A Month in Malaga (Coronavirus Version)

We continue exiled in Malaga, Spain for the good of the realm. As we are mostly confined to the apartment, we have found daily excursions rewarding. Here are the photos of Balcony Beach, Mount Escalera, The Warped Woods trail. Translations are in the captions.

Traversing the Warped Woods Trail without making a sound requires some bouldering skills that I picked up when Daughter was doing rock climbing.

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Staying home in Malaga

I prefer #yomequedoencasa / “I stay home” to the imperative form #quedateencasa / “Stay home.” Everything is closed except grocery stores and pharmacies. Take away restaurants and hair salons were allowed to continue but none in our area open their doors. We schedule our outings with care trying to limit our time out and avoid lines as the number of shoppers per store is limited.

It was a little exciting getting from Algeciras to Malaga. We had previously purchased bus tickets but there were regulations prohibiting travel for most citizens over 60 on public transport. To avoid questions, I shaved my beard and wore a cap to cover all my grey hair.

Our little outings to different mini markets take us through the streets of the old town. Photos of the empty streets of Lagunillas and Ejido neighborhoods are taken quickly. Picasso was born up the street from us. With the museums closed, we are happy with the street art.


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Connecting Points on the Map

We have been exiled for the good of the realm in Malaga, Spain. Our journey of exile began in Ceuta on the continent of Africa. Then, by ferry, to Gibraltar, a territory of the British Empire. Finally, to Algeciras, Spain before arriving in Malaga. This is not chronological, but it makes a better story.

Ceuta is a city on a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The western border of the city is the country of Morocco. It is part of Spain and uses the Euro. The famous rock of Gibraltar still belongs to the United Kingdom  as a British Overseas Territory. Algeciras is the main city near the southern most point of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the birth place of the famous guitarist, Paco de Lucia.

These photos capture some impressions as the Convid-19 epidemic began to take hold.


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Our Journey to Torremolinos

This is an odd post for me to get right. We were planning an adventure to southern Spain when my dear sister-in-law, Elizabeth Ruenitz, passed away unexpectedly. In my heart, I carry many memories of her on this trip. No pictures, just some memories: her subtle sense of humor, how she and my daughter shared their favorite Tom Lehrer songs, the care she gave the cats and my brother, and the tributes from her co-workers at the FDA. It worked out to add a week in Atlanta to our plans to celebrate Elizabeth’s life with my brothers and other family members.

Sometime in the 1980’s I read Michener’s fantasy novel, The Drifters, that relates the lives of a group of youngsters that intersect in Torremolinos in the 1960s. When we decided to look for Spring in Europe, I wondered what might remain of the young free life. Our final destination would be Malaga on the Costa del Sol of Spain. First, we would explore Torremolinos and some southern points.

Here are some images to carry with me from Kuala Lumpur to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Atlanta. Then, a week later, Atlanta back to Amsterdam. After a day in Sloterdijk neighborhood of Amsterdam, we flew down to Malaga Airport, heading 10 km south to Torremolinos.

Our take on Torremolinos. The youngsters left and came back when they retired, like us. Many retired British and German expats here along with Spanish jubilados who find the weather less harsh in the winter.

Covid-19 concerns. Before leaving Malaysia, we were already limiting our social engagements. Getting together with my family, Wife and I used the Indian bow and greeting of Namaste, and did not touch or hug. No reason for us to take chances as we are all on in years except for my grand nephew who has just turned one. So far, so good.
We are staying indoors in Malaga Spain now during the State of Emergency. Its rainy and cold on the Costa del Sol so no big deal. We have an apartment for 4-6 weeks with several small grocery shops just up the street. Out of the little kitchen come Soups Stews, Salads, and Olive oil with fresh “pan integral”, whole wheat bread baked locally.

