Mainland Goodness

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Living overseas can be really cool. I see all kinds of new and different things, and that’s always neat. How many people get to go to a Buddha’s Birthday parade in Seoul or swim with a sea turtle? I know that I am lucky.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that you just can’t get in other places in the world.

Fun Fact: Did you know that cocktails were invented in the United States? Some claim it was in New Orleans, and some claim that it was in New York, but no one disputes that they are a uniquely American invention.

This means that it is also pretty uniquely American to find a wide variety of alcohol and things to mix with it. (For non-US friends, I am talking about things you mix with alcohol like bitters, grenadine, and vermouth.) So, it is cool to see things like that on the shelves.

Then there are produce options!

In South Korea there is a poisonous berry that grows wild. It looks a lot like a raspberry. As a result, they do not think raspberries are food and do not import or grow them. This is a shame, as they are my very favorite fruit.

In Guam we mostly don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything has to go through customs in Hawaii (as per US law,) so by the time it gets here it is rotten. And unlike Hawaii, we are not a volcanic island where it is easy to grow things. We are a coral island, which means that the soil is harsh and infertile.

So it’s apples and oranges, and broccoli. That’s what can make it here, so that is what we eat.

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I also miss things that are hard to explain. For example, we have Chinese food in Guam. However, we are very close to China and so we have Chinese Chinese food here. As it turns out, I don’t really like Chinese Chinese food. I like American Chinese food.

Fun Fact: Fortune cookies are American.

Another thing I really miss is good tortilla soup and carnitas. The people of Guam have some Spanish influence in their culture, but it’s not the same.

I went all through High School and College in Arizona, and every now and then I am just dying to have some really good Mexican Food.

Thankfully, I can get good Korean and Thai food on Guam, so at least there is that.

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I guess the hardest part for me living overseas is shoes. Even in the US, I have absolutely broken down crying while looking for shoes.

See, I wear a size 12 or 13 in women’s. Yes, that’s right, a size 12 or 13.

Don’t bother leaving all the jokes in the comments. I have heard every single one. Yes, if I am in a hurricane I won’t blow over. I don’t need skis to go skiing. I am probably related to big foot. Ha. Ha. Ha.

All I really want to cute shoes like girls wear on TV. I want sexy pumps and cute boots and adorable sandals.

However, no one makes cute shoes things in my size.

In Asia I can’t even buy plain or ugly shoes. There just aren’t any. I tried ordering online, but so many places have sizes that “run small” and they don’t tell you. I ordered a pair from Chinese Laundry because I was so excited to see a size 12 on their site. I don’t know whose idea of a size 12 it was, but I could have cut off all my toes and still not fit my foot into it. So, I have to buy shoes in person.

I was excited to do this while stateside.

I went all the places that folks had suggested to me, like Nordstrom’s Rack and DSW. And I have to tell you: I have nothing nice to say about those places or the people who work there. Same for Target, Walmart, Journeys, and every other shoe store besides Payless.

Not only is Payless literally the only store in the United States that still carries shoes in my size, but the lady there was nice. I have no idea why shoe salesmen in other stores have to be nasty, act shocked, or ask if I am transsexual (I am not.) However, there are some mean and rotten shoe salespeople, and I think I talked to all of them.

Anyway, I think a lot of times people look at my blog and they think that it’s really glamorous living overseas. And yeah, it has its moments. But I do live a life without raspberries and shoes, so maybe keep that in mind before you think my life is “perfect.”

Shoes that do not come in my size, sold by a very nasty person who thinks women with size 12 feet are subhuman. Thanks DSW.

Travel Series: Food and Drink

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I have met people on every part of the spectrum when it comes to food. I once dated a guy who walked around ordering street food by pointing at it, and then ate whatever it was. He never knew what he was eating!

In the time I knew him, I saw him eat reformed fish paste in the shape of a trout, silk worm larva (still in the cocoons!), unknown meat on a stick, and several questionable soups. He always said that he had to try things to know if he liked them or not, and that they “Wouldn’t be selling it as food if it would kill you.”

I have to admit, it was a fair point.

