The walking, talking miracle

What were you doing in November 2015? Do you even remember? I don’t. I had two blog entries at the time – one was apologizing for not writing enough, and the other about the first and last date I had with some guy.

Christian, a friend of mine, on the other hand, had a ruptured brain aneurysm. It kinds of put things in perspective, doesn’t it?

It was a few weeks ago when he sent me a message on Facebook. We were cool, and got along as coworkers, but we haven’t spoken since 2012 so I found this very random, and odd to say the least. We got into talking. That’s how I ended up finding out what happened to him. He asked to meet. I agreed. Thus, we had coffee one Saturday afternoon.

I know that what happened to him was serious. Even fatal. But it didn’t sink in until I saw him in person. He was the same Christian I remember from years ago, but there was a different air about him. He had general weakness on his right side, there was a difference in how he spoke. He was only 24 but his face painted a picture of a person who has been through a lot. It wasn’t until then that I understood the gravity of his experience.

Christian told me all about it. After high school, he joined the Air force. Stationed in Alaska in November of 2015, his brain aneurysm ruptured. It was in a part of his brain where they couldn’t operate because it would only do more damage, so they had to let it bleed out. He was in a coma for two months. His family was flown in because they couldn’t move him. He had a tracheostomy, he had a feeding tube. Only after five months until it was finally safe enough to transfer him to a hospital in Chicago.

Then a year ago, he suffered a stroke.

Twice, he was in the hospital. Twice, he had to relearn to walk, and talk. “I was like a baby again, and I’m like growing up again,” he told me. He had physical, occupational, and speech therapy. In the beginning, even eating was a chore. He had no hand-eye coordination. He would try to lift the spoon into his mouth, and miss for about a mile.

Even his memory took a hit. He remembered a few people, and a few faces. There was this one time when his Aunt was trying to hug him, and all he could think of was “who is this stranger trying to hug me.” He said it in a funny way, even gave a tiny scream, it made me laugh. At least he didn’t lose his sense of humor.

The amazing part is that he survived. Christian is strong. He is young. He has vigor, and determination. It’s only been a year after his stroke and now he has his driver’s license back, he goes to the gym everyday to strengthen his right side, he’s taking one class right now, trying to get comfortable with school before taking on a bigger load. He’s a walking, talking miracle. That’s what people called him. In Alaska, before he was transferred, they told him that he brought hope to their unit.

Before we parted, I asked him why he contacted me. He said he saw my picture on Facebook, and it sparked a memory. I’m glad he did. Finding words to be thankful, and being very generous in spirit is not my strong suit. I can’t even begin to describe my spiritual enlightenment about the situation. But I hope the feeling that I am unable to put into words can be translated to other people after reading his story.

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The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: Goodbye

Day Nine. For our last day, we woke up early and took an Uber near Madison Square Garden. There’s this little shop where you can leave your luggage for the day for a small fee. We left ours there so we could roam around freely.

We bought from Pick A Bagel, and walked around New York’s 5th avenue with our bagel and coffee. Even stopped in front of Tiffany’s to pretend we’re having “breakfast at Tiffany’s.” After our little walk, we went to the Museum of Modern Art. The fee is $25 to get in. Not bad. There were interesting works of art in there. But, there were also the not so interesting. I understand that art is what you want it to be, and we all have different ways of expressing ourselves and interpreting what we see. However, clearly, there are things that I don’t feel is justly placed in a museum.

After our museum tour, we went to Central Park and went around a tiny area. Central Park is too big to scale in one day. Then we went to have pizza at this small pizza joint somewhere around Times Square.

Headed back to Madison Square Garden, picked up our luggage, went to Penn Station, bought train tickets to go to Newark airport, ran towards the train because they were announcing last call, got on our plane to Las Vegas, landed in Las Vegas, stayed at the baggage claim area for hours (my friend was making several calls and trying to take care of things like credit card problems, and her accommodation while I selfishly doze off on a chair), went back to the check-in area. This is where we parted ways. I checked in for my flight back to Chicago, and she went off to her solo adventure.

It was a fine frenzy.

The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: New York City

Day Eight. This is an itinerary that I am actually very proud of. Planned only the night before, I made sure every item on my friend’s list is going to get ticked off. Due to the long list of things we did that day, I am not going to add a commentary on any of them, except for breakfast because it deserves it. The food was heaven to my taste buds. Although a bit more on the expensive side, I did not mind at all paying for it. In fact, if we had more time, we would eat there again.

Side note: While we were eating there I already noticed our waiter was kind of cute, and also kind of looks like Freddie from Skins. My friend and I actually talked about him while he was out of earshot, at least I hope so. Only to find out that he spoke our language. He said, as I walk past him towards the exit, “Salamat po,” or something to that extent. I’m pretty sure he heard me gasp, as a reaction.

