It’s the second week of May and as you all know, I’m here in Lynchburg, Virginia for my second travel nursing assignment. It’s quite lengthy if I tell you everything that happened since my first day here, but I figured you can benefit from this post if I tell you stuff that surprised me from a Texan’s point of view. OK, before you react violently, I’m not from Texas originally, lol, but I’ve spent my last three years in Texas and even if I deny it, I’ve been accustomed to some of its ways and culture. Howdy y’all!
These little things that I observed are from my two weeks of stay, so I’m sure there’d be more to this list in the next months. But for now, here are five things in Lynchburg that surprised me.
1. Lynchburg has no HEB
I already expected the absence of Whataburger (oh snap, YES it is real!) but HEB? I honestly thought that it is America’s first choice when it comes to grocery shopping. Next to Walmart, of course. But really?! HEB is like TX’s go-to grocery store. So on our first week, Luis and I searched for an alternative and found out that Lynchburg has a community market. How cool is that? We haven’t been there yet, but we’re planning to go next time we do our grocery shopping. For this week’s groceries, we went to Kroger and applied for their membership. I know that we’re only staying for three months, but I couldn’t say no to the nice sales person who offered a discount. Kroger looks like HEB but with more organic options I think.
I actually like Kroger even though it’s more expensive than HEB because of its quality ham. I know it’s a petty reason but we always buy ham for our sandwiches and I can assure you that I love their sweet ham. It’s nothing like the HEB brand. lol sorry! Anyway, the size of the establishment is almost the same as HEB so maybe we won’t miss the latter that much.
2. Roller coaster roads
YES, I know we are in the Hill City, but nobody briefed us about our route going to the hospital and that the drive every day would feel like we’re in an amusement park. I loved it at first but my gut doesn’t. I know we’re only feeling like this at first and it’d go away eventually, hopefully soon. I’m not complaining, though. It’s not that bad. On a different note, I commend the drainage system in the city because even if it rained many times last week, and even with those dips in major alleys, we never had an issue with flood build-up.
The only issue actually is the gas. I think the car consumes more fuel to go up and down, right? Or am I making this up? But it makes sense though, because of the force going up. But I don’t really know. Lol.
3. Erratic weather
I was totally expecting a cold weather! You can’t blame me, Lynchburg is in the mountain. And a week before our trip, I was looking at my phone’s Weather app in order to monitor the trend of temperature- it was ranging from 40s to 60s. Travelers could relate to this: weather is crucial for packing because jackets, boots, and coats take a lot of space. I was not disappointed that it’s not cold because I don’t like snow or anything under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. My DNA likes tropical weather, don’t get me wrong on this one. However, when packing is compromised with minute details like this, it’s a little frustrating. I should have brought more summer dresses! Lol.
Anyway, the weather has been amazing so far! There are little rain showers that we experienced but it didn’t really last that long. We were able to go to parks and nearby stores on our first week which is pretty cool because we didn’t expect to explore the place before our clinical duty starts. So the weather actually did us a favor. It’s somewhat erratic, but totally manageable.
4. Low cost of living
We’re in Virginia so I anticipated that our cost of living would dramatically increase. Thank God, it didn’t. I was amazed that we didn’t have to adjust our monthly expenses. It’s almost the same! We were even able to rent a three-bedroom house for only $1250/mo including all our utilities except our Wifi installation. Groceries cost the same; we usually allot $150/week, more or less. Gas doesn’t vary much throughout the country so I’m not really expecting that to change.
For a small city, the cost of living is well distributed- from housing to food. I can’t really tell if it’s actually balanced with their job opportunities and wage range. It’s hard to estimate on our part because our travel contract is only good for three months.
Oh speaking of housing, I want to share with you how we found this temporary home of ours. Initially, we were planning to stay in a hotel for two weeks like what we did in Lufkin. Then just scout around for an apartment that accepts short lease and is move-in ready and at the same time, pet-friendly. So we arrived here in Lynchburg Sunday morning, like around 8am; the check in time at our hotel was 3pm. So we had extra time to explore. But then we were so tired to even tour around. We ended up at Centra General’s parking lot after I was able to convince Luis to check out our workplace.
So while we’re at the parking lot and killing time, I browsed Craigslist for housing rentals and sublets nearby. And there we found Gwen’s post about this house. I called the number enlisted and he immediately responded. I told him we’ll see the place, and right there and then, we signed the contract and cancelled our hotel booking. Such a rush but this is totally one of those unexpected blessings. Not only did we save expenses for a costly hotel booking, we did settle in perfectly in no time!
5. Friendly neighborhood
We were so fortunate to be in our little neighborhood in Yancey Street. The people here greeted us with warm smiles and enthusiastic nods. We learned from the house’s owner that the place is homed by only one extended family that’s why everybody knows everybody. And they are very helpful, too!
Don’t judge me for this but on our first day, I thought I lost my little kitty, Pumpkin! I went all hysterical and did a pretty ugly cry for this. It’s because I opened the door going to the backyard and I didn’t realize that Pumpkin is just around lurking at the corner. You know how cats are. So when I couldn’t find her inside the house, I panicked and instantly thought that she ran outside. I then approached our friendly neighbors and told them about my missing furry companion. Without much introduction, they immediately helped us look for Pumpkin. All those trouble only to find out that Pumpkin was hiding under our bed. Geez! What a first day.
Let me just share with you some of the photos we took while we toured around. We haven’t really explored the place but since we’re so excited to be here, there you go:
So far, we’re liking it here.
Where are you planning to go this May?
Let me know in the comments!
New Orleanians call it the
"Greatest Free Show on Earth."
Let me tell you why.
This post is a little bit late for 2017. But YOU NEED to bookmark this for NEXT YEAR or for NEXT FESTIVAL. Because MARDI GRAS in NEW ORLEANS is like no other! If you love food, colors, culture, and music, there's no other place to go. New Orleans is known for its incredible weave of everything. Bring your camera and whole bucket of fun vibes, and I promise you, it won't disappoint.
