Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Present

 Annual Tradition.  We believe in the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of the Messiah.  However, we also have many traditions when it comes to the celebration of the Messiah's birth.  Among these is the giving of presents. (Duh, we live in America!)

This year we got the children some things that are fun such as books, games, clothes, jewelry, etc.  We also asked them individually what they wish to have for Christmas.  If they ask for something reasonable and affordable, we give it to them. My kids are very grateful for the things that they already have.  Although they seemed reluctant to say what they desired, we were able to extract some hints to some extent.

Miriam wanted a Kindle.   She wanted to be able to bring some reading materials to school in a compact form.   She is the one who is not shy to tell me what she wants.  In many ways Miriam is a pioneer.  She chooses things that her siblings have not chosen before. 

Brahms had asked earlier this year to have a new bike.  He plans to ride to and from school during some days of the week.  He is a sensible young man.  In previous years he has often considered clothing as the least interesting presents to receive.  This year, however, he got five t-shirts from different relatives.  He liked them all because they represent his current interests- Portal 2; Minecraft; Pies, Dr. Who; and Banjo.

Shannon gingerly asked for a texting plan.  Well, we thought that it is the right time not only for her but the whole family to get a texting plan.  This will surely facilitate communication with her.  Some relatives and friends have given her what each college student so desires - money.  As a general rule, Shannon does not ask for anything.  She attributes this to an early childhood experience which she told me not that long ago.  She recalls that when she was a little girl she asked me to buy her something from the store and I responded with a statement that got stuck in her head, "You don't need it."  Then it was followed by an incident when Brahms asked to buy something expensive from a gift shop.  Shannon heard me say to her brother, "That costs a lot of money."   She kept what she heard in her heart.  I did not mean to be stingy but she's such a smart girl that she got the idea even at a very young age that wise thoughts should come first before fulfilling our desires.

Tim asked for an espresso-maker to replace the old broken one.  He used his frequent flyer mileage to purchase the item he wanted.  He considers the espresso maker as a present from me for reason that he earned those mileage when I took over his roles in the home and family while he is on his business trips.  Whatever. He loves coffee so I'm sure this will be a useful addition in the kitchen. I also got him a new pair of travel shoes - the kind that you can take off and on easily and for easeier passage through airport security.  This will replace the old pair which  has now acquired a new patina from excessive wear and tear.

I can't remember whether I told anybody what I wanted for Christmas but I managed to get some decent presents - thanks to my very thoughtful husband.  I got some jewelry (earrings and a necklace), and some accesories for my camera.  My favorite present, however, is a beautiful silk scarf which Tim purchased during one of his trips.  As a matter of fact I have already worn it three times since I got it.  

Gift-giving and gift-receiving are fun.  There is joy in seeing the reactions of people as they open the presents we give.  Likewise there is also the joy that comes from the unexpected generosity of others towards us.  The sad thing is that the gift-giving tradition has reduced the meaning of Christmas into objects that bring temporal joys and peace.  

Eternal Peace Treaty.  Christmas is all about eternity - eternal love, eternal peace, and eternal life. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whosoever believe in Him shall bot perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)  Sin has placed mankind in a position of being at war with God.  Man was without hope of being reconciled with God.  By default mankind was headed to only one direction - eternal destruction.  By default we are the subject of God's wrath.  However, because of love, God provided us a way out.  Love for the hopeless sinners (us) is what motivated God to invent Christmas.  In His wrath against sinfulness, His love and mercy surfaced so that we could enjoy His grace forever.  God himself provided the terms of peace to bring us closer to Him. 

If Christmas is God's peace treaty with mankind, you and I better understand its terms and sign it with the way we live.  Only then will we receive the Christmas present that God intended for us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Help Comes From the Lord

I saw the smiles of victory all over their faces.  Not that long ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Everyone in the family seemed to have entered a dark tunnel about her situation; we didn't know what we would see at the other end.  Last May, George attended Shannon's graduation without her.  Several chemotherapy and radiation treatments later, here she is with us for a pre-Christmas-get-together.  She lost a few pounds but she has recovered well from all the invasive treatments.  As for the rest of us, we finally reached the end of the tunnel with a refreshing flood of light and hope. 

Sometimes God brings us into a situation where there is nothing left for us but the realization of our helplessness.  Then he brings us out of that place to show us that He has always been there for us.  We praise God for healing Barbara and keeping the rest of us healthy during all of last year.   God is good, all the time! 

