Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Argentina kind of night

Travel Through Food Destination: Argentina

There are many things to appreciate in life, but good friends and good food are amongst my favorites. Put the two together and..a cold November night becomes a virtual trip to Argentina...and so enjoyable!
We chose to indulge our senses in Gauchos - a classy restaurant on the Oudegracht, specializing in Argentinian steaks.
But first some Malbec wine...full-bodied, but soft, it's the perfect conversation catalyst! Before we know it, we are laughing out loud (probably terrorizing a bit the couple on the next table).
Foreplay might be important for sexual intercourse, but when it comes to steak, I am going straight for it, no need to dull my taste buds. For the sake of variety, we order Bife De Chorizo and Bife De Lomo, with corn, fries, and house sauce.
Let me give you a piece of advice...once you taste a bite of Bife De Lomo, nothing else on the menu compares in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor! I am not a big meat
eater in general, but I could definitely tell the difference. So...don't sweat the 5 euro extra...just order the best!
The knife literary cuts through as if it's butter...Yum!
We take Ice-cream and mini-fondue for dessert. Not sure that's very Argentinian...but it's on the menu, so...
To wrap up the night in style, we stop by Zussen . Every Tuesday, they hold a Tango night...we pick our drinks and enjoy the dancing couples...conversation and laughter ongoing...completely forgetting the cold, the snow, and reality...it's an Argentina kind of night... :)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Both shoes on - a short and sweet update



On October 3rd, I broke a bone in my foot - the fifth metatarsal (sounds like a movie title, no?) A month later (but it felt like ages!), my cast was off, and I started walking again...slowly but progressing steadily. I didn't know how much muscle mass one can lose in such a short time - 30-40%! A coupe of days later the physiotherapist examined my foot and said all looks ok, and all I need to do is keep on walking every day. Easier said than done, but I followed the advice. The most amazing thing about healing is the magic of the night hours...I could never say I was getting better during the day, in fact, I was worried that I was tampering with the healing process because at the end of each day I felt exhausted and the pain was returning in small dozes. But every morning I would wake up with more and more strength and confidence in my walking ability...until Saturday - two weeks cast free and I managed to step into a hole in the pavement in Amsterdam, my foot in the same twisted position as when I broke it! Before I even felt the strong pain, I was so angry with myself for letting it happen! I made it home ok, limping, with pulsing pain in the exact same spots as in the night of the accident. Oh, well, I thought, no matter how long it would take to heal I am NOT getting a cast again! And then on Sunday I proceeded (pretending that nothing happened) with yet another trip to Amsterdam. It was a misty and rainy day, but warm, so I opted for walking across town, with frequent breaks for coffee or food. The walk made me go to bed early, and I slept for almost 11 hours. Same thing last night - another 11 hours of sleep... And guess what?!!! This morning I woke up , got up, and walked!!! Like I have always done - with confidence, no limping, good balance. I felt solid standing on one foot, and albeit I can still feel where the pain was...I could also feel the itching of a healing wound! So great! So happy time! Both shoes are on! :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas is near


To think about Christmas in July is probably a bit too early, but once September is over...there comes this time, and it is different every year, there is this special moment when I know it with all my senses that Christmas is near. It could be a song on the radio, it could be someone on the street wrapped in a soft scarf, it could be a cup of hot chocolate, or the scent of freshly baked cookies... something very clearly will draw my attention and it will make me smile...cause Christmas is around the corner! And Christmas is the time when everything is wonderful!
This year it happened on October 22, in the attic apartment of a special friend of mine.
I went for an overnight visit, we walked a bit through town, got some groceries, cooked dinner, ate, chatted, laughed, browsed the Internet together, listened to some music and went to bed.
The morning came seemingly like any other morning...shower, light breakfast, quickly going over out daily plans, sipping Tazo tea...and that's when it hit me...the feeling of Christmas - while the rain was getting stronger outside, and some wind was picking up too...inside the four walls of this apartment, I felt the overwhelming comfort of a daily routine, the joy of simply being myself with a close friend, the warm air coming from the radiators felt like a fluffy soft blanket I wanted to hide into, it felt so cozy, so peaceful...I didn't want this moment to end! It was magical, it felt like Christmas!