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Taman Negara (Malaysia’s National Park)

We are locked down in Malaga Spain now. No worries, we can shop for food every day and connect via the internet. Six weeks ago we spent five days in Taman Negara, a five to six hour drive northeast from Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at the National Park Resort, Mutiara Taman Negara and booked their shuttle service with part of the trip taken by boat along the Tembeling River.

Having more days than most visitors, we could take one or two arduous walks followed by a day of taking it easy, including one day just watching the rain fall. My photos are mostly tall trees and monkeys, but our experiences were wonderful feelings of untouched nature, beautiful birdsongs, and silent contemplation.

Here are some details about our stay.

One advice to keep in mind. Visiting Taman Negara is going to involve a lot of step climbing. On arriving at the jetty, there are several flights up to the hotel and national park office.  Although the popular trails have some boardwalks for conservation and ease, there is a lot of up and down.

Website for Resort Mutiara Taman Negara: https://www.mutiaratamannegara.com

It was easier to book through their website to get three days full board (breakfast buffet, lunch special, dinner buffet) and two days just breakfast.  This allowed us to try ala carte entrees and local food in the village across the river. The buffets were quite tasty with some Malaysia cuisine and some western versions. There were some Malaysian foods we had never tried before (and we have a lot of experience seeking out different Malaysian dishes).

The Mutiara offers a shuttle service to and from the Kuala Lumpur Istana Hotel for 90 Ringgit (21 U$S) per person each way. There are two options: Direct all the way by van/bus, or with a 1.5-2 hours boat ride to/from the resort jetty. Depending on the number of passengers, the shuttle is usually a 10 passenger van, but they do have full scale buses available.

National Park office is next to the Resort so it was easy to get our passes. We purchased two entries, one camera pass (the pillion rider’s camera is much better than my iPhone 5s). We did not know we needed to have a ticket to take the canopy walkway.  Luckily, we had exact change when we went there.  Better to buy all at once.

There are cheaper options for both lodging and transportation. There are nice hotels and interesting guest houses in the village of Kuala Tahun. Public transport typically will include a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Jerantut, and then catch local transport up to Kuala Tahun. The cross river ferry is 1 Ringgit per person (0.25 U$S). Organizing a guide from Kuala Tahun is probably cheaper than from the resort.


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Chinese New Year in Bukit Tinggi (catching up)

Two months ago, we were in Malaysia for Chinese New Year.  With our outings curtailed by Covid-19, it is time to catch up on adventures.

A lot of family stuff with Chinese New Year.  We stayed near Taman Bukit Tinggi near Sister-in-Law’s place up in the foothills of Bentong district of Pahang State.  It’s about an hour drive to the center of Kuala Lumpur.  There is a local bus that I took from Pekeliling Bus Station across from the Titiwangsa Light Rail and Monorail stations. The area is famous for its ginger and we enjoyed passion fruit season. We stuffed ourselves on fruits and vegetables we bought fresh at the markets and cooked up that day.

The photos show a lot of the tropical forest. Besides lizards and usual dogs and cats, there were water buffalo along with monkeys. I occasionally surprised a troop and they would head off swinging from tree to tree.


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Kuala Lumpur, Down by the river

Starting the new year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve been here a few weeks since leaving Manila. As we have stopped here a number of times in the last five years, I’m looking for some different aspects of the city.

Here is one: Klang River flows through the city. These days it is channeled via concrete levees.  The Kelana Jaya Light Rail Line (LRT) follows near the River from KL Central north east to Jelatek.  There are a number of accesses large enough for motorcycles and small cars to drive to the concrete edges.  Here are some photos of my stroll. It started with the GoKL free bus Turquoise Line to LRT Station Dato’ Keramat. Just west of the station there is a path down to the edge. There is also a foot bridge that crosses to a path that winds over to the street Jalan Ampang. The concrete banks of the river can be followed for quite a distance among graffiti and occasional squatter shacks up at street level.



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Ducking a Hurricane in Manila

We booked the first week of December for adventure in Manila. For me at my age this means the excitement of discovering how to get around on public transport, where do the alleys in the old city lead, what can I still eat.

