Summing up my 2017

The year just came and went in an insta.

I’m always in reflection mode this time of year, this month being the last one for the year and my birth month. Although I don’t keep a journal and have been remiss writing here, I realized I’ve amassed some photos on Instagram where I’ve been posting with some regularity. It turns out I’ve documented personal and professional milestones, travels, and other meaningful moments this year through serendipity. So here’s a visual run-down of my 2017 captured in pictures and videos.

1. Making (and breaking) New Year’s Resolutions 2017

Around this time last year, I wrote some resolutions in a piece of paper that I never get to read again. It had on it something about health, creativity, and (non-professional) productivity. I’m rating myself a “Moderately Satisfactory” on all three accounts. But what does that even mean? According to the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group Performance Ratings Codebook, “(t)here were moderate shortcomings in the operation’s achievement of its objectives, in its efficiency, or in its relevance.” I’ll take that. I’m still alive, got to learn new skills, and wrote a couple of long-form writing (and could have blogged more. Fine).

2. Easing into the Northeast: Fort Totten and Brookland

As I settled back in DC, I lived for eight months in Fort Totten, Northeast of the District. Since the neighborhood is still up-and-up-and-up-and-coming, I trekked almost daily to the next neighborhood, Brookland, which has arrived. It’s no Brooklyn but it has a couple of cafes and other dining options where I got to “work from home,” eat, and join a yoga studio in late 2016.

3. Visiting Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls

It still feels wild when I look back at my previous consulting work with the Climate Investment Funds. I together with a team travelled to Zambia to meet our partners in Africa for a climate adaptation knowledge exchange event. My role was to assess participants’ existing knowledge and skills, and evaluate the activity. On top of seeing Victoria Falls, we also visited local communities and learn from the agriculture and livelihood projects they have been successfully implementing.

4. This is what democracy looks like

It has been a politically-charged year in DC. I’d tell people that I was able to escape the authoritarian rule back home, only to arrive at a much-contested and divisive presidential election in the US. The ballots are in, and for the first half of the year, there seemed to be a protest being organized every weekend: Women’s March, March for Science, Climate March. You name it.

5. Bursting my DC bubble

It’s easy to stay in my own DC bubble and get stuck in my apartment-and-office routine. But outside its borders are quaint small towns, reemerging cities, parks, harbors, and architectural treasures in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia just waiting to be explored. I missed out on many of these the last time I lived in the city, and now made a resolve to step out to push my geographic boundaries.

#Baltimore Public Works #Museum #maryland #bluesky

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6. But within DC, there are still things to do both old and new

I really can’t blame those who don’t bother to go out of town. The District does not disappoint with the variety of fun and cultural activities available- ambling down new downtown and waterfront developments and parks, checking out museums, and attending festivals.

7. Moving to Columbia Heights

Last summer, I moved in to a tiny studio apartment as soon as I locked-in a new work contract. No, a “tiny studio apartment” is not redundant. It is a tiny apartment, which I don’t really mind living in as I strive to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s location, location, location. In my neighborhood, I get to walk to grocery stores; eat at my favorite Indian (Salt and Pepper Grill) and Dominican (Los Hermanos) dining spots; chill at cafes; and get around by bus, bike or the Metro.

8. Made it back to Manila with a side trip to Laguna

After being away for a little over a year, I got the chance to fly back home, reconnected with family and friends, and meet my nephew for the very first time!

9. Checked in with family in Canada

The upside of the great Filipino diaspora is that I probably know someone, a relative or a friend, who’s living abroad. Canada is no exception, and I visited three branches of my family who have found their way just outside Toronto. I’ve been meaning to visit them the first time I lived in DC but I never got around to do so. So when the time came for me to exit the US last November, I hopped on a one-hour flight to Toronto and spent my Thanksgiving break with them.

10. Chilling without the chills in South Florida

Just before Christmas, I took a week off for an early break in Fort Lauderdale, a welcome respite from DC’s winter. The region’s pleasant weather mimics that of Manila, which means I get to wear shorts and enjoy long walks this time of year by the beach.

