Uncornered Market » Videos http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:42:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Building a Story-Filled Life: What is your “What if?” (Our TEDx Talk)http://uncorneredmarket.com/story-filled-life-what-if-tedx-talk/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/story-filled-life-what-if-tedx-talk/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 14:35:54 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=13389 By Daniel Noll

Some say our story is written for us when in fact it is ours to write. What is your “What if?” that will lead you to write your next chapter? This was the message we recently brought to TEDxWarsaw, the 4th largest TEDx in the world. It was both an honor and a thrill to […]

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By Daniel Noll

Some say our story is written for us when in fact it is ours to write. What is your “What if?” that will lead you to write your next chapter?

This was the message we recently brought to TEDxWarsaw, the 4th largest TEDx in the world. It was both an honor and a thrill to be on stage in front of 800 people.

Although our talk may appear to be about travel and wanderlust on the surface, it’s more about an approach to life.

We hope you enjoy the video!

We Need Your Help

If you enjoyed the video and its message, please help it reach more people. In order for our talk to be selected for and highlighted on the TEDx (or TED) website we need loads of people to watch it on YouTube. And for this, we ask for your help.

Please:
1) Share the YouTube video of our talk with others — on Facebook, Twitter, email or your favorite channel of choice.
2) Write your thoughts on the video in the YouTube comments.
3) If you enjoyed the video, give it a thumbs up on YouTube.

As always, we’re interested to hear your thoughts and forever grateful for your support.

Thank you!

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Base Flying Berlin: An 11th Wedding Anniversary Jump (Video)http://uncorneredmarket.com/base-flying-berlin/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/base-flying-berlin/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 18:18:54 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=9598 By Daniel Noll

What is marriage, if not a leap of faith? Fourteen years ago, on or around our second date, Audrey and I went skydiving together. It was, as you might imagine, both terrifying and fantastic. And as much as you also might also imagine that it wiped away my fear of heights, it did not. Perhaps […]

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By Daniel Noll

What is marriage, if not a leap of faith?

Fourteen years ago, on or around our second date, Audrey and I went skydiving together. It was, as you might imagine, both terrifying and fantastic. And as much as you also might also imagine that it wiped away my fear of heights, it did not. Perhaps it chiseled away at that wall, but it certainly didn’t tear it down. I still swoon thinking about that airplane canopy above 16,000 feet. I still get wobbly above 10 stories.

So here we are 14 years later in Berlin, celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary. What better way to recognize the occasion than to jump (base fly) from the top of a 37-story building?

Berlin Base FlyingPhoto courtesy of Yuhang Yuan, one of our awesome friends who came out to support us

Berlin Base Flying: The Experience

As often happens in life, it’s one thing to talk about doing something and quite another to actually do it. The same goes for launching oneself from a tall building in Berlin.

Base Flying at Alexander Platz, Berlin
Hanging above Berlin, waiting for the 400 foot drop

The following video tells that story. If after the video you stick around to read the rest of this piece, we’ll explain what base flying is. And we’ll offer a little marriage advice.

Video: Base Flying in Berlin: Celebrating 11 Years of Marriage

Special thanks to Sarah Everts for her camera work and support.

The Base Flying Process, Start to Finish

We arrived at the lobby of the Park Inn and were given one of those “this is totally safe, but there’s an outside chance you might end up like a pancake” waivers to sign. Here are my favorite segments:

Precondition is a good physical and intellectual constitution as the execution of this event can entail a considerable physical and mental exposure

Not to be outdone, it follows:

The organizer assumes no liability for soiling or damaging clothing worn during the fall.

Rough translation: If you poop your pants, it’s on you.

I had reservations on both accounts, but I signed anyhow.

As for the mechanics of the base flying process, it’s pretty quick. (And I’m pleased to report, painless):

1) Go to the roof of the building (take an elevator, then walk up the stairs from floor 37). The view from atop the Park Inn Berlin is spectacular, especially if the weather is as immaculate as it was on the day of our jump.

2) Get outfitted in a harness and hooked to an industrial strength wire contraption that is attached to the side and roof of the building.

3) You try out your harness rig in a superman pose above stable ground with one of the crew.

4) The crew walks you out to the edge of the jumping platform where you are raised on the hook and out over open ground. This is profoundly terrifying. You pretend like you are thrilled and look at the camera. Remember to smile.

Berlin Base Flying - Dan About to Go!
Forcing a smile through the terror

5) Then you drop, free-falling for about 5 seconds (but time almost stands still). Wild. As you reach the end, the wire suspension device executes a controlled deceleration so you experience absolutely no sudden jerking motion as you might with bungee jumping.

Berlin Base Flying - Alexanderplatz
View from below

6) Run around Alexanderplatz in your white jumpsuits, hug your friends who have been cheering you on and head over to Pfefferhaus for a round of hot sauce tasting (stay tuned for our next piece).

