Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So you had a bad day...

As we all know, bad days can happen in any city, and when you are having one, it is easy to find proof of why this city is particularly to blame...

Ad campaign in DC metro (personally I think the rat is cute though)

As any good tourist, I like reading up on the city that I am frequenting (or living in). This picture was posted awhile ago when a rat-type animal stole the limelight from President Obama as he was giving a speech in the rose garden.

The accompanying article provided this interesting, if not appealing, commentary on D.C.:

"Moreover, rodents of all kinds are pretty common in Washington. From time to time, city officials issue alarms about surges in the rat population when residents put out extra-big summer piles of garbage. Washington is, after all built, along a river, on what used to be a malarial swamp."

So summer in D.C. means "Extra-big piles of garbage," rats and living conditions reminiscent of a malarial swamp... I wonder if this writer likes this city?

But on those days when it is 102 degrees out, 90% humidity, and I am removing my belt, purse, shoes or other metal object of apparent concern, in order to get through the metal detector and security checkpoint for the building I work in, for the 80th time, with my $5.00 burned coffee in hand, and 2nd class, apparently useless, security badge in the other... I can just remember that after all, I am living in a former malarial swamp. What do I expect?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Living like an Italian

Perhaps I should have called this blog just that, "Living like an Italian." Some of you might be sick of me talking about Italy; however, I have already made my disclaimers about this passion/delusion, so to those people, all I can advise is: read a different blog.

Sunday was my latest plunge into this obsession. After watching the Italy v. New Zealand game (1-1... va be'), I attended Italian mass at Holy Rosary Church, followed by the annual Festa Italiana. This year, they celebrated the region of Molise, a region in the central-to-south,eastern part of Italy.

The festa was somewhat small, but not lacking in quality. There were about 10 stalls featuring some of the staples of any proper Italian festival: an espresso/cappuccino stand, a gelato stand and a homemade pasta stand.

You don't even have to ask: yes, I partook in the gelato. Not only did you have the choice of having it served in a mini pineapple (so fun!), Dolci Gelati also bowed to the Italian tradition of halving your portion and giving you another flavor. (Side note: I have found that this is totally against American custom. A second flavor in the U.S. means a second scoop, thus doubling the portion and, as I suspect the true cause behind this logic, doubling the cost.) The gelato was the best I have had outside of Italy (and I have had a lot).

Pina Colada and Banana Chip flavors!

In addition to these staples, there was also "porchetta," a spiced, boneless pork panino that it quite popular among my carnivorous friends. (I have to admit, as a vegetarian, it made me a little green).

You don't see the roasting pig rotating on a spic in this picture, deliberately.

Another fascinating aspect of the festival: a brick oven on the back of a truck! Mobile home cooking! It was genius.

Italians take their cooking seriously.

There was also a performance by Il Mastrogiurato, a medieval troop that did formations and flag juggling. It was more interesting than I make it sound... perhaps the picture will do it more justice:

Lastly, there was a raffle to win free airline tickets to Italy (I didn't win, which is why I am here writing instead of on a plane).

And if that wasn't enough italianess, after the festival, I met up with the rest of the pseudo-italian Mardellis and we went to dinner at, you guessed it, an Italian restaurant: Sorriso.

Pretty good pizza. Although, ruccola on almost any pizza makes it taste authentic.

I'd like to think I dreamt in Italian that night, as a nice way to round off the day.

Who says you can't create la dolce vita wherever you are?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


If I could sing opera, this is exactly what I would do!

If you, like I, were curious about the translation, here is what I found:

Let us drink from the goblets of joy
adorned with beauty,
and the fleeting hour shall be adorned
with pleasure.
Let us drink to the secret raptures
which love excites,
for this eye reigns supreme in my heart...

Let us drink, for with wine,
love will enjoy yet more passionate kisses.

With you I can spend the time with delight.
In life everything is folly, which does not bring pleasure.

Let us be happy,
fleeting and rapid is the delight of love;
it is a flower which blooms and dies, which can no longer be enjoyed.
Let us be happy, fervent and enticing words summon us.

Be happy... wine, and song, and laughter beautify the night;
let the new day find us in this paradise.

Life is nothing but pleasure,
as long as one is not in love.
That is my fate...

Italian is amazing.

For other aria translations.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not remembering memory lane

Almost 9 years after I graduated Emory and left Atlanta, I find myself back here on a training. And it has definitely been a walk down memory lane, or Peachtree lane in this case. However, the Atlanta in my memory hasn’t been matching the Atlanta I am visiting now.

I suppose this is not surprising. Nine years does a lot to an already burgeoning city. Buildings pop up, museums expand, parks are revived… And then there is the intangible change… the loss of a city that I knew through the eyes of a college student, living for the first time on my own, in a city much larger than Baltimore.

This recent trip, after years of living on my own in countless big cities in a variety of countries, as a worker instead of a student, has given me a different lens from which to observe Atlanta. 9 years has also washed away the majority of my associations to the city. 99% of my friends have scattered since college, not many of them having been native to the area anyway.

