Tag: culture (Page 1 of 2)

Food Finds: Arizona Mead Company

Happy Monday! We’re here to help you kick off the week with another segment of Food Finds – leading you to tasty food and beverages one post at a time. And on this occasion, our tastebuds led us to the…

Arizona Mead Company 

Mead is an alcoholic beverage, that’s not quite a beer and not quite a wine, and made from fermented honey and water. You don’t see it very often on a restaurant menu and it might be pretty hard to find in your local grocery store, BUT don’t fret! Because right here in Chandler, Arizona, the Arizona Mead Company makes their very own craft mead.

They have a variety of different meads to choose from, and if you can’t make up your mind, try the flight – you get a sample of four. Check their website to see what they have on tap currently.

If you want to give mead a chance, you better put it down on your calendar because Arizona Mead Company has pretty exclusive hours: open Fridays 5-9 p.m. and Saturdays 3-9 p.m.

Their tap room is small, so if you’re worried about not fitting in (literally), you might want to visit earlier rather than later. Or if it is full, you could always take a bottle home with you instead!

And if you’re not sure WHERE the tap room is, just look out for this sign:

And this door:

That’s it for Food Finds! If you’re looking for other recommendations, check out our first Food Finds post here. Also, if you’re absolutely terrible at directions like me, there’s a handy map for the Arizona Mead Company below.

Thanks for visiting!

xo,
Katie

Four of the Best Spots in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is an idyllic country of windmills, tulips, and a collage of unique culture, art, and nature. There is something for every kind of traveler in there, and we’ve covered our own adventures and itineraries there in our Guide to the Netherlands. But the best thing about traveling is that there are always things that you can’t see in the time you have, so there’s always more to explore next time. In honor of that, some awesome travel bloggers have come together to bring you more information about some of the best spots in the Netherlands.

De Biesbosch

where to go in the Netherlands

(c) Daniela (Ipanema Travels)

De Biesbosch is one of the 20 national parks in the Netherlands and perhaps the biggest freshwater tidal wetland area in Europe. It’s a serene place, where you can detox from the busy city life. Lakes, creeks, marshes and islands form this unique nature reserve. Dutch are really good with water management, so they’ve gradually kind of “tamed” the area and gave a hand to nature by creating this amazing wetland area. De Biesbosch is a real paradise for the birds and the only place in the Netherlands where you can find beavers.

The best way to explore the area is by boat. The smaller the boat, the better, as you will be able to enter the tiniest of the creeks. If you are in De Biesbosch for the first time, then you should visit the Biesbosch Museum. You can learn a lot about the area and the history of De Biesbosch. There are also walking and biking routes in the national park.

I love visiting De Biesbosch as I enjoy the tranquillity of this green oasis. Whether you are spending there a long weekend or go for a short walk, you’ll feel recharged and re-energized.

To learn more about De Biesbosch, be sure to read up at Ipanema Travels To…. You can also follow Daniela’s adventures on Instagram!

The Hague

where to go in the Netherlands

From Pixabay

The Hague seems to have it all – culture, architecture and best of all the beach! Located just a 50 minute train ride away from Amsterdam, the Hague can be a great day trip, or is a good location to spend a couple nights away.

The Hague is the political capital of the Netherlands. Smack in the middle of the city you’ll find the Binnenhof, which is the parliament building. This is just a short walk from the Hague Central station, and also conveniently located next to Mauritshuis, a world famous museum that houses Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. You can stroll through the Binnenhof, and likely you’ll catch a glimpse of politicians, and if you’re lucky, maybe even the prime minister! Things are pretty laid back here, so you might see him arriving to his office by bicycle – there’s no secret service! Besides Mauritshuis, the Hague is also home to the MC Escher museum, also located in the city center. Here you can see Escher’s mind bending sketches up close and personal.

Once you’ve strolled around the city center (don’t forget to pass by the King’s working office on Noordeinde street), head over to the beach by catching tram 1. Scheveningen is the largest beach in the Netherlands, and is hugely popular in the summertime. Head down the beach past the pier toward Zwarte Pad, where you’ll find dozens of laid back beach bars pumping laid back house beats where you can kick back in the sun all day long, or even stay into the night for a beach party.