Manila provided an additional experience of watching a hurricane on weather maps of the islands. Hurricane Kammuri (locally called Tisoy), a category three with winds of 150 kph (95 mph) had Manila in its sights. Luckily for us and the rest of Manila, landfall was out in the east in the province of Sorsogon. We just stayed in on a rainy windy day.

Both Wife and I had been here before and remembered nothing. We spent a day wandering through Intramuros, the historical part. Another day we wandered around Binondo, the oldest Chinatown, looking at the old buildings and finding vegetarian restaurants. We took a day to wander through the Greenbelt complex with the flashy shopping centers. A real treat was meeting up with our friend, Cristina, for a lovely afternoon in Quezon City. She had extended her stay visiting her father so our trips overlapped. Our friendship goes back to Frankfurt Germany in 1999 when our children played in Grüneburgpark.

Here are some cityscapes that I captured.

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Port Moresby Trepidation

After the Solomons, we headed for Papua, New Guinea. I have researched the principal city, Port Moresby, over the years. There are a lot of admonitions, warnings on safety, and sensational headlines about public safety. On the other hand, it offers a gateway to some very interesting highland experiences.  Air Niugini had the most reasonable flights so we stopped for four days to explore the city. We booked the Holiday Inn Express which is about equidistant from the airport, the city center at the port, and the Nature Park. It was a pretty amazing trip. Port Moresby is a spread out city so nothing is really close. We practiced the usual drill when we went out: Valuables in the safe, small cash and passport copy in the pocket, a credit card and big bills on the body, no wedding ring or watch, and home before night fall.  We met the most kind and friendly people on the streets and in the PMVs (Public Motor Vehicles – basically your minibus van – they are all marshrutka to me). The PMV conductors made sure they understood where we were going, indicated where to get out, and sometimes asked a passenger to get us on the next bus. As I kept my phone out of sight, most of my pictures come from the port and the nature park.  Walking around a number of local neighborhoods was interesting but not photogenic. For now, here are some impressions.

We got our chance to try local food in the parking lot behind the downtown shopping center. Many local women set out homemade food that they sell to the office workers. Wife tried the local fried fish,  and helped me with cassava boiled with coconut, and vegetarian stew.

I’m thinking we need to head up to the highlands for our next trip.

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Island Hopping: Efate and Guadalcanal

After Fiji, we headed over for a stop at Vanuatu and then on to the Solomon Islands. This is another post of ports, bays, and tropical skies. Both Vanuatu and Solomon are known for beaches and diving. Since I need to abstain from running into the surf and swimming against currents, both those activities are now off limits. Instead we hiked all over the place, occasionally picking up supplies for our meals in the Central Markets.  Sometimes we even rousted ourselves up by dawn to take advantage of the cooler temps. Other days, I had to have my parasol out against the unrelenting tropical sun.

Port Vila on Efate Island of the country of Vanuatu is the major hub for international airlines. It lies on a peninsula between an ocean bay and a lagoon. As two cyclones in the last 40 years have resulted in massive damage to buildings, there is not really a historic architecture. Local transportation was accomplished by share taxis. There is a fixed price and we just identified a landmark close to our destination.


Here are photos from our flight between the islands.

Honiara is the Federal District of the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal Island. During World War II, Guadalcanal was the scene of a major campaign over six months. Modern Honiara has grown up around the original Henderson Field airbase that was the center of the Guadalcanal fighting. The International Airport now resides where the airbase was. With not much in the way of architecture, we hiked around the city, checked out the central market and took a couple of buses down the coast.



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Warming up in Fiji

Family traveled to Fiji after Invercargill to grab a little summer after the harsh Southland Spring. The tropical weather with a few highs of 30 C (86 F) and nothing lower than 20 C (68 F) certainly was a change. We stayed in Namaka, a bustling little city halfway between the Airport and the main city of Nadi. Note on pronunciation: “D” is pronounced nasally so Nadi sound like Nan-Dee. With a bus card, we could scoot all around Nadi, Denarau Island, and up along the coast to Lautoka. Historically, there were major immigrations from India in the late 1800s.  We saw this in the curries served in local restaurants and main temples in the city centers. We also sampled lots of local fruits and stews with coconut base.

