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Passport Duke University’s International Magazine

HEALING HONDURAS ...AND A SIDE OF SEAWEED:

McDONALD’S

AROUND THE WORLD

MUSICAL MéLANGE

Do you know

the human cost of

your iPhone? CITY OF SCARS:

BERLIN

Volume 12 Fall 2010


eDItor’s note At the beginning of this year, one of my best friends at Duke declared that she was applying to study abroad in Spain for the fall semester of our junior year. While I was certainly excited for her, a part of me secretly hoped she would change her mind. After all, we are so close that people occasionally mix up our names. I had a hard time imagining life without her. I feared so much would happen with both of our lives in the time we were apart, a time that could never be caught up. Worse, as our academic and extracurricular lives would become busier throughout the year, we might even lose touch with each other entirely. Indeed, our irregular communication is barely enough to keep each other updated. However, the change I feared was far from the difficult situation I imagined. Though I undoubtedly miss the time I used to spend with her, we are both having incredible experiences this year. In our brief conversations, we both live vicariously through the news and stories we share – her funny glitches learning economy and art history in Spanish; my personal family struggles; and, of course, boys. When we are gossiping and chitchatting, it is as if we still see each other every day, like she never left the dorm nearby. Change is inevitably frightening. We grow comfortable with what we know and can predict. But change is not necessarily for the worse. Doing something outside of our comfort zones can help us grow and learn. In this issue, our writers walked the Camino de Santiago, volunteered in Honduras, studied abroad in Berlin, and even befriended a teenage refugee from Myanmar. I hope their stories about pain, service, culture, and learning will encourage you to try something challenging or go somewhere you have never been before. Though it may seem disconcerting at first, these new experiences will certainly be rewarding. With this word of advice, welcome to the twelfth issue of Passport!

Kara Li

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Kara Li PRODUCER Lehka Ragavendran SENIOR EDITORS GRAPHICS EDITOR

Joan Nambuba Connie Chen Marquise Eloi Natalie Macaruso

GRAPHICS

Eric Emery Jonathan Lee Sunmin Park Sarah Zhang

EDITORS

Sarah Zhang

WRITERS

Melody Chan Christine Chen Eric Emery Jessica Hong Jessica Kim Jonathan Lee Kara Li Michael McCreary Yeon-Woo (Will) Park Elizabeth Richardson

Passport Magazine is a Franchised Publication under the Undergraduate Publications Board and sponsored by the International House. The views expressed in this publication are the authors’ own and do not reflect the opinions of the magazine. photo by Mikel Ortega


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faLL 2010

contents

El Camino de Santiago: A Journey of Encounters and Self-Reection

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Built in Berlin

7

A Global Symphony

9

A Day with Muhammad

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Dropping the Ball: Social and Economic Change in Post-World Cup South Africa

14

Shanghai: A World Exposition

17

The Price of Apples

19

Honduran Experiences in Medicine and Culture

22

Fast Food Nations

25

Landmarks, Checkmarks, and the Aesthetic Experience

27

Get Me to the Greek

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by Yeon-Woo (Will) Park

by Jonathan Lee

by Jessica Kim

by Kara Li

by Christine Chen

by Jessica Hong

by Elizabeth Richardson

by Melody Chan

by Michael McCreary

by Eric Emery

cover photo by BĂśhringer Friedrich photo by Mila Zinkova

Fall 2010


El Camino de Santiago: A Journey of Encounters and Self-Reflection by Yeon-Woo (Will) Park

The whispered conversation on the other bunk wakes me rather abruptly. Blearyeyed, I check my watch: 5:20 AM. I think about going back to sleep, but then I would probably be late, which would mean more walking in the afternoon sun. I unzip my sleeping bag, climb out of my bunk, brush my teeth in the restroom, and pack my backpack. I have it down to a science now, and it only takes me a minute to distribute the

weight so that the strain on my shoulders is minimal. I head out of the alburgue, a pilgrim’s hostel, around 5:45. The sun has not risen yet, and the morning air is cool but not cold, just right for walking. Hopefully I can cover a lot of ground before I stop for breakfast at some town down the road. As usual, the flechas amarillas—the yellow arrows—along the road show me where to go next along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St. James. It is an ordinary beginning to any day of my five-week, 500-mile pilgrimage along this ancient path in northern Spain. So why was I there? Instead of an internship, research, or DukeEngage, I had decided to spend five weeks of my summer walking for fifteen to twenty-five miles every day. With an eighteen-pound pack on my back in the scorching heat of Spain, I seemingly gained

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nothing except blisters on my feet, aching muscles, and a severe case of farmer’s tan. I was motivated by a desire to get away from

days people go for reasons other than religion—sport, self-reflection, and a chance to challenge themselves—everyone still shares the goal of arriving at Santiago. For me, the itinerary started out in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small town on the French side of the

wine fo untain

everything for a while. After a very stressful junior year, I wanted some time solely for myself, without worrying about all the small things that I had to deal with at Duke. Many people asked me why I did not just stay at home instead of subjecting myself to the labor of walking such distances. However, I did not want to be completely idle and isolated during the process; I still wanted a goal of some sort but one that was simple and mechanical. The Camino, which I had first heard about two years ago, seemed perfect. All I did was walk, giving me plenty of time to myself. At the same time, I was free to talk and interact with other pilgrims along the way, so I would not be totally forlorn. Last but not least, I had a goal: the city of Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of the remains of Santiago—St. James the Greater—from which the Camino gets its name. Of the many Caminos in Spain leading to Santiago, I took the most popular, the Camino Francés. The Caminos came into being after Santiago became a Catholic shrine in medieval times. As the third holiest city in Christendom after Jerusalem and Rome, it attracts millions of pilgrims each year from all over Europe. Although nowa-

in Ayegu i

Pyrenees, and continued through Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Burgos, León, and Astorga before arriving at Santiago. Although many people start farther within continental Europe in Germany, Switzerland, France, or Italy, the routes outside of Spain are not as well-maintained. In Spain, the conditions are excellent, with at least one alburgue in most towns, drinking fountains along the


4 roads, and well-marked directions in the form of either yellow arrows or scallop shell signs—the symbol of pilgrims heading to Santiago—making it almost impossible to get lost (although I somehow managed it once). However, well-maintained routes do little to ease the actual difficulties of walking. My first few days were certainly rough; I had not done any long-

distance walking in a while, and my decision to walk about seventeen miles a day was perhaps overly ambitious. The first day—from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles—was

background photo by ba1969 all other photos by Yeon-Woo (Will) Park

the worst. I became very excited at the prospect of starting my journey during my stay in St. Jean, where I had acquired my credencial, or pilgrim’s passport. These passports were stamped at the hostels I stayed in as proof that I had actually walked the route. At my first hostel, I received a very warm welcome from seven other pilgrims of various nationalities and a nice French couple who ran the place. However, when I departed the next day, the elation of starting and the beautiful scenery of the French countryside could only get me so far before the climb up the mountain started tiring me out. I was going from 100 feet up to 5100 feet above sea level and back down to 3100 feet in one day. It did not help that it was cold and rainy. Near the peak, after I was almost done with the ascent, there was a little stone shack. Several other pilgrims were huddled around a hastily built fire, a brief reprieve before the even more painful descent. By the time I got to Roncesvalles in Spain, my knees were almost giving out, although the walking stick I had borrowed from another pilgrim at the peak made the descent slightly easier. By the fourth day, I had several blisters on my feet, which I diligently popped with a needle. Every day, I would get to the next alburgue with ach-

ing feet and shaking knees. Once I got my credencial stamped by the hospitalero and settled in, I would move only for the bare necessities, the bathroom, laundry, and food. A good night’s sleep would let me recover just enough to make it out the door the next day, when the process would begin all over again. Sometimes, the pain became severe enough to require me to take ibuprofen. However, after a week I had gotten used to the tempo and had no more major problems (or blisters).

Fall 2010


These symptoms, shared by most people pared for quite a climb”). along the Camino, ironically served as great The best part was how icebreakers among the pilgrims. After ar- easy it was to find other riving at an alburgue, random conversa- people to walk with when tions would almost always start up, whether I wanted because at least it was with the person doing laundry next to one person would have me or the guy sitting at the other table dur- a pace similar to mine. I ing dinner. The first questions were ones could still manage to run to which everyone had an answer. “How into people with different many blisters do you have?” “Was the climb paces at some point down today rough?” “Where did you start walk- the road, whether it was ing?” These conversations were even more because one of us sped up interesting because English was not the and caught up, or the othdominant language; aside from Spanish, er slowed down. Meeting the pilgrims spoke everything from French so many people widened and German to Croatian, Danish, and Chi- my world-view considernese. This range of languages had me draw- ably. The sixty-year-old man walking from ing on all four I knew just to communicate Montenegro to Santiago for the fourth time, effectively. On the fourth day, my simple the German college student fresh out of the question to the old man sitting next to me— Bundeswehr aspiring to be a movie direc“Vous êtes français?”—led to a seven-per- tor, the private investigator from San Franson discourse in French, English, and Ital- cisco...all of them taught me something ian with people from Montenegro, France, new. Italy, and the U.S. The conversation lasted for two hours and four bottles of wine and covered everything from our backgrounds to experiences and interesting stories about the Camino. Although I met many people of various nationalities, occupations, ethnicities, and religions, I was always amazed by how easy it was to find a group that I could talk to about something all of us were interested in. People gladly shared any information they had about the walk, whether it was how to prevent blisters more efpulpo with red pepper powder and olive oil fectively (“Just smear Vaseline all over your foot…and don’t worry, you’re going to wash the socks anyway, right?”) or As I traveled toward Santiago, everything which fork in the road to take for the more flowed together like a dream. I would have scenic route (“The left fork…but be pre- café con leche doble with Spanish tortillas (like a quiche of eggs and potatoes without cheese), bread, or bocadillos con jamón y queso for breakfast, then walk through seemingly endless wheat fields and vineyards with towns in between, sometimes with others, other times by myself. I had plenty of time to think about whatever I wanted to in depth. For dinner, I would cook if the alburgue had a kitchen and I was not feeling lazy. Other times I would settle for the Menú del Peregrino found at most restaurants along the Camino. It was a bit pricey but usually had a decent threecourse meal with bread and wine. In the La Rioja region, known for its excellent wines, I would try a new bottle every day, which almost always turned out to be delicious despite their low cost. In the few large cities such as Burgos and León, I would walk along the streets, visit the uniquely beautiful cathedrals, and do some shopping. In the Meseta, the region between Burgos and León, the landscape was monotonous, with nothing between the small, nearly deserted

