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A Fathers’ Day Tribute, June 2014

June 14, 2014
By
CJR Fathers Day 2014-sm

 Fathers’ Day, June 15, 2014 A week ago I celebrated my Dad’s birthday; this Fathers’ Day weekend I am remembering him still. I don’t believe in an afterlife in any religious sense, but I do know that our ancestors live on, in us and through us, and in the lives of those we influence. Costa Rallis died nearly a decade ago, but he is very much alive today. He lives not just in Helen and me, who carry his genes, but also in our wonderful stepmother Lucy, with whom he shared many very happy years of his life and an immeasurable amount of his love. Part of Dad is in his nieces, nephews and their families, in my late mother’s friends, in my surviving...

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I was also there (well, almost): A personal reflection

June 1, 2014
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Me, just a few paces behind my passenger the former British Foreign Secretary.

Saturday May 31, 2014 I am now in Vientiane, Laos, and from my hotel room I can look across the Mekong River and see Thailand, where a military coup last week propelled the country, briefly, onto the world’s front pages. I am not actually in the headline-grabbing country, but I am pretty close. That has been the story of much of my my life and should, I now realize, have been clear from the start. Just ten days before I was born,  Sputnik became the first ever human-made object to enter earth orbit, and was still on the front pages when I arrived. On the same day as the satellite launch the American television show Leave it to Beaver had its debut. Four days...

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Cultural education or human zoo? A Kayan Lahwi refugee village in Thailand

May 23, 2014
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Minority_Village__Thailand

Near Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is a small village which is home to a group of people who call themselves Kayan Lahwi (though tour guides call them the Padaung.) They moved here after fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar/Burma. Denied formal refugee status and therefore the right to work in Thailand, they are allowed to remain here as a tourist attraction. Visits to the village are part of the standard tour packages offered to visitors to Chiang Mai, and many tourists choose to pay a visit to the ‘Long Neck village,’ and to have their photographs taken with the the exotic ‘giraffe women’ who live here. Tour guides don’t mention the male members of the community, who weren’t in evidence when I visited but ...

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Ayutthaya, Thailand: a UNESCO World Heritage site

May 23, 2014
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Five_Minutes_at_Ayutthaya__a_World_Heritage_site_in_Thailand_-_YouTube

Founded in about 1350, Ayutthaya – just north of Bangkok – was one of the cities that served as capital of the Kingdom of Siam (Sukothai, in central Thailand, was another.) It remained the capital until it was destroyed by invading Burmese forces in the 18th century. I visited Ayutthaya in May 2014, on a holiday commemorating the birth, enlightment, and death of the Buddha, a good time to see some of the temples at their best. Below are two of the short films I made during my visit.      

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Remembering Nelson Mandela

December 26, 2013
By
Madiba

Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and former South African president, died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. I was fortunate to be in South Africa at the time, and to be a part of the combination of mourning for Mandela’s death and celebration of his life that took place in the weeks following. On five occasions during this period, I joined the crowd of South Africans (and foreigners) gathered outside the Mandela home in Houghton to pay their respects to a man revered, it is fair to say, by almost all South Africans. In these short videos, I pay tribute as a South African to Madiba, and I try to capture some of the remarkable sights and...

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Nineteen years later: Rwanda 2013

November 21, 2013
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Victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide (KIgali Genocide Memorial.)

In March 2013, I spent several days in the small central African country of Rwanda. It is a beautiful place of verdant hills, picturesque villages, and majestic volcanic mountains. Thanks to its high elevation it has a balmy climate despite its tropical location; much of the country lies more than 1,800 meters above sea level. Rwanda is also the cleanest African country (or, for that matter, any country) I have visited; there is virtually no litter on the streets of the capital city of Kigali, and rural fences are remarkably free of the remnants of the plastic shopping bags so common in most other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.) During the first day of my all-too-brief visit, I walked along the streets of Kigali, the...

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