Photo: Sarah Menkedick
It has been shockingly warm in Pittsburgh for the past several days, and I’ve been basking in sunlight at our scrappy $10 Good Will wooden table, reading applications. Over the course of weeks and then a few deliberate, final days we – as in myself, David Miller, senior editor at Matador and senior editor of BETA Magazine, and Julie Schwietert, managing editor of Matador – began to narrow down our choices and ultimately came out with a group of ten people whose stories I think you’re going to love. They’ll be writing from Poland, Uganda, Germany, South Korea, Hungary, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Cambodia, and Syria.
Here are the Spring 2011 Glimpse Correspondents:
1. Polly Fields
My long-term partner and I are moving to the Hungarian capital, Budapest, on January 2nd 2011. We will be driving from our current home in the far southwest of England – in my old Nissan Micra car – and heading across the English channel, through France, Germany and Austria to Hungary.
That will be the first adventure – and challenge.
Hungary is taking over the EU Presidency at the start of next year, and it promises to be an interesting time.
Politically, Hungary has come a long way since the fall of communism – but there are concerns that the current ruling Fidesz party is pushing towards constitutional change and tightening control of the media.
With the spotlight turning towards this country, it is the perfect time to seek out stories. There are lots to be told; the challenges for women wanting to give birth at home but are unable to find midwives willing to risk practicing in a country where there are no licenses that allow it, the revival of old Communist holiday parks for those nostalgic for old times, and the thousands of Hungarian Diaspora dotted around the country’s numerous borders.
I want to tell these stories by finding an individual or a family – as I have done before – and explain it through their experiences.
I would be thrilled to be doing this as a Glimpse Correspondent.
2. Klara Wojtkowska
Despite tragedies that seem arresting, Poland is going through other cathartic changes. After being under occupation for fifty years, the country is opening up to immigrants from all over. Though issues of the past are not resolved, it is a constantly shifting community of Poles that has to address them.
As a Glimpse correspondent, I want to address forgiveness, memory and immigration within Poland, and other former Eastern bloc states. As a bi-lingual, bi-cultural correspondent, I have unique access into Poland. As a writer I believe that I am capable of insight that will hopefully inspire people to find other cultures within themselves.
3. Lauren Quinn
“It took five people to die for me to be born.”
This is was my best friend Lynda. We were nine years old, sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, a little yellow house that flinched every time the bus went past.
She said it in passing, nothing dramatic or special, just a simple declaration of fact: I am a product of death. Before the Khmer Rouge, both of her parents had had other families, children and spouses; they’d all died during the war. Her parents met in a hastily arranged marriage and managed to escape the country shortly thereafter.
But in some ways, they never got out; in some ways, no one gets out. Pol Pot was always there, in that house, always lurking around: Pol Pot in the corners, Pol Pot behind the shut doors; Pol Pot in the insomniac footsteps and late-night murmurs, in the bruises across her brother’s shins. (“Where did you learn to make fire with sticks?” my mother asked her mother, astonished, when we went camping. “I learn during Pol Pot!”)
And so Lynda grew up with the shadow of Pol Pot. And I, tangentially, grew up with the awareness of that shadow—the notion that there was something there, hanging behind the surface of everyday, of carpooling and swim team and Babysitters Club parties.
I am traveling to Cambodia to dig beneath the shadow.
4. Margaret Robinson
I am fascinated by the contradictory instances of both misunderstanding and deep connection that seemed to define all of my interactions and relationships in the Middle East, and these are themes that I hope to continue to explore in Syria. I will be studying Arabic and volunteering a local health clinic this Spring semester in Aleppo, northern Syria, the country’s largest city and home to its second-largest university. I expect that very few people will speak English, or indeed will have ever met an American. As someone who combines a strong background in Arabic and French with open-mindedness and self-awareness, I hope to provide a unique perspective on a country that has had a historically volatile relationship with the rest of the world.
5. Shaina Shealy
6. Julian Hill
Like many Americans of African descent, I have no knowledge of my ancestral lineage before slavery (and very little knowledge of even the following generations). Yet, I am fascinated with the idea of why there is a connection that I and many others still feel with the Continent and how it manifests itself on a day-to-day basis: what prejudices do I have about Ugandans and vice versa? How do Ugandans feel about Black Americans that travel to their country? Where are the similarities and points of conflict? Why is this transdiasporic exchange so important, yet, largely unknown and unexplored among my peer group?
7. Ivana Ng
When I travel, I am always aware of how privileged I am. Though I grew up in lower middle class household, I realize now that I AM privileged because I hold a US passport and because I am a college student.
From January to May, I will be studying abroad in Hong Kong, taking courses at HKU and living in a dorm with local students. As a Glimpse Correspondent, I want to be conscious of my position of privilege and how that contributes to my experiences abroad.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates to live in, and it boasts a highly developed capitalist economy. I want to tackle uncomfortable issues about my own presence as a foreigner in Hong Kong. How do local students react to exchange students? Do they resent, envy, or exotify us? How would they react to a white American student as opposed to me, an American-born Chinese girl? What kind of problems will I face as a Chinese-American, someone who can perhaps “pass” as Hong Kongese but whose dress and mannerisms are probably so obviously American? How does my view of the world differ from those of the local HK students in my classes? Is globalization different from Americanization? I’m not convinced that it is, so it will be interesting to see how prevalent American culture is in Hong Kong, which is considered a world capital.
8. Emma Parker
From bathroom-stall graffiti to children’s clapping games, from traditional African foodways and music to the inverted French slang of the Paris suburbs, every nation has its own culture that’s born not of the academies—not the art schools of Florence or the pop-culture magazines—but of the people. I’m interested in these stray cultural occurrences, because as foreign as another country can be, there are traditions, old and new, that unite us and often fly under the radar. I’d love the chance to document some of these traditions. We often get stuck believing that a place only has one narrative. We think that Rome only has ruins and classical art, that the American South is full of tooth-less banjo players. But I’m interested in the OTHER narratives a place has—the subcultures and hidden cultural worlds that every place supports and nurtures. We think that traditions must be archaic and folksy, quaint. But new traditions appear every day, and it’s these upcoming cultures that fascinate me.
9. Iris Chung
As a single, feminist, 27 year-old Korean-American woman, I am eager to explore themes surrounding beauty and national identity in Seoul. South Korea is known for having one of the world’s highest rates of cosmetic plastic surgery. Being familiar with the popularity of eyelid surgery within Korean American communities, I am curious to observe how beauty is defined in a highly technological, recently industrialized society where physical attractiveness is perceived as being directly connected to attaining economic “success.” I’m also interested to learn more about the social pressures and stigma that South Korean women face beyond the pursuit of physical perfection. Even though more and more women are entering the workforce, popular Korean soap operas like “The woman who still wanted to marry” preach the importance of marrying young and within the Korean race.
Having been involved in diversity education, I’m interested in having conversations with young South Koreans about race, immigration, and how they define “diversity.” By interning at a company while also studying at a language program at the University of Yonsei, I hope to improve my intermediate language skills while interacting with students and professionals to hear a variety of attitudes and perspectives. While living in Argentina in 2008, I had the opportunity to get involved with Munguau, a nonprofit promoting cultural exchange between Koreans and Argentineans. I hope to seek out similar organizations working on anti-discrimination efforts in Seoul. In light of recent conflict between North and South Korea and increasing globalization, intercultural dialogue seems even more relevant and necessary.
10. Jiffer Bourguignon
As a Glimpse Correspondent I would like to explore a topic that I think is extremely pertinent to other Glimpse readers: what happens to travelers when they have kids? Can we keep going as we have been? What sorts of compromises do we need to make? How can I afford another ticket or two? These and other key questions are the ones that I am asking myself, that my friends and many in our generation are asking themselves. We 30 somethings have had more opportunities to study and volunteer abroad, to travel cheaper by air, to explore “remote” destinations, to benefit from better tourist infrastructure than any previous generation. We have been spoiled and are used to our largely uninhibited mobility. And then suddenly – an obstacle greater than being on a tight budget – a baby. I want to look at how we keep going – with kids in tow. And with two aged two, I am just the person to do this. I am also, as you may have gleaned from my writing sample, a food enthusiast – in particular with regards to how food relates to culture. I would also like to explore this topic which is particularly challenging here in Germany, a country that is not revered for its culinary traditions like neighbor France or Italy.