Faith – An Opportunity to Grow


As a child and as a classically trained violinist, I learned early on that the best way to be successful is to rely on myself and only myself. If I put in dedication, with my smarts, I always succeeded. As I became an adult, I learned that the population norm has lower expectations than I do. Fiercely independent, I have faith in myself that I will always be “all right” under any circumstances. I don’t easily buckle; I am antifragile and can appear to be amorphous from a traditional perspective.

Yet, I did not know the opportunity cost of being fiercely independent is that I don’t faith in others- people, things or religion. I am a pragmatist with a heart that desires to be an idealist. Having faith – or having blind faith is what has eluded me.

As I closed out the year at work last Friday, inevitably I did an internal evaluation. I looked back at my professional life in 2016 and saw how much I did this year… CMS implementation, site redesign, media spend attribution model, team reorganization, big data migration, and setting up infrastructure for the digital emerging technology. I realized that I must have had some faith. I pushed hard on my team and my colleagues and raised the bar on everyone. I must have believed and they delivered. Isn’t that faith?

I also looked back at my personal life and realized that it is fuller than it had been in the past ten years. I now have a bigger circle of friends who care and love me. Through hardship in the past two years, I saw who were there for me when things were in the dumps and said goodbye to those who weren’t. Years of relationships with people often means nothing in the time of war. This journey to trusting people other than myself is buried in landmines. My glass was half empty.

As I depart tonight flying to my mecca to begin some soul searching and reconnecting to Taiwan, my heart is full, filling with emotions that I cannot describe. I toggle between two worlds; one with faith and one without. I recently remarked that my glass is now sometimes half full and got yelled back, “THE GLASS IS FULL!” Lovingly, I want to remember the lesson in 2016 and teach myself that I, too, can have faith.

Cheers to a new year and to having blind faith in life. LOVE To ALL.

Equus in the Castle Hotel & Spa, Tarrytown, NY- Outstanding Food and Service

Castle Hotel and Spa in Tarrytown, NY is such a beautiful place. It is a picture perfect fairy tale hotel – a corner room at top of the castle with windows on two sides overlooking the Hudson River at sunset. I felt like Rapunzel letting down my hair and letting my prince up. The Equus restaurant is really something – deserves a top rating and review. It was perfect… even the French fries.

Unfortunately, this meal was eaten so long ago that these items have rotated off their current Summer menu. I had to reconstruct the meal from pictures and memory.imageFrench Fries, like the authentic fries from the good French bistros.imageSome sort of squash soup. This was delicious. I remember the taste and smoothness but not the ingredients.imageLobster Salad with foam. Also excellent. The lobster was tender. image Lamb… I really regret not writing the ingredients down. This was the best dish of the night and possibly the best lamb that I have had this year. I remember being surprised at how good it is and how impressed I was. The dish itself when described to me sounded heavy but it turned out to be just right. The grain that accompanied the lamb balanced out the red meat well. It was so good that I thought of thanking the chef!imageCobb Salad: Avocado, Bacon, Cucumber, Onion, Blue Cheese, Shrimp. Good and fresh.

Well worth the money. Outstanding food and service. Outstanding hotel and staff. Highly recommend both.

This experience took place at

Equus
Castle Hotel & Spa
400 Benedict Avenue
Tarrytown, NY 10591
914-631-3646

A Love Story: Madrid and New York

20160721_125926Claudia is 40. She came to New York when she was 20 years old, without speaking a word of English. Her Nana pushed her to explore the world. Eagerly, she packed her bags and left Madrid by herself to come visit a friend. She quickly fell in love, the kind that she would die for. She said that her whole body yearned for him- head over heels, completely and utterly lost. She surrendered. Had her first son soon after and kept on going. She ended up with four children by this tall and handsome man. She had this look in her eyes when she talked about him, about his physique, about how he made her feel. And about how much she was willing to give up everything for him.

Getting married in early 20s is like swallowing a chocolatey sweet cyanide pill each time you have sex with the person. It is a chronic low dose poison that you may not be aware of until a decade later. Until you realize that you’ve grown apart, everything died, and all you shared are the chores surrounding the children and the financial obligations.

