10 Million Acres Added to Chile’s Parks

I don’t normally expect to get my daily news from Instagram, unless it’s an update from a personal friend. I follow the company Patagonia because they feature beautiful photos like those above, but yesterday they shared this fantastic announcement. Visiting Patagonia about a decade ago was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat before too long, and I am thrilled that there will be some new national parks to visit. Jonathan Franklin reports for The Guardian:

McDivitt Tompkins, the former chief executive of the outdoors company Patagonia, handed over 1m acres to help create the new parks. The Chilean government provided the rest in federally controlled land.

McDivitt Tompkins has spent 25 years working on land conservation in Chile with her late husband Doug, who founded North Face and Esprit. Doug Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in Chile in 2015.

“This is not just an unprecedented act of preservation,” said [Chile’s President Michelle] Bachelet, who flew to this remote Patagonian valley on Monday to receive the donation. “It is an invitation to imagine other forms to use our land. To use natural resources in a way that does not destroy them. To have sustainable development – the only profitable economic development in the long term.”

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The Bells & Whistles Of The Forest At Daybreak


We post a few times a day, sharing information about initiatives in our own realm of work and frequently observations on news links that we find interesting. For the record, here is a bit of news worth celebrating. As I type this at 5:30a.m. Belize time, the Global Big Day page on eBird shows the latest tally of the species count as seen above. At the same time, on the eBird Facebook page I am looking now at the last post, dated May 15 midday, that says:

The #GlobalBigDay total is now 6,255, less than 100 away from a new record for a single day of birding!

Looks to me like a new record has been set. Where are all the bells and whistles? They are outside my door right now, where the wildlife is whirring, cling-clanging, whooping and shrieking as the forest lights up…

Kerala’s Stars Redux

We published this post in the early period of this site, but the beauty of the subject and the timeliness of the season begs its redux…

The colorful stars that begin to grace Kerala buildings in December from homes, to businesses, to places of worship have humble beginnings despite their current flashy status.  The were originally a simple white 7 point star that correlated with the beacon leading to the Christmas manger.

Many of these folded and cut paper stars are the handiwork of a group of women in a fishing villages around the southern Kerala city of Kollam. Continue reading

‘Tis the Season for Creative Arborescent Decision-Making

photo credit: Carol Fernandez

photo credit: Carol Fernandez

Real Vs. Fake Trees – Which is Better for the Environment?

Tis the season for an age-old question: Which kind of Christmas tree – real or fake – is better for the environment?

We love this question, because it’s an example of a simple choice that anyone and everyone can make that can reduce our impacts on the environment.

We also love this question because, like many environmental issues, the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Our #1 recommendation? Buy a real tree. Read on for more details on the impacts of both real and fake Christmas trees, and then make the choice that’s right for you. And check out our 12 Tree Tips for other earth-friendly holiday decoration tips.


In 2015, 26.9 million trees were purchased from live Christmas tree farms – more than twice the number of fake trees purchased (12 million).   Continue reading

Thanksgiving 2016

2016-11-17_cmi-kapnos-thanksgiving_0555_wide-2edf6f9046c024dc907b0ee3ec9a299c612781e9-s500-c85We have appreciated the salt, a feature of National Public Radio (USA) since we started this platform. Even more so at a time of the year when food, and its significance to culture, is so strong in one part of the world. Their stories are not strictly about the taste pleasures of food, usually; more about the many other pleasures food can provide. So today, which is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, we are particularly grateful for their contributions:

At Thanksgiving, If You Take Sides, Make Sure They’re As Tasty As These

Chef Mike Isabella, a renowned restaurateur, has devised some delectable spinoffs of traditional turkey accompaniments, while staying true to classic roots. Continue reading

Onam, Kerala, 2016

img_5224-1Yesterday, the midday meal was a traditional one for this time of year. We have written about Onam festivities each of the years that we have been based in Kerala, since 2010. Now, during our seventh such celebration, we finally hosted an Onam feast in our own home. In order to be sure that the guests at our table would have the best of the traditional foods of the season we made the only sensible decision: we ordered the feast from a local kitchen we favor.

These dishes, which we have written about in previous years, tasted as if they were the best we have yet had. Maybe because it was all so easy and pleasant. Our guests, anyway, we knew to be not high maintenance. It was a cross section, functionally speaking, of La Paz Group’s Kerala team, including (from left going around the table in the picture below) engineering, finance, revenue management, reservations, sales, design, me, and front right is the man in charge of it all, who was also the photographer. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Acadia National Park, Maine, U.S.A


Source: ouracadia.com

I am happy to introduce Acadia National Park in Maine, U.S. as the first feature on our new weekly segment – shout out to Justin for the recommendation! This park is one of many firsts: it was founded as the first national park east of the Mississippi River by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (so yes, it is celebrating its centennial along with the National Park Service). In addition, it is famed for being the first place to see the sunrise in the U.S. when standing at the top of Cadillac Mountain during certain times of the year (part of the fall and winter seasons). Continue reading

The Legacy of U.S. National Park System


Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. All images from: Yale News

Thanks to Yale News for a wonderful commemoration to the history and value to the scientific community of the U.S. National Park system – visit our National Parks category page for over a hundred posts on the subject – as we celebrate its centennial today (US time, it’s still August 25th):

As the United States marks the centennial of the National Park Service, which was officially established 100 years ago this week, the nation’s parks are being widely celebrated for their natural grandeur and vistas, their wildlife, and their abundant recreational opportunities.

Far less appreciated though is the critical role that the U.S.’s 59 national parks and hundreds of other park service units play in scientific research, providing unspoiled, protected, and accessible landscapes that host research that can be done few other places. In fact, with a long history of data and field study on everything from wildlife to wildfires, the national parks offer scientists an incredibly rare living outdoor lab. And the high profile of the parks in the American imagination often provides an avenue for conveying that research to the public.

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The Republic Stands

Republic Day

After 26 years, man’s or rather a soldier’s best friend returned to the annual Republic Day parade in India. PHOTO: Getty

5 months and 11 days – that was the last time I felt a surge of patriotism, took a good look at what my country was and is. And what it will be. As the clock hands inched towards midnight and yet another Indian anniversary of independence, I wrote these lines. That day drew to a close. Sadly, the all-consuming, overwhelming love I felt for this land, too. Don’t get me wrong: I love my country. Every single day. All its idiosyncracies with all my heart and soul. But it takes the designated Independence Day or the more recent Republic Day (January 26) for this love to reign over my work-weary being. To remind of this freedom I am bestowed with. Yesterday, it did. And this love left paw prints all over my heart and I sorely missed a friend of mine in the uniform. Made me love my country more. Be thankful, too.

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Splashing Festivities


In the past month, a wave of newcomers has joined the Xandari team, and to my delight, it means I´m no longer “the new girl.” This has been my first opportunity to welcome new members and receive them as warmly as I was greeted when I arrived in July. Our new coworkers at the front desk are the ones I’ve had the chance to help with any questions about billing or assisting with guest needs, and this new responsibility is the one I enjoy the most. Even though in certain circumstances I still have to refer to my other, more experienced, coworkers to help resolve the matter, I still get to learn how to take care of obstacles that I have not encountered before. Additionally, questions or doubts that the new employees have are helpful for identifying the details in the front desk duties and training process that could be made clearer.

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Forging Understanding Through Food

Luwam Melake (left), a recently arrived Eritrean refugee, and Saba Tesfay, who is half-Hungarian and half-Eritrean, wash, roast and grind coffee beans during a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony. PHOTO: Lauren Frayer for NPR

Luwam Melake (left), a recently arrived Eritrean refugee, and Saba Tesfay, who is half-Hungarian and half-Eritrean, wash, roast and grind coffee beans during a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony. PHOTO: Lauren Frayer for NPR

What are ways to combat xenophobia, an aversion to what is perceived as foreign? Especially when that involves fragile human spirits, miles away from their homelands and hoping on the faintest possibility of refuge in an alien land. Budapest is showing the way.

Customers crowd into a bustling Budapest restaurant for dinner. They open their menus, expecting to read about stuffed paprikas and Hungarian goulash.

But instead they find … Eritrean sourdough pancake bread. Afghan pie. Syrian sweets.

“It’s a little bit difficult, because not all the ingredients are available in Hungary. So a few of them are coming from Austria or other countries. But we can do it!” laughs Judit Peter, the bartender and director of special projects at Kisuzem, a trendy, bohemian bar in Budapest’s historic Jewish quarter. “People really like it. We’ve served 80 portions a day — and that’s quite a lot for a small kitchen like ours.”

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Celebrating Flour Power

The Poderanchem Fest will pay tribute to the state's unique baking traditions and the people who keep them alive. PHOTO: Scroll

The Poderanchem Fest will pay tribute to the state’s unique baking traditions and the people who keep them alive. PHOTO: Scroll

India is home to celebrations that pan religions, occasions like harvest, birthdays of legendary heroes, and more. And now the country gets its first platform celebrating bakers. All the way from the tourist-laden beaches of Goa.

It’s the sound of Goa. Every morning at the crack of dawn, the bulb horn of the poder wakes up people across the state, encouraging them to start their day with cheap, freshly baked bread.  On Friday, the state’s humble bakers will finally get turn in the spotlight. Goa’s first Poderanchem Fest, or Baker’s Festival, being hosted in the leafy North Goa village of Succorro, will feature a baker’s parade and stalls selling traditional and new varieties of pao, in addition to the region’s favourite foods to eat the bread with.

Read more here.

From the Soil to Homes and Hearts, this Onam

Vamana, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, places his feet on King Mahabali.

Vamana, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, places his feet on King Mahabali.

Kerala was once ruled by Mahabali, who was an asura (Demon). Now being a demon, evil and sinful practices were expected of him, but he was completely the opposite. Mahabali was a mighty king who worked for the prosperity of his people. During his reign, everybody was happy and prosperous. But the Devas (Gods) were jealous and felt that he may surpass them and so they urged Lord Vishnu to help them. Mahabali was about to perform a ritual and he had announced that he would fulfill everyone’s wishes. Vishnu decided to use this opportunity and disguised himself as a dwarf, poor Brahmin called Vamana and went to Mahabali. He asked Mahabali to give him a piece of land which he could measure with three footsteps. Generous Mahabali granted his wish. But everybody was in for a shock when the tiny Vamana grew into a giant. He then took his first step and covered all land, and in his second step he occupied the whole of the sky. He then asked Mahabali where should he keep the third step. Unable to find any more land, the noble king then asked Vamana to keep the third step on his head. Lord Vishnu was pleased with Mahabali’s dedication and so he granted him a wish. Mahabali, who unconditionally loved his people, asked for permission to visit his people once a year. And so Onam is celebrated in his honor and people believe their Mahabali visits them on the day.

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Let My Country Awake

A photo dated 15 August 1947 shows Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, delivering his Famous

A photo dated 15 August 1947 shows Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, delivering his Famous “Tryst With Destiny” speech at the Parliament House in New Delhi

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance… And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for anyone of them to imagine that it can live apart…

I write this at the eleventh hour, before the hands of the clock officially rest on India’s 68th Independence Day. Oh wait, isn’t it a national holiday? I must admit the latter has me more thrilled. Also admit to not having read the country’s first Independence Day speech (excerpt above) in its entirety until now. I shall wallow in shame for a bit, until I cross over to gratitude. Grateful for this chance to dwell on what freedom meant then, means now, and will come to be.

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Mother’s Day Redux: Bluebird and her Babies

Mother bluebird feeding babies on Mother’s Day

A little less than a month before mother’s day (May 10th), a pair of bluebirds made their nest in one of the bluebird houses in our backyard in Atlanta. I was away studying at the university at the time, but my parents described to me in phone conversations the process familiar to anyone who has seen birds build a nest in their yard: first the birds made tentative visits to the site, then they began to carry in straw, twigs, and grass, finally the mother Continue reading

Eyes on New Sights

Kanikonna blooms herald the coming of Vishu (Picture: Abrachan P)

If all of Kerala is to have a favorite color this season, it’d be yellow with touches of gold. For this is the time of Vishu, a festival of prosperity and gratitude. Embraced by all Malayalis and celebrated by other Indian states by the names of Ugadi or Baisakhi, the festival marks the beginning of the zodiac calendar and is determined by the position of the sun. It falls during the sowing season, with Onam being the state’s harvest extravaganza.

Nature begins celebrating first. Come summer and yellow flowers dot the green canopy. The flowering is related to the heat and the blooms first appear close to two months before the onset of monsoon. Known as konnapoo (Indian laburnum), they are the postcard of the festival. Earlier, the flowers bloomed in backyard gardens and plucking these made for conversations and laughter over fences of houses. With accelerating urbanization, the flowers are now picked off shelves at markets that come up a few days prior to the festival. Between growing the plant in one’s own garden and buying it off vendors, one thing has held its ground: the warmth a handful of tiny yellow flowers spread. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Cake

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Thanks to NPR we learned that Kerala isn’t the only state with a history of Plum Cakes and Fruit Cakes in late December. We love this facinating non-sectarian history!

Cake knows no religion…. Jewish bakeries and Muslim bakers in a predominantly Hindu city, baking Christmas cakes round the clock. You could call it a triumph of capitalism. Or a slice of peace and goodwill for all. With almond icing.

Christmas Tree Facts From the BBC

Credit: Larry Michael / NPL. Via the BBC

Although Organikos is a non-denominational blog, there is no doubt that Christmas is an important holiday in many of the places we work, like Kerala and Costa Rica. This year, Stephanie Pappas from the BBC shares some interesting secrets about Christmas trees that you probably didn’t know, and can read below:

Each Christmas, families gather around evergreens, real or fake, to celebrate the season.

But what holiday revellers may not realise is just how incredible these spruce, fir and pines can be.

In the wild, evergreen conifers survive drastic temperature swings, grow to towering heights and create ecosystems that shelter strange and wonderful creatures.

Here are some the secrets of Christmas trees and their tough, tenacious lives.

Christmas trees can turn to glass

Here’s a party trick not to try without the proper safety equipment: drop a sprig of Siberian spruce (Picea obovata) or Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in a vat of liquid nitrogen, at a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius. Providing you’ve pre-chilled the plant to -20 degrees Celsius or so, the sprig will survive.

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Xandari’s Holiday Tree is Up and Running


A homemade “loomi” lamp


Like any other tree acquired this time of year, Xandari’s holiday tree had to be put on the roof of a car — in this case, the resort’s golfcart — to transport it up to the lobby area from its site of construction. We snaked an LED “hose” through most of the paper lanterns in the bamboo structure, and now we have balsa-wood bird ornaments made by Costa Rican artists (these birds normally hang in our gift shop). Finally, I made a modular paper lamp recycled from old manila folders (template and how-to pending, but the lamp is basically a DIY Loomi light).

Tomorrow, when I finish the second loomi tree “star,” I’ll put up photos of the smaller tree that Edwin and I made for the Xandari Spa.

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