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The Vessel

I did not wanted my NYC trip to be a cliche’! Which is to visit Times Square, see the Brooklyn Bridge, and visit Statue of Liberty. They are what NY stands for; but I want to see lots of places which are newer and less heard of. I had always wanted to vist Soho area;so we decided to do a little but of that, and I got a glimpse of it! We walked alot…Soho was cute, and we knew there was more to it and this weekend trip isn’t gonna cut it! So its “until next time for Soho”. As we proceeded to lunch and were discussing what to do next. A lady sitting with her daughter next to our table advised us to visit Hudson Yards and “the Vessel”. One of my friend had heard of it and with the quick google search, we made up our mind to go there. We had our cars with us that day and had to pass through the midtown. The traffic we encountered and of course to find ‘a street parking’ was an achievement for us. As we arrived we were quickly got a glimps of the structure. Nestled between the skyscrapers of Hudson Yards area, it’s the most intricately designed building, which is also considered as a piece of art. Facing the Hudson River, it consists of 154 flight of stairs which are connected with each other with the help of a honeycomb structure. The whole building is shaped like a Vessel. We reached there in the evening and by the time we got on top of the building we had enough time to see the sunset. There are tickets to enter the building which can be bought with the quick scan of the “QR” code which will lead you to the Vessel website, near the building.

After visit one can grab a quick bite from the shops and restaurants inside the mall near the building.

For more pictures of “NYC” follow me on my Instagram @bnb4life.

I’m on Instagram as @bnb4life. Install the app to follow my photos and videos. https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=1jtlq7jfg3yx5&utm_content=3negdm

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A taste of home, in NYC

Every summer a must thing that I do with my family is plan a weekend visit to NYC. Its a little escape from DMV area. Okay…. Yes I AM one of those people who love the urban jungle and the city vibes. What can I tell you? I grew up in the biggest city of Pakistan, called Karachi which is the 7th largest city and urban population in the world, currently bustling with 16.62 million people. So the quiet suburbs of Maryland sometimes become… well too quite. This time the plan was a little different. My best friend who is originally from New York and now lives in Maryland was visiting her parents in New York and so we decided to meet up with her and then another friend of mine also decided to join us. So with this spontaneous program we decided to meet each other and have a crazy fun filled weekend in NYC. I always go to the same places; The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and ofcourse Times Square. So this time, my idea was to visit places that we have not been to. My friend suggested we should hit Soho area in lower Manhattan and check out this cute little Pakistani tea place called ‘The Chai Spot’ . Upon looking up and finding more about the spot with a quick Instagram search, we were all game for it. Just like in United States no one works and sustain without coffee, Pakistanis do not work and sustain without tea. I am not talking about the usual chamomile tea, which is intended to put one to sleep. The south asian ‘Chai’ is actually black tea, as strong as coffee and full of caffeine, prepared in different ways in different parts of Pakistan.


Photos by the author: Entrance

As we enjoyed our walk in lower Manhattan area, we were not disappointed when we arrived at ‘The Chai Spot’ nestled among other restaurants. The truck art is familiar to me as I grew up seeing this kind of truck art all over the public transportation, i.e. trucks, lorries, rickshaws and public buses in Karachi. Those eyes that were drawn on the spot are usually drawn at the back of the truck with a funny couplets, or an important message written which would never failed to amuse anyone who is driving and is stuck behind those trucks in a traffic jam. The colorful sitting bamboo stools and the vibe reminded me of home. As we entered we were greeted by even more truck art.


