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a heart across the ocean


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Happy 12th

September is a very special month for me and my husband as it marks our wedding “monthsary.” This year is our 12th and we both could not believe it. It seems like only yesterday when we said our “I dos” in our most cherished beach wedding in Florida in 2009.

Since then, we have made it a tradition to commemorate our sweet union on the beach to remind ourselves of our forever promise to love each other for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I guess by now you can tell that we are both members of the hopeless romantic club – no doubt about it.

Since we are currently slow traveling in Algarve, we decided to celebrate our Happy 12th on Praia de Faro (Faro Beach) located in Faro, the capital of the Algarve.

Connected by a single lane bridge from the mainland, Praia de Faro is considered a popular alternative holiday destination both for locals and tourists who are searching for a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere.

The low-rise hotels, bars, and restaurants are in the center of the beach. Unlike other beaches we visited in the Algarve, Praia de Faro is not as hectic and crowded. On the contrary, the main activities on the beach include getting a tan, chilling at bars and restaurants, or simply enjoying its spectacular quiet scenery (minus the roar of a ferocious Atlantic surf) with a good book.

What we found remarkable about this beach was its glorious sugary albeit golden sands that extended for 5km along the coast of Faro Island. Its ambiance very much reminded us of Sunset Beach in Florida with one notable exception, the Gulf of Mexico’s inviting bathtub temps. Unfortunately, the sea water of Praia de Faro is not for a wimpy swimmer like me. Its sea temperature is shockingly cold. It feels frigid! Yes, even in summer. However, if you are into surfing in a toasty wetsuit, then you are definitely at the right place. Its waves are strong enough for your kind of fun.

The highlight of our anniversary celebration was, of course, our simple dinner date on the beach.

My husband, the king of little gestures of endearment, made it extra special by making an advanced reservation at Amare Beach Club to guarantee a table for us. One thing I liked about this restaurant, besides the good food, was its amazing interior and beach view. No wonder it was one of the busiest dining places on the beach.

Our server sat us on the terrace overlooking the beach. This gave us the opportunity to watch a captivating sunset. The dropping of the sun was like a giant ball of fire descending  into the ocean and disappearing below the horizon. There was no word to describe it but simply magical. 

My husband and I were finishing up our last bite and getting ready to pick up the check when – guess what – our server came out with a surprise. Pyrotechnics with some bubbly. “What!” I marveled in amazement. At first, I did not know what was going on. I only realized that this dramatic production was intended for us when our server came to our table greeting us a happy anniversary.

My husband and I were both totally caught off guard and in awe that I almost missed capturing the amazing gesture digitally. Thankfully my husband hastily reminded me to hurry up and snap a photo for a souvenir shot (not to mention an iron clad FB moment) before it all ended. Oh, that was a near miss!

Like anything unexpected or not planned, this little element of surprise from our server made our Happy 12th even more memorable. What a sweet gesture.

The best things happen unexpectedly.”

To many more years together of matrimonial bliss and great adventures, cheers!


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Our Great Escape Between Two Paradises

After adhering to our self-imposed quarantine in Florida for 15 months to protect ourselves from the unrelenting Covid-19, my husband and I decided that it is time for us to escape its human induced roller-coaster and never-ending upsurge. We have seen a lot of people, some close to us, who got sick and or lost a family member from the virus. This made us realize how fleeting life can be. Life is precious, and we thought that it was a time-wasting endeavor just to hunker down inside the four walls of our home, albeit beautiful, while we wait for this pandemic to end or take us out. With so much divisiveness going around the U.S., we were not even sure what political driven or life-threatening thing was going to confront us next. So, we decided to take our chances to SAFELY slow travel, explore other parts of the world whose Covid response was safer and realistic, and create new adventures while time was still on our side.

Early this year we started our serious research and formed our actions. Like anything else, we encountered many uncertainties during the planning stage, some of which ignited our hair and left us frizzled and frazzled. The suspense was almost unbearable. But God is good. After a couple of months of waiting anxiously for our visa approval, we received the most awaited good news. Immediately we tied up all the loose ends in our packing, storing items, and dealing with legal matters to get ready for our departure. While the tasks were quite daunting, we could care less. The thought of traveling made our hearts dance with joy and overflow with excitement.

