unpacked 2nd Issue

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WPI’s International & Intercultural Magazine

Inside this issue : Australia * France * Greece * Hong Kong Indonesia * Jordan * Laos * Mongolia * Namibia * Nepal * and more!

Issue 2: Spring 2013

Letter from the Editor

Spring 2013 marks the second issue of WPI’s new International and Intercultural magazine

unpacked. We are excited to share this latest issue with the campus community and we hope that it inspires even more people to reflect on past and upcoming experiences and encourages you to share these wonderful, adventurous, and sometimes even difficult or unusual experiences in future issues. We are looking for thought-provoking pictures, reflective stories and articles, inspiring poetry, or creative artwork of an international and/or intercultural nature. Keep unpacked in mind during your summer adventures! Our next feature story or cover photo may be yours! * The editorial board would like to dedicate this issue of unpacked to the hardworking and helpful spirit of the late Christine Drew. Even as Christine was battling her own challenging medical situation in the spring and fall of 2012 she still found the time and energy to support this up and coming campus publication, serving as a member of the inaugural editorial board, offering design insights and a keen editorial eye, and encouraging student contributors during the unpacked launch party. Christine was an important part of our campus community, and her talent, personality, and support will be eternally missed. Thank you Christine for helping us grow, your departure leaves a hole on campus which will be very difficult to fill. We will keep you in our thoughts and hearts. Colleen Callahan-Panday, Editor-in-Chief Assistant Director, International Students and Scholars Editorial Board: Leanne Johnson (IGSD), Ulrike Brisson (Humanities & Arts), Sakshi Khurana (‘16), Caroline Atteya (‘16), Ruobing Jia (M’14). unpacked’s mission is to provide undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff of the WPI community a space to share and reflect on international and intercultural experiences. The magazine aspires to promote global awareness, cross-cultural understanding and dialogue on campus with the aim of informing, challenging, and expanding the university’s views on culture and the global community. The magazine hopes to both educate and encourage community members to be interested and responsible global actors. Do you have something to submit for unpacked Fall 2013? a

ON THE COVER: “A view of Paris Victor Hugo could appreciate” taken by Nicolas Martinez, Aerospace Engineering ’13, London (D’12). For more of Nicolas’s photos see page 9 3

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Submissions, questions and comments can be sent to unpacked@wpi.edu a

For more information visit: wpi.edu/offices/ih/unpacked.html a

Next submission deadline: September 22, 2013 @ midnight

Table of Contents

7 Titans of Wadi Rum Saraj (Jetro) Pirasmepulkul ‘16 9 Europe: Photo Series Nicolas Martinez ‘13 13 Eights Andrew Moscariello ‘13 14 The Poet Sandal-Maker Caitlin Swalec ‘16 15 Namibia: Photo Series Donal Boyd ‘13 21 Freedom Monolina Binny ‘14 23 Wine and Cheese: A Weekend in Burgundy, France Patrick Ford ‘13 25 Hong Kong: Photo Series Shelby Miller ‘13 31 Precarious Flight to Shangri-La Colleen Callahan-Panday, Assistant Director, International Students and Scholars 35 Fairbanks, AK: Photo Series: Sunset at 2pm Aram Wool ‘14 37 Don’t Try This at Home Robert Krueger, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division 39 Mongolia: Photo Series: Naadam Dulguun Gantulga ‘16 41 France: Photo Series Micaila Baroffio ‘16 44 My Charm Rodrigo Calles ‘14 5, 22, 34, 45, back cover Pictures: Indonesia, Namibia, Croatia, Scotland, Scotland Various Contributors

Worcester Polytechnic Institute




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Sakshi Khurana Biotechnology ’16, from Indonesia and India


These two orangutans, captured at Taman Safari, a conservation park located in the city of Bogor, Indonesia, relax on a tree in their habitat. As someone who considers Indonesia home, my love for Orangutans is endless. After spending hours during my winter break cradling the baby orangutans and observing the adults I have come to the conclusion that their fierce protectiveness and creative minds are just as prominent as their silly antics and playfulness. These gentle and intelligent creatures are among the world’s critically endangered species with a heart-breaking 50% decrease in population in the past 60 years.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Experience Titans of Wadi Rum By Saraj (Jetro) Pirasmepulkul Robotics Engineering ‘16, Jordan (2010), from Thailand

My feet touched the ground below me. I let

out a long groan of relief as I was finally able to jump off the beast on which I was riding. The intense rocking coupled with its rough hide did not make the camel a pleasant ride. My destination on this particular camel was the great Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. An endless stretch of sand and gigantic sandstone formations tinted orange from the afternoon sun. Jordan was the destination for my sophomore year high school trip, known as the “Week Without Walls.” As the name suggests, students from the International School Bangkok learn or conduct community service outside the confines of the school fence. During the week our group, consisting of 20 students, visited numerous tourist sites such as the world heritage site in Petra, as well as floated in the Dead Sea. Those experiences were breath-taking and the sights magnificent. Now I was in Wadi Rum, where for four days I would live as a Bedouin. Ahead was our camp, dwarfed by the giant sandstone that overlooked it like a little boy sitting against the trunk of a large tree. There were three large tents where everyone crashed after each day’s seven-hour hike. Half the group had already arrived and were making themselves at home in the largest center tent. As I joined them inside, the tour guides served us each a small cup of tea, brewed to a special sweetness and scent to soothe us after our long day under the strong desert sun—a taste that I would soon learn to associate with each day’s well-deserved break. Later that afternoon, a group of friends and I went out to explore the large sandstone formations. The gritty texture gave us grip which made it easier for us to climb to great heights. We were a group of monkeys. About ten meters up, I found myself a little seat-like curvature in the stone where I sat and took in Wadi Rum. The air was dry and chilly, the sky clear blue contrasting the brilliant orange sand that came to-


