I return home on July 3rd. After a long shower, I will [hopefully] be eating Israeli couscous served with mango chipotle salmon and sautéed brussels sprouts/asparagus.
After satisfying my taste buds, my plans for the summer are as follows:
July 5-10: Madison, WI
July 16-18: UF Preview
July 25-30: Chicago/Iowa
August 2-12: Seattle
Somewhere between August 18-22: Move to Gainesville for UF
2. Did your dreams change? I mean the ones you have during sleep.
Although I’m not entirely sure what the implications/meanings of this question are, I will say that I sleep like a rock here in Ghana. My brother Stanley always exclaims, “Eii Charlie; you can sleep Kwadwo!”
I hardly ever remember my dreams – besides the one from a couple of weeks ago where I lost an arm and had to beg on the streets to pay for my plane ticket home…
I love them all, which is why I have formally accepted marriage proposals from no less than four women. Polygamy aside, they are fantastic people. They live in squalor – selling vegetables here and there for coins. But they are some of the most sincere, gentle, and kind women I’ve met. They pamper me – treating me with samples, special deals, and often giving me produce for free despite being fully aware that I am capable of paying 10 cents for a papaya. I will truly miss my ‘Sisters’ and ‘Aunties’ of Malata market.
5. How has your experience in Craig Price’s improv comedy classes helped you with communication, friendships, interpersonal relationships and your overall experience in Ghana?
In general, I see life as improvisation. No matter what your job [lawyer, salesman, dentist, or teacher] there is some level of improvisation involved.
My stay in Ghana has been all about putting myself out there. Just by being white, I automatically get an abnormal amount of attention. I am often the first American that Ghanaians have ever met or spoken with. Being seen abroad creates impressions of your country; it’s up to you whether they are positive or negative.
I will say that my puns [which I practiced in Craig’s improvisation classes] have a tendency to hurt relationships with Ghanaians. They are almost never understood, leading to awkwardness.
5. How do you think you’ll reaclimate to American culture? What challenges do you foresee?
Quite honestly, I think I’ll re-adjust very easily. I don’t foresee any major challenges, just the following minor ones:
Air conditioning will be freezing.
Life without owning a car isn’t nearly as easy in Florida.
I’ve started mixing up Spanish and Twi with my limited knowledge of Korean and Chinese.
Trying to catch up with movies. I can’t wait for The Hunger Games, Madagascar 3, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Rock of Ages.
I cannot imagine living without hawkers on the street selling food and water in baskets on their heads. Seriously… what happens if I get hungry or thirsty on the road?!
6. Do you have any tips for those going to Ghana next year with YES?
Let your host family know straight from the beginning what you want to get out of the experience, and [if] you plan on traveling independently. Don’t assume anything; tell them up front why you’re here and what your expectations are. Ask for your family’s feelings and expectations as well. Every family has a reason for hosting you; they don’t get paid for doing it. Know their expectations and balance them with yours. If expectations conflict, sit down and have a good talk with your family. Try to understand why they act the way they do.
On the subject of school, know that after completing high school Ghanaians do not receive their diploma. They first must pass the WASCE – the Ghanaian version of the SAT. It is pass or fail; failing can ruin your life. Teachers will teach ‘to the textbook’, in the manner of rote memorization. It may seem like they’re not teaching, but that is what’s required to pass their final exams. It can be brutal, one reason I personally switched to catering school. But according to Kyla, “I made a lot of really great friends that otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know so well. It ended up being very rewarding sticking with school.”
Exchange is a test – of ups and downs. Days vary between wonderful, horrible, and everything in-between. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to politely speak up. If you don’t get what you want out of your host year, you have only yourself to blame.
At the end of the year, you’ll be shocked at how fast it flew by. There will be rough spots [months 3-5 personally], but part of the experience is learning to endure. You’ll come out all the better.
I want to give a shoutout to my favorite AFS Frenchman, Balthazar. He left Ghana yesterday, after finishing his year program. When I met Balthy in the Amsterdam airport, we could hardly understand each other and I had to repeat anything I said at least 3-4 times for him to understand.
Fast forward 10 months, I am amazed. His newfound ability to speak and understand English as well as ‘pull-off’ wearing tres chic scarves is shocking. His humor transcends the language barrier, and he’s been a great friend. But above all he was, and always will be, my bro.
Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch throughout my year abroad. I realize it’s tough doing that from halfway across the world, and I sincerely appreciate the effort.
I leave Ghana on June 30th and have a return orientation in Washington D.C. I return to Naples on July 3rd.
2. Do you want to come home?
In most ways I do. That being said, certain places in Ghana seem like home to me. I feel like part of the family at Malata market and around Roman Ridge [where I lived with my first family]. As soon as I visit both places, the sound of women yelling “Kwadwo” fills the air, and I am greeted with hugs and adoration.
Nonetheless, I am excited for the convenience of Whole Foods Market and not having to shower out of a bucket.
3. What will your first three meals be in Naples?
Meal #1: Israeli couscous with mango glazed sockeye salmon accompanied by sautéed brussels sprouts and asparagus.
Meal #2: Toasted ‘everything’ bagel with freshly made pesto and smoked whitefish, topped with sliced tomato and avocado.
Meal #3: Siam Thai Cafe – Pad kee mao [rice noodles with a basil sauce] and massaman curry with extra broccoli.
4. How are you spending your final weeks in Ghana?
Now that I am finished with Flair Catering, I have begun a two-week internship with Trafix Catering. This popular restaurant and catering service is located in the National Theater, seen below.
Since I already know how to cook the majority of Ghanaian and Continental dishes, I am waiting tables and generally making friends with the Ghanaians. It’s great being able to use Twi to interact with Ghanaians and share my experiences with them. I also love watching the occasional obruni customer [attempt to] eat local dishes without silverware.
After my internship ends, I will be going on a final trip to Takoradi before ultimately preparing for my departure.
5. Did you ever get sick in Ghana?
Besides one episode of food poisoning, no. I love Ghana; I don’t even have my usual morning allergies here! As far as food poisoning is concerned, I strongly recommend future visitors to NEVER eat salad sold on the street.
6. Do you think you’ll miss the ‘foreign’ experience enough that you may want to eventually live in another country?
I have no problems with living abroad, provided I can find stable internet connections. But unless my future job calls for it, America is one of the best places in the world to live… despite the recent cannibalism/zombie apocalypse trend.
7. How has this trip changed you?
For better or worse, I see myself as:
More eager to see the world.
More likely to eat my weight in broccoli during my first week in America.
More likely to question the status quo [aka complain].
More easygoing; things often turn out for the better when you don’t plan them.
More blunt; eating around the bush wastes time.
More likely to stop and ask for directions.
More patriotic; most Americans don’t realize how truly lucky they are. Back home, parents raise kids telling them that they can be ‘anything they want to be’. For the most part, it’s true. For children abroad, it isn’t.
And finally, less scared of boa constrictors:
8. Will you cook for me?
Sure thing Aunt Liz! I’ve already found several websites to buy the common Ghanaian ingredients online.
It's the New Year – time to sit back, relax, and reflect about everything that has taken place throughout the past 12 months. Reflecting is good for the soul… and also for my sleep schedule since it's almost midnight already and I promised I would be blogging daily during the 13 Days of Blogging.
Restaurant reviews for Cesibon and Cafe Normandie were posted. This was done primarily to become better at writing about all aspects of the dining experience, but also because I was looking for a part-time job as a food critic.
Obviously not my best month for posting – the only post all month was a terrible squirrel pun.
Favorite post of the month: 'Epic Laundry Time'. I actually halfway through shooting this video before I had the epiphany of making it a parody of Epic Meal Time. This 'epic versus ordinary' difference is very noticeable in the clips which I didn't have the patience to retape.
With 20 posts in 31 days, this was by far the most active month of blogging. This shows in the data as well – from December 1st until the 31st, my blog has received the same number of visitors as it received the months of January through mid-September.
I've now received hits on my blog from over 70 countries.
Every state has visited my blog except for North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Hawaii. If you have friends in any of those states, spread the word!
Over 20 people have found my blog by searching, "Where is Ghana?"
My New Year's Writing Resolutions:
Write More Often: This was my only resolution last year and has returned to make the list once more. While I'm happy with the amount of writing I've done in the latter parts of 2011, I intend to make 2012 more well-rounded.
