A friend’s son spent a few weeks in Europe for his study-abroad program this summer.
It may not be his first trip abroad, but it certainly was his first time to be away from home this long.
His parents were proud of him, but I know they were worried and his mom said she cried when she sent him off at the airport.
The first time I left Japan was probably when I was his age, 19 or 20.
It was an ESL/study-abroad program organized by my college, and I stayed with a family in Riverside California for a month while attending an ESL class at a local church.
I am a big supporter of college study-abroad programs.
You can read books, look at pictures, and watch videos (and it’s not difficult to do so today), but there is NOTHING like actually spending time in a foreign country.
I ended up coming back to the US two more times and the third time I stayed.
After 15 years I still find new things, but I never forget my very first time experiencing “American” things, from TV shows (The Simpsons, America’s Funniest Home Videos), music (Paula Abdul was big when I was there; you can probably guess how old I am!), food (I fell in love with bagels with cream cheese), to the shampoo (I still remember the coconut scent from the shampoo my 15-year-old host family sister was using). They were so new, different, some shocking, and some seemed crazy, yet, the experience was so cool!
It really opened my eyes.
And I don’t think anything else has ever done that at the same order of magnitude.
You don’t have to stay in the country for a long time, but traveling to a different country, leaving your comfort zone, and exposing yourself to a language, food, and customs that are totally different from something you have known the whole life at a relatively young age helps you understand what it really means to be open-minded and humble.
Interestingly, one of the things I learned from my first trip abroad was how similar we were in terms of what we want in our lives, despite all the cultural differences.
Family is important. We want peace. We enjoy learning new things. We try to help each other.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this story (lol).
But this post of Thai curry is probably not a too inappropriate place to talk about it.
Mushroom Coconut Curry Noodle Soup
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 inch thick slice, ginger, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cups, chopped mushrooms (I used Maitake and Oyster mushrooms)
2 tablespoons shio kombu (salted Japanese kombu seaweed)
2 cups water
1~2 tablespoons cane sugar
2 tablespoons dried lemongrass (I put it in a teabag)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 cup coconut cream
salt and pepper
100g cooked clear noodles
2 cups chopped napa cabbage
1 cup chopped red cabbage
1 tablespoon sweet chili jam from Trader Joes (optional)
juice from fresh lime (optional)
1. Sautee garlic and ginger in oil.
2. Add onion and mushrooms. Continue to sautee.
3. Add Japanese salted seaweed, Shio kombu, and water. Boil and then turn to low heat.
4. Add sugar, dried lemongrass, curry paste, coconut cream, salt, and pepper. Boil and then turn to low heat.
5. Add napa cabbage and red cabbage.
6. Serve with cilantro, chili jam, and lime.
I’m on Instagram.