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Seychelles Bottle Deposit

Seychelles Bottle Deposit

on Apr 23, 2014

I am known to be compulsive about recycling. In my mind it is one small and easy thing that we all can do to make a small difference in the world for our future generations. So, when I saw crates containing empty beer bottles at the local market in Seychelles, I took note. It meant we could recycle our empty beer bottles at the local market! Somewhere in our first five days in the Seychelles, I read something online about a 2 Rupee bottle deposit on the local beer, Seybrew. This prompted my search on the label for any indication of a deposit or refund, but I found nothing. Of course, if we would have received an itemized receipt for our purchase, I would have looked there too. However, receipts are virtually non-existent here in the Seychelles. The deposit turned out to be less than $.25 USD per bottle. So in the grand scheme of things, it’s mere pennies compared to the high cost of everything in the Seychelles. However, the budget conscious, coupon-cutting side of me thinks that every little bit helps! Regardless, my mind was set on returning our empty Seybrew bottles for the greater good. If we received money back, then it would just be icing on the cake! Praslin Local Market On the island of Praslin, the local market was only a few meters from our accommodation. After a long day of fun and sun at the beach, we stopped here to grab a few Seybrews and some snacks to satisfy us until dinner. I must say that after a day in the heat and humidity of the Seychelles, a cold local brew can be quite refreshing. The cashier at the local market “rang up” our purchases by typing the costs into his handheld calculator and then flashed us the grand total. Seeing a credit card machine on the back counter, Kevin attempted to pay via credit card, but was denied. The clerk said they didn’t accept cards … so what was the machine for? Confused, we dug deep into our pockets to find some of the local currency, Rupees. The cashier made change, we collected our purchases and made our way back to our...

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South African Hamburger Joints

South African Hamburger Joints

on Apr 10, 2014

We were pleasantly surprised to find that South Africa has not been inundated with the American fast food chains. Yes, if you are in dire need of some American-based grease and in a large town then you will most likely be able to find a McDonalds or a Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, the two local hamburger chains, Wimpy’s and Steers, seem to far outnumber all other chains. Since we definitely love a good hamburger, we could not pass up the opportunity to conduct our own independent taste test to see how each chain’s burgers would stack up.

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Nuances of Foreign Grocery Shopping

Nuances of Foreign Grocery Shopping

on Mar 14, 2014

About twelve years ago, I took my first ever trip abroad to Ireland for business. My Irish colleagues were fantastic hosts and went the extra mile to ensure that my stay was enjoyable. In addition to being tour guides and accompanying me throughout my stay, my colleagues educated me on some of the nuances of foreign travel, like weighing and tagging produce at the market before proceeding to the checkout. During my stay in Ireland, a colleague enlightened me on the expectation that produce should be weighed and tagged prior to proceeding to the cashier. It was an odd concept to grasp at first, only because the process of purchasing produce in the U.S. differs in a couple ways. First, scales do not print price tags and second, cashiers weigh the produce for you. This was a handy lesson for our subsequent travels throughout Europe, as it appeared that weighing and tagging produce was the standard. However, during our three month stay in New Zealand and Australia, we felt right at home making our way directly to the cashier without having to weigh or tag our produce. And thus, we quickly reverted to our old habits. Once in South Africa, we were quickly reminded that shoppers need to tag their own produce. We did our shopping and then proceeded to the cashier at a local Cape Town market. We had a pair of un-weighed and un-tagged bananas! The failure to comply to the local custom drew an immediate reaction from the clerk. Whoops! If our accent did not give us away as tourists then our failure to comply with the standard procedure certainly did. Our options were limited. Either we forego the bananas or we venture back into the store to correct the situation. I offered up an apology and since we were short on time elected to abandon our bananas. We are not always fortunate enough to have locals help us navigate new cities, so, it was a good reminder for us to be more observant of our surroundings. Sometimes the best way to learn the ropes is by quietly observing locals and then mimicking their behavior. On a subsequent visit to the market, we watched locals take their...

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A Leisurely Day in the Margaret River Valley

