What will you eat in Greenland? Part 1

Share it now!

Research shows that 50% of travelers chose a destination based on the food. That may be true when you are planning a trip to countries that are globally renowned for their food – Italy, Spain, India, Mexico, Japan and many more. But Greenland may not make it to the list of foodies travels.

It was actually quite a challenge for me to research what I should expect to eat in Greenland before I headed there. A few wiki articles indicated towards the fishing and hunting bounties, warning me that availability of fruits and vegetables would be limited. Surprisingly, Greenland turned out to be a food paradise! Yes, supply is limited as many ingredients are imported from Europe, but there is also an abundance of local products. Greenland actually exports seafood such as shrimp, halibut, cod, redfish, seal. Hunting consists of reindeer and musk ox; and lots of vegetables are now being cultivated in south Greenland.

More on farming in Greenland…coming up.

Here are some of the dishes that you can expect to eat when touring around Greenland. The first of the two-part post focuses on breakfast, which always included lots of freshly baked bread, cheese, homemade jams, tea and coffee. Many different kinds of bread are made with rye, seeds, wheat, poppy seed, etc. Some are quite hearty in flavor.

Greenlandic Breakfast -

Greenlandic pastries for breakfast

Assorted savory pastries at Hotel Arctic

homemade jams served for breakfast

Homemade jams and jellies at Hotel Arctic

fresh cheese with slicer

Fresh slice your own cheese served at every restaurant

breakfast buffet at Hotel Arctic

Buffet breakfast at 4-star hotel

Greenlandic breads for breakfast

Different kinds of bread loves, served self slice style

bed and breakfast

at B&B Hansine

Breakfast at B&B Hansine (private home) in Nuuk

Read part 2 of What will you eat in Greenland?

Posted in Central America, Europe, Greenland | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Atlanta – Antigua Culinary Tours with Stephanie Jolluck

Share it now!

For the past 17 years I have traveled, worked, volunteered, explored, eaten, drank, & hiked my way through Guatemala completing over 80 trips to a place I adore & call my second home. Based in Atlanta, I travel to Guatemala four times a year to work directly with the Mayan Indians of the Highland region on my award winning line, Coleccion Luna: a line of beaded jewelry and accessories, as well as wood carvings, and textiles created with PURE LOVE from their reclaimed Indigenous clothing using Fair Trade practices.

551_1066778111248_4029_n

In January 2015 I will launch my Atlanta~Antigua Culinary Tours…unforgettable gastronomy travel adventures! While Guatemala seems to be most known for the violence, drugs, & corruption that has plagued it for years, it is also a magical place full of intrigue, beauty, and color with a fascinating history and a wealth of food culture and biodiversity. I am organizing an amazing team.

of A US~Guatemala partnership of Coleccion Luna, INGUAT, Guatemala Trade Commission & Investment, Guatemalan food & drink producers, Top Atlanta Chefs & Media, and Antigua hotels, farms, restaurants. The tours will focus in and around Antigua.

10537180_10204258732010028_4872919898845950669_nResting in the shadow of three volcanoes, Antigua Guatemala, or “La Antigua”, as it’s often called, was the country’s capital for over 200 years. It offers a fascinating blend of European and Indian culture, with its monumental sixteenth century Baroque churches, colorful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, art galleries & markets, local & international cuisine, and vibrant natural beauty. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Antigua exudes a unique atmosphere of history, mystique, and local custom.

10291190_10203521666143842_7627323611236669500_nSome of the highlights include:

  • Learning to cook some of my favorite dishes: Chicken Pepian (Chicken in spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce~like a mole…comes in a variety of colors) Kak’ik (A traditional Mayan turkey soup, with spices like coriander, achiote, and chile peppers), Jocón (chicken in green tomato sauce), Subanik (beef, pork and chicken vapor-cooked in a highly spiced chili sauce), Pollo con Loroco (A chicken stew with vegetables served in a cream sauce seasoned with the flower that gives the dish its name)…all served with the best handmade blue and white corn tortillas.
  • Indulging in “dulces tipicos”: old-fashioned handmade treats made from milk, marzipan, honey, sesame seeds and local fruits such as guava and coconut.
  • Exploring Cacao/Chocolate “food of the Gods”: learning the fascinating history as we make our own Mayan spiced hot cocoa and creating chocolate from bean to bar. (The Mayans were the first to discover, cultivate, use in spiritual ceremonies, eat, and drink chocolate.)
  • Visiting my friends gorgeous organic farm on the outskirts of Antigua for a tour & tasting: a experimental, self sustainable, biodiverse, low environmental impact organic farm using ancient Mayan techniques
  • Tasting of Guatemalan Rum: Learn the history & taste the legendary, award winning Rums of Guatemala
  • Touring Organic Coffee Cooperative: Lead by small-holder coffee farmers, we will receive the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a farmer. After a short hike up Volcán Agua to see the coffee fields, we will be invited into the farmer’s house to learn about and utilize the machinery used to process coffee. But the best part of all comes at the end: we will roast coffee in the traditional way over a fire and share a cup of coffee with the farmer and his family and a lunch of traditional Guatemalan food cooked by the farmer’s wife.
  • Exploring the colorful markets of Antigua: Discover the wide array of gorgeous and delicious fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, herbs, and spices found in Guatemala.
  • Visiting edible gardens: See how families and individuals are growing their own edible gardens for fresh, healthy, delicious food in an organic and sustainable way.

