Listed: 5 Benefits of Having Foreign Friends

In my years of living abroad, I've mingled with different races and cultures, and have made lasting friendships with quite a number of them. Foreign friends are very different from Filipino friends in a number of ways, and while my Pinoy buddies are true gems in every way, foreign pals carry their own charms.

Before I start the post, you might think I'm portraying Filipino friends as inferior to foreign ones, but that is not true at all. All friends are equal no matter the race or culture. Also, most points in this post could also apply to some of your own Pinoy friends. These are just general points I wanted to make, so chill and enjoy the article.

1. Different Perspectives

It's expected that different cultures bring about different perspectives in life, like what beauty is for them, what marriage is and should be, what the 'legal' age for doing adult things is, and when "crazy" is considered merely weird or borderline insane.

Growing up with foreign friends liberated my mind at such a young age (hello, going to a disco at 8 years old), and gave me reason to think more about my attitude towards life. Not everyone is privileged and those that are should know better than to spout careless things out of their mouths. It made me sensitive to what other people might feel and molded me to become a people-person - a trait that has proven to be double-edged in terms of benefits.

As most foreign families aren't uptight with how they raise their kids, I got a glimpse of what my own childhood would've been like if I wasn't born Asian. Thus, they learn to mature faster and have a sense of independence.

2. Nothing's Taboo

Let your tongue bathe in words you wouldn't even dare utter in front of your Filipino parents. While not all Filipino families are sensitive to topics like sex and drugs, more than 80% are, and it can be really frustrating as a kid when you want to know about something and no one around you can tell you anything.

This type of parenting has produced young people too afraid (or too "good") to talk about these topics*. With foreign pals, nothing is off limits. My friends and I talk about "taboo" things, and they're all nonchalant about it (even the guys!). It's everyday conversation for us.

*I'm speaking generally, though I do have Filipino friends who don't make a huge deal out of what most consider to be sensitive topics.

3. Different Experiences

I think most Filipino kids would agree that their parents raised them quite strictly, with an emphasis on excelling in academics and having a successful career before 30 (25 for achievers). Pinoy kids would have had more or less similar experiences in different situations, but foreign friends would probably have a bit more flavor to share.

I love stories that give me a wider perspective in life, and I've been really blessed to be in a circle of multicultural friends with varying backgrounds and attitudes. I've even gotten out of a pickle using an experience a friend from Australia shared with me once. Learn from another person's experience!

4. Learn New Languages

This is most definitely one of the best things to come out of foreign friendships! Language is a huge part of establishing relationships and the more languages you learn, the better.

As of today, I can speak Tagalog, conversational French, switch from American to British/Australian accents in a snap, and converse in beginner Deutsch and Spanish. I have a Ukrainian friend I have yet to ask lessons from and I'm stoked to get started.

5. Keep Harmonious Relationships

As we're all from different beliefs and cultures, knowing how to get along with everyone well is important. There's all kinds of humor that may be funny to one and not another. There might be a belief you feel strongly about that goes against one of your friends' culture and upbringing. I could keep going, but you get the point.

In a circle of foreign friends, I was molded to adapt to the general aura or feel of the group. I became flexible enough to make others feel comfortable while still being true to myself and keeping my own person collected. When arguments arise, I learned to keep my cool at a young age and see the situation objectively (it was either get into a fight with people you'll see everyday or be logical and find another solution).

Admittedly, this was a struggle for me growing up, as I had always been really shy and didn't want to go out of my comfort zone. As I continued to mingle with them however, I gradually opened up and embraced the confidence I didn't realize I had.

How about you? What is one thing you truly love about having foreign friends in your circle? What other points would you have included in this post? Let me know in the comments! Also don't forget to answer the poll at the footer of this page!

Game Review: Inspector Parker

It's not a new game, I know. Still, I'm aware not everyone got exposed to this Sherlock Holmes-inspired digital board game when it first came out in 2003.

