Dom in Amman: Finding Family- Sisters From Another Mister

March 5, 2019

Hey everyone! I met my host family and they are wonderful!

While students back at the University of Richmond are gaining sorority sisters and fraternity brothers to complete their families, I have gained three new sisters and two new parents. My sisters are 6,7, and 17 years old. The night I was welcomed into their home, I did not know what to say or do. I started out by giving my host mom Rana the gifts I brought for her and her family. She was very excited and added the refrigerator magnet that I gave her to her collection. For students going abroad, you should always bring your host family a gift to thank them for their generosity and to share with them a part of your life. My host family is originally from Iraq and I recently discovered that my host mom is an amazing cook. In the morning, I start my day with pita, labneh, and cucumbers. For lunch, I consume some form of rice and meat. Usually, my lunch is leftovers from the night before and in the evening, I eat dinner with the girls if I am not out late studying.

My favorite thing I do is go to family dinner on Thursday evenings. In Jordan, Friday is like the American Sunday. It is set aside as a religious day and most families will gather together and share a lunch after Friday prayer. Instead of Friday lunch, my host family goes to dinner at my host father’s mother’s house. We call her Mama Shireen. These gatherings usually equate to 10-12 people over for dinner. We hang out, eat, drink coffee and catch up. The last time I was over my younger sisters pulled me into a room and challenged my roommate and I to a singing competition where we belted out Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber songs. This was followed by a pillow fight where I had to defend myself against three rambunctious seven-year old girls. Considering the odds were not in my favor, I lost.

In all honesty, something that I have noticed in Amman is family is very important to a different extent than in America. Here in Amman, there is no emphasis on the individual. You are always part of a unit or team for lack of a better word. For example, students in the U.S. will leave home at 18 to go off to college or begin their lives, but here most young adults remain at home until marriage and even the concept of marriage is partially a family matter. For example, you would not propose to a woman here without asking her father for permission. Additionally, family is not limited here to the people who live in your house. There are no boundaries between the extended family and the immediate. Sometimes when friends great each other they call the other “my sister” or “my brother”. This is a result of the nature of Jordanian people and the Arabic language.

Because of my family and roommate, I really feel at home here in Amman. There are days and moments that feel foreign and strange to me, but with the support of my host family, I am practicing Arabic, learning about Jordanian culture, and finding family.


KrissinKorea: 14 Hours Later

March 1, 2019

Take Off

My flight was set to take off at 12 p.m. on Thursday, February 21st and land at Incheon airport at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday, February 22nd. My dad drove me to the airport and helped me get my bags checked in. Everything was happening so fast–– or so it felt. He followed me until we got to security and then we said our goodbyes. I already miss him. I felt pretty sad waiting for my flight but I kept reminding myself that this experience will be good for me and I know deep down I’m excited, but change is hard for me sometimes.

When I got on the plane, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the seat next to me was empty. I had so much leg room! The seat itself was pretty stiff, but it reclined a decent amount. When I booked my ticket, I made sure to have a window seat because I love to look out the window during airplane rides. The in-flight entertainment was pretty cool. They had a bunch of music to listen to and different arcade games. I played Pac Man like 20 times! Also, I know people are always bashing on airplane food, but Korean Air knows what’s up. The first meal I had was traditional Bibimbap, which came with a side of rice, seaweed soup, pineapples, and pickles with chili sauce. They also provided sesame oil and chili paste to make the Bibimbap extra yummy. I feasted to say the least, but they ran out of ginger ale when I asked so I opted for a beer. They’re basically the same thing, right?

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YUM

We flew over areas that I have never been to or seen in my entire life. Since I’m used to flying South to Ecuador, I’ve never had the opportunity to cross over the North Pole, but it was amazing. I couldn’t stop looking outside at the beautiful colors in the sky and at the ice below.

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My view of the North Pole

I also really loved the view of New York when we were leaving. Everything looked so small and crowded!

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My view of the Concrete Jungle

At one point we flew over land that looked like it didn’t belong to Earth and was out of a science fiction film. The terrain was rugged, grey, cracked, and had many river-looking pathways that intertwined through the ridges of the hills. It was crazy. If you’ve ever watched Interstellar, Mann’s Planet looks exactly like what I’m talking about!

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Interstellar reference photo

After about five hours I realized that I would have no butt when I landed in Korea. I was sitting for 14 hours guys! I was losing it! On top of that, I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know what was wrong with me because if I know anything about myself, it’s that I can fall asleep anywhere at any time. I am a high functioning sloth, for real. So for most of the flight, I played Pac Man, listened to music, read my book, and pouted about not being able to sleep.