10422333_10204365363515749_1705929521154121635_nGuatemala is experiencing one of the worst droughts in years that is affecting over 236,000 families have been affected. Also in Guatemala, the face of poverty & hunger is young, indigenous & rural. Guatemala, with the 4th highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world & the highest in Latin America & the Caribbean, faces a serious challenge to reduce chronic undernutrition, currently at 49.8% among children under 5 years old. With these facts and issues, a percentage of my tours will go to various local, national, and international organizations that work to find local, community based solutions to food insecurity in Guatemala.

The tours will happen twice a year in late January and October. For more information, please contact me at stephaniejolluck@gmail.com

~ By Stephanie Jolluck, CEO of Coleccion Luna.

Posted in Central America, Georgia, Guatemala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Celebrate Guatemala’s Independence Day with Go Eat Give on Sept 18

Share it now!

Guatemala’s Independence Day falls on September 15, just three days before Go Eat Give Destination Guatemala dinner on September 18, 2014 at El Quetzal in Chamblee, GA. Guatemala, along with other Central American countries, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras, uses this day to celebrate its independence from European colonial power Spain in 1821, complete with traditional dances, fireworks, and parades.

130911103551-irpt-central-american-independence-guatemala-masks-horizontal-gallery

Unlike most other Central and South American countries, Guatemala achieved its independence in relative peace. Since then, it has made a name for itself as a biodiversity hotspot. The country itself is beautiful. It is made up of a variety of different ecosystems, including wetlands, rivers, lagoons, mangrove forests, and over 1,246 types of fauna. There is still evidence of the ancient Mayan civilization among its people, as illustrated by the traditional “traje” style dress many wear.

On September 18, Go Eat Give will partner with Consul General to Guatemala in Atlanta and Coleccion Luna to present an evening with authentic dinner, speakers, art and entertainment. Keynote address by Cónsul General de Guatemala en Atlanta, Rosa Maria Mérida de Mora. Born and raised in Guatemala, Ms Rosa Maria has served as a diplomat for over 25 years serving most recently in Buenos Aires and New York. She will share important facts about the Guatemalan population in southeast US, as well as cultural insights from her homeland.

1525311_10204518585186195_8879318550999689784_n

Featuring social entrepreneur and founder of Coleccion LunaStephanie Jolluck. A social entrepreneur, Ms. Jolluck started Coleccion Luna in 1999 to focus on women’s empowerment, alleviating poverty, preserving tradition, sustainability, and promoting cultural diversity and understanding. Coleccion Luna works with a women’s co-op located on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to create beaded jewelry, hand woven textiles, bags, belts and more.

guatemalan food

Authentic Guatemalan menu at family-run restaurant, El Quetzal includes Tostadas con guacamole and frijoles, Pepian de Pollo, Jocon w/ pork, Chile Rellenos (Vegetarian); Beets & Palm Salad Ensalada, Arroz, Frijoles, Mole con platanos fritos & rellenitos de platanos. Non-alcoholic beverages include Horchata & Tamarindo. Also, enjoy live music and door prizes!

Ticket includes buffet dinner, speaker and entertainment. Free parking. Portion of proceeds benefit Go Eat Give, 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization that raises awareness of different cultures through travel, food and community service.

Read more details or purchase tickets here.

Destination Guatemala

Posted in Central America, Georgia, Guatemala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Qooqqut with unforgettable dining

Share it now!

What crosses your mind when your tour is called “Qooqqut with unforgettable dining?” Certainly not orange overalls, open air high speed boats, and battling trade winds in search of a lone restaurant located 50 kilometers away from civilization! Apparently, this is what I had signed up for during my recent visit to Nuuk, Greenland.