And Finally, A Little Marriage Advice

When people ask us for marriage advice, I often feel like a kid, not the sort of person you go to for marriage counsel.

Friends who had been married only a few years recently asked, “So what advice can you give after 11 years?

I replied: “You’re married, right? Then it’s too late

But quite seriously, here’s my 11-year-thoughts-on-marriage offer: Marriage is a lot of work, much in the way a garden might be. You reap the rewards that you sow.

Now go forth and jump off a building.

Berlin Base Flying - We Made It!
We Did It!

How to Go Base Flying in Berlin

Location: Park Inn at Alexanderplatz, Berlin. Jochen Schweizer is the company that operates the base flying. Look for their desk near the concierge.

Operating hours: Usually open only on weekends, weather permitting. Call ahead to be sure it’s open.

Costs: Although base flying may not be the cheapest activity going in Berlin, the price strikes us as pretty fair considering how unique this experience is and the safety and sophistication of the equipment. Try to go early in the morning for the best deals.

  • Basic Base-Flying: €79
  • 2nd person: €39
  • Early Bird (10-11 AM): €49
  • Happy Hour (18-19 AM): €59

We asked how many people chicken out once they are on the roof. The crew’s response: “It’s actually very few people – only about 2-3%. And it’s usually the guys with the big mouths talking it up the most.”

Thanks and Disclosure:
First off, a big thanks to the Jochen Schweizer crew on top of the Park Inn. Cedrik, Tilman and the rest of the folks were safety conscious, supportive and very funny (check out Tilman in the video) — exactly the type of people you want around you when you’re about to jump off a building.

Our base flying experience was provided to us by Jochen Schweizer, an experience company whose offers include high adrenaline and adventure activities around the world.

As always, these words, experiences and opinions are entirely our own.

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Two Thai Classics, Six Minutes: A Video Recipe from an Island Kitchenhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/thai-food-video-recipes/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/thai-food-video-recipes/#comments Thu, 03 Feb 2011 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=7086 By Daniel Noll

Oh, Thai cuisine: complexity in flavor, simplicity in process. The flavors are so vast and so varied that the thought of cooking something so rich, so in-the-mouth dazzling is daunting, to some insurmountable. It doesn’t need to be. To help us get over this hump, beyond this seeming contradiction, a video. The main character in […]

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By Daniel Noll

Oh, Thai cuisine: complexity in flavor, simplicity in process. The flavors are so vast and so varied that the thought of cooking something so rich, so in-the-mouth dazzling is daunting, to some insurmountable.

It doesn’t need to be.

To help us get over this hump, beyond this seeming contradiction, a video. The main character in today’s episode of “you can do it, too,” is Dao. She runs a humble little kitchen on the island of Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand and she cooks up a storm — a storm so perfect that we asked her if she would be kind enough to let us film her working her kitchen magic. She agreed.

As you watch the video, you may also recognize Dao as the savior from a recent post about people — some sour, some sweet. She was the sweet one — and, Like Water for Chocolate, her sweetness continually found its way into her cooking.

Together with Dao, you’ll learn how to make two of our favorite Thai dishes: Panang Seafood Curry, and Pla Muk Gra Pow (chili-basil squid stir-fry). Before we roll the video, a little secret: if you can get your hands on a few of the key ingredients (becoming more accessible by the day), the rest of this Thai cooking thing becomes easy. Sense the flow and surrender your need for kitchen precision and you will begin to unlock the beauty that is Thai cuisine.

Watch the Video: Into the Kitchen with Dao

Recipes for Two Thai Classic Dishes

Forgive us for the imprecision in the recipes below, but we drafted these from watching Dao at work. As you see in the video, she doesn’t measure anything. The idea is to experiment with small amounts until you arrive at the perfect combination.

Dao’s Panang Curry

  1. Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok.
  2. When the oil is hot, add a spoonful of panang curry paste and a smaller dab of shrimp paste (you can find each of these in little tubs in Asian food stores in the U.S.)
  3. Heat the pastes for a minute or so until their essence is released. (Mind it so it doesn’t burn.)
  4. Add the coconut milk. Start with a small portion, you can add more later to taste and thickness. Stir. Let the mixture simmer and bubble for a few minutes.
  5. Add your meat (in this case seafood — or you can use chicken, pork, beef etc.) and stir evenly for a few minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  6. Add a teaspoon of palm sugar (substitute brown/raw sugar) and a dash of salt (we tend to use fish sauce instead of salt).
  7. If you’d like more sauce, add a bit more coconut milk.
  8. Add vegetables (baby corn, non-spicy red pepper) and thinly scissor-sliced kaffir lime leaves (the magic ingredient!).
  9. Add a little water if mixture is too thick, or if the pan is too dry.
  10. Cook and turn for a few more minutes until everything is cooked through.
Shrimp and Fish Penang Curry - Haad Yao, Thailand
Seafood Panang Curry on Koh Pha Ngan

Dao’s Chili Basil Squid Stir-Fry

  1. Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok.
  2. When hot, add finely chopped garlic and hot chili peppers (the small, deadly kind). Note: if small and deadly isn’t your thing, cut the amount of peppers back, remove the seeds, or skip the peppers altogether (no fun!).
  3. Add the chopped squid (or chicken, fish, shrimp, or pork if you like) and stir fry for several minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  4. Add a few dashes of soy sauce and a small sweet onion and pepper cut into thin strips.
  5. Add a teaspoon of palm sugar (again, substitute a little brown/raw sugar) and a dash of salt.
  6. Sprinkle a little oyster sauce (teaspoon or two) into the mixture.
  7. Stir well and let cook for a few minutes.
  8. Add a bunch of Thai basil (or holy basil). This stuff is truly amazing.
  9. If necessary, add a bit of water during the cooking process to prevent sticking and to thin the sauce.
Awesome Squid Basil Stir-Fry - Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Squid basil chili stir-fry at Haad Yao Beach

Serve both dishes over your favorite plain white rice (we recommend jasmine rice) and enjoy.

A Note on Eating Well in Tourist Areas

Late last year when we retreated to Haad Yao beach on the northern side of Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand for a return visit, we noticed that the area had seen even more development since our previous visit in 2007. At first we were disappointed by the Thai food options. Many restaurants muted their dishes in spice and flavor in favor of what they believe foreigners prefer. Then we found Dao at her little road-side restaurant with a simple chalkboard menu of classic Thai dishes. We chatted, asked questions. She was up for making just about anything.

This was easily some of the best, high-value Thai food around. Each dish cost 60 BHT ($2).

We ate at Dao’s almost every day (we don’t even know the name of her restaurant, if it even has one) and never tired of her cooking. If you visit and show some interest, she’ll even make off-menu dishes from Isan, the area in northern Thailand where she comes from originally. Her fish larb with sticky rice was fabulous.

Next Thai Cooking Challenge

We’re on Koh Samui (the island next door to Koh Pha Ngan) for a few more days and one of our friends has offered to take us into her kitchen to learn how to cook some more Thai food.

Which Thai dishes would you like to learn how to make?

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In Bangkok, My Feet Are Fish Foodhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/bangkok-flesh-eating-fish-spa/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/bangkok-flesh-eating-fish-spa/#comments Sun, 12 Dec 2010 01:05:00 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=6542 By Daniel Noll

During our most recent visit to Bangkok, tanks full of flesh-eating fish hungry for dead skin were all the rage. Sound like fun? We thought so. Watch the video below to find out. Fish Spa Video: A Dip in a Pool of Flesh-Eating Doctor Fish   So what kind of fish are these? When we […]

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By Daniel Noll

During our most recent visit to Bangkok, tanks full of flesh-eating fish hungry for dead skin were all the rage.

Sound like fun? We thought so.

Watch the video below to find out.

Fish Spa Video: A Dip in a Pool of Flesh-Eating Doctor Fish

 

So what kind of fish are these? When we asked the woman at the spa, she said “Hungry.”

Further research tells us they are Garra Rufa Fish, also referred to as Doctor Fish. (When I was a kid, my pediatrician was named Dr. Fish, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

If you think that having the surface of your feet feasted on by schools of flesh eating fish sounds like fun, here’s some practical advice to maximize your fish spa experience:

1) Go solo: This may sound selfish, but try to keep the tank to yourself. More feet and limbs in there at once means less fish attention on you.

2) Go early: As the day wears on, the fish lose their appetites as they fill up on the flesh of other clients’ feet. Try to get your limbs into the tank in the morning when the fish and their appetites are at their peak. (If anyone knows of a spa where the fish remain unfed for days, please send details.)

3) Spread your toes: OK, this may be more information than you really wanted. Spread your toes apart and the fish will love it…as will you.

Cost: A cheap thrill for the bucket list. The spa where we took a dip is located across from Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Athit Road near the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. 15 minutes in the tank costs 150 BHT ($5) with $1.75 for each additional 5 minutes.

In case you are ever considering opening a fish spa of your own, think about the business model: you don’t really need to feed the fish. You can rely on your clients’ flesh to do that for you.

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Loi Krathong Festival: Troubles Down the River, Lanterns in the Skyhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/loi-krathong-festival-bangkok/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/loi-krathong-festival-bangkok/#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2010 18:04:57 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=6042 By Audrey Scott

Sunday was one of those days when misfortunes were set aloft and misdeeds adrift. That is, in Bangkok at least. It was Loi Krathong, a Thai holiday where young and old come out in force. They send their wrongdoings afloat on colorfully adorned lotus leaf rafts down the Chao Praya River and they fire up […]

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By Audrey Scott

Sunday was one of those days when misfortunes were set aloft and misdeeds adrift.

