Surrounded by Water

Intro

Every year on my birthday I travel download app-somewhere I never been. It is more of a yearly tradition. One thing that I like doing is to experience things that is different and challenging. This time, I made a trip to St. Thomas Island which is considered U.S Virgin Islands. I made a trip to Puerto Rico and booked my ticket from San Juan to St. Thomas for $131 round trip which is about 35 minutes flight.

The Norms

A normal person will book a hotel room in a resort to enjoy the services and luxury of a nice expensive stay. However, I am different. I used to do that but after traveling many places, I started thinking about budgeting my travels and focusing on spending money on more important things such as activities and transportation. Mainly these are fixed prices. What about to tell you may not fit every person that loves to travel. Some like to have that luxurious service, some like medium and some just want to have a place to sleep and shower nothing more nothing less.

Drive Safe

After landing in St. Thomas, shuttle took me to the rental car place, and here are few things you must know:

  1. It is better to have your insurance upon renting the car. Call the rental place and make sure they accept your current insurance. If not buy cheap one online while renting the car.
  2. Renting a car is cheaper than taking cabs to go places on the island. It might seem small on the map but you will be surprised. Traffic gets bad, especially when the cruise ships passing by and dock.
  3. Driving is on the left side. Unlike normal driving in most countries, driving can be little challenging on the island.
  4. Do not get sand in the car, you will be charged at least $100 for cleaning. It is better to keep it clean.

The challenge was to get to the location where I had rented my sleeping, luxurious and comfortable place to stay on the island for the next 4 days. Driving on the left side was little dangerous if you are not paying attention because your left is right and your right is left. The location was about 1 hour away. ARE YOU READY?

Challenge yourself

I rented a sailing boat to sleep in for 3 nights and 4 days in a gated marina. Does this sound cool? Wait for it. At first thought, many people think it is cool and easy, but you will be surprised. It takes an adventurous person to take such chance to sleep in a sailing boat alone. To me it was a great experience, and loved every single moment of it. However it is not meant for anyone and here is why:

  1. Although sailing boat was in a gated marina, that does not mean it is 100% safe.
  2. The sailing boat will fit maximum 2 people although there are beds for 4.
  3. Phone connection with internet was very weak and most of the time was not working. If you have ATT service, it might work.
  4. You have to be quiet because there were many boats around with people sleeping in them, so forget about boat partying.
  5. You might be sleeping and storm comes, thankfully did not happen while I was staying.
  6. You will be sleeping like a baby sleeping in a rocker.
  7. If you are not used to sleeping in a boat, you will wake up sea sick and dizzy.
  8. It will get really hot if you sleep in the main bed, I had to sleep in the middle space.
  9. Bathroom is very difficult to use. You must follow instructions or you will face major problems with the owner of the boat.
  10. Make sure you tell the owner to fill up the water tank for the boat day in advance, and try to save water usage because you might run out in the middle of taking a shower.
  11. You have to be careful walking on the boat, lots of wires and ropes.
  12. You would wish for the water to be calm and smooth while sleeping, else the boat will be rocking left and right all night long preventing you from a good night sleep
  13. Buy snacks and water, collect trash and take care of it, else you will be charged for cleaning fees.

Create your moments

I had an amazing time waking up in the morning on a cup of green tea, and a book to read before I head out for activities. Water is clear and you can see fishes swimming around. Sunrise is beautiful, cool breeze is relaxing. I loved every single moment of it and definitely would do it again.

Life is Beautiful

All the above were things that I didn’t know prior booking. However, it was a great learning experience and wanted to share them with you. In the end, traveling to me is all about challenges along the way that teaches you how to handle situations in real life. Over all I had an amazing time in St. Thomas. The island is beautiful, people are nice, and lots to explore. I hope this information will help you with your next trip.

BON VOYAGE!

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White Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Intro

It is the largest Mosque in UAE, located in Abu Dhabi State. For some of you who may know that UAE has 7 states. Dubai is the most famous among all of them. The mosque was constructed between 1997 to 2007. Most know it as Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand White mosque. This mosque represents the Islamic religion, culture and combination of old and modern architecture.

Entrance

If you are riding in cab or have your own car, you are allowed to enter and park in the designated spots. There are two separate entrances for males and females. It is recommended for females to bring their own “Abaya“-to avoid renting one– as you are not allowed to enter without it. You will be searched before you walk in. No cigarettes, lighters, or any hazardous material allowed in the mosque. Believe me they are very strict. The mosque is huge, lots of barefoot walking, bring a small bag so you can place your shoes inside that bag and carry it on your back. If you wear expensive shoes, ask one of the security guards to put your shoes inside a private room with shoe racks. Not too many people know this but I did it.

Gate

After 5 minute of walking, you will see a water fountain, with two pools on each side of the entrance. The gate is very high and beautifully designed in the arc shaped islamic architecture. Before walking in, take off your shoes. Place them on the shoe rack and remember their spot.

White Mosque

As you see in the pictures above, beautiful architecture, high ceilings, clean, shiny marble, flowery designed walls and floor. It is a great piece of art and recommend it to every visitor in Abu Dhabi. Best time to visit this amazing place is before sunset depending on the time of the year. Remember that UAE is very hot during summer times. Avoid noon time on a any Friday, unless you are going for prayer. The mosque can fit 40k people, and it is mainly for praying at that time. There are security guards monitoring the areas where you can walk. Follow the rules and watch for signs as you walk around.

Fun Facts

  1. Carpet was made by 1300 Carpet Knotter, it weighs 35 ton , there are 2,268,000,000 knots in the carp, and took 2 years to complete
  2. Mosque took 10 years to build
  3. More than 3000 workers were used to finish the project
  4. Gold, precious stones and Swarovski crystals were used in the mosque
  5. Rihanna the singer was asked to leave after taking inappropriate pictures with the mosque in the background back in 2013

It was a great experience. The Grand White Mosque is the 2nd most visited landmark rated on Tripadvisor. ENJOY!!

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ALUX Restaurant

Perhaps one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever experienced was ALUX in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We were a group celebrating a friend’s birthday where we decided to pick a nice restaurant and ALUX came through. I have to say our minds were blown up after we left. It is very hard to find restaurants with a unique experiences that combines nature, experience, and food all at once.

Entrance

We were welcomed by two Mayans as soon as we walked in the gate. They were reciting some rituals “I HAVE NO CLUE”, and playing some instruments. According to what I heard something has to do with Sacrificing a Virgin. I might be wrong but again it was very cool to experience such warm welcoming. As soon as you walk in, the stairs for the restaurant is on your right. Entrance was nicely designed, although it will not occur to you that you are walking inside a huge cave.

Dining

Atmosphere, ambience, lighting, and setup are all very nice and well designed. We were sat next to a falling water from the limestones next to a small spring. It was very soothing and relaxing. I loved every single moment of it.

Menu

The menu is in two languages, English and Spanish. I love restaurants that have the courtesy to make it easier for their customers. I believe it is very important since management know that people from all over the world would come and visit. They serve appetizers, soups, salads, seafood, and Steaks. The variety is there so no worries when it comes to selections. Wine selections are from all over the world, ask your waiter/waitress to take you inside the “CAVA”.

Recommendations

I would recommend to take your time, do not rush if you are visiting ALUX. It is not only a restaurant but more of an excursion, and great experience. If you are planning to go after party, call and reserve early. It is highly recommended for couples and special occasions. Garden salad, Portobello mushroom, and Bone ribeye steak are delicious. If you are looking for cool dessert, as for the flamin coffee.

BON APPETIT!!

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Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane Harvey-Tropical Storm

Houston August 25, 2017

Here is what you need to know about Hurricane Harvey,

  1. 2 million people will be affected with this Hurricane.
  2.  Harvey started as a category 3 and will grow bigger with winds up to 125 mph by Friday night.
  3. 34 inches of rain, flooding, and a force to make serious damages to houses and public areas in addition to uprooting the trees.
  4. It will hit the gulf coast from Corpus Christi, Texas  to New Orleans, Louisiana.
  5. Estimated 5 billion in damages.

Are you ready for this ?

Many people have been preparing to face Hurricane harvey for couple of days. Here are some tips:

  1. 3 gallon of water per person for cooking, drinking and oral hygiene.
  2. Freeze some water in a or ziploc bag, and fill coolers with ice last minute (you don’t want ice to melt).
  3. Buy canned food such as meat, fruits, vegetables, juices and check the expiration dates.
  4. Buy boxed milk
  5. Cereal, soup, oatmeal and granola bars, trail mix, peanut butter, jelly, beef jerky, bread, crackers, cookies, fresh fruit and protein bars are all good to have in case of emergency.
  6. Don’t forget to buy baby food if you have one, also pet food.
  7. Flashlight with extra batteries, car charger and bank for mobile phone, battery operated digital TV with car charger adapter.
  8. Grill with extra propane and charcoal.
  9. Place matches and lighters in waterproof container.
  10. Manual can and bottle opener.
  11. Cleaning supplies, heavy duty gloves, duct tape, heavy duty outdoor extension cords, waterproof tarps, plastic sheeting, rope, basic tool kit, smoke detectors, and carbon-monoxide detectors.
  12. Battery 2 way radio in case cellphones don’t work.
  13. Fire Extinguisher
  14. Place all your important documents, such as medical papers, insurance, bank statements, social security, passports, jewelry and expensive personal items in a waterproof container.
  15. First aid kit, enough supply for prescription drugs, vitamins, pain reliever, antibacterial soap, toilet paper, tooth paste, shampoo, mosquito repellent, lotion, and antibacterial wipes.
  16. Buy a generator
  17. Secure your windows, and doors.
  18. Remove all your items from the backyard and place them inside the garage.
  19. Fill up your gas tank.
  20. Cut the extensions of trees around your house to minimize damage.
  21. If you are in a flood zone, buy sandbags and place them on the doors to minimize the water coming in.
  22. Clean your drains from all the debris and tree leaves to ensure proper water drainage.
  23. Stay in and don’t walk or drive when the hurricane is in full effect.
  24. In case of flooded areas, DO NOT walk around especially next to bayou areas because many could have snakes, and alligators which can be harmful.

Don’t Panic

For many who like to evacuate, it is better to start acting early before it is too late. Back in 2005, Hurricane Rita caused a mass evacuation estimated around 3 million people. Between 90-120 people died in this evacuation. I remember it took me 6 hours to leave from Houston Downtown area to the woodlands which is 20 miles. On the way I witnessed the burning of a bus, people suffocating from heat, others as a result of hyperthermia in their cars and many more tragic incidents.

If you are planning on evacuating, follow these steps:

  1. Fill up your tank
  2.  Check your tires, make sure you have a spare one.
  3. Buy some food, water, and personal items incase you had to stay in a hotel, or be stuck in traffic.
  4. Turn off your car if you see the traffic is not moving, and keep windows open.
  5. Check the traffic, roads safety, and make sure it is safe to take that route.
  6. Don’t drive in the HOV lane, as many people were stuck due to traffic after hours, they run out of gas.

Stay safe and hope Hurricane Harvey will pass with no damages. Remember safety and preparation comes first.

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Salsa Dancers!

Most new salsa dancers are making huge mistakes. But Wait!! Before you start judging, please read till the end.

We always love to have new dancers joining the community, and I am talking about the Latin dancing scene such as salsa and bachata etc. I have been dancing for the last 10 years going on 11. I traveled many countries, danced and performed in many congresses but that does not give me a superior title to be one of the best. In fact, I consider myself a non-stop learner who always willing to learn and no matter what level I am. Here are the common mistakes:

  1. BE HUMBLE

Most New dancers think that they got it all! They think by learning a routine and performing, they made it to the top. For instance, I asked a girl to dance which she is only been dancing for 6 months, her reply was “oh, I have a line.” Now I don’t want to go with details because she end up dancing with me BECAUSE THERE WAS NO LINE. WOW!! Alien Ramirez will kindly tell you that someone asked before and will love to dance after. Ladies take notes.

  1. TRAIN VS CLASS

Most dancers think that only classes is going to get them better. YES and NO. Yes, a class will give you a great kick start, but if you want to make it to the top, you have to TRAIN. Do you think Emily and Junior, or Karen and Ricardo made it to the top because they took classes? They train 8-9h/day. NO JOKE!!

  1. Cross-training

Salsa is not only one kind of dance, it is a combination of many dances put together. Take different kind of dancing lessons and learn different styles. This will help a lot to enhance your body movement. Franklin Diaz trained afro-Cuban, jazz, ballet, mambo and list can go on for 15 years to become the dancer he is today. Oh, not to mention his performances in flamenco. He learned from the best to be the best.

  1. Social Dancing

Most common mistake at congresses is that same city or studio dancers dance with each other. Now why would I want to dance with someone I dance with on daily basis?  Think about it for a second. Dance with people you don’t know, you will learn different moves, styles, leads, follow, and will be more interesting. Dancers don’t take it personal.

     5. Workshops

Most dancers at the workshops complain they are tired and sleepy. Main reason is because.. of course… partying and drinking till 6am. If you are serious about dancing, you will manage your time properly, excluding some exceptions.

 Dancing is all about having fun, do it from your heart. Feel free to comment in the box.

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Salsa Ambassador “Albert Torres”

 Albert Torres/Salsa Ambassador/father of many dancers

Many of you in the salsa community know Albert Torres who passed away not too long ago, was the biggest and most influential salsa and dancing promoter and father figure to many champions around the world. I can write a book on what Albert Torres has done for the community.

I met Albert Torres personally in 2009 at the Houston Salsa Congress. I was much honored to meet such a great, humble, and talented person. After I started digging deep into his work, he is not only a guy that goes on stage and announce the dancers. I found out that he is like a father for all the dancers around the world. He helped so many children around the world with scholarships and donations to keep out of the streets and give them a purpose and hope to fight and strive for the best in life. These talented amazing dancers look up to him and follow his advice. He was such a great inspiration for many champions and pushed them to the extreme limits so they make it to top. Many of these dancers travel from all over the world and compete in Miami Florida for the World Latin Cup dance (WLDC) every year. I was very lucky to be part of his presence and events for the past 8 years in different parts of the world. I remember him saying at the Houston Salsa Congress 2017: ‘there are many people came today to see you on stage, have fun, put on a good show, and dance from your heart” with his final famous ending “UNA BUUYAAAA.”

Albert Torres emphasized not only on dancing, but also to know all the different components of dancing, such as productions, singers, writers and musicians. He wanted us to learn and be more competent about the music so we can advance and dance better. One of his favorite workshops was to have meet and greet to talk about music and history of salsa with the singers that come and perform at the congress. Albert Torres was a well experienced man who traveled, connected, and created big healthy communities all over the world. He made salsa globally known. I wrote this blog in his honor, as because people like him should always be remembered. Our mission is to keep his message  and continue to spread love, harmony, teamwork, knowledge, peace and happiness around the world.

UNA BUUYAAAA!!!

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Albert Torres Giving his Speech Before Shows

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