Step into a Fairytale: Exploring Heidelberg with the Family

Once upon a time, in a valley surrounded by towering hills, there was a magical town with a magical castle perched overhead.

We lived in Germany as a young American expat couple and have since traveled back numerous times to visit our favorite city of Heidelberg. Yet, I still felt a thrill this past summer when our family drove across the bridge toward Bizmarckplatz, the main transport square, into the heart of this medieval city, which was largely spared in WWII. Perhaps it’s the magical castle on the hill which makes it so treasured, or the peaceful Neckar River flowing past the city through the valley, or its bustling pedestrian zone. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Heidelberg is home to Germany’s oldest university, contributing to its charming aura with students and professors walking about. Truly, the combined total of Heidelberg’s individual features are what make her special today as when the song, “I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg” was written in the 1920s.

Read in full on Houston Family Magazine.

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Caribbean Getaway

Meet the Scotts, a Houston family who visits Turks & Caicos year after year

When Amy and Matt Scott were married in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) in 2011, they were already hooked and knew it was the perfect place for their wedding. Since then, they’ve added daughters Henley, now 5 and Sadie, 4 to their family, but that hasn’t slowed them down. They’ve continued going back to Turks and Caicos, their hands-down favorite beach holiday. Though the Houston family has visited many other famous Caribbean destinations, Matt told me, “We’ve never found anywhere better than Turks & Caicos.”

I met the Scott family on board the Sun Charter’s Sail and Snorkel Tour after everyone had returned to the boat from exploring the breathtaking Pelican Reef, part of the world’s 3rd largest Barrier Reef. It was impossible to miss the vivacious Scott girls, who had briefly snorkeled and were now wrapped in towels, chilling in the sun. With Captain Matt at the helm, our 70-foot gaff-rigged schooner was an easy ride, with staff passing around a pitcher of rum punch. We sailed along Caicos Cay until anchoring to do some first-rate beachcombing for sand-dollars at Ft. George Cay. While the girls made sand-castles, Matt accepted the task of finding sand-dollars for his daughters and returned with about a dozen, causing the girls to erupt with oohs and aahs. 

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.

Family Travel Helped Our Kids Make Their Own Memories, Not Simply Step Into Ours

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“We lived in Germany as a young expat couple and a decade later traveled back to show our daughter and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts. I thought it promised to be a sweet walk down memory-lane, where our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago.

Instead, they insisted on pulling us in new directions, almost as if they, first-timers in Germany, were the tour-guides. A huge dancing mess of little prints resulted, sprinkled wildly around our larger ones. I should have known the kids would insist on making their own footprints, creating original memories driven by them.

They transformed our time in Germany into a nonstop quest to conquer towers.

Any signage with Schloss (castle), Feste (stronghold), or Burg (fortress) sent our car careening in that direction as if driven by the giggling youth in the backseat. Without exception, we would climb to the upmost height of the ruin, up the cramped, damp, spiral stairs to the lookout tower.

These ruins–unlike American historic sites—lacked the warning signs, the guardrails, the attendants and the guides. There were no disclaimers posted, no emergency phones available if help were needed, no brochure map to navigate the castle ruin’s maze. Kids sprinting from dungeon to teetering tower were solely under the protection of their parents.”

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine

Filipinos Finding Each Other In Washington, DC

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I published a personal essay about my childhood in the Philippines in Story|Houston a few years ago. But recently after moving to Washington, DC, I found myself frequently walking past the well-positioned Embassy of the Philippines. It got me thinking about the Filipino-Americans living around me. Although I grew up in the Philippines, I later lived the expat life with my husband (and eventually, kids) in Germany, Dubai and London. Did Filipino-Americans in Washington, DC feel lonely like I sometimes felt as an expat? Did they long to be with others who ‘get it’? Maybe they’d been away from the Philippines so long, immersed in American culture, that they felt detached from their homeland and longed to refresh their understanding of Filipino customs and culture. If so, how did they find each other to reconnect and enjoy mutual refreshment?

The point is, it takes a long time to carve out a place in another country enough to call it home. When you are with others to learn from, to commiserate with, to exchange stories and experiences with, it’s going to be a little bit easier. Gathering with others who share the same ethnic background could set things right.

