paindecampagne

thoughts on food, culture, and community

Search Results for: “netherlands

28 years abroad: All about…the Netherlands {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by my aunt Colleen Savelkouls, who was born in Pennsylvania and has resided in the Netherlands since 1984. Staying at Colleen’s house in the Netherlands has been the way I’ve slept off jetlag for every single trip I have taken to Europe since 2000. Still strong to her Pennsylvanian roots — and accustomed to welcoming family visitors of all ages — Colleen is a great reference for explaining Dutch culture to Americans and expressing what she loves about both countries.

*

As an elementary school child growing up in central Pennsylvania, I still remember an older Dutch woman coming to talk about Holland. All I remember was her talking about wooden shoes and windmills. After all, isn’t that what most Americans think about when they try to picture Holland today — windmills, wooden shoes, and maybe tulips?

But having lived half my life in Pennsylvania and the other half in Holland, I know that there are many misconceptions that exist. First of all, Holland Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch are not the same. The latter derives itself from the German immigrants who moved to Pennsylvania and introduced themselves with their “Deutsch” language. Second, most stories about Holland that exist in the U.S. are not necessarily about modern Holland, but the Holland that existed during or after World War II. This was the case with the older Dutch lady that I met as a child, who had left Holland to follow her love, an American soldier. Third, the country’s official name is the Netherlands. North and South Holland are actually provinces of the Netherlands from which ships used to sail with spices and Delft porcelain to sell around the world.

Here are a few differences that I have compiled to explain modern Holland, as well as the trials of living an immigrant life.

Learning languages, learning cultures. One month after receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984, I followed love to Holland. I believed I could conquer the many cultural differences and was willing to try. I was accepted easily by the Dutch, as most people my age learn English at school. Languages abound in Holland: Dutch students begin learning English around 5th or 6th grade, and in high school, they study Dutch, English, and have at least two years of both French and German. (Students going to college often also study Latin and Greek, for a total of six languages at a time.)

However, for me to learn Dutch at age 22 proved to be more difficult than I had thought. While I am now fluent after 28 years of living in Holland, I still cannot write a letter without asking someone to check my spelling. I now have more compassion for immigrants than I once did, especially a husband and wife team who are trying to learn another language as adults. My Dutch husband can correct my writing, but, as it often does with family immigrants, it often lands on the children’s shoulders to translate. After learning Dutch, I was also surprised to find that my language skills would continue to disable me in a job. I have a university level of thinking on how to approach a job, but my language skills have decreased how I can work. I can think and speak myself into a management level, but especially at the beginning, I could not write at a management level. This was limiting and, at times, very frustrating.

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, 2010

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, June 2010

Low skies and cloudy days. The first years of living in Holland, I was always asked where I was from, what I missed most about the U.S., and what was the most difficult about living abroad. My first answer was obviously learning Dutch, but the second answer — what I missed — was the mountains. Holland is extremely flat. I also did not expect to be so affected by how far north in the hemisphere Holland is. Holland is as far north as Alaska’s most southern islands, meaning that you get short days in the winter and long days in the summer (in June the sun sets at 10 PM). Due to the Atlantic Ocean, Holland has a sea climate with rain and low clouds. All together, the winters are usually cloudy, rainy, and have only 7 to 8 hours of light! If we get snow, it usually melts fairly fast. In winters, I yearn for sunshine, although I am grateful that neither summers nor winters in Holland are extremely hot or extremely cold. I tease the Dutch that they only have spring and autumn instead of four seasons.

P1090212

Sunny view from the bell tower of Oude Kerk, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Breaking bread and drinking coffee — together. Another aspect that I had to get used to in Holland was the coffee breaks and the eating of so much bread. The average Dutch individual — blue-collar and white-collar — eat an open slice of bread or sandwich for breakfast, have a 15-minute coffee break coffee sometime between 9 and 10 AM, eat a sandwich for lunch, have 15 minutes for coffee or tea sometime between 3 and 4 PM, eat supper, and have coffee or tea again around 8 PM. In the beginning, I thought that, with so many breaks, I could never get any work done! Now, I have come to love this time. Visitors usually come to visit for coffee or tea instead of a meal; and they usually only accept one or two cookies when sweets are offered. Taking more is considered greedy. The Dutch also have the most delicious (and healthy) bread I have ever tasted, and the aroma of Dutch coffee is phenomenal! I am addicted! Coffee time is also a time to discuss how your day has gone and to plan the next few hours. This must be why Hollanders are known to be good managers!

