Why I Can Never Forget My First Travel Abroad

It’s been over two months since my first travel outside the Philippines, and here I am still reeling from this incredulous feeling of finally, “I made it!”
 
Everything about my travel – the places my son and I visited, the food, the people there, and all these that I narrate here – make my first travel abroad something I can never ever forget.
 
Thanks much to my son who invited me, my long time dream of going abroad has come true — and traveling SOLO at that! Of course, my son would be there to meet and fetch me after work, then take me around. You see, he often goes to Singapore as part of his job, so he wanted me to be able to visit the country while he was there.
Me and the mini Merlion somewhere along the Marina Bay – a photo taken by my son, my avid photographer during my stay at the Lion City

Yet, the prospect of traveling abroad all by myself – getting to the airport and back (from the trip), and going through the long process from check-in to security check, and flying alone with strangers — was daunting enough for me because that meant getting out of my comfort zone. I’m used to being assisted especially in new situations.

 Last year in fact — as I shared in a previous post — the chance to travel overseas already presented itself to me. Not your regular adventurer at heart, I found many excuses to back off.
 
But this time, I mustered the courage to embrace this golden opportunity, for such may no longer come my way. Besides, my son had already bought my plane tickets at short notice, too (so I’d no longer have any excuses to say no).
 
With little time to prepare my mind, my heart, and my things, “a drum of anxieties was revolving in my consciousness” (to quote Alain de Botton in his book, “The Art of Travel”) days prior to my scheduled flight.
 
Worrying about losing my way at the airports (here and at Changi), my hearing impairment, and my natural clumsiness even at my age, I was getting to be a big bundle of nerves as the time drew near.
 
Despite my own research on what to expect for a first-timer traveler, plus lots of pointers and encouragement from family, I still feared making mistakes. Which I had on several instances. After all, I wouldn’t be me without my bloopers!
 
My family and some close friends understand how I also hate taking a taxi on my own, or going home late, much less taking myself to the airport back and forth.
 
Yet, anticipation and thrill, together with my complete trust in God that He’d take care of me overtook me. An act of faith, as one good friend said.
 
Thus from my Grab ride to NAIA to my surprisingly pleasant experiences going through each step, and everywhere I went “already the confusion and jitters of the present moment were receding.” (Alain de Botton).
 
Today, I am still reliving the sights, sounds, and flavors of Singapore — as if it were only yesterday. Already I’m missing my first taste of authentic Hainanese Chicken rice and soup, the very first meal I ate right at Changi Airport. I want to go back to Singapore and explore more.
at the Marina Bay, Singapore with the Esplanade in the background – the first area where my son took me right from the airport
Capturing the Marina Bay Sands on my 1st evening…

Ah traveling abroad – even for a short stay – does open a wider perspective and a great way to know myself more! I’m giving myself a BIG pat on the back as well for taking up the challenge.

Funny but the urge to travel again to a new place is creeping up on me now.
 
Most of all, I am overflowing with gratitude  and I thank God for this blessing. Indeed, all these that I have overcome with grit and faith and my loved ones’ moral support make my first travel abroad an experience that will last forever in my heart.
While waiting for our lunch to be served, I took a shot of this view of the Marina Bay Sands from the National Gallery of Singapore
 
One of the waterfalls at Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay – I was careful not to let my phone slip from my hands while taking this photo
Silhouette of the Marina Bay Sands looming in the background

Starting 2019 On a Positive Note

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Welcome 2019!

Two weeks into the new year, and I’m still keeping up my good spirits, which I should be if I want to make 2019 a much kinder, brighter year than the last.

And I invite you all as well to start this year — 2019 — on a positive note.

Let’s do our best to be THANKFUL for every BLESSING, big or small, that comes our way. Something may or may not be what we truly want or hope for. Still, let’s be grateful for it because it’s the best way to keep negativity at bay.

We start with this — with GRATITUDE in our hearts — to create a positive mindset as we greet each new day.

