Monday, July 31, 2006

On The Duk Ling

That's where *I* wish I was today! Our part of Canada (Mississauga, Ontario), is sweltering! Right now, at 9:30 P.M., it's still 33C (92F) and really humid.

In fact, it's weather just like Hong Kong has during the summer, or spring, or fall, but at least in Hong Kong, I could go out on the Duk Ling for an hour or so. Here at home, I don't know anyone who has a boat. Ah, even if I did, with this weather, I'd have to stand in line.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Web Design Is Hard Work!

For two, no, *three* days now, I've been splitting up two long web pages into smaller bits that are easier for visitors to navigate. It involves a lot of repetitive work (think assembly line). I've also learned some new coding, which I am implementing, so the learning curve is steep. Vertical, almost.

That's the thing about learning how to do your own web pages -- you never stop learning. Ever. The web is changing so fast, there is always something new, and harder to learn if you are not a techie. If you've never done web work before, though, a blog is a good place to start. I know I wish I had.

As it is, some of the new pages are now linked from Travel Tips

I have to go now. I think I sprained my brain!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Top 5 Best Meals *

*(With deep apologies to those on the Haiti Diet)

Going through a notebook today, I came across a reference to a great meal I'd enjoyed while on the road. It brought to mind other great meals. Oh, not the kind when you push back from the table, and say, My, that was good. No, I mean the kind of dinner that has you hunting down the cook so shake his hand, and with tears of gratitude welling in your eyes, proclaim him a genius for creating the best meal ever.

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are my Top 5 great dinners.

1. Best Steak :: Anywhere in Argentina. Full stop.
Price : $5-$10 CAD

2. Best Fish and Chips :: Rockford Hotel Adelaide, Australia
Price : $27 CAD (and worth every cent!)
Three large (I wrote down the dimensions!) portions of whiting, cooked in an airy crisp batter, with equally lightweight crispy-edged, 'fluffy in the center' chips, served with a salad of Mesclun Mix (as those weird miniature greens are called in Canada), red onion bits, wafer-thin cucumber sliced lengthwise, and sliced mango, in a lime coriander chili vinaigrette.

3. Best Cantonese/Fusion :: Jasmine, Hong Kong
Price :: DK (I was a guest)
Perfectly Grilled Shrimps, and Beef with Soft Bones served inside a whole poached Asian pear. Heaven! These dishes deservedly won awards in Hong Kong's Best of the Best 2005
(Photos at Snapshot Journeys Hong Kong)

4. Best Sweet & Sour Chicken :: Manhattan Hotel, Bangkok
Price : $8 CAD
Chunks of hand cut chicken breast sauteed then simmered in a tomato-based sauce of chunky fresh pineapple, green and red peppers (capsicum), celery and green onions, served over a mound of fluffy Thai rice.

5. Laksa :: Anywhere in Sydney, Australia
Price : $7-10 CAD
A Malaysian style 'soup' -- a bowl of noodles, with either shrimp or chicken, served in a coconut milk broth flavored with lime, ginger, coriander, chilies that smells good enough to use as cologne. On a recent trip to Sabah, Malaysia, I looked forward to trying authentic laksa. When none appeared on any menu by the third day, I asked for it. Imagine my disappointment to be told, "Oh that's common food. We'd *never* serve it to guests!"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Further to the Haiti posts . . .

Further to the Haiti Diet post, and subsequent remarks from Canadian charity Starthrower Foundation founder Sharon Gaskell a few days ago, it occurred to me some people might wonder how Haitians became hungry, and had no money to pay for their children's schooling. (Starthrower raises money to pay for tuition and a bit of food for students in the Cap-Haitien area of Haiti).

Here's an excerpt from a book she recommends, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder, about Paul Farmer and his own work in Haiti.

. . . [Most peasants] had their black, low-slung Creole pigs, which they kept like bank accounts, to pay for things such as school tuition. But in the early 1980s, they lost those as well. Alarmed about an outbreak of African swine fever in the Dominican Republic, afraid that it might threaten the American pork industry, the United States led an effort to destroy all the Creole pigs in Haiti. The plan was to replace them with pigs purchased from Iowa farmers. But these were much more delicate, much more expensive to house and feed, and they didn't thrive. Many peasants ended up with pigs at all. 'When school started the year after the slaughter, enrollments had declined dramatically, throughout the country and around Cange . . .

'Traveling' to Chile today and tomorrow

One last story to finish for the magazine, so I shall be immersed in central Chile all day, and likely for the next day or so as well. (Freelancers have to be sticklers for submitting copy that's error-free, with perfect grammar and punctuation and that, my friends, is what takes the most time.)

Then tonight I will pull together the photos of Santiago (Chile) and Valparaiso (some of which are on the web site) as well as the unpublished ones from the Casablanca Valley with its vineyards and wineries, which the editor particularly wants to feature.

Though I love working from home, the 'boss' is a bit of a whip-cracker. I can hardly wait to finish this last story so I can get out and enjoy the fabulous summer weather. Hard to believe July is mostly over!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Haiti Diet Update (from the Front Lines)

An earlier blog prompted an email from Sharon Gaskell, founder of Starthrower Foundation.