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On the other side of the spectrum, I met up with some friends in Bangkok who completely refused to eat street food. They pointed out that it was often cooked with used oil from restaurants, that there was no concern for sanitation, and that they read online about people getting sick from street food.

I humored them and paid the exorbitant prices in a restaurant that night, because there was no room for argument.

When it comes to food of any kind, I personally am not terribly concerned. I ate street Pad Thai in Thailand and lived to tell the tale. I never got sick or even felt bad. However, I did draw the line at scorpion on a stick. I am all for trying new things, but I don’t like the crunchy exoskeletons on bugs. I already had deep-fried grasshopper, and I knew it was going to be similar so I skipped it.

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I think what I am trying to say is:

Do whatever the hell makes you happy.

I mean, bring along a travel size Pepto Bismo and an Immodium tablet if you are on vacation no matter what, because you don’t want tummy problems to spoil a vacation.

Just don’t let other dictate what you eat (or what you decide to do!) because you may only visit a place once, and you don’t want to regret the things that you didn’t try because someone warned you off of them.

If you want to eat everything you see, then you should. If you want to stick to five star restaurants, then you should. It’s up to you what choices you make about what you eat.

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Now, I admit, I ate dog in Korea because I was curious. It didn’t taste at all good, but I tried it.

I have actually eaten all kinds of weird food, from rattle snake to durian fruit.

In my opinion, I would suggest that you try as much as you can. There are all those cliché sayings like “You only regret the chances you don’t take” and such, and they are right. The brain has a way of justifying things you do once they are done, but always wondering about things that you chose not to do.

So what the hell? Eat the mystery pancake or the weird fruit. It might turn out to be your new favorite food.

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As for my friends who would only eat in restaurants, I think I should share a few things with you about that. I have worked in a lot of restaurants. I bused tables, was a short-order cook, waited tables, and was a bar tender. In all those years, I learned that it’s a very good thing that the customer can’t see behind the walls.

Yes, some countries have food codes. If you don’t know, a food code is rules made by rich people who are afraid that “the help” might spit in their soup.

In spite of laws that may or may not be in place in various countries, it’s important to note that I worked in restaurants in the United States. No other country spends more on “food safety” and the enforcement of the food codes, so in theory the establishments I worked in are best there is.

And like I said, it’s a good thing you can’t see the kitchen. It’s a good thing you can’t see the prep room. It’s a good thing you aren’t watching the dishwasher or the delivery guy bringing the food.

That’s not even mentioning the farm where your vegetables were grown in fertilizer (a nice way to say poop) and had flies walk all over them. And I grew up on a farm so I can promise that the chicken you are eating was dumb enough to eat poop too.

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Anyhow, if you eat at a taco food stand on the beach in Rocky Point, you watch the proprietor cook your food. You also watch the flies walking on the ingredients before he throws them into the oil or onto the grill.

So yeah, you see the gross parts.

But the things is; the gross parts are always there. It’s just a matter of if you see them or not. No matter where you buy food from, a fly probably walked on it. It might have bits of cockroach in it. It could have been sneezed on. And that’s just life.

When I was little I remember seeing how hot dogs were made. After I saw, I didn’t want to eat them anymore. I was horrified that people ate chicken feet and cow liver, all mixed up in a disgusting soup of meat parts that couldn’t be used for anything else.

Even the “all beef” hotdogs that were expensive still had cartilage and organs in them. (Hey- all the parts were from a cow, and that makes them “beef.”)

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Then one day at a BBQ my boss handed me a hot dog. This was in Asia, and refusing would have been really rude.

They had gotten the hot dogs specially, to make the Americans feel welcome. Not only did I have to eat it, but I had to look like I really enjoyed it and appreciated the gesture. Being polite and never refusing a gift of food is very important in Asia.

And you know what?

It was pretty good.

I mean, it was still chicken lips and cow rectum, but it was pretty good.

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I guess the moral of the story is that we are just weird creatures made of meat and we eat other weird creatures made of meat. It’s only a big deal if you think about it too much. Otherwise, you’re fine.

Be picky if you want to be picky. That’s fair.