  • Take the “L” from Brooklyn towards 14th street station
  • Take a 5-minute walk to Buvette
  • Have breakfast at Buvette (again, amazing food)
  • Walk towards the FRIENDS’ (TV show) apartment building, literally down the street from Buvette
  • Walk back towards the subway, take “1” (I actually don’t know how to properly call their subways and just going off of what google maps told me that day) and get off at Chambers Street Station
  • You can walk around that area and go inside the buildings or just view it from outside, but here you’ll find, within walking distances of each other, the One World Trade Center, 9/11 Memorial, and the 9/11 Tribute Museum
  • Walk towards Battery Park
  • If you’re bent on seeing Lady Liberty up close, you can pay for a ferry that will take you to Liberty Island. You’re never going to miss it because it’s where the crowds go, and you’re sure to wait for hours in the long line. If, however, like us, you have no time, and do not want to pay for a ferry ride, nor need to see the statue up close, then you can take the Staten Island Ferry for free, just towards the end of Battery Park
  • The Staten Island Ferry runs about every 30 minutes on each side. It passes by Liberty Island, and you can see the lady herself if you’re on the right side of the boat. Once you reach the other side, you have to wait about 30 minutes again to take the boat back (Or go around Staten Island if you want, although I have no idea what’s there).
  • From Whitehall terminal you take the “R” and get off at Whitehall St.
  • Walk about 5 minutes to Grimaldi’s Pizza on 1 Front St, Brooklyn. Supposedly, it’s highly recommended. So much so that when we got there, there was a line longer than the block. So we decided against pizza for lunch. There were a bunch of other places around though, so you can take your pick.
  • After lunch, burn off the calories by walking towards Washington & Water St. It’s where the bloggers take the official “Dumbo” picture.
  • We walked south on Washington until we reached the pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Crossed the bridge (stopping 100 times to take 1000 photos of course)
  • The subway will be waiting for you on the other side. Take the “5” and get off at the stop named Grand Central – 42 St. From there, you have an option to take another train (but that I don’t know about since we took the second option), or walk towards 5th avenue.
  • Have ramen at Ippudo on 5th. Yes, because we had a light lunch, and taking pictures at the “Dumbo” area, and the Brooklyn Bridge took all afternoon, it was time for dinner already. And yes, we had ramen again for dinner.
  • Walk towards the Rockefeller Center or Times Square, or both. Whichever you prefer.
  • By the time we were done, it was probably close to midnight and our feet and legs hurt. We took an Uber or Lyft, the shared version (can’t remember which though), back to Brooklyn, which was surprisingly cheap.

The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: When Plans Fail

Day seven. Almost everything did not go according to plan. Some deviations were okay, some were welcome, but some just made my stomach turn.

Breakfast. There was something going on in the area so majority of the breakfast places that we wanted to go to were closed. We ended up eating at Cafe Square One. I did not like the food, maybe they were having an off day? I don’t know. The coffee, at least, was decent. It made up for the unappetizing avocado toast I ordered.

Sightseeing. We were supposed to go see the Liberty Bell since it was literally just there. However, when we got there, we saw the very long line. I mean very very long. My friend and I were both like, “no way.” So we took the bus to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but not to go inside. That’s right. We walked up the flight of stairs that Rocky took.

Greyhound. The most horrible bus ride of my life. The ride to NYC was only a few hours. My friend and I really wanted to and needed to sit together so we can plan what to do once we arrived, but the only seats left that were next to each other was the one in the back, next to the bathroom. I couldn’t breathe properly the entire trip because the smell was just awful. Never again.

Subway. I forgot where the greyhound station was in New York. It was definitely underground, the subway right next door. Looking at the map, the subway system was vast and intricate, it was all very confusing and we would have easily gotten lost. There was this very nice gentleman though, he saw us looking at the map, probably saw the confusion in our faces, asked where we were going, gave us directions, and gave us his Metro card that had about $5 left. An act of kindness from a total stranger. There is hope left for the world. We went straight to our Airbnb in Brooklyn. It was a lot nicer than I expected, and very close to the subway.

Dinner. We had to eat early because one, we were both hungry since we only ate breakfast, and two, we had to meet up with this person because my friend bought something from Instagram, and had to pick it up (from a very specific location at a very specific time, I might add). We saw the flat iron building, and I thought to myself, “there are things I don’t really need to see in person.” But we were there, so there we were. We also got to see the Empire State building. That’s it.

Domino Park. Before we called it a night, we decided to go to a random place. So we went to the park. And the beautiful sight made up for everything that went wrong that day. The park was in Brooklyn, by River Street, overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge, and the lights from the sky scrapers across the river. The image was so inspiring it almost made me want to write a poem. Almost.

The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: DC to MD to PA

Take note, we were lugging around my friend’s two heavy suitcases for almost the entire day, so this was a feat we had to take.

DC to Baltimore

On our third day in DC, we woke up early to say goodbye to it. We went to Union Station to take the greyhound to Baltimore. It was an hour ride, at most. From the Baltimore downtown station, you could probably take a bus to the inner harbor, but because of the suitcases, we took a Lyft. Our first stop was Miss Shirley’s Cafe to have brunch. We chose an outdoor seating, and the ambiance and the food is amazing. Moderately priced, but definitely a very tasty meal.