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Central Market, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Windmills and wooden shoes?  I would assume that maybe only 1% of the Dutch still wear wooden shoes on a farm or around the house to keep their feet dry. In contrast, the Dutch are very fashion-minded and follow the latest styles. Amsterdam is getting world-wide recognition for designs and models. Also, while there are still some old wooden windmills existing, many are not in use. Instead, there are a few provinces, especially Flevoland, filled with modern 80-yard-high windmills. This tells you how windy it can get on some days! Don’t try to keep your hair neat!

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch "football" team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch “football” team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

All in all, I have come to love Holland. I would probably have culture shock if I permanently returned to the U.S. after 28 years abroad. In Holland, I don’t have to worry about the violence of guns, and I strongly recommend the Dutch multiple political party system instead of a two-party system that divides the nation. The news in Holland is more international, whereas in the U.S. the media seems to focus just on America’s own problems. There are truly good and bad things in every country, no matter where you live.

The Art and Addiction of Escape: Explaining the Explorer

The following reflection is written by my cousin, Wesley Troost, of Kampen, the Netherlands. He grew up on a dairy farm but began guiding outdoor adventures and participating in extreme sports when he was 17. While searching for what this means professionally, Wesley has traveled extensively as a guide, explorer, and soul-searcher, including a trip around the world in 2010-2011. His greatest victories range from graduating from a year of schooling on personal growth to jumping off a 59-foot cliff into the Vorderer Gosausee, a lake in Austria. Challenges yet to accomplish include solo skydiving and creating a successful company of his own.

Pokhara, Nepal

Pokhara, Nepal

*

Isn’t it strange how we all fight almost day and night for a secure, settled life but still admire a traveler?

I used to work as an outdoor sports instructor for months in a row. But I knew that I loved, and still love, the thrill of excitement and the satisfaction of feeling alive after completing an awesome trip. This motivated me to search for more mountains and more adventures. As the Netherlands doesn’t have any mountains at all, it forced me to travel. Not a bad thing, you could say. And it wasn’t!

For at least five years in row, I have spent more nights in a tent then I’ve spent at home. On a good night, I’d have a real roof over my head; on other nights, the stars were my roof. But most of the time a couple of framed poles and a sheet of fabric were what I called my home. And every day was a new adventure. I could go on and on about all the stories, but that’s not my point today (although sometimes it is).

Wesley on a night train through India (2010-2011)

Night train through India

The adventures triggered me to keep going and keep searching. And I kept on learning, exploring, laughing, and making friends. But in between all of this I longed for a warm shower in a warm bathroom! I longed for a couch that I could call my couch where I could rest my head, for food that I didn’t have yesterday or the day before, for a closet that I could open with all of my clothes in it, for a heater that could be turned up or down according to my will, for chocolate sprinkles on fresh Dutch bread, for all the friends I left behind, for a house that I could call home.

A couple of years ago I decided to travel the world. After my work season finished in Europe, I packed a bag with the goal of seeing as many countries as I had dreamed of before the next work season would start. I kept a blog about all the great adventures and the beautiful landscapes. Nepal, India, Thailand, New Zealand… I have never felt more alive. If you have ever taken the gamble of going wherever you felt like going — without a plan, without limits — you too know the addiction of freedom. It doesn’t stop until time or money runs out.

People admire the courage. The courage to put your will ahead of the risks.

Jodhpur, India (the blue city) (2010-2011)

Jodhpur, India, the Blue City

But only three weeks into my trip I found myself stunned. It was at a busy train station in Varanassi, India, where I watched backpackers leaving the station, one after the other. Every single one of them held a worried gaze in their searching eyes. Overwhelmed by the culture and the question, now what? As if they had all forgotten why they left their steady homes and everything they had known to live among the complete opposite. Their eyes stunned me with the question: Why had I?

The question left me with only answers that didn’t satisfy. Not only for that day or that month but for a couple of years. Until now.

Agra, India; home of the Taj Mahal (2010-2011)

Agra, India, home of the Taj Mahal

I haven’t traveled a lot lately. But if my bank account will allow me to, I’ll be gone to discover and explore the many more countries that I dream of. Why? To get a break from life. To escape from the pressure of every day. A day in Western culture causes a human more struggle then finding food, shelter, and happiness in a place where we are total strangers. Let me rephrase that: at times I would rather leave my culture, friends, family, and all the comforts of my home to release myself from the world that I wake up to every morning. Sounds a bit alarming, doesn’t it? But it’s the world we created by ourselves. We have so many balls in the air that we sometimes feel like running away for them not to come down on us.

That is why sometimes I choose cold showers. I choose hiking while my feet hurt. For food that is so spicy that it hurts going in as well as going out. For trusting people I have just met. For traveling 33 hours non-stop. For a bed so hard an elephant couldn’t dent it. While in the meantime I enjoy the world’s most beautiful sunsets. I enjoy nature’s prettiest sceneries and all the thrilling activities it can provide. I enjoy all the cultures. All the people and the stories they carry. I enjoy the pure freedom of deciding whatever I want to do the next day. And I enjoy learning more than any other time of my life. With a searching gaze in my eyes.