Inspector Parker is one of those games that you'll never get tired of, if you're a fan of whodunit stories. What's great is that every board is randomly generated, so every time you complete the whole game and decide to replay it, the gameplay will be different.

Here's the blurb for the game by Big Fish:

Help solve the mystery of Misanthrope Manor in the whodunit puzzler, Inspector Parker 

Sort through suspects, weapons, motives, victims, evidence, and body-disposal methods as you aide Inspector Parker in solving the crime. Choose from 10 levels of play in Career Mode, select Puzzle Mode for a game of thoughtful deduction, or move quickly as you race the clock in Timed Mode. 

A download-must for all fans of board game puzzles and mysteries alike!
  • Solve the mystery of Misanthrope Manor.
  • Choose from 3 levels of play.
  • Choose from three difficulty settings.

Actual in-game shots from my gameplay:

This board is from a higher level of gameplay. To start, the player is given around 4-6 rooms.
Starting screen for each level, and in this case, for the Chief Inspector level of difficulty.
The four ranks you can climb up, from easy boards to complicated ones. 

Given that the game was released in 2003, system requirements are low for what we use now. You may download the free trial here or have a quick game online to see if it's something you'd like to purchase.

Aside from the game itself, there are extras to help you explore the Inspector Parker world further.

The game has a gallery section to let you have a closer look at the characters and the rooms.

Now this is a PC game, but I use a Macbook Pro. It's been a while since I played the game and I was at a point where I really, really wanted to do so no matter what.

I then sought the help of Wine or Winebottler, an application that helps you run .exe files on your Mac or package them as .dmg files to run natively on the system. In less than 10 minutes, I was able to get the PC game running on my Mac.

I suggest you give this game a try and bring out the detective in you. It makes use of deductive reasoning, and gives you clues through the visual cues on the upper right board, as well as testimonies from the interviewees (bottom right), though you won't really use them much. I've had endless fun with Inspector Parker over the years, and I'm extremely happy to be able to share this game with you.

Let me know if you decide (or will decide) to play this game yourself! I'd love to hear your impressions.

How Do You Know You’ve Found The Blogging Platform For You?

Back in 2004, when I started my blog over at Blogger, blogging wasn't a thing. It wasn't popular and blogs used to serve merely as diaries for people who want to keep talking (writing?) beyond their circle.

I, for one, discovered blogging when I was hanging out at the house of a friend from church, practicing our little dance number to be performed on a Sunday (or Saturday?). I was sitting on her bed waiting for the others to arrive when I couldn't help but notice "Diaryland" displayed on her computer. At the time, it looked really cool and personal, and the more I observed her interact with it, the more I grew interested. I was very shy then, so I didn't ask what it was.

When I got home though, I googled 'Diaryland' (Or was it Yahoo? Dang I'm old.) and was shown this website:

Before any of this, I didn't have much going for me on the internet. All I did was to search on it for homework or check and send emails. I don't recall spending hours 'browsing' and getting eye strain. After a quick search, I discovered Blogger. 

Blogger login circa 2009

It doesn't seem much right now, but back then, it opened up a whole new world. I kept physical diaries growing up so knowing there was a way to kind of immortalize and share my thoughts to people was mind-blowing to me.

This was also the time I began to explore HTML/CSS/Flash (thanks, Friendster!) so with my knowledge, I decided to start with Blogger as it was a straight-to-the-point system for posting and designing my blog's look and feel. Diaryland was cool and intimate, but I didn't have access to the codes for customization. Wordpress wasn't even a thing back then.

Between 2007 to 2009, I didn't touch my blog. I didn't see it is something valuable enough to keep spending time on because I already had  a physical diary, and that was enough for me. Boy, was that a big mistake. When I got back to the blogging scene, a lot of people had started one and for them, blogging was a business. I realized I needed to get back to work, and after a short glitch in the system (I somehow deleted everything in my blog, sadly), I was back.

A few months into blogging again, Wordpress started catching up, offering "plugins" to give more customization options for a small fee. 