For more tips on what to do in the Hague, check out Gabby’s post on Boarding Call. Gabby is also on Facebook and Instagram!

Keukenhof

where to go in the Netherlands

(c) Bruna Venturinelli

The world’s largest tulip park, and probably the most colorful place in the Netherlands, is definitely my favorite place to visit in the country.

The Keukenhof only opens for a couple of months every year, so I always make sure to plan my visit ahead. This is essential as people from all over the world go there and the park can be very crowded.

One of the things I love about Keukenhof is that the park’s theme changes every year. In 2018, the theme is Romance in flowers. Isn’t it lovely?

Keukenhof is a perfect day trip from Amsterdam and if you want to see it for yourself, reserve a whole day for it because the park is huge! It has around 7 million flower bulbs, just so you can have an idea of how big it is! One more tip: don’t forget to ride a bike along the tulip fields around the park. You won’t regret it!

Discover more from Bruna and MapsNBags on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Maastricht

where to go in the Netherlands

(c) Jenn The Solivagant Soul

My favorite spot in the Netherlands is Maastricht. It is a little town in south of the NL, really close to Belgium. It is very hipster but without reaching that annoying level found in some neighborhoods of bigger cities. Filled with bike shops turned into coffees and boutiques the like of everyone, it is the perfect place to go for a shopping spree any day of the week. The center of the town is just made out cobblestone streets, old bridges and a church here and there. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, you can visit St Peter’s Caves or St Peter’s Fortress, visit the oldest working watermill in the Netherlands or take cruise through the Limburg province. You will love it!

From Jenn at The Solivagant Soul! Also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Backyard Discoveries: The Tucson Rodeo

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La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (or Celebration of the Cowboys) is a time-honored Tucson tradition. What started at just three days of events and competition all the way back in 1925, has grown to a nine-day celebration every February, with its main draw being the Tucson Rodeo.

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La Fiesta is such a large part of Tucson culture that the schools close for two days just so Tucsonans can go to the rodeo! After hearing that, Nightborn Travel had to check it out.

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Tips to Know Before You Go:

  • You’ll want to visit the Tucson Rodeo website – there you’ll find a detailed schedule of events and a way to purchase your tickets online.
  • We went on Saturday of the opening weekend and were able to get cheaper general admission tickets (meaning you could sit anywhere in the stands) – we think it was because these were only qualifying rodeo events. You could always call their box office to be sure.
  • Seats are basically open bleachers, meaning that it might get a little toasty if the weather is nice and sunny. Bring hats/sunglasses and sunscreen. We also saw some very smart and prepared people who brought blankets/cushions to sit on.
  • Basically any bag larger than a wallet or clutch isn’t allowed in, UNLESS it’s a clear bag. If you think they’re joking about bag size, they’re not, so you can find a full list of DOs and DON’Ts here.
  • In our humble opinion, you don’t need to know anything about rodeo sports to enjoy it, but it sure helps.
  • In addition to the rodeo, there’s the Tucson Rodeo Parade, which apparently the world’s longest non-motorized parade.

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Gates at the rodeo don’t open until 11 a.m., so if you make it down to Tucson next year for La Fiesta and the rodeo, we humbly suggest that you give this hike at Tanque Verde Falls a try in the morning and then reward yourself with some tasty lunch at Guilin.

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Keep Tucson weird!

xo,

Katie

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Culture of Dominica

The Caribbean gets sold as a single location, especially  by the cruise industry, and this is a major disservice to the region and all its beautiful cultures. Dominica was the first place I ever traveled in the Caribbean, and as a hiker, it is my favorite island so far (although, they are all amazing!). This island nation is special for more than just its natural beauty, however, because its people are warm, artful, and part of a resilient society. Strap in and get ready to learn 10 things about the culture of Dominica that you didn’t know before.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Dominican Culture and History

(1) Most people in Dominica are Roman Catholic, and a small number of people also have a unique set of beliefs called Obeah that is a mix of African, European, and Kalinago traditions.

