Florida: How I discovered home-cooked Indian food, Homeland and the Atlantic Ocean, and forgave Florida for the 2000 Election. And then went to Cleveland.

In November 2013, my roommate Roshan, who is originally from Florida, suggested that for New Year‘s, all of our college friends meet at her place in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami Beach to bring in 2013 together. This is Roshan:

400514_3146290341962_1299209755_n

I know what you’re thinking—but no, she’s actually not Beyoncé. But like don’t feel bad—Beyoncé’s still got time to live up to that.

Because I’d already had plans to fly from LA to Cleveland to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday, to make both trips, I just exchanged my ticket from LA to Cleveland for 2 cheaper tickets: One from LA to Ft. Lauderdale, and another from Ft. Lauderdale to Cleveland. I was stoked. I was overwhelmed. I was counting down the days. And, as it turns out, I was the only one of our friends who was going.

Of course, neither Roshan nor I cared. We we’re excited. First of all, I felt like this would just be a preview of what it was going to be like when we take Rio by storm in March. Second of all, this is what our relationship is like, so you can understand we don’t need much to keep us entertained:

It had been a long day.

It had been a long day.

Anyhow, I was going to Florida for 4 days. I’d never been to Florida before, and I was very okay with that. To be honest (as the title of this blog post suggests), I’d never really forgiven Florida for the 2000 election. One miscount led to 8 years of political hell. As Roshan said, “We [Florida] just can’t get our shit together.” I agreed, but, for I so loved Roshan, I was ready to go to Florida to hang out with her and her family and willing to look past where she was from in order to appreciate who she was as a person. (Just kidding—this is just a long-winded way of me saying I’d never been like, ‘Yeah! Florida!’ But I was still psyched to get a geocache in another state I’d never been in.)

My flight to Florida from LA had one layover in Houston, Texas. I got off the plane and this was the first thing I saw:

68669_10200323924486507_1238300537_n

It was too much too soon—a Fox News gift shop? Harrowing. Absolutely harrowing. I was nervous that I was flying further into the belly of the beast. But I swallowed my fear and got back on the plane to reach my final destination: Ft. Lauderdale.

I got off the plane there and Roshan was waiting for me at my terminal. I was so happy to be in Florida. It’s always such a strange feeling to see your college friends in places that aren’t college. When Roshan was driving me back to her house, I was still trying to reconcile how weird and serendipitous it felt (thought it totally wasn’t—we’d straight up planned this meet up for months) to be with Roshan in a state that wasn’t Illinois.

From the very beginning, I was already warming up to Florida. The weather was incredible. Every day I was there, the sun was out and the temperature was in the 80s—it was almost as if the weather was defying the season out of spite or something. Three important things happened to me while I was in Florida:

  1. I swam in the Atlantic Ocean
  2. I celebrated New Year’s by going to bars—for the first time
  3. I watched both seasons of Homeland in 2 days. 24 hours of television in 48 hours. You decide how you to feel about that, because I already have. And I feel like a god.

Roshan and I had had it in the back of our minds that we were going to try to get through Homeland together and finish both seasons before school started. And boy, when we put our minds to something…

When I got to Roshan’s house from the airport, I met her family: her mother, father, older sister and older brother. Roshan comes from an Indian family that keeps their family traditions alive. Her house has a beautiful room reserved for prayer—it’s the only room in the house in which no one is allowed to wear shoes. Her parents are just about the two most adorable people you’ve ever seen. Her father is a doctor who faithfully goes to and from work and spends his evenings relaxing in his living room in full surgeon’s regalia. Her mother is always cooking the most delicious Indian food and, to my great joy, was always having me eat it. I remember being so overwhelmed by her family’s adherence to tradition and being so jealous of it in my own life that I asked Roshan if one day I could try to participate in her family’s prayer ceremony, thinking it would be very technical and methodical and serious and wanting to show my respect for the process. Roshan looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Sure, but it’s gonna be boring. They’re just gonna be singing stuff.”

