Archive | March, 2012

The Flavor of Culture

el Frijol Feliz, Cooking Class, Antigua, Guatemala

Chef "Gaby" looks disaprovingly at Brian's cooking technique

For the adventuresome, food is the most accessible part of any culture – and the most enjoyable too. History and language tell us many things, but nothing else lets us participate in the daily lives of a people the way their cuisine does.

As travelers we usually find ourselves as outsiders looking in. Eating a local meal and drinking the local drink brings us inside the tent. In food, there is no language barrier to separate us. Our experiences: the flavors, aromas, and textures are identical. Understanding is immediate. In those brief moments, we are locals.

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Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Established in the 16th Century as the capitol of the Spanish colonial government for the Kingdom of Guatemala, which at the time included much of present-day Central America, Antigua is a living museum of Spanish colonial architecture.

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Hot water in Guatemala

If there is one thing I know, it is that water and electricity don’t mix; at least not in a good way.

Although I was aware of these hot water contraptions before arriving in Central America, that knowledge didn’t make stepping into an electrified shower any less unnerving. That switch on the front is the temperature control, which I left set at a comfortable “whatever the last person brave enough to touch it” left it on.

Photo of the Day: Guatemalan Woman Carrying Flowers

Guatemalan Woman Carrying Flowers

Sadness in Every Sip

Finca Filadelfia

The girl with sad brown eyes and dirt streaked cheeks prominently displayed the infant in her arms as she followed close behind our group. We recognized her for what she likely was, a scam; pressed into service by some unscrupulous adult to prey on the guilt of well-to-do tourists.

We came mostly prepared to emotionally handle children beggars, to the extent you can ever really prepare yourself for such things. We understand that giving them money directly only encourages more adults to abuse children in this way. The dollars they receive from well-meaning tourists often binds them, and future generations, to a world of servitude. Better, in our view, to give those dollars to reputable charities in the countries we visit that work to break that vicious cycle (please go to the botom of the post for more).

The children we saw carrying baskets and picking coffee beans at the Finca Filadelphia plantation were similar in many ways but more affecting in one; our complicity. While we refuse to support the industry that recruits sad-eyed children with outstretched palms, we do enjoy our morning cup of Joe.

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