That one time I was naked in Nafplio…

That one time…

Most of the world’s best stories start with the same four words: “Remember that one time…?”. Say these four words out loud and I’ll bet that your mind fills in the blank the same way google suggested answers pop up in your web browser. This column is dedicated to some of my “that one time” moments. Some (most) of these moments are embarrassing, some are hilarious, some are truly moving, and all of them are truly memorable.

That one time I was naked in Nafplio

Archaeological evidence, and this video by Buzzfeed’s the Try Guys, have proven that the Ancient Greeks were rather fond of doing many activities in the nude. Wrestling, running, dancing, you name it. It would appear that our current conceptions of nudity and public decency are quite different from that of our ancient Greek counterparts.

So, it only seems fitting that I would find myself butt naked on a public beach while studying abroad in Nafplio, Greece.

I can safely say that my five weeks in Greece with a Harvard study abroad program were some of the happiest of my life. As I write this, it’s hard to believe that this time last year I had yet to experience the joy of travelling and studying around Greece with a group of then-strangers who I would now consider some of my best friends. It’s amazing how much bonding occurs during long bus rides, hungover museum tours, and meals consisting of endless amounts of feta cheese.

We bonded to the point that the idea of midnight skinny dipping together really didn’t phase me at all. And so, one night, after a couple swigs from plastic bottles of wine  (still better than Yellowtail), we all trooped towards the beach, stripped down to our birthday suits, and ran screaming into the cool Mediterranean waters.

There’s something very freeing about skinny dipping. While submerged in the water with nothing to separate me from the waves, I felt a profound sense of contentment. Like many, I’ve had moments of doubt where my body image really takes a hit. Late night pizza and the freshman fifteen really hit me hard and I’ve struggled with maintaining a healthy lifestyle ever since going to college.

But in that moment, naked beneath the waves and the stars, I came to the realisation that a body is really just a body. I was drunk on self-love and on the sheer ridiculousness of it all (and let’s not forget the wine). I felt fully comfortable in my own skin and nothing more.

There are plenty of other moments of great happiness from my time in Greece that I hope to share here soon. For now though, here are some photos of my favourite memories from my time there. Luckily for you, and for everyone else on that trip for that matter, there are no photos of that one time we embraced Ancient Greek tradition and bared it all under the Mediterranean moonlight.

While I don’t have pics of us skinny dipping, THIS exists and is arguably more shameful than anything to do with public nudity.

That one time I became a crazy cat lady…

That one time…

Most of the world’s best stories start with the same four words: “Remember that one time…?”. Say these four words out loud and I’ll bet that your mind fills in the blank the same way google suggested answers pop up in your web browser. This column is dedicated to some of my “that one time” moments. Some (most) of these moments are embarrassing, some are hilarious, some are truly moving, and all of them are truly memorable.

That one time I became a crazy cat lady

I didn’t think it would come to this. Not so soon at the very least. After all, I’m a young, good looking (?), adventurous traveler, on a trip to “discover yourself” and the world. And yet here I was, sipping matcha out of a dainty teacup, and completely surrounded by cats, the only meaningful contact I’ve had in weeks. I’ve found myself in one of Tokyo’s famous cat cafes and I’m asking yourself, is this my final form?

On a recent trip to Tokyo, I somehow convinced my parents that we had to go to a cat cafe. Mom, as always, was game. Dad on the other hand took some convincing.

“If we see one we’ll go,” he said, “but I’m not going to walk around specifically just to find one.” As luck would have it, we saw one in Shinjuku. And so we went. You know, it was a “if you build it, we will come” sort of deal.  The Mocha Cat Cafe was complete with food, drinks, and of course, cats. The whimsical spot was a great respite from the overwhelming hordes of people and the big city vibes of Japan’s biggest metropolis. Upon entering, we took off our shoes, paid a time-based entrance fee, and found ourselves in a incredibly cute little space with a literal tree of cats.

To my slight disappointment though, the feline stars of the show barely looked up to acknowledge me. I suppose they’re used to the attention and frankly don’t give a fuck. Nonetheless, I was enchanted and found myself trying to draw as many of the kitties to me, stroking, patting, and bringing out my best “baby talk”.