Varanassi, India

Varanassi, India

30×30: Lesson 19: Family comes first

Over the summer I visited my family in the Netherlands after having helped lead a six-week study abroad program in Nantes, France. The night before my flight home, my aunt Colleen and I walked to a local tennis club to sip wine and watch my uncle play doubles. Afterwards, we crowded around a table with the tennis partners, neighbors, and friends, and one woman’s smiling eyes shifted from my face to Colleen’s face and back to mine.

She turned to Colleen said something like this: “Ze is zeker je nichtje.” She is definitely your niece.

I understood and smiled. “Ja,” I said. Yes because the woman was right; but also yes because, due to my family, I can be a million miles away from where I belong and still find a place that is home.

Collen and I, 2008

Colleen and I in France, 2008

*

I am humbled by the loyalty of my family, especially when traveling. Knit by something more than a shared dairy farm, my family challenges one another, begs to differ, and then opens its arms anyway.

Countless times have I stepped off a European train into the waiting hug of a cousin I haven’t seen in years. In August 2009, my siblings, Andrea and Jordan, and I took the train from Harrisburg to Philadelphia just to sip coffee, browse markets, and gab like crazy. A few months ago, my aunt Dena invited me to attend an information session on Foreign Service careers in Washington, D.C.; we sat together, asked each other questions, and discussed everything later with my uncle Floyd over a home-cooked dinner. Just yesterday I just received a text from my cousin, Laura, who asked if she could stop in Pittsburgh on her way back from Wisconsin.

My heart resonates when I am with family far from home.

If family is loyalty, family is also priority, graciousness, and forgiveness. Family is learning from your mistakes, apologizing, and being there when you are needed anyway. Family is where you’ve come from and being open to where you’re going. Family is learning to accept love as much as it is learning to give it. Family is a choice — but it can be the most beautiful one.

Find an introduction on this series here.  Dig into other life lessons here.

Not like Mom’s: Authentic Belgian waffles, Waffalonia, Pittsburgh

"The Antwerp"

“The Antwerp” with speculoos ice cream, April 2014

I happen to be intrigued by almost everything about Belgium. Geographically, politically, and historically lodged between Holland (the country that introduced me to Europe) and France (the primary country that speaks the language that I study), Belgium is the intersection of Europe at which I feel most myself. The French accent seems softer here, and the humor, brighter. In Belgium, Lynn and I began our walk along the Western Front in 2010, and I had my first argument in full-blown French (avec “vous” et tout) with a bartender in 2007. Wine as the national beverage is traded for the beer that links me to my boyfriend, and the land smooths into long wide fields that carry me back to my family’s Pennsylvanian farm.

So of course I was going to love the authentic Belgian waffles Waffalonia (Oakland and Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh), which serves up hearty, sweet waffles stunningly unlike those onto which my central Pennsylvania grandmother douses chicken and gravy. Instead, these Liège-style waffles are made from a yeast-driven dough and stuffed with imported sugar crystals that caramelize under heat.

It may be lost on many Pittsburghers that these waffles are named after Belgian cities and displayed on a menu that recalls a European railway schedule, but I used pass through Antwerp (here with speculoos ice cream and chocolate syrup) by train in 2007, and I was enchanted by the cobblestones streets of Bruges (here with strawberries and whipped cream) when I was fifteen.

Beyond the memories, the waffles are to die for. Pressed to order, the waffles are topped with fresh fruits, syrups, spreads, or locally-made Dave and Andy’s ice cream.

French student-approved

French student-approved, April 2014

Squirrel Hill
1707 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 521-4902

Oakland
4212 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 685-4081

www.waffalonia.com

Living above the land down under: All about… New Zealand {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by my cousin Stephan Troost of the Netherlands. Stephan is currently studying human geography and urban/regional planning at Utrecht University in Holland. In the fall of 2012, he spent five months living and studying at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His favorite memory of living above the land down under is hitch-hiking the South Island — a total of 2000 beautiful and exciting kilometers — and only paying $20 New Zealand dollars to do so.

Fall 2012

90-Mile Beach, Northland; Fall 2012

On beautiful countrysides. Some people call New Zealand heaven on earth. In terms of nature, I’d definitely agree — New Zealand is perfect. I’ve had experiences before where I’ve gone to places that are supposedly amazing but have ended up being a bit disappointing. However, in New Zealand, anytime someone told you that a certain place was great, it always was.

When you’re driving, especially on South Island, the landscape can change drastically in just ten minutes — going from golden beaches to high mountains, waterfalls, forests as thick as green walls, and everything in between. Because New Zealand is so far from everything, there’s an incredibly diversity of species that exist nowhere else.

