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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

One Restaurant, One Table, Two Happy WoCLA

By:  Brittany S

One of the things I love most about Korea is the random acts of kindness that occur between Koreans and expats.  The other day, I was waiting for my friend to meet me at 7-11 so we could pop fireworks for 4th of July.  Korean 7-11s have patios with patio furniture on them.  I sat in one of the chairs near a family that was enjoying a meal they brought from home (picnic at 7-11?).  They saw me and immediately tried to get their timid toddler to say "Hi" to me in English.  I smiled and waved at her, then the family started trying to include me in their picnic!

In the same week, my ["Woman of Color Living Abroad"--WoCLA] friend, Perl, told me that her former employer wanted to take her to a very special restaurant and wanted her to bring a [WoCLA] friend to share in the experience.  Up until this very day, I had never heard of this woman, nor her of me.  But, she drove to my apartment to pick me up and take me to this unique restaurant.

I've said this before and I'll say it again--Love knows no language.  My Korean isn't as great as it used to be (thanks to 6 wks in America), but Koreans are very patient with my attempts and they put forth the little English they may know.  Meeting new people is no longer intimidating because of a language barrier.  We always work it out.  Even silence is now comfortable.  On our 30 minute ride up the mountain, the silence allowed us to take in the breathtaking view.

The city I live in is considered a somewhat rural area.  However, there is a rather thriving city life here, so you can avoid the countryside experience if you so choose.  This restaurant was up in the mountains, therefore placing it on the outskirts of town, on a lot of back and windy roads without street signs or signals.  If someone where to ask me today how to get to that restaurant, I'd have nothing to go off of except the more green you see around you, the closer you are getting.

When Perl first told me this restaurant only had one table, I thought either something was lost in translation between her and her former employer, or this place was extremely exclusive and required reservations months in advance.  Neither was the case.  I jokingly said "are we just going to someone's house for dinner?" but when we arrived, that was exactly what it was!  This particular family had chosen to split their home into two parts closed off from one another.  One part served as the restaurant and pottery barn (as all the dishes they use there, from bowls to serving trays to mugs, etc, they make and sell) and the other the residence.  The restaurant was designed with traditional Korean paper all around the interior, and hundreds of hand-crafted items lining every wall and shelf.  The low table was handmade as well.

Our waitress/chef/host was very friendly and very curious about the WoCLA who came to visit her on this day.  We were her first expat visitors!  We spoke as much Korean as we could and filled in the blanks with English.  They did the opposite for us.  When the food arrived, we were given two different kind of salads.  The most interesting part of this was we were served a salad with FLOWERS in it!  I was very surprised that the most satisfying part of the salad was a petal!  My friend and I devoured this part of the meal, thinking this was the main/only course.

Soon, lightly fried eggplant, pumpkin, and mushrooms arrived, as well as a plethora of side dishes.


The side dishes looked like different shades of green of the same plant (with a few other variations).  We tried them all.


As if that wasn't enough, she brought out a soybean stew and traditional (purple) rice.


We wrapped up the meal with omija, a traditional tea that is famous for having "5 flavors" on your tongue.


There was so much food leftover and I couldn't believe that we had a 100% organic and vegetarian-friendly meal that was completely satisfying and delicious!  The best part about it was that it cost 10,000won per person (about $9 USD)!

The owner was so happy we came that she gave us our choice of pottery to take with us.  I was so glad Perl invited me to take part in this experience.  Below is a video she made of our experience.  Check it out!


(Perl's comment about eating the dog is because we passed my restaurant that I ate dog at on the way here.  That is another story...)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Reasons to Love Summer in the Gulf

By:  eternitysojourner

These days in Oman, it’s hard to have a conversation without some mention of the heat.  Sometimes it’s the answer to a question:  “How are you?” “Hot.”  Sometimes it’s used as a reprimand:  “Don’t touch me!  I’m hot and sweaty!” And sometimes, it’s a random exclamation:  “Oh my goodness, it’s so hot!”  You think you’re getting used to the heat until it still sneaks up on you and smacks you on the back of the neck.  My general mantra is “mind over matter”.  I try to stay calm and think cool thoughts when the temperature rises, but facing the reality of peak summer heat requires the kind of mental acrobatics that leave you baffled.  So, we’re going to turn our sun-scorched frowns upside down and look at the ultra-sunny side of life.  Here are a few benefits to the summer heat that will hopefully shift your perspective and help you bear life above 100oF (38oC) a little easier.

1.        You don’t need to use a drying machine.

Line drying your laundry is the best way to maintain the quality of your clothes and naturally bleach hard-to-clean stains.  Rain is so scarce in the Gulf that you hardly have to worry about your laundry catching a downpour.  Even if you save all of your laundry for the weekend, you can do back-to-back loads.  Most of my laundry is dry in about two hours, so you can wash and dry laundry as long as the sun is up.  Such an eco-friendly alternative will help compensate for the tremendous amount of energy consumed by running your air conditioners.

2.       Your health could improve.

The simple act of standing outside is enough to break a sweat, which burns calories.  Walking is optional but running in this heat could be risky.  With all the buckets of sweat you generate, there must be some detoxification and cleansing going on internally.  Also, the almost consistently clear skies will give you great doses of Vitamin D which is essential for calcium absorption and boosting your immune system. 

An additional benefit is your obstinate desire to avoid cooking at all costs.  While some may try to subsist on frozen desserts, many will admit strong cravings for salads—green salads, fruit salads, leftover salads.  Anything that doesn’t require heating suddenly becomes the most appetizing dish for your palate.

3.       Your tap water is never cold.

No fears of a cold shower in these parts.  The water is tepid after sunrise, lukewarm at night, and scorching in the mid-day.  You won’t need to use a water-heater (or a kettle) to warm your water for the entire summer--yet another way to conserve energy and save your money.

4.       You can experiment with outdoor cooking.

I don’t eat eggs but if I did, I wouldn’t waste gas frying them considering how hot the ground is.   When I lived in Algeria, I heard about a type of bread that’s baked under the heat of the desert sand.  I couldn’t believe it then but my Omani friends tell me about how meat is roasted underground for special occasions. It’s all quite plausible to me now.   Roasting, dehydrating, and baking outdoors are all options for conserving energy and testing out your solar-powered cooking skills.

5.       You gain a profound appreciation for all things cold.

An icy drink, a cool breeze, and a cold room all attain a new level of significance in your life.  Your gratitude for such relief reaches new depths and it’s good to pause and think about those who have no escape from the heat, no refuge from the cold, or live their lives under the elements all year round.  While this post was intended to be light-hearted, I hope we can all take a moment to pause and reflect upon how fortunate we are in our given circumstances, even if they’re inconvenient.  A temporary power outage or water shortage always brings me back to a reality that people face on a daily basis.  Thankfully, the heat is bearable for most of us and by the end of the year, we’ll be enjoying sunny days on the beach while others are shivering from the cold.

Serious Tips for Coping with the Heat

·         Hydrate yourself liberally, generously, and often.

·         Plan your outings early or late.  Preferred times would be before 10 AM and after 4 PM.

·         Stay indoors during peak heat.

·         Use hats, sunscreen, and long loose clothing to protect your skin from sunburn. 

·         Use windshield visors in your vehicle and driving gloves for handling your steering wheel and shifting gears.

Thankfully, many jobs in the Gulf offer generous summer vacations, so use your month or two (or three!) of paid leave wisely and plan accordingly.

Any other tips for staying cool in the Gulf?