More Than ‘Just’ a Burger

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is “food” and I am sharing some stories about American food. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

To be honest, American food did not appeal to me at first. Although I have visited the country a couple of times as a tourist, I barely ate American food except burgers. I mean I love burger and fries, but they seemed so…. ordinary compared to Asian food! 😛 It took me a while after I moved here to be familiar with more types of American food, and here are some of which I’ve grown to love.

Biscuit and Gravy

A biscuit to me used to be what Americans call a cookie. You know, the crunchy sweet flour-based snack that sometimes comes with a variety of fillings, strawberry jam or vanilla icing. In America, a biscuit is a flour-based dish with a softer texture, similar to bread, mostly unsweetened and normally eaten for breakfast, or as a side dish for your meal. Confused? I was too!

I had my first bite of a biscuit when I was eating breakfast with the family in a classic American diner. I ordered American breakfast – described as eggs (your style), pancakes, hashbrown and sausage/bacon. What I didn’t realize is that the meal came with a side dish – biscuits or English muffin. Here’s what it looks like.

The gravy here is actually different than the brown gravy that I knew. The gravy is made of milk and has a more creamy texture than the brown gravy. Besides being served at breakfast, biscuit and gravy is also a perfect companion for a Southern-style fried chicken meal. Anyway, I’ve grown to love them so much that I can eat them anytime. 😛

Fried Chicken Meal

Speaking of fried chicken…. the first thing that I can think of is KFC. Yes, it is an American fast-food chain, but in Indonesia, I was so used to eating KFC with rice – it’s just the best. Here, fried chicken is commonly eaten with fries, biscuits (yes!), macaroni and cheese, corn, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. I mean, you can choose one, two or all side dishes mentioned… it’s your call :))

Image source: https://www.kfc.com

Barbeque

Barbeque is used to describe a kind of meat cooking technique, which is over a fire. This is surely my favorite American food, well I’m a meat eater so it’s only predictable 😛 There are several barbeque styles, which vary by state. I am yet to try all kinds of barbeque style, but so far I love Texas bbq, especially the beef brisket. (In LA you need to try SLAB and if you were to visit San Diego, Phil’s BBQ is your go-to place).

Pies

Since I spent a year in England, when I think of Pies I think of savoury pie – chicken pie, beef pie, or shepherd’s pie. But here in America, when you hear people talk about pies, it’s usually the sweet one.

Think of apple pie, blueberry pie, key lime pie… and the list is endless because you can actually put any fruits/jam that you can think of! Pies are commonly eaten as a dessert, especially during a celebration, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. If you asked me, I still prefer savoury pie over sweet pie, but of course, I can’t say no to a warm apple pie! 😀

By now I have listed a couple of American foods that I like. Now if you ask me, so what do Americans eat on a daily basis? Actually, since I am living in California which is a melting pot of cultures, people here eat a lot of food from different countries – primarily Mexican and Asian food. However, if I were to answer that question only with American food, I think this should give you a good picture.

Breakfast

Like I mentioned above, a typical American breakfast that you can order in restaurants consists of eggs, sausage/bacon, hashbrown, pancakes, and a side dish of biscuit/toast/English muffin. Sounds a lot? Well, they said breakfast is the most important meal of the day! But actually, breakfast at home is not that fancy – We usually eat cereal, toast, or pancakes/waffles.

Lunch

Based on my observation so far, Americans don’t usually eat a lot during lunch. Sandwich is a common meal – I guess it’s quick and simple because most of us are busy during lunchtime. A typical sandwich that you make at home would have deli meat, cheese, and lettuce, eaten (mostly) cold or hot. I also see that most restaurants here offer lunch specials during lunchtime. It is basically a smaller portion of their main course menu, which comes at a lower price.

Image source: https://www.usda.gov

Dinner

Dinner is the time where families gather and eat together. This is where each household would serve a full meal. It is common to eat meat like steak or meatloaf, with salad and potatoes. Come to think of it again, a lot of American food that I see are influenced by other cultures. For example, mac and cheese is a dish that is influenced by Italian pasta, while Fajitas (also a common dinner menu) is influenced by Mexican food.

