Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

Ruta de las Flores, or route of the flowers, is a road in El Salvador that runs through multiple picturesque, colonial towns and is semi hidden along the Apaneca hills. El Salvador is home to a number of different ethnic groups, such as the Nahaus and Aztecs, and many of these ethnic groups represent towns along this route. We traveled on this route on our last full day in El Salvador today.

We stopped in two towns along the way: Nahuizalco, where there was a very vibrant fresh produce market. In Nahuatl, Nahuizalco means “The 4 Izalcos,” as the town was originally founded by four families from the town of Izalco. The buildings were quite colorful here, and we stopped to have a mini lunch of rice, marinated beef in a tomato sauce, and some freshly made pupusas; we also stopped in Juaya, whose name in Nahuatl means “River of Purple Orchids.” There was a big food festival happening here when we came today, so we ate a big plate of carne asada, veggies, and pupusas (of course) on the street and had some freshly blended pineapple juice here. We also managed to escape a torrential downpour that lasted for a good portion of our meal since we were eating under a tent!

Our last stop before headed back to San Salvador was at a coffee farm and cafe that our hotel manager had recommended to us called Entre Nubes. The hotel manager said he hadn’t been there yet, but a friend had told him about it. It’s a huge restaurant cafe with a coffee farm/garden attached to it where they serve full breakfast and lunch meals, as well as endless coffee drinks. They also do coffee tours upon request, which we did. While the coffee tour walk was a bit underwhelming since the coffee beans were just sprouting, it was interesting to hear the process of coffee beans from plant to bean in El Salvador and how different it is vs. other parts of the world. Back in the 1970s, El Salvador was once the largest global exporter of coffee. Today, it stands as number 19 for coffee exporters, but it definitely does not make the coffee less tasty. There are three major varietals of arabica beans that they produce: bourbon (the majority), pacas, and pacamaras, the last of which is a hybrid of the pacas and maragogipe beans. Bourbon is the fruitiest and most acidic of the three; pacamaras has a fruity aroma and a rich, complex coffee-like flavor. we tried three different types of coffees at the end of the tour, and we liked the Pacamaras black honey one the best.

We also visited Cafe La Casona in the San Benito neighborhood of San Salvador the day before, which also had a full food menu and a pretty extensive list of coffee drinks as well as all the possible coffee brewing preparations. Coffee is definitely very serious here in El Salvador, and it was a delicious experience to be able to taste multiple times during our trip.

Fruit varieties in El Salvador: Tropical, unique, and sometimes even fuzzy

Since our delicious trip to Colombia in May 2019, so exactly five years ago, I hadn’t been this excited to try local fruit while traveling. El Salvador, being in Central America, has a warm, tropical climate, which then makes it a great place for delicious fruit that you cannot get (or at least, get easily) in the U.S. While they have the usual fruits you’d expect, such as mangoes, pineapples, and papayas (all were extremely sweet and delicious!), we also came across and tried some new and unique ones we’d never previously tasted.

Paternas: This is one of those fruits that may appear strange to you as a Westerner if you’ve never had it. It strongly resembles petai or “stink beans” in its pod-like structure, which is HUGE. When you split the green pod open, a row of white seeds is revealed. The seeds are all covered in a soft, white, almost fuzzy marshmallow-like coating. When you eat these, you’re meant to use your teeth and scrape the white fuzzy fruit off the seeds. While the seeds should not be consumed raw (they’re quite hard), Salvadorans like to have the seeds boiled and then eat them as a snack with salt and lemon juice. This was not our favorite, as it was a bit of work and not much flesh, but it did have an interesting sweet flavor, plus a unique fuzzy texture.

Mamones (mamon for singular): These are very sour, tangy round fruits the size of extra-large cherries with a huge pit inside. When you crack through the hard green shell, a pale salmon-pink colored flesh is revealed that is similar to that of a lychee. Some are more sweet than sour. Overall, I’d compare them to those hard warheads candies that rotted my teeth as a child: you suck on them and then spit them out. While you can certainly gnaw on the flesh, it will cause a bit of extra work for you later when you floss. Somehow, I managed to get through about three pounds of these mamones (Chris only ate about 5-6), which cost just $1 at the local market in Centro Historico! When I saw them, I remembered we had them on the road from Medellin to Guatape in Colombia. There, they are known as mamoncillo.