When we landed at Incheon Airport, I wanted to kiss the floor beneath me. I was so grateful to finally be off the plane. During the luggage claim I ran into a few other people that were heading to Yonsei and we buddied up to try to figure out our way to the dorm buildings. We took a bus and got off at the Ewha Woman’s University back gate stop, which put us at about an 8 minute walk to SK Global where many of us were staying.

Now comes the tricky part.

I brought two big suitcases, a carry-on, and a book bag with me (not the best decision I’ve made in my life). That’s a total of 4 items that need to somehow get from the bus stop to the dorm rooms. I don’t know if you guys know this, but Korea is extremely hilly and Yonsei itself was built on the side of a mountain. Do you know what that means? It means I have to drag everything up one giant hill! Four pieces of luggage and two arms–– that’s what I am up against. Anyway, after numerous stretching breaks, a lot of panting, and a few internal, moral-boosting conversations, I managed to get my luggage into SK Global. I almost cried when I made it, let me tell you.

 

 

Once I checked in, I handed in my tuberculosis test results and grabbed a bag containing my bedding for the semester and headed upstairs. I was lucky enough to get a room on the top floor because the view is great!

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The view from my dorm

After finally unpacking everything, I walked down to the convenience store to buy some food. I decided on a kimchi rice with tuna triangle kimbap–– my first meal in Korea! So far I’ve been having a great time. I’ll tell you guys about a few of my outings in my next blog post. Take care everyone!


Bryan in Taipei: Night Markets

December 6, 2018

Japanese Food Stand

A Japanese food stand at the Tonghua Street night market, one of the more local ones in Taipei

One of my favorite parts of living in Taipei is the food, and there’s nowhere better to find good late-night food than in one of the city’s many night markets. These night markets are spread throughout the city and typically busiest on the weekends. You’ll find traditional Taiwanese food, a smattering of food from other countries (mainly Japan, Korea, and Vietnam), and all kinds of snacks.

Taiwanese Hamburger

Taiwanese hamburger (掛包 guàbāo), a popular snack made with a steamed bun, pork, pickled vegetables, peanuts, and cilantro. I actually had to get a second one because I ate it too fast and forget to take a picture!

Celebrated by tourists and locals alike, night markets offer a fusion of local and foreign flavors that can’t be matched by visiting a single restaurant alone. One thing that I appreciate about living here is that, at least in general, food safety seems to be less of a concern than it can be in places like mainland China or Thailand. That being said, you can be as adventurous as you want, with choices ranging from fried dough sticks (油條) and egg cake/quiche (蛋餅) to octopus and the infamous stinky tofu. One thing I’ve learned is genuinely how difficult it can be deciding what to eat when there are so many different smells, stands, and options, but that’s one of the things that’s best about these markets – you can keep coming back for more.

Tonghua Night Market

While it’s widely considered a great location if your apartment is located near a metro stop, I would also add living near a night market to this list. Like metro stops, there are plenty of them throughout Taipei and some bigger and busier than others, but having access to these is a great way to satisfy cravings for street food while also seeing and interacting with such a bustling and extraordinary environment. Whether it’s the more popular ones like Shilin or something a little more modest, night markets are really one of the things that make this city special and something I’ll miss when I go back to the U.S.

Wonton Soup

Wonton (餛飩 húndùn) Soup

Bryan


Justine in Russia: Progress

March 14, 2018

Within the next few days, our program is holding our “individual progress meetings”. This does not mean our individual grades in each of our classes, but mid-term updates on our mental health, home stays, and how we have adjusted to life here. As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t believe that it is already March and that this is almost mid-term of our 18-week program. Also, it’s starting to get warmer (25 to 30°F instead of -7°F) and the sun is out almost every single day. When we first arrived to for program, we were told that Saint Petersburg only gets about 60 days of sun a year. I do not really believe that because there were many days where it was sunny…and snowing at the same time!

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Sunshine at 8:00 a.m.

The snow is starting to melt and it is above 0°C/32°F most days. It was raining today and you can start seeing a bit of the ground.

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Statue near Park Pobedi metro station.

