Tag Archives: food

An Adventure to Nepal – Guest Post!

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It is not everyday that we meet someone who traveled to Nepal. And even more interesting, is talking to someone who took a National Geographic trip to Nepal! I want to introduce Dalton George, who is dating one of my favorite new friends in Greenville, Alissa. Ironically Alissa is also from Michigan and we bound over our love for Michigan (despite our Spartan and Wolverine rivalry :)). To show how small our world is, Dalton is also from my hometown, but we never met each other there! When I first met Dalton in Greenville, he mentioned that he was traveling to Nepal and I couldn’t wait to hear about his trip! He was kind enough to share details about his experience, answering my questions below.

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Pokhara (PC: Dalton George)


What inspired you to go on the trip to Nepal?

I am not so sure I was inspired to go to Nepal specifically, I was more inspired to just travel in general. If anything, the decision to go specifically to Nepal was more out of coincidence than anything else. I will explain.

So last June I finished up my Master’s Degree program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and had a few months in between that and my next professional endeavor. Knowing this, and knowing how busy life can get, I made traveling somewhere new an imperative in my life during my “down time.” The logic here was simple: you never know when you will have the opportunity to do something amazing with the people you love most, so seize the day! My mother had already told me she was going “stir crazy” and needed to travel somewhere new, and had asked me if I was interested in taking a trip with her and my sister. So the decision to travel somewhere was easy: I had motivation to do so and people to go with. Time to make it happen.

Coincidence selected Nepal. My mother and I were unsure of where we wanted to go, but we were certain that we wanted to go on a National Geographic tour. To decide on our destination, we flipped open a NatGeo adventure catalogue, and we each picked out our 3 favorite trips that were advertised. Our selections overlapped at Nepal, and therefore we decided Nepal was our destination.

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Trishuli River (PC: Dalton George)

I cannot speak to why my mother selected Nepal out of that catalogue, but I can tell you why I did: lack of knowledge. Seriously, that is why. Ok ok, and I really wanted to see some cool mountains (and my God, were those some cool mountains!). I remember looking at that NatGeo catalogue, reading over the Nepal description, and thinking, “oh my gosh, I literally know NOTHING about Nepal, or Tibet for that matter.” The trip description advertised some exciting opportunities, including a Rhino wildlife safari, Paragliding, and mountain hiking. But the main reason I selected Nepal out of that catalogue was ignorance, and a desire to reverse it. And again, yes, to see some awesome mountains.

Describe National Geographic trips to those who may not know about them.

National Geographic offers curated tours of popular “and some not so popular” destinations across the whole world. The trip usually functions as a two week tour of a region, or in our case, most of a country. You travel with a small tour group, usually 12-20 people, and together you all have an adventure! This was my first trip that functioned this way, and I can honestly say I really enjoyed it. It made Nepal accessible to someone like me, someone who does not speak the language, or as I have previously mentioned, have any clue about any aspect of what the country is all about. The tour group is led by a guide a local from that region or country. Ours was a Nepalese man who was currently living in the country’s capital city (Kathmandu) and had been leading NatGeo tours for 12+ years. His English was excellent, and he was an endless encyclopedia of knowledge about his home country, its religions, and the Tibetan region as a whole. Seriously, we did our best to stump him with questions, almost to no avail. I sort of cheated, half-sarcastically asking him to name all of the gods in the Hindu religion. He could not, seeing as there are over 33 million total…

I would recommend NatGeo trips to anyone. Your group follows a general itinerary, but there is ample time to pick and choose activities that appeal to your preferences. For us in Nepal, we jumped at every chance to do any hiking, as my sister and I enjoy that activity immensely, and decided not to participate in others like the much heralded “Everest Plane Flight” (it was too expensive). This ability to pick and choose gives the NatGeo trips a great balance between structure and freedom, and you are never pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.

Another reason why I would recommend NatGeo is in the way they set up their tours so that almost all money spent by you and your tour group during the trip is going in the hands of local people. And I don’t simply mean the well off business owners of city hotels. I mean small villages, and in our case, Tibetan refugees. At least on this trip this was the case, I suppose I cannot speak to other trips in other areas of the world. Places that your tour group eats, sleeps, and spends your time (and money) are almost exclusively places run by local people. In this way, NatGeo places a premium on supporting local, sometimes even vulnerable, communities in the places that they send their tour groups. Don’t confuse this with any sort of charity activity, these are businesses like any other, the difference is your money is not going to some rich development company who set up shop on the coast of Jamaica, but into the hands of local business owners who have a much more personal stake in the future of their country. As a tourist, this gave me the feel-goods, and is a business practice in the tourism industry I had not given much thought to until I saw it in action.

