|Transitions Abroad Magazine September/October 2007 Vol. XXXI, NO.2|
Tunisia and Beyond
Retracing the Silk Road
Back Door Travel by Rick Steves (magazine only)
The Resourceful Traveler by Tim Leffel
Senior Travel by Alison Gardner (magazine only)
Ask the Expat by Volker Poelzl
The Intentional Traveler by Michael McCarthy (magazine only)
International Career Adviser by Jean-Marc Hachey (magazine only)
Special to This Issue
Ramping Up by editor Sherry Schwarz
Living and Working Abroad
A Family’s 3-Month Journey in Argentina Wendy Simpson
Activist Responsible Traveler
Travel to Eat
From the Editor
Every now and then we receive an article that inspires us to push our editorial boundaries and to think about the world a little differently. For the most part we like to publish practical information that can help readers plan their next overseas experience, but when Lies Ouwerkerk’s article on traveling in Iran arrived, we had to give it a second look. Although we realize most North American travelers won’t be venturing to what President Bush termed one of the “axis of evil” countries, we nevertheless found her account fascinating. She describes how the people of this rigidly policed nation are changing its cultural, religious, and political underpinnings—perhaps not surprising when you consider that, according to Iranian government statistics, about 70 percent of Iran’s population is under 30.
In spite of encountering stark contradictions between modernization on one hand and oppressive Islamic edicts (particularly for women) on the other, Ouwerkerk’s most lasting impression was of the “kindness, openness, curiosity, and hospitality” of the Iranian people. She describes their unexpected pro-American attitudes and marvels at how easily they bonded over their many common interests, as she recalls joining them inside their homes to eat, drink, dance, watch TV, and debate.
Ouwerkerk’s story echoed in my mind as I read the results of a recent poll of Iranians conducted on behalf of Terror Free Tomorrow (www.terrorfreetomorrow.org). The poll found that only a slight majority of Iranians favor their government developing a nuclear weapon, whereas four out of five Iranians favor opening up their country’s nuclear program to full inspections and to renouncing possession of nuclear weapons if this is accompanied by outside economic assistance and international trade, in particular with the United States.
My hope is that in its dealings with Iran, the U.S. administration will exercise full diplomacy and cooperate with the international community to encourage Iran to suspend her uranium enrichment activities. This would be a positive step toward illustrating that the United States has learned we can’t take unilateral action in a globalized world.
Another step the United States may take toward bolstering its image among the international community is by increasing its good works abroad through expanding volunteer and service initiatives overseas. Although this isn’t presently a government mandated program, it may become one. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) introduced the Global Service Fellowship Program Act (S.1464) into the Senate on May 23, 2007. Its purpose would be to fund fellowships to promote international volunteering opportunities as a means of building bridges across cultures, addressing critical human needs, and promoting mutual understanding.
Another national movement to promote the engagement of Americans with the world is the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007 (H.R. 1469), which we have reported on in past issues. This Act, which the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass in June 2007, if signed into law and funded, would create a program to enhance the global competitiveness and international knowledge base of the United States by ensuring that a greater number, and a more diverse body, of undergraduate students have the opportunity to acquire foreign language skills and international knowledge through significantly expanded study abroad.
Professionals in the fields of international volunteering and study abroad have some justifiable reservations about how quality programming will be maintained, how funds will be distributed, and what measures will be taken to help prepare large numbers of Americans going abroad to be culturally respectful, but by and large these are inherently positive new initiatives about which we can get excited.