Hi! I just wanted everyone to know that Mia Mangos has officially moved and changed its name! Come check out Mia & Pup! See you there!
There are those weeks where you really find your place in a city. This was the case for us last week. It was the week of Fiestas Patrias. These are the celebrations to commemorate the start of the independence of Chile (September 18-19). For as long as I can remember, my mood has been pretty easily influenced by the moods of those around me. It can be a really good thing (like in a yoga class) or a really bad thing (during stressful situtations). This time it turned out to be a great thing. The energy was high, and there were smiles all around us. People were excited to celebrate their culture, and since I am a quarter Chilean, it was so special to learn the cueca, eat some traditional foods, and sip on the national drink. Parks were full of families, the air was filled with the smell of the asados (barbeque), and music flooded every square inch. Derek has been practically foaming at the mouth to hear some live music, so this was a welcomed experience for us both. Parque O’Higgins is the largest fonda in all of Santiago, so we knew we had to check it out. We ended up going back twice, so we could experience it during the day and night!
^This was the main stage where all of the larger bands and acts performed. It also turned out to be the location of a few cueca competitions and some special moments (like this girl and her grandfather below)!^
^The cueca was everywhere! This is the national dance of Chile. It is pretty simple in terms of the basics, but we saw some people adding their own creative flair to the steps. This sense of national pride and tradition was a high point for me, and it made me think of my grandma. She was born in Chile, and I wonder what fondas were like when she was living in Chile. I can’t wait to hear her stories!^
I have officially crossed the bridge into my late twenties and celebrated my 26th birthday yesterday. Those 26 years have been full of lessons, tears, belly laughs, and new experiences. This past year, in particular, has been such a whirlwind. Since September of last year we have moved from China to the US to Chile! I figured I would share with you 26 things I have learned by being an expat (expatriate). But first, I wanted to say thank you for all of the kind words on social media over the weekend for my birthday. You really know how to make a girl feel special! 🙂
1. Body language does not always work. I used to think that I could get by with using a lot of body language to get my point across. While it does work most of the time, it definitely is not a substitute for learning the local language!
2. Making mistakes is okay. There is no way to learn a language without making a fool of yourself a few times. I have asked for six prostitutes in China while trying to order some baozi (steamed buns). I’ve also asked for one noodle of fabric instead of a meter. But these always end in laughter, and I never forgot the correct word again.
3. The whole world does not speak English. This can, unfortunately, be a crutch for us native English speakers. Sometimes we just assume that everyone in the world has learned English in school, so they must be fluent. That is not the case, and it is such a reward to learn and use a new language.
4. Immersion is the best way to learn. I love learning new languages, but I get frustrated when it doesn’t come quickly. I really need to just relax. However, I have learned a few things about speeding up the acquisition process. Fully diving in to a language is the best way to learn it–reading books in that language, talking with native speakers, asking people to correct you, listening to music, watching the local news, etc.
5. Humor is totally cultural. I can’t count how many times I have either given or received a blank stare after a joke. The more Derek and I travel, the more I realize that funny really depends on where you are.
6. Travelling doesn’t need to be expensive. Derek and I are full time educators, so we don’t have overflowing bank accounts. However, we’ve still travelled to many places and have never felt like we’ve missed out. We splurge on things that matter, and we save on the things that don’t.
7. Hostels are not scary. Despite what those terribly graphic flicks told us, hostels are not damp, creepy places. We have made some great, lifelong friends by staying in hostels and conversing in the living spaces. Plus, they are the best bet for budget travelling!
8. The world is pretty small. It doesn’t matter if we are on an island in the Phillippines or walking down the streets of Santiago. We always end up having a crazy run-in with someone. Just two months ago, Derek was running in the park and ran into two girls from South Dakota! They were only in town for one more week, so the chances of seeing people from our home state was so slim.
9. People don’t always get it. It is really hard to try to explain to people why we travel. Sometimes people don’t get why we do what we do. Sometimes people aren’t very supportive of it. That happens. It is bound to happen. I just wish I could truly explain the joy and the rewards in a few words, but I haven’t found the perfect ones yet.
10. The people who invented video calling are the best. If it weren’t for Facetime, Skype, and Google Hangouts, I would be a mess. We talk to family at least once a week via video calls. It is so comforting to see the faces of the people we love. It really makes the distance easier.
11. The same for WhatsApp and social media. Say what you will about social media, but I can’t imagine our lives without it. We are able to keep up with what is going on halfway around the world with the people we love most. Also, we don’t have to spend outrageous calling and texting fees, because Brian Action and Jan Koum combined forces to create a free service just for reasons like this.
