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From the category archives:

Musings

Gallego Town Names

by Elena on March 11, 2010

Here are a few of the unusual town names I have come across.

The Girl From Up There
Ella Da Riba
The Girl From Up There
The Girl From Down There
Ella De Baixo
The Girl From Down There Dogs
Cans
Dogs Garlic From Down There
Noallo De Abaixo
Garlic From Down There

And my favorite of them all is….
Pair of Blonds
Par de RubiasPair of Blonds

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Bit of Advice

by Elena on March 9, 2010

Often times Spaniards put up decorative plates like the one below with little musings about life and love.  This one in particular caught my eye.  A bit of advice from the wall of a friend of a friend living in a small town in Galicia.

Gallego – Cando te n’amores depois non chores.
Espanol – Cuando te enamores despues no llores.
English – When you fall in love don’t cry about it later.

Bit o Advice

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The Strange and Creepy World of Social Media

by Elena on February 19, 2010

Lego on FacebookEveryday there are new ways to communicate with one another, besides actually sitting in front of someone in person and having an actual conversation.  New social networks pop up each month and frankly it’s hard to keep up.  This past week alone Google Buzz and Chat Roulette made their way into our online world.

These sites have changed the way we market products and ideas, as well as the social interaction of our society, but let’s leave that for the psychologists and sociologists to tackle.  What I’m interested in exploring is what happens when you give free reign to millions of tech savvy users with varying interests and different definitions of what they consider fun?

What about the juicy stuff, you know, the creepy, stalker, addictive part of knowing every details about the people you follow?  Not everyone is poking friendly pokes and tweeting informative tweets.  Don’t get me wrong.  I obviously love social media, what with this blog and all, but I still find it utterly fascinating, and a little frightening, the level it can be taken to.

Chat Roulette

Let’s take a look at the social network phenomenon of the week, Chat Roulette.  For those unfamiliar, with the program, it is a one-on-one text, webcam, microphone-based, chat service where you can talk to people all over the world.  There is a catch of course, or maybe it’s the hook.  The site is literally a social game of roulette because you never know who you are going to get.  By participating you open yourself to brutal honesty from complete strangers who have the option of pressing the next button when they are tired of looking at you.  After you hit that button, you can be talking to a person dressed up as a ninja one minute or someone looking to practice their English the next.  Most of the time however you will probably be nexted quickly, or disturbed enough to push the next button yourself.  Sam Anderson’s article, The Human Shuffle written for New York Magazine, provides an entertaining look into his experience with Chat Roulette.  If you want to get a better idea about this site, this is the article to read.  He describes his first experience with Chat Roulette as taking him back to grade-school filled with feelings of social inadequacy (with all that nexting).  Anderson also goes into detail about some of the conversations he had, as well as the odd magnetic feeling you get driving you back to the site.

Imagine you sign on only to find this guy…

cat suit on chat rouletteWhat is he a cat?  Honestly it could have been worse.  As far as I’m concerned, you’re sorta asking to talk to weirdos dressed up as cats.  It is a game of roulette after all and you never know where the ball is going to land.

Despite the site’s terms of service (Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service) ask anyone who has tried Chat Roulette and they will tell you otherwise.  Lots of creepers are on it with the sole intention of getting people to expose themselves or frankly just exposing themselves to you.  This brings up worries about child pornography and many other issues that get exacerbated once they enter such social network spaces.  This is one more site parents have to be worried about their kids stumbling upon.

