Saturday, July 26, 2014

Location: Cairo's best fast food falafel sandwich

I was told not to miss a falafel sandwich in Egypt, because it's supposedly one of the best. While in Cairo, there was a nice Middle Eastern restaurant at our hotel,  "Nubian", right out by the pool, facing the timeless pyramids. "Falafel" was calling my name, but to my disappointment, what was served at the Nubian was just the same I had tasted in other Middle Eastern restaurants around the world, and it was also... guess... overpriced!

So I was happy to find out that, on our Nile cruise, there would be an Arabian night-themed feast. Maybe now I could experience the Egyptian "falafel". Hmm... well, no falafel was included in the banquet menu, though. I had to know why. To my surprise, I was told that "falafel" is not exactly food for the Pharaohs, but a very popular meal for the masses (the equivalent of a burger), therefore, not fit for the feast buffet. OK, but I couldn't leave Egypt without trying their original falafel made for the people! What to do now? Since it's a popular food, let's try a popular place, not a tourist restaurant, I thought...

I noticed a place that looked like an Egyptian style fast food a few blocks from the hotel and decided to venture out of the safe "tourist zone" and mingle with the locals - although there was no mistaking me for a local though, since during the 10 minute walk from the hotel to the Egyptian "McDonald's", I received several solicitations from vendors trying to get me to buy their "made in China" plush camels! But I made it to the place, safe and hungry. It was full of local Egyptians and not one single tourist, and I was able to order my "people's falafel" sandwich! Which cost me the fortune of... 25 cents! No joke, it was really that cheap; it was actually the cheapest sandwich on the menu... and it was the most delicious falafel sandwich I've ever eaten!!!! So, when you're wandering around Cairo, don't forget to stop at their local fast food looking place for the 25 cent falafel sandwich. Don't be afraid to try this culinary adventure. You won't regret it... and you will be craving it for eternity!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Books: Angels of Abundance by Doreen Virtue

Book Review: Angels of Abundance, by Doreen Virtue

I was thrilled to receive this book and find the teaching and messages within, and it didn't disappoint me. It's the kind of message, though, that you need to read with an open mind. Even if you don't believe in the assistance of angels, heaven and the divine, there is no harm in reading words of positivity, messages of altruism and suggestions for higher self development and improvement. After all, we're always searching for help, and help that comes from within is the best kind.

This is a delightfully written book that can be read in one sitting, however, you want to take your time to absorb the peaceful messages and indulge in these meaningful stories and testimonies of people who have received the most needed guidance by the angels. Doreen and her son Grant, who co-wrote the book with her, were able to capture a nice collection featuring 11 messages to help you manifest support, supply, and every form of abundance. 

I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purposes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lifestyle: Hazards of Travel Insurance

It's never been a better time to talk about travel insurance than during the summer break, where the likelihood of taking vacation is the highest. We usually don't think that something serious or catastrophic can happen during vacation time; after all, it is a time to relax, unwind, and get away from the seriousness of life. However, lots of unforeseen situations can happen when we're traveling.

As a young adult, I used to frequently travel domestically and internationally for months, and never thought of buying travel insurance. In fact, I had never even heard of travel insurance. Once, while I was backpacking through the US Eastern coast for a few months, I met a German girl in New York who asked me if I had travel insurance. It was the first time I ever heard of it and I had no idea why I would need it for. When you're young and just traveling around, you never think about the unforeseen situations.

Having worked in the travel insurance business for several years, I understand now the need to have some form of insurance while away from home. However, here's one alert: if you're going to purchase travel insurance, make sure to read the fine lines and understand what you're going to be covered for before electronically signing the contract. You see, most people just click and sign it, and obviously don't read the terms and conditions, and when something happens... well, it's just not covered. Take a pre-existing condition, for example. If you already suffer from high blood pressure and the reason to buy travel insurance is to cover your medication, or a visit to the doctor to check your high blood pressure, think again. Most travel insurance doesn't cover pre-existing conditions. But if you get food poisoning from the fish street vendor in Thailand that smelled delicious, then your visit to the doctor could be covered, although you might have to pay upfront and then ask for reimbursement. Be sure to take some cash for unpredictable expenses even if you have travel insurance!

