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Got 2 see what's out there!

a travel blog by garcia

this is it... we really are going. been 4 years coming. places to see, strangers to make friends with, families to reunite with, unfamiliar things to familirize with...

we're young, we're able, at the moment - we're not so much into material properties or becoming followers of TRUMP's school of thought...

we hope for this journey to teach us about other places, other people, etc...

we could very well be looking for something that's already right in front of our faces, but if it means that after this, we shall have actually noticed it, then it will all be worthwhile.
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our second home

Auckland, New Zealand

we've called Auckland our home for the past 4-5 years. its relaxed feel was quite a treat after living in busy metropolitan Manila for 4 years. now, we love the fact that we are able to keep up with technological (& other) advances and still enjoy the abundance in nature - pollution free. The CBD's skytower changes colour occassionally. eg: pink during National Breast Cancer Foundation Day, red/green for xmas, etc. The colours on the photo: not quite sure what they're supposed to mean.

we weren't kidding about the 'bedsit' by the far end of grandma/pa's lounge. it's a bit cluttery but hey, it's a small sacrifice for a greater gain.
The volcanic Rangitoto Island is a picturesque vision constant along the East Coast of the North Shore. while the New Zealand "koru" is always a pretty neat find when walking in gardens, treks, etc. This one, was taken by kanootz in Settler's Lodge gardens at a wedding in Whenuapai. It's the size of a large fist. some can be larger though... there's a small colonnial village called Devonport several minutes southeast of where we live. In the summer, we love picnicking on one of its beaches (Cheltenham). In winter time, we like to drive around looking at its pretty little victorian houses and chapels as this one on the right... next, sunset shot taken on a main road in our neighborhood.

we better stop here as it is 3:46 a.m. Auckland time. we've backpacks to pack and stuff to do as we'll still be working full time this coming week & kanootz has quotas to reach at work before he can go. thanks for stopping by.

permalink written by  garcia on October 20, 2007 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Got 2 see what's out there!
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pre-trip events

North Shore, New Zealand

Pre-trip events:

07 October 2007 – Joia was bride’s maid at Paul & Sweeny’s wedding, together with Radda and Sweeny’s friend Sophie. The wedding was quite tiring but beautiful anyway.

21 October 2007 – Steph took Joia with her for a day of photo shooting at the zoo. Here are two of the many practice shots:

25 October 2007 – fun day at Joia’s work. Diwali festival for the school. Joia got to wear this really neat Sari dress.

29 October 2007 – Uncle Darwin arrives at Auckland Airport the day before our flight to SFO. Following is a photo of our big crazy but beautiful Auckland family.

permalink written by  garcia on October 29, 2007 from North Shore, New Zealand
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Hello, San Francisco!

San Francisco, United States

We left Auckland yesterday (30th) @ 7:40 pm. Arrived in San Francisco today (30th) @ 12 noon, which makes us technically 1 day younger. Haha! After going through the customs clearance (customs officer was a stern-looking Filipino man), we were really surprised – confused even that the big anxiously anticipated baggage inspection, was – well, there was none. We picked our backpacks off the carousel, dragged them a few meters to one doorway, and that was it. Out to the shuttle parking we went, took a shuttle driven by another Filipino man, hailed for us by yet another Filipino porter. It almost felt like we were in Manila.

Our hostel is in Chinatown. We still feel a bit awkward about being a married couple in a mixed dorm room. Fortunately, our roomies – at least for tonight are another couple from Germany. We are slowly getting used to the setup. The hostel manager guy is quite a pleasant young guy who has lived in NZ before. He called us JAFAs! Oh well… and we just learned tonight that 'come to the roof top' means an invitation to go 'magsiga ng damo'. ooops!

These are just some photos we took this afternoon as we strolled down California & Sacramento Streets to find some grocery shop. A loaf of brown bread is US$4!!! A plain croissant is US$1! Heeeelllppp!

