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Friday, February 12, 2016

South Africa: It’s Not What You Think

Samantha is an avid food blogger and she loves to travel. She recently went on a holiday to South Africa. She had many adventures there. In a first of a five part series , she tells us how she swam with the sharks. This is her story. You can follow her on

AFRICA! What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that word? I will tell you what came to mine…poverty, monkeys, lions, and giraffes! Basically I was thinking Lion King with a little Blood Diamond mixed in! Boy was I wrong! South Africa is the most gorgeous country I have been to thus far. The oceans sparkle, the countryside is vibrant green, and the plentiful vineyards are back dropped by gorgeous mountains that look like a scene from a movie that was edited to look that beautiful. The trick is to land in Cape Town but rent a car and travel outside the city. The roads are better than ours here in the States, no potholes and everyone followed the rules, but just remember that you will be driving on the opposite side of the road. Everything was so affordable and the best part was the delicious wine and food. It’s a 5 star vacation on a 3 star budget for those of us visiting from America.

I had traveled to South Africa with my sister and met my cousins from India, London, and Canada there. It was 5 girls in Africa and we had an unforgettable and amazing time! Let me tell you about the time I came face to face with a Great White in Gansbaai.

I was going to say that this was the best and worst experience of my life but then I remembered climbing Table Mountain and let’s just say, it’s a tie (more on that later). My cousin had suggested the shark cage diving. It’s not something that was at the top of my bucket list by any means but I like to think that I would try anything at least once.

Well it’s the night before the big dive and the house fell silent as we realized that tomorrow may be our last day alive! DO NOT watch YouTube videos on shark cage diving, you will inevitably end up on the “When Sharks Attack Your Cage” video and you will either chicken out, have nightmares or have knots in your stomach for days if not all three. Seriously, the things that run through your head other than a Great White shark biting you in half, what if the cage gets detached from the boat and you sink, trapped in a cage to the bottom of the ocean. How long can I hold my breath for? Can I out swim a Great White?

The drive down to Gansbaai the next morning was long, scenic, and quiet. We were half asleep and at the same time half terrified. When we arrived, we were greeted and told to “Calm down! Everything will be fine,” I guess you could see the fear in our eyes! A small breakfast was provided but most of us couldn’t choke down any solid foods at that point. We saw some photos of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon on the wall, heck if they could do it so can we! Then we saw the 'Great White Fact Wall' that I would have preferred reading after the dive. For example, they have rows of teeth that could number in the thousands and their eyesight is amazing….GREAT, let’s go swim with some! We signed our waivers, made our payments, heard a short orientation and headed to the boat.

Now let me say, that boat is my mortal enemy! The ride out was fun but when we anchored it hit us one by one and it hit us hard….MOTION SICKNESS! That damn rocking boat! All at once my fear disappeared and all I wanted to do was jump in that cage, in that freezing water and see the biggest, baddest Great White there was and get back to dry land ASAP! The ordeal of putting on a damp, wet suit on a tiny boat with 25 other people while having motion sickness is really one of those unforgettable torturous experiences that I think deserves an award. Somehow I managed to get that suit and googles on and being one of the first people ready, the captain basically just picked me up and dropped me into that cage!

I was floating all around, bumping into the people next me, my legs were moving out of the cage. I thought this is it! This is how I am going to die, a Great White is going to come and bite my feet off and then my hands! After the initial 5 second shock, I told myself to get a hold of myself! I hooked my legs to the bars of the cage on the boat side so they weren’t floating forward and out towards the sharks, I grabbed the inner bar that was painted red signifying HOLD ME ONLY and I steadied myself in that frigid water. Now, all I had to do is wait for Brucey ( the shark from Finding Nemo) to show up and he did! It all happened so quickly! He bumped into our cage first and then we were told to go under and that’s when I saw this massive, beautiful, Great White swim directly in front of my face! It was majestic and he was smiling at me! Honestly, the sharks we saw were the most peaceful creatures ever! I truly loved seeing them in their natural environment and so up close! I would do it all again but this time I would make sure I stuck those motion sickness patches all over my body!!!

After we got to land and kissed it, we needed some time to recover so we headed to this little café called Coffee on the Rocks overlooking Gansbaai and it was the most beautiful view! The ocean was literally sparkling like little diamonds.There were whales everywhere, breaching the water!It seemed surreal. And I thought to myself, 'Is this real life?'

Coming up….
2.       Visiting the vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschoek
3.       Climbing Table Mountain in Capetown
4.       Aquila Private Game Reserve on the Western Cape
5.       Robben Island

Monday, February 8, 2016

Istanbul: A cultural delight

This space is called Journeyman and I thought it is about time I post something about people's journeys around the globe. My guest this week is Natasha Abraham and she tells us about a recent short trip to Istanbul. You can follow Natasha on at

Here the link to a piece she wrote about her trip.
to visit Turkey again.

