I am currently in England for a couple of weeks and I will be blogging my experiences for you!
It has been one week since my arrival in London and it has been a week of history, learning, and adventure. Not surprisingly, it is easy to fit in as a New Yorker. The movement of pedestrians, especially in and out of the Underground is similar to our movements on the subway.
The tube (undeground) is an extensive network that I quickly got the hang of. People move fast here, it almost feels like everyone is racing each other. The bankers all wear a distinct blue suit that I have now dubbed "banker blue."
I love the history of London, the different distinct architectural styles, the old buildings mixing with the new, the cafe culture, the art, and how one does not need a car to travel and live comfortably here. Everything is new and foreign to me at the same time.
I'll bring you new posts daily on my trip in London and my journey along the way.
The joy of spontaneity is in the word itself. An unpredictable surprise at an unknown point in time. In a life of routines, spontaneity is often thrown aside for an easier, predictable life. I prefer to go home and spend time watching reruns of the same shows instead of going outside and doing or trying something different.
Last week however, in a burst of spontaneity, I decided on a last minute trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Amsterdam. I met with some friends in Edinburgh, spent 2 days touring the city and on the way back I toured Amsterdam alone. What a great way to have spent the weekend and I certainly encourage every person to be spontaneous in their lives. It changes things, one meets new people, tries new things (like hiking a dormant volcano); all in all it fosters change in a generously sheltered life such as mine.
The rest of the city (and country) is very green. A dormant volcano called Arthur's seat lies in the city limits and we hiked up its 800 ft summit to enjoy spectacular view of the city.
There are many streets closely packed together, alleys called "closes" that have very interesting historic stories and were, essentially, tenement apartment dwellings without proper ventilation. Plagues festered and destroyed the lives of thousands in those closes. Walking along the royal mile in the old town feels as if one has stepped back in time. It is stunningly well kept, the closes are in great structural condition, too. One can easily imagine how life must have been in those days, in small cramped rooms beneath towering steeples and grey skies.
Two weeks ago I never would have thought that I would be standing on the summit of Arthur's seat, looking over the city of Edinburgh, with volcanic ridges and moors around me. Absolutely love spontaneity...the idea of not knowing tomorrow has become quite a romantic idea indeed.
There has been this persistent grey color to the sky, the ground, and the very air we breathe in New York City. The lack of sun and this endless winter has turned this city into a page out of a Dostoevsky novel, cold, snowy, miserable, and grey.
I was lucky enough to escape for a few days in January; we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I felt that warm sun on my skin I completely understood why people used to worship this majestic, celestial body. It is rejuvenating and magnificent in its splendor; it is life.
Old San Juan was particularly inviting, a 500+ year old city surrounded by forts built by the Spanish in the 1500's. The two forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, were high and mighty and must have been quite a sight in the days of colonial trade routes in the Caribbean Sea.
San Juan was fantastic however the best things to do were outside of the city. El Yunque rainforest, a national rainforest about an hour away from the city, had fantastic trails and interesting plants to discover and kayaking at night in the bioluminescent bay was one of the best experiences of my life. I was frightened a bit by the dark and the water however once we reached the lagoon we saw nothing but the green lights of the phytoplankton in the water below us and the bright stars above. I lived the entire trip in that one moment.
Several years ago on a cold day in February, I was lucky enough to spend a single day in Paris, France. While I hated the time constraints we had, in retrospect that single day left memories that have idealized the city for me. Everything I remember about Paris is beautiful because my time there was so short. That philosophy should be applied to life in general- it is short, therefore make it as beautiful as you possibly can.
I can go on and on and repeat what the world has said about Paris, about its beauty, the architecture, the monuments, the people, the river Seine and its idealism even in the cold, dead of winter; however, I will let my pictures reflect it.
That cold day in Paris is one that I will never forget.
I have a job that allows me to travel to some cool places from time to time. Back in October we went up to West Point in the town of HIghland Falls, NY. It was the best time of year to visit, autumn, and the leaves were just beginning to change.
Some of the most impressive and inspiring views of the Hudson River valley are in this area. This picture above really takes my breath away; I could hardly believe it when I was standing there to take the picture. It reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where the companions are traveling by boat through the river with enormous mountains on either side of them. Just beautiful.
I have been visiting Pakistan once a year for three consecutive years now. My family is forever hospitable and hosts me as if I had never left the place. It is a blessing to be a part of an exclusive group of people that one can call one's own.
In the past three years, the currency of Pakistan (the rupee) has fallen considerably against the dollar. In 2011, $1 was equivalent to 80 rupees, in 2012 it was 92 rupees, and in 2013 it is not 105 rupees. Likewise that which cost 100 rupees in 2011 costs 150 rupees or more in 2013. Inflation is rampant and salaries have not increased. We see the same thing here in the United States, my salary has been frozen for the past two years yet the cost of rent, electricity, gas, water, heat, etc has gone up. Nevertheless, folks work very hard to make ends meet and to try to provide a better life for the next generation.
We took a trip to Thatta and Kheenjar Lake (about 3 hours from Karachi). Families were out and about, enjoying the break in the weather and the day off in the cool waters of the lake. On the way back from the lake we stopped over at the Jame Masjid built by Shah Jahan in Thatta and then headed over to see the historical cemetery at Makli.
The mosque was as beautiful as i remembered it to be two years ago. This year it was crowded; it made me happy to see Pakistani people enjoying their own history on the day of their Independence (we went out on August 14- Pakistan independence day). The front portion of the mosque, the mihrab (where the imam leads the prayer) was redone. My favorite parts were the different ceilings (above and below). The precision, the colors and the patterns all fit perfectly with the grandeur of the mosque.
Makli Cemetery lies in the outskirts of the city of Thatta. This cemetery is five centuries and is a testament to several styles of islamic art and architecture. There are over half a million graves here. The rise and fall of several islamic civilizations are shown through the architectural designs of the mausoleums that the rich built for themselves and their families. The sands of Makli are rich in the turbulent history of the region. If folks could be buried in such ostentatious displays of fortune, what must their normal lives have been like?
The city of Thatta was once a flourishing place as one can see from the remnants of grandeur left behind. Now, it has fallen into decay and with the huge city of Karachi near by it seems as if there is no interest left to preserve it. There is a rise and a fall for everything and every place.
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.