Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Winding down in San Diego

May 9, 2007

I always find it a bit difficult the last week or so of a long trip. Suddenly home feels so close, and the focus shifts from living in the moment to anticipating the return.

Though I had these transitionary feelings, I also had family and friends to spend time with in San Diego. I flew in from San Francisco and caught up with some high school friends in Pacific Beach over the weekend before moving to my cousins’ beautiful home in La Mesa.

Pacific Beach is quite suburban, but also extremely close to the beach. It is definitely a collegial atmosphere, and there are plenty of bars to keep one busy. It is also something of a mini-Boston–there are Red Sox hats everywhere. Good late night food is always a plus–I’ve never eaten burritos so consistently.

La Mesa is about a half hour from San Diego, but having my own bed (and room!) was well worth the move. I also had the opportunity to spend time with family and cousins. It’s fun to hang out with 4 and 6 year olds. Coloring easter eggs, making orange juice from home grown oranges, and playing trains were just some of the ways we entertained ourselves

Other highlights included hiking, the TNT at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego where my friend Adam Crossman volunteers, and sampling some quality Mexican food at such places as Ranchos.

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Pizza Hut is Posh! Fast Food in China

March 15, 2007

Looking for a place to celebrate a birthday party or an engagement? Maybe you even need a venue for a wedding party. Why not go to Pizza Hut, where the “McDonalds is always nicer abroad” maxim is taken to another level. While I didn’t dine in a Pizza Hut, it was impossible not to notice the sleek tables and trendy interior design at some of the many restaurant locations in Shanghai.

I’m not just imagining the possibility of a Pizza Hut wedding–my friend and host Tania who lives and teaches English in Shanghai has a friend who celebrated the big day with some personal pan pizzas. In Xian, another teacher I met had students who celebrated their engagement at McDonald’s. Admittedly, these fast food venues are almost entirely different in terms of interior design.

I do find it interesting, however, that during a time when anti-americanism is very high, the demand for American fast food seems to be rising exponentially. I’ve yet to see a McDonald’s that isn’t busy. On my map of Beijing, McDonalds are used as landmarks–I counted 68 in total. In Shanghai I felt like Starbucks was following me around. At the Yiyuan gardens, there was a line of 20 people out the door.

I guess the idea that people are able to distinguish between government policy and the general population also applies to business. In my opinion, I would rather have the hole-in-the-wall noodle restaurant than a McDonald’s selling Red Bean Pie. Or an independently owned tea shop instead of yet another Starbucks.

Alas, things change and nowhere is it harder to hold on to the past than in a place like Shanghai. I just hope the next time I visit I will be able to buy a plateful of dumplings on the side of the road instead of a Big Mac.

Go Fly a Kite

January 23, 2007

On the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand, Courtney and I waited for enough wind to allow us to take kitesurfing lessons.  All of our waiting (4 days!) was in vain–you need at least 10 knots to fly these kites!  I’ve been wanting to try since seeing the huge and colorful kites on Lighthouse beach in Chatham. 

Enter Mui Ne Beach in Vietnam where the wind blows everyday.  From about 10:30 to 4:00, one can count over 30 kites in the air.  We decided to take the plunge (quite literally at times) and spent the next few days (5 hrs of lessons) learning the basics of kitesurfing.  It is definitely not easy, and the sheer power of the kite can be intimidating, but it is a lot of fun.  The lessons progress from flying a small kite on land to “bodydragging” in the water with a larger kite and longer lines before finally trying to incorporate the board.  My attempts at getting up on the board resulted in a lot of swallowed sea water, but I think if I have another day or two I’ll get it.  It is one of the more fun sports to watch–check out this video below.

January 23, 2007

Kite Surfing

A day in Istanbul

November 21, 2006

Returning to Istanbul was a last minute addition to our itinerary.  After all, this trip is really about seeing new places and we had just spent 9 months in Istanbul.  But when I found a cheap flight from Rome, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to see old friends and well, eat lots of good food.  We spent the weekend with our friends Nazli and John who live on the Asian side of Istanbul in a beautiful apartment that certainly doesn’t feel like it is in a city of 18 million people.  We had a great weekend, and a particularly great day on Saturday.

Here’s a quick recap: 

We woke up early and had breakfast of fresh squeezed pomegranite and orange juice and simit (roughly $2) before catching a ferry to Europe where we indulged in some baklava at the famous Gulluoglu bakery prior to 11AM–hey, we had limited time.   From there we took Tunel, the 3rd oldest underground in the world to the main pedestrian thoroughfare of Istikal Caddesi where we ate lunch at our favorite restaurant, dubbed the vegetarian shoe place.  We found this restaurant (located in a back alley with only a picture of shoes as signage–they aren’t really looking for new customers) through a friend and probably went at least once a week towards the end of our time in Istanbul.  There are about 5 tables, a dumb waiter and a piece of paper that changes daily from which to choose your food.  Everything is homemade, and everything delicious. 

Istiklal Caddesi eventually connects with our old neighborhoods where we visited the bakers, dropped by the wine shop, and had tea for about an hour with the jewellers we had become friendly with last year.  We even saw our favorite stray dog.  I think that is the thing I miss most about Turkey–the friendliness of the people and the ability to walk out of my apartment and get everything I could possibly need.   Eventually we ferried back to Asia, but not before taking the brand new funicular transport  to meet another friend at a ‘coffee world,’ a cafe in which drinks are served with chocolate spoons and waiters walk around with free truffles.  Dinner (back in Asia) was manti, a sort of Turkish ravioli with yogurt and garlic and dessert kunefe, a shredded filodough with sweet cheese and syrup.

As you can see, we ate well and it was a day that reminded me that I had lived here for nine months, and why I was so happy to return.  

Football and Food

November 16, 2006

Depressing as it is to hear the Patriots lost consecutive games for the first time in four years, I’m happy to report a 3-1 victory for Fiorentina (Florence) in that other sport they call football. Saturday night, Gaia and Nicola (my cousins here in Lucca) took us to a Seria A football match in Florence. They are season ticket holders and our seats were great, the equivalent of being on the 50 yard line.

I’m always amazed at the endurance of soccer fans–for 90 minutes, the entire stadium was singing, swearing, and gesticulating in the hopes of ensuring a Fiorentina victory. At one point, a player from the opposing team accused of falling down unnecessarily received a chorus of “devi morire!, devi morire!, devi morire!.” Translated literally, “you should die!” I guess you could say the Italians are passionate about their football.

As most know, the Italians are also passionate about their food. We’ve spent the past week eating too much, but when the food is this good it is hard to resist. In Lucca, my cousins showed us some of their favorite restaurants which put an emphasis on the slow food movement. After the game in Florence, we had a memorable night at La Giostra, a restaurant owned and operated by a prince of some sort. It was here I had far too much, eating what I would guess was more than a pound of steak in addition to my first course of pappardalle with wild boar. Perhaps the best restaurant we visitied was the home of my former host mom in Florence. There we had a feast of gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce, pumpkin soup, beef carpaccio with parmesan and arugula, roasted pheasant, a chocolate ricotta cake and finally, probably the best tiramisu I’ve ever had.

I hope no one is reading this during lunch! If you’d like some more stories from our travels (and to read a little more about Lucca), check out my girlfriend’s blog at http://everywhereinbetween.wordpress.com

Milano

November 13, 2006

It’s great to be back in Italy.  I love the people, the language and most of all the food.  The Italians really know how to live well.  This is my third time visiting the country, and I’m excited to revisit the some of the places where I’ve been before.

Milan was the first stop, where we arrived just in time for my cousin Giovanni’s birthday.  We went to the local “American Bar” where we met many of his friends, most of whom speak English quite well.  I was curious about how the ban on smoking had played out in Italy.  Bars now exist outside; at one point, Courtney asked me if I wanted to go “inside” for some fresh air.

We spent the next day exploring Milan, seeing the Duomo and window shopping in some stores that would eliminate my entire budget for this trip with a single purchase.  We also had panzerotti for lunch, essentially fried dough (of the variety that you top with powdered sugar) with a savoury filling.  Healthy, not so much, but oh so delicious.

Part of the fun of being back in Italy is the fact that every meal is an event.  In Milan, the city is famous for its aperitivo.  Around 6:30, bars will set up an assortment of typical Italian fare including bruschetta, olives, and mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, etc.  This buffet is included with the purchase of a drink.  Though one could make a meal of aperitivo, this is just the beginning.  Around 8:30 or 9 it is time to move on for dinner at a restaurant or someone’s home.

We set off for Lucca via Viareggio on Thursday morning.

London

November 7, 2006

We’ve arrived!  Actually, we’re already leaving (sadly) from our first destination.  London has been a great start to a trip that I get more and more excited about.  There is something extremely liberating about living out of a backpack and having the knowledge that everyday will be different.  

London has been a bit of a whirlwind but we’ve seen and done a lot since arriving on the 2nd.  Our first night was spent sampling the local pub’s organic wheat beer before heading out to a club featuring reggae music and Red Stripe in the Bengali/Bangladeshi area of the city.   It was a good introduction to a city where I’ve heard more Italian on the streets than English.  Perhaps its because the Italians are just that much louder, but I digress.  London feels more international than any other city I’ve been to. 

We spent our first full day recovering from jet lag and spending some time at the national gallery.  The museums are the one thing I’ve found to be a bargain (most are free)in a city that gets $19 for a movie ticket.   The National Gallery is overwhelming, but I took a tour that focused on the works of Seurat, Crivelli, and Rembrandt to make it a bit more manageable.  We also saw Rubens’ Samson and Delilah, a painting that some question the authenticity of.  Read about it here–it is a rather interesting story.  After the museum we met Courtney’s cousin Genevieve for some excellent fish and chips and a guided driving tour of the city.  She knows every backstreet of London and was able to point out the former residences of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, among others.

An unexpected trip to Stonehenge was a welcome addition to our itinerary.  On Sunday,  Christina and Sachin’s (our hosts) law school had an excursion to the medieval wonder of the world.  It was a beautiful day and we were able to take some great photos that I’ve posted to my Flikr account.  From Stonehenge we continued on to Bath where I met my friend Briony whom I volunteered with while in Armenia.  I spent the evening in Bath, taking in the fireworks for Guy Fawke’s day.

There is of course more to tell, but I’ll stop here.  Thanks to everyone who emailed–it was great to hear from you. 

Next stop:  Milan, Italy

Check out the map!

November 1, 2006

10 countries in all, 11 if you count the US
The Map

Intro + Pre Departure

October 22, 2006

Do it while you can. It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot since I graduated two years ago.  It has been the response I invariably receive when I tell family, friends, or customers of my impending travel plans. 

It certainly has been a good couple of years since graduating from Tufts.  I’ve spent a winter in Steamboat Springs, a couple of summers on Cape Cod, and just about a year in Istanbul, Turkey.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a month in Lucca, Italy or two months volunteering in Armenia.

Now this, for me perhaps the most exciting trip of all. My around the world adventure will take me east from Boston stopping in such places as England, Italy, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, and some western parts of the USA. 

I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me anxious about friends who are buying apartments, finishing graduate school, or establishing themselves in careers.  But for now, and more importantly, for me–it is time to see the world. 

I’ll miss friends and family immensely (so please write!), especially on the holidays.  If you are interested, you can follow my travels on this blog or click here to receive emails whenever I update the site.   I’d love to hear from all of you.