Why New Orleans? Because COOL and CREATIVE people build their empire here! There are places that are amazing only because they are aesthetically pretty and commercialized. I'm not saying the city is not pretty and commercialized BUT New Orleans is more than that. It will make you experience things; it will make you understand people in a revealing and colorful way. The attitude of locals here is just intense and you'll never get accustomed to their brand of humor and unique perspective.
1. You'll be stunned by its rich history and culture.
You know those people who barely talk at first and watch you like you're one of the bad guys? I am one of those people. Going to New Orleans, I expected to see an ordinary parade, you know, with prismatic floats and costumes, loud music and a lot of drunk people. OK, while some of these things are true, it is undeserving for NOLA to be treated like a gossip. First off, Mardi Gras is a Christian and historical event and is mainly targeted to family and deeply rooted tribes of the place. It may look like a wild ride to you (eating nonstop, getting drunk, excessive show off, and the like) for it to be a Christian parade but if you go back to its history, you'll be amazed on how it distinguishes itself as a celebration of freedom and unity.
Let's have a fast information exchange here first: According to historians, Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday dates back thousands of years to pagan hullabaloo of spring and fertility. It is during that time when Christianity arrived in Rome that religious leaders decided to incorporate popular local traditions into the new faith. They thought, it is an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England. (source)
Now, you'll think HOW the heck did Mardi Gras end up in New Orleans?
It is quite simple actually. On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
How it came back was a pretty interesting story. On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake. (source)
Intricately crafted floats by Kern Studios
2. It's not just parade of colors. It is PEOPLE exhibit as well.
I must admit, it was knotty impression at first. I don't know if it's their accent or their language. They just talk funny and they know it. We were checking in when I heard a lady yelled outside the entrance saying something I couldn't understand. All I know was... I looked confused. I honestly thought she was speaking in European language or something. Wait, is that French? I saw the receptionist in my peripheral view---smiling, as if witnessing another common "tourist" bewilderment. I get it. Although this whole thing was new to me, to her, I'm just a temporary face in the crowd. The whole situation was a normal scene.
Again, this has something to do with their peculiar history. New Orleans is said to be the place where Africans, both slave and free, and American Indians shared their cultures and intermingled with European settlers. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for producing a durable culture in a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from its inception and continues to distinguish this city today.
When we were looking for parking (God knows we had a really difficult time looking for one BUT IT IS WORTH the struggle!), I was surprised to see such a melange of people tirelessly walking around, wearing shiny beads and eye candy costumes. They were everywhere! The streets were filled with laughter and music. Some people opted to eat their festive food at the comfort of their balcony while others savored finger food offered by stalls along the sidewalks. I love how the community is so involved with the parade. From local dancers and musicians to their families and friends cheering for them.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is for all age groups, too! You will see young children in their splashy face paints and glittery hairs. And don't even think for a second that old people are going to miss the fun because most of them rocked their costumes like a boss!
3. No matter where you are in the world, whoever you are, whatever your trip in life is, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!
If you're going to New Orleans to witness Mardi Gras, you're in for a PARTY you'll never forget. Carnival in New Orleans is something that needs to be truly experienced. I tell you, ogling at photos isn't enough! THE VIBE IS JUST INTENSE! Oh wait, did I mention IT IS LEGAL here to drink outdoors? Only in Louisiana! How cool is that? But I need to warn you on this- IT IS A MARATHON, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself when drinking. It gets pretty humid in summer; it's better to have water in hand. Party goers, put New Orleans Mardi Gras in your bucketlist! You sure are gonna thank me after.
Free stuff flying in the air, dancing drummers, and elaborate performances? KIDS love Mardi Gras! And yes, there are children in the streets. It's one of the common misconceptions that Mardi Gras is like an adult celebration. IT IS NOT! For most locals, it is a family tradition. Many of these children arrive with their families and a Mardi Gras ladder, which is a contraption that is essentially a wooden seat nailed to a stepladder, so that the kiddies can see over parade-goers and hopefully catch some cool stuff. Be sure to watch out for these tiny humans when aiming for your beads. Many unfortunate paws have been stomped in the process. Same tip applies to you. Don't say I didn't warn yah.
You love music? For the record, you'll be in the most musical city on earth! Who ever thought of a party without catchy music? You're right, no one. Here, grannies dance. Kids dance. Store owners dance. Police officers dance. When you go to see a show in NOLA, feel free to move and not just stand there like a terrified corpse. Be one with the crowd, and you'll see yourself in a better hue. There's something about the event that speaks to your soul. Whenever you look around, you feel the city's soul. It is alive. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is unbelievably breathtaking.
Definitely one for the books!
Photos taken during Mardi Gras in New Orleans
"It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans." — Mark Twain
"I followed my love."
I don't want this to be a trend. I don't want this to be a fad. I want to breathe every day knowing I chose the lifestyle I want. I chose to wander. I want to look back one day and say, "I served my purpose."
To others, this could be just another millennial dream. To eat in a local restaurant and try weekly chef's specialty. To mingle with strangers and pet their dogs. To feel the sand between your toes and let your feet sink into ground's cushions. To turn your back... away from all the things that caused you drama. To be yourself and make a mark in a world full of turbulence and doubts. To play a song while driving on unfamiliar streets and forgetting that problems, wars, and societal division exist. To live in your little bubble and call it paradise. To smile because all while it's loud outside and roads are rocky sometimes, you have a choice whether to stop the journey or to get going and move to your next destination.
"Is it worth it?"
I asked myself after paying two sets of electric bills, rent, and car loan. I'm not going to lie; paying double for everything is stressful to my budget and pocket. Why double, you ask? As a travel nurse here in the US, we receive pay packages that are different compared to those with permanent staff positions. Travel agents offer us nontaxable travel benefits which include housing stipends, meals, and incidentals. Say they give us 1000 USD for housing and 500 USD for meals biweekly, we're able to keep it to ourselves. No tax! And that doesn't include our hourly rate yet. However, to receive nontaxable travel benefits, we must have 1) a permanent tax home (which is my apartment in McAllen) and 2) my travel assignment must not be within commuting distance of my permanent tax home, and each travel assignment, including extensions and other assignments cannot be expected to keep me in the same general area for more than one year.
