Bring Travel Experiences to You – Enjoying European Christmas Concerts & Vegan European Christmas Desserts

Most of us are unable to constantly travel on a regular basis. Jobs,family, and other commitments have precedence. Fortunately, at these times when our lives do not permit us to hop on a plane to an exciting destination, we can bring the essence of that destination to us! Vegan ethnic cuisine may be purchased online and shipped to you wherever you are! International music can also be enjoyed wherever you live!

Since logistics do not permit me to travel abroad during this holiday season, I decided to bring “European Christmas music and European Christmas desserts” to me! This will feel as though I am traveling across the Atlantic to the European continent! I accomplished this by ordering several Christmas desserts online from various countries in Europe.

Stollen is a popular and traditional German Christmas cake. It is a sweet, fruit filled loaf. I ordered mine online from “German Deli”(German Christmas Stollen) in The United States which receives the product from Germany. The stollen is produced by Kuchennmeister(Kuchenmeister) bakers in Germany who are known for their wonderful German cake specialties. Not all of their stollen products are vegan, but this one is known to be.
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Lebkuchen gingerbread cookies are another popular German Christmas treat. I ordered mine online from “Vegan Store” in the UK. They supply food products from European countries, including products from Germany(German Gingerbread Lebkuchen Cookies). These chocolate covered moist gingerbread treats are really tasty!
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To get a taste of European culture, I attended several Christmas concerts representing five European countries.
At the beginning of the month, I attended a Celtic Christmas performance that included song, dance, and storytelling. Traditional Christmas carols from Ireland were performed. Instruments popular in Ireland were echoing the sounds of this Northern European island country.
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One of the multi-talented musicians also performed an Irish step dance. Between songs, the narrator told tales of Christmases long ago from the early part of the last century. It gave the audience a sense of being in an Irish farmhouse at the turn of the century during the holidays.
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An Italian Christmas concert was next on my agenda. An Italian society exists near my hometown here in The United States. The Coro Dante Society performs classical Italian music. This evening’s performance showcased traditional Italian Christmas songs from the 18th and 19th centuries. Audience participation was encouraged during the singalong with the Italian words on the projector screen, while the English translation was located to the right.
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The world premiere of an Italian Christmas opera also took place following the carols. Costumed snowmen and other characters graced the stage. The four main characters sung in unison.
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I purchased some Italian Christmas candy online from the “Vegan Store” in the UK (Italian Christmas Candy Drops). The candy was manufactured in Italy, though I was able to purchase it through an online shop in the UK. It is reputed to have the taste of Christmas gingerbread cookies.
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My next European Christmas event was a concert of 15th century Christmas music from the region of Burgundy, France. Performers from “Blue Heron” performed in an enclosed circle and sang in alto and soprano voices. Its members are based in the United States, but have performed with classical groups in French-speaking Belgium and France.They chanted their medieval songs from both the front of the stage and from the back towards the church altar. Songs of Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s Day expressed the joy of the season!
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A soloist sang while several musicians performed pieces on French period instruments.
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I further immersed myself in French culture by purchasing some French macarons online (French Macarons). These colorful cookie-like treats are filled with fruity almond cream such as raspberry. Some vendors bake macarons with Christmas colors and patterns.
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A Swedish Yuletide Christmas Festival takes place in my local vicinity every December. Upon entering the exhibition center, I was greeted by some folks selling the traditional Swedish beverage called glogg. The warm drink contains apple cider, raisins, almonds, and spices. Perfect for a winter day!

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A procession takes place in which a girl representing Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia) leads the march. She is dressed in a white dress, wearing a wreath of candles on her head. The song “Santa Lucia” is sung by each of the boys and girls in the procession. Santa Lucia’s Feast Day during Advent, coincides with winter solstice and is thus known as the “Festival of light”. The choir sand a beautiful arrangement of Christmas carols from Sweden;the words being reminiscent of various holiday activities.
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A second Santa Lucia procession took place during the afternoon.
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Several more groups performed Swedish Christmas Carols for the crowd.

