Croatia

Dugo se gismo vidjeli! Long time no see! This weekend finds us in Croatia–and in Buffalo, New York. While we’re just globetrotting to Croatia for the weekend, Derek and I will be living in Buffalo for the next two years, as Derek has a teaching appointment at a local university. Our knowledge of Buffalo is still pretty limited, but globetrotting can definitely motivate us to explore the area.

We’ve already globetrotted to one of Croatia’s neighbors, Bosnia, while we were still living in Boston, so we were interested to see what Buffalo could offer us for another Balkan/southern European nation.

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One thing that sets Croatia apart is that Croats are credited with the invention of the necktie–the word “cravat” is very similar to the Croatian word for Croats, Hrvati. When Croatian mercenaries teamed up with the French during the Thirty Years’ War back in the 1600s, the French took notice of the neckerchiefs the mercenaries were wearing, and a trend was born. The Croats even celebrate International Necktie Day on October 18.

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Côte d’Ivoire

Bonjour from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, also known (in English) as the Ivory Coast. After gaining its independence from France in 1960, this West African nation became one of the region’s ecomonic success stories under the lengthy presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. During the last twenty years, however, Côte d’Ivoire has been rocked by several civil wars and widespread poverty. We were therefore excited to learn not only about the country’s food and culture but also about the steps it has taken to become a prosperous and peaceful nation once again.

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Costa Rica

For a long time, I’ve associated this weekend’s country, Costa Rica, with Jurassic Park. In the nineties, when the movie was coming out, my brother bought a copy of the novel, and being the nosy little sister that I was, I started reading it. The story begins with a young family vacationing in Costa Rica, and while I don’t remember the specifics, I know I was too freaked out to read the rest of the book. I stayed home when my mom took my brother  to see the movie, because I thought it would be “too scary.” To this day, I haven’t seen Jurassic Park, besides a few minutes here and there when I stumbled on it while flipping through TV channels. I guess I prefer my dinosaurs a little more friendly-looking, like this magnet Derek and I have on our fridge:

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Of course, as a (relatively) reasonable adult, I’ve come to realize that Costa Rica is not a country teeming with killer reptiles. I knew it’s one of the most stable Latin American nations, and one of the most eco-friendly nations in the world. But I still had a lot to learn coming into this weekend.

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Congo

Bonjour from the Congo! Bonjour from the Congo, again! In case you did not know, Africa is home to both the Republic of the Congo and its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To some extent, these independent countries each have their own histories and cultures. There’s not much in Boston that relates to either of them, however, so we decided to take the unprecedented step of visiting two destinations in the very same weekend. Allons-y! Continue reading

Comoros

Bonjour from the Comoros! Comoros is comprised of three islands off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean. As you may have already guessed, it was once a French colony. Like many of France’s former African colonies, it has struggled with political instability since gaining independence. We were curious, though, to learn what makes Comoros unique.

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Colombia

Buenos días from the Republic of Colombia! And hello, spring! We were excited to return to globetrotting after a rather busy but enjoyable winter—which even included a real-life globetrot to the Azores in Portugal—and this South American country was next on our list.

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China

Usually, when globetrotting is challenging, it’s because Derek and I can’t find enough information on a country, such as recipes, or films or other cultural elements. China poses the complete opposite problem: there’s so much. Recipes and restaurants were hard to pick this weekend, because there are many, and with only so much time, we have to be selective. That one is not Chinese enough. This one is also too Americanized. Do we really want this to be representative of Chinese culture? I’m no expert on Chinese culture, but I’m of Chinese descent (New York-born and bred, but both of my parents were born in Asia), and I definitely know more about China than I have about a lot of our other countries so far.

Other than Canada, China is the one country we’ve globetrotted to so far that I’ve visited in person (almost twenty years ago). Here’s a photo from the Great Wall:

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Well, that’s enough for a preamble. Ni hao! And since Lunar New Year was last Monday, xin nian kuai le! Happy New Year!

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Chile

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Buenos días from the southernmost country in South America: Chile! While we were hoping to dodge the massive weekend blizzard that threatened much of the East Coast, the good people of Santiago de Chile were expecting sunny skies with highs of around 80° F (27° C). As you may have guessed from the photo above, Easter Island is also a part of Chile, and we were lucky enough to view one of its famous megaliths last month during a visit to the American Musuem of Natural History in New York.

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Chad

Lalê! This weekend found us in Chad, which just so happens to be the northern neighbor of our last country, the Central African Republic, and also shares a border with Cameroon, which we’ve also covered very recently. Like the C.A.R. and Cameroon, Chad is a former French colony. All three countries also use the Central African CFA franc as currency (along with three other nations we haven’t visited yet). In researching foods, we found many common ingredients, including millet, tropical fruits, peanuts and rice.

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Of course, we want to know what makes Chad unique, but it’s also nice recognizing similarities in countries we visit.

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Central African Republic

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Balao! Our second globetrot of the new year brought us from the West African archipelago of Cabo Verde to a republic located in Central Africa. Its name? Why, the Central African Republic, of course! While New England boasts one of the largest communities of immigrants from Cabo Verde in the world, we didn’t have similar luck with the CAR. As you will see, we put our globetrotting skills to work nonetheless and learned as much as we could from afar.

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