On the Hunt for Joy Challenge: Jump for Joy

Cee’s new photo challenge that she puts out every Wednesday is On the Hunt for Joy. This week the topic is Jump for Joy. Cee says that for this topic,
Here are a few ideas to get you going.
Anyone jumping, hopping or skipping
trampoline
exercising for fun
animals who jump or hop
throwing things
Tip from Ingrid Fetell Lee: Jump for Joy: The photographer Philippe Halsman took photos of everyone who was anyone in his day, from Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn to Richard Nixon, and he always made them jump. He believed that jumping helped people drop their masks and release the joyful self inside. To get the same effect, jump on the bed, bounce on a trampoline, or do jumping jacks.

Exercising for fun:
German teenaged girls doing a dance routine in Würzburg
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Video: Samba on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil:

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Beach volleyball on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Little jumping guy – Av. Paulista, São Paulo:

Animals that jump:
Cats jump
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Hazel playing & pouncing

Impalas jump
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SYW: On Plagiarism, Pets & Pet Names, Dancing and Thanksgiving

Questions:
Is copying and pasting images or information off the Internet plagiarism? Do you credit those whose work you ‘borrow freely’ or do you think the idea is repugnant? (Credit for this question goes to GC and Sue)
It’s not plagiarism if you specifically state that the work is not your own. Ideally, you should credit the author and web site from which the image or info came. When this is not possible or feasible, I will at least caption or tag the image as having been downloaded from Google, for example. I use a lot of web sites when researching information for a post and I will always link back to the URL I got it from.

Do you let sleeping dogs lie?
I don’t have a dog, but I do have a cat and mostly I DO let a sleeping cat lie! If she’s lying on my computer chair, I’ll sit elsewhere and do something else. If she’s on my favorite armchair, I will actually sit somewhere less comfortable to accommodate her. MOST of the time. Sometimes I’m ornery and then she has to leave! If she’s on my lap, I usually will use this as an excuse not to get up to do something. However, if she feels the slightest movement from me of getting up – some muscle in my thigh tightens a little – she’ll get up and jump off. So she also accommodates me!
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What’s the strangest pet name (for adults) that you’ve ever heard someone called?
My son’s last name is hyphenated so he’s sometimes been called “Hyphen Elf.” Or “Fro” when his hair was large and curly!  My former mother-in-law had the nickname “Baby.” (This might not be too strange for an English-speaking person, but she was Brazilian.) She liked people to call her that, but did not like it when someone thought it was “cute” to give her childish gifts, such as cutesy balloons or toys. (Yes, someone actually did this to her!) She got the nickname from a boyfriend in her youth, so her husband was not too pleased with it. Yet he also referred to her as Baby!

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Me (left) dancing at a niece’s wedding (2013)

Do you like to dance? If yes, what’s your favorite and if no, why not?
I like to dance but I’m a lousy dancer. I can’t dance with a partner at all. If the guy tries to twirl me, I get all mixed up! But I do love salsa and other Latin dances. I used to be pretty good at dancing samba but now that I’m older, I get worn out very quickly! For years, I took a Zumba class at our local park district and the instructor was dynamite. Because of this, I still listen to Latin dance music on my headphones when I am working out. It really gets me going!

Gratitude Question:
November brings Thanksgiving to Americans. I know Canada celebrates Thanksgiving too, but I believe it’s in October. Does your country celebrate a similar holiday? If you’d like, share some traditions you observe around Thanksgiving or if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, what are some traditions you have?
Since I live in the USA, I celebrate Thanksgiving, which has always been one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving was the day that traditionally a lot of our family would get together, rotating houses each year and people traveling to the hosts’ house. We’d have a big, noisy crowd and it was a time to talk to family members I rarely see! Although we still have a get-together with family, it’s usually only with one branch of the family, while others in my immediate family will have their own celebration, even if they are only a few miles away. Anyway, I am grateful for having the large, happy family I have – we all get along; we love and support each other – and that seems to be getting more and more rare these days. I am also grateful to be able to pass the torch to the younger generation to host Thanksgiving dinners – we just have to show up, with a bottle of wine or some other no-work item!

