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Vatican City is extremely conducive to studying one’s senses.  While walking past the crumbling walls of Vatican City, I reached the cobblestone plaza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.  As the noise of traffic decreased, I felt like the bustling city was pulled away and my senses  honed in on the immaculate structure before me.  My vision jumped from one statue to another statue adorning the top of the cathedral- I was struck by  the endless labyrinth of detail.  My eyes remained transfixed upon the bleached stone on the horizon of my vision and above.  All the while, my feet readjusted with each step because of the deteriorating, centuries old cobblestone.  My senses were overloaded and each body part responded to my environment.  A breath from the wind was filled with rose scented incense, nuns from every part of the world cried in jubilation, and each person remained solemn in expression out of respect.  Although the Catholic Church has long fought tragedy and adversity down through the centuries, one could not help but be awe struck by the dedication to this magnificent structure.

The full circle in front of the Vatican was a massive expanse that seemed out of place in a crowded metropolis such as Rome.  As I began to walk up to the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, the structure grew larger with each step.  The sounds of conversation began to diminish and I prepared myself for another long day inside a dimly lit “museum” of sorts.  As I entered the first hall, I was overcome by the magnitude of it’s interior.  It felt as if the ceilings were unreachable even by ladder and the length of the halls were longer than my entire apartment building.  The cleanliness astounded me.  With the amount of visitors St. Peter’s receives

each day, I saw barely a speck of dirt on the floor nor grease spots on the pillars.  The reverence of all the people inside this massive church was either out of respect for their God or out of respect for the builders of this magnificent structure.  I tried wrapping my head around how St Peter’s Basilica was originally built by hand prior to expansion.  The human ability to create something of this magnitude was astounding.  I guess the builders wanted the visitor to think about how God has given us the innate ability to create.  Around the outside of the structure are  glass cases of popes that have been embalmed and are on display.  The altar is about the size of a small cabin;  a miniature building inside of a monstrosity.  A friend of mine decided to buy us tickets to the top of the Basilica for a view.  For a few Euros, you can climb countless stairs to the top for a view of Rome.  The souvenirs are a bit odd, like an ashtray with Jesus, the Pope, or Mary.  If the souvenirs do not interest you can then head towards the edge of the building for a 360 landscape view of the ancient city of Rome.

As we walked down the steps back into the main part of the basilica  once again, I could only think of how much food, clothing, or health care could have come from the amount of money that goes into maintaining this structure.  I try not to focus on the past and look towards what the Church has done for people around the world in the present.  I hope that the amount of time and money spent in the past on this creation is willingly transferred to those in need today.


My brother and I embarked on many journeys together throughout our lives.  We’ve been all across

My brother, Jason

Europe as well as up/down the east coast of the United States.  I can say without hesitation that each trip has been filled with copious amounts of laughter, inside jokes, and even a few moments of serious discussion.  Maybe we had a few misunderstandings or disagreements along the way, but they were all insignificant since I can not recall any argument.  If you are reading this and thinking about embarking on a journey of your own for any extended period of time, it is important to choose your traveling companion wisely.  I was lucky enough to be the youngest brother of four males in our family.  I have a special relationship with each of them and traveling with any brother would most definitely be dissimilar from the other along each journey.

One trip I love to recall in particular was a journey through the Swiss Alps with my brother, Jason.  The

Driving through the Alps in Switzerland

landscape, from a distance, is as if you are staring directly into a snowy mountain masterpiece painted by none other than Bob Ross.  Driving through the winding mountain roads with cyclist, motorcycles, and other automobiles, I could spot lone trees speckling the white and silver Alps.  A few times along the way my brother would roll down his window and let out the loudest yodel/catcall with motorists turning their heads.  For those not familiar with the “southern catcall”, it is a bloodcurdling yell that you would hear at concerts such as, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, and ZZ Top.  Moving on…  I, of course, lifted my “Guide through the Swiss Alps” book to cover my face as a I slouched down a bit in my chair.  I could just imagine one of the cyclist taking a turn over the side of a mountain face after his ear was blasted by my brother’s southern rendition of the Ricola commercial. E.g. Ricola Commercial YouTube.

Once we crossed the pinnacle of the mountain we were driving, we began a lazy drive down into the town which was situated in a luscious green valley that wrapped around the perimeter of the valley.  I looked across the steep ridges and cliffs trying to focus all my senseson the magnitude of my

The valley in which our hotel was situated

surroundings.  I heard a soft, deep pitched ringing off in the distance.  As I walked down a steep road, my senses fixed upon the object that was producing that sound.  It was a large cow grazing in the distance with a large cowbell dangling underneath it’schin.  Cold air from the flowing streams could be felt within each of my breaths.  My eyes were bouncing from each vivid color as if I only had a limited time to process it all.  My brother and I reached the bottom of the hill on foot and a lincoln log type structure donned the name of our hotel.  As Jason checked us into our room using his impressive German vocabulary, I wandered the lobby and flipped through each brochure.  My legs ached from such a long drive and I was more than ready to stretch out for a few minutes before heading to dinner. Jason waved his hand and I grabbed my bags as we headed up the creaking

BUNKS?!

wooden stairs to our room.  He had a grin that crept on his face ever since he had taken the keys from the receptionist.  It looked like he wanted to laugh, but since he was always in a good mood I did not dwell on it.  He unlocked our door and started dying laughing.  My brother has a contagious laugh and I was laughing along with him before I even knew what he saw.  As I entered our Swiss hotel, I saw that our room contained bunk beds.  All I could do was turn to him and say, “BUNKS?!”  He was laughing

so hard that I think a few weary travelers poked their heads from their rooms to see what was happening.

Memories like these are what have made me the person I am today.  All my brothers have impacted me in ways that have changed and shaped my character for the rest of my life.  Jason gave me the opportunity to visit him and be his traveling companion throughout Europe 7 different times!  I learned three important lessons along the way.  Jason taught me to always look for a bright side to things.  As

Descending into the cavern in Switzerland

simple as that sounds, it changed my entire thought process and has opened up doors of opportunity beyond anything I could have imagined.  Look for the good because the bad will always pop it’shead up, so there is no need to make that list.  The second thing was that there is always something better out there.  I was astounded by the tunnels we drove through to get to our destination.  Jason would

say, “If you think these cliffs and tunnels are incredible wait until we reach the other side.”  Finally, Jason taught me what a man should strive to be.  My brother exudes kindness, self-control, and optimism.  Family are not just people you are raised among.  Family is deep.  Family is love.  Family is about learning who you are and what you can become.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

-Richard Bach

Holding on for dear life!


I’ve always imagined a part of my brain contains an empty/full gauge when feeling the urge to lay eyes upon something my brain has not created a memory for yet.  I want to run outside and capture a new memory.  Consistency is sometimes a dreadful thing when everything in you craves for progress.  My Dad taught me a lot about embracing an ever changing environment and living like you have been there before.  What I mean is that you are not hesitant in the least bit to try or experience what is in front of you once you reach your destination.  My Dad lived in Dubai and here our desert journey began.  We interacted on different levels that were not typical for a Father and son.  We conversed about any subject that broached the edge of our minds and took the conversation wherever our curiosity drove it.  While I was attending my University in Rome, Italy, I planned to visit my Dad on a holiday week in November.  Luckily this was winter in Dubai and temperatures only reached 100 degrees fahrenheit (about 37C)… Better pack a sweater.

Once I arrived, I pushed my way through the local mix of taxi drivers; Indians, Filipinos, Arabs, and Europeans.  There was such a diversity that I never expected once arriving in an Arab country.  The United Arab Emirates was not a normal Arab country though.  There are so many levels of intrigue, adventure, and cultural diversity in this small, extravagant country.  Dubai is considered the ‘Las Vegas’ of the Middle East.  I always hated hearing that description because it is a gross over statement of this decadent city that was planned with precision.  The city hardly adorns neon lights to its buildings or prides itself on sin or welcomes wasteful spending on chance.  Dubai calls on its visitors to appreciate the opulence.  While driving through the city with the top down on the convertible, buildings of every color and shape whizzed by my line of sight; green, silver, blue.  It truly is a city that could be any architect’s muse.

Later in the week I asked my Dad what else I could experience that I’ve never done before.  We had already played golf, swam in the Persian Gulf, toured through extravagant malls of gold, and had drinks at night to soak in the glittered skyline.  My Dad looked up from his coffee and said, “The desert.. We’ll go to the desert.  The silence and sand is something you won’t be able to explain when you get back to your friends.”  I sort of laughed after hearing that statement.  How can someone not explain sand.. I’ll just show them the picture of a few dunes and I’m sure they can utilize their own brains to conjure a made up vision of a desolate desert.

We drove out of the city for about an hour or more.  The more the lines on the road passed by our spinning tires, the less it seemed like we were anywhere close to civilization.  My Dad nudged me and said that we had arrived.  I looked up and saw absolutely NOTHING!  I said, “Where?”  It’s just about all I could say.  I was in shock at the vast nothingness.  We pulled off into the sand and I felt the SUV sink into the ground.  I adjusted myself in my seat as if we were going to take on water or something.  What a strange feeling it was.  My Dad’s friends pulled up along side of us and shouted to follow straight behind in their tracks.  Driving over the mountains of sand was invigorating and in a way like floating down a river!  When our SUV stopped after about an hour of driving, the quiet crept into my body.  It’s extremely difficult to explain that sort of silence.  I could feel and SEE the silence.  It was as if someone had put those noise canceling head phones on my head and held them tightly against the sides of my face.  Someone spoke and it cut through the silence.  As my Dad and I walked away from the group, he looked over as I squinted through the desert sun and just smiled.  I wanted to say something to him about all the experiences he has given me, but I thought a smile was enough.  He gave me that Fatherly side hug and said, “Glad you came.  It feels like home when we’re together.”  At that moment two camels came walking over the ridge of the dune and slowly lurked passed us.  One was larger than the other and in my mind I labeled them father and son.  Those camels sort of explain my relationship with my Dad in that we wandered life’s tragedies, rewards, and experiences together.  It was silent sometimes, but we loved the feeling of togetherness.  A walk through life’s deserts provides a connection between two individuals more so than times of joy.  Being able to walk along somebody and know you can count on them to be by your side in especially difficult times is a gift no one can replicate.  He passed away last summer and I miss him more than I can put into words.  It was his birthday yesterday.  Happy Birthday Dad.

My Dad and I found something sweet out there.  I describe it as, ‘Our dessert in the desert.’