Winter break 2012 :: Europe Trip Part III: Frohe Weihnachten!

(This is installment #3 of 3 blog posts recounting my 2012 winter break trip. See here and here for the earlier installments.) On Friday, December 21, we made it to our final destination:  Nuremberg, Germany.  The first order of business was to walk through the Christmas market, known as “Christkindlesmarkt.”  Hundreds of booths are set up to sell handmade Christmas ornaments, wooden toys and nativity scenes, and plenty of warm wine and sausages.  Shoppers come from all over Germany but also all over the world, so I was happy to learn that most vendors spoke English, too!  Some of the most beautiful displays were the ones containing hundreds of glass ornaments like the one below.

Ornaments hang from a display at the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market

On Saturday, our first full day but also last day in Germany, we walked around the “Old Town,” the part of the city completely surrounded by a wall.  At the north point of the Old Town stands an old castle which provides great views of the city.  The architecture here was much different than that of England and France, but beautiful nonetheless.  We also stopped in a church that stood in the same square as the Christmas market for a short organ concert of some recognizable classical tunes.  Many people took a break from the cold, windy outdoor market with us to enjoy the music.

Bird’s eye view of the “Old Town”

Our last night in Nuremberg was spent again at the Christmas market, where my family and I finished up our Christmas shopping.  Some of my favorite booths to visit were ones containing intricately decorated nutcrackers and little smoker men, seen in the picture below.  It was hard to stop myself from buying something from every booth, but my limited remaining euros and limited suitcase space kept me in line!

German hand-crafted nutcrackers and smokers for sale at the “Christkindlesmarkt”

As I was flying across the Atlantic for ten hours to get back home the next day, boredom ensued and I settled on reading my passport for entertainment.  Yes, there are quotes in that thing – several well-known ones from Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence – and others new to me.  I found one to be relevant to us students, coming from astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka:

                      Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds…to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.

As we Fisher MAcc students return to campus for our last semester of school, we should keep this in mind.  We are the future our profession, and we have an obligation to make progress and push farther to reach greater heights than before.  With that, I’m looking forward to a great spring 2013!

Winter break 2012 :: Europe Trip Part II: Parlez-vous Anglais?

The second stop on our tour of Europe (aka “winter break 2012”) was the beautiful city of Paris!  We kicked off our four days in the French city with an “Illuminations Tour,” where we took a cruise along the River Seine to view some of the most beautiful buildings, bridges, and statues lit up at nighttime.  One of the coolest buildings in the night lights to me was “La Conciergerie,” which was a prison during the French Revolution and held prisoners before they were sent to the guillotine.  Dark history, I know…but beautiful building!  The tour also allowed us our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night – what a beauty it was!

La Tour Eiffel glowing bright in the Paris night sky!

Another highlight of my time in Paris was walking up the steps to the top of the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, or better known to Americans as the Notre Dame.  My knowledge of the cathedral was limited to what I could remember from the Disney movie (which wasn’t much), so it was great to hear a little bit about its history, dating back to its construction in the 12th century.  There were a couple of huge stained glass windows in the cathedral that contained colorful glass that dated back to the 13th century, which was a little hard to wrap my head around!  What was amazing was all of the people who had come to see this Parisian piece of architecture that once represented a sanctuary of safety and hope during the French Revolution, and still serves as a place of peace for people today.  The views from the cathedral weren’t too bad, either!

View of the French city from the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

A trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the palace at Versailles.  I don’t have enough space to go on about all of the history of the palace, its surrounding gardens, and former residents, but I will tell you about my favorite room.  It was called the “Hall of Mirrors,” and it was literally just that – a long hallway lined with mirrors and windows.  Giant chandeliers hung all along the hallway so that it was completely full of light.  There were beautiful scenes painted on the ceiling that seemed to glow from all of this light.  This was one of many stops on our tour that reflected just how detailed and grand this palace was – just like the gold accents on the palace in the picture below.

My sister and I outside the grand Palace of Versailles

Our trip to Paris was complete with a stop at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, the Musee d’Orsay for some Monet and Renoir, plenty of shopping on the Champs Elysees, and quite a few baguettes and bistros.  Much too soon, it was time for us to hop on another train – this time heading to Nuremberg, Germany!  Au revoir, Paris!

Winter Break 2012 :: Europe Trip Part I: London Calling

What’s the best Christmas present I’ve EVER received?  And the best way I’ve EVER spent winter break?

Well, that would have to be our family trip to Europe!  My mom, sister, and I traveled to London, Paris, and Nuremberg, Germany, from December 13-23.  Lots of travel, sightseeing, shopping, eating, and simply spending time together made for an unforgettable experience.  I’ll be breaking my re-cap into three blog posts – one for each destination.  So, here’s LONDON:

Tower of London on a bright, sunny afternoon near the River Thames.

To prevent myself from carrying on and on (you should see my 500+ pictures on FB), here are a few great moments:

1.  Les Miserables – no, not the movie – the on-stage performance!  This is one of my favorite musicals, adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel depicting 19th-century France on the brink of revolution.  We enjoyed this spectacular show on our first night in London.  Check out this video of my favorite song from Les Mis, performed at the 10th Anniversary Concert by Lea Salonga:

“On My Own” from Les Mis

St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background as we strolled across Millennium Bridge.

2.  Double-Decker Sightseeing Tour – this was the source of about half of my pictures from the whole trip!  Having never been outside of North America, I was excited to see buildings that were more than one or two-hundred years old. London did not disappoint!  We saw Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Elizabeth Tower (often confused with Big Ben, which is actually the name of the bell inside the famous tower), the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and countless other well-known sites.  Our tour guide gave us a great historical overview of the city – including the Great Fire of 1666, the reign of Queen Victoria, the construction of Shakespeare’s Globe, and many other significant points of history to the Brits.  She even pointed out fun sites like JK Rowling’s apartment and Margaret Thatcher’s home.  I definitely recommend tours like these if you want to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time.

3.  Carols at Westminster Abbey – what a concert this was!  A young boy’s choir sang Christmas carols on the evening of Sunday, December 15, our last day in London.  The church is not only home to normal worship services, but also major events such as Prince William and Kate’s wedding a couple of years ago.  The building looked even more beautiful at night than it did on our tour during the day!

The beautiful Westminster Abbey lit up on a cold winter’s night!

4.  Tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury – oh the desserts!!!  The three of us enjoyed afternoon tea and a huge tiered platter of desserts at this little tea shop in London.  The Brits take their tea seriously, and as I was recovering from strep throat, I had to take the green tea seriously as well.  We enjoyed vanilla caramel cupcakes, scones with strawberry jam, double chocolate brownies, chocolate meringues, and many other delicacies.  If your mouth isn’t watering yet, check out their website for pictures that will certainly do the trick!

5.  Shopping at Harrods – the world’s greatest department store!  If you think Macy’s in New York is the best, what with that great big parade in November and all, think again!  Harrods has to be the most luxurious, grandiose shopping experience on the planet.  I’m not just talking multiple stories, but rooms across rooms of perfumes, furs, fashion boots, Christmas toys…and then you have the food!  An ice cream parlour, a room dedicated to seafood, another to wine, and the list goes on and on.  Unsurprisingly, we had quite the task in trying to simply find the exit!

Overall, London was a great way to kick of our trip to Europe!  On Monday morning, it was time to take the “Chunnel” to Paris, where the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees awaited…


Well the Rest of Fall Quarter and Winter Break

Apparently, since I dropped off the face of the blogging world during the latter half of fall quarter, I feel I should give an update.  I tend to ramble in my blogs, so I am going to try and keep it quick and simple (we’ll see how that goes).

So first, I feel like I need to explain my absence of postings.  I feel actually bad.  But I am attributing this to two things.  One, my job has gotten more intense, so the adjustment of working and going to school was taking it’s toll on my free time…sort of.  Though this hasn’t been the hardest quarter I have had(ish) academically, I just lost all energy to do anything once I got home from either work or class.  The main reason I took summer classes was to make sure that I kept on going with the program.  I honestly thought if I had any kind of mental break that I would not return to the program.  I am starting to realize that I should have actually taken the summer off.  I think without having time to rest and soothe my brain, it seeped into fall quarter and made me way lazier than I wanted to be.  I may go further into this in another blog, but I don’t want to give any particular advice on taking summer classes (if able based on internship location).  However, I only had to take 2 classes for the fall and only have to take 2 in the spring.  Technically I only have to take 2 in the winter, but all 3 are required so that should be fun for my life.

Ok back to not rambling. Though I felt kind of lazy in how I was approaching my academics last quarter I ended up doing really well.  I got a 3.77 for the quarter.  I was extremely proud of my internship paper.  With writing and appendices, it was approximately 140 pages!  I’ve never wrote something that extensive by myself in my life.  I was not really sure about how to approach it so, once again I need to make a note to myself to refer to this blog for future material.

As far as my winter break goes, it has actually been “meh. ” Since I work for a college, as SOON as I go on break, I get swamped with hiring for instructors to teach in the winter quarter.  I thought I would get some kind of break from it all with my academic break, but to no avail.

Outside of work, I have been using the time not in classes to work out more.  I am participating in a “Maintain Not Gain” wellness challenge at Columbus State.  Between the week of Thanksgiving, until the end of the first week of the New Year, the goal for employees is not to lose any weight but maintain your weight.  Between all the gorging people do at Thanksgiving, various December holidays, New Years, and holiday potlucks/parties in between, it is pretty hard to do.  I’ve taken the challenge a little bit more seriously, and have been trying to lose weight.  I’ve been getting rave reviews on my progress, and can’t wait to see my results for my final weigh in!

The other thing I’ve been doing is watching Switched at Birth.  It is show obviously on ABC Family.  SUCH A GOOD SHOW…I cannot wait until the winter premiere.

Ok that’s about it.  Just for memory sake, I am going to outline future topics for me to write about for memory purposes (and for you guys to hold me to later)!

1. New Year’s Resolutions

2. To take or not take summer classes

3. Writing your internship paper

4. Maintain Not Gain results and my new found healthiness

5. The sanity I achieve from my cable TV

6. Classes

7.  My planned winter quarter study structure

That’s seven topics and I am sure more will pop up, so I should be good for almost all of winter!  I’m not going to lie that I kind of was struggling with topics last quarter, so I am glad I was able to brainstorm some while writing this winter break blog.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


PS-I wrote this last week and never actually published it so by the way my holidays were very happy!

Time for a Break

Autumn Quarter is over!  This was the final Autumn Quarter at OSU with the switch to semesters approaching soon.  The switch also means that this will be the longest break for a good while (more than just a week at a time).  Here are some options on what to do during your break:

  • Give back to your community.  Donate time or money to an organization.  Give can goods to a food pantry or go through your closets and donate some clothes to those less fortunate.
  • Random acts of kindness.  Do something nice for someone, where it’s a compliment or a small showing of appreciation for those around you.
  • Bake/Cook.  Find some new recipes and try them out.  Host a dinner party and share your new ideas with others.  Even better; have your guests try out new recipes and make it a potluck.
  • If you are not into cooking, try out new restaurants.
  • Read.  Now is the time to catch up on reading that is not “required reading” for a class.
  • Home improvement.  Maybe you have put off a project in your house or apartment; now is as good as time as any (unless it’s an outside project, then invest in some Carhartts first).
  • Go see a movie, play, musical, concert, or sporting event.
  • Catch up on your DVR.
  • Head to the Columbus Zoo and see the Wildlights.
  • Road trip.  Take a weekend and go on a road trip.  Visit friends, family, or an attraction.
  • Exercise.
  • Enjoy the holidays.  Try not to rush around or stress out.
  • Spend quality time with friends and family.  Catch up on lost time when you might have had to cancel plans in favor of studying.
  • Plan ahead (yes, this may be the last thing you want to do but it’s still important).  Buy your books for next quarter and pay your fees.  Winter Quarter will be here before you know it.

These are just a few ideas.  Feel free to share your ideas as well.  Enjoy your break!

A look back on winter break 2010

My heart is still in the southern part of the U.S., where it was warm and full of my holiday memories. This past winter vacation, I went to Atlanta and Disney World in Orlando FL with my wife. We originally thought that we could leave the chilly weather in Ohio and Michigan and would have a sunny and warm vacation; however, it seemed that we brought the snow to the south.

I spent my Christmas weekend in Atlanta with my cousin’s family. We also got to see his baby, who is now 18 weeks old. It snowed during the second day after I arrived in Atlanta. My cousin said it was the biggest snow in Atlanta in the past three years. Nevertheless, our interest in going on excursions was not diminished by the big snow. We went to CNN headquarter, The Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola. At CNN, we joined the studio tour, which takes about one hour. On the tour, you have the chance to see what’s inside the CNN and what the real working environment is really like at CNN. It was so cool to see Don Lemon broadcasting right in front of you. The Georgia Aquarium is also very interesting. In the world’s largest aquarium, you are able to have the chance to touch rays and see rare Beluga whales and whale sharks through a giant glass viewing theater. At World of Coca-Cola, we first watched a 4D movie about the “secret recipe of Coca-Cola”. After that, we visited the show rooms which demonstrate the history of Coca-Cola, the machines producing Coca-Cola and also looked at some Coca-Cola pop art. At the end of the tour, we could taste 64 different Coca-Cola drinks from all over the world.

Then we flew to Disney World for the new year. We spent 6 days there, which is a little too long, but I took the opportunity to visit all four theme parks. As a big boy who refuses to grow up as Peter Pan does, I really enjoyed my time at Disney World. This is really the place that makes all your dreams come true. With Disney’s magic, you can see and “be” in every Disney story you have ever read, imaging that you are the Beast imprisoning the Beauty in his palace or Snow White waiting his prince. The most exciting moment was the New Year’s firework. This was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. The castle with splendid fireworks, how amazing and fascinating it was! If you plan to go there, here are some recommendations for your Disney trip: If you want to see the themes in Disney’s movies and characters such as Mickey and Donald, you should spend your limited time in the Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studio. I also recommend to not stay within the Disney Resorts. The only advantage of staying in the Disney Resort is the convenience of moving between different theme parks. However, to me, it seemed rather expensive relative to the quality of lodging there.

My Winter Break Excitement

Ah, finally back in Columbus after a very relaxing Christmas break in the South Dakota.

For the 2nd time, I decided to drive instead of fly home for Christmas break.  I certainly question my career choice at times because it seems I turn more into an armchair meteorologist than anything.  It astounds me how much I hawk The Weather Channel making sure I don’t get caught in some crazy winter storm that always seems to try to ruin the last few days of the year.  As mentioned in my previous blog, last Christmas was mucho frio — as in -30 degrees Fahrenheit plus factor in wind chills of -40 to -50.  Needless to say, I did not want a repeat performance of that this year.  As for this winter break, I got more than I bargained for…again.

Here are some highlights of my break:

1.  The drive from Ohio to SoDak was wonderful!  Great weather – All sun and NO snow, just how I like it!  I got to do a little bit of shopping in Omaha, NE, before making my way north to Sioux Falls, SD.  But, as I journeyed north to Sioux Falls, SD, the temperature dropped 25 degs from 28 degs to 3 degs.  Only one word to describe that:  dumb.

2.  I tried to get up at 2am in the morning to see the Lunar Eclipse.  Unfortunately, it was too cloudy but I didn’t miss much – my uncle took some sweet pictures with his camera and showed me during our family xmas!

3.  I ate at my two favorite restaurants ever:  Johnny Carino’s and Tokyo.  I would have to say Carino’s has thee best Italian food I’ve ate in my life.  I recommend the Lemon Rosemary Chicken or Bowtie Festival.  Second, I miss good sushi!  Tokyo has an amazing California Roll and Fried Salmon Crab Potstick roll.  Miss the maki rolls!

4.  Got to spend CHRISTMAS with my family!!!  Lots of food, lots of fun!

5.  I managed to get 3 super cold, snowy days of pheasant hunting in during my break.  I shot a lot and I missed a lot.  No pheasants for me this year – which is a first.

6.  Played a lot of DDR with my niece.  I swear I heard Lady Gaga and Jordan Sparks at least ten thousand times…not because the dance sequence was cool, but because my niece is in love with those songs!  I was regretting that purchase for her until I saw Vanilla Ice and NKOTB songs were on it – YES!  Nothing like jumping on a plastic mat to Ice Ice Baby!

and lastly…

7.  This is my favorite.  Well, not really.  To make a really long story short, for the past 6.5 years I’ve intermittently battled kidney stones.  For some odd reason, after my tour of duty in Iraq, I occasionally have a random flair-up episode.  To my surprise, my last minor brush with the stones was last xmas break.  Well, as luck would have it, I got them again.  And this time, it was bad enough that I had to go to the hospital.  I’ve been told by many doctors who have administered me pain meds for my kidney stones that passing a stone is like giving birth.  For me, I can’t say either way, but if that is true, then I’ve had about 7 children so far.  My only regret about the whole kidney stone thing is this:  I feel like I’ve been a dead-beat dad because I haven’t named any my “children of the stone.”   Check the picture at the end of the blog…I managed a ‘Go Bucks’ thumbs-up.

Takeaway from Winter Break:  No Blizzard (which I dodged by less than 12 hours)!!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break!  Now its time to rev up for Winter Quarter 2011!


Christmas Break

It has been a great break.  I haven’t had 3+ weeks completely off in a long time.  Even during my undergrad years I was never fully off.  As a rower on the lightweight crew team, every free moment was spent training for the racing season.  It was no surprise that I was a little unsure how to spend my winter break.  To make it easier, I broke up the break into three blocks.

The first block of time off I spent doing nothing… and it was great.  I stayed in Columbus and slowly unwound from the hectic life I lived during finals.  Each day I read the paper, went to the gym, checked on grades, watched movies, attended ugly sweater parties, etc.

For the second block of winter break, I returned to Cincinnati to spend time with my family.  Of course it was great to be home and see everyone, not to mention all the excellent food I ate.  Plus I was able to go to the Bengals v. Chiefs game in which the Bengals clinched the AFC North title.  Hopefully they can make a good run in the playoffs.

Block three officially began when I returned to Columbus a few days ago.  I am currently trying to adjust back to a more realistic life – one with priorities, deadlines, and homework.  I’ve already bought most of my books and now I need to start reading course syllabi and preparing for another quarter at Fisher College.

Merry Christmas!

This blog entry is three weeks delayed. I flew back to New York City right after my last final on Dec 10th. I took a five-day road trip by buses and trains to a couple of cities on the east coast to meet friends and family friends (excuse me for a little redundancy in the sentence). Then the other two weeks delayed were spent on meeting family and friends in the city. Oh lord, home is so sweet!

I also sneaked in the pre-Christmas party held by SACC, the tutoring center I used to worked at in Baruch College in NYC, where previous and current “work force” got together to celebrate for the holiday. Some previous tutors are already working as professionals in large companies; some come back periodically to host workshops or to help out during final weeks; some are going to grad school and sneak back, like I did, to reunite with friends. Current tutors introduced “new faces” and update “ex-work force” with news at the center and on campus. We shared interesting stories and enjoyed home-made food brought by everyone. Games and songs were played and all were perfect for the season.

Of course, my new friends in Columbus are not forgotten, especially my groups from the past quarter. Each of the four groups I was in was very special and fun. We worked together many weekends, till mid nights; we did dinner dates, snack dates, and even breakfast dates (mostly for group projects); we went to watch “Mirror Lake Jump”, watched games, and, well, basically all random things. Here are the pictures of my four lovely groups and I wish all my dear group mates merry Christmas and a happy new year!

PB050240food 233food 237food 245

By the way, our group gathering involved a number of little cute creatures—pets. Here’s LE. I only have shots from the back though, because she was licking my camera every time I took pictures from the front.

food 035

Refer to Kyle’s blog for more LE’s picture, =)

Kid’s story: Long, hard road out of hell

Timeline: Sunday morning

I see: Liverpool vs. Arsenal

I hear: the commentators and my brother’s constant messenger sounds

I smell: yes, I do… I need a shower

I feel: younger

Yup, I’m home for Christmas break. The trip over was quite fine: I flew on Thursday to Fort Lauderdale and got a ride down to Coral Gables where I spent the night, and flew home from Miami on Friday. I can’t begin to describe how happy I was to be back in Latin America.

And yes, I count the Miami area as Latin America. I mean no offense to the Americans, really, but even those living there (and I mean those who have no Latino heritage for at least four generations, or around 1% of the population) agree. A popular saying down south is that Miami is the capital of Latin America; make of it what you wish.

Back to the topic: I’m home for Christmas break. It was tough coming here at first. I mean, I had a very clear yearning for seeing my friends and speaking Spanish and the food and all that. However, I was afraid that it would be hard for me to go back to Columbus.

Regarding the friends thing, I have a few friends in Columbus (at least for my part), but I have known them for a little over three months for the best part, and in my culture you have to know a person for a longer time than a few months in order for him/her to be considered a close friend (by the way, the lady friends are a different category altogether). We’re getting there, but I miss my close friends.

Speaking Spanish is pretty self-explanatory, as is the food thing.

Even with all that, I have a few plans pending for the upcoming quarters that do quite a good job at outweighing the pros of staying home. There’s also the fact that my gordita told me she misses me (and I believed her), and the fact that I found a new home for my baby Samantha here (home) so I must relieve my babysitter MH of his duties with Sarah (in Columbus). And yes, I feel proud that I can have a babysitter with more than half an MBA degree for my baby :).

So it was hard to decide to come home and it will be even harder to go back, but I feel I must make my so-far-very-large-and-soon-to-be-even-larger investment (and all those A’s) count for something. Sorry, Fisher College, looks like you’ll have to cope with me for another quarter.

Now I just have to forget about that bloody loneliness that usually kills me in Columbus…

“¿Y quién tiene la shave del gol? Sha te voy a deciiiiir quién tiene la shave del gol…”  – Fox Sports guy