Return to Florida

We were in Florida for a few days about a week ago. We accompanied our son who had a team competition held there. That was our official purpose to go to Florida, though there were other reasons.

One reason is to escape the cold, as there was still snow on the ground in Iowa when we flew to Florida. Another excuse perhaps was to see the ocean. Iowa is a land lot, and the nearest ocean is about 1000 miles away, so it’s not everyday that we can view the ocean. But the biggest reason to return to Florida, was to see our many friends there, for we once called that place home. That was before we moved to Iowa.

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beach in Sarasota

We have lots of good memories in Florida. Spending weekends in the theme parks or time in the beach were not even the highlight of our three years of residence there, even though we’ve become good acquaintances of Mickey. First of all, it was in Florida where I started a “real” job, after three years of Medical Residency (New Jersey) and another three years of Subspecialty Fellowship (New York) training.

After finishing my training in 2000, I had to change my visa from a “training” to a “working” visa. That transition took several months to get approved, and I was in limbo with no permit to work and no place to go. I was jobless, broke, and homeless. I cannot provide for myself let alone for my wife and my daughter who was a toddler at that time.

During that dark period of our life, we were fully dependent on the kindness of friends and family. We spent a month living in our friend’s home in New Jersey, then two months in another friend’s apartment in New York, then several months with our relatives in California. We did not starve nor sleep in the streets because there were good people who adopted us and cared for us. They provided everything, from the food we eat to the diapers for my daughter. It was a humbling experience, yet at the same time awe-inspiring on how good people can be.

When my visa got finally approved in 2001, we moved to Florida for my first employment. It was a wonderful feeling to move to an apartment of our own, sleep in our own beds, buy our own groceries, and cook our own food. It was not that the food we ate during the times we were “homeless” taste bad, but it was just good to taste food from the fruits of our own labor. Florida is known as the “Sunshine State,” and for us we really experienced a sunny existence there after going through some cold and dark circumstances in life.

So during our return to Florida last week, besides seeing our friends, we also visited the homes we rented (we moved twice) when we were still residents there. We felt so nostalgic driving through the streets and neighborhoods we used to know. Although it took us some time driving around to find the homes we rented, as there were considerable changes in that area. It was sad to see that the orange groves around our previous residences are now gone and turned into commercial complexes.

We drove by the clinic and the hospital where I used to worked. We also visited the hospital where my son was born only to find that the whole building was demolished and the site was turned into a park. The hospital was relocated to a new site and is a much larger facility now.

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the new relocated hospital

I even teased my son that we’ll return him to the hospital where he was born. The back story to that was after my son was born, our daughter who was 5 years old at that time was jealous at the attention our new baby was getting. So she pleaded, “Let’s return the baby back to the hospital.”

Since technically the hospital where my son was born is gone, he can argue that we cannot return him anymore. I guess we are stuck with him. Hah!

I would be lying if I say that it was all good things that we experienced in Florida. For there were alligators there. They were not just in the lakes and swamps. They wear clothes like you and me. To be fair, they can be anywhere not just in Florida. Yet I still believe that overall, people are good.

While we were living in Florida, we had a friend and his wife who underwent a transition phase where they were in-between jobs, just like what we went through before. They have no place to go, so we adopted them and they stayed with us for a few months. We cannot repay those who adopted us before, but we can do to others what was done to us. We paid it forward.

As expected, this couple made it through their dark times and was able to get back on their own. We were happy for them.

So guess where we stayed when we visited Florida recently? At the Disney Resort? No, done that. At the beachfront hotel? No, done that too. In a tent at a campground?  Not this time. We stayed somewhere much better.

We stayed at the home of our friend whom we adopted before. A home where love abounds trumps even the most posh hotel. Not just we stayed there for free, it also gave us more time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company again. Besides, their place was cozy with a resort-like feel. Consider waking up to this view (photos below).

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We also had a meet-up with other friends who took special efforts to delight us. From a treat to a restaurant, to a home-cooked Pinoy breakfast, from home-baked bread to freshly picked malunggay for our “pabaon.” I’m not sure we deserve all these kindness but we’re thankful to all of them.

We surely had fun visiting Florida again. And we did not even see Mickey.

(*photos taken during our last trip to Florida)

Casualty of Vacation

There are many things that an iPhone or any smart phone, can do. It can let you talk face to face with someone across the globe. You can do your research and write your thesis with it. You can check the weather of any place around the world, even on Mars. It can be your personal secretary and will remind you of your appointments and special events.

But one thing an iPhone can’t do. It cannot swim. That I learned first hand.

We were in Palawan, Philippines, and were doing island hopping. Yes we hopped like bunnies on islands. No, we did not.

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no bunnies hopping here

Anyway, we were visiting this one particular island, and I wanted to get a better photo of my son while he was in the water. So I waded in the waist-deep ocean water with our SLR camera in hand, trying so very carefully to keep it above my chest so it would not get wet.