I also had it in my mind that, when people of other cultures make food for you, you should eat it all and always request more and never deny anything. To be honest, literally everything her mother made me was so uniquely delicious I can recall the tastes in my head today and still salivate at the memory. Everything was amazing—except for this one yogurt-y thing. It was the one thing her mother kept serving me and I  kept eating like a machine in a desperate attempt not to offend. I told Roshan about my yogurt predicament and she said, “Well just tell my mom you don’t want it.” I scoffed in Roshan’s face. “Yeah, sure, of course I’m gonna do that. Then I’m gonna put on a pair of muddy hiking boots and dance an Irish jig in your prayer room. Nice try.” The next day at dinner, her mother, in usual form, was bringing the yogurt over to my plate and I was preparing my most commanding “Ooo-this-is-delicious” face. Roshan saw this happening and gently said, “Mom, Emilia doesn’t like that stuff, stop giving it to her.” The moment I heard that, if I could shoot bullets from my eyes, I’d have released every round in my arsenal. I immediately fought like Plato in front of his Athenian jury, trying to make Roshan sound crazy—and I’m pretty sure I succeeded, because I never stopped receiving a side of that yogurt with every meal—though it was a small price to pay for the other incredible delicacies I was served.

After my weekend in Florida, I realized something: I was so anal about adhering to the cultural traditions in that house and not offending anyone because I’d grown up in a pretty Americanized home. The Barrosses (my family) didn’t have many cultural traditions we followed on a daily basis. So, for me, all of the food, all the prayer, all the norms were so fascinating and new that I overcompensated, while Roshan, who’d lived with those traditions since she was young, actually understood what they meant and knew they weren’t something to be slaved over or worried about. It was fascinating to see the differences between the first and second generations in that house. Roshan’s parents worshipped frequently, and Roshan’s mother went to mass on New Year’s, trying to get her kids to come along (no dice this time, though—we had a limo and a date with Miami Beach we weren’t about to miss!). But Roshan and her siblings, being second generation Indians, had a beautiful dichotomy in their lives. They’d been exposed to all the traditions their culture had to offer, and it was clear they had a respect for those traditions and their parents’ adherence to them—but they were able to have the best of both worlds. Because they were raised by families with strong cultural ties in a nation that strayed from them, they’d become worldly and wise in a way so few people are. Going from Roshan’s parents’ house to her cousin’s house—all Roshan’s cousins are also second generation Indians—was such a fascinating change of scenery. All these people who were brought up in staunchly Indian families, who all have such reverence for the traditions of their culture and the values their people hold, can gracefully fit in with just about any crowd they find themselves in. They’ll go from having a traditional meal with their parents and an after dinner prayer, to hitting the Miami clubs, knocking down shots with even the most debaucherous of Miami’s frat boys. It is a grace I never procured—and it is this absence in my cultural upbringing that left me choking down that yogurt concoction until the day I left for Cleveland. But again, I would’t have traded the experience of living for those few days beneath Roshan’s roof for anything.

Speaking of debauchery? So, New Year’s happened. The plan was for us all (me, Roshan, her cousins and her cousins friends and spouses) to rent a limo and go clubbing. This was the first time I ever did a New Year’s like that. I’d only ever gone to house parties and stayed in one place all night. I’d never gotten all dressed up with heels and a tight dress and a flask of spiced rum in my purse. (One of Roshan’s cousins got us all flasks with our names on them. I still have mine to this day. Never forget. Never go thirsty.) Because I’d never done anything like this before, I was informed by Roshan that the attire I brought simply wouldn’t do. Like FEMA dropping supplies down from helicopters to homeless Louisianians, Roshan made sure I had clothes and shoes to wear so I didn’t look like the inexperienced clubber I was. I couldn’t have been more grateful. With black heels and a tight, gray dress, I was ready to bring in the New Year. The following photos show a pretty accurate progression of the night:

Leaving the house, in our New Year's finest. From left to right: me, Roshan and her older brother, Jai

Leaving the house, in our New Year’s finest. From left to right: me, Roshan and her older brother, Jai. Note Roshan’s awesome, yellow shoes. Not just anyone could pull those off. Again, sorry, Beyoncé. Maybe in another life…

Surveying the limo. How do I feel?

Surveying the limo. How do I feel?

Pretty good. Pretty derned good.

Pretty good. Pretty derned good. Bring in the infantry, I’m ready to get shwasted.

The fun has arrived. We're on our way to the first club. Then, we didn't know it'd be our only club.

The fun has arrived. We’re on our way to the first club. At that moment, we didn’t know it’d be our only club.

Party girl just livin' her life, doesn't care what anyone thinks about her. Just havin' a good time.

Party girl just livin’ her life, doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her. Just havin’ a good time. Don’t care what kind of hatorade ANY of the haters are sippin’ on.

At da club. I'm drunk and leanin'. Roshan's lookin' like a prom queen. Just keeping up appearances.

At da club. I’m drunk and leanin’. Roshan’s lookin’ like a prom queen. Just keeping up the usual appearances.

At the club, what the night became was finding a way to sneak in and see Drake perform. Apparently, Drake was performing at the party we were at, and if you finagled it right, you’d be able to get in and see him—free of charge. Only a few brazen, bold members of our crew made it to see Drake, while the rest of us pretended like we were gonna find a New Year’s kiss. A gentleman was flirting pretty ferociously with Roshan, and Roshan wasn’t to be flexed with. She was busy trying to find me a New Year’s kiss, but was fighting against the fact that I have no game or confience when it comes to romance. The result of the equation? Us sharing our own New Year’s kiss. Hear that boys? We don’t need you anyways!

Keepin' it above the waist.

Keepin’ it above the waist.

After hitting the club and cheering for the New Year, we were all drunk and knew we needed one thing: sustenance. We headed to the Miami strip and went to the first restaurant we saw. I got a gigantic chicken parmesan sandwich that a sober Emilia would never have finished, but that a drunk Emilia pushed past her body’s signals of, “Dude, you’re full,” and emerged the victor in the eternal battle of Man vs. Food.

Limo ride home. Ready to sleep forever and then watch more Homeland.

About to head home. Ready to sleep forever and then watch more Homeland.

I left for Cleveland on Jan. 4—so there was a lot of time to kill between New Year’s and my flight home. That time was spent going to the beach and watching Homeland. To be honest, Roshan and I didn’t really know 100% if we were going to watch all of Homeland, but after the 3rd episode of the 1st season, it became clear. I wasn’t leaving the state until we had watched all of Homeland together. We finally finished the 2nd season at 4:30 am on Jan. 4. We had to wake up 3.5 hours later to get me to the airport, but did we have any regrets? Yes, probably. But do we now have the “I’ve Watched Homeland” bragging rights? You bet we do.

Though I’m not going to pretend like we didn’t spend a lot of time watching Homeland, we spent a fair amount of time outside as well. We went to the beach nearly every single day, and I could never get enough of the Atlantic Ocean—or the Florida beaches for that matter. Growing up, I had the Pacific Ocean, and I got used to swimming with the understanding that, once you stepped in the water, you just weren’t going to be able to see your feet. Not so in the Atlantic Ocean. The water is cleaner and warmer and gentler. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it was early January and the beaches were packed with people in swimsuits—tanning! In 3 days I would be in Cleveland where it was snowing, while our fellow compatriots just to the south were tanning and beach bumming. Even still, I can’t believe the wonders of the Floridian weather. It was when I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at 2 pm on Jan 2 that I decided I loved Florida. I didn’t care that it had wronged me in the past. I was in love with Florida and I understood that every now and again we’d disappoint each other, we’d get mad at each other and we’d make up—but isn’t that the case with all the great loves in one’s life? Here are photos of one fantastic day in particular where we went to the beach, got a late lunch, then went to the arts district in Miami to get a late dinner with Roshan’s family to celebrate her cousin’s birthday. Literally a flawless day:

Me trying to look calm when inside I'm freaking out that the weather is so perfect and that I'm wearing a dress when I know that in a few days I'd be swaddled in winter clothes battling the sleet in Cleveland.

