Korean Corn Ice Cream

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Korean Corn Ice Cream

In South Korea there's always a new and unique flavor of something to try. This country is not what I would called a vegetarian or vegan's best friend but I did see this corn ice cream and the curiosity was killing me. I decided to give it a try and it was quite...corny? 

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South Korean Traditional Markets: My Favorite Hangout

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South Korean Traditional Markets: My Favorite Hangout

My favorite place to visit in South Korea are the traditional markets. Most neighborhoods have a traditional market where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables at a lesser price than the big grocery stores. You can also find street foods, herbs and small shops selling honey, rice, flowers, clothing and of course, beauty products. I live outside of Seoul in Gunpo-si near the Guemjeong station so Sanbon Traditional Market is the one I frequented most. 

I love the traditional markets not only for the cheap goods but for the atmosphere. The aisles hum with floral and lace clad busybodies shopping and carrying multiple bags of delicacies. This is where I personally find the Korean culture the most open and welcoming. People are generally in a good mood and the locals are more open to be of assistance and start up a conversation with you, even if it's in Korean and you don't understand a word. This is where I see the most smiles and can find my favorite thing to eat, gimbap! Gimbap is a bit like Korean sushi rolls, however, I request a vegan version leaving out the meat and eggs and only requesting the green veggies, pickled radish, carrots, and mushrooms. The rolls are quite fat and I usually purchase four for 6,000 won. A steal of a deal which makes two or three meals. 

I have found a good deal of the fruits and veggies to be organic at the market however you should look closely and beware of certain items. If it looks too uniform and too shiny it's probably sprayed and dyed and has a short shelf life.  I once bought some strawberries that looked great until the next day when I woke up to find they had all gone moldy overnight!  Quite a disappointment to say the least. I've also seen dog  meat for sale in my local market and live seafood like crabs, squid and octopus are the norm so don't be shocked if you stumble upon some interesting sights.  Even though I'm a non-meat eater meat facinates me and after 28 years of being a vegetarian I'm not judgemental and enjoy seeing what people eat, even if I'm not going to take part. I've found that the locals are so used to foreigners taking an interest in these items they are not suprised when you want to take some photos. This gentleman below was very proud to show me his pig's head and pulled it out of the boiling water to show me and allow me to take a photo. If only this hospitality was on the streets and subway I could stay in South Korea forever.  

 

Markets are always a great way to get a peek into  better understanding a culture and society. I like to visit markets everywhere I go.  It's a great activity to do alone and is usually less expensive than shopping at big supermarkets or malls for items. If you're in South Korea and need to see some friendly faces, be sure to check out some local markets. I'm positive you will find something you were looking for and something you definetely weren't expecting to see. 

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Obtaining a New Passport While Abroad

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Obtaining a New Passport While Abroad

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I've been traveling for quite awhile and realized when I got to South Korea that I was almost out of passport pages. I'd heard that I could get a new passport abroad but was under the impression that this was only an option if my passport had been stolen. I was quite nervous about the process since I know it usually takes 4-6 weeks to get your passport back in the States and I didn't want my time to be up in Korea and end up passport-less! I logged onto the   embassy website, filled out the application and made and appointment. 

On the date of my appointment, it was quite a hectic trip to get there. I had the address written down in English, not Korean so my taxi driver dropped me at the wrong annex. I then had to take a second taxi to the location, which is about 2 hours from my house via public transit. When I pulled up the taxi was surrounded by 5 police officers, pretty intimidating, so I quickly paid the driver and got out to see more tons of police and several large coach style police busses lined up on the street. Security is high at the U.S. embassy in Korea to say the least. 

You have to turn off your phone and check it in along with any electric car keys that you may have so I did that. Once I was finally inside, I was pleased to find a very clean and organized office with amazing customer service. Almost forgot what that felt like.  I applied for both a 52 page passport book and a passport card. I was told that the 52-page book was not an option and that it would take only two weeks to receive the book and an additional two weeks to receive the card. I signed up for home delivery and when I got home went back online to sign up for e-mail updates on the status of my application.