Here are the required images from the many photos I took.

It seems that we have turned around again and heading back west. Our journey to the East began in Tunisia in September 2018 and included Sri Lanka, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Southeast US and some stopovers in Kuala Lumpur, Scandinavia, and Doha, Qatar. After two months hanging out with Daughter, it was a little emotional when we hugged goodbye in the airport as she left heading back to New Zealand. She’s off to “new” adventures in NEW Zealand. We will look for some “new’ countries with NEW in their names.

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Before heading North

We have left New Zealand for tropical islands nearer the equator. Before I post about them, there are few things I want to add about Invercargill and Southland.

First, local hero Burt Munro comes from Invercargill. His modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle still holds land speed records for engines under 1000cc. You can find this and many other classic vehicles at E Hayes and Sons Hardware store on Dee Street.


The Southland Region was enjoyable driving. My best photos are ocean panoramas.  Here some notes:

The Waihopai river wanders through the city. We followed the walking paths from the mouth for about 10 km on different days. The city of Bluff straight south from Invercargill is the port to Stewart Island. Highway Route 1 begins in Bluff and heads north all through the country.  It has a nice lookout that connects to the southern cove. Towards the Fjordland Region we found several interesting towns (Riverton, Orepuki etc) and picturesque countryside. To the east, Slope point is reached through pastureland that a kindly farmer has allowed for visitors to walk to the farthest southern point on the island.

Our House, Art Deco and all with a lovely garden in the back.


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Spring in Invercargill

After a month in Auckland, we headed to Invercargill. Its the city farthest south in New Zealand.  Outside of a few cities in southern South America, it is the closest city to Antarctica. Spring here can be harsh as we found out. New Zealand Airlines warned us in Auckland after check in that landing might not be possible due to an expected gale. We made it, but that night it was cold, whipping winds, and sheets of rain shaking the house. Then, a bright sunny morning was filled with spring flowers bursting with color. We found the flowers here are mighty hardy. In Japan, cherry blossoms fly with the first gusts.  Here, it took four gales before they started to fly. Spring in Invercargill is not your typical tourist destination but we never got soaked nor blown over. As always, its about planning with alternatives.

In the city, there is a nice bus service that gets around to most of the areas. We stayed two blocks from Queens Park so hardly used the bus.  We rented a car to explore outside of Invercargill.  This included Bluff, a port and village with ferry service to Stewart Island. We stopped in Riverton and Tuatapere on a drive west to Fjordland. To the east we visited the most southern point of the South Island at Slope Point, along with walking among petrified forest in Curio Bay.

I’m limiting the photos in this post to Queens Park and residential streets.

The first group of photos come from our daily walks in Queens Park.  We always found something new there. Mostly self explanatory.



The second group has street views from the Invercargill Chorus Cabinet Trail. Chorus is the local Wideband Internet provider. These are 22 outdoor communications cabinets that artists have decorated.  I tried to capture the local residential streets around each work.


Our Tuatara Story (the proud papa)

When Daughter was in 3rd or 4th grade, we went to a demonstration on reptiles at the local library.  The presenter started with the question, “What are the five orders of reptiles expecting: lizard, snake, turtle?” Daughter answered first: Tuatara. The presenter about fell off his chair. He explained in 30 years he had only received that answer three times. I suspect he didn’t expect it from that little girl in the second row. As you will see in the wikipedia entry, these reptiles are unique to their order and only found in New Zealand. So it was fitting that we could see several tuataras when we were in New Zealand together.


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Aspects of Auckland

We spent five weeks in Auckland this time catching up with our daughter. Instead of rushing around to see a few things, we relaxed and wandered around every little park, alley, and lane.


