joe previte

Yes, you may spit in public: Cultural Differences in Shanghai after 4 weeks

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[Photo taken on June 18th, 2015 while walking to the subway from IKEA]

It’s been two weeks since my last post(I haven’t sat down to write in a while) but I finally found time to write about a few cultural differences I’ve noticed while being here in Shanghai, China. Here are the main ones:

People are genuinely kind

For the most part, Chinese people in Shanghai tend to be kind. They smile at you, they laugh, and they help you when you ask for it. I haven’t had any issues yet(fingers crossed) but I don’t expect to either.

Chinese people are very superstitious

Often you will hear fireworks go off randomly around the city. Anytime a new store is opened, they shoot off fireworks to scare away the ghosts. The color gold is used to also scare away ghosts and “protect” certain buildings and stores. Also, the number 4 is unlucky because it is a homonym for the word death meaning it is the same word, but in a different tones in Mandarin and some other dialects of Chinese.

Spitting in public is socially acceptable

In public, common to hear people gathering up all the saliva and mucus in their mouth and then yucking it onto the street. It may be disgusting to hear and see but it’s most likely due to the air pollution that they have to eliminate all that gross stuff from their system. I

Men grow out their pinky nails to pick ear wax

I wish I had a picture to show for this but yes, some men will have long fingernails on their pinkies with the specific purpose of cleaning the earwax from their ears.

“scooterpooling” and “bikepooling” is common

Almost anywhere I go in Shanghai, I always see multiple people on scooters and bicycles. I carefully observed scooters and bikes when I’m walking and it seems as though almost all are built to hold at least two people. I personally think it’s awesome! They’re saving electricity(most scooters are electric) or just sharing a ride! I wish my bike back home had a seat on the back for someone- I’d give friends rides more often! I don’t have a picture I took but here’s one I found on Google Images so you get the idea:

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Well, hope you enjoyed the short post with a few observations about cultural differences in Shanghai! Next week, I will write about what my experience has been like teaching English! Zàijiàn!

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An adventureous night in Vancouver led by serendipity and the kindness in strangers

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As we started approaching customs, the short time frame I had to decide whether or not I wanted to start a conversation with these two strangers was coming to an end. It was now, or never. I took a deep breath and asked the simple question, “How far is the airport from downtown?”

Before I continue to explain how this one moment carved the path leading up to a night of several serendipitous events, I should start from the beginning.

Two weeks ago on May 24th, 2015, I was leaving from LAX Airport and flying to Shanghai, China with a 13-hour layover in Vancouver, Canada. After eating dinner in the airport, I headed towards my gate. When I neared the gate, I scanned the area to find a place to sit. Two blonde girls that appeared to be my age or slightly older were sitting and chatting. I noticed a few open seats in the row across from them and decided that if I sat there, I might make a few friends.

I dropped my bags and sat down. The conversation between the two girls seemed to have faded as they both were reading when I looked up from my seat. I decided to join the reading party and pulled out the intriguing book I was currently reading called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts(*I highly recommend it! It’s about a man who escaped from prison in Australia, fled to India and worked in the slums, black market, and fought in the war. True story).

A significant amount of time passed and the reading party continued. Then the Air Canada desk attendant announced over the loudspeaker,”Any foreign passengers that are not Canadian citizens must come up to fill out a form before boarding the plane.” I pulled my nose out of my book and realized the message was directed at me, as non-Canadian citizen. I went up, grabbed a form, then returned to my seat and proceeded to fill it out.

“Sir? Excuse me.” The younger-looking blonde girl with the tattoo of a feather behind her ear who was sitting directly across from me asked in a tone that voiced her doubtfulness with choice of “sir” to address me.

I looked up with my own form of uncertainty. “Is she calling me sir?” I chuckled to myself in my head. My choice of attire most likely influenced her word choice. I wore brown dress shoes, simple khakis with a brown belt and an azure-colored polo tucked in.

Once we made eye contact, she continued, “What is that you’re filling out?”

“This? Oh, it’s for U.S…” I stopped short.

“Citizens?”

“Yes” I laughed.

“Oh, okay good.” She said smiling back.

A sign of relief washed across their faces. I assumed they must be Canadian so they didn’t need to fill out the form.

Both parties returned to reading their novels. A few minutes later, I overheard the other blonde girl say to her friend, “Sir is a little bit formal.” I smiled, looked up at them and chuckled, “Yeah, it was a little formal but I guess I’m not sure what else you would use?”

