Let’s talk about the Boot (Diary Entry # 2)

My narrative of travels through Italy

I am absolutely in loveeee with Northern Italy and more specifically the Lakes and towns around them. On this particular topic, I will have two entries, so please stay tuned!

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I enjoy Tai Chi, the whole flow of energy kind of exercise really speaks to me. So, when I got the chance to attend a three-day Tai Chi workshop in Northern Italy, in the province of Varese, I said hell yes! While most of the three days were spent in practices, me and my teacher took full advantage of our evenings and breaks, and explored the towns along and across Marjorie. Lago Marjorie or Lake Marjorie makes the western border of Varese.

Seminario GM°Yang Jun - 2-8 giugno 2016 Varese

Our first stop was the town of Angera; it is a beautiful town on the east of the lake. A perfect place for a stroll, but the most famous place in the town is the Rocca Borromeo di Angera, or the Borromeo Castle. The castle date backs to early 1200. Unfortunately, by the time I reached there, it was closed. Later on, I read an interesting fact about the castle, it has a doll museum Museo della Bambola. The museum is known to have on display over a thousand dolls, some as old as the 18th century. Having missed the opportunity, we decided to take a water taxi across the lake to Arona. At 660ft high, of course we were able to see the castle from the lake! While we were waiting for our taxi, I captured a beautiful rainbow just over the water.

Angera

The next afternoon, we had a little more time so we explored a few towns. We first happened upon Caldé. We were driving, read the name and saw water at the end of the road, so we just drove into this teeny tiny town. The walk along the water was beautiful and soothing. We actually ended up discussing the morning Tai Chi lesson, and practicing a bit in the open air by the water. A wonderful experience!

Calde

We than drove south and reached St Catrina monastery perched on a rocky ridge. Here is an interesting fact about me, I hate stairs, hate them…. but if you want to go in this monastery, suck up you must. It was all fun and joy when I descended down a long winding stairway, but on my walk up, I cursed and bitched every stair I took. Now, I can say the church, scenery and the beautiful view of the lake was worth the muscle ache, but at that time not so much. It did help that when I reached the top of the stairs just across the road there was a beautiful lush green, a gazebo of sort. It helped that I sat there for a while to get my breathing under control.

St Catrina all

Of course, all that exercise made me hungry and we ended up in the perky, colorful town of Levone to have an Italian delicacy, the Margarita! For those who don’t know, it’s a simple mozzarella, basil with tomato sauce pizza. But in its simplicity, is the explosion of flavor.

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We ended our evening by staying a while on a park bench facing the lake. Just discussing Tai Chi, lives, likes dislikes, people, philosophies. It turned out to be a very stimulating yet calming conversation.

Scammers: Where is your Heart and Soul?

Recently a close friend of mine went through “one of the worst moments of her life”. She was almost scammed by a group of people who pose as representatives of government institute, corner you with allegations of some financial crime you have supposedly committed, and finally act as rescuers by asking for immediate payments as show of good faith by the penalized!

The process, as we discussed later was thoroughly orchestrated, focusing on some key features of human psyche.

  • Terror: She was terrorized and driven out of her freaking mind by threats of immediate arrest and holding of 72 hours straight, a court trial, 10 years of imprisonment and finally fines in thousands of dollars.
  • Sympathy: Next step, understanding and sympathy. It went something like, we understand your situation and don’t want your life and career affected by this honest mistake. Since your previous record states that you have never committed any fraud, we will help you resolve this. You need to remain calm and follow the instructions to the dot.
  • Isolation: She was instructed, under threat that there is nothing they will be able to do, if she contacted anybody, her husband, her friends, any other living soul. Any involvement by third party meant she was not interested in solving the problem immediately.
  • Survival: So, if you pay $10,000 within the next hour, covering the lawyer and court fees and the tax evasion she was accused off, they will settle the matter for good. Two conditions were proposed; do not hang up the phone (they are recording everything for court proceedings, she didn’t even go to the restroom knowing somebody will be listening to it) and do not tell anyone.

