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    Charmed Life
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    Life’s a Charm!

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Highlights of 2008

What a great 2008 it had been! As I was creating a draft for this post, I realize what an eventful and travel-full year we’ve had, that somehow writing about it will not be enough put them all together.

But first off, I turned 30 in 2008! Coming to that age of big 3-0 didn’t really make me any different. As I have mentioned before, I’ve reconciled to the fact that age is just a number. And I still don’t feel a day over 25! However, a few hairs has been showing off my age. Sadly each week, I find new gray hairs popping out. Also, Matthew turned 2-years old and Hubby turned SEXY-years old.

And then there was hubby’s retirement from 22-years service to the Army, which consequently started our summer with leaving Japan for the United States. We left japan with much reluctance from my part and came to the United States. But before settling in to our new home here in Alabama, we lead a summer trail to different parts of United States.

On our first trail, we vacationed in Hawaii for a week. Matthew had his first taste of salty waters and played with the Waikiki sands. Our days in Hawaii was filled with family fun and made me forget that the days ahead had much uncertainty. And then we came to the mainland in Florida and finally met my in-laws. They welcomed us and made us feel at home in their home. With my in-laws, we travelled to Michigan and Delaware and met more relatives. On the way there and back, we had a chance to step on Georgia, Carolina and other states in between. Then finally, hubby got his current job here at a military boarding school. Alabama became our new home sweet home. This all happened last summer. It was exciting and exhausting!

It kind’a went boring since then except when we travelled to Florida during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Related Post:


Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria

When we arrived Michigan on 7 July, our first destination was at Frankenmuth. It’s one of Michigan’s tourist spot famously known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” for it’s Bavarian(German)-themed shops and attractions. We spent three fun days there. [Click here to read more.]

Fun Facts About Florida

Lightning Capital of the World

The Sunshine State is also known the Lightning Capital of the World. Florida is not the Lightning Capital of the World for nothing. I have seen lightnings even in broad daylight. The odds of being stuck by lightning are like the odds of hitting the lottery, but if you live in Florida your odds are unfortunately greatly increased.

Florida averages 10 deaths and 30 injuries a year from lightning. Since 1959, Florida has had more than 350 lightning-related deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. [Read more]

State of Lakes

Florida is also known for its lakes. There are more than 8,000 lakes in Florida of varied types and sizes. In every turns and corners in Florida, a sight of lakes and houses with docks in them are so common. [Read more]

El Lagarto (The Lizard), The Alligator

I have seen a few alligators, but they are too small or too quick for picture taking.

The highest populations of alligators are found in Florida and Louisiana. In Florida, alligators can be found in almost every single body of water, with the highest concentrations being in the Central Florida to South Florida region. [Read more]

Ain’t No Mountain in Florida

At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida
and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Needless to say, there are no mountains in Florida!

Day 6 in Hawaii, Aloha means Goodbye

This is the sixth and last in the series of our Days in Hawaii. All photos are taken on June 13, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo.

Days in Hawaii:

Driving at Waianae Beach
Driving at Waianae Beach. Click photo to enlarge.
Driving at Waianae Beach. Click photo to enlarge.

The good thing about renting a car on vacations is that vacation does not actually end even after checking out of the hotel. We checked out of the hotel at quarter ’til 11, had lunch, and off we drove around O’ahu Island in the afternoon.

Our flight  to Denver, Colorado connecting to Tampa, Florida wasn’t until early that evening that we had an afternoon to spare. We visited sick Tom (dear hubby’s younger brother) in his place at Waipahu and then we drove O’ahu Island upto Waianae for sightseeing. We saw more beaches with higher waves and a few more mountains. It was great way to calm down and quietly say Aloha Goodbye to a wonderful Hawaiian Vacation.

Day 5 in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor and Beach Bumming, Part 2

This is the fifth in the series of our Days in Hawaii. All photos are taken on June 12, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo. Click here to view more photos

Days in Hawaii:

So we went back to Pearl Harbor to visit USS Arizona Memorial. The day before we couldn’t get a ticket for the ferry ride to the memorial. So we came early. At 7am, the line was too long that dear hubby decided that Matthew and I should stay in the car while he wait in line to get our tickets.

An hour later, Matthew was getting fuzzy in the car so I decided to pack him in his stroller so we can look for dear hubby to give him a break. When we found dear hubby he was almost at the front. It was a good thing that we got to him before he reached the front since you can only get a ticket for yourself and not someone who was not there. Or I’d be out of luck (again), since he won’t be able to get a ticket for me. We got our tickets and waited for our turn. We have a lot of hours to spare so we decided to tour the Museum again.

