Romancing the Japanese Language

The first memory I have associated with Japan, was when I was a small school girl trying to pronounce Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku & Kyushuu 🙂 my Geography teacher tried her best to get us to say the names of Japan’s 4 main islands. From that moment it was hook, liner, sink for me!
I was enthralled by the stories my father told me about this great country. That it was one of the best countries in the world, that it was the land of the rising sun, that the people had very strong ethics and principles.

Few stories and incidents about the kindness displayed by the Japanese to total strangers left me speechless. I would often wonder – could this be just a tale,
could a person be this kind and offer unconditional service to another?

The first real connection I had with the Japanese was during my backpacking trip to Mainland China. I met 3 Japanese tourists who displayed disproportional levels of
courtesy, manners and offered assistance. These 3 individuals sold the concept of their entire country to me, and they dint even know the impact it had on me.
They were their country’s ambassadors and they did a fine job without even knowing that they were unconsciously advertising their country’s morals, ethics , principles and culture.
They all thought they were just touring as tourists – Wrong! They were samurais in their own way, and the living epitome of the most ideal prototype of how humanity really should be like.

Several other instances finally led me to enroll for the beginners course & I have been studying the Japanese language since August 2016.
Its been a wonderful experience, learning Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji. Everyday I learn something beautiful about the culture and eve the
conversations between characters in textbooks revels how respectful they are of each other.

I have just struck upon an endless reserve of knowledge that can keep me occupied for the rest of my life. Beautiful Japanese Language – Kireina Nihongo!

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A callous hunt

I had heard a story of a smart fish, trying to avoid the deathly gallows of a sharks jaw. Little did I know how beautiful this would be to watch – not the shark eating the fish, but the fish trying to escape and scoot for their lives. When I visited the Maldives, i went there with no expectation because the pictures i saw on the internet looked surreal. I couldn’t imagine if the place I would end up in would look like the pictures on the internet. I dint want to dampen my spirits, so i kept a low expectation all along. When I reached the resort I was definitely bowled over and the smaller details that no one really talks about were in fact the most significant in my experience. I indulged in these small little wonders that brought such a great joy to me. Just to watch.

One among them was the casual yet gorgeous interaction of a school of fish with the reef shark.
All over the island – when you walk by the share you can see a formation and they are really a group of fish drifting and exploring the tropical waters. The formations keep changing and these are a prime hunting spots for the Black tipped reef sharks.
It is really wonderful how beautifully these fish try and escape the attacks from the reef shark. The moves are strategic, and clever. They try to move away from the shark and when the entire group maintains a distance of a few inches away from the shark, it looks like there is a halo around the shark – its gorgeous.

I would sit on the plank most of the time to watch this interaction. It filled me with calm, poise and provided entertainment. One afternoon while i was watching, a small reef shark found it quite hard to hunt, he called his 2 other partners in crime, the 3 reef sharks attacked from different sides and they triumphantly swam away with a bounty in their mouth. It was cleverly planned and I was quite surprised by the strategy on how the payoff was achieved.

If you go to the Maldives, its not just the sun or the sand or the luxury, its these small little experiences that renders you speechless and turns you into a narrator.

Cycling on the City Wall of Xi’An

It was a pleasant morning in early November, when a bunch of travelers – who met at the parlor in the Hangtang Hostel the previous evening – decided to go on a impromptu cycling spree on the famous Xi’An city wall.

Xi’An is an enigma in itself, it has a intense cultural flavor flanked by modern aesthetically designed infrastructure. It is a laid back city, the people warm and courteous and there is a sense of peace and calm in the city.

Luca, Vincent, Micheal and I decided to walk to the City Wall, we navigated effortlessly through the streets with the help of Maps.me and before we knew we were at the City Wall. We bought our entrance tickets, climbed a flight of stairs to reach the Cycling section.I had heard about the cycling activity on the wall, but little did I expect to see these professional bikes lined up – it was a treat to the eyes. One thing is for sure, the cycles displayed will provoke anyone to get on it and go for that ride.

For 45Yuan we rented bicycles and we all were excited to commence our adventure. Luka was the most excited of us all. Micheal suggested that we take a tandem cycle and i was thrilled as i had never ridden in tandem before.

The feeling was exhilarating, it was was a thrill that one can only experience. A cold chilly morning, the sun barely peeking through a thick blanket of clouds, cyclist waiting to start the adventure. The air was filled with a excitement and thrill. The 4 of us cycled and it spontaneously turned to a race for a short whole, with Micheal and I on the Tandem cycle being the undefeated duo.

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Michael & I on the tandem cycle.

The view of the entire city from top of the wall was breath taking. The cruise on the city wall is unforgettable. We had a pit stop for about 20mins, we clicked pictures and spoke about the climate, countries, the movie Transformers, Optimus prime and our famous trek to Mt. HuàShān.

Luca & V – giving us some serious competition 🙂

The whole concept of letting people cycle on the wall is a sign of embracing change and defying the ‘way things were for centuries’. I was pleased about the fact that they were willing to change with time, accommodate to peoples convenience and not be pulled down by traditions and age old customs and let the preservation of architecture inhibit the authorities from letting people harmlessly cycle on this beautiful Historical Architecture.

We all spoke and rode our bikes and it was a pleasant way to relax our sore muscles after the exerting hike to HuàShān. It was a ride to remember.

Fallen in love with Xi’An

when I first heard about Xi’an I dint pay much attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere in the north central province of Shanxi. But as my departure date approached for my solo trip to China, I did a lot of research as to which route to take once I arrive at the Oriental Mainland China.

