A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

50 Reasons to Take a Mini-Retirement Now #44 March 5, 2010

Technology masks tradition.

When I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia, some of my favorite photos I took were of men and women working in rice paddy fields.  I walked past many rice farmers dressed in pointy straw hats, their ankles deep in mud, as they threw stalks of rice into the ground of a steep mountain slope.  It was nothing I had ever seen before. It was serene, it was beautiful.

Now flash forward to the future and imagine a rice planting machine. It is not as serene, nor so beautiful. On one hand, I am a proponent of technology because the work, for rice farmers in Southeast Asia today and other parts of underdeveloped nations who are using traditional methods, is extremely laborious and tedious taking away  time spent with family and friends.  However, with that being said, witnessing first hand these traditional methods while they still exist is indescribable, and is something I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have seen in my lifetime, because, like everything in this world, change is inevitable.


Your Life Descent… November 18, 2009

Filed under: Inspiration and Motivation — italicana kitchen @ 10:16 pm
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If your life was a movie what would you want to watch? If your life was a story what would you want to read? If you think of life this way…that with each second a camera is watching you…a pen is writing what you are doing, you may choose you actions differently. Life is not a dress rehearsal. There is no practice. You need to perform as though you are enacting the grand finale each and every day. Because in all actuality it could be. The crude fact of life is that you may die any second of any day. There is no certainty. Life is like water. Some days it may flow, others it may freeze, and still others it may dry up into nothing. There is no control over what happens to you–whether you become rain, hail, snow, or vapor–but you can choose that in the moments before outside forces enact on who and what you are, you lived your life to the fullest, and made the most of what you were in those moments you fell from the sky.

Life is simple. In the end, you blend into the trillion snowflakes that have fallen before you, the million balls of crystallized ice that have covered the ground, or the uncountable raindrops that have splashed across nameless faces on a warm summer’s night. When you touch your final destination, you become just like everyone else….but as you are falling from the sky, no matter what form or shape you take, you have control of how you fall. Slow…fast…gently… abruptly. You may not be able to change your size, texture or form, but you certainly can alter one thing…your descent.  It is up to you and only you on how you want to fall from the sky and what kind of imprint you want to leave on the ground below.


Language Blunders November 17, 2009

Filed under: Italian Life — italicana kitchen @ 9:15 pm
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I always have to laugh when I make language blunders.  Actually, I start laughing when I see the look of shock or confusion on the other person’s face…

Cannibalism, The New Fashion:

After a coffee date with a friend the other day, we were walking back towards the car through the narrow cobblestone streets and I commented on his down jacket that zipped all the way up to the tip of his hood much like a mummy sleeping bag.

“Your jacket looks like un sacco di pelle,” I say to him.

He stares back at me, his eyes narrowed with confusion.

“You know…for camping,” I continue.

Then his eyes lit up and he bent over laughing. Historically might I add, to the point that I thought he might choke from not getting enough air in his lungs. Oh, cause don’t you know “un sacco a pelo” means sleeping bag, where as “un sacco di pelle” means skin. Yup, that’s right my friend, you’re jacket looks like a sack of skin.  Nice one Cindy.

TMI….Too Much information:

Of course, not to be out done, my Italian friend who likes to practice speaking English with me also experienced quite the hilarious language blunder. We had just packed up our books and were leaving the library when she whispered something in my ear.

“I need to go to the bathroom to put on my fart,” she said.

Sometimes her English is missing a word or two, so I translated that phrase to, “I need to go to the bathroom to fart.”

“Uhh, huh….interesting…well, thannnnks for sharing friend,” was my first thought.  That is until after I realized that she probably said “fard” which is another word for make-up.

Even so, Italian gals, when talking to someone in English, just remember the word make-up….never, never, say the word fard. I promise…you will get quite the shocked look if you do.


Back in the U.S.A December 14, 2008

It was exactly 10 months from today that I boarded a plane for New Zealand. I left my family. I left my boyfriend. I left my friends. I left beautiful Seattle…my home. I challenged myself to take a risk, to be independent, to follow a dream of exploring the world and experiencing culture while it still exists.

I returned to Seattle three days ago with 50 some gigs of photos and experiences that have changed my life. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better trip, better travel companions or better memories while traveling the world.

And, now after 10 months…I am back where I started. I am sitting on a comfy couch in my brother’s warm living room writing on my laptop while the rest of my family (minus my brother Mark who is coming on Monday) sits next to me reading the newspaper or watching t.v. It is as though nothing has changed, everything seems the same. If it weren’t for me being curled up in my blue and green Tibetan shawl I bought in India, I may think that my around the world trip was just a figment of my imagination. But this soft blanket reminds me of all that I have experienced, all that I have DONE in the past 10 months. And, for this I smile.

It was hard to take the plunge and to leave my family, boyfriend, friends and my comfortable life in Seattle. My life was incredible before I left–why would I leave? One word: dreams. Everyone has different dreams and goals. Some people dream of becoming a professional basketball player, while others dream of being the best stay at home mom. There is no wrong dream, it is yours and it is what makes you get up in the morning with a smile on your face and butterflies in your stomach as you quest to fulfill them.

One of my dreams was to travel the world. Ten months ago I was 25, two years into my career but with no car payments, house payments or kids. I was free from the materialistic burdens that tie a person to one place. Besides leaving the people I loved, it was good timing and if I didn’t leave then, I knew I never would.

Now I sit here on the same couch I sat 10 months ago, only this time my body is warmly wrapped in a Tibetan shawl, my head is filled with incredible travel memories and my heart is content that I fulfilled one of my internal passions. I missed many people and things while I was gone, but they were here waiting for me when I got back.

Don’t be afraid to leave the comfort of your home.

Home, is a place you can always return.


Star Jumping and Toyota Kicking the world! November 14, 2008

Yesterday marked my 9 month anniversary of leaving Seattle to travel around the world!  It was an experience of a lifetime, an epic adventure. I freed the explorer inside me that has been restless since my childhood days when I explored the world in my backyard. I finally had the courage to say to that little voice…go on…PLAY! IMAGINE! CREATE! The world is your playground I told myself, it is a Traveler’s Terrene.

So here I am nine months later with some 50 gigs of photos, unforgettable memories, and a global network of new friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. From the people I travelled with on different legs of the trip: my older brother “Mohawk Mark” (2 months in New Zealand), college friend and dance extraordinaire Brian (3 weeks in Thailand), my childhood next door neighbor and “Sister Zesma” Suzanne (5 months throughout Southeast Asia, Turkey, Croatia and Italy), my adorable Italian former roommate Ilaria (2 weeks in Milan and a long weekend in England) and the countless backpackers I met along the way where we travelled together for a few days before parting ways (you know who you are…I HEART you…and there are too many too name!)  

At some point I’ll upload a wide selection of photos to Picasa and send a link, but for now, here is a snapshot of my trip as I Star Jumped and Toyota Kicked across the world!


India: Highlights and Memories October 29, 2008

1. Arriving in India, and being invited to our travel agents Iffy and Joma’s home for dinner with their family. We sat on the floor, Indian style, eating the most amazing curries, rice, and vegetables with our hands. It still amazing me how hospitable locals are to foreigners.

2. Changing our flight on a whim from Leh to Srinigar with hopes of trekking and fly fishing in the rugged Kashmiri outdoors.

3. Touring Dal Lake by Shiraka, a small row boat. The lake was clear as glass, and dotted with pink lotus flowers. The mountains, trees and houseboats reflected on the lake as though they existed as their own entity and not just a double. I played music through my speakers. It was relaxing and tranquil, the ride as like a unforgettable daydream.

4. Listening into our intuition to leave Srinigar early when news of riots and protests erupted in the city center–leaving one boy dead after being hit (accidentally) by a policeman’s tear gas canister. Shops were closed and protests were suspected to continue due to the lack of support by the government to provide supplies and shelter to the Hindus during their pilgrimages. It was unfortunate to leave, but with this news as well as the upcoming India Independence day, it was not particularly safe to stay as we did not want to be caught in a wrong time-wrong place situation. Beautiful Srinigar, I will be back. One day.

5. Flying from Srinigar to Leh and glimpsing our first views of the Himalaya Mountains!

6. Lazily spending three days in Leh acclimatizing, reading books, trying different Indian cuisine, and wondering the shops and walkways.

7. Hiring a jeep with 2 other travelers and journeying to Nubra Valley, travelling alongside the cliff’s edge on windy roads and crossing the highest motor-able pass in the world.

8. Exploring a handful of monasteries. My favorite, was a giant construction perched atop a hillside cliff 100 feet away from a roaring waterfall. The sound of the rushing water and the isolation of the monastery gave the place a magical feeling.

9. Riding two-humped camels through sand dunes!!!!

10.  Leaving on a trekking trip with Reme and Gabriel, brother and sister from France, and getting a flat tire about a 15 minute walk from our starting point destination. After a hilarious photoshoot, we walked the remainder of the way to our campsite where we met an Italian couple and spent the remainder of the night playing cards and speaking in 3 languages.

11. Reme and Gabriel left after 6 days, but Suz and I signed up for a 14 day trekking trip. We woke up each morning to hot tea outside our tent and a warm breakfast waiting in the cooks tent. We walked 4-8 hours a day through stunning landscape, crossing valleys, rivers, climbing 4 passes-the highest being over 4950meters high and celebrating with swigs of Chang beer (a homebrewed wheat beer made by the locals).

