Tag Archives: Self-Discovery

Differences & Culture Plus A Wedding

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides” – David Viscott

Santi(Located at the old airport)

Earlier this month one of my best friends got married to the love of her life. I took a plane to Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago,) Dominican Republic and watched my friend say I do with so much joy and happiness in her eyes. After 11 years of friendship; after all the wondering as to who would get married first, we saw how terribly wrong we were in thinking I would be the first to walk down the isle in anything other than a bridesmaid dress!

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Though I am of Dominican descent (from Santa Bárbara de Samaná) I actually haven’t been to the Dominican Republic since I was probably six or seven years old. Needless to say, that as soon as I stepped foot on Dominican ground I experienced serious culture shock.

I could go into this rant about culture and identity; what it felt like to be classified as Dominican-American or how it felt to not be considered Dominican at all but, simply American. However, at the end of the day I know who I am and what I am. So why focus on that?

Instead, I’ll focus on everything that left me in awe like the streets and it’s colors, the liveliness, the heat (love hot weather,) the poverty, the music (that I enjoy so much,) the simplicity, the crazy driving (You won’t ever catch me driving over there!) but most importantly the WEDDING!

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The streets amazed me. There was so much liveliness, it was a raw image of simplicity. Its beauty magnified with the happiness of the people that inhabited the surroundings.

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The driving was insane! I think I would suffer from anxiety if I had to drive over there. For starters I hate driving in narrow streets! I think I suffer from claustrophobia when I’m driving because I cringe whenever I drive in super tight streets. So lets imagine me driving in a bunch of narrow streets with close to no traffic lights and huge cars (oh I also hate driving big cars) I would cry! But this is what I appreciate about traveling, coming in contact with all the differences you find in the midst of all that is going on around you. Ultimately, it is what gives your trip meaning and gives you long lasting memories.

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I was only in Santiago for the weekend (Thursday-Sunday.) Therefore, I wasn’t able to explore as much as I wanted too. However, I was able to accompany Mayra (the bride) and her now husband on their pre-wedding photo-shoot which, allowed me to visit a few areas and discover some beautiful locations.

We visited three spots where the amazing photographer was able to capture amazing pictures of the couple:

1. Monumento A Los Heroes De La Restauracion (Monument to the Heroes of the Resurrection)
2. Fortaleza San Luis (St.Luis Fortress)

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3. Antiguo Aeropuerto (Old airport)

After the photo-shoot while driving back I was able to witness the poverty in the city. It’s always shocking to see so much poverty; it really makes you appreciate everything you have. People visit these tropical islands and sometimes forget that in the midst of such beauty there is a deep sadness and need within.

After the pre-wedding activities and getting to know the city a little better finally, came the day of the wedding. Everyone was super excited for the big day! We had the best make-up artist in the city turn us into celebrities and our hair came out absolutely perfect! I felt gorgeous but most importantly, Mayra looked absolutely stunning!!

The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was spectacular. It’s always breathtaking to see a love story unfold and bloom. From beginning to end the night was magical filled with lots and lots of dancing and laughter; of course can’t forget the Presidente (Dominican beer) lots of that too…the entire weekend actually!

I almost even missed la hora loca (the crazy hour) because of a quick bathroom break! Definitely one of the funnest parts of the wedding. There we celebrated the infamous carnival (Dominican style of course) with los Diablo Cojuelo. It was super cool because she had a photographer taking Polaroid pictures to pass to people as souvenirs (yes, I took one.) It fills my heart with joy that my best friend got the day she deserved and I only wish her many more blessings to come.

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Thank you Mayra for being a great friend and for the trust you enlisted in me to help make your day one for you to always remember. I couldn’t be more proud of you and I am happy to continue to be a part of your life!

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Colorful Cambridge Pt.2

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself” – David Mitchell

How is it that you can easily get consumed by everything going on in your life? It feels like in the blink of an eye so much has happened! It’s exhilarating realizing that a positive mentality will eventually bring you positive outcomes.

