Lennon Wall Spring 2017
The Challenging Quest to Create University Spirit | Pages 4-7 Petr Jan Pajas: Life as a Dissident | Pages 8-10 Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go | Pages 11-13
Czech Tourism Industry Is In Its Peak | Pages 14-15 No Act of Kindness Is Ever Wasted | Pages 16-18 Religious Repressions in Russia: Stones vs Letters | Pages 19-22
ARTS FOCUS OPINION LIFESTYLE
Nude Uncovered | Pages 23-25
Holy Week a la Sevilla | Pages 26-31
YouTube Villains | Pages 32-33
Recycle With Love | Pages 34-37 A Vietnamese Wedding in Prague | Pages 38-41 How a Bib is Born | Pages 42-43
Berlin’s Forbidden Fruit | Pages 44-47 India’s Demon[et]isation | Pages 48-51
From The Editor Once in a Sociology class at AAU, we were doing an exercise called “The Privilege Walk.” Students stood in a single file line in a courtyard, while our professor read a list of social privileges and disadvantages to us. Each person took a step forward or a step backward based on how they identified with the statement. “Please take one-step forward if one or both of your parents has a college degree.” The line broke. “Please take one-step back if you were raised in a single-parent household.” The physical gap between us widened. “Please take one-step back if you were ever ashamed or embarrassed by your clothes or house.” The line became chaos. When it was over, we started to look around. Some had to turn back, while others had to squint to see the person in front. All of us were shocked to see how big the differences were among us. Yet the most important thing is that in the end of the exercise we went back to class and sat there together, all social differences forgotten. This experience still makes me think about the diversity of people studying at AAU. That’s what defines our university. On a daily basis, we meet and mingle with men and women from drastically different social backgrounds, countries of origin and nationalities. Yet we not only set these differences aside in the process of communication, but we learn from them. We made this issue to show the importance of diversity, and hope that you will celebrate it with us.
Karina Verigina, Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief Karina Verigina
Photo Editor Anastasia Mezenina
Assistant Editor Elizaveta Khodarinova
Production Martin Ranninger
Faculty Adviser Andrew Giarelli
Contributors Andres Felipe Bermudez Elizabeth Hwang Lucy Aaron Mara Cayarga Marya Oliynyk Irina Nikolaeva Stanislav Press Rita Puhto
Managing Editors Chau Nguyen Svetlana Kirichenko Copy Editors Anna Kindyakova Benjamin Goings Carolina Soldati
The Challenging Quest to Create University Spirit Story: Chau Nguyen | Photos: AAU Flickr
“Anglo-American Anglo-American…University… We shall celebrate our diversity… We shall overcome all adversity…”
That’s how “An Ode to AAU” starts: Idealistic and proud, celebrating university spirit and students’ pride.
The song, written by Padolsky himself, might become the university anthem if not for one issue: People might not be spirited enough to sing it.
“University spirit is an energy which comes from the excitement of wanting to participate in school and its activities and the pleasure or satisfaction that participation brings,” said Daniel Padolsky, AAU Faculty Senate Secretary. “It’s always really apparent with the new students because they are the most excited to start university and you can actually see the university spirit glow from within them.”
Only 20 percent of the degree-seeking students feel a sense of community at AAU; 30 percent think there’s a distinct experience that makes AAU unique, while more than a half of the student body have no comment, according to an AAU Marketing survey in Spring 2017. Some students think there’s university spirit at AAU, but only within a small group of students who gets involved in extracurricular activities. “I think it’s important for AAU to see us as more than figures in its bank account, and because a sense of belonging, or spirit, transfers to everything you do,” said Andres Felipe Bermudez, a third-year student from the School of Journalism. “It would make the whole experience of going to university more enjoyable, from studying to just hanging out there.”
Do you feel a sense of community at AAU?
Among various reasons, the large number of exchange and CEA students is believed to be a big contributor to the lack of spirit at AAU. According
“I think it’s important for AAU to see us as more than figures in its bank account.”
to AAU 2016 Faculty Satisfaction Survey, up to 41 percent of teachers think that these students aren’t motivated to learn; one in three teachers thinks they behave inappropriately in class. “[Exchange and CEA students] disrupt the class, browse their internet, and plan travelling Europe rather than being interested in serious study,” said an AAU lecturer. Cultural differences could also be a contributing factor to the missing sense of community at AAU. On one hand, most AAU students enjoy their university most for its diverse international student body coming from 70 countries. On the other hand, some students notice a few apparent cliques of students from the same country or culture, hesitating to socialize with the rest of the school. “The point is that most Russians, Kazakhs and Ukrainians want to stick together because they feel more connected through the same language,” said Ekaterina Lopanitcyna, a Russian student who came to AAU via the Erasmus Programme. “Because of that, they hang out only with
each other. They don’t want to go out of their comfort zone and discover new cultures. There are exceptions, of course, but when I came to AAU, some people wanted to be friends only because I spoke their language, not because of my personality.” Other students think the large proportion of adjunct teachers also weakens college spirit. Adjunct lecturers comprise 80 percent of AAU’s faculty body; many of whom students think aren’t as committed to teaching as full-time ones. Perhaps job insecurity and low pay pressures them to balance multiple employments at the same time, which takes away the time and energy they could have otherwise devoted to AAU. An adjunct teacher at AAU earns 42,000 Kc for each course they teach a semester. That’s $426 per month, while permanent lecturers receive about 20-25,000 Kc, or $1,000, after tax every month. “Even if you’re only supporting yourself, it’s hard to get by on less than 30,000 Kc a month in Prague,” said an adjunct teacher. “And there’s obviously no way you could support a family, unless your partner is also working. Good teachers 5
Better cultural integration, better faculty salary, better facilities wouldn’t be enough to create a sense of community at AAU if the students’ attitude remains unchanged.
do this because they love to teach, not because of any financial incentive. But you’re really inviting burnout. I have to admit that as much as I love teaching and working with students, I found it hard to be a writing coach for 18 students.”
life. He then realized the value of the college life, determining that his career and relationship can wait until after he graduated. “When I came to AAU, I decided to focus on studying and experiencing through college.”
AAU adjunct teachers come and leave every semester, hardly engaging with the school or its students, making it challenging to build a university community. The majority of people at AAU believe that the attitude of the faculty towards the institution influences that of the students. For instance, by suggesting them school activities or events that might be interesting, the teachers build a stronger relationship with their students and among the students themselves.
Most students agree with Little. They think having university spirit plays an essential role in the college experience, giving them a sense of belonging and motivation to be on campus not just for classes, but for the people and the atmosphere.
“School spirit can only benefit,” said Jonathan Little, the vice president of the Hiking Club. Little once struggled for five years to balance his life with a full time job, full time study, and a social 6
Little suggests that AAU shortens its lectures to increase the number of classes per day. Students could then use break time to hang around the school and participate in activities on campus. Other students like the idea of informal discussions with teachers outside of class, ones like Professors in the Pub or Movie Nights, and wish for more similar events. Some suggest creating more studying spaces, dormitories, and athletic clubs.
