Friday, 24 January 2014


I have been a sports person all my life and I have written about sports before on this blog; but today I am going to write about more than just sports. I am going to write about an Ultimate way of life!

Originally a university level Basketball player, I made the switch to Ultimate Frisbee in my final year of University. The first time I ever heard about Ultimate was two years before that, when I was on a Summer internship in China with the Asian Games 2010. One of my project mates, Julie, a very cool and fun French Brazilian girl studying in Canada tried her best to explain the sport to me. "You throw the disc and run and then catch it, and then pass it again, and then catch it in the end zone and its a goal!! Its big in the USA..." Sounded like a cool game, but I liked playing rough, and Frisbee to me sounded like a kids game or a dog's fetch. Little did I know....

I learnt about the then, newly formed Ultimate Frisbee Hyderabad team early 2011 and after my first day, I don't know why but I went back every single practice. I think it was the way the disc felt when it left your hand or the will to learn all the many different ways in which you can throw a disc in. (which is more than one!)

A mash up of American foot ball and Basketball, Ultimate Frisbee is the world's fastest growing international sport. One can witness an extremely high level of sportsmanship in Ultimate, more than in any other sport because it has no referees. It follows the Spirit Of The Game or SOTG where each player is responsible for calling and accepting fouls on the ground with as little input from others as possible. I believe this just makes ultimate players sports persons with the clearest conscience.

My favorite part is the fact that it is a Mixed-Sport which is rare to find. In my experience people who play ultimate generally demonstrate gender equality, are extremely helpful and are more proactive people than most others I know.

It is a network of really cool people, doing very cool things, you can find them all over the world. On my last day in Bogota, Colombia, I was taken to the Ultimate shrine of Bogota; this vast open ground which looked like heaven for field sports. I was briefed on the sport history in Colombia which is pretty old compared to the 6 year old history of Indian Ultimate and they also showered me with their typical Colombian love. The Similar story in Ecuador also. A day before I got to Quito, Ecuador, I Googled for their team and found on their Facebook page that they were practicing the day I was to arrive. On contacting them I was greeted by a warm welcome and the first thing I did after a 36 hour bus journey was to play Ultimate with the Quito team.

If you are new to a city the Ultimate space will immediately become your friend's circle, your recreation, your hangout group, at times a link to your new found job, your family and your life. For me Ultimate is all that and more. Once an ultimate player, always an Ultimate player!

Hyderabad Ultimate Frisbee Team: Dishqiya

Fun Fact: Bogota has more than 20 local city teams for ultimate! That's almost how many we have in the whole of India. But hey we are getting there!  Ultimate was first introduced in Colombia in 1994 and since then has caught on like wild fire. Colombia is WFDF #1 in Women U-20 ranking and #5 in Open!

My first Tee shirt exchange:

The temple of Ultimate in Bogota. Beautiful Grass beckoning you to Layout! 8 teams can play on it simultaneously. I wish we had such public parks in India. 

Ultimate Bogota player who once again like all Colombians showered me with his kindness. From receiving me, showing me around, filling me in on Colombian ultimate history, giving me his team Jersey and a disc just because I was not travelling with one! 

ICAROS, my team in Cucuta, Colombia. 

My first all Girls tournament. Road to Pampolona. 
Excellent to see so many spirited female players. It just difficult to find enough female players in India.  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Street Art

Bright pinks, deep blues, sunny yellows and a splash of rainbows. Street Art is a concept very prominent in Colombia and from what I can see in Ecuador too, which makes me assume it is quite common in the west. Actually I witnessed it for the first time in London, with underground music revolution, where people display their musical talents in the Subway, on the streets and outside restaurants.

But come to think of it, it exists in India also(in the form of snake charmers and kids with monkeys); but you often notice much more when you are traveling than in your every day lives. Its like all your 5 senses magnify everything you see, hear, taste or do. That explains why people put on so much weight when they are travelling. Like all my friends complained about gaining weight right when they first arrived to India and I put on 8 kilos in 2 months when I got to Colombia. I used to think its got something to do with the change in time zones but this sounds more like a plausible explanation. The flavor of the food is just exaggerated in our mouths and we think its extra tasty and that's why eat more! Also this is the reason why most people invent things or get the best business ideas while traveling. Because when they find something in another country that can fill the need gap in their own, their heads go Koo-Koo. They think...hmmm.. why don't we have something like this in our country? We really need it..hmmm... Oh maybe I can be the one who starts it.. and before you know it BANG BANG BANG! We have our next Blake Mycoskie!!

Back to my point... While I was in capital city of Colombia, world famous for its street graffiti, each and every wall, flyover, building, street y calle made my eyes pop out! My excitement made my local friend, who admitted he took it for granted, re-appreciate it more. So I took on the mission to photograph each and every Graffiti I saw on every wall, and failed miserably to do so in the one odd week I had there. But I sure did acknowledge its worth on my every TransMilenio, bus or taxi ride.

There are many forms of street art. Mostly visual, it could be audiovisual or in the form of fine art or performing arts. Graffiti in particular is not vandalism in any sense. If anything it adds to the aesthetic value of a city, adding more character like in the case of Bogota. Some of them are more than 10 to 15 years old; as told by a friend who had been living in the city for 30 years of his life. I just learnt that there are many forms in Graffiti itself.  Stencil Graffiti, Post Graffiti, Neo-Graffiti, Gerilla art, Sticker art...and more. And that's just for graffiti... imagine there are performing arts, caricaturing and so much more!

More on that coming soon... but before that... do you know how a regular Colombian conversation between two friends goes?

