Friday, December 11, 2009

cute overload: ukulele version

Every once in a while you'll come across something so ridiculously cute, you can't help but smile. And I mean, you can try all you want to not smile or laugh, but it's just not possible. Last night, I encountered one such thing, when I saw the following video:

I...just...can' This kid is too cute. His coughing, itching, and passion while playing almost killed me of cuteness overload, if such a thing even exists.

Now, he doesn't look older than like 3-4 years old, yet he's so talented! One might say he's only doing "baby talk", but, he's doing it while he plays his ukulele, and playing it well. And, he's probably like 4 years old.

There's a couple videos in the channel, and this one is probably my favorite out of the ones currently there:

...God bless this kid.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

looking forward to Christmas

...yep. Work has been quite busy lately, and I guess it'll stay busy for the rest of the year. I was interviewed last Thursday for a different project, which, if all goes well, I'll be moving to the first day of work next year. The project I'm currently working on, even though it's cutting-edge stuff, has sorta lost it's appeal to me. I'm very much grateful to God for giving me a job, especially the way things are these days, but I just feel like I want to try something different. I was told the new position will involve some traveling, so I guess I'm looking forward to that as well.


As an update to previous posts, I'm still going out with the girl I mentioned. However, I'm really praying to God for direction as far as how I should move forward. It's one of those "I'm not 100% sure if this is the one" type things. At this point you may be thinking: "uh, oh. Pedro, the mere fact that you're saying that means that you don't really like her or don't see yourself with her forever and ever!" I assure you that's not the case. I don't say that from a personal standpoint. I think this girl pretty much meets all my "requirements", except one, which I'll keep to myself for now. Please believe, she is definitely not lacking in the looks department (I happen to think she's gorgeous), and so far has demonstrated 99% Interest Level towards me. I say it more from a "God's will for my life" standpoint. Meaning, am I ready for a relationship right now? Even if I'm ready, should I get into a relationship? Is this the one He has for me, or am I leaning on my own understanding? I am trusting God to reveal what He has for me. After all, He already knows the outcome, I just need to trust Him and not worry about it.


This Christmas, God willing, I'll be going to Puerto Rico for a couple of days. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to it. It's been really cold in Texas lately, and I can't wait to go back to hot, humid weather. Also, I miss my mom, I miss my dad, and I miss my friends. *tear*

While I'm in Puerto Rico, I think I want to try and play some Tekken. I'll also try and go salsa dancing, see old friends, maybe visit an old teacher to see how she's doing. I'm sure I'll post on all that later.


This weekend (God willing) we're going back to Palestine, for a Christmas party at the Beto unit. I can't wait to see the guys again. It feels like forever since I've seen them.


Today I met with the From Prison To Joy prison ministry folks for some coffee and dessert. I'm now motivated to pick that back up, and get some translation work going. I really have to focus on my Hispanic brothers on the inside that need to read the letters/articles that have to be translated. I get so caught up in stuff that I neglect the important things that God has allowed me to participate in. I almost feel selfish, thinking about it. In any case, I'm glad God got me together with the people in the ministry, so I can pick up the slack again.


I know this post doesn't really have a point to it. However, I think I'll start writing more posts like these. Sometimes I wait so much before posting so I actually have some "thing" to say, but then what happens is that I forget things. Also, I think it would be nice (for me) to have a collection of thoughts, so in the future I can look back at what was going on in my life. I also think it will be interesting to see if any changes occur in the way I express myself.


May God bless you and keep you.
Until next time,

ps. You may or may not have noticed, but I added the "Verse of the Day" and "Google Translate" toolbars on the right side. Hopefully they don't clutter the screen too bad. I like them. :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

november 2009

About three weeks ago I went with the Kairos team (mentioned in an earlier post) to the Beto maximum security unit in Palestine, TX. Like I mentioned before, Kairos is a prison ministry, and a special one at that. We spent the entire weekend over there ministering to a select group of guys. We brought them food, cookies, and a whole lot of God's love. I'm not sure if I can get into all the details, so I'll just say we all had a great time. You could really feel God's presence in that place, it was amazing. Some of the guys received Christ for the first time, and others were refreshed and encouraged in their Christian walk. There was even one guy who converted from Islam! It was amazing. I made a whole bunch of new friends and brothers, and I look forward to sharing with them in future visits, and corresponding with them by mail.

On the following weekend, we went back to the unit for the "Day of Instruction" (or something along those lines), which was pretty much a short "course" for them to teach them how to meet with their "Prayer and Share" groups. We discussed the structure of the meetings, the dos/don'ts, etc. I was able to give a talk on "study", the purpose of which was to encourage the guys to read the Bible and other books that would further them in the knowledge of Christ, and also to encourage them to share with each other what the Spirit reveals to them in their studies. It was great seeing the guys again. God willing, I'll be going back with the team on the 12th of December for a Christmas holiday party. I'll keep you posted.


Just this past Thanksgiving weekend, I had the chance to visit my sister in Atlanta. I met her boyfriend for the first time, who seems to be a nice guy, which makes me happy for my sister. We spent Thanksgiving day at his dad's place. The family showed me great hospitality, and I had a great time. We ate a lot, watched the Dallas Cowboys game, and played a card game called "Golf".

On Friday, we pretty much chilled for most of the day, running errands and whatnot (that was after my sister and her boyfriend went Black Friday shopping at some ridiculously early hour). I treated them to Vietnamese food for lunch, which was interesting since it was the first time my sister had Vietnamese food. I had tried to get her to eat it in the past, but she acted like she found it disgusting or something. So, since we were hungry, I figured it was a good idea to tell her I'd pay for lunch if she just gave it a chance. She had Phở Tái Chín, and even tried some of my Phở Bò Kho, and she seemed to love it. She even took a copy of the menu home. ;-)
After lunch we hung out at her apartment, and then went to a friend's house to spend the evening. I was able to meet her salsa friends. There were a bunch of Puerto Ricans there, and a Chinese girl. The Chinese girl was the girlfriend of one of the guys, and it was funny/interesting seeing the dynamic they had. She can speak and understand quite a bit of Spanish, and her accent is quite good. What's funny about it was that because her boyfriend is Puerto Rican, she has picked up the Puerto Rican accent, and even Puerto Rican words and expressions. The girl can cook Puerto Rican food too. I'd say the guy is set. ;D

You can tell I was impressed/amused by what I witnessed.

