iPhone Photoessay: (Delicious) Things I Consumed in Argentina

First of all, I want to start with a moment of gratitude. This morning, I finished my morning run and had not accidentally adopted any dogs by the end of it. Pfew, a sigh of relief.

This blog began back in 2011, when I wanted to document my semester abroad in Argentina. Since then, I haven’t written a whole lot of meaty posts about the experience. The writing I was doing back then (on Tumblr) was mostly short, anecdotal or quick story-based with a photograph or two. I’ll have to remedy that, in due time, but for this post I’d like to reminisce on delicious Argentinian food. Because I’m hungry, and looking at a bunch of juicy steak is going to make that better, right? Right.

24 Jul 2011 1 Ovieda Apple Pancakes

Ordering in restaurants did not start out on the right foot, in Argentina. This was “pancake”. It was literally sugar, baked onto a metal plate with a little breading in it. Way too sweet!

27 Jul 2011 2 Alfajor y Cafe

A traditional alfajor, or sandwich cookie biscuit thing, usually covered in powdered sugar. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into alfajors, unless they lacked the outer covering and were straight dulce de leche. Then I was totally into alfajors.

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Speaking of dulce de leche, it was a key culprit of my horrible eating habits during this semester. I could never say no!

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STEAK! This was the first steak I ordered in Argentina, three months in, believe it or not, because I was actually a vegetarian before studying here. Needless to say, that didn’t survive my trip.

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The best part of studying abroad might be the melting pot of cultures all coming together in one place. His face hiding behind a camera, pictured is a friend from Argentina who studied in Germany. The cook, not pictured, is a German who was also studying abroad in Argentina and decided to make us a German meal.

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The panaderia’s, or bakeries were both my best friend and my worst enemy. I wanted to try all of the different pastries available, ever, so I made it my mission.

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This sandwich was literally as big as both of our heads combined. So we each ate half, and died finishing it. Gotta love absurd portion sizes.

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My attempt at “healthy” by eating a whole grain medialuna. or butter croissant. It was unsuccessful, but deliciously so.

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My apartment was directly above one of the most incredible empanada shops. They made them open faced, with little bread bowls and I ordered take out several times a month. So. Good.

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Oh look at that, more pastries. More dulce de leche. More drizzled chocolate, powdered sugar and other creamy white sugar concoctions stuffed into a butter-saturated pastry from heaven.

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I lived 20 minutes away from “Chinatown” (actually Asia-town), which meant I could go into the grocery and get an uncut giant roll of sushi, unwrap the plastic and just eat it while walking or sitting or on the train. It was awesome.

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Okay, so I didn’t consume all of this, but it was consumable. Bariloche in Argentina, or the little Switzerland of Argentina, makes their own chocolate and it’s SO GOOD.

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Sometimes you order a meal, and it’s just three different kinds of potatoes. Argentina has a LOT of different potatoes that you can buy, though, so that’s pretty awesome. Did you know there are 5,000 different species of potatoes? Now you know!

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THIS PIECE OF CAKE WAS DELICIOUS and I’ll never forget it. Ever. As you can see, Argentina is pretty talented in the cake/pastry/fattening sweets area.

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Argentina and wine go together, and tasting wine at a winery while in Mendoza, a wine producing capital? That’s just a must-do. Not tipsy scraping and destroying your knees while falling off of a bicycle on the way back, though. You don’t need to do that. Trust me on this one.

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Argentina is famous for its asado, or barbequed / outdoor grilled meat. This asado was a king of asados, I’ve never seen a layout quite so big.

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Bondiola, or grilled, huge pieces of pork put on a nice bun, covered in weird sauce and stuffed into your face as quickly as possible, before it gets cold or drips on you. I miss bondiolas.

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Instead of just plain ketchup, you should probably also opt for the mini fries on your hotdog. I don’t know why, but you should just do it.