Re Haitian diet commentary :: It is great. Add a fact:: This planet produces enough food daily to provide each inhabitant with 3500 calories or 4.3 pounds of food. We have too many overweight, and the other half are starving. We have a GREED problem, not a NEED problem. Come on, folks! Let's do distributive justice. Everyone will be healthier. Kenbe red, Sharon (in Cap-Haitien, Haiti)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Immersed in Chilean Wine Country

Not much time to think about the next trip, or even work on the web sites. I am on deadline for the magazine for the next week or so, and deadlines wait for no man. And since my editor would like the focus to be on Chilean wines and wine tours for a travel story about Chile, I have had to get up to speed on tastings, vintages and regions, and much else.

I've talked to several experts in various parts of the wine industry, and learned so much! Think how pretentious I can be the next time someone pours me a glass. I can hardly wait!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Haiti Diet :: Lose Weight Fast

Given the developed world's preoccupation with (and apparent willingness to spend money on) diet and weight loss books, videos and classes, it occurs to me that perhaps I should get myself a car on that gravy train.

I know a simple diet plan that results in fairly rapid weight loss. Of course, it also results in poor nutrition, but from what I have seen of other such plans, this outcome does not hinder sales. People desperate to lose weight are always looking for the quick fix to shedding pounds -- a pill, a product, a fat farm, eating the 'right' combinations of foods or so-called 'miracle' foods with negative calories.

Doctors generally suggest that those who are overweight simply eat less and exercise more, but this method is so simple, and so inexpensive that, they must reason, it cannot be effective. So here's my idea for the Haiti Diet (copyright Karen Zabawa 2006).

So my idea is to write the diet book. That done, I would design a 2-3 week tour to Haiti where guests can live, and eat, with a typical Haitian family. Of course, having adequate funds, the guests could afford to buy potable water, which they could share with their host family. So, too, would guests have the means to purchase rice, beans and oil, as long as there is stock available and the shops are open. The host family should be able to provide bananas and mangos in season. This could be a win-win situation for guests and hosts. The guests experience rapid weight loss, and the hosts experience weight gain. Walking long distances to market over hilly gravel roads would take care of the required exercise.

Of course, this diet plan cannot be sustained long-term without serious health risks such as malnutrition and susceptibility to infection and disease. Since it hinders normal growth in children, it should only be followed by adults.

If the Haiti tour is a success, then I could add new tours to other destinations, perhaps to Ethiopia. I most likely would collaborate on the book and tours with long time Haiti Diet follower Sharon Gaskell (no, not the Sharon Gaskell of Coronation Street fame, the one from Canadian charity Starthrower Foundation).

And in this spirit of win-win, we could donate the proceeds to Starthrower Foundation.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Written Words *Not* Equal :: Electronic versus Print

Web words and print words may *look* the same (or at least very nearly the same), but given the electronic version's penchant for code and abbreviation, and no-accountability self-publishing, they are worlds apart. And that's just fine, as long as you don't abandon one in favor of the other.

Whenever there's an article about electronic/digital media usurping print media, the usual premise is that they are interchangeable in all but format. This is faulty thinking :: They are two separate media performing entirely separate functions, each valid and useful, and should be used appropriately. The written word is not an either-or proposition.

(You could state that a 20-year-old 'humpty' (jalopy, beater) and this year's hot sports car are both vehicles and therefore the same, but you'll likely not find anyone who thinks they are interchangeable. So, too, with the written word, be it web site or text book.)

For accuracy, consult print -- the content usually begins with an actual authority on the subject, then undergoes rigorous fact-checking and editing. Even then, errors occur, but usually less frequently than on the free-for-all web, where anyone with internet access can spout off unfettered.

Use each media as needed :: For quick access to massive amounts of information, by all means go online; For in-depth enjoyment and appreciation of the richness of the English language, get a good book, and preferably one authored by a master. Like Charles Montgomery, a young Canadian writer (grandson of Field Marshall Montgomery; great-grandson of Henry Montgomery, Bishop of Tasmania) who follows roughly in the path of his archbishop ancestor and recounts his journey through Melanesia in The Last Heathen. I've just read it for the second time, and I know I shall read it again.

If you've been doing all your reading online, then do yourself a favor and savour the beauty of the written language produced by a master.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Health Rx :: Travel More!

According to an article in the Washington Post, reprinted in today's Toronto Star Careers section, vacationing is becoming a lost art.

One in four North Americans, it claims, are planning to work while on vacation this year. Along with their sunscreen and bathing suits, they tote their cell phones and laptops. Asks the author, Amy Joyce, "So is it still considered a vacation? Or are you just working from a prettier office?"

The point is argued that, given a total rest from work and a chance to recharge your batteries, you return less stressed and more productive. That the survey was conducted by a major travel supplier is not surprising.

But I can see their point :: Though I plan like mad for my time away, once I am on that plane, home, work and worries evaporate. Whatever happens back home is out of my hands. And that feeling of total lack of care is worth the price of any trip.

For my pre-travel routines and tips, see Before You Go and What to Pack. You'll notice there's not a cell phone nor laptop to be found.

Happy Canada Day!