Recipe: Locro (Traditional Ecuadorian Dish)

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

This yummy dish can be found in multiple food traditions throughout various countries along the Andes mountain range in South America. Typically eaten in the winter, this Ecuadorian version of the soup is made with vegetables including but not limited to corn, beans, and potatoes and your choice of cheese. Check out this simple recipe and try it for yourself! Enjoy!

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Photo and Recipe Credit: http://www.food.com/recipe/locro-ecuadorian-potato-cheese-soup-455951?photo=370161

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Servings: 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1⁄4 cup oil or 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 1⁄2 onion, minced
  • 3 -4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1⁄2-2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups water or 4 cups stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup muenster cheese, queso fresco or 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS

  • Step 1: Heat the oil or butter over medium flame in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic and simmer until the onion is translucent.
  • Step 2: Stir in the potatoes, water or stock, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Step 3: Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are falling apart, 30-45 minutes.
  • Step 4: Mash the potatoes up a bit with the back of a spoon to thicken the soup, leaving it a little chunky.
  • Step 5: Remove the soup from heat and stir in the cheese.
  • Step 6: Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

Variations:

  • A handful of corn kernels are often added to this soup. Use about 1 cup and add after the soup has simmered for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Chopped avocado is often used as a garnish.

Recipe: Xinjiang Lamb Skewers

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

This traditional dish from the Northwest region of China and some areas of Central Asia is perfect for a nice day of barbecuing. These lamb skewers are packed with quite a spicy punch, thanks to the abundance of recommended spices, that is sure to fire up your taste buds! Pair this with some nice grilled veggies and a cool lemonade and you will have yourself quite the picnic. I borrowed this from the particularly passionate food blogger Lady and Pups’ webpage, so feel free to take a look and see what all the fuss is about: OLD BEIJING LAMB SKEWER. The instructions for this recipe are pretty fancy, so either follow these recommendations or think up your own!

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Recipe and Photo Credit: http://ladyandpups.com/2014/07/01/old-beijing-lamb-skewer/

Ingredients:

  • Lamb skewer:
    • 13 oz (370 grams) of lamb meat
    • 6.3 oz (180 grams) of lamb fat
    • Marinate:
      • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
      • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
      • 1 1/2 tsp of fine rock salt, or sea salt
      • 1 tsp of ground white pepper
      • 1/2 tsp of chili flakes
      • 1/4 tsp of baking soda, optional
    • Spice mixture:
      • 3 tbsp of whole cumin
      • 2 tbsp of chili flakes
      • 1 tbsp of garlic powder
      • 1 tsp of fine rock salt, or sea salt
  • Garlic chive pesto:
    • 7 oz (200 grams) of garlic chives
    • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
    • 1/4 cup (26 grams) of toasted walnuts
    • 1/4 cup (54 grams) of olive oil, plus more to adjust
    • 1 clove of garlic
    • 1 tsp of ground white pepper
    • 1/3 tsp of fine rock salt, or sea salt
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon

To make the garlic chive pesto (can be made the day ahead):

Step 1: Preheat the top-broiler on high (or your grill).

Step 2: Wash off any dirt/soil on the roots of the garlic chives, and shake off as much water as you can.  Evenly toss them with 2 tbsp of vegetable oil, then lay them flat over a baking sheet, preferably in a single layer.  Place it about 2″ (5 cm) under the broiler, and grill until the first side is slightly charred.  Turn them over and grill the other side as well.  Transfer the grilled garlic chives into a blender, with toasted walnuts, olive oil, garlic, ground white pepper, rock salt or sea salt, and lemon juice.  Blend until the mixture is smoothly pureed.  Add more olive oil to adjust consistency if needed.

Step 3: Transfer to an air-tight container, and cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidizing.  Keep in the fridge until needed.

To make the lamb skewer:

Step 1: Cut the lamb-meat into tiny bite-size pieces, and the lamb-fat into 1/2 of that size.  Toss them in the marinate until very evenly distributed (especially if you were using baking soda).  Let marinate for at least 2 hours, to overnight (this can be done the day before).

Step 2: Preheat the top-broiler on high (or your grill).  Roughly crush whole cumins in a mortar (or chop with knife), then mix evenly with chili flakes, garlic powder and rock salt or sea salt.  Set aside.

