international · life curation

Learning a New Language

Hey friends! I’m excited to share my latest learning adventure. Of course, I’m still studying Inside Opera and Cultures and Identities in Europe (I wrote about the courses here and here). But I also took on another learning experience because, well, it felt like a good idea!

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I’m studying Portuguese after visiting the Embassy of Portugal a few weeks ago. I love the language and I’m looking forward to becoming proficient over time. As it turns out, I have a few Portuguese speaking friends that are eager to help me practice, not to mention I have a lot more resources at my disposal than I did when I studied French and Spanish years ago.

For starters, I’m using YouTube, podcasts, digital textbooks, and media to learn Portuguese. Also, there are some excellent groups online (specifically Facebook) that can connect language learners with native speakers to practice or even to ask technical questions. I’m still assessing which resources are the best in my opinion, but as soon as I have a good list of resources, I’ll definitely share them here!

Are you all currently studying any languages? Let me know in the comments below!

food · international

Review: Le Mandigue Restaurant

Happy Friday, friends! Today is a first for me: it’s a West African food review!

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(photo from Le Mandigue website)

I have never been a fan of the West African dishes that I’ve tried. I’ve had egusi, fufu and jollof rice, but I just wasn’t wowed. However, I really wanted to try something different. So I decided to give West African food another try.

I order from Le Mandigue in Philadelphia. As an aspiring vegetarian (that fails frequently!), I wanted to opt for a meatless entrée. So I got the vegetarian fried rice and steamed vegetables. I also got degue, monie callama and kallah, which I didn’t realize at the time were all desserts.

Here are some photos of the meal:

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Fried vegetable rice and steamed vegetables (cabbage, peas, corn, potatoes)

Dege (dessert)

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Closeup of monie callama

I ordered through UberEats and my food arrived quickly.

The fried rice was tasty and substantial. The steamed vegetables were well-seasoned and weren’t overpowering at all.

And the desserts! I How did I not already know about these amazing deserts?! These were the most interesting part of the meal. Dege reminds me of the rice pudding or tapioca pudding available at some Indian restaurants: creamy, sweet with a hint of sourness (probably because it’s made with sour milk). It’s the mix of flavors that make this such a multidimensional dessert. Monie callama is like a liquified jelly, yummy and smooth, with tapioca-like starch suspended within. Just yum!

I wish I could have enjoyed this in the restaurant but alas, I ordered it to my room. However, I will be sure to visit the restaurant in person when I return to Philadelphia. I’m so looking forward to it!

art · international

A Single Lot Auction? Sotheby’s Is Making It Happen

Over the past several months of researching art, auctions and collecting, I’ve enjoyed learning about the procedures of the auction houses as well as the habits of collectors. While checking out the upcoming Sotheby’s auctions, I was surprised to see an auction with a single lot. Yes, you heard me right: there’s only one item in this auction.

I’ve never seen an auction with only one lot, so I took my time to read through the item description to see what artifact is so precious that it deserved its own solo show at Sotheby’s. Now, this isn’t the only thing being auctioned by Sotheby’s Paris on this day. There are actually two subsequent auctions occurring at this location on the same day. But this item was so special that it has a dedicated auction, featuring only this item.

The item to be sold is an incredibly rare yangcai vase. The intricate artifact is over 300 years old and in pristine condition. The vivid images were painted onto the porcelain vase by the top artisans in Jingdezhen, China, unlike similar vases during this era that were made in Jingdezhen but painted in Beijing.

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The yangcai vase

This vase is absolutely exquisite. It’s expected to fetch between $600,000 and $900,000 USD. But given it’s rarity, it may easily soar over the $1 mil USD mark. If you’d like to add this beauty to your collection, you may view it on June 9, 10, and 11, 2018, between 10 AM and 6 PM CEST. If you’d like to bid, you can register online, or you can attend the auction in person. The details to the auction are below:

June 12, 2018, 10:30 AM CEST, Sotheby’s Paris

76, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
CS 10010
75384 PARIS CEDEX 08
France
Tel: +33 1 53 05 53 05
Fax: +33 1 53 05 52 21
paris.info@sothebys.com

 

I’m excited to see what the final price will be for this gorgeous vase!

food · international

Review: La Tasca Restaurant

So, for a few weeks, I was craving tapas. Tapas – those small, flavorful plates of Spanish cuisine – are light but satisfying: they are perfect dishes for hot summer days. Eventually, my craving got the best of me, and I started researching local Spanish restaurants.

My search ended when I landed on La Tasca Restaurant. It’s been years since I’ve dined there, so I was overdue for a trip. This Chinatown restaurant has become something of a DC standard, especially since there isn’t an abundance of Spanish restaurants in the District. I decided to stop in for lunch and I was eager to see what delights the restaurant had to offer.

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I ordered a lunch special, complete with four tapas. My server was friendly and made sure that I had a table with a great view. As I sipped my iced tea, I watched the hustle and bustle of people milling around in Chinatown. Soon, my first order arrived- except it wasn’t what I actually ordered. The pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) that arrived at my table looked appealing, but I knew I hadn’t ordered it. When my server returned, I let him know that I’d gotten the wrong dish. But he then let me know that the dish was no mistake: it was complimentary. I was surprised and delighted to get an additional tapas plate at no cost.