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gether at the horizon. The strong rays of sun reflected off meager patches of the desert plants’ waxy cuticles that my camel fed on earlier. Looking around I observed the swirls of colors in the sandstone: yellow, purple, pink, orange. Sections of the sandstone had holes in them, giving them window-like appearances. I could have stayed up there and allowed my mind to wander all afternoon. That night, as we all gathered around the camp fire in the center tent, our local tour guides brought out our first desert meal. As plates and other necessary utensils were distributed, the guides unwrapped the foil from each pot unleashing the mouthwatering scent of exotic Middle Eastern spices used in the food. Chicken and rice, tender with all the juice still contained in its meat, baba ghanoush salad and mixed beans soup. Of course there was hummus and pita bread—a staple in Middle Eastern meals that never gets old. I wolfed down the giant mound of food, completely indifferent to the fact that some people had trouble getting used to the new cuisine. Being me, I went for second servings. In the evening, we climbed to the other side of the sandstone that overlooked our camp and lay down to look up at the sky. The sea of bright shiny stars— as many as there were grains of sand in Wadi Rum—juxtaposed against the pitch black curtain of the endless universe. Back home, I would only see the brightest stars like Orion’s Belt and the Big Dipper on the clearest of evenings. Star gazing in Wadi Rum was just so much more beautiful. I felt so insignificant and small for the first time in my life as our small group lay there, our heads on our palms, among this glittering night sky and infinite stretches of gigantic sandstone formations. When I returned to my tent, I did not care if my friends’ smelly feet were next to my head as long as we were all bundled up together to keep warm. It was a long journey and I was happy to get a good night’s rest.

Early the next morning, we bounced our flag which someone had planted earlier, the way through the desert in our guide’s rusty rocks shifted underneath us. I desperately made pickup truck across hills of sand and passed by my way down to a more stable location. large sandstone mountains rising like titans amidst By late afternoon we marched back to the sea of sand. The sides were smooth and the camp, trudging in the fine desert sand. Unlike steep as proof of the desert wind’s weathering. the white sand found in beaches, Wadi Rum’s We stopped at the base of what I soon learned sand is like talcum powder against your skin that was Jabal Umm Ad Dami, the tallest mountain in gently slips away. The wind created waves on Jordan; its cliff perched high like a leader among the surface of the sand like ripples on a pristine the other desert behemoths. I learned its name lake. I finally saw our camp, the only one I had when I was already half way up the side of its seen in the desert so far. cliff. I came back to the large center tent and I’d never imagined that it was possible to took off my shoes, now dyed orange. The thick climb up the side of a mountain. Somehow we smoke that lingered inside from the previous managed to do so, lodging our hands and feet night came out to embrace me. I did not mind in the smallest cracks and steps on the rocks. I the stuffiness, not after such a day’s journey. After thought of rock climbing back at adventure I poured myself a cup of the special sweet tea, I parks, with the harness and other safety equipstretched my legs and groaned. Outside, a ment. I’d fallen off several times, felt the tension group was playing soccer on the flat rocky plain, of the sling supporting my weight, and attempt- while some others were throwing rocks at rock ed to climb up the course again. Here however, stacks they’d created. the sediments below me crumbled and fell off, I have forgotten the taste of the tea althe narrow path not much wider than my shoul- ready, of the sweet herbs that made it so special ders. The strong desert wind blew against my to me. I know, however, that if I ever had a sip face to remind me of my elevation. But this time I again, I’d immediately recognize it and be was clinging for dear life, because if I slipped brought back once again to a little camp someand fell, there was no sling to support me. We where in the vast expanse of Jordan’s Wadi Rum. stopped periodically to allow people to catch up and rehydrated ourselves with the two liters of water we each carried in our backpacks. The summit looked as if someone hurled a bunch of giant slates together to add an extra meter or two to the mountain top. It was so precarious it seemed as if any more weight or abrupt movement would cause the whole structure to fall apart like a game of Jenga, toppling us all off the peak. Not long after our group picture was taken ABOVE: Exploring the sandstone mazes of Arches National Park, Utah. Colleen with a lone Jordanian Callahan-Panday (2008). Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Culture Europe: Photo Series By Nicolas Martinez Aerospace Engineering ‘13, London (D ‘12)

ABOVE: The beautiful contrast between the buildings of the traditional Medieval architecture in Edinburgh’s Old Town and the lively, trendy cafés and pubs of the modern city. (Edinburgh, Scotland).

RIGHT: The cathedral of Notre Dame is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world, it has a peculiarly mysterious as well as serene atmosphere. (Paris, France).


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Stunning gardens that surround the Coliseum, as well as the better-preserved side of the structure. One can almost Male Lion—King of the Jungle imagine how the building must have looked during the days of ancient Rome. (Rome, Italy). To see more of Nicolas’s photos see page 45 and the back cover.

