Ruth Calvo

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Sunday Food: Travel Central America and Have Some Special Treats

By: Ruth Calvo Sunday July 20, 2014 3:53 am


Papaya smoothie

(Picture courtesy of Tee La Rosa at

Mango cut up

(Picture courtesy of Joy at

Central America produces a lot of the fruit we eat, and some we would enjoy if we knew more.  Walking through the towns of Belize City, and Copán Ruinas, I noticed that many little side of the road shops offer a variety of fruit drinks and have tried several. Yesterday I got a large cup of watermelon juice, and recently have had mango slurpee and papaya milk shake,

Bananas are a major product here and we pass trucks loaded with them often, yesterday drove by a Chiquita facility with the loaded trucks all turning down their driveway.  Pineapples also turn up everywhere, and are grown locally all around.

Each morning at the amazing hotel - Casa de Cafe – I visited at Copán Ruinas, I got a big plate every morning with breakfast, full of locally grown, freshly cut, fruit of all those kinds I just mentioned, and had to turn down the juice as it got to be more luscious fruit than I could eat.

I was introduced to Soursop while having the fresh local food at Blue Creek, Belize, and it’s fleshy and nice, but I’ll take papaya if given the choice.

If you are from the tropics you may be wondering why the hell I chose the soursop over the mango. Well I’ve always loved the soursop fruit because like most of our fruits its fleshy and juicy but the “fleshiness” of the soursop is in a whole different league. However this is not what gave it the winning edge for me. I only recently discovered that this fruit has the ability to fight cancer cells. Research as shown that it effectively targets the damaged cancer cells in the body to kill them and leaves normal cells completely unharmed. These other fruits are great, but soursop kills cancer.

Since so many of us northern climate people come here and enjoy the fruit especially, I’ve decided we were meant to be a migratory species and not always stay in one placed.

Eating local is always good, and I’ve found out from being where a lot of tourists are having a meal that you’ll get a full plate of goodies if you ask for the enchilada instead of hamburgers when ingredients natural to the scene work in enchiladas, and the burgers are not normally home folks’ choice.

Tree beside pupuseria I stopped in probably is mango


Bananas growing in garden where breakfast was served, Copán


Saturday Archaeology: Digging the Mayans in Stages

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday July 19, 2014 12:46 am

Corner of post-classic pyramid being excavated, plaster floor has been revealed

Gargoyle uncovered at Copan

A first lesson in rediscovering the Mayan architecture that built their many impressive temples has been that each successive generation took a lesson from the past, literally, and covered the existing structure with another.   While digging at the Blue Creek, Belize, Maya Research Program dig, we were finding the later layers, recording the data we found, then going deeper to find the preceding structures.  To find a Mayan pyramid means that you have found the last, top, layer of the civilization that built it and under that structure there is another, earlier, one.

Tombs were often encased within or beneath Mayan structures. Frequently new temples were built over existing structures. The Mayans also expressed themselves artistically. Their ceramics were made in a large variety of forms and decorated with complex scenes. The Mayans also designed works of art from flint, bone and shell, along with making decorated cotton textiles. Even metal was used for ceremonial purposes. Items made with metal include necklaces, bracelets and headresses.

It is evident that all of the structures built by the ancient Mayans were built in honor of the gods. Compounds were built with large open areas, from which all the citizens could view the religious ceremonies taking place on the platforms elevated above the city.

IX’noha excavation uncovered this grave with some offerings under later layer constituting a bench

At Copan we can now view many generations of the past, with references to those earlier generations incorporated into each new building and commemorative work of art.

Archaeologists have excavated extensive tunnels under the Acropolis, revealing how the royal complex at the heart of Copán developed over the centuries and uncovering several hieroglyphic texts that date back to the Early Classic and verify details of the early dynastic rulers of the city who were recorded on Altar Q hundreds of years later. The deepest of these tunnels have revealed that the first monumental structures underlying the Acropolis date archaeologically to the early 5th century AD, when K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ established the royal dynasty.[69] These early buildings were built of stone and adobe and were themselves built upon earlier earth and cobble structures dating to the predynastic period.[70] The two styles of building overlap somewhat, with some of the earthen structures being expanded during the first hundred years or so of the dynastic history of the city.[71] The early dynastic masonry buildings of the Acropolis included several with the Early Classic apron-molding style of Tikal and one built in the talud-tablero style associated with Teotihuacan, although at the time the talud-tablero form was in use at both Tikal and Kaminaljuyu as well as in Central Mexico.[71]

Below, the Hieroglyphic Staircase forms a major record of dynastic history as well as one of the outstanding artworks known from Mayan civilization.

Hieroglyphic staircase at Copan, history of the generations of rulers written out in hieroglyphs that form the longest written history in existing Mayan cultural discoveries.


Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Thursday July 17, 2014 3:55 am

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

In the course of its declared five hour truce, Israel has announced that attackers were discovered tunneling into Israel from Gazas and have been met with armed force.

The attempted attack came amid continued Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the run up to a temporary truce between Israel and Palestinian fighters to allow humanitarian aid to enter the area.

The army said early on Thursday that Israel had conducted 37 raids overnight on Gaza, while seven rockets were fired from Gaza, four of which landed in fields and the rest were intercepted by Israel’s missile defences, the AFP news agency reported.

The truce came into effect at 10am (7am GMT).

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker said the truce would allow some repairs to infrastructure, such as electricity lines.

The truce comes a day after four children were killed when the Israeli army shelled a beach near Gaza’s port.

The Israeli army said it was targeting ‘Hamas terrorists’ and would investigate the incident.

Tensions associated with children crossing the southern borders of the U.S. to find security of a sort here pales in comparison to the worldwide refugee crisis, particularly in Lebanon. There, 600,000 children are estimated to be living in that country to escape violence and danger in Syria.

Lebanon and the Lebanese people shoulder a great and growing burden due to the strain of accepting more than 1 million people into this small country. This openness and generosity to people in need have been recognized and applauded internationally, most recently on July 14, when the United Nations’ Security Council passed a resolution that highlighted the significant and admirable efforts of Lebanon and other neighboring nations in helping the refugees. The Security Council also noted that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate without a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and urged donors to assist Lebanon and other countries as they deal with this crisis.

While children flee from Central American countries to find better living conditions in the U.S., the U.N. seeks alleviating the conditions (apology for the link, but WND is another nonstandard news source) by ‘defining them as “refugees” who are seeking asylum from political and domestic violence in their home nations.’ Others can help in many ways, and I personally am here enjoying the idyllic country of Honduras at the moment bringing tourist trade and dollars. Okay, not a sacrifice but after digging artifacts in Belize it’s a refuge, itself.

The discovery of a new bloodsucking mite at unheard of depths in Puerto Rican waters has been celebrated by scientists who gave the new life form a name honoring Jennifer Lopez.

Rather than striking a canny resemblance to Lopez, biologists say that the Litarachna lopezae was given its new title as a ‘small token of gratitude’ for the singer’s music, which they listened to as they wrote about their findings.

‘The reason behind the unusual choice of name for the new species is … simple: J.Lo’s songs and videos kept the team in a continuous good mood when writing the manuscript and watching World Cup soccer 2014,’ said biologist Vladimir Pesic, who works at the University of Montenegro, according to Associated Press.

The mite was found at a depth of nearly 70m on a coral reef in Mona Passage, a dangerous body of water that separates Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. According to their study, this is the greatest depth that pontarachnid mite has ever been discovered.


Saturday Art: Mayan Excavation

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday July 12, 2014 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: Ruth Calvo is in Belize on an archaeology dig. Her initial post is here.

Mayan temples are the excavation we’re doing here in Blue Creek, Belize. The site is IZ’noha, and we’re finding structures from the post classical period which is not the finest architecture, but has the usual symmetry and form of the earlier periods and I’m going to put up a few pictures of the excavation we’re involved in, which emerges a little more each day.

These pictures are in order as the dig brings out new features as we progress.

My first day at the dig, the bottom edge as we look for stairs and courtyard structure.

A few feet further and deeper

Stairs start to come into view

We progress up toward the upper chambers, more stairs.

Completed temple, Mask Temple at Lamanai in Belize.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Thursday July 10, 2014 3:55 am

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

As I am travelling, I won’t be able to post the usual foreign news that’s current, so am asking you commenters to put up interesting happenings you see going on outside our usual media sources.


Saturday Art: Archaeological Dig in Belize

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday July 5, 2014 4:52 pm

Mayan pyramid in Blue Creek Central square, restored to pre-excavation condition

Cabanas used by archaeological site diggers

As many of you know, I’m in Belize, at Blue Creek, the Maya Research Group facility, digging for Mayan information, relics, structure, and of course anything we can find.

Several members of FDL have asked me to describe a dig.   This one is different from the one last year in Pennsylvania.   We’re in the tropics, hearing howler monkeys and spider monkeys that swing high overhead, surrounded by rainforest and digging small hills that contain the remnants of Mayan pyramids.

We are using picks, shovels, trowels, pans to hold dirt, buckets, and lots of bandanas for the constant sweat.   Actually, it’s hotter in TX but the humidity here can be oppressive.

We are directed by archaeological faculty who’ve been digging in this area and can see the evidence of structure underneath, and we uncover rocks as structure while looking for the symmetrical forms that Mayans build, also picking up shards of pottery and flakes, the evidence of cut tools such as scrapers and drills.

Below you can see the outline emerging of the base of the pyramid we’re excavating, stone by stone dug from the hillock that’s formed over it through the years since it was last used.   Estimates of the end of Mayan temples, the height of their civilization, estimate that the last occupation was in @ 1000 A.D.   The pyramid below has been out of use except for the possible occasional pilgrimage since then, a little over a thousand years.  What we unearth has lain here for about that amount of time.

What we unearth is saved for laboratory analysis, and over the years of research here large numbers of historic material is catalogued and much of it stored, as display space is limited.

When an excavation is complete, the structure is studied and photographed, and returned to its original form as much as possible.

Base of post classical period pyramid, where I’ve been digging for several days

Flake (showing cut edges) below common quartz rock, unearthed July 2

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Thursday July 3, 2014 3:55 am

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

As I am travelling, I won’t be able to post the usual foreign news that’s current, so am asking you commenters to put up interesting happenings you see going on outside our usual media sources.



Sunday Food: Tea

By: Ruth Calvo Sunday June 29, 2014 2:00 am

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Ramadan.

Makings of a cup of tea

(Picture courtesy of Caroline at

After doing a lot of discussing last Sunday of coffee, it’s only fair that this week I put up a chance to talk about tea. There are times when tea is perfect, and I particularly like the herbal teas.

Some of us have our tea with milk, others with lemon, and many sweeten it. Iced tea is a southern institution, as well. In some countries, the making and serving of tea are associated with elaborate ceremonies, and High Tea is a lovely practice that demands special finger foods to accompany the late day drink.

Tea has much to recommend it, and has a lot of good health benefits.

Tea originated in China as a medicinal drink.[6] It was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century.[7]Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British introduced it to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on the product.[8]

Tea has long been promoted for having a variety of positive health benefits. Recent studies suggest that green tea may help reduce the risk ofcardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, promote oral health, reduce blood pressure, help with weight control, improve antibacterial and antivirasic activity, provide protection from solar ultraviolet light,[9] and increase bone mineral density. Green tea is also said to have “anti-fibrotic properties, and neuroprotective power.”[10] Additional research is needed to “fully understand its contributions to human health, and advise its regular consumption in Western diets.”[10]

Tea catechins have known anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, help regulate food intake, and have an affinity for cannabinoid receptors, which may suppress pain and nausea and provide calming effects.[11]

Consumption of green tea is associated with a lower risk of diseases that cause functional disability, such as “stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis” in the elderly.[12][13]

Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid whose consumption is mildly associated with a calm but alert and focused, relatively productive (alpha wave-dominant) mental state in humans. This mental state is also common to meditative practice.[14]


Tea contains a large number of possibly bioactive chemicals, including flavonoidsamino acidsvitamins, caffeine and several polysaccharides, and a variety of health effects have been proposed and investigated.[22] It has been suggested that green and black tea may protect against cancer,[45]though the catechins found in green tea are thought to be more effective in preventing certain obesity-related cancers such as liver and colorectal cancer,[46] while both green and black teas may protect against cardiovascular disease.[45]

Negative effects of tea drinking are centered around the consumption of sugar used to sweeten the tea. Those who consume very large quantities ofbrick tea may experience fluorosis.[47]

Numerous recent epidemiological studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of green tea consumption on the incidence of human cancers. These studies suggest significant protective effects of green tea against oral, pharyngeal, oesophageal, prostate, digestive, urinary tract, pancreatic, bladder, skin, lung, colon, breast, and liver cancers, and lower risk for cancer metastasis and recurrence.[45]

A chamomile tea will soothe you through troubled times, and mint tea can be good enough for a dessert.