Costa Rica -Pura Vida!

Posted December 28th, 2017 by Deepa and filed in Travel, Uncategorized
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Costa Rica 1-1-11Costa Rica was on my bucket list for the past 8 years. I used to dream and plan this trip whenever I was bored at work  , so this was a pretty well fleshed out plan!  So when we decided to make a trip in early December, I was ready with my excel spreadsheet, list of activities I wanted to do and places I wanted to see.  The  beginning of the trip was inauspicious. Tanay had a lingering cough for the past week and we were hoping it would get better soon. Unfortunately, three days before the trip,  he was diagnosed with pneumonia.  On the morning we were supposed to leave for the airport, we got up early in the morning, checked up on Tanay and decided we cannot go and just turned back and went to sleep. Fortunately, Tanay had really perked up by morning and seemed much better by afternoon. Another trip to the doctor confirmed that his wheezing had reduced, so we rearranged our itinerary, got a new flight for the next day and managed to salvage the rest of the trip.

We reached San Jose at night and were greeted by the rental car company representative. We hired our rental car through Adobe Rent A Car.Costa Rica 1-1They were most accommodating when we had to push our car rental by a day and were prompt in picking us up and transporting us and our baggage to the car rental place.  Though the formalities took some time  (they seem to have adopted the Southern African motto of “Hurry Up Slowly), they were done with a smile and before we knew it we were sent off with a recommendation to stop at Denny’s for dinner.  The airport area was crowded with flashy restaurants but many of them had a huge wait time, so we decided to grab something by our hotel. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the hotel, it was late night and there was no one that spoke or understood our English  help us.  By this time (it was past 10pm), we were tired and decided to make do with the snacks that we had in our bags and pretty much crashed.  We woke up to appreciate the beauty of the Hotel La Rosa De America. Beautiful cottages, all decorated with flower motif, the sound of birds in the air and the promise of a hot Costa Rican breakfast! Continue Reading »

In and around Washington DC

Posted November 14th, 2017 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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IMG_2925Hirshhorn Museum : Washington DC has a number of really excellent museums  – all world class and most of them completely free. Despite our wish to see all of them, we tend to go to Washington DC primarily when we have guests.  And then we take them to the two most visited museums, the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History.  These are great museums but now we have been slowly badmouthing these museums to our guests and suggesting that they visit some other museum.  Most folks are clever enough to not fall for our trick but my cousin really didn’t care enough about museums and let us lead us into Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  Now we entered the museum not knowing anything about anything about contemporary art. Right at the door, we were met with a young docent who was giving a free guided tour of the main exhibit , so we decided to take advantage of it. While waiting for the tour to start we took a stroll in the gardens to look at the various sculptures they have.

The exhibit that was featured were works by Ilya and Emilia kabakov-Russian born American sculpture artists.  Our young guide was trying to explain to us the major themes of their work whicn revolved around freedom, hope and the pursuit to escape Communism.  The guide aspired to be a teacher because he was good at asking us the right questions to get us to the answer he was looking for.  Thanks to his efforts, we appeared to be getting the message. It was all going really well, till we reached one of their final works – a small antenna – which was a miniature representation of one of their larger installations. “What do you see when you look here”, asked the guide.  “An antenna”, we chorused. Like all good teachers, he was quick to praise.  “Now whats different about this antenna”, he continued. This was apparently the question Seejo was waiting for.

IMG_2937 (2)This is is all wrong, said Seejo.  Antennas are supposed to be parabolic in nature to capture the signal. These IMG_2938 (2)antennas don’t make any sense – they just won’t work.  The poor guide was speechless. He was trying to get us to see that underneath the antenna, there were words written that spoke of wide open spaces and loving without boundaries.  Seejo brushed those lofty feeling aside – but this is technically wrong he insisted. It was at that point, when I steered Seejo away from the Ilya and Emilia exhibit to some lego faces and colorful paintings.  We really understood that well.

