Wednesday, June 6, 2012

... And we're back!

So it occurs to me that it's been a while, and maybe you missed me or maybe not, but I left you hanging... and that's just rude. So here goes... China in a slightly bigger nutshell than usual...

Shanghai looked like something out of a comic book. And these were the hotels and office buildings that would give Gotham City a run for its money. With the rain and the fog and the ominous Sheraton Hotel looking like something out of Lord of the Rings. So it was Gotham City and all I got was the best damn rain poncho from H&M there. I think I still owe Ayesha for that. Took a day trip to a romantic tea garden village. It was like something out of a movie, so beautiful. A boat ride in the light fog with the pagodas in the distance. The kids enjoying 2cent whistles and roasted corn.

Xi'an was next. "A very small city... only 6 million people..." explains our tour guide. The city walls are remarkable, and the history of this country weighs on you a little. We take it in as we say prayers and make dua at one of the oldest masjids in China. The prayer hall's wooden walls are etched with the Holy Qur'an in its entirety. The tomb of the first emporer of China and his legions of terra cotta soldiers continue to amaze. But it is a toy sword that has occupied our attention for most of the day and subsequently became a fixture in pictures on the trip. I can't leave this paragraph without mentioning the 100 year-old dumpling place we went to. Best. Dumplings. Ever.

It was onto Beijing from there. The city's 30 million people make the likes of New York and LA look like the boonies. The famed Bird's Nest featured in the '08 Olympics was overwhelming to behold. The guides told us that now it plays host to government approved concerts and soccer matches. And while I understood the gravity of our journey here but the feeling of homesickness had fallen over me.

We went back to Singapore for some R&R before yet another 24hr trip back to Houston. It was truly incredible and I'm so pumped for the next trip!

Incidentally... the next trip is in three, yes, THREE days. We're off to Turkey and I promise I won't leave you hanging with how it went.

Till next time...
0< <3 :i

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fly me to the moon... or Singapore

Sorry for the delay guys! Sometimes life gets in the way... but I'm back! Singapore and China rundown on the way :)

So I spent the 30 minute drive to the airport trying to convince my younger brother that the nearly 24 hour journey wasn't going to suck as much as he though it would. It's a tough sell, but not impossible. The point was that I wanted him to stay excited about "freaking china!!!" instead of grumbling about the plane ride and invariably diminishing the experience. At least that's what I thought, so pitch after pitch of movies, tv shows, video games, and music went in one ear and out the other, the plane takes off and our fate is sealed. He did his best, which is all I could ask for, but for real that trip was brutal. Four movies and 2 mediocre meals later, we arrive in Moscow, deplane only to follow the crowd of transit passengers through a winding path and reboard THE SAME PLANE. I understand the logic with security and new passengers and whatnot but still.

Also worth mentioning is that while Zee and I were in row 38 in coach, my parents, dad spoiled by the decades of business travel, and mom deservedly upgraded after enduring transatlantic flights when we were kids, sat in first and business class respectively. Jealous... no we haven't earned ours yet but still jealous, even in retrospect. The seats turn into legit beds! Ok, I'm done... for now.

This leg of the flight we slept, as much as we could anyway. We arrived in Singapore bright and early at 6am. We get back to my dad's place to find that Asad and Nada, who arrived the day before, still have jetlag and are up waiting for us. Some chai and chit chat about their post-China itinerary of Dubai and Saudi Arabia and we got ready for the day.

Maybe it was just me, but I totally deluded myself into thinking that I would make it the whole day like a champ (aka my dad). We ate breakfast, watched game 4 of the NBA Finals (God bless Star Sports Asia :)) showered and went out. Now in an exotic city-state, we started our venture out foraging for food... ending up at a local delicacy paying homage to western civilization, California Pizza Kitchen. Ok yea so CPK isn't exactly local fare but there was only so much pepto to go around and we wanted to preserve our stomachs for China (more on that food later ;)). After some shopping at one of the 15 Zara's on Orchard Street, we came home to "relax" and ended up passing out for 4 hours, only to be woken up by dad, the champ who went to the office after the 6am powwow that morning, asked if we were hungry. More "health food" (McDonalds Spicy Chicken Sandwiches!), full and satisfied, i fell back asleep like it was all a delicious dream :).

The next day we ventured back into the urban jungle... but this time we were looking to the other side... toward the largest ferris wheel in the world! yes, it is indeed as awesome as it sounds... we could see everything! Then we went to the Night Safari and saw elephants, giraffes, lions, hyenas and something like 17 kinds of deer. Then there was a creatures of the night show in which the absolute highlight was the "recycling otters"... IT WAS AMAZING!!! seriously my sister in law and I wanted to steal them. 

Then... not to be outdone by the sun... we set off for China...

See you in Shanghai!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Come fly with me... (US leg of the tour :))

This month has been virtually non stop travel and it's been amazing... here's a rundown... it'll come in parts... this US portion only covers 4 days... get ready.

We all went to Phoenix for my brother's graduation from medical school ("hogwarts" to my sister-in-law... see: cap and gown = wizard robes ;)). We got there on the 3rd, pomped and circumstanced on the 4th, and left on the 5th. On the 5th the family scattered, with my brothers and sister-in-law going back to Houston, Dad using the little time he gets in the states these days to spend the day in San Jose to visit his brother and family, and Mom and I jetting off to the glamorous city of Rochester, NY for her cousin's wedding.

