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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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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.

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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Wanted Teachers!

Yesterday I attended a job fair here in Florida – my very first one. I already expected that there would be a lot of job applicants from different counties; however, what I didn’t anticipate was that it would be jammed packed like a movie premiere of Star Wars. I had to line up for 30-45 minutes just to get to the registration table. And mind you, the registration table was manned by at least 10 staff members to accommodate all the hopeful applicants. Almost everyone who came to the fair was dressed professionally for the occasion. Many, despite the sweltering Florida heat, wore business suits or at least smart casuals. I also spotted a few women all dolled up and wearing towering high heels and even stilettos. I guess that was understandable. On an occasion like this, I truly believe that professional appearance which exudes one’s self-confidence can make a lot of difference. However, a word of caution on makeup: if applying makeup is not your strength, go slowly with your color selection and application. Remember this is a job fair not a Halloween party. Since I am also not big on makeup, I intentionally just applied my favorite lipstick and mascara for a hint of color. With those two, I know I can’t go wrong.

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Warming up the bench!

The job fair was held in a local high school campus. Upon my arrival, I was immediately ushered to the entrance where a staff person asked job applicants to line up for clearance. When I heard her instructions, the first thing that came to my mind was a security protocol. Silly me! I forgot this is not the Philippines, where bags are checked before entering an important establishment (although I do see that changing in the U.S.). Approaching the registration table, I finally discovered that “clearance” refers to the teacher’s certification/s. That is another important lesson to remember. Don’t forget to bring your credentials when you attend a job fair because you never know what employers will ask or require. Thankfully, I brought my portfolio with me, which saved my day.

Once inside the venue, I was amazed by the number of tables representing schools/employers looking to hire teachers. It was like the proverbial beehive with bees swarming everywhere. I couldn’t even comprehend the magnitude of the crowd. It was more like a county fair instead of a job fair. There were employers-applicants’ introductions, inquiries, interviews, and actual hiring all in one stop shopping. With the size of this crowd, and if all are qualified, I am sure Florida will be prepared for teachers for the next school year.

It didn’t take long before I accomplished my mission. On my way back to the car, I realized that the notion of “job shortages” sometimes may be subjective. This job fair proves that indeed there are jobs available, especially if you are focused in your search. The only question is, are you credentialed and skilled for the job vacancies? If your answer is no, then you surely have some work to do. However, if your answer is a reverberating YES, then there’s no doubt that you have a chance to be successfully hired. It may be just a matter of time…

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. –Walt Disney