The San Marino Travel Guide I Wished I Had

san marino fortress

On a fortress tower in San Marino. On a clear day, you should be able to see the Adriatic Sea.

Last year, I took a short trip to San Marino. This was the first country I’ve visited where I had so many questions, but alas, Google wasn’t helping. Even Booking.com and Airbnb showed me homes for San Marino, CA or San Marino, Rome! After I returned from my trip, I wrote this list for fellow travelers in the Girls Love Travel Facebook group.

1. San Marino is only accessible by road. The easiest way to get there is to take a train to Rimini, Italy, and then hop-on the Rimini-San Marino bus that runs about every hour. A ticket costs €5 one way, and it’s about 40 mins from the pick-up point outside Rimini train station to the last drop-off stop in San Marino. You can buy the bus ticket from the tabacchi (tobacco shop) across Rimini train station. There’s NO train/railway into San Marino and no airport in San Marino. If you’re renting a car, even better! The roads are winding and the historic center isn’t accessible by car, but I saw many parking spaces available.

2. Wear walking shoes or hiking sandals! The roads in the historic downtown center are hilly and cobblestone. If you’re visiting the fortress towers (only 2 are open for visitors; the 3rd, reportedly, doesn’t have an entrance), you WILL be walking uphill quite a bit to get to the towers.

3. In the historic downtown, there’s a shit ton of shopping (a nice FYI: San Marino is duty-free), a handful of museums, a hiking trail, and the fortress towers. It takes less than an hour to visit both fortress tours. You can buy a ticket that will give you access to both towers. The second tower has a weaponry museum inside. It’s 4.50€ for one tower and 6.50€ for 2 towers. Other museums in the historical area include a vampire museum, a museum of curiosities, and a torture museum. It was rainy and foggy when I visited, so I didn’t have a great view from the towers. But on a good day, you’re supposedly able to see the Adriatic Sea.

4. Accommodation in downtown historic San Marino is very limited and more costly. If you’re planning to spend more than one day in San Marino, it’s better to book a hotel in the more urban areas. BUT, be aware that you’ll either need a rental car or a taxi to get around. If you want to stay in the downtown historic center, book far in advance.

5. The food to try when you’re in San Marino is piadina! It’s a flatbread folded in a crepe-shape with fillings – usually prosciutto, melted cheese, and arugula. I loved the bread!

6. I didn’t do this, but you can buy a passport stamp for 5€, and it’s completely legit because San Marino is a country and can issue passport stamps – getting a passport stamp from them will not invalidate your passport.

7. What I did do – bought a postcard and a global postal service stamp from one of the many shops selling them, and mailed the postcard in one of the white mailboxes that can be found everywhere.

I wish there are more articles out there about visiting San Marino and what to expect. San Marino is the world’s oldest independent republic, has more cars than people, is surrounded by Italy, and has one of the best economies in the world with its lowest unemployment rate and a national budget surplus. If you are in the northeast of Italy, do pay this small country a visit.

5 Days Amalfi Coast and Naples Itinerary

sentiero degli dei

View from the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of the Gods) hike

Due to the nature of my work, I’m not usually able to take long-ish vacations. Last week was an exception. I had an almost 5-day vacation, and I decided to visit the south of Italy. I usually fly to another country for my vacations, but I figured it was time to explore southern Italy, which is very, very different from northern Italy. Scroll down for an itinerary of my trip, as well as transportation, accommodation, and budget information.

positano

Marina Grande Beach in Positano

I visited the Amalfi Coast and Naples. The Amalfi Coast is, without a doubt, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in Italy. I visited Venice last year, and I would actually rank the Amalfi Coast higher than Venice. I did a couple hikes, and around every corner on the hikes, there’s a different breathtaking view to be seen.

