Bastille Day is next week. This is a special day for me, not because I passionately studied French History or married a Frog, in a previous life, or even because I count being at the Bi-Centennial Celebration in Paris in 1989 as a peak life moment, but because my eldest son was ironically born on July 14th, 1999. I have so much baggage and history with France and French Culture. The love/ hate relationship still teeters more towards love but I can’t deny I get a bit gleeful when there is bad press, the French are exposed as hypocritical or in some way there is de-mythologization of some aspect of the coveted culture. I get a lot of mileage out of my stories of living in France; much like the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick, I always found humor in the little things. The hilarious scene at Disneyland Paris buffet where diners swarmed a waiter delivering a bowl of bread to the buffet before he could even reach it. The fact that my friend was served mussels and spicy merguez sausage as the first post-operative meal in the hospital or the fact that before my marriage I had to get a ‘Carte de Concubinage’; a card stating that I was his concubine… I could go on. So today I open up to the Yahoo Page with the lead story: “French Tourists Seen as World’s Worst: Survey”. So apparently, according to this survey, done by Expedia, the French, despite their rumored savoir faire, were declared the most arrogant, cheap and worst at foreign languages of all global travelers. Continue reading »
I was driving to work yesterday and heard a compelling report on NPR about the R2I phenomenon. R2I is short for “Return to India,” the story of so many who have perhaps studied and lived in the U.S. for many years and have now decided to return home. For many, it is the pull of the aging parents or maybe the desire to bring their knowledge and expertise to their homeland. There is no better time as the U.S. economy declines and the Indian economy continues to be robust.
With recent elections and the distractions arch-enemy Pakistan is facing, many Indian ex-pats are packing up their Silicon Valley, New Jersey or Dallas digs and heading home. According to Sandip Roy’s NPR report, web sites offer advice on everything from who’s hiring in Bangalore to how much gold you can bring home. Dubbed “a brain drain in reverse,” many of these folks jumping on the R2I train are in their mid–thirties, with families and higher degrees. When they return, despite their heritage, many experience a culture shock. Continue reading »
Triporati Producer Gwynn Gacosta just returned from a remarkable trip to the Philippines to fulfill her mother’s final wishes. She wanted to scatter her mom’s ashes in the river where she used to swim as a child. The funny, challenging and poignant journey is captured in her own words—a blog post we wanted to share with you:
Final Resting Place
I planned my funeral, once, when I was ten years old. I decided that I would be cremated, and my ashes sprinkled in all five oceans. (Not only was I morbid, but I was also grandiose.) My future husband would travel around the world, leaving bits of me wherever he went.
My mother died 5 years ago of heart failure, and she told me that she, too, wished to be cremated. She also wanted her ashes taken to her hometown in Bulusan, Philippines, then scattered in the river where she used to swim as a child. Immediately after she died, I started the process of making that wish a reality. The funeral home placed her remains in a plastic box wrapped in a silk sheath so that it would go through airport security without hassle. I wrote to my relatives in Bulusan and told them the plan. To my surprise I was met with protests from my family, led by the parish priest, who insisted that she would never be at rest unless she was buried somewhere where people could actually visit and reflect. Since no one in the family had the money to go anyway, we put her final wish on hold and her urn on the mantle. But I always knew that one day I would take her. She had counted on me. Continue reading »
Have you ever had Mandarin Islamic Chinese food? Did you know there are an estimated 20 million Muslims who live in China? These questions percolated as my taste buds marveled at the unusual combinations of lamb, cumin and other spice mixtures that seemed so new to me. I was first taken to Old Mandarin Islamic by a mom on my son’s soccer team. It was a rainy fall day and the boys and spectators were soaked and chilled. The hot pot beckoned, and I was up for an adventure. Way out in the Sunset district in San Francisco near the beach, this small hole in the wall offers not only a unique culinary experience but a geography and culture lesson in Chinese history. I returned this Sunday to pick up takeout and once again I was blown away. Signs in Arabic welcome the diners as well as the Chinese Sabado Gigante-esque/ quasi American idol show playing in the corner on the big screen TV. Familiar was the standard Chinese restaurant decorations, but unusual were the plaques with sayings from the Koran (I assume). Of course there is no pork on the menu and the lamb is Halal. It seems like the whole family is cooking in the back kitchen and you can see them in action as you traipse through to go to the restroom. The hot pot is a fun diner participation dish, much like fondue or Korean BBQ. Continue reading »