“AAU feels a lot like a high school, with small class size and attendance check,” said Nicholas Fontana, a student from Italy, suggesting that AAU could benefit from more autonomic and flexible rules. “I would say university spirit should be of independence and freedom, where you’re being controlled less and have to take responsibility more.” However, better integration among students from different cultures, better salary for the faculty, and better facilities wouldn’t be enough to create a sense of community at AAU if the students’ attitude remains unchanged. “I don’t think there’s one party or person who can be blamed entirely for the failed implementation of AAU spirit,” said Adi Hadzic, the president of the Student Council, who thinks that AAU has been trying to boost university spirit in the recent years with little success. “From the students’ side, I think the lack of participation has a lot to do with it. We usually have 100-150 same faces showing up for all our events. What’s going on with the rest of the 500-600 people at our school? It seems that the majority of students don’t want to give the school a chance in terms of events.” Melisa Permansu, the vice president of the Diplomatic Club, agrees with Hadzic. Permansu says she always encourages people to join clubs and come to the events hosted by the university. She thinks everyone shares the successes and failures of AAU, thus should work together to make it a better place.
Some students think the large proportion of adjunct teachers also weakens college spirit.
“I would like to get the students more involved in AAU´s events and activities not only in terms of participation but also in organization,” said Iveta Morávková, the Student Life and Career Center Specialist. “Bring me your ideas and let’s make them happen together. Don’t forget to fill out the Student Satisfaction Survey to improve services at AAU.” Perhaps if the students are willing to step out of their comfort zones, try out new activities, and take more initiatives to participate and make changes, AAU has great potential to become a strong community, living up to its utopian goal.
“We will stand together indivisibly… We shall elevate our community… Anglo-American University, home for you and me…” 7
Petr Jan Pajas: Life as a Dissident Story: Benjamin Goings | Photos: AAU Flickr, Wikimedia commons
ewly elected AAU P resident P etr Jan Pajas, age 79, is a man with hope . H e lived through the most tumultuous periods of the Cold War: revolution, political repression, the consequences of dissent, and rebirth of his country and the direction of his career .
“I knew what was going to happen if they could not find the solution,” explains Pajas, referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pajas studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague, receiving his diploma in nuclear and theoretical physics in 1959. At the height of the Cold War in 1962, he was studying at Moscow State University and finishing his Masters degree in Mathematics and Physics. He discovered his passion for physics by chance, when he noticed an open book in a shop window. “On the first page of it, somewhere between the text in Russian, there was a formula written: E = mc2… so I started to study Nuclear Physics – and immediately in a foreign language for me – in Russian.” Pajas was inspired, and devoted himself to pursuing physics. “Those first 16 years of my adult life were fully devoted to physics,” he says. “I still feel extreme pleasure whenever I have a chance to see such precise formulas, which we 8
After his tenure at AAU, Pajas would like to write about his generation, their stories and struggles.
are using to describe the basics of existence and relations of entities forming the world in which we got the chance to live a few decades.” “When I crossed the frontier into the Soviet Union, I realized I was in a completely different part of the world,” says Pajas, recalling the bad conditions of student dormitories, and travel restrictions beyond Moscow, compared to a less restrictive Czechoslovakia. Soon after his graduation from Moscow State University in 1963, Pajas traveled back to his home, to begin his work at the Institute for Nuclear Research in Řež, 17km north of Prague.
Pajas happily worked as Deputy Head of Department of Theoretical Physics, with research and development freedom, and started to collaborate with scientists from Italy. He notes that the Soviets were deeply afraid of such western-orientated research developments. When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, life abruptly changed. Pajas was living near Prague’s airport, and during the night heard the sound of Russian aircraft invading his country, a new airplane landing “every other minute.” After the successful invasion, a quarter-million people were expelled from their professions, including Pajas. “Can you imagine it, a young strong man, working hard in your beloved field of physics, and [be forced to] abruptly stop?” Pajas’ expulsion came after his refusal to sign documents that confirmed he was happy with the invasion. “I was de-facto expelled, on political grounds,” he says. “We were young and tried to oppose the invasion… but it was a long time ago,” he adds with a laugh. Not allowed to continue with any of his nuclear research activities under Soviet leadership, Pajas was forced to work in Prague’s public transport system from 1972, where he stayed until 1989. Nevertheless, Pajas doesn’t feel that his work in the transport system went to waste. “To some
Pajas tried to oppose the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.
extent I feel expertise in transport running, and I can proudly say the development of the Prague transport system was pre-calculated by my team and me.” In November 1989, the Velvet revolution changed Pajas’ life. “It was at the end of October; I was at an international conference in Russia, somewhere south of Moscow,” recalls Pajas. “We had a TV, where we could follow the situation.” One day later the Berlin Wall fell, and there was an expectation that the regime in Czechoslovakia would fall quickly. “There was a need to say stop, enough,” Pajas confidently says. Pajas attended the massive demonstration at Letná park, near Prague Castle.
During the Velvet Revolution in 1989 Pajas helped to set up the Charter 77 foundation in Czechoslovakia.
“I remember I was standing with my kids 200 meters from the stadium, it was beautiful.” He also started to get involved in the street movements in Wenceslas Square against the Soviet government. “We suspected they were afraid they were going to be overthrown violently,” he recalls. “Every other corner there were military personnel. Ready to fight if given the order. But nothing happened.” During the revolution, Pajas got a call from his former manager and fellow nuclear physicist, Frantisek Janouch. Janouch was living in political exile in Sweden, where he founded the Charter 77 foundation, and suggested Pajas help set up the foundation in Czechoslovakia. After the success of the peaceful revolution, the new democracy gave Pajas the chance to be a leader in the establishment of Czechoslovak civil society. As a signer of Charter 77, Pajas began his self-acknowledged “third life” as a guru of nonprofit and civil society development, becoming the first director of the Charter 77 foundation in 1990. “I was working all the time – all the time. Meeting people, organizing… it was really a tremendous time.” Pajas recalls meeting Vaclav Havel – the first president of the newly established Czech Republic – as one of the highlights of his post-revolution career. In 2005, Pajas became policy manager for the Policy Association for an Open Society, a think tank dedicated to assisting post-soviet countries transition to an open civil society and an open economy. For Pajas, the development of strong, an ethical civil society is crucial to the development of democracy “The societies before, everything was defined… everything was fully under control.” The Open Society Foundation works to create thriving democracies everywhere, but especially in countries that didn’t previously have the intellectual leadership to create an environment where citizens can influence public policy making and keep politicians accountable. Pajas placed his focus on supporting an ethical civil society, a vision that’s reflected in “Thinking
Ethically” a guidebook he wrote for the Open Society foundation in 2011. In the guidebook, he advises think tanks to avoid conflicts of interest, advocate honesty, and support civic engagement to influence public policy. President Pajas expects to hold his position at AAU for the next 14 to 16 months. During his time, he expects changes to the upper-management structure, the preparing of new accreditations and improvement in teaching strategies. Pajas also worked to establish the Central European University in Prague, an international University now located in Budapest, so he is no stranger to fostering a valuable multicultural environment. “To stand in front of a conference on Open Society, in Dubrovnik in October 1990, listening to the applause when I announced the decision of the Czech Government, supported by President Havel, about providing the building to host the Central European University in Prague,” he recalls. “Well, now we have again to do what we can to protect this special enterprise from unfortunate attacks of those who hate excellence.” During his time at AAU Pajas has lofty goals for the non-profit university. “We are interested in cultivating people across the cultures and across regions, and across political opinions,” says Pajas, “I need support, understanding and trust, that not only we are going to make this university good, but prepare students for future leaders of the world.” After his tenure at AAU, Pajas would like to write about his generation, and their stories and struggles. “I would like to spend several more years in good health and write more about so many interesting people and their stories, forming the life of my generation… even if it was sometimes nearly unbearably difficult to live on.”