We met at the harbor of this world’s northernmost capital city, and noticed parked sail boats, water taxis, even a small cruise ship at the dock. But my guide pointed to our ride for the evening – a 7 passenger open raft with a motor attached to the back. Given the windy cool Arctic temperatures we were about to be faced with, overalls were mandatory, to be worn on top of the layers of sweaters and parkas I was already laden with. John, our Danish tour guide, warned me that it will be cold “like riding on a motorcycle at zero degree Celsius for two hours.” That’s why I look like a baby Polar Bear in this picture!

overalls for boat trip

We started off slow as we left the city and sped soon enough reaching 50km/ hour in the little boat. At first, I enjoyed the scenery – we had a beautiful view of Nuuk’s colorful homes, the statues of Hans Egede, and backdrop of a few new buildings against rocky hills. We whiz passed emerald blue floating glaciers, and within 10 minutes had reached very secluded areas. There was nothing but open waters, mountains and ice as far as I could see. After that, it was cold, wet, windy and bumpy for a VERY long time. John, our guide, explained to the passengers that this is how the Vikings traveled to dinner and the areas we were traveling through were Viking territories. I’m not sure what kind of restaurants the Vikings favored.

blue ice glacier

The second phase of our experience was fishing for entree. We stopped near a mountain where the water was deep enough to fish for cod and redfish. Line hooks were pulled down and everyone caught something. The catch was just pulled into the boat and stored for the chef who was going to cook us dinner that night.

catching redfish in Greenland

Another 20 minutes ride to the island of Qooqqut. It was a very scenic small village surrounded by hills, some green shrubs and lush backgrounds. The water was calm here and reminded me of Scottish Highland or South New Zealand.

Qooqqut arrival

The lone Qooqqut Nuan restaurant is run by husband (Greenlandic chef) and Thai wife. They also have a restaurant in Nuuk (at the harbor) and use to work at another one on the island that burned down.

Qooqqut Nuan restaurant.

The restaurant serves upscale Thai food using local ingredients. Wine/ beer was reasonably charged $10 per drink, and dinner was included in our tour. I ordered the Fish Dinner which had a huge platter with many interesting creations – red curry with shrimp, cod with spinach, redfish with sweet and spicy hong kong style sauce, and redfish with mildly spicy red curry. It came with a big bowl of salad (rare in this part of the world) and steamed rice. I also tasted Penang reindeer, a Greenlandic Thai fusion, with gamy chewy sliced pieces of meat that were probably hunted on the island, cooked with sliced onions, red and green bell peppers. The flavor were divine and unfathomable how someone could run such an upscale kitchen in the middle of nowhere. For dessert, I opted for European style crepe pancakes with ice cream and fresh fruit (watermelon and orange).

Greenlandic shrimp with salad

fish platter

Penang reindeer

During the delicious dinner, John informed us that in case we can’t make it back, there were hostel rooms behind the restaurants that were pretty nice to spend the night at. He also kept some sleeping bags on the boat, just in case we ended up on another uninhabited island. His tours generally ended around 10pm, but with the midnight sun this was not a problem. Now that it was end of August, and it was already past 10,  and getting dark, but we still had an hour to go.

Its a pity that we weren’t able to enjoy the jaw-dropping natural beauty, the secluded surroundings of the lone restaurant, instead headed right back into the dark waters. An afternoon hiking around Qooqqut, soaking in its fresh air and relaxing with its views, would have been a good addition to the itinerary.

The ride back was not as bumpy, but felt much colder because of the darkness and slight rain. The memory of a fabulous dinner was rapidly overtaken by my head and neck pain and a frosty nose. It was 11pm when we returned to the harbor. The city looked dead. John called us a cab to take us back to Hansina’s Guest House.

I would definitely take this tour again, but during the day, in a covered boat, and spend some more time on the island.

Touring Greenland offers Qooqqut with unforgettable dining tour for DKK 895 ($179) per person, which includes 2 hours of sailing, some time for fishing, and a two-course dinner. Drinks are not included. Warning: if you have prior neck or back injury, you may not want to take the bumpy ride.

Posted in Greenland, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does a B&B in Greenland actually mean?

Share it now!

Search for hotels in Nuuk (Godthåb in Danish) and TripAdvisor results in only two hotels and one Bed and Breakfast. Nuuk is the capital and the largest city in Greenland, with a population of 16,000. It is south enough that you don’t see snow, only a few glaciers floating around. It is very difficult to find a room, not only here, but practically in all of Greenland, which has led to the concept of hostels and guest houses.

city of Nuuk

When I was informed by Tupilak Travel, a Nuuk based travel agency, that my reservation had been made at Bed and Breakfast Hansine for two nights, I pictured a cozy cottage with a few rooms, a sitting area with Greenlandic style decorations, and perhaps the innkeepers serving fresh pastries and coffee for breakfast.

Read about my First Time at a Bed and Breakfast in Georgia.

Little did I know that the concept of B&B in Greenland is a little different than that in the US. As Tupilak explains, “Bed & Breakfast entails a stay with a Greenlandic family either in the city center, in the suburbs of Nuussuaq, or in the newest part of town Qinngorput with breakfast included” in the price. Basically you are inside someone’s private home, sort of like an AirBnB.