The day before my departure (Saturday), we drove to Blue Ridge, GA, which is where the rest of my family was staying (or, the family that lives in Georgia, anyway). They had rented a cabin up in the mountains for the weekend, so we paid them a visit. It was a blessing to see my family for the first time in almost a year. We had great conversations, ate a lot of food, and just had a good time together. I was able to see my little cousin again, who has grown up quite a bit since I saw him last. At one point he asked me "when are you coming back?" --- at which I think my heart exploded. We said our goodbyes, and drove back to my sister's. We then went out for a night of salsa dancing at the studio where my sister attends (she's also in a "performance" team there). If you have been following my posts, you know I haven't salsa danced in a long time. Well, I suppose I made up for it that day. I danced almost non-stop. There was a good mix of experienced and new dancers, and I danced with most of the ladies there. One interesting observation was that there seems to be a big Russian community in Atlanta. I hadn't met so many Russians before in my life, haha. Anyway, at some point they did an amateur salsa competition, and I paired up with one of the Russian ladies. We made it to the final two, but, the other couple had quite the number of friends in the audience, which overwhelmed the amount of applause that we got. And I thought my partner's Russian peoples in the audience would give us the advantage, haha. Oh well, it's all good, we had a great time. I look forward to going back some time in the future. The bad news is that I think I have the "salsa itch" again. We'll see if I can make time to start going out again.

Here is a picture of me with my dance partner :-)

Until next time.
May God bless you and keep you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

october 2009, continued

October has been quite the eventful month. I attended Kevin's wedding, went to the Mary Poppins musical, helped out at the Plano International Festival, went on three dates with a girl (*ahem*), went to the Third Day concert, Tekken 6 came out, and I gave a talk at church, in front of the whole congregation.

...Yep, it sounds amazing (to me, at least). It's just hard to believe that I went from being a guy that didn't want to go anywhere near a church, to somehow serving God by talking at church on a Wednesday evening service. But, that just goes to show how awesome God is, making something out of nothing.

The talk was titled "Sharing our faith". I discussed what, how, when, where and why we share our faith. I mainly focused on Scripture throughout, meaning I didn't really "preach" or anything. I explained "what" the Christian faith is about using various verses from the Bible, with the "mindset" of having a situation where someone asks you to share your faith with them. The "how" wasn't as straight-forward, as many different situations call for different approaches, and honestly, I don't know. It's one of those "say what God puts in your heart" and "do what He tells you to do" kinda deals. The "when" and "where" were pretty easy (anytime, anywhere). The "why", well, was pretty easy too. God gives us so much without us even having to do a single thing (all we need to do is receive it), that it should be motivation alone to share it with others. I provided some Scriptures throughout the whole thing, and shared my testimony in the "why". Also, I threw in a story and/or joke here and there throughout the talk.

Overall, I think it went well. People seemed to have a good time.

Anyway, I don't take credit for it. I recognize that God helped me every step of the way, and that if it wasn't for Him, I wouldn't even be attending church in the first place. It felt kinda weird to have people congratulating me and thanking me after service was over. I mean, I guess I wanted to say "thanks" to their gratitude, but I recognize that it's God who deserves the glory and appreciation. All I did was read the Bible and talk about what I read. In any case, I'm glad they liked it. :)

I'll conclude by saying that I'm thankful to God for bringing me this far, and for putting me under my Pastor's guidance (I'll put up a picture of him sometime). I just can't imagine where I would be or what my state of heart and mind would be like if God hadn't rescued me from where I was three years ago. Words can't describe it. I love God so much. I never want to let go. The kicker is that He loves me more than I love Him. Who can understand Him?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Third Day concert (10.22.2009)

So, I mentioned last time that I was going to go to the Third Day concert. I also mentioned that I was going to go by myself, but I guess that's beside the point.

It was a blast.

The band Glory Revealed opened the show for Third Day. From what I gathered, Glory Revealed is a band that focuses on making Scripture-based songs. As in, literally, their songs are verses from the Bible. They sang Psalm 23, and I recognized Scripture from the book of Isaiah and Romans in other songs. They are a really good band -- I told myself I'd check out their CD's (they have two so far), but I haven't yet. I'm good with my current playlist (mostly Third Day and Todd Agnew), so when I start to get tired of listening to the same thing over and over, they're the next ones on my list. Here's a picture of Glory Revealed:

On to Third Day.

If I had any doubt that Third Day is my favorite band, this concert completely removed that doubt. These guys are just plain awesome. It was great to be able to sing along every song that they played*, and not only that, it just felt like being at church. I say that because the band had us praying more than once, and just being able to sing praises to God among such a great body of believers was pretty sweet. That week I wasn't feeling in the best of spirits, but the concert
definitely helped fill my cup to the brim. :)

*is that bad, btw? I wonder if I was annoying the people next to me. I don't know what concert "etiquette" is :/

Also, at some point during the concert, the band went off stage. I thought we were going on intermission, but what ended up happening was that they came and played among the audience. I mean, they brought the bare minimum as far as instruments go, but still, I don't think I've seen or heard a band that does that. They opened up the floor for song requests, and played one or two minutes of whatever songs people asked for. After a couple songs, they went back to the stage and played some more. I loved every song they played, but I'd say my favorites were "Thief", "Revelation", "God of Wonders", "Consuming Fire", and "Come on back to Me". I highly suggest you look those up on YouTube or something. They're really good.

The concert was about two hours long (if I remember correctly). I'm glad I got to go. I consider it a blessing to be able to not only go to my favorite band's concert, but to be able to worship alongside them as well. I tell you, it felt like church. I will pray for those guys, that God may continue to bless them in their efforts. I will also pray that He brings them back to the Dallas area again. I can be selfish like that. ;D

Anyway, needless to say, I can't wait for them to be in town again. I also look forward to their next CD, whenever that may come out.