Czech Tourism Industry Is In Its Peak Story: Andrés Bermudez | Photos: Rita Puhto
Czech R epublic
new record of visitors and
2016, Czech Statistical
revenues from tourism in revealed the
Hotels, pensions and camps hosted 18,5 million domestic and foreign guests, and overnight stays totaled 50 million, an increase of 6.9 and 5.4 percent, respectively. However, including services like Airbnb and day-trippers, the number of visitors rose to an estimated 31 million. “We are very happy. It’s a new record,” said Markéta Vogelová, CzechTourism Institute Director. Prague alone accommodated 7 million guests
(around 460,000 more than in 2015), who stayed an average of 2.4 nights. These numbers stack up because Prague is a safe destination and the city’s marketing strategies are working, according to Prague City Tourism spokesperson Barbora Hrubá. “We are definitely very happy about it,” she said. These statistics go hand in hand with a 4.9 percent increase (113,6 billion CZK) in national revenues from tourism registered up to September 2016 by the Czech Ministry of Regional Development. According to CzechTourism, not only more foreigners came to the Czech Republic, but also their ethnicity changed fundamentally. While the number of Russians and Japanese, for instance, dropped in 2016 – 28,000 Russians less than in 2015, a drop of 6,5 percent – this was compensated by tourists from other countries. Germans, usual visitors, went up 6.4 percent (113,000 more), Slovaks 11.7 percent and Polish 12 percent. The influx of Americans and British also went up, but Chinese and South Koreans registered the highest demand with a 49.1 and 35.6 percent increase, respectively. The Czech Republic also remained popular among French, Dutch, Austrians, Spanish, and Israelis. “It definitely felt busier compared to the previous year,” said a worker from the CzechTourism office in Old Town Square, Prague, which reached a record of 250,000 visitors. “The high season felt LEFT: In 2016 an estimated 31 million tourists visited Prague. RIGHT: Often residents complain about tourists flooding the city.
longer. The difference between low and high seasons is very mild now,” she said.
CzechTourism and Prague City Tourism have a similar approach to this issue.
This is good for the city, yet often residents complain about tourism, whether because of noise, clogged streets or inflated prices. The Segway ban, for example, enacted after residents’ complaints, or the housing prices rising every
“There is, of course, a limit to everything,” said Hrubá. “We are trying to get tourists out of the center and to discover other areas of Prague, like Karlín, Vinohrady and Smíchov.”
year, may be early indicators of an unsustainable tourism model threatening to harm the locals .
Prague and Český Krumlov, Vogelová said. “That is why one of our aims is to spread tourists beyond Prague and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are overcrowded.”
Prague’s numbers are still far from cities like Barcelona, Spain, where a new law to revert tourism’s negative effects limits the number of beds on offer for visitors, but are Czechs risking a similar fate?
The limit is getting closer in
However, Vogelová said that attitudes toward visitors in the Czech Republic are positive, and that residents don’t complain about the tourists, but about
specific problems caused by mass tourism. Český Krumlov is already planning a communitybased tourism strategy to avoid future problems, she said. The Night of Hotels in Prague last January allowed residents to buy a double-bed room and breakfast in over 70 hotels including luxurious ones for a unified price of 777 crowns.
The city plans to repeat it yearly. Initiatives such as these seek to involve the community with the tourism sector, so residents don’t perceive it as alien to them, said Hrubá. Whether these strategies will suffice or not, time will tell.
No Act of Kindness Is Ever Wasted Story: Svetlana Kirichenko | Photos: Handipet Rescue, Burma Center Prague
Salem takes a lunch box and arrives at the old lady’s house . H e talks with her , keeps her company, listens to her life erry
stories and may then do shopping for her if she needs.
provided a lot of help to seniors similar to this lady.
“I felt that they had been through quite a difficult time during the war and deserved some support and friendship for what they had been through,” he said. Salem, an American, has been doing volunteer work since he was a teenager, and during his 12 years in Prague he was fortunately able to find volunteer positions suitable for him.“I asked if there were any volunteer opportunities at the Jewish community center for English speakers, and fortunately there were,” said Salem. He helped seniors for about six months, a few times a week. “It’s just something we owe them, as they don’t have the power they once had, and if someone does not have a family to help, it’s our loving duty to pitch in and help,” said Salem with confidence. People make a life by what they give. Volunteering is the activity that has always reminded people of what humanity is. Giving a helping hand sometimes is not only a wish but a need for some volunteers who cannot live without benefitting others. Odessa Primus, a volunteer for refugees talks about volunteering as an unimaginable experience. She calls it “tragic at times but mostly completely full of hope and kindness and gratitude.”
The Czech Republic, and especially its capital Prague, opens the doors for many altruists. Medicine, education, emergency rescue, environment – these are just some of the options available for those who want to join in helping the world. Prague is diverse in organizations which welcome volunteers, both Czech citizens and English-speaking do-gooders from other countries. Besides the Jewish Community center, another organization offering volunteering opportunities in Prague both for Czech citizens and expats is Handipet Rescue. This organization usually rescues sick or handicapped animals and gives them a chance to find loving hosts. It is a part of the non-governmental organization Pet Heroes that currently has one more cat rescue organization called Destiny Paws. It does various activities to help other dog and cat shelters and inform the general population about rescue issues. Handipet Rescue was started in 2014, and since that time it has adopted out over 300 animals. Janka Bednárová, one of the four permanent workers at Handipet Rescue, takes care of the animals on her own, accompanied by a large number of volunteers. One of them is responsible for finances and marketing, another for virtual adoptions and one takes care of the administrative tasks. Handipet Rescue works with other shelters and NGOs and helps out with animals that they are not able to take care of for various reasons. The organization also helps Shelter Friend in Ukraine, which usually has over 500 animals, but the chances of all of them getting adopted in Ukraine RIGHT: Barbie has a happy life now
are slim to none. Ways of helping animals that Handipet offers vary. It accepts both material and financial donations, offers volunteering positions for walking the dogs, helping with cleaning and socializing with the animals. By now, Handipet Rescue has several stable volunteers and fosters, and the number of people wanting to be involved in rescuing is growing every year. Bednárová explains that rescuing is her big hobby which started eight years ago when she adopted her second cat, and then started fostering ill and
injured cats a few months later. Before going into animal rescue, she worked as an assistant to disabled people. She finds herself able and willing to help others, and loves doing that. “It’s a struggle sometimes, sleepless nights, dirty work, but in the end it all makes sense when someone finds a home forever,” said Bednárová. The life of the dog Barbie shows how animals’ lives change after the help of Handipet Rescue. Barbie came to Handipet in 2015 from Ukraine; she was unable to walk because of the
very severe knee problem since birth. She received surgery to correct the position of the bones in the knee, and then was rehabilitated for several months to relax the tendons. “Barbie was adopted in 2016 and now she is the happiest dog ever, able to even run and learn all the crazy dog tricks,” said Bednárová, proudly smiling. Maria Aksinina, a Russian student and a permanent Red Cross volunteer, signs in for another blood donation. In comfortable clothes and with a bottle of water in her hand, she is relaxed and ready to enter the
medical office. After the procedure, she would go to the refreshment area, have a healthy snack and continue her day knowing that she had helped somebody. Aksinina has been volunteering since she moved to Prague, and is planning to continue with it. “I feel that blood is something I can share; I have plenty of it,” said Aksinina, laughing. “I know that there are people who need this help; it does not cost anything for me, and the thought that I help others with it makes me feel good,” she said. “I cannot do everything, but I can do something; the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” said Aksinina, quoting Gandhi. The Red Cross, one of the most popular organizations among many volunteers around the world, also has its branch in the Czech capital. Potential volunteers can choose between first aid courses, disaster preparation, activities for seniors, blood donation, activities for children, and other various options. The main principles of their work are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. Prague also has many volunteering centers for helping refugees, such as Burma Center, or the Organization for Help to Refugees. They provide the possibility to help those who are in a difficult political situation by organizing cultural events and campaigns, providing assistance and
Lessons for refugees 18
psychological help to refugees in the Czech Republic. Volunteering also leaves helpers with sweet memories. Salem remembers helping the old lady as part of his volunteering for the Jewish community center; her portrait stayed in his memory. “She was really charming. I took my kids with me so they get a feel to see how important this is, and she was kind enough to find some sweets to give to them,” he said.