A Leisurely Day in the Margaret River Valley

on Mar 7, 2014

We decided to wrap up our time in Australia by exploring the Margaret River Valley. Located in Western Australia it is one of Australia’s premier wine regions. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend our last few days. Although the area is known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, we soon realized that this area has more to offer than just wines! On a nearly perfect day in the valley, we enjoyed some good wine, great food and a couple of leisurely strolls along the beach. A Morning Walk Our local accommodation was a short walk from the Gnarabup Beach in Prevelly. A stay in a beach town is not complete until you have at least visited the beach, right? After climbing the small embankment to the beach, we were immediately awestruck by the size of the waves breaking off shore, and even more impressed by the surfers attempting to ride these massive waves. We walked the length of the beach, pausing to take pictures, observe the local dogs playing on the beach and watch the surf. Wine We heeded the advice of some new friends in Perth and made our way to a handful of suggested wineries. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, wonderful scenery and, of course, the large selection of wines. We even resisted the urge to purchase a bottle or two to take with us. But we did enjoy a glass over an upscale lunch at the oldest winery in area (Voyager Estate). Ice Cream We couldn’t resist the opportunity to diversify our activities for the day and thus found ourselves jumping at the opportunity to enjoy a sweet (or two) on this warm fall afternoon. As we browsed the offerings at Millers Ice Cream Farm, we could hardly resist the temptation to try a scoop of every flavor. After much deliberation, we narrowed our selections down to just four flavors, and made our way to the patio to enjoy our afternoon treat. On the way out of the parking lot I was already contemplating a second visit. Chocolate As if ice cream was not enough, we decided to add to our daily sugar intake with a visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory....

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Date Night: Dinner, Wine & A Movie

Date Night: Dinner, Wine & A Movie

on Mar 6, 2014

In search of a Margaret River Valley wine map, we stopped into a local tourist information office. We were unsuccessful in scoring a map, but didn’t leave completely empty handed. As we exited the office, a brochure caught my eye: Movies at Cape Mentelle. On many occasions, we talked about going to a movie and even scoped out the movie selections in a number of different cities around the world. We were most excited about the potential of seeing a movie under the starts at the Moonlight Cinema in Melbourne, which takes place during the summer months at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden. Unfortunately between the weather, the Australian Open tennis tournament and our social calendar, we were never able to attend. Having missed out on Melbourne’s outdoor screenings, it took only a few moments of deliberation before we both agreed on an impromptu “date night” at Cape Mentelle. The opportunity to spend a mild, fall evening relaxing in a vineyard, watching a movie under the stars, eating wood-fired pizza and drinking a nice bottle of wine sounded like an ideal night out. At the time, we were not overly excited about the evening’s film, Dallas Buyer’s Club. (We’ve been so out of touch with American pop culture that we had no idea Matthew McConaughey had just won an Oscar for his performance.) Even though we weren’t familiar with the film, we knew that it would be more enjoyable than spending the night in our hotel doing client work and planning the next leg of our trip. Since we had just arrived into town, we weren’t able to purchase advance tickets. Thus we arrived early hoping the movie was not already sold out, and as luck would have it we were able to purchase tickets without any issues. After ordering ourselves a pizza and bottle of wine, we found ourselves a nice patch of grass to the left of the screen, unfolded our meager beach towel and settled in for the evening. We watched with envy as others filed in with beanbags, blankets, pillows and picnic baskets. Although we weren’t the most prepared for the evening, we were definitely thankful to at least have a small beach towel which was an impromptu $7 purchase...

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The Verdict on Vegemite

The Verdict on Vegemite

on Mar 4, 2014

This week marks our last week in Australia and with only days remaining we still hadn’t tried Vegemite. It’s not quite on the same level as  the kangaroo, but it’s still a major icon of Australia. If you ask an Australian about it, they all seem to love it, but confess that it’s an acquired taste. Even on our previous two visits to Australia, we happily avoided it. I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to “give it a go” as they say in Australia, but I think I was held back by a couple things. The Name is Perplexing Vegemite? It sounds like a mixture of vegetables and some sort of tiny insect. It’s neither … so seriously, where’d they get that horrible name? My curiosity got the best of me and I had to research it. It turns out the name originates from a contest in 1923 where the winning name was drawn from a hat. There’s a similar product called Marmite which probably influenced the entries. Every time I hear the name, I can’t help but think of composted vegetables and insects. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Then again perhaps it’s better than calling it what it actually is … Yeast Isn’t a Flavor The Vegemite labels have used “concentrated yeast extract” to describe the product. I don’t know about you, but yeast flavored anything sounds about as appealing as thong sweat (take either meaning of thong you want). Vegemite is actually a byproduct of beer. It’s the leftovers of the brewing process so it’s simply dead yeast and such. I’m a huge fan of of brewing–Australia has some great micro brews–but eating the leftovers and dead cells from fermentation just doesn’t sound good and to be honest, I’m not sure how anyone ever sold the idea. But hey, I didn’t love beer the first time I tried it and that certainly has changed, so perhaps there’s hope for spreadable yeast too. Despite my perceptions of the name and flavors, the makers of Vegemite must be doing something right. The bright yellow jars take up loads of shelf space at the market right next to the peanut butter. Plus they sell over 22 million jars of the stuff...

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Tipping Not Required

Tipping Not Required

on Jan 20, 2014

One of the first few questions that we have when arriving in a new country is always about tipping. Are we supposed to tip? If so, who do we tip and how much?