The Sentiero Degli Dei (English: Path of the Gods) hike is the number one reason why I decided to visit the Amalfi Coast. The hike was stunning (tip if you decide to do this hike: Coming from Bomerano, always keep the ocean on your left and you won’t get lost. I went down the wrong way for 30 minutes when I didn’t follow this rule, and had to make the arduous, nearly vertical climb back up), the towns I saw were gorgeous, and the beach time was sorely-needed and a welcome relief.

agerola to amalfi

Hike from Agerola to Amalfi

I spent a couple nights in Agerola and a couple nights in Naples, and I truly regret not spending all four nights in Agerola (I stayed at a castle stable-turned-ostello) which was so quiet and peaceful. I’d heard all kinds of things about Naples before I visited; it’s no secret that northern Italians dislike southern Italians and vice versa. However, I didn’t take what I heard seriously, until I stepped foot in Naples, heard the incessant honking, saw street after street terribly littered with trash, saw people selling passport covers and pills in the “flea markets,” and felt the constant, nagging need to hold on tightly to my belongings. Out of all the Asian, America, and European cities I’ve visited, Naples wins the ‘dirtiest city’ award by far. I read that it’s a city that you either love or hate, and unfortunately, I fell into the latter camp.

But, I live and I learn! Back to the Costiera Amalfitana. One day, after I’ve learned how to use a motorbike, I will return to the Amalfi Coast and Vespa my way through it. Hiking was so lovely and fun, but the speeding bus rides up and down the very narrow, winding mountain roads had me searching for my motion sickness chewing gum. One last parting thought before I info-dump my trip: people say the Amalfi Coast is a romantic destination, one that’s especially for honeymooning couples. That might be true, but as a solo traveler, I had an absolute blast. It was the most peaceful, calming, and quiet couple days I’ve had in awhile.

Itinerary

Day 1

agerola to amalfi

Hike from Agerola to Amalfi

Arrived in Napoli at 8.25 from Milano.
Took an ALI bus (5.00) from Napoli Airport to Napoli Stazione Centrale. Journey time was about 30 minutes, with quite a bit of rush hour traffic and a weird moment when a police bus, escorted by police riders, forced its way through the traffic.
Took a direct SITA bus (3.90) from near Centrale/Piazza Garibaldi to Agerola on the Amalfi Coast. Journey time was about 1.5 hours.
Hiked 2.5 hours from Agerola to Amalfi. The hike wasn’t supposed to be that long, but I got lost down some endless, narrow stairs and had a small adventure with a black garden snake. Took the SITA bus (2.00) up from Amalfi to Agerola.

Day 2

sentiero degli dei 1

View of Positano from the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of the Gods) hike

Took a morning bus (1.30) from Agerola to Bomerano.
Hiked 3.5 hours from Bomerano to Nocelle on the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of the Gods). Distance was 7km. The hike usually takes 3 hours, but I went the wrong way for 30 minutes, and that’s like 30 hours on a hike.
Walked down 1800 steps from Nocelle and then a short walk from the last stair-step to Positano.
Amazing, relaxing beach and tanning time in Positano.
Took a SITA bus (2.00) from Positano to Amalfi, then another SITA bus (2.00) from Amalfi to Agerola.

Day 3

Took a noon direct SITA bus (3.90) from Agerola to Napoli.

naples

Spaccanapoli, a straight and narrow street that, when seen aerially, appears to divide the historic center of Napoli

Day 4

Visited the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (Naples National Archaeological Museum) for free since May 19th is one of the museum’s free entrance day.
Wandered around Via Tribunali and Via Toledo.

Day 5

Took a very early morning ALI bus (5) to the Napoli Airport from outside Napoli Stazione Centrale.
Left Napoli at 8.50.

Accommodation

Agerola – Ostello Beata Solitudo
Napoli – Couchsurfing

Budget

Transportation – 38.10 (including r/t bus 13 from Milano Stazione Centrale to Milano Bergamo Airport)
Food – 36
Accommodation – 41.64

 

Travels FAQ

Mexico City

When in Mexico City… (2017)

I’m making a comeback to blogging (my last blog post was in December 2015), and here you go! All the answers to the burning questions you have about my travel life. These are the questions I get asked most often. If you have another question related to my travel life, drop it below in the comments.

Where’s the best place you’ve visited so far?