This article I wrote for Taste.Company shows where this line of thinking took me. Special thanks to Editor Jenny Dorsey and Executive Director Jason Tengco of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). Read in full here.

My Italian Holiday Taught Me to Drink Aglianico and Celebrate the Everyday

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“Our leathered, weather-beaten landlord left fresh figs, tomatoes and lemons when he stopped by. He couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak Italian so we talked with our hands and figured things out. When we were walking to the beach one afternoon, we saw him zipping down the street—shirtless—in shorts and flip-flops on his Vespa. This was his life. He looked over the Mediterranean every day, from whatever point of town he happened to be in, his full head of hair flying in the wind. This old Italian man, with his figs, tomatoes and lemons and view was a rich man in many ways.”

Read in full on Paste Magazine.

Through the Sand: A Driving Lesson From Dubai

Image 7-10-17 at 3.54 PMRead in full at The Manifest-Station. “I posed a million-dirham ($272,260.72 into today’s US dollar) question: “Do the children of Dubai play in sandboxes?” Our family, newly transplanted from the Washington, DC area where sandboxes had provided our children with hours of fun in earlier years, mulled over this question the summer we moved temporarily to the desert metropolis of Dubai. Even with all of Dubai’s development, if one catapulted high enough above the impressive skyline, Dubai seemed not too unlike one massive sandbox with ribbons of various roads lying thickly near the coast and rapidly thinning out in numbers the further away from the sandbox’s edge of the Arabian Sea, until only interminable sand remained.

The subject of driving, however, quickly claimed our attention as it rapidly morphed to the level of top priority. This critical arena of living required quick-study because learning this new turf involved navigating Dubai’s roads, roads which often betrayed the foundation they were laid upon: sand.

Continue reading “Through the Sand: A Driving Lesson From Dubai”

Our Nomadic Lifestyle Was the Best Gift We Ever Gave Our Kids

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My husband and I were living in Germany when I became pregnant for the first time. I had no idea back then how our daughter’s birth overseas would be the beginning of a family narrative that would shape my children’s lives so distinctly.

I received my doctor’s hearty approval—Kein Problem! — to vacation in Tuscany two months before my due-date. With great expectations, we joined our old German friends, transported to Florence in their sleek black Mercedes. Perhaps my doctor would have felt regret a few days later had he witnessed my husband and me standing in the wrong queue at the spectacular Il Duomo. We believed we were in line to see the cathedral, not climb to the top of the dome.

So it was, at 7-months pregnant I found myself climbing the notoriously winding, narrow stairwell of the Il Duomo. Four-hundred sixty-three steps with baby inside. It was claustrophobic. The air was stale. The thickness of other sweaty human beings clambering to the top pressed unforgivingly into my personal space: my rounded belly. Back on solid earth, I thought of what would have happened had I gone into labor then and there, in that tight, dank, ancient stairwell. I’d taken a risk, but since everything had turned out well, I was overjoyed to have that glorious view over Florence forever printed in my mind.

The mysterious relationship between pregnant woman and her unborn child is elusive. I was going on with my unorthodox life, carting my little unborn daughter along, unmindful of injecting a spirit of adventure in her.

We grew to be a family of four and lived for a short time in Dubai. Arabic music delighted us and we acclimated to the call of worship punctuating the air throughout the day.

Read the full story on SheKnows.

Our Kids Wanted To Make Memories Of Their Own, Not Step Into Ours

It’s really fun to remember this trip, taken so many years ago during the early days of family adventure. Germany will always have a special place in my heart. Glad to join Today Parenting Team’s discussion on travel & kids.

“We lived in Germany as a young expat couple and gave birth to our first child a mere ten days before returning to the US. Ten years passed before we could travel back to introduce our daughter to her birthplace, and show her and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts. I thought it promised to be a sweet walk down memory-lane.

I hoped our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago. Instead, they insisted on pulling us in new directions, almost as if they, first-timers in Germany, were the tour-guides. A huge dancing mess of little prints resulted, sprinkled wildly around our larger ones. I should have known the kids would insist on making their own footprints, creating original memories driven by them.”

Read in full here.

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