Gracias a mi abuela

When I first thought about what I’d say about my trip to Miami, I thought I’d write about eating Cuban food, speaking Spanish with a thick American accent and a shy, embarrassed smile, and feeling at home despite the fact that it seemed as if I were in an entirely different world – even though I hadn’t stepped foot out of the country. And while these feelings ring true, I’ve decided to spare the intricate details of my trip, and only provide you with the core of what Miami – and the memory of my grandmother who recently passed away after 86 rich years of life – means to me. Below is the English translation of the eulogy my sister and I presented at her funeral mass (which doesn’t translate exactly, but I have done my best. For the original Spanish version, scroll below:

English translation:

Excuse me for my imperfect Spanish and my strong American accent – Spanish is not my native language. And although it is not my language, I chose to speak in Spanish today because it is the language of my grandmother, and it is not possible to think nor to speak about my grandmother with the same sentiment in English. And so, I continue. For this day, my sister and I have prepared some thoughts for you about our grandmother.

When I was a very little girl, I used to visit an exotic island, and on these trips, there existed many distinct things. There were plantains in the patio y stained glass windows in the house and rice with chicken in the kitchen. There was foreign art on the walls and coffee every hour of the day in our hands and shoes – many shoes – in the closet. More than the beauty of the beach and the sea and the rainforest, I remember these aspects – the memories of my grandmother.

I remember her voice. The voice of a woman who used to sing in a language more beautiful than my own. I remember the moments in the bathtub when I was a little girl and she would sing to me and I would not understand the words, but I’d understand the sentiment – a feeling of happiness, of love, and of pride.

When I think of my grandmother, I think of this pride. She had pride for every person in her life. For me, for my sister, for my mom, for my aunt and uncle, for my cousin, for my grandfather, and for many more. She had pride for her culture – for being Cuban. And at the same time, she had pride for her adopted country – pride for being Puerto Rican and also American. It is ironic – the pride that she had for all when she is the person who deserve such pride.

When I think of my grandmother, I reflect on the intense pride that I have for her. I think of the woman that left her homeland for an unknown world, for a foreign country and for the possibility of a better future for her descendants. It is because of her, her bravery, that I live a free life. Because of her, I go to college and I have a bright future in a country in which it is possible to be successful as both a woman and as a Cuban American. Because of her, I live the American dream.

My grandmother was many people: a grandmother, a mother, a wife, an aunt, a daughter, a granddaughter. She had a life before me and her life will continue after me. The life of my grandmother is an inspiration for all. There are many sad emotions today, but there are also happy feelings regarding the precious memories and the celebration of the spectacular life of my grandmother. I have confidence that she is watching us from heaven today with a smile on her face and an “oh, how pretty” for the people who she lived her life for.

Thank you to all and thank you to my grandmother above.

The Original/el original:

Perdóname por mi español imperfecto y me acento americano fuerte – el español no es mi lengua nativa. Y aunque no es mi lengua, elegí hablar en español hoy porque es la lengua de mi abuela, mi “mom” y no es posible pensar ni hablar de mi abuela con el mismo sentimiento en inglés. Así que, continuo. Por este día, mi hermana y yo tenemos algunos pensamientos sobre nuestra “mom.”

Cuando era niña muy pequeña, visitaba una isla exótica, y en esos viajes, existían muchas cosas indistintas. Era plátanos en el patio y vitrales en la casa y arroz con pollo en la cocina. Había artes extraños en las paredes y café en todas las horas en nuestras manos y zapatos – muchos zapatos – en el clóset. Más que la belleza de la playa y el mar y la selva, recuerdo esos aspectos, los recuerdos de mi abuela.

Recuerdo su voz. La voz de una mujer que cantaba en una lengua más bonita que mi propia. Recuerdo los momentos en la ducha cuando era niña pequeña y ella me cantaba y yo no entendía las palabras, pero entendía el sentimiento – un sentimiento de feliz, de amor, y de orgullo.

Cuando pienso en mi abuela, pienso en ese orgullo. Ella tenía orgullo por todas las personas de su vida. Por mí, por mi hermana, por mi mamá, por mis tíos, por mi primo, por mi abuelo, y por muchos más. Ella tenía orgullo por su cultura – por ser cubana. Y al mismo tiempo, ella tenía orgullo por su país adoptado – orgullo por ser puertorriqueña y también americana. Es irónico – el orgullo que ella tenía por los otros cuando ella es la persona que merece el orgullo.

Cuando pienso en mi abuela, reflejo en el orgullo intenso que tengo para ella. Pienso en una mujer que se marchó de su casa para un mundo no conocido, para un país extraño y para la posibilidad de un futuro mejor para sus descendientes. Es por ella, por su valentía, que vivo una vida libre. Por ella, estudio en la universidad y tengo un futuro brillante en un país en que es posible tener éxito como una mujer y una americana-cubana. Por ella, vivo el sueño americano.

Mi abuela era muchas personas: una abuela, una madre, una esposa, una tía, una hija, una nieta. Ella tenía una vida antes de mí y su vida continuará después de mí. La vida de nuestra abuela es una inspiración para todos. Hay muchas emociones tristes hoy, pero también hay sentimientos felices en los recuerdos preciosos y la celebración de la vida espectacular de mi abuela. Tengo confidencia que ella mira del cielo a nosotros hoy con una sonrisa y un “hay que linda” para las personas para que vivía su vida.

