Back to School with the Great Wall of China

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It’s back-to-school time for most of the US, which means that kids get to share tales of the camps, vacations, and oh-so-much swimming time they enjoyed over the summer. When asked what her favorite part of the summer was, 10-year-old Lillian C. shared this picture of the Great Wall of China, saying ‘It was really cool to stand on something you’ve heard so much about, and to see the wall stretch on forever.”
GreatWall-LillianDrawingThinking about taking your family to China? Learn more about Lillian’s Enchanted China for Families trip!

 

Rebuilding Nepal

blog_post_lg_nep_epf_7145-2289This is our second post focused on Nepal in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake. Our first post, Standing with Nepal, focused on the immediate needs: surveying the damage, providing medical care and urgently needed supplies, food and water. Now, with this post we focus on our rebuilding efforts in Nepal. 


11885784_1042920432409229_8731550729112149965_oAugust 13, 2015

It’s been more than 100 days since the Nepal earthquake hit. Our shelters in Khokana and Bungmati are almost complete, and now efforts are focused on electricity, water supplies, and putting in three toilets. In one week, all the new houses will be turned over the people.

Stay tuned for our next project, starting next week: rebuilding a school at Dhulikhel.


August 4, 2015

11807666_1037407652960507_1988870029320642905_oProgress continues in Khokana and Bungamati villages where Journeys is building a total of 20 houses.

 

 

 


11802627_1033480370019902_102599502895195496_oJuly 26, 2015

Today Journeys visited Khokana Village, one of the oldest medieval villages in Patan, Lalitpur. One of the biggest issues here is cleaning out the rubble and debris where several houses and monuments were destroyed. Michigan residents Maureen and Thomas Kolhoff joined forces with us to provide supplies and labor needed to clean up the debris and help build shelters.


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To date, we have constructed 32 shelters in our Okhaldhunga villages and also rebuilt the schools at Okhaldhunga and Wana, Shankhuwasava (East of Everest. Arun Valley). Today we are in Khokana and Bungamati in Patan, Lalitpur. We aim to construct 20 more shelters at Khokana and Bungamati villages.

From Narayan: “I am so glad to tell you that we are really helping those who are struggling and still without basic necessities. We thank all our global donors who help us help the affected families. We still invite you to donate to the earthquake rebuilding projects.
We are trying our best to help the affected families return to day-to-day normal life.”


July 14, 2015

Next up for the earthquake relief campaign: Journeys Nepal is heading to Khokana and Bungamati to help people make shelter with zinc sheets and bamboo. We are planning on making small a colony of 14 houses in Khokana and 6-8 separate houses in Bungamati. Updates and photos coming soon!


July 2, 2015

While in Wana, Journeys Nepal also successfully conducted a health clinic for villagers. Co-sponsored by the district health office and Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU in Michigan). From Narayan: 

We examined 1,180 people and provided free medicine, ECG (50 ppl), ultrasound (190 ppl), x-rays (110 ppl), and paps (50 women). Thank you very much to all the doctors (the OB-Gyns, dermatologist, orthopedic surgeon, dentist, and general physician) and assistants who came from Kathmandu and the district hospital of Khandbari. Special thanks to Dr. Gupta Bahadur Shrestha (Medical Director of Helping Hands community Hospital and Chairman of district hospital, Sankhuwasabha Khandbari), Professor Marcia Shannon and SVSU family, David Shannon, Journeys international, and all the volunteers of Wana Youth Club and Wana School.

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July 2, 2015

Journeys Nepal spent 10 days at the end of June to the east of Everest, in the Arun Valley, visiting Wana, Sankhuwasagba. Here, we helped rebuild and renovate Wana’s higher secondary school. We also hosted a health clinic for the villagers. “Life is getting back to normal now. People are building their shelters, which is the highest priority since monsoon season starts soon,” said Narayan.

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June 20, 2015

Narayan with villagers

Narayan with villagers

Once he returned to Kathmandu, Narayan posted many photos of the rebuilding project in the Thulachhap village of the Okhaldhunga district. Here, Narayan explains the impact Journeys Nepal was able to have, as well as the work that is still to be done.

We helped to renovate and build 32 homes for the villagers, and we built a shelter for the school (Raktamala Primary school) where 220 students are studying. We also donated some paper to the school.  

