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Ancient Wonders and Desert Hallucinations by Victor Paul Borg
Winner of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Travels in Libya
The plant called felesles lured me by its radiance and fragrance, like an irresistible sorceress tricking a man into a trap. Its purple flowers were the brightest, its leaves the most vital, and its entire body among the most conspicuous of all bushes that thrive in the central Sahara-a place where rainfall is nonexistent, dew is imperceptible, and the closest water lies 400 meters underground. Only the White Crowned Wheatear, a bird with black and white plumage, matches the felesles' visibility. Now I rolled the leaves of the felesles covered with soft hair between my fingers, and then raised my fingers to my mouth.

"Stop!" cried Mohamed Suleiman, running towards me. "Don't put your fingers in your mouth. If you do, it would be like ingesting a cocktail of heroin, cocaine, and hashish — then you would tear off your clothes and run in the desert like a madman."... Read more

Beirut in the Baltics: Into the Wild Wild East of "Europe Minor" by John M. Edwards
2nd Place Winner of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
 
After the collapse of communism in the USSR, inflation in the freshly minted Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia rolled up the ruble into the cheapest toilet paper around, so I decided to go East and stock up. I needed a cheap place to wipe my ass because I was then unemployed, and an Orwellian year of freelancing in Paris had left me as restless as a Rive Gauche plongeur and ready for anything to happen. It was time to hit the road. Yet unlike all those other Gen-X American entrepreneurs exploring their sophomore angst in bohemian meccas like Prague and Budapest, I bypassed Mittel Europa entirely and prospected in the farther frontier of the upper Near East: Europe Minor... Read More 
Armies and Allah in the Vale of Kashmir by Mark Hawthorne
3rd Place Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Kashmir
Only upon landing at the Srinagar airport did I realize just how blindly I had ventured into Indian-controlled Kashmir, knowing so little about the region flanked by Pakistan and China. But I was eager to spend time on a houseboat on fabled Dal Lake, so, stepping onto the tarmac, I focused on the beauty of the surrounding Himalayas even as I felt anxious about the Indian security forces, the barricades and the razor wire. Kashmiri extremists were struggling to wrest the territory from India's control, a fellow passenger told me, and violence was not uncommon... Read More
Brave Eyes, Laughing Hearts: My First Encounter with Yemen by Sarah Shourd
3rd Place Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Yemen
After an hour or so of pure hassle on the border we are in a cab speeding away from a small, port town on Yemen's coast. Al-Makha tapers out and we enter the Tihama, a vast, uninhabited stretch of desert. It is dotted with dry shrubs and the occasional wide, flat tree with torn, tattered plastic bags blooming on its branches. There are women walking along the road, covered in black, balancing yellow plastic jugs on their heads. The black looks pure against the dusty landscape; my eyes sink eagerly into its depth, searching for definition but getting nowhere. The women have a strong effect on me. They are there but they are not there, seen but not seen. I am drawn to them, but feel oddly intimidated at the same time... Read More
Danger About Us by Zachary Haynes
3rd Place Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Yemen
...Yemen: Kidnappings, Kalashnikovs, embassy bombings, Al Qaeda. Pirates? Paranoia? Or is it the sensationalism propagated by travelers and bloggers? Yemen is one of many stigmatized nations that appeals to the traveler who takes the time to ask why this is so. Is the world more dangerous now than ever before? Of course it is, the world is a horrible place and they all hate you, so don't ever leave your home again! ... Read More
Saffron and Nukes by Nancy Penrose
Runner-Up Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Iran
In the heart of the “axis of evil,” I linked arms with the women students arranged around me and we all smiled. Seven clicks later, after photographs on all the cameras, my face ached from grinning into the bright sun

We were standing in the middle of the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz, Iran.

Only a few moments before I had met the eyes of a young couple and we had nodded to each other. That was all it took. Instantly we were in conversation.

 “Kojast?” they asked, “From where?”

 “Amrika, USA” I said, unsure what their reaction would be... Read More

Long Live Pakistan by Sonya Spry
Runner-Up Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Pakistan
Traveling anywhere in the world can be risky if you don't do your homework before hand. Government organizations are overly cautious, the media sensationalizes and second-hand travel stories are exaggerated more often than not. The best advice is to read up on where you want to venture, heed the warnings, keep alert, but do not allow anyone to disuade you from following your travel dreams.

After selling all our possessions, we handed in our rental keys to the none-the-wiser woman behind the counter at the Arnhem council office in The Netherlands. At this point, we could hardly envisage what was in store for us as we ambled our way down the bike path and across the German border on our way to distant Pakistan. About one thing we were certain: the much talked about Karakoram Highway would be one of our biggest cycling challenges. That was why when we finally reached it-18 countries and almost one year later-realizing our dream became more than just a dilemma over whether to cross the border or not... Read More

Road…What Road? A Shortcut from Ganzi to Litang, China by Jules Bass
Runner-Up Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
China
...At times the road descended down to the fast-flowing river and we had to make a couple of crossings through the most shallow parts. There were a couple of houses scattered through the lower valley where horseback was the only mode of transport for the occupants. Glimpses of people were rare and thoroughly rewarding when they did occur. Imagine the look on their faces upon the sight of a white foreign woman sitting in the back of a taxi smiling, or should I say exhibiting a frozen grimace of terror in the shape of a smile? It is funny how you react to this kind of fear; my response was an uncontrollable fit of laughter, and the monk's answer was to constantly chant his prayer to the heavenly gods... Read More
Guatemala City: The Aftermath of Civil War by Veronica Hackethal
Runner-Up Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Guatemala
Guatemala City, July 1997. It is six months since the Peace Accords ended 36 years of civil war. An uncertain cease fire exists between rival guerilla forces of the URNG (Unidad Revolucionara Nacional Guatemalteca) and the Guatemalan military. Heavily brokered by the UN, peacekeepers enforce the agreement. A spirit of fear pervades Guatemala's capitol: fear of violence, fear of crime, fear of death. I am an idealistic pre-med from Los Angeles, and arrive in Guatemala City for the summer to work at Rodolfo Robles V Hospital. The most I know about hospital work, war, and crime comes from TV shows and movies. I do not know what to expect. How true are the warnings about the dangers of Guatemala City? ... Read More
The Brandy Making Bee Keeper of Bosnia by John Webster
Runner-Up Winner (tied) of the 2009 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest
Bosnia
I am driving alone, and the speedometer says 60 but it feels more like 90 as a menacing black Mercedes looms like a cyclone in my rear view mirror. As the chilled early morning mist clears I see the vague outline of a haphazardly laden timber truck powering towards me, its illicit cargo lurching violently against decaying, wafer-thin restraining straps.

The road is horrendous, a white-knuckle, energy-sapping ride through cavernous potholes and the pulverized remnants of countless stray dogs.

Welcome to Bosnia, land of jaw dropping countryside, mountains, valleys, mind-boggling history, welcoming people, and without doubt home to the worst drivers on the face of this earth... Read More

Travel Safety Reputations Die Hard
Are your worries based on old assumptions, last decade's news, or meaningless statistics?
Resourceful Travel Editor Tim Leffel
Tim Leffel
What images come to mind when you hear "Mexico City?" Fantastic food and 135 museums, or kidnappings and murder? Ancient ruins and cutting-edge architecture, or scary taxi drivers and armed robbers?... Read More
Beth Whitman
With the very best of intentions—before I set out on a grand adventure—my friends, family and colleagues usually say to me. you could die. you might get tossed in jail. you'll get into an accident. I can always see it in their eyes and feel it in their farewell hugs. I know what they're really thinking is, "I'll never see you again."... Read More
Volker Poelzl
...It is not only essential for expatriates to learn about the practical aspects of life in their host country, but they should also find out if they would actually enjoy living in the country of their interest and how well they get along with the locals. Some cultures are traditionally more closed to outsiders while others are very welcoming. This does not mean that you will be discriminated against, but it may prove harder to make friends and you could remain a relative outsider. Some countries have a culture similar to your own, while others are so different from the Western way of life that it is very difficult for expatriates to adapt... Read More
Alison Gardner
On a pleasure rating of 1 to 10, camping is somewhere between 1 and 2 for me, depending on the state of the outhouse and the thinness of the sleeping mat. I never do it willingly, but sometimes I get tricked into it. This happened last summer while visiting the Historic Hat Creek Ranch in central British Columbia's Cariboo country... Read More
Traveling by Cargo Ship Around the World
Long-Term Traveler Columnist Friedel Rother
Friedel Rother
Imagine for a moment that you are on the deck of a ship, sipping a glass of wine. You turn your head towards the water just in time to spot a pod of dolphins swimming by. After lingering in the sunshine for a while, it's time to head inside for a 3-course evening meal and a splash in the pool before retiring to bed.

Now, what kind of vessel are you on?

No, you are not on a standard commercial cruise ship. This is no luxury liner hopping between Caribbean islands. It is a modern freighter. Hundreds of cargo ships, carrying everything from fire engines to apples, are crossing the world's oceans and many are happy to take you along for the ride... Read More

Book Reviews
Mexico - A Traveler's Literary Companion
Mexico—A Traveler's Literary Companion by C.M. Mayo

A Traveler's Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press) is a great series that explores the culture, history and traditions of 18 travel destinations through a collection of writing by well-known local authors. One book in the series, Mexico-A Traveler's Literary Companion, offers readers a great sense of place and richly portrays the culture and people... Read more
Movie Review
House of Sand
The House of Sand (Casa de Areia, Brazil 2005) by Andrucha Waddington

"The House of Sand" is director Andrucha Waddington's first feature film since his widely acclaimed "Me You Them" (2000). Going against the current realist trend in Brazilian cinema (such as "City of God" and "City of Men"). "The House of Sand" is a visually stunning and metaphoric tale in which humans are dwarfed by the forces of nature and overpowered by a fate they did not choose. The story spans about sixty years, from 1910 until 1969, and follows two generations of mothers and daughters stranded in a desolate region of sand dunes in Brazil's northern Maranhao state... Read more
Music Review
Susana Baca
Travesias by Susana Baca

Susana Baca has risen to international stardom in recent years, but her fame came only after spending most of life as a singer and songwriter in relative obscurity. Although she has been instrumental in preserving the musical traditions of her Afro-Peruvian community for decades, she did not gain international attention until David Byrne included her in his compilation "Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru ," which was released in 1995. Since then Susana Baca has released several CDs of Afro-Peruvian music on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, and in 2002 she won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Folk Album, for her CD "Lamento Negro ."... Read more
What's New at TransitionsAbroad.com
TAzine Editorial
We are proud to launch TAzine as a monthly Webzine which continues the 31-year tradition started by Transitions Abroad magazine. TAzine features many of the same columnists who wrote for the magazine, a growing group of new columnists, while featuring many freelance writers who wish to share their experiences and expertise within the context of our pioneering coverage of work, study, travel, and living abroad.

Founded in 1977 by Dr. Clayton Allen Hubbs, Transitions Abroad magazine was the only print publication dedicated to work, study, living, volunteering, and immersion travel abroad. Its purpose—in print and now as a Webzine—is the dissemination of practical information leading to a greater understanding of other cultures through direct participation in the daily life of the host community.

Send in your submissions for the webzine to webeditorial@transitionsabroad.com on the subjects of travel, work, study, internships, teaching, volunteering, living abroad, and much more in accordance with our detailed writers' guidelines!

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Narrative Travel Writing and Cultural Travel
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Work and Volunteering Abroad
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