29 November, 2010

Punta Cana: A Trip to Paradise, Part 1

I have never felt more relaxed and carefree in my life. The fact that we chose a luxury all-inclusive resort could be part of this. What a weird feeling to eat dinner and then get up and leave without asking for a bill or paying a tip. In addition, the people we met were so friendly and helped us with any and everything we needed. Well let's just get to the pictures...

Day 1

Plane wing over NJDeparting Newark (the armpit), NJ, USA

Plane wing over DRArriving in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There’s the airport… the little hut… over there… Punta Cana Airport

When we checked in to our beautiful suite (one of the best on the resort as we’re told), we got a delicious welcome package and some of the best rum I’ve ever tasted.

Girls with Cuba Libre drink

The bottle lasted us about two days, but there was no shortage as Kristin won another one in a dance contest later in the week, and our new friend Luis (who we understood to be the head of the wait staff) hooked us up with a bottle for some Cuba Libre, well, libre (free), shortly thereafter.

Girls watching Luis prep a drink for usLuis fixing us a proper Cuba Libre

Passing by the pool on our way to the lobby, we were greeted by some freshly-chopped coconuts filled with a delicious cocktail called Coco Loco (some variation of light and dark rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice, and liqueurs). We thought this would be a daily occurrence but it seems that they actually have someone who grabs a machete and chops down the coconuts right on the resort when they become ripe.

Coco Loco in a coconut

By mid-afternoon we were really hungry but we had missed the window for lunch so we headed to the snack bar for some ham and cheese sandwiches and Sex on the Beach. Cocktails, that is.Sex on the beach, on the beach

Notable moment: random [local?] guy walks by, looks at the three of us, and exclaims, “You women are beautiful. Congratulations!” I guess they don’t see too many attractive young trio’s at this mainly-honeymooners resort.

Anyway, my sinuses really don’t like flying and all the sugar was not helping, so later that evening, Trish and Kristin explored the resort while I caught some Zzzz. Something did not agree with Kristin’s stomach and she slept on our bathroom floor that night. It couldn’t have had anything to do with all the drinks we had consumed that day…

Day 2

We all woke up bright and early to book some excursions through a guy named Miguel, who quickly became one of our favorites (and us his).

Good morning girls with Miguel

Of course, we also had to get an early start on hydration.

Marmajuana shot in the morning, it's good for my cold

And Kristin became the first to complete an item on our officially unofficial scavenger hunt.

  • “Take a picture with a guy with a big hat.”

Guy with a wide-brimmed hat and Kristin

We headed to the beach for some much-needed sunbathing and kayaking. We also watched a wedding take place right on the beach, and met a Russian couple who were on their honeymoon.

Little MermaidsWhite sandy beachGirls on the Kayak How do you steer this thing?Bathing beauties

Then, we took a trip to the other resort, where families and kids are allowed, and where there are many more restaurant options and a bigger lunch buffet.

After lunch at the buffet, we walked around this other resort for a bit, dipped our feet in the pool, then took our time getting back while walking along the white sand beach.

Poolside cabanas

We made dinner reservations at the fondue restaurant on our side, quickly stopped at the internet station to check e-mail and post annoying status messages on facebook to make all of our friends at home jealous, then headed back to the room to freshen up and relax.

When we arrived at La Petite Fondue for dinner, they upgraded us to a table for 5 and made us feel like VIPs. The fondue was delicious, not unlike the Melting Pot here in the States.

The fondue place, table for 5Being silly with fondue

We stayed for a while just enjoying the ambience, then headed to the other side again for the evening events. While waiting for the shuttle we met our new favorite bartender Emilio. He likes to make up phrases like, “Humpty humpty, shaky shaky” which we found both lewd and hilarious.

We got to the other side of the resort with plenty of time to grab front-row seats for the show. Kristin and Trish got up on stage for the beginning, and eventually we all got up for the finale.

Trish and Kristin on stageTrish and I on stage for the finale

When that was over, we were ready to hit Areito Disco!

We heard mostly Latin music in the beginning but it quickly changed to American pop and standard club tracks as the night progressed, and we met some guys from Toronto, CA and another group from Miami, FL, USA. One of the guys was Kristin’s second win for the scavenger hunt.

