Archive for the ‘ America ’ Category

MEXICO CITY KIDNAPPED MY HEART!

Mexico City, the capital of Mexico is less traveled in comparison to Cabo and other resort areas. Mexico was never on my agenda of places to visit for one reason: it felt too close to where I live, California. I’d rather be in Dominican Republic than visit Mexico. On a lazy evening as I was watching TV, I happened to catch an episode of scam city, a show about scams around the world. That specific episode was on cab kidnappings of tourists in Mexico City. My mother was going to Mexico City to visit the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I decided to go with her along with our bodyguard, my husband. We did lots of research on cabs, the ones to avoid right before our trip. D-day was finally here and we were on our way to the airport.
We arrived at San Francisco airport at 8:30 for our 11:00 flight. Our excitement was snapped when the ladies at the counter said “Sorry, we cannot find your tickets”. For the next 3 hours we were on the phone with Aeromexico to locate our tickets. Needless to say our flight left us as we were trying to locate our tickets. They finally found our tickets and got us a ticket on the next flight out of SF, which was at 9:00 the next morning. We were supposed to have landed in Mexico City at 8 ish, but needless to say we were elated we were still going to visit Mexico City.

A flight ride through Cabo, and we were in Mexico City at 5:35 pm the next day. We had lost a day, so we had to make up for lost time. Our first stop was to get some fuel in our belly before sightseeing. We decided on a small hole in the wall place called “Gotan Argentino Restaurante“. The place was small but it oozed warmth. We knew not an ounce of Spanish and the owner tried her best to help us make our choices. Love transcends languages and it was indeed love at first bite. Love deepened with each bite until she brought out her grandma’s “cheesecake-ish dessert” and I was ready to marry her for it. The pasta was the best I had ever had too. Following gotan, we went to the monumento y museo de revolucio. We walked around looking for it and happened to spot it while finding gotan. It was in our backyard. It was the most chaotic serene ambience ever. People were having fun hanging out by the monument and yet it was serene against the star-studded sky. There was an elevator to the top if you want to soak in the view.

Our second day began early as we took a tourist car to basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Our cab driver offered us the pyramids tour as well with him being our tour guide. He spoke English and he offered us a deal for $40 us a person. Can’t complain when our hotel charged $106 per person. The basilica was beautiful with artistic architecture, an pious ambience and goose bumps rising experience. I felt all my problems wash away as we prayed at the basilica. I have never felt lighter in my life. The basilica is the biggest in the Americas and it is believed lady Guadeloupe had appeared in those very grounds. We reached there in time to catch some of the mass, and it was a spiritual experience.

The pyramids of the sun and moon were on my agenda. I have never been to a pyramid before and I sure wasn’t going to miss it. It was hot and humid, and we climbed a million stairs or so it felt like. The pyramid of the sun had more stairs and it was crowded. One piece of advice: do not look down when walking down beyond the next stair… It is eerie! The pyramid of the moon while being smaller with most of it being restrictive areas was the hardest to climb. The stairs were built for 7 ft people and at 5’5 those stairs were tall for me. We rounded our day off with some refreshing cactus fruit and a tour of the Chapultepec Castle. The palace was beautiful and in some areas looking down I felt like the damsel in distress. The palace is up a hill in a park. We ate some mexican snacks (I have no idea what it was called) as we sat around watching children get their faces painted. The innocence in the air was infectious and the hot sauce dripping popcorn definitely transported me back in time.

Third day in Mexico was going to be laid back with some street food. We began with a street tortas. My footballer husband could not finish his torta- they were huge! We were sore from the pyramids and slowly cruised through the few more churches, the palace of fine arts, the national palace from afar ( it is closed on Monday), shopping areas and good old coffee. After walking for almost 3 hrs on a bummed Achilles, coffee and chair was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was our last night in Mexico and we decided to meet my girlfriend for the grandma’s cheesecake. I was in love again and if I could would have brought her with me hidden in my suitcase. We bid our adieu to her amidst pouty faces, hugs and teary eyes. The way to true love is indeed through the stomach- at least for me!

Mexico City was beautiful to say the least. We did not know Spanish but at every corner we met people who were willing to help. Sure, we were tricked by the cab drivers, but we were safe. When in Mexico, try to take the tourist cabs if you don’t know Spanish and you are safe. Mexico City should be known for kidnaping its tourists into a beautiful and culturally rich world with palaces and forts. They call Paris the most romantic city in the world, but I thought Mexico was on par. People hugged and kissed each other, flaunting their love irrespective of their sexual orientation. Mexico City indeed kidnapped my heart and taste buds !monumento y museo de revolucio

Mexico City at night

The Serene Basilica of our lady of Guadelupe

The magnificent pyramid of the sun

The Million stairs we climbed

Pyramid of the Moon

Chapultepec Castle

Mexico City

The Square with All the Government buildings including the National Palace

ALONE AND ROCKING IN OREGON!