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Kathmandu (PC: Dalton George)

What were your favorite landmarks and excursions?

The Himalayas – these need no explanation I’m sure. One of the few times in my life that I can honestly say I had no words to describe the shear awesomeness of a thing I saw…I imagine the majesty of looking up at these mountains is only matched by the view from atop one of them.

The Himalayan Foothills – Like a way, way cooler version of Appalachia. With glacial rivers cutting pathways through the steep, forested foothills of heaven’s cradle, the beautiful scenery provided makes the arduous journey through the bumpy mountain roads of Nepal enjoyable. Well, mostly.

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Farmland in the Himalayan Foothills (PC: Dalton George)

Buddhanath Buddhist Stupa – This 5th century Buddhist religious monument/temple serves as a pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists around the world. Awe inspiring in its Architecture, one of those moments where you ask yourself “how did people over 1000 years ago build something like this???”

Swayambhunath Buddhist Stupa – Another Buddhist religious monument similar to Buddhanath, but this temple has a very sizable population of Rhesis Macaques roaming the grounds. These “holy monkeys” live at the temple year round, entertaining tourists and stealing from the offering tables all day every day. Additionally, the views from this Stupa of the capital city of Kathmandu are amazing. Absolutely worth your time.

 

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Monkey Temple (PC: Dalton George)

Pashupatinah Temple – A very famous Hindu temple located in Kathmandu. I learned so much about the Hindu religion whilst visiting this ancient temple, both in a cognitive and emotional way. This place hit me harder than most of the places I visited in Nepal. It’s a very spiritual and emotional place. If you are a westerner, be prepared. Oh, and stay out of the way of the roving bands of holy cows that are walking everywhere.

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Chitwan National Park – Rhinos. In the wild. From 100 feet away. And Tigers. TIGERS. We didn’t see one, but the footprints were enough for me to get back into the safari jeep. The farming village of Chitwan is also a lovely place filled with lovelier people. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

How were the people?

From the streets of Kathmandu, to the small farming villages in the Himalayan foothills, the people of Nepal were never shy to share a smile and a “Namaste” with foreign visitors. Never during my twelve days in the country did I feel unwelcome or experience any unfriendliness, and I always felt safe. The Nepali are a very spiritual, peaceful people whose society is heavily influenced by both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. This latter influence is especially important in understanding their attitudes towards community and people from all levels of society. Without going into extensive detail (because I will surely not get something right!) I can say that Tibetan Buddhist influence has instilled a fundamental sense of living for the community that defines the culture of the Nepali people. They are not (as of yet) a materialistic people, their sense of self is not tied to ownership of land or things. They seemed much more concerned about building spirituality, and social connectedness than wealth and status. Oh, and they very much like to have a good time when the working day is done 😉.

How was the food?

Delicious, unique, and CHEAP. Nepalese cuisine is kind of mix between Chinese, Indian, and Tibetan (no, not Panda Express Chinese, actual Chinese). Lots of lentils, lots of meat curries, lots of fried breads, lots of fantastic uses of spices on veggies, and fantastic teas (Masala Milk Chai in particular). If you choose to, you can have this Dal Bhat style of meal breakfast lunch and dinner: it’s a Nepalese staple, and its amazing. All of the ingredients for most everything you eat are locally sourced from the fertile foothills of the Himalayas, so everything is very fresh.

What reflections or learnings did you have about yourself, life, and/or the world?