If you talk to a French person and say you lived in Lille… most say “I’m sorry”. That was the reputation this gritty Northern manufacturing city had years ago. It is the fourth largest metropolis in France and sits at the crossroads between Belgium, Britain and France. My ex-husband was from a small town outside the city, and we lived there for a few years while I taught English (or American) to top execs from Renault, Auchan, Peugeot and various other big French companies. He had to work through his military service scenario and I thought why not—I spoke French, loved the culture and was ready for an adventure. There was tremendous charm to Lille, a great mix of Flemish and French culture. We often went to Bruges and Brussels, the North Sea and England. I was in love and didn’t realize how provincial France, outside of Paris, could be. Continue reading »
Couchsurfing.com is closing in on one million couches surfed; no small feat since this free, internet based hospitality service launched in 2004. With more than 230 countries represented and almost 55-thousand cities with couches to crash on, one can travel the globe on a budget, meet cool people and even get some insider travel tips. The mission of the innovative site is: Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time. For a small fee, that includes a personal vouching system, (much like E-Bay) members can coordinate their free accommodations with like-minded folks from Brazil to Belgium, Israel to Indonesia. I haven’t officially joined but I do recall staying in a lady’s home in Prague soon after the Velvet Revolution. The sheets were the whitest and crispest I’d ever seen and the generosity immense. Tea bags were still precious and used numerous times. Breakfast was a homemade, simple type of pound cake… I’ll never forget that experience. In broken sign language and French, we learned that our hostess was a ‘peepee lady’ at an Opera House. Continue reading »
January is a time for the dreaded dance of the New Year’s resolution. Gyms are packed, nicotine patches in short supply, folks are scrimping and saving and many look to their waistlines for resolution inspiration. For many, the battle of the bulge still reigns supreme on 2009 to do lists. There is no better time to re-evaluate your diet and exercise routine.
So, I read with interest, a buried article on the MSNBC site, with the headline entitled: Indian airline fires 9 overweight crew members. It is no surprise to me that India is catching up on the obesity epidemic as many Indians have moved into the middle class. In general, weight in India is often a sign of prosperity. In fact, diabetes is a huge concern in a country, once known for famine, where now 35 million people and counting are suffering from the preventable disease. Interestingly, all the attendants fired were women and even though India has laws aimed to protect against discrimination based on factors including caste, gender, and religion, there are no specific ones about weight. Food for thought.
“Every picture tells a story,” goes the Rod Stewart song from 1971, and how true that is when you add a little context to an image that grounds it in its historical place. Chris Epting makes a habit of finding spots in the United States notable for cultural incidents—both earth-shaking and privately meaningful—and capturing them in intriguing photographs that become all the more compelling when he adds his thoughts about the image, incident, and location.
What’s that photo mean of the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 in Cholame, California? What are the Trona Pinnacles in Trona, California? What significance do the front steps of the Elmira Shelton house in Richmond, Virginia have? Continue reading »
As snow blankets much of the country from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine you can’t help but dream a bit about Hawaii and other tropical climates. Our President elect and his family have been enjoying some R & R in the land of Aloha, gaining strength and focus for the herculean tasks ahead. There is something healing and rejuvenating, not just about a vacation, but returning to one’s home turf, immersing oneself in salt water; having downtime. While everyone was focused on Obama’s buff torso, it seems like he was going to his fountain; recharging his batteries. An article in the New York Times entitled: Obama’s Zen State, Well, its Hawaiian got me thinking about what the Aloha Spirit is all about. My sister in law and her family lived in Hawaii for many years and would always talk about that special island attitude. Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. The laid back spirit which is often interpreted as ‘mellow’ or even lazy is actually quite a complex mindset and mode de vie. Continue reading »