FINDING HAPPINESS IN
COPENHAGEN STRANGERS IN ST. PETERSBURG
BRUSSELS, OLD AND NEW COMPLEMENTARY COLORS IN KENYA, ITALY, & INDIA Volume 19 Spring 2014
EDITOR’S NOTE When I first came to Duke, I’d thought that the number of countries I’ve visited outside of the United States was an embarrassingly low number: a measly two, one of which was only across the border, a day trip from my home. I desperately wanted to get out and see the world for myself. I did so vicariously at first through Passport, joining during my second semester freshman year out of a desire to help other students tell their own fascinating stories about their abroad experiences. I was amazed not only by how much they were able to get out of their time abroad by really immersing themselves in the culture, by being empathetic, and perhaps most of all, by being vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage to go abroad, especially to a foreign country where you can barely speak the language. But with the right attitude, you can learn a lot—not only about the country and its culture, but also about yourself. It’s about making connections, trying to fit in an unfamiliar place. Now, over two years later, I’ve studied abroad in two countries. The pages of my passport, though, are still disappointedly blank, but I’d like to think that I’ve grown from those experiences in ways that I never could in the comfort of my own home. I’ve experienced most of the feelings that our writers try to put onto paper—everything from the naiveté experienced by a girl overwhelmed by all the new sights in a foreign country to the frustrations with maps and modern-day technology, even the paralyzing fear in facing the unknown. I admire and applaud our writers for their willingness to share their stories and for their willingness to learn about other cultures. As you read the nineteenth issue of Passport, I hope you will find something in this issue that you can relate to. Some things transcend cultures—things like music and a sense of home, whether it is conveyed through local foods or candles—help us find the various threads that connect us to other people and things all around the world. These experiences will stay with you forever. As always, thanks to our dedicated staff for putting together yet another amazing issue of Passport—especially our graduating seniors: Jennifer, Lauren, and Caitlin!
editor-in-chief Becky Chao chief graphics Roshni Prakash editor senior editors Jennifer Hong Daniel Luker Annie Piotrowski Caitlin Tutterow graphics Ukyoung Chang editors Becky Chao Lauren Jackson Suhani Jalota Rhona Ke Emma Loewe Wendy Lu Elaine Pak editor Brendan Huang writers Becky Chao Allison Donnelly Caroline Herrmann Joy Liu Emma Loewe Daniel Luker Wendi Oppenheim Annie Piotrowski Ishan Thakore Molly Walker
Passport magazine is a member publication authorized by the Undergraduate Publications Board and supported by the International House. The views expressed in this publication are the author’s own and do not reflect the opinions of the magazine.
photo by Ed Schipul @ Flickr
cover photo by Vestman @ Flickr back cover photo by james_gordon_losangeles @ Flickr
CONTENTS Oxford: The City of Dreaming Spires by Molly Walker In the Same World by Daniel Luker Reassessing What Matters: Hygge and Happiness
by Allison Donnelly
3 5 8
City of Duality by Becky Chao
11 13 15 19
Same, Same, but Different by Emma Loewe
Here There Be Maps by Annie Piotrowski
Finding Your Local Comfortâ€”Abroad by Caroline Herrmann The Timeless Sahara by Ishan Thakore A Sketch of Color by Joy Liu
Cone in Hand by Wendi Oppenheim GEOReflects Photo Contest Bands From Around the World Senior Staff
photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo @ Flickr
Oxford, United Kingdom
by Molly Walker
oxfo r d: the city of dreaming spires
n my earlier years, I used to be a creature of habit. I ate the same breakfast every morning, listened to the same songs as I worked out to the same Pilates routine, and dutifully did my laundry every Friday afternoon. I liked predictability and eschewed the notion of spontaneity. I only traveled when it was planned exhaustively beforehand, and even then it was a fairly rare occurrence. Growing up in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, the furthest I had ever traveled was to California in the seventh grade. The five-hour plane ride felt excruciatingly long, and upon my dizzying descent from the airplane, I was astounded by the change of scenery that greeted me as I viewed houses on hills and trolley cars for the first time. If San Francisco seemed like a distant world to me, traveling internationally would have been mind-boggling. I used to live in a world of safety and stability, and back then
I liked my roots to be firmly grounded in familiar soil. Flash-forward to the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and I was sitting alone on an airplane headed for London. Obviously, something about my personality and my travel preferences had morphed entirely. I attribute that change, and a host of other changes, to the way Duke revolutionized my world. My first year at Duke reminds me of an all-you-can-eat-buffet: a myriad of options for anything and everything, and I was that insatiable customer the managers had to kick out for abusing the spread. I could not devour the opportunities fast enough; I dabbled in traditional Chinese dance, committed to learning Italian, and applied to study abroad for six weeks in a foreign country when I didn’t even have a passport yet. Coming from a place where
the world is easily categorized into neat little buckets, Duke was a wake-up call for me. I wanted to not only meet people from all over the world, but also actually explore the world itself. Looking at a place on a map is one thing, but setting foot on a different continent is an entirely separate experience—and one that I yearned to have. And so there I was, boarding an airplane for my first international flight, fantasizing about my future adventures in a place commonly known as “the City of Dreaming Spires,” a nickname given to Oxford by poet Matthew Arnold. Upon stumbling onto a coach bound for the picturesque and scholarly city of Oxford, I finally was able to let the environment around me soak in. Looking out the window of the coach, I spent most of the trip reminding myself that I was no longer in America. I wholeheartedly acknowledge how strange that must sound, especially after having flown over the substantial swath of Atlantic Ocean separating our two continents. While I should have easily accepted the notion and moved on, my disoriented brain couldn’t easily come to terms with the realization. Twenty years spent in the same bedroom of the same home on the same street makes every new place seem all the more exciting. I noticed and commented upon every minute detail, much to the groaning of some of my more experienced companions who took international travel as a given. The admission that there are worlds beyond my own was a reflection of my previous naiveté, but also a testament to what this experience abroad would do for my outlook on life. When I arrived in Oxford, the chaos of it all made me feel like I had two left feet—
despite my fourteen years of dance training and perceived gracefulness. However, I am proof that one can learn to tango regardless of the awkwardness of your limbs. I effectively became a human sponge for the rest of the trip, continuously letting new experiences seep into my pores and redefine my concept of what it means to be a citizen of this world. When I left Oxford, I felt elastic—as if I were straddling two worlds and had a connection to both. I developed a unique appreciation for every place that I visited, but also simultaneously for the place I hailed from. The world seemed so small, yet so vast.
I may have been across an ocean, and I may have been drinking English tea instead of my usual blasé water, but the world didn’t seem so gigantic after all. I left a piece of myself behind on every Oxford cobblestone I stumbled over. I filled another void in my heart with every conversation held in Blackwell’s Bookshop with the cafe barista over traditional English currant scones. Certain flowers I ogled over in the New College gardens reminded me of the sweet scents of blossoms in my own backyard, and the lush countryside of Avebury harkened back to the fields that dot the roads leading to my old high school. I may have been across an ocean, and I may have been drinking English tea instead of my usual blasé water, but the world didn’t seem so gigantic after all. We are all flesh and blood, and we all are united in our purpose to find ourselves and treasure the beauty of the lives we lead. Diversity abounds, yes, but so does a centrality of universal emotion and desire. I suppose this is what all photos by author
humanity truly is; the common feelings and experiences that unite the human race, despite all other social and geographical differences. I sometimes used to think of iconic cities as simply monuments that exist in some sort of fantasy vacuum. The truth I discovered was much different: despite the legends and lore of the most fabulous places on Earth, real people inhabit those places with feelings and dreams much like my own. Oxford was a place of historic architecture and renowned scholars, but also a city where people pruned their bushes, drove their cars, and ate dinner each night with their families. Studying abroad is not merely about taking an academic journey, although I did learn more than I ever could have imagined. My brain became like chewing gum, stretching and reshaping itself while still maintaining my personal flavor. Juicy Fruit has nothing on me.
admission, I came away from Oxford with a deep appreciation for the universality of kindness and the beauty of the unknown.Too often as Duke students, we desire certainty and affirmation of a well-followed path beyond what may be considered healthy, and I am no stranger to those feelings. Oxford challenged those cravings for steadiness and control, and while I still revert every now and then, I have learned to indulge in the present moment. Standing in front of Big Ben in London, or hovering by the water’s edge at the Roman Baths—each experience was one that I remember and can savor, because I actually took the time to do so. I’m still learning how to grant myself permission to relish the little moments now that I’m back home, but Oxford gave me a template that I will hold on to for a lifetime.
