Photographs and Memories

Posted in Clips, Travel, Asia, Science on October 22, 2014 by frankbures

oct-Cutler2014078-1From The Rotarian:

In the middle of Hong Kong Island is a mountain known as the Peak. A cable car climbs the slope from the city, arriving at a building called the Peak Tower. Take the escalators to the top and you’ll find one of the most breathtaking views in the world.

On one side is the forest of skyscrapers that makes up the megacity of Hong Kong. On the other, trees cover the mountain as it sweeps down to the ocean, which itself stretches out to the horizon. A cool wind from the sea washes over Peak Tower, and on the currents above, raptors drift, looking for prey. Below, through Hong Kong’s hazy air, helicopters fly, and further out boats slip through the harbor across giant waves that look almost gentle from the Peak.

I stood there for almost two hours when I was in Hong Kong recently. I didn’t want the experience to end. I wanted to soak it up, not knowing if I would be back. I took a few photos, but most of the time I just looked out over the edge.

Before long, the other tourists in my group left and new ones arrived. This happened several times, and the more I watched, the more puzzled I became. Over and over, I saw people stand at the edge with their phones and cameras. They would take one picture, look at it, delete it, then take another.

Some people did this again and again until they got the right one. When satisfied, they left. Another time, I watched an entire family take some photos, then sit down on a bench and stare at their phones for half an hour. They barely seemed to know where they were.

Read the rest here.

Interview with Nowhere

Posted in Books, Travel, Writing on October 2, 2014 by frankbures

NowhereHad a nice chat with Porter Fox over at Nowhere Magazine on, among other things:

What’s the difference between travel writing and journalism?

I guess it depends what kind of travel writing and what kind of journalism you’re talking about. Destination travel writing tells people how they can have a certain kind of experience for themselves. Narrative travel writing tells a story. Journalism tells you what is happening in a certain part of the world, but its time frame is usually very short. I feel like the very best travel writing not only tells you a story, but it brings you to a place and helps you understand how it got to be the way it is, what it’s like to be there. It gives you a deeper understanding of not only what it happening there, but why. James Fenton’s “The Snap Election” is a great example, as is Michael Herr’s Dispatches.

Read the rest here.

Beyond Borders

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Travel on September 3, 2014 by frankbures

Cutler-cultureFrom The Rotarian:

Mara Egherman, a college librarian, was sitting at her desk when she saw an email pop up: Ryan Ahmad, a Muslim exchange student in Iowa from the Philippines, needed a place to stay. There had been trouble at his school, and he’d been beaten up by a fellow exchange student.

Egherman flashed back to her 16-year-old self, alone in a foreign country. “I knew I had to take this kid in,” she says. As a high school student, Egherman had applied for an exchange program in South Africa. But after arriving in Johannesburg in 1982, she discovered that her host family had racial notions that dovetailed with those of the apartheid regime. Egherman was forbidden from speaking to the help. The family considered Nelson Mandela (then still in prison) a terrorist. And they kept a cache of weapons in a closet for protection. For a teenager from the Midwest, this was disorienting – and eye-opening. Egherman saw people being treated in ways she’d never imagined.

Yet at school, she made lifelong friends, one of whom invited her home for the last few months of her exchange. Egherman’s new family couldn’t have been more different, with three sisters and lots of laughter. Because that friend reached out to Egherman, her exchange experience was a positive one. She came home a changed person, with an enhanced ability to imagine the lives of people in other places. That was the whole reason she’d signed up to go abroad.

Read the rest here.

Branding Guyana: The Rise and Fall of Travel Writing

Posted in Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writing on August 28, 2014 by frankbures

Guyana Cover copyFrom Nowhere Magazine:

It was winter in Minnesota, and I was leaving the ice and snow behind. Everyone on our plane was giddy about this. In front of me, several women in sweatpants were heading south for weeklong cruises. They sang Beach Boys songs at the top of their lungs: “ARUBA, JAMAICA, OOOH I WANNA TAKE YA!!!” 

But I wasn’t going to Kokomo. I was flying to Guyana, a small, poor country on the northeast coast of South America. As I settled into my seat, the woman next to me turned to chat.

“So,” she said, “have you cruised before?” She was middle-aged, with a family of five in tow.

“No.” I said. “You?”

“We have,” she said. “We love it, and it’s super cheap! Hang on…” She turned to the window and snapped a picture of a baggage car. “Gotta put the vacation on Facebook! So what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“That’s neat. What do you write?”

“Some travel writing…and other things.”

“Oh, cool!” she gushed. “We love House Hunters International!”

