Friday, October 31, 2008
An initiative founded by two Canadians, Adrian Bradbury & Kieran Hayward, GuluWalk strives to raise voices and awareness about the horrific acts of violence and destruction that have remained prevalent in northern Uganda for more than 20 years. The effort highlights the plight of the Acholi children. This group of young and innocent children has been forced to trek to town centers in the middle of the night to avoid being beaten, battered, raped, abducted and killed. By the Lord's Resistance Army.. an inhumane mission spear-headed by Joseph Kony.
Despite all morality, Kony and his rebels have been stealing children between the ages of 3 - 17 to staff his gruesome army. Forced to kill or be killed, the youth of Uganda has been trained to murder mothers, fathers, and siblings with no remorse. Devoid of emotions, ethics, and morals, Kony's army has been destroying civil life in northern Uganda since 1987. With the hope of escaping titles of soldiers or sex slaves, tens of thousands of children called "night commuters" walk up to 12 miles each night to seek safety & solace from Kony's crew.
What child deserves to live like this? What child deserves to live with such ghastly memories? How do these children find hope for the future?
In its short 3+ years in existence, GuluWalk has evolved into a worldwide movement for peace. With a dream of eradicating what has come to be known as "the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis" and "one of the biggest scandals of our generation", GuluWalk has raised over $1 million for the children of northern Uganda.
Get involved with GuluWalk to find out more about how you can help this team achieve its goals & complete its mission.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
If you're having trouble viewing the video, please visit the following link:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
As young children, American & European offspring are taught to look people in the eye. It's a command often heard when parents, teachers, or other authority figures suspect children of lying. Because it's the sheer nature of a child to engage in occasional mischief, you can bet that this is one piece of body language that kids work to perfectly master. As a young adult, this same segment of people is taught to look people in the eye in order to exude interest, truth, and honesty. Whether it be a casual chat with an acquaintance, a job interview, or a heated discussion with a significant other, maintaining eye contact demonstrates you're attentively & intensely listening to the words of your conversational partner. In many situations, it also helps to prove that you're not a proverbial freak.
However, while eye contact reflects a common act of courtesy in some cultures, it suggests quite the opposite for others. In Asian & African cultures, avoidance of direct eye contact is interpreted as a sign of respect & esteem.
I think I prefer the latter interpretation. The next time that I walk down a street in Boston, I'm simply going to assume that everyone is worshipping me as the Queen.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
In a time where uncertainty and terror plague our world, it is absolutely vital that we're familiar with the culture, tradition, language, history, religion, economics, and politics of each destination we plan to visit. Being an expert in all of these elements is not a prerequisite for traveling, but keeping an open and educated mind is undoubtedly crucial. In my personal opinion, there is no greater insult to a group of people than ignorance and disrespect.
Sure, we all enjoy the softer side of traveling.. the romanticism, sightseeing, socializing, fancy hotels, room service, local cuisine.. however, in order to experience something real, it is imperative to immerse oneself within the respective culture. Living like a native defines true travel.
To make light of the concept of cultural differences, it doesn't take a genius to know that you wouldn't wear the attire you'd sport in a New York night club in the midst of more conservative Middle Eastern countries. Communication is key. Understanding interactions and how they can be misconstrued between various cultures is also a factor to take into consideration. For example, in the US, a firm handshake is often interpreted as a sign of masculinity whereas in Africa, a limp handshake signifies the appropriate way to complete this action.
In our day & age, there truly isn't any excuse for lack of preparation when it comes to trip planning. With so many valuable resources available from travel guides to books to internet articles and much more, cultural information is easily accessible in today's society. Some of the more popular references include:
- National Geographic: Travel & Cultures section.
- Wikitravel: Valuable resource, broken down by country & city.
- Frommers: Community & Forums sections.
- Lonely Planet: Thorn Tree Travel Forum.
