Search results for: work with me

Work with me

I can be booked for assignments* for:

  • Media content about places, trends, festivals, culture & destination promotion (including reviews of hotels and alternative tour packages)
  • Lectures about slum tourism, Human Rights issues in tourism and selected topics related to Responsible Tourism management
  • Communication and consultancy work for both governments and private companies that approach Responsible Tourism
  • Research (assistance) about tourism impacts & development
  • Research (assistance) within tourism & social science (re human geography, sociology or anthropology)
  • Social Media strategies for any organisation

For a more profound presentation of me please check the section who I am.

*Please note that I can take assignments in three languages: Norwegian, English and Spanish.

To discuss and to get references please contact me on gipsygiraffe@gmail.com

The exploited Long-neck women (II)

In the recent post The exploited Long-neck women in SE Asia (I), I told about my long time interest in the women of the Kayan tribe from Burma. In particular I forwarded concerns from the field of Responsible/ Ethical tourism and Human Rights about the Kayan tribes’ involvement in the tourism industry due to their special tradition of decorating their necks with metal rings. I mentioned that I’m finally going to South East Asia, and that one of the purposes with the trip is to investigate this subject further.

Before embarking on such a trip, I’ve done some research online in order to get a better picture of the situation. Yet, I’ve not fully understood how big this tour product really is, how the tours are conducted, what guides communicate or how involved the Thai government is – despite of human rights organisations’ campaigns against it for years. However, as with other similar issues of concern in the tourism industry; I can only imagine that whatever impression I get through published articles, blogs and Tripadvisor reviews, the situation is a lot more complex than I’ll ever understand.

Still, as mentioned in the previous post; what´s clear is that there exists lots of information about the history of the Kayan people, including their origin, myths about their decoration custom, historical western fascination with them and key to my initial interest: Debates about the exploitation of them as tourist attractions in Thailand.

If the latter isn’t true, the question arises: What’s in it for them? Which clearly is the main reason why human rights organisations like Tourism Concern work on subjects like these.

Before discussing the ethics, lets go through some history.

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Kayan girls visiting London in the 1930s

The origin of the long-neck women is quite known even through tourism nowadays. The so called long-neck women are members of a tribe called Karen (by themselves pronounced as Kayan), out of which many fled from Burma to Thailand in the 1980s after having been one of many harshly oppressed ethnic minorities in the country. Soon after, there were built specific villages in the Chiang Mai region in Northern Thailand for – amongst other fleeing tribes– the Kayan people.

As most of the Kayan women stuck to the old custom of coiling rings around their necks, Thai authorities soon realised their value as tourist attractions, and built separate villages for them to where visitors could pay to come and see them with their own eyes and learn about their tradition.

According to a huge variety of sources the mythical stories and beliefs about why the women coil their necks with heavy metal rings then, seem to be presented and believed in numerous forms, but the three most common mythologies explain that:

  • It’s done to prevent tigers from biting them
  • It was originally done to make the women unattractive so they are less likely to be captured by slave traders.

and the opposite of the latter:

  • That an extra-long neck is considered a sign of great beauty and wealth and that it will attract a better husband. Adultery therefore, is said to be punished by removal of the rings.

As tempted as I am to rabble on about the ways so called “culture tours/ tourism” can develop, and why it often represents an issue of concern within the field of Responsible Tourism – it be visits to tribe people in African countries or the Inuits of Canada or the Samis up North in Norway – I’ll keep to four sentences:

  1. Culture tours/ tourism is B I G business, and it’s increasing in popularity every year as today’s travelers are increasingly keen to discover whatever they see as authentic in a destination.
  2. The very people of interest (when it comes to this tourism form) often represent historically marginalised groups of people due to their status as indigenous/ ethnic minorities.
  3. Due to the longtime oppression of the latter, they often struggle with poverty, stigmatisation and language barriers which make them easy to exploit in industries like tourism.
  4. Additionally and unfortunately, currently existing tribe people often live in areas with poor standards of human rights’ protection.

Back to the Kayan tribe, it’s important to have in mind that the international knowledge about its people – and especially its women’s customs – didn’t actually start with tourism in recent times. The truth is that the long-neck women first got internationally known through Western adventurers and anthropologists that “discovered them” and brought pictures back to Europe from Burma during the Colonial times.

Here’s an example I found when … yeah, googling.