(2) The national dress of Dominica is called wob dwiyet. Women primarily wear this during celebrations, and includes a colorful scarf worn on the head. The dress itself has a white, collared shirt with beautiful embroidery as decoration.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(3) Dominica is serious about taking Sunday off. Almost everything on the island is closed on Sunday except for hotels. If you need to go grocery shopping for the weekend, be sure to go on Saturday, but go in knowing that the lines will be out of this world. The longest grocery lines I have ever seen were in Dominica.

(4) Dominica is home to one of the large medical schools that US and Caribbean students alike attend. Traditional remedies are also still practiced by a few. These address the presence of evil spirits, called jombies, and makes use of medicinal plants.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(5) Dominica was passed between France and Britain for a long time, and this struggle is evident in the mix of French and English names on the island. Shortly after Britain abolished slavery in 1834, Dominica was the first of its territories to have a black legislature. It goes without saying that African traditions and resilience have played a key role in the unique character and culture of Dominica.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Kalinago Culture and History

(1) The Kalinago people once lived throughout the Caribbean, but retreated to Dominica when European colonization and war decimated their population. The mountains of Dominica protected them from the colonists for a long time and the island is now home to the world’s last community of Kalinago people. Although native cultures aren’t often acknowledged in outside materials about the Caribbean, the culture of Dominica and the region were founded on their civilizations.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(2) The Kalinago people make up a little less than 1% of Dominica’s population, but they have their own region of the island. They offer some very genuine tourism experiences, as well as traditional handicrafts.

(3) Kalinago society was far more egalitarian than European culture. Women held as much power as men, and although both genders did different work within their civilization. In the past, they were governed by a chief, but they now have a council that helps run their communities.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(4) The traditional Kalinago religion held the volcanic peaks of the Caribbean to be the source of life for the islands of the region. The people created statues out of stone and conch shells which were called zemis and represented the peaks. Volcanic peaks are, in fact, the heart of these islands, having formed them. The Kalinago people also believed that it was essential to maintain the balance between good and evil in the world, and maintain the close relationship between humans and nature.

(5) The Kalinago people were expert navigators on the water and originally colonized the Caribbean from the Orinoco River Basin of South America. They were also powerful warriors that fought against the Taino people that had built a civilization in the Caribbean before the Kalinago arrived. They also fought valiantly against European colonists, but they were greatly disadvantaged by smallpox and other “old world” diseases.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Learn More About Kalinago Culture

Experts on Kalinago Culture:

Karina Cultural Group

Karifuna Cultural Group

Lennox Honychurch

List of References for Further Reading

Chances for Travelers to Learn More From the Kalinago People:

Kalinago Homestay Programme

Experiential Learning

– Living Village Experience at Touna Kalinago Heritage Village

For more information on travel in Dominica, be sure to read through our guide.

The Un-Planner’s Guide To: New York City (Day 2)

Hello, wonderful person! If you’ve made it here, that means you’ve made it to the second and final part of  Un-Planner’s Guide to New York City.

I hope my itinerary, and I use that term VERY loosely, for Day 1 serves you well. Now, let’s get the show on the road for Day 2, we don’t have much time to waste.

Day 2:

Herald Square

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  • Plan to meet up with family for breakfast, but start your day off a little bit earlier so you have time to wander.
  • Realize that you’re a block from Herald Square and its Macy’s of Miracle on 34th Street fame. Use store as a landmark to return to because it’s impossible to miss, considering it takes up an ENTIRE city block.
  • Pick a completely random direction to go in and enjoy strolling at your own leisure while watching sleepy businesses open and traffic buzz by.

Koreatown

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  • Be lucky that Koreatown is close enough to Herald Square that you can stumble upon it by accident.
  • See a street sign for Korea Way. Follow the sign.
  • Decide that Korean food would be an AMAZING breakfast. Meet up with your people and tell them so.
  • Find that there’s an abundance of Korean (surprise, surprise) places to eat that you know nothing about.
    • We interrupt this guide for the Un-Planner’s Mini-Guide to: Selecting a Restaurant (A guide within a guide. Guide-ception.)
      1. Yelp it.
      2. Be indecisive.
      3. Walk up and down the street looking at menus.
      4. Wonder how you ever make any decisions in your life.
      5. Say “to heck with it” and just walk into a random place.
  • Fortune smiles upon you and the restaurant you’ve chosen is New Wonjo, a popular Korean BBQ eatery that also happens to serve a really dope breakfast.
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This beef and kimchi soup was as delicious as it was enormous. Pictured in the background are all our side dishes or banchan, plus some excellent fried veggie dumplings.

  • Be thoroughly stuffed, but it’s fine, because you’ll need all those calories for all the walking you’re about to do.

American Museum of Natural History

  • Take your first subway trip of the day.
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For this iconic blurry subway train picture, I stood just a little too close to the platform edge and got the breath sucked out of me as it went by extremely quickly.  100% DO NOT RECOMMEND. Seriously, take your blurry photo from a distance.

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KNOWLEDGE.

  • Buy the Super Saver pass because you want to do all the things and then realize you may have made a mistake because you have roughly three hours and 5 floors of museum. TRY TO DO IT ALL ANYWAY.
  • Run around from floor to floor ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at things, but mostly getting lost because seriously, how is this place so large.
  • Pause to watch a planetarium show about the universe. Or more accurately, watch two minutes of the show and fall asleep because the chairs are comfy, the planetarium is just the right amount of dark and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice is really soothing.
  • Spend the rest of your time enjoying the dinosaur exhibit the most because they are GREAT.
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SO MAJESTIC.

Central Park

  • Morning has somehow quickly bled into afternoon. Head over to Central Park, which happens to be just across the street.
  • Walk through Central Park while thinking, “I think I’ve seen that in a movie.”
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I can’t tell you what part of Central Park this is, but you’ve probably seen it in a movie.

  • Keep walking a find yourself amidst a lot of hubbub you don’t understand. Tourists are standing in a circle and taking photos of the ground (and of themselves and the ground).
  • Make it to a break in the circle and it suddenly all makes sense. You wandered into Strawberry Fields, an area paying tribute to late Beatles member, John Lennon.
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Imagine all the people… trying to take a photo with this mosaic. It was a lot.

Chelsea Market

  • It’s time to regroup with the rest of the family, so back to the subway you go.
  • Really experience the ride. People watch. Read the poetry that the MTA has put up in the cars, or the other fascinating literature other passengers have left behind.
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Uh, where exactly is this train going, again?

  • Decide on Chelsea Market because your group cannot agree on dinner. Thankfully, the market is a block long and chock full of a variety of restaurants and shops.
  • Let the smell of french fries take you to the Creamline for a burger and fries that you practically inhale. Then for dessert, the mini-donuts that your brilliant father has gotten from the Doughnuttery.
  • Roll out of Chelsea Market.
  • Struggle to find the right train station with machines to refill your metro card.
  • Arrive at correct station.
  • Zombie walk to hotel because you’re full of a combination of sun, food and exhaustion.
  • And finally, sleep.

That’s all she wrote, folks. Thanks for joining me for this brief and devil-may-care tour of NYC!

Happy Un-Planning,

Katie

21st Century Warriors: Keeping Culture Alive at the Kenshin Dojo

It’s not every day that you see a bunch of guys with swords.

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But there they are. And here I am – not hallucinating or anything, even though it’s already hot enough outside in the early Phoenix springtime to consider sunstroke delusions.

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The only reason I’m not running in the opposite direction, is because these students from the Kenshin Dojo practicing iaido are fighting imaginary enemies, not real ones. This isn’t Feudal Japan, after all.

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Instead, these modern-day warriors are performing for a captive audience at Arizona’s Matsuri Festival. Festival goers are quiet, mouths agape as they watch these movements being executed with precision and grace. After all, how often do you witness an martial art form that’s more than 400 years old?

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I caught up with one of the students afterward, we’ll call him RB for short (to protect his warrior identity), to try and get the skinny on iaido. Read on for the answers to all of your burning questions (or at least some of them).

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NBT: What is iaido? (I ask, BRILLIANTLY.)

RB: Iai refers to ‘the draw’ of the katana (sword) from the saya (scabbard) and Do is loosely translated to ‘the way’. So together, iaido means ‘the way of the draw’.

Iaido is the general term for the art form composed of the kata (techniques) mimicking fighting and killing an opponent. In iaido, it is very important to visualize your enemy, and imagine the combat play out. In our dojo, we say that you must ‘wait for the body to fall’.

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NBT: Tell us more about the cool cats at Kenshin Dojo – the dojo you belong to.

RB: Kenshin Dojo was founded by Sensei Robert Corella just about 30 years ago.

But the style, Araki Mujinsai Ryu Iaido, was founded by Araki (a young samurai) himself as a reward for distinguishing himself to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a daimyo, or feudal lord/ruler for us normies) in a campaign in Manchuria.

Presently, our Soke (headmaster) is Richo Hayabuchi. The 16th Soke of the style.

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NBT: Are there different levels of skill or belts to be earned? (I says because I knows nothing.)

RB: Iaido doesn’t grant belts, per se, but ranks as issued as a result of being graded (once a year by Soke).

Lower ranks are called Kyu ranks. They are ordered five to one, lowest to highest. Higher ranks are called Dan (pronounced dawn) ranks. They are ordered one to five, again, lowest to highest.

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NBT: Last question! Do you think carrying on these martial arts traditions is important?

RB: Man, good question. Absolutely, I think this important. At a high level, iaido exemplifies an aspect Japanese culture separately from any other martial art. Unlike others, the value of iaido isn’t both practical and spiritual. Iaido isn’t used for self-defense.

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Well, class, this has been Intro to Iaido 101, there WILL be a test on Friday. But seriously, readers, I hope you learned something new and this inspires you to do your own research on iaido or another martial art. Perhaps even take up a class and become your own warrior.

Keep fighting the good fight!

xx,
Katie

True Haiti: Truth and Lies about The Land of High Mountains

truth_and_lies-copy

Before I started my PhD, and started to learn more about the Caribbean and its many, colorful nations, I didn’t know much about Haiti. For the most part, American media focused on negative aspects of the country that shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic. I knew about the earthquake there, which shattered Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and brought the world, or so I thought, to their aid. Besides poverty and natural disasters, my time as an ecology student also taught me that Haiti had major problems with deforestation since they were said to only have 2% of their forests left (in reality this is likely to be closer to 20%). These weren’t fair depictions of the True Haiti, however.

A Fascinating History

Le Citadelle, Haiti (c) ABR 2016

Le Citadelle, Haiti (c) ABR 2016

When I began my research, I started reading more about the history of Haiti. In 1803, the country’s people (many of whom were enslaved) freed themselves from France. Haiti was the first country in the Western Hemisphere to do so, and it has a proud heritage of freedom and resilience. The massive fortress of Le Citadelle is a testament to the perseverance of the Haitian people. And while most still associate the French language with Haiti, it is really Haitian Creole, a language unique to the country, that most people speak (although many Haitian’s speak two or more languages).

Religion in Haiti

Another special aspect of true Haiti is the religion of Vodou (or Voodoo). Although many American movies have painted Vodou as a form of witchcraft with curses, Voodoo dolls, and even zombies, doing some reading on the topic reveals that this is a gross misrepresentation of the religion. In fact, Vodou is a mix of European, African, and native beliefs. Practitioners believe in a single, creator god or the Good God, who is sometimes seen as sharing an identity with the Roman Catholic deity. Like many religions in Africa, particularly on the Guinea Coast where many of the people brought to Haiti as slaves came from, Vodou holds that there are many spirits, good and bad. These spirits are more involved in the lives of regular people than the Good God, and the primary ones among them are often associated with Catholic saints. Like any religion, it has good and bad, as a reflection of humans themselves, but it is not the boogie monster that movies make it out to be.

The coast (c) ABR 2016

The coast (c) ABR 2016

Learning On the Go

Of course, without visiting a place, it is hard to really get a sense for what it’s like. So, when I had the opportunity, I took a tour of the country to learn more. I picked up a few interesting things, although this merely scratches the surface of true Haiti.

To outsiders, Haitian people often seem straight-faced and serious until you smile at them. Being friendly,  genuine, and respectful is the way to see how kind the people of Haiti really are. They are also just as resilient as their ancestors, finding ways to survive and thrive even while the rest of the world seems to work against them. Many of them are artists, capturing beauty in unique ways that can’t be found anywhere else. Their food reflects their creativity, rich in flavor and hearty in nature (and their plantains are superior to the Dominican Republic recipe, I had to say it!).

true haitiFinally, I discovered that the misinformation about Haiti can haunt you if you decide to travel to this Caribbean nation. Before I left, I made my mother very nervous by discussing my trip there, and when I arrived, there were people that scoffed at me for my decision. Even now that I have returned home, people are incensed by the idea that I went there just to explore. But the key to seeing Haiti safely is going with a tour company or someone who knows how to drive, respect local customs, and stay safe in the country. Other than that, true Haiti is a place rich in history and culture, and well-deserving of the attentions of adventurous travelers.

Safety and Respectful Travel Tips

true haiti(1) Do not attempt to drive yourself in Haiti; hire a driver. Visitors will have no idea what the traffic rules are, and local drivers/guides are better equipped for the road conditions.

(2) Be aware of volatile areas (especially in Port-au-Prince) and stay away from them. Again, going with a guide will make this much easier and safer.

(3) Do NOT take pictures of people without their permission. This is a general rule of thumb, but often visitors seem to forget this when visiting Haiti. No one wants their picture taken without their knowledge. If you do ask, be prepared to offer a little money.

(4) While tempting, try not to give money to people begging. It is far better to support Haitian businesses by buying food at local restaurants, buying arts and handicrafts from artisans, staying in hotels run by local people, and supporting local guides. Bring your business and a better image to Haiti. There are so many amazing, talented, innovative people there, looking for the resources to support their career and their country.

true haiti(5) Learn a few words in Haitian Creole. French may be the language of the cities, but everyone knows Haitian Creole and its the really heart and soul of true Haiti.

(6) Go with the right attitude. Haiti is not an easy place to go, and you will see hard things, but remember, everyone already knows about Haiti’s struggles. Look for the story few people are telling, and see the potential in this country. It’s time to shine a light on all the good things that Haitians are doing to build their country up.

If you’d like to support our work, consider sharing on Pinterest!

true haiti true haiti

Puerto Rico: Quick Introduction to the Isla del Encanto

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(c) Red Cross

I just got back from my two week excursion to Puerto Rico- part Spanish immersion, part exploration- and I have a few things that I wanted to write about before I started working on more specific entries for my experience here. First off, I want to briefly address something that surprised me about Puerto Rico, most likely just because I was naïve. Puerto Rico is a US territory, and it has been since 1898, but the social relations between the island and the mainland US have been strained at times, to say the least. Despite this, and the fact that Spanish, not English, is the primary language here, I fully expected this place to be like the US. Like I said, I was naïve, please don’t judge me too harshly. On the off chance there are other people with this misconception, I would like to begin my entry by saying that Puerto Rico is most certainly NOT the Caribbean US. This island has an entirely unique culture, it’s own government, different architecture, and is basically its own country. Yes, Puerto Ricans are legally US citizens, and I think that the island is fairly welcoming to US visitors, but it isn’t a place that one should visit if they are expecting all the cultural comforts of the mainland US… well, unless you are the kind of traveler who prefers all-inclusive resorts. That being said, it has all the appeal of an international location, without the need for a passport. It also has some very real Latin-Caribbean culture, with more development than most other Caribbean nations.

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Besides the cultural aspects of the country, there are practical considerations for travelers as well.

(1) Don’t drink the water. Again, I was naïve, and I went in thinking that since Puerto Rico is part of the US, the water would be fine to drink. Technically, it is safe, but after a week of saving pocket change by drinking out of the tap, I got sick and so did my travel partner and one of my fellow immersion students. Just don’t risk it.

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(2) Road tripping is very feasible, but be ready to be very defensive. Puerto Rican drivers can be very aggressive, and they will make lane changes even when there is very little room between cars. However, they can also be very patient and sit behind slow drivers for a long time. So, you have to balance your desire to get somewhere with making sure that you don’t get hit and you don’t hit anyone else. It is basically like driving anywhere else, but I do think you will be a little surprised at just how small of a space local drivers can merge into mid-highway. Also, be aware that some of the major highways have some serious potholes due to the tropical weather here. Keep your eyes peeled.

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(3) As of right now (Summer 2015), Puerto Rico is experiencing a water shortage. Some hotels, not all, will have little signs letting you know about this and imploring you to save water. Some are more interested in making sure you have the luxury of guiltlessly wasting water, and won’t say anything. This situation is serious, however. In San Juan, many locals only had water for 24 hours in three days (24 hours on and 48 hours off) when I was there. Through my immersion, I had more of a chance to experience the situation first-hand, and it definitely makes life more difficult in a lot of ways. It would be good for us visitors to do all that we can to not waste this precious resource.

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(4) Finally, to the fun part, when planning your road trip to Puerto Rico, use the roads that run around the entire island to your advantage! There is TONS to see and experience all over Puerto Rico. Make sure that you plan enough ahead so that you don’t miss anything you’d really love to see.

What Is Missing in Ecotourism?

I posted an entry last year about what ecotourism is, because this is not only something that I am passionate about, but it plays a major role in my PhD research, and thus I have learned a lot about it on an academic level. Since my last post on the subject, my research has progressed, I have seen a few more parts of world, and I have spent some time trying to figure out why the benefits of ecotourism have only manifested in rare occasions. Now, I want to spend some time discussing my thoughts on the matter, since I may be leaving for a field season in Haiti soon, so my other travel posts will have to wait.

(c) R Raschke

(c) R Raschke

Ecotourism is meant to do three main things: (1) support environmental conservation, (2) local financially support locals through employment and fair pay for their use of their resources, and (3) it should provide environmental and cultural education for travelers. In a few special cases, these things have been accomplished, much to the benefit of surrounding areas, but for the most part, according to conservation and tourism research, ecotourism has fallen short of most of these goals, most of the time. Furthermore, ecotourism, along with all forms of tourism, has the potential to exploit local people, and degrade human and natural spaces. The Caribbean, where I have focused my research, is just one area that currently exhibits many of the negative symptoms of mismanaged tourism industries. Foreign companies dominate the landscape of Caribbean tourism, between the all-inclusive resorts that have cropped up on beaches across the region and the cruises that frequent the many island nations of the area. Local resources and infrastructure is often overwhelmed by waves of tourists coming in off of cruise ships, and local people have developed some less than flattering stereotypes about visitors, which has sometimes led to antagonistic interactions with tourists. None of these are specific to ecotourism, or even common in the case of ecotourism, but they illustrate what can happen when tourism is allowed to operate in a way that does not prioritize the preservation and protection of the people and environments that that have attracted visitors from across the world.

I was tempted early on to blame these things on the companies that take advantage of the developing governments in the Caribbean, but it has become clear to me that the people providing tourism services can only cause and only fix so many problems in the tourism industry. So, what is missing in the puzzle that is so often discussed and studied by academics.

I think the answer is pretty simple, actually… what’s missing from all the discussions is the tourists. Us.

Most often, we aren’t pulling our weight when it comes to protecting the

(c) R Raschke

(c) R Raschke

things in the world that we love, and pay thousands to go see. We create the demand that shapes the tourism industry, we create the stereotypes that make locals antagonistic, and we sometimes sacrifice the well-being of the environments that we visit to satisfy our own needs. In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. We are on vacation, and we have paid a lot of money to see and do the things that we want in relative comfort. Even so, when I travel, I do like to think that I might be doing some good for the people in the places where I go. In the US, this is usually pretty obvious, especially in places where tourism is the bread and butter of some small, unique communities. The impact in developing countries, however, is less sure, and overall, without the help of tourists, tourism has little hope of changing for the better.

So, what does this mean for us? How can we make things better for the people and places that we love to dream about visiting, and hopefully will see in the future.

The first thing that I think we need to do, as concerned travelers, is educate ourselves about the ways that tourism can be good and bad for local communities. This will help us spot helpful and damaging practices in the places that we visit. We should also have an understanding of the ways in which we can be good or bad for different locations based on their culture, their environment, and the things that we want to see and do while we are there.

Through this understanding, we should strive to modify our expectations and behaviors while we are travelling. There are some sacrifices that we need to make in order to have less of an impact while travelling. Follow all guidelines while travelling, even down to things like park requests that you don’t take anything (including rocks) from protected areas, and listen to guides who should be there to balance your needs with those of the place you are in. In certain places, this won’t be enough as some developing countries may not have the resources to develop proper guidelines or train guides. So, keep some general rules in mind for cultural and environmental sensitivity. Also, take any chance you have to stay in environmentally friendly accommodations, and those places that are run by locals. Some regular hotels also offer you more environmentally friendly options as well- such as not getting your towels washed or your room cleaned every day. Take these opportunities to save some resources when you can.

We should also seek out and reward the businesses that care as much as we do. Help locals starting new businesses to get the word out if you enjoyed your stay. Tell others about ecotourism-based hotels or excursions that you enjoyed, and strive to let your money support those people in the tourism industry that are trying to make things better.

(c) R Raschke

(c) R Raschke

And be sure to let companies (hotels, tour companies, etc.) know when you catch them doing things that you know are bad for the people and/or environment of an area. For instance, after becoming familiar with whale watching guidelines, I have seen some whale watch operators approach whales too quickly or too closely, and then they pursue the whales that they have scared. All very inappropriate behavior that I feel their guests wouldn’t allow them to continue if they knew what this sort thing did to the animals that they love.

Starting to think about these things, and changing what we do while we travel (and at home), we can start to help the small businesses and local people make tourism the tool for peace, cultural exchange, and environmental protection that the dreamers behind ecotourism hoped that it one day might be.

Any thoughts on this? Let me know. I think it is something that I will continue to consider and write about in the future.

Matsuri: The Arizona Festival of Japan

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

So, once again, I am going against my last entry’s claim about what I would be writing about next. I did want to write about my time in Washington DC, but the past couple weeks have been a little crazy between some health issues and trying to plan for my potential field season this summer. Due to all of this, I decided that I would highlight Matsuri in a short entry (featuring the photography of one of my very talented friends) rather than skip a post.

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

Matsuri is, in my opinion, one of the best cultural festivals of Phoenix, and this year was its 31st anniversary, so it also has a lot of history and love behind it. For the past four years, since I have been going, the festival has always been held downtown, outside of Phoenix’s Science Museum. The grounds where it is held are filled with small, tarped stalls where Japanese food and gifts can be procured. There are also several large stages for demonstrations and performances. Getting into the event is free, which is wonderful, but anyone who visits should be sure to come with cash in case they find anything that they want to buy from one of the vendors.

 

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

My personal favorite performance of the festival is that of the Taiko drummers. I could sit and listen to that music for quite a long time all by itself, but the musicians are wonderful on the stage. They use a variety of different kinds of drums, as well as some other instruments such as a conch shell and small symbols. They rearrange their drums with every song; these formations play a role in the songs, but they also allow the drummers to act out a variety of entertaining interactions. In one of my favorite songs, several players drum on a line of smaller drums, while the other half of the group plays a line of larger drums behind them. During the song, the small and large drums seem to compete with eachother, rising and falling in turn, and the players themselves glance back and forth between each other, pretending to drum harder and louder than the other. The energy of the musicians makes the entire performance playful and very entertaining.

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

Some of the other demonstrations that I try to visit every time are the Japanese dancers and the martial arts demonstrations. The Japanese dance stage hosts performers of a wide variety of ages. The cutest, of course, are the young children, but the most skilled are the older women. This form of dance is quite different from the many forms of Western dance. The women are often very solemn, and their movements are skillfully controlled as they all but float across the stage- graceful despite the confining nature of their kimonos. Besides the dancing itself, the Japanese dance stage is a great place to see some beautiful, traditional Japanese dress and makeup. The martial arts demonstrations, alternatively, feature a variety of different forms- including karate as well as several forms samurai swordsmanship. Each form is distinct, and watching the students highlights the intriguing variety of traditional martial arts.

Finally, while I do not participate, there are also many people who cosplay at Matsuri. I am not entirely fond of this pattern, because I find it somewhat distracting, but this is certainly a draw for many people. Costumes of varied quality can be seen throughout the festival, and there have also been festival competitions for the cosplayers in recent years.

And if you have any questions about my experience at Matsuri or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on March 15th, and I think I will be writing about my budget travels in Washington DC. We’ll see. Hahaha.

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