When will I pose again?

The other day I decided to change my screensaver on my iPhone which I haven’t changed in years even though I upgrade my phone every year. The old photo was hard to beat as its of me sitting atop Machu Picchu overlooking the vast green expanse, and it looked so unreal! But as I was counting in my head how many months it’s been since my last international trip (15 months), I decided to look through old photos to re experience the journey in my mind. The last trip was to Jordan and I wondered how much longer I have to wait to travel again. I had to cancel my hotels for Tokyo only a couple of weeks ago which would have been a trip in March of this year. Because I rescheduled this from last March, truly thinking this past Fall that this trip WOULD happen this time around, I’m giving up on Tokyo for now. I don’t care that “the third time is the charm” as I’m so sick of waiting and dreaming about it. I’m not a person to force things, and I feel like trying to go to Tokyo for the third time would be somehow bad luck.

Anyway, I found great pleasure in looking at my photos from Jordan. It’s amazing how we relive the journey with every picture. I can feel the temperature and what the air felt like with every photo for some reason. The above photo was taken in the desert of Wadi Rum where the movie THE MARTIAN was filmed. That day we went on a jeep ride, stopped by the above scenic place to take photos, and watched the sunset. After dinner we went on a walk with a Bedouin to look at the stars in the sky (so beautiful and bright!) while listening to his stories. He warmed us with his humor all the while making hot tea for us. I kind of tuned out his stories after being so mesmerized with the sky. The stars were so bright, and after my neck started to hurt looking up I laid down on the rock. When the Bedouin started to joke (or not) about scorpions and such I freaked out at the thought of something climbing into my hair and I got up immediately. The hot tea was strong and delicious, and that moment was so magical to me. Looking up at the sky and seeing bright stars are not something I’m used to since I live in a big city. As my tea cup was almost empty, it was time to head back to our tents. I truly tried to savor that night with every sip of tea. When would I see the bright stars again against the desert? I felt sad to leave that kind of beauty.

Every day of that trip to Jordan was amazing. Each day was filled with adventure. When going to bed that night I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve because the next morning we would be frolicking in the Dead Sea! πŸ™Œ

Oh World, how I miss you so…

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Splendor in Awe

Splendor in Awe

I am a frequent meditator and I sometimes have visions the minute I close my eyes to meditate. This morning’s meditation took me to the Sistine Chapel. I was there on March 5th, 2013 and I remember it so well that I had to wipe away the tears while meditating. When I entered the room that day I was so overcome with emotion that I cried. Nothing prepares you for that vision and magnificence of what man can achieve, and I truly could not fathom the genius of Michelangelo. The above photo was taken by my iPhone so it’s blurry as the technology was not as advanced as today’s phones. At the time we were not allowed to take photos which is a common practice in many museums, but many people around me were sneaking in photos without a flash, of course. And one guy right in front of me was so cocky and bold taking photos with his selfie stick that I got so mad that he was so blatant and getting away with it so I took a few photos, too. Perhaps I’m as bad as he is, then. To lessen my guilt I want to emphasize that I didn’t use any flash!

As I sat in one of the benches against the walls I looked up in utter amazement. I could FEEL the awe of others in the room, too, and with all our heads tilted toward the ceiling it felt like a spiritual moment. And it was. I did not want to leave, and knowing that I will most likely never be in that room again I tried to linger a bit longer. When I visited and saw the entirety of all that I could experience in a few hours, I came out of the building to take a break. What I completely forgot about that amazing experience until this writing is that it truly was a miracle that I got to see the Sistine Chapel. You see, before I left for Rome from Chicago I almost hesitated on going because at the time the Papal Conclave was to take place which happens inside the Sistine Chapel. My Italian instructor at the time was in fear for me that I would not be able to see it. He made me consider going to Rome on a different date because of this fact but since the travel gods have always been on my side, I decided to go and take the risk. A few minutes after I came out of St. Peter’s Basilica and after the Sistine Chapel, I saw that I got an email from the Vatican Museum indicating that the Chapel will be closed that day from 1:00 pm until further notice. Whew! I just made it! I really was amazed.