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towns except for hills, wheat, dust, and the sun. It gave me even more opportunities for self-reflection as I trudged on in the scorching heat. Whenever Spain played a World Cup game, I would mingle at a bar with the Spaniards and cheer with them as Spain destroyed all opposition. By the time I entered the province of Galicia, I was acutely aware of the fact that my time on the Camino was soon to end. I was still enjoying the Camino, especially since Galicia had a distinctive culture compared to those of the other provinces I passed through. The entire region had a strong Celtic background, reflected in everything from the local language Galego to the architecture and the music. There were also several foods that I had not seen elsewhere in Spain, the most delicious being pulpo, or octopus, steamed in a pot and served with red pepper powder and olive oil. Unfortunately, since the people in Galicia raised so many cat-


6 tle, I could tell when I was approaching a town as the stench of cow dung would attack my nostrils. By the time I arrived in Sarría, about sixty miles from Santiago, I was excited at the prospect of finally arriving, but also felt nostalgia for the 450 miles that I had already covered. After celebrating Spain’s World Cup victory with fireworks and nightlong parties, I walked three more days before reaching Santiago. I walked through the light drizzle of the early morning down the hill from Monte de Gozo, a place about five kilometers out from Santiago with a 500-person alburgue. I had expected to feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment upon finally arriving at Santiago. What I felt was closer to numbness: the result of a mix of various emotions—disbelief that I had actually made it this far, elation that I had finally arrived, and sadness that I would soon have to leave all this behind and re-enter the Duke world of assignments, meetings, and exams. As I was feeling all these emotions, I continued through the outskirts of Santiago to reach the center of the city, which prominently features the incredible cathedral and the Pazo de Raxoi, the town hall and seat of the provincial government of Galicia, facing each other across the plaza. There are a number of things pilgrims do upon arriving in Santiago. First, they visit the cathedral and pay respects to the remains of Santiago, which are kept in a stone coffin in the crypt. Then they attend pilgrim’s mass, held every day at noon. Although according to the Catholic Church, making the pilgrimage, partaking in mass, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer absolves one

of sin, many people still decide to go to confession in the cathedral, where priests have signs listing which languages they speak. I had to wait in a long line for what seemed to be the only English-speaking priest. The last thing to do is to go to the Pilgrim’s Office and obtain the Compostela, a certificate of completion of the Camino. The employees at the office go over people’s credencials very thoroughly before issuing the Compostela. Once everything was done, I explored Santiago a bit, bought some souvenirs, and met with pilgrims whom I had encountered along the way. The city features many depictions of Santiago on its buildings, which usually show him as either Santiago Peregrino the Pilgrim or Santiago Matamoros the Moor-slayer. The latter role elevated him to the status of patron saint of Spain during the Reconquista, when Christians reconquered Spain from the Moors.

He purportedly arrived atop his white stallion at a critical moment of the pivotal battle to turn the tide in favor of the Christian forces. The museum within the cathedral also houses many ceremonial artifacts, artworks, and manuscripts worth seeing. From there, I took a bus to Finisterre. This is the place where Santiago is said to have actually preached before his return to Jerusalem and his death at the hands of Agrippa I, and it was an important place for the Celtic druids in this region even before his arrival. Some people walk the additional seventy-five miles on foot, but I did not have enough time. From the main town, it was a short hike to the lighthouse on the coast that is the actual end of the road, complete with a post stating “0.0 km.” People usually burn their shoes here as a way of celebrating, and I could indeed see several soot-caked pits when I arrived there. Not wanting to destroy my still-decent boots, I settled for watching the sunset, which was beautiful to see as I thought back to all that I had gone through.

Now that I am back, do I feel like I have changed in some aspect? Of course. With all that time to think and all those encounters with various people, it is impossible to return unchanged. The changes are subtle, but I know they are there. Memories of those five weeks are blurry in some places, but now I understand why everyone who completes the pilgrimage says that they want to do it again. Life is simpler on the Camino. When to get up, what to eat, who to walk with, what to think about, how far to go, and which Spanish phrase to remember were my only concerns. Countless little things in everyday life are simplified to a few big things, which allowed me to have a carefree attitude for those five weeks. Would I go back? Most definitely.

Fall 2010


BUILT You step through the glass doors into the early morning sun. Your eyes adjust to the overwhelming brightness of day after being inside for so many hours. The first images that resolve in your vision are cabs—scores of cabs—pulling in, dropping off their human cargo, others waiting, and some carrying dazed travelers to destinations unknown. You see the people that you came here with. They motion you toward one of the vehicles. For a few moments you banter with the driver in broken German until you arrange for him to take you and your four companions to where you will all be living for the next six weeks. As the cab speeds away from the airport and enters the city, you see things that look so familiar, yet you have never been here before. “That’s the Brandenbugrer Tor, one of the most recognizable monuments marking the old city.” “There’s the Fernseheturm, constructed at the height of the East regime.” These facts spill from your mouth as you point out landmarks to your fellows in the car. Though you know these structures— though you are certain the facts are true —the tiny captions and black-and-white images you recall from class do not hold a candle to the impressive forms confronting you against the slate gray sky. It is not until you step out of the cab in front of your apartment that it hits you. You are no longer on the same side of the Atlantic Ocean. You are in a different world with different structures, culture, and atmosphere. You are now in Berlin. This was my first experience in Germany as I began my summer study abroad program with Duke in Berlin. In the mere twenty-minute drive from the airport to Adalbertstrasse, the sights, the

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IN by Jonathan Lee

sounds, and the textures of Berlin overwhelmed me. I have lived in urban landscapes all my life, but something was different about Berlin. Berlin is a city that shows its scars. Throughout the city you can spot buildings pockmarked with bullet holes, monuments bandaged with ceramic patchwork, and pieces of history still undergoing reconstructive surgery. Many buildings stand as testaments to Germany’s psyche. In the span of a ten-minute walk, one can see a monument to gays and lesbians persecuted during the Holocaust, a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, and a structure honoring Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. Berlin’s citizens and visitors are continually brought into collision with these structures during their daily routine. It is why many have named Berlin “a city of apologies.” While the United States has its own scars, very rarely are we brought into regular contact with them. Berlin is saturated with an intimate understanding of pain, and it is the physical manifestation of this understanding in its structures that makes it so sublime. Berlin has had several different regimes sweep through its streets in the last century and a half. Each new regime introduces

all photos by Jonathan Lee


BERLIN new structures that exemplify its architec- of the cross. The Prussian emperors rectural identity, and each later regime builds ognized they were beneath God, but only over these pre-existing structures. Build- barely. ings from different eras compete to make The Nazi party had one goal as they retheir messages known to the people wan- shaped Berlin’s cityscape: make Berlin dering the city’s streets. a crown jewel for the Third Reich. HitThese messages have many different ler loathed the Prussian architecture and goals. The medieval period saw religion eradicated much of it in Berlin. Seeking to emerge as the focal point of everyday life. make Germany the new Rome, he adopted Institutions built churches with towerclassical architectural features but abing steeples to display this preemstracted them into harsh, alien inence. Towards the end of this forms. Political buildings were era, the Rathaus (a German specially crafted with mas“You are no town hall) adopted this towsive imposing facades and longer on the ering form to identify itself long corridors to intimidate same side of as a new center of power in foreigners who visited Berthe Atlantic accordance with an increaslin. Few of these cold strucingly secular society. tures remain today, howOcean.” As Berlin became the capiever, those that remain are tal of the Prussian empire, its constant reminders of Berlin’s emperors sought to introduce their dark past. own symbol into this dialogue of power. As Berlin was divided up between the They adopted the dome, a form previously Allied Powers at the end of World War II, reserved only for the church, on many of two simultaneous, competing messages their structures, thus establishing the em- developed. The democratic West stressed perors as religious leaders. Their iconog- individuality, inviting architects from all raphy on these structures took their cam- over the world to create diverse vibrant paign one step further. Images neighborhoods and quarters for the Fedof the Prussian crown were eral Republic of Germany. Structures in the sometimes placed communist German Democratic Republic above images stressed uniformity and equality. These of Jesus, but clashing values coalesced into an archislightly low- tectural arms race as each regime tried to er than assert the superiority of their society. This images race culminated in the Republic’s construction of the Fernsehturm (TV tower), which was visible from the western side of the Berlin Wall, a final display of communist pride and contempt for the West. Now, in a unified Berlin, much of the architecture is devoted to healing the symbolic scars of the past. The Parliamentary Office Building spans across

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the Rhine River, a physical union of what was once East and West Berlin. Many other buildings—such as the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) and Bundeskanleramt (chancellery)—use glass to convey transparency. This diaphaneity is not just physical; it is symbolic of a promise of political transpicuousness to the citizens of Germany. This notion of transparency inspired the glass dome that now graces the top of the Reichstag. Each of these forms is merely a piece in a mosaic. It is when you step away from the single structure that you see the image the individual tiles make— Berlin. This architectural vibrancy gives Berlin its urban identity. Any of these buildings would be beautiful or impressive in their own right, but because they are crammed together, piled on top of one another, and coexisting, they make something greater than themselves. They create a certain atmosphere that I felt as I lived in this city for six weeks during the summer. It is this atmosphere that I saw as I rode on the S-Bahn, elevated above the city streets. It was this atmosphere that I felt on that first day when I pointed out a certain scar to my study abroad companions. “See that line of red stone? A section of the Berlin Wall was once there.”

