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2015: You Were NOT What I Expected

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | December 23, 2015 | 18 Comments

I’m standing in line waiting for my chicken. It’s two days before Christmas and in my village (as in thousands across France) we order our holiday fowls well ahead of time. I’m impatient to greet my poulet de Bresse, which the ever-modest French consider the ‘best chicken in the world’. After the requisite 20 minutes in line, the…

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Wild Rides in the Philippine Cordilleras

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 25, 2015 | 0 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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