Step 3: Starting and ending with a small piece of lamb-fat, skewer the lambs alternating in meat and fat.  Arrange the skewers over a baking-rack, set over a baking-sheet.  Place the skewers 1″ (2.5 cm) right below the broiler.  Grill until the first side is browned, then turn them over and brown the other side.  It’s important to have enough heat to brown the meat without over-cooking.  Each side shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes.  If you can’t get enough char on the meat before it over-cooks, torching it on the side always works.

Step 4: Once cooked, remove them from the oven, then brush each skewers with the fat that’s rendered and collected in the baking-sheet.  Boldly cover each skewer generously with the spice-mixture, and return under the broiler just until the spices start to sizzle.  Turn the skewers over and repeat (DO NOT burn the spices or it’ll be bitter).  Re-season with more rock salt or sea salt if needed.

Step 5: Serve with the garlic chive pesto immediately.

Recipe: Chicken Tagine with Couscous

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tagine is a traditional Moroccan slow cooker dish. Cooked with your choice of various vegetable and/or fruit combinations, this meal proves to be a rather healthy selection that is bursting with flavor. In this particular recipe it is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Add some couscous, another important facet of Moroccan cuisine, and you are well on your way to a very satisfied stomach. Enjoy!

ChickenTagine

Photo Credit: http://dartahrya.com/restaurant/

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 5 hours

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup couscous


Directions

  • Step 1: Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken pieces and eggplant in the heated oil; stir and cook until the chicken is browned on all sides but not cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Step 2: Place the browned chicken and eggplant on the bottom of a slow cooker. Layer the onion, carrots, dried cranberries, and apricots over the chicken.
  • Step 3: Whisk together the chicken broth, tomato paste, lemon juice, flour, garlic salt, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and ground black pepper in a bowl. Pour the broth mixture into the slow cooker with the chicken and vegetables.
  • Step 4: Cook on High setting for 5 hours, or on Low setting for 8 hours.
  • Step 5: Bring water to boil in a saucepan. Stir in couscous, and remove from heat. Cover, and let stand about 5 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Serve.

Recipe Credit: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-tagine/

Recipe: Pavlova (Traditional Australian Dessert)

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

This yummy treat is a meringue cake that has a crispy crust but a soft and light center. Pavlova are Christmas dishes typically topped with things like kiwi, strawberries, and other colorful fruits. If you are familiar with ballet then you might have recognized that this scrumptious dessert is said to be named after the amazing Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova (February 12, 1881 – January 23, 1931) who performed in both Australia and New Zealand in the 20’s. Check out this recipe so and see if you can recreate a delicious Pav for yourself! ENJOY!!!

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Photo & Recipe Credit: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/19217/traditional+pavlova

*Note the measurements have been converted.

Prep Time – Approximately 30 minutes

Cook Time – 1 hour

Difficulty – Easy

Servings – 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • **Pinch cream of tartar
  • 10 oz thickened cream
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar mixture
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g strawberries, hulled, sliced
  • 2 kiwifruit, peeled, sliced
  • 150g blueberries

**Cream of tartar increases the volume of egg whites when beating and gives the Pavlova a crispy crust.

Directions:

  • Step 1: 
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mark a 8-inch circle on the paper.
  • Step 2
: Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add caster sugar. Beat for 10 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Add cream of tartar. Beat for 1 minute. Spoon mixture onto circle. Using a palette knife or spatula, shape into a circle with high sides. Make ‘furrows’ up the sides.
  • Step 3: 
Bake for 1 hour or until firm. Turn off oven. Allow to cool in oven with door slightly ajar.
  • Step 4: 
Using an electric mixer, beat cream, icing sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Place Pavlova on a serving plate. Top with cream mixture and fruit. Serve.

The Wonderful World of the “Untranslatable”

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Have you ever had a feeling or felt an emotion that, when asked to describe it, you couldn’t find a single word in your own language to explain it? Does an action or feeling trigger a memory or a funny/cute/interesting stream of consciousness in your mind? Well you are not alone! In fact, this phenomenon of “untranslatability” is quite common across all cultures. Here are a few intriguing examples of feelings, emotions, actions, and situations that are deemed “untranslatable” from around the world. See if you can think of any others!

