Thursday, August 27, 2009

I am so excited

Being excited seems to be my permanent state these days. The major factor contributing to my excitement is the fact that already in two weeks I am going to India. I am thinking about this trip almost all the time and I already know that I will love it.

The major purpose of my trip to India is to meet Anil's parents, see who they are and how they live. Therefore, I am not going to travel that much and I will be mostly staying with them in Hyderabad. I feel truly blessed to have this unique opportunity of getting to know a new culture by being a part of somebody's else family. I am sure that thanks to that my trip will be even more interesting than if I were to travel in India by myself. Anil and I are also planning two short trips (one 2-day and one 3-day) to the nearby World Heritage Sites at Hampi, Ellora and Ajanta. I've read so much about those places that I truly can not wait to see them.

Other excitement in my life comes from the fact that almost everybody that I know, love and care about is pregnant or just had a baby! This coming weekend I am going to San Diego to visit Manja and Bartek, and to see their not-even-two-weeks-old-yet baby boy, Jakub!

In general, it was a fabulous year thus far. I started it in Europe, with my family and other close friends, which was wonderful enough. During spring I went hiking to the bottom of Grand Canyon and visited several interesting sites, including many ruins left by Anasazi Indians. Also during spring several close friends (Marta, Bartek and Manja) visited me in SF. For the Memorial Weekend Anil and I went for a short but extremely nice road trip to Mokelumne Wilderness, Mono Lake are and Yosemite Valley. Then, my parents came to spend a whole month of July with me! Together we traveled to Hawaii, Sequoia, King's and Yosemite NP (and few other places in California: Monterey, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Point Reyes NP, Muir Woods NM).

It seems that future will be equally exciting. Tomorrow Anil and I plan to go hiking on Angel Island (yes, it is wonderful to have flexible working hours!). On Saturday I fly to San Diego for three days to meet little Kubus. In the middle of September I go to India for two weeks and in the middle of December I go to Poland again. If everything goes well Anil will join me on that trip. I do not have precise plan of the trip yet (and I am open to your suggestions, dear friends in Poland!). I definitely need to go to Warsaw (to prolong my visa) and after that I thought about going to Krakow, Krynica Gorska, Wieliczka and Oswiecim. Of course, I also plan to stop in Poznan for a few days, as my very dear friend should have a baby by then! Christmas I plan to spend with my family and after that I probably will try to travel somewhere in Europe, not sure where yet. If somebody wants to join me during my trip in Poland or elsewhere, let me know! The more, the merrier :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

night conversations

Today I was giving a lab meeting, so I spent the whole last night working on it. N. wanted to be nice and supportive so he was keeping me company for some time and even tried to understand my slides :) One of them was called "life of a worm (and a scientist)" and contained this photo:

The photo sparkled an idea in my mind to have braids done again. N. commented on my idea with an unexpected question: "Why do you want to torture me?" Initially, I thought that he was simply afraid that his conservative parents would get a heart attack upon seeing a white woman with braids. But later he clarified that he does not like me in braids as they are not nice in touch... I did not know that hair softness is so important for guys... ;)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Phulawar Makai Nu Shaak - cauliflower w/corn & spices

I was looking for a new way to prepare a cauliflower, so I decided to try out a recipe for cauliflower with corn from a cookbook that I recently bought World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the Globe by Madhur Jaffrey.

This recipe is from India and is very easy and fast to make. Basically it involves cooking one head of cauliflower, cutting it into florets and then frying/steaming with corn (1 drained can) and spices (1 tsp whole cumin seeds, 2 tsp fresh finely chopped ginger, 2 small onions, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp chili powder) for a few minutes. Recipes hardly ever get easier than that and the outcome is delicious, especially when served with yogurt relish.

Phulawar Makai Nu Shaak with a Greek-style yogurt served on Methi Thepla:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oahu - Pearl Harbor

In my opinion, the highlight of our stay on Oahu was visit to Pearl Harbor. During Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor nine ships of the U.S. fleet were sunk and 21 other were severely damaged. 2350 people died on those ships, and half of them were from the USS Arizona.

To visit the USS Arizona Memorial one needs to get a free ticket. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis directly at the site. Even though we arrived at the memorial site extremely early in the morning, still, we only managed to get tickets for 12:45pm. The people who arrived half an hour after us were sent back empty-handed.

As we had several hours from the moment we received our tickets to the time on which we could visit the USS Arizona Memorial, we decided also to visit the battleship USS Missouri and the submarine USS Bowfin. Tickets to visit those two ships were pretty expensive, so initially we were not thrilled about not having a better option to kill time than to have to visit them. But at the end of a day we were actually happy that we got a chance to visit them. In many ways they were much more interesting than the USS Arizona Memorial. For example, I was amused to learn that the USS Bowfin is the only know submarine to ever manage to destroy a bus!