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I wandered around Bahia Blanca for a long time, unable to find anything I wanted to see. This cupcake shop and peanut butter cupcake literally saved the day, and made sure I wasn’t a grumpy grumpy monster when I got back to my accommodation.

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Thanksgiving in Argentina: though I missed my family, I didn’t miss out on great food and company. Or eating bird.

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More asado, because it’s delicious. This time in someone’s backyard. Sausages and huge slabs of beef are the usual.

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And to round this little photoessay off, only more pastries would be fitting.

Did I mention I gained 15-20 pounds in those five months? Well, I’m sure you can figure out why. How is anyone supposed to say “no” to food this delicious? Or even stop at reasonable amounts? It’s just not possible. If you can stay skinny without upping your exercise in Argentina, I’m assuming your taste buds don’t work.

Good thing my next stop was Asia, or I’d have been in real big trouble. (Hehe punny me!)

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iPhone Photoessay: St. Hilarian Castle in Cyprus

Did you know I went to Cyprus? And I barely even told you about it, shame on me. Almost a year later, I’m going to make this up to you. While I was in Cyprus, I wandered through the ancient ruins of Salamis (I just probably put those pictures up, too…) and spent lots of time with some family friends that live on the island. They introduced my mom and I to a gorgeous castle on a mountainside: St. Hilarian Kalesi. I can’t help but say the word “hilarious!” immediately following mention of the castle’s name. I dare you to try it and not do it ten times in a row.

Some history (thanks Wikipedia): the castle began as a hermitage site and then a church during the 10th century, and finally it became a castle. Once it was a castle, you know how castles with excellent lookout points go… people fight over them, over and over. Some 500 years later, people starting taking it apart to reduce the upkeep of the building. I presume the ceiling was about to fall in and they figured it was easier to just pull out the ceiling and give everyone winter coats than build a new one. Jerks.

In order to get to the castle (located in Northern, Turkish Cyprus), you need to drive there and past several military installations and soldiers. If they’re doing training in the mountains, you may have to choose another day to head up to the castle. If they’re not, you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself, except for the random Brit that seems to show up at all those deserted European sights, alone. Uncanny.

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When you get there, they’ll probably be a castle-residing stray dog that’s both super friendly and desperately in need of a bath.
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Looking up, it’s amazing to see arches that (hopefully) won’t fall on your head as you walk through.
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No, no, I’m not climbing rock formations at the top of a really tall and sheer cliff.
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But at the top of unsafe climbing await breathtaking views of the island.
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Oh boy, these people even had interior design skills. Look at those stripes!
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If you get stuck at the bottom with fear, or only climb half, you can still enjoy the view of that top section instead of actually going there.
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Or you can climb, don’t worry, there are safety railings!
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Sheering cliffs, coastline and a panoramic view? Yes, please and thank you.
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A gorgeous old watchtower that was just a little out of reach for my hiking skills.
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The building blending in with the mountain makes it simultaneously beautiful and confusing. Am I on the mountain now or still in the castle? Hmm…
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It’s best to climb immediately next to “danger” signs and live voltage.
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Because it’s prettier at the top of those rocks.
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The view is definitely breathtaking.
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I feel like a princess with really long, braided hair is missing from this photo.
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Goodbye, it’s been terrifying and fun!

Looking back, I really wish I would have bought a DSLR camera already, my iPhone does zero justice. I guess I’ll have to return! And to anyone thinking of visiting the Turkish side of Cyprus, it’s highly recommended and although Wikipedia describes it as “illegal and internationally-unrecognised”, I can assure you it’s also quite safe.

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Photoessay: A Neighborhood in Rural Taean

Over a long weekend, I took a little trip to Padori Beach in Taean, South Korea. The area is remote to say the least, so finding a remote place in a remote area? Turns out it yields some interesting photographs. These are from a small neighborhood tucked behind the beach and quite a bit away from the main roads. From the photographs it would seem as though the whole place is deserted, but that’s not the case. I just happen to wake up and take my dog for walks at hours when civilization isn’t ready for it. Also, the few people I saw were elderly Korean ajummas. And one does not simply take a picture of an ajumma, my friend.