When I saw the country guide of China by the lonely planet, instantly i was once again drawn to Xi’an for the cover photo is of the indispensable Terracotta Warriors located at Xi’an. I did my search on the internet about the famous hangouts for tourists and Xi’An was mentioned again. A lot of emphasis was on Terracotta warriors, an archeological site.

I had a choice to either travel the eastern trail of take the cross-country trail, cutting through the center of the Mainland and ending down south in Chengdu. I impulsively decided to listen to my gut and decided to go to Xi’an. In a matter of few minutes I had a fancy Bullet Train ticket to Xi’an from Beijing.

Little did I know that I would love Xi’An as much as I did – for I was overwhelmed by the energy the city had. It was beautiful, cool, and the people were very warm – it felt very good to be in a land far away and yet feel so freaking comfortable. When I was on the train and was about to reach Xi’An a kind chap helped me to get off the train as all the announcements were in Mandarin. I absolutely loved the Xi’An Bei(north) Railway Station. Flaunting the city’s rich cultural heritage, the interiors of the station was aesthetically pleasing.

I stayed at the Hantang Hostel for travellers. When I saw the interiors of the dorm i was staying at, I was floored! For the logistics were excellent and looked nothing less than a 4star hotel. I met wonderful people from all around the world and we soon became friends.

Initially I had planned on staying at Xi’An for about 4 days – but soon i feel in love with the city and loved visiting the arena at the Moslem Food Street. I absolutely loved hanging out in the chilly winter and listening to artists perform some of the classics and their personal favorite. I would want to go back to Xi’an again for I have hopelessly fallen in love with this beautiful city.

Sabbatical

What does a Sabbatical do to a person? It makes that person stronger and helps in great introspection.

Years go by, while working to build a career. Before you realize, decades would have passed by. And there finally comes a time when you realize that you definitely do need a breather. Some people look at a sabbatical in an adventurous way and the others who cannot imagine taking one – look at the ones on a sabbatical with contempt and a lot of apprehension.

Honestly, how many can actually dare to take a Sabbatical? Not many, for the fear of the unknown is definitely overwhelming. It’s not easy to be without a job for a long time & try to remain positive. You have bills to pay, groceries to buy, errands to run, fuel up your car/bike & search for a job as well.

I am on a sabbatical right now, and believe me – it’s a luxury few people can relish but it comes with its own share of dogmas and challenges! It helps you immensely with introspection and helps you reflect upon the choices you have made in your life. This precious break gives you a breather and helps calm you down and you have a lot of time to fix things on the inside and the outside.

There could be several things you always wanted to do – but stringent working hours took almost all of your time. Now while on a sabbatical you can pursue all of it. I choose Travel, sewing pretty little dresses and learning a new language.

As the months pass by – you definitely need to stay motivated, especially during a job search. You might feel like sinking in the deep abyss, but you got to pull yourself together and tell yourself that this is not the end. It’s a passing phase and its only temporary. One note on a sabbatical made me laugh – it said, “It’s not a season, do not sleep it off! Dont hibernate” 🙂

Oriental Peace of Mind

While travelling through the Orient, you cant help but notice the affinity the people have towards inner peace. Nobody needs to tell you about it, for actions do speak louder than words. From the moment you set foot off the subway, all along your journey you will notice the love the people have for nature.

I honestly felt that people in the Orient are far happier than in India. It probably has a lot to do with the climate too I guess. Nobody would prefer to be out at noon in the blistering heat! Whereas the climate in northern China is extremely pleasant during autumn and its literally a paradise.

I saw many people performing Tai Chi, in the gardens with soulful music playing in the background. People were happy to be all by themselves in the lush green lawn. The atmosphere was peaceful and I saw many people smiling and at peace.

I was delighted to be able to experience such a beautiful feeling. I see that the Oriental people do take massive efforts in keeping their traditions and customs alive. I absolutely love that about them. The astounding wisdom they posses about healing themselves from within is admirable. For they practice tai chi with dedication and love, its a transcended lifestyle.

The young, the not so young, almost everyone absolutely enjoys tai chi. It’s a great form of relaxation and I guess that the elixir of peace. For no matter how many hours you spend at the gym, it’s the soul we need to fix in the first place.

Inner tranquility is of prime importance, to be in harmony with our outer self.

Infinity and Beyond!

I had seen infinity pools only in movies and pictures up until I visited the Maldives. I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the infinity pools at one of the worlds best locations ever! What a way to start – in fact it was a fabulous opening to an endless experience of infinity swimming.

The view is picturesque, a postcard panoramic view, of immaculate Beauty. Every single expanse of the beach is an epitome of pristine beauty. I dint expect to see this view, because my imagination or assumption of how the infinity pool would look completely failed me 🙂

I reached in time for the sunset, the fragrance from the lounge nearby was infused in the atmosphere around the pool. Now every time I smell the sweet fragrance of Grapefruit, it reminds me of the view I saw that day.

Studies suggest that the Olfaction – sence of smell, located in the Hippocampus of the brain has strong ties to the area where memory is stored. Odor information is stored in the long-term memory and has strong connections to emotional memory. It’s the same when I smell a particular perfume as well 🙂

The water was warm, calm, soothing and I had the whole pool to myself that day. I saw the sunset, immersed in the warm equatorial waters, the deep blue sky, and the coconut palms reflecting in the pool. I was swimming and admiring the view, I witnessed the transition of the deep blue sky inching towards twilight, the sky a deep orange-red and the big fire-ball was ready for the days spectacular show!

The reminiscence of the Infinity Pool could only improve over time. This pool strategically placed here makes every soul entering the waters smile, takes their imagination to Infinity & Beyond.