“You are breaking like a dawn. It’s a new day. Become, become, become…” -John Roedel

Welcome to Portugal!

Our plane landed in Lisbon on July 31st. While our original plan was to stay in the city for a few days to visit some of its attractions, we decided to scratch that plan for another time when we felt more settled and rested. Also, we thought that it would be best to wait when Lisbon was not exploding with Covid Delta variant cases.

The very next day, we headed on our way. The first leg of our slow travel was the Algarve.

Named after Gharb Al-Andalus, Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal. Famous for its warm climate and beautiful Atlantic beaches and golf resorts, it is also known as a fabulous vacation destination in Europe.

Algarve has a total of 16 municipalities or concelhos. One of which is Portimao, the second largest city in the Algarve. It is where we decided to rent an apartment to serve as our launching pad.

As slow travelers, our goal is far from keeping with the trends of fast and furious tours and changing locations every 2-3 days. We absolutely have no desire nor energy for that. Hopefully, our intention in our slow travel is to connect and find an authentic experience from its people, cultures, foods, and way of life.

For our first month, we wasted no time scratching the surface and exploring some of the famous attractions in Portimao and its neighboring regions.

Old Town

History tells that long before Algarve became a tourist destination, residents of Portimao made a living from fishing and canning. This part of history you can still catch sight of at the Museo de Portimao where a lot of its equipment from the factory have been preserved.

From the museum, you can stroll up the riverside esplanade at the side of the town’s old docks. The riverside has now been totally transformed. Currently, it has a long row of palm trees and benches where we found a perfect place to take 5 and soak in the view. While there is barely a trace of the past, you can imagine that this riverside was probably a picture of bursting energy a century ago.

From the riverside, my husband and I took a short taxi drive to Igreja Matriz de Portimao. Founded in 1476, this Portuguese Gothic styled religious structure is considered the most important church in the town.

Before leaving the town, my husband and I passed by a restaurant called Largo for a take-away dinner. I went for one of the most famous dishes in Portugal. It is called the bocalhau a bras, a delicious twist of the chips and fish recipe with salted cod. Surely it was delightful!

On our next visit, we strolled further inland. Here, we found other interesting things to see in the old town of Portimao. An example was the beautiful Azulejo tile paintings in the Jardim 1 de Dezembro which depict the history of Portugal.

It was also hard to miss its pretty shopping streets, the relaxed atmosphere at all the restaurants and  small pastelerias, and, of course, the cobblestones and apartment blocks that have a tired and worn out appearance yet still magical.

Marina de Portimao

Located in the Arade river estuary, Marina de Portimao is framed by the historical forts of Santa Catarina and Sao Joao. With excellent facilities, it is known as a preferential super-yacht destination.

Situated within the marina is also a luxury condominium oasis that includes its exclusive beach, restaurants, shops and bars, providing a big draw to both locals and tourists visiting.

Praia de Rocha

Two kilometers south of Portimao is the popular beach resort called Praia de Rocha which means “rocky beach.” It is such a lovely beach that offers an exciting atmosphere that includes great water activities for the whole family, impressive golden cliffs, sugary sand, and variety of restaurants offering good food to choose from and enjoy.

Since Portimao is known for its sardines, during our visit I decided to order them. I remember my American husband begged me not to eat the heads. He jokingly said “have mercy!”   

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Alvor

Alvor is a seaside resort and small fishing village 10 to 15 minutes away from Portimao. It is a lovely town with, not surprisingly, a remarkably Portuguese ambiance. It is said that a holiday to Alvor is often focused around the beach, and I can understand why. Its beach has a clean pristine appearance and is encased in spectacular sandstone cliffs that are almost jaw-dropping when one is up close and personal.

