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Eid al-Adha, The Festival of Sacrifice

by Elena on November 29, 2009

Eid al-Adha celebrates the biblical story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his willingness to sacrifice his son for God without question.  Soon after Ibrahim ties up his son, an angel came down from heaven to stop the sacrifice and Ibrahim sacrifices a ram instead.  The story illustrates Ibrahim’s obedience to God and his willingness to sacrifice what is most important to him. While Eid el-Fitr is a festivity that breaks the fast of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha is the latter festival, when Muslims sacrifice animals or offer a donation of charity in the spirit of the Ibrahim story.

A boy laughed as he waited for customers at an animal market on a rainy day near Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God. The holiday is celebrated by slaughtering animals. (Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

A boy near Kabul, Afghanistan, celebrates the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Muslim pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Muslim pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

These pictures were found on The Wall Street Journal and



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.



People in Quebec speak French, however they don’t speak as the French do.  The accent, the words, the expressions are all greatly different than the Francophones overseas.  Admitedly the accent took awhile to get used to.  Quebecois tend to speak quickly with a more nasal quality to their sounds, versus the French who seems to always be pushing words out to the front of their mouth were they will stay.  The Quebecois also love to contract words, not helpful for those who can’t catch on to such subtleties.
Who are the Quebecois?

Who are the Quebecois?

Quebecois Expressions and Idiomatic Phrases

Hello hi
Ok granted this isn’t a word, but if you’ve spent more than an afternoon in downtown Montreal, or more than 15 minutes in a department store, you will get the words BonjourHi spoken to you, so closely jumbled it’s as if it were one word.  This is a bilingual city afterall and most people, in particular those working in restaurants, stores, etc need to speak English and French.  Since there is not distinguishing factor on who is Anglophone or Franchophone, the bonjourhi serves to allow the person to answer in his or her stronger language.

Ta Blonde
My Blond
Calling someone your blond is not in anyway refering to their haircolor.  Any blonde jokes are not refering to a ditzy personality, or an aloof demeaner.  If you tell a blonde joke you better make sure your girlfriend isn’t nearby because you will be making fun of her.

Mon Chum
My bud
To make matters confusing, the word chum can refer to a boyfriend or a male friend.  Makes the ‘what are we’ conversations you have with your significant other a little harder to decipher.  Are we chums or are you my chum? I also find the traditional French word for boyfriend a bit strange as well.  If someone is your petit ami they literally are your little friend, otherwise known as your boyfriend.

Baise-moué l’ail
Kiss my garlic
Come on use your imagination.  Kiss my garlic…  Kiss my…  Don’t know how garlic became appropriate for such a term, but hey, to each his own.

Avoir mal aux cheveux
Have a hairache
If you ever woken up to a splitting headache caused by excessive amounts of alcohol.  We aren’t perfect afterall.  To be mal aux cheveux means you have one of the worst hangovers of your life.  It’s so bad naturally your hair hurts.

être tiguidou
It’s all good.  Everything’s peachy. Okey dokey.  Everything is fine.  All is well.  Everything’s in order.  A-ok.  I think you get the picture.

Lâche pas la patate!
Don’t let go of the potato.
Hmm this is an interesting one.  When someone says don’t let go of the potato they don’t want you to wimp out. In other words, don’t be a pansy.  Not really sure why you have to hold on to a potato to do so.  Maybe it has something to do with poutine?

Se laisser manger la laine sur le dos
To let eat the wool right off your back
If you let someone eat the shirt off your back, well then you’re a complete idiot.  Although not so sure the other guy is that smart either.

J’ai la langue à terre
I have my tongue on the floor
In Quebec if you have your tongue on the floor it means you are extremely tired or extremely hungry, which can be a little confusing since each time you say it, you will need to elaborate which one you mean.

Note on cursing in Quebec: Similar to other cultures, the Quebecois have appropriated seemingly ‘good’ words and turned around their meanings.  Religious terminolgy can be used to express discomfort, annoyance, or merely to tell someone off.  By turning these relgious words into something negative, the Quebecois made a statement against the church, who had a stronghold on French Canadians in the past.

Image via: laurent_gilot



Jewel of the Jersey Shore Asbury Park

by Elena on September 11, 2009

Jewel of the Jersey Shore Asbury Park in 1914
Image via: Shorpy
Throughout the 90s and 2000, Asbury Park has seen better days. Once known as the jewel of the Jersey Shore, the famous beach town changed from a popular summer getaway to a forgotten, ghost town, on account of economic hard times, corruption, and the riots of 1970. Still the mystique of Asbury Park has never been forgotten, frozen in time, inspiring Bruce Springsteen to make his album Greetings From Asbury Park, and talk about psychic Madame Marie in 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). Still many more artists keep coming back to play at venues such as the Stone Pony.