As I reflect, I come to the conclusion that Oxford was a time of self-exploration and self-reliance, and it affirmed my independence and willingness to step into another culture’s shoes—or in this case, “trainers.” By the end of the six-week period, I no longer felt like a tourist or a student; I was simply another piece of the gigantic jigsaw puzzle that is this world. Someday, I will use this experience in my journey to be an honorable and effective public servant, cognizant of the world around her while also pursuing domestic goals. In the meantime, I will continue to question my perceptions of the world as I view it now, knowing that my perspective is still largely incomplete and mangled. Despite that the city of dreaming spires
St. Petersburg, Russia
In The Same World by Daniel Luker
s the plane descended, the view from the windows remained cloudy. It was a hazy, misty morning, and the world lying 3,000 feet below our small propeller aircraft could only be imagined. The flight attendant told us to take our seats and put our seat belts on, or so I supposed— in my broken Russian I only understood “welcome,” and the translation was given in Finnish. Only when the plane began to rattle and shake rhythmically as we banked to align with the runway did the windows reveal the world below. After descending a small staircase off the forty passenger aircraft, we climbed onto a bus that drove us to a terminal, and only then did I begin to have doubts. I was completely alone, in a country so far away from home that its existence to me had seemed mythical until only minutes ago. I realized then that I only had my backpack for company.
In the dark and damp terminal, I filled out the immigration forms and approached the immigration officer, practicing the response I would give, hoping that I wouldn’t have to. The lady in the booth stared at me, a neutral look on her face, and time seemed to stretch. After what seemed a long time, she finally stamped my passport, and said something that I
place as I read descriptions of its beautiful countryside and cities in preparation for my trip. Just a year back, I would have never pictured myself in Russia.
completely didn’t understand, but I really didn’t care. I walked away as fast as I could without raising suspicion. I had nothing to fear, but I was afraid that she would change her mind, that my photograph wouldn’t quite match, or that something was wrong with the visa. I was finally in this country that had seemed more of a concept than a
As I proceeded to the arrivals hall at the Pulkovo airport, my uncertainty was far from over. I did not know where to go, or what to do. Finally, a sunglass-clad man walked into the terminal holding a placard with my name written on it in both Cyrillic and Latin. Because of all the action and suspense films I’ve watched that portrayed Russians as harsh people, I'd initially thought that Russian people were cold, that they were to be feared. I thought of ignoring the sign, and walking out on my own. However, I ignored my suspicions and approached the man. With a quiet nod, he picked up my suitcase, and motioned me to follow him. We walked out, and climbed into a small, run-down van. The drive was long, and I was completely disoriented. My only
all photos by author unless otherwise specified
I was finally in this country that had seemed more of a concept than a place as I read descriptions of its beautiful countryside and cities in preparation for my trip.
What suprised me wasn’t the beauty of the streets or the majestic buildings; it was the nature of the people. thought as we swerved through traffic was wishing that the van had air conditioning. My jet-lagged brain was begging for sleep, but I was captured by the foreign nature of my surroundings. While I wasn’t a global nomad, I had travelled to several countries before, and I expected Russia to be like one of them. But everything was unique in its own little way. My eyes were soaking all the buildings, the monuments and the signs proudly announcing fruits or drug stores, until my concentration was broken by a deep voice from the driver’s seat. “Today…godovshchina Saint Peterburg… many cars…long time.” The drive took more than two hours. At first, we rode in complete silence, but as we were bogged down in heavy traffic, the tension began to soften. At first, the driver tried to speak in English to me, but after some experimentation, we ended up speaking in
photo on facing page by Victorgrigas @ Wikimedia Commons
Russian. He talked to me about his job, and I tried to inquire about interesting places to go in town, but my basic Russian could only ask him about what he liked and the weather. His smile widened when he talked about the city. He was proud to be from St. Petersburg, and talked about its culture, and almost seemed to congratulate me on choosing it over Moscow. He asked about my hometown, and I described to him Mexico City, and we found out we shared opinions about many things, like the dread of traffic. Eventually, we reached our destination: a tall building, painted in gray, with no signs that there was anything waiting for me. I walked into a small lobby with a few couches, and walked up to a counter. For some reason, I expected a harsh voice and a stern gaze. However, a friendly face looked up to me, and I was given more documents and a set of keys. The friendly woman at the counter showed me to an elevator, and explained to me in the simplest Russian she could muster that
my apartment was on the tenth floor and there was food in the refrigerator. I was beginning to feel more comfortable, and despite the lure of a meal, my desire to sleep was more powerful. Eventually, I was woken by a knock on the door. I opened it to see the familiar face of our program director, welcoming me to Russia, and dissipating my doubts about whether I was in the right place. Looking out the window to the sunlit street below, I decided to go out and explore. What surprised me wasn’t the beauty of the streets or the majestic buildings; it was the nature of the people. The sidewalks were dotted with fruit and flower stalls. After a short metro ride, I emerged from the deep subway to a sunny street in downtown St. Petersburg. The skies had cleared, and with them my uncertainty and nervousness. I walked down the street, following Nevsky Prospect to the Neva, next to the famed Hermitage. People bustled in and out of
in the same world
the museum, tour buses lined up the street next to the main square, and one or two small boats were leisurely floating in the canal. I walked next to the river, soaking in the sun, and feeling at peace. It was then I came across a clock tower, which to my surprise, revealed the time was almost eleven. Thus went my first day in Russia. One day, a friend and I decided to go to a large flea market located in the northern suburbs of St. Petersburg. Arriving there after a long subway ride, we emerged to a view completely unlike that of the downtown popular districts in town. Just outside the station, the enormous market started. On the edge of the market, people sold salted fish and old clothing. Further down, the variety of things sold increased. At one point, we reached a stand that sold relics from the Second World War. There were old uniforms, unused bullets and grenades, and even a piece of broken artillery. The most popular stands, however, were those that sold relics from the Soviet era: posters, books, flags, postage stamps, and pins. It’s popular amongst the older population to collect pins commemorating important events, such as the Olympic games, space launches, and important figures of the communist party. In one such stand, my friend and I were discussing how to ask the vendor for a specific pin, when, having understood us, he introduced himself in Spanish, and began to talk about his trips to Mexico. He spared no detail about his exploits as a sailor in the Soviet era, especially his encounters in ports with what he described 7
as “beautiful women.” We asked him about the popularity of the memento stands, to which he responded simply, “People miss the old times. Everything seems so uncertain today, and people want to remember how it used to be in the Soviet times.” Over the course of the six weeks that I spent in Russia, the fog that had enveloped my mind about this country and its people slowly started to lift, and I was most surprised to see that Russia is just like any other country. It should have been obvious, but cultural bias and lack of knowledge prevented me to see. I expected a place where I would feel out of place, where people wouldn’t speak to me, and everything would be unusual. There are beautiful things to see and do, but the
people are what make a country. Russians are people who love their country. But they also want to learn about where other people live, and why others love their countries. They like to talk to you in a meaningful way, and in every small conversation I had, whether it was with a driver or a street vendor, I learned about that individual’s opinions. I expected to experience prejudice, having arrived from the United States, but was embarrassed to be the one carrying the prejudices and stereotypes. We look at everyone through our own lens when in truth, most people are good and curious to learn about strangers. In the end, we are all neighbors, living on the same planet.
top right photo by Rosephotos @ Flickr bottom photo by Lassi Kurkijärvi @ Flickr
Reassessing What Matters: Hygge and Happiness
by Allison Donnelly
“I would not for a king’s existence trade this plain and cheerful, active life on earth...” -NFS Grundtvig
orget the Viking helmets. Hamlet. Bikes. The Little Mermaid. Even pastries. When I think of Danish culture, I will always and forevermore think of with candles. Candles symbolize the Danish ideal of hygge, loosely translated to “cozy,” “comfortable,” and “welcoming” in English. As a cultural value, it’s much more subtle than things like biking—if I hadn’t been told to look for it by a guidebook, I might have missed it. We have nice family dinners and candles in the States, after all, but the small difference in priority stuck with me. As I experienced hygge over the semester, I started asking if my priorities were in the same place—and whether or not I was happy with them. Sometimes all it takes is a small shift in perspective to realize all the things one does have in life.
reassessing what matters
Denmark had topped Forbes’ lists of the world’s happiest countries for several years in a row, and I was interested in knowing why. What about Danish lifestyles made them so content?
