Second week of keto

Guys, this is tough.

I didn’t want to write this blog today. I’m currently in Muscat, typing this in my phone, and am five hours away from my scale. So I can’t tell you if it’s “working”. But I can tell you that keto is more of a roller coaster than I anticipated. I feel like my body had become this science experiment.

This way of eating is very much trial and error. I make everything on paper but it doesn’t always follow. Sunday I ate fish from the school canteen and it made me sick. Monday I consumed too much fat in one meal and I got overly nauseated. I am dealing with psychological hunger pangs and anxiety over the sustainability of this way of eating.

Valentine’s Day we went for dinner and I had to be “that person” trying to figure out what I could or couldn’t eat. It gave me vegan flashbacks.

And yesterday I found some sugar free treats for the drive to Oman and later read that the sweeteners might as well be sugar and I’m gonna get sick from it. I was anxious the whole drive if I just ruined my weekend plans (I didn’t get sick by the way).

I promised myself 30 days. Today is day 16. I hope I can keep this week consistent and see some changes and feel more stable. The overall anxiety and fears of getting sick or missing exercise nearly cancels out the energy spikes and improved running performance.

Maybe I am doing it wrong. Maybe it needs more time. But if I’m still struggling after a month, I think I need to value my mental state more than the scale.

Goals for this week:

Exercise 5x

Gallon of water a day

20net carb daily

Supplement

Don’t lose my mind

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10 Days in Kerala- More Kochi and Surrounds

This is my fourth post about my trip to Kerala with Arjun, his family, and friends. Find the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

We slept in after our late arrival from Trivandrum. Arjun’s parents had gotten up early and went to their new house to perform a special pooja for new houses. While the ceremony itself has countless steps with various rituals and ingredients, the most memorable of which is having a pot of milk intentionally boil over in a new pot over a new stove. This milk was later used to make payasam which we all sipped on happily when they returned to the old house.

After their return, we loaded up into a van and headed to Tharavadu for special roadside food and Kerala toddy. Here, we tried varieties of meats and seafood smothered in spicy gravies. Our start of choice was tapioca, much to my delight.

Toddy is unlike what we think of it in the West. It’s a fermented coconut drink that’s cloudy and has a bit of an acquired taste. It reminded me of magkoeli in South Korea, a drink I’d also have with spicy food.  We had several servings of oysters, crab, pork, and beef, all mixed with mashed tapioca root.

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After we finished, we had cigarettes and ice cream, then headed back to Kochi. I suffered a bit due to my full bladder and bumpy roads, but thankfully I was able to manage.

That evening, a saree stylist came to the house to prepare us for pictures at the new house. Arjun’s mom had chosen this electric blue saree that I fell in love with immediately. She even matched a jewelry set with it. It took less than 10 minutes for the skilled lady to pin everything in it’s proper place. I looked amazing, but was afraid to move!

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We went to the house, took photos, explored the neighborhood as well as the brand new rooms and layout. I used my GoPro to get some family portraits, and then we headed back for the evening. As part of the pooja and blessing of the new home, Arjun’s parents stayed behind for the night.

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The next day was perhaps the laziest of the trip. Arjun’s parents wanted to treat us, so we took the debit card to Lulu mall, where I bought new shoes and a dress. We then spent the evening with Arjun’s brother and local friends at a rooftop bar, catching up and sipping local beer.

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There was a dinosaur at Lulu. Go Figure.

The next morning, Arjun had to go back to Dubai. I woke up early and rode with him to the airport. I still had a couple more days, so I had planned a few small excursions. After making sure he was sorted, the driver took me to Athirapally falls.

The road to the falls area was windy. I ended up laying in the back to keep the nausea at bay. Once I was dropped off, I was told the ticket booth was 500 meters back, not at the actual entrance. After a small walk and a few catcalls from tour buses, I made it back to the entrance with the proper ticket. I made my way into the reserve.

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It was still quite early, so I was able to enjoy a lot of peace and pleasant weather. I walked down the path full of trees until I reached a clearing. here I could see pools of water and the river feeding the falls itself. I watched kids playing along the banks, women jumping in the water fully clothed, and friends all dunking one another and playing. I wandered about, taking photos and enjoying the water myself. Then I took the steep path down to the falls viewing area.

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It was a good 15 minute walk, with flat shoes and no handrail, but the area itself was very lush and green. The falls were great to view, though we were kept back for safety reasons. The crowds started picking up by then, so snapping pictures proved challenging. I eventually found some great spots for photos and people watching. I then headed back up.

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Going back up was much hotter and more difficult. I was proud of how I was able to ask for water at the vendor in my limited Malayalam. I then headed to the gate and the small food stalls near the entrance. Again, i practiced my speaking skills and asked around for food and snacks. I got some plantain chips and chocolate cookies and returned to the road.

The evening was lazy again, mostly sorting photos and resting. Arjun’s brother headed back to Bangalore, leaving me with Arjun’s parents. We shared some drinks and snacks and planned my last day together.

We started with a breakfast buffet at a local bakery called Bread World. We ate continental food, a mix of omelettes and curries and toast and juice. We then went back to the house and arranged a car for me. I headed out to the Hill Palace.

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The Hill Palace is the largest museum in Kerala, and was built in 1865. It’s campus is massive, spanning several buildings, walkways, and gardens. I explored many rooms and buildings. It reminded me of the museum in Trivandrum, though the works were more local to Kochi. I particularly enjoyed a room showing the evolution of the Malayalam language.

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One big draw I had to visiting the Palace was its use in Malayalam film, particularly Manichitrathazhu, a comedy drama about mistaken identity, personality disorder, and good old family secrets.

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Also, I should mention there’s a deer park!

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After the Hill Palace, I went back to Fort Kochi to see Kalaripayattu, a martial art long practiced in Kerala. It uses hand to hand combat, as well as weaponry. The most interesting is Urumi, a sword that behaves as a whip. It’s famously seen in Mammootty’s Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. I sat in a small room and saw four men alternate techniques and sparring weapons. I was highly entertained for the duration of the show; even when the weapon came loose from the fighter’s hand and flew across the room.

Leaving the center, I saw that Fort Kochi was packed with locals and tourists alike. As it was New Year’s Eve, they were among for festivities and the burning of Papa Noel. Yes, in Kochi they burn Santa Claus for the New Year. Unfortunately, I was now alone and in an unfamiliar place, so I played it safe and headed back to the house, where Arjun’s parents and I got ready for a late dinner for New Years.

We then went to a hotel offering a New Year’s buffet. We had steak and prawns and endless wine. I tried everything and anything. Most people left before midnight, so we found the three of us and the staff wishing each other a happy 2018.

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I also met my first Malayali actress, but had no idea who she was until Arjun’s mom told me. I would see her again a few weeks later when I would watch 22 Female Kottyam.

We made it out of the lobby and avoided the small firecrackers being set off in the roads and driveway. We arrived around 1am back to the house and I waited up just long enough to wish Arjun a Happy New Year in Dubai before passing out.

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My last morning in Kochi was peaceful. I showered, packed, and enjoyed home cooked Kerala food one last time. I made sure all the sweets for Arjun were carefully put away. I got all the gifts managed in my backpack. Lastly, I transferred my photos from the GoPro to my phone and uploaded the last batch. I would soon go to Kochi airport, enjoy my final filter coffee on the subcontinent, and board a direct flight back to the UAE.

I was not ready for work the next day.

Until next time!

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My First Week of Keto

If you’re looking for a quick answer:

No, I didn’t lose any weight. 

But, if you wanna read more, there’s much much more to it.

In short, I feel more energetic, less hungry, and more productive; however, I did have to suffer a couple days to get there.

Why? Salt.

Sunday and Monday I experienced nausea and lethargy, especially after eating. After much internet research, I kept reading about salt. Not only do those on Keto need to drink water, they have to replenish salts.

So I went to the grocery store at the ground floor and found…. lemon salt.  It tastes amazing with water and made me feel human again within an hour of consumption.

Since then, I’ve had lemon salt with my water, in addition to magnesium tablets at night. I eat avocados daily for potassium, and in combination with my regularly vitamins I now feel well rounded and healthy.

Did I mention I had THE BEST RUN OF MY LIFE yesterday?
I ran for the first time in a week, and found myself pounding out 54 minutes of running.

While smiling, nonetheless!

This lead me to believe that I may have been dehydrated for a long time now, and I was suffering without realizing it. Now, I’m one aqueous woman and I’m functioning like never before.

So why haven’t I lost weight?

– I calculated my initial macros incorrectly, hence made a meal plan off of the wrong numbers.

-I snacked when I wasn’t hungry. Only because it was a force of habit.

-I only exercised two days this week while shifting my food and energy situation.

I promised myself I would give Keto 30 days, so I will. It’s a work in progress, and I’ve been taking notes.

Goals for this week:
-Eliminate cheese and nuts from diet
-Eat only when hungry, not snack
-Exercise 5 days 
-Drink 4L water + salts/vitamins

10 Days in Kerala: Tiruvalla, Trivandrum

This is the third part of my Kerala series. Please check out Part 1 and Part 2.

We woke up, had breakfast, and went to the car, only to find it crawling with mosquitos.

The window had been left open all night, so the first 45 minutes of our trip consisted of forcing the mosquitos out an open window or desperately swatting at the flying menaces. After that had calmed down, it was a peaceful 2 and half drive to Tiruvalla.

Arjun’s father’s side of the family is from Tiruvalla. We were greeted by Appachi (his aunt) and one of his cousins. We were brought in and chatted and had snacks and tea. She spoke in Malayalam, so I was mostly out of the loop, but she did try to encourage me to speak from time to time. Unfortunately my progression in my lessons hadn’t reached proper conversational fluency.

We shared lunch on banana leaves, and I was stuffed with all sorts of tasty food, my favorite being the egg roast. When I couldn’t eat anymore, she asked if I wanted Payasam, and suddenly I had an extra stomach.

I enjoyed my visit, as I got to see the house in which Arjun spent many summers. I was shown family pictures and event photos. I even got a rare glimpse of Arjun in awkward early adulthood, much to his dismay.

As evening arrived, we hired an auto to take us to the train station. The driver stated there was a communist rally and if we didn’t hurry, we could miss the train. As we reached the main road, I could hear the chants and songs of the communist party. It grew to a deafening sound. I was excited, Arjun was unsettled. The driver went on pavement to avoid getting stuck. Red posters and flags wallpapered the entire city. I had never seen anything like it.

We made it to the train station, verified the platform, and I bought a packet of tapioca chips that I love so much. We got on the train and headed south to Trivandrum.

We reached just before midnight, hiring an auto from the station and going to the AirBnb we rented. After following a winding path off the main street, we were greeted by the owners mother and taken to our room. It was lovely. We were in a rooftop flat, with a fully stocked kitchen and spacious living room. We had our shower, planned the next day, and quickly slept.

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The next morning we went for breakfast at Indian Coffee house. I saw porota on the menu and asked for it, and Arjun laughed saying it’s not a breakfast food at all. I ended up getting poori and tea.

We set first to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. This temple is a mixture of Tamil and Kerala architecture, and is prized for it’s size and importance. It is mentioned in countless Hindu texts. Recently, there has been discoveries of the amount of riches in the temple; it is said to be richer than the Vatican and contain the largest collection of gemstones in the world.

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This temple is also the strictest in terms of entry that I’ve visited this entire trip. Not only are non-Hindus banned from entering entirely, the dress code is very precise. Men must wear mundu- the traditional garment, with no shirt. Women must be wearing the traditional saree as well to enter. After sorting out our plan, Arjun purchased a mundu, gave me his street clothes, and set for inside the temple. I meanwhile explored the area and shops.

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After the temple, we visited the Travancore museum adjacent to the temple grounds. Here we learned about the Travancore Kingdom, which is the southern part of present day Kerala. The museum was housed in the old palace, and the woodwork was beautifully made. We saw lots of paintings and sculptures and royal collections. It was a massive grounds and we enjoyed it much more than the Folklore museum.

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After here, we were starving, so we looked up a place for lunch. We found a popular fusion restaurant and headed there. We got traditional beef and a tapioca biriyani. I was quite obsessed with tapioca at this point.

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After the food we went down to the stunning Napier Museum. It was small, but ornately painted. It contained bronze and sculpture from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and surrounding countries.  We strolled the grounds toward the zoo, but due to the massive lines and short time, we decided to skip it and head back to the train station.

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We rode back to Kochi, and I slept for over half the journey. We ate biriyani from the train, had tea, and watched the sunset over Kerala. We arrived at the terminal just before midnight and got an auto back to Arjun’s home.

24 hours in Trivandrum and a visit to Arjun’s past made for a lovely side trip. The rest of the days are spent in Kochi and surrounds. More next time.

Starting Keto and Making Progress

It’s been a busy week for sure! I did not reach all my goals, but I’m still pleased with my progress and my transition to the Keto diet.

Firstly, I only got exercise from my daily steps and three days of 10 K training. My first session was way better than last week, and my second session I crushed my interval goals. However, Thursday’s session was ill fated as I made the unfortunate decision of taking a multivitamin just before my run. About 7 minutes in I had to leap from the treadmill to the bathroom where I emptied the contents of my stomach. Very unpleasant. I tried to run a bit more, but I was pretty affected by the vitamin and ended up walking for an hour instead.

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In regards to food, I slowly eliminated all non Keto foods and replaced them. I made a simple meal plan and did the necessary shopping. So far, I haven’t had much side effects other than a bit of drowsiness and noticeable weakness, so I think I’ll hang in there while my body transitions.

My diet consists of a high fat intake, moderate protein, and low low carbs. I have realized that Bulletproof Coffee has changed my life, and that eating more calories is really fine. I’m also having to drink a lot of water, hence way too many bathroom trips in a day.

Let’s see how I feel a week from now.

Weight loss this week: -1.3 kg (2.9 pounds)
Total loss/Goal: 2.1/15

Goals this week:
Gallon (4L) of Water a day
20 net carbs per day
Exercise 5 days

In other news, I fit in a size 8 jacket from H&M. I haven’t been in the single digits a while, so I’m quite pleased

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On Hair- an essay

When a baby is born in some Muslim communities, its head is shaved. It is considered a way to clean the infant, allow stronger hair to grow in, strengthen the scalp, as well as show obedience to Allah. Meanwhile, many Hindu families perform a Mundan, shaving their child after a year or so, to represent the casting off of negativity and evil eye while cleansing the soul. Also, devout Sikh men practice Kesh, going their lifetime without a haircut, wrapping their long locks in their dastar. They believe this glorifies God’s creation. Another instance of long, lustrous hair can be found in feudal Japan, where samurai wore  Chonmage, a large top knot. If the man were to cut this, he would instantly lose status and join the ranks of common men. Lastly, but not definitively, the story of Samson in the Bible tells of a man whose great power was limitless until the fatal cut of his long hair.  These and countless other instances show that humans have strong, albeit conflicting views of hair and identity.

I was raised for several years by my paternal grandmother. She had been a beautician and cared very much about her appearance, as well as mine. I remember mornings in front of the mirror, my feet setting into the shag carpet, and waiting for her to curl my hair properly. I distinctly recall the sting of a curling iron as I couldn’t manage to control my six year old self. “Beauty is pain”, she would say, then continue to style my fringe.

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She had perfectly blonde hair. I never considered that she had to color or dye it, as I was too young to correlate the smell of peroxide and the thin tip bottle under the sink to my grandmother’s immaculate curls. It wasn’t until I was 18 and saw her in the hospital, shortly after her stroke, that I saw the grays she had been covering for so long. It was at that moment I realized that she had become weak and sick. She passed away later that week.

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As for me, my hair has been a landmark for times in my life. Until I graduated high school it was carefully monitored by my family. I was able to highlight it in middle school, but not fully dye. I could cut it shoulder length, but no shorter. I was not a feminine girl, so I simply used cheap shampoo and combed the oily flaky strands into a ponytail and called it a day. The longest I ever had my hair was the summer I turned 17, and I hated it. Before I graduated, it had been lopped off to chin level, and post graduation, I had plans of making it screaming pink. After receiving several phone calls and lectures about the importance of appearing socially acceptable, I went for the lesser evil and dyed my hair red when I started college. But that was the beginning.

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After dropping out of pharmacy school and changing locations, I had a bad pixie cut and got it fixed into what was the shortest hair cut of my life. I loved the ease and aesthetic, and my dad was horrified at my sudden ‘butchness’. I embraced it and kept coloring it fiery red and even experimented with splashes of fuchsia.

From there I had many phases. I tried to emulate Bettie Paige with dark black locks and blunt fringe. I tried pink tips. When I arrived in Korea, I kept getting confused for a local and went back to red, where it stayed a while. Then I went black, then green, then orange, then blonde. My hair started to touch past my shoulders again.

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And then I shaved half my head.

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Due to this long stint of continuous coloring, I decided to give it a rest and let my natural color come in. I kept shaving the side, and covering it at work. It was my secret, my proud thing that my overbearing boss couldn’t control, my other side that showed I was still relevant, dynamic, and strong. Standing in front of the mirror and shaving the growth every two weeks became a fountain of power. Meanwhile, the rest of my hair became shorter still.

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After a year of my secret identity, I decided to slowly grow the hair in. Keeping the rest of it trim, it didn’t take long for it to catch up. I returned stateside and with it I returned to red. I wore it bright and medium length, cutting it if it got to my shoulders, but never returning to the pixie I once embraced.

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(@CEE Productions)

Then I got divorced.

It’s a well known cliche that a woman changes her hair when she changes her life. As for me, I returned to my darker color not for vanity, but for cost cutting. I was living in a dining room, racking up credit card debt, and in-between work. I couldn’t afford the proper upkeep for crimson, and I needed to remain professional looking. I also decided not to cut it indefinitely.

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I came to the UAE with blunt fringe that my maternal grandmother performed in her kitchen with hand scissors. My hair was just reaching my shoulders and the flakes from the desert heat and desalinated water were visible on my natural brown strands.  After four months, I took the plunge and returned to my signature red, invested in a water filter and shampoo expensive enough to have gold in it. It’s the longest it’s been since my high school years, this time of my own volition and not by a paternal need to have a proper long-haired daughter.

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(@joealmakdesi)

Where I take it from here, I don’t know. But I must say that red has always been an identity, a signature, a fingerprint. It’s funny how my tone is unnatural but many feel I’m most ‘me’ when I flaunt this shade. At the end of the day, hair is simply a physical extension of ourselves, something that grows back, turns grey, or falls out. But the emotional and mental extensions we attach to hair not only as an individual, but as a culture, can shape our traditions, perceptions, social status, and personal choices.

 

10 Days in Kerala- Alappuzha

This is the second part of my Kerala series.  Find Part one here.

We woke up on Christmas Eve, piled into a van, and headed south to Alappuzha, where we would board an iconic Kerala houseboat and spend 24 hours on the backwaters.

The drive took about two hours, the second hour being mostly from the holiday traffic in Alappuzha. The narrow streets were filled with cars, vans, and salesmen trying to sell cruises to passers-by. We arrived at the port and got onto our houseboat and set sail just before noon.

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If you know anything about Kerala, you must have heard the slogan “God’s Own Country”. This area highlights exactly what the Tourism Board wants everyone to see. The calm waters carve through the countryside, with palm trees and greenery flourishing on each side. The weather was warm and sunny, and we enjoyed basking on the deck with our fresh coconut drink.

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For lunch, we had freshly prepared food consisting of a variety of vegetables and fried fish. The workers resided on the boat as well, and they were able to provide hot food, coffee, and tea at our comfort. As the day went on, we used an auxiliary cable to listen to our favorite music, which turned out to be a mix of hits from Hindi cinema, popular Western hits, and a smattering of indie bands.

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We anchored at sunset and disembarked to take in the views and snap a few pictures. It was incredibly gorgeous.

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After dark, the music continued, the beer started to be poured, and a dinner of giant prawns and other savory dishes were served. We took turns singing songs, and I played my ukulele. As we finished dinner, we heard young voices outside our boat. A group of children came to sing Christmas carols. Upon seeing me, they asked Arjun whether they should sing in English or Malayalam. He encouraged the latter. After a couple jingles, I handed them a few rupees and they were entertained by my (limited) speaking skills.

Then the dance party started. I attempted to demonstrate my Bhangra skills, then proceeded to learn Tamil dance moves, and in turn taught Zumba steps.  We were stomping so hard one friend proclaimed we would break the damn floor.

After 11, we each went to our separate rooms on the boat. Inside, it was like a hotel. Large bed, attached bath, and a lovely view of the water. We heard fireworks going off well past midnight, signaling Christmas had arrived.

The next day, we enjoyed a breakfast of idli and vada and a variety of chutneys. I drank about three glasses of tea and soaked in the morning sunshine as we headed back to our dock of origin.  We climbed into the van and headed back to Kochi, only taking a bit over an hour to return.

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That afternoon we spent at the Folklore museum in Kochi, where I saw foreigners being asked for their photo and I loudly said “I hope they don’t ask for mine”, and they didn’t. We explored the artifacts showing the history of Kochi, the meaning and forms of Kathakali dance, as well as seeing interesting paintings, statues of bronze, and Hindu artifacts.  Here, I purchased a set of earrings and a bracelet of elephants.

After this, we explored and attempted to get lunch at a local falafel shop, but it was closed due to the holiday. We quickly decided to head to LuLu mall and eat at Calicut Paragon. Now, this restaurant has a branch in Sharjah, UAE, and I loved it immensely. So I was excited to try it in Kerala proper.

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It didn’t disappoint. I had beef ularthiyathu  with parrota and tea. Fantastic. The beef was slow cooked with spices and then fried until it was dry. The texture and aroma are simply delectable. Typing this makes me want to go back to Sharjah and eat more.

After lunch, we headed back to the house. Arjun friends had to catch their flight back to Bangalore, and my allergies were really starting to flare up. I had woken up with a sniffle but as the day went on, I had sneezing fits. I figured something in the boat had set it off, and I just had to deal with it. I took medicine, which made me sleepy, but was still doing my best to remain decent company.

After the friends had left, The family and I headed to Dhe Puttu, a restaurant serving puttu, a dish of steamed rice flour and coconut steamed in a metal cylinder and covered with various meats, veggies, or sauces. From what I remember, it was tasty, but super hot, so I couldn’t dive right into the dish immediately. I was very much medicated and trying my best to stay cognizant, but I had to share the dish with Arjun as I wasn’t feeling my best at all. Arjun’s dad even looked concerned at my pink, irritated face and watery eyes.

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We got home, I shared some cognac with Arjun’s dad, then made my way upstairs to take more medicine and sleep off. I needed to feel better; there was another big trip coming the next day.