US 2011: Viva Las Vegas!

4th Destination Sept 29 * Day 10 We had a two-hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia. This state was actually the one I wanted to visit a lo...

4th Destination

Sept 29 * Day 10

We had a two-hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia. This state was actually the one I wanted to visit a long time ago. From the view up in the plane, it was beautiful because there were more trees, greener pastures, and houses. 

At Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, we just sat down for three hours. I used the free wi-fi and charged our phones. I logged into my Facebook account, trying to get updated with my friends' lives. I was entertained somehow. I missed the people back. Here, all I could do was people-watch, like looking at this two kids here:

I actually had an independent ride this time because my seat was far from my Mom's. Our seats were both situated beside the window though so we had a great view. She was even texting me and teasing me about my independent state. Seating away from Mom was actually better for me because I got to talk to God. I was staring at the dark cloudy window beside me for awhile. I was gasping for breathe, then I was actually crying and fighting back the tears. I kept whispering to God that I’m so thankful for this trip.. to be alive in order to experience this. It has been a great dream of mine and now it was slowly happening in front of my eyes. I may be mad for taking a leave from my job and jumping into a plane for an unsure plan with an additional vacation aside. But this trip was not really about having fun. I am learning in this journey and I am experiencing bits of life-changing opportunities that might be open for me. I am falling in love with God over and over. This is not just about me for this is all for Him. *happy tears*

I spent the rest of my time in the plane watching “Something Borrowed” which was pretty cute chick flick about best friends who were in love with the same guy. It was a bit painful situation to be in but there were funny times wherein I laugh most of the time with my seatmate. She was seating with her husband and she calls me “honey.” She was actually attending to me when the stewardess came to ask for our food. She was like a Mom though we didn’t get to talk much because I shied away from her husband. They looked like a lovely country-side couple. 

To tell you the truth, I did not like the service of Delta Airlines. Although they say it is a good airline, it was actually the worst airline I have experienced so far due to the lack of individual televisions, footrest, food, size of plane (it was so big for us all!), and even the preparation for boarding and arriving. There was a time that the lights went out and a bad smell filled the air. It was totally awful. All of us at the back were thinking the same thing: This is bad. Our flight was even delayed for an hour.

We arrived at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport around 7PM. While I was waiting for my seatmates to stand and get their luggages from the upper compartments, I saw this guy slightly smiling at me for no reason at all. I just looked at him and smiled and thought that maybe he was smiling because the people in the plane were taking a long time to move. He was a European with grayish blue eyes, a little taller than me, skinny and he was wearing a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts, and rubber shoes. Not exactly my type though he was good-looking. So I slightly smiled back at him. I thought that maybe this guy just wanted to smile at everyone. My thoughts about him turned out to be quite different. When I was making my way to the escalator, I noticed that he was following  me closely. I just stepped in the escalator and he stood behind me. When I turned to look at my Mom who was also standing beside me on another escalator, he suddenly talked to me. He said, “Hey! You are in my flight right?” I nodded and said yes. Then he replied, “I noticed you. You were very beautiful.” I said, “Thank you” and turned away. It was embarrassing! HAHAHA. My thoughts swirled inside my head: "He looked the same age as mine or a little older. He may be American, maybe German.. judging from his accent. I'm really not sure." Another surprise happened in another escalator. I tried my best to stay away from him but we ended up riding on the same escalator again. This time, he was sandwiched between me and my Mom. He suddenly turned to me, nudged my arm (because I was already looking away) to say, “Oh, there you are again!” and smiled. I was totally weirded out already so I just said, “Oh, yeah” with a smile to be polite. As the escalator reached its end, we parted ways. I did not look back. Thank God!

Tita Minchi was actually there from past 6PM. She was waiting for a long time! Mom sent the wrong arrival time to her. HAHAHA. I already told her to double check but she ignored me so now this was really her fault. Hehehe. We stayed at Tita Minchi’s beautiful house. It was located in a quiet neighborhood. I couldn’t imagine that she has lived there all alone for 12 years.

I had a good dinner tonight with Mom and Tita Minchi. We couldn’t stop talking about our trip and eating sinigang na baboy. Nakakamiss lutong Pinoy! I just washed dishes and then proceeded upstairs to rest. This was relaxing.

Good night and be well!