Bed and Breakfast Hansine really meant the house of Hansine, a charming 67 year old Danish lady, which she opened up to visitors to make extra income. From the outside, the metal building looked like a run-down housing project. There was graffiti on the walls and wooden walkways in need of repair. You had to buzz the resident to be let into the building and climb three floors of stairs (there weren’t any elevators) to get to her flat.

bed & breakfast hanse from outside

Upon arrival, we took off our shoes by the door as its customary in Greenlandic homes. Mrs Hansine greeted us with all smiles, gave us a quick tour of her two bedroom, 1 bath apartment, her cozy living room decorated entirely in purple, and a tiny kitchen with a balcony. It overlooked the harbor and had an amazing view of the Davis Strait.

Our room had a twin size bed, dresser and chairs. There were family photos and knick knacks all over, hinting that this was probably her own bedroom. There was another smaller room with a single bed, occupied by another American tourist at that moment. We had one bathroom for all four of us to share. A few rules were explained regarding opening of windows and doors. No internet was available.

Hansena wasted no time. She immediately took me to her living room and started showing my photo albums, guest books, family trees, certificates of descendants, and family pictures. She spoke some English, but her accent was hard to understand. She told me that her family was from Denmark and Sweden, she had grown up in Copenhagen and moved to Greenland over 30 years ago. She use to work at a reading glass store in Nuuk, but is now retired because she’s too old. Repeatedly, she informed me that today was her daughter’s 26th birthday, but she was away in Copenhagen, studying at a technical school.  Among many stories, many of which I only half understood, she referred to her Danish ex boyfriend several times.

hansine serving breakfast

We were given a key to the flat so we can go in and out as we please. The city of Nuuk is small and walkable. You can’t really get lost. In just an hour, I came to know where everything was – the harbor, museums, church, tourist office, shopping mall, two grocery stores and handful of restaurants. Buses and taxis take you to the new side of Nuuk, which has modern residence and taller buildings.

When we would return to Bed and Breakfast Hansine, we would often find her sipping tea in the living room, reading tarot cards or watching American TV shows. She would ask us about our day and repeat the ritual of story telling/ photo watching once again.

The following morning, Hansine prepared a big spread for us as well as the the other American guest. We sat by the window and enjoyed scrambled eggs with peas, carrots and crispy bacon, loaves of fresh bread with cheese, jam and butter, and coffee. This was a good opportunity to have a conversation with Hansine about the Greenlandic lifestyle, especially relating to her as a single elderly lady living by herself. She seemed pretty happy with her life, always smiling, sharing her memories and meeting friends.

Tupilak Travel arranges stay with host families for 500 DKK (US $100) per night for single room and 900 DKK (US $180) per night for double occupancy. The cost of a hotel is approx. $400 per night and is usually sold out during the peak season.

Posted in Greenland | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining Around the World in Downtown Reykjavik

Share it now!

As more people are traveling to Iceland, the restaurant scene is becoming innovative and multi cultural. Over the recent years, Icelanders and visitors, both have been demanding sophisticated cuisine that incorporates global flavors. Icelandic chefs are also realizing that they have an abundance of fresh ingredients such as Arctic Char, lobster, lamb, salmon, beets, parsnip and more, available to them. The new fusion menus are allowing chefs to be creative, adopting herbs and spices from other cuisines, to create a different genre of food.

FishCompany is an interesting concept restaurant located in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. The original building that house the restaurant use to be a parking lot, and when excavated, found to be the old harbor. It is now a beautifully restored modern cave looking restaurant. The cozy atmosphere is created with exposed brick walls, historic windowpanes borrowed from a church, rustic sheep blankets used as curtains. There is also an outdoor patio next to a pond where guests can dine under the sunny skies of Reykjavik.

What makes the FishCompany stand out is their concept of an adventure around the world through food. A world map made in copper hangs on the living room wall, giving a hint of what’s to come to your plate. The menu features Taste of Iceland and Taste of the World, two very unique sets of selections created using local Icelandic ingredients, yet inspired by global cuisines.

FishCompany Restaurant Iceland

The dishes on the menu are categorized by country – Spain, Fiji, Norway, Madagascar, etc. and the featured ingredient, such as Chorizo, Beef, Lobster, and Chocolate. The server tells me that the countries are not meant to suggest that they are original recipes from those places. The Icelandic chefs at Fiskfelagid’s kitchen draw inspiration by spices, sauces, landscapes and cultures to create edible art that take the diner on an adventure around the world.

Here is a sampling from what I tried…

From the Icelandic Menu

SORRELL - Breaded and deep-fried Cod cheeks and a couple of pan-fried scallops sat on top of cauliflower puree and mint jus. It all came together brilliants with slices of smoked Icelandic skyr (similar to strained yogurt) and a touch of smoked cod foam for a molecular gastronomic presentation. Visually, this dish reminded me of the diverse landscapes of Island – white glaciers, brown rocks and green moss.

deepfried COD CHEEKS & fried SCALLOPSLAMB – A colorful plate of neatly placed prime lamb cuts decorated with thinly sliced beetroot chips. The lamb was crispy on the outside, moist and delicate on the inside, unlike the gamy texture it can sometimes have. Peas, onions and rhubarb sauce formed the base.

panfried PRIME OF LAMB

WHITE CHOCOLATE – A house created dessert, which really doesn’t have a name to capture it all, but should definitely go viral. There is white chocolate cake pudding, burnt caramel cake, buttermilk sorbet, rye bread crumbs, and crushed dried raspberries. A delicious version of Icelandic bread pudding I would say.  

