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Grateful!

I consider 2019 quite a special year as it marks a lot of milestones for me and my better  half. To sum it up in a nutshell, there is no other way describing it but to compare it to a rollercoaster ride filled with constant thrills of ups and downs that has made it not only exciting but also memorable. So, here’s a peek on our 2019 adventures:

First Quarter: Foggy Winter

foggy winter

Call me a dreamer. I dream BIG. Sometimes bigger than myself that it scares the hades out of me. But nonetheless, I continue to dream just naturally as I breathe each day.

If you read my blog from early this year, I hinted about an application to a program I applied sometime in autumn 2018. It was my application for the US State Department English Language Programs (ELP) Fellowship. I intentionally did not elaborate what my application was in my blog because of its stiff competition and the rigorous selection process involved. I was not sure if I would be selected, and I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.

Despite keeping my application a secret to the whole world, however, I pressed on. After my successful interview with an ELP representative from Georgetown University, I was placed in a pool of applicants for possible projects. While I tried to keep my optimism intact, I must admit, there were days I struggled with self-doubt. I knew that it was a long shot application, and with hundreds of experienced TESOL instructors nationwide who also applied (500 plus to be exact), I had my days when my skepticism and my “no way” voice won.

Months quickly passed by – January, February, March. No word. There was deafening silence. It felt queasy inside – I was starting to lose hope…

 

Second Quarter: Spring Time

Came April. Buds began to sprout, and like blossoming trees in spring, hope sprung eternal and so did my application. I received an email from the Georgetown University that I was selected as a Fellow for an ELP project in the East Asia Pacific region. To say I was delighted was understated. I was over the moon – and so as my husband.

Springing Time

While we were both overjoyed by my fellowship selection with high fives all around; nonetheless, there was no time to really bask in and relish in the feeling of excitement. We did not realize that the preparation for the assignment would be more involved than what we initially anticipated. There were lots of paperwork associated; complex process with external forces challenging us at every turn, and, of course, they were mostly beyond our control. Sometimes they could be overwhelming, but despite it all, we persisted. Like stubborn orchid bulbs making their way up the cool soil in the spring time, we rolled with each setback.  Thank goodness, eventually our perseverance paid off. We completed the requirements in July just in time for the program’s scheduled pre-departure orientation in Washington DC. What a relief it was! (plop plop fizz fizz)

 

Third Quarter: A Magical Summer

Then came the moment of truth…

Summer is known as having the hottest weather among all seasons, yet it is also considered as fun, vacation time, and most exciting one. Just reflecting on what we had experienced this summer, I must say, the word “interesting” just perfectly fits the bill.

Believe it or not we flew a total of 15 flights to 4 major destinations this summer (Washington DC, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines). I can’t believe it either. The flying part I found quite daunting, and I would skip it if I had a choice. However, come to think of it, those combined long and short flights may have served a good purpose after all. It was during those humdrum air travel miles that I had moments of epiphany about so many things about life in general. I must say, if there was one thing that I value the most in those trips, I supposed it was those realizations.

Fellowship

Travelling to attend my Fellowship in China made my heart full. There was no other way to describe it but an experience of a lifetime. I’ll let some of my favorite photos speak for themselves and you be the judge.

I will be forever grateful for this fellowship opportunity not only for the experience, but most importantly for one of the greatest lessons it has taught me: “Sometimes our smallest actions can lead us to our greatest victories.”

While I had my moments of uncertainties and fears during my application, thankfully, I did not allow them to stop me from at least trying, or I would have never experienced the joy of serving as a Fellow. That brings me to the realization that it is “we who define our path by the strength of our character.” If we can just continue trusting our capabilities and true worth, then indeed we can be assured that “Our only limitation is our imagination.”

Big Ten: Our 10th Wedding Anniversary

It is no big secret to many of my trusted friends that I considered my marriage to my husband synonymous with hitting the jackpot. I am one lucky wife for having the best husband in the world. He is my fortress of solitude, my port from stormy seasons, my joy on gloomy days, and simply the love of my life.