The village is thickly populated by lower caste people (Kami, Damai Sarki) who are very poor economically but so rich for their culture. We were so touched by the smile and friendliness of the people. I have seen many people’s eyes full of tears, seeing how happy they were when we distributed zinc sheet and building materials.

Monsoon season is nearly here, and we are glad to be making progress, but there is so much more to be done. Our hearts go out to those who are still without basic necessities, and we hope that public and private sectors in Nepal can pull together and reach those communities in time. 


June 17, 2015

On the third day of rebuiliding in Okhaldhunga, the Journeys Nepal team helped build shelters and renovate a school. Much to their surprise, at 3pm the team was invited to a school program, where the students and several parents welcomed them with a dance and flowers.

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June 15, 2015

The Journeys Nepal team headed to Okhaldunga for a few days of rebuilding the village and its school. We distributed zinc sheets (metal sheeting for roofs), rebuilt homes and helped rebuild a school.

June 2: Surveying damage and distributing supplies in the Saramthali Rasuwa district.

June 2: Surveying damage and distributing supplies in the Saramthali Rasuwa district.


June 2, 2015

Yesterday the Journeys Nepal team, along with founder Aanchi Sherpa, visited the Saramthali Rasuwa district as part of the relief and rebuilding program. We distributed zinc sheets (metal sheeting for roofs), rice, oil, lentils and beaten rice to the villagers. On-the-ground volunteers reported: “We spent the night there and met so many local people. Most of the houses destroyed; the ones that look ok from the outside are completely destroyed inside. People are now trying to rebuild their homes, so the zinc sheets are a critical supply at this point.

 


 

 

Travel to Cuba with Journeys International

Joslin Fritz, the guide for Journeys International’s new Cuba trip Rhythm of a Lively Land, talks about why you should travel to Cuba now. 

Cuba seems to pop up on the news reel daily, and with good reason. Obama’s announcement last December to work to normalize relations with the Caribbean nation has catapulted Cuba into the spotlight. But what is it really that makes this destination the next hot spot? Here are five reasons why you should travel to Cuba now.

Photo by Joslin Fritz

Photo by Joslin Fritz

1. Dance

When you think of Cuba, you probably envision old American cars, thick Cohiba cigars and steamy salsa dancing. What you might not associate with this tropical island is the other types of dance that are done here. The emphasis on the arts has led to a profusion of highly talented and creative dance troupes. Think flamenco, rumba, contemporary dance, or a mix of all three. You’ll be awed and impressed by what you see.

Photo by Joslin Fritz

Photo by Joslin Fritz

2. Paladares

“Pala what?” Paladares are privately-owned restaurants that serve food and drinks and are located inside a home. There’s a wide range of paladares now open and operating throughout the country, from two tables in a spare room to fifty tables that are fully functioning as a “restaurant.” While Cuban food traditionally isn’t spicy, the cuisine has improved substantially over the years as spices have become easier to obtain. Fresh fish, slow-cooked beef and roasted chicken are just a few of the many options you can choose as your main course. The best thing about paladares is their unique character; not one is exactly the same.

3. Change is coming

Photo by Joslin Fritz

Photo by Joslin Fritz

Many people are convinced that Starbucks and McDonalds are days away from setting up shop in Cuba. They want to travel before the country transitions. Change is slow on the ground, and these businesses are a long way away from investing. It anything, people should go to Cuba now in order TO see all of the exciting changes that are taking place. New private businesses are popping up every day, and it is a thrilling time to see the change first hand.

4. Art

The quality of artwork ranges quite dramatically, but you can be certain to see something in Cuba that will catch your eye. From your run-of-the-mill old american car paintings to vividly bright wall-sized murals, there is more artwork to see than time permits. Artists such as landscape painter Tomás Sánchez, up-and-coming Frank Mujica, and sculptor José Fuster are just a few who are guaranteed to impress you.

Photo by Joslin Fritz

Photo by Joslin Fritz

5. Old Havana

Named in 1982 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a trip to Old Havana is like going back in time. Havana Vieja has gone through a remarkable process to repair crumbling old buildings and restore the beautiful 20th century architecture. Cobblestone streets connect the four main plazas, and each plaza has its own unique feel and design. Enjoy a cerveza from a local brewery in Plaza Vieja before perusing the antique books for sale in Plaza de Armas. There’s plenty to explore in Old Havana and the photographs never seem to quite capture the charm.

See the full trip itinerary on the Journeys website. 

From International Friendships to World Peace

This week we celebrate International Day of Friendship, an event created by the United Nations in 2011.

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“On this International Day of Friendship, let us cultivate warm ties that strengthen our common humanity and promote the well-being of the human family.”

~UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

This Thursday, July 30, Journeys celebrates the fifth anniversary of International Friendship Day, a UN initiative to foster friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals to inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

Like Ban Ki-Moon, we believe friendships across cultures and boundaries are the essential building blocks of world peace, and this belief was an important founding concept of our company. We also believe that friendships are often the most enduring, profound and priceless ‘souvenirs’ of our travels.

To that end, Journeys was among the first American tour operators to offer cultural trips to Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Rwanda and Uganda, destinations that all experienced turbulence throughout the last century. And in spite of the hateful politics that often seem to discourage dialogue with people who see the world differently than we do, we now proudly offer trips to Iran, Israel, Cuba, China and Colombia.

We also believe that our travelers play a much bigger role than simply ‘taking a vacation;’ instead, each of our travelers is a diplomat of friendship. And this is how our travelers have always been greeted, regardless of their destination. In fact, never in the 38 years of Journeys International’s history have we felt that political or religious issues impaired the realization of understanding and appreciation between travelers and host citizens.

I suggest that as we approach this International Day of Friendship, you open your virtual address book and search for the people you met traveling. Then, renew your friendship by sending a note and a photo of your experiences with them, and by sharing your stories here. We’d love to hear about the friends you’ve met along the way.

Yours in international friendship,
Will Weber

The Glorious Food and Hosts of Tunisia

When the news only gives you the negatives of a destination, it can be easy to forget that there are normal, gracious people living normal, gracious lives in those very same places. Here, our traveler Hilary C. shares her recent experiences meeting the lovely people of Tunisia—while enjoying their tasty food!

Traveling in Tunisia not only meant eating extremely well but also experiencing the culture and the people through food: the way it’s grown, how it’s displayed in stands and markets, and how it’s prepared, served, and shared.

On my first day with my guide Mohamed, I learned an important lesson. We had been strolling down the winding streets of a village when he bought a sugar donut straight out of the fryer from a stand and asked if I would like to share it. This gesture showed me that I was being welcomed into a culture where people shared food as a matter of course, whether it was platters placed communally on a table or a snack broken in half amongst friends. Mohamed carried the donut to the terrace of a café ringed with orange trees, where he ordered me a glass of strong mint tea with pine nuts floating on top. As we sipped our tea in the waning afternoon light and ate the donut, I was pretty sure I was in for a special time.

And I was right. Here are a few of the (food) highlights from my trip: 

Local cooking: We were staying at a guest house in the countryside outside Mahdia, near the sea on the eastern coast of Tunisia. The house was set in an orchard with fruit and olive trees and lovely stands of fennel. When I told Mohamed I would love to spend a little time cooking with our hosts, he arranged it with the very gracious family with whom we were staying.

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Sharing bread: Turning a corner from one narrow lane to another, we discovered this tiny bakery, hardly bigger than a closet where a man was baking small round loaves in a portable oven like a metal tub. He kindly gave us permission to take these photographs. Mohamed and I shared one of the loaves, covered with poppy seeds, piping hot, crusty on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside.

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DSC02947Fresh fish: We stopped at the small fish market in Bizerta, and Mohamed said, “Oh, good, it’s still open. Let’s see if we can find something for lunch.” I didn’t understand what he was talking about. All the fish, though sparklingly fresh, was raw. Mohamed chose 2 small red fish and said, “Lets find someone to cook these for us.” We walked down to the jetty going out to the sea, lined with ramshackle little cafes, each with grills outside. In short order, our “catch” went to the kitchen of one of these cafes for further cleaning and then was brought back outside to be grilled alongside dozens of other fish being tended by a pair of obviously experienced grill chefs.

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True Tunisia: But the true character of Tunisia shone through when, after our fish was prepared, we were sitting outside eating it with salad, merguez (a warm relish of peppers and onions), lemon and harissa. A vendor selling trinkets passed by, and Mohamed invited him to eat with us. Quietly and in English, he told me that he thought the vendor looked hungry and that we had more than we could eat. That is the Tunisia I will always remember.