Boko Haram and the Chibok Schoolgirls: Two Years Later

This Thursday, April 14th, will mark two years passed since the mass kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria. But despite an international effort, as well as the social media campaign #bringbackourgirls, they have yet to be found. It’s apparent that the terror group is well-aware of the international fame the girls have garnered, and thus makes them an important bargaining chip. And, because of that, it’s highly likely that the missing girls are well-guarded and well-hidden. More recently, it’s been revealed that the group demanded over 50 million USD in exchange for the captive students.

Boko Haram, or “Western education is forbidden,” is a prominent terror group in Africa, particularly in Nigeria. An Islamic extremist group, they gained notoriety for its’ countless raids on schools. The rise of the group was exacerbated by the fact that, while Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, as well as the largest oil producer and the country with the largest economy in Africa, the country’s government runs rampant with corruption. Their presence has also been made in neighboring countries such as Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

In March of last year, the group pledged its’ allegiance to ISIS, another Islamic extremist organization. But despite the fact that ISIS tends to be the more notable of the two in terms of media coverage, especially amidst the attacks in Paris and Brussels, Boko Haram was named as the most dangerous terror group in the world in a November 2015 terror report. According to the report, the terror group was responsible for 6,664 deaths in 2014–A 317% increase from 2014. And while Iraq was named as the country that experienced the most terror attack in 2014, with 9,929 deaths, Nigeria was second on the list.

Late last year, the Director of Information at the Defense Headquarters, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, announced that all known Boko Haram camps had been destroyed. Additionally, the president of Nigeria,  Muhammadu Buhari, claimed in December of last year that Boko Haram was “technically defeated.” Despite this, it’s obvious that the group hasn’t been suppressed as much as one would hope or think following these claims. More recently, the use of children as suicide bombers has risen to alarming numbers, with a recent report claiming that 1-in-5 Boko Haram suicide bombers are children. And, despite two years’ time since the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, they are still missing.

It’s obvious that the terror group still has a lasting effect on the region. As many as 2.3 million people have been displaced by the conflicts involving Boko Haram, and has killed thousands since the start of its’ military operations in 2009. Nearly 2000 schools have been ravaged as a result of the fighting, and are left to crumble or are used as homeless shelters for the countless people that have become refugees. The group’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau, hasn’t been seen or spotted in over a year.Some speculate that he’s either dead, or has since been replaced. Nevertheless, many view it as a sign that the group has since lost much of its’ power, and is finally beginning to crumble.

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Dragon Chino

Hmm…Well, I’m only just now realizing how many posts I’ve done on restaurants here in SMA.

But, then again, it’s hard not to when there’s just that many great places that we’ve tried, and have yet to try in the city. So, for the time being, I’ll keep the many posts about restaurants coming. 🙂

One place in particular my family has been frequenting lately is the Dragon Chino, which is conveniently a short walk down the road from our house. Funny enough, we tried it for the first time years ago, on the night we moved into our new house.

It’s a favorite of ours, the reason being that it’s one of the few Chinese restaurants here that we know of. Honestly, I was surprised that this was here to begin with, I mean the last thing you expect to find in Mexico is a Chinese restaurant. It wasn’t until after moving here that I realized how much I loved and missed Chinese food, so it was a godsend that this was here, and so close.

Not only that, but their menu is actually great, and they have more than enough to pick from. My two favorite so far have been the orange chicken and beef, and there are both plenty of familiar options to choose from, as well as new ones.

So, if you’re an ex-pat who finds themselves craving Chinese food, or you’re just craving Chinese food here in general, you’re in luck.

Until next time,
-The Student Abroad

Dragon Chino’s Menu/Site

Los Burritos

Since December, my sister and I have been volunteering at the library here in San Miguel de Allende. Going there twice every week has definitely put me back in my own element, since I also volunteered at another library for three years a while back, as well. But as fun as it is, crawling around on the floor, trying to find where books belong can make you hungry, believe it or not. But, thankfully, my sister and I have just place to go for a quick bite on the days when we go.

Los Burritos is a popular place to go for both tourists and locals alike for quick food. If you’re short on time, but want a ton of food–This is the place to go. This always works out for us, considering we either go to the animal shelter additionally on these days and/or do school work. So, needless to say, we have to spend our time carefully, or better yet, spend as little time as possible doing extra things. And Los Burritos is undoubtedly the best place for this.

Their main attraction are their tacos, which are served on flour tortillas that they make right there. And, of course, they’re the best tortillas you can get here. But, Los Burritos also has hamburgers, as well as more substantial plates. While it’s a small menu, there’s still plenty to choose from either way. And, what’s even better is that it’s extremely cheap. Four four tacos, as well as a drink, it’s forty-eight pesos–or a dirt-cheap 2.70 USD.

While I have yet to really try any of their other selections for taco fillings, there’s one that both my sister and I would always recommend, and that’s the chicken with mole sauce. It’s pretty mild for those who have baby taste buds or don’t like spice, all while being extremely filling in four tacos. And, at the end of it all, you can buy even more fresh tortillas to make even more tacos. 🙂

 

 

A Month of Learning Guitar

This last Christmas, the big gift I received was a brand new guitar. I’ve been wanting to play for years now, but I only felt truly motivated to sit down and learn in the more recent months. And after even more years of listening to some of my favorite rock bands, and thinking, “I could do that, I want to do that,” I can finally say that I’m on my way.

I can confidently say that I’ve already learned a lot, or a lot more than I expected to know at this point in hopefully becoming proficient some day. It’s been especially advantageous having a plethora of information, tips, and tutorials at my fingertips, compared to being stuck learning it through a dusty old book or a dry guitar lesson every week. And, considering my dad is quite a talented guitar player himself, that’s undoubtedly been an advantage in of itself.

Granted, while it’s been a huge month in terms of learning the basics and really getting the hang of playing, that’s not to say that there haven’t been roadblocks. There have been moments where playing has truly sucked, and sucked the life right out of me. Repetition naturally gets to the point where it becomes boring, and it can be even more frustrating when you go through all of that repetition, and still screw up. Frankly, you sometimes just have to let out a little “For fuck’s sake” under your breath to keep cool. And some days, I’ve found it’s better to simply call it a day, and try again within the following day or two.

And I’ve found that’s a big part of learning the guitar: Knowing your limits. That’s a common piece of advice that you’ll see from a lot of players, and it’s true. Yes, so-and-so might have played for hours on end every single solitary hour, day and night. But I’ve also found that progress with the guitar comes with a combination of completely devoted practice time, but with plenty of rest with it. It can be maddening when you just can’t get something right, but with anything, it’s just practice, and practicing it the right way.

I have to say, a lot of my progress has come from all of the resources that are available online. Another common piece of advice that I’ll give, but is nevertheless something I agree with 100%, is that there’s no reason whatsoever that you should have to pay in anyway to learn what you need. There’s all kinds of information and help out there that’s free, and you should take advantage of that. Don’t waste your time and spend money where it isn’t necessary.

So, with that, I’ll leave you all with the sites and apps I’ve used so far to help me with learning. Just a side note, no worries, I’m not promoting these sites for money or anything. I just think that they deserve some recognition.

My absolute favorite so far has been GuitarTuna, and if you have a phone or a tablet, you should be able to get your hands on it. The app is free, but a few things are thrown in–for a price. The reason I like GuitarTuna so much is not only because it helps get your guitar tuned fairly easy, it also has a full library of all the chords there are to learn. Not only that, but there’s a number of games you can use to practice, memorize, and ultimately master the chords, but in a more fun and interesting way. You can get the app either on your Android or iPhone.

Another site that I love is JustinGuitar. Justin Sandercoe offers a plethora of lessons, videos, and tutorials on his site, completely free. While I haven’t used it exclusively or consistently to learn guitar, it’s been great to turn to when I’m not quite picking up or something, or when I need a more extensive lesson on something. It’s a great site to go to when you’re just starting out, and need some help, even on the very basics, from how to hold your guitar and pick, down to Justin’s recommendations in terms of when, what, and how long you should practice.

Lastly, there’s Yousician. I only just downloaded the app earlier this week, but I’m already enjoying it. It’s extremely hands-on, and from the get-go, the app gauges your abilities as a guitarist, and sets you on the path you need to go to get started. While I’ve only used it a handful of times since Sunday, I’m most definitely going to give it more attention next week while I’m on vacation.

By using all of these sites together, and consistently, I’ve already learned a decent amount on the guitar in terms of a beginner. There’s a bunch of chords I can say that I play pretty flawlessly and effortlessly, and I’m slowly but surely getting a couple of simple songs memorized and perfected. I think I’ll try and make updates on my progress with the guitar more frequently now, maybe on a month by month basis, or when I finally get a song down perfectly.

Until then,
-The Student Abroad

Cent’Anni

Fairly recently, my family celebrated my dad’s 42nd birthday by treating ourselves to a special dinner.

In general, going out is normally seen as a treat for our family, especially when going to a restaurant as amazing as Cent’Anni. It’s one of the few Italian restaurants here in San Miguel, but it’s undoubtedly one of the better ones. That’s obvious enough, considering tourists, ex-pats, and locals alike flock here for the food. Granted, while the food is obviously the main attraction, and while it’s great, that’s not the only thing that this restaurant has to offer. The restaurant itself is impressive, and rather large in design, and there’s never a shortage of decorations or scenery to marvel at.

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Not only is the interior seating gorgeous, but Cent’Anni also has a stunning rooftop seating area that overlooks the city in all its’ beauty.

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Photo Credit: Jason Wilkinson

Needless to say, it’s a lovely atmosphere, especially when you’re eating delicious Italian food. Cent’Anni’s menu has more than enough to choose from, ensuring that everyone will undoubtedly be able to find something that they like. This includes their very own oven-baked pizza, which is a favorite with my family. And, being an Italian restaurant, they have plenty of amazing pasta dishes to choose from, as well. For a full version of their menu, you can click here.

My mom and sister on this particular night both ordered Cent’Anni’s pizza Margherita, and both had nothing but good things to say about it. On other occasions, my family has ordered their Papa & Romero pizza, which is topped with what’s essentially potato chips, as well as sea salt and rosemary. Strange, I know, anything topped with something like potato chips you’d instantly think was American. But, it manages to be oddly delicious.

Meanwhile, I ordered Spaghetti Bolongese, which was also ordered by a few other people at our table. And, we all agreed that it was amazing.

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Admittedly, I was so excited to dig in, that I almost forgot to take a picture! Thankfully, I paused long enough to get an okay picture before I could completely demolish it.

Like I said, Cent’Anni is one of our favorite restaurants to visit here, and we normally reserve it just for special occasions. So, if you’re visiting, and if you’re craving Italian, this is the place to go. You won’t be disappointed.

El Jardin

It’s Christmastime here in Mexico, and of course, that means that the decorations are coming out for the holidays. Naturally, one of the best-decorated locations in the entire city is Centro itself, and more specifically, the garden. Every year, they put up a massive Christmas tree in front of the church, and fill the flower beds and hanging pots with Poinsettias.

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However, while El Jardin (The Garden) is especially beautiful during this time of the year, and while it’s more festive than ever during this time, the main garden is a place to indulge in and enjoy, no matter the time of year. Of course, it’s an area of the city, or the area, perhaps, that attracts the most tourists. But can you blame them? You get to see the church close up and marvel at it, all while sitting in a pristine garden. It’s just one of those places that, if you’re visiting, you can’t pass up visiting at least once.

Many restaurants line the park itself, though I’ll admit I’ve never visited any. So, I can’t exactly attest to whether or not the food is any decent. Additionally, there are a number of gift shops that are close by, as well. However, what seems to attract the most people, both locals and tourists alike, is the Starbucks just on the corner near the church. Nearly every time I’ve been in there, it’s packed with people. It’s always nice to run in, grab a drink and maybe a snack too, and to just take it over to the park and relax. And while the park is almost always busy as well, it’s pretty easy to find a quiet spot to sit at.

Like I said, if you visit, you can’t miss this place. You would be crazy to come all the way here and not visit the garden. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places here in San Miguel de Allende, and one of the most beautiful, too.

 

 

 

The Tuesday Market (Updated Version)

Over a year ago, I wrote an article on El Tianguis de los Martes, otherwise known as The Tuesday Market. But now that I’ve revisited on a number of occasions since then, it’s safe to say that I’ve been able to explore more of it over time. And, I’ve been able to take a lot more pictures since then, as well.

So, firstly, I should elaborate a little on the market itself. The name is pretty self-explanatory–It’s a massive market, held every Tuesday, all through the year. And when I say massive, I’m not fooling around. The entire market is around three football fields in length, and as far as I can tell, it’s more or less divided into three large sections. Not only that, but there’s stall after stall packed under clusters of blue and red tarps. And the items that each of these stalls sell can vary widely, one moment you could be looking at clothing, and with a simple swivel on your feet, you could be looking at household items.

To try and list everything that can be bought at the market would be difficult. And to try and map out just where everything it would be more or less impossible. It’s safe to say that if you go in looking for something, it’s likely you’ll walk out with what you need…As well as a bunch of other things that you may or may not absolutely need. So, if you want a place where you can shop ’till you drop, this is the perfect location for it.

Cute magnets someone had set out.

More magnets. I really regret not grabbing a bunch when I remembered.

More magnets. I really regret not buying one of each before I left…

Like I said, there’s a lot of different people selling a lot of different things. But, there are a few categories of things that are easy to come by at the market. Clothes, whether that be brand-new or second-hand items, is practically around every corner. Footwear is also in abundance as well, but if you’re someone who can’t bring themselves to wear the same outfit twice, it’s easy to say you’ll find more than enough clothing here.

The clothing seemingly goes on forever at points.

The clothing seemingly goes on forever at points.

Many people sell a lot of food-related items, and there are plenty of locations that sell fresh fish, chicken, and produce. So, it’s a convenient way to roll your leisurely shopping with buying things for dinner, and to save yourself from a trip to the grocery store.

Often times, we like to pick up some fish from the market for dinner when we visit. Since it can be a bit difficult to track down decent locations that sell fish in the city, this is the prime location to purchase some. But what’s even better here is the multitude of restaurants to be found nestled inside the various areas of the market. There’s the usual places that sell things such as tortas or gorditas, as well as pizza. My sister has additionally discovered a place that sells pretty good corn dogs and nachos, too.

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A place to get gorditas, I would guess.

One of the pizza places.

One of the pizza places.

But, the popular place to eat in our family is a fried fish place, just a short walk away from the main entrance of the market. I mentioned it in the last article I wrote on the market, but I really can’t pass up talking about it again. Not only do they make shrimp cocktail, but they also fry up extremely fresh seafood items, such as fish fillets, shrimp, and whole fish. They also come wish fresh corn tortilla chips, and a salad, too.

This is the seating area for the fried fish place.

This is the seating area for the fried fish place.

Here's one of the whole fish I was talking about.

Here’s one of the whole fish I was talking about…

All in all, The Tuesday Market is a blast. But believe me, from the hordes of people and the sheer magnitude of the market, you’ll more than likely get tired out after a couple of hours. Still, with everything to look at, buy, and eat, I think everyone will find it worth it in the end.

Until next time,
-The Student Abroad