Project Eights By Andrew Moscariello Chemical Engineering ’13, Melbourne Australia (C ‘12)

The tramline that takes us to work heading to Moreland, 8

Missed our stop, get off next one, number 118 Trek back to the office, address 481 First ones in – American work preoccupation Lunchtime, eat with our sponsors – it’s more Australian Last ones to leave – project duties 8 hours are done, 1/3 the day 8 hours next, for relaxing and fun Go to the market, hot tub, or pub 2/3 the day have now passed 8 hours left, for sleeping 3/3, the complete day 8 hours for working, 8 hours for sleeping, 8 hours for play – how Australians keep life balanced

Author’s Note: The people of Melbourne take the 8 hour workday and 40 hour work seriously, especially since the city claims to be the home of the 40 hour work week. Yet an additional important step is the division of the remaining 16 hours in the day. Eight hours are set aside for enjoying life; you only have one to live. The other 8 are devoted to sleeping. The division leads to equal thirds of the day. American work ethic is a major contrast with this philosophy, but the division was an aspect of Australian life I came to value and enjoy.


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Culture The Poet Sandal-Maker By Caitlin Swalec Major undecided ‘16, Athens, Greece (2012)

As I first glimpsed the Parthenon, resting on the

passing through the city each day. Further down the streets diverging from Acropolis, high above the city of Athens, my Monastriraki Square, in a small unassuming shop, breath got caught in my throat. The afternoon I came across a man known as “The Poet Sansun painted the marble pillars gold against the dal-Maker of Athens.” He described his shop as, deep blue sky dappled with pearly, white clouds. No pictures or paintings could ever cap- “A crossroad of poetry, art, and home of the ancient craftsmanship of sandal-making.” The ture its majestic beauty or convey its spiritual poet-sandal maker recited his life story to me ambience. Having come to Greece with a group of and my fellow travelers as we browsed his vast selection of leather sandals which were each students yearning to explore its history, I felt modeled on authentic ancient shoes. As a compelled to dig deeper into the roots of the Parthenon’s existence. Built at the height of the young man training in the army, he developed a knack for writing poetry. His sharp wit and imAthenian Empire as a tribute to the goddess mense knowledge of mytholAthena, the Parthenon survives as a relic of the “The sandal-maker agreed, on the ogy provided a strong background for creating verses. religions and culture of condition that he would still be althe ancient Greek emlowed to fashion verses among the As he told us, he desired to be a poet, but his father inpire. Having always sepscraps of leather. He united the sisted that he take over the arated my education intraditions of his ancestors with his family business of shoe makto subjects of math, sciown individual talents to form a ing. The sandal-maker ence, language, and so unique future as a poet sandalagreed, on the condition forth, I found the interacmaker” that he would still be altion of ancient mythololowed to fashion verses gy with politics and archiamong the scraps of leather. He united the tratecture fascinating. Greece struck me as a remarkable coun- ditions of his ancestors with his own individual try. Its rich history and traditions permeate every talents to form a unique future as a poet sandalmaker. aspect—physically, socially and culturally—of From the poet sandal-maker’s shop, I left everyday life. When walking around Monastiraki Square, a flea market in Athens, I could look up with a new pair of beautifully hand-crafted and see the spectacular view of the Parthenon leather sandals, an original poem, and a spark of inspiration which is unavoidable when a perresting on the horizon of the Acropolis. Within Monastiraki, amid department stores and street son observes a man successfully pursuing both his familial duties and personal passion. The povendors, stands an exquisite formation of et sandal-maker embodied the Greek culture of weathered stones, known as the Pantanassa Church. Native Greeks pass by this 17th century joining tradition and history with everyday life. From famous symbols like the Parthenon, to building and exhibit no exceptional sense of modest men like the poet sandal-maker, I hope awe at its presence – at least none visible to me. I suppose the novelty of an impressive sight that I can learn how to revive and engage anew with my ancestor’s traditions and histories. such as the Pantanassa Church is lessened by the experience of viewing it regularly while commuting to work or buying lunch or merely

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Inspiration Namibia: Photo Series By Donal Boyd Chemical Engineering ‘13, Namibia (D ‘12)

ABOVE: Adult Cheetah on the Prowl.

RIGHT: Damara boy: The young Damara boy looked up at me cheerily, "John! John!—take my picture!" The unassuming sticker on his forehead—11—seemed to mean so much to him. He looked into my camera lens with his eyes so wide, filled with curiosity and excitement. I could not help but think this boy is so happy just to have water, to have his family, the tattered clothes on his back... and that sticker. What does it represent? It represents that we should never take what we have for granted in the United States. Because this boy knows none of what we have— he only knows Tsumkwe.


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A shy juvenile zebra is comforted by its mother in Etosha National Park, Namibia.


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Children of Tsumkwe: Jessica pointed her camera at the Damara girl who had loudly, yet politely, requested that Jessica take her picture. The girl was uncontrollably excited with the premise of seeing herself. When Jessica turned the camera display screen to the girl, her face lit up with adornment and she began to glow with happiness.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Inspiration Freedom By Monolina Binny Biology and Biotechnology ‘14, written in Bangladesh, June 2009

Amidst the essence of bare silk Those gleaming eyes sparkled, The visions tell a taleOf fiery antagonistic sweetness; Roving about in its prosperous province Prevailed a figure of holy grandeur. Its smile slightly bent, Embraces the sealed heart And unlocks the trapped Amor. When it inhales, it fills with pride, As it exhales, its placidness spreads. The tenacious manifestation gives away to serene While lips utter the melody. When its motion is supple like butter, Angels’ feathers seem coarse. Boldly when the magnificence folds, The knights bow to the stern inferno. Telling it to have belief in her, Aphrodite has granted her pelt Yet it flows by flouting the cries. To this exquisite temperament; Now and then it provides ciphers Even the demons evolve to beauty, Making her deem it will someday approach, As it touches upon them lightly. Her liberty from wretchedness shall be accomplished; When it flows over soil She thinks and never surrenders. The particles shine like krustallos. Days came and went, Alas, it does not look beyond the horizonNights were frosty, sometimes warm, That is where she endures; The disposition just smiled She waits to be befriended by the aura. As if relishing the torment she had to bear The essence passes by everyday And kept on passing by silently. And she mourns at the distant, She still felt it will come to free her Calling out to the luminosity, From beyond the scope of span, To where no glow reaches ever. Her sanguinity was soaring, She knew it will approach. When the disposition will be in need of her, She will offer her devotion. For now, she counted the times it rejected the calls, But thinking of the integrity The essence might have in storeMade her content to the possibility; She relied on the ciphers, Dreaming…………. And still waiting.


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Ulrike Brisson


Assistant Teaching Professor of German Studies, Humanities and Arts, Namibia (B’10)

he Windhoek Town Musicians: This taxidermist who is located between Windhoek—Namibia’s capital – and its airport, has clearly Africanized the theme of the Grimm’s fairy tale of the Bremen Town Musicians, in which a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster stand on top of each other on a windowsill of a bandits’ house and scare away the villains with the frightening cacophony of their voices. Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Culture Wine and Cheese: A Weekend in Burgundy, France By Patrick Ford Environmental Engineering ‘13, France (2012)

On the weekend of October 19, 2012, Amy Lo-

http://www.masstastevin.com) and had a Board meeting that weekend in Burgundy and was able to make arrangements with winemakers to host (and house) us. Our home away from home for the weekend was La Pousse d’Or Winery (pictured here; see: http://www.lapoussedor.fr/en/ domaine/). Originating in the 1100’s, and settled within the village of Volnay, we were welcomed warmly by Patrick Landanger, the proprietor, Diran Apelian, and two students from the Enology School at UC Davis who were working at the winery as part of the Chevaliers du Tastevin Foundation Scholars. Throughout the weekend, we took advantage of their extensive knowledge of all steps of the winemaking process as we visited the cellars and the vineyards.

omis, Mike Boyd, Donal Boyd, and I traveled to Volnay, France in the heart of Burgundy and met up with Professor Apelian and Dr. Seta Apelian. Amy and I had spent the last two months working on the establishment of a MQP site at Hautes Etudes d'Ingénieur, an engineering college in Lille, France that Prof. Apelian had initiated. While there, we had the opportunity to take weekend trips to Brussels, Paris, and Lyon, but Burgundy was certainly the most amazing trip. Our journey through Burgundy took place on our last weekend, and was the perfect way to say goodbye to France. Prof. Apelian serves on the Board of the Chevaliers du Tastevin Foundation (see: ABOVE: “...of course, any photo-shoot in Burgundy requires a bottle of wine and a baguette.”


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After we arrived on Friday, we traveled to Burgundia Oenologie, a wine consulting agency located in nearby Beaune. While there, we learned the scientific side of the winemaking process, and all the work that goes into creating the perfect glass of red or white. Once we finished our

tour, we went to the local supermarket to pick up food for dinner, and most importantly, Époisses de Bourgogne, the runny cheese that the region is known for. We proceeded to cook dinner with the six of us, and enjoyed it with a glass of wine while sitting by a huge fireplace that was built in 1678. The next morning, we traveled into Beaune for breakfast and a trip to the local market outside of the famous Hospices. As we purchased fresh meats, cheeses, breads, and vegetables from the local vendors for dinner, we came across a stand boasting more than 15 different types of oysters. In very broken French, we managed to get a free sample or two,

which were well worth the effort. We also came across an old Citroen, and the owner, an older woman whom we had met while at the market, let us take a couple of pictures around the car—of course, any photo-shoot in Burgundy requires a bottle of wine and a baguette. After that, the Apelians hosted a lunch at a local restaurant, and we had the opportunity to try escargots and Beef bourguignon. We finished our night by attending a tasting of wines and cheeses from the region in the center of town. We also got to watch a local group perform a traditional dance while we walked around. On Sunday, we spent the day touring through the vineyards of Volnay and the local villages. Because harvest had just been completed a few weeks earlier, the vines were green, orange, red, and yellow, and looked more like a painting than real life. We then enjoyed a lunch consisting of a buffet of fresh cheeses and breads, accompanied by local fig paste and a bottle of wine while overlooking the Clos de Vougeot. There is something special about enjoying some of the world’s greatest foods while looking over the land where it was all made. This was certainly a fitting end to the weekend of a lifetime, but made it that much more difficult to say goodbye.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Experience Hong Kong: Photo Series By Shelby Miller Environmental Engineering ’13, Hong Kong (C ‘12)

ABOVE: Rush Hour in the Heart of Hong Kong—The 7 million people of Hong Kong occupy a land area of only about 426 square miles, approximately one third the size of Rhode Island. This led to many crowded days, trying to ride the subway and walking down the streets. This photo was taken after our first day of work when we got off the subway in Mong Kok. We had hoped to find some dinner near the street markets and were jolted by the sheer volume of people that were crammed into the streets. It took a while to get home in the crowds, but it was certainly a new experience and brought great appreciation for US cities. Most days, we attempted to find the least crowded way home so that we could just reach our apartment and relax after a day of work. On the weekends, it was fun to find crowded areas and observe all the people. The interactions between people in such a crowded space were different than the interactions that we experience in US cities. 25

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BELOW: A Splash of Color on Lamma Island—Lamma Island is a unique place in Hong Kong because on a landmass of 13.55 square kilometers, this island is home to a coal-fired power plant, a traditional village, an array of hiking opportunities and a fishing community. On the North part of the island, there is a coal-fired power station that supplies power to Lamma Island and Hong Kong Island. As we hiked around the island, we had amazing views of the landscape and searched for a cave. On the way, we found some lookout points, including a gazebo designed like a Buddhist temple. As we rounded to the other side of the island, we approached the small fishing village that boasts some of the freshest seafood in Hong Kong. This picture shows the village from afar. The buildings featured many different colors. In the foreground, you can see the various fishing boats used by the residents. After our hike, we ate a seven course meal at the Rainbow Restaurant - garlic scallops, seafood soup, sweet and sour fish, seafood spring rolls, abalone, seafood fried rice, and salt and pepper shrimp. While the meal cost $50 USD per person, a big sum, we all agreed that it was some of the best seafood we have ever had.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


RIGHT: Peaceful Giant at the Ocean Park Animal Theme Park—The panda in this photo was one of two giant pandas that lived at the park. Ying Ying is the female panda and was very captivating to watch. Le Le, the male panda, napped the entire time that we were at their enclosure, but Ying Ying moved around, rolled in the grass, and enjoyed a meal of fresh bamboo leaves. Here you can see her enjoying some leaves while still focusing on her audience.




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LEFT: The shale-lined coast of Tung Ping Chau—An important realization of enjoying the work that we were doing gave our group a pleasant surprise while studying ecotourism in Hong Kong. Tung Ping Chau is a remote island about 10 kilometers from any other point in Hong Kong and 4 kilometers from the border of the Guangdong Province of mainland China. The island has an area of 1.16 km2 and is unique to Hong Kong geography because of the shale rock formations that can be seen in the photo. This photo is on the northeastern side of the island near the ferry pier. Due to limited ferry service, our group had the privilege of spending two weekends on the island at a hostel, interviewing the local people. In our free time, we wandered up and down the beaches looking for beach glass and fossils and taking pictures of amazing things. One day, it was drizzling out so when we returned to our hostel we sat around a fire that the locals had made for us and we cooked our own food. We were given a variety of meats and fish, even hotdogs, as well as vegetables, corn, and bread to grill and cook in the fire. The meal tasted great and with the company that we had it was the most rewarding meal that I have ever eaten. We had the opportunity to interact with the local people in a unique way that we may not have been able to experience on a day trip to the island.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Experience Precarious Flight to Shangri-La By Colleen Callahan-Panday Assistant Director, International Students and Scholars, Nepal (2009)

The Dornier 228 turboprop sat eighteen pass-

checklist, and asked the stewardess to sit in the last remaining seat, next to fifty kilo sacks of rice engers. It was just wide enough for a person to stand in the aisle, both arms outstretched, finger- and other commercial goods wedged around cargo netting that held passenger luggage at the tips touching the sides of the plane. I settled into the dark blue fabric of my seat, as the stewardess back of the plane. The propellers whirred to life, picked her way over hiking boots and backpack and the tiny aircraft taxied down the Tribhuvan Airport runway. straps, distributing hard candies that would help It was June of 2009 and I was traveling to our eardrums adjust to the altitude during takeoff. The stewardess’s uniform mimicked a tradi- the Solukhumbu region of Nepal with my husband Prajjwal, and our school friend Rory. Intent on hiktional Sherpani chupa—a full length red jumper tied in the back over a white silk shirt that framed ing the most famous of Himalayan treks, our journey started with the thirty minute plane ride from her neck like the collar of a kimono. A colorfully Kathmandu to Lukla; a tiny airport-village woven rectangular apron pinned to the front of perched on the side of a high mountain cliff, acther dress completed the look. As I took my foilwrapped candy, I wondered if it was an Agni Air ing as the gateway to Shangri-La. Lukla was both a beautiful destination, and policy for stewardess uniforms to include the apron, or if it truly signified that the attendant was a treacherous one. It consistently appears on lists of the “most dangerous airports in the world” as it married, as it would in Sherpa culture. is positioned amid slender, snaking, high altitude The two pilots completed their pre-flight valleys, and is carved from a ledge 2,850 meters above sea level. On approach the runway, which is less than 460 meters long and 20 meters wide, looks more like a mountain-top driveway than a place to land a plane. To accommodate the short length of the airstrip, the ground is pitched at a twelve degree angle to decrease landing speed, and ABOVE: The airport runway in Lukla, the day we landed. pilots 31