If you know of other credible resources, please share in the comments below - the more aware & educated we all are, the safer we'll all be.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Author of the blog Places I Have Never Been, Jennifer's writing & designs are inspired by her imaginary vacations to far off places. She's a truly talented artist with unique visions and a strong heart. As a preview to her 2009 calendar, here are the patterns that you can expect:
- January: Easter Eggs in Kiev, Ukraine
- February: Bridges of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- March: Gorse in Galway, Ireland
- April: Rainbow Trout in Sun Valley, Idaho
- May: Chateau Gardens in Loire Valley, France
- June: Silver in Zacatecas, Mexico
- July: Tart Cherries in Traverse City, Michigan
- August: Hops in Portland, Oregon
- September: Cowboy Boots & Music in Austin, Texas
- October: Black and White Clocks in Chester, England
- November: Birding in Block Island, Rhode Island
- December: Zeppole Festival in Positano, Italy
Each month's pattern features pieces of information about the particular place including its language, its distance, and the inspiration for the design.
Allow Jennifer's 2009 Wall Calendar to help you imagine your dream vacation.
The main objective of this group is to break the cycle of violence. Easier said than done? Yes. But this is something that we all want, isn't it? Initially bred as Landmine Survivors Network, the movement was founded in 1997 by Jerry White & Ken Rutherford, two landmine survivors.
Focusing on the unique contribution & leadership of conflict survivors, the organization has received praise, partnership, and support from esteemed names like Princess Diana of Wales and Queen Noor of Jordan. Survivor Corps believes that those who have survived war are the most effective, equipped, and motivated people to break the cycle of violence.
The movement operates a peer support program that successfully connects survivors with survivor role models to provide encouragement and motivation. The program serves as a vital component in helping new survivors find hope, jobs, and the strength to move on with their lives.
Courtesy of their community building programs, survivors connect diverse survivor groups with former enemies through collective action plans in order to rebuild communities broken by war. With the assistance of survivor advocates who campaign for their rights, the movement is able to change the world by speaking out together and addressing & acknowledging the challenges they face in their lives after war.
Historical Campaigns & Conventions of Survivor Corps:
- Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Goal to end discrimination and bring equal opportunity to 650 million people world-wide with disabilities.
- Convention to Ban Cluster Munitions: Negotiated in 2008 to end the use of cluster bombs & help victims of this weapon.
Learn more about Survivorship and how you can help. After all, we all need each other to make this one life a proud life, a life worth living.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
To put it simply, Sagres did more than just pacify my sense of wonder & imagination. It sounds extremely cliche, but I honestly didn't understand how fulfilling looking out into the vast ocean could truly be. Sun reflecting across the irridescent waters, we were barred by nothing except the edge of enourmous cliffs. It seems as though most elevated coastal views in the US are outlined by some sort of fencing - now, I'm not against safety, but the natural outline of the landscape quietly stated that Sagres was anything but a tourist attraction. Even if by the common definition of the term, it just may be.
A sneak peak at some prime rib views of the namesake of a delicious brew:
*Defenders of the Fortaleza de Sagres!
*Imposing cliffs of Sagres..
*Voila! The photo that made us famous. Thank you, Improper Bostonian!
The Space Needle. Which is accessible via a monorail...the concept of which still boggles my mind. What's the f-ing point of a MONOrail that isn't in a loop. I just don't get it, I don't...also was the only sunny day of the entire trip!!
2. I got the most delicious Taco Bell at the end of the day.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Our latest poll results reveal that snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef is the ideal adventure for the majority of our respondents. I must admit, now that I've conquered the camels, it would have been my choice too. I must also admit that I've not yet been to Australia. My sister went abroad there in 2003 - so basically, it's essentially as if I went as well. Maybe that explanation would have worked if we were twinsies?
Aside from winning this poll, the Great Barrier Reef also wins the award for the largest coral reef system in the world. Spanning 900 islands and 1,600 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is located in - you guessed it - the Coral Sea. Take a kangaroo up to Queensland in Northeast Aussie Land and you'll be one step closer to seeing the world's largest single structure made by living organisms.
Trivia Question: Which childhood game guarantees a loss for the Great Barrier Reef when matched up against outer space?
Trivia Answer: Hide and seek!
Yes, that's right folks - our alien neighbors can spot this natural wonder without squinting.
After a bit of research & some suggestions from friends, here are a few sites worth visiting when it comes to pricing for snorkelling & diving along the Great Barrier Reef:
If you've had the pleasure of partaking in these oceanic activities along the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of a reasonable reef adventure company, please do share in the comments below.. and please take me with you the next time you go!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My words may not do Sintra justice, but the following images might..
*Please ignore our "outfits". All of our baggage was lost until later that night. The street cafe in the background was where our [minus me] meaty obsession mentioned above was birthed.
*Countryside view from the grounds of Sintra's National Palace, or the Palacio Nacional de Sintra.
*View from the main courtyard outside of the Palacio Nacional de Sintra.
*Pena Palace, or the Palacio de Pena, which has been described as a Disney-esque castle because of its color scheme.
*View of the intricate architecture inside the grounds of the Palacio de Pena.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
What is KIVA?
Similar to NEST's mission, KIVA strives to connect people through lending with the goal of alleviating poverty. Simply put, KIVA lets you loan to the working poor. Founded in 2004 by Matt Flannery and his wife Jessica, KIVA has established itself as "the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website." Its efforts allow empowering individuals to lend directly to original entrepreneurs in the developing world. Examples of entrepreneurs may include: a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, or a tailor in Iraq.. among many others.
How does KIVA work?
By partnering with existing expert microfinance institutions, KIVA gains access to unique, qualified entrepreneurs from impoverished communities all over the world. The partners upload individual profiles on site, allowing lenders to connect to a specific entrepreneur of their own choice. Because of the nature of the internet, KIVA's lending platform affords lenders the opportunity to measure the impact that their lends are having on the entrepreneur's business throughout each step of the cycle. Over time, the entrepreneur repays the loan - updates are maintained on the KIVA site and also emailed to lenders opting to receive these notifications. Once the loan has been completely repaid, lenders may extend loans to other entrepreneurs, donate to KIVA, or withdraw funds.
Well connected within the social media realm, some of KIVA's partners include:
- Google.org: KIVA is a Google Grants recipient. Google created this program to give free advertising to selected non profits. The partnership has enabled KIVA to attract new members instantaneously upon relevant search queries, and has proven invaluable to KIVA's continuing growth and success.
- YouTube: A popular video sharing website, YouTube has donated 120 million free banner placements to KIVA. These banners help to increase exposure and awareness of KIVA, while also generating new lenders and donors.
- Intuit Inc.: A leading provider of business and financial management solutions for many non profit organizations, Intuit donates accounting & reporting software to KIVA to support its mission.
Sound like something that may be up your alley? Help KIVA do more.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In Dublin's fair city,
where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"
"Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh",
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh".
She was a fishmonger,
And sure 'twas no wonder,
For so were her father and mother before,
And they each wheeled their barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"
She died of a fever,
And no one could save her,
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.
Now her ghost wheels her barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"
The first cab line we came to was completely vacant – which we were beyond psyched about because the airport was a zoo. Unfortunately we were informed that it was a handicap only line and we had to follow the masses to the other end where hundreds (I kid you not) of people were standing around looking buzzed/pissed.
We decided right then that the theme of the weekend was going to be “VIP - no lines” and headed back inside in an attempt to cut (because it’s always a good idea to try to aggravate already irate strangers). Devan got tired of dragging her bag and we took up one of the skycap’s offers to help. BEST move ever because he paraded us right back to the handicap area and quickly tucked us into the first cab for only a $10 tip.
Checking into THEhotel was a smooth transaction, despite the fact that Expedia had incorrectly put my room in the regular part of Mandalay Bay. It only took an additional $90 (on top of the $1000 already paid) to get a room 3 doors down from the other.
The rest of the ladies slowly trickled in while we pre-gamed with a bottle of vodka and mixers (bought at a liquor store outside the hotel for way less than the little bottles you could get inside), and by midnight we were actually ready to go out. We headed to the Palms and up to the Fantasy Tower (Moon and Playboy Club). That’s pretty much where my memory ends.
The next morning I dragged a few of the ladies out of bed at 9am to head down to Moorea Beach Club (the 21+, tops optional pool at Mandalay). Not deterred by the $10 cover, 60 degree weather, or fact that we were the ONLY group at the pool, we actually managed to strip down to our b-suit bottoms and get a few hours of color. The $12 pina coladas were a huge help in tolerating the cold.
