loving each other. loving the earth. loving travel

One couple exploring the world, pursuing our passions to enjoy life and live eco-consciously, all while attempting to satiate our wanderlust one day at a time...

21 June, 2012

Cleveland's Public Market!

Cleveland's famous West Side Market, Ohio City

Ayana grew up on the East side of Cleveland, always looking forward to trips across town to the West Side Market, which the Food Network recently deemed the “Best Food Lovers Market” in the country in 2010. She and her sister would sometimes venture there just for the famous falafels from Maha's which have an unforgettably delicious flavor that creates an ongoing craving for years. This is where her love of bustling markets began, the sounds, smells, and sights of food being served from cultures all over the world. What better way to get to know a place than to explore its market?

You can find Maha's right behind this
sign for an amazing falafel 
The West Side Market opened it's doors in 1912 and is celebrating being continuously open for 100 years this year. A few of the stalls have been held by the same family for the entire duration. Cleveland's public market continues to offer an authentic and culturally diverse shopping experience. There are variety of specialty foods offered from the Middle East, Russia, Mexico, Greece, Germany, and many other places around the world. Fresh meats, cheeses, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, spices, and prepared foods are only some of the many amazing products offered by over 100 friendly vendors. And thanks to the nearby Amish population, the dairy products and eggs available are farm fresh.

You can find for example, caramel apples (an Ohio favorite), spiced popcorn, French crepes, fresh Italian pasta, Asian noodles, Hungarian sausages, marinated olives, pierogies, fresh sauerkraut and pickles, every kind of bean, grain and nut, fresh roasted coffee, hot sauce galore, escargot, and the best cannoli in town, just to give you an idea. 

The variety of ethnic cuisines available at this National Historic Landmark tell the story of Cleveland's eclectic past and present, illustrating the variety of immigrants settling in the area for work since the 1800's from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, etc. Ohio City, the historic area where the market stands, has seen the establishment and arrival of several other groups as well; Native Americans, Asian Americans, Puerto Ricans, and even Appalachians. 

Maha's "Fully loaded" falafel
If you are ever in the area, do not miss this gem of a market! Be sure to try the falafel from Maha's, which has been open for 27 years. You'll be hooked too. And the gyros from Steve's Gyros have also been featured on the Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and Man vs. Food, so try one of those as well. Just look for the long line!

Cleveland's Public Market, celebrates its Centennial this year

Here's the market's website! http://www.westsidemarket.org/


Fancy meeting you here!

One day at the market recently, we ran into a woman named Laura who recognized us from Guatemala! We'd met at the Earth Lodge outside of Antigua. She lives in Chicago, but was visiting Cleveland because her husband grew up on the East side. This illustrates how people from all over converge at this historic spot! What a coincidence! 

20 June, 2012

Our Photo of the Day

A rainbow over Cleveland, Ohio

It only lasted a few minutes, and then it was gone... A beautiful example of life's fleeting moments of magic. We happened to be in the right place at the perfect moment to capture this! An omen of good things to come...

14 June, 2012

Our Photo of the Day

San Pedro, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

People fishing to the left, and someone bathing to the right... This is a classic scene at the lake. The indigenous people do their laundry in this water, bathe in it, and fish all in the same vicinity. Unfortunately, they no longer use natural or biodegradable soaps due to lack of ecological awareness and the wide availability of harmful chemical soaps in stores, so this beautiful lake is consistently in poor health. The areas most used at the shores of the bigger towns are the worst. The algae blooms are further exacerbated by nitrogen runoff from the farming of large amounts of beans up in the hills, a cheap staple food in their diet. Sadly, there is not much hope for the lake's restoration, which simple bioremediation could fix (introducing plants into the water that would clean it), but the local politicians are crooked (as they are all over Guatemala) and continue to pocket any money donated toward the cause. 

11 June, 2012

Berry Pickin' in the City...

We grew up with completely different approaches to eating wild foods. While Ayana grew up in a suburban area of Ohio, getting the impression of a looming sense of danger surrounding wild berries and mushrooms, Ruslan's upbringing was quite the opposite in this regard. He grew up running through wheat fields on the outer edges of Minsk (capital city of Belarus), mushroom picking with his family (something many people there know how to do), and gorging himself on wild blueberry bushes in the forest. He still has very fond memories of this... fingers and face stained black from the juicy berries. 

Ruslan and his Mama, Belarusian forest

Ruslan and his brother, Dima

Well, Slavic peoples are known for their love of nature and wilderness, and their culture remains very connected to the earth to this day. Mushroom and berry foraging is very common in the summer, and the forests are bountiful. They are also vast. Belarus is covered with pristine forests and lakes. We went mushroom picking there back in 2006, the first time Ayana visited, and had a great time with Ruslan's family. We also had lots of yummy soup, mushroom dumplings, and pickled mushrooms for a while!

What a bounty of wild mushrooms!
Belarus, 2006
There is something magical about going to a forest searching for wild foods... Eating these foods raw or preparing a meal with them feels so much more satisfying then buying them in a store. Finding wild fruit or a berry tree in a modern city though is somewhat unusual and a real treat. As the cities we live in continue to grow and expand, access to wild foods becomes less available. If for example, there are any wild fruit or berry trees left in a city, often times they get cut down in order to build something else in their place, like a strip mall or a parking lot. 

Intoxicatingly delicious wild Service Berries

Lucky for us, during our recent visit in Cleveland, Ohio we've been able to discover many streets with several wild berry trees still growing. (We were hipped to them by Ayana's aunt Julie who is an urban permacultural farmer, land conservationist, city forager, and tender of the wild.) We've found lots of Mulberry and Service Berry trees. Oh, what a joy it has been to simply reach up to pick the berries from the tree and eat them. At first, we were looking at each other in disbelief. There were so many delicious berries bursting with amazingly unforgettable flavor.

Now, we see Mulberry trees a lot, and we've also discovered a couple bushes growing Red Currants. We've returned to the Service Berry grove as well (though we realize that we found them before at their peak, because they are now beginning to dry and will soon be raisins). No worries though, they'll still be good enough to make some Honey Berry wine! 

Caught in the act at one of many Mulberry trees

Ayana & her Aunt Julie picking Mulberries
So officially this activity of picking unclaimed fruit is called 'Gleaning', which has become quite a large movement throughout the US and beyond. According to an NPR article from last year, "In the Old Testament, farmers are told not to pick their fields and vineyards clean, but instead to leave the edges for orphans, widows and travelers. In the modern day, gleaning is more about preventing would-be waste." So gleaning is being practiced more these days in farmer's fields as a response to the economic downturn and in order to supply food that would otherwise be tossed out to help feed the hungry. It is also now a lifestyle choice for many in urban and suburban neighborhoods, to also donate large amounts of produce to food banks or community centers, but also to feed the pickers themselves. And why not? As long as one knows how to correctly identify fruits, berries, etc. that are safe and nutritious to eat, it is perfectly legal to eat unharvested food from municipal trees and plants, and if  they grow in someone's yard, many often simply ask their neighbor's permission. You'll find that people who have fruit trees in their yard, for example, often don't have the time or interest in harvesting the fruit, or they take enough for themselves and have plenty to share. 

In San Francisco, California there is a Free Farm Stand where people can come and drop off whatever food they have an overabundance of, and if they so choose, they can trade for something else. If you are just coming to the farm stand as a customer though, you can put away your wallet, because the food is all FREE! (As of today, they've given away over 25,000 lbs. of free local produce. There is also a Free Farm in the city, which grows food just to give away. Both organizations are volunteer run, so stop by and lend a hand sometime if you're in the area.) Well, until there's more organizations like this everywhere, in the meantime, we're going to keep on picking that city fruit! 

Check out this informative article about the Urban Gleaning Movement: 

We're really looking forward to being back in Belarus in July, and we will be mushroom and berry picking again! So stay tuned!


FREE Produce in San Francisco, CA: 

The Free Farm Stand: http://freefarmstand.org

05 June, 2012

A Discovery on the Way from Guate to Cleveland...

We've arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, Ayana's hometown, and so far things have been wonderful. Seeing family and friends, meeting new friends, and getting situated. We'll be here volunteering at a couple great urban farms (more about that soon!), and have a lot of fun projects planned for the month. We are very excited. 

The way here wasn't the most comfortable of journeys however. Our flight from Guatemala was at 5:00am, and we thought we'd save some money so we booked two layovers - one in Panama City, and the second in Houston, Texas. We decided to just leave from Ocelot, our favorite Antigua bar, since we needed to leave town right at closing time. How convenient! (We wanted to squeeze every last drop out of the lovely stay we just had in Antigua.) So we stashed our bags and had some good-bye drinks with our friends.

Our taxi driver, Don Antonio, was prompt - even a half hour early! His motto: "I wait for people, people don't wait for me." Impressive, given that a lot of folks are pretty flexible about timeframes in Guatemala. Once we got to the airport in Guatemala City around 2:30am, we found out something very "interesting"... the airport wasn't even open! We had never heard of such a thing, but alas, it was true. 

So we could not be early to check in for our 5am flight. Instead, we had no choice but to sleep in the cab that took us there. The cab driver, was very kind and didn't mind, especially since he knew this ahead of time would be the case. Well, we also had no choice because our several drinks were putting us to sleep. We hadn't slept since waking up that morning and had planned to get our night's sleep on the plane anyway. Our bodies knew it was time and we couldn't fight it. So there we were in front of the airport, along with several other travelers waiting for the airport to open, sound asleep in the taxi (though they were all locals who must've known about it too because they were just hanging out.) 

The doors didn't open until 4:00am! And we had an international flight to catch at 5:00 with two connections ahead! Ah, Central America and your curious ways of doing things... 

So we had to find our way through the confusing airport that was desolate, half-awake, finding the security checkpoints, trying to make sure our baggage was checked in well to ensure that it all arrived... 

As a result of checking in so late, because we were checked in at that time for all three flights, we got crappy seats. The first flight was empty, so seats didn't matter, but the next two were so full we did not even get to sit together. (Our seats were not assigned together because of late check-in, and so full with families we weren't able to switch.) 

Also, Ayana also got the very last seat on the plane from Panama to Houston, and this means, though she was closest to the Flight Attendants' station, and every cart passed her first, she got served dead last. She got whatever food options were left. From Houston to Cleveland we were also in the very last row. So we were last to exit those planes, making our connection tighter to catch, and then leaving our ride from the airport waiting... 

Well, at least we flew Copa Airlines for the first time, and we had a good experience with them. Major perk - no baggage fees for two bags (25 kilos/ 50 lbs. each) on international flights or domestic. It helps to save more money if you consider the baggage fees as well as the ticket price before booking. (We find it helpful to keep a list of baggage fees for all the airlines on the computer and just pull it up as  we are considering which tickets to buy. With some airlines, it really adds up!) We like this list: http://airfare.cheapoair.com/baggage.asp Just click on 'Airline Baggage Fees' on the left. 

Anyway, we just wanted to alert our friends who might be flying out of Guatemala at some point to be aware of the time you fly because airport employees need sleep too! 


Need a Taxi in Guatemala? 

Call Don Antonio (502)5407-2946 for Airport drop-offs or pick-ups (He'll meet you with a sign), or for Antigua and surrounding towns. He's honest, reliable, and always on time. 

01 June, 2012

Yoga On the Road

We have both been practicing yoga for many years and for us it is an important way to stay balanced, grounded, and connected. Yoga after all comes from the word "yoke" that means to unite, or hold two things together. It is a powerful and effective way to maintain a union between mind, body, and spirit. This is absolutely essential in the hectic times in which we live, and especially for us when uprooting and readjusting to new locations during travel. Even finding five or ten minutes to do a few poses can make all the difference in your day, the way you respond to stress, etc. Of course, the more time you can invest, the more benefits you'll harvest, ideally even quieting the mind enough to settle into meditation. This is was the original reason for creating the physical practice of yoga anyway. A regular practice can calm your nervous system, ensuring that you are not living in a constant state of fight or flight, which is unfortunately a common state in the fast-paced modern world. This over time creates sleep, digestive, and reproductive disorders, etc. as well as constant underlying anxiety. 

We keep up with our home practice as much as we can, but it can be difficult since these days our home is changing constantly. Sometimes you need the boost of joining a studio or getting together with others to share it, so you can stay motivated, push yourself to try new things, or be infused with fresh inspiration to mix it up. We even joined a Bikram studio for our last month in the Bay Area. It really helps to have a yoga community or even just a buddy to keep your practice thriving. We recently found a group of yogis and yoginis in Antigua who are meeting up once a week for outdoor yoga. Ayana even got to teach a class last week! Her first in Guatemala. It was a lot of fun, and we can't wait to get back to Antigua for more!

Ayana teaching Tree Pose by a Palm tree:)
Ruslan enjoying Fish Pose in the sun
A yummy Fish Pose for all

Not a bad location for yoga

Our Morning Yoga Practice at the Earth Lodge in Guatemala

Ayana began meditating at age 7, and practicing yoga at 16. She officially became a Certified Yoga Instructor in a few years ago in San Francisco, trained in the Vinyasa style, though she has explored many different styles over the years and continues to try new approaches. She teaches private sessions, studio classes, and outdoor yoga (her personal favorite). Namaste!