Too many landscapes!

Kepler Track, Fjordland; Fall 2012.

Landscape love

Coromandel Peninsula; Fall 2013

The temperature is quite moderate — around 14 degrees Celsius in an Auckland winter. The countryside is extremely green because it rains regularly, and the weather changes just as drastically as the landscape. This happened especially in Auckland. One moment, there would be a really big rain shower, and the next minute, it would be sunny like crazy. We say in Holland that our weather’s always changing, but at least in Holland, we can mostly predict what’s going to happen next!

On cultural history and diversity. In my opinion, New Zealand was not heaven on earth when it came to the people, but that’s usual. People will be people. New Zealand was colonized by the British, so most people are still from European descent. However, a lot of people come from different Pacific islands or Asia — like China, Malaysia, or Thailand — to work. I found the different cultures very interesting, especially the colorful and exotic Pacific Islander culture, since it is so different from the culture I’m used to in the Netherlands. Some kiwis — that’s what New Zealanders call themselves because of the kiwi bird — struggle with the fact that immigration has been really high since the 1980s. There are only 4.5 million people on the island, and 45% of Auckland’s population is non-European.  In a few years, no ethnic group in Auckland will have the majority.

The indigenous people are called the Maori, and New Zealanders recognize the Maori as the original inhabitants of the country. An aspect of Maori culture that is often seen is an aggressive type of dance that they used to do to scare other tribes: the haka. It’s good for tourists, but it also shows that New Zealand has a really different history than just a British one.

Multicultural New Zealand

Multicultural New Zealand; Fall 2012

On government, food prices, and public transportation. In Auckland, people live close to one another, but large suburbs are also common, so having a car is a must. Like the States, public transportation is horrible in comparison to that of Europe.

Since New Zealand is so far from everything and everybody, I found the government to be really liberal and independent. In Europe, the news often focuses on events from all over the world, but New Zealand news was mostly about New Zealand, Australia, and random other world events.

Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand; Fall 2012

Auckland

The Waterfront, Auckland, New Zealand; Fall 2012

A lot of internationals go to New Zealand, so there are a ton of American fast food restaurants in New Zealand, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, and Dominos. People are very active in New Zealand, but they eat a lot of fast food as well. Maybe it has to do with the fact that groceries are very expensive.

On its difference from Australia. New Zealand is not Australia. People think it’s simple to fly from Melborne to Sydney to Auckland, but a flight from Sydney to Auckland is still three and a half hours. Both countries have British influences so there are some similarities, but since they’re far apart, it’s more like how it would feel if Canada and the States were separated by 1300 miles. In New Zealand, rugby is the big sport, so a match between Australia and New Zealand is a big deal for Kiwis.

On accents. I found the New Zealand way of speaking English to be really funny. A lot of Americans are familiar with Australian and British accents, but a kiwi accent is different – kind of blend between British and Australian. In the US, if you would say, “I’m expecting somebody,” in New Zealand, you’d say, “I’m expicting somebody.” Find a Youtube clip of Prime Minister, John Key, and you’ll know what I mean.

In general, everyone was relaxed, friendly (“no worries, mate”), and real. They did not act like Americans who pretend to like someone just to be polite; they also didn’t act like Europeans who have to say everything they think. In the countryside, people just helped each other — that’s how I got to hitchhike so much. It’s common and safe there.

Culture-wise, I felt like New Zealand was rather British, but maybe it was more like a combination between the States and Europe. Or maybe it was just an even better combination than all that together.

The future we’d hardly hoped for: All about… Taiwan {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

Wan-Jiun (Paul) Chiou is a professor of finance at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He specializes in portfolio management, international finance, financial institution management, and the impact of law environment on financial markets. He used to teach in several colleges in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Taiwan. Paul always enjoys being with young people and sharing ideas. He also likes to play games with his family. 

When some people first meet me and learn that I originally come from Taiwan, their first response is “I love Thai food!”

Oh, thanks. I love Thai food too. But you’re thinking of the wrong country!

Taiwan is located in southeastern Asia and is a group of islands off the southeastern coast of China bordering the East China Sea, the Philippine Sea, the South China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait. (Thailand, where Thai food is from, is a small country on the Indochina peninsula, bordered by Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.) Her size is about that of Maryland and Delaware combined.  Though the weather is mostly tropical, two-thirds of the country is mountainous, making Taiwan vary in its ecological environment. The highest mountain, Mount Jade (Yu Shan), is more than 13,000 feet high and is the highest mountain in East Asia.

Ken-ting National Park

Ken-ting National Park

Another question that I get often is “Is Taiwan part of China?”

