The Conundrum of Baksheesh

Baksheesh, or tipping, is a pervasive part of daily life in Egypt. It's expected for any service or favor performed, no matter how small, for tourists and locals alike. It's more common than a handshake. Westerners are generally amazed at how extensive it is. Tips are a big deal to the average Egyptian whose income... Continue Reading →

Paradise Lost, Paradise Burning

Not to be smart-alecky, but wild fires in the West are now a hot topic. I haven't personally seen one, but they've affected my life here in the Pacific Northwest, enough to make me worry about the future. A year ago, I was looking forward to spending some time again at Whistler in British Columbia.... Continue Reading →

Morocco Recapitulation and Final Thoughts

This is my last post on Morocco. The writing material the country provides is inexhaustible because, to me as a Westerner, it's different in ways cultural, linguistic and religious, reasons I find Morocco so fascinating. I'll conclude by writing down some loosely related thoughts and observations that together have contributed to my understanding of what makes... Continue Reading →

Here’s a Tip, You Can Never Have Enough Coins in Morocco

Travelers to Morocco, be forewarned. The tipping culture is pervasive. This is not unique to Morocco, of course, but I never thought the problem was going to be as big as it became. Add to this the fact that most of Morocco operates pretty much as a cash economy. Credit cards are accepted only by... Continue Reading →

In Princi(ple), Starbucks Adds Food to the Menu

Back in 2005, after a long flight to Milan and a late train to our hotel from Malpensa, all we could do after check-in (it was around 11pm) was to try to get some shut-eye. Try, as you can imagine, because our biological clocks were off-kilter. The next morning, we headed out for breakfast. The... Continue Reading →

Did the Incas Build All of Machu Picchu?

To many, Machu Picchu is the poster child of the Incan civilization. Like an ancient lost city, the ruins lay hidden from the world for centuries, even the Spanish invaders, until they were 'revealed' to archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. Yet, for all its majesty, Machu Picchu isn't the only impressive legacy of the Incas. I... Continue Reading →

Carlos, Our Guide in the Sacred Valley

Ours would be an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime visit to beautiful, fascinating Peru. Now, over two weeks into the trip, as I considered what to write about, it occurred to me that I was struck by the people I’ve met more than the natural scenery, including Machu Picchu, breathtaking as it may be. I will soon share... Continue Reading →

Comfort and Care in the Amazon Rainforest, and Other Thoughts

When I told relatives and friends that my wife and I were going to Peru, their first thought naturally enough was Machu Picchu. I would have assumed the same. But when I said that we were also going to the Amazon rainforest, some were surprised, others were intrigued, and a few wondered why. Aren't there wild animals,... Continue Reading →

Super Latino Markets of Highland Park, California

Through the hilly neighborhood of Highland Park just west of the Arroyo Seco runs York Boulevard, the neighborhood's main commercial thoroughfare. It supports not one, but two supermarkets, within blocks of each other, that serve the mostly Latino community. When my daughter lived in New Zealand, she rued that she couldn't get Mexican products readily (or inexpensively). In Christchurch, there was... Continue Reading →

Do Kukai, Jinya and Santouka Have the Best Ramen in Seattle?

A Hawaiian food blogger once asked me about Seattle's ramen culture. Knowing how robust it was in Honolulu where the blogger lives, I was apprehensive about answering him. Here was the Seattle area, having as much claim as any big West Coast city to strong economic and cultural ties to Japan, a history of Japanese immigration and community, a... Continue Reading →

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