Thoughts on International Parenting

Bi-national and expatriate families, by default, are always straddling three cultures—the parents’, the host country, and the children who live in both worlds—hence the term “third culture kid,” which is a reality for many people who live in this global world.
What I find curious is that I am a completely different parent to my child when in Manila and when I am in Germany. It is a given that a complete lifestyle change occurs when moving to a new country, that the rhymes and rituals that were well-established in the old are chucked for new ones. It mostly depends on the climate and the pace of life in the new place. The host culture also dictates a huge part of how a child is raised.
Germans, for the most (not all) part, have strict rules when it comes to children: Children are meant to be seen, not heard. Let’s take bedtime for example. Children watch Sandman at 6:30, have dinner, read a bedtime story, and are sent to their own bed promptly at 8 pm. I am not generalizing here, since rules differ from household to household, but in an idealized German household, children are to be held to a schedule. “Kinder brauchen Regeln,” and one would be hard-pressed to find children out and about during normal weekday evenings by nightfall.
In the Philippines, children are much, much more involved in family activities, especially during social events. I remember my last night in Manila: We went to a karaoke bar and sang our hearts out until 1 am. There were four children under the age of 5 in our group on a school night! While normal in the Philippines, this is completely taboo in Germany.
This has of course created a hybrid in how I raise my child. I am too strict by Filipino standards, while I am too lax for Germans. I find that in Manila, I expect my child to act more “Filipino,” in that I expect independence in the form of playing with his cousins. In Germany, I don’t have the heart to force my child to sleep in his own bed, because sleeping next to your children is normal in the Philippines.

In another vein, how I parent also changes where I am. I find myself to be a more “top-down” parent in Manila, while in Germany, I spend more time with my son. I guess this is because much of the grunt work is taken from me by the household help.

Has your parenting style changed after an international move? I would welcome answers!

The Mouth is Willing, But The Stomach Is Weak

Photo by TQE

A side trip to Berlin for TQE’s belated 30th birthday party was one of the more satisfying and jam-packed 24- hour whirlwind trips I have ever taken in my lifetime.

I decided to ignore my body and my subconscious’ signal to SLOW DOWN (if a dream about being almost sucked into a tornado is a sign for someone to slow down, I don’t know what is) just for this one weekend and headed over to Berlin, where Adam and I finally went satisfy my years-long Ethiopian food munchies at Betje Ethiopia, which a former colleague of his recommended.

First of all, I would like to praise TQE’s unbelievable Panasonic Lumix camera (I think it is a GF 6?), which took still life photos with amazing picture quality in low-light conditions. Really, if I have ever envied one of Adam’s toys, it was this one.

So we had this great lentil soup as a starter, which tasted like munggo guisado without rice. We ate it with injira, the traditional unleavened bread that Ethiopians eat with everything.  And we downed it with tej, traditional honey wine. I got pleasantly buzzed but not drunk, and I know now after reading Cooked that fermented sweet things with an over 2% alcohol content does not occur in nature. But I digress.

I came to regret even ordering appetizers. For 22 euros, we shared a huge platter about a foot and a half across that had this massive injira pancake on it, dotted with several vegetarian and non-vegetarian dips. We tore that injira bit by bit with our smelly, greasy Ethiopian-food stained hands hands until we said i no mas! with half a plate of dips still left over. Seriously though, I would have eaten the whole thing, especially since I especially didn’t eat lunch in anticipation. However, since we didn’t reserve a table, we had to leave by 7:30, and miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting ceremony the restaurant has at 8. Seriously, guys, if you want to eat here, reserve a table, and come with an empty stomach.

After hitting the Berlinale Film Festival for a movie and coming home to a fitful night’s sleep at around 1:30 am, I woke up to be fashionably late at Adam’s brunch party, which was held at a restaurant called 12 Apostel. You take the S-bahn to Savigny Platz, take the exit to Bleibtreu Strasse, and you’re right there.

