Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Art of Travel

Hello all!

I'm Reading this really great novel called The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. The beginning of the book discusses a character from the novel,
 des Esseintes, who wondered why he should suffer all the indignities of travel, when he could simply stay in the luxury of his own home and look at a painting that depicted his desired destination.

Hmmmm,  he does have a point.  Let's see; the stress of deciding what would be an essential outfit for the exact locale you are traveling to or if you could do without that super flattering scoop neck black top for a few weeks; trying to fit all 15 pairs of shoes you are positive you will need into your allotted luggage amount. Of course, at the time this book was written, only the wealthy could travel, and people were only limited by the amount in their bank account.  So he had about 15 steamer trunks for his trip! I imagine an unlimited amount of luggage comes with it's own challenges though. The character also hated the hassle of actually getting to where you wanted to be... 

"He thought how wearing it would be actually to make the journey-how he would have to run to the station,  fight for a porter, board the train, endure an unfamiliar bed, stand in lines,  feel cold and move his fragile frame around the sights...-and thus soil his dreams: 'What was the good of moving when a person could travel so wonderfully sitting in a chair?  What could he expect to find over there except fresh disappointments?"

Sometimes, in the midst of a very trying trip, it does seem easier to imagine sitting on your own sofa with your feet up and an ice coffee in your hand starring at a beautiful rendition of Thailand.

Village Beach by Thai artist

But, of course, if we never left our sofas, we'd never experience the excitement and anticipation of preparing for a trip, the unique viewpoint of staring out the airplane window down upon the clouds,  the actual joy received from interacting with people from a culture you've never met before. Learning first hand some of the quirks unique to that culture and trying to learn the best curse words in their native language. We also would not understand that even the air in a different country is, well, different. 

So while, des Esseintes may enjoy the confines of his soft arm chair to the joy of actual travel, there's no way I don't want to get out there and smell the air over there, wherever there might be!  Here's a few pics of my travels!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge - Monument

Tamarkan, Thailand; The Bridge On the River Kwai

I went to Thailand in December 2010 and went on a train tour that included the Bridge on the River Kwai.  I was so excited!  A piece of history!  But also a little scared because the train I was on went over this bridge that was built in 1942!  This particular bridge was rebuilt since then, but still.

I couldn't pick just one picture so here's two!

Here's a little history about the bridge!

Begun in October 1942, using prisoner of war (POW) labour, it was completed and operational by early February 1943.

 "Throughout history, engineers have done much bigger, much grander, much longer, on a one-time basis. What makes this an engineering feat is the totality of it,. . . the total number of people who were involved (one-quarter of a million), the very short time in which they managed to accomplish it, and the extreme conditions they accomplished it under. They had very little transportation to get stuff to and from the workers, they had almost no medication, they couldn't get food let alone materials, they had no tools to work with except for basic things like spades and hammers, and they worked in extremely difficult conditions -- in the jungle with its heat and humidity. All of that makes this railway an extraordinary accomplishment."

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Amazing Adventures.....of a server!

Hi folks!

Well, as I am desperately waiting for my golden ticket to the UAE to arrive (please, please, I'm all packed, even my shoes!), I decided to supplement my fast dwindling funds with a part time job.  Now, for whatever reason, I have always wanted to be a waitress.  You get to help people, you get some laughs with some folks you'll hopefully never see again, you might even be able to spit in someones food or make their beverage unnaturally hot on purpose! What's not to like?! Having never worked in the restaurant world previously, however, it is amazingly difficult to break into these coveted positions.  But I did!  See my amazing cover letter that landed me a job below!  Since this is my first job as a waitress, I'm really just a busser/server.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it means I clean the tables after you finish your lovely meal and dump all the contents into their individually separate receptacles: compost, recyclable, trash, glasses, plates, silver.  I also deliver your freshly cooked, all natural and organic meals right to your table with a nice, "enjoy your meal!".

So, I was soooo excited to get the phone call inviting me for an interview! I mean, really excited.  I had a whole list of things I planned to say and questions I planned to ask... which never passed my lips.  The general manager basically talked about the position and his plans for the restaurant for 10 minutes then said, "can you start tomorrow?".  Egh, I'm fine with that.

Having never worked in a restaurant, I was all set to inspect this establishment Kitchen Nightmares style!  I looked at the ceilings and the floors, in the corners under the tables, at the backs of chairs and under the tables, in the refrigerator, in the stove top, under the kitchen counters, at the ketchup bottles and the drink dispenser.  And I am pretty pleased to say, my little cafe passed inspection!  It's actually quite a lovely little place complete with a kids play area in the back.

Now, what I expected from this job was to chat up a bunch of yuppies and bring their caffe au lait's to their tables.  Smile at their grubby faced, sticky fingered kids, make sure they had everything they needed to enjoy their meal and to check back with their table in case they missed some necessary essential like ketchup or lemon.  And to learn a whole 50 + item menu by heart!

What I did NOT expect: to have to carry and empty a disgustingly sticky and ketchupee compost bin as tall as my waist outside the restaurant; to walk up a rickety, deathly steep ladder with only ONE hand rail to the supply loft; and to have to carry 12 bottles of water, 6 cans of coke, diet coke, and sprite, 6 vitamin waters, 6 coconut waters, 12 raspberry spritzers, 6 bottles of pellegrino, 12 bottles of perrier, 3 boxes of tea, and an assortment of take out boxes, down said rickety, deathly steep ladder with only ONE hand rail!!  To have 20 something year olds questioning if I know where things go every 2 hours for 6 days (jeesh guys, it ain't rocket science!); to drop someones eggs benedict all over my starched black trousers (this only happened ONCE thank goodness); to have the extensive spanish speaking kitchen staff hit on me in spanish ( this was actually quite a nice little surpirse!); to give someone's order to the wrong table and to have said wrong table eat it (this happened twice!!); to have to stand, on my shockingly thin ankles in sneakers with no cusiony insoles for 6, 8, and 9 hours a day, minus my 30 minute break!  I mean, is the human body meant to endure and withstand such dire straights?!  Apparently, it hurts to be of the slightly more rotund stature, like myself, in this particular profession.  I mean, really guys, my dogs be killing at the end of my shift!  I can barely walk to the car!

So, needless to say, although I went into this new part time career choice with the rosiest of glasses perched on my face, they have since become mired in the muck of the compost bin!  The faster that golden plane ticket comes, the happier my extremely tired and swollen ankles will be! (ps: the above picture is of course NOT my feet! lol)

Here's my amazingly awesome cover letter, I'm pretty proud of this thing, pretty proud!  Hey, got me a job first time out!

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Ayanna and I love to eat out! I love all kinds of food and several nights a week find me and my family dining in a restaurant. As a frequent restaurant diner, I know exactly what kind of service I expect and appreciate. I appreciate being greeted upon arrival with a smile and being seated promptly. I appreciate being greeted by my server with a smile, their name and asked if I would like a beverage or water. I appreciate when the beverages are returned promptly to my table and the server says she/he will give us a few more minutes with the menu and they will be back to take our order; I appreciate my order being taken with a smile and repeated to me for accuracy. When the food arrives, I appreciate being asked if I need anything else; after I have had a few minutes to admire and take stock of my yummy food, I appreciate when the server returns to the table and asks if there is anything more she/he can get for me. This part is crucial! It is at this point that I realize I need ketchup or a knife, a new napkin or some butter. It is at this point that I find I ordered the wrong thing and would like to add or change something, and I appreciate when the server does everything they can to accommodate me. This is the type of service I appreciate and expect as a diner, and this is the type of service I would bring to your restaurant as a server. I believe that customer service is the key to success for any business, especially restaurants. And a server has the responsibility of representing your establishment in the best light possible. As a part of your wait staff, I would take this responsibility seriously and make every effort to provide a truly wonderful dining experience that people would want to come back and experience again!

Although, this is my first attempt in the restaurant world, I have many things that would make me your perfect new employee! First is my commitment to provide customers with the best possible service. I have a positive attitude and a sunny outlook on life that would make all of my customers enjoy their dining experience. I am also a very fast learner, wonderful to work with, and a dedicated hard worker! And most importantly, I know how to provide good, quality customer service.

I would love the opportunity to meet you and show you all of my wonderful skills in person! Please give me the chance to show you what a great employee someone who eats out all the time can be!

Kind Regards,


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hello ladies and gents!

So last weekend, we didn't get to see the murals in the mission, but we did go out to the Palace of Fine Arts and to the pier underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was great!  San Francisco is so beautiful, I love it!  We hung out at the pillars around the Palace with the tourists.  And for some reason, there were a ton of them with cameras and children in tow.  Then we spent a minute with the fishermen at the pier.  I think they just hang out down there to have a quiet place to drink beer where the cops won't harass them!  They were using raw chicken breasts and catching crabs! Amazing!  Amazing because who could have thought you could catch crab so close to shore?! And a seal showed up to try to steal their catch!  Then we watched some helicopters escort a plane over the Golden Gate bridge.  I was wondering if it was from a foreign country with some important diplomats on board or maybe the plane was carrying a criminal on board and they wanted to make sure he didn't escape in the best city in California, San Francisco!  We ended the day with a rainbow! It was fun, I love during touristy things.  To bad we can't get rid of the tourists though!