Gracias a todos y gracias a mi abuela arriba.

xoxo,
jmd

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San Francisco Part 2

And here’s days 2 and 3… (be sure to check out San Francisco Part 1 first!)

Castro

The next morning, we arose bright and early for another exciting day in San Francisco. After walking about 30 minutes to the Castro district, we had breakfast at the highly recommended café, the Mill, which specializes in toast. Before you question this seemingly bland choice, understand that the Mill’s toast is a dense piece of bread filled with every seed, grain, and nut you can imagine. With an interesting array of toppings, The Mill’s delectable morning toast will leave you questioning how Wonder Bread is even legal.

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With happy toast-filled bellies, we then hopped over to Alamo Square Park to take in the fabulous view of the iconic Painted Ladies against the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline. Amidst the photo snapping and dog petting crowd, I daydreamed of the Tanner family and the days watching Full House with my dad and sister before bedtime. I was both confused and appalled to hear that Knut and his older brother, Ole, had recently admired a photo of this exact view, wondering where it could be from. Looks like Mr. European isn’t so worldly, huh?

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The Castro district is what I think of when I picture San Francisco. With pride flags hanging from every light pole and acai bowls marked on each café menu, this neighborhood oozes with a culture unlike anywhere else in the country. Although the Golden Gate Bridge was my favorite part of our trip, Castro comes as a close second (and Knut’s first).

Ferry Building /Embarcadero/Fisherman’s Wharf

If you do any research before heading to San Francisco, you’ll immediately see that everything warns you to stay away from the touristy Ferry Building/ Embarcadero/ Fisherman’s Wharf area. Despite this advice, I knew that I had to stop by these places in order to get the full San Francisco experience. While I did enjoy the Ferry Building, the rest is another story. The combination of unexpected hot weather (I checked beforehand and it said the high was 65, apparently Mother Nature didn’t feel like following that and so my turtle-necked self was sweating through a 77-degree day) and an empty stomach left me not-so-grateful for my decision to brace the crowd-filled chaos that is this area of the city.

As I mentioned, the Ferry Building was awesome. Situated along the bay with outdoor restaurants and an indoor food marketplace, it’s the perfect place to head to on any afternoon. However, it’s best on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday between 10:00am and 2:00pm when you’re able to browse the tents of the outdoor farmer’s market, which displays some of the best fruits, cheeses, and hummus selections that I’ve ever tasted (free samples ROCK!). The indoor marketplace is a charming space with various restaurants, bars, bakeries, and mini-markets, which is right up my alley. It reminds me much of the Ponce City Market that I so loved in Atlanta.

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As for the Embarcadero, which is a sidewalk that runs along the bay from the Ferry Building and beyond the Fisherman’s Wharf, it offers a great place to stroll with a view of the bay – yet you’ll be amongst thousands of tourists. I love cities, but I’m not so keen on being shoulder-to-shoulder with people in the heat when I am starving. Therefore, seeing Boudin Bakery in the distance felt like a blessing sent straight down from heaven. After grabbing a sandwich on San Francisco’s famous fresh sourdough, I was ready to accompany Knut for his very much anticipated stop at In-N-Out. After getting some much-needed fuel, we neared Fisherman’s Wharf before deciding the funnel cake and carnival game filled boardwalk was not something we needed to involve ourselves in (although, it did look like fun – just something you could find at pretty much any beach town, and therefore not worth the stop during our short trip).

Ghirardelli Square & Oktoberfest

After lunch, we continued walking along the bay to Ghiradelli Square. As we hit this famous spot in the afternoon, the fog from the bay was rolling in and starting to cover the bridge. This offered a new, yet equally intriguing, perspective of the Golden Gate. Sitting on the grassy hill in front of the Ghirardelli factory, we soaked in some sun before heading up to get some chocolate. Lucky for us, Ghirardelli has just come out with a new pumpkin spice flavor, so they were giving away free samples. Unfortunately, my excitement for pumpkin-flavored everything inhibited my reading skills and I failed to see that it was milk chocolate. Ever since I was a kid, I have been that weird person who despises milk chocolate (but I’ll eat everything dark chocolate), so after one bite my chocolatey pumpkin dream bubble had burst.

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As we walked through the festive square filled with pumpkins and other fall décor, we stumbled upon SF Brewing Co’s Oktoberfest. Naturally, we went in and ordered a beer (for Knut) and hard cider (for me). Sitting amongst a crowd of jolly folk, I almost felt like I was back in Munich…except not. Regardless, it was quite the festive experience and let us take a break from sightseeing to just sit back and relax. But we didn’t sit for too long because we had a sunset to catch!

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Land’s End

In my family, the sunset is the most important part of the day. Well, maybe the morning coffee is most important – but the sunset is a close second. My dad has always planned our nights around the sunset be it at home in Maryland, or on vacation anywhere from Ocean City to Florida to California to the Caribbean. If we’re in a place with water, you can bet that we are chasing the sunset. Apparently five years of exposure to the DeTar family has not been enough to inform Knut of this DeTar family idiosyncrasy, but luckily, he enjoys a good sunset almost as much as we do. When I suggested we head to what some say is the best sunset spot in San Francisco, he was all for it. Due to both timing and our tired feet, we elected to take a Lyft up the mountain, leaving about ten minutes of walking through a pedestrian path before reaching the edge of the Land’s End cliff where the bright orange sun was preparing to dip into the deep blue San Francisco bay. Although we both agreed it would’ve been more fun had we come earlier with a blanket and a bottle of wine, we thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the northern California coast.