Most of you I’m sure have your own resolutions to be and do better this year. So do I.

I hope I’ll be able to stick to them, for I’m making sure these are doable for me. I hope it’s going to be the same for you.

One of the things I keep reminding myself to do is: Prioritize and focus on the task at hand. ONE at a time. I should quiet my mind from distractions.

I find multi-tasking no longer as effective with me as in the past. I cannot segue from one task to another hurriedly lest I become absent-minded. My memory is starting to slow down. Ahhh, the travails of aging!

But sometimes, situations will arise where I still need to attend to several things at the same time. In which case, I must remind myself to pause a bit in between. And this works better for me now.

I end this post by sharing a Prayer for the New Year, which I came across online.

Lord

Whether I leave behind

a year of joy or of trials and difficulties,

I pause to GIVE THANKS.

Thank you for being with me

Every day of every year.

Thank you for making all things NEW

And for giving me the grace of

Fresh starts

And New Beginnings.

Remind me of your presence in the days to come,

Even when I feel pushed and rushed by

Busyness.

Be Glorified in My Life This Year.

~ AMEN ~

heatherking.org

 

 

Prayer for the New Year

As the world awaits 
the coming year 
May Love, real love
Compassion
Generosity 
Empathy
Unity
Peace, Justice
Goodness
echo our heart's yearnings
And bells ring not only
to usher in a materially blessed year
but more for spiritual graces and blessings

We pray Lord grant us each
an openness and space for the poor in 
our midst
a ready hand to lend 
to anyone in need

May each heart O LORD, Creator of all
respond to Your Call of
oneness with those suffering
from sickness, poverty, and other ills;
with those differing from us in faith,
politics, race, color, creed
and other divisive walls
as well as a rejection of all that 
displeases You O Most Loving Merciful GOD

All these in Jesus' Name we pray. AMEN



A Look Back at the Fading Year 2018

Three years ago in the last quarter,  I wrote this in a Facebook post of mine:

“…it’s been almost 2 weeks since I moved into this place which I now call home and share with my son, this time, with my eldest. […] Somehow I feel like a tourist in a strange land. With an inventive mind such as mine, it’s so easy to pretend I’m now in a place like Manhattan in NY. I’m no longer in my house on the prairie which I shared with my younger son and his family […] nor am I in my tiny English cottage by the woods which I shared with my dear feline friends.

“Now here I am in the heart of the bustling metropolis learning to ease out of my reclusive mood. What I get to enjoy is being able to keep house and prepare home-cooked meals for my son […] and having human company to converse  with, not just my plants, or my cats, or my favorite lizard…”

Now three years hence, and I’m still conversing mostly with my plants, my new set of lizard friends, some ants. No cats at all. Not that I mind. My son’s hectic work schedule and his personal life leave me all by myself most of the time.

On one hand, I’ve gotten used to my own company and still preoccupied with my part-time work, personal projects including this blog, my photography hobby, among other things. Yet it can be quite depressing at times.

Looking back, my life’s roadmap this year has been a riveting mix of ups and downs. On the upside, I’ve accomplished many of my goals. Topping them all was self-publishing my first eBook ever, Finding Your Authentic Self: A Path to Wholeness, which took me about 3 months to write.

But circumstances — such as work and financial problems — can be so overwhelming that without faith, I would’ve come crushing down. I must admit times when my very faith comes asunder letting me go on a roller-coaster ride with my relationship with God.

Like a child lost in the woods, I keep running to find my way — yet the farther it takes me away from home.

When doubt assails or bitterness creeps in, I quickly remind myself God is with me, in me, around me. He’s just hidden in the clouds.

My eyes look at the clouds to seek God’s face among them, somehow hoping to see Him in the concrete as well as in a deeper, spiritual sense. When I come to Him in prayer, I either feel empty or full of hope. When tears fall, I know deep in my heart, He has heard my cries, and suffered my agony too.

