#ThankfulThursday: Reflections Upon My First and Second “Tours” of Walter Reed

If you remember, I had written for our Memorial Day article mentioning about a family member receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that my family member made it “official” on social media that they are being treated for cancer, I think it is safe to say (at least), that the family member I was referring to all this time is my brother. I just returned from a “second tour” of two weeks (last time I stayed a little over three weeks in May), and I am still amazed and inspired. I wanted to take a moment to share a slice of what I had learned during my most recent trip there.

As always, the medical and support staff at Walter Reed are phenomenal. I feel that my words do not reflect how much I admire and respect all that they do at the hospital for active military and veterans. The medical team working with my brother has been diligent (sometimes over-diligent, but that’s okay). He is still not affected by nausea from the chemo (thank goodness for those newer anti-emetics!) However, he was more fatigued this time around (and lost more hair). Seeing him this way was kind of hard for me. What had kept me up was his attitude through it all. He has kept a positive attitude and, whenever he would go in for an appointment (for the infusion, labs or follow-up with the doctor) he would be like, “Let’s do this!” I am very happy and grateful for the way he has been handling this.

Like last time, we were staying at the Fisher House. This time, however, were a different mix of patients from my last visit. I spoke to a few of them and listened to some of their stories. Between their stories and the stories of my brother, I got a glimpse of active military life. There was one man who was there with his mother – I am going to call him “Joe.” When we – my brother and I – first saw him, he looked like anyone else, except that he was visibly missing the right half of his head. I was amazed that he was able to stand, walk and speak pretty well. Later, when I struck up a conversation over breakfast with him and his mother, and I learned a lot more about him.

About 13 years ago, his convoy was hit by an IED (that’s Improvised Explosive Device). The shock and shrapnel hit him in his head. One of the people in his unit refused to leave without him, despite others telling them to “just go.” He wasn’t expected to survive the night. He was flown to a hospital in Germany, where his mother met up with him. He was alive, but still wasn’t expected to survive very long. He was stabilized and brought to Walter Reed. I am not sure what happened next (they skipped that part of the story), but eventually, he did awaken and was in a wheelchair at first. His medical team remade part of his skull with a plastic-like polymer, so his brain could still be protected (of course). They are here now because that polymer “shield” had gotten infected and they had to remove it. Now, they are preparing to put a titanium one in its place.

Joe can still understand what you are saying and he can keep up in a conversation. Sometimes, if you mention something that strikes a memory in him, he will tell you. He said that his neurologist uses him as an example for his lectures at the teaching hospital. They think that his brain made new connections to compensate for what is lost. He learned to walk on a therapy horse, because their hips move similar to ours when they walk. I then learned that he is blind in his left eye and doesn’t see very well in his right. Sometimes, he has to walk with one arm on his Mother for guidance. He still remembers music/songs that he likes and is re-learning to play the bass guitar (again, I was amazed because the right-side of the brain supposedly controls creativity and music appreciation). The one blessing in all of this, is that he has kept a positive attitude, despite all that had happened. Yes, he had been frustrated at times when he couldn’t do or remember something. No signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) either. Otherwise, he has been pretty happy, he said that he would still enlist, even after knowing that this would happen.

Hearing from their experiences has given me more perspective on things. There were times I would feel down and hopeless. Yet, my brother and Joe still maintained a positive attitude, despite what they are going through. I am definitely inspired and I am humbled by their experiences.

So, my dear reader, I hope that my short story gave you some inspiration and perspective. Again, I realize there are times where we feel overwhelmed and stressed with the tasks of daily living. It may help to try and take a deep breath, then think to ourselves, “This is only temporary; this will come to pass.” Also, it would help to remember that keeping a positive attitude while weathering the current storm can help us emotionally and physically in the end (ex: less stress, less strain on the heart, less emotional toll). I am also a big fan of “talking it out,” because sometimes, by saying it out loud, it helps with the problem’s “release.” Plus, you may get some needed advice and guidance from the person you are discussing this with. There are also crisis hotlines available that one can call or even text – some depending on your area, but most are nationwide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a list of crisis lines available (in Chicago, they are listed here: http://namichicago.org/en/crisis-lines/), which includes the Suicide Prevention Hotline as well (1-800-273-TALK).

Is there someone that you know or met in your life that gave you as much inspiration as Joe and my Brother had given me? Feel free to share in the comment box below!

–Maeven

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 3)

We started off at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I felt that it is one of the many places to visit while in D.C.  The Holocaust was just an unspeakable and horrible period in the World’s history, yet it is also something that should be reflected and learned about so it is not repeated.

You may think that you know all there is about the Holocaust, but I learned some new things while at the museum – either that or I learned about it, forgot about it then re-learned it again.   For example, other than incarcerating Jews, the Germans also sent Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners (aka anyone who spoke up against Hitler and the Nazis), scientists and homosexuals.  At one point, the amount of countries that were controlled by the Nazis were so far and vast, those trying to escape them, really had no where to go.  Then, once the war was over, because there was so much destruction, especially in the Allied countries, those that were able to return, couldn’t.

They did have stories that I did remember and/or read about.  They had a section on Anne Frank, about her life, when she was captured and when she died.  They also had a section on Auschwitz, how the prisoners were transported by freight cars in extreme conditions.  Then how they were divided up, first by gender, then whether they will continue at the camp undergoing hard labor, or if they will go to the gas chamber.

They also had a room that had written excerpts as well as recordings of those who had survived the Holocaust.  They described how they were brought to the camps, how their life was while living in the barracks, or how it was when they were rescued at the end of the war.  After seeing how everyone was taken, imprisoned and/or put to death, you can’t help but to feel awe for those who had lived through such horror, anger for those who had imprisoned them, and sadness for those who did not survive.

Now, I wish I could have taken more photos around the museum.  However, I also felt that this was such a somber and heavy topic, that I did not want to be snapping photos at every turn.   You can’t help but to feel affected in some way after that.

Next was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.   Just like the name suggests, this museum chronicles how man got into the air and space by craft.

We saw the plane flown by the Wright Brothers!

The museum gave a nod to women pilots in America, too!

Some military planes and drones…

As well as space craft and satellites…

We even got on one of the simulator rides!

From there we headed towards the White House.  We were only able to take a picture from outside the gates.

Shortly after we returned home, they announced that they were no longer allowing people in that area anymore (good thing we went, then!)

Finally, our last stop was at the State Capitol.  We were able to get a tour after contacting our state representative, Tammy Duckworth.

For a big building, we weren’t allowed into a lot of it.  Even though there were some rooms there for the representatives, they really spend most of their time across the street in either the Rayburn House Office Building or in the Hart Senate Office Building.

By the time we were done with our tour, we were plenty tired!  We would be leaving early the next morning.   I did feel like we covered a lot of ground and we would love to come back!

How about you?  Have you been here as well?  What did you think?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Until next time,

–Maeven

References:

https://www.ushmm.org/

https://airandspace.si.edu/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/

https://www.visitthecapitol.gov/

Musings on the Getty Center and Museums in General,

Hello, everyone! Jaja the forever tourist is here again!  Today, I wanna share with you guys one of my favorite places to explore in the city, the Getty Center.

A quick history: The Getty Center is one of two campuses of the Getty Museum. The Center is located in Brentwood, Los Angeles, while the Getty Villa is in the neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. The art collection was started by Jean Paul Getty in his home in Palisades. As the collection grew, he added a wing to his home which became the museum area, displaying his extensive collection. As the collection grew in the now-dubbed Getty Villa, he extended his museum by building another campus. The Villa focuses more on the arts and culture of Greece, Rome, and Etruria, while the Center houses collections from pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.

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Tourist guide: It is free to get in both museums, but you do need to pay a parking fee. But here’s the good thing: If you want to visit both museums in one day, just keep your parking ticket as it is valid for both museums on a same-day visit. That’s a $15 parking ticket you pay once for a two-museum visit. On Saturdays, the Center closes later as well, so if you don’t want to rush from one place to another, I suggest visiting the Villa first, and then drive on over to the Center.

PS: Audio tours are free, and they loan you the listening device AND the headphones. Now, I’m sure they clean their headphones, but if you’re a tad germophobic like me, feel free to bring your own headset.

 

Now, I’ve been to the Center a handful of times, and to the Villa zero times. That’s something that needs to be changed. Haha. The reason why I haven’t visited the very beautiful Villa is because I want to view all the collections at the Center. Some exhibits do change which makes multiple trips reasonable.

Once you get out of the parking structure, a tram takes you to the top of the hill where the magnificent structure of the Getty Museum is located. Whenever I step out of that tram, the view never fails to take my breath away. Right in front of the building, you have a wide open area that lets you take in the view from atop that hill. Overlooking the terrace is the valley, the houses and the rolling hills. The facade of the building is simple yet magnanimous. Clear lines, white finish, and a spacious staircase that leads you at the front door. Even before you enter the Center, you are greeted by marvelous sculptures.

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To the right of the front door is the audio tour desk. All you have to do is leave a form of identification with them and they will hand you your free audio tour listening device. I highly recommend this audio tour. There is no set tour you have to follow, you just go to whatever exhibit you want to check out and enter the number you see next to the exhibit piece into the listening device.

Oh, and if you are visiting with children and have a lot of stuff, took public transportation, or just have a lot of belongings with you, don’t let that hinder you from exploring the Center comfortably. To the left of the open-air lobby, you can find a check-in counter for your coats, bags, etc.

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Whenever I visit the Center, I have a little pattern that I follow. Different exhibits are placed in different buildings, a couple are connected to each other by hallways and stairs. I work my way from the exhibits right out front and wok my way back (I follow the map they give out in front). And then I take a break out in the courtyard, have a snack, a drink, get some fresh air, and then resume my tour. I have NEVER completed the exhibits in one day, hence the multiple visits.

When I feel like I’ve satisfied my museum craving, I walk around the expansive and beautiful garden of the Center. After all that, I usually find a shaded area in their grassy area and join the other visitors just chilling on the grass, laying out, doing their think out in the Center garden. Yes, the garden is open to the visitors, even if they visit the Center specifically just to have a picnic there. Outside in the courtyard/garden, you can marvel at the impressive architecture of the Center. Not only that, it offers a wonderful view of the city. I would take this time to just muse on the art pieces that I’ve seen that day. Sometimes, I’d bring my journal or a book with me and just chill the rest of my visit there.

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I’m one of those people that cherish my solitude from time to time. I’m also part of that group who lavishes on alone time in museums. Whenever I go by myself, I really REALLY take my time and check out each art piece. I stand there and admire the art works, ponder on what the artist had in mind, how it makes me feel, what the impact is in today’s society. It’s an experience of the mind and soul that I feel like I cannot undertake if I’m with another person who does not see museums the way that I do. But hey, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy visiting museums with friends because it is also a shared experience. You and your companions get to share your views with each other, discuss about the art work, and simply just share that experience with each other.

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x,
Jaja (IG:@theforevertourist)

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 2)

We tackled a lot in the few days that we were here, which is why this segment is broken down into parts.

The first monument we come across is the Washington Monument.  Usually it would be open for the public to climb up to the top, but it was closed when we had gotten there.  It was still beautiful to see.

We were hoping to see the cherry blossoms, but they had bloomed early and only a few trees still had their flowers.  We were lucky to come across one and it was beautiful!



Our first stop was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  Built for one of America’s Founding Fathers, who also drafted one of the most important documents in our county’s history – The Declaration of Independence.

At first, it looks clean, and simple, but when you walk inside, there is a statue of Thomas Jefferson in bronze.

Along the walls, there are excerpts from various works that he wrote.

From there, we continued our walk towards the Lincoln Memorial.  On the way, we came across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Freedom of Speech/ Freedom of Worship/ Freedom From Want/ Freedom From Fear

The architechs behind the memorial wanted it to be accessible to those with disabilities (FDR was in a wheelchair). This relief has braille for those who are sight-impaired.

There are four different sections, each signifying his four terms as President of the United States.  He is the only President to have four terms, when the previous Presidents followed George Washington’s precedent by only having two terms, and before the enactment of the 22nd Amendment that limited the President to two terms in office.

Since I have family members who have served in the military and in at least two wars, I had to also visit a few of the war memorials (it was only right).

The World War II Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Three Servicemen
The Memorial Wall

We also had a chance to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Proof of Life!

Last but not least (for today), the Lincoln Memorial.  Its one thing to see this on TV, but its another to be standing within it’s walls.

When looking out onto the reflection pool, I couldn’t help but to think of Jenny in that scene from Forrest Gump where she runs across the water to hug him.

Overall, this was a very long walk! We were not kidding around when I said that we were seeing alot!

Next time, we talk about some of the museums we went to, The State Capital and, of course, The White House!

 

References:

https://www.nps.gov/thje/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/frde/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm

https://www.wwiimemorial.com/

http://www.koreanwarvetsmemorial.org/the-memorial/

http://thewall-usa.com/information.asp

https://www.nps.gov/mlkm/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm
 

 

 

Supper Club Saturday: Bad Saint

Bad Saint

3226 11th St NW,
Washington, DC 20010

Even though our visit to Washington D.C. was going to be short, I did not want to pass up the opportunity to enjoy one of the top restaurants in the area (the question was which one?)  Well, Bad Saint was literally steps from where we were staying, so it would be foolhardy to pass up this opportunity.

Bad Saint is a Filipino Restaurant with limited seating and they take no reservations.  It is usually advised to come an hour or more before opening.

The Line for Bad Saint Before Opening

Having been raised by my Filipino Mom and having grown up on Filipino cuisine, why would I wait in line for something so familiar?  Even though it may be the same recipe, the dish will vary in flavor/style from island to island, and even from family to family.

I just wanted to see how their “house” recipes compare and contrast to ours.

What is Filipino food exactly?  There isn’t a concrete answer to that, and opinions differ from person to person, depending on who you ask.  The best answer I have from what I know of Filipino food is that it is a mix of a lot of things: Spanish, a variety of Asian influences (Chinese, Japanese and Korean, for example) and Indonesian, to name a few.  There is not a lot of sweet, but sour and salty.  There are dishes that are light and others that are heavy and comforting.

Yeah, the food is pretty diverse.

When they had opened, there was already a big party at the head of the line.  I believe the largest table they had sits 4 or 6 people. The line moved quickly and we advanced a few feet.  Already they were at capacity.  They were taking names and phone numbers so they could text you when a table is ready.

I came prepared for this already. I wasn’t too hungry yet and already planned to head back to our place to wait my turn.  I expected at least an hour and a half wait.

Then the Hostess announced that they had one seat available and asked if anyone was dining solo.  Hey, that would be me!

I raised my hand so high and fast, that I was literally standing on my toes.  The Hostess gestured to me and I followed her in.
Yeah, maybe it looked sad that I was eating alone, but I was far from being sad – I was happy that I did not have to wait over an hour to eat here after all!

I was seated along the windows on a high seat.  The bar ledge was edged with Mahjong tiles, and I was immediately reminded of the late nights with my Uncles and Cousins with the sounds of tiles getting “shuffled” on the card table.

Proof of Life (I Loved the Bar Behind Me)

When I was handed the menu, I was advised that the chef changes the selections often.

I may not have been hungry outside, but I was now.  The kitchen was literally behind me and, whatever they were cooking was making my mouth water.

I also accepted the fact that I was going to smell like food after this.

I decided to go with 3 dishes (mostly because I couldn’t make up my mind!)

I started with Kinilaw Na Pugita, which was octopus with fingerling potatoes and sliced Queen Olives in a vinagrette.

The octopus was light and fresh with a citrusy finish

I want to say we had something similar to this but with squid once.  I did like the olives in this version.

Next was Bulalo, a bone marrow stew with corn, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, green chili and a side of a vinegary fish sauce for more seasoning.  I couldn’t resist getting this as I am a fan of this stew!

Even With The Stew, I Couldn’t Forget the Rice!

The stew was delicious and reminded me of how my Mom makes it. In fact, its hard to say, whose is better.

The last dish I tried was Pancit Na Hipon, made with glass noodles, pork belly (mmm pork belly 😍), shrimp and chili.

This Had Some Kick!

Pancit is one of those dishes that takes many forms, usually dependent on the type of noodle.  When my Mom makes pancit, its with a rice noodle.  My aunt makes her with a thicker, almost lo mein style type noodle. With the noodles, you can add any type of protein (ie chicken, pork or shellfish) and sliced vegetables (ie celery, carrots, green onions) and don’t forget the fish sauce!  Having the pancit with the glass noodle was an interesting take. It almost slid in my mouth from the sauce and the pork belly.  The peanuts added crunch and the chilis some heat (even though I asked for it to be mild).   I really did like it.

At the end I was given, what reminded me of Turon, Banana Lumpia with Caramel Sauce.  However, the Hostess called it something else (I think, because it didnt sound like Turon).  The outside was a crispy and flaky egg roll wrapper, coated in a sticky caramel with a ripe and sweet banana inside.  Anyway, it was still good, no matter what it was.

Overall it was a great meal.  I wished I had more room to try the rest.  I definitely would go back if I had another opportunity.

Have you also been to Bad Saint?  How did it go?  Leave your comments below!

–Maeven

Photowalk: Venice Beach at Night

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In my previous post, I shared a video montage of Venice Beach in the daytime. One of my favorite beaches, Venice Beach is home to a diversity of people and culture. The walls are filled with color, the people all beautiful in their own ways, the streets crowded with the hustle and bustle of vendors, tourists, and residents alike. Music is usually heard in the background, from the stalls that line the boardwalk or from street performers trying to get you attention.

But Venice Beach at night? It is a whole different world when the sun goes down.

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The streets that are usually filled by people are empty, with a few stragglers here and there. Shops and restaurants are closed, lacking in color and life. The boardwalk is illuminated only be street lamps that keep people from hiding in entire darkness. Occasionally, a cop car would drive past, keeping peace and quiet at bay for everyone.

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The exact night I went to Venice Beach with my friend MB, California had legalized weed. So you bet yourself supporters are low-key celebrating themselves that night. At one point, I had walked past a group of teenage kids with a cardboard sign that read “We need Weed.”

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If you’ve frequented Venice Beach as much as I had, being in that same place at night time is an eerily interesting concept. You know what you should expect, yet your senses are warning you that there is something lacking: the life, the vibe, the soul that keeps Venice Beach alive.

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MB and I walked up and down the street that separated the buildings from the beach. We found interesting alley ways and took a gander to see what we’d find. We walked past one restroom building and overheard a few men about to start a fight, one side provoking the other. When the cop rolled past, every one was forced to keep their cool. But other than that, everyone just minded their own business. A couple of late night musicians still played music into the night, a handful of couples walking hand in hand maybe trying to walk off the dinner and drinks they just had.

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While I am not going to suggest one explores Venice Beach at night by themselves, I do encourage seeing it at night, bring a few friends, make an adventure out of it. Even though you know it’s the same Venice Beach, the stark contract between night and day is very much noticeable.

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Happy Summer everyone!

 

xo,
Jaja, the forever tourist (IG: @theforevertourist, #theforevertourist)

Good morning from Newport Beach! [VIDEO at end of post]

There are a handful of things I cherish and hold so close to my heart. One of those things is my constant need for alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends (that includes my cat Max). I love going out and doing things with the people I hold dear. But I get so caught up in my head and my thoughts that I have this constant need to have some alone time.

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The best place for me to get that solitude is by going to the beach.. right before sunrise. I love both sunset and sunrise but they give me different kinds of peace of mind and calm.. if that even makes sense. My go-to sanctuary is Newport Beach. It’s a small strip of beach in the Balboa peninsula, and the area has a small community surrounding it, which makes it perfect because it doesn’t get as crowded as the more touristy destinations like Santa Monica, Venice, etc.

I love that beach so much, even though it’s quite a drive from home. But in the morning? It’s so quiet and homey. As soon as I get there, I go buy my donut and coffee at Seaside Donuts, a tradition I’ve set for myself. And then I go sit at “my bench” and set up my camera, my book, and then I get comfortable while I wait for the sun to rise.

There are times when it’s too cloudy that you won’t see the actual sun go up. But just being in that place, in that time, warms my heart.

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As I walk around the pier and then down to the shoe, you see people greeting each other – most likely neighbors who do the same routine every morning. Most weekends, you’ll find a long line coming out from Dory Fishing Fleet Market. People flock there even before dawn breaks to catch the freshest seafood for that weekend. You also get your community of surfers, starting their days by catching some waves.

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I stay for maybe 3 or 4 hours, depending on how fast it gets crowded or warm. You might think, “Well that’s quite some time to kill huh.” I only go there when I have no plans for the day. I’m not a big fan of rushing, that’s why I always plan my day accordingly.

On this particular day, I noticed a group of people doing some huge and beautiful sand art. The artists are called Low Tide Aliens (IG: @lowtidealiens), and it look like a fun activity they were having. They had kids and other family members and friends helping them out. Check out their Instagram account to have their beautiful sand art take your breath away!

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I’ve visited Newport Beach more times than I can remember, from every “season” California can offer. I love the sense of community in that place, I love the peace and quiet it brings. I love that it doesn’t get too crowded, and I especially love that it’s open so early in the morning. It doesn’t matter if I wanna go there and catch up with a friend, or I want to de-stress my mind and my soul. This piece of the world will always be my mind’s sanctuary.

I wanna share one this video I made in Newport Beach back in December of 2015. I remember I had an 11hr work day the night before ( I think I came home 2am) and I was restless and tired from all the emotional and mental stress from my old job. I knew I just had to go to the beach that morning. I shot a time lapse video of the sunrise, and while I was sitting there, Ed Sheeran’s Lego House popped into my mind. So as soon as I got home, I stitched together the videos I shot while listening to the song. Here it is, guys. It’s not much, but the visuals pretty much reflected how I was feeling that day.