Sept 30 * Day 11

Good morning tea!
This morning, Mom and I woke up late. Tita Minchi already went to the hospital to work and she left us with her house for the rest of the day. It was a perfect time for us to rest and do our own things. I had my own breakfast while Mom was still sleeping. Then I just updated my Facebook, tweeted, and checked some emails for the rest of the morning.

Mom and I both prepared our lunch. Because we loved the sinigang na baboy last night, we just heated it and made grapefruit and strawberry shakes. It was delicious! I just needed to add a little sugar to lessen the bitterness of the grapefruit.

Mom washed dishes this time and I resumed to my Yukido. Because my Vice Verses Deluxe and Vice Verses prize were in LA, I couldn’t listen to it. So I opened Youtube instead and listened to the songs right there. I already listened to the whole album a week before we left Manila due to the ESPN promotion. But I didn’t get to put it inside my Ipod. Switchfoot asked their fans in Twitter about the Top3 Vice Verses tunes and I replied, “Where I Belong, Rise Above It, and Souvenirs.” Then maybe the next batch would be “Selling The News, Thrive, and Restless.” But Restless has been going on in my mind for days. I just love the lyrics and melody of the song which wholly portrays my hunger for life and God as of the moment. I even made a shirt out of it back home for the concert.

This afternoon became a great time for me to reflect on a lot of things. I spent some time dipping in the pool. I wore my swimming gear but I couldn’t dip my whole body due to the water temperature. Soooooooooooo cold! So I just sat down on the Jacuzzi area and my mind wandered into space. I kept asking myself if I want a home like this one. I think I would never let an opportunity like this pass by if it becomes available to me in the future. But of course, it still depends on the priorities I will have and I will only invest on things that are in my league. After an hour, the wind got colder so I entered the house to change my clothes. I spent the rest of the afternoon typing and retyping these blogs.

I really wanted to thank myself for being able to jot down my travels in this blog. Many people wouldn’t take their time to do this. I guess I really enjoy writing during my free time. This is a good way for me to jot down the happenings during my trips which I can easily forget if I don't write them down. I value details a lot.

My favorite soup
 Tita Menchie treated us in Makino, a Japanese eat-all-you-can restaurant. The foods were delicious!

But let me tell you a secret, eat-all-you-can were not always my favourite restaurants because I couldn’t make the most out of it. My stomach's so small. ((:

Next, we went to Tivoli to meet my second-cousin Jerevi, his husband Howard, and their children. They were very nice to talk to and their children were very cute though one was really makulit. Hehehe. We planned to meet up again on Monday night.

Tita Menchie brought us to Redrock which happened to be a casino and a hotel. We didn’t play but admired the view in the veranda. Tita Menchie had a stomach problem so we had to support her all the way home. I think the talaba and oyster that she ate in Makino brought her to serious trouble. Good thing I didn’t eat that. I disliked eating the oysters. The feeling in the mouth was just disgusting--fresh or not.

When we got home, I went to sleep while Mom attended to Tita Menchie’ s needs. I think they stayed up until 2 AM. That was what friends were for..

October 1 * Day 12

Tita Menchie, Mom and I prepared breakfast together. Tita Menchie was feeling better this time. We ate corned beef, fried rice, eggs, fruit shakes, and fruits. It was a really good meal with good company.

We prepared ourselves until Tita Eni, my ninang arrived to pick us all up. We were going camping! Hahahaha kiddin'. Tita Eni was really funny for she made a lot of jokes. Tita Menchie brought one box of chips so were in the mood to go nature tripping all of a sudden. Yay!

When we were in the highway, Tita Menchie suddenly burst out that her ironing machine “could be” left on. Oh no! We had to go back because we might see a burning house or neighbourhood when we get back later. So we all drove back to her house to check. Because it was nearly lunch time, we decided to pack our bags and food, transfer to Tita Eni’s house wherein we will stay until we fly to LA, and then eat lunch as well. 

Tita Eni's house was also beautiful, styled a little different from Tita Menchie’s. We had a delicious home-made lunch in Tita Eni’s house: sinigang of Tita Menchie and adobo of Tita Eni. They talked about a very taboo topic on the table. I was kind of embarrassed to be hearing all of those things. But it was grown-up stuff and I think I'm old enough already. LOL.