This option made the whole process more stressful since they sent me some confusing messages.  I received e-mail updates stating my passport would be delivered a week early, yet no one ever called me to organize the delivery. When I checked again there was a message stating there was no record of my application. Then after checking again a fourth time it stated that the passport would be delivered on a date that had already passed.

Finally two weeks after my application I got a final message stating that my passport book was available for pick up because I was not available when they tried to deliver to the address on my application or call me. Both the phone number and the address were wrong though. So  I quickly made another appointment to pick up the book. The night before I was set to go a car drove into the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, so I had no idea what to expect the day of. Would there be even more security than the first time?

Luckily this trip was much smoother and it was business at usual the day after the accident. I checked in and only had to wait for about four people that were ahead of me. When she called me up I discovered that I fortuitously did get a 52-page passport and my passport card at the same time. The passport card is great if you travel in the Caribbean, Canada or Mexico frequently because you can show the card instead of using up pages in your book.  

Although the e-mail system was a little out of wack I'm glad that I applied for my passport while abroad. I'm still not convinced it would have been faster if I'd done it in the U.S.  Now I'm once again able to travel freely and can stop begging the customs agents to conserve space when they're stamping my book. 

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90 Day Dairy Detox

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90 Day Dairy Detox

The first couple of weeks I was met with migraines, acne breakouts, mood swings, and cravings. However, once I got past this hump the benefits were quickly visible. I switched to almond and coconut milk for chai and breakfast cereals, sorbet instead of ice cream and eliminated butter, pizza, and cheesy dishes altogether. 

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Stay on Skill India

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Stay on Skill India

Chardigarh is an amazing city and honestly, if I lived in India it would be at the top of my list of places to live. It has so many great restaurants and shopping centers as well as many parks and outdoor activities. We'd never have found this gem of a place if it wasn't for Stay on Skill. But we weren't done yet. 

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Village Living in Painkulum

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Village Living in Painkulum

This is the kind of travel that stays close to your heart forever. The kind villagers saying hello and chatting in English or in Hindi- regardless of our understanding will always be a fond memory. There's nothing better than being welcomed in a foreign land. 

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Turmeric & Coconut Face Mask

 Organic turmeric powder and coconut oil

Organic turmeric powder and coconut oil

Being on the road in remote areas often means that you have to fend for yourself in the beauty department. Unfortunately I wasn't blessed with an even skintone nor a pimple-less face. At least once per month during my moon cycle usually I can count of a break out. Luckily I have learned some ways to take care of my skin, hair and nails while traveling with ingredients that are both natural and easy to find. Here is one I'm currently using in India, the turmeric and coconut face mask. 

If there are two things that are always easy to find in India it's turmeric and coconut oil. I think countries with inexpensive coconut oil are usually at the top of my list. I basically use it all over my body, in my hair, on my feet and nails and for oil pulling and in my tea! This skin mask takes only a couple of minutes to make and works great for treating your skin after a long flight or train ride across a beautiful country. 

Take two tablespoons of organic turmeric powder and add enough melted coconut oil to mke a paste. Apply to the skin, I suggest face and neck but this is great for armpits and butt too. You can use a brush if you don't want to get orange fingers. Leave on for 15-20 mintues and rinse, any longer and you might develop a temporary orange glow. 

Always be careful when using turmeric, it can ruin clothes and towels. Store in a small container for up to a week. I like to use this once every few days when I'm traveling alot and I know that I've been sleeping on unsanitary pillows and beds. 

