Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If Only We Were Still in College, We Could Use This New Skill To Pick Up Girls...And Then Ask Them To Harmonize With Us.

When we were in about 10th grade, we loved to gather around with all our (girl) friends and sing songs around the guitar with our (one) guy friend who would humor us by playing all of Rites of Passage and Swamp Ophelia and the one song we knew that was not by the Indigo Girls (What a Good Boy, Barenaked Ladies). We started to fall in love with the experience of just sitting around and informally singing and harmonizing and pretending to be really deep and emotive, and we thought we are going to do this OUR WHOLE LIFE LONG.

We arrived at college and mostly we did a lot of singing without any musical accompaniment, but once in a while we’d find a pianist or skilled guitarist to play along while we tried to navigate the key change in Whitney’s I Have Nothing or sing some sad depressing Jeff Buckley number.

And then for the last 8 years, we’ve felt a great void in our lives. Yes, we’ve found some opportunities to sing (small shows, voice lessons, filling in for our Choir friends), but it’s hard to find accompaniment for when you finally convince yourself that some boy doesn’t like you back or that your stewing lamb didn’t come out quite right and you just want to sing it out. Also, there are those times when mom or some friends want you to sing for them and you just feel silly singing without musical accompaniment or without 13 of your friends standing behind you in a horseshoe shape while snapping and ooo-ing.

That changes RIGHT NOW. Yesterday, we called the Old Town School of Folk Music, signed up for a class THAT NIGHT, rented a guitar, and voila, within 5 hours, we were sitting in class learning our D, A7, G, Em, and C chords. Remarkably, you can play any number of songs with those basic chords, including, our favorite from last night:

JL pointed out that this was his audition song for our college a cappella group, so it’s really fitting because it symbolizes a return to our musical selves.

Already, we have amassed painful finger tips and a list of songs we want to learn ASAP. They include guitar covers of the entire Adele 21 album and Joni’s saddest songs (Case of You, River, Blue). We swear one day, we will learn an upbeat happy song that does not involve a 1970s television show.

Monday, June 06, 2011

We Love These Posts Where We Can Recap Months at a Time Because They Make Our Life Seem Actually Interesting and Full of Stuff

Well well well. Sorry we disappeared amidst our travels, but not having a job for 3 months got EXHAUSTING. Seriously. And then having a job became EXHAUSTING too. We have decided that we need block scheduling in life like those schools that make you do stuff for three months and then you get a month off. Or we need to move to Europe where you get a month off even if you don’t do stuff.

Anyway, after our last post, we were dunzo with Peru, went back to Bogotá for a week, where our friend JJ joined us, and then headed to Chicago for more apt hunting and lease signing. After finding our now current home, we jetted off to London for a (cold, but) SUPER fun week with cousins, friends, actual sidewalks, and cabs in which we did not have to fear kidnapping. We made it out of LHR just in time to miss the (ONE INCH OF) snow that shut the entire city down, and then headed to Mumbai for more cousins, uncles, grandma and friend time, but this time with fewer sidewalks and far less snow (ALTHOUGH HOW CAN YOU GET ANY LESS THAN ONE INCH).

It was then back in Chicago for New Years, New Apartment, and New Job, and New Life.

Now it’s five months or so later, and we have a few thoughts on life in Chicago v. life in NYC. Queue the bullet points!

  • COLD! HOT! There are 2 seasons. Like, last week, it was still winter. Today it is 92 degrees. According to the New York Times, Chicago will be Baton Rouge by the end of this century. We have never been to Baton Rouge, but it appears to be hot. That said, we would not mind Baton Rouge-like conditions in April and May, when it sometimes STILL SNOWS HERE. Also, there was that time in February where there was thundersnow that made our building shake and us fear getting caught on Lake Shore Drive for 8 hours.
  • FOOD! It is really good here. And somewhat manageable. We have a list (google doc, natch) of places to go and places we’ve been. And we talk about it. A LOT. Like it’s a common date talking-point. Sometimes we give people reading rights to the doc, but never editing rights, as we don’t really know if we can trust people quite yet with something so sacred.
  • SPACE! Not the kind where there is no oxygen or where NASA no longer plans to go. Like apartment closet space, space on the sidewalks, space in the Whole Foods line, space at the Trader Joe’s wine shop. We are tempted to gain some lbs just to take advantage of it all.
  • BEAUTY! Our view from our Apt is kind of sick. We are way up high and way up north, so we see the Lake, downtown, Wrigley Field, and can see all the way to the birthplace of the great MJ himself, Gary, IN. The urban landscape is nice, the city is clean, there is green space and public art, and very few full trash bags on the street. You know when your friends come to visit NYC and then say, OMG, there are so many garbage bags out for collection here, and you are like, “what do you mean, how else does it work?” There is another way, people!
  • CHEAPNESS! It’s nice to go out to eat and not spend a fortune. Although one can still find a way to go out to eat and still spend a fortune. It’s also nice to have cheaper ZipCars, cheaper groceries, and cheaper prosties. JUST KIDDING, we don’t know the answer to that last one, but we can take a guess.
  • TIME! OK, this last one is a lie. We initially thought that we would have more time to like, pick up a trade, such as the guitar, or TV/VCR repair. Or at least keep up with the old Español. But no. We are working a bit more than we thought, which is totes fine b/c we like our job and our co-workers, but our trade skills will have to wait a bit.