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The Lyft ride back to the city was a bit of a long one, but once again delightful. We chose Lyft Line once again (where you share the car with strangers) and ended up hopping in with what we would consider to be a stereotypical San Francisco couple (although San Francisco is so diverse that there are probably many different stereotypes). Recent graduates of Berkley, our fellow passengers were also at Land’s End to see the sunset and quickly began telling us about their startup-driven lives in San Francisco. As someone who worked at a startup two years ago and has more recently become absolutely obsessed with startup-culture (you can find me listening to girlboss radio or the How I Built This podcast most mornings and reading various non-fiction books about female entrepreneurs each night), I was fascinated with their exciting careers. Although I simply could not see myself living in San Francisco, there’s something about startups that inspire a passion in me that is indescribable. Here’s to hoping the startup scene continues to expand further east.

The rest of the night was spent walking around SoMa and grabbing tacos at Tropisueño, the Mexican restaurant I mentioned that is also on Yerba Buena Lane. Once again, we were too tired for even a drink after dinner, so we headed home for more Humans of New York and much needed sleep. After over ten miles of walking, we were quite literally exhausted.

Twin Peaks

Our final morning was spent enjoying another San Francisco classic: Blue Bottle Coffee. After getting some of the freshest coffee in the city and munching on an almond butter and raspberry jam slice of toast, Knut and I set out on our final outdoorsy adventure. We took the metro to the base of the peaks, then continued on to what was a surprisingly tiring remainder of the climb. After huffing and puffing our way up to the top, we took in the most spectacular view of the city. If you’re ever in San Francisco for more than two days, I highly advise venturing out to this beautiful spot. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, start from the bottom!

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Mission

After soaking in San Francisco from afar, we made our way back to the city for a nice Sunday stroll in the Mission district’s Dolores Park. Filled with families, dogs, and palm trees, Dolores park is one of the city’s most relaxing spaces. As we watched a little girl and her puppy fight over a soccer ball with the warm California sun beating down on us, the reality that vacation was just about over started to set in. Before I could get too carried away in my thoughts, my stomach brought me back to reality. Lucky for us, we were steps away from Valencia street, which is home to many of Mission’s best restaurants. We went with Souvla, a simple Greek restaurant with the heartiest of salads and pita pockets that offered us the perfect outdoor seats facing the busy street.

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The rest of the day was spent wandering through the streets of SoMa and the Financial District, as well as stopping by the Ferry Building once again. We didn’t have time to leave the city, but we had also already hit every spot on our list. Sometimes, when you travel, you’re so eager to check everything off that you loose the opportunity to really absorb the city. This extended weekend in San Francisco gave us the opportunity to both see everything we wanted to see, but also take time to stop and “smell the roses” in between snapping photos and slurping down over-priced coffees. We were able to embrace the true spirit of travel and get to know the ins and outs of a new city. As we met interesting people, saw beautiful sights, and ate delectable food, we were able to enjoy the lessons that travel can teach, while having fun along the way – there’s truly no classroom quite like the world! And as much fun as we had, I was ready to head home to the normalcy of my life by the end. I boarded my red eye flight on Sunday night dreaming about my tidy apartment and the comfort of Nashville. However, I wasn’t home for long. By 5:00pm on Thursday, I was back at the Nashville airport and off on my next adventure. Check back on Tuesday to hear more about last weekend’s trip!

xoxo,
jmd

San Francisco City Guide:

Sights/Neighborhoods

SoMa – shopping
Marina – shopping/food

Chinatown – sightseeing
Lombard Street – sightseeing
Painted Ladies (Castro) – sightseeing
Castro – sightseeing

Golden Gate – sightseeing/outdoorsy activities
Land’s End – sightseeing/outdoorsy activities
Twin Peaks – sightseeing/outdoorsy activities

Breakfast

The Mill
Blue Bottle Coffee

Lunch

Blue Barn Café
Boudin Bakery
Souvla
In-N-Out (for the classic tourist side of you)

Dinner

Delarosa
Tropisueño

San Francisco Part I

There’s truly nothing like a seven-hour delay to kick off a much-anticipated vacation. Worse, when that delay occurs during your already two-hour long layover. I recently saw a commercial for Delta that showed a woman rising early for a flight with a tagline along the lines of, “Because the people who are going to change the world are the ones who are excited to get out into it.” While I jumped out of bed 4:00am, excited for my 8 hours of travel to San Francisco, the charm was fading by 3:00pm when my flight was delayed for yet a third time that day. And as I sat alone in the Houston airport wallowing in the despair that was my Fall Break cut short, I now realize that there were greater things at play. Because my flight wasn’t delayed due to United Airlines pulling another media-tracked stunt, but rather the poor air quality in northern California due to the unbelievable misfortune that thousands of Californians were facing. Just a few days later, one of my good friends posted a photo of what had once been her grandparents’ house, now reduced to a pile of ashes. And so to my annoyed self in the airport last Wednesday, I say suck it up. There are worse things in life than spending nine hours in the Houston airport. And you better get used to it – because you’ve just signed up for two years of weekly flights across the country (more on that later).

While you may appreciate my not-so-millennial harshness to myself (maybe the working world is making me wiser?), you probably clicked on this link to hear about my adventures. And so, I will give the people what they want (by the people I mean you, mom and dad, thanks for reading my blog when no one else does!). Due to the fact that I was in San Francisco for three full days and covered over 30 miles in walking (thanks to my fabulous Apple Watch for tracking) and many more in Lyft/metro, I have divided my trip into two posts. I’ll post part 2 on Thursday!