Icelandic milk pudding

From the International Menu, I tried a few staples that can’t be compared to their origins but were done very well.

JAPAN A large wooden plank of mixed sushi presented salmon, tuna and lobster rolls. The fish was as fresh as it can be and even the wasabi had a moderate kick. It was accompanied by sewed salad and thinly sliced ginger.

IRELAND At first glance, I thought it was an Irish stout dog, but in fact there was no meat on this plate. Carefully smoked and rolled Arctic Char fillet was made to represent the classic Irish dish. The Arctic Char tasted a lot like salmon, but buttery in texture. Of course, it was locally sourced as well.

Arctic Char

ITALY – Italian classic dessert, tiramisu was rather unconventional. Served in a mason jar, the proportion of mascarpone to ladyfinger was a little off balance. Nevertheless, it still tasted like a great dessert.

All of the dishes have an extensive wine and beer pairing to go along. Don’t be surprised to find selections from as far as Chile and South Africa to go along with your Sambal Lobster Curry.

As you leave the restaurant, take a pause to see hundreds of post it notes written by diners. This at the spot review process is cute and you can read some of the comments (mostly good) left by satisfied guests before you.

fishhouse

The chefs at FishCompany have recently released a cookbook “Around Fish Company” that is available at the restaurant. It has some of their favorite recipes along with photos of Icelandic scenery that inspired them to create those dishes.

Fiskfélagið (FishCompany Restaurant) – Vesturgötu 2a, Grófartorg – 101 Reykjavík – 552-5300 - info@fiskfelagid.is http://www.fiskfelagid.is

Posted in Iceland, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Temple Culture of Bali

Share it now!

Bali: exploring Hinduism outside India while also enjoying pristine beaches, dive sites, all-inclusive resorts, and year-round temperate weather.

bali for Khabar 2014

As seen in Khabar Magazine January 2014 print issue. Words & photography by Sucheta Rawal. 

I arrived on the island of Bali, Indonesia, during an auspicious time. Palm trees adorned homes and businesses, colorful offerings for deities sat on doorsteps, and locals, dressed in traditional white garb, carried baskets laden with fruits and flowers. Children played the gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble, and processions taking Barongs (mystical beasts) paraded the streets. Every home and business had its penjor (palm tree) decorated with fruits, coconut leaves and flowers. It looked like a tropical Christmas.

It was the week of Galungan, the most important festival for Balinese Hindus. It marks an occasion to honor the creator of the universe and the spirits of ancestors. The festival symbolizes the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma), and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and the saints from their ancestry. During this holy period, people cook special cakes (known as jaja) in pots of clay, visit family members, and pray at multiple temples.

01_14_Travel_Bali_PuraTanah.jpg

It is easy to get lost in the architectural beauty of over fifty thousand temples in a mere 2,232 square miles. I questioned my host, Sri Ekayanti Ni Wayan (who goes by Eka), why Balinese people felt a need for so many temples. “It is mandatory to have a temple at one’s home, a family temple and a village temple. Every village also has three temples, each dedicated to the Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Therefore, a Balinese person prays at least three temples daily,” she informed me. They would also visit some of the larger temples during festivals or special occasions.

Eka invited me to her family temple, in the village of Sukawati. The family members, consisting of about 100 people, gathered in the evening to celebrate the temple’s anniversary, which is held every six months. Women are required to cover their legs before entering the tem¬ple; therefore sarongs (similar to the Indian lungi) are available at most public temples. There is a technique for properly tying a sarong with a sash, which Eka had to demonstrate for me, even though I have draped myself in a sari many times before. I was taken through the common grounds of the temple into an inside chamber, where we sat on the floor. Some of the women blessed me with flowers and incense, sprinkled holy water and dotted my forehead with uncooked rice. It was not clear which God we were praying to, as the Balinese Hindus do not practice idol worship. (Different colors identify each God: red for Brahma, black for Vishnu and white for Shiva.) Then we gathered to watch children from the community perform traditional music and dance.

A procession of temple offerings during Galungan

The Balinese temples (called pura) are different from an Indian Hindu temple. An outdoor complex of small buildings leads into a series of gates to reach the interiors of the temples. The Balinese people are associated to a particular temple by virtue of descent, residence, or some mystical revelation of affiliation. Some temples are associated with the family house compound (also called banjar in Bali), others are associated with rice fields, and still others with key geographic sites.

While visitors cannot enter most family temples, there are some well-known temples in Bali that are also major tourist attractions. During my stay in Ubud, the central region of Bali that is nestled among rice paddies and volcanic hills, I visited Pura Tirta Empul. Dating back to 926 AD, the temple has a pool known to have healing powers. Locals take a dip in the sacred waters hoping to purify themselves.