Friday, January 29, 2016

To Keep or Not to Keep: A New Year's Resolution

At the start of the new year, most of us must have made various resolutions for 2016, but as we head into the second month of 2016, some of us are still trying hard to keep up with our resolutions while some of us may have already forgotten about them.

Why then do we do this?

I recently read an article by Juli Fraga in The Guardian titled 'False Hope Syndrome: Why We'll Quit Our New Year's Resolutions This Weekend.' Here Juli Fraga talks about false hope syndrome which is defined as having unrealistic expectations of self-change. There is a scientific reason behind this. In order to succeed and reach our goals, we must set realistic expectations for ourselves. Later, Juli states an example of Mark Zuckerberg's goal of running 365 miles in 2016. When broken down, it works out to a mile a day which really is a manageable goal. When we set unrealistic targets for ourselves, we are eventually setting ourselves up for failures. It's like trying to put five liters of water in a bucket that can hold just four.

Why should we decide to change ourselves after a particular date? We should go about doing it from the moment we realize that we need to change something in our lives. When you realize that you need to lose weight or stop smoking, what is the point in waiting for the start of the next month to do that? The earlier you start the better. We have all heard of the saying 'The early bird gets the worm.'

My goal for this year, thus, is to write a blog post every forth night. I don't think it is a really difficult task and I will do my best to accomplish my goal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Painting and Patience

Painting is not important. The important thing is keeping busy.

                                                                                                            -Grandma Moses.

Grandma Moses was right when she said that the most important thing was to keep yourself busy. I recently started painting during my free time. Now when I say painting, I don't mean painting on canvas like  Van Gogh or Picasso, I mean painting houses with a friend. I saw it as an opportunity to learn a new skill. I thought, it would be a simple task, but I was wrong. Painting is not as easy as it looks. After a while I soon began to realize that there is much more to it than dipping a brush in a bucket filled with paint and maneuvering it over the wall. 

Painting is back breaking work. I did not expect it to be as hard as it was. But I got used to it soon. Over time, I not only got better at painting but also learned a very important virtue - Patience. You need to have a lot of patience when dealing with the home owners. They are not always satisfied with your work, no matter how much effort you put into it. And most of the time they are unhappy with the colors, even if they are the ones that chose them in the first place. I once painted the same wall eleven times in different shades of green. Yes, it did get me annoyed, but guess what, I now know that there are more than just three shades of green.

Another thing I learned while painting is to pay attention to detail. As with any project you take up you have to pay attention to every minor detail, the same goes with painting. Even a single bad spot can make your whole wall look bad. I soon learned that if you do one thing well the first time paying close attention to all the minor things you save so much of time and effort in the long run.

There is a saying that goes, it is as boring as watching paint dry. But after taking up painting, I can confidently say that watching paint dry is not a boring thing. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment on a job well done !

This job gave me the opportunity to meet so many different kinds of people. I not only learned to paint but I have also developed qualities that I can use in different walks of life. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

White Christmas

Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is one of the first Christmas carols I've heard. Back in the day when the family would get together to decorate the Christmas tree, we would put cotton on the tree to make believe it's snowing outside. Over the years, Hollywood got me to believe that a white Christmas is always more magical and special and ever since, I've always dreamed of having a white Christmas.

Once I moved to Canada I thought that this dream would come true; I would wake up on a Christmas morning and look outside the window and see snow. But now as I approach my second Christmas in Canada that dream looks far from coming true. Even though last winter in Canada was one of the coldest on record, it did not snow around Christmas time. And this winter being one of the milder one, the weatherman says it is going to be relatively warm on Christmas day. So I guess I still have to continue dreaming of a white Christmas.

Having said this, a warm day doesn't cease to make my Christmas any less special. Christmas, after all is about celebrating with your loved ones. The whole process of making sweets, decorating the house, buying and wrapping gifts, the parties, the food and just spending time with the family is what makes this season really special.

Christmas has always been a special time for me and I hope it continues to be in the years to come. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Meaningful Letter

Isn't it amazing that George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent...and so very appropriate
                                                  A Message by George Carlin:

     The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete... Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a centRemember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?
- George Carlin

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Summer Time Madness

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, It is the source of all true art and science.
           - Albert Einstein. 

Neurosurgeons recommend experimenting new things, to keep the brain active and prevent degeneration of brain cells. My first summer in Canada features in that list.

