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Worldwide: Festive Friday 2!

We have had some incredible feedback following our first post in the #FestiveFriday series. Today we take you to two countries that are miles apart with different traditions. The things they have in common however are the passion the two writers have for their respective countries and the festival they celebrate! 

We loved learning about Guatemala from Ale’s last blogpost, now we get to indulge in her Christmas traditions!

One of my favorite things of Christmas in Guatemala is the sense of unity and family that is created in the environment. All throughout December, Guatemalans host different types of events in order to spend quality time with people they love. A very common event is a “convivio”, which is basically a party where friends, family, or co-workers (depending on who hosted it) gather and celebrate that the year is almost over and simply spend a fun time together. Most of the time, convivios have different types of games where you can win prizes, food (of course) and/or a gift exchange.
Ale Xmas.jpgSince Guatemala is still a predominantly Catholic country, one of our traditions is having a “posada”; an event symbolising the pilgrimage of the virgin Mary and Joseph on their departure from Nazareth to Bethlehem, awaiting the birth of Jesus. This tradition consists in leading a procession through the streets and at the end, stop by some houses to receive a snack; traditionally, people should offer tamales or chuchitos, sweet bread, and punch (fruit punch is prepared differently in Guate). The procession is accompanied with candles, carols and instruments.
Some big local companies also host free events where everyone is invited. There are two big events in my city; the inauguration of the biggest Christmas tree in Guatemala, the Árbol Gallo (Gallo is the name of the beer company who is hosting the event), and a fireworks show called Luces Campero (sort of like Macy’s 4th of July show in NYC). Both of these events have some acts before the main spectacle begins, such as ballet, national artists, etc.
Apart from events, we also come together by decorating our homes. In Guatemala it is rare to buy a real pine tree; we mostly have the plastic ones sitting in the garage waiting to be decorated. However, one of the traditions is commemorating the birth of Jesus by placing a representation below the tree these are called “el nacimiento”. Nacimientos are decorated with a layer of moss, pine leaves, sawdust of all the colors you can imagine, and little clay characters to represent everyone that attended the birth of Jesus. Personally, this was one of my favourite memories when I was little, since my sister and I had the freedom to decorate it however we liked!
Kathleen thrilled us with her tales of German joke books, now she has a festive story to tell! 
Kathleen Xmas

As some of you might know, I went to Kiel in 2015 as part of my year abroad at university (and those who don’t, I don’t know how because I haven’t shut up about it since). Christmas in Kiel was one of the most magical things I’d ever experienced. There was a huge market by the central station – admittedly, a rat once ran over my foot there, but I was feeling very festive and chose to consider it as more of a Christmas rat – and I was struck by the amount of camraderie and happy feeling around all the people there. No one actually seemed to buy anything from the many little huts around the square, but the Glühwein was flowing and there was almost always some kind of local band playing a Christmas tune or two. When Kate came to visit (namedrop to the editor), we went to Lübeck and marvelled at the marzipan towers on the main square. When other friends came, we went to Hamburg to try the Christmas rides firsthand.

I feel like I should give a short introduction to my former landlady at this point. Her name is Renate, she is the most spritely 67 year old I’ve ever met and she spoils me absolutely rotten. Because there aren’t any young people in my village, she has taken me under her wing. Are we best friends? I don’t know, but we exchange excellent WhatsApp chain mails and she insists on bringing over dinner in a Tupperware every Friday night so I don’t have to cook over the weekend. When I get a call from Renate asking me to go with her on a coach trip to a historic Christmas market, what’s a gal going to do? Obviously accept. So she signed me up with her (other) best friend, Barbara, for a Christmas market tour.

Kathleen Xmas 2The coach came to pick us up from our village centre and we went, via Cottbus, to our destination. I was the only person on this bus under the age of 64. I know this so precisely because Barbara is 64. The bar opened obscenely early on board the coach; the woman next to me had three half bottles of wine for under a tenner and all before midday. The journey took us about three and a half hours, but I was ready; this was going to be the best Christmas market I’d ever been to! A medieval town in Saxony, on the Elbe, totally off the beaten track for non-Germans! There was a distracting interlude in the afternoon which involved eating half a goose and going on a boat trip with the Saxon equivalent of John Bishop, but we eventually got there at quarter to four. Remember this, quarter to five.

