Air ballooning, feelings of the infinite and licorice that makes you wince

Find a new home or different ways that a home can be a home

Living abroad increases the intensity and density of life. Your life goes from normal to being scattered like breadcrumbs shaken off of a tablecloth and then back to some semblance of order. In a month I have figured out the academic climate, started to make great friends, dealt with health issues and visited places I only dreamt of before. On this weeks roster of (mis)adventures :

  • #1: Turkey for Thanksgiving: the country, not the food
  • #2: Food adventures part 2: Drop, the under lord of Dutch culinary talents
  • #3: A typical day while living in Utrecht

Turkey for Thanksgiving: the country, not the food

One of the beautiful things of living abroad is that you feel like Christopher Columbus— far lands suddenly seem in reach. Turkey is a country I’ve wanted to go to for the last 10 years, specifically because as an art history student, it would be wild to see the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The construction of the Hagia Sofia started in 360 ad/ce and inspired the San Marco cathedral in Venice and many other buildings, especially the architecture of many mosques to follow. Unfortunately, because the Hagia Sophia inspired the visual tradition of so many mosques, actually locating the Hagia Sofia was an unexpected challenge.

It’s the one on the…right. No left. Umm (times this by 5)

For a building that is so famous that I can date and recognize it in any book, I was perplexed and humbled when I was inept at pointing it out on the horizon or even within a few hundred meters of where it was on the map. That’s when I took my ego folded it in half and shoved it in my pocket. Travel makes you humble, but it is worth it when you can see so many beautiful things.


In concert with seeing the Hagia Sophia, a life goal of mine was to go air ballooning in Capadoccia, a land that looks like fairies built it. Capadoccia has a myriad of different rock formations, all of were realized by 3 volcanos erupting simultaneously for 5 million years. The volcanic rock, also known as tufa, is quite soft, so the Hittites and early Christians dug into the strobile, mushroom and chimney shaped rocks to make homes, castles and mausoleums. This is where I wanted to gallivant, play and air balloon.



The author Alain de Button said that there exists “perspective giving nature” and that ruins are representatives of infinite time and vast landscapes are representatives of infinite space. When we find ourselves in the presence of these landscapes or ruins, the differences between people seems inconsequential. The natural phenomena are so large with so many variations that the differences between people are mockingly small. Thus, the awe for things older and larger than us has a peculiar way of opening the possibilities of togetherness with one another. I realized that this is why going abroad and exploring new landscapes is so important.

Food adventures part 2: Drop, the under lord of Dutch culinary talents


Drop is what Dutch licorice is called and I have a hunch that a foreigner named them ‘drop’ because their taste makes you want to drop them on the floor and run far far away. Like stroopwaffles, drop takes up an entire aisle in the grocery store with varieties of soft, hard, salty, sweet, mint and salmiak (the flavour of dusty spices). The Dutch are crazy about drop and I want to emphasize the crazy part in liking drop. In the train station there is a booth with varieties of drop with a consistent line-up.  I will say this: There are some things that are incredibly tasty, but only when you were introduced to them as a child… when your opinion about food was given to you by your parents.

Drop is to the Dutch as marmite is to the English. Or nato to the Japanese. Or spiciness to the Thai…

Even though I at my body weight in stroopwaffles, I’ve had no problem resisting eating all the licorice while spelling out its name for this photo. For a few reasons, 1) even the ‘soft’ licorice is fairly hard so you give someone a piece of drop and say, “I’ll talk to you in an hour” because they are going to be working to chew through it for that long! You need mouth armor for these bad boys. So even if I did have a piece of drop while creating this word art, it would last me for an exam period before I would be ready for the next one. Also, there is this  amazing (not amazing) thing that happens, which is that the strong flavour triggers your salivary glands and your mouth is filled with salivia that unexpectedly becomes dangerous! If you aren’t careful the licorice strangeness drips down your throat like a river of burning inducing a coughing fit.

What is genuinely amazing is that drop gave me goosebumps, but it may have been because my body was rejecting it—- I never knew a food could do that! All this made me think that drop is a great food-booby-trap! Especially handy when you have a camera in your hand and want to record the facial affliction and contortions your victim will go through while eating it.


#3: A typical day while living in Utrecht

Activity #1: Go for a jog by the canal and love its curves despite how it foils your sense of direction

 Activity # 2: See what random objects my roommates have brought into the apartment. It could be a broken soundboard, an inflatable kayak (inflated) or many zucchinis ranging from baseball bat size to forearm size.
Activity #3: Find a new spot to sit and read. For example a garden on the grounds of the Domkerk (Utrecht’s most famous church)




Activity #4: Go to a cafe to finish reading. Order scones with jam and whipped cream and pretend to be a 70 year old grandma thinking about all the wonderful memories you have.




Activity #5: Bike around town and find details you have missed. Sometimes the jet streams looks like the gods are making drawings in the sky.

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When my family emigrated from South Africa to Canada it was 1991 and I was eight years old. From an early age it was clear to me that my roots had a contentious history. Immigration shaped me by making me more skeptical of my roots and a more trusting of my wings. Travel has never just been travel for me; it has been a way to make order out of the world. In the context of my life, travel is a stratosphere of transformative experiences. For that reason I am now living in the Netherlands with the mission to find cultural subtleties, unexpected beauty and what wild diverse experiences this exchange has to offer!

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