Living Like a Local: Aftermath of Huracán Patricia

Saludos de Agua Caliente Nueva! It’s been about five days since I arrived in Mexico and I’m still getting adjusted to the suuuuper hot weather that is present even in the early AM. I am currently staying with a host family in Agua Caliente Nueva, an ejido in La Huerta in the state Jalisco. This pueblo was victim to huracán “Patricia” in October 2015, ripping away the roofs of many houses, including the one I’m staying in. My host mother showed me some of the photos after the hurricane and explained to me that it only took a matter of hours on one afternoon for this Category 5 hurricane with 150 mph wind speed to cause so much destruction within their town. Families stood within their living rooms or bedrooms in the photos with nothing covering the tops of their houses because their roofs had blown away from the strong winds and rain.

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This is a photo I took from the outside terrace/patio they have. Through the window, you can see the techo covering the carpentry shed. This was recently built after the hurricane!

My host family explained to me that their shed that housed my host father’s carpentry business had been destroyed and whisked away swiftly during the hurricane, and all of his materials and machines had been exposed to the elements and needed to be replaced. Other families’ roofs covered essential items, such as beds and other appliances, all of which had to be tossed and replaced. I can observe that this town’s residents are not affluent and this must have been detrimental to their livelihoods to have to replace all of their necessary furniture 😦 It’s been almost two years since the hurricane, and from my morning walks, I can see that all of the roofs have been replaced, but there is still much that needs to recover. Many fruit trees that were abundant in the region were uprooted and died in the process, and there are many empty pieces of land (but this could be an erroneous assumption since this could have been empty to begin with).

When I volunteered in Ecuador with UBELONG back in 2012, I had stayed with a host family for the first time and experienced a fraction of the hardships that people in developing countries face. In many parts of Latin America, there is no potable water to drink, and it must either be purchased by the barrel, or be boiled for consumption. My host mother in Ecuador typically spent every morning boiling large vats of water for us to drink for the day, which was in and of itself an inconvenient routine that she had become accustomed to. In contrast, my host family here in Mexico has the means to purchase about four barrels of potable water at a time for the family to drink, a luxury that other families in Mexico may not be able to afford.

Luckily for my host family’s business in carpentry, they’re finally able to start working on the roof of the house! They had reinforced the roof for the carpentry shed, but still needed to reinforce the roof that covers my room and other parts of the second floor. Right now, it’s only made of madera (wood) and some metal material, possibly aluminum that was nailed down. As a safety precaution and to prepare for any future hurricanes, my host father decided to make it his project to fix the roof this week while the weather is supposed to be good, since he has to pour cement on the roof to make it more durable. Unfortunately and fortunately for me, I get to experience what it’s like living as a local and going through the motions of what it takes to recover from the effects of a hurricane.

If I didn’t have allergies before coming here, I sure do have them now for dust! There is no amount of getting used to the ever-present thin film of dust that lingers on my desk space even after wiping it down five times, or needing to wash my covers three times a day because I can’t time the laundry with when they decide to work on my portion of the roof haha. At one point, someone’s foot went through the roof, leaving a gaping hole for any flying creatures to enter my humble abode (not fun, considering I really detest bugs and would not be pleased if a bird happened to fly in!!)

Being the clean, hygienic fanatic that I am (despite my mishap with eating contaminated food, hah!) it’s been quite an adjustment to the little creepy crawlies that visit me every now and then… imagine waking up to a tiny little beetle dropping onto your leg and starting to crawl, and then imagine me leaping with great agility to brush it off me and then immediately crush it so it doesn’t return 😐 I do miss my clean kitchen and bathroom, for we apparently have lizards that hide behind the picture frames and mirrors in the house, but they are utterly useless in eating the insects and mosquitoes and only leave little droppings as regalos by my bathroom sink -sigh-

Hope you enjoyed reading and stay tuned for my next post!

 

 

Tips: Precautions When Eating Foods Abroad (Water Safety)

I wanted to share some tips for food safety when traveling abroad, especially when you can get tempted with SO many good foods and drinks that are available in the country where you’re staying 🙂 Click on the link below to read more!

Source: Tips: Precautions When Eating Foods Abroad (Water Safety)

Tips: Packing Light

Packing Essentials for Your Carry-on Luggage

Hey everyone! Summer is already here, I can feel it! My WordPress has been kind of wonky these past couple of weeks and I wasn’t able to save or post anything–even trying to log on to post on the forums for help didn’t work! I finally managed to take back my website and I’m here to share with you some tips for packing light when you go on trips 🙂

Whenever I travel with my family, I always have the habit of over-packing and then having to sit on my luggage to get it to close. However, since I watch so many minimalist bloggers share their advice on living in a tiny house, or zero waste, or traveling with minimal items, I decided to give it a try and share with you what I packed for my trip to Mexico! I’m currently in the state of Jalisco in a little town south of Puerto Vallarta. My host family is already so warm and welcoming and I think I am going to like it here very much.