So you get why I need to keep my original apartment, right? You might think that the end result is the same- getting paid more while spending twice the amount of what you used to give away. And that it doesn't make sense at all if the salary barely changed. No, not really. I travel with my boyfriend so somehow we manage to cut the expenses in half. And I have a roommate in Mcallen so she pays half the rent as well. It's all good actually. I have saved more in three months than what I used to when I was still a permanent staff in my previous job. It's quite confusing I know, but to keep it simple, this travel nurse life works for me and my needs.
The question didn't sprout from money. It's from something else.
I was lying on bed when I saw Luis playing his video games. I suddenly thought of the important things he needed to give up just to be with me in this journey. He didn't want this life at first. He imagined his career to be close to his family, in the comfort of the town he grew up in, secured that everything he needs are just within reach. He can even close his eyes and drive to my place if he wanted to. He doesn't need GPS; he knows the roads by heart. I can only imagine all the things he'd do if we stayed in our previous jobs. It will look like this:
His mom will cook tostada for breakfast. He'll wash his face and brush his teeth in front of a big mirror with ceramic sink. His toothbrush, razors, towels, and creams will be at the same corner; he can do his routine without minding that another person will use the bathroom because it is his bathroom. And nobody will sigh whenever he forgets to flush the toilet. He will go to their dining area with plates already lined up, with food waiting for him, his mom ironing clothes and telling him random stuff. Then his siblings will walk across the room, or his dad, and it will be another day of going to work or church or someplace else. He will play his video games using his large screen. Oh, how he loves his Xbox! He will try to choose a game among his mountain of collections and he'll end up playing Fallout or Resident Evil. He will do this for hours and days and weeks and he won't bother that any of his routine will change.
And then one day, I told him about my plans of finally doing travel nursing. I was excited. I would tell him about this travel nurse working in our unit and convincing me to do the same. I would research about travel communities and blogging world and he'd just nod. I was into it. I was thrilled by the idea of it, but he was sad and hesitant. It came to that point when I told him I can go. Alone. Solo. And that would mean us breaking up. I know the idea is horrendous but traveling around every three months? With new people, new cultures, I mean all these changes are going to happen, and we both know we will be different people after.
We all know what happened next: He decided to come with me.
I used to have nightmares of him leaving in the middle of our contract and going back home. I was anxious that he might not like it because he'd miss his family so much. I was worried about our housing situation- how to find an apartment that will accept tenants on a short lease or how to function with limited furnitures. On top of this, it is a known fact in nursing community that couples and groups experience a little more difficulty finding jobs at the same hospitals or hospitals within a reasonable commute of one another. It's because some hospitals maintain a policy prohibiting couples from working at their facility at the same time. They cite problems that they’ve experienced with companies in the past as the reason. In addition, it’s always a little more difficult to land jobs for multiple people in any given location. That’s just the nature of the game.
My mind's exploding at the thought of him not being satisfied with our work environment. What if our new coworkers are mean? What if the place is chaotic and more toxic than where we were? How are we going to spend holidays away from home? What if the travel isn't worth it? What if I didn't make the right choice?
"What if he's not happy?"
I used to imagine his face with disappointment. I used to try so hard doing all things that would make him comfortable and not feel homesick. I look at him and I feel at home, but... what if he doesn't feel the same way?
Second week of February ended our travel assignment contract in Lufkin. This is it. The moment of truth. I finally had the courage to ask him what his thoughts are. If he still wants to go on, or just stop. There was tug of war inside my gut. I wanted him to say that he'd stay with me and travel some more but I don't want to be selfish. I just want him to be happy whether it's with me or not.
It's hard to gauge what a happy relationship means but in this lifestyle, I found out that having the same goals and plans is one way to start accommodating each other's needs. I still plan on doing this again and I don't see it ending soon. It taught me how to be a better nurse. It made me feel human again. I was high. It was amazing.
So when I asked him about his plans, he smiled and said he'll do it again in a heartbeat. I felt relieved.
What changed his mind?
At this point, I already made peace with myself knowing and finally believing that our relationship grew stronger than I could ever imagine. Maybe he got used to our arguments? By the way, when we're traveling, we argue a lot.
A LOT. I posted a whole other article for that here and we never had a problem that we couldn't fix since that day. From simple details to complicated ones, somehow, our spirits are less stressed. We see a different view and that helps our perspective. We became better people than our past selves.
We never lived together under the same roof before our travel assignment. Yes, we'd go on week-long trips like during that time when we went on cruise but actually breathing the same air freshener (and farts, lol) and compromising each other's privacy? Traveling revealed a lot about us. We discovered our weaknesses and strengths. And what came out of it? We perfected adjusting to our limitations.
Doing our weekly groceries has played a great part on how we communicate, too! Who would have thought that weighing which meal to cook, what guilty pleasure to buy and whatnot could bring us closer? It is really true that as humans, the indelible treasure in our hearts and minds when experiencing something new together can be everlasting. It is reassuring to know that there is somebody with me to share adventures with. Somebody was there when it was fun and when it was scary.
Judging from our past conversation, our sense of humor became more in sync. There are times when situations don't go as planned and things just go horribly wrong and you just laugh about it. It could be the disgusting food from the cheap hotel you booked online, or from nasty comments made by a stranger who didn't have anything to do with you. At the end of the day, no matter how terrible the day went by, both of you gained one more golden story to laugh about in the future.
After our first travel nursing assignment, YES, WE CAME OUT ALIVE! And OUR RELATIONSHIP IS STRONGER THAN EVER.
My experience may vary from other travel nurse couples out there because Luis and I are both nurses who only accept same hospital contracts. If you're a travel nurse couple but with different set up, read on.
