Tag Archives: travel

The Perennial Plate Visits India And Sri Lanka On Its World Tour

by Guest Contributor Pavani Yalamanchili; originally published at The Aerogram

Chef Daniel Klein and co-producer/filmmaker Mirra Fine are the creators of The Perennial Plate, a weekly online documentary series that tells the stories of food and the people who make it, with a focus on socially responsible and adventurous eating. The first season took place in Minnesota, and the second took them across America. For its third season, the series is going global and traveling to China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Ethiopia.

In recent months, the series has been posting episodes from the South Asian leg of their world tour, including a fast-paced and musical montage video “Day in India.” It compiles footage from their Indian stay during which they filmed several episodes, including “Dabbawalla” and another featuring an interview with environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. The film-making pair, who recently announced their engagement, also spent time in Sri Lanka where they visited an organic tea farm, a coconut plantation and met a fishing family.

The vegetarian co-producer of Perennial Plate, Mirra Fine, took time from her packed itinerary to entertain a few questions by email from The Aerogram.

What’s involved in making a popular montage video like “A Day in India”? 

For a montage video such as that one, we spent three weeks in the country and filmed everything we saw, ate, and experienced. We came home with at least 15 hours of footage and had to try to figure out a way to condense it into three minutes. We figured that creating “one day” from all the footage would be a great way to do so. Sometimes videos with “themes” have a better chance of going viral. Pretty much, we had to comb through all of the film and take just the beautiful shots, and then find an amazing song (or songs), and then sit for 3-4 hours putting the images to music.

How long were you in Sri Lanka?

We were in Sri Lanka for two weeks (we went there straight from India). We filmed three stories there: “Tea Farmers”“Coconut: Nose-to-Tail” (about a family on a coconut plantation), and “Do Not Blame The Sea” — which came out on Monday and is about a stilt fishing family who lost six members in the tsunami but still fish every day. It’s quite beautiful.

The “Tea for Two” episode offers an intimate look at a Sri Lankan couple who farm organic fair trade tea, and you mention that you didn’t expect to be so taken with their relationship. What kind of video were you expecting to end up with? 

When filming a new story, we never really go into it with a clear vision of what the story will be. We just have a vague idea. Especially when filming overseas, we have limited access to information due to lack of a common language, internet access etc. All we knew about Piyasena and Ariwatha (the two farmers) is that they were part of the Sri Lanka Small Organic Farmers Association meaning they were organic and fair trade.

We went to the farm hoping to see a day in their lives… hear about what it’s like to be an organic tea farmer in Sri Lanka, and hear about their lives. When we got there, we saw that there was something else even more powerful going on — and that was the relationship between the two of them. So we decided to focus on that. I’ve got a TON of footage on the editing room floor with information about tea farming, etc. But this story just touched us. So we went with that. I think we spent four hours with them.

The Perennial Plate has a video on How to Make Chopped Roti and Dal. Did you learn to make any other foods in Sri Lanka? Which foods were your favorites to eat there? 

We actually didn’t learn how to make chopped Roti in Sri Lanka. Instead, we just ate it a lot and then came home and Daniel tried to make it. (He’s really good at that sort of thing). We did visit a family who showed us how to make string hoppers, which are delicious. Have you tried them? String hoppers are amazing with curry.

Sri Lankan food is really incredible. Rice and curry is the main staple, but the street food was also wonderful. Daniel loved the fried fish in chickpea flour (I didn’t try it as I’m a vegetarian). We both loved this chickpea dish that we happened upon when we saw a man in Galle selling it from a cart on the street. It is warm chickpeas with fresh chili, coconut, and spices. It was presented to us on a piece of folded up newspaper. It was amazing.

Is there any particular South Asian ingredient that you enjoy using when preparing food?

Daniel is a chef who trained for some time in India, so he loves all the spices that go into Sri Lankan and India cuisine. And he does say that the most prized ingredient that is the most difficult to find in the US is the fresh curry leaves.

U Go Gurl: Traveling As a Black Woman

by Guest Contributor Margari Aziza Hill, originally published at Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman?

Most travel books don’t prepare Black Americans for the experiences they will have abroad. Ever since I first traveled abroad, I have been bemoaning the lack of resources for Black women who want to see the world. I receive frequent emails from Black women who are either planning to go abroad or are already abroad and looking for resources. Last year, I suggested that someone should compile our stories so that I could support other sisters who want to travel abroad. That’s why I was happy to find this web resource,
U Go Gurl and the book, Go Girl.

FINALLY A TRAVEL BOOK FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN.

A rich collection of fifty-two stories covering the globe. Sister-to-sister advice on everything from destination selection, to traveling solo, to saving money on airfare. Exploration and discussion of issues of particular concern to black women; dealing with racism, overcoming fears, claiming entitlement, etc. The book also includes a planning guide and a resourceful guide.

Maya Angelou tells the story of arriving in Africa a stranger but leaving claimed as a member of the Bambara tribe. Evelyn C. White writes about finding new pride in being black after visiting Egypt. Opal Palmer Adisa evokes the sights, sound, and aromas of urban Ghana where she traveled to meet her lifelong pen pal. Lucinda Roy brings alive the year she spent teaching girls in Sierra Leone and talks how the villagers’ friendship overcame her loneliness for home.

Alice Walker offers a quite meditation on how the beauty of the country stirred her imagination. Audre Lorde captures her experience of being refused entry to the British Virgin Islands because of her dreadlocks. Gwendolyn Brooks recounts the camaraderie and tensions of a trip to Russia with a group of American writers. Gloria Wade-Gayles explores the complexities of being both an American and a woman of color as a paying guest in a Mexican home. Continue reading

Brown and Out of Town: a POC Traveler’s Guide to Racism

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

Author’s note: Before anyone jumps all over me, I use “brown” here as a general term for people of African or indigenous American descent, not solely South Asians or Central Americans, though the article discusses issues for all POC travelers, not just the ones with darker skin.

Ah, Madrid.

I had decided that for spring break in 2005, instead of going to Memphis as planned, I’d take a week-long trip to Paris and Madrid instead. After all, in a weird twist of fate, the plane tickets to Europe were only about 100 dollars more than those I had bought to go to the place Elvis and I both called home. I figured as I could speak, read, and understand Spanish and French, I’d be fine. I’d been to Paris before, and loved it, and had heard awesome things about Madrid from my friends, so I thought, “Why not? Just breathe, and take a chance.” So I did, though I wasn’t exactly prepared for the less than warm reception in one of the liveliest cities in the Iberian Peninsula.

Paris was no problem, possibly due in part to the city’s expressed love (read: borderline fetishizing) of black folks (Josephine Baker, anyone?) or the running assumption that I was Moroccan/generally North African and not a black American. Most people just treated me like I was French, before I opened my mouth, of course (despite my perfect French accent, my occasional pause to find vocabulary words from my high school French mental database was a dead give-a-way). No one was rude to me or my friend with whom I went out on occasion (who is half white American, half indigenous Mexican, and clearly “of color”).

Madrid, on the other hand, completely did me in.

On a super basic level, I wasn’t a big fan of the traditional Spanish food, and, instead, flocked to the numerous Middle Eastern restaurants like water in a desert mirage. And though I was only there for three days, these little hole-in-the-wall, family-run eateries ended up being my surrogate safe havens as walking around on the street proved, well, difficult. I would say the city, overall, was far from receptive. While I understood having a pride in being Spanish, or a Mardileño, to be more specific, what I did not understand was why that translated into racism. I faced constant stares, and I mean constant, many of which were steeped in anger or confusion, despite my more than proper attire (I was not one of those fanny pack-wearing, head buried in a map, incapable-of-speaking-the-native-language types of tourists, trust me). I was cat-called, a lot, and though I was conditioned to that from having lived in NYC for four years at that point, what I hadn’t been exposed to was the overtly sexual racist epithets thrown my way (none of which I will repeat here). I tried to search the eyes of other people of color for an explanation. People of Asian descent seemed happy, even moreso there than in Paris. And people clearly from Africa also seemed OK, though I am sure their black skin proved problematic at times (look no further than the Madrid soccer related racism or even the recent Formula One racing incident in Barcelona). It was the somewhat racially ambiguous brown folks who seemed to run into trouble. Continue reading