I got involved in an interesting conversation at a party yesterday. One guest was telling me about a young relative who is currently residing in Georgia, the one in Europe. The Georgians he lives among are trying to convince this young man to marry a Georgian girl and stay. He wants to travel and just returned to Georgia from northern Iraq. He plans to go to Africa next. This is often the kind of adventure travel that the young seek.
I’m not planning to go to Iraq any time soon, but I love reading travel books about exotic places. I recently enjoyed Wendy Simmons My Holiday in North Korea and am currently reading Elizabeth Pisani’s fine Indonesia: Exploring the Improbable Nation. Indonesia is the 4th most populated country in the world with 240 million inhabitants. 65 million of them are on Facebook. 80 million of them live without electricity. Pisani traveled 13,000 miles around this nation of 13,504 islands for 2 years and worked for Indonesia’s Ministry of Health for 4 years. She went to islands too small to be on maps and stayed with local families. She went to Saru “where women wove beautiful ikat cloth and men chanted as they swayed in the tops of lontar palm trees collecting sap.”
Like Pisani, I love local color. While in Uruguay recently, I saw a lot of men walking around with yerba mate cups. This reminded me of the 1st time I drank mate. Ruth and I were on a boat in the Bahia Ushuaia and the cup was being passed to everyone. This is a traditional symbol of welcome in the bottom half of South America. I liked mate. Ruth not so much. Later that day we went to a grocery store and found yerba mate among the coffees. It clearly outsold them.
Men carry around mate gourds in Uruguay. They clutch them to their chests like necessary treasures. Mate gourds, thermos flasks used to carry hot water, and bomillas are sold in many places. Usually made of metal, bomillas are used to filter the liquid and drink the infusion. Mate has its roots in Guarani culture and consists of the leaves and twigs of a native tree that grows in temperate zones in Argentina, Brazil, etc. I never saw a woman carrying a mate gourd in public. Mate contains vitamin A and caffeine, less than coffee but more than tea.
In Montevideo on the last day of the business year, office workers tear up or shred their old planners and toss them like confetti out of windows. It collects on colorful tiles decoratively embedded into many sidewalks.