That is, in Bangkok at least.

It was Loi Krathong, a Thai holiday where young and old come out in force. They send their wrongdoings afloat on colorfully adorned lotus leaf rafts down the Chao Praya River and they fire up paper lanterns to carry their misfortunes into the sky.

Then they party like it’s 1999.

Loi Krathong Festival: The Frenetic, The Solemn

Evening began, as so many evenings in Bangkok often do, in a crowd. Farangs (foreigners) and Thais ogled boats and barges drowned in neon lights and dancing electronic animals. Strobe lights and fireworks — lit from the boats and the bases of bridges — added additional bling to the nightscape.

Fireworks on the Chao Praya River for Loi Krathong Festival - Bangkok, Thailand
Loi Krathong Festivities and Fireworks in Bangkok, Thailand

Although the crowds and boats gave an impression more casino-worthy than temple pure, the spiritual energy at the edge of the river, on the docks and in the lagoons, was profound. Beyond the bling, families and couples crouched together in prayers, cupping their krathongs one last time before their transgressions were to be symbolically carried away by the river.

Our craft was a rather beautiful, but simple, one of sculpted lotus leaves filled with orchid petals that we purchased from a woman on the street for $1 (the going price for a entry-mid level krathong). We borrowed candles and lit the incense sticks stuck in the center of our krathong. Then we engaged one of the entrepreneurs armed with giant spoon-like oars with strainers at the tip (there’s a word for these things, we’re certain) to set our raft safely adrift, flame intact — for a small tip.

Beyond the docks, we found an area with steps leading down to a little protected inlet. It was a similar scene, but more subdued, peaceful and deliberate. Some couples read prayers printed out on small pieces of paper before they set free their krathong. Parents guided their children to let theirs go.

Brother and Sister Moment - Loi Krathong Festival, Bangkok
Brother and sister let go of their krathong on the water.

Up to the Sky

From the docks and lagoons to the streets where music, food, and crowds took over once again. If you looked up, the the sky was filled with tiny little lights — not stars, or moons or planets — but paper lanterns alight, like hot air balloons slowly making their way skyward until burn out.

All roads in our neighborhood seemed to funnel people to the Rama VIII Bridge. Just about everyone had his hand on a paper lantern. Some couldn’t even wait to climb the stairs to the top of the bridge, but set theirs aloft under the bridge — with surprising success. Light, paper and fire, seemingly a sure way to calamity in the midst of mobs. But nothing burned but lights in the sky.

Beautiful. Fun. We watched a few families and groups of friends set off their lanterns and followed suit. Watch the video below to see how we did.

Watch our Video: Lanterns in the Sky – Loi Krathong Festival Thailand

And once those misgivings were released, people took to the streets and partied like rock stars. We asked a local whether the next day was a holiday.

“Holiday? No, tomorrow is a regular work day. But tonight is a festival.”

And this is how Thais party on a school night.

Photo Slideshow: Floating Rafts, Lanterns and People of Loi Krathong

If you don’t have a high-speed connection or you would like to read the captions, you can view our Loi Krathong photo essay.

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Vietnamese Summer Rolls: Keeping the Taste of Summer Alive (A Video Recipe)http://uncorneredmarket.com/vietnamese-summer-rolls-video-recipe/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/vietnamese-summer-rolls-video-recipe/#comments Wed, 01 Sep 2010 16:45:17 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=5032 By Audrey Scott

As we look out the window of our sublet in Berlin today, leaves are changing colors, temperatures are dropping, and intermittent rain storms are battling with a sun that struggles to peek through the clouds. No doubt about it: summer is fading away in the northern hemisphere. So we offer a suggestion on how to […]

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By Audrey Scott

As we look out the window of our sublet in Berlin today, leaves are changing colors, temperatures are dropping, and intermittent rain storms are battling with a sun that struggles to peek through the clouds. No doubt about it: summer is fading away in the northern hemisphere.

So we offer a suggestion on how to hold on to the taste and freshness of summer: Vietnamese summer rolls.

Good thing is, they’re easier to make than you think.

Fresh Spring Rolls - Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnamese Summer Rolls in Hanoi, Vietnam

Have you ever tried summer rolls (think unfried spring rolls) at a Vietnamese restaurant and loved them, but figured they would just be too difficult to make at home?

Well, they aren’t. Heck, we even made them in the Czech countryside.

We’ve taught several of our friends how to make them and figured we’d share our approach with you.

The trickiest part is finding some key ingredients. But if we can source things like Thai basil and rice paper in Prague, Czech Republic you can probably find them where you live, provided you seek it out. Along the way, you may also find that the people you meet and the conversations you have are half the fun.

So, watch the video below as Dan takes you through the making of a Vietnamese summer roll. Then try it yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Eating With Dan and Audrey: Vietnamese Summer Rolls Recipe

Summer rolls and dips are subject to endless variation and improvisation. That’s part of their beauty: mix, match, experiment, eat, enjoy. If you have your own technique, suggestions, or special ingredients for making summer rolls and dipping sauce, please share them in the comments below!

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Road Trip Northwest Argentina: Where Gauchos Go To Partyhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/road-trip-northwest-argentina-where-gauchos-go-to-party/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/road-trip-northwest-argentina-where-gauchos-go-to-party/#comments Wed, 21 Jul 2010 22:40:48 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=4386 By Daniel Noll

As our rental car began to drift atop a layer of windblown sand, I grabbed hold, down-shifted and noticed the hills around me were swirled in a peppermint twist. All those Ruta 40 signs in Argentina finally delivered on an implied promise: you’ll be impressed, and what once captured your imagination will now claim your […]

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By Daniel Noll

As our rental car began to drift atop a layer of windblown sand, I grabbed hold, down-shifted and noticed the hills around me were swirled in a peppermint twist. All those Ruta 40 signs in Argentina finally delivered on an implied promise: you’ll be impressed, and what once captured your imagination will now claim your full attention.

But it wasn’t the fabled Route 40 of Patagonia that would provide the exclamation point on our time in Argentina. It was a week-long road trip across the quebradas of Northwest Argentina, where chilies dry in the midday sun, llama comes served with wine pressed just down the road, and gauchos hold harvest festivals in the hills.

On the Road from Salta to Cachi - Northern Argentina
Landscape in Northwest Argentina

We had begun our road trip with a climb out of Salta on a Saturday morning. As midday approached and lunch options looked slim to none, we passed a hand-painted sign strapped to the side of a bridge. Neither of us recalls exactly what the sign said other than the mention of food, festival and gauchos (a cowboy, roughly)…and today’s date.

What more could we need?

After divining the turn-off on the unmarked road, we snaked our way over a well-underestimated 5 kilometers. En route, we helped a distressed local Argentine family push their aging wheels after they’d stalled in the middle of a hill.

Lending a Helping Hand - Northern Argentina
Pushing a car up the hill on the way to the festival.

When we arrived at the end of the road (both literally and figuratively), it was pretty well clear that we’d hit the cultural mother lode. This was a gaucho harvest festival, and it was stocked with people who had poured in from the hills.

Apparently not many foreigners make it to these parts. For our pluck and persistence, we were rewarded with curiosity and – with the passage of time – increasing interest and hospitality. We paid our 15 pesos ($4.25) at the door and were led into a tented area. This year’s corn and cowboy festival was sold out, and the capacity crowd gave us a look like we were, well, from places far away.

A grill covered in various cuts of cow smoked away in the corner. An all-ages crowd of men and women ladled servings of locro (a local stew made from beans, corn, vegetables and meat) from large white plastic buckets. Others worked various kettles and carved bits of meat, while teens performed bus duty, running plates and bowls back to the hungry crowd.

Serving Out Locro at a Village Gaucho Festival - Northern Argentina
Serving up Locro and Asado at a Gaucho Festival in Northern Argentina

Stomachs rumbling, we awaited our turn in line, but the organizers hand-guided us to an empty space between the crowd and the stage, where in minutes they would set up a table especially for us.

Next came plates of asado (Argentine barbecue), bowls of locro, and a two liters of cola for the four of us (Jason and Aracely, our fellow roadtrip buddies) to share. The meat was well-exercised, but we made our way through it while fielding questions from passers-by as to where we were from and how we discovered their annual village festival.

One man engaged us. “So, where are you from? How did you get here?

“We’re from the United States, but we drove from Salta today. We saw the sign for the festival on the side of the road.”

Then he offered the contrast of his own arrival. “Oh, that’s good. I live 25 kilometers away. I don’t have a car, so I came by horse.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Jolly Village MC - Northern Argentina
The emcee of the Gaucho Festival.

The emcee, a jovial man with salt and pepper hair peeping out under his broad-brimmed cowboy hat, shook our hands heartily and gave us a big, personal welcome before he took the stage. After a rundown on local issues – from the importance of maintaining gaucho traditions to protecting local land from outsiders (i.e., city folks) to the promotion of local agriculture – we were treated to the first of the day’s entertainment: live gaucho music. The full meaning of the words were lost us – what with our conversational Spanish — but the mood was proud and celebratory with hints of melancholy.

This is the song of the land.

Gaucho Style Music at Village Festival - Northern Argentina
Gaucho Musician at a Harvest Festival

Local children’s dance troupes and an adult troupe from Salta followed, with members of the crowd sneaking in from time to time to join their favorite dance. A man that looked like he’d walked out of a lineup of colonialists — a cross between a 400-pound Christopher Columbus and a character out of a de Bernières novel – captured my attention. He was pasty-white, bubbling of flesh and dressed in what looked like a period outfit. I wondered whether he wore it often – but I didn’t have the courage to ask.

Video: Where Gauchos Go To Party

The music and dance continued; the afternoon lazed away. We resisted the urge to stick around for the raffle: “You should stay. You could win 50 kilos of corn or flour.”

Instead, we handed our stubs to our neighbors and made the rounds to say goodbye. We left with handshakes, hugs and a warm invitation to return next year at the same time.

So the travel lesson of the day: next time you see a handwritten sign on the side of the road, follow it. You just may find a group of gauchos on the other side.

Photo Slideshow of Gaucho Harvest Festival in Northern Argentina

If you don’t have a high speed connection or you would like to read the captions, view the Northwest Argentina, Gaucho Festival photo essay.

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Antarctica, Part 3: Penguins, The Key to Happiness and World Peace?http://uncorneredmarket.com/antarctica-penguins-key-to-happiness-world-peace/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/antarctica-penguins-key-to-happiness-world-peace/#comments Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:36:30 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=3670 By Audrey Scott

“I believe penguins are the answer to world peace.” — Heidi Krajewsky, resident ornithologist (bird gal) aboard the MS Expedition to Antarctica Our challenge to you: read this, watch the slideshow, check out the video — and maintain a straight face. Can you envision the world’s leaders meeting onstage at the United Nations with a […]

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By Audrey Scott

“I believe penguins are the answer to world peace.” — Heidi Krajewsky, resident ornithologist (bird gal) aboard the MS Expedition to Antarctica

Gentoo Penguin Dance - Danco Island, Antarctica
Dancing Gentoo Penguins.

Our challenge to you: read this, watch the slideshow, check out the video — and maintain a straight face.

Can you envision the world’s leaders meeting onstage at the United Nations with a group of penguins to kick off the next round of nuclear arms reduction talks? Or during a break at the next Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, running a few clips of Antarctic penguins chasing each other down a snow-covered slope?

Whereas Antarctica’s landscape stirs the blood, its penguins touch the heart.

Penguins generate excitement, too. They bob, they waddle. They appear like they are forever on the verge of tipping over. But they do walk upright. And it’s because of this (and perhaps their tipping over) that we identify with them. We find human connections in ways we just don’t with other birds.

There is a huge temptation to anthropomorphize penguins, from characterizing how they “toboggan” down snowfields on their bellies to comparing their appearance to someone wearing a tuxedo.

They tempt imitation. They draw laughter.

Watch Our Video on Antarctic Penguins

The life of a penguin is not all good fun though. Anyone who has watched the incredible film March of the Penguins knows this. During our visit, we witnessed both Adélie and Gentoo penguins molting.

During this process, penguins shed their feathers in favor of a new coat. Because they must remain on land — and away from the their source of food, the sea — they are unable to eat. Penguins in various stages – some on the verge of a shiny new coat and others with bits of Mohawk-y feathers puffing out atop their bodies — tuck their heads in and bring their shoulders up to stand rigid against the cold and wind as they endure this stressful process.

Then there’s raising children. With this, humans can empathize. Although we missed the penguin chicks’ early days, we still caught a glimpse of a few that were shedding the last of their baby fuzz. Some of the more mature chicks even engaged in a feeding chase – running after their parents in the search of the good ol’ days of dependence and (regurgitated) food.

Penguin Feeding Her Young - Antarctica
Penguin Feeding Young in Antarctica

Many parents, eager for their children’s independence, were forced to show some tough love. They rejected their children’s overtures, thereby implying that their relatively new offspring were ready for adulthood and all that comes with it.

Any of this sounding familiar?

And amidst this circle of life, the reality of death: a land scattered with the carcasses of those not strong enough to survive, often being picked over by hungry sea birds.

How Many Penguins Are Enough?

Some readers were concerned that because our visit to Antarctica approached the end of the Antarctic summer, we would miss out on penguins. Not at all. We didn’t experience the epic King Penguin rookeries of South Georgia Island (tens if not hundreds of thousands of penguins at once), but we felt ourselves exceptionally fortunate: we saw several thousand penguins, and needed only a precious few to put us in our penguin happy place.

Penguin Rookery at Danco Island - Antarctica
Penguin Rookery on Danko Island in Antarctcia

Our suggestion: enjoy our penguin photo essay, slideshow and video. Soak it up, let us know what you think. Then, bookmark the page. And the next time you are having a bad day, return to it and watch it.

Penguins may not make all your cares go away, but they will probably make you smile. And if penguins become the next big thing in happiness therapy, you can say you heard it here first.

Antarctica Penguins Slideshow

If you don’t have a high speed connection or you would like to read what the penguins are saying in these photos, view our Antarctica Penguins photo essay.

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G Adventures tours to Antarctica

The Antarctica tour we took with G Adventures was paid for by us and went south of the Antarctic Circle. We highlight this feature as most tours to Antarctica do not go this far south. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad to the left. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

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Dating Advice from Galapagos Birds (or, When Charles Darwin Meets Cosmo)http://uncorneredmarket.com/dating-advice-from-galapagos-birds/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/dating-advice-from-galapagos-birds/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2009 00:52:32 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=2210 By Audrey Scott

I’ve been out of the dating game for exactly 12 years, so maybe I’m not the best person to write about how to snag a man. However, during our recent trip to the Galapagos Islands, I observed the behaviors of various birds and something struck me: their mating habits reminded me of those dating advice […]

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By Audrey Scott

I’ve been out of the dating game for exactly 12 years, so maybe I’m not the best person to write about how to snag a man. However, during our recent trip to the Galapagos Islands, I observed the behaviors of various birds and something struck me: their mating habits reminded me of those dating advice columns I used to read in Cosmo.

If memory serves, it’s a cruel dating world out there. For those of you still in the game, take comfort that the animal kingdom knows no more forgiveness than our human one.

Were Charles Darwin to lead a voyage into the realm of dating advice, perhaps this is where he’d take us:

Blue Footed Booby Dance - Galapagos Islands
Blue Footed Booby Dance

Note: We are not ornithologists. The information below comes from first-hand observations and the humorous, grain-of-salt commentary from Jorge, our guide in the Galapagos.

1. When your man brings gifts, be choosy.

The blue-footed booby female is. When a suitor brings her trinkets and twigs for the new nest, she inspects them. And if she doesn’t like what she sees, she lets him know with a disapproving honk.

Don’t accept just any old piece of flair. Inspect it. Make sure it’s valuable and that your man had to search far and wide to obtain it.

2. It’s perfectly acceptable to poop in his general direction if he brings inadequate gifts.

Iron-clad advice straight from the Galapagos. Blue-footed booby females will turn their backs on male suitors if they don’t like what they see in the way of gifts. And if the booby male gift-giving really falls flat, she’ll turn her back, bend over and give a squirt of her own white paint.

Now I don’t suggest going quite this far with your dissatisfaction, but you get the gist.

3. Make sure your man gets decked out.

The frigate bird male chooses a good bush and parks it. He primps, puffs out a red sac between his neck and chest, and struts his stuff to communicate his availability to the ladies flying by.

Looking Good for the Ladies - Galapagos Islands
Looking Good for the Ladies

Yes, that’s right — males know they need to look their best in order to attract the right attention. But women make the choice.

4. Look for the guy with the best dance moves.

The man on the islands with the best moves: the blue-footed booby. In front of an interested female, he flares his wings, whistles and does a little jig with his big blue feet. If his moves are good enough, the booby bachelor will find himself one step closer to being mated for the season.

Watch a Video of Blue Footed Booby and Waved Albatross Dancing

5. Use the numbers to your advantage.

Be selective. Blue-footed booby females are…because they know they are outnumbered by their male counterparts. They build demand and make the men work for their attention.

So, next time you are at a bar and it’s all men (i.e., a sausage hang), know that like the blue-footed booby, you have an advantage.

6. When choosing a mate, consider his taste in architecture.

During mating season, female frigate birds fly overhead and consider not only the size of a potential mate’s red pouch, but also the quality of the home (or bush) he has chosen.

When evaluating the man, look closely at his nest.

7. Make sure your man can sing.

The blue footed booby sings (whistles, really) his way into his beloved’s heart. Be certain your mate is confident enough to serenade you in public.

8. Keep the romance alive by dancing every day.

After you’ve paired up, keep the spark alive by taking a cue from the waved albatross. Make sure you dance — and cross beaks — every day. Watch the video above for a how-to.

Albatross Dance - Galapagos Islands
A little albatross dancing.

9. Make sure he’s willing to share responsibilities.

Galapagos birds are remarkably egalitarian when it comes to sharing responsibilities between the sexes. Boobies, albatross, and frigates all divide time caring for the egg and newborn chicks.

Once you’ve chosen your guy, be clear about the responsibilities ahead. Is he willing to spend half the time warming the egg in the nest? Or taking care of the little one while you go out to fetch food?

10. Not everyone is monogamous.

In the bird kingdom, as in the human one, there are some birds that remain faithful and there are those who cannot help but choose someone new each season.

Figure out whether your man is more like a waved albatross (monogamous) or a nazca booby (a new mate every season). If you insist on straying, make sure you do so during the off season. Otherwise, everyone in the neighborhood will discover the indiscretion and next year’s mating season could be awfully lonely.

Editor’s Note (a.k.a, A Word From Dan): The editor will not entertain any personal questions regarding whether his behavior is more like that of a booby or that of an albatross.