                              GERMAN                                                                                    JAPANESE 

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               found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-5

                          SWEDISH                                                                            RUKWANGALI (Bantu Language)

                                          found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-9found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-11

                            KOREAN                                                                                 INUIT (American Indian)

                                          found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-23found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-24

      TSHILUBA (Bantu Language)                                                                           YAGAN (Indigenous Australians)

                                                  found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-25found-in-translation-untranslatable-words-illustrations-anjana-iyer-30

 

Photo Credit for the Above Photos: http://www.boredpanda.com/untranslatable-words-found-in-translation-anjana-iyer/


SPANISH                                                                                    YIDDISH

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Photo Credit for the Above Photos: http://www.boredpanda.com/cute-illustrations-untranslatable-words-marija-tiurina/

PORTUGUESE

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Photo Credit: http://piccsy.com/2013/11/photo-131ce81c5

HoA aLoHa: KUIS Hula Dance Circle

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Original Post Date: 6/14/13)

At the start of the semester, as with any new school year, school clubs and circles began accepting new members. One of those was Hoa Aloha – a self-proclaimed hula circle. I wasn’t sure of the validity of their skill, not that I have any of my own to speak of nor expert knowledge of this cultural activity that they take part in, but I thought it’d be fun to do in my free time. The day they were holding a meeting for newcomers I stopped by and while I was there Tina (Christina), one of the other study abroad students who actually is from Hawaii, was on her way to practice with the school’s volleyball team. I stopped, hoping to get her honest opinion, and asked if she could tell me just by looking at them practice if they were legit. I have no foundation or standard by which to compare these girls except from what I know out of movies (which are not the most reliable source to learn about a group of people). She stood in the doorway a moment then turned to me to say, “Yes, I think they are pretty good.” They proved to be capable of many hula styles so I was hooked . . . and the rest is history.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been learning the dance that us beginners will be performing sometime in my last week in Japan. This’ll be the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill one of the goals on my LIFE bucket list. I’d hoped to do this on a potential trip to Hawaii but maybe if I go I can impress them with this little number. It’s still in progress but when I hear the song we’re going to use – He Mele No Lilo (the opening song from Lilo & Stitch) – I just get so happy because I feel like I’m participating in such an amazingly awesome group.

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These girls really work very hard at what they do. They practice several times a week doing dances they learned on their own (no instructors here!) and have fun doing something beautiful with good friends. To me, they are the true definition of family with the way they treat each other. Our senpai are some of the most caring and fun people I’ve ever had the pleasure to look up to. I respect them so much because they don’t look down on us beginners. They pay close attention to detail when it comes to their craft and do their best to make sure that everyone in the group is on the same page. What’s more, they are so kind and accepting of me in all my foreignness. I’ve not felt such warmth and happiness while being involved in a group since high school (sports, etc.). I cannot wait to don my tube top and official skirt and wow the crowd with this crazy cool bunch of girls!

#SpreadAlohaAroundYou

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(That’s me on the far left edge of the group!)

Golden Week Day 2: Sunday, Cultural Sunday

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Original Post Date: 4/30/13 from Tokyo, Japan – on one week break from school travelling in Seoul, South Korea)

13:37 – Upon re-researching all of the places I wanted to visit around Seoul today, I came to the realization that nearly everything is well within walking distance of each other (about 5-10 minutes). After arriving at Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station I headed to Jongmyo Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and went on a tour that only cost about $1 (~1000 KRW). I learned about some early Korean history and facts that are central to this place. For instance, from the entrance to various parts of the shrine there is a tiered walkway with the center tier marked off as a place that people cannot walk on because it’s for the spirits of the royals to walk on (the shrine is dedicated to them). Also, there are two ponds with a circular island in the center that represents the Earth and the square that surrounds it represents the universe. One pond had a beautiful 150-year-old Juniper tree in the middle.

Cultural Excursion Map

Map of Jongmyo Shrine

I’m at Unhyeongung Mansion, a former residence of an important figure, doing a 30-cent self-tour and it’s amazing! I can’t even imagine living in such an open-air residence. Just inside, an older woman walked up to me and asked where I am from. I told her the US and then she invited me to a traditional Korean wedding at 14:00. She said, “I hope you will enjoy it!” I hope so too because I fear that people will think I’m strange for being an underdressed, unofficial guest.

