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Ten Cool Experiences to Have in Central America

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Central America, the isthmus connecting North and South America, consists of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El  Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It is both culturally and geographically rich and diverse. Cloud-shrouded volcanoes, Mayan ruins, exciting wildlife and colorful colonial towns are some of the delights waiting to be discovered by the adventurous traveler.

1)   Take a hike in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica  – This is a sublimely beautiful National Park close to the small Caribbean town of Cahuita. So close, in fact, that you can walk directly into the park from town. The park covers over 57,500 acres of land and sea, including 600 acres of living coral reef. The 5.6-mile trail hugs the beach, with lush rainforest on one side and lovely views of the ocean on the other. Giant electric blue morpho butterflies flutter past, monkeys swing overhead and if your luck is in, you may spot a sloth hanging about in a tree. It’s a wildlife wonderland and the trail is flat and easy. There are plenty of opportunities to take a refreshing dip in the ocean too.

The beach at Cahuita National Park

2)    Swim in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey, Guatemala – This destination is off the beaten track, but worth the long and bone-shaking journey to experience the unique cascading pools. The color of the water has to be seen to be believed. You can swim, go tubing or explore the nearby caves (a guide is required to visit the caves). Don’t miss the challenging hike up to Mirador, from which there are spectacular views. Situated high in the mountains, Semuc Champey is probably the most stunning natural wonder in Guatemala.

The pools at Semuc Champey

3)   Meet an ex-guerrilla at the Museum of Revolution, Leon, Nicaragua – It isn’t every day that you get to chat with an ex-revolutionary, but this ramshackle, yet compelling museum provides the opportunity to do just that. The guides at the museum were teenage soldiers when they fought in the revolution. Now in their fifties and sixties, they are happy to share their experiences with visitors. The building was the scene of many battles, as the bullet holes on the walls testify. It is clearly in need of funding, but nevertheless, a visit is a fascinating and moving experience and an example of a nation standing up for their rights against an evil regime.                                   

4)   Live in the shadow of a smoking volcano in Antigua, Guatemala –  Antigua is Central America’s most charming city. Guatemala’s popular tourist destination is a blend of crumbling ruins, bustling plazas, churches, handicraft markets, international restaurants and Spanish schools. The city has successfully managed to balance tourism with traditionalism. Nestled between three volcanoes, you never quite get over the wonder of glimpsing up to see puffs of smoke emerging from Volcano Pacaya. Every now and again, there is a minor eruption or you can hear rumbles coming from deep within the earth’s core. What with dramatic natural phenomena and a delightful city center, Antigua really does have it all. https://www.aroundantigua.com

The colonial city of Antigua

5)   Chill out in Caye Caulker, Belize – If you are in need of total relaxation, look no further than the tiny island of Caye Caulker. Spend your days swinging in a hammock, drinking cocktails at the Lazy Lizard Bar and snorkelling the coral reefs, where you can spot nurse sharks, stingrays and an array of vibrantly colored fish. The laid back Creole and Rasta presence gives the island an undoubtedly Caribbean ambience. The pastel painted wooden buildings, superb seafood, and absence of cars all contribute to making Caye Caulker a very special place.

6)   Explore the ancient ruins of Copan, Honduras – These Mayan ruins are over 2000 years old and comprise of pyramids, tombs, and temples, many displaying intricate carvings. The ruins are an easy walk from the nearby town of Copan Ruinas. The town is probably the prettiest in Honduras.  With its cobblestone streets, cute white houses and excellent range of lodgings, bars, and restaurants, it makes a great base for a visit to the ruins. Check out the tequila shrimp and enjoy the rooftop view at Twisted Tanyas, the best restaurant in town.

7)   Surf at Punta Roca, El Salvador –  Whether you are an experienced surfer or a beginner, this surfing mecca offers perfect waves, warm water, and miles of unspoilt beaches. Board hire and lessons are available and most of the local businesses are surf-orientated. It’s less commercialized and more low-key than nearby La Libertad and a perfect place to commune with the waves and kick back. Punta Roca plays host to several annual surf tournaments.

8)   Venture into the heart of the jungle to explore the ancient Mayan city of Tikal – If you fancy yourself as Indiana Jones, this is the place to head for. It’s the largest and most important Mayan site in Central America. The fact that the ancient city is hidden in the heart of the jungle only adds to the appeal.  From the tallest pyramid, you can enjoy panoramic views over the treetops and see other temples peeking through the canopy. Toucans, howler and spider monkeys populate the park and are easily spotted, but the elusive jaguar keeps a low profile.

Head into the heart of the jungle at Tikal

9)    Connect with nature at Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica – Monteverde lies 4,000 feet above sea level and comprises of coffee plantations and misty trails through eerie, but beautiful cloud forests.  There are two small towns in the area, Monteverde and Santa Elena. They each have a sprinkling of restaurants, bars, and shops catering to tourists. Zip-lining, mountain biking, and hiking are all popular pursuits. There are numerous wildlife sanctuaries and gardens exhibiting the flowers and fauna of the area. http://www.monteverdeinfo.com

10)  Take a stroll through the historic area of Panama City  – Wandering the atmospheric streets of Casco Viejo is a highlight of a visit to the city. The crumbling colonial architecture, plazas and narrow streets are a world away from the downtown skyscrapers. The area combines old-world elegance with a touch of edginess. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and some vibrant street art hidden away in the side streets. With restaurants, cafes and bars aplenty, it would be easy to spend a day enjoying the delights of Casco Viejo.

Street art in Casco Viejo

Originally posted 2017-08-13 19:05:39.