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Much of my extended family at a Thanksgiving gathering in 2017

Share Your World 11/11/19

 

Journey to Egypt, Part 17: Horemheb’s Temple & Gebel Silsila Quarry

December 30, 2018

This afternoon we arrived at the narrowest stretch of the Nile, an area that the Egyptians called “Khenu” or the place of rowing. At Gebel Silsila, high sandstone cliffs come down close to the water’s edge.DSC_0387
20181230_150716dThe Temple of Horemheb is small and not well-known.
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Nile cruise ships don’t stop here because they are too large to moor in this area.

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Cruise ship passes us by as we stand on shore. To the right is another moored dahabeya, which possibly had a famous passenger – the queen of Belgium! She is apparently working with or observing archeologists at the site.

The temple itself is not in great condition compared to others we had seen and would see over the next few days. It was interesting because of the different inscriptions, not just hieroglyphic writing, but also hieratic script, demotic writing of later times, with Greek influences, and Coptic script from early Christian times. Early Christians stopped here to shelter and escape persecution during the early years of Islamic reign in Egypt. They are likely the people who wrote some of the later-age inscriptions. For this reason, this site is of particular interest to epigraphic studies (study of inscriptions).

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Thoth, depicted with the head of an ibis, was important to ancient Egyptians, for he was the god who gave them the gift of writing. In fact, what we call hieroglyphics (a Greek word), was medu-netjer to the ancient Egyptians, meaning “the god’s words”.  Note the modern writing (graffiti) that a more recent visitor carved, to Thoth’s lower right.

The temple dates from the end of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Horemheb, who dedicated the temple to Sobek (the crocodile god), …

Amun (pictured below, distinguishable by his large feather headdress),
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…and other gods, including Thoth.

Thoth, in ancient Egyptian belief, was born with immense knowledge, the most important of which was the power of words. Although he gave this knowledge to humans, he expected them to take it seriously. The main purpose of writing was not decorative or literary. It was to provide a means to bring into existence concepts and events. If something was written, it could be “made to happen” again and again.

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Hieroglyphics consisted of phonograms, logograms and ideograms. Phonograms are alphabetic signs, where one hieroglyph represents a single consonant or sound. There are 24 of these in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and they are the most common. Phonograms could also represent 2-3 sounds, like diphthongs and blends. Ideograms (pictures conveying a concept) were often at the end of words.

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Egyptian writing could be written from left to right, right to left, up-down or down-up (and sometimes started in the middle!). Symbols of people or animals, however, always faced the beginning of the text, so if an image of a bird or a woman was facing the right, the text was meant to be read right to left.

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This photo shows an example of hieratic writing, which was a faster script, using simplified versions of hieroglyphic symbols. Hieratic writing developed early in the dynastic periods, after hierpglyphic writing had been firmly established. Around 800 BCE, hieratic developed into a cursive script.

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This is an example of demotic writing, which replaced hieratic script c. 700 BCE. Demotic writing was called sekh-shat, or document writing.  It was developed in the Nile Delta region and spread southward during the 26th Dynasty (c.1069-525BCE). This became the most popular script for the next 1,000 years.

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Note the different costumes worn by the people in the carved image to the left of the writing.

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At the top of this photo is an image of people fanning the pharaoh with large palm fans as he is carried on a platform. Below is yet another type of writing – Coptic script. Coptic script was that used by the early Christians. Demotic writing had continual use until it was replaced by Coptic script during Roman Egypt. Coptic script uses the Greek alphabet with some additions from demotic script. Hieroplyphic writing only fell completely out of favor with the rise of the new religion, Christianity.