When we got married on the beach called Honeymoon Island in 2009, it has become a tradition for us to celebrate our anniversary on the beach every year (except on our 6th when we moved to a new city*).
1st wedding anniversary – Venice Beach, Florida
2nd wedding anniversary – Boracay, Philippines
3rd wedding anniversary – St. Pete Beach, Florida
4th wedding anniversary – Paradise Island, Bahamas
5th wedding anniversary – Ana Maria Island, Florida
6th wedding anniversary – Celebration, Florida*
7th wedding anniversary – Cocoa Beach, Florida
8th wedding anniversary – Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
9th wedding anniversary – Cape Canaveral National Seashore Park Beach, Florida

Since this year marks our Big 10, my husband and I had planned to celebrate it a little bit different. I even brought my wedding dress all the way from the US for the occasion. However, I believe there is truth to the saying, “Our life is not our decision; sometimes it’s up to the Higher Power.” And, that was exactly our greatest life’s lesson on our 10th wedding anniversary.

To cut the chase, we landed at Da Nang Airport in Vietnam just in time for our Happy 10th. We were on transit and working from another game plan. You see, while it was not our initial plan to be in Da Nang, it turned out, however, to be everything we wanted for our special day: another simple yet romantic and memorable time on the beach together.

10th wedding anniversary

So, I guess, this was a reminder for all of us that when life doesn’t turn out the way we planned, we shouldn’t immediately go ballistic. Calm down. Take a deep breath and hold on for the ride. God may have a better idea, and going through some bumpy roads may be exactly what we need to arrive to beautiful places. That describes our situation to a T.

 

Fourth Quarter: A Blessed Autumn

My Golden Year: 50th Birthday

I can’t believe I am now a member of the golden club. Imagine, fifty trips around the sun – Oh man! It is funny though that I don’t really feel that old. Perhaps because I don’t really pay attention to my age, or maybe because I am just surrounded by people (like my husband) who often look at the bright side of life, which I believe helps tremendously.

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As I look back on how my life has been, I feel grateful on how God has taken control of my life. Surely, I have had my share of trials and tribulations. I don’t think God plays favoritism with His children. As a matter of fact, just this year life has thrown me some wild curveballs and fastballs that they almost beaned me. Thankfully, they just merely brushed me back from the plate, and here I am ready to hit another Home Run.

Life is dynamic. We win some, we lose some. Simple. But I suppose when we believe in a Higher Power, there is something that supersedes our fear, pain, insecurities, and failures. My life has never been perfect, but I’m truly grateful for God’s many wonderful blessings: loving parents, happy childhood, great education, satisfying career, blissful marriage, good health, and little treats along the way in life. How much more can one person ask for?

As I look forward to the future, I can only wish for more meaningful years to come according to God’s will. I know that sometimes He has other plans and they are not what I want, but I pray that I can be an obedient child and learn to live my destiny with a joyful and grateful heart.

So, to another 50 years and more – cheers!

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My greatest birthday blessing this year was getting the opportunity to visit and spend time with my family in the Philippines. It was precious! 

The End of a Broken Promise: Completing my Certificate in Instructional Design

I am wrapping up this year with the completion of my Certificate Program in Instructional Design. It was one of those things I didn’t plan but was probably meant to happen. Thanks to my stubbornness and continued pressing from my husband. After chasing 15 credits and piling up 5 semesters, I’m finally crossing the finish line.  Oh man, it feels really good!

Despite starting the year with some uncertainties, it looks like my husband and I will end our 2019 adventure on a high note. And, for that, we are forever grateful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

 


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It’s a Wrap for 2018

Time goes by so fast. I can’t believe that it’s the end of another year!

Looking back, I consider 2018 a year of creating possibilities – at least, for me. Early this year, despite being content with my college teaching job,  I got an itchy feet and broke a promise I made to myself to study no more, given the grind of obtaining my last MA degree a couple of years ago. I decided to temporarily forgo or suspend that tenet and return to school to further improve my acumen as it pertains to my chosen field, Instructional Design. While I had some wins in the process, I had to give up my fantasy of endless idle time to keep up with the course requirements: reading textbooks, writing papers, doing projects, and taking exams. I must admit, it wasn’t easy! Nonetheless, although the coursework may had challenged me at times, the thought of advancing my knowledge base was enough to make me feel gratified.