Happy Holidays!


Want to see more photos from 2017 and next year? You should check out and follow me on Instagram @jandrewz or click “Follow” on one of the photos above.

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Non-boring things that happened on transit

The recent Twitter feud between Elon Musk and urbanist Jarett Walker (read more on that here) struck a cord with me. As an urban enthusiast who relies on public transportation, I have to join the online fray and chip in my two cents’ worth:

That’s coming from someone who has experienced the best and worst of Manila’s MRT, waxed poetic about bus rides, and showed dismay hope for public transportation in Washington, D.C. where I currently live. While in Freiburg, I’ve also professed my love for trams on tape.

Musk is a leading technologist, and one of his grand visions is to build tunnels to serve as single-track freeway for cars on pods. Think of it as hopping on and off an individual subway passenger car (or watch this video). It’s bleeding-edge technology consistent with his forays into reusable rockets, solar panels, and electric cars. But only time will tell whether his boring company will turn out to be just as exciting.

For now, let’s enjoy these heart-warming stories shared by the Twitterati, and continue to create them:

 

Also, Happy Holidays!

Commemorating 9-11, 16 years on

I learned about the tragedy almost 12 hours later, already a Monday morning in the Philippines. I must have been busy studying for a test when it happened. This was B.F. (before Facebook, but during Friendster) when there was still no instant notification, ubiquitous wifi, and phones were dumb. My main source of news was the newspaper (paper!) from my college’s reading room, and the occasional prime time news on TV. On my way out to class, I saw my dorm-mates in the common room huddled around the TV. I went in to find out what the commotion was about. I must have been the last person to know about it. I recognized the news anchor, and searched confirmed there was an on-screen graphic logo. It can’t be a movie.

What a horrible news, I thought. Then the news cut forward to the towers being engulfed by black billowing smoke. Then one tower crumbled. And then another.

It’s one of those tragedies that has occurred in my lifetime, that changed and defined (and has been defining) international affairs, world power, and terrorism and security.  Living in Washington, D.C. now makes all these more pronounced with New York City just a few hours away and the Pentagon right in our backyard. It’s difficult not to be paranoid at times. Things are now back to normal, but will never be normal.

Wet weather in Washington

The rain was relentless the previous two days. Yesterday was the worse of the two when it felt like one of those monsoon rains in Manila. I zipped (Lyfted?) around town when I could have taken a bus back to my apartment or walk to a small theater last night. I’m hosting a cousin from Australia, and asked me if this is typical summer in the city. Sort of.

The District is not really known for its wet summers. But it’s not the first time I’ve experienced extreme weather in the District. Philippine summers can be debilitatingly hot and humid, but the heatwave back in 2011 was the hottest I’ve experienced ever outside of Las Vegas.

The sun teased us with its presence this morning, before finally coming through just before sundown. The air is crisp tonight, and the forecast in the next three days looks promising. I hope to make the most out of the good weather touring my cousin and meeting up with a friend visiting from India before I head back home in less than a week.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Are you a recent graduate? Here are four tips to stay sane while looking for a job

Tips to graduatesIt’s that time of the year when students walk up the stage, shake the hands of the dean with one hand and reach with the other for that much-coveted diploma. Gone are the late nights to finish a report or capstone project. It’s time to take a breather. I remember riding the thrill of the days leading up to my own graduation one hot April day, umm, more than a decade ago.

“What next?” The question looms large for many who haven’t figured out the next step as soon as the march ends. If taking a gap year is out of the picture for financial or another reason, then the most logical answer is “Find a job”. Thus starts the grueling job search: filling out online application forms (do those even work?), prepping for interviews, and waiting to hear back from the hiring manager, if at all.

