Video | Lesser Sunda Islands

Four weeks, three islands, two countries, one traveler. In this latest episode, join Crystal as she hops across the geographical region known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, and watch to discover the unifier of all her destinations with the ever-present assistance of locals.

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Feature | Three Kitchens

How do I get invited into kitchens as a stranger?

This is a familiar challenge in the food industry, especially for cooks in search of broadening their experience with stages.

There are cooks who use every connection to close in on degrees of separation. There are cooks who send emails to the world’s Michelin-starred or Pellegrino-listed restaurants and hope for a response. There are cooks who camp outside doors of restaurants they wish to work in, even though they have already been rejected.

I went through this ritual three years ago when I left my job in New York City to travel across the Asia-Pacific and stage at restaurants in the region — all without having contacts, but trusting in the journey to open doors along the way.

Could I apply the same strategy as I traveled throughout rural Sulawesi?

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Feature | Phobia Alert

I have traumatic memories of learning Mandarin Chinese as a child.

My parents enrolled me in Mandarin classes at a neighborhood Chinese community center during my grade school years. From the onset, my brain struggled to comprehend grammar, memorize vocabulary and master calligraphic strokes to create words.

I started in a classroom at a proficiency level below my age group, and then it was further evidence of my inabilities when I was held back—not once, but twice. I became the giant in class. I was surrounded by children—sweet, but annoyingly adept at learning Mandarin faster than I was.

20 years later, even after taking formal courses in university, I never managed to reach a level of fluency.

In hindsight, I recognize it was self-consciousness that inhibited my ability to learn Mandarin freely. I was self-conscious being the oldest in class. I was self-conscious to sound like a fool. I was self-conscious for not being fluent after all these years.

To this day, whenever I’m prompted to speak Mandarin, my heart rate increases, I feel slightly panicked and look for exits.

Aren’t those signs of a phobia?

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