Friday, December 31, 2010

Curtain Call


A year of tears - when several close friends are tragically lost in the earthquake in Haiti; the gray and gloom that hovered us many months after that constantly reminded us how fragile and temporary life is; the usual daily drama of life - betrayals/ reconciliations/ departures/ separations; a health scare that pushed me to make sure that in case anything happens to me everything is in order - that I have made the decision of NOT to be kept in a vegetative state, NOT to be resuscitated and NOT to have a viewing of my remains (people staring down on me while I lie in a box defenseless why the morgue gave me orange lipstick...ew... too vain for that!).

A year of discovery - that I can do yoga and that I can love yoga; that 20 minutes a day of quiet meditation - no phone, no computer, no tv, no music - is worth a a million less wrinkles everyday; that I can learn to eat vegetables and learn to love some vegetables; travel - that there is nothing in books that can take the place of actually being in another country - not as part of a tour group but for a brief moment as part of its people; a new appreciation for technology - once you go Mac you never go back.

Friends can get recycled - Thank you Facebook for connecting me to friends I knew back in the ancient times. And also because New York seem to be the center of the universe, everyone who stepped into New York stepped back into my life like there was never a 20/30 year gap in between.  Lost and found. Friends from elementary school are now your grown up friends. And in some instances grown up friends revert or stay behind in the world you have just left behind when you stepped into adulthood.

Truth to the adage that when you love your work you never have to go to work a day in your life. And I do love what I do. So much that to date I have turned down 8 promotions since last year.  I always defend that it is a 'once in a lifetime' kind of project and that whatever opportunity I  get in learning new things everyday does not match neither getting promoted or the minuscule financial gain it brings.

Looking back I think it wasn't a very bad year.  Still there were many instances where it pales in comparison with my other banner years.

Welcome 2011 then. No New Year resolutions because I think putting a pressure on myself to do something only brings out the rebel in me that makes me want to fail. Instead I pick up where I left on in 2010 - gathering my lessons learnt and bringing them forward like a studious coed in the school of life. There is endless optimism that a New Year brings and yet I believe everyday should mark a new beginning if we will it to be to tinker with our life to make it better.

Happy New Year everyone and I wish you all many pleasant little surprises along the way.

New York City

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Concept

UN holiday, not a NY holiday = best time to shop.

We enter a new store in Chelsea on 5th Avenue. Loud club music, tapa plates scattered around with free food for everyone.

Him: Why aren't there any clothes on the main floor. Is this a bar?

Me: It's a concept store.

We walk around, sales people offer champagne, more tapas.

Him: No I just want some pants!

Everyone giggles.....

I love this man.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fortune Cookie

Why some New York Japanese restaurants offer fortune cookies I will never know.  But I love the excitement of getting something in return for my 15% tip, even if everyone else on the table think the 'fortune' is a farce.  I subscribe to serendipitous possibilities - after my sukiyaki I will have the wise maitre'd serve me my future in 10 words.

And so eagerly, like the usual ritual we have had many times before, as six pieces of fortune cookies land with the faux leather folder that carries our bill, I gather them up and distribute them around to my friends except for two pieces. The last two pieces I then keep on my open palm for my friend to pick his and whatever is left behind is the fortune cookie of my destiny:

"Live out of your imagination instead of out of your memory"

Well said.

New York

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Arrivederci Italia

The trip is almost done now. Two and a half weeks of an adventure to a land that I have only read about, where I do not speak the language (even if I tried) and for most of it on my own. There had been some minor mishaps but generally I would say it has been quite an experience - a very memorable one. 

The journey began in Milan and ends in Milan. It has taken me behind the ancient walls of Bergamo and Tuscany, the charm of Florence and the ethereal beauty of Rome. I have met up with friends and have had the chance to experience a genuine Italian family dinner. I have learned each city's local transport system and traveled like a local except in Tuscany where I based myself in a small town called Colle di Val d'Elsa, rented a car and with the gentle guiding voice of a GPS maneuvered hairpin curves through vineyards, olive farms and picture perfect little towns. 

I have walked around with my camera and captured people, places and things in photographs which I will share when I am back home and settled in the familiar comfort of my apartment. For this trip I have  traveled with my iPad, and survived on the wifi from my hotels. So far I have had the chance to share some images to my family and friends to ease their worries about me and this adventure. 

I realize now that my itinerary still has a lot lacking. There were places I had planned to see but did not have the chance. Definitely two and a half weeks has not been enough to enjoy Italy. But since it is the most time that I can take off from work for the meantime it would have to suffice. Maybe not even a lifetime is enough to enjoy this beautiful country, so definitely I would be back. 

