The Designers Chic

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The New Look

As you may have noticed, Exploring America and Beyond went through a blog makeover, courtesy of The Designer's Chic. I was very happy with the design. Ivy, the designer, was very keen to my requests. She also did the layout of my first blog, My Sweet Haven. I'm really thankful that despite her busy schedule, she managed to take time to sit down and discuss with me how would I want my page to look. She's truly artistic and creative. I love the new look. See you around! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back to its rightful owner!

Yes, after 2 months, finally we had our luggage back. I almost lost hope. The waiting and hoping for its return were stressing me out. Nobody from United Airlines called to update us with the status of our misplaced luggage, until Friday of last week. We've filed the necessary forms that would supposedly help for the effective search so we didn't think there's really anything else we can do about it but wait. At some point, I thought we're probably just waiting in vain, but we just couldn't give up the tiniest hope that we could still have it back. Until we were awakened by a call on a Friday morning. It was around 9:00 o'clock, we were still asleep because hubby doesn't work on Fridays.

The call was from a United Airlines Claims Representative, basically informing us that they've found our luggage but it's currently in the hands of a 3rd party baggage contractor. In the event that the contractor won't deliver it to us, UA would be willing to compensate us. I didn't know the whole conversation until hubby hung up the phone and relayed everything to me. I was upset, of course! If they had found it, why can't they make sure it's being delivered to the rightful owner? I mean, isn't it their responsibility to do that regardless if there's a 3rd party contractor involved or not? I just can't seem to shake off the nagging thought that they might not deliver it simply because they don't feel like doing it, anyway the airline would pay for it. Hubby made himself clear to the other person on the line, that the luggage was irreplaceable, we need it back so they should give it back to us. The lady told him she'll do everything to help us get our luggage back. That's it? Great! This could be another months of waiting, I've thought. I got so upset that somehow I was guilty of taking it out on hubby. He didn't do anything wrong but I just wished he had raised his voice a little bit, be assertive and maybe cussed out a little to show his discontent to the airline representative. Yeah, I was playing devil's advocate, lol. But knowing hubby, I know he wouldn't do that. He didn't think it was necessary. Besides the person on the other line was not responsible for the mess. In fact, she could help fix it or if hubby hadn't handled it well, she could screw it up all the more than it had already been screwed. But of course, I didn't come out of this logic on my own, lol. He had to point it out to me. I was too bothered to even care if my thoughts are sensible or not. As always, hubby had talked some sense into me.

Anyway, we got our luggage back. So I guess, all's well that ends well. I'm going to put all the bad things behind. I won't deny that this whole experience had somehow traumatized me. If only there's another way to go to the Philippines than flying, I would gladly try it, hehe.

So here's the luggage that I've been missing for 2 months

Trust me, we took a great deal of effort to pack this nicely back in the Philippines. I was appalled with how messy everything seems to look when I opened it. I had a bad feeling about it.

My fears were true. I was halfway through digging out my stuff when I noticed some bronze colored chips on top of my red shirt.

This poor little jeepney didn't make it through the whole ordeal. It's supposed to be a gift to Phyllis, the only woman in the Information Systems Dept. other than me, who I worked with at Bank of the Ozarks before I went to the Philippines. It's a jeepney-designed pen holder made of plated bronze. Obviously, I can no longer give this to her. I'll remember to get her something else when I go back to the Philippines next time.

This wooden carabao for my DIL didn't survive as well. Look at its poor chipped horn and obvious scratches on its head.

This cute bamboo made wind chime has its share of misfortune. It's from our guest at the wedding. We like this thing that's why we brought it with us. Despite its condition, I still hang it outside the door and as I was typing this, I can hear it chiming against the wind. Cool!

Aaah...Hopia. How I miss this so much! I love hopia so I made sure I brought a box with me, unfortunately, it has reached its expiration date so I had to toss it out.

While some of the contents apparently are damaged, the rest made it home okay. I was just so glad to have my clothes, footwear, canned corned beef, food seasonings, and personal items back. Some of the gifts for friends and previous co-workers appear to be fine, so I'll start sending it out tomorrow.