We miss Auckland already and we haven’t even been here 24hrs. boohoo!

permalink written by  garcia on October 30, 2007 from San Francisco, United States
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San Pranksisco (Day 2)

San Francisco, United States

we planned to head out the door by 8am today but thanks to jetlag, we only woke at 11am. we walked some blocks and ended up in Union Square where we bought city passports each. this we used to get on the cable car to Pier 39. our funny story today: San Francisco is home to many street performers. Our favourite so far is this man who hides behind bundles of leafy branches waiting for some happy wanderers to frighten. Fortunately, we spotted him from across the street doing his act to some other passersby. We had a good laugh! Well, the rest of the day, we basically were typical tourists exploring the city - which ic slowly growing in us.this tunnel reminds me of a place in... it looks like, and even smells like it. since this is our first walk in a tunnel for a while now, we thought it was worth a shot. at the end of the tunnel was union square.

The park itself is beautiful and mostly clean. It's surrounded by probly a dozen of highend shopping malls. We even braved going into Saks fifth ave and came out alive - whew! There was a woman begging some people for money - but she was wearing nice-looking reebok trainers...

From Union square, we walked along to Powell station where we caught the historic cable car from. the ride was funny but certainly much easier than last night's walk uphill and down. This lead us to Hyde Station near Pier 39. We saw this nice horse and carriage along Embarcadero which we thought was quite romantic, until we learned the coach charged $15/ride. Well, we got the better deal in this photograph - for nothing!Kenneth wanted a shot of this line of junk mailboxes. There's heaps of them in the city. ???

Walking further along the beach, we found ourselves heading to the end of a pier which offered a great view of Alcatraz Island. Took some shots for you folks.

The following shots were taken at the Maritime Museum. They sell tickets to go onboard the ships, but we were quite happy just enjoying the displays on the free-walk:

We got hungry so we looked for some cafe. we ended up at starbucks. we took this shot (Right) of a nice cartoon art along the way and this shot (to the left) too... hehe!

Pier 39 - also known by us as Pier Massive Rip-off If Sucked In - is where you can get CRABS!

More photos at Pier 39:

and man, those seals, do they stink!

We also climbed uphill to the coit tower, which is well, a tower. On the way up, we got our first best view of the Bay Bridge (the other less popular but much longer and newer bridge on the other end of San Francisco). On the way down, we passed through a posh-looking neighborhood and spotted this funky looking pumpkin(above). Also walked further downhill through Little Italy, which was also a very pleasent and clean place.

We came home to some holloween-hyped up hostel peepz. They went to a street party which we were gonna go along to (kuno), except I (unintenionally???) crashed into bed before they even got out of the door.

Six hours of walking meant some really tired JAFAs. Ngorrrrkk! Enjoy the photos... more to come.

permalink written by  garcia on November 1, 2007 from San Francisco, United States
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Sweet Sausalito

San Francisco, United States

sorry guys, been 2 busy for blogging. here's 2 sum up the rest of our time in Sweet San Francisco. We decided that afterall, we do have great memories that we could take from this city. There are some very kind people here, very accomodating of tourists. The other day, we had a very proper lady offer us directions. Yesterday, a very kind and pleasant looking man offered to take pictures of us in a quaint little town along the coast - he even thanked us for visiting their place. And today, on the bus to the church, we didnt have the exact amount for fares - we had an angel in an older lady sitting next to us who gave us her ticket as she was getting off at next stop, and even gave us a dime to complete the other fare needed.

Day 3: Tandem Biking

we took the cable car again from Powell to Hyde at the wharf. From there, we rented a tandem bike (a first for the both of us) for the day @ $45. we got on the seats - on tiptoes - given our ungenerous heights, and started pedalling. It was surprisingly easier than it looked. The funny thing about tandem biking is that people you pass by the road always seem to find it humorous and you get these very funny but friendly grins all the time. Just as we were starting to enjoy it, we were heading uphill. Then the arguements and uncoordination set in. We were basically fighting halfway thorugh the route, yelling at each other everytime we get a chance (away from pedestrians). And then back to being the perfect team again when we get to a crowded area. haha!

Kanootz being the Captain relied on his stalker, Joia for directions. But she isnt a big fan of maps. Plainly, her navigational skills suck! The good thing about this is that we were always pleasantly surprised when we got 2 a really cool place that we hadnt expected.

Just like taking an impromptu turn when we saw a big dome which turned out to be the Palace of Arts. Jane, remember the place? movie? papa Richard G? haha! It was next to an exploratorium - which required a ticket - so obviously, we decided that best things in life are... ehrm, FREE!

Leaving the exploratorium meant an uphill ride to the Golden Gate Bridge. It also meant a lot of arguing. Kanootz would change gears without telling, and this would make Joia's pedals jerk so that her feet would slip off of them.

It wasnt until we got on the bridge that we figured out that sometimes, it can actually be easier for Joia if Kanootz lifted his feet and just drove, while Joia pedalled. Yay, now we're a happier team! haha!. And Kanootz got to rest on some parts of the route.

Riding on the bridge is an amazing feeling! The view is needless to say - magnifico! The city is partly covered in fog, the bridge beams in the sunshine... WOW!

Following bike routes, we got to this pretty little town called Sausalito. Overall, this is our sweetest memory of San Francisco. Mostly because it reminded us a lot of certain parts of Auckland. Funny that, it's like that quote we read somewhere saying we actually really travel to seek the familiar in the unfamiliar.

Haha! Sausalito is a quaint little town along the coast, posh-looking and very scenic, peaceful, victorian homes, romantic. For lunch, we had creamcheese & bagel and then we shared an icecream while waiting for the ferry back to San Francisco. The icecream, man, $4 a scoop. oh, but it was worth it - Ultra Chocolate, it was called, and yes, it was ULTRAH!

On the ferry back, there was this seagull sitting on the flag pole. We were taking a photo of it when it - pooped! Haha! Just as well the wind wasnt in our direction. And from the ferry is where Kenneth got a pretty shot of the San Francisco Skyline. We were knackered! What with the sun constantly on our necks, our legs sore from pedalling, and our bottoms scorched from the tough bike seats and bumpy hills, of course we would be. Ngorrk! That was us for the day.

Day 4: Alcatraz... not!
Tired from yesterday's tandem biking, we only got up at mid-day. We took the cable car to the wharf only to be told that tickets to Alcatraz were sold out for the day. It was amazing how we quickly shrugged our shoulders at the little disappointment. We had some help from the hostel manager telling us last night that he's never been to Alcatraz. Apparently, the city government chose to lease Alcatraz licence to a company who hired less skilled people at cheaper wages.

We then decided to just take in the atmosphere, do some people-watching - which is always interesting anyway. The money we save on the Alcatraz, we agreed that we'd spend it on 1 decent San Francisco dinner. We had grilled salmon - teriyaki for Joia, mango seared for kanootz. Ooooh, that was yum, smokey!We stayed out till late so we were able to grab some sunset photos.

Day 5: Rest Day
By this time, we are pretty tired and as much as we've enjoyed our short stay here, we have had enough. shame though, as we've only just figured out their MUNI public tranport system. In the morning we went to church. We were just happy we could keep Sabbath this week. Anyway, the afternoon meant packing up and finishing this blog entry for you guys. We love you, and y'all stay well.

permalink written by  garcia on November 4, 2007 from San Francisco, United States
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of subways & the urban jungle

New York, United States

and this is just (official) Day 1...