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According to content I find on the world wide web about their modern history (meaning from 1900), Kayan women were even taken to England in the 1930s for cultural-educational purposes, which reminds me of what I learned in school about a black man who was displayed in Oslo 150 years ago, and in University about miss Sarah Baartman, that was exhibited in London during the same era.

As for the Kayan women, they were invited to join theater plays (!).

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And invited to drink tea the Brittish way.

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Kayan people in a London tea house Photo creds: Google images

Those were the Oh mighty colonial days, you may be thinking…

Today however, we tend to think that in terms of human values we’ve come much longer since the colonial racist 1930s… It would be seen as completely unacceptable to exhibit people less powerful in a Western country today, right? Besides, think about it: Today we’ve seen it all. One way or another, we know about all kinds of people and ethnic groups that live on the planet. It’s not like it used to be back then when traveling was seen as an extreme luxury even for most Westerners.

Instead, in the increasingly globalised world and with our increasing travel opportunities we are constantly given the chance to learn about real people with other traditions than ours – in their very own habitat. Wherever it is, we just travel there! Where there is a demand  there will be a supply as it works strikingly well in an overly market oriented world. And it’s in this very reality that sightseeing the villages of the long-neck women has become a popular experience for travelers to tick of their lists.

One can start wondering when seeing the above pictures, whether that early display and fascination – and the fact that we even had pictures of them in school books in European countries throughout the 20th century – has fueled the whole concept of the Kayan women as tourist attractions in modern Thailand today? And others alike.

Truth is that for a long time, rather bizarre tour products in which indigenous people are the main attraction, have popped up around the globe replying to the demand among authenticity- seeking tourists. Not seldom are they marketed as beneficial to the attractions themselves, but honestly I’ve yet to see such a concept – developed in a bottom-up, trustworthy and sustainable manner – with my own eyes.

One crucial question however, is whether the Kayan women were more oppressed in Burma before fleeing to Thailand, as opposed to what they are currently putting up with as tourist attractions? Because according to various spokesmen and organisations the treatment and exhibition of the Kayan tribe women is a perfect example of systematic oppression of indigenous people going on around the world. And that oppression grows especially strong in the tourism industry.

Wrapping this up therefore, Ill attempt to give some advices for travelers to be, so to assure they don’t take part in the vicious circle of exploitation of indigenous people, but rather find ways to support initiatives that work for a fairer treatment of them, as well as a fairer tourism industry. That is to say: The problem with organised tourism to marginalised areas we count as interesting, is that we as travelers often don’t know – and we’re certainly not told – in what way the people we visit benefit from, or feel about it. We don’t know how much power the hosting local people actually have themselves over the situation. Thus is it very clever to investigate such matters before visiting places that might be reasonable assuming didn’t plan tourism development in their backyard themselves.

Or simply avoid them, just in case.

The exploited Long-neck women (I)

For over three and a half years now, I’ve been working voluntarily for the UK-based charity Tourism Concern, that through campaigning- and lobbying try to fight exploitation in tourism. The organisation’s vision is that tourism always benefit local people and their work often concerns awareness raising of the sector’s different stakeholders about serious issues in the industry.

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of such a concept, let me quickly inform you that the tourism industry (part from being a force for good in terms of increasing mutual understanding between people and cultures and a facilitator of peoples’ possibility to enjoy a holiday), also is – like many other industries – notorious when it comes to facilitating powerful actors’ means to earn money in a dirty way.

Feel free to browse Tourism Concern’s webpage, and get to learn more about for example why all-inclusive holidays hardly benefit local communities, and cruise tourism is highly unsustainable.

Personally I’ve given good reasons for why the work for a more ethical/ responsible tourism is so crucial. I’ve written about orphanage tourism, and suggested what it takes of responsibility policies among tour companies and governments to hinder that slum dwellers exist as pure tourist attractions, and I’ve mentioned why I’m so interested in the topic myself.

Today I’ll write about something that’s been on my radar for long, since I first started studying issues within the field of exploitation in tourism.

I still remember the picture in the brochure; of three ladies with Asian features sitting on a bench in traditional colorful clothes and metal rings around their long necks. In front of them was standing a corps of tourists shooting pictures with their massive cameras. The women with the metal rings were of the Kayan tribe, living in Northern Thailand, and the photographing charade was categorised in the brochure as a ‘human zoo’.

