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Wild Rides in the Philippine Cordilleras

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 25, 2015 | 5 Comments

The rains come early to the Cordilleras this year and we watch as the waters rise from the river below. Slowly, inexorably, a few bushes disappear each day. Our food supplies dwindle. We’ve eaten more than half our sardines and two-thirds of our rice. The tempting coconuts are stuck up in their trees, the slick palm trunks…

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Rose and Pepper, Wine and Weather

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | August 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

What do you do in the Beaujolais region if you don’t drink wine? You scrub grapes all over your body, that’s what. At least that’s what Nathalie Jacquet suggests: she manages a French line of grape-based cosmetics and body products, Rose & Pepper. “We were inspired by the vines and roses,” she told me. Roses are…

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Yes, You Can Get Lost in the Amazon

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | August 2, 2015 | 9 Comments

I didn’t think I’d ever find my way out. The two children spoke a language I had never heard before. I tried Portuguese, and then used my hands in a clumsy version of charades. I even attempted to imitate a car on a road but their raised eyebrows hinted that they might have never seen either.…

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My Accidental Dinner Date with Royalty

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | July 14, 2015 | 43 Comments

I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I thrust one out to shake his, but that didn’t feel quite right. I hung my arms by my side and that felt worse. Finally I compromised. I clasped my hands together in front of me, waiting for a sign from each of the white-clad Arabs…

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How We Celebrate Bastille Day in France

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | July 12, 2015 | 3 Comments

Bastille Day is July 14 – but you’ll find the French celebrating several days beforehand. Like this. The Fête Nationale, as it’s called here, or le 14 juillet, is the perfect excuse for a long weekend, often combined with the summer holidays. The weekend before it is usually labelled ‘black’, a dangerous driving day during which everyone…

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Hambantota International: The World’s Emptiest Airport?

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | June 22, 2015 | 68 Comments

The dual carriageway could be anywhere… Germany, the US, Sweden… Its sharp new signs direct traffic off a wide ramp towards the spiffy airport, still smelling of clean since its inauguration in 2013. Except that my car is the only one on this road. I share part of the highway with a herd of buffalo.…

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Jetwing Lighthouse’s Green Machine

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | June 7, 2015 | 6 Comments

When I was traipsing across rural Africa as a journalist, I made it a point to stay in a luxury hotel at least once a month – powerful hot showers, buffet breakfasts, clean sheets… the works. I’ve just spent a marvelous week touring Sri Lanka on a budget, sleeping in mostly spartan lodgings so when Jetwing…

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A New Life in 90 Days

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | May 31, 2015 | 38 Comments

Creedence Clearwater Revival blasts Proud Mary in the background – that’s Internet radio for you, all music, anytime. I pick each thing up, wondering if I still need it. A stapler? Probably not. Photos of my niece? Definitely. A file on integrated intergovernmental negotiation processes? No way! And then there are the boxes I haven’t unpacked from my last job move…

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A Delightful Dispute About the Perfect Tortilla

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | May 15, 2015 | 4 Comments

Here’s how an evening out in Spain might go. “Let’s go to the Alcazar/Rincon/Whatever bar, it’s got the best tortilla.” “Forget it – they put onions in their tortilla.” “Onions?? Sacrilege!” Me, timidly: “But… without onions it’s not tortilla, just a bunch of eggs and potatoes…” And that’s enough to spark a heated discussion I’ve “enjoyed” at…

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The Countless Legends of Girona

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | May 11, 2015 | 12 Comments

Once upon a time, in the days of the Egyptian god Osiris, there lived somewhere to the south a giant monster with three heads, called Gerió. Seeking to enlarge his empire he headed north where he built a castle and founded a city that would one day bear his name: Geriona, today’s Girona. Or not. Perhaps Girona…

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