Rose and Jerico fetched us from JFK in the evening of Sunday (04 Nov). Just as well... we wouldnt have found our way by ourselves. NY subway is definitely unlike anything we've ever seen. realizing how big and scary New York City really is, we felt like scared little puppies. Please understand, we're coming from Auckland City, which is like a block in comparison. sob, sob! the weather is a bit nippy but the Licups' apartment has central heating. Hoorah! we had 'Bistek' for dinner. More hoorahs! Joia was terribly jetlagged, up till 4 am. Kanootz on the other hand knocked off as early as 10pm which made Joia very jealous. more sobs!

Rose woke us up with the smell of scrambled eggs on toast... sniff! Hmmm... so good after a week of microwave food. Rose kindly took the day off to show us around. After breakie, we were off to the subway station... ah, the smell of REAL New York! Out of the station and into Times Square... it was everything we imagined it to be! Busy, large, noisy... we ate pizza for lunch (they were American-sized!) before walking to the Staten Island Ferry. From there we took the... ferry, of course for FREE (yes sir, we like FREE, haha!) Following photos were taken from the ferry and Staten Island: . When we got to Staten Island, although we hadnt planned to, we felt keen to see what was outside the terminal. We were pleasently surprised to find this 9-11 Memorial by an artist named Masayuki Sono which is supposed to resemble postcards, perhaps sent to lost loved ones. From afar, the identical structures appear to be outstretched wings or a flower about to blossom... We had to run to catch the ferry back to Manhattan but we were glad we made the stop and enjoyed our very short visit to the Island.

When we got back to Manhattan, we walked from the ferry terminal to Battery Park. Here, we took a photo of a street busker dressed up as Lady Liberty. Joia had to take it from about 15 meters far, and really really quickly so as not to be caught and charged some buck for taking a snap. There was also this Statue of an eagle dedicated to war veterans. Kenneth was stoked when he found his last name as well as Ian's listed on one of the memorial walls... And to the right is a shot from the nearby Clinton Castle...

From here, we walked to Ground Zero. By this time, Joia's feet were already scorched. cheap shoes are BAD NEWS! So our next mission was to find Joia a decent pair for less. We found Century 21 - a big mess of designer branded clothes, shoes, etc. @ basement prices. Went up and down the mall... no luck there. We left Ground Zero for (New York's) Union Square this time. Further along, still around Union Square is DSW - tada! shoes and handbags at discount prices. Finally, a decent pair which were actually friendly with Joia's fussy feet. This meant that the rest of the evening can be more pleasant for everyone, without Joia's whinging!

From Union Square, we walked some more so we could meet up with Jerico... but it was okay because Joia's feet were okay. haha! By this time, we were getting too hungry. Just as well, the Licups had chosen this really amazing sushi place called 'Todai' where as Rose put it 'food is To-dai for'... wink! Salmon, tuna, seaweed salad, roe, salmon, and more salmon! Yum. Our waitress was a very friendly Filipino lady. Suffice to say that we got out of the restaurant stuffed! We were so stuffed we knew that going straight home wasn't going to be more sensible than a good relaxing stroll along the city streets. We stopped at Bryant Park and enjoyed the sights from there, an iceskating rink, a water fountain, 'buildings with lights' as Kanootz describes them...

Soon, we found ourselves back in Times Square where we took one too many shots of the busiest point probably in the whole wide earth. It was even more beautiful and blinding at night time, with its neon lights! M&M's world was open. We had fun in there... well, we're guessing the boys did more than the girls. From there, we crossed the road to Hershey's world, which is a lot smaller but still worth the visit.

Feeling much better about our tummies, we walked back to the station for Subway train 7 which took us back to Queens on 82nd Street. Home sweet home at 10pm... Rose, Jerico, and Kenneth raced each other to sleep... while Joia stayed up and fought jet-lag-night #2. We hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed our very very busy first whole day in New York City. God bless, everyone!

permalink written by  garcia on November 5, 2007 from New York, United States
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Flushed away

New York, United States

Our 3rd day in New York, first time to wander on our own… we’ve been given instructions and directions by Jerico on how to get from Jackson Heights to Times Square in Manhattan. Rose had even given us her mobile phone for the day so we could contact Jerico (it seems he knows New York by heart) if need be. How difficult could it be? It only takes one train ride and no transfers, right? Don’t worry; we’ll be fine, we say.

