Monthly Archives: September 2012

Opa! Guide to the Greek Festival

September is just a month full of festivals…and I love it. This past weekend we were invited by a friend to the Greek Festival in OKC. As a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, she knew everything about the food, dances, and traditions. Being escorted by a “local” definitely enhanced the entire experience. She taught me how to pronounce everything correctly, told us what we should try and what to avoid, and introduced us to a number of the people running the festival. I even got a picture with the pastor’s wife in her full costume.

We ate our way through the festival. With each ticket came two al a carte items or the Greek dinner so Hubby and I decided to get one of each. First we did the gyro and loukoumades. We both agreed that the gyro was one of the best we’ve ever had. The tomatoes and onions were diced small making it easier to eat and the flavor was delicious.

The loukoumades were equally good. Similar to a donut hole in appearance but not texture, the fried dough balls are very light, similar to a puff pastry. Covered in honey and cinnamon, we probably ate all of our calories for the day in just that one dessert.

But we were not done yet! Next came the dinner which was a choice of lamb, chicken or pasticcio (the Greek version of lasagna). We went for the pasticcio which was served with Greek-style potatoes, green beans, spanakopita, and pita. I loved the pasticcio but the potatoes were incredibly salty. Since Hubby is not fond of spinach, I ate most of the spanakopita and it was pretty good too.

And finally we were thoroughly entertained by our friend’s daughter and her dance troop, the Opa! Dancers. Ranging from age 4 to 9, these kids put on four performances in one night.

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The Beginning of A New Year

Raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, I was never exposed much to other cultures until I went to college. Although my alma mater is also in Atlanta, it draws students from around the U.S. and the world and prides itself on diversity. It wasn’t long before I realized that Emory’s Hillel was a whole lot bigger than the Baptist Student Union. With approximately 1/3 of the student population being Jewish, it was normal to see a guy walking on campus wearing his Yamaka or groups of students walking to Shabbat services on Friday night. There was even a student in my residence hall who had obtained Israeli citizenship and served in their army between high school and college. Judaism was part of the culture I was in.

By the time I graduated, more of my college friends were Jewish than not. And though I am a Christian, thanks to my friends, I had opportunities to celebrate Passover, attended several Jewish weddings, and even had the Hora at our wedding.

Yes, that is me screaming. The hora is scary!

My first Jewish holiday was actually celebrated while I was in Argentina. It was Hanukkah and my best friend was finishing up her culinary school exams when I first arrived in Buenos Aries. While there was a huge electric menorah outside of her apartment, she had nothing inside. So I researched all I could about the holiday while she was at school and made her a paper menorah. We hung it on the fridge and every night we added a lit yellow paper flame to celebrate the oil not running out. When she came home I bought her a real menorah and even keep Hanukkah paper in closet just for her.

Last night at sundown Jewish people around the world began their celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which starts the High Holy Days. While I won’t be joining any friends to celebrate this time around, I want to wish all my dear friends shana tovah umetukah, which is Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year.”

Start the sweetness of this new year with a Rosh Hashanah tradition of apples and honey. Find out about other green ways to celebrate at Greenopolis

Guest Blog: Hosting Your Host Family

When Jennifer, a dear student from San Diego, posted on Facebook that she her host family from Spain would be visiting her in California, I immediately asked her if she would do a guest post. I couldn’t think of a better way to be global from home than welcoming the family that showed her so much care and support in Spain to the U.S. As one of the most entertaining and genuine people I know, I’m so excited to share this guest blog from Jennifer on her experience.