Almost next door to it were the National Aquarium, Marine Mammal Pavilion, MECU Pavilion, but what really caught our eye was the (suggested by a friend) old power plant turned into a Barnes & Noble. We just had to go inside.

From there, we took the free bus towards Fells Point, got off the at the 2nd stop and walked around Harbor East while talking about boys, and secrets, and more boys. All the way, we walked towards Fells Point, never really reaching it. Our last stop was this alley between Kilwins and Fells Point Surf on Thames street, which by the way, is the cutest little area there is. Cobble stones lined the street with unique store fronts that managed to complement each other. I wished cars couldn’t pass nor park there. But who am I?

Baltimore to Philadelphia

With only a few hours to spare, we headed back to the Baltimore greyhound station, and from there took the bus to Philadelphia. The greyhound station was a straight 10-15 minutes walk to the Apple Hostels of Philadelphia. This is by far the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in, although it’s only my second so I really only had one other hostel to compare. Clean bathrooms, clean rooms, nice amenities, and very strategically located.

For dinner, we had cheese steak, obviously. Now I don’t remember where we had it, but it’s on the menu on almost all of the restaurants, so I’m sure you’re not going to miss it. To top the night off, we wandered around Philadelphia until we reached a park. Again, I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s probably the Spruce Street Harbor Park since it’s the only park I see on the map that’s in the vicinity. Not unless we wandered too far, but I doubt it.

The park was very nice. There were various shops to buy food and drinks from. There was an area where you literally hang on a net of some sort, maximum capacity of three or four per net I believe, although majority of the nets were occupied by couples gazing lovingly at the stars and whispering sweet nothings to each other. Ugh. There were also a lot of hammocks on the trees in the park. They’re big enough to fit two, so we stayed there and talked our ears off. Quite frankly though, I don’t know how the other people were lounging so comfortably when my friend and I were having the worst time climbing in.

The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: The Simple Joys

Breakfast at Bob and Edith’s Diner

This is the third time I’m visiting DC, and it would never be complete if I didn’t eat breakfast at Bob and Edith’s Diner. It’s almost like a ritual. They have four locations around Virginia, and two are very closely located to DC. I love the classic diner feel, and the food always reminds me of breakfast at home.

Ride a bike around Old Town Alexandria

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We did not bike along an actual bike trail but we rode around the city’s bikeshare for about an hour before walking along the dainty shops in the streets of Alexandria. We stopped for drinks and a rest before heading to the Capitol, and the Library of Congress.

Georgetown Cupcakes at Georgetown

After the gruesome mid-morning under the sun, we took a Lyft to Georgetown. Of course, we had to buy cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, from the show DC cupcakes. From what I’ve heard, their lines are usually awfully long, but we got lucky when we arrived, no one was even there. We bought a dozen cupcakes, of various flavors, to try and share. I have a sweet tooth, and not at all hard to please when it comes to cupcakes, but they were absolutely amazing. My favorite was the Chocolate Hazelnut.

El Pollo Rico for dinner

After walking around Georgetown, we went home to rest for a bit, and for our friend to be able to finish doing their laundry. Dinner time was late so there were a few places left open. They took us to this Peruvian chicken joint, and Oh My God! There are no words to describe how good their food tasted. Very affordable too. If you ever are in the DC or Northern Virginia area, you have to try their chicken. I swear, I’d pretend to visit my friend just so I can eat there again.

The Touristy Itinerary of H & V: ORD – DCA

Day four of our vacation, we flew from ORD to DCA where our friend and his husband picked us up from the airport. This is one of the most amazing parts of the trip, for me, honestly. All three of us grew up in the Philippines and have been friends and neighbors since we were kids. Separated now, thousands of miles away from each other, an ocean apart even, yet there we were, enjoying Mediterranean food at CAVA for lunch, and laughing and debating on where to go by the fountain at the Dupont Circle, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

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We took a Lyft from the circle to the Holocaust Museum. That was an experience unlike any other. I am not going to discuss it mainly because I think it’s something people need to experience first-hand to feel what they would feel, and form their own opinions of.

From the museum we walked around the National Mall by the White House and the Washington Monument, taking in all that our eyes can see, and our feet can bear. When we’ve had enough, our friend’s husband picked us up for dinner.

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A very hidden gem in North East D.C., this ramen place offers one of the best pork belly buns I have ever tasted in my life. Of course, the ramen is awesome too. It’s very easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. Right above a bar, the door (with only its blue logo marking it) that leads upstairs to Toki Underground is on the left side of The Pug.

Right after dinner, we drove back to the Dupont Circle area and bought gelato from Dolcezza. We ate it while walking around the neighborhood until we reached this nice little book store called Kramer Books. We spent some time there browsing new titles that the literary world is offering.

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