The fact is: NO. If you want to visit Taiwan, the visa from China’s embassy will NOT work.  You need to go to a Taipei Cultural and Economic Office (TECO) for the visa.

What?  Why go to the “Taipei” office, but not the “Taiwan” one?  In addition, why is there no Taiwanese embassy in the United States?

This is a very complicated issue caused by powers like China, United States, Japan, and the rest of the world.  In the past, Taiwan was like a small leaf in large waters, pushed by waves from different directions. Now more and more Taiwanese people realize they need to fight for the better future that their ancestors hardly hoped was possible.

Currently the population of Taiwan is more than 23 million, similar to the size of California. The majority of Taiwanese (84%), mainly Holos and Hakkas,* are of mixed decedent, including aboriginals, Chinese immigrants, Europeans (primarily Dutch and Spanish), and Japanese. About 14% of them, including my family, are mainland Chinese who fled China after the Nationalist’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The 13 indigenous tribes—like the Native Indians in the U.S.— represent the remaining 2%.  In recent years, due to work and marriage, more and more new immigrants from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the other countries are coming to join this big family.

Ang Lee (director of film “Life of Pi”)

Familiar Taiwanese-American Faces: Ang Lee (director of film “Life of Pi”)

Jeremy Lin (NBA Linsanity!)

Familiar Taiwanese-American Faces: Jeremy Lin (NBA Linsanity!)

Familiar Taiwanese Faces: Jerry Yang (co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo!)

Familiar Taiwanese-American Faces: Jerry Yang (co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo!)

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Taiwan, also known as Ilha Formosa (meaning “beautiful island in Spanish”), was the stepping stone for pirate groups and merchandisers from sailing from Japan, China, the Netherlands, Spain, and others. This island had been an independent kingdom until some troops from the Ming Empire occupied Taiwan for 30 years. After about 200 years of ineffective and corrupt ruling under the Qing Empire, Taiwan and surrounding islands were ceded in full sovereignty to the Empire of Japan in 1895. After the end of WWII in 1945, the US Navy ferried troops from the Republic of China (ROC) to Taiwan in order to accept the formal surrender of the Japanese military forces, but there was not an international treaty signed to settle the future of Taiwan. After being defeated in China’s civil war in 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party ruled that the ROC would occupy Taiwan as a “base” to fight against the communists in mainland China. Therefore, believe or not, the official name of Taiwan is the Republic of China. Do not feel guilty; you are not the only one getting confused by the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (China).

After more than 38 years of being ruled under martial law and the dictatorship of the nationalists, the people of Taiwan started to fight for basic rights in mid 1980s.  In 1996, Taiwan held the first direct presidential election under the military threat of China. Now more and more people believe that Taiwan and China should be two different countries due to their differences in lifestyle, democracy, and freedom.

“Mr. Democracy,” Dr. Lee Teng-Hui, President of Taiwan 1988-2000

“Mr. Democracy,” Dr. Lee Teng-Hui, President of Taiwan 1988-2000

As China becomes more powerful, Taiwan is often pushed aside, occupying the place of an “international orphan.” She lost her seat in international organizations (including the UN) in 1970s, is being cut diplomatic relations with other countries (including the U.S.), etc. Today, there are only five countries in the world without diplomatic relations with the United States.  Does America want to continue to treat Taiwan like she treats other hostile countries like Iran, Cuba, or North Korea, just because of her relationship with China?

But visiting Taiwan is wonderful. I should add that you do not need to spend much money to easily enjoy Taiwan’s scenery and delicious cuisine.

Travel in Taiwan is generally convenient and safe. You only need to pay less than $35 to take a train or bus 200 miles from Taipei, the capital, to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in south. The old capital, Tainan, has much history, or you could visit the famous Ken-ting National Park in Pingtung. The eastern coast of Taiwan, Taidong and Hualien, also showcases the power and beauty of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.  In Taipei, the National Palace Museum is a must for visitors. The exhibits there represent the finest artworks of China’s history.

The first official academy of Taiwan in Tainan

The first official academy of Taiwan in Tainan

Taiwan’s high speed train travels 200 miles per hour between the south and the north.

Taiwan’s high speed train travels 200 miles per hour between the south and the north.

The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Ken-Ting National Park, Pingtung

The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Ken-Ting National Park, Pingtung

One of the best reasons to visit Taiwan is to experience the core of Chinese culture that is preserved there.  Language is the best example. Though people in Taiwan and China share the same official spoken languages, the Taiwanese use traditional characters while the Chinese use simplified ones that were created during its Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s. In addition, the Taiwanese are also open to western culture and are always ready to embrace new ideas. In Taiwan, you certainly will not feel that you are a stranger!

Ma-chi (rice cakes) ready to eat!

Ma-chi (rice cakes) ready to eat!

No matter where you want to visit, you certainly need to visit the local night markets and try turkey rice bowls in Chai-Yi, Tainan dan zai noodles, Changhua ba-wan (meat sphere), oyster omelets, and other yummy yummies.

It’s not Thai food, but it will not disappoint!

Night markets are the best (but inexpensive) place to explore the delicious Taiwan!

Night markets are the best and most inexpensive place to explore the delicious cuisine of Taiwan!

* Holos are people who speak a dialect in southern Fujian in China. The language spoken by the Holos also is regarded as the Taiwanese language. The Hakkas were primarily from Guangdong in China and immigrated to Taiwan 200 years ago. Hakka means “guests” in Chinese and have a situation similar to that of the Jews in Europe. In 1990s, the leaders of the three Chinese countries — China (Deng Xiaopin), Taiwan (Lee Teng-Huie), and Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew) — were all Hokkaese.

On countrysides and coming home

You’re a young adult (whatever age that means), and you’ve been told to “get out there.” See the world. Experience new things, and become a better person because of it.

I absolutely agree with this philosophy, for it was definitely applicable to me. Before going to college, I had only met a handful of people who had been born outside the U.S. I had never seen a bagel or eaten granola, and I laughed awkwardly at jokes that contained pop culture references I’d never heard of. Before studying in France, a glass of wine in my hand was evil, not a sign of sharing; before visiting my family in the Netherlands, I laughed at adults who rode their bike to work instead of driving a car. (Bike rides were for kids. Real adults owned four wheels.) In the decade since I’ve left my hometown, I have learned to ask questions about other people’s beliefs instead of recoiling in disgust when our opinions don’t match. I learned that humanity is more beautiful than I had thought. I learned that I have a place when I create one, and yes, that I am capable of drinking espresso, using chopsticks, and driving aggressively in heavy traffic, as I had once thought growing up should entail.

But there is another side to this story. On May 2, NPR interviewed comedian Jim Gaffigan about raising five kids in Manhattan. Of city-dwellers, he said, “They’re well-adjusted. They’re not freaked out by two men holding hands. They’re not freaked out by socio- or economic or cultural differences, and that’s, I think, an important gift to give children.” Gaffigan’s point jives with me, whose process of “growing up” and “getting out there” entailed directing my footsteps toward cities of various sizes. Cities expose you to others’ differences, whether you find them at the laundromat or sitting next to a stranger on a bus; cities present you with an array of experiences from the Peruvian restaurant down the street to the political rally of a cause you’ve never heard of. For me, cities around the world have succeeded in giving me the chance to broaden myself, to expect change, and to be unafraid of other people. Like Gaffigan, I’ve viewed living in cities to be a gift.

However, what Gaffigan is missing is an acknowledgement of the countryside and the importance of coming home.

Cities are not the only place in this world that have something to offer. Having come from a family farm in Shippensburg, PA, I assert that there’s something to be said about being “well-adjusted” to the depth of a truly black night sky. It’s extremely important to me to not be “freaked out” by spiders, of the smell of sweat, and the satisfaction of heavy labor. Exposure to others’ differences is a gift, but so is the ability to wave at your neighbors (I do this in Harrisburg, whether I know them or not), to run through cornfields, and to be embraced by the absolute sense of knowing where you’ve come from. For me, the countryside is an anchor to where I’m going, and this gift is not at all less than teaching children to not be startled by the sight of the homeless or of a hijab worn in a grocery store. The countryside, like the gift of a city, is a tool that must be used wisely.

Many of my friends, like me, have grown up in small towns, and have found ourselves at any given moment traveling or living across the state, across the country, or across the globe. Many twentysomethings have responded to the call of “getting out there,” whether to a city or not, and we’ve looked at our fresh perspectives and new stories with a certain sense of satisfaction. However, after these weeks, or months, or years away, there’s a point in time where many of us, with some awkwardness, find that we are back in the same town or state in which we started, and find this return viewed (by ourselves, if not others) as a backslide, a giving-in, a choice we are supposed to defend.

If I could change the call to our young people, I would first explain that it is important to get out of one’s comfort zone and to see other places. For those of us born among mountains and rolling fields, it may be important to spend some time in bigger places, but for many others, leaving comfort zones can mean camping for a weekend without showers, or learning to respect that truck-driving neighbor who never finished high school.

But after this experience, I’d explain to our young people that it’s okay to return home — with new perspectives, new distance, and new understanding. Returning home, if only temporarily — to re-find the place where your heart was, to where familiarity upholds, to where your new point of views can really make an impact — is just as much of a gift as being able to leave it.