Guest Blog by Jennifer Guerra:

Host: a person who receives or entertains other people as guests
Family: a person or people related and so to be treated with loyalty and intimacy

The sky was dark; there was a table covered with a cherry design tablecloth that had obviously been used for several years filled with food plates I did not recognize; laughter echoed from everyone in attendance and there was the sound of flamenco music in the background. I was immediately greeted with kisses on the cheek and tight hugs and was pointed to my seat. The chatter ceased and a prayer was offered to bless the food and the fellowship. Everyone quickly started back to their conversations while passing the plates of food around. I was completely overwhelmed. This was the first Sunday away from home and I was missing my family, my church, my friends, my comfort. As I smiled around and attempted to make conversation, my host mom would often interrupt saying, “She is our daughter from the States.” My host dad made sure my cup was always filled with lemon flavored Fanta and would often check in with me with his eyes. At the end of the night, once the guests were gone and the music of the crickets was all that could be heard, my host mom held my face in her hands and kissed my forehead. Looking back it was that night that sticks out in my head as my favorite time that I spent with my host family. There was genuine intentionality, love, empathy, care, and understanding.

Landing back into the US leaving that behind was one of the hardest transitions I have had to make, so when I got the news that they had the opportunity to visit, I was thrilled!!!! One of the nights they were home, I made sure to take them to the beach. There was a bonfire prepared along side with worn out beach chairs and all the works for hot dogs and s’mores. The night followed the pattern of that fist night in Seville but the roles were reversed…it was I who had to make sure to make eye contact with my host dad and reassure him that his marshmallow would indeed be ok even if it has been engulfed in flames. It was I who made sure that my host mom’s soda can was replaced, and it was I that reminded her that “host mom” was no longer a proper name for her. She was now “mi madre Española” (my Spanish mom).

You know, if you learn to enjoy the journey, the finish line will be bittersweet. It is a reminder of all the moments and struggles that made that finish line so worth it and valuable. The drop off at the airport was the day we had all been avoiding. There was a huge difference this time. The first goodbye was in a tiny airport in Spain; we truly never knew if we were going to see each other again, if the connection would ever be developed. This time around, we said “see you soon” for we are family now and family will move mountains to see each other and keep in touch. Instead of exchanging tears, we exchanged hugs and laughter as they walked into the crowd of people and disappeared. We will see each other soon and not care how many days, weeks, months and years pass by until we embrace again.

Jennifer (far right) with her American and Spanish family (sitting)

ANZAC Biscuits

I found out about ANZAC biscuits a few weeks ago while browsing through a kids international cookbook, but decided to seek out the real recipe and find out more about these Australian/New Zealander cookies. The cookie recipe was first published in the 1915 St. Andrews Cookery Book. Named ANZAC after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the biscuits originated from wives/mothers sending the cookies to their husbands/sons who were stationed overseas. Due to the ingredients and hardy nature of the biscuits, they were well suited to travel.

ANZAC biscuits ingredients are pretty straight forward. Lacking eggs and milk, these cookies are long-lasting and do not require refrigeration. The only ingredient that may be difficult to find pending your location is the golden syrup. Golden syrup is a sugar cane syrup easily found in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. In Oklahoma City, the only place I found the syrup was at Whole Foods. I tasted the syrup to see what it compared to. If you are stateside, a cheaper alternative may be Cairo Syrup.

I stuck pretty close to the original recipe which had me melt the butter and syrup together and then add a mixture of boiling water and baking soda. One change I did make was swapping the sugar out for Splenda to make them a bit more diet friendly. In my oven, the cookies were done in 16 minutes rather than 18 to 20. The batter made about 20 cookies but they turned out a bit more round that ones in the book I saw.

I brought the finished product to Hubby’s office on Friday for lunch. Both he and the nursing staff enjoyed the lightly sweetened, dense cookie. They were gone pretty quick!

Say Queso!

While in Minnesota with family and friends, I was in charge of bringing a craft for the kids. Ranging between the ages of 2 and 9, I wanted to come up with a fun idea that incorporated culture but that everyone could participate. So after a trip to Michael’s, I decided to do a photo booth but the kids would make their own props. I came prepared with Venetian masks, Mexican sombreros, and word bubbles with international greetings for the kids to decorate. In the end, both the adults and the kids enjoyed our international craft time.

