South Beach Food and Wine Festival

Two weeks ago, my mom took my brother, sister, and me to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and it was an incredible experience, to say the least. There were countless restaurants from all across South Florida passing out food and everywhere you turned, there were different bars passing out all kinds of alcoholic beverages. The assortment of food and drinks was so diverse that we had to take a short break after every few restaurants, just so that we could continue sampling everything there was to offer. We also encountered various celebrity chefs from Food Network that were in attendance at the event. Every hour of so, a different chef would give a cooking demonstration, so just in the short time we were there, we saw Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray, Aaron Sanchez, Guy Fieri, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Carla Hall. As you can see pictured below, we tried enough food to last us until next year’s festival! It was definitely an event to remember!

Completing My First Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) and it was such an incredible experience, to say the least. To have weeks of training pay off and to say that I was able to accomplish something I would have never thought possible, was extremely reassuring and motivating. We arrived at the American Airlines Arena, at 5:00 in the morning, along with 20,000 other runners from eighty countries and all fifty States. The race officially began at 6:15 but since my brother, sister, and I were assigned to the last corral, it must have been close to 6:50 by the time we finally started. We crossed the Miami Causeway, passing by the Port of Miami where all of the cruise ships were docked. As we made our way into South Beach, we ran along Ocean Drive, home to the Versace Mansion as well as the Miami Art Deco District. From there, we cut through a few streets which led us to the Venetian Causeway, before passing through Downtown Miami and finally arriving back to the Miami Airlines Arena.

The nonstop energy from the runners, and the support from local spectators are what truly made the half marathon so worthwhile. People held posters, passed out energy chews, and offered high-fives as we ran past them, but hearing their cheers and words of encouragement helped us make it to the end. Some of the more comical posters like “Chafe now, brag later,” “Why do all of the cute ones always run away,” and the ones pictured below showed how supportive the locals were, making the event that much more enjoyable. It was beyond rewarding to cross the finish line and know that hard work and determination really did pay off. Not to mention, with the help of family members, friends, and fellow bloggers, we were able to raise $1,200 and counting for Misioneros Del Camino, a home to abandoned, neglected, and abused children in Guatemala.

Setting a goal and working towards it, achieving the goal, and running for a cause has been an unforgettable experience and I am so glad that I was able to follow through with it. I can’t help but wish that running in a half marathon was on my bucket list so I could say I successfully completed it. However, it was still rewarding, nonetheless! While describing their running experience, I heard someone after the marathon exclaim that the only person who ever doubted her crossing the finish line was herself. But it just comes to show that when you have your mind set on something, all you need is persistence and a little support to help you reach your goal. In an attempt to make myself sound like a master runner, I won’t tell you what kind of pain my legs were in after the race and how difficult it was to get into and out of the car on the way home. I’ll instead mention that I’m considering signing up for another half marathon in the near future, so it’s looking like this will be the beginning of a great running experience!

Half Marathon Training Weeks 9 and 10

The only good thing about the Half Marathon being less than two weeks away is the fact that the runs are getting smaller and smaller. The reason for this is so that I can recuperate quicker and ultimately be prepared for the big day. Week 9 has actually been one of my favorite weeks of running, not only since the distances are less than usual, but because it continues to boggle my mind thinking that I have been training for 9 weeks to reach a goal I had set for myself. In this week alone, I reached 22 miles and am anticipating the big day, which is now just one week away.

As I progress through week 10 of training, I’ll have run 26.1 miles by the end of the week, 13.1 of which will be completed at the half marathon! I keep wondering whether or not I’ll continue to run after the marathon and stick with the training, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. The first step though, will be completing the marathon, which we can only hope actually happens.

A few days ago, I wrote about Mami Leo’s story of having started the orphanage on her own with only $2,700 to her name. She has managed to provide thousands of children with food, an education, and a home to call their own, but most importantly, she provided the children with love, which is something they never received before coming to Misioneros Del Camino. Over the past two years, Mami Leo’s health has been declining, but that hasn’t taken away from the love and care that these children still receive on a daily basis. When I last saw Mami Leo in November, I remember seeing her saying, “There is still more I need to do.” Together, we can help Mami Leo continue to fulfill her mission and help these children have the life they deserve.

The work that Mami Leo has done is what has been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and she is the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can carry out Mami Leo’s work, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Click on the pictures below to read the stories of each child

Half Marathon Training Weeks 7 and 8

By the end of week 6, I noticed that my right ankle was hurting every time I put pressure on it. I took a few days off from running and began cycling instead. I was only able to run 9 miles throughout the week, which was less than I had run in just one day the week before. Nerves were beginning to course through my body, seeing as the race was only three weeks away. Normally I would never complain about being given an opportunity to take a break and relax, but this definitely wasn’t a good time for me to do so. Lucky for me, a week off from running was apparently all I needed, because when I ran for the first time during the beginning of week 8, I felt better than ever! I ran 28 miles throughout the week and completed my longest distance run of 11 miles without passing out. If you ask me, I’d say that’s a success. The young girl pictured below being carried on her mother’s back is Darlin. She is 4 yrs. old and has Cerebral Palsy. They live in a very poor village about 20 miles from the Neurological Center. To bring Darlin to therapy, her mother has to carry her daughter on her back to take a bus that leaves her about 5 kilometers from the Center, and then she walks the rest of the way with her daughter on her back. To return home she does this again. She has been doing this since 2011, to help her daughter. Darlin has made fantastic progress! She is starting to take her first steps and is saying a few words. Hers is a long road, but there is hope. A few short years ago she would not had any hope and no access to help. These are the people who Misioneros Del Camino are helping – children who would normally have no access to help and parents who love their children but are too poor or isolated to get help for them. Stories like that of Darlin and her incredible mother are what have been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and they are the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that more children like Darlin can be helped, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Darlin and Her Mother

Darlin and Her Mother

Half Marathon Training Weeks 5 and 6

By this point, I’ve come to learn that there’s no point in dreading my daily runs. It’s something that has to be done, so I might as well learn to accept it and try to look forward to it. Okay, so that last part of looking forward to running was a little overboard unless I were to put a Twinkie or donut in front of the treadmill and try running towards that. But with these two weeks of training, I’m officially at the halfway mark of training, with only four weeks left until the half marathon! With the fifth and sixth weeks having concluded, I completed my longest distance run of 10 miles in one day and reached 27 miles throughout week 5 and 28 miles throughout week 6; which to put into perspective is 27 more miles than I even drive each week!

Meet Carlitos, pictured below. In May 2013, Carlitos being only 18 months old, was rescued by the authorities, when his mother was caught beating him. She beat him on a daily basis and would take him out to the yard, hose him down with cold water, then leave him in the sun all day. His skin was charred and scorched by the sun, and had bruises on his face and body, swollen by a form of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor, which, if not treated early, can cause developmental disorders, and death. Carlitos could barely stand, let alone walk. He is currently thriving and doing better than anyone could have expected.

Stories like that of Carlitos are why I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon, and why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help future children like Carlitos, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Half Marathon Training Weeks 3 and 4

Going into my third week of training, I had received a generous amount of donations from friends and colleagues, but the donations seemed to have stopped coming in. Running was as boring as I imagined it would be, and no T.V. channel at the gym was able to make it more exciting. I was beginning to lose focus on the end goal, as feelings of doubt continued to arise.  I had to research something on the Internet for school one afternoon, and upon looking up scholarly articles for the assigned topic, I somehow came across the name of the woman who started the orphanage in Guatemala. I looked into the site and found a radio interview with her, which I listened to later that night when completing my daily run. The interview, which can be found at: really helped give me a motivational push to get back on track and realize that I wasn’t just running for myself, but for a cause bigger than me. And with that, I was able to complete my third week of running, in which I had run 23 miles, and by the end of the fourth week, I had run 24 miles.

Born and raised in Cuba, Leonor Portela moved to Miami where her husband served as an Air Force pilot. Three years later at the age of twenty-six, Leonor’s husband was flying for America in the Bay of Pigs, when his plane was shot down and crashed in the ocean. Years later, after hearing about the devastating 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, Leonor was moved to action and decided to assist in volunteer efforts abroad. She traveled to Guatemala to help out, and came back to the States in shock of the country’s destruction and the conditions that the children were living in. Having found her purpose of saving the children of Guatemala, it took ten years to find the financial help and support that Mami Leo needed, thanks to her prayer group.

In 1986, Leonor sold her home and moved to Guatemala with $2,700 raised by her prayer group, where she opened up a home for children, currently known as Misioneros Del Camino. Starting off with three children, Mami Leo, as she is affectionately known, began collecting donations to bring in more children. One of the first children was a two-year year old girl who weighed only 12 pounds, and had tuberculosis as well. Doctors swore that she would have no more than two weeks to live, but she is currently living in the United States as a straight-A student in school. One of the other children that Mami Leo took into her home had been dipped in scalding water by his parents, and had undergone other atrocious treatments by them as well. Mami Leo carried him, mute and lifeless in a harness for days, and on the fourth day as she put him to bed, he broke his silence and asked, “Por que me quieres?” which translates to “Why do you love me?” He now attends law school and returns to the home to help out whenever he can.

There are roughly 10,000 children living on the streets in Guatemala alone. Nearly 100 out of every 1,000 child will die of malnutrition and hunger. As Mami Leo exclaimed in the above interview, “It’s not only saving a child, giving them food and shelter; anybody can do that. But to give love, to make them citizens that are proud of themselves and not ashamed of where they come from, and become good Christians, I think that’s the job.” Throughout the years, Mami Leo has saved and cared for over 2,200 children and has provided interim care for thousands more. During her time in Guatemala thus far, she has provided educational, nutritional, and medical support to over 42,000 children in the country.

This is the reason that I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon, and the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help fulfill Mami Leo’s mission, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Half Marathon Training Weeks 1 and 2

In case you find yourself confused or worried by the end of this blog post (which I highly doubt), I’ll be putting my travel blogging on hold for a week, so that I could write about another important matter throughout the course of the next few days.

I decided two months ago that I was going to sign myself up for the Miami Half Marathon, with hopes of raising money and awareness for an orphanage in Guatemala during the process. You see, I volunteer on medical missions to Guatemala twice a year (I’ll explain more about the trips in future postings), but during the missions, we stay in an orphanage that houses over one hundred children who have either been abandoned, neglected, abused, or children who have neurological disorders whose parents could not afford to take care of them. There’s a neurological center on the premises, which provides various therapies to over 175 children, both from the home and from neighboring cities. Some of the many therapies include, speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, physical therapy, sensorial therapy, and other crucial therapies.

After the last mission trip in November, we were asked to participate in the Miami Half Marathon in an attempt to raise money and awareness for the cause. I signed myself up for the race, and began training immediately after. I stepped onto the treadmill, for what must have been the first time in over three years, and couldn’t wait to step back off. By the middle of my first week training, I came across a half marathon schedule that beginning runners could follow. I started posting about my endeavor and provided a link where friends and family members could donate on my social media accounts. Within minutes, I had friends commenting saying things along the lines of “What are you doing running a half marathon? Or even running at all…” and other such encouraging  statements. I had to put their jokes aside and remember what I was running for. By the end of the first week, I had completed 17 miles, and by the end of the second week, I had run 21 miles. It was stories like the following one that helped get me through these first two weeks of training.

Meet Peter and Paul, two twin brothers pictured below who arrived at the home April 4, 2008. At 6 months of age, both of them suffered from severe malnutrition, pneumonia, and cardio insufficiency. They spent the next 6 months in and out of the local hospital with respiratory infections and in constant need of oxygen. As they began to gain weight and get stronger, their infections began to subside and their hearts grew stronger. Paul recovered much faster than peter and within 3 months, he no longer needed oxygen. Peter however needed oxygen for more than 6 months and would turn blue if kept off for only a few minutes. Today at age 6 and-a-half, they have made full recoveries and show no signs of heart problems. They are very healthy, playful (if not somewhat mischievous), and beyond loving. Throughout the next week, I will be posting miraculous stories that show just how incredible Misioneros Del Camino is. Stories like that of Peter and Paul are what have been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and they are the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that more children like Peter and Paul can be helped, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.