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1. Have you ever left the country you live in and where? if so, where did you go?

Canada, where my grandfather was born, both the Francophone part and Ontario.

I lived in Greece (mostly in Athens) for a year when I was in first grade, and I went to a Greek school. We were on a dig at Porto Kheli on the Peleponnesos that summer.

We spent a few months in Palestine when I was second grade age, and my mom went there and married my stepfather and met his family in the village in what was then Jordan, and now is the West Bank of the Occupied Territories. I visited East Jerusalem, to see my mom while she was in the hospital with the hepatitis A she caught in Greece.

On the way we made stops in Damascus and Beirut (we stood in the top floor of the portion of the U.S. embassy that was bombed, and found out that even there we couldn't get a marriage license for a cultural Moslem and a cultural Christian to marry). On the way home we went to visit my grandfather, his new wife, and their new daughter in Paris for a few days.

2. What countries would you visit if time and money were not problems?

Egypt first. Then Europe, every last corner of it, And rest of the Mediterranean Middle East. China. Vietnam. Japan. India. Burma. Peru. Malawi. Kenya. Tanzania. Botswana. Madagascar. Malaysia. New Zealand. Australia.

3. Out of all the foreign food you've tried, which is your favorite and why?

Akkkk. CAN. NOT. CHOOSE. Overload! Overload! Central processor fail-i...

Some of my favorite foreign foods are things I've eaten here in the States. A smattering:

Soup dumplings from Joe's Shanghai in Manhattan's China Town
Any of a huge slate of Chinese dishes my Joyce Chen-trained well-traveled uncle makes
Dim sum
My uncle's Mongolian stewpot.
Naan and all the lovely hot, creamy Indian dishes I've ever had (except the ones with cauliflower)
The wonderful fascinating almost-Chinese, almost-Indian, almost-Middle Eastern but yet not food I had at the Afghan Home Restaurant in Ann Arbor in the early '80's.
Everything I ever tried at Tastes of Africa
The injera I made when we were able to get some teff at our local COOP.
The kransekaka (spelling) that my Norwegian-English ancestried Minnesotan friend used to get sent from home for her December 15th birthday. Marzipan meets the macaroon, all shaped like one of those kiddie stacking cone, with a dribble of thin white icing.
Anise-flavored waffle cookies.
Mrs. Froberg's Swedish cherry pies.

My memories of eating abroad:

The croissants in Paris were to die for, and as I recall, so was every bit of chocolate I had while abroad, but then I was a little kid, so I may not have been a very discriminating reviewer.

In Greece-
The souvlaki at my mother's favorite taverna, with it's smoky fresh-off the grill flavor
The wonderful (probably Viennese inspired) chocolate tortes, with thin layers of cake, interspersed with fluffy, rich, dark chocolate and espresso icing that we got at the fancy restaurant in Athens when visiting relatives took us.
A cone of hot roasted chestnuts from a street vendor on a cold winter's day in Athens
Calamari, in a wide variety of recipes
Octopus, tender, and vinegary
The bread, fresh, warm, and covered in sesame seed from the bakery around the corner. My mom told me that as fresh-baked bakery bread goes, this wasn't very good, but I loved it then, although I might not, now, as an adult.
The grits that I had, swimming in butter, at the home of the Director of the American School there, who was from the deep south.
Stuffed squash or tomatoes or bell peppers.
Stuffed vine leaves.

I tried the sheep's brain. It tasted like it looked. Grey and boring. I don't need any more.

Notice I did not say baklava. You can have mine. *shudders*

In Palestine:
Bouza. It was the local equivalent of ice cream, was sold by a guy carrying a cooler, and tastes unlike any American ice cream I've ever had, sweet, creamy, and... round? It was a long time ago, but it's one of those flavors I'd recognize in an instant if I tasted it again.
My stepfather's mother's molokhii (a dark green leafy Mediterranean mallow, which makes a... well that glutinous stuff that okra makes too... when cooked, and which is cooked with tomatoes and onion, and served over saffron rice).
Her baked rice pudding.
Sumac chicken.
There was this one stew, served over rice with navy beans or chick peas or both, plenty of tomato, some lemon, plenty of select spices.
Impromptu thin-sliced potatoes, cooked till crisp in an iron skillet in olive oil, with rosemary to season them.Peta bread made that morning in the family's bread oven. Sometimes it was covered with zahtar, sometimes with sumac. Always fresh and good.
Figs, fresh from the tree.
Apricot leather.
Halawi (halva to most of you)
Tomatoes, cucumbers, and yogurt, with roasted cumin and mint
Jibni (Arabic for cheese). It was homemade, using goatsmilk or sheepsmilk yogurt, which was drained by hanging up in layers of cheesecloth over a basin, and then rolled in balls, and stored in olive oil in a large crock until serving.
Pistachios fresh from the tree.

Notice I didn't say bakhlawi, or a cup of hot goat's milk. You can have mine *shudders*

What I missed while abroad:
American breakfast cereal
Cheeseburgers, fries, and a chocolate milkshake from the Rosemont Diner
and for some unaccountable reason, peanut butter. I don't love peanut butter, nor do I hate it. It just is, but when I couldn't have it, I really missed it because it tasted like home. When my mom and stepfather went off on their honeymoon and I stayed in the village, they brought me back two glass jars of peanut butter from Jerusalem. One of them dropped and the jar cracked, and I was so upset that my mom carefully washed her hands and sifted through it to get any little bits of glass, and let me have the rest. I also suspected that she only vetted the inside portion which was likely to be okay anyway, but I don't know.