Roma, Lazio, Italia

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Milan Experience

Arrived in Milan under cloudy skies that deteriorated by the day so that by today, Monday it is pouring and the adventurous tourists who dare step out with hopes of maintaining an itinerary returned to the hotel soaked to the bone. Yes, that is me.

So far Milan has not been a very eye-candy experience as Italy should be about. The city is run down, very gray, dirty and expensive. Only with the exception of the small area of the Duomo is it commercially groomed for some pleasant strolls. My friend and I have summed it up as hoping to have a Parisian experience but instead finding ourselves in the Bronx. I'm sure that just put me in the bad side of some Milanese mafia.

The food so far however have been outstanding. In the Navigli district on Friday night I have a huge plate of spaghetti with clams and it was finger licking good. I am not a very eager pasta eater but proudly, I did clean up my plate. Even small hole-in-the-wall restaurants have been surprising in their delivery of delicious food. Today for lunch in it's simplicity, I had a toasted croissant with caciocavalio (sic) cheese and prosciutto and it is nothing like what you get in New York. yes, I am talking to you, Cipriani Dolci!

One more day and then I pack up and head south to Florence where everyone tells me it will be sunnier, warmer, brighter and much much better.

Milan, Italy

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Not Missing Facebook

On a whim I turned off my Facebook account on Tuesday night last week.  I had many reasons but mostly it was puzzlement of how I ended up with 475 friends.  I am not a social butterfly so I CANNOT have 475  real friends - I told myself.  The gorgeous man next to me just begged to differ.  I love and adore this man =)

How for example am I suddenly in a banter with these people from high school and college who never thought I was cool enough to be part of their clique.  And then there were the superficiality of most of the exchanges that just bothered me. And status updates about the shallowest of things (i.e. what should I buy? a $1,000 Gucci bag or a $650 Jimmy Choo? Me: get a cheap tasteful bag and donate the rest to kids who can't have one meal a day!). Or rant about things at work when I know very well they hardly work in the first place.  And couples who post lovey-dovey messages on each others' walls when I know they are having extramarital affairs.  Then it becomes obvious - social network is as socializing is to reality show is to reality (thank you Arron Sorkin)!

Of course, having had an addition to the website for almost 3 years now I did have to go through some withdrawal symptoms.  I thought I would eventually quietly slip back in and log on.  Initially I turned to Twitter and sent my twits more often.

And then there was this new-found freedom. People started emailing me back on my mailbox which was convenient because now I can reply from my trusty Blackberry.  When I had my FB, people emailed me through the site which meant I had to log in to respond.  And then I didn't have the constant email notifications of a picture of me being tagged somewhere. Although my privacy setting do not allow others to see the pictures I am tagged in, I still monitored where I was ID'd.  I don't mind being tagged as long as I looked decent.  The man beside me is notorious about uploading pictures of myself and tagging them all over.  And then his friends would comment in their language which necessitates the assistance of Google translate to comprehend.

And so for the next 24 hours, my life began to return to a normal cycle of ...well, life.  I woke up and didn't check on my Facebook first thing in the morning.  I didn't sneak into a quick glance of the site from my Blackberry between meetings and on the commute on the bus.  The best thing of all, I had more time to work on my pictures.  And then I really found time to sit on the couch and read the books I have collected in my iPad.  I had time to read through the travel books I got to prep for my next trip and had time to take down some notes.

Today marks 10 days of Facebook-less existence.  And you know what - I do not miss it at all anymore! I still am in touch with the people who matter through emails.  And then there are the phone calls, of course.  Pictures that need to be shared? The ones I only really enjoy viewing are on Flickr and I always find them updated.

However I don't wish to impress that I will completely not return to my old FB account.  Definitely though I will sign back in.  But there will no longer be 475 people in that friends folder.  I hope they understand that it is not personal but I would like to have the freedom to post status updates and pictures to the few people I am comfortable sharing them with.  My goal is to cut it down to half.

I guess you need to walk away from something that has taken over your life, see it from outside the box and be able to figure out exactly what its purpose is.  Much like everything else actually.

New York City

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Playing around with blogspot from my iPad. Pleased that it works with the new format.

This week will be short - Monday off with Labor Day weekend and then the end of Ramadan on Friday. Big meetings on Tuesday and the rest of the week should be a breeze. I like this...prepping for the end of summer. Have I said I like the four seasons and how each end of fall, spring or summer becomes a milestone that divides the year in categories.