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My complimentary appetizer: pan con tomate

Then, my actual order started to arrive. My gazpacho was a chilled, creamy delight, bursting with freshness and flavor. Every mouthful was a gourmand’s dream.

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Gazpacho

Next I enjoyed fried manchego cheese bites, manchego frito. These crisp and lightly salted morsels were perfectly complimented by the honey orange marmalade dipping sauce that came with it.

Yummy manchego frito

Then I had the fresh tomato and lettuce salad, the tomatina. It’s been years since I’ve had sweet, fresh tomatoes (most of what’s available in stores is tart). The dressing enhanced the sweetness. I really enjoyed this!

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Tomatina salad

I ended my tapas experience by eating gambas al ajillo, the garlic shrimp. I love garlic and, when I’m not doing the vegetarian/vegan thing, seafood is always on my list. The garlic was subtle but undeniable. And the shrimp were cooked perfectly. This was accented nicely by the red pepper flakes: they added a little heat but weren’t overwhelming.

Gambas!

Overall, my meal at La Tasca was superb! It was a great value and experience. I can’t wait to return for lunch sometime in the near future!

 

culture · international

Embassy Weekend, EU Style

Well friends, I had another fabulous Embassy Open House weekend experience this year! I went to the European Union (EU) Open House event last weekend (May 12) and had a blast! Last year, I went to the “Around the World” Embassy Tour, but the rain kept me in for most of the day, so when I finally made it to the embassies, I only got to tour Kenya and Haiti. I adored the Haitian Embassy so much that I wrote a post about it. I didn’t see much of Kenya during the embassy tour but I eventually returned for an evening at the Kenyan Embassy. But this time, I tried EU Open House weekend because it had been years since I last visited the European embassies.

This year wasn’t rainy, but boy was it hot! The temperatures soared above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so after a couple of hours, I was drained. This year, I only got to visit two embassies but it was so worth it!

Outside of the Portuguese Embassy

My first stop was the Embassy of Portugal. This embassy was closing early due to a conflicting event that afternoon, so I had to make the most of my time while I was there. The staff was charming and they had the most amazing cheese tarts to sample! I wish I had gotten a photo of the ladies and gents in their traditional costumes, but maybe I’ll have better luck next year. In any case, it planted the seed in me for a future trip to Portugal . . .

Next, I visited the Embassy of Ireland. We had an excruciatingly long wait, but at least we got to enjoy performances from the local Irish dance classes. Here’s a clip of one of their performances:

I was delighted to enter the embassy and see some great Gaelic books written about a diverse group of children: indeed, children from a variety of backgrounds could come and see books written about children that looked like them. I also loved the charming layout of the historic building.

All in all, I really enjoyed my embassy experience this year! I’m already excited to experience it again next year!

art · international

That One Time in Beijing . . .

I mentioned my China travels in passing since I’ve had this blog, but since it’s almost the two year anniversary of that trip, I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane.

In Spring 2016, I spent two weeks doing a tour of China as a graduation gift to myself. I visited Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. I fell head over heels for Hangzhou: I loved idyllic West Lake and all of the luxury experiences you could have in the city. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Beijing or Shanghai: I loved them, too! But there was something so tranquil about Hangzhou: it was a relaxing location.

Anyhoo, Beijing was full of history (yes, I visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City) and I enjoyed touring around and going to different shopping “hubs” here and there. Shanghai is great for shopping and had a fast-paced city feel that I found thrilling.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my China adventure. I can’t wait to return!

Beijing

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Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

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The Great Wall of China

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Beijing National Stadium

Hangzhou

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West Lake – Lin Ying Temple and Buddha statues

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Hefang Old Street

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Tea plantation (I bought longjing tea there)

Shanghai

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culture · international · music

A Little Something for International Dance Day

Happy Sunday friends! It’s been a while since I posted videos about music or dance, so it’s only fitting that I share something with you all for International Dance Day!

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I’m adding some videos demonstrating traditional African dances from several countries. I’ve discussed kizomba before, but Africa is a tremendously diverse continent and every country has something different to offer when it comes to dance. Here’s just a taste of African dance:

Angolan Kizomba and Semba: this mashup of clips gives you a glimpse into traditional Angolan dance. Fun, exuberant and flirty: what’s not to love?

Ethiopian/Eritrean Eskista: I don’t know what I love most about this video – the gorgeous hair, the joyful expressions or the fact that this reminds me of something that my friends and I would do when we get together. They’re not professionals, but they’re having fun!

Burundian/Rwandan Umushagiriro/Umushayayo: this is so graceful and elegant. I want to learn the dance and wear the traditional outfits daily. This dance is breathtakingly beautiful.

And just for fun, Ivorian Zaouli: this dance has been made into countless memes, but the truth is, it takes a LOT of stamina to do this. Enjoy!

What is your favorite international dance? Let me know in the comments below!