Tag Archives: comfort zone

Becoming Part Foodie – Snags and Cooking Class

Food! Brisbane has many things to offer in the culinary arena. I have two events to share that happened the last two weeks that were both on a whim, and not necessarily planned out as you will see. The first happened during my first foray into South Bank with my friend Harry, and the second took place at a food class that I signed up for online.

On our first weekend in Brisbane, 31/08/2015 (the day goes first in Australia) my housemate, Harry, traveled with me to South Bank to walk around, explore, get purposefully lost, but also see what kind of events and food Brisbane has to offer. Harry and I turned into the gardens near the famous ferris wheel in South Bank, and walked into a street set up with wooden tables and large tents that had sellers hawking and displaying their wares for sale. We saw kangaroo wallets, clothes, jewelry, bracelets, and bars set up along the pathway. It was such a lively atmosphere of commotion and revelry.

Turning around the corner to head out, we saw a stand selling sausages, or what is known in Brisbane as “snags.” They had different varieties of snags such as the cheese kransky and smoked bratwursts, topped with helpings of sauerkraut and sautéed onions. Of course we were hungry, so we had to try it out.

I elected for the cheese kransky, which was so, so savory. The hot oils inside overflowed in my mouth, giving me a taste of Brisbane’s offerings. The only minus was the sore mouth I had afterwards from the hot oil, but that was from eating it while it was too hot and because it was just so tempting to eat. Harry had the beef bratwurst, which was just as good! We had eaten our snags by the time we reached the bus station to go off on the rest of our journey.

I also went to a food class last Sunday 06/09/15. The cooking class I chose was by a company called “The Golden Pig.” Going into the class, I had no idea what to make of American or Australian cooking. I am a Cantonese Chinese Bostonian that has grown up in a Chinese culinary household and I have no idea what exactly Americans eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at home.

My recipe guide and apron for the day.

My recipe guide and apron for the day.

We first learned how to crush and chop garlic into mince, then we worked together in groups of three to put together a three course meal and dessert! I did feel very lost at first. Where are the extra cups? Where are the whisks? How do I use this stove? How about the convection stove? But, I was just like—go for it and see what you can do yourself.

So I pushed to action. I grabbed a pan and spatula and started putting together the stuffing. The butter went in first to help add flavor and serve as a non-stick surface for the food. Then the onions, bacon, garlic, and herbs were added. And afterwards, the other ingredients: bread crumbs, figs, pine nuts, and lemon zest. As a group of ten in the class, we ended up with fish, beef, chicken, ratatouille, and an apple and frangipane tart.

Beef Fillet with Béarnaise Sauce

Beef Fillet with Béarnaise Sauce

Mhmmm... bacon.

Mhmmm… bacon.

The fish was sweet but meaty like a nice charred steak. Beef and chicken came next, and they were the centerpiece of the meal. The stuffing was agreed upon as the highlight of the evening. The ratatouille was served next—a complex combination of vegetables creating a stock of incredible flavor. The tart was last, which was light and sweet, to end off the heavily buttered 3 course meal. All good work in the days work.

Chicken with Fig, Bacon, and Hazelnut stuffing.

Chicken with Fig, Bacon, and Hazelnut stuffing.

Apple and Frangipane Tart.

Apple and Frangipane Tart.

Food in Brisbane is incredible. There is so much flavor that I have not tasted yet. The simple and subtle flavors in Cantonese cooking is very different from Australian and American foods—oily and greasy, but also much of the same in terms of chicken and beef. In Brisbane, my mouth has never come across so many good flavors at once. It is the few things in life that you can appreciate instinctively. In these two instances, it completely swept me off my feet.

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Filed under Oceania, Raymond in Australia

Traveling: The Push to Success

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

Cesare Pavese’s perspective on travel is very true, however he forgot to mention that the brutality is self-inflicted. In the sense that the self-infliction is voluntary and it pushes a person out of their comfort zone to go after the wonders of the world. Who has ever heard of a traveler that only wants to stay within their comfort zone? I believe a traveler seeks adventure and, as Cesare Pavese said, that means accepting only having the essential things of air, sleep, dreams, the sea, and the sky.

