Friday, December 28, 2012

First Night In Barcelona

On the day we arrived in Barcelona, we were so worn out from the 8-hour flight that we checked-in at our hostel and slept for about four hours.  It was around 6 pm when we woke up due to hunger, so we decided to walk around Las Ramblas to look for a place to eat.  Not far from out hostel is the Guell Tapas, and since we weren't picky that night, we decided to chance it.

For starter, Kepi and I shared a plate of crispy, deep fried baby squids.  We were happy with this choice as the baby squids were crispy and tasty.  I highly recommend this as a starter or appetizer.  Even Kepi, who's a bit picky with some types of food, loved this dish.

 For our entree, we shared a plate of Seafood Paella.  This was ok and there was nothing spectacular about it; I've had better Paella before.  This dish was good and satisfying.

While enjoying our dinner, I was learning the maps and points of interests in Barcelona when I glanced upon this short description of Placa Reial.  I thought it was hilarious.  Kepi and I had a good laugh.

After our dinner, we walked around the famous La Rambla.  That night, the Christmas lights were on, there was a chill in the Barcelona air, and the Christmas markets nearby attracted people like flies.

La Rambla was full of life...just as I remembered when I visited during my college days.  It felt great to be in Barcelona again.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Madrid...My Quick Thoughts

Hmmm...Madrid.  What can I say about Madrid? I can only speak of the city center of Madrid, as I have not experienced the entirety of the place.  In the areas where I've been, I found them: noisy, frustrating, dog feces scattered on the sidewalks (The sidewalks are washed every night though.), and crowded (It actually feels like New York.). The lack of personal space here makes me miss the narrow yet quiet streets of Seville. Heck, I'd rather deal with the hourly ringing of Seville's church bells than listen to the madness of Fuencarral or Gran Via at night.

Are you disappointed yet? I hope not because Madrid has a LOT to offer. It is just that when I travel, I try to present the places I have seen as accurately as I can. Sugar coating my posts won't help anyone.

Madrid is rich with history.  Experience the beauty of this city with a good stroll at Plaza Mayor, mingle and chow down tapas at Mercado de San Miguel, enjoy a breakfast of chocolate con churros at Chocolateria de San Gines, wander down Calle Mayor, or get lost in the beauty of Palacio Real.  For those into the arts, Madrid has great museums to boast for. One of them is the Museo del Prado that houses Goya, Van Dyck, Rico, Velazquez, Raphael, Murillo and Rembrandt paintings. I was surprised to find a copy of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa here.

Madrid is a great place to shop. I was amazed that their shops are not inundated with foreignly mass produced items. I found it easy to find products made in Spain, and that is a delight for any traveler who wants to bring home souvenirs. I am a firm believer that souvenirs should be made from the country you're visiting. Otherwise, the idea of a travel souvenir is lost.

According to my Spain guide book, "[n]o city on earth is more alive than Madrid, a beguiling place whose sheer energy carries a simple message: this city knows how to live." This city truly knows how to live, but it proved to be too much for me. Perhaps it is old age or that my idea of a vacation does not involve being pushed and shoved while crossing a street; I can experience that in New York anytime.

Madrid was not for me, but it doesn't mean it is not for you.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hola Seville!

We temporarily bid goodbye to Barcelona, as we took the train this morning to the capital of Andalucia. Seville is a charming city filled with the remnants of the old world and loaded with gastronomic adventures. It is so easy to find traditional Andalucian cooking here. The tapas are by far tastier and filling than the ones I have tasted in Barcelona.

Tonight, we visited the Alcazar and Seville's Cathedral, ate at a traditional Andalucian restaurant where we feasted on seafood, bought sweets made by nuns, and got lost on the narrow, maze-like streets of Seville.

Tomorrow, I look forward to seeing more by foot, take more photos, eat more seafood, drink more cafe con leche which I find addicting, watch a Flamenco performance or just perch at one of the numerous plazas and watch Seville open like pages of a book.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Goodnight Barcelona

I am finally done with Fall semester.  All along I thought I wouldn't make it.  A few hours after I submitted my final paper yesterday, we were on our way to the airport to catch our flight to Barcelona.  After a couple of weeks of stress and no decent sleep, I can finally catch up on some much needed rest and relaxation here in Spain.

Our first day was spent relaxing, napping, a little night stroll at Las Ramblas, and a sumptuous dinner of Galatian fried Calamari and seafood Paella.  I am glad we picked a hostel in the Las Ramblas area. It is a great location as there are so many places to shop and eat here.

Also, I am excited to visit the Filipino restaurant I used to frequent when I visited here in my college days.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Christmas Tree Is Up

We have so many things going on at the moment, so we stayed up late on Friday to make time putting up our Christmas Tree.  Having the tree up really makes the house cheery.  It also signifies the beginning of the exciting wait for the birthday of Jesus Christ.

Although most of my Christmas shopping is done, I can't celebrate yet as I am still preoccupied writing my second 15-page semester paper.  It's getting harder and harder to focus on school as everything - from brightly lighted houses to Christmas sales at the mall - seems to be on Christmas break already.

Are you ready for Christmas?  I think I am. I just think it is coming too fast and I'll surely miss it when it's over.  This is my favorite time of the year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Zzzzzz Post

This is how I feel these days...
I am now in the final two weeks of Fall semester, and I find it hard to find inspiration to finish my two semester papers.  It's hard to function when you have so many things in your mind - health, lab tests, fear, pain, anxiety and more.  I keep asking myself how I got here.  My health is my number one source of frustration, and sometimes it is tearing my inside apart.  I know I am whining, but my personality that is impatient and spontaneous does not fit the challenges of Aplastic Anemia (AA).  AA requires a lot of sit, wait and observe, and I can't stand it any longer.  I want to get well...NOW!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving In New Jersey

Source here.
 Happy Thanksgiving to all!

We're only working four hours today, and since the year is winding down, work is slowing down as well.  I still have two final papers waiting for me, but I'm taking this little break to update my blog.

I am THANKFUL that my bone-marrow biopsy went well even though I suffered some sort of anesthesia withdrawal afterwards.  I was too sick to do anything after the procedure.  My hip still hurts from time-to-time, and I am hoping it will go away soon.

We will be doing something nontraditional for Thanksgiving.  Since it's just the two of us, Kepi and I will be spending our Thanksgiving at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, NJ.  I've been to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas so this is my first time visiting this sister casino in AC (not sure if they're managed by one company).  I'm actually excited because they offer a special Thanksgiving buffet at a very good price.  I'll blog on that when I come back.

Another exciting news, we'll put up the tree this weekend.  This is one of the things I look forward to every Christmas season.  Also, the countdown has begun for our trip to Spain next month. I am excited.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas Exchange Gift Party

Photo Source here.
Here's my Christmas Wish List Guide
  • Something you use everyday: cosmetic case and scented pens
  • Something soft: cute fluffy ear warmers
  • Something sweet: milk chocolate or any hard candies
  • Something you need for work: desk calendar
  • Favorite colors: pink, blue and red
  • Favorite flavors: strawberry and mango
  • Something you collect: Sanrio or Rilakkuma stationeries
  • Something you need:a bento style lunch box that I can take to work
  • Share you most important wish this year: Health for me and my family.
Please note that this list is just a guideline. It's Christmas and whatever you put into that box will surely make me happy as long as it's packed with cheer and kindness.

If you'd like to exchange gifts with me, leave a comment on this entry, post your Christmas Wish List by November 21 and leave me a link of your blog post.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Where Did Autumn Go?

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows
- Elizabeth Coatsworth -

I think we skipped autumn and went straight to winter.  Or, I have simply not paid attention to the changing colors of trees that when I finally woke up, they're all bare and brown.  In addition to this time lapse, hurricane Sandy left us with a parting gift - chilly temperatures.  Hurricane Sandy brought wind, rain and fury, but we're glad that she left us unscathed in my area.  Nearby farms were flooded and the quiet Monocacy River swelled up making the bridge impassable.  But such is life, after the storm, we pick up where we left off.  Slowly, the mid-Atlantic is starting to feel normal again; I send my prayers to those who have lost so much most especially in the New Jersey and New York areas.

Due to the storm, my bone marrow biopsy was postponed. I wasn't really happy with that, as I wanted it done the soonest.  My rescheduled date is this Thursday, and I had to stay in a hotel for 2 nights during my tests at NIH. I have to summon my strength to get through all these.  I can't wait when all of these tests are over.  Gosh, I can't wait when I no longer have bone marrow failure.

School is coming to a close.  I have been busy writing my final papers; I've got two.  My brain feels dull and sometimes I am plagued with run-on sentences and guilty of incoherent thoughts.  I sometimes wonder how I'm going to survive this semester.

I keep wondering if I'm keeping myself too busy or spreading myself too thin.  These days, I prefer cuddling with Dizzy or imagining the first sight of snow.  Perhaps idle thoughts aren't so bad and are a welcome relief to a stressed mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kayni's 2012 Christmas Exchange Gift Party

It's here! It's here! Kayni's 2012 Christmas Exchange Gift Party :)

Image Source here.
Christmas Wish List Guide
  • Something you use everyday:
  • Something soft:
  • Something sweet:
  • Something you need for work:
  • Favorite colors:
  • Favorite flavors:
  • Something you collect:
  • Something you want:
  • Share you most important wish this year:
Please note that this list is just a guideline. It's Christmas and whatever you put into that box will surely make me happy as long as it's packed with cheer and kindness.

If you'd like to exchange gifts with me, leave a comment on this entry, post your Christmas Wish List by November 15 and leave me a link of your blog post.

I'd like to finish shopping early, as I'll be on vacation on the first two weeks of December.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Mid-October Update

Photo Source

It's mid-October and the holiday season is upon us. I am excited.

My apologies for my absence in the blogging world, as school has taken precedence in my life.  After this semester, I have one more semester then I have to write my thesis. I keep thinking a lot of you are living far more exciting lives than I am these days. I feel that while I'm stuck rotting with my textbooks, everyone seems to be doing something more fun. I miss having my free time or just traveling to some place on a whim. I miss the familiarity as well as spontaneity of travel.

I do have travel plans, but they won't take place until December. Also, it depends if my Hematologist would approve it; I remain optimistic. My platelets are in the high 20s the past three blood works, so if my count goes up, I'd be hopping on a plane to Spain. This is my second time to visit Spain, and although our port of entry is Barcelona, we will be spending most of our trip exploring Andalusia. Our itinerary is still in the planning stage, so I am hoping we will get our itinerary straightened out before our flight day arrives.

In two weeks, I am going through my fourth bone-marrow biopsy. Please keep me in your prayers and well wishes. There will be other tests that I'll go through as well. November 1st is the completion of my first year in clinical trial and the beginning of my second year treatment for my Aplastic Anemia. It's been a challenging yet enriching journey. But this is one journey I do not wish for anyone.

Here's a few more thoughts I've been mauling about:
  • Christmas exchange gift with me - There were three who joined last year. I am hoping to post the announcement before this month ends, so that we can start posting our lists. This exchange gift is with me, so if you're interested to be my partner, leave me a comment.
  • Have you seen "Taken 2" yet? I love it! The movie is a continuous adrenaline rush, no boring parts.
  • Kepi and I went to the Sugarloaf Festival this weekend and pigged out...oink, oink. I did my little shopping for handmade crafts, but we spent most of our money on festival food - kettle popcorn, turkey leg, greek gyro, steak sandwich and ribbon fries topped with cheese, bacon bits and Japaleno. I'd love to go back to the November festival.
  • October 22 marks the first year Kepi and I are engaged. Wedding plans are on-going.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Cliffs of Krysuvikurberg - Iceland

The Krysuvikurberg area is accessible by car, preferably a four wheel drive vehicle, but if you're a hiker, you can also walk from the main road to the cliffs, which is a good 20 to 30 minute hike through rough terrain. Even  the road is rough and bumpy, but our little rental made it through. It even drove through a creek.  Apart from the breathtaking view, the Cliffs of Krysuvikurberg is home to some of the largest colonies of seabirds found in Iceland. According to the brochure I got from the inn, it is about 15 km wide and a great place for hiking.

The crescent shaped cliffs battered by wind, snow and rain.

The vastness of the cold sea, the crescent cliffs, the chilly temperature that made me shiver, the wind pushing and pulling yet the birds seemed to be at home. I wasn't.

A colony of birds live on the side of the cliffs.

To them, this is home.

No wonder the birds love it here, they have the best view in the world - the horizon and the sea.

 This is no place for bikinis or shorts or spaghetti straps. The wind is fierce and the chilly temperature crept through every bone in my body. Still, I managed to smile. I do love Iceland.

Kepi the photographer.

At that time, we were the only ones visiting the cliffs. Perhaps everyone went to bed as when these photos were taken, it was close to 9 PM.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thingvellir National Park - Iceland

According to the continental drift theory, the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates shift and drift apart in an endless clash of awe-inspiring forces under the gaping rifts and chasms at the tip of the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, through Thingvellir National Park and elsewhere in the drift zone or the Icelandic Graben. It actually is the continuation of the Mid Atlantic Ridge oceanic plates in successive stages back in time to about 200 million years ago. Since then, the theory of plate tectonics has been debated, tested, and expanded and has become both a paradigm and a centre of controversy for the geological sciences. (Source here)

The place is amazing, and the view is so beautiful.

The water there is so clean and clear, and I don't know why some people still throw coins into the water, as it is prohibited.

A river forms as the tectonic plates move away from each other.

I keep thinking the owner of that house is so lucky to be beautifully located.

That's how clean and clear the water was.

A sign for "Do not throw coins" yet people are so stubborn.

It would be nice to come back here and swim at night.
The Earth is moving, and so are we.

A road or pathway was built in-between the Eurasion and North American tectonic plates.

I want to go back to Thingvellir National Park again and perhaps camp there. I've seen quite a few campers who stayed there overnight. That part of the park we explored is just a fraction of the entirety of the park I look forward to exploring this area perhaps on foot next time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Sign Of Fall

Summer is gone, and I look forward to Fall.

The Labor Day weekend went too quickly, but I felt that I was able to catch up on some rest and sleep; it was the official end of summer and the start of Fall. Labor Day signaled a couple things: the beginning of Fall and the first day of school. Of course, it also meant busier schedule for me.

While driving on Sunday, I saw the first sign of Fall - leaves have started to fall and are scattered in the neighborhood. I sighed. It was a sigh of relief because the summer heat took a toll on my health. Perhaps with the cooler temperatures, I can recuperate. I'd say September will be a month to regain my strength, as I prepare for D-day for October, a two day trip to NIH for tests and another bone marrow biopsy. This marks the end of my first year in treatment. Gladly, I have regained my hair. I am scared yet I can't wait to get the biopsy out of the way. I really don't know when will this journey with AA end; I am getting tired of it.

With September here, I can't help but think about Christmas. After all, it's my favorite time of the year. Perhaps Santa will bring me a bag of perfect health this year.

I remain grateful and hopeful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Geothermal Spot - Seltun, Iceland

I LOVE visiting the geothermal spots in Iceland.

Whenever I walked to a geothermal spot, I felt like I was in another planet. The vents, the red dirt, the boiling mud pots and the smell of sulfur is quite an experience. We visited a few geothermal areas in Iceland, but for me, Seltun was impressive and has left me intrigued what can be possibly boiling beneath us.

 It drizzled when we were driving towards Seltun.

 T'was a sight to see so many mud pots and the smell of sulfur was ubiquitous. My clothes, skin and hair smelled like sulfur when we got home that day. I finally experienced what my Dad used to tell us about sulfur when he was still working at the Batong-Buhay gold mines.

 More mud pots and fumaroles.

 Boiling mud pot.

It would have been nice if we brought eggs to boil here.

 I really felt like walking in a another planet.

 Mineral deposits from geothermal activity.

According to my Reykjanes brochure, "Seltun is an important geothermal area. It provides a wealth of study opportunities due to the great variety of features. Sulphur is especially abundant and has been mined there in the past. Cold, clear water flows off the hillsides and through areas teeming with fumaroles and boiling mudpots."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland

And we're back to Iceland...

This is the Hallgrímskirkja, which was very close to our guesthouse. We've actually used this as our guide in driving and exploring the city. You can't miss this church because of its interesting architecture, and it's one of the not-to-miss icons in Reykjavik.

In the cold evenings, Kepi and I would walk around the church just observing and studying its architecture.

According to Wikipedia, the Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur) is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland.  At 244 ft, it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), author of the Passion Hymns. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937.  He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape.  It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church's actual completion.

The church is also used as an observation tower. An observer can take a lift up to the viewing deck and view Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains. The statue of explorer Leif Eriksson (1929–32) by Alexander Stirling Calder in front of the church predates its construction. It was a gift from the United States in honor of the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland's parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD. More info is available here.

REFERENCE:  Italicized words are from Wikipedia.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hot Summer Days

Mid-Atlantic summers can be brutal. 

Since summer started, we haven't had a break from the humidity and 90+ temperatures. I've avoided the sun as much as I can and I've been packing lunch every day to avoid going out at all. At home, the AC has been working every single day, and goodness knows how expensive the electric bill will be this month and the coming hot months. In spite of not liking the blistering temperatures of summer, I welcome the absence of textbooks and semester papers; a few months off from grad school is a welcome respite from the busy school months ahead.

There hasn't been anything big going on, on my side of the woods, but here's an update in bullets if you're interested to know:
  • Kepi and I spent this weekend at Strasburg, VA. It's a town located up in the Shenandoah Mountains, and it's a sleepy little town. It's a great place to just unwind and get away from our everyday life. We explored a winery, soak our feet on the serene Shenandoah River and waited for nightfall at our hotel's deck.
  • My shop has been keeping me busy. It's a wonderful surprise to see my shop doing fairly well. For a five month old shop, I'm happy to report that I have made over 200 sales already. In the next few days, I will be opening a second shop. Please look forward to this announcement, as I'll be doing a blog giveaway. I'm still lining up the prizes.
  • Wedding preparations are going well. There are still a few more things to do, but I thank Kepi for being proactive in helping prepare for our wedding. In fact, he does a better job keeping up with the to-do list.
  • On the health side, my White Blood Cells are normal for the first time in six years, but my Red Blood Cells and Platelets are still lagging behind. I am thankful that I am no longer neutropenic, but how I wish everything is now normal. Somehow, I don't feel complete with the other two lagging behind. Sometimes, my wish to be "normal" seems so faraway, but I have to keep fighting.
That's just a short update from me.

Today, I am hoping for a good soaking rain to wash away the humidity and 90 degree temperature. I am already wishing for the coolness of Fall.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Okras, Tomatoes, Green Beans and a Potted Parsley

The past few posts have been about travel. I've been avoiding talking about home as my bout with Aplastic Anemia is not getting easier; it's still an unpredictable roller coaster ride. It is easier for me to reminisce about faraway places than deal with the battles I wage at the health front. I thank God for my family and their unyielding support. Home is still a wonderful place, it's just connected to something I don't like.

In my effort to recognize home as a great place. Today, I'll talk about home. Well, about my backyard garden. Every time spring arrives, starting the vegetable plot is something that I look forward to. Every weekend, I'd ask Kepi if the ground is safe from frost or is it okay to start the vegetable garden yet. For me, having my hands dirty and planting seeds that will soon sprout into plants keeps me close to reality. That from smalls seeds, these lovely life-giving plants would grow. It also makes me realize that all I need is one small seed of hope in order to survive the unbearable heat and the turbulent storms of the future.

The backyard garden is thriving, and it looks like it's a world of its own. I can't wait when it's time to harvest and share them with friends, neighbors and coworkers.

  The Okras are really thriving this year. In fact, my small vegetable garden is thriving.

On the herb side, I have a potted Parsley, and I intend to plant more potted herbs and bring them inside the house during the winter.

Baby tomatoes.

I'm hoping these should be ready for harvest in a couple of weeks.

Here's my small vegetable garden L to R: Tomatoes, Green Beans (front row), Yellow Peppers and Eggplants (Back Row) and Okras.

A baby Okra.

Not a lot for the first picking but I wanted to get these before they get too hard and inedible. I also got one Eggplant the other day which we've drizzled with Olive oil, a little salt and baked in the oven.


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Faces of Kleifarvatn, Iceland

The heat has been unbearable the past two weeks.  Last night, we finally had a thunderstorm, and although it was loud and scary, it was a welcome relief from the triple digits heat index and the brick-like humidity.  It seems that this year's summer will be best spent indoors or some place near the beach.

The summer heat is making me wish I was back in Iceland and the still, cool waters of Kleifarvatn.

During our stay in Iceland, we rented a car to explore the Reykjanes Peninsula. Driving in Iceland is very easy because there's only one major highway that loops around the island.  Also, we found the roads wide open except for the slow traffic concentrated within Reykjavik. One of our stops was to explore Kleifarvatn.

Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The water level of this lake has always been very sensitive to climate changes and has been used as a local rain gauge.  Since June 17, 2000, the water level in Kleifarvatn has been lowering at an average rate of 1.3 cm/day. Spawn from trouts were released into the lake in the sixties and have thrived quiet well.

Below are the different faces of the lake:

The road going to the lake is darkened with volcanic ash and gravel.

There were still ice caps on the mountains far ahead. The clouds came down to kiss the earth.

This part of the lake looks perfect to pitch a tent and spend the night.

The water was calm and quiet. You could hear a pin drop in this area.

I could sit here all day - just me and my thoughts.

This photo was taken at around 10 PM. It's amazing because it felt and looked like early morning.