SoMa

As a fitness and food connoisseur, a trip to the trendy metropolis of San Francisco was the perfect adventure to fuel my Soul Cycle-and-avocado toast-filled dreams. However, I did let Knut pick the city for this trip; it just worked out that I really wanted to visit San Francisco, as well. Knut’s flight wasn’t due until around midnight, so once I finally landed in San Francisco around 7:00pm, I was on my own. My first stops in the trendy SoMa neighborhhod were inspired by the foodstagrammers that I so religiously follow (shoutout to you, @shutthekaleup). After grabbing a delectable salad at sweetgreen, I ventured to Pressed Juicery where I got a strawberry “pressed freeze” aka a smoothie frozen to ice cream consistency topped with warm cacao drizzle, creamy almond butter, and the richest of chocolate chips. In true California fashion, it was gluten and dairy free and it tasted like MAGIC (because let’s be honest how does gluten/dairy free taste good without some wizardry). After enjoying the most basic of foods I could have possible found in the city, I headed back to our adorable boutique hotel (we were ballin’ on a budget, and surprisingly a boutique hotel via Hotwire.com – which made me very nervous to use as I paid for a hotel without knowing which I’d get – was better priced than Airbnb). As a 5:30am CST riser and a 10:00pm CST sleeper, 8:30pm on the West Coast was feeling quite like my bed time. Plus, I had a 7:00am Soul Cycle class to get to in the morning…

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Before you question my rationale in paying $34 for a workout class, I must say that I got the class for the first timer reduced price of $20. Yes, that’s still outrageously expensive for one workout, but when in Rome, right? As much as I don’t want to admit it, Soul Cycle truly lived up to my dreams. With the lights turned off, an instructor providing constant inspirational words, and everyone riding in the dark as we pulsed our legs and rode to the beat, I felt like I was on top of the world. As Chris dismissed us from class with the idea that “you can do anything. It takes a special type of person to get up and go to a 7:00am workout”, I was ready for my first day of sightseeing in San Francisco.

Chinatown

After a later-than-expected start to the morning (in classic Jordan fashion, I created a schedule for the trip with roughly every hour planned out. I did not account for my Soul Cycle class, therefore we left Hotel G at 9:00am instead of 8:00am), we quickly grabbed a Starbucks coffee and breakfast and made our way to Chinatown. Before going to San Francisco, I had heard that Chinatown felt just like China (to be honest, I am not so sure that the people who told me that have ever been to China. But neither have I, so I suppose I can’t confirm or deny). It’s amazing how just steps from the Starbucks-filled streets of Union Square lives a community bursting with warm colors and the exotic culture of another world. From the bright red window displays to the lanterns hanging in the streets, I no longer felt like I was in the U.S. Although this is true of many U.S. cities, San Francisco definitely feels like a genuine melting pot of cultures. Taking advantage of Lyft Line (sharing Lyft with other passengers), Knut and I had the pleasure of meeting so many interesting people from various countries with captivating stories.

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Lombard Street

As we made our way through Chinatown, we found the reds fading to gray as we walked through the upscale Russian Hill neighborhood. Soon enough, we were dragging our feet up the Hollywood-esque Lombard street. Although I was not outrageously impressed with this overly-hyped tourist destination, the spectacular view from the top of Lombard street cannot be denied. After snapping a quick photo (superb quality thanks to the death of my iPhone 6 and the birth of my iPhone 8 Plus), we summoned our good friend Google Maps and set foot for the Marina district.

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Marina

If I were to live in San Francisco, the Marina district is probably where I’d go for a relaxing afternoon. Chestnut Street’s small-town feel amidst a big city is quite exactly my happy place. As we strolled down the street, popping into boutiques and trendy food spots along the way, I felt like I was back at home walking through the streets of downtown Annapolis or Nashville’s midtown. We scored the perfect outdoor patio table at Blue Barn Café and relished in people watching as we devoured our lunches under the clear blue San Francisco sky.

The Golden Gate Bridge

After a much-needed walking break, we filled up our water bottles and set out for the most anticipated part of our trip: the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps my favorite thing about cities is the ability to walk just about everywhere. As someone who absolutely despises being in the car (and sitting in traffic even more), I delight in the freedom to take myself wherever I may desire. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts about living in Europe last fall. With every city we visited, we were able to accrue tens of thousands of steps on our fitness tracker’s activity logs, permitting us to really see each city and the hidden cultural intricacies that cannot be perceived from the limited view of a backseat window.

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As we neared increasingly closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, I savored the sight of its warm red pigment against the cool blue of the bay. Enjoying the waterside breeze as we strolled down the edge of Crissy Field, I enjoyed simply observing the view and chatting with my favorite travel buddy. One of my favorite things about traveling with Knut is that we make such a perfect travel match (and match in general, I hope!). While I prefer to plan out every minute, he’s a fan of going with the flow and seeing where the road will take us. Although this can be stressful for me as we sprint through European train stations barely making it on, it also pushes me to travel more genuinely. For this trip, we loosely followed my plan in order to ensure we weren’t missing any of the stops we wanted to see, but we also took his approach in wandering and letting the streets guide us. We may have come face-to-face with a few more seedy streets than I would have liked, but that’s what travel is about: enjoying the beauty and embracing the ugly. Fortunately, the Golden Gate Bridge proved to be an absolute beauty.