Even in trauma, a woman sees through!

Through the whole ordeal, she was scared out of her mind, twice her blood pressure dropped to the point that she almost fainted, yet through it all, her senses did not desert her. She had a paper in hand to write down the names of the so-called officers of the law, case ID, badge numbers and such. When she showed me the paper later, I was impressed as hell. This was what she had on the paper;

  1. She had written “I think it is a FRAUD”, bold letters to highlight her thoughts. She told me she came to that realization, when they kept telling her not to tell anyone, and asked for weird vouchers for payment.
  2. Although she was scared out of her mind and they kept telling her she can’t tell her husband, still somehow her system couldn’t follow this order. Since she couldn’t hang-up, she told her friend to call her husband from her computer. Then, she wrote down the salient features of what had transpired so far, for her husband to read when he arrived home.
  3. Finally, she remembered a friend of her husband, extremely cynical and sharp. On the paper, she also wrote for her husband to “call him”.

Is a woman a genetic Victim?

She is an educated, experienced woman and not an easy person to dupe or scare off. So, to give credit to those degenerates, they were able to almost make her believe because;

  • They knew her name and address.
  • They said over and over that they were tracking the call.

And the cherry on the top was a call from the police station, confirming that there is an arrest warrant with her name, and while she was on the phone with the bastards, they told her they can see that she has an incoming call and it is from emergency responders. They asked her to answer and let them know that they are handling the situation and tell them to delay the warrant. Thus, reaffirming in her mind that they were indeed tracking her phone!

So when her husband came she took the keys from him, gave him the paper so the people on the phone couldn’t listen and told him to call his friend ASAP. In the end, what happened was that while she was getting ready to leave for the bank, her husband and his friend realized it was a scam, made her cancel the call and he took the call when the scammers called back. They tried to bully him into giving the phone to her, he retaliated back by cornering them and asking information about himself, since they are a government agency and know everything about his wife! The cowards hung up on him and he was left to take care of her severely shaken wife.

Aftermath

Later, when she met with her lawyer, to further calm her frayed nerves, he shared a similar story. It was about check fraud. He was sent a retainer from a university based client, and two days after the check was deposited, the client contacted him to send 60% of the money back, because of a family emergency. Now, her lawyer is aware of how the checks work, just depositing a check in the bank is not enough, and it takes a few days for the check to be processed i.e. ensuring there are funds attached to the check. So, the lawyer, apologized that he can’t send the money back and as expected a week later the bank reported the check as fraud.

Also, she reported the information to police, knowing they will not be able to help, but point was to bring the matter to the right authorities so as to generate a database, because I can bet my next month’s check that she wasn’t the first or the last to almost or completely fall for the scam! 

Advice to all

Under no circumstances agree to weird payment methods; the government doesn’t work that way.

Please, immediately call your family or lawyer for assistance.

If they have to arrest you for a crime you actually committed, they will not call you to give you a heads up.

With the right tricks, anyone can be scammed, so stay smart and please support your friends and family.

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about the Boot (Diary Entry # 1)

My narrative of travels through Italy

I love to travel!

Even with my experience as a repeated victim of luggage abuse (check out my earlier post “curse of the luggage”), my need and goal to explore, explore and explore yet a little more is not crushed.

Let’s begin with the “Bride of the Sea,” also known as the “City of Masks,” “The Floating City,” but most commonly known as Venice.

Bride of the sea

I can most definitely rate it as one of the worst experience of my life. Please Stop, don’t go cuckoo; nothing’s wrong with the city or what it has to offer or for that matter me! The problem was my plan sucked, big time. Normally, I am an avid and borderline OCD planner, but this time I had failed to incorporate the fact that it’s Venice (which gets about 20 million visitors per year) and that my visit was in the month of August (just the ever-scorching sun and the pleasures it brings). My intention was a short-day trip, the itinerary included must go to cathedral (I am kind of obsessed with Italy’s cathedrals) and of course a Gondola ride. Keep it simple and fun…boy was I wrong on that front! Here is an overview of the reality of my trip.

