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.

video


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:


video

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...

Monday, November 08, 2010

All the Coolest Travel Destinations Have Day Long Traffic Jams...

Apparently, when JH travels with friends, the G*ds conspire to stick him in excessive traffic jams with limited amounts of snacks. This happened during his Great Asian Adventure, and it, unfortunately for us, happened again on our journey to Parque Tayrona from Cartegena that sunny Tuesday morning.

The morning started off with promise, when the driver told us he could take us directly to the Park instead of dropping us of in Santa Marta, as we were originally told, from where we would have had to take additional modes of transportation. But soon after we passed the birthplace of Shakira, things went downhill.

Apparently, there was a protest near Santa Marta, during which those fighting the good fight for economic and social justice forced a shutdown of the one road into town, leaving us to fight the heat for 3.5 hours with only a few packets of cookies. Once we realized what was going on, JH quickly emailed EKK and AK, his Asia travel companions, and they advised us to ration the snacks and take care not to share them with any of the strangers on the bus. JH made sure not to share them with the Israeli backpackers behind us, and in return, one of the girls gifted him her cold, but this we did not realize until 24 hours later.


It was hotter than it looks.

The traffic jam forced us to spend the night in Taganga, a small fishing village that has apparently become a destination for European and Israeli backpackers, and a jumping off point for visits to Parque Tayrona. We ended up at a cute hostel that was apparently hosting a model convention of some sort, since everyone there was stunning and shirtless. One tall and handsome boy from Chicago bought a beer at the snack bar and talked to us about our impending move there for 10 minutes before saying that he had to run and take his friend to a doctor because she probably had Yellow Fever. Are there doctors in small fishing villages slash crunchy party towns? We hope that we need not ever answer this question. Also, we give you all permission to buy a beer and chat with strangers for 10 minutes if we are ever facing a potentially life-threatening mosquito-transmitted disease (although we are vaccinated against Yellow Feves for the next 10 years).

After a dinner of sandwiches on baguettes and some beers next to European jugglers, we rested under mosquito nets and headed Parque Tayrona in the morning via two buses. Upon our arrival to the park, we began our three hour adventure through the mud, up hills, and along beaches.


On the way, one German boy asked us to take shirtless pictures of him (with his own camera) lying down on a big rock. Of course, we used this opportunity to take some pictures of him with our own camera as well. However, the camera G*ds must have been angry, because soon thereafter, we tried to cross a large pool of water with our camera in our pocket, and suddenly found ourselves in waist deep in water and our own camera is now dead. DEAD. We hope the blog does not suffer due to this tragedy, but rest assure dear reader(s), we will make amends.


No, seriously, he asked us to do this. (But not to take a picture of us doing it).

After finally reaching Cabo (basically like Cabo in Mexico, with only slightly fewer young, drunk people), we rented some hammocks, changed, and of course, ran into a friend from college, AG, on the beach. AG, being involved the theatre scene in New York, said that when she saw three American boys in short bathing suits on the beach, she figured she had to know at least one of us, and, Lo-han and behold, she did.

The park and its beaches are really something else, and, despite the heat and mosquitoes, we think it’s really one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen. We were sad to leave the next day to head back to Bogota, wary about getting on a plane with mud caked on our legs and sand in our sweaty hair. But the Colombian airport security officials took pity on us and let us on, and we made it back safe and sound.

Still to come, Halloween in Bogota = Loco.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Cartagena!

We are sorry dear reader(ship) for the long absence, but we were very busy this past week hosting JH and CR in Bogota and elsewhere. It all began last Saturday when they arrived at the airport. Tia M offered to drive us to pick them up, and after JH came out first, she and him spoke in French for 30 minutes and we were left to develop our language skills on our own. Many a tall white person emerged from the arrivals hall, but only the last one was CR.

After settling JH and CR into the hotel/motel/hostel like structure behind the house, we headed to the big gay night club in town, where our hair started to vibrate due to the amount of bass pumping into the venue. Luckily, we were rescued by a new friend JS who showed us that there were in fact 1092812 more rooms in the club, including 2-3 roof terraces where the noise level was seriously reduced.

Sunday, we left for the coastal colonial city of Cartagena, and were greeted with warm sun, which we realized we had been missing here in cool Bogotá. The old city was really charming, despite the fact that it was DRY (as in, not not wet, but no alcohol was sold), because of some elections. The idea of not drinking on election night, (especially today’s), was not something we were used to. CR, JH and we managed to find one bar willing to serve us beer in coffee cups, behind a big plant, in order to evade the authorities.