10411991_10152666085686796_8321901077672506435_nI reached for the SkyMall. The engines roared and the white world fell away. Soon my seatmate and almost everyone else on the plane would get off in Florida to be whisked away for weeks of pampered drifting on the Caribbean. I would continue south. Guyana is a place, unlike Aruba or Jamaica, not on anyone’s list of dream destinations. A few months earlier, I’d gotten an email asking if I wanted to visit. The note was from a company contracting development work from USAID. One of its projects was to rebrand the tiny, corrupt nation and promote ecotourism. I knew the catch.

Read the rest here.

The Life and Death of Malls: From Victor Gruen to Karmel Square

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Culture on August 25, 2014 by frankbures

moa_mainFrom Thirty Two:

Sometime around 1999, a property developer named Basim Sabri was sitting on a bucket in a building he’d just bought off Lake Street in Minneapolis. For twenty years, the place had sat abandoned and rotting. Now he was trying to fix it up, even though he had no idea what he was going to do with it. Then in walked two guys.

“One of them had a very pleasant face,” Sabri recalls. “He said, ‘Will you guys have a coffee shop here?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’

I asked where they were from and he says, ‘Somalia, and there are so many of us coming.’”

The man only had a couple thousand dollars saved up, but Sabri helped him out and soon, as he tells it, half the Somalis in town were coming over asking for a spot. Sabri, who grew up in the Palestinian Territories, had traveled the world and he loved open-air bazaars. So he decided to recreate a bazaar inside the building. As soon as he did, the building was full.

Issue_5The venture was so successful that Sabri built another entire building next door as an expanded Somali mall called Karmel Square. Today it is the biggest of several Somali malls in town with 175 businesses, including shops, restaurants, grocery stores, a mosque, a learning center, day care, and more. It is, for many of those who visit, a piece of Somalia, salvaged from memories and reborn in an old building. It has zero vacancy.

Read the rest here.

In Praise of the Wild Child

Posted in America, Clips, Parenting, Science, Travel on July 29, 2014 by frankbures

mm0814_TrueNorth4BFrom Minnesota Monthly:

When I was 5 years old, I wanted more than anything to go camping, to be out in the woods, running, climbing, exploring. But we didn’t own a single piece of camping gear, and my dad was, let’s just say, not much of an outdoorsman. He came from Iowa, where forests didn’t really exist. As a boy, he joined the Boy Scouts and went to a nearby lake with his troop, where they were supposed to cook food “like the Indians did,” buried underground with hot coals. His potato came out black and hard on the outside yet somehow raw on the inside. So he went to bed hungry, tossed around all night on the hard ground, got eaten by mosquitoes, and vowed never to set foot (or at least sleep) in the woods again.

But I begged and begged, until finally some uncles invited us to go camping with them, and my father grudgingly agreed. At a garage sale down the street, we found an old canvas World War II tent and some worn cotton sleeping bags. With these, we headed into the wild.

phpThumbWe met the others on the banks of the St. Croix River. My uncles came hauling a new, shiny pop-up camper that looked like the Taj Mahal on wheels. My dad looked around, picked a spot at random, and set up our tent. That night, we tied the flaps shut and drifted off to the buzz of mosquitoes in our ears. Some hours later, I woke up to the sound of my dad splashing around and swearing, having discovered too late that he’d put our tent (more or less) in a dry creek bed. Water was flowing through the middle of our sleeping area, and we spent the rest of the night shivering on the car seats. I realize now that he did all this not because he loved nature, but because he loved me.

Read the rest here.

Women, Words and the Future of Magazines

Posted in America, Writing on July 11, 2014 by frankbures

TheRiveterMagazine.CoverSMFrom MinnPost:

In March of 2013, Joanna Demkiewicz and Kaylen Ralph were sitting in a classroom at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, listening to a panel discussion, when they got a strong sense of déjà vu. The panel was for a new book being published called Next Wave, which featured “America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.” There were 19 stories in all, but only three were by women. On stage in front of them were five writers, all men. Finally someone asked, “Why are there only three women in your anthology?” The publisher, Mike Sager said they had their criteria — the writers had to be born between certain dates, and that it had proved really hard to find women who fit for the collection.

Demkiewicz and Ralph both thought back to the previous year, when not a single woman was nominated for a National Magazine Award in writing. They immediately started texting each other and later that day launched The Riveter online, which they imagined as a female version of Esquire: A magazine full of smart, compelling stories by women that appealed to all readers. The first print issue came out last summer. The second — bigger and better yet — was just released.

Read the rest here.

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