Four years ago when I visited Japan, I ate a lot of pasta. More specifically, Fettuccine Alfredo with lobster meat at a Tokyo Denny’s (I wrote about my experience in the Tokyo Denny’s here). One of my favorite YouTube personalities, Ochikeron, makes fun Japanese food with easy-to-follow instructions. Surprisingly, Spaghetti Neapolitan is a huge hit in Japan. When I saw her video for the pasta dish, I wanted to share it with you.
Often, we don’t think of Asia as a hub for pasta enthusiasts. Also, when prepared by chefs from Asia, these dishes have their own Eastern twist. For example, I visited an “American-style” burger joint while living in Korea, the burgers were topped with a hard bun and bean sprouts! It’s very much the same with pasta in Japan: you’ll see raw eggs on mounds of spaghetti and ketchup as sauce. Would you try this Japanese twist on a traditional spaghetti dish?
The shrine of Our Lady of the Island is a semi-secluded property in Eastern Long Island, located near Manorville, New York. In addition to visit the shrine, you can enjoy the views of Long Island that are far removed from the bustling city.
Why should I visit?
Personally, I believe that a visit to this shrine should be a top priority for Catholics living in the Long Island area. You can participate in a Rosary Walk, enjoy the 80-ft statue of the Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus, and explore other nature trails. Near the welcome center, you can adore the Blessed Sacrament and tour the Mass Chapel. Even if you stop for but a moment, the Shrine is a beautiful place to enrich your Catholic faith.
About 30 minutes ago, I arrived with my parents in Western Kentucky to witness what has been called “The Great American Eclipse.” Hopkinsville, a city about 52 miles away, will experience totality, meaning the the eclipse will achieve 100% coverage for 2-3 minutes. In the little city in which we’re staying, we will have totality, but with fewer crowds (a relief!). Also, I’ve witnessed a handful of lunar eclipses in my day. Maybe even a vague memory of a partial solar eclipse (thought I’m not sure). So, this is a very fun experience that I’ll always remember. Nature is great!
Finally, I’m strongly considering which direction my blog should take. For a long time, the niche was “happiness.” I directed my writing towards events and things that produced happiness in my life. However, since beginning the blog in April 2016, I’ve gone through many life changes. I’ve found that my blog now tends to gravitate towards my Catholic faith and the everyday life. If you have any suggestions, please comment below or message me. I want to take my writing more seriously and produce content that is beneficial for both my readers and myself.
In the meantime, catch the eclipse (and don’t forget your special viewing glasses!).
This afternoon I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I hadn’t been since June 2001, and even then, it was a brief visit. Today, I ducked into the Cathedral after crossing the street and fighting tight throngs of tourists. It was nice to sit in the church and take in all of the images and sights I ignored as an 11-year-old: The high ceilings, the shrines, the beautiful altar, and of course, the stained glass windows.
Around us, hundreds of tourists (many traveling in from outside of the United States), took pictures. The time spent of the photographs was often detailed, even with a high quality camera. As I knelt at my pew, I felt the urge creep up in the back of my mind.
“If you snapped a picture of the altar right now, it would look great on Instagram. Especially with the right filter. Think of the ‘likes’ you’ll get!”
As I live and breathe, the very thought crossed my mind. I don’t hide my love for social media. Through Facebook and Twitter, I’ve connected with old friends and friends I’ve never met in person. I enjoy posting photos of my travels, and I enjoy that other people enjoy the posts, too. Likes and hearts are nice.
However, I often find myself under pressure. Pressure to find a perfect Instagram filter, pressure to word a caption just right, pressure to share every event.
But, as I sat in the pew this afternoon, I mentally sat on my hands, thinking, “You don’t have to document every single event, every single moment. It’s okay to let life fly ‘under’ the radar.”
