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Travelling in India: Friends, Food, and New Beginnings

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“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. you shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.” –F. Burton Howard

Travelling always brings new perspectives, new friends, new thoughts, and new life into me. I think that I grow and learn more every time I go some place I’ve never been, or even revisiting places that I love the most. There is always a new adventure and a new story. On this adventure to India, my family and I were going for the grandest of occasions – a wedding!

One of my dear friends from graduate school invited me to his wedding, clear across the world. Of course I couldn’t say no; Indian weddings are so grandiose and beautiful, steeped in cultural ritual, with great food, awesome music, and infectious laughter. It was going to be an event and I had to see it.

As always traveling to India is not for the faint of heart. It’s a long trip even with a nicely timed layover to get refreshed and eat something before another long flight. My family and I made it to Mumbai on April 1st, a day before the wedding to give our bodies time to recuperate from the trip and acclimate to the weather and the time. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency closest to the Mumbai airport. It was super nice, very convenient, and the breakfast bar was great, I’d highly recommend it if anyone needs a place to stay, for just a rest. It’s farther from all of them historical things to see, but it’s literally 1km from the airport, which is part of the convenience (Hyatt Regency Mumbai).

Later that day our driver picked us up and took us to Pune, India. Pune is further south than Mumbai, it’s about a 2 – 2.5 hour drive. It’s not as humid thank goodness) as Mumbai, but it is very very hot. For the majority of our stay it was always hovering around 100 degrees Farenheit. The hotel we stayed at here was the JW Marriott Pune (JW Marriott Pune). I have to say without a doubt it’s one of the best hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. I loved this place and my family did too. Everyone was extremely helpful – a few of the ladies helped us into our sarees for the wedding – and the food was delicious.

There is a club/restaurant at the top of the hotel called Paasha that has some of the best Dal Mahkni I’ve ever had. If you come to Pune, you have to go to the restaurant at least once. The dal on the menu is called Dal Paasha. The other food items that were good here were the chicken scewers, tandori seabass, and the salmon tikka. We also had lamb, but I didn’t taste it, everyone said it was delicous.

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Enough about the hotels, moving onto the wedding – it was fantastic! My friend’s family and his now wife’s family were absolutely wonderful. We were invited to several of the events for the wedding besides the wedding ceremony and the reception. We went to an event the day before the wedding, which was the meeting of both of the familes, extended relatives included, before the main event. It was really nice to see and hear all the rituals behind what was going on. We were severely underdressed, but at least we were able to get our henna done prior to the event to start getting ready for the wedding which was the very next morning.

The very next morning we woke up about 5AM to start getting ready to head to the wedding. Ameya (my friend) and his family invited us to joing them for breakfast before the wedding ceremony and that was at 7AM. Why did we need 2 hours to get ready? We have 6 women getting ready in two hotel rooms and 4 of us had sarees…needless to say it was quite the adventure. The wedding was in a hall that was set up for events like this and it was beautiful. It overlooked the city of Pune and it was quite nice to be there in the morning because it was a lot cooler then it would be in the afternoon. The wedding took up the rest of the morning and early afternoon, but the whole things was just beautiful.

Both families’ were so open and welcoming and the definitely made sure we were comfortable, knew what was going on, and had plenty of food to eat!

I was so happy to make it to Ameya’s big day. It was lovely to see him so happy and to finally meet Purnima – his bride – for the first time.

It was an extremely hectic day for them, but we were able to get a group shot towards the end of the morning, after they were officially married and before they could finally take a break and eat!

 

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(From Left) My Mom, my friends Katie, Amber, Purnima, Ameya, Me, Torryn and Taylor

Of course the day wasn’t over yet, because the reception was the very same night. That was a lot more chill than the wedding. There were a lot of people at the reception as well as the wedding (700 at the wedding verus 2000 at the reception), but we had a great time, and as always, the food was amazing.

The day after the wedding (April 3rd), the whole group went and explored Pune. We visited the Ganesha Temple, and the main market in town. We visited the fort that was in pune and we also went to Aga Khan Palace, which is where Gandhi, his wife, and confidant lived in the latter stages of his life. It was an amazing place with a lot of history, and the grounds were gorgeous. We also went to this amazing restuarant called Vaishali, which makes many different types of dosas and other great dishes. I had the onion and tomator uttapam and it was delicousl – I’d highly recommend stopping in here for a bite, but be forewarned – it’s a popular place, so there is a line. It’s worth the wait though. We also visited a very nice park at the end of the day which had many meandering paths.

On April 4th, our last morning in Pune, Ameya invited us over to his house and we were able to sit and chat with him, Purnima, and his family. It was great getting to catch up and just relax after the hectic couple of days (for my family), and a long couple of months for them! A few more friends from XLRI came to see Ameya as well so we all went out to lunch together before my family and I headed back to Mumbai.