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Rosetta stone image (downloaded from Bing): The Rosetta stone provided the key to reading hieroglyphic and demotic writing. The text is a proclamation written in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic script from the reign of Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE). All three are the same text, in keeping with the Ptolemaic ideal of a multicultural society. Until the Rosetta stone was discovered, no one knew how to read or interpret hieroglyphic or demotic writing.

Information on the history of ancient Egyptian writing was taken from the online article Ancient Egyptian Writing by Joshua J. Mark.

Horemheb’s Temple was one of the earliest examples of temples made from sandstone. During the reign of Akhenaten in the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian temple builders switched from limestone to sandstone.
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The pharaoh, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, offers sacred lotus flowers to the god Thoth.

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Although this looks like a repeated image and hieroglyphics, on closer inspection, one can see that it isn’t. On the far left are two figures seated side by side, and each of the other single figures has some differences – the second on the left, for example, is holding an ankh in one hand, and the cartouches with names of pharaohs and priests contain some different symbols.

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Someone crossed out one of the figures, which appears to be a pharaoh wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

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Sandstone is lighter in weight and the area of Gebel Silsila had abundant sandstone. In fact, this site was used as a quarry for constructions as far away as Luxor and Amarna, 800 km to the north.
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There was a steep path leading up to this hole, which was once part of a temple. Some people in our group, including Mohamed, climbed up and had their pictures taken!

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Little niches, or holes, on the rocks near the river’s edge, were where boats were tied next to the shore.
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20181230_155944There is an epigraphic survey project going on at Gebel Silsila by a team of archaeologists studying inscriptions, under the auspices of Lund University in Sweden.

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The archaeologists’ felucca

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DSC_0399That night, back on the Aida, we were enjoying a delicious dinner when several crew members appeared, playing instruments and singing! The captain danced with a couple of the women in our group.
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CFFC: You’re On Candid Camera!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is photos capturing people unaware, in other words, candid shots., reminding me of that old TV show, Candid Camera.

Visitor on a rocking horse outside Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
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Women in Arusha, Tanzania
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A Chicago Sinfonietta concert patron tries out the sitar during intermission at Symphony Hall in Chicago…
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…while children make Diwali “rangolis” using patterns, glitter and glue.
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Shoppers gather at the base of the Gastown steam clock, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Selecting pumpkins at Park Ridge Farmers’ Market in early October
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At a friend’s 80th birthday party with a Hawaiian theme
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At a reunion in Sedona, Arizona, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Verde Valley School, June 2018:
Saturday night dance
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Sunday brunch
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Music All Over the World

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo A Week Challenge this week is to show “live music.” Music is a very important part of my life. I love all types of music and am especially fascinated by “world” music – music from different countries and cultures.

Our favorite orchestra in the Chicago area is Chicago Sinfonietta. Every concert they play is unique and inclusive. They specialize in diversity, in honor of the founder of the orchestra, Paul Freedman, an African-American conductor and classical musician. They focus on a theme for each concert which includes performers from different genres and cultural groups. In this photo of their May 2018 concert, they invited a well-known professional gospel choir to perform with them.20180512_195835
Last November, they had a Day of the Dead themed concert, which included such works as Mozart’s Requiem, including a choir from Roosevelt University that wore skeleton costumes and masks during the performance. During the intermission, there were cultural dances and music from Mexico.
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Music evokes such emotion and nostalgia in me. When we took a cruise to the Panama Canal in March-April 2017, we stopped at a small port in Chiapas, Mexico, where some of us took an excursion to Tuxtla Chico (I have blogged about this), a charming small town where music and dances were performed for us. Within a short time, I didn’t want to leave – all my emotions associated with past trips to Mexico were brought to the surface by the cultural atmosphere and the typical music. Here some women dressed in beautiful flowered dresses danced to music played by a marimba band.
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Back on the cruise ship, some Mexican performers came aboard for a couple of days and performed for us by the Lido pool. This included a male singer and a couple of dancers, who performed dances from different regions of Mexico.