Alvor Harbour

Also one of the most visited places in Alvor is the Alvor Harbour. Our taxi driver was spot on with his description: it is a village that has remarkably retained its original charm. I must admit, I was taken aback by its traditional white washed houses, narrow cobbled streets, restaurants serving delicious seafood dishes, and, of course, the river which we are sure provides a spectacular sunset view at night

Alvor Harbour reminded us a lot of New Symerna Beach and the Cape Canaveral in Florida. Indeed, an interesting place to see in the Algarve.

Thanks for reading!

“Dare to live the life you’ve always wanted.”

familyduty.com.


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Our Happy 9th at New Symrna Beach

This blog is way behind, I apologize. As much as I want to keep this site updated, like many times my demanding schedule at work and school just throws me off balance. I guess this is something I have to live with for now as I juggle work and my Instructional Design course. Thankfully, the term is slowly winding down, and hopefully, that will give me more free time.

Anyway, in mid-September this year, my husband and I paid a visit to New Smyrna Beach (NSB) to celebrate our Happy 9th Wedding Anniversary. NSB is located just 60 or so miles away from where we live. Our fun and quick drive brought us to this charming white sandy beach rooted in local culture and abundant in old Florida nature.

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Upon our arrival, immediately our attention was captivated by its eclectic boutiques, one-of-a-kind eateries, and intriguing coastal architecture and personality.

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From our hotel, we took a leisure walk around downtown and was drawn by its laidback community feel reminiscent of Key West. Of course, NSB was teeming with interesting sceneries to behold.

During our trip, we also visited the Canaveral National Seashore (CNS) located between NSB and Titusville. As a national park, it is known as a recreational paradise to visitors interested in camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, boating, bird watching, and or simply enjoying nature. Besides its natural beauty, it is also known for its shuttle launch facility. Unfortunately, however, the access to the seashore can be restricted during launch-related activities at the space center. For us, we were lucky that there was no launch that day, and we sailed past the gate after showing our free pass.

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My husband and I drove the 24-miles of beaches which is said to be the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast of Florida. From Playalinda Beach in the southern part, we headed to Apollo Beach on the northern side, which I’ve heard has some “interesting” beach activities.

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CNS’ beaches were just amazing. Its sights and sounds were just paradise in comparison to our daily grind. I just wish that it was not blistering hot during our beach day, 94 degrees, or we could have enjoyed staying longer. Nonetheless, it was a great trip that we will always remember for the rest of our lives.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Life is short. Have fun. Fall in love. Appreciate what you have.

Live life to the fullest!


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New York City: Imagine

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Entrance: Strawberry Fields

Central Park was featured in one of the very first movies I shared with my husband, the classic comedy the “Out of Towners.” Being first, in some ways it has some sentimental significance for both us. I guess, that’s one of the reasons why it was hard to exclude  from our list of places to visit in New York City. Besides that, being a Beatles fan, my husband has also a more personal mission – to pay his respect to John Lennon’s  Imagine Memorial which is located in Strawberry Fields.

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Imagine Memorial Mosaic

As everyone knows, John and Yoko used to live in the Dakota Apartments which is just adjacent to the Strawberry Fields in Central Park. He was shot in December 1980 in front of  Dakota which took his life, and since then the 2.5 acres of Central Park was dedicated to his memory. It is named after the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever” written by John. It is a place he was said to have sat with his son many times and enjoyed the park.

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Entrance: Dakota Apartments

During our visit, a local musician played Beatles’ songs while people poured in to pay their respect to John and view the beautiful “Imagine” Memorial mosaic. I must say, it was a heart-warming experience for me despite my lack of connection with the band. We took some photos, sat for a while to enjoy the moment, and then headed to the Dakota to see the apartment where he used to live.

It is still unfathomable to me how so quickly and so senseless someone could take a life of someone like John who was a peacemaker, very talented and still had a lot of beautiful music to offer. Life is sometimes very mysterious! I guess our trip to his memorial was another reminder that life is fleeting, and indeed we should revel in every minute of time we have.

         bucket list 5” Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world as one.”

