Things I’ve Learned on My Alaskan Adventure

  • Alaska (at least Southeast Alaska) is not a giant piece of land completely made of ice, like we were taught in grade school. (You know, Seward’s Icebox?)

  • Not all Native Alaskans are called Eskimos. In fact, the Southeastern Alaskan Natives are the Tlingints.

  • Fish & Chips and Clam chowder at a small lunch kiosk on the dock in Ketchican, Alaska is d*mn good!
  • There’s something inherently beautiful about glaciers and the waters surrounding them. Oh, and it is possible to sail a huge ship through some narrow passages and still be maneuver around glaciers.

  • And by the way, Tracy Arm Fjord is not, in fact, an arm. A fjord is long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.

  • Glaciers have a blue tint to them because that’s the only color that glaciers can’t absorb. And because of that, I think Crayola should come up with a “Glacier Blue” crayon …

  • I now know the five different Salmon species just by looking at my hand.
    • Thumb = Chum Salmon
    • Index Finger = Sockeye … as in “Poke your eye out with your finger”
    • Middle Finger (or tallest finger) = King Salmon, the biggest of the salmons
    • Ring Finger = Silver Salmon
    • Pinky = Pink Salmon.
  • And now you know them, too!

  • I can officially say that I’ve seen a Black Bear with her three cubs and that bears can’t read.

  • We’ve also seen American Eagles and I think I finally understand the metaphor about the strength and beauty of a “Soaring Eagle.”

  • The Filipino-American population in Juneau, Alaska is so big that they have a whole “square” called “Manila Square” dedicated to them.

  • This is probably why the number of Filipinos working on the cruise ships in Alaska greatly outnumbers that of all other nationalities (60% of the staff on our ship alone were Filipino).
  • This includes a Filipino Executive Master Chef and Executive Sous Chef … who were kind enough to create off-menu Filipino dishes. Like pancit. And Topsilog. And Adobo. Yummmm!

  • Skagway is actually spelled Skaguay … but only because the postal office didn’t like the way it was spelled.

  • Skagway was known as the gateway to the Klondike because this was the first stop for most people seeking gold in the Klondike. And from some of the stories I heard (“Soapy” Smith, the thousands of horses killed in stampedes) there were quite a few things people would do for a Klondike Bar … of gold, that is.

  • According to our tour guide, Skagway is a one-horse town. And it apparently likes to hang out in front of the Bonanza Bar & Grill.

  • It’s possible for the U.S. Coast Guard to airlift a critically ill passenger onto their helicopter (on our “Day at Sea”) without officially landing on a cruise ship. It may take more than 30-minutes of practice (and circling the ship) before actually airlifting the person, but it’s doable. (The passenger, thank G*D is now stable in a hospital in Alaska … at least as of Saturday afternoon.)

  • Using the Medical Clinic on the cruise ship (for a pretty big bug bite that caused major swelling and erythema to the surrounding tissue) is much cheaper than seeing your doctor at home; especially for those of us that lack health insurance.
  • There’s not much you can do in Victoria, British Columbia when you only have four hour to spend there between 7:30 and 11:30 pm on a Saturday night.

  • It’s a good thing we didn’t discover the 24-hr Buffet until the last night. Otherwise I would have gained even more weight than I already did …

  • Sometimes all-inclusive vacations (like cruises or other specialty resorts) bring out the worst in people. I think I’ve seen and encountered more rude passengers with an odd sense of “entitlement” on this trip than I’ve had in other vacations past.

    Just because pretty much everything is included on the ship doesn’t mean that you need to take all of the cookies or sweets. Or that you have to be incredibly rude to the crew members who are there to serve you. Don’t think that just because you worked hard for this vacation, you should be waited hand and foot … these staff members are working just as hard for a vacation of their own as well!

  • But overall, we’ve meet some really nice folk … both crew members and passengers alike. If I could, I’d definitely do another cruise to Alaska again. Maybe this time we’d head further north towards Anchorage … and spend a few more days inland, discovering more of this beautiful State instead!

Feelin’ Lucky

The Happy Newlyweds

Hubby & I have spent the past week in Canada. While the main reason was to celebrate his cousin’s wedding in Toronto last Friday, we spent the past week touring Eastern Ontario and Québec. And actually, as I type this … we’re on a three-hour tour bus drive from Kingston back to Toronto, where we first started this bus tour.

The main purpose of doing these tours is because Hubby’s Uncle and Aunt have flown in from the Philippines to attend the wedding. Since they’ve flown halfway around the world, Hubby’s parents as well as the other family members living in North America have decided to have a “mini”-reunion to show Hubby’s Uncle a small chunk of Canada.