If there is any German city that takes brunch to another level, it is Berlin. 12 Apostel is a growing Italian chain restaurant in Berlin, and for 18 euros, you have the brunch experience, bar none. They have bread. They have scrambled eggs. They have fruit, deviled eggs, bacon, and did I mention the panna cotta? And the crepe station? And the juice and water station? They really had everything, and an amazing cheese selection to boot. A warm drink, a glass of Prosecco, and the juice and water bar is included with the meal. Really, I just wanted to have one little bit… more, but sorry, I was so full. I even took a walk in between courses just to pace myself.

pannaI swear by the panna cotta. How they are able to mass-produce such an awesome panna cotta is beyond me. TQE credits Snooker in Berlin for the amazing restaurant find.

It was the perfect party. Great company, good food, what more can you ask for? Thank you Adam, for hosting such a great weekend!


Betje Ethiopia

Zietenstraße 8, 10783 Berlin

S-bahn and U-bahn Nollendorf Platz

030 2625933


12 Apostel

Bleibtreustraße 49
10623 Berlin Charlottenburg

Brunch only Sundays from 10 am-3 pm, 18 €

Hotel Panorama Oberhof


New Year’s was great in our family. I hope you had a great one too!

We ( meaning I, ) needed a to get away during the New Year, as didn’t really want to spend it at home thinking about the million things I had to do. The requirements were: a) it had to be cheap,  b) it had to be near home, and c) it had to be child-friendly.

Hotel Panorama in Oberhof located in the Thuringian forest fit the bill. We spent the weeked there and spent only around 300 euros, so that is a really good deal.

oberhofThe view heading up to the hotel was spectacular, with a brilliant blue sky at the background. One of the main attractions for me was the indoor playground at the hotel, which used to be the tennis court/ sports club. They had an indoor wall climbing facility, a Segway course (with Segways for rent) and all kinds of playground facilites like a ball pool, soccer field, and a bobby car racing track. Parents can watch their kids play at the restaurant or even enjoy a massage armchair for a 2 euro/ 10 minute massage.

oberhof1Day two was spent wandering around Oberhof. The place is known for its skiing and its glass artisans, and so we watched one in action in a shop, where they held a glass-blowing demonstration for the tourists. Several kids were present, and there is really something about fire that transfixes people. I couldn’t believe that the children were so quiet during the whole presentation!

Day three was spent at an exotic reptile and fish terrarium further downtown, and got in for free using the Oberhof Pass that tourists receive. I think I should not have told my kid that pythons eat little children…

Of course, 300 euros also means that you can’t expect the best service and top facilites. Although they tried their best, the the cheap price and the resulting influx of guests meant that I had to wait nearly an hour for my burned “Chicken Cordon Bleo” at the restaurant downstairs.

Our room was great. It was clean, and was cleaned regularly. While the rooms were renovated, I think that our room, and the hotel in general, needs a little updating to move it from 1990 to 2014. That tacky spray-painted mural by the indoor swimming pool has to go, and the hot tub needs to be fixed.

But why does that matter? Thanks to the poor internet connection in the mountains, I was disconnected from Facebook and other distractions unless I was at the lobby, and finally got to read a  book from cover to cover within three days. it was unexpectedly a delight. My son had a great time, and is asking when we’re going back. That is what I call a successful vacation.


Welcome to Tonndorf Castle

One of the many alternative living communities in the area is the artist’s community in Tonndorf, based in a castle located between Erfurt and Weimar. Built in the 12th century and fell into disrepair through the centuries, a group of artists and artisans moved in and are in the process of restoring the castle.

Around 60 people, kids included, live in the castle. The younger kids go to the Waldkindergarten in the castle, while the older kids are bused to the alternative school in Erfurt. There are very definite rules into moving in and out of the castle community, and avoid drama with rules and a 10 thousand euro deposit and a probationary period to see whether the living arrangement will work out.


Spinning wool thread. I thought they existed only in fairy tales

Two weekends ago was the yearly artist’s and artisanal Christmas market at the castle. Products and creations from the castle’s artists, craftsmen and beekeepers were on display. It’s the perfect place to buy a Christmas present for somebody who has everything.

I really like the fact that it was a very interactive market, that you could directly talk to the people who made your product. The fact that they are locally produced is also a very big plus in helping support these artists and craftsmen.

After a cold day shopping, it was really nice to sit in their warm Cafe and sip a hot chocolate. I would definitely like to go back and enroll in their tree-pruning lessons in the summer.