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conduct maneuvers such as “backwards thrust on propellers” to further decelerate the aircraft. One travel guide noted, “If this worries you, one comforting thought is that only the most experienced pilots in Nepal are flying to Lukla.” Our Agni flight departed the Kathmandu Valley and sped toward the wall of jagged snow-tipped teeth on the horizon. Fifteen minutes later we were gliding through a constricting green gorge shaped by the raging glacial river below. Mountain ridges were close enough to count individual treetops from the windows of the plane. The pilots were navigating by sight; in such a claustrophobic environment GPS units are not as trustworthy as a steady pair of eyes, and flights can only occur in good weather. Limited visibility meant grounded planes, or potential crashes. This route certainly has its share. Before our arrival, four flights had ended in disaster during the previous five years, including a 2008 Yeti Airline crash that killed eighteen. A German family captured the accident on video as they stood on the hill above the airport, camera trained on the edge of the runway. The plane’s engine hummed deeply on approach, but the valley was cloaked in a dense wall of cloud. The family waited for the Twin Otter to burst dramatically from the puffy whiteness and complete its journey safely to the tarmac. And burst it did—as a fireball—just below the edge of the runway. Chunks of white metal, rubber wheels, and other wreckage could be seen from both the ground and air for months. I tried to forget these images as the runway came into view. I reassured myself by noting

ABOVE: Loading the airplane: cargo and people. that it was Yeti Airlines that crashed, but that I was flying Agni. I reasoned that the pilots had a vested interest in landing safely. I chided myself on seeking foolish adventures and putting myself at needless risk. I promised myself that I wouldn’t fly this route again. The approach was quick—from sky to earth with little change in altitude. The plane bounced hard on touchdown, and I gripped the back of Rory’s seat, bracing for the aircraft to bank and flip, another gory headline for the news. Instead the wheels rolled to a hard stop before the pilot maneuvered the plane to the tiny stone-built airport terminal. A deep sigh escaped my chest; I hadn’t realized I’d held my breath through the final moments of the flight. * Rory, Prajjwal and I spent the next few days hiking in the beautiful mountain landscape of the Everest region, and at the end of our trek, we found ourselves inevitably back in Lukla. Unless willing to hike another five grueling days to the closest wheeled-transport, a thirty minute flight from the tiny airport was the only way back to Kathmandu. The choice was clear; we boarded the same Agni flight—anxiety quickly forgotten in lieu of a successful adventure. * Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Fourteen months later, in August of 2010, a news article caught my eye. The title mentioned a “tourist plane crash” in the foothills of the Himalayas. The flight departed from Tribhuvan Airport, intending to fly to Lukla, but had turned back midway due to inclement weather. My heart sank when I saw the company—the Agni flight crashed before reaching Tribhuvan. All on board were killed including one Briton, one Japanese, four Americans, five Nepali and three Nepali crew. I searched Nepali news websites with trepidation, eager for information. Unlike American news, which censors more graphic photography, I came across a series of grisly photos taken by the Nepali army and released to The Himalayan Times. The plane smashed into a rice paddy fifty miles outside of Kathmandu, and the muddy, water -filled crater was strewn with scraps of clothing and metal. A crowd gathered in the rain, hiding under umbrellas, watching the salvage work. The most haunting picture in the series was of two Nepali army troops wearing green fatigues, wiping their hands on a dirty white cloth after loading light blue plastic bags of human remains into the back of a truck. There were five plastic bags in the picture, each no larger than a backpack.

That meant the bodies had exploded on impact. I had nightmares of small blue garbage bags filled with human remains, waiting on the curb outside my apartment, ready to be taken by early morning garbage men. It took time to connect the tail numbers. A follow-up article mentioned 9N-AHE. I searched through my album for the trek, and scrutinized each photo from Tribhuvan and Lukla: A photo of the white Dornier 228, with Agni’s black, yellow and red stripes along the side. Another with Rory and I sitting in our seats, toothy-smiles for Prajjwal the photographer, excited to fly to the tiny airport in the clouds. A third—Rory and I pose outside of the plane upon landing in Lukla, as porters carry luggage from the aircraft. A fourth, our plane taxis down the short runway, new passengers aboard, the tail number visible yet small. I zoom in on the picture; one click, then two, then three. I make out the characters: 9N-AHE. I re-read the articles—severe weather, spatial disorientation and loss of flight instruments, mechanical and pilot error, outdated crew checklists. The flight was doomed from the start. A flight I had travelled. That picture of Rory and me in the dark blue fabric seats, smiling. Those seats are gone. Someone sitting in the same chair became chunks of flesh in a blue plastic bag in the back of a Nepali army truck. It made me physically ill. I thought of the beautiful stewardess wearing the red chupa, passing out foil-wrapped candies. I wondered again if her uniform apron meant that she was married. Did she leave behind a husband, perhaps a young child? ABOVE: A closer zoom reveals the tail number: 9N-AHE.


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Richard Beski Mechanical Engineering ’13 Post London-IQP (D’12), Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Out of the roughly three months I spent in Europe this past summer, the day I spent at the Plitvice

Lakes in Croatia offered some of the most aesthetically pleasing sights of my entire trip. Blue skies and clear lakes provided the perfect setting for a day trip in Croatia’s largest National Park. The calmness in the air at Plitvice was a refreshing way to come off of the overnight travel from my previous location of Berlin, Germany. Being able to relax and enjoy these lakes was exactly what I was looking for during my European backpacking trip. Visiting many different countries and doing many different things in a short period of time is very enjoyable and rewarding, but nothing beats relaxing and seeing what nature has to offer. Worcester Polytechnic Institute



Fairbanks, Alaska: Phot

By Aram

Master’s in Electrical and C

I took these photos while visiting my family in Fairbanks, Alaska during wint concomitant hazardous air quality, so when things cleared up I was quick to


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to Series: Sunset at 2pm

m Wool

Computer Engineering ‘14

ter break. In the days prior I was cooped up indoors due to ice fog and the o saunter through the trails behind our house and capture the sunset at 2pm.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Viewpoint Don’t Try This at Home By Robert Krueger Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, Laos (2006).

You often hear it as a warning when someone

has done something dangerous and records their escapade on film: “Don’t try this at home.” This story doesn’t take place in your kitchen, backyard, or basement. The setting is outside the United States. Yet, for the reasons I outline below the same caveat applies. Before I begin you need to know something about me. The basic demographics are: middleaged, white, guy, receding hairline, two kind and beautiful children, solidly middle class, environmentalist. Beyond these categories I am a human geographer whose research, professional, and personal life are dedicated to a sustained critique of so -called sustainable development. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make the world a better place and I actively try to do so every day. I do this professionally by calling out how our daily social practices create winners and losers. The losers, too often in my view, are the economically disadvantaged. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me put it succinctly: I am—unapologetically—a Marxist. I am not a “bleeding heart liberal”. I don’t give money to people on the street. I rarely give money to charity, choosing instead to give my time. To me, giving money to people on the street, and possibly even to some charities, only serves to placate those in need and thereby serving the needs of the rich; i.e., those who preyed on our neighbors with sub-prime mortgages, and got them again when they had to sell their homes “short”, and those who became wealthier as we watched our retirement accounts drain towards empty in the shadow of The Great Recession. Again: no apology. In 2006, I violated my policy of not giving cash to people when my family and I gave over $3,000 to a family in Luang Prabang, Laos. I did this after advising at WPI’s Bangkok Project Center. By that point we had gotten into the pace of life that is Southeast Asia, we had taken on the Thai phrase “mai pen rai” or “don’t worry about it” as a guiding principle. We began walking slower between destinations. We spent more time at the table eating and enjoying better meals. We had made friends in Bangkok. I have seen the other side of Southeast Asia, 37

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too. One IQP I advised helped undocumented children in Bangkok’s slums, I’d seen teen-aged prostitutes with geriatrics in Bangkok’s NaNa district, and observed people drinking water from the same river where they sent their untreated waste. More broadly, in Siam Reap, Cambodia, I saw signs placed by the UN warning people of hidden land mines. Below those signs were peasants, mostly women, harvesting rice for their families. I swear, though I have no scientific data to prove it, one in five Cambodians living in Siam Reap is missing at least one digit, or a hand, or a limb—and these are the survivors of landmines. Finally, for a few hundred Cambodian “reel”, or well under $1, any child in Siam Reap under the age of 15 can, on demand, recall the name of every US state capitol. Can you? At this point in my travels, I had been asked by hundreds of people for money and said, “no”, a word that is universal to those who are forced to beg. I still receive emails from “Oda” in Siam Reap asking for $250 to help his slow transport business. In Bangkok, one of my friends fell ill and asked me to take his two boys back to the US with me (he later recovered). So why did we give the Houmphengs money? Because he is our friend, we believed him, and we believed he needed our help. As I mentioned above, I am a social scientist whose discipline is human geography. This means that my scientific research often focuses on how “place” or context shape social relationships and conditions. As we geographers like to say, “we study the why of where”. Context played an important part of our decision to help the Houmphengs. I met Mr. Houmpheng in 2006 when my family and I found ourselves in search of a boat to take us up river. A dozen willing captains approached us offering slightly different options on the general theme: a boat ride to a village, then lunch at a riverside “restaurant”, back by sunset. Despite what I suggested about being an unaffected observer of Southeast Asia, I was overwhelmed by the onslaught. So, as any tourist in a similar situation would do, we looked ahead blankly and scurried past the hoard of able captains and

ducked into a shop. Mrs. Houmpheng was there, she was the shop’s manager. The shop wasn’t unique. We had seen many of the goods on offer at the night market and, for that matter, the shop one street over. I remember I was taking in an antique of Lao tapestry when Mrs. Houmpheng approached me. Her husband had a boat and would take us for 1,000 Thai Baht, or roughly $25. Mekong River trips are amazing. The River is so powerful; it is truly the source of life for the communities that exist along it. You don’t have to be an anthropologist to see how farming practices are shaped by the different seasonal and annual flows of water, the rotation of crops, and other climatic variables. Houmpheng’s “long-tail” boat with its 350cc Chevrolet engine mounted awkwardly to the back, which connected to a long drive shaft and a prop, the boat’s signature “long tail”, whisked us up river. The “long tail” is useful along the Mekong because it easily adapts to both deep and shallow water effectively. The village was fine and the meal was simple. We shared a bowl of sweet Lao fish curry and sticky rice. The fish came from 25 feet away from our seats and the spice mix was hand ground earlier that day. It was, however, the region’s staple food—sticky rice—that was sublime. It was cooked over an open fire; the rice soaked up the smell of the burning wood and the jungle the wood came from. Delicious. The next day, after we visited wats, or temples, around the area we found ourselves throwing stones into the Mekong near Mrs. Houmpheng’s shop. Houmpheng wasn’t around but we chatted with his wife. Soon, she got on her cell phone and Houmpheng came chugging down the river in his boat. We hung out on the river speaking broken English, French, and Lao. We cruised up the river, our families together, where Houmpheng taught my son some French words, and showed my daughter how to write the Lao alphabet on a sand bar. The sun bonded with the land and our families bonded, too. Before we left Laos, I bought that antique tapestry, which I learned was framed by Houmpheng. We said our “good-byes” promising to come back and to write. We had developed a friendship.

Houmpheng explained that he had been sick, that he had a “lump” in his kidney that needed surgery. Unknown to Houmpheng, my close friend’s father had just recovered from the kind of cancer he described. At first, I was angry, suspicious. I had to actively go back to that place, to that context, where we had met to understand his request. To perceive it as it was, not what I had grown re-accustomed to. The next day, I spoke to an MD I had met in Bangkok, a surgeon at a hospital there. Dr. Thavat agreed to treat Houmpheng in Bangkok. I calculated the costs. To have Thavat do the surgery, to pay for a hotel, and return flights for Houmpheng and his wife would be about $3,000. Initially, Houmpheng agreed to go to Bangkok. Then, he decided to go to Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, for his surgery. There he had family, a brother who could care for him after the surgery. He had never been more than 200 kilometers from his home, a “city” of about 16,000. Now, I wanted him to visit a hospital that, to him, was itself a small city, in a place of unimaginable size. In short, he went to Vientiane, where a Chinese-trained doctor performed the surgery for $2,500. When he was able he returned home. We supported him and his extended family for months while he recovered. The following year he showed my friend, another WPI faculty member who visited Laos, a schist preserved in a jar. He entertained that friend in his home and invited village elders to perform a “Bacri”, a ceremony performed by people who follow Animism. When I visited later that year, they did so for my family, too. No one asked for money. We celebrated friendship and realigning our spirits through an animist ritual.

You may think that I am crazy. Maybe I am. I look back at my life over the past half dozen years and, outside of my children, I think it is one of my greatest achievements. For a couple of years, I was able to see beyond cultural context, look outside simple economics, to see past what economists tell me is human nature (i.e., self-interest), and live in a moment. Where friendship and kindness ruled the day. Where understanding gave way to cynicism. I miss those days. I still give time over money to charity. I still We returned home. A few months later we don’t give into a beggar’s request. And, at this heard from Houmpheng’s niece—she’s the one in moment, I can’t think of a context that would exhis family who could write in English. Some time lat- ist where I would do this again. Then again, er we received a late night phone call. It wasn’t through this experience, I know there is hope. the wrong number. It was a staticky, distant call, So, do what you want, but think twice not from this hemisphere, not from this universe. about trying this at home. Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Culture Mongolia: Photo Series: Naadam By Dulguun Gatulga Biology and Biotechnology ‘16, from Mongolia

ABOVE: Naadam is a summer festival in Mongolia. Horse racing is the most traditional and touching part of the festival which also includes wrestling and archery competitions. Horse racing shows strength and the ability to travel long distances in a short amount of time as our ancestors did back in the 13th century. Mongolian yurts (tents) can be seen in the background of the picture and are a traditional form of housing for the nomadic people of the rural countryside.


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BELOW: Races are typically 15-30 kilometers long, and up to 1000 horses from across Mongolia can be chosen to participate. Surprisingly, the horse jockeys are children ages 5 to 13. They train for months preceding the races.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Inspiration France: Photo Series By Micaila Baroffio Psychological Sciences and Mathematical Sciences ‘16, France (2011).

ABOVE: White marble crosses and stars of David mark the graves of American soldiers buried in the American cemetery at Normandy, France. The cemetery rests overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the invasion sites during the Day of Days. Of the 9,387 buried in the cemetery, over 300 have never been identified—their gravestones simply read “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” RIGHT: The Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the oldest and most striking sculptures housed in the Louvre. Dating back to 200 B.C., Victory is an unknown sculptor’s depiction of Nike, the goddess of victory. Her arms and head, once raised in triumph, have never been recovered. 41

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute


The Eiffel Tower at sunset.


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Inspiration My Charm By Rodrigo Calles Management Engineering ‘14

An unknown world spins inside my mind, where my essence of life lives deep within its spine. Giving me the strength to spellbind these shining lines. My soul flows in these mindless lines, where a lifeless dust spirit of mine lives deep within these rhymes. And no more will it become their dine. Across the ancient land of mist I align, where every shallow soul declines and every divine spirit arise. But within my mastermind, these eternal lines of mine lives now within your shallow divine eyes.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute


My friends and I spent a weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland while conducting our IQP in London, One day after sightseeing in the Scottish Highlands we stopped by Forth Bridge to have ice cream and watch the sunset. The illumination for the picture was perfect, the photograph reflected our mood after visiting some of Scotland’s most beautiful places. Nicolas Martinez (Scotland, 2012).

This issue of unpacked includes authors, stories,

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Next submission deadline: Se 47

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ubmit for unpacked Fall 2013?

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eptember 22, 2013 @ midnight Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Forth Rail Bridge is renowned as an engineering marvel and as an important Scottish landmark, the bridge has 10 times more steel than the Eiffel Tower. Nicolas Martinez (Scotland, 2012).