Retired spouse or significant other of a travel nurse
If your spouse or significant other is retired, then the challenge is greatly reduced. Most people have thought about what they will do when they are retired (like travel) so now is the time for your spouse or significant other to look into those interests and hobbies that have always been on hold. This is also a great opportunity to travel in locations close to the kids and grandkids. If they are retired and bringing in extra income is not a huge priority, then a retired spouse or significant other is in a great position to take care of the issues like taxes, finances, your house back in your hometown and you (hey you’re the one still working so make sure they take care of everything at home so you can relax).
Spouse or significant other who is also a travel nurse
This is the easiest situation, but does present some of its own challenges as far as finding assignments in the same city if not same hospital at the same time. This will require a great recruiter and travel nursing company and a lot of pre-planning on your part. Another challenge of this is to make sure that you try to get your schedules as closely synced as possible so you don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy your travel location together. You don’t just want to transfer a life where you don’t see each other to a new locale; you want to enjoy all the benefits of a travel nursing job. So make sure you work with your recruiter and nurse manager to see how often you can work the same schedules or at least coordinate one or two days off together a week. And hopefully you can avoid a situation where one of you is working the night shift and the other the day.
Another option here is to take turns working the travel nursing jobs. Instead of you both working during one 13 week stretch you could alternate. And another option is to both work a ton for 2-3 assignments a year and have 3 months off together. By then you should have seen enough of each other enough that going back to work sounds like a vacation.
Non traveler spouse or significant other of a travel nurse
The challenges of having a spouse or significant other who is not retired or a traveler while you are a travel nurse is really keeping them busy and productive away from home. If you have already made the decision for them to leave their job or career behind while you use travel nursing to make extra money and see the country then hopefully the two of you have thought through what they will do while you are at work. But if you haven’t or you have realized that you need or want them to supplement the household income then are some cool job options for spouse or significant others of travel nurses.
Some other options are working with a temporary staffing agency. Many industries rely on staffing agencies just like nursing does so be sure to check out that option. It is a great way for them to gain new skills and broaden their career network while you travel.
Another option for them is to go back to college online. There are tons of great online university degree programs all you need is an Internet connection, time and motivation. Just search for online colleges and you will find tons of resources.
A few other rewarding options I have seen spouse or significant others of travel nurses take:
- Substitute teaching
Links for spouse or significant others of travel nurses
- Does your spouse or significant other/SO travel with you? AllNurses.com Forum discussion
- Adventures in Travel Nursing
- Travel Nurse: Have Husband, Will Travel
- Food, Fitness, & Fun in All 50 States: A Travel Nursing Survival Guide Blog: Our Journey, Advice, & Dieting Tips from the Road
- Fast Facts for the Travel Nurse: Travel Nursing in a Nutshell
My travel agency is Medical Solutions. If you've been wanting to join the gypsy nurse life and don't know where to start, feel free to message me for referrals. 🙂 If you have questions about Travel Nursing in general, you are welcome to join our Travel Nurse Group on Facebook! Have a good day everyone!
Psalm 32:7-8 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you."
Lufkin is 120 miles northeast of Houston, and is considered to be the county seat of Angelina County. It is at the crossroads of East Texas at the intersections of Highways 59 (leading to Houston and Rio Grande Valley) and 69 (leading to Port Arthur and Beaumont).
Yesterday after work, Luis and I went to Suddenlink to pay for our internet application and installation. Going there, we passed by a park that is located at the corner near our hospital. Nope. We didn’t notice that before! It’s only five minutes from our workplace! I think that’s the advantage of going to a small city. You get to see lots of cool stuff in a 5-mile radius.
There’s nobody there. We owned the place, literally. Or maybe because it’s Monday, and everybody’s at work. There’s no car, no entrance fee whatsoever. It’s just there, beautifully existing, free, and open to strangers who want to enter the place. Like most of my pretty friends. Just kidding, you guys. 😂
There’s not a lot of parking space. I think it’s only good for ten cars tops. The place is quiet and intimate as it is. We feel like we can shoot a movie here, us throwing romantic pick-up lines and cheesy comebacks, but *spoilers 🚨 * we’re just like those ordinary couples who love to annoy each other. 🙈
This is Luis making sure he locked Gavin… and isn’t the backdrop so captivating? Sometimes I wish Luis can take photos of me like this. You know, all natural with hypnotizing background and is balanced in all angles. But he’s not really into photography, much more into selfies, or taking photos in general. He’s a private person who doesn’t enjoy these kinds of stuff. He loved the place though. He didn’t really say it, but I can feel it from his comments about the park.
This caught our attention because what if this place isn’t open to the public? Lol. My imagination sometimes runs wild, and I think of murder cases and bloody plot twists. I can blame Netflix for that or Patterson’s knack for suspense. Near this sign is a house(?) or a gathering place (?) which has a tarpaulin on it saying, “Narcotics anonymous.”
I looked at Luis and jokingly said, “Love, this is getting scary.” lol You know those horror scenes where the main characters find a creepy spot out of nowhere and the skies suddenly turn dark? Well, it didn’t happen. Too bad. There’s nobody in there though, and if there were we can just say hi to people and leave. We’re nurses, and part of our job is to maintain the integrity of our patients. Most people in those kinds of help groups are there because they want to change their lives, or at least have a support group that understands what they’re going through.
*No photo of the facility for private reasons.*
But here are other cool photos from our new favorite spot:
We’re on our scrubs (straight from work) but that didn’t stop me from asking Luis to take a photo.
Oh I almost forgot. Here’s my takeaway gem from this place:
Filipinos love basketball like how Americans love their football. Anywhere you go, may it be in rural or urban areas, you can always find a basketball ring like this. Our culture teaches us to be physically active and socially engaged. I don’t know about you but this is one thing social media ruined for us. Yes, it helps us connect to friends from miles away, but you can’t deny the reality that it disconnects you from people close to you. Maybe it’s time for Google to adopt a culturally engaging task search. Would it hurt of they add local words like “Basketbolan nearby.” Or “tambayan near me.” It must be so convenient to create friendly circles again. That’s just me daydreaming.