Silay’s Iron Dinosaurs

Having a son addicted to motor vehicles and steam engines, I will go to the ends of the earth to make sure he will get his wish.

I wanted to visit Silay, Negros Occidental for many reasons. One of them was to visit heritage houses, mostly from the American colonial era, and the steam engines. Germany has many well-preserved steam engines, but they are all colored black. I would of course not pass up the chance for my son to see Thomas the Locomotive in the flesh.

That meant my son and I camped out in Silay for a week and made kulit (Tagalog for being a pushy pain in the neck) the marketing person of the sugar plantation of the Hawaii-Philippine Co. These wonderful narrow-gauge (I think they were judging by the tracks) steam locomotives are two of the last remaining steam engines used to transport sugarcane to the refinery at the compound where the offices are located. The lady said that they are rented out for 15 thousand pesos a day to tourists. Otherwise they languish in that compund. Such a shame!

I suggested to her that the company could hold special tours, gussy up that engine, acquire or renovate a few train cars, and hold events like the Nikolaus Express like in Europe and the US. I hope that there is someone out there reading this who has the power to move thesse kinds of things and add another tourist attraction to Silay, which is really a lovely place to visit with delicious food to boot!

Nikolaus Express

My boy is a boy. I tried to encourage a gender-neutral upbringing, but no dice. The boy loves his toy cars and trains. Friday morning was extra special. He got up early, and excitedly played with his Thomas and Friends locomotives.

Every year, the Deutsche Bahn with a group dedicated to train preservation organizes about four events a year with a DRB Steam Engine–the train drivers even wear engineer’s caps for authenticity. The events are mostly geared towards children, like the Nikolaus Express. Nikolaus is the original Santa Claus, who comes to Germany and gives candy to children on December 6. So of course I try to book tickets for us every year.

This year’s trip was once again filled with small freebies. This year we got a pocket storybook, a keychain, a re-usable bag, book markers, and of course, chocolate and candy. Aside from the sights of the countryside, it is quite interesting to see Dampflok afficionados throughout the route following and photographing the train as if it were a model.  It is very much worth the ticket price of 15 euros!

Tickets can be bought over this website. It is important to get the tickets at least two months in advance, since they sell out quite quickly!

Aside from the

Romancing the Onion

Seems nasty, but tastes good.

October is a pretty big deal around these parts. Not just because of Oktoberfest (which actually begins at the end of September), but because Weimar is invaded by thousands of people for the Zwiebelfest, or the onion festival. Yes, when it comes to celebrating food, Germans pick the strangest ones to celebrate.

Since Weimar is close to a village that has the onion as its traditional produce, it is clear why this became the focus of the local harvest festival.

garlandSo they have onion cake, onion home decor, crafts made of onions, onion garlands, onion decorated sunglasses, earrings, head bands…you name it. Strangely, onion rings haven’t caught on yet. Thankfully, the cold weather means that most of us have the sniffles, and the cold, damp air blots out the resulting human stink.

Assorted kitsch completely unrelated to onions are also sold. This year I got myself a bundle of oats to stick over my door (reminiscent of a Filipino tradition to sticking a bundle of rice stalks over the door to ensure prosperity), an onion garland to rid myself of vampires, and a rice paddle decorated with onions and dried flowers, because it looked pretty. And a bird house made by a juvenile delinquent as part of her arts and crafts program in her detention facility. Just like with their choice of foodstuffs to celebrate, the Germans really show a knack for (not really) naming products. “Knast Made!” (Prison Made!) seems to be in really poor taste.

Anyhoo, as with most small town festivals, the best thing to do is not to take everything seriously and have fun! And drink copious amounts of alcohol while at it.

Manila Chinatown Walks

I just love Chinatowns. I love the crowd, the vibe, and especially the food. Manila Chinatown is a part of my childhood, as my grandparents regularly took me here as a child. My gradfather lived in the area until his 20s, and knew the backalleys of Chinatown very well.

mandyIvan Man Dy’s Old Manila Walks, especially his Chinese New Year tours, are something I would definitely recommend to Filipinos and people who want to learn more about Filipinos. And eating really great food along the way. And burning it all of while walking in the humid Manila air. I for one am glad that Chinese New Year is now more widely celebrated in the Phlippines outside of the Philippine-Chinese community.

