Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last leg

Today is my last day in San Francisco and I'm actually feeling bad about going back.  I've enjoyed every bit of this trip. I'm not looking forward to the long flight back but I am looking forward to going home. I've learnt so much on this trip. Thought i'd just share some gyan.

  • Girls really know how to have fun. It doesn't matter which country, culture or background they come from. Trust me, I think girls know how to have fun, much better than the boys.
  • Most people you meet are nice to you, as long as you are nice to them.
  • If you need help, you just need to ask.
  • Always make sure you travel with like-minded people who at least share similar interests. It helps.
  • There will always be a million ways to get from A to B. To find the easiest way, you have to ask other people!
  • There is such a thing as "too much shopping".
  • Don't judge people, not even random strangers. You know nothing about them.
  • No matter how much fun you have had on vacation,  you'll always miss home! I know I did.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mind versus Body

Today we went on a long hike to Yosemite valley. Like I said in my last post, this trip has been full of self discoveries. I discovered that I am an outdoor person. I really enjoyed myself on the hike today. The mountains, hiking alongside the waterfall....the whole experience was wonderful. I also found out that I am a natural gardener.the rose and gardener theory, anyone? 

Our guide, Dave is a good hearted guy. He took us around, gave us plenty of info, brought food and also kept us entertained. He is a lot of fun but he refused to let anyone take pictures of him, because he said it's like it takes away his soul or something like that. Funny guy!

It all started as good fun in the beginning with everyone in good spirits and enjoying themselves. But once the hike started, it separated the best of us from the rest of us. It was a tough climb but I really enjoyed it. I helped a few of them make it through and it was a wonderful experience.

Though I had seen snow and snowfall in Switzerland last year, hiking through twelve  inches of snow was another matter. I'll admit it was a lot of fun, complete with snowball fights but falling on snow, not so fun. Considering I was hiking with my crocs (really a bad idea, btw), I was lucky I got away with just one fall.

The giant sequoias were amazing, grand as they stand. Each one a few hundred years old and some funny ones as well....the grizzly bear, three graces and a bachelor, faithful couple and a few others. Aren't they breathtaking?

I am really tired as I pen this post, but I had to do it now, because I know that once I go back, it's gonna be a mad mad rush all over again.
Dave was telling us today that a lot of people who come here say they want to come and live here. It ain't easy, he says. People say they can but it only takes a special kind of person to come and live up here in the wilderness. But I think I can do this. I would love to. Maybe some day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I travel, I learn

They say that you don't really know a person until you've lived with them. And  I think that applies mostly to the people who you are really close to. Like your closest friends and maybe your partner.

I have now decided that you don't really know people well enough until you have travelled with them. I thought I knew my colleagues, now friends. Now as I travel with them, I've learned so much more about them. Not that I meant to, but i have. You really know what kind of a person he or she is. It opens your eyes to this whole new side of a person, a side that you didn't know existed.

And that is true about myself too.I've learned that as you travel you learn so much about yourself. I find myself discovering a lot of things about me. Things that I didn't know before. Really!

I met so many people. Most people are nice and well, few are not. I've enjoyed this experience of meeting new people. Its something you don't do unless you are traveling alone. To be honest, I'm not a very outgoing person. I take a while to warm up to people. But it has been a good experience, almost fun even, to meet and chat up with a stranger from a different country.I've learnt that it's not that bad. I can talk to strangers. And I can still make new friends.

Have you ever felt this way while on vacation? Have you learnt newer things about yourself? I don't know what it is. Maybe it is that you have a lot of time to sit back and reflect. Maybe it is because your mind is really free. And maybe also that you do so many things out of your routine.

Ok maybe I'm getting all philosophical here, but it is true. Think about it. Haven't you ever reflected on your life on a bus or train journey? Looking out the window, with the breeze in your hair. You get a clearer picture of your life? You want to do better things with your life. Has it ever happened to you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's amazing what a little fresh air can do!!!!

One thing you must know about me is that I love the outdoors, and by that I mean mother nature. I love the forests and the mountains. So, having come all the way to San Francisco, there was absolutely no way I could go back without visiting the Yosemite forests. So, being all enthusiastic I booked this tour to Yosemite. We were supposed to take a van up to the mountains. When we got on to the cab, I ended up in the last seat squished between two big guys. And there began my nightmare. We were not even out of the city and I wanted to turn back.