But I forgot that my iPhone was in the pocket of my swimming shorts!

Call it a senior moment. Call it forgetful. Call it distracted. But in our vernacular, we also have a term for it: Tanga! (And it does not mean underwear.)

So my iPhone swam in the ocean. And it drowned.

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where my phone took a swim

Right after I realized what happened, I turned off the phone immediately like what I heard from self-proclaimed experts. I wished to do mouth to mouth resuscitation on it, but I knew it was of no use.

I also heard of putting the phone in uncooked rice right away to try to draw out the moisture, just as what I’ve seen in some videos before. Though I don’t really know if that was proven effective. But we were on an island. The only rice we had, was left-over cooked rice from our lunch. I don’t think that would do.

Several hours later, after we’re done from our island hopping, and we’re back in our hotel, me and my nephew tried to do surgery on my phone. My nephew had a kit to open iPhones, though I’m not sure why he carry along these particular tools.

So we opened up my phone, and tried to shake off the salt water inside. We blew it dry with a hair dryer. Yet I could already see signs of damage inside it.

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hospital, ah…er, hotel for iPhone surgery

The salvage surgery was unsuccessful. No signs of life in my phone. It was dead on arrival.

I left my phone turned off for several days, still hoping that it will resurrect to life. After a week, and only after we got back in the US, that I brought my iPhone to the Apple store, in their Genius Bar.

After running diagnostics on my phone, it confirmed what I knew all along. My phone was dead.

They cannot even retrieve any data from it, including all my photos. My videos and photos of me on the zip-line were gone, and now I have no proof that I did it.

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zip-line where the iPhone rode

I tried to rationalize my loss. Well, it was a 4-year-old phone with a 4-year-behind technology. I needed an upgrade and I was planning to replace it soon anyway. Yet, I have drawn attached to that phone, sentimentally and literally. I never left home without it for the past 4 years.

I guess, I have nobody to blame but me. Or maybe I could blame the iPhone engineers, on why they did not teach the iPhone to swim. Even in ocean waters.

Maybe the next generation of iPhones will. I hope they teach it how to fly too, in case it fall off while I’m zip-lining or bungee jumping.

Um, about bungee jumping….. I think I’ll pass.

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In Loving Memory of my iPhone: October 2011- August 2015 

Wishful Thinking

I wish that I am walking under these,

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poolside, in one of the hotels in the Philippines

But I am already making my rounds here.

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atrium of the downtown hospital where I work in the US

I wish that I am relaxing here,

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residence complex, somewhere in Manila

But I am already buried with this.

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my office desk in Iowa

I wish I have more time daydreaming here,

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beach resort in Laiya, Batangas

But I already have to do this.

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bronchoscopy room, somewhere in Des Moines

I am not complaining. Just wishful thinking.

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I’ll be back. Hopefully soon.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

On-a-Beach State of Mind

At the time of this writing, it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 C) outside here in Iowa, with patches of unmelted snow from a snowstorm three weeks ago. Typical condition here in our winter “wonder”land (like I “wonder” why I’m still living here?).

This is not your ideal beach weather you would say. But it is a perfect weather to escape to a tropical paradise, even for just a daydream. Please indulge me for posting these photos.

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Few weeks ago, my family and I spent a day in a beautiful beach in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. The place is named Playa Tropical Resort.

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my son jumping into the infinity swimming pool

During our visit, there was even a wedding being held that day at the resort. I should have crashed into the party and had a free drink and dinner.

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If I could just walk again in the sand barefoot, and wade into the warm ocean water….

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No, I can’t walk on the water.

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O well, time for reality now. I’ll bundle up and clear the snow.

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Ocean Dreaming

Growing up in an archipelago means that you cannot go very far from the ocean. Raised in Manila, the nearest ocean is the Manila Bay. Yes it may be filthy to swim there, but it still is an ocean. Of course, I’ve been to nice beaches in the Philippines too.

That’s what I’m missing now. The ocean. Iowa is a land lot, smack in the middle of the continent. The east coast, or the Atlantic Ocean is 1200 miles away, or 19 hours of continous driving. The west coast, or the Pacific Ocean is 1700 miles away, or 27 hours drive. The south coast, or the Gulf of Mexico is 1000 miles away, or 16 hours drive. Forget about the north coast for that will be the Arctic Ocean, which is more than a week drive, plus you don’t want to be there anyway unless you are a polar bear.

There are a few people who grew up here in Iowa who have never seen the ocean, which to me is hard to believe. No idea of the sight of the beautiful vast blue-green waters dancing in the light of the sun. No idea of what the sound of ocean waves lapping against the sandy shore. No idea of the scent of the ocean breeze and the salty ocean mist. No idea of what it feels to walk barefooted in the sand and wade in the warm ocean waters.

That leaves me day dreaming……….sitting idly in a beach…….. under a swaying coconut tree………. sipping fresh cold buko juice. Pinch me.