Sheep Crossing

When we we’re traveling in Jordan, our tour bus came to a sudden stop not because of traffic, nor stop sign, nor because of a bus stop.

It stopped because of this.

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I am not sure why the sheep cross to the other side, when the grass is greener where it came from. Maybe the grass always looks greener when we look at it from the other side.

Discontent, can put our lives in peril.

(*photo taken in rural Jordan)

Hanging Gardens

When we visited the Holy Land last month, we went to the city of Haifa, the third largest city in Israel. Haifa is where Mount Carmel is located.

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monument of Elijah in Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel, as you probably know, is the site where prophet Elijah, as recorded in the Bible, challenged the prophets of Baal in where his sacrificial offering was set ablaze by a fire from heaven. But that’s for another post.

What I want to feature now is another popular tourist site also found in Mount Carmel, the Baha’i Gardens.

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The Baha’i faith is a religion, which started under 200 years ago by a Persian, of the name Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, who proclaimed himself as the prophet Bab (Bab means “gate” in Arabic). Today, some 7 million people practices this religion.

The Baha’i Gardens or also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are garden terraces around the shrine of the Bab.

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These gardens are relatively new, as its construction was started in 1987, and was completed and opened to the public in 2001. It has 19 terraces and has about 600 steps.

From the garden terraces you can view the Mediterranean ocean, the port of Haifa, and part of the city.

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We entered the garden from the top entrance and work our way down through steep stairways. Definitely it was much easier going down than up, as long as you don’t get dizzy and fall down the steps.

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Starting from the bottom and going up the stairs will be a real chore, unless you feel like Rocky-in-training.DSC_0595

The gardens are linked by a set of stairs that are flanked by streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges. These waters are fed by fountains on each terrace level.

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The Shrine of the Bab is the second most holy place for the Baha’is. The Bab was executed in 1850 in Iran and his remains were later brought to Haifa and laid to rest in this site in 1909. The original mausoleum was turned into this beautiful shrine built in the 1950’s, complete with a golden dome.

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Located also in the gardens is the Baha’i Archive Library which holds many of the sacred items of the Baha’i faith (photo below).

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Today, this garden and shrine attracts more than a million visitors a year. It is also a pilgrimage site for the Baha’is. And since this place is considered sacred, they would like visitors to be reverent and be quiet while visiting this garden. For sure it is a beautiful place just to be silent and reflect.

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I may not be a Baha’i pilgrim, but as a life’s pilgrim, I feel grateful and blessed to visit this magnificent place.

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(*Most photos taken with an iPhone, except for the B&W photos, which I took with Nikon DSLR, but forgot to check that its mode is on “effects,” so the B&W shots were unintentional.)

Walking Through Old Jerusalem

In our trip to the Holy Land, we walked inside Old Jerusalem. It is a walled city that roughly covers one square kilometer within the modern city of Jerusalem. It’s a place that has been, and still is, the center of constant clash of powers throughout history.

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The city of Jerusalem have been surrounded by walls for its defense since ancient times. These walls have been destroyed several times but also have been rebuilt through the ages depending on whose occupying the city.

Since Biblical times, the walls of Jerusalem have been well-known. Photo below is the tower of David, old Jerusalem’s citadel, located on the western side of the walled city.

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Most of the walls that exist today is from the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman decided to fully rebuild the walls.

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Entrance through the walled city is through several gates. Currently there are eight open gates to the city. The ninth gate, the Golden Gate, is blocked and closed, as according to tradition, is awaiting for the arrival of the Messiah.

Below is one of the gates leading to the old city. I believe this one is called the New Gate.

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We entered the city through the Jaffa gate and began our walk inside the old city.

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Perhaps the most known part of Jerusalem’s wall is the Western Wall, or also known as the Wailing Wall. This is considered sacred by the Jews, believed to be the only remnant of the wall that was part of the Second Jewish Temple, rebuilt and renovated by King Herod the Great, and was destroyed by the Romans. (The first temple was built by King Solomon and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E.)

The Wailing Wall has been the site for pilgrimages and a place to pray for the Jews, where it is believed that one has immediately has the “ear of God.” Below is part of the Wailing Wall.

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Walking through the narrow streets and alleys inside the old city gives you a feeling that you’re walking through the pages of history.

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Most of these small streets are only passable by walking.

