Switching language and what does it mean??

This blog is not “travel” related, well may be a little bit…

It is a big adjustment when you grow up talking one language and all of a sudden have to switch to a different language for most of your communication.  Growing up in India, we used to talk in Telugu, my mother tongue. In school we had to learn English as second language and Hindi (India’s national language) as 3rd language.  We had at least a bit of practice in Hindi, but I never had a “Full” conversation in english until I left India in 1990 to come to US.

Not that I am perfect at it, but now I am able to manage 95% of my communication in English and starting to get rusty in reading and remember words in my mother tongue.  You know you MADE the transition when you start dreaming in ENGLISH 🙂

Well, even though we learned english as a language in school, it was mostly British, and formal.  Everything is full sentences and proper.. so no wonder in the beginning people could never understand me.. not to mention the heavy accent that comes with it.

Here are a few things you had to get used to:

1.  “Z” is pronounced as ZED in India and it is Zee in US.  Now I am so used to it, I pronounce it as Zee and some of the guys in India write down “G”.

2.  Color used to be Colour, Check used to be Cheque, etc.  I guess we don’t want too many letters around here…

3.  The toughest part of it all is the “Slang” – when you don’t grow up speaking the language, I guess you never know some of these words/phrases.

It started back in 1994 when Lesli asked me to go “run this off” … I was like, run it to where?  She meant she wanted a copy of the paper she was showing me.  I still can’t figure why it is called “running it” off? Oh well….

Why are we so obsessed with the word “Jump”?… I am going to jump in to the shower, Jump in to my car… even today a guy on phone saying … “I am about to Jump on a plane, I will talk to you later”… how come they are all JUMPING?  I looked up “jump” on dictionary.com – it says:

Jump (v): to spring clear of the ground or other support by a sudden muscular effort; leap: to jump into the air;to jump out a window.

I know it had a few more meanings.. but this is the meaning I remember growing up… so I always imagine people really JUMPING into bath tub or open the car door and spring themselves into driver seat… well I am going to jump to my next word 🙂

Then, there are these “phrases” people use… I don’t think anyone can really explain the true origin, but they get what it means.

You can wait till the cows come home“… why?  Cows take a long time to come home? Don’t they want to make it home before night? so does it mean, late night?? so I had to look it up 🙂

One of my colleagues used to say “chaps my hide“… I figured it meant it is irritating him, so looked it up to find out its origination is from people riding horses… chaps their asses….

Well he is not the brightest duck in the pond“… hmm.. there are bright ducks and dumb ducks in the pond?  Can we figure out their IQ or the one that gets shot first, is the dumb one??

Here are some more from Lesli that now made them part of my vocabulary…

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig… what the heck? What is jiggety-jig? Sounds cool to say it though.

Scoop the loop – I guess it is a Storm Lake, Iowa thing to circle the road around the lake… no idea if anyone else will get it or say it.

Cherries in Rearview Mirror – what? Cherry fruit hanging on the car rearview mirror?… wait you mean the cops red lights flashing that you see in your rearview mirror?

I can go on.. but you get the whiff.. know what im sayin’?

It is going to be a learning experience for rest of my life.. to keep up with this, and I like it… now I am GOING to JUMP out of my seat on the plane and go to restroom…

Later gators… (everybody is a Gator?? I didn’t know that).

Vacationing in Mexico… East Indian Style!!!

Haven’t been able to write anything for more than 2 weeks now… because of two things…

1. Vacation in Mexico (Bucerias) for a week,
2. At home all week (9 days) for first time this year, catching up with life….

So now I am back on the road and starting to reflect on my vacation in Mexico and the fact that I have to wait almost one more year before taking another Mexican vacation….

First time I traveled to Mexico was back in 1997 to Juarez across the border from El Paso to visit the American Consulate to get my passport stamped for visa renewal. I was there for only a few hours, and noticed how “close” to India it looked like.

Then I didn’t get to Mexico again till 2004, to a small town called “Bucerias” north of Puerto Vallarta, courtesy of my Mother In Law, who started going there in winter. She finally moved into her own place there now and lives 6 months out of the year. So I have been there 10 times so far, and realized how “at home” I feel now everytime I go there.

Being from India has its pros and cons when you travel to Mexico.


1. When you are trying to get out of airport, Time Share people don’t mob you… they must think either I am Mexican, or cheap, whatever it is, works for me… I walk right past everyone.
2. Walking in the streets, nobody is notices you.. no vendors, no solicitors….
3. When you ask for “Pecante”… I get spicy food, they don’t feel like they have to hold back for me…

1. Everyone thinks I can speak Spanish… I tried to use my limited spanish vocabulary and they would start full conversations, and I have to say “whoa…. all I know is few words”. On my last trip we got pulled over by a cop and I was in passenger seat and he started talking to me in Spanish thinking I could convey the meaning to the others in the car… and he was quite surprised that I can’t.
2. Well I can’t think of anything else… who cares, you are in Mexico 🙂

When I first went to Bucerias in 2004, I was stressed out a bit… your phone didn’t work, you have to go to an Internet Cafe to check emails (at 56 kbps). Growing up I never had a real vacation where you absolutely do nothing… but over time I realized doing nothing is such a beautiful thing on vacations. Yes, I do work a bit, but I don’t mind the view and the fact that it makes you feel relaxed without worrying about what’s going on.

