The Big Brother Games

International events have been a good place for activists, NGOs and other individuals to make their voices be heard by millions following the event.

The Olympics aren’t exempted from this phenomenon. Recently, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement showed their discontent during the broadcasting of the opening ceremony and following sporting events. The same was done by Mexican citizens confronting the Televisa journalists for not covering the recent Mexican presidential elections in a fair way (according to them).  And so on, international activists will be using the Olympic games as media platform to spread their demands and messages.

Although, among these protesters, there’s one fascinating story, which might be interesting to follow. The Counter Olympics Network is a group of 40 activist groups, that joined forces against the vicious corporate practices of our capitalist world. From the Occupy London movement to those against allowing McDonalds and other companies to sponsor the games; but not forgetting the local citizens who are against anti-aircraft missiles near the Olympic Stadium in Stratford (“east London to prevent any possible airborne terror attack” – The NZ Herald). They will be all around during the games.

Just remember, London 2012 will be one of safest games in modern history, and the electronic eye of big brother will follow everybody’s moves in the most video monitored city in the world. This network, regardless of being right or wrong on their demands, are the least of the UK’s government worries at the moment, as a super secured London may trigger evil to strike on softer spots outside the English capital city.

Ps: Beautiful ceremony, however, no matter how much the British “heritage” was shown during the opening show, you need more than that to match Beijing 2008.

Ps2. Big controversy in Mexican media and social networks regarding the Mexican delegation outfits during the opening ceremony. The BBC thought they were the most original and colorful; in Mexico some mentioned they look like walking piñatas.

Ps3. The Queen and Bond; Mr Bean and McCartney, just fabulous.

 

Interesting links:

Protesters hold anti-Olympics near stadium – http://nzh.tw/10823013

The Counter Olympics Networ – http://counterolympicsnetwork.wordpress.com/

Shadow war threatens London Olympics – http://www.wtop.com/807/2964074/Shadow-war-threatens-London-Olympics

Video of the Mexicans protesting against the elections and against Televisa in London: http://youtu.be/Zelpczf8eTQ 

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Travelling Light

Travelling light is an art. It’s not easy just to bring a ‘few’ things to your trip, you have to think through all the possible situations that you might face during your journey. For that reason, we want to be prepared for all of them. Over the years I learnt how to travel light, how to be sure that every single thing I was packing will be useful in my trip.

I remember just going for a weekend away, when I was a tourist guide, just carrying a back pack. Other friends, for example, will carry a massive suitcase just for a three days trip.

Just remember this when you are traveling:

  • Keep yourself hydrated
  • Bring layers, this will make it easier to adapt to weather changes during your journey.
  • Comfortable and durable shoes are essential
  • Give your itinerary to a couple of friends, never leave without telling someone when and where you are traveling
  • Bring enough underwear and socks
  • You don’t need to bring 15 pairs 0f shoes just for the weekend, do you?
  • Avoid dodgy neighbourhoods, just ask the locals where not to go at night

If you are going back home, after living for a while in a different country (which is my case at the moment), there might be enough websites or local markets where you could sell your stuff and make some money for your trip back.

Don’t be a hoarder*; you don’t need to take those hats, books, receipts or bills back to your country, do you? Remember to always have in your carry on an extra pair of socks, a book, water, earplugs and some energy bars.

For some travelling tips and amazing articles don’t forget to visit Indie Travel Podcast, they really know what they are doing.  http://indietravelpodcast.com/ and follow them on Twitter @indietravel

Ps. Speaking of travelling, if you read “Life of Pi”, let me tell you that the trailer is now out there http://ti.me/NYuZV7 .

(*)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding

The Elected Puppet

Mexico recently voted for president on July the 1st. Enrique Pena Nieto was elected president in a very irregular and muddy electoral process.  Insinuations of drug cartels’ money involved in the election are increasing and, somehow, these assumptions sound plausible.

