travel & lifestyle blog by ruth dela cruz

How I Survived with Only One Luggage and Lessons I Learned

April 22, 2012

A blog series about my in-country assignment to Makassar for IBM Corporate Service Corp.
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It is more than a month, but I love thinking of the great experiences I had in Makassar, Indonesia. Arriving in the island is already a journey. On March 11th, the IBM Indonesia Team 3 was already complete – arriving from different parts of the globe – everyone has arrived in the Hotel Kempinski, Jakarta in the midnight of March 11th. At 7:30 AM, we were ready to leave to the airport and take the plane which will take us to our assignment destination.

 Our luggage and bags

The night before, we met up with the IBM Indonesia Team and Country Manager; and had a hearty dinner at Lara Djonggrang Restaurant. It is such a beautiful restaurant! But I am skipping a blog post about it since I am still awaiting for the pictures which will be sent by the General Manager. He was such a nice guy who offered to send me high-resolution pictures for the feature blog. I wasn’t able to take very nice pictures that night because I couldn’t get the perfect setting for my camera.

Anyway, time to depart. Our Program Manager advised us that by 7:30 AM, we should all be ready to go and had checked out; and I know that when they say 7:30 AM, it is 7:30 AM sharp. I was at the lobby 5 minutes before 7:30 AM. I had taken a very good breakfast from Signatures Restaurant. I know there is no room for leeway during this assignment as I would be dealing with people from different geographies and they wouldn’t understand what is Filipino Time.

So luggage and bags were in the bus and everyone was ready to go. At the airport, ABV decided to do group check in, however, we didn’t get to sit with each other. It was my first time traveling with people I just met for two days. I guess it is all first time for all of us. I think it is a normal thing if you were a candidate of some sort of beauty pageant, or if you are an athlete representing the county in the Olympic Games (in that case, athletes travel with their teams), or probably, only if you are a terrorist. I wouldn’t know how I would say goodbye or scream just incase the plane crashes – would it be in my native language or in English? It is a crazy thought. While waiting on queue, I still couldn’t believe I was in the airport with 9 (actually 11 – including 2 from ABV) who came from different parts of the world, traveling together. The people might probably wondering how we all got together, and how we all met – IBM made things possible.

 Taken in the airport
We were not wearing any sash to represent our country, but I wore the patriotic shirt
with Philippine map – and guess I wore it again and again!

Before we left for our assignment (coming from our home countries), we already talked about a contest – who would bring the most luggage in the group. Whenever my friends and I would travel, I was always the one to bring alot of things and clothes. So for this trip, I thought it would be the perfect chance to test if I can travel light.

Waiting in line

My biggest concern was the type of clothes to wear. We were advised that we should cover ourselves (legs and arms) – and being the tall person that I am, covering my legs means wearing pants or really long skirt. They said that we should not wear tight fitting clothes. I thought of just bringing loose tops and basic tees which I can top with scarves. I brought long skirts and pants – the type of clothes which I don’t normally wear because I am more of a dress person. Why dress? because it is easier to wear – and I only need to worry what shoes to pair it with. But since most of my work clothes are mini-dresses and too fancy skirts, I decided not to bring them.

When I found out we would be assigned in an island, I drew a picture in my mind about what kind of island it would be. Palm trees, beaches, no water supply, etc. So I thought, this trip is not about impressing the people with fancy clothes and flashy accessories (yes, I didn’t bring my accessories too – I thought they are heavy and I wouldn’t need to wear them during assignment – I only bought a few gold and silver pieces).

And since an alumna mentioned that we didn’t need to bring good clothes because laundry might murder our pieces, I decided to only bring clothes that I think would be fine to be tumbled and wrestled with other clothes.

One hour before I leave the house to the airport, I was still packing and removing stuff from my luggage. My goal was to travel light, and not to pay for any excess weight. I think I have removed more than 10 pieces of dresses, shirts and shorts in my luggage before I decided to lock finally lock it.

 The multi-way dress which I wore several times during the trip!
During the Meeting with IBM Country Manager 
Multi-way dress worn with blazer

I thought, if there is a need to buy new clothes, I can always buy in the island – at least, I can buy something that would even fit the island’s fashion statement.

Until now, I still couldn’t believe I survived the trip with only one luggage. It was funny looking at 10 thousand pictures and finding that I wore a certain piece of  clothing more than once! I usually make a plan and jot down the type of clothes I would wear during the trip (including the accessories, shoes and bag to go with the clothes), so it was total surprise for me.

Yes, I didn’t pay for any excess baggage. However, I found out that the island is not the island I imagined it to be (I didn’t make further research!), and realized that clothes are too expensive to buy even one piece.