As I have been living in England for a while, I have grown to learn that even I didn’t expect to be so out of my comfort zone. I came into this country already loving the culture and knowing the fact that it’s one of the countries that are most similar to the United States, but I have realized that the similarities are just above the surface. It was a brutal, but understanding, surprise to me when I realized that I’m much farther away from my comfort zone than I thought. At first, I was apprehensive and uncomfortable, but I soon realized that the different people, the different food (yes, it’s actually different too), and the different way of life here push my mind to be even more open than I already thought.

Even though I was uncomfortable in this new environment in the beginning, I have learned to adapt and appreciate it. I know that being out of my comfort zone won’t last long. Even though it’s a brutal push, it pushes me towards becoming the person I want to be in life. I want to be a person that has a broadened mind, more curious, and more eager to learn. One of the things that I have come to be familiar with again is the feeling of completely not knowing something and truly learning something new and alien to me. Through my study abroad program, I am pushed out of my comfort zone each day through learning new things and that just brings me closer to my destination in life.

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Filed under Lily in the United Kingdom, Western Europe

Dancing Kizomba in Bordeaux, France

One of the most exciting subcultures that I have encountered while in France is the dance subculture, particularly the large group of individuals who love to dance Kizomba. I learned about this type of dance through a Senegalese guy named Mahomed, who I met at the park while watching football.  He related to me that there were dance lessons at Punta Cana – a neighboring club – for five euros per lesson, and that I would have fun learning it. I therefore took him up on the offer and upon my arrival I was given a warm welcome and introduced to everyone.  Subsequently, Mahomed and I became very good friends and together we frequent local venues to practice Kizomba.

Kizomba is a very sensual dance that originated in Angola.  One must be very comfortable with physical contact from the opposite sex in order to participate.  In fact, one of the basic instructions given by the teacher is that, “one must remain very close to their partner.”  And if someone is having trouble with a technique, the instructor usually blames it on the two people not sticking close together.  Another difficult aspect of the dance is that it requires the male to be the lead, while the female merely shadows what he does and follows his direction.  Therefore, if the male is a beginner, as I am, the dance can be tedious and frustrating for both participants.  Still further, since my French is not so great, more problems arise when I need to tell my partner something or when she needs to tell me something. But as time has went on, I have learned to simply have fun.

Learning Kizomba is something I would have never ventured into while in the United States.  However, being in a different country and trying to make new friends, I have been forced to adapt to the French culture and do what they do, in order to fit in.  This has proved a great benefit for me; I have met a lot of people, my French is improving, I am exploring new facets of the world which in turn is presenting me with new opportunities and making me more curious.  I am now eager to learn more dances like the Salsa, for example, and I owe it all to the diversity which I have encountered while studying abroad.

Below is a clip of my first experience with Kizomba:

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Filed under Brian in France, Video Bloggers, Western Europe

An International Ambition

sunHistory has thrived upon an ability to dream.  I have never received the comprehensive road map, or tutorial for direction in my life.  What I have had is inspiration that grows from wisdom and stories by sometimes seemingly insignificant interactions.  My dreams are composed of ideas that I have built based upon these interactions.  A benefit of taking on the world without following any given example is that I have been able to explore several influences rather than rely on a select few.  Many aspirations have been absorbed from my experiences, and Costa Rica has allowed me to find pieces of my professional ambitions that I had not previously pondered.

While abroad, I studied the culture and climate of Costa Rica, the Spanish language, and the literature of Latin America.  I attend Elon University, which is a liberal arts university in North Carolina that requires one to take a variety of courses outside of one’s selected major.  This practice brings depth and breadth to an already extraordinary institution of learning.  By encouraging this type of study, students can look to fulfill several of the requirements abroad, which is essentially what I accomplished.