Write Better: This is done through Resolution #1 – as the only way to improve writing is by writing more often. As you can clearly see by comparing last year's New Year's Eve posting to my more recent posts, my writing has improved dramatically throughout the past 12 months. Don't get me wrong – it still has a long way to go, but I'm pleased with how it's coming along.
Discover the Purpose of my Writing: As much as I love blogging about Ghana (almost more than the country itself), I realize this is only temporary. Once I get back, I'll have to think about how I want to use my writing in the future, because no matter what I do, I want to pursue writing in one form or another.
Finally… What's Next?
I don't want to spoil too many surprises, but I will say that there are plans for several blog posts, videos, and at least one music video in the works for early 2012.
I also began writing my first novel today, which I hope to self-publish on Kindle/Nook. But that's still a work in process…
I guess you could say I'm in a bit of a nostalgic mood; why else would I aimlessly skim through every Word document I've made in the past 11 years? Regardless, I found several discoveries to be interesting.
I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post – it contains excerpts from stories and essays I've written over the past 11 years of my life.
Pelican Marsh Elementary School:
2000 : The Soccer Game
In the second grade, I 'published' a personal attempt at a novel – entitled The Soccer Game. It was loosely based on real people, with the protagonist being my best friend at the time – Andrew. It was a modest 8 pages long – each soccer match only took up one paragraph. Talk about attention to detail!
One trademark of the story was someone kicking the soccer ball halfway around the world, hitting someone on the head, and the ball nonchalantly bouncing back to the United States. I like to think of myself as a 'realist'.
Copies were sold to classmates and friends – primarily interested in reading how their friends were portrayed. At a dime per copy, I made a 'killing'.
2001: "Pizza Pizza!"
While I have no idea the purpose of the following essay, I will say that I enjoyed finding it hidden on my external hard drive.
I enter my neighbors mansion. The mansion is said to be haunted. There has not been anyone in the mansion for years. A door that is always shut is open a crack. I decide to venture in the door. I see, feel and smell many things. I cannot believe what I see!
As I enter, I see many unusual, large posters on the walls. When I gaze at them, I notice they say Bob’s Pizzeria. Then, I go into the kitchen and see many telescopes. I also notice many piles of lettuce. I wonder what lettuce is for in a pizzeria.
As I’m staring at the lettuce, a person with a chef’s hat comes over to me. I look at the lettuce stacks and I see a piece of lettuce disappearing! I blink and stare at a turtle that is staring back at me. I gaze to the left of the turtle and see an owl sitting on some pizza ingredients with a telescope. I notice the owl is inspecting the toppings for bacteria.
Then, I realize how good it smells. An aroma of pizza is in the air like clouds in the sky. Furthermore, it smells like lettuce, tomato and bread are gliding in the air. When I took a deep sniff, I also smelled a little pasta. How wonderful it smelled!
As I exit, I feel a little sad. I wonder if I will ever see the magnificent pizzeria again. Who knows? Maybe someday, I will!
Note to parents: Was I ever tested for ADD?
2001 Continued: The Soccer Game 2
After receiving positive reactions for the original, 'The Soccer Game', and having a desire for even more money in my pocket, my budding entrepreneur self soon 'self-published' my second novel – 'The Soccer Game 2'.
This sequel was more than double the length of the original – a whopping 17 pages. Not much changed in comparison to the original – except for the price. Blaming 'inflation', I charged a full quarter for each copy. Not only did I use up 2 reams of my dad's paper, but I efficiently made enough money to buy a Game Boy Color!
2002: Letter to a Penpal
Hi, I love puzzles.
I just got a 3D 912 piece puzzle.It will probably take me a month to do.My biggest puzzle ever done is 1700 pieces
My pet cat Henry is so cool!
He does 2 back flips in a row.
Once I scared him and he jumped 3 feet straight up.
Your key pal,
I don't blame my penpal for never writing back…
2003: The Soccer Game
Two years later, it was time for an overhaul of my original series. I spent countless hours during the summer, and early in fifth grade I published a revamped 'The Soccer Game'.
This time I sextupled (that's a real word) the original length – making it a 42 page novelette. An excerpt follows:
One cloudy Sunday, Andrew laid in his bed thinking about all the things he could do. He could try to drown his pet fish, or play soccer with his best friend Trey. He eventually decided on the last option.
After he called and Trey said, “Yes,” Andrew headed toward Trey’s house. As he was coming over, he didn’t notice a soccer ball flying over his head that was kicked by Trey.