Staycation mode in Manhattan but enjoying the last days of the season. Weather is perfect, friends are also in town for some company. On a weekend when all of the city folks are elsewhere there is still a lot left to do - the US Open, the high line park, the non touristy spots. Today we will have a barbecue on the deck. Not the last for sure. We plan to keep doing this until the snow takes over the space.

La dolce vita!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flowers at Home: Almost Italy

The next major trip will be to Italy in late October. I will be spending 5 days in Tuscany - driving around to see the small towns sprinkled between Florence and Rome. I plan to roam vineyards in Chianti, stroll the cobblestone streets of Montepulciano and Volterra. I plan to sit and bask in the Tuscan sun in the midst of ancient piazzas.

And so in prep for this major solo travel, I have literally brought home all travel books from the NYPL because I am too cheap to buy. I am memorizing phrases and dutifully practicing my Italian.

To bring home the feeling I grabbed the summer bouquet from the deli downstairs. Great yellow from the sunflower and oranges from the mini sunflowers plus bursts of green and brown from other flowers.

Ahhhh, la bellisima!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Scandinavian Summer

Everything about this trip went wrong right from the start. Deciding to pack light I only brought my iPad and my camera and hoped the iPad camera connector kit I ordered online would arrive on time. It didn't. 10 days later I have 4 4GB cards with pictures, I am unable to download. They will have to wait until I return to New York.

The flight to leave NYC was scheduled for 8:30 PM. My friend stayed too late at work and ended up missing the limousine service so had to flag a cab. In Manhattan at 6PM, that was tough. Hardly enough time to pass by for me and make it through the rush hour traffic to the airport. It was photo finish but we didn't get to check in our bags since the gates were almost closed. Fine with me - I travel with my trusty carry on luggage and my overnighter. Not too good for my friend with two pieces of carry-on, one which he had to pay for. Oh well...

We landed in Norway on time though and spent the next days gallivanting through Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. For countries I hardly knew anything about prior to the trip (except for the Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy), I was fascinated. Many times I just stood and stared and tried to take in the unusual natural beauty of my surroundings. The architecture of the old as it mixes with the minimalist modern. The calming waters that surround each city, the cruise through the canals of Denmark and the harbour views of Stockholm and Oslo had been close to dreamy.

The summer here has the sun setting often at 10:00 PM. And then the skies do not get too dark, the skies always having a hint of light. As though the heavens would like to keep its eyes just barely closed for a nap, afraid to miss the beauty of the season. You see, when winter sets in I was told, the temperatures plunged as early as October and by December all is covered in white snow.

The people are nice, very warm and hospitable. I have made so many new friends in the 10 days I was visiting, I felt sorry that I had to explain why I do not add people to my Facebook. I felt trivial and maybe I will reconsider. I met up with old friends who introduced me to their friends and families. They welcomed me, offered me aquavit which I have learned to enjoy.

It is almost Saturday now. A full 10 days since I arrived. The time on the iPad says 2:51 AM. It is quiet at the hotel and I am still awake. Heart-broken about leaving, wishing I could stay. There is still too much to see, so much to enjoy. Friends today tried so many ways to extend my stay but the cost of rebooking and the new ticket is just too exorbitant. I dismissed all efforts today by declaring I would just have to come back.

Another summer.

Oslo, Norway
2:53 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Just when I thought I have got things figured out, I got a phone call that pretty much sounds like "let's try this again". I have thought this out before, see - I am good where I am right now. I'd prefer the status quo and would likely insist on it. Except that my heart skipped a beat this afternoon and I find myself literally spellbound... once more at the mercy of my stupidity.

I can't be doing this again....I seriously need to grow up.

Please go tell my heart.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flowers at Home: Orchids

So he brought me a pot of orchids to cheer me up last weekend after my surgery. It is a beautiful plant with four shoots of flowering stems displaying flowers with light pink petals and fuschia lips.

In the morning I bring it next to the window to allow it to get some air and then right before I leave for work, I move it back to the coffee table.

He knows I am not good with plants but he told me I deserved another chance and then crossed
his fingers.

Am quite confident I won't kill it actually, because the orchid pot I have owned for 2 years now which I thought I've murdered several times through drowning or starvation now has flower shoots. Yes, that is plural - there are two, not just one.



Flowers at home: Daisies

It is almost summer afterall...

For my apartment, we bought from Union Square's farmer's market three bunches of white daisies and scattered them in vases throughout including the bathroom.

It has so far made the week so much more bright and sunny especially when I come home and tired from back to back meetings.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Close Call

You know that when a sneeze is imminent but it is just holding off. Tears start to pool in your eyes, your nose flare, there is much anticipation, your breathing becomes shallow.

