The Road-Trip Upgraded

Road-trips have always held a special allure for me. When I was a child they meant adventure: my brothers and I all packing into our van with my parents to drive all the way to Florida or New Brunswick from our home in Ontario. In my teens and early 20’s it meant freedom: jumping in the car with High School or University friends and driving all night to NYC. Ultimately, the one thing that never really changed, in my opinion, was that road-trips were always more about the journey than the destination. Even though I’m “all grown up now,” I’m still drawn by this childlike fancy to jump in the car and go; go anywhere and everywhere.

roadtripScaled

Recently I took a road-trip from Berlin to Frankfurt. Rule #1 of the road-trip, your ability to enjoy your journey depends 100% on who you’re with. If you have to be in a confined space for many hours with a person, it better be someone you enjoy spending a lot of time with. I was luckily making this drive with one of my closest friends, so we were already off to a great start. Why I classify this as a road-trip upgraded is because it was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Upgraded Speed

First things first, we were cruising on the autobahn at a comfortable 180-220 km per hour. Believe it or not, pumping up the speed actually makes a huge difference. Not only does it cut down your actual driving time, but the rush is exhilarating. Of course there were a few teeth clenching moments when we needed to slow down quickly and I braced myself for my imminent death, but in the end it remained fun and not fatal.

autobahn germany autobahn

Upgraded Scenery

Second was the upgraded scenery. Don’t get me wrong, Canada and the U.S. have very beautiful pastoral landscapes with cattle grazing or fields upon fields of crops; however, in Germany, this pastoral landscape is also dotted with castles and windmills. While driving down the highway there were multiple stretches of km after km of windmills. At one point we were so close to these windmills as they surrounded us on both sides for as far as we could see. I felt so tiny among the towering windmills, like Don Quixote amidst his giants.

German-wind-farms-turbines Germany Invests Heavily In Alternative Energy Production windmills_germany

Perhaps windmills aren’t enough to make most people feel like they are driving through an almost fairytale landscape (they do for me because I am bizarrely fascinated by windmills) but the castles really seal the deal. All along the stretch of our 5 hour drive, we saw castle after castle; at one point there were three castles in a row on closely neighboring hilltops, all easily within the same field of vision. At this point in our trip it was starting to get dark, so the castles were all externally lit up; they stood on their hilltops looking stately and majestic, and we drove on in admiration. ‘I’m driving through a land of windmills and castles,’ I thought to myself, ‘this is by far one of the coolest road-trips that I have ever been on!’

castle1 E_015_006_LR_L.tif castle3 castle1litup

There are about 20,000 Castles that grace the German landscape, many of which have been preserved as heritage sites or are being used as museums and hotels. There are also more than 21,607 wind turbines located in the German federal area, with plans to build even more in the coming years. This means it is pretty difficult to drive anywhere in Germany and not come across some windmills and castles. With about 19,990 castles left to see…who feels like taking a drive with me?

Burg_Hohenzollern_ak Castle_Neuschwanstein neuschwanstein_castle_77-lancastria

 

Published in Fusia magazine, February 2015

After the Fall: A Breath of Life

After the Fall: A Breath of Life is a documentary project that depicts a young woman’s (Shilpa) day-to-day struggles with life-saving decisions and navigating through differing cultural and religious notions of healing.

afterthefall

A Summary of the Documentary

Shilpa struggled through two bouts of cancer and an adverse reaction to the chemo that scarred her lungs irreparably so that she required a double lung transplant. While on the waiting list to receive a transplant, she had to deal with conflict within her social support network. Even after the transplant she experienced many ups and downs in her recovery, landing her in and out of the ICU, and had to learn to walk again. The struggle remains a reality even today as she relies on a series of anti-rejection drugs that don’t always work. Despite her very difficult struggle, Shilpa remains positive and optimistic as well as vibrant and energetic and surrounds herself with friends and loved ones.

Shilpa2 (1) shilpa3 (1)

The documentary goes over what Shilpa’s life used to be like before the transplant and now after the transplant. It documents her sister and mother’s struggle with her illness. It also touches on Shipla’s experience, coming very close to death, how she felt and how she feels now about life and her purpose and what’s meaningful to her. It also possesses a central conflict: Her mother didn’t agree with her getting the transplant and didn’t believe in modern medicine in general, but instead relied heavily on a support system that consisted of her religious beliefs and the conviction that her daughter would be saved through prayer. Shilpa, however, doesn’t think that it has to be one or the other, but that true healing can come from a combination of the two.

Interview with the Production Team

The brilliant minds behind this touching documentary are Pam Sethi and Rose D’Souza, who jointly wrote, produced, and directed this entire project.

