Iran

Salam! This weekend finds us globetrotting in Iran. As Americans, the chances of us actually going to Iran someday are slim. Currently, U.S. citizens cannot travel in Iran independently, and are only permitted to travel on tours, following guided itineraries. (This is also true in at least one other country we’ve globetrotted to so far, Bhutan, with exceptions for specially invited guests of the Bhutanese government or citizens with standing.) Iran and the U.S. haven’t had formal diplomatic relations since 1980, before Derek and I were even alive. Even with a bunch of advanced degrees, we have to admit we know little about the history of Iran-U.S. relations, much less the history of Iran, except some inklings about the ancient Persian Empire.

Globetrotting, of course, is a learning opportunity, so here’s to educating ourselves this weekend.

While this picture is one I took years ago in Boston, not anywhere near Iran, I hope it’s an appropriate intro photo because Iranians love roses. The flower is indigenous to the area, and the technique of making rosewater from rose oil was probably first developed in Iran (you may also recall from our Bulgarian globetrot that Bulgarians also cultivate roses for oil). Rosewater and dried rose petals are used in Persian cooking.

Unfortunately roses didn’t factor into our cooking this weekend. I’d hoped to find dried rose petals suitable for eating, but was unsuccessful. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though.

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Indonesia

Selamat pagi! Good morning from Indonesia, a country with a long list of impressive distinctions. In terms of population: Indonesia is the world’s most populous island nation, most populous Muslim nation, and the fourth most populous country overall—just behind the United States. In terms of geography: Indonesia is a transcontinental country situated between Asia and Australia, a transoceanic country situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans, and an equatorial nation that nevertheless boasts a range of snow-covered mountains on the island of New Guinea. Continue reading

India

(Looking for Iceland? You can read our 2015 detour here.)

Namaste! After China, India is the second most populous country in the world. Like China, India is an amalgamation of diverse cultures, which will make covering the country in a single blog post challenging. I think we did okay in our globetrot to China, but my familiarity with some aspects of Chinese culture definitely helped. I’m far less knowledgeable about India, though we definitely enjoy Indian (or Americanized Indian) food. Therefore, I’ll apologize in advance for the gaps and inaccuracies this post will inevitably have. We tried!

We’ve also seen India’s cultural influence on several other countries we’ve already covered: Bangladesh, Fiji, and Guyana. India has also made a lot of contributions to the world as we know it today, including major religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, yoga, cotton cultivation, and the modern number system.

India also has biggest population of vegetarians in the world (and more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together), so I was definitely looking forward to eating this weekend.

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Hungary

Szervusz! Hello from central Europe, where we spent the weekend exploring the culture and cuisine of Hungary. If the name of the country itself is enough to whet your appetite, just wait until you see what we cooked up!

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Honduras

We went back to the Americas this weekend for our next country, Honduras. This Central American country is neighbors with two other countries we’ve already visited, El Salvador and Guatemala, and also shares a border with one additional country, Nicaragua.

Unfortunately, Honduras is notorious for having one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Some Internet sources list it as the country with the highest homicide rate, but it seems that murder rates have gone down in recent years. But, of course, you can’t judge an entire country based on just statistics, so our mission this weekend was to learn what else makes Honduras the country it is.

Vaya pues! Okay! Let’s get started!

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The Holy See

This weekend, our travels brought us to a “country” whose only sovereign territory is smaller than the city of Buffalo. The territory is so small, in fact, that it sits entirely within another nation’s capital. Give up? Our destination was none other than the Holy See—the secular authority over all 110 acres of Vatican City, in the heart of Rome, and the spiritual authority over some 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe. Pope Francis is the head of state.

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What was there to do for an entire weekend? For the first (and possibly last) time, our globetrotting had taken us to a place that may actually have been quicker to explore in real life. But as we soon came to realize, it’s the endless history of the Holy See that takes time to explore, more than the territory itself. Let’s go! Continue reading

Haiti

Haiti, our next country, has gotten a lot of mention in the U.S. news lately. The President has made derogatory remarks about the Caribbean nation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently decided to end Temporary Protected Status for thousands of Haitian immigrants who have legally been in the U.S. since a devastating earthquake struck their home country in 2010. (2010 may seem like a long time ago, enough time for a country to recover from an earthquake, but Haiti has also been struck by a cholera epidemic introduced by foreign aid workers, and by a hurricane in 2016.)

While Haiti is a country with serious problems, dismissing it like the President did would just be ignorant. Let’s be better than that.

Some other notable things about Haiti: it shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with another country we’ve globetrotted to, the Dominican Republic. It was the first independent nation in Latin America and Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, and can even be considered the first African republic because even though Haiti is not in Africa, about 95 percent of the population is of African descent. While there are many creole languages in the world, Haitian Creole is one of the few that has official language status (French is also an official language of Haiti). And now you and I may already know more about Haiti than the American president, but there’s still more to cover.

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Guyana

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Welcome to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America! This was not our first visit to the continent’s northeastern coast, where Guyana (once known as British Guiana) is followed to the east by Suriname (once Dutch Guiana), French Guiana (still a part of France), and the state of Amapá (once Portuguese Guiana) in Brazil. To the west is the Guiana region of Venezuela (once Spanish Guiana). Whew! One of the most fascinating lessons of our weekend adventure was that Guyana might well be called Indian Guiana, too, with almost 45 percent of the population being of South Asian descent. With cultural influences from Africa, Europe, Asia, and (of course) the Americas, we were excited to learn more about what holds this small country together and makes it special.

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Guinea-Bissau

Bon día! This weekend found us in Guinea-Bissau, which happens to be the northwestern neighbor of our previous globetrotting destination, Guinea. While Guinea is a former French colony, Guinea-Bissau once belonged to the Portuguese. As colonies, Guinea was called French Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau Portuguese Guinea.

The number one export of Guinea-Bissau is the cashew:

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Guinea

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Bonjour, and long time no see, from the Republic of Guinea! Located on the western coast of Africa, Guinea is a predominantly Muslim country which gained its independence from France in 1958. As for Jess and I, after a busy couple of months we were excited to grab our globetrotting passports again and learn as much as we could about this culturally rich West African nation.

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