Or when the stretch of hot humid summer days have all living things yearning for a break. The earth starts to crack in its thirst. Trees start to look weary, almost surrendering to the punishing heat. In the city the streets feel as though it has started to heave steam through its asphalt roads.

And then the much awaited release. A huge sneeze. A heavy quenching downpour. Relief.

That was what it felt like to have my doctor give me a really dim prognosis after two routine exams came back with abnormalities. She scheduled me for a third exam, this time more radical - a do or die (yeah, a pun) check to confirm what the exams were showing. Coming from a family of medical professionals, I benefited from knowing what questions to ask. To some disadvantage, too, I guess because then I ended up finding out too much. And with further discussions I re-consult with Francis who helped me understand further what my options were.

On Friday, a week after a diagnostic surgery the doctor called and informed me that the results came out negative. Like a dam the tears broke - I cried like a baby. Well, acceptable considering I felt like I just got my life back. I called my boyfriend who had been through the punishing journey with me, himself ending up going through sympathetic symptoms brought about by the anxiety. He was overcome by emotions as well. I called Francis to give him the good news, informed my BFF, T (who went out with her hubby for drinks to celebrate) and the small circle of people who knew about the problem.

In the weeks with the dim possibilities looming over me I organized my life that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow my insurance, my pension fund, my living will, my will are all in place. My financials have never looked so good. In sadness I thought about what I could end up missing - seeing my daughter marry and have children, being able to travel to so many places I've always wanted to see but held off because 'I was too busy". It sounds overly dramatic now but faced with an impending uncertainty about your future, truly your life just flashes in front of your eyes.

A clean slate. This is a new life. I plan to not dwell on the things that do not matter. Yeah, work is just work now. A means to an end. I will definitely travel more (way more than before). I will do those sailing lessons and will bike all through summer (tho still not convinced I will do that to go to work). I will stop with a compulsive need to make everyone happy. Damn, I will make me happy. It's my turn!

The smile on my face all through the weekend and through today made people notice a new radiance. It's a new start. I will make the most of it.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

May Flowers

April showers bring May flowers. In New York it seemed this week like a burst of many many flowers. It is my favorite time - a return of life after the
dead of winter. When the city is vibrant again, people spilling into the streets and the pulse of the urban jungle I call home comes alive.

The rose garden at UNHQ was in full bloom and this weekend, Union Square was a confusing mix of colours and sweet smells. Roses, gardenias, peonies, tulips, daisies filled the stores and people walked away with armloads of springtime to bring home the season.

I was photographing his batch of wild phlox and the vendor joked that he'd charged me $3 per picture and a free bunch. I had a lunch date so I told him I'd come back later, which he probably has heard many times before so he just smiled. I did come back, just as he was closing his day. I asked for 2 bunches but instead he gave me 4, all he had left and charged me $5 for them.

This morning I woke to a room filled with the sweetest smell, in my most favorite color of all, and drank my coffee just adoring the delicate flowers.

New York City

Monday, April 19, 2010

Proof, Washington DC

Long work hours, stressful relocation meetings, toxic friends and all sort of other troubling factors necessitated a weekend away from the maddening crowd. We chose to drive away on the Thursday before Easter and decided to have quiet solo-time in Washington DC. Incidentally, because of the early warm weather, the peak of the cherry blossoms came a week early and we were just in time for it.

On Friday evening we discovered a fantastic wine bar and restaurant just close to the hotel: Proof, located at 775 G Street. The wine bar was superb and so were the cheese and charcuterie selections.

For starters we had the lentil soup and the foie gras to accompany our Spanish wines - I had white and he had red. Then I ordered the fennel encrusted pork loin which sat in a bed of risotto with fuji apples. It was delicious - the meat was juicy and tender and the flavors complimenting the spices. My friend ordered the duck confit which he enjoyed so much he cleaned out his plate!

The ambiance of the place was ultra sophisticated. The music wa
sn't too loud that it allowed for dinner conversation without needing to scream at each other across the table. The flow of guests were endless - constantly keeping the restaurant packed to seating capacity. The staff were very accommodating that the hostess even apologized to us because she couldn't sit us within the promised 15 minutes. Mind you, we had no reservations. In New York we could may as well have spent the night on the waiting couch!
To end the evening, we decided to share a chocolate mousse and some port wine. It was the perfect culmination to an already perfect dinner. The bittersweet perfection of the chocolate and the melt-in-your mouth goodness of the mousse was heavenly.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend vacation that was a panacea to all our troubles. Plus, I got my iPad from the Clarendon, VA Apple store on the day of the launch, 3 April within 25 minutes of the store's opening!

New York City