This year I also welcomed the challenge of painting as a hobby. Playing with watercolor and my paint brushes has unleashed my curiosity of what kind of art I can create and what not. My ambitious attempt immediately made me realized I am no Salvador Dali. Surreal, yes. Artistically blessed, absolutely not! Let me explain. While I was drawn to expansive depictions of all forms, conversely, I discovered I have little patience working with the minute and detailed attention essential when creating an intricate landscape, for example. Painting is more than just being creative, I found out. It requires a huge amount of patience and perseverance that I found for me is still a work in process. Despite my shortcomings, however, I have continued to play with my paint brushes every opportunity I have. If there is something I love about painting, it is savoring the peace and tranquility it always affords me. And, that is enough for me for now.

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In April this year I also declared a victory when for the first time I saw a piece of my written work in print as a contributor published in a TESOL book. Although it wasn’t  monumental as it may sound, for me it was a defining moment. Receiving an actual copy of the book made it more real and tangible compared to the acceptance letter sent to me by the book editors last year. It was indeed a humbling experience, and I embraced it with combined joy and deep gratitude.

My husband and I also did a little bit of travelling this year and checked off a few items on our bucket list. In spring, we had the opportunity to have a close encounter with the NASA’s (retired) Space Shuttle Atlantis which is majestically displayed at the Space Kennedy Center. In summer, we headed to New York City and visited the iconic Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, the 911 Memorial honoring our fallen brothers and sisters, and the Strawberry Fields/Imagine Memorial which is NYC’s tribute to John Lennon’s life. In celebration of our happy 9th wedding anniversary in September, we also visited the Cape Canaveral National Seashore which is listed as one of the 50 national parks in the US. If you are interested, you can check out the stories of these trips on my other blogs.

Finally, in early fall I also explored the opportunity to apply for a US government project. I wish I could tell you more about it, but it is still in a holding pattern, circling somewhere in the universe, so just stay tuned. I must admit, I can’t wait for 2019 to come and reveal what it has in store for me and my family. I have a feeling that 2019 is going to be another meaningful, empowering and exciting year. So, let’s see. Fingers crossed.

Thank you 2018. Happy New Year, everyone!

“2019: More laughter. Less stress. Improved finances. Healing. Lots of love. Miracles,” – borrowed online


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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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Finally…

Yes, FINALLY we are starting a new year and opening  a new chapter for new adventures. Welcome to 2018!

Wait, but before I finally say goodbye to 2017, I would like to reminisce the many joys and blessings the Year of the Rooster – 2017 (my year) had allowed me to experience. I wouldn’t say it was perfect. I had my share of bad days and tough times (the coming of Hurricane Irma included), but overall, it was indeed a wonderful year. So, here’s a recap of some of my accomplisments in 2017:

  1. January – April: Besides working my regular teaching job at SSC, I worked for the UCF Global as a Writing Tutor.
  2. April – A snippet of my American Dream story was featured in our college’s Department newsletter.
  3. June, October, and November – I checked off 3 of my career goals on my bucket list. a) To attend a TESOL Conference outside the US; b) To be published; and, c) To present in a TESOL conference. √√√
  4. July – I received a (surprise) response letter from my favorite President, Barack Obama.
  5. June and August – My husband and I checked off 2 of the places on our bucket list that we both wanted to visit: a) Niagara Falls in Canada and b) Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. √√
  6. August – December – I was assigned to teach ELI courses at SSC, including an elective course which I designed and created myself. √√

To my loving husband, family in the Philippines, friends (my UCF Homies, my Glam Challenge sister, my Christmas Challenge bestie), and everyone who has been a part of my 2017, THANK YOU!

blog_happy new year 2018                             Special Credit to Lit. Bella Ditta E. Isabella & Figlio. Milano

Now we are ready for a toast. To the DREAMERS, happy New Year!!!

“Come gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.William Shakespeare

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/challenge-instructions/

 


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Reaching for the Stars (Part II)

“You cannot live a positive life with a negative mind.” – Unknown

The Publication

I was checking my email sometime in January when I saw an interesting invitation from an international TESOL organization. It was an invitation to educators to submit entries for a book project – exactly what I was looking for in order to accomplish my goal to be published. It instantly caught my attention and made my excitatory neurotransmitters get going. I didn’t hesitate. I immediately acted on the invitation preparing my material (a lesson plan on teaching grammar), and before long I submitted it for consideration.