The smile is still lingering on my face...I'm making Christmas plans, I'm looking for Christmas cards, and a few presents too!
I am looking forward to a very happy holiday season, and sharing it with some of you!

babies - Part 2



Baby-girl Luisa (NL) arrived on 12 November 2010. Congratulations to Nathalie and Wilco!!!



Baby-girl Natasha (UK) was born on 9 September 2010. Congratulations to Carole and Robin!!!

Chicago - underrated destination



Have a glance at Chicago's charm... CLICK HERE

In my humble opinion, Chicago is one of few quite underrated American destinations. Travelers go to New York, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles...the National parks...and very often miss the gem of the mid-west ... The Windy City.

I've been in love with Chicago ever since I first set foot there on 25th December 1999. Well, the story started much earlier, when I was 6 y.o. and my teacher was telling us about this amazing city far across the ocean, where the buildings are so tall that if you look up to the top, your hat will fall...

I take my hat off to you, Chicago!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My first trip to Japan (Part 2)


Day 1, 22 March 2001, The Departure

The night before my early morning flight, I didn't go to bed. It's my way of fighting jet-lag. A colleague took me to the Tucson airport before the first signs of dawn. To depart when everybody is still sleeping, and the Sun is still below the horizon, is a magical experience. I'm calm and I smile...the morning is full of hope! I feel like a tiger who lies low right before attacking the prey. I feel strong!
I'm changing flights in Los Angeles and Portland before I head to Nagoya. Portland makes me homesick...it's been a year of daily encounters with palm trees and cacti, I am missing having normal trees around me. I'm missing the birches I planted with my Dad in front of our home in Bulgaria, the walnut threes on the street, the maples in the park... But I'm in good spirits! Flight was smooth and uneventful. What more can you ask for! Next to me was a 15-16 y.o. girl on her way to visit her sister in Osaka. That was the first flight abroad, ever, and she was obviously nervous...if not terrified. I tried to calm her a bit and felt good about myself. After a couple of trans-Atlantic flights under my belt, crossing the Pacific didn't seem to impress me.
At last, we are landing. I'm going through passport control in no time. The customs officer decides to inspect my rather large suitcase and finds the 'rain prayer stick' - a Native American souvenir. He was obviously not please to see it...after all, in Japan people use dehumidifiers, thus how is a 'rain prayer stick' a good thing...
In the last minute of packing, I threw my underwear on top of everything else in the suitcase, and that turned out to be a good thing (for me)...because out of embarrassment at the sight of my lace undies and bras, the officer didn't dig deep enough to find the tin with Bulgarian feta cheese - purchased in the US and brought as a 'special' gift to my friend who has not had any Bulgarian food in over two years.
At the end I am through and ... here is Diana, smiling in disbelieve that I'm in front of her, after 4 years of separation, a Bulgarian friend arriving from America. Nevertheless, she is holding a camera and ready to photo-document my first steps on Japanese land. Moving! She has also brought me a box of candies, a traditional Japanese 'Welcome!' present. The box is tiny, dark blue color, with two white and light blue roses on top. So pretty!
The unbelievable is now a fact - I am in Japan!!!
And then the action starts - is that the right bus to Okazaki? did we buy the right ticket from the vending machine? are we waiting at the right platform?...the Japanese writing is so...confusing!!! And there is barely any English signs at the bus station. Luckily, we made it ok to Okazaki, the small provincial town where Diana has lived in the last couple of years, and which I had heard so much about...and not much flattering things. From the main bus station we are taking a smaller bus to get to Diana's apartment. The bus is very narrow, but the streets seem even narrower - a bus and a car can not just pass each other like that...one has to pull over! And then continue on. Despite the need of the described maneuver, each road has two lanes and they are well marked with blue reflectors on the road.
Finally we arrive at the small apartment where Diana's husband Rado, and Kliment - her son, are patiently waiting! Sigh!
First thing first, we all have green tea - full of antioxidants (trying to live forever? ha!).Then it's time to unpack the suitcase. An abundance of presents is putting smiles on everyone's face. Rado is overwhelmed to get the book on airplanes he so much wanted to have, but didn't dare buy because it was ridiculously overpriced in Japan. Kliment is happy with the toys and the candy! Diana doesn't even want to look at hers, I am her present for today, the others will be unwrapped tomorrow. OK, fine!
Before we know it, it's time to sleep.
So it is true - we all would be sleeping on the floor. We unfold and place the thin sleeping mats on top of the 'tatami' - traditional rice straw flooring providing some extra softness. At the morning the mats will be folded again and tucked in the closet...and so on every day! The legless chairs and 30cm tall table are moved into the corner to free some space for the mats. Everything is so tiny...like an Asian Lego world...incredible! I start feeling like a giant!
We soon doze off...we need the rest...tomorrow is Kliment's Birthday and there is gonna be a party! My first party in Japan!

