Life in Turkey: Seker Bayram and Ramazan

Today was a bit of coincidence as there are major holidays happening in both my homeland and adopted home. So while I’m watching 4th of July beach parties, BBQs and red, white, and blue fireworks displays back in the states, here in Turkey they’re getting ready to celebrate three days of Seker Bayram, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan.

Ramazan (known as Ramadan outside of Turkey) is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. During this time, those observing Ramazan will abstain from vices like swearing, alcohol, sex, and arguing and focus on being kind to others, improving the community and performing acts of charity. Families and friends are united and quarrels are resolved. During the 30 days of Ramazan, Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset. This includes not just food but anything passing your lips. No smoking, no chewing gum, no brushing your teeth, not even a sip of water!
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On Being Vulnerable

I felt a chill, sitting in my little box of a room – tiny, with oddly-placed windows that allow nearly no natural light to shine through. Wrapped up in a pile of heavy blankets and my newly purchased yak wool scarf, trying my best to stay insulated from both the physical cold and the social gatherings outside by these four walls and my ipod headphones. It’s the typical way I put up my defenses and retreat into my shell when I am faced with a difficult situation, with the first signs of depression.

My first instinct is to pull myself within, to hide from those who love me or who are concerned, to make myself as small as possible, a stranger to the world outside, to slip through unnnoticed. Call it a defense mechanism, but it’s the way I cope and has been for years. I can’t say that it’s been successful but after many major bouts of clinical depression in my adult life, it’s the only way I know how to survive until I’m ready to push through that darkness.

But India seems bent on teaching me that there is nowhere to hide. The love out there is so big, so colorful, so full of richness, so full of light and flavors that it will literally burst through the door, whether I want it to or not. Tonight it came via a stainless steel tray, loaded first with the simplest of flavors – a spiced vegetable curry with tender, sweet carrots, creamy chunks of village potatoes and crisp green bell peppers. On the side, a simple chapati flatbread and a steel cup of cold water. My first thought (in my wounded state of mind) was that it reminded me of humble prison rations, and I found none of my usual joy or anticipation in bringing the first spoon to my mouth.

Yet bite by bite, each spoonful brought me nourishment to my body and revived my spirit. Because I couldn’t refuse in Hindi, another plate soon appeared – rajma made of red kidney beans, not as spicy as the fiery version I’d tried in Amritsar, but obviously made with love and care. Next, a container of rice. As I’d watched others do, I spooned the rajma over the rice and watched as the flavors mixed and deepened with each new taste. I tried to slow down to appreciate the texture and flavor in each bite, to receive the blessing and well wishes being sent to me by the kind woman who prepared them and delivered them to my sick room even as I tried to say no. I loved her then, for ignoring my attempts to shut her out, and to lock myself inside.
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Where to Eat in Lisbon: Cervejaria Ramiro

I had first seen Cervejaria Ramiro on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on Lisbon. Known for serving a huge variety of fresh seafood with grilled steak sandwiches for “dessert”, it was on my short list of places to visit in my trip to Portugal. I had plans to meet my friend Flavia from Brazil for dinner, as she happened to be passing through Lisbon on a layover that night. Flavia and I were roommates on my very first night in Goreme when I was still just a tourist in Turkey, so I was looking forward to seeing her again after living there for ten months now.

I was also lucky with my choice of a hostel in Lisbon, We Love F*** Tourists, which has some of the nicest staff I’ve met anywhere in the world and who cheered my interest in going to Ramiro. I was honored that a whole group from the hostel staff was able to join Flavia and I for my last night in Lisbon. It’s always more fun to try out a new restaurant with a food-loving group!

Old friends and new for my last night in Lisbon

There is usually a bit of a wait to enter the restaurant, but we were seated in about ten minutes in the upstairs dining room. We walked in past the tanks of live seafood, waiters waiters weaving through with plates straight from the bustling kitchen, and my mouth began to water in anticipation! We started with pata negra (acorn-fed Iberian ham) and a soft cheese from Azeitao to spread over fresh buttered bread. Next came shrimp sauteed in butter and garlic, tender steamed clams and some of the biggest raw oysters I’ve ever seen.

It was my first time trying goose barnacles (such a strange look, with a taste a bit like clams) and sea snails (like briny escargot, pried out of their shells with little forks). My favorite of all of the dishes were the giant tiger prawns, grilled simply and seasoned with thick flakes of sea salt. I thought they were joking when they brought out a huge live lobster — I was SO full by that point — but minutes later it appeared on the table too.

It was such a treat to be able to sit back and let someone else do the ordering for a change, and I knew we were in good hands when we let Pedro order. Service was a bit slow at times as the staff catered to tables of tourists around us. (Our server also took a selfie when asked to take a photo of the table, haha!) Having locals who’d been there before helped, Pedro and our server went back and forth in rapid Portuguese, making sure to include a variety for all of us to share. Of course, we had to end with the famous prego steak sandwich for “dessert” and everything was paired with appropriate beverages along the way – white wine from the Duoro valley to start, beer when we got to steak and a lemon sorbetto topped with vodka to put you just over the top!

As you can probably tell, the food was amazing but the company was even better. Truly a highlight to my too-short stay in Portugal. Obrigada, friends!

Cervejaria Ramiro
Av. Almirante Reis nº1 – H
1150-007 Lisboa, Portugal (map) Phone: +351 21 885 1024
Closest metro: Intendente
Website | TripAdvisor | Yelp | Spotted by Locals

If Portugal is not already on your travel bucket list, add it now! Here’s some inspiration, and both shows happen to feature Cervejaria Ramiro prominently:

>> For recommendations of things to do, see and EAT in Portugal, check out my Portugal Destination Guide.
>> For other highlights from my trip, check out my Portugal Photo Galleries.

250 Days

What a beautiful journey this has been and continues to be, every day… As I’ve recently passed the 250-day mark in my travels, I figured it was time for another update.

When I wrote my 100 Days update, I tried to dispel the myth of travel being so expensive by giving you a breakdown of costs from my first few countries. Although they have gone up slightly in the time since that update ($46 per day now vs. $40 then), they’re still solidly less than what it would cost to live in Hawaii, which reaffirms my decision to take my work on the road. In fact, everything still comes in around $1700 per month, even allowing for bus and air travel, sightseeing, and a few splurges here and there. The following sections will further break things down by country, for those who might be interested.

>> For cost breakdowns from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, please visit my post from my first 100 days.

Bolivia Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.33
Lodging – $18.16
Transport – $2.90
Sightseeing – $2.76
Personal – $2.47
Misc – $2.73
Bolivia cost per day: $43.35 (22 days)

Notes: My food costs in Bolivia were on the high side, in part due to a major splurge to take part in the 7-course tasting menu at Gustu. Without that splurge, food was quite reasonable as I often went for set menu almuerzos or inexpensive food at the mercados. Thanks to my friend Freddy, I was also able to keep my sightseeing and transport costs low by really exploring like a local.

>> Bolivia Destination Guide
>> Bolivia Photo Galleries

Chile Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $18.80
Lodging – $16.89
Transport – $9.69
Sightseeing – $10.31
Personal – $3.29
Chile cost per day: $58.97 (9 days)

Notes: Everything in Chile was quite expensive, although I did luck out in Santiago with a hostel that had fast wifi, a good location and a great price. Whenever I make my way through a city or country quickly, the costs really add up and don’t have a chance to be distributed over a longer number of days. This is a perfect example of why “slow travel” really lowers your overall costs and allows you to dig deeper into the experience of a place.

>> Chile Destination Guide
>> Chile Photo Galleries

Argentina Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.38
Lodging – $18.83
Transport – $7.76
Sightseeing – $2.87
Personal – $4.28
Misc – $0.18
Argentina cost per day: $48.31 (29 days)

Notes: Lodging was my biggest cost in Argentina, as I splurged on a hotel for a few days when I was sick. Transport is also a bit high because I splurged on the “suite” category for the overnight bus between Mendoza and Buenos Aires. Staying in a hostel meant I was often surrounded by people who were on holiday, which meant eating out a lot since it was always someone’s last night, which can get expensive quickly. It would have been easy to lower food costs if I’d taken advantage of the kitchen a bit more, but the steak (and wine! and coffee!) in Argentina was so tempting that I ate out much more than I should have! Although I don’t regret it one bit. 😉

>> Argentina Destination Guide
>> Argentina Photo Galleries

South Africa Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $11.29
Lodging – $24.00
Transport – $3.94
Sightseeing – $2.67
Personal – $5.78
Misc – $0.20
South Africa cost per day: $47.87 (58 days)

Note: My lodging costs in South Africa were significantly higher than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. Even a dorm bed in a hostel ran about $18 and although I did have some good luck with Airbnb, I also splurged on a hotel room before and after the Two Oceans Half Marathon and as a treat for my birthday! Another note is that if you are counting on access to free wifi, it’s extremely limited in South Africa. I ended up getting a SIM card with data and rates were quite expensive compared to other countries.

>> South Africa Destination Guide
>> South Africa Photo Galleries

What’s next?

I’m still working at freelance writing, social media consulting and various partnerships with brands I trust. While I can’t say that it’s enough to live off, I am not ready to give up the dream yet and I’m considering this an exploration of a new career path. I’ve also had a few semi-serious offers to work in exchange for accommodation or food here in Cappadocia, which are quite tempting as it’s quite a magical place!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugMany have asked me and the answer remains that I am not tired of this new nomadic life, yet. I have learned so much about the places that I’ve traveled and I believe even more strongly today than when I started that the best way (for me, at least) to learn about the world and its many interwoven cultures is through food. It’s a common thread that gives me somewhere to start, even in places where I have no frame of reference and know so little of the history, language or culture of the people. Seeing variations on similar dishes, ingredients or cooking techniques really helps me to learn the ways that people have moved and interacted through history and it is endlessly fascinating! Nearly every place I’ve been is proud of its food and traditions. Eating together and handing down recipes through generations reminds people of family. These things are universal, no matter how different we are.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me! :)

Cooking Classes in Chile: Uncorked Cooking Workshop

Disclosure: My cooking class was provided courtesy of Uncorked Cooking Workshop, however I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugCeviche. Oh, my love for ceviche knows no bounds.

It’s one of the dishes that I’ve tried up and down the continent of South America and have pretty much loved in all its variations – although some more than others. After having an ungodly amount of ceviche in Lima, I gave it a rest for a bit as I headed back up into the mountains of Peru and Bolivia.

So I was thrilled when I saw that ceviche was one of the dishes we would be making in my class with Uncorked Cooking Workshop! Just reading the menu made me salivate for the sour-citrusy seafood goodness. (Say that ten times fast!)
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