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Though there are very narrow alleys that cars can drive through.

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There is also a part of our walk that we went through market-like alleys. As a Filipino, I feel like I was in Divisoria or Tutuban in the Philippines.

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There is food, spices, jewelry, and other merchandises as you can imagine.

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There is even this Holy Rock Café. Only in Jerusalem.

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But perhaps the most visited locations in Old Jerusalem are the churches and religious sites.

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A famous path for pilgrims and visitors is the path known as Via Dolorosa, or Way of Suffering. It is also called the Way of the Cross. This path is believed to be the path that Jesus took from Pontius Pilate’s court, to Calvary, and finally to his tomb.

On this Way of the Cross are 14 stations where significant events were believed to have happened. However, many of these locations were based on traditions only, rather than hard facts or archeological findings.

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Above photo is station V, where Simon of Cyrene was compelled by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. Below are other stations we passed through.

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We also passed this church, the Holy Sepulchre Church, which by tradition is the site that encompass both Calvary where Jesus was crucified and the tomb where he was buried.

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As expected it was packed, and there was a long line of people waiting to enter this church.

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It will be unfair and I will not give the real picture of Jerusalem if I only mention the famous sites for Jews and Christians. In fact, if you view Jerusalem from afar (see the very first photo), the most conspicuous structure is the golden dome, known as the Dome of the Rock. This is a Muslim shrine believed to be the site where Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Below is the Mosque of Omar, which is adjacent to the Church of Holy Sepulchre.

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Definitely Old Jerusalem is a place that provides a passageway to the storied past. It is also a crossroad of the past, present, and perhaps even of the future.

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It was quite an experience for me walking through Old Jerusalem, adding my footprints in the thoroughfare of time.

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(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

 

The Adventures of Iowa Jones

Have you heard of Indiana Jones? Forget him. I introduce to you, Iowa Jones and his (mis)adventures. Here is his quest to find the Lost Temple of Doom.

It started in a deserted place forgotten by time.


A place where the terrain was so alien, it’s out of this world. Could it be in another planet?


Then Iowa Jones came to a path that seems to be blocked by a stone wall.


But as he inspected it closer there was a narrow passageway, as if it’s a secret path through the stone walls.


So he pressed on and walked through the unknown path. What danger could be lurking ahead? Would there be a big Rolling Stone? Or maybe giant Beetles? Would he meet Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney? Huh?


Anyway, some of the stones seems to have caved in. Were the stone walls moving? Would he be crushed to his death?


While some of the passageway seems to be so clear that it was even lighted by the sun rays.


Iowa Jones even took short rest under the stones to catch his breath.


But he knew that he must hurry as the dreaded army of the Last Crusaders of Doom was pursuing him.

Iowa Jones must also avoid the booby (poopy?) trap that were scattered on the path.

These booby traps are left by the Last Crusaders’ fierce beast the Donkey Kong.


Even though tired and weary, Iowa Jones continued on his quest.


Then he came near a clearing. He now has a glimpse of the temple!


Finally he now stands in awe in front of the Lost Temple of Doom.


Then he saw the Guardians of the Galaxy, I mean the Guardians of the Temple. They were assigned to protect it against the army of the Last Crusaders of Doom.


They warned Iowa Jones that the temple should not be rediscovered by the army of Doom, or else the whole kingdom of Camelot (not reigned by King Arthur, but by camels) will be doomed. Good thing he understands and speaks their ancient language.

So with all his might Iowa Jones toppled down the temple like Samson, without the long hair, of old.


Alas, it was not a Temple of Doom, but rather it was a Doomed Temple.

And all that was left were ruins. The End.


This story was brought to you by the jet-lagged brain of Pinoytransplant.


(Photos taken at The Treasury in Petra, Jordan, a site named as one of the seven wonders of the world, built more than 2000 years ago. And with Pinoytransplant as Iowa Jones.)

Walking in the Land of History

In my lifetime, there are trips that I really cherished. Journeys that have deep personal meaning, that they are more than just trips.

Like the trip we made a few years back to the place that gave me so much inspiration since my teenage years (see previous post). And to see and be there in person in that awe-inspiring place was a life-fulfilling dream.

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me in the Grand Canyon

Then there are the trips that are always dear to me. Trips that bring me back where I came from. That even though how far I wandered, this place always pulled me back, for this is where my heart is. Home.