                                                                    – by John Lennon


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New York City Part 2

9/11 Memorial

It was on Sept 12, 2001 Philippine time when I learned about the horrendous 9/11 terrorist attacks. I arrived at the embassy my usual time and was surprised that everyone from our department including the ambassador was already in. There was unusual silence in the room. All eyes were glued on the TV with the same stunned expression. The media reported the tragedy all day for hours: that four passenger airliners were hijacked, and two of the planes were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, USA. The first thing I saw when I looked at the screen was the sight of the tower collapsing. It was indeed heartbreaking and unimaginable. To many of us who lived through that day, we will never forget the pain and loss it has brought to so many people.

Since that infamous day, it has been on my bucket list to visit the 9/11 Memorial to pay respect to those brave innocent souls who lost their lives during the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing. While the dedication ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks was held at the memorial on September 11, 2011, it was only during our recent visit to NYC that my husband and I had finally checked it off from our list. From the Battery Park we walked across the street to the Freedom Tower which is most commonly known as the One World Observatory.

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The feeling of being on that hallow ground was moving as you might imagine. It took a few minutes for us to register the moment: to juxtapose what we saw on 9/11 that fateful day and later the recovery efforts so valiantly undertaken on “the pile”, as the rescuers came to call it, and where we were now standing.

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It was a beautiful place of serenity, of sounds of water similar to a gentle bubbling brook. There were images of artful concrete, bronze and steel, but now “the pile” is clean, untwisted and renewed like the American spirit that is embodied in every name that is inscribed there.

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The construction of the Freedom Tower as well as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum only shows that no attack, small or big, can diminish the American spirit. From ashes we will rise to prove to any detractors that goodness will always prevail over evil.

God bless America!

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy. We learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl

 

 


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Summer Getaway: New York City

Known as the Big Apple, the embodiment of the American Dream can be (remember Blue Eyes singing Make It Here Make It Anywhere?) for many newcomers and natural born alike, freedom is symbolized by the Statue of Liberty which is located in New York harbor. I have always fantasized of visiting New York City (NYC) to see her holding her freedom torch  both representing strength and a welcoming respite. I had seen it on TV, in movies, magazines, and even vlogs, and almost every year I would plan on making my pilgrimage. Well, of course, it didn’t materialize until recently. It was sometime in May, after being offered four courses to teach in summer that my husband and I finally decided to take the plunge and gave in to my enduring heart’s desire and itchy feet. Surely, the sheer awe and magnificence of that experience will live with us forever.

As everyone knows, New York City is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 8,622, 698 population in 2017, distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), it is quite densely populated. However, inhabited as NYC, it is funny that you don’t really feel smothered at times like say Manila, Tokyo and other densely populated cities. From the airport, we headed to the Marriott Hotel in Manhattan which served as our launch site and accommodation for the next few days. The 45 minute ride from the airport gave us the opportunity to enjoy the landscape and people watch. Its architecture and bustling with life very much reminded me of Manila – just roomier: the towering buildings sitting on top of each other, busy streets with crowds of people heading to work, and, of course, its diverse and vibrant inhabitants/populace immediately appealed to one’s intellectual curiosity. There’s no doubt that NYC remains to be the cultural capital of the United States.

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Another Bucket List Items Checked

When my husband and I booked our trip, we immediately made a list of places on our sub-bucket list that we wanted to check off in NYC. I must say, despite many distractions surrounding us (fancy restaurants and glamorous boutiques), we kept our nose to the grindstone. We hit the road and checked off our list one by one. In doing so, we covered a lot of miles walking as there are just too much to see. By the time we got back to our hotel, our feet were barking and just ready for a good night rest.

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Meeting Lady Liberty

Near the top of our list, of course, was to visit the Statue of Liberty. While my husband and I were both very excited to see her up close, we didn’t anticipate that it would be a little bit challenging. To see the Statue of Liberty, we took a ferry trip the from Battery Park to the Liberty Island. Besides the crowd, we didn’t expect that getting sea sick would be part of the adventure. Call it luck, but the loading of passengers on our ferry was like riding a bucking horse on a Hawaiian big wave. I saw some passengers being thrown about and sliding from one side to another before disembarking and while our boat was still tied to the dock. Ouch! It was a little bit disconcerting, yet once on the island, we knew it was all worth the pain.

