Being an ex-pat teaches you a few things about yourself, your abilities, and your relationships. You may think you have a good handle on who you are and how you react to different situations, but it’s not really until you get outside of your comfort zone – I mean way outside of your comfort zone – to see how everyday life can be interpreted differently.
Maybe it was because of the routine I had gotten myself into, or the bubble that my college encased me in, but everyday tasks like grocery shopping, running, getting a cup of coffee, going to the post office, all seemed menial and boring. But out of context – and out of my own language – things were given a new life. Now it’s the little things that I look forward to in a day. What new word am I going to learn by mis-ordering my daily brew? What reactions will I get today as I bound over puddles on the bridge that spans the Han River – will it be the look of shock, fear, or the thumbs up or applause (which happen every so often)? What exactly is that leafy green in the supermarket that is always on sale? Should I buy it?
Living abroad also teaches you about your passions and similarly your relationships. What exactly do you bring with you to settle into this new place? Not tangible possessions, but your passions. Back home I was a yoga-running-dancing-baking-talking fiend that lusted for activity all at once. Here, I’ve brought with me most, if not all of those passions, which just goes to show that those are things that make me, me.
But the point of this ever-so-cheesy post, is that I have really come to appreciate and recognize meaningful relationships with those people back home to whom I’ll forever be indebted. Friends that write emails. Family that sends packages and cards and letters. Everyone that finds time to get on the magical world of skype. Going abroad really can show you many things about your life that staying home, safe and warm, cannot.
For example, the other day, for St. Patty’s day, since my family seizes every opportunity to send me something, I received a box fit for a celebration (coffee! Dried figs! Dried Mango! Honey!!!) as well as a letter from my Grandparents who live in a small sleepy town in southern Virginia.
In the letter, which updated me about family happenings back in the South, I also found a little newspaper clipping that had a recipe on it; “Homemade bread in under an hour.” With my new purchase of an oven, and my recently enlivened passion for baking everything, this was the best darn newspaper clipping I ever did see in my 20something’th year of my life.
The recipe was short, and I had everything, except for the star of the show: beer. Being that it was “Beer Bread,” I couldn’t really replace the beer like you could eggs, butter, or oil (thanks vegan replacement tips!). So, bright and early on a Monday morning I went to the local convenience store to buy myself a Bud. No, it wasn’t my best moment, and no I didn’t try to explain in broken Korean that I was buying this for bread, and not imbibement. I just paid my one-dollar for a beer, and walked out of the store, eyes avoiding contact.
Once home, I found that this recipe is as easy as it looks (please note what part my Grandmother underlined: “No sips” in reference to the beer). Boom bang flour baking powder, salt, sugar, beer, done in under an hour.
I’d highly recommend this bread – it’s super simple and surprisingly delicious. I’m sure – abroad or home – I’ll make this again.
Beer Bread (slightly adjusted for a smaller loaf, since I don’t go through that much bread):
1 ¾ cup flour
1 ½ Tbs Sugar (white or brown will work)
½ Tbs Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
6 Oz Beer
1 egg, beaten
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add beer and stir. Get everything out of the bowl and onto a floured surface to knead for a hot minute or two. Pre heat the oven to 375. Once the oven’s hit it’s temperature, take a sharp knife and cut an “X” into the dough to give the bread room to expand and evenly cook. Wash it with the beaten egg for a nice golden hue. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Let cool (or dive right in).