Clothing Kerfuffle

Caribbean, Florida, mexico, musings, Travel

It’s next to impossible to always know what to pack on a trip. There is so much to consider such as temperatures, time traveling, wrinkles, weight, coordination, and sturdiness. Practicality is great, but one also doesn’t want to look like the sad American tourist stereotype that all the Italians gawk at.

The best part of all of this is that you think you have it covered, and then something goes terribly wrong. Of course this never happens when you are only 15 minutes from home, but rather when you’re on a small Caribbean island an hour boat ride from your spare swimsuit.

I have had my share of “clothing mishaps” but nothing quite as revealing as the infamous Janet Jackson mishap. Of course some of these do deal with the bra area, as about 80% of all women can also attest to.

There have been water slides that left me flashing teenage boys (D cups have a mind of their own folks!). Then there was my favorite story in Grand Cayman.

Patiently my now husband and I were waiting for a tour to the Sea Turtle Farm, of which a highlight was to swim with sea turtles. I had on an almost brand new bikini top, that unbeknownst to me was struggling to keep up with its job. Standing in line I hear this loud POP and felt a snap on my back. It was then that I realized the back clasp had broken. BROKEN. Dead, not functioning, BROKEN.

Luckily, I was wearing a t-shirt over myself or the day may have been very different. I didn’t get to swim with the turtles (giant sad face) but I got to hold babies and see the beauties up close and personal.

Most of my other stories are about sad bags and buying too many books. There are ripped jeans, and holy underwear. Because when you travel for two months or more straight things start to give up. There are the brand new toms I took into the jungle and ruined, but it was worth it to get covered in mud and have the 4-wheeling time of my life!

The moral of the story is to pack spares to your spares. Buy better quality swim suits, and always have a t-shirt for emergency boobs!

Happy Travels!

Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

The World Isn’t Disney for Americans

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, geek, musings, Travel

One of the biggest issues with myself, and with travel, is that so much of the exploration that is glamorized is done without really experiencing much.

With a world of Instagram and celebrity travel photos it’s hard to understand that the world is more than the elegance dripping from the web. This isn’t to say that everything is a lie and parts are ugly, but to say that the sanitized version we see is the air brushed version of a model.

So many Americans (and Europeans and Australians etc) flock to other parts of the world with one set of ideals of that place. In Africa it’s the Big 5. In China it’s the Pandas and Great Wall. In Mexico it’s cheap vacations and tequila. Yet while there is an immense amount of fun and cultural significance in all of these things, there is also a disconnect.

While thousands stumble off of cruise ships in Italy or Jamaica, how many people stop to talk to a local? How many have a beer from a little old lady’s restaurant or squid ink pasta? How many people take time to get lost and see something different? How many people care about the locals that live there.

What concerns me is not that people visit in droves, or that their focus is on a romantic ideal. For I have also been that person. No, the concern is the disconnect from the reality of a place. Like Disney World the grit of the world has been cleaned away in many places. Like a fairy godmother, tours select only the pristine and sanitized, something with fairy dust. It’s even more concerning when the most vulnerable populations are used as tourism props or ignored. This can be ignoring their humanity, their human rights, their rights to land and water and standards of living. For say, a new hotel, or a pool. For a new form of imperialism and colonialism to cheaply pad the pockets of the powerful.

This is not anything new. The spread of Colonialism is as old as civilization, with Greek, Roman, Germanic, and British Faces. Yet, we seem to fail at learning that these horrors are disgusting no matter there new mask. Indigenous people lose their homes for Olympics and World Cups. Communities collapse for resorts and waves of tourists. Yet, the real question is who makes it out on top? While “new jobs” help locals, do they really ever achieve a life they should? It’s hard to say yes when the heads of large companies live in gilded towers, while they barely can send their kids to school.

This is not to say “don’t travel, it’s corrupt” but rather to encourage an analysis of what one does when they explore. Do you stay at chain hotels helping the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world? Or do you seek out a locally owned gem with homemade food and warm smiles? Do you see end time with locals? Or do you shy away to American bars and hotel lobbies? Do you view locals as friends or possible enemies? And if you said yes to the last one, why?

Travel can be the life blood of a community, of a country, of a town. Yet, when we choose who and how we support that area, we need to better examine our priorities.

Happy Travels!

 

More Reading:

Must Love Mexico

Losing Bourdain

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Must Love Mexico…

mexico, musings

We, as Americans, have a distorted view of our Southern neighbor. Mind you it’s not just one Southern neighbor but a chain of diverse and exquisite countries. Culturally we lump them into a pile.