You might be surprised by my answer – Mexico City. I’ve visited the usual touristy cities that people seem to love to flock to – London, New York City, Los Angeles, Rome, Beijing, Bangkok, Paris, etc. – but Mexico City remains my favorite. I was struck by how the people there always had such wide smiles. I loved how it only took random music for them to start dancing. And don’t even get me started on the amazing, delicious, cheap food. I found a hole-in-the-wall place for breakfasts. None of the staff spoke English, and my Spanish is mediocre, but I had the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten in my travels.

Which is your favorite place to live?

I’ve lived in 6 countries (by ‘live,’ I mean stay for at least a month), and Milan, Italy is my absolute favorite city to live in. It’s urban, metropolitan, and buzzing with activity, but it’s not as crowded as a city like Beijing or New York City. On one hand, there’s enough to keep me entertained, and on the other hand, it’s still quiet enough for chilling and relaxing. The public transportation is great and a major plus point. I especially like taking the old trams; they’re so quaint and almost-antique.

How can you afford to travel? Are you rich?

No, I’m not rich, but I’m a good researcher. Through experience, I’ve learned how to find the best prices for flights and accommodation. I also work a lot. I work every weekend that I’m not traveling. I avoid eating out or buying new clothes/shoes, and I’m careful with my spending.

What are your secrets for finding these good prices?

Number 1, patience. And lots of it. I’ve sometimes spent hours finding the best possible flights for a trip. Number 2, be flexible. It helps if you’re flexible about destinations and dates. For me, it’s usually a little harder to be flexible about dates because I have specific off days, but I do my best to be flexible about destinations. I wanted to go to Budapest, Hungary, but the price wasn’t right, so I changed my plans. Budapest will always be there for a visit at another time!

Also, …

use incognito/private mode when browsing for flights,
search on SkyScanner for good dates,
remember to check budget airlines,
look at nearby airports (for example, it was cheaper to fly out of Vienna, Austria so I took a bus from Bratislava, Slovakia to Vienna for that flight),
always do free walking tours the first day to get an introduction to the city’s history and a rough idea of what you might want to sight-see later,
use Hotwire and HotelTonight to find premium hotels at half-price or less,
don’t be afraid to stay in hostels (between AirBnb and hostels, I prefer the latter because they usually offer free breakfasts and are located centrally), and
before going to a restaurant, Google their menu to get an idea of their prices.

How do you find good-priced accommodation?

Like I mentioned above, Hotwire and HotelTonight are good for finding premium hotels at lower prices. Booking.com is actually my go-to app for booking accommodation in general. I also use HostelWorld. For both Booking.com and HostelWorld, I always set the minimum average review score at 8/10 and read a few pages of the reviews. If a reviewer wrote about a bed bug incident, I will never book that place, no matter how long ago the incident was.

Do you get scared? Aren’t you afraid of traveling alone?

Yes, countless times. But you have to be the right amounts of scared, cautious, bold, and reckless. If I wait to find a travel partner, I would never be able to travel. Life’s too short to wait around for someone, and there’s so much of the world to see. Unfortunately, the world is also often not a safe place for a solo female traveler, but I have Malaysia-cultivated street smarts and the best resting B face.

What tips do you have about how to travel alone as a female and stay safe?

Remember the ‘don’t talk to strangers?’ rule your parents gave you when you were young? It’s still applicable. I never respond or talk to any man on the street who tries to talk to me. I cannot emphasize this enough. I actually inwardly cringe whenever I see my female friends responding to questions from male strangers. I don’t care if I come across as unfriendly because my safety always comes first.

Maintain a healthy level of skepticism. I’m probably the most skeptical person you’ll ever meet, especially when it comes to strangers or men (I’m trying to not be gender bias here, but I cannot recall a single instance of a woman approaching me and trying to sell stuff or talk to me). I’m also usually good at detecting BS, even over the phone screen. I guess it’s something that time and experience teaches, but if you struggle with that, don’t worry. The bottom line is: don’t trust strangers, they’re not your friends.