Si, Cervesa

On Monday, after some yelling in Español at the women who sold us a ride on a boat without telling us that we would need to pay more to get on the dock in order to get on the boat, we ended up at the lovely Playa Blanca, where, praise Xenu, they sold beer. This was especially helpful given that the boat that we paid for had a motor from 1945 that gave out approximately 23 times. During the adventure, however, we made a new friend from Buenos Aires with whom we practiced our Español, and from whom we snagged an invite to her country home! See, from adversity comes great things.



Still to come: street protests, Israeli hippies, and dead cameras…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our Morning Reading...

This article was super helpful because it taught us all the vocabulary we need to know for when we and JF open our global celebrity representation practice.


Yes, this is a full page article.


This quote is way harsh.


Me duele la cabeza...

On Tuesday we started our classes de español at the Nueva Lengua school which resides in a cute white house in the Quinta Camacho neighborhood. There are four people in my class, one Polish girl, a guy from England, and a Dutch girl, all of whom are just as good and just as bad as we are at español. This marks approximately the 187th time in our lives someone has tried to teach us the subjunctive, but we are determined that we will master this tense by the end our stay here.

Speaking of verb tenses, we had NO idea how many different tenses our coming out story has until we had to translate it into español after someone asked us about it on Wednesday night. We went with A and her amigas to Cavu, a gay bar with a Wednesday night fiesta featuring a drag queen in residence and a mixed crowd of chicos and chicas. Seriously, do we really need the pluperfect subjunctive and the conditional perfect? No.

The bar was fun, despite the shots of aguardiente that did us in and prevented us from remembering a single word of español in class Thursday morning. The other problema is that it is hard enough understanding normal speed Espanol as it is, but when you add many decibles of Shakira on top, it is virtually impossible. One boy asked us “ierouo aosdufaoi hsdkfoisd sdf?” (what we basically heard), and after repeating it 4x and not receiving an answer, he walked away. The ladies were more patient, but maybe that is because they all already had GFs (this is a universal occurrence apparently) and were in no rush.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Never Have We Ever Been So Bad at Never Have I Ever...

On Saturday we ventured to “El Centro,” the center of town, and known in the guide books as “La Candelaria.” We met up with AO, a historian we met at a party back in NYC last year and with whom we stayed in touch and spoke to when we were contemplating this ciudad for our little adventure. We spoke only in Español, which meant that we only understood 60-70% of what was being said, but having a historian take us around was quite the treat. We travelled around the lovely Plaza Bolivar, with it’s old (Catedral Primada, Capitolio Nacional), and the new (Palacio de Justicia – rebuilt after being stormed by guerillas and an attempted re-taking by the army in 1985), and a whole lot of pigeons. We never understand feeding pigeons as a pastime, but some peeps are apparently really into it.

Catedral Primada


Palacio de Justicia


Capitolio Nacional

AO took us to a café for some tamales, and chocolate santafreño, hot chocolate, with…cheese at the bottom. Yes, cheese. When in Bogotá…

After more sights and an introduction into the cultural world of Bogotá (Museums! Concerts! Exhibits!), we headed back to the Casa for dinner with Tia M. After dinner, we called the cousin of ND, and she offered to come pick us up for some drinks at her friend’s place. Of course, soon enough, we were playing “nunca he hecho,” which for you non- Español speakers is better known as “Never Have I Ever.” In normal situations, only understanding 60-70% of what is being said, though not ideal, is not really a huge problema. However, when one drinks after thinking something means something else, it is a problema because then we are asked for a story, and have no idea what, or better yet, how to even say it. But we got a great lesson in slang that will unfortunately not be on our placement examen tomorrow at school.

After learning the proper words for “tacky,” “trashy,” and “classy,” we headed with a crew to a rooftop discoteca in Zona Rosa (“classy”). Before entering though, we went to the supermarket and bought and shared rum in a small juice-box, on the street (“trashy”).

At the club, no chicas were talking to us, but one amigo promised to take us next week to a place with more chicos, so we stuck it out and had a great time dancing to basically the same 80s playlist we stole from EKK’s “Pure 80’s” CD she probably got from one of those CD drives in high school (“tacky”). (KIDDING, so classy.)