12. Language isn’t a barrier for friendship. Though it can be difficult to communicate all the time, we have made so many friends that don’t speak English fluently…or at all. It shouldn’t be a reason to miss out on a potentially great friendship. We’ve learned so much from friends around the world. One time I made dumplings with a student of mine in China. My Mandarin is extremely basic, and her English level was beginner, but we made a recipe from start to finish together and then went on a double date after with Derek and her boyfriend.
13. Researching a country’s etiquette is a must. Every place in the world has a different way of doing things. This is not saying that we have to totally change ourselves to visit a place, but we do need to be respectful of customs and cultures. For example, in the US, people almost always rub the Buddha’s head or belly for luck, but to rub the head of anyone (especially a buddha statue) in Thailand is considered an extreme insult. If I hadn’t researched that, I would have offended pretty much all of Chiang Mai. Plus, it just adds to your knowledge base of the world, so bonus!
14. Vegetarian does not mean the same thing everywhere. In Asia, I would ask for my meals without meat. It would come with pork or seafood on it a lot of the time. They didn’t consider these to be meat. If you are vegetarian, definitely find out exactly how to say what you need, so you don’t end up with a bad experience.
15. Americans say thank you a lot. In the US, we use please and thank you for pretty much everything. In some cultures, they thought we were pretty weird. In China, for example, people do not say thank you for common courtesy things like opening a door. However, we still did. That is pretty ingrained in us.
16. You can never judge a person by their government. While a country’s government might be a stark contrast to your opinion, its people are a different story. Each person is completely unique, and we can never be too quick to judge based solely on where they happen to live.
18. Open-mindedness is essential. It is impossible to travel with a closed mind. Well, I suppose it is possible, but I would highly suggest opening it before going anywhere. There have been so many experiences that I would not have taken if I had tunnel vision. A go-for-it attitude is kind of necessary, especially in cultures that bring you the most culture shock.
19. Culture shock doesn’t always hit you right away. In China, culture shock didn’t really hit me until we had been living there for over three months. I think I had rose-colored glasses for a while. Culture shock isn’t always necessarily negative either. Sometimes is smacks you in the face with something amazing.
20. Cooking is a true art form. I have always enjoyed cooking, but I would not say that I am anywhere near being a chef or a foodie. I love learning how to make different local recipes from the countries we visit. Like art, cooking has so much history, culture, and many stories to tell. There’s a reason for each step, and if you skip one, it just won’t taste the same. I love watching people cook traditional dishes, because it makes me imagine their ancestors doing the exact same thing while following the exact same recipe.
21. Some places are great to visit, but not so great to live. This is definitely a personal thing. Each country and culture offers so much, and where feels like home really varies person to person. Every place we’ve visited or lived has offered us amazing experiences that will be cherished for a lifetime. That being said, not all places are meant for us. Some places we want to visit again, but living there isn’t an option.
22. Material things just don’t matter that much. Before travelling to China, I was pretty materialistic. I didn’t think I was, but in retrospect, I’ve discovered that about myself. Derek and I have a storage unit that was jam packed full of items from our life together in the US. We had totes and totes of clothes, home decor, etc. (And, mind you, this was AFTER we downsized!) Those things were the things we had to have. Then we went to China. The best example I can think of is our arrival and departure. Upon arrival, our employers put us in a hotel (for free!). I remember I complained about the bathroom. I thought the place was pretty dingy. Then, after we lived there for 13 months, we returned to the same hotel to help a new coworker settle in to her new life in China. I went in the same bathroom, and I said, “Wow! This bathroom is so nice. I love the sink.” In only 13 months, my mindset did a complete 180! I stopped with the bigger is better, and I now try to have a minimal lifestyle, and we enjoy decorating our house with pieces that hold special significance to us.
23. Staying in touch is hard, but it is also the most important thing. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to keep in touch with friends. I have to remind myself to write an email or send a message. While I am always thinking of my friends, I sometimes forget to tell them. So, to any of my friends reading this, I will be better! I think of you often, and I appreciate you more than you know!
24. Being late is not so bad! I am notorious with my friends for always being late. It is a family thing, and it has always been that way. While I try as hard as I can to be on time for events or meeting with friends, I always end up at least five minutes late. In Abu Dhabi was the first place that this was a normal thing. People kind of had a fluid relationship with time. Oh, we said 3:00? Well, it’s 6:00, and they are just arriving. I really enjoyed this lifestyle. It was more carefree, but I will try to be on time for my punctual friends!! 🙂
25. We really need to cut down our carbon footprints. Travelling to different cities really showed me how much of an impact we make on the planet. In some cities it was difficult to see across the street due to the smog, while in others you could see for miles. It really makes a difference, so we should all try to keep Earth healthy! Check out an easy DIY project here.
26. We really aren’t that different. As cliche as this sounds, it is so true. If we look past the superficial, people are not that different. We all want happiness. We all strive for success. We all smile, cry, laugh, fight, and love. The way in which we do these things may be different, but that is not what matters. I can’t express how much these travels have changed me and my viewpoint on the world. I hope we can all experience a new culture, or at least befriend someone who has a different nationality or native language than our own.
^photo: Mint Afternoon’s Etsy Shop^
What have you learned from travelling? If you haven’t yet, where would you love to go?
So yesterday we talked a little about what coffee culture looks like in the USA and the UAE. The second part of this coffee date will explore Chile and China.
There is something about South American coffee that really brings me joy. It has a distinctive taste, and it just seems fresher. Cafes are pretty much everywhere you look here in Santiago, so it has been a fun adventure to test and compare. In Chile, coffee is enjoyed at all times of the day from the early morning to the late evening. All of the coffee shops that we’ve tried have either been outstanding or serve Nescafe (or, as I’ve been told, it is referred to as “No es cafe” here – hehe).
Something I just recently discovered is pretty quirky but carries a bit of history. I’ve seen cafes all over Santiago that have completely blacked out windows. While I’ve never ventured inside one, I did find out the scoop. Apparently Chile is one of the only places that has cafe con piernas (coffee with legs). The servers are female and wear “revealing” clothing. The traditional uniform is a mini-skirt with heels, but, at a few, the girls wear bikinis or lingerie.
China really isn’t known for its coffee culture, but I figured I would touch on it either way. We spent most of our time in the northeastern regions of China, so I cannot speak to what it is was like in the south. There were cafes all over the city, but most served Nescafe style coffee. Also, it seemed to me, that the coffee was an afterthought for foreign visitors, because there were usually five pages of teas and about three options for coffees. But, they always had the cutest, tiniest desserts!
That being said, we found some pretty great coffee shops. The eclectic Chinese decor style made these fun, and most had small moleskin notebooks that were left open for doodles and quick messages. It was really interesting to look through at all the different languages in these books. We actually loved one coffee shop so much, that we decided to take our one year anniversary photos there. Thanks again, Kelly, if you are reading this! We love your creative ideas and images! You rule! 🙂
Our morning confidant…
That magical liquid that lifts our spirits on the most sluggish of days…
An aroma that fills the home with the smell of productivity….
Yes, I am talking about coffee. It comes in many forms, and each person (and culture) has his or her own way of taking it. Derek is an iced coffee guy, and I’m all about the soy lattes. But in the morning, all I need is a little cafe con leche to kickstart my day! I’ve noticed that in every place we visit, the culture surrounding coffee is immensely different, so I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast a few for you. But as I started writing this post, I quickly realized I’d have to separate into different posts. So today, we have the USA and the UAE.
Coffee: (kɒfi) noun | synonyms: joe, java
- a hot drink made from the roasted and ground bean-like seeds of a tropical shrub “a cup of coffee”
- the shrub which yields coffee seeds, native to the Old World tropics
United States of America
The US is interesting, because I have noticed two separate cultures growing here. The first being the fast-paced, need-to-have-it-now lifestyle. The to-go cup has almost become a fashion accessory in modern American culture, as you can’t go a full scroll through a social media page without seeing one paired beautifully with a fitting hashtag (#butfirstcoffee, #coffeecoffeecoffee). Also, these popular coffeehouse chains, from Starbucks to Tim Hortons, have become the perfect place for a quick, informal meeting or quick get-together with a friend. The drive-thru ease of these chains make getting your coffee easy, and you don’t really need to slow your pace to do so.
The second fits more with the creative force that is dominating the US right now. These are the coffeehouses, or shops, that treat coffee beans as an artisanal ingredient. They may or may not have a drive-thru window, but that isn’t the reason people frequent them. These are the places you go to see a poetry slam, open mic night, or to meet up with a study group and savor the flavors in the cup. They are the places where just getting your cup of coffee (and seeing what design the barista created in it) is an exciting experience. Some look like chem labs, while others have a fresh air of eclectic charm. They are almost always locally owned, most have an emphasis on organic or free-trade products, and each offers a different experience unique to their location and clientele.
^photo from one of my favorites: Coffea Roasterie^
United Arab Emirates
My trip to the UAE was too short. I loved every minute and enjoyed immersing myself in a culture so foreign to my own. Not only was the culture different, but the coffee was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It was spicy and reminded me more of tea than coffee. However, as the weeks went on, I started looking forward to my afternoon cup. Yes, I said afternoon. It was not a common thing to enjoy coffee in the morning in the UAE. Coffee was more of a social thing. People gather together after work or school in the late afternoon to enjoy tiny cups of Arabic coffee. It is a time to catch up and reflect on the day. The vessels are beautiful, and I could not wait to get my hands on my own set. The coffee was always served with dates. The sweetness from the fruit was a nice combination with the spicy coffee. I’ll be sharing this recipe with you next week!
The coffee culture in the UAE started with the bedouin lifestyle in the deserts. People would boil the coffee (which they still do today!) over the campfire and sit under the stars or in large tents enjoying the drink and conversations. I quickly learned the etiquette of Arabic coffee drinking. It is considered extremely rude to decline the cup of coffee. You should always take at least one cup, and when you are finished, you shake the cup from side to side in your right hand. As I usually use my left hand for eating and drinking, I had to retrain myself while in the UAE.
Check back for part 2 of this post tomorrow! What is the coffee culture like in your country or city?
Transforming a brick wall or piece of concrete into a masterpiece isn’t something just any of us can do. It amazes me every day when Derek and I walk the streets of Santiago (or any large city) and see the amazing pieces of art whose creators, for the most part, remain unknown. To me, these are true artists. They create, not for the glory, but for the sake of creating. Each piece, from the beautiful to the strange, renders a different feeling. A few brighten my day, others leave me scratching my head, and some of the political pieces make me feel that I should become more involved. These are a few of my favorite pieces from around the city of Santiago, Chile.
photo 1: near Universidad Catolica | photo 2: near La Moneda metro | photo 3: near Barrio Lastarria
So what do you think? Is street art your “type”? Do you prefer Bansky or the anonymous? What city boasts your favorite pieces?
“Start Before You’re Ready” could not be better advice! I am feeling so motivated and want to share it with you! This week has sparked something in me to just get going. I have had this idea inside my head for a long time but lacked the confidence to make it happen. So, I am excited to share with you that I have joined forces with my super artistic and talented sister to start CaMia Studios. At this point, we’ll be tiny, but I’m hoping we can eventually grow. Do you see that Shop page in my menu up there in my menu bar? It will soon be filled with items for your perusing pleasure. I don’t want to spoil it all right now, because we are still a work in progress. (Feel free to sign up for Posts in Your Inbox over in the sidebar to receive more information and first word about products!) I’ve been playing around with logo colors! Please let us know in the comments which number is your favorite.
BONUS: If you have your own blog, are thinking of starting one, or just enjoy social media and creatives, then you should definitely check out the new PIPPIT app! I just downloaded it last week (for free!), and I am so excited about it. Have fun and come find me there!
Watercolor seems to be the medium of the moment for me. Everywhere I turn, I see beautiful combinations of colors that would be perfect for a watercolor piece — the mountains in the distance, a perfect sunset, blossoming trees — and I feel the need to create it. But yesterday, I found out the UN declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography, so what better way to celebrate than to paint a few crystals? During my inspiration search, I came across this gorgeous watercolor by Amanda Spurr. (below)
So, I decided to do a few of my own quick sketches. I opted for sapphires and rubies to represent my sister and me. These paintings were made with regular white paper and kids’ watercolors that I had in my classroom, so let’s consider them extremely rough drafts!
Happy Monday! I thought I would start this week with a beautiful open air market. Although located inside Santiago, Los Dominicos feels like a weekend trip out of the city. Its open layout and amazing artisanal goods bring feelings of freedom and relaxation. Also the colonial site provides a sense of times past, so it is the perfect quick escape. Harps and mandolins fill the air as you take in the exquisite handicrafts from local Chilean artists.
It can feel like a labyrinth at times, but this makes it all the more exciting. I have found a few shops I had never seen before on this trip, because we decided to turn down what seemed like a dead end. As we reached the end, we found the most amazing surprise (see below). His works were beautiful, and Derek had a hard time getting me to leave.
^ There are so many beautiful details here! ^
What did you do over the weekend?