They laughed. The blonde girl in front of me added, “Yeah, ‘dude’ or ‘guy’ would have been weird.” I smiled and laughed. That was the extent of our conversation before we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, I didn’t sit next to them on the plane either. However, the first serendipitous moment happened soon after.

During the 3 hour flight from LA to Vancouver, I simply minded my own business and read. The two older women next to me both put in headphones either to prevent any conversation between us or to create a white noise to ease resting during the flight.

When the flight landed around 10:45pm, I realized I was going to be spending the next 13 hours in the Vancouver Airport…I thought maybe if the city were close enough, I would go exploring but the research I had done prior to flying was so preliminary that I felt uncertain whether it would be a good idea or not to leave the airport. I certainly didn’t want to risk missing my flight.

Since I figured I would be spending the next several hours in the airport, I decided to take my time getting off the plane. The combination of not being in a rush to make a connecting flight or go anywhere, plus the fact that my large backpack was in the overhead compartment and would take a good amount of time to take down convinced me to wait until a large amount of people had exited the plane before I get off.

While waiting for a gap in the line off the plane, the two Canadian girls I had spoken to briefly smiled  and said bye as they walked past me. Then, the gap I had been waiting to seize appeared. I took advantage of it. I loaded my large blue 48L Osprey backpack on my back and my medium-sized black 25L REI backpack on front then exited the plane.

And this is where the story picks up from where it started. I was about 5 feet or so behind the two Canadian girls- just enough to be able to start up a conversation.

The two girls looked back at me and the other one who I had not spoken much to said, “Downtown? It’s not too far. You can take the Canada line straight there (similar to a light rail). It might take 30 minutes or so.” My simple question broke the dam created by society stating that we “should not talk to strangers” and a river of conversation finally flowed out.

I learned that their names were Katie and Kelsi and they had spent the weekend in California for fun. They went to Disneyland, the beach and had a wonderful time. Both were 22 years old and studying at a university in Vancouver. Katie was undecided and Kelsi studied sports sciences.

Before reaching customs, they both convinced me to take advantage of my layover as an opportunity to explore downtown Vancouver. We stayed together, chatting through customs till I went to the kiosk to scan my passport and realized I had ended up in the line for Canadian citizens.

I hurried over to the line for foreigners then proceeded to the customs agent when a window was available. After lots of intimidating questions such as why I’m in canada, where I’ll be staying, who’s paying for it, etc. I entered into the great country of Canada.

Not sure where to find the Canada line or even what to do downtown, I sat down near baggage claim and attempted to find a wifi network to connect to. Unfortunately, none of them were unlocked or free so I sat there looking a little helpless. Lucky for me, Katie and Kelsi grabbed their bags and then offered to help me.

They walked with me over to the storage center then offered to walk me to the Canada line upstairs. They wrote directions to arrive downtown via the Canada line on an old receipt from a Nike outlet store. I told them I could figure it out with the directions they gave me then hugged them and said goodbye. The fact that they were total strangers yet demonstrated the kindness of a friendship  that had lasted for years amazed me. I felt extremely grateful for their help and the serendipity of the situation.

From there on, the serendipitous moments continued as if someone had planned the entire night for me.

I took the escalator up to the Canada line and went to the machines to buy my ticket. Not sure exactly how much fare to purchase to get downtown, I stood in front of the machine for about two minutes before a kind man in a green vest approached me.

“Are ye lost?” he asked me in his thick Canadian accent. I told him I wanted to go downtown. He told me exactly what stop to get off and even handed me a map. At this point, I think to myself, “Gosh, the Canadians are so friendly. I should just stay here.”

I got off at the City Centre station nearby and found myself in downtown Vancouver with no plans or knowledge of the city.

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I started walking down a street that looked busy and found myself a small pizza shop that sold slices for $2.75. I bought a supreme slice, sat down at a table and munched away that evening’s dinner. Luckily, there was wifi so I could look up places to go. At first, I decided to google pubs and bars in Vancouver but then I thought, “Why am I sitting here on my phone when I could easily ask someone or just go to a random bar see what happens?” I finished my slice of pizza and headed out to continue the night’s adventure.