Back in Mumbai, we stayed at the Taj Palace Hotel, which as always was great. We had great views of the Gateway of India and the hotel rooms were nice and comfortable. Over the next day and a half we galavanted around the town via taxi’s and recommendations from a couple of my friends that live in Mumbai. We visited the Gateway of India, blitzed through the main markets in Mumbai, shopping for scarves, sarees, and more. Our group mosied over to a bakery opened by a French couple who live in Mumbai, it’s an amazing little place. The place is called Suzette (Suzette Website).The one we went to is in Nariman Point and there is another further north in Mumbai. I’d highly recommend stopping here. It’s a nice little place to get out of the traffic that is Mumbai!

As always it was a whirlwind of a trip but I could not stay at the Taj Palace Hotel and not get sushi, so on our last night we had a very nice (and expensive) dinner at the sushi joint in the hotel itself.

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And that brings my latest trip to India to a close. It was a blast from beginning to end and I look forward to my next trip back! Until next time folks.

 

Next Up…NYC and Playa del Carmen, Mexico!

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Travelling England, Czech Republic, and Good Ole’ USA

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You would think that I was tired of travelling after being gone for so long right? Yeah no, not in the slightest; you can thank my mother for this travel bug. Summer classes started in May 2015 back in Cleveland, Ohio at Case Western Reserve University. Prior to the semester starting a great friend of mine, who was studying at Cambridge University (she’s since graduated), asked if I’d like to attend May Ball with her at her college Jesus (yes, it is called Jesus College) in Cambridge in June.

Let’s just say, it wasn’t a question in my mind. I decided that I was going! If you’d like more information on the tradition of May Balls and the history at Cambridge, Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Ball). The May Ball for Jesus College was on June 15th 2015, so I flew in a couple days early to catch up and revisit Cambridge, which is a very fun cute city. It was great getting to catch up with my buddy Katie and also get to see some events leading up to the May Ball. So rowing is a very big to do at Cambridge. The final rowing competition was happening Saturday (13th June) so Katie took me and started explaining everything before the competition started. Long story short it was a great couple of hours. The other event that we were able to see the end of was where different colleges used only cardboard to built boats and see if they could float in one of the rivers close to campus. It was hilarious, but awesome to see. Jesus College won that one – after all, it is the college known for engineers.

The day of the May Ball two more friends of Katie’s came to enjoy in the festivities as well. They had been travelling in Scotland or Ireland (I can’t remember now) and made it with a few hours to spare.

In short, the May Ball was awesome! We splurged a little and were able to get a sit down dinner in one of the special dining halls in Jesus College. The food was amazing and there was a wine paired with every course.

The theme was Wild Card, and every part of the college was decked out in the different suits of a card deck. There were also a rides; one of those high swinging rides always at carnivals, dodge em’ (aka bumper cars), laser tag, silent disco (everyone is wearing headphones), and even a concert! The headliner was James Bay, who is a newcomer on the music scene – his first album came out last year (it’s awesome btw).

The whole night was such fun! The morning is even better because there is always a survivor photo outside on the lawn, so it’s nice to be apart of that.

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Setting up for Survivor Photo! Woo Hoo!

Of course, the whirlwind party didn’t end there. As per tradition, you stay up all night, catch a couple zzz’s and then you are off to another city. Which city did we pick? How about Prague, Czech Republic. Considering I had class to get back to, I spent a lovely 16 hours in this gorgeous city, walking around, taking in the sites, and enjoying the food. I had a marvelous time with lovely lady friends. Best 4-day trip ever!

The next trip I took last year was in October 2015. My mom decided that we were going to go on a family trip to what is called the Rise Festival. Last year this took place in the Mohave Desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Essentially the Rise Festival is a festival of lights. People gather together in the middle of nowhere and light lanterns and watch them float into the heavens together.

Sounds hippy dippy right? Well it is, but it’s so very cool.

On the lanterns you can right out hopes, dreams, wishes, angry rants, whatever you want. The whole purpose of the festival is to commune with like-minded people, rid yourself of negative thoughts and energy, and put forth good energy and positivity. I was skeptical, but it was so beautiful to be a part of it.

We didn’t just do the Rise Festival while in Las Vegas. It’s Vegas! You must see a show, eat awesome food, and enjoy the landscape, and that’s exactly what we did. We visited Red Rock Canyon, which were stunning feats of natural architecture, and also experience some great cuisine on the Las Vegas Strip. The show we saw this time around was the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘O’ at the Bellagio Hotel. This is a must see show. It’s been there for a while, but well worth the money spent.

Finally I wrapped up my year in San Diego, California. I had never been to the city before, so it was great to just have a few days to chill and walk around. The Airbnb we stayed at was right downtown, which is extremely walker friendly.

So this completes my tour de 2015, as far as travels go. I had an awesome time last year, and with school it was hectic but crazy fun. I’m two posts away from being completely up to date on the blog! Yay! Stay tuned!

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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow…

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I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. – J. R. R. Tolkien

After three and a half months of shaky academics and amazing travel experiences, it’s time to go home. I can’t believe the time went by so quickly, but as I reflect sitting here in Pudong International Airport, I realize that I don’t regret this decision of mine in the slightest.

I’ve been able to experience so much during this past semester and I would’ve regretted it horribly if I had turned down the opportunity to pursue my graduate education. As always in my travels there are certain things that I will miss dearly and somethings that I won’t miss at all. Let’s start with the things I won’t miss.

Good-Riddance Things:

The people who cram onto the subway train.

Really no reason to cram - there is another train.

Really no reason to cram – there is another train.

The walking lights that don’t sync up.

I really don't like being stuck in the middle.

I really don’t like being stuck in the middle.

Crazy Traffic!

Traffic, traffic, and oh look - more traffic.

Traffic, traffic, and oh look – more traffic.

 

Miss-You-So-Much-Things:

Food in a bag, I will miss the convenience and the deliciousness.

Street Rice! Yum yum yum!

Street Rice! Yum yum yum!

Getting mail; for the comic relief of seeing all the mail laid out.

Mail day, pick up when you can!

Mail day, pick up when you can!

High end window retail therapy…yeah it was awesome.

Alexander McQueen store - one day I'll be able to buy a clutch...one day.

Alexander McQueen store – one day I’ll be able to buy a clutch…one day.

 

There are probably many many more things I could’ve said, but these were the top three of the moment. Well it’s 20 minutes until I board, so I will say Adieu for now!

Next post will be from the good ole USA.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

 

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Fashion, Food in a Bag, Friends, Knitting, Oh and the Red Cup

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“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ~ Aldous Huxley

One thing that Shanghai is known for is shopping. The problem with Shanghai is that it’s known for it’s shopping… it makes it really hard to stay on a budget here! Over the past two months, I’ve seen plenty of fashion trends,  a slew of fashion ‘dont’s,’ and a whole lot of things in between. Not only does Shanghai have all of the top tier brand stores, like Prada and Louis V, but they also have fabric markets where you can get pretty much anything made – or at least try to get it made. My friends and I have been going to the fabric market it seems almost weekly since we arrived. If you want variety, a lot of fun haggling, and visual overload, try your hand at a fabric market. The place is indoors and wall to wall stalls of everything colorful. It’s not to be missed. I’ve had some things made, but they are being tweaked right now with some last minute edits – will post the pictures later.

Fabric Market in Shanghai off Metro Line 4 at Nanpu Bridge Statsion

Fabric Market in Shanghai off Metro Line 4 at Nanpu Bridge Station

Shanghai has some pretty awesome food, as I have mentioned in another post. Food is always a favorite topic for me because I love to eat. In conjunction with my last post I know present ‘food in a bag.’ There is one overlap – the delicious egg pancake or jian bing – but I have two more of my favorite things to get while living here.

Jian Bing

So this is jian bing, which is translated to 'egg pancake.' I love this thing.

So this is jian bing, which is translated to ‘egg pancake.’ I love this thing.

Baozi = Dumpling

This is baozi, which is a type of dumpling that you can find in Family Mart, and at sidewalk stalls everywhere in the city. It's quick and easy to eat! Love these!

This is baozi, which is a type of dumpling that you can find in Family Mart, and at sidewalk stalls everywhere in the city. It’s quick and easy to eat! Love these!

Jirou & Digua = Chicken & Sweet Potatoes 

This is another favorite meal of mine here. Basically it's lightly friend chicken that's cut up into little pieces with a spicy seasoning on it, and then you have sweet potato fries on the side. It's delicious and a must have!

This is another favorite meal of mine here. Basically it’s lightly friend chicken that’s cut up into little pieces with a spicy seasoning on it, and then you have sweet potato fries on the side. It’s delicious and a must have!

Now, what is food without making friends along the way! I’ve met some terrific people while I’ve been here; not only from my cohort but also from some locals. There is a yoga studio called Yogaspace Shanghai that is off of Metro Line 1 Hengshan Road  Station. It has some great teachers, but it’s where I met this group of people below. This was one of the only times our group was this big (people have to work you know!) but we had an amazing time. Traveling is nothing without getting to know more about yourself and others in the world around you – so get out there and meet people!

Yogi Friends!

Yogi Friends!

Even when I’m meeting new friends, I never leave the ones I’ve made behind. Behold knitting projects for some people back home!

So this was my first stab at chevron pattern for a blanket. I'm a perfectionist, so I can see all the flaws, but the recipients love it - so what can I do?

So this was my first stab at chevron pattern for a blanket. I’m a perfectionist, so I can see all the flaws, but the recipients love it – so what can I do?

One of my best friends is having her first child, so I thought it only fitting to knit a couple blankets for the new arrival. This first one is red and then the next is going to be dark blue.

One of my best friends is having her first child, so I thought it only fitting to knit a couple blankets for the new arrival. This first one is red and then the next is going to be dark blue.

Dark blue yarn for blanket #2 - will commence shortly

Dark blue yarn for blanket #2 – will commence shortly

That’s all I have for now, but I’m sure the adventures will continue soon. But I couldn’t leave without giving one last picture and it’s my ode to Starbucks! The Red Cup has reached Shanghai! Christmas is coming!

It has arrived! The Red Cup - thanks Starbucks!

It has arrived! The Red Cup – thanks Starbucks!

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The More You Know: Food and Quirks in China

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” ~ James Beard

Well it’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in China for a little over a month already. A whole month! I’ve experienced many different things – all of them good (sort of) – and I’m looking forward to what the next two months bring before this chapter of Global MBA closes.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I love my food. Food is pretty much how I know I will be visiting a country again and again, because if the food is good – I’m going to go back for more.

China has some amazing food. If I’m not studying or traveling, I’m eating and trying out the local cuisine. However, local is such a deceiving word for a place as diverse as Shanghai. There are so many different regional cuisines from all parts of China that reside in this city of 23 million people. I’ve managed to find a couple of dishes that I keep going back to again and again, and I thought it is only fair to share a few with you.

#1 – Egg Pancake: AMAZING! I love, love, love egg pancake. I literally eat this almost every day for breakfast. Basically it’s like a large crepe, filled with egg, sweet and spicy sauce, garlic, lettuce and chives, and finally fried flour. It’s wrapped up, cooked in less than a minute, and eaten in the next 20 min by me. You must try this if you ever come to Shanghai.

#2 – Personal Hot Pot: Super Deliciousness!  Hot pot is basically soup with super fresh ingredients that you can pick yourself. There is a place not far from where I am staying this semester that has fresh vegetables and meats daily and then the hot pot is prepared on the spot while you wait. I think I’ve gone to this place like three days in a row; I can’t help it!

Personal hot pot: had two locks of noodles, and a basket of vegetables, with quail eggs. I love this so much!

Personal hot pot: had two locks of noodles, and a basket of vegetables, with quail eggs. I love this so much!

#3 Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita: Yes I know Greek Chinese style – but it’s good! My yoga buddies and I found this place literally right across the street from Metro line 1: Hengshan Lu station, where we get off for our yoga studio. The meat that this place is super fresh (I eat the chicken), and the vegetables are delightful. A little pricey for China, but it’s a very yummy snack after yoga!

Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita - looks good doesn't it?

Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita – looks good doesn’t it?

There are many more dishes that I’ve tried, but these are my favorites. I’ll have to do yet another post on food, maybe at the end of my trip. I can’t say enough about the food here, but I can honestly say, I’m not starving!

Besides getting to know (and eat at) all the local places are the area, I’ve almost picked on a couple of little quirks that I’ve seen so far in China. I’m not sure if this is how it is everywhere, but here are the top 3 things I’ve noticed so far:

#1  Sidewalks are not only for walkers-they are also for bikes and mopeds: Even though there is a very good lane that is separated from the main street to use, bikers and moped riders love to literally ride down the sidewalks where people walk. They will either honk at your with their tiny moped horn or ring the bell on their bike incessantly until you move. You must get use to this and reign in the urge to push these people off their transportation contraption.

#2 When crossing the street – follow the locals. Otherwise, you will die of old age waiting to cross: When crossing the street you need to watch out for bicycles, mopeds, motored rickshaws, bike buggies, buses, and cars. Though there are working cross-walking signals, nobody uses them for one simple reason; they don’t matter. Cars, busses, mopeds, bicycles, everything and anything will continue to go on their way while you are trying to cross the street. Best way to cross is when there is an opening, no matter what. If you see the locals move – move!

#3 No smoking signs in a restaurant – people smoke anyway: As I understand it, it was made illegal to smoke in stores, restaurants, and other establishments in the last couple of years. From what I’ve seen, people follow this rule when they want to and ignore it the rest of the time. I’ve seen many a person just light a cigarette when there is a very blatant no smoking sign right in front of them. It’s really weird coming from the US where you can only smoke in designated areas, but it’s something that you become use to quickly here. I’m sure as the rule gets enforced more, things will change, but for right now – China is a smoker’s paradise.

I’m sure there are many more interesting little quirks, but I think these are the ones I’m usually laughing about and dealing with on a daily basis.

Now the fun is over – back to the grind! Until next time!

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