Sunday, August 10, 2014

Festival Latino 2014

Majority of last week, I was down with a terrible flu. As soon as I realized I'm getting the flu, I didn't even bother to wait to get an appointment from my physician, I ran to urgent care. Waited for almost two hours, only to get a prescription for an antibiotic dose. I don't know how much it helped though, because the next two days I was too weak to even to get out of the bed. My situation got better by Thursday, and by Friday I was almost back to normal. 

So, during the weekend I wasn't ready to sit back and relax. I knew the summer is coming to an end soon and wanted to reap the benefits of the longer sunny days before mother nature throws us another Polar Vortex. The moment I had my energy drink, that is my well made tea, I searched through the internet, looking for the events happening around Columbus. I came across "Festival Latino 2014". 

"Do you wanna go?," I asked my husband. 

"Sounds like fun, we can go," he said, "but, before that I have some work to do," he added. 

"It's alright. Even I have to walk the dog and do some other stuff." 

"We'll plan to go after 1pm may be," he suggested. 

 The agenda said all the entertainment events start after 1pm at Bicentennial Park in Columbus, OH. I looked for more information about the festival. This is event that has been around since 1996 and held every year since then. It did sound good. 

By about 2.30pm, we managed to get ready and leave the house. It was a beautiful day, the sunshine was exactly the way I liked; not too hot with a touch of soothing warmth. 

"Perfect day for a festival," I thought. 

To some weird reason, we parked our car 1 mile away from the Bicentennial Park and walked. I didn't regret that even a bit. I like walking. Downtown Columbus was almost deserted and we could get a nice up close view  of many buildings. Though Ara kept pointing at empty car parks, regretting the decision to park further, I enjoyed our walk across the city. 

By the time we got to the Scioto River we heard the music and saw the tents.It made us walk a little faster. Stopping by the lookout place near the Scioto River, we checked the festival grounds through the built-in binoculars. It looked fun. 

"I can see something very Latin from here," Ara pointed to a tent. 

'5-hour energy drinks' We both giggled. 

By the time we reached there, a Latin band was playing on stage. Looking at the agenda I assumed it was Herman Olivera. I didn't understand a word he said, but I thoroughly enjoyed the music. I, anyway, love music and dancing. Though, I didn't know Latin dancing, I couldn't stand still. 

We spent few minutes enjoying the music and looking at the couples who did well in latin dancing. Then we headed towards the stalls. There were many stalls with crafts, which I thought native to latin America. Ponchos, beaded jewellery, wooden toys and arts were the best among all. 

Ara offered to buy me anything I wanted. But, I couldn't picture myself going around wearing those heavy pieces of Jewelry. So, I had to decline that offer. Thinking about it now, I should have asked for a rain check. :-)

We slowly headed for the food area,it was the fun area. I'm not a big foodie, but, Ara was excited. They had mainly Mexican, Peruvian and Brazilian food. I could tell those were authentic, not because I couldn't pronounce a single name, because I have never even heard about those before. I thought Mexican is all about Tacos, Quesadillas and Tortillas. But, these vendors had much more variety. Salt level was a bit more than I would have liked, but everything tasted good. 

I treated myself with a nice Pina Colada, served in a Pineapple. It was fun, refreshing and tastier. I liked it so much, I forgot all about sharing until I got to the last bit. All Ara got was the bit of juice soaked to the pineapple. My bad!

This festival was a unique experience for me. For the first time in the three years I lived in USA, I felt like a tourist; a tourist visiting South America. I think it was the effect of the food, music and the people at the festival. 

I still don't know what I ate, or what they announced on stage, but I know if I have a chance I'll be going next year too!

For more information visit: http://www.festivallatino.net/











Thursday, August 7, 2014

Arthur's day out

After tossing and turning for almost an hour, I decided it was finally time to wake up. 

"I think I also have got the sore throat," I mumbled to my husband who was awake with just one eye open. 


"Then no ice cream today," 

"Oh yes, we are going for the ice cream party and I think I'm feeling better already," I sat on the bed. 

The shelter we adopted Arthur (my dog) from, have organized a charity event. I kept reminding about the event to Ara for the past couple of weeks, and yesterday I practically announced that to everybody we met during the evening walk. 

Of course! I was pretty excited; it is the first time Arthur is going back to the shelter after we brought him home and I think it would be a fun outing for him. 

