I come from a “shit-hole”

Another powerful post. This time from yet another “shit hole” country.

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Koyote the Blind

I am not an American.

I was born in the continent known as “America”, yes. But somehow this United States has given itself the name of the entire continent.

Ronald Reagan demoted the rest of this magnificent continent to the mere “Backyard of America.”

That’s when I came here, to the “land of the free,” when Ronald Reagan sent billions of dollars to military dictators so they could use the money to rape, torture, and massacre my people. I didn’t want to come here. Oh, how I hated coming to this land so full of restrictions, prohibitions, and people kept so ignorant of their own history!

Once I came here, almost no one I met knew where my country was. They all assumed I was Mexican. Except for Mexicans. They knew where I was from, and knew they couldn’t trust me because if was from where I was, I had…

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Notes about a “Shithole” country.

WASHINGTON — Once again, Haiti, a country with deep historical ties to the United States, is in the news. Once again, a negative narrative permeates the public dialogue and Haitian people are compelled to defend our humanity. Once again, the circumstances require us to wage a battle on two fronts: tackling the physical rebuilding of our nation so that future generations can prosper, while simultaneously combating prejudice and stigma that risk being, over time, institutionalized in the American consciousness.

Over the Christmas weekend, Haiti found itself the subject in a public spat between two major American institutions, the White House and The New York Times, over some comments the president allegedly made regarding Haitians and the AIDS epidemic.

While the controversy, fortunately, has receded from the headlines, it brought back painful memories for Haitians of a sad chapter in the United States’ public health policy. In the 1980s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued official warnings that simply being Haitian made a person more likely to contract HIV. The C.D.C. eventually — and rightly — dropped the unsubstantiated claim.

The reports of the president’s supposed comments — and the ensuing discussion of them — fit into a broader, troubling continuation of a narrative that is far too common in the United States, one that stigmatizes Haiti and Haitians as nothing more than the sum of natural disasters and instability, a country rampant with death and disease. In many American eyes, Haiti is in perpetual need of charity. This attitude provokes “compassion fatigue” — or worse yet, disdain.

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It is long past time for such thinking to end. Influential American news outlets and political leaders should lead the way by resisting the reflexive tendency to paint Haiti and its people, whether living at home or abroad, with broad-brushed narratives that lack historical context and oversimplify complex socio-economic realities.

Haiti has been a vibrant, steadfast hemispheric partner since its birth. Hundreds of Haitian soldiers fought in the Siege of Savannah alongside American troops to battle British imperialists in the Revolutionary War. Sparked by this nation’s commitment to independence and freedom, Haiti soon followed with its own revolution, throwing off the shackles of slavery and colonialism. Thus, Haiti and the United States represent two of the oldest republics in the hemisphere, bound by dignity and a pursuit of freedom for our peoples.

The Haitian-American population has made significant contributions to American culture and the United States’ economy. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian man, founded the city of Chicago in the 18th century. W.E.B. Du Bois, a leader in the American civil rights movement and a man of Haitian heritage, played a key role in creating the intellectual framework for equality for African-Americans.

Today, Haitian-Americans serve in the United States armed forces, and they represent their communities in state houses and on City Councils around the country. They are prominent scientists and engineers; they are taxi drivers, doctors, nurses and professional athletes. They are public-school teachers and university professors.

As Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, I have witnessed firsthand the Haitian people’s dignity, perseverance and resourcefulness. I have seen my people’s commitment to rebuilding communities and restoring homes after hurricanes. I have seen how young entrepreneurs in Haiti are now making exquisite chocolates to export to the United States. I have seen how engineering students in Haiti are now using technology to work remotely with Haitian-American engineers on disaster prevention.

These are examples of the countless positive initiatives underway in Haiti, with the support of the diaspora. Yet these attributes seem to be chronically lost in wider conversations about the Haitian people.

The recent controversy over President Trump’s alleged remarks have resurrected painful memories for Haitians. But it is a reminder of the urgent need to change the way our country is discussed in the United States. The narrative about Haiti should reflect our government’s development priorities.