Later a group of us headed to the Bellagio to see the early showing of “O” (for which we were lucky to get tickets 3 months in advance). I’d been to 4 other Cirque du Soleil shows so I thought I had a good idea of what to expect but I was still blown away. It’s a combination of synchronized swimming, high diving, circus (contortionists, clowns, acrobats), and opera on acid.. and I would pay $168 to see it again in a heartbeat.
After the show we decided to hang around the Bellagio for a bit and grab sushi at Yellowtail (6 people + no reservation = 10 minute wait) and see the seasonal flower exhibit (very cool). We were on our way out, but got sidetracked by promoters offering to have us cut the line and skip the cover at The Bank (club with entrance up escalator from the casino - used to be Light). Since this matched the VIP theme we decided to try it.
The music was fun, the lingerie-clad go-go dancers and free shots they carried were great, but we were kind of stuck in a corner so we decided to bounce - although not before watching some girls get dragged out of a bathroom stall by security for doing drugs (very COPS).
We jumped in line for a cab and a girl fight broke out right behind us. Security wasn’t too concerned about the hair-pulling and name-calling, but then one girl ended up on the hood of a cab and they stepped in. We eventually made it to the Palms and headed in to Rain (not having to pay a cover because we’d received free vouchers the night before). I was pleasantly surprised to find out Paul Oakenfold was the guest DJ for the evening. The vibe in Rain was much like Ibiza (with crazy performance artists – kind of like in Cirque du Soleil). It was only enhanced by the fact that some random Canadian guys invited us to hang at their table and drink for free all night.
Towards the end of the evening Devan and I hopped into a stretch limo (found in the cab line) with two strangers and headed to another club to meet up with one of her guy friends. At 4am the bouncers didn’t want to let us in (since the club was closed and they were kicking everyone else out), but they did after her friend paid them $200. For that money we got about 15 minutes of club time then headed back to our rooms to sleep.
Sunday morning was a little rougher for me than the day before, but I was enticed out of bed to hit up the buffet (and endless champagne) brunch for $25 each. We made it back to Moorea – where there were actually a few other people – for a few hours. At this point I decided it would be a great idea to get a tattoo (under the influence of 4 glasses of champagne, pina coladas, bud light and a shot of tuaca – from a rando guy at the pool).
Conveniently I didn’t even have to leave the hotel to get said tattoo. We went to Starlight Tattoo (just off the casino – like everything else) and I was able to get an appointment in an hour. I didn’t care that I was charged the $150 minimum for a tiny tatt on my foot. I was going to commemorate the trip in ink. I was allowed to bring one friend into the room with me – and everyone else in the lobby watched through the glass wall.
Post tatt, we all started getting ready for dinner at China Grill in Mandalay. Dinner was AMAZING (family style dishes, delicious food, great décor and staff). We did a little gambling (black jack) and stumbled into a club in the middle of the casino when some rando guy insisted on buying us a bottle of grey goose (no arguments). Then we found ourselves in Forty Deuce (club with burlesque dancers and live music). The go-go dancers were very tolerant of us when we decided WE should be onstage dancing instead of/next to them. More free bottles of booze ensued (I consider it our tip) and then I went to sleep.
Monday was rough.. but the hangover was well worth all the good times, crazy pictures, and silly tatt that resulted.
I don't want to drift too far off topic, so first: a quick background on B.A.D. Unfortunate acronym, but a very fortunate cause with a lot of potential. Essentially, thousands of bloggers unite to write about one pre-determined topic on a specific date.. which happened to be yesterday.. I never said that timing was my thing. Regardless, "poverty" was this year's selected topic.
In a time where those of us living in the United States have become all too familiar with the word 'crisis', this particular topic seemed to bring me back down to earth. Sure, our country is heading into a horrible recession, but do I personally suffer immeasurable consequences on a daily basis? No. I can still afford to buy gas, share cocktails with friends, pay my bills, live comfortably, and most importantly, purchase a surplus of food & bottled water (gasp!.. becoming environmentally-friendly is a goal of mine).. and then, if I feel like it, toss this food in the garbage. I actually just experienced a pang of disgust when I re-read that last phrase. Clearly, there are a lot of us in today's society that take the bare necessities for granted.. and why shouldn't we? We've never really been pushed into a compromising situation that would force us to address our ignorance. After all, ignorance is bliss, isn't it?
