Sunday, December 2, 2007


Success is one of those words that holds a separate definition for everyone. My definition has changed several times over the last few years. I no longer reserve this word for major life or career changes that I brought on myself. Now, I use this word strictly for the emotion that runs through me when I feel a rush of success during my day. Itºs (pardon the Portuguese keyboard) an easily identifiable emotion that leaves satisfaction and strenth in its trail.

The other morning I felt the rush of success and strolled through the remainder of my day with a silly smile on my face. How, you ask? I made a valiant and skilled trip to the bus station in Lisbon from my hotel. Sounds silly, huh? Travelers conquer this quest everyday....But, this trip was different.

I had one opportunity to catch the morning bus out of town, sending me on my way to Southern Portugal. I mapped out my subway route, had breakfast with my new friend at the hostel, Jana, and hiked to the metro station. Of course, I boarded the train the wrong way and set myself behind. Then, when I finally found the right metro station I could not find any signage pointing me toward the bus station. With only 10 minutes to spare, in the early morning sun, I started running down the street looking for the bus stop (yes, over-sized backpack and all.)

But, I alone* made it to the bus in time and made my way down to Lagos for cool relaxing day in the sun. That is my definition of success and it felt goooooood.

*Please note~ When I realized I was sprinting down the street in the wrong direction I stopped the only man I saw on the street and asked him for directions in broken Portuguese. The VERY kind man didn'tºt speak any English and gave me directions back in Portuguese ~which is always the problem with faking a language. When he saw the confusion on my face he turned around and walked me to the entrance of the bus station. My guardian angel for the day.
Sometimes even success needs a little help along the way....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You know you're in Portugal when...

Most of the sights you visit were built in the 14th and 15th Century and simply can not be captured by the lens of your camera - no matter how many photos you take

The only place that offers Internet access is a bar at the end of a cobblestone street

The seafood you had for dinner was so good it makes you salivate when you think about hour after you finished your meal

You see more lighthouses than cars - although this comment is specifically limited to Largos

The churches you see are draped in gold - specifically Sao Jeromino in Porto whose interiors are painted in 450 pounds of gold

Your glass of port tastes fresh

A bottle of fine red wine - and I mean tasty wine- starts at 2 Euro

Aside from red wine your ideal of 'cheap Europe' has disappeared

You can't decide between a tour of the wine country in Evora or a trip to the East Coast of Portugal which boasts 70 degree temperatures in November for your next stop

You learn how to suck the heads off your shrimp

You can be a skilled mapstress (my term for a good navigator) and still get lost for multiple hours

The word 'pastry' obtains a whole new meaning including local treats and secret yet wonderful fillings

Your hair smells like smoke every morning...along with your favorite pair of jeans and socks

You can jump into the Atlantic Ocean in November just before sunset without freezing to death

You can become so engrossed with seeing the country that you don't have time to blog....

More to come soon

Monday, November 19, 2007


As the planning finally comes to an end and the details all fall into place…the anticipation begins. The bags still need to be packed and the confirmations still need to be printed but I’m already brimming with excitement. I couldn’t even try to pretend that today was a normal day as I did my last load of laundry and headed over to they gym for a final work out.

Although I may sound like a kid prepping for Santa’s arrival I’m actually getting ready for my trip to Portugal. Once the itch to travel gets into my head I’m never quite the same until I scratch it.

So, I skipped through my day knowing that days out on the open road (or train car) lie ahead. I’m looking forward to writing from the road and filling you in on my adventures.

Till then – take care and be well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The one thing that my recent volunteer experiences have taught me over the past several weeks is gratitude. Gratitude is so intangible that it's hard to know exactly what it is when it hits you. I've never been so grateful for the amazing public school system that my parents put me in. Or the unwavering love of my extended family that shows me they care in more ways than I can count.

I recently lead an adult education course on Internet basics that actually taught me a valuable lesson. I can be grateful for things I can't even remember. As I tried to teach a courageous woman in Washington Heights how to use the internet I was grateful for being raised with a computer in my house, and having a patient mom who tried to teach my brother and I how to type before we entered the mandatory typing classes in high school.

When I participated in shelter simulation in NYC I was grateful for never being misplaced from my home. Or when I was packaging and serving meals to displaced families, it made me grateful that I’ve never had to go hungry. When I taught an 8-year old how to write a story the other day, I was grateful I actually paid attention in grammar class. And of course, the list could go on and on….

But, one thing I continue to struggle with is where to start. If you’re trying to teach a group of adults how to use the Internet and several people are using a mouse and keypad for the first time – where do you begin? Or if you’re giving out food after a disaster and someone wants to talk about his or her struggles at home – who am I to push them aside? It’s a process of remembering who I am, when and how I learned what I know and what’s most important to the development of someone in need.

Strange as it sounds…it’s a fun process.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vacation: NashVegas

It only took me two trips to Nashville, TN to figure out why they call it NashVegas. Since no where else shines so bright, breeds so many music stars, or provides the heartbeat of the country music industry in the south…. I guess it has to be at least one part Vegas. One of my closest friends Melissa, the kind of friend that you could spend an entire day locked in up a room with and still end up laughing hysterically, lives in Nashville. She moved back there after she met me in NYC, but swears the two incidents are unrelated. Anyhow, it’s given me a great reason to check out Nashville and treat myself like a Southern Belle a couple of times a year.

This last trip, the weekend before Halloween, was my second time to Nashville and third time in TN. Growing up in CA and living in NYC I’ve never considered the south to be an enticing travel destination - until I meet some fine folks from the region. About five years ago my boyfriend and I drove across the US and spent a few weeks exploring the cities and small towns of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and my personal favorite, Louisiana.

