November 2. I’m glad it’s a holiday here in the Philippines so I have time to reflect on my recent trips to Mexico and the U.S. I’m fond of Top-3 or Top-5 lists, so here are the three best things that happened to me during this recent trip abroad.
3. Fun and adventure
In Mexico, my greatest adventure was climbing up the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun, said to be the third largest pyramid in the world. I chickened out at first due to acrophobia. Looking at the steps in front of me, which were uneven in height and width, and then looking up at the seemingly countless steps to get to the summit, I simply froze after climbing up half a dozen or so steps, and had to go back down, shaking. But my tour mates, Joe and Gary from the U.S. (whom I instantly connected with because of their hippie history), encouraged me to try again, and so I did. I thought of wearing my cap, so that I couldn’t see the top and could concentrate instead on each step. And that’s how I made it to the peak of the pyramid… one step at a time! (Joe’s calling my name out loud while I was resting midway up the pyramid was also a big confidence booster.)
In New York, I had the most fun at (1) the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which for me ties with the British Museum + National Gallery as the second best museum in the world (the best for me would be the Louvre), and (2) watching Broadway musicals. Unlike my first visit to the Met more than a decade ago, I took several pictures this time, some of which I immediately posted on FB. I spent close to seven hours in it, and the only time I really sat down to more fully enjoy specific works of art was when I was in the Monet galleries. I love Monet’s impressionism, as well as Seurat’s neo-impressionism called pointillism, as evidenced by the pointillist painting that greets me each time I enter my condo (a photo of which is in this blog’s About page).
Thanks to my long-time buddies Alex and Carlo, I was able to watch three Broadway musicals on this visit to NYC: Phantom of the Opera, which is the longest running musical of all time, celebrating its 25th year; Wicked, which is celebrating its 10th year; and Kinky Boots, 2013’s Best Musical. Of the three I liked POTO best, and I’ll write a separate blog explaining why.
Carlo also took me to Washington, DC one weekend. While I enjoyed looking at the major monuments (especially the Lincoln Memorial) and other buildings, I had the most fun at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I especially loved being with the fossil marine mammals (early whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins). Of course I was awe-struck at the fossil dinosaurs, especially the 70-foot Diplodocus!
2. Friends and Family
The second best thing that happened to me during my trip involved friends and family. I not only met new friends in Mexico and in the U.S., but also renewed relationships with old friends.
Among my new friends are:
and Alex (educational technologist at ULSA, Mexico), Mario (Concierge head at Hotel Sevilla Palace, Mexico), Joe, Gary, and Udo (my Teotihuacan tour mates), and Tom (a Met fan who studied Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, UK).
It was also great to meet again some old friends, including:
and, last but not the least:
I also knew that my pastor, family, and friends were praying for me back home, and so they were also with me in their prayers, and I look forward to meeting them again soon.
Finally, the most important thing that happened to me on trip was experiencing God’s kindness.
Five days before I left for Mexico I was diagnosed with asthmatic bronchitis (aka bronchial asthma) and had to take antibiotics. I even felt my throat becoming sore a couple of days before the flight, and had to call my doctor. But by God’s grace, and with the help of prayers of family and friends, I felt miraculously strong throughout the trip, despite the lack of sleep due to the many things to do and see. 🙂
By God’s grace, I was also able to meet with professors from NYU and Columbia who have been working for some time now in the field of games for learning (which I have recently come to believe to have great potential locally) and who are among the co-PIs of the Games for Learning Institute, a collaboration of 7 universities originally funded by Microsoft Research.
By God’s grace, and through my friend Nestor Castro Arauz, I was also able to meet with the rector, vice-rector, deans of the engineering and business faculties, and director and staff of the distance education office of ULSA Mexico, and realized the many ways through which ULSA and DLSU could collaborate.
I also met Lasallian professors who have expressed interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), one of my initiatives as AVCAA of DLSU. At the IALU Forum in Mexico, I gave a presentation on SoTL and argued that SoTL was really quite Lasallian. Roger Peckover (St. Mary’s University, Minnesota) and I eventually thought that SoTL might need to be Lasallian (i.e., done in close collaboration with a community of SoTL practitioners worldwide) to be truly successful.
Aside from experiencing the presence of God in and through everything I have mentioned above, I was also enabled to spend time with God in worship services (I was able to attend 5 in 15 days!), and in silent conversation when I’m alone, including special quiet time at St. Malachy’s (also known as the Actors’ Chapel) on Broadway. That chapel is an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Broadway, and I will never forget it.
What a truly wonderful time with God, with friends, and with beautiful and enduring creations!