This year they purchased/gave several animals through Heifer International in the name of the grandchildren.  I am continually amazed at how well they show the young ones -year after year- ways to be generous to those with lesser things.  My kids are still enjoying being able to lend money to different people all over the world through the Kiva gift certificate that they got from them last year.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trial Editing

Aira and Arabella - FCC at FLC

I just realized that images can be changed dramatically with a little editing.  The problem is that I hate reading manuals - I thought it's a waste of time.  But since I know nothing about digital editing, I have to invest some time in understanding the process.   We've had Photoshop Elements for a long time but the only editing I did has been "cropping".  Currently I am trying to understand the effects of changing color saturation and lighting on various images.  

Here are some pictures I edited using the most basic tools.  These pictures were taken on a Sunday afternoon (November 20, 2011)  while I was with Aira and Arabella - both are kids at the Filipino church we attend in Folsom. 

Sunset in Folsom
No matter how great a camera is, it will still fall short in capturing the true image of the subject for a number of reasons.  That's why editing is necessary.  :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Day After Thanksgiving

Settlers of Catan

Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday.   Thanksgiving is always followed by Black Friday which marks the biggest shopping day of the year in the US.  This is the day when people go to the stores and start buying presents for Christmas.  The retailers also encourage people to do this by luring shoppers with great sale prices on so many items.  Sometimes the sale only last for a few hours depending on the store.  Once a shopper enters a store, she/he is trapped to shop till death.  There are a lot of stories about weird things that people do to be ahead of the line. 

Fortunately for me, I have never gone shopping after Thanksgiving (I think).  I'm usually very tired from all the cleaning and cooking for Thanksgiving.  The rest of the family like it when I am tired because it also means that I do not have any agenda for them.  They are free!  This is the time when they go wild in playing games - board games, computer games or video games.  The only time that they are required to stop is when the time comes for the Christmas tree to be set up.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving At Home

The siblings together again.

Thanksgiving 2011 took place on a cold and rainy day. Fortunately, all of us were together and all cozy in the warmth of our own home. Shannon is back from Irvine for the weekend and we are all happy to a complete home again.  This may not happen very often anymore but we rejoice at every opportunity that we can get. 

Shannon got to meet Lexy River for the first time - although she suspects that Lexy was meant to replace her.  

Thanksgiving dinner with Dave and Haidz.

Dave and Haidz Diezer joined us for the Thanksgiving dinner which made the night a little bit less Lewis-focused.  We met the Diezers at the Folsom Community Church a couple of months ago and we've getting to know each other slowly since then. 

Okay, I was not in the picture but my plate can be seen in the picture - still empty but it would soon be filled with all sorts of  traditional Thanksgiving food.   This year's menu:

Shrimp Cocktail
Fruits (prepared by Haidz)
Pancit (prepared by Haidz)

Main Course:
Grilled Turkey
Yukon old Mashed Potatoes
Giblet Gravy
Italian Sausage Stuffing with Mushrooms
Green Salad
Baked Butternut Squash
Whole Cranberry Sauce
Buttermilk Biscuits

Sparkling Apple Cider
Coffee and Tea

Homemade Pumpkin Pie with Whipped cream
Homemade Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

This year we had to replace our meat thermometer but the one I bought was not properly calibrated.  The turkey ended up being over-cooked but the great thing about grilled turkeys is that they tend to taste better and remain relatively moist even when the skin is already very dark.  The grilled bird is cooked evenly all around - the skin get crispy and very yummy.  Since Tim learned how to grill turkeys in the barbeque we have never went back to baking again.  

In our family, I like the dark meat (drumsticks and wings) while everyone else prefer the white meat (breast).  Everyone look forward to making turkey sandwiches from all the left-overs.  Today I saw Shannon pilled turkey and mashed potatoes drizzled with gravy on top of a piece of sourdough bread.  Miriam always likes to add cranberry sauce on her sandwich. 

After dinner, Brahms set up the game "Perpetual Commotion".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Tim and I in Watercolor
Apple Hill, November 11, 2011
Original Picture by Brahms Lewis

I'm just learning some layering techniques in Photoshop Elements. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Introducing Lexi

Yesterday, we finally got Lexi (Lexi River Lewis).  It was a long wait and unexpectedly long process but now we have her.  We all agree that she is a nice bunny.  She loves to be petted.  Brahms put his hands on her back just a while ago and she dropped herself flat to the floor as if waiting for a serious prolonged petting session.