Enjoy yet another look into rural, countryside life in the high-tech internet capital of the world, South Korea. The contrast is amazing, isn’t it?

(The featured photograph of a farm ladder from a little bit ago was also taken during this walk.)

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(You can buy prints of this photograph here.)

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Photoessay: Blue Skies of Germany

My vacation in Germany lasted 13 days total, and I expected it to rain at least once. No one can hope for clear, blue skies for two straight weeks, right? Well, I was treated to day after day of exactly the opposite of dreary weather. Occasional clouds framed by a bright, clear, beautiful blue sky rolled above me. Every day was dry and gorgeous, until finally at 9pm, the night before my flight back to Korea, a huge thunderstorm rolled in. And it was one of those rare, strong but beautiful thunderstorms.

So while practicing the deceptively difficult field of architectural photography, I kept finding myself taking the same photograph, just different. And they were all gorgeous, because of those bright blue skies behind the subject at hand. Looking through my pictures, I was blown away by how many gorgeous skies made their way into my documentation. So if you’re having a rough, rainy day, maybe you can use these photographs to take you back to sunnier times. They definitely do that for me.

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Potsdam, Germany
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Munich, Germany
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The infamous Glockenspiel.
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Berlin, Germany
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Berlin, Germany
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Munich, Germany

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The Juggling Act: Work, Play + Puppy

I have a full time job. I have an active circle of friends. I’m living in a foreign country and like to explore when I have the time. I have hobbies that I’m devoted to. How the hell do I manage a five-month-old puppy on top of all that?

It definitely gets tough for me, since I live alone and there’s no babysitter next door that I can call up. I don’t have parents or a sibling or anyone else that might be home when I’m not. It’s just me. I’m responsible for feeding, washing, grooming, disciplining, exercising and most importantly, loving my puppy.

And she is SO lovable!
And she is SO lovable!

Sure, when I need to go somewhere or I’m away for a weekend, I can usually convince one of my friends in town to keep her around for a short 24 hours or so. But that involves soliciting the opportunity and working out drop off and pick up times, and convincing someone who doesn’t regularly have a dog around to take on all of those typical responsibilities. And on weekends, plenty of people are out of town just like me. Sometimes it doesn’t really work out.

So how do I do it? How do I raise a baby dog while I work full time, for starters? To be honest, it’s rough business. Sometimes, it just sucks. Time is often short. I sometimes guilt trip myself to China and back about leaving her by herself or not spending enough time exercising with her or whatever reason I can come up with. But, at the end of the day, she’s taken care of enough and gives me lots of kisses when I come home, so I feel safe saying that I’m doing a decent job of a pretty demanding juggling act. For anyone else who’s found themselves in this same position, whether by choice or by chance, have no fear because it can be done. Here are the hints and tips that I’ve picked up along the way.

[Note: I have a million pictures of my puppy, Mary, so I will simply be littering this post with them. Enjoy.]

Starting now.
Starting now.

Evaluate Your Current Lifestyle

If you like to hit the clubs 3-4 days a week and you’re at work 5 days a week, maybe having a puppy isn’t going to be the best option for you, since you’re never home. If you haven’t been in town for the last 6 weekends, then perhaps it’s not the right timing for a baby animal. Step 1 is make sure you have the right lifestyle setup for a puppy. If you don’t, then don’t commit to raising one. If you are home a decent amount of the week after work and don’t spend a lot of nights out until 4am, then you are a perfectly suitable candidate for lots of puppy kisses and being a puppy mama or papa.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

This is, regardless of your life situation, pretty much the golden key to keeping all puppies happy and keeping yourself sane. It doesn’t matter if you spend 24 hours a day with your puppy; if you don’t exercise the little beast, your life is gonna be a nice, long nightmare. Heck, even when you do exercise your puppy, he or she sometimes pops right back up with a hidden burst of energy to try and make you go insane. When you work full time and sometimes meet friends for dinner, or are about to drop your puppy off for a bit of alone time with a friend, the key is definitely exercise. Tire your ball of fur out until he or she literally could care less about your presence in the room. Before you leave for work for 8 hours, or 5 hours or whatever, exercise with your puppy and make sure he or she is tuckered out. When you have work to do at home and need some peace and quite, take your puppy for a run or walk to keep him or her sleeping for a bit, so you can have some time to really concentrate. The golden key: a tired puppy.