Wear a cross-body bag and keep your hand on your bag in crowded areas. This is one of the common sense safety rules.

Don’t look lost. Easier said than done, but it always helps to have done a little research beforehand. I usually have some kind of idea of what public transportation I will be using, a screenshot of the metro map in my phone, the applicable taxi apps ready in my phone, and access to Google Maps. I don’t actually walk while holding Google Maps because I don’t want people to see I’m looking at a map and I don’t want to hold my cellphone in my hand for long periods of time, but I check the app regularly to make sure I’m on the right path.

Don’t you ever feel lonely since you travel by yourself?

When I was first asked this question, I was a little taken aback, but my answer was and has always been ‘yes!’ However, I’m always so busy seeing new places, learning incredible history, and eating amazing food that I don’t have the time to ‘feel lonely.’ In some ways, I do prefer traveling by myself because I can do whatever I want at my own pace. With that said, I also do like traveling with a partner, something I’ve done a few times, because it is nice to not have to plan everything by myself. I’ve noticed that when I travel with a partner, I get a little lazy and usually let my partner make most of the decisions about where to visit or eat at.

How do you get around when you’re at a foreign place?

I’m never afraid to use public transportation. It’s all part of the adventure. Here in Europe, I like using trains and buses when traveling from one city to the next, if they’re near enough to not require a flight. It’s always fun navigating the transportation system when you don’t know the main language used. Also, my general rule is that if it’s not raining and safe, I will always walk to any destination that’s less than 50 mins away. With all the good food I’m eating, I have to find a way to work it out!

What’s the best way to obtain foreign currency?

ATMs. Always. This is something I wish I knew when I first started traveling. I have a debit Mastercard with zero foreign transaction fees, and the ATM fees are always lower than the fees at the currency exchange store or bank. When withdrawing from the foreign ATM or using your card to pay in a foreign country, always select the country’s currency as the payment currency. For example, here in Italy, I always select Euro instead of USD. I don’t select USD because it’s the marked-up ‘guaranteed’ rate from the bank and not the current mid-market rate.

Confessions of a Former Bill Gothard Adherent

reflecting at table rockYesterday night, I posted a Facebook status that read:

The cause of this Duggar family fiasco is one reason why I no longer buy into the traditional, conservative, “Christian”, homeschooling deal. It also doesn’t surprise me to read that Bill Gothard, the man I always heard of being referred to as “godly” when I was growing up, has also been accused by more than 30 women and teenagers of sexual harassment. Funny how the people who always judge and condemn others over immoral behavior are the very ones having skeletons in the closet regarding the same matter.

The discussion that ensued made me think and brought up old wounds I had suppressed over and over again.

When I was almost school-age, my parents learned about this wonderful homeschooling thing called the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Created by Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles, it advocated godly living. There is a heavy emphasis on moral purity, courtship, modesty, etc. Many of these principles were justified using Scripture. I was homeschooled using this curriculum for a couple years before switching to other curriculum, but the Gothard nightmare didn’t end there.

For years afterwards, we went to the ATI conferences, had Character Sketches lessons read to me and my sisters, and was pretty much taught that if I ever did something immoral or “wrong,” I was on the road to hell. Wearing skirts higher than knee level was frowned upon, clothes shouldn’t be too fitting or they’ll reveal my body shape and cause other men to sin, listening to rock music would help fuel my rebelliousness because of the satanic beat, dating is not an option because physical and emotional purity are so important, drinking alcohol and dancing leads to grave consequences, etc. I was always preached repentance, and that if I did not change, hell would be my destination. It didn’t help that I was never a rule-follower. Therefore, instead of helping my faith grow, all these legalism, judgment, and condemnation made me question.

When I left home on August 2013, I saw it as my chance to finally break free. Now, I listen to rock music on a regular basis, own a bikini and wear it on occasion, frequently go on dates, dance with my friends and strangers, drink alcoholic beverages, and do many other things that according to the old “rulebook,” would mean my soul is lost. I still believe that God exists, but I’m also attempting to reconcile what I’ve been taught about His “expectations” of me, the man-made standards that were imposed based on His Word, and the whole deal about grace and love. Most days, it is a struggle about leaving behind the old legalism I was taught during childhood and adolescence, trying to find my own way in the world, and learning what really is right and wrong.