It’s my first day in Denmark. I’m sitting in the dining room, in the seat closest to the warmth of the wood-burning stove. My host family has prepared a welcome dinner that is completed by a traditional Danish Christmas dessert, risalamande, rice porridge made with almonds and cream and topped with cherry sauce. At Christmas, a whole almond is hidden in the porridge and whoever finds it gets a special present. It’s delicious—the first of many Danish foods that I will decide I love—and we chat. As we talk, I notice the hyacinth bulb (which I first mistook for an onion) in a pot on the other side of the table, watched over by the welcoming light from two simple purple candles. At the beginning, hygge was not much on my radar; I was off exploring other things. I dived into Danish culture from day one— practicing using tak and undskyld (“thank you” and “excuse me”) on the plane from the States, trying to order a sandwich in Danish on the first day of class, dragging friends to the Nationalmuseet (National Museum) the next day. When I couldn’t find others to join me, I’d make a trip to Roskilde by myself or get to know Copenhagen and my home in Lyngby by going on “Allison walks”—pick a street, walk for a while, locate on map, pick another street, repeat. But my favorite times of the day were still the moments I spent with my host family. I’d been a part of the family since winter break when they sent me their Christmas card letter, and my time with them—chatting, watching movies together, meeting my host sister Mia’s scout troop or going to my host brother Andreas’ dance competitions, laughing when we realized the only Danish food I didn’t like was salted licorice—were the highlights of my semester there. The most important things I learned about Denmark, I learned from them. Especially hygge.
I’m holding a thin white taper in my hands as we process into the darkened church interior. My host father, Hans Christian, is next to me. I’d asked if I could join him for Kyndelmisse, the candlelit service celebrating midwinter forty days after Christmas, at the local Folkekirke congregation in Lyngby. I’m the youngest person by about twenty years, and clearly the only one who doesn’t speak Danish. But the service in the small, cozy church is beautiful. Every once in a while Hans Christian will lean over and whisper to me what the readings are about. There are several old Danish winter hymns with the words projected on to the wall, and I sing along quietly, happy to be participating in something I love even if my pronunciation isn’t quite right. After the service we all go into another room and are served thin pancakes that we spread with strawberry jam and sprinkle with sugar. We sit around wooden tables decorated with small tea lights and I listen to the warm chatter of the community.
pottery serving dishes. Potatoes or mixes of root vegetables are common side dishes, and one of the first food words I ask how to say in Danish is “kartoffel,” potato. Before long, Andreas has taught me how to say, “will you pass me the potatoes” (vil du række mig kartoflerne) and won’t pass me anything unless I ask for it in Danish. I’m game. The most important phrase, though, is still “tak for mad,” or “thank you for the food.” After I thank the person responsible for dinner, I help clear the table, trading off dishes duty with Andreas. Perhaps later we’ll all watch a movie while the candles burn in the family room.
This could be a scene from any week here. The five of us in my family are seated around the table; my host mother Anette has lit the candles—which I now know are handmade by her brother and sister-inlaw—and the food is set out in the white
Meanwhile, I had embarked on a miniresearch project. Denmark had topped Forbes’ lists of the world’s happiest countries for several years in a row, and I was interested in knowing why. What about Danish lifestyles made them so content? I collected information about the Danes and their views on things like social responsibility from museums, classwork, and conversations in a little green notebook. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I had evidence confirming the outcome of Forbes’ studies. In response, I distilled everything I had gathered into a three-page essay. I listed five things I had seen from my interactions with people here: the role of the welfare state, social equality, promotion of the individual, trust—and hygge. “This might be the
cover photo by ElTico68 all other photos by author
Hygge became the thing I identified most with Danish culture. I associated it with the relationships I’d made with my host family and their friends; with the comfort of Danish food; with the language, as the word itself doesn’t exist in English but is common in Danish; and with my daily life. Hygge is not an idea; it is concrete, something I participated in—or, rather, something that drew me in.
best factor to point to in answering how the Danes are so content—enjoying the company of friends and family is one of the national ideals,” I wrote to him. The extra leaves have been put in the table, the pot has been filled with blooming flowers, the tapers have been replaced with new candles, the plates and cutlery have been arranged, and the iPad displays a montage of recent photos. We have guests. I’m always excited to celebrate the full extent of Danish hospitality, but I know the evenings will usually be spent in Danish. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to not be able to join into the conversation, and instead I busy myself with food, or else contemplate the dancing candle flame. But I have to remind myself to listen, and I pick my head up, make eye contact, and participate. It’s amazing how much I understand when I pay attention, from the few snatches of Danish I’ve picked up and simply from watching body language. I’m learning to be a much better listener from the Danish dinnertime conversations. Delving into the question “are the Danes really that happy?” was interesting for another reason too—but one I didn’t want to admit. If I asked myself whether I was happy, the answer was simple. I wasn’t. I had been miserable my previous semester in the U.S., and as therapy I distracted myself with work. One of the ways I tried to stay positive was the thought of spending the next semester in Denmark. But in the back of my head I knew that once I returned to the U.S., I would probably be faced with the same stressful situations that had hounded me before. I knew I needed a better perspective and strategies to let myself be at peace. Enter the candles. “There’s a sense of staying awhile with the candles and the lights lower,” I wrote in my journal. “You can’t eat and run—there’s an invitation to slow down and enjoy time here with
others.” There was a simple message to my fast-paced, hectic life: slow down, and strengthen relationships. Slow down, and appreciate the details that make life rich. Slow down, and learn to be content—to be happy.
“You can’t eat and run— there’s an invitation to slow down and enjoy time here with others.” There was a simple message to my fastpaced, hectic life: slow down, and strengthen relationships. Slow down, and appreciate the details that make life rich. Slow down, and learn to be content—to be happy.
Another church, downtown Copenhagen. I hold a similar white taper as the few hundred of us process from the courtyard in front of the Danish Design Museum to Sankt Ansgars Domkirke—the cathedral for Denmark’s small population of Catholics. It’s Påskenatsvigilien, the Easter Vigil—my favorite mass of the entire year—and I have decided to sit through the three-and-a-half hour service in Danish. 6,900 kilometers away but at the exact same time, my friends at Duke University are celebrating the exact same service. As the readings and psalms continue through the night, I reflect on
where I had been a year ago at that mass at Duke and where I am now. But I am jolted from my reverie during the seventh reading, in the part of the service where the church is still lit by the candles each of us are holding, by a word I recognize. The Danish translation of the Ezekiel reading had used the word “hygge.” I am pretty sure the word wasn’t in the original—but it fits anyway. There are several details of Denmark that I hope I remember when I go back to the U.S.: the taste of my host mother’s home-baked rolls, the sound of Vor Frue Kirke’s bells as I walked down Nørregade if I took the early bus in the morning, the words to Burhan G’s song “Jeg’ I Live,” and, of course, hygge. I don’t know exactly what form hygge—or what it has taught me—will take in my daily life when I get back home. At bare minimum, I hope the handmade candles and simple Danish design candlesticks that will accompany me home will be enough to remind me of what I have here. To me, Denmark isn’t a place to visit or a home base. It’s home. Home is where I find everything I need— people who care about me, comfort food, a healthy amount of awkwardness and jokes, and a world outside the door that I can explore. But most importantly, it’s a place where I know I will always be welcomed back with all the coziness and warmth offered by the simplest gift of a candle.
