Malvaviscos Gigantes: Two Hours in Juarez, Mexico

They were the biggest marshmallows I had ever seen. Perhaps the soft pastels of green, blue, and pink were meant to make these whipped-sugar baseballs seem less threatening. Had they been in a normal-sized marshmallow bag, four, maybe five, would have fit. This sack held hundreds. I looked up and eyeballed the enormous flying saucer perched above. Yes, I calculated, if the command module is hollow as well, they just might fit. Continue reading “Malvaviscos Gigantes: Two Hours in Juarez, Mexico”

A Ukrainian French Spring: Trying to Piece it All Together

I left our apartment and walked out into the day’s last light. We had been in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, for two days and I was still trying to get a sense of what the current political and economic crises were doing to everyday life. That wasn’t why I was going – I really wanted to see the show. But justifying the abandonment of my wife and children for an evening by calling it geo-political sociology research seemed like a good idea. Continue reading “A Ukrainian French Spring: Trying to Piece it All Together”

Zhytomyr: The Schnapps and Soviet-Style Architectural Capital of North-Central Ukraine

I studied the shot of clear liquor in front of me. It had a sharp fragrance that I couldn’t place, and no one at the table knew the English word for it. Our hostess made the first toast, and I downed 2 ounces of what turned out to be horseradish schnapps. Looking at the bottom of my shot glass I thought, it can’t possibly get any more Ukrainian than this. Continue reading “Zhytomyr: The Schnapps and Soviet-Style Architectural Capital of North-Central Ukraine”

A Net Made of Rocks, and Other Guatemalan Surprises

Most of the french fries served in the US have a firm outer crust. To get that crunch, the potatoes must be fried twice at two different temperatures, or frozen, or both. In Guatemala, the roadside stands selling french fries just have one big pot of hot oil, and no freezers. When they get an order, they toss the sliced raw potatoes into the oil, producing a softer and creamier fry than the American version. This is the level of cultural contrasts I usually reflect on when traveling. Continue reading “A Net Made of Rocks, and Other Guatemalan Surprises”

Ferry-Hopping on Lake Lucerne

During our visit to Switzerland two themes kept coming up as topics of conversation. First, the view. A visitor in Switzerland will be witness to a near constant parade of forested hills and their aprons of farm-speckled meadows. Then, as if it were a dessert whose last ingredient was the powdered sugar sprinkled on top, the landscape looks like some cosmic pastry chef dusted it with pleasantly dilapidated medieval towers and castles. The country is a snow globe come to life. Continue reading “Ferry-Hopping on Lake Lucerne”

A High Wire Act – Public Transit in Medellin

I was compiling the list of things to do during our five days in Medellin, Colombia and I came across a source that recommended riding the metro. Sure, but to go where? No, just ride the metro. The point of the blog was that the above-ground train offered an attractive tour of the city for the easy price of 85¢. I was suspicious: had the author of the blog just run out of things to write about? Perhaps he hadn’t even been there and just made the whole thing up (as really did happen with the Lonely Planet’s Colombia researcher back in 2009)? Continue reading “A High Wire Act – Public Transit in Medellin”

Parking the Car, and Other Puerto Rican Adventures

Our third child arrived in December. By the time she was five months old we had already taken the enlarged family on a couple of trips, but those ventures were to introduce the new daughter to relatives. While we did earn some stripes taking three young children on a plane, trips to visit relatives only technically count as “travelling with the kids”. Once you arrive, someone else wants to hold the baby or play with the kids or feed all of you. It’s an easy life. Continue reading “Parking the Car, and Other Puerto Rican Adventures”