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Archive for the ‘notes’ Category

Halfway around the world: Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – Halfway around the world, and four months on the road, there are two constants we’ve learned: One, sightseeing is fine and dandy, but it’s the people that make the place. And two, the dirty clothes sniff test that we thought had been well tested in college, well… let’s just say that we’ve lowered the bar slightly.

Symbolically, more through luck of the calendar than outright planning, the night train from outside of Venice, Italy, to Zagreb, Croatia, crossed over more than just another nation’s boundaries. Somewhere shortly after midnight on April 30th, we straddled a point where four months of travel was behind us, and with another four months ahead of us to go we left the world of the familiar and headed into the unknown.

Getting off the train at five that morning, Cyrillic letters and a whole new set of experiences came into light with the rising sun.


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In case you’ve missed it

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

There’s a common saying out here on the road: “Where are we again?” Since leaving the Western Hemisphere, we’ve been to 11 different countries and countless places in between. We have a hard time keeping up ourselves, so just in case you’ve missed it, here are some of our more notable days and articles on the jaunt so far since leaving New York for the second time:

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How David Hasselhoff brought down the Berlin Wall | Berlin, Germany – Brian Rogers
Since our stay in Germany, we’ve caught on that David Hasselhoff comes up a lot for Germans. Rumor has it that he’s “big,” as they say, in Germany. “It happens every time I have visitors here,” revealed Ayla Kiran, our host in Berlin. “One of the first things they ask is ‘Is he really a star here?’ ” Denials or explanations must then be made to put the whole story into context, and, if all goes well, put it behind them.

“Taking” photos | Mombasa, Kenya – Alicia Conway
While poised to take a photo of a street scene, a teenager with what must have been an entire bag of chips on his shoulder shouted at me. “It’s not fair, sister. It is not fair. This is not London. You are not on safari. These are not animals to be photographing.” With that, he rounded the corner and was gone, most likely without any concept of what he had left in his wake.

The people we meet: Benard Langat | Nairobi, Kenya – Mike Kurtz
It’s the people that we meet that make a place; for us, the face of Kenya will always be that of Benard Langat’s. A long distance runner, hoping to make it onto the international scene, Benard graciously found time in the middle of his busy training schedule to show us around Nairobi.

A journey to Iten

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Until we touched down in Kenya, stories of a lightning fast boy named Philemon and Kenyan runners were the closest we ever got to the country. Our friend Jon Rosen, currently a masters student at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Bologna, Italy, was our link to the country, and is closely in tune with the running scene in Kenya through his friend Philemon Terer. The following piece by Rosen gives a glimpse at the scene at the elite runners village of Iten – where the running world is a long and hard ticket out of Kenya. This piece also appeared on RunnersWorld.com. – T.A.

Except for the muffled tones of distant cowbells and the mild rustling of nearby pines, the clearing where our group of runners has assembled is eerily silent. Though just a twenty-minute jog through glades and pastures, the local town where we began our warm-up might as well be days away, the street-vendors and overcapacity mini-busses having yielded somewhere around the ten-minute mark to the pristine forces of nature, including, of immediate concern to our company, a large green hill right out of the literature of Hemingway.

For our group of thirteen athletes, composed of eleven highly-trained Kenyans and a visiting father-son team of wazungus (white men in Kiswahili), this 150-meter mound is a sign that it’s time to get to work. As we line up in single file, shortly after 10:00 am, the most accomplished athlete of our group, Ronald Kipchumba Rutto, hands down the morning’s assignment: 15 times up and down. Knowing that most of the athletes have already run an hour hard early in the morning, I ask if the workout will be competitive. Rutto, the 2004 World Junior Steeplechase champion, turns and stares me down with a slight grin.

“We are Kenyans,” he says.

This is all I need to hear. (more…)

Kenya burning

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

A world of change can happen in three months. For those keeping score, we wavered quite a bit about if we should indeed head to Kenya. Once a mark of stability in a continent known for anything but, the East African nation disintegrated into deadly tribal strife after contested presidential elections late last year. By the time we were packing our bags, we were pretty sure that Kenya was off the itinerary. A month and a half later, things had settled and we cautiously looked into visiting the nation once again.

Ultimately, it was the blessing of Jon Rosen that gave us the confidence to buy our tickets. Rosen, a childhood friend of ours and a former teacher in Kenya, continues to maintain strong contacts with the Kenyan running scene and has a good hand on the local pulse. Currently a master’s student at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Bologna, Italy (a future destination on the Jaunt), Rosen recently wrote the following piece that masterfully breaks down the recent, and unstable situation in Kenya. -T.A.

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For someone with a deep personal connection to Kenya and its people, the presidential and parliamentary elections of last December 27th had long been marked on my calendar. On that day, opinion polls showed, Raila Odinga, a youthful populist who preached a message of ethnic harmonization, stood a fair chance of upending the aging incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

Elected five years prior on a pledge to curb the country’s longstanding history of corruption, Kibaki was nonetheless accused of reverting to the ways of his forefathers: endorsing tribal favoritism, widening the gap between the country’s elite upper-class and its impoverished masses, and turning his back on various episodes of high-level plundering of state coffers.

As returns trickled in the day after the election, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement had made large gains in Parliament, and, local sources reported, had a sizeable lead in the race for the Presidency. On the 29th, however, the announcement of further results was suspended under dubious circumstances. That day, I opened my inbox to find the following message from police officer friend who’s also an athlete – and an astute political observer – in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret.

“There are some alarming news about Kibaki rigging the poll ‘n a speedy swearing in ceremony tomorrow against the peoples’ wish. You can imagine what will definitely follow. The Eldoret you knew is not the Eldoret of today, total chaos, total mess.”

Thus began the overnight plunge of a country I’d grown to love for the hospitality and kindness of its people, into one replete with the vilest of human atrocities.

How on Earth did this come to be? At the core, I see three different explanations. (more…)

A change of pace in Guatemala

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

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After two weeks in Mexico, things were starting to feel more familiar, even comfy. Having entered Guatemala, even though it sits right below Mexico, certain differences become immediately apparent and serve as reminders of the importance of the imaginary lines drawn by nations, as well as physical boundaries, that both affect groups of people. Entering Guatemala has opened up a different world that we can now compare with the first.

A day in Guatemala is all you need to realize that Mexico’s size and proximity to the United States has created a dynamic that doesn’t exist in Guatemala. The difference between the two countries in trade, governmental cooperation, and de facto cultural exchange with the United States is clear in the way the two countries function as a whole. (more…)

About LongJaunt Equal parts lighthearted jaunt and in-depth journey, this intimately documented trip around the world has one goal: to bring you along for the ride.
contributors

Thushan Amarasiriwardena

, former Senior Multimedia Producer at The Boston Globe, has always loved telling a great story. Combining his eye for visual story telling and his technical background in computer science at North Carolina State University, Thushan has reported on business, sports and travel for The Globe. You can find his site here.

Michael Kurtz

, graduated with a degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His thesis research focused on the intersection of race and music in Northeastern Brazil. He worked previously as A&R and Production Coordinator for Putumayo World Music, an international music record label based in New York City. You can find his site here.

Brian Rogers

graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and has traveled extensively in Latin America.

Alicia Conway

is LongJaunt's home base chief and a Technical Producer for The Boston Globe. She joined and contributed with the team out in England, Kenya, Tanzania, The Netherlands and Thailand.