14:20 – I can’t understand what’s being said but what I can comment on is the ceremony and the ritualistic nature of the wedding. It feels like religion is deeply embedded within the rites. The bride’s dress is really colorful and bright while the groom’s outfit is dark and stoic. No one seems to have a problem with my being here. Besides, I’m not the only person who wasn’t officially invited; many have come and gone already. The official is an older man with a sweet chanting voice and I think the female MC is narrating what he says.

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Bride and Assistant

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Bride and Groom Before Their Family

Two ladies assist the couple and, like all weddings, the photographers are swarming them. Periodically everyone starts laughing – this isn’t a purely solemn ceremony. The bride has had her hands in her sleeves for the most part, only taking them down from in front of her face to perform the rites and again to hug each of the mothers after the couple bows to salute the parents. I wish them all the best. I’d never have seen this in my lifetime. After a long day I’m satisfied and happy that everything worked out. There probably won’t ever be a reason for me to visit Seoul again and I’m determined to make the best of my three days here.

Doing vs. Living: A Self-Realization

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office (Original Post Date: 4/4/13 from Tokyo, Japan)

Today we had a “Learning Strategy” workshop with the staff of our program to show us that receiving an education here in Japan will be different than in America. The previous presenter told us that the goal of our program is “Japan Literacy” – getting to know the language and culture of Japan. There were three categories that represented levels of competency:

  • Level One – an individual who doesn’t know Japanese, doesn’t have any way to use Japanese but knows a few things from the culture => i.e. an anime fan
  • Level Two – a person who conducts business in Japan/with Japanese people and has a basic understanding of greetings and set phrases
  • Level Three – an individual who has a full understanding of both the culture and the language and is capable of using that knowledge

flash_card___aisatsu_by_hatenaki_yume1Photo Credit: https://tamachi22.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/aisatsu/

My immediate thought was where do I fit in? I was never really a huge fan of anime (one biased stigma about those who choose to learn Japanese), I am obviously not a businesswoman at this point in my life, and I definitely cannot claim a complete understanding of everything Japanese. So where does that leave me? If I have no place then why am I here?

The speaker went on to say that there are three methods of understanding to be achieved here:

  • Socio-cultural – how to function amongst Japanese people while following cultural and social norms
  • Socio-linguistic – how to use the language correctly in the appropriate situation
  • Linguistic – understanding the nuances of the language

She said that the first two aren’t really things that can be fully accomplished in a classroom but, as any language learner should know, combined and individually they are very important for successful interaction.

Here’s the self-realization part.

Last week, I had a conversation with Hannah, one of the other students in the program. We discussed our experiences with Japanese and she explained that she’d been living here since last semester. She mentioned that she had about two years of language study experience but stated that she really improved after being in Japan for so long. It hit me that while my seven years of Japanese linguistic/cultural education isn’t useless, it’s definitely been missing intense practical application. I had only been ‘doing’ Japanese.

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Photo credit: https://gamcho.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/finished-my-first-japanese-novel/

I may have had a longer history of being drilled on grammar, vocabulary, and cramming for tests, but Hannah was literally ‘living’ Japanese – absorbing everything in her daily life as a student in Japan. Not that my past Japanese teachers didn’t do their best in teaching me (I wouldn’t be where I am today without them). But they couldn’t provide constant exposure.

While I surprisingly tested into the highest level, there is of course always room for improvement and I have every intention of doing so by ‘living’ Japanese here. This workshop ended with, “You are in control of your own learning. How do YOU want to learn?” I challenge everyone studying abroad to think about this message but also to have fun!

それじゃまたね!_l
Photo Credit: http://deco.galman.jp/keyword/じゃまた/

International Cuisine – A European Food Tour

While you’re studying abroad and dabbling in the various aspects surrounding you, one of the most important ones to consider are the delectable goodies and treats offered in your new host country culture. Though it’s easy to turn to the familiar American comfort that reminds you of home, such as; hamburgers, pizza or a big ol’ burrito, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and explore all of the delicious cuisine!

When I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden I got to try so many traditional Swedish meals and snacks. Additionally, as I traveled to other countries and cities in Europe, I made it my mission to try at least one traditional (or popular) food item from each of the places I visited. So, are you ready for a European food tour? Here are the top ten most delicious foods I experienced in Europe (in no particular order)!