It was my first attempt to submit a material which was not intended for academic purposes – for a grade, to be specific. Thus, while a part of me was hoping for the best, the other part of me was getting ready for the worst. A week after I submitted my material, I received an acknowledgment receipt from the organization informing me that all entries would be considered for evaluation. I should receive another email sometime in June if my submission is accepted, the email explains.  The waiting time was indeed daunting. Winter swiftly passed, then spring, and summer. There was no email.

I slowly lost hope. Thankfully, I was teaching two ESL courses during the Summer Term. Between preparing lesson plans and attending classes, I had very little time to pay attention to the ego deflating pain of rejection. Plus, I must admit, after going through my share of life’s bumps and bruises, ups and downs, I realized in the grand scheme of things,  it’s absurd to take everything personally. Maturity has taught me that being rejected in one book project doesn’t necessarily equate failure on my part. It may simply be that my entry was not what the project was looking for, and it has nothing to do with my work at all. That notion has helped me to heal from my disappointments easily and move on in life unscathed thankfully. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff or anything you have no control over.

Time marched on so fast and before I knew it, it was my birthday. My husband is the king of surprises. With his wit and creativity, he always has his way of making my birthday special, and I was excited to see what he had in-stored for me this time. We planned to have lunch after my work to celebrate my special day.  I was heading to the door from my last class when I decided to quickly fire up my phone and browse my email. Along with unsolicited marketing email I usually receive, a familiar name immediately caught my attention. I couldn’t help smiling. It’s from the TESOL organization where I submitted my entry. It looks like there was a delay in finalizing their decision, but, as they always say, “it’s better late than never.”

So, to cut the story short, the organization accepted my entry for publication, and I couldn’t be happier.  What a birthday gift it was! I was informed that the book would be out early next year.

 

“There is nothing good or bad, only thinking makes it so.” -Unknown

The Presentation

If writing is my husband’s cup of tea (self-anointed the Superlative Man), making presentations is what I consider my forte.  After all, teaching and presenting seem to be congruent. As an educator, I love talking to people – to my students specifically – and talking about ideas. Presenting in a conference should be no problem, you may think. But, that was not the case.

First, presenting in a TESOL conference would mean presenting to the experts in my field, my peers. These are people who have been in the business long before me, and therefore, have much more experience. Second, most topics presented in a conference are hopefully new ideas, often than not recently found research that would make a difference in today’s pedagogical approach. Curiously, facing “giants” in my field did not really cause the butterflies in my stomach to go ballistic; it was the idea of what to present or lack thereof that blew my mind.

I told myself that if I have to present an idea, it should be something that is close to my heart. Something I can speak with passion and confidence. And, for a few months, that had become an elusive conundrum for me.

It was not until November when a friend and colleague at work (a homie as I fondly refer to) came to my rescue. It just so happened the Central Florida TESOL was scheduled to convene a mini-conference, and all members mostly instructors from Central Florida were invited to submit a proposal for presentation. My “homie” had presented before at the state level, and she was persistent that I should do it this time for the experience and the oh so fulfilling exposure/resume enhancer quotation. But, again, I went back to my dilemma – what topic would I present?

Fast-forward – this semester our dean had assigned me to teach an elective of my choice. Since I’ve been a member of the Toastmaster’s Club for years, I thought of creating a course on Impromptu Speaking. I was so excited about the idea that I incorporated a lot of interesting activities in my class, including the recitation of affirmations. I was  overwhelmed by my students’ encouraging response, which I shared enthusiastically with my homie. The course seemed to be a net positive for my students so much so that they felt dejected when the term came to an end. So predictably after we ended the first term, I was happily astounded to see them back in my class for another bite at the apple.

All the while my mind was imagining for a new far out instructional idea to present, my homie had provided me the metaphorical lightning bolt that made me realize that what I might be looking for was all along right in front of me. And, she was right.

That same week I braced myself and submitted a proposal on the topic “Alternative Strategies to Enhance ELLs Impromptu Speaking Skills.” My proposal was immediately   approved by the organizing committee. What followed was a week of preparation for my materials. Then came the big day. While I was in pins and needles a few minutes before I faced the “giants” in my field (my mentors and colleagues at work included), I did succeed in checking off the last item on my list. I felt so proud of myself!

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“What our mind can conceive and believe, our body can achieve.” – N. Hill


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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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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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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