Postcards of Argentina (Part 1)

image When we first arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week, we weren’t sure what to expect.  Then we discovered the explosion of color in the Boca area famous for its working class neighborhood; the friendliness of the locals including those who stopped us in the street to give us directions; delicious grilled meat everywhere; and the melange of European culture found in a fascinating city like BA.

Here are some snapshots of our first week:

 

"Parilla" or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it's so tasty and super cheap

“Parilla” or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it’s so tasty and super cheap

 

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

 

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.  Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes.   Fun!

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes. Fun!

 

 

If you ever want to treat yourself…take a cooking class in Maine!

imageI treated myself this month and took a cooking course all the way up in Camden, Maine for a few days.  Initially, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if everyone in class was going to be uber amazing with their cooking skills, but as it turned out, everyone in class was very humble, friendly and open to learning.  Hands down, this was the BEST cooking course I had ever taken.

Reason #1:  We got to pick our own vegetables from their garden to make our food.  Not only was Salt Water Farm cooking school right on the water with a distracting gorgeous view, a beautiful expansive garden surrounded the building.  Yes, get on your hands and knees and start picking the kale, lettuce and herbs – we have to make a garden salad!

Pick our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

We picked our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

Our finished product:  a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Our finished product: a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Reason #2:  The cooking class was more than just cooking techniques and knifing skills.  We also discussed the importance of good organic eating and how best to buy the right products that are the healthiest for us and the environment.  (mental note:  remove Kraft macaroni and cheese from my cupboard – pronto)

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

Reason #3:  The instructor Annmarie was so patient as us “type A” New-Yawkers and Bostonians in the room peppered her with questions all at once.  She was so patient and she always answered with such great detail.  I learned a lot!  Including how to make the crust on this delicious blueberry pie.
imageSeriously, it was the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had.  When we all had sat down to eat later, I was tempted to get a second piece but I didn’t want to look like a pig!

imageSo overall, the class was great and I learned a lot about seafood and cooking procedures.  Did you know that you can bake a fish in the oven for just 6 minutes and then it continues to cook for a few more minutes after you take it out of the oven?  all this time I’ve been over-cooking my fish and smelling up the apartment.

The best part about the course was that I never felt it was too complicated or difficult to replicate at home.  Super easy and I can’t wait to try the recipes at home.

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid.  Super easy!

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid. Super easy!

One last note…I almost didn’t make it to this course.  Why?  I was faced with taking a small 6-seater plane from Boston to Rockland and I freaked out.  I was so afraid!  Alas, good weather and a patient pilot who let me sit behind him on the plane, plus an elderly woman who held my hand saved the day and I arrived safely to take my cooking class.  Yeah!

Smallest plane I've ever been on!

Smallest plane I’ve ever been on!

 

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