You see San Francisco is all about ups and downs and by that I mean the roads are all steep and of course they are all one way streets. So, we ended up going up one street and down another.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that I have motion sickness and it's the severe kind. I remember a time I used to walk all the way to school, just to avoid traveling by bus. That's when my parents gave in and bought me a bicycle. And since then, I have always been a two-wheeler person. From bicycles to scooters to motorbikes, I've had them all. I had a problem traveling by car too. Though I used to force myself to travel by car whenever we had to go a long distance, I can barely remember a trip where I didn't get sick on the way.

Then I decided enough is enough and that I had to get over it. I love the mountains too much to give them up ( I know I can ride, but not possible always).I came up with my own coping strategy. I always sit next to the window and I need a lot of fresh air. No sir, no air-conditioning for me.

And today when I was on the verge of throwing up, I suddenly remembered. I haven't travelled by car in a long long time. And I explained my situation and thanks to Dave (the guide and driver), I came and sat in the front seat with the windows open. He helped distract me and asked me to put my head out the window, every once in a while. Ten more minutes into the drive and I began to feel better, I enjoyed the drive even. Life was good again.

One more thing I've learnt on this trip is that I need air. Time and again, I need to remind myself to breathe. And that's exactly what I'm doing now. Breathing my share of fresh air!!!

And the whole thing was so worth it. I'm so glad I came.

That's Yosemite for you! Up in the clouds, literally.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The long haul

It all started on a Friday morning at 6 am, when my colleagues and I set off to the airport to catch a flight to San Francisco. We were all very excited about this trip and it had very little to do with the conference we were supposed to attend. We were all very chatty in the cab and kept talking all the way until, my colleague realized she hadn’t brought our conference posters. (These posters are basically research presentations that grad students like us present at conferences and the very reason why we get funds to go) By the time we realized this though, we were so close to the airport and we didn't have the time to make a trip back again.

My colleague called someone and asked him to get the poster to us at the airport. That smart person though, didn’t want to make a trip to the airport and put our posters on a cab and asked the cabbie to deliver it to the airport. I find it strange that the cabbie agreed to do this because if he was late, we would have left and he would be stuck with some posters and no fare. Anyway, the poor cabbie sped all the way to get to us just in time before the check-in gates closed. You see, we couldn’t hand-carry these poster-tubes. They look like some kind of weapons. So, we had to check them in.

And then, we had to run to board our flights. And when we were at immigration, we saw these excruciatingly long queues of people. Turns out that the automated system was down and only manual immigration was possible. This almost never happens in Singapore. After requesting a few kind people, we moved ahead and then ran all the way to our boarding gates. We were the last people to board the flight. In the end, whew, we made it!

When we reached Hong Kong, the flight kept circling around the airport for half an hour. It seems they didn’t get clearance to land or something like that. And we had a connecting flight to catch in an hour. Guess what, the mad rush started all over again. We made it by the skin of our teeth. But yay, we made it.

After all this, I was really tired. After almost losing my conference notes, almost missing my flight, I found myself sitting next to a cranky old lady on the long haul flight. It must have easily been the longest flight of my life and add to it, some really bad weather. The worst turbulence I’ve experienced, ever! At one point, I almost said my last prayers, thinking to myself ..."What a way to die!".

When we landed in SFO, it was then that I realized that it was Friday, the thiteenth. I am not a superstitious person but after what happened all day, I would have believed anything. But thank God, it was over now. But then, wait a minute I travelled the whole day and when I land in the USA, its still Friday the thirteenth! and only morning at that. The whole day is ahead of us. Oh boy, has it been a really long day!!

After flying for 19 hours straight, I really dread the flight back. Thank God that I'm gonna be here for a while. I didn't think I would be jet lagged and SO jet lagged at that. My friends are fast asleep and I don’t feel sleepy at all. I am amazed by how little sleep I can get away with and still remain functional.

I am still up at 4am. I have not slept a wink since we got here and it has been 42 hours since I got here. It's amazing that I'm still functional after that. Do forgive me if this post makes no sense at all. I'm sleep-deprived and can't think of anything else to do!!