At the airport…

Alan and I usually joke that whenever we try to be late, we get there even earlier. This morning we lingered in bed listening to the radio. I finally got up around 8:30, had a shower, had breakfast and then looked for something to do to fill in the time. The bags had been packed the day before so there wasn’t really much to do about that. So I decided to tackle my desk. Every inch of the desk was covered with foot-high piles of paper; it sounded like something that could keep me entertained a good chuck of the morning. I was right. It took me a good hour and a half to re-organize the desk. We then went out for coffee and lingered reading the papers. We came back home, I cleaned the fridge of anything that wouldn’t last a month, we threw out the garbage and then we sort of sat around killing time. Finally, Alan turned to me and said “What do you want to do? Should we go?” I said, “sure” and we got ready and left. At 3:30 PM we were sitting by our departure gate and our flight is not till 8 pm (!). But that’s ok, we have wireless internet and a good people-watching spot. We both love to watch people at the airport and would rather wait by the gate than at home… Next stop: Paris!

PS: why is it that when you have all the time in the world to get somewhere, you make all your connection flawlessly? We got to the wellesley subway station  and the train pulled in immediately. The same happened when we connected to the Bloor line. At Kipling station, where the bus can take at least 20 mins to show up, it pulled in as soon as we hit the stop… sigh…

Packing the Aeronaut

As promised, here are some shots of how I packed my Tom Bihn Aeronaut for my one-month trip to Europe (1 night in Paris, about 25 days in Barcelona, 3 nights in Segovia, 1 night in Madrid). Before you all commend me for doing what seems impossible, let me just say that I’m not following the rules for traveling light as closely as I probably should. Most packing lists for clothes list about 4 bottoms and about 5-8 tops. I have way more, here’s a list of the clothes I’m bringing:Aeronaut

  • 2 skirts (I intend to buy another one there)
  • 1 dress
  • 2 pairs cropped pants
  • 1 pair casual pants
  • cropped yoga pants
  • about 14 tops (!) which includes 2 long-sleeves t-shirts, 2 short-sleeves shirts, 2 polo shirts, 3 t-shirts, 4 sleeveless tops, 1 sweater.
  • 1 bikini
  • assorted underwear and socks
  • 4 pairs of shoes (that breaks all the rules of traveling light) – 1 pair of Teva sandals, 1 pair of sporty Keen hiking sandals, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair converse shoes

All of that fit very loosely in my Aeronaut. I used two large packing cubes and put all the tops in one and all the bottoms (except bulkier pants) plus underwear in the other. This is how I packed:

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Wushu has a new website!

Check it out. All the pictures under “menu” and “novedades” (which appear when you click on “ubicacion”) are mine. The middle picture in the middle is also mine. I’ve had everything on their menu and had a plato del dia at least once a week – always something different, which isn’t on the regular menu – and I can tell that Brad is very talented. Everything is to die for. I love everything about it. We started going there in September 2006. Brad and Paula certainly deserve all the success and recognition they can get. This is what it says on their home page:

Bienvenidos a Wushu Restaurant,

Wushu abrió sus puertas por primera vez en un pequeño local detrás del mercado de Sta. Caterina, en Agosto de 2006. Con dos woks y cinco mesas solamente, un año y medio más tarde llegó el momento de trasladarnos a nuestra ubicación actual; una bonita avenida en el centro histórico de Barcelona, en el barrio del Borne.
La filosofía de wushu sigue siendo la misma: ofrecer una cocina de calidad a un precio asequible. Ingredientes exóticos y productos frescos, recetas caseras y generosidad.

Nuestro chef australiano Brad Ainsworth ha trabajado con algunos de los mejores chefs de Sydney, Tailandia y China. Ha elaborado un menú con orígenes en el sudeste asiático, cuya especialidad son los currys tailandeses; se hacen a mano en el local. Además, los platos se preparan al momento y nos enorgullece decir que solamente se hace un salteado por wok, para que tenga el característico sabor ahumado. También todos nuestros postres son caseros.