Fall 2010


A Glob al photo by Lalupa

Unique cultures have developed in nearly all corners of the globe, but a striking commonality unites the diverse societies of humanity: music. However, the instruments that are beaten, blown, and strummed to produce that music are as varied as the cultures that invented them. We have identified a small selection of instruments from around the world that represents this global symphony. Ocarina - Central America / Europe Popularized in modern culture by Nintendo’s video game series, Legend of Zelda, and replicated in a popular “App” for the iPhone, the current-day ocarina (“little goose”) is actually part of an ancient and global family of flute-like instruments. Variations of the ocarina have emerged from Europe, East Asia, and Central America, with the oldest ones dating back to over 12,000 years ago. The modern ocarina traces its ancestry back to the Aztecs of Mexico. Following the conquest of the Aztec empire, Spanish conquistadores brought the ocarina back to Europe, where it became popular as a novelty item and toy. According to legend, Giuseppe Donati, a seventeen-yearold brickmaker from Budrio in the Italian province of Bologna, redesigned the ocarina in 1853. His addition of extra holes created a versatile instrument, able to play a broad range of notes. The ocarina is held with both hands and can produce deep, haunting melodies or bright, cheerful tunes. The traditional transverse ocarina is typically made from ceramic, clay, glass, wood, or plastic and has been likened to a submarine or a sweet potato due to its oval shape and protruding mouthpiece. Less common forms include pendant, inline, and multichamber ocarinas.

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Lyre - the Mediterranean

According to Greek mythology, the first lyre was created by Hermes, the winged messenger between the ancient gods and shepard of souls to the underworld. Hermes furnished a tortoise shell with antelope horns and animal hide, then presented it as a gift to his half brother Apollo. This gifted lyre was passed down to Apollo’s son Orpheus, the legendary Greek musician whose skillful music could move even Hades and Persephone to tears. The classical lyre is a bow-like string instrument resembling a hand-held harp with seven horizontally attached strings. Ancient Greek vase paintings and Egyptian wall images often depict the lyre being strummed with a plectrum and held like a guitar, though musicians now are typically seen plucking the lyre like a harp. The instrument has become an enduring symbol of the ancient Greek musical genre and continues to play a key role in traditional Crete musical bands. While the lyre is most famous for its place in classical Greek antiquity, many countries in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Asia Minor also claim to be its place of origin. Some scholars believe the lyre was first developed during the golden age of ancient Egypt and later introduced to pre-classical Greece. Versions of the lyre can also be found in modern Israel, Sudan, England, Finland, and Ethiopia. Veena - South Asia The veena is a plucked string instrument from South India used mostly in classical Carnatic-styled music. Its origins date back to 1,500 BCE. The veena draws its inspiration from the vibrating bowstrings used by Vedic period hunters. Though the term

veena refers to a wide range of South Indian stringed instruments, currently used forms have twenty-four fixed frets at about four feet in length. Well-recognized in several Indian cultures, the veena is played cross-legged with the carved and hallowed resonator, or kudum, slightly tilted away from the player. The gourd-shaped piece rests on the player’s lap, while the four main playing strings are plucked. The veena is commonly associated with the Hindu patron goddess of learning and arts, Saraswati, and the powerful god of destruction, Shiva. While communities of highly valued craftsmen have declined, India has identified the instrument as an element of intangible cultural heritage to UNESCO. The brightly decorated instrument continues to be revered in South Asia and is practiced across the United States among an increasing number of Indian immigrants. Horagai - East Asia The horagai, also jinkai, is a shell trumpet made from a large conch shell. These instruments have a thousand-year-long history in Japan. Historically, they were sounded in times of war to signal troops, but today they are played by Buddhist monks during religious ceremonies. The methods by which the horagai are made are unknown, but part of the process involves attaching a bronze or wooden mouthpiece to the tip of the shell. The horagai is approximately a foot in length and can sound three to five pitches, in contrast to the single-pitch range of most other shell instruments.


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photo by Paolo Gavelli photo by Andreas Praefcke

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Sym Didgeridoo - Australia Australia: home of kangaroos, the Great Barrier Reef, and the age old adage “G’day mate!” This Down Under gem of the Pacific also brings us the didgeridoo. Colloquially referred to as the didge, this wind instrument is popular in traditional Aboriginal music. The didgeridoo produces a dronelike sound and can be up to ten feet tall! The body of the instrument is made from hardwoods like bamboo or eucalyptus. The average didge is about four feet long and can be decorated in a variety of ways. After 1,500 years, the didge is widely used across Australia and around the world. From ancient aboriginal tribes to American Idol performances, the didgeridoo has been embraced by many cultures and styles of music. Not only does it serve as a musical instrument, it has been said that practicing the didgeridoo can help reduce sleep apnea, snoring, and asthma symptoms. Tumbadora - West Africa / Central America Known for its fast-paced and energetic rhythms, the tumbadora, otherwise known

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as the conga, relates a variety of Spanish cultural backgrounds to the roots of Africa. Made out of hollowed wood and topped with metal rings that hold the rawhide in place, this barrel-shaped instrument has transformed Latin American culture. The conga drum player, or conguero, is able to incorporate various strokes, like slapping and touching, to enhance the rhythms of the drum. Not only does the tumbadora serve as a great auditory instrument, when paired in twos or fours, it makes for a vibrant scene of dancing to the sultry sounds of salsa and merengue. Because of its versatile nature, the conga drum has been sampled across a myriad of genres and can be heard in the Caribbean’s reggae, D.C.’s go-go, funk, and even country music. Vuvuzela - South Africa The vuvuzela achieved international notoriety during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as the accessory of choice for soccer fans. These long, tubular trumpets are known for their ear-splitting, mosquito-like

droning, a noise that has become the source of great controversy. FIFA was under pressure to ban the vuvuzela from games due to health and noise level concerns. One South African woman reportedly ruptured her throat after blowing the horn too hard. The history of these plastic horns is also heavily contended. Some view the vuvuzela as a modern spin on the traditional kudo horn. Freddie Makke, a South African Kazier Chiefs Football Club fan, claimed he created an aluminum version from a bicycle horn, and the Nazareth Baptist Church of South Africa supposedly used the instrument in their worship. However, it was not until Neil van Schalkwyk and his factory, Masincedane Sport, patented and massmarketed the plastic vuvuzela that it gained widespread popularity. Regardless, this instrument is a ubiquitous element of soccer culture in South Africa that has gained popularity among fans worldwide.

Fall 2010


A Day with Muhammad by Jessica Kim

It was my second day at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, the longest natural beach in the world. A seven-hour train trip, a four-hour bus ride, and a twentyminute ttuk-ttuk excursion brought me there from Dhaka, where I was working last summer. A fellow intern, named Jennifer, and I got onto a local bus. We were on our way to visit a Burmese refugee camp.

“You may not be allowed inside the camp without a visitor’s pass,” Muhammad said, with his shoulders raised and hands stuffed in his pockets, “but I will help you as much as I can.” A security guard patrolling the camp stopped us from entering.

People were crammed shoulder to shoulder while the bus teetered back and forth on narrow dirt roads. I was still suffering from the food poisoning I got the day before. To make matters worse, a small boy seated rows in front of us left his mother’s lap to vomit out the window.

Though he could barely understand us, we still explained our situation to him; we were students unaffiliated with any media or research, and visiting purely for personal interest. He did not know what to do with us because, as is common in Bangladesh, he was at the bottom of a very long chain of command.

Once we arrived at the camp, a group of children wandered up to us.

Since this was beyond his realm of authority, the guard took us to a fairly large but modest private house with a tin roof. A Land Cruiser with “UNHCR” painted on it was parked outside. He called out deferentially to “Sir” and a man eventually stepped outside. He was a Bangladesh civil servant named AFM Fazle Rabbi, who had been stationed at the camp for thirteen months.

One particularly enthusiastic boy, Muhammad, gave us a warm greeting. Like other kids in the Kutupalong refugee camp, he is originally from Myanmar but has lived in Bangladesh for most of his life. He is about fifteen years old, but looks five years younger with his thin frame and meager height. When we met him, he

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was wearing a beige floral button-up with an out-of-place popped collar.

We explained all over again that we had

all photos by Jessica Kim


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come to the refugee camp for personal reasons. We simply wanted to walk around and talk to people about their experiences in the refugee camp, stressing that we were not going to use any information for media. Rabbi explained that we had to get official permission from the Dhaka city council, which could take weeks. We said that we only had a few days left in Cox’s Bazar. We must have looked really dejected because, at the end, he relented and allowed us to interview him in his office. While the security guard escorted us to the office to meet with Rabbi for our interview, Muhammad followed us and, in a whisper, asked if we wanted to see the refugee camp from “a different route.” Our curiosities piqued, and we eagerly accepted his offer. Muhammad then leaned against the gate, looking ready to wait as long as needed. We wondered why he was so invested in helping us. Were people in Bangladesh generally interested in outsiders, not having many tourists? Or could it be that Muhammad relished the rare opportunity to escort two foreigners? Maybe, the young boy just

wanted to show us off to his friends. We talked to Rabbi for over two hours since nobody seemed to be in a rush. He spoke of his own life: his dream was to be an astrophysicist, but he went into civil service instead. Bangladesh’s government was named the world’s most corrupt several times, and Rabbi spoke of that briefly as well–“When you are a fish swimming in the sea you can’t help but drink the water.” We said our final goodbyes then discreetly went outside to meet Muhammad, who seemed relieved to see us. He took us down a different road where the refugee camp began to stretch out in front of us. We technically did not break any rules since we maintained a distance of one foot from the camp at all times. Some of Muhammad’s friends started to join us; eventually, we were walking with a group of thirty children. Finally, we walked into an unofficial part of the camp. The whole place was built on a mud hill. People were sitting quietly in rundown huts and, like Rabbi had said, there

was no economy within the camp. As we climbed past the huts, the muddy path grew narrower and we were soon surrounded by dozens of children. It felt wrong to be there, to disturb the quiet lives of these people who just stared at us. The contrast between the hyperactive children and the motionless adults was striking. Suddenly, Muhammad said, “You should go now. It is not safe here.” Long after the fact, I puzzled over how he could perceive his own home as “not safe.” It must require a high level of awareness for a fifteen-year-old to conclude that what he considers familiar is not safe for everyone. Muhammad was a bewildering blend of the mischievous child with no experience outside of his camp, and the adult whose maturity surpassed ours. Jennifer and I were escorted back. When we crossed the boundary between the camp and the road, Muhammad declared in a business-like way, “Ah, it is very hard to say goodbye.” “We’ll keep in touch,” I assured him. “I hope you will not forget me,” he beseeched. We said our good-byes and returned to our bus, which began to pull away from the camp. Abruptly, and with a jerk of the breaks, the bus stopped. We were perplexed to see Muhammad come along.