“Right everyone, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Time to go and explore the Christmas market! Remember, everyone needs to be back on the coach by ten to six!”
Ten to six? Maybe I’d got the devilish German time telling wrong (who says three quarters eight when they mean quarter to nine??) and they meant six to ten? Oddly specific, but not unheard of in the land of punctuality. But no, she said ten to six. I didn’t really understand why we’d driven for nearly four hours and been subjected to such John Bishopry for two hours in order to stay there for an hour.

I soon understood why. The stalls all fit one of four profiles: Glühwein, baubles, gingerbread, candied nuts. They were all ever so slightly expensive for what they were. The light sleet in the air was making everything damp, but at the same time not damp enough to feel wet. Renate, Barbara and I only actually spent 20 minutes at the market – there was absolutely no Christmas feeling whatsoever. A man was telling me on the bus about how he came a few years ago and there were Czech craftsmen making ornaments for people to take home with them – where were they now?

Unfortunately, this seems all too prevalent in the New Bundesländer (former East Germany). The markets are full of aging adults, with children too old to come to the Christmas markets but not old enough to have grandchildren of their own, and who aren’t willing to shout about how much they love Christmas. That said, I was in Bautzen a few weeks ago and there were children and young people filling up the main squares of the town. But the stalls were all the same, everywhere I went. A true German Christmas experience you’re looking for? Head north. Try out the Lüneborg or Lübeck markets. Say hello to the Christmas rat in Kiel, wherever s/he may be. And bring the enthusiasm with you! Don’t expect the market to do all the Christmassing for you; drink as much Glühwein (or Apfelpunch! Great non-alcoholic alternative) as you can stomach and bully your friend into trying a Feuerzangenbowle – hot wine with a sugar lump balanced on top and set on fire!

Follow both of them on their travels via their social media:

Ale:  http://marialevasquez.wixsite.com/doslunares  http://instagram.com/doslunaresgt/

Kathleen: https://twitter.com/_mrsbruhl  

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Travel

Finland: Life As An Au Pair

One of the best ways to real experience a country is to live there! Take a trip to Scandinavia with Chynna…

I began my journey as an au pair starting all the way back in 2016. That’s when I decided I wanted to look into what it is and if I wanted to do it. This was my senior year of college and the idea of going straight into the real world was a little daunting and I knew I could work the rest of my life.  I then made an account on Au Pair World website and started looking at families.

A lot of people ask me “why Finland?” Which is a really good question. I originally wanted France or Spain, but I didn’t really click with any of the families and I didn’t really find any where I would have my own space, which was really important to me. One day I was searching countries outside my original ones and found a profile that seemed interesting. I would have my own “apartment” like space and work as more of a before and after-school worker. I sent the family a message and we set up a Skype meeting that week! The family was nice and really seemed that they wanted the same things that I did. I also Skyped with their au pair at the time and she also liked working with the family. So after those two meeting we both decided that we were a good fit for each other.

Included in my contract are monthly pay, a bus card, Finnish classes, and time off if asked before. Also in my contract I agreed to do a weekly light cleaning and a monthly deep cleaning along with cooking for the family during the week. Overall I feel like my work load is pretty light, but of course when you are living with the people you work for you do more than what is on the contract sometimes. If you are thinking of becoming an au pair make sure to ask a lot of questions on what they expect from you and be very specific on what you are willing to do.

My daily activities depend on the day. On some days I will take the kids to school with the car, if the dad is out of town. If he is in town then he will take them to school in the morning. When the boys are at school I will go to the gym, clean if needed, go for a walk, or to a café. My days are usually pretty laid back. They are in school until around 3:30-4pm when I go and pick them up. Some days I will have the car and if I don’t then we have to walk to pick them up. The oldest boys play soccer and ice hockey so they have practice almost every night. This means I have to have them ready usually by 4:30 or 5pm depending on when the practice starts. After that I am free for the evening! I will say I do think I have a pretty au pair position compared to most people who have to stay with their host children all day.