Obviously we have left out the BOYS! bullet point, but we do have observations on that front already which we will communicate shortly.

That shall be all for now.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peru, Chapter II

So, the secret thing about Colombia is that the food is not as tasty as other regions of the world. There, we said it. No one in our house used any spice other than salt, and when we made a pasta dish and put a bit of hot sauce in it, the household basically revolted. And despite our wonderful (non-racist) mother thinking it, we were not eating Mexican food for 2 months, because, well, we weren't in or even that close to Mexico...

Which is why our trip to Peru came just in time. Our friend FM sent us a lovely email about the food in Lima, and we had done a bit of research about the food in Cusco, so we went in armed with information, and hopeful that Peru would offer some OK vegetarian options for our mom and sister.

After scarfing down chutney sandwiches and teplas (see previous post), our fam dined at MAP Cafe in Cusco, which was a lovely glass room in the middle of the Pre Columbian Art Museum. Earlier that day we saw some cute Guinea Pigs running around the Piscac market, so we declined to order the Cuy, but our fish and lamb were quite good, and there were some good Veggie options for Mom and Sis.

OK, fine, MAP Cafe can plate food better than we can...

In Lima, we really liked Pescados Capitales, where we ordered one of 98102938 ceviches while our sister looked on eating a risotto. Luckily we had learned some of the deadly sins vocab (Pecados Capitales, GET IT? GET IT??), so we understood some of the wordplay on the menu.

YAY!!! PUNS!!!!!

Lima, with its history of Chinese immigration, also offered "Chifa," which Sis and we went to sample in el Barrio Chino. Because Chifa incorporates Peruvian ingredients and styles, there were fewer veggie options than found in other Chinese inspired cuisines, but the food was pretty good.

And as for Thanksgiving dinner, well, when we called Astrid y Gaston from Bogota and asked if they had veggie options for Mom and Sis, they not only said they did, but said that the chef would be able to offer more options than on the menu. This was false. After getting all dolled up, we arrived at the restaurant, sat down, ordered some wine, and then asked what said "more options" might be. At which point the waiter said that all they had was either grilled or steamed vegetables. We used about 4 different verb tenses in Spanish, including the imperfect subjunctive, to try and convince them otherwise, but...Mom and Sis had grilled vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner, which was a bit of a bummer for them. We again did the ceviche thing, which, as expected, was delicious...

These meat and seafood infused items were better than grilled vegetables...

And as for drink, one can never have too many Pisco Sours, which we learned has egg whites in it, so it's not only great for nights out, but it's healthy as well. We liked some of the bars in Barranco in Lima, the "bohemian" and "gallery" neighborhood, and we even met up with a new friend JQ, who took us to a gay bar in Miraflores, where we had some monster sized Pisco Sours.

Camera tricks in Lima's Center...

So after conquering Peru, we parted ways with the fam and headed back to Bogota for a final week there. Overall, a great country with amazing landscapes in the mountains, nice peeps, and great raw fish soaked in citric acid.

Next stop, LONDON.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Peru, Chapter I

On Saturday, November 20th, we boarded a plane to Lima, Peru, dreaming of ceviche, alpacas, and inca ruins. As you will soon see, dreams really do come true.

We arrived late Saturday night and met our parents and sister at the baggage claim, and then checked into our hotel, which was across the street from said baggage claim. The Lima airport hotel is not joking around when they say that they are located at the airport. Because the online reservation system would not let us do 4 to a room, we lied and said there were only 2 of us, and tried to keep up this lie upon entering by having our mom and sister wait at the entrance. The only problem with this was when our mom and sister tried to enter the hotel, the hotel thought they were prostitutes. To avoid having our mother and sister labeled as such, we shelled out the extra persons fee, a small price to pay to preserve our family's honor.