I read this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain that really struck me:

“Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes [and] look after our children…

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people — as we sure employ a lot of them . . .

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we,” as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them — and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films…

So why don’t we love Mexico?”

To Bourdain’s point on one hand we openly embrace tacos, tequila, and tortilla. We love wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo. We love sugar skulls around Halloween. We love speaking Spanglish to movies and friends. We use wonky “Mexican” accents to mock and make humor. We don’t mind vacationing on their beaches and visiting their monuments.

Yet, when it comes to the people, we care less.

When it comes to the insensitive nature of our cherry picked love affair, we care less about the people and more about our personal advantages.

The fact that we are tearing families apart at the border is a prime example of this. Yet it breathes to deeper racist roots. It breathes of a deep history in this country of people being torn apart. Maybe the face was a slave master. Maybe the face was an oppressive native reeducation.

Today, the face is the newly implemented “no tolerance” policies for families seeking asylum, backed by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. Another outreach of a culture that prays on the vulnerable to make a point, to spin a political fire storm. It’s an act to discourage people from coming, an act that has likely not reached the hundreds of people fleeing for their lives across borders, thousands of miles north from the home they know.

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For decades undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and other Latin American countries, have been coming to this country. Once here they are often treated with distrust, hatred, and spitefulness. Yet, they are the ones that are picking our food, raising our children, building our homes, and they are active members of our society.

Around 50% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, their children are educated with “our” children, their children go onto college and build lucrative careers. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that immigrants maybe participate more in our economy than those that are native born or with native born parents.

Still, we have no problem kicking the most vulnerable when they are already down.

Documented immigrants, refugees (asylum seekers) included (like the ones being separated at the border) are also part of the fray.

We rarely differentiate in our attitude. The other question is, should it matter how these children and others got here if they are desperate? Should they be treated this poorly by border officials? Are they not all people?

Ignorance, hatred, and racism asks questions on “WHERE is someone from?” “Are you here legally?” “Why don’t you speak English?”. Often all brown people from another land are looked on as lesser, as a burden, as someone taking. Even though ample evidence shares a different story.

This attitude stretches far beyond how we see those in the Americas.


When we visit the southern land(s) we often stay on fenced resorts, only venturing into the unknown for shopping or monuments. We rarely delve beyond a veiled surface to understand whose land we walk on. I am also guilty of this.

When we visit Mexico we don’t bother much to speak Spanish, and we demand that others speak English. When they visit us, or move here, we use slurs and condemn. We expect, once again, for English to be used.

We don’t mind using the land, the inexpensive vacations, the tasty food. We don’t mind the cheap labor and the exploitative nature of Colonialism. It’s for the benefit of Americans, so it must be okay. Right?

Yet the problems that cause people to flee, and beg for sanctuary, are related to our own bad choices. We directly perpetuate the drug cartels power in Latin countries due to our consumption of illicit substances. Even our heroin problem can be traced to cartels losing out on cannabis profits and flooding the markets with cheap heroin.

Yet, even though we are active participants, and problem makers in the system, we close the door and pretend the desperate masses are just not there. We have done it for years, and as far back as 2013 we were housing children that were running from cartels independently. Yet, this new wave is meant to punish the most vulnerable, and exploit the voiceless for vile policies, all pawns in a political power struggle.

When we have a leader that speaks about these peoples with such distaste, it’s easy to see that this feeling has deeper roots than “just a few haters”. In fact, the leader of the United States actively campaigned on this hatred, and building a wall, and he fucking won over it. So is it honestly a surprise that he has no problem vilifying and traumatizing desperate families?


I end with this question: if you dealt with the horrors that many of those fleeing North do, would you stay put? Would you allow your child to be killed by a cartel? Would you stand by while your wife was threatened? Would you want your children to possibly end up in these cartels?

I guarantee most of you would run if given the chance, because the small glimmer of hope in a distant land, is far better than no hope at all.

mustLoveMexico

Spring Foods from Around the World

europe, History, italy, mexico, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Have you noticed how with each season come certain holidays and with said holidays comes certain food?

Naturally, this is not purely American (though we tend to take it above and beyond). Other countries in the world celebrate holidays in their own way and with certain dishes. Here are some of my favorite spring treats.

 

North America

  • Easter candy- this is a given, with Easter on its way and the end of lent, food looks mighty tasty that’s full of all the bad stuff you maybe gave up for 6 weeks.

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  • Fruit on everything- Though we live in world with fruit available almost year round, when berry and cherry season arrive everything has a touch of blueberries or cherries to make life more colorful.
  • Meat- pair your fruit and chocolate with some lamb….somehow this makes sense.

South America

Due to the flipping of seasons south of the border, most of South America is entering fall. Here are some of their preferred treats for their Easter Season

  • Easter Bread Ring “rosca de Pascuahas roots in Spain, king of like a King cake in the French tradition, it’s a sweet and tasty bread.

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  • Spanish Fasting Soup “potaje de la vigilia is popular this time of year. The main ingredients are codfish, spinach, and chickpeas.
  • Ceviche is a popular dish in Peru, and that means Easter week it becomes a necessity for home and celebration

Europe

Many of our “American” traditions have European roots; here are some of the better or more surprising foods.

  • German Eggs – This one surprised me on my first trip out of the country. As Germany was my first stop my friends there had received an Easter basket from their landlord. To my surprise, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe before purchase AND sometimes after. So boiled Easter eggs are often just left out for a few days, fully decorated and then consumed. The cool thing about eggs in the shell is that they don’t really rot and eggs don’t rot in general until they are very old or exposed to oxygen.

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  • British- Guess where that odd 1994 Cadbury commercial came from, the Brits. Who make and developed those delicious, sickly sweet fill eggs that are popular this season.
  • Italian- The Italian menu for this holiday moves away form heavy and sweet into fresh and tasty. Though lamb is also common asparagus side dishes are popular, so is an egg and rice soup, and for a finish many enjoy Columba cake.

Asia

With the seasons come new foods, and Asian cuisine is all about embracing what is fresh and seasonal. Many parts of China and into Korea love to eat dumplings starting from Lunar New Year into the summer as a hearty cold weather treat and for traditions around the food. Here are some other tasty treats.

  • Japanese- As blossoms and spring plant life leads to many spring traditions in Japan, they whole-heartedly embrace it with their food. Mochi with cherry blossom leaves are common, strawberries don many treats, and mugwort comes into popularity in mochi and other treats.

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  • Chinese- Asparagus stir-fries with beef, vegetable pot stickers, and lamb when available.
  • Southeast Asia- Much of this region does not have the seasons that we associate with in the west, but that doesn’t mean some food is not seasonal. Thai Basil is popular to make refreshing drinks as temperatures rise. Rice paper spring rolls, served cool make for a crisp treat with a tasty sauce and shrimp. Indonesian cuisine embraces fried crispy spring rolls full of tasty veggies and light meats.

Australia

While food in Australia is not too obscure for the holiday, and while they are very British culturally, Australia has their chocolate eggs, hot cross buns etc. BUT in Australia instead of a bunny bringing treats, kids get a visit from a Bilby…

Bilby critters are nocturnal insect, snake- eating rodent things, with giant claws. It’s really not any weirder than someone making up a rabbit that leaves/lays eggs. So while the food is not too weird, I leave you with the Bilby.

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AMENDED March 19, 2018

So I actually asked a friend about the Bilby, he is from Australia and said they have the Easter bunny in Australia and that the Bilby is a new twist on the classic. Maybe, just maybe to confuse foreigners.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Quinoa is great, but complicated.

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Many of you gluten free eaters probably love and rely on quinoa as a new staple grain to your diet. Whether in pasta, salads, cereals or crackers the grain has taken off in popularity over the last decade or so as gluten free eating has taken off to new popularity. It’s high in protein and tasty, easy to make, and relatively affordable. Here is a break down by Purdue on the grain. Now the grain traditionally grows in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile due to their fertile land and high elevation. Which also means that in recent years there has been production in South Colorado due to its similar climate.

However, as a result of global demand and popularity it is harder for farmers to produce enough of the crop that was once a staple to the diets of poor South Americans. Farmers have increased their standard of living but can’t produce enough of the crop and with 90 percent of world demand coming from South America, and only 10 percent in the US there is a bit of a problem. The Washington Post claims it should be “taking over the world” but isn’t because it can’t reach deamands. And the Huffington Post reported that this demand is ruining fragile ecosystems and making it hard for poorer bolivians to eat well as their stable crop prices soar sky high and alternatives are sought out, such as rice. Also, quionoa is replacing other crops where once potatoes and other foods grew for consumption by locals. With a country of high malnutrition rates the concerns are not unfound.

Thoughts? Concerns? Kudos?

Happy Eating

~Rebecca Robinson