Tag Archives: tourism

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Travel. Travel a lot.

Before living in the United States, I had the idea of a certain reality that merely involved my culture. It meant driving a car for a couple of hours to experience a completely different climate, music and infrastructure. It meant enjoying delicious foods, without necessarily trying new things. It meant not worrying about how to greet people. It meant being in my comfort zone.

Little did I know how far from reality I was.

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Living in an interconnected world as we do today means more than living all your life in your comfort zone. Reality requires stepping out from there. And that’s what I did. It is not new for anyone to know that Duluth, Minnesota might be a little bit different from Bogota, Colombia. Yet, I wanted more. I wanted to see more. I wanted to truly experience my surroundings. The travel bug had hit me. This is why I decided to travel solo.

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Something I had never done before, in a place I had never been before, with people I did not know at all. I booked my trip to Europe without thinking much about it, just pushed by the desire of experiencing something different. It was only until the moment I stepped out of the plane that I truly realized I was actually going by myself to the other side of the world for the first time.

I was able to step in in five different countries, which meant experiencing five different cultures in just three weeks. If something is true is that three weeks are not enough time. Cultures are infinite and constantly evolving. This is what makes it so hard to truly get to know a certain culture, as time will always be limited. I tried to make the most out of my time in Europe. London, Paris, Barcelona, Sitges, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens. Every city, every landscape, every single second had its own magic. It is impossible to say I did not experience any sort of culture shock. I was, indeed, homesick.

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London is a magnificent city. I was not expecting much about this city, so I was gratefully surprised by it. Its architecture and urban organization are impressive. I tried to bike around the city one day, and almost got hit multiple times because I was used to driving on the right side of the road. Even though there were multiple differences, I was able to recognize the historic connection between the United Kingdom and the United States. From the most simple thing, the language; going through their food, their costumes and their organization: I was able to see the roots of the culture I have been exposed to in the last couple of years.

As a kid, I always dreamed about going to Paris. I remember watching movies, reading books, and listening songs about the charms of Paris. Paris is internationally portrayed as the romantic city. This was not my first impression, not at all. I got to Paris on a grey, rainy Thursday. As the bus was driving around the city, I remember thinking: is this it? Here, I was able to realize once again that media is always changing reality. It is very easy to forget this. Nonetheless, being able to explore this city was a dream come true. I tried foods I never thought I would, such as frog legs and snails. The music, the environment, the architecture and all the gastronomy made it an unforgettable experience. I was able to visit Versailles, which opened my eyes to the historic part of our world. Being able to see how people lived hundreds of years ago was a marvelous experience, and made me realize how important it is for humanity to understand where we come from; which ultimately explains why we act the way we do nowadays. On the other side, visiting the catacombs was eye-opening. There is so much to learn, so much to understand.

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Barcelona. Just the city’s name makes you feel its magic. Barcelona was a very interesting experience due to multiple reasons. First off, even though it is located in Spain, their main language is Catalan. This made me feel weird when speaking Spanish, as I knew native people did not like it. Barcelona’s atmosphere is indescribable. I fell in love with the city’s weather, people, architecture, gastronomy, landscapes and music. For the couple of days I was able to be there, I was amazed by every single detail. Paella, sangria and gelato made long days of walking definitely worth it.

Germany is one of the most (if not the most) organized countries I know. Everything is practical and planned accordingly to the needs of the people. From visiting Munich and Frankfurt, I was able to see the huge German culture around beer. Yes, I knew about some of it before getting there. Yet, I had no clue of how important it actually is. Beer is probably the cheapest and most bought good in the market. The thing about this, is that it is high quality beer. By this time of the trip, I was already homesick. I had too much to digest in such few days, I was certainly overwhelmed by everything. Not only this. I wasn’t able to communicate in Germany. I had never felt this way in my whole life. Even in France, I was able to communicate with my basic French skills. It was a different story in Germany, as I felt truly frustrated by not being able to ask for a bottle of water. However, I was gratefully amazed about German lifestyle.