Picking walnuts, 2008

Picking walnuts, 2008

Lancaster company makes Dutch stroopwafel cookies

Sroopwafels

Chocolate-dipped stroopwafel

Stroopwafels are traditional Dutch cookies that are comprised of light syrup pressed between two pie-crust thin, slightly-spiced waffles (the name literally named “syrup waffle”).  I’m familiar with this cookie because my aunt Colleen brings packs of them with each visit home to Shippensburg from the Netherlands (they’re somewhat of a family obsession), and when I visited Europe with my brother Chris when I was 15, we ate a palm-sized stroopwafel hot off a cast-iron griddle in an open-air Dutch market.

I was ecstatic when I discovered Stroopies, a Lancaster-based company that caught onto the trend of stroopwafels in America and now makes their version of the famed Dutch cookie. Here, you can buy two kinds of stroopwafels — either traditional (plain) or dipped with an American-sized portion of decadent dark chocolate. (My Dutch family may never let me visit again if I admit this, but I always buy the one with the chocolate.)

To eat a stroopwafel, tradition mandates that you first rest the cookie on the top of a hot cup of koffee or thee (tea) for a few seconds to gently heat the cookie and the syrup, as shown in the photo above.  After heating, the syrup loosens along with the cookie’s flavors of caramel, hazelnut, and cinnamon.  In the case of the chocolate-dipped stroopwafel, the deep, slightly-warmed chocolate melts into a gooey mess that complements the cookie’s spice.

I love stroopwafels because they encompass what I appreciate about Holland: they are cookies that you’re meant to take time eating. My Dutch uncle, as hard-working as my father, owns a business and works in a carpenter’s shop at his home, but he never fails to come inside mid-morning and mid-afternoon for a cup of coffee, a bit of conversation, and occasionally a slice of cake.  Similarly, it seems to me that you can’t eat a stroopwafel on the run; you have to sit down with it, wait for the coffee to be brewed, and allowed the cookie to awaken.

I buy my stroopwafels individually or in packs each time I visit Folklore Coffee & Company in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, but Stroopies are also available from a variety of local cafes and businesses including Groff’s Candies, Lancaster, and the Hershey Lodge, Hershey.

Stroopies have been profiled and approved by the Netherlands-America Association of Delaware Valley, Inc. in their spring 2012 newsletter, De Brug.

Folklore Coffee & Company
1 North Market Street
Elizabethtown, PA 17022

Groff’s Candies
3587 Blue Lock Road
Lancaster, PA 17603

Hershey Lodge
325 University Drive
Hershey, PA 17033

Friday Photo: Markets Around the World

I am fascinated by stores: sparkling cheap jewelry made to look expensive only in bright lighting, polished plates in geometric shapes, the shelves of spices in the baking aisle, the spines of new books.  I adore entering a Sheetz and twirling amid the Twix bars to my right, and suddenly being distracted by the Chex Mix to my left then realizing that I could buy any flavor of Red Bull that I want.  I don’t even know if Red Bull has flavors, but it doesn’t matter!  It’s all within reach!  Look at the colors!!  Everything’s possible!!!

On this Black Friday, it would seem appropriate to comment that I’m an ideal shopper, except for the fact that I only love looking at stores, not buying the products within them.  In my opinion, a group of people can be best understood through the act of buying and selling, because this action discloses a culture’s needs and priorities, perceived or otherwise.  In Chile, stores selling similar products are located in the same area of the city — a mall of hair salons, an alley of hot dog vendors, a street of antiques — to increase efficiency.  In France, bakeries open early because fresh bread is bought almost daily. In Italy, I’ve heard that it’s bad luck for a street vendor to lose his first sale of the day, so he’s often willing to negotiate for a lower price.  In Trinidad, boiled corn, still in the husk, is available on the side of the highways — you just veer off on the shoulder and roll down your window.  When buying and selling, convenience, need, creativity, and want all come into play.

On Black Friday in 2007, I was stuck on a crowded train between Luxembourg City and Brussels with a woman who was on the phone directing a jewelry purchase in New York.  Today, however, in honor of my friend Kara who posted a similar set of photos on her blog, I post a few photos of markets around the world, where what’s on sale reflects somehow we somehow all live through our consumerism — for better or for worse.

buying breadfruit in Trinidad

shopping district in Lille, France

cheese market in the Netherlands

calves for sale at the Greencastle Livestock Market in Greencastle, Pennsylvania

buying morning newspapers in Santiago, Chile

Tales of Pennsylvania Peppermint

A few months ago, I bought a tall can of organic dried peppermint from the Broad Street Market and tucked it into my cabinet next to the espresso machine.  I think I bought the peppermint tea purely out of nostalgia. I hadn’t drunk mint tea in years.  I, in posh old age, had graduated to chicer beverages like green tea or French pressed coffee, or–my usual at The Scholar in Harrisburg (the only place where I have a “usual” of anything)–an americano.  In 2005, I had learned to drink coffee on my aunt Colleen’s back patio in Holland while eating some gourmet European chocolate dessert and watching the sun set, and afterwards, I used to boast that learning to drink espresso was somehow intimately connected to growing up, alongside other admirably adult tasks like learning to eat with chopsticks or driving aggressively in heavy traffic.