 

Lady Liberty

One of the world’s most famous monuments, the 304-foot (92 meters) tall Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France in 1886 to commemorate the American Declaration of Independence. During the 19th century, Lady Liberty greeted exhausted immigrants travelling by boat from Europe hoping for a better life in the United States. Magnificent and full of grace, Lady Liberty is indeed the epitome of freedom and true courage.

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If you are planning to see the Statue of Liberty in New York City, please don’t delay as we did. Take a bite out of the Apple as soon as you can!

Part 2 of our NYC trip coming soon… Thanks for reading!

When I am in New York, I just want to walk down the street and feel this thing, like I’m in a movie.” – Ryan Adams

 

 


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Spring Break Part 2

Our Rendezvous with the Atlantis

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Ever since I have finished reading the book by Astronaut Chris Hartfield, I have been eager to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. That was more than a year ago, but we decided to wait a little bit to ensure that initial crowds would thin as newness might wear off. Apparently, in reality this exciting exhibit continues to attract large number of fans all over the world daily. I put it on our bucket list just to cement the plan, and I was not disappointed.

Last week my husband and I were able to visit N.A.S.A. and finally checked off another item on our bucket list – seeing the Atlantis Space Shuttle up close and personal. The tour took us almost 5 hours of walking and some waiting, but it was all worth it. There’s no way to describe our experience, but (it was) truly a blast!

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Reaching for the Stars

Early this year I got a little bit ambitious and decided to tackle three items in my bucket list, which I have very much looked forward to achieving. First, to attend a TESOL Conference outside the United States; second, to submit a TESOL material for publication; and third, to present in a TESOL conference locally. While all three may look modest in the eyes of experts and experienced practitioners in my field, to me these milestones were indeed monumental undertakings. The thought of them, even today, still sends a shiver down my spine. Despite the anxious feelings, however, I never thought of backing out. On the contrary, the more ill-at-ease I have become, the more I have persevered  to carry on. But, easier said than done, I must admit, it would be insincere to say that the question on how to pull this part of my bucket list off did not consume me. The truth is, it was quite the opposite.

Everything is up in the air until God puts His hands unto it…

The Conference

While it is not new to me to attend TESOL conferences locally, attending one abroad posed some challenges. For one, attending a conference always costs a price. In the case of my ambitious plan, not only did I have to pay for the registration expense, but I also had to shoulder the fees for airfare, hotel accommodation, local transportation, food and other miscellaneous items. I knew that if I wanted to carry on with my plan I had to coordinate some major mojo. The solution: using my earned per diem our adjunct professors are given for attending the Adjunct Academy Training sponsored by my college. Problem solved!

Well, not really. While I was able to find an answer for financial resources to support my plan, I still had to convince my husband that attending a conference abroad is reasonable. I honestly found it difficult to justify my rationale of travelling abroad for a conference, which I could very much attend locally. I needed a strong argument to win my case, especially if I have to convince my husband who is a very good detective. But, as they say, “if there is a will, there is a way.”

While researching online for TESOL Conferences slated in 2017, I saw one that was in the neighborhood – Canada. Although it’s only a 3.5 hour flight from Florida, it met the requirement of being out of the country. And, not only was it close, it comes with an extra incentive: the venue of the conference was at the Sheraton on the Falls in the beautiful Niagara Falls, which is one of the places to visit on our bucket list. The idea of attending a conference in Niagara Falls would mean checking off one more fun thing off our list. Bingo!  With all my cards laid down nicely on the table, my detective-husband was immediately swayed to give my plan a thumbs up.

So there it goes, six months after I orchestrated my ambitious plan to attend a TESOL conference abroad, my husband and I flew to Ontario to bring it to fruition.

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Here’s a link to our Canada trip: https://philippinehappinessandlove.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/bucket-list-checked.

to be continued…


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Happy Ate (Eight)!

Our trip to Hawaii early this month coincided with the advanced celebration of our 8th wedding anniversary. As always, in honor of our beach wedding, we make sure that our anniversary celebration is held close to the water. Since we stayed on Waikiki during our visit in Hawaii, one of the restaurants we dined at was the Hau Tree Lanai, which is just in front of the Kaimana Beach.

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It is said that the entire area was once known to the Hawaiians as Kapua, which translates to “the flower.” While the place may look no different from any other restaurants on the beach, Hau Tree Lanai is quite rich in history. How did I learn that? Well, by mere chance while I was looking at the menu, I noticed that printed on the back was its brief history, which, of course, didn’t escape my attention.

It detailed that the beach in front of the restaurant which is now called Kaimana Beach was formerly known as Sans Souci Beach (French for carefree). It is said that the area used to be extremely popular during the 1890s because of the San Souci Hotel, which consisted of small bungalows with thatched roofs. The hotel became one of Waikiki’s leading Inns, and arguably Waikiki’s first famous hotel. The plot to reinstate Queen Liliuokalani to the Hawaiian throne is also said to have been planned under the trees in this Kapua area.

In 1902, after a 12 day voyage from San Francisco, the Steamship Silverton laid the first Trans-Pacific Telegraph Cable. It was cited that the cable was brought ashore through Kapua Channel, and the first telegraphic message was sent to the island by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.

Scottich novelist and author Robert Stevenson was also said to be a frequent guest of the hotel, and he wrote some of his sea novels while sitting under the Hau Tree. How fascinating is that? And, after many years later, look who are sitting under the tree? Yes, us!heart

I must admit the place was lovely. The food was great, and the scenery was splendid, especially during our visit when two Hawaiian monk seals Rocky and Kaimana were nearby providing a star-studded attraction. The breeze coming from the beach was also refreshing, and if you happen to come for a dinner delight, surely you can’t miss the magnificent sunset that eventually disappears in the Pacific ocean before your eyes.

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It was a wonderful place just like my wonderful husband said it would be. Indeed, if was a Happy 8th for us. Happy Wedding Anniversary, my Love!

“I love being my husband’s wife.” – Julianna Marguilles


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Love at First Sight

One of the most exciting experiences we had while in Hawaii was meeting baby Hawaiian monk seal Kaimana and her mom Rocky. Although I’ve already seen a lot of seals before in California, this was my very first time to get a closer look of a mom seal nursing her pup. I thought it was really adorable!

Kaimana was born on Waikiki’s Kaimana Beach some six weeks ago before our arrival in Hawaii. According to the news, it was a rare occurrence for a monk seal to give birth on a busy beach, which luckily was just in front of our hotel. Of course, it goes without saying, mom and pup thrilled a lot of tourists, including us, who eagerly watched their every move (from a safe distance and under the constant eye of the NOAA Feds – see the lady in hat next to me).

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 Reared exclusively on Rocky’s milk, Kaimana has grown quite fast. From a skinny black pup, she grew into a fat, darker miniature of her mom. I noticed that seals have similarities with us, humans. Rocky was very protective of her baby. I saw Rocky and Kaimana disappear in the ocean and both doing a synchronized swim. Then after a time of fun in the water, both resurfaced on the shore, slowly ascending from the surf back together on the sand for a much needed rest. Like any babies, Kaimana stayed very close with her mommy while she (Rocky) kept a watchful eye on her pup.

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In the afternoon of our departure, Rocky finished weaning Kaimana and, as predicted by nature, left her on her own. I felt a tinge of sadness when I heard about it, but again, monk seals are not people. They typically rear their pups for five to seven weeks only, and then they move back to the sea to forage and, of course, mate again.

On August 12, Kaimana was swept off  to an undisclosed shore by NOAA Officials to continue her natural growth as a wild seal with other seals. This is to protect her from man-made hazards, as well as to give her less interaction and exposure to humans. I’m really glad that I got the chance to meet them before they return to the wild away from human eyes. As I said, it was an unexpected bonus to our Hawaiian adventure. If pressed, we might even have to admit that this once in a life time experience may have stolen the show!

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For more info: http://www.hawaiimagazine.com/content/rocky-endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-gives-birth-kaimana-beach-waikiki

 “Sometimes the strenght of motherhood is  greater than natural laws” – Barbara Kingsolver