Friday, March 29, 2013

spring break: just what I expected

Three days with family have already come and gone. Two uncles, two aunts, and two cousins from my Dad´s side of the family all gathered for a very welcoming family fest.

I can´t believe it´s been over two years since I´ve seen most of them!

What did we find to do in Las Vegas, you ask? Well, three of us ziplined over Fremont Street while the rest watched the show above. All of us went to the Mob Museum, to Ceasar´s Palace, and to both Wolfgang Puck´s and Emeril´s restaurant in MGM Grand. Uncle George, my mom, and I did a thrill ride on the very top of the Stratosphere, which turned out to be quite enjoyable (you know, having a full view over the Strip and free-falling to your death). Just kidding, but the Stratosphere is so high, I felt like I was in southeastern Wyoming with all the wind.

Did I mention I tried calves liver at Wolfgang Puck´s?? The portion was too much for me to handle for my first go at calf meat, but my Dad did say that that was the best calf liver he ever had. Glad he liked it. Oh, and I should mention that Puck has an all male wait staff.. I noticed it before the appetizers came out just because there were so many good-looking waiters (maybe UNLV Hospitality Management majors too??). Hmm, maybe it´s better that way. I remember serving food at a retirement center as a part-time job in high school and always having sore wrists from carrying those large trays of meals...

My Uncle George had free tickets to see Zarkana! Can you believe that?? Cirque du Soleil´s latest and greatest. The costumes and scenery were amazing. Even some of the acrobatics seemed Zarkana-specific. I have a feeling that nowhere else in the world you can find men wearing full-body suits with cloth balls attached while spinning in an over-sized wheel. No where else can you find a grown man in a baby outfit, but that was Mystere, I digress. It was definitely an award-winning performance, though I couldn´t give it five stars like my Uncle did. For a performance to get that kind of rating from me, it has to move me. I want to be in tears before I realize it. I´ve been desensitized to the Vegas shows. I´ve seen Jersey Boys, Mystere, Absinthe, The Rat Pack, and probably a few more. But I´ve also seen the Russians perform The Nutcracker in Lisboa. The novelty of that never wears off. I kind of feel bad for the guy that went with me. (I had met him in a hostel in Porto but we met up in Lisboa a few days later). It was beautiful. I was crying. He had never been to a ballet in his life. But he, Kristaps, was a good camper. (He´s actually coming to Vegas on business next week so we´ll go see a Cirque du Soleil of his choice then).

The rest of the family, except my Dad who was undoubtedly playing craps for the full two hours, saw Jersey Boys instead.

For now, I still carry around my Swiss map, hoping someone will want to know where exactly Lugano or Sankt Gallen is.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Memoirs of a Former Vegetarian

The only restaurant open after 10pm in the MGM Grand is Wolfgang Puck´s. We walked up to the hostess, reserved a table for nine, and waited. In the meantime, I graciously asked the hostess about a few menu items. I wanted to try something new, something that would have the effect of glitter in my mouth. For some reason, I thought ordering calf liver would put a pep in my step. I asked the hostess, who had just finished filing her nails or something, what pancetta was. She looked at the menu, smiled down on me from behind her station, and declared it ¨a type of cheese¨.

I took her word, even though, even without ever eating calf liver in my life, I KNEW that would not make a pleasant combination.

Out comes my meal and guess what: no cheese!! Well, it´s Monday. Maybe Puck hadn´t received the weeks´ supplies yet. But it´s okay, I say to myself, I´m flexible.

I stabbed my fork into what looked like a roasted cube of potato, but my tastebuds failed to recognise the subtle flavors and texture. Touché secret ingredient.

A few family members from south Philly solved the mystery. What I had though was a potato was really uncured pork, better known as pancetta. Forgive me, food junkies of the world; the lighting was low and it was tough to tell what I was eating.

In the end, I ended up giving away half of the calf liver to my dad and all the pancetta to him as well. He´s not picky so it´s always easy to swap food with him, even at the dinner table as a kid.

Can you believe I couldn´t identify a piece of pork after living in the pork capital of Spain AND Lugano, Switzerland?? What on earth have I been eating the past two years? I consider myself a culteraltarian so I´ll try almost everything at least once, especially when I´m outside my own country. Meat-eating is not my specialty, but cultural perspectives on eating is. Well, I guess that´s why I´m now a former vegetarian.

Moral of the story? Don´t trust the hostess.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Suits, Ties, Heels, and a Hearse

In the midst of over 140 Las Vegan companies spanning from The M Resort to local wineries to softwear developement, there I am. Confused at which smiling face behind the desk to approach, I stand there and someone offered me a pen from a stand I wasn´t interested in. I declined it and walked away.I wasn´t sure if they were scouting me or if I was supposed to scout them. Either way, I was equipt with a stack resumes.