The reasons for doing volunteering vary, and every altruist has his or her own feelings about why they are doing it. “I think we have to put our money where our mouth is; if the world has problems, do something about it instead of complaining about it,” said Salem. “I do believe that humanity is basically one big life, that we are really all part of one another, and that service, or what we call volunteering, is love in action,” he concluded.
Religi ous Re pressi Russia ons in : Ston es vs L etters
K a n n
Jehovah’s Witnesses sing songs during a meeting in Rostov-on-Don. Photo courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses
M arch 15, Russia’s Ministry of Justice
filed a claim to label the headquarters of
Witnesses in Russia as
extremist and liquidate it,
saying the group’s activities “violated Russia’s law on combating extremism.”
A month later, on April 20, the court ruled in favor of the claimant, making the decision to shut down the religious organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses have already started to prepare an appeal in response to the ruling that is scheduled to be reviewed within the following month. “This claim poses a threat not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also to the freedom of expression in the whole Russian Federation,” said a United Nations messenger to the Jehovah’s Witnesses
official website, speaking of human rights according to the framework of the United Nations. The ban would mean that over 175,000 people practicing the religion within Russian borders could no longer exercise their right of freedom of religion. The center of Jehovah’s Witnesses located in St. Petersburg requested the supreme court of Russia to acknowledge the actions of the Ministry of Justice as repression of political freedom in an attempt to reverse the situation. This is not the first time Jehovah’s Witnesses received persecution from the Russian government. The religious group has experienced strikes from officials for the last 100 years. “At the time of Stalin, when I was still a child, our whole family was exiled to Siberia only because we were Jehovah’s Witnesses,” recalled Vasily Kalin, chairman of the managing committee of the organization. In the past decade in particular, Jehovah’s Witnesses have also been subjected to
dozens of charges of extremism, as well as the ban of over 80 of their books and publications. Moreover, raiding of their ‘Kingdom Halls’ and imprisonment for refusing military service has become a usual occurrence. “It is no secret that the Orthodox Church in Russia has quite big influence and power, including in politics, as Putin himself is Orthodox Christian.” Said Sofia Meszaros, a member of the Jehovah’s Witness church for ten years. “Banning other slightly smaller religions could be a method of expanding their own.” The Orthodox Church is Russia’s biggest religion, with 72 percent of all Russians identifying themselves as members, according to a 2008 poll. The authority of the denomination under Vladimir Putin has continued to surge, bringing with it more persecution of Protestant and Catholic churches. The ruling of the court gives power to the government to seize all property of the organization, and while it is only speculation, many believers think the motivation behind this act is to gather up more property for the president’s
church. With eight million followers around the world, compared to the overall population of Christians, currently at around 2.2 billion, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a smaller denomination of Christianity. In spite of this, the members of the religion are a tight-knit community and are quick to jump to each other’s aid. The ripple effect that has reached Jehovah’s Witnesses everywhere as a result of the claim has led to a global letter-writing campaign, initiated by the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, asking all eight million members to write letters to six key officials in Moscow, including the president. “The Governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to heighten attention to this critical situation,” said David Semonian, a spokesman at the Jehovah’s Witness’ World Headquarters on March 21 in New York. “Jehovah’s Witnesses everywhere consider each other to be a family, so when we heard what might happen we felt the need and obligation to take action and try to help them,” said Meszaros, who
Hearing at the Supreme Court of Russia on 20 April. Photo courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses
participated in the letter-writing campaign. Her mother, Henrieta Klenovčanová, added, “we do not want to promote violence or aggressive resistance, therefore writing and sending millions of letters seemed like not only a suitable but also a hopeful solution.” The two emphasized their motivation as being not only to protect their ‘brothers,’ but also for Jehovah, as they believe no one should be denied his truth. While the number of letters received by Russian government officials is unknown, it was calculated that if eight million
people would send six letters, the stack of mail the Moscow postal office would receive would be around 19 miles high. The impact of the ruling is already becoming visible, as only hours after the decision, the biggest Jehovah’s Witnesses religious center in St. Petersburg was stoned by a group of men with bricks. This kind of reaction is making believers worried for how it may affect their freedom of religion in their own countries. “There’s risk of other countries following the footsteps of Russia, and as a result Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world
President Vladimir Putin with Orthodox patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Photo courtesy of Kremlin.ru
will have to be more wary than before,” said Meszaros, voicing her concern for how the events may affect the situation in her own country, Hungary. “Every one of us, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, only wants to worship our God,” said Kalin. While it may be too late to make a change in the current situation in Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses within the Russian community said they will continue to protect their religion from further persecution, and continue to portray their organization as peaceful to prove that the extremist label that has been placed on them is untrue.
Nude Uncovered Story: Rita Puhto | Photos: Wikimedia Commons
cultural background, being
but growing up
in an international environment in various parts of
views of nudity.
In my parents’ culture of Finland, nudity is viewed as something natural and is even embraced. From summers spent in Finland, I recall many things involving nudity: going to the sauna, swimming in the lake, and seeing a few penises and vaginas on daytime TV (it was not pornography, I promise you). However, when I would mention these activities to some of my friends back home in Asia, they would occasionally be shocked. “You went to the sauna naked and even with your cousins?” From comments like these, I would feel as if I had done something wrong, that there was something inappropriate about nudity.
