Posts from the “Society” Category

Borderlands

Posted on 18 January 2017

Ink, after drawn, can blur, but a pen can tear through paper. Borders are a human invention. At times, they stand in the way of geography. But like many other abstract human creations, they have great and terrible consequences. I’ve passed through many borders. Some hardly seem to exist: you’re riding down a road and, at some point, unnoticed, pass over an invisible line. One country to another, passport still tucked away. Other borders are chaotic: long walks over dirt roads, popping in one building after another, unsteadily securing visas, customs forms, stamps. There are other borders, torn down borders, whose remains I have stared at: a concrete wall which held a no man’s land, crosses line the grass today. Some borders kill slowly,…

Glimpses of Slaughter and Silence

Posted on 20 November 2016

There was a wall before me. I ran my hands along it. I peered over it. I spent months perched on top, dangling my feet over the edge, observing. I scraped my elbows and palms, gathering glimpses at foreboding pasts and awful alternative presents, collecting calluses. The wall is cracking beneath my palms. Genocide seems far away. Even when standing on its grounds, an inexperienced mind, sans memories, isn’t elastic enough to fully accept this truth. When I was there, I tried, I really did. I looked at everyone my age and older: Which side were you on? What memories do you hold in your body? Around me, motortaxis zipped by. Rwanda truly felt safe to me. Reconciling pleasant Kigali with what I knew…

Too Briefly, Yangon

Posted on 18 October 2016

The roads were wide and the buildings were tall. Our taxi circled roundabouts with traffic. After the hills of Shan State, Yangon was big and hot, but exciting. As our driver took us from the airport to our hotel, we sped by malls and apartments on the rise. He pointed out Inya Lake as we drove by. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lives there. You know her?” Less than two months prior, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won a supermajority of seats in Myanmar’s parliament – a rapid change given that she had only been released from fifteen years of non-consecutive house arrest at the end of 2010. Dissidence had been brutally crushed over decades of military rule, but now, our driver…

Scratch at the Surface

Posted on 11 March 2016

About a month ago, I was sitting in a theater, surrounded mostly by fellow U.S.-Americans, all of us concentrating on the people sitting on stage: namely, Maria Alyokhina and Ksenia Zhivago of Pussy Riot, promoter Alexander Cheparukhin, and translator Mariana Markova. I had bought my tickets for this event something like half a year prior, and “the girls” and their witty, sharp, and compassionate answers did not disappoint. Pussy Riot: the name alone suggests a spectacle to native English speakers in its crassness. I’m sure some people came out of that curiosity, and others out of a genuine interest (and concern) for them. Others for sure came out of a Russia connection: studies, a friend, family. The level of enthusiasm and respect for Pussy…

Kto Znayet, Who Knows

Posted on 12 October 2015

I used to walk the streets of Saint Petersburg, propelling myself forward at a strident pace. Sometimes, passerby would stop me and ask me for directions. I told them I didn’t know where I was, where I was going. I’ve seen people travel to Russia with an image in their mind. A romantic image: a dark but gorgeous, majestic place, literary geniuses winding their way through the lamp lit streets, symphony notes hovering in the air, poetry in the wind. A harsh image: never ending Soviet apartment blocks, grey sky, grey streets, grey faces, a hush all around, a terror gripping you, reaching out from every pulled-aside curtain in the window. A chaotic image: mafia men roaming the streets, lawlessness abound, money exchanges on…

The Flood

Posted on 31 May 2015

Under a tree I sat, brow inevitably furrowed. My eyes felt red. I looked around at the greenery. It was not too cold, not too hot. Large flowers, and an avocado tree, were not far. I was in Kenya. But I was miserable, I seethed, I felt trapped in this place, in my skin. I picked at a piece of grass then threw it as far as I could. Sexual harassment had, long ago, gotten very old for me. I would say I was used to it—the waiting to cross the street while men leaned out of a truck and hollered, the walking home from class briskly and hearing whistles despite my headphones, the shielding my face as men laughed, sticking cell phones in…

The Gaps Between Us

Posted on 19 April 2015

There are some things, many things, I cannot wrap my mind around. I had found myself in western Uganda. Yes, I hadn’t exactly planned this, but my internship work sent me. The same day I was told it would be good to visit the forestry college in Masindi district, I was on a bus to the region bordering Lake Albert and the DRC. In the dark, I was shown into a room, and left for myself until the morning. What appeared to be a flying worm buzzed near the light and I shivered, trying as hard as possible not to be squeamish but, failing, retreated under the covers beneath the mosquito net. Morning came and I had no water with which to shower. By now,…

Riga Weathers

Posted on 21 December 2014

  A rainbow shone further on down the street, flanked by old, tall buildings. Aija and I walked to her apartment so I could drop off my backpack. I had just arrived in Riga and already, I was learning a lot. As we made our way along, Aija expertly kept up with my curiosity and related various facts about the city to me. She was a professional guide, truly—she works for the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. So thus we chattered away as the rainbow faded and the sun began to drift lower. The wind whipped our hair around—even my short hair—an hour later as we stood on the roof of the mall, peering over the skyline of Riga. The sky was turning…

Baltic Chain, Remembered, or History Lingers

Posted on 28 October 2014

People with flags kept passing by us. Not just Lithuanian flags, which would be slightly more expected given that I was in Vilnius, but also Estonian and Latvian flags. Then it dawned: it was August 23, 2014, the 25th anniversary of Baltic Chain. Evelina and I walked to Cathedral Square and were surrounded by people mulling about with flags in hand and television crews zipping around. A stage had been set up for events later in the day. On August 23, 1989, approximately two million people across the three Baltic states joined hands, forming a chain from Vilnius, through Riga, to Tallinn, a distance of over 400 miles (about 675 kilometers). This was a peaceful protest against Soviet rule of the Baltics and was strategically…

I Am Another’s, But Also My Own

Posted on 9 July 2014

“What does your boyfriend think about that?” I usually crack a joke, something like “eh, he’s used to it,” but the constant questioning of how Ben feels about my travels begins to rub the wrong way. Everyone who has asked that question doesn’t even know him, so the motivation behind the question is less “someone I care about might be lonely” and more “wow, your boyfriend lets you travel on your own?” I’ve seen a clear difference in reactions to male friends’ travel plans; there is never any doubt of them being allowed to march where they please. I suppose this is just another thing that solo women travelers often must deal with. Of course, there’s the sexual harassment, which is even harder to navigate…