Eating a Japadog in Vancouver and other food highlights

These mussels are to die for - so fresh and delicious.

These mussels are to die for – so fresh and delicious.

One of my favorite pastimes when I visit Vancouver is EATING at all my favorite restaurants.  I tick off the food on my “to eat” checklist during my limited days in Vancouver.  Plus I pair the eating with meeting family & friends, and voila!  I couldn’t be happier.

1.  Best Mussels Ever – Blue Canoe (Steveston, BC)

When my sister Sharon and I first tried these itty-bitty pieces of heaven last year, I demanded that we come back again.  The mussels in cream sauce melted in my mouth.  We were told that their seafood including their mussels are caught fresh every morning and with the restaurant right on the Steveston dock, you can’t get fresher than that.  The fries were also fabulous.

2.  Best Value for Breakfast – “The Boss” or Dai Ban (Metrotown or Chinatown)

My mom and I have been going to “The Boss” for years, just for breakfast. Where else can you get two fried eggs, a small piece of steak, a breakfast bun, a small bowl of noodle soup & a tea for $6.50? This Hong Kong style cafe reminds me of NYC diners with the multi-page menus serving all kinds of international food 24 hours a day.  To top it off, the food tastes excellent and it’s mine and my mom’s favorite breakfast place when I visit.

I remembered years ago when my hubby Eduardo first went to Vancouver to “meet the parents”.  He must’ve passed with flying colors because my mom pulled me aside after the first day and said “Let’s take Eduardo to ‘The Boss’ restaurant.”  The rest is history.

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

3.  Best Exotic Hotdog – the Japadog Food Truck!

Admittedly, when I heard that Vancouver now has a Japadog food truck, I found it odd.  So off we went to check it out in Kitsilano, where the brightly colored truck sat on the curb.  I perused the menu.  Shrimp tempura nestled between 2 buns? (My niece Jadyn tried it – not too bad!)  Yaki soba in lieu of the hot dog?  I finally picked the one I did want called “Okonomi” with teriyaki sauce and bonito fish flakes that decorated the juicy sausage.  My sister Sharon tried the Terimayo with teriyaki sauce, seaweed and mayonnaise on top.  Yum!

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

The list goes on and on…chances are you’ll get a fab meal at most places in Vancouver.  Richmond is famous for their Chinese cuisine and it’s also very affordable. Sushi restaurants galore – Ebisu in Richmond and Vancouver is a crowd-pleaser.  I also dined at a tiny local sushi place in Dunbar with my friend Jenny and the fish was so fresh and tasty that I didn’t want to leave.  East is East has the best chai tea and my sister Sharon and I loved their lunch  thali specials.  Ahhhh….Vancouver never disappoints!

 

 

Top 5 Highlights of the Canadian Debut Book Launch of The Same Sky

DSCN3982After a successful book launch in New York of The Same Sky followed with a travel storytelling event in June, Vancouver was next.  My old stomping ground!

At first, I thought a handful of family members and friends would come, but we ended up with 45 people last Wednesday!  Wow, I felt so blessed.

 

What a great turnout!

What a great turnout!

Top 5 Highlights:

Highlight #1:  Great support from family and friends including childhood buddies I hadn’t seen in 26 years!

Susie, me and Lisa - first time in 26 years!

Susie, me and Lisa – seeing them for the first time in 26 years!

It was great to see my family there especially my parents who heard the final reading about my grandmother’s death as part of The Same Sky.  How cool that my loves ones could be there for me.  And that some of my childhood friends turned up for it!

Highlight #2:  Awesome readings from Henry Lee, Jai Yehia and Adelina Wong

I loved how the other readers at my event did a fantastic job sharing their travel stories.  Jai’s wonderful piece called “Should I Take Off My Shoes at Pol Pot’s House?” was about Cambodia with reflections on it’s not-so-distant genocidal past, while also ending on a positive note about the optimism of its people.

Both Adelina and Henry also reflected on questions about home, identity and belonging in their pieces – Adelina about her expatriate life in Budapest and Henry about his contemplations on life while watching a sun set in Chile.  All very touching.

Highlight #3:  Now my mom wants to write a memoir

My parents

My parents

The next morning after the Vancouver book launch, my mom shared how she stayed up late thinking about her own past and that she would like to capture her life lessons and experiences on paper.  I was touched that my book launch stirred up a motivation for my mom, who is relatively private about her tough childhood, to write about her life.

Highlight #4:  I sold 90% of my books!

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Highlight #5:  Fantastic Q&A moderated by Jenny Malcolm

If you can believe it, Jenny first flew out to NY to moderate my Q&A during my first book launch.  I welcomed her back to do it again in Vancouver.  She did great!  The questions asked by the audience were excellent:  will I write a second book?  What has been the long process of writing and capturing my thoughts over time to complete the book?   What are some harrowing lessons learned when traveling?  Thanks for the awesome questions!

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I’m so thankful for all the support from everyone in my beloved hometown Vancouver.  Stay tuned…next year, we hope to run The Same Sky Cafe, a night of travel storytelling!

 

 

 

My Last Day…After 7 Years

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We were given the “key” to the Beijing office.

After I said my goodbyes and stepped onto the elevator, I cried.  Big huge tears rolled down my cheeks, and I was surprised at how emotional I got.  7 years at my job!  And today was my last day.

I started at APCO in 2007 and I was hired to build a corporate university so that employees could take classes, sharpen their skills and become stronger consultants.  There wasn’t much training in place then, and it turned out to be the most challenging yet rewarding job I’ve ever had in my life.  I’m really proud of the APCO University we built.  And I hope that the learning will continue long after I leave.