The smart girl she is, Claudia got a divorce in her 30s. She then met her current husband, a third generation Italian American, whom she says she loves. She said to me that her Nana told her to only marry someone who loves her more than she loves him. This is the guy.  Why does she love him?

Claudia loves him because when she is done working and goes home, dinner is ready on the table for her and her six children. Now she has six… ages 19, 17, 14, 10, and 7. I am missing one but I lost track. She loves him because he was so desperate for her love. She loves him because he wanted to marry her. She loves him because he lets her be who she is and have all the freedom she desires. Luckily the sex is good. Good sex is a must have and great sex seals the deal. Yet Claudia tells me that he is not her type – he is short and nerdy. She even showed me how short he is – my height. She tells me that when he breathes on her neck, she brushes him off and pushes him away. She can’t stand his breath.

The alarm bell went off in my head… Can you love someone and have children with them because he makes dinner but you can’t stand him when he comes close? When she allows him to come close, the sex is good so he is a keeper?  I asked, “But that’s not the kind of love you would surrender to. Right?” Claudia answered, ” I did. I made myself surrender. I worked on it. It took me two years.”

It was a mic drop moment for me.

How does one will herself to fall in love deeply? Are we full of contradictions? Is love mostly about our ability to compromise?

Claudia will be going back to Madrid to visit her Nana soon, whom she loves dearly. Her Nana is 90 years+ and often feels death coming. Nana summons Claudia frequently. On Nana, Claudia’s love is unwavering and filled with light.

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Inspired by a real person but fictional in nature. Claudia and I met for the first time, while she was cutting my hair yesterday.

 

Wanderlust Grand Cayman- Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill in Rum Point Beach

Having had multiple mediocre meals in Grand Cayman, I finally landed on something very delicious, at Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill. Rum Point beach is a local favorite; it is serene, clear blue water and sky with bewitching sun and music. It took me out of NY; took me out of being me; took me to a point in time where everything was perfect. This was serenity.

SPICY RED CONCH CHOWDER, garnished with chives. Hot, hot, hot but simply just right. Yum. BLACKENED FISH SANDWICH: lettuce, tomato, onion & mango mayo. Delicious. Fresh. So much better than the blackened fish at the Lobster Pot at less than half the price.EL CUBANO: roasted pork, smoked ham, swiss cheese, dill pickle & mustard. Best Cubano sandwich I have ever had. The mustard and the pork made it perfect.

Loved Rum Point in Grand Cayman. Loved my Cubano!

Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill
Rum Point, Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-947-9412

Wanderlust Grand Cayman – Rum Point Beach and the Stunning Visuals

Rum Point beach where sea creatures crawled up my arms and played with meCan you feel the sun and the breeze?  Let’s hold hands and walk down to the end of the world
Can you see the coral beneath the aqua green water?  Dead coral on land My first pina colada  Water sportsBananas!  This is a fruit, shelled and used for cooking.

Rum Point is one of the main reasons to come to Grand Cayman.

Wanderlust Grand Cayman – Lobster Pot Restaurant and Wine Bar in Georgetown

Do you know that cabs in Grand Cayman are often old beat-up minivans that are driven by an elderly couple who will talk your ears off? I think their names are Leslie and Neil. Not only are they cab drivers, they double as sightseeing guides and food critics. Because of Leslie and Neil’s welcoming and embracing attitudes toward the tourists, we jumped off at the closest restaurant, Lobster Pot in downtown Georgetown. In fact, I escaped the cab and left my friend in the cab to pay. I waited at the curb for at least three minutes before Leslie and Neil let my friend out.Marinated Queen Conch: Lobster Pot’s traditional Cayman style recipe. Kind of not a fan of the traditional recipe. Too sweet and the conch too chewy.Daily Fresh Ceviche: Finely diced fresh catch of the day tossed in limes and spices with crisp bell peppers, cilantro and red onion. Acceptable.Captain’s Catch of the Day: Grouper(?) served blackened Cayman style with chef’s vegetables and golden fried plantains. The blackened fish was acceptable but too black peppery spicy. The plantains were soft and ripe.    I was stupid. I asked for the daily catch to be grilled. It was tasteless even after I salted. I don’t understand how freshly grilled fish can fail but they did. Poor fish – they sacrificed for no reason.

