Eclipse Chasers Travel Far and Pack Traditions: Orange Pants and Dinky Doo

For Mandie Adams, the total solar eclipse on Dec. 4 will be the 12th one she’s seen. It will also be the 12th for her teddy bear, Dinky Doo.

Seeing it won’t be easy. The eclipse will be visible only on a sliver of Earth in Antarctica, the South Orkney Islands and the surrounding ocean. Ms. Adams, a rental-property owner who lives in Southend-on-Sea, England, flew from London to Madrid to Buenos Aires to the town of Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina. From there, she will board a 15-day eclipse cruise, which sails through the notoriously turbulent Drake’s Passage, to see just under 2 minutes of total eclipse darkness—if there aren’t clouds.

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The Best BBQ Traditions Around the World

Korean BBQ is well known in the U.S. with many great Korean BBQ joints in Manhattan, K-Town in Los Angeles, and also Fort Lee, New Jersey, but if you want authentic gogigui, “meat roast” in Korean, you will surely head straight to Korea for the most authentic and best. Thin slices of meat like brisket and pork ribs, as well as yangnyeom galbi (marinated beef short ribs), are barbecued at the table and eaten with rice and spicy Korean sides like kimchi. Don’t forget Korea’s unofficial national alcoholic drink, soju. 

Grill Tip: Maple Tree House might be a chain in Seoul, but sometimes you just need BBQ without trolling the internet for the best.

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Memorial Day traditions, veterans; masks, more travel


From vaccination rates to case counts, here are some important COVID-19 statistics you should know from May 2021.


As the U.S. honors its veterans Monday on Memorial Day, restrictions have been lifted for vaccinated individuals at the nation’s cemeteries dedicated to vets, another step on the path back to normalcy after more than a year under pandemic limitations.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week that it is relaxing rules at the nation’s 155 veteran cemeteries.

The move comes as the VA reported last Monday that there were no new COVID deaths at its medical centers throughout the country, a first since March 18, 2020. VA data shows more than 12,000 have died and more than 2.5 million have been inoculated against COVID-19 out of the roughly 9 million veterans enrolled in the agency’s programs.

The isolation of the pandemic has also been particularly hard on veterans, many of whom depend on kinship with fellow service members to cope with wartime trauma, Jeremy Butler told the Associated Press. Butler, a 47-year-old Navy Reserve officer in New York, heads the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“We’re reuniting now, but it’s been an extremely challenging year,” he said. 

For others, especially the families of veterans who survived the horrors of war only to die from COVID, Memorial Day can reopen barely healed wounds. In Massachusetts, Susan Kenney told AP the death of her 78-year-old father from the virus in April 2020 still remains raw.

Charles Lowell, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War, was among 76 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home who died in one of America’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks last year in a long-term care facility.

“I’ve been reliving this for a whole year,” she said. “At every milestone. Veterans Day. His birthday. His death anniversary. Everything is a constant reminder of what happened. It’s so painful to think about.”

Also in the news:

►A Tennessee hat seller removed an Instagram post after fueling social media controversy by selling a patch that looks like the Jewish Star of David. HatWRKS, run by hatmaker Gigi Gaskins, posted a photo of a woman wearing a bright yellow star sticker with the words: “Not Vaccinated.”

►In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers studied antibody levels of solid organ transplant recipients who had gotten two shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and hadn’t previously had COVID-19. Of the 658 participants in the study, 46% had no detectable antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 after both shots. Read more here.

► About half of U.S. adults are completely vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases are going down across the nation. However, The Washington Post found that the rate of hospitalizations for those who are unvaccinated is the same as it was three months ago, and the rate of infections for those who are unvaccinated is the same as it was in December.

►New York’s seven-day coronavirus positivity rate has dropped to a record low of 0.71%, following 55 straight days of decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.

►Businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and offer incentives to do so without violating federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, the agency said. The updated EEOC guidance also indicates that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t get vaccinated because of a disability, religious beliefs or pregnancy.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 594,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 170.4 million cases and 3.54 million deaths. More than 135 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 40.7% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: The pandemic – and the political battles and economic  devastation that have accompanied it – have inflicted unique forms of torment on mourners, making it harder to move ahead with their lives than with a typical loss.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Memorial Day weekend brings signs of normalcy: More travel, fewer masks

Much like the Memorial Day weekend is known as the unofficial start of summer, this year the holiday marks a return to a semblance of normalcy, a release from the grip of the year-plus-long pandemic for Americans.

The Transportation Security Administration reports the number of passengers screened at U.S. airports Friday through Sunday topped 1.6 million each day; Friday had a high of 1.96 million. That’s the biggest figure since March 8, 2020, just before the pandemic was starting to take hold in this country. Last Memorial Day weekend, the total for the first three days was 861,000.

The travel surge is directly related to the success of the U.S. vaccination program – more than half of the nation’s population has had at least one dose – and the ensuing drastic drop in infections. On Saturday, the U.S. reported just under 12,000 new coronavirus cases, the lowest number since March 23, 2020.

This was also the first holiday weekend since the CDC announced on May 13 that those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors or keep social distance, adding to the sense that life as we knew it is coming back. Some masking requirements remain in place depending on the jurisdiction or business, but more states are dropping them, including New Jersey on Friday and Massachusetts on Saturday.

In New York City and Chicago, officials reopened public beaches. “Welcome back, Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a video announcement. “The lakefront is open.”

So is most of the country now.

Base built to launch U-boats now a vaccination site

A decommissioned World War II submarine base in Lorient, France, has become the latest vaccination site for the country, according to the New York Times.

The structure, built in 1941, was initially used to launch German U-boats. Now revamped with chairs, tents and an art exhibit, the base-turned-vaccination-center has administered more than 6,000 doses over the past week, the Times reported.

The first person to get a vaccine at the site was a Frenchman involved in the war who worked on the reassembly of submarines, vaccination center chief Jean-Michel Pasquet told the paper.

“He told us it was a beautiful symbol of resilience,” Pasquet said. “This bunker that used to build warships to kill people now embodies a comeback to life.”

Colleges hope students get COVID vaccines for fall semester — but can they require it?

As colleges plan for a potential re-opening in fall 2021, some question whether vaccination will be required to take classes in person.

Although half of American adults are fully vaccinated, only about 30% of college-age adults make up the group, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considering college towns and counties home to universities experienced some of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19, vaccination has become a priority to resuming in-person classes.

Over 400 colleges across the United States are requiring at least some students and employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Controversy on the colleges’ decision to make it a requirement stems from the vaccine being cleared by the FDA under an emergency authorization order. The University of California and the California State University systems, for example, said they will require vaccinations once it is fully approved.

Unvaccinated staffers at Houston hospital file lawsuit

One hundred and seventeen unvaccinated staffers at Houston Methodist Hospital filed a lawsuit against the hospital on Friday saying it is unlawful to require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The claim says the mandate violates the Nuremberg Code, which prevents experimentation on human subjects without consent.

The code was developed after World War II as a response to atrocious medical practices conducted in concentration camps. The lead plaintiff, Houston Methodist nurse Jennifer Bridges, said there needs to be further study on the COVID-19 vaccines.


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Contributing: The Associated Press.

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Chinese New Year was always about traveling to family. This year, traditions are at home.

Also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is usually the largest migration in the world, but I’m sure many like me are celebrating alone this year. While I’m sheltering and working at home in Florida, my immediate family has been in lockdown in California. I haven’t been back to see them in over a year.

“I’ve been depressed about it since the first week of January because that’s when I usually start planning,” said Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who usually flies back to Singapore to see family or holds a dinner party at her New York City apartment, cramming 60-some people in to celebrate. “None of that is happening, so it’s very quiet. I’ve already asked friends to do a Zoom where we all wear red and gold.”

These two colors signify good fortune. The other traditions of feasting together, making dumplings and gifting money are all group activities that are just not possible with the pandemic.

Another tradition that’s a challenge during the pandemic is lo hei, Tan said, which involves announcing each ingredient along with its meaning of the shared dish yu sheng, a traditional Singaporean salad. The Singaporean government even released a Chinese New Year advisory limiting family visits and avoiding saying the lo hei out loud.

However, Tan, a Singaporean-Chinese author who wrote “A Tiger in the Kitchen” about missing her family’s food, especially during Chinese New Year, does plan to make dumplings on her own and deliver them to members of her pandemic pod.

For Chinese people, food is often our love language, and each dish is imbued with meaning. For example, fish is eaten because the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus, granting plenty for the year. Long noodles are for long life. Dumplings are shaped like the old, traditional Chinese gold ingots, a symbol of wealth. I made dumplings, bonding with my mom over the recipe on the phone, because I’m not sure when I’ll see her next.

Video chat has replaced in-person gatherings for Myron Lee, too. The San Francisco community advocate is planning to either eat with his family virtually, each picking a dish they would normally be eating together, or sit separately for the meal — Myron with his parents eating off a mah-jongg table in the garage and his sister’s family in the SUV parked in the driveway. And the red envelopes will probably be replaced by online payments.

“The night of Chinese New Year’s Eve, the amount of firecrackers going off in Chinatown is insane, the streets are covered in red from the firecrackers, and they are so loud and continuous that earplugs are a must,” said Lee, who has been organizing and fundraising with Chinatown restaurants to provide meals for their residents. “This year, there is no midnight gathering, but I may still go to Chinatown to watch firecrackers being set off as it’s outdoors.”

Usually, fireworks and lion dancers are central to Lunar New Year, blasting away the bad luck and dancing in the good. When I lived in Hong Kong, these fireworks rang through the week-long celebration at all hours. Businesses, including my newsroom, would invite lion dancers in for people to feed them red envelopes for luck.

Because flights to Asia were expensive this time of year, my family would rarely fly. But one year, we visited my extended family in Taiwan. The tradition there is to head to Dihua Street for their Lunar New Year market. Both sides of the street were flanked with vendors hawking candy and dried foods. That Lunar News Year’s Eve, we feasted at home, pulling together three tables to fit everyone in.

Another tradition that Lee said he will miss is San Francisco’s Chinese New Year parade, one he has attended since he was a kid. It is one of the largest outside Asia and is also virtual this year.

Every year, the parade features the Miss Chinatown contestants. In 2007, Jamie Lam was the representative from Houston and actually met her husband there. He was assigned as her escort for the pageant, and now they have three little girls together.

It was extra special, Lam said, to walk down the historic streets of one of the oldest Chinatowns, one that has been especially ravaged by the pandemic. Now, she hopes to pass down the Chinese New Year traditions to her daughters, “to be proud of wearing a Chinese dress versus embarrassed to be Chinese.”

For freelance food writer Carolyn Jung in San Jose, this means going out of her way to order from local Chinese restaurants and ordering a lot to show her support during the holiday.

And for Amy Leang, a photojournalist from Indiana and Michigan who now lives in Lyon, France, this also means continuing to celebrate with her family despite the pandemic.

“It’s one of the few tenable ways in which I can express Chinese culture and therefore pride. Right now, more than ever, I want my children to feel proud of their heritage, especially in a Western world that wants them to feel shame of who they are, what they look like, blame them for covid,” said Leang, who plans to book an online Airbnb experience with a Chinese tour guide to talk about the Great Wall and the holiday. “This is a chance, each year, for me to remind them and me about why being Chinese is special.”

Besides, it’ll be the Year of the Ox, an animal known for its strength, a trait we will all need to get through the ongoing pandemic. And maybe by the next holiday, we’ll all be flying home again, making dumplings and feasting together.