Without further ado, here are some pictures and clips from the concert. Btw, the band let us record whatever we wanted from the concert and put it online. Just cause they're cool like that.

Consuming Fire

God of Wonders


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

fall 2009

Well, it seems like not that much has happened lately. Nothing extreme, I guess.

I've been attending the team meetings for the Kairos prison ministry. We are scheduled to go into the prison on the weekend of November 15th to minister to the guys on the inside. There's quite a bit of prayer involved both for the team going in, and for the brothers in white. Let's pray that God may deliver those in spiritual bondage, with the freedom that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

As far as other ministries, I've really been slacking in the other prison ministry I was helping out with by translating articles into Spanish. I translated what they gave me, but it's taken me forever to actually sit down and verify they are correct before I turn them in. I really need to work on that. Lastly, I talked to my Pastor about presenting something in Sunday school, but he instead asked me to present it in one of our mid-week services (on Wednesday) to the congregation. Needless to say, I'm humbled by the request -- who knew that I would go from not wanting to be anywhere near a church, to actually standing in front and talking. I praise and thank God for all He's done for and in me. I have been writing down/recording some ideas on how I want to present it, but I guess I'll really sit down and do it this weekend (the talk is next week). I will keep you posted on how it turns out.


As far as actual "events" I've been to lately, I went to a wedding last month. A brother in Christ that I met at Tres Dias was getting married, and he invited all the men from the weekend. I also had the opportunity to teach him and his now wife some salsa dancing before the wedding. They are a really cute couple, and I pray that God will continue to bless them with good health and a strong relationship. Here are some pictures:

Too cute. God bless them.

Me with Hoang-Kim at the wedding. =)


A couple of weeks ago I participated in the Plano International Festival, helping the Vietnamese community in the international fashion show. It was a lot of fun just hanging out dressed in an ao dai. There was a Puerto Rican booth at the event, and I managed to get a bacalaito. We then went to Brio (Italian restaurant) for food and more good times. Here are pictures:

The (mostly) Vietnamese group. =)

Representing. ;D


Oh, the day before the Plano International Festival, I went out with some friends to see the Mary Poppins musical. It was pretty awesome. I'm not very into musicals at all, but that was quite the treat. I thought it would be a lot more expensive, too, but it ended up being around $40. I guess it's kinda steep for two hours of entertainment, but I think it was worth it.


One of the things I'm looking forward to is the Third Day concert, which is this Thursday (October 22nd). Ever since I heard their "Revelation" song on the radio, I got hooked. I've purchased pretty much all their albums, and haven't gotten tired yet. Anyway, some time ago I noticed they were going to be in town, and I got a ticket with the quickness. I'll be going by myself, which I'm not sure if it's sad or not (to be honest this will be the second concert I'll attend) but I don't care. It's my favorite band at the moment, and I'm sure I'll have a good time.

Another thing that's coming up is the release of Tekken 6. I know I mentioned I've pretty much stopped playing, but I think I'm going to get it anyways. I am curious about it, and want to learn how to play my characters in this new version. Some guys from Puerto Rico are going to be traveling to the US for tournaments, and I may join them in one or two. But for that, I have to actually practice first. I'm pretty sure I won't be playing as much as I used to, especially since I've been very busy lately. I haven't even been salsa dancing in quite a while, which is something I used to do on the regular. Oh well. I guess I'll post up whenever I go to a tournament or something.


I won't talk much about it, but recently I met a girl that caught my attention. It seems like I caught her attention as well. More on this later. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

summer 2009, continued

A lot has happened since the last time I posted.

I went to Puerto Rico in July! I didn't stay there too long this time, though. Actually, I flew on Friday, then flew back to TX on Sunday. I went for my good friend Jennifer's wedding. I had a great time seeing old friends, and being able to see an old childhood friend get happily married. I was able to meet her husband, which seems like a cool, Godly man. I pray that God may bless their marriage as they continue to grow. Another cool thing about the wedding - I had a date! My good childhood friend Xiomara insisted that I go with her as her date (she could have just asked), and so I did. We both had a great time at the wedding. However, I gave her a hard time for not dancing with me. :-P

Here are some pictures:

Cute couple.

With Xiomara.

With my friends!


Another cool event that happened this summer, in August, was that I had the opportunity to attend the Miss Texas Teen pageant to support my good friend Hoang-Kim. She obtained a boat-load of trophies, and placed 2nd runner-up overall. It was awesome to see her do so well. Her family looked so proud of her. I also had the chance to finally meet her brother, who's a pretty cool guy himself.

Here's a picture:

With her parents


One of the areas that God has been blessing me greatly this summer is with relationships. I have made many great friendships, and existing ones continue to grow with time. After the retreat, I have really connected with the Tres Dias community, which has been nothing but a blessing. I've met great people that have encouraged me in different ways. I also now meet weekly with a great group of guys to fellowship with over breakfast. I thank God continually for all these great people that He has brought into my life.

A result of these relationships has been that I now am involved with a prison ministry called From Pain To Joy Prison Ministries. I am not directly related however, in the sense that I don't actually go to the prisons to visit. Basically, one of the inmates, who some time ago received Christ and has been completely transformed by God, has written many many articles to encourage other prisoners who either don't know Christ or are struggling in their faith. What's remarkable about this man is that he used to be like the big leader of the Crips gang before he went to prison, and now is a humble, faithful servant of Christ¹. Well, the thing with the articles is that they have been very effective in prisons, internationally. However, as of right now, they are mostly in English. So, the way I'm helping is by translating these articles into Spanish. It's a blessing to be able to serve my Hispanic brothers in this way. What's great is that I not only get to be a blessing to them, but I myself am blessed by the encouragement that these articles bring me as I grow in my faith. I thank God for this opportunity, and I pray that I may be able to continue to serve in this way.

¹You can read more about him here.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to be big into First-Person Shooter (FPS) games, namely Quake. Well, for a long time, I always wanted to go to QuakeCon, a convention that is held each year in the Dallas area, but so far hadn't gone (I mentioned I had pretty much stopped playing) since I moved to Texas. Since about a year ago, a friend of mine had been inviting me to go with him this year. I gave him my word, but I wasn't really excited about it. Anyway, the weekend finally came, and man, was I pumped when I got there. It's like a geek's paradise, in that you get to see a lot of new technology gaming-wise, and get to be in an environment with people that share an interest for gaming.