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Not that Zealand, This Zealand

I can’t believe the travel we completed the last week of August.

Here is a selection of photos. (WordPress mostly puts them in order.)

And some more:


Our route from Georgia:

Atlanta – Istanbul – Copenhagen/Norrebro – Torshavn, Faroe Islands – Copenhagen/Malmo Sweden – Doha, Qatar – Auckland, New Zealand

Normally, we would not take such long flights but there are not many options when going to New Zealand. Another factor was that both Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airlines had offers that made the price almost as low as flying the direct route through Los Angeles. Additionally, we got a chance to visit the Faroe Islands, ticking off another autonomous region in Europe. Qatar Airways offered a nice discount on a stopover stay at the Souk Waqif Boutique Hotels in the old market. Our stays around Copenhagen gave us the chance to discover the dynamic neighborhood of Norrebro of Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden connected by train directly to the Copenhagen Airport.

The 16 hour flight from Doha to Auckland was simply long. Compression socks were life savers. Malmo really needs another visit for a week or more.

New Zealand was originally named after the Netherlands province of Zeeland. The derivation of Zealand, the most populous island of Denmark is not clear.

It was worth it, we had an appointment with Daughter in Auckland. Having coffee at the Remedy just off Queen Street.


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Calming Down in the Smokey Mountains

After Santo Domingo, we flew non-stop straight up to Atlanta, Georgia to visit my brother, Peter, and his wife Elizabeth. Then, we spent a couple of weeks driving up to Richmond, Kentucky to see my friend David from college, then south to recharge in the mountains of Appalachia. We found a place near Waynesville, North Carolina in the Pisgah National Forest. This was near to Canton and Asheville.

Way too many photos of green, blue, and smokey mountains.


We rented a car.  There really is no other way to get around the United States.  Even though the steering wheel was on the left side and gear shift on the right, it turned out to be really easy to take care of all the stuff we needed to do.

We broke up the long trips into two days with lots of breaks.  In one section we stopped in Franklin, North Carolina and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Franklin was a quaint small town with local arts and a specialty bakery. Pigeon Forge was bustling with bright and loud American entertainment venues including Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, restaurant chains, and theme parks.  So many contrasts between these two, yet we found both very interesting with stuff we needed.

It has been about six years since seeing Peter and Elizabeth. I think, the last time Dave and I met up was in 1993. He wrote a song for my parents 50th wedding anniversary.  He’s still the character he was when we hitchhiked up and down North Dakota and Minnesota over 50 years ago.

Trivia: Canton, NC was probably named after steel manufacturing city of Canton, Ohio. Canton, Ohio likely was named after Canton, China now Guangzhou near Hong Kong.



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A zig and a zag to the Dominican Republic

The first time I remember looking up the Dominican Republic was when my friend from Duluth, Minnesota traveled from Uruguay to Santo Domingo. Later, I discovered a high school friend went there in the Peace Corps and stayed on.

Having bounced around the Caribbean in several other trips, this time we had to find a way to get to Santo Domingo.  In the end, we flew with a special upgrade on Copa Airlines from Port of Spain via Panama City, Panama. It was a long day but the connections went smoothly.

Here is a variety of photos I snapped mostly around the Zona Colonial (old city).


Hot, Caliente, Fiery, Combustible, Fuego, Sweltering, Infierno, Hellish, Thunderstorm

On the other hand, it was great to meet up with my high school classmate and share impressions of the the world and of Windom, Minnesota. Thanks, Mike. And thanks to our wives who had to put up with the old guys reminiscing into the night.

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Transiting in Trinidad

After the South America, our destination was the Dominican Republic.  Getting there from any of the Guyanas is complicated.  Most routes run through Miami, Newark, or Fort Lauderdale.  In the end, we decided on a stopover in Port of Spain, the main city of the island country of Trinidad and Tobago.  After the difficult traveling of the previous weeks in the Guyanas, Trinidad was a major contrast.  There is clear information, lots of advice on the internet, and things could be done efficiently.  There is a ferry over to Tobago that looks interesting and highlands to view.  We did not have time to organize these but set it aside for another adventure.