Though the world’s first cat café opened in Taipei in 1998, the concept really blossomed in Japan and is now engrained in Tokyo culture. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that this is just a Hello Kitty fetish gone too far. Cat cafes make sense in a city notorious for small apartments, pet-forbidding landlords, and lonely people. There’s a cat café for everyone in this city. There are some that specialize in obscure breeds, in fat cats (hopefully just referring to the cats and not the customers), and even in ex-stray cats. Some cafes even create online profiles for their feline residents, complete with headshots and baby kitty pics that put your Tinder page to shame. PETA freaks can rest easy knowing that every cat café in Japan is required to have a license and is regulated by the country’s Animal Treatment and Protection Law.

Strict regulations have not stopped cat cafes from opening at an astonishing rate, and honestly, after about five minutes in one of these magical little establishments, I totally understood why. There’s a simple joy in being a crazy cat lady, even if just for an hour or so. As I left, I felt revitalized. And yet I wondered, was that just a brief break from the real world? Or was it a dry-run for the inevitable?

Three happy Chius post-cat lady experience!

Now this is real sushi

One day back in Cambridge, I was really craving some good raw fish. I decided to walk to Market and pick up some sushi before meeting my roommate Shawn on the steps of Widener Library. It was one of the approximately four days out of the semester where it was warm enough to eat outside and Shawn and I were certainly not going to let it go to waste. Now, I’ve been stung by American sushi before, so I picked out the simplest looking roll, salmon maki, and sauntered over to Widener.

However, to my HORROR, as I took my first bite, I was greeted with the distinct taste of a… bagel?

“Oh my god! There’s cream cheese in this!?” I said in disgust.

“Yeah, that’s a Philadelphia roll,” said Shawn with a shrug. A Philadelphia roll? Excuse me?

Now, I hate to come across as a food purist. I completely acknowledge that some of the world’s best food is fusion – a result of cross cultural exchange throughout the centuries. Give me a Poke bowl and I’ll happily eat it. But let me be clear about one thing: there is absolutely no room for cream cheese in any self-respecting sushi.

Now this is real sushi: 

I was lucky enough to have practically grown up in Japan due to my parent’s obsession with onsen hot springs, shabu shabu, Wagyu beef, and of course, sushi. We were (and are still) so obsessed that I was actually sent to Japanese Saturday school for a couple years in the hope that I would be fluent enough to facilitate our 20+ trips to Japan (honestly, they could do a My Strange Addiction episode about my family’s love affair with this country).

However, of all the meals l to choose from, one of my favourite Japanese food memories is eating sushi at a stall in Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Market. Other contenders include that one time I thought I would die after eating pufferfish and that one time I accidentally ate horse, but, I digress. Yes, I know Tsukiji is kinda touristy but there’s a reason that locals and tourists alike keep going back.

The market itself is a giant maze of stalls and shops selling everything from fish, to tofu, to tamago, to dessert. The narrow alleyways are lined with street food stalls and tiny restaurants with around seven seats each all serving up the freshest catch of the day. The three of us had already downed a couple of uni-toro dons (sea urchin and fatty tuna bowls) between us and we were pushing our way through the rest of the market soaking in the atmosphere while trying not to get trampled by other tourists. Perhaps the bigger challenge though was finding the self-control to walk past all the other stalls without further indulging. The smell of grilled scallops, freshly opened oysters, and the sound of crab shells cracking and sellers yelling about their wares was incredibly hard to resist.

And so, as we reached the very outskirts of the market, we caved. We saw a nondescript little stall tucked in a corner on the perimeter of the market. The only thing that was visible was a set of legs peeking out from under a curtain that had the words sushi written on it. We ventured behind the curtain to see two old men dressed in their chefs whites crafting beautiful sushi for one customer who stood at the bar with her chopsticks at the ready.

With deft hands, the men shaped the rice, lovingly sliced the fish, and then painted on a thin layer of soy sauce on each piece before placing it directly on a leaf on the counter. The little sushi sat on the counter like a small piece of art for just a second before being picked up and consumed immediately. I love little holes in the wall like this – bare bones places with neither a chair to sit on nor a plate to eat off of. Nothing to separate the chef from the eater except a small wooden bar and nothing to separate the sushi from the eater except for a pair of chopsticks. No frills. Simply sushi.

