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.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Books: Massive Black Hole nominated for 50 Self Published Books Worth Reading at Indie Author Land!

It's always an honor to be nominated for an award, especially being an Indie writer. And it came as a very welcome surprise when I received an email from Indie Author Land's manager/moderator, advising me that Massive Black Hole was nominated for their contest, among so many other books and novels. The site has several categories and roughly 9-12 books competing in each category. The 5 most voted from each category will be winners. The voting ends May 18th and everyone can vote multiple times for multiple categories.

So, what is Massive Black Hole about? Here's the blurb:

Massive Black Hole is a surrealist literary fiction novel that explores moral issues concerning suicide, abortion, friendship, betrayal, life's purpose and the existence of hell through the lives of the protagonists.

At 18, Cibele, a student from Rio de Janeiro, dreams of a life in New York and moves to the big Apple as an au pair girl, where she meets the precocious Amy, a young scholar whose goal in life is to study sciences and astrophysics. While visiting the MET, Cibele is impressed by a particular work of art depicting hell, in the style of Hieronymus Bosch. When Amy introduces her to astronomy, she is consumed by fear of black holes. Lost and confused with what to do with her life, she meets ambitious Agatha from Texas, who came to New York to succeed as a fashion model. While trying to survive and achieve their goals, the 3 young women question the meaning of life, death and the existence of hell, and their friendship ultimately turns into a maze of betrayal, jealousy and selfishness.

>>>Because hell is real! Embark on this spiraling journey through Rio de Janeiro, Texas and New York discovering the ambitions of 3 young women trying to find the meaning of life. Through a series of events that prompt them to play with each other's destiny, they will face their ultimate challenge: is hell real? 

And here are some excerpts from some great reviews received both on Amazon and Goodreads:

"What I found interesting is that, as the story unfolds, all three protagonists undergo a major development. In Massive Black Hole nothing is as it seems at first, and friendship is a word taken too lightly. Both Cibele and Agatha, while initially very different, become cutthroat 'bitches' stopping at nothing to achieve their objectives, even if the assumptions their fears are based upon are far from reality. Barbosa shows a twisted side of femininity, where looks are everything and sex is a means that justifies the end.

But the book is about more than women taking advantage of each other and their surroundings. It is also a story of redemption and forgiveness. Throughout the book, Barbosa explores certain religious themes (religion shaped one character's past and another's future) that serve as a statement on humanity in general. Not only that, she also explores the controversial notion of hell being here and now (for some) which, while not widely accepted by Christians, is in line with Eastern religions and the concept of karma.

Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. While I would personally opt for a more intimate narrative, the story flowed fine in third-person narrative. There were no awkward time shifts and all flashbacks served their purpose. Agatha's life turned out as one would have expected, however, both Amy and Cibele's development came as a surprise. There were some minor repetition and edit issues, however, none distracting enough to take away from the reading experience. I'm glad this book found its way to my desk." - Henry Martin, writer

"My favorite, “Christ’s Descent to Hell”, sums it all up. As a former crisis/school counselor this was a great book for me to read. Homeless & transients can be quite challenging to work with. Great story line, kind of a psychological thriller, most of the time it was easy for me to read/follow, no grammar errors or out of story line sequence, quite a few unexpected twist/turns, never a dull moment & great characters. It did pull together later on. Might even make a great movie. I ended up giving it a rating of 5 stars." - Tony Parsons

"Massive Black Hole is a well-written, interesting story with three female leads who reveal details in separate POVs (from their teenage connection to their forty-something disconnect). Rio, Texas, and New York City serve as backdrop for Andrea Barbosa's tapestry of a novel that interweaves the lives of three women from youth to middle age. Lush descriptive writing takes you inside each location setting, and deeply felt, thoughtfully drawn characters lure you into their stories. Multiple POVs and flashbacks are two difficult writing tasks that if not done well, can easily confuse readers. I'm impressed by the author's ability to breeze through various narratives while keeping the story flowing smoothly.

I loved the unique concept and the intrigue of following these women to see where life would take them. Get ready for envy and betrayal between the once close knit three some, One life turns out well, however the others do not, thus a splendid element of surprise might make your mouth fall open.

Massive Black Hole is a thought provoking, literary work that will cause you to ponder specific areas long after you finish the read. Excellent debut novel and highly recommended for readers age 17 and up." - Rhonjer

"The author did a great job in giving us a piece of reality and the intensity of emotions that everybody possesses. We have to face it, life is not easy but despite all the issues and problems that goes along with it, this book made me realize the value of our choices and the aftermath of our decisions. Well-written and definitely worthy of a spot in your library." - Jenny Lane

"Massive Black Hole is one of those books that make you think. The story is about three characters, Cibele, Agatha, and Amy. Each one has her own set of flaws, which make their interactions fascinating. The dichotomy of Agatha's beauty to her personality and how each character affected the other two was well done. I like how the story progressed and love the ending.

If you're looking for a good read that engages your imagination and philosophy of life, then read Massive Black Hole!!" - Jon de Silva, writer

Take a look at Massive Black Hole on Amazon for more reviews and information:

and don't forget to vote until May 18th (link above for Indie Author Land).

Thank you for all your support! Much love and appreciation!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lifestyle: Travel Insurance - when the unthinkable happens while on vacation

A tragic story

The widow saved her money to go on her dream vacation: a tour to the Holy Land. She booked her excursion trip and was really excited. Upon arriving at the hotel, jet lagged and tired, she decided to take a nice, warm shower to relax before going to bed. When she turned on the shower, a fast and heavy jet of very hot water hit her on the chest, prompting her to slip and fall inside the bathtub. She couldn't get up fast enough, and the boiling water splashed furiously on her naked body, cruelly burning her skin. When she was finally able to stop the water, she had severe burns on 70% of her body. She was taken to a hospital in a country where she didn't know anyone, didn't speak the language, and was alone. When her family was notified of the tragic accident, her son flew in immediately to be at her bedside. A day later, she died of severe burn complications. Her son, lost and desolate, had to go back home alone, accompanied by the coffin that held the mortal remains of his beloved mother. A shattered dream, a tragic event.

Having worked in travel assistance for years, this was one of the situations I never forgot. How awful for someone to die during what is supposed to be the best time of their lives, on a dream vacation? That lady had travel insurance. The son's ticket was paid for by the travel insurance, as well as the repatriation of her remains back to her country of origin. This is something you don't want to think about when booking the trip of your dreams. But unexpected and unthinkable events unfortunately occur. When purchasing travel insurance, make sure there is a hefty benefit for repatriation of mortal remains, just to be on the safe side.

What do you need to know if you or a family member suffers death while traveling abroad?

- Contact the local Embassy or Consulate immediately to report the death. The Embassy will need to issue paperwork for the remains to be shipped, and help with any investigation, body recognition, and referrals for an international shipping funeral agency;
 - Contact a local funeral agency (usually referred by the Embassy) - they will make arrangements for the remains to be shipped internationally, according to international standards of cargo shipping for the airlines;
- Establish a receiving funeral home at the city and country where the remains will be shipped to - the receiving funeral home will need to be in touch with the local funeral home to know when the remains will be flying and when to pick it up upon arrival at the airport;
 - Collect all the personal belongings and documents of the deceased. Documents will be needed by the Embassy to issue death certificates;
- Expect the process to last at least one week. Depending on the country where the accident happened, it may take longer. Cremation can be chosen instead of a regular shipping of the mortal remains; however some countries do not have cremation facilities. Due to religious concerns and holidays, Embassies, mortuaries, and other government agencies may be closed, delaying the process. Some countries demand autopsies to be performed before embalming and preparing the remains for shipment;
- Prepare to pay a minimum of $10,000.00 for international shipment of mortal remains. This doesn't include any services at the receiving end: charges usually include embalming, container, ground transportation to/from mortuary to airport and flight transportation up to receiving airport.

If you have travel insurance with a repatriation of remains benefit, be sure this would be a covered event. Look at the fine print to find out if the repatriation of remains benefit covers for accident and/or sickness. Some policies may only cover for accidents and not for what may be considered as "natural cause" death. You will still need to cover the costs for any funeral services, viewing and anything else not covered in the transportation of the remains.

It is not a pleasant experience, and it will not be a quick process, but you need to be patient during this time of suffering and pain. Just be prepared for the unthinkable. You don't want to be caught off guard if something this tragic happens to you or your loved ones.