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Soy Vegetariano

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Two girls outside one of the two vegetarian restaurants Shawn frequents in Lima.
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One of the most difficult things I have had to deal with on the Odyssey World Trek has been trying to keep up a vegetarian diet. The Latin diet is very meat-based, and even the simplest dishes like rice and beans usually have some sort of beef or chicken broth in them. Most of the larger cities and tourist hangouts have vegetarian restaurants, so it certainly has not been impossible. But sometimes, it has been very hard to find vegetarian food (like when we were on the boat from Panama to Columbia). Both Kavitha and I, who are the strict vegetarians on the team, have had to sacrifice our principles and eat things we wouldn't normally eat at home.

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A menu inside one of the vegetarian restaurants Shawn likes in Lima.
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There are many reasons for being vegetarian, like health, religion, care of the environment, or concern for animals. Of course some people just don't like meat, which is probably the best reason of all not to eat it. My reasons are a combination of these. I think that not eating meat is healthy if you eat a good variety of beans, grains, and most importantly, vegetables. Meat is high in fat, difficult to digest and most of the meat in stores is oozing with toxins. (Toxins are chemicals that are not good for the body.) I also believe that the modern methods of farming animals are extremely harsh and cruel. Most livestock are not given very much space to move, are kept in unclean conditions and, of course, are eventually packed into trucks or trains and sent to processing plants where they can wait for days to be butchered. It also takes a lot of energy and resources to feed a single cow.

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An image inside Govida
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I was delighted to discover Govinda, a vegetarian restaurant within blocks of my hotel in Lima. It is run by Hare Krishnas, people who practice Hinduism, which is the main religion of India. There aren't many Krishnas in Peru, so it was an interesting experience to step off the streets of a bustling Latin American city into this cozy place of Indian culture, with its music and decorations. The food here is cooked in traditional mud ovens or in solar ovens, and they grow organic vegetables all year. They also have windmills that make electricity. I am glad that they have made their place in this society, and have this restaurant, where no one bats an eye when I say "soy vegetariano" ("I am a vegetarian").

Shawn

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