Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mate, Argentina

One more card for today... and such a nice one, too! Dear Jane (who used to live in Peru until recently but is now back in England) saw this in my favourites and very kindly offerent to send me a copy. So sweet of her! Mmmm, I would really like something warming like this right now - I'm freezing in my room :S I'll have to go make myself a nice hot cup of tea after I've finished this post.. ;)

Mate, also known as chimarrão or cimarrón, is a traditional South American infused drink, particularly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, south of Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, and to some extent, Syria and Lebanon. It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba maté in hot water.

Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. The straw is called a bombilla in some Latin American countries, a bomba in Portuguese, and a bombija or, more generally, a masassa (type of straw) in Arabic. The straw is traditionally made of silver. Modern, commercially available straws are typically made of nickel silver, called Alpaca; stainless steel, or hollow-stemmed cane. The gourd is known as a mate or a guampa; while in Brazil, it has the specific name of cuia. Even if the water is supplied from a modern thermos, the infusion is traditionally drunk from mates or cuias.

As with other brewed herbs, yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powdery mixture called yerba. The bombilla acts as both a straw and a sieve. The submerged end is flared, with small holes or slots that allow the brewed liquid in, but block the chunky matter that makes up much of the mixture. A modern bombilla design uses a straight tube with holes, or spring sleeve to act as a sieve.

Mate is traditionally drunk in a particular social setting, such as family gatherings or with friends. The same gourd and straw are used by everyone drinking. Passing this drink around to the people you're with is a symbol of friendship.

Jane sent this postcard from Peru, hence the Peruvian stamp.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, USA

I'd had this postcard in my favourites for a while so I was really excited to finally receive a copy in a swap from Precilla. Thank you so much! I really like the colours here.

Faneuil Hall, located near the waterfront and today's Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now part of Boston National Historical Park and a well-known stop on the Freedom Trail. It is sometimes referred to as "the Cradle of Liberty".

Faneuil Hall is now part of a larger festival marketplace, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which includes three long granite buildings called North Market, Quincy Market, and South Market, and which now operates as an indoor/outdoor mall and food eatery. It was designed by Benjamin Thompson and Associates and managed by The Rouse Company; its success in the late 1970s led to the emergence of similar marketplaces in other U.S. cities.

Maltese Luzzu, Malta

Another postcard from somewhere warm... I received this one as an "RAS" from Leena in Malta last summer. She always sends the most beautiful, colourful postcards!

A luzzu is a traditional fishing boat from the Maltese islands. They are brightly painted in shades of yellow, red, green and blue, and the bow is normally pointed with a pair of eyes. These eyes may be the modern survival of an ancient Phoenician custom (also practiced by the ancient Greeks); they are sometimes (and probably inaccurately) referred to as the Eye of Horus or of Osiris.

The luzzu has a double-ended hull. A variant, the kajjik, is similar in appearance, but has a square transom.

The design of the Luzzu, like that of another Maltese boat, the dghajsa, is believed to date back at least to the Phoenician times. The luzzu has survived because it tends to be a sturdy and stable boat even in bad weather. Originally, the luzzu was equipped with sails although nowadays almost all are motorised, with onboard diesel engines being the most common. Some luzzi have been converted to passenger carriers for tourists although the vast majority continue to be used as fishing vessels.

The town of Marsaxlokk is especially famous for the large numbers of luzzu and similar craft operating in its harbor.

The luzzu is one of the symbols of Malta and is featured on the reverse of the older series (1979-89) of Maltese lira coins.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

My grandma has been visiting Thailand for a few weeks in January/February for a few years now, and this year was no exception. She always sends me postcards from her holidays, too, which is really sweet of her. I have to say I wouldn't mind being somewhere that warm at the moment myself!

Patong Beach refers to the beach and town on Phuket's west coast. It is the main tourist resort in Phuket, and contains an important center of Phuket's nightlife and inexpensive shopping. The beach became popular with Western tourists, especially Europeans, in the late 1980s. Numerous hotels are located there and the area has expanded into a large tourist mecca.

Patong Beach is famous for its nightlife and 3.5-kilometer beach that runs the entire length of Patong’s western side. Nightlife is centered on two main areas Bangla Road and 'Paradise Complex', with Bangla Road being predominantly straight and Paradise Complex gay. Both roads are lined with many bars, discotheques and go go bars.

On December 26, 2004, Patong Beach along with many other areas along the western coast of Phuket and Thailand were struck by a tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The wave caused a great deal of destruction to the waterfront of the beach and immediately inland and many people were killed. Patong was one of the worst affected areas of Phuket, although the destruction was not as bad as nearby Khao Lak. Patong has largely recovered since the tsunami.

Hong Kong

A few posts back I wrote about how my friend Miranda went for holiday in Hong Kong and Taiwan for around New Year's. This is one of the postcards she brought me from Hong Kong, showing the celebrations of different festivals and other special occasions in Hong Kong.

In case you can't read the descriptions on the scan, the one on top left is for Chinese New Year, the one next to it Tin Hau's Birthday, the one under that Dragon Boat Festival, and the picture on bottom left is from Mid-Autumn Festival.

Aside from Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival is one that really fascinates me. It is also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival and is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. A description of the festival first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty from 3,000 years ago. The celebration became popular during the early Tang Dynasty. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the autumnal equinox. The Government of the People's Republic of China listed the festival as an "intangible cultural heritage" in 2006, and it was made a Chinese public holiday in 2008. It is also a Taiwanese public holiday.

Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as eating mooncakes (round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4–5 cm thick. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2–3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs), matchmaking, carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns...

Reykjavik, Iceland

It's been a pretty good day today so far. I woke up to a text from my friend Amy, asking me if I'd like to meet up with her as she was around. we went to Wolverhampton and had yummy hot chocolate and tea in Starbucks. She's such a lovely person, it's always great to meet her. It doesn't happen often enough, though, because she lives in Walsall and then there's daily life in the way. I definitely need to go see her in Walsall at some point, though, and we were talking about possibly having picnics this summer. Mmmmm, that would be nice! She also told me she's going to go to Iceland this May for a few days. I'm so jealous! Iceland is one of those places I've always wanted to visit, it seems so fascinating and distant (but also ridiculously expensive :(). I'm looking forward to seeing Amy's photos! ..and I think I'll have to be cheeky and ask her if she could send me a postcard... hhhmmmm... I don't have too many postcards from Iceland, the most recent one I had is this one from last year that I received through the postcrossing forum.

Here you can see Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. At 74.5 metres, it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), author of the Passion Hymns.

State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape. It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church's actual completion. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings were completed in 1974. The nave was consecrated in 1986. Situated in the centre of Reykjavík, it is one of the city's best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. It is similar in style to the expressionist architecture of Grundtvig's Church of Copenhagen, Denmark, completed in 1926.