**DISCLAIMER: this is a post about packing a carry-on luggage and backpack! I also packed a checked luggage for a two-month stay in Mexico. This may seem like a lot, but let’s just say that when I’ve lived abroad for three weeks at a time, I had TWO checked luggages and one carry-on, AND one backpack, so I’ve really downsized with my items even though I’m staying for more than twice as long as I had in the past.**

Backpack Items: These are items that I find are essential to have on hand. If you need to whip out your passport or driver’s license, it seems much simpler to open your backpack than to sift through the contents of your carry-on. Here’s a list of items I packed in my backpack:

  • laptop and charger: since I am here in Mexico to do fieldwork for my grad school requirement, I needed to bring this, otherwise I’ll usually leave it at home if I’m traveling for leisure.
  • Kindle and charger: I absolutely love to read, and although the feeling of holding a physical book is preferable, using a Kindle or other e-reader can save so much space and allow you to read as many books as you can save on your device.
  • portable battery pack for your electronics
  • phone charger
  • headphones
  • plug adapters: depending on your destination, you may need a plug adapter if for example you’re from the US and are traveling to Europe.
  • toiletries: if you need to freshen up after an overnight flight, you might want to pack a toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, wet wipes, and deodorant.
  • passport and/or driver’s license
  • printed copies of your boarding pass, itinerary, travel insurance, etc. — this is optional, but recommended in my opinion!
  • wallet and keys: make sure you don’t have any sharp items on your keychain because it will get tossed!
  • empty water bottle: I can’t stress this enough, guys! It’ll cost you an arm and a leg to buy a measly plastic water bottle when you can easily BYOB (haha, get it? Bring Your Own Bottle!). You will save yourself money, and also not contribute to the massive number of plastic bottles that are littered throughout the world.
  • some warm article of clothing: you never know when you’ll get cold, so bring a scarf or a super-light article of clothing you can fold up and stuff in your luggage.
  • tissues: hey, a sudden onset of the sniffles or a nosebleed from the high altitudes are always possibilities, so better safe than sorry!
  • snacks: if you’re perpetually hungry like I am, I recommend you pack some snacks, especially if you’re on an airline that’s too cheap to give you a bag of peanuts or pretzels!
  • eye mask and earplugs: some airlines will offer this to you, but you’d be better off bringing your own.
  • translation dictionary: I packed this in my carry-on this time around, but I usually pack it in my backpack for quick access.
  • OPTIONAL but recommended: one set of clothes (a top, bottom, underwear) in case your luggage is forced to be checked in and *knock on wood* gets lost and you are in need of a change of clothes.

 

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Carry-On Items: These are items that you want to prioritize and keep an eye on since you never know if your checked luggage is going to get lost in the airport system forever…

Before I begin, I just want to give a shout-out to the person who invented luggage packing cubes. These are SO useful when you want to pack your stuff and I was a skeptic, but it really saves space when I pack my clothes 😀

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  • extra money: find some inconspicuous places to hide your extra cash, and don’t keep them all in one spot! You never know if the place you’re staying will have a thief so you don’t want them to take your entire stash.
  • clothing:
    • 3 shirts
    • 1 cardigan
    • 1 button-down shirt
    • 1 pair of shorts
    • 1 pair of pants or leggings
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 1 dress or skirt
    • 1 set of PJs
    • 1 pair of socks (you will be wearing the other pair)
    • 3 sets of underwear
    • 1 pair of flip flops
    • 1 pair of sneakers or boots (to wear on plane)
    • 1 hat/cap (and sunglasses)
  • power strip: your room may not have many outlets, so it’s wise to carry a power strip to plug in all of your electronics with little hassle.
  • toiletries:
    • shampoo bar: I’m sure many stores sell these nowadays, but I purchased mine from LUSH Cosmetics. Depending how long you’ll be traveling, I would pack one bar for every 2-3 months you’re away. I’m gonna do a review on them soon!
    • travel-size body wash*
    • travel-size lotion*
    • travel-size face wash
    • travel-size toothpaste
    • travel-size sunscreen
    • toothbrush
    • razor*
    • deodorant
    • toilet paper roll: this is particularly important if you’re going to a developing country that may not have the most accommodating bathroom facilities. I think it’s better to carry a roll with you at all times than to have an emergency situation and nothing to wipe yourself with, right? :X
    • hair ties and bobby pins
    • pads/tampons
    • Q-tips
    • nail clipper and filer
    • tweezers
    • extra pair of contact lens, lens case, and solution (if you wear contacts)
    • glasses and case (if you wear glasses)
    • OPTIONAL: makeup — remember you’re going on a trip to experience your surroundings, you don’t need to pack your entire life’s supply of makeup! Just pack what you NEED on a daily basis and call it a day.
  • medicines: in some countries, it is really difficult to get medicine without a prescription, even if you’re just looking for ibuprofen for a headache. I advise you to carry headache medicine, anti-diarrheals, laxatives, pepto bismol, allergy, and probiotics if you want to stay regular!
  • batteries and a flashlight
  • umbrella
  • tote bag
  • OPTIONAL: journal (I started journaling in Mexico and hope to continue to do it since I’ve been more forgetful when I don’t write things down, so let’s see how that goes :))

