27 November 2014

land's end

And so, after almost seven years in Europe, I have reached the edge of the continent: Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe.

There is something poignant about setting foot here, something that tugs quietly at my heartstrings, and whispers that yes, perhaps, it is time to move on.

"Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa... (Here, where the land ends and the sea begins...)" - Luís de Camões, Os Lusíadas

[Cabo Da Roca-Ponta Mais Ocidental Do Continente Europeu]

31 July 2014

it's a choice to be happy

Sometimes, I worry a lot.

I worry about life, or work, or my health, or whatever struggle it is that I think I'm facing that day.

But today, I received an email from an ex-colleague in Israel, after I had checked in on him and the team. Instead of me being worried for them, I ended up getting teary-eyed as I read the email. Speaking to someone who is there, caught in the crossfire, but still trying to make life as normal as possible, was sobering.

It really put things into perspective. When they ask me how I've been, how can I possibly respond with something as mundane as, "Well, things have been so-so, I've been a bit stressed because of recently."

So a note to myself, when I think I'm going through a rough patch: Everyone is going through their own struggles. You are safe, you are healthy, you have enough food and a roof over your head, you have family and friends you can rely on -- you already are much, much luckier than most people.

It's a choice to be happy.

27 July 2014

summer salsa

When I first arrived in Paris, I lived in a colocation with a French girl who had grown up in the Côte d'Ivoire. One Sunday, while I was still burrowing under my covers from the winter cold, she knocked on my door to invite me for lunch. So I padded over, still buried under a thick sweater, fleece pants, and socks, for a simple lunch of fried sardines and mango salsa she had thrown together from a trip to the weekend market.

My eyes widened as soon as I put the first spoonful in my mouth. It was the tropics in a single bite. I could feel the heat, the sun, the sea breeze -- heck, I even expected afrobeat music to start playing in the background.

This summer, the burgeoning heat in Paris has had me craving for fresh summery flavors: I've been feasting on tons of charentais melons and watermelons, sipping icy lemon juice, and fantasizing about filling my vegetable compartment with ripe juicy tomatoes still on the vine.

Then I found myself dreaming of that sardine & salsa dish again.

So here is my attempt at my own version: sardine fillets marinated in lemon and herbes de provence & pan-fried in olive oil, some couscous, and salsa. (Forgive the plating, it's really not one of my skills.)

I'd never made salsa before, and was surprised to find how quick and simple it was to make. As I didn't have any mangos, I made a version from ingredients I could easily find. Alter the quantities to your taste-- I love how coriander adds an extra zing of freshness to a dish, so added a ton of that!

Avocado Salsa
2 avocados, diced
1 onion, finely shopped
2-3 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
A sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss, and stir. Let stand for around 10 minutes to let the flavors settle, and serve.

Bon appetit!

16 May 2014

eat, pray, eat, love

eat. my favorite part of the day was eating at this local trattoria, where you squeeze yourself into one of the communal tables, jot down your choice from the menu (handwritten, since it apparently changes daily), and hand it over to the waiter. no one spoke english, so i just chose what i could understand -- and was treated to a delicious no-frills meal for only 8€!

pray. i almost passed this church, which looked nondescript from the outside. i'm glad i decided to peek in, because it turned out to be one of the most beautiful i've ever seen!

eat. again. snacking at this little kiosk that cells sfogliatella calda, a local pastry filled with ricotta, served steaming hot from the oven.

love. as i couldn't find an italian man to love, i present to you a sculpture unearthed from pompeii. look closely. no further comments.

[napoli, italy]

15 May 2014


Capri, playground of the rich and famous: where Louis Vuitton does espadrilles and taxis are open-topped convertibles.

(Side story: The taxi driver caught me sneaking a picture of his taxi and joked "Signora, that will be 10€!" To which I promptly replied "No, I'll pay with a smile!" and flashed him my million dollar smile. *applause from the taxi drivers* Bow.)

12 May 2014

sometimes, when you randomly get off a bus

On a whim, I decided to get off the bus at Atrani, a small town just around the headland from its more famous neighbor, Amalfi. A whitewashed town nestled at the foot of the hills and a small beach, it was one not given over to tourism. The buildings were old and scarred by the elements, and held the romance of another era.

It was then that I noticed the cables running along the length of the street, the catering cars, and camera lights emblazoned with a Cinetecnica logo -- I had walked right into a movie shoot! (Notice the retro bus and people clad in 40s garb.)

It was the Italy of Cinema Paradiso.

And I was entranced.

[atrani, italy]

11 May 2014

the dream drive on the amalfi coast

I munch on a panini as the bus pulls out of Sorrento. I’m still only halfway to my destination, the transfer giving me just enough time to have a quick break at a cafeteria near the station.

The bus starts winding up the hills, on to the neighboring communes of Piano di Sorrento and Sant’Agnello. We pass monstrous blocks of resort hotels, which thankfully thin out to pastel colored houses, lemon groves, and glimpses of villages across the hill. We climb up, and up, and up, twisting and turning, until finally we are high in the clouds and there is nothing but fog and the road in front of us.

Then, because nature has a flair of drama, the curtain of clouds are drawn back. The Amalfi Coast lies sparkling before our eyes. Cliff after cliff of villages, tumbling down into the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s so beautiful I want to weep.

[costiera amalfitana, salerno, italy]

08 May 2014

from napoli to sorrento on the circumvesuviana

The train is a rickety metal contraption, perhaps from the 1970s. On it is a mixture of people: tourists with cameras slung around their neck, locals on their daily commute to the next town, workers lugging huge carts loaded with bags of produce. 

Italian is an emotional, expressive language, as proven by the loud chatter that fills the carriage. Across me, a gold-ringed aviator-shaded men sits, his shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, showcasing his bountiful treasure of thick chest hair. It would be borderline humorous and creepy, if not for the gentle care he gave his son, who seemed to be suffering from a stomachache. He seemed a good father, and that was enough.

A five-year old boy alights at Pompeii, busking for coins with his little accordion. He can barely belt out a tune, but he is so adorable he earns a few coins from the passengers. Then it's a group of buskers that hop on the train, playing a jazzed-up version of the lambada. It incites the very gay group of Italian teeneagers next to me to start gyrating on the train's railings and dancing in the aisles. Their spirit is contagious, and pretty soon everyone is smiling and bopping their head to the beat of the drums.

And then the laundry-festooned buildings give way to the views of Mount Vesuvius, and finally to the sea.

We have reached Sorrento.