Pam and Rose (1)

Pam has a background in nursing and epidemiology and is currently in policy work while Rose has a background in Journalism and public health. Rose was interested in being involved with this documentary because she felt that “it was a really great story to tell,” while one of Pam’s primary concerns was figuring out a way to actually create change and start a movement. Pam concluded that change is often initiated through powerful stories. Combining their intentions for the project, they were able to create a creative piece that does both.

Pam explained that “it was supposed to be a 10-15 minute doc, but the project became larger than what we expected it to be.” Both Pam and Rose have full-time jobs, and, as Rose notes, spent “many late nights after work making this [documentary] together.”

cameracrew (1) cameracrew2 (1)

Themes of this documentary touch on philosophies and views on transplant, cultural variances, death and dying. “The intent of this doc was twofold,” mentioned Pam, “to not only share Shilpa’s beautiful story and to raise awareness in Shilpa’s community and the public, but also to impact providers and policy makers around the patient experience and impact those in positions of decision making.”

The percentage of the eligible population registered as organ donors in Ontario is 25%, many of which are from the GTA. In the GTA alone, 15% of the eligible population are registered organ donors. This 25% is 3.1 million out of an eligible 11.8 million. As of December 31st 2014, 1,581 Ontarians are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

“With an entire crown ward dedicated to raising awareness on issues of donation,” said Pam, “we are questioning why our statistics haven’t grown or gotten any higher.”

The documentary served as a good opportunity for Shilpa to show others what a new set of lungs has done for her and to raise awareness around the realities of organ donation. She hoped that her story could touch people and perhaps even elicit a response from the community to register as organ donors and get involved.

Shilpascars (1) shilpa (1)

Pam also mentioned that this was a long, drawn-out process for Shilpa because of the disagreement around her treatment within her household. Pam would like to see policy makers become more informed about cultural differences regarding the beliefs and impressions of organ donations and be able to integrate and address some of these concerns in the counseling period before a transplant.

Pam and Rose both expressed how amazed they were at Shilpa’s willingness to share her story and how expressive she was, because “she is ordinarily a very private person and to share something so personal publically is very unusual for Shilpa.” Rose describes Shilpa as “always having a smile on her face, regardless of what she’s going through; she doesn’t like to share any of the bad experiences.” Rose explains that having had to be strong and pull through for the past 8 years, Shilpa always put on a happy, positive, and strong demeanor; however, she was finally able to express in this documentary some of the hurt, fear, and negative feelings that she has had which most of her closest friends and family never heard her utter before. Ultimately the documentary works to help Shilpa voice her struggle, and as Pam mentions, “where she was before the documentary a year ago and where she is now, I feel like she is completely empowered.”

afterthefall2

After the Fall: A Breath of Life has been submitted to Canadian and International film festivals throughout 2015. Keep your eyes open for your chance to see it.

 

Read more about the project here: https://www.facebook.com/Afterthefall.abreathoflife

See the documentary teaser here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUWpjN2Pmfs&feature=youtu.be

Statistics on Organ Donation in Ontario were sourced from the Trillium Gift of Life Network: http://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/

 

Published in Fusia magazine February 2015

Highlights from Berlin Fashion Week

Contrary to some popular opinion within the global fashion world, German fashion is far from dead. Designers at this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin (January show collections that thrive with vivid patterns and bold aesthetics; they breathe a very fresh breath of life.

Here are some of the best designs from Berlin Fashion Week 2015

 

Designer:

Dorothee Schumacher

Redefining business casual. In Dorothee Shumacher designs, you can go from meeting to meet-up in seamlessly and make a statement in a completely original way.

Dorothee Schumacher 1 Dorothee Schumacher 2 Dorothee Schumacher 3 Dorothee Schumacher 4 Dorothee Schumacher 5 Dorothee Schumacher 6 Dorothee Schumacher 7

Designer:

Kaviar Gauche

Fancifully playing with the wedding dress. Traditional meets tantalizing in some of these breathtaking designs.

Kaviar Gauche 1 Kaviar Gauche 2 Kaviar Gauche 3 Kaviar Gauche 4 Kaviar Gauche 5 Kaviar Gauche 6 Kaviar Gauche 7 Kaviar Gauche 8 Kaviar Gauche 9

Designer:

Holy Ghost

These looks all exhibit a chic city dweller. The collection thrives on layers and fashionable comfort.

holy ghost 1 holy ghost 2 holy ghost 3 holy ghost 4 holy ghost 5 holy ghost 6 holy ghost 7 holy ghost 8 holy ghost 9 holy ghost 10

Designer:

Nana K. Brenu

Some of the most memorable work of Berlin Fashion Week 2015, an impressive display of colour and bold symbols “influenced by the impact of the complex simplicity of the monochromatic geometric designs of traditional Ghanaian symbols,” yet remaining very original and modern. Nana K. Brenu’s design philosophy for 1981 “is based on the notion that design should reflect who you are, where you are from and where you have been. In other words clothes are the storytellers on the journey of our lives.”

DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 1 DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 2 DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 3 DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 4 DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 5 DEU 1981, Maxhosa By Laduma, Soboye Show 6

Info and Photos sourced from http://mbfashionweek.com/berlin

 

Published in Fusia magazine January 2015

A Day of Wellness at Miramar Bath House

Most people can agree that one of the most disappointing things to happen while traveling, short of losing all of your money and identification, is to get sick. Travel is a luxury and an investment and being in bed sick is such a waste of essential time and dampers the enjoyable experience. So, when I got sick with a flu that had me in bed for about a week, I was understandably quite disappointed. I was even more disappointed because I had a trip to Frankfurt planned and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go because I was feeling too sick for the 5 hour drive from Berlin. Luckily for me, I was starting to feel better the day before my scheduled departure.

Upon my arrival into Frankfurt my friend, who had also been sick, assured me that she would get us better quickly; her solution? A Wellness Tage (a day of wellness) at Miramar Bath House. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having heard so much about European bath houses, I figured it would be a good experience to add to my European travels.

outside pool therma pool

The reality of this experience exceeded all of my expectations. There are about a dozen different pools and hot tubs. Being that we partook of this experience in the winter, every pool was heated to a cozy 34 degrees or higher. The, let’s call it an ‘amusement spa’, was divided into themed locations: thermal pools, salts and crystals oasis, sauna paradise, and the wave pool and water slides section. This is precisely why I’m calling it an ‘amusement spa,’ it was a water park meets spa and was uniquely interesting.

water slides wave pool

We entered the spa and first took a nice leisurely swim in the central thermal pool. It was languid and relaxing, but I also took this opportunity to actually swim and therefore be a little bit active. We then decided to head outside to the hot tubs. We sat emerged in bubbling hot water with steam cascading all around us, and….wait for it…..SNOW falling lightly on our heads. The juxtaposition almost made me giddy. I’m sure I looked childish as I reached out to catch the large flakes fluttering gracefully down towards us, but I had never sat outside in the snow in my bikini before. In my opinion the best moments are experienced with childlike fascination and glee anyway.

outside hot tubs 2 outside hot tubs

After the hot tubs we moved on to the waterslides. This is apparently where you get your workout, since you have to carry large tubes up what feels like never-ending staircases, but the thrill of the slides makes it completely worth it. After we had our fill of plummeting into the topsy-turvy unknown, and being buffeted back and forth in the wave pool, we headed towards the salts, minerals, and crystals area for our much needed R&R. Again we found ourselves in a thermal pool that headed outside. We languidly swam amidst steam and strangers.

steamy outside pool

We then headed back indoors to relax on recliners in a heated room in front of a beautiful gas fireplace.

relaxation lounge 2

The entire crystal room is decorated with crystals and Amethysts. The constant sound of waterfalls, the glow of the fireplace, and the glittering from every corner of the room makes you feel like you are relaxing in the lap of luxury. Even the hot tub in this room is designed in a way that you feel like you are sitting directly in the middle of an Amethyst.

salts pool 2 Krystal and Mineral Room, Amasyth hot tub

After much relaxation and swimming, we then partook in some much needed and thoroughly enjoyed aromatherapy massages and then relaxed in the Sole Relax Raum, which was a heated room of therapeutic tranquility: the floor was covered in bath salts which perfumed the air and the room remained disruption free for a 20 minute period where an attendant created tranquil music with gongs and other serene and soothing instruments. The space was meant to be an oasis for quiet contemplation and mediation. The yogi in me was impressed and excited about the idea of being able to focus on the wellness of mind as well as body.

massage 2 solo relax raum

After many more hours of swimming and relaxing in all of the various areas, we reposed in the sauna paradise and walked the grounds. I will admit that my North American mentalities made this a slightly uncomfortable experience for me since in Sauna Paradise clothing is optional. However, despite this momentary angst, the entire experience throughout the whole day was so unbelievably relaxing and exhilarating that I left on a wellness-high.

sauna 3 sauna

Ultimately I was thoroughly impressed with my first European bath house experience. Miramar combines fun with relaxation and in turn really has something to offer everyone; whether you are there to have fun on the waterslides and in the wave pool, or to relax and unwind in the salt baths and thermal pools, Miramar really has something for the whole family.

krystal outside bath 2 children's pool

In the end, my misfortune of getting sick worked out to allow for an exceptional experience. The getting sick is no fun, but the getting better can be! The Europeans really know how to relax and enjoy life when it counts and they really know how to get better in style. All I can think of now is….how on earth am I going to get better from colds and flues when I’m back in Canada? Somehow sipping Neocitran in bed just doesn’t have the same appeal as a European bathhouse.

Photos taken from Miramar Website: http://www.miramar-bad.de/therme/

Published in Fusia magazine, February 2015