Which made me wonder – what is the big deal about nudity? All human beings are born naked, and throughout our lives get naked on various occasions. There is a range of diverse opinions within different categories of society that fascinate me, due to the juxtaposition of opposing ideas, which I hope to shed light on in this short article.
Culture: Nudity = Inappropriate?
In certain cultures, nudity represents sexuality, and the revealing of flesh becomes synonymous with being sexual. Additionally, in modern society we are bombarded by media that seemingly sexualises the human form. But is nudity doomed to be tied together with sexuality? Perhaps there is something more revealed through being naked. We automatically assume there is something sexual about wearing fewer clothes, but could nudity be taken as a sign of liberation or empowerment, or just a way to say ‘who cares’? There are several female movements that are pushing for the stigma of topless nudity to become normalised, while Playboy is publishing magazines, such as their March 2016 issue, without nudity. Additionally, an increasing amount of TV shows that show nudity, such as “The Game of Thrones,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Shameless,” evokes the question of what the normalising of nudity does to society. Does it make us more prudish or more open to it?
Art: Appreciation of the Nude Form?
San Francisco Raelians protesting the ban on public nudity
Nudity is commonly found in art, during various time periods. There is a great range of bums, breasts and bits especially during the Renaissance period, Michelangelo did a whole sculpture dedicated to the nude male form! So what makes
Religion: Nudity as a sinful act?
Throughout history, different cultures had many bans on nudity and the exposure of flesh. In India, women used to bare their torsos naked, but through the increasing presence of Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity they were forced to wear clothing that covered their bodies, and the exposed chest was thus seen as sinful. There are still many religions that consider the revealing of flesh as something inappropriate. Why would these religions consider the physically natural state of a person as wrong?
art that different from say, seeing a photograph of a naked man on the internet? I guess there is a certain aspect to the way a photograph is taken, and maybe Michelangelo did spend more painstakingly long hours carving out David too, but in essence, they both are appreciating the nude male figure. There is a great debate between what makes something involving nudity an art, or just provocative. There is a movement on Instagram currently, with a few female artists challenging the censorship of female topless nudity. Artists Arvida Byström and Molly Soda have compiled a book titled “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen,” where they collect the removed photographs of people (mostly women) that have violated Instagram’s guidelines. Although these photographs do not have anything directly sexual about them, they are assumed to be so for featuring topless women. Many females on Instagram have considered this an act of censorship, unfair as photos of bare-chested men are not deleted. Artists encourage other females to continue to provoke this regulation as part of an art movement promoting the natural female form.
There are of course religions that view nudity very liberally, such as Raëlism, a rather new religious movement where nudity is an essential part of their beliefs, conducting a yearly gathering where nudity is encouraged. “It is a fundamental right for everybody to be naked whenever they want. We are all born nude,” said Raël, the creator of Raëlism. Even Pope John Paul from the Catholic Church said in 1981, “The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendour and its beauty… nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness.” Thus we can ask ourselves again, why is it that nudity has negative stigma? If it is presented in a non harmful way, why not embrace the natural human form? I leave you, dear reader, hopefully with a more open mind to the idea of nudity and with a quote by Henry Miller, “Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.”
TOP LEFT: Michelangelo’s masterpiece “David” TOP RIGHT: 18th century painting “Women Bathing in a Lake”
HOLY WEEK A LA SEVILLA Story & Photos by Elizabeth Hwang
Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla is the third-largest church in the world
One of the most spectacular events in Spain is the Semana Santa de Sevilla (Holy Week in Seville). Spanning from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the week-long event brings about a different air in the capital of Spain’s southern region, Andalucía. During Semana Santa, thousands of Sevillians gather in the streets to watch over sixty processions conducted by numerous Catholic brotherhoods known as cofradías weave their way through Sevilla’s narrow passages, major avenues and squares. The processions last
anywhere from four to over fourteen hours, some starting at midnight. Garnering much attention are the hundreds to thousands of participating men, women and children known as nazarenos. Tourists are often taken aback by their pointy head gear, confusing them with the KKK. However, nazarenos are in no way related to the KKK as the tradition of Semana Santa processions date as far back as the 13th century. At the heart of each procession is the paso, a large and highly ornate float holding a life-size statue
of Christ or the Virgin Mary surrounded by flowers and candles. Hidden from the public eye are the 30-130 costaleros carrying the very heavy paso on their shoulders for kilometers and hours at a time. 23-year old Sevilla-native Joaquín Díaz participated in Semana Santa this year as a costalero. “I participate because it’s a tradition we follow since childhood. I carry the Virgin that is important to me - one that I pray to and give thanks to for everything,” he said. “It is a very special feeling that even makes me cry.”
BOTTOM LEFT: A teenager participates in the procession as a nazareno RIGHT: Statues adorning the cathedral of Sevilla
Recycle With Love Story: Marya Oliynyk | Photos: Anastasia Mezenina
reen fashion, also known as
ecological or sustainable ,
is one of the most exciting and fastest growing fashion trends.
It aims at producing clothes, shoes and accessories in an environmentally sustainable way, combining consumption and use as an alternative to the fast consumption of products characteristic of the 21st century. The fashion industry is progressive and vibrant. Designers are always one step ahead, so it’s not surprising that they implemented and advanced the movement of sustainable consumption. Prague is one of the most dynamic cities in Europe, with a striking fashion scene that combines the love for the new with the respect to the old. Among the many young brands and vintage stores 34
on Prague’s streets, there is one that deserves special attention. “Recycle With Love” is a pioneer of sustainable design in Prague. It is a vintage store located in the Holešovice district, one of the rare cases when the concept determines everything. The store has a variety of recycled fashion items. It supports sustainable fashion by giving a second life to the pieces. Such an approach does not only have a positive impact on the environment, but it also develops creativity among the youth. The pieces from “Recycle With Love” have history behind and ahead of them. They are unique and powerful. They are made for those who are not afraid to stand out. It is more than simple street-wear because by wearing it, you can show that you care. Models: Laura Seifulla, Valentina Lazzari, Fatima Camara.
A Vietnamese Wedding in Prague By Chau Nguyen | Photos: Wikimedia Commons “He fell down, hit his head, and just laid there in the middle of the street, not moving,” said a Vietnamese man standing near the entrance to his friends. The wedding ceremony hadn’t started yet, but the men’s faces were already flushed with red cheeks glowing like ripe tomatoes. “My wife and I stopped breathing,” the man continued. “We were sh-t sure that we killed him.” The man tossed his hands out as if the fallen man was in front of his eyes. He undid his shirt to the third button, showing a greasy red neck and a few curly chest hair. Over his sweaty forehead tossed a soppy strand of grayish hair. “I got out of the car to check on him,” the man said, reaching his left hand into emptiness. He toned his voice down, almost whispering. “The man was still breathing,” he said, paused, and
looked in everyone’s eyes. “And drunk as sh-t.” His friends’ laughter roaring across the wedding hall startled me. It was as if everyone was invited to the man’s stand-up comedy show. I wove through the crowd. Someone called my name, but I couldn’t tell from which direction. Every sound just merged into one buzzing ambience. The air was saturated with the smell of alcohol and cheap perfume. “I bet the bride only knows a third of her guests,” said a young woman in a hot pink mini dress to her friend. “Her dad probably arranged the restaurant too. I wonder who is actually getting married.” The wedding was for two Vietnamese-Czechs. The bride’s father, Thinh, was the editor-inchief of a reputable magazine in the Vietnamese community. Seventy-year-old Thinh was a
“The most important day of a woman’s life is her wedding day.” That’s what Vietnamese women usually remind each other.