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Are We Too Old to Be Climbing Volcanoes?http://uncorneredmarket.com/are-we-too-old-to-be-climbing-volcanoes/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/are-we-too-old-to-be-climbing-volcanoes/#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2009 03:40:59 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=1952 By Audrey Scott

The weight of my backpack at 5:00 AM was brutal: 9 liters of water, 1 sleeping bag, and sundry other camping bits and bobs. And I was one of the lucky ones. Dan carried all that plus an old school (read: heavy) four-person tent. Even at this hour, it was steamy. Under the weight of […]

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By Audrey Scott

Hikers Take A Break - El Hoyo Volcano, Nicaragua
Line up at the edge of El Hoyo Volcano, Nicaragua.

The weight of my backpack at 5:00 AM was brutal: 9 liters of water, 1 sleeping bag, and sundry other camping bits and bobs. And I was one of the lucky ones. Dan carried all that plus an old school (read: heavy) four-person tent.

Even at this hour, it was steamy. Under the weight of my pack, I was glazed in sweat before we reached the crossroads for the chicken bus to the trail head. I looked around at the young, energetic faces – mostly in their early 20s – and wondered, “Am I too old to be doing this?

A few hours later we were scaling the black ash base of Cerro Negro, an active volcano in northern Nicaragua. As we neared the rim, a crater emitting eggy plumes of sulfur dioxide fumed on my right. The black volcanic gravel of our climb yielded to iridescent mineral deposits, boulders, lava chunks and white ash. On my left, it was a surprisingly long way down to where Mother Nature had drawn a stark line between the slope of black volcanic gravel and the lush, electric green canvas of pastures, rich soil and rolling hills surrounding the cone.

Cerro Negro Volcano Crater, Nicaragua
Looking into Cerro Negro volcano.

In this moment of relative tranquility, it occurred to me that this volcano had given and — as recently as 1999 — it had also taken away.

How NOT to Run Down a Volcano

At the edge of the volcano, a slope of fine volcanic pebbles descended to a base almost 200-300 meters down.

“You should really run as fast as you can…all the way to the bottom.” John, our ebullient guide, implied anything else would be an epic waste of an opportunity. He even took everyone’s cameras halfway down to capture our folly.

“Is this really a good idea? Will our insurance cover this?” I wondered, my age again revealing itself.

As the first of our group began their run down — arms and legs flailing and voices cracking in terrified delight — my adrenaline kicked in.

Someone in the remaining group suggested Dan and I run down hand-in-hand for the camera.

OK, c’mon,” I said, grabbing Dan’s hand.

He was too willing. A split second later, we were off to the races, bounding and sliding down the cone. Dan’s strides were a little too much for me though. Our fleeting moments of coupledom were quickly followed by Dan unknowingly dragging me down the volcano.

This isn’t fun anymore. STOP!!” I yelled.

After I took stock of the raspberry gravel wounds down my left leg, we opted to part ways. As in life, some undertakings are more fun as a couple while others are best pursued alone.

See for yourself in the video:

Volcano Number Two: El Hoyo

Two volcanoes, one day. That’s the trick and the treat of this particular trek.

It was midday and I was drenched only minutes into the steep two-hour climb through the gap at Las Pilas. Fearing heat exhaustion, I slowed and focused on one foot in front of the other. Meanwhile, most of the group bounced Tigger-like up the steep path in the oppressive heat.

One rain storm and a few water breaks later (I was so thankful for each and every one), we arrived at the top of El Hoyo volcano, our campsite for the night. Dazed and exhausted, I barely registered that we and the mountain were enveloped in clouds. Nearly 12 hours of movement had taken their toll.

Early Bird Gets the View

“Guys, you have to come out here and see this rainbow!”

It was 5:20 AM. My first thought: “Ugh.”

My second thought: “This is John’s ploy to draw us out of our tents.” Dan concurred.

I went outside just to be sure.

And there it was: a rainbow (which multiplied to two – Alexander’s Dark Band) and a rapidly clearing sunrise view of Lake Managua, Momotombo Volcano, Lake Asososca (our destination later that day) and the vast, awesome green valley that lay among them.

Those bruises on my hips, the muscle ache in my legs. It was all worth it.

I decided I’m not too old for this after all.

A Word about Quetzal Trekkers

We did this in 36 hours with Quetzal Trekkers in Leon, Nicaragua. We will write more about them later. For those interested in this hike, it’s referred to as El Hoyo. It’s really three-in-one (Cerro Negro, El Hoyo and Lake Asososca). It’s kicks your ass, but it kicks ass.

For those interested in trekking in Guatemala or Nicaragua, Quetzal Trekkers is a fantastic organization. They not only deliver a unique experience, but 100% of their profits goes towards helping street kids. Their prices are reasonable and they can lend you virtually all the equipment you’ll need. All their guides are volunteers who give a minimum of three months of their time to the organization. Their jobs are not easy, but somehow they make it look so. These guys and gals are some of the most dedicated and passionate we’ve had the pleasure to meet on our travels.

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