About jaynezak

"I havent been everywhere, but it is on my list." I can eat anything raw. I can go to the bathroom standing up. I am fluent in hand motions and can speak Spanish in the present tense only.. Though directionally challenged, I can find my way in any airport to the gate and the luggage terminal. I must be an airport savant. I can cram more things into a suitcase than it is supposed to hold. If I have a few drinks, I forget that I cant speak the language of the country i am in. I still carry travelers checks for an emergency thought no one will cash them anymore. I make sure to learn how to say coffee with milk and no sugar in every language. I have accidently used tap water to brush my teeth in countries that you shouldnt and I am still here to write this. I have been to the gynecologist in Greece, the dentist in the Kyushu Islands in Japan and the emergency room in Edinburgh twice ( that trip was with my kids). Heels are my walking shoe of choice. (though I always have the appropriate shoes with me in case I need them) Ive perfected speed shopping and no matter how many bracelets i buy as gifts, it is never enough. Im afraid on small planes. I always have another trip planned (even if it is just in my head) before I return from the one I am on. Those are my credentials. Fly Safe JAZ

Places That I Have Been To That You Might Want To Go To Someday

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 Places That I Have Been To That You Might  Want To Go To Someday

“Rover did not know in the least where the moon’s path led to, and at present he was much too frightened and excited to ask, and anyway he was beginning to get used to extraordinary things happening to him.” J.R.R. Tolkien

I always have a list of places in the world that I want to go to which may or may not become reality.  But sometimes when I’m looking for a photograph, I see all the amazing places that I have already been. Hope you get to visit some of these someday!!!

 Iguazu Falls  Argentina 

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Amazon, Brazil

Angor Wat and Ta Phrom, Cambodia

Easter Island Chile

Maktesh Ramón, Israel

Naoshima , Japan

Petra, Jordan

Rotorua, New Zealand

Machu Picchu, Peru

Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Ayuttheta, Thailand

Cappodocia, Turkey

Halong Bay, Viet Nam

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Do Vegans Have Less Friends?

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Do Vegans Have Less Friends?

“I don’t like vegans, either. Bunch of whiny zealots. A cow or a pig wouldn’t give a damn if a person died… animals tear apart other animals while they’re still alive, but we aren’t so cruel, so vegans should learn to shut up. Vegans use palm oil and never think about the forests and endangered species at risk from that… and they all exploit the world in other ways, buying their computers and their sweatshop clothes and their Starbucks coffees.” Rebecca McNutt.

I returned from my last trip with a stomach bacteria. I did not get the bacteria there but have probably had it for a while. The cure is an antibiotic that will kill everything good and bad in your body and a weird strict diet that will not feed the bacteria for at least six months.  The bacteria caused several food allergies as well. The easiest way for me to eat these days is to be a Megan.- a meat-eating vegan. (albeit not in the same restaurant) 

It turns out that the  people who live a plant-based life style understand weird diets. I notice that many  people eat alone in vegan restaurants. I am not talking about the  hipster or Hollywood vegans that eat at the trendy vegan restaurants or have their vegan chefs prepare something.  I’m talking about small local restaurants. 

Most social gatherings revolve around food and the isolation of having a strict diet when your friends do not, can make it easier to eat alone. Dietary restrictions are annoying in social situations. I hate the constant deliberating and discussion  that i have to do with waiters in restaurants. I’m not normally that person. 

All vegans are not just focused on not eating dead animals. Some of them probably have eating issues or do it for health reasons. I sit alone in the restaurant and watch the other diners. I play my airport game of trying to figure out who everyone is.  Classic vegans.

 I look  at a man focused on his non dairy fettuccine alfredo and think that he is definitely a Bikram yoga instructor slash dog walker. The two woman who gush over their buffalo tofu sliders are life coach feminists with instagram accounts dedicated to their different  acai bowls. The woman  sitting over there in the corner is probably a two years sober tarot card reader who runs 12 step meetings.  The anorexic reiki healer cutting her food in many small pieces is pushing it around her plate while she talks to her friend, the mantra chanting, meditation specialist. The man next to her heads the community  vegetable garden and makes his own candles. 

Clearly these  people  have no idea how much I am missing cheese, coffee, sushi, fish,  bread and good dessert.  I make fun of vegans because I will never be cool enough to give up the occasional hot dog, hamburger and dairy products. I will never stretch regularly or be a healthy vessel of joy and peace. I make fun of them because I am not disciplined or good enough to be one of them.

Then, I look at myself in my flannel shirt and baggy jeans. I am drinking the now trendy celery juice  (yes i know you are supposed to drink it when you wake you up to cleanse your system but i just can’t)) and eating kale, brown rice and tempeh.  I see a man looking at me. He is  thinking that I just biked over here from a winter solstice ceremony and have a formally abused dog named Chakra. I am probably on my way to my alternative medicine doctor for acupuncture.

Fly safe,,

JAZ 

Ikagai – The Thing That Makes You Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

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”If you cannot fly then run, if you cannot run then walk, if you cannot walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King

I learned about ikagai in Okinawa. Okinawa has the largest population of centagenarians in  the world.  They say it is because of  the diet (seaweed and spam) and ikagai. The literal translation of ikagai is “a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” It is a lifestyle which balances the practical with the spiritual. It is easy to think about it when you are on the beautiful island of Okinawa.

The four elements  of Ikagai are what you’re passionate about, where your skills lie, how you can earn a living and what the world needs. It is the place where all those elements intersect. Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfillment, happiness and a long life.

Finding your  purpose in life can resemble a winding quest, filled with many twists and wrong turns. When I learned about Ikagai, I wanted to dive right in and leap into action. But figuring out your ikagai doesnt happen that quickly. It involves self exploration and deep reflection. Your purpose unfolds and evolves over time.

Ikagai  in some ways, is like a compass. Aligning your actions with the “thing that makes you get out of bed  in the morning”  helps you navigate life’s ups-and-downs. As your career evolves and you’re presented with more opportunities, you can rely on your ikigai to steer you in the right direction.

Remember to evaluate your sense of happiness and purpose at every step along the way. By seeking growth that fits your sense of purpose, you pursue health, happiness and a long life as well.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Thirty Six Hours In Lisbon, Portugal With the Flu

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36 Hours in Lisbon With The Flu

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

Flying to Porto, Portugal from Spain I traveled  in a haze of recycled stale air, surrounded  by the germs of a hundred set of lungs. It did not help that the people I sat next to were both sick and coughing.

 I’m a germaphobe. I get on the plane with hand sanitizer in my purse.  I bring wipes into the bathroom in case i have to touch something. I put polysporin around my nostrils not to breathe anything in. i have a mask if necessary. This usually works along with my various good luck charms. 

The next evening I felt like I had been hit with a truck.  If I had been in Southeast Asia or Africa, I would have been sure it was malaria or dengue. Being in Portugal, I went with the flu. The rain in Porto is not helping.

A few days later when we got to Lisbon,  it was in full force. 

 We checked into Santiago del Alfama around nine pm. Driving through the steep, narrow one way cobblestone streets at night, made us glad we weren’t driving.

The hotel was a fifteenth century palace restored into a beautiful modern five-star hotel.  I loved every piece of furniture and  art that I saw in this hotel. It was  totally my taste. The room was beautiful.

The average standard illness is easy to cope with when you are home and much worse when you are traveling. If it had really been the fifteenth century, I would have thought it was God’s will – but instead i can blame the people next to me on the plane.  Luckily the hotel has a  lovely  restaurant with delicious food. and we don’t have to go anywhere.

i have breakfast at one of the most charming  breakfast places in a hotel with wonderful food and coffee. My cold pills have not kicked in yet and i am sneezing. “God bless you” says the person sitting next me. I remember that sneezing was a symptom of the bubonic plague and they used the term God Bless you to ward off  the evil. I wondered if i had the plague.  Maybe there were some fifteenth century plague germs lying around. I do get a lot of weird things. 

My plan is to go to the Tile Museum which i missed the last time I was in Lisbon. My body is fighting me on this to stay in bed but there are no sick days when you are a mom of small children and so my body has learned to rally.

The Museo de Nacional De Azuelo was definitely worth it.

The building is the former Madre de Deus convent founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor.

The collections  are tiles  from 15th century till present days.

It gives amazing insight into the beautiful tiles you see around the city. i could have spent all day here. 

Portugal has a long history of preserving fish which  has been traced back to the Phoenicians, Romans  and Carthaginians. It became a gourmet thing a lot more recently. The best thing to buy are the sardines which are healthy and delicious. i definitely needed healthy.  We head to Conserveira de  Lisboa the oldest and best family run business to buy tinned fish. They are in beautiful tins and packaged in boxes. 

We have met the owner of the hotel and we end up having lunch with him at Prado a place his wife likes and turns out to be delicious. Lunch in Portugal takes a few hours.

  It is amazing how shopping and a delicious meal can miraculously take away my symptoms for a bit.

We walk back to the hotel and I take a nap and pack. The flu has moved into my lungs by now.  Getting up at 4am for the long plane ride home is not going to be pretty. I have some soup at the hotel restaurant.

 

I put my body in mom mode. This will be so much  easier than having the flu and entertaining a baby and toddler at the same time. All I have to do is get to the airport wait in line, go through security, find the plane, fly to London, pick up my luggage, change airports, go through customs and security, check in  again, walk really far to the plane, wait four hours , get on the plane for ten more hours, go through customs and security, pick up luggage and go home. I have had children. I can do this. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Pretending To Be Evelyn

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Pretending To Be Evelyn

Some people go to priests, others to poetry, I to my friends.” Virginia Woolf

I’m at a point in my life where I am trying to work on myself  – to not  keep making the same mistakes, to be kinder, more confident, fearless, and to work out my tangled relationships.  I have observed some of my behaviors that have persisted for long periods of time. I  believe that“ is just the way I am.”

This is where my friend Evelyn comes in. Pretending to be Evelyn in certain situations helps me to behave with a new perspective.  I am not trying to copy Evelyn.  it  is more about  stepping outside my current self image. What does she do that is different from me? How can I learn to do this?

We start modeling our behavior based on what we see from others when we are very young. It’s a fundamental way our brains work and how they learn to adapt to our environment and social circle.  I know there are certain habits I’ve developed from my parents and certain phrases I have picked up from my friends.

Evelyn is great in social situations and parties. She introduces herself and is interested in meeting everyone. I prefer to sit in a corner with the one person that I know.

The boyfriend wanted to bring me to a party at his ex-wife’s house.  I was nervous and felt that everyone there would be judging me.  My sit in the corner routine was not going to work since it turned out that he was cooking. It was either going to be pretend to be sick or pretend to be Evelyn.  As a grownup now, I went with the second choice.  I introduced myself to anyone who walked by me which is so not my thing but it worked. I had people to talk to while he barbecued and his ex wife thought that I was “lovely”.

Being Evelyn is now my go to party persona. It makes it much easier to go into social situations when I don’t know people. Being Evelyn is an effective way of seeing myself in a new light.

I’m a grudge holder. It is hard for me to let go of anger. Evelyn who has been through illness and loss is the opposite.  “Let it go”, is her motto. There is nothing worse than trying to explain to her why I am mad at someone. She hates conflict. Her response is, “It is always best to be easy-going and do what is right in life. Life is hard enough so you don’t need to make it any harder.” I am a work in progress.

Friends are supposed to build you up and make you a better person. They are the people who help you push your boundaries and grow and you are supposed to do the same for them. Evelyn is that kind of friend.  At this point in my life, I am trying to only have friends like this. I am grateful for all of them.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Countries I Have Been to With The Best Food So Far

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Countries I Have Been To With The Best Food So Far

“I was at this restaurant. The sign said “Breakfast Anytime.”So I ordered French toast n the Renaissance.” Steven Wright

My food experience when I am traveling totally impacts the experience I have  in the country. Sometimes I make trip destinations  based on food. Other times, it is a complete surprise how much I love the food. Here are my favorite countries for food so far.

Japan applies the same precision to their food as they do to their engineering. You can get a lavish multicourse kaiseki meal that presents the seasons in a spread of visual and culinary poetry..

I dream of the sushi bars in Tsukiji market and the tofu restaurants where everything is made from tofu.  You can eat something random in a train station or risk your life and try Fugu (poisonous blowfish – delicious). I love yuzu and green tea desserts. Cold soba noodles is my go to Japanese lunch. 

It is impossible to eat badly in Japan.  This country is officially one of the best culinary destinations in the world. 

Spain has long been characterized by eat, drink, sleep, work a little bit, eat, drink, sleep. They munch on snacks throughout the day (tapas, pinxtos) with intervals of big meals. The food is different from the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenees. 

Paella, churros and chocolate, gazpacho and anything from the Basque region (pinxto bars to Michelin starred restaurants)  show how much the Spanish love good food.It ranges from the Medieval Jamon Iberica  to the insane molecular gastronomy of Feran Adria and his followers.

The food is timeless and modern.

It’s impossible to write a short list of Turkish food. It is a combination of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine and any other conquering nations. It was a big surprise to me that Turkey turned out to be one of my favorite countries to eat in. Turkish food is about the freshest ingredients and technique. There are meze – small dishes that start the meal based on seasons and locale.

Some of my favorite foods are pide (boat shaped flatbread with fillings), pastirma (ancestor of pastrami), borek (small filled pastries),kabob, hummus, eggplant cooked many different ways, any dessert made from semolina, fresh halvah, pomegranate juice, fish cooked with olive oil and lemon, simit (Turkish bagels), ayram (drink made with yogurt ice and salt), fresh cheese ( beyaz peynir) and honey, kofta (meatballs), (mincemeat pizza) and just about anything  I have eaten in Turkey

I’m not even a huge fan of lamb but in Turkey it is delicious.

 The food in Israel is reason enough to visit the country. Israel is a young country, but its food goes back thousands of years. The cuisine is a melting pot of North Africa, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbors.

It is healthy and delicious. There is freshly made hummus with hot pita bread, falafel (made from fava beans or chick peas), tahini, schwarma, kebob, shakshouka, salads, and labneh,(yogurt cheese.)

The food tastes so much fresher than anything that I’ve eaten at home.  Israeli breakfast is one of the best things about Israel. It is usually served buffet style with an array of European, Israeli and Mediterranean dishes.- They are the biggest breakfast buffets I have ever seen.

This is the country that gave us pizza and cappuccino. Italy’s simple comfort food  has become the food of every country. Each region has specialties that they are very proud of. The best pizza is found in Naples and Spaghetti Bolognese does come from Bologna.  Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from Parma. Olive oil is the only real Italian condiment.Wine and coffee vie for being the national drink. Freshness of Ingredients is very important to the Italians.. Dining in Italy is always a delight for your taste buds. 

 Olive Oil is the most Greek of all the Greek food.  A Greek salad is very simple with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives. It will never taste the same  way here. I have it every day in Greece and it is always amazing. Greeks do it better. There are many high quality ingredients to choose from in Greece that we don’t seem to be able to recreate here. I have spent a few summers here and figs, honey, olives, lamb, seafood, fava beans, tiropita (cheese pastry), tzatziki  (yogurt dip) Avgolemono soup  (lemon chicken soup) and baklava are always delicious. 

I love seafood and except for Iceland, no one in Europe eats more of it, than the people of Portugal. If you love tuna and sea bass, this is the place. The national dish is bacalhau – dried, salted cod. The Portuguese have been obsessed with it since the early 16th century.  Sardines, mackerel, lobsters, shrimp, oysters and crabs are plentiful. The ‘arroz de marisco” is a delicious seafood rice.

Other national dishes are “cozido à portuguesa,” a thick stew of vegetables with various kinds of meat, “leitão assado” Roast suckling pig and tripe with beans. young Portuguese chefs are making a name for themselves with their more modern approach to the classics.  Pasteis de nata is my favorite dessert – Small custard tarts with cinnamon are found all over Portugal The most original recipe comes from Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon a pastelaria that dates back to 1837. I was lucky enough to go there.

Portuguese cheeses are delicious and should be more well-known and for a small country, they  produce a number of varieties of very good wine. 

Mexico is a go to country for delicious cuisine. There are  moles, tacos, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, tostadas, flan and Mexican chocolate.

Lime and salt go with everything. 

You will not get bored with the food in this country. It is a fiesta in your mouth. 

Cambodian food is delicious and often overlooked but should not be. Insects are always on the menu in Cambodia. Beef with red tree ants should not be missed.

Tarantula and deep-fried scorpion are not my thing but you see a lot of people eating them. 

Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk, Khmer  spices, turmeric, garlic and ginger,

It is served in a banana leaf and is my favorite lunch with fresh coconut juice served in the coconut.

Khmer beef salad, Khmer noodles,  Khmer curry, fried crab and grilled squid are a must try in Cambodia. There is always rice. Try the pork and rice which is only served for breakfast. 

Street food is the attraction in Thailand. The complex  combination of spices and flavors  can  make your favorite dish be spicy, sour, salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy and slippery. With influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, ,Myanmar and a royal culinary tradition, Thai cuisine is the best of many worlds.. Thai coffee with condensed milk and mango with sticky  rice is my favorite dessert. The various curries, soups,  noodle dishes, rice and salads encompass the unique flavors of Thailand.

The food in Viet Nam is insanely good.Traditional Vietnamese food is all about the balance of fresh ingredients, intense flavors, and ease of cooking and preparation.

.Many of the dishes have  a rich history and represent a regional specialty.

The most famous street food is pho which is a bit different in the North and South.  It is rice noodles and slices of beef cooked in   a beef bone broth with complex flavors. It is the most popular food for breakfast and lunch.

Banh Mi is my favorite street food. This sandwich can also be traced back to the French colonial period, even through the roots of the name; Banh is pronounced similarly to the French word for bread, pain.Today the typical Vietnamese banh mi consists of mayonnaise, pate, sliced ham and pork, pickled vegetables, coriander, and hot sauce.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Driving Through Portugal

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Driving through Portugal

“Wet or fine the air in Portugal has a natural happiness in it, and the people of the country should be as happy and prosperous as any people in the world.” H.G.Wells

 I love Lisbon and Porto but in addition  Portugal has some of the most beautiful towns, and villages in all of Europe On my last trip I was lucky to include Sintra, Cascais and Estoril. 

This time we have our wonderful tour guide Tiago who took us through these lovely towns. I googled guide to drive from Porto to Lisbon. Sometimes the internet connects  you to just the right person. Tiago was interesting, kind and very knowledgeable about his country. He could change plans in a minute if necessary and made it the perfect itinerary for us. It is a local company which I always prefer  and dealing with them online is easy.  I highly recommend him if you are in Porto. https://www.4u2enjoy.pt/

Amarante is a settlement since the fourth century BC and municipality halfway  between Porto and the Douro Valley. 

A church and monastery sit theatrically beside a rebuilt medieval bridge  over the Rio Tamega.

The scene is spectacular. 

The town enjoys some small degree of fame for being the hometown of São Gonçalo.

He is Portugal’s St Valentine and is the target for lonely hearts who make pilgrimages here in the hope of finding true love.

it is located on one of the original Portuguese routes of the Camino Del Santiago.

Coimbre is a pretty riverside  city with a Unesco World Heritage University that dates back to Roman times.

The oldest part of Coimbra University occupies the former Royal Palace on top of the city’s highest hill. 

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished, and a third of the city’s 35,000-strong population are students.

The Baroque library is quite impressive and a colony of bats is nurtured within it to keep the insect population down.

St Michael’s Chapel is a blend of decorative tiles and sea themed ceiling paintings with a 3,000 pipe organ protruding from the wall.

The large Room of Acts once a throne room with its unique silver and gold paneling and portraits of Portuguese monarchs is where the PHD  students take their exams.

Obidos is a small town in central Portugal. Hiding on a hill behind its medieval fortifications, it forces the modern world to wait outside.

Inside are quaint cobblestone streets, historic houses with yellow and blue stripes  and whitewashed bougainvillea-draped houses. It is easy to wander on the stairs and alleys when you go off the main streets filled with souvenir shops. 

Thought it dates back to the Romans, the fortifications and colors come from the Moors.

When you visit the St James Church you see a bookstore inside because of Obidos commitment to culture and literature.

There are a number of bookshops  in unconventional settings like an organic market and in a wine cellar. 

There’s one local custom worth trying in Obidos. It’s a shot of the local ginja which is a  Portuguese cherry liquor.

The ginja comes in an edible chocolate cup.

.Obidos is actually surrounded by a lot of cherry trees so I believe so the ginja is locally made.

At sunset, we stop in Mafra.

Tiago has arranged for us to meet a luthier who makes Portuguese guitars.

His home overlooks a beautiful beach and a fado singer drops by.

It is a perfect end to the day.

Fly safe,

JAZ