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Souss-Maldonado Newsletter 2019

December 2019 – Miami, FL

Dear Family and Friends:

We hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to 2020.  As I look back on 2019, in a way, and not to be ungrateful, I’m thankful the year ended.   A lot of many wonderful things happened in our lives, and at the same time, we had the challenge of Johann’s accident.  We’re blessed to have him with us, healthy, and that is the greatest gift we received.

Our jobs continued to keep us very busy this year, as always, working long hours and weekends.  That is what happens when there are no little ones around anymore and when you’re passionate about what you and believe in what you do.   I continued by work at the university in the area of continuing education and was able to take another Portuguese class, my 5th one!  Pedro continued his work in international development at IOSSoft  .  At IOSSoft Pedro now is the General Manager.  Johann continued working at SANKU in Tanzania and we’re proud to say that TIME magazine recognized their dosifier as one of the best inventions of 2019 https://time.com/collection/best-inventions-2019/5733123/sanku-dosifier/ . Sahid continued his work as an auto technician. He completed is Project Management certification as well as other mechanic licenses.  At his job he has been able to develop his welding skills, which is a great asset to his professional growth. His passion for auto and aviation mechanics is still strong.  Sahid and I embarked on a transformation journey in the fall and took together a “Finding True-self Workshop” at Body & Brain which is the center where we do yoga and tai-ichi, simply amazing.

My sisters from L.I.F.E. and I socialized quite a little this year even though we managed several books: We participated in a book reading at Books & Books by Andrea di Robilant with the launch of his book “Autumn in Venice”.  Of course, being the fan that I am of Ernest Hemingway, I just loved this book.  We also read “Las Hijas del Capitan” de Maria Duenas, “Paris” by Edward Rutherford, “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante (I ended up reading the 4 books-absolutely excellent) and discussed the Netflix Series, Bolivar, fascinating story!  I read other great books on my own, one which I absolutely loved as it brought me memories of my beautiful Puerto Rico, “Cuando me movieron de la loza” de Brenda Diaz.

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Viscaya Museum & Gardens

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Viscaya Museum & Gardens

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Mili’s & Mercy’s June Birthday Girls @ La Trova

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La Trova, Calle 8

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Books & Books with Andrea di Robilant author of “Autumn in Venice”.

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“Paris” by Edward Rutherford

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Nous sommes Paris

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Special Treat by Rosario from Italy with Love

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“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

In March I went to a national conference in Seattle on the topic of continuing education.  These are always an amazing learning experience.  I love to exchange ideas with other colleagues in higher ed and learn from their experiences.  I had never been to Seattle so was able to walk around downtown and near the pier – beautiful.  The highlight of my trip was being able to see our grandniece Isabel and her mom Jenny.  We spent several hours together catching up and I loved every minute of it.

 

We were so happy to be part of Isabel’s and Colberg’s wedding, and more so, because I officiated the wedding.  What a special treat that was for me.  We were blessed to be part of this beautiful occasion celebrating not only their marriage, but a friendship of so many years-we love them tons.  We wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

El nene turned 24 in March and we celebrated at home and took him out to eat good Puerto Rican food in North Miami Beach at La Placita.  Strongly recommended it.

In May we went to Puerto Rico for a couple of days, always heaven on earth, especially those morning walks on the beach when the sun is rising.  Spending time with family is always precious and unforgettable and I’m glad that even though we were not for long, the time we spent with them was quality time.

We were also lucky to have my sister come down to visit in May, November and December.

In July Pedro and Sahid went to NY to celebrate our nephew’s 40th birthday.  They had a wonderful time.  The best combination, being with family and NY.  While there, they took a trip to CT to visit Pedro’s cousin Raymond and his family.  They had not seen each other in many years and what a wonderful time they had together catching up.

 

In August we said goodbye to one of our adopted sons, Johann Guzman. Johann was accepted to go study Orchestra Conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, the Mecca for Orchestra Conducting studies. Very few students are selected for this program and we’re so proud he was one of the few accepted! The sky is the limit for him and we know he will succeed in everything he does. We love him and his family tons!

As I could not make it to NY in the summer, Pedro had to go to Jamaica in August on business where he is advising several government agencies including the Cannabis Licensing Authority . I flew to Montego Bay for a long weekend where he met me.  I had never been to Jamaica.  It was the perfect vacation for a workaholic, 5 days of beach, eat, read, and drink.  Talk about relaxing!  We stayed at the S Hotel in Montego Bay and loved it.  Everyone there was so nice and the beaches are absolutely gorgeous!!!!  Ya mon, I could definitely go back in an instant.  And the best part is that it’s such a short plane ride :-)!

In September we got a very tempting offer to go to Cartagena by our dear friends Regina and David.  We could stay with them at an apartment they had rented, could not let that go!  Cartagena has been on my bucket list for ever and this was too irresistible, so off we went for 5 days. Pedro had been there on business many years ago, and David and Regina knew the city by heart, so they were the perfect tour guides. Cartagena is absolutely magical, it reminded me so much of Old San Juan.  The people are so nice, the city is absolutely beautiful, so much history, and the food, wow, talk about gaining weight!

While in Cartagena, Pedro and I went to Baru Island for two days and stayed at the Baru Playa Eco Beach Resort, heaven on earth!  If you want to get away from EVERYTHING, this is the place to go!  We were treated like royalty, just loved it! In the morning when I’d go running, Bongo would accompany me, but he got tired quite easily :-)!

In October I went to the regional continuing education conference in Orlando and Pedro came with me.  Great conference, but more special was being able to spend time with our dear friends Ambrosio and Maria Elena, and lucky enough to have been able to see their daughter Isabel also  Wow!  This is a friendship from our days in Bulgaria, over 20 years now.  We just love these ‘chamos’ tons and forever.

El gordo had his birthday in November and invited his friends to celebrate!  What a blast we all had, especially because the chamos were here for the great occasion, “62”.

Life brings us many challenges and we thank God for his many blessings.  I received a call from the US embassy on Monday, November 25, while I was at work, that Johann had had an accident in Tanzania, and the world collapsed for us.  He is fine now, but the ordeal and agony we went through as parents, we don’t wish to anyone.  We’re so grateful to all the people that helped us get through this, from the travel agency finding plane tickets to travel that same afternoon, to Johann’s team in Tanzania accompanying him in the hospital for the first two surgeries while we got there, to my sister for coming to stay with Sahid and spend Thanksgiving with him, to Robert Hans for following-up with Johann’s boss while we were traveling for around 35 hours to get there, to the amazing guardian angels Johann came across, the young man that saved his life, Hatibu-a radiology technologist,  Dr. Mugisha-neurosurgeon and his team at the private Aga Khan Hospital in Dar Es Salaam, to the US Embassy staff.  The staff at the Mariott Protea in Dar es Salaam were so amazing and accommodating to us, truly empathetic to our needs.

The morning of the accident Johann decided to ride his bicycle to work, something he never does, and was riding extremely fast without a helmet.  In trying to avoid a speed bump, he swerved, came into a puddle full of rocks, flew over and fell on his head.  Please wear a helmet if you’re riding a bicycle, tell everyone you know that has a bicycle the importance of wearing one!  Johann is alive because Hatibu was there at a bus stop when he saw him fall and immediately brought him to the nearest clinic.  He was checked at the clinic and the doctor’s there realized he was bleeding internally and they didn’t have the necessary equipment and transferred him to the Aga Kahn Hospital where Dr. Mugisha immediately operated on him.  These were the two initial surgeries that were done while we were traveling and for which his boss had to give consent for.  The first surgery was for an emergency craniotomy and elimination of an epidural hematoma and the second immediately after was for a re-bleed in an artery.

When we arrived the next day almost at midnight, we went straight to the hospital.  He was in ICU with so many tubes and oxygen, that we wanted to die, we thought only the worse.  The next morning, on Wednesday, when we went to see him, he was awake and recognized us, spoke to us in Spanish, would speak to the staff in Swahili and to his visitors in English, so that was a great sign.  He was incoherent for a long period of time and to this day he doesn’t remember the accident, and we’re told by various neurologists that he never will remember.

We would walk to the hospital 3 times a day for the visiting hours allowed at ICU.  Thursday morning when we went to see him, he did not look well at all and we panicked.  Dr. Mugisha met with us and showed us a new CT scan that showed a recurrent epidural hematoma and he strongly recommended an immediate surgery.  When they were taking Johann to surgery, we honestly believed his body could not take another surgery, but we had no other choice.  We told him how much we loved him and that this was for the best, all along remembering Dr. Mugisha’s words that Johann was strong and young, and this was all in his favor.  We said good-bye to Johann, we didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know if we were going to see him alive again.  The hours in surgery were the longest hours of our lives.  Four hours later, Dr. Mugisha asked us to come into the recovery room and there was Johann, wide awake and asking us in Spanish, what was he doing there.  We were crying tears of joy; we were so happy to see him alive!  Johann stayed in ICU for 10 days recovering and was then transferred 2 days to regular ward.  We stayed 3 more days in Tanzania so that he could do follow-up visits with Dr. Mugisha who then released him and authorized his travel back home with us.

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With Hatibu, our new son in Tanzania.

Johann has been home with us since our return on December 10th recuperating.  He is seeing a neurologist and a generalist here in Miami, and in addition to friends of ours who are doctors, they have all confirmed that the treatment he received in Tanzania was the best and that procedures followed were the correct ones.  We never doubted this as we’re not the type of people that underestimate healthcare in other countries, but in a situation like this, we must confess we were scared.  In addition, there was not enough time, given Johann’s trauma, to evacuate him out of the country.  Our dear friend Robert provided us with so much support trying to find all the ways we could evacuate Johann out of Tanzania, and we will forever be grateful to him.  Sahid was born in Nicaragua, and many people I know freaked out when we made this decision and in addition, Pedro left his appendix in Nicaragua, so we knew the care Johann was receiving was the best in Tanzania, and it was, he’s with us today.  Johann has been swimming, walking and going to yoga and Tai ichi.  His recuperation has been amazing.  He plan to return to Tanzania by mid-February.

And so, our year ended, on a beautiful and special note, all of us spending Christmas together, a unique and very special blessing.  My sister came down for several days and we had a wonderful time with her, we also celebrated her birthday with a rum cake, ’tis the season for that :-).  We had our “Nochebuena” dinner and a great Christmas day.  Of course, we also celebrated Three Kings Day, bringing back all the memories from when the boys were little with the shoe boxes they decorated back then for the camel’s grass :-), no cannabis :-).

 

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Our other son, Tyler, came to visit us in Miami over the holidays.  The original plan was for him to meet us in PR, but due to Johann’s accident, those plans were cancelled.  We were so happy to see him.  He continues working with Delta Airlines and has been able to travel to so many places as that is one of the greatest perks of working for an airline.  He has been to the UK, Mexico, Roatan, and Japan, among other exciting places.  He  learned from us how to be a globetrotter!  He continues to grow professional at Delta and is always taking advantage of all the training opportunities offered to him…he also knows the sky is the limit…so in the wise words of Buzz Lightyear, “To Infinity & Beyond”!

We’re living in very strange and sad times, so many natural disasters, especially our little island of PR suffering so much.  In addition, we see so much hate, genocide, wars, shootings…and people seem to be just looking the other way and some even find a way to justify it.  How hard is to accept that we’re all the same, that there is no need for any  hate or judgement.  Maya Angelou said, “We’re here to love each other.  That’s why you are alive. That is what life is for.”  If we all were to believe in the power of love, this would be a much better world.

Before I say until next year, I want to share with you a poem I came across many, many years ago when I was only 21 and my mom passed away.  It came back to my mind when we were at the hospital with Johann.  We have to remember how important it is to  “always hold your loved ones close today”.

If I Knew 

by Dawn Marie Huddleston

If I knew it would be the last time
That I’d see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be  the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would ! give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.

If I knew it would be the last time
I’d hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute
to stop and say “I love you,”
instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.

If I knew it would be the last time
I would be there to share your day,
Well I’m sure you’ll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there’s always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything just right.

There will always be another day
to say “I love you,”
And certainly there’s another chance
to say our “Anything I can do?”

But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I’d like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance
you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you’re waiting for tomorrow,
why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll surely regret the day,

That you didn’t take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
and whisper in their ear,
Tell them how much you love them
and that you’ll always hold them dear

Take time to say “! I’m sorry,”
“Please forgive me,” “Thank you,” or “It’s okay!”
And if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll have no regrets about today.

We want to wish all of you a wonderful 2020.  As Disney said, “The most fantastic magical things can happen, and it all starts with a wish.” To a magical 2020!

With much love & peace, Pedro, Mili, Johann & Sahid

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January 23, 2020 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

Souss-Maldonado Newsletter 2018

Dear Family & Friends:

2018 is over, finished…a new year has started.  In the words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, “And now let us welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.” And we do welcome the new year! To 2019!

The biggest highlight of 2018 was that “el nene” graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a BS in Aeronautical and Occupational Safety.  YES!  And even more special was the fact that Johann was able to come from Tanzania to be part of the celebration.  What a special family moment this was for us – simply unforgettable!

This year again I started the year getting together with other great women and men trying to see how we can make this world a better world for our children and our grandchildren.  Even though I didn’t make it to DC this year, Miami organized itself and dressed up in pink.  There has to be an end to the hatred this administration is spreading, and end to the corruption, to the belief that there is a superior race, or a unique religion.  We’re all the same regardless of color, sexual orientation, religion, beliefs.  I don’t impose on anyone my beliefs, so please don’t impose on me yours. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~Maya Angelou~

I continued to study Portuguese.  In the Spring I took Business Portuguese.  This was an awesome class and we learned about business etiquette-loved watching the students in the class.  We had to make a final presentation dressed up in business attire, it was great! In the Fall I took Revision Grammar and Writing.  This last one I just loved as we were exposed to so many Brazilian and Portuguese poets and writers that I would have never otherwise known.  What a great class!  Lots of essay writing and presentations!  Sahid was patient enough to teach me how to use Prezi for my presentation as he said that only old people used Power Point :-)! My final presentation was on a book that had impacted my life.  This took me down memory lane to when I was in the third grade and my teacher at Wesleyan Academy, Ms. Bery, read us a book called, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White.  It was my first year at this American school and the first time I heard a book read in English.  That book got me hooked to reading.  The title of my presentation was, “O livro que mudou a minha vida e me ensinou a amar os livros”.  These are my two favorite pictures of the presentation, my third grade picture, quite scary, and a scene from the movie Charlotte’s Web with Wilbur, Charlotte and their friends at the barn.

In 2018 I traveled to Baltimore, MD for the national conference on Continuing Education with a my dear friend and colleague, Mercy.  OMG was it cold!  I’m not used to that anymore!  But the best part of the conference was the visit of Nieves and Jose, whom we met in Kazakhstan in 1998. We have continued to see each other every so often when they visit Miami. They where in DC on vacation and drove to Baltimore to have lunch with me.  How special is that…so many years of a beautiful friendship.

I also traveled to Bethesda, MD in October for the regional Continuing Education conference.  The highlight of that trip, getting together with my cousin Freddie and his wife.  I had to seen him in, I’m not going to say how many years.  Talk about catching up, and great memories.  Great hostesses at their beautiful home in Georgetown.  Que se repita! During this trip, I was also able to get together one night with a former colleague, a dear friend that is like a sister to me.  It was great to spend time with Martha and her husband Tani.

In February we traveled to up north to Viera, FL for Regina’s big 70! What fun we had.  Another alumni reunion from our years of living in Bulgaria.  Counting the days for the next pachanga!

 

My running decreased quite a lot in 2018 as my lower back and neck decided to act up too many times.  I don’t remember being out so much from work, especially because of pain and because I couldn’t move.  Too many visits to the doctor and to many drugs to see what would make me feel better just made me physically and emotionally worse. I decided to start doing more Yoga and Ta Ichi in addition to bicycle riding and walking…more lower impact exercise.  My goal is to continue doing the same in 2019.

And the girls continued to have fun and more fun, and read a little less :-)! We did manage to sneak in two books, “Origins” by Dan Brown (didn’t like that much) and “A Gentleman in Moscow : A Novel” by Amor Towles which I adored! L.I.F.E.’s therapy sessions, world solving conversations, book discussions, and silly conversations are the best medicine after a long and intense week at work.  Girls just want to have fun!

At the beginning of August I went to visit my sister in Charlotte as she was having cataract surgery.  Everything went great and a couple of weeks laster, Sahid went to spend time with his aunt and take care of her for the operation of the other eye.  They had a great time together.  I was much more stricter with her recuperation than Sahid was.

As for the boys, Pedro continued to travel for work.  He was in Malawi, Trinidad & Tobago, Peru and at times, several times a year in those places.  Johann is still in Tanzania and we’re so proud of the work he is doing with Sanku .  Sahid is happy as can be now that he has graduated.  In the fall he decided to take for fun a sign language class as he has always been fascinated by this.  He also completed his FCC General Radio Telephone Operator License.In the new year he will register to do the Principles of Project Management (CAPM®) and take the certification test. He has been offered a job at an auto body shop where he will train in welding so that he can then become certified. 

We had quite a number of visitors this year.  At the beginning of the year our dear Bulgarian friends came from DC to visit.  My cousin and her husband also came to visit and stayed with us one weekend.  And an unbelievable surprise was my high school friend Norah that lives in Germany.  She came to Miami for a wedding and she was so dear to take time from her busy schedule to get together.  Our traveling companions, Colbert and Isabel, also came to visit us-that was a fun night at the Lebanese restaurant.  My college friend, Joe was here on business and also took time to have breakfast with us – too bad that the service at the Rusty Pelican was so awful.  What one sacrifices for a great view on a gorgeous day.

In the fall Pedro and I took a trip to Peru with our traveling partners Colberg and Isabel.  Talk about being ambitious and wanting to see everything there was or ever was in Peru.  We started in Lima where we visited the famous Larco Museum and Gold Museum.  We also ventured south to visit Paracas, Ica, Nasca and Islas Ballestas.  We had seen a desert, or an oasis, and this was quite an experience for us.  More so because, and this was not included in the tour package, we experienced a 4.1 earthquake that had me screaming like crazy and the rest of us running our of the hotel room in our pijamas.  The Nasca lines were fascinating – but the tiny plane and the turns it took so people on both sides of the plane could get a good look at them, was quite impressive.  Islas Ballestas was unbelievable – I had never seen sea lions so close.  Of course the highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu, which I had visited in 1975, and would see now as a seasoned tourist.  On our way there, we stopped to visit other ruins, in addition to the wonderful tour of the City of Cusco: Sacsayhuaman, K’enko, Tambo de Pucapucura; Tambomachay, Pisac, and Ollataytambo where we took the train that would take us to Aguas Calientes, the last stop before taking a bus up the mountain to get to Machu Picchu.  I took a couple of pictures and compared them to when I had visited in 1975-I’m a lucky girl to have been able to visit twice. What a memorable trip, the people so nice, and the food, everywhere you went, no matter how simple or how fancy the place was, you ate like royalty.  It was an awesome trip and the one thing that I will never forget is the traffic in Lima.  I will never ever complain about PR or Miami traffic again :-)!

Sacsayhuaman Ruins 1978 and 2018

Machu Pichu 1978 and 2018

What a way to end the year than to be at home with our family.  And were we happy to see Puerto Rico back to the Puerto Rico we have always known, pachangas in the plazas, the beaches full of tourists, everywhere you went, there was happiness and hope. It was also a very special vacation because the four of us were together.  And the icing on the cake was Tyler’s visit.  Christmas in Puerto Rico with your family is absolutely the best!

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With my Father’s best friends!

 

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And so they year went. We are looking forward to 2019, a new year and a new beginning with the hopes that we all can contribute to make this a kinder world, a safer world, a cleaner world, a tolerant world.

It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” ~Nelson Mandela~

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Wishing you love & peace!  Pedro, Mili, Johann, Sahid, Lupe and Rocket

January 21, 2019 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Souss-Maldonado Newsletter 2017

Dear family and friends:

I don’t know about you but I’m so happy 2017 is over.   What a discordant year this has been.  One of the most dismals I have ever lived, so much hate, prejudice, harassment.  Yet, I have tons of hope and I believe in justice, in karma, and pray that 2018 is a better year.   Alfred Lord Tennyson could not have said it best, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.”

We started the year with justice in mind.  L.I.F.E. sent three representatives to Washington, DC on January 21st, Vicky, Maria Teresa and I, to the First Women’s March, one of the biggest in history and for sure a bigger crowd that the inauguration day crowd, we were there on both days.  What a great time to share with other women and men, and at the same time convey a clear message that all women’s rights are human rights, that we’re all equal regardless of race, religious beliefs and sexual orientation, that no human is illegal and that we must protect the climate and the environment for future generations.  It was a great weekend of sharing and bonding, an unforgettable one.

 

 

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January 30, 2018 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Journey-“Don’t Stop Believing”!

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The belles of the wedding!

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Vino con los cuñaditos en Rincón!

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“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.

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Mili-in-Chief!

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.

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Villager taking clay bee hive to the woods.

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Villagers building the roof for the wood bee hives.

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

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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.

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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.

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Let the adventure begin!

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

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Lion cubs – Tarangire National Park

 

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Cheetah at Tarangire National Park

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

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Our private jeep!

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

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Tarangire National Park

Mawe Ninga Camp

Mawe Ninga Camp

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

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Approaching Ngorongoro Crater below

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Road to Ngorongoro Crater

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Ngorongoro Crater

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Ngorongoro Crater

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Ngorongoro Crater

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

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Wild pig at Ngorongoro Crater

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

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Ngorongoro Crater down below.

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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.

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Masai woman on the side of the road-Olduvai Region

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Olduvai-Masai Camp

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

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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.

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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 :-)!

 

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We made it to Serengeti National Park!!!!

In the park we encountered a female cheetah with cubs…

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

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

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Serengeti National Park – sunbathing area :-)!

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Serengeti National Park…off to sleep….

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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!!!

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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 :-)!

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Classy!

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Tree Lion

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

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On our way to our last camp – Grumeti Hills!

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Serengeti-Grumeti

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Serengeti-Grumeti

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

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Sahid – Wake up! Grumeti Hills Camp.

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Walking Safari.

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

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Our last day…

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

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Salud-Kilamanjaro beer!

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Happy Father’s Day – Hakuna Matata!

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Returning to Arusha…from Ft. Ikoma

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mmm…I think I’ll wait :-)!

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Waiting Area at Ft. Ikoma Airstrip

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

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Childhood buddies!

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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.

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Arusha airport-checking in our bags to Zanzibar…

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Waiting area Arusha airport.

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

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First things first – a drink!

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

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Children in Stone Town getting water to take home.

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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.

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

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

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

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With all my boys!

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On our way to Prison Island.

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The Indian Ocean known for its dhows.

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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…

 

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

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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.

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Beach at Nungwi

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

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

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

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Wishing you all love and peace and a great 2017!

The Souss-Maldonado

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

Souss-Maldonado 2015 Newsletter

January 2016.

Dear All:

2015 what a year!  Starting with the craze of “50 Shades of Grey” and L.I.F.E. being first at the line for opening night at the movie theaters.  So, what better way to practice my portuguese than to read the 3 “Grey” books in portuguese :-)!   IMG_1472

In February Johann left for Tanzania to start his 2 year assignment with the Peace Corps.  He is thrilled with all the projects he has been working on related to agriculture and health as the volunteers in his region are cross training in both areas.   He has learned Swahili fluently, in addition to his Spanish, English and French, with some Russian too.  He was also finally able to get electricity in his house with a couple solar panels and several light bulbs and buy a small solar energy refrigerator – I still remember the first time he was able to make ice, the things we take for granted! With the solar panel he has enough energy for his computer and he can also charge his cell phone.  Even though he can get ‘some’ vegetables and fruits in his little town – most of the time he has to travel by bus for two hours each way to a bigger town, to get other things so that he can vary his diet.  Meat is a challenge.  If the town butcher decides to kill a pig one day – there is pork to buy.  Of course, Pedro had a heart attack when he found out Johann had eaten pork – he told us that he had over cooked it to make sure it was safe.  The poor guy was really hungry for meat and the choices aren’t much.  When the Peace Corps does regional meetings of the volunteers – it’s a special treat as they go to a bigger town where the choices of food are more, where they can drink and most important, have a real toilet that flushes and a shower with warm water.  There was a group of volunteers that got together to spend the new year in Zanzibar – a well-deserved brake for them for all the hard work they do.  We have already made plans to go visit him this summer.  We will go on a safari to Tanzania, visit the Serengeti and see the Great Migration and then meet Johann in Zanzibar, not at his village.  Our dear friends Colberg & Isabel will be coming with us.  Pedro is ecstatic about this trip as it had been on his ‘bucket list’ since he was a child and used to watch Daktari, which is Swahili for “doctor”.  Sahid will stay longer and travel with Johann to his little village – almost 2-3 days by bus from Dar es Salaam.  For sure it will be a good experience for Sahid – no Nintendo or Netflix :-).

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Johann’s kitchen-gast stove with one burner on the right.

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The inside patio where Johann washes his dishes and does his laundry.

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Johann’s oven – have to be creative!! He was able to make banana bread – quite a curiosity for the locals as it now gives them another option of what to do with the tons of bananas they grow.

Sahid continued studying at Miami Dade in order to complete his basic courses and get ready for his FAA exams.  He passed both FAA exams, power plant and airframe!!!!!  His dream of going to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study Aeronautical and Occupational Safety became a reality this month.   He loves the school and all his subjects!  We will be going to visit him next weekend for parent’s weekend.  IMG_2422

Pedro continued to travel because of work, mostly to Mali and Kyrgyzstan and a new contract sent him all the way to the Seychelles Islands.  In May, he had to travel to Grenada – and of course, I had to help him with his luggage :-).  What a spectacular island, awesome people, what beautiful beaches – my kind of vacation, sleep, eat, drink and relax on the beach.  I’ll take one of those any day…and hope that 2017 gives me the opportunity to travel to the Seychelles with him.

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Life is tough in Grenada!

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Peaceful Grand Anse beach in Grenada – absolutely spectacular.

We had very special visitors from our Bulgaria days – what a special treat it was for us to see Susan & Dr. Fred, the Pereira’s and 100% Bulgarian made, Adela, Vesko & George.  Pedro also caught up with childhood friends from PR that are living in Miami – and that was a fun St. Patrick’s dinner party at home.

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Dr. Fred, Susan and their friends Ruth & Larry.

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The Venezuelan crowd from Bulgaria-eating vegetarian and a little chicken at my house :-)!  Diana – to think you were in diapers when we met you in Sofia & Isa in elementary school!!!

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Adela was Johann & Sahid’s teacher at the International School in Sofia – and after that, a friend forever.

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Verito & Pastor…after all these years, they’re still the same!

L.I.F.E. was more about having fun in 2015 than about reading, it’s ok, we took quite a number of breaks to have the bestest fun ever – that is what L.I.F.E. is all about.  After all, girls just want to have fun, right?  We did manage to discuss great books like: La Catedral del Mar – Idelfonso Falcones, The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins & The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri, and of course can’t leave out 50 Shades of Grey, 2015’s highlight :-).  We partied at the Biltmore Hotel, Cubaocho, went to see Wicked & Luis Miguel, and celebrated our birthdays, the milestone birthday being Mercy’s, OH WHAT A NIGHT @ TOUCHE, she really was the life of the party.  Alicia also hosted for us a very special and unforgettable Thanksgiving dinner.

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Rossana’s Birthday!

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Salsa night @ the Biltmore!

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Motown night @ the Biltmore!

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Mercy’s 60th @ Touche’s!

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To L.I.F.E.!

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Josefina’s Birthday!

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What a great Halloween!

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My first communion buddy – hippies at heart for ever!

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Luis Miguel – come check us out, walk the other way!!!!

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@ Cubaocho – our holiday celebration!

I kept studying Portuguese and French, and running some.  This January I decided to run a half marathon and signed up for on in February in Daytona.  It will be a challenge as I haven’t trained as I wanted – then again, my goal is to finish it and not break any laws of gravity 🙂 – I look very much forward to having that “runner’s high” again.  This year I mostly concentrated on studying for my PHR (Professional Human Resources) exam which I passed in June!!!!  I so admire people that work and go to school – that was indeed a great challenge for me, and I DID IT!  If it hadn’t been for a great former boss that believed in me, I would not have gone for this certification.  There are very few bosses like John around – he is a true leader and I will forever be thankful for all the opportunities that he gave me, for all I learned under his leadership, and most of all, for always believing in me.  Now I can use the initials PHR after my name!

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It was great to have John, Julio & Edgar, and their wonderful spouses over for dinner in December. Great boss and colleagues at Stanley Security, now friends for ever.

We traveled several times to PR – Pedro’s best friend’s 60th birthday party, the wedding anniversary of his cousin and then to the wedding of the son of a dear childhood friend.  While in one of the trips to PR, another great childhood friend of Pedro who lives in Boston, Jose,  was visiting his family in PR and we were able to spend one night at the apartment drinking and reminiscing.  What a special night that was for all of us.  Of these 3 short trips to PR during the year and before Christmas, I had a most special date, meeting with one of my cousins after almost 25 years of having lost touch.  What a special day that was!

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Happy 60th Colberg! I guess you guys quite different now than when you were in high school! How exciting for all of you to get together again!

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Very classy at the wedding. Colberg & Isabel – now…we have to get our outfits for our safari in June!!!!!

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WOW Jose & Ani – how much fun to see you guys!!!!

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My little cousin – gorgeous as ever!

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The Souss-Saleme brothers!

In September we cancelled our home telephone – OMG, what a dramatic change that was. It really was a decoration – the boys did not use it or ever answered it because it was “not their phone”.  Only marketing companies and politicians called – so we decided to get rid of it.  I still remember as a teen how much the phone meant to me, to have a friend call, and of course, for my mother to screen the call first, and then to time the call as others wanted to use it – to hear a busy signal would be such an aggravating sound, and when the call waiting feature first appeared – WOW, what an advancement.  Even though it took a while to rely 100% on the cell phone – I’m proud to say I’ve managed quite well, that is, unless I put it somewhere where I don’t remember it :-(!

Another big change that came about this year, was leaving Stanley Black & Decker in September after almost 3 years of working there.  That chapter closed, yet the exposure I got to the corporate world thanks to a great leader and boss was like getting an MBA.  I know that I know have great friends from my Stanley days-a very special team indeed!  Having lunch with them a couple weeks back was such a special treat!!!  Que se repita!!!  They will always remember that, “el arroz con habichuela, Puerto Rico me lo regalo :-)!”

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The SBD group that would always get together for lunch after the closing after closing :-)-great, fun crowd!

A great opportunity opened up at FIU (Florida International University) were I had worked before and I took it. I’m back in the area of Continuing Education where I support the team in the development and implementation of non-credit continuing educational programs for the community and the university. Please keep FIU in mind should your company require non-credit professional development programs :-)!  It really is great to be back at FIU!  The university atmosphere is wonderful, it’s intellectual, it’s happy, and it’s all about learning and succeeding- I just love it!!

The highlight trips of the year were the trip to France in November and the trip to PR in December.

We had not been to France since we had lived there in 1997, so it was absolutely spectacular to visit Paris again after so many years, and most of all, without children this time.  The week we were there we made sure we took advantage of every second and it all started with staying right in the center of the left bank at the Hotel du Levant.  The weather was spectacular for walking, of which we did tons, wanting to savor the city, Parisian life, and go down memory lane to when we were students there, many moons ago.  Impressionist paintings being my favorite – I had to make a stop at the Musee d’Orsay, where there was a great exhibition on the history of prostitution.  We walked to where I went to school, where I lived as an “au pair” near the Ave Victor Hugo, to the Eiffel Tower, Jardin de Tuilleries, along the Seine, managed to go to a church one evening to listen to a violin and cello group play the 4 seasons of Vivaldi and the Ave Maria, visited the Military Museum as well as the Sacre Coeur and the Conciergerie where hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from there to be executed on the guillotine, among them, Marie Antoinette.  And if you’re a fan of “The Doors”, you know that you have to make a stop at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to visit Jim Morrison’s tomb, which by the way, is very different now from when I studied in Paris in 1983, no drinking or smoking pot, no graffitti at the tomb now and it’s sort of fenced in.  We managed to leave Paris for a day on a tour and visit the Normandy battlefields and landing beaches of World War II.  That trip was an amazing learning experience and at the same time, very emotional.  Paris is and always will be an amazing city and like Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”…and we were very lucky to have lived in Paris when young.  We were very fortunate to have left Paris the day before the unfortunate terrorist attack.  To make us more nervous, a week after this terrorist attack, there was one in Mali.  Thank God Pedro was on this side of the world.  He ended up saying that we don’t need to worry – if he’s going to die, that he will probably be hit by an older person driving in the parking lot of a Home Depot.

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Musee Quai d’Orsay

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Jim Morrison’s tomb

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What a spectacular city. No wonder Humphrey Bogart told Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca: “We will always have Paris!”

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I’m the queen of Paris!!!!

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Omaha beaches in Normandy.

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German bunker in Normandy.

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Santa Mili :-)!

The trip to PR in December was an unforgettable one for so many wonderful reasons.  My sister, who had not been in PR in around 20 years, came with us and we were able to spend unforgettable time with our cousins. Tyler, who had never visited PR also came with us-this was his graduation present from us.   Two years have passed so fast – and now Tyler will be completing in May his BS in Aviation Maintenance from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a wonderful achievement! The sky is the limit for him with the endless professional possibilities he has ahead of him.  While in PR we were able to spend time with my dad’s best friend, my mom’s best friend-a mother to me, and dear family, my family and Pedro’s family.  Besides all the partying, drinking and eating, we were able to enjoy the beauty of our ‘Isla del Encanto’.  We walked around Old San Juan, El Yunque Rainforest, went to the beach, kayaked at night in Fajardo, and visited the caves in Camuy and Arecibo.  The highlight of this trip was precious time spent with family, “Love your family. Spend time, be kind & serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised & today is short.”~Unknown~  It was an unforgettable vacation and we’re already planning to spend Christmas again in our home away from home.

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El Morro fortress.

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We really did have fun-an unforgettable vacation for sure!

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My dad’s best friend and his wife with my sister and I.

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My mom’s best friend – a mom to be for ever too!

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Beautiful Old San Juan.

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Here comes trouble – to many Agusty’s together!  Special time with cousins.

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The Souss boys!

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The Souss girls!

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Tio Rey – we got to do it again next Christmas!!!! Oye, y esa viejita – esta cola!!! 🙂

 

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The real way to spend the holidays!

2015 was a year of many wonderful happenings, with one minor deviation that in the end, turned out for the best.  As Martha Washington once said, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”  So as I always say, “Pa’lante!”  – don’t look back.

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have health, the boys are doing they love the most, we have work – what else can we ask for? We pray that 2016 brings you health and many wonderful things, and most important of all, that it brings you peace & love.

The Souss-Maldonado Family

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January 31, 2016 at 7:23 pm 6 comments

Souss-MaldonadoNewsletter 2014

March 2015

Dear Family and friends…. 2014 has been over for several months now…and I think for the first time, I’m this late in putting our newsletter together. I hope your 2015 has gotten off to a great start. As I look back on 2014, in a way, and not to be ungrateful, I’m thankful the year has ended. It was a year that brought many unexpected events, the saddest one being the passing of my father and realizing that now there is no mom or dad anymore. On the other hand, there were also many wonderful things that happened in our lives.

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Miami Metro Zoo 1/2 Marathon

I literally started the year running my yearly ½ marathon at the Miami Metro Zoo. It was quite a challenge as half of the trail was dirt and rocks, something I wasn’t expecting at all. I managed to complete it, considering that I wasn’t able to train as much as I should have.

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Papi’s 90th Birthday

The last weekend in January we went to PR to celebrate with my father his 90th birthday. What a wonderful weekend and what unforgettable memories. We took him to his favorite restaurant.  I got quite a number of balloons and he was the center of attention at the restaurant and just loved it. Everybody would stop by to congratulate him and tell him how good he looked for 90. He was ecstatic and it was a weekend we will never forget.

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Papi undated photo – Interesting Cuba license plate

We always think are prepared for this difficult moment, but, but we all know we never are. My father lived a very fulfilling and long life and I was very lucky to be able to celebrate with him his 90th birthday. It always amazed me how his curiosity led him, at his age, to explore Facebook, how he loved to surf the Internet for the latest articles on medical & science research,  and politics. He always blessed me with his wonderful  emails, he was simply amazing. Of course, he always loved to ask for guidance and advice from his private advisors, his 2 grandsons Johann & Sahid. When we last talked he was curious about iPhones and an iPod so that he could listen to his classical music while doing his daily walking routine of 20-30 minutes on his treadmill. My dad touched many people in many ways. He was always the center of attention any where he went, he loved being around people, talking and exchanging his ideas.  He was always on top of the latest news – an amazing reader and therefore a walking encyclopedia.  He was truly and example to me and one I will for sure continue to follow.  He is very much missed.

Johann moved back in with us in March and stayed through June.  He decided to enroll again at the University and finish his diplomaMaster’s.   He also decided to start the process of joining the Peace Corps.In June he got a job to teach a Biology class in Oregon for the summer. In November he moved back again to get ready to go to Tanzania with the Peace Corps. He finished his Master’s Degree in Biology – we are so proud of all his accomplishments.   Professionally this is a wonderful move for him and upon completing his assignment in Tanzania we know that the job opportunities will be excellent especially in the agricultural field which is what he wants to follow. Below is a picture of the Peace Corps/Tanzania 2015 Health and Agriculture training class upon arrival at the airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  The Peace Corps staff in Tanzania wrote to tell us they are doing extremely well and that they are in great spirits.  He has been assigned to his village along with 3 other volunteers (4 volunteers per village, 2 in agriculture and 2 in health) and each one is living with one family during the language training months (first 3 months).  There he is studying intensive Swahili lessons and by living with the family he is able to practice it. We talk to him once a week and he is just having the time of his life in such a beautiful country.

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Tanzania Peace Corps Volunteers

Sahid got off to a great start at Miami Dade College. After being accepted at Embry-Riddle Aeronatical University in Daytona Beach, he deferred his acceptance to the Fall of this year. He has been taking all the basic college courses at Miami Dade and at the same time studying to complete his FAA licenses. Last summer he drove again to TN with his girlfriend Emily to the Bonnaroo Concert-and as always, they had a blast. To be young again! He has been doing great in school and we’re very proud of him.

Pedro did a lot of work related traveling in 2014. He went to Haiti, Nicaragua twice and Mali twice, the second time being caught in the Ebola craze. Below is Pedro with his colleagues. mali His projects were most successful and he is looking forward to a very busy work schedule in 2015. Upon his return from his second trip to Mali, which was to be Bamako-Paris-Miami, he was told in Paris by the French Dept of Health, that he would have to travel through NY per CDC regulations for people that have been in Ebola stricken countries. In NY, he’s taken aside and examined by the CDC, temperature & vitals taken, plus all his information of where he has been and lives. They give him a cell phone with a direct line to the CDC and a thermometer, and he has to report every day, morning and evening, his temperature on a chart – if it rises, he needs to call the CDC immediately.  A week after he gets home, FL Department of Health calls, by mandate of the Governor, all people that have travelled to Africa need to be seen by a local government doctor. So we had a doctor come to the house for 21 days (incubating period of Ebola), in the morning and in the evening, to take Pedro’s temperature!!! Even on Thanksgiving day!!!   Of course we knew he didn’t have any Ebola…but…it is what it is. We almost adopted the doctor!

I continued taking my Portuguese lessons – so much fun. I read two books in Portuguese by Paul Coelho, “O Alquimista” & “A margem do rio Piedra eu sentei e chorei”. And of course, I read the first book of “50 Tons de Cinza” – now I’m on my second, in Portuguese (I’ve read all 3 in English).  Anything to practice my Portuguese, no? I also enrolled in a Human Resources Management Certificate program in the spring and a Business Coaching Certificate Program in the summer. All this to better improve my HR skills at work and be able to better support my team. I continue to take HR courses, a field that I have grown to love very much.

2014 was more of a play year for the book club than a read year – L.I.F.E. (Living Intensely, Freely & Enlightened) never gets bored. We went to see Julio Iglesias in concert – talk about a bad concert, but, getting together was all that mattered. We celebrated birthdays, went out to dinner, the beach, the opera to see “Tosca”. We also saw Danny Rivera & Chucho Avellanet in concert, along with Vicky’s mother, as well as Roberto Carlos and the annual Valentine’s Concert at the Deering Estate – this year, freezing to death. We did manage to read, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, “The Shoes of the Fisherman” by Morris L. West, and “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd. We also read some excellent short stories. We were always ready to have a good time, regardless.  In June we celebrated several of our birthdays. Claudia even organized a yoga class for the book club and we had our yoga graduation in July.  And the highlight of our club…being there for the opening night of 50 Shades of Grey!

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And then there was 50 Shades of Grey!

And then there was 50 Shades of Grey!

Christian Grey - here we come!

Christian Grey – here we come!

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In May we decided to go away for the long weekend to Naples, which amazingly Naples1enough, we hNaples2ad never visited. We fell in love with Naples – what a spectacular weekend in all senses of the word. That Sunday, the kids came to visit us to spend the day at the beach. A great weekend we will never forget.

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Julio Cesar

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Go Colombia!

And how I loved the World Cup craze – I had never been so addicted to soccer and just loved it. Working for the Latin American division of a company – it was amazing to see how my colleagues live, breathe and eat soccer! The first day Colombia was playing – all Colombians got together to decorate the cafeteria and we all watched the game – company allowed it for all games where L.A. was playing, otherwise I think there would have been a mutiny in the office :-)! And of course there was the goalie for Brazil, Julio Cesar, and that is why I wanted for Brazil to win!!!!

Like so icemany out there doing the ice bucket challenge – I was caught in the craze when my boss challenged me – HAD TO DO IT!   I guess it was the perfect time for Pedro to take revenge :-)! That water was fricking cold!!!

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Chale & Mary Helen

In September I took some time off to join Pedro in Nicaragua. As many of you know, we lived in Nicaragua for about 4 years and Sahid was born there. We returned around 2005 so that Sahid could visit his home country as we had left it when he was 2 years old and I hadn’t ben back.   It was so much fun to go back again after so many years and see dear friends Mary Helen, Chale and Mina – what great memories we shared after all these years. We spent 2 days in Managua and then went to the

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Our tree house!

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With Mina.

Pacific and stayed at the Aqua Wellness Resort in Tola. What a spectacular place – like only Nicaragua has to offer. Beautiful, secluded, the nature was spectnica4acular. Even though it had its own private beach, we were only a 40 minute walk away through a beautiful forest to Playa Gigante, a surf & hippie town! The second day we are there I decide to go kayaking, yet the ocean was quite rough but since I had never kayaked in the Pacific, I wanted to take the chance. As I was coming back to shore, the waves through me off the kayak. I guess the throwing me off the kayak, me trying to swim, the movement I made, messed up my back! Messed up our vacation – we’re in this secluded resort, I didn’t want to go to the nearest town and with motrin and wine tried to subdue the pain which totally didn’t work. 3 days after returning to Miami the pain was still awful – go to the doctor and he gives me vicodin and flexeril – was on a nice trip but nada to my back – so I go back, get two great injections + prednisone. I had taken prednisone before and I hated the side effects. So I stopped taking it and after two days and then I develop a horrible pain in my left leg – COULDN’T f…. walk!!!! 3 days after, I fall in the bathroom as my left leg couldn’t hold me. Go back to the doctor. He sends me to emergency. There I get a CT scan – herniated disc, go home with Percoset & Flexeril – another nice trip. Then I follow-up with the spine center, get an MRI – confirmation of herniated disc that is causing the weakness on my left leg. I tell the doctor I don’t want more drugs, forget the prednisone or any steroid, so he puts me on lirica to reduce the inflammation of the herniated disc and tells me to do these old people exercises – ME!!! I was furious, me who runs, have done 4 half marathons, do yoga, pilates, cardio, kayak, bicycle!   So now I’m doing the rounds among doctors – first time in my life to see what I can do to get back to normal. So…the options for a quick fix up were surgery – went to neurosurgeon and he doesn’t think I’m a candidate which is true – then I go to the Pain Management doctor – he gives me the option of an epidural and I just said hell yes – can’t deal with the pain in my leg any longer and I don’t have the patience for doing 6 weeks of physical therapy to wait for this to improve. I had the epidural done in November. Looking at the bright side of all this, it didn’t hurt to see the good-looking neurosurgeon though! I’m back to normal – being much careful now with my back…I’m again doing yoga and pilates, riding my bicycle and running little by little, up to 5 miles – my goal is to be by 13 miles by the fall and hopefully do another ½ marathon, we’ll see.

Rain or shine, walking like a penguin or not, I was going to go to Homecoming in October. And what a fun weekend it turned out to be. We had great weather and we even won the football game!!! Saw many friends I hadn’t seen in a long time – it was great to catch up. I was also able to see Letzen the Friday I got there and the Sunday when I left – a very special visit indeed.

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For the first time in many, many years, we didn’t do Thanksgiving at our house as we were invited by Emily’s mother to her house. It was a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and the company was what mattered the most.

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As the year came to an end, we had our work Christmas parties and our long awaited, family Christmas trip to PR. With my work we went to Ft. Lauderdale to have dinner at Steak 954 at the W Ft. Lauderdale. I gave all my colleagues Kazak hats and my boss a hat from Mali.

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For Pedro’s job, we went to Touche and drank and danced the night away….and ended up at the E11even afterwards….definitely a night to remember, Robert, you sure know how to party!

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And then off to PR for Christmas. It was one of the most special vacations I can even remember, most of all because the 4 of us were together and I wasn’t sure when we were going to be able to all spend a vacation like this spending quality time together. I will never forget it.  We were able to see all the family and also spend some time with my father’s best friend.

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In February we went to PR for the weekend to celebrate Tito’s 60th birthday. What fun and what a blessing to be amongst dear lifetime friends. Definitely a party to be remembered (what I remember) forever! Special moments to last a lifetime! Pedro was ecstatic to see so many people he hadn’t seen in years.

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2015 is off to a great start. Johann with his MS in Biology, settled in Tanzania, Sahid is doing great and ready to go to Embry Riddle in the Fall. Pedro has great contracts lined up. I look forward to an awesome 2015, to being me again. I want to spend more time with my family, with my friends, I want to do all the things I like to do, and I want to continue running again!  I can’t let another year just fly by without stopping and smelling the roses….Brad Pitt got married and I didn’t even know about it!!!!!!

We wish you a magical 2015, most of all we wish you love, peace and health.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”~T.S. Elliot~

If you’re ever in this part of the world, remember you have a home here.

Lots of love from the Souss-Maldonado Family, including Lupe & Rocket!

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March 29, 2015 at 5:55 pm 2 comments

Christmas Newsletter 2013

December 2013

Dear Family & Friends:

As I sit down and write this letter, I realize another year has gone by with two big accomplishments.  Happy 2014! I had my 1 year anniversary with Stanley Security Solutions (Stanley Black & Decker) – 1 year of working full time, and I survived!!! Sahid graduated from high school – YES!

We went to Orlando two times.  One to celebrate Diana’s 15th birthday (the daughter that I never had) and that was so much fun.  It was nice to be able to spend time with the whole family and dance the night away.  The other time was for the Disney Princess Half Marathon – what fun was that. Martha’s mom made tutu’s and crowns for all of us!  An unforgettable race for sure!

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Diana, you really know how to throw a party like your titi Mili – to many more!

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Martha – thanks for an unforgettable race and thanks to your wonderful mom for having us look so good!

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Too much fun – I had to stop and have someone take the picture!

Our book club turned 9 years old this summer and we did more socializing this year than reading, but we did read some: “White Oleander” by Janet Finch, “El Olvido que seremos” by Hector Abad Facio-Lince, “On Chesil Beach” by Ian McEwan,  “The Sandcastle Girls” by Christ Bohjalian, “The Unbearable Likeness of Being” by Milan Kundera (if it hadn’t been for the great book discussion Claudia led on Kundera’s book – I would have never been able to understand or like this book).  Yet, every time we met either to “discuss a book” or to socialize, the conversation always turned to “50 Shades of Grey” – we always wonder why?  But what a great group of women we are, sisters – and as I said at the Christmas party, we are always ready to celebrate L.I.F.E. (meaning Living Intensely, Freely and Enlightened) – Mercy couldn’t have baptized us with a better name for this group of menopausal women who can now all go to heaven.  Ladies – it was an awesome year!  Too many, many more together! 

“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction.
No, read in order to live.” 
~Gustave Flaubert~

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@ Maria Teresa’s House – Colombian Territory 🙂 – to discuss “El Olvido que Seremos”
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Why not discuss a book in pijamas?

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@ AZUCAR! What an unforgettable night! And Pedro was in absolute heaven!

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My first communion buddy!! Good Catholic girls always!

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Summer Fun @ Rosario’s!

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Why not discuss a book in a Toga? I wonder what Milan Kundera would have thought of us discussing his “The Unbearable Likeness of Being” book!

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Tensy – You rock-even though my dogs were quite perplexed when they saw your hair piece!!!

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Thanksgiving @ Mercy’s! Always thankful for having each other! (Theme: Hats)

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Always together, no matter what the season or the reason!

So, Sahid graduated, YES!  What a year and how much excitement with all his senior activities.  Of course, his senior picture had us doubting for a moment whether he was going to come through or not…and he did.  The graduation ceremony was absolutely beautiful and afterwards we went out to lunch with Emily (his girlfriend), her sister and mother.  It was a nice way to end the day.

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Graduation picture – kind of scared me when he showed it to me as I wasn’t sure how serious he was taking graduation :-)!

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Graduation day with his girlfriend Emily.

Sahid continues to go to the Baker School of Aviation as an adult, yes, as an adult.  He will be there around 1 more year so that he can complete the courses to take the two exams for the FAA, Powerplant and Airframe.  The goal is for him to go to Embry-Riddle University after that to complete his Bachelor’s in a security related field.

Pedro continued with his travels and this year they took him to Laos and Costa Rica.  He continues his work in international development and IT consulting.

Johann is doing well and has finally submitted the first draft for his Master’s thesis.  As he explained to us, this might be the first of several before he gets to formally present it in person to the university.  Hopefully he will be done with this by the summer.

In July we went to PR to visit our families and Emily came with us.  What a good sport she was – eating all that good PR food!  It was a fun weekend and even though much time was spent with family, we were able to sneak out and do some sightseeing so that Emily could enjoy the beauty of the island.

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The kids with my father!

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Being tourists at El Morro!

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The kids at El Yunque Rainforest!

I continued to run, but of course, as the weather got warmer, not that it ever got cooler, the miles were less.  My new job kept me very busy, yet very happy!  I got involved with the Employee Engagement Committee at work and helped organized for the office the “Mercedes Benz Corporate Run” – that was so much fun! I was in charge of registration. We were a group of about 30 with a tent, food and tons of good humor and energy to run a 5K.  We all trained together 1 night a week after work for about 2 months – that was also tons of fun.  In July, I was given the opportunity to see if I wanted to take on the responsibilities of Human Resources – helping the team with prescreenings, interviewing and recruiting.  I jumped at the chance and challenge and I’m so happy – I love it!  I just love so much working with my team – they really are an amazing and dedicated group of people – firm believers of what we do and wanting to be the best at it.  I’m in heaven!

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In support of Breast Cancer Month – Pink Rules – part of my team!

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Part of my team, Christmas Dinner @ Bongo’s!

In the fall Pedro and I decided to take on a new challenge, Portuguese classes, and signed up for a beginners intensive conversational level course.  Our teacher is absolutely awesome – she just talks in Portuguese the whole time – and at times, plays Roberto Carlos for me in class!   We have loved so much learning it that we are signing up again for the spring for the Level 2 class.

And yet another race in the fall, our traditional family Key Largo Bridge Run…and afterwards, breakfast at Walter’s!

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Pedro & Tyler were very ready – Sahid wasn’t too excited about having to get up mega early to be at the race at 6 am in Key Largo! Unfortunately we couldn’t take the bed with us!!

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The hottest 6 miles I’ve ever run…but I finished them-I guess my goal was not the finish line, but Walter’s Coffee Shop!

I went again to my Homecoming reunion in October, 31 years since I graduated from Catawba College.  As always it was so much fun to see old friends – regardless of how chilly the weekend was.  Once again we look forward to the next reunion and as we said our goodbyes all we could say was, “Same time, next year”.  Look forward to seeing everybody again in 2014.

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Halloween Party with the guys dressed as “packages”! What a fun party! We danced the whole night!

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My Alma Mater!

We finished the year on a high note.  Taylor was accepted at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona!  What a great honor and experience it will be for him as this is one of the best universities in the world for the field of airplane mechanics which is what he wants to pursue.  We got him ready for school, doing the shopping, got him a computer and Pedro drove him and left him settled in his dorm.  He worked very hard to get here and we can only wish him nothing but the best as he embarks on this great ride.  Taylor you make your mother and us proud!  Always remember that they sky is the limit and that you should always reach for the stars!

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Tyler & Pedro @ Embry Riddle.

And of course, we couldn’t end the year without a Christmas party – this one with the 70’s theme.  Fun or what!!! Thanks to all of you that made it so much fun!  Can’t wait for the one next year – what will be the theme?

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Louise (Emily’s mom) & I

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My former FIU colleagues & Alicia. Ana (one of my former bosses @ FIU w/the long blond hair)

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IOS Partners Team

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Robert (my former boss) & his beautiful wife Patty

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John (my current boss), his beautiful wife Christina, James Portalatin from SBD & Emily

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Book Club queens Mariel & Tensy

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Pedro in action!

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Book Club beauties!

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“Just dance, put on your red shoes and dance with me…”

And so we come to the end of another year, 2013.  We have a lot to be thankful for, it was a good year and a lot was accomplished.  We have health, we have our families and we have work, what else can we ask for.  I will pray for peace and love, we can always use a little bit more.

We wish you a wonderful 2014.

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…”  ~Alfred Tennyson~ 

Lots of Love, The Souss-Maldonado

December 31, 2013 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Christmas Newsletter 2012

December 2012 – Miami, FL

Dear Family and Friends:

As I look back on 2012, in a way, and not to be ungrateful, I’m thankful the year is ending.  It was a year that brought many unexpected events that had to be dealt with at the moment, the saddest one being the passing of Pedro’s mother and all of a sudden realizing that there was no mom or dad anymore on his side.

Our 2012 travels concentrated on PR and quite a number of trips were done down there to work out family issues, so in reality, no family vacation was taken this year. I got to see my father quite a number of times.  I’m proud to say that he will be 89 on January 26 and doing absolutely great!  Going forward, I pray for a better 2013.

January 2012 found me doing another ING ½ Marathon.  I also did the 5K Corporate Run in April, the Susan G. Komen Walk for Cancer and the 10K Key Largo Bridge Run in November.  After doing my first ½ marathon in 2011, Martha my running buddy/colleague, and I loved it so much that we immediately signed for the 2012 ING race, but, training for the that race took a whole different meaning as this time there were two races to run, one for life and one to the finish line.  It was not the same intensity; yet, Martha and I still managed to support each other as best as we could along the way.

I had never been so close to cancer as I was with Martha.  She was diagnosed in March, soon after we finished our 2011 ING marathon race, and she went straight into treatment. This was an arduous battle with a lot of ups and downs, and many a times, it felt like it was mostly downs.  We take so much for granted in life and more so, complain about everything.  If there is one thing we learned from her it is that the most treasured thing in life is being able to wake up every morning to a brand new day.  For that, we need to thank God.  That is what really matters in life, the rest is nada.

I trained as best as I could for my 2012 race.  In October 2011, in support of Martha and all the women that have had breast cancer, my family and friends participated in our first Susan G. Komen 5K walk as part of Team Martha.  She was such a good sport as she came out to walk along Team Martha while still undergoing chemo. She managed to finish in 2.5 hours, taking sitting breaks in between but determined to cross the finish line.

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In November 2011, I ran the 10K Key Largo Bridge Run once again.  Unfortunately, Martha was unable to be there this time around.  As January 29, 2012 got nearer, nervousness crept in.  Even though there would be around 25,000 people running that day, I felt like I would be running alone since Martha would not be able to run with me. On January 28, she accompanied me to pick up the race package. She would talk to the organizers about a refund, as she would not be able to run due to the limitations cancer treatment had set on her.  I must say that the organizers didn’t understand at all her situation.  It was totally incomprehensible how heartless they acted.  Martha decided to get her bib anyway and make something positive out of such a negative experience.  I got mine and off we went.  She would come to the race with her bib to cheer me on along with Pedro.

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When we picked her up at 5 am Sunday morning, she was not only wearing a pink T-shirt, but to my surprise, she had made the most beautiful poster for me. Once we arrived in downtown, Pedro and Martha walked me to my corral, wished me good luck, and off I went.  It was warmer this year and for me a little harder to run; needless to say I ran and ran and ran, all the time listening to the best tunes on my iPod.

As I was getting close to the Finish Line, approximately 200 meters prior to the end, I saw Pedro on the sideline taking pictures and cheering me on.  He also wanted to let me know that Martha was on the adjacent sideline of the street cheering me on.  It was pandemonium at this point, people screaming, cheering, getting excited for the runners that were finally reaching the end.  Martha came towards me with the poster and asked me if we could walk in the tail end of this race together.  She didn’t want to mess up my timing, but wanted to walk in the 0.1 mile to the finish line together, saying this was only the beginning of the many finish lines she would be crossing in the months to come.  Because of the sunglasses I had on, she didn’t see the tears that came to my eyes.  Of course I would walk in with her, I didn’t care about my time, I wasn’t there to break any record and nothing would make me prouder.  And so we walked the last part of the race in together.  We were so happy and proud to get our 2012 ING race medals at the finish line.

Go Mili!

Go Mili!

We finished the 2012 1/2 Marathon!

We finished the 2012 ING 1/2 Marathon!

My race was nothing compared to Martha’s race.  It was the toughest race of her life, having to bear chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgeries, and life threatening side effects.  It was a long road towards her finish line, one that only with her faith, the love of her family, and the support of her friends, she could conclude.  And she did.  And so here we are, once again, looking forward to the future races we’ll RUN together again in 2013-next, Disney’s Princess ½ marathon where I signed up as “Belle”, peut être je peux courir en francais cette fois et ainsi plus vite!  For sure PINK will be the signature color again!

This year the book club was officially baptized L.I.F.E. (Living Intensely, Freely and Enlightened) and not only did we continue to meet to read and have fun, but the group grew.  We’re now 15 wonderful women brought together by the most amazing stories.  Several of the field trips we did this year were going to see Isabel Allende  & Debra Dean at FIU, a beach trip to Miami’s famous Nikki Beach and Maria Teresa delighting us with her signature vodka/cranberry juice cocktails.  We also went to see the “Donkey Show” at the Arsht Center ()  What a fun experience-DISCO LIVES!  We had a pijama party one night where we all went dressed in pijamas to the meeting, hoping a cop would not stop us on the road and also went to the Art District for “Noche de Galeria”, a totally different experience, what a crowd!! We sure know how to have a good time!  To think this idea of the book club started back in 2004 by my dear friend and partner-in-crime Maryann (RIP).  Being the only original member left of the group, I have been baptized the CEO, CFO, ABC, XYZ, OMG and editor of the L.I.F.E. book club.  That’s definitely a lot of responsibility to carry on my shoulders J.  Some of the books we read this year as a group were:  “Madonnas from Leningrad” by Debra Dean, “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See, “El Pergamino de la Seduccion” by Gioconda Belli, “Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks, “La Fiesta del Chivo” by Mario Vargas Llosa, “Perla” by Carolina de Robertis and of course we read the infamous “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, for sure a book to always remember, ask my sister-in-law, she happened to be in town for that book club meeting :-)!

Book Club Pijama Party!

Book Club Pijama Party!

Good looking group at the Donkey Show!

Good looking group at the Donkey Show!

2012 Book Club Christmas Party

2012 Book Club Christmas Party

And besides all the fun titles, you may ask yourself, why “editor”?  The “girls” or “menopausal old ladies” like my son calls the group, labeled me editor after I helped a dear friend from college proofread the final manuscript of his latest book, “McCllelan’s Other Story: The Political Intrigue of Colonel Thomas Key, Confidential Aide to General George B. McCllelan”.  Being the history freak that I am, to be honest, I had very little knowledge of the U.S. Civil War.  So when Bill asked me if I wanted to read over his manuscript, I jumped at the chance and said yes.  What a better way to learn from the bloodiest war this country has ever had to endure, as well as all the political intrigue involved with it.  At the same time I was able to pick on Bill’s brain with all the trillions of questions I came up with and of course he was the best source for my answers, world known writer, expert on the history of the Civil War and…he went to the great Catawba College! J Was I humbled when not only did he decide to give each member of the book club a signed copy of the book, but when he acknowledged in his book my help – quite special of him indeed.  You have to check out not only this book, but also his many others, William B. Styple, historian.

"McClellan's Other Story" by William B. Styple

“McClellan’s Other Story” by William B. Styple

As I started my new job on December 3, I want to look back on my wonderful professional career in Miami at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for almost 10 years and at Florida International University (FIU) for almost 6 years.

My job with the NRC was an absolutely great ride, both professionally and personally and the team I worked with is one that I will always keep close to my heart.  Who would have thought that this Puerto Rican girls from Guaynabo would dress up as a Martian and look as a “condom” (like my boys called me) to go into containment-unbelievable!!!  Scott & Martha as well as their families are now friends forever.  I know that there will never be another team like the Turkey Point team, winners in all the senses of the word.

The Turkey Point Winning Team!

The Turkey Point Winning Team!

Getting ready to go into containment - trying not to get my hair messed up!

Getting ready to go into containment – trying not to get my hair messed up, lipstick always important :-)!

This summer I also did my second wedding, this time to Scott’s daughter.  What a beautiful day it was and what a special wedding, definitely a match made in heaven and like the NRC newsletter put it, with 100% NRC approval.  A day to always remember!

NRC approved wedding!

NRC approved wedding!

Six years at FIU gave me the opportunity to be part of a world I truly believe in, education.  How satisfying to be able to work in an environment where you are promoting the importance of education and success in life, absolutely unbeatable.  I learned a lot along the way, from colleagues and supervisors alike, many of whom now I consider great friends.  We have great stories to tell and to always remember.

Birthday lunch at the Latin American

Birthday lunch at the Latin American

Halloween could always be fun at FIU!

Halloween could always be fun at FIU!

So how did all of you find out I had a new job?  I sent out an e-mail with the subject line reading: “It’s official and no, I’m not Pregnant!”  I had to get your attention one way or another :-)! I was blessed to have been able to work part-time for so many years so that I could spend time with my boys.  Now that they’re not longer little ones, I thought it was not too late to dedicate time to my career and this time full time.  You can say that I’ve finally grown up or you might even say that I’m going through a mid-life crisis, whatever it is, I know that I’m embarking on a new and exciting career as the Executive Assistant to the President of Stanley Security Solutions (SSS) Latin America Group, a division of Stanley Black & Decker.  I know this is an excellent opportunity for me as well as a great professional move, most of all, a challenge I’m ready to take on.  The 3rd week of December I went up to Indianapolis, or Indy, like they call it, for training.  It was a great learning experience and so much fun to be able to meet so many people from the team.  We got to tour the plant where they make commercial hardware, locks, keying systems, padlocks, absolutely unbelievable all the production lines!  I should have been an engineer!!!

Pretty cold in Indy for this Island girl!

Pretty cold in Indy for this Island girl!

Enough about me and now to the boys.  Pedro continued working on his short-term contracts and this year he traveled to several Eastern Caribbean Islands as well as Colombia.  On many of these trips he was able to stop in PR and visit his mom, so that was a great opportunity for him.  This month he landed a contract here in Miami with HBO Latin America where he is developing and implementing the IT requirements for HBO GO or TV Everywhere.   This is an awesome contract as it brings him into the Digital Media arena and more important once again into the Latin American market.  A great opportunity for him and most important he will stay put here in Miami for a while. He also started taking running seriously and did the Key Largo Bridge Run 5k in November.

Johann decided not to join the Peace Corps.  He is concentrating on finishing his Biology Master’s Thesis.  He should be done this spring with school and who knows what waits for him.  I think that as parents we are happy he will be completing his academic career so it’s really now up to him to decide what he wants to do and follow his dreams.

And Sahid, oh Sahid!  He is a senior this year and should be graduating in June.  He is still not sure whether he will stay here several months more to finish his Powerplant & Airframe (A&P) license and that way start he can start the university in January 2014 with both his FAA and A&P license.  That remains to be decided.

In November we “adopted” a friend of Sahid’s, Tyler.  Tyler is a year older than Sahid and an excellent kid, so we have another son now.  Tyler’s mom lost her house here in Miami.  She came to us to see if Tyler could come live with us as she was going to have to move to a small plot of land she has near Lake Okeechobee.  She wanted Tyler to finish his degree at the George T. Baker School of Aviation where he has excellent grades and is on a full scholarship from American Airlines and if he moved with her he would have to quite school.  Knowing the type of kid he is we agreed to help.  He has really been a great blessing and a great person to have around.  So I have two boys again at home :-).

Even though we didn’t take a family vacation, I did go to my Catawba College’s Alumni/Homecoming weekend in October – 30 years this year and crowned myself the Alumni Homecoming Queen in order to celebrate!!  OMG, it was as if I had never left college.  Dr. Reitz, my Spanish professor was at the football game and he couldn’t believe I was there, well, I couldn’t believe he was there :-).  We had so much fun catching up with old friends and reminiscing that we decided we have to do it again in 2013, at least, while we can. I want to thank everybody for the wonderful memories. It was great seeing dear old friends and it was great to reconnect with alumni I hadn’t seen in many years. We remembered our dear Maryann on many occasions; she would have been proud of our partying to her standards :-). Kandi dear, thanks so much for being not only my roommate, but the designated driver! We had so much fun. Willie, you were an awesome host – Gracias!  Thank you Melanie for flying with me. Your enthusiasm and energy really got me in the spirit of HC! We are now the official FL girls that will be back to HC by popular demand :-)! Margaret, as always, thanks so much for a super job well done, including the weather, perfect for this PR-FL girl. Thanks so much everybody for an unforgettable weekend and everlasting memories.

“The ‘good old times’ – all times when old are good.” ~ Lord Byron ~

Willie, you were a great host!  Thanks!

Willie, Kandi & Cindy!

Ross, great party as always!!

Ross, great party as always!!

We had quite a number of visitors this year and it was so much fun.  Susan Matthies, my husband’s Chief of Party in Bulgaria was here and I got to go to dinner with her.  It was fun reminiscing about our days in Sofia.  Charo and Christoph, whom we met in Kazakshtan and are on assignment in Haiti, were also here, actually, Charo on several occasions by herself and we had fun shopping and going to Lincoln Road to eat ice cream J.  Of course, as always, she was in search of the infamous ‘Guess’ purses that she says are cheaper here than in Switzerland.  She always finds a good excuse to shop.  Jose & Nieves, whom we also met in Kazakhstan and are currently on assignment in Moscow, also visited with their son Carlos.  What fun to remember our days in Almaty and how Nieves always used to buy all the Spanish “embutidos” that arrived at the local store and would then leave the rest of us expats without anything foreign to eat.   We will always have stories to tell and never will there be a dull moment.   Adela and Vesko also came to visit and as always it was very special to spend time with our great Bulgarian friends.  Mr. & Mrs. Wittner also came down from NH this time with their son Roger – ladies, good-looking guy!  I told him I would introduce him to all my single book club girlfriends :-).  This friendship goes back to my graduate school days when their daughter Terri was my dear friend and partner-in-crime then.  Her parents sort of “adopted” me and to this day they are one of the most special people and family I have ever met.

The Wittners

The Wittners

Pedro’s cousin Tony and his wife came from TN to stay with us for a couple of days and it just so happens that their other cousin, Souad, came from Lebanon to visit her daughter here – so talk about a nice family reunion for this Lebanese crowd!

The Lebanese Trio

The Lebanese Trio

In closing, I want to share an excerpt from Howard Zinn’s autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  I know I shared this with some of you before, but I just love his remarks on being hopeful, it really makes you feel hopeful:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.  It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.  If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

I can only wish all of you nothing but the best for 2013, but most important I want to wish you love, peace, health and happiness and most important, plenty of time to enjoy it.

You know where we are, you have a home here and a credit card is not required to make your reservation.

Lots of love, The Souss-Maldonado Gang

My favorite Halloween Picture – my grandniece and titi Mili!

gorda

December 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

Christmas Newsletter 2011

December  30, 2011

Dear All:

Every year I say I will get better organized and try to do everything early so as to no get caught up in the last minute rush.  Well, I guess I got caught up with the last minute rush after all!  Hope you had a good year.  I will not complain about ours, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Sahid has continued with his dual program at the George T. Baker School of Aviation.  He is a junior this year and only has one more year to go.  He is still interested in the Aviation Mechanics field.  This summer he worked at American Ryder, which is a company here in Miami that sells and rents motorcycles.  Not only did he loved it but they loved him and want him back next summer.  He got his driver’s license & unbelievable, his first ticket!  Who drives 52 mph in Pinecrest when you know it’s strictly 35 mph!!!!  So, no driving for the rest of the year and yes, he will have to pay back the +/-$300 fine!!!!  He also went to his first college fair – talk about feeling old!  During Labor Day we took a trip to Melbourne to visit our dear friends Regina & David and were able to visit the Embry-Riddle University campus,  which is one of the school he really likes.

Johann continued his Biology studies at Texas State and will graduate in May of 2012.  He is seriously considering joining the Peace Corps.  There are a lot of benefits attached to this once he is through.  It will also be a great experience for him, not that he hasn’t led an exciting life with all his world travels, it’s just something more attractive to add to his resume.  He came for Thanksgiving and is here to spend Christmas with us.

Pedro is still doing his short-term contracts besides the contract he has in Miami with the web development company.  This year his travels concentrated on the Caribbean and Central America: Dominica, St. Lucia, Belize, Grenada and Jamaica.   The good thing about this was that when he traveled to the islands he had to go through Puerto Rico and would stop and see his mother and family.  He loved spending time with his mother, she is 90 years old.

As for myself, I didn’t stay still, so what is new.  On January 30th I ran my first ING half marathon, 13.1 miles and my running partner, Martha did the full marathon, 26.1 miles. I have never experienced such an exhilarating moment in my life, thousands of people (+/-24,000) so excited about the run.  Now I know what it means to get “Runner’s High”, 2011-1I sure had tons of it. Her and I are proud to say that we ran the whole time and that our training, our support for each other and our enthusiasm to accomplish what we had set ourselves to do paid off because our goal was to complete the marathon. This was our battle to win and we did it our way being the fighters that we are!  I also did a Corporate Run, a 5K in April, but it was SO HOT, I can’t believe I even completed it.  In October I did the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure to support my running partner Martha, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after the ING Marathon. runners

Pedro and Sahid and Mariel and Josefina from the book club walked the 5K.  I’m excited to say that Martha is cancer free now and we’re planning to run the Disney Half Marathon in the Fall! She has and will continue to be my source of inspiration to leading a healthy life and to being a good human being.  In November, I ran the Key Largo Bridge Run, a 10K, another gorgeous run.  Pedro and Sahid walked a 5K while I ran.  And of course, afterwards we pigged out at Walter’s Coffee Shop.

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We attended several events that are worth mentioning.  One was an American University event here and the main speaker was a former professor of mine, Dr. Gary Weaver.  I brought to the event the book we had used in the class I took with him, “Cross-Cultural Communication”.  He couldn’t believe I still had the book – well, I just loved the class and must confess that my girlfriend Terri & I thought he was the handsomest professor at the School for International Service at AU!!!  We also attended a talk at FIU and the guest speaker was Lech Walesa, former President of Poland and solidarity leader.  That was simply amazing!  And of course, I went to see Raphael in concert again with my sister in law and some of her friends,  as well as Josefina & Maria Teresa from the book club.  We are now officially called “Las Joyas de la Corona”, as Raphael calls his ‘old’ repertoire of songs.  

joyasI screamed and sang and was almost hoarse by the end of the concert. I also attended a “Book & Book” event where Esmeralda Santiago presented her book “Conquistadora”.   We read the book in our book club, quite fascinating.

Esmeralda Santiago

Esmeralda Santiago

A big change for me was getting a new job at FIU with the Legal Studies Institute (LSI).  I resigned to my job at the College of Business in April, as it wasn’t working out and immediately started working at LSI with a previous supervisor of mine from my previous work at FIU.  It was definitely a positive change.  LSI’s main program is the paralegal certificate program, on campus and online and I help out with marketing, social media as well as other very exciting tasks at the office, I love my job and the team is wonderful and full of energy.  I still have my job with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and I’m proud to say that once again I got performance award from the Commission.  I can’t believe it has been 8 years since I’ve been working with them.  In June I went to Atlanta for the yearly training.  It’s always nice to go up and see a lot of the people I know that I don’t get to see that often and of course, I baked “mantecaditos” to bring to my adopted PR kids there :-)!  The week after Thanksgiving I drove up to Stuart to help out at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant that is located in Hutchinson Island.  It is absolutely gorgeous up there and quite different from Miami.  I might be going up a few more times until the new person comes on board.

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L.I.F.E. Book Club

The book club continued to thrive and we now have 10 members.   This year we read excellent books among them:  La Familia de Pascual Duarte-Camilo Jose Cela, The Help – Kathryn Stockett, La Catedral – Vicente Ibanez, The Paris Wife – Paula McLain and Conquistadora – Esmeralda Santiago among others.  This picture is from the book club Christmas party – some of the members unfortunately couldn’t make it.  What a wonderful group of women coming together to discuss a book, to talk about issues that affect us all one way or another as women, to have a glass of wine or various glasses, to solve the world’s problems or simply be silly and talk about George Clooney or Brad Pitt :-).  It’s special, it’s therapeutic, and it’s unique.  I love them all and thank God for having them in my life.

IMG_0096I made a promise that I would celebrate all my birthdays after “50”, so the tradition started this year with my 51st.  This month all the Christmas parties started, from neighbor parties, office parties, to university parties, to book club 2011-4parties and fancy parties…all too much fun.  And what a small world this is, at my neighbor’s dinner party I met a Puerto Rican woman who moved here many years ago and she used to be my “Brownie & Girls Scout” assistant leader!!! Can you believe that?!?!?!  What a small world this is!

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Myriam Monteserin

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Papi, Sahid y Yo

In July Sahid & I went to Puerto Rico to visit my father who is 87 and looking good as well as Pedro’s family.  We had a wonderful time as always and it was nice to be able to spend time with family.  It was special for Sahid to be able also to spend time with his grandparents and aunts and uncles. We also got to see my second mother, Myriam – and of course we went with her to La Bombonera!  We stayed at our apartment in Luquillo and got to enjoy the beach.  My friends from graduate school, Gisela and Cedric were there so they came over for dinner one night.  It was great fun to see them again.  Sahid traveled to Orlando in the Fall and met up with his uncle, aunt and cousins.  He was back to being a child and visiting Disney.  During Labor Day we visited David & Regina in Melbourne and with Ambrosio, Maria Elena & Diana, so the old expats from Bulgaria got to meet again and talk about our wonderful days living in Bulgaria.

Two big events for me this year, my first speeding ticket and I performed a wedding as I’m a notary public.  My speeding ticket, nothing to be proud of, and I thought it was totally unfair as I got it in an extremely rural area on the way to the nuclear power plant.  Well, it took me 51 years to get one, while it took Sahid only 16!  The wedding, my bosses’ daughter.  What a gorgeous wedding and we had so much fun!

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In a way I’m glad this year is over with all its ups and downs.  I’m very positive about the New Year that is about to start.  We’re blessed with a beautiful family, with a beautiful home, with health and with work.  We have wonderful friends.  We can’t ask for anything more and we are more than thankful.

I pray for peace, for an end to world hunger and abuse, for a cure to all diseases, for all of you to be healthy and lead joyful lives.  We’re here today and don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow so let’s live each day we’re on this earth to the fullest and thank God for waking up and opening our eyes to a brand new day.  Happy 2012!

You know were to find us, we’d love to see you.

Lots of love and the best always, The Souss-Maldonado

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2011-13

Rocket with his Christmas present!

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

– Khalil Gibran –

December 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Christmas Newsletter 2010

Carta Navidad 2010

December 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

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