Monthly Archives: July 2012

Abroad Blog of the Week Nominations

With moving, Mexico, and a residual stomach bug I am a bit off this week and now I’m running behind. While I’ve been emailing with a few bloggers, I have no abroad blog (yet) for this week. Bummer. But like the greeting card says, “When life gives you lemons, stick them in your bra.”  I figured I could use this opportunity to get some nominations for future Abroad Blogs of the Week. So here is the deal:

Criteria to be an Abroad Blog of the Week:

  1. The blogger must either be about to go abroad, currently abroad, or recently returned from abroad
  2. The blog must predominately be about culture/travel
  3. Posts should be fairly regular (at least once or twice a week).
  4. It has to be interesting

Requirements to be an Abroad Blog of the Week:

  1. Let me ask you 4-6 questions via email
  2. Send back your responses by the following Monday
  3. If you want (i.e. this is not a requirement), welcome any new readers from Global from Home the day I post our interview.

Easy, peasy.

If you would like your blog to be an Abroad Blog of the Week or know of another blog you think I should scope out, let me know! You can comment on this post or email me at elisehblalock@gmail.com.

Want to learn more about the Abroad Blog of the Week? Check out these previous editions:

London Calling!

Only 3 days until Opening Ceremonies! I was in the grocery store yesterday and saw this display. I couldn’t help but take some pictures and make one small purchase for Friday.

I just had to get the London Lollies to celebrate on Friday. Unfortunately we’ll be watching the Opening Ceremonies from LAX but at least we’ll do it in style!

What I Learned About Jalisco’s Culture

Since we didn’t leave the region of Jalisco, I decided I could not apply what I learned to all of Mexico. It would be like applying everything you experience in NYC to the rest of the States…and as a Southerner living in San Diego, I know that would be ridiculous. But I did learn a good bit and found a lot of things that were surprising.
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  1. Do not play Punch Bug. For some reason the VW Beetle is a very popular automobile in Puerto Vallarta. You’re shoulder will end up pretty sore.

  2. Saying “buenos dias” is just plain old common courtesy. Whether we were entering a store, the elevator, or passing someone on a small street, everyone said “Buenos Dias.”

  3. Locals eat really early. If you want a good local meal for dinner, plan to eat around 5pm because most restaurants close at 6pm.

  4. Salsa is not just for dipping chips. We had some incredible local breakfast foods all served with salsa.

  5. Jaliscienes value their salsa variety. Even at the tiniest taco shop, three types of salsa were served.

  6. Horses are still a common mode of transportation in the country.

  7. They people of PV have so much more patience than the average American. They patiently wait until the customer is done to bring them their bill. They patiently assist foreigners as they linguistically stumble with their 8th grade Spanish. And when it comes to the arts, their patience is absolutely astounding.

How to be Global from Home

With my 75th post yesterday, I went back and read through my blog. As I did, some things stuck out. I recognized some patterns and themes in how I’ve been global from home. These certainly aren’t all the ways to bring your experiences from abroad back with you, but for me, these have been a good way to start.

1. Reflect on my abroad experiences

When I started this blog, I realized that there were lots of experiences from abroad that I had not really thought about again. Through postcards to Grandma, reminiscing with friends, and drawing comparisons with my every day life, my reflections from my abroad experiences has been one of the best ways I’ve been global from home.

2. Interact with people who love culture/travel as much as I do

Since I can’t live abroad right now, I like to live vicariously through others. The Abroad Blog of the Week has been my best way of interacting with others who are abroad living out what I can only imagine right now.

3. Help others experience culture or adjust to mine

For me, this mostly plays out by being a study abroad advisor. I love helping others explore where they want to go and really prepare for their time abroad.  I’ve also realized that it’s important to help those who are new to my culture. Volunteering with the local refugee community or with organizations like Cup of Local Sugar are a few ways to pay it forward.

4. Eat and cook with culture in mind

My first Friday Lunch was a shameless ploy to get students to come visit me during the summer, but it turned out to be a great way for me to explore foods of other cultures (and try to make them without a kitchen). Hubby and I have also increased our ethnic dining and I promise to cook more internationally once we are settled in OKC.

5. Practice my language skills

My Italian is definitely an area of being global from home that I need to work on, but I have a plan!

6. Global reads and foreign films

With the start of my regional reading list and some great Netflix finds, I feel like I’m learning so much more about countries that I may never have a chance to explore myself.

7. Creatively incorporate travel and culture into my physical surroundings

Whether it be maps, pictures, traditions, or crafts, I’m trying to incorporate visual reminders of the cultures and experiences that I so love.

On May 16th when I posted for the first time, I had an itch I was trying to satisfy. Having not left the country in over 3 years, I felt frustrated that I was not doing something that I really enjoy. This blog has certainly soothed that itch; it has made me intentional about looking at the world 30 miles from my door and seeing all the culture available to me. I’m excited to see where it takes me next.

Molcajete Recipes

When Hubby and I got married two years ago my cousin got us a molcajete from Williams Sonoma. We had recently discovered that we loved guacamole and were so excited to make it “the real” way. That is all I’ve ever used my molcajete for. As far as we were concerned, molcajete = guacamole maker. But now that we’re in Mexico, we’ve discovered it has a lot more uses than to just make awesome guac. In addition to having guacamole made at our table, we’ve also enjoyed freshly-made salsa and stew made and served in a molcajete. Newly aware of its additional uses, I thought I would do some recipe research to share.  Here’s what I’ve found:

Rudy’s Molcajete Mixto Recipe – a mixed grill of carne asada, nopales, chicken, shrimp, jalapenos, and chorizo sausage served with queso fresco, avocado, and lime

Mexican Style Meat and Vegetable Stew – a chicken, flank steak, and bacon in a tomato based broth

Seafood Molcajete Recipe – shrimp, scallops, and chicken sausage  served hot and spicy in the molcajete

Currently our molcajete is in a storage unit in Augusta, Georgia but once it’s out, I promise to try these and share how they go.

Have any molcajete recipes to share?

Courtesy of davedworkin.com. My own pics are still to come!

Friday’s Olympian to Watch: Guillermo Pérez Sandoval

On our last full day in Mexico, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight one of their star athletes for this week’s Olympian to Watch. After asking around and doing some research, I was surprised to find out that Mexico excels in Taekwondo. In fact, in the 2008 Olympics they took home two gold medals in the sport. One of those medalists was Guillermo Pérez Sandoval, who will be returning to Olympic Games this year in London.

Guillermo started his career in Taekwondo at the young age of 5, inspired by Bruce Lee movies. His successes came early with his first big win at age 10 which threw him into the international competition circuit. With his win in the 2008 Olympics, Guillermo became a national hero. With only 55 medals in the country’s history, he has become one of the elite athletes and has gained a great deal of notoriety. Upon his Olympic win, Guillermo told interviewers that the Mexican president called him and said he was the pride of their country. The president of Mexico’s World Taekwondo Federation also credits Guillermo and Maria Espinoza’s Olympic wins for the growing popularity of the sport in Mexico. There are now over 1.5 million people who practice the sport.

Olympic Sport: Taekwondo

Hometown: Uruapan, Mexico

Birthdate: October 14, 1979 (age 32)

Height: 5’7″ (8 inches taller than me)

Weight: 127 lbs.

Read more about Guillermo Pérez Sandoval at:

Abroad Blog of the Week: Partners for Peace

I came upon Partners for Peace about a month ago when I did a tag search for Peace Corps. While I don’t know that the Peace  ever fit into my life, I do love reading about others who have delved into the two-year journey. For Mari and Paul of Partners for Peace, this adventure has taken this married couple from NYC to Palmar, Ecuador. Despite connectivity issues, M&P post regularly and give a ton of detail about being a Peace Corps Volunteer. I first started reading their blog when they were opening a pizza parlor in Palmar (great posts), but since have gone back and read their engagement story and process of applying for and getting placed with the Peace Corps. If you are even contemplating the Peace Corps, Mari and Paul’s blog is definitely one to read.

I caught up with Mari and Paul this week via email to ask them a few questions about their lives in Ecuador with the Peace Corps. See what they had to say!

What are the best/most challenging aspects of your Peace Corps assignments?

MARI: One of the best aspects of my Peace Corps assignment is that I am able to combine several of my skills and passions into individual projects. For example, I am working with a women’s artisan cooperative called Mujeres Cambia (http://mujerescambia.com). Members of the group make incredible hand-made jewelry out of recycled paper. You can’t tell by looking at it that it is made from paper. Most people think the beads are made of glass, ceramic, or wood but they really are made of paper! I am able to share my love for making things with my hands (I used to be the executive director of an arts nonprofit in Brooklyn, New York) at the same time I am able to design promotional materials and a marketing strategy for the group. Further, I am constantly motivated as the women learn new business skills like branding, accounting, promotions, and inventory.

One of the more challenging aspects of service is that while we act as catalysts for change we are also forced to change a lot in our current context, too. For instance, I was used to being a very independent woman in New York City – walking around alone, sharing household chores with my husband, traveling wherever and whenever I wanted, working outside of the home – and many of these activities are less common for women in my particular town. I am in the privileged position of being from somewhere else so I am given a pass on most of these things but I am often the exception acting in this way.

PAUL:  The reason I joined the Peace Corps is that I wanted to do something different with my life. Mari and I were happy in NYC but we were restless and looking for adventure. We wanted to live abroad, learn a language and at the same time do some good. We find ourselves 2 years later in paradise. We are on the beach, working with an incredible team and couldn’t be happier. I agree that our most rewarding project is with the women’s group, Mujeres Cambia. Everyone who sees their pieces does a double-take. It is an
incredible gift to be working with such talented women.

Who has helped you adjust to your life in Ecuador?

MARI: One of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer at this stage in my life is that I get to do it with my best friend and partner, Paul. Serving as a married couple means that we can collaborate on projects (we help each other on all of our projects even if one of us is the lead), take care of one another when we are sick, share household chores, and serve as each other’s support system.  I thought about applying to the Peace Corps after college but now I can’t imagine this experience without Paul!

PAUL: What Mari says is true. While many of our peers are here alone I am here with my best friend. Together we are learning about the culture of Ecuador as well what it means to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. In reality, it is also challenging because Marisa is a superstar so it’s sometimes hard to keep up. I strive to keep up with this powerhouse motivator, facilitator and designer but enjoy having a role model by my side.

You recently helped open a pizza parlor in Palmar. What are your favorite pizza combinations?

MARI: Pineapple is really popular here so we have that as an optional topping at Palmar Pizza. We also have pepperoni, ham, and vegetables. In my old life in Brooklyn, though, Paul and I were fond of a local pizza place that made a corn, goat cheese, and basil pizza. Often, we would buy pizza dough from our local pizzeria and make our own version of that pizza. I don’t know if the local taste buds would go for this one, but you never know!

PAUL: Helping start a pizza restaurant was a rewarding project where we designed and built out the space and of course perfected a recipe. In Palmar, because most people have never had pizza before we wanted to stick to the basics at least at first. In 2013 look out for shrimp pizza at a Palmar Pizza near you!

If received a care package from home, what would you want in it?

MARI: Wow! This is hard. This mythical perfect package would have to include some comfort food like home-baked cookies with dark chocolate chips, pad thai (not sure how well that would do in the mail) as well as some practical stuff like the new Polaroid digital instant camera and a bunch of Sharpie marker variety packs for the ladies of Mujeres Cambia. It would be nice to have other fun stuff to make me smile like pictures of my two nephews and one niece, recipes from my mom and mother-in-law, and actual written letters from all of my closest friends.

PAUL: My parents have been sending incredible care packages these past couple of months. We usually look forward to simple things like suncreen, cookies, or towels and always look forward to any hand written notes. I am also always excited about things that support our projects. Now I am trying to solicit old smart phones from friends that we could use for our business projects where we do accounting and inventory by hand.

What advice do you have for someone applying for the Peace Corps?

MARI: I would say “Go for it!” It is never too late to apply. We thought that since we hadn’t applied right after college that we had missed the boat but that’s definitely not true. The average age of a Peace Corps Volunteer has increased steadily (I think it’s 28 now) and they are encouraging more married couples as well as retirees to serve.

Also, it’s important to talk to current and returned volunteers. We hosted a potluck at our place for returned volunteers as we were filling out the application. We also spoke with people who had volunteered through other organizations. In the end Peace Corps was the best fit for us and they accepted us so we couldn’t feel luckier.

PAUL: I am on the same page as Marisa, “Go for it!” When we were thinking about Peace Corps we had been out of school for years, had stable jobs and a comfortable life in New York. We were content and happy. Doing something radically different like Peace Corps was risky. It meant not just leaving our jobs but being away from our family and friends. We couldn’t pick where we would live or what we would be doing. There was a chance we may not like our site. There was a feeling that we are giving up a great deal of control over our own lives. But thinking about the past couple of years in New York (which seemed to blur together now) it seemed like having a big change like this would be a way to challenge us. It would be a way to have another type of experience and of course an adventure. Adventure bound, as always.

Thanks so much, Mari and Paul!