Going Places: Potato in Seoul

Some great posts about Seoul from Leanna French on her blog going–places.blogspot.com

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Read: Tourist in Seoul – Gyeongbokgung Palace


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Read: University life in Seoul from the exchange student perspective.


 

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Read: Seoul – A Cat Lover’s Dream?


 

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Read: Short Trip from Seoul to Daegu.


Share your travel experiences with The Overseas Magazine. Email theoverseasmagazine@gmail.com

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My first solo trip to China

You know the feeling you get when you are excited and nervous at the same time? That’s how I felt when I traveled to China a few weeks ago. It was the first time I was traveling to a foreign country all by myself. I have had the privilege of working in other parts of the world with my team but there’s a different level of preparation needed when your company sends you on a one-woman journey to a country so close to my own and yet so different.

Getting there

The flight was a total of eleven hours. I flew Cathay Pacific and had a two and a half hours’ layover at Hongkong, which by the way, is truly one of the prettiest airports in the world! It’s built on the island Chek Lap Kok and I enjoyed the short layover before the final journey to China.

Taxi?

I knew that one of the challenges of this trip would be my lack of Chinese speaking skills so I had a piece of paper with me with the address of the hotel written in Chinese. A big thanks to my colleague for helping me with that! I stepped out of the Beijing airport after a smooth immigration process and was approached by several taxis who offered to drive me to my destination for three times the fare amount! Thankfully I found my way to the airport taxi counter to find a taxi and they didn’t charge anything extra for the ride. On the way to the hotel I tried to make note of landmarks and realized that all the road signs were in Chinese. How would I ever get around on my own! This was going to be an interesting week.

The weather was great – chilly in the evening and early mornings and warm during the day.

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View from my hotel room. You can see the Bird’s Nest on the left.

The hotel I was staying at was in a commercial area with tall skyscrapers all around. I walked up to the receptionist and breathed a sigh of relief when she greeted me in English. My room was on the 19th floor so I checked-in and headed up.

Oh the food!

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Vegetarian meal at Houhai Lake
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Salad at Pullman Beijing restaurant

China has an amazing variety of food, especially sea food. The two common items that caught my attention were fried squid and crunchy crickets. But I don’t eat meat and it was not easy to find too many vegetable options. I ended up eating plain bread, salads and fruits for most meals during my trip. I did meet a lady at my business meeting who was from Hong Kong and she understood the problem I was facing in terms of finding food options. She was really kind and helped me order vegetable soup and rice whenever we went out to eat. I even tried learning how to eat with chopsticks but I still have a long way to go before I can master that technique.

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Eat Street at the Wangfujing Shopping Street

Getting around

If you’re planning to travel to China, I would recommend that you download maps and messenger services from Baidu. I learnt that China has several restrictions on internet use and Google apps are banned. It would have probably been easier if I had a travel companion but I learned a lot about getting around without being able to speak or read the language. Quite an accomplishment, you could say!

Being a tourist!

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Steps leading to the Buddhist Monastery at the Summer Palace
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Entrance to the Summer Palace
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Steps leading to the Tower of Buddhist Incense at the Summer Palace
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Tower of Buddhist Incense

You should definitely visit the Great Wall of China but Beijing has a lot of other tourist areas that are noteworthy. The huge Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Kunming Lake, the Bird’s Nest, which is the Beijing National Stadium, are all amazing!

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Kunming Lake
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Extension of Kunming Lake
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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

The Silk Market is where the famous Chinese silk garments and the authentic Chinese cosmetics are sold. Travelling to these places will not be difficult with well-connected subways and routes marked in English. If you do get lost, you can always pull out your address, preferably written in Chinese and get directions because people there are very friendly and helpful.

Looking back on the trip, I am glad I did it because it certainly made me feel adventurous and accomplished. My short trip to China taught me a lot about traveling solo!


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Guest author: Rashmi Jammi has been aptly nicknamed the “South Indian Bengali” by her husband. She lives in Hyderabad, India and enjoys exploring new places whenever she can take a break from work. This trip to China was her dream-to-travel-solo come true.

Tips for Overseas Living – What about the orphans?

I can still picture her clearly in my mind. She looked about eight years old, and was lying asleep on the broken sidewalk. A begging bowl was by her hands, and her tattered dress was wrinkled and wadded up around her waist. Her panties were visible to anybody walking by. I glanced around, and didn’t see one person who seemed responsible for her. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t take her home with me (kidnapping, anyone?). If I gave her money, it would be taken by whoever was using her to beg. I simply prayed for her as I passed. But I have never forgotten her.

When living in the cities of this world, we are faced with the awful question, “What about the orphans?” So many kids who need to be cared for and loved. So many kids who are ripe for being trafficked. Maybe they are not officially orphans, but emotional and/or physical ones. What are we supposed to do?

