Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weekend Getaway

After returning from a week and a half India, I wanted to unwind with a little weekend roadtrip to Bentonville, Arkansas to check out a new exhibit, State of the Art, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. For those who know me, I am not an art museum kind of person, but this particular exhibit showcases 102 contemporary American artists that are relatively unknown, until now. I also like the idea of people around the country working to create beautiful things, even if just for themselves.
We stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel, which is connected to the museum by a series of walking trails. The hotel itself is quite nice and has a large gallery on the first floor that is open to the public 24 hours a day. The best part is that you can get a drink at the bar and walk around while looking at the pieces. I liked the suitcase bench right outside the front door.
We took a quick stroll around downtown (nothing is open on Sunday afternoon besides the Wal*Mart Museum) and got ready for dinner, which was right downstairs from our room. The Hive is a hip but relaxed restaurant with delicious and inventive cocktails (I had a pineapple and espresso concoction). They also place green, plastic penguins around the restaurant as you eat - we had one that shared cocktails and a cheese plate with us. The food was excellent - I had an Autumn salad with gingered beets, the tomato panisse and we shared the apple crumble with bourbon ice cream and caramel sauce. It was topped off with cotton candy that was served with the bill - I was too stuffed to have more than a bite.
After a yummy breakfast the next morning (a latte, fresh berries and an apricot muffin), we hiked over to the museum. The pieces ranged from whimsical pottery (upper left) to giant pinatas (upper right) to a ladder you climbed to view a miniature scene (middle left) to a giant, amazing quilt (middle right) to a floating ladder man symbolizing economic struggle (bottom right). Along the way, we had some lunch at the museum cafe (they always have such great food). I had the sweet potato soup, the kid's grilled cheese and a frosted sugar cookie. In all, it was a great way to spend a day away from home. If you're in the area, the State of the Art exhibit is open until January 19th and you should definitely check it out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What does the goat say?

I am currently in India with new partners of my organization from Peru, Indonesia and the Philippines to show them how our programs operate. Today, we visited branch offices and borrowers who take loans for toilets, small businesses, water connections, education, health and other things through a joint-liability group structure. This means that the group members guarantee payment for each other in the instance where they cannot pay for some reason. These visits can sometimes be a challenge because they are conducted in two or three languages (depending on the local dialect).

At one point, I was asking the women what they did for work now that they were able to do so. Many of them were not able to work before they had a toilet or a water connection as they were spending large amounts of time walking and waiting for water. They were telling us about all of the different things they did -- tailoring, working in a factory, running a small shop -- and one of them mentioned that she had bought a goat to raise. Now, you may not know this about me, but I do a pretty high quality goat impression. So, I went ahead and tried it out. It was a big hit and they asked for it more than once. This small and awkward exchange allowed us to laugh together and become part of the same conversation after all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More of What It's Really Like

One of my friends asked me in an email yesterday what it was like traveling to India. I usually paraphrase for people my own experience as: loud, crowded, spicy and overwhelming at times. But that doesn’t really even begin to give an accurate picture of what it's really like for me. So, here are a few more details, in case you were curious:
  • It’s waking up in the middle of the night, sweating profusely and wondering what disease you might have contracted, only to find the hotel lost power for half the night and the a/c has been off.
  • With a 10.5 or 11.5 hour time difference from home (depending on the season), it’s being so jetlagged that you wake up wondering if the time you see is am or pm.
  • Or it’s being so jetlagged that you take cold showers two days in a row, only to realize on the third day the hot and cold are switched on the tap. (Yeah, for morning #3!)
  • It’s being considered, catered to and looked out for by everyone you encounter, except if they are on a motorcycle, driving a car or an autotaxi, then you are just a bump/target along the road.
  • It’s praying that you make it an hour after your meal is over without any major rejections by your stomach or intestines.
  • It’s connecting to strangers quickly through personal questions asked about children (God will give them they always say to me), your husband’s profession (which Brian always passes with flying colors due to the booming IT scene here), what you like most about the town you happen to be in, what your favorite foods are and when you will return for a visit.
  • It’s feeling a bit like an alien because I'm "tall", fair skinned and the only other redheads around dye their brown/black hair with henna.
  • It’s being accepted for trying to adopt any of the culture around you. People always compliment my kurta (Indian tunic) or smile and laugh encouragingly to any phrases I have learned and try to repeat in Hindi.
  • It’s surrendering yourself to what you thought you knew about a place you’d heard about your whole life. It may not have been what I expected but it certainly grows on you.
  • It's feeling humbled to see how people live and feeling fortunate for how easy it is back home.
  • It's knowing that for all you think you might know, many mysteries, stories, cultures and rituals are present that will take a lot longer to begin to understand.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Birthday Week in Pictures