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Salt-Free, No Thanks!

Salt-Free, No Thanks!

on Jan 2, 2014

Maybe it is because we are Americans, but the concept of salt-free is just plain bland! There are so many products that just taste better when salt is involved. How people can eat some things without salt is baffling to me. Take for example: popcorn, potatoes, or steamed / cooked veggies. The thought of eating any of these without a dash (or two) of salt is just not right. Salt seems to compliment their natural flavor and makes some of the most bland tasting things palatable. Heck, when  baking, many recipes call for a pinch of salt! Salt just seems to make things taste a little bit better. It did not take us long to arrive at the conclusion that salt free peanut butter is definitely a mistake! We just got back from the grocery store, so I sliced an apple, buttered it up with a fresh jar of peanut butter, and took a big bite. Yuck, what was wrong with this peanut butter? It just did not taste right. After a quick inspection of the jar, it became clear that the cause was the lack of salt! I accidentally purchased salt-free peanut butter. After a few moments of contemplation, we arrived with the brilliant idea to add some salt. Kevin volunteered for the trial run. He added a little salt and reported back that the problem was fixed! We’ve since added salt to our jar and stirred. The peanut butter will definitely not go to waste, now! When in doubt, a dash of salt might just be the right compliment to make things a bit more palatable. Wouldn’t it be great if a pinch a salt was the answer to all of life’s...

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Where’s the Turkey?

Where’s the Turkey?

on Dec 31, 2013

Visiting a local market can be a fun cultural experience. Over the past six months we have spent many hours shopping for food in local markets. Although our grocery list does tend to have the same core ingredients regardless of where we are, we have found that the options available can vary in every city and country. We spent two weeks touring New Zealand in RVs with 12 friends from home. On arrival, we went to the local grocery store to stock up on some basics to allow us to make breakfast, lunch and a few dinners in the comfort of our RVs. In preparation for the visit, I had made a first pass at creating a grocery list, which we reviewed and revised on the way to the store. We divided the list into three parts and set out to fill our carts. We had no issues filling four carts, and gained a lot of funny looks along the way. Shopping for 14 is far different than shopping for 2! There were a number of things from the shopping experience that collectively surprised our group. Among those was the lack of availability of turkey meat. Granted, we eat turkey a lot in the US. I mean we have a holiday nicknamed “turkey day” where our custom is to eat turkey. Turkey tends to be the lunch meat of choice. Likewise, our stores offer ground turkey meat as an healthier lower fat alternative to ground beef. However, what we learned is that you will not find turkey in stores in New Zealand. Neither the deli nor the pre-packaged lunch meat carry turkey as an option. Over the course of the next five weeks, I found myself browsing the deli and pre-packed meat isles in New Zealand to find turkey. However, there was no turkey to be found. The primary deli meat available was ham in every flavor and style. They did have roast beef and roasted chicken but the selection was limited and the price of the chicken was far more expensive. On our arrival in Melbourne, I was so excited to see turkey at the deli counter that I almost ordered some without considering the price. Luckily, Kevin...

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Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

on Nov 24, 2013

We have come to appreciate that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Sometimes breakfast is included with our accommodation, while other times it is not. When it is not, we try to plan accordingly and make trips to the local market so that we will have something available to get us going in the morning. Unfortunately, we checked into a new hotel yesterday where breakfast was not included. We hoped to find a local market  or restaurant within walking distance but nothing was nearby. Thus our options were limited: a) go hungry, b) cave and buy the $18 (USD) per person buffet, or c) survive on the meager snacks in the bottom of our backpack. Our options were bleak, until an unexpected shuffle at the hotel changed everything. When checking into our room at the hotel, we noticed our bathroom and bedroom smelled like sewage. Yes, raw sewage! We could have sucked it up for one night, but we were going to be there for 5 nights! We didn’t want to deal with that smell that long. So, after a couple calls to the manager, a fresh air spritzer from housekeeping and a drain filter replacement from “engineering”, we still had a rather unpleasant smell in our bathroom. So, we requested to switch rooms. Our request was granted and the bellboys showed up with keys to move us to the other side of the resort. At the new room, we did a quick once over and validated that there were no odd smells and then rushed off to meet some new friends for dinner. When we returned in the evening, we were surprised to find a note and a chocolate cake waiting for us that said “Happy Honeymoon!” Too bad we were not Khun Kanokhan Lorattanareaongkit and it was not our honeymoon! Come to think of it, we did find the heart-shaped towel swans and flower petals on our bed a bit odd when we switched rooms earlier. Now it made sense. So we called the front desk to let them know that the nice card and cake had been delivered to the wrong room. The hotel thanked us for letting them know and said we could keep...

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