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a heart across the ocean


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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.

Niagara Falls

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

 


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Happy 7th!

A few weeks ago my husband and I went back to Cocoa Beach to celebrate our 7th Wedding Anniversary. It has become our tradition to celebrate our anniversaries on the beach in remembrance of our beach wedding in 2009. It was really nothing fancy but a quick escape to spend quality time together.  We stayed for four days at the International Palms Resort and took advantage of its amenities. Since it was blistering hot in the afternoons, we lazed around the pool in the mornings, and did our beach strolls in the late afternoons. On our second day we also visited the famous Cocoa Beach Pier. It was pretty, but not exactly what I expected – it was crowded with beachgoers and board surfers who enjoyed riding the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  Water sports enthusiasts would surely love it. Unfortunately, for us who were taking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, it was just too much.  In the evening, we went for a night walk on the beach. It was beautiful. The skies were clear and I was happily surprised to see stars radiating like little diamonds.  The last time I saw stars in Florida was in 2014 – and, mind you, it was at a planetarium. I didn’t realize that simple star gazing could be very romantic. I wish we could do it more often. On our third day, we went back to the pool, and later enjoyed some live music playing at the resort’s beach bar and restaurant. I must say, it was really just a simple anniversary vacation for us but, nonetheless, it was very sweet and refreshing.

Sensual pleasures have the fleeting brilliance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquility of a lovely sunset. Ann Landers


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Mini Summer Break at Cocoa Beach

After almost eight months of being away from the sight and sound of the ocean, my husband and I finally got the chance to have a mini beach holiday at the Cocoa Beach. Located an hour drive east from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is perfect for a Derby weekend getaway. Since it was our first time to visit the place, I must admit, we were beyond thrilled.

As usual Hilton Hotel (our FAV) provided us the comfort of a home during our three days on the beach. I was quite impressed with its modern art-deco facilities as well as the excellent service provided by its staff. They were so very friendly and accommodating.  The Front Desk even gave us a room upgrade with a better ocean view because it was the Teachers’ Appreciation Week. Can you believe that?

Cocoa Beach is known for many “sun and fun” activities. As a matter of fact, its big waves are a great attraction for surfers and other wind watersports enthusiasts. Since Cocoa Beach is also close to Cape Canaveral and the Space Kennedy Center, it’s always flooded with tourists; there is never a lack of exciting things to do really. However, since the purpose of our visit was simply to relax, my husband and I literally did nothing during our stay but enjoyed its food, its beautiful scenery, and, of course, each other.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you in my next blog!


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A Tour of the World on Foot

Once upon a time there were five lovely ladies who dreamt of traveling the world together. Unfortunately, they were landlocked. They were held by so many responsibilities. They neither had a chance to fly nor sail. Hmmm… poor lovely ladies! Despite their situation though, the notion of having an adventure remained irresistible.

They couldn’t stop thinking about going for an adventure, so they took the risk and asked the Genie to grant their wish. They took Aladdin’s lamp and rubbed it. Lo and behold came a beautiful woman with her welcoming smile holding free tickets to the Disney World- the place where dreams come true.  Oh boy!

So, off the five lovely ladies went for their journey. They toured the world on foot. They walked miles and miles to see the whole world. By the time they reached their final destination, each one of them was bathing in sweat and just ready to take a long nap. But, surely, they were contented and never been happier. – The End

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March: Spring Break

I could not believe that it has been a couple of months since I last posted. Oh boy, time indeed flies!

I am still on board with my 365 Day Challenge; however, I must say, it’s only now that I am slowly getting out of my demanding routine of home-work-home-school schedules. The past few months, I let my school work rule the day. It was tough! Although I always enjoy going to school, after a while of being in a race of beating deadlines and passing exams, it became a drudgery. The only time my husband and I were really able to get away from the word assignments and quizzes was during my week-long Spring Break. That, I was truly thankful for. Spring Break 2015 Celebrations Tess 081 Our road trip to the town of Celebration, near Orlando for a short respite was planned in advanced by my husband. He booked a room at Malia Orlando Resort, with the intention of lazing around the pool and just relaxing. Of course, that didn’t happen as we spent most of our time going around enjoying Celebration’s picturesque community. Malia Resort Celebration is located near Walt Disney World Resort, and originally developed by the Walt Disney Company. Yes, Walt Disney! So, don’t be surprised if your initial impression was like stepping on a movie set. I, myself was immediately captivated by its beauty. Its houses and buildings are typical early 20th century architectural style, which are really gorgeous and unique. My husband has fallen in love with the place, so much so, that he is convincing me to move to this charming community. While I am not totally opposed to the idea, I am not really sure if I am ready to say goodbye to a life on the beach.

Anyway, here are some photos I took during our visit. Thanks for reading! Spring Break 2015 Celebrations Kent 088Spring Break 2015 Celebrations Tess 042celebration Spring Break 2015 Celebrations Tess 040 Spring Break 2015 Celebrations Tess 065 “Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with passion, because life does truly give back, many times over, what you put into it. “ – Maya Angelou


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Holidays Coincidences (Part 2)

The second invitation I accepted this holiday season was from the professional organization for which I have a membership since last year. I was so grateful to have found this group as it offers a lot of personal benefits to me. These advantages are not only opportunities to meet and network with professionals in my chosen career, but also we attend conferences and symposiums which provide members a wealth of useful information there for the taking. Although I’ve always tried to participate in these educational events, however, never did I join them in merely casual alcohol tete-a-tete/party until the recent request.

When I arrived at the venue I couldn’t help feeling a little bit lost. I noticed immediately that the three tables reserved for the guests were all occupied by visitors seriously engaged in conversations. It occurred to me that people in academia could still appear to be cerebral, even on occasions like this. It also made me more conscious when I realized that my dress shoes were making a loud soundgasmic “klak, klak” so much that people turned their heads toward me. It was like having a stage curtain open up, and suddenly the spotlight was on me – except, of course, this was not theater, where everything was rehearsed. Thankfully, one of the officers of the organization spotted me immediately and gave me a big welcoming hug. It was a relief. What followed was greetings from a few more familiar faces.

Since almost all seats were taken from the first and second tables, I tactfully went to the third table where the club’s incoming-president was seated. After uttering the famous “hello”, I introduced myself to the other guests in the group while offering my hand to shake. Everyone was really friendly, thank God! What was a coincidence on this occasion was something my husband would later refer to as another blooper item in my playbook. If you were following my blog, most likely you have read a few of them already.

I sat next to a man who just introduced himself by his first name. This can be a problem when you go to a party without any friend in tow. You get surrounded by strangers; most of the time they talk about subjects you know nothing about. I’ve learned from experience though that the best defense you can do in situations like this is to either pretend to be a content listener or to find commonalities with them. I opted to go for the latter. I turned to the man next to me and asked what university he was connected with. He said USF. Voila! What a twist of faith, he was teaching in the same university I went to. So, without batting an eye, I asked him if he knew a professor I had taken. He looked at me and then tapped his wife’s hand who was sitting across from him. He asked her if they knew the man. Immediately I saw the puzzlement in his wife’s eyes. Her bewilderment didn’t escape the curiosity from other guests in the group. After a split second, one of them loudly uttered, “He’s the man you were asking about!” followed by an uproar of laughter. I turned red in embarrassment. I couldn’t believe it! The man I had flopped down next to was my former professor, and I had no clue. I guess it’s understandable that I didn’t know him because it was an online class and I only met him one time, but to ask him the question??? Well, I agree this gaffe must take a treasured place in my ever growing blooper playbook.

Have a happy and safe Holiday Season!

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I am wondering if Santa already drop my present…


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Five Glorious Years and Counting…

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We thought it was very special since many couples say 5 years in a relationship is a significant milestone. I haven’t really noticed though a lot of changes in our relationship despite our five years of being together. I guess my mind has been pre-conditioned since my husband has never stopped referring to us as honeymooners, which I find humorous but touching.

It has been our tradition to celebrate our anniversary every year near the beach to commemorate and coincide with our beach wedding. Between the two of us, I thought I was the hopeless romantic in our duet, but it looks like I was wrong. No matter what I do my husband will always outdo me when it comes to surprises, and this anniversary was no exception. While he admitted early on that he was preparing something for us, he was cautious not to spill the beans until the last minute.

