Culture Shock and Cooking

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

We returned to America earlier this month and were struck by two things; firstly, the icy blast of a polar vortex that was freezing much of the East Coast (including Manhattan, where we’re setting up home), and secondly, a jolt of culture shock. We slowly unpacked our bags, constantly expecting to wake up back in Southeast Asia on a damp mildewy mattress. But here we are, a month later, still hacking it out in snowy Manhattan.

It’s been just over a month since we came back to New York, and it’s starting to feel like home. I spent the initial two weeks driving up and down the east coast visiting friends and family, a leisurely and scenic tour up and down the East coast. I drove from New York to North Carolina and back, stopping in DC, Charlottesville, and Carborro. It was a very productive looking form of denial – denial of the culture shock I’m going through, denial of impending unemployment, and denial of being in a very inbetween place.

What better thing to do when you’re working through your culture shock than to cook? I cooked a seared juicy steak and creamed spinach for my mother, turkey pot pie for my father and sister, eggplant parmesean for my friends in Charlottesville, and even Peking duck for my soon-to-be-in-laws.

In case you’re wondering how to make Peking duck, check out this uber helpful tutorial from Serious Eats. It was a lengthy but surprisingly simple endeavor.

Links from around the interwebs:

The Reality Behind Instagram Feeds, so true!

Comfort Food for the Cold Weather: Bon App’s Cacio e Pepe

What Happens When You Live Abroad

The Hunt for the Perfect Understated Nail Polish

Mama E comes to Bali

The gang all dressed up for the cremation ceremony.

The gang all dressed up for the cremation ceremony.

My mother and her friend Tracy came to visit us in Bali for the month of June. It was truly a delight to play tour guide to a captive audience for a whole month. Zev and I have been in Bali since January volunteering at a chocolate factory and completing our divemaster internship, so we feel pretty confident that we know all the local spots and could really show them the best of our temporary island home.

Part of the cremation ceremony involved a procession of a dozen of these massive structures which they spun in a circle to confuse the evil spirits.

Part of the cremation ceremony included a procession of a dozen of these massive floats which they spun in a circle to confuse the evil spirits.

Rafting the Ayung, in awe of the jungle wilderness.

Rafting the Ayung, in awe of the jungle wilderness.

Flexing with our rafting guide.

Flexing with our rafting guide.

We spent the lion’s share of the time in Bali, using Ubud as our home base and taking day trips around the island. In Ubud we went on the Eco Bali bike tour, witnessed a mass cremation in our neighborhood, wandered through the rice paddies, took two cooking classes (the first one was terrible, the second one was the smoked duck cooking class at Casa Luna and a huge hit),  went whitewater rafting in the Ayung river, and snorkeled at Blue Lagoon in Padang Bai. My mother really got into the pace of island life. She adopted a love of the cheap and relaxing spas that seem to proliferate around Bali, was totally taken by the coconut beverages that are a staple of any Bali expat’s diet, and generally learned to slow down to Bali-time.

A couple of coconut fiends.

A couple of coconut fiends.

Beach resort in Lombok!

Beach resort in Lombok!

Local kids playing in the surf.

Local kids playing in the surf.

Goofing around at Kuta Beach, Lombok

Goofing around at Kuta Beach, Lombok

Mom and Tracy at Kuta Beach, Lombok.

Mom and Tracy at Kuta Beach, Lombok.

IMG_1425

One week we escaped the crowds and headed to Lombok, the less crowded and less touristy island to the east of Bali. While the beaches on Lombok were not as snorkel-tastic as those on Gili Air, we stayed at a recently opened beach resort and went into full beach mode. Breakfast on the beach was complemented by an excellent view of surfers trying to ride the local break. Some days we hired a boat to take us on snorkeling excursions to Gili Air, which morphed into pizza gorging afternoons with a few moments spent in the water. One afternoon we headed to the south of Lombok, which is known for perfect white sand beaches and traditional Sasak villages. It certainly didn’t disappoint and we ended the day playing in the surf with some of the local kids. Lombok felt very different from Bali. The 5am call to prayer was one of the most obvious differences, but it was also the more low-key style of tourism on Lombok that didn’t feel as claustrophobic as certain parts of Bali can be.

Our trusty boat, the JustIn.

Our trusty boat, the JustIn.

So many turtles on Gili Air.

So many turtles on Gili Air.

It was a fun filled month of non-stop activity. After a teary goodbye over a fresh coconut, we reluctantly put my mother on the plane to America. It was hard to say goodbye knowing the next time we’ll meet will be back in American once this great big adventure has come to an end.

Purification ritual at Tirta Empul natural springs.

Purification ritual at Tirta Empul natural springs.

I would be lying if I said Zev and I didn’t collapse for a solid 48 hours after my mother’s departure. We were beat. Playing guide for a whole month kept us active nonstop. We were also a bit daunted at the prospect of traveling again and had no clue where we were headed next. As usual, the universe gave us a hint as to our next stop in the form of Zev’s cousin who happened to be a few islands over doing fieldwork and wanted to meet up for a few days. A short 2 days after we bid our sad goodbyes, Zev and I boarded a 33 hour ferry headed from Bali to the island of Flores. We were in search of Komodo dragons – stay tuned for that adventure in our next post!

Getting lost in the rice paddies on mom's last day in Bali.

Getting lost in the rice paddies on mom’s last day in Bali.