Google Latitude

Google Latitude is a feature on Google Maps that allows you find the approximate location of your Gmail friends.  When you look at the map you can see your friend’s avatar hovering around their location.  It seems friendly enough, allowing your friends to see your whereabouts with the Google Latitude software.  It is brilliant really, Google really thinks of everything.  The question is, do we really need to pinpoint the locations of our friends and family?
Google LatitudeGoogle is aware of the dangers of location data, which is why they enacted privacy settings into their program.  First and foremost you are in charge of who you accept as a friend and you chose the people who can see your whereabouts.  You can also hide your location.  For many this provides a sense of security.  As internet users we have become less anxious about sharing private information about ourselves, but the rule of thumb is that we need to have control about what we share.  As for Google Latitude, it’s not like your friends are going to track you down.  Plus, there is nothing creepy about knowing who is ‘in the area’ and ‘dropping by’ because you saw their little avatar floating around nearby.  Hmm.  This brings me to…

Foursquare

I first found out about Foursquare from the Frugal Traveler at the New York Times.  The reason Foursquare is relevant to a frugal travel post, is that the site encourages people to explore a neighborhood and “check in” to local restaurants, cafes, museums, etc.  The more you frequent a location, the more chances you get to receive prizes and discounts, depending on the location.  You even get badges if you unlock new places and the more badges you get, the closer you are to becoming mayor or an explorer.  Users can make recommendations and keep others updated on what is hot in their area.  Overall the site seems like a great idea for those looking to explore their city, but there is a really big BUT here.  Sure it seems harmless BUT what is the consequence of people knowing your every move on such sites like Foursquare and Twitter?  Glad you asked…

Please Rob Me

The guys on Please Rob Me sure have a sense of humor.  What with listing all those empty homes out there haha.  Making us all aware that if we tell everyone where we are at all times, we inadvertently alert them when we aren’t home haha.  It’s just too funny… isn’t it?  haha…  As it turns out, letting everyone know our every move through various social networks, is not only annoying, but also brings up security issues, stalking, theft, etc.  Some people full of hubris and irrational fear believe that “it will happen to me,” while others brush it off thinking “that would never happen to me?”  Most people fall humbly in between, aware of the risks but not willing to let it rule them.  Of course the guys at Please Rob Me didn’t create their site to facilitate burglary, but rather to raise awareness, ever so bluntly, about these privacy issues.  They certainly got their point across.  So don’t go putting your friend’s personal address on Foursquare in order to get extra points or an online badge.

Please Rob MeFailin.gs

This last site isn’t creepy or scary in any way.  Disappointed?  Don’t worry, it’s still peculiar.  If you ever wanted to know what people really think about you, brutal honesty, without knowing who or where the opinion comes from, sign up for failin.gs!  Why anyone would open themselves up to such candid remarks is beyond me, but some people just want honesty, or the taste of suffering.  Failin.gs’ users ask, “What’s wrong with me?” and people can leave anonymous tips answering that very question.  Since it is anonymous, it allows for brutal honesty without consequence.  If you find any of your friends on failin.gs asking:

“What’s wrong with me?”

You can always anonymously tip them.

“You’re on this site.”

[Disclaimer – Social media networks are not inherently creepy or strange, however the debate of the new ways we interact with people have raised many questions about privacy.  It is a choice to participate in such programs and post as much information as we want about ourselves, and there is nothing inherently wrong in doing so.  But to everything there is a balance and examining the creepy side is just a bit more interesting.]

Image via: Balakov

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Why I Love Freelancing

by Elena on February 10, 2010

Nor'easter '10After last week’s phantom snowstorm, I had some doubts about the impending nor’easter making it’s way up the East Coast to the Tri-State area.  Even last night at around 2am, while I was impatiently waiting like a 4th grader hoping for a day off from school, still no snow.  But alas I woke up to this…

Nor'easter '10 Table

A blizzardly nor’easter is one of many reasons I love freelance work.  While I sit at my desk working on some pending deadlines, I can look out my window and relish in the fact that I don’t need to go anywhere, besides the few breaks where I go outside and toss Nico in the snow.  Ahh it truly is a great feeling.

Nor'easter '10 Front YardNor'easter '10 Nico

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Memorable Book List of 2009

by Elena on January 4, 2010

Memorable Books of 2008Happy New Year everyone!  Hopefully everyone had a great holiday season.  My Christmas and New Years are always based around food, so it goes without saying that I had a great time.