I think one of the places people should definitely visit is Greece. Greece was the birth of our civilization in multiple ways. Philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers and doctors were basically born there. Accordingly, I decided to extend my trip to visit Santorini and Athens. When I landed in Santorini, I was shocked. I was shocked with everything around me. Of course, again, I was expecting to see all that media shows to the world. It was not like that. Santorini is an island composed by different little towns. What I had seen in pictures was just one town, called Oia. In order to get to Oia, people need to take public buses, which go packed and sweaty all the way to Oia. Undeniably, it is one of the prettiest and breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. Like a children’s tale scene, I was in the middle of little white and blue arched houses, with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me. It was impactful to see the way in which early civilizations used their resources to build cities in the middle of nowhere. After that calm and peace, I was able to experience the agitation and chaos of a city such as Athens. Greece’s economy is very volatile right now, which means the political environment is going in the same direction. While I was in Athens, I was able to experience a live student protest. Things that are easy to see back in Colombia happening all over the world was very imposing to my eye.

Five countries in three weeks. That’s all it took to shake my reality one more time. That’s all I needed to reconnect with myself at different levels, to get to know myself at different stages and to truly understand that there is so much out there to learn from. Life was never meant to be lived in one single place.

Ana Maria serves as assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

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Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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A Semester in Italy – In With Both the Old and the New – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Semester in Italy – In With Both the Old and the New – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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This past week has been full of adventures, my family was able to join me in traveling around Italy during my week long break. We visited Cinque Terre, which is a chain of 5 cities built into the hills bordering the sea. The cities are close enough to hike between, otherwise there is a convenient train that runs straight through the hills and takes about 5 minutes to each stop. We ended up spending two days traveling through and visiting each town to explore a bit. Each town had a different feel but they were all pretty similar. I was traveling with my parents, older brother, aunt and uncle. We really enjoyed seeing the towns down on the water and navigating through the small alleyways and steps… so many steps! It was amazing the see how the buildings were built right into the side of the hills above the water. I was interested by the farming up on the hills, the only reason that the towns exist is because the people of the area made the decision to farm these hills. The farmers are very resourceful with the growing patches and use of machinery to bring the crops down to the town from the top of the hills.

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Our next stop during the trip was Rome. I enjoyed Rome more than I thought that I would, based on how touristy the area is. One thing that I noticed around the city was that the buildings looked different from the other big cities that I have visited in Italy. The shops and buildings were white and looked like marble, just what you would expect Rome to be like. I was fully aware of the ruins that I would see in the city but I was not expecting the mix of old and new within the city. At one point we were just wandering through the streets, turned a corner and found the Pantheon, a former Roman temple that is now a church. I enjoyed seeing this mix, it is amazing how the city is built right around these ancient structures.

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We spent an entire day going around the big draws of the city. First we visited the Roman Forum, which is essentially the remains of the ancient city center. We listened to a podcast tour that lead us around the Forum, explaining what each structure was. It was interesting to walk through the town and imagine what it was like in the past. Strolling past the palaces and into the piazza, seeing the Temple of Caesar marking the area where Julius Caesar was burned and buried. After the Forum, we went to the Colosseum and followed another podcast tour talking about the different uses for the Colosseum. After that, we went to the Vatican City. This is a city-state within Rome that houses the Pope, along with the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It was amazing to see the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel because it is the original painting by Michelangelo, one of his most famous pieces and widely recognized paintings.

About our special correspondent Sara Desrocher: I am a junior at St. Scholastica majoring in Computer Science with a concentration of Software Engineering. I am staying in a small town about 25 minutes outside of Florence, Italy with a HECUA program. My current studies are focused on Agriculture and Sustainability, which is very interesting to learn about in Europe. I chose this program because Italy has always been a place that I wanted to visit, mainly due to the fact that my great-grandfather came here from southern Italy. This is my first time in Europe and it has been quite the experience so far. I am excited for even more experiences as I gain a better understanding of the community!

