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2018 Here and Gone…

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This year has been a roller coaster of delights; ups and downs, and curves galore. I have spent much of this year working on my career goals and getting my writing mojo back. Of course I also spent the year with close friends and family and a slew of traveling. It’s been a great period of growth for me and also a period of reflection.

From a career standpoint I was able to network my way back to the city of my heart – New York City, specifically Brooklyn (and in Brooklyn specifically Bedford Stuyvesant). I am actually proud of myself that I was able to pull it off. I thought I would have to leave my current company to do it and that was almost the case, but things were able to be worked out and I am not back where I truly feel I belong and where I thrive.

I found myself in the streets of New York City, with the help of people who have become my family. We may not be blood related, but they are the family that I have patch-worked together across boroughs, cities, and even countries. Leaving the city wasn’t what I wanted, but I did what was necessary at the time; and now, I’m back to stay.

Writing, ah writing…

Back in February, my muse decided to come out and play and I was very excited. I’m happy to stay that the passion and drive that began this year didn’t fade at all; it’s actually grown in fact. I participated in both Camp NaNoWriMo’s (one in April and one in July), as well as NaNoWriMo in November.

April was a dud in the writing department, namely due to work and the big career move I was trying to make; the muse was not happy. July was better and I was able to win that and get what I needed written, which spawned a lot of planning for November. NaNo was a success in November with me being able to write more than 50k words that month. So exciting! This past month I’ve actually been working on a completely different idea as well as editing some fan-fiction that I have ready to go for some fans in particular.

All in all, it’s been a great year in the writing department – I hope it continues into 2019.

Friends and family rallied around me for a couple things this year; one, I raised money from Leukemia and Lymph Society’s Team in Training and ran the NYC Marathon this year. Huge feat – I was pissed off about my time (didn’t finish anywhere near I wanted), but in the end…I DID IT!!! It was a great accomplishment and something I’ve been wanting to do for years – so go me!

The other item on the agenda was traveling! Every year I travel and I tend to go to multiple places. This year was great because it was an awesome mix of old favorites and new exciting places. And not only were the places I visited a mix of old and new, the people I traveled with were too!

I started my year by traveling to an old favorite; San Francisco, California. I went here with some new friends from work, but one of my oldest friends in the world. It was a great way to start off 2018. Next trip was back to wine country with my sister for the BottleRock music festival. Let me tell you – the festival is expensive, but for the two of us – totally worth it. I love how much I’ve bonded with my younger sister during this time; we’ve learned a lot about each other I feel during this time.

The sisterly time wasn’t done yet; in July, she and I went to Iceland and had an awesome time. August came and went with a new city and new travel buddy! I went to Ireland for the very first time, ran an international half marathon for the first time, and travelled with a new buddy for her first trip to Ireland as well! I’d heard the food was horrible here, but I have to disagree – I ate so well while I was there. The views are fantastic along the coasts, and the city of Dublin is so cute!

As the year has wound to a close, I find myself writing from the beautiful and old city of Lisbon, Portugal. My big brother and I are enjoying our first solo international trip together. This city is breathtaking, the food is delicious, and the weather in December has been phenomenal. We’ve already decided to come back!

So what have I learned this year? There haven’t been any great flashes of insights or big revelations. The knowledge that I have learned this year has always been with me, but I guess this was the year that I finally voiced what I knew to be true for a long time.

Here’s what I figured out:

I can be disappointed in how long it took to do something; but that never negates the accomplishment of actually putting in the work and doing it.

I have an abundance of experiences that I’ve already lived through, and they are preparing me for what is to come.

I have the capacity to be so much more than what I am right now – it will just take time to get there.

I am truly and well loved and cared for.

Simple things right? Like I said, no rocket science in there at all, but still lessons learned and hard won.

With that, I will bid 2018 a hearty goodbye and farewell.

See you in 2019!

Happy New Year!

