I had been in Sri Lanka for a week, and now a couple of friends and I are passing through the interior of the island-nation the size of West Virginia. The road’s edge is lined with a four-pronged spacey wire fence standing roughly ten feet high, this marks the Minneriya National Park. Then we spot it – a monstrosity of a mammal standing on the other side of the electric fence. “Tissa [the driver], please stop!” I get out and inch over to the beast in aims to get the best photo possible. I am probably three to four feet from the fence, or so I believe. The elephant and I catch each other’s eyes and enter into a timeless connection. This wild beast and I are locked in gaze. No movements are made. No gestures are given. No anything. Just us saying something, about to get to the point of our contact, but just as I was to tie the eye conversation together the driver yells to get away from my new Sri Lankan colleague. Meanwhile one of my friends in the van is shrieking something unpleasant (presumably). I turn back around to face my worldly counterpart hoping to continue our voyage, but the moment has passed. Now we are a human and an elephant – worlds apart and not understanding one another as before. A few seconds...Read More
Author: Dominic DeGrazier
It’s gotten to the embarrassing point now. My friends, family and coworkers all repeated the same answer to the question, “What does Cinco de Mayo celebrate?” ‘Mexico’s Independence Day’ being the answer. No. In fact, most of Mexico does not celebrate this day – if they do it is only an excuse to drink (from what I have been told that is). Sounds similar to the custom in the States for this day though. Here is one brief side to the history: On May 5, 1862 the Mexican army beat the invading French troops in a surprise victory at Puebla, Mexico. Mexico did not gain independence until 11 years later, but what this Puebla victory did was push back the French advance that was going to support the Confederate army in the US Civil War. More people (in the States especially) should know this. Dominic is an incurable world roamer. He has travelled and at times lived in various parts of Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America after graduating university. He is a published writer and photographer looking to explore more of the world — whether in his own backyard or outside of the US border. More of his writing can be found at...Read More
Sounds like a redundant title for a country the size of the state of Missouri, I know. But after being in Montevideo and visiting beach towns along the coast of Rocha, the time had arrived to visit a very small community. I chose Estacion Pedrera in the county of Canelones. The director of ViviUruguay showed me around their little village. There was a church, a school, an old train station, a few houses, and a tiny general store that acted as a bar as well. My Spanish is solid, but I couldn’t understand more than a few words from the locals inside the store/bar for some odd reason. Doubting my Spanish skills, I left the bar (that does not permit women to enter). As we continued on the informal walking tour of the town, it happened. I spotted the figure quickly and with excitement. A “Gaucho” rode his horse past me, followed by his obedient dog. Being in the city and in touristy areas, one is not confronted with the almost mythical figure of the Gaucho with his storied history in the fight for and representation of early Uruguay. With his beret hat and olive skin Mr. Gaucho galloped past me with a very Gaucho smile. I look forward to meeting more of them in the coming days. Dominic is an incurable world roamer. He has travelled and at times...Read More
A few years ago I tasted the most amazing, soft, juicy, buttery meat I have ever experienced. I asked for my meat to be cooked as raw as possible, and I was delighted with the results. This was in Salta, Argentina. Being here in Uruguay for 4 months I have been expecting to find similar results due to the cows being the same breed and eating from the same pampas (lush, rolling open terrain that the vacas meander around gaining solid muscle and a healthy physique). But I haven’t found it yet. What I have found is that the prices for the steaks are higher. But I am not bitter – the steaks and other meat are still much better than I am used to in California. And a steak meal for two with a jar of wine in a restaurant last night cost me a little over 10USD. How can I complain? And more importantly, the light of the hunt grew last night. I have figured out the way to order my meat (carne de pulpa con menos grasa); I am getting closer to finding that one spectacular savory steak that awaits me here in Uruguay. Where are you little...Read More
My welcoming hours in Mexico were a complete success. After those nocturnal events, the first true day of the Mexico City adventure was on stage. Luckily it fell on a national holiday. Talia, my new local friend, had the time to show off parts of her city. However, the ensuing 12 hours of memories aren’t so focused on the historic center of El Zócalo or the Museum of Frida Kahlo or any other sight that one reads about before arriving. The highlights yelling at me involve Mexico’s food and beverage. During our stroll through the park-filled, historical and very colonial neighborhood of Cocoayán, we stopped at one of her favorite restaurants, Los Danzantes, for lunch. Expecting to be surrounded by something very Mexican, I oddly felt as though I were in a trendy Los Angeles bistro with its avant-garde décor and clientele (apparently a table away from us sat a famous Mexican singer of yester-year). But this LA vibe quickly subsided when the waiter delivered the first plate, three fried chapulin (grasshopper) tacos. Sure, I had earlier asked Talia to show me the local flavors of the city, but come on? Holding to my word and original desire, I forced myself to start eating. These little fried guys were crunchy. But even with some delicious goat cheese and extra hot sauce in the tacos, I couldn’t stop from focusing...Read More
I have been torn many times on what to do. I sit on a bus, hear some guy singing horribly, and then he approaches the passengers for a few coins. The voice bothered me, the ambiance of the ride changed for the worse while the tunes were belted out, but I know that this guy is hurting for cash and trying his best to make ends meet. Should I give him money? How about on the next bus ride later today and the two tomorrow? And with kids…this is something to be weary of. Here in Montevideo, Uruguay there is a problem with a drug called “Pasta Base” which is essentially the residuals of cocaine…the scraps of the chemicals. It is strong, very addictive, and is said to kill the user within three years (or so I have been hearing). Some of the kids use the money for the drugs. Some of them give their lazy parents or family members the day’s earnings. Bottom line, I just don’t know where the money is going. I’ve gotten used to buying some crackers or some small snack these past few week…to some mixed responses. One guy even told me off for giving him crackers, then asked for more money. For more information and pictures from Montevideo and the surroundings, go to:...Read More
It’s the longest Carnival in the world – 40 days of party right? I had my reservations…what kind of place (and who) could join festivities for 40 days straight? Impossible. But I have been proven wrong, once again. And last night I experienced my favorite Carnival times thus far. I’ve gone to the opening Inaugural Parade, the following Las Llamadas parade with the candombe drumming groups, then off to the Samba School Parade. They were fun, interesting, dull at times due to the lack of organization (surprise surprise) and other things rolled into a feast of sounds, images and crowds. One of the neighborhood smaller parades went by my street last night. They occur nightly in the streets of different barrios, along with the Murga shows and others in the theaters of the city. And last night showed Montevideo’s Carnival spirit still heavily pounding after close to a month of festivities. The streets were packed with neighbors; old and young, black and white, poor and not-so-poor danced alongside one another. the night was a tribute, for me, to the continuing party session of Carnival in Montevideo. For more information and pictures from Montevideo and the surroundings, go to:...Read More
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