All in all, I would say that it is definitely worth your time to go and visit Pearl Harbor. Just remember to be there as early as possible (preferably at 7am, and not later than 7:30am), if you want to get tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial.

On this photo you can see a model of Oahu island, the names of all people who died on USS Arizona carved on the blue plates, and in the background several battleships and USS Arizona Memorial:

USS Arizona Memorial is located on the waters above sunken Arizona battleship:

Inside USS Arizona Memorial:

Remnants of USS Arizona that can be seen from the memorial:

The names of all people who died on USS Arizona during Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are listed on one of the walls inside the monument. To my surprise, in front of the wall there were flowers from the mayor of Hiroshima:

USS Bowfin submarine:

My parents sneaking through the door on the submarine:

My father pretending that he knows what is what:

On the deck of the submarine:

USS Missouri battleship:

The rooms on the battleship are several times bigger than the ones on the submarine:

Also, you can easily walk throught the door, instead of crunching down to cross through them:

USS Oklahoma Memorial:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oahu - Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater

As our plane was approaching Oahu, we were presented with the spectacular views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater:

By the time that we got to our hotel, unpacked and were ready to hit the down, it was already dark outside. That was probably only for the better, as many cities look much more attractive during the night. Waikiki Beach with its all fancy hotels and exclusive shops definitely is not an exception from this rule.

My parents seemed to enjoy Waikiki Beach at night, but they said that during the day it was way too crowded, and therefore, not enjoyable. Luckily, there were many other attractions on Oahu and we decided to spend time on them, rather than on lying on the beach. We thought that we would still have plenty of time for that on other islands.

My parents in front of the statue of King Kamehameha:

The next day we went hiking to the top of Diamond Head Crater from where there are absolutely stunning views to Waikiki Beach:

Also there we had a chance to try typical Hawaiian shave-ice. Mniami!

Oahu - Manoa Falls

Our first encounter with beautiful Hawaiian tropical forest was in Paradise Park located in Manoa Valley near Honolulu. As you can see from the photos below the park is truly spectacular and fully deserves its name. All plants there have the deepest green color you can imagine, there are plenty of colorful flowers and birds that sing only for you :)

In the park we went for a hike to Manoa Falls. To be honest, the falls were disappointing, but the hike leading to them was really nice. On the way there I overheard a guide telling to a group of people that many of the TV series "Lost" scenes were shot there. Right now I am watching "Lost" and it brings back all the good memories...

Lush tropical forest of Paradise Park:

My parents and bamboo forest:

(Part of) Manoa Falls:

Oahu - downtown Honolulu & Chinatown

On one sunny afternoon while my parents were sunbathing on Waikiki Beach, I decided to go to downtown Honolulu and its Chinatown. Even though Oahu has an excellent bus system, it is not easy for the tourists to use! Not on a single bus stop you could find a map of bus routes or their schedules. Because of that I ended up walking way more than I initially intended and my feet were hurting me a lot at the end of the day.

But I should not complain as on my way I saw many interesting things that I would not have seen had I taken the bus, like this "First Chinese Catholic Church":

Park with beautiful red trees:

Iolani Palace:

Interesting fountains and other sculptures among high-rise buildings in downtown Honolulu:

Chinatown and the gate leading to it:

Chinese clock:

Buddhist temple:

Friday, August 14, 2009

one more year of blogging

Maui - Haleakala Volcano

On our very last day on Maui (and in Hawaii, in general), we drove to the top of Haleakala Volcano. In the Hawaiian language Haleakala means "the house of the sun". The volcano is 10'023 ft (3055m) tall and it is "potentially" still active.

It is a quite interesting experience to drive to its top from the sea level: at first you are below the cloud cover, then you are driving through the clouds, and in the end you find yourself above them. I do not know of many places on earth that you can experience something as magical as this and I would strongly recommend finding time to get to the top of the volcano if you are ever on Maui.

Above the clouds:

On the top:

Haleakala Crater in the clouds:

Maui - snorkeling

To my great surprise I did not even have a slightest problem convincing my parents to try snorkeling. Moreover, they did seem to enjoy it, even though they did not feel comfortable wearing fins and preferred to swim without them.

We only managed to go snorkeling during our stay on Maui as we were so busy with sightseeing and hiking on the other two island. We rented the gear at Snorkel Bob's (great service, by the way) and went to the nearest beach that had partly rocky bottom. I was astonished how close from the shore one can see first fish and how colorful all of them are. I was also very happy that finally I had a chance to check out my underwater camera set up. I realized that taking pictures underwater is extremely tricky, mostly because everything is moving: fish, the water and you. So forgive not the greatest quality of the pictures posted here.

The beach were we snorkeled:

My father snorkeling:

And that's me!

Many, many colorful fish:

I believe this fish is called Achilles Tang:

Zebra Moray Eel and Spotted Pufferfish:

Sea Turtle (Honu):