Archive for December, 2016

Souss-Maldonado Newsletter 2016

December 2016

Dear Family and friends:

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson~…and if you truly believe, it will definitely be.  This is a long letter, but it has mostly pictures as we wanted to share with all of you the exciting year we had.

It was a great start to the year, a new job as Manager of Continuing Education at FIU and a half marathon at Daytona Beach combined with Parents Weekend at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.  I have never ran in 40F rainy weather and I literally froze my butt off.  But I’m proud to say that despite the weather, the rain and wet tennis shoes with freezing feet, I ran the whole 13.1 miles and completed the race in 2:47, dressed in pink to honor my dear friends who are breast cancer survivors.  What a thrill that was, great runner’s high – loved it and I think I could do it again!

This year my frame of mind was to live the moment and enjoy life to the fullest, and so we did. I was so lucky to attend great concerts: Marc Anthony, Omara Portuondo with Aymee Nuviola, and Barbra Streisand – my mom’s absolute favorite, she would have been so happy for me. We also celebrated everything we could, didn’t even miss a doll’s baptism, like we say in PR.  We traveled when we could and partied on every occasion we were able to.  We celebrated Pedro’s birthday at Ball & Chain and partied the night away at the Biltmore Holiday Soiree and  finished the evening at Ball & Chain again to be part of IOS’ Holiday Party.


With our beautiful friends and extended family Robert & Patty, celebrating Pedro’s birthday at Ball & Chain where Tito Puente sang Happy Birthday for Pedro!

Sahid started at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach as a transfer student from Miami Dade College in the Aerospace and Occupational Safety program in January 2016.  He loves what he’s studying and probably also loves being away at school :-)!  He is fascinated by all of his classes and surprised us by making the Dean’s List!!!!  We’re so proud of him.  He took the summer off, well-deserved after studying several summers in a row and after returning from Tanzania this past July flew to Colorado and  drove back to Miami, stopping in New Orleans to stay with his cousin – a wonderful trip for him.


El nene con mami :-)!

I continued studying Portuguese the first half of the year and completed all the levels at Miami Dade College.  Unfortunately the French teacher got sick and the french class was cancelled.  My plan is to enroll as a non degree seeking student in the spring 2017 to continue studying Portuguese at FIU.  I also enrolled in a great yoga class, Iyengar style Hatha Yoga, and try to go every week-it’s breathtaking and much needed after a hard week at work.

In March I went to my school’s reunion in PR – Wesleyan Academy was celebrating the 60th anniversary of it’s first graduating class. What fun – there were people I hadn’t seen since I graduated in 1978.  It was a great weekend of activities starting Friday night at Casa Emilio, Saturday at the school with Yazmin, Blanca and Wendy we ventured to the library to check out old year books and reminisce, tour the school and see all the changes that had happened in the past 38 years.  The weekend ended Saturday night with an amazing and unforgettable party at “Hecho en Casa” in Old San Juan. What was so much fun is that we saw our third grade teacher, Mrs. Stockin as well as our English (and formerly my babysitter!) and PE teacher, Rosangela  and Jose, Didi and Angie, among so many other friends. Wanda and Wendy organized everything beautifully and not a single detail was missed. Thanks so much for the great fun and great memories to last for ever.

In May we traveled to PR to the wedding of “Carlitos and Maria Margarita”. It was a beautiful wedding and it was so great to see so many wonderful friends that are like family.  The music was absolutely awesome, we danced to a Menudo type group that was invited, the song “Subete a mi bici”and Pedro performed for us the Journey song “Don’t Stop believing”. What a fun weekend that was.  The wedding was in Mayaguez so we spent the weekend there and traveled to Rincón to see Pedro’s sister who was there for the weekend, visited Vicky’s ‘Casa Sunshine’ and also saw and old friend, Maria Elena, in Joyudas.


Isa, Colberg, Charlie y Tita – Pedro’s childhood friends.


Journey-“Don’t Stop Believing”!


The belles of the wedding!


Vino con los cuñaditos en Rincón!


“Casa Sunshine” – Rincón, the equivalent of the “Love Shack” in Luquillo :-)!

Pedro continued his travels related to work. This year he went to Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan, Mali-2 times, Suriname-3 times and Brunei-2 times. I’m hoping that I can help him carry his suitcase next time he goes to Seychelles 🙂 as the pictures I’ve seen are absolutely spectacular. I traveled to Dallas, TX for a work related conference on Continuing Education in the fall and was able to visit the George W. Bush Library.  It was so interesting and absolutely spectacular-a great history ride.  President Bush has definitely earned a prominent place in history.



Johann has been away in Tanzania at the Peace Corps for almost one and a half years.  He learned Swahili perfectly and is fascinated by the work he’s doing at his village related to the environment, science and aids education at the elementary school.  He has a bee project with the adults in the community.  The bee project entailed building around 150 bee hives (wood and clay) in order to be able to produce honey.  This honey is to be sold and be a source of income for the villagers and the community.  We’re so proud of the work he is doing to help others.  His assignment is supposed to end in May and he has extended it another year.  He will come here in the summer to spend some time with us before he starts his new assignment, this time in Dar es Salaam.  He will be working with USAID’s Farmers-to-Farmers project, a program whereby a local farmer is paired with a farmer in the US in order to share best practices and improve the quality of seeds in Tanzania and worldwide.  As Johann is fluent in Swahili, he will be the liaison between the farmers in both countries.


Villager taking clay bee hive to the woods.


Villagers building the roof for the wood bee hives.


Village children with their parents while they work on the wood bee hives.


Johann’s class after receiving a book donation – they were so happy!  L.I.F.E. book club is sending coloring books, crayons and coloring pencils this month.


Johann’s best friend getting married at the village.

The highlight this year was our trip to Tanzania in June to visit Johann.  It took us almost 8 months to organize this trip as we wanted to make the most of it, and in the end, it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.  We travelled from Miami to Istanbul and then Istanbul to Dar es Salaam where we met with our lovely friends and Pedro’s childhood buddy, Colberg and Isabel.  From there we caught a smaller plane to Arusha, in the north, were our adventure would begin. We went through a tour company called African Travel Resource and what was so great about this company was that you could organize the tour as you wanted, which I just loved. The idea was to go on a safari the first part of the trip, 6 days, and then meet with Johann in Zanzibar for the second part of the trip.

We wanted to maximize to the fullest the beauty of this country and decided on camping and visiting several parks: Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, and the Grumeti Game Reserve.  Our goal was not only to be able to see as many animals as possible and enjoy the beautiful landscape, but to be able to see the wildebeest migration, which we were so lucky to see. After you have seen how beautiful the nature and the landscape of this country is, you know for sure there is a God and that there was a reason for putting these animals here in the wild and not in a zoo.  Among the many animals we were able to see where wildebeest, cheetah, impalas, lions, zebras, buffaloes, monkeys,  baboons, gazelles, elephants, a variety of gorgeous birds, ostriches, hippos, a rhino from afar as they are sadly in extinction, snakes, crocodiles, hyenas, among others. Tanzania is gorgeous and I can say like m dear friend Terry told me, the beauty of this country, its people and this continent, changes you forever.


Let the adventure begin!


Blue ball monkey – …not a joke! Tarangire National Park.



Lion cubs – Tarangire National Park



Cheetah at Tarangire National Park


Only time we saw a traffic jam – and this was to see the cheetah above!


Our private jeep!

Tree of life.jpg

Tree of Life – elephants like to eat the bark during dry season to obtain moisture from the trunk’s reserves.


Tarangire National Park

Mawe Ninga Camp

Mawe Ninga Camp


Entering the Ngorongoro Crater you go through a spectacular acacia forest.


Approaching Ngorongoro Crater below


Road to Ngorongoro Crater


Ngorongoro Crater


Ngorongoro Crater


Ngorongoro Crater


Ngorongoro Crater – “If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”~John Hemingway~

Wild Pig

Wild pig at Ngorongoro Crater

Elephant on the road - not happy!

Elephant on the road as we were leaving the Ngorongoro Crater- not happy!


Ngorongoro Crater down below.


Olduvai region. “One cannot resist the lure of Africa.”~Rudyard Kipling~

The Olduvai region is the site of one of the most famous palaenontological digs in history.  It is said to be the birthplace of mankind.


Masai woman on the side of the road-Olduvai Region


Olduvai-Masai Camp

 “Let’s dance, put on your red shoes and dance with me….” @ Masai Village in Olduvai


So the women are the ones that built the huts with cow merde in the middle to hold it! This is the village chief’s son telling us about the Masai culture.


I sang the kids the ABC song at their Masai village school….they were quite impressed :-), not Sahid though :-)!

Flat tire on the way to the Serengeti – nothing at all in the horizon.  Scared a lion would appear so the boys had to work fast….only a dung beetle showed up :-)!



We made it to Serengeti National Park!!!!

In the park we encountered a female cheetah with cubs…



Nala waiting for Simba :-)! These are called simba kopjes.


This leopard was a rare sighting and this picture was taken from far!!!


Serengeti National Park – sunbathing area :-)!


Serengeti National Park…off to sleep….

Ronjo Camp

Ronjo Camp – eating area to the left and tents to the right.  I should note that at night we could not leave the tents at any of the camps unless we called a guard as there were animals everywhere…and you could hear them !!!!  Below we’re getting ready to leave Ronjo Camp.


The wildebeest were my favorite of all!!!


Wildebeest migration-Serengeti Grumeti – the most spectacular sight in the world!

Cute hippos…you don’t want to see/smell what the river bank was full off :-)!





Tree Lion

Serengeti-Grumeti. Another hard one to come by, tree lioness….and we got lucky!


On our way to our last camp – Grumeti Hills!






Grumeti Hills camp – the view was spectacular…from the bed :-)!


Sahid – Wake up! Grumeti Hills Camp.


Walking Safari.


Treated like royalty – delicious breakfast after a 2 hour walking safari.


Our last day…

Somebody else also had breakfast….and they were not vegetarian :-(.



Salud-Kilamanjaro beer!


Happy Father’s Day – Hakuna Matata!


Returning to Arusha…from Ft. Ikoma


mmm…I think I’ll wait :-)!


Waiting Area at Ft. Ikoma Airstrip


Saying goodbye to Reggie (we gave him an FIU cap) – the best guide ever.


Childhood buddies!


On our way to Arusha from Ft. Ikoma

Traveling afterwards to Zanzibar and meeting Johann in Stone Town after one and a half years of not seeing him was so special.  We spent a couple of days in Stone Town sightseeing and learning about its history. Its architecture, mostly dates back to the 19th century and reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture.  There is also  a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements.  For this reason, the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.  The only sad thing is that it’s beautiful historical buildings aren’t that well kept for lack of money and probably government corruption.  We were told that the government of Oman, from where many of the previous sultans came, was starting to pour some money in for historical reconstruction.  I hope that is the case as the buildings were gorgeous and there is so much history that needs to be kept alive for future generations.  The last part of our trip was spent in the north part of the island, in Nungwi Beach were we just slept, ate, drank and relaxed at the beach.  Upon our return to Dar es Salaam, where we spent the last two days, I was very lucky to be able to spend my birthday with my 3 boys.  An unforgettable trip with memories to last a lifetime.


Arusha airport-checking in our bags to Zanzibar…


Waiting area Arusha airport.


Mami is happy with her boys in Stone Town, Zanzibar!


First things first – a drink!


I just love this picture-the first young girl I saw in Zanzibar.


Children in Stone Town getting water to take home.



Old Arab fort built by the Omanis in 17th century to defend the city from the Portuguese.

Stone Town known for it’s beautiful doors, influence of the Arabs and the Indians, as well as others.



Cell where they kept the slaves.  Unfortunately, during Arab rule, Zanzibar was one of the largest slave ports in the Indian Ocean.


For the Souss-Saleme-Shridewa family, hey brother :-)!


Freddy Mercury from Queen was born here in Stone Town at this house.


With all my boys!


On our way to Prison Island.


The Indian Ocean known for its dhows.


Prison Island – not only known for it’s large turtles brought from Seychelles at one point, but for also being a prison to slaves and a place to quarantine people with yellow fever in the 1800’s.

The beauty of the Indian Ocean…



And our little boat to Prison Island was called Peace & Love – Spectacular-I was in heaven!  And the color of the water is real!


Returning from Prison Island to Stone Town.

I thought this sign was too funny – it was on the top of a pole!  The madrassa school at the right caught my attention.


Beach at Nungwi


Nungwi…relaxing, eating and drinking…great life for a week!


Prayer time in Dar es Salaam…the mosque is so full that people kneel outside on the sidewalk.


Let’s go shopping in Dar es Salaam before we leave!!! Don’t know how many bags we can fit though!


Back in Dar es Salaam…our last night all together.  Great trip, great company-where to next!?!?!!


My last night with the boys…on my birthday, what a great way to end our beautiful and unforgettable vacation.  I love them forever!

After Pedro and I returned to Miami, Sahid stayed and traveled with Johann to his village to really experience life as a Peace Corps volunteer for 2 weeks.  It was quite a difference for him – I think he has learned to appreciate even more all he has at home!

In October I went to my 34th college reunion in NC.  My sister met me there and it was such a fun weekend seeing dear friends like Joe Jolly, Kandi (my homecoming roommate), Richard Boyd and his beautiful girlfriend Maureen, Leigh, Ross and Kelly, and even a make-believe Kid Rock!! I hadn’t seen in years as well as catching up with them. The plan is to return again next year for my 35th – OMG – time really does fly!

In May Tyler graduated Cum Laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in aviation mechanics engineering!!!!! Such a proud moment for us!  My sister in law came to the graduation to share with Tyler and us this amazing milestone in his life.  He has gotten and excellent job in Atlanta with Delta Airlines.  We’re all so proud of all his accomplishments.  No doubt, this is the country of opportunities for all those that work hard. He knows that the sky is the limit and that he has a world of opportunities ahead of him-he is kind, a hard worker, honest, helps and loves his mother and siblings, a wonderful human being all around.  This is only the beginning of great things to come for him. In November Tyler came to visit us with his girlfriend and Sahid also came down.  It was so nice to have all the kids back home again.

The book club continued to meet throughout the year.  It seems that we were more into having fun, social activities than reading as a group :-)!  Yet…we did manage to read The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, The Lowlands by Jhumpa Lahiri and El Amante Japones by Isabel Allende.  Hopefully we will get more serious in 2017 about reading :-)!

Thanksgiving was a very special weekend. Sahid came down and so did my sister.  It was nice for us to spend time together.  Of course we missed Johann, but we know he was able to get together with other volunteers in Tanzania where they killed a duck and had their own “special” Thanksgiving…they also had pig afterwards :-)!

We finished our year with a visit to our beautiful island of PR, Mi Isla del Encanto.  Our neighbor and son Justin came with us and we had the vacation of our lifetime.  We managed to travel some around the island visiting Guánica, Ponce, kayaking at the phosphorescent bay in Fajardo, zip-lining in El Yunque, visiting beautiful beaches, a beautiful day spent in Old San Juan and in between, seeing family and dear friends and enjoying Christmas in PR which is the most fun you can have in the world.  It seems that the older we get, the harder it is to leave the island…who knows, one day we may return for good.

With my dear cousins and aunt…

Pedro’s dear cousins in Ponce…”Ponce es Ponce y lo demás es parking” :-)!

On the way to Playa Escondida in Fajardo and then visiting the beaches in Guánica:

Drinking sangría Coño in La Parguera-Salud!!

Zip-lining in El Yunque – absolutely spectacular!  What a great and gorgeous ride!

Oscar and Maria, my dad’s best friends…what a special time we had with them at Casa Cortés in Old San Juan…


Walking through our beautiful Old San Juan, we even encountered a “lechón asao“!

And the partying never stops in PR, whether it’s chinchorreando in Cayey,

Christmas eve with family,

celebrating our brother in law’s birthday with high class at “La Alcapurria Quemá“-the best birthday party ever, and Ricardo, Pedro’s college roommate and buddy, was there!

Christmas day at Elsita’s and Carlos’ home…always so welcoming and special

and New Years Day.

The highlight of the trip was seeing Myriam – my second mom, love her forever.


It was a such a wonderful and rewarding year.  We’re so thankful for every minute of it. I continue to pray for health, peace, love and happiness;  I pray for equality and understanding,  I pray for justice.  Gandhi said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”  Let us not ever lose hope or direction.


Wishing you all love and peace and a great 2017!

The Souss-Maldonado

December 31, 2016 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment


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