Steak Tar Tar – Been There, Done That, Don’t Need To Try Raw Meat Again

One of the biggest things anyone who knows me well can tell you is: I am a super picky eater. I rarely admit this fact, but when you actually look at what I’ll eat its a fairly narrow range. No meats other than pig, chicken, or beef.

Pig because an evil piglet tried to eat my toes. Chicken because a hen decided to step on my head at 3am in the morning. Both of these I eat because my inner idea that the animal is too cute to eat has been destroyed by an unfortunate member of their species. And cow… oh cow… so cute, but too damn delicious not to eat (yum, steak!)

But if you think of any other meats – I dont eat them. Rabbit? Thumper. Deer? Bambi. Crab/lobster? Sebastian. Fish? Flounder. Basically Disney movies ruined me. And veggies – I’m even worse with veggies. Basically anything that isn’t lettuce, tomato, carrots or cucumbers (which I only started eatting recently) are pretty much off the menu. At least with fruit I am kind of good, but even then I don’t eat mangos or many East Asian fruits. Trust me – all of this is normally a HUGE suprise to my friends once they realize how picky I really am.

For being a self-described ‘open minded eater,’ I really don’t eat much.

However I have one rule – I will try anything once (hence me having eaten bat, kangaroo, and gator before. And deer when I was a kid, but thats because my parents didn’t tell me what it was). Well, actually two rules – if I am at someone’s house and they feed me things I wouldn’t normally eat, I eat them anyway to be polite. AKA how I ate steak for the first time and realized it was freaking amazing.

All this leads me to today’s story. Many of my friends who have lived in the Netherlands told me I absolutely had to try this one special dish – what I didn’t realize was, it was a sandwich of raw pork. But I tried it. And can say I’ve done it once. And will never attempt to again.

Thinking it was the last time I would eat raw meat, I was like ‘okay, great, we good now.’ Haha, no, I wish. My Belgian friend, Anaïk, informed me I absolutely had to try a special dish made with steak tartar while I was here. To be honest, until she told me what it was, I didnt even realize ‘tartar’ meant raw. But like I said – I will try anything once. 

The taste wasnt actually that bad – it was the consistency that caused me to gag more than a few times. Anaïk of course found this funny. But now I can officially say I have eaten  both raw beef and raw pork – so no more raw meat for me! (Sorry chicken, I’m not giving you a raw meat trial. The only raw food I’ll eat now is if a friend drags me to sushi – no big surprise, I dont like raw fish either 😂😅)

BTW Dad – I’m still alive.

My Savior: Brugge

A few days ago when I realized I had given myself only 5 days to see 4 cities in Belgium, I messaged my friend Anaïk to see what she thought of me skipping Brugge. Her response? ‘You are kidding, right?’ Which aptly quashed my thoughts to skip the city.

And as you could probably tell from my limited post yesterday – Gent (or Ghent in English) has not been a favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful city and I have met five awesome people there – a couple from New Jersey traveling the world like I am; two Aussies who I nerded out with about Australia and traveling; and a really nice American who had the misfortune of losing her passport one week into her month-long trip.

But Gent, as a city, has been very…dead (something they admit was an after effect of a cruel emperor torturing the heads of the city, causing them to leave and all the citizens to follow back in the middle ages.) Nowadays, unless you want to go get drunk with the college kids, there isn’t much to do besides Museums and walking around aimlessly. Brugge is totally different.

Within an hour of getting to Brugge, I randomly found a parade which I followed around to the three big churches (one of which I had gone to and they followed me a few minutes later.)

I ate lunch by the Belfort while being serenaded by the marching band in the square. It was absolutely wonderful.

After lunch I went to an extremely interesting Museum which recreated what the city looked like in the 1400s, and had a virtual reality system which followed the story of how goods got into the port city in the old ages. My heart honestly skipped a beat when the system sent us flying over the city – it said, ‘I hope you are not afraid of heights’ and despite my efforts to get over my fear, unfortunately I still am.

Before leaving the city, I stopped to rest my feet at a little cafe on the way to the train station (which, btw, I have yet to get lost in Brugge. You can follow the crowds everywhere you need to go. And the chocolate!! There were chocolateries everywhere!!) I decided to get a coffee at the cafe, and they happened to have apple beignets. Now, after being first introduced to beignets in New Orleans at Cafe DuMonde, I am super weary of trying them anywhere else. OMG, these apple beignets rivaled Cafe DuMonde!!! Needless to say, I sent a photo of the beignets to my parents to tease them.

Overall conclusion: thank god Anaïk talked me into going to Brugge, it is definitely one of my favorites of the trip so far. If only I had planned more time there!

I Finally Understand My Belgian Best Friend

The very first week of Orientation for UBC, I met a girl who would become one of my best friends (I would tell the story of how we met, but I’m pretty sure she would kill me for that 😜😂). Her name is Anaïk, and she was one of the only people at UBC that year that, a) had lived in the Southern United States, and b) drank as much as me. She wasnt born in the US, though. She was born in South Africa to Belgian parents, and eventually moved back to Belgium, and later to the USA. And ever since we met, I’ve been saying over and over, ‘I want to see your country!’ Well, five years later, I finally am!

My very first thought was ‘holy crap this place is beautiful!’ Where the Netherlands has farms all throughout the countryside, Belgium has quant little towns. And I really love it here – just I have discovered one thing. Anaïk has always been a very cleanly, dont-break-the-rules type of person. I finally understand why.

It was always the running joke that Anaïk refused to cross the road before the sign turned green – one time ending with our friend picking her up and carrying her across the completely empty road. I have been in Belgium a full 12hrs and have yet to notice anyone jaywalking. Now, maybe this is just the city I am in, but I think it is actually just cultural.

Even at dinner, a cute family was sitting next to me, the father cut up the daughter’s hamburger so she could eat it with a fork (according to Anaïk, this is just something they do for the little kids. But I can personally attest to seeing Anaïk do this with a pizza!) So my official conclusion – every quirk I ever joked with Anaïk about can officially be attributed to her Belgian culture. ❤️ (and therefore I’ll try to respect it more, Anaïk!!😘)

Also – Belgian beer tasting tonight. Holycrap I love the beers here. Stella can’t hold a candle to real Belgian beer! I now also understand why Anaïk drinks as much as me. 🍻🍺🍻

P.S. Dad – I’m a little tipsy, but still alive.

The Randomness of My Adventures

When someone says ‘The Hague,’ the first thing anyone who studies International Relations (IR) will think is ‘international law’ or ‘the International Criminal Court (ICC).’ So naturally, as an IR nerd, I decided to come to the Hague to visit the ICC Headquarters.

Now, since I got epically lost again on my way to and from the ICC, I was going to write about that. But on my way to the Peace Palace from the ICC, I happened to sit right next to a woman I had seen in the ICC. And she happened to talk to me, and invite me to lunch.

It turns out she is from Korea, working at the Korean Embassy in the Netherlands, and was visiting the ICC as part of her job (since Korea is a member state).

For the next two hours, we had an absolutely brilliant conversation about politics and how we both have gotten to this point in our lives. And all I can think is – ‘Holycrap. If I had not gotten epically lost and had to turn around to take the train back the opposite direction, none of this would have ever happened.’ So the two comments I have for the day are:

  1. Get lost. Get epically lost and find random things (or people!) Because inevitably those will be some of your favorite memories of your trip.
  2. OMG IR FRIENDS – YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE HAGUE!!!! (Side note – how in the world have I made it through 13 years of Model UN and a degree in IR but never learn about the International Court of Arbitration past knowing it exists?

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive.

You Have No Idea How Badly I Wish I Understood Dutch Right Now

For those who aren’t following my Snapchat story (no Dad, you cannot add me on Snapchat to follow this too. There are some boundaries I refuse to cross.), I got epically lost today. Amsterdam I could manage(ish), but Den Haag? Nahhhhh.

To start – I missed the train stop on my way here from Amsterdam. I ended up taking the train all the way to Delft only to realize my mistake; jump off the train; and catch the next one back towards the Hague while hoping no one checks my ticket. Or if they do, that they chock it up to me being an idiot American.

Finally I arrive at Den Haag HS station. I assumed it would be like Amsterdam where it was obvious where to buy a tram pass – it wasn’t. 10 min later, I finally find someone to ask, successfully buy the ticket, and rush to the tram to get to my hostel. May I just say, if my hostel didn’t literally have a red carpet (well, in this case, orange), I am pretty sure I would still be wondering around with my 50lbs giant backpack.

After attempting to get directions to where I was planning on eating dinner, I ventured back into the giant city for dinner. This was the beginning of my end. I thought I was following the instructions I had found to get to the dinner place, but about 20min later I was in the middle of god-knows-where, 100% sure that I had gotten completely lost.

Thankfully, I have been in Europe enough to know the best way to find out where you are is to look in the sky for a giant pointy church steeple and try to find your way there, and then you can probably find someone who will tell you where you are. So I looked in the sky, pinpointed the highest steeple, and started walking towards it. And I found a GIANT building.

From the signs, I figured out I found the ‘Binnenhof’. Its basically this giant, gorgeous building, with a huge pond on one side, that has a courtyard in the middle – where the church/castle thing is. And from all the security and the diplomatic-plated cars, I’m assuming this is a government building and someone special was visiting today.

I’m currently now sitting on the other side of the Binnenhof, in the ‘Plein’, at a resturant with wifi googling how to get back to my hostel. Lets see how lost I get on my way back!

Update on Father’s obsessive need to talk to me: He hadn’t heard from me all morning (I didn’t have wifi), so I get a whatsapp message when I get to the hostel – “What’s the plan for the day?” (Bear in mind it is 430pm at this point). By the definition of ‘overprotective’ in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure there is a picture of my father.

And, BTW Dad, I am still alive – found my way back to the hostel eventually.

A Sobering Comparison 

Today I decided to feed my inner International Relations nerd by visiting a series of museums dedicated to WWII and the Holocaust – including the Anne Frank House. Pretty sobering experiences on their own, they were made even more so by the striking similarities between the events of WWII and those of today.

To start, you have your ‘charismatic’ leader – Hitler for the 1930s and Trump for present day (although personally Trump’s limited vocabulary and lack of knowledge for current events makes him seem more dumb than a kindergartener to me – which is an insult to kindergarteners.) But regardless of my opinion, people support him enough for him to have the possibility of becoming President of the United States.

Now for the more disturbing part: to get to this point, Donald Trump has spewed a series of racist, homophobic, hateful ideas in multiple campaign speeches, many of which members of our population have wholeheartedly agreed with. His accusations that all Muslims are terrorists and all Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers strike a disturbingly similar tone to the hate speech of Hitler towards the Jews and Gypsies.  Muslims have become our modern-day Jews – blamed for everything even though the vast majority are responsible world citizens (bear in mind 23% of the world’s population are Muslim, and over 80% of this population does not support ISIS according to a recent poll); and Hispanics our modern day Gypsies, entering borders illegally as they are not allowed to travel any other way, only to be met with disdain everywhere they go.

Whats more, Hitler – Freudian slip, correction: Trump has even shown a disregard for disabled peoples, having mocked a disabled reporter during the primaries. He even had the gall to insult a Gold Star Family – something I doubt even Hitler would dare to have done.

Now, you may be reading this and think – ‘Well that is a jump – Hitler actually killed people, Trump is just talking crazy’ (or heaven forbid, you are reading this and somehow agree with Trump’s comments.) But bear in mind, Hitler was elected too. And during his election speeches, he held back, speaking mainly of the evil Jewish people were believed to be responsible for. Even Hitler wasn’t as blatantly warmongering as Trump:

  • Case one – Trump’s declaration that he would kill the families and children of suspected terrorists, an action that is strictly forbidden by the Geneva Conventions – which, if you didn’t know, were based off the events that occurred in WWI and WWII.
  • Case two – Trump advocating for the torture of captured individuals, also internationally outlawed by legislation inspired by the events of WWI and WWII, and given up by the US due to a significant domestic backlash after the leaked photos from the Abu Ghraib prison, and significant evidence that torture does not work.
  • Case three – Trump’s taped confession [though is it really a confession if you are bragging about it?] to multiple counts of sexual assault (a federal crime outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) With absolutely no remorse for his actions, neither then nor now.

I could go on. But I digress… (And yes, I do recognize that these were  common practice before becoming strictly outlawed, but Hitler made a point of never outright condemning Jews, or any others, to death during his election; his speeches mainly focused on fuelling feelings of hatred and discontent during his campaign and in his early years in office.) It is just disturbing to think Trump is going down the list in a ‘First they came for the Socialists’ manner (if you don’t understand this reference, note the quote at the end of this post.)

Yes, our society has progressed far enough that proposals for concentration camps would be met with immediate horror and disgust (though I thoroughly believe there would be a sector of our society in favor of such a proposal for Muslims.) But have you ever stopped to compare the conditions in overcrowded, underfunded refuge camps to those of the concentration camps?

Or worse – compare the guaranteed death many refuges face should they return to their ISIS-controlled homelands to the death guaranteed by the gas chambers? By denying refuges access to international safe havens, we are repeating the past mistakes which, in one case alone, condemned 254 passengers of the MS St. Louis to their deaths (imagine how many people we have condemned in the 5year Syrian ‘civil war’? Quotation marks because the battle as evolved to one between not just the state and the civilians, but also non-state actors such as ISIS. [They are not recognized as states because then it gives legitimacy to their claim that they rightly deserve to brutally govern the people in their illegally controlled territories – illegal because they aren’t a state]. However, since the conflict only involves one state, it is therefore still considered a ‘civil war’ despite spilling over Syria’s borders. )

And then there are the claims Trump has made regarding mass deportation. Will this deportation take the form of so many before it, where those being deported die on their journey? Or are denied basic human rights? Will they be forced to leave at gun point? Ride on cattle cars, stuffed inside like animals, like the deportations of the Holocaust? Even more practical, will we spend vast amounts of money to deport these ‘undesirable people’ rather than spend that money on the poor and impoverished US citizens?

Its sobering, it is all extremely sobering. And scary. Going through exhibit after exhibit, all I could think was, ‘Has my country really come to this? How can we be the nation with the largest Holocaust Memorial Museum and yet support someone who mirrors Hitler so significantly?’

This post is in no way supporting any candidate – I dislike all candidates in this election, I’d much rather have Elizabeth Warren vs. John McCain instead. (Then at least we’d have two well-liked, knowledgable, qualified politicians as candidates.) But that is not what this post is about. This post is supporting America – the America that feeds on hope, not hatred. That was created for religious freedom, not persecution. The melting pot that blended so many cultures together, succeeding in creating the largest economy in the world (which still maintains a GDP greater than all other nations in the world, despite our economic downturn.)

I implore you. Do not focus on the fact that you hate Hillary. Do not focus on the fact that you dislike the political norm we have today, which – no question – has failed us. Focus on the risk we face of electing a modern-day Hitler. I don’t give a damn who you vote for come November 8th, just don’t let it be the candidate who has repeatedly mimicked the most brutal leader in modern history.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


A First Introduction to Amsterdam

First of all – my backpack is bigger than I am. How is it so full? I’m seriously questioning that right now too since I tried to pack as light as I could… But the first mental image I give you for today is of me, 5foot6inches tall, hobbling down the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam, struggling to carry a 3foot long bag in my feeble attempt to figure out where the hell my hostel was.

Second of all – once I finally found my hostel, it turns out it is literally right in the middle of the Red Light District. What is worse – it is a Christian-run hostel that absolutely forbids drinking, drugs, or really enjoying any of the things around us. (I’m using this as my motivation not to go into a coffeehouse and forget to leave in two days.)

I think my favorite part, though, is the neon red storefront next door with half naked women enticing passersby into their chambers (I may or may not have been watching too much British television before I left Vancouver). Or the storefront down the road with photos of naked women littering the windows. Funny story – despite being warned about the Red Light District, I was a bit shocked when I figured out I was staying right in the middle of it – at a religious hostel no less – and stopped on a random corner to text my parents about the situation (At least if I get kidnapped, Dad will know exactly what district I was staying in!) As I’m standing there, people keep staring at what I thought was me. Then I turn around. Turns out, right behind me there was a giant poster of a completely naked woman and a display of sex toys right next to her. I mean, I’m open minded, but even I was like ‘………..’

Well, at the very least, this entire experience is one hell of a story! And I’ve gotten some pretty amazing photos out of it!

P.S. Dad – I’m potentially scarred for life, but I’m still alive.

The Golden Circle and an Attempt to See the Northern Lights

Today was one of those days where I had to act like a tourist. At 8:30am sharp, I boarded a bus with the travel company ‘Reykjavik Sightseeing’ and set off to see one of the wonders of Iceland – the Golden Circle. I would go into a ton of detail about all the cool sights, but I have a flight at 7am in the morning and I skyped my father earlier today, so today’s post is just going to be a series of selfies:

A Selfie between Two Continents: Standing between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

A Selfie with the Drowning Pool: Drekkingarhylur.

A Selfie with the Original Geyser: Geysir.

A Selfie with a Glacial River Waterfall: Gullfoss Waterfall.

Up close and Personal with Gullfoss.

A Selfie with A Explosive Crater: Kerið.

The Northern Lights tour got cancelled tonight due to bad cloud coverage, so no cool photos of that for this trip… Oh well, it just means I’ll have to come back!

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. With photo evidence this time.