I set up my computer on Thursday, but couldn't actually play until Saturday (had other things going on Friday). Anyway, I played Quake Live nonstop for most of the time I was there, it was great. On Saturday night, they were drawing some raffle tickets that they had given out to people when you checked in to the event. There were about 5,000 tickets in the tumbler, according to the people there. Anyway, they had another drawing with only 100 tickets with a Ford Mustang as a prize, which were drawn from the 5,000 ticket tumbler plus other events they had going on. Long story short, they pulled my name out of the big tumbler. However, I wasn't present. I hadn't left the room for ten minutes, when my buddy calls me on the phone yelling that I had been picked. I ran all the way to the stage (encouraged by my friend), and was even told to go up. Suddenly, the dude tells me that I have to perform a dance or something to convince the people that I deserved the ticket. I was confused, nervous, and fatigued from running so much, I couldn't come up with anything. At the end of the day, what had happened was that my name had already been looked over because I wasn't present at the moment of the drawing. So, naturally, the crowd booed me off the stage. It was sorta embarrassing, but it was even worse knowing that I had a chance to get into the smaller drawing to win the car, but lost it for stepping out of the room. Ugh. Anyway, my friends got a kick out of it, and were even teasing me saying stuff like "don't worry dude, I'll walk you to your Mazda", hahaha. Next year I'll actually stay in the room as names are called. :|

Here's a picture:

May God bless you and keep you.
Until next time,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life is great. God is awesome.

It's been some time since the last update. Quite a few events have happened since then. Before I get into those, one of the things I failed to update on my last posts has been my salsa class with the kids! At the end of the semester, we put together a show for the teachers and parents. The event wasn't exclusive to us, though - I guess all of the different after hours "clubs" put on a show, we just happened to be the closing event for it. ;-)

Anyway, the kids did great! It was quite a tiring week. We only started -really- practicing for it like one week in advance, so we had to practice for an hour or so each day. The kids, even though still being kids, put quit a bit of effort into it. We assigned partners (frustrating but hilarious process, as you can imagine with 10 year olds) and we practiced and practiced old and new moves. All in all, it was a routine that lasted roughly 60 to 90 seconds. Not much, but the crowd ate it up. I taught the kids how to do a dip at the end, and the audience really liked it. The kids dressed up and looked great. If you have me as a Facebook friend you can find the video of it in my profile. Otherwise, I can put it on Youtube if someone requests it here. For the moment, enjoy some pictures:

The boys.

Goofing off with the boys. =)

Ms. J with the girls.

The kids making their way onto the stage.


A couple of weeks ago, work led me to New Jersey for a week. I went with people I hadn't really worked before, and had a great time. I got to know more of them at lunch/dinner and just being at work. They are good people, and I pray that God continues to bless them in all they do. We finished up pretty early on our last day of work in New Jersey, and decided to take the train up to New York for the rest of the day. What a blast. We visited Ground Zero (I hadn't been there before. What a blessing to be able to see the Ground Zero cross and listen to the story behind it!), had a hot dog, had a slice of New York pizza, walked through Central Park, went to eat dinner in Chinatown, played Tekken 6 at the Chinatown Fair arcade, had New York cheesecake, and concluded the night with a visit to the Empire State Building. Needless to say, we were super tired by the end of the day, but it was definitely worth it. The only sad part of the day was that it was the same day that Michael Jackson died. It was a weird feeling. We heard the news of him being in the hospital around the time we were visiting Ground Zero, and then late at night we heard the news of him being dead as we walked past MTV and saw all the fans displaying their RIP signs. Anyway, we took the ~11pm train back to New Jersey, and flew back to Texas the next day.


I mentioned in one of my older posts that I was considering re-taking Vietnamese I and II again in the summer. So I did, and it was tough. The class itself was ok, but it's Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 8:30, which became exhausting after a while. After Viet I was over, I decided not to take Viet II. Well, I signed up for it, but ended up not attending. I went yesterday for the first time to help my friend with a class presentation, and plan to attend next week, but I don't think I'll put time/effort into it outside of class. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fascinated by the Vietnamese language, it's just that it takes quite a bit of time, which I seem to cherish more and more now. Anyway, I leave you with a picture from after our presentation for Vietnamese I:

With my partner and friend Hoang-Kim (she's the one I mentioned won the Miss Texas Jr Teen pageant)


The final event I'll talk about happened this past weekend. I went to a Christian (non-denominational) retreat called Tres Dias. What a blessing. It's an experience beyond words. I'll just say that a lot of prayer and effort is put into it by the Christian community, and is aimed at the attendants experiencing God in a new, refreshing way. God really revealed himself to me this weekend, and renewed my strength and my faith, reminding me what He's done for me and what He continues to do. It was also a blessing to share the weekend with so many brothers in Christ. I met so many new people which I will call brothers and friends. I look forward to growing in my renewed relationship with Jesus Christ and my relationship with my new brothers, and I also look forward to serving in future Tres Dias weekends, that others may experience God in the way He chooses for them.

I invite you to take a look around for information on Tres Dias. It's an international organization, which means you can have that experience in many parts of the world. You can only attend if you're sponsored by a person that has attended previously, so if you feel that God is tugging at your heart for you to go and experience Him, I suggest that you ask around. I would also feel honored to sponsor someone to attend, so feel free to ask me.

May God bless you and keep you.
Until next time,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

a trip to Puerto Rico - May 2009

After almost a year, I finally visited Puerto Rico again. This time, I went with some friends fromTexas. The plan was to do some sightseeing, some salsa dancing, and a whole lot of eating.

We arrived on Thursday, May 21st. We got there pretty late, so after getting our rental car we went straight home. Mom had cooked arroz, habichuelas, biftec and tostones de pana for us. It was late, but we didn't care. My mom's cooking is top tier.