Welcome to Career Day. This particular day has no annual date nor does it function like a normal holiday. Rather, it´s approached with excitement by elementary students everywhere and used as the number one strategy for high schoolers to get out of class for the day. Most students under age 18 rarely, if ever, live to see this day come, until those university years begin. Here I am, at age 20, finally experiencing the epitome of a Career Day if there ever was one. Every major hotel-casino had a representative  even the Peace Corps showed up.

I chatted with a few companies but not having a car makes going to a job or an internship quite a reach. (This is where Americans need to Swiss up their lives).

On the shuttle bus back to my apartment, I was hoping to just space out to the rhythms of that one bus driver´s favorite funk radio station. Instead I had a nose full of chinese take-out food wafting from the seat next to me. And then I saw it. It couldn´t have been more obnoxious. It was tie-dye, it was groovey, it had every bright color, how could it not be called obnoxious. The swirls of reds, greens, pinks, oranges, yellows, and purples made me ask myself, ¨Why would anyone do this to their car?¨ and then ¨How did someone do this to their car?¨ and I ended with ¨How much did someone pay to do this to their car?¨ As we drove past, I had a better angle on it. This was an old volkswagon that someone was trying to revive as vintage. (Hey, it´s Vegas anything goes). But it was a little too long to be a normal volkswagon. My attention was then drawn to the two words written in caps: HAPPY HEARSE.

After some very shallow research (one Google search) I found that it´s owned by a former automotive engineer originally from Germany...and there´s a bubble machine. Here´s the link, you´ve been warned.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

And finally!

On a bright, sunshine-y Monday afternoon, I approached my professor of hospitality for some advice. Only hours earlier, I had been accepted to the Disney College Program! I would go for the fall 2013 semester,work at a Disney restaurant, and would go to Walt Disney World in Orlando! Not only that, it´s paid and I get credit. Despite all these perks, I consulted with Professor Carl to make sure this wasn´t too good to be true.

Well, it isn´t. He highly recommended it. Not only that, he casually invited me to the lunch with the Hilton family after spring break. Paris won´t be there, but her unlce, aunt, and a few cousins who work the business will be. I don´t think Paris has anything to do with the hotels...doesn´t she have her own clothing line??

Thursday, March 7, 2013

That moment you realise you don´t want to be at the gym running endless miles to vainly fit snuggly inside your swimsuit is similar to all your other revelations. Well, it is for me anyway.

Thursday night, no Swiss half pass to travel,  no couchsurfing, no one to savor a night of chocolate and wine with or an evening hike with. My next option? This is Vegas; I should be able to go salsa dancing right? Innocent enough, yeah? Wrong. Here, I am without transportation and underaged.

This is suffocating.

To cheer myself up, I give into my coffee-craving and hesitantly let Starbucks fill this empty spot. I don´t even want to get into how I´m never going to Starbucks again. All I want is a plain, SMALL cup of coffee. Nothing fancy, no whipped cream, no syrup, no sugar.

I could kill for a café con leche. My homework is done and I´ve practiced piano all day. There´s nothing attractive about going to the gym. Las Vegas, I am not impressed.

Since when did people start coming here for fun...?

I´ve been trying to look up. I do enjoy my courses and I live in a nice apartment. Falling into old ways, though. It feels like high school again. I know how Americans work; I am American. Being around more of my own kind is not what I want out of this ridiculously expensive education.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I´ve turned it into a game.

I happen to be on the strip a lot. So instead of just walking impassively down hallways filled with expensive shops and restaurants I can´t afford to eat in, I make a point to go into the most rediculous tourist stores.

The way people sell their city is a good insight on culture (and how some preexisting stereotypes blossom). It´s also fun to find glitter and sparkles on post cards in Las Vegas for a price half of plain postcards in Switzerland. This is the kind of stuff that excites me.

After a casual stroll through Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, and the Luxor with my dad, I am now the proud owner of two oversized, glittered-to-death postcards. I mean, these things are gaudy. 75 cents each---¡¡score!!

Back in my lavish apartment, a place where you can also find glitter, flowers, and pink everywhere, I´ve established myself as a hermit. I come out to cook and eat, then worm my way into my room to continue with flashcard making or Rosetta Stone.

Just the other day, I made a colorful and oh-so-tasty Salade Niçoise. Grape tomatoes, sweet mustard, anchovies, black olives, potatoes, green beans, a splash of pepper, egg, a roasted red pepper, all over spinach. Put it on a toasted baguette and it turns into a phenomenal post-run lunch.

My mom drove 40 miles roundtrip to bring me the ingredients (and so much more) the other day. The grocery store around here isn´t anything special, so I´m not particularly gung-ho about going to the store anymore...and it´s not like I really see anything new anymore. (And if I do see something new, well, chances are it´ll be in English so no surprises, uh). I guess this is why I´ve taken to cooking some of my favorite European classics. And once it gets really hot out, you bet I´ll be making Bulgarian Tarator Soup!