Eating Healthy

Now that I am pregnant, eating healthy has become even more important. I am mindful that I am eating for two (one is super tiny) in that I try, now more than ever, to eat a balanced diet. Whatever I eat, the baby eats.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has been full of beneficial information especially considering my nutritional needs. It has some helpful suggestions on portion sized servings for every building block on the food pyramid, and I took these suggestions and whittled them down to what is available to me. Living in a place which doesn’t have a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods limits my healthy selection, but the work that I put in this summer freezing various fruits and veggies, pays off big time now.

One of the easiest ways I have found to pack a lot of nutrients into one meal is to make a smoothie every morning. Doing this gets me at least one serving of calcium, usually 2 servings of Vitamin C and a serving or two of other fruits. I have loved trying a few different combinations, all without added sugar (other than the sugar which is is added to fruit juice).

One area of struggle has been in the whole grains department. Pregnant women are supposed to get 6 servings of whole grains a day. 6 is a lot, especially considering I have never seen whole grain bread or pasta here. I am eating oatmeal every morning, and I am experimenting with different grains. I have access to buckwheat, millet, farro and buckwheat groats. Millet is a great substitute for rice so that has been an easy change, but if anyone has great ideas for the other grains, I am all ears.

Lesson Learned: Eating healthy means eating new foods.

Things I’m Thankful For

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Blessings are easily taken for granted. As we prepare to celebrate our 2nd Thanksgiving in Central Asia, here are some things that we are grateful for:

 

  1. Coffee. When we were preparing to move here, we were warned that coffee was non-existent. However, the coffee industry is growing and coffee shops are everywhere.
  2. Friends at coffee shops. We study a lot in coffee shops and this has given us a lot of opportunities to make local friends.
  3. Walking. Even though we live in a bigger city, there are a lot of places that I can easily get to by walking. I love walking for exercise but also for the things which I am able to learn on the way.
  4. Ingredients. Even though I have to import major things like vanilla and adobo chilis, a lot of ingredients can be found, even if not in the normal places you would expect.
  5. People. Everyone, strangers included, want to help. Whether that is finding a taxi, carrying something heavy or translating someone, we are never without the help that we need.
  6. Electricity. There are many places in Central Asia without regular or reliable electricity. While ours does get shut off occasionally, I can depend on having it more often than not.
  7. New Year. They celebrate New Year’s like Christmas here, so even though it is a week late, I can still enjoy the Holiday Spirit.
  8. Produce. As long as it is in season, produce is cheap!
  9. My freezer. For the times when produce isn’t in season, I love having my deep freeze.
  10. Seasons. It is hot in the summer. Leaves fall in the autumn. Rain comes in the spring, and it occasionally snows in the winter.

Lesson Learned: Be grateful for what you have and where you are. We have more than we deserve. 

Ticket to Ride

Central Asia, for better or worse, still clings to some of its Soviet ways. One of the ways I see this is through their heavy reliance on train travel. Before coming to CA, I can remember traveling by train 2 times in my 30 years of life, but in one year in Central Asia I have easily tripled that. Train travel is cost-effective and the best part, I don’t usually get motion sickness (like I do from other modes of transportation).

This Soviet method of transportation is kept even more Soviet because they still use the same trains that were used before the Cold War. But every now and again, you get lucky and they throw a new train on the tracks. Recently, we got to ride in one of the new ones, and we were pleasantly surprised. We had a cozy cabin with its own bathroom and shower. And let me tell you, normally, the worst part of train travel is definitely the toilet. When you push a lever to flush the toilet and you can see the tracks, you know that you are using an antiquated system. But… in our cozy cabin with a comfortable and clean bathroom, we had a great time and enjoyed the ride.

Lesson Learned: Set your expectations low so that when you come across a good train, you see it for the blessing that it is.

My American is showing

girl-single-1Living in Central Asia in a drastically different culture means at times my host culture rubs against my home culture. When this happens, I hear Destiny’s Child in my head crying out to let “all the women who are independent throw your hands up…” Sometimes being in a man centered culture can be a major drag, but then I remember that of all the places in the world, we chose to be here. We chose to be in this culture, among these people, and there is beauty in their culture.

Recently I spent the weekend with a local friend and many of her female relatives. These women have been raised in a male dominant culture and yet the beauty and grace with which they serve their families and one another is a humbling thing to behold. Sure, there are times when power and dominance is manipulated not only by males but also by the women with seniority. However, where there is love, the intimacy and relationship women have with one another is a precious thing.

Lesson Learned: Maybe when my American is showing, I need to stop singing “Independent Women” and start putting others above myself. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Phil 2:3)

Signs of Fall

From where we sit in Central Asia, the temps continue to hover around the mid 90’s. So while my pinterest feed is filled with recipes for pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin overnight oats, I am not quite yet in the fall spirit. Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of the year, so I will eagerly anticipate wearing boots and sweaters and making my own pumpkin bread.

In the meantime, I got to take a trip outside this city this week with a local friend, and we stopped at what we in American would call an apple orchard. Here they just call it a garden. I bought about 25 pounds of apples and plan to make some fallish foods and a lot of applesauce. Applesauce is one of those basic foods you are supposed to eat when you have stomach troubles, and we seem be in need weekly.

Lesson Learned: Until the pumpkins are out, I will take what I can get and go crazy with apple recipes.

 

Getting stares

Tonight while my husband and I were traveling around the city we saw four young men using sign language. In America, that would be a rarity, but in Central Asia that is almost non-existent. As I tried not to stare at them, we were struck with two things. 1) Those guys just seemed happy to be together. They truly enjoyed one another’s company. 2) They must be used to being stared at. Not once did they seem aware of the many pairs of eyes watching their every movement.

I, on the other hand, have definitely not adjusted to being stared at. On top of the different language my husband and I use, we just look different. We don’t fit into their boxes and so… they stare. But maybe I need to be more like those young men, ignore the stares and just enjoy myself. I only drain myself trying to avoid the inevitable.

Lesson learned: Embrace the staring and then ignore it. 

Pinterest Fail

When you pack up your whole life and move what little you can to the other side of the world, you opt out of packing your heavy cookbooks, especially considering that you have no idea what ingredients you would be able to procure anyway. Instead of relying on my trusted collection of recipes and my beloved Pioneer Woman cookbooks, I have placed all of my faith lock, stock and barrel, in Pinterest.

Do I want to make enchiladas in a country that has no concept of Mexican food? I go to Pinterest! There I can find recipes for homemade tortillas and enchilada sauce. Do I want to make biscuits and sausage gravy? Pinterest can give me 1,000 different biscuit recipes, and although pork sausage is nonexistent, I can find a recipe for a spice mix to turn my ground beef into sausage… sort of.

Since Pinterest has been so helpful when it comes to cooking, I had decided to broaden the scope Pinterest has in my life. Considering the fact that we spend as much on groceries here as we did in America, I wanted to try to save a few bucks by making body wash at home. It seemed simple. Grate soap. Melt it into hot water. Let it cool and then use it. Totally doable, right? Wrong. I tried it twice with two different kinds of soap, and got the same result. I now have buckets of odd texture soap that I don’t know what to do with. Any suggestions, let me know!

Lesson Learned: Stick with the basics and don’t go too DIY crazy.

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Wants vs. Needs

want.pngOne of the lessons I have learned while living abroad is difference between wants and needs. A majority of the people that I knew in America were not concerned about their needs on a regular basis. Of course, there were seasons when there was job loss or other trials that brought needs to the forefront, but a majority time, for myself and the people in my world, we were concerned not with our needs but with our wants.

For most people around the world however, wants are not a subject of daily thought. Most live day by day and their thoughts are focused on their daily needs.

We live in a culture where the average monthly income is $250, and as a result, people here have to be more concerned about needs rather than wants. In fact, people here generally have less wants. If they have their basic needs covered they are content. For instance, our local friends generally wear the same outfit two or more days in a row and have no more than ten outfits. In comparison, I have enough outfits that I wouldn’t have to wear the same one more than once a month. It makes for a lot of laundry and takes up way too much space. Clothing is a need, but most of my clothing would fit into the “want” category and is superfluous. Even after selling most of our belongings and cutting my wardrobe by 1/3, I am still learning the value of simplicity and economy.

If I focus more on my needs and less on my wants, we will be able to help more people with their needs now and save for our needs in the future.

Lesson Learned: I am always one decision away from becoming a hoarder. 

 

Kentucky Woman

diamond neilI love oldies, and while doing some language studying the other day, I listened to a few Neil Diamond classics. When “Kentucky Woman” came on, my first thought was, “Hey, I’m a Kentucky woman.” My second thought was, am I really a Kentucky woman to my Kentucky man? Neil Diamond sings about a woman who loves her man and makes his life better by being in it, and it made me think of a passage from the Bible in Proverbs 31. This woman improves the lives of everyone around her. The poor are cared for. Her children are clothed. Her husband is esteemed because of her character. She is a hardworking, thoughtful, diligent and profitable woman.

Lesson Learned: Each day, I should work towards being more like a “Kentucky Woman,” or rather a Proverbs 31 woman.

Malta Travels

Despite the setbacks mentioned on the previous post, our time in Malta was amazing. Especially for an American living abroad, being in a country where all of the signage is in English does wonders to refresh your mind.

I have been told there are beach people and then there are non-beach people, or rather, the people who like to sit and read vs. the people who actually like to do stuff on their vacations. We are a hybrid of the two, and I lean more towards liking to do stuff. I can only enjoy the feeling of my skin baking for so long. Fortunately, Malta offers options for both crowds of people, and we were able to mix up our time enough so that we enjoyed everyday.

Day 1 

We got to the apartment by 11am, so that meant we had most of the day to enjoy. Since we had the rental car, we decided to get our use out of it, and drove up the coast to one of the bigger beaches at Mellieha Bay. We got a quick lunch and then camped out on the sand for a few hours using our new Turkish towels. After that, we drove up and around the coast to scope out other beaches for future days. We also stopped at the ferry site to look into taking a ferry to one of the other islands for a day.

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Day 2

After getting some groceries and doing some laundry, we packed lunches and went to a Pretty Bay Beach where the cargo ships were coming in. We relaxed there for a couple of hours, and then we went to the ancient walled city of Mdina. It was beautiful and quaint, is built up on a hill which gives it panoramic views of the island, and best of all, it was free. They just asked for a donation for parking. We also wandered in the neighborhood surrounding Mdina and found several beautiful churches and other sights, some of which commemorated Paul. The Bible, in Acts 27:39-28:10, records an account of Paul being shipwrecked on the island of Malta. “After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all…”(Acts 28:1-2). The island was marked by his arrival and visit there, and everywhere he is remembered.

After our walking tour, we drove to the Blue Grotto where my adventurous husband decided we should climb down the cliff to get a closer look. I was wearing my Havaiana flip flops that I’ve had since 2008 and a cotton dress. Needless to say, I was no where near prepared for this excursion, but it ended up being a highlight for us. We climbed down, Benjamin jumped off the ledges in the ice cold water, and after that, drove to another beach where we waited to see the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Day 3

The third day took us back to the first beach we went to, but this time we rented chairs and an umbrella for the entire day, and it was worth it (especially considering I got seriously burned from our first two days).

Day 4

PSA: Use the bus if you go to Malta. For 21 Euro, you can get a 7-day unlimited usage bus pass. Without it, each single trip will cost you 2.50 Euro. We only used it for 3 days, and it was easily paid for itself.

Most of day 4, we spent touring Valetta.This city has tons of things to see, and again has beautiful views. Malta has incredible old seaside fort, two or three cathedrals, museums and more. We were able to go into the Church of St. Paul’s shipwreck, and see the purported relics of Paul’s right wrist bone and a portion of the stone on which he was beheaded. Each enclave was unique and beautiful, and the art in there is centuries old. Because it is a place of worship, they ask that you be quiet and dress modestly. I was given a shawl to wrap around my bare shoulders. All told, Valetta is a must visit part of the island.

Days 5 & 6

We had another couple of beach days enjoying the sea and comfortable beach chairs. They made the time so much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Day 7

We left! There were plenty of things we did and plenty more we didn’t get to do. They have an aquarium, several really ancient sites (think Stonehenge), ferry trips, snorkeling, scuba diving, Popeye’s village (an entire little town that was built into the hillside for the set of the movie “Popeye” starring Robin Williams), and an estimated 365 churches.

The nation is made up of many smaller islands. Outside of the main island, the next biggest are Gozo and Comino. We had heard from another tourist the Island of Gozo is much more appealing than the main island, so if we ever make it back to Malta, we will definitely find our way there.

Lesson Learned: Vacationing in an English speaking country really is more relaxing.