The following day was a busy one. First, we went to Las Cavernas de Camuy (Camuy Caverns). The little tour had changed since I last went back in 2006. From what I remember, the time spent in the actual caverns was much shorter, and then it was followed by another trolley ride to see the sumidero. Now, you don't get to see the sumidero (or at least, we didn't), and the time you spend in the caverns is much longer. The tour guide makes multiple stops to explain a lot of different things, which at some point became kinda boring to me. Oh well.

After that, we drove down to Lares to have some of their famous ice cream. I had the coquito-flavored ice cream (which had actual rum in it), and my friends tried the corn, cake batter and rice and beans ice creams. We took some pictures at the town square, and then drove back home. Later that night we went out salsa dancing at el Condado. Fun times.

On Saturday, we drove down to the Arecibo Observatory (as see in the GoldenEye movie) since we didn't get a chance to do so the day before. It was a long drive. Afterwards, we had some food along the coast of Hatillo, and then met up with friends in Mayaguez. We stayed in Aguadilla (or was it Aguada? not sure) that night.

Sunday, we went to church in the morning, had breakfast at El Mesón in Mayaguez, and then drove to Cabo Rojo to meet up with some good friends of mine. We went to Playa Sucia for a little bit, then left Cabo Rojo to go all the way to Fajardo to visit the bio bay. It was a super long drive, but it was totally worth it. It's kind of expensive ($45), but you kayak all the way into the bay, and you're able to see the organisms that cause the water to appear fluorescent. It's pretty neat. The rowing on the way back was quite the workout - the current is a little strong, and you really have to paddle. I thought that the tour (at least the one we used) could some improvement. Some people kept being left behind, or got lost at certain points. It's really dark in there, so it can be scary. I know there's nothing that can kill you in that area (animal-wise), and the water is not deep, but still, they can do a better job. Anyway, I still think it's worth checking out.

Monday, we made our way to El Yunque rainforest. The rainforest has two entrances: one in the south, and one in the north. Somehow, I failed to read online (we visited some websites) that the south entrance has been closed for years now, and that's where we went starting out. It was a long drive back to the north entrance. On the way, we stopped at the "60 kiosks" in Luquillo for some fried goods (alcapurrias, empanadillas, etc), mondongo, and pinchos. Good stuff. We didn't spend that much time at the rainforest. We made our way down to the waterfall where people jump in and stuff (which is a 30 minute hike each way), and then we left. We drove to Guavate in Cayey to get pernil and all the good stuff that you eat with it, but my friends weren't really feeling the place we found, so we left. I took them to Los Gorditos in Caguas for some good mofongo and carne frita.

Tuesday, went to the Bacardi Rum Distillery tour, and then walked around Old San Juan. We had lunch at La Bombonera, then walked to El Morro (we saw it from a distance at least, haha), Paseo de la Princesa, and all the places you go to in that area. It was a pretty good walk, and I think we were able to hit all the places my friends were interested in.

Wednesday, I drove my friends to the airport. They had different departure times, so while we waited for the last flight, I took them to Plaza las Americas to walk around, and have lunch. They got to try pastelón there, as well as serenata (which I don't think they enjoyed much, but I love the stuff).

After they left, I pretty much spent my time in Puerto Rico with my mom (during the day, mostly), and then going out with my friends at night. I had a blast. I hadn't seen them in like a year, so it was great to be able to spend time with them again. I got to go with them to La Placita in Santurce (good times) on Thursday, walked around Old San Juan at night going to different places on Friday. On both days I got to salsa dance with cute puertorrican girls, which was awesome. I think we just hung out on Saturday night, which I believe was the night they got me interested in playing Street Fighter 4 (which I'm horrible at). On Sunday, I went to church with my mom, which was great. She's going to a different church than the one we went to when I was growing up, and so I was glad to see that this church is a very lively one. She's already displaying more dedication to God in her life, and I'm definitely happy to see that.

The last night, my friends wanted to take me to a place where I could salsa dance, but it was a Monday, and we couldn't find anything. We went to a Mexican place for pool and some food, and just had a great time talking and kidding around and stuff. They definitely enhanced my stay in Puerto Rico, to the point where I was actually kinda sad, and didn't want to leave, haha. Oh well, there's always next time. :-)

Here are some pictures:

A shot in the Camuy Caverns.

At the waterfall in El Yunque.

In Lares. At the central plaza. Pointing at Juncos, my hometown. :-)

At the Arecibo Observatory.

In Old San Juan. At Los Hijos de Borinquen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Texas Trashday 5, etc

I'm going to deviate a little bit from my usual topics in this post.

One thing that used to be a big part of my life (for the longest time), has been gaming. I started when I was a little kid, except I just played at home or whatever. At some point, I got hooked with the Quake series, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and later on with Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, all of which are online, multiplayer, competitive games. I pretty much say that to say that at some point, I got addicted to competing. I just wanted to practice and practice a certain multiplayer video game, and be the best at it. Or, at least good enough to be recognized, haha.

Aside from First Person Shooters (FPS for short), I also played fighting games to a certain extent. The most notable of these was Tekken. I played all of the sequels, but it wasn't until 2005 that I got really into it, when I started playing Tekken 5. Long story short, I pretty much stopped playing FPS games, and devoted all my time to getting good at Tekken. I would travel across the country just to go to compete in tournaments (I pretty much lost BADLY at every tournament back then), I would practice all the time, and would spend my time online pretty much reading forums and what not, trying to get better. I did manage to get recognized a little bit for playing the worst character in the game at the time, and had the nickname "Low Tier Hero" for a little while. Time passed, I went back to Puerto Rico (I lived in North Carolina for the most part of 2005 for a co-op I was doing at IBM). The competition there was FIERCE, in that there were a ton of players that would consistently go to tournaments. Anyway, I ended up getting better and better due to playing against really good competition whose (at the time) purpose seemed to be to practice anti-wired strategies (not really, but they would always come up with ways to try and beat me).

By the time I had to leave Puerto Rico when I was hired to work in Texas back in 2007, I was pretty confident of my Tekken skills. I didn't consider myself the "best" in Puerto Rico, but I definitely considered myself in the top 3 players, along with my friends Paco "Gandido" Vilaró and Mario "Cano" Canales*, with the ordering of the top 3 players changing constantly with every passing tournament.

