Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's My Life's Purpose?

Why Am I Here on Earth? This sounds like a million-dollar question for many of us. When I was little, whenever I was asked what I want to become when I grow up, my answer was always to become a teacher...because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people. I really thought that teaching was my calling. And then reality hit me when after college graduation, I landed in a teaching job in a private school in my home province. Teaching was never easy, at least for an idealistic fresh graduate like me back then. Teaching requires tons of patience, buckets of humility and unlimited supply of understanding but at that time, I was only armed with too much idealism and pride which was a total misfit. I have no one to blame but myself! 

EQ vs. IQ.
I would say my students were pretty normal - typically carefree, they were always full of energy, some were incredibly smart and talented while others weren't..some were naturally kind-hearted and many weren't...(hahaha...I know some of my students will be able to read this blog, I apologize:-). Each one was uniquely different and I was not emotionally wired and prepared to handle them. It was just overwhelming. I later realized that there is no amount of knowledge that can compensate my failure to provide the most basic human need of my students which is respect and a genuine love and affection from a teacher. I would think I did fairly well in terms of transferring knowledge but I failed miserably in connecting and relating with them. And to me personally, in the field of teaching, EQ is far more important than IQ.

God has a plan for me.
After 3 years of teaching, I finally muster enough courage to quit and pursue my dream of travelling and exploring the world beyond my home province. And I believe I was able to accomplish that at least in my own terms. I was able to travel in almost all corners of my country and almost a quarter of the world. But I guess there was more for me than just going and wandering aimlessly to many different places. I know God has greater and better plans for me. It came to a point that I began asking God what's next for me? Is this it Lord? I must be missing something God!

Let God be God.
In 2004, I became a Christian. My new-found faith has taught me to first know my creator to know my purpose. Knowing ones purpose can be a very elusive undertaking if you do not have a right foundation. According to Rick Warren, finding ones purpose has puzzled many of us because we typically begin at the wrong starting point—ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.” And I totally agree with him when he said that "Trusting God completely means having faith that He knows what is best for your life. You cannot fulfill God's purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans." Let God be God. “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” 

A New Season of Hope.
I am now entering a new and exciting season in my life and I'm feeling very hopeful because I know my life's purpose which is to serve Him through others. There is no greater joy and fulfillment than knowing that you are doing what you ought to be doing.

My prayer for those who are still trying to figure out their purposes in life,  please know that as a child of God, nothing is impossible with Him, so NEVER ever give up!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Top 5 Places See in Chicago

Chicago has many nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best-known includes the "Windy City", "Second City, "The City that Works" and "The City of Big Shoulders." Frank Sinatra even has a song for Chicago entitled "My Kind of Town" and I should say this is my kind of town too! The city is the 3rd most populous city in the US after New York and Los Angeles and it is one of the most visited places in America. 

Visiting Chicago for the first time can be overwhelming because it has a lot to offer from its amazing skyscraper to its historical landmarks but these are my top 5 places to go when visiting Chicago. 

1. Buckingham Fountain.
Donated to the city by Kate Buckingham, the Buckingham Fountain is Chicago's centerpiece along the Lake Michigan shore, and is a popular destination spot for visitors and locals alike. 

2. Millennium Park.
The Millennium Park is the brainchild of Mayor Richard M. Daley, originally started in 1997 with the goal to have the park ready to celebrate the new millennium in the year 2000. It has a price tag of $500 million. Many Chicago residents have various reactions as to the cost and the infamous delays of the construction but the end result of this ambitious project is so spectacular that they have forgotten the missteps it took to get it completed. Millennium Park is now one of the highlights of the city and one of the best free attractions. The park houses the following famous attractions:

*Cloud Gate - my personal favorite - this is referred to by locals as "The Bean", for obvious reasons -- is a public sculpture by talented British artist Anish Kapoor. Cloud Gate weighs in at over 110-tons, and is 66 feet long and 33 feet high. "The Bean" was created using a huge number of individual stainless steel plates -- Cloud Gate's seamless surface is the result of thousands of hours of polishing.  Cloud Gate is quickly becoming one of the more popular photo opportunities in the city.

