My Greek Odyssey

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Photo by: PG.

From Dublin, I have now made it to Greece. Greece has always been on top of my bucket list and I cannot believe its finally happening.  Most of my fantasies and assumptions about Greece were from watching films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Life in Ruins, and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as a young girl.  The Hellenic Republic, commonly known as Greece is located in Southeastern Europe consisting of thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Greece is not only beautiful with its ocean landscape but it holds a distinct architectural importance as well; with it’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, among the most in Europe and the world, dating back to 400 BC. It’s the cradle of Western civilization; being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, and the Olympic Games, among many other unprecedented events.

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I started my trip from the capital city, Athína or Athens; the largest city in Greece. After what felt like a long never-ending flight, first thing on our mind was to get a taste of some authentic Greek food. From the airport, we headed straight for the Syntagma Square, city center, where we had the perfect al fresco meal while people-watching. Seated beside us were a couple of lovely ladies, who were so interesting that we ended up spending almost 2 hours at lunch in their company. It was the perfect start to our trip. For the next few days, we explored all that Athens has to offer. Athens is relatively a small city, but it is packed with places to see. Some of my favorites were the Plaka district, Monastiraki Square, and the University of Athens Street. Though my absolute beloved was the Acropolis; it is magnificent and dreamy. It is set on an extremely rocky outcrop so high that it is visible from almost anywhere from central Athens. The Acropolis contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. My fond memory is of overlooking the Acropolis all lit up under the night sky while dining at a Michelin Star restaurant; it was the best of the old and the new world all in one gulp. Talking about food… Greek food is simply delicious and irresistible. Fresh pita bread, yummy tzatziki, stuffed tomatoes with rice, street side falafels/gyros, mouthwatering Greek salads, homemade Greek yogurt and baklava to just name a few, were all so enticing and fresh to the palate. From my encounters, Athens is a very safe city and the people here are among the sweetest. Most everyone speaks English.

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From Athens, next on Greek adventures was Santorini. It’s a quick 30 mins flight if all goes well. That being said, none of it went well. We boarded a 7:00 am flight hoping on capitalizing the day roaming around in Santorini, but fate had it that we made it all the way to Santorini but right as we got ready to descend to land our captain got orders from the air traffic controller to return back to Athens. It was like; we saw it, felt it, and right as we were about to taste it, it dropped! Upon returning back to Athens with a plane full of angry passengers, we found out the flight that landed ahead of us, broke its wing and since there is only one runway on the entire airport, all flights to and from Santorini have been delayed/canceled. Santorini is a very famous tourist spot and Athens airport is one of the primary airports in Greece, so you can just imagine the chaos at the airport. The lines to see an airline representative were 4 hrs long. After a missed day in Santorini and a hustle day at the airport, we managed to get ourselves on an overnight red-eye flight that got us to Santorini at 3 AM. All’s well that ends well, upon waking up in Santorini that morning the view out of the hotel room was surreal, it’s Paradise! Electric blue ocean as far as the eye can see and the caldera right in the middle. Good Morning Indeed!

Santorini is striking. The whitewashed cubiform houses with blue doors and blue domes are very charming and one of its kind in the entire world. Santorini is clung to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). The towns overlook the magnificent blue sea, below the cliffs are beaches made up of red, white, and black lava pebbles. Most of the towns are within a walking distance from one another. Each tiny town, however, varies from the others with its unique characteristics and vibe. Santorini is known for its awestruck sunsets and it’s 100% surreal, hard to put in words but something that should just be experienced first hand. Recommended by a lot of locals, on one of the days, we went to the castle to view the sunset, the crowds are unbelievable, especially at these ‘hot-spots’ (to find a good spot be sure to arrive at least an hour prior to the sunset time). The other days, we settled for a more of a private show right from the balcony of our room; where a hot tube, a chill glass of wine and speakers playing Sam Smith made it all the more remarkable and memorable. On a side note, stray skinny black cats meow and scuttle in and out of every corner. There is a serious cat issue in Greece, believe it or not, you can rent a cat here all day for 5 euros!

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Next, an early morning ferry ride from Santorini got us to Mykonos in about 4 hours. Mykonos island is a famous for its white buildings and colorful shutters, block print cobblestoned pathways, 16th-century windmills, bright colored flowers on sills, turquoise skies, sandy beaches, boutique shopping, small cafes, churches and high-end dining. However, this tiny island is most popular for its summer parties; massive dance clubs and beach parties attract world-renowned DJs and crowds from across the globe, these parties typically stay open well past dawn. Unlike Ibiza, this party town attracts an upscale crowd that thrives on its stylish nightlife. With mostly tourist crowds inhabiting the island, not much is Greek about this island, but it is well worth a visit to witness the vibe and mojo of this place. Mykonos has also made its mark among the Gay community, with tons of bars, clubs, hotel, and parties serving them with pride. For the few days that we are here, we did a self-tour of the island, went to the Super Paradise Beach, and checked out a couple of parties.  There’s a number of great restaurants here, especially Italian. Some of the best pasta, pizzas, and risotto I have had outside of Italy. My last day in Mykonos was spent by the harbor, capturing the last sunset here while drinking “slightly” too much and laughing a little too heartily as this Greek adventure is unfolding to its end. 12 days of pure bliss and new cultural encounters, was everything I wanted. I am already sensing heavy withdrawals of all the fun under the sun while in Greece.

On a personal note, on this father’s day, I think back to why I travel? I travel because I can, because I enjoy it and because my parents didn’t get a chance too. Between raising two kids, running a business, my parents, especially my mom never got the opportunity to leave her nest. Though they both would always encourage my brother and me to go on every field trip and to see as many new places we can. It makes them so excited and proud that I have seen so much of what the world has to offer. My favorite is to call my parents from abroad and to just listen to their voice, it almost sounds like we have transcended a few decades, my mom start’s raising her pitch and talks so fast as if that call is charging me a bank. I take tons of pictures like all travelers, but mine are mostly for my parents to live vicariously through them. I am proud to say my mom and dad have traveled virtually everywhere with me! So all you folks out there, get out there and see what life is like outside your town/state/country… try that new dish that sounds weird, be bold, learn a new language, go make your parents proud. As Aesop said it,” Adventure, is worthwhile!”

OPA!

Photo Courtesy: Prashant Gandhi and Google Images

Wedding Dairy #4: Mic Drop

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Thank you for being part of the wedding dairies.

It has been few weeks since the wedding. It was everything and more I ever imagined it to be. The weeklong festivities went by so fast that it almost seems like a dream. Almost a year’s worth of effort and thought was put into materializing the perfect day, and for it to get done so fast almost seems unfair lol. With all the celebrations and so many loved ones from around the world to celebrate us, these were undoubtedly one of the most memorable and cherished days of our lives.

In these few weeks; we took a quick getaway trip to Delhi (Capital of India) and Agra to see the iconic Taj Mahal and to just relax and absorb the fact that we are married. In the mean time, first edits of the pictures and videos are here and we are short-listing them for the final album. I am so excited, I can’t wait to see the final version and to re-live these days vicariously through all the pictures.

It has been so much fun in these last four months in India but its time to say goodbye to India and head for new adventures in California now. With that being said it’s also time for a wrap of the Wedding Diary Series. It was a pleasure and a true joy to share this journey with you and I thank you for all the feedbacks, comments, and wishes that I have received. There was a remarkable amount of people who read this series and I am so glad we were able to connect and share something so personal and cultural.

Until next time, take care. Namaste!

Photo Courtesy: Devang

The adventures continue: Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Beyond…

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I love to travel; it takes me away from my daily routine and errands. Traveling gives me an opportunity to discover myself. It makes me realize, how amazingly beautiful our world is; full of fascinating people and interesting things to do.
This time, I am back in action exploring Eastern Europe. It was a perfect getaway trip with my friends for 13 days; traveling around the capital cities of Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. This was the first time; I was visiting Europe without coming here for work. In my mind, I was constantly contemplating on how unique of a cultural experience this would have been if I was here for a few months instead of a short time. Nonetheless, it was the perfect trip to get introduced to these countries with a striking first impression that’s going to leave me with no option but to return back to adore its beauty again.

My flight from U.S. was via Paris. The guy next to me definitely made this long journey pleasurable. He was a talkative Spaniard, who only understood Spanish, which made it all the more fun. It was fun talking to him because it forced me to brush up on my elementary Spanish skills, lol. Within an hour of my flight landing, the rest of my friends also arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport; hence the shenanigans began. Since it was a weekend, Berlin proved to be the perfect starting point. We took the city hop on and off tour, which allowed us to conveniently cover all the major highlights in the short time we were there. With Germany’s dark past, Berlin is bursting with a rich history. Though, the modern day Berlin is very socialist. Culture is quite diverse from what we could tell. The food was also quite interesting, with a heavy emphasis on potatoes and beer; a must try staple food, currywurst. We meet a bunch of foreigners here, who were traveling and making the most of the last few days of the summer, just like us. Meeting new people and making friends is the best part of traveling. It fascinates me to meet people from different parts of the world as they each have a story to share; thus changing my perception of life.

We caught an early morning fast train. In 4 hours, next up was Prague for us. If I have to describe Prague in one word, it would be…beauty! It is breathtaking everywhere you look. Prague is relatively small compared to Berlin but in no terms was it short on its enchantment. On the first day, we just roamed around on our own, admiring its old splendor while absorbing the Czech culture. Czech’s are very laid back people, however, a bit estranged at hospitality. Later, we found out from our tour guide that this is due to their culture and the communist mentality that was oppressed on them over the generations. Prague is divided into two half’s; Old town located at an elevation of a hill (consisting of the palace and acres of land with palace owned properties) and New town (more for the commoners). The iconic Charles Bridge connects both the towns. All of us decided to take the guided walking tour to see each of the towns in a stretch of two days. It turned out to be the best decision for us. We meet so many amazing people from around the world, who were part of our walking tour and together we got an excellent interactive glimpse of the Czech’s capital city. We also took a night cruise to admire Prague all lite up from the Vltava River. Prague was full of people and more so of tourist. Hence, mostly everyone spoke English and the food varieties were also very continental. One interesting thing we noticed, most of all local men we meet, (i.e. tour guide, bartender, taxi driver, restaurant waiter, etc.) all were of different nationalities but they each had moved to Prague because they fell in love with a Czech girl. Each of the men was in pursuit of chasing a girl. Haha. It is said that Czech women are the most beautiful looking women in the world!

After another four hours on a fast train from Prague; we made it to Vienna. Vienna is stunning; it looks like a Fairytale story setting in real life. White buildings everywhere with marvelous architecture make it a magical city. It was hard to absorb all of its beauty in one sweep. I was stunned by its miles and miles of charm. It is hard to explain in words, I haven’t seen any city like Vienna. To me, the city is a stunning woman wearing a crisp white gown with diamond jewels. The quality of the air is excellent; the tap water is the purest water you’ll ever find; coming straight from the Alps. The roads are extremely clean and most of the people you see are all dressed professionally in suits; giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. Vienna caters heavily to the international crowd; there is a large United Nations presence here as well. I can’t imagine how exciting of a place Vienna would be to live and work in. Due to the limitation of time, we decided again, to take a 2-day hop on and off tour bus, in which we covered all major highlights of this city. Also, I meet up with an old friend, who I know from working at the State Department in Italy. ‘On a side note, the most treasured thing that I have acquired from working with the U.S. Department of State is making friends and knowing people, all over the world.’ Not to any surprise, the culinary and the night scene in Vienna were excellent, very elegant. One of my favorite memories from Vienna was the apartment we lived in. The alluring setting consisted of white walls, white sheer curtain, white furniture, wood flooring and with an accent of red chandeliers. To top it off, a Mercedes waiting downstairs to take us around.. is my kind of European lifestyle. ☺

After a week long of exploring, we were back at another round of weekend shenanigan’s, with our last stop at Budapest. While riding the short 2-hour train ride, is exactly, when we began to feel the Hungarian excitement. Most of the passengers on the train were young and were already in a party mood. Budapest is known for its young and vibrant appeal; very laid back and a fun city. Budapest has a massive thermal bath culture; there are several public baths in the city. They believe that it heals the body and keeps the mind fresh. We decided to take on the bath culture a notch further and booked our tickets to a “Sparty Night”. The Szechenyi Thermal Bathhouse is over a 100 years old and is Europe’s largest bath complex; on selected Saturday nights it turns into a Spa party for the youth. Attending the Sparty was probably the craziest, unique and coolest experience for all of us. Another highlight in Budapest was watching the fireworks show, for the Hungarian Independence day, from the iconic Chain Bridge. Over a million people had come out to see the fireworks display and to enjoy a day full of live music, food, and festivities. Talking about food, it was excellent; a little on the hot side but very authentic and true to its culture. Even their traditional coffee has a kick of peppers in it! Lol. Eggs are a very big part of their diet; omelets and desserts are a must try as they are simply delicious. My favorite place was the New York Café, it is exquisite. They tag themselves as the most beautiful café in the world, and they are definitely not lying. Since FIFA world cup was going on, we had a great time catching the game with a group of diverse people from around the world.

Four major cities, in four major countries, in 13 days, with great friends, is enough to make this trip full of lasting memories to treasure for a lifetime. Once again, I fell in love and I left a piece of my heart in these countries- to their amazing culture, their culinary experiences, to the interesting people I meet along the way and to all the wonderful moments I had. As I am moving through this life, my travel experiences are leaving marks on me. After each new journey, I am not the same person that I was before…the experience that comes with traveling leaves me a bit more informed and more aware. It makes me realize how big this world is and how much there is still left, yet to explore.
With the holidays just around the corner, I hope you fill your life with different escapades and not things. The experience of traveling gives you an opportunity to share stories for years to come!!!
Take care, until next time! Tschüss.

 

Photo Courtesy:Google &  Dhara Shah

London Calling At The Top Of The Dial!

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London

Hello peeps,

Together we have seen and encountered a lot, no journey is truly fulfilling for me without sharing the experiences! “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta, couldn’t agree more!

With that being said its time to go on a yet another adventures, cultural, fun and informational journey to the land of the Queen, which they call it United Kingdom. For the next few months we are headed to the ever so charming LONDON City. It is bound to be an amusing experience because it is claimed; “a bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else!” haha…hopes are skyrocketing now.

I am going to be working at the US Embassy in London for the United States Department of State in the office of the Public Affairs. It’s an interesting position, time and place to be, considering the diplomacy and relations happening between the two major countries of the world; US and UK.

So, fasten your seat belt tight cause your in for an insider vicarious treat; for a closer look at the world of US diplomacy, life in London, hot and happing eye witnesses, new experiences, cuisine, photos, and all things English.

Until next time, Cheerio!

Photo Courtesy: Google

Look, Listen, and Learn- México

Viva Mexico!

Viva Mexico!

Ciao Bella is undoubtedly my favorite greeting, however, I am slowly falling in love with Hola Señorita…it has a nice ring to it 😉

Some of the random yet interesting things I have noticed and experienced in Mexico are: I was amazed to see so many whites call themselves Mexicans. There is heavy blend of Europeans in Mexico, with majority having roots from Germany.

Paseo Ciclista

Paseo Ciclista

In spite of being a third world country, I found Mexico City very developed and modern; despite all its problems, Mexico is radiant and striving in its ancient history and modern advances. I find the people and culture in Mexico very rich. Talking to the locals about politics and other issues opened so many opportunities to understand the society and its issues from a personal perspective. Something I found interesting was in spite of being a Catholic society, Mexicans worship Mother Mary instead of Jesus; for Mexicans, a mother is a problem solver, so when the Spaniards came and showed the Aztec’s the picture of Jesus, they asked for his mother and started worshiping her. I was also in awe by the health initiative called Paseo Ciclista, where every Sunday the major streets in Mexico City are closed from 7 am to 2 pm to encourage people to bike, walk, and jog. After walking several miles, Lexi and I ended up on a street corner getting a massage lol. Alcohol is a big part of the culture yet it is not abused. The reason to drink are very different from the US mentality, which is to get drunk. Most Mexicans drink for a socialization time with their friends and family; a shot of tequila is not taken all in at once rather it is slowly sipped on.

Street Corner Massage

Street Corner Massage

The shocker to me was the Mexican’s love for American Super Bowl, yet their hate rate towards Team USA in international games, they love to see us lose. On the other hand, another great experience was to witness Mexico win the FIFA game against Croatia and the celebrations that followed thereafter for several days.

For the MEX vs CRO FIFA game

For the MEX vs CRO FIFA game

Mexican American’s  view themselves fortunate for being given the opportunity to live and advance in a country like America. However, new generation Mexicans are not interested in coming to U.S. They feel more free and independent in Mexico. The belief is that the U.S. government takes to much care of its people which makes people lazy and dependent. It will be interesting to see how the changing views will affect the future immigration polices between the two countries.

Bullfighting in Mexico resumes from July and is a seasonal blood sport; even though the government wants it abolishd, it is still running on popular demand of the public as they see it as preserving tradition and facilitating tourism. They also see the sacrifice of the bull as a tribute to all the matadors who have lost their lives in this sport.

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Animal Rights Protest

#17 Protest

#17 Protest

Drugs, kidnapping and cartels are causally discussed here; the cartels are more heavily active in Guadalajara but the operations are active all over Mexico, but not as much open in D.F. because of the heavy police presence. Like all capital cities Mexico City see its share of protest, while my time there I witnessed several of them. The most significant being the 8 mile long one on animal rights and the #17 protest- 17 represents the district of Guadalajara where all the problems start because of the cartels.Protesters for #17 were dressed in white lab coats to represent the doctor who lost his life in the crossfire. In one of my conversations, I found out last week a local friends husband was kidnapped by some armatures and instead of reporting it to the police or getting a negotiator the wife bargained the ransom from $1000 to $200. On my surprise, it was explained that if you show you have money there are greater chances of being a victim again…yet life moves on and people have somehow manage to live a happy life around all this.

On the other hand Mexico is much more advanced then we might think, yet they are able to advance while holding their culture strong. The Spanish language is beautiful, and it is based around respect for older and others which is a lot similar to the Indian languages; the language class and Mexico in general was a great opportunity to brush up on my Spanish.

The most amusing thing was when people saw me, they couldn’t quite figure out what am I…like I am some alien, they would stare at me, take pictures with me lol; eventually some would figure it out and land to the conclusion that I am a Hindu, somehow they would figure that out from my eyes-some eyes I’ve got haha. Hence, I took it upon myself to educate them by telling every single one that I am an Indian American, and Hindu is a religion not origin, though my efforts went only so far lol.

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It is quite a delight to have coffee with churros while watching the aztec dance and listing to the mariachis perform in the background for the lovely couple who is dancing on the street. Overall, Mexico is quite an experience and a must recommended one if you’re looking for a cultural experience.

Photo Courtesy: Dhara Shah

Mexperience! – Recent Experiences in México

El Ángel de la Independencia

El Ángel de la Independencia

We are half way through the year and OMG so much has happened since I last blogged in January, where I talked about capitalizing on every opportunity and living life to its fullest. Well that’s what I have been doing: I came back from Italy, went to New York to work at United Nations, and now Mexico.

I have been to Mexico before but only to the tourist island traps like Cozumel, the real Mexico lies within Mexico City aka Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal, or just D.F. – the capital of Mexico. It is the country’s economic, history, political, art, and cultural hub. There are about 25 million people and twice as many cars on the road. I have never seen as many cops in my life as many I have seen in Mexico City, they say for every 3 people on the street there is 1 cop. Making it one of the largest metropolitan city in the western hemisphere.

Bellas Artes

Bellas Artes

Undoubtedly traveling opens the mind and widens your horizon. So your probably wondering what am I doing in Mexico, I am here on a research project on bilateral polices and immigration for the U.S. Department of Education with a group of other Americans. The entire research covers Canada, USA, and Mexico. Now more on what I did and what I experienced in Mexico…

My flight here came via Texas which almost felt like I was in mini Mexico, the guy next to me on the plane who was a local gave me all the travel tips…the most significant being don’t go close to black SUV’s those are cartels…thanks but I watch movies too! The one across the aisle was a 18 year old Mormon who was going to Mexico for 5 years on a mission trip, his excitement made me even more excited for my trip; he didn’t seem to mind the violence, drugs, and cartels that my neighbor was trying to scare us off of.

Diego Rivera's murals inside the National Palace

Diego Rivera’s murals inside the National Palace

Catedral Metropolitana

Catedral Metropolitana

Morning couldn’t have come early and I was more than eager to check the city out, I live about 5 mins from the city center, Zocalo. And of course I did the most touristy thing you could imagine, I took the city hop on and off tour bus lol. D.F. is incredibly big, its divided into 10 sections…to give you an idea the tour bus had four different routes, I saw all the major spots and city highlights, by the end of the day I was pretty familiar with the different areas and places to go. I didn’t get home till late that evening, where I found my roommate Lexi waiting on me. Lexi and I instantly connected; we soon became partners in crime 😉 Over the past few days Lexi and I went back to all those places that I thought were worth checking out from the bus tour. In spite of being in the middle of summer, it is  quite freezing in Mexico and it rains almost every day.

at Mama Rumba

at Mama Rumba

We also checked out a couple of cool places like the La Terraza (rooftop bar) where we tried a couple of local drinks like Sambuca, Sol, Paloma, Cereza, and Don Julio among others. Mama Rumba (Salsa Club) was another great experience which we went with a friend from Brazil. It is a must expereice thing, we were dancing since the minute we walked in until we were ready to drop dead from all the spinning. There were people from 80 to 16 year olds, salsa dancing is a casual thing; it is not at all creepy for older guys more like grandpa’s to dance with younger girls at a salsa club. Thanks to some salsa practice from back in Rome I was somewhat on my game, but the live Cuban band was the highlight of the night. This night was also the first time we experienced the bus, train, and taxi system of Mexico- all in one night. My favorite area in the city is definitely Zona Rosa, Centro Histotorico, and Condesa –It’s young, lively and popping.

Crowded Streets of D.F.

Crowded Streets of D.F.

FIFA in Zocalo

FIFA in Zocalo

One of the most hilarious and nerve racking experiences was always getting lost with Lexi; we would simply miss a turn and omg we would be several blocks off, because of which we accidentally stumbled upon the black market area where they sell knock offs of every brand you can imagine from Apple to Nike. Though thanks to our super sweet driver Senior Jose Luis we always made it home safe and sound. We also meet several random Americans on the street, it is always nice to hear someone speak in English and meet someone from back home…its like an unspoken act of patriotism when you meet fellow Americans to tell each other what places one should not miss to see.

Margarita with hot sauce

Margarita with hot sauce

 

Me trying all the different drinks

Me trying all the different drinks

With the Executive Chef, Oscar

With the Executive Chef, Oscar

One of the best ways to experience the culture is through its food. Mexican food is nothing we are used to eating in America. The secret ingredient in everything is hot sauce and lemon, the most shocking to me was the use of hot sauce in Margaritas- trust me, they don’t spare anything when it comes to using salsa (hot sauce). One of my favorite thing was our 5 hour long brunch on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, which is centrally located and overlooks the Zócalo where the crowed had gathered to see the FIFA game on the big screen. The hotel is one of the best in the city with renowned architecture; the most eye catching is its stained glass ceiling. The service we received was spectacular; our server, Julio, and the manger, Ricardo, treated us like royals and brought us so many authentic Mexican things to try both food and drinks. My favorite being the authentic flan, cóctel de guanábana and the traditional Mexican black coffee. Among everything some of the most unique stuff I had was: Nopal (cactus), Huitlacoche tacos (the fungus from corn shucks), Pacinta (hangover cure soup), Jamaica (delicious juice made from a unique red flower), Paloma (Grapefruit cocktail), Pancita, Mamey (tropical fruit), Chia (seeds), Esquites Elotes (corn salad), Mole (chocolate dessert with spices), among dozen other things. The best part of the brunch was the executive chef, Oscar, who came out with an English translator at several occasions to ask us if we would like to try anything else which was not included in the menu, he also shared his business card and email address and told us to contact him if we ever needed anything- not to forget we also got a napkin rose to take home 🙂

USA vs GRE Game

USA vs GRE Game

Gringos aka Americans

Gringos aka Americans

After spending some incredible time in Mexico City we headed over to Cuernavaca which is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos, its about an hour from D.F. The drive is very beautiful, overlooking mountains and it was very entertaining while chatting about Mexico with our driver Senior Jose Lusi. Cuernavaca is beautiful, big, with crazy traffic, yet a lot different from D.F. It is quite authentic and traditional in cultural terms; there is a heavy influence of the Aztec culture. In Cuernavaca we meet a group of 12 students from Georgia Southern University who were there for study aboard; we had so much fun together going places, especially watching the USA vs GER FIFA World Cup game. Lexi and I worked quite hard during the week collecting data, attending language classes, going to meetings, etc, etc- but we would take full advantage of the night and the weekend to try new things and to see new places. At one occasion we found ourselves inside a circle made of all gay men cheering for us to show our salsa moves…it was quite an experience yet most memorable one. I noticed Mexico having a huge number of same sex couples, especially in D.F. It is quite a norm here and no one gives it a second glance. The biggest Gay Pride Parade was hosted on June 28 where over a million people came out in support.

With Lexi and Edson-  los tres mosqueteros

With Lexi and Edson-
los tres mosqueteros

What made the experience of Mexico the most memorable one was my brother/friend Edson and his family whom I meet in Cuernavaca. Edson and his family went out of their way to show Lexi and I a good time and to embrace us in the Mexican Culture. Edson is 24 years old and studies Music and has a twisted sarcastic humor, he calls me Gringa but is extremely caring as so are his parents; his brother, Guillermo aka Memo who is beyond funny and is a school teacher and a soccer player. One big thing I admire about the Hispanic culture is the value they put in life and on family. In spite of the corruption, cartels, drugs, violence people here believe in enjoying life and making each moment count; Family is the most important thing and comida (lunch) means a mini family reunion, where the entire family comes together to eat and chat for hours everyday. Edson’s mom spends hours preparing comida everyday where her entire family comes together to eat and spend hours together talking, laughing, and discussing current issues. Life is definitely taken one step at a time here with priorities put on relationships rather than on personal career success. Edson soon became the favorite among all my other American friends. Going to the museums and to other downtown sites with him was exceptionally amusing with all personal insights into the culture. As well as trying tacos at local joints, shopping, attend his musical concert and his brother’s football (soccer) game where also some incredibly fun times.

Photo Courtesy: Google and Dhara Shah

2014 a Reality

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“In your life you only get to do so many things and right now you have chosen to do this so lets make it great and be passionate about it.”

Passion is such a simple and overly used word but we never take the time to actually understand it. Italy has now become home to me, home away from home. It has shaped me and molded me and showed me the person I am and can be.  Working at a dynamic place like the State Department and living in Italy has given me the opportunity to meet some really cool people from all diffrent background. Not only are these people ambitious, smart and fascinating they are passionate and optimistic about whatever it is they love doing. They motivate me to be better; by finding my place in life, writing my own rules and most importantly to live life with a passion. It amazes me how these people take their passion and chase it over and over. By passion I mean something you enjoying doing; could be anything from photography, traveling, music, culture, hiking, salsa, to attending food festivals.

These people surround me, my friends and co-workers make it a point to take time out and live for it.  The other day one of my co-workers asked me what I am passionate about and to be honest I actually don’t know. I am to focus on being successful, that I forgot what I want to be successful for; what am I going to use this success for.  So I am currently on a new mission; I am trying everything, getting out of my comfort zone and truth be told I am discovering a whole new me. I am finding my place in life and am making it a point to live for things I enjoy doing.  Strangely traveling so much, experiencing new cultures along with meeting people from different walks of life has got be feeling that there is too much to do/see/experience and I certainly don’t want to miss out.

If you haven’t already discovered what you live for then join me; together starting in this New Year we can live for something we love, something we are passionate about…for those of you who already do–Salud.

Happy New Year!!! May 2014 bring you only the best of all…and we get to share and make many more memories through this blog.

 

Photo: Dhara Shah