Fall 2010


something new?” Jennifer asked, trying to be encouraging. I suspected that Muhammad had probably eaten the same meal, rice and lentils, since he was born. He left his beef half eaten, not used to the taste. When the check came, Muhammad grabbed it before we could. The total came out to about 400 Taka, just over $5 for all of us. “We spent 400 Taka,” he said, looking bewildered. With this amount of money, his entire family could have eaten for a week or more. Recognizing the exorbitance of the meal, Jennifer attempted to reassure Muhammad and ease his discomfort. “This was so expensive,” she said, making eye contact and signaling me to play along. “We never come to places like this. Our friend just recommended it to us.” “What! Are you allowed to leave the camp?” we asked, alarmed. “Yeah, I do this a lot,” he said in a supremely confident manner, though he obviously did not plan this out very well. Jennifer and I exchanged concerned looks as we hesitantly offered to buy him lunch. We rode a ttuk-ttuk to Mermaid’s Café, a restaurant on the beach that was recommended to us by a Bengali friend. It was part of a newly developed hotel. It turned out that it was one of the most ostentatious places in Cox’s Bazar. There was a long walkway leading to a glossy dance floor and shaded decks with canopies and picnic tables. Suddenly, Muhammad looked uncomfortable. In a menu that boasted of Western foods such as Salisbury steak and salmon, he did not know what to order for lunch and instead chose beef and rice. “Are you sure you don’t want to try

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Muhammad soon after recovered from his shock. Afterwards, he acted confidently, calling out to the waiters, insisting on counting out the cash, and walking around with a strut.

Afterwards, we strolled along Cox’s Bazar, mostly in silence. Walking with Mohammed along the beach, I keenly felt the differences between us. I walked him to the bus stop and he apologetically asked me for fifty Taka for the bus ride home. I was sure it only cost thirty Taka, if he even had to pay to get on the bus, but I gave him the requested amount anyway. I wondered as I walked back to my hotel whether it was wrong of him to skim money off of me even if it meant so little to me and so much for him. Muhammad had an air of confidence that made him unique. Though spirit has a short expiration date in circumstances of extreme poverty, I hope he retains his. I hope that Muhammad will get to walk along more beaches than just Cox’s Bazaar and buy his own meal at a restaurant someday. But mostly, I hope he will not ever lose the sense of style that led him to pop his collar, imperiously grab the check at a restaurant, boss the waiters around, and take two strange girls around, partially to show off in front of his buddies.


So ci al

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uth Africa o S p u by Kara Li rl d C o W o st P e in g n ha C ic m no o c

This past summer, South Africa became the first African nation to host the FIFA World Cup finals. Soccer fans around the world focused their attentions on the country, yet the impact of the event far transcended the athletic aspect. While some argued that South Africa would be reaching a turning point in its modern development, other believed that the event would do little to alleviate South Africa’s many economic and social problems.

The 2010 World Cup drastically differed from its predecessor in Germany. South Africa is located far from many developed nations that make up much of the event’s attendance. It was also occurring during an international recession. The combination of economic turbulence and geographic distance resulted in an unsurprisingly lower attendance number. However, as a developing country, South Africa had much more to gain from the most-watched sporting event in the world.

Even before the first game of the World Cup, the country was already experiencing major changes. Both South Africa and FIFA injected large sums of money into the national economy. Billions of rand were spent to build and upgrade stadiums, improve public transportation infrastructure, and increase security and safety measures. Necessary highway improvements, delayed for years, were carried out in record time thanks to the World Cup and its antici-

Fall 2010


photo by Shine 2010

pated tourist traffic. Some roads doubled their capacity to four lanes instead of two. Gautrain, the first high speed rail line in Africa, was built with the need to move thousands of soccer fans in mind, but is another long-term benefit that locals could continue to enjoy. Airports were expanded and the country’s first green field airport in five decades was built to accommodate large jumbo jets common with international flights. The OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg even constructed a new terminal exclusively for welcoming World Cup teams. In order to house the large number of visitors, the country also renovated existing hotel rooms and other lodgings like university student housing. These upgrades will ut Ad certainly benefit South African students and tourists from around the world after the World Cup.

to support the police force in Joint Operation Centers. These activities arguably fostered a sense of cooperation between departments and agencies.

As with all large-scaled international events, security challenges arise that the host country must address. Forty thousand officers, twenty-five percent of the minister of police’s work force, were assigned to patrol the World Cup. Hired private security, medical crews, firefighters, and volunteers also worked together

A pre-construction model of the Pretoria Gautrain Station

Some believe that these preparations will have lasting positive effects for South Africa. These large-scale plans aimed to generate more than half a million new jobs

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in South Africa. Policies to hire new workers for these construction projects can increase job training for those who may have been unskilled or unemployed. Now that the World Cup is over, more skilled

workers, rather than unskilled laborers, will enter the work force. In addition, business opportunities that became available with South Africa’s successful World Cup bid was expected to attract foreign investors and increase the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) that would persist beyond the end of the event. Indeed, South Africa did see increased FDI levels during its preparations for the World Cup, but whether this interest in the country will persist remains to be seen. Long-term commitments to investment in South Africa seem to be focused on its environmentally friendly green technologies, many of which were used in the construction of new stadiums. Ninety percent of South Africa’s energy comes from coal, and the World Cup spurred clean coal technology like fluidized bed combustion and underground gasification. However, some economists are skeptical about the benefits the World Cup will have on South Africa. Optimists have lofty expectations that some believe are unlikely to be achieved. The government claimed that the World Cup would create jobs, expand the country’s gross domestic product, change South Africa’s image to


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photo by Frombelow Blikkiesdorp (Afrikaans for “Tin Can Town”), one of the temporary relocation camps

For a country that struggles with widespread poverty, unemployment, housing, education, crime, and healthcare, the allocation of millions by both South Africa and the FIFA organizers to host a single soccer tournament may be questionable. Some argue that the large amounts of money expended on the World Cup should be spent improving local living conditions. Instead, the homeless were relocated and encamped outside of urban areas in makeshift dwellings. Like many other international sporting events, the 2010 World Cup resulted in many evictions. Buildings were demolished to make room for new construction. The government, with an aim to dress up the city for visiting tourists, passed highly controversial acts to eliminate slums and move homeless shack-dwellers into temporary camps during the World Cup. These evictions resulted in several protests and even lawsuits remonstrating these actions. Now that the dust of the World Cup has settled, some are beginning to question the lasting changes the event brought to South Africa. For example, in Soweto, an urban Johannesburg area, visitors flooded the

streets during the boom of the World Cup. Tourists frequented the local museum and bought souvenirs from local street vendors. But once these soccer fans returned home after the World Cup, tourism in the area declined significantly. The owners of bedand-breakfasts and other businesses were promised additional guests and increased revenue, though neither of these promises seems to have been realized. Regardless, South Africa’s successful bid fostered an immediate sense of national pride and unity. For a country that experienced a tragic apartheid and still faces great economic and social disparity, the World Cup served as a rally point for South Africans. Sports have always had an important role as a way to overcome historical conflicts and tensions. However, this renewed sense of national identity can only be lasting if they are followed by changes targeting significant social issues. While the preparations for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup have already been completed, whether they ultimately benefit the country or further weaken a struggling developing nation remains to be seen. There is no doubt that the country must seize the opportunity of South Africa’s World Cup spotlight to make changes that will result as lasting improvements for the nation. photo by Octagon

the world, and even improve perceptions and encourage social and economic development of the entire continent. There are even whispers of the possibility of South Africa hosting the Olympics. However, countries are frequently underwhelmed by major sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup. These events tend to have astronomical budgets but fail to achieve the economic benefits anticipated. For example, the 2004 Olympics in Athens totaled approximately $11 billion, which was twice the original estimate. Some even claim that these exorbitant costs laid the foundation for Greece’s current economic crisis. Evidently, large-scale sporting events are hardly reliable in their economic promises.

Berr, Jonathan. “Why Hosting the World Cup Is a Losing Proposition for South Africa”. Daily Finance. June 12, 2010. Colombant, Nico. “US Scholars Concerned About World Cup Impact on South Africa Society”. VOANews.com. June 7, 2010. Pellegrino, Greg & Lwazi Bam, Innocent Dutiro. “2010 FIFA World Cup: A Turning Point for South Africa”. Deloitte. June 11, 2010. Polouektov, Anton. “World Cup Economics: FIFA’s Impact on South Africa”. The Atlantic Post. June 24, 2010. Rhoden, William C. “Who Really Won in South Africa?” The New York Times. July 12, 2010.

Fall 2010


Shanghai: A W Some say World Expositions show off a country’s best face—a showcase ranging from modern innovations and outstanding technologies to local culture and customs. To many who came to Shanghai last summer, the city and the Expo radiated an aura of vitality. Youth and power took the form of grandiose buildings and swarms of curious people, an experience that defines Shanghai to many foreigners. But while modern Shanghai is growing, robust, and young, the quiet dust of Old Shanghai lies in the shadow of the gleam and glamour, the kaleidoscope of bright lights and nightclubs. Shanghai’s first incarnation began roughly a century ago, when it attracted imperialistic inclinations as a port city. The French, English, Germans, Japanese, Americans, and others had divided the spoils of Asia among themselves. Shanghai was no exception—nations portioned the city into separate blocs called concessions. Each part of the city thus adopted distinct architectural styles, street names, and atmospheres. As with all aspects of Shanghai, its buildings grew, adapted, and metamorphosed. The English red brick and French w i n -

dows, at first anachronistically juxtaposed with the blue-white porcelain and mahogany chairs of Chinese taste, later melded with the local culture to create a distinctive picture of postcolonial Shanghai. Foreignstyled buildings created narrow alleyways named longtang. Radios and qibaos, or traditional Chinese dresses, became cultural complements. Through cycles of revolution and war, China passed from the hands of emperors to the nationalists, withstood Japanese invasion, and was reestablished as a communist country. The original designers of the concessions in Shanghai and other foreigners were forced to flee, and the grand houses of the foreign rich turned into the apartments of the common Chinese. At last, after Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Deng’s Open Door Policy, the wheel of time turned back around. Foreigners began to trickle back into the city. New buildings rose and the streets filled with commerce. Shanghai, once again a bustling nexus of the world, is now able to host events as colossally complicated and impressive as the Expo. But the echoes of the first Shanghai remain. Rue Lafayette, in the French Concession, is present-day Fuxing Road. It is in places like these that the old world of the concessions have been sealed away. Though ghosts of the past remain, the longtang is no graveyard. Today, local residents, companies, and embassies have taken over the houses. The cobwebs of Time have snagged on to these living monuments and given them an almost eerie silence, as if a kind, wrinkled face were smiling at you invitingly. Old Shanghai is the history of my own family.

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photo by Christine Chen


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World Exposition by Christine Chen

My ancestors watched as Shanghai writhed in the throes of nationalist birth and Japanese conquest and transformed under the changing cultural climate. My grandparents waltzed in the dance halls, watched blackand-white movies, rode bikes, and took sepia pictures with newfangled cameras as they just became available in the morphing city. Their children, my parents, grew up practicing calligraphy on old newspapers as dawn reddened the bricks. In the summer, they caught cicadas with long laundry sticks. The concession is the pattern of my heritage and that of many other Shanghainese people. If you want to go to these concessions, where the memories of my family and millions of others linger in the shadows of the longtang, take out a map and look for specific streets. They are not exactly marked out, so you will have to hunt for them. They are also often mixed with the modern, so it is easy to stray from them. The best I can do is give you some street names and you can wander around from there—it is better that way, since the longtang are meant to be traversed as if you were getting back from school or taking a romantic stroll with a loved one. The Bund is an obvious hotspot. It is a very touristy area, but the buildings on the Puxi side are so full of history that they are literally sinking into the ground (no, it is actually because of the weight of the structures, but that in itself is interesting to see as well). Xintiandi is another highlight, prominently advertised in most travel books. Go to Hengshan Road, a popular haunt for expatriates with its quaint old church and hip bars, if you would like a place with both old and modern flavor. Or visit the

quieter West Fuxing Road, where the roads wind past places renovated by consulates and the wealthy. Fuming Road is more local, with little shops and miniature traffic chaos that fades suddenly when you turn into a longtang. Other roads worth seeing are Changle Road, Wukang Road, and Anfu Road. Together, these streets roughly outline the borders of the French Concession. Now that the Expo is over, do not travel only to the more modern parts of town— stop by to pay your respects to the longtang. It will probably be less of an experience with more people crowding around, but I think with the right attitude, the mystery can be preserved. Go see it—but bring none of your touristy expectations. Approach these buildings with reverence. They carry great weight, the heaviness of memory. Take pictures if you must, but do not casually snap photos on your digital camera—some of the locals still call this place their home, and to do so would be doubly insulting. Experience the chant of the cicada and the occasional bright note of a passing bike. Capture the heavy air, the quiet, and the sun that has been gently filtered through the oak trees arching over the winding roads like a threshold into a different world.

Fall 2010


the Price of apples

Do you have an iPhone? iPod? MacBook Pro? Any Apple, Inc. device? Did you know they all come from the same place? Welcome to Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., located in Shenzhen, China, origin of your Apple product and host to 400,000 workers who manufacture your electronic gadgets. These employees come from the vast countryside of China. Dubbed “migrant workers,” they travel great distances in search of employment. These laborers suffer from social prejudices against their country background and harsh working conditions. Enduring low wages, twenty-hour shifts, and social isolation, the Foxconn workers represent the untold story behind the flawless screen of your iPhone. The following journalistic entries do not depict any worker in specific, but rather attempt to capture the mindset of the migrant laborers in general. While the narrative persona is fictitious, the facts and conditions presented under which Apple products were created are very much real. I wonder where each piece goes.

Every repetitous movement I make, fitting each little microchip into its designated compartment, stretches endlessly for every half-day shift I take. Dear you, owner of the final product of my labor, I wonder who you are. I know you’re

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photo by Whole Wheat Toast

photo by M.I.C Gadget

photo by M.I.C Gadget

photo by National Labor Committee

photo by National Labor Committee

photo by M.I.C Gadget

by Jennifer Hong

overseas, probably a college student. Strolling around your campus with my final product in your pocket, your headphones in your ears. I wonder how many of your friends have the same device. It must be the latest social trend, this apparatus that I’m making.

I moved by myself—it only took a couple hours on a train along with my few packages–from the countryside of Sichaun to Foxconn’s campus. I’ve just been shown into the room that I’m sharing with twelve other girls. The dormitory is not terribly impressive, lacking color and space in general.1

I’m part of an assembly line that makes iPhones. I hope you find them more than satisfactory. I’m quite sure the sleek touch screen you glide your fingertips over is one of the most convenient things you’ve ever used. I’m quite sure the Apple product you depend on so much for your daily activities is an object of your adoration.

I have heard a lot about life here in this factory.

But there are also other factors in making these iPhones. Did you know that 400,000 workers are holed up in a Chinese factory making these products you worship? For these objects you love, 400,000 of us work more than twelve hours a day in utter silence for approximately 800 yuan a month, which to you is around $118 (1). 400,000 of us are faced with social isolation and psychological pressure every minute of our days. And because of this pressure, thirteen of us have attempted suicide and eleven have succeeded. This is the story behind the iPhone you love so dearly. My story. Our story.

“There are no breaks.” “The work is the same, everyday.” “Yesterday, the supervisor caught Xiao Mei sleeping at work. She’s in big trouble now. Might even lose her job.” Monotonous work. Long shifts. Bad wages. Sometimes employee mistreatment. And then there are the social problems. Discrimination against country bumpkins. Condescension because we’re not legal urbanites and don’t hold the city hukou, the legal passport that designates whether we can stay in urban or rural areas. Since we don’t have them, we aren’t even supposed to be here. There are even lingering rumors about how people have killed themselves because life here is so bad.2 Rumors are just rumors, and the company does its best to keep them hushed up. I still came. I won’t go back to the farmlands. There is no life for me there, no existence that I can create. There is nothing except for poverty in the countryside.


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Another girl–Tian Yu, she sits just a few seats away from me on the assembly line– jumped out her window too, but she managed to survive. She says that she was overworked and

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my province, is gone. He was being overworked. The 18-hour shifts were too much for him. The newspaper reported that he died, only a few hours after quitting.2 Poor man! Now, I’m left alone–one more friend, gone. Death must be infinitely more satisfying than this life I live now.

photo by

Labor Co mmittee

to socialize when I can be earning money. I don’t even think much about the lack of conversation–I realized last night that no one in my dorm room speaks my dialect; we’re all from different places in the country–Henan or Sichuan or Shenzhen. Regardless, we’re all from places that don’t offer opportunities to make our lives better. So we don’t need conversation; we just need to earn the money to send home. Besides, no one has the energy to

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I cannot do much to help my parents, and there are no opportunities to earn enough money to support my family. I can’t stand being unable to help. So there was only one place left for me to go. There was no looking back once I have left. That would just be a disgrace.

photo by

My parents still live in the countryside, and my younger brother is attending a university that uses up all our family’s wages. I am now here at Foxconn, alone. A twenty-two year old woman among thousands of other girls my age in the exact same scenario, with no favorable future in these stagnated factories and no sustainable past in the backward traditions of home. The supervisor, a harsh-looking man with deep-set wrinkles called Li Jun, explains how things work around here. Shifts are usually ten to twelve hours, consisting of the same tasks–putting parts of a motherboard together, one after another. I am allowed one day off per month. It doesn’t seem too bad–at first. But then he begins to count off all the regulations here that are strictly enforced and that usually result in monetary punishment. Eight hundred yuan a month is all we earn on paper. It would be a manageable salary, if they weren’t so strict about the rules. Can’t be late to work – it costs 100 yuan per late minute. No talking during work – that’s another 100. Don’t get sick, don’t miss work, or else I’ll lose my position until I pay the fee to get back on the work list.1 I’m starting to think that this meager monetary sum is not enough. Everyone works overtime anyway, and I don’t feel the need

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talk after a twelve-hour shift.1 I heard rumors about someone named Ma Xianqian who jumped off the tenth floor. I don’t know why. He was only nineteen. Some managers are saying that he was crazy to begin with and that no one had ever noticed. It’s clear on the workers’ faces that they think otherwise. I heard he had an argument with his supervisor and was demoted to cleaning toilets. He was working seventy-seven hours a week.2 I can see why someone would want to commit suicide, even if he wasn’t cleaning toilets. It’s suffocating here. So quiet, save for the mechanical whirring or metallic clanking of putting parts together. It’s eerie, how much of a lack of human conversation there is. But there’s no need to talk. We can’t communicate anyway. The company leaders do this on purpose–they don’t want any strikes.1

After a few weeks, I want to scream. It’s the same thing, everyday. No break. Work, sleep, work, sleep, barely any eating, barely any energy. Can’t talk to anyone about anything, can barely talk to anyone at all. Liu Bing, the only person I’ve met from

that there was too much pressure–a constant feeling that made her anxious and crazy.2 How I empathize–she is not the only one. Just the staring eyes of the supervisor make me freeze up, and every hour on the job makes me wonder if any amount of money could possibly be worth this psychological strain. And then there’s Sun Danyong. He was blamed for losing the prototype of the iPhone and couldn’t stand it anymore. Couldn’t stand being the scapegoat.2 So he jumped. Desperation is what it was. Desperation is what drove them all. Desperation is what makes me wonder if any of this is worth it. The higher-ups are starting to worry. President Terry Gou is starting to notice. There have been five suicides already.3 Things will have to change. The reasons behind each suicide are true; we’re overworked and pressured, isolated and abused. There’s nothing we do here that can make our lives better. Supervisors don’t care. There’s no one to talk to. They’ve set up hotlines for us to call if we’re feeling pressured or depressed, but already labeled us with the stereotype

Fall 2010


of “idiot country bumpkin.” Do they really think we’ll call, only to be called a “weak moron who can’t deal with city work” next? We know before we even see the black-clad psychologists with their glasses and briefcases and professional facades: they won’t help. They don’t know. We are not here to be judged.

to be completely and utterly alone in the world.

I know I was sane when I came here. It’s hard to tell if I still am.

The representatives of Foxconn claim that these people were crazy to begin with. But if these people were the same as me, then it wasn’t them, it was the entire atmosphere of our daily lives. We were sane when we came here. But, we can only leave insane.

The number of suicides keeps increasing. Some are only days apart from each other– when desperate people see other desperate people ending their misery, they are encouraged to do it too. I can empathize. Some days, I spare a few minutes in my bedroom looking out the window where I can see the Foxconn campus. I have never found the urge to jump so tempting. These thoughts in my head only encourage this faint temptation–like knowing that I only have twenty yuan in my drawer. Twenty yuan. I still have bills to pay for the little things I did wrong–I have a negative balance. Yesterday, the fragile chip in my hand snapped. It was worth more money than I can hope to earn for months. I have no money to send home. I can hardly talk to my parents about it, so I don’t talk to my parents at all. I don’t talk in general. I feel like I haven’t spoken in so long that I’ve lost any ability to speak. I want to go home but I can’t. There is simply no life left for me back there. There is no life here for me either.

We are migrants. We are disposable. Machines expected to work incessantly for absolutely nothing. If we don’t work, there will always be someone else more than happy to take our jobs. Foxconn knows this. President Terry Gou knows this. That’s why he can squeeze us for every penny we earn. He’s starting to gain attention though–everyone knows about the Foxconn suicides now. People all around are starting to protest, and with the attention that Sun Danyong’s suicide brought, Foxconn has even hit international news. Apple has stated that it “is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout [its] supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity.”4 President Gou is feeling pressured now–he’s now promising to raise wages and improve conditions. Change is what we need. Right when we think things might change for the better, we’re handed a contract that states we won’t commit suicide or sue the company if we do attempt to do so.5 I am not even surprised. This is Terry Gou who believes that “work in itself is a type of joy” and that “a harsh environment is a good thing.”6 Of course they would try to make sure we won’t cause any more trouble by restricting us further instead of making our lives better.

But I don’t know how long this will keep up. I don’t know if things will change. It will take a lot to reverse the damage already done. So many dead bodies cannot be forgotten so easily.

Now you know where that sleek gadget of yours comes from. You know how many of us have toiled over your coveted iPhone. I hope you keep this in mind with every tap on your touch-screen. I hope you’ll remember our story, and what we had to do to give you that symbol of social status. So many deaths should not be easily forgotten. After all, they consist of the price you pay for your iPhone. But then again, perhaps it’s not that expensive. In the end, $99 should be much too cheap of a price to pay for eleven lives and the sanity of 400,000 workers. 1 http://www.szcpost.com/2010/05/foxconn-suicides.html 2 http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dying-young_ sucide-chinas-booming-economy.pdf

3 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/business/ global/07suicide.html?pagewanted=2

4 http://www.techeye.net/business/terry-gou-tries-to-justifyfoxconn-working-conditions

5 http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-26/apple-hpdell-begin-probing-supplier-after-suicides-update2-.html

photo by M.I.C Gadget

photo by M.I.C Gadget

existenc ia photo b y

photo by KarlMarx

photo by Clean_IT

photo by National Labor Committee

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photo by Steve Rhodes

l2

This is the ultimate form of alienation, where any and all communication is shut down, when I can find no camaraderie among people from my own province, and no one to help me. This is what it feels like

Despair is what’s driving us. The suicide count is up: eleven attempted suicides– nine dead, two injured. Every single person was under twenty-five years old, in the prime of youth.1

They’ve raised wages, as long as we sign the “no suicide” contract. They won’t compensate our families if we do. They’ve hired monks to come and purify the company. They’ve installed nets around the dormitories so people won’t jump out. They’ve hired counselors with whom we have to meet with if we’re feeling pressured. They’re also requiring us to exercise and relieve ourselves of stress.6


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x E p n e a r r IE n u d c n e o in Medicine and Culture

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by Elizabeth Richardson

Rain began falling from the sky like thousands of white sheets of chiffon, layered one upon another. Yet, each raindrop seemed to pound on the bus roof with the force of a twenty-pound weight. Splashing through water-filled cavities in the battered dirt road, the medical team breathed a sigh of relief. We made it out of the village before the rain arrived. Well on our way to Siguatepeque, we were lulled into a stupor by the rhythmic movement of the bus and the collision of raindrops on the metal roof. Our tranquility did not last long. Five armed officers stopped our bus at their rural checkpoint. The officers and our driver exchanged unintelligible Spanish, and one by one they stepped onto the bus to find refuge in our mobile shelter. The officers towered over those of us sitting in the front of the bus, their weapons resting at the level of our eyes. An air of uneasiness blanketed the bus as we drove on with our new guests. After what seemed like hours of sitting with guarded postures in nervous silence, we reached the next town. Questions raced through our minds. Would the officers continue riding with us past the town? Why were they on the bus? While winding through narrow, flooded streets of the town, the officers began bellowing commands in Spanish. Would we ever make it out of this country?

The Duke School of Medicine has been traveling to Las Mercedes, Honduras for the past ten years. Physical therapy students recently found a valuable role in this rural area, along with the traditional responsibilities of medical and nursing students. First learning about the outreach last fall, I knew it was where I would find my place in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. I grew up on a North Carolina farm where Latino culture was ever-present, and during my undergraduate years at N.C. State University I volunteered with the Office of International Students. I thought there could be no greater place for me to feel comfortable than with another culture, applying what I had learned over the past two years in the physical therapy

background photo by Obsidian Dawn

program. Without a doubt, interacting with people from other countries through hours of musculoskeletal classes would be all I needed to succeed in a Honduran clinic. Yet, I could not have been more wrong. The people we worked with had lived in a small village for their entire lives without electricity, Western-style bathrooms, and all of the modern conveniences I took for granted. In the past, I interacted solely with the university-educated subset of people from other cultures, skewing my perception of them. It occurred to me, after I was accepted to go on the trip, that I had no idea how to communicate physical therapy exercises and education in a language I had not used since high school. Yet, beneath this level of panic was excitement for the challenge that awaited me in Honduras. Several months prior to leaving, we began taking weekly classes, and these classes fueled my enthusiasm for the trip. Tuesday evenings brought back a level of utter excitement and nervousness about the outreach that was essentially forgotten during the rest of the week. In these classes, we studied medical Spanish and learned about the Honduran way of life. But since this was my first outreach, no class could have truly prepared me for what to expect during my time in Central America. Veteran outreach participants answered our clinically-related questions, like what to expect in regards to common medical diagnoses and how to approach health care in a team format. The former participants also described our living conditions. The most glaring aspect was that all nineteen of us (faculty and students) had to sleep on the floor and take frigid open-air showers! The images conveyed during class painted a certain picture of what I expected to find in Honduras; however, my expectations were immediately destroyed upon landing in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. My first impressions of Honduran city life were of Sherwin Williams, Church’s Chicken, and John

Deere signs. They were the same colors and shapes I had seen back home. Seeing these familiar icons, combined with exhaustion from traveling, led me to believe I had not actually left my hometown. For a split second I felt like I was in a dilapidated city in the South. I imagined the town as it must have been—a landscape filled with new buildings and hope, its present state evidence of the perils it had endured since then. I was quickly jolted into the present by a tumultuous bus ride. After careful examination of Hondurans walking along the streets and inhaling the pungent fumes of car exhaust, I realized that I had truly left the United States. On our first day in this new land, we survived the initial intense bus ride through a cacophony of city noise to the Heifer International compound. In solitude away from the city, it reminded me of a movie set; it was perfectly imperfect, with its red tile roof and intricately textured landscaping. Gloria and Tim Wheeler, our Heifer International hosts, warmly welcomed us at the site where we packaged medicines for distribution and learned more about the people with whom we would be spending our days. There was an air of anxiousness at the compound as we prepared for the long bus ride to the village and enjoyed our last semi-hot shower and real bed for several days. I eagerly anticipated the unfamiliar sights on the bus ride to the village, which did not disappoint. The old Carolina-blue diesel school bus was forced to traverse roads that wound around the mountains like garlands around a Christ-

Fall 2010


mas tree. We saw makeshift soccer fields that utilized tree trunks to form the framework for goals, sometimes located in areas that doubled as pastures for livestock. There was a roadside banana stand built of tree trunks supporting the largest bunches of bananas I had ever seen, at only $3 each! The greens and yellows of the bananas were a welcome change from the brown hues of the landscape, leading me to snap several photos of the colorful oasis. While I made tremendous photojournalistic attempts throughout the trip, there was one aspect of the drive I could not bring myself to photograph—the frequent police checkpoints where officers reviewed “official” vehicle registration papers for Holy Week. To this day, I do not fully comprehend the necessity of these checkpoints other than as a corrupt source of income for the government. At the stops, I waited anxiously while uniformed officers with excessively large guns languidly walked around the bus to receive the crumpled registration. There was a silent air of apprehension at each checkpoint. As soon as the registration was handed back to the driver and we were waved through, my unease quickly vanished. Along the drive, we visited a hospital in the last large town we passed through: La Esperanza. This was one of the most eyeopening experiences of the trip. I knew the hospital would be different from those in the United States, but this was nothing like I had ever imagined. I envisioned crowds of people waiting for medical attention and staff darting in various directions to meet the needs of these people. In reality, the yellowed floor and tiled walls, stacks of medical records, painted signs, and aging medical equipment stood out amongst a limited number of patients and staff that were present. It was like visiting an antique store in the 1960’s. The standards of the La Esperanza hospital would certainly not stack up to those in the United States. At the same time, it was reassuring to know people in the city and surrounding areas had a place to go for