The past couple of decades, driving through Asbury Park has garnered a completely different image than the old picture of prosperity (ie the black and white photograph above of women in petticoats and men in full suits). You were more likely to pass buildings with shattered windows, garbage strewn on the street, and bars blocking doorway entrances, rather than the a busy boardwalk full of joggers, shoppers, and out of towners. Asbury Park was crime ridden, run down, and dirty, left to decay after the hard times.
Jewel of the Jersey Shore Asbury Park this too shall pass
Image via: Keith Meyers/The New York Times
Despite the hardships of the past, each coming year it seems that Asbury is gaining a breathe of fresh air. I visited Asbury this summer and from just two years ago the changes are drastic. You can see from my post of Greetings From Asbury Park that more people are returning to this one time vacation destination. The new restoration projects, as well as the new stores that will be opening on the boardwalk, have some people excited and others groaning. After all, if a bunch of overpriced cafes serving $6 cups of ice coffee start popping up, some worry that Asbury may loose some of its authenticity.

Unfortunately that is what happens when a place starts to become ‘popular’ once again. Suddenly the Starbucks of the world want to put up shop. As for me, I’m torn. The juxtaposition of such old favorites as the Stony Pony and the Wonder Bar, next to the new trendy cafes on the Asbury boardwalk makes for a more interesting, and I hate to say, convenient visit. More than anything, although Asbury may be a ‘diamond in the rough,’ a ‘hidden gem,’ an ‘up and coming destination’ (insert any other trite, travel writing cliche here), now the city is given the opportunity to be what it once was, hopefully without loosing its unusual Jersey Shore town charm.



Tam Tams and Medieval Sword Fights

by Elena on August 26, 2009

Tam Tams Montreal 1Image via: lukelukeluke
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Montreal… what to do, what to do? You go to Tam Tams of course. Each Sunday musicians, artists, university students, hippies, tourists, families, anglophones, and francophones fill Jean Mance Park in Mont-Royal to take part in what could be called a huge, dance, party picnic. If you have a drum feel free to join in. Everyone is encouraged to dance. Tam Tams is about participation and celebration; everyone is welcome.

While many dance around the angel, many others bring blankets and food and enjoy a day of lounging around in the sun, while listening to the drum beats. If you don’t have a drum you can buy one from the street vendors that are stationed along Avenue du Parc. There is an array of scarfs, shirts, wood-carved figurines, and much more merchandise you can’t resist from buying even though it has no purpose, such as dream catchers, a jumping frog, or a finger trap.
Tam Tams Montreal 3
Some say the origins of this tradition are unknown, although trusty Wikipedia states that Tam Tams started in the late 70s after a workshop on African drumming at a jazz bar. The city of Montreal did not organize this spontaneous gathering, however they have become involved because of its extreme popularity. They provide first aid and permits for streer vendors.

Pounding on a bunch of drums all day may seem tedious to an outsider, but participants and viewers are hooked. Tam Tams really captures the spirit of Montreal, a city that prides itself on its creativity, art, and expression.
Tam Tams Montreal Dancer and DrumsImage via: Gregoire Lannoy (en vacance)
Tam Tams takes place in the summer months and will be finishing soon. The city of Montreal makes the schedule from May to September. Although the schedule doesn’t keep away everyone. You will find hard core tam tam fans still drumming well into autumn.
Tam Tams Montreal 2Image via: Aschaf
Probably the most peculiar and oddly enjoyable show to watch during Tam Tams is the mock medieval battle. People come out dressed up in their best medieval garb and they fight with foam swords and shields. I admit I thought it was crazy at first but who hasn’t wanted to pick up a foam sword and Brutus someone from behind? Ok maybe not everyone, but I really liked Medieval Times as a child.
Tam Tams Medieval Fight MontrealImage via: Jean-Baptiste Duthu


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I Am In Love With An Assassin

by Elena on June 25, 2009

Before I get any phone calls from worried relatives, I want to state that I am not personally in love with an assassin, but rather I read an article about a British Journalist who fell in love with one. Phew, now that that’s settled.

In this month’s July issue of Marie Claire, journalist Jason P. Howe describes his pretty ‘normal’ relationship with a woman who was involved in a completely atypical situation. Below are Howe and his girlfriend Marylin.

I love Marie Claire, precisely because the magazine offers so much more than the typical women’s magazine articles, you know the type, ‘how to please your guy with just your pinky finger,’ or ‘the one day secret diet to loosing 10 pounds.’ Marie Claire, along with the fluff pieces, offers stories about issues that concern people, especially women, from across the globe. One of the stories that really intrigued me a couple months ago, was regarding a group of women in India who were fed up with rapists, abusers, and corrupt officials getting away with their crimes, so naturally they took justice in their own hands and formed the Gulabi Gang, a group of crime fighting women. Talk about Batman with a twist.

Jason P. Howe’s story is also pretty incredible. He was on assignment in Colombia and met Marylin. She invited him over to her house, where she lived with her parents and daughter. Soon they feel in love, not unlike many of us have experienced before. We have all kept secrets from our significant others at some point or another for fear of them judging us, however Marylin had a secret that would be hard for anyone to guess. She was an assassin for the paramilitary groups of her country. She killed on a regular basis, often brutally and with the intention to strike fear in others, which means that the bodies are often grotesquely displayed. Talk about a shocker for poor Jason. The article is intriguing however as Jason tries to grasp how the person he loves could kill with such disinterest and nonchalance. Click here to read the whole article.