  • “Take a picture with a bearded man.”

Kristin with the bearded man from MiamiWhen we returned to the resort we needed to cool off from all of that dancing, so we quickly changed to our swimsuits and donned our awesome bathrobes to head to the pool. Us in bathrobes ready for a night dip

Unfortunately we got kicked out because, as one Spanish interpreter pointed out to us, they were chlorinating the pools. Oops. We didn’t know if it was just for that night or for every night but needless to say we didn’t try again. Besides, the ocean is right there…

Day 3

We woke up in time for the breakfast buffet on the third day and had a little time to kill before our first excursion. So, we all knocked out another item on our scavenger hunt.

  • “Take a picture with a statue of an amphibian.”

Us sitting on a turtleTrish laying on a turtle

I honestly don’t know how we came up with that one. Anyway, we each got a point for it and spent the rest of the morning wandering around the resort and hanging out by the pool.

Sunwing VIP ClubTrish lounges to my right First-person POV looking at the pool and my beautiful feetKristin lounges to my left Trish taking a dip Barbie spikes a beach ball My beautiful blonde bff at the pool

By mid-afternoon, the heat was full blast and we stepped onto a hot school bus with the windows knocked out to get to the port. When we arrived, we had to listen to some boring safety stuff, grab our lifejackets, and head on the boat for a leisurely cruise to Stingray Bay where we would be meeting some stingrays and swimming with the sharks, then snorkeling around the coral reef and imbibing a bit while enjoying some on-board entertainment. Or so we thought.

On the way to Stingray Bay

The stingray part was tame enough. They were slimy, especially on your back – ick! Did not expect that at all, but it was fun.

I'm holding a stingray!

When they hand-selected eight out of about a hundred people and asked them to volunteer for a new program, involving “interaction” with the sharks, my gut instinct said “HECK NO!”

But, my two girlfriends were already looking for the dotted line to sign the waiver, and I couldn’t be the only one of the three to chicken out.

Me with a Nurse shark ahhh Ah! I’m holding a Nurse shark!

So, I lived to tell the story (obviously) and after we swam with it for a while, we hopped back onto the boat for some entertainment before arriving at the coral reef.

Amazing dancers on the boat All dancing crazy on the boat Ready for some snorkeling Looking dorky ready for some snorky.

The reefs were so close to us, Kristin actually scraped herself on it. Then the dancer guy put some reddish anti-bacterial on it, which actually made it look worse and hurt worse. Of course I snapped this flattering shot to commemorate the event.

Kristin making a funny face and pointing at her scrape from the coral Dancers in costume on the cruise back from Stingray Bay

After some of the infamous mamajuana shot and some brief entertainment, we arrived back at the port. Then it was a hot and sweaty bus ride back home in the mid-afternoon sun.

Trish gazing out the window

That evening, we ordered room service while getting ready to hit the second club, Imagine.  The weird/cool thing about it is that it’s inside a natural cave. We didn’t know what to expect.

Kristin all readyMe all ready

Trish didn’t make it that night - it was her turn to be sick. But, we liked it so much, Kristin and I decided to go back again the next night with her. Aren’t we good friends?

Imagine: the club that's a cross between a cave and a castleA club inside a cave, with great music and atmosphere. You don’t have to imagine it; it’s real!

Stay tuned for part dos!

10 October, 2010

Around the World in 10 Days

I didn't actually get to post about my trip to the Dominican Republic in August but I have another adventure to write about now. I had planned a three-day-weekend trip to San Francisco since I've always wanted to visit California, and then got assigned to a project abroad for work shortly thereafter. I somehow managed to fit both endeavors in to a small window of time and enjoyed every moment. The amount of planes I have taken in the past 10 days is just ridiculous though! I will try to post some pictures later if I have the chance, but for now I am very jet lagged and must get ready for a new week on the job...