When she is out of her pen her favorite destination in the house is the stairs.  She likes climbing up to the second floor which I think is a good stretching exercise for her.  She has been in a cramped cage at the pet store while waiting for someone to adopt her.  Now she is given some time to walk and hop around the house.  Miriam and Brahms brought her to play at the now-vacant-Shannon's room earlier today.  They noticed that Lexy was startled to see another bunny which looked exactly like her.  For a long time she stared at the other bunny in front of the mirror until the urge to inspect the room prevailed.

For a long time Lexi just played on the rug because she would slip on the marble floor.  Soon she learned a technique and defied the threat of the slippery floor. 

Lexi met the first person outside the family - Erich came to see her and petted her for a while. 

Having Lexy is the closest that we will ever get to having a dog or a cat. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guess What?

FUR (Friends of Unwanted Rabbits) finally called us today.  I had two interviews - the first one by Karen and the second was by Kimberly (the boss).  They asked me about the condition of the place where we intend to keep Lexy, the bunny.  They had to know whether we have other pets; if we ever had a bunny before; which part of the house will Lexy be; do we know the appropriate foods for rabbits; do we know about rabbit proofing our home; etc.  Wheww!!!  I think we are qualified!  We have an appointment to go see Lexy and try to interact with her.  Only then will we find out whether we can have her or not. 

Anyway, Miriam is very excited.  She can't stop telling me, " Mommy, you don't know how happy I feel!"  

In the meantime, we wait patiently till Friday at 6:15pm when we find out if we will have a pet rabbit or not. Oh, the life lessons that one learns just by having pets.

25-Minute Meal

Juggling our schedule on Wednesday evenings is a little bit tricky.  Miriam has a play practice at 4-5pm.  Then at 5:45-7:00pm both Brahms and Miriam go to Youth Band practice at church.   They both stay there till 8:30pm for Youth Group.  Therefore, the only time that we can all eat together is between 5:00-5:45pm.   Sometimes I plan ahead so we can have a meal at that time.  However, there are also times when I get busy and forget about the time.  It is during such occasions when I have to rely on quick meals. 

Today I made a fast yummy and healthy meal.  Prep and cooking time was 25 minutes. 

The Menu
Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna (served with soy sauce and wasabi)
Sliced Avocados
Steamed Rice

Rice took the longest time to cook - 20 minutes.   But while it was cooking I had the time to set the table, slice avocados, and sear the tuna.  While we ate Brahms had the time to talk about his history report.  We finished eating in time to leave but they did not have the time to wash their hands.  I had to run to the car and give them all a squirt of hand sanitizer just to neutralize the smell of fish.  It worked! 

Easy-to-prepare wholesome foods are always welcome in our kitchen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Challenging Adoption Process

We have come to a family agreement that Miriam can have a pet rabbit as long as we get one that is litter-box-trained.  A rabbit that has been pre-owned would be a candidate to meet this criteria.  Last Friday we saw Lexy on display at Pet Smart on E. Bidwell.  Miriam got so excited because she expected that she could go home with a bunny that day.  Unfortunately, we have to deal with  adoption procedures.  We have placed several calls to the phone number given to us and sent an email through their website Friends of Unwanted Rabbits but we have not talked to anybody so far.  Miriam checks the phone messages every day to see if they have left a message.  We got one call but missed it. 

So we wait and try to contact the right person some more.  There is nothing like persistence when it comes to getting the right attention. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Never Knew

Today I've learned more about Gayle Mackenzie.  She told a very interesting story/testimony at a women's group meeting about her past and her walk with God.  She and I have known each other for a long time, attended the same bible studies, women's conferences, and even tailgated at Arco Arena together.  She's beautiful, smart, talented, and she loves the Lord.  She likes to prepare food for people and enjoys working in the Children's ministry.  She and her husband sit on the same side of the sanctuary during worship service that I could isolate her voice when we're singing hymns and praises.  I thought I knew her.  But today I found out one more thing about her.  In her maiden name Gayle Kovaly, she was Miss USA!  She did not mention details but in my research I found out that she was a finalist in the 1969 Miss International Beauty Pageant in Japan.  Indeed she was a celebrity.  