And when I say “mini” … I mean that it’s a smaller portion of Hubby’s entire family. During the actual wedding weekend, the total number of family members (including aunts/uncles, cousins, children of cousins, and all significant others) equaled 37. When we went to Niagara Falls on Monday, about 25 of those family members were still around for an overnight stay. And when we started the three-day bus tour on Wednesday, we whittled down to 17. Regardless, it has been an incredible week with the family … something that we haven’t done since January 2008. And unfortunately, that happened to be in Virginia Beach when Hubby’s grandmother passed away.

Only a handful of the "young" cousins with Hubby

In that two-year time period, four new children were added to the family. One was our niece, Kairi and the subsequent three babies were girls born between 2009 and early 2010. In addition, Hubby has much-younger cousins between the ages of thirteen and eight. The other young kids are children from his sister (Tyler) and his first cousins. This puts the total of “young kids” fourteen years old and younger at twelve.

That’s twelve kids being watched over by parents; twelve kids being beckoned by the various parents and their “Tita” or “Tito”** or “Até” or “Kuya.”*** Twelve kids all calling out “Mom” or “Dad” and approximately seven sets of parents responding to that title.

That’s about eleven of Hubby’s Aunts / Uncles / First Cousins out of the 37 family members that have young kids under the age of eighteen.  If my math is right, this also means that about twelve of those 37 family members are either parents of older kids (eighteen or older).

Partial Group shot in Old Quebec

Then there’s Hubby & me; the childless couple. We’re not counted amongst those who have children at any age. We’re only counted as children of Hubby’s parents. And we only get the title of “Tita/Tito” or “Até/Kuya.”

But we’re definitely not called “Mom” or “Pa” (which is what Hubby’s family calls their Dads).

Now, I know what you’re thinking … here goes Emily, once again, complaining about not being a Mother; of not being able to experience what its’ like to be called “Mom” or “Mommy.” And yes, I do admit that it has been bittersweet this past week when seeing all the babies dressed up for the wedding; when seeing all the other Aunts and Uncles and Cousins passing the new additions to the family around the group, oohing and ahhing and fussing over them. (Although, I do fully admit I took part in such activity … )

But you know what? I actually found the silver lining in all the hullabaloo of the “World of Babies/Children.” And that silver lining is this:

Hubby being silly with our nephew & cousin

I was actually ecstatic that I didn’t have to respond to being called “Mom” … especially when it was in regards to the constant questions from the kids older than four years old about what was going on next.  Or why we had to leave now to go to our next destination. And I certainly didn’t mind that I wasn’t responsible with having to deal with attitudes or behaviors that the kids doled out once they got grumpy.

While I dealt with each instance that came my way or happened during our “watch” over them****, I have to say that I finally appreciate the fact that I’m “just the Auntie” or “just Até Emily” to all the kids.

In fact, I can honestly say without a doubt that Hubby and I are lucky. And I don’t mean “lucky” in the sense that, as a Child-Free couple, we don’t have to deal with the day to day issues of being a parent … because, I still wouldn’t trade the opportunity to raise a child for anything else in the world.

Great "candid" photo of the older kids

No, I mean “lucky” in the sense that we get to be the “Cool Auntie and Uncle” to the children. We get to take the kids around to do fun things (while hopefully giving the parents a bit of a reprieve) when we want to and/or are able to. And we get to “play” with them and joke around with them as much as we want.

But most importantly, we also get to be the ones who they can talk openly to;  feel comfortable around to ask some difficult or sensitive questions. And we’re the ones whose words, at this point in their lives, can make some sort of impact on them; put a different perspective in mind for them … even if they’ve been told the same things twenty times over by their parents. And it feels great.

I can honestly say that the time we spent with Hubby’s youngest family members has been wonderful and truly satisfying. And I hope that during the week we’ve spent with them, we’ve been able to contribute to lasting memories and life lessons that they can take back with them to their own homes.


Related Posts

Family Fun in Niagara Falls

The Mr. Apron Strings Family Bubble

Welcoming Kairi to the world

Pregnancy New(s) Edition (PWP)


** Means Aunt or Uncle in Tagalog (the native language of the Philippines)

*** In Tagalog, Até (ah-teh; feminine) or Kuya (koo-yah; masculine) is a title given to show respect to your elder siblings or cousins.

**** And believe me, this week there were lots of times where we voluntarily offered to take responsibility for the kids.

Probably my most fave pic from this trip. We'd go back to Quebec City if we could!

Four Hundred

Wow. Another week has gone by without more than a weekly update. What can I say? It’s been a pretty busy summer.

