How very scary fish almost destroyed my holiday.

 

Travel puts things into perspective… especially in olive groves in Southern Italy

 

This week:

  • Food adventures: Bitterballen
  • Cinderella Syndrome
  • If only hindsight were a friend that you could meet up with for drinks before things go bad

#1-Food Adventures Part 3: Bitterballen

Soooo, bitterballen! I know, I know, the name deserves a smirk, but don’t feel embarrassed to order these bad boys, they are a delight! This was one of my first culinary discoveries in the Netherlands and remains one of the best.

Bitterballen are little croquettes that break open to reveal a soft mess of potato, meat and mushrooms. They are served with some dijon mustard and accompany a cold beverage very well. The best part of bitterballen is that they are everywhere. If there was an iphone app to alert you when you were in less than 10 ft of bitterballen, your GPS would be beeping all.the.time. Sometimes I wonder how many bitterballen must be consumed in Holland every day and an ocean-liner filled with them comes to mind. I bet if there was a zombie apocolypse and people had to choose between being stranded in a building with no bitterballen OR run across a zombie infested road to get to the bitterballen, my money is on the Dutch population risking the zombie road.

The only thing is that I lied about the whole potato, mushroom thing. Bitterballen are actually actually mostly made out of meat goo. Eww.. I know, not the most appetizing thought, but I can try to make it okay for two reasons:

1) If it wasn’t made out of meat goo, you or I would probably try to make them and knowing how to make them would lead to eating them all… at once…all the time.

2) Although you now know the truth about bitterballen, it is in moments like these that you can thank your brain for having the ability to forget and blissfully order more bitterballen.

 

 

#2- Cinderella Syndrome

One of the things that the deconstruction and reconstruction of your life reveals to you is how you treat yourself from one place to another. For instance, in Toronto my life is organized like the perfect ikea space saving closet. With a plethora of responsibilities to juggle, my time is spent very deliberately and often, even moments of ‘down time’ or ‘spontaneity’ are scheduled.

But coming abroad when everything that regularly structures your life is removed, it incites the question, is that how I want my life? Is it my nature to be so busy and not have a lot of time for myself?

What I realized is this. In Toronto I often treat my alone time, like the evil step mother treated Cinderella. Only after I have finished my school work, put in some hours to earn money for travel, bought groceries, run administrative errands, made sure my friends felt loved and called my parents that if I can have time alone. But that sucks! I don’t want to live that way.

Camus said, “Freedom is a chance to be better.”

Being abroad has helped me realize how I want to treat myself, no matter what country I am in. Maybe life abroad can seem better sometimes because you are forced to slow down, which in turn can make you kinder to yourself and your process. The notion of prioritizing time for reflection and exploration are values that I want to bring home with me after my exchange.

 

#3- If only hindsight were a friend that you could meet up with for drinks before things go bad.

This is in Sintra, Portugal. One of the most amazing castles I’ve ever seen in my life.

Imagine this: Walking along the wall of an old moorish castle that looks like the spine of a dragon. You are right in on top of a mountain ridge and the mist is starting to swoop in over the castle walls. You totally feel like you should have bows and arrows, a cloak and know a wizard. Amazing right?

If you ever want to experience how your body reacts to evil, eat these guys and get find out!

Now: Imagine all this with food poisoning. I don’t know what did it exactly, but I might throw a wild guess at these guys! Scariest fish in the market ever. I didn’t know that was going to be on the fish platter… I didn’t know…

 

 

I will say one thing, food poisoning sure does let you know where you exits are! So there are a few lessons I wish our dear friend hindsight would have reminded me of:

Sometimes your body goes into emergency mode, note the exits.

1) Life is full of minor differences, such as seeing beautiful sites vs seeing beautiful sites with food poisoning. Don’t force yourself to do amazing things your healthy self would do when you are your sickie self.

2) Always bring anti-nausea medication with you. Trying to figure out labels in a language you don’t understand while Edward Scissorhands is tossing pizza dough in your stomach is not fun.

 

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About julienne.lottering@utoronto.ca

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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