After our meal, we set off to the freeway and entered the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Our first stop was the farthest place: The Hoover Dam. 

The Hoover Dam is a towering symbol of what human genius can achieve. It has a 45-foot-thick crest and 660-foot-thick base which helps hold back the waters of Lake Mead. A wondrous sight. A creation perfectly created by man.

We could have made a full circle trip of the whole place but it was too HOT. I was ready with a eyeglasses and sunblock lotion but I could have brought an umbrella though I would really look ridiculous 'cause nobody in America seemed to bring one. I started having a tan right in this place.
Lake Mead
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a startling contrast of desert and water, mountains and canyons, primitive backcountry and modern technology. Two powerful and uncompromising forces created this fantastic place. Nature, working slowly over millions of years, built the foundation. Humans, working feverishly over the last hundred years, remodeled and built a landscape better suited to modern needs and desires. This created two huge lakes in one of the Earth's hottest, driest regions. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave emerged as the center of the nation's first national recreation area.

Don't ever forget: It's man-made. And yet it looked like Mother Nature naturally gave birth to it. Visiting this lake has made it to my most favorite part of the day. I wish I could just sit on the rocks, make a leap, shout out loud, laugh non-stop, do a cartwheel, and sun-bathe under the sun. The problem was I'm not a lonely soul at that time. Besides, the heat was so intense so I had to stop getting myself toasted. Yum yum.

Lake Las Vegas

Lake Las Vegas was the last destination of our nature trip for the day. We went inside the Lowe's Hotel and gazed at the beauty of the lake. Though it was not the best spot, it was a good spot for taking some pictures and having fun while doing them.

This time, I realized that Las Vegas was more than just the casinos and money. The other side of Las Vegas could shower people with beautiful and breathtaking landscapes that we could not have imagined to exist. All along, I thought Las Vegas was just The Strip! Forgive me, Nevada.

After visiting these three sights, we drove down The Strip and parked at The Hilton hotel. The Strip was so alive filled with people walking and crossing here and there. The lights weren’t ecstatic yet but I think it would look livelier at night. At this time, I was thinking of taking pictures of the The Strip and seeing live shows at the street at night. But I hesitated to ask my Mom and titas because they were not all that game for that kind of thing. I regretted not being able to see it. L

Trent Carlini as Elvis Presley
 At the Hilton, we met Tita Eni’s brother and his wife. Tita Eni got Mom and me complimentary tickets for the Trent Carlini show which presented a great impersonation of Elvis Presley, The King. He really impersonated the living legend well. I could just stare and watch throughout the show. His three backup dancers did an amazing job as well. The one I liked the most was when he interpreted Elvis’ song “Coming Home.” The show lasted an hour and a half. We proceeded to Benihana to eat our dinner with Tita Eni's brother and his wife.

Nanliligaw pa si Koya. ((:
We were escorted to our table wherein we encountered a couple who were celebrating the woman's birthday. They looked like Portuguese AND they were extremely racist. We really did not want to label them this way but they were really are. They did not know that the tables in the restaurant were shared with other people especially if the group was less than eight people. The couple wanted to have a private moment, I guess, so they asked the woman who brought them to the restaurant to transfer them to another restaurant. Okaaaaaaaay, demanding eh?

Despite the commotion, we had a wonderful dinner! A Japanese chef cooked all of our dishes in front of us. Surprisingly, he chose me for no reason at all as his subject for the night. I was having a stomach problem so I didn't order any main dishes. I was also not in the mood to eat much but the cook still distributed different kinds of food on my plate. His face was dead serious but his mouth were full of jokes (even unfunny ones). 

Good food, good fun, good night.

October 2, 2011 * Day 13

Tita Eni invited us to attend her church at 9:30 a.m. today. Her church was called Desert Spring United Methodist Church. It was located near her home so it was very convenient for her. I am really happy to be able to attend a church and this is the first time I attended a church during my stay here. 

The methodist church was different from Victory, of course. There was a priest, a choir, and hymns. There was also a communion wherein people would go to the priest, ate a bread, took up a cup, and drank from it. The priest would also go around the elderly people, especially those in wheelchairs, handing them the bread and the cup with a fellow child serving the church. Honestly, it was a good sight because there was real interaction between the priest and the church members. Still, it was quite different for me but I just kept on praying to God on my own. The only similar thing I noticed was God was undoubtedly present inside the church. I could feel that He loves this church as much as He loves my church. I am thankful for that.