But mint tea was actually my first hot beverage. About every other morning when my farming father got up early to milk cows at 3am, my mom would treat our entire family to a big breakfast–“dippy” eggs, toast, and homemade strawberry jam.  She had one flowered teapot that she’d fill with dried mint leaves picked from bank at the end of our lawn, and she’d fill a teacup and place the sugar bowl next to my plate.  Cradling the cup of weak-colored liquid in my palms, I’d sit with my siblings on the kitchen heat register that pumped the room full with boiling warmth.  I’d wonder what could ever be better in the world: I had a family around a kitchen table lit with yellow light, the sweetness of pink-red jam, and the way the butter-soaked toast buckled beneath the weight of egg and yolk.

In the summer, my mother would pluck fresh tea leaves from the bank and boil them in an open kettle on the stove, eventually filling a pitcher with the sugared liquid and ice cubes as a breeze fringed with the smell of cut alfalfa blew in and out of the kitchen screen door.  In July, when my grandmother picked sweet corn to sell by the dozen under the shade trees in front of my cousins’ farmhouse, my brothers, sister, cousins, and I capitalized on the increased in traffic and sold the same cold mint tea in plastic cups for 25 cents each.  One year later, when we set up the business again, we adjusted the price to 30 cents for inflation.

My older brother Chris once gathered armfuls of mint leaves and spread them on newspaper in our garage like my mother would lay out peaches to ripen, and when the tea dried, he packed the leaves carefully into plastic freezer quarts and stashed them somewhere for my mother to use.  For the rest of my junior high and high school days, dried mint tea seemed never-ending, like the Biblical story of the woman with the bottomless jar of oil which provided everything for her until she had no more pots left to fill.

But my parents eventually graduated to Eight O’Clock Coffee and I to chai lattes and Maxwell House International Cafe Decaffeinated Sugar-Free Swiss Mocha, piling the red-lidded tins around my dorm room to display my intellect and my taste in fine things.  Tea bags marked my growing up which then were replaced by fair trade coffee in wide-mouthed mugs at the Kind Cafe in Selinsgrove, Italian hot chocolate drunk with Ellen Witoff while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, then Vietnamese coffee at Garden Vietnamese in Harrisburg, as if beverages could map the footsteps of a departure.

In 2007, after accepting an English assistantship position in Talange, France, I bought espresso at 5:30am during my layover at the airport in Milan, Italy, due to a promise I’d made my boyfriend, and I sipped it standing up while surrounded by dark-haired businessmen.  From there, I flew to Luxembourg where I took a train north to sleep off my jetlag at my same aunt’s familiar home in Holland.  When I woke up–proud and adult for having traveled from Philadelphia to Milan to Luxembourg to Brussels to Rosendaal, the Netherlands, in a single day of French, Dutch, and Italian–Colleen and I drank Dutch koffee from black and white patterned mugs while sitting again on her back patio.  Afterwards, she walked me around her backyard and garden to show me the new landscaping that I hadn’t seen in two years, and Pennsylvania peppermint was there.

I don’t really remember the details–how the plants had been brought through customs, or whether or not they’d been a gift from my grandmother–but I remember that they had been from the farm in Pennsylvania. When I moved to Harrisburg in 2009, the first gift I asked my younger brother to bring was a plant of peppermint from the bank from my family’s backyard.  He brought it to me in a grocery bag with the dirt stripped from brittle roots.  I placed it carefully in a pot in the sunroom next to the Thai basil, like a ceremony.  I just watered it a moment ago.

These days, I drink peppermint tea only at nights, especially cold ones, cupping my hands around the little black and white mugs that Colleen bought me in Holland to match hers.  I drink mint tea only with honey.  As I sip, I remember making tea in the evenings in Talange with my German roommate Tobias as the French winter wind blew desolate around our apartment.  I remember the raw honey given to me that same year by a French teacher named Catherine, who had a family member had a beehive, and how certain she had been to make sure the glass jar was always refilled when I wanted more.  I remember the Moroccan tea ceremony that was performed for me on the day before I left France in 2008, with its imported mint leaves and frosted tea glasses and ritual pouring.  I think about drinking tea with Rachel Fetrow after she returned from Senegal during our junior year in college, or the tea shared with Alli Engle on the frosted winter morning when I arrived in Chile this past June.

I think about the voyages away and home again.

Metz, France, June 2010

Post Navigation