Nirvana restuarant opens- fills house

cu nirvana indian restuarant

Anita Chhantyal didn't know why the Nirvana Indian restaurant she and her husband had just relocated to Lafayette HIll from Conshohocken was filling up this opening night. But she suspected that others like your correspondent and his wife,  had simply seen the "Nirvana" and "Open" signs draped over the old sign, "The Lucky Dog." The dog's luck must have run out.

Natives of Nepal, Chhantyal and her chef husband, are donating 20% of proceeds the first few days to the Nepalese earthquake relief effort. More than 10000 people died in the disaster, Chhantyal reports, and a niece of hers is recovering from leg injuries.

When they were not pausing for impromptu interviews,two young American waitresses with enthusiasm for Indian food, bustled around filling orders from eager first night patrons.

Watch video here.

Punjabi, Gugurati girls dance in high energy duet

Karen Kaur (left) of Punjabi heritage and Zeel Patel of Gujurati , danced an exuberant duet, “PunjGu” at the 4th Annual “Taal Se Taal” Indo-Pak cultural show on March 28, 2015 in Northeast Philadelphia. Part of their soundtrack to their dance routine was "Bhoom Trivedi/Sanjay Leela Bhansali-Ram Chahe Leela" (copyright administered by Merlin/Eros Music.) The hours long show and competition featured singers and dancers from Northeast High, Girls High, Central and from Penn State and raised money for charity.

Kaur and Patel think that their respective Punjabi Bhangra and Gujurati Garba dance styles are similarly filled with love and joy and typified by jumping! Some of Kaur’s high energy, she laughed, came courtesy of Red Bull.

Watch dancing and interview video here

Moroccan Uber Driver's American Dream

Uber driver from Morocco near perfect

Adil Tijer, an immigrant from Morocco, drives a “black car” for Uber, a service which connects riders with drivers through its mobile apps. On your correspondent’s first trip with Uber, Tijer explained driver licensing, passenger insurance and Uber’s rating system. But for the occasional late night drunk, Tijer’s rating might be a perfect 5-star.  The rating system works both ways. Uber drivers get to rate their riders, too, and drivers can refuse to accept a fare. Watch video ride and interview here.

Tijer worked previously as a medical assistant and pizza deliveryman. He visits friends and family back home every year and describes his country as a democracy, tolerant of different religious practices, where the people love their king. Tijer, now an American citizen, came to the U.S. as one of the quota-set 2500 Moroccans who won the lottery some years ago and hopes to own his own store one day. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia where he says there is a sizable Moroccan community. Watch video interview here.

Scot reflects on "No" vote on independence

Andrew, a Scotsman who has been out of the country for the past few years,  says he probably would have voted in favor of independence from Great Britain in the recent referendum were he home to vote. In hindsight, with the vote split 55 to 45% against independence, he thinks that it’s best that Scotland is not independent just yet because if the vote were reversed with 55% in favor of independence, he does not believe that would be enough of a consensus. Watch video interview here.

Al-Bustan showcases Arab art and music at Morris Arboretum

From the Al-Bustan website "We are thrilled to return to Morris Arboretum where Al-Bustan Camp started back in July 2002. In fact, it was Morris Arboretum’s beautiful gardens that inspired the name Al-Bustan (Arabic for “the garden”). Join us as we literally return to our roots in celebration of Arab heritage.

Guests will enjoy music and hands-on activities in traditional Arabic art:  geometric pattern-making with Al-Bustan Teaching Artist Tremain Smith and Arabic calligraphy. Tours highlighting trees in the Arboretum’s collection that originate from Arab countries will be offered throughout the day." Saturday September 20, 2014

Watch video collage of day's events here.

Watch musical performance and interview with musician here.

Watch video interview with Arabic calligrapher here.

Landscaper continues family tradition

Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Watch video and tour here

From Cuba to U.S in Operation "Pedro Pan"

While tying up bags of compost at the Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough, Raisa Williams, a retired dean at Haverford College, recounted how she was one of fourteen thousand Cuban children brought to the United States in 1960 as part of “Operation Pedro Pan.”  Although her mother had been a staunch supporter of the Cuban revolution, things began to change. Amid rumors that she might not be able to stay in school unless she complied with a government requirement to be sent somewhere summer- long to perform community service, Williams’ parents opted for the 14 year old Raisa and her 11 year old sister, to come to the States through the Peter Pan program of Catholic Charities in conjunction with the U. S. State Department. Once here, the girls would be able to apply for visas for their parents.

What she thought would be a couple months separated from her parents, stretched out to two years.  For a young girl, this was an adventure and she was relatively content at a camp in Florida where she studied English and other subjects. But when it became overcrowded, she was transferred to an orphanage in Pottsville, PA.  “The orphanage was – an orphanage.”

And Cuba? “I love the place. The people have suffered enough. It’s no fun to be in a dictatorship for the last 50 years. You can’t talk. You can’t say anything. But when I was there in 2011, people were beginning to be very vocal about things.”

“Lo que me estrano de Cuba es sol, la calidad de la persona, el modo que son simpatico…la musica….” She hopes to live there again one day.

Watch video here.

Antonelli Institute teachers and students got talent

Most students at the Antonelli Institute of Graphic Design and Photography in Erdenheim, Pa, just outside of Philadelphia, enroll coming out of high school. They must first study traditional film and wet process darkroom photography before moving on to digital work, says lead photography instructor Drew Simcox, shown above.

Students compete for awards by class and by subject category and their prints for the upcoming May competition are displayed across the tall walls of the well-lit atrium-lunchroom area. Simcox proudly shows off the work of Antonelli graduates like the cover photo by Evan Habeeb on a recent Sports Illustrated magazine as well as published books of instructors such as his own “Heber Valley Railroad” shot in Utah through a partnership with the Adobe Company and illustrator-cartoonist Christian Patchell’s “I put the Can in Cancer,” documenting his personal battle with the affliction.

Renowned photojournalist Colin Finlay has visited twice and has critiqued the work of Antonelli students who had returned from a photo shoot in Haiti in conjunction with the Pennsylvania non-profit, Poverty Resolutions.

Students are given a wide arrange of field assignments and can often be seen  practicing their art in nearby Chestnut Hill at the Morris Arboretum or on the main Germantown Avenue corridor.


Left: Antonelli student Jaime Perez was at the Morris Arboretum shooting a Kyudo archer in 2009. Right: Antonelli student Eric Moll shown here taking photographs at the 2013 Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival has a photo published in the 2014 Chestnut Hill Calendar.