The main argument is that this candidate was imposed by the media, the drug cartels and the political elite. Accusations made by the left wing party keep on coming, where they estimate that almost 5 millions votes were bought by the elected candidate. Die Spiegel, Le Monde, Univision, BBC, The Guardian, The New Zealand Herald, have covered the events and most of them concluded that the election was dubious, full of irregularities and that the elected candidate is just a puppet of the Revolutionary Institutional Party.

Recently, a long time journalist, Pedro Ferriz de Con, was ceased from his duties (he was the anchorman of a news program in Radio and TV). The reason? There’s a clip on youtube  where he talks about the elected candidate, he uses words as “ignorant” and “blunt” to describe Pena Nieto. He calls him arrogant and part of a political group that has taken advantage of the Mexican political system. This talk took place in November 2011, before the presidential campaigns started, however, the elected president didn’t forget.

Is this what Mexican journalist should be expecting from the elected government for the next six years? There’s fear in the middle and upper class families who didn’t support Pena Nieto; fear that if they speak up they will be repressed, fired or something harsher might happen to them.

One thing is certain, this journalist wasn’t mistaken, this will be one of the most ignorant presidents in Mexican history. His administration will be watched closely by the international media and NGOs; citizens will not stay quiet thanks to social media, and I don’t think freedom of speech will be ceased. However, any expression of disagreement against his administration should be done carefully, as he’s known for human rights violations when repressing civilians that were showing their discontent in Atenco, 2006.

Ps. It’s a tragedy what happened in Aurora, Colorado during the Batman premier screening. I read one comment that made some sense: “the US will increase the security measures to get into cinema theaters  first, rather than revising their firearm policy”. 

Interesting links:

The Guardian – Mexico elections: Enrique Peña Nieto outlines ambitious reforms agenda http://gu.com/p/38n68

Die Spiegel – Peña Nieto confirmed as the winner http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/mexiko-wahlsieg-von-pena-nieto-bei-praesidentenwahl-bestaetigt-a-842917.html

Wikipedia entry to the 2006 civil unrest in Atenco: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_civil_unrest_in_San_Salvador_Atenco

Lord of the Breakfasts – Taranaki

What’s the best breakfast you ever had? The best breakfast I ever had was at Inglewood in Taranaki, (ehem, New Zealand), almost three years ago. I´d decided to travel around the North Island on my own and Inglewood happened to be in my way.

I was leaving New Plymouth, the day was beautiful and I was hungry as, suddenly, as soon as I was driving by this wee town I saw this sign: “Farmers breakfast” at Macfarlanes Cafe, I pulled over, entered the place and ordered my first real kiwi breakfast.

I asked for the special, it took no time, literally 3 minutes to get a beautiful flat white (with freaking cookies on the side man!) which I stared drinking, it was heaven, never had a coffee like this before.

Coffee in NZ is gorgeous, great baristas, great coffee, good price. Pretty much anywhere in New Zealand you can get a gourmet coffee (some coffee enthusiasts will disagree, however, for the amateur coffee lovers this is true) for a very good price. Then, just five minutes after I sat down, the co-owner of Macfarlanes arrives with my breakfast.

Aye, that´s the place – Just awesome

Two poached eggs mounted on NZ bacon (close to Canadian bacon) on top of two, perfectly toasted and buttered, thick slices of rustic bread. These slices rested on a white plate divided by two sauces; a parsley vinaigrette and a white sauce with plenty of black pepper.

The mounted poached eggs were crowned by a gorgeous hollandaise sauce and a pinch of paprika. It tasted right, the way every breakfast for the rest of your life should taste.

The service was great and the price? Well, at the time it was NZ$8, coffee included. Next time you happen to be driving close to Inglewood go to Macfarlanes Cafe, you, certainly, won´t regret it.

Check out the following link  for more information, just drive by, get of your car, and freaking get in and order whatever from the menu, it will change your definition of breakfast  http://www.inglewood.co.nz/information/cafe-restaurant/

As simple as this,

Ps. Norway and Australia just had some important democratic activity among their population, it seems that democracy, when it devolves in very conservative projects serves no one. Let´s see how this works out for two amazingly well diverse and modern States.

Ps 2. What´s the view from Inglewood? Pretty much something like this:

Fifty Shades of… Double Standards?