Some Americans first realizing the widespread needs assume it’s fairly simple to adopt a child, or take a child into their home when they live overseas. Sadly, it is very complicated.  Countries have their specific adoption laws that vary from those of other countries. Some countries do not allow adoption at all. You might be able to legally adopt a child by the laws of the country you reside in, but not be able to ever take that child back to your home country due to the home country adoption laws. We know people who have done that, and it often takes years to get U.S. Immigration to grant the proper authorization for the child to be allowed admittance to the U.S., if ever. This article is NOT a criticism of those people at all. Most of the ones we know personally chose to do it with full understanding of what they were doing. We love and respect them and their decisions. However, it is that understanding of the situation that I want to build.

If you must leave due to an emergency evacuation, or a health issue, or lack of funding, or any number of scenarios, what happens to the child then? You cannot make promises to that child that you will take them with you, or that they can always count on you, or anything like that. I am not saying not to do anything. Nor am I saying that we are to throw up our hands and say, “Well, we can’t see the future, so we should just wall off our hearts from the people we want to help and not do anything.” But sometimes our attempts to help a situation can bring even more harm and hurt to a child. So think through carefully the possible outcomes of your good intentions.

Are there local organizations you can trust? (You don’t want to give to a place that has no accountability for the helps you might offer. Research carefully before you commit yourself or your finances, especially if you are new to a culture.) Are there ways you can help improve a child’s situation without jeopardizing their emotional health or creating even greater problems down the road? Can you support organizations like IJM? I know what it is like for arms to ache to take a child, feed her, get her clean, comb the rats out of her hair, hold her close and read her a story. How can you do what is best for that child? Can you help provide clinics for street children and impoverished mothers to teach childcare and basic sanitation? Can you humanize a child by looking into his eyes, yet still help him to flourish in his home environment?

I don’t have the answers, so I am not writing this as someone who can give three steps to a better life for orphans. But I have heard people express heart-felt thoughts that were not consistent with what might really be helpful for the children. Sometimes their passion of the moment prevents them from carrying that passion into a long-term life-giving plan. Don’t let your fervor become more about you and satisfying that desire to do something, than about what is best for the child. YES, something should be done. But control the impulses and make sure your actions will have positive effects for the long run, and not just the immediate future.

If you want to adopt a child, do your homework first. (There is parental preparation to do too, but that’s beyond what I’m trying to do here.) Find out what your home country’s immigration and adoption laws are. Find out what your resident country’s adoption laws are. Find out if there are steps you can take ahead of time to speed up the paperwork so that once you adopt, the process will go more smoothly. Many countries are now part of the Hague Convention. Study the implications of that. Make sure you are not contributing inadvertently to a system that exploits children by using an unethical agency. Don’t make promises to a child that you may not be able to keep.

You may not be able to adopt a specific child who has stolen your heart. But you may be able to adopt a child who is just as needy or even more so. Many of the adoption laws, while cumbersome and even seemingly wrong in how they provide care for children (or not), have the intention of protecting the children from those who would exploit them. Unfortunately, they may also “protect” them from gaining a loving home. Yeah, it’s complicated.


Joan Perkins

Guest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

An American’s Perspective on Living Overseas

I’ve lived overseas during three formative times in my life: as a young wife in Karaganda, Kazakhstan; as a mother of young children in Calcutta, India; and now as a mother of two teens and a tween in Kathmandu, Nepal.  Here are a few of the more important lessons I’ve learned:

 

  • Lean into community – As an American, I value my independence and self-sufficiency far too much and have learned the hard way that relationships are much more important, especially for surviving and thriving in a difficult overseas environment.  The Brazilian/Nepali community that we have joined here in Kathmandu welcomed us even before we arrived by finding us a home in the same housing complex and providing temporary housing for us until we could get our home ready.  They have taught me so much about what it means to care for each other as an extended family on a level that many Americans can only dream about after watching movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  I’m still learning how to ask for help when I need it, and to be willing to make myself vulnerable by seeking relationships, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

 

  • Pay attention to my margins – When we write, we leave nice margins on our paper to keep it neat and easy to read, and also to allow for any notes or corrections that might need to be made.  In my daily life I am also learning to keep wider margins so that I have the emotional room for changes or corrections that need to be made.  I have narrow margins when I am exhausted, or too busy, or worried about my family, or spending too much time escaping from life instead of building relationships.  When my margins are narrow, I find that unexpected challenges are much harder to face.  Then my family starts asking me why I’m so upset that the power went off earlier than expected, or I can’t find a favorite food anymore, or various other situations that happen regularly here.   When I begin to see that my margins are too narrow, I have to step back and take the time to widen them by getting more rest physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It does me (and my family) no good to try to keep powering through.  I also am trying to keep a regular day of rest so that my margins can stay wider.

 

  • Be flexible and keep low expectations – I have learned how to adapt in ways I never expected when we lived in the US.  We currently use an electric coil in a bucket to heat water for “bucket baths”.  It was something we did 20+ years ago in Kazakhstan when there was no hot water, and it is coming in handy again while it is difficult to obtain gas to heat our showers.  And since the power is off up to 11 hours a day here, we have inverters to keep some lights, the internet (crucial) and certain outlets going.  We also put our coffee into a thermos to keep it hot all day rather than expecting to be able to use the microwave to heat a cup whenever we want it.  We figure out back up options or other ways to do things that need to be done.  Regardless, I still struggle with adapting to new challenges, especially when my margins are too narrow, but that’s when I try to remember to go back to the first lesson and lean into my community.

Guest author: Lori Gerred

Photo credit: Lori Gerred, View from the rooftop

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Have you ever lived overseas? Send in your experiences to theleadjournal@gmail.com.

Eat: Manila, Phillipines

Metro Manila:

The Fort

The fort has several dining and shopping options. Our favorite cupcake place, Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, is located there as well. It’s a great place for families and the all important date night. The fort is the high-end, relaxing setting you long for when you need a break.

  1. The Wholesome Table. Hands down our favorite restaurant. They have a good variety of organic food, good for you smoothies and drinks (including almond milk), and amazing eats.  Our favorites include: The grass-fed beef burger (order medium well unless you want it completely raw in the middle) and the Orzo salad. Other great picks include the pulled pork sandwich, the lamb, and the chicken fingers (kids menu).

Eastwood Mall

  1. My Thai Kitchen. We love the spicy beef salad (Yum Neua) and lemon grass soup (Tom Kha). The kids love the pad thai and spring rolls.

Podium Mall

Podium Mall in Ortigas center holds the best mix of our favorite restaurants. The mall it self isn’t all that big, but we love the boutique dining options it offers. In fact, we will often drive the hour and a half it takes to travel round trip just to hit one of these spots for dinner.

  1. Brasas. Don’t let the size of the menu or restaurant fool you, this place is good eats.  It’s also not the “healthiest” option on this list, so hit is sparingly. Our favorites are the beef and chicken wraps. As a matter of fact, we love them so much we have never ordered anything else!
  2. Greek Café. We love Greek food! The lamb stew and cuscuses is amazing! We also love the appetizer dips and lamb gyros.
  3. Borough. The Borough is the biggest of the establishments we love in Podium and is located on the main floor in the corner. We love the cobb salad, sandwiches and have friends who swear by the mac and cheese (which is probably two days worth of your caloric intake). It is also one of the only places that offer happy hour drinks (buy one take one is the Philippines term for buy one get one).
  4. Wildflour Café. This is a great little café that offers unique drinks, entries, and baked goods. Their coconut cupcake was one of the best I have had.

Green Belt Mall

Greenbelt Mall offers a wonderful array of shopping and food. You could spend an entire afternoon there and not have time to explore all this mall offers. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Filipino people LOVE their malls.) This mall offers two great Thai restaurants and our favorite burger place (although you will have to look closely for it or ask around to locate it because it’s a bit hidden).

  1. People’s Palace and Simply Thai are two of our favorite Thai restaurants. You can’t go wrong with the basil chicken, pad thai, spring roles (fried or fresh) and cashew chicken are all fantastic at Simply Thai. The cashew chicken and spring rolls and pad thai are also wonderful at People’s Palace.
  2. 8 Cuts. This place is amazing. You can order any variety of unique burger combinations including buffalo. Their sweet potato fries are AMAZING, but over priced for the size, if you ask me (but yes, I still order them :0).

 

Pampanga:

Pampanga is small but offers three fantastic options (yeah, I know, that makes 11 great places to eat in the Luzon Philippines, but really, whose counting?).

  1. LA Bake Shop. We love LA Bake Shops cheese bread. Yes it’s amazing, and if you want to have any semblance of a waistline you will not be able to indulge in this often. (Is it worth it? Oh yeah!) Their beef mami (soup) and pansit (a traditional Philippine dish) is also quite good.
  2. Fortune Hong Kong restaurant. This is the crown jewel of Pampanga cuisine. They offer delicates such as shark fin soup (although we have never tried that one). We tend to go for the beef with veggie stir-fry, spring rolls, and crab and corn soup. All amazingly good (especially the beef!).
  3. Last, but not least, Niji. This place has the largest menu I have ever seen. Don’t be overwhelmed though. Focus on the sushi. The crispy California Maki is amazing and unique. You likely won’t taste anything like it anywhere else (at least we haven’t).


So there you have it. Central Luzon and Metro Manila’s top (11) recommendations. We hope you enjoy our favorite finds as much as we do!

Author: K. Reed

(Featured photo:  The Wholesome Table) 

Did you try a new restaurant recently? Send your recommendation to theleadjournal@gmail.com.