Me trying to look calm when inside I’m freaking out that the weather is so perfect and that I’m wearing a dress when I know that in a few days I’d be swaddled in winter clothes battling the sleet in Cleveland.

Just tryna be in an awesomely-framed photo is all.

Just tryna be in an awesomely-framed photo is all.

Lunch at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. And I'm still alive?? How can real life be this good?

Lunch at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. And I’m still alive?? How can real life be this good?

Me trying to understand art—and failing—at a Miami art gallery

Me trying to understand art—and failing—at a Miami art gallery

The whole crew. These are some of the best people I've ever met. I'm not related to them by blood, but from the moment Roshan introduced me to them, they treated me like I'd known them forever. Such great memories.

The whole crew. These are some of the best people I’ve ever met. I’m not related to them by blood, but from the moment Roshan introduced me to them, they treated me like I’d known them forever. Such great memories. So grateful for my experience with them.

After an excellent time spent in Florida with my buddy—and with the beginning stages of a tan that just never really got a chance to thrive—Roshan and I woke up in a groggy Homeland-marathon-induced stupor and headed to the airport. I’d see Roshan again in a matter of days back in Chicago, but it wouldn’t be the same as it was in Florida. I’d had an absolutely idyllic experience in Florida and got over the grudge I’d been harvesting against Florida for 12 years. That’s how great of a host Roshan was. Don’t believe me? Well…then I’m sorry, I guess. I don’t really know what else to tell you…

I got to Cleveland later that day to prepare to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday. The rest of my family arrived the next day. Here are pictures from the 2 days I spent with my own family:

Me and the birthday girl!

Me and the birthday girl! I’m fresh off the plane and fresh out of ideas for what to do with my hair. Solution? Hide it.

Me and the birthday girl's cat. Fast friends. Best friends.

Me and the birthday girl’s cat. Fast friends. Best friends.

Me biding time in my room, waiting for the rest of my family to arrive in Cleveland.

Me biding time in my room, waiting for the rest of my family to arrive in Cleveland.

The puzzle whose completion became my obsession during my time Cleveland. I woulda gotten away with it too—if it wasn't for crippling jetlag.

The puzzle whose completion became my obsession during my time Cleveland. I woulda gotten away with it too—if it wasn’t for crippling jetlag.

The birthday party! Everyone's there! Yaaaay! Cue music...(and cake)

The birthday party! Everyone’s there! Yaaaay! Cue music…(and cake)

photo 1-1.JPG

Me and my big sis bein’ silly.

photo 4.JPG

Bein’ less silly, but still pretty durn sillz.

My grandma, hearing something that made her make that face. And my mom is on her right (camera left) being like, "Ohhh," to whatever was being said.

My grandma, hearing something that made her make that face. And my mom is on her right (camera left) being like, “Ohhh,” to whatever was being said.

My favorite photo of my parents ever that I found while looking through Grandma's old photo albums. That's the best thing about being at grandparents' houses—snoopin' around and finding incredible blasts from a past that came before my past!

My favorite photo of my parents ever that I found as I was looking through Grandma’s old photo albums. That’s the best thing about being at grandparents’ houses—snoopin’ around and finding incredible blasts from a past that came before my past!

After a Winter Break that couldn’t have been more relaxing, fun and filled with people I love, I headed back to Evanston to start the Winter Quarter of my senior year. Today, as I write this post, it is the day before the last day of Winter Quarter, and I will be heading for Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. I’ve got my visa and everything:

Roshan and I bright and early headed to the Brazilian consulate to get our visas. Now we got 'em—it seems the travel gods have been on our side from the beginning if this photo is any evidence...

Roshan and I, bright and early, headed to the Brazilian consulate to get our visas. Now we got ’em, and it seems the travel gods have been on our side from the beginning, if this photo is any evidence…

I’m hoping the weather in Rio will be more like it was in Florida than in Cleveland. Regardless, until tomorrow, my mind will be consumed with one prevailing thought, “Brasil, aqui vamos nós!”

5 thoughts on “Florida: How I discovered home-cooked Indian food, Homeland and the Atlantic Ocean, and forgave Florida for the 2000 Election. And then went to Cleveland.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s