El Salvador

Hola! This weekend found us in Latin America once again, this time in El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The country tends to have a bad reputation for being a dangerous and violent place, but I don’t think we’re being Pollyannas by believing that there are good things about El Salvador, its people and culture, that don’t get as much attention.

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Ecuador

Hola! This weekend found us in the Americas again, in our first “E” country, Ecuador. Even though the country is a neighbor of Peru, a country that my family has ties to, I didn’t know much about Ecuador, except that it grows a lot of bananas.

Ecuador is in the northwestern part of the South American continent, and as you may have already guessed from its name, it’s at the equator (“Ecuador” is Spanish for “equator”). And as we were finding recipes and grocery shopping, it became pretty evident that this small country (roughly the size of the state of Colorado) has more than just bananas. While not everything in the picture below was made in Ecuador or with Ecuadorian ingredients, this is just some of what we bought for our recipes this weekend.

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VámanosLet’s go!

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Dominican Republic

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Hola and feliz año nuevo from the Dominican Republic! This New Year’s weekend brought us from the tiny Commonwealth of Dominica (population 73,000) to its much larger neighbor, the Dominican Republic (population 10.4 million). The two island nations sit about a thousand kilometers apart in the Caribbean Sea. The Dominican Republic is not alone, however, as it shares the vast island of Hispaniola with the nation of Haiti. Continue reading

Dominica

If you’re like me, you probably first pronounced the name of this next country with the stress on the second syllable, like “Dominican Republic,” minus the final “n” in the first word and “Republic”. But that’s not correct. The correct pronunciation is more like the girl’s name Dominique, with an added “uh” sound at the end.

Dominica is a tiny island nation in the Caribbean, and a former French-then British colony. It isn’t related to the larger, Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. Both people from Dominica and the Dominican Republic identify as Dominicans, but again, there’s the difference in pronunciation and stress.

Compared to other islands in the Caribbean, Dominica isn’t as big a tourist destination, which probably explains why it’s not as well known. But even though Dominica may be a bit more obscure, Derek and I were determined to give this globetrot our best efforts.

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Cuba

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¡Hola, amigos! Our second globetrot from Buffalo brought us to the Republic of Cuba, which occupies the largest island in the Caribbean Sea. Last year, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in several decades, and while we weren’t planning to visit in person, we were excited to learn as much as we could about our mysterious neighbor to the south. We still weren’t sure whether our new city would offer as many opportunities for us to explore international cultures, but once again (as with Croatia), we were in for a pleasant surprise. Continue reading

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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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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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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Canada

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Hello and bonjour from Canada, our great neighbor to the north! Just like our previous globetrotting destination, Cameroon, Canada’s official languages are English and French. But unlike the African republic, Canada was a country that both Jess and I had visited on multiple occasions—including on our weekend getaway to Halifax (above) earlier this year. We’ve also had Canadian relatives on both sides of the family. Given our familiarity with the Great White North, we looked forward to revisiting some favorite foods and activities while also making time to discover something new. We weren’t disappointed!

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Brazil

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Olá from Brazil, the largest country in South America and the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. Brazil is now gearing up to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but the country was already making headlines as a sports destination last year when it hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup during our globetrot to Argentina, which fielded the second-place team. We had already encountered some Brazilian cuisine while exploring another former Portuguese colony, Angola, but we were both excited to taste some more. Continue reading