So what do I do with all my positivity? Clean out my bank account and book myself a trip to California! Yes, I’m broke, happy and going to Cali! But that’s a story for another day…

It has been weeks since I last wrote and I never finished my story on my trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts. [Read part one]

Ah yes, Claire, Damaris, Stephany and myself just finished our trip to Harvard University and are now headed to dinner. Claire picked a nice little spot, Grendel’s Den Restaurant and Bar located on Harvard Square. Grendel has half price hours from 5-7:30pm where most items on their menu are half priced! (yes, we caught the special!) Also, the portion’s of food served are spectacular! We were all so full. I’m not sure how we managed not to take a nap right there and then.

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Damaris had a chocolate craving so next thing you know we ended up at L.A. Burdick Chocolate Cafe, also located in Harvard Square. The place was small and chic with limited seating. Luckily, we managed to score a table while Damaris ate her chocolate cake. I was super excited because as I bought my first macaroon ever (yes, ever!) there was a French couple right next to me speaking Français! Talk about the full French experience. So as any other moment when I’m indulging in French culture, I freak out and start eavesdropping; feeling super proud of myself that I understand the couple I start saying French words like a total creep. After, my moment of excitement it was time to take a bite of my hazelnut macaroon…it was perfect.

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We continued our walk in Harvard Square and decided to have a few beers at Charlie’s Kitchen. We found outside seating by the fire and our shivers from the cold wind quickly disappeared. You don’t realize how much you miss catching up with your friends until you sit down and look back at the moment. It’s a great reminder as to why the friendship exist. Distance isn’t a problem for true friendships.

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We then find ourselves at Alden and Harlow an upscale place known for its fancy cocktails and snacks. I decided to get the Common Place cocktail (Gin, Sage, Clove Honey, Lemon, Benedictine and Egg White.) I am happy to say that I ended up getting the best cocktail out of the group!
**FYI this is a great date night place!

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We ended our night in Harvard Square at Hong Kong Restaurant which, is also a lounge and a nightclub. The night consisted of a Scorpion Bowl, a dancing bouncer and an unexpected dance battle! With exhaustion sucking our bodies dry of energy, we headed off back to the apartment pleased with our great day!

Sunday arrived and so did our departure. We were truly saddened by the end of such a refreshing weekend.

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But before leaving we had breakfast at The Friendly Toast. What an amazing breakfast! Located in Kendall Square, The Friendly Toast is a superb breakfast and brunch restaurant with a hipster vibe and a unique menu. The service was amazing and the food beyond delicious! I couldn’t have been more satisfied with everything.

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Every time I travel I discover something new wether it be about the people I’m with, the location or myself. This trip helped me discover the possibility I thought I lost. It helped me remember that, “Thinking here goes nothing could be the start of everything” – Drew Wagner
I am truly proud of Claire for taking that leap into the unknown. She made a new home for herself and seemed so happy with her new life. It was truly inspiring to see her in her element. We all need to take that leap because we might find true happiness where we least expect it.

Why Be Great?

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates

In the past few weeks I have been throwing around the word “great” quite often.

Be great!” “You’re great!” “Simply be great!” “Don’t be afraid; just be great!

Then I was finally asked why? Well, why not? In the past I spent too much time focusing on the old and not enough time focusing on the present, on the new. I didn’t realize that it diminished my ability for greatness. It stumped my capacity to achieve greatness and simply made me stuck. I became depressed and lived day by day wishing I could go back to fix where I believed it all went wrong.

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One day I woke up and looked around me… I realized that there is a lot that I should be grateful for. I realized that life is merely but a puzzle that I have to slowly piece together. I realized that there’s no other version of myself that I rather be than the version that is simply great and thus, this blog came about.

It’s time we all start accepting ourselves for who we are with our flaws, mistakes and failures. We need to realize that despite of it all, there’s nothing else we can do but grow because greatness isn’t defined by our accomplishments, but by our self-acceptance and belief in our potential to succeed and achieve whatever we put our minds too.

I have two quotes that I wake up to everyday:
“Write your own life story.”
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it”

So here it is: I am not telling you writing your own life story will be easy. I am telling you that writing your own life story will be worth it, if you simply believe it. Therefore, do yourself a favor and SIMPLY BE GREAT!

Colorful Cambridge Pt.1

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” – Dr. Seuss

Life is full of moments that eventually become nothing more than a memory. Memories that will bring you everything and nothing all at the same time. Memories that will bring you laughter, empowerment, lessons, sadness and maybe even tears. Memories that will make you or break you. 