As the pandemic is still ongoing without an exact end in sight, I dream, hope, and pray for normalcy so we can go back to enjoying all the wonderful human experiences, especially travel.

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Awe

Detailed image from the back of the business card of the Istanbul hotel I stayed at. Such details!

It’s been 23 weeks since I last wrote on this blog. The pandemic is still ongoing, and since I’m in the thick of the dreary Chicago winter it’s been difficult to have the creative energy to write. Besides, there is not much happiness, deep pleasure, or the wonder of travel during these past 10 months of the pandemic. I truly cannot believe that this pandemic has lasted this long, and it won’t be over any time soon. Whatever “soon” means these days since the concept of time has been lost for many of us from the stresses of our current world climate.

Since this blog started after my experience of AWE when I first traveled solo to Turkey, I just decided this morning that to practice the discipline of writing I will write about the moments of awe that I experienced in my travel life. I wish there was an exact and true way for all of us to share the feelings and emotions that we experience with our friends and loved ones. For example, a VR machine or a network of electrodes that we can hook up to that allow us to instantly and accurately feel what someone else has experienced or felt, especially the incredible feelings like awe. For now I can only illustrate with words along with some images.

While cleaning I recently found the business card for the Sura Hotel that I stayed at in Istanbul. It is the most beautiful business card I have ever seen, and the memories of the entire journey just flooded my mind. Amazing! Take a look at the photo above which shows the back of the hotel’s business card…it shows a map which illustrates the distance and location of each of the iconic sights from the hotel. I wish every hotel in the world would follow their lead. It makes for a great memento, also.

I hope you take the time today to think about the last time you felt awe. Enjoy your Sunday. πŸ™

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Weekend Vibes…

The bridge is up!

Yesterday in Chicago all bridges were up that led to the downtown area because of the scheduled BLM and defund the police protests. As much as they claimed that it was supposed to be peaceful protests, I feel like lately nothing is peaceful at all. And sure enough, there was violence, indeed. I try not to read the news too much because it’s all too much to take. Between the looting that went on recently in Chicago as well as the world still in a pandemic, there is not too much happiness lately.

I did take a walk yesterday which inspired me to take the photo above. The weather was beautiful, and for a few moments I forgot about the distresses of the world. There were tour boats passing by as well as people kayaking, and with the gentle breeze caressing my face as I walked along the river all seemed perfectly fine in the world. The beauty of Chicago couldn’t be denied. As I heard the bells ringing upon approaching the raised bridge, however, the realization came to me that the world is not alright at all. But I am a hopeful person who believes that humanity will shine brighter than the evil and the darknesses of the world. Peace…

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Goodbye, June 2020

I went back to work exactly two weeks ago today as life has been slowly moving back to normal. The lakefront opened up last week, and Millenium Park opened up two weeks ago. However, when I walked the lakefront a couple of days ago, it just wasn’t the same. But then again, nothing will ever be the same. For the first time since I have lived in Chicago I didn’t enjoy my walk along the lake. Of course, it’s because of COVID-19. The solemn mood of the world could be felt as I walked with many others who were out to enjoy the Sunday. But then again, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m tired of wearing a mask at work for 8 hours a day which makes me exhausted. Maybe I’m annoyed at seeing lines at Target as well as Lululemon which kept me from going inside because I didn’t want to wait for 20 minutes in line. Maybe I’m just sick and tired of everything, period, because of COVID-19…

Today was my day off, and after a doctor’s appointment I was excited to finally go to Millenium Park to get a close up view of The Bean. How disappointed I was that I couldn’t get close at all as metal gates were put up around it. I felt an odd feeling as I could never get a shot of the sculpture before without mobs of people, and today, as I was able to take a picture of The Bean with no one close to it at all, I actually longed for people to be near it. Perhaps I crave normalcy, or maybe the 3 month isolation scarred me somehow. A thing of beauty, such as The Bean, should be admired close up. It’s meant to be touched, stared at closely to see one’s distorted reflection, and to walk all around it as well as underneath it to admire the work of art that it is. But today it seemed unnatural to me somehow that I was able to take a picture with not one person standing and posing near it. I actually felt sad as The Bean looked so lonely.