My very first tournament upon arrival to Texas was called Evo South, held at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX. Evolution is a tournament that is held every year, and is pretty much THE biggest tournament in the United States, to which international players travel sometimes (not many international players come, but they do on occassion). Evo South was a qualifying tournament (along with Evo North/West/East), in which you would get "seeded" at Evolution if you obtained a top spot (can't remember how many spots were given). Anyway, I ended up winning the whole thing. Needless to say, it was an awesome experience. More than enjoying the victory for myself, I really enjoyed the fact that my friends from Puerto Rico were really excited and proud of my achievement (after all, it was with them that I got the most practice). On a side note, I honestly and sincerely believe God helped me a LOT in winning that tournament. I prayed constantly during the tournament, and managed to beat nation-wide known players, that I originally thought were going to beat me.

Finally, to address the actual subject of this post. For the last couple of years, Texas players in Houston have organized the "Trashday" series of tournaments. They have managed to attract players from all accross the nation to come to Texas to compete in Tekken and other fighting games. So far, I've been to Texas Trashday 3, 4 and 5. In Trashday 3, my friend José "frodo" Llera flew from Puerto Rico, and got second place. It was another great day for Tekken in Puerto Rico. Our performances in tournaments in the United States were no longer surprising players, and Puerto Rico came to be recognized as a place that harbored quality players, even among United States standards. The following year, I won the Trashday 4 Tekken singles tournament, and my team (consisting of my buddy Vineet "l337v1n337" Anand and José "frodo" Llera) got second place in the team tournament. Yet another awesome day for Tekken in Puerto Rico. I don't take credit for my win in the singles tournament, though. I had stopped playing Tekken a while before that**, and hadn't practiced Tekken 5 at ALL (OK, we played some Tekken 6 the day before the tournament, but I don't know if that counts). The day of the tournament, I prayed and prayed, not so that I could win and get the "fame" (at that point I didn't really care much about the game), but because the prize for first place was $1000. My church was going through some rough economic times then, and I thought it would be nice if I could bring the money back to Dallas. I -know- it was God helping me all through that tournament, because those were the easiest matches I've ever played, even against well established players. Furthermore, while I'm usually nervous at tournaments, I was super relaxed all day. Even after the tournament I wasn't shaken or excited at all, as if I was already expecting to win. My friends kept saying that I should show more excitement, but I just couldn't wait to get out of the room so I could pray in thanks to God, hahaha :-). Looking back, it really was an answered prayer. People at church must have been praying as well, because it seemed like God just gave that thing to me, no questions. What's funny, is when I gave the money to my pastor (who knew of my Tekken addiction and later resignation) and told him the story of how I won the tournament, looked at me laughing and said "Man, you need to start traveling to these tournaments again". It was hilarious. But I didn't.

...Not until Trashday 5, that is. Around three weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make the trip down to Houston to see some old friends, eat some good food, and see if I could defend my title. That didn't go too well. I won't go into the negative details of my gameplay, but long story short: I lost pretty badly, haha. It's cool though - I wasn't really expecting to win again (would've been awesome, though), plus I achieved what I really went down there for. I got to hang out with old friends, and had a great time. Even went to Houston's First Baptist Church that Sunday, which was a great experience as well. I will mention that it feels good to be considered part of the "top" players. Not that I would feel bad if I wasn't considered one, but in my mind, that is something that kinda lets me know I reached the goal I started out with: to be one of the best. To think that in 2005 I wasn't even entertaining the idea of talking with the top players about the scene, and about strategies and stuff, let alone winning major tournaments! I know it may sound nerdy, but I don't care. I had a passion for this game, and managed to fulfill it in the end.

Here are some pictures from my Trashday 5 weekend (click to enlarge):

Lots of players attend these events!

Another shot

Me with some of the guys (from left to right: wired, jTm, Crow, KOR)

Well, I hope you enjoyed my short gaming episode. I have way too many stories to tell from all my gaming days (for both FPS and Tekken), but those I'll keep to myself for now.


To expand on some of the things I referenced earlier.

* I mentioned Cano and Paco. These guys really pushed me to become better at this game. There was a lot of trash talk back and forth between us in tournaments (which was fun), and they practiced a LOT. Like, they would try and figure out my weaknesses, and come back ready for the next tournament. We always went back and forth in tournaments in Puerto Rico, so it was never clear who was number one. Recently (I believe it was in August of 2008), they both attended Evolution 2008, and ended up getting second and third place. Personally, I believe they had the skill to get first and second place, but that's just what the cards dealt that day. Regardless, I was and am very proud of them as players and friends. It's awesome to win, but it's even more rewarding watching your friends (the people you practice with regularly) achieve victories. How we would say in Puerto Rico: aguantame eso ahi.

** As for me "giving up" on Tekken. At some point, I realized that Tekken had become way more than just a game. Obviously, I was spending a lot of time and money (travel is not cheap!) to play this game. But I didn't care about that too much. What I did notice, was that I would be thinking about Tekken 24/7. I would be thinking about strategies, combos, you name it. I also had become -too- competitive, I think. I wasn't always the best loser. I would get upset (at myself, mostly) when I lost, or sometimes at others if the trash talk was too fierce. It just wasn't the person I wanted to be. All this, coupled with other events going on in my life at the time (around Fall 2007), made me decide to stop playing competitively. Factor in the fact that my PlayStation 3 was stolen from my apartment shortly after, and I figured my Tekken days were pretty much over. I hardly played Tekken after that. The next tournament I went to was Trashday 4 (which I ended up winning, ironically), and I went because it was a mere ~3 hours away, and because my friend frodo was flying over from Puerto Rico. In essence, my time playing Tekken has been reduced to Trashday tournaments, and the occasional casual game with friends. I had a great time playing this game, but I just can't/won't put in as much effort anymore. I will continue to attend tournaments in Texas, but I highly doubt I'll get to the point I was in 2007 and before.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

spring update

So, I lied again. Not on purpose, though. My professor persuaded me not to give up on Vietnamese lessons, and so I didn't. I feel like I haven't been learning as much as I could. I've been busy with work, traveling, going out with friends, and teaching, among other things, that I haven't been studying Vietnamese as much as I should. I'm considering re-taking Viet 1 and Viet 2 during the summer, and really putting an effort into it. I put a lot of effort into Viet 1, that it almost seems a waste what happened to me with Viet 2. I really want to learn this language. It's hard stuff, but it's almost like a challenge I want to overcome. Never mind being able to speak fluently, I'll be content with being able to read/write and understand people in conversation. I figure if I ever end up visiting Vietnam, I can carry a notepad around in case someone doesn't understand what I'm saying. Silly, I know.

For a long time now, I've been following Azrael's blog GaijinSmash. It's a very entertaining blog, about an American living in Japan. He started out teaching English, and is now married and "officially" living out there, etc (I'm not very good at summarizing, so I suggest you go read some posts to get a better idea). Anyway, recently I've found sorta similar blogs, but of Americans living in Vietnam, posting about their experiences and stuff. I don't know if that kinda stuff interests you, but if it does, check out Living in Saigon, Vietnam and Lisa's Live Journal. Very interesting blogs. Just thought I'd share.

Recently, I got into salsa dancing again. My instructor and friend (Nick) started teaching at his house again, and now has a decent group of nice (and consistent!) people that want to learn. I've gotten to know most of them, and they're all good people. I've gone to salsa clubs with them (as a group), attended birthday parties (fun!), and just had a blast on Saturday's lessons, which usually go from 11am to like 3pm, sometimes followed with everyone going out to lunch. I've gotten to improve on my salsa dancing at the same time, which is great. I'm still like 1/16 of what Nick is, and I'm cool with that. I just need to know "enough", at least for now. :-)

As for my teaching, I still teach English at the Vietnamese Community Center, and salsa dancing at the elementary school on Fridays. The salsa class has had its ups and downs. Sometimes the kids are really into it, and sometimes they just want to run around and not really pay attention. I continually pray so that God gives me the patience I need to teach them, hehe. I don't remember if I've mentioned it yet, but all my salsa dancing students are Hispanic. One thing I noticed about them is that they prefer to speak English as opposed to Spanish. At first I didn't think much of it, but after talking to some of them, I learned that they simply know (a lot) more English than Spanish. So naturally, I decided to talk to them only in Spanish, and force them to talk to me in Spanish as well (they try to sneak English in there sometimes). It feels nice when they ask how to say a certain word, or when I get to correct them on their verb conjugations or whatever. Overall, I'm very happy with them (except when they go nuts running around in class, haha), and hope I can continue to teach them in the future.

Other than that, I've gotten to do other cool things in these past few months. In March, I spent two weeks in Florida for work. It was awesome, for the most part. I got to see my mom again and spend time with her (she flew from PR). I've been to San Jose a few times, and going there again next week. Work is going good.

I also got to participate in another event with the Vietnamese. This time it was during "International Week" at Tarrant County College in Hurst, TX. We sang the Vietnamese anthem, one girl played a Vietnamese instrument (don't know the name), which was cool, and then we did a little 'fashion' thingy, which consisted of us walking on stage with ao dais. I got to take some pictures with the girls (in ao dai), which was cool. Maybe I'll post some later if they don't mind.

Last week I got promoted at work. The bosses gave me a good scare - they played it as if they were going to fire me, by calling me to their office and being all serious and stuff. It was well played on their part, haha. But anyway, I'm now a Software Engineer II, yay!

Finally, I'm going to Puerto Rico in two weeks, God willing. I'm excited! I haven't been back to the island in almost a year now. I miss my peoples, the food, the weather, everything! Can't wait! Some friends are also going, and we'll be doing some sightseeing around the island. Lots of food and salsa dancing will be happening as well. =)

Hopefully my next post will happen sometime before December.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

feeling refreshed

Same old, same old. Still keeping busy, but figured I'd try to keep you updated as frequently as I can.

Just two weeks ago, "revival" services were given at the church I go to. I don't know - it's something that I'm not entirely familiar with (I had gone to church in Puerto Rico a lot, and never saw revival services), but it’s awesome. The church invites a guest minister, usually from out of state, and for three days we meet at 7pm for service. This year’s Winter Revival services were great – I definitely heard a lot of things I needed to hear. I’m already looking forward to Summer Revival. :-)

It’s sad to say, but I had to give up on Vietnamese lessons this semester. Work has had me traveling a lot, and I was just told last week that I’d be doing some more traveling for the most part of March. As a consequence, I’ve missed a lot of classes and am really behind on material. So instead of playing catch-up and possibly affecting others in the class (my guess is I’ll be asking more questions and stuff), I’ll just call it quits for now, and take it again in the summer. On the positive side, it’s pretty cool though I guess – even though it’s for the same program, I’m now working with a different team on a different project, so I’m learning a lot as I go. At the same time, I’m still supporting my old project, so trips to California are not over yet, I think.

Speaking of Vietnamese, I’m still teaching English at the Vietnamese Community Center. I think things have picked up. I say that because at one point I was in a slump: I thought my class was boring and that my students weren’t learning much. Lately, I’ve kinda figured out a way to keep my students actively participating in class, and at the same time teaching the lessons I would’ve taught anyway. I’ve been mostly teaching practical stuff though – stuff like the different tenses, asking for date/time/location, stuff like that. I even gave them a quiz last Sunday. I haven’t corrected it yet, but from what I saw, they did pretty good, so I’m happy. In two weeks there will be a presentation on ESL teaching which I plan to attend, so hopefully I can pick up a few things that I can incorporate into my teaching.

Finally, last week I attended a presentation at a church in Dallas (not the one I’m a member of), and this really young pastor was talking about evangelism. I was impressed – I guess I’m used to seeing older people being church leaders, but this guy was young. Anyway, it was exciting. His name is James Choung, and he (and his school I guess) came up with a “new” way of presenting the gospel. It’s very exciting. At the end, they gave us a copy of his book (which I’m currently reading) for free. Anyway, here is a summary of what he presented (and what his book talks about):

Saturday, February 14, 2009

english muffins

Lo prometido es deuda.