In Bogota, one friend says to the other, "Wanna go out and paint the city red, tonight?" The other says "Not possible, man! There aren't any left empty." Hehe.

So now that you had enough of my super lame jokes, go ahead and enjoy the Grafitti below. :)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Colombian Beverages

Some thing I just could not wrap my hands around when I first got to Colombia was how they cannot do food without a beverage accompanying it. My host family had a shocked expression when they I heard I'd only be having water with my meal, before they poured me a glass full of Guava juice. For four months straight I do not remember having even one meal without either a pure fruit juice, a thick milk shake, ice tea, Aguapanela or soda. The only thing I am scared about is, switching back to plain water once I get back to India.

The coffee capital of the world, Colombia is known to have some of the richest and yet the softest coffees in the world. I would wake up to the smell of freshly ground coffee every morning. If you haven't had Colombian coffee, you haven't had Coffee..

Agua panela: 
Panela is just refined whole sugar cane and Auga Panela is Panela dissolved in water.
It is perfect to warm your insides, when consumed hot and even cures cold. Its refreshing with a hint of lemon and ice. Its 100% natural Gatorade and gives you the right dose of energy before or during a game or just to start the day.

If you are in colombia, you cannot leave without trying the most famous traditional Alcoholic beverage they have to offer. It is made of Star Anise and literally translates as fire-water. Indians use anise in a lot of food but this was my first time having it in a drink. With a minty after taste, it has got to be the tastiest alcoholic drink I've had in my life!

You'll notice a small cart almost at every street corner with a giant glass box with a colorful fruity mixture of all the fruits you can imagine.

It is like a Popsicle in a package in different fruit flavors.

Pony Malta:
OH HOW I AM GONNA MISS PONY MALTA!! A favorite among kids, it is a non alcoholic gassy malt, perfect for instant energy. My host brother tells me that it is a part of the perfect afternoon snack, that when he was younger, his grand mother would hand him a Pony Malta with a ham and cheese sandwich whenever he was hungry.

Gaseosa, Colombiana: 
I always found it a unhealthy habit to have soda with your food but with all the tasty flavors that it came in, it was hard to resit. A pink bubbling soda, Colombiana should be the first soda you must try, followed by Golden (which is a venuzuelan brand) if you can get your hands on it. Postobon is also a very famous brand but I'd go with the local name. Colombiana! :D

The fruits in Colombia have a reputation of being the tastiest in the world, and frankly I am not going to argue with that.They are pretty sweet; in both senses and the variety will blow your mind away! My favorite fruit juice is Guayabana, which is like a giant custard apple. I'm told its even an anti carcinogenic. Well works for me because it tastes just divine!

Sun tea/nestea/fuzztea:
Sun tea or Nestea is a pack of crystallized tea that you mix with water and ice and comes in different flavors like apple, lemon, peach etc. I know I know, its basically Iced tea then why the fuss? I used to love iced tea back in India also, so I am not complaining one bit and can have Suntea EVERYDAY!

Nestle should so thank me for all this free advertising! 

Named after the most famous bird of the Andes; Aguila literally means an Eagle in Spanish. One of the biggest sponsors of all Football matches it is also the official team world cup sponsors and is definitely the most popular beer in Colombia.

Home away from home: Part 2

I always fancied the idea of back packing across Europe, living in youth hostels, couch surfing and oh traveling the world! But it was not really the easiest thing to do as a teenage Indian girl. My Euro-trip got cancelled twice. The first time because my older sister; my much trusted/responsible travel companion backed out last minute and the second time maybe because my mom saw the movie Euro-trip. :I So any way I finally took the plunge as a back packer this year and even though I am travelling with more than just the back pack, it is as exciting as I imagined it to be and more!

Day two in Ecuador and I moved into this cute little place called Hostel New Bask.(Guess who is gonna leave a lot of good reviews on lonely planet?) I came here prepared with a list of hostels from Trip advisor but I stumbled across this particular hostel while I was just walking the streets in the city center.When I rang the tremble and was greeted with a warm old lady who showed me around and I instantly fell in love with the colorful walls, the homely environment with a dog and two cats and the wide array of facilities they had to offer at a very reasonable price.

The place has WiFi, which is every back packer's necessity, amazing hot water baths in freezing Quito, a kitchen so you can make your own meals for cheap, a drinking water dispenser because tap water here is not potable(like seriously you'll be surprised how such a small detail can make a huge difference on the pocket of a budget traveler) and warm blankets(coz you're gonna need a lot of those here). There are also a lot of interesting books laying around all the time, that other travelers leave behind or you can exchange yours for the existing ones. Bang in the town center, sharing the street with the best bars, it is heaven for the party animals. The best part is, they also have room service. I was surprised to see my bed made when I returned to my room. The best Hostel in town or what?

There is no need to really search for a Hostel before you arrive. There are about a thirty within a 1 km radius in the city center.You meet the most interesting people from all over the world who are doing super interesting things in their lives and it provides an amazing platform for networking in case you are looking to work in any certain field. Barely a day here and I found some excellent job/volunteer opportunities here in Ecuador.

God bless Ecuador for being one of the 52 countries where Indians do not require Visas to enter.

My cozy little Bunk bed: 

The cute fire place beside my bed:

The colorful walls with some beautiful graffiti: 

Travelers maps and trail guides:

Cute outdoor sit out WiFi zone: 

The common room:

The kitchen:

More graffiti:

The cutest strain case ever:

The plant reminds me of mom! 

More private dorms if you are not in the mood of sharing too much: 

The cat actually cuddled up against me while I was writing this post: