The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dining Out in Dubai

Dining Out in Dubai
by Stephanie McCreary

Dubai is a metropolis in the heart of Arabia, famous for skyscrapers built on the cutting edge of ultramodern architecture, camels, five star resort hotels, and sand dunes. And here I am on vacation in this city on the Arabian peninsula, madly craving food from a country that is almost 9,000 miles away: Mexico. So is there any hope at all of finding an authentic restaurant that serves the cuisine that hails from south of the border of the United States? Anything is possible, right? I flip open my guidebook and find what I’m looking for.

Maria Bonita’s Taco Shop is Dubai’s only Mexican restaurant. After a fast fifteen minute cab ride from my hotel in Bur Dubai, I get to the Jumeirah 3 district, where the restaurant is located. The name Maria Bonita curves across the top of an archway in warm shades of yellow and red. A fiery flower and a blue lizard call the warm and languorous locales of southern Mexico to mind. The high-pitched squawk of two green parrots perched contentedly inside a blue wire cage compliment the exotic atmosphere while patrons munch on tortilla chips and drink margaritas in the cool winter weather. The brightly colored entrance beckons me to have a seat and take a bite of what looks like a little piece of Mexico in the middle of Arabia. There are wooden chairs painted blue, yellow, and red and the green leafy plants hanging above my head take me back to a little coffee shop in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I sipped coffee at an outdoor café. I am intrigued and more than a little bit curious to see if they can pull this off.


The waiter comes swiftly over to my table and sets a basket of chips and salsa before me. I ask him if I have to pay for them and he tells me that they are free. I’m delighted because some restaurants in this region charge for items like bread and chips, so this is feeling authentic already.   As I bite into one of the crisp, buttery, salted chips, I glimpse into a window of the surreal. The call to prayer sounds from the minaret of the mosque across the street as my Indian waiter asks me if I need anything else. The parrots squawk simultaneously from their cage, conjuring up an image of a jungle as I dip my chips into two kinds of salsa: a picante with cilantro and onion and another made of grilled red chili peppers, tomato, and fresh ground pepper. The flavors are deep, smoky, and spicy and take me to a place far from Islam, minarets, and India.


I order a small portion of guacamole to go with the chips just to splurge. Hey, when am I going to have the opportunity to eat Mexican again? I gorge myself on the smooth, green dip. It has just the right amount of limejuice, a touch of onion and cilantro and the diced tomatoes give it a pleasing splash of color. I am nearly satisfied by the time I order my main course but I just keep rolling along. The unpretentious menu offers entrees like jumbo quesadillas, fajitas nortenas, tamales, flautas, and burritos, which the restaurant is famous for. I order the Tamales Estilo Mexico, which are tamales with chicken and red sauce. I have horchata to drink. A trio of tamales arrives at my table a short time later, flanked by a small mound of rice and refried beans, all sprinkled with white Mexican cheese. The tamales are thinner than traditional Mexican tamales, and they sit on top of the cornhusks instead of wrapped inside of them. I try a piece and find the corn masa too sweet for a savory tamale and just a little bit dry. Dipping it into the mild red sauce moistens it and renders it more familiar to my palate and I discover tender, pulled chicken inside. The cheese is a nice compliment, adding tang and richness. Overall, it’s a dish that is neither too mild nor too spicy, but one that could have been a little more filling.


I sip the last of the horchata as I finish the tamales. It is not made from the tiger nut like the original version from Valencia, Spain but rather almonds, cinnamon, milk, and rice milk, true to the authentic Mexican recipe. It has a pleasant, creamy sweetness, but the texture is more grainy than smooth. Maria Bonita’s menu offers desserts like tres leches cake and chocolate cake, as well as bunuelos, sweet tortilla chips with sugar and cinnamon. Entrees range from 45-64 AED (Emirati Dirhams).  If you find yourself in Dubai craving Mexican food, Maria Bonita’s Taco Shop and Grill, while not one hundred percent authentic, should more than satisfy your taste for the spice, color, and excitement of Mexican cuisine. 

Maria Bonita’s Taco Shop and Grill
Jumeira 3, Dubai, UAE
Catering, takeaway, and delivery: 04 395 555 76
Hours: 12pm-11pm everyday

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Return

By Breian Brockington

I've lived the last four years of my life teaching and singing in different country's. Four years filled with learning new languages, riding camels, running through mud, relaxing on secluded beaches, reprimanding students, getting robbed, tasting exotic cuisines, and adding to my endless supply of friends and family. I know it all sounds exciting and adventurous and it truly is but sometimes you need a break. A break from the newness and instability of it all. A break from having to explain your jokes or wondering if your presence is going to cause unwanted attention. No, I'm not complaining. Truth be told I know I am a world traveler. I know that traveling and touching others lives if only for a brief moment is one of my callings. That in itself made the return even more difficult.

In August I departed Morocco to return home to Atlanta, Georgia. However, I didn't completely leave Morocco in Africa. My return home meant I had some serious decisions to make. I began questioning my future. Asking myself whether or not I was ready to give up being an international ESL instructor. I had until October to make my decision and by then I was still undecided. See generally an ESL instructor is given 1 to 2 months of vacation in the summer. That's supposed to be enough time catch up with friends, soak up some native love (where ever you happen to be from) and maybe do a little traveling. And man, I must say we have it made compared to some of our family and friends back home. This time around I couldn't make up my mind. The truth was I missed home. I missed my family and the normalcy of fading into the background.

Has the transition into a "stay at home American" been easy? No, but I'm glad I made the decision. Is this a permanent decision? No, by no means is it permanent. I'm a self proclaimed citizen of the world. However, this moment that I have been given, I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to soak up as many laughs and memories as I can because I know I'll need them to get me through my next international journey. 

I hope this post encourages others to take a break. Feeling drained will only enhance the disdain you feel in that present moment. And for individuals struggling with the decision to move on to something new or complete something old, remember, the world isn't going anywhere.


Breian is an International ESL instructor for English First International-Atlanta.
 "I want to bring light to the falsehood of cultural stereotypes and  international travel through music"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Scared Traveler: Trying to Make the World a Better Place

Have you ever wanted to do something great, because you heard, read or watched someone somewhere in the world making a difference. In an instant you are filled with a need to contribute just a faction of yourself to the world. Somewhere in your mind you want a sincere feeling of having done something great to make the world a better place. That being said, you go out to find a cause that would be worthy of your time and energy. Something that would make you want to fight for the greater good. I, myself felt this feeling quite recently, and decided to become a better citizen of the world. It took me some time to figure out what truly would be the cause that’s worthy of my time and energy. I scoured the internet looking for worthy causes preferably within the vicinity of my home. Luckily for me, I didn't have to look too far to find a cause I would be comfortable with.

Thanks, in part to the ingenuity of Facebook allowing me to read posts of people I have befriended. Normally, I'm not into OPB (Other People’s Busy), but I happened to see a post about an article about foreigners volunteering on a “friend’s” page. The article was about volunteers coming from Seoul (South Korea) to Asan (South Korea) helping at an animal shelter caring for dogs that otherwise would have been euthanized. They dedicate their time, energy and money assisting the owner with cleaning, feeding and adopting these animals into safe environments. I felt this cause would be something I would enjoy doing, because I'm an animal lover. I was able to contact the person who wrote the article, and set a date and time for when I will come and help out with whatever is needed on that day. 

Foster Poodle (play time)
While I have plans to help out at the shelter I took it upon myself to help a friend who fosters and helps cats and dogs find good homes. My first foster pet was a cute poodle I took into my home for a few days, in which I learned a great deal from this particular dog. It was abused and in need of love, and when I wasn't there it showed its’ true colours.  It reminded me that people need to be more responsible towards GOD’s creatures, because like themselves they would never want to be abandoned by no one.

For those that find themselves with down time in your temporary home country, and want to volunteer. Here are a few steps to get you in the right direction for doing something good.

1)    Internet Search: The internet is a great place to start, because it has connected the world in such a way that information has become easier to access. There are many articles, blogs and social networking sites to get you started.

A.     Facebook: For those with Facebook pages the best place to start is by looking at group pages you joined. See who has posted information about volunteering or just make a post yourself.

B.     Local on-line news websites in a language you understand: There may be an article there about a person who’s making a difference through animal or child welfare. You can contact the author of the article about getting into contact with someone to volunteer your time to help.

C.    Volunteer Organizations: These organizations offer short and long term tours for people to participate and there may be a chance for you to do something local in your region.

2)    Ask a friend in the same country: It’s hard not to make new friends or acquaintance in a foreign land. Being assertive when meeting new people and asking the right questions could yield great results. When you are meeting new people it’s easy to get to know their hobbies or their passions. You will find they can be involved in various projects that sometimes need help.

3)    Contact your local Embassy: Sometimes the people that know best can be your home country local embassy. The people working there could have information pertaining to various volunteer services that take place within the country you are residing. These could be from language exchanges to helping out in a devastated area.

For those that are looking to do a holiday volunteer gig I have added a few links below for the ultimate volunteer. I hope this helps you in getting started if you want to dedicate your time in doing your part to help a person or animal in this world. I believe we need more good people to show their kindness to others. Please take a step in making a difference no matter how small to someone in need.

Note: I did notice that i-to-i.com is a paid volunteer service with activities built in for those interested in that kind of service.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Priceless Possessions for Traveling like a Local

By:  eternitysojourner

Last month, my family and I took a long-awaited and highly-anticipated journey to Ethiopia, visiting Addis Ababa, Harar, and Negash.  While we were riding high on the hype of an enriching historical journey, we had to come to terms with the poverty we would face in a developing country.  The tourism industry is booming in Ethiopia and there is a conscientious effort to move beyond the image of a starving, famine-stricken country, towards a prosperous and worldly society.  As with progress in most developing countries, change comes with a cost and you more than likely will feel it in your own pocket.  In spite of the rising cost of living and travel, these are five invaluable allies that helped us move through the country  "with the people".

1. Useful Information

While knowing the population of a city or historical facts are useful, save some time for researching what’s going to count in your day-to-day travels.  Admission fees, taxi fares, and tipping customs can be extremely variable in some parts of the world.  If you’re not careful, you can be paying double, triple, or quadruple of what’s appropriate.  Be prepared to talk down prices that are negotiable and refer to the great bartering tips shared by others here and here.  If you can talk numbers in the local language, peppered with the lingo and mannerisms of seasoned locals, then you have yet another advantage in securing a reasonable price for whatever you’re pursuing.

2. Loose Change

Keeping small bills in your wallet is useful for making donations to charities or individuals, as well as hand-to-hand business transactions in your travels.  We lost a few bucks here and there after giving a large currency note to pay a tour guide or a guesthouse and not receiving any change.  Save the big bills for large establishments and fixed fare transportation, where you're more likely to have your change returned. Keep the small bills handy for everything else.

Depending on how much cash you feel comfortable carrying, try to avoid using your debit or credit card internationally.  More than likely you’ll be paying transaction fees on both ends, so travel with large currency bills (dollars, euros, etc.) and exchange them after exiting the airport.  Airports are notorious for pitiful exchange rates, so consider using a bank or other exchange services.

Side Note:  Don’t forget to inform your home bank about your travels so they don’t assume your account is being used fraudulently!

 3. Local Connections

Use your common interests to connect with others.  Tap into clubs, groups, and societies, where you can make authentic connections on topics other than tourism and make plans to connect while you’re in town.  When researching vegan travel tips, we came across the Ethiopian Vegan Association and connected with Ethiopians who had a common interest and were keen to answer our inquiries and give us travel advice, without a fee.  One member became more than just our unofficial guide in Addis Ababa but has become a true friend.  He weaved us through the capital on a shoestring budget, with the added benefit of seeing how others live, work, and move through the bustling city.  We also found great places for delicious local food that were way off the beaten path and even further from the pages of a guidebook.

4. Good Health

After touring a good bit of Addis Ababa carrying my toddler daughter in a sling, I was grateful for being in good shape.  Long walks and cramped minibuses were bearable and we spent about a tenth of what it would cost to ride taxis all through town.  Similarly, we took an entertaining long distance bus which was also about a tenth of the domestic flight cost.  Being able to carry your own bags, walk comfortably, and withstand a long bus or train ride can save you the expense of private transport, tipping bellboys, and door-to-door service for your entire journey.  A habit of daily walking and exercise is not only great preparation for travel but great for healthy living in general.

5. Good Attitude

Last-minute delays, cancellations, and changes to your itinerary can be frustrating.  If you can breathe through the irritation, you’ll more than likely find a helpful hand, a kind word, or a brilliant back-up plan to keep your itinerary moving smoothly, in spite of the detour.  The angry, belligerent tourist may not be able to move beyond their disappointment, making rash decisions that spoil a good trip for everyone.  However, the patient, flexible tourist can “go with the flow”, embrace their circumstances, and ride the waves of whatever travel brings their way.  Instead of being fixated on what you “missed” and trying to buy it back at all costs, you may find a Plan B that is equally (if not, more) satisfying at a lower cost.  We had our hearts set on visiting a town that sounded great online but, to Ethiopians, was not as spectacular as we thought.  We saved some time and money by changing our plans and it was the best decision we could’ve made.  Be open to the possibilities and travel safely!  J

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Midnight Gondola Ride With Him…And His Missus Is Ok With It

By:  Brittany S

Last weekend was magical.  Even though I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say to me, I could look in his eyes and stare at his hands; they told me everything I needed to know.  He wanted me right here with him…and she knew.
Who is “he” you ask?  My Oppa  (오빠 "big brother")!  Who else?!  I know it has been a long time since I last wrote about him, but he and his family are still very much a part of my life.  Now that I live in a different city, I don’t see them nearly as often, but we definitely keep in touch!

                One day I messaged my Uhni (언니 "big sister") and she invited me to join them at a resort over the weekend.  ROADTRIP!  WOOHOO!  I was a bit nervous (as I always am when I go out of town with them, but last time it worked out alright), but I agreed.  They drove two hours to pick me up, then another two to our destination, with a random pit stop in between.

                On the way, 오빠 made a pit stop at a SHEEP FARM.  Yep.  I guess this isn’t very fascinating to me because I have driven and walked past fields with sheep many times in America, but for them, it was special.  But when my family found out there was a fee to get closer to the sheep (less than $5USD), they decided it was too expensive, so we left…but not before they fed me.

                Even though I ate before getting in the car, I was immediately handed Mandarin oranges and a hot sweet potato. At the sheep farm, they bought me a corn dog.  There was even a point where I was forced to bite off one of theirs, after they gnawed at mine.  Sharing is caring!  But they weren’t done!  They know I love meat more than vegetables, so they make it a point to cook a lot of meat anytime I am around.  This time was one for the record books.  They bought a TON of steak, links, and hot dogs (and were very apologetic that it wasn’t American beef, but Australian.  *shrugs*).  They made so much meat I thought I was going to be sick!  I ate until I couldn’t anymore, then a little more just for them.  We laughed and talked in broken English and Korean until we moved on to games.

                I usually just play “Blue Marble” with all the kids (like a Korean ‘Monopoly’), but this time the adults decided to play a game as well.  They taught me (with gestures, 2 or 3 English words, and Korean) how to play Yutnori.  We played with our family (오빠, his son, and me) against the other family (they traveled with us last time).  We won the first game and lost the next two.  I blame the player substitutions!  While I was playing with the kids, 오빠 said he wanted to go on a “Gondola ride date” with me and asked if that was ok.  I looked at his wife for clarification (as there aren't any Gondolas at the ski resort right?) and she said yes and go.  I STILL have no idea where this gondola came from, but I suppose this is our next adventure?*

After games, dinner, and drinks, we headed outside to check out the resort premises.  Even though we hadn’t had the first snow, ski season had begun so there was artificial snow everywhere, with the ski slope directly outside our windows.  One of the men in the group is a professional photographer.  I don’t know if it was the soju or his wife, but he suddenly was inspired to have an impromptu photo shoot on the snow using only his camera phone.  As we giggled and ran away from him (he drunkenly chased us, too!), he snapped pics.  He finally convinced us to start posing and he told me he loves my silly poses.  That’s all I needed to hear; I went into full Naomi mode, making the rest of the Koreans to blush. We had a good time!  It was fun to watch the rest of the men and boys have a snowball fight.

She laughed so hard she started crying haha
What? He told me to pose in the snow! She wasn't ready...
                By now I am worn out, but they are still going strong.  The children were instructed to perform to “Gangnam Style” for the adults.  They were even assigned parts and given an iPad to go watch the video for practice.  That was fun.  It was funny to see the kids being forced to dance in a totally different culture than my own; moments like that make me feel at home here.  I stayed awake long enough to watch the performances, then was dismissed to go to bed.  My family could see the fatigue all over my face so my 언니 came to the ladies’ room (we stayed in a 2 bed/2 bath condominium villa) and tucked me in my floor mat.  She laid her mat out next to mine and for a minute I thought she was about to try to share a mat with me.  Instead, she gently caressed my face and said she loves me as if she was putting her little girl to bed.  Sometimes you would never guess that she is only 13 years older than me!

The beautiful wife who inspired this photo shoot. (LEFT)
                Later, 언니 returned to go to bed.  When she thought I was sleep, she held my hand and fell asleep.  Even though I don’t understand everything she says, I always understand everything she does.  She really loves me.  We slept hand-in-hand for hours (when I finally fell asleep that is!  I was laying on my back and she on her stomach.  After so long, I was uncomfortable!  I wanted to roll over!).  Around 5:30am, I woke up to use the bathroom.  Little did I know that one of the other ladies was awake and would start talking to me when I returned.  That eventually woke the other ladies, who woke the children, who woke the men.  The whole house was awake and LIVELY before 6am!  Next time I will just hold it :-).  I just KNEW I was going to be able to lie back down and continue sleeping!  WRONG!

                I had to leave the resort earlier than everyone else because I had an appointment in Seoul.  Before I left, 오빠 insisted on making me breakfast.  He even Westernized it a little for me by making fried eggs and Salisbury steaks to go with the meal.  Because I am not much of a drinker, everyone made it a point to keep my glasses filled with OJ and water.  The men drove me to the bus terminal and one of the women even rode the bus with me to Seoul to make sure I would be ok.  They are sooooo considerate and hospitable.  오빠and 언니 announced to everyone that they want to be able to communicate with me more fluidly, but they are old so they will not study English.  Instead, I have been instructed to continue my study of the Korean language.  I am trying…people like that are all the more motivation for me to learn.  (OPPA AND UHNI, I LOVE YOU!...오빠랑 언니, 사랑해요! )

*My 오빠 believes we are closer than his wife and I are, so he insists on his 1-on-1 time to further his lead if you will.*