Clearly she likes to run. A lot.
Mary prefers to fly as opposed to traditional kinds of exercise.

Treats & Toys are Your Best Friend

There is no possible way that you’ll be able to make your puppy sleep for 8 hours straight, while you go to work. But if you can get your fluff ball sleepy for three of them, then you can just leave a little something to fill up the next 5. This is where treats and toys are your best friend. Bones to chew on keep puppies occupied for hours. Hiding treats inside towels squished between the wall and your furniture? Your puppy now has treasure hunt to keep him or her occupied. The people-with-dogs internet is obsessed with something called “Kong toys” where you put peanut butter in the middle, so if you can get your hands on one of those, then your life is made. No more bored puppy!

Pester Your Friends

When you’re alone, you don’t have much of a choice: you’re going to need to find a puppy sitter sometimes. Your friends are your big group of babysitters. You’ll need to get pretty marketable with the situation and do your best to never complain about your puppy around them. Show them adorable pictures. Ask people individually before you ask the group. If you can get 1 or 2 people to constantly say yes, then you’ve just lifted a nice load of stress off your shoulders and won’t have to worry about managing an occasional overnight in Seoul. And then thank them: bring them presents from 711 or wherever it is that you’ve been recently. Pester your friends and then make sure they know that you’re grateful.

Most people I know are okay with taking care of something this cute for at least a little bit.
Most people I know are okay with taking care of something this cute for at least a little bit.

Just Bring Him or Her

Want to get dinner with friends, but you don’t want to leave your little dog alone again tonight? Is the weather alright? You can plan an outdoor picnic and bring your puppy along for the fun. If you want to plan an activity, see if you can just incorporate your puppy into it. Sometimes it’s not possible, but oftentimes a little adjustment can make room for your hairy ball of energy to come along too. Coffee dates inside can before coffee dates outside or simply on the shop’s patio. An outing in another city could be spent partially in the dog park and partially at an outdoor restaurant. Grab a beer from the grocery store, not the bar. Quick errands can be done puppy in hand, no one is going to stop you from walking inside with the cutest animal known to man for 10 minutes. See if there’s a way to work your puppy into your plans, instead of feeling guilty leaving her alone.

Stop Feeling Guilty

That face little girls make when you didn’t give them enough ice cream is called a “puppy face” for a reason. Don’t fall for the sad face your puppy makes when you leave, he or she will be just fine. It’s just what puppy faces look like! They look sad. They induce guilty feelings with one glance. Take a deep breath and let it go: sometimes your puppy has to be alone. Sometimes he or she has to be alone for an entire day. Sometimes he or she will need to endure a solitary overnight . As long as you’re doing your best, sleeping at home most of the time and keeping those meals regular, you’re doing a good enough job. I struggled with this myself for a long time. I didn’t want to “ruin” her by not being home every day after work all evening and at least one full day during the weekend. But sometimes that’s just not possible and that’s okay. Breathe. Your puppy will be fine. Treats, exercise, hidden treats and some trust and things will turn out alright.

You have to learn how to ignore this face.
You have to learn how to ignore this face. Somehow.

Plan Your Getaway

Just like with kids, having a dog child can get overwhelming and stressful and annoying, no matter how much you love the little bugger. Give yourself a weekend here and there to get out of town and have a friend take care of your puppy. Plan ahead of time so you’re not springing a long puppysitting job on anyone, and then take your butt to a new place and relax. Meet a friend down South, go camping, visit the waterfall you’ve had on your list or just sit in your own home and enjoy the little time you’ve carved out for yourself. You’re raising a toddler/animal combination, you deserve it.