Though I do have a good position there have been challenges. One thing that has been hard is the language barrier between the children and me. There are three boys ages 3, 5, and 7. None of them speak English, nor have an interest to. So as you probably imagine, doing simple things or even building a connection with them has been hard. Finnish people are also usually very shy. Mothers also get paid maternity leave for up to 3 years so children are really only used to their mothers and very attached. This makes another person coming in difficult. I think this has been the most difficult thing. Since the children are not interested in building relationships with other people other than children their own age.

Fast-forward to now and I am only with my host family for one more week! These 9 months have flown by and I am so glad I took this year before starting to work to do something different. I would have never met the people I have or experienced the things that I have without coming here. This past Christmas I couldn’t go home and another au pair that was here invited to her family Christmas in France. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I have also been fortunate to see 9 other countries while I have been here because taking weekend trips to another country is so convenient! This past month I went to Austria to visit a friend and was able to attend a traditional spring party, which I would have never done if I didn’t come. Learning about other culture has also been very interesting. I don’t think I would have gotten to really see the culture if I would have just visited. Finland is so different from the US! Something that I found really interesting is that Finnish people eat 4 times a day. They have the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they also eat before they are going to bed. For this meal they usually eat the same things they eat for breakfast, like bread and/or yogurt. A really popular thing to do in Finland is to go to the sauna and then go swim in the lake, even if it is frozen! I went this past February to try it myself and while it was cold it was also so much fun! I have also noticed that the Finnish are very shy. They usually are nice when they do get to know you, but coming from the Midwest where you say hi to everyone and hold open doors even if the person is far away it’s been different. Though I am sad to leave this chapter in my life, I am even more excited to see what is to come!

Chynna

Follow her blog here!

Travel

Edinburgh, Scotland: A Jewel in Scotland’s Crown

Kate made her way up to Bonnie Scotland and found so many gems, she had to share them with you!

What could be more British than a bank holiday getaway? Honestly, not much. As per usual I randomly booked some train tickets for myself and my other half. I’d already decided on Edinburgh, I just hadn’t broken it to him!

I’d visited the Scottish capital one day before but it was to be his first time north of the border. Obviously, I was going to be going in the More Native Than The Native spirit and tried to do it as much like a local as possible. I turned to my normal research material: other bloggers! I have to mention the wonderful Exploring Edinburgh here as nearly all of the places we went to was through her blog.

Normally, we wouldn’t book a tour as we tend to just make things up as we go along but I’d seen a tour that perfectly fitted with our local knowledge ethos. Mini Mack tours is run by two brothers who are both locals and really know their stuff. We booked a two hour tour with Rowan to explore the city in Red Rocket, his Mini Cooper. Taking the road less travelled certainly paid off as Rowan took us to some of the best hidden gems the city has to offer. My personal favorite being Dr Neil’s garden in Duddingston Village. Curated by a husband and wife, the garden embodies their philosophy for therapeutic treatments and their belief that gardening and different plants helped to relieve symptoms both mentally and physically.

Thanks to the guys at Mini Mack we also took the top road up Arthur’s Seat which we would never have managed to cram in if we hadn’t have been in Red Rocket! We even managed a dram of local whisky at the top.

Being the foodies we are, I made it a mission to eat in some of the best independent restaurants that Edinburgh has to offer and let me tell you I was not disappointed.

A highlight was the Scran and Scallie. The brainchild of the Michelin started chef and local lad Tom Kitchin, this gastropub prises itself on its use of local ingredients. The food was immense and the people watching was even better!

For me, I like to plan in at least one museum to my trip and especially one that celebrates local history so the National Museum Of Scotland was definitely on my list. The sensational architecture and well curated exhibits meant that we could have spent a lot longer in there than we had time for! Always the way with weekend breaks I find.

Did you get up to anything fun? Any hidden gems you’d like to share? Get in touch and we can help you to share them with the world.