reassessing what matters
Finding Your Local Comfort —Abroad I
spent my Fall 2013 semester abroad studying in Budapest, Hungary. Although the city itself is not a typical destination among most American students who study abroad, it was an obvious one for me. Not only was I able to take on an entire course load of study entirely related to my interests in the field of cognitive science, but I was also able to live in the country where my grandmother was born and raised, and where a branch of my family still lives. While the academic curriculum and personal ties helped to provide me with a degree of familiarity, there were still many aspects of the overall experience that I could not have anticipated. The Hungarian language, for starters, is not for the faint of heart. With only a bare minimum of vocabulary and grammar structures bearing relationships to Indo-European languages, the linguistic assimilation to
My hallmates Náno, Kata & Kata’s boyfriend Gábor
by Caroline Herrmann
the local culture comes with its own steep learning curve. Of course, I considered myself coming into the semester as having a bit of an advantage, given my exposure to Hungary through my relatives. However, a basic knowledge of greetings and numbers can only get you so far. As I would jokingly concede to my bilingual HungarianEnglish friends at the beginning of my stay, I could both start and end a conversation, but contribute nothing in between. It is precisely those people–the Hungarian students I met while both living and studying at my college dormitory–who truly defined my experience abroad. As much as I enjoyed the company of my fellow Americans in the program (officially known as the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science), there was nothing more exciting or fascinating to me than getting to know the local students personally and submersing myself into their general lifestyle. Beyond what any brochure guide can express about studying abroad, it is by meeting and making meaningful relationships with the individuals around you that will ultimately help you to reap the most out of the experience. While the adage of “get to know the locals” may come across as cliché –depicting the new foreign Facebook friends you picked up as tokens of the experience–what they really help to provide is the foundation tying you to your time in your foreign city. Of course, the American classmates I befriended during my stay were invaluable to me, too. With them, I took a weeklong
running into a former Duke grad student, completely by coincidence
trip to the United Kingdom and spent December break in Greece and Spain, while hightailing it on weekends to Rome and Vienna—experiences that truly were unforgettable. What I appreciated most about these events in particular was that they were inherently linked to my personal conception of studying abroad. Through conversations with older students and watching movies like American Pie, my bucket list of expectations for my semester had grown to encompass whirlwind weekend trips and (casually) jet-setting across the European continent. Luckily, I shared these aspirations with my American peers and was able to put them to action in their company. It was the local students, however, who truly helped deepen my connection with my surroundings. I learned the basics of traditional Hungarian folk dancing with Eszter, a local student studying physics, and her boyfriend Feri when a local dance instructor visited the dorm. My two left feet could barely manage to keep up with their perfectly timed moves that flowed with artistic finesse, though that didn’t
really matter. I was truly so happy to be a part of that spinning circle–linked with everyone else and moving in tandem (or at least attempting to). I went bar-hopping with Náno, a student studying French and English who lived in the room directly next to mine. While sipping each locale’s respective twist on the mojito, she shared the dorm gossip that flew under the Americans’ radar when translation failed to reach us. I attended the college’s fall ball through an invite from Évi, a girl who lived down my hall and with whom I took nightly German classes. There was Eszter from the third floor (not to be confused with ‘dancing Eszter’) who tipped me off on the dorm’s recreational volleyball playing on Mondays, otherwise known as Röplabda az Ecben játszani hétfőn. Thursday nights were spent in the Estike, a common space located in the dorm’s underground that served as a student-run nightclub. There, the visiting American students intermingled, danced and (most importantly, at least by European standards) drank with their Hungarian neighbors–meeting extended friends and local college alumni in the process.
One important memory that I will always keep with me, however, is the semisecretive surprise party that roommates Kata, Ella, and Náno hosted for me on one of my last nights in Budapest. (Ella slightly spilled the beans ahead of time by asking me what my favorite drink was.) Joined by each of their respective boyfriends, we toasted to the past few months over mojitos while sharing jokes that nearly worked in one another's languages. Overall, the time that I spent abroad was simply incredible. One portion was due to the fact that I was able to function as a relatively autonomous being in a foreign country and achieve my own preconceived expectations of studying abroad. More importantly, however, I consider this time to have been a success as I was able to treat it as an extension of my life stateside, rather than as an entirely separate experience. In Budapest, I took classes and went to school functions. I picked up new skills (such as folk dancing) while playing sports, enjoying nightlife, and ultimately taking the time to socialize with the students around me. This relative sense of 'normalcy'–being me in a place I had never been, and with the feeling of local comfort in the company of new faces–is perhaps the most rewarding aspect I gained from the entire experience.
Collegium all photos by author
finding your local comfort
Sahara by Ishan Thakore
“Time’s usually a precious resource; only so much is free after it’s spent on schoolwork and other obligations. But desert time seemed endless.”
here are no boundaries, no solid lines once the sands begin. The rocky terrain and gray rocks that marked our entrance into the Sahara faded to silky grains, easily filtering through our hands. Once the sands begin, the vista is the same for miles. In this part of the desert, there are no dunes to fall in or hike up. The ground is flat but constantly shifting—each step displacing millions of particles. It is serene, but not quiet. The wind whistles, the camels groan, the tents shudder. It is colder than one might expect, with no trace of the warm sun that illuminates the desert for most of the day. This is a timeless place, where afternoon stretches to evening just like it has forever. So it was a bit ironic that for me, this stretch of desert defined time.
ever-bustling Marrakech. Our last big excursion was to into the desert at Zagora, an eight hour car-ride past Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains. On the night we got there, my twin brother and I would turn twenty-one. Being in the desert marked the end of three months abroad and the beginning of adulthood— or at least legal alcohol consumption. I was more cognizant of time than I’d ever been, because it was quickly ticking away.
As a capstone to my semester abroad in Morocco, my family flew from New Jersey to spend one week traveling the country with me as a psuedoguide. My barebones Arabic had served me well in Rabat, my hometown and the capital, and so far got us through touristy Tangier and the
The night before our journey, we prepared ourselves for an exhausting day of travel. We’d arrived in Marrakech the day before and had just enough time to soak in its energy. The most frequented tourist destination in Morocco, the city offers royal palaces, stretches of souks (markets) and even hipster vegan cafes (the Earth Cafe, while pricier than most places, was particularly satisfying). The most famous spot in the city, the Djemaa El-Fna square, overwhelms the senses. Zealous promoters cajole you to patronize their dining stalls, which overtake the middle of the square by night. Vendor carts are piled high with nuts and dried
fruit, surrounding sellers in a sea of earth tones and the muted orange of dried apricots. Storytellers field large crowds enthralled by tales in rapid-fire Arabic. Monkeys and pythons sit close to their owners, awaiting commands to perform for those willing to pay. Photographers must be subtle—if they catch you taking pictures, you will most certainly have to pay. Shopkeepers shout deals, enticing you to enter and tempting you to bargain. After a day exploring the city’s historical roots and handcrafted architecture, my family and I piled back into our riad (bed and breakfast type hotel), gifts and trinkets in tow. The next morning, our driver would come promptly at eight to ferry us to the desert, and drive us back two days later. His name was Rachid, and his boyish face and wide smile greeted us warmly. His accented English was his fifth language—Arabic, Darija (Morrocan Arabic), French, and Italian came first— but it was still excellent. His whole family was from the desert but from Merzouga, about six hours from the imperial city of Fez and a very popular tourist spot. I had been to Merzouga three months earlier as part of my study abroad program, and it was stunning. Perfectly shaped bottom photo by Lionel Arnould @ Flickr left photo by Luca Nebuloni @ Flickr