Every sound just merged into one buzzing ambience. The air was saturated with the smell of alcohol and cheap perfume.
traditional man who realized that Dong Do restaurant was probably the only place in Prague where the Vietnamese community can hold a wedding party close to their rituals. The restaurant was situated at the entrance of Sapa, a Vietnamese town with a population of seven thousand. Sapa was half an hour away from the center of Prague. The moment you stepped through the golden gate, looking up at the red roof with sweeping curvature that rose at the corners, you knew
you were no longer in Prague. You were in “Little Hanoi.” At least three hundred people attended the wedding party, mostly Vietnamese, but also Czechs and other nationalities. The woman in pink was right. Most guests were invited by Thinh. Besides the family’s relatives and close friends, he invited all of his professional partners including company directors, journalists, and even government officials. “Whose is this handsome kid?” A man caught a boy in a tuxedo
as it bumped into him. “Pardon,” the boy excused himself in Czech without looking at the man, and continued chasing his friend. He was about four or five, and had his shiny black hair neatly slicked and side parted. Vietnamese children born and raised here spoke Czech fluently. They were sent to Czech nannies at an early age because their parents were too busy to care for them, and later went to Czech schools. Vietnamese immigrants devoted themselves 39
utterly to their businesses, thus spared little effort to teach the children their mother tongue. Many parents themselves lacked the knowledge of Vietnamese tradition, culture, or history to pass on to the next generation. Now the kids laughed and screamed to each other in Czech. “You
properly to people when you ran into them!” said the boy’s mother when she finally caught him, grabbing him by the wrist. “You’re naughty like a demon! Now go back, fold your arms, bow to the man, and say you’re sorry.” The child frowned, but he listened to his mother anyway. Without a word, he turned
around, striding in a military manner towards the man in the suit. “I’m sorry sir,” he said in Vietnamese, folding his little arms and lowering his head. “It’s nothing. It’s nothing,” replied the man in Czech, chuckling.
Many children here grew up identifying as Czech, refused to speak Vietnamese, and disobeyed the rules set by their parents around the house. “Banana kids” was their label: kids with Oriental appearance but “white-washed” attitude.
heels and jewelries; all to elevate their proud aodai, the Vietnamese traditional silk dress. Each Vietnamese woman owns at least one silk dress specifically tailored for her. The dress is supposed to be tight-fitting to embrace every curve.
The Vietnamese guests already began eating before the bride reached the stage. Perhaps they didn’t know the bride. Perhaps they were too hungry to care. Perhaps they had grown indifferent to the same clichéd opening speech and vow. They kept talking loudly over the music, over the clattering dishes, and over each other.
“Why don’t you wear your ao-dai today?” Ha asked me.
“She’s lucky to marry at twenty-six,” said a woman, sipping from her glass of red wine. “One more year and she’s a leftover: old and unwanted. Oh look, they have sushi!” Only white people paid their attention to the stage. The Czechs sat quietly, smiling with glistening eyes. They were genuinely interested and applauded the loudest at the end of each announcement. A blonde British woman even asked her Vietnamese companion to translate the host’s speech. “They are getting married,” the Vietnamese woman coldly replied, and swiftly focused back on her meal. “That dress is too revealing,” said Ha, a senior editor at Thinh’s magazine. “It’s unnecessarily long, and most likely, overpriced.” Ha, among other older ladies, dressed extra lavishly for the occasion. Weddings were among the rare events for them to put on make-up,
“I thought about it,” I said, feeling that she didn’t like my outfit. “Your ao-dai looks amazing.” “Oh thank you, dear,” she said. Her hand covered up flattering smile. “Women look best in ao-dai. It’s feminine. It’s attractive. It’s elegant. I love wearing it.” Ha looked refreshed and spirited. Her bright red lipstick left stains on her glass of wine and faded after a few bites, but she didn’t mind. To her, pausing the meal for a moment to flip open a tiny mirror and fix the make up in the gaze of others, was an essential part of being a woman. “By the way when are you getting married?” Ha asked. The question was not directed at me, but at another girl in her late twenties. People at the table slowed down their chewing and glanced at the girl. “I wanted to finish my doctor degree first,” said the girl, fixing her glasses as she looked down, smiling awkwardly. “Ambitious, for a girl,” said the man sitting next to her, raising his eyebrows, grinning in satire. “But what for really?” Ha said, sighed. “Aren’t intelligent women the most miserable?”
TOP LEFT: The wedding took place in Sapa, a Vietnamese town with a population of seven thousand, half an hour away from the center of Prague. BOTTOM LEFT: “She’s lucky to marry at twenty-six,” said a woman, sipping from her glass of red wine. “One more year and she’s a leftover: old and unwanted.”
Eska’s complete team
How a Bib is Born By Carolina Soldati | Photo courtesy of Jidlo a Radost-Ambiente Once upon a time, a factory in the industrial district of Karlín was ejecting gigantic steam clouds from its chimneys. Today, on its modern doors, two smiling chefs are sticking the label “Bib Gourmand-Michelin guide 2017” just below a stylized “E”. “E” is for w, the newly elected restaurant to become a star in Prague. “Karlín has a totally new face,” says Jaroslav Malý, a former factory worker, now retired. “I can remember how it was 30 years ago − and this building! We used to make iron pieces here. You could see the smoke from the chimneys from miles.” Instead of smoke and blue collars, you can now smell the yeast, hear ambience music and see a modern, industrial, glass-dominant building in Pernerova Street. That’s where Eska was born in 2015, and where today, it earned a mention for “exceptional food at moderate prices” in the Michelin guide. A Michelin mention is something restaurants worldwide strive to earn. The strict criteria are all about food, starting from the quality of 42
ingredients, to the flair and skill in preparing ingredients and combining flavors. Also the chef’s personality must be revealed through the cuisine; the value for money plays another important role to Michelin’s mysterious critique, as does the consistency of culinary standards. Eska’s chef Martin Štangl observes all members of the brigade de cuisine, inspecting every dish coming out from his kitchen. The ingredients are the real protagonists at Eska. Its concept lies in its recycling and the usage of every part of them. At one side there is the bakery, run by Aleš Karpíšek, where with just flour, water, yeast and the art of the bakers, “chleba” (bread) “tastes as the one my grandmother used to bake.” On the other side of the kitchen, Štangl is experimenting with old and new methods, transforming common ingredients into something new by re-discovering methods, such as fermentation, drying, wood-heating, and fire-roasting. Dishes can almost speak for themselves, as there are easily understandable names for them, as
“Potatoes in ash, smoked fish, dried egg yolk, kefir,” which is also the highest rated course by customers. However, the rest of the menu changes according to the availability of the ingredients. Eska does not rely only on chef Štangl, but also on its farmers. Standa Hecht supplies microgreen, mini celery, peppers, and tomatoes, while Mr. Macúch provides mushrooms. “We work only with local ingredients,” says Štangl,“it’s important to give value on what we have in this beautiful land.” The team in the kitchen is colorful, working precisely and with deep concentration. Each and every one of them has passion to be transmitted into flavors. You can always see somebody smelling herbs, discussing the fermenting yeast, and tasting a new food combination. Coffee is also part of the experience at Eska. “Every day I’m learning something new,” says Matěj Pína, the barista who asked to be called just Matěj. “I know how coffee should taste and my job is to perfect the final result, to make it sweet and balanced by controlling pressure on the machine and the roast of the beans.” Matěj studied architecture, but as other members of the crew at Eska, he found his real passion in the gastronomic universe. “What really amuses me here is that we try to recycle everything,” explains Matěj, “for example, a few minutes ago, the patissier were making strudel, and brought me these apple scraps: I’m going to make lemonade from it.”