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Korean Raw Spicy Crab (Yangnyeom Gejang)

If I had to choose what’s my favorite type of seafood, it would be blue crab, hands down! It’s great steamed, boiled with seasonings, made into crab cakes, or raw. I can’t remember when I first had raw spicy crab, but I remember I got it at a local Korean supermarket in NYC. This was many years ago, and I’m glad to say I am experienced enough with preparing food that I can make a pretty decent yangnyeom gejang.

Korean Raw Spicy Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 dozen blue crab (live or killed–I’d suggest killed so you don’t have to struggle like I did to keep them from scurrying away or dueling with your tongs)
  • low sodium soy sauce
  • half a head of garlic, diced
  • scallion
  • a touch of sesame oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayenne powder
  • a medium onion, diced
  • sugar

I’ll be honest here, as you all know by now, I really eyeball the amount of each ingredient, and focus on the taste to let me know if my seasoning or sauce is on point. I can give you my best estimates for the proportions! 🙂

Steps:

  1. Separate the head from the body if it’s not already separated.
  2. Pull off the lungs and antennae.
  3. Scrub the crab down thoroughly to clean off the dirt and mud that’s on the shells.
  4. To let the flavor seep in, break the crab’s body into quarters.
  5. Cover and refrigerate the crab as you work on your marinade. **I usually just marinate the bodies and steam the heads, but that’s entirely up to you!**
  6. Pour approximately half a cup of low sodium soy sauce, some cayenne powder and pepper flakes (based on your tolerance for spice), 1/4 tsp of sesame oil, and sugar to taste.
  7. Dice up your garlic and onion into fine pieces and add it into your marinade.
  8. Put the crab either in a large bowl or ziploc bag, and pour in your sauce (after you make sure you like the flavor!!). Stir it around so all of the crab pieces have touched the marinade.
  9. Cover it again and let it sit for a couple of hours, flipping the crab to let all of the pieces get thoroughly soaked.
  10. Leave it overnight to marinate, and you can eat it the next day!

DISCLAIMER: Remember that there’s always a risk of eating raw foods, so this is a recipe that you should eat at your own risk! I have a pretty strong stomach that can handle raw foods, but if you don’t have a stomach of steel, you might want to pass on this recipe :X

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

The farmers’ market is BACK and I’m so excited! This past weekend, I did a mini-haul and stocked up on produce for the week, including sweet potatoes. I’m normally not a fan of sweet foods as part of a meal (unless it’s breakfast or dessert) but I decided to be adventurous and try it out…not to mention sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, potassium, and dietary fiber!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Since I usually don’t eat baked potatoes, I figured I probably wouldn’t eat baked sweet potatoes either. I decided to make sweet potato fries since it would last for a few days and they would be more “fun” to eat haha.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes
  • diced garlic (optional)
  • salt and pepper (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Scrub and rinse your sweet potatoes.
  3. Slice them into french fry slices, or in wedges if you prefer!
  4. Line a baking tray with oil and spread your fries evenly across the pan.IMG_7405.JPG
  5. Sprinkle any seasonings you want to add extra flavor–less is more in this case!
  6. Pop them into the oven for 30 minutes and you’re done!

Now you have a healthy alternative to greasy french fries with this recipe! Enjoy 🙂

ALL PHOTOS ARE ©magnetically aesthetic. Please do not steal, edit, or use these pictures in any way without my permission. Thank you!

Stay connected with me: Pinterest | Instagram ❤

March for Science

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C. with my fellow Johns Hopkins classmates. This demonstration sends a clear message to the Republican Administration that science plays a role in everyone’s lives and has given us so much as a society and in the world. Without science, we wouldn’t have life-saving medicines or vaccines. Without science, we would not be able to discover new cures and treatments for diseases.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered on April 22, 2017, Earth Day, to celebrate science! There were scientists, researchers, doctors of different disciplines, supporters of science (young and old) that came together for the purpose of advocating for science. The March for Science page states:

Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations. 

We speak up now because all of these values are currently at risk. When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect.

When I was growing up, I watched Bill Nye the Science Guy and ZOOM, and had the chance to create that ever cliche paper mache volcanos that erupts with baking soda and vinegar. I knew I wanted to be involved in helping other people, and ended up in Public Health. It was evident that science and research is paramount to making advances towards innovations that would lead to better health outcomes, even when I was a little girl and to this day.

I hope we continue this open dialogue about science and that my fellow colleagues will continue to fight the fight to promote science and support organizations such as the NIH and EPA to protect our planet and our populations’ health. I hope that PBS continues to get funded so the programs can continue to inspire the younger generation to be inquisitive, eager to learn, and get involved in STEM.

Check out photos from the march here!

DIY Toothpaste & Deodorant (Same Recipe Base!)

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Hey everyone 🙂 A loooong time ago, I wanted to write a review comparing different kinds of deodorant since I wanted to eventually move away from the ones that are filled with aluminum compounds, parabens, triclosan (FDA labeled this as a pesticide) propylene glycol (also known as “non-toxic” anti-freeze, guys!!), and more, many of which can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions, and have potential links to cancer… Not to scare you guys away from reading, but it’s important to be informed what you put on your body, especially since deodorants get absorbed through your skin and goes into your system! There are a whole bunch of lymph nodes that reside in the vicinity of your underarms, and can become inflamed and swollen from the toxic additives that are in your deodorant.

I’ve been following many zero waste vloggers and bloggers, and quite a few of them have switched to more natural, zero waste alternatives for deodorant, such as making their own! The tubes that your deodorant and toothpaste are packaged in are often made from plastic that can’t be recycled, so if you want to make a more conscious decision to produce less waste, you can consider making your own deodorant and toothpaste! I’ve just made my first mini-batch of both deodorant and toothpaste, and wanted to share my experience with you.

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Ingredients:

  • baking soda
  • coconut oil
  • essential oils (for scent) – the brand I use is Calily
  • Stevia (for toothpaste)

Steps:

  1. Mix 1 part baking soda, 1 part coconut oil into a container. **I had done 1/2 cup of each, but I would recommend using less coconut oil since it just sits at the top and doesn’t mix very well!**
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  2. Add an appropriate amount of essential oil (the scent of your choice) to the baking soda/coconut oil mix.
  3. Since I was making both toothpaste and deodorant, I separated them into two containers since I wanted different scents for each.
  4. I added peppermint essential oil into the toothpaste mix, and tea tree oil into the deodorant mix. **I put in about 6 drops in each set, but if you want to add more or less, that’s up to you! I’m not a fan of mixing scents, but if you’re adventurous, go for it ;)**
  5. (So I didn’t have Stevia…BUT I highly recommend you invest in some for your toothpaste)

When I tried using my toothpaste sans Stevia, I have to admit, my mouth just felt really greasy from the coconut oil, and salty from that strong baking soda flavor! If you can handle that overwhelming taste, then there’s no need to get Stevia, but I am going to hold off on using my mix for brushing my teeth until I get some… 🙂

For the deodorant, many bloggers have mentioned that your body will take some time to detox and get used to not having chemicals block your sweat glands from producing sweat, so I’m being patient and waiting for the magic to happen! It’s important to mention that sweat should not smell bad; it is the bacteria that would cause an unpleasant odor, so make sure you wash your underarms thoroughly and pat dry after you shower, before you put on the deodorant! Another important tip is if you’re going to transition to your own DIY deodorant, it’s best to do it during the fall going into winter, or in the spring before the summer, that way it’s still cool enough that you won’t produce much sweat, and your body gets enough time to adjust!

There are some people who say that baking soda can be really irritating for their skin, but so far I’ve been okay (maybe it’s the coconut oil that protects my skin!)

Be sure to create only small batches since there’s really no sure-fire way of keeping out random bacteria from creeping into your products, and you don’t want to create a whole vat of this mix only for it to be unusable–coconut oil ain’t cheap, y’all!

Hope you all enjoyed reading 🙂

ALL PHOTOS ARE ©magnetically aesthetic. Please do not steal, edit, or use these pictures in any way without my permission. Thank you!

Stay connected with me: Pinterest | Instagram ❤