In addition to classes, however, I found inspiration in the adventures that were had within Costa Rica.  The biggest shock in the short time frame that I have been home in is the scheduled nature of society.  Expectations for an individual at nearly any age are abundant and unwritten.  In order to acquire the common concept of success, one must plan his or her life years in advance, and always be looking for something more.  Our schedules and lives are mechanized, and however important this far-sighted requirement is – a person can easily forget the benefit of adventure.  To not be retained by the circulation and commonality of routine is where true success lies.  Costa Rica has shown me that there is so much more to life than the brand of getting rich quickly that many seem it idolize.

gilmanWhen I think of the leaders that I would like to see in the future, they are individuals that have explored outside their comfort zone.   The greatest professional ambition that I have gained was a greater idea of the leader that I will be.  To settle in one area, and to base ideas from within the confines of one’s own four walls is constraining not only to the individual, but to those who admire that person as well.  Not traveling, but rather experiencing diversity is absolutely essential in order to gain creative and intellectual perspectives that would otherwise be absent.  The leaders of this upcoming generation will be culturally intelligent and able to talk across difference in order to innovatively engender success.  A global motivation is now hard-wired into my system, and it forever will be one of the several ideas that guide the direction of my dreams.

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Filed under Central America, Dan in Costa Rica

A Stranger in Taiwan

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

Traveling around Taiwan has given me a new perspective.  As I go from city to city, district to district, I learn new things about the country’s culture and about myself.  Living here has revealed to me new strengths and weaknesses that I never knew I had and wide gaps between cultures.

Through the Taiwanese way of life, which is very different from that of the American’s, I’ve learned so much.  There are some parts to this lifestyle that I really love, and others I don’t think are so great.  I think that if Cesare Pavese was here with me the first month, we would have been like two peas in a pod.  When I read his quote I completely understood how he felt traveling.  The first two weeks I felt so lost, lonely, and out of place. Everything is a little fast paced here.  Scooters driving on the sidewalk and people screaming in Mandarin make Taipei completely foreign to me, because I was born and raised on the south side suburbs of Chicago.  Even my home university is in a suburban-like town.  So when facing down a pushy cab driver or getting swindled by a swift-talking street vendor I can get a little intimidated.  Of course I had more basics than Pavese may have had.  I had a bed in a nice dorm, a cellphone, and most important money to feed myself.  Locals tried their best to make me feel as welcome as possible, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am also living in a city abroad and not in the same type of community in which I am most comfortable.  To feed the fire, I’m one of the only 6’’, blond haired, blue eyed men walking the streets and some children are not afraid to point and scream foreigner in Mandarin.  It’s the first time in my entire life that I felt like a total outsider.  So at times I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or with whom to talk about the way I was feeling.

Fortunately I slowly, but surely made new friends and started to learn more about the city around me.  My Taiwanese buddies took me to the local street markets, where you can really learn a lot about Taiwanese social structure, language, food, and lifestyle in general.  I found that there are warm-hearted, helpful people everywhere.  All I have to do is try my best to communicate and they will do what they can for me.

My mom always told me not to talk to strangers as a kid, but now I rambunctiously try to introduce myself more often.  That way I meet not only new Taiwanese, but a lot of other foreigners like myself from all over the world.  Together with my new friends, I’ve explored the Taiwanese culture.  I think most people would be shocked by the differences I’ve found between Taiwan and the United States, many of which are rooted in the continental culture of Asia.  I guess here in Taiwan and other parts of Asia they even count on their fingers differently.  A skill we learn before kindergarten in the United States.  It blew my mind when my friend ordered three small bags of some fried sweet potatoes at a night market for himself, our friend, and me. He showed the three fingers to show how many bags he wanted. What he didn’t know is that if one holds his thumb, index, and middle finger up to symbolize three it actually means eight here in Taiwan!  It took me a month just to get used to using their specific way of counting on fingers!  Situations like that are confusing, but so far they have really aided me in growing as a person.

I know now Pavese is right, traveling can be lonely. But when you make friends and start to understand the culture, you start to make a new home.  I hope that the more time I spend here the more I learn and get cozier with the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone.  As the Taiwan slogan goes, Taiwan will touch your heart, and it seriously has.  I can’t wait to travel around the country some more and really become acquainted with Taiwan.

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Filed under Brett in Taiwan, East Asia