After a few days of waiting and anticipation, finally it was revealed! The location: the beautiful Trade winds Beach Resort located on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

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Upon seeing the place, I was immediately captivated by the beautiful view, but I what found more stunning was the collection of pastel Key West-style cottages that transported me back to the 1960s. Each unit was modern and offered every creature comfort you could imagine. The one-bedroom unit my husband reserved for was decorated with tropical style furniture and décor. We enjoyed a full kitchen, roomy bedroom with adjoining bath with tub/shower combo, and a private porch or veranda. Indeed, it was a perfect home away from home.

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What I loved about our anniversary getaway was the laid back ambience that this little island provided. Besides the splendid view, we found some good restaurants, interesting shops, and fishing piers. I must say, except for the turbulent water due to a threatening storm brewing in the Gulf, it was a perfect respite for us. Thank you, husband for the gift of you!

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Five things I learned from being a wife in 1825 days of marriage:

    1. It’s an all-encompassing responsibility that requires different roles (e.g. nurse, assistant, housekeeper, fashion consultant), but the most important one and you should not forget, is to be a stalwart partner both emotionally and physically.
    2. Never ever criticize your husband, let alone compare him to other men. It could be a disaster! If you want to promote positive change from your husband make him your Brad Pitt: honor, adore, and cherish him for the man that he is.
    3. Compromise. Marriage is not a competition. It is a union between two different individuals who decided and vowed to become one.
    4. You are the queen of his heart, so act like one. Being a wife is not only about being a good housekeeper, it is also being a good companion at all times. So don’t lose yourself in the process of cleaning the house and taking care of bills. Remember glamour and take care and love yourself. Remain to be the beautiful person inside and out that first and foremost attracted him to you.
    5.  Include God in your relationship. He always does wonders when you can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Our Summer Trip 2014: Washington D.C. and Virginia

THE THREE BRANCHES OF THE US GOVERNMENT

When we developed our plan to visit the Washington D.C., on top of our list was visiting the home of the three branches of the government. Having a husband who is a political wonk, it was quite understandable. A day in our household is not complete without us watching the news and updating ourselves with the current events as they unfold. While I am usually content to just watch the recent happenings, my husband most of the time augments his TV viewing with political commentaries. He loves it, and he is rubbing it off on me.

Executive Branch

We definitely wanted to see the official residence and principal workplace of the US President; thus, two months before our planned trip we wrote our Senator’s office to request for a tour of the White House. We didn’t know if we would be approved or not; every day of the wait made us eventually a bundle of nerves. To calm ourselves, we would tease each other, use our imagination, which my husband refers to as “mentally teleporting”, and dream of the impossible.

Finally, the most awaited day came. A week before our flight, we received a letter from the White House informing us that we didn’t make the cut. Due to a big number of requests for tours in the summer, at least 5 months advanced notice was required, and, unfortunately, we fell short.

Nevertheless, we still pushed through with our plan to see the White House, albeit, we just stayed behind its gate surrounded by other tourists and a number of US Secret Service Agents on duty.

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While we didn’t see any member of the First family, not even their shadow, we were lucky enough to see Bo (the family’s dog) roaming around the grounds.

For us it was quite momentous to see up close and personal the historic White House. It was hard not to imagine how many leaders had lived and made history – and still do – in this important landmark. I would not have thought that one day I would visit it, especially when I first applied for a US Tourist Visa years ago, and was denied. Isn’t life so dynamic? In retrospect, I was reminded of Justice Secretary Sonia Sotomayor’s words, and I quote, “Our current situations do not define our destiny. Happy endings are possible.”

I feel truly grateful!

Legislative Branch

Among the three branches, it was the Capitol that we explored the most. Given the opportunity to tour the building (Thanks to our Senator), we learned a lot about the history and working of the Congress. What we consider the most exciting part of our tour was the visit to the viewing galleries –both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Watching our Representatives in action, while at work, was quite an experience.

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The statues, paintings, and even the ceilings were all mesmerizing

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This is not a tasty donut, but a safety net while work is being done to restore the dome’s ceiling

Judiciary Branch

Coincidentally, I was reading, and won over by the book of Justice Secretary Sonia Sotomayor, “My Beloved World”; thus, during our trip, I insisted that a visit to the Supreme Court be on our top priority. Just next to the Capitol building stands the Supreme Court which has the classical Corinthian styled architecture. Everything about it we found remarkable – from the massive marble building to its impeccable cleanliness. Even its staff were very accommodating.

