Guest POst: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring small size nick-knacks)

things to bring on an adventure

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING

Boy Scouts’ slogan got it right!  With a small adjustment: be prepared for the unknown. What do you need to bring on the trip? Really, there are only two musts: make sure your brain is working and positive attitude is turned on. All else is for extra comfort, since you will likely be roughing it without a bagful of personal belongings. Careful packing is a crucial way to anticipate and smoothly overcome possible hurdles on a badass journey. Play the trip out to yourself over and over again, visualizing the euphoria and the challenges. Think of the material necessities that should accompany those abstracts. This way, you will mitigate the stress of the unknown. Continue reading “Guest POst: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring small size nick-knacks)”

New York City Senses

southern view from central parkThe photos in this post are not related to the text… just some photos I’ve been taking this week randomly.

I’ve been living in NYC long enough now that I’m starting to take my surroundings for granted. I get annoyed and flustered at the idiocy of others constantly surrounding me and the weather has been crap. Even summertime heat that I was so longing for during the treacherous winter months has worn me out (being completely drenched in sweat before my work day even begins is not great). This all makes me pretty sad. I love this city. I do, I really do. I love it for the exact reasons that are wearing me down. I love the people, the noise, the dirt, the inconvenience of it all. I wanted to do something to make me focus less on my discomfort and more on my surroundings so I started sitting down every chance I get to write about my what I see, smell, and hear. Every now and then my emotions find their way into these exercises too.  Continue reading “New York City Senses”

Guest POst: Life after PhiThaKhon

For the next 5 months, I’m going to be posting a series of guest posts called Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own. I hope you enjoy!

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the tiny village/town behind Igor is Jelondi, Pamir, Tajikistan

Igor Postrekhin is a (seemingly fearless) world-traveler and professional adventurer. He is also my brother. Having a travel journal including more countries and cities than most will ever even contemplate visiting in their life-time, Igor has a unique perspective on wild experiences, facing fears, cultures & people, and most importantly living life without the constraints of society’s rulebook. A direct quote from his About Me section on his Couchsurfing profile (which has an overwhelming 142 positive reference list) says “Passion is the fuel that keeps me going. Extremes and adventures exhilarate me, obscure the norms.” He is currently living in Xinjiang, China.

Here’s a list of said countries in case you were curious.

Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahamas, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burma, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Virgin Islands, U.S.

Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels:

  1. Conquer your fears! Ok, difficult, start with practice. Begin with overcoming some smaller seemingly impossible challenges on your list. Those which will involve testing self, looking for self-trials. Ultimately, I think, every adventure involves coming out victorious over something that you thought YOU couldn’t do. To happily spend endless hours and vast resources on the perfect adventure, you have to desire new remarkable experiences, and dare yourself (even if just a bit) to be victorious.

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”
Lao Tzu 

Life after Phi Tha Kon

I was volunteering as a teacher at the Nong Khai base in the Isan province of Thailand. As a group of new friends and colleagues we took a weekend trip to the top of Dan Sai mountains for the famed Phi Tha Kon festival. This was week three of my first solo exploration abroad. For months building up to this trip, I’ve dreamt of these locales, customs, experiences, of Thailand, of exploring jungles; I was more than excited for exoticism and adventure ahead. This was my first life-defining travel adventure.  fest

Phi Tha Kon is a crazy festival dedicated to scaring off evil spirits and summoning up the protective ones. The ritual processions and celebration run practically nonstop for three days and nights: everyone wears myriads of wicked masks and costumes, and carries ligneous phalluses — also in an immeasurable variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. The sojourn ambiance, open air, friendly beer markets, and the tradition of poking each other with wooden penises, especially from behind, culminated in an unforgettable merrymaking. To top off this special outing, it was the weekend of the FIFA World Cup ’06 Final – we watched the match on a fifty-foot projector screen, full of emotions, exploding for the unforgettable Zidane finale. Our international Nong Khai family of young travelers was extremely joyful, bonding together, building lifetime friendships.fest2

On the last day, shortly before departure, I had a typical Isan meal – with very spicy, deep flavors stemming from the core ingredients. (Som Tum papaya salad from this region is still the spiciest dish I’ve ever enjoyed.) Well, it wasn’t digesting properly as we were riding back home. The dilapidated, packed bus rocked hard side-to-side, constantly hitting bumps on the only road from the high up village-town. I was standing among dozens of others in the crammed space between the seats. Bodies swayed with the motion of the bus and I suddenly felt the whirling transfer into inside of my belly. In an instant, the centrifuge in my stomach was turned on and I immediately felt repercussions of that lunch coming. Without delay, I vehemently barked at Nick to ask the driver to stop the bus and let me out.bus trip

Nick, our young native group leader and translator, looked puzzled and did not react. In agony of inevitable release, I yelled “STOP THE BUS!” My foreign friends glared with surprise, the rest of the passengers began chattering in Thai, probably something along the lines “loco Gringo”. I informed my friends with an obvious “I gotta go!” facial expression. This time Nick was urgently conversing with the driver. “How will you get home?” he turned to me, “the driver won’t wait for you. There’s no more buses from here today. Few cars go by this road at all this time of evening.” The bus was slowly pulling over at the straight away between a wavy chain of mountain bends. I pushed my way to the door, not seeing another option. My companions were a bit stunned as I jumped out at a slow roll, not trusting the driver to actually fully stop soon enough. Nick’s response was to shout something at me as he threw a translation booklet and a telephone (I traveled with only pen and paper back in the day). I sprinted into the bushes out of sight of rolling away stares and started taking care of business.

This wouldn’t be the last time that TP isn’t on hand and leaves serve a hygienic purpose. These leaves were large though, unlike any that I’ve ever seen, luckily smooth, and springing right out of the marsh-covered ground. Once I composed myself, I began to evaluate the situation beyond the foliage at squatting level. I was in the mother freaking jungle!! Frightful loss was one of the strong initial emotions. Then I reminded myself about what I came to Thailand for: to experience tropical wilderness. Everything was quiet except for ubiquitous cricketing, snapping, croaking sounds of the forest. “How dare I be fearful?” was another attempt to rid mind of worries. Humidity was peaking after just-passed rain. The evaporating moisture off the omnipresent green surfaces enhanced the lush fragrances of all surrounding flora. It was a few hours before sundown, although gloomy clouds lingered with darkness behind the recent downpour.thai hills1I found a spot with little over-brush to take in the stunning view of the high rolling hills of South East Asia. The sun was lurking about a foot above the mountain at four o’clock bearing, looking directly down the slope. The road a few feet behind me zigzagged and disappeared into the jungle oblivion to the right, towards the sun. The last of the rattling of the bus’s broken exhaust pipe was also fading from the same direction. A few hundred yards lower, this serpentine road reemerged on the other side of that mount, and then was seen wagging in and out of sight far down the valley below.

“What if I cut straight down the mountain through the forest? …And maybe be lucky enough to catch up with the bus on the switchbacks below… while the bus is going the long way around the sun mountain?”, I pondered, “…this could be a reasonable hike… I should hit the road a few hundred yards down… and this’d be the best chance of passage home.” An inexplicable desire to manifest this idea was pleading me to proceed into the brush. “Can I do that?” Doubt and an injection of nervousness magnified the insanity of the thought. Anxiety driven, I was on a verge of running after the sluggish bus, for a split second regarding it as a more rational idea. Confounded, I looked at the road, continuing to leer at the entrails of the forest. Powerful exhilaration kept trickling through my veins, trampling “I can’t”.thai hills2This plan struck my naivety as an ideal adventure, a chance to fulfill a dream of crossing a jungle. I carelessly rushed into the forest; backpack still hanging over the right shoulder. I hadn’t done anything of the sort before — was a bit clueless of the forthcoming. Ten meters from the road, twelve, fifteen, I’m advancing inwards, looking for a pathway all around except under my feet. “I never thought I’d actually do something like this”, I thought, this is one of those gnarly experiences I’ve only envisioned. “I can…” was my last thought. Boom! There it was: I stepped on the false ground. The shrub collapsed under my right foot, slippery floor had no friction, and my butt gravitated hard down into a natural trench, with backpack in tow, into a slide down the slope.