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New Year, More Writing? Maybe?

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I’m not really sure where 2017 went for me. When I look back it almost seems as if I were an apparition – a reflection in the mirror – that watched the year speed by like the Shinkansen in Japan. Between the blur of true news, fake news, tumultuous White House shenanigans, and yet another mass shooting, I don’t think that there was a dull moment throughout the year.

What boggled my mind really was the fact that when I tried to put pen to paper or fingers to keys, nothing came to mind.

Not one thing.

I had no inspiration for creativity, no inspirational thoughts that were incessant enough to have me scrambling for my keyboard and this blog – this creative space – to let me unleash the relentless screaming in my mind. Everything was curiously silent. I didn’t know what it meant then, I still don’t know what it meant now, but I do respect it. That lull lasted almost the full year, for whatever reason. I guess I just need a break. Why? I have no clue, but it what it is.

Instead what I did was travel. I traveled with friends, with family, and through long car rides to and from work, I traveled alone with just me, my thoughts, and music. In the year 2017, I think I just was. I had fantastic experiences last year, and for the first time in a while I truly felt that I had lived.

No two experiences are ever alike and through each one I felt as if I achieved something; no matter how minute, it was an achievement.

In Peru, I hiked and reached a 4200 meter summit and walked amongst the ruins of Machu Picchu.

In California, I danced and sang the weekend away at BottleRock Music Festival.

In London, I was awed and inspired by the last Adele concert in Wembley stadium (rumor has it!).

In India, I reflected on many things in Rishikesh, and joyfully attended a friend’s wedding in Udaipur.

And on a cruise ship in the Caribbean I wound down my year and ended it with calm thoughts and an excitement for new beginnings.

Did I write last year you ask? I did – finally – during NaNoWriMo I was able to get out a story that had been fermenting for a while. A quick burst of inspiration, and a quick sprint to the finish to get it done, but it was completed. I was satisfied and surprisingly the urge to write that had failed me so many times over 2017 was alive and well by the time the year ended.

So here I am now, sitting in my room, on my bed, writing for the first time in 2018. A month into the new year I’m still excited, and I can’t wait for what’s coming.

And maybe, just maybe more writing will be done this year, but I’ll just have to wait and see where my mind takes me – this time around. 😉

Until Next Time…

 

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Autumn has gone, winter is here, and the end of the year is near…

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Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.  ~ Hal Borland

My autumn truly began in Long Island, NY at another half marathon the first weekend in October. This half marathon is called the Diva’s Half Marathon and it was very fun. They gave us tiaras and feather boas to cross the finish line in as well as little champagne flutes of sparkly juice at the end.

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Run Sister Run Divas! My big sis Taj & me. 

Later in the month I went geo caching for the first time with a friend of mine in Punderson State Park here in Cleveland. It was an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. Temperatures were close to the low 60s, the sun was shining, and all of the leaves were changing colors beautifully. We hiked for a few hours caught up and then warmed up with tea. It was a great way to end the month.

November is always a short month to me because of Thanksgiving. Every year I take shameless advantage of the fact that I have a built-in four-day weekend due to turkey day. This year I went to Germany; Munich to be exact. A close friend of mine moved to the city with her husband and I went for a visit. I only stayed for a week but I was able to get a lot done. Here are some of the highlights:

Zugspitze: highest peak in the German portion of the Alps:

Architecture and History in Munich: the whole freaking city is awesome, way too much cool architecture to see in a week, will be going back to see more.

Deutsch Museum: Science & Technology Museum; this is a definite must see! You need at least half a day to get through most of this place…just plan a whole day.

Day Trips: Nurnberg (only a 2 hour train ride away)

Christmas Markets: while I was there most Christmas markets were just opening up. I was able to go to more local markets, which was very nice.

Needless to say the trip was so much fun. My friends had to work during the day say, so most of my trip I was alone wandering about, but its nice traveling alone sometimes. I had plenty of time for reflection and I didn’t rush anywhere. I was able to take my time and see the city the way I wanted to. I missed some things but not many, either way I will be going to Munich again.

My trip to Germany wrapped up my November and December blew in with crazy cold temperatures and snow here in the Northeast. Work was extremely frenetic the first two weeks and utterly dead the third week in December. My family does a holiday trip every year for the Christmas season and this year we went to Universal Studios. It was nice to get out of the cold weather and have some fun while we were doing it. Of course the highlight of my trip was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

When I look back at this year, I can’t believe it went by so quickly. So many things have happened for the good and the bad. I’m just so thankful that I am healthy, happy, and my family is well. There has been plenty of change in 2016 and I can’t wait for what 2017 brings.

Since I will probably be asleep when the New Year rolls in, Happy New Year all. See you in 2017.

Quote from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_newyears.html
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Belated Summer Wrap Up

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Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. ~ Dr. Seuss

The old saying goes, when life gives you lemons – make lemonade. However, what is the saying for when life this sort of takes over and everything else falls by the sidelines?

Unfortunately, there is no catchy saying for that.

Apologies for such a delayed couple of posts, but life certainly took over for the past seven months and many things fell to the sidelines. Since my last post I have graduated with an MBA, been on numerous trips and am now flying back to my home from yet another trip to wrap up the year 2016. This is going to be a much shorter recap then I wanted, due to timing, but better late (and abbreviated) than not at all right?

My summer began in Mexico. This has been a yearly trip with a large group of friends for the past couple of years now. We rented out houses and then just lay about on the beach, and go on a few trips as well. The stay lasted a week but of course if felt like one very long summer day. The houses that were rented were steps from the beach. During this trip I was also training for a half marathon so a couple of those days I took some three to seven mile runs in the early morning along the streets of Playa del Carmen and on the beach itself. On this trip I was able to go to the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and to dive into one of the largest cenotes that I’ve been to. Mexico was as always and amazing trip; great food, great company, cool excursions, and beautiful views.

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Beach Running in Playa

The month of June was peppered with small trips to Atlanta to visit my mom and younger sisters, Columbus to have orientation for my new job, and training for my half marathon, which was in July. July brought me to Chicago to run the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon with a friend from work and my one of my younger sisters. Not only did the race go well (even if it did rain), but also we were able to go to one of my favorite museums, Chicago Art Museum, while we were there. We also to advantage of the weekend to walk around the city and take in the sights not only on foot but also in the back of a horse draw carriage.

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Rock N’ Roll  Chicago Half Marathon with my sister Torryn and friend Jennifer!

July wrapped up with a friend’s wedding at the end of the month and August rolled right in afterwards with a trip to Atlanta for my youngest sisters 14th birthday (BIG deal). Middle of august rolled around with a trip to Cincinnati for a summer meeting for work that happened in the latter half of the 3rd week. That Saturday I drove back up to Cleveland with a friend from Columbus and we walked around downtown Cleveland looking for quirky plastic art installations.

Between work and my busy social calendar, September was here before I knew it. As I spend every Labor Day weekend, I went back to Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2016! Had a blast catching up with friends that I usually only see during this time and had some great moments for being a fan while meeting some actors that have been on my wish list for a while.

My September wasn’t over by a long shot because as soon as I returned to Cleveland I flew back to Atlanta the next weekend for Midtown Music Festival 2016 where I was able to see some of my favorite artists on stage. My favorite was 21 Pilots, they are amazing! It was a great way to wrap up the summer!

 

Next up: Autumn has gone, winter is here, and the end of the year is near…

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Travelling Iceland: Reykjavík and More

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“I’ve walked a lot in the mountains in Iceland. And as you come to a new valley, as you come to a new landscape, you have a certain view. If you stand still, the landscape doesn’t necessarily tell you how big it is. It doesn’t really tell you what you’re looking at. The moment you start to move the mountain starts to move.”

~ Olafur Eliasson (Danish-Icelandic Artist)

Iceland has been on my ‘Must Travel To’ list for years. My mother was stationed there during her military career; it was actually her first 15-month assignment away from home. Any time anyone asked her about the place, she said it was beautiful, and was worth the trip.

Now I’ve found out she was right. Iceland was absolutely breathtaking, from the landscape, to the people, I loved it all – this will definitely be a country that I come back to more than once.

This trip came about after talking with a great travelling buddy of mine, Katie. We’ve taken a few trips together now over the years and at the end of 2015 we both had mentioned we wanted to do Iceland one of these days and would love to go with each other.

Well – around the same time a mutual friend of ours was married and one of her friends met Katie and expressed an interest in visiting Iceland as well.

Kismet? You bet it was.

So like all people with a common goal, we decided to visit the country together the last week in January 2016.

Of course the day we fly out, there is a Snow-pocalypse on the east coast, but we all made it on time and in one piece to Reykjavík! We decided to use AirBnb for our accommodations and the little apartment we found about 40 minutes walking from the city center was adorable. Our host was amazing and even made us breakfast!

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Our first day there, we just spent getting our bearings, since we rented a car, and we decided what we wanted to do on which days. The very next day we woke up early to get into gear for our snorkeling tour of the Silfra. We booked this tour with dive.is (https://www.dive.is/). They have many different tours and are a reputable company. If you go, see if you can get Alexi as your tour guide, he was awesome!

So the Silfra was created when the two tectonic plates – European and North American – pulled apart – eons ago. There is a lake not far from the Silfra and when the plates pulled apart, water began to trickle into the location. The water is the purest water around, having been filtered for 70-100 years through lava rock.

Anyway long story short, the snorkeling was amazing. The water is super clear; you can literally see everything under water. The rock formations that were created were stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera that could last in the water. Let me forewarn you, the water is cold. And it’s not a little cold; it’s a lot cold. The temperature of the water all year long is between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade, which roughly translate to between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (I think). I think I’m going to invest in a goPro plus an insulated case for my next trip so I can take video.

After the snorkeling tour, we commenced on our own tour of the Golden Circle. Here is a brief on the circle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Circle_(Iceland). I think we hit all the major spots in the circle. The park itself is gorgeous and many more sites to see, not just these. I will return when the weather is better to do some hiking.

The next day we walked from our Airbnb into downtown Reykjavík and took a free tour of the city, after stopping by the Hand knitting Association of Iceland and picking up some awesome Icelandic yarn and sweater patterns. The tour was really good! Our tour guide was great, he told us about the history of the city and of Iceland and imparted a lot of cool local knowledge. Here is the link to sign up for the tour: http://www.freewalkingtour.is/. It is free, but they do ask for a monetary tip at the end. You can basically give how much you think the tour was worth.

After a mini break we took the car on a ten-hour day trip, to see the cute town of Vik and the black sand beach, and also Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Our day started extremely early and we drove (well Katie drove, I was the navigator) through crazy snow, and dark roads to make it to Vik when the sun rose. As we approached our destination we had to stop and pet the Iceland ponies we saw – they were too cute to pass up.

Not long after our pony stop, we reached Vik and the black sand beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The black sand was so soft; our boots literally sank down into it. The roaring of the waves and the wind was all you could hear as the waves crashed up along the beach. I could have stayed there just watching for probably a good hour or so, but after a quick lunch in town we pushed on to the glacier lagoon.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is made up from the long glacier that stretches along the tops of the mountains in Iceland. The lagoon was formed from the glacier on one side breaking apart and then the water from the ocean meeting and eroding the glacier even more, causing pieces to break apart and flow out into the open water. If you do nothing else, make this trip. There are no words to describe how amazing this place was. It’s definitely a place I’ll return to again.

On our last day in Iceland, we headed to a Geothermal Power Plant called On which powers Reykjavík to get our nerd on, which was pretty darn cool. Then we drove to a little fishing village where we wanted to eat lunch, but found out the restaurant was closed for the season and wouldn’t be opening for another week or so. Instead we stopped in another village and had some pizza, which was very good. After that we found a lava tube that was along the Ring road (literally a road that can take you all the way around Iceland) and decided to go down and investigate as much as we could. Getting down the huge snowdrifts was a challenge, but once we did, the cave was pretty cool.

During this entire time we tried (and failed) to see the Aurora Borealis. It was extremely elusive for us, though a couple of people we met and talked with had seen it before we made it to Iceland. Our final morning we tried to see it again, but just wasn’t happening for us.

Oh well – there is always next time. 🙂

So this concludes my trip to Iceland. It was awesome and I’ll definitely get back to this land of awesomeness when the weather is a little warmer and I can see more.

Until next time!

Quote Credits – Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/iceland.html
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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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Travelling India Part III: Kerala & Rishikesh

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After the school semester ended in India, one of my good friends and I decided to take two weeks and explore parts of India that we were unable to get to during the semester. I knew I wanted to go someplace new and also revisit old pleasurable places. With this in mind our traveling took us south to Kerala and north to Rishikesh.

While hanging out with friends in Bangalore I met the owner of a tour company in India called Travspire (http://travspire.com/). It was a great meeting, Arjun was/is awesome and he was more than happy to help me with the planning of my trip. (Pssst, he was also the organizer of our tour of old Bangalore – really cool guy!)

Moving forward, working with Travspire, our itinerary unfolded before us. We were going to spend 5 days and 4 nights in Kerala before heading to the mountains of India. Travspire coordinated a private driver to meet us at the airport in Cochin and be with us for our entire stay. They also coordinated an all day tour of Fort Kochi, the hotel stay there, and our backwaters bungalow in Alleppey, plus a kayaking experience on the backwaters. Our driver was from that area so he was amazingly helpful in helping us find a respectable Ayurveda Spa to get massages at.

During our stay in Cochin, we stayed within Fort Kochi at one of the few hotels in the Dutch quarter called the Tower House (http://the-tower-house.neemranahotels.com/). This place was great, you could definitely see Dutch influences in the design of the hotel and the hotel was situated close to the water. We arrived in Cochin late afternoon. Our driver promptly took us to our hotel and we just wandered around the fort for the night. The next morning we woke up early enough to take a walk along the waters edge. All across the beach there were these Chinese fishing nets where fishermen were looking for that day’s catch.

At the Tower House, our breakfast was included in the room price; we ate a more western style breakfast that day, before meeting with our tour guide. The tour was very good. He started close to the hotel and then took us along to one of the oldest churches in the fort, to a renowned spice shop (where Rachel and I bought a ton of spices), to the last royal family’s house in the fort, and finally to a couple of antique shops. The whole tour was great and we had an enjoyable first half of the day.

In the afternoon we drove to Alleppey, which most people equate with the backwaters in Kerala. There are backwaters really all over the place, but Alleppey is the most well known stop for them, due to the fact there are many there. During our stay here, we stayed in the Katis Home (http://www.kaitshome.com/index.html), which is a homestay along the backwaters. This place was amazing. The family who runs it was so very nice and thoughtful. We had the majority of our meals here and all of them were delicious (the masala chai was also really really good). Here we had our own little cottage/bungalow and there was a gazebo right on the water. It was peaceful and relaxing, which was exactly what we were looking for after our semester.

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How close were we to the backwaters?…this close. Pic taken from gazebo at Katis House.

The kayaking experience on the backwaters was also very neat. We were up at the crack of dawn, around 5:30AM. The kayaking took place in the early morning sun, which made it even more fun, because it was quiet and before people began to start their day. The tour group was maybe 8 of us, and they had a boat that followed us the entire time in case we wanted a break. We kayaked for about 2.5 hours in 20-25 min intervals. It was breathtaking. Our kayaking tour also included a traditional Kerala Indian breakfast, which was phenomenal.

The Ayurveda Spa we went to was also really nice. The prices were decent and the place was very clean. The masseurs were really good at their job and the whole experience was interesting to saw the least. A traditional massage involves a lot of oil, and depending on the add-ons you can add hot stones or other things to the regular massage. I think this was the first time I was pretty much naked in front of someone for a massage, but when in Rome right? It was all very professional and I was super relaxed after the whole experience and I decided another massage was in my future.

During our last day at the homestay, we took a kayak that the homestay had and kayaked a little up the backwaters right outside our front door. We also walked to the nearest village and pretty much just looked around, bought some ice cream, and just enjoyed the fact that we were there.

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One of the many beautiful dwellings to/from town by the Katis House. It was a very good walk.

I had such a good time there and I know my friend did as well. For anyone going to Kerala, Cochin and Alleppey are must dos on the list. I’ll probably revisit these places on my next trip there and of course, go farther afield.

We flew into Rishikesh the next day, not knowing that a large earthquake had hit Nepal and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest. Yeah you remember that day last year? Well we were on our way to Delhi airport for our connection and were apparently in the air when it happened. Crazy right? We arrived in Rishikesh around 9pm that night.

Rishikesh is hill station at the base of some of the Himalayan mountain chain. This place from what I’ve been told is a very holy place and the Ganga River that flows in this part of the country is very clean and a place where many sunrise and sunset rituals are preformed. There are many yoga retreats and ashrams in and around Rishikesh and all number of stores and places to eat. The first time I came was in 2011 and coming back was very surprised at how much more there was. It is now touristier than I remember, but still a very cool place.

As I did before, I stayed at the Sattva Wellness and Retreat center (http://thesattva.com/). This place opened up in 2011, so the first time I was one of the first guests. Many amenities have been added since that time, but this place – I just really find peace here every time I’m there. There is a riverbed down the steps of the resort and you can hear the water running along it even up in the rooms of the restort, it makes more a very calming experience. Our entire stay in Rishikesh and at the Sattva center was one of lazy relaxation. We went into town, we hiked up the riverbed, we had massages again, and we just rested. It was a great way to end our stay in India.

Up Next: Cambridge, Prague, Las Vegas/Mohave Desert, & San Diego!

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Travelling India Part II: Mumbai & Bangalore

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…Yes it’s been nearly ten months since my last post. Last two semesters of an MBA are not for the faint of heart. Apologies, but in the next few days I’ll be doing a rapid-fire update of this blog with everything that has happened since May 2015. However, I must recap February and April 2015 as well so…without further ado…Mumbai!

The trip to Mumbai was great for two reasons. The first reason was that the trip was part of a Business Trek that the Case Western Reserve University Careers Services put together for those who were interested. This trek took us to some of the prominent businesses that were in Mumbai that fit a variety of interest with the students who came. The second reason that it was great was simply being able to visit another old and historical city in India.

During the business trek, we saw four distinct business and industries. Our first company visit was to Reliance Corporation, which is run and owned by the Ambani family. The corporation started within fabric manufacturing and branched out into gas and oil refinery that it is more known for. It was really interesting to get the history of the family and the reasons for expansion and how they went about it.

The next visit was with an advertising firm called Leo Burnett in their Mumbai office. This global advertising firm has its roots in the USA however, when it comes to marketing and advertising the different offices seem to have their focuses. In the Mumbai office, the team seemed to focus obviously more on the Indian advertisements, but they also made advertisements for other countries on different continents such as Africa. (I can’t remember the country that one of the advertisements is for; I believe it’s Kenya, but not sure) It was really cool to hear their stories and see the amount of data that they had collected from consumers and what all the analyses were showing them.

Third we were able to visit the Mumbai Stock Exchange and get a tour of the oldest exchange in India. It was awesome to see the history and we were even able to see the opening bell that was still used. The discussion that happened afterwards about the financial markets in India and the current economy were very stimulating and our host was extremely candid.

The last place we visited was the headquarters for TCS, which is TATA Consultancy Services. It was very interesting to hear the origins of yet another company within the TATA conglomerate and to see the home office for such a large organization. I have personally worked with a lot of consultants from TCS in the United States and the caliber of people they have specialized in various technology services is pretty good.

At the end of our trip we were able to meet with Case Western alumni who were from Mumbai or in the vicinity and networked with them for an evening. Most went on to start their own businesses back in India after their MBA programs, which is a huge trend in that country. The various businesses spanned across almost every industry and listening to their stories of starting from scratch and where they were now was awesome.

It was a whirlwind trip of 4 days, but we were able to see and do a lot there.

The next trip I went on happened about two months later in April of 2015. I went to Bangalore to visit a very good friend of mine. Let me tell you, I was in Bangalore in 2011 and even four short years later; the city had gone through a crazy amount of transformation. Of course the traffic was ridiculous, but with the city being the Silicon Valley of India, it seemed to me the expats that were now residing in the city almost tripled.

While in Bangalore we took a tour of the oldest part of the city and visited a very cool market place that distributed fruits, vegetables, spices, and flowers. This place was the center for such things and still is today. According to my friend and our tour guide many restaurants, wedding planners, and other business owners would come and haggle or bid on products. For the fruit and vegetable part of the market local farmers would pay for a space and sell their produce until it was out and then leave. At the flower market, they held open bids on flowers for many different occasions. It was all very fast paced, crowded, and extremely colorful.

We also toured some of the old ruins, such as a piece of what use to be the Bangalore Fort that surrounded the city at the time of the British conquests. We also toured one of the old residences of wartime general that stood up to the British Empire and held them off for many decades. It was great to spend some of the time there learning more about the history of the great city.

Next Post – Kerala & Rishikesh!

 

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Inspirational Influence: TATA, Jamshedpur, & India

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“I know that aiming at perfection has its drawbacks. It makes you go into details that you can avoid but that is the only way you can achieve excellence. So, in that case, being finicky is essential.” – J.R.D. Tata

There is usually that one person who sparks inspiration and ingenuity that spreads into a wildfire of innovation and revolutionizes an age.

For India, it ended up being one family.

India is known as the birthplace for yoga, for the colorful clothes, the interesting history, and of course for the Taj Mahal. However, for many that is all that they know India for. Those in business know that there is just one more thing synonymous with India – and that is the TATA Group.

The TATA Group is a conglomerate of a hundred companies in everything from motors, to the food industry, from jewelry, all the way to technological consultancy services. Obviously the group wasn’t started on its own. It was started by one man in the late nineteenth century, with the dream of only starting one company, and his name was Jamshedji Tata.

On XLRI’s campus, there is a museum and archives for the first company created by the descendants of Jamshedji Tata, TATA Steel. TATA Steel was the first industrial company that was created by an Indian in India in the early twentieth century. Though he wasn’t alive to see it built, Jamshedji set the plans in motion. It was amazing hear from our tour guide all the various ideas and the great lengths that this gentleman went through in order to pursue a dream. Not only was he instrumental in the creation of TATA Steel, but he was also integral in the creation of India’s first technical institute, and India’s first planned city, which of course was named in honor of him; Jamshedpur.

Jamshedpur, where XLRI is located, is TATA’s city. You can see TATA Steel from campus and it’s still producing quality steel that is used by the likes of Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai. TATA motors also has offices here and hopefully as part of our courses here we will be able to go to this factory as well. I haven’t seen much of Jamshedpur, but from what I can see, it is a beautiful city. It is the first planned city, as I mentioned before, and it is also the seventh (or eighth) cleanest city in India. Another unique fact about Jamshedpur is that the city is completely run by the TATA Group, not the Indian city government. TATA provides filtered water and electricity to the city. TATA owns some of the land that makes up Jamshedpur, but the rest it leases from the government. The current term of the lease is 99 years and the lease was just renewed in the last few years.

From the museum visit, I also learned that TATA group also pours much of their resources into environmental protection and education for the people of Jamshedpur and the rural villages that are around the city. They have many small programs such as health programs, and teaching programs in these rural parts, not only to foster a learning environment, but also making sure the people are healthy and well cared for and more opportunities than they could have imagined before.

It’s always nice to see a huge corporation giving back to the people and for me, I’m awed to see that the inspiration of one man over a century ago, inspired his family to create and nurture this same spirit within itself and to others over the years that have past.

Jamshedji Tata

Jamshedji Tata

One exhibit detailing the history of Jamshedji Tata and the start of the TATA Steel plant and other companies.

One exhibit detailing the history of Jamshedji Tata and the start of the TATA Steel plant and other companies.

This portion of the archive depicts the steel making process on the walls. However, it also showcases local Indian artists and their paintings. All of these paintings have been bought by the TATA Group.

This portion of the archive depicts the steel making process on the walls. However, it also showcases local Indian artists and their paintings. All of these paintings have been bought by the TATA Group.

Another amazing man from the TATA family. He dedicated his life to his passion for aviation  and the education of children in India. This is his last quoted statement, before he died.

Another amazing man from the TATA family. He dedicated his life to his passion for aviation and the education of children in India. This is his last quoted statement, before he died.

A painting that was created by a local Jamshedpur artists - who is illiterate - and found away to create a portrait of JRD using convex mirror reflections.

A painting that was created by a local Jamshedpur artists – who is illiterate – and found away to create a portrait of JRD using convex mirror reflections.

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Starting the Journey- first weeks in India: Part I

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“In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing”Apollonius Tyanaeus quotes (Neo-Pythagorean)

Traveling to India is always trying; the flight is long, the layovers in New Delhi go from hours to eons when landing at zero dark thirty, and finally the excitement you feel can exhaust your mind as well. This may be my third trip to India, but there is something about this country that I find new and exciting each time I come and this time wasn’t any different than the last two.

Currently I am residing at XLRI (Xavier Labour Relations Institute) for my 2nd semester of my Global MBA. XLRI is actually based in the Indian state of Jharkand and in the city of Jamshedpur. It is a small city – population of around 1-1.3 million people – and the university is a self sustaining place. After traveling over 24 hours to reach Jamshedpur, needless to say my first couple of days here were a blur. The accommodations are extremely nice (our building has just been built), the food is delicious, and the classes are already running me ragged with all the reading and getting my ear attune to the different accents all over again!

As always, my first impressions of India are colorful. The country is always so vibrant and you can see it plainly in the riotous colors they have for their different textiles, especially for the women.

All of the colors!

All of the colors!

My other guilty pleasure is enjoying some of the signage, in terms of traffic laws and the like. Let’s just say that driving in India should be considered an Olympic sport. Between the horns honking, the cows meandering through the streets, the mopeds, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, autos, buses, work trucks…etcetera, it’s sheer anarchy on the roads at all times of the day. The signs are just icing on the cake. Especially ones like this one:

Traffic Stop, pay attention!

Traffic Stop, pay attention!

I  guess what makes it funny to me is that no one even pays the slightest bit of attention to it, and it’s at a 3-way intersection on the left hand side of the road – where no one really bothers to look at it. Traffic is a very interesting thing in India there are written rules, and unwritten rules; and the unwritten rules seem to be King – from what I’ve seen. It works though, it definitely works.

I’m sure there are going to be many more tidbits that will come up, but in my next post I will walk through my first trip away from campus all the way to the Bay of Bengal!