The wait can be excruciatingly long, especially with the anticipation of that first job. In my case, it took six months to land that first job out of college. Looking back from this experience and the many times I’ve been in-between jobs (which stretched from two to seven months), the sudden lack of structure and freed up schedule can be a bit jarring. It made me think of the ways I stayed sane within this period, if not productive. So instead of sulking and on top of binge-watching, here are four ways to keep your mind and body busy, and silence that ticking internal clock:

  1. Take a break! Treat this down time as your vacation, because that’s what it is. After pulling all-nighters to wrap up papers and projects, you need and should take that well-deserved break. Besides, when you start working, you can only dream about the days that bleed into one another, without worrying about beating a deadline or pleasing a boss. Now is the time to live that dream.
  2. Form healthy habits. I went to university with a beautiful and definitely joggable campus, but I only started running right after college. It wasn’t much fun running while watching out for dog poop or dodging tricycles, but I’ve built in physical fitness into my routine since then. Whether it takes 21, 66, or 254 days to form a habit, and even if you’re bad at what you’re doing to start with, the key is to be just consistent.
  3. Learn a new skill. Take a short course you wish you had taken back in university, from writing, digital marketing or product management, these skills will always come in handy and maybe even give you a leg up and standout from a pool of applicants with homogenous skills. These days, there are tons of MOOCs to choose from.
  4. Launch a small project. I’m a big fan and advocate of personal projects. I’ve written how it helped me get a job at the World Bank. But passion projects don’t have to be directly related to work. This should be your fun project, and ideally should tie up with that new skill you just learned (see above). Think combining your hobby and learning a new skill, be it curating a Facebook page that features your favorite essays or growing and selling succulents in cutesy pots. The goal isn’t to make money, but to have fun and learn how things work along the way.

Before leaving for grad school to Germany, I met a former colleague whom I told I’d be quitting my government job, and felt worried about the uncertainty of not having any job prospects after finishing my Masters. My fears turned out to be true, when it took me a year and a half interning and later starting (and quitting) a Ph.D. before landing a job that I wanted. I’m neither saying to do the same nor those were a year and a half down the drain. I got to help in the logistics and attend an international climate conference where I honed my research skills along the way. This bode me well in my work that required experience in knowledge exchange and familiarity with the technical rigors of evaluation. I took comfort in my ex-colleague’s reply, that I’ll be armed with an advanced degree at the very least, and it can only get better.

So enjoy your carefree days yet plan to spend them wisely. There are ways to manage the anxiety by keeping busy, and sooner or later, you’ll be starting that job you’ve been waiting for.

Signing-up for the March for Science

18056736_1325941194126810_7354717257702260811_nThe Earth Day 2017 celebration coincided with the March for Science yesterday. And marched we did, along with thousands others. The crowd was a far cry from the mediocre turn up on the Earth Day rally I witnessed five years ago (when a right-wing media-watch organization also swiped my photos).

I had tentative plans of attending because it fell on a Saturday, and my weekends are sacred. and I’ve done my fair share of rallies even way back as an undergrad. But after my roommate invited me to an impromptu sign-making workshop at Artomatic, I didn’t want my sign- and training in science- be easily discarded and just go to waste. So yesterday afternoon, under DC’s grey and rainy skies, armed with our signs, umbrellas, and rain coats, off my roommate, her mom, and I went to the march. We knew it would be a wet day and we were prepared for it, because, science!

I’m still recovering from the past days’ activities. There’s another march scheduled next Saturday called the People’s Climate Movement. I’m still unsure if I’ll go, but here I am already brainstorming ideas for a sign.

March for Science Capitol

Cherry Blossom Kite Festival 2017

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It’s that time of the year in Washington, D.C., when tree branches puff a pink cloud. It’s a special time of the year that signals spring- so special that a festival was created around the occasion- The Cherry Blossom Festival.

One of the activities lined up each year is the kite festival, which I wasn’t aware of, until my roommate/landlady told me about it a few days earlier. I usually just go to the Tidal Basin, and gush about the flowers for the rest of the year.

Back in late March, I attended a one-day workshop to learn the basics of smartphone filmmaking offered by Docs in Progress, a non-profit that promotes documentary filmmaking based in Silver Spring, Maryland. What better way to put my budding (no pun intended) filmmaking talent to good use by shooting a fun event like the kite festival held last Saturday. And here’s the result. It’s not worthy of an Oscar, but at least a like or retweet or two. Enjoy!