Thursday, April 07, 2005

souvlaki! Posted by Hello

dinner with Nikos! Posted by Hello

great meal with new Greek friends Posted by Hello

Greece: a culinary paradise

Foreign travel has always been one of my passions in life, and, like most people, sampling new and exotic foods is one of the most exciting part of any trip. On my recent trip to Greece, I was blown away by the cuisine and I miss it already.
One of the most well-known staples of the Greek cuisine is the Greek salad, which is a simple but heavenly mix of vegetables and cheese. It is usually piled high with tomatoes, onions, olives, and maybe cucumbers, and then, of course, topped off with a humongous chunk of feta cheese. A piece of feta cheese that size would probably cost several hundred yen in Japan, so the cheese alone makes the price worth it. It's intimidating to see all that cheese on a salad, but if you are sharing, it will disappear quickly. Another famous Greek staple is souvlaki, which is essentially pita bread stuffed full with lamb or chicken, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, a lovely sauce of yoghurt and garlic. Obviously, souvlaki is terrible for your breath, but wonderful for your tummy! Despite rising prices in Greece, you can usually get a souvlaki for around 1.5 euro, which makes for a filling and economical lunch. If you want coffee with your meal, however, add 3 more euro--twice the price of your lunch!
What I especially liked about Greek cuisine was the approach to eating. Although Greeks tend not to eat dinner until the unbearable hour of 9 or 10 at night, the wait is well worth it. Greek food often consists of a series of mezes, which are small dishes to be shared. This makes eating in Greece a much more communal affair than in the US, as people share everything when they eat, similar to eating in a Japanese izakaya. Eating is very casual and enjoyed, as people stick their forks straight into each dish and place pieces of bread right on the table.
Another great aspect of the Greek approach to eating is if you wash everything down with ouzo, the most famous Greek alchohol. Although this drink has the unique and acquired taste of black licorice, it goes surprisingly well with food. It goes to the head quickly, so it is guaranteed to make dinner conversation livelier and more interesting.
Finally, despite constantly stuffing my face while in Greece, I always felt like I was having a healthy meal. Greek food is full of vegetables, seafood, and the good oil (olive oil), so you could eat a lot while feeling like you were giving something good to your body as well.
Again, eating is the highlight of any trip, and I will daydream of Greek cuisine for months to come...

Tigers fever!

Many people probably think that I just jumped on the Tigers bandwagon and became a Hanshin Tigers fan after moving to Kansai last year. But I have rooted for the Tigers since the late 90s. The funny thing is, I became a Tigers fan while living in Hokkaido. Even funnier, I got introduced to the Tigers and their crazy fans by an Australian! (It's not every day that an Australian teaches an American about baseball...) I had been to a Japanese baseball game before, but found it kind of boring. The next year, however, my good Australian friend in Sapporo talked me into going to a Tigers game, promising me that they have the most interesting fans in Japan. Well, I was instantly hooked! I fell in love with the passion of the Tigers fans, and I have been a fan ever since. After going to the game on a Saturday afternoon, I liked the atmosphere so much that we went back the next day for another game. I love to see people who are passionate about something, and being surrounded by passionate and crazy Tigers fans is always a treat.
By the way, it's very mysterious, but I have become a good luck charm for the Tigers! Dating back to that first game I saw in Sapporo in the summer of 98, I have now been to seven Tigers games. Miraculously, they have won every single game! The Tigers have never lost when I have gone to see their game. Perhaps the team should treat me to season tickets? If there are any Tigers fans out there in my classes--and I'm sure there are!--let's enjoy a game together someday! I guarantee the Tigers will win!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

the always smiling and helpful Nepali soliders Posted by Hello

with Nepali English teachers Posted by Hello

in the Kathmandu Valley Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Nepal travels

I finally visited the majestic country of Nepal this February. I am attracted to any country with big mountains, so of course Nepal was Heaven for me! Nepal was one of the most unique trips of my life, due to the recent political problems there. In a nutshell, Nepal is on the verge of civil war, since the Maoist rebels are controlling a lot of areas in the countryside. They are fighting against the king and want to make Nepal a better country. I don't know enough of the details to pick sides.
Just a couple weeks before my trip to Nepal, a strange incident occurred in the country. The king suddenly fired all his cabinet and then cut all the phone lines in Nepal for almost a week. For almost a week, Nepali people couldn't communicate with the outside world. It was a scary situation, but I went ahead with my trip anyway. My desire to go there was too high. In the capital of Kathmandu, I didn't get the sense that there was danger in the country. I felt sorry for the locals, as the political problems had scared most of the tourists away. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Nepal, so this is a huge problem. Despite this economic situation, I found Nepalese to be amazingly gracious and animated people with a love of life. I made many new wonderful friends who I can't wait to see again. I hope things don't take a turn for the worse, and many people can travel to see this wonderful country...