 Turmeric and coconut oil paste

Turmeric and coconut oil paste

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Black Nomads: We've Been "Outchea"

 In Ella Sri Lanka 2016 

In Ella Sri Lanka 2016 

The digital nomad community is far too often an arrogant bunch and usually the types that I stay as far away from while traveling as possible. Usually they frequent any English speaking bar or cafe and either ask you a million questions about how you make your money, attempt to engage in a pissing contest over how many countries you've been to or lament about how the culture or poltics of whatever country their currently in is so much worse than wherever they've come from. If you're black you will get a whole new list of questions and micro-agressions like "What are you doing here?". What are any of us doing here? Aren't we all traveling, living, exploring, gaining experience in our areas of interest? Then there's the questions about how hard it must be to be from Chicago. As I recall there's some pretty crappy neighborhoods in London as well, so if I'm not assuming you're dodging bullets in Westminster, why would you assume that I'm coming from a hard knock life in the Cabrini Green Projects. Hey digital nomads! You're not the first and you're not the last, and yes some of us are black too! 

Black travellers will tell you that there is rascism along the nomad trails just like everywhere else in life, and it's not always from the locals, but sometimes it's from your fellow nomads and travellers. I recall when I was in Prague earning my TEFL certification a fellow student asked me "Don't you feel weird here because you're black." He was American as well, and acted as if I had come from some utopia of blackness where I had never been the only black person in a room. Every time I opened up my mouth to tell a story about my past experience in any subject he waited with baited breath for stories of living on government funding with a crack-addicted mother and a pimp for a father. He'd say things like "Oh it must have been really hard growing up then huh?" searching for a sob story to tell his friends how I'd overcome all my adversity and landed in Europe to make my "people" proud no doubt. 

In actuality I come from a fashion model mother and a military father who both have always traveled their whole lives. In fact I'm still trying to catch up with their visited countries and experience.  I have no memories of being on my first airplane ride and my first passport was filled up long ago. Travel has always been a part of my life and at this point it always will be and actually this lifestyle was engrained in me from the start.

The black travel phenomenon is something that I can't really support because while I was a child in the 80's and 90's travelling with my mother, there were other young black kids that were there living the same lifestyle I was. Their parents we models, designers, dancers, actors, musicians and I'm sure many other professions. We had no idea that by the time we were in our 30's people would pretend that our lives never existed and that before 2015 black people were simply not traveling. Like we had no passports of experience outside of our home country at all. 

While I think it's great that black people are embracing the idea of travel, I can't subscribe to this narrative that black people never traveled until recently. The shock and awe from both the black community and the non-black community needs to cease and decist. Black folks have always been "outchea" and lack of knowledge on a subject doesn't make it true. We need to continue to travel sure, absolutely but once again black history needs to be recognized and discussed. Black travel is just another topic ike black kings and queens, inventors and artists, on which we and the public at large are ingnorant about.  

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Mumbai On The Cheap

I've been travelling 8 years straight now and never have I had a truly backpacker experience. You know staying in a super cheap place, eating the cheapest meal you can find. While I enjoy carrying a backpack when I travel, truthfully I've only stayed in a hostel once in Prague in an emergency.  My friend owned it and I had the room all to myself, so does that really count? Nah not really. So my husband and I decided to have as close to a backpacker experience as we could get short of staying in the room with other people, for two whole days. That was about all I could commit to. 

Usually when I travel I like to rent apartments from locals on websites like Aibnb, VRBO or do homestays to gain a local perspective, benefit the local community and not have to deal with  questionable cleanliness that come from quick hotel turnovers.

I often look at backpackers and wonder what their experience is really like. Do they actually find good deals, are they staying in safe places, what are the accomodations like in the cheapest of the cheap places? 

We booked an air-conditioned room at Al- Muviaaya Guesthouse for two days and it was by far the least expensive accomodation I've ever had. Yes, only two days but that was about all we could risk for such an experiment, this was our first time in India and I'd heard plenty of horror stories. This place had some okay reviews but I still didn't really know what to expect. After landing in Mumbai and resting and working at a private house in a more residential part of the city for a few day we took an Uber to Al-Muviaaya. I looked at the crowded dirty street from the back of the car and looked at my husband and said, "Oh no, I might have made a mistake here."