I find myself grieving still over my Mom’s passing, even after 4 years. As they say, something is taken away from you when your mother dies. So it is with me. During my difficult times, I miss my Mom’s strength and comfort.

I find I’m an irony unto myself. I, who long for human interaction and real conversation, has shied away from most invitations to social events and meetups with friends this year.

But I’m made of sterner stuff. My faith in God remains strong despite some backsliding. My faith in the goodness of others is still alive, my love for my family unshakeable, and my confidence in myself intact despite my defeats.

I’ve come to a few realizations:

  • A structured schedule for each day works best for me
  • I should assign a particular day for each important chore
  • I can no longer lump together in one day chores that use up too much energy
  • Less multi-tasking so I can focus
  • Must include writing practice, learning and reading into my daily schedule
  • Less social media and news reading
  • Back to book reading and journaling
My reading list — books I’ve read (since 2012) and current readings

Through all my ups and downs, God has been my Shield, prayer my best tool. I remind myself my human frailty is the devil’s strength. So I must always keep myself in check and keep God’s hope and promises in my heart.

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. –Isaiah 40:31

This is the trajectory of my life this year — and I hope and pray 2019 will be kinder to me, with God’s grace. That like an eagle, I can soar to new heights. I do believe.

I also pray for strength, clarity, and comfort for anyone dealing with their own pain and struggles.

Above all, I hope and pray for greater peace, compassion, unity, less violence and negativity,  as well as maturity in social discourse, especially in this Blessed Season of Christ’s Birth. Merry CHRISTMAS and a Peaceful, Brighter New Year to all!

Through the Lens of an Amateur Photography Enthusiast

A professional photographer friend of mine recently gave me a few honest-to-goodness critique of some photo shots I did as I’d requested. I appreciated it because there’s nothing like having a mentor or teacher who can help in your journey of learning.

And the most encouraging part of his feedback is telling me to just enjoy my photography — for his is more on the technicalities of taking photos, such as avoiding overexposure, taming the whites in your photos, proper framing, and the like. At least I know where my weaknesses lie, and how to improve my techniques.

Then I  came across this article, What is Composition in Photography?

“Composition is the language that you, the photographer, can use to communicate with the viewer. How you place the different components of your image relative to each other is what gives your photos meaning.” — Harry Guinness

It gives me great comfort to know what I’m actually aiming for in my photos has a place in the world of photography. As this author-photographer Harry Guinness writes, “Photography isn’t just a technical pastime; it’s an art. […] There is something more to photography than just technical perfection.”

Of course, I like to be technically correct, so I’m learning to use the manual setting on my phone cam or my digicam, instead of the Auto mode.

Yet, for the most part I enjoy creating a certain mood, like making a scene dramatic or pensive. Or making the scene before me seem like someone is peering through a corner. During the post-editing stage, I refrain from relying on filters to get the effect I want. But I use the editing options for straightening, cropping, and improving the tonal quality of my shots. It’s something like cinematography. It’s creating art indeed.

I like how I was able to frame those people within the bars of the railing from where I stood…

Often, I get so caught up with this particular goal of mine that I tend to overlook the technical part. So I do understand if some of my better equipped, more polished photographer friends fail to recognize what I’m really aiming for.

More than ever now, I commit myself to continue honing my photography skills (as taught by experts and professionals) and still enjoy expressing myself the way I want to.

Here are some of my favorite practice shots.

Thought it would be fun to capture the silhouette of my sister’s cat as she lays next to her reading a book…
Caught my sister reading and thought of focusing on her book and her hands’ silhouette
A practice on perspective – at the same time I tried to come up with a different kind of composition
My practice shot on scaling…
A shot from my book pile series
taken with my old Canon PowerShot A3100 IS — tried to imitate a common book arrangement in bookstores…
It seems like the leaf is catching those soft fluffy white clouds…
To trained eyes, this shot is not a good one (long shadow on the building’s facade) but it’s still a better version of many of my earliest photos…

There you go, my photography journey in 2018. Hope 2019 finds me offering you a fresh batch of more artistically done shots. Blessings to all!

a gift from my son…

 

A Teacher’s Dream Book of Poems In Focus

As a year-ender for the Poetry category of my blog, I just want to put here my envisioned cover for my dream book of poems. I’ve designed my cover using Canva, and why am I doing this?