We want our country to create wealth and prosperity for its citizens, not be viewed just as a recipient of humanitarian aid. Rather than American businesses donating excess inventory to our country, we are hoping they will invest in our country. Rather than students spending a week of spring break doing volunteer work, we want them to study abroad for a semester at one of our universities. Rather than writing a check to a charitable organization like the Red Cross, take a vacation on our beaches.

Given our two countries’ long intertwined history, it is time to we get to know each other on a level of mutual respect and understanding.

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These pictures are mine, taken just a few weeks ago. Do you have a story about Haiti? Do you need to vent some political rage about this situation? Drop a line.

 

comments welcome.

Weekend thoughts

5 weeks on the road. (With a few runs home mind you). Makes one think.

I wanted to share a few weekend words with you.

Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you have yet to earn.

Keep moving forward.

Happy Saturday.

Christmas in Sri Lanka

I’m exhausted. Drowsy and curry drunk. It’s the day after my fourth Christmas in a row abroad, and I am ready to sleep in tomorrow. I’ve trekked to the island of Sri Lanka. How that cane to pass I’ll detail a bit below. I’ve had a day tracking elephants. Before that I was dragging my tired ass into the central highlands through old tea factories and mountains, to the ancient capital of Ceylon. Driving here is for the iron nerved sociopath, and I’m beginning to think being a passenger is an even more desperate and depraved sport. This first scrambled bit is going to be short, as my thoughts are still turbulent on this savage place. My chutzpah is running low, but I will say this…

I was all set, enjoying the fuck out of Kuala Lumpur, basking in the unexpected goodness of new friends, cold beer, and eclectic dishes when I hit a snag.

Now I travel with a rather open itinerary as I’ve mentioned before, and sometimes this leads to all around, stars aligning glory. Other times it’s more of a mallet to the dong. I had asked the FaceBook world which path at this travel fork in the road I should take. Should I relax and beach it in Thailand, or should I get twisted and roll through the jungles of Laos? The votes were more or less even, with a bit more weight given to the jungle. But.. wait for it…I waited too long. Flights to Laos had tripled in a few hours rolling back from a fog enshrined Buddha.

Now I’m left to scramble. Let’s scan the skies and look for dozens of possible combinations across a slew of browser tabs. A few hours of logistics and where am I headed?

Motherfuckin’ Sri Lanka!

Mountains AND beaches, exotic flavor, and country #68! Compromise can be awesome.

Sitting next to the Indian Ocean on the Bay of Bengal makes for some epic scenery. Columbo as a city can be a bit like a sugar addled toddler. This place will keep your hands full. The savage nature has been amazing thus far, and so has the incredible warmth of many of the people.

The key factor for many, when it comes to enjoying Sri Lanka is getting out of the capital city of Colombo as soon as possible.

Which, that’s cool, but then you may be overlooking a gem of a city. I’m just not sure how to categorize Colombo just yet.

One thing I certainly did come here for…relaxation and elephants!

I’ve been enamored with the sunsets from the roof top pool and some stunning interactions with local mammals. I’m still organizing my thoughts on this crazy place, so this is just an introduction.

This is indeed, an island like no other…

Stay tuned for the next installment dropping shortly.

As always, I dig comments and email!

Random awesome invite to…Malaysia?!

This comes to me as a proper ode to serendipity. One of those moments of “buy the ticket, take the ride”…and never refuse an invitation. (At least a genuine one). Coming out of my Angkor stupor, I was surprised and warmed by an invite from the high king of prawn himself (see the Singapore prawn battle post) to join him and his lovely wife in Kuala Lumpur on this trek. I don’t travel with much of an itinerary, for exactly reasons like this.

a few days in KL? Why not?!

So off to this mega city I went.