 1. Sweden – Köttbullar (Meatballs) 

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If you’ve never been to Sweden, but if you’ve been to IKEA in the U.S, you’ll notice that a very popular Swedish meal is meatballs accompanied by boiled potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce. Meatballs are a staple in Sweden and eaten regularly. I had them almost every week during my time there! The meal is hearty and of course incredibly tasty. Add a side of Daim pie if you want a treat twice as special.

2. Croatia – Fusi Pasta 

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Believe it or not, Italy isn’t the only famous country for its pasta. In Croatia, specifically the region of Dalmatia, pasta is a very popular dish and is often handmade and dressed in various ways. This pasta, called fusi pasta is a heavier in texture and can be described as a crossover between a typical noodle pasta and gnocchi. The pasta had a creamy spiced sauce, fresh vegetables and fish for an extremely affordable price! The restaurant also provided gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea at sunset.

3. Spain – Seafood Paella 

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Paella is a Spanish rice dish seasoned with saffron. While in Barcelona, I chose to try the seafood paella. Inside the paella were shrimp, mussels, lobster and scallops. This dish is extremely flavorful and oh so very filling. Definitely set me up for a much-needed siesta afterwards.

4. Denmark – Plaice and French Fries 

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The Danes have a huge affinity for fish since they are surrounded by sea. During a trip to Copenhagen and a stop in Tivoli gardens I decided to try the popular dish of breaded filet of Plaice, french fries and remoulade. Plaice is a type of flounder that is fried similar to a catfish fillet. The Danes like to use remoulade sauce instead of tartar sauce to accompany this hearty meal. The remoulade sauce is a bit sweet and tart but incredibly delicious!

5. France – French Macarons 

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French macarons are one of the world’s best desserts! They’re delicately made and flavored with infusions ranging from coffee, mocha, pistachio and rose petal. My favorite macarons are the pistachio ones. These serve for a perfect afternoon treat to satisfy that sweet tooth. And if you’re ever in a major city, look up La Duree, French luxury bakery they have the BEST macarons around.

6. Sweden – Kanelbullar 

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As you may remember from a previous blogpost, fika is an extremely important staple in Swedish life. A fika is typically deemed as a “coffee break” for people to catch up with each other and enjoy dessert or something tasty together. Read more about fika here. My favorite fika item is the kanelbullar, which translates to “cinnamon roll.” BUT, the Swedish kanelbulle taste much different than American ones. Rather than being slathered with frosting, kanelbulle are sprinkled with crystal or pearl sugar. But, the thing that sets these goodies apart from all the other cinnamon rolls is the flavor and spice. Kanelbulle are seasoned with black cardamom. Cardamom has a very potent and distinctive state, and without it, Swedish kanelbulle wouldn’t be the same.  Check out this recipe I use to make them at home here.

7. France – Croque Monsieur and French Fries 

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In France, croquet monsieur is a very popular snack. Its essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with delicious béchamel sauce. I enjoyed this one with a sweet view of the Eiffel Tower!

8. Russia – Rice, Beef and Piroshki (stuffed bread-rolls)

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During our first day in St. Petersburg we decided to jump right in! We visited a traditional Russian restaurant on Nevsky Prospekt (the main street in St. Petersburg) and ordered the daily lunch special. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the Russian name of the meal but on the menu was white rice, cooked beef and some sort of sweet and sour tasting red sauce and bread rolls. An awesome thing about the rolls in Russia is that they are always filled with something and are almost never just bread. Mine were filled with potato and the other with cabbage and ground beef. Awesome introduction to Eurasian cuisine!

9. United Kingdom – Crumpets 

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Although the most typical British meal we all know and love is fish and chips, a popular breakfast food in England is crumpets! Crumpets are sort of like pancakes and are made from yeast, and are essentially a fluffier English muffin. Brits often dress up their crumpets with butter or jam and of course, a cup of tea. Yum!

10. Spain – Bocadillos (Montaditos)

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In addition to tapas and their other world-famous foods, Spain boasts these delicious treats called bocadillos. Bocadillos are essentially crusty, spanish bread topped with any of the toppings or fillings that your heart desires. We visited a very popular bocadillo restaurant called 100 Montaditos, where on Wednesdays any montadito is only 1 Euro. These make for a perfect snack at any time of day.

So, am I the regretful mess like I thought I would be?

Guest Blogger: Dolly Ahmad, Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

I arrived in Istanbul just over 8 hours ago, and have been in my apartment for 6 hours. I thought it would be pretty clever if I posted the conversation me and my sister had just now because I pretty much just recapped everything eventful that just happened, and to answer the question that is on everyone’s mind; is Dolly a regretful wreck like she thought she would be? It would be like the Picasso of blog posts. And would NOT be inspired by laziness, pshh….(goes on to copy and paste convo)

Well that didn’t work out, but believe me I tried, and I am going to leave that paragraph up there so you guys know how much trouble I go through for you all ;)

Lets start with the flight: My first flight landed in London, I had a WINDOW SEAT!!

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Aww yehh I never get those. Then then then my neighbor ended up being another study abroad student except she was from Harvard so she was almost as good as me. Kidding, she was actually super super friendly, we quickly started talking. We were even asked to convert to Mormonism together and took the MTD BUS that takes you from one side of London Heathrow airport to the other together. It was quite chill. Then we parted ways, and I felt the cold breeze of loneliness.

When we landed in Turkey, I had the biggest stupid smile on my face getting off of the plane, and that is VERY unlike me so I must have really felt great at the time. Or was it sleep deprivation? Either way, I was incredibly happy to be in Turkey, just immediately. Then my excitement turned into anxiety when I was looking for the lady I was supposed to meet, a good friend of a cousin of mine. But my anxiety was short lived because I found her extremely quickly! Somebody must have done amazing dua for me because I had the easiest time ever in my journey, alhamdulillah. These are really just a few examples.

So the lady I met, named Zehra, turned out to be the loveliest person ever, period. She was SO SWEET and incredibly selfless, it was a true blessing to have met her. We ended up taking a subway (“metro”) then a bus then a taxi to get to my apartment from Ataturk International Airport. Which ended up not being…too terrible…, but, I was not prepared to be plop in the busiest part of the city, lugging my fifty pound suitcase + more luggage through flights of stairs to catch the bus. The number of complete strangers that grabbed my bag and attempted to help me with my luggage was incredible and left me so touched that it ended being well worth the struggle.

We were so relieved when we were finally at the apartment, and I was ECSTATIC when I saw how lovely the apartment was. These pictures dont do it justice, but I will upload them anyways because I promised you fools more pictures.  Click here for photos.

Downside; it is ON THE FIFTH FLOOR WITH NO ELEVATOR! But then again, I won’t be spending precious time here going to the gym so we’ll call it my daily workout.

After I put down my bags, me and Zehra went to go eat, which, like the taxi and bus rides, I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO PAY FOR! What a selfless person. Zehra treated me better than I will probably treat my future kids, it was just too nice. Too too nice, I didn’t deserve any of it. We parted ways but made plans for the weekend.

And then I came back to my apartment and I officially met one of my roommates, who is great. And she told me that she is meeting with a lady tomorrow TO GET A KITTY!!! Except they are afraid that the kitten will fall out the window since we are so high up and the house is well endowed [with windows], and said windows do not have netting as a barrier and will be open during warm whether since we don’t have air conditioning…:( I hope I never have to witness that.

I really need to tell you all about the neighborhood and its streets and how much I LOVE IT, it is incredibly charming and reminds me faintly of streets in Saharanpur, my hometown in India. But I want to take decent pictures before I go on and describe it, so please ya’ll wait.

I’m so enchanted by Istanbul right now, its beyond incredible. I can’t even explain, there is just nothing not to love, and so far I’ve had what seems like very powerful duas working in my favor (thanks everyone). So hopefully that answers your question regarding the title of the post :)

Please stay tunedd because next time I will grace you with pictures of Rumeli Hisarustu, my lovely but hill-y neighborhood that I am OBSESSED with! I stuck my head out the window and stared at it for 15 minutes, taking it in. The neighbors threw a shoe at me. (jk) I’m actually afraid pictures might not do it justice, it is more of an experience than just a visual. Like you have to be able to smell the kabobs from the hundreds of restaurants here while walking down an acute angle-type hill to really appreciate it. But I will try and convey the beauty of it to you all :)

Time for some sleep.

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