Travel

Paris: Food, Glorious Food

Kate went back to Paris recently and she ate very, very well! Read on to find out where she went…

After a recent trip back to Paris, I revisited lots of old haunts and discovered some new ones! Today I hope to take you on a journey to the lesser known spots to eat, drink and be cultured.

First up has to be my favorite new restaurant. La Tasca is a Portuguese eaterie in the heart of the Marais. I’ve made many a stop at their sister shop Comme A Lisbonne which sells the best Pastel de Nata I have ever tasted. Their lunch menu is simple but delicious. We started with a complementary pot of chorizo mousse with lovely crusty baguette. My other half had a chicken, egg and tomato sandwich but I obviously picked better with my sardine toastie! But don’t tell him I said that.

Another great meal we had was at the infamous Pink Mamma. We had eaten at a few of their other establishments before but I was desperate to see the rose colored building and taste their delicious food for myself! Be warned if you want to pay them a culinary visit then you’ll have to queue. We got there 30 minutes before the doors opened and still weren’t at the front of the line. I won’t spoil the outstanding menu for you but I will show you their incredible interior decor.

Now onto pudding. By far my favorite part of a meal! I’ve been trying to go to Boneshaker for years and never quite managed. Either I got delayed or they’d sold out for the day but this time I finally managed it! Go for the donuts but stay for the people watching from the window seat. I had the Easter special that was so chocolatey I felt like I needed a little sleep afterwards.

Has that made you hungry? If not, why not!

Travel

Provo, Utah: The Beehive State

Today, we take a trip to Utah! Many people think of America as a homogenous country but this post certainly proves that stereotype wrong…

One of my favorite parts of living in the United States is getting to experience various state cultures. Though we are all one nation, each state has its own unique personality and charm. In some areas, you truly feel as if you are stepping into a neighboring country rather than a nearby state.

Though I’ve been here several years now, I am a Utah transplant. I grew up in mid-Missouri and loved that area with my whole heart. The midwest will always have a hold on me. But when I was choosing where to attend college back in 2012, Brigham Young University kept calling to me. I decided to leave the comfort of my home state to attend BYU in Provo, Utah.

What a lifestyle change that was! I grew up in the Latter-Day Saint faith, so being at a school predominately attended by other members of my faith shouldn’t have been so shocking to me. But it was! I went from living in my parent’s house in the middle of the countryside to living in an apartment complex constantly surrounded by strangers in a strange, new city. No one chewed tobacco or drank coffee or cursed and I couldn’t find a bar if I tried! There were dessert cafes everywhere and the nightlife ended by 9pm every night. Everyone was so friendly, so smart, and so attractive! I went from being captain of the track team, lead in my high school musical, valedictorian of my class, and one of the only Latter-day Saint students in the school to just one of thousands of extremely talented, religious, and beautiful people.

Needless to say it was a culture shock for me. But I quickly grew to love the Utah culture and have decided to stick around even though I graduated from the university in 2016. So let me tell you about this area that has captured my heart! The city I live in is about an hour from the state capital. Provo is nestled in the middle of Utah Valley, also commonly nicknamed “Happy Valley”. I have never met a friendlier group of people, nor a group of people so eager and happy to have fun both sober and on a budget. It’s a very family-friendly area and you’ll find many activities catered to the university students and also to the families in the valley.

Here are some of my hidden gems in Provo!

I am SO glad I decided to attend school here. There is not another university in the whole world that caters more to clean, honest fun. The arts programs are phenomenal, the religion classes are unparalleled, and the library hosts a collection of rare documents and artifacts that would rival many museums. The student population is equally impressive. They are hard-working, friendly and service-oriented. BYU’s students are also frequently voted by Niche.com as the “most attractive” and the “smartest” college students in the country. Pretty great combination if you ask me!