In tourism they go under the name “long-neck women” and occasionally also giraffe women, although they refuse to adapt the latter themselves.

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Since working with Tourism Concern I’ve learned that they’ve – together with other human rights organisations – flagged their concerns about the exploitation of various tribe people in tourism. With regards to the Kayans, Tourism Concern has campaigned against tourism that involves them, and pushed tour operators to stop offering trips to their villages.

From what I’ve understood there are also several organisations that have pushed for governmental actions. But as with other similar stories of exploitation in tourism, it’s very complex. Poverty and means of oppression are complex. So is tourism.

Back in 2011, one of the first in-depth articles I posted on my blog concerned the exploitation of the Kayan people. I called the post the trapped giraffe women, unaware of the Kayan’s own opposition to the Giraffe- reference, so my apologies for that. I also referred to the women and their tribe as both the Kayan and Padaung in that post, but recently learned that Padaung isn’t really what they like to call themselves either. According to new sources I came across Padaung is a Thai-implemented categorisation of the Kayan tribe. Lets thus stick to calling them the Kayan (people).

In the mentioned post, I shared my frustration over not finding more than a few articles online about the Kayan people despite quite a lot of research. I was looking for content concerning the exploitation of them and their current situation, and most of the articles and blog posts I found were typically based on people´s tour experience in a tribe village. Commonly, (uncritical) travel writers seem to retell stories that guides have told them, and write about the situation in supportive manners. This isn’t new at all in tourism of course, nor very illogical, yet it can be dangerous if what people are told isn’t not true at all.

Since the last time I wrote about the long-necks, Ive not investigated much about the topic, but as I’ve just made a dream come true and booked my tickets to South East Asia for 2015, I recently went back to it.

For now my plan is to travel in three countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia) for approximately three months, and I’m of course going to the region where the 1 day sightseeings of the long-neck women’s villages are taking place. I want to find a way to not only see it with my own eyes, but also talk to people involved in the sector and understand more about what is actually going on. How tour companies are marketing it, what the guides say, what tourists think about it and especially what the ladies themselves feel.

The latter is the most difficult part though; also considering I’m not going as a long time researcher with the access to a neutral translator. Nevertheless, Ill do my best in getting a local translator, and who knows: My previous research experiences make me believe Ill be lucky this time too, and that things will fall into place.

So, preparing for my trip, I’ve done some new secondary research in order to renovate my knowledge about the matter, and found out that not only has the subject been flagged again since late 2011 and throughout 2012 and 2013, but the history of Westerners’ fascination of the women that coil their necks with big brass rings is much crazier and longer than I knew of!

Just take a look at this picture! What does it look like to you?

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To keep posts in suitable lengths for reading, I’ve made a new post about the matter. Go here to learn about Westerners longtime facination with the long-neck women from Burma and to get some additional information regarding the reasons behind tourists’ interest in visiting them. I’ll also present some reasons for travelers to think twice about supporting the concept of so called culture tours, as they often include complex issues of exploitation.

My first & twisted encounter in Mexico

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Yesterday I told about one of my first encounters with Mexico, – the Mezcal, and that was pretty twisted. Something even more twisted however, happened before that encounter, already on the way from the airport to the two friends that house me in Mexico DF.

Picture a humid, dark night. There are no stars on the sky, it is slightly foggy and there is no fresh breeze in the wind what so ever.

Picture a blond, 1,83 meter tall girl arrive, hungry and tired after a long journey and with a way too heavy backpack on her shoulders. She has no phone that works, but an address of a friend of a friend living in the city. She takes the strict message of the friend of a friend to order an authorized taxi seriously, pays for it and realises she really needs to pee. But the taxi personnel is already calling for her and before she knows it has thrown her bag in the trunk of a white, old car that looks just like any other white, old car.

She gets in to the taxi and off they go into the dark night.

That was how I arrived yesterday.

Shortly after I find myself in the taxi of a young man, that at first glimpse didn’t seem as friendly as I imagined Mexicans would be at all. I try to initiate a conversation with stupid comments about the weather, the hectic traffic and that I’m stunned over being in a city this size. The driver answers in an extremely little interested tone and I start wondering why the hell I didn’t pee on my way out of the airplane instead.

After three minutes the taxi driver that has seen me concentrating on my phone, asks if I’m watching a GPS.

Yes, I say.. Im trying to loc“In case Ill kidnap you?” he interrupts me and giggles.