...to be continued...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ajax:Veendam 3:0



The first time I went to a live soccer game (excuse my American way of addressing football!) must have been back in the late '70s - early '80 when Dad took me to a game of Trakia, my home town's team. It was at about the same time Dad took me fishing with him for the first time... He must have been really disappointed that his second child (me!) was again a girl if he was trying so hard to instill in me some manly hobbies...anyway!
I remember I was bored, very bored, especially after I finished the two packs of sunflower seeds. I fell asleep. Then I was awaken by the crowd's shouts and screaming...we won! And then I was happy to go home.

Thirty-something years later I went again to a live soccer game - tonight!, free ticket! (Thanks Carlos!), Biljna Arena Amsterdam!, watched Ajax : Veendam!
The weather could have definitely been more merciful! We didn't really need the thunders and lightnings, and pouring rain, and gusty winds flipping umbrellas left and right...but, hey, at least I wasn't freezing cold :-)

Observations and random thoughts:
1) The stadium seemed smaller than when seen on TV.
2) The lights were nice and bright!
3) Ajax was definitely the better team!
4) The players seemed younger than I expected...perhaps because I'm used to watching Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, when I was a teenager... Trivia of the day: Did you know that Ruud Gullit and I have the same Birthday?...only I am 10 years younger? ;-)
5) The hotdog and the beer were good! I just wished it was a bit warmer so I can have another beer...
6) I should have bought an Ajax scraf...at the least!

Long story short - it was great fun!
I've been passing by the Arena many times now, on the train, and every time I think 'I should take a photo for my Dad'...Now I think, perhaps I should get him a ticket to see Ajax...live! Hoping he would enjoy the game more than me...thirty-something years ago... :)

Monday, November 08, 2010

My first trip to Japan (Part 1)


A multitude of reasons sent me on my first trip to Japan. Many people and events intertwined making it impossible to pinpoint what actually started it all. Was it out of curiosity what I would see? Was I hoping to gain some wisdom along the way? Or was I just tired...and seeking an escape from reality? Regardless of the tipping point...my story goes like that...

A few years earlier I became a Reiki practitioner - a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. Mikao Usui, a japanese buddhist started it, and I wanted to go to his land, to submerge in his culture, the culture of Asia - so much spoken of, yet, perceived differently by each of us.
Shiatsu is another Japanese alternative medicine approach I'm very fond of - one that treats the reasons for an illness, not the subsequences...How wise!
My love for nature and beauty lead me to Ikebana- the Japanese art of flower arrangements...
Further on, Origami - the Japanese art of paper folding, which is as much fun as creating beauty...

The people involved in this trip are a few...
Diana - best of friend without which my first months in Tucson, AZ would have been unbearable, but with some kindness and a few jokes, she made it all much easier.
Keita - my Japanese boyfriend at the time, who taught me to accept our cultural differences and to love him despite not always understanding him.
Saori - a quite Japanese girl, who was always willing to hear my problems, yet never shared hers. And I'm sure she had some too.

With an on-going divorce at the time too, I went to the beginning of the day, to the land of the Rising Sun, hoping I'll find what was missing... tiny pebbles to fill the mosaic of my days, in a more harmonious way, with more light and hope in the future...

...to be continued...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Globe-Twitter



It must be totally random who and how ends up reading my blogs... outside of my circle of friends, that is.
But it is always such a great feeling to find out that someone you don't know - next door or perhaps across thousands for miles, has read a story you wrote and enjoyed it! Because I like to share the good times...

