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a heart across the ocean


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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.

Survivors Challenge

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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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


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Timeout

After going through a demanding curriculum while attending graduate school, a timeout, albeit short, is absolutely delightful. That being said, you can call my last two weeks a pleasure. A simple pleasure, that is. There was no grand trip nor big revelry. Rather, I was afforded with a much-needed uninterrupted long sleep in the mornings followed by unhurried afternoons of unostentatious activities. Ahh, tranquility! At first, I thought it was lovely – except for one thing:  after being on a roller coaster with non-stop actions of twists, turns and drops, the idea of inactivity was almost inconceivable for me.

My first few days of my hiatus, I was constantly searching for things to do: cleaning the house, and then cleaning the house some more. Can you believe it? When I was in school I had yearned for the day to come when I could just laze around and not worry about anything at all. I thought it would be wonderful, yet when I was finally face-to-face with inactivity, I seemed not to know how to handle it. Like getting off a roller coaster ride for the first time, I felt disconcerted that all the action suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, I felt a little bit thrown off balance.

My loving husband, of course, came to the rescue. Despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to give in to some of my whims and fancy. No budget buster, but fun nevertheless. I realized that even as simple as quick dip in the pool, a round of Frisbee throws at the park, or a trip to the movie theater were more than enough to satisfy my hunger for adventure. After a while, I felt a quiet sense of joy and contentment just hanging out with my husband, compensating for those QTP (quality time plus) moments we both missed.

During lackadaisical afternoons, I quietly engaged myself in pleasure reading. I’ve started reading (again) the book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth…” by Col. Chris Hardfield. I got his book in summer 2015 while I was doing my internship at St. Petersburg College; however, I temporarily abandoned it when I started my Graduate Assistantship Program at UCF.  It has been a year since I laid it down. Until I returned to the page I last left off, I have almost forgotten how much I appreciated the insights he shares of his life experiences as an astronaut. I must admit, as a non-science person there were many scientific jargons I hardly understood, but still I have enjoyed it enormously. I found many bits and pieces in his stories that I felt were not only thought provoking but also worth emulating. His wit, tenacity, and humility are indeed inspiring. I was captivated by his adventures, so much so that while my co-GTAs were travelling to exciting destinations in the country and other parts of the world, I, on the other hand, was travelling in space orbiting the earth – in my mind.

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Photo borrowed online

So it goes with my timeout.

Next week I am returning to work: new work place and new job, that is, and beginning a new chapter in my life. I’m excited!

Thanks for reading.


The Most Awaited Graduation!

After a long wait finally everything came to a meaningful and heartwarming finale –  the Commencement Ceremony! I don’t know how to best describe it. When I woke up that morning to get ready for my graduation, I was consumed with so many emotions. There was sadness, excitement, and, of course, the overpowering anxiety gremlin.

The feeling of sadness stemmed from the thought that I will no longer see my GTA friends on a regular basis. For almost a year we have shared a lot of life experiences together, not only as classmates in the graduate program, but also as colleagues at work. This Summer Term we sat next to each other in the faculty room and almost every day after our classes, we would share stories, jokes, and laughter. There was never a dull moment with my co-GTAs. They are so full of life and optimism that sometimes I forget these ladies are actually half my age. What made us get through the challenges in our program was the unified support we rallied for each other. We conquered our obstacles and reached our goals not by competing with each other but rather by lifting each other up.

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The feeling of excitement, on the other hand, obviously came from the thought that I will finally be off the hook from the endless writing and long chapters of reading. Oh boy, that was tough! The day I finished my final exam for my last course requirement, I felt a big load was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I started the program, I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork; I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I’m FREE and it feels wonderful!