Last year I put together a mental list of all the books that I really enjoyed throughout the year.  This post is a little late, but I feel like the books are still very pertinent.  The list of 2009 is a personal one, as you can see the books didn’t necessarily come on in 09; they did however inspire and entertain me this past year.

TRAVEL WRITING

Travel writing is a medium I greatly enjoy and often read.  In a certain vain I strive to write like these authors I listed.  They are no doubt some of my favorite authors, who all have a distinct voice, whether snarky or informative, and who constantly keep my attention, make me laugh, and change my perspective.

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act is a must read for any person with a love of travel.  Steves explores traveling as a means to finding out more about the world, your country, and yourself.  While there is nothing wrong with travel where you relax with nothing more than a margarita and some sunblock, he reminds you that there are other forms of travel where you can learn something besides how to nurse a sunburn.  He discusses and compares the way other countries handle issues such as drug abuse, war, globalization, and religious differences.  No country has all the right answers, however we only benefit by understanding other cultures and experiencing them firsthand.

Road Fever by Tim Cahill – I read Road Fever while on the road in South America, therefore I had a very strong connection with the work.  Cahill writes about his journey and quest to break the world record time for a road trip from the very tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay Alaska.  Tim Cahill writes in a manner that is entertaining and infectious, where a 5’3 short girl like myself would consider the possibility of following in the footsteps of these two explorers clearly mad for trying.

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson –  Like all great storytellers, Bill Bryson makes his story of traveling around Europe that much more interesting than anybody else could.  He has a snarky side which I always welcome and a definite British wit as he recounts his past, and muses about strange foreign customs.

Sand In My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write From The Road by Jennifer L. Leo and Jessica Maxwell – This collection of short stories are written by a group of adventurous women who have at some point, put the open road before all else.  I received this book as a gift from my cousin, who thought that the title aptly applied to my travels and misadventures.  It was refreshing and fun to read a book from a female perspective in a genre, it seems, that is dominated by men.  If anyone has any other suggestions, please contact me!

A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain – I’ve read A Cook’s Tour multiple times and returned to it again in 2009.  The book really resonates with me, in particular the section when Bourdain is in Portugal, where certain memories and subsequent pig slaughter ceremonies, reminded me of my summer’s in Galicia as a child.  This book sparked my interest in culinary travel, exploring new cultures, and finding other books of this nature.  Anthony Bourdain’s writing style is funny and addicting like a Krispy Kreme donut that you would be willing to drive 20 miles to eat a bite of.

Smile, You’re Traveling by Henry Rollins – Reading this book is like slipping into a portal that leads to Rollins’ mind, except you don’t get tossed near the Jersey Turnpike when you’re finished.  You experience his crazy adventures firsthand, right in the middle of his stream of consciousness.  I admit that it was hard to keep up the first time around but after some outside coaxing I agreed to try again.  Rollins’ thoughts are often scattered but they are never dull and they will always make you question your own perspective on the world.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Travel photography, like all types of photography, tells a story of its subject and setting.  I honestly haven’t read that many photography books, preferring to browse through picture albums and portfolios online.  This year I’d like to read more about the craft of photography.

Travel Photography: Documenting the World’s Peoples & Places by Bob Krist – Bob Krist makes photography interesting and attainable in this book.  His book doesn’t delve too much into the technicalities of taking a picture, the camera itself, or Photoshop, however that was exactly what I was looking for.  He gives a more general approach to working with color, movement, composition, flash, and time of day.  I especially liked his tips and anecdotes about taking pictures of people.

MARKETING AND LIFESTYLE DESIGN

Marketing and lifestyle design books are the source of many dreamers’ dreams.  These books in particular got my creative juices flowing, and spurred a few grandiose views of the future.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable by Seth Godin – Seth Godin’s blog is a wealth of knowledge.  Each post provides insight on how to spread your ideas or grow your business.  He has opened a new way for me to look at marketing.  In his book, Purple Cow, he talks about the way old ‘proven’ marketing tactics no longer apply, and how each and every company, employee, or website needs to be remarkable if they want to stand out from the heard.  Basically you want to be a purple cows in the midst of the black and white ones.