Mamey: These appear like the mamey in Mexico, but are a completely different fruit (Mexican mamey fruit is called sapote here in El Salvador). They have a hard, brown exterior that is rough, almost like a cross between sand paper and a mature brown coconut. Once it’s peeled, a deep red-orange flesh is revealed. It tasted like something between a mango and a papaya, with faintly sweet flesh. Some pieces were softer, while others were crunchy. We got a large bag of mamey already peeled and cut up for us at the market for $1.

Nances: These look like yellow or orange colored cherries and are of a similar size. I got a bag of these fruit from a road side fruit vendor, and I have a feeling they were not quite ripe, unfortunately. Though I have read that locals eat nances both ripe and unripe. The fruits we had purchased were already warm in a bag, and when I opened it, this very different, almost fermented smell started coming out that was reminiscent of durian in terms of its pungency. When I bit into them, they were extremely chalky in texture. I wish I had the opportunity to eat these ripe, but alas, you just can’t try everything everywhere!

Mangoes: Clearly mangoes are not a new fruit for us, as we are THE mango family and always will be. But I do know that the mangoes grown and sold in El Salvador are not like the ones we get in the U.S. or have tried in India or Australia. Though I have read the variety is called either Indian or Creole mango, all I know for sure is that all the mangoes being sold at the markets and fruit stands are all a deep red color, with splashes of deep yellow and orange. Salvadorans love to eat their mangoes almost ripe and just ripe, so when you buy them pre-peeled and cut, they are usually one of these options (or even very unripe and green!). It must be a cultural thing, as in India, they love their mangoes extremely ripe to the point where they are so juicy that they drip down your arms as you eat them. Here in El Salvador, mangoes are usually served topped with different hot chili flakes, lime, or different savory/salty toppings. But when we had ours twice, I only wanted the ripe plain mangoes and specified this to the vendors. Even the semi-ripe mangoes had a strong sweet fragrance that made my mouth water. These mangoes were ultra delicious: they had this really pleasant, firm, almost meaty texture when you bite into them. Then, when you start chewing, the flavor is strong, potent, and in-your-face. It reminded me of the flavor and sweetness of the Filipino dried (and sugared) mangoes I used to have as a treat when I was a child that my grandma would often buy for us. They were so addictive; both times we had them, I was so sad when I was on my last bite.

Coconuts: We stopped at a road side stall and I asked for coconut water from a fresh coconut. Here, the coconut is usually already cut open, the juice poured into a plastic bag with the young coconut meat shaven, then stored in an ice chest until it’s purchased. But when I went up to the stall, I asked if I could have a freshly cracked one. The vendor happily agreed. She went to another ice chest where she had fat green coconuts stored, hacked it open with a machete, proceeded to pour the glorious juice into a bit pitcher, shaved the thick coconut shavings out, and then placed it all (a bit precariously!) into a big plastic bag with a straw. To drink this, you needed to hold the bag and the straw; there was no placing the bag down on any surface, otherwise the juice would be lost! It was cool, sweet and incredibly refreshing. The young white coconut flesh pieces were so satisfying and meaty.

Papaya: We had this in juice form several times, and it was delicious and sweet, unlike the miserable hit-or-miss papayas back in the U.S. I happily ordered this during our times eating out. We also enjoyed it as part of the breakfast buffet at our hotel, where it was a welcome end to brekkie. I could eat this papaya every single day and be totally satisfied.

Fruit in El Salvador has been an adventure in itself. I always think of people who live in regions of the world like here and Colombia and wonder to myself: if they have the chance to come to the U.S., they must really feel sorry for us and how pathetic our fruit is. I still remember our guide in Guatape, Colombia, and how he said he’d been to the U.S. and found what we call “orange juice” absolutely atrocious.

Biblioteca Nacional de El Salvador (BINAES)

The Biblioteca Nacional de El Salvador, or the National Library of El Salvador, abbreviated as BINAES, is the national library of El Salvador that was opened in November 2023. It is conveniently located in the heart of the city, just steps away from the Metropolitan Cathedral. Given that the current president Nayib Bukele had announced the construction of the library back in late 2019 in partnership with the Chinese government, this library is also seen as a symbol of El Salvador’s rebirth to many. The library is also meant to be seen as a way to “buy” El Salvador’s support of China and ultimately not to recognize Taiwan as its own country, but that’s another story for another day.