Lot of people don’t even know where India is in Bucerias, one year, a waiter brought a map and was amazed that I am from other side of the planet and we looked so much alike. I used to think I am the only “East Indian” guy in Bucerias, but on my latest trip we met a couple of gals from Vancouver, who are originally from India. We ended up talking as if we knew each other for a long time…

The most stressful thing on my recent vacation… to decide where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner… tough life.

No matter where we eat everyday, one thing is certain… we end up at the same place every night for nightcap… Mark’s Bar & Grill in Bucerias. Shout out to Jan and Mark for creating such a wonderful place to eat, drink and be happy…

Here is the link to Bucerias… you should visit some time… Best of Bucerias.

Here is the link to Mark’s Bar & Grill.

We live in a “frozen” world… food wise that is

I have been working on 4 different topics for my next post, then I thought I should get this one out, since it has been on my mind a lot lately…

Do you watch “Kitchen Nightmares”? Lately Lesli (my wife) started recording “Restaurant Impossible” and “Restaurant Stakeout”, have you heard of those? As you start watching these shows, you will being to ponder. What have I been eating? How to spot a good restaurant from a bad one? Is it fresh or frozen? So I started going through some of my experiences and align them with these shows and started to put a few things together. The following are my observations only.. some of them are assumptions and may not be actual… How about that for a disclaimer? (No food was harmed in writing of this blog).

It all started 20 years ago while I was working as a manager for big Fast Food chain on Campus and they announced release of their “Grilled Chicken” sandwich and we will be receiving “equipment” soon. When we received our package, it consisted of an iron ring, a spatula and a lid. The instructions said… “when you receive your grilled chicken, place it on the hot plate inside the iron ring, pour some water, put the lid on and let it heat 3 minutes on each side. That’s because the meat already came pre-cooked, with perfect grill lines… there is no way in hell we are grilling chicken breasts in kitchen taking risk of them cooked incorrectly by hourly employees. It makes perfect sense – quality control and risk management. Till today I still can’t get over the fact how much of the fast food comes already prepared.

Then a few years ago I went to late lunch with a customer to a Chinese restaurant. Our order arrived very quickly and it burned my customer’s mouth when he tried to eat it. He spit it out and said, “damn microwaves” – I asked why… he said.. there is no way that food could be that hot in such a short time on a traditional stove, the only way it could be so hot is the microwave. Since then, I have been noticing temperature of food quite closely.

Watching the above mentioned “shows”, it is pretty apparent that quick service comes with a price, most of the time it includes frozen food or re-heated left overs from a big batch. Also, fresh food is tough to get and always tastes the best and costs more too. Have you tried to eat seafood in Jacksonville, Florida and Denver, Colorado?

Now some of the so called high end hotels I stay at, all have restaurants, some big, some small. The big ones (chains, signature restaurants like Palm) are good, but most others resort to frozen food. One time I ordered wings… the ranch dressing was still cold and solid in middle and Celery is slightly hot, may be a little too much “thawing” – every wing was “perfect”… so must be pre-packaged. Then I looked through their entire menu… it is all setup for quick preparation… probably 2 or 3 separate packets thrown together and heated. The golden test here is to try to customize… if you say, can you make it without sauce or certain vegetable, they will say it comes pre-mixed… then it is probably not fresh. Don’t get me wrong here, there are a lot of good pre-made meals – like soups – the same perfect taste every time reheated to perfection 🙂

Then today I ordered flatbread and same soup I had last night at this new hotel, that went through major multi-million dollar renovation. The soup is good – same “EXACT” copy of what it was yesterday – the Chef can’t be this consistent every day. The flatbread is also elegant and fancy looking, mushrooms arranged perfectly on it, no uneven spots, but the actual bread is still brittle from reheating (probably not enough moisture) and the waiter tried to convince me that it is one of the best thing “chef” makes… Ok, I buy that… NOT!

On a positive side, we went to a Chinese restaurant at the end of street from the Condo we were staying at in Vancouver. It looked like a dive from outside, but when we went inside, half of it was open kitchen and half seating area… Bingo… I like open kitchens… you can see the chefs tossing noodles, stir frying orders, not reheating in microwaves.

It is tough to find these “fresh” restaurants since most of them use frozen stuff… but you can find these now and then… one of the Mexican places in Roswell, Georgia, family owned, in a strip mall, but always the best… they make all their salsa from scratch. Talking of which, I am looking forward to lots of fresh food on our vacation coming up in the small town of Bucerias north of Puerto Vallarta… No Chains, just family restaurants.

So in conclusion.. here is what I started doing…

1. Read Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews, most of the problem ones get weeded out here.
2. Look for places with open kitchen or have “specials” that are not printed (have you seen some restaurants that have same specials all month?? I did :))
3. Try to find non-chain restaurants… this idea has risks, since not everyone has high quality, so have to be selective and ask either bartenders or locals for suggestions.

Please share your thoughts and experiences, as this will help me eat better in my travels. Believe it or not I have been ordering a lot of soup and salads recently…. Eat Healthy!!!