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a heart across the ocean


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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


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Hawaii: Our Trip to Paradise

I never really envisioned my husband and I travelling to Hawaii this year until sometime in mid of July. It began with pictures of the beautiful turquoise waters of the Pacific incessantly rolling in my husband’s mind. Although Hawaii is on our Bucket List of places to visit, it definitely was not one of our top priorities because of money and distance. Yes, Hawaii is quite expensive. However, it seemed like the more and more we absorbed YouTube videos of its glorious islands, the more and more we were lured with the desire to see them. So, one day we just threw in the towel and decided to book our tickets and reserve our hotel accommodations.

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If there’s one thing I wanted to skip from this trip, it’s definitely the loooong flight. My husband and I share the same sentiment when it comes to going through the stressful airport and all the other associated commotion. Getting through the long line to check-in and board the plane is one thing, but being trapped in your seat for hours with limited space and food available is, I must say, the ultimate challenge.

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The flight distance from Florida to Hawaii is 4,724 miles. From Orlando we flew to Phoenix for 4.5 hours (plus 1 hour layover), followed by another 7.5 hours flight to Honolulu. A total of 12 hours in flight, which I thought lasted forever. After traversing three time zones and enduring stagecoach type turbulence, I was relieved when we finally landed. Ahhh, freedom! I unbuckled my seatbelt, and right on cue, I heard the flight attendant say, Aloha! For the first time in 12 hours, I was able to smile.

From the airport, our driver gave us a mini-tour of downtown Honolulu. I was excited to listen to his information while passing by some cultural, historical, and venues of significant interests such as the Aloha Tower, Hawaii Maritime Tower, and Chinatown. I was so taken in by his information and dry humor that I even forgot to take pictures. After a twenty minute drive, we reached our hotel, which is located on Waikiki. I looked at my watch; it was almost 3:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. Florida time). I was hungry, but all I could think of was going to bed. It didn’t take long before I dozed off to sleep. When I woke up, it was already 3:00 a.m. I heard my stomach growling like a hungry lion. I tossed and turned uncertain of what to do. I was stricken by jet lag!

The Fun Begins

Waikiki is Oahu’s major hotel and resort area. I couldn’t believe how many visitors, mostly Japanese, stay on Waikiki. Along the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue, there’s a wide array of available activities for guests. They include shopping, dining, watersports, and entertainment. In my honest opinion, Waikiki area is for laid-back tourists like us who just wanted to enjoy and soak in the natural beauty of Hawaii. It’s definitely gorgeous! Here are some images I captured on our first day.

To be continued…

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand better.” – Albert Einstein 


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Niagara Falls: Bucket List – Checked!

Last month, my husband and I finally checked off Niagara Falls on our Bucket List after deciding to go for holiwork (mixing business with pleasure) in Canada. It has been my goal since I’ve decided to pursue a career in Teaching English as a Second Language to attend at least one or two TESL conferences a year. I usually attend local conferences only as they are more accessible and affordable. However, I got a little bit ambitious this year when I saw the announcement from the TESL Canada website that its conference would be held in Niagara Falls. It was on our Bucket List of places to visit (albeit a little bit way down the list), but I thought the timing was perfect. Thus, after convincing my husband, what followed was my early registration to the event and planning for the trip.

From Orlando, we flew to Pearson International Airport in Toronto. While the flight only took 2 hours and 45 minutes, it was the 2 hour-ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls that was quite taxing, considering our very early flight. Thankfully, our ride turned out to be smooth and less complicated compared to our return trip (I’ll keep you in suspense on that leg of our journey). The beautiful weather also gave us the smiley gee-whiz positive feel. We thought the cool breeze and warm sunshine were just perfect combinations for a late spring day.

Toronto, I observed, is a lot like many cities in the United States of America in terms of buildings and infrastructure. On the way to Niagara Falls, I saw a lot of familiar sights such as car companies and shopping malls that looked reminiscence of the US. It’s not hard to immediately feel at home in this country.

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Niagara Falls Attractions

When we reached our hotel, which was just a few blocks away from Clifton Hill, we were welcomed by an array of attractions that are great for our adventure. It was almost like being in Disney. There were so many things to do on Clifton Hill alone, and if you were not use to attractions, it might give you sensory overload. Among my favorites were the iconic Niagara Skyweel, Skylon Tower, Queen Victoria Park, and the now-defunct Planet Hollywood.

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My husband and I were so tired on our first day that we didn’t get the chance to see Niagara Falls until our second day. It was on our way to the Sheraton on the Falls, the venue of my conference, that we had our first encounter with its cascading sound, followed by its breathtaking view. I couldn’t help stopping myself from walking, despite the steep slope, to take a quick picture. There was no word to describe it. It was indeed captivating! After my conference, we finally got the chance to take in its magnificence, and we did it not only once – but twice (Yes, we did go back again the next day).bucket list 9

Our experience of visiting Niagara Falls was indeed unforgettable. We went home very satisfied knowing that not only I accomplished my mission to attend my first TESL Conference abroad, but also seeing one of the most famous wonders in the world. On a side note, I also have a dear lifelong friend from back home who is now residing in Toronto. She was able to catch up with me and my husband during our sojourn. What a hoot it was! Who knew?

“Niagara Falls is the hanging tongue on the face of the earth, drooling endlessly over its own beauty.” Vinita Kinra

For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niagara_Falls