Sunday and today were a bit more relaxing…we basically watched a bunch of dubbed movies, cheated with 1 hour of Mad Men (not dubbed), and visited some museos in El Centro. Class begins mañana! We are currently picking our best back to school outfit and luckily we have new glasses to appear v. serious.

Hasta Pronto!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

It Took Us Only 36 Hours to Befriend the Entire Legal Lesbian Community of Bogotá

Well we had had quite the day on Friday. After resigning ourselves to the fact the citibank is going to charge us 3% of every ATM withdrawal we make, we took out some cash and then headed north with Tia M and her daughter's amiga A.

El Campo

We headed to a "cultivo," essentially a rose farm and packaging factory about 40km outside the City, which reminded us a little bit of that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (original) where Veruca's dad has the factory going through the chocolate bars to find the golden ticket.


A Rose By Any Other Company Would Not Smell As Sweet

We learned that many of the roses we see and buy last minute at the bodega for mom or someone's performance originate in Colombia, and que bonita!


Baby Rosa


The Finished Product

After a lunch of 3 Empanadas with fresh salsa (yum), we headed to the Zona Rosa/Zona T, where there are shopping malls filled with texting teenagers, much like our hometown of Strong Island. On the escalator, A asked us if we had a novia, and we said, "Uhhhhh." She then got the hint and started explaining where all the gay bars were and which ones were trashy.

Of course, the mall had, not one, but two Juan Valdez Cafes:


Juan was not there, unfortch.

We then contacted AP, who our friend TS in New York introduced us to on Facebook, and she invited us out for Salsa dancing, after some empanadas, natch. It turns out AP is a lawyer in Bogotá and she and her partner hang out with lots of other legal lesbians, who all love Salsa dancing and being very nice to random foreigners. Now, we thought we had rhythm, but AP and her girls were finding the beat in bizarre syncopated rhythms that we could barely comprehend. Salsa may have originated in New York, but it's not the New Yorkers who can keep up. AP also mentioned that her human rights org might need some research help, so now we not only have gay friends here, but a possible internship.

So far, the empanada count is at 5, but expect that to change very soon, folks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We Have Llegar-ed!

We have arrived in Bogotá! La casa where we are staying is full of wonderful people and wireless internet, so we think it's going to be a great stay here. We don't start our clases de español until Tuesday, so there is plenty of time for exploration and we hope to have much to report very soon.

Everyone on the plane on the way down here was enfermo (that means sick), but we changed the direction of the little air nozzle thing every time someone coughed to blow their germs back towards them, which we think might have worked. Also, we just drank some really fresh fruit juice of some sort, so we think we might be OK for now.

Of course, every line we chose today was the slow moving one - and that was not just our perception. Literally the other security line at JFK moved at 2x the speed as ours, and the other immigration line at BOG moved 8x as fast. But given what our country does to foreign visitors, we cannot be too mad. We just felt bad because Tia M (our hostess) was waiting for us with the cutest sign ever. Also, we did not get off to the greatest start since we didn't understand a word the immigration officer said to us (though he let us in, so we might have done OK), but we got our grove back with Tia M, which is good because she just yelled at us when we said one word in English by accident so we don't really have a choice.

Mañana it's off to the banco and telefono store and learning not to get lost.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating Our Way Through Chicago

Basically we have not stopped eating since we arrived here in Chicago. Our friend JO sent us a Chowhound post he wrote after a recent trip here, which has served as a helpful guide. It also helps that we are staying with JL, whose mother describes him as a cross between Zagat and a GPS, but who himself says he's better than Zagat. We do not disagree.

Despite our love of the very tasty Vietnamese, Sichuan and Indian food here (we are partial to the foods from Asia), we have really enjoyed our introduction in the Lettuce Entertain You® family of restaurants. First we hit Mon Ami Gabi® in the stately Belden-Stratford with KMZ and JL, and even though the waitress hurled insults at JL's choice of steak, we had a delightful time. On Saturday, we loaded up on carbs with CH, JL and ZH at R.J. Grunts as CH prepared for the Marathon (despite the fact that CH didn't eat anything and JL, ZH and we were not actually running the marathon). R.J. Grunts is famous for its Salad Bar, which apparently was the first of its kind. CH was not impressed, but anywhere where you can put processed shredded cheddar on your salad and top it with Thousand Island is heaven for us.

We have so taken to the Lettuce Entertain You® brand that we have started to collect the collectable wallet sized mini-brochures from each Lettuce Entertain You® establishment we frequent (even though ZH collects them even if he HASN'T been there, but we don't judge). We cannot in fact wait to come back here in December to start expanding our collection at places like Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!® and Wow Bao®. For our friends in the DC metro area - note that you have four options yourself, so we hope you will try out these establishments if you have not already. We have also joined the Frequent Diner Club®, and cannot wait to achieve Silver Status like JL (though it probably didn't hurt that he was Bar Mitzvahed at at Lettuce Entertain You® establishment - but we are sure he would have gotten Gold status if his Bar Mitzvah had a theme).

And with that, our time in Chicago has come to its end. In addition to the food, we enjoyed the crazy 70-80 degree weather over the last 7 days, and we trust this will be the case when we return in December, especially since such weather results in greater numbers of nice corn-fed boys running along the Lake sans shirts. A big shout out to JL and ZH for hosting us this past week - and their lovely Miss Meaty, whom we have named best cat for her failure to make us sneeze or cringe in fear.

Back in NYC tomorrow for a brief 36 hour layover.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The "Vowel Song" in the Alphabet Musical We Did in First Grade Would Have Sounded Different Here...

Early on during our freshman year of college, we went to brunch in a dining hall with some friends. JH was there, and many of us got from the service line a couple of those well known round flat things usually made from a box and served in the mornings with syrup and maybe some butter and fruit. Once we sat down, someone asked JH what he called said round flat doughy breakfast item. “Oh, flayaaapjacks,” said he.

First of all, we had never heard pancakes referred to as “flapjacks.” But more shockingly, we had never heard the aah sound pronounced “aaayaaa” before. This is because we didn’t really know any Midwesterners until then, and never imagined that anyone would distort the /æ/ phoneme in such a manner. (JH to this day denies this event ever happened, as if he could scrub out the history of his aaayyyaaccent the way he actually has actually (or nearly) eliminated the traces of said aaayyaaaccent.)

Now that we are spending more than just a layover in this town, we are hyper aware of the aaayyaaaccent around us. “Have you seen Baaayyaad Saayyaaanta?” one friend asked another. On the local news yesterday, a small plane crashed into a local gym, and one resident said, “I caayyaan’t believe no one was hurt.”

Our cousins in London and India will tell you that we tend to adopt the accent of those around us when speaking, so we are quite fearful for what we will sound like by the end of this week, and more fearful for what we might sound like after we come back from our travels and live here for a whole year. Also, our own last name contains an /æ/ in the first syllable, so when we start introducing ourselves with the aaayyyaaa distortion, please send help.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

We Will FINALLY Have a Dishwasher! Our Un-moisturized Dry Hands Thank Us.


Apartment hunting in Chicago already seems a lot easier than New York. Not that we would really know what apartment hunting in New York is like, since we have actually never really done it. Right after college, we went traveling around the world for three months (just like this three months except less singing without musical accompaniment) and left our roommate EKK to do all the work. When we returned, we were all, "so EKK, what is the deal," and she rolled her eyes and told us where (and with whom) we were going to live. (Thanks EKK!) When, three years later, we moved to the UES of Manhattan, the apartment was already occupied by our sister, so...we already knew where it was. That said, we have heard many of you incessantly complain about apartment hunting and are besties with a v. prominent New York broker so we can only imagine the headaches and heartaches the process causes.

Anyway, the first thing is that apparently the landlords here pay brokers' fees, so it's already a win. Second, instead of walking around the City all day or shoving to get cabs, you get driven around in the broker's SUV. Third, THESE APARTMENTS ARE HUGE. I mean, there was one giant duplex that I couldn't furnish if I tried WITH an outdoor deck and working fireplace. Why did we slave away in NYC all this time? OUTDOOR DECK PEOPLE!! WORKING FIREPLACE! Can you imagine turning a place down because it's too BIG? We did that yesterday.

However, our main concern about apartments, we have realized, is how long we will have to be outside before getting on a train or bus during the months of January-March and November-December. As some of you may know, we are not a creature of the cold and so our very survival here is at stake. Apparently, though, anything goes here with respect to winter coats, we we are totally going to get that down one with the hood that goes down to one's ankles that we have yet to see worn by a man, gay or straight.



But maybe New York transplants here are the trendsetters? We can hope.