In an attempt to reach more travel lovers and share amazing travel experiences ... I joined Twitter.
So now I'm not only a Globe-Trotter, but a Globe-Twitter too :)
www.twitter.com/OliveTravel

Photo: Bataviawerf Twitter, 28 September 2010 (www.bataviawerf.nl)

ps. Roel, thanks for spotting the typo! :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I Love Travel




There are many things that I find fun to do and intriguing to learn about.

However, the one thing that I have grand passion for is travel.

To me, travel could be as multifaceted and vibrant as you would want it to be.

I truly enjoy traveling in any of its many variations.

This blog is about sharing my passion...

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beer tasting party



The Facts:

55 beers were emptied
24 beers are still in my fridge
15 attendees (13 tasting-experts, 1 pregnant lady, 1 dog)
4.2 bottles average beer intake
2 severe hangovers

The Story:

It was back in July, warm summer evening, I went for dinner and drinks with Bart and Erik. One thing led to another and I learned that it was not only my Dad experimenting with home made spirits. Erik and his Dad were trying to brew their own beer. Attaboys! Of course, I had to twist Erik's arm to promise that when the beer is ready we will try it.
Fast forward a couple of months...Erik reported that the beer is ready, it was time to taste it! So we threw a beer tasting party!
(But not before I secretly tasted the home-brewed-liquid gold...and gave it two thumbs up ;-) ... )

To be honest, I did not expect who knows what from the party. I recently hosted a Wine tasting party too and I was wondering if people won't just think of me as an AA...lol May be I am not far off on that last statement, but I was wrong on my expectation...
I was so happy to see with how much enthusiasm everybody embraced the idea. Each of us was supposed to bring 5 unusual beers. Most of the beer came from Belgium (God Bless Belgium!), but we also had beer from Japan, Tanzania, Mexico, The Netherlands - including some local Utrecht beer!, Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Australia...and the most unusual one was the Coconut beer from Germany/Gana!!! Aside from Coconut and hop, we also tasted berry, cherry and banana beers. Strength-wise, we went from 4.6% (Corona) to 10% (Maredsous). Bottle sizes varied from 330ml to 750ml. Amazing variety, any way you slice it!!!
The Pragt's beer was a total success too...judging by the fact that even my hidden reserve bottle of it was open and gone... :-)
Good job, Erik!

To wrap it up, I'll simply say...I had an awesome time! With friends like that life is festive, fun, fabulous!!! With or w.out the beer... :-) Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed it too!

The Photos:

The evening in photos...CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

babies



It's been a while since the last time a friend had a baby. But this year 5 friends are buying dippers, strollers, pacifiers and all that jazz. One in US, one in UK, one in Spain, and two in the Netherlands! Amazing!

Today I was very happy to hear that my friends Diana and Don had their Joshua on the 16th of October! Congratulations! :)
Diana is my best friend from the time we started playing with science. We've had so much fun times in Sofia, Japan, Alaska, Vegas and Washington...Andi, shall we go again to Thomas' land? :-)

I'm looking forward to adding four more photos to this blog ... :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

let's play


I promise to explain this post soon, but for right now...let's play :-) Would you spear just a moment of your time and particilate in the pole to the right - Will I move yet again to another country, and this time...to Australia? Thanks for your vote! :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For whom the sirens go off


The other day a friend in Groningen twitted: 'De sirenes van de ambulance zijn geweldig om te horen, zelfs 's nachts. Elke keer denk ik: weer potentieel een leven gered!' / 'The sirens of the ambulance are great to hear, even at night. Every time I think, again potentially a life is saved!' The moment I read it I experienced an overwhelming realization and a flashback... A realization why exactly I've always liked the sound of ambulance sirens, and a flashback from my childhood. I must have been 5-6 years old, we were in the city with my Mom, and an ambulance with the siren on drove by. I'd never seen ambulance before, so my Mom explained that ambulances take sick people or pregnant women who are about to deliver to the hospital. Perhaps in my childish mind, 'sick' was already scary word, so I said 'I hope this ambulance was taking a lady to the hospital to have a baby'. And then I clung to my Mom's arm. And only the other night I realized that every time I hear an ambulance, I hear hope... Thanks Erik, for putting it so simple, yet so moving... Fun fact - Did you know that the ambulance siren sound in UK and US is different from the one in continental Europe? :-) For the US/UK click here and for Europe click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn morning