We lugged our bags down the road went inside, notified the man at the desk of our booking who in turn  told me that they were booked up and that our reservation had been changed to their sister property down the road. "Oh just great!" I thought.

A young guy in this early twenties quickly helped us carry our bags through the crowded roads to meet Abdul at Hotel Kausar on Zakeria Masjid Street. Everything was rushed and confused with motorbikes zooming back and forth, tons of foot traffic and cars everywhere. We arrived at the next hotel a bit of a mess and I peeked in the room while my husband sternly guarded the bags to ensure it wasn't a rat trap. It was a matchbox of a room, but it had an air-conditioner that was ice cold and a private bathroom and it was shockingly clean. I told my husband Boni "Okay, it's two nights, we can deal." 

Over the next couple of days this little experiment would prove to be one of the best decisions that we've made in a long time. Firstly, Abdul, a Swhili speaking Indian came to our room personally, more than once to make sure that we had absolutely everything that we needed from food to information on buying our "dongle", or wireless modem, to taxis and etc. His service was truly five star. 

We explored the neighborhood which is full of shops and basically a giant marketplace. Everyone is busy all day and all night selling things, providing services and there seems to always be an abundance of traffic. During the days we worked, ran errands  and did a bit of sight-seeing in Kala Ghoda, the arts district. We found out that we were actually conveniently located and never more than about 100 rupees away from anything we needed in the city. 

Being in this area allowed us the opportuity to stumble upon another great find, cheap local food. Worried about catching the old "travellers belly", I didn't want to jump into the street food head first, but having been eating Indian food my whole life I did want to eat plenty of it. Chakla Restaurant right down the road operates at a quick yet professional pace, the goal is to get as many people in and out as fast as possible. However, they manage to do this with great service. 

The locals at Chakla also were polite and welcoming by motioning for us to join them or pulling their chairs out. I loved people watching here and even being watched a bit as well. Watching men pour their chai into their saucers in order to cool it effectively and drink it quicker so they could move on to their next destination I found unique and fascinating. The waiters were always prompt yet friendly and we never had a bad meal here. The food was cheap and absolutley delicious! 

By the time it was time to leave Hotel Kausar we were actually sad to go. Abdul had become our friend and had given us better service than we'd received in places we'd spent way more money on. The neighborhood had grown on us too and we were greatful for the insight into no-frills daily Indian life in Mumbai. 

 Hotel Kausar: An inexpensive hotel with 5 star service 

Hotel Kausar: An inexpensive hotel with 5 star service 

 Vegetarian Fried Rice and Lollipop Chicken from Chakla 

Vegetarian Fried Rice and Lollipop Chicken from Chakla 

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Leelee Limon Chai Tea

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Leelee Limon Chai Tea

You can enjoy the amazing health benefits of lemon grass or lemon verbena in this yummy chai! 

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This chai tastes delicious with either lemongrass or lemon verbena or a little of both. Lemon grass is great for aiding in digestion, the regulation of blood pressure and the relief of menstrual pain.  Lemon verbena is wonderful for calming the stomach and clearing up congestion in the chest. Both are said to help anxiety, clear the skin and aid in weightloss. 

Combine two parts milk of your choice with one part water in a pot and bring to a boil. I love to use coconut milk with this tea which enhances the flavor and health benefits.  Coconut milk is good for the heart and provides a great deal of electrolytes to the body. Add 1-2 tablespoons of black tea per desired tea strength. I like a strong tea so I add two table spoons however this may be a bit strong for you if you're not used to drinking black tea. You can always add more later. 

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Allow the tea to boil until it develops a rich brown color which may have a reddish hue to it depending on how much tea and what type of milk you use. This should take about 20 minutes. Strain and serve in pretty cups with biscuits. Enjoy! 

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Turmeric Masala Tea

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Turmeric Masala Tea

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This chai tea is a bit complicated but the end result is delicious so I'd suggest making a nice portion so you can sip and reheat throughout the evening. Turmeric is great for inflammation but the tea has such a bitter taste that I have to choke it down. I knew that if I found a tastier way of enjoying turmeric I'd be able to benefit from it's healing properties more often. 

In one pot I boiled two bananas for about 20 minutes or until the water became murky and thick.  Then in a second pot I added freshly grated turmeric and ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. I added 2 cups of water and  let this simmer for about 20 minutes to get a nice rich and spicy tea going. Then I added a cup of coconut cream and a 1/2 cup of almond milk. One my bananas were done I added the hot banana tea to the first pot along with 2 teaspoons of black tea. I now let all of this cook for another 10-15 minutes. 

Strain drink and than me later. 

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St Thomas After Irma: Yes, I'm Still Going Back

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St Thomas After Irma: Yes, I'm Still Going Back

"Why in the world would you want to move back there now that everything is destroyed?" I've heard that a few times since Irma and Maria bombarded my beautiful island with category five hurricane rain and winds. St Thomas is like that lover, that you just can't seem to leave. The one that just holds onto you and no matter how angry you get or how far you go, you just want to turn around and come right back. 

There's no way that I can tell my travel story without talking about the U.S. Virgin Islands. Five years ago I moved to the Caribbean as a job transfer from Alaska. I had been working in the fine jewelry industry on and off since 2001 and found a boss and a company that I loved working for. I was trepdatious though to say the least. All I knew of St Thomas was that it was going to cost me more than my Chicago apartment did, and it was hot as hell and everybody liked to party. It took some convincing but eventually I decided to give in and gave it a shot. 

The first few months were hard, I even can't lie. Watching my best friend of 15 years who came with me get addicted to drugs, from an obsessed island stalker and then turning right around and falling in love with "the wrong guy" was just rough. Even though I was prepared for the culture shock I still had some of the bumps along the road. Then there was of course the heat, which felt like a sad cloud from the comics was following me around and sobbing right over my head because no matter what I did I just could not stop freaking sweating. And last but not least there was the cultural difference. Now you'd think that since I'm still in my own country this wouldn't exsist but oh yes it does.  I am and I sound like, a Chicagoan.  I was judged harshly as a "statesider" or a "Yankee" because far too often people from the mainland come down to the island, like best friend did, just to find the dirtiest seediest parts of the island and then leave. 

When I moved to St Thomas I had been widowed just barely two years before, on December 27th. I didn't know what I needed I just knew that I was trying to figure things out in the healthiest way possible. After about 3 months I started to settle in and of course carnival time rolled around. I danced, I drank Brugal, I survived a shooting downtown, which simply made me feel like I was back in Chicago and suddenly it was time to fly out and go back to Alaska. It was five months of a whirlwind and I found myself on the plane, sobbing, like a stupid baby. 

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I went back to Alaska and talked about being in the Caribbean all summer long. I was purely obnoxious I'm sure. We tend to complain constantly when we're in a situation but once we are removed from them we tend to remember only the good parts. When I left I didn't think about any of the stressful or dangerous things that seemed like a big deal at the time. I remembered waking up at the crack of dawn on my off days, grabbing a cold beer, hiking down the hill to Havensight, hopping on the safari $1 bus and going to Emerald beach. I'd lay down my towel under one of the coconut trees and go back to sleep until the bar opened up for lunch. I'd eat lunch at Emerald beach and crack jokes with that great bartender that they used to have from Boston and go home to do laundry. In my morning of lesire I'd managed to get beautifully tanned, sun-kissed hair and a solid workout from swimming.  This was the life. 

Five months in Alaska passed and I went off to Prague to obtain my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. After my course I taught for ahwile in the Czech Republic but I started missing the island too much. When I returned, I found a house to rent that I planned to stay in until I was ready to purchase on the island. Although I didn't exactly know when or how I'd be able to do so I felt that I was going to be here for awhile.  The next winter season began and I started working on Mainstreet again and during my off time I'd travel to the British Virgin Islands. A whole new love affair started up. I spent time going sailing with my girlfriend and her husband. We'd chill out in that brilliant turquiose sea for 3-4 days at a time. Every chance I got I was on a boat or hanging out on the British Virgin Island expanding my love. 