Taman Ayun (“beautiful garden”) is a family temple belonging to the Raja of Mengwi and built in 1634 AD. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali, characterized by towering Balinese pagodas (known as Meru) made of odd-numbered black thatched roofs. The temple complex is surrounded by gardens that are packed with locals picnicking with families over the weekends.

My favorite of all was Tanah Lot, rightfully named one of the most photographed temples in Bali. It is lo¬cated on a cliff jutting out into the sea, surrounded by black sand and surfing waves, and makes for a picturesque view especially during sunset. During high tides, the rock looks like a large boat at sea.

The profusion of temples in Bali is not surprising considering almost 85 percent of Bali’s population fol¬lows Hinduism, which is said to have come to Indonesia from India in the fifth century. By the eleventh century, Java and Sumatra were seeing an increase in the popularity of Buddhism, which was eventually replaced by Islam. However, due to geographical barriers, the island of Bali was the only part of Indonesia that remained Hindu, while the rest of the country experienced Muslim conversions.

There are similarities between Balinese Hinduism and that found in India. It follows the belief of rebirth, karma and nirvana, divides the cosmos into three layers (heaven, human and hell), and is deeply embodied in rituals celebrating birth, marriage, death, and everything in between. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwo¬ven with art and ritual, which is reflected in the various festivals celebrated throughout the year.

01_14_Travel_Bali_GrilledFish.jpg

Hindu mythological characters and scriptures also inspire Balinese music and dance. Traditional dances depict episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and are taught to children early on. At the Sukawati temple celebrations, Eka’s nine-year old daughter and her classmates performed temple dances dressed in one-shoulder gold wrap and peacock-shaped headwear, gesturing with captivating eye and facial expressions. A dance-drama played out the battle between the mythical characters Rangda (a witch representing adharma) and Barong, the protective predator (representing dharma), in which performers fell into a trance and attempt¬ed to stab themselves with sharp knives.

Dance schools around the island run by genera¬tions of artistes hold classes for adults and children who want to practice traditional Balinese dances. For spectators, many local restaurants, temples, and cul¬tural centers offer Balinese folklore performances for a cover charge of about $8-10.

In recent years, Bali has become a major attraction for travelers seeking spirituality through yoga, meditation, healing, and vegetarianism. Many yoga schools, retreat centers, and spas offer a chance to develop spiritual and physical being. Styles of yoga and movement taught in Bali include Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Laughter, Power, Anusara, Ashtanga, Silat, Capoeira, Poi, Qi Gong, and Juggling. The annual Bali Spirit Festival gathers world-renowned musicians, yogis, and dancers to illustrate the Balinese Hindu concept of Tri Hita Karana: living in harmony with our spiritual, social, and natural environments. Yoga teacher training, cleansing detox, and meditation retreats are offered to international visitors before and after the festival. Balinese Hindus, unlike a large percentage of other Hindus, are not vegetarian. They eat chicken, fish, and pork. However, there are many juice bars, vegan restaurants, and vegetarian restaurants serving international cuisine in Bali. It is common to overhear tourists from different parts of the world discussing afterlife and spirituality over a lunch of tempeh curry and herbal tea at a café in Ubud.

01_14_Travel_Yoga_Barn.jpg

Coming back to the festival of Galungan, I am lost in the sights and sounds that make up the spectacle of the Dance of the Barong, performed through the streets of Bali during this time. Like in a dragon dance, two people wear a costume as they lead a crowd of followers through the village with much clanging to announce their approach. The Barong, even though frightening to look at because of its fiery eyes and animalistic hair, is meant to restore the balance of good and evil at a Balinese home.

The tenth day, Kuningan, marks the end of Galungan, and is believed to be the day when the spirits ascend back to heaven. On this day, Balinese families get together, make offerings, and pray. Then they have a feast where traditional Balinese dishes such as lawar (a spicy pork and coconut sauce dish) and satay (chicken tenders grilled on bamboo sticks) are served.

While most Western tourists visit Bali for its pristine beaches, dive sites, all-inclusive resorts, and year-round temperate weather, the more unforgettable attractions remain the region’s colorful art, vivid dances, rich culture, and Hindu festivals. Hindu customs in Bali have been preserved over thousands of years and form an integral part of everyday life.

Most popular temples in Bali Pura Besakih – Also known as Mother Temple or the Temple of Spiritual Happiness, this is the most import¬ant temple for Balinese ceremonies.Pura Tanah Lot – The most photographed temple in Bali sits atop a high rock with a backdrop of foamy white waves and black sand.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu – Perched on cliffs against a surf break against the sea, it is spectacular to visit during sunset.

Pura Tirta Empul – Fitted with two holy springs, it is a popular place for the Balinese to bathe for spiritual cleansing.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – Situated in beautiful surround¬ings, the temple juts out onto a lake.