We found this near our parking spot, just around the mini bridge (which of course is under the big maple tree):
So thank God there’s Google.
And surprisingly, here’s what I found:
A webpage for Baha’is, a faith-centered group of people who believe in modern teachings of God.
“Let your vision be world embracing…” — Bahá’u’lláh
Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.
Bahá’ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life. Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
My curiosity was satisfied. I looked up and as I watched those leaves dancing with the wind, I couldn’t help but to appreciate God’s creation and purpose in our lives.
I’m a Christian who believes in Jesus’ way of life. But that doesn’t hinder me from acknowledging and embracing others’ beliefs and faith.
Thirty four years after it was planted, this big maple tree right here is standing tall, looking like a masterpiece of its own.
Faith is when you plant the seed of hope, not knowing how or when you’ll see the fruit, or if it will have a fruit, it’s putting your energy in something, just knowing that something great will happen. Just think about it, if you’re the one who planted this tree thirty four years ago, would you really think that something so small will grow THIS BIG? And BEAUTIFUL?
It’s just amazing, isn’t it?
We hope to find more places like this here in Lufkin. ❤️️ This place really continues to surprise us!
You guys, I’ll continue to write for y’all! ❤️
After contemplating on whether to pursue the life on the road, weighing the pros and cons, and foreseeing judgments that will come along our way, we ended up accepting the travel offer.
We did it! We actually did it!
Applications done. Interviews over.
After eight long hours of drive, we’re finally at Lufkin, TX.
Here is a pair of my tennis shoes on our second day at work:
This photo was taken during our break time. I made Jalapeño bologna sandwiches and sweet iced tea for lunch. Since the weather is great and I’m still amazed by our parking lot view, I was able to convince Luis to do mini picnic with me. (So corny of me, right?) We only have 30 minutes to spend for break so I made sure to time ourselves. We opened the trunk of the car and arranged our food. My Caddy is spacious for the two of us so we didn’t really have a hard time setting it up. We had an amazing view, cool atmosphere, and hearty food. I was reminded of our very first 4th of July together. We also gazed at the fireworks display while sitting inside the trunk of my car. *Oh memories*
I love the location of our new workplace because it’s only ten minutes away from our temporary home. The view is terrific! All these autumn trees are enough for me to feel the vacation vibe.
On our first week, we stayed at Quality Inn. All amenities are great except that I need to pay an extra $10 per day for Pumpkin, and there’s no kitchenette available. They only had microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. I bought a portable burner at Walmart for only $25 so we can cook pasta. I brought my rice cooker with me (proud Asian here! lol) so that helped, too. I told Luis we can actually pull it off in that hotel. But I computed all our expenses together with the hotel fee, and there’s just no way we can stay there without compromising our travel fee. It would cost us $2000 per month and that doesn’t include my apartment in McAllen (yes I’m paying for two apartments right now).
We had “the talk” and I told him that getting an apartment is the way to go if we wanted to maximize our travel fee. We agreed to travel in the first place because of the higher pay. Travel is a big plusss though, but money plays a big part as well.
We googled for places, apartments, extended stays, even airbnb, and some rent-a-room in Craigslist. I made calls to different facilities, and I realized it’s harder to find pet friendly communities than finding places that accommodate short leases. We eventually found one, Fox Run Apartments leased the unit as unfurnished but move-in ready.
The next day, we drove to look into it and we’re surprised that it’s like a curve away from the hospital. We talked to the manager, Ashley, and she immediately catered to our needs. We toured the place and we’re sold right there and then. It’s a 500 sqft place, has built-in gas burner, fridge, and dishwasher. It’s cable-ready and pet friendly as well. The deposit for pet, first month pay, and application fee costs us $1200. Monthly rent is $650 which is not bad compared to supposedly 2k Quality inn has to offer. Here’s our unit on the second floor:
That, however, excludes water, electricity, and Wifi. For water, Ashley informed us that it’s in the $35-40 range. For electricity, I’m estimating it to be lower than $100. And for Wifi, I applied at Suddenlink for 100/month. (Luis just can’t spend the day without streaming channels and playing videogames). Our monthly allowance for housing would reach 1k all in all. Food is another story, but I allotted $100 per week for that, including our eat outs.
We moved the weekend the room was ready. We got everything we needed and brought with us some sample-sized toiletries that we weren’t able to use. I’m just being practical, guys. And I don’t know why but Luis actually loved their conditioner. Lol.
Workwise, we find it easier compared to where we previously worked. The software that the company uses is called MedHost and the learning curve isn’t that sharp at all. It’s very user-friendly to us. Workplace atmosphere is also great. The people are friendly and cool, the overall ambience is highly recommended for first timers. We work three days per week and we’re paid $1,400 every Friday. Not bad, right? We’re guaranteed 36 hours of work per week. If we do overtime, the rate is higher. It’s additional $70/hour. We are not that motivated to do OT because we value our health and quality life. Work-life balance is hard to achieve, and we’re fortunate to have it by doing travel nursing, so we just want to keep it that way.
Woodland Heights is located at the medical heart of Lufkin. It’s near Walmart, CVS pharmacy, most convenient stores, restaurants, hotels and apartments.
I also admire the diversity here. I was used to seeing Hispanics at McAllen. I learned that Deep East Texas’ racial makeup was 59.92% White, 26.58% African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.37% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 10.31% from other races, and 1.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.59% of the population. (Wikipedia)
What I learned so far:
1. Patients are the same. It doesn’t really matter wherever you are, as long as you can establish rapport with your patients, and you know the ins and outs of patient care, the procedures needed, skills to have, you can actually pull it off.
2. Being in a different place keeps you on your toes. It stimulates critical thinking and your ability to cope up with adversity. It’s not easy starting all over again, but it sure would add something to your life moments.
3. Workplace would make or break your hospital stay. I’m smiling because my coworkers are great! And if they happen to be the opposite of what I dreamt of having, I’m still going to smile because I know I won’t stay in that place for long.
