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What is a Human Right?

Freshman year in all my classes there was The Marine.  Old for a freshman and a fellow  International Affairs major, he was always on time and often wore his mil backpack.  Manifesting himself as the booming faceless voice from the back of the class, the professors always seemed overly eager to both hear and honor him. One of his biggest stands which professors bent over backwards to not disagree with was that electricity is a human right.  His experience in the Middle East had made this overwhelmingly obvious to him, but he had a hard time pointing to the piece of international human rights legislation that backed him up.  Personally, I think he was getting more at the need for light and perhaps the ability to cook in a safe and effective way, neither of which has to necessarily involve electricity.  (I would now argue that electricity is necessary in order to honor several clearly-defined rights, such as to food security and bodily security i.e. protection from rape and other forms of bodily harm that befall women who collect wood at night.) Now that I’m spending so much time with micro-credit, I’m  starting to understand how their services can be human rights, especially when we’re discussing a certified bank like Grameen.  People without access to insurance, credit and savings a become vulnerable to all manner of incredibly harmful and undignified situations. These can include, but are not limited to: begging prostitution/human trafficking food insecurity losing access to their children Someone without the ability to borrow money, something we do all the time in the US, would have an extremely...

Following the Dog Out of the Window

I am not one of those it’s-for-the-best feel good types.  I’m with Josh Ritter when he says, “if the best is for the best then the best is unkind.”  I am not generally described as fatalist or optimistic. Yet, here I am. It was for the best. I wanted to go to Honduras in November, because I needed SPACE and warmth and travel and there were some enticing prices.  But it wasn’t as good of a deal as I had hoped, so I stayed home.  But I got my space anyway in December, and I got a chance to save some money for the next opportunity coming down the pike. I investigated Alternative Spring Break, which was exciting because there was an opportunity in Honduras with a do-gooder focus and a longer time-line.  But then I looked at the cost, authority on the trip, and simply lost enthusiasm for the project.  For some reason I felt like I needed validation on this decision, like I needed permission to not spend my time and money on ASB. Then I got the most fantasy-fulfilling opportunity of all: I was invited to apply for an all-expenses paid fellowship in Saudi Arabia.  This would allow me to visit a country that is normally off-limits to Americans, do it in a non-scary and not-too-long way, get to travel for free, be back in the Middle East, and get to continue some of my research.  I know, I know, how many American feminist 22 year olds fantasize about wearing an abaya and niqab for two weeks in a Gulf country in which they cannot drive?...

Choosing a New Place

When I first heard about the Benin trip, and how it had a one-week France component, I was a little bummed.  I had already been to france, I already had that stamp.  But I think a lot changed when I was in Cuba. As the trip got closer, I thought of paris as a comfort, as a home in so many ways.  As a breath of fresh air, the way a weekend at my parents’ house can be.  Now, when I think of bangladesh, I don’t think oh! Now I can say I’ve been to asia.  I don’t think about all the great proximate countries and how to cram them in as cheap as possible.  I think about how hard it will be to experience my first truly blind foreign language experience.  I think about how ill probably be alone, and what will I do for housing.  I think about how they treat women, and wonder whether harassment is prevalent.  When I think about the Dominican Republic, I think of the comforts of Spanish and familiar food.  I think of the proximity to Cuba and Haiti.  I think about how going there three times in a six month period will be such an asset.  Of course, I also hope there will be enough food, and that I wont get sick of spending so much time there. I think a lot, too, about the choices I don’t make.  Latin america isn’t supposed to be my focus area.  Shouldn’t I be in Africa or the Middle East?  Shouldn’t, as a friend suggested, I be running back to Cairo? This is where...

How I Pay For It

Financial Aid. Because I travel through my University, all of my financial aid applies as normal.  I’m getting regular credits, so the travel part is really an extra. Scholarships. NU gave me enough money that it would cost me about the same to go there as to UMass (without full scholarship tuition.)  I’ve also been looking into the additional, overlooked scholarships both at NU and elsewhere, and I’ve been coming up with some serious dough.  A thousand here and there doesn’t sound like much, but for me $1,000 is round-trip airfare to Costa Rica and at least two weeks of accommodations and food.  If your travel is for legitimate, educational purposes, you can find a lot of people/institutions willing to fund it. Loans. Luckily, my loans are all some sort of less-scary student loan.  But I will have debt when I graduate, so that will limit my options a bit.  While I know I can live on $100 a week in some random place, I still need to make enough to pay off my loans. My parents.  Because my travel is educational and embedded in my college costs, and my parents are helping me pay for college, they’re also helping pay the cost of travel.  As an aside, I honestly have no idea how much they are or are not helping, which is part of why there’s no dollar-for-dollar breakdown. I go to cheap places. I love the developing world for oh so many reasons, but that one I always jokingly tell people is that it’s cheap.  A three-course lunch with a beer for $1?  Isn’t Cuba sounding nice? ...

Action: a Guest Post by Kandace of One Red Wall

Hey all, so this is my first ever participation in a blag swap.  Kandace from One Red Wall is posting here, and I’ll be posting over at her site.  And can I say that she’s been a perfect doll, even with me being the worst swap partner ever?  Check out her site to read some great posts on taking charge of your life, and making your own happiness. As I’m sure Delia here has already mentioned, we’re taking part in the 20sb Blog Swap. Meaning Delia was kind enough to let me guest post here on her lovely blog and she’ll be over on One Red Wall today. So don’t forget to head over and check out what she has to say. Now since I ramble on enough in my post, I will refrain from rambling in the intro. The theme this time is Action. Specifically, something I’ve been putting off a long time that I need to do next year. GAWD there are so many things. Getting back in shape, getting back to school, paying old debts, making Friends instead of acting all Lone Wolf, all important things. But the first thing that came to mind when I read that? I need to start saving money to go Bungee Jumping. I had decided I’d go in 2010 and I just didn’t do enough to make it happen. I put it off to the end of the year when my sister could go with us and the company we planned on using Canceled the whole event. Really, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it even if they...

Shameless Plug

So I love Groupon.  I tell people about it, I email them when something comes up that they love, I give them as gifts and share them with friends.  And now Groupon wants me and a bunch of other college kids to help them promote! So if you haven’t tried Groupon, here’s the skinny: They have great coupons and discounts and things every day, and if enough people sign up to buy one, the sale happens.  If it doesn’t happen, they don’t bill you.  You get a good deal, the business gets publicity and Groupon gets a cut.  A blog basically IS shameless self-promotion, but I like to be up front about my motives and such, especially since this has a monetary benefit for me.  Normally, the only benefit I get from your participation in this blog is better writing skills and the warm-fuzzies inside, so this is kind of exciting and different. The downside: there are some reports that Groupon isn’t super-fair to businesses, but at least in all the ones I’ve read they admitted they should have made different terms or simply not dealt with Groupon, and none accused Groupon of going against their word/contract. The most common downside: buying a Groupon and then forgetting to use it.  This is why I find it’s best to buy them (and then spend them) with friends, so you won’t all forget.  Or to just carry them around with you. Here’s my referral link, if you’re interested.  Full disclosure: normally, a person gets $10 in GrouponBucks if they refer a friend who buys a Groupon.  Because of this special promotion,...

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