As difficult as it was (and I struggled), I kept my phone in my purse. I didn’t take any photos at St. Patrick’s today. And the result is clear: I still feel as fulfilled and satisfied as if I had taken a photo, doctored it up with filters, and posted it on Facebook. More the same, while eating dinner at a kitschy new Korean restaurant in Manhattan Koreatown, I sat on my hands. I can eat galbi and bibimbap without posting a picture of it on Twitter. It tastes the same, and I enjoyed it without all of the pressure of “Is this lighting good enough for this picture?”
In conclusion, has this moment of clarity “cured” me? No. I have a picture of a flower and chocolate box window display in Rockefeller Plaza I’d like to post. I may, I may not. We will see. Only time and Instagram will tell.
Next time, when you feel hurried or pressured to post an update or photograph of an event, remember: It’s okay. You can live life in peace, without the worry of likes and external validation.
Every July 13th, I remember my Korean host father.
It was the day he died.
When I was a Fulbright teacher, I lived on Jeju Island, dubbed the “Hawaii of Korea” (and the namesake of this blog). One of the highlights of the Fulbright Korea English Teaching Assistantship is that for your first year, you must live with a host family. As I’ve said in past posts of past blogs, I truly hit the host family jackpot. I was seamlessly knitted into the fabric of my family, and I was welcomed into every aspect of Korean family life. Chuseok (think Thanksgiving), New Years’, Christmas, birthdays, I was present. Unlike other teaching assistants, who were sometimes pushed to the side during the year, I was blessed with a warm home.
In August 2014, as I was moving into my new apartment in Western Kentucky, I received a KakaoTalk message from my host sister saying that her father had died. I was stunned, as if a pile of bricks had hit my head. Just some 400 days earlier, my host father (whom I called Bruce), had dropped me off at the Jeju International Airport so that I could meet my connecting flight in Seoul back to the United States. While I won’t linger on the shock and aftermath in this post, you can read more about it if you click here. Today, instead, I’ll ramble for you.
I had lost family members before, sure. It hurts. For example, I still think of my paternal grandparents each and every day. But, when I found out that Bruce was gone, it was unbelievable. Young people die, but not young people that I know. That is far from fair, and not the life I planned. I imagined reunion upon reunion in Korea, and now, that is but a dream.
The family I lived with has shifted dramatically. The house I stayed in for my year is no longer occupied by my family. Last June, I stood outside of the house, wondering who lived inside.
Now, my host brother is now serving his mandatory 2-year military service. My host sister and host mother have moved to a large city, about 50 miles outside of Seoul. As for Bruce, he rests on Jeju Island: where he born, where he lived, and ultimately, where he died.
Sometimes, when I’m using Google Maps or Naver (the Korean equivalent), I’ll use street view outside of the house. I’ll see Bruce’s truck, or my host mother’s car. Often, I’ll just smile when I see the little island on the map. It reminds me of a time of goodness and love, a time that I’ll never get back. In a way, I think that’s a very good thing. I treasure my time on the island, and with my host family, even more. Maps are good for that nostalgia.
Today, life is different. It moves on, rather we want it to or not. Sure, the home stay is empty and my host family is gone. But, in my heart, Jeju is the island of peace. It’s where I formed lifelong friendships and bonds. It’s where Bruce’s life touched mine, if but for a single moment in eternity. And for this, I am perpetually grateful.
I’m currently working on a post about my conversion to Catholicism. It’s taking a while to get from my brain onto the page. For now, enjoy a post about the finer delicacies in life.
For those who travel often: you know the feeling. The suspension of time, the bluer skies, the world is on pause. Also, your taste buds are heightened. The things that you love outside of the space-time continuum of vacation are suddenly even more delicious. Heck, even foods you may not like, for some reason, are infinitely better while away from home.
I, personally, know the power of vacation taste obscurity. Throughout my life, I have been haunted and delighted by vacation sandwiches. First, I am no stranger to sandwiches. I was raised on sandwiches, my first memories of the kitchen table are of eating sandwiches after church for lunch. Sandwiches, while good, are not at the top of my list. Take it or leave it, it’s a sandwich.