served as a manufacturing facility,” says Froňková. “It’s a banked surface, a vessel into which there’s a cantilevered gallery, and where there is the restaurant. The beauty lies precisely in its cants, in an area that is primarily intended for production, and also looks sacral,” she continues. The chairs that look like school seats usually bring back terrible memories of school food, but “in Eska they [clients] can experience it as a pleasure, an art,” says Froňkova. The liveries of the baristas and the waiters are designed by Kristina Netíková, who defines aprons as the “jewels of the chefs.” Using linen and Scandinavian inspiration, Netíková designed T-shirts and pinafores in cooperation with local Czech producers. “It’s all about recycling,” says Netíková, “and the importance of employing to their full potential every ingredient: also in fashion.” The colors are neutral, but a red accent emerges from the uniforms, remembering Eska’s logo, designed by studio Najbrt. Even if Michelin inspectors focus only on food, Eska is not only food. “It’s made by people committed into executing, to their full potential, every part of an ingredient, in a meticulously studied location, playing with its customers in spotting the details that makes the difference between a meal and an experience,” concludes Štangl.
On the first floor, Eska’s dining area was designed by architect Tereza Froňková as a unique space. “It is an industrial, indoor space, which originally
Eska offers brunch as well 43
Berlin’s Forbidden Fruit Story & Photos by Lucy Aaron
in the bar by three facial
My friends and I had wandered into Clash by cosmic accident. The Berlin bar was recommended to us by a friend of a friend, and we were attracted to its proximity to a late night fast food destination. So we plugged the address into our respective iPhones and rode the tram 30 minutes to what we believed was an upbeat bar with easy access to 2 a.m. currywurst. What we found was a dark, smoky dungeon, pulsing with punk rock. I held the hand of my nearest friend and pushed through a dense crowd of flannels, dreadlocks, and tattooed forearms. People were standing, sitting on tables, sitting on the floor, blowing thick, silver smoke from their cigarettes. Finally, we stumbled into a sticky wooden bar. “A mojito, please!” Monica called over the loud music. The bearded bartender raised an eyebrow at her. “We don’t make f--king cocktails.” After fumbling to order a few beers we found seats, and I was finally able to take in the scene in its entirety. The cigarette smog gave Clash a hazy, dream-like effect, but the cloud was full of life. People stood and sat closely to one another, laughing and singing and poring over smartphone screens. The music was loud and heavy, riddled with aggressive lyrics. I closed my arms selfconsciously across the front of my black tank top, feeling un-hip and overdressed. But even in my discomfort, I was engrossed in my surroundings. Clash and the Germans that filled 44
its walls were not even close to what I’d expected of Berlin. Everything I knew about the city was learned in US high school history classes and a long walking tour I’d done that afternoon. I had anticipated the grandiose churches, powerful memorials, and delicious schnitzel, but the vibrant subculture took me by surprise. When I expressed my surprise to Jordan, a boy on the stool to my left, he smiled and shrugged. “We have character,” he agreed. Jordan was Lebanese, but his large family relocated to nearby Germany when he was very young. Now, he goes to college in the capital. As a New Jersey native who normally attends college halfway across the country and currently halfway around the world, I couldn’t understand Jordan’s decision to stay so close to home. He held up his hands by means of explanation, gesturing the surrounding room and its obvious energy. “Berlin is unlike anywhere else.” Like the bar, Jordan was another German enigma to me. He was not stern and serious, as I imagined the German people, but warm and eager to talk. Over the course of the night, I became completely infatuated with this underground scene and its club members. They were artsy and interesting, so foreign from the harsh German exterior I had expected. Even after my 2 a.m. currywurst, I hadn’t shaken my fascination. Upon returning to our Airbnb, I talked my friends into an “alternative tour” for the following day. “We invented the Alternative tours concept in Berlin to show other responsible, respectful and open minded people the raw and artistic side of
TOP: Paste-ups of music festival attendees by street artist Sobr (left) and pasteup of Little Lucy, a Czech children’s cartoon, by street artist El Bocho (right) BOTTOM: Dave, our “alternative tour” guide beside a guerrilla installation by sculpture artist Tejn
this great city,” the website explained. The next day, we met our alternative tour guide, Dave, in front of a central Starbucks. “The irony of this meeting place is not lost on me,” he assured us.
Dave was originally from Scotland, but he too had fallen in love with Berlin subculture and relocated to the city two years ago. He works full time giving alternative tours, promoting and celebrating his favorite people and locations.
“Astronaut Cosmonaut,” a famous painting by graffiti artist Victor Ash commissioned by the city of Berlin
Dave began by explaining the difference between graffiti and street art. Graffiti is exclusively lettering, and it is more focused on the internal graffiti community. Conversely, street art incorporates images, and it is meant to be enjoyed by everybody. The most popular
method of street art in Berlin is called “paste-ups.” If artists are caught directly writing or painting on a building they are charged with vandalism, but if they are caught “pasting” images onto a wall, they are only charged with an equivalent to littering. As a result, the latter is much more popular. More unusual methods of street art include “train bombing,” in which groups of street artists stall a train long enough to put art up inside it, and “granny graffiti,” street art installations that have been knitted.