Gayle now hangs out with the Greatest Celebrity that ever walked the earth - our Savior Lord Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just Miriam, Brahms and I

Miriam and I had a pie-making session this afternoon.   She watched me make one and then she made her first pie!  I helped her peel the apples but everything else was done by her.  I told her that she is "The Youngest Pie-Making-Lewis".   We brought one of the pies to Mr. Tom Jenkins and the other one was for us.  The combination of our homemade-GrannySmith-pie) and Kirkland (Costco) vanilla ice cream is the one of my favorite desserts in the world.  I'm positive that Brahms and Shannon would agree with me.  Miriam eats her pie in its purest form- no ice cream.  Sometimes Tim also eats his pie that way.

Today she also told me that if I compete in the reality cooking show "Chopped" I would win.  What a complement!  My daughter has the total confidence in my cooking abilities.  She must really like the food I feed her.  Someday she will find out that her mother is no chef at all.  But then she'll be older and independent that nostalgia will over-rate and exaggerate her childhood memories including the food that her mommy made for her. 

Brahms went out today to tutor Michael Montejano.  After that he spent the rest of the afternoon working on his homework and making a video. 

Brahms and Miriam get along really well except when Brahms tries to parent her.  For example this morning he commented on the excessive amount of butter she was spreading on her toast.  That didn't settle well for Miriam.  :)

We were a few minutes late to church today but that's normal for us anyway.  After that we came back home and ate some left-over halibut and roasted butternut squash - which were surprisingly very good even on the second day.  Dinner was oven-raasted chicken quarters, spinach salad and of course, pie for dessert.  The day was generally restful.  We had our devotion and prayer time just the three of us - Tim being in Taipei on a business trip/conference.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cutest Card of the Year

Handmade card by Maya Musselman - September 2011

 Maya, my niece sent this card to Miriam and Brahms.  I believe that it was intended to give comfort to her cousins who just had their sibling Shannon leave for college. 

I like to keep a record of the early works of the kids whenever I can because they are one of a kind.   Their works give us a glimpse of how their young minds and tiny hands translate thoughts into art and writings. 

Maya - May 2011


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Letter from Mrs. Cox

This card shows two obvious truths:  Miriam is doing great in middle school and she has a great teacher. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

We Left Her in Irvine

We watched Shannon walk away...

Saturday, September 17, 2011
Purchased printer, textbook for Shannon and souvenirs (hats, sweatshirts, t-shirt) for the rest of us at the UCI Bookstore
Purchased bicycle for Shannon.
Bought little things such as Coke, bottled water, tylenol, etc. for Shannon
Played Civilization 5  (Tim's is still winning)
Brahms led devotions at the hotel lobby.
Ronnie and Irene Lim delivered the fridge, that we stored at their house, to the hotel.

Once they were always together...

(Leonard is a doll that Miriam made for her sister. We tucked him under her bed cover before we left the Shire.)

How can a parent prepare for a time as this?

Only by trust and faith in God and the confidence on our child. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011
7:00  Breakfast at Embassy Suites, Irvine.
8:30 New Song Church, Shannon went to sign her name to indicate her intention to volunteer at the Children's ministry.
9:00   Worship Service at New Song.   Shannon met people in the New Song College group. Talked to the college pastor Abe Park.
11:00  We helped Shannon move in to Middle Earth Housing.
12:30  We went out to eat lunch together at Carl's Jr.
2:00  Dropped her off at the Berkeley Place Parking lot.  We hugged and said goodbyes and watched her walk towards Middle Earth.
2:15   We drove back home and arrived at about 10:30 pm. 

She now lives so far away from us - 8 hr-drive on I-5

Everyone is sad that there are only four people in our family now.  Miriam teared up several times at the thought of not having her sister with her anymore.  Brahms regrets that the only person he knew ever since he was born (other than mommy and daddy) is not with him anymore. 

This is Shannon's time to try her wings and see how they fare out there.  We've done all we can to prepare her for this time.  May God be with my daughter always...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brahms is Sixteen Today

It is hard to believe but it has been sixteen years ago when a 10.4 pound baby was born to us.  Now he is a young man with so much energy and enthusiasm to learn.  As a junior in high school, he is taking five AP (Advance placement) classes and an engineering class.  He is a hard-working student.   When he is not studying, he would be reading, working as a tutor, writing a blog, playing bass in youth band, helping in children's ministry at church,  taking pictures, making YouTube videos, learning to play banjo, reading John Piper's "Think", planning his next trip, mowing the lawn, telling us what he just read, playing MineCraft, writing, making mazes, looking for food from the fridge, and many more.