But, on vacation, sandwiches are top of the line. The filet mignon, the Queen of the Food Pyramid, top notch vacation food. What is it about the vacation sandwich? Is the Miracle Whip? Is is something about the way the vibe of the hotel mingles with the vibe of your stomach? What makes a pimento cheese sandwich 100 times better while on vacation, as opposed to life at home? Or, is it just me?
As I write this, I am sitting in a Microtel in Gatlinburg, TN. It’s my first time here in over four years, and may I say that the sandwiches are as wonderful as ever. In true fashion, we brought a cooler with us packed with lunch meat and homemade pimento cheese. Paired with mini King’s Hawaiian buns, homemade pimento cheese is glorious, vacation food paradise. At home? It’s good. On vacation, it’s delightfully amazing and soul wrenching. If you’ve never had your life temporarily wrecked by a pimento cheese sandwich, I cannot recommend going on vacation soon enough.
Last summer, while barreling over Russia and the Pacific Ocean on a return trip from South Korea, I was engrossed in After Dark by Haruki Murkami. With a clock counting the hours between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM at the beginning of each chapter and typical Murakami surrealism, I regret that I’ll never be able to read this book for the first time ever again. Like all good things, After Dark begins in a Denny’s, like my own Japanese adventure in the infant days of 2013.
I don’t know if we were hungry, jet-lagged, eager to get out or a combination of all three. But, in the cold New Year’s Day, Alley and I bundled up and made our way around the corner. In all it’s familiar glow was the blockish-sign with hazy red, suspended in the neon darkness that was Tokyo. After eight hours waiting in the airport, subsisting on thin wheat cookies, I was in relief.
You see, I don’t travel to places to try the food. I just don’t. I like the sights, the sounds, and the culture. But, I don’t particularly care for an authentic culinary experience. I’m the world-traveled American, who at the end of the day, just wants the comfort of Taco Bell. On this New Year’s Day, as per usual, I wasn’t leaning towards a bento box or authentic sushi. I wanted to familiar, and that familiar was a Denny’s.
Our meal began with ordering drinks – rich, savory Coca-Cola. In the States, a soda at a sit-down establishment may cost you up to $3.50, with free refills. In Japan, the world is different. You can order a Coke, but it’s just one Coke. It will cost you around $6. Yes, $6. Or, if you’re a high-roller, you can order unlimited Cokes for $12. What did we do? Order unlimited Cokes. I was thirsty and Coca-Cola in Asia has a magnificent taste.
I scanned the menu, smattered with Japanese characters and pictures. No English. Traditional pancakes faded into spaghetti with raw egg on top, strange salads, and other pastas. I love pasta, and I was ravenous. I didn’t want a burger, but rather the dish with fettuccine noodles and white sauce topped with steamed crab meat caught my eye. We ordered, and I took in the view.
In one corner, a Japanese woman in a mint green kimono sat with her two children. This was not a flimsy, tourist kimono, but an authentic kimono. Her hair was tied up in a bun, and she ate with chopsticks while her children fought over french fries. I tried not to stare, but among the chrome and the neon, there was this traditionally dressed woman with a serene aura eating in a trademark American restaurant.
Even further down the row of booths sat a legitimate sumo wrestler. A group of teenagers bustled in, heads buried in phones and thumbs texting away wildly. I watched the cooks in the kitchen slide french toast and burgers and raw squid in salad into the window, waiting for the servers.
Everything that one would image you’d see in Japan, I saw in the Denny’s. Our food finally came, I savored the thick sauce and chewy crab meat. I drank the most expensive Coke I’ve ever purchased. I struggled to wrap the long noodles around the cheaply made chopsticks.
Unlike Mari, the main character and Denny’s patron in After Dark, my evening did not spiral into a mystical journey across Tokyo’s seedy underworld. It ended with me tucked into my bunk bed at the hostel, only for us to arise and return to the same Denny’s. While I can barely tell you the other meals I ate in Tokyo, I can tell you about going to Denny’s. And I can tell you about the woman in the kimono and the endless stream of Coca-Cola, punctuated with a foreign chatter.