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India prepares for series against England

Last month, the Indian cricket team went on a tour of England that saw them absolutely battered in just about every way, coming home from the long journey without one single win against their British rivals. Now, MS Dhoni's team is looking to return the favor as the England team comes to India for a series of one-day internationals (ODIs) and tests.

The Indian press are calling it "The Payback Series," and rightfully so. The team was plagued by injuries while they were in England, and many are still going to be out for this upcoming series, including Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. On the other hand, that gives fringe players like Ravichandran Ashwin the chance to make a case for themselves on the international team.

History is not on the English team's side. They've lost 12 of their last 13 ODIs played on Indian soil. They also have not won an ODI series in India for more than 25 years, when the 1984/1985 team, led by David Gower, beat India 4-1 on their home turf.

Keep in mind that you can watch all the action of this exciting series when you send your first Xoom money transfer to any bank in India, the U.K., South Africa, Australia or Canada. Qualifying transactions will receive a free online subscription to Willow TV for the next two months.


Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is honored around the world

On October 2, Indian people will honor the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, and people around the world will honor the day known as Gandhi Jayanti as well. The Father of the Nation was born on this day in 1869, and he played a major role in the Indian independence movement. He is credited with the development of satyagraha, or non-violent protest, and has inspired many civil rights movements around the world.

Gandhi lived modestly, humbly and honestly, and he encouraged others to follow suit. His non-violent approach to changing the world for the better rubbed some people the wrong way, and he was assassinated in January 1948 while approaching a stage to lead a prayer meeting. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Sangam at Allahabad, where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet. The site is sacred in the Hindu religion and bathing in a sangam is said to free a person of the rebirth cycle and wash away their sins.

To honor the memory of the Father of the Nation, prayer services, ceremonies and other events are held throughout the nation and the world on Gandhi Jayanti. Many people sing Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, which was Gandhi's favorite devotional song. Flowers are placed on statues of the iconic figurehead throughout the nation and many people who are working in other countries will send money to their families in India so they can buy flowers to decorate their monuments to Gandhi.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared that this day would also be recognized as the International Day of Non-Violence. Around the world people gather to take part in multi-faith prayers, light ceremonies that promote peace and public lectures and art exhibitions on non-violence and current issues.

The humble man's wisdom is revered around the world, and his approach to social change still proves to be one of the most effective. He believed that it was best to avoid violence and seek more peaceful means of resolution and his beliefs fueled his contribution to the freedom of India from British rule.

"The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence," Gandhi once said. "I lay no claim to super human powers – I want none." 


Jamaica’s national dish: Ackee and saltfish with a side of breadfruit

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and one of the main ingredients in the national dish, ackee and saltfish. The fruit is not native to the Caribbean island, and is rumored to have come over on a ship from West Africa. While it has been introduced to Central America, Florida and nearby islands, Jamaica is the only place where the plant produces enough fruit to be canned and exported throughout the world. The canned ackee is primarily sold to expatriate Jamaicans living abroad, as very few other cultures include the fruit on their menus.

Fresh ackee, if prepared improperly, can be toxic, but there is nothing to worry about when it comes from a can, so expatriates can pick some up at the market to prepare a traditional Jamaican breakfast. Many Jamaicans who are working abroad send money to Jamaica so their families can buy the ingredients to make their own ackee and saltfish. Nothing brings families together like sharing a meal, even if they are doing so over long distances.

To make the national dish of Jamaica, you will need saltfish, ackee, a hot pepper (traditionally Scotch Bonnet peppers are used), onion, tomato and spices. The fish is sauteed with all of the vegetables and spices while the ackee boils. The fruit is added last and the entire concoction is heated thoroughly, and then it's ready to be gobbled down.

Since the dish is a bit on the spicy side, roast breadfruit can compliment it nicely. The fruit gets its name from the flavor it has once it has been cooked, which is said to resemble that of bread or potatoes. Breadfruit trees can be found around the world in countries near the equator, and since one tree can produce as many as 200 fruits in a season in certain regions, it is a very popular source of food.

Roasting a breadfruit is simple. All you do is remove the stem and roast it. Traditionally it is done over an open fire, but throwing it in the over at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour ought to do the trick if you don't have a fire pit. Once the skin has turned brown, just slice it, peel away the skin and serve.


U.S. attempting to decrease visa waiting time

More stringent policies placed on visas in the wake of 9/11 have discouraged many from visiting the U.S. and slowed down tourism, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, the Obama administration is looking into ways to improve this situation and allow more people to visit America.

The Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, formed by Obama to look at ways to increase the number of jobs in America, made several recommendations to invest in visa-granting capacity. With more people to process visas, the U.S. hopes to get more people to visit America and expand the tourism industry.

"If you were running a business with a line out the door of people who wanted to come in and buy your product, you would do everything you could to get them in there," Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, told the news source.

As of now, the wait for a visa can be excessive, depending on the country. In Brazil, the time can often exceed more than four months, according to the news source.

Whether you're living in America or just visiting for a bit, using an online money transfer service to send money back home can make the separation from one's family a bit easier. 


Brothers and sisters will bond on Raksha Bandhan

On August 13, the moon will be full and many Indian people will observe Raksha Bandhan, a festival to celebrate the bonds between brothers and sisters. On this special day, sisters tie sacred threads called Rakhi around their brothers’ wrists to symbolize their love for their siblings.

In return for their sisters’ love, prayers and devotion, brothers make lifelong vows to protect them. They give their sisters gifts while the girls feed their brothers sweets. Some families also honor the connection between male and female cousins in the same way. Many people will send money to India to help their families get everything they need for the celebrations.

Raksha Bandhan, which means “knot of protection,” originated more than 6,000 years ago, and the holiday crops up in many historical and religious tales.

One legend has it that Lord Krishna was injured while trying to protect good people from an evil ruler, King Shisupal. Draupathi, the wife of the five pandavas, tore off a piece of her silk sari and bound it around the wrist of the Hindu deity. Her kindness and love moved him so much that he declared her his sister and swore to protect and repay her.

Many years later, Draupathi’s husbands bet her in a dice game and lost. Kauravas, the man who won her, tried to remove her sari, but Krishna made the fabric so long that no matter how much the kauravas unwound her, he could not reach the end.

Perhaps one of the most iconic stories of Raksha Bandhan is the tale of Rani Karnawati and Emporer Humayun, according to During medieval times, India was at war and Rani Karnawati was the widow of the king of Chittor. Realizing that without her late husband, the Rani would have difficulty protecting her kingdom against invasion, she sent a Rakhi to Emporer Humayan. The emporer, touched by her gesture, sent his troops to her aid right away.

These days, the Rakhi festival is a time of happiness and family togetherness. Women spend a lot of time preparing for the festivities, buying new clothes, Rakhis, sweets, gifts and food for the big day, which is why many will send money to India for their loved ones.

On the day itself, families don their best clothes and, after honoring their gods, the ceremonial tying of the Rahki and presentation of gifts commences. Once the formalities are over, the parties begin and families and friends gather to dance, eat and revel in each other’s company.


Hearty French stew can fill hearts and stomachs of people who are far from home

Cassoulet is a traditional French bean stew with a story – the French dish can be traced back to the 14th century, during the Hundred Years' War. When Castelnaudary, a small town in the south of France, was under siege, the citizens of the town came together to cook a hearty meal for their soldiers. The story goes that the soldiers were so invigorated by their meal that they were able to chase out the invaders and save the town.

"God the Father is the cassoulet of Castelnaudary, God the Son that of Carcassone, and the Holy Sprit that of Toulouse," French chef Prosper Montagne said in 1929 to clear up the issue of the origin of the dish, according to Time magazine.

Cassoulet, Toulouse and Carcassone are all bean-based stews, but the type of meat in the recipe determines the type of stew. The traditional Castelnaudary cassoulet usually calls for duck confit, while Toulouse's variation uses mutton and pork shoulder and Carcassone often has partridge and mutton. There are canned versions available at the supermarket, but people who are living away from home will make international wire transfers so their families back home can buy the ingredients to make cassoulet from scratch.


Football Transfer Window Roundup 8/9/11

Teams are sending money back and forth all throughout the summer as the transfer window remains open, but the early weeks in August are typically a slow period on the football calendar. There hasn’t been too much for fans to get excited about lately, but as always, the rumors will fly as the summer heats up. And of course, with the deadline approaching, there’s always the possibility of deals approaching at the last hour.

Perhaps one of the bigger moves of the past few days has been Chelsea engineering the signing of Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku. The Blues have paid a reported £20 million for the player, who they view as the eventual successor to Didier Drogba. The 18-year-old doesn’t have a ton of experience and is coming from a smaller club, so it will take some time for him to adjust to the Premier League. That said, his talent is undeniable, so Chelsea may have gotten a steal here.

Another young player on Chelsea’s radar is Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic. The 22-year-old Serbian has turned heads with his rock-solid displays for Dortmund’s back line, along with his aerial prowess. At this point, the club have simply registered their interest, but they’ll have to fend off Liverpool if they want the signature. It’s also possible that Subotic sticks with a strong Dortmund side that has already begun its Bundesliga campaign.

Staying with Chelsea for a moment, the Blues reportedly still want Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric – quite badly in fact. The team has had two bids rejected thus far, of £22 million and £27 million – yet the club appears to be ready to make a third offer of an undisclosed amount. Some believe that the Spurs will reject that too, as they’ve repeatedly said Modric is not for sale.

That said, Tottenham apparently has a backup plan in place if Modric does end up leaving. The team is said to be very interested in midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who plays for Lyon in France. Again, Lyon says Pjanic is not for sale, but we all know how quickly that changes when one team offers to send money.

The two big names of the summer transfer window continue to remain in a holding pattern. The only update on the recent “Cesc Fabregas to Barca” saga is that Fabregas is reportedly willing to give up nearly £4 million in bonuses in order to play for the Spanish squad. Whether that speeds up the glacial pace at which this seemingly-inevitable transfer is moving remains to be seen.

In other news, Wesley Sneijder is almost assuredly going to Manchester – it’s just a matter of whether he’ll play for City or United. Both teams have been heavily linked with the Inter star, and recent comments by the player suggest that Inter is listening intently to all offers, despite previous reports that the deal was dead.

In smaller transfer news, Michael Bradley, the son of the recently-fired U.S. National Team coach Bob Bradley, has been linked with a move to Italian Serie A side Bologna. Bradley was loaned to Aston Villa last season but failed to catch on with the first team, and now it appears as if Borussia Monchengladbach are looking to end their relationship with the American national midfielder. Bologna is reportedly willing to send €5 million via international wire transfer for the player.

Finally, Arsenal has yet to make a big signing in the transfer window, but that could end soon if a deal for Germany international Per Mertesacker goes through. The Werder Bremen player says that his club has told him they are considering offers from all teams, with Arsenal reportedly out in front.


No Polish holiday is complete without a bowl of borscht

Borscht is a traditional Eastern European soup that is said to originate from medieval times and is served in two distinct varieties that originate from the Ukraine and Poland. The Ukranian version of the dish is more of a stew than a soup, containing lots of vegetables and a bit of meat. The soup, regardless of where it is made, can be enjoyed hot or cold.

The dish is traditionally served during both Jewish and Christian holidays – Passover and Christmas meals are not complete without borscht, according to the Nassua Telegraph. On Christmas Eve, many Polish families will serve the soup with uszka, small dumplings stuffed with mushrooms and sauerkraut, since meat is traditionally excluded from the holiday menu.

The medieval recipe for Polish borscht contained no beets – rather, it called for cow parsnip that was known locally as the bear's claw, and the news source reports that it is unclear when beets became a standard ingredient.

Polish legend explains how the soup and the parsnip got their names.

One spring, a hungry bear wandered to a nearby village and caught the scent of food cooking. He followed the smell to a home and climbed into the kitchen through an open window. The cook took one look at the giant creature and fainted, so the bear grabbed the pot of soup and left the way he came. Since it was so hot, the bear dropped the pot and the soup spilled out onto the ground. The legend goes that the first cow parsnip grew up from this very spot.

Polish boscht can also be served without straining the vegetables and meats, so it is more of a stew and can be eaten as a main course. The broth for the soup is often made with leftover kielbasa water, and the main attraction of the dish is its acidity. In order to obtain the proper levels of acidity, the soup can be cooked slowly, taking anywhere from three days to one week to complete.

However, if you're in more of a hurry, you can speed up the process with lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar. Since the dish is staple in holiday celebrations, Polish people who are working or living in other countries wire money to Poland to make sure their families have enough funds to buy all the ingredients for borscht and all the other fixings for their holiday celebrations.