I wish I know what to tell my friends who would also travel in the future so as not to experience what I've experienced, but to tell you the truth, I don't know if there was really something that could have prevented it from happening. It happens to a lot of people. Airlines incur losses because of thousands of lost, damaged and misplaced luggages a day. Maybe just a piece of advice, don't put anything valuable in your checked in suitcases. Label your luggages. If you won't find your luggage in the claim area, report it right away. Be patient and don't lose hope. Lastly, pray that your luggage wouldn't be part of the random physical baggage inspection done by Transportation Security Administration. Because ours was and we believe that may have caused the mess up. We found a Notice of Baggage Inspection inside that misplaced luggage of ours. The other 3 checked luggages we had didn't have a TSA note inside. We believe they dug through our stuff one by one to look for suspicious and hazardous items. I know it's part of their job and it's a very excellent security measure, but we just hope they'd be more careful and responsible for those inspected luggages. After all, they have owners that consider the contents valuable regardless of the price value.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

For the love of a good picture together!

This is what happens when two people travel together, desperate to get some good photos as a couple but couldn't muster the courage to ask other people to take pictures for them and obviously do not know the significance of a tripod! The results...blooper shots...and a possible accidental strangulation of the hubby, unbeknownst to the wifey while she struggles very hard to get herself to a comfortable position so they could have a sweet and loving pose together.

It was a weekend and we thought of driving to Petit Jean state park to breathe some fresh air and get smitten by the breathtaking view of nature. We wanted to have souvenir pictures of ourselves in that place, but as pointed out earlier, we haven't thought of getting a tripod so we made use of the limited resources we had at that time. We picked a good spot a little farther from the crowd of tourists, then decided to sit on a narrow bench for the actual shot which we thought was great since across from it was a concrete table that served us a perfect place for us to lay our camera on. Once hubby finally figured out how to use the self-timer feature of the camera, we tried to settle in and hope for the best shot. We had 10 seconds to achieve the perfect couple pose but I had so much trouble lifting myself up on that narrow bench, not from lack of trying as you can see in the photos. We're just glad we didn't seriously hurt ourselves in the process. We had fun though. The photos speak for themselves.

After all the hardships, this is the closest to a good one that we could get.

We finally gave up on the idea of me on a bench behind him since obviously my hubby is tall even when he's sitting down and without having to point out the obvious (that I'm short), therefore I can't give him a nice loving hug without choking him. Arrgh! So there you go...

We moved to the end of the bench and settled on this for the final pose. Pretty much better than the previous shots, isn't it? We both looked very relaxed and happy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Anxious and hopeful for its return

While I had so much fun from my last vacation in the Philippines, my trip back to the U.S. on January 21st was a nightmare. It's because one of our 4 checked-in luggages got lost. It has been almost two months since then and still they have not sent us our bag back. We've filed Claim Baggage Report immediately at the airport in Arkansas and Baggage Tracing/Claim Form for the United Airlines. They say the forms would help them trace effectively the lost luggage but how come until now we still haven't gotten it back. It's ridiculous! The last time we saw it was at the Customs in Chicago airport so we assumed it's not going to take this long to trace it but we were dead wrong. I tell you it's so frustrating. More than anything else, most of the contents in that luggage have so much value to us since those are supposed to be "pasalubong" or gifts to our friends and Jeff's family here in the U.S. I guess we can claim compensation for that but that wouldn't bring my new clothes, souvenirs and wedding gifts back. I am really sad and disappointed with United Airlines. The last word we got from them was an email last week saying that they are still effectively tracing for our luggage. I'm hoping that we can still get it back but something tells me that I should not keep my hopes up or I'd just end up disappointed. Customer service in this company really sucks! You can't even get a hold of a real person on the phone. It's really such a stressful predicament. Whatever may be the outcome of this whole search, I would never consider flying with United Airlines again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If Animals Could Talk

Have you ever been to the zoo? I guess most of us (if not all) have visited the zoo at one time or another. Sad to say, the memory of my first zoo experience was quite vague. It was in Cebu Zoo, that part I was sure of, but I couldn't remember what animals I have seen. So, despite my age, I still enjoy a visit to the zoo like any kid would. U.S. has lots of entertaining, numerous variation of animal exhibits and well-maintained zoos in the world. I've been to St. Louis Zoo a couple of years back, it was said to be the 3rd largest zoo in the country. That was amazing! I never thought that I would enjoy it but I did. So on our mini-trip to Memphis last Valentine's Day, a visit to Memphis Zoo and Aquarium was part of our itinerary.

The zoo was very spacious. The habitats are well-designed and well-maintained. They have thousands of animals with over 500 different species. You could easily spend hours checking out the whole place. There's so much to see and appreciate. It was definitely one of the best zoo in the U.S. Every time I see an animal that I only used to see on T.V. or read from books and magazines, I turned into a giddy 7-yr. old kid, lol! Hubby got a kick out of my reactions. I kept on exclaiming "Wow, Oh, Look at that! That thing looks amazing! I wanna go there!" and all sorts of expressions that really showed how excited I was. The whole time, our camera was wrapped around my neck and I was snapping photos here and there. The staff tried their best to mimic the animals' natural habitat but I couldn't help but wonder if the animals somehow felt trapped, claustrophobic and unhappy with their artificial environment. If animals could talk, I wonder what would they say to all the people (me included) who stared, took photos and even tried to get their attention by talking to them as if they care to listen, hehe! I'm pretty sure something is going through their minds, don't you think? Look at the photos and be the judge!

*Scroll down to view more photos*
The Entrance
I just thought the writings were interesting so I took a picture.
First animal?!? Errr..that's me!
Animals native from China are found in this area
Chinese Tower
Tetron Trek
Habitat of young grizzly bears
Pelicans...famous for its distinctively large pouch under their beaks.
Pink Flamingos...they are such pretty creatures
An elephant
This rhinoceros thing looks weird, isn't it?
The face does not make any difference, still weird!
Polar Bear
Panda Bear...that's all he does, chew bamboo sticks.
I find the black and white stripes on Zebras so pretty.

I forgot the exact name but lemme just call this a turtle.
Komodo Dragon
Multi-colored Bird...(OMG, I wish I could remember the names of these animals)
Tiger habitat
Huge Tiger
White Tiger

I haven't seen anything like this before. See the shape of its body?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Birth: Exploring America and Beyond

It took two years before I even consider the idea of making another blog. I've thought that maintaining multiple blogs can be very demanding. I was pretty sure I couldn't keep up with the responsibilities of keeping it updated, making sure I've got followers and doing sponsored posts since I had a full time job back then. But the nagging thought of having a second blog wouldn't go away, especially now that I stay at home full time, lol. Thus, the birth of this travel blog. Why travel? Simple. I love to travel and it happens that my hubby loves to travel with me too. We enjoy exploring new places together. U.S. is my home now and naturally I want to see what's this country has in store for an expat like me. Every little thing is a new experience to me. And I just would like to document everything and create memories that last. I believe this blog will make that happen for me.

I had quite a dilemma with what platform to choose for this blog. For a while, I was so interested with WordPress. While WordPress seems to look more professional and flexible, I realized it does not suit my needs. With the help of some friends, I've come up with the decision to stick with Blogger. At least, there's not much adjustments to do, since I've been using this platform for years. I just need to buy my own domain and a nice customized layout. Last night, Ivy of The Designer's Chic, started designing a new layout for me. It was so nice of her to spend the rest of her afternoon after work, accommodating my requests for this layout to come out perfect for my liking. I know she's a very busy gal, with a full-time job, facebooking, blogging and occasional layout designing to take care of. So I understand if it will take a little bit before she can present to me the final layout, anyway, I'm in no rush. For now, please hang in with me if this blog looks so bare and unpresentable. It will get better I promise! I welcome comments, followers and blogroll linking. Just holler!