dunes flowed upwards and then abruptly dropped. The sand was soft and smooth, nothing like the coarse grains at some of my childhood Jersey Shore destinations. The quickly dipping sun left just enough light for the camel ride back to our tents. Rachid’s family offered similar camel tours to customers. Rachid drove us through the High Atlas Mountains, deftly navigating curving roads in our bulky Toyota. The weather, chilly in the morning and hot by the time we started our ascent, was fickle. By noon it was snowing with blizzard like conditions. We slowed to navigate around stranded trucks waiting for a respite, and accelerated to free our tires from the slippery accumulation beneath us. We passed the highest point in the mountains, powdered with snow, and then started to descend. An hour after winter ambushed us, the sun was shining and the storm long gone. Rachid signaled to incoming drivers, warning them that the clear skies and open roads wouldn’t last. He cruised through the next four hours, stopping only for our benefit. He took us through Aït Benhaddou, a historic fortified city crafted in clay, sand and stone. Its harsh and flat terrain made it vulnerable to winds, which violently thrashed around us. The fort had more recently served as a Game of Thrones set. After a quick tour and a filling couscous lunch, we were back on the road and soon reached the desert—or something like it. Expecting towering dunes like those in Merzouga and in most Sahara paintings, I was underwhelmed by Zagora’s rock and gravel (at first). But still, we were in the Sahara and I wasn’t really complaining. Our camels were waiting for us, and another guide saddled us in between their curving necks and very uncomfortable humps. The scene around us was a fading vista of orange-hued mountains, slowly silhouetted by the sinking sun. Once it background photo by Dave Young @ Flickr
kissed the horizon, night began to creep from the edges. Our caravan bumpily trudged up a rocky hill to its crest, and we could finally see our tents resting beneath us. It was an oasis of white polyurethane canvases in an otherwise inhospitable environment. At the top of the hill, the rocks melted to sands and the descent was smooth. We parked our camels on the edge of the campsite and walked towards the tents. They were tents in name only—electricity, carpeted floors and comfortable beds
“The wind whistles, the camels groan, the tents shudder. This is a timeless place, where afternoon stretches to evening just like it has forever. So it was a bit ironic that, for me, this stretch of the desert in Zagora defined time.” were standard fare. A bathroom tent had running water, showers and flushing toilets. But their walls couldn’t keep out the cold. The desert sucked the warmth from Marrakech and guarded it close, unwilling to release it until morning. Shivering, we made our way to the dining tent, and our spirits were buoyed by the company and the hearty meal. Two young Dutch boys raced past us, wrestling on the Moroccan couches. A couple from New York huddled in the corner, excited to take a break from their advertising jobs. And a group of Brazilians, in town because of the FIFA Club World Cup, boisterously arrived. A traditional Moroccan Gnaoua band came in, plucking guitar-like instruments and
beating drums. Our desert guides shared a meal with us as their long woolen djelabas kept them warm. The party moved to the fire pit after dinner, and our guides sang songs, rhythmically incorporating our names into their melodies. The Brazilians cracked a bottle of wine, and drunkenly serenaded everyone. The fire made their shadows dance. The stars aligned into constellations, with no clouds or pollution to obscure them. And then, rising over a sand hill, came the moon. I’ve never seen a moonrise before, and this one was as dramatic as they come. It moved fast to illuminate us, tracing a clear line across the sky until it reached its zenith. Its eerie glow cracked open the night. And soon, just as every day before this one, midnight came and went. Lying in bed as a vividly-sober but newly-minted twenty-one-year-old, I was bittersweet. In two days I’d be heading home to trade desert landscapes for cookie-cutter homes, and fluffy couscous for the stale, grocery-store variety. Winding medina lanes would be replaced by perfectly gridded suburban streets. My homestay family would be boiled down to anecdotes and memorable quotes. My friends from my study abroad program would no longer be in the room next door or with the family across the street. Vivid memories would soon become blurry, and then only seldom recollected. While I had a whole new year in front of me, for new memories and new adventures, time in Morocco was running out. Time’s usually a precious resource; only so much is free after it’s spent on schoolwork and other obligations. But in the desert, things were different. Time ticked away leisurely, allowing visitors enough time to savor and enjoy each moment. Desert time seemed endless.
the timeless sahara
A Sketch of Color
by Joy Liu
othing that looks white is ever purely white,” she pronounced, pulling out my fingerprint-covered, mashed tube of titanium white. “Don’t ever put this onto the canvas by itself.” My teacher’s fingers traced over the sturdy white columns in the photograph I was using as a reference. I looked at it again. It looked like the whitewashed picket fence that only Tom Sawyer’s tactics could paint.
green into brown. Sometimes it was done on the palette, other times it was overlaid straight onto canvas. Even as the other colors dwindled in size, the white was rarely touched.
Taking my place in front of the canvas, she started working. Digging through my paint collection, she pulled out a few tubes I had never used before. They plopped onto my palette—muted, muddy shades that ruined the dots of rainbow I had worked so hard to arrange. She picked up the brush and it moved in quick, assured strokes as she explained how different sections of the columns had washes of deep purple or a hint of peach. One color swirled into another as she mixed lilac into sienna,
“You just have to find the colors. Everything else—mood, tone—will all fall into place.” The first color I found was gold. It leapt at me through half-closed eyelids and a crookedly opened Delta window shade. Flattened hills lined with strips of grape vines, peppered with countryside villas. It looked like an image straight from Under the Tuscan Sun except that someone had taken the film stills and washed them with a layer of gold watercolor. Gold—not the
I followed Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini throughout his city, a retracing that culminated with Saint Teresa in Ecstasy. The work I had studied years ago in a textbook seemed so much smaller than its conception in my head, but it included a dimension the photographs didn’t and couldn’t capture: depth. Raised on an altar, an angel looking over the swooning figure of Saint Teresa stared down at me. A backdrop of gilded
all photos by author
When she finished her demonstration, she stepped away from Grecian columns left on the canvas. They were white, but I knew they were not, not really. My eyes widened.
sparkly, metallic one girls patted all over their eyelids for a night out, but the warm radiance the Madonna exuded in all of the high Renaissance paintings. Driving into Rome, I saw gold coating the walls of square, stacked houses with crisp white laundry billowing from the windows, their formation rising and falling with each hill and dip. When the walls weren’t golden, I spotted it elsewhere—thick window frames, small flower pots, flat roof tiles.
rays illuminated the angel’s peculiarly half-upturned, half-scrunched smile and defined the face by dark and light, shapes instead of lines. The gold followed me on a Sunday afternoon in the Villa Borghese Park. There was no match for living a modern-day version of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I found a spot on the blanketed grass, fell asleep to the image of swaying branches against unclouded blue sky, and woke up to the prickling sensation of tree litter poking through my equally sky blue blouse. Walking the path took me through the lulling hum of laughter mixed with chatter that Seurat must have heard behind his canvas. It left me with the gold of a uniformed policeman’s belt buckle as the man lifted up a small boy to pet a chestnut horse bearing the same badge.
sandals, without purpose or direction but with acceptance as an anonymous part of the city’s constant motion. In view of the National Monument of Vittorio Emmanuel II, also dubbed “The Birthday Cake” by my T.A. for its garishness and “The Compass” by me for its useful conspicuousness, I was never afraid. The last time I saw the Vittorio Emmanuel, it was sunset. It was white, but I knew that it was not, not really. The light had painted streaks of magenta and navy across it. Of course, the entire sight was awash i n a thin but ever present layer of gold.
All of a sudden, a black-and-white picture changed into a colored one. It took my eyes time to adjust, but when I did, I found the color.
Fittingly, I found it in the Vatican too. The crevice underneath St. Peter’s Basilica where the bones of its namesake had been found was illuminated by a shielded light that cast dancing gray shadows everywhere. The only exception was the tiny spot in the cracks of the wall where the bones were first discovered. Instead of recessing into shadow, that part was goldenrod. Light defined by dark.
Everything was cast in a dull gray. During the slow traffic crawls, I looked out to roaming throngs of black and white suits. There was the occasional gray dress, but it matched the hue of the wet pavement, overcast clouds, and uniform buildings. The air smelled of burnt rubber from smoldering trash piles. Trails of smoke vanished into the dampness of rain droplets pressing down and waiting to be released. Even on the rare occasion when it was sunny, I could never see the sun. It was an ever-moving city that always seemed to crawl under a thick smear of oil.
