I know by now, family and friends are wondering whatever happened to the San Juan Year End Letter, a tradition that we have started for our family and friends since 2002. There have been a lot of gatherings and parties to attend to this holiday season and before we knew it, New Year’s Eve came without a Year End Letter. However, as in all traditions, it has to be done no matter what so we’re trying our best to cook something up with this little adage “It’s better late than never” at the back of our heads.
We received news early January that Xianelle has topped the EXPLORE Exam among all the TAP students in Qatar Academy. With this, she was offered a scholarship to attend the C-Mites (Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students) Summer Program at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in July. She was offered the same scholarship last year which we turned down. This time we had decided that we would not pass the opportunity.
In June, while attending Xianelle’s “Promotion” ceremony to Grade 6 (Middle School), we were given another surprise when she received the Academic Achievement Award (in her class). This accolade was deemed to be the highest award that any student can receive in his/her entire academic life in Qatar Academy Primary School. We were ecstatic! You can view the awarding at http://youtu.be/3Vz6EoHM_kA
July came and the trip to Pittsburgh went smoothly. Since I decided to stay in Doha while Xianelle and Mavis went to Pittsburgh for the trip, the two had an amazing mother-daughter time for 2 weeks. They explored the streets of Pittsburgh, went to museums and other famous landmarks, sampled every tasty morsel that they could get their hands on (Murray Ave. Grill, Five Guys Burgers, Cioppino, Meats and Potatoes, Primanti Bros., and more) , and shopped till my pockets bled.
They also had some funny and unforgettable experiences to bring home with them; being left by a bus going to the Outlet mall in which they had to wait for another hour before the next bus arrived, Mavis buying shoes thinking that she got a humongous discount by paying only 80QR a pair but then realized she was paying 80 US dollars and not in Qatari riyals so she had to quickly return back the items 10 minutes after buying them, and having the worst service food ever at EatnPark.
24 hours after landing back in Doha, we flew to the Philippines to be with our families whom we miss for the most part of the year. Nothing beats being with family. We consider it such a blessing to having the opportunity to spend time back home with our loved ones. Vacation in the Philippines, as always, is a mix of food binging, visiting the malls and cinemas, more travelling and just spending time with family.
We went to Coron, Palawan late July as I have always dreamt of going to Coron. It didn’t disappoint! It has got the most spectacular views we’ve ever seen; clear, blue waters and lagoons, magnificent rock formations, and snorkeling sites for the eyes to feast on. As always, the mermaid (Xianelle) and the Merman (Me) spent hours just snorkeling in the water, marveling at the different sea creatures below. Mavis was the scaredy-cat in the ocean as ever as she had to make do with snorkeling by the boat. She was even bested by my mom, who at 64, was able to spend quality minutes snorkeling with the help of our boatman!
In August, we decided to give out some school supplies to a class in Sitio Target Elementary School. The school provides classes to Aetas, indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon. We brought notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, rulers and other school items. As it was their first time to see water color palettes, they thought of them as makeup, but Xianelle was happy to show them how to use properly. Hopefully, we could donate more this coming year as we saw how much help is actually needed to run such school. We salute the dedicated teachers who have to trek each day, rain or shine, just to teach these children.
As with last year, we also went to “Munting Tahanan ng Nazareth” in Mabalacat, Pampanga which serves as a home to abandoned, and disabled and special children. We brought some basic supplies as recommended by the caretakers like soap, detergent bars, laundry powder, disinfectants, soap, and shampoo. “Munting Tahanan ng Nazareth” relies solely on donations so these necessities are sure to help their cause.
Mavis and Xianelle got to spend the rest of their Philippine holiday with Mavis’ side of the family. Although this time it was minus her Dad and her sister Mariah who, at that time, had to leave for a short singing stint in Belgium. Although the first few weeks were about enjoying and travelling, it wasn’t as rosy as expected as my mother-in-law got seriously sick. Mavis even had to extend their vacation to be with her mom upon her operation. We were glad that God for helped us get through it and with lots of prayers from everyone in the family and our friends, her mom’s health has gotten better and will hopefully continue to do so.
We were back in each other’s arms by mid-September and easily got back into our daily routines.
Christmas holiday was spent with friends, attending gatherings, parties and hosting them as well. One of the busiest ones we’ve had so far but can’t complain of the company of friends. We only wish that we could have spent it with our families back home as well.
Year 2014 has still been a wonderful year for us and our families even with the bumps that came our way. We’re hoping that the year ahead will be a prosperous and a truly be a meaningful one, not just for us but also for all of those who are close to us. And may we all be able to surpass all the trials and stumbling blocks that come our way with hope and faith. We pray and hope that the New Year will continue to bring hope and God’s wondrous blessings for us all. Till our next meeting!
The San Juan’s of Doha
Tian, Mavis and Xianelle
Saw Amazing Spiderman 2 yesterday afternoon at Villagio. Honestly, I’m not that impressed. The film was able to depict and show Peter Parker’s witty-side as he appears on the drawn pages of Marvel’s comic books. Without giving out spoilers, the main underlying premise of the film was actually good and strengthened Peter and Gwen’s relationship. However, having Electro as the main villain was quite a disconnect to the characters of the film itself and was painfully interspersed with Parkers’ personal issues. Thus, the film achieves some highs but can’t seem to sustain it throughout. People expect continuous action or at least an ascending dash to the climax. I admit that I almost fell asleep on some parts. I would have wanted a villain who was more invested personally with Parker/Spidey. This was what was missing.
I do understand the comparisons between a Marvel Studios produced movie and this movie from Sony. Marvel Studios, its writers, now have a fair understanding of that balance between the story and that wow factor. Sadly, Sony dwelled on the story but failed on the ‘Wow’. It failed to connect the antagonist to the protagonist failing to make a movie that would have been enjoyable throughout.
Should you watch it on the cinema? Spidey’s swinging from building to building is something to see on the big screen. Other than that, you could always wait for the blu-ray and watch it at home. It’s not a movie I’d rewatch again soon.
Have you had that craving for salted duck eggs and been trying to look for duck eggs in Qatar? Finally found them at Lulu Hypermarket yesterday for a whopping price of 24.50 Qatari Rials! That’s about 300 Pesos for 6 eggs. I better stick to dreaming about having salted eggs and tomatoes and wait for our annual vacation in the Philippines.
Our yearly July vacation to the Philippines is just months away so I decided to look into air ticket prices. When we first came to Doha years ago, our main airline was Qatar Airways but has been using Etihad for the past 3 years due to the fact that even though it meant we had to go to Abu Dhabi for a quick layover, we also saved some money in the process. If I wasn’t being given airfare allowance by my company and was just given plane tickets to use Qatar Airways, then I would have been fine as I had no choice in the matter. Since I’m given airfare allowance, I decided to save a little in the process.
Qatar Airways do offer direct flights to the Philippines but don’t come cheap. They have daily flights to Manila and now even have flights to Clark Airport which is nearer to my home. From Manila, we used to spend another 3-4 hours travelling to Angeles, Pampanga due to the traffic. Landing at Clark Airport means we’re literally 15 minutes from home. Aside from Qatar Airways, Emirates has also opened flights to Clark from Dubai. This somehow eliminated Etihad from our sights as a closer airport would be better even if it means spending a little bit more.
I visited both their sites to compare the difference in airfare between Qatar Airways and Emirates for the same days in July and the results were quite surprising. I wasn’t surprised that Qatar Airways proved to be more expensive than Emirates but was surprised at how huge the margin is!
Let’s do the math! For a single adult, Qatar Airways charges 3,850QR while Emirates charges 2,810QR. The price difference is a whopping 1,040QR or roughly 12,760 Pesos.
Since we would basically travel together, that’s 2 adults and 1 child. For the whole return trip, I would have to pay Qatar Airways 11,530QR while the same flight dates would cost 7,970QR with Emirates. The difference is 3,560QR or 43,678Pesos (285.59 USD). Wow. Just Wow.
Of course, one also has to consider several aspects in the picture. For one, Qatar Airways provide a 9:35 hour direct flight to Clark, Philippines. Emirates takes you longer as you have a quick layover in Abu Dhabi and the total travel time would be 11:55 hours. That is a mere 2 hours and 20 minutes more. Also, flight times vary although departing and arriving on the same date. You leave Doha a bit earlier and arrive at Clark at 10 AM the following day with Qatar Airways while you are on a red eye flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi and you arrive 4:40 PM in the Philippines instead of morning.
Still, I do feel that one is really paying a premium price for Qatar Airways flights. If the flights are probably 300QR more expensive than competition, I wouldn’t bother paying the extra. But for a difference of 3,560QR, that is something else. What gives?
In our case, the layover isn’t really much of a bother as we’ve been used to travelling with Etihad and with the close proximity of the Clark Airport to our home, a 6 hour difference in arrival isn’t much so I don’t see why I would spend an extra 3560QR using Qatar Airways.
For Nonimmigrant Visa applicants:
Determine your visa type by reading Common Nonimmigrant Visas. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.
Be sure to also review the Visa Waiver Program. If your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need to apply for a visa if you are traveling for business or pleasure and will only be staying in the Unites States for 90 days or less.
The next step is to complete the DS-160 Form. Be sure to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Form carefully. All information must be correct and accurate. Once the form is submitted, you cannot make any changes. If you need assistance, please consult an immigration lawyer or translator. The call center cannot help you complete your DS-160. You will need your DS-160 number to book your appointment.
Once you have determined the correct visa type and completed the DS-160, you must pay the visa fee. The visa fee page lists the visa types and correlating visa fee in U.S. dollars and local currency.
To pay your visa fee, read the Bank and Payment Options page. This page explains how to make your visa fee payment. You will create a profile and must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment.
Now you will need to log in to your profile with the same credentials you used to pay your visa fee. Once you are in the system, you will see your dashboard.
Click on Schedule Appointment on the left-hand side menu.
This will start the process for scheduling your appointment. You will need:
- Your passport number.
- The ref. transaction number from your bank receipt. Click here if you need help finding this number.
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page.
As you go through the process you will be able to select your visa type, enter personal data, add dependents, select your document delivery location, confirm visa payment, and schedule your appointment.
If your visa is approved, the visa will be available for pick up at the U.S. Embassy.