Archive for June, 2007

Avalanche

Eggshells shatter in a sink disposal,
as plates clank in monotone
when dropped onto the kitchen counter.
Water rushes down the drain
cacophony, an avalanche’s melody.

Journals lay abandoned on the bookshelf,
like memories in dreams that
fizzled in the sleepy morning,
unable to recall where I left off.

A woman’s voice sings on the CD,
I’m reading Korean love poetry.
Keys jangle against shut doors
in the cool light.

Escape seems imminent, necessary, as my
muscles burn into the summer sun,
with these scars like irreversible tan lines from
long sea journeys when
a sweetly strummed guitar
gave me the best amnesia.

(Revised on 06/29/2007)

Nepal: Signs of Progress

Things have been changing in the tucked-away nation of Nepal – foremost in the political realm, since peace talks between Maoist rebels and the central government first began, but in other spheres as well.

Salon.com’s Broadsheet reports today some hopeful news about the advancement of womens’ reproductive rights in the Himalayan state. It was only recently that abortion became legal in Nepal – before then, many women died from procedures that were unsanitary or unsafe, or were jailed for even seeking out the operation. Things have obviously begun to shift:

Cut to today. Five years after Nepal’s Parliament voted to allow abortion under most circumstances up to 18 weeks gestation, international reproductive rights organization Ipas reports that maternal mortality has plummeted. Dr. B.K. Subedi, director of Nepal’s Family Health Division, “has said that availability and use of safe abortion care might be one of the factors in the significant decrease.” [Read full]

It would be interesting to know what kind of internal political debate this change has stirred within the nation, and whether it is as hostile as the discussion here in the U.S. or in the Catholic nation of Portugal. Either way, it’s good to see positive progress in another corner of the world.

Border Crossings

The New York Times started its “Border Crossings” article series a couple days ago – the first of which fixed a critical lens on how migration has affected the island nation of Cape Verde. The journalist Jason DeParle successfully gets at the deep societal tensions that grow in the space between those who’ve left and those left behind:

… If Cape Verde is the Galapagos of migration, Jorgen Carling, a Norwegian geographer, is its Darwin. A rising star on the academic circuit, Dr. Carling, 32, visited Cape Verde 10 years ago, taught himself Kriole, the local language, and has been returning ever since.

“Cape Verde is a showcase of the contradictions and frictions of global migration,” he said. “It is in a quite dramatic transition — from being so dependent on migration to trying to cope with a world in which borders are closing.”

The tensions he cites abound. Migration reduces poverty. But it increases inequality between migrants and others back home. Migration can express family devotion. It can also strain family bonds …

[Read full article]

While seeking a better life in a new country is an opportunity that all should be afforded, it is important to bear in mind a historical observation DeParle himself makes: “No country has climbed out of poverty through migration alone.”

Migration can mean temporary economic salvation for poor countries, or safe harbor for those persecuted by despotic regimes. But continued departures will also certainly drain the essence of already crumbling nations. This vicious cycle is apparent in the scores of skilled workers, academics and doctors throughout the Middle East and Africa who have had to leave simply because staying meant – both literally and figuratively – going nowhere.

I’m anxious for the second installment of this series to run, and I would definitely recommend giving it a thorough read.

STA Travel Flourishes in Digital Age

An article by yours truly published in The Capital Times today explores how a Madison area STA Travel agency is surviving in an age of digital do-it-yourself travel arranging:

The booming popularity of Web sites offering rock-bottom airfares, along with the plethora of Internet travel resources and do-it-yourself guidebooks, have drawn many students away from traditional travel agencies.

But despite this trend, a local branch of a world-wide agency continues to flourish at the University of Wisconsin campus.

Liz Carr, 25, is the manager of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union office of STA Travel, a global company that has carved out a niche in the industry by focusing on student and adventure travel.

Carr is well aware of the stigma that the term “travel agency” has come to carry — conjuring forth images of vacation packages where every step is planned to the minutia, and of middlemen charging large overhead fees. A reminder of the lure of the Internet as a travel resource can be found just up the stairs from Carr’s office, where the UW-Madison Travel Center once was — it closed on June 8 after 30 years of operation.

According to Susan Dibbell, an assistant director for the Union Leadership Team, the center closed because of a dramatic decrease in demand over the past five years. Students were no longer coming in to research their trips or buy travel packages, she says, because they could find what they needed online.

But Carr says that, in the year-and-a-half she’s been with STA, she hasn’t seen any decrease in clientele. She admits that the company as a whole had focused a lot more attention on their Web site, but that they’ve worked hard to preserve human interaction — even if it’s done online …

[Read full story]

This Week’s Wandering News

  • Some parents regularly use drugs like Benadryl to sedate their kids during long flights, according to the Wall Street Journal. What ever happened to just being well-behaved?
  • Former Seattle correspondent for The New York Times Timothy Egan woefully observes the deterioration of our national parks and reserves as the result of poor policy and industrial interests in a must-read editorial.
  • Artist Jane Hammond visited Madison this week along with her print and collage exhibition; her work provides a fascinating window into our own culture, and she creates a few personal interpretations of maps and places. Check out her work here.

This Week’s Wandering News is a collection of travel-related links from the past week TDT finds interesting. It is posted every Sunday.


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