The night before my graduation I rehearsed in my head what to expect during the ceremony. Surely there was nothing to worry about, but it was still nerve-wracking (at least for me). I can only compare it to the drilling of a root canal-similar anxiety. But once it is over you wonder what all the fuss was about. I believe it is human nature, of course, that we feel anxious about the unknown. Despite the fact that this was my third time to walk for a graduation (first for my Bachelor’s Degree, second for my first Master’s Degree), obviously I still haven’t gotten used to all the pageantry. The anxiety built when we entered the UCF Arena while the graduation song was playing. There were several thousands of people in the audience. I felt my tummy churning when I saw the crowd, and the first thing that came to my mind was where’s the bathroom. Thankfully, the butterflies in my stomach settled down as the program progressed. I felt both proud and humbled when my name was called and I heard my husband shouting “Omaha” from the crowd. I am still comprehending why he did that except for it had something to do with Peyton Manning, who is his favorite football player. I also felt victorious when I shook  the Dean’s hand and crossed the stage without tripping (that was my husband’s greatest fear). Phew! Likewise, I didn’t wave and pose like a model just like I did during our dress rehearsal in the faculty office (that was my husband’s second fear after seeing my video). He thought it would be a nightmare. Haha! So, overall, it’s a mission accomplished. Yes, I MADE IT!

A lot of people have been part of this journey: my brilliant professors in the MA TESOL Program at the University of Central Florida; my wonderful GTA Lead; UCF’s ELI faculty and staff; my co-GTAs; my family and friends from the Philippines; and, of course, my loving husband who untiringly supported me during the entire program. To all of you, THANK YOU so much for believing in me!

Here’s a video of our Summer 2016 at UCF’s ELI courtesy of Ms. Rose Tran. Enjoy!

 


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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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Happy Holidays!

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It’s the time of the year when everyone is feeling happy and looking forward to another new year. I’m no exception to that, I’ll be the first one to admit it, but before I get ahead of myself, join me as I take a quick look back on what this year has meant to me. Here are some of the highlights of my 2015:

LFBG 365 Challenge: halfway short to make it to the finish line

When I started my 365 Looking, Feeling, Being Good Challenge early this year, my goal was to document my success every day. While in the beginning, I was very hopeful that I would succeed in my objective, of course, it didn’t materialize as I expected. As a matter of fact, it was more difficult than I thought. I blogged a few of my experiences here if you were following my stories, but I didn’t get very far. In fairness, however, I must give myself some credit – and a pat on the back- for keeping up with the challenge. Albeit, maybe just not keeping up with the documenting part of my adventures. I may not have “technically” finished it as stipulated in my own-created rules, but I could honestly say that I went that extra mile and beyond to surpass all the tasks and opportunities that came my way this year.

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Too Many Hellos and Goodbyes

Have you ever tried moving in two cities, miles and miles apart within a year? Well, don’t even think about it because it was a daunting, foreboding experience. After moving from St. Pete Beach to Celebration in August, we started packing again in October to move to another city, Orlando. I won’t call it bad planning, but let us just say it was just a perfect example of life’s unpredictability.

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When I was accepted in the GTA Program at UCF, I didn’t anticipate driving 100 miles back-and-forth from home to work.  To guarantee the experience will remain forever memorable, in addition to the long drive include the 5 budget-buster tolls that was part of the “sweet” commute (sarcasm). While at first I thought I could handle it, eventually it took a toll on me (no pun intended, well maybe). I felt that the long drive was cutting back on time that I should be studying and preparing for lesson plans. It surely was pretty exhausting that it almost drove me to the verge of giving up. The good thing is I have my husband, who always plays the leading role of my amazing saving grace. I knew from the moment I married him that he would love and care for me. But that conviction was just further substantiated when he, knowing my struggle, agreed with me without batting an eyelash to pack our belongings once again to look for a place near the university. We barely unpacked all our boxes from our move from St. Pete Beach and yet we started packing again. If that’s not love, I don’t know how to call it.

The search for a new home was not all smooth sailing. We spent a few days every week in a hotel to visit different properties in the area in between my classes. How we pulled it off successfully in a short period of time was truly a miracle. The house we found was more than what we expected. As a matter of fact, it was a dream come true. In our six years of marriage we always planned on living in a house instead of a condo, but it did not become a priority until this beautiful house presented itself, so now we are finally “home.”

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We made it!

Despite some challenges we had to vanquish this year, I must say 2015 has been a great year for us. This year I must say I was able to accomplish the first part of my journey of the American Dream, and I couldn’t be happier. Come and join me as I look back on my 6 year-accomplishments here in the US.

2009

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September: Ten days after I arrived here in the US, we said our most-awaited I do’s. It didn’t take long and I got my US Resident card.

 2010

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February: I received my Driver Learner’s Permit and started learning how to drive. A couple of months later my husband bought me a car which I used for my actual driving test. My score from the test was far from perfect but thankfully I made it on my first attempt, no injuries or twisted metal.

April: I started my first job and have been a teacher since then.

2011

March: After successfully passing the Florida Teacher Licensure Exam for TESOL K-12, I got the status of eligibility to teach K-12 from the Florida Department of Education. Likewise, after satisfying all requirements in education and training in Early Childhood Education, I also received in the same year my Staff and Lead Teacher VPK Credential from the Department of Children and Families.

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September: We flew to Manila to visit my family in the Philippines.

2012

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May: We flew to Indiana to visit my husband’s family.

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August: We moved to St. Pete Beach to give our dream to live on the beach a chance.

2013

January: I enrolled for my Graduate Program in TEFL.

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February: I became a US citizen

September: After completing the necessary Montessori education and training, I received my Montessori Assistant Teacher credential. For two and a half years I worked as a Montessori Assistant Teacher.

2014

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July : We visited the three branches of the government in Washington DC. In the same year, I also received a personal letter from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

December: I exercised my rights to vote.

2015

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May: I completed my Graduate Program in TEFL from the University of Central Florida.

June: I had my internship at St. Petersburg College, teaching English for Academic Purposes.

August: I got accepted in the MA Program TESOL at University of Central Florida. I was also admitted as a Graduate Assistant-IEP Instructor at English Language Institute, UCF.

In a nutshell, it looks like I’ve fully maximized the use of my brain the past few years. Thus, what I look forward to do next is the opportunity to enjoy myself. No more school after my graduation in summer. This time I want to do something that will feed both my heart and soul. The first in my list is to do a little bit of travelling next year, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Wish me luck. Happy New Year to all!


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Happy Labor Day

I thought of quickly updating my blog today while I have a little time on my hands. It’s the Labor Day weekend, which gives me an extra day of rest (Yey!). Actually, I thought after my graduation in May I would rest from schoolwork for a while, but, of course, it didn’t happen. Here’s the update since I last posted:

  1. I attended my teaching internship at St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County for 7 weeks in June and July. It was the best part of my summer as it gave me the chance to work with EAP students who were getting ready to enroll in college Composition 1. As an intern, I presented lessons, prepared handouts on various subjects, and coached students on listening, speaking, reading, and writing tasks. I also proofread students’ written work and made useful recommendations. For me it was indeed a meaningful experience.

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2. My husband and I said goodbye to our beach life in St. Pete Beach and said hello to Celebration, Florida, our new home. I must admit, we were very lucky to have found a beautiful home in one of its subdivisions, considering we only reserved one day for our home-tours. Except for the packing and unpacking, I could not complain. Our 3 bedrooms/3 bathrooms, open floor layout home is just perfect for us.

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WP_20150806_0013. I was offered a job as a Graduate Assistant – IEP Instructor  at my university. It came as a surprise. Like I said, when I graduated last Spring Term I thought it was the end of my school days; little did I know that it was just the beginning. When I received the offer, I struggled a little bit. Part of it is because I wanted to rest badly, but the offer was hard to turn down. Although one of the conditions in my contract stipulates completing my Master’s Degree (which means going back to school again), the university waives all my tuition fees. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around every day, so despite my emotional resistance, I said yes to the offer loud and clearly.

I attended training for weeks and passed all the tests. It was not easy, but I was determined to make it. I felt so grateful to get this chance to teach for the university. It was a dream come true. I never thought and planned to have another Master’s Degree (this is my second one), but I guess God has His own agenda. I am completing my Master’s Degree for free, and, the best part of it is, I’m getting paid for it. I teach two courses this Fall Term while juggling 3 classes in my graduate program. Yes, it is tough, but I am slowly getting the hang of it. Thanks to my loving husband who is always there and always supportive. God is good! I am truly thankful for all His blessings.

So that’s about it for now. Thanks for reading!