Before going home, we stopped by the grocery store to buy some food and stocks for the home. Tita Eni served the food and Tita Menchie joined us as well. Some topics on the table were mostly about what we did throughout the day, how Mom loved the church, etc. When Tita Eni talked to me, it was mostly about how she wanted to introduce me to her pamangkins. But I doubt that it would work because I would never fall for a guy just by retuhan. Hahaha.

After eating lunch, Tita Menchie brought us out to shopping at the outlet stores. These stores were mostly on sale every season. You can find signature items such as Gucci, Michael Korrs, Coach, Nike, Adidas, Charlotte Russe, Hush Puppies, Claire's, Aldo, PacSun, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, and many more. The taxes here were lower compared to the ones in California so they said it was better to shop here. I picked out most of my items in PacSun. It showcased summery and beach clothes which could be worn in hot and humid places like Manila. I totally love this store! How I wish they'd open a franchise in the Philippines. 

Tita Eni cooked her specialty: steak! Tita Bambi, who lives a few blocks away from Tita Eni's, joined us for dinner along with Tita Menchie. We had a wonderful time talking about everything.

We decided to check Spirit Airlines for baggage policies. We found out that we had to check in our baggages online so that we wouldn't pay extra charges in the airport. We even called Spirit to clarify their policies. We had no choice but to check in 2 baggages. We also found out that we paid more fees for the checked in baggages, much more than the flight fees! This airline was such a huge disappointment. 

Tip: Double check the cheap airline tickets you are going to get. Look over their policies before paying for them. Call them if necessary. And if you still decide to go for it, pack light. Cheap tickets like these definitely carry hidden charges. 

October 3, 2011 * Day 14

Hello, Monday! We were so thankful because it was Tita Eni's off today. We had a delicious breakfast: bacon, eggs, and bread. Tita Menchie was at work so she couldn't come with us to the Red Rock Canyon. We were supposed to go to the Grand Canyon but our hosts had to work and the weather forecast wasn't that good anyway.

I got excited for another nature trip. The trip was just an hour away and Tita Eni bought annual passes as well. Because they were mountain climbers, these annual passes were worth it. If I were also living near places like these, I would probably buy those too.

I couldn't describe Red Rock Canyon in words so I would just let you see the pictures yourself..

Oblation Pose
My Mommy and Ninang
Tita Bambi treated us out for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Saigon 8. The Thai drink with black pearls and milk was so delicious!!! Lovin' these boba drinks!

Tonight, I had the chance to watch Gossip Girl on CW. If I were living here, my TV would be tuned on this channel all week. I super love this channel. It aired all my favorite shows! I stayed up until Heart of Dixie was over. I organized my bags for awhile and then fell asleep. I felt a little bit lonely in bed because I missed my pillows and Totoro. Hihi.

Good night, Nevada!

October 4, 2011 * Day 15

Today was our last day in Vegas. We woke up really early to bid Tita Eni goodbye, prayed for her, and thanked her for everything. She told me to continue pursuing my dreams, don’t procrastinate, and do my part. I'm so lucky to have a Ninang like her. 

Mom and I stayed the whole day in Tita Eni's house to pack our stuff and rest. While packing, I watched the ENTIRE SEASON of the recent Project Runway. Hahaha! I couldn't believe I packed that looooooong. Tita Menchie fetched us at Tita Eni's house at 4PM then we proceeded to the airport. We also thanked her for everything she has done for us. I would definitely miss my titas here..

We arrived at the airport early. At the Delta front desk, we met a Filipino clerk who gave us business class tickets: 6E and 6F. He was asking Mom for some doctor's advice regarding something.. I forgot about it. HAHA. He was an angel because even though our bags were overloaded, he still let it pass. I'm sure he would be blessed!

HAAAAAY. 6 days in Vegas without a night out wasn't that bad. I'm sure I will get a chance to do that in the future with..  maybe with people my age this time! Who's with me?! 

Thank you Tita Menchie, Tita Eni, and Tita Bambi for this wonderful Vegas trip. God bless you three always! I'll be praying for you!

Next destination: California, here we go again!

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