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photo taken somewhere in the Philippines

This year we made another epic journey. To a place whose relevance is more far-reaching than the place itself. A place so rich in history, that the events that happened here changed the course of humanity. This place has a special spiritual meaning to me: to walk where my Savior walked.

Jerusalem as viewed from the mount of Olives


(*More post of our trip to Jerusalem to follow. No, not the musical chair, but the real trip to Jerusalem).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Me atop of the world.


Standing at 1450 feet tall, the Willis Tower, or previously known as Sears Tower, is the highest building and the most prominent structure in the Chicago skyline.


It was the tallest building in the world from 1973 – 1998, until it was surpassed by Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia. (The reigning tallest building in the world since 2008 is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.)

The view from Willis Tower Skydeck is breathtaking. Though it is an expensive elevator ride ($23) to get to the viewing area. I wonder if you get a bargain price if you climb the stairs to the Skydeck, which is a mere 103 floors.


(*Photos taken during our recent trip to Chicago.)

Nothing To Do In Iowa

Summer here is on its last leg, and autumn is knocking on our doors. Yet we are still trying to squeeze out the fun of what’s left of this summer.

Like the summers before, we again had a few friends and relatives from out-of-state who visited and stayed with us here in Iowa. They came from New York, from Florida, and even from out of the country like Taiwan and the Philippines.

One friend who came from Florida, was told by her office mates when they learned that she was flying to Iowa, that there’s nothing to see and do in Iowa. Except if you’re a Presidential candidate and you’re campaigning.

True, Iowa is not a tourist destination, like California or Florida. There may not be much to see here. But for our friends, seeing us, maybe is reason enough for them to visit Iowa.

Yet we tried our best to show our visitors what is here to see. We toured them around the city of Des Moines, the covered bridges of Madison County, and the farm fields of Iowa. Some of them even had the chance to go to the annual Iowa State Fair.

They said that our state fair is truly part of Americana. For where else can you go around the fair grounds while chomping on a whole turkey leg or a pork chop on a stick? Or munch deep-fried Oreos or deep-fried Sneakers? Or see the biggest cow, or the biggest pumpkin? Or see the famed butter cow sculpture?

This summer, we also had the chance to visit other states, like Montana and California. We have a few relatives in California, including my mother-in-law, who sadly to say, got awfully sick and eventually passed away during our visit there. Thus our vacation had a sudden turn of sad events.

She was hospitalized in a small hospital in Hollywood. In fact, the hospital was a couple of blocks from Sunset Boulevard and all the touristy spots in Hollywood. But driving back and forth to the hospital and where we’re staying was not a pleasant trip, as we were most of the time stuck in terrible traffic in the Los Angeles area.

photo taken after we visited my mother-in-law at the hospital

My mother-in-law stayed in the ICU for a few days, and I had the chance to talk to her physician. I introduced myself as an ICU doctor as well, so we can have a direct talk about the nitty-gritty details involved, as well as management, and of course prognosis.

The ICU physician was nice to me. Though he was in a bit of disbelief that I am practicing in Iowa. Perhaps he, like many others, have the impression that there’s nothing but corn and cows in Iowa.

He even asked my kids what do they do for “fun” in Iowa. My kids just politely said “a lot” without giving much details. I’m sure the good doctor was expecting answers like going to Disney, or visiting a theme park (which we also have though not as famous), or going to the beach.

My kids could have answered, how about catching fireflies. Or riding ATV in the cornfields with our friends. Or riding bike in dirt trails. Or perhaps just watching the sunset, or counting the stars.

As he was leaving, my mother-in-law’s doctor told me that he felt “sorry” that I live in Iowa. I just smiled and did not answer. It was past eight in the evening, and I knew he was not even on-call that night for he told me so, and yet he was still making rounds and seeing patients.

Me in Iowa? If I’m not on-call, I’m done with work by five in the afternoon, and I’m doing something “fun” by that time. Or maybe I’m just home spending time with my family.

In reality, it was me, who felt sorry for him.

For somebody who have lived in Manila, New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, I know what I’m talking about. And that’s why I chose to live where I’m living now.

Yes, there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

me and the bike trail in the middle of cornfiels


 

A Visit to Glacier National Park

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the chance to visit Glacier National Park. It is located in the state of Montana on the side of the US, and it borders Alberta and British Columbia provinces, on the side of Canada.