4. Luis doesn’t like Pumpkin as much as Pumpkin doesn’t like him, but the other day, I saw Pumpkin sleeping near Luis’ spot, so I guess it’s safe to assume that they’re adapting pretty good.
5. Travel nursing is the way to go if you like to learn new things and explore places. I get bored easily with routine stuff so this one is a big revelation to me. I realized that I can’t stay in one place if I want to up my game. After all, I left my home country for the very same reason.
6. I cook more because I find it therapeutic and we save a lot!
7. Compromise is a must if you’re going to travel with your kitty companion. The pet deposits these days are on the roof! But it’s worth it; I really enjoy Pumpkin’s company. And she’s getting fatter day by day! 😂
8. You get to know someone by asking about their interest. I find it surprising when my coworkers ask what we usually do on our days off. In return, we get to ask them. And it’s fun because somehow, they share with you a piece of their life.
9. There are Pinoys everywhere. In our unit, I already met four, and counting. There was a doctor who’s Pinoy and he immediately invited me to a party! I wasn’t able to make it though because it was raining…but the comfort of knowing that there are kababayans near you? I felt relieved. It never fails to hit home.
10. God brings you to a place because He wants to reveal something to you. He lets you wander because He wants you to see the beauty that you’re taking for granted. He introduces you to people because He’s introducing Himself to you all over again. Jesus is Jesus, the name above all names, and I am reminded once again that His victory over my sins is a promise of a lifetime. God fulfills His promises at the right time. I’m really grateful for this opportunity.
More of Lufkin here:
I’ve been posting updates on instagram. Follow me there: omgelli is my username.
See you around!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored content from Madonna & Co
There’s always a risk when you create something new. Will people like it? Will it succeed? Will it be worth it?
When Madonna and Co. re-launched in Mid-town East Side, (bordering on the Upper-East Side) from our former location in Soho, we emerged as a different entity, incorporating what made us great in the past, but with new additions. We were more.
In addition to our new location on 60th street, we opened a full service salon and beauty bar within the store, bringing to a life a completely unique shopping experience.
Fashion and Beauty: An Innovative Convergence
The inclusion of the beauty bar inside our boutique converged the worlds of fashion and beauty in a way that’s never been done. For the first time, women have the opportunity to receive comprehensive beautification in a one-stop shop.
Bringing together fashion and beauty as we have done was not without risk, but innovation always involves a leap of faith. New creations don’t arise from the ether. Innovation comes as the result of unique combinations, whether it be a boutique and a beauty bar, our designs and exclusive designer capsule collections, or glam and chic, etc. Creating one-of-a-kind experiences from unique combinations is what Madonna & Co. has always done.
Our willingness to break barriers and defy categorization is what makes our selection of fashion and accessories so vibrant and original. All of the clothing in our store has been designed and hand picked from collections around the world. By dealing with the designer themselves and direct with our factories, we are able to offer luxury items at affordable prices.
The vast selection of unique affordable clothing featured in our shop is what makes us the best NYC boutique operating today. By shopping at Madonna & Co., you receive the peace of mind in knowing that you’ll never cross paths with someone wearing the same outfit; one-of-a-kind, wearable and affordable clothes for independent woman is what we do.
Community of Independent Women
While the ability to get a full-service haircut, styling, and complete makeup treatment in the same place where you find all of your exclusive designs and luxury clothing is extremely convenient, the impetus behind opening the beauty bar had more to do with community than convenience.
We wanted to create a space where independent women from all walks of life and ages could come together to shop, socialize, and express their femininity. We imagined a world where the social aspects of a salon coalesced with the activity of shopping. Our love of fashion and beauty led us to invent a world that unites these spheres and offers women a place to have fun and engage in a dialogue about fashion and style.
At Madonna & Co. we believe in creating a personal style. We see it as our job to assist women in crafting their own individual aesthetic. Every woman that walks through our doors is a unique assemblage of beliefs, values, and traits. Her aesthetic preferences are a function of her entire worldview and identity.
Creating the perfect outfit involves a translation of sorts. Our aim is to help the women who shops in our store translate their core identity into an aesthetic that embodies and represents who they really are and how they feel. Every woman who comes into our store receives a unique treatment that results in a unique style – whether her preferences lean towards glam, chic, posh, or edgy.
The beauty bar allows us to take the crafting of a unique style one step further. In addition to helping women find their dream new fashions, our stylists bring years of experience and knowledge to the table, assisting women realize their dream hairstyle!
We offer every customer a free consultation at the salon and beauty bar before her first appointment. This consultation gives us the chance to learn about what the specific customer likes about her hair or makeup styling and what she’d like to change. Our stylists and make-up artists will then present some possible ways to enhance the aspects of her appearance that the customer would like to shake up.
While our head stylist is an expert in all types of hair, her specialty is curly hair and we call her "The Curly Hair Expert." Our custom line of No Frizz Miracle Gel – designed specifically for curly hair – mirrors this focus.
Come Join our Community
What are you waiting for? Come join in on the fun! Today’s the perfect day to unleash the beauty within you and find that perfect outfit you’ve been longing for.
Booking an appointment at the salon and beauty bar can be done either by phone or via styleseat.com or on our new on-line store www.MadonnaAndCo.com, for your convenience.
We also provide off-site makeup & hair services as well and can help you plan the perfect party or host all kinds of events in our luxurious boutique, including bridal/baby showers, fashion product launches, etc.
So come on down today and introduce yourself!
Learn About the Brand
We figure you're tired of seeing the same old, same old so we've put the thrill back in shopping.
Simply put, it's not "about us" - It's completely, and uniquely, about you.
Are you searching for a place that understands how you can create your own style point of view? A place that brings together Beauty & Fashion all under one roof? Well, look no further.
At Madonna & Co (M&C) you're entering a world where fashion isn't copied, it's created. Where luxury is about being one of a kind, not how much you spend. Where you'll discover exclusive designs, designer capsule collections, and exciting mixes of fabrics. Everything is easy to wear, yet sophisticated, feminine, but inspired by the art of edgy fashion details.