Leslie and Neil, originally from the UK, are long time residents of Grand Cayman. They drove us around downtown Georgetown which was a disappointment – it looked desolate and gaudy, reminded me of Virginia Beach. They also highly recommended the Lobster Pot which was another disappointment. Lobster Pot was set up right by the water. We sat on the deck overlooking the deep water in the dark with a huge yacht in the distance. There were musicians playing guitars and singing for the guests. The air was warm. The breeze caressed my face.

The Caribbean does not agree with me- Leslie and Neil were blasting heat in the 78 degree weather.

Lobster Pot Restaurant and Wine Bar
245 N Church St,
George Town KY1-1107
Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-949-2736

Wanderlust Grand Cayman: Anchor & Den of The Marriott Beach Resort on the Seven Mile Beach

I really should be more grateful.

Earlier this year, I was at the Grand Cayman enjoying the radiant sun, wearing sandals when New York was freezing and gray. I ended up at the Anchor & Den  having a late afternoon snack. The wait staff composed of people from around the world: Germany, The Philippines, Scotland, Mexico, and the other Caribbean Islands. It was a beautiful resort: open, airy, sunlight filling all the windows, white sand beach, gourmet chocolate bar, artisan cocktails, impressive artwork on the wall, and many many well-dressed and smiling tourists.Jamon Iberico on garlic bread. Delicious Jamon. The garlic bread was too garlicky – not suitable after the first piece.Tartines: Black mission fig and bell peppers, nicoise olives, curry herb paste on homemade grilled sourdough. Fantastic. Sweet and soft with a tangy and salty aftertaste.

I really should be more grateful but I was not. Why? Because it felt all too perfect and too made up. I may be naive but I do know the world does not look like this.

Anchor & Den
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort
389 West Bay Road Box 30371
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-949-0088

The Best Wanderlust of Them All: Peilin Corbanese- Coming Soon this Fall

I had an interesting text conversation with three friends this morning. I asked the question, “I think I want a new last name. What should it be?”

A quick background: I have got three distinct identities, two passports, and one divorce coming up shortly. I was born Taiwanese and 1/3 of time I feel like Taiwanese or more precisely I feel like Tsai Peilin, 蔡沛伶. I am also a Corbanese, a name I have used since the beginning of my career and has given me both the French and the Italian cultures and motherhood. I feel like a Corbanese 1/3 of the time. The last 1/3 is the person I am putting together that will integrate the first two and carry me forward.

One of my friends is a Taiwanese American married to a Taiwanese American, living in Jersey. She wants me to revert back to my maiden name, 蔡Tsai, which no one can properly pronounce in the US. Plus “Peilin Tsai” is really not who I am anymore and gives out the wrong impression.  I am only 蔡沛伶 Tsai Peilin when I return to Taiwan. But my friend insists that I am always 蔡沛伶Tsai Peilin, no matter what I think or feel.

The other friend is also a Taiwanese American married to a German-Indian, living in Dallas. She wants me to pick my favorite movie star’s last name (imaginary husband, she says) or a character I can identify with from a book. It’s a big no no on the imaginary husband – Oy! I have come too far to take someone else’s last name. Then I put Caulfield after Peilin and that did not sound right. She then suggested a heroine – yep, we are doing better. Then “Clinton” came up! OMG, that’s also a husband’s last name! What are we doing, girls?  Why do so many strong independent women take on their husband’s last name?

My third friend, another Taiwanese but not an American. She is married to a Swiss-German or German-Swiss (Sorry, Amay, I don’t remember.) living in Holland. She suggests that I create a new word using my Taiwanese last name. She also suggests that it does not have to be “English-Made.” All three of them feel that I need to merge my identities instead of keeping them separate.

Being a marketer, I can totally see myself blogging and advertising,

“You may think you know her but you don’t. Peilin Corbanese- Coming soon this Fall, Peilin ??????”