If you get a chance to visit campus, do it! Stop by the Hinckley building and take a tour of the campus. Attend a basketball or football game and cheer on the Cougars. Get tickets for a concert or play in the HFAC building and you are sure to be impressed! Pick up some ice cream or mint brownies at the campus creamery and walk through the exhibits at the Bean Museum. Finally, you do not want to miss BYU’s Museum of Art! Their curators work tirelessly to bring impressive exhibits to campus and it is FREE to view! They currently have an incredible exhibit of M.C. Escher’s works and a breathtaking display of Tiffany Stain Glass lamps. Their rotating exhibits are a must-see in Utah.

http://moa.byu.edu/

Overall, Utah’s Mexican food front is sadly lacking. Coming from an area with several delicious Mexican restaurants, this was difficult for me to accept. So over the last few years I have eaten at dozens of Mexican restaurants in Utah and have compiled a list of the few exceptions to the Utah Mexican food rule.

The Iguanas: Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, Blue Iguana in Park City, and Green Iguana in St. George. All three of these restaurants were amazing!! Any time I am in these cities I seek out these restaurants to get my Mexican food fix.

Los Garcia: This hidden gem is found in Sandy, Utah and is WELL worth the trip. They have the best chips and salsa of any Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to and every dish was cooked to perfection. My only complaint about this place is that it is not closer to me!

Taqueira El Vaqero: This little hole-in-the-wall shop does not get near enough attention. It is located in Provo but most locals have never even heard of it! They have authentic Mexican food and it is both delicious and inexpensive. It is perfect for a lunch date or hanging out with friends.

Southern Utah:

Hiking is a Utah pastime! You will see hikers as soon as there is a sunny day in the spring and through the last possible day in the fall. There are thousands of hiking trails throughout the whole state and they are heavily used. But some of the more popular places to hike are found in the Moab area.

People come from all over the world to visit southern Utah to see the renowned natural arches at Arches National Park. I can’t blame them! These structures are massive and awe-inspiring. These same people typically drive over to see Goblin Valley, which is very different but still very cool. I would say that if you do not see these places before you die, you will have missed out on a life-changing experience.

Goblin Valley

As much as I loved both the Arches and Goblin Valley, there is a trail off the beaten path that is (in my opinion) even more impressive. Little Wild Horse Canyon is a slot canyon not too far from Goblin Valley. The hike was a bit strenuous at parts, but absolutely amazing! I have hiked my way across Utah and much of the midwest and have never seen any natural landmark as beautiful as these slot canyons. You will not have experienced the best of Utah until you have seen Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Temple Square:

Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and also happens to house the headquarters of the Latter-day Saint religion. One very notable landmark in the capital city is Temple Square. This spot boasts one of the oldest and most intricate Latter-day Saint temples. The architecture is breathtaking and the square surrounding the building is a great site for tourists. There is a visitor’s center, a gorgeous fountain, and the conference center featuring one of the largest organs in the world. It is within walking distance from the capitol building, the train station, several large shopping centers, and more!

Though Temple Square itself is well-known, there are a few tricks that not many locals or visitors know about. Let me give you the scoop!

Urban Adventure: There are several companies that have recently started setting up scavenger hunts for tourists or locals looking for new things to do. I’ve tried a few of them now and this company is my favorite! All you do is buy the hunt for the city you are visiting and they have you complete it right on your phone! Most of them are setup so you can park somewhere and walk to complete the quest.

I completed this adventure for Salt Lake City and LOVED it! I learned so many things about the city I had never heard of and things most locals will never know! If you are looking for something to do outside and want to learn some cool facts about this city, this is a fun way to do so. I would even recommend looking to see if they have an adventure in your own city. I guarantee you’ll learn new things about your hometown.

http://www.urbanadventurequest.com/how-it-works/default.aspx

The Roof: Tucked away on an upper floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial building, there is a magnificent restaurant. It is a buffet style restaurant with incredible food. There is even a live pianist seated in the center of the restaurant playing beautiful music! But the most notable feature of this restaurant is the view. It’s location on an upper floor paired with the windows making up the outer walls of the restaurant give the diners the most incredible view of Temple Square. I would recommend going at night so you can see the temple and the city all lit up. It’s incredibly romantic and beautiful and is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Utah’s capital city.

https://www.templesquare.com/dining/the-roof-restaurant/

There are many more fun, hidden digs in Utah and even more popular events, places, and activities to find. If Utah is not already on your list of places to visit, add it right now! Make sure to check out some of the more well-known areas when you get here, but don’t miss the little hole-in-the wall spots that truly make this state so great! Come see the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point, the Holi Color Festival at the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, and the Strawberry Days Rodeo in Pleasant Grove. Check out our natural hot springs, salt flats, and beautiful lakes. Utah has so much to offer, all you have to do is come find it.