So… turns out that American food is more than just burgers and fries! 😀 Food here comes with a lot of influence from other cultures especially in a diverse state like California. But still, there are noticeable features that make American food unique. There is a lot of other American food that I am yet to try, especially local delicacies that vary by state. Now tell me, which of the food I mentioned above that you would like to try the most? 🙂

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What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is about “first experiences” and I am sharing a summary of my first year in the US. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

Just like that, my first year in the US has passed. Even so, I still remember my first day clearly. R and I were very tired from our long journey, but I was excited to start our lives together. I remember the crisp yet fresh winter air that I felt the moment I stepped foot outside the airport. At that moment, it felt so refreshing and it got me so excited. Adventure awaits! So I thought.

Anyway, you are welcome to see a glimpse of my first year abroad on Instagram with hashtag #ChristasFirstYear. For this post, I am going to share a few things that you may expect in your first year abroad – based solely on my own experience 🙂 

Home 🙂

Discovering New Things About Yourself

When you move abroad, you are going out of your comfort zone, and you will discover new things about yourself. As for me, I discovered a new fondness of cooking! It took me a while to get some recipes right and just this holiday season I had the courage to cook for other people besides R 🙂 To my surprise, it was a hit! At the moment I only have two things in my “repertoire” – kastengel (Dutch – Indonesian cheese cookies) and macaroni schotel, but now I’m more confident to try different recipes. I never thought I’d love cooking this much because my cooking used to be pure survival – I cook just so I don’t starve myself 😛

Homesickness

I’m sorry to say this to you, but homesickness is inevitable. I have experienced it and it was ugly. Funny enough, it didn’t happen right away. In fact, it happened to me after a good couple of months living here. I thought I managed to adapt well, I thought I was doing ok until it happened all of a sudden. It took me a while to realize that all this time I have been feeling bits of homesickness but I tried to push it away. Then boom! it hit me, and it hit me hard. If I could turn back time and speak to myself in the past, I would definitely say that I need to embrace whatever feelings I had – the good and the bad. Perhaps this way I would be able to deal with homesickness better. 

Friendship

In Indonesia, making new friends was easy for me. I have friends that I have known forever, I have friends at work, and I also have friends that I know from other friends ;). Here, making new friends is not as easy – I felt like I’m always gonna be the “new girl” because of my immigrant status. Even though R has close-knit friends that I love as well, I felt that I still need to make new friends, so I used to come to a lot of different Indonesian group meetings just to meet new friends, but I couldn’t seem to blend in. It took me a while to realize that I don’t need a lot of friends. I’m happy and content with our close-knit friends. They are family, and I know for sure that we got each other’s back 🙂

Self – Love

Moving and navigating yourself through changes are not easy. Give yourself credit for taking that leap of faith and leave the comfort of your home country! The first year can be tough, but it can be exciting too. There will be a lot of firsts – like your first holiday season, first road trip, first this and first that. Things may be different for everyone – you might be thriving already, you might be still adjusting, you might find it easy to adapt, or you might still be struggling with all the change. Whatever your condition is, one thing that I know for sure is that you got to give yourself some loving. This will help you to make sense of your surroundings better and ease the adaptation process in your first year!

If you have lived abroad for more than one year, what was your first year like? Did you experience the things I mentioned above? I would love to read your stories in the comment box! 🙂

My 2018

Today’s December 31st and here I am sitting down comfortably at the house. I don’t have any plans for tonight’s New Years Eve but I will be spending it with family 🙂 I always miss my family in Indonesia more during the holiday season but I’m hopeful that we can be reunited soon!

I just decided that hope is my word for 2019. I am hopeful and holding on to hope. Things have not been as good as I wanted in 2018, but only today I got to be reminded of hope. There is really no reason for me not to be hopeful and keep my faith because all this time God has been so good to me and my family. Anyway, here are my 2018 in retrospect.

January – We had a car accident the second day I arrived in the US and we had to let go of our car 😦 so, we made our first big purchase as a family this month! There were also other firsts this month for me… I re-learned how to cook (I was able to cook during my UK days but it was pretty much a grad student survival cooking :P), learned to make my own latte and smoothies, and started to pay attention to skincare! I also went to Passion Pit concert which was great. Unfortunately, this was also the month where I lost my aunt due to her illness 😦 may she RIP.

February – This month was quite busy for us – we had our cousin visiting from Indonesia for their honeymoon, and at the same time we also had a mini staycation as a belated wedding gift from our family. This month was the month I started to get to know my neighbourhood better – I learned to navigate myself around and get used the public transportation system. February was the coldest month, but the family made it warmer.

March – I realised that I have started to gain weight since I moved here, so I started to exercise more regularly. I joined a local gym to take PoundFit classes and I loved it! However, I stopped going after a month because they change their class schedule and it does not fit mine :\ I should stop making excuses and go back to this routine next year. On the other hand, we went exploring Los Angeles whenever we got a chance, playing tourist in the big city. I went to museums, gardens, and the beach! I started to fall in love with the city ❤

April – This month started with a HAIM concert with R. I also became a member of the public library in my city and started to read regularly again. I started a Goodreads challenge – 12 books for 2018, knowing I might fail it like past years. But turns out I was wrong! Not only did I manage to finish it, but I also managed to read 22 books in total this year! YAY me! Perhaps I should write a “books of 2018” post sometime this week… hmmm.

May – One of my bridesmaids / best friend came to visit this month and we had so much fun together. I went to stay with her for a couple of nights and it was so refreshing to be able to get a girls getaway like the old days. Another thing that made this month special was Justin Timberlake’s concert! It was a dream come true since I have been a fan since his NSYNC days 😛 We also started the month of Ramadan this month and it was my first time fasting in the US.

June – My brother and sister in law along with aunts and cousins from R’s side came to visit for Eid, making my first Eid here in the US so merry and warm. I missed my family in Indonesia but I am thankful for new experiences this month. With the days that got warmer and longer, we also spent a lot of time at the beach which I had no complaints about. I guess this is one of the perks of living in Southern California!

July – It’s R’s birthday month and went on a couple mini trips. First, we went to Las Vegas for a weekend with our family, then we went to San Francisco to meet my grad school friend who was visiting from New Zealand! It was so good to reunite with her after 8+ years 🙂

August – Summer is officially here and I think I spent most of it at the beach… it’s really a privilege to live close to the beach! I also scored a last minute ticket to Sam Smith’s concert at Staples Centre for only $20. Woohoow! And…. followed by a Smashing Pumpkins’ concert the next day with R. I can say that summer was a blast and I have no complaints.

September – Fall was around the corner and this month I was disappointed for the first time. Despite the delayed good news, I managed to go to my first football game to watch Rams vs Cardinals. Football is a big thing here and although I still don’t understand the game, I enjoyed the atmosphere of watching a live game.

October – I became the coordinator of our friends’ wedding here. It was an Indonesian – American wedding because although both bride and groom are Indonesian, the wedding culture was a mix between both countries. Through this experience, I met new friends and also relive my love of coordinating and organizing things – something that I haven’t done since I am currently taking a break from the corporate world. Ooooh how I can’t wait to go back! 😉 On the downside, I caught a pretty bad cold and it made me very homesick at the same time. It took me a week to recover, can you imagine?!

November – It’s our anniversary month and it’s our first! Yay! how time flies when you are having fun 🙂 we went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park for our anniversary and we had a good time. I’ll surely post the story here sometime later in the new year. I also celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time with R and our cousins. It’s also the end of #ChristasFirstYear – a project I started on Instagram when I first arrived in the US. Unfortunately this month I also experienced several anxiety issues which I am currently dealing with.

December – My birthday month! Since I finished #ChristasFirstYear project, I took a little break from social media and also started to practice mindfulness more regularly. I found it helpful to tackle my anxiety issues and I started to have a better understanding and awareness of my feelings. I am yet to receive the good news that I have been waiting for, but I am patient and hopeful.

Thank you 2018, Hello 2019 🙂

So there goes my 2018. It has been an eventful year – full of firsts but it is also a challenging one. Adjusting to life in a new country, becoming a wife, dealing with uncertainty… but I am certain that with hardship comes ease and that I am so blessed. ❤

Happy New Year 2019 to you! May you have a blessed year ahead. Thanks for reading and see you in the new year 🙂

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite holiday of the year for obvious reasons (pssst… it’s my birthday! :P). It will be my second Christmas in the US, but only this year I am starting to notice more things about Christmas here because last year’s Christmas was like a whirlwind – I was too busy with moving, adjusting, and everything.

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, I have been celebrating Christmas all my life. To me, Christmas used to mean family gatherings, which means food, presents, and more food. Here in the US, I began to view Christmas a little bit differently.

As I am celebrating my second Christmas in the US, I can see how everyone is excited about Christmas. People would start to decorate their houses with lights as soon as Thanksgiving passed. Speaking of decorations, they are no joke!

Image from: http://imged.me

Yes, people would decorate their houses like that. Another common thing that people here like to do as Christmas is approaching is buying gifts. I am familiar with gift exchange as I used to do that with my family back in Indonesia, but it seems like Americans give gifts to everyone. Colleagues, friends, family, even the mail lady or your newspaper boy! It’s similar to how THR is during Lebaran in Indonesia, but instead of giving money, it is more common to give a present here.

