Hooray for White Rice

There was a time when my husband and I were trotting around the globe, portable water-well drilling rig in tow, putting in wells in very remote locations.

We were in Indonesia for about three months, drilling wells in numerous places, and in our off-hours, exploring local haunts and sampling local foods. We were in the frontier province of Indonesia, not in a developed center of trade and commerce like Jakarta.

Jayapura was the name of the small town about a half an hour’s ride from where we were based. We’d go there and sample foods in the outdoor bazaar. Often the fare was fried. I’m not sure if this was the historic Dutch influence or the Indian influence, or the influence of some other country entirely.

Whatever, it was good, and generally safe to eat, even if we did see a cockroach or two scuttle past the booth. The wildlife added to the adventure.

One week we were really out in the boonies, putting in a well for a clinic run by a husband-and-wife Indian team of volunteer doctors. We ate our meals with them because they were hosting us and because there was literally no other place to eat. There was no community nearby; these people were just out in the middle of nowhere. (Why the clinic there? I couldn’t tell you. Apparently someone decided it was centrally located to someone!)

The wife doctor did the cooking. Every meal was the same: rice and beef in an Indian curry. Now let me tell you, that curry was hotter than anything you have ever experienced. I had flames coming out the base of my skull after eating that stuff. Not really, but you get the idea. It was super super hot. I did manage to eat the first meal, but after that, I truly couldn’t eat it.

I grew up the minority in another culture, and I am hyper-aware of the importance of honoring other people’s ways and customs. I didn’t want to offend the doctor by not eating her food, but I actually just couldn’t manage it. I put a couple of small chunks on top of the rice on my plate, cut them into tiny pieces, and ate them with the rice. This reduced the heat somewhat, and I survived like that the whole week.
And that is my lasting memory of the Week With the Doctors. I do not remember anything else at all.

Hurray for white rice!

Real Estate Investing, Kuchen and Raw Fish

I was reading an interesting blog post the other day talking about Dolf de Roos and his real estate investing info. Truth be told, I was considering a little real estate investing myself, but I kinda gave up on the idea after I realized how much money I’d probably need to get started.

Even more so is that I have always dreamed of owning places all over the world. I mean seriously, can you imagine honey pots in Paris, Costa Rica, Bora Bora, Vienna and Berlin?

I can. 🙂

That’s what got me looking into the whole thing in the first place. Since Dold de Roos considers himself a “citizen of the world” I thought I might learn a thing or two from him. He apparently has invested in real estate all over the world and made a fortune doing so…..ah the idea of making a fortune.

Anyways..

Whenever I travel, I like to try out local foods. Food is such a part of culture, and how can one really experience another culture without diving into its culinary realm?

When I was in college, I live for three months in Germany. I was there with a group of American students, so it wasn’t a total-immersion experience, unfortunately, but I did find some in my group that wanted to get as close to that as possible, so we worked on developing friendships with some of the locals in the town. We met them through an English conversation program that we helped with.

We were super excited when these new friends would invite us to their homes for cake and coffee.  Germans are known for their Kuchen—especially the layered variety—and our friends always made the best of these. We would go to their homes for a couple of hours, make conversation in our stumbling second-year German, and try not to inhale their desserts too quickly.

The place where we were based was a youth hostel at the top of a hill, accessed by a steep cobblestone street. Herr Muller, who ran the hostel, was himself a Master Baker. Every morning we had cheese and crusty white rolls for breakfast. And maybe once a week, he’d make us his most excellent layered Kuchen. We were very lucky to have a Master Baker providing our meals!

When we went on excursions and were let loose for lunch and dinner, I and my friends always searched for out-of-the-way cafes and restaurants where we’d be least likely to run into obnoxious American tourists (!!).  They made us cringe. Plus, we wanted as genuine a German dining experience as possible.

We usually found these experiences in Ratskellers—pub-like restaurants that were below ground level, underneath what were formerly city hall buildings. I remember them typically with stone floors, heavy-beamed ceilings and somewhat dim lighting.

We tried all different kinds of foods in the Ratskellers, including raw fish. I never acquired a ravenous taste for this, but I did order it several times, and felt like I’d done my best to experience that sector of German cuisine.

It always helped to finish off the meal with a large slice of Kuchen and a cup of coffee.