Follow MaLee via her blog: https://thisbluedress.com/

Travel

Wisconsin and Iowa: Lessons of Moving from One Small Town to Another

Ever wondered what it’s like living in a small time in America? Anna spills the beans for More Native Than The Natives…

Let me start off with a little background about myself. Hello, my name is Anna. I have spent my entire life up until recently in a small piece of this world, in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. (Key-Wah-knee) Indian for “We are lost.” Not something you can really work into a town slogan, other than it is a wonderful little place on the beach of lake Michigan to get lost for a little while! So to catch you up to speed here I’ll skip all the boring stuff, I went to my local high school, after graduation met my now long term boyfriend, went to college for graphic design, graduated and was posed with the question, “Do I stay or move to Iowa with my bf who has the opportunity to take over his family farm?” Have you ever had to choose between family or love? It is a very difficult decision, but I have the most amazing family who has supported my decision to move and thankfully through FaceTime and Social Media, I am able to always stay connected with them. So… yeah… Iowa. Who would have thought? Who actually moves to Iowa? Me!

I have a place in my heart these days for two towns. Kewaunee, Wisconsin and Red Oak, Iowa. Let me start of with a little bit of Kewaunee’s unique attributes. This beautiful town of only 3,000 people is a small town destination! With the beachside attraction of Lake Michigan during the summer time it is a freeing place to cool down. If you have a love for lighthouses, we have one of the best! Ok, maybe I am bias but it sure is pretty! Due to the relaxed location, it has recently become a wedding destination spot. Check out the photos below that feature Kewaunee’s Lighthouse and the gorgeous Lake Haven Hall Wedding Destination.

And, that brings us to Iowa! This US state is made up of what seems to be a million small towns all right next to each other, so if you live in one, you are likely to work in the town to the north and shop in the town to the south. My boyfriend and I live between Villisca, Iowa (known for the Villisca Axe Murder House – http://www.villiscaiowa.com/) and Clarinda, Iowa which is where our farm is! On the farm we currently grow cash crops, corn and soy beans. We also have approximately 25 cattle that we raise and reproduce to sell calves. Oh, and don’t forget our german shepard, Emma.

If you have grown up in one place your entire life, you will know what I mean when I say that when I moved here to Iowa, I had no idea where to start. I all of a sudden was in the middle of nowhere, where I knew no one and I had to create a life. Woah! Crazy right? This small town chick that had the same friends since kindergarten was lost. Thankfully I have come across some amazing people here that have changed my life forever! Que my current best friend Sally. She was a local women’s clothing boutique owner in Red Oak, Iowa and was looking for some summer help! While I may have left out this point about myself until now, you should know.. I am absolutely obsessed with fashion and clothing and all things pretty! So I gave her a call, and Wam-Bam-Boom, I had a job and would come to find out later a fabulous friend.

Let’s have a closer look at Red Oak. Red Oak, Iowa is a historic town in southwest corner of the state. It is nestled along the Nishnabotna River and offers plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors: gold, tennis, playgrounds, skate parks, hunting areas and beautiful area parks. Enjoy local architecture as you travel Red Oak’s historic Heritage Hill Tour, and celebrate at one of the community festivals. Here are a few images that showcase the towns true historic beauty.

That brings us to my one final recommendation. My pride and joy the clothing boutique that I now manage with my dear friend Sally. Butik Apparel. We are a trendy, affordable and unique women’s clothing and accessory store that carries sizes small through 3x. There is something here for everyone. We have recently launched our online store so we can provide cute and affordable fashions to everyone across the US. Not in the US? That’s ok, follow along with us on social media anyways to stay up to date on fashion trends and outfit ideas.

www.butikapparel.com

www.facebook.com/butikapparel

www.instagram.com/butikapparel (@butikapparel)