Puppies are fun, energetic, adorable and definitely ridiculous. Really ridiculous. But with a bit of patience and some smarts about how to handle the situation, it’s not impossible by any means. You can raise a puppy alone, with a full time job, keep your friends and even see some new things in your area, if you’d like. I never expected to have a puppy when I got to Korea and I don’t have that ideal, stay-at-home-mom lifestyle that a lot of families wait for before getting one. But I’ve found a way to make it work and I know that even if I’m not home all of the time, when I am home, I make it count.

Like by harassing her with selfies to send to my friends.
Like by harassing her with selfies to send to my friends.

And hey, if you’re in South Korea, just think of all the family “pets” that stay tied up outside and in a cage all day, under exercised. I’m pretty sure you can do better than that. So don’t worry, you can raise the cutest ball of fluff up to be a kind, loving dog even on a tighter schedule than you’d like. Good luck and have fun, because puppy cuddles really are the best!

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Photoessay: Naksan Park Fortress Walk

I ventured into Seoul to pick up a book, purchased through the infamous Craig’s List. I ended the afternoon with two new friends and some  beautiful photographs of the old fortress wall that stretches between the two gates in Dongdaemun (동대문) and Hyehwa (혜화). Naksan Park is the name of the green area and pathways around the stone wall, and while the greenery is great, the older, more traditional houses you can take a peek at are just as interesting for the eyes. The sweeping views of the Seoul metropolis don’t hurt either. Thanks to my new friend for pointing me in its direction, because the historic walk to Dongdaemun was a beautiful way to spend the rest of my afternoon before a long ride home.

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iPhone Photoessay: Cats of Istanbul

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Istanbul is huge: it covers three separate land masses and is filled with a seriously diverse bunch of people. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel and you could easily stay for a lifetime and keep it interesting. But there’s one thing that all areas have in common: street cats. A lot of them.

They are well fed by restaurant and store owners that set out food and take care of them. Many are friendly. Most just want to sit near the heat lamps you have set up near your table and eat the scraps that fall off your plate. Some are particularly adorable and many can be found in the most surprising of places. Enjoy the photographs.

Continue reading iPhone Photoessay: Cats of Istanbul

Photoessay: Camping on Hagampo Beach

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This Saturday/Sunday, my friends and I went camping on the beach. Koreans love camping, so it was especially lucky that we not only found a nice stretch of beach to accommodate all of us (over 20 people!) but also had the beach almost entirely to ourselves. We all set up our tents, located all of our bags and cracked open a beer (or wine, or soju + juice) to enjoy in the sunshine. The communal environment was relaxing; we all shared pork, beef, ramen noodles, vegetables and drinks of all kinds and our laughter echoed over the empty beach for hours. Freezing as the water was, the brave few swam and the majority of us waded only as far as our calves. We played frisbee, “cricket”, soccer and hiked to the part-time island (low tide/high tide) to climb over rock piles and see the other side of the beach. After sunset, we built a huge bonfire on the beach and sat in a circle, warming our tired legs and soaking up the heat.

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Thanks for the memories, Hagampo.

About Hagampo (학암포):
Hagampo is a beach located about 20km Northwest of Taeon (태안), in Chungnam Province. A local bus runs to Hagampo a few times each day or, alternatively, a taxi will cost about 26,000₩.

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Photoessay: Tug of War Festival

the flags lead the huge procession
Flags lead the huge procession.

Every year, there is a Tug of War festival held in a town called Giji-si, outside of Dangjin, South Korea. The tradition is over 500 years old, but recently has become a much bigger event than it previously was… the now annual construction of two massive ropes and a huge field for festivities have helped make the festival extremely popular.

Continue reading Photoessay: Tug of War Festival