I've been wanting a dog since the day we landed in USA. But, Ara was always skeptical about it, so, I had to suck it up. In December 2013 I had enough, and demanded that I needed a baby or a dog. He immediately agreed to get a dog. ;)

Our plan was to adopt an adult dog from a shelter, because the idea of training a puppy in our small apartment didn't fancy us, and I knew I would be probably saving a life by adopting. The search for a suitable dog wasn't easy, I scoured the internet looking for one. When I saw Arthur's photo, in the pet finder site, it was a love at first sight. I knew I needed him.  

It wasn't an easy process. We had to submit adoption papers with references and they actually called them to check our background. The process made us feel like we are adopting a baby. It was an emotional roller coaster ride too. They told that there is another application for him, so getting Arthur wasn't certain. I called the shelter almost every other day (I can be a little persuasive sometimes). Finally, they decided we will be his owners. :)


However, the gloomy Saturday morning went by faster than I anticipated. We were supposed to leave by 12.30, but, even by that time I was still in my PJ's checking pinterest. Anyhow, instead of getting up I kept reminding my husband that we should leave by now, which made him a little annoyed. (A wrong move :/) 


By the time three of us got ready, it was almost 1.30 and pouring outside. 


"Do you still want to go?" Ara asked me looking out the window.


"Of course, why not?," I frowned. He made a face and I decided to ignore. Because, although my gut told me something wasn't right, I really wanted to go there. 


So, the journey didn't start off on the right foot and just as I expected, it turned out to be a complete disaster. A small heated argument resulted us coming back home, and me taking Arthur to the shelter in a cab. Nevertheless, Arthur and I made it to the shelter a little late with a 'chatter box' cabbie. I still got ice cream, and Arthur managed to display his best puppy face and get at least 5 cookies. All of the people at the shelter, were happy to see Arthur and admired how cute he looked. 


It was a long day. I won't forget that for a while and most importantly, at the end of the day, I learnt a $50 lesson and Ara learnt a $21 lesson, on how we shouldn't be fighting over small things and not to act in anger. (If you didn't guess, $71 is the cab fare I paid. :)


It's Friday...Not that I cared...

"How dare you challenge me in my own house, within an hour you must vacate the house with your entire family," I barked at the weird looking man who was staring at me across the room. I was angry, ready to turn the world upside down, when I sensed a tap on my hand. 

I looked down to see my darling little dog, Arthur, is trying to wake me up... I had slept too long.. I turned around, my husband is already up and meddling with his dearest phone.

"Hey, you are up?" Turned to me with a big grin on his face. 

I wasn't ready to face the world yet. I had battled enough in my dreams, so, I turned around to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Fifteen minutes might have passed, when I sensed another tap. This time it was my husband, gesturing me to make tea. I ran my hand under the pillow, trying to find the phone. After a few tries, I managed to find it.. 8.20 AM. Time to wake up, after 5 more minutes, of course! This time Arthur was determined to get on to the bed and continue his sleep, literally on my chest.

"Like owner, like dog," My husband, Ara, shot with a rephrased an idiom. 

It was time to wake up and face the world, not that I had any serious work to do. 

Just a quick note: I take my tea very seriously, it is my, sort of, energy drink. The amount of sugar, milk and the strength of the tea has to be exact, therefore I often end up being unhappy with the tea other people make for me, including my mom. When I leave almost half a mug of tea, she always complains, threatening me that she'll never make me tea again. But, she always does. 

So, as a practice I ask for coffee if I know I'm not getting a good cup of tea, simple as that. :)

So, after 15 minutes of sleepwalking/appreciating the nature/making tea, I went back to bed with Ara's cup of tea and my energy drink, to kill next half an hour trying to fully wake up while going through my mail and checking the latest on Pinterest. 

This is more or less my daily routine, unless I decided to go for a run. I hadn't run since Wednesday. I wasn't in the mood and even the last run I had was a pathetic failure. I barely ran 1 mile without stopping. Last week, my husband caught a viral fever/sore throat, so he suggested, my body might be fighting the disease and I should rest a couple of days before running again, which I agreed immediately. 

I waited until Ara comes out of the shower to start making breakfast. I'm not a breakfast person, so it is always breakfast for one and if I'm hungry, I would always make my self another tea. 

Yesterday, I got the email from the University saying that I am accepted. It was a big deal for me (though my dad and Ara argued, they'll take anyone who is willing to pay). While reading the offer packet yesterday, I came across a sentence about applying for financial aid. I stopped reading right there and clicked the link for the application and made myself a mental note to fill the application today. 
First thing, after Ara left to work, I filled the application, dedicating at least an hour from my precious time, not that I had anything important to do the entire day. 