 

Progress is hard to be measured. I’ve been here for a few weeks and I’ve never really felt so comfortable about a place in my life. I go to school via bus. I take public transportation all the time. Everything is smooth sailing, except the occasional fights on the bus/metro during peak hours. Having an unlimited bus pass makes things a lot easier and encourages me to go out more. Sometimes I do forget that I am home and that rules in New York aren’t the same as in Russia. I noticed that in more crowded/touristy neighborhoods, people jaywalk a lot. However, in more residential areas, people wait for the full 30-90 seconds before crossing even if there are no cars on the road. A few days ago, I was in the southern part of the city for a weekend market and crossed the street diagonally. Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to cross diagonally. A police officer stopped me and told me that I was not allowed to cross the street that way. I was not really panicking, but more confused than anything. (This entire exchange was in Russian). Eventually, he asked for my documents and I handed him my spravka (letter saying I am legally allowed to be in this country, because my multi-entry visa was being processed). He was pretty confused because it’s not really a common document to come across. He ended up asking me if I could wait a minute and he brought me to his partner, who eventually told me to not do it again or else I would get a fine. It was one of those moments where I did not think about adjusting my behaviors for the host environment.

I am also starting to fully understand my host grandmother, but I still need to work on responding to her. I am able to interact more with shopkeepers and food service workers, which I am happy about. Although we all have Russian IDs, sometimes museum workers do not like giving student discounts to visiting students. However, I’m getting better at sounding less confused during my interactions, which helps me get the discount 95% of the time. Here is one of the exhibits I visited this weekend (at the Манеж)

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The food scene here is great. I am not exaggerating this simply because I love being here so much, but because it actually is the best food I’ve ever had. I managed to find amazing tacos in the northern most part of the city.

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Best tacos ever!

Interestingly enough, I also found the best pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), in the middle of a Central Asia market near my house. There is no real address, but I used 9 photos to guide me to it.

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I often think about how I would want to come back to this city after I leave, but I would not know what I would do here career wise. I currently audit a master’s level class (In English) and I really like it, so I can imagine myself enrolling at the university for that program. However, I do have a lot of time to figure this out (especially since I still have 1 year of university left).

До свидания (goodbye).


Justine G.

Жюстин, sometimes Джастин, Жастин, or Жустин.


Olivia in Sweden: School and Flowers!

April 13, 2017

One thing I miss from UR is our dining hall, which is a sentence I thought I would never write. Students here don’t have a meal plan, and must frequent the local grocery store for all their eating needs. Thankfully, there are some eating areas to be found in the multiple academic buildings on campus.

 

 

The building I frequent the most is Engelska Parken! Here is a picture of the eating area. Not as much variety as our dining hall, eh? But the coffee and food is always delicious.

 

The style of teaching here is also a little different from back home.

 

 

It is very discussion based. Usually, we read an article for class, and then the professor breaks us up into smaller groups to discuss what we read. To finish up the class, we come together as a class and share what we learned. Much of what we learn is self-taught. This has taken a lot of getting used to. I am also enrolled in a class that never meets until the final exam!

 

 

The self-motivation for academic pursuits will only get tougher as the weather keeps getting more and more beautiful. At last, some flowers are beginning to bloom! So excited to see the full impact as spring gets closer!


Janus in Singapore

April 3, 2017

Nasi Lemak from Adam’s Corner – for S$6, the perfect post-night out meal!

It’s difficult to describe what exactly Singaporean cuisine is. It’s not like the other Asian cuisines where you can say that a certain dish is uniquely Japanese, or Chinese, or Indian, or Filipino. Rather, Singaporean cuisine, like many other facets of the nation’s characteristics, is made up of the recipes and ingredients that Singaporean citizens have brought from their home countries, modified over time by exposure to the many other cultures and tastes present. Perhaps the most famous meal in Singapore is Hainanese chicken rice, an extremely simple dish made up of rice cooked in chicken broth or chicken fat, boiled chicken, a light soup on the side, and your choice of dipping sauce, usually spicy. Like many things in Singapore, it isn’t entirely clear where it comes from. Although the name suggests that it’s a dish taken from China’s Hainan Province (an island at the southern tip of China), it’s also a fairly common meal in Malaysia.

A lamb shank from a Lebanese restaurant in Kampong Glam. On the pricey (S$24) side, but the meat is unbelievable tender and flavorful

At first, I thought it was ridiculous that such a plain meal would become the face of Singaporean dining, but after spending the last three months in Singapore, I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s a dish that doesn’t have much in terms of taste – there’s only so much you can pack into boiled chicken and rice – but somehow, the restaurants in Singapore that specialize in it have all mastered it. I think part of the appeal, part of the reason it’s so famous, is because the taste is so basic and natural that you can never get sick of it. This last week, for example, I had it three or four times, a fairy low number compared to some of the busier weeks I’ve spent in Singapore. And yet each time, I was satisfied, and went home happy because I ate a meal that was cheap (around $3-4USD), healthy, and filling.