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  1. T

    August 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Cool article

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I Know Where I’ve Been: All Over The Place, As It Seems

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Travelogues are nothing new in the realm of literature. Ever since the dawn of the written word, there have been innumerable people who want to tell the stories of faraway places they may or may not have visited. Marco Polo was just only the most visible one; there was many who came before him, and many who sought to imitate him afterwards. In fact, one of the first modern satires, Gulliver’s Travels, was written under the thin veneer of being a parody of “traveller’s tales”. So in the age of social media, the concept of the travelogue might seem as dated as the rotary phone.

Which leads to Robert Coles’ I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year-Long Journey of Self-Discovery, a new type of spectrum-friendly travelogue. Though he notes of occasional trips to Mexico and Colombia, most of the travels documents are in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it detailed his travels throughout 2015 and the connections that he had made in the process of reaching his goal of visiting 30 cities by the end of the year. In between the stories about random adventures and quirky friends/lovers are a series of sober reflections on not only his life but also the lives of those around him.

It is in these reflections that one can find the emotional core of I Know Where I’ve Been, and certainly makes it stand out from the standard travelogue. These include stories of his family (specifically of his dad, who died of a heart attack at 53) as well as past lovers (such as “Josh”, with whom he had a fun but ill-fated relationship). It also informs the reader of Coles’ mentality about travel, as his family was not able to travel very much, save for the occasional trip to Disney World or a place like Yellowstone. In a household like that with a person like Coles turned out to be, it is no wonder that he turned out to be such a major traveler. And of course, his sexuality does play an important role at certain moments, including an experience with those with a homophobic bent. Specifically, it first comes to a head when a seemingly nice Christian family turns on him with a vengeance when one of its members catches him looking up certain explicit files downloaded from Limewire.  

Of course, the travel stories in I Know Where I’ve Been themselves do stand out in their own right, which is an important part of a work in this genre. And unlike many popular travelogues, there is a tinge of emotional honesty to most of them, which makes it akin to a mix of An Idiot Abroad and Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days in literary form. Coles does not shy away from the horror stories, such as the Airbnb fiasco in Chicago or a miserable night on the bad side of Detroit. Nor does he leave out some of the stranger things, such as the night in Detroit being followed by a slightly unnerving passport check at the Canadian border. Nor does he gloss over several of the tales of him and his company going on full-blown benders, with the results akin to a remake of The Hangover on a college film fest budget.

However, the experiences throughout his 2015 in I Know Where I’ve Been come out as a net positive, especially with all of the people he met. Standouts include the “Denver Death Tour”, the visits to the Second City improv venue, and visiting Toronto ’s famous CN Tower. Perhaps the most accurate statement by Coles is the following: “While I certainly regret some of the behaviors and wish I could erase some of the memories, I wouldn’t change who I am today because of them.” It is likely the reader will share the same sentiment by the end.

Originally posted 2017-07-30 10:04:24.

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Relationships and Monogamy: Does Sexuality Play a Role in Monogamous Practices?

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Whatever your sexual orientation or gender may be, there’s one thing we can all collectively agree on: Monogamy seems a difficult practice for many people.

That is not to say there are not monogamous partners out there. There are, in fact, plenty of happily practicing monogamous partners who are satisfied with their current relationship situation.

According to the Journal of Sexuality and Social Psychology, men, considered the “fast sex,” tend to “maximize their mating opportunities” by increasing the number of sexual partners in their life. For women, a large number of partners holds no physiological benefits, and “would risk producing offspring of low quality if mated indiscriminately,” making it much more likely for men to cheat than women.

However, as we watch the world progress, we observe a greater tolerance of gender and sexual fluidity. With simplicity comes complexity, and, to state the very obvious: Relationships can be rather messy.

It’s been proven that men show, “a greater interest in uncommitted sex.” It’s also been proven that out of all couples, gay men are by far the least committed to staying faithful in a long term relationship (numbers change based on national averages.)

And while lesbian affairs are the least likely of all, let’s not forget emotional cheating, and how damaging the effects can be on a relationship. More importantly, over the past couple of decades, the percentage of women who have admitted to cheating has risen 40%, while the percentage of men has stayed the same.

We know these numbers also depend on different factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, lack of self-satisfaction, and poor emotional validation,   

Gender norms may have you believe that men are more likely to cheat, but in a 2016 study, statics show that while 57% of men are likely to cheat, this is just a small incline from the 54% of women who have admitted to some type of affair.

In a Psychology Today study, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff finds a common theme among cheating in monogamous relationships over two-decade study, “Some people become polyamorous, starting swinging, or attempt other forms of CNM after they have tried – sometimes for many years – to maintain monogamous relationships and found themselves cheating repeatedly.”

Thus, a question remains: Does your gender and sexual orientation play any type of role in your participation of monogamous relationships?

In short: The answer is no.

Your sexuality does not play a role in whether or not you are more inclined to monogamous practices, but a New York Times article explains that the answers may be found in your genes.

The culprit seems to be “vasopressin,” a “hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals,” which strongly affects your inclination to cheat.

In a study using prairie and montane voles, sexually monogamous and sexually promiscuous creatures, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noticed a change in the animal’s behavior when vasopressin receptors were induced and when they were blocked.

When blocked, the animals were disposed to monogamous sexual behaviors. When injected, “pair bonding,” the scientific term for infidelity, was promoted.

It seems vasopressin is the key to “social bonding” between animals and can be speculated that this is the reason such a large number of people are naturally against monogamy.

Although this research is not 100% proven and is still debatable, it seems that human’s polygamous nature comes naturally from within.

Of course, we are not set to one standard or one type of relationship with our partner(s). Relationships, much like sexuality, comes in all different shapes and sizes. Everyone should have the freedom to explore whatever they should so choose, but bear in mind that respect, honesty and mutual happiness are the most important factors of any relationship between partners.

Originally posted 2017-07-29 15:01:00.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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