At the end of the application a line appeared that I'm not eligible. 
"What??!! Why did they want me to fill the application then?," I screamed in my head.

I went back to the offer packet and read the next line. It said 'Masters degree Students are not eligible for financial aid.' Lesson learnt: Always read the entire thing before you act. 

However, morning went by faster than I thought. I promised my reporting manager (I'm a freelance writer for a solar company in Sri Lanka) that I'd send the long due article, today. He even joked that it might have been the cause for the rain in Colombo. 

However, it started raining in Columbus, OH too. When it stopped raining it was still gloomy. I justified that I really deserved to catch a few winks, before I start writing the article and Arthur seconded it. That's all I needed! :)




Friday, August 1, 2014

Random thoughts on a random day....

It's pouring outside... Tiny water drops ran down the bedroom window as I watched two children running for cover... The roar of the air conditioner broke the stillness of the apartment and stopped me from sinking too deep into my thoughts...

It had been a stressful week....responsibilities, heartbreaks, anticipation, arguments and silent treatments took over a good part of the week, leaving me just a few traces of happiness here and there... Going through this emotional roller coaster, got me thinking about life, how much lost are we in this never ending rat race...

Every morning we wake up with a bundle of desires and demands... throughout the day, every unfulfilled desire and unmet demand drag us in a path filled with sadness and sorrow, leading to an unhappy life... Expecting too much out of life leads to a life full of disappointments.  Life is short... days go by faster than we want... before we know it, the best things in life are lost among the others...

We are humans... we love being loved, cared and pampered... and expect people to be understanding and treat you for who are...but when they have other things in their agenda, you get nothing but an agony of a broken heart in return...It takes a good couple of days, weeks or years to mend the heart and move on .... Still the scars make you cringe at the slightest sign of hurt....

I have been there, many a times,...done that...I am ready to move on... I am ready to look at life in a positive perspective...This life is too short to depend on others to make you happy...

As I watched the rain subsides, last teardrop ran down my cheeks and dropped silently on the floor... I looked up at the sun,
smiling through the clouds......

Friday, December 7, 2012

Niagara Falls, A magical creation of mother nature





It is the weekend after the Independence Day in the United States. In a country where holidays are rare, we realised that it was the best time to take advantage for a long road trip. We drove for nearly five hours, a distance of nearly 330 miles towards the North, or in other words, towards the Canadian border.

Passing vineyards, blossoming cornfields and forests alongside the road, it was a beautiful drive. Though it was not apparent, we drove alongside Lake Eerie, half of the way - one of the five great lakes of America.
Throughout the journey, the first city we crossed was Buffalo. We passed many closed down and nearly dilapidated factories and long and massive bridges. Suddenly our peaceful journey turned into an adventure.
The woman inside the Global positioning System (GPS) unit nearly screamed directing us to rapid turns. After a while we were back on to a road with waterways on either side.
After about a half an hour drive, I saw something like smoke coming up in the distance.
“Hey, do you think something is on fire?” My voice was shaking and I felt a sudden adrenalin rush.
Instead of answering my question, everybody laughed.
“Why, did I sound like I was joking?”
“I think you will find the answer when we get closer,” one of them replied.
We got closer to the city, and then with the talk of looking for the hotel we booked and with the number of Asians we saw in the city, I got distracted from the incident. Later, we refreshed ourselves and went out to see what we actually wanted to see.
After walking a few metres from the hotel, one of us said, “Can you see the smoke coming up still?”
When I looked up it was still there. However, it was not really smoke. It was the mist coming up from the Niagara Falls. From the place I was standing, I could clearly see a rainbow across the fountain of mist.
We went closer; it was close enough to see the beauty of the constant stream of water falling down to the Niagara Gorge. According to one of the tourist guides there, nearly 75,000kg of water falls down from the Niagara Falls each second.
Though we call it the Niagara Falls, it is a collective name given to three water falls - American Falls, Canadian Horse Shoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls - that straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. At one end of the Horse Shoe Falls is the American flag, while the Canadian flag is at the other end.
The best view of the Niagara Falls can be seen from the Canadian side as it faces Canada. The citizens of the United States have no problem entering Canada without a visa. Unfortunately for us, unless we obtain Canadian Visa, we had to be satisfied with the side view of the falls.
Apart from the beauty of the falls, Niagara Falls has some records too. Located on the Niagara River which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with a vertical drop of more than 165 feet (50 m).
Horse Shoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by vertical height and also by flow rate. The falls are 17 miles (27 km) north-northwest of Buffalo, New York and 75 miles (121 km) south-southeast of Toronto, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York. The visit to Niagara Falls is one of the most memorable visits in my life. The whole experience and the things I saw can hardly be summed up in a single article. Expect more in the coming weeks.

Pix: Aravinda Dassanayake

Tour de Cincinnati


Cincinnati is one of the major cities in Ohio State situated at the North Bank of the Ohio River near the Ohio – Kentucky border. Known for its large collection of historic architecture, Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood just to the north of Downtown Cincinnati, boasts among the world’s largest collections of Italianate architecture, rivalling similar neighbourhoods in New York City, Vienna and Munich in size and scope. Cincinnati was founded in 1788 by John Cleves Symmes and Colonel Robert Patterson.

I am not planning to tour all around the city of Cincinnati in one day. Because of the Ohio Buddhist Vihara, which is in Cincinnati, it has become a regular destination of late. The journey is about two hours drive from where I live. Two hours may not sound much, but the distance matters. It is a little more than 100 miles away. However, how much we love to make it a regular trip, practical issues make it difficult for us.

Therefore, to compensate we make sure that a visit to the temple is always combined with some sightseeing.

As a result during our latest visit to the temple, we went sightseeing. Unlike on the other trips, this time, we did some research before arriving at the destination.
After reading some online reviews, a decision was made to visit a place called ‘Krohn Conservatory’ in Eden Park within Cincinnati, Ohio.

We were excited by the thought of being able to see more than 3,500 plant species from all over the world. After some hassle of finding the way, even with the GPS, we arrived at a building that looked like a green house. The Krohn conservatory was completed in 1933, and named in honour of Irwin M. Krohn who served on the Board of Park Commissioners.
The garden landscaped to a butterfly theme was a love at first sight. A bench, shaped like a butterfly in a bikini, welcomed us. A man made 20-foot waterfall with a goldfish stream was the first vista from the entrance.

Yes! I am from a country where there are many waterfalls and yes again, I paid a visit to the Niagara Falls recently. However, I was in love with that artificial waterfall.
The sound of water flowing down those fiberglass stones was Beethoven music to me. My friends practically dragged me out of the place to see the rest of the green house.
The Tropical House was the first section to see. Built like a small rain forest, it contained a large variety of ferns, both terrestrial and epiphytic; cycad, bromeliad, and begonia collections; and important economic plants including a cacao tree, Pomegranate, vanilla vine and dwarf banana.

The moment we walked through the door, everyone went hysterical after seeing familiar plants such as banana, Papaya, Araliya, Erabadu, Crotons and hibiscus. That was something unexpected.

The entire section was full of plants we find in Sri Lanka. Some of those we plant and some grow in our gardens whether we like it or not. It was like going back home. It was familiar territory; everyone enjoyed the ability to recognise each and every plant in the green house.
The ‘Desert Garden,’ the next popular attraction of the house is where they kept succulents and cacti including agaves, aloes, crassulas, and yuccas, as well as cereus, opuntia, and pereskia.

The Golden barrel, a plant shaped like a barrel, stood out from the rest. It was fun to see how two little daughters of our friends’ ran around the area hugging themselves and yelling after seeing the thorns of those plants. They gestured as if all the thorns were pricking them while they ran around.

The Conservatory also owns a good collection of Bonsai as well. This is a collection of Bonsai trees from the conservatory itself, the Bonsai Society of Greater Cincinnati and private individuals. Some of the Bonsai trees date back to the 1980’s. Well grown branches and fat trunks evidenced how old they were.

The Palm House, another attraction of the house which is a 45-foot high central house with palm trees, rubber trees and bananas, shrubby plants and ground cover.
This is where the waterfall lies. When a visitor enters the green house, the waterfall in palm house is what catches his attention. If you pass through it, you will be treated with a gorgeous collection of orchids.





The Kandyan Dancers were missing, but the collection had other different varieties. In a corner of the section were Pitcher Plants. I wonder whether they had been tamed or whether I did not try hard enough, I could not get the lid of the plant to close.
Inside the Krohn conservatory is a good experience. The efforts they had taken to recreate an environment from around the world definitely deserves a big round of applause!

Pix: Aravinda Dassanayake