Even in the hot weather, we ventured out walking. We visited the Queens Park for the renovated houses, walked along traditional streets full of activity, tried local food much of it influenced from the India influence.

Here are a few views.



The one thing we really liked was the street food called “doubles.” These are vegetarian based India style wraps consisting of two round flatbreads filled fresh with garbanzos and lentil stew, spices, and sauce. They are made up fresh in the street and you always have to wait in line. They are messy to eat but that makes it a social event.

Unfortunately, V.S. Naipaul’s house administration is in litigation so we could just imagine from the sidewalk.


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Wild Coasts, The northern edge of South America

We spent over three weeks traveling through the Guyanas (in colonial days called French Guyana, Dutch Guyana, British Guyana).  Today, they are Guyane, a department of France, Suriname, and Guyana. This is the unique linguistic enclave of South America where one hears French, Dutch (Netherlands), English, and Creole. I also heard Sranan Tongo, which I came across in a Sociology course long ago at the University of Minnesota.  In those days it was described as Taki-Taki, a derivation of English Talky Talky unless it was more formal, then Dipi-Taki (Deep Talk) was used.

Travel was a little tricky.  There is only one flight a week from Belem, Brazil to Cayenne the capital of French Guyana. There are no flights from Cayenne to Parimaribo capital of Suriname.  We booked a share taxi for 4:00 AM to Saint Laurent de Moroni, the river port across from Suriname.  A share motorized long boat called a Pirogue took us over the river.  There another share taxi took us to the door of our host’s apartment. Three others made the trip with us all the way from Cayenne. Along with getting in and out and watching our bags, we went to French immigration to get our exit stamp at the ferryboat port in Saint Laurent and stopped in Albina, Suriname to show our visitor card and passport.  The visitor card we obtained for 35 Euros from the Suriname consulate in Cayenne.  This gave us one of the few chances to show our Yellow Fever certificates. We flew from Paramaribo to Georgetown in Guyana.  The Suriname airport was built many years ago 40 km from the city on solid land away from the marshy savannas.  Similarly, the International airport in Georgetown is an hour drive to the city.

This sampling of photos shows coasts and colonial houses typical of the region.

Cayenne, Guyane Française (French Guyana)

Side trip to Kourou, Guyane Française

We rented a car for one day to drive down and tour the Space Port. It is a huge complex.

2019-07-03 16.03.09.jpg

Launch pad in preparation for the Ariane Rocket Launch that occurred two days later

Paramaribo, Suriname

Georgetown, Guyana


There are many national forests and parks that we could have visited that are still quite natural and rustic.  Mostly, they must be visited on tours or using a personal vehicle.  These are not popular enough to have regular bus service that allow independent travelers to visit.  There were a lot of flashbacks to my early days traveling around southern South America in the 1970s. This trip was a mixture of unique experiences that keep alive the memories of the so-called “colonial backwaters.”


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Parasol Days

The 21st of June came, and we were still below the equator. In Belo Horizonte the nights were chilly and cool days marked the beginning of winter.  When we left for the airport, it was just 13C, 55F. When we arrived a few hours later in Belem (state of Pará, Brazil), it was 29C, 85F. The low temperature at night was warmer than the day temperatures in Belo. Still, we had not crossed the equator into summer. Belem sits just south of Latitude 0 and the mouth of the Amazon River. The first week of April in Iquitos, Peru was the last time we had weather this hot.

With rain predicted every day, we carried our trusty umbrellas. Often at noon, there would not be a cloud in the sky. With few awnings, the shadows disappeared from the streets.  I opened by umbrella and Voila, it was a parasol. Some of my photos capture these hot days and some of the old mansions from the 1890s. Note on naming, Belem is named after the city where Jesus Christ was born, in English, Bethlehem.

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