Behind Clouds

Land of Enchantment: A New Discovery for Amir Landsman

While people out West have known about the joys of New Mexico for years, the first visit can be a bit daunting for New Yorkers like Amir Landsman.

Some tourists fear that such a sparsely populated state has little to offer, while others worry about having too little time to see all of the sights. Concentrating on the most popular destinations can leave even the most harried travelers with a sense of accomplishment.

The Four Corners

New Mexico forms part of the Four Corners area of the United States, along with Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Getting there from one of these states or from eastern neighbors Texas and Oklahoma typically involves driving on I-40 or I-25.

Visitors from farther away can access New Mexico’s only major airport in Albuquerque, the state’s most populated city.

Exploring Albuquerque

While in Albuquerque, visitors should take a ride on the Sandia Peak tramway. Operating on the world’s longest tramway, the Sandia tram cars deliver exceptional views of the Cibola National Forest and the sprawling city of Albuquerque.

Visitors can also go hiking, biking, rock-climbing, skiing, snowboarding, rafting, ballooning or golfing nearby.

Venturing out in Old Santa Fe

Santa Fe, the oldest capital in the United States, sits an hour north of Albuquerque.

This eclectic city attracts art lovers and foodies from around the globe. In particular, the Crosby Theatre at the Santa Fe Opera promises a magical evening to capture both the ears and the eyes. This award-winning, open-air theater permits guests to enjoy a 360-degree view of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. The complex hosts contemporary musicians as well as classical performers. Amir Landsman had actually made Santa Fe the home base during his family’s last visit to the Land of Enchantment.

Taking in Taos

Visitors who travel 50 miles south of the Colorado border can see the sights of Taos, a city with more than 20 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to its excellent ski resorts, Taos also offers nature enthusiasts the opportunity to fish, hike, bird watch and enjoy the scenery. Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside Taos.

Culture in Las Cruces

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, tourists should see the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. This interactive site brings meaning to the 3,000 years of farming and ranching that have sustained the region. The museum provides demonstrations and exhibits on milking, blacksmithing, saddle making, cowboy culture, Spanish conquistadors, Native American living, desert gardening, irrigation techniques and livestock practices.

Aliens in Roswell?

No trip to the Southwest would be complete without a stop in the alien capital of the world.
Roswell, New Mexico, acts as the epicenter for anything related to UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

After laughing at some creative advertising and reviewing some thought-provoking materials, visitors can return to Earth and check out the Roswell Museum and Art Center. This establishment presents southwestern watercolors, early modernist paintings and other examples of fine artwork. It also houses the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium, which aims to educate and entertain the public on the topic of space science.

Whether a stop for the night or home for a week, the Land of Enchantment has something to offer every traveler. Every trip to the southwestern United States should include some discovery time in New Mexico.

RAK: An Affordable Leisure Destination in UAE

Located in the northernmost region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the sheikdom Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has become a hotspot for tourism and business activity. With tons of tourist attractions, lower cost of living and great incentives for foreign businesses and investors, it is no wonder that this region has become so popular.

In recent years, under the rule of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ras Al Khaimah has successfully recovered from the credit crisis that affected countries across the globe. Since its economic rebound, RAK has rebranded itself as a top tourism destination in the United Arab Emirates.

A Tourism Hotspot

For tourists, Ras Al Khaimah offers affordability, breathtaking scenery, abundant activities and world-class dining. The savings start from the moment a visitor books a flight. With its own national carrier, RAK is able to offer inexpensive flights across the region as well as back and forth to Britain. After arriving at RAK, tourists can choose from an array of luxurious yet affordable beach-front hotels that provide spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf. Other attractions include world-class golf courses, parasailing, Iceland Water Park, aquatic adventures, motor racing, horseback riding and more.

Rapid Growth

When Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi took office in 2003, he made social and economic reform his primary concerns. These changes have lead to a rapid increase in tourism activity in the past three years. Since 2011, the number of annual visitors to Ras Al Khaimah has increased from 885,000 to an estimated 1.2 million. This rapidly growing tourism industry has begun to attract the attention of major hotel chains including Waldorf-Astoria and Doubletree.

Attractive Business Opportunities

In addition to attracting an increasing number of tourists, the emirate and Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi have also been receiving attention from businesses across the globe. With its stable political setting and thriving economy, RAK was awarded the title of “Most Attractive Place in the Middle East for FDI” by the Financial Times in 2009. Since then, this region has frequently been compared to popular financial centers like New York, London and Mumbai.

Thanks to Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi and his progressive approach to business, Ras Al Khaimah has created incentives to draw foreign businesses and investors to the region. These benefits are administered by the Investment and Development Office of the Ras Al Khaimah and include perks like 100 percent exemptions on corporate and income taxes, 100 percent capital and profit repatriation and a huge network of promotional centers throughout the UAE, Asia, Europe and the United States.

A Rising Emirate

With more affordable amenities and living costs than other UAE areas like Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah has become an increasingly popular destination for both tourists and businesses. That surge is expected to continue as more resorts, tourist attractions and business opportunities expand throughout Ras Al Khaimah. It’s no wonder that the diverse emirate is now known as “A Rising Emirate.”

As The Journey Continues

It was Aug. 31, 2009 when I last posted my last entry here. I even promised to update once in awhile, pero ayon hindi rin natupad. I have less time than I thought, yeah it’s as simple as that. Life has changed since we moved here in Brandenburg and since hubby opened his own medical clinic. Nag changed ang takbo nang buhay ko dahil isa ako sa kanyang fulltime alalay doon. I have to learn a lot of things…with success naman sa awa ng Diyos. Pero it is a challenge talaga to work in a field na labag sa kalooban ko. Lalo na’t hindi ito related sa aking profession, so I’m having a lot of difficulties adjusting to this new role. In addition to that, hindi rin ako sanay na kasama ang asawa sa trabaho or ang asawa ko ang BOSS ko. The problem in the case of a spouse is the potential emotional boomerang. Usually what happens is, if it doesn’t work out, the employee leaves and you never see them again, di vah? But in this case, if it doesn’t work out, you go home and have dinner together. That’s where the problem lies. Infact, we got so consumed with our business relationship that we end up talking/arguing business all the time even at home. So there’s no escape from business at all. The first eight months was a nightmare!

So one day, I was so fed up, I left the clinic without saying a word. Hubby was angry of course, he called and asked me to come back. But all I said was “no I’m not and that we really have to talk when you come home”. Because of that talk, our relationship has flourished to heights that weren’t possible after we start the business. Our heart to heart talk was what made our relationship to what it is now versus what it was before. A hundred times better. Well anyways, concocting the ideal recipe to combine a thriving business and a successful marriage is not easy, especially when you work together, but it can be done with understanding and compromise.

I know that our business is very important but so our marriage and family too. Inspite of all the difficulties…I am still lucky to have a husband like my husband. Who listens to my litany of complaints, opinions and ramblings and takes my feelings into consideration. It was actually my mistake that I didn’t open my mouth and talk about what bothered me earlier ago. We closed this chapter of our life, but we are still working together in our business as TEAM. And we are also working on our marriage to keep the shine. We will keep working on our marriage and working through whatever challenges we would face in the future. There are no experts on marriage and it is not something we learn in a book. But something we must learn by doing over and over again…a practice we must adjust as our journey continues…


We went to Bali for our second honeymoon last Dec. 20 til Dec. 31. We stayed at Nikko Bali Hotel Resort and Spa in Nusa Dua for 10 days. Bali is lovely. It is one of the few places in the whole world that I would actually want to go back. There are stunning sunsets, sculpted rice terraces and a temple on almost every corner. And for less-spiritual seekers, this steamy Indonesian island also has great surfing and a rollicking night life.

The Hafner's Christmas 2008

Christmas Tree 2008

This year’s December 25th is not only Christmas but it also happen to be my 25th Christmas celebration here in Germany. Dati rati, lagi akong umiiyak kapag Pasko dahil miss na miss ko ang aking buong pamilya sa Davao. Napaka-dry and near to lifeless kasi ang selebrasyon nila dito. It took me a while before I finally get adjusted, but still I can’t avoid feeling melancholy and pensive. Well…c’est la vie!

But tell you what? This time it is absolutely different. This Christmas is one of my happiest and most memorable of all times. Why? It is because we are lucky WE achieved many of our goals this year. AND I am lucky to have a husband with a good business head on his shoulders. I am lucky to have my eldest son to be proud of. Lucky to have a daughter like Kathleen, lucky to have Gillian who tells me daily he loves me “and everything” and he will often thank me for making him meals or playing with him. And I am lucky to have a loving, supporting and understanding parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Like I said we achieved a lot of our goals this year, not only us here but also my whole family back in Davao.

I can write a long story kong bakit ang Paskong ito ay isa sa pinakamasaya kong Pasko, but I’d rather not say anything. Hehehe, as if hindi ko alam na maraming *familiar non-blogger enviers lurking here na nag-aabang lang nang pagkakataon para masabi nilang: “Ayan nagyabang na naman si Beng.” *Merry Christmas and peace be with you bad tongues and wicked ears.

Life is full of…mysteries, happiness, pains, difficulties, possibilities, beauties and blessings.

Simple Christmas celebration at home. Thank you Lord for everything!

My son Ivan took his masters last year, and now he’s working at a big firm in Neuss and appointed to a high position just after a few months.

My two sweet makulets…waiting for more Christmas gifts.

The most loving and selfless person I’ve ever met. He keep on telling me not to buy gift for him, but I did this time. He simply deserved it…

Family’s Christmas present: Cookie! A Labrador Retriever.

Last but not least…si Lola niyo.

German And Holidays

Today is October 3 and it is a national holiday here in Germany. We (dahil german shepherd dog na rin ako) are celebrating “The Day of German Unity”. Anong ginagawa namin sa araw na ito? Wala! Pero malamang na ang mga high ranking officials at invited guests nila ay may party doon sa Berlin. Ang mga maliliit na tao na nakatulad ko o namin ay nasa bahay lang. Ay! Yong iba ay umaalis pala pero kami ay nandito lang sa bahay, nakapajama pa nga ako hanggang tanghali. Nakapajamang nakatunganga sa makulimlim na langit (at may hawak na isang tasang kape), nag-iisip ng wala. I was in the state of mental blankness ng bigla akong sinundot ni mister sabay sabing “magbihis ka na meme (tulog) queen, we go shopping”. Hah? Shopping where? Sarado lahat ngayon ah. Hubby: “But not in Netherland”. Oh yes, how can I forget that…malapit lang pala kami sa border. Then I said: “Oy magaling na lalaki, baka nakalimutan mo na ang naging experience natin last time as we went to the outlet store in Roermond. It took us three hours to drive there dahil halos lahat ng German ay naisipan ding pumunta doon.” Hubby: “Nah! Hindi siguro ganun katraffic papuntang Venlo.” Okay, Venlo is just 3 Kilometers away from our place so we took the risk. Haaay nakuuu, pa exit palang kami papuntang Autobahn nakita ko na ang haba ng pila ng mga sasakyan. Since nasa exit lane na kami, wala ng chance pang umikot…so ayon sige tuloy maneho.

Oh my holly goat! Nakaidlip nalang ako, nakanguya na ng tatlong chewing gum (napanis na kasi ang laway ko eh) hindi pa rin kami nangalahati sa tatlong kilometro. We left home around half past one and we arrived in Venlo at quarter to three. Naalala ko tuloy ang traffic sa Maynila na bumper to bumper, ganun din kanina sa Autobahn. Sa loob ng Mall kong wala lang kaming dalang shopping cart, siguro ang labas ay nguso to nguso dahil sa dami ng tao. Halo-halo pati ang amoy na hindi ko ma identify. It was not “Axe”, hindi rin “Charlie” at lalong hindi :devious “Jo Malone” (ngehehe, remember Malu Fermandez?). Majority ng mga shoppers ay german siyempre noh. Noon at ngayon ay walang pagbabago. Tuwing may darating na holiday, kahit isang araw lang yan…ang mga ito ay nag i-stockpiling. Para bang takot na maubusan at magutuman. Para bagang last chance na nilang mamili bago lulubog ang mundo. Basta’t yan ang impression ko sa kanila. Sa loob ng 24 years na pagtira ko dito ganun pa rin sila.

Napilitan lang kaming umalis dahil naubusan kami ng kape para sa coffee maker na ito. Bumili kami ng sako-sako na para sulit ang biyahe at saka mura lang kasi. Price comparison: one kilo Lavazza or Segafredo caffee, in Germany it cost 18.00 Euro, in Netherland we only pay half of the price. O di ba at cheaper sila? Pero sa susunod kong maubusan na naman kami ng kape (at nataon na holiday), mas pipiliin ko pang magsangag ng mais (pwede na kahit pang popcorn) at yon ang ilalaga ko kaysa makisunod doon sa crowd ng mga alimango.