A brief movie was shown about USS Arizona and an announcement was made – Silence must be observed at the memorial. It is afterall, the final resting place of more than 900 sailor, who were killed that day in 1941. It never occured to me that a lot of souls could still be wandering around that area.

USS Arizona Memorial.

Photo taken from Remembering Pearl Harbor: USS Arizona

Arriving USS Arizona Memorial.

Arriving USS Arizona Memorial.

Wreckage of one of the gun turrent foundation.

Background: Wreckage of one
of the gun turrent foundation.

The wall of names.

Background: The wall of names
of the fallen crew members.

The battle-scarred and submerged remains of the battleship USS Arizona are the focal point of a shrine memorial erected by the people of the United States to honor and commemorate all American servicemen killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. [Read more.]

When we got there, we saw a few remains of the battleship. We thought we could see the ship under through the waters but the waters was too dark that day to see anything. The massive wall of names of those who died there, and who could still be down there, is depressing, but we were happy to be there to learn about their sacrifice to their nation. Matthew, except for a few moments, behaved well and was also whispering throughout the whole time.

The tour at the memorial was brief but it was worth the wait and coming back for.

Beach Bumming. We dedicated the afternoon of Day 5 at the beach. After our failed attempts in Day 2 to get Matthew to the waters, we tried again. This time, together, dear hubby and I, we held him in the waters and jumped for every wave that came. Somehow, having us together, made Matthew calm down. And having to jump at the waves gave him something to look forward to (jumping) for every wave that came along. Although, his grip was still tight, not crying this time was definitely an improvement. Later on, he was enjoying the waters and would let go of one of us.

At the Pikake Terrace
Sleeping Matthew At the Pikake Terrace Restaurant.
At the Pikake Terrace Restaurant.

Later that day we strolled Kalakaua Avenue for dinner. Matthew, too tired from the day’s activities at the beach especially, slept while we were looking for a decent place to eat. We decided that we will follow our noses. We shall go for any place where we can smell something delicious. Our noses led us to a hotdog stand. But we went further to this lovely poolside restaurant. At the front area there’s a stage, where it seemed like a show was coming up. It looked interesting. It was at Pikake Terrace at the Sheraton Princess Hotel.

With the poolside ambiance, the music, the good food, what made the restaurant extra special is that dear hubby and I can finally just dine like it’s a date. With only a sleeping baby to look after since Matthew was sleeping throughout dinner, we were able to just dine and enjoy the night.

Day 4 in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, Part 1

This is the fourth in the series of our Days in Hawaii. All photos are taken on June 11, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo. Click here to view more photos

Days in Hawaii:

For me a must-see in Hawaii is Pearl Harbor. I must be so influenced by history or the movie ‘Pearl Harbor’, that I think a trip to Hawaii will not be complete untill I’ll see the remnants of Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor, afterall, holds a great historical value.

Background History:
The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II. [Read More.]

At the parking lot, a lot of signs of security instructions were posted. It’s such an inconvenience that even diaper bags or camera bags are not allowed inside any of the historical sites. But considering the heavy crowd, they can’t helped it that it has come to that extent.Our main purpose of going to Pearl Harbor is to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. We went there early afternoon, thinking that it shouldn’t be a long drive from Waikiki. We arrived there disappointed that the ferry going to the USS Arizona Memorial is already full for the rest of the day. It has been filled up since before lunchtime. We tried to get a reservation for the next day, but it’s first-come, first-serve. But we were welcome to tour the USS Arizona Museum, which we did and learned more about USS Arizona.

Background History:

The USS Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaiʻi, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. [Read more.]

USS Arizona's Anchor

USS Arizona's Anchor

The torpedo that sank USS Arizona

The torpedo that sank USS Arizona

USS Arizona Museum, by the waters

USS Arizona's Museum by the waters

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is just around the corner. Unfortunately, babies are not allowed inside the submarine due to narrow and dangerous pathways. So Dear Hubby and Matthew played at the park while I toured inside the submarine. Anybody who is claustophobic will never survive a brief tour inside a submarine or worse work and live there. It was very uncomfortable inside it. And I just couldn’t imagine anyone living in such a cramp environment.It is important to note the this submarine before it was open for the public, has survived WWII and has been given the name of Pearl Harbor Avenger.

Background History:

USS Bowfin Submarine was launched on 7 December 1942 and completed nine successful war patrols. It was acquired from the U.S. Navy in 1979 and opened to the public in 1981. In 1986 she was designated a National Historic Landmark. [Read More.]

At theWaterfront Memorial. USS Bowfin Submarine at the background.

At the Waterfront Memorial

Inside USS Bowfin Submarine.

Inside USS Bowfin Submarine

At the USS Bowfin Submarine Park.

At the USS Bowfin Subm Park

We toured USS Missouri Memorial with great anticipation. It is afterall historical as the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender during WWII and it’s a really big battleship. There were a lot of space where Matthew ran around, unfortunately too many areas where he bumped his head too.

Background History:
USS Missouri secured its place in history as the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II. The ceremony for the signing of the Formal Instrument of Surrender was conducted by Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas A. MacArthur. [Read more.]

It has survived WWII, Korean War and even the Gulf War in the early 1990s. On January 29, 1999, USS Missouri was opened as a museum. [Read more.]

At the USS Missouri Museum

At the USS Missouri Museum

At the USS Missouri Museum

At the USS Missouri Museum

At the USS Missouri Museum

We went to Hickam AFB after Pearl Harbor to restock on baby food, and to look around. Hickam AFB is far wider, bigger in space than Yokota AB!

We ended the day by going for a ridiculously expensive cheese burger that didn’t even come with fries or any side dish. The restaurant is called Cheese Burger in Paradise. We always saw the place packed with people through the our hotel room’s window. We decided to try it not knowing they serve only varied kinds of cheese burgers. I can’t complain about the taste for how right can they prepare a cheese burger to improve its taste? It was good but not that extra-ordinarily good, but we just can’t overcome it’s price …

Day 3 in Hawaii, Polynesian Cultural Center

This is the third in the series of our Days in Hawaii. All photos are taken on June 10, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo. Click here to view more photos

Days in Hawaii:

Dear hubby went to the Polynesian Cultural Center a few years back. He had good impression about this cultural theme park that he was so enthusiastic about going back and taking us.

On the way to the Polynesian Cultural Center, we passed by Dole Pineapple Plantation. After a few sightseeing and pictures taken, we continued with our trip to the other side of O’ahu Island.

At the Dole Pineapple Plantation At the Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center. The truth is at first I thought that the this cultural theme park would be like Disneyland or Universal Studio, where we will be experienceing some exciting rides. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I have experienced there – an added appreciation to my heritage as a polynesian myself. I am not as exotic as a Tahitian or a Samoan but I can share with the colorful cultures that this park showcases, being that I am from the Philippine Islands, which is also from the pacific.

At the Polynesian Cultural Center At the Polynesian Cultural Center At the Polynesian Cultural Center

Many South Pacific nations are represented at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where recreated villages, exhibits and hands-on activities highlight eight of them: Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, Hawaii, Marquesas, Tahiti, Tonga and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). At the heart of the PCC experience are the island villages, which offer visitors a unique opportunity to learn about — and participate in — the customs of each island. [Read more.]

Learning about Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa and others reminded me of the different tribes that the Philippines is composed of. Each one has thier own culture and way of living. The similarities between the people from the pacific islands goes beyond skin color, and the differences is fun to learn, appreciate and celebrate.

Charlotte At the Luau, PCC Michael At the Luau, PCC 

We enjoyed strolling around the villages and participating in the activities – getting a tattoo (not permanent), admiring the singing and dancing in colorful costumes, learning about war training skills and authentic crafts of each islands, experiencing authentic Hawaiian luau, watching the canoe pagent – Rainbow of Paradise, admiring the stone exhibits, among others.

At the Polynesian Cultural Center At the Polynesian Cultural Center

I am most impressed by the evening show called Horizons: Where the Sea Meets the Sky. It’s a GREAT show – colorful, energetic, amazing,…magnificent! It’s so packed and the show just took everyone’s attention. It’s just so captivating! My favorite is the Tahitian dancing. It’s awesome! I kept thanking dear hubby for taking us there!

Of course, the events of the day drained Matthew’s energy that he was too tired to watch the show. He slept the entire show. All camera batteries were dead too by the time of the show, but then it was a good thing. We were able to concentrate just on the show.

It is interesting to note that the talented performers and artists involved in the day and night shows are students of the nearby university, Brigham Young University Hawaii. This nonprofit center was created so that these students could work their way through college by sharing their islands’ heritage through crafts and performances in songs and dances.

With its large lagoon, waterfalls, lush tropical flora, and an “erupting” volcano, the Polynesian Cultural Center captures all the romance and excitement of the South Pacific islands. A visit here represents a chance to travel through Polynesia in a single day, and participate in the celebration of centuries of Polynesian culture — no passport required. – Polynesian Cultural Center

Day 2 in Hawaii, Beach Bumming

Beach Bumming. Click to enlarge photo.
Beach Bumming. Click to enlarge photo.
Beach Bumming. Click to enlarge photo.
Beach Bumming
Waikiki Beach Resort
Tom, Matthew and Michael. Click to enlarge photo.
Tom, Matthew and Michael
Matthew with Elmo at Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki. Click to enlarge photo.
Matthew with Elmo
Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki

This is the second in the series of our Days in Hawaii. All photos are taken on June 9, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo. Click here to view more photos

Days in Hawaii:

The day started late. The night before was rough! Having slept the whole day of Day1 meant up and about in the middle of the night! We were wide awake by 1am and we just couldn’t put ourselves back to sleep. We finally doze off by 4am and woke up early lunch time on Day2.

Brunch at the Oceanarium Restaurant, which is right by the hotel at the oceanarium was a delight. We were upclose to the fishes and the stingrays.

As planned, we went beach bumming at Waikiki Beach Resort just across the hotel! It’s Matthew’s first time to salty waters! He wasn’t happy about it! At first he wouldn’t even let his feet touch the sand. Oh, it was so rough! His grip was so tight. He just wouldn’t let us put him down the sand or the waters. And somehow the waves as it rushes through the shores scares him a lot. To say the least, going to the waters just made him cry a lot. At the later part, we showed him how to play with the sand, which he enjoyed so much.

It’s also the day that we were going to meet hubby’s younger brother Tom. It had been 20 years since they last saw each other. Soon after hubby had joined the Army and Tom had gone to college and as they went thru their own lives, their schedule just wouldn’t let them meet until now. For them, it was time for catching up, reminiscing, and getting to know each other again. For me and Matthew, Tom is the first family from hubby’s side we’re so happy to have met. All this over seafood buffet dinner at the Oceanarium Restaurant

Later that night, we strolled along Kalakaua Avenue. Kalakaua Avenue is filled with so many shops, beautiful structures and statues and so many tourists. It was so much fun witnessing so many street performers – from jamaican singing beach songs in hawaiian music and insruments, caricatures and tattoo artists to mimes and mascots.

Day 1 In Hawaii, Jetlag and Waikiki Beach

This is the first of the series of our Days in Hawaii.
All photos are taken on June 8, 2008. Click photo to enlarge the photo. Click here to view more photos.

Days in Hawaii:

Left Tokyo, Japan on June 8, 7pm. After almost 7 hours flight time, we arrived Honolulu on the same date at 7am. After gaining hours in Hawaii, I didn’t think we’d lose the hours by sleeping the day off. But the hotel was shaking when we arrived there. (It felt that way anyway!) Front of PAcific Beach Hotel I was so lightheaded and felt like vomiting, that all we could do after arriving the hotel was lie back and sleep, recover from jetlag!

We stayed in at Pacific Beach Hotel. We stayed at a standard room with 2 beds and a bathroom. We intended to go outdoors and thought that a luxurious room will be too much for storing our luggage and for sleeping.  And a luxurious room may only make us stay indoors. But the standard room is nice, neat and adequately spacious.

Waikiki Beach ResortPacific Beach Hotel is a really nice hotel but it’s undoubtedly old and low rising. Tt prides itself with the massive aquarium which they call the oceanarium. The oceanarium is located at the center of the hotel. A few times we have seen a diver feed the stingrays. It’s so fascinating.

Also, the hotel’s location is oh-so perfect, right across Waikiki Beach Resort and walking distance to Kalakaua Avenue.

Dusk didn’t come until 7pm. While the sun was still so up at late afternoon at 4pm, recharged from a day long nap and in vacation mode, we strolled by the Waikiki Beach Resort. It was really hot hot, but we welcomed the heat. We didn’t plunged to the waters that day. But Matthew can brag that his very first time at a beach in America is in Waikiki Beach, in Hawaii.

Waikiki Beach Resort, HawaiiWaikiki Beach ResortWaikiki Beach Resort

I was a little bit surprised that most of the people in the crowd, in the hotel or by the beach, were Japanese. Of course there are other people there of all sorts of races and nationality, but the presence of the Japanese people were undeniably so prominent. Our first day in Hawaii, in America for that matter, I had to speak a little Japanese a few times. Dear hubby even joked after seeing more Japanese for them to stop following him in America. But because of that, somehow, coming to Hawaii made our transition to America easier.

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