I was wrong in my previous post. I am scheduled to fly out to California this coming Monday. Good news is that we gave a demo of our product last week, and everything went well. So now I have to fly out to tweak some things, and run an "official" demo. Shouldn't be too bad.


Every time I fly out to California, I stay at a Holiday Inn. It's a pretty nice hotel. If you stay there long enough (and are signed up in their little rewards program), they will give you vouchers for $10 or $20 off for the restaurant, to be used at breakfast time. I like to go there in the morning. The food is good, and I guess I've been there enough times that I know some of the staff (there's a Puerto Rican waiter!), and even get treated to their “fancy” coffee at no extra cost.

My boss likes to meet up in the hotel lobby pretty early in the morning to go to work. On one particular morning, I decided to forgo the entire restaurant deal, and just ordered room service. I ordered what I always order in the actual restaurant: the “Just right egg”, which is simply one egg, a fruit cup, and an English muffin. So far, I've always asked for the English muffin to be replaced with a blueberry muffin. This day was no different.

Some five minutes later, I get a call. They are out of blueberry muffins. I say that it's fine, I'll just get an English muffin like it says on the menu. Some ten-fifteen minutes later, room service shows up. I open up the dishes and whatever, and I notice that instead of an English muffin, I get this:

At this point I'm confused, because this doesn't look like a muffin at all. I call them, and tell them that I didn't get an English muffin. Told them to get me an English muffin. The guy says he did give me an English muffin. I told them I have something that's not sweet, and that I wanted one of those sweet muffins. I then proceeded to eat my breakfast, but fifteen minutes later, room service hasn't arrived with my muffin yet. I call them, and tell them that they still owe me an English muffin. They apologize, and tell me they'll send one over. I take a shower and whatever, and when I peek outside the door, I notice they had left a covered plate. When I open it, there are two of these inside:

Then it hits me. I have no idea what English muffins are supposed to look like. Worse than that, maybe these are English muffins. Embarrassed, I leave the plate in my room, untouched.

Lesson learned. In my defense - in Puerto Rico, as far as I know, we don't really have muffins for breakfast (if at all). It just wasn't part of my vocabulary. Ignorance led to embarrassment on this one, but now I know.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

hi there

I know it's been a while since my last post, and I realize I lied about “elaborating” on some of the happenings I mentioned in it. However, I've been pretty busy lately, and the free time I get, I try to spend with friends, or just catching up on my Bible reading, or any other book I happen to be reading at the moment.

As I type this, I am on a flight to California due to work. I am hoping this will be the last trip I make in a minute, since I've been flying out pretty much every week this year, and for the most part of late last year. Don't get me wrong – I really like California, but I think I'm about ready to call it a day, and stay in Dallas. All this travel has had me miss out on church during the week, and I'm very much behind in my Vietnamese class, which I think I may end up taking in the summer if this keeps up.

On the positive side, I'm usually back in Dallas in time for my salsa class with the kids on Fridays, and I'm also able to go to church, and to teach English on Sundays. AND I get to hang out with friends, if only for a couple hours. Another positive, which I thank God for, is that I still have a job.

The bad part about not posting in a long while is that I have much to tell, so posts end up being really long. For that I apologize.


I spent the Christmas holidays with my family in Atlanta. It was good to see my family - especially my mom - again. It was also pretty awesome to eat Puerto Rican food again, especially without having to cook it myself, or pay for it. I failed to go to church while I was in Atlanta, but I was glad that my family prepared a little Christmas program on “Noche Buena” (December 24th). We sang some Puerto Rican Christmas carols, had prayer and even some Bible reading. It was great. I don't think I'd had such an experience with my family since I became Christian.

More recently, I attended dragon dance performances for the Chinese/Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebrations. They were pretty cool, although I don't understand the symbolism/story behind it. The one that threw me off was one where there were firecrackers exploding, and it seemed like the dragons were kinda following the firecrackers as they went. I also don't understand the boy with the monkey face with the staff, or the little dude with the fan. I guess I should look it up. -_-

Anyway, if you remember from my last post, I participated in a fashion show late last year for the Vietnamese community. Well, they had another one, but this time it was for their Lunar New Year celebrations. It went great. There were more people participating this time around (five guys as opposed to three, and what seemed like a lot more girls too). The father of a now friend of mine was taking pictures, and happened to take a pretty good one of me (in my opinion anyway). Check it out:

In addition to the fashion show, I was asked to put together a salsa performance for that day. I was to teach two girls and a guy how to dance. With two weeks notice. Needless to say, it was hard, but we pulled through. I taught them some basic steps/moves, and we simply repeated some of them at the same time (so it looked like we were doing the same thing). Had this been in Puerto Rico, I would have really freaked out, since even though not everyone knows how to salsa dance, we have all been exposed to it at least at some point. On this one, I really banked on the thought that the Vietnamese people in attendance had not been exposed to it at all, and so they wouldn't know if we did good or not. ;-) However, I later learned that I was wrong, and some people there did know how to salsa dance. Oh well. Anyway, my friends were there to cheer us on (you guys are awesome), and they managed to record the performance on camera. It's up on YouTube somewhere now, haha.

I mentioned that I am typing this on an airplane on my way to California, which means that I now have a laptop (netbook, to be exact). I got the Asus EEE PC 1000H. It's pretty sweet. It's red, and has little flower drawings on it. You might be making fun of me as you read this, but the first reaction I got out of a girl as I showed it to her was “oh, that's cute!”, which was totally awesome. I figure it might make for a good conversation starter at Starbucks or wherever. ;-) Before getting this laptop though, I tried Sylvania's gOS netbook, which I found online for $240. It's pretty light, with decent battery life and whatnot. However, I could not get the video drivers properly installed/configured on any of the operating systems I tried, and YouTube was really choppy. Also, the wireless NIC had very bad reception, at least in my room. I read the computer is decent if you install Windows XP on it, but that kind of defeats the purpose of buying such a cheap computer (might as well pay extra for a better computer with XP already on it). To make a long story short: I returned it and got the Asus.

Even though I teach it, I find that I'm still learning English with every passing day. That said, I have a story that I think you will find interesting, regarding English muffins. Stay tuned. I promise my next post won't be eleven months from now.