Yet determined to rediscover this city, I began my trip as a proper tourist, as is my modus operandi, with a camera and a “Where” magazine in hand.

One of the new sites that was entirely envisioned, designed, constructed and opened to the public since I left is the Georgia Aquarium- the largest aquarium in the world. If you had read about my “critter craziness,” it won’t shock you to hear that this was my planned target for my one day out of trainings. However, one hour of MARTA commuting and 3 hours of a grumbling, lunch-deprived stomach later, with a Disney-roller coaster-ride wait ahead of me, I decided to veer off course and watch the World Cup match: US v. England.(After explaining my logic in my last blog entry, you might be curious as to my loyalty for this game: I routed for the US.)

Match over, I decided that it was too late in the day to explore the world’s largest aquarium and instead decided to see Atlanta via Peachtree street, the aorta of Atlanta. This “great” idea sent me on a mini Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

You see, in a car (and those are the magic words), Peachtree seems long but manageable. By foot, Peachtree is a mammoth of an urban hike, a virtual cement Appalachian Trail. There were bridges, winding roads, uphill climbs and long descents… none of which I had remembered about Atlanta.

Like the Appalachian trail or Camino, very few people undertook the challenge, perhaps knowing or better remembering the distances and humidity- a combo Atlanta serves in hefty doses. Therefore, I often had the trail to myself. The city was so clearly not a walking city that it was easy to replicate the solitude of being in the woods, and accordingly my mind began to wander.

One interesting thought that came upon me was about past loves. Atlanta was not only my first away-from-home and city-life experience, it was also the setting for my first love. So walking past various sites and intersections was almost like seeing a movie reel in my head of those days. With all the changes in the city, I was surprised to see one restaurant still standing: Baraonda.

I was astonished to see that, not only was Baraonda still standing 9 years later, it had also tripled in size to include an attached wine bar and an outdoor terrace. This made me marvel that, in such a tough business, some restaurants go bankrupt after only a year, but others, like Baraonda, can triple in size, gain momentum and become a stable institution... much like relationships.

My random musings were only interrupted by my trigger happiness with my camera, "old reliable." However, after 3 hours and over 5 miles of walking, I had exhausted my will to be a tourist and instead opted for a refrigerated seat (buildings in Atlanta are refrigerated, not air conditioned…)on the MARTA train back to my hotel.

As a tourist, I am still not sure how I feel about Atlanta. My one day of exploring has not been thoroughly comprehensive and on my list are still visiting a QT gas station for their endless combinations of caffeinated drinks, drinking a blueberry Sweetwater beer, partaking in a southern sweet tea, eating a Georgian peach, and attending a Braves game. I had grits this morning- so I have crossed that off my southern experiences.

Yet, while amusing myself in re-exploring Atlanta, I have a feeling that the Georgia on my mind might not be the Georgia I am in.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let the games begin!

I love soccer (or football as it is more appropriately named). Perhaps it is because I played it all throughout middle and high school, perhaps it is because I was one of 10 people supporting Baltimore’s indoor soccer league, the Baltimore Blast. Perhaps it is because I had a crush on an indoor soccer player when I was 14 and he replied to my fan mail. Or perhaps, as many men charge women viewers, it is because football players are hot. I think all of these play a part in my enthusiasm. However, it is one of the only sports events that I recall watching excitedly since I was young.

Of course, international competition always brings up the question of nationalism which is a difficult one for me. However, I have recently reconciled this by labeling myself “pan-national,” which I define as having ties to all nations. Therefore, which team I route for often depends on who’s playing that day- if Argentina is playing Brazil, I will route for Argentina because I have been there, loved the people and was enchanted by Buenos Aires. If Korea is playing Ghana, I will route for Korea because I have a lot of Korean friends and often feel like a token Korean. If I have no leaning toward either team, I will either route for the home team or the underdog. If the U.S. is playing Paraguay, I will probably route for the U.S. because I don’t have any particular attachment to Paraguay. However, if Italy is playing the US, then… I apologize to all my American friends. It stands to reason then that if Italy is playing at all, that supersedes all other logic…

Which brings up my next point: I usually get in a lot of trouble during the World Cup season. I remember being in Italy, watching a U.S. vs. Germany game, in an American school, with mainly Italians and some Americans, during the time that I was dating a German… As you might have guessed, my American classmates were not amused by my loyalties.

This is why the label pan-national is a much better fit for me. I feel linked to many countries because of the experiences I have had and the people I have known from each. I am legally American and Canadian. I am ancestrally Egyptian, Syrian, Armenian, and I suppose, far back enough, French. I am Italian “nel mio cuore” (in my heart). I have ties to Ireland because of my sister. I am Korean by association. For the same reason, I would say I have also recently become Serbian. A part of me is still German from my time there. So I feel connected to a lot of the world, and perhaps what I like so much about the World Cup is not the competition, it is the worldwide stage- the pride in different countries- the buzz shared in all time zones- and the excitement that vibrates across oceans.

So pick a flag and raise it high. My heart requires my support of Italy, but in all likelihood, I will route for your country at one point or another as well.

Photo credit- FIFA & For a schedule of games go to


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