I recalled Katie and Kelsi mentioning a bar called the Roxy somewhere downtown. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was so I just decided to walk down the street and see what I could find. I went down once then went back up the same street and decided on a place called The Roxyburger. The outside patio was full of people drinking beer and chatting. Inside, there was a bar and tables where people were eating food. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer. I laughed to myself and thought, “Okay, I’m here but now what? How does one go about meeting people without intruding on a group?” I sat there for a good 15 minutes, people watching and enjoying not knowing how the night would unfold. A guy and a girl came up to the bar and looked over at me momentarily. They were ordering shots I guessed and the bartender told them to move over to the empty seat next to me. He poured them two shots of an alcohol that I didn’t recognize.

“Have you ever tried a buttery nipple?” The girl turned and asked me.

I was startled for a second then laughed and replied, “No, what’s that?”

“It’s sweet. They’re really good. Take one with us! We’ll wait for you!”

I thought, “Ah, sure, why not.” I ordered one, took the shot with them and then said, “That wasn’t too bad.”

“Yeah, we like them,” the girl replied as they started to get up to return to their table outside.

“Hey, could I join you two? I’m here because I have a layover and obviously don’t know anyone.” I laughed in self-pity.

“Of course you can! We’ll introduce you to our friends!” The girl replied and the guy smiled at me.

And then, the next section in the night began. The girl’s name was Emily and she was from Oregon. She had traveled from Oregon with two friends to see Milky Chance in Vancouver and they decided to stay in Vancouver for a little. The guy’s name was Daniel and he was from Australia. He was traveling in Canada for a little. They introduced me to the rest of their group which included a few Germans, a few Australians and a few Canadians. Everyone was between 21 and 25 and very friendly and welcoming! They referred to me as “Joe from Arizona” or with a few, just “Arizona,” which I found rather amusing.

I chatted and hung out with them for a while before a group of Canadian guys in college from Manitoba, Canada who knew Emily, invited us to go on an unofficial pub crawl with them. We all agreed to go and then we headed out. In total, there was about 12 of us.

One guy that stood out the most from the group was named Brady. He was Emily’s friend and from Oregon. We connected really well. He was friendly, genuine and outgoing. He studied photography at a small college in Oregon and was the one who bought the tickets to see Milky Chance. Emily, and her friend Peyton, both had known Brady since high school and asked if they could go to the convert with him. At each of the two bars we went to, he offered to buy me a drink and then we had an interesting conversation about who we were and why we did the things we did.

Around 3:15am, the group of international travelers I had been spending most of the night with decided to head home. Brady offered for me to stay the night at their hostel but then remembered they checked everyone’s keys so unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. I said my goodbyes and then remained at the bar till about 3:30am when they kicked everyone at. A server at the bar gave me directions back to the Canada line station but said it wouldn’t start running again till 5 or 6am.

Out of plans and ideas, I decided to walk back to the station anyway and figure out a plan there.

When I got there, the gates were locked and it was closed, just as the server had warned me. I sat on a bench and contemplated my options. Well, it was dark near the station and I didn’t know if the area was dangerous so I decided to head back towards the pizza place and the Roxyburger.

On my way back, I peeked my head into the Burger King that was still open. “Should I go in, order food and just hang out?” I contemplated to myself. I decided not to, thankfully, and headed to the pizza shop.

I was in luck. It was still open.

“Hey look, it’s the guy from Best Buy,” one guy joked as I got in line for pizza. I then realized there were no longer serving pizza. A girl and a guy, who looked to be my age, started talking to me. They both wanted pizza and asked if I wanted to join them to buy pizza somewhere. They didn’t seem to be dangerous or suspicious and the guy who joked about me working for Best Buy was with them so I said “Sure, why not?”

We walked up and down the streets looking for restaurants still open at 4am in the morning on a Sunday. They asked me why I was there, what I was doing, etc. and we made small talk. They were all friendly and seemed like genuine individuals. Their names were Jordan, Morgan, and Ivo and they were all 23 years old. I told them I had never been to Vancouver before, let alone Canada and then told me they would take me to the best spots and hang out with me until the Canada line opened back up.

The only food place we found was a 7/11 that serves taquitos- you know, the ones you think “Hmm, those could be good” but then you second guess yourself and say, “No, what am I thinking. Who knows how long those have been out?” Well, that was the only hot food available so I bought two. They weren’t delicious but they did the job and kept my hunger at bay.

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They brought me to Yaletown, which is this pier with lots of large yachts and boats. We sat down and talked about life until about 6am when the station opened back up. Ivo even offered to take the Canada line with me to the airport to make sure that I returned with no problems. After having talked about culture, he also offered to introduce me to ice caps which is a coffee slushie that he said was really popular in Canada, or at least Vancouver.

I said goodbye to Ivo and thanked him for helping me. Then grabbed my bags and curled open on the ground to take a 4 hour nap before heading to my gate around 10am. As I lay there and reran the route of the all-nighter in Vancouver, I realized the night took itself in directions I could never have imagined. I feel extreme gratitude for the kindness all those I encountered treated me with during my long adventure in Vancouver. It reminds me that there are lots of good people out there in the world and one of best thing we can do to make sure those good people don’t disappear is to be kind to all.

Life reveals her inner beauty when you simply surrender the desire to control her and you let her sail you which ever way she decides to blow the wind.

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Update: To make this story even crazier, the guy I met named Brady is a dating a girl who went to high school in Oregon with one of my really close friends at the University of Arizona. The world is so big yet it’s so small.

A Winter Break Adventure through New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey

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[Photo taken in JFK Airport]

I finally found time to write this post about my recent visit to the East Coast for the first time during winter break! My schoolwork, leadership role as an RA and other commitments have kept me preoccupied these past weeks, which is why I didn’t write this post sooner!

On New Year’s Eve, my girlfriend and I flew to NYC to see friends and spend the holiday in a new, exciting place this year!  Lucky for us, we arrived in New York with enough time to check in to our Airbnb, drop off our stuff, eat pizza at Lombardi’s and make it to Times Square with enough time to see the magic happen and watch the ball drop! It was wonderful to see all the fireworks and confetti afterwards and we definitely enjoyed the experience. However, you do have to stand and hold your place for multiple hours. We arrived there around 9pm and were still not able to get near the ball drop. Fortunately, we were able to watch it drop from the side!

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That glowing ball at the top right was the ball in Times Square for New Year’s Eve in NYC.

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Our Airbnb was located in Little Italy, which is a small neighborhood, once known for a large population of Italians(hence the name).

The next few days were spent visiting different places around the city with our friends.

IMG_6209We ice-skated in Central Park!

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We visited the Statue of Liberty 🙂 (Taken with a GoPro)

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We spent the last night exploring Times Square.

Before we left, Stacey bought a selfie-stick for only $20 near the Brooklyn Bridge! It’s bluetooth and has a button on the stick to take pictures as well! We recorded a fun video while testing it out. The quality isn’t the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ko2G1Ro1xo

Then we took a Chinatown bus to Philadelphia to our friend Allie, who we met from my girlfriend’s study abroad program in Buenos Aires(we went in July 2013). She lives in Springfield, which is a small town southwest of the city. Our friend Sam, who I met through Stacey’s study abroad program who is from Albany, NY, also met us at Allie’s house. We visited Allie’s school in New Jersey, The College of New Jersey and also went to see Philadelphia and eat cheese steaks!

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I ate my first Philly cheese steak here! It was delicious!

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This was the street that Allie’s rental house was on, the place where she lives during the school year in Ewing, New Jersey. It’s not too far from her university.

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Apparently this is a popular pizza-topping on the East Coast or at least in this area of New Jersey and others? It’s called penne vodka pizza and there’s actual pasta on the pizza. It still seems foreign to me but it was delicious!

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This was a breakfast bagel I ate with meat called pork roll on it. According to my friend Allie, it’s referred to as Taylor Ham more towards the north.

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This was the day Stacey and I were leaving. It snowed during the night in Springfield!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take more pictures because I ran out of space. Overall, it was an exciting adventure for everyone! I enjoyed my first time visiting the East Coast and hope to return soon! Next time I go, I’m going to visit Morristown, New Jersey, where my dad grew up and learn about where he spent his childhood up until 5th grade when he moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

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Back from Summer 2014 Adventures

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[Photo taken near Jackson, Wyoming]

Wow! The summer has been extremely busy and I’ve only had a short break! I’m already back on the road of life onto my next chapter. Ecuador and the Galapagos were amazed and I have stories and pictures to share soon! I also enjoyed visiting Utah and Wyoming. They’re both full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people.

Right now, I’m currently in the midst of resident assistant training at my university, which is why I unfortunately don’t have the time to write about my adventures this week. I’ll go back to posting once a week but I may not be able to upload the pictures from my trip and write the stories in detail until the end of August or beginning of September but don’t worry, I’ve got exciting stories and interesting lessons I learned to share with you soon! Stay tuned!

Running with thirst busters to Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Arizona

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[Photo credit: Charles Miles on Flickr]

“What the… Did you see that, honey? Those two boys were running with large fountain drinks in their hands? They looked like high schoolers. I wonder why they’re in such a hurry that they have to run with their sodas! That’s so strange. Guess kids are different these days than when we were kids, huh honey?”

“Yes, honey, times are different now. Everyone’s always on the run nowadays.”

That’s the type of conversation that most likely occurred on Tuesday afternoon while my friend Andrew and I were running to Sabino Canyon.

On Monday, Andrew asked if I wanted to run a trail or two in Sabino Canyon this week since it was finals week and we had lots of free time. I replied with enthusiasm,

“Yeah! I miss running in the mountains! But neither of us have a car and I don’t have a bike?”

“That’s okay. I heard the bus runs close by so we could take it and then jog to the base.”

“Okay! I’ll figure it out and let you know.” I said, trying my best to hide my initial skepticism with this whole bus idea.

I figured out the bus routes and we headed out on our adventure Tuesday afternoon around 4.

After waiting for about 20 minutes at the bus stop near Del Taco on a street called Broadway, we hopped on and our journey began. We took the bus as close to Sabino Canyon as we could and managed to put ourselves approximately six miles from our destination.

We ran the six miles at slow pace- probably 10 min/mile pace and enjoyed the run there.

About a mile from the canyon, our mouths were as dry as the desert dust we decided to take a pit stop at the Circle K(local convenience store) and hydrate ourselves with Gatorade. Obviously we grabbed the largest drink size, which happened to be 44oz, filled up our cups, paid the 84 cents and jumped back on the road to finish our victory mile.

Even though we had these large 44oz styrofoam cups filled with green and orange Gatorade, we awkwardly ran with them and battled out the pain in our quads to finish the last 1609 meters.

Then we saw it. We saw this:

sabino canyon area

 

[Photo courtesy of Google Image Search]

“YES! We finally made it!” I yelled out feeling triumphant. Then we took a short break before disappearing onto the beautiful dirt trails of Sabino Canyon.

I inhaled the smell of mesquite and paloverde trees and let nature fill me with fresh air. Stones scattered on the surface of the trail made contact with my feet as we trailed along the paths. I love this feeling. The only thing I heard was the pounding of our feet as we zoomed in around around bushes, over beds of rocks and through arches of trees.

We ran for about 30 minutes before heading back to the entrance of the recreation area where Andrew’s parents met us to pick us up. I felt thankful we had chosen this time and day to run because his parents had just arrived to Tucson to move him out and were conveniently in the area. We headed back to the university and that concluded our adventure.

If you’re ever in Tucson, Arizona, I highly recommend checking out Sabino Canyon! It’s a beautiful area and there are multiple paths to choose from for hiking, running or biking 🙂 Feel free to share any thoughts or comments below!

You can’t leave every battle victorious but you can leave with something

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Whether you’re applying for a scholarship to study abroad, a job at a new company, or a position within a club or organization, the truth is you won’t always win. Yes, this advice sounds familiar since we’ve all heard it before but this is a positive friendly reminder that even though the results may not end in our favor, we’ll always leave with one thing: experience 🙂

Last week, I experienced rejection and was reminded of this lesson.

Near the end of February, I applied to a prestigious club for seniors devoted to preserving the welfare of my university. As expected, the process was an arduous one. On Thursday last week, they announced the 13 members selected for next year. Mine wasn’t one of them.

I left that evening feeling frustrated and disappointed. I thought everything had gone well. I thought I had a chance! I thought I would leave with that triumphant feeling one feels after battling for five thousand kilometers to cross the finish line before the other runners. Instead, I felt empty.

But then pace of my black dress shoes slowed as if they saw a red sign approaching. I stopped.

I thought to myself, “Wait, a second. I may not be leaving as a new member for next year but I am leaving with something and that something is experience.”

Thanks to this process, I now have more experience writing a personal statement, being interviewed, specifically by 13 people at once, mixing with other applicants and getting to know people. All of this experience will prepare for the next position or job or scholarship that I apply for in the future. It’s all about taking risks and learning from your mistakes!

The next time you consider applying for a job, a scholarship or to a club or organization, don’t hesitate and go for it! Even if the chances are against you and you don’t end up winning the battle, you won’t leave empty handed 🙂

The recognition of family heritage through a weekend trip to Northern California

This past weekend, my younger brother and I flew to San Jose to spend the weekend with my family and for him to meet my Uncle Nick. It was a trip that reminded me the importance of my family heritage.

On Friday, my mom, stepdad and younger brother flew in from Laguna Niguel, where they live, and met us at the airport. They picked us up in a rental car and the next moments were filled with smiles and hugs. It’s always a euphoric moment seeing your family in person after a long time.

Saturday, we woke up early and drove to Milbrae to take the BART into the heart of San Francisco. We spent the early morning/afternoon walking around Fisherman’s Wharf.

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In the evening, we headed to Gilroy so that my brothers and stepdad could meet my Uncle Nick. We ate dinner at a seafood restaurant called Rosy’s At the Beach. The Ahi fish tacos were delicious! It’s a lot of food too so you receive your money’s worth.

Afterwards, Uncle Nick invited us over for dessert. We were eating cake together when suddenly my younger brother Charlie said, “What’s that?” We all looked over out of curiosity to see him pointing at this

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Uncle Nick said, “Well, that right there is called a gramophone. It’s a family heirloom.”

“A gram-uh

-what?” I with a confused look across my face.

“It’s how people used to listen to music back in the day. Here, let me show you.” He turned it on and then I started to hear music. I thought to myself,

“Wow. This. Is. Cool.” I couldn’t imagine what it was like to not be able to hear music aloud whenever I wanted.

“This was the only way to have music at an event or party. It was this or a live band.” Uncle Nick said to us.

It’s amazing to think about how technology has evolved and the things we take for granted these days. Before that moment, I completely took for granted the idea of being able to hear music. I realized how lucky we are to have the ability to listen to music on our phones, computers and tablets whenever and wherever we want.

The other idea I took away from this moment was the idea of heritage. Heritage is defined as, “an inheritance.” In that moment, I inherited not only a part of history in general but of my own family history. This was a moment that I know my ancestors would be happy to see. I hope this tradition continues and that one day, I’ll be the one sharing the story of the gramophone.

Afroreggae: a Brazilian NGO making changes in the favelas through music and culture

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[Photo Courtesy of Google Images]

Banging.

Pounding.

The sound of a music suffocates the room as students learn to play the percussion in an AfroReggae workshop in Vigário, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Similar to these workshops, AfroReggae also offers weekly Afro-Brazilian dance classes to the community. It’s part of their plan to divert people living in the favelas away from the path of drug and violence using education, music and culture.

AfroReggae is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It originally started in January of 1993 as a newspaper called AfroReggae Noticias. It covered reggae, Afro-Brazilian music and issues of black interest. The reason it started was because of the 1992 funk ban by the government. The government believed that the ban would prevent further violence after a huge brawl between two funk groups in October 1992 (Neate and Platt 16-17).

Now, AfroReggae is involved in multiple favelas in Rio de Janeiro and working on more than just diverting people from harmful paths. They’re helping them find jobs, educate themselves and improve their lives. Here are a few of their well-known projects:

  • Conexões Urbanas– a TV show geared towards connecting people with “current ideas related to sustainability, social technology, citizenship, and principally peace.” It’s a program for “creating reflection and action.”
  • Favela Uprising– a documentary from 2005 that AfroReggae works to create a social revolution to counteract the violence in Rio de Janeiro “through hip-hop music, the rhythms of the street, and Afro-Brazilian dance…” I haven’t seen it yet but it’s available online through the link.
  • Culture is Our Weapon by Patrick Neate and Damian Platt– a book detailing life in the favelas and the journey of AfroReggae. I’m reading it right now and definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the favelas in Brazil
  • Banda AfroReggae- one of the several musical groups started by AfroReggae whose music is “influenced by political and social commentary.” They use their music to communicate their ideas of escaping the drugs and violence in the favelas.

 

I happened to come across the book Culture is Our Weapon while research an area in Northeastern Brazil called o sertão. I figured I could find a blog of someone from the region who could give me more insight on the culture so I searched “blog sobre o sertão brasil” and came across this page on the book’s website.

Then I decided for my Honors Thesis project at my university to research and analyze how AfroReggae represents themselves in Brazil and around the world. I figured it would lead to more insight on Brazilian pop culture and the power of music in social movements as well. I’m researching them for my Honors Thesis and research paper.

I’m sharing this topic today because I think AfroReggae is awesome! Their involvement in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and their overall ideas are powerful. It makes me happy to know they’re using music and culture to redirect people away from drugs and violences and in a more positive direction. It’s amazing and I wanted to share it with others as inspiration. They’ve inspired me and I hope one day I’ll be using my passions to make the world a better place.

 

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20,000 miles by motorbike, 10,874 miles by bicycle and now over 7,000 by VW bus

duncan stokoe motorbike

10 months. 20,000 miles. Santiago, Chile to San Francisco, California on a motorbike. I met Duncan Stokoe, a 23-year old from England, during his journey last year while he was passing through Arizona. By chance, I happened to be diddling around Couchsurfing and found his post about looking for a place to crash in Arizona. I immediately emailed him offering up my dorm room. Luckily, a friend loaned me their air mattress and he slept in my dorm for a night. I gave him a tour of the university and we hung out in my dorm room with my roommate Chris. He told us some of the wildest stories like accidentally hanging out with drug cartel members in Ecuador and working on a ferry selling bananas between Colombia and Panama. Unfortunately, I had a few exams that week so he didn’t stay longer. He was one of the kindest people I ever met and extremely grateful for being able to stay there. After he left, he added me to an email list of people he had met along the way to keep us updated on his trip. In March of 2013, he arrived in San Francisco and completed his trip.

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Fortunate for him, the traveling didn’t stop there. On March 23rd, he flew to London to spend a day catching up with his family and then traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to begin another journey- cycling from Cape Town to Trafalgar Square in London, England. 17,500km(10,874 miles) on a bicycle.  Again, he sent out emails to the people he had met along the way and kept us updated on his trip.

duncan stokoe

During his journey, he said that one of the highlights was, “Seeing wildlife on the bike is pretty cool – so far I’ve seen oryx, zebras, monkeys, ostrich, an amazing herd of springbok that I chased for about 10 minutes before they turned and came sprinting either side of me, and an amusing stand off with a warthog.” He also included a highlight as, “be allowed to stay at a friend of a friend’s game reserve in Namibia. Spending two days driving round with the farm hand ended up turning into my own private two day safari with the highlight easily being getting to feed the rhinos at the end (see photo 3) – slightly nervous as i stand between a fast approaching 3 ton rhino and his dinner.”

duncan stokoe feeding a rhino

I remember seeing this for the first time and saying to myself, “WOW! Wouldn’t that be cool? To see this animals in the wildlife instead of at a zoo?” He finished this journey on December 22nd, 2013, just in time for Christmas! Now, I bet you can guess what he’s doing- another adventure! This time, he’s traveling with a group from Chile to Alaska in a VW van. Click on the link to like their page on Facebook and follow along with them! After hearing about Duncan’s adventures in person and by email, he’s truly inspired me and motivated me to want to explore the world in a different way. I chose to share his story this week because I hope it inspires you the way it inspired me. It’s fascinating to consider all of the places we can travel in the world. All we need is the drive and motivation to do it. The world is our oyster and it’s up to us to take advantage of it. I hope you enjoyed reading about Duncan’s story! Please share this with others who you think might enjoy it 🙂 ###

Why isn’t the news more positive?

The other night, I was at home eating ice cream and watching Fox 10 News with my dad when they showed a video of a security guard being beaten up in a subway station by a bum. It was a video from YouTube taken by a person watching.

My brows moved in and confused look came across myself. I asked myself, “What’s the point of this? Why are they telling me this? Yes, I understand that this man was almost injured but why should this be on the news?” I remembered a Ted talk I once watched where the speaker, Shawn Achor, brought up the fact that the majority of news is negative and about drugs, death, and violence and it’s true!

Take a look at the latest headlines on CNN in this screenshot from today(3/20/2014):

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If you look at the headlines, the majority of them are negative. “killed herself” or  “lost arm in accident” or “most hated man dies.”

I had never questioned the topics covered in the news until I heard Shawn Achor say that. It made me start to think about the news in a different way.  As a society, it seems as though we’re more interested in hearing about death, drugs and violence. Or maybe that’s just what major news outlets believe.  BUT!

What if all news was positive? What if we only focused on the positive aspects of issues and stories? Imagine the impact that would have on society. I think more people would look at life from an optimistic perspective. The world would be a happier place.

I wanted to share this because I think it’s important to think about the effects of media on society and I’m curious to know what others think. What do you think about the news in society? Would the world be different if news didn’t cover drugs, violence or death? Can we do anything about it?

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