 

Steel pan music was also a feature of that cruise when we passed through the Caribbean, and Chicago Sinfonietta later that year featured steel pan music in one of their concerts. Here my husband Dale samples playing a steel pan, supervised by a professional steel pan player, leader of a steel pan band from Northern Illinois University, before the concert. NIU is possibly the only university in the country where music majors can specialize in steel pan music.20170916_185949.jpgI could continue with more examples of the music in my life, but this would become a very long post! So I’ll end with some “batucada” (percussion) from Flamengo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (recorded in November 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the Rocks Are Not Immortal

Debbie at Travel With Intent has a challenge called Six Word Saturday. This is my first time participating.  Here’s the scoop:
Do come and join us in our Saturday six-word musings.

I’ll admit that many of us openly break the numeric rule and share far more words (all excellent of course!) so the key rule is to have a title of six words – and then create around that the post that you desire! Perhaps in bunches of 6 words if you’re feeling inspired.

To join the challenge, please put a link in your post to the URL of this post. Then come back here and leave us a comment. If you have any problems with linking, just put your own URL into the comment. And do feel free to socialise digitally – tweet, instagram, flickr, etc. with the hashtagtags #SixWordSaturday and #6WS.

So I begin…

Even the rocks are not immortal
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but far closer to immortality than
we mere mortals can ever be!

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed.
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then are we immortal after all?


Photos taken at Verde Valley School, Sedona, Arizona, June 8 & 9, 2018

on the occasion of a reunion celebrating the school’s 70th anniversary.

Irkeepus Cultural Boma

Feb. 7, 2018

In the afternoon, six of us visited a Maasai village where tourists are welcome, the Irkeepus Cultural Boma. This community makes money from tourists: $20 to take any photos you want and be shown around, encouragement to buy their crafts, and donations for their school.

811The village, or “boma” (compound) consists of one large extended family: the chief, his 15 wives and about 70 children and grandchildren. A total of 86 people live there. Each wife has her own house. The children are welcome in any house and treat all the wives as their “mothers.” Maybe the relationship is more like aunts. Our guide, probably the best English speaker there, was the son of wife #4. He led the tour: first there was a dance we were all invited to join in on – the women adorned us with necklaces – which consisted of everyone standing in a row holding hands, bending our knees and moving our feet to the beat of the song, which we tried to sing with them – it was repetitive. Every so often one of the men would jump high into the air – impressive!

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SONY DSCThe second demonstration was to show us how they make fire. Their first attempt at this was not successful so they had to start again. The first step is to rub a stick against a stone with depressions in it until it sparks. Then they put dried grass on it and finally breathe on it very slowly and gently (pole-pole*) to coax the fire out.
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Our guide’s (and everyone’s in the village) native language is Maasai, which is oral – not written. In school he learned to read and write in Swahili (his second language) and English (his third language). After he finished high school, he returned to the village.

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This fence of stinging nettles and thorn branches surrounds the compound. It’s very effective at keeping wild animals out!

The community has 40 heads of cattle, as well as goats and sheep. A man’s wealth is measure by how many cattle he has and David thinks the chief has more than 40. Bride price starts at 4 head of cattle and can go higher. They use their animals for meat, milk and milk products (such as yogurt and to a lesser extent, cheese). They also drink goat’s and sheep’s milk. That’s about all they eat except for fruit they can get from local trees.

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Cow shed and storage shed

The huts are round with a curved entrance, a bit like the beginning of a spiral, because, we were told, it keeps the wind from getting in – the wind is strong at this high altitude on the crater rim. The man showing Dale and I the house told us to be careful when entering  because the inner wall of the entrance had been freshly plastered with cow dung! They have to do this about every 3 months to replace the dung that has dried – they strip this off and apply fresh dung (and there were several cow pies in the yard outside the compound!). The dry dung they strip off is then used for fuel.

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Dale and I standing in front of the hut we were shown into – we are of average height, which shows how small the house is.

Inside there’s a fire pit for cooking and keeping warm but no vent in the ceiling, as I would expect, having seen several types of Native American houses. He pointed out a tiny vent hole in a bedroom wall. Still, the smoke hung in the air. The guide said the smoke is good for getting rid of insects. Apparently the fire is extinguished when the family goes to bed. The smoke fills the hut only when no one is there. It clears out the bugs so the family can sleep.837
The hut was very small and dark – we had to use cellphone flashlights. There are two bedrooms side by side, used primarily for sleeping. They lay soft branches and leaves on the floor and cover it with a cow hide. Some other small rags were in one of the rooms – to use as pillows, perhaps? Or a blanket for a young child.
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Most activities are conducted outside, which is why they don’t need much inside their house. The boys love to play soccer in the yard. Girls help their mothers make crafts with beads and wire.
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Children of both sexes attend school. The elementary school is an adobe structure outside the compound walls.
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20 children from the village and 20 from a neighboring village attend school here. The community is proud of its school, which they built themselves, funded with donations from visitors.  Although they value education, when the boys get a little older they are allowed to get out of school to herd the cattle if they want to.
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The one-room school has rows of benches with table surfaces attached as desks. There were many adults and children inside; the adults were having a village meeting. We met a couple of the teachers, who greeted us warmly, especially when we told them we had also been teachers.2-7 teachers at Maasai school
On the back wall were the children’s drawings of animals, each one labeled with its Swahili name. on one wall was an ABC chart using syllables, like we teach Spanish to primary kids! The blackboard in the front had a lot written on it. At a desk in the corner sat an administrator and a secretary, both men from the village. They were there because of the meeting.
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A group of small children clustered together at desks behind two teachers. They were shy until I held up my hand for a “high 5” and they all knew what it was – is high-5 universal? They extended their little palms for me to high-5 them. (I found out the Maasai handshake is actually a version of this – you touch the palm of the other person but don’t grasp their hand.) Then I did a fist bump and the kids all know that too and wanted to “fist bump” with me!  That’s how I broke the ice with them. Then they all sang two songs, the second a version of the ABC song – halfway through it diverts into some other words, perhaps the Swahili alphabet.

As we were leaving, I extended a fist bump to one of the teachers, telling him we had learned it from our president (meaning Obama, who was familiar to them). One of our group members reminded me he wasn’t our president anymore. I replied, “I know, but I wish he were.”
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The people had adorned a fenced-in area with all their craft items. I liked the little animals made with beads and wire and decided to buy a lion since we had seen many lions today. I had the lion in my hand when I was at the school. I showed it to the children and said, “A lion, see?” Then I made a roaring sound, which made them laugh.
Perhaps $35 was too much to pay, and I could have bargained, but I didn’t. These people needed the money – their life was hard and they worked hard from a young age. There was a donation box at the school, so Dale put all his leftover euro coins in it!2-7 beaded lion I bought from Maasai
I have read that 85% of Tanzanians are poor and I’m sure that is true for the Maasai who live traditionally. Yet financial poverty is not total poverty: their possessions are few but they have their cultural traditions and when they look out at the countryside where they live – that vast country of green, gentle hills and huge sky, where one can admire giraffes, zebras, or gazelles that pass by, they can be sure that, in fact, in some ways their life is very rich. The beauty of nature is all around them, they live in harmony with it, they are surrounded by loved ones, and are comfortable in their traditions.

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The green countryside near the village

Money, of course, is necessary also – to buy materials to build schools, to send their children to high school, and to buy supplemental food products, among other things. It’s unavoidable – so if we could help by putting money into their community to help them buy what they need, I’m glad for it.841

 

*pole-pole: Swahili word meaning “slowly-slowly” but with the connotation of “gently” or “carefully” as well.

 

CFFC: Making Chocolate in Tuxtla Chico

Cookie Monster sings, “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me!” I agree, but in my opinion, the best cookies have my favorite thing in the world in them: CHOCOLATE!

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, the letter C at the beginning of a word with 4 or more letters is the theme this week.

Chocolate comes from cacao, a fruit that grows on a tree native to Mexico. The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica (primarily Mexico and Guatemala) had made a bitter drink from cacao seeds for millennia before the Europeans arrived, but it took the European palate to make chocolate into the delicious treat we know today by adding sugar.  The language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, gave us the word from which our word “chocolate” is derived:  xocolatl.  

On our first stop in Mexico during our Panama Canal Cruise was at Puerto Chiapas, just west of the Guatemalan border.  I had chosen a shore excursion that included a chocolate making demonstration.

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The basket on the right contains cacao fruit as it looks when picked from the tree; on the left is a sweet ade drink made from its pulp.

We went by bus to the village of Tuxtla Chico, where in the central plaza a stage had been set up, with rows of chairs facing it. Surrounding this makeshift outdoor auditorium were vendors, selling primarily products made from chocolate as well as coffee, although there were vendors selling colorful embroidered blouses as well, and my husband and I took time to bargain for a couple of them.

On the stage, a couple of long tables covered with brightly colored woven cloth were set up with the accoutrements for making chocolate. The cacao fruit is filled with a white pulp which surrounds the seeds. The pulp can be made into an ade, which we were encouraged to try, dispensed into tiny plastic cups from the spigot of a large jug. The drink was somewhat sweet and refreshing, but I don’t know if it was pure or sugar had been added.

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One of the guides demonstrates what the fruit looks like inside to her English-speaking tour group.

The first step in making chocolate by hand, as the native women were doing, is to separate the seeds (or beans, as they are often called) from the pulp. The beans are then spread out on a tray to dry and then roasted. Raw cocoa beans cannot be eaten.

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After the beans are roasted, they are crushed into a coarse powder using a metate and brazo (mortal and pestle).

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In the foreground a girl grinds the cocoa beans using a mortar and pestle, while next to her a woman roasts the raw beans over a charcoal fire.

At this point, the demonstrator adds flavoring to the powder – sugar and cinnamon or other flavors, and continues grinding and mixing until the mixture forms a paste.

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Here are some of the flavors that can be added to the chocolate powder. Nuts, coffee beans, or cinnamon sticks are also crushed prior to adding them to the powder.  Note that the little bowls labeled “sugar” and “cinnamon” are much smaller than the large bowl for “tips!”

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Mother and daughter pat and shape the dough into cylinders (or other shapes), then cut them into pieces for packaging.

These chunks of grainy, flavored chocolate are also used to make hot chocolate by melting them in milk. All of us were given cups of hot chocolate to taste!

I have loved the delicious Mexican foamy hot chocolate since discovering it on my first trip to Mexico in the late 1960s. The chocolate is sold in solid bars, plain or with added  flavors (cinnamon is the best and most common). To make Mexican hot chocolate at home, cut off a section of the bar (usually they are scored for individual portions) and melt it in milk in a pan on the stove. Stir constantly with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you have a foamy hot chocolate ready to drink!

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The bag on the right is the chocolate we bought in Tuxtla Chico. On the left is Ibarra, which can be found in most Mexican grocery stores.

 

After the chocolate demonstration, there was a show with dancing and music.  First was the Dance of the Jaguar.  Then women in traditional dress danced to marimba music. At the end, the ladies in the flowered dresses invited people to dance – I was one of them!

Here’s a short video of the dancers:

¡VIVA MEXICO!

The Historic City of Leon, Nicaragua

If you have only one day to spend in Nicaragua, León is a great choice. León is the 3rd largest city in Nicaragua and is considered the historical and cultural capital. According to our guide, Pedro Mejia, it has the largest art gallery in Latin America with over 2,000 works on display. It had been the private collection of some rich person and was donated to the cultural patrimony of the country. We would be visiting that museum later.

León is located on the western, or Pacific, side of Nicaragua, which is the developed side. The east –Atlantic/Caribbean side is the location of two autonomous regions, each about the size of Israel, with few people and little development.

León is both the intellectual and revolutionary capital of Nicaragua. In 1854, there was a civil war between the liberals (Democrats) of León and the conservatives (Legitimists) in Granada – a friendly rivalry has existed between them since.

The current socialist government provides both citizens and visitors free health care and free education through college. Dental care is not free, but it is inexpensive, and people must pay for eyeglasses.

Nicaragua today is the second poorest country in the Americas (Haiti is the poorest). Because of this, according to Pedro, there is little crime stemming from drug cartel activity. The cartels are not interested in Nicaragua because the people there are too poor to buy drugs! Pedro himself is an immigrant; he is originally from Peru but lived many years in Canada. He met his wife, a Guatemalan, in Canada, and they chose to emigrate to Nicaragua because it was cheap and safe. They own a restaurant in León, where they struggle to make a profit.

Tourism, however, is growing in Nicaragua, and Pedro makes extra money by working as a tour guide. He told us he was going to take his wife to the movies that night with the extra money he earned that day. They were planning to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie and even buy popcorn!

 

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We passed this movie theater on the bus. This was where Pedro was taking his wife to the movies with the money he earned being our tour guide!

 

As we entered the outskirts of León, out the window, I could see the more obvious poverty as we passed dirt roads lined with houses little better than shacks and working class neighborhoods with faded colors and windows covered with paper. However, it was also apparent that people did their best to keep their neighborhoods attractive with rose bushes growing through the cracks in the sidewalk, modest bright sidewalk family-run cafés, and residents diligently sweeping the front of their homes.

Downtown León was characterized by brightly painted store fronts, hotels and homes lining streets filled with cars. Pedro remarked at the number of cars clogging streets that he was surprised because few people could afford these luxury items. He used to have a car, he said, but it got wrecked and now he rides a bicycle.

Our first stop was at the central square, teeming with people, especially school kids on their midday break. In the middle of the square was a fountain flanked in lions. The square had several important government buildings, two schools, a church and a restaurant called El Sesteo, which we used to go to the restrooms, since Pedro knew the owner.

The restaurant had some interesting décor, including painted masks, a wall of illustrations under the heading “Nuestras Leyendas,” and a blackboard imprinted with a poem by Ruben Darío, the most famous Nicaraguan poet. Over the bar were four portraits of poets, including Darío.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

From there, we went to the main church, the Basilica Catedral de la Asunción, built in 1747. Its façade was totally white with six bells above the entrance, each in its own chamber. Inside was a famous sculpture of the “black Jesus” hanging on the cross in a white columned shrine. The altarpiece was gold with a royal blue interior, which offered a striking contrast.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Some famous people (including Darío) were buried in this cathedral, many of them also poets. Pedro pointed out Darío’s tomb, the “tomb of the weeping lion,” under which the poet’s body is buried.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I liked the aesthetic of the cathedral’s décor with bas reliefs in black and white as well as the domed ceiling and arches.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Centro de Arte Fundación Ortiz Gurdian with its many rooms surrounding a lush courtyard was our next stop. This is supposedly the largest collection of paintings in Latin America. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the paintings, but we could take pictures of the various courtyards, which were really pretty.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

 

KODAK Digital Still Camera

My husband is so disobedient! He took photos of a few of the artworks:

Our final sightseeing stop was the poet Ruben Darío’s house which we were given time to view. I noticed that the informational signs were all in Spanish only, so I imagined that was why many on our tour finished looking around very quickly.

Finally, we had lunch at a convent that has been converted into a hotel, aptly named Hotel El Convento. There are many religious artworks on display and during the buffet, we were entertained with traditional music and dancing.

 

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