I love today's October morning. Spotless blue sky, Sun is out, air is cool and fresh, but not yet chilly. I have wrapped myself in a blanket of calmness, and I sit in the the garden with my morning coffee, and a cookie. My face is one big smile, my eyes are smiling too...my hearth beat is steady and strong. The street is quite, but from the distance comes the ocean-like sound of the cars on the highway. Life out there continues. I hear the doorbell, my ride to Diakonessenhuis is here. ... Two hours later I'm back home - the heavy white 'knee-to-toe' cast is left behind in the hospital. Pfew! What a relief!!! I have a new cast now - but much smaller one, as small as I could negotiate with the cast-maker. Good job, Iliana! It's blue and it almost looks stylish compared to the big chunky old one. And I can actually walk on my own - short distances, but still, a BIG step forward!!! For longer distances I'll still need the crutches. I am not allowed to drive, but I am allowed to bike. OK, I won't try it right away, because the foot muscles need to warm up for a day or two, but I'm on the way to healing...3 more weeks! But let me tell you how GREAT it feels that I can walk again, I am not prisoned at home anymore, I can go on the street and see people, I can slowly go to the park and look at the beautiful Autumn colors...I can even go to work (but tomorrow!)... Ah, the sweetness of freedom! The promise of the Autumn morning...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

choices



It's been 7 days with crutches. All along my friend Mette is telling me it's time for me to learn to enjoy just sitting on the sofa and do nothing. But can I? While I started to get used to the fact that I will be slow physically in the next three weeks...I could not slow down my mind, so I thought of the choices we make and how they shape us...because if I had not chosen to wear high heels for my date on Sunday, I would have (probably) not broken my feet and so on...
So, here are the choices I thought of...feel free to add yours...

Go on a date with the guy YOU LIKE, or with the guy who LIKES YOU
On a sunny day, sit on the COUCH with your cast, or sit in the GARDEN with your cast
On a rainy day, sit on the couch and munch on CHIPS, or sit on the couch and eat an APPLE
Have a COFFEE, or have a TEA
Wait for your friend to COOK FOR YOU, or JOIN YOUR FRIEND in the cooking process (as much as you could)
Read a BOOK, or watch TV
Expect your friends to CALL YOU, or CALL A FRIEND far away who would be happy to hear you on the phone
Have your friends ASK YOU how your feet is feeling, or ASK YOUR FRIENDS how their days go
Have SEX, or MAKE LOVE
See a DRAMA movie, or see a COMEDY movie
TRUST your friend to drive your odd car and take you to a party, or STAY HOME in the safe zone
BE DISAPPOINTED with the people who didn't check on you, or RESPECT THEIR CHOICE not to call you every single day
ASK questions, or ASSUME answers
Focus on the POSITIVE, or let the NEGATIVE take over

Choices, choices, choices... :)
This week I learned to ask for help, I learned to accept to be helped, I learned to be patient (somewhat!)...
What I also learned is...I have chosen the best friends! Again! :-)

ps. I even chose to keep my Saturday flowers promise! Thanks, P.!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

life with crutches - Part 2


Day 4. Cabin fever is taking over. I must escape! Determined to keep my dental cleaning appointment I call a cab to take me to the dentist office...which by foot is merely 650m away, but the one way streets and the park in between makes for a fun 2km ride. Before I know it my teeth are clean and I can go home. The light fog, the mellow weather, the smell of the Autumn captivate me and I decide to go home by foot, and by crutches. I mean, c'mon, it's only 650 meters, I can see the park from the office's front door, and my house is just on the other side of the park...It can't be that difficult! Well, surprisingly...it can! It took me about ten stops to rest, and 30 minutes to get home. My face dripping with sweat, my t-shit soaked too! On the positive side - I saw a couple of picture perfect spider webs (and their habitants), sprinkled with morning dew; a few golden leaves danced for me before landing on the wet green grass; I filled my lungs with fresh Autumn air. I love Autumn! Curious observation - five people offered sympathy to my slow motion movements. All five of them were 60 and above years old. I guess, they are the ones that can relate, they know we are not invincible, their life is more in sync with the pace of my walking... Harmony at its best! :-)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