I knew that Rome would treat me well. The thing about a warm goldenrod is that there is no hint of darkness in it. In the hours after the rest of my class dispersed in groups, I walked the streets alone—miles and miles of uneven cobblestone—in flimsy
My professor said that Nairobi is nothing like the rest of the country. At least in color, I know this is true. Jetlagged and disheveled, my fellow students and I were packed in for our ride out of the city. With every mile, the grayness became more saturated until
the clouds broke over the Rift Valley, and a black-and-white picture suddenly changed into a colored one. It took my eyes time to adjust, but when I did, I found the color. It was, of all places, in the dirt—dirt seen only beyond the reach of paved roads. The land wasn’t that brown, grey chalky material I had walked on every day. It was red, the kind of red I had seen carried in by the waves that encircled my toes as the sun dropped behind the Pacific. My fingers itched for tubes of ochers, burnt umber, a dab of crimson and orange, and sienna. The thing about catching a color is that it never really stands alone. It is also defined by those around it. I would never really be
a sketch of color
able to capture the red unless I also saw the complementary green of the trees and bushes rising from it. It was a land that served as the perfect counterpart to the life it supported. And was it alive. Where Nairobi had been weighed down by movement, here everything was made light by it. A young boy supporting a pink and white chevronweaved tote bag atop his head stood on the side of the road, one hand propped against the bag while the other clutched a stick of sugarcane. He chewed, paused, stared. I spotted him before he spotted me. But as the car sped past, I saw his face turn towards mine. In the instant before he vanished from my windowpane, I saw the white of his teeth flashed in a smile of recognition. Later, against a foreground, middle ground, and background of rolling hills, I saw distant figures of girls with neon pink uniform tops playing soccer. In a flash, they vanished too.
to read. Before long, we were taking turns reading out loud, huddled together over a book I had first read a decade ago when English syllables still sounded foreign. Our voices lured another young boy, who cautiously peeked in before joining us— three figures in a dirt red classroom. Three times a week, he found me after school just before the sun set. Perched on top of a few flat rocks overlooking a sliver of Lake Victoria, we took turns reading about a boy named Mzee Mmoja and his travels from a rural village to Nairobi. Elderly women balancing yellow buckets of water passed by in their daily routine. Some smiled, others laughed at the sight of us.
My second visit a year later etched into my mind the imprint of a young boy’s back, his dull white and olive green uniform contrasting with the brilliance of reds, greens, and yellows that color the landscape of a Lake Victorian dusk.
It was the children who most believed in movement, that an image was never truly static. One weekend afternoon, my aimless wanderings found me tagging along behind an eighth-grader to his empty, silent classroom. Spotting a copy of Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town, I sat down on one of the narrow wooden benches and flipped through the pages. He took a seat next to me, pointed to the text, and whispered a request for me
Once a dark is mixed into the color, no amount of other paint will remove its effect. Gradually, I saw the darker, earthy undertones in the red. My second visit a year later etched into my mind the imprint
of a young boy’s back, his dull white and olive green uniform contrasting with the brilliance of reds, greens, and yellows that color the landscape of a Lake Victorian dusk. He looked very small, and I so far away. I first settled on the charred brown because I was too tired to look for anything else. As far as the eye could see, uneven and turned earth cracked open. Against this background, it was the women who were most noticeable—dressed in saris of all different shades of neon, the fabrics lined with detailing, sequins, and patterns that weaved, zigzagged, and framed. In a crowded open market looking for a sari of my own, I ducked into a small shop lined with piles of fabrics of nearly every bright color imaginable. One after another, they were plucked from their shelves, lowered, and unwrapped. The one that caught my eye sat on an upper shelf, untouched. As I unfolded the fabric, I saw a sheer mandarin orange dotted with textured, beige circles. Orange melted into green. I counted diamonds, semi-circles, and skinny rectangles along the embellished edges. As I ran my fingers along the edges, it caught the light. Walking out into the street with the fabric in hand, I saw through its thin layer
scenes of a Pune marketplace—long wrap skirts with black elephants encircling the edges, tea stalls accompanied by a few plastic chairs and tables, clusters of yellow and green auto rickshaws honking for customers. Through the fabric, the scenes almost looked orange. When I removed it, everything was brown again. Even against a pale baby blue sari, it was the tanned color of her back I noticed first when I sat down behind her, trying to be an invisible presence. She was among the fifty women I interviewed through a translator about losing a young child. When she spoke, her words were soft, slow, measured. At times, she was drowned out by her overbearing mother-in-law, sitting back as the elder chattered on. Suddenly, my translator paused. I heard sniffling. She was the first interviewee, and last, I saw who cried.
After the questions finished, she swished past us, tossing aside the sari blouse we had given her in return for her time. I was left to stare at the leftover brown dredge settled at the bottom of small cups of over-sweetened, scalding chai she had prepared for us. Even in the cities, the brown settled on everything—the flat houses next to the tracks, the heaps of unburied trash that separated the two, the murky water of a small paddy being farmed, the stream of smoke intertwined with the bellowing whistles on congested train platforms. It was the deep color of the pairs of male eyes I could not meet because their gaze held onto me without interest, embarrassment, or even recognition.
Taj Mahal is not white. But it takes careful closeness to know that. There are thin lines of gold and silver and black detailing. There are also flower tendrils snaking their way around the door frames, made of small pieces of brightly colored stone cut without a jagged edge. The bedrock—of all the leaves, flowers, tendrils, buds—were anchored by small slices of brown stone. After a flash of summer monsoon downpour, when these pieces catch the first light of the sun peeking out, they give off a slightly yellow sheen. For a split second, I think I see Roman gold, but I know it cannot be. That color only exists in my head.
It was a color carved in the stone of the country’s most infamous landmark. The
a sketch of color
by Becky Chao
hough separated by a body of water, England is readily accessible to the rest of Europe. From London to Brussels takes only a little over two hours by Eurostar, a high-speed rail— making the prospect of a trip to Brussels very attractive to a university student with limited time abroad. A train to the Brussels-Midi/Zuid station takes you right to the center of the town, and from there, you can easily walk to whatever tourist attraction you fancy, such as the Grand Place, a cognate across languages, known as the Grote Markt in Dutch. All streets are marked with both its French and Dutch names—the city is officially bilingual. In the short distance, the latest technology that forms the glasspaned train station has given way to the medieval architecture of Br u s s e l s ’ central square, arguably the most memorable landmark in the city.
Brussels is a city of duality: there are numerous paved sidewalks opening up to cobblestoned squares surrounded by medieval buildings like those in the Grand Place. Long majestic buildings stretch out in symmetry, ornate spires protruding from their sides and centers, the sun reflecting off the gold details embroidered on their surfaces. The bland eggshell whites and stern grays impose a sense of aloofness and order onto these centerpieces with clean lines and hints of marble and stone, especially in the context of the surrounding mismatched buildings—guildhalls—done in shades of worn-away brown closer to nature’s trees. At night, bright lights illuminate the structures from the bottom up, making them glow. Stray vendors stand with their stands of print souvenirs eternalizing these grandiose sights where a bustling outdoors market used to thrive. The cumulative
affect is a mix of highs and lows: Brussels’ former royalty, whose palaces are now converted to museums opened to the public for a few Euros, seems to mingle with the merchants and artisans who once gathered in the adjacent guildhalls, where storefronts catering to tourists now occupy the first floors. It is a strange meeting of historic structures and modern practices. The same breadth of old and new occupies a single building, the Bellevue Hotel, a luxury hotel built in the 18th century. On the surface, it is the BELvue Museum, a museum of Belgian history, but what’s concealed is Coudenberg, the former Palace of Brussels. While the top floor of the BELvue houses exhibits on the art and political developments of modern Belgium (each floor transforms into a different era of Belgian history), entering the basement reveals the archaeological remains of Coudenberg. Despite the hot and humid weather outdoors, the temperature sharply drops once inside the former palace. Dim orange lights reveal the paths under brick archways still perfectly arched after centuries of being buried, guiding you toward empty rooms where Belgian royalty once wined and dined centuries ago. For just ten Euros, and without even leaving
the building, visitors get the opportunity to experience both the Brussels of the past and contemporary Brussels. Interspersed throughout the city, comic strip murals done in a fresco manner populate the side of buildings, celebrating a more modern art done in a classic medium. One such mural near the city center mimics the grooves of the building perpendicular to it, seamlessly blending in if not for its cartoon figures depicting Ric Hochet, a fictional reporter for the newspaper La Rafale in Paris, hanging precariously off the roof of the building. It’s a dramatic scene that alerts the twodimensional middle-aged man walking his dog on the ground floor and the woman whose window he is outside of, a sight that brings laughter for the viewer. Other famous renditions include scenes from The Adventures of Tintin, Lucky Luke, and Billy the Cat. A project started in 1991 by local authorities in collaboration with the Belgian Comic Strip Center, over thirty murals such as this one proudly showcase famous works from Belgian artists, laying claim to its title as the capital of bande dessinée, the comic strip. all photos by author
Brussels has also truly made its mark on the world with the widespread popularity of its gastronomical offerings, such as the Belgian waffle, or gaufre, warmly pressed from its iron cast and drizzled with Nutella, powdered sugar, and what have you, and Belgian frites, freshly cut from potatoes and fried until a delicious crisp texture—both are famous around the globe. Alongside medieval buildings in the Grand Place, authentic Belgian brasseries serve a number of Belgian brews and national dishes like moules frites and hutsepot. And let’s not forget the number of chic chocolate boutiques that line the streets, serving up authentic (if not slightly overpriced) Belgian chocolates—some even come in the shape of Smurfs, another Belgian novelty. Ultimately, Brussels has plenty to offer for everyone.
