Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My first half marathon

 There's always a first for everything in life, right?
 This past Sunday, I ran my first ever half-marathon and nearly 72 hours later, I am still trembling with excitement and not completely over my runner's high. You can only imagine how euphoric I was when I actually crossed the finish line on the day of. I was a mixed-bag of emotions – so many things were running through my head! (pun intended :)
Even after my legs had long stopped pounding the pavement, my mind was still whirring with all these adrenaline-induced thoughts. All at once I felt relieved, thrilled, proud, exhausted, sore, and all around happy. So happy. Thank you, endorphins.

I began toying with the idea of running a distance race for quite a bit of time, but brooding about things in your head is far different than getting up and doing something about it. For someone who lives in her head much of the time, this was really big for me. I'd consider it a pretty big accomplishment given that I impulsively signed up for the race in February and only then began training aggressively for it after my work days were over.

This experience has definitely impacted me in some meta way that hasn't yet surfaced, but it's one of those things you feel deep within, and I'll have to extract out what I'm feeling at some point. It's like this: In the eye of the storm, you never quite understand all you're going through. It's only after everything is over that you gain a certain sense of perspective. An understanding of things.

A part of why I love writing retrospectively is to find new meanings to what I've gone through by means of thoughtful reflection, analysis, deconstruction.

So, in a nutshell, here is how this shindig all went down:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March Reads

March flew by in a flurry for many reasons, and as a result, I'm still catching up on a lot of personal side projects. Most notably, my annual reunion with two of my best friends from college happened! We met up in Spain this year and traipsed around Barcelona, Madrid and Granada with some daytrips on the side. Traipsed is probably not the right word to use, as we were hustling from train to train to make our aggressive itinerary come to life (we were there for around 9 days). It was a real effort at times because somewhere along the way, I caught a virus: the flu/traveller's diarrhea/food poisoning (still haven't figured out what the nasty bug was), but it didn't slow me down too much. Thankfully, one of my friends had on her Pepto and Cipro, which she uses when she goes out into to conduct fieldwork in Ghana. Between, Advil, Pepto, and Cipro, I was taking medication like clockwork.


March was packed with some gripping, light, funny, and thought provoking reads.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This was probably my most random read of the bunch as I didn't so much pick this book as it did me. Sometime last year, one of the security guards at the front desk of my work building approached me while I was leaving. We started a conversation, and he gave me an old-torn paperback copy of this book that had a sticker on it, saying it was a "travelling book." The idea being that once someone read it, they shared it and passed it on. You always hear about these things, but I'd never participated, and since I'm more or less guzzling books like fuel, I decided to read it in earnest on my train ride to Belgrade, Serbia. What surprised me the most was how eerily similar my life circumstances were with Tom Ripley. Mid-20s, American, living in Europe. I draw the line there. I definitely don't harbor any murderous thoughts. A quick read. I plan on watching the movie rendition with Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Perhaps in the summer, when I feel more lazy.

On Love by Alain de Botton

For philosophy lovers. Seriously though. I was thoroughly entertained by the method de Botton employed in elucidating his readers on the concept of love. He deconstructs an entire relationship and its phenomena with illustrations to boot. It might be dense or overly meta at times, but I find that is part of the novel's charm. If I were a philosophy professor, I'd consider adding this as a supplement to my reading list. It's wry, horribly witty, and humorous. And of course the topic – who can resist Love?
Reminds me of a more neurotic (500) Days of Summer. Perhaps if Joseph Gordon-Levitt were replaced by Woody Allen circa 1977.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

All I can say is that Bridge makes me laugh in all her lameness and vulnerability. Of course, reading this book called for a re-watching of the movie. How weird is it that Colin Firth is mentioned in the book as Darcy from the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice and is then portrayed again as Bridget's Darcy. It's like Firth walked out of a TV screen to be played in another TV screen which someone else is watching.

Meat Eater by Steven Rinella (Warning: this review is going to be long and overly tangential and mostly anecdotal, but it cannot be helped...after all this is a personal blog)

I wanted to read this book because it makes no apologies for killing animals and eating them. It is honest and raw. It was refreshing and definitely piqued my interest in going fishing and maybe one day hunting outback. Who knows?  

Conscious eaters have probably given a lot of thought about what they consume. I can personally attest to my own evolution of eating habits – from mindless to mindful eater. My love of cooking and all things epicurean (watching hours on end of YouTube cooking tutorials and the like), no doubt, led me to become more aware of the whole food industry. (Food Inc., anyone?)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Other snippets of Serbia

The Serbs version of palinka.
Proper vintage, eh?
Ivan's aunt's inquisitive cat.
Much needed baklava and Turkish coffee break after ambling for hours. Just look at them – they are glimmering and calling my name. I sampled one of just about every kind. 
The edifice which reminded me of a pastry.
Protests left and right. Felt very ignorant due to language barrier, but they had my attention all right.
Aranka's impromptu monocle from her coffee cup. Made me laugh.

Belgrade Fortress

 Decay nestled amidst budding life.
 The Sava and Danube River meet at a confluence in Belgrade. 
 More evidence of spring in sight.

Belgrade's city center

Orienting myself through context – the exhibition focused on the "AVERAGE YUGOSLAV" as they termed it from the '50s through the '90s.
 Former Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.
 My ankle boots were killing me with all the cobbled stone streets. This was a tame one. There was a gnarlier cobbled stoned street on Skadarlija located in Stari Grad (old town).

Serbia by night

It took all of eight hours to arrive to Belgrade, Serbia from Budapest. I got a taste of Cyrillic and was excited to have my passport stamped at the border. The kid in me will never die.
We jumpstarted the evening by having a late dinner with a veritable Serbian hen party as the soundtrack to our night. Cigarette smoke curled and diffused into the vibrant air, a local string ensemble pulsed while much singing and clapping ensued. All the while, silverware clinked, toasts were made, and victuals relished. I had a hearty pork dish with very dry, smoky wine. Perhaps too tarry for my liking, but you win some, you lose some.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome Spring!

Üdvözöljük tavasz. Literally – bidding Winter goodbye in the form of a coffin. Good riddance and good day, sir! The weather was actually quite mild this year, but I'm more than ready to usher in Spring and the greenery that comes with it. 
 Making friends with a busó!
 Busójaras welcomes spring with open arms and that naturally means fertility is somehow incorporated into the festivities. The fank, or doughnuts, pierced onto the horns of the busós represent love. They are used as metaphors of golden wedding rings worn by lovers.
 Where the wild things are. Naturally.
The busójaras festival takes place in the quaint town of Mohács, which is located at the Hungarian-Croatian border. Mohács is significant in Hungarian history for the fateful battle the Magyars lost in 1526 against the Ottoman Empire. From that decisive moment, the Turks began a period of rule in Hungary for a couple of centuries. The country was parceled out between several empires: the Habsburgs, the Transylvanians and the Turks. 
Ilona and I grabbed some nice mulled wine on this nippy day to warm ourselves up. We couldn't resist the earthenware mugs that came with it. :)
This mug now happily serves my daily cup of tea.