Just remember that even in a nice restaurant, you can still get sick. And, if you turn your nose up at things, you might miss something amazing.

I keep coming back to this, but I think it’s sort of the central theme when it comes to travel, or maybe just to life in general:

You only regret the chances that you don’t take.

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Food in Thailand

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I think my favorite part of traveling is eating. I love food!

This is larb, which is ground meat with spices. It’s eaten by scooping the meat up with the lettuce.

I have always loved Thai food, so getting to eat food all around Thailand was amazing!

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This is Tom Ka Gai, which is a coconut soup with chicken and spices.

When I was young, I worked at  Thai restaurant in Phoenix and I always used to have a nice, spicy bowl of Tom Ka Gai when I was sick.

It’s like my version of chicken noodle soup.

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This may be one of my favorite things in the world.

This dessert is made by cooking rice in coconut milk and sugar, and then topping it with mango.

In English, it is called sticky rice and mango, and it’s awesome!

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Most people think of Pho as Vietnamese, but in all of Southeast Asia, it is popular.

I stopped in a little stall while I was out looking at temples, and I was so impressed.

It was just noodles and chicken with some broth, but it was perfect.

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Of course I ate Pad Thai too!

I know Pad Thai is what most people think of when they think of Thai food, and that is because it’s amazing.

It’s just a simple noodle dish, but it’s the sauce that makes it great! Sweet and spicy at the same time.

I ate a lot of less attractive-looking Pad Thais from street vendors, and those were good too. But it was hard to get a picture while holing the paper cone they put it in, so you get a picture of the one I had at a restaurant.

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Meat and rice is simple, but delicious. This was at a little stand by my hotel.

I know I should be more excited to tell you about the many temples and hikes, but food is really one of my favorite things.

Vegas baby!

Vegas is still awesome, though toned down more and more every year.

I love Sin City at night




Alright, now I know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. However, I’m not much for personal details in this blog anyway, so I think I’m safe just telling you a few places that I like, and leaving out the more depraved stuff.



My friend Shari sings karaoke on the strip




First off, everyone should see a show while they’re in Vegas. Absinthe was all the rage when I was there a few weeks ago, but there are plenty of classic Vegas shows like Jubilee that are great and probably shouldn’t be missed.



Me at margaritaville




Second, go to Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffet is an American icon and even if you’re not American, everyone should be able to appreciate a good cocktail. The cocktail is an art form that many countries have yet to truly understand, but Americans have a firm grasp on making alcohol into something epic, and that is something you should enjoy if you go to Vegas. I can think of no better place to do just that than in Margaritaville.



Me with some dancers




Now then, if you’re looking for clubs, ask a taxi driver. They usually have coupons for Scores, Spearmint Rhino, and Olympic Gardens (which I recommended). There are dance clubs all up and down the strip too, and taxi drivers can always suggest the right dance club for the type of evening you want. Don’t forget to tip everybody. I know it was a bit hard to adjust to for me, since I’d been in Asia (one does not top there) for 18 months. Still, if you wanted to be treated like a rock star in Vegas all it takes is a little extra cash.



French crape and Italian Gelato for lunch




The food in Vegas is to die for. You can get anything you want. I was homesick for Korean food after a few drinks, and by god, I found some. The multi-cultural aspect is one of the best things about Vegas, in my humble opinion. Oh, and the chocolate fountain in the Bellagio is really amazing. The restaurant there is incredible too.



Bellagio Chocolate Fountain



There is no end to the amount of things you can do in Vegas. Every casino has something cool, like the dolphins at The Mirage. The spas are some of the best in the world, too. My favorite is Qua, at Caesar’s Palace. And of course, you can even hop on a bus and take a tour around spots like the old strip on Fremont Street.



Dolphin at The Mirage



Whatever you do, look out! Vegas lives up to the name Sin City less and less every year I go. Don’t get me wrong- I love it! There’s just a lot of new stuff like non-smoking casinos. There was a time when Vegas was a place to do certain things that you couldn’t do at home. In some ways, it still is. In other ways, well, check the local laws before you visit, okay?



My friend Carl pets a stingray at Mandela Bay