Truck Art by PhoolPatti

The place is owned by a Balochi woman Khalida Barohi and her husband David Barron. I think I spotted David at the front desk with some other people who work there, as we ordered our chai(tea) and got busy taking more pictures. The chai menu had some unusual choices. The Chais made here are like the one I am accustomed to drinking, but with some interesting twists. I ordered for myself a coconut rose chai. As we went inside we were welcomed by the traditional floor seating arrangement. Ofcourse, we had to take off our shoes, just like any other Pakistani household, the place has the tradition; and we sat on the corner. The room was not that lit, but there was enough light to create a cool ambiance, with beautiful cushions on the floor and on the wall. The place was very easy going and eclectic. It was like a Starbucks with more Pakistani touch! One can sit at any corner with the laptop and a cup of chai with some cookies to go with it and work away, or curl up in the corner to read a book. I also spotted a basket of yoga mats and assumed that they might also have yoga classes as well. There were 2 bookshelves with books and board games. Our group consisted of atleast 15 people and we took a whole corner of the chai spot. As my chai arrived I could not help but notice a little extra touch as the cups were beautifully decorated with handcrafted ribbons.



As it was out first visit, the server provided us with brochures about the place. As I read more about the philanthropic work that was done by Khalida, with the profite from this place, and could not help but feel pride to know about her courage and her perseverance.

There is a small shop setup inside the Chai Spot with traditional handicraft work that one can easily buy and support her cause. I bought her book , which had her inspirational story. If anyone ever have a chance to visit them in NYC its a must see place. You will always leave after vising with some ‘peace, love and ofCourse some chai’

You can find out more about ‘The Chai Spot’ here

To find out and see who did the gorgeous truck art click here


The author with Flying Queen



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Biking Adventure (cont—)

It had taken us 2 hours to come to Harper’s Ferry. Now we needed enough time to head back. So we decided to head back to our bikes. Crossed the bridge again got our bikes and started paddling. As we paddled I realized I felt more tired. Each push of the paddle was becoming heavier. I think my kids and husband were as well as they were not talking much. Or they could just be enjoying the breeze and the serenity. My daughter suddenly stopped the bike which made my son stop behind her and then me. My husband realizing he couldn’t hear our bikes stopped and looked behind to see us why we had stopped. I got of my bike and asked my daughter what had happened. She was off her bike as well looking at the ground, pointing, “look!”. I moved forward, “What is it?” “It’s a snail! “I couldn’t see, until I saw more closely. It was the color of the gravel and the biggest, small snail I had ever seen. It was moving as slowly, as snails do. My son rolled his eyes. Nothing impresses a teen when they’re tired. I wouldn’t blame him, the hot sun was gone, but there was still evening light and the shadowed bike path was becoming much darker. We realized we should’ve had some lights on our bikes. My husband then realized he had installed two on my son’s and he already had one on his. He took off the rear bike from my son’s bike and installed on mine’s. I was the one who was now biking slowly and was much behind. We started paddling again, till I realized my paddle was not taking the bike forward. I looked at the mechanical chain section of the bike and realized my chain was off, probably due to sudden break. My husband and kids we already gone. I decided to fix the chain myself. So got off and started to work on it. I was too tired. I took off my phone and started to call my husband, realizing his phone didn’t had enough battery and I had advised him to turn it off. So, I decided to walk. I walked for 10 minutes till I saw my husband coming back. Upon his arrival I told him what’s happening. He immediately got to work and, in a minute, fixed the chain. Relief, I decided to adjust my seat higher. I felt like I was going slow and peddling more than I must. It wasn’t even mountainous! It was a plan, flat trail. “UGH! Feeling more out of shape than ever wondering how much my weight is I started paddling.  My husband still was ahead of me, “You don’t even go to the gym with me!” I yelled after him, feeling offended, while a man, clearly in his 60’s ran alongside us. I could hear my husband’s grin as he slowed down and I joined. We saw our kids then, with concerned look on their faces as one of them asked if I was okay.


When we started paddling again, I felt like I was a puddle of sweat. I cursed myself for missing all those cardio classes and only taking yoga, telling myself it’s a good workout. I realized more than ever that it uses be the combo of both that had always worked for me. Also, realizing that doing all those missed cardio doing in one day could be well—life threatening! “Its too late for it!” told me. I stopped and took out my cell phone, wondering how far is the campground? It was getting dark. We could see the fireflies alongside our trail and if we stop, the mosquitoes would start having buffet on us. It showed 8 more minutes. That was enough for motivation. We reached our campground territory in 8 more minutes and then the kids rushed to the final mile towards our car, while me and my husband we not so far behind. Upon reaching we were welcomed by the smell of bar-b-q as the campers had started their dinner. We hung around there for having water and loading our bikes on the SUV. We were tired, sweaty but had a blast. Looking forward to more adventures ahead. Of-course, will prep with cardio next time —NOT!

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Scenic Biking Adventure


My biking adventure is ongoing. This was a 4th of July weekend. Instead of going to the beach, I decided to do some ‘stay-cay-tion’. To be honest, with my husband’s crazy DMV 270/495 commute to Herndon or Crystal City, Virginia area on weekdays since last few months, I didn’t wanted him to drive more, and to go anywhere. So this weekend was a perfect opportunity to take it easy and relax. July 4th passed in a traditional way, with evening bar-bqs with close friends and family; and fireworks. It has been a little rainy in past few days. The rainy days are than balanced with pockets of hot weather and humid days. We managed to find a perfect day to test our biking rack and yes finally go on a real biking adventure. We decided to go to a campground in Brunswick, Maryland. Not being a family that camps, we do know family which goes camping and we had spent a day with them over there while they were camping there for few days last year. The Brunswick camp is located near Potomac River and C & O Canal and one can do tubing, biking, kayaking and canoeing there besides camping. We decided to just stick with biking that day. Upon arrival we found out that there are two routes for biking and both are kid and family friendly. We decided to take the route which would take us towards Harper’s Ferry; a small town in West Virginia with well-preserved history of Civil war. Our route was 5.2 miles each way, with C &O Canal running on one side and Potomac River sometimes calmly floating and sometimes raging onto the other side. As I started biking I realized that the breeze is much cooler and we have a canopy of trees over our bike path to protect us from the sun. The sun would only come through those dense branches of tress on rare occasions. We would bike and stop to take breaks and enjoy the scenic Potomac River till we reached the bridge that would take us to Harper’s Ferry.


Photo Credit : By the Author- Harper’s Ferry Bridge 


Our initial thought was to take our bikes up to the stairs with us on the top of the bridge, but then we decided it would be easier to chain our bikes and just walk across. So we did that. We were rewarded with the scenic view of raging Potomac on either side and could see Harper’s Ferry Town on the other side. As we reached the town, tired and wanting to sit in a cool place we decided to have lunch in one of the historic town buildings from Civil War era that were converted into modern day restaurant. It was much needed break for us as we splashed our faces with cold water in the restrooms and then had a good burger, with fries of course. With our bellies full, we decided to head back.


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Go get on a bike!

Recently I had a bike latch installed in my SUV. It had been a plan for years to have a bike latch installed for me, my husband’s bike and our 2 kids, but did not happen for one or the other reason. Now we are itching to give it a try. We usually just grab our bikes and go for biking. I must say during summer me and my family become avid bikers; but it usually happens just around the neighborhood. We had a fro-yo shop at our nearest shopping plaza and that would be a reason for all four of us to bike together, get to the frozen-yogurt store, HAVE some frozen-yogurt and bike back. We would take all the longest, winding routs and being fairly new in the area, it was exciting. The store closed after just 2 years and my kids are now in pre-teens and teens, and the idea for them biking with mom and dad versus with their friends is more appealing, so we had to revisit the idea of the latch getting installed again to mix things up i.e. get back into the ‘we are still cool parents that you might wanna hangout with’ zone. With that I had to think about another interesting aspect of biking which I had to take care of. You see, I DO NOT  like BUGS! Yes the bugs that come with the whole idea of being outdoors in a foresty kind of parks. We had done those and I drench my self with bugs repellent spray before any outdoorsy activity. Living in American suburbs have spoiled me I must admit! Who would say I grew up in a third world country where bugs were a norm. I can’t help but think that all this greenery we are surrounded with in Maryland we are not bitten by bugs that much. One more thing I thought about is to have a fellow family that bikes, just like us. It not only eliminated the whining(mostly by kids) and eye rolling, but a family that bikes regularly might be able to  guide us to where we should bike, the fun spots to bike and of course any kinds of challenging are easily over come. With all of that in mind we are ready to bike! I am going to share more adventures related to that for next time. So stay tuned!


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Neuroscience and Learning

As a part of one of my summer courses, we are in charge of 15 hours of our own learning excursions. Since I’m still working full time, taking credits on campus, and tutoring, I decided to make these excursions web-based.

The first of the webinars is on a combination of teaching pedagogy and neuroscience. While teaching pedagogy is not really relevant to all USG students, a lot of the points made by Judy Willis, the neuroscientist presenting, can be utilized by graduate students to enhance their own learning or even day to day activities. One of the most interesting takeaways was on dopamine and the power of prediction.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by our brains. In other words…it’s what boosts happiness. I’ve referred to it as the “happiness chemical” when having discussions with my students. The first half of the webinar is a discussion about how the brain seeks pleasure that awards accurate predictions. Our minds want to be right, but in general, we just generally want to know the answer! Of all the different type of stimuli that cause a release of dopamine, making a prediction or achieving a challenge are two of the biggest.

What does this mean for a USG student?

View goals as predictions! Our minds are powered and motivated by clear goals. It can recognize when faced with a challenge that can be achieved through hard work or persistence. Let’s say I begin a new class and predict I end the semester with a 92% or higher. I’ll be driven and motivated to the end of the semester to see if I actually achieve that goal, rather than just saying “I’d like to pass” or “I’d like to get an A.”

There was another section on neuroplasticity. The idea here is that our minds are flexible and can be built “stronger” through frequent use. Though this section of the webinar focused more on teacher pedagogy, the main idea is still relevant to students and people of all walks of life. Our minds are never set.

The webinar focused heavily on how to get students to remember things. The big message here was that creating a durable memory requires consistent activation. The best type of activation? Applications that are personally relevant performance tasks. For example, if I’m trying to memorize the different learning theories and who came up with them, I may try to apply those learning theories to my own classroom.

With one hour down and 14 more to go, I’m excited to see what else I (and you!) can learn from these webinars.

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Memorial Day

As the pictures of my fellow graduate students roll upon my social media feed, I could not help but reflect on the past semester and the future. I still have one more semester to go till I graduate. I felt very proud of my fellow class mates as I saw them in their graduation gowns smiling back at the camera with my professors. I texted the ones whose numbers I had saved up in my phone and was a bit shocked and amazed by myself not to have numbers of those with whom I would sit with everyday and did not exchange phone numbers with. I added many on my social media and felt happy that at least they want to keep in touch with me after graduation.

As the graduation weekend turned into Memorial day weekend it announces the official start of summer.  Our neighborhood pool is opened and my Saturday started with the sound of lawn mower in one of my neighborhood lawns. As the weekend progressed I could see people cleaning their cars,  doing more yard work, kids running with skateboards and with smell of bar b q in the air. It looks like a traditional memorial day weekend; the stay-cation, at its best! As evening approached, sitting in front of T.V, I flipped channels, and decided to see some memorial day programs. The event was being held in Washington D.C. The even shed light in heart wrenching stories of Veterans who sacrificed their lives for US in Vietnam War. The stories of these war veterans were narrated by academy award winning actors like Sam Elliot and Danzel Washington, were heart wrenching as one could not help but shed tear with them. The stories helped remember the veterans ,that they would never forget the day when they lost their friends and family members in the war. The program also had many award winning performers like Patti Labelle  whose voices and the song they sang consoled the hearts of every wet eye in the audience. The program truly reminded me of the significance and a the sacrifice of these solders, whose sacrifice and heroism helped this country sustain peace for the future generations. If you didn’t had a chance to see the concert you can see it here.