Very early in the am, we walked back across the street to catch our flight to Cusco, and after only a slight delay - we made it to the historical capital of the Inca empire. We love how the Incas were so gay friendly and adopted the rainbow flag as their own in a showing of solidarity.

But our journey was not yet complete. After adjusting to the 11,200 feet by drinking Cocoa tea (which tasted like cardboard), and eating about 17 chutney sandwiches made with real life Indian chutney smuggled into Peru by our mother, we hopped in a car to Ollantaytambo, the train station in the Sacred Valley, from where we would catch a train to Aguas Calientes. The train ride involved more chutney sandwiches and some Teplas, another delicious Indian snack smuggled across international borders.

We checked into the Hostel el Santuario (which we more than once called the Hotel Sanitorium), a lovely spot along the river, and prepared for our pre-dawn wake up time which would allow us to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. The only problem was at 5:45am, the clouds let loose and it started pouring. Undeterred, our guide led us to the bus and we took the treacherous drive up the mountain to MP.

The rain continued during our two hour tour of the site, (and it's not like we were able to stay dry at all, since our sister insisted that the umbrella remain over her fancy SLR camera the entire time), but the fog and clouds added a level of mystery to the place, and for the whole two hours we had no sense of the scale of it all or of the natural surroundings.

However, what immediately struck us was the obvious anti-Yale sentiment that pervaded the tour. Our sister outed us as a graduate of said institution, and so immediately we felt like we were being attacked. So a Yalie took ALL of the artifacts from MP to New Haven and never gave them back? Don’t take it out on us! Our guide was really smug when he said Yale agreed that very weekend to send everything back, and we swear at some point he tried to push us off an Inca terrace.

We hiked around the site for a bit, and eventually the sun came out and we could finally see Machu Picchu in all its glory, which was pretty incredible. Of course, we forced our sister to take 129038120398 pictures of us from the Guard House for various social networking websites, and we are pretty sure that we at least got one or two good ones out of the session. So we can't be too mad about the umbrella thing.

This is actually us.

After taking it all in, we headed back down to Aguas Calientes for some lunch and relaxing, and then hopped on a train back to Cusco. Upon reaching Cusco, we met up with MA and his brother and sister-in-law for some cervezas, and planned our conquest of the Sacred Valley the following morning.

We met the A family after breakfast, and then Wilbur, the local tour operator, told us we would actually be on separate tours of the Sacred Valley, and that “Oh yeah, you can meet up later,” in a completely random place over 2 hours away. When this was followed by his saying that our non-Spanish speaking parents would be on the Spanish speaking tour, we knew something was wrong. MA and we were as adamant as we could be in our intermediate Spanish, arguing as our first point of contention that Victor back in New York had assured us that both families would have one private tour. While Wilbur tried and tried, he was unable to refute the intricate arguments made by two non-practicing attorneys, even if we did not know how to directly translate “this is a travesty of the Peruvian justice system.” We managed to get a tour guide and car to take us around for the day.

The tour involved an animal rescue shelter (where there were pumas rescued from a Lima nightclub!), the ruins at Pisac, the pisac market (where we miraculously saw the same "handmade" stuff every sixth stall), and the ruins at Ollantaytambo (where we swear we saw a gay tour group who were not nearly as excited to see MA and us).

The sacred valley tour was great, but our dad apparently did not agree, as you can see in the video below.

Coming soon - our thoughts on Peruvian food and drink...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who Knew Leaving Leaving Bogotá Would Be More Dangerous...

Last weekend was both rainy (not surprising) and a holiday weekend (somehow, also not surprising since there are like 2 a month), and everyone cool was going out of town. So we were very excited when our school organized a little day trip to a pueblita outside of Bogotá for some sun, pool time, white water rafting, and the ability to say that "oh, yeah, we left the City too." (Even if it was not for the whole 3 day weekend). Some of the longer term students had done the trip in the past and told us that the rafting was relatively tame, so our "expectativas" were pretty low, but at the very least, the trip would not involve a rainy and cold day.

We left Bogotá early Saturday morning and drove up and down picturesque mountains, through fog, and along dirt roads, passing the biggest (live) spider I have ever seen, a dead snake, and other unidentifiable fauna, and soon entered the tropical climate zone that surrounds this mountainous city.

Once in our bathing suits and Marc Jacobs flip flops, (this has significance later), we donned our life jacket and helmet, got in the van with the group and headed to the the Rio Negro, called such because of all the minerals in it that make it appear black (see photos). Once we arrived, our training was all in Spanish, but luckily one of our profs was there to remind us what "adelante" and "atras" and "izquierda" meant so we didn't all paddle the wrong way at the wrong time and go around in circles.