View Around the World in 10 Days in a larger map

28 July, 2010

Portfolio Update: JavaScript, CSS, JSON in Action

The inspiration for this portfolio is a brick-and-mortar (or in my case, probably plaster and peeling paint?) art gallery. I was going to go with something that scrolls left and right as if you are walking through, but it felt so... constrained... contrived... limiting. For a portfolio piece, I really wanted something that showcased both my technical knowledge and graphic skill. So I broke out of the shell a bit with this one and made an original mashup of some leading web technologies combined with my own need for an easy-to-edit showcase of my creative work.

Try resizing your browser window and see what happens. Also try dragging some of the artwork around.

An original portfolio design

Now for some technical mumbo-jumbo. Rather than a lightbox for image enlargements, I used a mid-size image to start. I kept it simple and linked to the image's Flickr page which also allows commenting, favoriting, viewing full size etc. for further interaction with the same number of mouse clicks. The page uses Flickr's API to pull my most interesting images from my photostream (JSON), then gets their title and puts it in the little caption area. The rest is some CSS and jQuery magic. The result is I always have an updated, interesting portfolio page which saves me precious time and energy!!! The downside is that with JavaScript disabled there isn't much to see. Note to self: come up with a creative static portfolio asap.

Let me know how you like it in the comments.

03 July, 2010

Happy 4th of July Weekend

I'll be hanging out poolside for the rest of the day thanks to my lovely parents who let me come home whenever I want... (there's no place like home!)

Hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend, wherever in the world you are.

Photo upload from Flickr: Pools of Water
Pools of Water, originally uploaded by whoaitsaimz.

02 June, 2010

I'm in the FOX Spotlight!

A few words for Temple's Fox School of Business students: get to know and use the Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD). To see why I say this and to read even more advice from others, check out the following page on their website where I was recently featured!

On this page, I describe some of the things that the CSPD did for me in my undergrad career which ultimately led me to my current post-graduate position as a Junior Product Manager:

"Fox Spotlight | When it comes to success stories, these alumni are writing their own chapters."

21 April, 2010

About the Short Story

I never thought I'd write a coming-of-age piece for a job application. Somehow, that's exactly what happened when I applied for a position with a well-known ad agency in NYC.

Suzie has been a character of mine since I was a kid. I used to create PowerPoint animations of her battling monsters and flying across the city after discovering the software on my parent's computer. You couldn't have told me that Word Art and Smart Art were meant for business presentations.

Over the years, I have sketched, written about, and modified this little girl, but I never thought she would grow up this way. Late one Sunday night, I was taken by surprise when these words started manifesting through the keyboard. My very own fingers were telling me that Suzie is a doll, representing a young girl who realizes it's time to grow up but is not quite sure she wants to let go.

I did get an interview from the agency after this, although I didn't end up with the position. I am happy to say, though, that I was offered a wonderful position with the company I've interned for since last September. I'm very happy that everything has worked out and excited for this new chapter in my life, although I guess a part of me wonders what that might mean for the little heroine from my youth...

20 April, 2010

A short story: Great Leaps for Susan

Suzie leaped across the rooftop, flailing her arms beneath a long green cape and landing precisely on the building opposite, the silky “S” stitched into her leotard glimmering in the sunset. She dared look behind her to stare in the face of her enemy: a plastic headless Barbie doll named Midge.

“Susan, get down here and help set the table for dinner,” mother interrupted from the bottom of the stairway, “It’s almost 6 o’clock already.”

“Mom, it’s Sue,” Susan yelled back. “I’m thirteen years old now!” she huffed, shoving Midge and Suzie Doll behind her dresser in one corner of her bedroom before hurrying down the stairs.

Click here to read the story behind the story.

06 April, 2010

My First (and Last) Warm-weather Spring Break - Part 2 of 2

Continued from previous post. Photo album here!

Day 4

We got an early start in order to get to Kissimmee at a decent hour. Our 2 1/2 hour drive from West Palm Beach consisted of more girl talk, plenty of karaoke, and GPS directions. When we arrived at the condo where my family was staying, we headed to the main pool for a barbecue and some more Cupid Shuffle (Sharon and I couldn't resist)...

Cupid Shuffle again

Then we started on the Cosmopolitans, and did some sunbathing.

Mom and Dad swimming

We headed back to the condo for dinner in the early evening, chatted for a bit, then said goodbye to Crystal and Sharon, who had to get back to their real lives. Sharon just got hired at a law firm in D.C., and Crystal had to work the next day as well. But my vacation was just getting started.

The evening concluded with card games Rummy and one we call "Bino" (also called "31" and "Scat").

Day 5

Very early rise for EPCOT in Disney World, where the International Flower & Garden Festival was taking place. We were delighted by topiaries and beautiful flowers all day long.

Sis excited for the park! American Gothic

We got there just after the park opened and headed to Soaring, a simulated flight over California, complete with the smell of oranges while passing over orange groves, and other fun surprises.

Outside Spaceship Earth

Next, we ventured over to Test Track where, after the ride, a GM representative offered to mail dad some information on the latest Cadillac (backhanded compliment?).

Test Track Photo

Arriving at Mission: SPACE, I convinced my sister to take the "more intense" trip to Mars with me, for which she claimed I owed her a consolation prize later.

Sis outside Soarin' Orange Team

Mom and dad rode the green "less intense" version.

Green Team

Sister and I also picked up some of our favorite astronaut ice cream in the gift shop on our way out.

Amy & Laura DanceThen sister and I made a quick visit to Innoventions, always one of my favorites. Inside Innoventions West, we became the stars of our own video game, which you can play here!

Venturing into the countries, mom, sis and I stopped for some lunch in France and met Princess Aurora (my favorite princess)!

Princess Aurora

After France, we had a rendez-vous (hehe) with the grandmas and dad, and one of the Photo Pass employees took a beautiful picture with my camera of the whole group of us.

All of us

We all watched "Off Kilter," a Celtic rock band outside Canada. I even got a picture onstage after the show :-p

Onstage with the Celtic Rock Band

Just passing through, we saw the Beetles in the UK, watched the "Impressions de France" film, then caught part of a parade. I snapped this cute shot of sis:

Sis watching the Parade

Next up: China, for our favorite: The Dragon Legends Acrobats (we actually watched it twice it was so good).

Table Balancing Act

We even watched the world pass us by between Germany and China, as Disney set up the firework display for later that night.

After a full day, we enjoyed an entertaining dinner at the Biergarten Restaurant in Germany. I tasted all four of the beers and then danced the Polka with grandma...

On our way out, I spotted Snow White and Prince Charming. At first, I wanted to meet Prince Charming but the line was too long so I stood to the side and caught a few (utterly) candid shots.

Prince Funny Legs

Somehow we ended up back at China for some gift shopping and a second acrobat show, which we had a prime location for viewing this time. We also watched the "Reflections of China" film before staking out a spot for the "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" fireworks.

Sisters at Sunset

My view of the water was partially hidden by another guest for most of the show, but this photo came out kind of cute (if you don't realize that the girl wearing the ears is actually about my age).

Minnie Ear Obstruction of Fireworks

On our way out of the park, we were all mesmerized by how thousands of guests could leave in such a bottleneck without so much as a push or a shove. I think the NJ Department of Transportation could use some Imagineers. (The things you notice when you get older, huh?) Or maybe some big, gloved Mickey hands waving the traffic on with a smile :-D

Back at the condo, I enjoyed a quick dip in the hot tub before bed.

Day 6

I love the way Magic Kingdom is its own private destination, accessible to the public only after a monorail or a ferry ride. It makes the whole day feel like such a departure from reality.

On our way! Monorail

The first sign was a few little princesses who had visited the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - a place where parents spend tons of money for their daughters to get all dolled up (wonderful marketing concept)! Despite the cookie-cutter princess ideal, I thought the little girls we spotted throughout the day looked very cute. Also, the Disney Photo Pass (another great concept) ensured some great shots in front of Cinderella's Castle.