Had lunch at a small restaurant, on the side of a canal, site and food perfecto!

view from my resturant

As long as I stayed away from the out of control places like Piazza San Marco, that host both the St Mark’s Cathedral and the Doge’s Palace I was safe. Because dear readers it was “bloody over crowded” the Piazza as well as the Cathedral inside, lines everywhere. The Cathedral’s exterior is a sight to behold, but even my ogling was restricted to a minute or so, because let’s not forget the ever present, ever blazing sun. My experience now reminds me of a recent article I came across about the reality of some of the great touristic places, like the great wall of China among other examples. In pictures its majestic and ideally lacking a single human or otherwise being. Reality check people, it is so over crowded that all you see is heads in front of you. I was met with more or less the same scenario in the Piazza St. Marco and at the Rialto bridge. The only thing I saw, were the people!

Cathedral

Couldn’t do the Gondola ride I promised myself, too hot! But the heat didn’t stop me from appreciating the beauty of the gondolas, they were just so pretty.

gondolas

Other than that, I learned the best way to enjoy Venice is walk, walk and walk, aimlessly (preferably in the shades). You get to see the small nooks and crannies, the small channel of canals with gondolas, small cafes with your favorite expresso (coffee is not a temperature-dependent pleasure), the freshly squeezed orange juice and the water melon wedges to battle the ever-present heat.

Unfortunately, it was one of those times, I couldn’t wait to return home.

 

 

 

 

Verbal Abuse at work place continues to be the norm; is there no hope?

My husband hates his job!!!

Thanks to his one of a kind, supreme something of a boss. Irrespective of the circumstances, his communication with his boss usually starts or ends up with the boss favorite and go-to deliveries:

“I am so disappointed in you.”

“So you are the one holding the group back.”

“Why didn’t you collect data? Even if it is bad data,” and then there is “why do you collect bad data?”

“Let’s meet on Friday,” code for, let me tell you how you haven’t done anything throughout the week (although I know you have been leaving office past midnight), so you would be pulling a full weekend, again!

“If I don’t get the results I want, I will be making some personnel changes here.”

“You are playing with fire.”

Additional aspects of the dealing include, never saying thanks or appreciating a job well done, agreeing on a certain plan of action and the next day countermanding it with something else, always bitching about the incompetencies of others, always trying to prove how he is so much better than others and what a great opportunity it is to work with him and so on.

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My husband’s reaction to the above over the time-period of a mere few months varied over a range of moods and mind-sets.

“It is his way of motivating me, to push my boundaries and work harder.”

“I cannot get a break with this guy.”

“I have a zero-social life and a wife whom I see on average two hours a day.”

“I don’t remember the last time I came home in daylight!”

“Why is this happening to me?”

Daily, it takes conscious effort at his end to gather himself up for another brutal day at work. So, we discussed strategies and scenarios to identify his boss’s behavior to a condition, disease, something to make dealings with him tolerable. Yes, I know; why not go for another job? He is actively looking, but till he gets something, he is stuck! So, the possible theories we came up with to justify the boss’s behavior included;

He has mood swings.

He has mood swings and probably drinks.

He thrives under pressure and aims to keep others on the same frequency.

He just plain hates him.

He is a bully and a genuinely unpleasant person.

This is his screwed-up way of motivating.

Over the period of few months, we tried justifying and dictating my husband’s dealings following the above parameter. The result is, he still hates is job and his boss is most definitely a bully and a verbal abuser.

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The reason I decided to identify and address this issue is because I recently learned that statistics show that irrespective of region and profession, majority of us have current or past direct experience of verbal abuse (mostly abusive conduct includes threatening, intimidating and humiliation). However, mostly people tend to rationalize, endorse and in most cases, deny or disregard such occurrences by sweeping them under the rug. And as expected, verbal abuse is above gender bias, so no one is safe! This approach of “mine to command and control” is severely affecting the short-term efficiency of students, assistants, employees and such, and in long term, it is inducing bitterness, loss of self-worth and an innate hatred towards people in the higher hierarchy, thus making work place a living hell for all. In my opinion, this is the result of constant negligence on behalf of the administration and a lack of a reasonable “check and balance” at workplace. The bosses get away with verbal abuse because they think they can, an idea implanted in them by the administration itself.

The slogan, “Everyone is in it, so what’s your problem?” is not working anymore.

Curse of the luggage

Me      •         Airports       •         Luggage

Let me start by saying, I love to travel. The idea of exploring new places and cultures excites me to no extent. However, my years of traveling has brought from within me an innate hatred towards the airports treatment of my “check-in” luggage.

Here is how it all began; the very first time, I travelled internationally, my luggage was delayed. I received it after 24 hours. Traveling to a new country and I don’t even have a change of clothes! Words can’t describe my fear and feelings.

From then on, I think I gained the status of “favorite toy” of the primary luggage gods and on some occasions, the airport gods.

The next time I travelled, our pilot declared technical issue just before take-off. As a result, we stayed in the plane for two hours. And on occasion, they had to completely turn off the plane, so no light and fresh air.

Interestingly, the next few years allowed me to travel largely nationally, and in those trips, I remained incident proof. So, I guess my favorite toy status was limited to international flights only.

Once upon a time, travel destination Asia, my check-in and carry-on luggage stars collided and shook my travel mood once again. Of course, as an experienced traveler, I know the weight and size constraints of my carry-on luggage, but also as an experienced traveler I know almost never, it is put to test in terms of size. So, this one time I had gotten carried away, and stuffed a lot of things in my carry-on. And of course, it had to be that time the airline staff made me put my bag in one of those carry-on size measure bins near ticketing. I had two choices; take out stuff to fit the bin or check the bag. I tried my best to get stuff from carry-on to put in my shoulder bag (my larger bags were already checked and submitted), but no dice, so I just spent $140 and checked in my carry-on.

Other small level infractions include, squashing of my luggage, which led to me parting ways with a delicate, perfume bottle and a wooden box with intricate painting of cherry blossoms in a Japanese theme. And here is a fun fact, I had them stick on it the “fragile” sticker and right in front of me, the attended helping the lady on the ticketing counter, tossed it on the conveyer belt! Wheeeee…. went my fragile luggage.

Next destination Europe!

Guess what, I ended up traveling with a bag with no wheels! Come on, me, my family, no one figured this out, even when my brother had to drag the bag from the house to the car. It just didn’t register, a.k.a. the luggage gods had completely shut down that part of our brain. So, imagine my shock, I land in Europe with an approximate 50 lbs of weight, drag yes, carry, hell no! Here is the other cool bit of information; the other bag, its handle was broken. I hope the airport workers had fun tossing my luggage. No more, sliding out the handle to wheel the bag away in peace. I cannot revisit in writing, the amount of pushing, dragging, tossing, turning and at some point, kicking, I had to do to move, slide in, and slide out the bag on & off the trolley and later, on & off the train.  Thank God, people were picking me up at my final destination, so at least they could carry the wheel-less bag between the two of them and I was stuck with awkwardly wheeling the handless-bag.

The next few times, I traveled within Europe, gave me mixed experiences. Maybe the gods were confused, as to travel within Europe should be considered a regional like trip or an international one. The times, I was traveling light, just a carry-on, I had drama free travel. The time, I checked-in my luggage, my favorite hard shell magenta colored bag, that depending on occasion could be used both as a carry-on and with the extra zip as check-in, came back to me, with one wheel ripped off! I swear, it seemed like someone hated that particular wheel and just tore it out.

However, my unlucky stars were back to their original axis the next time I travelled internationally (outside Europe). First, I have lost count of the times I weighted and re-weighted my bags to make sure I know exactly how much each bag overweighs, so that I can estimate the over-weight fee properly. But naturally, the minute I put them on the scale at the ticketing booth, my world went off its axis. Because, the final weight was not even in the same galaxy of my estimate, I ended up paying a fee almost1/3 of the ticket cost, for the additional luggage. As if that was not enough, when I reached North America, my luggage, all three checked-in bags were misplaced! Thank God, they were delivered the next day at my house. In the meantime, the attendant at the lost/misplaced luggage booth, gave me a one night survival kit. A 5 by 4-inch black baggie, the contents were a small tooth brush and paste (the size of my finger), a wet tissue, lotion and a deodorant stick.

After all is said and done, I am not giving up, although, I do hope the luggage and airport gods give up on me. I shall strive to realize a luggage-incident-proof trip for as long as I shall live.

To be continued…

Please, don’t hesitate to leave sympathetic comments or share your luggage abuse story

 

 

Magic: a step away

Snippets of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts: My journey to Oxford and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The welcome Staircase and the Great Hall at Hogwarts

Welcome to Hogwarts” said Professor McGonagall, when she welcomed the young wizards in HP and The Sorcerer’s Stone from the top of a stairwell. This particular stairwell lies in the Christ Church College (the only college in the world which is also a cathedral) at University of Oxford, Oxford, England (top left). The roof over the stair case is done in Gothic style, showcasing the Christ Church college, coat of arms (top right).

The stairwell leads to the college dining hall; entrance to the dining hall can be seen in the movie, the door behind professor McGonagall, when she is addressing the 1st year students from the top of the stairwell. The idea behind the Great Hall in HP movies was taken from this dining room (bottom). The Great Hall scenes in the movies were filmed in the studio, developed from the inspiration acquired from this dining hall. If this place is on your lists to explore in the future, plan to allot extra time, since there is always a queue; after all, there are a lot of Harry Potter enthusiasts!

HP Great Hall

Let’s go slightly off topic, and explore the surroundings of the Church college. The College has a beautiful meadow attached to it (top left) extensive indoor landscape (top right) and of course the beautiful cathedral (bottom).

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Diary entry: A pure kiss

 

She was going to get her first swimming lesson!

She was so excited and wanted to jump up and down like a two-year-old. Her instructor was her best friend and secret crush, whom she had put in the best friend category for safe keeping. He was a gorgeous five foot eleven inches’ specimen, with arm curls, just shy of a toned chest, muscled legs with not an ounce of fat and a perfect butt. Here’s the kicker, being an introvert-in-denial type, she did not see through the Grand Canyon size hole in her plan of using him as her instructor. Which lead to her belatedly realizing that he was one sneaky puppy and her one-sided lust was so not one sided:)

They were going to drive to the beautiful, family friendly spring, north of the city. She decided on a casual chic outfit, her cutest red crop top, with a sequenced heart on the chest paired with her water resistant black capris. Last minute she decided to wear her brand-spanking-new pink leopard print one piece backless bathing suit, under the said outfit. She bought and wore the bathing suit knowing no-way-in-hell she will be wearing that only! She was five foot five, with curves at all the right places and was never comfortable with showing off too much skin. Her comfort zone would max out at sleeveless top and capris. So, the decision to wear swimming suit under the outfit she was going to swim in was just bizarre at best.

As they made the trip down the spring (a downhill walk from the parking area), she realized it was the perfect day for swimming; a slightly hot day with a light breeze and happy families everywhere.

Although she denied it repeatedly but she always looked forward to these trips and outings with him. He was an easy-going person, always paying attention and managed to make her feel special and exotic with small gestures and looks. She knew he liked her beyond a friend, if his birthday present from her “dress up for me, please” and his plan of her birthday party were any indicators. But her system continued to reject the notion and swept it under the rug as friendly gestures.

They left their phones and shoes in the car and only had a tote with the towels and flip-flops. When they reached the water, he took off his shirt and jumped in first, while she sat on the side with her legs dangling in the water. The water around her feet was crisp yet warm and she was enjoying playing with the water. He was standing near her dangling legs and was explaining her the few steps they will try today. He really looked good without a shirt, scattered hair on his chest, the low hanging swimming trunks. A silent sigh escaped her lips but was immediately forgotten when he took her hand and pulled her in water. She immediately went under the surface but he quickly pulled her out, holding her by her elbows. He helped her float on the water on her stomach, and taught her how to move her arms and legs to move forward. They did this for a while; he was an excellent teacher she thought, patient and caring. This was way better than her earlier attempt with her friends; they took her to the pool, made her stand on the shallow end and nudged her to go forward and told her to swim! She was definitely not going back to that travesty.

swim.png

The next step, was a little hard, holding breath under water. He held out his arms, the man had some seriously sculpted arms. His hands anchored at her waist and told her to dunk herself, hold her breath and come up when she needed to breath. She loved water and under the warmth of the sun with the contrasting coolness of the water and his hand on her waist, she was enjoying this exercise immensely. After a while she decided she needed a break, so once again she deposited herself on the side with legs dangling in the water and told him to go enjoy and do some grownup swimming.

With the most adorable smile he asked her if she was sure, he didn’t want to leave her alone and could stay with her. But she told him to go and enjoy the water. He told her he will be back shortly and with strong powerful strokes started moving towards the opposite end of the water area. He really enjoys swimming, one could tell by the sheer force of his strokes and the megawatt smile he sent her from the other end. He did some fancy dunking and flips that were way off her league but they sure were fun to watch. After a while he came back and taking her hands moved her to the middle of the water. This time he told her to combine the exercises they did and try to move forward with hand and leg strokes. She was immediately excited and petrified but he gently took her arm and assured her he will be with her every second.

Later at night she thought why she believed his words. Yes, he had been a perfect gentleman, a little naughty but respectful. But she realized she trusted him completely and she was not one to trust easily.

He helped her flip on her stomach and she experimented moving her arms and legs first using the butterfly stroke and then in the forward one, while he reassuringly kept an arm on her belly. She was soon moving around on her own and although she could propel herself forward, she was doing it in a completely free style way, with no synchronization what so ever. She would move her arms but realize she forgot to move her legs, she will move her legs but then become conscious because she felt her butt was raised above water and so on.

She kept fumbling around with her own style and not once he made a face or criticized her. He was beaming with every stroke she made and encouraged her consistently. It was the triumph and confidence in his eyes that kept her following the steps repeatedly. After a while she had to stop because her arms started to hurt and they decided to wrap up for the day. Although, she was not happy to leave the water, she was definitely jumping with joy in her head over her first lesson. She got out of the water to dry herself while he went back for one quick swim.

kiss

The look on her face was of pure bliss and excitement. She knew she made the right decision in asking him to teach her swimming. Throughout the time, they were in the water, he was just perfect, handling her with care and showering her with praises and cheers. Afterwards they went to the restrooms to change into dry clothes and decided that they should head home to change before they go for dinner. He picked her up from her apartment and they drove to his apartment because he had to pick a last-minute thing.

He parked in front of his building and asked her to close her eyes. She was very surprised with the request and asked “why?”, but he did not answer and just insisted that she does so. His request and insistence had made her curious so she closed her eyes and impatiently asked “now what?”. A bare second later she felt his lips touch hers, in the softest and sweetest manner ever. Her brain lost all coherent thoughts and next thing she heard was “be right back” and he was out of the car. While she sat frozen in the passenger set her brain yelled, he kissed me! He kissed ME! That was the only mantra revolving in her head, till he came back.


Epilogue 

Days later, they were out for a stroll, he dropped another bombshell. They were walking away from the mall, towards the car and he suddenly said, “you have a beautiful back, it’s very sexy”, shocked, she replied, “when did you see my back?” He asked her if she remembered the day they went to the spring for swimming, she said she did. He told her when she was doing the floating exercise, her top was pushed up because of the water flow and he saw her back. If she was the blushing type she would have turned pink to her roots on that statement. Instead she smiled and told him “you are so bad” and his response was the naughty smile, she had come to adore.