Goa Lawah Temple – The 1,000-year-old-cave temple swarms with bats and is one of the most unique temples in the world.

Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi – Surrounded by beautiful gardens, it is a good place to see the famous Balinese pagodas.

Pura Goa Giri Putri – Nestled inside a mountain cave, the dwelling place of God symbolizes the power of a woman.

Posted in Indonesia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching and Learning in a Week in Quetzaltenango

Share it now!

Traveling to Latin America, particularly if you already know Spanish, can be an unforgettable experience, especially if it is your first time there. Just imagine getting a study abroad opportunity, being able to teach English, soaking in the scenery, and that was my week in Quetzaltenango.  After a 3 hour plane ride from Atlanta to Guatemala, a 1 hour taxi ride from the airport to the bus station, and a 3 hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango, my week officially began.

host family in Guatemala

I start the week with meeting my host family. They are warm, hospitable people that demonstrate a lot of interest in making me feel at home. My mouth was watering as I was treated to my first meal, which consisted of rice, tortillas, and frijoles (beans). It was so delicious, but the excitement didn’t stop there. I had a delicious homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner waiting for me every day of my trip. It was like a buffet of gourmet goodness, as I chowed down on soup, potatoes, soy, guacamole, and more.

food in Guatemala

This was an ideal week for anybody that wanted to test their ability to speak a foreign language in a setting where you are surrounded by people of limited English proficiency.  From the taxi ride to the bus station, and eventually at my host family’s house, I had to get out of my comfort zone of speaking English, and adjust myself to the new environment that I was in.

The city of Quetzaltenango is filled with breath-taking natural scenery and life. Exploring the hills and trees across the city simply left me speechless. Cows and horses were everywhere.  The rooms, including the Nahual Community Center where I was teaching English, were filled with plants.

Walking through the local markets in the city will make anyone want to stop and check out all the marvelous products being sold.  Guatemala has a large textile industry, and the fresh produce is abundant. Looking at all those fresh from the farm and probably organic juicy strawberries, peaches, and raspberries, left me drooling.

I kept strolling through toy stores, hospitals, car shops, and so much more. There were too many stores I wanted to see that it was difficult to see all of them.

shopping in Guatemala

Teaching English was the most difficult part of the trip.  Imagine being in front of a group of students who know very little English, and having to help them learn the language.  But instead of giving up when things got tough, I endured the rigorous task of working to develop lesson plans for the students.  What made the experience a lot easier was working with a group of other volunteers from all over the world, including Indiana, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland.

Did I say study abroad? The Nahual Community Center also provided Spanish classes for me and other volunteers. Imagine taking 4 hours of Spanish every day, for five days,
and compare it to 3 hours a week of Spanish training, and you can have an idea of how much more prepared I needed to be to keep up with the material.  But my Spanish classes focused on more than just learning the language, but also on learning about the local economy of Guatemala.

Guatemala study abroad programs

Did you know that many people in Guatemala enjoy listening to American music, particularly songs from the 80s?  During my taxi ride from the airport to the bus station, I was bopping my head as I listened to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  Also, at the school I heard the staff listening to “Party All The Time.”  Looking back at the trip, I am glad that I went and I recommend people reading this blog to try it out.  This trip makes me want to visit other countries in Latin America.

~ By Gaurav Bhatia, a philanthropist who wants to advocate for the rights of all people around the world to get a good education.  Check out his website at www.seedsofsharing.org

Posted in Central America, Guatemala, Guest Blogs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who knew healthy munchies could taste this good?

Share it now!

When I think of mindless munching, what crosses my mind are chips, crackers, tortillas, and popcorns, along with a can of chilled soda. I am talking about manufactured food products that only do good for the taste buds. No matter how much we like them, somewhere inside of us, we all crave to eat healthy food made with real ingredients, that is also palate pleasing. Somehow in the world of food, tasty and healthy still do not go together, but when I got this carton of a variety of tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good (FSTG), my thought process changed. Yes it’s very much possible to have food which is not only natural, but also appetizing, and that too in the category of munchies.

I tasted four flavors of  FSTG tortilla chips – Guacamole, Jalapeño, SweetPotato and Multi-grain. The packaging was quiet attractive and the materials used were recyclable. The guacamole flavored chips were absolutely delicious, and a “must-have” for a true chip lover. Made with cilantro, real avocados and spicy serrano peppers, they had a very tasty kick to them. The guacamole coating was decent, and it definitely satisfied my appetite for guacamole and chips. I also tried it with a homemade guacamole dip and it made for a nice treat. Next, to try is sour cream with Food Should Taste Good Guacamole Tortilla Chips.