We were literally in Rochester for less than 36 hours. It was nice, though, because my grandfather was the oldest of 11 siblings. I'm not even sure how many cousins my mom has, most of whom have families of their own scattered all over the world. Needless to say, when even a fraction of the family can get together at any given moment, it's truly a blessing. For me, sometimes I feel like it helps keep my grandfather closer to my mother's heart to see him in his siblings in her aunts and uncles. Thirty-six hours definitely wasn't enough time for family bonding but my khalas optimistically pointed out that there will be plenty of time when my wedding rolls around. Yeah, no pressure.

Anyway, we left Rochester and got back to Houston at 11am on the 6th, just in time to grab the rest of our luggage, turn around and go back to me my dad at the airport.

And off to Singapore we went...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"Food is the only beautiful thing that truly nourishes..." Richard Gere, Autumn in New York

So now that finals are over and I have some time, let's get back to more important things... sharing my favorites with all of you :).

I love food. Period. Some of my fondest memories are triggered by tastes and specific flavor combinations. There is a picture of me at about 5 years old making parathas with my grandmother with the phone wedged between my shoulder and my ear. It's in my DNA.

The delicious inspiration for this post is a restaurant in Austin, TX called the Roaring Fork. Let me tell you now that in addition to making a mean paratha, I think I make a meaner reservation lol. I will try just about any restaurant at least once. Let me also tell you that when I say the food here is like nothing I've ever had... well you had to be there I guess, and by that I mean you HAVE to go there!!

I had a roast chicken with cornbread stuffing and roasted vegetables. My friend's lamb shank was bigger than her face, and another had short rib tacos, as in slow braised short ribs IN A TACO! It was divine and I have been gushing about it to anyone who will listen.

To be clear, I am an equal opportunity "foodie." I love Roaring Fork and restaurants of the like just as much as I love a double cheeseburger from McDonald's or classic crunchy tacos from Taco Bell ;).

Ok now I'm hungry... until next time... bon appetit my loves! <3

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It shouldn't be this way, but it was through tragedy that I truly appreciated how incredible family is. My mother's best friend lost her daughter last week in an accident and it was a true blessing to see her family and friends surrounding her in her darkest hour.

It took me back to a moment on our way home from Brazil last summer. An overnight flight from Rio or Houston gives one time to do a number of things... I did a lot of thinking. It occurred to me on a separate note that a number of my friends have dealt with the possibility of losing one or both of their parents. As this thought washed over my brain I looked over at my own parents, my mom sleeping on my dad's shoulder and I could feel the tears well up. They were right there and I had never felt so grateful. I never imagined what it could be like for them if the situation were reversed.

My parents are superheroes and if I'm even a fraction of the parent they are, I'm lucky. My dad, as he likes to remind us, came to this country at 21 with nothing and worked in the university cafeteria for food. He was in a band, taught himself the guitar, piano, and a little french. Now he changes the world with every step he takes. They don't make em like my dad anymore. No one can keep up with him... except for my mom.

When they wrote saying "behind ever great man, there is a great woman", I'm almost positive they were talking about my mother. At 20 she married a man who lived a half a world away, came to the US to find that her darling husband lived in a studio apartment with nothing but a mattress, a tv, and his guitar in it. I look around at the home she has created for us now and we have come a long way. She is my best friend. I don't get a chance to pretend with her, she already knows lol. As a teen that was a little frustrating but these days it's nice not to have to hide from her. I remember the most absurd fight I had with her was over the fact that I had a boring life because i never fought with my parents lol. Don't get it twisted, it wasn't that I was never in trouble. In my house the general philosophy was "don't be stupid." So when I sabotaged myself in school, they made sure that I knew it wasn't acceptable to be anything less than what I was truly capable of. And as annoyed as I was, I knew they were right.

My brothers have spoiled me with the kind of men they have become. My big brother is my sage, always pushing me and telling me that I am on the brink of realizing my own greatness. His path in life inspires me to be great,  and "the good child" always reminds me that we're only human, but never to settle for less than amazing. My little brother never ceases to amaze me with his perfect blend of insanity and maturity. His handle on the gravity of the world around him is astounding and I couldn't be prouder of him.

My sister in law is brilliant. Period. She is the best definition of geek chic and I wouldn't have it any other way. She'll be debating the weight of calories and in the same breath discuss the latest trend in blush and transition seamlessly between both topics with a flip of her expertly coiffed hair. I'm so glad I picked her to be my brother's wife ;).

It would be unfair to leave out my army of cousins, who have been my best friends my whole life. No matter how far apart we are, whether 20 minutes away in the Woodlands, a few thousand miles away in California, or scattered all over the world, we always manage to stay connected. Spectators can't believe how close we all are... yeah, I'd be jealous of us too.

And then there are my friends. Moving around, it was easier to stay cordial but detached from people, but then I caved. I covet the relationships I've made over the years. The best ones are effortless, and I feel like I never have to try to be something for any one of my friends because they know that 1) I'm too lazy to be anyone but myself and 2) I don't ever want them to feel like they can't be themselves with me. Childhood friends from California and Ohio have got the goods on the incredibly awkward stages of my life, and my Texas friends have been there at the most insane part of my development as a person, where I decided who I wanted to be, instead of who I thought I was supposed to be.

Each person has been a witness to my life and I a witness to theirs. I am floored by the amazing people that surround me. They are my absolute favorites.

<3 Saira

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where to begin...

So let's get started... I love the kind of euphoria you get from a well deserved W from your favorite sports team. I'm partial to the Rockets and Texas Longhorns (yes for better or for worse), but my cousin lives for the San Jose Sharks, and I have a soft spot for the Oklahoma City Thunder (KD!!).

I leave you with the inspiration for this post...

"we can say what we want to say about this team and dissect wins how we want, but at the end of the day we’re just a pretty damn good basketball team" Kevin Martin #12

<3 Saira