 The Singaporean take on wings and barbequed meat on a stick. S$10 gets you what’s in this picture.

Nasi Lemak, another rice dish, is also quite famous. Unlike simple-flavored Hainanese chicken rice, I would describe a Nasi Lemak dish as quite full of flavor – and at at some restauraunts I’ve eaten at, the flavor is bountiful to a fault. The rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, which gives it a fragrant and cooling touch. I imagine this is to serve as a counterbalance, a palate cleanser of sorts for the extremes provided by the sides that come with the rice.

These ground beef noodles are some of the most delicious I’ve ever. When I have time in the mornings, I trek about 10 minutes to a corner of Little India and eat two of these S$2 delights.

My personal favorite Nasi Lemak comes from Adam’s Corner, a small 24-hour outdoor restaurant just a short walk away from away from our flat, which serves as the unofficial rally point for my group of friends after a night out. I order the chicken Nasi Lemak, which comes with cucumbers, fried chicken, a fried egg, VERY salty dried anchovies, and a very spicy chili paste on the side. A lot of my western classmates don’t enjoy it – they say it’s simply overwhelming. But my Singaporean classmates are all in love with the meal, and personally, it reminds me a lot of the cuisine from my home in the southern islands of the Philippines. This is unsurprising, as Mindanao is known for having quite a bit of Malaysian influence.

A Malaysian food platter from a resutauraunt in Haji Lane. S$30 for a dish that’s supposed to feed three, but easily fed our group of five hungry tourists who’ve been walking all day.

Nasi Lemak and Hainanese Chicken Rice are dishes that, for lack of a better term, I would describe as street food. They’re both quite cheap and common in Singapore, and often served by mom-and-dad style restaurants that often only offer outdoor seating and may not exactly meet health or cleanliness standards in the U.S. However, these types of foods are probably the most characteristic of Singapore, and the restaurants that serve them can often be found densely concentrated around Hawker Centres, which are sort of like outdoor food courts. The popularization and government support of these centres have all but eliminated actual street foods in Singapore and have made eating this kind of cuisine much more sanitary and tourist friendly.

Chicken Rice – usually, the chicken is boneless and sliced, but this one is supposedly “sea salt infused.”

However, if you’re still not convinced and want to go somewhere where that offers an opportunity to try all these different foods but in a much more upscale setting, I suggest going to the food street in Kampong Glam. Right next to the beautiful Masjid Sultan and the quirky Haji lane, this street offers a variety of cuisines, from Malaysian to Thai to Persian to Lebanese, all in a much more tourist-friendly and traditional sit-down setting. The prices are much higher and comparable to sit-down restaurants back home, and I honestly couldn’t justify eating there except to splurge on a weekend dinner with the flatmates, especially given the easy access to equally delicious food at much cheaper prices.


Karaoke and the Flogsta Chef!

March 1, 2017

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There is a stereotype that Swedes are very reserved and don’t like to let loose. Au contraire! Saturday night, some friends and I trekked to the nearest karaoke bar! Volunteers sang many hits that were very familiar to my American ears. I also heard some Swedish songs that all of the locals seemed to know! Very talented performers remain to be discovered in little Uppsala.

 

 

I, of course, am one of them. Before I get embarrassed and take this video down, take a peek at us revolutionizing “Oops!…I did it again!” by the incomparable Britney Spears. (I’m the one in green)

 

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I also had the pleasure of being served food by the Flogsta chef. Yes, there is a chef that has lived in the typically student residential dorms since the 1980s. He likes to live here because he travels often and doesn’t need a lot of space to feel at home. Students are encouraged to text him in advance of their arrival and share the level of spiciness they are comfortable with. Then that very day, they can come by for dinner and eat to their heart’s desire.

 

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My dish had a 50% spicy level. It’s an Ethiopian dish! Funnily enough, that’s one of the few countries the Flogsta chef has never visited, yet it’s his favorite style of food to produce. This is injera bread, which is used as a vehicle for the sauces, meat, and lentils on top.

 

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Finally, we got our last wave of snow! Ain’t she a beaut?

 

Until next time!


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