“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery


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Gaithersburg Book Festival

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my 5th-grade class wrote a play with John Morigello, a member of Best Medicine Rep. This play was chosen to be performed by Best Medicine Rep at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, and John had invited me and members of my school community to come to see the play.

As a Howard County native and someone who now lives on the opposite end of Montgomery County compared to Gaithersburg, I had not heard of the Gaithersburg Book Festival until now. I had no idea what to expect, so I expected nothing.

So, on May 18th, in the blazing sun (welcome, summer-y weather), I wandered over to Gaithersburg with two of my team teachers. As soon as we crossed from Gaithersburg High to the festival grounds, I knew we were in for an adventure.

There were white tents, food trucks, and people everywhere. One of the best parts? The first thing I passed through was a stand from Book Crossing, which was giving away free books. It’s kind of like a “traveling books” company. I was able to bring four novels home, excited for some beach reads.

We were running late for the performance and managed to run in halfway through scene 1. It was fantastic, especially seeing a few of my students in the front tables chomping on festival food, watching their parents performed by professionals.

After our play and another class’s play was over, we wandered around. The festival was so much bigger than I could ever expect. Tents featured things such as:

  • Guest authors speaking about their novels.
  • Dozens of local authors with their books. They were so lovely to talk to. We were not expecting to buy any but alas, two of us left with a new local read.
  • Performances!
  • The Politics and Prose Bookstore
  • Kid-friendly activities. One of my favorites was a multi-lingual story-time station.
  • So much food.

I sincerely wish I took more pictures, but I’m also thankful I had the opportunity to take it all in. With phones, Reddit, and Kindles seemingly taking over the world, it felt good to see that there were so many people attending a festival fully dedicated to books. I’ll be sure to attend next year.

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Thank you, Next

People do NOT notice this, but when you are about to graduate, you tense up and feel nervous. I certainly do!
Did I forget to mention the cost of graduation? Yes, graduation costs $170, but this memorable occasion only happens once, so……yeah.

Am I happy to graduate? Um..suure. It feels like the time just vanished! I remember that I wanted to get out when I was in school, and now that I am almost out, I don’t want to leave. Dead o Dear. ‘Everyone’s gotta grow up right?’

Since this may be my last blog, I want to use this opportunity to thank:
All my classmates who struggled with me. Its been too real.
My employers who knew that as a student, I cannot be working all the time and was patient with me.
Teachers! Thanks for the support.
The cafeteria for feeding me.
The snow days that gave me breathing space. Whew, I needed that.
My credit card for all the support.

And USG for putting students first!

I will now proceed to the next chapter of my life. Thank you, Next

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Graduation is comin’!

Hiya! This is the last blog of the semester and I get to write it! I have been following all other bloggers at Universities at Shady Grove website, who are sharing their experiences of this semester and getting geared up for graduation. I must admit, I am feeling a bitter sweet now,since I know many students in my classes, with whom I have bonded with in the last two years and I believe, have acquired  lifelong friendships. As I feel happy for them, as they are graduating, I will miss their presence in class rooms. Its not just the students, I must admit even the professors. Even though I have one more semester to go I am done with most of my classes and I will be seeing some of those professors passing along the hallways, as I am done with their classes.

For students who are graduating USG is celebrating graduation gala today , you can check out the flyer below.Graduation Celebration final-front

Last week, communication department hosted the annual film festival at USG, which, showcases the films and photography. Students received special certificate in the field of acting, directing, producing, screenwriting, editing, and photography. USG will be posting the latest creative work every Friday, of the winning movies.  You will be surprised with the raw talent and creativity that my fellow class mates poured into these movies. So, if you want to see us comm majors in our element, go ahead and watch it here. Please don’t forget to subscribe and hit like button.

It has been an amazing, crazy semester for me, I am sure it is for you as well. I have one more class next week and than a final push for the exams. Till then, I am like, all you exam-o-phelleic people hanging in there, as its just few more days. 24djve

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