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Yerba Buena Lane

After making our way back to Chestnut Street for an afternoon snack, then taking a Lyft back to the hotel for a quick recharge (after all of the fuss about Uber in the media, combined with listening to the story of Lyft’s inception on the podcast How I Built This, I am starting to become more loyal to Lyft than Uber), we made our way to the Yerba Buena Lane for dinner. We chose Delarosa – one of what seems like thousands of Italian restaurants in San Francisco – where we winded down the night with truffle-infused brussel sprouts and a wood-fired pizza. We enjoyed this spot so much that we actually returned the next night and dined at a different restaurant, Tropisueño, where Knut learned what an enchilada is and I indulged in perhaps my favorite food – tacos.

I then dragged Knut to Pressed Juicery to try my not-so-ice cream dessert, and then we made our way back to Hotel G for an early night. Before turning out the lights, we continued watching a mini-series that we had started a few weeks ago in Nashville: Humans of New York. Once just a man and his camera, Humans of New York is now a world-renowned Facebook page, Instagram profile, and New York Times bestselling book. Taking his static images to the next level, Humans of New York: The Series currently includes 9 episodes featuring raw human emotions that I’ve yet to see another photographer/videographer capture so candidly. If you’re looking for something quick and contemplative, Humans of New York is a must-see.

With that, I completed the first part of my San Francisco trip. In just 24 hours and over 15 miles of walking (2 the first night, 13 the second day), I experienced such an amazing mix of sights, food, and people. Check back in on Thursday for part 2 of my incredible Fall Break getaway!

xoxo,
jmd

Livin’ in Limbo

October has always been my favorite month. As an everything-pumpkin-flavored connoisseur and a scarf and boots aficionado, nothing warms my heart like a brisk autumn day with a cup of coffee in my hands, leaves changing from green to yellow to orange, and the smell of a bonfire in the distance. But this autumn brings a bittersweet feeling that I’ve realized has encompassed almost every moment of my senior year: the combination of delight for the most exciting flashes of life and the dread that this little world I’ve made for myself in the Vanderbilt bubble of Nashville, Tennessee is quickly coming to an end.

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12th Avenue South Farmer’s Market

This semester, I am doing a capstone internship for my major, which consists of a three-hour class on Mondays, then working 8:30am-5:00pm Tuesday through Friday. As I hear my alarm sound at 5:45 am, stumble out of bed to eat a piece of fruit before my morning workout, and blow dry my hair post-workout for a day of work, I can’t help but feel as if I’ve already lost my college self. My former uniform of a messy ponytail and exercise clothes has been replaced by blown out hair and slacks. As much as we complain about whatever our current realities are, I genuinely miss the excitement of the first day of classes and the sheer intelligence that exists in the air of the lecture halls. I miss scribbling notes as the professor rattles off her knowledge, and staying up late reading books written by economists about international development, or solving puzzles for my logic class. And yet, despite missing all of these things, I know they’re not quite over yet. I still have one more semester – one more opportunity to dive into academics and engross myself in the knowledge-absorbing intensiveness that is college.

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With the taste of adulthood lingering, but the knowledge that college is not quite over, there is an eagerness in me that has driven the most activity-filled fall semester yet. Upon moving back to Nashville into an off-campus apartment with the girls I met on my freshman year hall who have transitioned from being mere acquaintances three years ago to my forever friends, I have jumped into Vanderbilt life. Finally being 21 in a city with some of the most vibrant night-life, I have taken a tour across the best bars and 21+ activities the city has to offer. From Saturday evenings on the downtown rooftop bar, Acme, to the touristy experience of riding a pedal tavern, I have seen a side of Nashville that wasn’t available until my senior year.

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Celebrating my roommate, Margaux, at her 22nd birthday SURPRISE party!!!

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After missing football season last year (due to living in Barcelona), Saturday tailgates and football games are just as exciting this year as they were when we were fresh to Vanderbilt’s campus three years ago. Luckily for us, we have eight home games this year, giving us the opportunity to dress in black and gold and support our finally decent football team almost every weekend.

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With every weekend, I have aimed to do something new. Try a new restaurant, do a new activity, experience Nashville in a way that I haven’t before. From driving to the small town of Franklin to going bowling at the trendy Pinewood Social, I have been able to take full advantage of the city that surrounds my little college oasis. For the first time, I feel as if I actually live in Nashville, and not just on the tree-filled city block that is my beautiful college campus. As I sit at my apartment’s counter and look outside to the picturesque Vanderbilt campus, I recognize that my physical state reflects my emotional: I am stuck between Vanderbilt and the real world, living in the limbo that is one’s senior year of college.

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The view of Vanderbilt’s campus from my apartment

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Last week, I attended an event for my internship that was focused on the “Business of Nashville.” Various entrepreneurs and business owners attended the event. Of everything I heard that day, one quote stood out to me. “As adults, we tend to understand how the world works. But kids, they have this idea, and then they go with it…They sell fruit punch on the side of the road for 25 cents and it works.”