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The International Peace Garden – Canada and the USA – by Jennifer Battcher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The International Peace Garden – Canada and the USA – by Jennifer Battcher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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On the border of Canada and the United States is a 2300-acre garden where visitors can cross between Canada and the USA with no restrictions. No documentation is needed to enter the garden, but one must pass through customs to re-enter either nation. A passport isn’t necessary to re-enter, birth certificates and proof of residency are also accepted.

The garden, built in 1932, sits in the Turtle Mountains on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. It was constructed as a symbol of peace between the two nations. A cairn built of local stone welcomes visitors with a promise of peace where the two nations declare, “… as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”

The park is brimming with gardens, lakes, trails and wildlife. A floral clock ticks away in a background of trickling water and quiet conversations. Bells gently chime from a clock tower dedicated to war veterans. Paths wind through many floral arrangements including the Canadian and United States flags made completely out of flowers.

The government of Japan presented the garden with Peace Poles inscribed with the phrase “May Peace Prevail” in 28 languages. One garden displays fragments of the World Trade Centers as a stark reminder of this need for peace.

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The only building that sits on both sides of the border is a peace chapel. Every inch of the limestone walls are etched with famous quotes about peace, making visible the efforts of people throughout history who tried to bring peace to the world. A small cafe serves soups, fruits, and sandwiches but the best treat is the refreshing purple Juneberry ice cream. The International Peace Gardens are an incredibly tranquil escape and a beautiful reminder of the peaceful relations between two nations.

Sources: ndtourism.com; peacegardens.com

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Jennifer Battcher, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Farewell sign in Montenegro translated to English]

This past May, my family and I traveled the Mediterranean on a cruise for three weeks. We explored six countries, including Greece, Montenegro, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, and France. We would hop off the ship and find ourselves immersed in a completely different culture, language, and place than we were the previous day. Through exploring so many cities and cultures in just three weeks, I started to notice the differences amongst multiple countries and compare them to American culture.

What I seemed to pick up and make note of was the language being spoken. My family and I could be eating lunch at a small café in Montenegro, and the waiters would be speaking English. It was so surprising that no matter where we were, no matter how big or small the city was, everyone spoke some English. I was never handed a menu that didn’t have English translations under the nation’s official language. Through my whole three-week vacation, I never encountered a time when I couldn’t see or hear English. Sometimes, I didn’t even feel like I was out of the US because English seemed to be everywhere I looked.

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[A sign in a Greek park that was translated to English]

I especially noticed that English seemed to be the common language for tourists in Greece. The Greek language has few characters that resemble letters found in English or European languages. Therefore, all road signs and monument markings were translated to English. What was shocking is that they weren’t translated to Italian or another language within close proximity to Greece. It was all in English.

English is also commonly spoken in Greece. While walking down the street in Athens, I heard a Chinese woman ask a local for directions in English. This really opened my eyes and allowed me to see how many people in this world are bilingual or even greater. Tour guides we had in the Vatican spoke a minimum of three languages, and locals would switch from speaking Italian to English mid sentence. While in Europe, I felt as if my three years of high school Spanish were simply inadequate and pretty much embarrassing. Looking at most countries in the world, they are taught multiple languages from a young age, while in America, the majority of us just know a few Spanish, French, or German words from high school classes. The rest of the world seems to know that Americans can’t speak many other languages so we were often talked about right in front of our faces without having a clue what was said. In one case, we were standing in an elevator and two German women were snickering and talking about mine and my sister’s outfit. The only way we could tell they were talking about us was because they were foreword enough to point at us and stare while laughing. It was really embarrassing that we had no idea what they were saying and that they could talk freely about us while we didn’t have a clue.