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7 New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world to try at home

In years past, many people would travel over New Year’s Eve and immerse themselves in a different culture. Countries around the world ring in the new year with unique customs and traditions, often carried out at the strike of midnight. But that option is off the table this year, thanks to 2020′s endless gloom.

To celebrate the spirit of travel from home, we rounded up ways to bring international New Year’s Eve experiences to you.

Japan: Eat toshikoshi soba

Shiwasu is the end-of-the-year period in Japan, filled by many traditions like traveling to see family, attending parties and thoroughly cleaning your home. To commemorate New Year’s Eve, people eat toshikoshi soba, or “year-crossing” soba, which can symbolize having a long and fortunate life along with a clean break from the year. And if there’s a year we need a clean break from, it’s 2020.

Denmark: Jump off a chair

In Denmark, one does not simply let the new year happen. You go on the offense and jump into it. Just before midnight, stop what you’re doing and get on a chair to execute the jump like a Dane would.

Should you forget to jump, it’s said that you’ll bring bad luck for the following year, so please, we’re begging you — do not forget to jump.

Spain: Eat 12 grapes

Perhaps the easiest tradition to carry out is eating grapes for good luck. The tradition began in Spain, but it is now practiced around the world, particularly in Central and South America.

Here’s how to do it yourself: Have 12 grapes, known as las doce uvas de la suerte, handy. When the clock starts chiming at midnight, eat one with each clang.

Bonus points if you’re wearing special New Year’s Eve underwear while eating your grapes. A pair of red underwear can bring you a new year of love, while yellow may bring joy and fortune.

Costa Rica: Run your suitcase around the block

Put your 2021 travel ambitions into the universe by celebrating the new year like a Costa Rican. (The tradition is popular across Latin America.) At midnight, it’s tradition to grab a suitcase and run around the block in the hopes of traveling in the new year.

“The farther we run with our suitcases, my family always says, the farther we’ll travel in the new year,” writes Washington Post reporter, Samantha Schmidt, who has spent New Year’s Eve with her extended family in Costa Rica every year since she was born. “We all do it — from my toddler cousins to my eldest aunts in their high heels. Our neighbors always cheer us on, shouting ‘Feliz Año Nuevo!’ and sometimes join in, as fireworks shoot off in all directions.”

Greece: Hang some onions

If you’ve been cooking throughout the pandemic, maybe you have some onions around the house to spare for this tradition. In Greece, onions symbolize rebirth, so people hang them up on their doors on Dec. 31 to encourage a year of growth. Keep the Greek traditions going by baking a vasilopita on New Year’s Day. Hide a coin in the cake and share it with your loved ones — whoever finds the coin is said to have a year of good luck.

Ecuador: Burn effigies

In Ecuador and other parts of Central and South America, New Year’s Eve heats up when midnight strikes. People head outside to burn effigies that symbolize the year. By lighting the effigy on fire, you’re letting the bad of the year go and moving onto the next.

Our nominations for effigies to burn as we say goodbye to 2020 include a doll made out of any ratty face masks or a list of pandemic cliches, like “out of an abundance of caution.” Just remember that there are obvious risks to lighting something on fire. If you live somewhere with a high risk of wildfires, for example, consider this next tradition instead …

Russia: Burn, then drink, your wishes

After a year of ruined dreams and canceled plans, set your sights on a fresh start with this Russian tradition. Before midnight, write down your wishes for 2021 on a piece of paper, then light the paper on fire. Once it’s stopped burning, sprinkle the wish-filled ashes into a glass of champagne and drink up after the clock strikes midnight.

Read more:

Tips: Coronavirus testing | Sanitizing your hotel | Using Uber and Airbnb | Traveling tools

Flying: Pandemic packing | Airport protocol | Staying healthy on plane | Fly or drive

Road Trip: Tips | Rental cars | Long-haul trains

Holidays: Parades and light shows | Safe holiday travel | Planning a ski trip | Canceling flights

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