One other student asked us to remind him what to do if we fall in the river, and, relying on our present view of the river and what we were told by other students, we said that no one will fall in so don't even worry about it.

Well, within 4 minutes of entry, we realized that because of a lot of recent rain, the currents were much stronger and water levels higher, and we then saw that our "expectativas" were all wrong. After a few "a delante"s yelled at us, the raft hit a rapid the wrong way. . . and. . . we flipped over!

Stuck under the raft in darkness and with 6 other bodies on top of us, all flowing along a strong current in black as night water was pretty frightening, we must say. But we surfaced soon enough, somehow still in possession of our oar, and managed to lift our legs up as told (we remembered! Oops, we forgot to tell our friend!) so that rocks did not kill us. We then watched as the guide flipped the raft back over (while it was moving with the current!), pull the first of us in, and then manage to grab the rest of us one by one, notably NOT with the assistance of the two kayakers who follow the raft for occasions such as this. Upon reentry into the raft and assuring ourselves that we were all alive and present, we realized that two casualties of this harrowing experience were the aforementioned Marc Jacobs flip flops, but we were willing to exchange these cheap plastic designer goods for our life. However, just then, one of the kayakers pulls up next to the raft and hands us said flip flops as if it was expected of him. We then realized the TRUE reason for the kayakers, which is to preserve our material possessions, for which we were truly grateful, and we are sure Rachel Zoe was also really happy and proud as well.

This does not bode well.

This is right before our dreams of a perfect 10 came crashing down...

But this is what a strong finish looks like.

The rest of the trip was less crazy, we managed to stay in the raft (barely) and make it back for some lunch and pool time and recaps of how we survived the Rio Negro. Video coverage of said survival here:

Mañana it is off to Peru where we meet the fam! We are excited to see them and Peru, but really, we are more excited about the Indian food mom promised to smuggle into the country.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Una Cena Hindu...

When we think of Diwali, we mostly think of great Indian food, either prepared for us by family, or prepared by us and great friends working together. It thus gave us great sadness that as Diwali approached, the horizon was filled only with the same arroz, carne, platanos, y ensalada that we eat every…single…day here. So you can imagine how happy we were when una amiga, MA, a renowned chef and caterer here in Bogotá, called us and said she was planning on making an Indian feast for Diwali, filled with good food and candles.

We could hardly contain our excitement, and arose early that morning to head to Paloquemao, a giant produce, meat, and flower market here in town. Photos below, courtesy of our classmate and amiga AM, given that our camera is muerta.

"We're picante"

"We're thirsty."

"Joke's on you! We're fresher than your farmer's market's chickens."

We arrived at MA’s apartment, strung up some lights, and started acting as sous-chef immediately. MA was making pakoras, rogan josh (lamb), raita, and rice, served with several different chutneys and lots of vino. Now, we have learned how to make some decent Indian food during our brief time in the kitchen, but never have we attempted to make pakoras, which require dipping chopped vegetables in special batter and deep frying them to the an exact level of crispiness that we thought could only be achieved by those called “mom” or “aunt.” We were thoroughly impressed with MA's mastery in the arts of Indian snacks.

We also partially DJ'ed the evening, and taught a room full of Colombians the art of screwing in the lightbulb and turning the doorknob (aka, bhangra dancing). Overall, a very successful and delicious evening, and it made us miss home that much less!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Disfraces y Disgraces

We know this is muy tarde, but Halloween (Halloween en español), here was muy loco. CR, JH and we procured some cowboy hats and leather vests and were the gayest cowboys since Ennis and Jack. Our destination was Massai, a club up in the hills overlooking Bogota, with a sort of ET arriving in LA kind of feel. Apparently, the entire city was also going up the hill to La Calera, since the traffic was epic, but at least we encountered things like this along the way:

This thing was actually doing the driving.

People really went all out, there were of course many Chilean Miners, Avatars, and unrecognizable things that were just excuses for people to be shirtless. So really, this phenomenon of using Halloween to be skanky is global.

There were a lot of this kind of thing going on.

Rodney Dangerfield and Jonathan Brandis were smiling down from heaven.

We met up with some new friends of ours, bought bottles of various things, and unfortunately (or fortunately) stayed out until 2 hours before CR and JH had to leave for the airport to go home. In the morning, after we woke up in a cold sweat afraid that they had missed their cab, we ran to the little hotel behind our house, and the lady at the desk informed us that beers were consumed at 6am and were apparently unpaid for. Apparently this is a Colombian hangover (guayabo) cure that CR and JH learned on their own.

Overall, their visit was very successful and we have learned that they have only just recovered...