 Brahms is a kind, considerate, and self-controlled guy. I am very proud to be his mother.  I thank God for He gave us the greatest son we could ever have. 

Tonight we are going to celebrate at his favorite hamburger place - Mels.  (We are just waiting for Tim to arrive from helping the Neff family move from Rescue to their new house in Coloma.) Instead of a cake Brahms requested for homemade apple pie.  I made a ten-inch apple pie and it will be served with vanilla ice cream. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time with Sue


Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art (for God did not need to create).  It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.   ~ C.S. Lewis  
Sue and I took the time to catch with each other by getting lunch at Togo's today.  Life does not seem right when we do not get to talk to each other for a week.  We lose track of what's going on in each other's life and that doesn't settle well with either of us.  So we go out and do something together and share.  We talked about the kids, church, why we both do not work,  our spouses, their jobs, and chores we have not finished.  It is always refreshing getting-together with her.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaker at IDF

Tim acknowledges that God is the source of all his great ideas.

As in previous years, Tim was invited to speak at the IDF 2011 in San Francisco this year. He will be presenting with Vincent Zimmer on UEFI - both guys are world-experts on this technology.
Although the conference won't start till tomorrow, Tim had to leave today for technical rehearsal and set-up of his equipment.

Shannon, our daughter who is working as his intern, was a great help.  Unfortunately (for Tim) she will soon go to college to study computer game science.  :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Great America

We left the house at 7:30 this morning on a mission to have a thrilling experience at Great America.  Brahms asked the family to do this to pre-celebrate his 16th birthday.  It was a brilliant idea. 

It has been a long time since we went there as a family -  Brahms and Shannon remember all their earlier experiences of the place but Miriam was a little girl she could not even remember going there.  Now she's tall enough to be able to go into all the rides.  She had a blast.  During the course of the day, she had thanked us (her father and mother) many times for bringing the family to Great America. 

Shannon and Brahms took the ultimate thrill ride - the 'Xtreme Skyflyer' together.  Bundled and strapped together, they were attached to this thin string.  They told us later that as they were being raised up high into the sky they were telling each other their regrets for dying so soon.  

Shannon:  "I would have loved to have gone to college..."
Brahms:  "I wished that I had turned sixteen before I died." 

Fortunately, they made it down safely. 

This is the first time that we had gone to Great America when I went in almost all the rides.  (I skipped the 'Demon' because I was a bit scared looking at the very twisty tracks.)  All those years, I was with a small child who could only ride the children's ride like the Carousel.  My kids are grown up now.  The rides provided me a chance to let my adrenalines flow in dramatic doses.  I realized that I had not screamed so loud in a long time.  I must have screamed during the whole course of every ride.  Sometime I had my eyes closed because I did not want to see what was coming. 

Unlike me, Tim is always very quiet in all the rides.  He is always doing some daring things like raising his hands up instead of holding on tightly.  He is the expert on all these rides because he has been riding most of these since he was a young boy.  I still remember when we were newly married and we went in the Orbit (back then it was called the New Orleans Orbit).  He tickled me during the whole course of the ride.  I had no time to feel scared of the ride because I was too busy laughing.  From that time on I did not want him to ride with him anymore. 

We had all the fun today but we also lost one thing.  Tim dropped his eyeglasses while we were in the 'FireFall'.  Zippered bags were provided but he refused to put his glasses there.  So down into the water below went his spectacles.  Normally,  my reaction is to worry about them but this time I was suspended upside-down very high up above the water - I was more worried about surviving than anything else.

Overall, it was a very fun day.  We thank God for everything - experience, provision, safety, and lessons learned.  I learned that those thrill rides provide a taste of real life. Life is not always smooth-sailing.  Sometimes it gets scary and it seems that the world is coming to an end but then the direction of life shifts and your original fear is replaced by another one.  Right when you are getting used to and enjoying the sequence of these fearful events, the ride stops and life is over.  I also learned that when the rides are smoothly going, it is time to brace up.  That's what makes life interesting and fun.   :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer Treats

Santa Rosa plums.

I have been canning different kinds of fruits from our backyard lately. Plums were made into  plum sauce which we like to put on pancakes.  The grapes (Pinot Noir) that were planted by the patio for shade also give enough fruits to make into jelly.  I can' remember the last time we bought jelly from the store - it has been a long time. 

'Bartlett' Pears were made into pear butter.

Our Bartlett pear was full of fruits this year.  Miriam and I are the only ones eating the fresh fruits.  The rest of the family complains about the texture of the fruit. I discovered later on that they all like pear butter - especially when used as topping for Buttermilk waffles.  Shannon and Miriam also like to eat it alone for dessert or snack.  I know for sure that pear butter is nutritious.  So far I have made two batches of this 'pear delight' but this is probably not the end because there are still a lot of fruits on the tree. 

The kids harvesting grapes.

Grapes are cleaned and washed before they are crushed.

At the Farmers' Market, our friends (Gavy and Bellie Dhillon) gave me a special deal on apricots hence I bought half a box (approximately twenty five pounds).  I made a pie and then the rest were made into delicious jam.  Tim always appreciates good apricot jam or preserves, and now he has enough supply for a year.  In fact we have enough to share.  We like our jam to be on the tangy side of the spectrum - and this is exactly how these apricots are made.  I can just imagine crepes and apricot preserves in our future.

Thank goodness our peaches did not do well this year...we have enough canned fruits already.

Washing grapes - a family activity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alone Now

Auntie Alie  (Santa Ana - 2010)
Today is a sad day.  My aunt Arcelie (Alie) lost her dearest husband; and my cousins Joan, Arnel, Maylene and Wilson lost their father. Uncle Roman passed away after a long time of suffering from cancer.  The last time I saw him was when my family went to the Philippines last November.

Uncle Roman and Auntie Alie were teenagers when they got married.  They used to bring me with them when they visited his family in Makirit.  There I I enjoyed playing with one of Uncle Roman's nieces - Linda.  All of his siblings were engaged in commercial squash growing.  It was very fascinating to see tons of squash harvested and piled up on their yards. 

My uncle and aunt on the other hand, decided to focus on rice farming.  They started their family in Santa Filomena.  There they bought a house that was made of all wood.  I was a little girl when they moved the house through bayanihan.  Bayanihan is a process when all the men in the community gather together to move a house - literally.  In its original original location, the house was surrounded with coconut trees.  Several trees had to be chopped down to make way for the house.  I also got to watch a water well dug and built in their backyard.  I had so many fond memories at their house as a kid.

Uncle Roman (2008)

They used to own a big hectarage of rice fields.  They also owned a lot of land, carabaos and horses.  I still remember their kalesa which was painted with a greenish color.  The picture registers in my head in an impressionist style now - I can't see the details anymore.  I think uncle Ninoy Pacis painted it for them since he was the only painter/artist in town. 

Then later when uncle got a job at the saw mill in Lallo the family moved.  He stopped farming and they sold all their carabaos and horses.  Years later, they also sold their house in Santa Filomena which signified their intention to live in Lallo permanently.  At this point, my cousins who used to live a few yards away are now several bus rides away.  The good thing is that they lived near the Cagayan River - they would always bring some ginukan along when they came to visit us.  My aunt loved my mother (her sisiter) that she visited her often.

Almost-complete Galvan Family (2008)

Many years later, I left the Philippines and did not see all the things that happened since then.  However, every time I went back to the Philippines, Uncle Roman and Auntie Alie always made sure to bring my cousins to come see me.  Eventually, it was not only my cousins that they brought but also my cousins' children.  I have a picture of Shannon as a baby with Maylene.  Last year when Tim and I brought our kids to Cagayan, Uncle Roman was already very sick to come and see us at our house in Abulug.  Instead we went to see him in their house in Catayauan, Lallo.  I was very sad to see him so thin.

Now he is gone.  My aunt will be all alone.  The good thing is that her house is surrounded by her children that they share the same yard.  This proximity with her children and grandchildren will, hopefully, ease the transition.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Colombia Part 2: Bogota

The Cathedral at the Plaza de Bolivar

After Medellin, we went to Bogota and did a little bit of sightseeing.  We were so spoiled in Medellin - the Actises were always there making sure that we were safe.   However, Bogota provided us the freedom to go around even to the point of getting lost in the city and making our way back by asking, using the little Spanish that we know.  We took taxis where ever we went.  Most of the time, we would not understand how much we were supposed to pay.  Fortunately, Shannon was there to translate for us. 