The Big Moo: Stop Trying To Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable by Seth Godin – The Big Moo is a continuation of the ideas in Purple Cow.  This book is edited by Seth Godin and has many different contributors tell a story or anecdote about being remarkable.  The interesting thing is that you don’t know which author wrote what.  If you need another push to buy it, know that all proceeds go to charity.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferris – The 4-Hour Workweek was one of those books that started it all for me.  If got me thinking, dreaming, and being outright delusional about my future.  A four hour work week is something that most people aspire to, and Timothy Ferris explains how it can be possible.  Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you will be sitting around doing nothing all day, what it does mean is that you have more available time to work on your own ventures, instead of wasting time dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s.  He just came out with an expanded edition that I haven’t been able to check out yet but I am excited to read soon.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

After reading a few marketing books, I got the  itch so to speak, of turning ideas into something more.  I don’t usually read business type books because I think I may be slightly allergic, however these books were interesting and quite insightful.

Awakening The Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies by Michael E. Gerber – I picked up this book after reading about it on Timothy Ferris’ blog (a must read as well).  Although I haven’t finished it yet (I am somewhere in the middle) I would recommend this book for people who are looking to start their own business, or expand on their own ideas.  Gerber talks about the process that innovative entrepreneurs take to follow their dreams and see them to fruition.

The E-Myth Enterprise: How To Turn a Great Idea Into a Thriving Business by Michael E. Gerber – The E-Myth Enterprise expands upon the ideas of Gerber’s previous books and it also gives more of a personal perspective and tells the success stories of people that the reader can relate to.  These people were able to create businesses and make their business thrive.

NEW MEDIA

New media is blanket term to describe the emergent digital and computerized information that has grown dramatically in the past decade.  Online publications, blogs, social networking sites, and digital technology are all a part of new media.  Print publications and television are not.  If you have a blog or site of your own, you are already aware of new media, in fact you are a part of it.

The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media by Paul Gillin – Gillin’s book provided the insight I needed to really understand the influence of new media today.  More companies are developing blogs and switching their marketing strategies and the all important advertising dollars in order to keep up with the changes.  The book also illustrates the tremendous power that bloggers and new media insiders have over the market.

[Updated Jan 5th]

EBOOKS

EBooks are becoming much more popular.  I have been a little reserved about them, but this past year I have bought a couple that I felt were helpful and informative.  People tend to be more careful when buying eBooks because they can be more expensive than a book you pick up at Barnes & Noble.  Let’s just say they shouldn’t be impulse buys.  When buying an eBook I always take a look at the reviews and see what others have said about them.  If an author offers a free book, you can test out and see if you like his style and topic choices.

Make Money With Your Blog by Nomadic Matt –  This eBook was a great deal of help for me when I wanted to delve into the world of ‘monetizing’ my websites.  For full disclosure I am an affiliate of this eBook, and I decided to do so  because of how helpful it was for me.  When I started my sites I had a drive to write and explore, but I also had little experience with actually ‘building a site.’  If you are knowledgeable about blogging and creating websites then this eBook may not be helpful because you will know a lot of its content.  This eBook is for anyone new to creating blogs, or the ways of new media.  It will teach you the basics of starting a blog, getting traffic, figuring out SEO, and monetizing your site.  Matt gives you the foundation that you can build upon with dedication and hard work.Make Money on your Blog