Just like a movie preview with a soundtrack of a racing car vroom vroom vrooming. This is the best wanderlust of them all. #WanderlustPeilin Corbanese

Thai Spice in Norwalk, CT – Authentic Food Served by Teenagers

This was a funny little experience. I ended up in this stretch of suburban sprawl in Norwalk, CT, hungry. Looking around me, there were corporate parks, bad Chinese food take outs, genetic diners, fast food joints, liquors shops and massage parlors. As I was getting desperate, I saw Thai Spice, squeezed in between an empty office front and a massage place. The menu looked authentic and I went in. imageTod Mun: fried fish cakes, cucumber salad and crushed peanuts. The restaurant was empty and all the wait staff were in the back, eating dinner. They didn’t care to take the order; didn’t care whether there were utensils on the table; didn’t bother to even place the dish in front of me. The slid my big bowl of soup across the table to me – like slow motion bowling.imageNua Nam Tok: beef, lettuce, onions, lemongrass, roasted rice and mint. So good. The onions were strong. The beef was tender and the roasted rice smoky.imageThai Green Curry: coconut, vegetables, lime and green curry paste with shrimp.imageThai Boat Noodle Soup: beef, beef balls, rice noodles, and beef broth. Almost as good as the Vietnamese Pho and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The broth was tasty. The noodles were infused with the beef aroma. It was very satisfying!

Despite the service, the food was amazing. Authentic, delicious and fresh. If this were a take out place or a strand in the food court, I wouldn’t complain at all. But with the restaurant set up, the dismal service by the teenagers was disappointing. I seriously consider skipping out on the bill because I didn’t think they would have noticed. I also considered calling the restaurant owner – I doubt the owner would be ok with paying all these people to not serve the customers.

This experience took place at

Thai Spice

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center
345 Main Ave #2,
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 846-3533

 

River Tavern in Chester, CT – Goooooooooooal

A friend of mine convinced me to drive two hours to Chester, CT (population < 4k) to try out River Tavern, a farm-to-table New American restaurant. I was impressed. I did not imagine such well-executed dishes from an eclectic menu could exist in the middle of nowhere. We spent a lot of time discussing where the customers of this restaurant could come from.image Chester, CT is an hour away from New Haven, CT. This is a little town with only one main street and one busy block.image River Tavern is very particular about everything, from the tea-pot, tea cups to how much the wait staff know about the menu. They are knowledgable and extremely detail oriented. You can tell that the owner has high expectations and the staff cares deeply.imageRiver Tavern’s menu changes daily. Thank goodness I took pictures of the menu on Feb 28th. This is the Smelts: Fried smelts with celery root remoulade, rye crisps, dill + lemon. You may think fried smelts are heavy… Yes, that is possible. But you have not tried them with the dill + lemon sauce. It was excellent!imageP.E.I. Mussels: sautéed with merguez, garlic, chilies, oregano, tomato paste + wine. I ordered this dish because I have never seen Prince Edward Island mussels cooked with merguez before. Unfortunately, the merguez was used in the pot and not served to the customers. Even more unfortunately, I could not taste the merguez in the broth nor the mussels. Other than that, this was an excellent dish as well.imageSoeltl Farm Beef Burger: cheddar cheese, homemade pickles, ketchup + green on brioche, served with french fries. Best burger ever! Cooked perfectly medium and juicy. The homemade pickles were awesome. The fresh veggies were just better on the  burger than those that are a day old.imageFalafel: fried + served with hummus and a cucumber, lettuce, pickles onion salad, spiced yogurt sauce, pine nuts, lemon + olive oil. Decent to almost excellent.

Interestingly, they also listed Pho on their menu and I was tempted to order Pho in the middle of nowhere CT. After I grilled the server again and again on how the Pho is prepared, I decided to go against it because they ran out of Hoisin sauce. I believe I made the right choice since the burger really scored! This reminds me of listening to the soccer games on the Spanish radio station… Gooooooooal.

Highly recommend it.  Will go back again and again.

This experience took place at

River Tavern
23 Main St
Chester, CT 06412
Phone:(860) 526-9417