I used to get frequent calls from irate customers asking to have their travel insurance cover the cancellation of their trip because they didn't like the itinerary offered to them on a flight bidding site. "I can't travel at midnight with 2 young children and then return at 5 am 2 days later; I have to change this itinerary!!!" - guess what? Not covered! If you had read the fine prints before signing the agreement, you would know that dissatisfaction with the itinerary is not a covered reason to cancel a trip... You also get that shopper who only does the research after the purchase... yes, those exist. Once, the gentleman was screaming about the horrible itinerary that was, in fact, more expensive on the bidding site than if he had purchased it directly through the airline, demanding a cancellation. Really? You bought the most expensive first and then realized there was a cheaper way to buy the same flight? Sorry. Not covered.

Also, beware of lost luggage. Most suitcases end up being found by the airline, so in fact the luggage is delayed and not lost, which is a huge difference. You won't get money upfront. No need to call yelling that your business suit was in the suitcase and it cost you 2,000 dollars and you can't go to your business meeting in jeans. The delayed luggage insurance may cover just a few hundred dollars and you must first prove that the luggage was delayed for a certain amount of hours. In the likelihood it is not found, you will have to first obtain the claim from the airline with supporting documentation that it has been deemed lost, and then, after the airline compensates you for the loss, you can make a claim on your travel insurance.

Seems hard? Not worth it? May be not worth it for minor claims like that. But take the case of the businessman that fell and hit his head in the marble floor of a hotel in East Asia. In a coma for several days, he had to be moved by air ambulance back to the US. The cost of the air ambulance? A whopping $120,000.00. Luckily, his travel insurance benefit for medical evacuation covered up to $200,000.00.

The important thing about travel insurance is to make sure your coverage is ample enough to cover you in a real emergency situation. You don't want to be sitting at a hospital in a remote location in Africa, where the bed sheets are only changed once a month and you have to pee in a bottle. You want to make sure you can fly out of there as soon as possible to the most convenient hospital that can treat your poisonous spider bite! Have a great adventure and don't forget your travel insurance!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Blog Hop: Pass the Stick

Blog hop introduces writers and gives a glimpse of their work and style. I was tagged for this Blog Hop by writer Henry Martin - here's his introduction (to find out more about Martin's work, check previous blog posts where I wrote a review of his literary work). 
When he's not buried elbow-deep in some greasy motorcycle project, Henry Martin enjoys reading quality literature and writing prose and poetry of varying coherency. He finds inspiration in conquering the open road while trying to outrun some of the characters he created in the past. He lives with his family in the Northeast, surrounded by coyotes, foxes, and bears.

Martin contributes faithfully to several Goodreads discussions and is also a moderator in several groups discussing literary fiction.
To find out more about him and his work, visit:
Goodreads author page:
Amazon author page:

Now, here are my answers to the blog hop questions:

What am I working on?
I'm on a development phase right now. I've started several projects but have not yet found the one that makes me passionate to continue, so I'm searching and researching, reading and writing reviews and looking for what's out there in the indie world.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?
This is a tough question because I have currently two published works. A novel and a poetry collection. The novel has been classified as literary fiction by several readers and editors, although when I wrote it, I had no specific genre in mind and was not worried about the classification. My poetry is mainly free verse, and encompasses different themes - there's love poems, life poems, dark poems and so on.

Why do I write what I write?
I write what I feel like writing, not thinking necessarily about a specific audience. It has to come from my heart, from an inner desire to create something and make the characters alive, to the point that I'm just a scribe, not a creator, the characters take possession of their own life and fate, that's how I wrote the novel. As for the poetry, I write from the heart, mostly derived from a sensation, a feeling, or an experience.

How does my writing process work?

I don't have a specific routine for my writing process. I have to be inspired and motivated to sit and create and let the characters move and invent their own fate and circumstances. I can't think of the whole story and do an outline. Usually, I have a firm idea of either the beginning or the end, and the means to get there will be up to the development of the plot, as it goes.

Introducing :

Daniel Wetta:

Daniel Wetta is a retired Certified Public Accountant who spent most of his career in the health care field. For twenty years he was the CFO and then CEO of a Virginia hospital and nursing home in a large healthcare company. He wrote short stories as a young man, and at the College of William and Mary, he really learned to write. He is a life-long lover of Corvettes, Las Vegas, and living on the edge. He is in love with his family, and he is passionate about United States and Mexican history, the Spanish language, and using social media.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins:

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lifestyle: Brazil and the World Cup

Brazil and the World Cup - why I'm in favor of a festive event with no incidents.

Brazilians should be ecstatic, more than euphoric, after all, 2014 World Cup opening day on June 12th is just around the corner. Instead, there are plans for public demonstrations against the Cup. Against FIFA. Against Brazil's government. Why now?

Brazil's socioeconomic issues are not new. However, the ridiculous expenses lavishly wasted on new state-of-the art stadiums for the Cup, and recent scandalous money laundering by the government, have awaken the giant. Prohibitive health costs and unsanitary conditions of many public hospitals are escalating;  unprepared teachers, lack of educational materials and a deteriorating public school system, have awaken the giant. 

In a nutshell - and this is tip of the iceberg only - money spent on stadiums vs no money spent on health, education and basic needs in general, is the cherry on top that awakened the giant. But this is still a very sensitive and polemic topic to discuss. As a Brazilian, football, is in your blood. You are born with the love for the sport. After all, Brazil has been to all the 19th previous competitions and won 5 times, more than any other country. Brazil has also hosted the World Cup back in 1950.

The image of the country seen outside of Brazil is different than what Brazilians experience. As the country is being portrayed somewhat in a positive light, with steady economic growth, the population experiences the highest taxes in the world, a continuous inflation where a PS 4 will cost close to US$1,000 or more, education is lacking, and the health system is shameful. Doctors complain about the lack of proper materials and basic sanitation in the public hospitals, where it's common for patients to wait days on the floor without assistance. Brutal, awful, cruel reality, which has now, finally, seem to have hit the conscience of the people, resulting in a country-wide dissatisfaction with the current political regime. It's better now than never. This year, there will also be presidential elections. But the World Cup is threatened. Threats of manifestations, barricades to prevent spectators into the stadiums, anger and aggression directed at the soccer players are out there.

I don't agree with such demonstrations during the World Cup. I agree that the giant needed to wake up. No doubt about that. After all, corrupt politicians have been controlling the country for many years, and it's time to stop it. So let's barricade the Congress and not allow these law makers and thieves of the public money to be empowered once again. Let's demonstrate against corruption before and during the elections. Let's show our dissatisfaction towards the politicians, not the players. Election is around the corner.

Let's welcome, with open arms, the visitors who are eager to experience Brazil's culture, beauty, beaches and football. Let's play a fair and beautiful game by treating them with respect. Let's show the world that, although we do have problems, we are good hosts and will handle our dirty laundry when the guests are gone. Let's celebrate the sport that brings us closer together, the ecstasy of a goal, the colors, the screams, the flags, the beauty of this diverse spectacle that, for one month every four years, brings excitement to the world.

My hope is that the giant doesn't go back to sleep after the World Cup. When we need to be alert, awaken and conscious of our choices the most, is with a vote coming up in the next few months. Not during a festive time. The World Cup is a done deal. Brazil was chosen, it is the host. Now let it happen, without incidents, and let's get over it. Get ready to show what we are made of. Presidential elections 2014 - the next chapter. Let the World Cup be.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Music/Theater: Interview with Brazilian actor/artist/singer/producer Raul Veiga

Today we're meeting super talented, handsome Brazilian actor Raul Veiga, who is also a singer, musician, writer, artist, and entrepreneur. Among his many amazing accomplishments, he wrote, produced and performed his own one man show musical, participated in several Brazilian TV soap operas, and created his own production company! Does he even have time for anything else? Luckily, he wasn't too busy  to talk to us and we're very excited to introduce him to you.

Raul, tell us where you're from, and what's your background.

I'm from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was a typical middle-class kid, my father was a policeman and my mother was a teacher. When I was 9 years old, in fourth grade, I attended the American School of Rio de Janeiro, where I had a chance to develop the foundations of my education. This had a great influence in my life.

I can see that, you speak perfect English! I had the pleasure of watching you sing and perform in "Stand Up Musical" (in English) a few years ago. You're a great performer and the show was vibrant and exciting. Do you have a musical idol? Who is your biggest musical influence and why?

I have some people that have inspired me somehow during some point in my career. When I started working with musical theatre back in 2007, I really didn't know anyone besides Andrew Lloyd Webber. It took me some time to understand what it was all about. So I got a chance to study
the work of Stephen Sondheim, to learn from the iconic voices of such actors as Colm Wilkinson, and understand that Cameron Mackintosh was the one who was making all the money.

As an artist with multiple talents, what is your favorite art form and why?

I like the art of storytelling, whether it is through acting, or through writing a story, producing a movie, a play, recording a song or a DJ mix set. It's all about imagination. Sometimes it can convey an important message, or it may simply entertain. I believe that our only escape from the existential inevitability of death, besides religion, is storytelling. Humans have been doing this since the dawn of days.

Great answer and I agree, being a writer myself. You're now making music too - deep house. That's a big move from the Sinatra and ABBAesque musical projects you've been recently involved with. What prompted you to follow this direction?

I've been a DJ since I was 15 years old. It was actually my first job. I got into house music when I lived in London, in 2002, while I was studying music production and sound technology. I like the idea of the mix set, because as I was saying, it's also a story. The songs are in a certain order as to evoke different types of feelings and moods. I'm not making music for big nightclub rooms, my sound is not commercial. I'm making music for DJ bars, and for events where you want to hear
sophisticated electronic music, but you will also be able to talk to your friends, the music is not there in your face. I create the atmosphere, you choose to dance if you want, it's not required, but
you probably will.

That's very interesting! Another side of your creativity. And what do you enjoy the most between the interaction with your fans?

I like their support. They are intelligent and sometimes very funny too.

Where can we see you next, and where can we buy your work?

Soon, our movies will be available by Video on Demand. Also, I have a Patreon page, where you can crowd fund my passion for electronic music. It only costs $1 for the basic plan, and you have access to all my exclusive mixes.

Awesome! I'm looking forward to watching the movies and checking your exclusive mixes! Talking about movies, is there a character you'd like to portray one day?

Yes, I would like to play Sweeney Todd one day, but I'm still too young (thank God).

That would be fun! For now, what are your plans for the coming year?

I'm producing two short films I wrote, in which I'll also act, and I'm also producing a major musical theatre show budgeted over $1.5 million dollars. - -

That will sure keep you busy. Great projects! Do you have any opinion about the cultural scene in Brazil, compared to the US?

I really can't say about the US, but I believe a basic difference would be that here (in Brazil), we have more governmental backing for our projects. It can be a direct fund or an indirect one, through tax benefits. Even though the private market invests, they have help from the state.

Interesting to know. Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
If you believe in your dreams, you will do it. It takes hard work and time, but don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

That's definitely a great advice and I'm so happy your dreams are coming true! Thank you so much for sharing with us! It's been a pleasure to host you and we wish you lots of success always.

To know more about Raul and his work, click here:
Raul Veiga performs in ABBA the musical

And don't forget to check his exclusive deep house mixes:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book: I Can See Clearly Now - by Dr. Wayne Dyer

I've been a reader of Wayne Dyer's inspirational books for quite a while. Every book he writes presents us, readers, with a small feedback of his past - everyone who reads Dyer knows he was raised in foster homes while still a child before his mother was able to gather all her sons together again, after his father left them. This story has pretty much shaped most of his adult years. 
Now, in his new book "I can see clearly now", he gives us a much wider snapshot of his earlier days, from a young toddler playing happily in the snow to a teen rebelling against a biology project, growing into a young man having to obey orders in the military and achieving his goal of becoming a teacher. Every circumstance evolves into something that will ultimately fit together to complete his life puzzle. It's an eye opening memoir, showing us all that everything happens for a reason and there are no accidents. By exposing what happened to him in this memoir, he explains how he came about to be what he was meant to be and how he made it happen by believing in his dharma. A great inspirational book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.