279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau – The great thing about this eBook is that it is completely free!  It is an encouraging manifesto written by the creator of The Art of Non-Comformity site.  It is a great way to become acquainted with his site, which is truly as a home for unconventional people doing remarkable things.  In the manifesto he discusses the steps he took to become a full time writer and entrepreneur of the web.manifesto-279daysUnconventional Guide to Working For Yourself by Chris Guillebeau – If you enjoyed Guillebeau’s free manifesto then you should really look into his other products.  They are pricey, but I believe the content is well worth it.  This eBook goes more in depth into the life of creating a business on the internet.  He discusses important factors such as the mistakes that many entrepreneurs make when building their business.  When you buy this eBook you also get bonuses about SEO and affiliate marketing.  As with most things, remember that these strategies are never a quick fix.  Working for yourself requires lots of hard work and dedication.UG workingselfUnconventional Guide to Art and Money by Chris Guillebeau – I purchased this eBook in a deal with the Guide to Working for Yourself.  The topic is very interesting and the eBook is thorough and easy to follow.   Basically it discusses the way artists have been supporting themselves through their artwork and new media.  It is interesting because while artists can be taught technique in art school, they are not often taught how to make money doing so.  The eBook discusses ways artists can promote themselves and gain a following that can lead to success in their field. UG artmoney30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World by Christine Gilbert – Christine Gilbert created the popular travel site Almost Fearless, a site that I check on a frequent basis in order to gain insight into travel and the digital world.  This year Gilbert concluded a series she was working on called 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World.  The series went further into the world of travel and conquered such topics as budgeting, turning your job digital, telling your family and friends, and getting a job when you return from travel.  You can check out the series on her site, and you can also download a free eBook of the series by subscribing to her site.Almost Fearless

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New JerseyBeing from New Jersey I have heard the brunt of many Jersey jokes.  I know what it feels like to sit behind big hair at the movies, to watch a cashier count my change with her the long finger nails sticking between the bills.  I can recognize the distinguished nasal accent the second I hear it, and I’ve seen girls walk down the street without the slightest movement of their hair, held oh so carefully with an entire bottle of hair gel.  I used to work with a girl who filled the ladies bathroom with the fumes from her Aquanet bottle everyday, so yes I know the stereotypes.  Industry rules.  Down I95 factories pump out streams of smoke swirling around like a strange Rorschach test in the sky.  As if my home state didn’t have it hard enough, the MTV ‘reality’ show The Jersey Shore has thrown more gasoline to the fire of Jersey insults.

Granted the success of these shows are all based upon stereotypes.  I don’t judge Los Angeles by the fake tans, fake breasts, and lip enhanced women on reality television, ok maybe I do just a little, but I certainly can’t make broad assumptions about the city as a whole, much less the whole state.  We all have our own prejudices that affect our opinions about the places we visit, but by being completely ruled by these assumptions, we miss out on a lot of the good stuff.

What most people forget is that New Jersey is the “Garden State,” and to all those distant snickers, I am dutifully ignoring you.  While industry has been an important part of our economy for many years, there are many beautiful parts of New Jersey.  Believe it or not there are farms in NJ, quite a bit actually.  If picking your own fruits and vegetables strikes your fancy, you can do so at multiple locations.  Farmers’ markets are all over the state and you can check on the Department of Agriculture website to find one close to your home.  Chances are some of the produce found in your supermarket and restaurants is from a nearby farm, especially if you’re buying tomatoes, blueberries, apples, beans, broccoli, corn, and the list goes on.  When I lived in Montreal, I would shop at the local farmer’s market and I was surprised to see Jersey tomatoes and berries so far north.  I have gone to farms in NJ since I was a little girl, where children could ride hayrides, go apple, peach, and pumpkin picking, drink apple cider, and pick out homemade pies.  Maybe I’ve belabored my point, but allow me to reiterate; we aren’t all sludging around in grime and hair gel.

As one of my family members said about the comments people were making about NJ and The Jersey Shore show.  “Let people think NJ is like that.  Save the nice beaches for ourselves.”  And it’s not merely the beaches but also the trails, the mountains, the small towns, the multicultural cities, the good food.

That is the thing with New Jersey.  People don’t go to places because there was a rave review in a prominent publication like the New York Times, although that is quickly changing.  People go to restaurants because of word of mouth, because the food is great, their friends go, it’s been open for years, they know the owner, and the service is friendly and generous with their drinks.  I’m not referring to the chains I love to hate and hate to love.  Yes those are popular too, and while they aren’t as ‘authentic’ as the small Italian eatery in my town, sometimes you just want to choose between 25 different kinds of cheesecake.