Learning to identify the Berlin street art and its artists was like learning a new literacy. The colorful streets transformed from confusing chaos to a decipherable code. Many of Berlin’s street artists are politically motivated. They make socioeconomic statements about both the external world and internal art scene, which has complex politics of its own. There is a strange, tense relationship between Berlin subculture and the mainstream. Street artists are constantly at war with large corporations and other agents of gentrification. Dave often shook his head at construction machinery. “Cranes are like the gravestone of anything cool,” he said solemnly. But as Dave cut down the anti-alternative elements of government and big business, I began to wonder if the issue was more muddled than simply artists vs economists. As much as the art scene voiced contempt for its oppressive opponents, wasn’t it also a little dependent on the animosity? Street art is rooted in rebellion. It’s arguably most attractive for its thrill. Would the pretty pictures on the walls be equally engaging if they were legal?
largest enemies were codependent would offend him. Dave, however, remained characteristically cheerful: “Totally fair question,” he assured me. Dave does not believe that street art relies on its resistors. As supporting evidence, he went on to explain one of the most interesting institutions I learned about on our tour: Urban Nation. Urban Nation is an initiative funded by the German government. It commissions artists from around the world to improve Berlin’s most rundown neighborhoods. Urban Nation’s website claims that the organization “has been inviting international luminaries and aspiring talents of Urban Contemporary Art (UCA) to Berlin to show their works within the urban fabric: building facades, house walls and shop windows.” To Dave, Urban Nation is a sign of hope that the government and street artists can happily coexist. At the very least, it’s a sort of validation. Whether they fight it or fund it, Urban Nation confirms that the government recognizes street arts’ influence. Sooner than I would have liked, our tour came to an end, and shortly after saying goodbye to Dave, it was time to say goodbye to Berlin. I boarded my bus home in complete awe of the world around me. It was like I’d seen the other side. Underneath every impossibly large city in every impossible large country there was a scene, a subculture I knew nothing about. An intricate network of Clash bars and Jordans and Daves and paste-ups, too vast to even begin imagining. There is something scary and overwhelming about this endless possibility. There is also an undeniable excitement.
I tried to ask Dave about this, but I was afraid that suggesting his beloved street art and its 47
India’s Demon[et]isation Story & Photos by Mara Cayarga
New Delhi ATM. Cans and the dirt roads.
looking for an bottles lined
layers of mud as the wind swept away residing dust.
The sound of
crumpling plastic and clinking glass resonated under each step.
Faridabad, a city on the outskirts of Delhi, and hosted volunteers during their stay. “You will see a long line of people stretched across the street waiting their turn. It’s because it’s the only working one they could find. Most of the time it runs out of cash while people are waiting their turn.” On Nov. 8, 2016, the Indian government declared the demonetisation of all 500 and 1,000 Rupee bills
A small doorway across the street was almost concealed by passing rickshaws and vending stands full of fruits and puri. A sign, tinted brown with the same dusty smog that covered all of Delhi, hung above the entrance. It was labeled ‘ATM’ and its edges were peeling off. A group of men leaned on the wall by the entry and passed a cigar. They collectively raised their heads and noticed us because we were foreign. One, slim and tall, stepped towards us. He appeared no older than 25, yet his face had the wrinkles and creases of a man who had been working his whole life. He shook his head while gesturing to the doorway. Like most of the ATMs in India, this one was empty. The room was vacant and piles of crumpled receipts lay strewn around the floor. We headed down the road again to find another. As we walked away, the man’s gaze lingered on us with even less subtlety until we finally passed the corner. “You will recognize when you see a working ATM,” said Sarita Behl as she accompanied me during my last search. She worked for IVHQ, an international volunteer organization that I had been a part of while in Delhi. The organization ran a variety educational and health programs for students and slum children. Behl lived in
An Indian resident rests in the afternoon sun near the Galta Ji.
A skyline view of Jaipur from the city’s Monkey Temple (Galta Ji)
of the Mahatma Gandhi Series. These banknotes were to be discontinued and new notes would be put in circulation soon after. During January 2017, when I visited as a volunteer worker, however, the country was still feeling the continued effects of this proclamation. Many of the country’s ATMs remained vacant the months following this decision as new banknotes were not in circulation. “It’s as if President Obama decided to invalidate all $20 US dollar bills,” explained volunteer Ashlyn Thomas. Thomas had spent the last five weeks teaching English in Faridabad’s slums. The preceding years had seen a spike in black market funds or “black money.” An inquiry conducted on February of 2012 by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation estimated 500 billion US dollars in illegal funds being protected in foreign tax havens. Demonetisation was implemented to halt both the exchange of counterfeit money and the pocketing of black money.
“It’s a good thing,” Mohit Chawda claimed. He was an Indian native whom I had met while doing volunteer work. His accent was thick and he spoke slowly, with short words. “Once the new money is in circulation, it will be good. The government is very corrupt here. People are pocketing black money. Especially politicians. They are the ones working with illegal businesses.” He praised the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and smiled softly. “He made a good choice. The people like this because they know in the long run it will benefit them.” The pocketing of black money by officials is a huge factor in the growing disparity gap. “You see huge mansions with people who have it all. Then on the next street you have children tugging on your clothes for food. They have nothing,” claimed volunteer Avisha Shah. Now a student in the United States, Avisha decided to return to her home country to volunteer as a medic.
“In a country of 1.3 billion people, 60 percent of the population is below poverty level,” recounted volunteer Mariel Garcia. Garcia explained that she would be volunteering as a teacher for the next six months. Regarding the demonetisation, she believed it would help stating that India “will become a potential developed country instead of a developing one.” Time dragged on and the prospect of finding a functioning machine seemed more unrealistic. The sun hung high and the streets buzzed with people. A huge market rested under an aged blue and green plastic awning. Glimmers of light peered through its tears. Drips of water from the residing morning mist trickled down to the floor forming a small puddle next to one of the stands. People crowded around as they bargained, stretching out their arms and grabbing handfuls of vegetables and spices. It seemed impossible to distinguish the individual path any one person would take. The whole market seemed to be moving in unison as if each exchange was planned. Only after staring could one distinguish isolated people parting different ways. Their backs inevitably rubbing against another’s shoulders as they hurriedly squeezed through the crowd, hopping from one stand to the next. The smell of freshly squeezed fruit juices lingered in the air. A man exchanged a 100 Rupee note for a glass of orange juice. It felt almost perverse to attempt getting around using only a debit card. The whole country relied on hard cash. We knew we had found a functioning machine once we saw the line of people waiting to go in. It stretched down the street and across the block. I got in line along with a few other volunteers. The man in front of us turned hesitantly, and sighted us from the corner of his eye. “Three men, one woman,” he said sternly. He spoke quietly as if reluctant to address us. His voice sounded deep and hoarse. He gestured to the entrance and I then noticed a small line with no more than four women.
We got behind the women. Just as the man had told us, for every three men who drew out cash, one woman could. Due to its shortness, the female line passed quickly. It was not typical to see a woman walking by herself. Most were always accompanied by men. The men crowded around, peering over each other’s shoulders hoping to see the que shorten. There was a tension in the air as they anxiously anticipated their turn. Their bodies were pressed together tightly, swaying back and forth due to pushing. They knew it could run out any minute. I walked into the tiny room. Six men and a security guard stood there. Their gaze became fixed on me. I had become used to this as a foreigner, especially a female foreigner. The room seemed to be growing smaller, enclosing me inside. I quickly put my card in as I could tell they were anxiously waiting. “2,000 Rupees maximum,” said the security guard. That was the daily drawing cap. I took the money and walked out. As we returned to our home stays, I looked back towards the building. The huge line suddenly dispersed as the security guard waved them away. The ATM must have run out of cash.
ABOVE: The Humayun’s Tomb, a monument in Delhi that has served as architectural inspiration for many subsequent national landmarks such as the Taj Mahal. TOP RIGHT: Elephants parade down Jaipur’s Amer Fort. BOTTOM RIGHT: A small market sells fruits across the street from my home stay in Faridabad.
Spring 2017 issue of the Anglo-American University student magazine.