Oh man, I could go on and on for this one. But in the interest of keeping it short and sweet, I guess the one most important thing I learned, or at least got a more concrete sense of, is that different lifestyles and cultures do not necessarily belong on a hierarchy. We label places like Nepal “the 3rd world” and conceptualize it as existing in a lesser state of prosperity (and therefore happiness) than a place like the United States, or some other “developed” Western country. When we look at the GDP of a place like Nepal, or here about how basic its infrastructure is, or shake our heads at its lack of political stability, we are only focusing on the surface and missing the bigger picture, the deeper understanding of what that place is really all about. Only by walking on through the streets and interacting with the people can we gain such an understanding. There are plenty of values and norms of Nepali society I would love to see incorporated into my American one. Love, peace, and community-oriented growth are cornerstones of the Nepali culture, and we as Americans have a lot to gain in understanding how these people see the world and understand their place in it as we journey through our own nation-wide identity crisis. I would highly recommend Nepal to anyone wishing to experience a place unlike any other, with a people unlike any other, before it (potentially) succumbs to the pressures to modernize in the ways dictated by the Western “developed world.”


Thank you, Dalton, for sharing your story! I am inspired to go on a National Geographic trip and to visit Nepal one day too!

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Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

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We often learn about all the adventurous and joyful stories of studying abroad. But what happens when life gets in the way? Studying and living abroad are very exciting life experiences, but they come with challenges. Below are some of the common challenges I have faced and insights about how to overcome them to make the most of your time abroad.

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Source: expatexchange.com

Insomnia: Time differences and foreign beds make insomnia a likely occurrence when moving abroad, especially when you first arrive to the destination. I experienced this intensely when I studied in Spain a few years ago. It took me almost a week to adjust to the time difference! Now in Paris, it took me no time whatsover to adjust to the time difference. My secret this time was to not take a nap when I first arrived on a Thursday morning, and to instead go to bed early that evening. I have experienced insomnia in recent days, likely related to doing too much (e-mails, studying, blogs, social media, chatting with friends) before bed. This is common for me even at home so I need to remember to give myself time to disconnect and unwind before bed.

Adapting to food: With a new destination comes new cuisine and dietary habits. I like to call myself a fish for the large quantity of water I prefer to drink. In Europe, I have felt like I have been living in a dessert because of the small portions of liquids and tiny cups to fill with water. In class, I bring two cups of water to make sure I stay hydrated throughout the day. I encourage you to bring a water bottle that you can easily refill (assuming that water is sanitary in your destination). It is also challenging to adapt to the timing of meals, quantity of food, and food content. For example, in the United States, I am used to Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast at around 8am, a salad or sandwich for lunch at around 12pm, a protein bar at around 3pm, and meat/carbs/vegetables for dinner at 6:30pm. I have learned to let go of this expectation, as it is common to not eat snacks in France and to have dinner at 8pm (or 9pm for my host family). Despite Americans having a reputation for eating poorly, I have learned that I actually have access to more fruits and vegetables in the United States than in France. I have learned that Parisians often eat fruit as a dessert rather than a staple food for meals. Vegetables are often cooked or are prepared in soups rather than in the form of a salad. I have adapted to this custom, but also make sure to purchase salads and fruit when I eat at restaurants. Enjoying the local cuisine is part of learning process of living abroad, but make sure that you maintain a balanced diet to keep your digestive system in check!

Living with a host family and cultural differences: This is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into a new language and culture! However with that immersion comes the expectation that you will adjust your routines and adapt your behaviors to mesh well with your new family. It is sometimes difficult to let go of everything you know. Before moving abroad, I encourage you to research your new destinations and customs. For example, it is an adjustment for Americans to get used to the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek, rather than a handshake. The more informed you are about the new culture before arriving, the more mentally prepared you will feel. However, don’t be afraid of the unexpected – this is part of the adventure! I am still trying to figure out why my host family closes every door of every room in the house – but I am starting to realize it is a habit of privacy, which is less common in the United States and respectable in some ways. Adaptability is one of the most important life skills, especially in the ever-changing global world where we live.

Keeping in touch with loved ones: Time differences and new schedules make it difficult to contact our loved ones. However, modern technology has been a God-sent in our mobile world. My favorite communication tools are WhatsApp (free international messaging and calling) and Facebook messenger (which now allows international calling). I also plan Skype dates with friends and family to have an “as-close-as-possible” experience to chatting in-person. Postcards also seem to be a more thoughtful approach to staying in touch, since they take more effort and are a flashback to the past of international communication. I encourage you to use all the new applications, but don’t forget to be a little old-fashioned and send postcards, letters, and packages to stay in touch with your loved ones!

