Monthly Archives: June 2012

Varieties of Goodbye

Yesterday I emailed my students to say goodbye. In two weeks it will be my last day in the Study Abroad Office and then Hubby and I will move from the beautiful coastlines of San Diego to the plains of Oklahoma City for him to start an awesome new job.  I am so proud and we’re both excited, but with every move comes the challenges of goodbyes.

I’m moving from this (literally the view from my campus)

To this  (courtesy of Brit Gal Photography)

Personally, I have never been all that great at goodbyes. As a child I would cry every time a friend went home after a play date or sleepover. On the day my grandma was supposed to go back to Illinois after visiting us, I would hide her house slippers because I figured she couldn’t leave without them.  I just don’t particularly like when people have to  leave.  And I’m not much better when I’m the one doing the leaving either.

For those of us who have traveled, I’m sure we have all faced challenging goodbyes. I am most familiar with the travels that last a semester to a year where we have to say goodbye to family, friends, colleagues, Sundays school classes, book clubs, running groups, etc.  They can be emotional goodbyes because often they are a lifetime of relationships, but usually you know that you’ll be back which provides a great deal of comfort.

When we leave our host country to go back home, the goodbyes are often different.  We have to say farewell to host families, tour guides, bus drivers, professors, roommates, classmates, and travel-mates. Though we may have only known these individuals for a few months, the goodbyes are often more difficult.  So much has been shared.  So much has been experienced.  And usually we can only leave with the hope that someday we will have enough time, money, and vacation days to come back.

For me right now, I would say this particular goodbye feels somewhere in the middle. We have only lived in San Diego for a year but in that short time, I have made fast friends and gotten very attached to my students. However, the experiences have not been as intense as they were when I studied abroad. There was never any rush to see and do everything here in San Diego, because it wasn’t always known that we were going to leave so quickly. And though this isn’t home, as I begin to say my goodbyes, it feels more like a “see you later” rather than “I hope someday our paths will cross again.” At least I hope that truly is the case.

There are so many types of goodbyes. The quick farewell to colleagues as you run off to your evening gym class. Kissing your husband goodbye as you drop him off at the airport for a conference.  Saying goodbye to a friend as she heads off for a job in Amsterdam. The permanent farewell of a loved one after she takes her last breath. While each goodbye may seem to vary in distance and finality, each is important. I think the act of saying goodbye, while it may be difficult, shows that they matter to me. So though it is one of my least favorite activities and I’m not very good at it, I have to say goodbye.

To Ali, Andra, Karen, and Rose, I cannot express enough gratitude for how you have each embraced and accepted me. There is a bed for you in Oklahoma if you ever want escape from paradise for a while. I will really miss you but will see you later.

Kissing San Diego goodbye and Oklahoma hello

As for you, my dear readers, I’m not going anywhere. My 30 mile radius is just moving about 1353 miles east.

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Guest Blog: Volunteering in the Refugee Community

After learning about World Refugee Day, which was held on June 20th, I realized that volunteering with the refugee community would be a great way to be global from home. However, I am far from an expert on the topic so I asked my good friend, Becky, to do my first ever guest blog. Becky currently works with refugees in San Diego and she offers great ways to get involved and help refugees get resettled as they transition to life in their new home. If you live outside the San Diego area, be sure to visit the agency directory at Refugee Works to find where you can donate your time and talents.

Guest Blog by Becky Morines:

After interning at a refugee resettlement agency here in San Diego during my junior year at Point Loma Nazarene University, I was instantly attracted to the refugee population in San Diego.  Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their own countries due to persecution, people whose own homes have become a place of fear and danger, and people who have seen political upheaval, instability, war, terror, and in some cases have experienced kidnappings, torture, and had loved ones murdered.   After having my eyes opened to this population, I focused the majority of my academic research on the process to come to the United States for a refugee and the challenges faced during the assimilation process in the United States. I now work as the Employment Coordinator in the refugee resettlement department at Jewish Family Service of San Diego.  Most of the refugees that we work with are from Iraq and Burma; however our agency is open to refugees and asylum seekers from all across the globe.

As the Employment Coordinator, my job is to act as the bridge between the refugee and the employer.  I assist our clients prepare a resume, complete job applications, mock interviewing, and go out with them to look and apply for jobs.  The refugees arriving in San Diego have English skills from proficiency to none at all.  Some have never held a job, yet many hold Bachelor’s and Master degrees from their home country and have attained incredible professional experience.  It is very humbling to be able to help with the job application and interview process that seems so normal to Americans, however extremely abnormal for those who have traveled thousands of miles to get here.  I am inspired by every encounter simply based on their experience, courage, and strength.  I am also encouraged by the incredible team that has dedicated their work to the refugee community in San Diego.  There are new arrivals coming every month that need help adjusting to this new country and new people.

There are various satisfying ways to volunteer in the San Diego area.  The refugee resettlement department has several different opportunities to volunteer that include administrative support, employment scouting, furniture delivery, and translation in a variety of languages.  At Jewish Family Service, we have a Friendly-Match program that matches a mentor with a refugee family.  By joining this program you would be able to build a lasting relationship with a family with hands on experience.  These volunteers can assist the family grocery shopping, going to the bank, practicing English, or even just going to the beach!  Lastly we need Employment Mentors who familiarize newly arrived refugees with the job search and application processes in the United States using a hands-on approach. Mentors play an integral role in helping refugees to become self-sufficient by providing them with the education and support necessary to secure employment.

If you enjoy traveling and working with people from different backgrounds, there are incredible opportunities right in your own backyard.  You can also visit our website or contact me at for additional information.

Jewish Family Service of San Diego

www.jfssd.org/refugee

Abroad Blog of the Week: The Cantaloupe Tales

When I came upon The Cantaloupe Tales a few weeks ago, I was reading through study abroad posts on WordPress. It’s my favorite tag as I do love me a good ole study abroad blog – one that has pictures of the Eiffel Tour or the experience of a student eating her first Italian gelato. But what I enjoy the most is when I find ones that are unique, filled with character, and so funny that I almost wet my pants.  Well, Cantaloupe Tales is one of those blogs.  The blogger, Katie, is witty. She can tell a great story and has made me laugh to the point that Hubby has come in our office to see what is going on. If you’re having a bad day, read this post from Katie. I promise you’ll be tearing up from laughter by the end.  Katie’s humor doesn’t end there. I have had the wonderful privilege of emailing with her and she answered a few questions about her blog and experience in Morocco.  I hope you will enjoy her writing as much as I do.

Katie from the Cantaloupe Tales

Why did you name your blog The Cantaloupe Tales?

You know, I don’t really have a good reason, except that it was the first thing that popped into my head when I sat down to create it in January. Maybe I got confused between which snack I wanted to eat and what I wanted to name this new blog; I do that sort of thing when I’m hungry. It also sort of sounds like the Canterbury Tales, which makes me sound educated and clever. The first post is called “A Melancholy Tale,” (get it?) and it’s a very short, very dumb story full of puns about two star-crossed lovers who also happen to be melons. The last line is: “‘I love my melon lover,’ sobbed the melon, “but now we cantaloupe!”  I know, I know. I can’t believe I have readers either.

What surprised you most about Morocco?

Healthcare. Is. So. Cheap. (For US-ians, anyway). When I came down with intestinal parasites (avoid those), I dragged myself out of bed to a private practice Moroccan doctor, who made us wait forever but only cost 200 dirhams (approximately exactly $22.7110). Then I went to the pharmacy and got my meds. Long story short, you just walk in and tell them what’s wrong with you. For Moroccans, I know that this isn’t exactly chump change, but as someone whose paycheck (when employed) comes in dollars, it was a bit of a relief. Also: don’t eat unwashed salads. Parasites suck (ugh, literally. Ugh, get me off the Internet).

Also, when inside a Moroccan family’s house, everyone wears their pajamas all the time. One gets dressed to go out. Brilliant! It was fantastic. Bring your jammies.

Did you pick up any local habits/customs while living abroad?

I read this question to my mother, who laughingly replied, “Well, look at what you’re wearing!” She was right: I’m wearing a Moroccan gandora, which is a traditional garment that my host family gave me the day before I left Morocco. I also wear harem pants now. Other than my increasingly dubious wardrobe, though, it’s hard to say: when living in Morocco, I picked up plenty. I ate with my hands, mastered the squat toilet and bucket operation, and grew accustomed to haggling in the souk. Lots of small things come to mind, tiny and huge lifestyle changes that add up to making a new home as the months pass.

What have I brought back to the U.S., of all these customs and habits? I’m still not sure. People use forks and toilet paper, and it’d be crazy to try to haggle at Target. I like to think I’ve brought back something, though. A puffy Hello Kitty bathrobe? That little purple rug? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

From your experience, was it harder to go to Morocco or to come back home?

BOTH. I know that’s sort of a weenie answer, but let me explain. I struggled with adjusting to Morocco: I missed my friends, culture shock, the works. Yet adjust I did, and as my airplane departed Casablanca, the last thing I wanted to do was completely change my way of life—again. I love Morocco and its rich culture, history, politics, and mostly, its people. Slipping into all of my old U.S. habits was easier than forming new Morocco habits had been, but once home, I realized that nobody (except for a select few) knew or really cared about Morocco. That’s been weird.

So both were challenging in different ways. No matter which way the cookie crumbles, though, you’ll forget where your comfort zone was and replace it with some good, wholesome awkwardness. I’d do it all again, and not change a thing. Well, except for waiting so long to see a doctor about those parasites. Seriously.

What three pieces of advice would you give someone who was planning to live/study in Morocco?

1.     Travel as much as you can, Morocco has pretty great public transit. Go to Chefchaouen and Asilah! Climb Mount Toubkal! Run around on beaches! Play soccer with Moroccan kids!

2.     Don’t be too paranoid about people ripping you off in the souk. Get some ballpark prices from Moroccans for certain items, and haggle away! Don’t be shy! But honestly, you’ll end up paying a bit more for some things because you’re foreign anyway. When it’s a difference of 10 dirhams, what’s one more dollar to you? You’re boosting their economy. Smile. Make friends with the shopkeepers. Have a ball.

3.      Learn Darija and talk to people. All the time. Never stop talking to people! Ladies, just ignore the catcallers, but talk to people! That’s the point, right? Crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries. Seriously, learn Darija. It’s fun. Chat ‘em up! Good luck! Have fun!

4.     I know you said three, but I just thought of an important one. Bring hand sanitizer. There’s never soap, and when you’re using a bucket and water, you’ll want to wash your hands thoroughly. Oh, yeah, and eat lots of couscous. Go to a wedding. Beware of leben. Okay, I’m done. Thanks for reading!

Thanks for the interview, Katie!

Birthday Traditions Around the Globe

This weekend my adorable niece turns two-years-old. Needing some creative stimulants to help select her birthday gift, I decided to research birthday traditions around the globe for some inspiration. The trouble was that I found plenty of traditions but very few images.  And since I’m a visual person, I thought it might be nice see the traditions in addition to just reading abut them.  Some of these were not easy to find, but here are 11 different global birthday traditions to try out:

  • Argentina
    Earlobe Tugs. Children receive a pull on their earlobe for each year.

Courtesy of White Coat

  • China
    Noodles for Lunch. Friends and relatives are invited to lunch; noodles are served to wish the child a long life. In addition, the child receives money from both parents.

Chinese birthday noodles courtesy of Learning Chinese with Iris

  • Denmark
    Flying Flags. A flag is flown outside a window to designate that someone inside is enjoying a birthday. Presents are placed around children’s beds while sleeping.

Danish birthday flag courtesy of Copenhagen

  • Ecuador
    Pink Dresses. When a girl turns 15, there’s a great celebration. She puts on a pink dress and her first pair of high heels and dances the waltz with her father. Fourteen girls and fourteen boys pair up and dance the waltz alongside them.

Quinceanera celebration courtesy of Being Latino

  • England
    Fortune Telling Cakes. Certain symbolic objects are mixed into the birthday cake as it’s being prepared. If you uncover a coin in your cake, it’s foretelling of future riches.

Fortune Telling Cake Charms courtesy of Woof Nanny

  • Holland
    Crown Years. Even (2, 4, 6, etc.) birthday years are called “crown years.” The child receives an especially large gift on the special crown year birthdays. In addition, the family decorates the child’s chair with flowers.

Birthday Chair courtesy of Snowy Bliss

  • Ireland
    Birthday Bumps. The birthday child is lifted upside down and “bumped” on the floor for good luck. The child receives a bump for every year—and one extra for good luck.

Birthday Bump courtesy of Miss Zoot

  • Israel
    Chair Raising. The child sits in a chair while the family raises and lowers it, corresponding to the child’s age, with one extra for good luck.

A birthday chair raise courtesy of Art House

  • Mexico
    Pinatas and Mass. A pinata is filled with goodies and hung from the ceiling. While blindfolded, children take turns hitting it until it’s cracked open. Also, when a girl turns 15 in Mexico, a special mass is held to honor her.

Mexican birthday pinatas courtesy of Alice Q. Foodie

  • Philippines
    Cakes and Noodles. Birthday cakes are baked in various shapes and sizes. The celebration includes noodles — representing a long life — balloon decorations, and pinatas.

Filipino birthday pinata courtesy of Life, Love, & Why

  • Russia
    Birthday Pies. Instead of a birthday cake, the child receives a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.

Russian birthday pie courtesy of Send Great Flowers

What other birthday traditions did I miss?

This post is adapted from FTD’s website.

Pecorino Moment

Do you ever have those moments that catapult you back to into your memories from abroad? I had one of those last night – what I would call a “pecorino moment”.

Hubby and I went for some great Italian in La Jolla at a little place called Barbella.  It was a lovely restaurant with an open covered porch and all kind of character. The menu was small but looked scrumptious. Trying to implement portion controll, we shared the cheese plate, a bibb salad, and fettuccine alla bolognese. When the cheese plate arrived, I was immediately thrilled to find one of my favorite combinations: pecorino e miele (sheep’s cheese and honey). As soon as the sweet and salty concoction touched my tongue, memories of a meal in Montalcino sprung to my mind as if I was reliving it again from 9 years ago.

In general, I would say I am not a lover of food.  I more eat to live, than live to eat. I could eat a turkey sandwich for every lunch for the rest of my life and be fine. But there are a few meals that I have partaken in during my 30 years that are truly memorable (for good or bad):

Age 7: My Aunt Ethel made cabbage rolls and my mother told me I had to try them.  I told her that green was not my color.

Age 15: I went to the homecoming dance with a group of people and at dinner all the girls ordered salad. Trying to not be the odd duck who really wanted steak, I had my first salad ever and discovered that maybe green was my color – at least if it had enough bleu cheese dressing on it.

Age: 18: I was in South Africa volunteering at local high schools and staying at a Christian camp that provided three meals a day. We were told we had to eat everything so as not to offend. This included the neon pink hot dogs; I’m still not sure what they were made of.

Age 20: Sitting in a tiny restaurant in Montalcino, Italy, I had the very best meal of my life consisting of risotto di Brunello di Montalcino (risotto made with red wine) and pecorino e miele.

Age 27: Dining with a group of students in Cusco, Peru, they decided to order cuy (guinea pig) for the table. I just couldn’t get myself to try it…with teeth and all staring at me, I contemplated becoming a vegetarian.

I just couldn’t do it.

What are your “pecorino moments”?

My International Community

I was a reading a great blog post on Strange Days a few days ago about President Obama using the term of “International Community” several times while at the G20 Summit. The blogger discussed how our view of community has changed from “a place in which you lived” to “a mental state of identity or entitlement or power or preference or brand worship.” Personally, I feel that social media has a lot to do with this change, but Friday night as I was writing up my list of Versatile blogs it made me think about my own international community in the blogosphere.

I am a new blogger. In fact it was just 39 days ago that I posted for the first time with the goal of exploring the world from home. Simultaneously I began following a series of blogs and have picked up more along the way.  There are some that I  browse through and others that I feel really invested in. For example, I have never met Michael from Travel Thayer, but I eagerly read his blog about teaching in Korea. I have never met Amit of Healing Pilgrim but I am fascinated by her life in Bali. I have never met any study abroad students I follow, like Hayley from Turkish Musing, but I view them just like they were students at my university.

Maybe I am fooling myself, but I feel that through blogging, I am expanding my own international community. Perhaps I’m naive, but I honesty believe that if I ever found myself in Pescara, I could message Bee from If you find yourself in…and she would give me great travel advice. While I have never been a big fan of time-sucking social media, I have to admit that through blogging I feel that my international circle has grown. I certainly don’t believe that being a part of this virtual community gives me permission to disengage from my physical one, but I do feel that it can supplement and enhance our community at home.   In the end, my international blogging community may not be one where I live (although Hubby may disagree sometimes!), but is one in which I feel engaged, invested, and inspired. Personally, I think that is enough for me to call it community.

Southern-Style Lunch & Elise’s “Lighter” Pimento Cheese Recipe

Usually the Friday student lunch is all about trying new foods from other countries, but this week I decided to mix it up and share my southern culture with my students and friends. For anyone who has never been to the southern states, let me introduce you to our neck of the woods and particular cuisine:

The REAL southern states are in deep red. (Thank you Wikipedia for the image!)

These are some traditional southern foods

Top from R-L: Skillet Cornbread, Fried Okra, Chicken and Dumplings
Bottom from R-L: Collard Greens, Shrimp and Grits, and Boiled Peanuts

We didn’t have any of these for Friday lunch but we did have fried chicken, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, red velvet cupcakes, and my absolute favorite, pimento cheese.

Here is my Easy “Lighter” Pimento Cheese Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2-cup bag of reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2-cup bag of reduced fat shredded colby jack
  • 2 oz. jar of diced pimentos with liquid (usually found near the olives; be sure they are diced very small)
  • 3 heaping tbsp. light mayo
  • 1/2 tsp. season salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Directions:
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl using a spoon to blend all ingredients in the mayo
  • Add additional mayo, salt, and/or pepper if desired
  • Chill for an hour before serving
  • Serve on crackers or as a sandwich

You need all of these items plus light mayo

Fried Chicken, Pimento Cheese and Red Velvet Cupcakes

Not a lot of color but oh so delicious

Two friends and me enjoying a delicious southern lunch!