life with crutches


Have you ever wondered what it is to be in a wheel chair? Or to have a mobility disability? I have! And these days I am getting some answers... On Sunday, after a wonderful afternoon in Amsterdam, I picked my bike from Utrecht Central Station and...fell off of it, ending with a broken foot bone and a cast. That last sentence actually summarizes a few hours of running to the doctor, radiology, first-aid, etc. etc....and the same friend who recently saved my broken spirit (see blog I had it) now helped with my broken foot. Will I ever manage to say a proper thank you? :) Anyway, aside from a very sincere thank you to all my friends who are helping me these days with the grocery, with the food, and entertaining me, driving me to places, being 'there for me' in person, of via the internet...I also want to share - life with a cast and crutches is a pain in the neck! (not only in the foot!) Every simple chore you do on a daily basis becomes a big effort, many extra muscles get involved, your healthy leg get exhausted from taking all the weight, showering is tricky, you can't even bring a glass with water to you table...because you have to hop...and before you know it, the water is spilled on the floor...Just try it and you'll see... But, nothing I can do about it, 3 1/2 more weeks in the cast...and all the fun that comes with it! :-) I can't wait to be back on my feet - literary! And appreciating it in a very new way!

i want to know his story





Do you know this man? I want to know his story...

His shoe polishing stand is on the South exit of the Amsterdam Central Station and one could easily not notice him amongst the crowds of people getting in and out. I actually never seen him with clients, but he is there every time I go to Amsterdam...
The first time I spotted him, a few months ago, he seemed to have just arrived. I would guess he came from Turkey.
He was wearing a simple suit and a light shirt, buttoned up to the neck. He was standing by his shoe stand, tall and proud, hands together on the front, patiently waiting for clients. He looked clean, close shaved, well combed hair, nicely trimmed mustache. He was observing with curiosity, but also with modesty the passing by people, which made me believe he is new to town.
In the following months, he seemed more and more relaxed, and at ease, and finally, this last weekend, he was sitting on a stool and rolling a cigarette. Routine must have settled. Yet, he kept his professional look - looking clean and well groomed, the shoe stand well organized, ready for the next client...
What caught my eye the first and every other time though, was this man's face and presence - I saw confidence, self-respect, and determination. I saw a strong personality. I saw a professional shoe-polisher - proud of his line of work. I was captivated by someone at peace. And I want to know his story...

The picture below is from Istanbul - a few shoe-polish stands by the Spice Market. They had more business than the man in Amsterdam. But I wonder, would any of them dare to go on their own, step outside of the comfort zone and try to make it in a new world? Would they have the strength? Would they have a story?

Friday, October 01, 2010

today I had it


It's not the first time in my life I've felt weak, but today I had it. I normally deal bravely with living in a new country, using a new language on a daily basis, money shortage, emotional turbulence, work boredom, but these last couple of days mixed a strong cocktail of all listed ingredient and escalated the pressure in to the point of waking up this morning ... short on breath, heart beat as if I've ran for dear life, and a paralyzing terror - can I handle it all?! After a shower, coffee and a grapefruit juice, fully awake, I realized that the terrifying feeling that I'm losing grip is still with me. So it wasn't just a result of a nightmare. I was really on the verge of losing it... I needed a solid stone to step on, a safe place where to catch my breath, a trusted friend to look me in the eyes and without words to reassure me that I will be o'right. Given the day and time, almost everybody was not available. Expect for one, who coincidentally was coming back from a business meeting, and on his way to take his 8 month pregnant girlfriend to the doctor. It took 5 minutes altogether, to sit with a cup of espresso, to look me in the eyes and smile. I took his hand for just a moment, and a wave of peace came over me. The power of the human touch! No words necessary. And then I smiled too, pressure was gone, I gained clarity... I needed a tiny alignment to gain strength, and I've found it...a mental switch from a very bitter 'today I had it', to a blissful 'today I had it all!'