At that second Operation Pigsfeet was starting. Ralph Pigsfeet was the #1 on the CIA’s most wanted list and everyone in the CIA was looking for him. “OPERATION PIGSFEET IS NOW COMENCING,” a CIA general said. “We have successfully gotten a tracking device on Ralph. We also have a $50,000,000 radar that will pinpoint his exact location. Only one is in existence! Here it is!” Then he went to hand an agent the radar. At that exact second, Trey’s soccer ball broke into the room, hit the radar and broke it, and then bounced out of the room on its journey toFlorida.
By this time Andrew was at Trey’s house, the ball was there. Andrew said, “Nice kick.”
Andrew then started to play goalie. Trey kicked the ball so hard it caught on fire. Then they watched as the flaming soccer ball soared over their heads.
The very second Trey had kicked the soccer ball; a scientist had discovered the solution to global warming. The scientist hastily wrote the solution down on a piece of paper so he would not forget it because he has a short term memory. Once he was done writing the solution, he held the paper high up in the sky and screamed, “YES! After 15 long years, I finally did it!” As he was doing this, however, a flaming soccer ball zoomed at the piece of paper and burned it to a crisp. The flaming soccer ball then bounced into the ocean and returned to North America.
As you can see, I had a sadistic sense of humor even back then. Copies sold for $.50, but sales were halted after I was kicked out of the media center for using too much paper.
I'm currently thinking about revamping the series yet again – this time making it a full length novel for elementary/middle school students to enjoy.
Pine Ridge Middle School:
2004: Miscellaneous Pretentious Essay
In my 6th grade English class, we had to write our opinion of 'the most important character trait' . I thought my teacher would be impressed if I used synonyms for every word (besides prepositions).
Occasionally in existence you are obliged to compose a pronouncement whether to perform the pleasant or the malicious deed. Kindness… the paranormal personality characteristic! The cosmos might be such a superior location if one and all were compassionate. Merely envision, every human being existing in sympathy.
Just see in your mind's eye, being capable to thumb a lift wherever you crave for, reminiscent of 50 years in the past. Furthermore, if you were to gaze upon a news channel on the television, all you see virtually is heartless citizens. That and an immense extent additional possibly could occur if each and every person in the human race was benevolent. Not any longer would you be obligatory to bawl on your personal shoulders because no one is present to soothe you. Simply consider… if each person in humanity was sympathetic.
This essay taught me an important writing lesson – "Simple is best."
2005: Potatoes vs. Spaghetti
In the 7th grade, my English teacher gave us a list of persuasive essay topics to choose from- including school uniforms, co-ed schools, and serving fast food in school. Bored with the topics, I asked my teacher if I could come up with my own.
"Like what?" she asked me in a semi-mocking voice.
Without any delay, I suggested the first thing that popped into my head, "Potatoes vs. spaghetti?"
She quickly cast my suggestion aside by saying, "Are you kidding me?"
Obviously I wasn't, for the following day I came in with the following essay:
In a dark, gloomy world, there was once a time where spaghetti was preferred more than potatoes. But this is a new era. Potatoes can be cooked many ways, have a unique taste all their own and can be used as projectiles. A world full of potatoes begins now!
During the medieval ages, people thought that potatoes were a fatal poison. People stayed away from potatoes like oil and vinegar in a salad dressing. However today, that rumor has been disproved and the legacy lives on. Potatoes can be cooked in numerous different ways. They can be fried, baked, mashed, creamed, liquefied and boiled. Meanwhile, spaghetti can be boiled and fried. How boring! Potatoes are a much better invention then spaghetti!
MMM MMM GOOD! Potatoes can have many different tastes. In the Spanish dish papas frites, potatoes have a fiery Mexican flair that will excite your taste buds. Furthermore, French fries provide a British crunch that is delicious with a little quantity of salt sprinkled on them. Last, baking potatoes, then slicing them open and adding mango salsa is just plain scrumptious. In addition, you couldn’t survive if you ate only pasta for a long time since pasta does not supply many nutrients. You could survive off of eating a potato a day since they’re full of nutrients like homework in school! There is just no comparison between potatoes and spaghetti.
If you’re allergic to potatoes but you have a few in your fridge, have no fear, they can be put to a good use. After all, who needs weapons when you can just have a potato gun? If you hit someone with a potato, you get the added bonus of humiliating the person you hit which spaghetti couldn’t do for you. For an added flair, bake it in the oven, then it will explode upon contact like you shot a rubber band at a light bulb. Meanwhile, let’s look at spaghetti. Is there something called a spaghetti gun? I don’t think so. This is living proof that potatoes are superior to spaghetti.
*This article was sponsored by the Potato Farmers of America.
My teacher regretted ever doubting me.
2006: It was a Perfect Lift Off
The only guidelines to writing this nonfiction piece in Mrs. Roll's class was that it had to begin with the quote, "It was a perfect lift off."
It was a perfect lift off. Amy felt the ground around her shaking. She felt as if she was on an airplane that was inverted. Then she started to feel queasy.
“I guess I shouldn’t have eaten mom’s tuna surprise,” Amy said. She then went to open a window to get some fresh air.
“OH…MY…” Amy was too bamboozled to speak. She was out in outer space, orbiting the earth. She picked up her pet cat. As she stroked him she said, “We aren’t in Florida anymore, Fuzzy!”
Then something perplexing happened. Her cat slowly began to morph into her dad. She hadn’t seen her dad for years! “DAD!” she said. Amy went over to her dad and gave him a big hug.
Amy suddenly woke up. She was sweating fervently. Eight years ago, when she was 5, her dad mysteriously vanished. Everyone told her that her dad must have died but she refused to listen. She was the only one that didn’t give up hope. She was certain that one day, she would find her dad.
One week passed. She had the same dream every night. Each night it got increasingly vivid and realistic. However, on the 7th night, something astonishing happened. Her cat, Fuzzy, whispered to her, “Daughter, you are the only one that believes in me. If you want to find me, lightly punch the brick on the chimney, the one that says DO NOT PUNCH on it.”
“That’s convenient,” Amy said.
Then she woke up. Amy thought for a while and then she went to the chimney. Her heart raced as she saw sign that said “DO NOT PUNCH,” on it. Amy thought of what could happen. The house could detonate, something could happen to her cat, or anything bad could happen. She shuddered, and lightly punched the brick.
“Well… that’s a relief!” Amy said. Nothing happened. She spoke too soon. All of a sudden, her house jolted upwards and into the atmosphere. Amy fainted.
While there isn't anything spectacular about this essay, I find it intriguing because it's the first one where I notice my 'voice'.
Barron Collier High School
2007: Turtle Monologue
This turtle monologue was written 20 minutes before it was due during my drama class early freshman year. I thought it would get me a decent grade – little did I know that Ms. J would notice my potential lying beneath the surface and 'force' me to get involved in drama club by performing it on-stage.
Looking back there's many things I would change about it, but nostalgia makes it one of my favorites.
Well… I don’t know… where to start… My turtle girlfriend, she dumped me yesterday. (beat) She said I was moving too fast. But I loved her, so I decided to make her jealous to try to win her back. So I got in my car, and went to check out the turtles at the beach. When I got to the beach, I immediately found myself a foxy turtlette. I went up to her cooly and said, “Are you a parking ticket?”
“Huh? I like muffins.”
“I… realize that… but are you a parking ticket? Because you got fine written all over you!”
“Like… I don’t get it.”
“Whatever idiot, want to go to the movies?”
Well… then she called 911 on me and said she was getting turtlenapped.
After the police let me go, I went to the movies to try to hook another turtle. There wasn’t any especially attractive turtles… the movie theatre was empty. Well… there was… this one turtle. She would make a gorilla look sexy. Anyways, I went up to her, stroked her undershelly, and said, “I may not be Taco Bell, but I sure can spice up your night.” Well… then I realized… she was a… 500 pound male sumo wrestling turtle.
That’s all I remember God; did I make it to heaven?
2008: The Million Dollar Muffin
In my sophomore year I undertook one of my more ambitious projects – writing a parody musical one-act show. This built on my previous turtle character, but added a full storyline, singing, and rap. This one-act never performed, but won the Critics' Choice award at our district playwriting festival.
Following is the prologue to the show:
(CHORUS comes onstage with a boom box. CHORUS puts it down and presses play. CHORUS breaks into a rap.)
Two muffins, both licked by Zeus,
In fair Paris, where our play's set loose.
Ancient blueberries break to new flavor,
Uncivil soup makes civil hands unbraver.
Forth the almost fatalness of this foe,
Some crazy chef tries to take a life.
No misadventure piteous overthrows,
Do with that muffin bury their woes.
The fearful passage of the French marked chef,
His annoying accent makes you wanna go deaf.
The continuance of the Spanish scam,
Which wastes the money of the man.
Thirty minutes of your life you'll spend.
What here shall miss
Our toil shall mend.
Hint: This prologue parodies one of Shakespeare's most famous shows.
Following the success of last year's 'The Million Dollar Muffin', I wrote a new parody musical (using only Broadway songs) based upon the story 'Alice in Wonderland'.
My idea of explaining the back-story to all the 'Alice in Wonderland' characters was good, yet certain aspects in my plot were left lacking. It was also caught in the middle ground – not absurdist theatre like my last piece, yet nowhere near realist.
It received critical reviews at competition, but despite my unhappiness at the time, I have come to realize that most of their criticism was the truth. Now I see facing rejection was an important learning experience.
2009: Sea Turtle Essay
Mr. Humphrey – my marine biology teacher – didn't know what he was in for when he told me it was okay to 'be creative' when writing a sea turtle research paper.
As I chill with my bale of fellow sea turtles, I overhear a joke which is said by Ralph the loggerhead turtle. He jokes around and says the following: “Last Sunday I went out to eat with my girlfriend. We got all dressed up; we thought that we were going to have one “shell of a time!” At the restaurant, my girlfriend said that she’d like to order some soup for me- the turtle. The idiotic waiter brought my girlfriend and me a bowl of turtle soup. My girlfriend then said, “Hold the turtle! Make it pea!” Our bale, which is a group of sea turtles, laughs and then proceeds to happily consume a smack of jellyfish. As I eat lunch, I wondrously ponder my ever interesting life. Not only do we loggerheads have the largest funny bones of the sea turtles, but we also are one of the most interesting and most unique turtles ever to be studied by humans.
I am currently enrolled in Mr. Crush’s elementary school class and am in the class Reptilia. My name is Squirt Cheloniidae; Cheloniidae is my family name. My genus sounds similar to what I ate for dinner last night; Caretta. Nerdy scientists usually call my species Caretta caretta. (Alderton, 2005).
2010: Brandeis Supplement
2010 was the year of college applications… my first year of them that is.
While I decided against applying to Brandeis University for the Fall of 2012, I highly enjoyed writing their following supplement:
Topic: If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?
Sitting on fences merely makes men indecisive. Although redundant, this expression holds true.. Personally, I’d much rather stand on fences than sit on them. I know what I want, and I want what I like. Therefore, if I had to make a decision between being raised by robots, aliens, or dinosaurs; I would without a doubt choose to be raised by 'robotic aliensaurs'.
When hypothetically answering a hypothetical question, why stop at one set of imaginary parents when you can possess all three? By being raised by 'robotic aliensaurs', I would truly get the best of all three worlds. Upon waking, I would have a robotic machine tending to my every whim and desire. After a completely automated six course breakfast, I would learn to soar through the sky with “papa” pterodactyl, and would take singing classes in the afternoon from the A Land Before Time dinosaurs. After dinner, “auntie” alien would teach me how to control minds, and together we would figure out how to take over the world with the aliens from Independence Day.
As a fence standing yet decisive individual, I would choose all three choices because when it comes to robots, aliens, and dinosaurs; the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.
Needless to say, I was accepted.
2010: International Sequel Writing Competition
Late in my junior year, Ms. J helped me enter competition with over 24,000 other participants. The competition gave our school free copies of the Montooth book series, and gave us the challenge of reading and writing a page of ideas for the book sequel. I did so, and several months later found out I was runner-up in the competition.
And a Special Achievement for Student Avery Segal… Although only one entry could be selected as the Overall Winner, Managing Editor Meghan S. Christian is also pleased to announce that she is citing 11th grade student Avery Segal of Barron Collier High School in Naples, FL for Special Achievement on his remarkably well written entry with extensive plot developments. Congratulations to both Avery and his teacher, Ms. Johnston!
My blog and YES Abroad scholarship have helped me accomplish one of my long-term goals – writing more. A recap of 2011 is forthcoming, but I do want to say that I've had a blast writing- and especially love reading people's comments while I'm abroad.