Meeting with a local completely changes the nature of an excursion. You see elements of neighborhoods and cities that simply won’t happen from a hotel/hostel. Thank the gods my gracious hosts and I share a deep seated love of street food. The plastic table, chili sauce, Asian love variety especially. We quickly bonded over cold tiger beer and fish parts.

Kuala Lumpur is quite the eclectic mix of new and old wave migration. This city shows this at every layer, from the people on the bus to the wide range of ethnic eateries seemingly everywhere.

This city loves to SHOP, and to EAT. Malls may be dying in the states, but are booming here in the Malaysian capital.

Not one for malls, of course this left me with the option closest to my heart…the food! Kuala Lumpur, despite being a Muslim City, has divided the fun into “eating street” and “drinking street”.

Bring on the pork!!

Easy Peasy.

I came to KL with next to no expectation, on a friendly invite. What I encountered…an incredible swirl of culture, and food. Americans especially would benefit tremendously from stepping out of that comfort zone and hitting South East Asia.

A non stop mix of everything awesome. A night of absolute gastronomic debauchery. It proved quite a change to go on auto pilot for a bit. Friends here knew where to go and how to get there. I was able to relax and enjoy. From roof top beers to a sultry mix of flavors on the streets below.

KL is seemingly constantly building, rising, expanding. You can feel this vibe, or pulse through the entire place. The traffic can be brutal. Once you exhaust yourself of meat sticks and cold beer (blasphemy I know) the time has come to retreat to the highlands that ring the city. The cable cars will take you to what is now the worlds largest hotel at 5000 + rooms. The malls and shopping centers are optional, as the cooler temps and the view are what makes this a necessity.

Something about temples and rain forest in the mist…just adds that exact eastern exotic feel you’ve been looking for. Spend a day here, and enjoy.

I would never thought to cone here, or that this really existed had it not been for friends. The unexpected can be the absolute best. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this entire excursion was built with the help of friends. From Grand Rapids, to Chicago, now Kuala Lumpur and beyond. This inspires a humble smile, as none of us can go it alone. Get up, get out there, remember to check your ego at the door, don’t be an asshole and enjoy. You will marvel every single day at how amazing this world and it’s people can be.

Or crush another bag of chips from the couch and talk shit on Facebook. Your call.

I thought for sure I was headed to Laos after this…but as with all things, this has changed. I hope you’re ready for the next jump after this altogether awesome stop in Kuala Lumpur! We are in for a surprise.

Drop a comment or feel free to hit me up

Thegypsyprofessor@gmail.com

Thanksgiving 10k

I finally hit my proverbial stride here in Singapore on my second day. Exploring the river and the marina is fun, and engaging. On a bright day the heat drains you quick, so prepare for that as you build your day. Today included a renewed run to the hawker markets and China town. The first order of business was breakfast and a post office. I ended up with great success on both counts.

I have a game I play. Everywhere I go I send a few post cards. (my mom loves them) I always send one to myself. I’ve taken to asking people in cafes, restaurants, shit, at bus stops etc, if they will write a brief message in the native tongue. I make sure to insist they don’t tell me what it says, then try to find someone to translate once I arrive back in the mitten. Today’s first and foremost excursion/adventure was to find a post office. It’s akin to an international scavenger hunt. Some places, super easy…other places, might as well try to find a carrier pigeon to bring it over.

After success with the stamps it was time to see what China town had to offer.

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As evidence of the swirl of culture here, all of the countries languages are represented on proper signage. Exploring China town is a blast, from the street scenes to the large temples and the formerly seedy red light turned gentrified hipster haven district.

I had a promise to fulfill, as I had joked about, upon finding that there existed a Buddhist temple with one of the Buddha’s teeth as a holy relic I vowed to hit the donation box if my flight over wasn’t hellacious.

Well, Buddha tooth showed up, and I survived in tact with an empty row one leg, and an exit row the next.

Thus the dollars flowed.

