It had rained continually on the shores of Lake Baikal and there was a real need to dry out and get warm from a day out walking in the Siberian countryside. The cold rain of Siberia had managed to find every last bit of flesh to chill and soak even waterproof clothing to the inside. As we returned to the yurt camp we all hoped that the open fire would warm us just a bit and all of us wondered how we would ever dry out again. Continue reading
by Alexandra Cash
Before the age of 23 I hadn’t traveled outside of the USA. Never had I truly experienced another culture or true independence until I became a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. Founded in 1961, by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps is a government funded volunteer organization that sends willing men and women to developing countries to help promote peace and friendship between interested countries and the United States. It happens though mutual cultural exchange and helping people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women. I was given my assignment of Morocco, North Africa, and was ready to go. I entered the Peace Corps as a 23-year-old girl and exited as a 25-year-old woman. Continue reading
By James McIntyre
Tijuana, Mexico, the border city between US and Mexico, is one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico. It attracts many people from other parts of Mexico as well as people from Southern California. However, Tijuana has grown too fast for it’s own good and crime is rife on the streets, poverty is everywhere and stray animals crowd the streets. Continue reading
The border city between USA and Mexico, Tijuana, is one of the biggest city centres in Mexico. It is a failry ‘new’ city that has exploded in the last few years due to the border. The city itself is chaos and there is constantly a high number of people constantly coming and going. This has resulted in an enourmous number of displaced and uprooted people, as well as high level of violent crime and gang related violence. Many people are being kidnapped and human trafficking and drug violence are both becoming a huge problem in Tijuana. Continue reading
By Rachael Rowe
The tiles were already hot under my bare feet as I walked around the glistening golden stupa at Shwedagon Pagoda and it was only eight o clock in the morning. This is one of the holiest sites in Asia and where almost every visitor to Burma or Myanmar goes. There were crowds but the atmosphere was calm and very serene as people walked around the stupa, prayed, or simply stared in awe at this beautiful structure. Gold leaf is constantly pressed to the shrines and stupas as a sign of goodwill and good deeds. The sound of a bell broke the silence as a pilgrim announced his good deeds by beating the metal and the vibrations ringing across the temple area.
All around the stupa are smaller shrines where people gather to offer blessings, pray and reflect. There are golden Buddhas as well as stone animals and decorative patterns. I watched a short distance away and saw individuals and families deep in thought as they poured water over one of the shrines. Monks dressed in terracotta robes were nearby. One of the monks asked me the day of the week I was born.
“Tuesday,” I replied, wondering why this was significant. He led me to a shrine where I could see one or two people pouring water over the stone structure.
“This is for people born on a Tuesday,” said the monk. “They are lions”. There was a pause. “You were born on the same day as Aung San Suu Kyi.”
As I poured water over the shrine I wondered whether this great lady had also stood here. There were other shrines for the days of the week located around the stupa. Dragons signify a Saturday birth whilst guinea pigs are representative of those born on a Friday. The garuda is the sign of a Sunday birth. Wednesdays are split into two days consisting of morning and afternoon and the reason why Burma has eight days in a week. This was an unexpected but such a fascinating insight into Burmese culture.
There is more to see at Shwedagon Pagoda from people making garlands and fruit based offerings to the constant maintenance the pagoda requires. Men clambered barefoot over bamboo scaffolding as they repaired structures. The temples had intricately carved decorations made from a cow dung and lacquer paste, all of which required replacement every four years. The attention to detail was staggering.
Walking around the great pagoda gave a sense of peace even though there were lots of people early in the morning, and a feeling of wonder at this place of pilgrimage which has seen so much through the history of this fascinating country. Kipling had claimed to have been bewitched by Burma and I was already falling under its charm.
There is much to love about the capital city of the Philippines. Manila is home to friendly, welcoming people. The food is exotic and cheap and it is South East Asia’s shopping capital. But, while Manila might seem to be a rich city at first glance, the majority of their residents are still very poor. There are people who eat food from the garbage. There are people who called themselves the “bat people” who lived in shanties under bridges. Poverty is a huge problem in the Philippines. Continue reading
by Alexandra Cash
When I worked as a volunteer at a small Moroccan youth center I had creative freedom to teach English and other activities to willing students. It took some time to get my footing in this venture but once I did, I began to have the time of my life. Continue reading
by Alexandra Cash
Get lost in the world, on purpose.
It’s an item on my life list and I hope sometime to truly experience it. Before the age of 23 I hadn’t been fortunate enough to do any international travel. However, once I got a taste of it, I knew I had been bitten by a bug that would keep me thirsty for more. Continue reading