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The interior of the building was filled with symbolic ornamentations which were on display for public viewing. Large statues and paintings were a sight to behold. My favorite was the large statue of John Marshall in the middle of the hall on the first floor. The Courtroom, where all arguments take place, was located on the second floor. The Courtroom was smaller than I thought, but nonetheless, still its atmosphere demands great reverence.  

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It took us two days to complete our tour of the three branches of the US government. The journey demanded incessant walking; however, given the sense of uncounted accomplishments we experienced, I must say, the enduring pain of our barking feet and sunburns were all worth it.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are well.

 

 


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Our Summer Trip 2014: Washington DC and Virginia

THEN AND NOW

My self-imposed 30-day photo challenge was temporarily interrupted this week because of our summer trip. I thought I would be able to continuously post pictures while being away from home; unfortunately, my accompanying technological gadgets were not very cooperative. I tried to download pictures to my blog site using my Windows Phone but, sad to say, it did not work.

Nevertheless, we are back home after a few days of vacation in Washington D.C., it was my husband and I’s first time in the nation’s capital. I must say that this trip was quite meaningful as it also marks my first year anniversary as a US citizen. This trip was not planned on a whim; we had thought it copiously through, and even prepared for it months before our actual travel. So, you could imagine how excited we were. Here are some images captured on my camera during our exciting adventure.

Indonesian Embassy

My friend from the Indonesian Embassy picked us up at the airport, and while my husband was checking in at our hotel, my friend and I broke loose and were like bears on the move (see POTUS), and drove around the city. Our target destination: Indonesian Embassy. The government arm holds a special place in our hearts since it is what links us to each other. My friend and I met at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila sometime in 2006. Although we did not work directly in the same office, we met and chatted occasionally, especially if there were special events. She left the embassy years before me, and I was not expecting to see her again. Thanks to social media and fate, we have been reunited.

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Indonesian Embassy in DC is located at Massachusetts Avenue, also known as Embassy Row, given the number of embassies aligned along the street. I was a little bit surprised with the impressive architecture -Beaux style- of its building. Besides being a sprawling compound, it has also a very interesting history.

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Just next to the building, also stands a 16-foot statue of goddess Saraswati. It is said that the statue was given by the Indonesian government to the US (www.thehindu.com). I was struck by its majestic image; I was reminded of Indonesia’s Balinese dancers – very regal yet graceful.

I did not attempt to get inside the building because not only we were cramped for time, we also did not request for an appointment, and my friend was off duty. I did not mind though. For me, to see the building is enough… After all, I cannot change the course of my history – and nobody can. The Indonesian Embassy was like a second home to me for many years, and I will always be grateful for those years that I had been part of its family.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 


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A Trip to the Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs

My fascination for Greek culture started when I enjoyed the scenic city of Santorini Greece in a movie. It was so lovely; it swept me off my feet. That was years ago and yet my interest still remains. So when I read about an authentic Greek village in Tarpon Springs I immediately put it in my to-do-list. Notwithstanding my husband’s wrinkled up nose when he heard my BIG idea.

The historic Sponge Docks of Tarpons Springs is a tourist destination. Its narrow street is said to be resonant of seaside village in Greece, which my husband and I both found quite interesting.

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Many of its quaint boutiques that sell real sponges and imported items  also give the Greek’s feel: from their buildings’ designs to the shops’ names.

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Along the marina you’ll pass Sponge boats docked along the sea wall. A cool boat ride is a must for those who want to see divers plunge for sponges/loofas or to simply experience a relaxing cruise.

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If you crave for authentic Greek cuisines, TS Sponge Docks is the place to go. I am not a foodie person, but I must admit, the aroma of Greek spices sneaking out from chefs’ kitchen was hard to resist. I ordered the famous Greek recipe moussaka, and (coming from the other side of the world) I have one two words to describe it: (truly) Mediterranean!

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Our leisure trip to TS Sponge Docks gave me a glimpse of the Greek culture without having to travel to Greece. It was quite satisfying, but despite it all I can still hear the small travel-wheel in my head saying Santorini (wink: P) Ha-ha. Maybe one day. Hopefully.

Thanks for reading!