I felt my heart thumping as I walked through airport security. With my laptop bag on one shoulder and my tickets in my other hand, I tried to portray a picture of confidence. I had walked through these hallways many times before. They know me and I know them. Yet, I was feeling the jitters of a travel novice. There was a difference between the many travels I already did to the one I was on today. I was traveling alone!

 

While most people who see me refute that I am anywhere close to being shy, I know I am an introvert. Since becoming a professional, I go through a million drills in my head before I can converse with a stranger even if that is professional talk. Eating alone is another completely different ordeal. I never ate in front of my husband until we got married. I am terrified of eating in front of people who are not my family and my girl-friends. In college, my two close friends made sure they made me eat, because everyone close to me knew I would starve rather than eat in front of strangers or even eat alone. I am not exaggerating! Every time I was asked on a date, I refused to eat with the guy. I made excuses such as “I have food at home” or “my mom cooked for me”.

 

photoI was traveling alone on business to Oregon for three days. Suddenly, I felt the jitters I felt when I first traveled on business to Seattle without family. I still had few people from my work on that trip. An hour and 45 minutes of a flight ride later, we had landed in Portland. I got a cab and made my way to the outskirts of Oregon where the company was located.

 

Going to work was the easier part. The first night in Oregon, I decided to go to the mall across from my hotel and get something to eat. I decided to eat at the restaurants in the mall, but suddenly as I was walking from work to my hotel, I decided I was not going to eat at any chain restaurants and I was going to eat in a restaurant at least once on my trip. Knowing me, I knew I would chicken out of  the second one real easily. I yelped away to find a Korean Fusion place which in layman’s terms is Korean Chipotle with a twist. I walked to the mall, went to the store and ordered my rice bowl. I wanted to sit right there and eat, but I blamed it on the sprinkling rain and walked back to my hotel to eat my food. I went back to the mall again later and walked around the mall. I have never been alone at the mall before either and I am not much of a mall rat. I decided I need to have a victory today so I walked into every store, touched one of two things and walked out.

 

The next day I ate my breakfast alone at the breakfast area of my hotel. It didn’t feel as overwhelming, maybe because there were four other people besides me. After a full day at work, I decided I was going to go to visit few parks around here. The total distance between the parks, the hawaiian restaurant I wanted to visit and my hotel was close to 4 miles. I had my direction on my iphone, and made my way to the park. I felt adventurous, and courageous.

 

I have walked alone to parks before, but being anonymous in a different state felt different. I was welcomed with several hi’s and I responded as I walked through two parks. I am very sure they recognized the tourist in me. I had my google maps on my iphone, following every turn even if I had to jaywalk. I am so bad with directions that I did not want to risk it and complicate my trip further. There were green tall trees everywhere as the Tualatin river flowed in the middle. The sun rays against the water glittered everything. It was serene, and I felt my mind and soul being cleansed by the purity around. I no longer felt lonely. Nature was my companion and I felt serene and peaceful.


After walking through the trails, it was time to feed my belly. I made my way to the hawaiian restaurant by passing through the Tualatin community park. I went up the counter and ordered my Shu-yu chicken, and the dreaded question followed: for here or to go? I said to go and then changed my mind and said for here. I felt my heart beating fast. I got my food, my Sriracha sauce and took the seat right in the middle of the

Aliens in the Inter-racial zoo

alien_in_UFO_cartoon

Every time my husband and I walk down the street in metropolitan California, we get stares.  People forget personal boundaries sometimes in their quest to know if what they are seeing is actually true.  We are the eighth wonders of the world- Why? Because he is African American and I am Indian. People do a double take on us. If we would have let them, they would have tested the authenticity of his Afro to see if he was true blood African American. Although I am Indian by birth, I am my own cocktail and most often mistaken to be South American.  So here we are walking down the street where you see Asians with Caucasians, Asians with African American, Caucasians and African Americans but the stares come our way. In this interracial museum, my husband and I are the weirdest exhibits.

We have had our share of fun. Once in Wal-Mart, we had an old man who was so close to us that we could smell the garlic in the food he ate. Do we matter so much? I guess we do.  I guess Indian women are not usually seen in inter-racial relationships, so African American and Indian is not expected. I want to ensure I say this- Just because I am with a black man, does not mean I like all black men or as they call it I am not into all chocolate. I detest the line ‘Oh you like chocolate’. No I don’t, I like one kind and I am married to him.  Don’t compare my Godiva with Hershey’s- it is not the same!

I have had people ask me did you always want to marry African American man. Sure I wanted to since the time I was born. Walking down the street in India I hoped to marry an African American, because that’s what I saw around me. I want to shoot the person who made the line, ‘Once you go black, you don’t go back.’ It’s not true at least not in my case. If today I were not with my husband, would I want to be with another black man? Sure if he looked and talked like Denzel Washington. But they don’t make too many men like that. In which case, would I want to be with someone just because he is black? Not really!

I am an exotic Indian bird nabbed by an American. Men want to know how he managed this feat considering my people are not known to go outside the culture. Women wonder how he managed to get me to marry him. I am no Angelina Jolie that Brad Pitt was waiting at the corner for me. We are two normal looking people who fell in love and got married.  There are people waiting to see what this offspring of ours is going to look like. They assure me it’s going to be beautiful. I am collecting money for every assurance I get.  I call my baby a specimen- has to be if all the visitors in our inter-racial zoo are waiting to see him/her.  You need to be special to be a spectacle. Mine is not of royal blood with five names after him/her, and it sure is not a Jolie-Pitt or any other famous last name. So the most logical reason, it is a never before seen specimen- what we call an alien. If you ever read, “an alien has been born” in the newspaper, you know who made it!

I boarded a roller coaster named America!

I boarded a roller coaster named America!.

I boarded a roller coaster named America!

I was waiting at Chennai airport to board my first flight ever to come to America. After 23 hours on a flight, I could see the San Francisco skyline from the flight. It was beautiful, all lit up on a cold July evening. Was I prepared for my American life- sure I was. When you are a teenager, you know it all. And I knew America. How could Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Friends be wrong? Friends had to portray real America- they lived in New York, hung out in a coffee shop for most part and Hollywood movies: Oh yeah, I sure knew America. I knew English real well, I wore jeans and t-shirt, and I love pizza and hamburgers- I was American already.Image

DISCLAIMER: Everything in this article portrays India before 2001.

A day after we landed in America my mom and I decided to go to 7-11 to buy some sandwiches. As we walked there, this African American man looked at us and said “Y’all are pretty!” The complement totally passed by me as I gave him one of my “excuse you” looks. How dare he say I am pretty, the balls on that man! I wanted to fly up to him and punch him for calling me pretty. Anyways I was smart to realize that at 5’5, there was no way I would even dent his 6’5 frame. So there I was angry that this random guy called me pretty! I came from India; we never smiled at strangers on the street, so pretty was not acceptable.

My first day in college was trickier. I was a tomboy, who up until 2001 wore big jeans, bigger shirts and had short boy cut hair.  I went to college dressed exactly like that: big jeans, shirt and short boy cut hair. I used to be a popular girl in my high school, so why would I change my style in America? The girls stared at the fiasco I was. It took me three years to shrink my jeans to proper size, big shirts changed to right size shirts. While hair grew long too- that was partly because of a challenge. I would trade my horse tail mane for my cool spunky cut any day.

I had to mentally prepare myself to be a girl. Even though I was a tomboy in big clothes, I still got asked on dates. Dates did not exist in my vocabulary. I wasn’t sure why these guys I met wanted my phone number. Some were real slick: Do you want to give me your number so we can study? Sounds legit right! Not really. That study session was all about what do you like to eat, do you dance, do you want to go out for dinner-  I had no idea how dance and eating had anything to do with electrical engineering. Well, It took me two years to get past making excuses like,” my mom has cooked for me”, or “I don’t eat outside”, versus just saying blunt no. Dates scared me and I dreaded eating with a fork and knife. It took constant reminders of which hand the fork needed to be and which hand the knife should be.

Starbucks, why were you so impossible. I wasn’t invited to the coffee renaming session when Frappuccino, cappuccino replaced coffee. On one of my unaware dates, this guy took me to Starbucks. The whole time I told myself, “I can do it, Be cool, its coffee, there is no fork and knife”.  I looked at the menu and I was stumped. I thought it was going to be in English. Frappuccino, Cappuccino, espresso- I stood there stumped pondering on this new language. So I did the easiest thing ever- I ordered coffee. I hate black coffee. In India coffee comes with milk, sugar already in the coffee and that’s what I ordered at Starbucks. My Starbucks coffee came with nothing but black water. My “date” showed me the milk area. I did not know milk came as half-half, whole and fat free. It was too hard to decide so I skipped milk. Sugar, well I thought a bag of sugar equated to a teaspoon of sugar, so I put two bags. I walked out of Starbucks accomplished that I had made my first American coffee. Not really!! First sip and it was bitter, but I did not want to throw the coffee the guy bought, so I drank most of it until my bus came to save my soulwoman-freaked

My American journey took almost three years in the making, before I could confidently walk into an unknown territory knowing I can handle this. 12 years since I first landed in San Francisco and I still get culture shocks. Ordering food still brings out the immigrant in me. Even a simple question like wheat or white bread leaves my head in a swirl, perplexed if I really need to choose. But I do, and I have realized all it takes is a breath of air. A gasp of fresh air and I am ready to choose sourdough!