23

some level of medical care. Driving on to Las Mercedes after this left me with even lower expectations of the days ahead. Mile by mile, the roads we traveled became narrower and ran progressively into a state of disrepair. While the drives through the cities were treacherous, this aspect of the trip presented me with the constant feeling of being on a boat in choppy ocean waters. By the time we reached the village of Las Mercedes, it felt like every organ in my body had switched places with another. Driving up the last large ascent to the common area, the sight of the villagers leaving a Holy Week church service caught my attention. The women wore dresses the color of Easter eggs and the men donned a muted palette of earth tones. I thought they may have been dressed up for the team; however, as the days progressed, I realized this was their typical attire. Unfortunately, I could not take in the scenery for as long as I had expected. As soon as we got off the bus, we had to unload our backpacks and carry-on bags of clothing. We also unloaded medicines like Guaifenesin for tos and Acetaminophen for dolor. We eventually learned that we would be distributing large amounts of these medicines because there were frequent complaints of cough and pain. The villagers warily watched our every move as we directed each article to its appropriate location. It felt like we were the rich Americans who had swooped in to the save the people. I felt guilty about how my lifestyle compared with what I had seen in less than an hour at this village. Thankfully, the children helped lighten my mood. They were constantly giggling while peering in through the windows and doorways of the kindergarten building, where we would sleep, and the school building that was designed as our pharmacy. These were very basic buildings made of cinderblocks and tin roofs. The school house was in stark contrast to the kindergarten building—the former was brightly lit by streaming sunlight, high ceilings, which housed bats, and walls covered in information related to ciencias naturales and el alfabeto. On the other hand, the kindergarten building was like one of the old barns on my family’s farm, with its low ceilings, roughly constructed wooden rafters, and limited sunlight that only pierced through the darkness with the opening of a wooden

window shade or a door. It seemed like a daunting situation that lent itself to a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, with nineteen people living in a small building for several days. Quickly dismissing this thought, I joined several other team members to explore the village for the first time. During our hike up a dirt road, we met two women who were going to lead their cow to a greener area for grazing. They were very shy, their rounded shoulders and forwardly positioned heads displaying a posture of defeat. Nonetheless, they welcomed us to tag along on their task and answered our many questions. During the hike up the mountain, we passed crop fields and random cows grazing on the green mountainside. After locating their cow in a grassy pasture on a hillside, we parted ways with the women to venture back down the mountain for dinner at the home of the village leader. The village leader’s wife prepared three meals a day for us and we ate in what was essentially a wooden shelter attached to their home. We ate on a makeshift wooden table lit with headlamps that were blinding once it became dark outside. While crudely constructed, the shelter was a place for the entire team to be together, share experiences, and enjoy some of the most amazing food we had ever eaten. After dinner we only had to walk a short distance further down the mountain to our residence, where we could read, write our journals, and socialize. Given the lack of electricity, evening activities did not last very long on most nights. Many of us ventured off to sleep earlier than we had since middle school. There were two unforgettable late nights when we sat outside on the ledge of the farmacia to await the NCAA basketball semi-final and championship updates by satellite phone. Dr. Clements, a member of our team, had to walk to a clearing on the mountain to hear the report by phone. The night sky enveloped him with each step until we could no longer distinguish his outline. After what seemed like hours, he returned out of the darkness to announce the scores. We cheered with each report of a winning margin under the star-laden sky. This small group of Duke students did not celebrate the victories on West Campus quad along with hundreds of other students, surrounded by neogothic architecture and bonfires. Instead, our celebrations extended further out to a rural mountain village surrounded by trees, fields, and only eighteen other Duke students and faculty. It was more difficult to sleep after these nights of excitement. I expected to fall asleep easily every night since we were completely away from city noise, but that was not the case. With howling dogs and crowing roosters cutting through the silence, I could not imagine anyone making it through the night peacefully. I am convinced these animals were


24

photos by Wendy Zhang

cal team had to squeeze sideways through old school desks. Each family member’s concerns were addressed, then written a prescription or taken to a separate area to work with physical therapy. Many people complained of coughs, pointed out skin conditions, or stated that they had pain. While medicine was given as a treatment for many cases, I was able to work with the Hondurans through physical therapy for conditions such as back and shoulder pain. In the therapy space, all that I had to work with was a deflated brown air mattress that served as our plinth table, a suitcase of multi-colored Therabands, exercise sheets in Spanish, and my own ingenuity. With my perfectionist tendencies, learning to briefly conduct an exam in an environment without a plinth table with limited Spanish was very challenging. However, this was one of the most valuable aspects of the trip because I was challenged to adapt to situations that had no hope of being perfect. I especially recall teaching stretches to a man who complained of lower back pain. I guided us through this treatment using demonstrations, references to body parts, and Spanish exercise sheets, despite my language restrictions. In order for patients to follow my example, I said sígueme very frequently and provided simultaneous demonstrations. It was no different when working with this man. I began the session with the same phrase so he would lay down on the mat. I pointed to his knees and in my broken Spanish said, “doble aquí.” He successfully followed my directions, and I proceeded to teach him the rest of the exercise. I was puzzled by his amusement until I realized there were children and adults observing this process through the windows, exchanging laughs at this odd sight. The usual feeling of awkwardness subsided when everyone involved was laughing and smiling during treatment. There were times when I felt like I

Fall 2010

background photo by straymuse

awake almost twenty-four hours a day. Despite the lack of restful sleep, I awoke naturally with the sunrise every morning. I assumed my spot in line for an icecold, open-air bucket shower within a yellow plastic “cube” stabilized by small tree trunks and rope. Surprisingly, I started to look forward to these showers because I constantly felt like I was covered in mountain soil. After showering, we would eat a breakfast of beans and peppers and head to clinic with our boxes of supplies for the day. A clinic was built the previous summer by DukeEngage students and, although it had not been fully completed, it had a roof, a large amount of space, and walls. This was good enough, for the Hondurans were excited to finally put the building to use. Because clinics were held in the elementary school in past years, having a building solely for medical purposes was new for the community. After spending time in clinic, I realized that the amount of space was the largest asset of this building. Each team had their own area to meet semi-privately with patients. The bareness of this environment and the knowledge that there were more of these buildings to come were striking. It felt like we were on the brink of something big for the village. This was the first time their permanent medical clinic was being used, and we were helping usher in a new era of medical care necessary for people who needed more medical attention and treatment than Duke students could provide . We approached daily patient care in a unique format, working in teams of two to four, with individuals from an evenly distributed array of disciplines and Spanishspeaking levels. The teams varied during each morning and afternoon session to provide an opportunity for all team members to work together. Families often waited in long lines and were ushered one at a time into the clinic to see their medical team. They sat in a line on wooden benches while the medi-

was letting patients down because I could not offer thorough explanations or ask detailed questions about their condition due to my limited Spanish. I wish I could have better relayed body mechanics to these patients, but we were able to teach exercises to strengthen muscles for injury prevention and stretches for pain relief. Either way, I believe the patients were equipped with tools that will help them especially when the medicines are exhausted. The culture of the people in these mountainous villages is one of strenuous work in all aspects of life. The women have shoulder and back pain from carrying children up and down the mountains, and both the men and women perform hard labor in the fields. In the United States, physical therapists often advise people to change or adapt t h e i r activities if that is what is affecting their pain, but this is not an option for people in Las Mercedes. Their resources, are limited and daily survival is dependent on hard labor. Our last day in Las Mercedes was unexpected. The weather forecast was for a large amount of rain in the evening that would certainly make travel down the mountain difficult. The minute I heard news of our early departure, I was filled with excitement. While incredibly selfish, I was ready for a real bathroom and all of the other modern conveniences that I had left behind. Quickly, we packed everything and the village held their annual ceremony where they serve bread and play Latin music. The leaders spoke to us about how thankful they were that we came to them to provide medical assistance and gave us their bendición for the remainder of our journey. They especially looked forward to Duke visiting next year when the clinic would be complete. I could not help but feel a twinge of guilt. I felt like I had gained much more than I had given during my short time in Las Mercedes. Not only had I been humbled, I also gained a new energy and confidence for working with my patients back home, and an even greater desire to continue serving in other areas of medical need around the world.


by Melody Chan

Over the last seventy years, the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s have established their presence in the American cultural identity and have become permanent fixtures on the global landscape. Few corporations are as popular worldwide as this fast food giant. McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable and successful food service franchises to date. Every day, some fifty-eight million people go to McDonald’s for instant satisfaction from one of its 31,000 locations, spread out in 119 countries over six continents. Did you know that the company’s eponymous mascot, Ronald McDonald, speaks twenty-five different languages in order to sell over 550 million Big Macs a year? While most people have tried a Big Mac or craved chicken nuggets at some point in their lives, McDonald’s menu items vary from country to country, paying homage to regional tastes and traditions. Here are some of the more intriguing variants of your typical McDonald’s combo, served with a supersize of culture.

North america Canada The McLobster is served seasonally in Eastern Canada and parts of New England. This maritime treat is similar to the Filet-O-Fish, containing lobster smothered with shredded lettuce, bits of celery, and a mysterious McLobster sauce. Quebec has a regional side dish known as poutine, or French fries and cheese curds covered in hot gravy. Breakfast pancakes are made with small blobs of maple syrup mixed into the batter for just the right gooey consistency and warm flavor. In Canada, the famous McDonald’s logo is altered slightly to include a red maple leaf in between the two golden arches. United States Did you know that the Filet-O-Fish was created to offer Catholic customers a meal they could still eat on Fridays and during Lent? The prototype for this idea was called the Hula Burger, which was a menu flop and fared dismally since it was essentially a cheeseburger with the hamburger patty replaced by a slice of pineapple. McDonald’s also attempted to market a low-fat hamburger called the McLean Deluxe. To reduce the calorie content of the burger, the fat was replaced with water, but needed seaweed to retain it. Not surprisingly, it was a commercial failure. photo by CeeKay’s Pix

Mexico McDonald’s purchases approximately one-third of Mexico’s sesame seed crop for its buns. There are roughly 380 seeds on each hamburger bun: A popular breakfast option in Mexico are the McMolletes—English muffins with refried beans, cheese, and pico de gallo salsa.

EUROPE Sweden In Sweden, the franchise has taken cultural integration a step further. McDonald’s has adapted the drive-thru concept in an attempt to immerse itself within Sweden’s tourist-heavy consumer base. In 1996, it opened the world’s first “ski-thru” service called the “McSki” in the Lindvallen resort in Salen. Customers can ski up to the counter and order their favorite McDonald’s sandwich without missing a beat on the slopes.