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Weekend trips

Posted November 14th, 2017 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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IMG_0234Fredericksburg, TX We visited Austin, TX for the Easter weekend for my nephew’s 5th birthday. While we were there, we took a day trip to the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, about 1.5 hours drive from Austin.  Fredericksburg was a quaint little town, with pronounced German influence filled with art galleries, restaurants serving German inspired cuisine and wineries specializing in Texas hill country wines. We stopped at the Torre di Pietra Vineyards – a Tuscan inspired winery, primarily because that was the winery that my brother in law and sister in law patronize. We did taste a few different varieties of wines and I found one that I liked – a sweet red wine called Red Flirt. The winery had a herb garden and vineyard and some benches and gazebos for us to drink the wine and nibble on the cheese and crackers that they provided. After wine tasting, we visited a nearby Wildflower farm and that proved to be the highlight of this day trip. Although the bluebonnets were gone, the poppies were in full bloom. We managed to get some lovely family pictures with the background of the poppy field. We had a late lunch at a restaurant called Rathskeller that had a curious mix of German influenced food such as sausages and schnitzels but also Tex-Mex food such as quesadillas and southern food like chicken fried steak.  The food was what I would call “strictly ok” – but the variety helped with 4 kids who all wanted different kinds of food. Continue Reading »

Yellowstone – a photo diary.

Posted September 15th, 2017 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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It is no secret that Yellowstone is one of our favorite places in USA. This was our third trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons and we are still every bit in love with this place as before. The excuse for this trip was to take my mom to see Yellowstone. We were accompanied by our friends with their mother & my cousin Robin

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The crew for the trip Continue Reading »

Mini travel reviews

Posted December 24th, 2016 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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Mini Travel Reviews

14317400_10155306659479698_3608287758138915347_nMost of the places we went to this year were all places we had been to before. With my sister I visited NYC and Niagara and Luray and Dubai again. But these were some of the new places I got to see this year

Please Touch Museum: This is a kid’s museum/play area in Philadelphia. My undergrad friends (3 families with six kids) met here for an overnight trip. It is not a museum as much as it is a play area for kids. There are different zones: a water play area, a train station, a construction site, a bus terminal, a food mart, a14329935_10155306659754698_5466652502740686362_n fairy tale maze , a painting corner– each of which could keep the kids engaged for a long time. For me, the biggest plus of this place was that each & every zone had a special corner to accommodate infants & toddlers – so both kids could play nearby – if not together. Most of the kids were Annika’s age – so she did have a great time with friends. They also have a carousel so both kids had multiple rides and they ended the day with a performance from a jester with the kids following him about like Pied Piper.  There were multiple theatre shows that the kids can attend throughout the day. All in all, it was well worth the $20 admission fee for the entire day. Continue Reading »

A sneak peak at Annika’s diary.

Posted December 12th, 2016 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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When we were in Hawaii, Annika asked me how to spell volcano. When I asked her why, I realized that she had been maintaining a diary in my phone.  Here is a quick excerpt

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Year End Summary: 2014

Posted January 9th, 2015 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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Following the tradition ( 2006, 2007 , 2008, 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012 & 2013), here are my 2014 highlights.

HNYAchievements this Year: When I was in school, we used to have regular inspection of our nails as part of our PT (Physical Training) class. While most of the other girls hated it as they had to cut their nails short, I hated it because I had to show my severely bitten nails. In fact the habit was so bad that I used to even chew off the skin around my nails rill they were scabby and disgusting.  The habit of biting skin died a natural death soon after but I never ever stopped biting my finger nails.  For a long time, “Stop biting nails” was an auto-entry on any new year resolution list! It all changed this year – when I now finally have normal looking nails.  So that is this year’s big achievement : manicured nails! Continue Reading »

Great Wolf Lodge & Jamestown Settlement: Review

Posted December 11th, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Travel, Uncategorized
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GreatWolfLodge-01For Annika’s second birthday, we decided to treat her (and ourselves) to a small getaway trip.  I wanted to take Annika to a water park because she enjoys being in the water. I had two criteria for a water-park: it had to be indoors because it was November and it had to have special area or rides that are suitable  for toddlers.  I had almost given up  hope on finding such a place when a colleague mentioned the Great Wolf Lodge.  The Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor water park with several locations around the country. The two closest to us were at Poconos, NY  and  Williamsburg, Virginia.