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[Even though McDonald’s is an American restaurant, I still expected the menu to be written in the local language instead of English]

In some ways, I felt inferior on my vacation to Europe. I couldn’t understand what people were saying as they walked by, and the only thing I could say is “hello” or “thank you” in the local language. It was strange to me that even though I was a tourist coming to their homeland to experience their culture and language, locals had to conform to the English language and American culture. I felt that if I could speak the local language, I would be respected. I believe that locals would think much more highly of tourists if they took the time to learn about the local culture instead of them having to change to fit the lifestyle of tourists.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Molly Enich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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I’ll admit it. When I was in high school I often dreamed of taking a post-high-school backpacking trip across Europe. When I was in college I often dreamed of taking a post-college backpacking trip across South America. A lot of people dream of it, a lot of people pin things on Pinterest about it, and, in reality, there are actually quite a few people who actually do it.

As a result of recent dips in ticket prices to Colombia, the tourism industry has experienced a huge boom. And, as a result of the diversity and beauty contained within a small country, many travelers intent on traversing all of South America end up detouring and spending a good chunk of their time in Colombia.

Prior to the holiday season, I wasn’t able to travel throughout Colombia. I met a few backpackers and travelers in La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota, but Bogota itself isn’t a huge tourist attraction and backpackers especially don’t tend to linger here for long. I did, however, hear a great deal about travelers from professors and students, the individuals with whom I most often discuss cultural perceptions and stereotypes.

When talking to certain students, I was alarmed at the descriptions I was given when I asked them to describe a person from the United States “based on foreigners they have met”. I heard words that are often repeated like “ignorant” and “greedy”, but when the words turned to phrases they confused me.

In particular, one student told me that he hated travelers from the United States. He described them as very “close-minded”, and when I asked him to elaborate on being close-minded he explained that every backpacker from the United States that he had met was never interested in speaking Spanish, interacting with locals, or going places other than those frequented by tourists. He said that many of them only came to Colombia for drug-tourism and partying and didn’t actually care about the country or people.

It was a harsh critique.

I assumed he had had some bad experiences. I didn’t believe it–that is, until I had the opportunity to travel and frequented a few hostels in different cities in Colombia. There are definitely some hostels that are “party-hostels” and there are definitely some hostels that are not “party-hostels”, and the people that I met in each one varied accordingly. However, across the board, I was often disappointed by the attitudes of the fellow estadounidenses (United States-ians) that I met throughout Colombia.

In Medellin, I met countless pre-college or post-college graduates who spent the duration of their time partying at the bar in their hostel, hanging out with other backpackers, and discussing other hostels that they had stayed at. The default language of hostels: English. The default goal of many travelers: party. The more time I’ve spent around people “traveling” through Colombia, the more I’ve come to understand my students’ harsh critique of the estadounidenses that they’ve met.

However, for me, it was the level of Spanish used by other travelers that was the most disappointing. If you’re traveling through Europe, I find it perfectly understandable to not speak the native language of a country. There are so many languages spoken throughout Europe that it would be impossible to expect yourself to learn them all. South America is a different story. With the exception of Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana (countries that are not very popular travel destinations in the first place), Brazil and its Portuguese is the only outlier. Spanish is universal.

Would it hurt to learn a little bit of Spanish?

Time and time again, I’ve met travelers that can’t answer basic questions that are thrown at them again and again. I now understand why, on my “touristy days” otherwise known as my casual-dress days, I suddenly have every street-seller shouting things at me in English.

I often feel like I’m judging my fellow travelers a bit unfairly. I have a different opportunity. I’m living in Colombia for ten months and many of them are spending a week or two exploring a few cities; of course they aren’t going to be able to “connect” with Colombia as much as I can. That being said, the legacy that these travelers leave behind is often awful and has jaded many people’s perceptions of the United States.

When I think back to my study abroad experiences in university, I’m reminded of how many times I was told of my position as a “cultural ambassador”, how often I was reminded to be careful and courteous. I remember I thought it was silly back then, but I often find myself wishing now that other travelers could keep the idea of being cultural ambassadors in mind as they embark on their journeys throughout Colombia.

About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Guatemala – Tourism in Lake Atitlán – by Ada Luz Moreno Gomez. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Guatemala – Tourism in Lake Atitlán – by Ada Luz Moreno Gomez. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Over the summer I had the opportunity to visit the deepest lake in Central America: Lake Atitlán, located in the department of Sololá, Guatemala. Not only is the view of lake and its three surrounding volcanos worth the trip, but the remnants of Mayan culture I was able to witness made my short stay there unforgettable. There are 12 main villages surrounding the lake, and although most of them are approximately half an hour away by boat or car, they have each managed to establish their own unique niches, being mostly inhabited by Maya Kaqchikel and Maya Tz’utujil communities.

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Making my way to Lake Atitlán from Guatemala City was an enjoyable experience by itself, and as a passerby I was able to get a glimpse into life in the Guatemalan highlands. On either side of the road I was greeted with either panoramic views of mountains and pines or vast plantations of cabbage and maize. The locals in the area are mainly indigenous, and what from afar can be seen as an explosion of colors and textiles is usually a small group of people selling their crafts and freshly picked strawberries.

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More than 60% of the population in Guatemala is of Maya descent, and the rural department of Sololá has one of the largest populations of indigenous people. However, it is not uncommon to see indigenous people with their traditional attires speaking in their native tongues in more urban settings like the capital.

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One of the main points of access to the lake is through the town of Panajachel. Panajachel, or ‘Pana’ as the locals call it, is one of the most commercial towns around the lake and it’s famous for its street markets, restaurants and tourist friendly activities. Although Panajachel is fairly small, it is booming with activity and people from all over the world. You can see anything from traditional indigenous markets to luxury resorts all in the same street.

With this is mind, tourism and the towns surrounding Lake Atitlan are full of complexities and contradictions. While dining at one of the restaurants in Panajachel, it became surprisingly easy to forget we were deep in the highlands of Guatemala. Everything from the decorations, to the music and the people made me feel as if I was back in any main city of Latin America. However, in the back of the restaurant where the kitchen was, dressed in their traditional attire, and baking pizzas in large stone ovens were two very old indigenous women, continuously kneading the pizza dough even though it was almost midnight.

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From Panajachel visitors and residents take small boats to the adjacent lakeside towns. Even though from afar many of these towns appear to be fairly similar, they all have very distinctive characteristics and personalities. Some, like the town of San Pedro are preferred by back papers for its relaxed atmosphere, and others like San Antonio or Santa Catarina Palopo offer the opportunity of deeper cultural immersions as they are isolated and small. The town of San Marcos for example is known for its peacefulness and beautiful hiking trails. San Marcos’ streets are too narrow for cars and because it’s surrounded by dense vegetation while walking you only hear birds chirping, making my stay there incredibly enjoyable.

Many European and American tourists have fallen in love with San Marcos, and some have chosen to stay and open yoga and holistic centers, hiring the locals as employees. In its tiny roads you can see indigenous people selling crystals and natural remedies, making even the locals and commerce adapt to the ‘spiritual experience’ going to San Marcos has become. But past the ecofriendly hostels and meditation centers, up and away from the village center, you can see the local Maya community of San Marcos, where life seems a lot different than what San Marcos comes across as in tour guides and brochures. Like many of the Maya villages around lake Atitlán, despite the commerce and technology tourism has brought for some, many of the locals remain impoverished and with less land to cultivate.

Above all, my trip to Lake Atitlán was filled with memories of beautiful places, admirable hardworking individuals, and unforgettable sceneries, many of them exposing both the beauty and burdens many regions throughout Latin America experience. It was remarkable to see that among many of the lake side resorts and vacation homes, next to many of the tourists in kayaks and boats like me, there were still locals who fished for a living in their canoes and spoke Spanish only as a second or third language.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ada Luz Moreno Gomez, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Animal Tourism – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Animal Tourism – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Photo 1: The majestic oso perezoso.]

I didn’t realize this until a friend jokingly pointed it out to me–I choose my travel destinations based on animals that live there. Or, as I see it, I choose a travel destination, research the location, and then get really excited about an animal that lives in the area that I’ve never seen before.

When I traveled to Amazonas, the animal that I so desperately needed to see was a sloth (or, as they are called in Spanish, osos perezosos or “lazy bears”). Seeing and holding a sloth was perhaps the highlight of the entire trip.

However, looking back on the experience, it was actually incredibly disappointing and uncomfortable. The reason was simple; Amazonas and the area around the open border between Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, is incredibly commercialized. Based on my experiences visiting other areas of Colombia with other tour groups, I had become accustomed to something that they often call “eco-tourism”–visiting, watching, and traveling with minimal impact to the area, environment, and creatures that live there.

I was expecting something similar when I was told that we were going to see sloths, and I was very disappointed in what it ended up being. On a day that we spent hopping from country to country and island to island with approximately twenty other people in one very large river boat, we hopped off at one designated location and were herded onto a large porch where indigenous women handed us sloths and owls and held out turtles and monkeys for us to take pictures of. It was rushed and commercialized.

Don’t get me wrong–I jumped right in because my brain was screaming “Sloth! Sloth!” and I was functioning like a five year old in a toy store, but as soon as I went to pick up a sloth that was climbing on the railing of a porch, I realized how awful the situation was. Sloths don’t really have any defenses–or offenses, for that matter–but the ones in Amazonas do have two large claws that they use to hook on to the trees that they climb. When I went to try and pick up the sloth, it clung for dear life to the railing. When one of the girls working on the island pried it off, it tried using its claws to “claw” us.

The animals there were not happy.
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[Photo 2: I didn’t see any capybaras kept in captivity, but there were capybaras that regularly interacted with people at one of the reserves we stayed at. Some people questioned the ethics of interacting with the wildlife. At the same time, there are many people in the area that regularly interact with them. Who are we to suddenly say that they can’t?]

One friend of mine works as a river guide in the United States, and part of her training has always been to never interact with the wildlife that she encounters when camping or leading trips. She refused to touch any of the animals and sat off to the side, away from the group. She said that the experience made her feel ashamed.

Another friend of mine expressed ideas that were quite the opposite. She said that the treatment of the animals made her feel bad, but that we were paying for the experience and would never have another opportunity to see the majority of these animals ever again. Us sitting off to the side wouldn’t influence anything; caring for these animals for tourists was how many of the families on the island made their living. Those that didn’t care outright for the animals made their living selling wood crafts and jewelry to the tourists that visited to see the animals.

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[Photo 3: I met many parrots in the Amazon, and I can say with great confidence that not a single one was particularly friendly. That being said, they were probably very tired of being bothered by tourists.]

To put it simply, it was all very conflicting. There was no outright abuse of the animals taking place; they were well cared for, well fed, and some of them (though, not all) were rehabilitated animals that couldn’t or wouldn’t, for whatever reason, return to the wild in the unsettled section of the island. That being said, the animals were there purely for the enjoyment of the tourists, and there were many of them that had simply been plucked from the wild and plopped down in an incredibly small cage. What kind of a life was that? (Some would say that a life like that is, in itself, abusive.)

It would be a lie for me to say that I didn’t value the opportunity to hold a sloth. It would also be a lie for me to say that I didn’t feel a little bit ashamed for participating in the exploitation of animals. In the end, no matter how much we wanted something to change, the fact remained that we, as tourists briefly visiting the island, weren’t capable of doing anything immediate to influence the situation–and, even if we were, it would hard to imagine a changed situation that didn’t result in many families losing their livelihood. I’m not entirely sure if it would be possible for us to have any influence on the situation that those animals were in. While dozens of tourists visit the island every day, it exists in a part of Colombia that is highly disconnected from the rest of the world, where day-to-day concerns are incredibly different.

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About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang