culture · international

Harry, Meghan and Oprah – My Thoughts

Happy Tuesday, friends! Most of the online spaces I frequent are buzzing after the bombshell interview that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, had with the queen of American media, Oprah Winfrey.

You all know I had to write my thoughts on the interview. There were too many lessons for me to keep silent. I’m breaking down some of my favorite takeaways from the discussion.

  • Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready.

Meghan was not given the opportunity to receive royal protocol training. However, Meghan quickly schooled herself enough (with the help of Harry) to pass the protocol tests with flying colors.

I’m certain that she had no idea that she would be under so much scrutiny, but as an actress, she knows that being flexible and adjusting quickly to change and unexpected circumstances is key. So, she learned what she needed to know and performed beautifully. If she had waited for the training to be offered to her, she would have failed miserably at impressing the Queen as well as the public. One of the things Meghan mentions as a regret was not being more informed about the role of “working royal”. So, if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s this: stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Prepare yourself as much as you can for each new circumstance, so when life throws you a curve ball, you can knock it out of the park.

  • Always have your own bag.

The Sussexes are not receiving any security or other financial support from the British royal family (BRF). For this reason, having your own “bag” (money) is key. The move from working royal to private citizen is challenging enough, but doing it with no money is impossible. Likewise, no matter what situation life finds you in, remember to save for a rainy day and always have your own “bag”, so you will have the freedom to walk away from anything that doesn’t serve you.

  • Legacy planning can save your life, as well as the life of your children, grandchildren, etc.,.

Part of the money being used to support the Sussexes is Harry’s inheritance from his mother, Princess Diana. Legacy planning isn’t always easy, but some measure of it is always feasible. Even if you can’t leave your children millions of dollars, strive to leave them something of value. That money may be just what they need to escape a dangerous situation in the future. Legacy planning is a literal lifesaver, and should be prioritized by everyone (but especially those among us that have children).

  • Prioritize your mental health.

The most heartbreaking thing about this interview was Meghan’s description of her suicidal thoughts. Whatever you do, always make sure to prioritize your mental health. Find the resources to help you to cope NOW. Many resources are available online for free, so you don’t have to be wealthy to get some measure of help. Take care of your mental health: your life depends on it.

  • Sometimes, the best way to win the game is to walk away from the table.

In light of this interview, it’s clear that Harry and Meghan made the best choice for their family. Their faces are obviously pained, but there is a peace still emanating from both of them. They won this game simply by opting out. They have endeared themselves even further to those of us that believe them and want them to be happy and safe. I, for one, am thrilled that they are forging this new path for themselves. They are sharing their story so that the world will know the truth. All of the world is watching, sending them positive energy, and hoping that they remain safe.

I wrote previously about what it means to step away from royal duties, and I’m glad that I watched this interview and got an even better sense of what this entails. I am so proud of Harry and Meghan, and I feel very optimistic about their future. I foresee nothing but success and happiness for them!

career · culture · international

Back in School

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all are doing well, and I also hope that you all had a restful and restorative weekend.

I’ve been busy behind the scenes (as I noted in this previous post), but I wanted to make sure that I shared additional details about what I’ve been working on. I recently was accepted into a certificate program, so I’ll be attending Cornell University for the next several months (that was the entrepreneur training I mentioned previously). I don’t anticipate that this will interfere with my posting schedule, but that remains to be seen.

At this point, I’m adjusting my schedule so that I can (fingers crossed) have enough time to do everything that I need to do. I’m getting back to using one of my old favorites: a planner than maps out your day, hour by hour. That way, I can stay on top of all of the things I need to do daily, and if I need to shift things around, at least I’m less likely to skip a task that desperately needs to be done.

Along with these Cornell courses, I’m taking two free courses on FutureLearn. The first course is Unleash Your Potential: Global Citizenship, focusing on the different opportunities that arise from being a global citizen. The second course is What is International Development (the title is self explanatory). These courses aren’t as intense as my Cornell schedule, so I’m fitting them into 30 minute chunks every day.

Between my classes, my job, and my writing, I am BUSY! But honestly, I love it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to do all of these things. I have some big goals which means I have to take some drastic action this year. There’s no time like the present to work on everything I want to do, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more musings, because this recent Harry and Meghan interview has my mind churning! Talk to you all soon.

culture · international · life curation

Embracing The Year of the Ox

We recently saw the beginning of a brand new Lunar Year on February 12th. Somehow, I was a bit late this year, and I didn’t realize that the Lunar New Year occurred until two days after.

What can I say? It’s been a challenging year for all of us, and if I miss a couple of holidays, it’s only because this year has done a number on most of us.

Anyway, back to the Lunar New Year. I thought of the significance of this year’s animal, the ox. I reflected back on the last lunar year, the year of the rat. I think of mice and rats, and how these animals, while indicative of abundance (they are always in places with adequate food supply), can overconsume and leave desolation where abundance used to reside. I think the year of the rat, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a collective wake-up call. We are abundant, but, as a society, we have taken too much from nature, and balance must be restored.

Enter the year of the ox. This hardworking beast of burden only consumes what it needs to sustain itself, and it’s purpose for existing is to produce through manual efforts. Unlike rats, whose body waste is toxic and often spreads disease, oxen are useful all the way down to their fecal matter, which can fertilize and restore balance to the soil. The ox is sturdy, reliable, and work-oriented. It is the animal that’s most representative of the attitude we need in these times.

I think this year will be a year of restoration and balance. Life will get back to normal, more or less, but what is considered baseline normal has changed. We’ve had roughly one year to stay close to home, spend more time doing domestic activities, and to closely examine what matters to us. Now, we have our work to do.

It’s time for us to produce. We’ve been incubating our skills and talents during lockdowns and quarantines: now is the time to put out into the world what we’ve been creating during our downtime. And yes, I understand that many of us were too stressed and otherwise limited to “create” in the traditional sense. But, our creations need not be tangible: they can be our musings, creative nudges or even inklings of necessary change in our personal lives or in society. We have all created “something” in the past year: now it’s time to unleash it.

May the year of the ox give you great favor and lead you closer to a wonderful existence.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

culture · international · life curation

What Stepping Away From Royal Duties REALLY Means

Happy Monday, friends! I don’t know about you all, but the past few days have been wonderful. The weather is becoming milder here on the East Coast, and COVID-19 seems to be FINALLY decreasing. Let’s hope that these good things continue!

Recently, I read Buckingham Palace’s statement on Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan and their decision to step away from royal duties. As a result of this decision, they will be stripped of their royal patronages. This could not have been easy for the Sussexes, as they have made service a crucial theme in their personal and professional lives. In particular, I think of Prince Harry, who, as a result of this decision to step away, will have his honorary military titles removed. This must have been a very painful outcome for this proud veteran, who dutifully served the Crown for ten years.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (Photo as shown on People Magazine [Karwai Tang/WireImage])

As painful as it must be, I am so happy for and proud of this couple. There is far more at stake with this decision that simply losing titles and patronages. The decision to step away from royal duties is the decision to forge a brand new path. No one so close to the Crown has opted to become a private citizen since Edward VIII, and we all know how much of a crisis that caused. This is truly untrodden ground, as the world that we know today is quite different from the one occupied by Edward VIII and his beloved, Wallis Simpson.

The decision to step away, closing the door leading to life as a royal, has opened a myriad other doors for the couple. Walking away made it possible for them to create Archewell, a revolutionary media company that will distribute the content that the Sussexes want to bring into the world. The Archewell umbrella will also allow them to support causes that are near and dear, and will allow them to influence people in ways that they feel are most impactful, without the limitations imposed upon royals. Stepping away from royal duties will allow the Sussexes to step into serving on their terms.