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The performers donned traditional Nordic and Swedish attire.
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Swedish holiday crafts could be found at the vendor table displays. Wooden carved Santas and other holiday figures could be found.
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The center display area showcased Swedish breads, baked goods, sweets, and candy. I purchased some vegan gingerbread cookies that were manufactured in Sweden.
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I also purchased some Swedish flatbread. The cracker-like texture will nicely accompany any vegan cheeses I purchase this month.
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One of the beverage vendors offered a flavorful lingonberry juice from Sweden.
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Back at the craft tables, I found that the Tomte gnomes were a popular item. I purchased a couple of small figures.
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When I arrived home one evening, the mailman had made a delivery from Europe. The mince pies I ordered from the UK had arrived! Several baking companies in the United Kingdom offer vegan versions of their traditional mince pies. I purchased the Sainsbury brand ( Sainsbury Vegan Mince Pies) from The Brit Store. The package is marked non-dairy.
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Four individual serving pies are included in the package. The flavorful mince pies made me feel as though I were spending my Christmas holiday in Europe! These mini-sweets are popular in England.
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My British mince pie import left me yearning for more European-style holiday celebrations. As it turns out, the ever so popular “Christmas Revels” were performing in the Boston area this week. This year’s performance would focus on Victorian England Christmas music and revelry!
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The performance included Christmas carols from Victorian England, audience singalongs, theatrical scenes, and local dance.
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Although I had not traveled to Europe this past month, my imported European Christmas desserts and the European Christmas concerts I attended, made me feel as though I had! If you want to bring travel experiences to you during those times when you can not travel abroad, a quick google search for vegan European Christmas desserts and European Christmas concerts will make you feel as though you’ve traveled to the European continent!

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My Christmas Gift Guide for Vegan Travelers – 2014 Edition

Every year I publish a Christmas Gift Guide for vegan travelers. This year I have found some great vegan-friendly travel accessories that I would like to share with you! The items are indeed wonderful additions to my travels and hopefully you will enjoy them just as much as I do!

Christmas Gift Guide for Vegan Travelers – 2014 Edition
Let’s start with stocking stuffers. Whether you wish to brighten up the day of your friends or family, these treats are sure to please!
1. Vegan Marshmallow Snowmen – Sweet & Sarah(Marshmallow Snowman) is a vegan company that offers 100% gelatin-free marshmallow treats. For the Christmas holidays, they create vegan marshmallow snowmen. Complete with marshmallow buttons, scarf, and a top hat; these little cuties make the perfect stocking stuffer!
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2. Vegan Chocolate Christmas Figures – Everyone loves chocolate! I recently found these little treasures that are offered during the holiday season by Premier Chocolatiers(Chocolate Christmas Figures). A bag full of little Christmas figures such as jolly Santas, Christmas bells, and Christmas trees made of vegan chocolate wrapped in holiday foil is another great option as a stocking stuffer. The assortment of chocolate figures comes in a clear plastic bag, displaying the decorative foil wrappers.
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3. Vegan Candy Canes – Candy canes are an integral part of Christmas snacking! However, most brands use red food coloring(red dye#40) which most definitely is NOT vegan. Vegans may rejoice, however, since a vegan candy cane manufacturer has entered the marketplace a few years ago! Tru Joy (Vegan Candy Canes) offers candy canes that are organic and completely vegan! Organic fruit juice is used as the coloring agent. The sweet peppermint taste will make you yearn for more.
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Vegan Travel Gifts – The following are wonderful products that I recommend as Christmas gifts for the vegan traveler in your life:
1. Language Translation Cards – Select Wisely(Vegan Language Translation Cards) were created with travel in mind. These nifty little cards display images with a red line through them, indicating what you can NOT eat(no meat, no dairy, etc). On the flip side, the cards display phrases in the language of your destination country. When ordering online, you select the language of your choice. If you are traveling to Cambodia for example, you can select the Khmer version of the language cards. The compact language cards take up much less space in your carry-on bag than language phrasebooks or language translator devices. $14.99us
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2. Vegan “Faux Ostrich” cosmetic bag – Whether you are participating in a group tour or traveling with friends, a night “out on the town” to experience local culture is part of everyone’s travel itinerary! Pura Botanica(Vegan Cosmetic Bag) designs glamorous and cruelty-free travel accessories for the discerning vegan. Their vegan cosmetic bags have a sleek and elegant look, while practical and lightweight too. The zippered pouch is a perfect fit for lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow, and other small cosmetic items. $18us
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3. Vegan Travel-Size Skincare Set – This travel-size skincare set by “Do Naturals”(Vegan Travel-Size Skincare Set) contains the skincare products that every vegan traveler needs to pack in their luggage or carry-on bag! Four, 2 ounce bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and moisturizer is packaged in a lightweight, eco-friendly mesh pouch. Each product is infused with pomegranate and organic berry extracts. $18.50us
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4. Vegan Travel Wallet – Lavishy(Vegan Travel Wallet) is a vegan company that designs vegan travel accessories. This travel wallet is made of eco-friendly and biodegradable materials. It contains 4 slots for credit cards, an id pocket, passport and boarding pass holders, and two compartments for cash and receipts. The colorful animal appliques are adorable! $22.99us
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5. Vegan “Hidden Pocket” Tank Top – Tourist destinations can sometimes be a mecca for picketpockets. Fortunately, the “Clever Travel Companion” company(Hidden Pocket Tank Top has designed clothing that can deter would-be thieves. These undergarments have a secret “hidden pocket”. The zippered pocket lies flat on the tank top, so as not to draw attention. However, its dimensions provide room for a passport, credit cards, and cash. Traveling on an overnight train to your destination? Then this is the perfect clothing item to safeguard your money and cards! The rayon/spandex fabric is soft and breathable. It can comfortably be worn under a cotton blouse to add an extra layer of protection and invisibility. Mens and womens sizes are available. $29.90us
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Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a newbie, these items are must-have Christmas gifts for any vegan who loves to venture across the globe!

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“Vegan World Trekker Blog” Contest Giveaway – Vegan Travel Accessory

I have exciting news for all of you! I am running a contest this week, as a “thank you” to my blog readers! The vegan accessories company “Lavishy” has graciously partnered with me to offer a wonderful travel accessory item to the winner!

Lavishy, based out of Toronto, Canada; is a vegan and eco-friendly fashion accessories company. They focus on “fun, functional, and affordable” accessories such as tote bags, wallets, passport covers, jewelry, and more. Their inspiration was the idea of doing good for the environment and for the animals. The designs they create are influenced by global cultures. Techniques such as applique and embroidery are combined with designs of whimsical animals.

Toxic-free, vegan leather is used in their products and is biodegradable in ten years, thus ensuring a healthier environment for us.

The contest winner will receive a vegan luggage tag.

This travel accessory is both practical and stylish! The winning entry can chose among three different designs: Dragonfly, Ladybug, or Owl.

Per Lavishy website:
“Designed to look and feel like leather, vegan leather is an animal friendly material, is safer to produce, and healthier for consumers to carry. This material is also biodegradable in 10 years, ensuring an eco-friendly life cycle for each LAVISHY vegan leather products.
- 1 clear vinyl window photo ID pocket at the back
Measurement: 11.3 x 8 cm / 4.5 x 3 inch ”

Embellish your luggage with a stylish and playful luggage tag!
#1: The Dragonfly applique is done in a green color with a blue background.
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#2: The Ladybug design is an orange/reddish color on a green leaf applique with a brown background.
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#3: The Owl design is a brown applique on a green leaf with a red background.
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Luggage tags are indeed a necessary travel accessories so we do not lose our belongings! We are fortunate that Lavishy has designed tags that are practical, eco-friendly, and vegan! In addition, these designs are so adorable that I’m sure you’ll want to own one!

RULES OF CONTEST ENTRY:
1. Post a comment on this blogpost saying “I want to win” or post a comment saying “I want to win” on my blog’s Facebook Fan Page Vegan Travel Information.
If you post on my blog and on my facebook Fan Page, you get 2 entries into the contest.

2. If you share my Facebook Fan Page to your Facebook wall, you get another entry.
Thus, you can get one, two, or three entries based on posting via these three methods.

3. On December 7th at 9pm (Eastern Standard Time), the contest will end. I will write down the names of the entries on pieces of paper and place them in a bowl.

4. On Dec. 8 (one week from today), I will pick a name from that bowl. I will announce the winner on my blog’s facebook fan page.

5. The winner will then be expected to send me their email address and their selection from the 3 luggage tag designs, which I will forward to Lavishy. At that point, Lavishy will process the item and send it to you.

Best of luck to everyone! :)

Lavishy Website: Lavishy website
Lavishy Facebook: Lavishy Facebook
Lavishy Twitter: Lavishy twitter
Lavishy Instagram: Lavishy Instagram

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An American Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner With Boston Vegetarian Society – “Travel Back in Time” To Pilgrim Days

Every year during Thanksgiving week, the Boston Vegetarian Society hosts an animal-compassionate, pre-Thanksgiving dinner. It is a five course all-vegan meal offered to us for only $25us. Thanksgiving is the American holiday when we commemorate the first harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims during the year 1621. Each year on this day, Americans acknowledge and give thanks for our blessings. Vegans, of course, celebrate with a bountiful feast of grains, vegetables, and beans.