For the ultimate beauty experience, don’t forget to stop by our Beauty Bar. We believe that gorgeous hair and flawless makeup is essential to complete any look. For this reason, we strive to provide a plethora of beauty services that will help you look your best no matter the occasion.
We offer a variety of hair treatments and we work with all types & textures, with a specialty in Curly Hair! (Curly hair gals…Our new Miracle Gel formula will be your favorite hair product, it locks in moisture and prevents frizz for days!)
You can also come to us for all your makeup needs including makeup lessons and trials. We also provide off-site makeup & hair services as well and can help you plan the perfect party or host all kinds of events in our luxurious boutique, including bridal/baby showers, fashion product launches, etc.
Our customer is an independent woman, not a woman of independent means. She stands out in her own style, rather than following the fashion pack. And wherever she lives, she has a New York state of mind.
Madonna & Co thinks you are uniquely you and it's all about attitude.
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So come check out our unparalleled apparel collections, an assortment of fashion & real gem jewels & expressive accessories and treat yourself to a cut & style or a makeover all at the same place.
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Echoes of rustling waves caressing the shore, cloudless cerulean blue sky, and sparkling sunbeams reflecting on water, all while eating your morning dose of pancakes and fruits and enjoying the light lullaby of the ocean— sounds interesting to you? If it does, breakfast on cruise is one thing you shouldn’t miss in your lifetime!
Last September, my SO and I marked our first year together. And what’s a better way to celebrate it than going on a Bahamas cruise! With endless entertainment and activities all lined up for us, we definitely had a good time. But if there’s one thing that remained my favorite- it’s having breakfast while overlooking the seemingly infinite shades of blue. From the farthest sky down to the deepest part of the ocean, there’s something about this view that just quiets my inner self.
Our favorite spot in Carnival Victory was the Lido Restaurant. They open around lunch time, and since we woke up late most of the time, this has been our breakfast spot. They have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and the food options are unbelievable. Some features that I loved were Mongolian Wok (I’m Asian hello) Salad Bar, Chef’s Choice, and Pizza Pirate that’s open 24 hours! I remember Luis trying to stop me from getting pizza at 3am. He didn’t win though, my cravings did. There were Carnival Deli and stations for unlimited soft frozen yogurt that we weren’t able to try because in as much as we wanted to eat everything, our tummy couldn’t anymore handle all the food, but they look appetizing, too.
Those times that we actually got up for breakfast time, we had memorable munch at Seaday Brunch and Breakfast Grill. Made-to-order omelettes, fluffy pancakes, and sizzling bacon were of course part of those glorious mornings. Don’t try to miss their hotdogs! I was just shy to ask about the brand that they use, but it’s so juicy and full of flavor! Next time, I promise to ask. I’m just not sure if they’re gonna reveal that secret to me.
On top of that, all these buffets were included in our cruise package! What more can we ask for, right? Devour all the way! Who said something about diet, and figures, and waistlines? After all, those are just numbers! Kidding aside, if you’re on a diet, they have options for you, too. Veggies and calculated calories are on their menu. And the fitness center is located on the same floor! No reason not to maintain your shape or skip the gym.
With happy people around and overflowing food at every corner, it feels like celebration every day.
Also, I think the warm greetings from staff also added to this amazing vibe. I’m so glad we went for Carnival. In case you ask, we booked it at Priceline.com. They have good deals, we had many options and most of them are within our budget. I called them to verify our booking, and their customer service is fantastic. Didn’t have to wait for them to connect me to a representative, which was cool for me since I don’t have all the time in the world. I was hesitant at first because of some negative reviews from other customers, but since it’s cheap, I didn’t really expect much. I booked our flight there also, and guess what, even our shore excursions! It’s one big leap of faith for us since it’s the first time that we used their website. But I’m glad we did! It saved us a lot of money in the process.
So there. I think the rest of our cruise trip should be in another post. But for our breakfast fix, Carnival Victory offered us great food, breathtaking view, and one of a kind experience! ‘Til next time!
If there's one thing I don't like about traveling, it's the "before" of every trip. I always find myself cramming to buy essentials I forgot to bring, or losing accessories and cords that go missing at the exact moment I badly-badlyyy- need them. (Feel me, bruuh?) I love planning but there are things that planning couldn't do for you. In terms of saving money, time, and space, there are a lot of smart ways you can do that are way better than the traditional travel preps you always go for:
1.Book your flight 54 DAYS IN ADVANCE.
This is a secret shared to me by my friend who happened to be in a research team of an airline company. I googled it myself and I was amazed by the algorithm that these airlines use. True enough, with 3M trips (within US) collated and analyzed, that's the magic number that will save you a dime!
2. Maximize containers.
Do you have a pill/ sun glass container lying around your house? Bring it to good use by utilizing it as your wonder organizer. You'll never lose a pair of earrings again! It's also the best container for earplugs and memory cards. These little things are easy to misplace and I assure you, it's truly surprising how many important things these containers can fit in.
3. Ladies, forget your hot curling tools.
Aside from carrying its weight, it's also prone to malfunction after a bumpy travel. Here's a pro tip for you: Spritz damp hair with sea salt spray, cover it with towel, do a bun, and sleep on it.Unwrap it the next day and you'll see beachy waves perfect for your #HairGoals. After all, a free-spirited look is what best sums up a fun-filled adventure.
4. Bring a plastic bag or two for your dirty clothes.
And not just that, go to your pantry and snatch some dryer sheet. You can use it to keep your dirty clothes from smelling. You'll never know if your flight back is going to be delayed, or worse, if you're going to be stranded somewhere. And isn't it cool and awesome to have a fragrant smelling luggage?
5. Scarfs. Jewelries. Sunglasses.
The hack of every fashion-oriented individual when traveling. You can bring 4 or more to change your vibe using the same set of clothes. You can wear the same boots WHILE mix-and-matching your scarfs and accessories and your friends won't even notice it! It's in the details, you guys! Plus, infinity scarfs are life savers, make it a blanket, or cover up when you need it. Infinity scarfs equal infinite options.