There is a unique gifting tradition in the US that I just discovered called White Elephant. It is a game where a group of people exchange gifts with one another. However, there is a special rule which lets people steal your gift. So what happens is you gather with your group and each person bring a present that they will swap with each other. Everybody has to open their present in public and the next person has the option to steal the previous person’s present or open a new present. It’s interesting and can be a great party activity especially if played with people that you are close with!

All in all, I can see now that Christmas here means more than just food and extra holiday. It means celebrating the presence of the loved ones in your life – and because Americans like small talks a lot, Christmas can also mean extending your good wishes and positive vibes to everyone that you meet on the street. It can be as simple as saying “Happy Holidays” to the cashier lady in the grocery store or listening to your barista’s holiday plans while she was making your latte 🙂

I hope you are surrounded by warmth and love this holiday season, wherever you are. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sunny California ❤

This post is the first out of a blogging series titled “Stories from the West” which I am doing with Dixie of Her Little Journal blog. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, which revolves around living abroad and settling down in a new country. We are both from Indonesia and we moved to a new country around the same time. She now lives in West of Sweden while I am here in the West Coast of USA, hence the project title 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy our stories, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s here.

365/365

If you have been following me on Instagram, you might have seen a project that I have been doing for the past year. Started when I arrive in the US a year ago, I put out a picture every day on Instagram with the hashtag #ChristasFirstYear. Well, picture no.365 is still on the draft because I wanted to take a break from Instagram for a bit (posting each day for a year turns out to be a little bit overwhelming), and I also noticed that I have been feeling quite a lot of emotions leading up to day 365! 

You see, I am the type of person who are so used to having plans, checklists, projects, and all that. Every year I like to reflect on my life’s adventures that year and I would expect to see some accomplishments – travel to new places, career related, relationship related, anything that can give me a sense of progression. Unfortunately, as I look back at the past year, at first I found it hard to see that I am progressing this year. 

It made me sad and affected my mood for a couple days, I even had a small breakdown during a video call with my mother and R. I had this urge of wanting to limit contact with my friends in Indonesia because I felt jealous to see how their life is progressing while I felt that mine is not. Poor R did not know what to do, and I did not know what he could do to make me feel better. It wasn’t until I heard my mother’s words that I really get it. 

Life is not always about plans, checklists, projects, progression, and all that. Sometimes life can put you on hold, letting you navigate through it in your current situation. The situation for me is that I am still waiting for my permanent residency, and the chance to finally settle as a resident here. It’s okay. It takes longer than I expected, but it’s okay. 

Come to think of it again, I am being unfair to myself if I think that my life hasn’t been progressing at all this year. The progress may be different than what I planned and projected. But once I was finally able to see the silver lining of my current situation, I can now see the kind of progress that I’ve been making this year. As a newlywed, I have been progressing to become a better partner for my husband. My mother always said that getting married is a lifetime process of learning and understanding, and I think we are moving in the right direction. As a new immigrant, I am progressing too! At least now I can navigate myself through this city that I’m living in and I can definitely take you around Los Angeles if you decided to visit me 😉 And as for myself in general, this year has taught me that I have more patience and strength that I can ever imagine. 

That, my friends, is how I believe my life is still progressing despite everything that is happening 🙂 Thanks for reading and wishing you happy holidays! It’s getting festive here and I hope it is in your place, too 🙂

Tempat Tinggal di Amerika

Jadi setelah saya nulis post yang ini tentang gaya hidup di Amerika, saya jadi punya beberapa ide tulisan tentang hidup disini yang ingin saya share di blog. Pas banget tau2 kemarin Rika ninggalin komen soal bedanya rumah di Finlandia (tempat dia tinggal) sama di Amerika. Jadilah saya mau ceritain soal tempat tinggal di Amerika hasil observasi selama saya disini hehehe.

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Gaya Hidup di Amerika

Iya, judulnya sengaja saya bikin begitu buat clickbait 😛 hehe. Oke jadi saya ingin cerita soal keuangan dan gaya hidup di Amerika, tepatnya sih di California Selatan tempat saya tinggal. Ide cerita ini muncul setelah baca twit nya Crystal soal pandangan (kebanyakan) orang di Indonesia terhadap orang yang tinggal di luar negeri.

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