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a heart across the ocean


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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.

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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Challenges are Challenging

Do you remember my LFBG Challenge in 2015? Those who are following my blogs, of course, know that it eventually succumbed to an unfortunate crash and burn halfway to the finish line. However, in fairness, although I came up short in completing that challenge, I can honestly say that I successfully scored several opportunities for growth that year.

Then the calendar flipped over to a new year, and just early this year I agreed to my friend’s photo challenge. The idea was to support each other in our quest to hone our skills in photography. When we launched our challenge, we were the embodiment of persistence. Every week we deliberately assigned themes and excitedly exchanged images we had taken. I thought it was fun as I was constantly creating opportunities to go out to take pictures. However, things have changed. My friend’s schedule became demanding and our challenges slowly died a natural death. So sad!

The early demise of our photo challenge didn’t stop me from taking pictures, however. As a matter of fact, I’m up for another challenge. This time with another friend whom I am going to refer to in this blog as Ms. D to protect her privacy. I am more optimistic that this challenge will survive the test of time as Ms. D has shown consistency over the years we have known each other.

Ms. D and I share a lot of commonalities. Like me, she is also married to a foreigner and now residing abroad. Our friendship was further solidified during the time we were both juggling graduate school while simultaneously playing our role as housewives, plus motherhood in her case. You may remember that I documented in this blog some of my struggles while I was attending my program. I remember Ms. D and I exchanged stories about sleepless nights and extreme fatigue, which, of course, was commonplace in graduate school. It was tough, and I couldn’t believe we both survived and made it through. That is the heart of this new challenge we have just created. Now that we have both graduated and currently working in our chosen fields, we have decided to go for our glamour challenge. Gone are the days of “no-comb-days”, conjuring up images of bed head bouffant. For the next fifty-two weeks, we will celebrate success through glamour (for whatever that means). We will digitize it by exchanging one captured image each week. Will we push through, or will we fade away? Come and join us and see how far this challenge will endure…

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Hang in there!

“Challenges are what makes like challenging and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine


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Year 2016: It’s a Wrap!

Although I must admit the year 2016 was “fast and furious” for me, with intermittent gut wrenching challenges, it has been a meaningful and productive one. Here are some of its highlights: I graduated from my second Master Degree in August, and I’ve been employed as a college instructor immediately after. My husband and I had two short getaway trips: one in spring, and another one in summer to celebrate our anniversary. I attended four workshops on TESOL, one of which I met a well-known theorist in the field of linguistics. For the first time I also participated in a political event with the sitting US President as the guest speaker. And, finally, after a year of delay, I successfully finished reading the book “An Astronaut Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hardfield.

In hindsight, I must say, some goals I intended to achieve this year fell a little short. Not because I didn’t work hard enough but because opportunity just didn’t present itself. This has brought me to the realization that indeed everything has a time and a season. No matter how much I try, I don’t think I can force things to happen if they are not meant to be. However, it doesn’t mean that I have to lose faith and give up on my goals. I think it simply means that I just have to wait longer and probably want them more. I am convinced that sometimes there is something going on in life that is greater than what we think before planets align. That being said, before everyone gets revved up to turn the page for another year and another beginning, let me share with you some important lessons that 2016 has taught me.

  1. On my GTA Program: Success is not the result of taking chances, exploiting golden opportunities. It is the determination, hard work, and persistence to make these opportunities work to my advantage.
  2. On my graduation: Big events in life – my graduation for example – is ephemeral. Soon afterwards, the applause and adulation will stop, the spotlight moves on, and so do I.
  3.  On my job as an ELS instructor: Understanding diversity makes me see myself as no different from others. It makes me kinder to humanity.
  4.  On reading and travelling: Reading, as well as travelling, broadens me as a person.
  5. On both challenging and rewarding experiences: More than material things and fleeting victories, the most important thing in life is making most of my time I have in every situation.

There will be many endings and beginnings in our lifetimes. I surely agree with Hardfield, and I quote “Endings don’t have to be emotionally wrenching if you believe you did a good job and you’re prepared to let go.”

I wish one and all a happy New Year – 2017 bring it on!

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What Are You Thankful For?

When I arrived here in the United States in 2009 I had no idea what the holiday Thanksgiving was all about. It has never been celebrated in the Philippines, and I don’t remember any of my teachers in school discussing the topic. It was my husband who gave me a crash course on the significance of this holiday. As he was busy playing chef in the kitchen, I remember him explaining to me how the Native Americans and the Pilgrims came together in a feast to give thanks. Since then celebrating Thanksgiving has become a tradition with our small family. My husband always prepares the same meal every year: mashed potatoes, corn, beans, Hawaiian Rolls, pumpkin pie covered with Cool Whip, and, of course, turkey. I, on the other hand, will always set the table and clean the dishes afterwards. I am truly thankful for this division of labor because I am sure our Thanksgiving dinner would be a disaster, considering my appalling expertise in cooking (no kidding).

“Every person is gifted in some area. We just have to find out what.” – Evelyn Blose Holman

Seven years later I found myself in front of my three classes, retelling the same story of the first Thanksgiving to my ESL students. I thought it was surreal. I’ve always dreamed of teaching in a college or university even when I was in my native country. Deep down secretly I never thought that one day I would make that dream come true – here in the US, at a respected state college. I have a lot of things to be grateful for. I am thankful for my life; my family, especially my wonderful husband; my new graduate degree and the opportunities it has unlocked for me this year, especially my college instructor’s position.

Every time I attend my ESOL classes, I see myself in my students. Some of them have been in the country for many years, some have just arrived. Like me, as when I first came, they are full of hope that one day they’ll fulfill their American dream. I can see it in their eyes; I can feel it every time they struggle to communicate in broken English. In hindsight, you may think that my role as an instructor is just to teach my students the new language skills, (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) they need in order to function and assimilate in their new country. However, it is more than that.

Every time I assume my solemn role as an educator and stand before my classes, I feel that I have a vital mission: an obligation to encourage and inspire my students to believe that their present state doesn’t define their future. Learning a language is a process; it takes time. Dreams do come true, however, and no matter how challenging their situations are, I need to reinforce an understanding and a belief that their struggles are just temporary. With tenacity, persistence, and resilience, any goal can be obtained in America. This mission is what makes me excited to go to work every day. I have found my purpose, and, I must say, on this Thanksgiving day, this is what I am most thankful for.

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There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.”- Rusty Berkus

Happy Thanksgiving!

 


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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