The following year I decided to explore Thailand. I rented out my house and went off to Thailand twice during the off season that year and I loved it! It's a beautiful, and peaceful country and I managed to meet many loving people there. I still missed my St Thomas though and Thailand became my off season location for three years. In fact many of my Thai friends are very familiar with local artists like Pressure, Cool Sessions and even the carnival "Kick in She Back Door" by Onyan & Burning Flames. Oh yes! I taught them the absolute best! 

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No matter where I go in the world I miss St Thomas, Virgin Islands. When first came to St Thomas I had lost all sense of security and community. St Thomas gave me that back. I hated Christmas. St Thomas' beautiful and genuine celebrations have made me love Christmas more than ever. I was blessed enough to meet neighbors that became my extended family. I've never been on island away from my Mama's cooking and another Mama hasn't offered to feed me. The sense of community is truly beautiful and loving and if I don't go back, I will miss it for the rest of my life.

Currently I'm living in Kenya. If I hadn't moved to the Virgin Islands I'd never have been strong enough to endure what's going on here. I know that St Thomas has so many more gifts for me still and I vow that I will return to my beautiful island. I will be praying for Jah to guide me back home. He always does. 

 

Please get involved and donate to help restore these truly beautiful islands. I am encouraging people to please participate in the Adopt a Family Program , a local initive that can be trusted to appropriate funds honestly. 

 

 

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Healthy Beetroot Chai Recipe

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Healthy Beetroot Chai Recipe

 Kenyan Tea Farmers

Kenyan Tea Farmers

Tea lovers like myself will appreciate this drink. I love a hot beverage and enjoy both the health benefits and calming effects of tea. I've been drinking tea for as long as I can remember. All of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds tea drinking- the tea pots, cups, spoons, saucers, tea napkins, I find it all lovely. Last year I rode throught the beautiful sprawling tea farms of Sri Lanka and it felt like a dream come true. 

Currently I'm in Mombasa, Kenya and although Kenya is one of the largest producers of tea in the world, this not a city where you're going to find an abundance of cafes to make a variety of flavored chais or lattes. Kenyan chai consisting of black tea and milk is a staple of the diet. Most Kenyans have chai every single morning with chapati, a flat bread or mahamry, a sweet triangle shaped pastry.

I really enjoy experimenting so I have been playing around with the traditional Kenyan chai by making it with coconut milk and almond milk and by adding different flavors like ginger and cardamom to create a flavor similar to Indian masala chai. The other night I decided to use some beetroot powder to make a beetroot chai. Beetroot is is great source of iron, magnesium and is powerful in lowering blood pressure and enhancing energy. There are many additional benfits of beetroot like cleansing and detoxing the blood of heavy metals and cleansing the liver. If you have a loved one that doesn't like beets this is a delcious way to introduce the benefit of beets into their diet.

 Beetroot chai produces a beautiful pink color and is a tasty and creamy alternative to hot cocoa. It's so pretty you can also try introducing it to your little ones in replace of the high fructose strawberry milk products.  You can choose between beetroot powder or juice however if you're using a beetroot powder be sure to add it after you've taken your milk off of the stove. Boiling the powder will remove the nutrients.  

 Beetroot Chai

Beetroot Chai

Ingredients

1/2 cup of milk of your choice

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup of beetroot juice of 2tsp of beetroot powder

Honey to taste

 

 

How to Make It

Pour all ingredients into a saucepan.  Place over medium heat.  Allow to heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the milk.  Stir the shai. When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and stir well. If you're using beetroot powder you will want to add this now. Strain care and serve. 

Avoid adding too much sugar or honey as beetroot is already high in natural sugars. 

 

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