6. Eat right.
Too general, you say? But really, you can avoid jet lag by just eating right. Lay off booze and caffeine, and hold off your heavily processed food for a while. These food dehydrate you and make your jet lag worse. And if you're doing an overnight flight, expect mouth dryness and peelings on your face when you do otherwise.
7. If you think couponing is just for groceries, think again.
Browse destinations that you're planning to visit and look for restaurants and hotels around the area. You can find printable coupons on their websites that are beyond compare. Deals like Family buffet, Free room upgrade, and unlimited drinks are just some of these amazing offers!
8. No need to bring your shoe organizer.
Shower caps can do the trick. Wrap it on, and viola, your baggage stays dirt-free.
9. If you're travelling internationally, call your bank and credit card companies first.
Make sure you do it prior to avoid receiving alerts for suspicious activity. Or worse, last a day without access to your hard-earned money!
10. Bring empty water bottle.
Do this or pay $4 for water. I assure you, there are many refilling stations after you pass security.
Travel light, and in-budget, with these smart hacks!
Luis and I were on our way for our first cruise trip when our McAllen to Dallas flight was moved to a later time. We arrived at the airport around 0530; our boarding time was 0600. I didn't try to amend because it's our fault that we were late. So we ended up discussing arguments that we are not supposed to have. I'm going to share these with you and may this be a lesson to couples out there planning their travels.Will avoid these next time!
Sometimes it all starts with this: "It's because you woke up late." And after a while you'll track everything you did, who did them first, who chewed their food last, who chose the departure time, and so on. The thing about being late is it messes up with your planning. If you're like me whose demands to stick to schedule are on the roof, better prepare everything ahead of time, including your partner's to-do list. This way, you'll be able to keep track both of your checklists and foresee delays.
We are guilty of this one. No matter how you list everything, something just slips your mind. In our case, it's the locks for our luggage. The stressful part is when you already mentioned about it and neither of you acts on it as soon as you remember. Small things like this pile up when you don't address it immediately. Stuff you might forget (but hopefully not): passport, valid IDs, tickets, keys, locks, hygiene essentials especially wipes, chargers, memory banks/storage, cash, cards, pen, gum. These are small yet essential things. Because who forget their OOTD and accessories for the whole trip?
3. Where to eat
He wants chicken. I want burgers. He chooses Popeyes. I insists going to TGIF. The thing about compromise is it has limits. And hunger is the one limiting it. Nobody, just nobody, can beat a gurgling tummy and tired feet. The solution that we came up with is to order food that we want and eat it in one place. And since we both want to be fair, we opted eating on a chair, with different meals, but together. We shared, too! It made us realize our differences in terms of preferences, and eating together makes the arguments go away. Compromise can be given by one or shared by two. We chose the latter.
Alternating in paying meals and other spends is our thing. Traveling makes it look too much and too frequent. If you don't have 'partnered savings' like us, it's just right to agree on how much to spend for the whole travel. Say 500 USD each for pocket money, you don't really need to keep track who's paying for what because at the end of the day, you paid equally. Maybe we'll consider what other couples do, like save before the trip. But we're used to saving separately, hmm who knows. Must be worth a try.
Luis isn't really fond of taking pictures in general while I take tons of photos when traveling or going someplace special. I already told him it's for collecting moments that we can reminisce when we get older, and he told me he's okay with that, but not frequent selfies. Since I don't really do selfies a lot, most of our travel photos are two of us sharing quiet times, goofing around, and some overrated couple shots with a tourist-y backdrop, or like our featured image here with a creative twist. It's a matter of agreement on this case. Whichever I like mostly, and I'm happy we had agreed on something. He's pretty supportive when it comes to doing something I passionately love. So there.
6. Last-minute stops
I usually am the more risk-taker type than him. Some days I'll just ask him to go to South Padre without any plans at all, and some days I succeed on forcing a getaway. However, there are times when he just won't easily give in especially if he's the one doing the long, long drive. In this scenario, we usually do the talk: weighing in pros and cons, expenses, tightness of the schedule.
7. Schedule changes
There are events you can't control: weather, delays in flights, cancellation of bookings, etc. But there are situations where one's sense of time and perception is the one getting in the way. Moods for example. "I'm not in the mood for" is usually not a good start of a sentence during the course of your adventure. I always tell Luis that once we go all in for a travel, our moods should be in sync with our activities. Sure there are days that Lazy song is your theme song, but you can always set it aside so you can live "in the moment."
8. Mood swings
I have my own share of mood swings while waiting to board, experiencing traffic, and the like. You see, I don't like to wait. I admit that even when I'm not on my period, my decisions are random, and sometimes very erratic. Luis already knows me and my knack for anger burst. I can blame it on my hormones and being a female but the feminists would refute my claims, so I'm just going to own it. I blame myself for having uncontrollable moods. Sometimes I go from to real quick and Luis would just stare at me, not knowing what to do, or trying to figure out whether I'm serious or not. I'll give him the trophy for being the most patient and understanding man on earth for this one! As for my adjustments, I try my best not to get mad as often as I usually do. May the heavens help me on this one.
9. Stress. 10. Another stress
Traveling can be a lot stressful than you think. Like most healthy couples, arguments will come at one point or another, unexpectedly, or in a whim. You can't even summarize it in one post, but if you have an end game in mind, everything will fall into place. Either you'll think about the stresses and let them eat you and your whole trip or just laugh at them and throw them at the sea, on the road, in the sky, wherever you'd want. After all, you decided to travel to have fun and forget your everyday worries. So, what's your end game? To argue then argue some more or to argue then resolve the issue as quickly as possible? Remember, communication is the key to every relationship. Your travel buddy might not be your special someone; it can be your best friend, sibling, or a one-time friend from strangers pool. However you throw and resolve your arguments, your travel experience will solely depend on how you handle yourself, with all the stresses in the world.