If you want to host your own internationally themed photo both, here’s what you need:

  • Black plastic masks
  • Feathers
  • Pom-poms
  • Glitter glue
  • Decorative duct tape
  • Construction paper
  • Wooden dowels
  • Headbands
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • White sheet for back drop
  • Camera

Break Out the Lederhosen

The original Oktoberfest starts in just 9 days but here in OKC, we’ve already eaten our bratwurst, danced the polka, and emptied our steins. When some new friends invited us to go to Oktoberfest in Choctaw, OK, Hubby and I were excited to join them. The nine-day festival is put on by Old Germany, a traditional German restaurant located in small city outside of OKC. Although we were drenched by the monsoon-of-a-storm that came through, the music was great, the food was delicious, and the beverages were tasty.

If you cannot find your own Oktoberfest to attend, I would highly recommend visiting the Oktoberfest website. I spent a good hour looking through the Bavarian dictionary, reading the detailed descriptions on each of the tents, and scanning through pictures of costumes. It definitely makes me want to go someday to the real deal.

Hubby and me trying a German brew 

Bratwursts and potato cakes with apple sauce…yum

Loved these guys! They were more than willing to have their picture taken.

Steins ranged in price from $50 to several hundred

Abroad Blog of the Week: About the Author

Due to technical difficulties in Turkey, I’m having to go a bit off script for this Abroad Blog of the Week. I thought about highlighting a few blogs that I’m following but I would rather just make them an ABOW in the future. So when a friend suggested that I interview myself, I decided to take her advice. If you’re new to Global from Home, I am study abroad advisor who has decided to seek as much international culture as possible within 30 miles of my front door. If you’ve been reading for a while (thank you!), here a few facts I haven’t shared before.

What is the best part of being a study abroad advisor?

I love hanging out with students, hearing their adventures, and listening to them as they figure out their path and plans. There is something about the age bracket of 18 to 22 that I find energizing. Their lives are so dynamic and they have so many options and decisions to make. Plus the students I’ve worked with are incredibly creative and motivated. They amaze me daily and inspire me in so many ways. They are what make me want to go to work every day. Now that I’m currently not working in an office, they are what I miss the most.

If you could do it all over again, would you still have studied abroad in Italy?

Yes! As an Italian Studies major, Italy was really the only thing that made sense. Because I was so focused on the language and I went three times, I felt that I became acquainted with an Italy different from many study abroad students. It wasn’t so much about seeing the Coliseum or visiting the Vatican, but rather living like an Italian that was so important to me. The one thing I would change is that I would have gone for longer. I really wish I had lived in Rome for a full year.

How did you come up with the idea of Global from Home?

This past May I found myself a bit frustrated. I hadn’t been abroad in over three years and in all honesty, I was mad about it. Hubby’s job was really intense so he had little vacation time and because we had moved so much in the past three years, going abroad really wasn’t an option. I finally realized that I needed to stop complaining and look at what was around me. Living in San Diego at the time, international culture abounded. I thought that if I started a blog it would keep me accountable to seeking out culture. The blog has made me more intentional about going to festivals, cooking ethnic food, and building relationships with people from around the globe who just happen to live in my hometown.

Now that you’re in Oklahoma, what are your plans?

That is a bit up in the air but I have some thoughts. I do plan to keep up with Global from Home and continue to explore international cultures from OKC. I’m also applying for the PhD program at the University of Oklahoma in Higher Education with hopes to research the study abroad returnee experience. Currently I’m meeting with study abroad offices in the area to talk about starting a study abroad returnee conference. And finally, I’d like to start a Meet Up for people who enjoy exploring other cultures like I do. But in the end, I’m open to anything that comes my way that will allow me to help students have their own international experience.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be global from home?

Food is probably the easiest way to start being global from home. Google authentic recipes from a country you are interested in and try to make them. Research ethnic restaurants in your area and order the most traditional dish on the menu. Other easy ways to explore culture are to look for cultural festivals. The Greek Festival and Oktoberfest are pretty common ones to start with. If you are a reader, internationalize your reading list and add authors who are from a country you’ve visited. The same applies with movies. The most important thing is to just start and be intentional about adding culture into your weekly routine.

Me (in the yellow shirt) with three of my fabulous students