A few learnings..

People in Makassar (or anywhere in the world – I am hoping) are not very critical about the clothes that you wear. They would understand that you are a foreigner and that you might dress a certain way. HOWEVER, it is always good to be mindful of their tradition and culture, and to dress appropriately.

During my second week of assignment, I was starting to feel depressed because I miss my clothes and my accessories (I am serious!). I learned that you cannot separate a person’s style when you move her/him to another place. Somehow, it affects my mood and work (this is serious!). I even thought of asking my mom to send me some of my clothes, but decided not to and just comfort myself with a little shopping in the island. The amount I spent might have equaled to the amount I should have paid for excess baggage.

 Night out in the island

Accessories make a good conversation-stater. I experience that first hand whenever I would attend events or even in the office. People would always talk to me about the necklace, vintage ring or bracelet I am wearing, or even my nail art. I witnessed it too in my assignment (I was not on the receiving end though). My partner Cheryl (USA), was alot like me. She loves accessories and she always wear matching pieces. It was funny that one of the hospital employees calls her Miss Match (we thought mismatched!).

Another interesting learning is that the way you dress and present yourself leave a lasting impression to the people that you meet. During our last day in the hospital, we asked one of the hospital employees who was always assisting us, what she thought of us. She then started describing us – and it was funny that what she noticed were our style and manner of dressing.

She said that I only have two earrings (the loop earrings and Marilyn Monroe!), I only wore closed shoes once, I was always on casual clothes, and I always check my face in the compact mirror! That was funny, but seriously, that was not the impression I want to leave them. I have to blame everything in the baggage allowance and my decision to comply with it and sacrifice my personal style – and the thought that I can always buy clothes in the island. Plus, the thought that people might not find my personal style acceptable based on the culture.

Cheryl (USA) and I then talked and realized that you should always present yourself well no matter who you would be meeting with – president, your crush, local people or even beggar. It was a mistake on my part that I didn’t prepared enough for this trip because I thought that we would be living in an undeveloped community, and that I don’t need to wear nice clothes and show my personal style; but then when you meet people, you leave an impression – and we always want to leave a good impression – and show them who we really are.

I am looking at my clothes in my closet now and still wishing I brought some of those pieces. I wish I paired this topper with this dress, or probably wore this piece during this event.

You might be wondering how I survived? I also couldn’t explain how. When I removed some stuff in my luggage hours before I left in Manila, I didn’t realized what was only left in my luggage were basics. I only had basic shirts, pants, and scarves. One multi-way dress, one maxi dress, three skirts, one blazer, one dressy top, one cover-up, one heeled shoes, one sporty shoes, one pair of flip flops, one pair of ballet flats, and the rest are toiletries, and chargers for my gadgets.

 Last day in the hospital
Work differently with scarf

My mom was also blaming me for not bringing enough clothes. She makes most of my clothes, and I am sure she wanted me to wear the pieces that she made for me. I hate that I disappointed her, but to be fair to her, I wore the pieces she made during the opening event. I love them. Anyway, there are still gazillions of events waiting for me, so I still have a chance to wear the pieces that she made.

You might be asking what’s the deal with checking myself in the mirror? Cheryl (USA) also noticed that, and she thought it is a cultural thing. It might be a cultural thing. I never realized I always check my face in the mirror – there are actually other people I know who does it more often, and who even have mirror in front of them in their workstations! I do that just to check that I don’t have oily face and don’t have any dirt in my face. Westerns are not probably used to that because Cheryl find it unusual. She once commented during a meeting that we would have a meeting and not photo shoot so I should not be using a mirror. Haha. That was funny, but I never realized that only Filipino girls do re-touches – everywhere. It was a funny realization.

Anyway, I would end this post with a nice thing I learned from Cheryl (USA) which she learned from her mentor. She said that you should always dress up the same way the person you aspire to be dresses up. So if you aspire to be like Lady Gaga, dress up like Lady Gaga. If you aspire to be like Michelle Obama, dress up like her.

And to share my guide in dressing up, I say, dress up as if you are holding a big position in your company. When you enter a room, you should give an impression to the people that you were the boss of the company, or you are the guest speaker, or you are the guest of honor. You don’t have to be extremely fashionable, but always be presentable. Remember, you only have 20 seconds to create an impression. Then, people would start accessing if you have something between your ears. But to let them listen to you, you have to present yourself well and be recognizable.

Now about our trip from Jakarta to Makassar, we all landed safely (look I am even back in Manila). Next post, I will feature the hotel where we stayed for a month which served as our second home.

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