*The Jay Pritzker Pavilion - It rises 120 feet into the air, and evokes ribbons flowing in the wind -- not an easy feat for a metal structure. The 11,000 person seating area (4,000 seats in front of the stage, and room for 7,000 on the Great Lawn) is covered with criss-crossing pipes that support the Pavilion's high-end sound system. 

*The Crown Fountain - was designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, is an extremely unique tribute to the people of Chicago. The artist was inspired by historic fountains that have gargoyles with water spouting out of their open mouths.

*Lurie Garden - The 2.5 acre garden was a surprising tranquil spot, due in large part to the 15-foot-high hedge that encloses it on two sides. The hedge protects the perennial garden from pedestrians, and is meant to symbolize Carl Sandburg's description of Chicago as the "City of Big Shoulders".

3. Navy Pier - Originally a shipping and recreational facility, Navy Pier has a rich history and has evolved into one of the most popular spot for people visiting Chicago. 

Navy Pier is separated into these areas:

Gateway Park
This 19-acre park enhances the city's lake front, and is a fun entrance to the pier, with its water fountain with computerized jet streams.

Family Pavilion
One of the main areas of Navy Pier, the Family Pavilion is home to the 50,000-square-foot Chicago Children's Museum, an IMAX Theater, the Crystal Gardens indoor botanical park, and numerous restaurants and shops.

South Arcade
The South Arcade holds more shops and restaurants as well as Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the 3-D ride Transporter FX, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater which, as the name implies, is a permanent home for Shakespeare in Chicago.

Navy Pier Park
This popular spot in warmer months features the famous 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a high-flying swing ride and a miniature golf course. The Skyline Stage is also in Navy Pier Park, featuring top music performances from May to September.

Festival Hall
Festival Hall is the area of Navy Pier dedicated to trade shows and exhibitions. Festival Hall has over 170,000 square feet of exhibit space, 36 meeting rooms, up to 60 foot ceilings, and a full range of telecommunications and electrical needs. Festival Hall is also home to the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, a display of 150 beautiful and historic stained glass.

4.  Wrigley Field
Games at Wrigley Field consistently sell out -- and if you're familiar with the Chicago Cubs record you know it isn't because of the quality baseball being played there. More likely they come to soak in the history of the United States second oldest ballpark and enjoy the party atmosphere of the crowd, especially in the bleacher seats. 

5. Lincoln Park Zoo
Even if you are not an animal lover, you would still enjoy and appreciate the amazing and exotic animals that resides in this zoo. It's nestled among lagoons and mature trees, the Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most beautiful in the country, featuring historical architecture and world-class wildlife exhibits. It's easy to spend an entire day at this tranquil, intimate zoo and forget that the bustling city of Chicago is right beyond the zoo boundaries. Open 365 days a year with free admission to all, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a premier Chicago attraction.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Key West, FL - The Southernmost Point of Continental USA

I didn't hear much about Florida Keys as a tourist destination, in fact, I only knew about this tiny place when it was featured as the finish line of The Amazing Race Episode 18, specifically the historic Seven-Mile Bridge. So when my friends invited me to join them to spend a few days in Key West, I took the opportunity to explore and learn more on what this place has to offer. The Florida Keys extend from the southern edge of Florida, southwest into the Gulf of Mexico. At land's end stands the island of Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States of America. It's only 90 miles to Cuba.

The inhabitants of this Florida enclave are an eclectic group made up of artists, entrepreneurs, retirees, writers and those who consider themselves to be living an 'alternative' or 'eccentric' lifestyle. Today there are about 25,000 people living in Key West. That is a lot of residents for such a tiny island, but Key West has so much to offer such as a laid back atmosphere, great fishing and diving, great weather most of the year, and beautiful scenery and sunsets. So it is no wonder that so many people call Key West home. Even some celebrities have called this little piece of Paradise home, at least for awhile.

Here is a list of some of the notable Key West residents, past and present.
  • Ernest Hemingway - a Nobel Prize winner for Literature and is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like A Farewell to Armsand and The Old Man and the Sea.
  • Tennessee Williams - was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose works include, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
  • Kelly McGillis - an American Award winning actress.
  • Jimmy Buffet - is an American singer–songwriter, author, actor, and businessman. He is best known for his music, which often portrays an "island escapism" lifestyle, and the often humorous things he has experienced throughout his life.
  • Calvin Klein - a world renown fashion designer. 

The local atmosphere is decidedly laid back as the biggest commitment on the island seems to be the almost subconscious daily gathering of people to watch the gorgeous sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Key West vacations are typically lazy, sunny days on the beach, and nights on the town that often last till dawn. The island is loaded with flashy clubs, shops and restaurants, and prices here can be a bit on the high side. 

Some of the most popular island activities include eating a slice (or two) of 'Key Lime Pie,' strolling on the busy Duval Street, dolphin encounters and whale watching, marlin and sailfish charters, parasailing, jet skiing, windsurfing, and scuba diving in some of the best coral reefs in all of the Caribbean islands.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Some Fun Facts About the Iconic Empire State Building

I've read that in 2011, Cornell researchers analyzed millions
of Flickr photos and concluded that the Empire State Building
is the most photographed building in the world.

15 Fun Facts about this Iconic Building.

1. The Empire State Building is a skyscraper in Manhattan,
New York City, USA.

2. The building has 103 floors and at roof height is 1250 ft
(381 m) tall. The height when including the antenna spire
is 1454 ft (443.2 m).

3. The Empire State Building was designed by William Lamb
of the architect firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates.
The contracting construction firm was Starrett Brothers
and Eken.

4. Around 3,400 workers were involved in the construction
of the Empire State Building, with official records showing
five workers died.

5. It took just 410 days for the Empire State Building to be

constructed, quicker than anticipated.

6. The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931
when President Herbert Hoover turned the lights on with
a push of a button from Washington, D.C.

7. For 41 years between 1931 and 1972 the Empire State
Building was the tallest building in the world.

8. There are 6,514 windows in the Empire State Building.

9. From street level to the 103rd floor there are 1,872 steps.
A race up the stairs to the 86th floor is held annually,
the athletes must climb a total of 1,576 steps.

10. There are 73 elevators in the building, including 6 freight

11. Because so many businesses are housed in the building
the Empire State has its own zip code, 10118.

12. The building itself cost $24,718,000 to build, when the
cost of the land is included this figure climbs to $40,948,900.
This cost was less than half of the total anticipated cost
due to the Great Depression.

13. The Empire State Building has a lightning rod near the top
which is struck by lightning around 23 times every year.

14. There are observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors.
These tourist attractions are visited by around 4 million
people annually.

15. The Empire State Building became the tallest building in
New York City again after the collapse of the World Trade
Center in 2001. In April 2012 the new One World Trade
Center surpassed the Empire State Building in height.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Central Park - A Park Like No Other!

There are so many things one can do in New York City but one my favorite is to wander around and get lost in Central Park. You don't need to spend a dime for entrance fees like other tourist spots in the city but you get to see a lot of interesting sights and characters! Central Park is one of those places that make New York City such a great place to live. The huge park, 341 hectare large (843 acres), is located in the center of Manhattan. Its design has served as an example for city parks around the world. 

The park boasts several lakes, theaters, ice rinks, fountains, tennis courts, baseball fields, many playgrounds, zoo and other facilities. And when you go hungry, there are many food stalls and kiosks within the park that sell all kinds of street foods from humongous pretzels to sandwiches, burgers, even my favorite waffles with fresh strawberries. There are also restaurants within the park that you can go to if you have the budget and ready to splurge.

Arguably one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park is a man made wonder. Not only is it the first public park built in America, but it is also one of the most frequently visited, with over 25 million guests per year. 

Set in the middle of bustling Manhattan, its grounds serve as a safe haven, not only for athletes, daydreamers, musicians, and strollers, but also for teems of migratory birds each year.  One can spend an entire peaceful day roaming its grounds, gazing upon nearly 50 fountains, monuments, and sculptures or admiring its 36 bridges and arches.

The foliage during Autumn in the park is amazing to watch out for and the flowers that bloom during Spring is mesmerizing. Ice Skating at Wollman Rink during winter is also fantastic. But no matter what the season is, Central Park is a great place to go around. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Empire State of Mind

The lines of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys 2009 Grammy nominated hit song "Empire State of Mind" best capsulizes what New York City is truly all about.

"Concrete jungle where dreams are made of 
There's nothing you can't do 
Now you're in New York! 
These streets will make you feel brand new 
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!

On the avenue, there ain't never a curfew, ladies work so hard 
Such a melting pot, on the corner selling rock, preachers pray to God 
Hail a gypsy cab, takes me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge 
Some will sleep tonight with a hunger for more than an empty fridge."

The tip of the Empire State Building

The first time I set foot in New York City was on December 2010 and it was a dream come true for me! I thought I would only see New York City in the movies. So when I landed at the airport, I was overwhelmed with so much joy and excitement! 

Flags Rockefeller Center 

"I love New York" was the visible signage that warmly welcomed me upon my arrival at JFK airport. Soon enough, in just a few days of exploring around the streets of New York, the more i fell in love with the city. It's just so vibrant and has a very unique character. And those could possibly be the very reason why it attracts approximately 55 million visitors per year. 

New York is the most populous city in the United States and a global power city. New York exerts a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment. The home of the United Nations Headquarters, New York is an important center for international diplomacy and has been described as the cultural and financial capital of the world.

On one of the world's largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a county of New York State. The five boroughs includes the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island—These boroughs have a combined population of 8.5 million distributed over a land area of just 305 square miles. New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

I will be featuring a series of blogs about the famous tourist spots in New York! You watch out for it:-)

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Grand Canyon - One of the 7 Wonders of the World

A Natural World Wonder.

Famously known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world and named a UNESCO World Heritage, the Grand Canyon deserves such accolades. It's one of the most amazing sceneries I've seen in my life. It was like "heaven meets earth" experience. No wonder why this place attracts nearly 5 million visitors annually.

What a jaw-dropping view!

Snow in Arizona Believe It or Not!

It was mid-January when my friend and I decided to take a 13-hour van ride from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon right after our company training in Tempe.  Contrary to popular beliefs, Arizona known to enjoy a sunny weather all year round but believe it or not, it does snow in Arizona, in the mountainous area though:-)  The snow perfectly compliments the seemingly endless layers of red rocks which was picture perfect! The Grand Canyon has 2 rims mostly frequented by tourists. The South Rim is open all year round and has wide arrays of guided tour services and accommodations while the North Rim's season is relatively short.  It is only open from mid-May through mid-October due to heavy snowfall during the winter months. 

The path to heaven.

Brief History.

The Grand Canyon is estimated to be five to six million years old, and the three "Granite Gorges" found here contain crystalline rocks created during the Proterozoic Era. The rare existence of layered rock gives scientists a look into the area's history, dating back two million years. In 1858, scientists began to study the canyon to determine the nature and progression of geologic processes in the area.

Archaeologists have uncovered artifacts dating as far back as the Paleo-Indian period, 12,000 years ago. An intensive survey of only three percent of the park has resulted in the discovery of around 4,800 archeological resources.  Awesome stuff  huh! Thanks to Wikipedia.

And Wait! I Want More.

I have nothing much to say here, the pictures speak for itself - words won't be enough to describe the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. I wish I could come back again and explore a little more. I would love to go on a white water rafting along the Colorado River, kayak in the beautiful Lake Powell, catch the sunset at the famous Horseshoe Bend and take more pictures of course! Anyone interested? Let's go!