You know it’s Tet when…

…1. The kumquat branches bear their multitudes of gold baubles, the tangerines and pomelos swell and shine, the dragon fruits and rambutans are happily sought for because of their festive shapes and colors; …2. The white grey front patio of Grand Century Mall and its adjacents is blushed with firecracker remnants, and if you’re there at the right moment, your ears would be blasted by the continuous loud popping of an ignited long Chinese squib, its color matched only by the ruby peach blossoms in full bloom; …3. The usually dormant stores that sell Vietnamese beef jerkies and dried plums awakens in a sudden selling frenzy: tasting, weighing, packaging, paying, people queuing… Continue reading You know it’s Tet when…

Dreams & Conference – Day 5, Portofino at last

“Have you been to the Italian place?”, I keep hearing from the other conference attendees. I once tried to look for Portofino but the confusing arrows led me to the livelihood of El Patio instead. Another time I managed to find the door, which was locked, and two hotel workers tried to tell me in lightning fast Spanish that behind those glass panels was indeed Portofino and that I should just pull them open, or at least that’s what I gathered. The simple truth is they don’t open for lunch. Undeterred, I returned to those doors to get my last Dreams dinner that evening. The place was dark, my heart sank thinking of unborn pictures with blurry details, when I ran into three other conference attendees from CINVESTAV and the National University of Mexico. It became the most memorable dinner I had the entire trip. The menu came in two versions, English for me and Spanish for my new acquaintances, both with long fancy Italian names and description in the according language. I was hungry for some vegetables, so after Abril translated to […]

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Crepa y esquites, a taste of Puerto Vallarta streets

On Wednesday night we get off from the boat after some whale(‘s top of the back) watching and feel compelled to scavenge the streets for some sights. We spot a couple of street food stalls alternating between the jewelries and hats along Ignacio L. Vallarta. Being reminded of the warm luscious crepe I once had on Pike Street near the Washington State Convention Center, I bid farewell to my 40 pesos in exchange for a “crepa con chocolate, fresa, lechera y nuez” (chocolate, strawberry, condensed milk and nuts). Also 40-pesos-and-5-minutes worth is Hayato‘s “cajeta, platano, nuez y kalhua” choice (caramel, banana, nuts, and kahlua), pictured on the right. The chocolate one is densely sweet with a sandy texture, possibly due to the ground nuts. With another 10 pesos (about 83 US cents) one can get a hot fold with meat and cheese, but the sweet crepes in our hand, all fluffy and brown within 5-6 minutes, already hit the spot like a breeze on a Texas summer day. Continue reading Crepa y esquites, a taste of Puerto Vallarta streets

Dreams & Conference – Day 3, Seaside Grill and in room feasting

Reading in your room with music is one thing, reading in a restaurant by the sea with romantic golden oldies and the wind is simply indescribable. Because I am not a fan of the sun, the waitress seats me in the shade in the middle of Seaside Grill, where I can look out to the parachute rising up from the beach but not the beach itself, and I can see Engelbert Humperdinck’s Spanish Eyes in the 70s music sweetness floating in the wind, but not directly feel the sticky salty wind itself. How can you read there? Well, when you sit alone in a restaurant (or anywhere), the best way to naturally observe your surrounding is by having a book in front of you. Also, being busy as they are at peak lunch hour, the waiters wouldn’t feel as bad leaving you unattended if they know you can get through the second chapter of Dodelson‘s Cosmology while waiting for the orders’ arrival. So the wait is not at all unpleasant, in fact I even hope for a longer wait just to be more productive; after all, I’m […]

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Dreams & Conference – Day 2, World Cafe and El Patio

In all honesty, most of us go to Cosmology on the Beach (CotB) for the cosmology part, but one may seriously wonder how the participating number would change if the organizers took out the beach part. (And I said “most” because a few of the conference attenders here bring along children, who will definitely become cosmologists one day if they play at CotB today. ;-)) Now I certainly can live without the beach, the waves are alluring but the sand is not, but I might just punch a baby seal if the free dining were taken out of the package. Yesterday we took full advantage of the room service and Oceana. Today… well the nice thing about eating is that everyday you can start anew. Four hours of lecture begin at 8:30 am, with plenty of soft drinks, milk, coffee, sweet pastries, no meat however, and bottled water on the tables. When the clock ticks near 1 pm, the brain is saturated with graphs and equations, some of which are secretly disposed in lieu of thoughts for food. Less than 15 minutes after Oliver Zahn […]

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Dreams & Conference – Day 1, dinner at Oceana

Dear diary, I am sitting in bed, listening to the waves crashing into the rocky hill and the sand, and thinking back on how Puerto Vallarta confuses and amuses us. 1. At custom they tell you to push a button, if it’s green, you go through, if it’s red, you gotta do some checking, and from what we can tell it’s completely random. But it seems there’s more green than red. 2. As soon as we walk out of custom with our luggage trailing behind, we enter the “shark tank”: forty or more men line up on both sides calling “senoritas” to hook us up with their taxi service, and we do what we know best (from months of practice with the homeless people on Shattuck): keep our eyes straight ahead and walk like we know where we’re going (even when we don’t). 3. The taxi driver will get you to the hotel by hook or by crook, even if it means squeezing between a stopping bus and the curb, or weaving in and out between a bus and another car. I swear I heard a “thump” once, but I didn’t check to see […]

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Papa’s on the Lake

You can hardly ever go wrong with a cheeseburger. When the cheeseburger also comes with a blue lake, a blue sky, a few palm trees too tall to shade off the daring sun, some chilly wind here and there, and extra good company, then you simply cannot go wrong. Talk about mood lifting food (read it both ways). Gwyn takes Aaron and me for a ride through the tree-lined roads somewhere in Magnolia to Papa’s on the Lake, right off 105. After an hour long horseback riding in the sun, or more precisely speaking, an hour long sitting on the horse and having him walk around the block, the breeze from Lake Conroe is so inviting I daydream about jumping into the rippling waves. First time riding, what can I say, the old man kept wanting to eat his grass and I kept having to pull his heavy head up to match Aaron’s pace. But as much as my hands get scratched by the leather reins and saddle horn, I’d sit on that horse forever if I could. We hadn’t had lunch and I was full on enjoyment. Continue reading Papa’s on the Lake

Popping boba for the new year

Forget the champagne, these tiny balls, each as big as a champagne grape, set off some pretty flavorful firework on the tongue. We’ve driven by this Orange Leaf many a time but always when we’re heading for some green waffle at Century Bakery. For some reason reasonable only to the designer’s aesthetics, there is a fence encompassing the vicinity of Orange Leaf and Lemon Grass, separating the two from the Grand Century Mall, even though they’re practically in the same block. Needless to say, the fence inconveniences anyone who parks in Grand Century lot and wants to go to Orange Leaf, or vice versa, because you gotta walk all around and out to the street and back in again on the other side of the fence. Nobody has attempted to climb. A lot more, like myself I’d imagine, have said the heck with it and gone to only one or the other. For us the 50/50 odds has disproportionately favored Grand Century in the past. Then one day Mudpie pouts and says “I want waffles and yogurt”. The setup at Orange Leaf is […]

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