showcasing Belgium’s long and proud history juxtaposed with more recent works of art, like children’s cartoon shows and comic strips. There is no perfect way to reconcile the old and the new, or the high and the low, but Brussels proudly stands in all its glory, exemplifying elements from both ends of the spectra, intertwining them to allow all the chance to reflect on the city’s long and sustained legacy.
The city embodies the tension between preserving the old and making room for the new; there is an unquantifiable value to preserving its rich history, yet at the same time, it is important to celebrate its innovative cultural developments. With this tension comes a mingling of high and low culture through historic landmarks city of duality
by Emma Loewe s I traveled across Thailand’s undoubtedly unique landscapes, exploring both the vibrant energy of Bangkok and the more serene villages of the country’s southern islands, I repeatedly heard the phrase, “same, same, but different.” It seemed to be the local anthem—a saying that carried the same resonance in almost any situation. The seemingly simple words were featured on the shirts of nearly every clothing store, as if they were some sort of local brand. Confused, I resorted to tourist tactics and simply smiled, nodded, and continued on my way in the presence of this “same, same” assertion. It wasn’t until the end of my journey that I finally realized what was actually being expressed. “Same, same, but different” is an acknowledgement of the fact that although we are all distinct individuals—some of us awestruck tourists, others seasoned natives—we are all human. It says that is in the dissolution of the imagined walls that serve to separate us that we truly discover our inherent similarities. As memories of my Thailand trip begin to slowly fade, “same, same, but different” remains at the forefront of my reminiscence. It represents the incredibly selfless hospitality of the Thai locals and the warm welcomes that I came across time and time again during my stay in the country. My pictures from this trip now serve as small reminders that all of us are indeed same, same, but different.
all photos by author
same, same, but different
New York City, U.S.A.
HERE THERE BE
MAPS by Annie Piotrowski
his summer, while living in two areas that I’d thought I knew quite well—Durham and my hometown, Pittsburgh—I decided to learn more about geography. The decision was partially to prevent the atrophy of my right brain but also because I was genuinely curious about how mapmakers represent the realities that we only
Psalter World Map. 1265. Author Unknown. English. British Library Add. MS 28681. Wikimedia Commons.
know by an intuitive sense of direction. I wondered how seeing another person’s interpretation of the world might change the limitations that I imposed on the world. To begin, I checked out a few map books from the library, my favorite being a historical progression through map-making from cave paintings to Google Earth. While looking at the oldest maps, I was
immediately on guard for inaccuracies, since, after all, the early European mapmakers were probably the first armchair explorers, sketching out the outlines of continents based on accounts that were half fairytale, half embellishments. After all, I’ve grown up with the belief that I know what the Earth looks like: I’ve seen photographs from space,
Die gantze Welt in einem Kleberblat / Welches ist der Stadt Hannover meines lieben Vaterlandes Wapen (The entire world in the shape of a cloverleaf, which is the emblem of the city of Hannover, my beloved homeland). 1581. Heinrich Bünting. German. Wikimedia Commons.
1689. Gerard van Schagen Chuck Coker via Fotopedia
I’ve zoomed in on my house from satellite images and I’ve memorized (but perhaps slightly forgotten) the countries and their capitals for high school history classes. However, as I studied old maps more closely, I began to identify with the mapmakers. I loved seeing how the cities and churches clustered together close to the mapmaker’s home, and then, as the map stretched out into unknown territory, the cartographers refused to include empty space, and instead, drew from their imaginations fantastic creatures and places unknown but possible, like the Fountain of Youth and Atlantis. It spoke to a perennial problem: we humans don’t like to admit our ignorance. Our misrepresentations of the world can’t be traced to inaccurate maps, or a shipmaster’s delusions of grandeur, but rather, seem to
n. Dutch. Caveman a.
be a peculiar trait of the human condition. People naturally overestimate the size of their home countries. My drawing of the United States dwarfs Mexico and Canada, and I picture Pennsylvania, though known as the Keystone State, occupying a far greater portion of the Mid Atlantic than Ohio and West Virginia would allow. Maps can correct or exacerbate this tendency; since every map involves transforming a sphere into a rectangle, distortion is inherent in cartography. Take for example, the never-ending battle between the Mercator Projection (probably the map in every classroom in the U.S.A.) and the Gall-Peters Projection. When you swap the Mercator for the Gail-Peters, the Polar Regions shrink, the land around the Equator expands, and you suddenly feel less threatened by Greenland. Shift the map so the Prime Meridian doesn’t run through Greenwich, flip it over and spin it
Carte physique de l’Ocean ou l’on voit des grandes chaines de montagnes qui traversent les continents d’Europe, d’Afrique et d’Amerique. 1757. Philippe Buache. American. David Rumsey Map Collection.
around; the world hasn’t changed, but your perspective is completely different. After a summer of reading maps and walking around my two hometowns, I traveled to New York City with Duke’s Arts and Media program. I bought my first smartphone, wishfully thinking that I’d magically become a smart businesswoman striding down the city blocks with coffee in one hand and my phone in the other. It wasn’t so; instead of sending crucial business messages, I spent a good deal of time looking like a confused tourist, holding my smartphone up to see if the little dot tracking me was headed east or west. I began to lose my hard-won sense of place—and with it, my sense of superiority over historical mapmakers. Though we’re centuries removed from yellowed parchment maps with drawings of minotaurs and mermaids, the biased
A composite image of the Western hemisphere of the Earth. 2000. NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS. American. Wikimedia Commons.
perspective (created by say, the erroneous report that California was actually detached from the mainland) has remained with us, though it has morphed into a more subtle distortion. While maps have achieved incredible levels of precision (and everyone is firmly agreed that California is not an island), I worry that we use them in increasingly illogical, limited ways. I think the particular problem isn’t those large fold-out maps or children’s globes (because, honestly, when have you last used one?) but rather that through making maps digital, we’ve made it too easy to personalize them. Rather than helping us when we’re lost, maps tell us where to go. Our smartphones show us destinations; they tell us the exact route to take from A to B; and they bring a whole crowd of potential tour guides (through apps like Yelp and FourSquare that tell us exactly where we want to go) into our experience of a city. I’ve always loved the solitude of walking in a new neighborhood for the first Previous two pages: background map by Arthur Henfrey and Alexander Keith, Map of the geographical distribution of the most important plants yielding food (1854) via David Rumsey Map Collection
time when time slows down and every interaction becomes meaningful. I feel like an archaeologist of the present moment, looking for clues in the smallest of details and constantly being surprised by irrelevant discoveries that feel essential at the time. It’s a silly and romantic notion, involving me pretending to be a heroine in a movie montage, but almost unavoidable whenever the weather is warm and a new city beckons. But with my smartphone, I began to see neighborhoods as similar to amusement parks: you walk along but the streets and people are essentially backdrops for the main attractions, the little map markers that pop up to tell when you’re close to a crowd-vetted experience. The emphasis shifts to places of consumption—say, the renowned coffee shop and the world-famous museum rather than small, unquantifiable parts of being in a city. And honestly, you can go to each of the top ten coffee shops in New York City or you can go every day to your neighborhood coffee shop, where the scones are slightly dry and the latte art errs on the side of
Impressionism—both are equally valid forms of exploration. We’re the first generation able to learn from and be misled by the macro and micro views of Earth; we’ve grown up with the “Big Blue Marble” picture of Earth from space and Google Earth, an application that answers every child’s dream of digging a hole to the opposite side of earth, popping up, brushing the dirt off her jeans, and admiring the view. Our mental maps are different from the ones we had even a decade ago. Yet despite all these advantages, I feel as though the world is closing in, as if we’re asking technology to decide our routes and map our days. There’s the map (so far, so good) but also what we impose on it: the reorientation of the world based on our preferences, the ability to see the world as our privately curated playground instead of a constant surprise.