May I forever recognize that what is today may not be tomorrow, may I constantly be thankful for the blissful moments in every stage of life, and may I never pass a lemonade stand without stopping and giving my 25 cents.

xoxo,
jmd

A Taste of Reality

When I started Tuesdays with Jordan at the end of my freshman year, I intended to create a place to house the memories I’d make over the remainder of my college experience. I felt that I had grown so much in my first year away from home that I was bound to develop exponentially over the next few years. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’ve always felt that the power of words can create an infinite number of pictures. I wanted to be sure that as the photos lightened and memories faded, the sentiment of my life’s critical moments weren’t lost.

Over the past few months, I haven’t written once. That was something else I promised myself; Tuesdays with Jordan wouldn’t become another assignment or chore. When I felt like writing, I’d write. When I didn’t, I wouldn’t. This summer, it was partly that I didn’t feel like it, and partly that I didn’t have the time.

When I say I didn’t have time, I know that’s not entirely true. I didn’t have any fewer minutes this summer than I’ve had during any other period of my life; there’s always 24 hours per day, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. But this summer has been different from any other time in my life because I truly got a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the “real world.” And the pace of the real world is FAST.

Being immersed into post-grad life this summer has provided me with more awareness than I’ve gathered in 16 years of school. Through these past ten weeks, I have been given a glimpse into what life will be like after college.

I’ve always been someone who is eager for the next phase of life. In eighth grade, I fantasized about walking the halls of the high school across the street, taking fascinating classes like Contemporary Issues and A.P. Spanish instead of the dull middle school subjects of Social Studies and Algebra. The next year, I set my heart on Vanderbilt and spent the following four years dreaming about being a college student in the South, where I’d live within the enchanted walls of a dorm room, spend Friday afternoons playing Frisbee on a perfectly manicured lawn, and write an internationally acclaimed book in my free time. Once my freshman year at Vanderbilt began and the reality of college set in, I started browsing the pages of the Vanderbilt Global Education Office website, wondering whether in two years I’d be passing the Eiffel tower on my way to class or taking a gondola through the streets of Venice to dinner each night. Quickly, I found that Barcelona would be my city of choice with the opportunity to become immersed in a vibrant culture in a place where wine was supposedly cheaper than water. And before I knew it, I was exiting the BWI airport last December, home from four months abroad in Barcelona, realizing I was halfway through my junior year and therefore closer to college graduation than I was to high school graduation. Naturally, I started thinking about my next step: post-grad life.

As spring turned to summer and my internship commenced, the reality of post-grad life set in. Within weeks I realized that just like school doesn’t end when the professor walks out of the lecture hall, work doesn’t conclude at 5:00pm. While I was no longer worried about grades and professors, I was now preoccupied with bi-weekly performance reports and bosses. And instead of living in a building that houses all of my best friends, I was now in a city with just a handful of acquaintances. And when I’d stop and think about the fact that I only have one year left of school and forty years left of work, I was suddenly not so desperate to grow up. For the first time in my life, I was anxious for what’s next.

This summer has been incredible. I experienced all of the exciting parts of growing up from living in a bustling city to taking a train to work to being challenged in a job that I enjoyed. As I slid on my cropped pants and buttoned my business casual blouses each morning, I felt like a girlboss in every sense of the phrase. I wore my Deloitte badge like an Olympic medal, giving me access to the building that housed the most intelligent, innovative people I have ever met. I spent Friday evening happy hours chatting with colleagues ten and twenty years my senior, feeling like I fit in just right.

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I also found that you’re never too old to make new friends. From a relatively randomly selected roommate to a fellow Vanderbilt intern who I’d never spoken to at school, this summer brought me incredible friendships that wouldn’t have emerged back in Nashville thanks to the tightly knit circles already formed on campus.

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On weekends, I explored the streets of Atlanta like a true new city dweller, finding favorite restaurants in my neighborhood (Babalu) and establishing the best places to take friends when they visited (Ponce City Market). I acted like a tourist on Saturday mornings by hiking Stone Mountain and playing kickball in Piedmont Park, followed by visiting the famous Coke Museum and Georgia Aquarium on Sunday afternoons. I sipped drinks by the pool of my building, chasing the sun as it hid behind the walls of the towering surrounding apartment complexes, and sang karaoke to celebrate my 21st birthday in the basement of a crowded Atlanta bar.

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I am so thankful for this summer for so many reasons. For pushing me outside of my comfort zone, for challenging my preconceived notion of the charm of post-grad life. For bringing me new friends, and for filling my camera roll with new memories. But most of all, I’m grateful for the summer that made me want to live in the moment. Although I’m in no way dreading life after college, I’m no longer in a hurry to finish up. My taste of reality this summer will push me to savor each moment of senior year and to seize every opportunity. I will no longer be the girl who is wishing days away, but the one who is hanging on to the last minute of each experience.

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And when senior year comes to an end, I hope that I’ll realize that the next chapter won’t be so bad. However, it will be different, and that’s okay.

xoxo,
jordan

Double Dutching

Last week, I embarked on my 5th trip across the pond and landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for the 5th time (so maybe this is quintuple dutching, not double dutching). Although visiting Knut is no easy task, the travel process has definitely gotten easier as I have gotten more used to it. I have finally figured out the key to falling asleep on the plane (purposeful pre-trip sleep deprivation) and to getting a decent meal on that long flight (packing lunch/dinner at home and rejecting the plane food). Although this trip did include a fun weekend in France, I spent the majority of my time in the Netherlands. Each time I visit Knut in Rotterdam, we do much of the same everyday activities, but we have recently been making an effort to do something different. Since this visit took place in spring – also know as the prime time for Dutch tulip season – we took a day trip to Keukenhof, the famous Dutch tulip garden.

Keukenhof

For those visiting the Netherlands during springtime, I would definitely consider stopping by this sea of colorful flowers. However, if you’re looking for an eventful activity, this probably isn’t the place. Visiting Keukenhof consists of walking through a slow, relaxing environment. We essentially spent our afternoon there chatting, while also stopping to snap a few photos. I wouldn’t say it was anything extraordinary, but I’m really happy that we made the trip out there because tulips are such a typical part of the Netherlands and I was finally able to see what all the hype is about.

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Delft

After Knut spent the morning working and I went on my classic run around Kralingse Plas, we took another day trip to Delft. Delft is the home city to that classic Dutch blue and white painted pottery, Delftware. In Delft, we grabbed lunch and then enjoyed walking through the narrow, quiet streets. Although much smaller than the Dutch capital, Delft has its own quaint cobblestone streets and charming canals. We didn’t do anything particularly exciting in Delft, but it was nice to see another city in the Netherlands. One of my favorite parts about travel is wandering through streets with no agenda, and Delft gave us the opportunity to do just that. We were a little lost and not rushed in the slightest, giving us the chance to just talk and explore with no clear objective in sight. As this trip took place between final exams and the upcoming start of my summer internship, it was the perfect escape from time and schedules.

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Amsterdam

Knut studies in Rotterdam, however Amsterdam is just a quick 1-hour train ride away. Therefore, we’ve always made a day trip (or two) to the Dutch capital when I visit. For some reason, each time I visit Amsterdam, I like it even more. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I now have other European cities to compare it to or just that the city is growing on me, but it has really become one of my favorite cities in the world. I absolutely love the Dutch bike culture, which is blindingly apparent in Amsterdam with potentially more bikes than people in sight at any moment. Furthermore, the cobblestone streets and canal houses make some of the most picturesque city streets that I have ever seen. In fact, the city looks more like an oversized town because there aren’t skyscrapers taking over the sky nor cars polluting the streets. As a total foodie, I also appreciate the unique, trendy restaurants and cafes that have popped up in the city. Knut and I had lunch at the now Facebook-famous The Avocado Show, where every dish includes the trendy green super food. Knut got The Bun Burger, which is exactly what it sounds like: a burger in which the bun is a full avocado. I opted for something a bit more typical, getting the CAT Sandwich, which is a pieced of toast topped with sliced Chicken (C), Avocado (A), and Truffle (T). As I have seen The Avocado Show appear in countless social media posts, I was debatably more excited for the restaurant than actually visiting the city. That being said, wandering through Amsterdam was absolutely perfect as it was sunny and uncharacteristically 81 degrees.

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We finished the day by meeting up with some of Knut’s friends who were barbequing and swimming at Kralingse Plas (along with what seemed like every other person in Rotterdam), and then inviting everyone over to Knut’s apartment to hangout on his rooftop porch.

Rotterdam

Thus far, I have talked about doing something in just about every place we went except for the place that Knut lives: Rotterdam. Although it may not sound like it, we did spend the majority of the time in Rotterdam, it was just mostly spent on eating meals, running around the lake, and doing work, therefore most of our time in Rotterdam is not as exciting to read about as our day trips. However, we did spend the last day of my visit doing some fun Rotterdam things.

You may have heard about the High Line in New York City, which Knut and I visited in July of 2015. It’s essentially an old above ground railroad track that has been converted into an elevated linear park. I had once read in an airplane magazine that Rotterdam also had one, but none of Knut’s friends seemed to know about it. Despite the “warning signs”, we set out to explore Hofbogen (Rotterdam’s version of the High Line). Unfortunately, there was not much to see. Between the peeling yellow paint of the walkway and the short distance of the path, it was not exactly something that I would recommend seeing. That being said, we did pass some cool street art and I was able to check out an area that I had been interested in seeing for over a year. Luckily, I had a back-up plan and we hopped on the train toward Fenix Food District.

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Home cooked meal

The Fenix Food District was something I found on Rotterdam’s tourism website and proved to be quite cool. It’s an old warehouse converted into an indoor area with different cafes, a brewery, a cheese shop, a bookshop, and other unique stores. After getting coffee and cookies at Jordy’s Bakery, we headed to the outdoor patio and enjoyed our afternoon snack amongst a crowd of Rotterdam professionals who were winding down with a beer after work.

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Although it may sound strange, the 20-hour trip involved in visiting Knut has become quite normal for me. I don’t love sitting in airports and on airplanes for so long, but as I said in my last post, I am so thankful for the opportunity this relationship has given me to see the world. This upcoming semester, Knut will be studying abroad at the University of Michigan; therefore my European travels will be slowing down. With one year left before I start living in the “real world”, I am hoping to make the most of student life and see more U.S. cities. As much as I love seeing different countries and cultures, I recognize that the U.S. is one of the most diverse nations in the world and has so many interesting places to offer and people to see. Some top cities on my list include Charleston, San Francisco, and Chicago. Let me know if you have any tips about what to do in those cities, or tips on other U.S. cities to see! For now, I’ve got less than 2 weeks left until I leave for Atlanta, so I will be spending my time laying by the pool, catching up with high school friends, and reading as many books as humanly possible before I get busy with work.

xoxo,

jmd

nothing but nice

As this trip marks my fifth visit to Rotterdam, I’m really starting to feel quite familiar with the city. I have a favorite place, which doubles as my running route, Kralingse Plas (the lake next to Knut’s apartment), I have friends to chat with when we attend RSM (Rotterdam School of Management) house parties, and I have my own “OV” – the Dutch public transport card. Rotterdam has definitely grown on me in the past 2 years, and although it’s not as exciting as Amsterdam, it definitely has a charm that is unmatched to the Dutch capital. During this trip, I’ve been able to enjoy some of my favorite parts about visiting Knut at school, which include running around Kralingse Plas, enjoying the annual home cooked meal curated by Melvin, Thomas, and Joep (during each of my visits, these three boys have made the point to cook an increasingly more elaborate dinner for Knut and me), and attending a typical RSM house party (where I’m able to chat with Knut’s friends). Experiencing the social life of a European school – especially one with an international program – lends such an interesting perspective about how other university students across the world have fun. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always so refreshing to hang out with a group that includes such a blend of cultures as his primary group of friends come from the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and South Korea.

As for what I’ve been up to, whenever I visit Knut in May, we tend to take a quick “holiday” to a Mediterranean destination. Last year, we chose the Amalfi Coast, and this year we chose the French Riviera (partly based on its attractiveness and partly based on the cheap airfare from Amsterdam to Nice. Speaking of airfare, that’s such an important travel tip. Airfare tends to make up the bulk of travel expenses, so if you’re not dead set on a specific city, searching around isn’t a bad idea – that way you can splurge on important things, like endless gelato.)

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Castle Hill // Nice, France

We took an evening flight, so our first “day” in Nice was quite quick. We landed, checked into our fabulous Airbnb in Old Town, and set out for dinner in our neighborhood. Old Town, or Vieille Ville, is the most charming part of Nice with colorful buildings and local sandwich and gelato shops on every corner. It breathes an Italian air, making it feel much more like Naples than Paris (in my opinion).

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Old Town Market // Nice, France

The next morning, we woke up and Knut ran to the store and made omelettes for us in our Airbnb while I snuck in a quick Kayla workout in the tiny living room. You might think it’s strange that I’d think to workout on vacation, but I genuinely enjoy it. I definitely inherited my dad’s love of fitness, and I was happy to fit in a quick strength workout before setting out on a day of walking around Nice. Plus, there’s something about keeping to my routine while I travel that eases any travel jitters. Finishing my workout with a homemade omelette made me feel like we were a true French couple gearing up for a typical Sunday morning in Nice.

After grabbing a coffee to-go, we made our way to the Old Town food and flower market. Here, we walked through the promenade and enjoyed the colorful background of fruits and flowers. We continued to wander through the streets during the morning, and then climbed the endless stairs to Castle Hill where we took in some breathtaking views of the Mediterranean city. Post climbing, we grabbed a sandwich and salad to-go and headed to the beach to get some sun. After realizing that our afternoon boat tour was canceled, we spent the rest of the day exploring the city. We grabbed an afternoon coffee and then went back to the apartment to get ready for our evening. Our Airbnb hosts kindly left us a bottle of rosé (don’t worry, the drinking age is 18 here), so we went down to the beach and had a pre-dinner drink. We then proceeded to have dinner at Olive&Artichaut, where I reserved us a table weeks ago, and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal. After dinner, we treated ourselves to gelato from the famous Fenocchio and then headed home.

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As Nice is small enough to explore in a day, we spent our second full day in the French Riviera visiting Monaco. To be honest, I liked Nice much better than this boujee city. Monaco was just as obnoxiously wealthy as I had heard with expensive cars zooming by and castle-like mansions around every bend. The city is preparing for the Grand Prix, so the construction around the winding roads was a bit of a bummer. We spent our day walking through Monte Carlo and seeing all of the typical sights, as well as enjoying a great lunch along Larvotto Beach. Later, we took the train back to Nice, repeated our wine on the beach pre-dinner hour, and then headed to another neighborhood in Nice for a fantastic last dinner. La Femme du Boulanger (“the baker’s wife”) specializes in fancy bruschetta dishes that include produce chosen daily from the Old Town market. Our meals were exceptionally fresh and the chocolate mousse that we topped it off with was delectable. It was both of our favorite nights by far.

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Monaco

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Larvotto Beach, Monaco

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Today, our last day, we took things a bit slower. After waking up and checking out of our Airbnb, we headed to the beach for a day in the sun. We picked up a sandwich and salad to-go for lunch again and enjoyed them on the beach before making our way back to the port for our boat tour (this time not canceled).

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The hour-long boat tour gave us a nice view of the city from the sea and was a perfect end to our trip. We finished the day with a classic afternoon coffee and then made our way to the airport.

As I’m writing this from Knut’s Rotterdam apartment with tanned skin and a slightly sunburnt scalp, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to travel and tell these stories. Although I’m only seeing small slices of the world and I know I’m no expert in other countries or cultures, I think there’s a lot to learn through visiting different places. Over the past 2 years, travel has gone from something that I yearned for to something that I actually practice. My parents have supported my trips (especially when I studied abroad), but I’ve also saved up (and spent) much of my own money in order to see Knut as often as I do. My point is that whatever you’re hoping to do, do it! I never thought I’d be someone who visits Amsterdam (an 18 hour trip) more than New York City (a mere 5 hour drive from my house), but alas here I am. Catch me next week for my adventures in the Netherlands featuring Rotterdam, Keukenhof, Delft, and Amsterdam. Bonjour!

xoxo,
jmd