Just so I have something concrete to focus on. Something to motivate me to act on this dream of mine of compiling some of my best poems and verses into a book — those that have earned praises and comments from my readers on another site, Writing.com, where I go by my username Summerblossom. And some verses dear to my heart.

My dream book of poems will also serve as an impetus for me to compose new poems or verses, focusing on life, love, and faith…

Cover of my dream book of poems…

Looking back, I was glad that my best friend in college gifted me with a personalized blank book especially meant for my poems back then. So I immediately wrote down my earliest verses from when I was 13 — the good, the angsty, and the not so good (aka immature) — on that little blue book with its title, On Dreams and Realities.

A page from my 1st poetry collection
Another page from my 1st book of poems…

With that, I wish everyone a better year to come…May 2019 be as awesome, if not more than the year that is about to fade. May all your fondest dreams turn to realities. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Essentials You Need to Grow Your Friendship

Friends come and go, we often say. Indeed, as we grow older, some friendships fall on the way, so we just move on and grow into other friendships.

As we mature, we discover some friends were not real; others, we may have outgrown.

But to answer the question —

how do you make a friendship grow?

I’d like to quote one Indian proverb: “Don’t let grass grow on the path of friendship.”

Like a garden covered with overgrown grass, the beauty of friendship can easily fade with neglect. You can only see the weeds, unless you remove these and nurture your garden of friendship back to life.

Yes, unless you nurture your friendship, it will not grow. Come to think of it — each friendship is unique…special in its own way, so much like the variety of plants and flowers in your garden. Each needs its own nurturing care, love and special attention.

These are the essentials you need to grow your relationships with your friends if you are to keep them for life.

Sometimes, all it takes is a simple message of “hello, how you’re doing” or “what’s up” or “are you alright“– just to make them feel you’re not taking them for granted. This is especially true with long-distance friends whom you seldom see.

Thus, with my own set of friends, I try to give time to make our friendships grow.  Time to chat a bit through social media (or even like or comment on their posts) or see them in person.

Cupcakes of friendship ~~ photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I only need to make time (though sometimes I fail too) for each of my friends,  for lunch or just for a cup of tea or tall glass of iced coffee, with a cute cupcake to boot, to make life a little sweeter with our bonding moments.

Since life makes us busy every single day, going out with friends can be quite hard and means giving a little sacrifice.

Whatever it takes for you, cultivate your friendships through making time and communication.

It’s nice to have real friends — not just fair-weather ones — who can journey with you through the different seasons of your life, through your ups and downs, especially as you age.

 

*Note: I’m reviving this post I wrote way back in 2015 with minor revisions.

3 Cardinal Virtues You Need to Be a Better English Learner or Teacher

Are you an English learner whose mother tongue is not English? Do you come from a non-English speaking environment? Or are you an aspiring or practicing teacher of the English language? To be more specific, are you someone whose native language is not English, but have the passion and capability to teach the language?

Then read on, for this post is for you.  Perhaps at some points, you may be having difficulty in your English language studies. Or if you are a beginner teacher of  English, self-doubts sometimes cloud your mind.

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash

In this article, I want to share 3 cardinal virtues: faith, hope, love — that help English learners and English teachers be better. I won’t be discussing the education/training, skill set and other credentials  an English language teacher must have. I also won’t dwell on how learners can read or speak better and other related learning tips.

Rather, I’d discuss the necessary disposition learners and teachers alike should develop if they are to achieve their learning or teaching goals and succeed. Continue reading “3 Cardinal Virtues You Need to Be a Better English Learner or Teacher”

Soliloquy – An Anguished Soul Speaks Out

You get stuck. Again. Something makes you stuck.  As ever.