For those of us who enjoy travel, this holiday celebration is like “travel back in time”, to the time when the United States was first settled by colonists. We dine on all of the wonderfully delicious plants and grains that nature has provided for us, many that were planted back in the Pilgrim era. We give thanks for this food and express our gratitude for our freedoms and personal good fortune.

This year’s Boston Vegetarian Society Thanksgiving dinner was held at the vegetarian/vegan-friendly Red Lentil Restaurant(Red Lentil Restaurant) in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Huge crowds turned out for the event! It took place over two evenings: the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was a great time to socialize with other vegans and vegetarians! The seating area was located in the main part of the dining room, while the buffet stations of food were setup on tables in the back of the space.
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The first food station offered two different soups. Cream of Cauliflower Soup with a Garnish of Fresh Mint consisted of cashew cream and coconut cream based cauliflower soup touched with the flavors of celery, onions, star anise, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon stick.

The second soup was a Creole-Spiced Red Kuri Squash and Macintosh Apple Bisque. It was a velvet smooth bisque made with leeks, white wine and carrots, and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds
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A hot Apple Cider beverage was contained in the third bin.

Diners could select one or both of the salads in the next set of serving trays.
The Fall Harvest Salad consisted of mesclun greens and romaine mix, diced and roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, maple toasted pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds, with sherry vinaigrette on the side.

The other salad was a Roasted Beet and Poached Apple Salad with Orange Tahini Dressing.
It contained Roasted red and golden beets, pine nuts, golden raisins, parsley, Granny Smith apples, sesame seeds and shaved carrots.

Four appetizers were offered. The mashed potatoes and brussel sprout offerings are traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.
The Herbed Baked Zucchini-and-Pepper Gratin with Cashew Ricotta Cheese was made with Zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, tomato, Piment d’espelette and mint.
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The Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts were displayed in the next tray.

The Round Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Cilantro Harissa Gremolata included Polenta, butternut squash, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, shallots, parsley, green peas, and harissa.
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The Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy was the final side dish.
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Two main entrees were offered. The Braised Seitan Medallion in Mushroom Gravy was a dish of Tender seitan strips in a savory gravy of mushroom, red wine, rosemary, sage, thyme, and carrot. A Moroccan Pumpkin and Lentil Stew was prepared with green lentils, pumpkin, cumin, tomato purée, spices, with a hint of jalapeño chili.
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A couple of decadent and tasty desserts were offered to complete the five course meal! The Creme Brulee was a vegan treat made with bananas.
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The final piece de resistance dessert was a lovely pumpkin cheesecake with a chocolate ganache and a raspberry sauce. Pumpkin desserts are traditional for this holiday.
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Upon my arrival, I headed over to the buffet tables. I grabbed a plate, soup bowl, and utensils, and proceeded to take a serving from each of the offerings! Since some of the options were specifically sliced into small portions, diners could easily select a bit of everything and not feel like they have overeaten. Hence, I took small amounts of each offering, so that I could sample each of the wonderful items on the special Thanksgiving menu!

I filled my dinner plate with each of the soups, appetizers, side dishes, salads, and main entrees!
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Mere words can not sufficiently express how delicious and flavorful my dinner was! I enjoyed every side and main course very much!

Now it was time dessert! I headed back to the dessert table and placed a pumpkin cheesecake, a creme brulee with bananas, and some vegan coconut milk vanilla ice cream onto my plate. What a delightful treat! Every one of my sweet treats were scrumptious!
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During the meal, each of us shared our “vegan story” and got to know one other through discussions ranging from favorite meals to our careers and hobbies. The Boston Vegetarian Society and Red Lentil Restaurant did an amazing job with the organization, preparation, and the execution of the event. The meal selection was wonderful! The food was incredibly delicious!

Most travelers are unable to travel each and every day of the year. For those times when we are home, it is still possible to experience some of the joys of travel by enjoying an evening at an international music performance or a global music concert. For this week, my travel experience was more of a “travel back in time” to the first American harvest, celebrated by a Thanksgiving dinner with the local Vegetarian Society.

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Do Not Fear Travel to Africa – A Talk by Ebola Survivor Dr. Rick Sacra

This past Friday evening, I was privileged enough to attend a local talk given by ebola survivor Dr. Rick Sacra. He was the third American doctor that contracted the ebola virus while working in a West African country. Dr. Sacra spoke highly of the ELWA Hospital that he oversees, in Liberia’s capital city Monrovia. The hospital was originally built in the year 1951 by missionaries. They have an Ebola specialist onsite, as well as a 50 bed facility for patients. It is the facility in Liberia for patients being transported for critical care, due to the ebola virus.

He spoke of the vast spread of the disease due to the uninformed general public, the remote and difficult terrain to reach villagers in Liberia, and the initial response of medical staff to treat any patient that walked in the door. The hospital medical staff now uses protective gear, regardless of the medical procedure, even during the delivery of a baby. Other staff members assist them with their protective gear removal and subsequent disinfecting with bleach.

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The doctor also talked about misconceptions and irrational fears that some of the general public still harbor to this day. He stressed the fact that the illness can only be spread by bodily fluids such as blood or saliva and direct contact with eyes, mouth, or broken skin. Another fact that he mentioned is that none of the relatives became ill, after the infected Americans arrived back in the USA. Even being in close proximity to an infected person, will not spread the disease, as long as no bodily fluids are exchanged.

I shook hands with Dr. Sacra myself, and confidently understand that it is perfectly safe to do so with a person who has recovered from the ebola virus!
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His talk culminated with an encouraging amount of new information! Several medications and a couple of vaccines will be transported to Africa soon. They hope to be a positive step towards the fight of Ebola.
The general population in Liberia is being reached by ELWA’s radio station which is broadcasting a program by ebola survivors. The survivors respond to questions and share information about the virus, its causes, and how to go about their daily life in order to avoid it. More and more people in western African have been informed to not touch the body of anyone who has succumbed to the disease. This information is helping to halt the progression of ebola. Debbie Sacra, Dr. Sacra’s wife also spoke highly of the hospital and of their beloved Liberia.
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A question and answer session with Dr. Sacra followed his talk. I specifically asked him questions pertaining to travel and the mass hysteria of the media and the global population, in regards to traveling to Africa at this point in time. His first response was that no one should delay or cancel a trip to an African safari in East Africa due to the ebola crisis in the western African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. He stated that the distance from Liberia to Kenya is just about as far as the distance from Anchorage, Alaska to Houston, Texas in the United States! In other words, the African continent is huge and one should not worry or fear travel to the eastern part of the continent, due to what is occurring on its western coast! Likewise goes for western African countries, such as Ghana that do not border those three countries. Additionally, Ghana does not currently have an outbreak of the disease.

The distance factor between ebola-stricken countries and the rest of Africa, the fact that many African countries are not in the middle of an outbreak themselves, and the fact that the disease can only be spread by direct contact with bodily fluids(not airborne) should be sufficient proof that travelers should continue to travel and tourists should continue to book tours!

The ELWA hospital in Liberia and its brave and caring physicians are doing amazing work treating ebola patients. They appreciate financial contributions to keep the medical supplies and treatments ongoing. I feel honored to have attended this talk by Dr. Sacra. He alleviated any concerns that I may have had regarding travels to the African continent at this point in time.

Given the health info that was shared, why not plan an amazing vacation to an African country?! Prior to your holiday, you could sample some of the local African foods in your own city! Fortunately for me, there are restaurants offering many international cuisines in my home state of Massachusetts, here in the United States!

I found an East African restaurant in a local city near my home. The restaurant serves food representing the countries of Uganda and Tanzania. I opted for a delicious plate of cornmeal, beans, cassava, plantains, spinach and carrots, and sweet potatoes with a peanut sauce. My beverage of mixed fruit juice was a nice complement to the meal.
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For my next African meal, I visited an outdoor African festival in Boston, Massachusetts. My entree included collard greens, spinach in coconut milk, tomato and onion salad, and jollof rice. The rice dish is popular in both East and West African cuisine. What a wonderful meal it was!
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Next up was my visit to a local Senegalese restaurant. I selected the nem fried spring rolls filled with veggies, as my appetizer, served with a dipping sauce. For a main course, I chose the traditional mafe veggie stew in a peanut sauce base, with a side of rice. My dinner was superb!
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For my final dab into authentic African cuisine, I dined at a Nigerian restaurant in Boston. I chose the fufu with a veggie stew in a peanut sauce base. Fufu is a staple food in West Africa. It is made by boiling a starchy crop and pounding it into a dough-like texture. Fufu is dipped into the stew then eaten. The fufu I ordered was made with pounded yams. The spicy stew was quite flavorful!
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I also enjoy a guava juice with my meal.
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Given the health and safety information that Dr. Sacra shared at his talk, there is no reason why anyone should avoid traveling to uninfected countries such as Tanzania in East Africa or Ghana in West Africa. The fascinating culture and music, the scenic landscapes, the incredible wildlife, and the amazing African food that I sampled locally, should be incentive enough to want to plan a visit to the African continent!

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