The library appears very impressive from the outside and the inside. But probably what astounded me the most was the first floor and exactly how child-friendly it was. There are multiple zones on the enormous first floor, all separated by target age group, where babies, toddlers, and young children can play and explore. Everything is bright and multi-colored. There are sensory bins, areas for building puzzles and different block structures. There are sensory books for feeling and smelling, as well as books in not just Spanish but English and other romance languages. There are climbing play structures; ball pits, endless cars and trucks; nature-like play areas that resemble forests and the outdoors, and comfy cushioned and pillowed reading areas for littles. When I walked around the first floor, I wasn’t quite sure if this was meant to be a library or a children’s fun/play center.

Kaia flipped through a number of the books. She loved climbing on the play structures, pushing the toy trucks and cars around, and of course, giggled with glee while in the ball pit. The toys and books selection was really large, and all were in excellent condition. The condition of almost all the books we touched seemed nearly brand new. Pookster could have easily spent the whole day in this play and reading area. The touches were extremely thoughtful. There’s even a lactation room for nursing and pumping, and every bathroom has a clean changing station.

And of course, my child decided to poop while running around the library.

Traveling to El Salvador in 2024 – safety speculation

I’ll be honest: before Chris booked this trip, I knew very little about El Salvador. I knew the name of its capital city (San Salvador), I knew it was located in Central America, and I knew its national (and most famous) dish is pupusas (well, of course, because my world revolves around food). I also knew it was known for its coffee and beaches, but that’s pretty much it in a quick summary.

Historically, crime in El Salvador has been high due to various gangs, many multinational, that reigned over the country. But since just before 2019, it appears that crime has actually been going down. The new president Niyab Bukele instituted a zero-tolerance crack down on gangs, which led to the highest incarceration rate in the world, with an estimated 1.6% of the country’s total population supposedly imprisoned. In addition to that, Bukele has been working with business people from outside of the country to encourage them to invest in El Salvador to help grow tourism, with more hotel infrastructure. Bukele is aiming to position El Salvador as the top tourism spot in all of Latin America. He obviously has large groups of supporters and detractors, but at the end of the day, he’s attempting to make the country safer for both its citizens as well as international travelers such as ourselves.

It should come as no surprise that the U.S. State Department has labeled El Salvador with a Level 3 Warning: Reconsider Travel, due to gang-related activity and the country’s homicide rate. So given this, a number of friends have given us funny looks when we said we were going here for an extended Memorial Day weekend. One of my friends asked if El Salvador would be safe for us, especially with Pookster in tow. The response was a bit reminiscent of what I remember people saying to us back in May 2019 when we went to Colombia — we got questions about safety and violence, and I had friends checking in with us while we were there to ensure we were safe. I remember our time in Colombia with great gusto and love: the food really surprised and impressed me; I left the country feeling like Colombia truly doesn’t get enough recognition for its delicious food, as it’s constantly overshadowed by more popular (with Western crowds, at least) cuisines like Peruvian or Argentinian. I loved how hospitable people were everywhere we went in Colombia. The tropical fruit was especially astounding and memorable given its unique proximity to the Amazon. And never once did I feel like we were actually unsafe… except for the couple of times when our Uber drivers freaked out on our behalf and told us not to get out of the car yet, especially in Medellin. And now, fast forward five years later, and it seems like every other time I hear about a bachelor/bachelorette party weekend or a guys’ trip (usually amongst my white male sales colleagues), it seems to be in Bogota, Medellin, or Cartegena. That’s when you know for sure that a place has become mainstream amongst my fellow Americans.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect for this trip. It was a bit challenging to plan what we were going to do given so few travel bloggers have written about the country as a whole. So I made a rough list of places to see, including the Tin Marin Children’s Museum, which from the photos, looked like it could be one of the most extensive children’s museums in the world; I added a few food places that I could find in English and decided we’d just wing whatever other meals based on how things looked or what neighborhood we’d be in. And Chris decided that we’d rent a car for ease of getting around.