The boat dock on Grand Lake.
Scenery from my run along Grand Lake Stream.
An unplanned, two-day trip to Portland with my dad took place in the middle of the week. My birthday cake, served in a hospital waiting room while waiting on my grandpa's test results - so far, he's stabilized. We made it back to the lake on my birthday just in time for ice cream cake (not pictured). I've been coming to this lake, off and on, for the past 30 years, makes me feel old!
The view from the shore of Grand Lake, five steps from our cabin door.
Our cabin, just to the left of the closest tree.
For 20 years, there has been a folk art festival over the weekend of my birthday with art, canoes, music and food.
My family getting ready for a swim - my dad has the blue noodles and I have the purple ones.
Taking a sunset ride in my dad's canoe.
Sunset boat spray.
On our way to the airport, we stopped by Eagle's Nest Restaurant for some "breakfast" lobster rolls. Not a conventional choice, but tasty. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Behind Closed Doors

Maybe it's just me, but I've always wondered what goes on in the private airline lounges. Up until yesterday, I could only picture the version I'd seen in the movies (Up in the Air) or television (Mad Men). When I opened a United credit card (50K bonus miles and no foreign transaction fees), it came with two free one-day passes to the United Club. On my way back from Turin, I had two spare hours in Chicago -- after clearing customs (love my Global Entry card), rechecking my bag, and going through security -- which seemed like the perfect amount of time to check it out.

Through the frosted, glass doors lies a giant airline living room full of a variety of seating to suit any mood -- leather chair? upholstered chair? desk w/chair? barstool? -- along with free wifi, snacks, drinks, magazine/newspapers and a private set of bathrooms. Probably the best part though, it being Chicago O'Hare, is that there were probably two available outlets per person, which if you've ever hunted for an outlet in this airport in particular (even the vacuum cleaner outlets are locked when not in use), you know how rare that seems.
With the timezone change, my body was unsure of what meal it was supposed to be on so the available snacks took the hunger edge off. I was a little sad to have to pass up the free beer/wine but I figured my jet-lagged body couldn't handle that and allow me to make my flight back to Kansas City. The rest of the people looked pretty normal - no celebrity sightings or high powered meetings going on. It was relatively quiet, clean and made for a pleasant way to pass the time. I'm looking forward to using my second free pass in the near future.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Turin - Day 6

After the morning adventure at Eataly, I spent the afternoon packing, working and getting ready to head home tomorrow. In the evening, I met up with a new friend from the symposium and we headed out to see a bit of the city. After some walking and shopping, we stopped in the piazza San Carlo for a drink (prosecco and strawberries) and were treated to an array of tiny appetizers (making up for the 10 Euro drink price). While we sat and watched people walk by, we listened to the Festival Mozart rehearsal, which was pretty amazing. See it for yourself, check out the video below:

After a little more shopping, we sat down at another cafe for a drink and for two more Euros, we got access to the buffet - what a deal! While I did not love my drink (apparently I don't like Campari), the food was yummy and plenty for dinner. We headed back to the hotel to finish packing and get a little sleep before the 4:30am taxi to the airport. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Turin - Day 5 - Eataly

When I lived in Rochester, NY I had access to the best supermarket ever - Wegmans. Not only did they carry every grocery item you could ever want, they also had amazing prepared foods (a variety of which you could eat in the store), bulk foods (which allowed me to get all the gummy candies without buying multiple bags), beautiful flowers and produce, beauty products and enough for the home that you could skip a trip to the hardware store. Upon graduation/marriage/moving across the country to California, Brian said he would miss Wegmans the most. Since then, we have certainly found grocery stores and specialty food stores that are reminiscent but never quite the same. This was until I walked into something better today - Eataly.

This store is next to the hotel I am staying in and chock full of the most amazing meats, cheeses, fish, pasta, kitchen gadgets, pastries, produce and chocolates I have ever seen. I'm a vegetarian and even looked at the smoked and cured meats for ten whole minutes. While I doubt you could do your regular shopping here, prohibited mostly by price, the place is rather captivating. I walked around the two-story building (one floor is just wine, beer and liquor) for about an hour and limited myself to only buying the tiny treats that would fit in my suitcase.

Around the store are food stations where you can get a glass of wine, a plate of freshly cut meats and cheeses, or a full meal. Even the fancy soaps, shampoos and books - all of which I couldn't really figure out what they were - were fun to look through.
Not planning a trip to Italy soon? Never fear, you can find Eataly in New York City, Chicago, Dubai, Istanbul and 10 stores around Japan.