About two weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Claire in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a trip filled with great weather and company manifesting into great moments.

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My friends and I arrived Friday night and immediately were ready to tackle on the city. We were so excited to see Claire, that the tiredness we felt from our drive and long day quickly went away. Our first stop of the night was Brick and Mortar. The place had a chill atmosphere, good music and Massachusetts beer; what more could I ask for? I love trying new beers so of course I tried something I never had before… Cisco Beer made right in Massachusetts. It was super delicious. For the rest of the night we laughed and danced until the bar closed at 2am.

Now, it’s 2am and Claire insist that we head over to the Clover Food Lab. We get there and find ourselves at an organic Fast Food Place! How chic is that? Here’s the best part, it’s the only food spot open after 2am! You don’t see that in Jersey! But why would we? with a McDonalds in every corner. I love these out of the ordinary experiences because they remind me that there’s more out there than what I am usually surrounded by.

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As quick as the blink of an eye it became Saturday morning. We started our day with homemade mimosas and delicious eggs (meant to be a huge omelette but instead turned into scrambled eggs.) We joked around so much we didn’t end up leaving the apartment till 3pm. However, we were worry free; time was irrelevant.

Our first stop was the Out of the Blue Art Gallery and More. Welcomed by a huge fluffy dog, we found ourselves in a place that housed the work of local artists and musicians. Art brightens the soul and encourages the mind. Why not submerge yourself in it once in awhile?

Then our race with the sun began! We were headed to Harvard Square where the famous Ivy League school Harvard University stands. When you hear so much about a place sometimes you just don’t know what to expect. You come up with these outrages notions of what things are “supposed to look like” that at the end of the day you aren’t really sure if you believe it yourself.

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So Harvard, yea, not what I thought it was. First off, the school is practically a tourist spot. I thought that was funny. It is also the least colorful place in Cambridge! Nothing stands out. Cambridge is very bohemian and colorful and then there’s Harvard right in the middle with its preppy and chic aura. Great oxymoron.

Has anyone heard about the John Harvard statue? I certainly have not. As we approach the statue of John Harvard we see people taking pictures. We ask ourselves, “why take a picture with this statue?” Casually, we overhear that if you rub Mr. Harvard’s foot you get good luck. Okay, cool! Let’s take a picture rubbing the foot!

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For the remainder of our trip I thanked Johnny for our fabulous luck! Now, today, I sit here writing this blog and decide to do a little research on “The Boston Girl’s” good luck charm! (From the moment we planned our trip, we thought we were visiting Claire in Boston because we had no idea Cambridge was its own city. We decided to keep our original group name despite the confusion in location.) What’s the first sentence I come across? “Don’t touch John Harvard’s foot!” “But why?” I ask myself. Apparently for some ODD reason people believe that if you pee on this statue’s foot you will get good luck! WHAT?! There you have it people…peeing can somehow bring you good luck. I rather not think about how my hands touched a foot that has been continuously peed on, but instead that I did not need to pee on Johnny’s foot to be given his well wishes.

Just like that we finished our visit at Harvard and went about our day.

To be continued…

Not that long ago I had long hair…

Not that long ago I had long hair. Actually, I had processed long hair. Every 6 months I would relax my hair and make sure I killed my curls, what at the time I considered “bad hair.”

“Everything has changed and yet, I am more me than I’ve ever been.”– Ian Thomas

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Let me start from the beginning. I am Latina; born of parents from the Dominican Republic. My mom has very curly hair and my dad does as well so naturally, I was also born with very curly hair. However, my hair wasn’t only curly it was thick! I remember I wore my hair curly a lot and that straightening it was a process my mom struggled with. One day I went to the hair salon and was told I was getting a “deep conditioning treatment” and next thing I know I had beautiful straight long hair. It was like that for the next 14 years, but don’t get me wrong, I still “curled” my hair…so I thought.

Fall 2012 I went to study abroad in Europe. My biggest concern was my hair. I have no idea how to straighten my own hair  (I still don’t.) I was so nervous because I didn’t know if I was going to find someone who knew how to manage my “processed” hair correctly. For the most part, every week abroad was a different hair stylist until, I gave up the last few weeks, and washed and go everywhere I went.

