Weekly Photo: Boundaries

By Nora Vasconcelos

Boundaries, colors and the open space.

Fences, colors and the open space.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Boundaries.”

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A complete delight: “Inside the Crocodile – The Papua New Guinea Journals”

By Nora Vasconcelos


Much more than just a memoir or a travel journal, Inside the Crocodile is a wonderful read. From the very first page, Trish Nicholson catches the readers’ attention, taking them into a delightful journey.

The pages pass fast as curiosity increases. And this is because the author has shared her experiences while living and working in Papua New Guinea – which celerates its 40th Independence Anniversary this September 16th- with genuine openness, talking the same about the good and the bad or difficult days, in this country that became her home for five years, while implementing a development project with World Bank funding.

Trish Nicholson

The differences between her homeland, Scotland, and her new place, an island in the Pacific Ocean, were very big, but Trish arrived there with an open mind and the wish “to understand other ways of life.”

Dressed up in bilas for the Prime Minister’s visit.

Dressed up in bilas for the Prime Minister’s visit.

She was aware that she should have to accept “discomfort and uncertainty,” and she sure did it. As her time in the island passed by, she endured several episodes of sickness and incertitude. But she faced all those challenges with strong determination and the conviction that when the rest of the people believe that “yes usually meant probably not”, for her, it only meant that she just had to find another way.

Vaccinations at a health post

Vaccinations at a health post

Inspirational at all time, the book is also full of humorous anecdotes that occured to her either while trying to make her new office and house work with the things she had at hand or that some colleagues lend her, or while travelling around the country.

The rhythm of the story goes easy, creating vivid images of a country that has more than 800 hundred indigenous languages; a population composed by more than 7 million people, and which has managed to keep its own culture and traditions despite modernity, bureaucracy troubles, foreign influences, and globalization.

Approaching a landing strip at Tefalmin.

Approaching a landing strip at Tefalmin.

For most travellers, this island remains a mystery, or it’s seen as an exotic destination. And this is one of the wonders of The Papua New Guinea Journals, because it describes the country from the eyes of a visitor who took the time to get to know the people who live there, their problems, worries, traditions, hopes and dreams. And it’s also this truly humane side of the story told by Trish, that makes this book a remarkable moving story and that is able to open the readers’ eyes, minds and hearts, so that they can see the island and its inhabitants as a country worth knowing, and not just as another place to visit, or a short stop on their way to their next destination on a tour.

Trish completed more than 600 pages with her experiences while living in the island. From those memories, preserved in paper, she wrote her travelogue in a very dynamic way. Lively exclusive photos, that only can be seen in her book, give the readers a unique opportunity of seing with their eyes what they’ve already pictured in their heads, while reading Inside the Crocodile.

Travellers, antropologists, sociologist, aid and development workers, and of course book lovers will find in this book a refreashing and very pleasant source of inspiration.

* All photos courtesy of Trish Nicholson

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A charming little town

By Nora Vasconcelos


Calpan is a very small town, located in the west part of Puebla, one of the most diverse and industrious states in Mexico. It’s also guarded by two of the main volcanos in the country, the Iztaccihuatl (which residents affectionately called Doña Rosita) and the Popocatepetl (also known there as Don Goyo). So that, life in Calpan goes by in a quiet pace most of the year.


The oldest buildings have been well preserved, as they were some of the first built in Mexico by the Spaniards, around the 16th century. All around, stone dominates the sights. Churches, houses, streets, all of them witness how people go through their everyday routine with not many disturbances from the urban fast-paced rhythm. Something really amazing, considering that this place is only two hours away from Mexico city, the country’s capital.


But once a year, everything changes here. Local residents welcome hundreds of tourists from other parts of the country who, year after year, can’t wait to enjoy the most delicious “Chiles en nogada” ever!

This Mexican dish, composed with green peppers stuffed with meat and fruits, and covered with walnut sauce, is not only one of the most typical of the national cuisine, but also one with historical roots, as it has its origins during the aftermath of the war of the independence that Mexico fought with Spain in the 19th century.


The elaborated recipe for this dish was created in the state of Puebla, and it has been preserved through the years with just a few modifications. Eating “Chiles en Nogada” is a broad tradition that extends around many places in Mexico, and its anxiously awaited every year, as the ingredients for its preparation can be bought only during July and August and, to remain the closest to the original recipe, the ingredients most be from Calpan, Puebla.

It’s so that this charming town changes completely for two weekends, at the beginning of August. Families open their garages and get some tables to served visitors their special recipes; restaurants send their waiters and waitresses -dressed in typical Mexican customs- to greet visitors with plates containing the coveted dish as soon as they arrive to the town, and in the center of Calpan, a big marquee is displayed with tables and chairs, allowing people to taste dozens of different combinations which are prepared at the moment in stands specially designed to allow local restaurants to prepare these chillies while guests observe the preparations.


Of course, the smell is amazing. And having the opportunity of sitting down at the table with people you’ve just met, is surprising. Life goes easy there. No rush, no worries. It’s simply time to sit back and relax. Calpan residents are there to take good care of you.

When the delicious meal is over, it’s time to go for a nice walk, and the farmers’ market is right there to surprise all people  -particularly those, like me, coming from the big cities- with their incredibly fresh produce, hand-made tortillas and all sort of Mexican snacks.

Then you see smiles all around. People in Calpan feel happy and proud to show visitors their hard work, from a complete year in which they have taken care of their fields.


And then, when the afternoon turns into sunset, the culinary adventure ends. However, the pleasant experience has come here to stay for a long time!


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Want to read more about culinary trips? Check this post written by Jane Isaac, about The Markets Of The Dordogne, in France. And once you’re there, why not read her other posts about books!

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Weekly Photo: Connected

By Nora Vasconcelos



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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connected.”

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Weekly Photo: From Every Angle

By Nora Vasconcelos


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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “From Every Angle.”

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What makes a good day

By Nora Vasconcelos

This Friday The Daily Post’s writing prompt asked us to describe with photos “a good day

Having this in mind, I chose a number of picks I recently took during a day trip to the countryside that is just a couple of hours away from the Mexican capital.

There, I was amazed by all this greenness, the calm, the fresh air, and all the wild plants that grow in this fields along with the corn, the herbs and the vegetables.

The blue sky and the sunshine were the perfect addition to this wonderful day.


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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Today Was a Good Day.”

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Weekly Photo: Beneath my feet

By Nora Vasconcelos



*In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Beneath Your Feet.”

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