What the Tuk?

“2000 miles of awesome starts on January 1, 2010…”


On January 1st, 2010, my friends Chris, Rommy, and I are driving a motorized rickshaw (aka ‘tuk tuk’) from Pokhara, Nepal to Cochin, India in a “race” called the Rickshaw Run. Our team, Tuk Tuk Goose, is one of almost 70 teams from around the world participating in this zany challenge of wits, patience, and perseverence.  We’re very excited about this adventure and would love to have you join us for the ride!

Here’s how you can participate…

#1.  Follow us! (Please)

One of our (many) goals is to keep our friends and families updated & engaged over the coming months and throughout the journey.  We’ll be blogging from the road and will include an integrated map that tracks our route (god & technology willing), so follow us!

Blog: http://tuktukgoose.wordpress.com.
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tuktukgoose
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tuk-Tuk-Goose/90978808096?ref=nf
Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/tuktukgoose

#2.  Help us raise money! (Pretty Please) :-)
Yes, we are trying to offset some of the blatant self-indulgence by raising money for some great charities that support the communities we’ll meet along the way.  To read more on the charities we’re supporting check out the Charity section of our blog.
We’re required to raise just 1000 GBP ($1600 – $1700 at today’s exchange rate), but we’re planning to blow that number out of the water.  Please support us by making a donation via JustGiving to the following organizations:
Mercy Corps in IndiaLearn more and DONATE NOW!
Maiti NepalLearn more and DONATE NOW!
Charity #3 – TBD
We’re also organizing a fundraiser in San Francisco sometime in November… stay tuned.
#3.  Share your genius ideas!
Know someone who can donate some lightweight solar chargers?  Got suggestions for where we can rest our weary heads along the route?  Have experience sweet-talking Indian highway officials out of a bribe?  Let us know!
THANK YOU – Your enthusiastic support is hugely appreciated!

Spicy Sweet Potato, Black Bean, & Peanut Butter Soup

I was looking for a sweet potato soup recipe and ended up settling on this one because it incorporates chillies & peanut butter – staple foods as far as I’m concerned.  Here’s the link to the original.  I’ve pasted the recipe below, and am including some of my own notes here.  A seriously great meal for colder months… like June in San Francisco.  :)

My notes:

  • I ended up using a yam because my tiny local grocer didn’t have the orange-fleshed sweet potato.  Worked fine for me.
  • I used canned black beans because I decided to make this last-minute and didn’t have time to soak beans overnight.  If you use canned beans, rinse & drain them to get rid of the excess starch and salt
  • I was a little overzealous with the dried chillies and it turned out too spicy for my friend.  To mellow it out I added half of a can of lite coconut milk… makes it just a little richer, but didn’t add too much of a sweet, coconutty flavor
  • I topped it with black sesame seeds because I had them and they added a nice crunch
  • I think it makes more than 6 servings… I’ve been eating the leftovers for days.  Reheats nicely.  :)

Original recipe:

Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup with Black Beans

sweet_potato_soup2

1 cup dried black beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 large sweet potato (about 1 lb.), peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon dried hot red chili flakes, or to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain, place in a medium saucepan, and cover with several inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl around to coat the pan. Add the carrot, onion and garlic and sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn up the heat slightly and toss in the sweet potato and chili flakes. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato and cook until the tomato has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and water and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the peanut butter and beans and let simmer for another 5 minutes to let the peanut butter melt into the soup and to warm the beans. Remove from heat, and season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley for garnish. Serves 6.

Sleepless in London Sleepytime Mix

starry night over the rhone (or thames in this case)
First night in London, jet-lagged, can’t sleep.  Since I forgot to pack melatonin, I’m going to try some mellow-tunin’ (TM ;-)).

Anyway, here is my restless attempt at a sleepytime compilation.  I hope it puts you to sleep…

Blackbird – Sarah Mclachlan
The Boatman – Nitin Sawhney
Closer – Goapele
Come Away with Me – Norah Jones
Daydreamer – ADELE
Everlong (acoustic) – Foo Fighters
Eyes – Rogue Wave
Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
Flightless Bird, American Mouth – Iron & Wine
For the Good Times – Al Green
I’m Ready – Tracy Chapman
I’m Yours (From the Casa Nova Sessions) – Jason Mraz
I Know – Fiona Apple
I Love, You Love – John Legend
I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab for Cutie
Imagine – John Lennon
It’s Probably Me – Sting
It Never Entered My Mind – Miles Davis
The Kiss – Last of the Mohicans
Moonlight Sonata I – Beethoven
Only You – Joshua Radin Live Session
Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground
Paris – Yael Naïm
Paul’s Song – M. Ward
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Rain – Priscilla Ahn
Rosie’s Lullaby – Norah Jones
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Such Great Heights – Iron & Wine
Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies
The Way You  Look Tonight – Harry Connick Jr
Tremolo – Pacific Uv
Wild Horses – The Sundays

Art I love: Gerhard Richter

I’ve decided to dedicate posts to art that moves me.  I won’t attempt to write a perspective on the pieces, or the artists.  I’m mostly posting them to build my own catalog of captivating work.

Here’s the first: Gerhard Richter.richter_descending I saw his work on display at the SF Moma a few years ago.  I was drawn in by the photographic nature of his paintings, but fell in love with their ethereal quality… To me his paintings depict each scene as it would appear in a dream segment.  I’m completely mesmerized by his work and would love to watch him putting brush to canvas.

Anyway, the painting included here is one of my favorites: “Frau, di Treppe herabgehend (Woman Descending the Staircase)”.  The original stands at about 6 feet in length.   And it’s stunning.

You can see more of his work here but I highly recommend catching a Richter exhibit and experiencing his genius in person.

Travel Log: Salzburg, Austria

I was in Salzburg, Austria for a few days in July 2008 for a friend’s wedding and wanted to write a post to pay hommage.   This was a really short trip, mostly occupied by wedding related activities.  But what an incredible time!

I  flew from SFO to JFK to connect with a couple of friends for the rest of the journey. From there we flew to Heathrow, then to Munich,and then by train to Salzburg.  San Francisco is just obnoxiously far from almost any destination in the world.

My first impression of Salzburg was that it’s a very wealthy city.  Everything is very clean and charmingly ritzy.  I’m not sure how the town makes money (Sacher cake is pretty damn tasty), but some of the locals suggested that much of the city’s wealth comes from real estate investment… I read somewhere it’s from medieval salt trade.  Who knows.  Definitely rich.

We stayed at a hotel in the heart of the city… Star Inn Hotel Zentrum and spent our first evening and next day in lovely Anif at a rented country mansion that hosted the Mehndi ceremony and Hindu wedding.   That afternoon we toured some of the main attractions in Salzburg, including the Festung, Hellbrunn Castle, and a couple of cathedrals.   All guests met later that evening for dinner and beer at a local beer house and many of us carried the party onward to a string of local pubs and clubs.

Salzburg nightlife may have some options for avid ravers and club-goers, but if memory serves, the clubs we went to were more on the mellow side.  No elbowing, no toe-mangling, no drink-spilling sloppy drunks (okay, I probably spilled on myself a bit… but I’m clumsy sober), no spastic light shows or deafening sound-systems, and there was actually room to dance.   The music was good and I felt at ease dressed in tshirt & jeans… Definitely my kind of scene.

That night I was stung by a beast of a mosquito (or something) in the eyelid and woke up with my eye swollen completely shut.  Looked hot with a strappy dress.

The following morning, we attended the beautiful Protestant wedding ceremony at a local cathedral on the river.  The highlight was the wedding reception (which lasted 11 hours) at a hilltop restaurant – M32 – overlooking a very breathtaking Salzburg.  While the views and venue were perfectly elegant, the planned activities and guests really made this event.  Over the course of 11 hours we enjoyed cocktails on the terrace, an incredible dinner spread, a New York & hearts themed wedding cake, garba-raas (including lessons for newbies), heart-shaped balloon drop, an impromptu 4th of July celebration (sparklies included), crazy 3-D sunglasses that refracted light into hearts,  a Milli Vanilli reunion, hours of dancing, and cigars & bourbon on the terrace…

I can’t promise that every Salzburg experience will be as memorable as mine, but I do recommend a visit.  Even if you’re not into Mozart or the Sound of Music, Salzburg is a lovely city to visit.  The locals are kind and happy (possibly because everyone is comfortably wealthy), the sites and scenes are picturesque, and the beer is delicious.

View from M32

View from M32

Ben & Jerry’s: The Presidential Series

You probably already saw this in a forward somewhere, but it’s just too clever to not post.  And I love wordplay..

Ben and Jerry created “Yes Pecan!” ice cream flavor for Obama.

Then they asked people to fill in the blank to the following:
For George W. Ben and Jerry created “_________.”

Here are some of their favorite responses:

- Grape Depression
- Abu Grape
- Cluster Fudge
- Nut’n Accomplished
- Iraqi Road
- Chock ‘n Awe
- WireTapioca
- Impeach Cobbler
- Guantanmallow
- imPeachmint
- Good Riddance You Lousy Motherfucker… Swirl
- Heck of a Job, Brownie!
- Neocon Politan
- RockyRoad to Fascism
- The Reese’s-cession
- Cookie D’oh!
- The Housing Crunch
- Nougalar Proliferation
- Death by Chocolate… and Torture
- Credit Crunch
- Country Pumpkin
- Chunky Monkey in Chief
- George Bush Doesn’t Care About Dark Chocolate (ss: LOL!!!)
- WM Delicious
- Chocolate Chimp
- Bloody Sundae
- Caramel Preemptive Stripe
- I broke the law and am responsible for the deaths of thousands…with nuts

Travel Log: Egypt

I was in Egypt earlier this year for a week of work coupled with a week of vacation and had an incredible time. I’ve spent entire weekends curled up on the sofa watching Egypt marathons on the History/Discovery channel… but even for someone who is only mildly interested in ancient Egypt, there is so much to take in. Just be prepared to feel minuscule.

When: May 2008
Where: Nile River Valley (Philae, Kom Ombo, Edfu, Luxor), Cairo, Giza
What: 4-day northbound Nile River cruise, conference & work in Cairo, about two days of site-seeing in Cairo/Giza.

Rough Itinerary:

  • Day 1: Flew into Cairo late night, greeted by our tour guide at the airport, taken to hotel for 3 hours of sleep, early flight to Philae.  All day in Philae visiting Philae temple, High Dam, Perfumery, unfinished Obelisk, then board cruise
  • Day 2: Early visit to Kom Ombo temple, sail to Edfu temple
  • Day 3: Luxor (West Bank)… Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon
  • Day 4: Luxor (East Bank)… Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, ditched our guide for free time in Luxor before flight to Cairo
  • Day 5: Cairo… Egypt Museum, papyrus shop, Pyramids at Giza, Sphinx at Giza
  • Day 6-8: COFTA conference, Cairo Nile dinner cruise
  • Day 9: Egypt Crafts visit, Producer group visit, Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo, Khan el-Khalili
  • Day 10: Fly out

Must-see/do in rough rank order:

  1. Pyramids at Giza… you can’t go to Egypt without visiting the Pyramids.  There are many pyramids in Egypt but the “Great Pyramid” is in Giza, which conveniently is a suburb of Cairo. You have to go inside the Pyramid unless you’re severely claustrophobic or unable to climb for about 100 meters.  We managed to get in at the very last minute b/c our guide knew the “bouncer” and were the only ones inside the Pyramid at the time… it’s about a 5-10 minute narrow, upward climb (ladder-like steps) into a room with the sarcophagus.  As you climb, think about that fact that you’re inside a 4500 year-old structure that’s constructed without mortar.  Scary, inspiring, & so humbling.
  2. Valley of the Kings… You may not know what this is b/c interior photos are not allowed.  After centuries (don’t quote me) of tomb-robbing, pharaohs decided to carve their tombs into remote rock valleys to keep them hidden.  The Valley of the Kings refers to the West Bank of Luxor which is littered with these tombs.  You’ll have to deal with suffocating heat and lack of ventilation, but the paintings inside are so colorfully preserved, narrative… and right there!  (Side note: We attempted to see the Valley of the Queens on our own, but missed the cutoff.  Sounded interesting.)
  3. Temple of Karnak and Luxor Temple… You can knock these out in one day and if you haven’t already seen temples throughout Egypt when you arrive, you’ll be blown away.  Pay close attention to your Lonely Planet book or guide at Luxor Temple – there’s an area where some Christian relics were painted over the Pharaonic carvings – interesting evidence of Egypt’s history.
  4. Egypt Museum in Cairo… It’s chaotic and somewhat unorganized, but packed with incredible loot.  You can’t leave Egypt without seeing the Tut Collection.  Serious bling.
  5. Wander around Cairo… Spend at least a day just wandering around Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo.  Definitely visit Khan el-Khalili – you’ll find the shop owners irritating or entertaining, depending on your attitude.  Take a load off at El Fishawy’s for some mint tea and shisha… If you’re willing to wander further, check out the locals market that’s slightly outside of Khan el-Khalili… it’s a more realistic view of Cairo.

Costs:
I was able to stay in fairly nice hotels, eat well, and keep my personal expenses under $1000 US because it was primarily a work-related trip.  Some ways to cut cost:

  1. Bargain!!  As an Indian, I’m not offended by the idea of people trying to rip me off – it’s how some cultures do business.  Just know that as a tourist almost every price quoted to you is well above market value… get input from locals to gauge what you should pay for cab fares, food, art, etc. and don’t be affraid to bargain, no matter how many offended looks you get in response.
  2. Skip the Nile Cruise unless you have lots of time to travel.
  3. Skip the guide.  I liked our guide in Cairo but could have done without the guide during our Nile cruise.  The Lonely Planet book in most cases gave equitable or better explanations of things.

Other Notes:

  • Baksheesh is not a scam – it’s the culture.  Just be ready for it.
  • Be sensitive to the local dress code.  If you’re in a heavily touristed area (like most areas on my itinerary), you can dress in casual non-hoochy western wear.  If you’re in a less touristed area, you might feel less self conscious if you kept the limbs covered.  Linen works well.
  • Tourism makes up 11%+ of Egypt’s GDP and the government takes many steps to make tourism safe.  In most tourist areas you’ll be able to find “tourist police” in white uniforms who are stationed to serve tourists.  If you want to travel outside of the main tourist areas, you’ll most likely need to arrange for a police motorcade to escort you.  The only time I felt on edge was after we missed the Valley of the Queens and our cabby said he knew “a guy who guards a tomb” and insisted that we check it out.  I think the cabby was legit, but we had second thoughts about climbing into an uncharted tomb.  :-/
  • I’ve seen crazy traffic, driving, maneuvering in Mumbai, but it’s generally at low speeds (because it’s too congested).  Cairo driving is all kinds of crazy… cross streets with caution and try to enjoy the ride when cabbing.  :)
  • Other recommended sites/cities I have yet to see: Abu Simbel, Red Sea, Alexandria,  Sinai, the White Desert.

Go to Egypt!


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