Ultimately, this is what the couple truly wants to be known for: service that matters to them, and done in the way that they feel will do the most good. The Sussexes demonstrated this almost immediately after the Buckingham Palace statement was released, by supporting a Dallas woman’s shelter that was badly damaged by the devastating winter storms that slammed Texas last week. The unexpected act of kindness is the first public contribution made by the Archewell Foundation, and is likely a small preview of the many charitable acts that we can expect from Harry and Meghan in the future.

This entire discussion brings to mind the famous poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. The poem references how the speaker, considering two paths, “kept the first for another day”, but he also knew well, “how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back”. I doubt that the Sussexes will ever decide to rejoin the royal family in the capacity that was expected of them, but their decision to step away is undoubtedly a choice full of promise and potential. They can make a bigger impact in the way that they see fit, and they can author a spectacular story that starkly contrasts anything that royal life could offer, yet remains true to them. That, I believe, is why they chose to step away, and that, to paraphrase Frost, will make all the difference.

culture · food · international

Snack Review: Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

While quarantined, I haven’t been enjoying takeout as much as I used to. However, I still enjoy trying new foods, especially snacks. So when I saw this food that combines two of my favorite snacks – spring rolls and Thai mango and sticky rice – I couldn’t resist. I had to try it!

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Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls were easy to prepare. The rolls had a crispy exterior after baking, and I was excited at how the texture of the baked spring roll was similar to a fried roll. I was concerned that the roll would be a tad bit soggy, but it was crispy, crunchy and delicious.

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A perfectly crisp spring roll

Now, when it comes to the filling . . . Let me qualify this by saying I’ve had many different mango and sticky rice desserts. I’ve eaten at over a dozen different Thai restaurants in different cities and I usually have my mango and sticky rice at each one. So, I feel really comfortable saying that I know what the dessert should taste like. This interior was not as tasty as I’d hoped. It was especially chewy, and the mango flavoring wasn’t as prominent as I’d like. So the filling wasn’t as delightful as the exterior, unfortunately.

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The interior wasn’t as tasty as I hoped

Here’s the rub: I was looking forward to the filling more than the outside, yet the outside was the best part of the snack. But, I don’t think that this product is a complete fail: in fact, I can think of a few ways that it can be improved. First, the company should tinker with the rice recipe to see how to prevent the rice from getting too “tough” when baking. Also, a little more mango would be wonderful. Finally, this needs COCONUT SAUCE! These rolls practically begged to be dipped into a creamy, sweetened coconut sauce to amp up the flavor and to add a contrast to the crisp exterior.

Would I try this again? Sure, especially if I had my own coconut sauce (or if the company started including sauce with the rolls). I’d be sure to have some additional mango to accompany these rolls, too.

Have any of you tried these before? Or, do you have another Thai dessert that you prefer? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

art · culture · international · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 1

I shared some photos of my trip to China almost two years ago (to the date!) on this blog. I remember this trip fondly and I can’t wait to return when international travel is an option again. Until then, here are some photos that I haven’t shared before. These are all from Beijing: I’ll add pictures from Hangzhou and Shanghai in a separate post. Enjoy!

Meal I enjoyed at a local mall: one of the best veggie curries I’ve ever had!

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A quick snap at The Forbidden City

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The Great Wall

Local shopping district: I visited Plastered8 t-shirt shop and found some cool stuff

Yum!

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Spots of beauty everywhere

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Cute bib from Haidilao restaurant (their hotpot was superb!)

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A philosophy for life

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international · travel

Cruise 2018: Ports of Call

Happy Monday friends! If you reside anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region, you may be digging yourself out of the snow that fell over the weekend. Here in central Virginia, we didn’t get that much snow: we did however get a good amount of slushy rain. We are expecting some more snow and ice in the upcoming days, so stay warm and dry if you can!

With all of this cold, wintry weather, it’s only natural that I might look back on some warmer days. Specifically, I’m thinking about my last vacation to the Caribbean. If you all recall, I went on a Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean. I posted about the ship itself, and I also wrote about the exquisite cuisine that I enjoyed on board. The ports of call for this cruise were Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico. I’ve been to most of these ports before ( Honduras being the only exception), so I was already familiar with the locations. That being said, I still enjoyed being somewhere warm and sunny for a change.

I don’t have much to say about the locations: because I only spent a few hours at each port of call, it’s hard to distinguish between them. As a result, this post will be mostly pictures. I always get so excited to see the beauty of the Caribbean. The crystal clear water, the striking buildings, the unrelenting sunshine … There’s nothing quite like an

island vacation. Enjoy!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Ship in Nassau

Views from Cozumel

Sights in Roatan

Costa Maya views

More Costa Maya

international · travel

Cruise 2018: Dining on the Sea

If you all didn’t know, I love to dine out. I actually think I like eating out a bit too much, which is why I’ve cut down significantly over the past few months. That being said, I still got excited at the dining options available on my latest cruise.

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The Allure of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) has multiple restaurants on board, as well as several cafes, wine bars, and snack bars. My family and I dined regularly at the main dining room at American Icon Grille. This restaurant  published a luxe menu every evening, featuring various appetizers, entrees and desserts. The restaurant changed up the menus every day, so there was always something new to try. There are also a few other themed restaurants, such as Silk (Asian foods) and The Grande (American foods).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A typical breakfast that I’d order from room service

There is also a buffet located near the pools (the Windjammer Cafe), which has a few of the food items featured in American Icon Grille but also other dishes that aren’t available in any of the dining rooms. To be honest, I had the best time dining at the Windjammer in the evenings. The buffet had a different chilled fruit soup every night which were delicious and I could literally eat every day without getting tired of them (think the world’s smoothiest, most delicious smoothies . . . yes, it was as tasty as it sounds).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A menu from one evening at American Icon Grille

Oooh, not to mention, there is a Sorrento’s pizza, which makes fresh pizza until 3 AM. Who doesn’t love pizza? And the room service has lots of delicious fresh options available all day long.

I won’t continue to talk about the foods: let’s see some pictures, shall we?

Lobster bisque and Tiger shrimp

Left: Shrimp ceviche; Top right: Shrimp and potato salad; Bottom right: Lobster

Desserts!!!

Enjoy your Friday, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

international · travel

Fall Vacation Part 1 – Cruise Overview

Happy Monday, friends! Today’s post will be an abbreviated one, because I’m going to flesh out some more of the details over the next week or so.

As you all recall, I just returned from a cruise. I’ve cruised many times before: please don’t ask me to count them, because I can’t LOL! It’s something that my family enjoys doing, so I participate because I enjoy spending time with them. We have done several Caribbean cruises and this most recent cruise also took us back to the Caribbean.

cruise

This isn’t a photo from our ship, but the sunset looks so much like the ones that I saw!

We cruised with Royal Caribbean on the ship, Allure of the Seas. The ship is large, beautiful and has lot of activities for all age ranges. Believe it or not, one of my favorite things to do on the ship was get cotton candy on the boardwalk area. There are several videos you can view, if you want to see the ship and its features.

We visited Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico. We cruised for 7 days, and we sailed out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My family has found it prudent to arrive one day prior to sailing and leave one day after arriving back, just to have a bit of a travel “cushion” in case there are any unexpected delays. So, I also have a post reviewing the hotel where we stayed coming up pretty soon.

I tried to stick with my IF eating plan but I gave up two days into my vacation! There were so many great dining options that I have to discuss those in a separate post.

 

international · travel

I’m Back!!!

cruise

Yes, I’m back from my cruise and I have SO many photos and stories to tell! I knew I wouldn’t be able to give “real time” updates while I was on the ship (I go on the cruise to disconnect, not to maintain my regular routine!) so I made sure that I scheduled some posts for you while I was away.

I always love my time on the water, and I’m really excited to share this experience with you all. Today, however, I’m winding down and catching up on my emails and all the things that happened while I was away. I hope you all have been doing well!

Enjoy your Monday, and I’ll be back tomorrow. Adios!