Posing on the misty Mount Monserrate.

When we arrived in Bogota, I had the impression that the city looks desolate and frightening.  Buildings that line the streets were closed.  They have the rolled-down doors which made the place appear unfriendly.  Tim and I walked around the hotel which is located in the heart of business area signs of life were missing. The sidewalks were without people.  We could take a taxi but places that we wanted to go see were closed including the Museo Nacional de Colombia (which we visited later in the week).  Well, to explain this phenomenon, we arrived there on a Sunday.  Firstly, Colombia being a Catholic country closes on Sundays as a general rule.  Secondly, Monday (June 27) was a holiday - I think it was Corpus Christi.  Everything was still closed but we got to go eat at one of the two restaurants that were open near the hotel.  We opted to try the Italian Restaurant instead of the Barbeque place.  We must have been the only customers that night.  Tuesday came and the city suddenly looked inhabited as if the people got up from a slumber and began to mill around the city once more.  Suddenly the city exuded with life.  Bogota is alive after all.  Next time that we head to a new city, I would do my research and check the city calendar ahead of time.  This reminds me of a different experience we had as a family.  A few years ago, while traveling in Britain, we decided to take a quick train ride to Wales from Hereford.  As soon as we got into the train, we knew something we didn't know was going on.  There was a huge rugby game at the Millennium Stadium.  It was quite an interesting experience.  We were lucky that none of us was wearing the color of either team (use your imagination). Had we known, we would have chosen a different destination that day. 

View od Bogota from the tramway.

Candellaria - Central District of Bogota.

At the time we were in Colombia, Bogota was under renovation.  Most of the major streets were partly closed due to the construction of the new Bogota Metro.   The people we talked to Bogota were apologetic of the current dust and construction mess all over the city.  The condition did not bother us at all nor did it hinder our tour of the city and our search of unusual Colombian souvenir (i.e. Greca coffee maker).

Casa Santa Clara Restaurant

Station of the Cross at the Montserrate

 As a Spanish colony in its early days, Colombia is a Catholic country.  In Bogota, we visited an old church located on the top of Mount Montserrate (named after the Montserrat Mountain in Spain).  The mountain is so high that when you are up there, you get a panoramic view of the city.  There are two ways to go to the top of this pilgrimage/tourist destination:  Aerial tramway (cable car); or Funicular.  Going up, we opted to take the latter and came down by cable car.  

Bogota rests on an altitude of about 10,300 ft.   In spite of the fact that it rests along the equator, its temperature remains pleasantly cool or cold throughout the year.  The fluctuation in the temperature and daylength in Colombia is negligible.  This is the reason why Colombia is the place to grow flowers.  Eighty percent of the cut flowers sold in the US are grown in Colombia near Bogota.  Flower growers do not have to work around the changing seasons.  If weather conditions were the only consideration for choosing a place to live, Bogota would be on the top of my list of choice cities.  Unfortunately, there are more things to be accounted for before weather conditions.


Colombian food is mild.  We expected something like Mexican or Belizean food, but we were wrong.  On the plane I got the chance to sit with a Colombian girl who was going home to visit her folks in Bogota.  She told me to make sure that I'd try Ajiaco, a Bogotano signature dish. Basically, Ajiaco is a soup that is made of five varieties of potatoes. Each variety is supposed to add something different to the taste or texture of the soup.  Chicken cubes are added to the soup and it is served with corn on cobb, cream, capers, salsa, avocado, and rice.   I had Ajiaco Santa Fereno at the Embassy Suites and it was great.   I can understand how it earned its status as a Colombian comfort food.  On a side note, however, Californians might fail to appreciate the soup because they are no potato connoisseurs. 

Feeding the doves can be very entertaining.

Juan Valdez - the Colombian counterpart of Starbucks.

My experience in Colombia defied all my expectations.   I knew that the country is in the tropics  where coffee (Coffea spp.), coca plants (Erythroxylum coca), roses, and other flowers.  And that's about it; everything else came as a pleasant surprise for me. 

Souvenir picture taken from Mount Montserrate.

Next time, I'll write about my observations and interactions with the people of Colombia.