This page, from left to right: photo by kennymatic @ Fotopedia ; map by J.C.R. Colomb, Imperial Federation, map of the world showing the extent of the British Empire in 1886 (1886) via David Rumsey Map Collection ; photo by Bernt Rostad @ Flickr ; map by Charles Blaskowitz and William Faden, Topographical Chart of the Bay of Narraganset (1777) via David Rumsey Map Collection ; photo by iwillbehomesoon @ Fotopedia.
Cone In Hand by Wendi Oppenheim
nspired by living next door to a gelateria, I created a photo book to commemorate my unending love for gelato. These photos were taken all on my iPhone while I lived in Florence for four months, August to December 2013. The gelati mark my travels, particularly in Florence and Rome, and capture the magic of those cities.
all photos by author
cone in hand
first place: The Path Over “It was a hot summer afternoon in the Sahara when I took this photo of the man who was leading our camel caravan. Right before he turned away to walk up the dune, he said to me, ‘It is nice to speak in Arabic with foreigners, with students. Usually I have to speak in English or French or Spanish with tourists.’ I was traveling with a group of students from Duke and beyond who were studying abroad in Fez over the summer, taking class in Arabic dialect and Religious Citizenship. We were headed to a Berber campsite to sleep under the desert stars. At this point, I was already madly in love with Morocco—what beauty this country had in its scenery and natural wonder, but also in its rich culture and welcoming people. My host family became my family; the busy, maze-like streets of the Medina became my path home. To any students considering studying abroad, take a moment to put down your camera and just soak it all in. Talk to everyone you meet and, if possible, in their native language. Make connections and form bonds, it’s the people in the photos that truly capture the beauty anyway.” – Sarah Haas, Duke in the Arab World, Morocco
second place: bathing huts “Muizenberg beach is famous. Colorful bathing huts recall a whimsical era where False Bay was a grand resort town for the rich and famous of South Africa. From far away vibrant colors grab your attention, but as you approach the bathing huts one starts to realize that they are unraveling. Chipped paint, broken rails, locked doors. An illusion. The past that they recall is one of grandeur, yes, but also one of racial divisions and oppression. Muizenberg was the beach for the rich and famous, and the rich and famous were all part of the white minority. Today, this beach is littered with families of different skin colors, and the symbol of white supremacy stands crumbling in the background. Yet this illusion is still invoked as the quintessential image of South African beaches, and from far away it is easy to pretend that all is well. My time in South Africa showed me that this is true for all aspects of life there—nothing is necessarily as it seems, and, when given power, illusions can alter reality.” – Chelsea Decaminada, SIT – South Africa Multiculturalism and Human Rights
GEOReflects Photo Contest Winners third place: diada “This photo was taken on the Diada Nacional de Catalunya, the National Day of Catalonia, which commemorates the surrender of Catalan troops Castilian forces, which was followed by the loss of their independence as they became part of Spain. In Barcelona, where this photo was taken, and in all of Catalonia, the day is marked with celebrations as well as political demonstrations. Last year, hundreds of thousands of Catalonians formed a human chain that stretched from the French border all the way south to Valencia in a call for independence. These two girls were with their parents forming part of the chain, but are seen here having some fun while running with the Catalan Independentist flag.” – Elysia Su, Duke in Barcelona/CASB
People’s Choice: Take a Break “As students, we sometimes allow ourselves to become so obsessed with achieving academic success that we get caught up in the pressure and let the stress dictate our lives and happiness. Halfway through the Duke in Geneva program, our professors gave us a break from studying and took us to Chamonix for a weekend of hiking through the Swiss Alps. Although the climb was quite grueling and intensive, the time we spent together out in nature (and away from the classroom) was a group was an invaluable bonding experience. When we were near the top of the mountain, we paused for a few minutes to give ourselves a moment to fully appreciate the beautiful scenery before us. This ‘vacation’ was a great reminder to us that it is important to take short breaks from our stress and appreciate what we have been blessed with.” – Christiana Chen, Duke in Geneva all photos by respective authors
georeflects photo contest
bands from Aro
n this issue’s senior staff piece, we showcase a selection of musical groups from around the world and invite you to listen to their music.
Amadou and Mariam are a husband and wife duo from Mali who began composing and performing their own blend of bluesy rock in the early 1980’s. After meeting at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, Amadou and Mariam partnered together to teach young children music and perform at festivals in Mali and eventually all over the world.
They primarily sing in Bambara and French, with brief lines in English. After partnering with Manu Chao and writing the theme song for the 2005 World Cup in Germany, they wrote their latest album Welcome to Mali featuring the hit single “Sabali.” Even without a complete understanding of the lyrics, you can hear that “Sabali” has the perfect amount of melancholy, and Mariam’s voice is absolutely breathtaking. Being mystified is one of the best parts of listening to music in other languages, since it’s possible to make up your own story while being swept away by the composition and its emotion. It’s like listening to classical music with the added bonus of a human connection. Other artists have sampled “Sabali” as well—as of
Amadou & Mariam Mali, Africa
the current moment, it has versions in reggae, Japanese pop, and electronica— and no matter what language the song is sang in, its emotional strength remains even as each new artist brings their own interpretation.
’ Ciudad Satelite, Mexico Café Tacvba, hailing from Ciudad Satélite in the northern part of Mexico City, is awesome. Their songs represent the spirit of a young teenager growing up in a large urban centre. The dichotomy between feeling part of a whole and feeling very alone; the blissful feeling returning home after a late night party, seeing the lights
ound the World of the big city rush past you; the pain of having your heart captured and broken before you even finish high school—these are some of the things they sing about. Their versatile and diverse style, featuring influences from hard rock and metal to traditional huapangos and boleros, has captured the young generation of Mexico with their singing about the joys and pains of being young, in love, and proudly Mexican!
Santiano Flensburg, Germany If you are interested in a Pirates of the Caribbean type of music, look no further than Santiano, founded in the Flensburg
top photo: Ryan Schmitz @ Flickr bottom photos from left to right: Jojo La Frite @ Flickr, Nicolás Demarchi @ Flickr, r_kerber @ Flickr
area of Germany.1 The name Santiano was taken from the sea shanty “Santiano” popularized by the French vocalist, Hugues Aufray.2 True to their namesake, the band members—Hans-Tim Hinrichsen, Axel Stosberg, Björn Both, Andreas Fahnert, and Pete Sage—specialize in traditional folk, drinking ballads, and sea shanties. In addition to singing German folk, Santiano has been known to sing several well-known English tunes such as “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya” and “Have a Drink on Me.”3 While they have not yet reached worldwide acclaim, Santiano is well revered in Germany, reaching platinum status with their album Bi sans Ende der Welt (Far Side of the World) and gold status with their album Mit den Gezeiten (With the Tide). While the band sings of
a time long passed, they demonstrate with swash-buckling music that you can never be too old to be a Buccaneer. 1. ”Santiano.” Last.fm. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <http://www.last.fm/music/Santiano>. 2. 2 “Aufray - Biographie - RFI Musique.” RFI Musique. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <ht t p://w w w.r f imu s i que.c om/ar t i s te/ chanson/hugues-aufray/biographie>. 3. Lighter, Jonathan. “The Best Antiwar Song Ever Written,” Occasional Papers in Folklore No. 1. CAMSCO Music and Loomis House., n.d. Print.
senior staff piece
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