I don’t blame my parents for following the teachings of Gothard. I honestly believe that all of us were swindled by his cult, and just like all the other cults, it is so easy to be brainwashed and be tricked into believing the wrong. But then, there are many consequences that is the result, and I’m still suffering these ramifications that stems from teachings propagated as God’s Words and supported by a twisting of Scripture. In trying to escape from these teachings, I have swung to the opposite end of the pendulum. Still, it is hard to escape the former mentality of “if you don’t follow this rule, you’re a sinner destined for hell.”

Why am I writing this post? Partly as a cathartic form of recovery because writing always helps me process my thoughts and feelings. Also, partly as a warning against legalism for those practicing it. Now that I’m living in the Bible belt here in the US, I see legalism everywhere – at church, in school, and among many Christians. I have respect for people trying to be godly and do what is right. But the danger lies in interpreting Scripture to suit your purposes and beliefs, and then teaching it to others as justification for the principles. Living in a legalistic environment doesn’t resolve any problem, it only suppresses it for awhile.

I don’t want to point fingers and judge the Duggar family, but I also do know the pain that is a result of living in legalism. It makes me wonder if any of the Duggar girls are feeling the same way I felt as a consequence of going through a Gothard-influenced upbringing. One thing I do know is that I’m not alone in this journey where almost everyday is a struggle and a heartache. There are many others like me who are still trying to make sense of what we were taught, and how to reconcile those years with real life and the truth. At the end of the day, I regret how our gullibility and desire to do what is right has led to serious repercussions down the road.

Becoming An Adult in a Foreign Country

table rock state park becoming an adult

This evening, I signed my first house lease… ever. Never in a million year did I ever think that I would one day sign a house lease in the US. As the house owner explained the terms of the rental contract, and I wrote out my check for the security deposit, I felt the familiar sense of panic and unsureness rising in me. This was the same panic and unsureness that I felt when I…

…arrived in the OKC airport one August evening in 2013 and wondered if the person who was supposed to meet me would be able to find me because I wasn’t wearing an OBU shirt.
…navigated opening a bank account, buying a new cellphone, paying taxes, etc. all in a different country with an unfamiliar currency.
…realized that the tuition and fees listed on the OBU website deceivingly did not include many other hidden costs and that I might possibly have to take out a student loan.
…sat in front of my financial aid adviser, and she curtly told me that there were no scholarships I could apply for even though I had a perfect GPA, and then took away a loan form I had filled out because I “wasn’t supposed to have it.”
…walked back to my dorm room after that meeting and started crying on the way.
…spent days agonizing over where I could get money while a fine was imposed, adding to the amount I couldn’t pay, because I had not paid the tuition bill in time.
…got into a mad scramble to find somewhere where I could spend the summer of my first year in the US in.
…took the public transportation in Atlanta, GA alone, and found myself at a dark, deserted train station where a mentally unstable man spoke to me as I ran up the endlessly high escalator as quickly as possible so that I could exit the station.
…took on job after job just to pay the bills, while refusing to go into student debt because I know there’s a possibility I might not be able to repay the debt since finding a job while on an international visa is a huge challenge.
…got accosted while walking on campus in the night alone because the possibility of being attacked in a foreign country is a very scary thought.
…am unhelpfully told that it’s okay if my GPA can’t get me more scholarships because in the end, the 4.0 will look good on my resume.
…become terrified at the mere thought of driving when I used to love driving so much back home.
…have to carefully plan my grocery lists and meals so that I can eat balanced meals, while also saving as much money as possible.
…went to the Southwest Airlines website and booked myself a flight ticket back to OKC from GA.
…taught myself how to pay my bills online and enroll in auto-pays.

This list only contains things I can think off my head now. But my point is this: no one told me that although leaving my teen years, becoming an adult, and doing adult things in a foreign country by myself would be a daunting and frightening experience, it has also taught me to be strong, independent, and responsible.

I’m not going to lie and say that there aren’t days when I see my roomies come back from a trip home with sack loads of groceries bought by their parents, and I don’t find myself wishing that my parents are here to buy my groceries for me. Or that I don’t wish that my mom is here when I have to pack up all my things at the end of the semester or year, and I find myself staring at my possessions, amazed I have accumulated so many things, but also wondering at the huge task of packing all of them up.

But even when these times happen, I am fully aware that people go through different stages when they leave their parents’ home. For me, it meant a complete “cut-off” without the opportunity to return on long weekends or holidays. This complete “cut-off” has been torrid at times. There are days when I want to curl under my blankets and forget about “being an adult.” Then again, there are days when I feel proud of myself for how far I have come and the progress I have made since August 2013.

No one said that “being an adult” is easy. But it’s going to happen for everyone… eventually… at some point in their lives. Mine came sooner than later. And as I sit back and feel the panic and unsureness about whether I’d made the right decision to rent a house, I realize that this is just one speed bump in my life. There has been many others before this, and there will be many others in the future. Because after all, “being an adult” means making decisions with consequences, and living and learning with those decisions.

A Year in Review: 2014

This year was one of my most eventful years ever. Here are some of my favorite memories, pictures, things I learned, etc. Enjoy a sneak peek into my life this year, and here’s to a New Year filled with new adventures, friends, and an unforgettable journey. 🙂

Being the 3rd wheel or 5th wheel almost everyday. This happens when 2 of your best friends get boyfriends.
Learning how to say goodbye because when most of your friends are internationals, they’re most likely not going to be in college all 4 years with you.
Traveling to places I never thought I would be able to go to.
Starting and teaching an ESL class over the summer.
Working 3 on-campus jobs to pay the bills. This meant learning how to be responsible, to manage my time and finances well.
Knowing that friends I can always rely on are invaluable.
Learning how to be open-minded, to think for myself, that it’s okay if my opinions differ from others’.
Making mistakes and learning from them.
Taking the time to Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or Viber family and friends hundreds of miles away. It takes effort, but my favorite times are when I can talk to my best friends living halfway across the world.
Creating memories and living spontaneously because I don’t want to think, “What if…?”
Learning how to grade homework at a college level and finding out the key differences between students who try and those who don’t.
Sticking with a job even though I hate it because paying the bills is more important. Calling people and asking them to donate money to the University isn’t exactly a fun job, but the fun part is laughing over the bad calls after shedding a few frustrated tears, of course.
Discovering how much I love cooking and crocheting.
Finding out that hard work pays off, and no matter how much I talk about dropping out of college…especially right before Civ exams…, I’m in it for the long haul.
Getting the balance between eating healthily and working out. Both pays off, and isn’t difficult with the right motivation.

easter weekend 2014

On Easter weekend, my friends and I went on a camping trip I think my two favorite parts were the tan I got and my role as the camp cook. Being the 5th wheel was also very interesting… and might have put me off the idea of dating for awhile.

erina and leena spring affair

One of the hardest parts of this year was saying goodbye to Erina and Leena. We were inseparable as a group, and not having them with me for the 1st semester of my Sophomore Year was tough. We loved to play pranks on each other, do random things, and generally, find something fun to do even when the going gets tough. After they left, I learned that true friends stick together no matter the distance.

sarah black friday

I have the best roomie I could ever ask for. This is our 2nd year rooming together, and we already have living arrangements planned for our 3rd year. We’ve never fought or disagreed over anything, we tease each other mercilessly at times, have our inside jokes that no one else understands, etc. Hanging out with Sarah is always a fun time, and this picture will show you how we think we are so funny sometimes.

baking

This year, cooking and baking became my go-to relaxation times. I found out how invaluable Pinterest is, and how I can mess up on a dish and there’s still always going to be someone who would think it’s delicious. I learned how to cook dinner for more than a dozen people, and how to prep and cook meals even when on a busy school schedule. I’ve always said that if I could have any job in the world, it would be a wedding planning job, but I think a chef comes in close second now.

on the farm

A year ago, if you had told me that I’d be spending winter break on a goat farm, traveling 32 hours on Greyhound, scooping out goat poop from the feeders with my bare hands, clomping around in a t-shirt, shorts, and rain boots in winter, etc., I would have probably laughed at you. But here I am. And I know that living on a farm for a month will give this city girl a different experience and perspective about life.

Baked Tuna Pasta Casserole

baked tuna pasta

As a college student, I’ve learned to appreciate bargain meals that are easy to make. My friend, Sarah Blankenship, made this dish for me once, and I wanted to try making it myself since it’s a simple, but tasty dish. I made some modifications to the recipe she gave me. I thought I’d share my modified recipe here, along with the price of the ingredients.

baked tuna pasta casserole

Servings: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Total cost: $2.34

Ingredients

1 cup pasta: $0.20
1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom/chicken: $0.34
1/2 cup milk: $0.16
1 can tuna: $0.78
1/2 can corn: $0.34
1/2 tablespoon flour: $0.01
Dash of cayenne pepper: $0.02
Shredded mozzarella cheese topping: $0.50

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Boil pasta in a medium sauce pan.

3. While pasta is boiling, combine the condensed cream of soup, milk, tuna, and corn in a casserole dish.

4. Add flour to the mixture to thicken it.

5. Add boiled pasta into the dish.

6. Add dash of cayenne pepper into the dish. This is optional. I added more just because I like spicier food.

7. Mix everything together.

8. Top casserole dish with shredded mozzarella cheese.

9. Bake casserole dish in the oven for 35 minutes.

And… you’re done! Easy, right? There’s plenty of meat and veggies, and some carbs. Although the servings is listed as two, it depends on your meal portions. I tend to eat smaller portions, and this dish is pretty filling. For me, one such casserole can last 3-4 meals.

If you decide to make this dish, let me know how it went! 🙂

The Boyfriend Dilemma

cooking over campfire

No “wifeherup” hashtags, please!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this particular problem a lot. It has bugged me ever since the semester started. It’s called “the guy craziness.”

Ever since coming to OBU, I’ve been shocked by how crazy and desperate girls are when it comes to the boyfriend topic. It’s no secret that there are some girls who come here to get their MRS degrees, but the desperation I see in them astounds me.

Things were so much different back home (I know I keep referring to “back home.” I can’t help it). Maybe it’s because of the particular group of friends I knew in Malaysia. Maybe it’s because of the traditional Asian view that marriage should only come after graduation and a stable job. Maybe it’s because of the Ring by Spring tradition found in Baptist universities here. Maybe it’s because of peer pressure – a girl feels the need to have a boyfriend because her friends are dating. Or maybe it’s because of the culture here.

Whatever the reasons are, I wish this wasn’t the case. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against dating or getting a boyfriend in college. I think it’s great if you have a boyfriend. I think it’s great if you don’t have one.

What I don’t like is the expectation placed on a girl by her peers. She’s expected to have a boyfriend. If she doesn’t have a boyfriend, no problem…her friends will help her find one. And by helping her, I mean listing out the names of single guys that they know and suggesting potential boyfriends. Stop it! You might have good intentions, but it only makes the girl feel worse about it.

What happened to college being a place for learning and gaining experience that will help someone find a job? When did college become a place to find a husband?

If you don’t believe me, go to Instagram. If I get a dollar for every time I see a single girl post a picture with the hashtag #wifeymaterial, I wouldn’t need the 3 jobs that I’m working now. I’ve even seen a #wifeherup hashtag. I cringe at such shameless calls for a boyfriend.

Honestly, ladies, that isn’t attractive at all. You’re not going to get a boyfriend just because you post pictures of how domestic you are. It doesn’t work that way. A guy is going to have to fall for you because of your beautiful character, and not because you posted a picture on Instagram of some fancy cuisine dish that you made.