Making friends: This is often what intimidates people the most when moving abroad, especially because of language and culture barriers. A university setting caters to social networking with planned activities and field trips for students. For those outside of the university setting, check out http://www.meetup.com which provides networking groups related to any and all topics (local events, sports, arts, dating, etc.). I have enjoyed attending expat events in Paris, which includes expats from around the world. We can all relate to the adjustments involved in moving to Paris! Also, for those hoping to learn local languages, check out conversation circles. Especially if you speak English, many countries have conversation exchanges between English and the local language. I look forward to trying this in Paris. It is a win-win for me to practice French and help others practice English!

For those of you considering or in the process of moving abroad, you may face these challenges like I have, but I hope that you remember with any challenge comes a solution. Now that more and more people are moving abroad, there are more advice articles than ever before. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about moving abroad!

Best Places to Study French in France

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Check out my latest feature on One World 365, with a sneak peak below!


 

As 2015 nears the end, I cannot help but think about one of my most exciting life adventures ahead. In January, I will be living in the heart of Paris, France as part of a language and culture immersion in my International MBA Program at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business!

Preparing for the adventure, I have researched the best places to study French in France, which I have shared below. I look forward to hearing any other ideas from you and adding insights when I live in France this winter!

Paris: As the most famous, cosmopolitan, trend-setting, and romantic city in France, you will fall in love with Paris while studying French. Paris provides you with the perfect combination of history, art, fashion, food, politics, and culture to keep you engaged and learning every minute of every day.

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

Nice: The French Riviera provides some of the most scenic views in France, with beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean coast. You can easily travel to other French Riviera cities, including St. Tropez and Cannes. Nice is one of France’s most visited cities, attracting four million tourists per year.

My trip to Nice, August 2011

My trip to Nice, August 2011

Lyon: Famous for being the gastronomic capital of France and the world, Lyon provides great opportunities for students to learn about French cuisine. Lyon is also one of the business capitals of France, providing excellent internship opportunities for students.

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Aix-en-Provence: With a central location, Aix-en-Provence is popular for students looking to be close to the Alps, the coast, and Mediterranean countries. Aix-En-Provence was once a European Capital of Culture, with several museums, theaters, and rugby clubs to entertain the locals and tourists.

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

I have also written more details about Rennes, Bordeaux, and Grenoble, which I look forward to visiting when I study in Paris! Read my full article on OneWorld365.

Where else do you recommend that students go to learn French in France? Feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.

Try the World – From the Comfort of Your Own Kitchen!

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How many of you have heard of Plated, Try the World, and Home Chef? For those of us with limited time and an interest in learning new recipes from around the world, these companies provide great opportunities for us. Over the past couple months, I have enjoyed being able to “try the world” by purchasing ingredient kits or prepared meals online. While they may seem expensive and risky at first, they all have promotional rates. I encourage you try them to spice up your kitchen routine!

My experience began with a trial of Plated (fresh ingredients and recipes sent to my door), including the following:

  • Beef and Summer Squash Empanadas with a Tomato, Pesto, and Basil Salad: This absolutely delicious meal and easy-to-make recipe was a great way for me to get a taste of Latin America. All ingredients were sent to my door, and I just had to chop the vegetables, prepare the empanada dough, and bake the empanadas for 30 minutes. The only part I did not like was the tomatoes were under-ripe, which made the tomato salad not as flavorful as normal.
  • Garlicky Chicken with Capers, Anchovy, and Caramelized Summer Squash: I was impressed by the flavors in this meal which gave me a taste of Italy. Prep time took 20 minutes and cooking time took 20 minutes. Of all the Plated recipes I have tried, this was the easiest to prepare and had the most flavor. Sounds like an ideal cooking experience, right?

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  • Grilled Pork and Peach Skewers with Maple, Peach Mostarda, and Arugula: This recipe took the most prep time (40 minutes), but it was a great way to get a taste of the tropics. I could pretend I was in Hawaii again! I enjoyed the flavors, but would recommend cooking this recipe when you have leisurely time to actually enjoy the cooking process.

Then, on somewhat of a whim, and inspired by my multinational enterprise management class, I decided to Try the World. This was very expensive, but the trial made it affordable and I would recommend that you at least experience the trial!

