The simplicity of a universal love for French-fries regardless of what culture you come from is a small way to know that no matter how different we may think we all are, everyone appreciates a golden delicious fried potato.
Kevin Morgan, CEO of GeoVisions explains so eloquently the joys and appreciation of human influence when it comes to the shared love for food.
I always find it interesting that everywhere I go, there are so many things to learn everywhere. Last month in Vietnam, I enjoyed some of the best meals on my winter Asia trip. Not surprising ... It's always the case.
The French left a wonderful legacy in Vietnam - stunning architecture, grid patterns of boulevards and districts, and a culinary infusion into an already exciting cuisine.
Pommes frites! A seemingly universal staple - thank you Belgium and Roy Kroc. Some of my best recent "French fries" were at a lovely café in Hanoi. Fried perfectly! Cut thinly and exquisitely! Served with courtesy! Eaten with chopsticks! Yes, chopsticks! It was a pleasant, social and perfectly logical way to eat the frites! East meets west.
As I said, always something to discover!
Yours from Asia,
Guest blogger Dale Fox graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in 2009, at the age of 54. Her major was history and political science, with a focus on Middle Eastern ancient history. She is the co-founder of the Ridgway Heritage Council in Ridgway, Pennsylvania and was active in community and economic development in western Pennsylvania for many years. In addition to developing the Towers Victorian Inn, a historic landmark of Pennsylvania. Dale also served as a Director for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center for six years. In 2009 she received a special award for Inspiration in Tourism from Governor Edward Rendell.
In the spring of 2009 at the age of 54, I found myself with a unique opportunity to do something out of the ordinary. I had just finished a 30-year career in the field of information technology and had some spare time and money. One day while poring through cultural exchange websites, I ran across GeoVisions and the moment my eyes alighted on the “Conversation Corps” program in Istanbul I knew I was going. I thoroughly researched the company and signed up for two months in the fall of 2009.
My family and friends were shocked. Most were convinced that Turkey was dangerous, dirty and poverty stricken. The GeoVisions staff assured me that Turkey was a wonderful and very safe place to visit (which it was) and I proceeded to arrange the most exciting and life-changing experience that went far beyond my expectations. With all of the angst in our current times about fundamentalist Islam, I wanted to see for myself what living in a Muslim culture was actually like.
After a grueling twelve hour flight I arrived in Istanbul, followed by a 13 hour bus trip on which no one spoke English. I spent the month of October on the magical Çesme peninsula near the small town of Seferihisar, a few miles from the Aegean Sea. This land of Homer’s birth has a captivating and serene beauty with its interplay of crystal turquoise waters and white beaches that sprawl at the feet of hazy blue mountains.
My hostess was a perky and warm-hearted 45-year old named Beril who was a divorcee with two teenagers. A fabulous cook, every night after work she spent hours preparing an unending variety of traditional Turkish foods. All of her friends were excited to meet an American and treated me as a guest of honor. This part of Turkey is known for its secular and western outlook, and she and her friends were no exception. Beril also served as my guide to numerous historic sites. It gave me a special thrill to survey the landscape from places like Bergama (ancient Pergamum), and ponder the eons of human history that echoed beneath my feet.
An incredible array of goods bespeaks the wealth of this vibrant society. Farmers markets bustle with artistic displays of fresh local bounty from the nearby countryside. The beauty of their textiles and clothing defies the imagination and opens your purse strings. Shopping in Turkish bazaars makes our grandest malls seem tame. All creating a notable counterpoint that speaks to the notion that everything we do in America is the best.
On November 1st it was time to leave my Aegean paradise and head to my second host family in Istanbul, where a much more challenging environment awaited me. The family lived in a crowded, noisy working class district on the Asian side of the city, and it was there that I confronted the almost inevitable culture shock. They spoke very little English, and my student was a 20 month old who had yet to speak Turkish. His mother stayed at home and rarely left her neighborhood in which she had been born and raised in. But she was determined that her child would be bilingual.
In Istanbul I achieved greater insight into the Muslim faith, whose practitioners were always considerate and tolerant. I marveled at the splendor of the Ottoman palaces and soaked away all stress at the famous Turkish baths. I visited the capital of Ankara, and Konya, home of the famous Persian mystic Mevlana Rumi and his whirling dervishes. My most memorable excursion was a three-day adventure on a Turkish tourist bus through Cappadocia, a geographic spectacle known for its early Christian ruins. I was taught how to Turkish dance and to imbibe the potent national liquor, raki.
My guess that people are fundamentally alike regardless of their cultural trappings was confirmed. Unfortunately the impressions we receive through media often focus on the exceptions, not the rule, and as one young Turk said “It is better to see than to read”. Politically and religiously, the Turks were every bit as diverse and complex as Americans. This trip was a great reminder of the ignorant nature of stereotypes. After I left, a neighboring shopkeeper, whom I would stop and say hello to in Turkish every day, told my hostess that he wasn’t sure he liked Americans before he met me, but now he felt very differently. How little effort it takes to cross the divide.
Over at Social Edge, Saul Garlick wrote a Blog post entitled The Voluntourism Debate. It's a great post. And so are the comments, which I highly encourage you to read. A couple of "super stars" in the world of volunteer abroad have commented there in fact.
The question is framed about the length of time a volunteer spends onsite. The shorter the time spent on the project, the less good a volunteer can do...in a developing country. There are other nuances, but over all this is the general point.
I have to ask, where do these voluntourists come from? If they travel abroad with a reputable voluntourism sender, I'm not certain that they arrive in any country, developing or not, with the idea that they are changing the world. I guess a bevy of receiving organizations are going to have to answer that for me.
A good sender is sending to a project abroad. Is the premise of this debate that those voluntourists are showing up trying to save the world? Because my next question then has to be, "Where did they get that idea?" Do voluntourists actually go out on their own and knock on doors asking to save people? Or is this something writers like to assume?
My friend, Daniela Papi, had an interesting comment. She said, "We went from offering people one-off voluntourism trips designed to "help people" to edu-tourism trips designed to change the way travelers give, travel, and live." She also in her comments talked about "service learning" vs. "learning service" and I not only applaud those ideas but stand up applauding them. And here's a whistle!
We have a seasoned traveler right now on one of our Conversation Corps projects. I just noticed a few days ago in her Blog that she wrote, "I would’ve have never found this place on my own. This is what travel is all about to me. More than ever my travel style is changing; it’s not about seeing a ton of places to tick off a list. It’s about slow travel; integrating into the culture and being local."
But I honestly think if people use a reputable sender, the sender has reputable projects on the other end. The projects have been worked out in advance. The time-table is set up in advance. The voluntourist understands the limitations that will be placed upon him or her in advance. It just seems unlikely that a mis-match is going to be made. Showing up on your own, however, can be a local problem.
I see so many of these debates. Non-profit vs. for-profit. The longer you stay the more help you are locally. And for me they all boil down to the fact that people equate "development" and "aid" to voluntourism. But the "tourism" part of the word is the most important. It isn't "aid-tourism" or "development-tourism." And so it means the sender and the receiver have to be aligned to make sure expectations on all parts are met.
Here at GeoVisions we are busy creating unique experiences for people. Making sure expectations are aligned with reality at the other end. And staying in touch with voluntourists to help keep them aligned with the reality and the experiences they are having. Lastly, we are more concerned about what they do with what they do, so the return for us is the most important aspect of the experience.
I suspect that last line was a charged powder keg, huh?
GeoVisions is proud to present this guest post by Karen Middleton, President of Emerge America, a premier training program for Democratic women. Karen also served as a Democratic Representative for the state of Colorado and was on three committees - House Education, Business Affairs and Labor, and the Legislative Council.
For as long as I can recall, I have always felt a strong sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to my community. Interestingly, I do not remember how and where this was instilled in me. I vividly remember registering to vote on my 18th birthday, and casting my first ballot that same year. As I have voted and engaged in my community in other ways, it has been both a source of pride and a consistent theme in my life.
While I know I have this gut-level sense of myself, I have spent several years trying to find the best way for us and our society to instill this same sense in our children and students across America. When I see someone throw trash out their car window, or tell me they don’t vote, I have a strong physical reaction and wonder what we can change and why I have this sense when others don’t? While I have long felt this way, I don’t know where I learned that lesson and how it was so deeply embedded. If I knew, I would bottle it to share. You might ask, how are these acts linked? To me, it is whether you care about the world around you and whether you participate to make the world better.
I have tried to impact this type of thinking in two ways. First, I spent several years working with civic education issues – how to teach it, what it should include and how to incorporate it in schools across the country. I participated in both state and national groups to help affect this policy change. While there are many splendid examples of how to do this work well, I don’t know how many people have been impacted and if it has worked. Reports were produced, conferences were held, materials were shared, and websites were developed.
Second, I taught political science for a couple of years and tried to engage students in this type of thinking myself. We talked about the impact that just one person, just one voice, and just one vote can make to change the world. It may be a big problem, or a local issue. Was I successful? I am not sure. I definitely engaged some of my students in some of my classes to think differently about their place in the world. I can only hope that my continued efforts, through example, and by continuing to engage in other ways.
In addition, I presented this issue to civic groups who are part of the fabric of community engagement. Interestingly, they were struggling with how to best reach young people to both offer their guidance, and to support them. Groups like Rotary or Civitan are equally challenged by how to reach the next generation of young people to engage them both as future members and recipients of community and civic engagement work.
This is work we must all continue to think about and continue to work on as we lead by example and share our time and energy to inspire others to join us as voters, volunteers and active members of our society. It is a journey we take together.
There’s no doubt that the Great Recession has affected millions of Americans resulting in an unemployment rate of almost 9 percent nation wide, and if you are a young person the news only gets worse. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “young people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as the average worker…youth unemployment rates in the OECD are expected to remain at around 18% in 2011 and 17% in 2012".
As a young adult, I am one of the many who understands the fear and uncertainty that college graduation is bringing to many students now in their senior year or whom have recently graduated. Instead of feeling like you have an exciting road ahead of you with the possibility of many open doors into a career, graduation is now a daunting milestone that seems to lead to a period of prolonged unemployment. Just so you know you are not alone, here is what some other recent grads are saying about their job search experiences in a group on Facebook:
“Frankly guys I’m also really pissed off! I have 5 years work experience all part time whilst I did my undergrad and Masters and still I can't get anything. I know the economy isn’t great right now but seriously, I'm being rejected for being overqualified for some jobs and under-qualified for others. Phew. Just needed to rant.”
“I understand... I was turned down as a secretary for not having 5 yrs experience as a secretary, and by McDonalds because they figured out I have a BA. I feel like my BA is my dirty little secret...”
“No luck so far with jobs, I’m working at my local to get some cash in and it looks like I’m gonna be there forever :(“
That’s why when GoAbroad.com started a special blog series focused on young people entitled “Discover Your Value” it caught our eye here at GeoVisions. If you are in college, or are a young person still searching for a job we recommend you follow it, which you can find here at GoAbroad. In this series, guest author Michael Edmondson, Ph.D., outlines the three main issues college students or recent grads face, and ways you can stand out and market yourself to your best ability. There isn’t a magic number of jobs to apply for, or tips for interviewing, just finding ways to show potential employers how great you are and what makes you unique from the average grad.
One way you can do this is through self –promotion, and if you have studied, volunteered or worked abroad you have an advantage over many others. Dr. Edmondson points out that you are not special until you convince others, and to gain perspective on what this means, students should travel abroad to experience various locations, cultures and adapt to different environments. This forces you to get out of your comfort zone and realize what makes you ‘special’. Hopefully while you are traveling abroad and finding out your unique strengths and attributes you are meticulously journaling or blogging about your experiences. Keeping everything in one place as opposed to random Facebook updates gives your unique experience more credibility (not to mention staying organized makes it easy to refer back to).
This brings us to another tip by Dr. Edmondson, and perhaps the simplest one of all (and cheapest) is to use technology! The Internet, especially a social networking site is your best friend after you have become all the wiser from your traveling and should be used for effective self-promotion within the online community. Be creative, give yourself an edge and connect with like-minded people who have the same goals as you. Even better if you can network within the field you wish to enter as your career, and having an organized online journal or blog can sure come in handy if a potential employer wants to see a writing sample or a detailed insight from your traveling experience.
GeoVisions has recently developed (with the help of our friends at GoAbroad) an online social networking site for our volunteers that we call our ‘GeoVisions Community Pages Site’. You can take a look at it here. Volunteers participating on our programs can connect with each other; upload photos, videos, and keep a travel journal all in one place while connecting with other like-minded travelers. The site also allows for them to sync their information with other social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace so they can share their experiences with other friends and family.
So, before you decide to throw in the towel or settle on a menial job you definitely didn’t go to school for, try out these simple tips and see how they work. A little creativity can go a long way, and c’mon, who doesn’t like to write down all the ways that make you awesome and unique? If it doesn’t result in your dream job, at least you’ve given your resume a pick-me-up and your self-confidence.
Filed under shameless self-promotion:
We need to staff 2 tutor positions at Feynan Eco Lodge in Jordan each month. Um, starting NOW.
Sign up for 4, 6 or 8 weeks. We don't even have the program page live on our website, but we will have soon. Until then, enjoy this 4 minute video in High Def and email us right away or apply now if you are interested anytime in 2011.
Set against the glorious desert landscape, Feynan is a 26-room Eco Lodge resting in the magnificent Wadi Feynan. Guests at this 26-room Eco Lodge can be found adventuring through the untouched outdoors, sipping mint tea with the native Bedouin, exploring local archaeological sites or simply unwinding in the serene courtyards and terraces of the candle-lit complex; safe in the knowledge that they are vacationing in a socially and environmentally-responsible way.
GeoVisions has been asked to supply 2 Conversation Partners at the lodge each month through 2011. There are only 2 spots per month, so you will want to contact us immediately if you have any interest in this highly unique project.
Hailed as one of the top fifty ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the solar powered Feynan Eco Lodge offers the most developed eco-experience in Jordan. You can live there free and have all your meals free just for tutoring the lodge staff in English up to 20 hours each week. You will also tutor the Bedouin drivers and the guides, which means you will see sights and walk trails no one else has available to them.
Watch this high def, 4 minute video and apply now , or contact us right away. The complete program page will be available soon.