Thursday, January 24, 2013

Slumping On My Office Chair

All the VPs and Directors have left for AZ for our annual meeting.  The smoke of war has finally started to dissipate.  The office is a mess, but I can finally slump on my chair, breathe and relax until the weekend.

I just wanted to update my blog, and my goal for the time being is to update at least once a week.  Hopefully after grad school, blogging would become a regular gig again.

Here we go:
  • I did not attend President Obama's inauguration, as I can't stand dealing with the crowd. Thank goodness we didn't have to work that day.
  • I have booked my make-up artist for the wedding. I thought I'd need a little sprucing up for the big day.  Next would be the dress...decisions, decisions. Hopefully, that will be decided this weekend. Wedding plans are going well, and the excitement is slowly building up.
  • I am three weeks into spring semester. It is funny how I got so used to the international affairs courses that taking an elective such as Biblical interpretation is posing a real threat for me. Perhaps I need to get back into my humanities roots.
  • Next month, we will start looking for a new house; I am very excited. I feel sad letting go of Pinky, but I guess it's time to open another chapter in our book.
  • This year, we don't plan on traveling much.  We have to allot time for house hunting and the moving. Oh gosh, yes the moving. With a new house, we need to re-assess our financial needs.  We also need to keep our credit scores high and clean. I am still hoping to sneak in a short trip here and there but nothing too expensive or extravagant.
  • It seems that with the wintry weather here, I keep dreaming of  the beach and sun. I've been drooling over the idea of going to Costa Rica, Virgin Islands or the Bahamas.
Ok, it's lunch time, so I'd better cease slumping on my chair and go get some food.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Trip To Montserrat

Montserrat is a spectacularly beautiful Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour North West from Barcelona by train. Not only is Montserrat Monastery of significant religious importance but the natural beauty surrounding the monastery is simply breathtaking. (Source)

 These rocks look incredible and quite mysterious.

 It is believed that these mountains were "serrated by Angels" (carved by Angels) thus comes the name Montserrat.  The building on the right, if I'm not mistaken, is where the Benedictine Monks reside.  There are only 30 left today.

 In geological explanation, these area used to be a lake and this is why these rocks are very smooth and strangely situated in the middle of grassy hills.

 Neo-Romanesque statues and design adorning the basilica.

 This is a beautiful church.  While we were there, we heard the performance of the choir boys. They really have angelic voices.

 Inside the basilica, one can find the La Moreneta or Black Virgin. La Moreneta is the Patroness of Catalunya.

 There's also the Cami De l'AveMaria where devotees and pilgrims can light candles.

 It was cold and windy when we visited, but for a few moments the sun gave its warmth.

 This is the Sant Joan Funicular which you can see is pretty steep.  This is another 820 feet above the monastery.

For those who love to hike, you can start at the foot of the mountain and climb your way to the top. A lot of pilgrims and devotees do this.

I think Montserrat is truly worth a visit. It's not just a place for pilgrims, the religious or devotees, but for anyone who can truly appreciate beauty.

Perhaps, these rocks were truly serrated by Angels, and if they're not, I'm still happy I got to experience Montserrat's beauty and grandeur.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Short Bitter Update

In a few days, spring semester begins once again. My classes are less interesting compared to the fall, but it looks like the requirements aren't demanding as last year. Anyway, I wanted to post a short update before I get lost again in the realm of late night classes, lectures and textbooks. For the next few months, I'll miss the fun of going to bed early or having those lazy nights molding in front of the TV.

In the other aspects of life:

I have been keeping quiet about this, but today was the breaking point. I got a call from my clinical nurse that I need to repeat the bone-marrow biopsy. Imagine how I sunk into sudden depression. The reason for this repeat biopsy is because of an unexplained tumor on my left leg; I noticed the growth about a few months ago. The few weeks before my flight to Spain, I went through several tests including MRIs (twice) and a Cat Scan. The surgeon overlooking my case believes that the tumor is benign and does not like the idea of surgery because of my low platelets. So here I am again, facing another biopsy. Whatever happens, this is no longer in my hands.

Amidst the challenges in my world, the wedding plans are on-going.  Sometimes I feel that I am putting so much burden on Kepi. I am thankful he's on my side but I am also sad that he has to carry a lot of my stressful situation.

116 days to go before my wedding day.

So much that has happened and is happening are out of my control, and these remind me of a quote from the movie Lord of the Rings.

'So do I,' said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gaudi's Casa Batllo And Casa Mila

These two designs of Gaudi are the strangest yet most fascinating buildings I've come upon in Barcelona.
Casa Batllo - the masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí, invites you to visit a monument that is much more than a building; it is an artistic legend. Hidden behind the exceptional modernist facade, which mirrors a calm sea, a whole world of surprises and refined architectural details is waiting. Casa Batlló, the definitive must-see benchmark of modernism.  This architectural work by Antoni Gaudí will seduce you with its radical design and with the great array of visual solutions used. In every nook and cranny you will discover something surprising, details which could not fail to enthral all those who love the fantastical. (Source here)

I love these windows. I feel like being in a fantasy world just by looking at them.

This building is hard to miss because of it's fish scale-look like walls.

As a whole, Casa Batlló is intensely evocative of the sea, of what is really meant by Mediterranean, of naturalism, theatricality, carnival and magic. Gaudí's creative freedom and the individuality of the early years of the 20th century, when applied to this masterpiece, forge a strong connection to the values which prevail in the Barcelona of today. (Source here)

Built between 1904 and 1906 - now more than a century ago - at the request of the textile industrialist Josep Batlló, at the height of the artistic maturity of the brilliant architect, it is a true masterpiece which seduces visitors by its exceptional design, its refined succession of artistic details, and its creative use of materials and color. 

Casa Batlló is a tour de force of shape, color and light: shape through Gaudí's modernist language; color through the great daring of the completely new application of chromatic color scales in architecture, and light through the outward-projecting windows, balconies, and the light which enters through wells and internal windows, a light which was a precursor of modernity. (Source here)

A few blocks or a few minutes walk from the Casa Batllo is La Pedrera or Casa Mila.

Like Casa Batllo, there's a strange similarity to this building's design.

Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’, is a most unusual building, constructed between 1906 and 1912 by the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) and declared UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. Today it is the headquarters of Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and houses a cultural center that is a reference point in Barcelona for the range of activities it organizes and the different spaces for exhibitions and other public uses it contains. (Source here)
Barcelona is an architecture's delight.  You can't leave Barcelona without seeing these two buildings.

For visiting information:

La Pedrera, Provença, 261 - 265. 08008, Barcelona.

Ticket Prices:
Adult: €16.50
Reduced: €14.85
Children (six and under): free
Children (seven to twelve): €8,25
Casa Battlo, Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona.
Ticket Prices Retail Price
General 20,35
Groups + 20 persons 17,30
Students / Youth Card / Pensioners 16,30
Residents in Catalonia 16,30
Children under 7 years old Free

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Barcelona And Gaudi

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was mesmerized with the La Sagrada Familia. My second visit to this city proved the same especially that it is a growing building and that work will continue for at least another decade.

A prime example of Gaudi's modernist style - based on forms found in nature.

The first time I visited, I only remember the darker part of the building, but look at how much it has grown. It's like a living organism that continues to grow.

A view from the Plaza de la Sagrada Familia.  When we visited, there were Christmas shops there selling Christmas items and sweets.

After Sagrada Familia, we took the bus to Park Guell, another of Gaudi's work and design.

A mosaic design on the ceiling at Park Guell.

Pillars that look like trees.

Mosaic tiles are used around the park.

This is a rock fountain above the famous "gecko" at the park.

I love how playful this window is.

This park is worth the visit.

A welcoming sight as you enter the park.

Seats adorned with mosaic tiles.

I like to remember this as the gingerbread house.

Just playing around the park - me, wearing a big hat.