Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Different Voltage Needs While Traveling Overseas?

We often forget that traveling overseas includes not only ourselves when we are traveling outside of our own country but also people who are travelling inside our country. Our electric or electronic equipment is geared to use the current of our home country.
So while you are traveling, you will often find yourself in need of adaptor plugs and converters to be able to use your computer or phone chargers or electric razors (etc.) while you are away from home. And you know, we must be able to charge our computers and digital cameras no matter where we are.
Each country not only has its own culture and currency, it also has itself own voltage. There are just two basic currents (we are talking wall plugs) that are common in the world today. In North America, the 100-125 volt system is the basic current. In Europe, South America and some other parts of the world, use 220 - 250 volt system. In Japan where the system is geared to 100volt, it may be a little low for most American appliances.
If you are traveling to a 220-250V country, you may need a transformer or converter along with adapter plugs.
Whichever way you will be traveling, if you are taking along electric as well as electronic equipment (hair dryers, travel irons, international cell phones, computers), you need to verify what the voltage and wattage of your destination so you can take the correct tools with you for conversion to power.
This will enable you to relax and use your favorite hair dryer or so, without damage to yourself or your equipment.

Aggiornamento in Piacenza, Italy

I was one of the participants who took part in the course of Spirituality organized by our congregation - Missionaries of St Charles held 1-30 June 2001 in Piacenza, Italy. We were thirty-eight (38) Scalabrinian missionaries working in different countries namely, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay, Mxico, U.S.A., Taiwan, Philippines and Australia. We came together with different expectations about the course but the values under-girding our commitment to multiculturalism (supranationalism), that is to the principles of practice of God's love across the frontiers of cultures, enabled us to make a difference in our lives.
Described as a journey of relationship that stood as a living re-enforcement and source of spirituality as Scalabrinians, we sailed through the process of developing those habits of the heart and mind intrinsic to life-long and vibrant learning. Our group though, showed as a beacon of something which committed to transparency and respect to local customs.
Fr Gaetano Parolin, Vicar General, introduced the course quite pretty well on the first day whilst Frs Claudio Ambrozio and Flor Mara Rigoni, acted as our facilitators during the whole program. Both of them did their best in guiding us each day with our schedule. They provided us a focus for a common agreement based on reciprocal duties and responsibilities which we shared. All the part of the warp and woof of daily activities was a learning experience for us.
We listened to the talks given by some of our Scalabrinian confreres who exhibited competence in their respective fields of specialization. Their reports had clarity of perception and soundness of scholarship. Personally, I pondered here how our congregation copes with changes paralleled to some degree by the changes that occurred in the early years of its foundation. I engaged in reflecting on the values of our culture and our commitment to depth as religious missionaries. It came out like a starting point of my dilemma as I wrestled with my sense of belonging in this group. It was my reaction though. However, as I treasured that experience and pondered it in my heart, as Mary did, I focused on the strength and beauty that can grow out of such an unspeakable discomfort that we shared in our life. I told myself that no matter how hard it may be to live together and rough at the major crossroads, I should keep in the game and diligently cultivate many rewarding relationships.
Perhaps, mired in molasses, but likely relevant to my own experience, are the words from Reinhold Niebuhr, a great Protestant theologian who once wrote: "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our life-time; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, no matter how virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love." These brought to my mind that God's words give wings to the wounded individuals and suffuse them with vibrant new life. Hence, keeping that faith alive in my heart, I was able to see beyond and never allowed others to put a damper on me. It thus spawned a good portion along that great stretch that aligns my inner and outer-self as a person.
I also spent some time thinking on our way of life as missionaries with a see-saw attitude concerning our rules of life with some contesting views and resurgent principles which are too shredded to be put through the tug-of-war over individual accountability. Dubbed as a mile wide in the topics we engaged in but only an inch length as regards time allotment, our varied opinions though were raised and I was glued to absorb those existing issues evident in us.
Our discourses were heard and shared with difference and otherness embodied in the cultures and contexts of every individual. It was something worthy of mention which involved the experience of tension between our assimilation and the ideals of consecrated life. Hence, we all grappled with it trying to un-stick ourselves from hardened myths of lifestyle and attitude which virtually polarize our understanding of religious life today.
As I was so skewed toward the importance of collegiality amongst ourselves, I was able to spend a good deal of time reflecting on the bits and pieces of our interactions at the Mother House. We made every effort to help one another in liturgy, presentation of our individual testimony, sharing of stories and even jokes especially during meals and in-between periods of our daily sessions. I was so pleased to spend some time too talking with them whilst walking and releasing some of the stress enzymes that had built up in our bodies as a result of our exhaustions for each day. Truly, I enjoyed listening to some of their stories.
Some of them were adept at perceiving the movement of our mission apostolate, deconstructing the grid models we used to have, and suggesting a cogency of logic in opening our doors to the new immigrants by inculcating preferential options and goals that will contribute to the commonweal of the congregation and its future repercussions. Others were so agog to follow this lead and perhaps an appropriate testament to our flexibility and creativity more than a midnight epiphany.
The re-focusing of our Scalabrinian spirituality shored up a common culture based on our history as a congregation and its charism at large. It was evident though that our speakers particularly our confreres did a significant contribution to our sense of awareness. They explored the texts and other written records and unearthed the theological baggage of centuries culled from the wisdom of our Founder. I remember in the Canterbury Tales where Geoffrey Chaucer pays tribute the holiness of many unknown clergy when he writes thus of the poor parson of his day:
But Christe's love and his apostles twelve; He taught, but first he followed it himself.
It is interesting to note that in today's culture, where formal religion is disregarded but spirituality is treasured is one of the challenges that we face nowadays in our ministry. It is something deep and universal in us which thus becomes the ground on which we can meet. It came to my mind when our ancestors set foot on the shore of their new homeland, their neighbours planted for them the so-called seed of tolerance. With that emerging tolerance, respect, and compassion as their companions, these migrants were able to survive and prosper. I think the same logic applies to our ministry where we walk humbly with them and help those who are isolated and lonely feel connected to Christ though our presence. This is one aspect which drew my attention as waves of migration elsewhere in the world continue to harbor enormous challenges to industrialized nations and their population growth.
I came to ponder too on the flowering of a third world consciousness, its re-readings of the Bible which aim to redress an imbalance with those who don't quite flow with the mainstream like the poor and oppressed, the sick and elderly, the handicapped and powerless, the dispossessed, the broken, and alienated. I was catapulted again in the midst of a great wave of theological rhetoric as if it were like "the beautiful despair of Philippine Renaissance." My conviction to associate myself with my own people burst into flame as I wished to subtract poverty from the baseline of being Filipino. I knew that our academics and scholarly guilds in numerous arenas of researches and discourses have undergone epic changes in forming the minds and consciences of our future leaders in Colonial Philippines, but I think that our popular culture is strong enough to be disguised by the fantasies and dreams of our greed and corruption.
It was something else that became the magnet for a cavalcade of criticisms. In the same vein, whilst the first Scalabrinian missionaries in the U.S. enjoyed their positions and powers as ministers to the immigrants, many of them left the order with astonishing twists and turns, drenched in human weaknesses and awash in material possessions. This reminded me of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' where he wrote about the evils of the love of money. The story, of course, is the tale of a greedy man and the trio of ghosts - Christmas past, present and future - who persuade him to open his heart. Dickens' focus is on social ills - the cravings for wealth in particular. I guess this is one of our achilles heels even for us missionaries as we come to grips with some of our unresolved issues as persons. Like Charles Dickens as he walked each evening after working on his story 'A Christmas Carol' all day, he would go out into the chilly London night, covering ten to fifteen miles. He walked the way he wrote: with much on his mind, and much in his heart. It has parallelism in our journey too being called to serve. It's implicit in us that we should always move beyond our comfort zones to ministry to various peoples including those of diverse cultures, varied skin shades, and backgrounds.
Amid the glut of historical sites and scenery, the grandeur of edifices of the numerous buildings and antiquated churches, our group though had the opportunity to visit some places where our Founder was born, grew up, became a priest and exercised his priestly ministry as a professor in the seminary and pastor before he was elevated into the episcopacy in the diocese of Piacenza. It enamoured me of the social milieu and spirit of the local people.
The Cathedrals of Como and Cremona for instance were splendid examples of architectural beauty like that of the one in Piacenza. I explored the amazing sights and appreciation by taking some pictures and buying post cards to remind me of those places we visited. Some museums had their unrivalled collection of decorative arts which were unbelievable precious and gorgeous. The classical paintings and frescoes in the churches were really a feast for the eyes. They're amazing!
We went to the Vescovile Seminary too in Bedonia where we spent a night to get acquainted with an important visit made by Blessed Scalabrini. Just adjacent to the seminary was the church where we celebrated the Sunday mass with the people.
With Fr Beniamino di Rossi, provincial superior of the European region, we headed for other significant sites like that in Cremona where we visited the Cathedral and home of St Frances Cabrini in Lode, who was also instrumental in our mission to the Italian immigrants in the U.S.
I found many significant stories recounted to us by our guide. Their depths and tolerance were unfathomable. I still believed that somewhere along the way is a spiritual place unmarked by the passage of time. That's allowing our human hearts to speak in silence as we commune with God. There were capsule reflections shared whilst we tried to recall our history of Catholicism. This time though, I thought of the hostility toward religion in the U.S. where the majority opinion bristles with animosity to all things religious in public life. What precisely came out as a bone of contention was the form of religion that is offensive, exclusive and that makes distinctions between believers and non-believers. The public prayer that favours a particular form of religious expression constitutes an odyssey of a particular faith. This is I think a far cry from the real issue of our historical differences.
Fr Isaia Birollo, Superior General, spoke lengthily on certain points highlighting the thread of specificsin the rules of life. He linked us with the Tradition and the wealth that Scriptures, Vatican Council II, and religious discipleship have to offer us. He encouraged us to speak our minds and bring to discussion our own varieties of experience. His words of encouragement are like 'chicken soup for the soul'.
Over the period of time we stayed in Italy, appetite for Italian flavours was satiated with a variety of combinations like cheese, minestrone, panzerotte, pasta, fried fish, vermicelli, pea sprouts, mushrooms, etc. Whilst the taste and ingredients pleased my mouth, the symbolic implication in each dish delighted my imagination; and my joy spoke volumes about that hope for my return someday in the future. Certainly, I would miss it.
Ernest Hemingway once said, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Comparatively, like his definition of Paris, wherever I am, I carry with me the beautiful memories I've had in Italy. It meets me there and supplies sustenance.

Beauty And Calmness

In a world that's saturated with distorted figures and problems, people would sooner or later be in search of a way to relax and calm their over fatigued minds. And as long as the day turns to night, more and more people will be on their way towards Tel Aviv Apartments, because as it seems, everywhere else doesn't seem to meet their needs in order to fully relax and it is only here that they are able to find the rest which for a long time they have desired.
Everyone of course is searching for the ultimate calmness to be felt in any vacation and it is only this establishment which could provide such needs of a vacationer. Because of a well designed interior, the architects were able to achieve an ambiance unlike any other and one that you will always long for in your days. This and the other things which they offer such as Jacuzzi, pool, gym, ball game courts and many more. They all contribute to customer satisfaction when it comes to vacation spot.
Tel Aviv Apartments are also well known for the cultures which reside in the building. A reason why it is dubbed as a cultural center. These cultures are derived from the clients of the establishments that has different origins. All of them came from different parts of the globe and are constantly sharing with others their own cultural heritage through socialization. One of the beauty that the establishment has to offer.
Tel Aviv Apartments are surrounded with beauty, by this I am referring to the neighboring buildings whose design is just a very good piece of art. And also it is just a short distance from the famous Tel Aviv Beach and Promenade where fun is the major concern of the people going there. This is because it is in this beach where a lot of activities could be held such as beach volleyball, a romantic walk in the sea shore and many more. Near to this place is a long line of restaurants that offer different types of cuisine ranging from Kosher restaurants to Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and of course Mediterranean. And a visit here is just like having a tour of the world for its foods.

Perfect Vacation Spot

Fair weathered places are a good place to enjoy your vacation in any season or month of the year. And this is exactly what Israel has, they have a perfect vacation spot to relieve yourselves with the anxiety with which you are suffering and this place is the Tel Aviv Apartments. Strategically located at the heart of the city, people residing in this establishment can be at ease because it is secured with well trained security guards working twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. And in addition to this, you will also find it easy to roam around the city and never get lost in the crowd. It is also near places where tourists often go. One such place is the famous Tel Aviv Beach and promenade where there are all sorts of activities that can be done from day till night.
A little bit farther from the shores of this beach lies a long line of restaurants where they offer food that will truly satisfy your hunger. They have everything here from Kosher restaurants to Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Spanish and of course Mediterranean. After filing your stomachs, you'd have to feed your eyes as well, after all that's one of the reasons why we go on vacation right? And this hunger for beauty can be satisfied by the wonderful designs of the buildings found with in the city. They also have parks and museums to add more to the delight which you will surely feel.
And after that long enjoying walk around the city, you'll find that there's no better place to rest than inside the rooms of Tel Aviv Apartments, where the ambiance would just relax that tired muscles and be able to give you a wonderful sleep. And after waking up from your slumber, there are facilities that they offer to their clientele in order to entertain them if they choose to stay rather than go outside. These facilities are Jacuzzi, pool, gym, ball game courts and many more. This place is also a cultural experience because of the people residing in it that's from all parts of the world.

The Top Ten Art Museums in the World

There are thousands of museums in the world housing amazing collections of art and antiquities. However you don't want to spend your holidays visiting them all. The following museums are among the most notable and important for their collections, particularly if you are looking to view famous art works. Even if you do not have any real art knowledge you will not fail to be impressed by these outstanding collections:
1. Musée de Louvre, Paris, France
The Louvre is now the most famous museum in the World. Two centuries ago, before it became a museum, it was a fortified Palace that was once home to Kings of France. The museum was modernised several years ago with the addition of the plaza and the glass pyramid, but this merely adds to the worldwide image of the museum. The museums collections range from antique civilizations to early 19th century paintings. Most famous art works exhibited are the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. It is said that if you spend 2 seconds in front of each art work it will take you 3 months to visit every art work in the museum.
2. Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Spanning almost nine miles the collection of the Vatican owned by the Roman Catholic Church is one of the largest and most important in the World. It contains more than 22 collections from Etruscan to Egyptian art and maps to modern religious works. The museums feature also work by Raphael and Leonardo de Vinci as well as the famous spiral columns by Bernini. Even if you aren't a great art fan or religious in the least you can't fail to be blown away by the majesty of the Sistene Chapel by Michelangelo.
3. Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, USA
With over 2 million pieces of art work this is one of the largest museums in the world. Created in 1870, the Beaux-Art façade building houses everything from Islamic Art and European paintings, to collections of armour and weaponry. One of the most recognizable artworks is the engraving of Adam and Eve by Albrecht Durer.
4. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
One of the oldest museums in the World featuring works by Michelangelo and Leonardo. One of the most notable items being the 'Birth of Venus' by Botticelli. The Uffizi Gallery is certainly one of the finest collections of fine art in existence. It is said by UNESCO that 60% of the World's art is to be found in Italy and over half of those in Florence.
5. The British Museum, London, England
Founded in 1753 the British Museum is now one of the greatest collections in the world and well known for its outstanding ancient history collections. It attracts over 6 million visitors a year. It owns over 7 million artworks with only 4 million on display. The Egyptian collection is second only to that in Cairo.
6. The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain
The Prado is one of the most respected and visited collections in the world in the neoclassical design of 18th century Madrid. It Houses an outstanding collection of Spanish art, from Goya and Velazquez to El Greco. Although specializing in paintings it has excellent collections of drawings, medals, coins and decorative arts.
7. The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
Before 1853 Egypt lost a large number of antiquities to overseas museums and collections. The 'Service des Antiques de l'Egypte' saw the Government look to keep artefacts in Egypt. The museum was built in 1900 and now houses over 120,000 objects from pre-historic era to the Greco-Roman period. Most notably, it includes sculptures of the sphinx and the artefacts from the tombs including that of Tutankhamen.
8. The State Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia
Despite Russia's isolation from the European art world, it has acquired a stunning collection of over three million objects over the last three centuries. It presents the development of world culture and art from Stone Age to 20th century. In particular, it owns ten of the twelve original art works by Leonardo de Vinci known in the world today.
9. Musée D'Orsay, Paris, France
A former train station built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. With a spectacular glass ceiling it was converted to a modern art gallery in 19.. Specializing in 19th and 20th century artwork, most notably a stunning collection of impressionism, from Monet, Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh.
10. The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The largest art collection in the Netherlands with over 1 million pieces. Renowned for its paintings of the Dutch masters from 17th century. It also displays art from the middle ages and 18th and 19th centuries. The most famous painting is probably the 'Nightwatchmen' by Rembrandt.

The Burden of the Return Ticket

Think about when you travel: no matter for how long you are gone, the last 10 to 20% of the journey you just want to get back home.
You drag your feet from 'must see' to 'must see' at whichever place you are, regardless of how amazing the place itself might be. You laze at the hotel most of the day and probably have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same café. The weather becomes awful, the locals annoying and that pain in your back just unbearable. The saddest part is that if you had started your journey there it could very might as well have been your favorite spot.
If you are a long term traveler, an elephant walking down the street playing the tambourine wouldn't distract you off your drink for more than two seconds; if it's after a work holiday you feel that you shouldn't have taken so many days off.
I call it the burden of the return ticket, a form of disease that disguises itself as necessary and affects us way beyond our tourist experiences. If you take away the adornments and peculiarities of traveling, all that remains is an event in the future that prevents you from enjoying the present. But to make matters even worse, most of the times there's absolutely no logical explanation for this to happen.
Think about goals, objectives in life. A motivation in the future necessary to keep you willingly moving in the present. Everything you do becomes a means to an end; even though you might not like it, you still 'have to'. The more you seek that goal, the more anything not contributing to its accomplishment becomes a waste of time. The further away you feel from the goal, the hardest your everyday becomes. Effort becomes a given, sacrifice a regular subject.
You might eventually succeed, but it becomes irrelevant. By then you'll probably have a new goal, a better or more important one, something you neglected to see before. And what if you don't succeed? What if you change your mind or find yourself at a dead end? Does everything you did become then a failure?
Objectives are the return ticket of life: an event in the future preventing us from enjoying the present, a dreamlike to be situation that helps us cope with the actual nightmare. But isn't the perspective of a dreamlike situation what by opposition turns the present into a nightmare? If not entirely, it definitively has a lot to do with it.
Life has no goal, because you might die before reaching it or reach it and find out you are still here. The future doesn't exist until it becomes present, so a perfect future can never be the result of a dreadful present. Like the dog chasing its own tail the human that chases objectives behaves: it always seems to be one step ahead, and when trapped it's just released and everything starts over again.
You don't necessarily have to avoid buying a return ticket to enjoy your journey till the last minute, but you act like if you hadn't. You don't need to buy one with an open return, but you think as if it was. The date for going back might be set, it's just that you don't worry so much about it.
We are not better or worse at living because we accomplish our objectives or not, but we do are better at living once we realize that it's all one big game this goal setting stuff. You don't necessarily have to change what you are doing to be happy, but only change how you do it. Relax, play, enjoy, let go when the time comes, live your life like if there was no return ticket. The future image of yourself is not capable of giving you happiness, whereas the present one is. Work for the latter, and remember that in the end it's all a matter of perspective.

5 Ways to Make Your Travel Dollars Stretch

Everyone is looking for a deal today. As a travel professional I hear from people all the time that they still want to vacation but money is tight. How do you afford to take a vacation that doesn't involve tents and port-a-potties? Not that camping is a bad thing but personally, if it doesn't have maid service and requires cooking, it is not a vacation. So if you are of a like mind, here are some tips on how to take a fabulous vacation that will not break the bank but give you some of that pampering you deserve:
Take a Cruise. Ok I know. I am a Cruise Planner. It makes sense that I would recommend a cruise. Trust me I wouldn't recommend it if I didn't believe cruising is a great way to save you money on your vacation. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Cruise lines want your business. Well, they have always wanted your business but right now they really want your business. They are offering fantastic deals that haven't been seen since 9/11. On top of that they are offering other kinds of enticements such as, Discounted Deposits, Shipboard Credits, Prepaid Gratuities, and Upgrades.
2. Your meals and entertainment are included. For just this reason cruising is always a fabulous deal. Compare this kind of vacation with a regular land vacation where you have to rent a car, pay for a hotel, go out to eat for every meal and pay for your entertainment. Cruising is an amazing deal.
3. Get your cruise fare paid back to you. How is this possible? Organize a group of people to cruise. Invite family, friends or coworkers to sail with you. If you have at least 8 cabins at double occupancy and everyone sails you could receive the price of 1 berth back after the cruise. The cruise line decides how much that berth is worth depending on which categories are booked. You could also get special group pricing and some extra amenities for being a group!
4. Plan ahead, Pay over time. Cruise lines love it when you book 9 months to a year out. You can plan where you want to go for next year and budget for your vacation each month, paying for it as you go. Cruise lines don't mind if you pay a little each month as long as the balance is paid by the final date which is 75-90 days before sailing. This way you don't have to run up your credit cards, just budget for it! Also, the money you put down is fully refundable until the day before your final payment date so there is no risk if you change your mind.
5. Use a Travel Professional. Ok you knew this was coming. I am a firm believer in the use of travel agents. Of course, the fact that I am one has something to do with it but really why not, when they don't cost anything? They also save you money, time and hassle. Tell your agent where and when you want to go and then go back to what you were doing. My job is to find you the perfect vacation at the best price I can and provide you with quality customer service and travel advice. We are also trained and constantly educating ourselves about travel so we will know the best deals and most fabulous places to go. I love my job, as most agents do. Trust me we aren't in it for the money. Find an agent you like and trust. Tell them about that dream vacation and see what they can do for you.
There are other ways to save money when you travel but sometimes budget traveling can mean a lot more hassle too. Planning every single moment of your trip so you don't overspend can be draining. Vacations should be fun and hassle-free. Cruising accomplishes that. As a matter of fact that is their goal. Take advantage of the difficult economic times. Cruise at a discounted rate, get the shipboard credits and special offers. Travel with people you love and care about. Plan ahead so you don't overspend for your vacation. Use a travel agent and take the hassle out of planning.
Take a vacation. You deserve it!