Tag Archives: food

http://www.thefoxisblack.com/2012/06/08/tourists-a-poster-by-jim-field/

Tales of travel: top tips and other stuff thrown in


Here’s a confession- growing up, I secretly wished that I could walk around, unwashed, wearing ugly sandals and flowing Indian clothes. I hoped that one day I too would have licence to stumble about, mouth hanging open, invading people’s privacy by taking pictures of stuff with my very cool and expensive looking camera.

At some point I realized that trying very hard to be different from the masses turns you into a cliché yourself, and that sometimes this truth is evident to everyone but yourself.

So when I met a gang of  under-dressed, tattooed vegans who described themselves as long term travelers, I was intrigued. Maybe I could do the same thing? Maybe I could also make statements like

‘My home is my backpack and I am a nomad.’

and mean it?

Maybe I could finance my travels by making jewelry, reading palms and playing a myriad of instruments? Stick it to the Man once and for all by embracing an obscure Asian religion and changing my name?

Who am I kidding? I has the wrong passport.

Anyway, since none of the  trips I ever made involved acting out my hippie fantasies, I present you my very own top tips to having an awesome holiday:

Don’t be a Dead-weight

Group dynamic is very important when you want to travel with strangers, or even your own friends. You see, there’s leaders, and there’s followers. And then there are dead-weights. Dead-weights are happy to let everyone else make decisions for them, put them on a leash and shepherd them from destination to destination. Dead-weights come into their own when something goes wrong, and are often the ones who complain the loudest about everything. The hostel sucks, why are we looking at this sh*t? I’m tired. This is boring.

Don’t be a dead weight. Just don’t. Suck it in- following someone else’s plans is also a choice in itself. Remember that as you get rained on in the middle of some God forsaken town as you watch the last bus speed away.

Don’t try to recreate home

You know what doesn’t work? Trying to make yourself feel at home. Especially when it comes to food. I see people trying to recreate the taste of home over and over again, only to be bitterly disappointed. So…trying to find a replacement for paneer will not end well. Neither will buying pineapples north of the equator. Ditto for finding aged cheese in India. You can wait till you get home for that stuff. And above all, no-one wants to listen to a 45 minute lecture about how bad whatever it is you are eating is, and how much better it normally is at home. Don’t, just don’t.

Same goes for complaining about transport and people. Yes, we know, your country is awesome and people are nice and no-none stares and you get everything you want and everyone understands you. It’s okay, be strong, its only a few more days till you can go back to your Utopia.

Don’t be embarrassed about being a tourist

Memory can be a fickle thing. So take pictures if you want to. Instagram the shit out of them and use a million #hashtags if you want to. Especially if you visit landmarks that are a must see. Spend half an hour getting the perfect shot of you jumping in the air and touching the top of the building or whatever. Take 15 shots of those pretty flowers that you saw if you want to. Ignore people who tell you that you can download those images from Google and indulge your fantasies about being an awesome photographer (we all have them…) You are on holiday, what else are you going to do?

Seek out your authentic experience as much as you want, but the truth is, if you have a few days in place X, there are only so many ‘hidden’ things you will find. You will probably do touristy, cliched things and you will be happy about it. As long as you don’t obsess about finding the ‘real’ deal. Everybody wants to see the Eiffel tower. Everybody wants to see the Taj. Everybody wants to swim with the sharks. And it’s all been done before.

Remember it could be much worse

Below a certain age, doing anything with your parents is unbearable. But even when you can share a drink with your kin, lots of things you do with your parents fall under the category I like to call ‘obligatory fun’. Like going on holiday. Or going to amusement parks. Or going to museums. Sometimes even having a conversation. But  especially going on holiday.

Because getting lost isn’t just getting lost- its fodder for that ongoing war of attrition between mom and dad.  Screaming matches in public during dinner are not so funny in real life.  Going to a museum isn’t about culture. It’s about struggling with adolescents who see more value in their phones than in whatever dusty crap their folks are shoving their faces into.

Remember that when your plans don’t work out as imagined.

Leave your comments- best holiday, worst holiday, what works for you, what you resent about tourists invading your city…

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Random Confessions


Cute friend: ‘Hey Ms W, have you been writing of late?’

Me: ‘Eeerm, no, not really, not much going on…’

Cute friend: ‘Surely you must have something interesting to say, especially since you are in France’

Me: ‘…I guess…’

So that is the conversation that inspired this post.  Haven’t done much inspirational travelling of late. (Tried booking a trip to Italy but when I saw the prices I nearly vomited, so, well…)

Neither have I had any profound, life changing experiences, at least not that I can openly share without extreme embarrassment, since I choose not to hide behind a secret internet identity…

But I always wanted to write about the mundane things about my life in France, and it seems that the moment is now. So here goes: a random list of the things I find weird, bizzare or hilarious about my life in France:

1. The only French food I have ever eaten is in the school cafeteria: People like to think that France is the gastronomical capital of the world. Maybe it is, I wouldn’t know. My experience with French food is mostly from the school canteen- that is, under cooked meat, ‘mystery’ stews and some over cooked french beans. Oh, and some very, very frightening cheese.

Don’t you have any french friends?

I do. Only that they are the kind that will make pancakes and eat them with ham (still don’t get it, I hate pancakes, even when they call them ‘crepes’ and dress them up with jam and cheese and fish and make a party around them.) Or buy bread and eat it with some greasy pork fat, elegantly packaged and named as something I cannot remember right now- all I know is that it looks like Kimbo with some black sh*t in it.

Why not go to a French restaurant?

Indeed, why not?

Hmm…let’s see. There are all kinds of cheap here. Cheap Chinese, Cheap Lebanese, Cheap Turkish Kebabs (remember those?), Cheap Japanese, Cheap Congolese, Cheap Afghanistani (yeah, that’s right). Only thing missing here is cheap French. Which does not exist. The day I am willing to spend my rent money on a meal in a french restaurant, you will be the first to know.

2. My effin hostel: I live in a hostel charmingly named ‘Bois’ (the forest). After living there for a couple of weeks, we renamed it the ‘Ghetto’. Why? Well, it is dominated by minorities.   Africans on the first floor, Chinese on the second, Indians on the third, and a few misplaced exchange students and more Africans and chinese on the fourth.

Any time I want to lose my appetite I open the windows and let in the smells of ethnic cooking waft up to my room. Or leave my door ajar, and inhale that very special smell that only six foot plus basketball players can manufacture with their shoes. The smell that sticks to the back of your throat, the kind that only a very, very strong shot of whiskey can erase.

Did I mention that we have to share kitchens and bathrooms? All I can say is that we once found bloody intestines in the kitchen. Where did they come from? Lord knows, because I have never seen anyone buy a live animal here.

3. Embarrassing Africans: It’s not news that we have a poor reputation here, and almost no respect (with the whole thing about the entire African economy being the same as Mexico’s and all that..) but the brothers ain’t helping at all. Any time anyone mentions a story about harrasement, sexual or otherwise, you can bet that somewhere in the story is ‘and this black guy..’.

I’m not saying that all black people behave as though they come from the lawlessness of the Congo forest, but, you know the deal with stereotypes.

One good thing at least, is that no one messes with me. (At least not yet). Though the only people that make me uncomfortable are these gangs of Moroccan/North African boys, who’s moves I  can never predict. And who are contenders for the ‘Most violent/misbehaved’ immigrants, right with the best of them.

4. My classmates: When I was applying for my masters studies (I know, how pompous..) I had these images about how I would suck the knowledge from my wiser, OLDER and more mature classmates. Oh, how I was wrong. I am in a classroom full of fresh faced, barely-out-of-their-teens young’ins like me. On the plus side, the parties rock. On the down side, I am in an intellectual wasteland.  Topics of conversation include: ‘Did you notice that Saad has a big belly like an old man?’, to ‘I wish I had more time to go shopping!’. Spoilt for choice, aren’t I?

5. The old men: I don’t know, the last time I looked at my pictures, I don’t think the word hooker came up. But it doesn’t stop wrinkly little french guys asking what my price is, or desperate middle aged men offering me lifts in their flashy convertibles…

Of course, there is a lesson in all of this. Diversity, multicultural understanding, tolerance and all that jazz. Right now, I cannot see it. But then again, I’m sure that it’s one of those things I will understand once I leave and I can tell everyone, ‘Back when I was living in france…’

French Wine, Turkish Kebabs and the descent into FAT Hell


It’s official. I’m a fattie. I’ve joined the wide lane. Crossed over into the universe where eating a pack of chips is a crime. Where having a sandwich is :

Turns out, If you google fat pig, Michelle Obama's picture comes up. How now?


Yeah, I said it, I feel fat.

I’ve never really been the skinny type, except when I was a baby and my doctor had me tested for HIV for ‘failure to thrive’. Turns out that my problem was just that I was just a slow eater with an impatient mother.

Anyway, after the starving children in Sudan episode, I filled out pretty good. Not strictly on the healthy side, but not a quarter pounder with extra cheese either. Let’s call it a little extra cushion.

For a while, everything was fine.

Until France. And this conversation with my friend:

W: Oh Lord, I feel a little heavy…it’s getting hard to walk.

Friend: Yeah, really?

W: been piling on the pounds.

Friend: It’s because you eat a lot of junk. Actually, you are always eating.

W (Saaaay what?): What do you mean?

Friend: Yeah you always eating chips and chocolate.

W: eeerm..right…(because we shared a pack of chips once and a bar of chocolate?)

I feel like this:

yeah..the only thing we are good at is stuffing our faces with junk and wearing inappropriate clothing

I probably look like this:

[Ok, all I could find on google was just lots of pictures of big booties, so I leave it to your imagination.]

That’s when it hit me: In a sea of size sixes and tens, I am officially queen of the fatties. Every bite I take is being watched.

The ‘big is beautiful’ thing doesn’t cut it here. Big is greedy. Big is that bitch who stuffs herself until she can’t move.After all, it is no coincidence that this place is crawling with size sixes and eights. I mean, every one makes fun of the French ‘nouvelle cuisine’, or ‘big plate, three bites and a pretty leaf’ meal plan.

Hence the weird, judgmental conversation about me stuffing my face with chips and junk all day.

And a rambling blog post to bitch about it.

Disclaimer: My self esteem is in no way shattered. My taste buds, however have accepted that they will take a very long walk down the fruit n veg lane. Because I’m not asking for a miracle. I just want to see my toes without breaking into a sweat.