Food Should Taste Good

Second came a Sweet Potato flavor. Although popular in the south, sweet potato is not something I have been use to eating. These were crunchy and sweet (a hint of cane sugar), with a tad bit of saltiness. I had them with a dollop of mixed fruit jam, and in around 15 minutes I managed to gulp the whole pack of crackers down. Thankfully, there was nothing to feel guilty about as these are organic and without biotechnology (GMOs). The Jalapeños chips had a spicy bite to them. I tried them with with salsa and a pinch of salt.

Multigrain, the word itself is very healthy. Health and I didn’t get together for a very long time, that’s why I opened this bag with a little hesitation. Made with flax, sunflower and sesame seed, the light and crispy treats were highly delectable and super satiating. Even so, I replaced my lunch with FSTG multi-grain crackers and hummus, and still within my daily calorie limit.

SweetPotatochips

The story of restauranteur and founder Pete Lescoe is worth crediting. He created Food Should Taste Good, Inc in 2006 with the goal of making a unique new snack with great taste, real ingredients, and sophisticated flavor – the qualities he is most passionate about in his cooking.

Another noticeable difference between Food Should Taste Good and other brand of chips was that the bag was full all the way to the bottom with very little room for air.

It was interesting to know that all these delicious snack foods I tried were gluten free, cholesterol free, Kosher and trans fat free! FSTG has managed to satisfy my cravings guilt-free. See recipes with FSTG products on Pinterest.

~ By Divya Sarin, a yoga enthusiast who can’t sit idle, and wants to create some magic in each person’s life. Behind the scenes, you will find her tweeting @GoEatGive. Follow her on her blog on happiness and life. 

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Nigeria Has a Lot More to Offer Than What the Media Tells Us

Share it now!

Last Thursday, I received another lesson in my cultural education, courtesy of Go Eat Give at its August Destination Dinner. The country of focus was Nigeria, a populous African nation that has been plagued by a lot of social issues recently, resulting in an image that isn’t very flattering or inviting. Leading up to this event, I did a lot of research and learned that Nigeria has a lot to boast about.  To find out more, check out my first blog post here. Although the atmosphere of this event was more serious than the previously held Destination Dinners, I think it was one of the most informative and culturally educational one I experienced.

The event started with mingling among the 40 or so guests. Guests had the chance to try a few different kinds of African juices, and samplings from an independent wine company called Spodee. The wine was more of a cocktail mix as it was made with moonshine and served on ice, but was still very enjoyable. Waiters walked around serving a traditional Nigerian appetizer, chicken gizzards. I’m not going to lie, while I am normally open to trying new things, there was no way I was going to try chicken gizzards. However, I have been told by the brave souls who did try the unfamiliar snack that it was actually pretty good. Even though some people didn’t try the dish, it still serves as a great example of the cultural education that took place that evening.

Nigeria chicken gizzardOnce we took our seats, a variety of dishes were served both family and buffet style. Some of these included Nigerian meat pies, Kpof Kpof (African style donuts), Moin Moin (bean cakes), Dodo (fried plantains), Edikang Ikong (vegetable type soup), fried fish, oven baked chicken, beef and goat stew, Jollof rice, rice and peas, and a few more. For dessert, Nations Café served a variety of dry tea cakes, all of which looked delicious. I didn’t get the chance to try much of the food, but my favorite by far was the Kpof Kpof and the Jollof rice. Although the food was presented differently than what one would normally see in America, it wasn’t that unfamiliar to me. This definitely shattered some of the pre-conceived notions I had about Nigerian culture, and was a lesson in my cultural education for the evening. Nigeria, although seems so completely foreign, and in many ways it is, it wasn’t nearly as un-relatable as I thought it might be.

Nigerian food platter

In addition to copious amounts of good food, there was plenty of entertainment.  The keynote speaker was Nigerian Ambassador Geoffrey I. Teneilabe. He spoke primarily about the economy of Nigeria and emphasized how important education is to Nigerians. According to the ambassador, there are Nigerians in almost every sector of the professional world, and Nigerians are the eighth-most educated minority group in the United States. He also encouraged the audience to visit Nigeria and to bring business to the country, as it is trying to open up its global economy.

 Nigerian Ambassador in Atlanta

After his speech, guests were surprised by a performance of an authentic Nigerian music and dance called Ekpe, which Nigerians actually consider a masquerade.  According to Nigerian folklore, Ekpe is a mysterious spirit who lives in the jungle and presides at various cultural ceremonies. I don’t think any description I could give of this performance would do it justice, so make sure to check out the video below and see it for yourself. It was, by far, one of the most interesting parts of the evening.

For me, the most prominent takeaway from the evening wasn’t necessarily what I learned, but the pride that was evident in its people despite the bad reputation Nigeria has gotten in the news recently. Many native Nigerians attended the event, and they all had something to say about how amazing their country is. It was very interesting to hear what someone who actually knows the country and culture has to say, and enlightened me in a lot of surprising ways. In my opinion, Destination Nigeria gets a ten on the cultural education scale.

~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.

Posted in Guest Blogs, Nigeria | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment