As a worldwide trend, more crime happens in certain neighborhoods. Part of it has to do with the broken windows theory: crime emanates from disorder, causing fear and a disconnect from the overall community. This disconnect begets further crime, which feeds the disorder in a cycle. Stopping the cycle is a monumental task, and several nations have tried and failed to curb heightened levels of crime. Denmark is soon to start a new approach, punishing crime more severely in areas defined as "special punishment zones".
These "special punishment zones" are also Denmark's ghettos, neighborhoods deemed nearly beyond redemption. Some argue the existence of the list as a whole, as it overlooks parts of the population that are deemed "normal". It sets back the whole neighborhood, and puts a label on them that can be discouraging to the residents. These residents are also more likely to be disadvantaged than their peers in non-ghetto areas.
Medical Equality Falls into Jeopardy
Starting July 1st, people who have living in Denmark for three years or more will have to pay out-of-pocket for interpreters during medical treatment. The Danish government claims this will save the state money; human rights organizations say this will endanger the lives of immigrants in Denmark.
This law sets a precedent for how long it should take a non-native speaker to have a complete grasp of one of the most difficult languages in Europe. Most interactions in the language acquisition process are focused on everyday conversations (buying groceries, giving directions, expressing feelings, etc.). It is unreasonable to expect new speakers to be able to handle the often complex vocabulary associated with medical care in three short years. Additionally, some patients may have not learned advanced medical terms in their native language, creating another barrier to a successful doctor's visit.
For immigrants hoping to rely on Danish lessons provided by the government, free classes also ended on July 1. Classes in Denmark now cost approximately 12000 Kroner (1862 USD) for 6 modules, which cover basic Danish phrases. Additionally, classes are non-refundable until completion, where participants get their deposit of 7500 Kroner (1100 USD back). Classes can take years to complete, depending on the pacing of the course. This is certainly a chunk of change to tie up, and begs the question: why would Denmark do this?
“The deposit and fees charged to participants will provide an incentive that should ensure that only the economically self-sufficient people who are highly motivated start courses,” the agreement said. This seems to directly favor Western immigrants over non-Western immigrants, whose jobs are usually higher-paying and come with additional benefits (which frees up cash to invest in the courses). Non-Western immigrants are often underemployed and underpaid, and their native language is more likely to be non-Latin based, which raises the difficulty of Danish. Those who need the lessons most are unable to pay for them.
How a Sicilian town has one of the biggest feasts in Europe
Most port cities' patron saints focus on protecting the sailors that comes in and out of their harbor. Palermo, however, asks for protection from one of the most famous tragedies of the last thousand years: the Black Death. Capital of the autonomous island of Sicily in Southern Italy, Palermo was hard-hit during the first wave of the bubonic plague in 1624. Although this wave is less famous than the one that wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the 1300s, it still brought more death to the already ravaged port city. During this time of tragedy, Palermo found their savior.
During the 1100s, a noblewoman named Rosalia Sinibaldi ran away from her family to escape an arranged marriage, instead choosing to live out her days in a covenant. This was short-lived, as she felt that the residents of the covenant were not pious enough. She then sequestered herself in a cave in Pellegrino Mount, near Palermo. Eventually she starved to death, as she dedicated every waking moment to prayer.
As the legend goes, however, during the 1624 plague Rosalia appeared to a hunter (sometimes a soap maker, depending on the source), to carry her remains from the cave where she died to the cardinal, so that her remains could be honored by the church. In exchange, she offered to heal people in Palermo of the plague. As her remains were carried down the infested streets of Palermo, anyone who followed the procession was miraculously healed of the disease. Rosalia Sinibaldi became Santa Rosalia, and her protection of Palermo continues to this day.
11 States, 14 Days
It's been a while.
I have a good excuse, though: In the past two weeks, I have seen 11 states, 33 cities and far too many rest stops and gas station bathrooms. Destination? Virginia Beach, VA. While this was technically our goal (and the easternmost point of our trip), we were able to fit so much more into the trip than just a few days at the beach.
This was my first time traveling cross-country with a food allergy, so there were definitely some kinks to work out. I would be lying if I said there weren't days that I had to eat by myself at lunch, or days that I was stuck eating lunch meat picked up at the local Wal-Mart instead of a meal at a local restaurant. It was tough, but I learned a lot about the importance of planning ahead and about some technology tools that can make a huge difference.
My saving grace was an app called Roadtrippers: basically, it acts as Google Maps, Yelp and TripAdvisor, all at the same time. While this app is unfortunately unable to run by itself (it relies on Google Maps for directions), it is a great place to start when you want to look for things along your route. It will also get better with time, as it relies on users to input reviews of attractions. I used Yelp and TripAdvisor to fill this gap: it was a lot easier to narrow down my search after I knew what small towns to search for. Another neat feature is that it gives you an approximate gas cost for your grand vacation, which can be helpful if you are planning to travel on a budget.
Let's see how far my limited sports knowledge can take us.
Here's the thing: I actually don't know if I did this right. I may be completely wrong (the whole 1A, 2A stuff is confusing). I can, however, give my Final 16:
I know some of these are outliers and bad betting (Sorry, South Korea), but I would like to see some shakeups this year. Thank goodness I'm not a betting woman, or else I would be out a chunk of cash (or maybe in some....who knows?) Since my home country is out, my allegiance is free and open. Let's see what happens!
Stephanie is currently based in the United States, and is constantly chasing that next grand adventure.
A Holiday in Limbo: Celebrating Freedom After the Burqa Ban
The Danish Constitution day falls just a few short days after Denmark bans the use of the burqa and niqab, raising questions about the sincerity of the Danes to adhere to their constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression.
The freedom of expression clause isn't particularly specific about which forms of expression it protects, which leaves this ban open for discussion. The Danish constitution states: "The citizens shall be entitled to form congregations for the worship of God in a manner consistent with their convictions, provided that nothing at variance with good morals or public order shall be taught or done.”. This covers congregations, not outward displays of religion.
Denmark also isn't the only one who has passed or who has been flirting with passing this bill: 15 other countries have all banned the burqa (including Austria, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway and Canada). While Denmark isn't alone in its ban, it is one of the more publicized moves because of the attention it received from Amnesty International and other Human rights watchdogs. Amnesty International Europe Director Gauri Van Gulik said that the law was mean to protect women's rights, it "fails abjectly." This isn't the first time Amnesty International has spoken up against bans on coverings, but the warnings seem to have little effect.
Africa Could Be an Economic Powerhouse, If Given the Chance.
Africa Day is celebrated each year on May 25 to commemorate the the foundation Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was later transformed into the African Union (AU). Below, I've created a handy timeline of the major landmarks and milestones that this union has passed, and its effect on Africa and African perception.
Ignorance Comes From a Lack of Exposure
There's a lot to unpack here.
I've been living in Finland for roughly 3 months now, and I've seen numerous examples of cultural appropriation and incorrect cultural representation from the Finns. This past weekend was a prime example: during a parade, there were several people with outfits that screamed "inappropriate". There were people prominently displaying the Yin-Yang symbol from Taoism and Confucianism alongside the Om symbol from Hinduism and Buddhism. Although there is overlap in the use of these symbols later on in Buddhism, the combination of both symbols seemed incongruous, to say the least.
From my perspective as an outsider to both Finnish culture and the Eastern cultures that these symbols originated in, this seemed to be a ill-informed attempt to combine eastern icons in an effort to promote a message of peace and harmony. While good-intentioned, the overall effect came off as awkward and out-of-touch instead of encouraging.
Interestingly, though, the Finnish people in the crowd didn't seem to share my perspective on the costumes. The only other faces I saw that were bewildered/uncomfortable by the display were other immigrants and a group of American tourists who were loudly whispering about the inappropriateness of the outfits. While Finnish people are not usually ones to outwardly display ANY emotions, the lack of any concern or confusion was strange to me.
Why do the most secular nations celebrate more religious holidays?
Pentecost and Whit Monday are two holidays that are deeply rooted in Christianity, although the original holiday was called 'Shavuot', and was celebrated by the Hebrews as the day the Torah was bestowed upon the Hebrew people after the Exodus. They are celebrated as national holidays in 46 different countries and are often observed with the same sincerity as any other national holiday; Austria, for example, shuts down all their grocery stores, bakeries and shops and reduces their public transportation schedule.
While some of the nations that celebrate Pentecost and Whit Monday are relatively religious (Austria, BVI, Liechtenstein and Denmark at roughly 80%, 90%, 88%, 81% declaring religious affiliation respectively), the majority of countries that celebrate these two holidays have declining religious participation. Some holidays rooted in religion are still celebrated due to secular attributes: while Christmas has Santa Claus and Easter has the Easter Bunny, Pentecost and Whit Monday hold no non-religious symbols that I am aware of.
As we approach African Unity Day/Liberation Day, let's look at one of the most recent and dramatic pushes towards reclaiming a stolen African identity.
The small country of Swaziland (landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique) made the surprise announcement last month on the country's 50th anniversary that Swaziland would revert to its original name eSwatini. The name means "land of the Swazis" in the local language, so citizens of newly named eSwatini will still go by the name "Swazis".
Is there a need for this? Probably. There are several documented cases of Swaziland being confused with Switzerland on an international scale, including a mix-up by the FBI. The king of eSwatini has repeatedly complained of being referred to as "Swiss" during international visits, regardless of their limited commonalities. While several citizens of eSwatini view this as a move to distract attention from the more serious issues facing the country, most support the move to shed the legacy of colonial rule.
It's easy to announce a name change, but what about the logistics? All of eSwatini's money currently has "Central Bank of Swaziland" emblazoned on it, as do all of their official signage, government letterheads (and official email addresses), legal documents, license plates, military equipment and uniforms, national sports teams, etc. Although Swaziland's population is a little over 1 Million, it's still a huge bureaucratic headache.
Stephanie is currently based in Finland, and is constantly chasing that next grand adventure.