Entrance to the waterpark is limited to guests of the lodge, so we booked a weekend at the Williamsburg resort. We selected Williamsburg as it was substantially cheaper than Poconos  as well asGreatWolfLodge-06 a tad bit closer. We left work a little early on Friday to make the three hour drive to Williamsburg and reached the lodge at around 6pm.  After the check in formalities , we spent some time exploring the resort and the water-park.  We were given a wrist tag with RF ID embedded : this way we could move throughout the lodge and the water-park area without needing a room-key or any money. Any purchases could be billed directly to the room using the tag.  The lodge was quite large : our rooms were near one end of the lodge so it was quite a trek  to get to the main lobby  and the park. The rooms were quite standard with a microwave and refrigerator. Clearly we were not meant to spend a lot of time in the room itself. The Lodge has a lot of other activities for children : it had a play area where children could be dropped off, an arcade, a kiddie spa, a couple of eating spots and of course the park itself.  The decor at the lodge was quite interesting:  you are greeted at the entrance of the lobby by a humongous stone sculpture of  a wolf. You enter into a huge and welcoming lobby with multiple fireplaces — the whole place has a log cabin like  feel to it with rustic log  furniture.  There is a grand clock-tower at the center of the lobby — we were told that each evening there is story time for kids near the clock tower along with sightings of Wiley the Wolf and Violet the Vixen. There were several life sized statues of wolves placed here and there , I counted about 15 of them.  We decided not to  go into the water that day but instead went out to dinner  buffet at Captain George’s sea-food restaurant Short Review: lots of variety, average taste , not recommended unless you want to eat a huge quantity of sea-food. Continue Reading »

Iceland Adventures

Posted October 3rd, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Travel, Uncategorized
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We spent two days (and two nights) in Iceland on a stop-over while returning from France to the United States. We were flying Iceland Air (highly recommended: wonderful staff) and as they don’t charge a premium for a break journey, we decided to take advantage of the situation.  The flight from Paris landed at around 10 am on rainy morning in late June and after getting our rental car & a quick lunch stop, we were out of Keflavik airport and on our way to Thingvellr National Park.

Within minutes of leaving the airport town of Keflavik, we were already marveling at the beautiful and pristine landscape that seemed miles away from any civilization.  All along the way to Thingvellr there were no houses and no discernible signs of a township or settlement. Fields of purple lupines stretched all the way to the green mountains in the distance. Waterfalls were abundant. Majestic Icelandic horses dotted the landscape and in between them we could see sheep grazing in the pasture. Later we were told that the horses didn’t outnumber humans in Icelend but I am not sure that I believe it!! Continue Reading »

A cancer story

Posted October 3rd, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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I have been working in the field of cancer research for about 14 years. During this time I have heard thousands of cancer stories, met hundreds of cancer patients and survivors and discussed all aspects of cancer care with many folks.   But these cancer patients were strangers: I was fortunate that it didn’t happen to people I knew.  But sometimes they do affect you personally.

About eight months ago our office shifted to a brand new campus and as a result my commute route changed.  The bus driver for this new route used to greet me every day with a loud “Hey Pretty Girl” and I used to give him an awkward smile and rush to my seat.  This continued for about a week and then one day he asked me where I worked.  As soon as I said National Cancer Institute, I could see that he had a million questions.  His mother had died battling  skin cancer and during the 30 minute ride he proceeded to describe the entire story from the initial diagnosis, treatment, recurrence and eventual death.   The next day he wanted to know what treatments are being developed for cancer. He had heard that cancer differs from person to person and so during the half hour commute I tried to explain the basics of personalized medicine and tailoring treatment therapy to someone with fairly limited knowledge of science. I could see that he wanted to talk more about it but I was getting irritated. My commute was the precious time that I had to read and I resented anyone cutting into that time.  To avoid answering yet another series of questions, I printed off some basics of skin cancer information from our website and handed it to him.  The next day he had more questions.  How does cancer originate? How does it spread? What does metastasize mean?  I tried my best to explain these concept to him quickly but he wasn’t done with questions.

I needed my reading time.  Finally I started ignoring him. I pretended to be on the phone or busy with my blackberry. I even changed seats and moved to the one right behind the driver so I was not in his line of sight.   He took the hint and  started talking to the other passengers.  My timings changed and I stopped taking the same bus every day and then soon never saw him again.

Last week I had to go to the main campus and so I took a different bus from Germantown.  And lo & behold the driver was my old chatterbox friend.  As soon as he saw me he smiled and said I want to talk to you. Resigned to 30 minutes of non-stop conversation, I nodded.  But he waited till all the passengers climbed on, parked the bus and motioned to me to get down. Now I was intrigued. When I got off the bus, he took me aside and said “Thank you, you saved my life”. I was completely taken aback and could only goggle at him.  It turned out that after hearing me talk about cancer and/or reading the information he went to get a checkup.  Perhaps it was prompted by the stuff he read but he asked the doctor to check for cancer.  And he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and was scheduled for a prostatectomy in three days. He was very grateful to me and said that what I did saved his life.

I wasn’t sure what to feel. On one hand I was elated that I could help but more than that I felt guilty and embarrassed and remorseful about my earlier attitude.  I was upset at not being able to read in peace but the few moments I did give him (albeit resentfully) mattered a lot to him. Truly a very humbling experience.