And this perhaps is why you never can get your blog off.  Why you can’t attract as much traffic as you want to. As you need to.

Fear. Yes, fear is what keeps you from writing with your whole heart and soul. From conveying as much as you want to – in the way you want to express yourself.

You’re afraid of giving a piece of your mind about issues that matter today.

COURAGE – this is what you ought to have. Yet…

Now look at this quote — it’s supposed to inspire a trying-hard writer like you. Oops, never be too harsh on yourself. Please.

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”  — Robert Cormier

 

But it doesn’t really apply to you, right? In the context this post is about?

All you can think of now is how saddening to see how much the world today is ripping itself apart. Hatred. Violence. Injustice. Destruction of the environment. Loss of respect. Enmity between kin.  Apathy towards others. So much division, disunity, disintegration. So much Evil…

Others may tell you – hey,  this has been happening since time immemorial.

Yes. So you push back and ask —  why then has humanity not learned anything at all from the lessons of history? Is humanity that hardened, dense, fragile, weak …or just plain overcome with EGO? Must we just tolerate the negatives within and around us?

You start to feel at times your faith – in God and in humanity —  slipping. Especially when you read the news. The bad news all over. Or reading ugly debates on social media. You try to avoid these as much as you can. Yet you cannot totally do so.

There — you’ve bared your soul. You’ve expressed somehow that pain in your heart.

This one seems to be a perfect guide for you — by Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

And this is your reflection for now. You do NOT have to be as gifted as others nor try to be like them. For as long as you speak out your Truth. That’s your Life Purpose. Just be your Authentic Self.

For from Love and Goodness you have been created. SO it is upon you to answer that call to be the image of the ONE who has created you and the rest of the Universe. That’s being authentic.

Your authentic self is meant to provide light to those you meet on your life’s pathway. But it’s still your Choice.

To let the LIGHT from within you to radiate to others. And give Hope. It is upon you to share that hope. As you journey with others. You encourage others to grow into the best person they can ever be — by being the best you can ever be too because you have that hope in your heart. You choose to be that kind of person.

Yes you feel anguished, helpless, hopeless about the state of affairs in society. You even start to think that animals have become more civilized than humans, transcending their very nature of just living for themselves. You see how different species – enemies by nature -unexpectedly learning to co-exist peacefully and enjoy each other’s presence. You see and hear of stories of loyalty and love pet animals provide their owners.

Yet do not despair. Remember? Despite humanity’s brokenness and because of that very crack in humanity, the LIGHT of the World has come to save, to redeem us all.

It means despite our brokenness as  human being because we are not perfect – just like everyone else — there is that spark of Light within each of us. Within you.

Still in your own capacity, and with God’s grace – you can help bring the Light, and Hope, and Faith to others. It behooves upon you to rise above your own frustration and anger at what is happening in the world to spread even  a ripple of kind thoughts or deeds.

In whatever way you can. Through your writing perhaps. But remember  you can only do this with LOVE in your heart. Spread the message of love, hope, and joy, especially as it is almost the Season of that LOVE that has come to save.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…  — 1 John 4:18

 

Cat Eye on Spotlight

In a previous post, Best Loved Photos of Our Family Pets, I featured some of my sister’s outdoor cats.

Now, there’s this one cat my sister treats almost like a princess, and she rules the house! Kring, as she is fondly called, is an indoor cat. She also knows my favorite hobby of clicking away at them pets. And though she remains aloof to me, she doesn’t hesitate to call my attention when I fail to notice her with my phone camera. I’m just enjoying myself, but hope to really practice the great animal photography tips for beginners.

One tip I’ve learned is to focus on the eyes. These photos may not yet do justice to Kring, but I’ve managed in a way to capture her personality, another tip.

                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

        

perched on the ref — one of her fave spots…
taken with my smartphone (Samsung J5) ƒ/1.9   1/17  3.7 mm  ISO640

 

“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
Mark Twain