Onto my recent trip…Melissa picked me up at the airport Friday afternoon at the easiest domestic airport I’ve ever flown into and out of. We filled the car with stories about our week, her school kids and my recent change in employment until we fell into our normal laughing patterns. After some ‘Mexican food’ (outside of California and Mexico all Mexican food is an imitation of the real thing) we went to the wine shop and grocery store to do what girlfriends do best…. drink wine and make desert. She recently bought a place on a green rolling hill with a back deck and spare bedroom, which she added all the perfect Melissa-esk touches too. It’s beautiful and fits her perfectly.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday Melissa amazed me by driving me around in her car. The freedom of traffic-less street and a roomy, clean car is a new sensation for me – each and every time I leave NYC. Anyhow, we drove out to the country to try the Loveless Café’s famous biscuits, hiked around Radnor Lake, went shopping (multiple times), made our mandatory trip to Cracker Barrel, and visited the country music hall of fame. For Halloween we outfitted ourselves in our favorite bridesmaids dresses, smeared make-up down our faces, filled up our purses with nylons and took on downtown Nashville as two bridesmaids doing the walk of shame. The Halloween parties downtown were a blast and the country music bars (which line each and ever street downtown) were in full spirit. We found some good souls to party with like the Buddhist Monk, the Race Car Driver and all of the Kiss band members.

T’was a Halloween blast.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Feild Trip: Park Slope

I had a good friend who lived in Park Slope a couple of years ago. While she lived there we spent some sunny days drinking along 5th Ave. and weathered the 2005 blizzard from her apartment. It’s always amazing to engage in an area through the eyes of a local and it also allows you to play tourist when you return on your own. So, when I picked up my map on my first full day off and decided to take a felid trip, Park Slope was my first pick. What I remembered about the area was it’s unique setting (a great cross between NYC urban and Brooklyn ‘suburban’) and comfortable people. The brownstone lined streets, wide sidewalks, and thrift shops are what make this area so distinctive.
So, my day began with a bike rental at Bike Station on Vanderbilt Ave for my ride through Park Slope. Since I’d been to Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens several times before and enjoyed every minute of it I wanted to see the rest of Prospect Park. What better way to see a Park then on a bike, right?

While my bike rental went smoothly, my bike riding skills didn’t come back to me as quickly as I expected them to.

After a shaky start I cruised through the streets and along the paths of Prospect Park on my little white bike. I came across playgrounds, baseball diamonds, gardens and memorials. By far the best place I found was a streaming waterfall towards the end of my ride. The rains from the week before were still pulsing down the rocks and cascading into a small pond by the bike path. Prospect Park was more rustic than my favorite Manhattan Parks (Riverside and Central), which made for a great bike ride.
After my afternoon in Park I cruised down to 5th Ave., which is where most of the shops, bars and restaurants in Park Slope are located. Although I was gaining confidence in my rusty bike riding skills, apparently they hadn’t improved much. I nearly plowed a fellow biker down in an intersection as I was scanning the street for cars. Maybe it was my immediate apology, or my obvious inexperience ridding in the area but she didn’t bite my head off. Fellow biker asked me where I was from, and where I was headed. By this time I was starving and asked her for a good spot for lunch. She directed me to a tiny sushi place a block down the Avenue, which is where she was headed for lunch. So, we munched on sushi together and introduced ourselves civilly. She’s an environmental lawyer in Manhattan and took the afternoon off to ride down to Red Hook. It was a really interesting conversation and opened my eyes to even more of the area and the local environment.
Following my raw fish and erratic bicycling experience I headed up to Union Street to check out the Park Slope Co-Op, which I’ve heard all about from a variety of friends. It’s a great concept, bringing local farmers into sell their goods and requiring the community to work 2 hours per month to shop there, which keeps the prices down, and I wanted to see how it worked. Unfortunately I only got to check it out from the front door, since I’m not a member and don’t live in the area but the produce looked amazing through the window. And I have to say; it certainly gave a community feel to the area.My hike back to Grand Army Plaza included a quick stop in Beacon’s Closet (I know it’s out of the way but it’s my favorite thrift shop) and several photos of the Halloween decorated brownstones lining the streets. As the school kids were getting released for the day, I didn’t see the same panic and rush as I see in Manhattan school kids. Parents were walking their kids home or loading them onto buses in an almost….civil way. Ahhhh, what a day outside of the city will do for your soul.


I’d like to be able write with the same fluidity as I speak. I’d love to travel around the whole world, including trips back to the places I’ve already seen. I want to freshen up my Italian and learn Spanish. I hope to get my dancing feet moving again and get back into the same shape I was when I could beat my brother down the slopes. I want to create a cookbook with my friends…for my friends. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m a dreamer.
Over the years my dreams have changed from being a primo ballerina and Broadway star to something a bit more…realistic. So, with these realistic dreams in mind I set out to obtain my new future. But I got caught up along the way, as so many people do, working to achieve other people’s dreams. So I had to make some changes.
The ‘moment’ came a few months ago when my scattered life came together in the middle of a dance class. I couldn’t find the energy to stay for the entire class and couldn’t find a place in my head to even enjoy it. I love dancing and have been cautiously getting back into it after 8-year hiatus. I take weekly swing dancing classes and random ballet and jazz classes at my new favorite studio.
Anyhow, back to my pivotal dance class. I had been working full time, volunteering part time, and socializing full-time (which so does not count as a job, but apparently I’m trying to prove a point.) After spreading myself to thin, I had to choose a favorite. Luckily, the decision was made for me. I was offered a contract with one of my volunteer jobs to help them on a much-needed re-fresh of one of their departments.
And so my dream begins….