Once we arrived in the afternoon after two quick flights (about 2.5 hours to Miami, and another 2-ish hours to San Salvador), we went out for some lunch. We tried to have our first lunch at restaurant that overlooked the city from high up, but to our dismay, a thick blanket of fog wrapped over us, and we couldn’t see a single thing from our open-air restaurant. So we decided to focus on the food: we ordered a few pupusas: black beans with cheese, cheese with loroco (a local green flower herb that’s very popular here), chicharron con queso (chicharron, in this part of the world, does not actually refer to crispy pork skin as it does in Mexico, but rather just ground pork), plus an order of empanadas. I was surprised when the empanadas came because I was expecting something different: in El Salvador, the default empanadas are actually sweet, with the outside being made of fried sweet plantains and the inside usually filled with a sweet cheese, custard, and occasionally fried black beans. It was still tasty, and we learned something new in the process. Lastly, we also had freshly blended papaya juice (I LOVE papaya when not in the continental U.S.!!) and local horchata, which is different than Mexican horchata (usually rice and cinnamon based). Salvadoran horchata has morro seeds, which are said to have an earthy flavor. In addition, the drink also contains cocoa beans, sesame seeds, peanuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar; the mix is steeped either with milk or with water to create a thick, frothy, refreshing drink. We loved our drinks and marveled over how large the servings were.

Pookster had a lot of fun en route to San Salvador. While exiting the plane in Miami during our layover, she kept waving back to the plane as we were on the ramp and saying over and over, “Bye bye, airplane! Bye bye!” She certainly brought amusement to other passengers with this. She sang and babbled happily during our car rides around the city. Though, she unfortunately did not care for the pupusas or the empanadas.

On the road on our first day, Chris took the wrong route, and he yelled, “Fucking hell!” loudly a few times as we were getting re-routed by Google Maps. Kaia took audible pleasure in every time Chris yelled or shouted, and she repeated him and also added, “Fucking hell! Fucking nuts!” While the first part can clearly be noted as a parroting of what Chris previously had said, it was obvious that the second part… was something that she had clearly heard said by someone else before. And that someone else was definitely not me…

My baby is definitely becoming a tiny human with distinct quirks, opinions, and sayings, all over the world.

When we parked the car for the night in the hotel parking lot, just to be safe, we decided to completely empty the car of everything other than the car seat. This really meant we were taking the stroller in and out, even when we didn’t need it. Because my other thought was: okay, if we have something of ours stolen, it is what it is… but if we get my friend’s stroller stolen, that means we’ll need to explain that and also get it replaced, which would suck. In these cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

My father-in-law cannot crack an egg

We drove back to New York today, but of course, en route back from Harrisburg, we had to stop in New Jersey for a Costco run. While at the Wayne, New Jersey location, we bought no less than $400 worth of produce, meat, seafood, alcohol, and household supplies like toilet paper (how could you not?), baking soda (MY FAVE), and baby wipes. I even scored a much coveted tub of over 20 ounces of Maldon sea salt for only $7, which typically goes for over double that in the U.S. if you buy it online. Chris didn’t really understand what the big deal was, (“Do you really need that much salt?”), but when you know, you know.

As a final stop before we went back to our apartment, we went to Fort Lee to have some delicious soondubu jigae, spicy Korean tofu stew. I can’t even remember the last time I had eaten here was, maybe nine or ten years ago? But regardless, I was pretty excited. I got the medium spicy tofu stew and savored my rich, savory broth and the silky smoothness of the freshly made tofu (while Kaia made up for her lack of veggies over the last couple of days and went to town on the crunchy sesame broccoli banchan). And I also got a kick out of watching my father-in-law attempt to crack his raw egg into his stew bowl to enrich his broth.

Chris’s dad is a very intelligent person. He is educated, well traveled, knowledgable about history, the world, and people who don’t look like him. He has endless curiosity about things he learns he doesn’t know (and finds Wikipedia to be his best friend). But one area that his entire family teases him about is his… lack of common sense in doing seemingly basic things, like cracking an egg, knowing whether chicken is raw or cooked (he has legitimately eaten an entire meal of raw chicken that his wife had left on the counter to marinade… not realizing the meat was not cooked), eating with his hands, and anything really that is related to getting his hands dirty. I once talked about making things from scratch vs. a box, and he had a puzzled look on his face; Chris later explained and said, “He has no idea what “from a box” means!” Whenever any kind of meat is on the bone, he struggles to eat it unless he can neatly cut it off with a fork and knife. So when the eggs were presented and we explained they were raw and had to be cracked, dropped, and mixed into the stew, Chris’s dad got uncomfortable and gave a helpless look to his wife. Chris insisted that he crack the egg on his own. I then proceeded to record him on my phone to see if he would be successful. He tried to crack the egg weakly about three times before he finally gave up, gave another helpless look to his wife, and his wife conceded and just cracked the egg for him into his bowl.

It was a bit pitiful to watch, but pretty amusing. And now, I have it documented for rewatching forever!

Jamaican and Mexican food at Broad Street Market

Before exploring a local independent bookshop and heading off to Gettysburg for the battleground tour, we spent the morning today at Broad Street Market in the heart of Harrisburg. The Broad Street Market has been around since 1860. During the Civil War, the farmers at the Broad Street Market helped feed the 300,000 Union soldiers who were staying at a nearby camp. Today, it has many vendors that serve meals all day long, as well as fresh produce and flowers.

Every time we have visited cities and towns less traveled to across the U.S., we have always been pleasantly surprised by the food. Broad Street Market was no different. Across the different vendors, I ended up choosing Porters House Jamaican Cuisine and Antojitos Mexicanos Yum Yum! At the Market. At the Jamaican stall, I chose a small plate of curry goat, rice and peas, sautéed cabbage, and sweet fried plantains, with a side of coco bread, a chicken patty, and a beef patty. At the Mexican stall, I ordered huevos rancheros, which came with not just the standard red salsa on top of the fried tortillas and eggs, but even a side of freshly made salsa verde. I couldn’t decide which dish I was more impressed by because both were so good. The huevos rancheros were better than some of the ones I’ve had in New York City: the tortillas managed to stay crunchy until the very last bite. The salsas were both bright and very spicy. The side of rice and beans they came with were addictive, clearly cooked in animal-based broth and/or fat. The Jamaican patties were both well spiced with some good heat, with a really flaky crust. And the curry goat was delicious, cooked the usual way with meat on the bone and chopped through the bone, making it a little unsafe for Kaia to eat, but enjoyable for me with the opportunity to suck bone marrow. Even the cabbage was delicious, well seasoned, and crunchy.

When I asked a friend who grew up in Pennsylvania what he recommended we do in Harrisburg, he said, “Nothing. Choose another destination.” But I would beg to differ: these are some of the most delicious Jamaican and Mexican dishes I’ve had. These meals themselves were worth a visit to Harrisburg.

Long weekend in Harrisburg, PA – Fun at Paulus Farm Market

For our long weekend trip while Chris’s parents are in town, he chose Harrisburg, PA. Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania, but it’s also close to two major tourist sites — Hersey’s Chocolate World and Gettysburg, which is where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous speech called the Gettysburg address during the Civil War. In addition, given it’s an area in the middle of Pennsylvania, I knew there would be a lot of farms and markets to potentially visit, which would be a good opportunity get Kaia out of her usual concrete jungle and be “one” with nature and the animals.

We spent some time this afternoon at Paulus Farm Market, which is part produce/flowers/fresh food market, and part animal farm. There’s a small admission fee to enter the animal and play area, so we paid an extra $2 to get a bag of vegetables to help Kaia feed the animals. There were a good number of animals at the farm, including different species of goats, chickens, cows, ducks, and pigs. Kaia was a little scared initially to feed the chickens, but when we got to the smaller pygmy goats, she finally warmed up to them, likely because they were smaller, and was happy to feed them lettuce. The farm also had this huge tractor that was converted into a tractor/tunnel slide that Kaia was very fascinated with. She loved sitting on the tractor seat and turning the steering wheel over and over.

I love watching Kaia with the animals. Her little sweet giggles after a goat snatches her offered piece of lettuce or her little jumps and squeals while feeding really warmed my heart. I especially loved it when the goat would take her food, and she’d immediately turn to me and ask, “More? More?!” Of course, a big reason we want to take her to places like Paulus Farm Market is so that she will have different experiences that are outdoors, but another reason is that I want her to be comfortable with animals and know where food really comes from. When you grow up in a city like San Francisco or New York where people mostly buy their food from the local grocery store, you are so far removed from the food production process that you don’t realize that real people actually have to work the land and feed the animals that ultimately contribute to what’s on your plate. I still remember when my cousin got mad once (as an adult) when he bought some green vegetable and found a dead bug in it. He was extremely angry and talked about how “dirty” the food was; he ended up throwing this produce away! I told him he was being insane: it should actually be a good sign when you see dead insects in your fresh produce because it probably means the produce was worth eating (for them), and perhaps even had less or no pesticides!