Ven a comer o a cenar en un ambiente relajado y con un servicio atento. Descubre en nuestro bar cockteles con un toque exótico como el mojito al té verde y el bloody geisha y una carta de vinos con pocas referencias cuidadosamente escogidas.

one more week…

Plans for tomorrow include:

  1. Revise conference paper [check]
  2. Write panel proposal for big international medieval conference, due on Thursday [check]
  3. Write paper proposal for less big medieval conference at the Centre for Medieval Studies here at U of T, due on Thursday as well [check]

Wednesday I share my experiences at the archives in Barcelona at a workshop for students preparing for research and after that, it’s all about figuring out what I’m bringing to Barcelona and where we’ll be eating in Paris, which is of course a VERY important question…

Update: Yay! It all got done! So I had to go out this morning and have a beer to celebrate…

James Orbinski and humanitarianism

James OrbinskiI first met Dr. James Orbinski in 2004, at a special screening of Hotel Rwanda, sponsored by Massey College. All I knew is that he had been president of Medecins sans Frontières (Doctors without borders) and had been in Rwanda when the genocide happened. When stood in front of the movie theatre after the screening, I remember being shocked at how young he looked for someone who had done so much and then deeply moved by his honesty, candour, and outrage of the crimes he witnessed. And he has witnessed many.

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Hiking sandals

I’ve tried the best and lightest hiking boots and shoes but they all leave my feet way too hot. So, we hiked mostly in the Fall and Winter when we were in Spain. This time, I’m going to be hitting the trails with these:

I wore them all day today and they are soooo comfortable. Can’t wait to walk to Sant Cugat…

10 more days…

I just realized, today, that we only have 10 days left before we leave for Barcelona. Eeeeeeek. I have so much to do! I need to revise my paper for the conference in June, figure out what I’ll need for working on my chapter while I’m there, what clothes & shoes to bring, gifts for friends… eeeeeek. But at the same time, I’m getting really excited.

I can’t wait to go to Wushu:


See our friends Jackie & Sebastian:

Jackie & Seb

Go hiking with Mireia & Pau:

Pau, Mireia & Seb

Have amazing, colourful, nine-hour meals with all our wonderful friends:


Take the high-speed train to Segovia:


And simply hang out and have fun with all the wonderful friends that have made Barcelona our home:



And Joy & Jesús, Brad & Paula, Matt & Elena, Bruna, and many others….

Can’t wait!!!!

Overheard in NY

[Patrol car flashing lights at curb. Small group of high-schoolers corralled against wall]
Police officer: So what happened –what did you see?
Sharp teen: No hablo inglés.
Officer, in perfect Spanish: Entonces, que pasó? Qué viste?
Smart teen: No hablo español!

Yesterday, I overheard the following on the subway here in Toronto:

babysitter to toddler in stroller: We’re going home now.

toddler: But I don’t want to go home!

babysitter: Oh, but we need to go home, mommy will be there

toddler after thinking a bit: I don’t like mommy.

Food that has conquered aging

Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, is known to carry around, for years, the same two pieces of processed/industrialized cakes. They showed no signs of spoilage. When someone I know went to one of his lectures and told me that, I immediately remembered a friend of mine who did a test in school in which the students had to analyze the natural breakup of minimally-processed foods vs the stuff we get at fast-food joints. They took a Big Mac and a homemade hamburger and watched it during a week. They were both made on the same day and each day changes were noticed on the homemade hamburger, whose bread started breaking up sooner, its lettuce went limp after one day, and by the end of the week, it smelled awful and had mold all over it. Meanwhile, the Big Mac looked exactly the same. I thought that was pretty scary. But yesterday a friend sent me this video, which showed by a three-year-old McDonald’s hamburger and fries looked like. Very scary.

I lived in the US when I was 6 years old and fell under the spell of Ronald McDonald and his friends. The year after we returned to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro had its first McDonald’s and my brothers and I were in heaven. We loved it, as many children do. In Brazil, North-American fast food franchises is not really the cheap food of the masses – there’s plenty of cheaper, healthier alternatives around – but rather, it is considered a treat to go to McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. My brothers still consider it a big treat, take their children to it, and speak of McDonald’s lovingly whenever they happen to live in a city without a franchise. I slowly weaned out, becoming more suspicious of the kind of food served in fast food restaurants here in Canada. I would spend over a year without going to McDonald’s and then when I did, my stomach always hurt afterward. And after watching the video mentioned above, my suspicions only get solidified.

I have nothing against eating hamburgers, french fries, muffins, etc, but I’d rather make those at home or eat them in places where you know that french fries are simply potatoes that have been cut that day and fried. Not some freak of nature that has conquered aging and looks unspoiled after three years.

Click here for an interview with Michael Pollan