grabbed those tickets and refunded the ones that I bought from the ticket machine – The total ticket price of a one way economy seat from Paris to Brussels and then London was €333 Euros so I paid the difference of 90 Euros each.  But it was better than waiting for the 20.45 train.  With jubilation, we carried our tickets as if they were gold, protective of them, back to the waiting area where we saw people arguing with the same security guards we had debated with.  I told the ladies in front of the security guards to go upstairs as they were selling tickets.  The security guard was dumbfounded and asked who told us that they were selling tickets to which I replied “We just bought ours!”.  With that, the ladies pushed passed the security guard managing to get access to the Eurostar ticket office and I was happy for them.

I can honestly say that this experience has been such an eye opener.  One that I will definitely not forget.  However I feel for those who are stuck on the other side of the Atlantic who really have no other way of getting into Europe or the United Kingdom.  The stress was just unbelievable but my motivating factor was just to be with my family again.

How did I get through this? Faith, determination, sense of humour and a camera filled with pictures of my family.  There really is no place like home.