So today begins thanksgiving, a holiday I haven’t been home for now 4 years running. I dig turkey and family and all that, but one must satiate the wanderlust. I’m in the search for authenticity here, no bollocks or bullshit. I knew I was plotting for an epic feast of some kind… I just wasn’t sure exactly what, or where.

China town is fucking ideal for this. Layers of options from the expected to the extreme.

Enter the pepper crab. I end up locked in a death struggle with one of Singapore’s best known dishes. Little did I know this kraken of the deep is served mostly whole.

2.2 Lbs of clawed glory…I attacked him with hands, fork, and chopsticks. I made quite the mess while doing do.

I did everything I could, but in the end, the crab won. Call it a TK0. I can’t forget one of my favorite shots of the day, my turkey day lunch buddy:

I absolutley love China town, the hawker centers and getting lost there today before the rain. I hope everyone has an awesome holiday. Happy thanksgiving everyone!

I leave for Borneo tomorrow, so stay tuned!more to come!

Logistics with a friend.

How do you travel?

What’s the nitty gritty detail side look like?

When you travel solo and do it often enough, you begin to develop a system. Set aside some time, plot a rough itinerary and then slowly fill in a few blanks. Always remember, however, to leave a large enough space for our dear friend spontaneity. Arguably the best element of any excursion, near or far.

I leave for the Far East in 3 Days, with a brief stop in the Windy City. I’m curious for all of my friends and followers, what kinds of pre departure rituals do you enjoy? Any particular meals or rendezvous tickle your pre travel fancy? I’d love to hear them! For me I almost always need to select my reading material, throw some laundry in, and grab a beer with old friends.

Cheers everyone! Happy Friday!

How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself

Another great piece by Chad Wellmon. What about the questions of higher education and the digital age…The university is a technology.

This essay, written with Andrew Piperfirst appeared on October 8, 2017 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ten years ago, the Higher Education Funding Council for England decided to “assess” the quality of research in universities across Britain by putting in place a new system, the Research Excellence Framework. In 2014, the Council and its institutional partners released a report that included evaluations of almost 200,000 “research outputs” ­— including journal articles, books, and conference proceedings. Since then academics on both sides of the Atlantic have ridiculed the REF, as the framework is known, as a bureaucratic boondoggle that values quantity over quality.

Despite the derision, analytic exercises such as the REF or the use of commercial databases, such as Academic Analytics, by universities in the United States have come to stand for a basic truth about the contemporary research university: Publications are the most fundamental…

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The Wild man of…

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This weekend here in Michigan proved rather cold. A bit of rain, overcast skies, and plunging evening temperatures. This was absolutely perfect, as I had work to do. The most important kind.

 

Plotting.

 

What kind of plotting? The adventure kind of course! The decision was looming about where to build this sites initial episode from. After weighing the feedback and thinking over this weekend, It looks as if first up will be Singapore, followed by Borneo! I’m super stoked on hitting  the big city, and then escaping to Boko natural park, and exploring the Orangutan sanctuaries. orangutan-in-borneo

Most of the votes and feedback wanted far flung, I hope Borneo accomplishes that! I will be adding more details over this next week before departure.  So be sure to check back. As always I welcome your comments and feed back, drop some words here, or email me Thegypsyprofessor@gmail.com

Happy Sunday Funday!

 

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The Times They are a Changin’

Tis’ that time in the mitten state. Its actually cold, and the leaves have changed. The semester is nearly finished, and yet another year is soon to pass. With the winter holiday fast approaching, the days of bluebook exams, and long haul flights have arrived. My goal with this project is to begin to build “episodes”. An indepth exploration of this fascinating world of ours.  From Detroit to Da Nang. Boston to Budapest, Capetown to Cape cod.   My lens is focused on food, culture, history and a few things in between. I’m looking forward to comments as I publish this site across a spectrum and share it over social media.

 

Feel free to drop me a line, and share your reactions and observations.

 

I’m still debating on this first write up, Should we go local, domestic, or absolutely far flung?  Leave a region, a city, or a suggestion in the comments option up top!

 

Thank You

 

 

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