I admit that I hate taking more than a few days break from writing, because I find that my creative juices start to slow down. Not that I don’t have a lot to say — G*d knows I always got the “Talks Too Much” comment on my grade school report cards — I just find myself struggling to write these thoughts down.

Anyway … what have I been up to?

Well, El Hubs & I were “home” in Detroit early last week. In reality, it’s because we knew we had to travel to Toronto on Thursday for his cousin’s wedding on Friday. And yeah … we coulda done the 9 hr trip in one shot. But why do that when we can break the car ride up in two days? Besides, we figured we’d do some house-cleaning while we were in town for a couple of days.

Thursday afternoon, we pulled into the Greater Toronto Area and swiftly met up with my cousins for some serious catching up. One of these cousins was LJC, whom we haven’t properly spent time with since her wedding in 2008. Her youngest sister was also there and we had the pleasure of finally meeting her Significant Other.

It was an evening full of incredible fun of just sitting and talking … something I sorely miss from the years of spending endless summers with them chatting until late at night.

Friday was obviously Hubby’s cousin’s wedding. And it was an amazing time … perhaps Hot as Hades in mid-July, but so much fun! The best part of the reception … at least in my mind … was getting on the dance floor with all of Hubby’s cousins/significant others and their children (our 14 yo nephew included) to start off the night of dancing with the Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night.”

While the wedding reception was an incredible party, I must say that getting together with Hubby’s entire family (well, most of them anyway) on Saturday was also wonderful. Because even though we spent time together the day before at the wedding, Saturday’s get-together was more laid-back and relaxed. I know Hubby & I had a wonderful time … especially teaching them Canadian cousins how to play the very Michigan card game of Euchre. We think we may have created monsters. LOL!

Hubby overlooking Horseshoe Falls

And today? Well … today Hubby & I found ourselves celebrating HIS birthday in Niagara Falls. I must say, I can’t think of any better way to celebrate Hubby’s birthday than with an entire gaggle of family. Just imagine a group of 25 family members (including an Aunt & Uncle who came from the Philippines for the wedding) doing an entire bus tour of attractions. It was completely chaotic … but I know Hubby has been enjoying himself today.

Even if I did forget to wish him a Happy Birthday until another Aunt had said it to him this morning. Bad bad bad wife!! **

Now, I’m laying here in bed at the hotel, finishing up the last minutes of Hubby’s birthday by writing nothing more than a journal entry for the past week.

Hubby, however, is spending the rest of his birthday night out with the “boys.” And by “boys” I mean two of his cousins, two of his uncles, and his Dad. I’m glad Hubby’s getting a chance to spend time with them … especially since we haven’t had many opportunities to get together with family (from all over the U.S and Canada) over the past few years.

Hubby & Me on Maid of the Mist

So Hubby … before the day’s over, I just want to send an incredibly huge birthday hug and kiss to you. You are my world; my sunshine and rainbow. You are my best friend … and I’m incredibly blessed to have you in my life. I can’t wait to continue our journey in life together.

Oh … and one more thing. Not that this is incredibly exciting news (in the grand scheme of this post anyway). But check out the title of this post.

Yep … that’s the number of blog entries I’ve officially written as of today. Wow!


** In my defense, I must add that I did remember it in the shower this morning. But since we were trying to pack for an overnight stay in Niagara with his family, it slipped my mind by the time I started pack things away! Bad bad wife!!

Born on the 6th of July

I’m coming up on the last minutes of my actual birthday; I turned 37 years old today. And while I’m not exactly thrilled to be another year older, I must admit that this has been a wonderful day. Actually, it’s been a wonderful four days.

297It started out on Friday with the corporate Independence Day holiday; which meant I wasn’t chained to my desk or weighted down by twenty zillion emails on my work-issued crackberry. It was also the only day Hubby and I both knew we’d have all to our own this entire weekend.

So what did we do? Spent it sleeping in until about 9 am, followed shortly after by the presentation of my “early” birthday gift. Then it was off to Evanston and on to the beach, where we spent the afternoon swimming in the cool (but not freezing) Lake Michigan weather and lying on our large two-person beach towel reading. That was followed by a really late lunch (or early dinner) at the local seafood restaurant and a movie at the Evanston theater. Overall, a very relaxing day.