There are a plethora of causes to champion and non profit organizations to support these days. Because of this, I think it's often difficult for people to continually commit to assisting various missions. Factors that may dissuade people from assisting in ameliorating our world for the greater good include:
- Monetary donations: where is the money actually going?
- Personal issues: I need to look out for #1 before helping others.
- Consistency: Is once enough? I don't have the time, money, or resources to consistently contribute.
Fine, I can identify with these concerns. But, the fact of the matter is, excuses are like.. well, you know how the saying goes. Perhaps the harshest reality is the fact that innocent children are typically the people most affected by poverty. I'm not going to get all Sally Struthers on you here, but compassion and follow-through can go a long way.
How is blogging going to combat poverty?
Some would say that B.A.D. serves as a dishonest method to acquire links, traffic, and exposure for purely selfish reasons. Those acknowledging this theory must be the people that use blogging from a pure, business perspective. They, fortunately, are not the only members within the blogging community. For a variety of opinions on this topic, visit this article. It raises some extremely interesting points, most of which are worth digesting or at least pondering.
Now I would say that, as mentioned in the beginning of this post, I believe that the power of blogging can significantly impact levels of awareness. It can reach audiences that other mediums may not be able to tap into, and in turn, spark a viral campaign. Discussing social issues is vital to addressing humanity entirely. We all know that in today's society, it's very easy to turn your head the other way. I've posed this question before and I'll ask it again: it may be easy, but is it right?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Dangling pig carcasses. Skinned chickens. "Foods" that resembled insects I dissected in my high school biology class.
Oh no.. it wasn't any of these delicacies. For me, it was much worse..
Granted my appetite was essentially eradicated after walking through the Medina in Tangier, I knew that it would be [at minimum] another 10 hours before we were able to eat a substantial meal. My travel companions were sort of relying on me to decipher the menu as I was the only one with a relatively extensive background in French. Visions of "poulet" kept running through my head. Apparently after 7 years of not practicing a language, it's pretty obvious to everyone around you that you're not the genius you thought you were. We finally surrendered, and asked our guide for assistance.. after all, 6 hungry girls are nothing to mess around with.. we think we've ordered something similar to a chicken kabob. Six sub-like sandwiches and a 10 minute van ride later, we arrive at the Tangier train station.
First things first: plop rear on ground. Don't even feign eating like a lady. It's just you and the sandwich - have your way with it. Unwrap said sandwich and sink your chompers into highly anticipated "hoagie".
Initially, there is silence. Seconds later, there is an unsuspecting sango sliding across the floor.
"Um, what's Suz freaking out about now?"
Ding, ding. This sammy was covered in my most despised condiment. A dollop, I might have been able to look past.. but this thing was painted with my arch-enemy. I can't even write the word without imagining the smell and, in turn, reflexively cringing. I tried to pick out the random fries that were also an ingredient in this creation, but I just couldn't do it.. my nemesis and I were mug to mug. And I had a snowball's chance in hell of winning the battle.
At least we have a comfortable couchette to look forward to.. I'll just sleep away the hunger.
Sure. Sure, I will..
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
(Okay, so not totally sassy, but my bum can't support a mini skirt)
Go on, have a listen..
I'd also recommend listening to Mundy's version.
Personally, I'm always up for opening my ears to new Irish tunes.. so if you have one that really hits you, don't be shy.. send it along!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
It's incredibly easy to get "super psyched" about the concept of moving abroad for a year, but the reality of living in a foreign city can be a bit more daunting. In the summer months leading up to my move to Dublin all I spent time doing was talking and thinking about how much fun I was going to have, with no real thought about who I was going to be having fun with. Plop me on a plane in early September (all by my lonesome) about to touch-down at Dublin International Airport. I'm still kind of groggy, but have a vague recollection of the sun piercing through thick, thick gray clouds (that I would grow to love) over Dublin.