Down I went, at a steep angle, fast, feeling at once powerless against the force of nature; yet all senses heightened to function in unison and survive… The sensation was familiar from wrestling matches in high school: thinking turns off, instincts kick in, muscles tense up, joints unhinge… My right arm was stuck in the upward position to prevent loosing the backpack, yet both hands were karate-chopping an onslaught of branches hurling at my face and torso from all sides. I was zooming down in an inverted catapult, quickly accumulating bruises and scratches. Branch – chop, branch – chop, tree root – kick off ditch’s side as hard as I can and scoot. This was a roller coaster without safety belts. The initial jolt sent me straight downwards, but soon the pathway of the massive cartless bobsledding track – the rut – steered me rightwards. My body shifted into a skid sideways, thumping a formidable hump or two in the process. That slowed the motion. I quickly shuffled my feet against the banks to avoid more upcoming obstacles sticking out of the flanking ground. Still rushing down the mist-lubricated water slide, I started reaching for lianas all around. Missed one, couldn’t grip onto the second one, the third one gave in and dragged with me… that effort was enough to slow down the momentum. Another veer rightwards and the ride was over: I was sitting on the bottom of a ten-foot wide ravine, with the backpack a few yards behind, trying to regain clear-headedness, if not consciousness itself.

“That was WICKED!” I was sitting in a sapless pile of mud on a flat grassy patch. I adjusted my pants, shaking off whatever was crawling inside them. They were completely soiled on the outside. A mere single rip in my t-shirt exposed several major scrapes on my right loin. Dirt masked my shirt’s cool design. Several invisible bugs needed to be swapped to stop biting me in the scalp. I was beat up but invigorated. I looked back over the left shoulder: probably less than a hundred yards traveled, albeit the top of the hill was out of sight. It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes. It sure seemed like a voyage! What just happened?!?! I sat there, feeling devirginized, already knowing that a tremendous life event had just occurred. I had the first dose of the most powerful drug in my life – overcoming an unexpected, extraordinary, unprecedented to self, challenge.

I took several deep breaths, inhaling the pristine air of the jungle forest. Tiny purple flowers scattered all over low grasses and serene chirping of the birds perfectly complimented the internal feeling of success. Peace and euphoria. Humanity was far out of sight and out of mind at that moment. I would probably be groaning from multiple bruises on my hips if it wasn’t for my soul’s complete satisfaction. I fulfilled a dream, and it happened so naturally. I wasn’t thinking of any other dreams at that moment, but instinctively was certain that they would all come to fruition in some similarly bizarre turn of events.

“Now what?,” hints of panic began sifting through as reality of whereabouts sunk back in. Distance ahead became scary. A prospect of again falling down and not being so lucky crossed my mind once or twice. The obvious horror of being stuck in the bug infested woods overnight flashed in my imagination. Nonsense! “I must have about two-three hundred yards to go down… and to the left (since the slide kept bending rightwards)…. Very doable.” I was ready, eager to get back to the paved road, to cross paths with the bus and tell all about the happening to new friends. I fastened the bag onto my back and walked down at eleven o’clock bearing. Already clearheaded, only minutes after the rush, this time a sense of simultaneous confidence and cautiousness dominated my mind. Vigilantly I probed every step, but moved fast, using tree trunks and branches for security and stability. My shoes have been soaked for some while now; sweat was dripping off me faster than I could wipe it. I had to hop down a small scarp at one point, although otherwise it was an easy and smooth hike. Suddenly I heard a vehicle’s humming not too far below in the distance and my newfound contention of hiking in the jungle was trumped by excitement of ending the trek and sharing the experience with comrades. I deeply wished the sound was that of the bus, as I imagined a heroic return.bus

I sauntered onto the road – to be extra suave in case of witnesses. It wasn’t the bus, but an old loud truck approaching from the right. I faced slightly rightward – facing the left-sided traffic – and hesitantly raised my left thumb. I’ve always coveted hitchhiking, the freedom and adventurism that it entails. This was the perfect opportunity for trying it out, better than any I could’ve imagined. Ok, another first for me! It’s always different, however, being out there and actually doing it: courage was now wavering. As the contours of the truck drew closer I realized that it had a tiny cabin, full with three persons, and a chicken coop in the back bed. Within fifty meters, chicken clucking from the back of the obnoxiously painted red-orange striped rig became audible. Perhaps because this scenario was never part of my dream, the idea of having my muddy appearance covered with chicken feathers, whilst riding in that cage, appalled me. I quickly retrieved my hand and simply smiled at the locals as they drove passed.

I didn’t have to wait longer than thirty seconds before another vehicle popped out from around the bend in the distance. This one did not make any noise and was rapidly gliding towards me. I squinted to make out a black European sedan stylishly zooming along cliff side. It was a new model C Class Mercedes Benz. With no hesitation, the finger went back up into the flagging stance. I had zero worries on my mind, my mini-dreams were stacking one on top of another, happiness of these moments had already penetrated the subconscious. Within seconds, the Finish driver and his pretty Thai front-seat passenger were motioning me to enter the car for a ride.

I wouldn’t have let my dirty self into the interior of this sleek mobile, but this family was not a bit bothered by my stained appearance — white skin, even muddy, truly is a ticket to much in the Third world. The couple’s mixed-race teenage son, seated behind the European father, greeted me with a friendly smile, and then drowned back into his iPod. We exchanged few words with the driver’s wife, but silence was clearly the preferred mode of this trip. A chilly stream of AC air cooled me into ultimate comfort of the spacious leather backseat.

Indiscernible tunes of pop rock from the kid’s headphones to the left prompted me to also pull out my player. I started listening to the White Stripe’s new-to-me White Blood Cells album on the way to Phi Tha Khon few days prior, so I put them back on. And then the magic moment, when music solidifies an event, enthralled me. “We’re going to be friends” came on.  It wasn’t about a girl, or a person, it was about trip-taking and adventure-making. It was about seeking shortcuts, getting off on thrills, and breaching new horizons of personal possibilities. The roots of a deep friendship within myself were planted. The kid and me incidentally exchanged looks and a more genuine smile this time — he was bobbing to my waves, clearly contaminated by my joy from this song. I was drifting in Zen, with eyes shut, as I heard “where? Drop off you where?” from my kind chauffeur.

stationthe bus station

I stepped out back into the steam-bath of SE Asia at the conspicuous bus station in the middle of an insignificant town-village. This is where we were supposed to change buses on the way back to Nong Khai, I realized. As I walked through the bus terminal, to my extreme amazement, I first heard the rattling of the old exhaust pipe and then watched the familiar decrepit bus pull into its gate. Musky and blue in the face from the fatiguing journey, the crowd began tumbling out of the bus. I stood there, glowing, welcoming my surprised co-travelers with the grandest grin. I was joyous to be back in their company, they were awed by my wicked reappearance – jubilation reigned the moment. As they began bombarding me with “what”s and “how”s, Nick quickly herded us into the departing coach for our last leg of the trip to Nong Khai. On the way home, during a much more comfortable and relaxing ride, I told all of my misadventures, with fulsome gesturing. I didn’t mention, however, anything about initial fears; this is a tale of the undaunted conquering of Thai jungles, and, secretly, self in the process.

2. ‘Be prepared!’

3. Make it your own!

4. Be open-minded!

5. Have fun even if it doesn’t seem like fun in the moment!


The 1st guest POst in the Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels series from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own.

The other POsts in this series can be found by following these links:

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring small size nick-knacks)

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (BRING THE SAVING GRACE)

Week 42: Yoga & the Dude With the Beard.

Yes, I didn’t post anything last week. I was recuperating and now I feel like I have energy again. So much so that I did yoga for the first time since moving here. The best part? I got to do it in my beautiful living room.

tree_poseMy yoga sesh was facing outside. It was perfect.

I was astounded at my inability to do many of the poses to the extent I used to be able to do them. My form sucks and my posture is really bad not to mention all my frozen joints…. I’m excited to make yoga part of my weekly routine to fix this ish!

I’ve finally gotten myself into a good active routine at the gym. I love working out… it’s just easy for me to forget how much I love it when I don’t do it for a while. Glad that’s over. Zumba, Spin, Weights, and several high intensity workouts fill my week and now I’m thinking yoga will fit in nicely.

With that said, March is my birthday month and I’m going gift myself with some new workout attire AND shoes (have I mentioned my undying love of shoes?). My running shoes have seen their day and are beginning to do more harm than good. I just ordered a couple new digs from DSW & registered with Fabletics… I’m so excited!

 


Last week wasn’t all that eventful anyway just a run-in with the Chinese Mafia (mob?), tacos in soho, and fancy cosmos at the Bowery Hotel. Nothing exciting.

 


This week unfortunately was even less exciting. I signed up for Hulu… until the weather is nice enough for me to go out, I’m just going to be a hermit and catch up on all my favorite tv.

I did get to go see the Legend of Mulan by the Hong Kong Dance Company at the Lincoln Center which was pretty magical. And today (Sunday) I took another visit to Brighton Beach. This time, Chelsea & Sveta joined! It was a marvelous day to celebrate International Women’s day. In Russia this holiday is a HUGE deal so every lady was carrying a lovely bouquet of flowers and every store we visited we were wished a happy 8th of March. ❤

 

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SO much Russian candy to be had!

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Chess

Little Russia in it’s finest (two fellas playing chess at the local Starbucks). The guy with the beads in his beard wanted us to know he’s a decedent from a line of Ukrainians.

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Lunch on the boardwalk. Check.

Candy shopping overhaul. Check.
sveta_and_i subwaystation

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Today’s weather was 47F degrees. I haven’t been so happy in a long time. I cannot wait for warmer days so I can go outside more often.

Have a great week!

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Week 36: Postablog, Ms. Lopez & Little Russia.

[January 19th – 25th]

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My week in food was a complete failure… I certainly didn’t eat out as much (just a couple times), but still more than I intended to. I had some plans that pretty much required I eat unhealthy (when lobster Mac n’ Cheese is on the menu, you don’t say no). Next week (I say this all too often) I’ll make a separate ‘My week in Food’ post and will hopefully make time to take pretty photos.

01.19: So I’ve mentioned how happy I am with my new job at Postable, right? Well, among many other things I get to write the blog… so go check it out blog.postable.com or just click HERE.

My gym update is pretty sad, but I guess I shouldn’t keep it to myself. I went yesterday. Today I am extremely sore. With plans to go tonight having been cancelled post a dinner that’s left me immobile, I’ve got my eye on Wednesday for my next workout sesh.

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Tuesday night trivia… but first, there was Happy Hour Oysters!

01.21: I’m having a really hard time leaving the house after making it indoors at night. The daylight is always so enticing that leaving the house is never an issue, but when the moon is shining there’s a whole new obstacle. When I’m on my way home from the subway, I feel like I’m escaping an evil force that’s trying to kill me… Making it inside is an epic achievement. Why would I ever want to go back outside after such an ordeal?! With this said, I’m pushing myself out of the door as we speak (sort of) so I can go workout.

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We worked from Williamsburg this Tuesday… not a terrible view. 

1.22: I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s resolution for a couple weeks now. I know, I’m kind of late. I went through the usual… stop eating like shit, go to the gym, blah blah. I want to change something in my life for the better this year instead of just plowing away at the usual personal hurdles. I was doing a facebook crawl (something I’ve successfully reduced from my daily life) today and came across a HONY post (Humans of New York). It was about Mott Hall Bridges Academy – a middle school located in a Brooklyn neighborhood with the highest crime rate in NYC. They are raising money on Indiegogo to help get these kids on a field trip to Harvard (showing them a world outside of theirs). I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever donated to a cause. Maybe once or twice for something environmental related, but I really can’t put my finger on any one time. I could not have felt more supportive and on board with what they’re trying to achieve and decided I’d donate next week’s brunch $. It’s not much, but it’s something.

That’s when I realized what one of my new year’s resolutions should be… donate to a cause once a month. Let’s be clear, I don’t have fountains of dough lounging around my apartment. I have to budget like a mad woman to be able to live this life in NYC. But if I can skip one of my brunches so that I can help [just a teeny tiny bit], that sounds way more appealing than a nasty afternoon hangover post an unlimited mimosa escapade. The principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy sounds like Superwoman, I’m so glad HONY found her.

Their fundraising goal that started today was $100,000 (enough to send 3 years worth of 6th grade students on a trip to Harvard). When I just checked the site, the total is up to $311,091. That is remarkable. If you look on the side of the page, you can see what the amounts donated look like… most would just barely cover a bottomless Saturday Brunch, but together they’re helping change the lives of children.

The fundraiser is going until February 5th. If you’d like to trade today’s cappuccino bucks I’m sure every dollar is appreciated. You can click the link HERE.

Also, if you’d like to share any great causes down below please feel free!

On another note, today at WeWork (the building I work in)… we got free dumplings for downloading their app. Could I be any more in love with this place? [Did anyone get that Friends reference? 🙂 ]

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This was the other view from my workday in Williamsburg. 

01.23: My Friday night = a giant bowl of roasted dill carrots and hours on hours of Friends. I’ve got to get out more.

01:24: It’s so quiet this morning. Usually I hear random screaming and the occasional slue of conversational honking horns. I say ‘conversational’ because it’s usually two or three (or many times more) people involved in a jammed situation outside my window and instead of talking to one another, they choose to honk back and forth in what some might call a conversational manner.

I woke up early and journeyed out to the grocery store. It snowed a bunch last night and the snow left on the tree branches is really pretty to look at from my window. The minute I walked outside, however, what was beautiful from inside looking out turned into nasty slush below my feet. It’s not very cold today (well above freezing) so the snow is melting quickly… instead of crunchy white snow there were brown mushy puddles. Lovely. I kind of felt like I was walking through a silent battlefield. I had to choose where I stepped very carefully, making sure to avoid large puddles and potential ice pockets, keeping my hood up and my head down to avoid getting hit by the giant snow chunks falling from the branches above. My short walk to the bus was a success, minus the giant snow ball that landed on my forehead as I all-too-bravely decided to look up and admire what was left of the snow up above. Rookie mistake.

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I went to Brighton Beach today. I loved it! Instead of bringing my camera, I was able to pack my backpack with what felt like a ton of goodies. I forget how entertaining it is for me to visit there… it’s like a little island of it’s own. Nobody speaks any English, everything is written in Russian (even the Verizon store front), and there is no shortage of European and Russian food stores. Mmmmm.

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I’ve never seen snow and sand intermingled. 

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The highlights:

* There were a couple of kids sledding on the beach. Literally. They were giggling with each other and speaking half Russian (with their moms) and half English (with each other).

*  The tiny black Honda blasting Russian pop songs parked by the side of the street.

* The little old lady with the baked goodies stand, who refused to smile even though I said hello in the most cheerful Russian I could muster.

* Fur. SO much fur. You don’t see too many people wearing fur around the city, but now I know why. The Russians are hoarding it.

* Speaking of fur… I was on my way back to the train when I walked by one of the many fur stores. The most brilliantly blonde (more like yellow) older lady wearing a turquoise leopard velvet track suit and Gucci rimmed glasses was standing just inside a fur boutique looking around, presumably judging each passerby based on their fury attire. The most gaudy-licious display of their coats was right next to her. It was all too much. I wish I took a picture, but I’d hate for her to think I was judging her. Instead I jotted down what I saw and walked away, giggling the entire way to the train.

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All the goodies I got.

Chebooreki, a bunch of pelmeni, buckwheat, cow tongue, german strawberry preserves, and a bunch of Russian candy.

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I had so much fun reading all the labels and talking with the ladies who worked at the grocery stores. It still kills me (in the best way possible) how they just assume you speak Russian… I was standing in one line and paying all of my attention on reading whatever tag was nearest me (I’m not very good and the cursive handwriting on the sign was throwing me for a loop) when one of the ladies who worked there started trying to tell me to get in her line. It took her like 3 tries to finally get my attention, but not one time did she speak English.

01.25: My goodness today’s weather is beautiful. Too bad tomorrow there’s supposed to be a terrible blizzard. That should be fun.

Sunday night Russian Film Club was a success, as always. Film choice of the evening: Ivan Vasilievich Switches Professions (a Soviet comic science fiction comedy). This one had a lot of fun songs.

I made sure there was no shortage of Russian dumplings (Pelmeni) and Chebooreki (not Russian, but Ukrainian or Turkic- according to Wikipedia. I’m still not exactly sure what nationality this dish is related to exactly). There was also a small assortment of Russian candy that happily got devoured.

russian film club

The Pelmeni were pretty darn delicious, but still not quite as yummy as I remember them from Russia.