Me teaching a class in Shanghai

Me teaching a class in Shanghai

Then there were the friendships which spurred me on when things got rough.  You get so close to people you work with day in and day out.  That’s the hardest part about leaving a job because you get used to venting with a colleague who can sympathize more than anyone else can.  You develop a connection, a bond with certain people, and long lasting unforgettable memories are formed.  Like the countless hours spent together to perfect a program for delivery.  Or how my famous nickname Webbie Dong was first created after an office manager in New Delhi got my name mixed up.  And the countless retelling of hilarious stories, including that time in Shanghai where someone reported out loud that a Chinese colleague couldn’t come to class because she had “diarrhea”.  No one noticed the absurdity of what was said except for me and our American COO.

At my farewell happy hour, my co-worker Liam made a sign of my famous nickname

At my farewell happy hour, my co-worker Liam made a sign of my famous nickname

Or how i experienced two earthquakes during my time at APCO:  at a  Beijing training where we felt the rumblings of the famous China earthquake miles away.  Half the participants ran out.   I clutched onto Philip who thought he was dizzy from jet lag when really the room was shaking.  The second earthquake was in DC when my co-worker Laurel and I suddenly saw our table move, and this time, I ran out.  Ah my earthquake buddies.

I will miss my colleagues.  It feels like leaving a family sometimes when leaving a job.

I’ll start my new job at Bloomberg in September and to be honest, I’m scared to death, yet excited.  I’m also rather irritated that I have to build work relationships all over again – why can’t I just bring my current colleagues over?  I know, I know.  Change is good.

Last week, out of the blue, my stepdaughter Prescilla said,  “You’re so outgoing.  Don’t worry.  You’ll make so many  friends at your new job.”  I was touched by that.  It’s true – I’ll make new friends.  And at least, in the meantime, I can still keep my old ones.

 

I love how goofy we can all get

I love how goofy we can all get

 

 

Introducing My New Favorite Animal: The Sloth

Check out the beautiful smile on this sloth!

Check out the beautiful smile on this sloth!

When we went to Costa Rica, one of my highlights was discovering…the sloth!  It appears to be so peaceful and cute with its beautiful smile.  Its activities pretty much hold true to its name:  it uses very little energy to hang out in trees and it crawls at a snail’s pace from one place to another.  In fact, during one of our hikes, we discovered a three-toed sloth crossing the road.  I stared at it for 30 minutes – it moved about 12 inches.  Watch out for its claws which can cause some serious damage if you get too close.

I actually begged and pleaded with my husband to get one as a pet but alas, a lazy slow-moving sloth trapped in a NYC apartment wouldn’t have been cool.

Sloths are interesting creatures.  3 Fun Facts:

1.  Most two-toed and three-toed sloths live only in Central and South America and they eat mainly leaves.

2.  Although they’re super slow on land, they’re actually amazing fast swimmers in the water.

3.  Once a week, they climb down from the trees and poo / pee in the same spot and then climb back up again.

Swinging sloth - this guy can stay up in the trees for days.

Swinging sloth – this guy can stay up in the trees for days.

How long does it take for a sloth to cross the road?  Apparently a VERY long time.

I spent 30 minutes staring at this sloth crossing the road.  It moved about 12 inches.

On a Quest for Tea Cups When I Discovered Olives, Cheese and Nuts

How much Turkish Delight can one get in a scoop?

How much Turkish Delight can one get in a scoop?

On my last day in Istanbul, I turned the corner from the Galanta Bridge and discovered the Egyptian Spice Market.  I needed to find these cool looking tea cups I saw at my hotel.  They had wide grooves for your thumb to balance a hot cup of tea so that the hot liquid wouldn’t slip onto my lap.  The restaurant staff said to go to the Egyptian Spice Market which has been around since 1664 – you can find anything you want.

No kidding – this market was packed with everything under the sun for sale:  nuts, cheese, Turkish coffee, olives, and of course spices.  Every section of the place that took more than an hour to traverse through was a reminder of the unique aspects of Turkish food that made each one of our meals in Turkey so special.

Our first stop was a shop that sold fresh slices of goat cheese cooling in a see-through case.  Phenomenal chunks of cheese decorated our salads every day and I only wish I could’ve brought back buckets of cheese to the U.S.

Goat cheese galore!

Goat cheese galore!

And the olives!  My husband and I gorged on them throughout our trip down the west coast of Turkey.  They melted in our mouth.  Every region had their own special olives and the owners proudly displayed them in jars with their signature labels on the front.  Prior to coming to Turkey, I always thought there were two kinds of olives: green or brown. I discovered so many different types of olives, each distinguishable by taste and texture.  Now at this market, the colorful olives, glistening in olive oil, sat in buckets as the vendor stood over them bellowing out prices.

DSCN3434 When we turned the corner, I smelled morning coffee.  Several stalls in a row sold fresh ground coffee and my husband fought to get in line for a bag. Then another row of stalls that sold nuts and more nuts.

And what about the tea cups?  The outer perimeter of stalls featured cups, saucers, tea pots and anything handy in the kitchen.  “No, I don’t want to buy 100 of them,” I said as clerks pushed for me to purchase in bulk.  I flashed a picture of my unique tea cups, but no one seemed to know.

Too many nuts to choose from

Too many nuts to choose from

I almost gave up when I spotted the special thumb-grooved tea cups on a bottom shelf and while I was at it, I bought a beautiful tea pot to go with it.  Arms loaded with our bounty from the market, we were now ready to go to the airport for the long trip home.  I was sad to say good bye to my market that was a refreshing reminder of every special food I ate throughout my trip.

Finally, I found my prized tea cup!

Finally, I found my prized tea cup!