Saturday morning was spent cleaning, in anticipation of my parents arriving by train later in the afternoon. And really, that was probably the most work I did all weekend long. (Except for that relatively last-minute document that work required me to have completed by Friday morning … )

298By 1 pm Saturday afternoon, Hubby and I were on the Chicago River waiting for our Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docent to begin our tour of the significant buildings along the river. It was an excellent tour and it definitely gave us a different view of the Chicago skyline; one we had never seen before. The only downer was that it was a very cold and wet day. Oh well, this just means we’ll have to go again on a brighter and sunnier day. 🙂

My parents “rolled” into town around 5 pm on Saturday evening. And because it was still raining at the time, we headed over to the Water Tower only to find that the indoor shopping center would close at 6 pm. So instead, we took the Lakeshore scenic drive up to Evanston to have dinner at the same seafood restaurant Hubby & I ate at the day before.

299What I didn’t realize at the time was that Hubby was already thinking in “advance.” You see, by the time we made it up to Evanston, the rain and clouds blew over leaving a clear evening sky in its place. Which made it perfect weather for Evanston’s 4th of July fireworks. So after dinner, we walked down to Patriot’s Park along the waterfront and sat front and center for the show. Perfect way to end the day.

Yesterday (Sunday) was spent at the Shedd Aquarium downtown in Chicago’s Museum District. Hubby & I had been there earlier in the year when our nephew Tyler spent his Easter break with us. Unfortunately, the sea-quarium was being remodeled, so we didn’t get to see the dolphins or whales at that time. But yesterday … those beauties were back. And showing off just for my parents; who had never been there.

For my parents, I think the best part was the whole “Wild Reef” exhibit, which is the shark exhibit. Hubby & I had been to the Shedd about 5 years ago when this exhibit first opened; mainly because our nephew has always had a thing for sharks. What we hadn’t expect was:

  1. The sharks to be so d*mn small at the time, and
  2. The whole exhibit to revolve around protecting coral reefs

The whole coral reef aspect was the same thing that both my parents and Hubby & me loved. And that’s because the Philippine Islands played a ginormous role throughout the exhibit. What we had learned is that the Philippine waters house the largest, most diverse fish and coral life in the world. And seeing how prominent the role of the Philippines played everywhere in this display, it was an absolute cool way to learn more about my heritage and where my parents came from!

300And today … “B”-day (as opposed to “D”-day … 😉 ). I wasn’t expecting much of anything other than a (well-deserved) day off from work to spend with my Hubby and parents as we traipse through the town. But it was such a fun day!

We started out in Chinatown where we walked through and picked up a variety of different things … like a back scratcher (can never have enough of them) and a hand-painted fan (for those hot days). Oh, and some delish sweet and sour gummies from an Asian candy store … yum! However, the real reason to go to Chinatown was to have a Dim Sum feast at our favorite Chinese restaurant. And because it was my birthday, I had to have my traditional “Long Life” noodle dish!

While  in a post-food ingestion haze, Hubby drove all of us over to the Sears — oops, I mean Willis — Tower to do the most touristy thing in Chicago. Yep, went all the way up to the observation deck; but not before spending more than an hour in line. But it was definitely worth it … the views of the city were absolutely spectacular!

And then there were the glass balconies. Oh yes; glass. It’s the newest part of the the attraction; four retractable glass balconies that allows a view of the city that’s definitely unique. As in “103-stories-straight-down” unique.

It was a little daunting at first, but once I was on there it wasn’t so bad … as long as I didn’t continue to look down for extended periods of time. From then, it was just a matter of taking silly pictures of us “falling” or “hanging on to dear life.” And of course, since I’m such a “rebel,” I had to do something “dangerous” … well at least what others would perceive as dangerous.

302Oh yeah … I made Hubby take a picture of me jumping on the balcony. Which, if one didn’t know how absolutely reinforced these balconies were by steel, would really freak anyone else that was on the balcony when I jumped. Heh … told you I was a rebel.

My parents took us out to dinner afterwards, at my place of choice. But because my parents had yet to to experience authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. So that’s how we ended up at Pizzeria Due and stuffed beyond belief and in desperate need of something to do walk off all the food we ate.

That’s how my Mom, Hubby and I ended up at the beach 3 blocks from our apartment, walking along the lakeshore. And it was a beautiful evening to do so as well, with the full moon shimmering off the lake.

Afterwards, it was back to the apartment where, after an unexpected phone call from Dr. Bro (who actually remembered to call on my actual birthday — a miracle in itself), Hubby surprised me with a birthday cake.

303And so that was my Birthday weekend. A lot of activity in a small span of time. I’m so grateful my parents were there to celebrate it with me. And I’m so incredibly lucky to have a Hubby that loves me so much.

So now I’m off to do a little more work before heading off to bed. I’m not going into work tomorrow, as we’re taking my parents to the train station late-morning, but this is something with an unfortunate deadline.

And what a blessing it will be to have tomorrow off. Because after a busy four days, this 37-year old body certainly needs the rest.