Wordpress circa 2013

With Wordpress, my love for designing web pages was ignited. I remember looking through a number of free themes thinking about possible blogs I could create - food blogs, one for politics, one for just my artworks, one for music... there was just too many ideas, but I decided to stick to one - art.

I then proceeded to keep two blogs: one on Blogger for my personal posts and one on Wordpress for my art posts. During this time, I also discovered other blogging sites like LiveJournal, Tumblr, Weebly, and Wix, among many others. Name a blogging platform and I can bet you I've already tried blogging on it.
For the next 5-6 years, I blogged inconsistently with blogger, never really feeling contented and countlessly switching from Blogger to Wordpress and vice-versa. I could never seem to find the sweet spot, since the other had benefits the other didn't. I couldn't find peace. I even tried telling myself to switch fully to Moonfruit instead, or Wix. (Moonfruit back then didn't offer a lot of versatility.)

Around 2014-2015, I heard about Squarespace.

As a student, getting my blog on Squarespace was near to impossible. I had no job to sustain the monthly fee and I had no money of my own to buy a domain for it. I tried the 14-day trial and fell in love, but I couldn't afford it. Blogger was still the best platform for a starting, unemployed student-blogger.

Fast-forward to the first quarter of 2017, I could finally afford Squarespace. I already had a job after graduating in 2015 so my income was steady. I also already established a brand that same year and it wasn't hard to choose the domain for my portfolio/blog. For the first time in years, I didn't feel unease. I stopped looking for alternatives or "what could be better". I felt right at home with Squarespace. I've always never questioned being on the platform.

How do you feel about blogging platforms now?

Admittedly, though I'm earning enough to sustain my blog and domain, Squarespace's P832.00/month pricing can get quite heavy. Add to that your G-Suite subscription and you're more or less paying for P950-P1,100/month. For that price, you could have yearly hosting covered and get your blog on Wordpress.

As for Blogger, I found myself opening my dashboard again and redesigning it. I realized how much I missed the simplicity of blogging there, and how I could get so many customizations in the code done just the way I wanted it. During the process though, I also realized how in-love I am now with Squarespace. I couldn't believe it myself. (Edit: I'm back at Blogger!)

While I tried to relive my Blogger days (I still use it for my daily doo-dahs: read here), I kept comparing how easy it was to style your posts and add elements on Squarespace. Yes, you had full control with HTML but so much time can be saved with the available blocks in the latter. You don't even have to think. Blogger was good while it lasted for me. There are still heaps of blogs hosted there, but I think I've graduated from the platform.

As for Moonfruit, I recently decided to take another look and was surprised by the pricing and the modernized brand. 

The new site looks updated, and the pricing was actually cheap (at around $5/month). I then decided to sign up again and see what's new. Once I got in, I noticed the site builder is akin to Wix's website builder, with a preset structure (header, body, footer) and pre-made templates. I expected to get more, but they've apparently stuck to a few themes plus a blank one to start from scratch with. 

As much as I'd like to say it's become a contender, there's still just too many limitations for it to hit mainstream.

As for Tumblr, LiveJournal, Weebly, and the others, they still aren't flexible enough (or simple enough) to offer competition. As of today, I still believe Wordpress & Squarespace are leading the industry.

You see, there have been a number of people asking me through private messaging about blogging, like how to start, what it is, how can they make money off it, which platform is better, and more. I realized that they're struggling with this earlier than I did, because they now have more options than I did 10 years ago (I'm not too old, okay? I just turned 26, haha!).

I also found myself rethinking my decision to move to Squarespace after so many months of contentment. Wala ba talagang forever? (Is forever really just a concept?) Kidding. Don't worry - with all the good I've mentioned about the site, I'm definitely staying. I just thought I'd talk about my previous struggles and show it's okay to get a little muddled at first.

If you're struggling with anything blog-related, whether hosting, setting up, content management, marketing your blog - I'm here to help. Leave a comment or leave me a message on any of my socials! I love helping out people with their passions so don't be shy! :)