This problem has bothered me a lot. Hence, this post. I must confess – after more than a year at OBU, I’m tired of this. I want to have a conversation that doesn’t inadvertently include the topic of how cute So-and-So is or anything related to dating and prospective boyfriends. Considering my social circumstances (more about this later…maybe), is going to be hard to find, but I can still hope, right?

Side note: In case you haven’t realized, my blog posts are going to display raw honesty. I want my blog posts to be an unfiltered lens into my world. I might be unintentionally offensive sometimes, but if you’re one of my friends in OBU, just know that nothing here is a reference to you.

Dear Ol’ Quirky America

odd things about americans

I came across this article, and it made me laugh. It’s so accurate! Even though I’ve been in the US for over a year, I still think these things are odd. Here are just some of my thoughts when I was reading the blog post. Call this a peek into the mind of an international student if you will.

I find it strange when I see lawyer advertisements on the highway. What’s up with those billboards? I actually feel a little bad for those lawyers. The competition must be tougher here, and that’s probably why they have to put their faces up (complete with cheesy smiles and thumbs-ups) in blown-out billboards along the highway.

Don’t get me started with bathroom stalls. The large gaps in between the wall and door bothers me. Sometimes, the gaps are so large, I can clearly see the people standing outside the stall.

The loud and friendly people? I’ve (mostly) gotten used to it. I have to. After all, I’m living in Oklahoma. When I’m in a large group, and the Americans are being their usual self, I find the facial expressions of new international students very amusing. What I find puzzling is how these perky Americans can be so energetic even after midnight. It’s almost like they have an endless energy supply. Confession: The Asian in me finds this really irritating sometimes, but really, there’s nothing much I can do about it.

I dislike pickles. Whenever I see my friends happily munching on a pickle, I can’t help but wonder how anyone can enjoy it. I’m very adventurous when it comes to food, but I refuse to eat pickles. Really, pickles are the only food I don’t eat.

When I first came here, I was introduced to the concept of “how are you?” being used impersonally as a colloquial phrase. I’ve finally understood why all international students dislike this phrase. However, this is just something that is so ingrained in the culture here, that I can’t help but go along with it. I use it casually now, but I still cringe and feel bad about using it so meaninglessly sometimes.

Sales tax, oh how I dislike you. I still forget about it sometimes, and then I’m caught by surprise at the total cost of my Walmart bill.

Changing my meal times is something I was forced to adapt to quickly. Of course, it helped that my body’s concept of time was turned upside down because of the time difference. But, I had to get used to the idea of eating at 6pm instead of 7:30pm though.

By now you should be able to understand a little the struggle of adapting to a foreign country. All these being said, America is America, and I truly love my American friends, quirks and all. The culture is so unique and diverse in every part of the country. I definitely don’t regret coming here!

Side note: I’m sorry if this blog post offends you. I’m trying to give a perspective that is unoffensive, but yet honest at the same time. My opinions here are just my views of the general American society.

I’m Back!

birthday present germany jersey

I know I suddenly disappeared from the blogosphere with no warning, and I’m sorry for that.

But life happened.

Since starting college, I am sad to say that I have barely read anything for leisure. It seems incomprehensible for this to happen. After all, how could I go from reading a novel almost everyday to not reading any novels at all?

Well, this is college life for me, I guess. After a day of reading academic textbooks, the last thing I want to do is pick up another book and read, even if that book is a novel.

A couple of weeks ago, my English professor told the class that being English majors will “ruin” how we read a text. Apparently, after finishing our major classes, we will no longer be able to read a text without analyzing every word in it. That’s a pretty scary thought.

Anyway, back to my original motive for writing this post. I am indefinitely not going to post anymore book reviews. I’ll completely understand if some of you decide to un-follow my blog after this.

However, I would encourage you to continue following Audacious Reader. I’ve decided to return to blogging. I’ll be blogging about different things…mostly the things I’ve learned or am learning as a college student.

Let’s just say that this blog will give a peek into the life of an international student in Oklahoma. I would love for you to continue reading and commenting.

Thank you for faithfully supporting Audacious Reader! I would never been able to sustain the blog for this long without y’all. 🙂