12. Suzanne and I nicknaming our guides, cooks, and ponymen “gangsta names”, there was G-Unit, T-Dawg, Ice Cube, Flava Flav, Diggity, Dr. Dre, Q-Diddy, LL Cool J and Snoop Dawg. Since Indian names were hard for us to pronounce and easy to forgot, we used these nicknames and it was a HUGE hit. They in turn nicked named us Indian names, Reme was Gime, Gaby was Achan, Suz was Zesma and I was nicknamed Padma (meaning flower), and called Pame for short.

13. Helping T-Dawg, our amazing cook, make Momos–a Tibetan pot sticker type dumpling.

14. Witnessing a rainbow in the dark. I would have never imagined this was even possibly, but there it was a beautiful full sized rainbow lit up by the glow of the full moon.

15. Putting together a limbo competition while listening to music from our Ipods.  Our cooks, guides, ponymen–everyone participated. It was so much fun!

16. Watching the mountains change colors, from purple to yellow to green to gold over the course of our 14 day trek.

17. Washing our laundry on rocks in the river with the warm sun on our backs.

18. Taking baths in river streams.

19. Finally developing a taste, and love for tea!

20. Teaching our cook, guide, poneyman and two monks how to play the card game “Spoons” in the tent.

21. Standing less than 50 yards away from a herd of 30-40 Ibex, and after watching them graze in the grass for 20 minutes, I ran after them shouting with a Seagull voice just to see them stampede. It was remarkable watching them run.

22. Skipping rocks on Tsokar Lake with Zesma, G-Unit and T-Dawg.

23. Going to Yoga classes at a meditation center.

24.  Zesma and I renting bicycles and riding out of town with a daypack, and stopping in a small village called Thiksey for the night.

25. Waking up before dawn and hiking to the top room of the monastery. We sat on the floor in a room of 30+ monks who were sitting on cushions, chanting their morning prayers and being served breakfast (tea, water and wheat flour, which they mix together to form a dough-like substance). Most of the monks were young boys and it was quite hilarious watching them play and joke while they were supposed to be chanting.

26. Riding a few hours to another small town, and instead of carrying on in the rain, we convinced a car to strap our bikes to the top of the roof and let us hitchhike back into Leh. This whole conversation was done in hand gestures as they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Ladakhi.

27. Flying to Leh and hiring a driver to take us to Jaipur and Agra.

28. Going to a Bollywood film with our driver and his friend.

29. Walking around he Monkey Temple, a temple outside of Jaipur, and taking a photoshoot with local children and women dressed in beautiful Saris and henna-painted hands and feet.

30. Walking around the Taj Mahal and taking pictures of the white marbled temple at sunset.

31. Being asked to be in photos with an Indian family (grandparents, parents, children etc.) which turned into a 10 minute photo shoot.

32. Witnessing the burning of bodies in Varanasi. 300-400 bodies are burned a day and are ignited from a flame that has supposedly been burning continuously for over 2000 years. The bodies are carried by family members on bamboo poles and weaved grass mats and are wrapped  by scarves each family member gives as a final gift. The body is tipped into the Gange River, the face and body splashed with the holy water. After drying, the scarves are removed and set to the side and the body, now wrapped only in a cotton sheet, is placed on top of the wood and a man in charge places more wood on top of the body and finally ignites the wood from a neighboring fire. The cremation process takes 3 hours, leaving only the collarbone from a man and hipbone from a woman in the pile of ash. After the cremation is finished, the brother or closest relative extracts a bucket of water from the Gange and extinguishes the fire. The workers gather the ashes in a bucket and hand it to a man who is wast deep in the river. He pours the ashes into a weaved basket, filtering the ashes to salvage any pieces of jewelry or bits of gold that were buried with the deceased. These items go into the pocket of the owner of the crematory. The expense of a cremation depends on the type of wood selected, but for Iron Wood (similar to Sandlewood which is used to mask the smell of the burning body) costs roughly 250Rp per Kilo of wood. Each cremation requires an estimated 200 Kilos of wood. For the families who cannot afford this, other families chip in until enough is purchased and the body can be burned. Since Varanasi is deemed one of the holiest cities in India, the majority of people bring their loved ones here to be cremated, as they believe that here the body will be released to Nirvana.  The only bodies they do not burn are pregnant women, children (under the age of 16), animals of any kind, and people with leprosy. Instead they are weighted and dropped in the middle of the river. Despite the cremation process that takes place in and around the Gange River, we rode in a boat at sunrise watching men, women and children bath and wash their clothes in the river, as they deem this water to be holy.

35. Standing on a rooftop over looking the banks of the river, while watching locals perform Puja, a type of blessing.

34. Going to a restaurant recommended by our travel agent, and ordering a South Indian dish that was similar to a crepe. We ordered the one that looked like it has the most variety of stuff in it, but turned out it just meant that it was the biggest. The crepe was bigger that my arm!