This national park is a wilderness with pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes.

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During our visit, we stayed in a beautiful historic lodge, the Glacier Park Lodge, which was built more than a century ago. Stepping inside this establishment is like stepping back in time.

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Rustic and yet classy, this retreat is located in such a beautiful place. Here it is in the early morning light (picture below).

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One of the high points of the trip is driving through the Going-to-the-Sun road. This a scenic mountain road, that is quite narrow and winding, with hairpin turns, and precipitous drop. Driving through this road can be both exhilarating as well as frightening.

Here we are going around the mountain….

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Through the mountain (via tunnel)……

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Driving besides the river…..

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And even driving under falls.

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Besides driving around, we also took boat rides (both motorized and a row-boat) in its lakes. Here’s the boat we rode in this clear lake.

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This park is named Glacier National Park due to its glaciers. A glacier is an extended mass of ice formed from snow falling and accumulating over the years and moving very slowly, either descending from high mountains, as in valley glaciers, or moving outward from centers of accumulation, as in continental glaciers.

Glacier National Park has 150 named glaciers in 1850, but was diminished to 26 in 2006 due to continued climate warming. Today, it only has 7 or 8 remaining, according to the experts. They may have to change the name of the park, when all the glaciers are gone.

Below is a view from the boat ride, with one of the remaining glaciers seen from a far.

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Here I am standing at the bough of the boat, and channelling my Leonardio DiCaprio moment like in the film Titanic. “I’m the king of the world!”

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We also did some no-sweat hikes. Here’s the view when we hiked down off the road into this mountain side.

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We also hiked up and down this ski slope in our t-shirts, shorts and rubber shoes. Even though the hike up the snow is probably a quarter to a third of a mile, it was comfortable. Not hot nor cold. I don’t think we even broke a sweat climbing up this snow-covered hill (photo below).

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When the snow melts, the water find its way to the rivers, falls, and lakes. Even though the lakes and the rivers seem inviting for a swim, they are icy cold.

Below is a photo after a climbed up a ledge near a raging river.

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We also hiked to a nearby falls. Again, not a serious hike as it was less than a quarter-mile from the dock where the boat dropped us off.

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Another highlight of the visit is seeing the sunset and sunrise with the play of light changing the colors of the mountains and the sky.

Here I am at the lake during sunrise. Of course I have to wear a colorful jacket too.

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When not busy roaming around outside, we just cooled our heels in our beautiful retreat. And what did I do in my downtime when we were there? Blog, of course!

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With a view like this, who would not be inspired to write? This is where I wrote my earlier post “Serendipity.”

I hope you can visit this place, before all the glaciers are gone.  I know the subject of global warming is such a hot and debated topic, and I would leave the politics and the science of that to the experts. But I do hope that we as a human race, will be responsible enough to keep this world of ours as beautiful as it can be.

from Glacier National Park,

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Pinoytransplant.

(*All photos in this post were taken with an iPhone. I am grateful to my “unofficial”photographers.)

Serendipity

Serendipity: the occurrence or development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Several days ago when my family and I were driving to Glacier National Park in Montana, while we were in a middle of nowhere in a lonely highway, we came to a site that was unexpected, at least for us. We had to stop and enjoy the view, for just a little longer.

Of course we were expecting great views in Glacier National Park, a wilderness in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, known to be one of the most picturesque landscapes in North America (I’ll make a separate post about Glacier National Park later, I promise).

However, while we were still hours away to our destination, we serendipitously saw this field full of bright yellow flowers with the snow-capped mountains seen from the distance. It was  just us and some bees on that field.

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a field somewhere in Montana

Later on we learned that they are canola plants, the source of canola oil, and are commonly farmed in this part of the US. We were just not familiar with them. But still, I think you’d agree that it was such a beautiful sight, right?

Sometimes in life, there are things or events that we are not expecting, but happen as a pleasant surprise. Of course the opposite is true as well, when we have such high expectations and then we become extremely disappointed by the turn of events. We even have a law for that – the Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Well, back to the positive side of things, there are also “mistakes” that turned out to be just right. The discovery of Penicillin and the development of Post-it are prime examples.

Are there really fortunate happenstance?

When I was applying for Internal Medicine residency training program after I graduated from medical school in the Philippines, I sent out more than 50 application letters to different universities and hospitals in the United States.

A classmate of mine who was also applying, gave me a list of US hospitals and universities that would likely accept foreign medical graduates like us. I am not sure where he got this list, but that was an era before the heyday of the internet, whereas now you can “google”just about anything.

The list that he gave me was scribbled in a hospital’s pad paper with a letterhead. So I sent applications to all those on the list. And for good measure, I also sent one to the hospital on the letterhead, even though it was not on the list. How did my friend got the stationery? I have no clue.

Out of more than 50 applications I sent, I received only 8 or 9 invitations for interview. I needed all those invitation letters to apply for a visa to enter the United States.

You know that traveling from Manila to USA cost a fortune, not to mention traveling to different States where those hospitals were located, and so with limited resources, I was forced to choose only 3 hospitals to go for an interview – all were in New Jersey and New York, and all within a train or a bus ride away from each other.

After all the interviews, each applicant would rank their preferred hospital or training program, while every hospital would also rank their chosen applicants out of the hundreds they interviewed. Then the National Resident Matching Program matches all applicants to training programs by using a mathematical algorithm. There’s always a chance that an applicant won’t be accepted nor matched.

Where did I end up matching and doing my training?

I matched at a hospital in New Jersey that was an affiliate of Columbia University. Though this hospital was not on the list that I was given. It is the one on the letterhead of the stationery with the list!

Serendipity? Maybe it is destiny.

*******

(*Photo taken with an iPhone)

A Palace to Remember

There is a magnificent palace in the heart of the city of Lodz, Poland. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it was the former residence of textile magnate Izrael Poznanski which now house the Museum of History of Lodz.

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The Poznanski palace is a neo-Baroque edifice that is richly decorated with architectural and sculptural details.

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Equally splendid are the interiors, as seen with these photos.

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For some reason while inside this old house I felt like I was in the house of the fictional character Bruce Wayne, the alter ego of Batman. I should have looked for the secret passage way to the Bat Cave.

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The photo above and the one below, is the impressive dining hall. Note all the “unclothed” sculptures high above the walls. Should entering this room be PG-13?

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Below is a large auditorium where the guests of the previous resident of this palace where entertained. I would say that even if the events that occurred here were ordinary, the hall in itself is imposing.

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Below is the view to the outer court of the palace from one of the windows.

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Besides the palace which is already something to behold, the visitors of this museum will see exhibits tracing the history, people and culture of the city.

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As you can see, it also exhibit articles that once were part of our lives but now are historical artifacts like the typewriter and the phonograph. You can even insert yourself in the history of this place. Well, sort of.

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There are also rooms dedicated to the many former inhabitants of the city, including the world famous pianist, Artur Rubenstein. Note the Victorian furnitures and expensive porcelains. Can you spot the porcelain “arinola” (chamber pot)?

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Also in exhibit is a collection of paintings and artworks.

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My favorite art subject, anatomy.

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The photo below is an example of a clash in time. Looking at the mirror you see the design of the storied history, while looking outside the window you see billboards of modern fashion.

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Adjacent to this palace is a big shopping complex, named Manufaktura. Of course we visited it as well, as my wife find it irresistible not to wander there.

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Manufaktura is the site of the old sprawling textile factory built in the late 19th century, at the height of “steam-engine” industrialization, and was owned by Poznanski. This is now converted and renovated to a modern shopping and entertainment haven with hosts of stores, cinemas, restaurants, cafes and pubs. It is one of the biggest shopping complex in Europe.

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But what really brought us to the Poznanski palace is that it was the place of the “Koncert Laureatow” (translation: Winners’ Concert), where the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd placers as well the honorable mentions of the 16th Milosz Magin International Piano Competition were invited to perform. The competition has 3 categories, the elementary level, the advanced, and the concert artists level.

The competition takes place every 2 years, and for the years past they were held in Paris, but this year it was moved to Lodz, the birthplace of the renowned pianist in whom the competition was named after.

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Warming up on the piano before the concert starts.

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As I am impressed with this beautiful place, I am equally impressed and proud of my kids who were privileged to be included in the Koncert Laureautow.

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As the concert was going on, I felt happy and blessed. For a day, I was the owner of the palace. And much more.

(*most photos were taken with an iPhone while a few were with Nikon DSLR)