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February 27 2014

Saving Primate Lemurs

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

A group of researchers from Madagascar, Canada, UK and USA published a detailed report in Science that alerts on the possible extinctions of 90% of the known lemurs of Madagascar following the prolonged political crisis in the country.  One of the researcher, Christoph Schwitzer,  explains to the Scientific American the dire consequences of such threat:

lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.

Another researcher, Ian Colquhoun, explains what can be done to protect the unique Malagasy ecosystem in which the lemurs can thrive:

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

Savory Momos, Sweet Sel Roti and 5 Other Delicious Nepali Delicacies

Nepal, a land of diverse culture and tradition, has its own unique dishes that leave the taste buds craving for more. The delicacies presented here have been selected from hundreds of mouth-watering recipes originating from the high mountains to the Nepalese plains.

1. Sel roti

The famous Nepali crispy doughnut (sel roti), a must during the Tihar or Deepawali festival, is prepared from rice flour.

See NepaliMom’s instructions to cook the doughnuts:

2. Gundruk

Gundruk, a popular dish among Nepalis, is prepared by fermenting and drying leafy vegetables, namely mustard and radish leaves. The blog Nepali Local Food explains how to cook gundruk ko jhol (soup).

Gundruk ko jhol (soup)
Serves 6 to 8
Gundruk/Sinki 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 chopped
Dry red chili 2 pods
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Method: Soak Gundruk/Sinki in water for 10 min. Heat oil and fry chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies. Drain up soaked Gundruk/Sinki and fry, add turmeric powder and salt, and put 2 cups of water. Boil for 10 min, and serve hot with cooked rice.

3. Momo

A typical serving of a plate of Momo with Sesame Yellow Sauce and Red Ginger Chilli Sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

A typical serving of momo with sesame yellow sauce and red ginger chilli sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

Momo, a type of Tibetan dumpling, is so popular among Nepalis that it could be considered the country's top dish. The ubiquitous restaurants selling the dumplings generally stuff it with minced buffalo meat, chicken, mutton or vegetables.

Check out the step-by-step momo cooking guide in the Taste of Nepal blog. Or watch a YouTube video posted by Pucca syanu showing how to cook them:


4. Chhoila

Chhoila, a favourite dish among the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, has become popular throughout the country. Generally made from buffalo meat, the burnt version called “haku chhoila” (black chhoila) is very tasty. Check the We All Nepali blog for details of cooking chicken chhoila.

Watch Babus Cooking demonstrating chhoila preparation:

5. Chatamari

Chatamari, also called Nepali pizza, is a kind of rice crepe made famous by the Newars of Kathmandu Valley. The blog We All Nepali offers details on how to prepare it.

See how chatamari is made in this YouTube video by Marc Wiens:

6. Bagiya

Bagiya is a healthy and delicious dish made from rice flour savoured especially during the Deepawali festival in eastern Terai of Nepal. It is a special to the indigenous Tharus. While Tharus in eastern Nepal prefer flat bagiya with lentils, the Tharus in western Nepal prepare bagiya in a tubular shape without lentils, explains the blog Voice of Tharus.

Learn how to make it via Voice of Tharus:

Soak the rice is soaked in water and mill it in a dheki, the traditional rice milling machine. The taste of the flour ground in a dheki is many times better than the one ground in a rice mill.
Sift the flour and fry it in an iron cauldron (Don't add oil and keep in mind not to burn the flour).
Mix warm water to the flour and knead enough to prepare a tender dough.
Steam lentils and add spices, ginger, mustard oil and salt to it.
Make round dumplings out of the dough. Bore a hole, put the mixture of lentils and spice and flatten it with the palms at the middle and leave both the ends protruding out.
Steam the dumplings over a clay pot of boiling water.
Serve the steamed bagiya with chutney or vegetable curry.

7. Sidhara

Sidhara Cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara is prepared from taro stem, turmeric, and dried fish. The aroma is pungent and the taste bitter, but still it is one of the delicacies eaten by the Terai dwellers especially indigenous peoples like the Tharus, Danuwars, Musahars and others.

The blog Voice of Tharus details the cooking of Sidhara:

Gather the Dedhna and Ponthi varieties of fish. Both the varieties are found in abundance in the paddy fields and public water sources.
Dry the fishes on sun. It will take few days to dry perfectly.
Gather Kachu (taro – Colocasia) stems and cut them into small pieces. Wash them thoroughly.
Grind or mill the dried fishes, together with the colocasia stem and turmeric, and make small cakes.
Leave the cakes to dry on the sun for 10-15 days and after that it store in a dry place for future use. Your sidhara is then ready to cook and eat.
To cook the sidhara, crumple and break the cakes into tiny crumbs. Fry the pieces of sidhara in mustard oil together with onion, green chillies, radish and spices. Add water and salt to taste.
Garnish the dish with green coriander leaves and serve with puffed and beaten rice.

February 24 2014

The Venezuela I'll Always Remember

Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. Image by flickr user danielito311. Used with Creative Commons licence (BY-NC 2.0).

Back then in Peru, terror and fear was part of our daily lives.

I had just graduated from law school in Lima. It was late 1993 and my beloved Peru was recovering from 12 years of internal conflict which had claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Christmas was coming and I decided it was time for my first journey abroad to visit a dear aunt. 

My mother's elder sister moved to Venezuela in the late 1950s. She got married in Caracas and settled there with her husband and two sons. After my younger cousin died in a car accident, my mother and her sister strengthened their bond and never let distance deter them from staying in touch.

When I stepped foot outside Simón Bolívar International Airport [es] in Maiquetía, I was instantly struck by how different everything looked, compared with Lima.

Caracas was a shiny modern city, with high-rises, highways, flyovers, and recently repaved roads.

All the cars looked like they had just rolled off the factory assembly line, glossy and splendid. New cars was something we were just starting to get used to in Peru, after out-of-control hyperinflation [es] had made all of us billionaires with little purchasing power.

The road signs looked like they had been painted the day before.

I could feel progress everywhere I looked, and this was just on the way from the airport to my aunt's house. Rain welcomed me on this adventure, something we Limeans are not used to at all.

The next day I started my tour of the city. I didn't feel like a total outsider. My generation grew up watching Venezuelan soap operas on TV, so some popular areas were familiar to me: Chacao, Chacaíto, the Virgen of Chiquingirá. So was the rhythmic speaking that I noticed was following me everywhere, after a few days.

During a visit to one museum, I saw a guy looking at a list of battles fought by Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. There were the names of the battles with no indication of the where they'd been fought, and I stood by next to this tourist and started with a lesson learnt long ago at school: Carabobo, Venezuela; Boyacá, Bogotá, Pichincha, Ecuador; and Junín and Ayacucho, Perú (country of yours truly).

On that trip, during a visit to a beach whose name I have forgotten, my toes first felt the waters of the Atlantic, I owe that to Venezuela too.

But what impressed me above all was the freedom people had, simply living their lives. We could enter any building and there was no military officer waiting to check our bags and belongings. There were no metal detectors or special machines that we had to pass through at the entrance of shopping centers or museums or anywhere for that matter.

I even walked in front of government buildings and ministries, as if that was the most normal thing to do. No one stopped me from being there, no one checked my documents, and no one made me feel like there was something to fear.

That is why I have been overwhelmed with sadness, as the recent stories and images have been trickling out of Venezuela.

Venezuelans are suffering. Venezuelans are crying. Venezuelans are mourning.

Protesters are rallying for liberty and demanding their rights be respected. Young people are dying in the streets, as police and government supporters battle protesters. Brothers are fighting brothers. 

I prefer to remember the Venezuela I knew in 1993. Joyous Caribbean music mingling with traditional Christmas songs wherever I went. Smiling faces greeting me, people welcoming me with kind words open arms, upon learning that I was Peruvian. 

Venezuela, you will always be in my heart.

Gabriela Garcia Calderon is a Peruvian lawyer specialized in Arbitration and Civil Law. She comes from a family connected to the media in Peru. Gabriela has been a member of Global Voices since November 2007.

February 23 2014

First Open Heart Surgery in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

The health international network La Chaîne de l’Espoir (The Link of Hope) reports that 7 Congolese children in critical conditions benefited from open heart surgeries [fr] on February 14 in Brazzaville, Congo. With the help of the Congo Assistance Fundation as well, Prince Béni and Maya, both suffering from cardiomyopathy were operated for several hours as told in the following report [fr]:

Elle a dix ans et ne pèse que quinze kilos. Son cœur fonctionne mal. Il l'empêche de s'alimenter et donc de grandir. La petite fille doit être opérée le plus vite possible. L'intervention dure six heures.

(Mayala) is ten years old and weighs fifteen pounds. Her heart is malfunctioning. It prevents her from getting nutrients to all her cells and therefore growing. The girl needed an operation as soon as possible. The procedure took six hours.

February 22 2014

Malagasy React to SI Swimming Suit Issue and Model's Take on Madagascar

The 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimming Suit Issue was shot on Nosy Iranja (Iranja Island), Madagascar:

Nosy Iranja is known as the Turtle island for the Hawksbill Turtles came to shore to lay their eggs. It is also known for the spectacular sandbank that bridges the two nearby islands.

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar - Public Domain

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar – Public Domain

Russian Top model Irina Shayk and wife of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo said that she has a special relationship with Madagascar:

When I was a student I did a report on Madagascar, and ever since then it was my biggest dream to go there [..] The (Malagasy) people live and get by every day walking in the roads, living this super simple life, and they're still happy. It is an experience that keeps you humble, puts things in perspective.

Rakotonirina Miaro wonders why the world outside Madagascar seem to appreciate the island's treasures but Malgasy citizens cannot seem to notice [mg]:

Ny olon-kafa maita ny hatsaran'ny Nosin-tsik fa ny tompony jay no tsy mahafatatra fa tsar i Gasikara! Tsara daholo ny mannequin naka sary é!

Foreigners know how beautiful our island is but we, who live here, do not seem to appreciate about our own treasures. Oh yeah, and the swimming suit models were not bad looking either

February 19 2014

Hong Kong Protesters Target Shopping Mainland Chinese Tourists

Anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

An anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui in February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

[The author of this post is a volunteer editor for news site inmediahk.net, which is quoted in this report.]

A protest against mainland Chinese tourists took place in the most crowded shopping district in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on February 17, 2014, with about a hundred protesters yelling at mainland Chinese tourists and calling them “locusts”.

The total number of tourists in Hong Kong in 2012 reached 48 million, with 72 percent coming from mainland China and most of them under the “individual visit scheme“. It has been estimated that the number of tourists would rise to more than 54 million visits in 2013, with 75 percent coming from mainland China and 67 percent under the “individual visit scheme”, half of which were coming from Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Though the huge number of tourists has contributed to Hong Kong's economic growth, it has generated a number of social problems. In addition to the seemingly always overcrowded shopping districts, hopping the border to shop for daily necessities has led to the shortage of goods such as infant milk powder and medicines. Shops that serve local communities’ needs have been turning into luxury good shops for mainland Chinese nouveau riche or pharmacies that sell infant milk powder and medicines for professional cross-border carriers.

However, as the “anti-locust” action targeted individual tourists rather than policymakers, only about a hundred joined the protest. The next day, a number of key government officials criticized the act as “barbaric”.

Indeed, many people disagreed with the action. For example, blogger “Montwithin” found the protesters, who claimed that they were “localists”, unreasonable:

今天的「本土」經常口中念念有詞要「反共」[...],但從來不敢去挑戰共產黨的軍政機關[...],對共產黨政權的極權、壓制自由和人權沒有半點批評,反而喜歡攻擊在「中港矛盾」上立場跟他們不一樣的香港人,説穿了祇不過是黨同伐異而已。到現在更變本加厲去騷擾沒有任何反抗能力的遊客,就跟義和拳一樣,是欺善怕惡。
如果要說遊客太多社會不勝負荷,那控訴的對象就應該是政府,問它爲什麽不採取任何措施減少這個問題。

The so-called “localists” in Hong Kong today claimed that they are against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) […] yet they seldom challenge the Chinese communist institutions and criticize the human rights violations and authoritative nature of the CCP regime. Instead, they like to attack those Hong Kong people who don't share their views when it comes to the “Hong Kong and China conflict”. They cannot agree to disagree. Now, they even harass tourists who can't fight back. They act like the Boxer Rioters [in Qing Dynasty] by choosing the weak to attack.

Even if society has been overwhelmed by the huge number of tourists, they should direct their anger at the government and demand policy changes.

But Lam Shui-Bun pointed out that the “barbaric act” is a reaction to the government's refusal to address the problem:

梁振英政府一直對大力發展旅遊業所帶來社會問題視而不見,導致族群衝突的炸彈爆發,有市民竟然要直接向內地旅客表達不滿。因此,香港政府才是族群衝突的始作俑者,是香港的可悲。
不論香港政府如何企圖增加旅遊景點,其實旺角、尖沙咀、銅鑼灣等熱門遊客區也是旅客必到之處,不能夠無限量增加旅客數目。旅客為香港帶來的擠迫,以及社會資源分配問題,香港人每日也感受得到。大力發展旅遊產業,所帶來的資本摧毀了本土特色的小店文化,更帶動了租金和物價上漲,香港人每日也感受得到。旅遊業所帶來的大部份經濟收益,通通流到大財團和資本家的口袋裡,普羅市民根本沒有明顯的得益,香港人每日也感受到。試問香港人又怎會不憤怒呢?

Leung Chun-ying's government had been playing dumb in regard to the problems brought by tourism and the explosion of cross-border social conflicts. [Instead of demanding the government to address the problem], people expressed their anger directly at the tourists. The Hong Kong government should be responsible for such conflict. The incident also reflected the pathetic situation in Hong Kong.

The government wanted to solve the problem by investing in more touristic spots, but the existing shopping districts in Mongkok, Tsim Sha Shui and Causeway Bay are still the “must visit” sites. These districts can no longer take in more tourists. Moreover, the city is overcrowded with tourists and people can feel the uneven distribution of social resources. The capital investing in the tourist sector has killed local shops and pushed up rent and inflation. The economic benefits are in the pockets of big corporations and capitalists, and ordinary Hong Kong people have gained very little. How can they not get angry?

Jonathan Chan, on the other hand, criticized the protesters for ruining the campaign:

一次絕劣的政治行動,又將本來努力構建的理論正當性被推翻了。[...] 這次「驅蝗遊行」另一個秀逗的地方,是參與者口叫「反殖民」,卻舉著港英旗。[...] 不但會含糊了反對自由行的目標,而且「政治不正確」,給建制派扣「港英餘孽」帽子的籍口。

A extremely poor political action has ruined all the justifiable reasons [for policy changes]. A highly funny scene is that the protesters chanted an “anti-colonialism” slogan during the “anti-locust” rally while holding the British colonial flag […] An action like that has distorted the objective of bringing change to the “individual visit scheme”, and it also has provided an opportunity for the pro-government political forces to label them as “colonial leftover subjects” because of the flag's “political incorrectness”.

Judging from the reaction on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo as translated by Mitch Blatt from China Hush, the British flag did generate public opinion in mainland China that may justify the Beijing government's policy in Hong Kong:

洋羽君在倭国:Haha, raising the British colonial flag to oppose colonialism, this wave of Hong Kong people is really cool. Except for yelling the slogans “Chinaman,” “locusts,” and “independence,” what other tricks do you have? Would singing a big imperial country’s national song make you feel strong? God Save the Queer, Oh, no, I mean Queen.
深情拥浮云:Raising the Union Jack to oppose imperialism. That’s a really good joke.
nbcherry:What do they mean by waving the British era flag? Being a dog for your compatriots isn’t as good as being a British running dog?
渣熊josh:I think British people are laughing until they cry.
XDH-谢: Really funny! If all the people holding up the Union Jack could go to England, then Hong Kong wouldn’t feel so crowded!

February 18 2014

PHOTOS: A Dizzying View From the Top of Shanghai Tower

Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov sent a shockwave through the Internet on February 12, 2014 when they posted a video of themselves climbing the Shanghai Tower. The 2,073-foot (632-meter) Shanghai Tower when completed will be the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

That's Shanghai interviewed the Russian team about their climbing experience. 

Check out these incredible photos that the pair took from the top of Shanghai Tower, and some other snaps of Shanghai. All photos courtesy Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov of On the Roofs and republished with permission. 

sh-tower-rs-1

sh-tower-rs-4

 sh-tower-rs-5

 

otr-sh-01

otr-sh-02

otr-sh-06

otr-sh-12

February 16 2014

Tourists Killed in Terrorist Attack in Sinai, Egypt

A bomb blast ripped through a bus carrying 30 tourists in Sinai, Egypt, today, killing at least two South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver. According to reports, the tourists had completed touring St Catherine's Monastery and were on their way to Israel, when the bomb exploded.

Netizens were left scrambling for information.

According to journalist Kristen McTighe:

She adds:

Firas Al-Atraqchi says:

ABC News Middle East Correspondent Alexander Marquardt has other information:

And Hamdy Kassem concludes [ar]:

Those of us who are not journalists will not know what happened in the Taba bus blast because of the contradicting information and casualty figures. It is a struggle for journalists to get information in a country which denies all information

And if this is not enough, The Big Pharaoh claims the Muslim Brotherhood Twitter account is spreading more mis-information:

Soon enough, photographs surfaced online.

Fatima Said shares this photograph of the remains of a charred bus:

Egyptian blogger and journalist Muhamed Sabry remarks on the photograph saying:

And Amro Ali shares the photograph of the Egyptian bus driver, said to be killed in the blast:

Zeinobia, on Egyptian Chronicles, is alarmed tourists are being targeted. She blogs:

We are back to the days of the 1990s where tourists were a main target. Actually we are back to the 2000s where South Sinai had its share from several terrorist attacks.
Now the attacks moved to South where tourism industry began to catch up.
I am concerned that after targeting the tourists in Taba in 2000s , the security forces unleashed hell abusing locals there affecting their relationship with the state till this day in addition to whatever happening in the North now from military campaign against the terrorist groups things will go from bad to worse to worst.

Meanwhile, Egyptian netizens are kissing their tourism industry goodbye.

Nasry Esmat bitterly tweets [ar]:

We as a nation are not effected with a number of people killed … all we care about is tourism for economic reasons

Mohamed El Dahshan notes:

Ashraf Khalil adds:

And Mona Eltahawy fumes:

February 14 2014

A Love Letter to Quito

Sunset in Quito, Ecuador.

Sunset in Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

They say if you go on a second date with a girl, it's because you like her. If you go on more than two, there's definitely something there.

The first time I visited Quito was by chance. I didn’t plan it, but a long layover between buses gave me the opportunity to walk around Ecuador's capital city. And behold, this is now the fourth time I've come to visit. That’s right: I cannot deny it. I am in love.

I am still critical of the object of my love. I do not allow its beauty to cloud my judgement or prevent me from seeing its flaws. But as a gentleman, I try to keep my criticisms to myself.

I have always entered Quito the same way—from below, meaning from the south through Quitumbe. This allows me to use the trolley to get to the center of the city. And I must say that US $0.25 is a bargain price to get around. This way I can appreciate its diverse south side, an attractive part of the city.

Square and Church of Santo Domingo, Quito, Ecuador.

Square and Church of Santo Domingo, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

I get off at Santo Domingo Square, and quickly walk a few blocks to my hotel, drop my things off, grab my camera, and set out to explore my beloved with a stirring heart. Literally. In Quito you won't experience altitude sickness, but you are aware you're at 2,800m.

Seeing the one you love after some time apart is a marvelous feeling. What is already known is eagerly rediscovered, and although the mind doesn't stop comparing and checking for changes, the excitement of a reunion surpasses everything.

I should note at this point that just as some people prefer blondes or voluptuous women, I like a city with history—and for this history to be felt while you admire her with delight. Big buildings or modern malls do not impress me. Show me some ruins or an old church, and darling, I'm yours.

Sucre and Benalcázar street corner, Quito, Ecuador.

Sucre and Benalcázar street corner, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

One of the things I like about Quito is that its history is a part of mine. Many things that happened here are connected to Peru’s history. Quito was part of the Inca empire Tahuantinsuyo. In colonial times, the Royal Audience of Quito was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Therefore, many names from Peru’s past are also present here: Atahualpa, Pizarro, Sucre, Bolivar. It is like hearing a new version of an old tale.

I mentioned the churches—and it is not that I am a fervent Catholic, but the old churches that colonial powers left behind are to be admired. Quito has lots of them. Santo Domingo, the beautiful (though a tad unkempt), San Francisco, the Company, all of them are are full of fabulous works of art and paintings from the Quito school. The modern yet gothic Basilica Voto is perhaps the only church where a guided tour comes close to qualifying as an extreme sport (go climb the towers and you will understand).

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito, Ecuador.

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

You want to see museums in Quito? They leave me breathless. There's one on practically every other block in the historic center, in addition to in almost every church. Or if you spend a Sunday morning walking the city, you can enjoy endless street performances [es]. Once I even saw a Peruvian woman teaching people to dance the huayno, imagine that.

The food I must admit is quite good, except for one or two things that to Peruvians are quite sacrilegious. The rest is very good. And do not limit yourself to eating only in restaurants. Try the street food (I loved the fig and cheese sandwiches) and definitely go to a picantería (restaurant specializing in spicy foods), where a meal both delicious and inexpensive. If, like me, you have the opportunity to go with a local girl who can help with recommendations, even better.

Parque del Arbolito, Quito, Ecuador.

Little tree Park, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

I said that I wouldn't say anything bad about Quito, but there is one thing I can't ignore, and that's the taxi drivers. Sorry baby, but I had to say it. The worst thing about the taxi drivers is the lack of them, coming from someone who is accustomed to Peru's capital where you simply raise your hand to hail a cab. In Lima, you can expect that the next driver will offer a good price if the first doesn't. The shortage of taxis in Quito always surprises me. When it rains you'll never see an empty cab. As in most big cities, always agree on a price unless the taxi has a meter. Don't run the risk of being scammed upon arrival.

As with any couple who truly love one another, disagreements are quickly overcome and warm feelings return. If there is one thing that symbolizes my love for Quito, it is the sculpture of the Virgin of Panecillo, inspired by the Virgin of Quito. Contemplating the beauty of this graceful winged virgin, captured as if in mid-dance, fascinates and transports me.

Virgen del Panecillo, Quito, Ecuador.

Virgen del Panecillo, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

Quito has all the other features you would expect: malls, nightlife, beautiful parks, extraordinary surroundings and hundreds of things to discover that make it worthwhile to explore. Keep an adventurous spirit and patience because it also has traffic that can be terrible. As you know, nobody is perfect.

In its sometimes winding streets you can find everything from people dancing spontaneously, be it at night or during the day, to a wedding reception being joyfully celebrated in a public plaza. And it you walk around Plaza Grande on a Monday, you can even see the Citizens’ Revolution in action, where the very President of the Republic greets the public in a changing of the guards ceremony.

Street in the Old Town, Quito, Ecuador.

Street in the Old Town, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

But apart from everything this city has to offer—and perhaps I am being subjective here—I must confess that what particularly appeals to me about Quito is that it does not make me feel like a stranger. And that is partly due to its people, partly due to the architecture in the historical center, also due to the cultural offerings (even hackers [es] can be found there!). Its mostly benign climate, or perhaps its the mix of all of this, lends its own je ne sais quoi. Or putting it colloquially: it’s that you know how to make me feel good, dear.

P.S. If you are interested in getting to know Quito via its people, I can recommend a few pages on Facebook: Quito escondido (Hidden Quito), from my friend Galo Pérez, whom I interviewed in this post [es], and Quito, de aldea a ciudad (Quito, from village to city), which collects old photos of Quito.

Corner of San Francisco Square, Quito, Ecuador.

Corner of San Francisco Square, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Juan Arellano

Juan Arellano has been the editor of Global Voices in Spanish since 2007 and lives in Lima, Peru. He is a former Systems programmer and worked 12 years as analyst/developer at Minero Perú SA, then another 5 years as Operations Manager at IPSS/ESSALUD. After a time devoted to personal business returned to the public admin as head of collections at Municipalidad de Maynas, Iquitos. He also worked in ONPE, the National Office of Electoral Processes, as supervisor at the Regional Coordination. In 2004, he was a co-founder of “BlogsPerú” the first blog directory in Peru. Since 2007 he works as Global Voices en español Editor. He also collaborated in the “Información Cívica” project from OSI, and collaborates with “Periodismo Ciudadano” and Future Challenges websites, among others.This post was originally published at Juan Arellano's Globalizado blog.
Marianna Breytman gently translated this post.

A Visitor Describes How it Feels to be Mugged by Bulgarian Police

Central Bus Station Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, published on Wikipedia under CC-BY license.

Central Bus Station in Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, used under Creative Commons-BY license.

Political scientist and blogger Anastas Vangeli described his experience of extortion by Bulgarian policemen on his way from Macedonia to Poland, in a Facebook post. On February 9, 2014, two armed officers “detained” him at a secluded area of the main bus station in Sofia, until he gave them some money. In conclusion, he wrote:

This was probably one of the most disappointing experiences in my lifetime. What added to the disappointment, however, were the comments and the double victimization by people when I told them this happened:

  • I was asking for it since I look “like a foreigner” and rich
  • I was asking for it since I was bragging with my China books and looked rich
  • I was supposed to know and expect this kind of things
  • I was supposed to hold my grounds better, e.g. not let them take me to a room, not let them get my money
  • I am supposed not to complain, as this stuff happens every day and I am not special

These are all statements that not speak only of the reality of omnipresent corruption and abuse of office and power, but about the complete lack of empathy, or even consciousness that one day it might be you. Moreover, it is an indicator that people have given up the hope that things will change; but also the responsibility that they should contribute to such change. At the end of the day, the state holds the monopoly of the use of force; I was mugged by those who are supposed to protect me (even though I don’t have a Bulgarian passport – no pun intended). So all kinds of relativizing comments are completely out of place on this.

These reactions are consistent with one of the key characteristics of “backsliding from democracy,” exposed at the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Lima, in October 2012:

“…corruption becomes so widespread that citizens accept is as a norm.”

People commenting (in various languages) on Vangeli's Facebook post about the incident reminisced that such a “toll for foreigners” was common Bulgarian police practice during the dismal 1990s – but that they had not expected its resurgence in this day and age. Some of the commenters related similar experiences from other countries, from Russia to Kenya. Activist Besim Nebiu wrote:

Notice how they immediately asked you if you have a flight to catch at the airport. That gave them the ‘upper hand’ in dealing with you. A friend of mine who lives in Kenya, once wrote a blog post, in which he describes how corrupt police have “opportunity cost” (8 hours shifts in which they try to maximize revenue). They usually avoid “difficult customers,” so any strategy of acting dumb and not too upset should work, after 15 minutes, they give up on you, and move to someone easier to deal with.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police. Source: Ministry of Interior.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police presented [bg] on the website of Ministry of Interior Affairs. According to the victim, the officers in question wore green and carried badges of common police (“Ohranitelna Politsiya”), which according to the Ministry wears dark blue uniforms.

Bulgarian blogger Komitata translated Vangeli's post within his post [bg] titled “They Protect Us and It's No Theater,” which includes opinions about the local context of wasted state resources on questionable police actions praised by the relevant minister:

Системата на МВР не е реформирана. Предното неслужебно правителство положи големи усилия, но поради липса на решителност и политическа воля, реформите останаха скромни и далеч не необратими.

The system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not reformed. The previous government invested great efforts, but due to lack of decisiveness and political will, the reforms remain modest and far from irreversible.

In his post, Komitata also referred to Twitter discussion [bg] in which Bulgarians ask whether the police have the right to search them at the bus station, and pointed to information on citizen rights during police searches [bg].

PHOTOS: Saigon in the Past 50 Years

The Saigoneer features several photos published by the French Consulate in Saigon, Vietnam that highlight the changes that took place in the city between 1955 and 2005.

February 12 2014

VIDEOS: Argentina's Melting Pot of Culinary Traditions

[All links lead to Spanish-language sites unless otherwise noted.]

The diverse migratory flows that have reached Argentina from the 1880′s and until now contributed to the richness and variety of the typical [en] cuisine in the country.

The various ‘ferias de colectividades’ (cultural fairs) that take place throughout Argentina are good illustrations of this. In these fairs we can witness not only a display of each community's traditions, folkloric dances, beauty pageants and souvenirs but also their traditional dishes. For instance, during the Fiesta de Colectividades in the city of Rosario that takes place every year, a varied menu is offered representing the multiple communities (Latin, European and Asian) that compose the Argentinian society. In this video, we can see how typical Paraguayan food is prepared and sold during that same fair in Rosario.


On Facebook, the page Encuentro Anual de Colectividades (Annual Gathering of Communities) shows some dishes that will be sold during the 2014 program in the city of Alta Gracia [es]. The city, located in the Córdoba province, is quite famous because it is where the revolutionary Che Guevara [en] lived for 12 years.

Imagen de la página de facebook Encuentro Anual de Colectividades

Photo posted on the Facebook Page of the Encuentro Anual de Colectividades event

Every September, the Misiones province [en] also celebrates its traditional Fiesta Nacional del Inmigrante (National Feast of the Immigrant). For the occasion, the Polish community, among other migrant groups, cooks Kursak Polski na Royezaj, better known as Polish chicken.

Ingredientes
1 pollo
1 cebolla grande
2 ajo puerro
1 morrón rojo mediano
1 morrón verde mediano
200 gramos crema de leche
200 gramos champiñones
sal y pimienta

Preparación de la salsa
Picar la cebolla bien fina, rehogar con una cucharada de aceite, agregar los morrones cortados en daditos, agregar el ajo puerro picado muy fino. Revolver muy bien, agregar crema de leche y los champignones.
Cocinar durante cinco minutos, agregar sal y pimienta a gusto.
Optativo nuez moscada.
Si queda muy espesa la salsa agregar leche para suavizar. Servir acompañado con pollo a la parrilla o al horno

Ingredients

1 Chicken

1 Large Onion

2 Leeks

1 Medium Red Pepper

1 Medium Green Pepper

200 g. Cream

200 g. Mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Preparation of the sauce

Chop the onions very finely. Fry lightly with one tbsp of oil. Add the peppers after they've been diced followed by the leeks finely cut. Stir well. Add the cream and mushrooms.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some nutmeg if you wish. If sauce gets too thick, add some milk. Serve with grilled or roast chicken.

In addition there are community-specific celebrations, such as the one by the Volga Germans [en], who settled mostly in the province of Entre Ríos. The Volga Germans lived in the region of southeastern European Russia, close to the Volga river [en]. They came to Argentina in 1878 and preserved their traditions as well as their language. Cuisine is naturally at the heart of these traditions. This video produced by the Asociación Argentina de Descendientes de Alemanes del Volga (Argentinian Association of the Volga Germans Descendants) demonstrates how to prepare a Kreppel:


There also many restaurants serving foreign food. The Croatian community in Argentina, for instance, keeps its culinary traditions with restaurants like Dobar Tek, offering a rich Croatian menu. This video shows the “art” of preparing an apple strudel.


The Armenian community is also quite influential in Argentina. Romina Boyadjian suggests the 5 best dishes in Armenian cuisine while pointing out that the Community in the diaspora has reinvented the typical dishes:

Algo curioso es que la comida armenia que se come en Argentina es muy distinta a la que se consume en Armenia. Esto tiene que ver con las reinvenciones que hacen los diferentes pueblos al partir de su tierra natal, las costumbres que traen consigo y lo que termina siendo valorado en la nueva comunidad. Hay comidas que acá se consideran típicas y que allá apenas se conocen.

It's quite intriguing that the Armenian cuisine we eat in Argentina is quite different from the one actually consumed in Armenia. This has to do with the reinventions done by the different populations based on their homeland, the traditions that they bring and what ends up being valued in the new community.  Some dishes are considered traditional yet they are barely known there (in Armenia).

One of the cities symbolizing the Jewish immigration to Argentina is Moisés Ville [en], established by the first immigrants who reached the country. On the YouTube account of the initiative Señal Santa Fe we can see the city and get to know how traditions are preserved through well-known dishes such as the strudel or the Knish [en] among others:


But which dish was quickly adopted by immigrants upon their arrival to the country? The asado [en] without any doubt, especially because the majority of the newcomers were peasants and meat was quite cheap. The Club Argentino de Asadores a la Estaca (Argetinian Club of Rotisseurs) has some photos for you to enjoy.

Asado a la Estaca - Imagen. Laura Schneider

Asado – Photo by Laura Schneider

February 11 2014

“Dreamlike Kyrgyzstan” As Seen by a Photographer

Kloop.kg presents [ru] a collection of photos from “dreamlike Kyrgyzstan” by Russian photographer Danil Korzhonov.

Image from kloop.kg, used with permission.

Image from kloop.kg, used with permission.

February 10 2014

Guyana, U.S.A.: Aviation Security Threat?

Two blogs are reporting that the US has issued a security alert to its citizens about an ‘unconfirmed threat’ to flights from Guyana. Netizens are also sharing the news via Facebook.

February 09 2014

Discovering Malagasy Diverse Street Food

Koba, a snack from Madagascar, made from peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour - Public Domain

Koba, a snack from Madagascar, made from peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour – Public Domain

Malagasy cuisine is a mix of its many diverse influences from Asian, African and European migrants that have settled in the Island. It makes for a rich culinary experience, as seen from its multitude of snacks and street foods. Hanta Ramanatsoa highlights some of those on her facebook page, la cuisine de Madagascar (Malagasy Cuisine). Here is a sample of the street foods and snacks photos shared on her page [mg]:

 

Public Buses Return To Cambodia’s Capital


Promotional poster of the Phnom Penh bus trial.

Phnom Penh residents in Cambodia have one month to ride public buses which is part of an experiment to re-introduce public buses in the country’s capital in order to reduce traffic congestion.

Phnom Penh has one million motorbikes (motorcycle taxi or motodup) and 300,000 cars but this expanding urban hub surprisingly doesn’t have a mass transportation system.

The Phnom Penh governor hopes the one-month trial which will end on March 4 will help convince Cambodians to use public buses:

…the purpose of this pilot project is to reduce traffic accidents and traffic congestion as well as to change the Cambodians’ habit from using personal cars to public buses.

Public buses were first deployed in 2001 but the program lasted for only two months because of lack of government subsidies and passenger interest. Aside from riding the motor taxis, Phnom Penh residents also use the popular tuktuks.

Abigail Gilbert sees several benefits of using the bus:

The last public bus trial, more than 10 years ago, was not popular, as locals preferred the door to door service of the two-wheeled variety. This new City Bus trial, partly funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, will discover if attitudes have changed. There are some clear benefits for visitors to the city, including the icy air-con, the impossibility of bag snatching, a set fare, and a clearly marked route.

Phnom Penh resident and prominent blogger Tharum Bun welcomes the arrival of the buses:

We’ve talked a lot about traffic jam, too many motorcycles and vehicles, and no public transportation. Starting early this February, the bus will run on Monivong Boulevard. It’s an opportunity for most of us, who are willing to get back on the bus.

But Tharum learned that some motor taxi drivers are worried about the impact of the buses on their livelihood:

The motor taxi driver told me that he’s worried about this this public transportation as he’s got only one source of income.

The trial will involve 10 buses running every day from 5:30am until 8:30pm.

Many Phnom Penh residents were excited about the bus trial and they quickly posted photos of the public buses on Twitter:

*Thumbnail used is from @KhiriCambodia

February 07 2014

The French Expatriate Perspective on France's Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Total of french citizens abroad as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry - Public Domain

Total of French citizens abroad by continent as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry – Public Domain

The immigration debate has increasingly polarized public opinion in France over the past few years. The rise of the far right, such as the National Front party, in recent elections catalyzed an anti-immigration rhetoric that seems to permeate into the more moderate conservative parties. The most notorious stories involved the “pain au chocolat” [fr] (chocolate croissants) affair, in which the leader of the opposition JF Copé stated that he was distraught knowing that children in some districts get harassed by Muslim youngsters [fr] for eating chocolate croissants during Ramadan.

The push for more restrictive immigration policies that would limit unqualified (without high school diploma) candidates to migrate to France has found echoes [fr] in the current progressive government. In fact, a book published by philosopher Alain Finkelkraut called “L'idendité malheureuse” (The Unhappy Identity) attempts to justify imposing more strict regulations on immigration in order to protect the French identity [fr]:

Les autochtones ont perdu le statut de référent culturel qui était le leur dans les périodes précédentes de l’immigration. Ils ne sont plus prescripteurs. Quand ils voient se multiplier les conversions à l’islam, ils se demandent où ils habitent. Ils n’ont pas bougé, mais tout a changé autour d’eux. […] Plus l’immigration augmente et plus le territoire se fragmente.

The “original” French people have lost the status of cultural reference, a status they held in earlier periods of immigration. They are no longer the normative reference. When they see increased conversions to Islam, they wonder where they live. They have not moved, yet everything has changed around them. [...] The more immigration increases, the more the nation becomes fragmented.

Frederic Martel, director of IRIS, a research institute on international relations, explains why Finkelkraut's discourse is misguided [fr]: 

 Il y a, c’est certain, une forte anxiété dans la France d’aujourd’hui. Mais pourquoi caricaturer tous les «étrangers» comme s’ils ne voulaient ni s’intégrer ni accepter le passé de la France? Que sait-il des Français de deuxième et troisième génération? De leur langue, de leur culture? De l’énergie créatrice des quartiers? [...] L’identité française, pourtant, n’est pas malheureuse. Elle bouge, elle change, elle se cherche, elle fait des allers-retours avec son passé. Et tous ceux qui pensent qu’exalter «l’identité nationale» permettrait de sortir des difficultés sociales et économiques que nous traversons se trompent.

There is certainly a lot of anxiety in France today. But why caricature all foreigners as if they do not want to fit in nor accept the history of France? What does [Finkelkraut] know of France's second and third generation of immigrants? Their language and their culture? The creative energy they bring to their neighborhoods? [...] The French identity is not an unhappy one.”It moves, it changes, it goes forward, backward towards the past, then forward again. Anyone who thinks that exalting  ”national identity” would solve our social and economic challenges is just kidding themselves.

The natural counterpoint to the rising anti-immigration policies is the fact that there is a rising number of French citizens who have chosen to live abroad. Christian Lemaitre from think tank Français-Etranger (French Abroad) points out that the total number of French citizens outside of France is quite important and might be larger [fr] than the official total shared by the French Foreign Affairs Department: 

En dix ans, la population française établie hors des frontières se serait accrue de 40% soit une augmentation de 3 à 4% par an et un total de plus de 2 millions de Français installés à l'étranger. Estimation seulement car l'inscription au registre mondial n'est pas obligatoire. Le think tank francais-etranger.org pense que ce chiffre serait beaucoup plus proche de 3 milions. Pourquoi sont-ils partis ? 65% des expatriés affirment rechercher une nouvelle expérience professionnelle et près du tiers, une augmentation de revenus. Le désir de découvrir un nouveau pays est évoqué devant les motivations professionnelles ou linguistiques.

In ten years, the French population abroad have seen an increase of 40 percent, an increase of 3 to 4 percent per year, and a total of more than two million French now live abroad. This is only an estimate because sign up in the consulate's register is not mandatory. The think tank French-etranger.org thinks that number would be much closer to three million people. Why have they left France? 65 percent of expatriates say that they were looking for new work experience and nearly a third of them wanted a better income. The desire to discover a new country is also mentioned first, before any professional or linguistic motivations.

Indeed, the viewpoint on immigration differs when seen from French citizens outside France. 

In fact, despite the popular belief that French citizens living abroad were mostly conservatives, their votes have increasingly leaned towards the left in the past decade. Cécile Dehesdin [fr] explains:

Depuis 1981, elle a gagné plus de vingt points chez les Français de l'étranger, et l'écart avec son score national y était de moins d'un point en 2007 (46,01% contre 46,94%)  

Since 1981, [the left] has won more than 20 points in French from abroad voting and the gap with the national score there was less than one point in 2007 (46.01 percent against 46.94 percent). 

Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, an analyst, adds [fr]:

C’est un public qui est plutôt au centre-droit qu’à droite et pas du tout à l’extrême-droite, plutôt droite humaniste que Droite populaire, et l’écart avec la gauche est de moins en moins important

This is a voting group that is more center-right and right, but not attracted at all to far-right views; it is rather leaning towards progressive right than radical right, and the gap with the left has become less and less important

Additionally, the experience of living abroad seem to have given many French citizens a different perspective. Etoile66, in Toronto, opines [fr]:

Ma France pourrait regarder vers ces pays où les habitants parlent plusieurs langues sans aucun problème et circulent à l'aise dans le monde, alors qu'elle a dressé ses habitants à avoir peur de ce qu'ils appellent la “mondialisation”. La peur ressentie pas bon nombre de mes compatriotes devant “l'étranger” en général et la “mondialisation” en particulier, ne serait plus s'ils avaient confiance en eux. Celui qui a confiance n'a pas peur de l'autre ni de l'étranger, ni du monde, bien au contraire, il échange dans le respect mutuel. 

The France I want to see should look to those countries where people speak different languages ​​without any problems and move at ease in the world. So far, France has only taught its people to be afraid of what they call “globalization”. The fear felt by many of my countrymen of “foreigners” in general and “globalization” in particular, would vanish if they had confidence in themselves. People who have self-confidence do not fear the “other”, “foreigners”, nor the world. On the contrary, they interact with them with mutual respect.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Uruguayan ‘Asado', Much More Than Just a Barbecue

asado4

Photo published by Jorge Alonzo on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When we think of Uruguayan cuisine, one iconic dish always comes to mind: the ‘asado‘, or barbecue. But this is more than just a traditional dish, it represents the country's whole identity.

This dish is an icon of Uruguayan and Argentine tradition par excellence, acting as a social linchpin, as one of the most strongly rooted customs and as a symbol of friendship. No-one, or nearly no-one, prepares a barbecue for themselves alone. The barbecue is a reason to meet, an excuse for a get-together, to bring together those who are separated for whatever reason.

On Vimeo, Geoff Stellfox shares a brief video of a traditional Uruguayan ‘asado':

The ‘asado’ is also a cause of rivalry between opposite shores of the Río de la Plata. Both Argentines and Uruguayans boast of having the best barbecue in a debate as varied as there are palates in the world.

The daily newspaper El País [es] comments:

Los argentinos dicen que son ellos los que hacen el mejor asado, a veces nos reconocen que tenemos mejor carne (excepto el bife de chorizo que es argentino por unanimidad), nos matamos por la mejor receta del chimichurri, nos reímos de los mexicanos que cocinan a la llama y descalificamos a los porteños que cocinan con carbón.

The Argentines claim that they are the ones who make the best barbecue, they do occasionally admit that we have better meat (except the ‘bife de chorizo’ which is Argentine by definition), we batter each other over the best recipe for ‘chimichurri‘ [a special sauce for the meat], we laugh at the Mexicans who cook in the flame and we dismiss the Porteños who cook using charcoal.

When we speak of the barbecue, we are not necessarily referring to a mere lump of cooked meat, but rather to all the paraphernalia which surrounds it, the different kinds of meat and vegetables so that everybody feels included, whether they are meat-eaters or vegetarian. The fire which brings people together and protects them also has a central role, as it has done since the dawn of humanity.

In the absence of a grill, many households have substituted the typical grilled barbecue [es] for the oven-baked barbecue in their daily cooking. This option is considered a second-best by connoisseurs of the ‘asado', but it is easier to work in to the daily life of Uruguayan families. In order to simplify the dish's preparation still further, the well-known chef Sergio Puglia [es] even suggests a barbecue with salsa criolla [es] made in the microwave on his website.

xczxc

Photo published by Bruno Maestrini on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The role of the barbecuer -'asador’ in Spanish- is fundamental to this social event, transforming them into the architect of the feast and to a certain extent, into a master of ceremonies. The barbecuer is the one who takes the lead in this dish, the one who manages the timing and signals when and how to savour their work. The skill of the barbecuer determines the quality of the barbecue and if they are successful, they will receive praise and applause. However, if they get it wrong they will be the target of taunts and reprimands, until they manage to redeem themselves with another barbecue which meets expectations.

The traditional midday barbecue held on construction sites constitutes another iconic moment in the life of the dish. This is a ritual for construction workers who gather to eat together, regain strength to continue working and strengthen the brotherly bonds which make it easier to work and live together during these tough working days.

xcvzxczx

Photo published by Nae on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Besides the traditions and the friendship, there is also a veil of mystery surrounding a good ‘asado'. Each barbecuer has their secrets and their own particular way of preparing the meat, which gives each barbecue its unique and unrepeatable taste. Even if these secrets were to be revealed, it would still be impossible to repeat as the barbecue is much more than just a dish, it is a magical moment to be shared.

In Uruguay, but above all in Montevideo, the majority of gastronomic venues are specialised barbecues [es] or they have the barbecue as an option on their menu.

The daily newspaper El Observador [es] visited one of these venues to reveal the secrets for making the best Uruguayan ‘asado’ [es]:

Chinese Cuisine Documentary ‘Bite of China’ a Visual Feast

Chinese scholar Lin Yutang once defined “men's happiness” as: 

娶一个日本女人做太太;找一个法国女人谈恋爱;雇一个中国人当厨师、找一个英国管家料理家政。

Marrying a Japanese wife, having a French lover, hiring a Chinese cook, employing a British butler.

Needless to say, Chinese cuisine is one of aspects of Chinese culture that people are most proud of. It is also an important part of daily life. Archaeologist and scholar K.C. Chang observed that “Chinese people are especially preoccupied with food” and that “food is at the center of, or at least it accompanies or symbolizes, many social interactions.”

However, the beauty and mystery of Chinese food was never well explained or greatly appreciated on an artistic level even within China until the premiere of a seven-part documentary series on China’s food culture called “A Bite of China” (literally translated as “China on the Tip of the Tongue”) produced by state broadcaster China Central TV in May 2012. The series gives a visual introduction to China's rich culinary tradition and wide regional variety by showing basic local ingredients, cooking methods and local food specialties and customs. Chinese cuisine goes back to basics in the series: old women looking for matsutake mushrooms on pathless mountainsides, a fisherman catching barracuda for supper, a group of farmers collecting lotus roots from a muddy river in the winter. 

Poster of

Poster for the documentary series “A Bite of China”

Thirty of the country's most respected filmmakers worked for more than a year filming the seven 50-minute episodes. They shot throughout the country, from frozen lakes to bamboo forests. 

The documentary became an instant hit and a trending topic on Chinese social media. Many think it's the best documentary ever produced in China due to its beautiful visual effects and the powerful nostalgia it invokes. It became so popular that the second season was launched in January 2013 and is scheduled for release in 2014. It's likely to be China’s most anticipated sequel of 2014. There are plans to screen ”A Bite of China” in 20 countries including Germany and the United States, but at the moment the show is only available on YouTube

After watching the first season, many netizens commented on leading social network website douban, saying the documentary's significance is more than just the food itself: It's a tour of beautiful places in China and a story of Chinese people:

bug君跪求逆袭: 作为一个吃货,生长在地大物博的中国是人生最美好的事!

As a foodie, it's such a blessing to be born in China, a place of abundant resources.

去他的肥肉!!: 拍得相当不错,这不仅仅是食物的故事,也是人的故事。

A great documentary. This is not just about food, but also stories of people.

老尘 : 原来在华夏内地还有这么多充满文化意味的地方没有去

I didn't know there are so many cultural places I have never been to in China.

Some also think the documentary serves as great soft power:

掉队的猪  爱国主义教育就得这么搞!

Patriotism should be taught this way

However, some were sad that this way of life is slowly evaporating in modern China due to industrialization and environmental pollution: 

阿轩  美食也是一种行将消逝传统,多少有些沉重。

Cuisine is a disappearing tradition, [when I think about this] my heart feels a little heavy. 

February 05 2014

Forget What You Know About Visiting Kosovo

A trip to Kosovo nowadays would convince anyone that this country, far from its sometimes negative reputation, has indeed a lot to offer. According to the World Bank data, more than 70 percent of Kosovo's population is under 35 years old, which surely explains the fact that on the flight this Global Voices author made to the country's capital Prishtina, half of the passengers were under 10 years old. This makes for quite the start to an unusual holidays!

Kosovo youth, while having to deal with terrible unemployment rates of 55.3 percent, manage to energize the country and push the rough memories of war further and further away. US blogger Adventurous Kate comments how first-time visitors feel:

It’s my first time in Kosovo, and I don’t know what to expect. Just the mention of “Kosovo” in America brings to mind an image of war, of death, of ethnic cleansing, of bombs. Even though this took place more than a decade ago, I’m wondering just what kinds of scars the country will bear.

Far off from the scars, what strikes the freshly arrived visitor most are Prishtina's incredible cafés. Everyone should experience the taste of a perfect macchiato on a sunny and well-designed terrace, looking over the frenetic errands of passersby. It certainly is not a legend that the coffee there sometimes tastes even better than an Italian one – we apologize to our Italian friends for this, but it must be said!

Enjoying a latte macchiato at the Shipja e Vjetër café in Prishtina

Enjoying a latte macchiato at the Shipja e Vjetër café in Prishtina

The Dit' e Nat' café celebrating the Irish poet Yeats

The Dit’ e Nat’ café celebrating the Irish poet Yeats

Although it might be true that Prishtina's architecture, mostly grey and anarchic buildings, is not its main attraction, the city is buoyant in its attitude and style. Its walls are full of graffiti and other forms of street art; the soul of the city appears on them an open book to visitors.

“I love colors” and “I love flowers” appear very frequently on the walls of the city, mostly in the saddest parts.

The claims not to forget the leaders of the Kosovo independance are visible here and there.

Urban art urging people not to forget the leaders of Kosovo's independence are visible here and there.

Creative details are available on every corner.

Creative details are available on every corner in Kosovo.

Kosovo's people seem to look more towards the future than stay stuck in the past praising war heroes or pacifist icons of Kosovo's battle for independence from Serbia, like Ibrahim Rugova. Kosovo, now the newest nation in Europe, was historically a part of Serbia and previously Yugoslavia. The 1998-99 Kosovo War was fought between the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, made up by Serbia and Montenegro at the time, and the Kosovo rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with military air support from NATO, after 10 years of non-violent resistance from the civil society of Kosovo.

Although portraits of Ibrahim Rugova, the first president of newly independent Kosovo, as well as of the leaders of the armed resistance are visible here and there, the general impression to the newcomer is that today's actors of Kosovo are building up their own models. Witnessing the elections in Kosovo from Prishtina in November 2013, Darmon Richter comments:

Newspaper stories about riot police and violent assaults in polling stations do nothing to give a sense of modern-day Kosovo, save for the few pockets of the country where race rivalry is still rife. In the city of Pristina, people crave recognition of their independence… but all in all, it's about as normal a city as you'll find anywhere in the Balkans.

In fact, with a reported 60% voting turnout nationwide, democracy almost seems to be working better here than it does in the UK.

In the center of Prishtina, Rugova is still there, but the colors are washed out.

In the center of Prishtina, street art bearing Kosovo's first President Ibrahim Rugova's image is still there, but the colors are washed out.

Somehow, Prishtina could appear as a “mini-Istanbul” in the sense that it is sitting quite balanced between a post-Ottoman and a Western European culture. Kim's travel blog, from an American and Korean perspective, underlines the surprising cosmopolitan atmosphere of the “city of love”:

After visiting Pristina, I truly understood why people had been calling Kosovo a fast developing and energetic country. You could see the new buildings coming up everywhere, and could see foreigners traveling (majorly European) around the city and there were many exciting restaurants available besides just Balkan foods (…). Although I did not see any Asian people at all, one of my friends informed me that he had seen four Japanese people touring around the city. I wish I was there to witness the ASIANS walking around the city, that would have been hilarious. We probably had exchanged strange looks thinking “what the hell are you doing here…?” haha

What comes out of it is, just like in the Turkish city of wonders, a fascinating mixture of traditional silver art craft shops, highly modern new cafés, a multitude of bakeries, some old mosques being rebuilt, and some churches left to rot. In the center you can see some incredible buildings like the Prishtina University library, which appears almost as an unidentified object in the middle of the communist architecture that inhabits the rest of the area. Kim's travel blog also mentions this building:

You could see many historical buildings around the city, and you could tell Kosovars were very proud of them. University of Pristina, the best one in Kosovo, was structured nicely. Also right next to the university, there is Pristina National Library, which was quite impressive and weirdly designed. My friend who currently works at University of Pristina had explained to me what the structure and the design was based on, but … of course this chicken head had forgotten about it. Maybe I will google and Wikipedia it later.

The magazine Kosovo 2.0, available in English, Albanian and Serbian, is the new brand of this educated, multilingual and very open, worldly society. Covering politics, arts, fashion, social debates, women and gender issues, Kosovar topics and global subjects, the magazine is available in print as well as online. Kosovo 2.0 also offers a selection of the latest sounds produced locally, mostly electro genres, which are available online : http://www.kosovotwopointzero.com/player. Enjoy the musical ride!

The flashy colors of a new way of life can not be ignored on the Pristhina walls.

The flashy colors of a new way of life can not be ignored on the Pristhina walls.

Prishtina is full of surprises for visitors from any origin. But as Kosovo is young, it is growing and changing very quickly. So do not lose any more time and, if you can, hop on the next plane or car and take a moment to discover this promising city and its joyful contradictions. If you are quick enough, there might still be a piece of cake there for you!

Tasty and creamy! Almost too much but not quite.

Tasty and creamy! Almost too much, but not quite.

All photographs in this post are by author Marie Bohner.
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