Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mom and Dad do Convention

Cool Party Dad got us in thanks to Don's nephew
CNN Diner Lunch thanks to David! 
Mom & Dad in fancy lounge with front row seats having a beer 
On the Floor with the Delegates, These two are Super VIP! 
Near press stage on Floor of Convention 
Mom and Dad came to Charlotte to see me while I worked the Convention, again. I was so happy to be able to show them what I was doing. Although they were only there for 24 hours, they sure made the most of it! The first night, they did the Podium Preview at the Hall with all the VIPS. This is where they were able to get on the floor and then to the Podium to have their pictures taken. That night, Dad got us into a cool party at the NC Music Factory thanks to Don! It was a blast and so great to be able to finally relax a bit and have a drink after so many intense days of work. 

The next day, they were up and out early to a campaign briefing, lunch at the CNN Diner- thanks to David, and then to the Convention Hall for the opening night. They had special passes to go to a VIP lounge, got front row seats and had a beverage while listening to the speakers. Before they left, they received the coveted floor passes and were able to walk anywhere they pleased. Before I knew it, they were off again! 

I think I know where I get the stamina to do the whirlwind tours that I do, I learned from the pros :) 

NYC on 9/11

This year, I happened to be in NYC on September 11. I decided to go for a morning run down to the memorial to pay respect. On my run, I came along this crosswalk painted as a flag with this reminder:

Whirlwind Brazil

Nicholas lived in Brazil exactly 10 years ago and he has been wanting to show the country to me since we met. It has taken almost 8 years, but we finally had a reason to go! Murillo and Renata got married in a beautiful town in the south of Brazil. Nicholas mentioned a few times that it is where Giselle Bundchen and every other beautiful Brazilian model comes from. So the trip was going to be planned around the wedding and also to see a bit of the country.

Nicholas knew of a Brazilian pass- a ticket you can buy and fly to up to 5 cities for one price. He was determined to show me as much of the country as we could cram in one week. I was less than thrilled to try to see that much. It was already going to be a long flight to get there and get home, so spending practically every day on a plane while there was not entirely appealing to me. Although we did make it to 5 cities, we only had to take a plane 4 times... so I guess we compromised :)

We spent the first day in the financial powerhouse of Brazil, and Latin America, Sao Paulo. Murillo left his keys with the doorman and we were able to stay in his home for our first night. The first order of business once we dropped our bags and showered was to have a typical Brazilian lunch. Nicholas got recommendations from many friends on restaurants- he knows how I like to travel- by tasting my way through new places :) Nicholas told me we had to have a buffet lunch, which I thought was strange because I correlate buffets with casinos and always consider the food to be horrible. How wrong I was. This was one of the best lunches I have ever had. The food was so fresh and elegantly presented. Lots of vegetables, fish and salads. We explored a bit of the city, did some window shopping and called it an early night due to jetlag and the impending call of our alarm for our next early morning flight.

The next day we awoke before the sun was even hinting at rising and heading back to the airport less than 24 hrs since we arrived. From there, we flew down to Florianopolis and met another IMDer, Roberto! We picked up our rental car and headed to Tubarao to meet with the rest of the IMD crew for a lunch with the groom before the wedding. It was a gorgeous 2 hour drive through the state of Santa Cantarina and then we had one of the largest meals of my life. It was great to see everyone, especially my Carolina!
The happy couple
The IMD table :) 
The guys serenading Rafa to "Dancing Queen" 
We did a quick run to the beach, even though it is not summer yet and the south is still quite cool and then quickly got ready for the wedding. The ceremony was really nice, with spectacular music and interesting traditions. From there, we went to the reception and spent the rest of the night laughing, eating and toasting the new couple. I definitely had extremely sore feet from the hours and hours of dancing, but this will go down as one of the best weddings, if not one of the best nights in a very long time!
Lake in Floripa
The next day, we drove our dear Rafa and his Marie back to Floripa with us and went to the beautiful lake in the region to have a late lunch of secuencia de camarao and enjoy the view. The next day, Nicholas and I boarded another early morning flight, this time the destination was Rio!! This was the place I was most looking forward to seeing and I was far from disappointed!
Rio is a gorgeous city, so lush with greenery and tropical plants. The weather was warm, if not hot, and I just couldn't stop drinking in the beautiful scenery. We spent the first day doing a lot of walking- first to check out both Ipanema and Copacabana and then at night, we met up with Graziella and her husband for a gourmet tropical meal. Then, we continued with them to meet up with a friend of Nicholas' for drinks. The next day we went to see the Christ Redeemer and a panoramic view of the city. It was so fun to be with Nicholas and have him give me the history and tour of the city. Pointing out the places he lived, where he used to have breakfast, drinks, meet friends, etc. We had such a blast. That night, we went to a spectacular dinner high in the city with a breathtaking view. One of his IMD classmates joined us and from there we went to Lapa for caipirinhas and dancing.
Ipanema sunset
Awesome band at bar in Lapa
Coco on Ipanema beach
Strolling along Ipanema
First, of many, acai in Brazil 
The next day I tried to soak in as much as I could of the culture, by finally spending the day at the beach of Ipanema. A must for anyone visiting the city. It is an experience in itself. We watched different groups play foot-volleyball, went into the icy water to cool off from the heat, drank some coconuts and beer, and were entertained by the endless stream of vendors.
Streets in Salvador
Famous elevator
Sunset in Salvador
Beach near the turtles 
30 yrs old and learning how to eat crabs
That night, we boarded our 2nd to last flight to Salvador, a city even further north which is known for its laidback and relaxed culture. It is quite a poor city compared to the 4 other places we had been to but it was also very beautiful and colorful. I drank some coconut lime juice which was my version of heaven on earth and enjoyed seeing the old city and eating more seafood. Here, it is famous for moqueca, a type of seafood stew that reminded me of curry. The next day we took a day trip to a famous beach and turtle reserve where we were able to see the large turtles of Brazil and other marine life. By the time we got back, we ran out to have our last dinner (more moqueca for Nicko and crabs for me!) before heading back early the next morning for Sao Paulo and then Seoul.

It was a whirlwind experience but am so grateful we were able to have this adventure and celebrate our friends!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back and lovin' it!

I have been gone exactly a month and Korea is as great as I remember! After traveling to the US to do some work and then to Brazil to attend one of the most beautiful weddings I have been to, it is wonderful to be back home.

I wasn't so sure about how I would feel once I got back, truth be told. I thought that maybe after being gone I would have gotten over my love affair with the Koreans and Seoul, and would find myself in a funk. Au contraire!

Upon arrival to Incheon yesterday afternoon, I immediately felt at home. The airport was gleaming in the afternoon sun. Everything was immaculately clean. All the efficiencies I loved, were still in place. My plane touched down at 3pm, almost on the dot. By the time I got through immigration, baggage claim, customs, bought my ticket and boarded my bus home less than 40 minutes had past! Love it!

Once home, the only bug was that I could not remember the code to get in my building. Of course, one of the maintenance men saw me and let me in and in no time I was unpacking and organizing for the week.

My only other concern from being gone was that all the effort I had put into studying Korean would be lost. I am happy to report that, although I need to put in some hours reviewing vocabulary, my first class back was a success! It is only 2:30pm here, but I have already had Korean twice today; for breakfast and lunch!! Took me 24 hours, but I finally had some kimchi :)

Life is good!