I’ve spoken abot the New Po Heng Lumpia House in an old entry, but we visited a lot of more established restaurants and hole-in-the-walls than I indicated. I learned a lot about Chinese New Year’s traditions, ate really good bola-bola soup at the Cafe Mezzanine, which sponsors the district’s firefighting brigade. Then off to another hole-in-the-wall to eat spring dimsum. Then a variation of dough fried in oil, which he is holding up for everyone to see, and a little stop at a lumpia house.

While eating my bola-bola soup, I got into conversation with a British expat couple who had been living in Manila for the past three years. With them was the husband’s wheelchair-dependent mother. When I asked how were they able to keep her mobile, they beamed about the helpfulness of Filipinos, who always parted like the red sea in Chinatown’s busy streets to make way for her, even carrying her up and down flights of stairs if need be. In fact it’s her second tour. Way to go Pinoy hospitality!

I’m not sure if all of his tours are like this, but at the end of his New Year tour he had a lot of giveaways, and reminded me of an Oprah’s Wildest Dreams episode. With or without the gifts, the tour was a lot of fun and yummy to boot!


Spätsommer Fest at Goldhelm Chocolate

What a magical, magical night. In what was possibly the last warm summer night of the year, the border to France magically moved itself 600 kilometers to the East, and a small public party to the loyal customers of Goldhelm Chocolate Manufacturer. There were crepes, a photo booth, a corner to make your own truffles, a graffiti corner for kids, and Momo, a French chanson, and his kick-ass accordion player!

partyI’ve been wanting to attend their late summer party for two years now, but I only had the opportunity to go this year. It amazed me how so damned twee everything was.

I had a wonderful caramel-encrusted cheese (camembert?), a chocolate and hazelnut crepe, and a non-alcoholic drink mix in what could be the cutest packaging ever!

Striped  paper straws!

Striped paper straws!

And that the team of Goldhelm pulled everything off wonderfully. Everybody had a great time, especially after the guests had imbibed a good deal of alcohol.

Thanks Goldhelm, I had a lot of fun, and I hope I could attend next year!

Do NOT Disturb A Hungry Man

I like this fellow Patrick Stäbler. He’s a journalist. He likes food. He’s adventurous. In these points we have a lot in common. However, his curiosity has taken him somewhere I haven’t been yet. Namely through Germany. Patrick, who is quite the gourmet, has realized that he eats Sushi more often than he does Schweinhaxe. So he goes on a journey to eat obscure regional dishes from each of Germany’s 16 states.

So to make the trip a whole lot more difficult and interesting, he decides to hitchhike to his destinations and crash at people’s apartments along the way. He wrote a blog, and found himself a publisher. The book, Speisende Soll Man Nicht Aufhalten, has a double meaning in German. You could translate it like I have in the title, or as “Do NOT Stop for a Hungry Man.” Then his trip became part of the Leipzig “Iss Was!?” exhibit, which is how I decided to stop by the gift shop to get the book.

In between bites of funny-sounding unheard-of specialties like Dibbelabbes or Schnüsch, he eats other, more popular regional specialties like Döner and Currywurst. And he meets a motley crew of people along the way, like the chic Russian nurse who commutes from Germany to Luxembourg, to the neo-Nazi who took him to Berlin.

The book is funny and well-written, I feel that he tries too hard at some places,  but that is okay, since his earnestness is winning. Like most blog turned books, the book has a chronological narrative, and can seem boring at times, especially when he describes the days when he could not get anyone to pick him up.

It was strange to read Patrick rhapsodize about German dishes. Maybe it’s just Thuringia, but I do not experience a vielfalt of flavor when I eat German food. It has basically three different flavors: sweet, salty, and fatty. Maybe sour if you eat Sauerkraut or Sauerbraten. Let’s just say that while I like a good Braten, the taste palette is sehr begrenzt.

In general, I would recommend this book for people who want to prepare obscure German dishes (the recipes are in the book), for immigrants who want to learn more about Germany (provided that your German is at a B1-B2 Level), or for anybody who likes German food in general. I hope that it’ll be successful enough to warrant an English translation. And if you are ever in Berlin, the best Döner I’ve ever had was right across the road from the Zoobahnhof. Alas, I think it doesn’t exist anymore.