One of my dad's housemates is Lithuanian. He is a renowned naturopath and physician, and knows about the beneficial health properties of many exotic foods and drinks known to man.
Yesterday, my dad told me that dinner had been prepared by his housemate for some friends from Lithuania and me. Actually, that's not what he said. He told me that he "felt awkward being the only English-speaker at the table", and requested my presence. The guilt trip worked, and I soon walked to the dinner table to see what meal awaited me. I stumbled upon this:
This self-named "vindaloo stew" incorporated a medley of fresh picked organic vegetables from the garden with an almost curry-like sauce. From far away, it actually looked pretty decent. We blessed our meal for 5 minutes, and began to eat.
From the first bite, all I could taste was a bitter, wasabi-like horseradish taste. The combination of spicy dried vindaloo and heaps of fresh ginger-like and peppery galangal stopped me dead in my tracks. My body begged me not to take another bite, and I began to tear up from the spice. I looked around the table to see everyone else's reaction to the seasoning, and couldn't help but notice that my dad was downing it with large bites. Lithuanian eyes gleamed at me in hope that I was enjoying this meal. I sheepishly smiled, and took a few more bites. I was reminded of a wasabi eating contest we had in Korea, when my "Hyong" (host family brother) ate a hunk of wasabi the size of a ping pong ball for $20.
I couldn't continue eating, but I needed to show signs of politeness and grace since the meal was generously prepared for us. I quickly thought of three strategies:
Angle my spoon towards me, so I could take empty spoonfuls, put them in my mouth, and smile knowingly.
Pick out the butternut squash and broccoli and eat only those two ingredients since they masked the shoe-like flavor of the dish.
Accidentally drop my bowl off the table onto my foot, and then politely excuse myself to leave and go to the hospital and get stitches.
Note: Strategy #3 was quickly discarded.
After the meal, my dad asked me what I thought of it. I responded truthfully about the seasoning, and he remarked how it would, "Clear my sinuses," and was very healthy for me.
The point of this post is that no matter how healthy a food or ingredient is, no matter the number of anti-cancer properties it contains, no matter the massive amount of energy gained from eating it; it only can affect you if it tastes good enough to finish the bowl.
I probably would've extended my life by several days if I had finished my bowl of vindaloo galangal stew, but looking back, it's definitely was not worth it.
Every year, I eagerly look forward to New Year’s Eve. Not for the typical reasons; but for food, mochi, and quality time spent with my one and only family (isn’t that corny enough to be on a greeting card!?!)
Now – after minutes, hours, days, years of scientific research conducted via the world’s most accurate encyclopedia (Facebook), I have concluded that the typical New Year’s celebration consists of the 9 following stages…
Stage 1: Casually snacking.
Stage 2: Eating dinner with family or friends
Stage 3: Casually snacking
Stage 4: Making a New Year’s resolution of snacking less
Stage 5: Resolving to make a change
Stage 6: Watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
Stage 7: Feeling miserable about what has happened to Dick Clark
Stage 8: Feeling so miserable about Dick Clark, that you snack even more
Stage 9: Snacking so much that you forget what your resolution even was…
My family mixes this up by fusing together the following New Year’s traditions from around the world, and making them our own while doing so.
Southern United States : A dish of black eyed peas. An old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s to have plenty of everything else the rest of the year.”
China/Italy: Red underwear. Proceeding our family dinner, we read aloud a list of different New Year traditions. As soon as I heard that color red symbolizes success, loyalty, and happiness, I got so excited that I had to run out of the room and change my boxers.
Spain: Eating 12 grapes during the 12 seconds before midnight. Sweetness of the grapes determines how “sweet” the respective months will be. It ends up being a grape eating marathon, with little time to chew or swallow. But after the 6th one, someone usually starts laughing… and it all goes downhill from there.
And (most importantly) Japan: Mochi. This one (or two, depending on how one pronounces it) syllable word sends every family member in the Segal household in a rat race, scrambling to be first to the kitchen. Mochi is a Japanese version of a pounded rice cake served in various sweet and savory dishes, including some types of ice cream. But we only eat it one way- sauteed it to a golden crisp, and then dipped in tamari (soy sauce) and sesame seeds.