As today is the last day of June, I am so relieved. My 3 month isolation is over and I’m back at work. I guess I feel that this must be the worst year ever, and I’m glad that half of it is over. I just pray that the worst is behind all of us. #covidsucks

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Welcome, June

Wow. I can’t believe it. It’s the first day of June. The entire month of May was a blur as I, along with the rest of humanity, awaited for our worlds to open up with the shutdown from COVID-19. I’m still on furlough but I’m told that I might be back to work in a couple of weeks. Again, this has lasted so much longer than originally thought. There is hope in a couple of days, though, when the City of Chicago finds out what the next phase of reopening will be. Fingers crossed.

Not much has changed since I last wrote except for one thing. There are protests and lootings around the country as the result of the death of George Floyd, a black gentleman who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25th. The protests in Chicago only started a couple of days ago but there is much destruction all around. The stores and neighborhoods in and around Chicago were looted, cars were set on fire, and vandalism ensued. I can’t believe all this is happening. The pandemic is horrible enough but to add this to the stress of the world is just too much. Yesterday I couldn’t dare see what Michigan Avenue looked like in person because I saw the pictures in the news and social media. Many stores were broken into, looted, and graffiti sprayed across the buildings. Such a terrible sight. So I decided to walk toward the river instead. It was a beautiful day. Then I saw something that I had never seen before. All the bridges of every street were raised up so no car nor person could get through. When I got closer I heard the constant alarm from the raised bridges which was unnerving. It was only cool to see all the raised bridges because I had never seen it before, and seen against the gorgeous blue sky was a sight that I surely wanted to capture. I walked all along Wacker Drive and was more saddened to see workers boarding up the storefronts and restaurants to prevent further looting. After an hour and a half passed I started to head back home. It was getting chilly and I had a phone call scheduled.

Somehow this protest, vandalism, and looting seems worse than the pandemic itself. I’m sure it’s because we can physically see in all the media outlets the proof of people looting, cars being set on fire, and the vandalism whereas with the pandemic it’s an invisible virus. We only see statistics, facts, and figures. But when you see a video of a man being killed as well as the destruction of communities by mobs of people, it’s easy to lose faith in humanity. The economic downturn from COVID-19 will be rebounded in time, although a very long time. But losing faith in humanity is something that is far worse and not so easy to harness back. The world needs a healing as well as prayers. At this moment this is all I hope for…

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Hope!

The colors of Hope

As the news of reopening plans are starting to show, I feel such a strong sense of hope along with happiness. The weather in Chicago was beautiful yesterday, and today it’s going to be sunny AND sixty degrees! 😎 Oh, and there is even a full moon today called the Full Flower Moon so I look forward to seeing it right in front of my window tonight. How lucky I am! I have connected so much with nature during my entire isolation from COVID-19, and I feel so grateful. As strange as it may seem, I will miss all the time I had to myself when I get back to work and normal life. I’m thinking I might be back to work in about three weeks or so. Until then, I will enjoy all the time that I have left because everything is temporary.

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A little Hygieia, please!

Hygieia by Gustav Klimt

As I travel around the world, I collect notebooks from every museum I visit. I always have to have something to write on by my side at all times and writing on a travel notebook from another country always makes me feel happy. It truly brings me back to that specific place and all the beautiful memories of the trip. So today I grab a fresh new notebook that I got at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. Pictured above, it shows the work by Gustav Klimt. I visited the museum solely to see THE KISS, and when I got to the bookstore after seeing all the art that I could see in one day, I found the above notebook and wondered if I missed the actual art inside the Belvedere as I have never seen it before. When I asked the store clerk if I should go back inside to possibly see the work of art, he said that was impossible because it was actually destroyed in a fire. I immediately cringed and felt sad that I could never see this is person. It is believed that in 1945 the painting was inside a castle, and the castle was set on fire by the German SS forces to prevent it from being in the enemy’s hands. Well, so I thought I should buy two of the notebooks instead of my usual limit of buying only one memento.

What I love about travel is the nostalgia that comes along with seeing the souvenirs. Yesterday I looked at my refrigerator magnet I got from Barcelona and my mind was brought back to the little shop across from the Park GΓΌell where my friend and I each bought the magnet. I can still feel the hot and humid temperatures of that August afternoon last year and wished it was just as warm today as the temperatures in Chicago is only 43 degrees! Anyway, I look at the back of the notebook from the Belvedere Museum and see that it’s titled HYGIEIA who was the Greek Goddess of health, cleanliness, and hygiene. What a timely remembrance of Hygieia during these current times of the pandemic! Why I wasn’t aware of Hygieia when I was an Art History major and loved Greek mythology is beyond me.

As the world starts a new month I pray and hope that we become healthier and cleaner with a Goddess like Hygieia protecting us. As each day brings us closer to the world opening up, I can’t imagine what the new world will look like, especially in terms of travel, and I can’t wait to find out.

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Welcome, May 😎

I can’t believe it’s May! I woke up to sunny skies so I knew it would be a good day to go running, and I was happy about that. The tulips all over Chicago are always stunning as you can see from the picture above today. I took my time walking around after my run to just enjoy the sun and the rest of the flowers. When I walked into Eataly, I had no idea that masks were required but luckily, they had one for me. I ordered masks some time ago on Amazon but there was a three week delivery date. I had no idea that the masks were that hard to breathe with, and I felt more claustrophobic than ever, which I didn’t think was possible. I then had to go to Whole Foods which took much longer, and because the mask felt like I was suffocating I rushed out of there without fully completing my shopping.

These are such strange times, and just when I think that I can get through this isolation just fine, another barrier comes up. The mandate of wearing masks is a requirement for the entire month of May, and I just hope that the rules do not get worse by requiring people to wear it in outdoor spaces when just taking a walk or running. This makes me feel like I don’t even want to go outside.

Tomorrow is going to be 75 degrees and partly sunny so I can’t wait to see what happens while I go running without a mask. The month of May will be more challenging with warmer weather and people just getting so sick and tired of this virus. I pray that June will start to see the world open up, and as of now that seems like an eternity. Thirty more days to go… πŸ™

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Last Day of a Month of Gratitude

Although my isolation from COVID-19 started in March, I cannot believe that today is the last day of April, 2020. The concept of time was unusual and challenging because although time seemed to pass by so, so slowly at times, looking back on the whole month it seemed to pass by as a blur. This doesn’t make sense to me, but then again, what about the COVID-19 makes any sense?

As my month-long project and commitment to express and appreciate gratitude comes to an end, I have experienced some good benefits. To start, I have learned to differentiate joy from happiness, which is a thought that I never contemplated before. Of course, happiness was difficult if not impossible to experience during this solitude from the COVID-19 so I was surprised to find joy. Happiness usually is triggered externally, say, from buying a new pair of shoes or enjoying a great meal at a restaurant. But these happy feelings seem to be very transitory. Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and, I have found, more spiritual in nature and therefore, lasting longer. Another thing I noticed while practicing gratitude was that small, mundane things made me happy, or was it joy? LOL. The experience of simply walking on the grass, hearing the sound of birds as well as the sound of children’s voices laughing, having the abundance of time (although a blessing and a curse), feeling true presence, and even appreciating a well cooked meal to enjoy alone without trying to please others all were simple joys that I didn’t expect. There were numerous other benefits of practicing gratitude like fully appreciating the time I had to mediate as well having the time to exercise every single day. As a matter of fact, the time for meditation and exercise were actually the two most important things that helped me get through these dark days of the isolation. Thank goodness I had the determination and fortitude to adopt these two very important life practices which ended up being my medicine.

As with each end a new one begins. The month of May is just one night’s sleep away, and none of us knows what to expect. With warmer temperatures as well as the wearing thin of the patience of the world, I pray that the world begins an emergence of a better, new normal. I am letting go of the month of April with gratitude of what it has taught me and allowed me to experience. May the new month ahead bring more joy and happiness along with a new enrichment of thoughts, experiences, and renewed Life for us all.

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