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Have a great week!

Week 28: Potatoes for Everyone, Dumplings, & an Egyptian Smoke House.

[This post is coming a week-too-late. I’m still working on getting posts ready in time. I wrote everything on time, but for some reason posting the pictures got the best of my procrastination.]

It’s getting colder. My mood seems to be plummeting with along with the thermometer. Unhappy Regina means Pho for everyone! I have happily sipped on a giant bowl of Pho 3 times this week. In my ideal world, Pho would replace every meal, every day. Including the Turkey. I’m not a big fan. I’d much rather enjoy a bowl of warm bowl of beef broth than munch on dry meat. Just saying.

I decided I should be more visible online – so I joined the world of Twitter. I’ve only made a few posts while researching how to get the best out of it. Twitter is quite the tool.

This Thursday, as all of my US fellows know, was Thanksgiving. The day in America that precedes the greediest day of the year. It’s quite ironic that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for everything in one’s life… Clearly, for many Americans, this is just a day full of lying to themselves and their families. If everyone was so thankful, we wouldn’t have masses of people lined up and trampling others to buy a toy. Or a TV. Seriously? We might as well call Thanksgiving the Day We Prepare Ourselves to Buy More Stuff. Not very succinct, but I’ve never been good with titles. Some people have actually started shopping ON Thanksgiving. Let’s be clear. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays (right next to my birthday & New Years). I try to remind myself to be grateful on a routine daily basis so the whole giving thanks is not the allure. Yes, giving thanks is important, but quite frankly if we had a culture where giving thanks didn’t get squished to ONE DAY of the year perhaps we wouldn’t have people trampling others for a freaking iPhone.

On this magical day, I’m able to eat as much food as I [really] want without anyone being the wiser. I’ve mentioned my disdain for turkey (I eat it anyway, thinking ‘this time I’ll actually love it!’), but the other dishes are worthy of seconds. This year, I wasn’t able to afford a ticket home [traveling around this time costs 3x more] so I joined one of my roommate’s family for the day. She is from Long Island. We took the LIRR (pronounced by saying out each letter L I R R – I naively thought it was pronounced leer) and met the most adorable older lady couple on the way. One had short light hair with green triangle earrings that reminded me of the 80’s and a very spunky outgoing nature. The other, wore a black visor over her short curls and a black long sleeve shirt that read ‘Unarmed Citizen’ with another black shirt underneath that read ‘Greed Kills’. Needless to say these ladies had my heart immediately.

Prior to leaving for Long Island, Mary Alice & I made truffle oil garlic mashed potatoes for a group of 30. It was a lot harder than I thought, but success was inevitable. They were pretty amazing.

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11.30: Today was the perfect example of what I had thought my life would consist of constantly. Of course this couldn’t be farther from the truth, but days like today do take place periodically.

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Union Square Holiday Market

* Made a couple dumplings stops in the East Village followed by some bubble tea.

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* Smoked hookah at an Egyptian Coffee House. This place screamed authentic with the dark and somewhat smokey interior and a handful of Egyptian men hanging out. A couple of men were playing Chinese checkers (?) while enjoying their hookah while another seemed to be dozing off. This was right off of Steinway in Astoria which is filled to the brim with hookah lounges. If you’ve ever walked this street, you’d know what I’m talking about. This hookah spot looked about as far from the other ‘lounges’ as possible. The other spots looked shiny and dark all at once. This spot didn’t have the fancy lighting or seating (the chairs had holes burnt into them), but it was adorned with a giant replica of an Egyptian Mummie at the entrance.  We sat there for quite some time, engaging in conversation. I had failed my coffee consumption ritual that morning so I enjoyed my first Turkish coffee here… needless to say my yawns had said their last goodbyes.

* That evening was chilly so I thawed my fingers while sipping a Cosmo by a small fireplace in the back of a small cafe (Cafe Vivaldi) in the West Village. This place is adorbs… very quaint and lovely indoors with tiny tables assembled in just the right orientation to view the front of the room (they host musicians nightly). One of my brother’s friends performed tonight. A perfect ending to a perfect day.