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  • Taste of Japan: Uncharted territory in my personal travel map, Japan has always sparked my interest and I was eager to try Japanese flavors. I received an adorable box, which reminded me of a larger version of a Tiffany box, full of Japanese goodies. The box included Aoi Tea, Otafuku Foods kit (omelette-like pancake with variety of savory toppings), Morinaga (milk caramels), Takaokaya (seaweed snack), Akagi (soba noodles), Kasugai (gummy candies), and Wadakan (umami ponzu sauce). I was most curious to try the Takaokaya, as I had never tried seaweed as a snack before. The texture was a bit chewy, but the salty flavor was delicious. Also, as a kid at heart, I went straight for the Kasugai gummy candies, which had a delicious peach flavor. The box also included recommendations for how to use the ingredients, including hosting a tea party and having a romantic dinner date. I look forward trying the recipes and planning a Japanese dinner date.

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  • Taste of Paris: My second “Tiffany box” (lucky girl :)?), came with treats from France: Palais Des Thes (fine tea), La Mere Poulard (cookies), Domaine Des Vignes (mustard), Le Sunier De Camargue (finishing salt), La Maison Peltier (artisan honey), Maison D’Armoine (caramels), and Charles Antona (jam). The box also included a Paris culture guide, explaining the cultural background of each of the items in the box, how to prepare French meals, a recommendation of French cultural landmarks, French poetry and even a recommended French movie and music playlist! In my opinion, there is no better music for cooking than French music, so how perfect that they have a playlist prepared for you. It is very exciting to try the flavors of France again before living in Paris this winter. I particularly enjoy the Domaine Des Vignes mustard, which pairs well with a deli sandwich or as a dipping sauce for pretzels. La Mere Poulard cookies are also perfect when I have a sweet tooth, but am not looking for an overwhelmingly sweet taste. I may be a little biased too, because they are from Brittany, France, which is the origin of my first name! As I study French, I have enjoyed listening to French music. I also look forward to watching some French movies!

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Most recently, I decided to try Home Chef, to compare it to Plated. It was interested to read A Common Connoisseur‘s insights, who described Home Chef as a more affordable option, with more meal selections and lower calories options. I will receive my order next Wednesday. I look forward to trying the Apple Cider Brined Salmon and Parisian Bistro Steak. If you are interested, I will be sure to share my insights on this option as well!

After trying the world in my kitchen, I have realized that there are great benefits to trying these options:

Experience new flavors from different parts of the world: If you cannot travel on a regular basis, what better way to get a traveler experience than through food! And you can practice cooking at the same time.

Learn how to combine spices and different food groups: I find it easy to cook, but difficult to know which spices and flavors work well with different meats and sides. I think that is the difference between a cook and a chef. Ingredients sent to our door help us learn more about ingredient combinations.

Save time: Finally, these meals options make it possible and relatively affordable for us to have grocery shopping and meal planning done for us. We can focus our time on the actual meal preparation and enjoyment with our loved ones!

Fun date idea: I have enjoyed cooking these recipes with my boyfriend. We have both been learning to cook together, and this makes it fun to try new flavors and meal ideas.

Live in the present: Cooking requires us to be focused. With all the distractions out there, it is important for us to recenter and live in the moment. Enjoy great scents and tastes in the process!

I hope that you take the opportunity to try the world with all the exciting new meal preparation options. Happy cooking!

What’s the Most Delicious Dish You’ve Eaten Abroad?

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Last week, Pink Pangea asked followers to share the most delicious dishes we have eaten abroad.

With all the unique cuisines I have tried in the countries I have visited in Europe, South America, and North America, it was difficult for me to choose just one. For the purpose of answering the question, I said that my favorite (or most unique) dish I have tried is croquetas de jamon from Salamanca, Spain.  I first tried them at my host mom’s home while studying abroad in Salamanca. My host mom, Capilla, made croquetas with bechamel, ham, and cheese. They were savory and comforting, which was a wonderful feeling for trying a new food in a foreign place. I will never forget croquetas and seek them out at restaurants back home in the U.S., although they are difficult to find!

Croquetas de jamon. Source: recetax.com

Croquetas de jamon. Source: recetax.com

Given that many of us eat three meals per day, food becomes a significant part of our travel experience. With every bite, we learn more about our destination’s culture, traditions, and history. I look forward to continue trying different foods throughout the world in order to add to my list of favorite delicious dishes.

What’s the most delicious dish you’ve eaten abroad?