People here love this season. Numerous events take place everywhere, keeping people through the months. the good part is, there is something for everybody. 

Let me tell you about some of the things that I did, that made my first summer in Canada a memorable one.

To begin with, I went for a baseball game, visited a few breweries and tasted Ontario’s finest craft beers and finally went for a few picnics at the park by the lake. The parks by Lakeshore are one of the best places to be during the summer. You see people fishing by the boardwalk, food trucks from all parts of the province, children playing and people barbequing all kinds of meat. Barbeque chicken, ice cold beer in hand and your family around is always fun any time of the year but it’s a completely different experience during the summer.

The highlight of my summer was my first helicopter ride downtown Toronto. Flying over a city and looking at things from above really puts things in to perspective.  All these things coupled with the various food and beer festivals, along with visits to the outdoor farmers’ markets made it a really enjoyable summer.

Now as summer ends, I’ll look forward to many more such summer’s madness.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Remember to apply sunscreen

Baz Luhrmann, in the song, " Everybody's free to wear Sunscreen." said, 

           Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.  
           The most interesting people I know didn't  know at 22 what they wanted to do with              their lives,some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

This thought really hit home the other day when a friend of mine told me he was leaving a career in the oil industry to become a writer. I was not really surprised by his decision. He is not the first person I know to switch careers like that. Last year a family member left a high profile job in the advertising industry to start his business.  The business is still trying to pick up. Does he regret it? No. He has enjoyed every moment of the challenge. I guess all these people who switched their career paths wanted to have a meaningful life than a career.

When I graduated from high school I came across lots of people who had their whole life and careers mapped out. Some wanted to be doctors, some wanted to be engineers or some wanted to start a business of their own. As for me, I didn't have any plans at all. I just went with the flow. I graduated from college and went on to do my masters not knowing exactly if the field I chose was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I thought I was different for not having planned my life.

Now, 10 years down the line I have come to realize that I am not much different from anyone else after all. There are so many people who thought they had their lives figured out back then but are still trying to figure out their lives. As we go through life and experience new things on this journey we come to realize what we actually like or dislike. Every moment is a learning experience. 

So there in no shame in not having a plan for life. At the end of the day it is about trying to figure out what makes you happy. Even if you take your whole life trying to figure out, you will have fun doing it and have some stories to tell your grandchildren. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said , " Life is a journey, not a destination." So we might as well enjoy this journey because that's what makes memories, and aren't they the ones that console us ? 

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's summer time

Absence makes the heart grow fonder “– I dont know the origin of the quote but I do believe it, to be true.  This quote is applicable to so many things 'under the sun. ' We'll, and this time, Im actually talking about the 'sun' , which is the star at the center of our solar system and is responsible for the earth's climate and weather. 

I did really miss the sun during my first long and cold winter in Canada.  They say you only really appreciate happiness once you have experienced sadness. The same is true for sunshine. I know it now.

I come from a country that is near the equator and I, like many other people from that part of the world took the bright sunshine that we got all year round for granted.  You only really appreciate the spring and the summer once you have been through the harsh winter like the recent once I experienced in Canada, my first Canadian winter.

Last week the temperature rose to double digits of around 18-20 degrees C and people were out in their shorts and driving around in their convertibles with the tops down. I thought to myself if I were in India, people would be all covered up in this temperature. 

Such are the winters in Canada, that the first sign of moderately warm temperature and bright sunshine, people are out there making the most of it. You probably heard the expression make hay while the sun shines.  I am really looking forward to my first summer in Canada and I hope it is as memorable as my first winter. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I'm ok

The general response to the question, hi, how are you? Would be Im good. How about you? That is how we have been programmed to respond and that is how people expect us to respond. I also get asked that question a lot. And my general response to that is ,Im doing ok. And then people would ask me in a surprised manner, 'why just ok, and not good.' And I have no response to that.

This then got me thinking, is something really wrong with me? Why am I not good? Then one day it occurred to me. Im doing ok because life is not that bad to complain about and its not that good that I have anything to boast about.

Can a person really be good and happy all the time? I dont think that is really possible in this day and age, with so many things happening around us.

I read an article the other day, by Tim Lott, a British author, in The Guardian where Tim says, Disappointment, Fear and Loss are much a part of life as Achievement, Hope and Joy. But this intermediate state no longer seems to be socially acceptableThere is plenty of unhappiness. We shouldnt dwell on it but we shouldnt refuse to acknowledge it either. Thus, giving meaning to the phases of one's life.

So the next time someone says to you, Im ok. Just let them be. Maybe they are content with being ok and there is nothing wrong in that. Let them have a day, after all making it through one is all that matters.