4. Can you name all 7 continents?

I could always name them, although like naming all four of my courses when I was in college, the Seven Wonders of the World, or all seven Disney dwarves (or, for that matter, all 12 of the Tolkien ones), there always used to be a small pause while I tried to find the one I'd left out. That has changed since my youngest went off to Kindergarten and came back with this earworm:

North America, South America
Europe and Asia too,
Africa, Antarctica,
And Australia with kangaroos,
Bomp! Bomp!
Australia with kangaroos.

I apologize to all the Australians out there howling that their home has sooo much more to offer than kangaroos and koalas, but the damn song is dreadfully catching. But not as startling as this one that also came home on the first day:

Knees up Mrs. Brown
Knees up Mrs. Brown
Knees up, knees up,
Gotta let the breeze up,
Knees up Mrs. Brown!

Quite frankly, I was a little concerned about teaching Mrs. Brown's loose morals to the young, until I rounded the corner to get a visual, and it was clearly a song to get them all marching with enthusiasm. Oh, thank God!

5. Which continent are you least likely to ever want to see and why?

I want to see them all. Now. And while I'm at it, I want to go through the Stargate, and start seeing all those other planets too, although the fact that Beloved Husband sees no need to travel when right here is so very nice is difficult. I don't have the desire to be a tourist though. I want to go to each place I visit and live there long enough to know which shops are the best, and how to speak and read the language well, and..., and..., and... At least a year for each place, I'd guess. Except Antarctica. I'm betting that I'd learn as much penguin in the first week as I'm ever going to master.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
When reciting continents (or states), I usually visualize a map and work through them in a visual process. This makes it easier not to miss any.

A Tale of Peanut Butter and Cultural Privilege:

In my late 30s, I left my first career (professional theatrical costuming) and went back to school to study for a "real job". I studied computers and international business. Part of the International Busniess studies included, optionally, a program in which we had formal banquets at various Seattle restaurants, with lessons and lectures on how that country incorporated food and socializing into its business practices. The first, and best, was China. Our department head, born in mainland China, had cheerfully informed me that the Chinese will eat "anything on four legs, except the table; anything with wings, except an airplane; and anything that swims, except a submarine!"

The speaker at the Chinese banquet was wonderful: an American businessman who had been doing business with China since Nixon's day, spoken fluent Mandarin, and had a Chinese wife (and the accompanying Chinese mother-in-law). He began his talk with a story from one of his many trips as part of various governmental trade delegations.

"There you are, on the 22nd day of your 25-day trip, attending the 20th multicourse banquet. Night after night, you've faced course after course of amazing food, and staggered away at the end. It's grueling. You look around the room, and the thought strikes you, with more power than any thought has ever hit you before:


"Then you realize. There's no peanut butter for thousands of miles in every direction. There's no sandwich bread. You're the guest of honour, a business owner and delegate, a powerful figure from a powerful country, successful in life according to how you've always measured it . . . and none of that is going to get you what you want right now. Nothing will. There is NO PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH, and you'd better learn to cope with that.

"And you still have to be polite to your hosts and act like you enjoy the food, no matter how much you want that peanut butter."
Sep. 2nd, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
I do the states visually, starting in Maine, and working down to Florida, then up to Ohio, and so on to Hawaii. That's how I managed the states and their capitals when I learned them in 5th grade, and I've seen no reason to do it otherwise. I think I get lazy with the continents because there are only 7, how hard can it be?

I love the peanut butter sandwich story.

One of my brothers used to work for B-C-I-U - The Business Council for International Understanding - a non-profit in N.Y.C. which was all about explaining American business and cultural practices to businesspeople from abroad, and the other way around. I'll have to pass that story on to him, because he'll get a kick out of it.

Edited at 2012-09-02 11:59 pm (UTC)
Sep. 3rd, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Another anecdote from the same speaker:

His mother-in-law did not, could not, would not believe that her American son-in-law actually spoke or understood Chinese. She spoke no English. He finally convinced her on the day when she was visiting them in the US. She asked for a glass of water. When she saw him getting water out of the tap, she burst into a bitter flood of vituperation to her daughtrer, demanding to know why this horrible man wanted to poison her! After all, tap water isn't drinkable without boiling. Everyone knows that! (This was long years before the idiotic epidemic of bottled water in the US.)

He brought her the water and explained to her, in Chinese, that American tap water was drinkable, and he'd drink a glass himself to prove it, right now.

(He seemed very fond of his Chinese mother-in-law, and very proud of her indomitable feistiness.)

Edited at 2012-09-03 12:12 am (UTC)
Sep. 4th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Wow!! You've been around a lot! I really envy you because I would love to travel abroad.

One of these days!!

And even though I was born and raised in the USA, I still have a hard time thinking that Canada is another country, especially since I used to live right across the river from it. :) And it was a great surprise to the young ones in my life as well, when I told them that they had indeed visited a different country when they went to Canada to the family cabin. lol Their looks of surprise and delight reminded me of all the times I had to remind myself of that fact.
Sep. 4th, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC)
Well, all of that travel (except going to Canada) was over before I was eight. I'd love to do more as an adult, but Beloved Husband is not so inclined, and I have dietary requirements now that make it difficult.

I tend to feel as you do about Canada, or would if my Canadian cousins weren't so thorough about rubbing in the fact that this is their country, and not mine. So it feels like a visit to my mom's or something. It's where I come from, but now I'm a guest and not a resident. I understand the ways, the customs, and the inside jokes, but I'm not always up on the current state of affairs.

Oh, and given a surprise quiz on American history, all my Canadian cousins would pass with flying colors. They know it inside out and backwards. I can't say that I'd do the same for a pop quiz on Canadian history. Shame on me!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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