No, I haven’t read this master piece, although, I will try my best to give a non objective opinion of this book.

The first time I heard of Fifty Shades of Grey (The story of love and bondage, masochism and endurance between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey) was through a good female friend of mine. Every time she’ll start talking about this book she’ll blush and her lips will twitch, her “r”s will be rolled harsher and her smile will grow wider.  Some say that its words are strong, sensual and erotic enough to make you start “dripping with desire”.

This book has been mentioned by some of my friends on facebook, and it got me thinking “can an erotic book be really this popular?”. Fair enough, it is entertaining. But, as the NZ Herald said “will win no prices for its prose”, there’s a certain fascination for this book coming from the female readers. Dubbed as “mommy porn”, jolly and easy to read, this book touches an aspect of female sexuality in a way that escapes to most, due to how it is portrait: BDSM (Bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) on women, in other words: female submission. It makes you wonder, this kind of ‘literature’ captivating a great audience from its release (31 million copies sold), can tell us, really, what women want. Does it really? I found that some of its readers are educated and successful women, independent and strong, however, this book presents women as individuals seeking for submission and physical oppression (what? too harsh?), at least on the imaginary scenario brought by E. L. James.

I must say that this book represents a way to escape reality into a submissive romantic an erotic passage that somehow is desired by some, (as far as it stays in the pages of the book) and misunderstood by most. Do you think it is a double standard that women can read this book and discuss it openly with their friends but men can’t openly watch porn and then talk about it with their friends? I wonder if I’ll ever see the day when a guy tells another at the office “hey man, I sent you a link of a 5 min clip of these Japanese twins in a BDSM scene, off the hook, you’ll be dripping with desire”.

My favourite review:

“…this is maybe what bothered me the most, she is never hungry despite the numerous cardio-heavy sex scenes”. – Jessica Napier, Metro News Canada

Ps. The cover of the book fascinates me, why? The tie is freaking awesome.

Ps2. Did you know that this book was developed from the Twilight fan fiction “Master of the Universe”?

Sources and stuff:

First World Problems

First world problems, right, I tend to make fun of them most of the time as they are a reflection of somebody’s micro cosmos. A universe full of knotted earphones wires, public transportation being incredibly clean and professional but sometimes 5 minutes late, being in bed ready to sleep but needing to pee. The list could go on for … well, days, as many websites have shown us recently.

These first world problems intrigued me severely when I first arrived to New Zealand. I couldn’t understand how some simple stuff (and in my opinion, coming from a ‘developing country’, irrelevant) could be so annoying to some people.

These individualistic complaints, made by my peers, friends and coeds, became, to a certain extent, funny and cute. Although, I realized that these problems were also noticeable through national media. The New Zealand Herald and the, not that well known, regional papers in New Zealand do cover international and important events around the world, however, they tend to stick to local news in a trend that is kind of disturbing. We all know what’s going on in Syria and its authoritarian regime violating human rights, right? Indeed, we all know that, and if you don’t, well, you’ve been living in a nutshell half of 2012. What I found disturbing is that national media gave more coverage (over a week) to the story of a girl left behind by public transportation somewhere in Waikato, because the bus was ‘too full’. I mean, it is sad that the girl’s dad was attending a funeral service and he had to go and pick her up, and then the outrage, the disappointment, the anger of the locals towards the Council’s lack of reliability. Fair enough.

And this happens everywhere, regardless of the country, its people, traditions or history. However, some countries with strong international affairs history and outstanding sustainability programs, advocacy for the protection of human rights internationally and home of Xena the Warrior Princess should ask its media to encourage its citizens to worry and act, to see beyond their shores. Sometimes I read The NZ Herald, and, as a temporary member of the NZ community, it worries me and disturbs me what happens to my neighbours, to kiwis, to their jobs and first world problems; sometimes I even throw out some first world problems myself (like: huh, I don’t have a nice view of Rangitoto from my place). I mean, I’m not saying we should become international media junkies, nor underestimate our neighbours’ remarks on how much anxiety not knowing when Marmite will be back on the grocery stores’ shelves is giving them. We shall be aware of what’s happening out there, to listen, read, think and act.

This post was inspired by a recent interview published in The New Zealand Herald (oh, the irony) to Anita McNaught (@anitamcnaught), New Zealand journalist for Al Jazeera in the Middle East. Best quote?

“I’ve watched foreign news coverage shrink year-on-year in the New Zealand media. I also think it’s vital to have New Zealand voices out there in the thick of world events, reporting back.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10818927

Blind Activism

It was 2 years and 6 months ago when I arrived to New Zealand for the second time. After a while wondering what to do with my Mexican self and realizing that my working holiday visa was expiring, I decided to start a Masters in International Relations and Human Rights at Auckland University. After all this time, I still believe that we can make a difference and … that stuff.

Anyway, when I had to attend uni I used to catch the train from Glen Innes Station (“rough” neighbourhood according to most of my friends, honestly, it’s been always friendly and “diverse” to me), as soon as I arrive to Britomart Station (Auckland downtown main station) I’ll walk into the closest convenience store and buy a can of Coke Zero (I know, disgusting, whatever) and a cheese and steak pie (the cheap brand) and will continue my solo entourage to Auckland Uni. Before passing by the Fonterra building I will notice an apartment complex to my right, with a lot of security cameras. From time to time you’ll see a graffiti on one of the walls, it was the face of a chinese man, bellow it you could read “Free him” and then the name of the guy. This will keep me on thinking for the rest of my walk. I promised to myself that I’ll search for it in the internet, I never did.

Two months ago I read on the news that he finally left China (escaped, fled, ran away, became a refugee) and arrived to the United States. So, I finally learnt who he is and why he was kept in custody for a while. To all matters, his determination and pursue of justice were a great example for all of us who noticed his liberation (those who weren’t busy watching Jersey Shore or America Got Talent or whatever Charlie Sheen has been doing lately), and took some time to read about him. Regardless of his story, we must ask ourselves how many like him weren’t that lucky and couldn’t tell to the ‘free’ world about the human rights violations they have suffered.

Chen Guangcheng is now in the US, and has expressed his strong interest to go back to China. He has created plenty of international awareness to some human rights violation occurring in China, mostly to women. No need to say that his determination (and media coverage) has made China-US relations a little bit awkward. You know, like when you learn that one of your friends hits his wife when at home.

“In China they silenced him. Now that he’s on U.S. soil he can speak truth to power,” – Women’s rights activist, Reggie Littlejohn.

For more information, well, just click on the link:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/20/us-china-dissident-idUSBRE84I04V20120520

Winter Food

Keep calm and Frijoles Charros

What comes to your mind when it’s cold outside and you are hungry? What do you feel like eating? Sometimes I have the craziest ideas when I’m hungry and Winter has arrived. I get massive cravings, awful desires to cook complicated dishes, just to justify the usage of massive pots and turn on the oven. Baking, grilling and stirring seems the perfect way to warm up the house while cooking something marvelous. One of my favourite Winter dishes is Frijoles Charros (Mexican cowboy bean soup, or whatever comes up on your google-translate).

Grab a massive pot and throw 2 spoons of canola oil and put it to medium heat. Oh wait, yeps, first have all this ready:

  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 300 gr of diced bacon (oh yeah)
  • 200 gr of chopped chorizo (c’mon mama)
  • 1 chilli (medium hot, trust me on this one)
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 cans of black beans (or butter beans, in brine, never use baked beans)
  • 1 pinch of paprika
  • 1 pinch of cajun seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • Fresh cilantro chopped

So, here is how it goes, after the oil has been heated up throw in the chorizo, the diced bacon and the chopped onion, now stir those bad boys together.  You’ll start smelling the bacon, the onion and the chorizo, heaven. Add the chilli, the paprika, the pepper and the spring onions, finish this phase with the cajun seasoning.

As soon as you see the chorizo nice and crispy and all the ingredients well integrated, add the tomatoes. You’ll notice how the tomato juices will deglaze the bottom of your pot. After stirring the tomatoes for a minute, add the beans (with brine and everything, life is too short to drain canned beans).

Pour the chicken stock and now let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until it looks right (hating my ambiguity aren’t you?). Now throw the coriander and salt to taste… Yum!

Serve hot, hot, hot. This is an easy to make Mexican dish, and it goes perfect as side dish for grilled meat, roasts and it is ideal for cold days. True story.

Cooking is My Happy Place

I studied International Relations, later completed my masters in Human Rights. I’m pursuing a career in foreign affairs, human rights advocacy and/or politics. I reckon I could do some good and give something in return, every body hurts, some how, and every body should heal, more often.

In this endeavor, I struggle to keep my line of thought clear and focused, there’s too much to study, places where to go, and people to meet. As well, I need to keep on working to survive, pay for my rent, food, transportation, clothes, all those things that give us certainty that actions translate in benefits (to a certain extent). There’s plenty of stress going on, but I have a happy place: cooking.

When the day ends, there’s only one thought in my mind, “what to cook tonight?”. It means the world to me being able to express myself through food, flavours, combination of textures, fresh ingredients, crispy herbs, heavenly pork, sweet bread, gorgeous garlic and amazing sauces. There’s a place where I feel myself, it’s in the kitchen, chopping, slicing, grilling, baking, stirring, spicing, marinating, and just transforming simple ingredients into something magical.

Find your happy place, my happy place smells and tastes amazing.

Eating and Dancing Mexican

Sounds weird doesn’t it? I know, when I meant “eating Mexican” I meant “eating Mexican food”. So, for all of you looking for a sexual innuendo in my words: well done. Anyway, the point is, people ask me what’s the difference between Mexican spicy and Indian spicy, for example. Well, I think it is like comparing eating Mexican food to dancing with a Mexican.

At first, you are just there, waiting for your meal, something average like enchiladas. At first you see the dish and it looks fine, it looks harmless, right? Now imagine you are at the club, and you see this Mexican guy inviting you for a dance, “Hola señorita, fancy dancing?”, he’ll say. You look at him and think to yourself: “oh well, he looks fine, he is short but cute, harmless, right?”, but, is he really?

Just like Mexican food, dancing with a Mexican is a matter of going with the flow. At first he reaches for your hand and takes you to the dance floor. The same way you reach for salsa with that crispy nacho.

As soon as he grabs you by the waist (the Mexican guy, not the enchilada) you are feeling a tangling sensation going through your body. You don’t get it at first, but the room feels warmer, your cheeks blush, your pupils widen, and your heart… oh your heart, it’ll be pounding with desire. The same when you have Mexican spicy, it’s just there, hanging out in your mouth, then chemical reactions begin to occur and your body prepares for a domino effect beyond its comprehension.

“Oh yeah… you are next my loverrrr”

The tiny Mexican spins you around, gracefully touches your hips, whispers “corazon” while turning you right and left in the middle of the song, holds your body closer to his. You begin to sweat, to transpire desire (please read this with a strong Mexican accent, c’mon, I know you can), you want this sensations to stop, but you hope they never end. It becomes addictive, you want more, but you don’t know if you can handle it.

The same with Mexican food, you keep on munching, it seems harmless, tiny chilli seeds can be seen in the mix, but you don’t mind. You think you can handle it. The heat rises, your sight goes blurry, you need some air, some refreshments, but it’s to late, the chain reaction has began.

The song keeps on playing the bodies keep on touching, perspiration finds no rest, and the way he handles your horizontal desires are always in a refine vertical way. The melody ends, he lets you go, whispers “gracias señorita” and walks away. There you are, hanging there, all turned on, sweaty and built up. The same with Mexican food, you look at the cause of this reaction, and can’t understand how a little taste of Mexican spiced up your night.

Ps: Enchiladas are soft tortilla tacos filled with meat, chicken, cheese or beans, covered with red or green sauce, crowned with melted cheese.

Ps2. I just realized this is still a much better story than Twilight and grammatically better written than 50 Shades of Grey

Ps3. It is said that what happened in Russia could have been a lot worse, except that most of the meteorite was deflected back into space by Putin, who was casually riding his bear around the area when that happened.