Finland

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Hyvää huomenta! Good morning from Finland! Finland is one of the Nordic countries—together with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland—but is not a part of the region known as Scandinavia. That distinction belongs to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark alone. While Swedish is also an official language of Finland, the Finnish language itself shares more in common with Estonian, the language of Finland’s neighbor to the south (Estonia). As you can see from the hyperlinks above, we had already visited several nearby countries, but this weekend we naturally hoped to discover what makes Finland unique. Continue reading

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Fiji

Bula! We’ve now reached Fiji, the first of the “F” countries (of which there are only three). Fiji’s islands are known for their beaches and year-round warm weather, and are a popular tourist destination. Even if you haven’t visited Fiji, you’ve most likely seen Fiji Water in your local stores, which actually is from Fiji.

Derek and I normally drink tap water, but when globetrotting to Fiji… buy Fiji Water?

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Estonia

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Tere! Our second globetrot of the spring took us to Estonia, one of the least-populated countries in the European Union and the northernmost of the three Baltic states, which also include Latvia and Lithuania. Today known for its booming tech industry (home to companies such as Skype) Estonia has had a long and delicious history at the cultural crossroads of the Baltics, Scandinavia, and beyond. Continue reading

Eritrea

When I think of Eritrea, I think of Asmara, a restaurant in Central Square, a neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass, that I lived in during two periods of my life, first in my later college years and again when Derek and I moved in together. The restaurant was there during both periods, and was where I had Eritrean/Ethiopian food for the first time as a college junior. Derek and I also had one of our final meals there before moving from Cambridge to Buffalo, a fitting end to my days as a Central Square resident. (Even if Derek and I return to the Boston area someday, it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to afford the Central Square rents, which always seem to be increasing.)

But, I digress. Even though I’ve long been familiar with Asmara the Central Square restaurant, I hadn’t learned a lot about its namesake, the Eritrean capital also called Asmara, or about Eritrean culture in all that time. I had assumed Eritrea has similar food to Ethiopia, because Asmara the restaurant’s menu is similar to the menus of Ethiopian restaurants I’ve also tried. We’ve already globetrotted to Ethiopia on a detour over two years ago, so here was our chance to zero in on Eritrea.

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Equatorial Guinea

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¡Hola from Equatorial Guinea! Aside from being the only Spanish-speaking nation in Africa, this country is also unique because its capital city lies on a large island, Bioko, located off the coast of Cameroon. Equatorial Guinea is infamous for being one of the worst governed (and least visited) countries on the planet, but this weekend we hoped to learn about its charms as well as its difficulties. Continue reading

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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Egypt

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صباح الفل  Sabah il-full from Egypt! This colloquial greeting literally means “morning of jasmine” in Egyptian Arabic. With a history spanning more than twelve thousand years, Egypt is one of the oldest and most populous nations in the world. Today, evidence of its global influence is easy to find in Buffalo’s historic Forest Lawn Cemetery (above) where we discovered not only a stately sphinx but also dozens of pointed obelisks rising high into the air. Continue reading

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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