I learned a lot about my hair abroad. I realized that my hair wasn’t curly anymore. They weren’t coils, they were loose waves…kind of looked like spaghetti. Every time I relaxed my hair I killed my curls and damaged my edges. Throughout the years, every hair stylist I went to would tell my mom and I that I didn’t need a relaxer but, I was too obsessed with my straight hair to care. Abroad, I finally understood why I didn’t need to continue relaxing my hair…

My curls are beautiful!!

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It was time to become obsessed with my curls. It took me a few years to make the actual move but last year, I chopped a reasonable amount of my processed hair, and started my transition from processed to natural hair. With all the internal changes I was going through, I thought it would be the perfect time to get rid of everything that hid who I was. It was finally time to be ME! It definitely hasn’t been easy. There are days where I miss my long hair and wish my hair would just grow already. Then there are days were I am so happy I don’t have to straighten my hair every single week! However, I don’t regret my decision. My hair is healthier and stronger than it has ever been in the past!

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My transition still has some time before it is fully complete but I am changing with my hair. I’m cutting the bad out of my life, conditioning the good so it can get stronger and better and slowly growing into the woman that I am…because there isn’t anything else that I wish to be than Simply great!

I love to eat

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

I love to eat and I am not ashamed of it. I hate diets but I do enjoy a good workout! I have tried dieting once or twice but I just cannot stop myself from eating whatever I want. I rather eat, work out and continue eating! Why limit myself if I am treating my body right at the end of the day?

This past week, my best friend Linda kept sending me pictures of delicious meals she had, at different restaurants, as a part of New York Restaurant Week. Needless to say, I was jealous I couldn’t join her.

I decided to look up if Philadelphia had a Restaurant Week and to my surprise there was a Philadelphia Center City Restaurant Week January 17-22 and 24-29. I think I almost jumped for joy when I saw the webpage starring at me on my computer screen. Three-course dinners for only $35 per person at any center city restaurant provided. Next thing you know I made reservations for five (with a high-chair) at La Famiglia Ristorante.

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The restaurant was very intimate and sophisticated. The lighting was dim and there was no background music, but rather the sounds of talk and laughter. The waiters were beyond attentive. I cannot remember the last time I have received such great service. They went out of their way to make sure we were pleased with absolutely everything. It was a very pleasant experience.

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The menu consisted of Italian cuisine. Each dish was written in Italian with an English description of what it was. I had the following three courses:

Appetizer: Gnocchi Sorrentina
Homemade gnocchi with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil sauce
Entrée: Vitello Mandolese
Veal medallions stuffed with Prosciutto and mozzarella cheese served in wine sauce
Dessert: Dolce Misto
A sampling of Italian desserts: poached pear with a cranberry sauce, lemon cake with a vanilla sauce, chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate sauce

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Everything was absolutely delicious. I was not disappointed with a single thing that I ate that evening. My friends and I had an exceptional time and even the pickiest eater of the group enjoyed her plate to the fullest!

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The night was a complete success! I definitely am going to take full advantage next time Restaurant Week comes around. Like I always say, there’s nothing like a new experience so do not be afraid to try something new, even if it is food.

Cheers to a good night!

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New Meanings

Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning – Paulo Coelho

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As I sit here writing: I am thinking about love and all the different meanings my life has given it. I am thinking about the new year and the possibilities roaming around waiting to be found. I am thinking about what I left behind in 2015 and what I hope to gain in 2016.

I spent my Thanksgiving and Christmas surrounded by family and love yet feeling lost. I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was missing.  I’ve had this feeling for quite some time now and after a year of adventures and self-discovering it seemed out of place to feel so lost. Until it finally came to me, I’m terrified to feel comfortable where I am in life. I am not in a place of ultimate happiness; it’s not a place where I could add a new meaning to love.

It’s great to be surrounded by family, to come home to them and feel safe, but safe is comfortable, safe is settling.

I realized that what I need to do is find a new meaning to love and find happiness in something different and uncomfortable. 2015 was the year of self-discovery but 2016 will be the year of accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong, self-discovery never ends because there is something new to learn about yourself with each day that passes. However, this is the year I will discover new meanings to everyday emotions.

I challenge everyone to step out of their comfort zones and find new meanings to love, hope, faith, courage…to life. You might discover something unexpected, something that causes you to simply be great!