Kaia is already a relatively good little eater, but the more she understands about food, the more she will hopefully appreciate the world’s variety of food and be open to trying and eating even more things.

Good Friday eats near New Brunswick, New Jersey

New Jersey is quite far from my favorite state. I think part of the reason I felt strange about New Jersey was how so many of my colleagues have been from New Jersey over the years, and how they only looked at New York City as a place for “work” and pretty much nothing else. They didn’t see the glitz and glam that I saw when I looked at New York with all of its incredible diversity in people, culture, food, theater, and entertainment. They didn’t see it as a land of opportunity, excitement, and fun. Instead, they just saw it as a polluted urban jungle with too many people, too much garbage, and too much pollution. A number of them had said to me that they’d “never” want to live in New York and were completely repulsed by the mere thought of living in the city; one said he’d rather die. Part of me wanted to respond, if you feel that strongly against New York, maybe you shouldn’t work here at all and just get a job in your own state! While not everyone I know who lives in New Jersey thinks this way, enough of my New Jersey-based colleagues over the last 16 years have expressed this sentiment that I just found them to be banal.

So for me, New Jersey has been exciting really only for two main reasons: the delicious Indian and Korean food. Most of the incredible Indian food has been around Edison, New Brunswick, and Princeton, where a lot of people of Indian descent live. For Korean food, the majority has been around Fort Lee and Palisades Park, which also have a large Korean population. Every time we go to these areas, I always marvel not only at the high quality of the food, but also how much cheaper the meals are in general. I can’t believe X dish costs 25-30% less than what this costs in New York City, even in Queens!

Today, we took a day trip and rented a car to go to the New Brunswick area. Chris picked out a “pure veg” Indian restaurant called Indian House of Dosas, and I loved the food so much that I almost licked my fingers and plates clean at the end of the meal. We had two tiffin combo plates of idli, vada, pongal, poori, and masala dosa, which came with peanut chutney, coconut chutney, a rare but interesting ginger-tamarind-jaggery chutney, sambar, and a semolina halwa. And they cost $12-13 for each combo! Along with two Madras style filter coffees and a mango lassi, tax, and a 20% tip, we paid $48. And I was stuffed to the brim at the end of the meal. The food was so fresh, well spiced, and flavorful. I really though the medu vada we had were some of the best I could have had in my life; they were all clearly made to order and extremely fresh. The vada were so hot that they felt like they came straight out of the fryer. If this place were close by to us, I’d likely want food from here at least once a week. I’m still thinking about it long after we have left.

Pre-baby, I would have been happy to occasionally go all out and make dosas and their fermented batter, along with the different chutneys. I did it a number of times, including one interesting variation with a quinoa dosa, which Chris begrudgingly admitted was good. But now, it’s such an event with all the different steps and endless little side dishes. I’d rather just leave it up to the professionals now. Maybe one day I will revisit it, but probably not anytime soon unless something inspires me.

Bjorn’s Colorado Honey at the Denver airport

When I arrived at the Denver airport on Tuesday, I waited for my colleague to use the restroom before we got into an Uber. As I waited, I noticed a little stand called Bjorn’s Colorado Honey with all kinds of cute glass bottles of honey in different sizes and colors. I made a note of it on my phone to come back to this stand on Friday. Instead, it was actually an even better experience: after I went through security Friday late morning, I noticed that Bjorn’s Colorado Honey had a full-fledged store right by the area where you enter Concourse C, which is right where all the American Airlines gates were. I got super excited and decided I would check it out.

While at the shop, I got to taste at least 10 different types of locally made honey, ranging from vanilla bean honey, propolis honey (incredible!), and “untouched” honey (they literally don’t touch it after it comes out of the hive, so there are traces of honeycomb and propolis in it!). The propolis honey was particularly interesting to me. I had previously read that it was used by the ancient Egyptians to ward off colds and viruses. Propolis is made by bees from tree and plant resins, and it’s known for its ability to fight against viruses, bacteria, and microbes. It’s also considered a powerful antihistamine. It’s recommended to take a spoonful once a day as a preventative, and to take it three times a day while fighting off a virus/infection. I had never purchased any propolis before but was intrigued, especially since we give honey to Kaia Pookie while she is slightly under the weather. Kids under the age of 3 (or 4?) are not supposed to have any cough medication or decongestants, but honey is recommended for children over the age of 1 to help loosen up any blockages or phlegm. And Kaia loves her morning daily dose of honey, as she’s been a little congested over the last couple of weeks.

Honey was always just honey to me, until I read that a lot of “honey” in the U.S. is fake and companies reduce their costs by adding corn syrups/sugars to theirs. So the only way to know for sure that your honey is legitimate is if it’s certified USDA organic here. Over the years, we’ve purchased a number of incredible honeys, from the endless Australian honeys with unique flavors to the Brightland Hawaiian one (that Kaia was obsessed with) to the Sri Lankan jungle bee one we picked up at the Good Market in Colombo last summer. I think I really got interested in honey and tasting different ones after our December 2015 side trip to Tasmania, where we had generous tastings at a local honey shop of many types, including the very famous leatherwood honey. It made me realize that the honey in the plastic bear squeeze container was just one-noted and bland compared to all these other incredible honeys with multidimensional flavors you could get elsewhere.

So I ended up leaving Denver with four glass jars of honey: propolis, untouched, whipped lavender, and raw whipped. It was a fun and unexpected end to my trip. I didn’t think I was going to buy anything to take home during this trip, but instead, I took home riches made from Colorado bees!

Ronny Chieng: on judgement and social hierarchy, and how it applies to the workplace

Tonight, we went to see Ronny Chieng’s sold out show at Radio City Music Hall. If you asked me when I was in middle or high school whether I thought I would be seeing Asian or Asian American comedians as “mainstream” in my thirties, I would have thought it wasn’t possible because the U.S. could only see “black or white.” So I’m happy to see when I am proven wrong. I guess America (and the West, for that matter), IS selectively able to accept Asians in show business.

It was another show, similar to Vir Das’s show the previous weekend, where I laughed so hard at moments that I almost cried. At this show, though, there were so many relatable moments that my face nearly hurt after from all the laughing and smiling. One of the moments that I could definitely empathize with, especially given our annual kickoff that had just ended this week at work, was his discussion and commentary on “social hierarchy,” how whenever he goes back to Singapore or meets up with his friends and former classmates from there that it always feels like people are trying to size him up, see where exactly they stand vis a vis him. And it’s hard with him because he’s a comedian, so you can’t instantly group him into the lawyers or the doctors or whatever other careers are “expected” in Asian culture. He’s in show business, and it’s not easy to “type” him into a specific income bracket or level of success because of that.

I don’t feel this constant judgment about “social hierarchy” with my friends, especially since I’ve parsed down my friends list so much that anyone I still maintain semi-regular contact with is a good friend, someone who I’d consider has a good heart and isn’t just with me because of my income bracket. But where I feel this the most is at the last two company kickoff events. Each person at these conferences has to wear a lanyard with a badge attached to it with their name and title. Sales people are pretty cliquey; most of them stay amongst themselves. If they go out of their groups, they’re trying to meet and connect with people “higher up” than they are on the corporate ladder, people who can help them or get them something they want. I can feel the gaze of many people walking by me, staring down at my badge, sizing me up to see if I’m important enough, based on my title, for them to introduce themselves to or even talk to. Most people who have higher titles rarely give me the time of day unless we have worked together previously; they are quick to stop our small talk so that they can go schmooze and hang out with their “equals or above.” Do I really care about this? Not really. But I do notice it, and I do find it pretty funny because at the end of the day, the vast majority of us are not running this company. We’re not effecting that much change at the individual level. We’re all just working minions here for our paychecks and our perks. We’re not in Elon Musk’s tax bracket. If you want to be snobby and stick with people at “your own level” or judge me simply because of my title, I don’t really care because I not only don’t know you, but I probably don’t want to know you. But the judgment and “sizing people up” is definitely real in corporate America. And while it’s annoying, it’s something you just have to live with and navigate as long as you want to participate in the rat race.