The lady next to us obviously knew what she was doing. She kept ordering all the greatest hits: luxurious ikura (salmon roll), sweet succulent amaebi (sweet shrimp), perfectly charred unagi (eel), and o-so-fatty o-toro (fatty tuna). They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. And so, Mom would just gesture towards whatever the lady was eating and hold three fingers in the air: the universal sign for “damn! I want three of those!”. The chefs would get to work creating the beautiful parcels of rice and fish while we waited we baited breath. Each piece was immaculate. How could something so simple taste so good? As I popped the precious little ikura pearls in my mouth and wondered greedily about what we were going to get next, I remember thinking “ah, yes. This is real sushi”.

A family that eats together, stays together ❤
Here’s a pic of me and my roommate/best friend Shawn on Widener Steps for good measure. Admittedly, this pic was taken about a year after the Philadelphia roll incident. Look how happy I look sans cream cheese!

That one time I joined a cult

That one time…

Most of the world’s best stories start with the same four words: “Remember that one time…?”. Say these four words out loud and I’ll bet that your mind fills in the blank the same way google suggested answers pop up in your web browser. This column is dedicated to some of my “that one time” moments. Some (most) of these moments are embarrassing, some are hilarious, some are truly moving, and all of them are truly memorable.

That one time I joined a cult 

You know, I never really got the hang of the Spanish imperative until I found myself in a dark room with strobe lights and pounding music.

Let me wind up a little.

Here’s a little grammar refresher for those of you who have repressed the memory of taking the SAT: the imperative mood is a gramatical mood that forms commands. Basically, every time your roommate tells you to “shut up!” (¡cállate!), or your grandma tells you to “eat more!” (¡come más!), they’re using the imperative. This mood was always one of the conjugations that I kind of just glazed over during Spanish class. It’s not that hard to form, and I just gave up on the irregulars. In short, I never really gave the imperative its full due. That is, until I joined a cult.

Given how commanding these words are by their very nature, they’re perfect for any sort of cult-like activity:

“¡Empuja, empuja!” “Push! Push!”

Her voice rang in my ear as I forced my poor legs to keep going. Push! Push!

“¡Pon más peso!” “Increase the weight (resistance)!”

Loathing her, I twisted the knob to the right making my thighs labor all the more intensely with each pedal.

Yup. I joined the cult that is spinning.

While not quite Soul Cycle, the spinning classes at In Out Gym certainly do the trick. My first spin class was quite the experience. I walked in a couple minutes early feeling apprehensive, only to feel even more nervous after seeing some spandex-clad-protein-shake-chugging super stars already on their bikes. Honestly, I was just planning on winging it. So, I just tucked myself into a corner on a bike that more or less seemed to be adjusted for me. Actually, that’s a lie. I tried adjusting my bike but I was too weak to even twist the adjusting knobs but I didn’t want to switch bikes like a fool. In my defence, the knobs were rusty.

Then, Sabrina, cult leader and avid fan of the imperative, walked in.

“¡Vamos chicas, empiecen!” “Let’s go ladies, START!”

Ok, I said to myself. They say you never forget how to ride a bike. And I mean come on! This is a stationary bike. How hard can it be? In fact, for the first couple of minutes I was feeling pretty good about myself. But APPARENTLY, I was doing everything wrong. Sabrina took one look at my form and quickly said “¡Para!” “Stop!”.

Sabrina came over and helped me adjust my straps and pushed my handles to the right height. She then showed me how to hold my arms, elbows in and at 90 degree angles with your shoulders when in a leaning forward standing position. She then went back to her bike and proceeded to completely destroy me.

Now, the reason why spinning classes have often been compared to cults is that in the midst of the pain, and the sweat (so much sweat), and the abusive yelling, and the lights, and the music, everyone actually really enjoys themselves. Was I destroyed? Yes. Did I absolutely love it? Also yes.

As Elle Woods once said, “endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands!”. Alternatively, “endorphins make you happy, and happy people keep spinning!”. Like I said in my last post, I’m trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle here in the land of asado (barbecue), alfajores (two cookies glued together by dulce de leche), and malbec (beautiful wine). I’m also sincerely trying to improve my Spanish. So, ¿por qué no los dos? The cult that is spinning seems to really be doing both for me at the same time.

*A note about the pic. Sadly, there are no gross and sweaty photos of me at la clase de spin. However, doesn’t this cool mural that I found in Palermo Soho look kinda cult-y? Yes? No? Oh well, I tried.

That one time we went to an Argentine birthing class

That one time…

Most of the world’s best stories start with the same four words: “Remember that one time…?”. Say these four words out loud and I’ll bet that your mind fills in the blank the same way google suggested answers pop up in your web browser. This column is dedicated to some of my “that one time” moments. Some (most) of these moments are embarrassing, some are hilarious, some are truly moving, and all of them are truly memorable.

That one time we went to an Argentine birthing class 

Well, not exactly.

After about two weeks eating my way through Buenos Aires, I started to feel as greasy as the wonderfully overstuffed empanadas that I was constantly consuming. I realised that something had to change if I wanted to remain my happy and healthy self. That’s how In Out Gym entered my life. I decided to buy a membership to this bare bones gym about three minutes away from my apartment here in Belgrano. My wonderful friend Natalie decided to join me.

The two of us went to our first “entrentimiento intensivo” (“intense training”, yup, just as painful as it sounds, but more on that later) class together. Walking into the gym was like walking into an 80’s workout video. Women in bright neon clothing were setting up their stations with dumbbells and bars. “Sweet!” I thought, “this is gonna be chill”. Oh how naive was I.

The class started out with your basic warm up: jabs from left to right, quick squats, some twisting up and down action (yes, that’s the technical term). Our lovely instructor, Paola, in typical Porteña fashion, went around and gave every member of the class a little kiss on the cheek. So far so good!

But then, Paola got serious. We started doing squats and lunges at a speed and intensity that my vacation body was not ready for. Nat… well, Nat’s a Division I fencer and her body is like 100% muscle. My body at this point is, you know, some percent muscle, but also a significant percent dulce de leche. What really killed me were these bridge exercises that we did. Holy shit my butt was on fire! Side kicks, bridges, side planks, lifting leg pulsing thing (these are all technical terms), were all par the course. My inner thigh has not really ever felt this way before. Speaking of which, my Spanish vocabulary has improved immensely as exhibited by the fact that I actually know how to say inner thigh in Spanish now (it’s vasto interno for all you pre-med-Doctors-Without-Border types).

Circling back to the title of this post though. There was this one exercise that Paola made us do where we laid on our backs and spread our legs wide open in the air and pulsed, pulsed, pulsed. I swear to god that my form would have made any 16th century midwife proud. In the midst of panting through this dreadful 21st century form of torture, I caught glimpses of all the other women through my windshield wiper-esque legs. I realised that this was a class entirely filled with women – all of us just trying to be our happiest and healthiest selves. There were women of all different shapes and sizes, all in varying degrees of neon, and all red and sweaty. There was a primordial sense of mutual suffering amongst most of us with the exception of a couple mullet-headed (I’m talking Billy Ray Cyrus level mullet) abuelas who were really putting the rest of us to shame. But hey, if an abuela with a six-pack isn’t fit-spiration then I really don’t know what is. If these women can get through this workout after having two, three kids… grandkids even, then I can certainly do this after having two or three, media lunas.

And Nat and I did it! We survived our first Argentine work out class and honestly I felt like I had given birth to a new me (I’m really hammering home the title of this piece but just go with it). Working out consistently has always been something that I’ve struggled with. I like being active. I like endorphins! But in the midst of college and what not it’s so easy to fall off the wagon. I’m trying to be better though and going to In Out Gym is becoming a solid part of my Buenos Aires routine. On that note, I’m so thankful for Nat’s fierce accountability, Paola’s vastos internos of steel, and for all the abuelas that are kicking my ass.

*Note on the photo. I figured that sweaty pics of me at the gym wouldn’t really go with the ~aesthetic~ that I’m striving for in this blog. Entonces, here’s an obnoxious photo of me and a pretty wall!