I challenge anyone to find a better quality steak or rodizio than in Newark NJ, and if you find one, I’ll be first on line.  If you want a great meal, go where the immigrants are; the Brazilians know their meat and they live in Newark.  If you want gargantuan portions of Spanish food, Newark is also the place.  The cost is reasonable and the food is damn good.  More “modern” eateries are popping up as well.  Modern Spanish dining, or as I like to call it shi-shi,  can be more expensive, with smaller portions and sauces drizzled onto nice designs on your plate, still delicious and following in the footsteps of Nouveau Spanish cuisine all over the world.  If you want Mexican food, Mi Pequeno Mexico on Ferry Street is by far the most authentic Mexican food I’ve tasted since wandering around Mexico City.  That’s a place worth returning to.

Call me biased.  I absolutely am.  I love New Jersey.  I love that there are trees outside my window and that the GWB  is a 15 minute drive from my house.  In a perfect world with no traffic and endless parking, I can be walking around the MOMA or grabing a coffee from the Mudtruck in Astor Place in 30 minutes.  In New Jersey there are towns that still have bookstores, coffee shops, and vintage stores that have remained untouched by the hands of chain stores.  Go to Montclair, Englewood, Ridgewood, or Madison and you’ll feel like you stepped into a small town movie set.  If you need a discounted superstore you’re in luck.  Rest assured, no matter where you stand in New Jersey, you are within 20 minutes from a few malls.  Sometimes closer.

So yes some of the stereotypes may be true, but in a state where there are so many cultures and immigrants, it is impossible to stigmatize the whole population.  Go to little India on Newark Avenue in Jersey City and tell me if you are reminded of the folks on the MTV show.  Not likely.  Taste some chicken makhani or saag paneer and you will be back for more.

Say what you will about the industry, the hairspray, the housewives, or the Sopranos, this is the place I call home.  And to those who don’t want to get past the stereotypes to find the good stuff, it is fine by me.  Like my cousin said, more for us.

Image via: Nicholas_T

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Do What You Want Now

by Elena on December 11, 2009

Elena VazquezSomething one of my professors told a class of mine really stuck with me throughout the years.  It was a class on television and media, and although the exact details on the curriculum are fuzzy, his words are very clear.

He knew that there were a lot of aspiring writers, producers, directors, and creatives in the lecture hall, currently vying for intern positions at big media companies throughout New York City.  He also knew we were all anxious to work long hours, mostly for free, performing menial tasks just to get our foot in the door.  He told us of the importance of gaining personal experience by ‘being in the game’  but he also told us how easy it was to get stuck and lose focus on what we really wanted.

“If you want to be a film maker, make a movie.”  He said.  “Stop getting all those people their coffee and pick up a camera.”

Getting someone their coffee most certainly won’t make you a director, accomplished producer, or whatever else you set your heart on.  The key is to distinguish between what pays your bills and what helps accomplish your goals.  If making that coffee gets you in contact with the right people that’s great, but don’t wait to start doing what you love until after your big break.  You might be waiting a long time.

The fact of the matter is, bills need to be paid and food needs to be put on the table, which is why so many artists and entrepreneurs pursue their true passions on the side, until they can do it for a living.  In my past post about Carr’s NY Times article, I discussed the ways people in publishing are taking matters into their own hands.  Laryssa at Comma ‘N Sentence recently wrote about the ways she is handling the new media landscape by creating her own endeavors along the way.  The message is to simply do what you want now and not to wait for anyone.  If you want to direct movies, pick up a camera and start filming your own.  Start writing, taking pictures, making clothes, creating a business, cooking, or teaching, Whatever it is you want, start doing it now.

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Gadhimai Mela Animal Sacrifice

by Elena on November 27, 2009

Nepal Animal Sacrifice

Photo Courtesy: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/Courtesy WSJ-All Rights Reserved

Images like this man leaping in the air with a machete swung over his head, are what make photojournalism such an affecting medium.  It garners discomfort because the viewer knows that seconds after this picture was taken the man’s machete made its way through the animal’s flesh.  The story behind the man and this goat elicits a dichotomy between supporters and critics from people around the world.  Each year millions of worshipers in Nepal and neighboring India watch the killing of more than 250,000 animals.  This festival is in honor of the Hindu goddess of power Gadhimai, where participants offer sacrifices to her.

The thought of sacrificing thousands of animals for what most Westerners would consider insufficient reasons, can make any person cringe, not just vegetarians and animal activists.  My initial reaction was of discomfort, but after reading a post by The Travel Photographer, my initial criticisms were stunted.  Is sacrificing 250,000 animals to the goddess Gadhimai any different than sacrificing 45 million turkeys for the tradition of Thanksgiving?  Admittedly the semantics of the slaughter is like comparing apples to oranges.  One ceremony is in your face with blood staining the streets and carcasses laying lifeless. For anyone outside this culture it is very hard to stomach.  The ceremony we celebrate here is more subtle.  We kill 45 million turkeys, but it is behind the scenes, nicely hidden before we go to the supermarket to buy Thanksgiving dinner.

Growing up in a household where meat is a constant staple in our diet, has made me desensitized to many images that others might find offensive.  On trips to Galicia I have witnessed farm chickens being killed, as well as relished the efforts of pig slaughters in the form of chorizo and blood sausage.  Like many other cultures, we use every part of the pig, a tradition passed down from people who were poor and had to use every part of the animal.  There is an enormous amount of importance placed upon meals and mealtime as a family.  For me this is normal, for a vegetarian, probably not so much.

Globalization has made distinguishing what is ‘right and wrong’ slightly difficult.  It is a big world and we certainly don’t agree on everything.  I consider myself a tolerant person, however there are certain things that I am staunchly against without question ie female mutilation, honor killing; and other things that I am more ignorant and uncertain about such as covering the female form with hijabs and burkas.  So where is the line of understanding and injustice?  After looking at the picture above a second time, I still feel uncomfortable, but also because maybe I shouldn’t be judging so quickly.

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Happy Thanksgiving and Eid Mubarak

by Elena on November 26, 2009

Muslims around the world marked the first day of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice

Muslims around the world marked the first day of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice(Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Second-grader Christopher Moore, 8, center, participates in a Thanksgiving celebration at Beye Elementary School in Oak Park. (Andrew A. Nelles, Chicago Tribune / November 17, 2009)

Second-grader Christopher Moore, 8, center, participates in a Thanksgiving celebration at Beye Elementary School in Oak Park. (Andrew A. Nelles, Chicago Tribune / November 17, 2009)

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It’s Warm In Canada

by Elena on November 12, 2009

It’s warm in Canada in mid November.  This is not what I remember from last year, where the first snowfall came before Halloween.  There are vague memories of running out of my apartment in a tshirt and flipflops with a friend who had never seen snow before, only to turn right back around once the novelty wore off and my toes started to get numb.  It was just a dusting, but snow just the same.

This weather is unexpected but most definitely a welcomed surprise.  Hence after an eventful day of query and cover letters I will be off again to wander about and enter various cafes and bistros.  I need to work on the pending assignments I had been putting off.  Not a bad gig afterall, working while sipping a latte and having a Montreal bagel.  Despite all the gripes and difficulty I may have experienced with my transition to freelance, there have most definitely been many perks, my jaunt through Montreal being one of them.  Although I still haven’t figured out a complete balance with the freelance world, maybe that is the point.  Working for oneself has it own set of problems and with freelance you are working by yourself, not necessarily for yourself.  After complaining for about a week or so, I’ve decided to stop, get to writing, and maybe have a cafe au lait or two.

Montreal

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