We walked out to 82nd street and up the subway terminal… waited for Train 7. When we boarded, the train was unusually bare. Sigh! At least no large suffocating crowd and we got to enjoy the views. Look, the Daily Planet! Kanootz excitedly pointed to a giant rounded metallic structure resembling the Earth. That’s funny, I thought as I don’t remember passing through that landmark yesterday when we went to Manhattan with Rose. I didn’t even see the Graffiti-covered building which Jerico had told us about (people are legally allowed to create graffiti so long as it is on that building. neat idea, huh?)

This is the last stop!” announces the operator. Wait a minute, this isn’t Manhattan. This is Flushing! We took the opposite train. I ran out the train hoping to catch the one on the other side. I tried to get in it but Kanootz hasn’t quite left the other train yet. He screamed… out of fear I might board the train without him. Haha! He says I scared him. Finally, we sat back in the same train we took before learning that it was scheduled to eventually go back to Manhattan.

We didn’t have a plan for the day. Well, at least as far as I was concerned. Kanootz on the other hand has apparently made plans with Jerico’s help… to find NBA store – the world’s only. We walked along 5th ave from 42nd to 52nd street. 10 blocks seemed so short a walk having never seen the place before. There were many interesting sculptures and artworks along the building walls as well as some great spots for window shopping.

Further up along 5th Ave is Central Park. We got there at 3pm, which we figured gave us plenty of time to get out of there before dusk. It was also very chilly that afternoon so we couldn’t really be outdoors for too long. We ended up going back to the NBA store. Come to think of it, we spent most of the day in there anyway much to Kanootz’ delight. We were there till 6pm, and then we remembered that Jerico was baking salmon for dinner so we ran to the nearest subway station – 10 blocks away, and made sure to take the correct train back to 82nd street.

We got home in time for dinner – scrumptious! Oh, sorry, hello Rose… yeah, how was work? Not too tiring, we hope? Haha! Jerico’s baked salmon almost made us forget our sociability. It has been such a long day, but not too long to keep us from some conversation with the One that keeps us together; protects us from danger; and walks with us moment by moment through this exciting journey.

permalink written by  garcia on November 7, 2007 from New York, United States
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Is there a doctor in the house?

New York, United States

Well, yesterday is pretty easy to retell. At noon, we headed out to Manhattan again. There we came across NBC studio, took photos, climbed up to the paid-tour booth on the 2nd floor – we just wanted to see what was up there… although we had not intentions at all to pay for any tickets for anything that day. It was fun looking through all the merchandise in the NBC studio… and thinking that it’s pretty easy for tourists to get sucked in to buying stuff… but not us, ‘cause there simply isn’t much for us to spend. Haha!

We walked a few minutes further and finally found Moma. We looked forward to this – our first real museum visit for the trip. I gave the ticket which Rose had so thoughtfully tucked away for us to the man at the reception. ‘This is the Moma, miss; your ticket is for the Mets’. Oh, dear! Thank God, Kanootz was quick to save my face from certain shame with a ‘Two tickets to get in, please’. $20 each. Huh? $20 each. Oh well. As always, one must approach each circumstance with much optimism. So we headed in. Some of the exhibits were pretty amazing. Some makes one question why they’re there – which is probably the point. A pink fluorescent light bulb on a corner is – apparently art. Okay. ‘Look, a Pollock!’ Kanootz calls out. Now we’re talking. Great to see something we finally know about. Slowly, the feeling of being ripped off is melting away. Monet made us stand sill by the sheer size of his work. Picasso makes one smile and want to touch. Oh, and let us also mention that there’s this helicopter hanging in the middle of the building – apparently the first commercial chopper ever. The Museum of Modern Art, after all is what it’s called. At least now that we’ve been exposed to modern art, we realize we have yet to develop appreciation for it.

Finally, a text from Nurse Rose who had just finished work for the day calls us to take to the subway and meet her at union square. There, we managed to catch the remaining flea market stalls surrounding the park. Interesting and refreshing. Flea markets are always a gem and an amazing touch of country culture that spring out of the metals and concretes of the urban jungle.

After sunset, we followed Rose’s lead to her favourite Bagel Shop. Essa. We bought a dozen, and 6 cups of crème cheese – 2 plain ones, 2 garden salad, and 2 cups of a pleasant discovery – the ‘raisin and walnut’! It was a lengthy walk but all worth it! Funny thing – realizing that we were Filipinos, the shop person was telling Rose ‘mahal-mahal kita’ haha! And this was Wednesday – the 4th day.

Thursday, Yahoo! Phantom tonight! The whole day, we were home with Jerico, and naturally – we ate nothing else but bagels, all day! Not complaining, nu-uh! I took the chance to get some photos downloaded, organized and finally do some blogging. Very very behind now. Sorry, peepz! Suddenly, sunset. Rose was home already. We got dressed up a little – Rose lent Joia this pretty little black velvet top with frilly bits, and Joia finally got to wear her red shoes, THE red shoes, in the US of A – fun!

We got there an hour early, so we grabbed some sandwich from a place called Junior’s. Kanootz and Joia shared a Corned Beef Sandwich. The size of the thing! Just as well they were sharing. Oh, and I wouldn’t dare miss to write about the free cheesecake tasters. Between Kanootz and Jerico, the whole tray was – well, piece of cake! And we like FREE. Remember? Come to think of it, the greatest thing in life is really FREE, and not in a cliché kind of way. For us, we’ve been given the greatest gift for free; we just had to accept it. Word for the day… Amen.

Alas, time for some classical entertainment. The cue to get in was very long, amazing when you think people’s tickets have designated seats anyway. ??? Oh, and the tickets were $60USD each. Good score, Miss Rose! Without her radars, we would’ve had to pay double considering how great our seats turned out to be! We could feel Jerico’s excitement when the lights went out. The play opens with an auction. There were several merchandises including a chandelier which became the centerpiece of the story. In the middle of first scene, the Matron calls out ‘I have a note’ in a very very English accent, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ Huh? We look at Rose and Jerico searching for any indication as to whether that was part of the play or not. They look just as confused as us. Suddenly, the commotion upstairs which had started a while ago becomes louder and louder. ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ The actors ask the audience, in their characters’ accents and tones. Come off of it, and you may actually be more credible, we thought. The curtain closed with some proper announcements for what really is happening. The show resumed as soon as the paramedics rushed away with the person involved. All in all, it’s been a very very interesting evening. It was special for Joia, as who would’ve thought she would be going to some opera, in New York not the least, with her college friend 5 years later who is also now married.

permalink written by  garcia on November 9, 2007 from New York, United States
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God Bless America

New York, United States

Friday was Rose’s vacation leave again, thanks very much. I thought it was ridiculous that we were only planning for one activity for the day - The Monah – Museum of National History. When we got in, we realized quickly that Jerico was not kidding about spending the whole day in there. Stuffed animals of all sizes everywhere! Amazing! Our cameras couldn’t stop clicking! So much exhibits, all very very varied so difficult to get bored. And this was Friday, the 6th day.

Happy Sabbath, everyone! Early morning, that is 6am, we can already hear Jerico whisking away in the kitchen. He’s not very keen, is he? Last night, he had already planned his recipe thoroughly. Talk about excellent hospitality – makes us feel guilty as we were not paying customers. All we can say is thank you. Those pancakes were packed, and no need for jams! Except when your name is Rose and you have about 30 something sweet teeth.

After breakfast, Jerico and Kenneth got busy with fiquring out how we might find the closes church to go to. Jackson Heights SDA, it reads on the web. It turns out to be quite enjoyable with Rose walking us to the church, making certain we got there. The church service was an experience we did not expect and shall never forget. We had this big assumption that big city churches were majestic looking on the outside but scarce and poorly looking on the inside (San Francisco seemed to us that way). Well this one blew us away! It was bustling, a literal melting pot of cultures and colours. They made us stand up (embarrassing) and asked us where we’re coming from. New Zealand, we say. ‘Wow!’ the crowd chorused. A reaction we have now gotten accustomed to. The church felt very traditional but I don’t remember anybody falling asleep throughout the service. There was a quartet (Filipinos) who sang beautifully, a duet (Filipinos) who played wonderful music with a violin and a piano. Beside us was a Filipino family – Letty and her husband and daughter, very friendly and warm. At the end of the service, on our way out, Letty’s husband rushed to catch us. ‘If we don’t see each other again, sa langit na lang (in heaven we will),’ he says, melting Joia’s crybaby heart. She rushed out, away from the intensity leaving Kanootz to say goodbye to the family. Walking home, we told each other, we shall never forget Letty’s family and their faces, and will look for them on that day. We never expected to be so blessed by this experience – and in New York of all places in the world.

We got home, and Jerico had done it again! Our laundry – all washed, dried, folded. Rose is a very lucky girl! We don’t feel so terrible accepting the favor today as Joia was going to cook up a storm - Indian for dinner. Rose and Joia went to the closest Asian market to fetch some veggies, chicken and spices. Dinner was Fried Paprika Chicken and Curried Vegetables with cumin in coconut milk. We cooked tons, but were pleased with the overall outcome. I think Jerico liked the chicken, I hope.

That night, we chatted, we planned, we contemplated on our lives. It must have been the curry! Haha! We realize how very blessed we are to have friends hosting us – 5 star treatment! Tomorrow, they take us back to the air train to JFK. We don’t do very well with goodbyes. But it’s okay because we are positive we will see them again soon – in Auckland. We made quite a sales pitch, so we expect to be showing them around in the country we now call our home – in the near future.

permalink written by  garcia on November 10, 2007 from New York, United States
from the travel blog: Got 2 see what's out there!
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where in the world...?

Pensacola, United States

Where in the world is Pensacola? Well, it’s a city in the state of Florida which is rather closer to Mobile City, Alabama than it is to the other Florida cities. But just because it doesn’t sound as familiar as Miami or Orlando to you doesn’t mean that it’s any less, at least not according to our experience.

Before we start writing about our time in Florida, you must meet some characters who are about to take on great roles in making this such a special trip that will end up making us feel that we want to come back soon (of course, this story is being written in retrospect. Otherwise, how would we know that we do want to someday go back to Pensacola?) First up: there is the Buenavista Manor situated somewhere close to the country but not too far away from the city. It totally felt like country to us because you see, they have 6 very very white goats – 3 sets of sisters that graze along the front yard of the Buenavista’s second property which is right next door. Then there’s Sophie and Sammy who are outdoor dogs. They have been known to attack visitors, so for the initial introduction, they were put on a leash while we stayed a good distance. Then there’s Beanie and Whiteshoes, the two hunter cats who man the garage and keep the snakes and rats at bay. By the way, we’ve just been reminded that there are in fact snakes in some places of this world, just not in New Zealand (or at least we like to believe so). Then there’s little Miss Boolinzkey (we’re making the spelling up but that’s how it sounds) aka Boo-boo, who is quite aware that she is the princess of the house. She doesn’t do outdoors. And apparently she likes to mark her territory every time there is a house guest so we’ve been warned to keep all doors shut at all times. But she’s very very cute and very very clean, and so we like her. And oh yes, let’s never forget Manong Tom and Manang Grace – the ‘Mr. & Mrs.’ of the house, who kept asking us if we have enough leg room (in the truck) from since the day they fetched us from the local airport. It’s just that when you’ve been used to a small Japanese 1990s car for most of your adult life, then it isn’t that difficult to answer such questions. This reminds us to introduce of course, their big white Toyota Tundra and the other GMC truck, although the Tundra did most of the work while we’re there.

Manang Grace is Kenneth’s first degree cousin. Her husband, Manong Tom, is also an Ilocano by ethnicity (like us and manang grace). This made our time together extra special as we could share jokes and stories in our most native tongue. There is something about speaking your birth language. Ilocano, we are reminded, is a very beautiful language (yes, we dare call it a language although technically it is a dialect… but then technically, a dialect is a variation of a more popular language… and Ilocano is unlike any language, totally separate from all the other ethnic languages surrounding it, so you decide…). There are feelings and thoughts that we can never express entirely and more meaningfully in another language but Ilocano despite being perfectly fluent in other languages.

Manang Grace tells us that Manong Tom served in the US Navy for some 20 years. Some time during those two decades, he served as Navy Chef. And to say that ‘he can cook’ is not only an understatement but also a massive assault to his actual cooking prowess. From the moment we tasted his tender beef brisket with sliced sweet Georgia onions for our first meal with them, we knew we were in for a gastronomic ride. We had some nice conversations at the table over Florida’s famous Key Lime Pie for dessert. Wow! Refusing to take siesta, they took us along to some friends of theirs. It was lovely meeting new people and hearing new accents (southern, y’all!). When we got home, Manang Grace took us to meet their dogs, and then for a tour around their other property next door and to meet their goats as well. And when we got home, we smelt something familiar… peanuts… ah, kare-kare… ‘You do eat beef, don’t you?’ asks Manong Tom. Yes! He asks us also which part of the Bible we base our diet on. The Old Testament, we say. ‘Leviticus?’ he guesses. Yes. ‘Okay,’ he says. We’re thankful he knows his Bible well and is very considerate of our dietary choices. Kare-kare… man, it was for real! As if that wasn’t good enough – he also stirred up a mixture of Bagoong and lime. This is authentic Filipino cuisine! Tomorrow, we leave at 10, mamang Grace informs us. To the beach!

The next morning, after a shower in the en suite bathroom (talk about 5-star accommodation… giggles), we followed our noses to the kitchen where Manong Tom was making omelette and fried rice. Hmmmm! Scrumptious! Again, we remember and appreciate how different this (& New York) has been compared to our San Francisco when we had to make do with soup in can and very salty hotdogs on hard bread. After breakfast, Joia helped manang Grace to pack our picnic boxes. Then away to the beach we went. Miles away from the beach still, and we can already see the famous white sand we’d only ever read about on the internet. Pensacola beach is a stretch of white sand dunes, sugary white sand dunes. It seemed endless. Beautiful, clean, and because of the time of the year – fall, it was still sunny but not crowded. We took so many photos here, but they’ll never be able to make up for the real experience of being in the midst of it all. In the truck on the way home, Joia remembered 2 words I heard from Jerico back in New York City. ‘Krispy Kreme, what is that?’ Joia asks Manong Tom & Manang Grace. Manang Grace smiled excitedly. Manong Tom turned the truck to change directions. Then there was the big sign: ‘Krispy Kreme’! We could smell it as soon as we got out the truck. Donuts like nothing else we’ve ever tasted. We ate almost a dozen between the 4 of us! Manong Tom also bought us our first official conjugal mug as a souvenir from Krispy Kreme. Thanks. Enjoy, everyone!

permalink written by  garcia on November 14, 2007 from Pensacola, United States
from the travel blog: Got 2 see what's out there!
tagged Pensacola

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dated for 8 years, married for nearly 4 years, no littlies yet, understandably bored and seeking new adventures... therefore, we go.

young married couple. both born in the same small rice-farming village in the northern Philippines. presently residing in beautiful New Zealand. guy (Kanootz)...

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