Tinkerbell's Landing

We began our day a little later and started off at a leisurely pace with the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

Grandma on the Transit Authority Mom and Dad on the Transit Authority

Then we hopped in line for Stitch's Great Escape, formerly the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (that I loved). I was a bit disappointed that, rather than an entirely revamped attraction, Disney tried to tone down the scare factor by using a fluffy, funny character Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch) in place of an evil alien, but with the same storyline. This was somehow supposed to make the loud noises, total darkness, and painful shoulder braces more bearable for younger children, but I'm pretty sure all it did was cause more screaming children who will be scarred for life and fewer entertained adults. Even if I had never been on the ExtraTERRORestrial ride, I think something would have still felt very non-Disney about the way this was all thrown together.

Moving on to another attraction that had been revamped since my last visit, Space Mountain was next on the list. We were happy to have Fast Pass for this one, but the lines wouldn't have been so bad with their newly-added video games along the queue. Rickety and thrilling as ever, dad emerged from the ride with a wind-blown hairdo. Stopped for a bite at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café, then got on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin where we battled Emperor Zurg to determine who would buy the next round of drinks.

Leaving Tomorrowland Mom and Dad Feeling the Magic

Venturing out of Tomorrowland, we set the grandmas in a shady spot to enjoy a parade while we rode Splash Mountain, a ride that never changes and always delights! With only a little time before our dinner reservation, we met back up with the grandmas and ventured onto the Jungle Cruise, then enjoyed our family-style dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Delicious and filling.

Grandmas in the Stocks

Next was Pirates of the Caribbean. We boarded our ship and floated through a dark tunnel as sis joked, "and here comes the drop!" Little did we know - there actually is a 14-foot drop which surprised us all! We waved hello to Johnny (Captain Jack Sparrow) and the other pirates, then waved goodbye as the ride came to a quick conclusion.

As dusk approached, we rode my sister's favorite "it's a small world" (and the tune would not leave our heads for the rest of the night).

Small World Hula Girls

Mom, sis and I took a spin on the Mad Hatter's teacups.

Teacups

As the crowd thinned and guests took their places for the evening firework display, we got right on Snow Whites's Adventures. There was an equally short wait for a new show called Mickey's PhilharMagic, a 4D musical show with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse which I absolutely loved (but I love everything 3D and 4D is even better).

Carousel

We slowly made our way through the crowds on our way out of the park, enjoying the lights of Cindrella's castle and along Main Street USA.

Cinderella's Castle at Night Grandma and Sis on Main Street

Dad had the idea to take the ferry back to the car, and we caught the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks as we arrived on the shore opposite the Magic Kingdom. A truly magical end to the night!

Fireworks at Cinderella's Castle Fireworks at Cinderella's Castle

Day 7

Woke up a little late (no rush on a rainy day) then headed to Downtown Disney for some serious gift shopping. We also had an early dinner at Planet Hollywood where I discovered a new favorite mixed drink called Gorillas in the Mist:

  • ¾ oz. Malibu Coconut Rum
  • ¾ oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • ¾ oz.Kahlua
  • ¾ oz. Banana Liqueur
  • 1 ½ oz.Ice Cream
  • ½ Banana

Next, we entered the West Side Arena for Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba - front row - I almost got run over by a bicycle (or so it seemed)! I had no idea what to expect but it was an amazing and exciting show.

After that, sis and I walked through Pleasure Island and met up with the family back at Ghirardelli's chocolate shop, which you could smell from miles away, mmmm. We ate outside next to the water.

Another Encounter with the Princess Ghirardelli's

Day 8

Dad and I went for a morning walk through the condo complex, and so I could see the sparkling new Welcome Center. There is so much new development there. We headed back just in time for the rain and pretty much vegged out for the rest of the day with some Cards and Cosmos. Isn't that what vacation is for, anyway?

Day 9

Saturday was spent by the pool sunbathing and doing some reading. Mom and dad did a swamp tour, for real. Then we all had dinner in Celebration at Colombia Restaurant with a truly delicious assortment of tapas and entrees. We went home full and hit the hay early.

Day 10

Early rise for the airport. Goodbye, Florida! It was a long trip home and we had been worried that our flight might be canceled because of the weather. We arrived to flooding and road closures, but at least we arrived. When I got back to campus, I had a marathon group meeting in the Tech Center which kept me on campus until about 1:30 am - back to reality, I suppose...

Until the next update!

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