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background photo by Randy Lemoine

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Oceania New Zealand New Zealanders can order KiwiBurgers, which contain beef, poached eggs, vegetables, cheese, beetroot, but curiously, no kiwi. One delectable-sounding dessert on the menu is the McPavlova, a meringue disc topped with softserve ice cream and passionfruit coulis.

ASIA China In China, McDonald’s can be delivered to your doorstep. The 24-hour delivery phone number in China is 4008 517 517. This number is humerous wordplay, as the Chinese pronunciation of 517 is “wu-yao-qi”, which sounds similar to the Chinese phrase “I want to eat.” Deliveries are usually made by electrically-powered scooters or conventional courier bicycles. Food is kept safe and warm in a large insulated backpack. Curious menu items include pineapple and taro pies, a Shogun burger with teriyaki pork, and the Rice Fantastic, a beef or chicken hamburger sandwiched between rice patties instead of burger buns. India Because the predominant religion in India is Hinduism, beef and pork products are not served in order to cater to religious reservations. The closest menu item to satisfy your craving for a Big Mac is the Maharaja Mac, which is made of two lamb or chicken patties. Other options include a McCurry pan dish or burger, as well as veggie nuggets with masala and chili dipping sauces. Vegetarians should try the McAloo Tikki burger, containing a vegetable-tomato mayo atop a fried potato-and-peas patty.

photo

i ue nK a u by Y

"McDonald's Around the World." The Travel Almanac. 17 Aug 2010. <http://www.thetravelalmanac.com/food/mcdonalds/> "McDonald's International: Top Ten Most Unusual Around the World." AOL Travel. 3 Sept 2010. <http://news.travel.aol. com/2010/09/03/mcdonald-s-international-top-ten-mostunusual-around-the-world/> "McDonald's menu items from around the world." Food Network Humor. 9 July 2009. <http://foodnetworkhumor. com/2009/07/mcdonalds-menu-items-from-around-theworld-40-pics/> McDonald's USA. 2010. <http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/ home.html> "The hotlist: 10 unusual items on McDonald's menus around the world." UK Daily Mail. 23 Jan 2009. <http://www. dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1126655/The-hotlist10-unusual-items-McDonalds-menus-world.html>

Japan Ronald McDonald is known as Donald McDonald in Japan because there is no “r” sound in the Japanese language, as the uniqueness of its name may suggest. Japan has some of the most curious McDonald’s menu items; fried shrimp burgers, shrimp nuggets, salsa burgers and green tea milkshakes. The Korokke Burger is made with a strange combination of mashed potatoes, shrimp, macaroni, cabbage, and gingersoy-mayo sauce. You can order Shake-Shake fries in barbecue, seaweed, or Italian basil flavors—simply dump your fries into a bag, sprinkle seasoning on them, and shake!

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ANTARTICA Sorry, no McDonald’s here…yet. photo by chotda

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Fall 2010


Landmarks,, C Landmarks

the Aestheti

Upon entering Paris’s world-renowned Louvre Museum of Art this summer, my first thought was that it was nice to finally be out of the rain. After drying off a bit, I bought a ticket at one of the fancy automatic kiosks, grabbed a free copy of the floor plan, and headed through the gate to Denon Wing—a random choice, but there it was: art. I usually have a hard time looking at the artwork in art museums; I am much too preoccupied reading the little placards describing their significance. Conscious of this tendency, though, I attempted to resist it. “Appreciate the art,” I told myself. “That’s what you’re here to see.” My way of doing this turned out to be walking up to a random work, looking at it, and thinking: “What can I possibly think about this work of art?” I

would try to invent something from there. Sometimes I would think about how interesting the shadows were, speculate what the sunset in the background could possibly mean, or concoct stories about the figures depicted. With six hours and a little over 650,000 square feet of floor space, you can cook up a lot of stories in the name of “art appreciation”. By the time I left the Louvre I could give you a detailed theory of why the man in the painting in the back corner of Room 13 had a mole on the right side of his nose instead of the left. But as I walked back to my hotel in the ubiquitous Parisian rain, I wondered what I had really taken away from the museum. What had I gained?

“What can I possibly think about this work of art?”

It seems as though travel is often about accumulating checkmarks and collecting ammunition for future bragging, masquerading as exposition. Travelers are just begging for you to ask what they did this summer. They just cannot wait to start rambling through a checklist of famous cities, museums, monuments, gardens, and castles they have visited just to show how their lives are ever-so-much-more exciting than yours. Even during travel you find that meeting other people traveling becomes a competition where your length of stay or number of countries visited is directly proportionate to your individual superiority.

27

For most, the Louvre is a checkmark. From anywhere in the museum there are signs pointing you directly to the Mona Lisa so you can capture that sub-checkmark and book it over to the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees in time for your night train to some other checkmarkworthy destination. For me, a checkmark is not worth very much. I find little, if any, pleasure out of being able to say I have done something. I knew that if I was going to make something meaningful of my time at the Louvre, I needed more than just a checkmark. What more could I learn? As it continued to drizzle on my walk along the river Seine, I could only confirm that I just was not sure. I had some raw data, but did not know what conclusions to draw, or if any were even possible. I put the question in my back pocket and traipsed onward. Next stop: Barcelona.

all photos by Michael McCreary

I fell in love with Barcelona on a visit a couple years ago, so I knew exactly where to stay—right on La Rambla. This street is Barcelona’s main tourist attraction, filled with a whir of shops, cafes, flower vendors, live animals, phony magicians, cartoon artists, funky architecture, crowds of tourists, and best of all, mimes. Sure, there are mimes all over Europe, and even the U.S., for that matter, but I have yet to see a set that can compare to the mimes of La Rambla. For them, miming is more than just begging. It is, undeniably, an art form.


28

Checkmarks,, and Checkmarks

ic Experience

by Michael McCreary

It took me a while to recognize the mimes as pieces of art—it’s not often that artist and artwork are one in the same thing. Once I realized this, I suddenly began comparing my experiences with the mimes to my affair at the Louvre. The main difference I found was that the mimes were more intuitively intriguing to me: I didn’t need to theorize about their birthmarks in order to maintain interest. Instead of having to create a story to become interested, I became curious as to why I was interested— what was the story behind my fascination? I tried to summon the storytelling skills I had honed in the Louvre to answer this question, but this time, I could not come up with anything. After all, what can you really say about an intuitive interest other than it is simply intuitive? Moreover, is an aesthetic experience nothing more than mere intuition? A popular example from philosophy is the “Mary’s Room” thought experiment, proposed by Frank Jackson. In the experiment, Mary is a scientist who specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and knows everything about the science of color. While she is extremely intelligent and an expert in her field, she is forced to examine the world only in a black and white room through a blackand-white television monitor. The principal question is that no matter how much Mary learns about wavelengths, neurons, retinas, and

the like, will she learn something the first time she actually sees a new color? There is something about the experience of a color that can’t be reproduced by any other means. I believe the same is true of an aesthetic experience. You can read about art, mimes, paint, or Da Vinci all you want, but none of this guarantees you a true encounter with the aesthetic. Maybe there is no sufficient answer to the question as to why I enjoyed the mimes so much, but I now know what I learned from this incident. First, it taught me the difference between a checkmark and an aesthetic experience. My time at the Louvre was, in fact, hardly more than a checkmark. There is very little I gained from going to the Louvre that I couldn’t have gained from going to the Louvre’s website. The presence of the mimes on the other hand was irresistibly and uniquely intriguing; even the pictures around the page do not do them justice. I had an experience on La Rambla that is meaningful not because I can brag about it to others, but because I value it for myself.

on the other hand, is often unexpected and creates awe from the very fact that you found something beautiful where you anticipated only the everyday. It is amazing how something as mundane as a street can be transformed by a few devoted characters in costume. Third, it taught me that sometimes it is alright not to have an explanation. Often, as college students—and humans in general— we get so preoccupied with making arguments, presenting reasons, and appealing to logic that we tend to forget that some things are just intellectually out of reach. I spent my time at the Louvre creating stories, reading placards, and using the floor plan as a scavenger hunt map in order to create some reason to stay interested, when the simple fact was that I was not the least bit engaged. Interest is something that is extremely personal and can be cultivated, but it cannot be forced—and oftentimes an aesthetic interest cannot be explained or argued for, only enjoyed.

Second, a meaningful experience can come from anywhere and often comes when you are least expecting it. You go to a landmark or a museum because you expect to see something special, and then the time you spend seeing it is merely filling up a pre-cast mold of how you expected it to be. A true experience,

background photo by tetegil

Fall 2010


Get Me the

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background by -xfi-


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to

k e e r G by Eric Emery

There was white. Everywhere. Houses, streets, steps, and windmills were covered with whitewash, the well-known finish of the Greek islands. Pictures cannot fully convey this majestic, yet austere impression of Greece: the contrast between the deep blue windows and white walls, the brilliant colors of the flowers against the multitude of white houses, and the vast expanse of white houses leading to the endless sea of the azure Aegean. Imagine these sights atop coastal cliffs, surrounding a dormant volcano that violently erupted four thousand years ago. Welcome to Santorini. After a brief recovery period—the ten-hour flight through four countries and seven time zones was exhausting—and some exploration in Athens, my family and I took a boat to the islands of the Cyclades. We arrived in paradise. Also known as Thira or Θήρα in Greek, the island of Santorini may boast the most beautiful scenery in all of Greece. Having rented a relatively reliable car, we drove to our hotel in the community of Oia, located farther up the volcanic island. Hiking up the island’s volcano, tasting some of the city’s acclaimed wine, swimming in natural hot springs, and walking on black beaches and collecting the peculiar sand, we easily occupied our four days there. Our last days in Greece were spent on Crete, practically a country in itself, especially if you ask the Cretans. We drove across the island to visit the enormous palace of Knossos and extensive cliffs of the Samaria Gorge. Unfortunately, it all ended much too quickly. My trip to Greece was unlike any other. The beaches. The food. The culture. It was truly an experience beyond comparison. If you ever have the opportunity, you should visit Greece. You will neither regret nor forget it. I know I never will.

all photos by Eric Emery

Fall 2010


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Fall 2010  

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