Our eyes meet in the mirror.

“Uhm, well yeah”.. I say with a false ironic tone.

Thoughts run trough my head, my need to pee becomes stronger, and calmly I try to finish my initial phrase: “I’m just trying to locate myself in this massive city”…

He laughs out loud, looks at me in the mirror and asks where I’m from. We chit chat a little about his take on Europe (expensive, safe and far away) and soon we’ve become a bit closer.

Fifteen minutes later (me all the time secretly keeping an eye on that GPS) he is answering to all kinds of questions I’ve asked him. He tells me things like where to go for a dance in my neighbourhood, what areas not to visit never ever in the city, how I had to be very careful in general being a woman on my own and more interestingly inside info about how the authorized taxi system works. He tells me that drivers get as little as 12% of the fixed prices set up by the company and that using their own cars!

We agree it isn’t a very good deal at all, and I suggest that maybe other taxi drivers hold the same opinion and that they could go together and demand a salary raise (I know, a very Jeanett-save-the-world-move of me).. He tells me he thinks it would be impossible and admits fearing to loose his job. “After all to be a taxi driver is a quite popular position, and unemployment is high here” he says, and continues: “But luckily, working with tourists brings extra tip money”.

I tell him I agree with that, while at the same time realising I hadn’t withdrew any national money yet. The ride was paid for with credit card at the airport and as it already was midnight and we were approaching my destination, the last thing I wanted right now was to find an ATM…

So I apologize to the driver for my inability to tip him today and smiles to him through the mirror. He replies with a slight exhalation, gives me a smile that looks much more like a grin and says: “I’ll have to kidnap you then,” before stepping on the gas pedal so we accelerate rapidly down the street.

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A little disturbed, sudden pictures from the movie Taxi driver came to my mind so I yelled: Dios Mio, que loco eres!! pretending not to sound too worried after all. Shortly after he slows down the car, giggles a little and says: We are here, honey. We are here.

As Ive never been to this place, I look out the windows onto the dark street thinking to myself what the F. was the door number again, is it really true that we are here? but before I know it he has already opened my door. I recognize the street name on the lighting GPS on my phone’s screen and decide to trust him. He puts my backpack at the front door and tells me this is a good neighbourhood, and that he hopes I will enjoy Mexico city.

I intent to pretend like nothing of the craziness Id just lived through had happened and walk over to the doorbell to find the right number to call, not sure whether to expect a knife in my back or a warm hug from the driver. My friend’s friend answer and tells me she’s coming down, and so I turn over and take the driver’s hand, saying: Im sure I will enjoy it here, muchas gracias.

This is America, the rest is a lie

Departing LA today was fun. We had googled a selection of Walmart stores located North of the city as we needed to stop by one to purchase important camping equipment for our upcoming two nights in the Yosemite National park, followed by a week in the Black desert city. Finally buying stuff at Walmart felt like biting the bullet, yes, but trust me, we tried for days to find second hand equipment on Craigslist first.

We found our store in Van Nuys on our way out of town, and already there we felt so far away from LA the way we’d got to know it. The area seems to be inhabited by a massive group of Latin Americans, yet due its urban history also represents a hot spot for many young professionals. Driving through the area however, most avenues offer sights like densely situated small houses, many of whom have a flag hanging high in the garden. Part from that you’ll see shopping malls, car shops, areas of trailer houses and a bunch of cute little men with their cowboy hats on strolling the streets.

We started to feel like we were in America.

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An hour later on our way to Fresno, our 3g stopped working. Soon we had no service at all. So much for T-mobiles’ promises of working anywhere in the US. For another two hours we cruised up highway 5 surrounded by a flat and mostly uninhabited landscape, before it got dark and hundreds of signs of fast food chains and motels were the only lights that illuminated our way.

Though I dislike branding overall, I’ve loved my first US road trip experience in which my old dream of staying in a typical motel now is to be fulfilled.

Here from a gas station close to Fresno. How authentic!

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Next to it we spotted a motel and went to check out their vacancy. Nobody was in the reception however, yet a group of truck drivers had thrown a party and welcomed us to join them. Unfortunately due to our tight travel schedule we had to reject their offer.

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However, a little later we found the perfect motel downtown in Fresno.

We’re only stopping by here to get some sleep, just like everybody else does in this city – on their way to, or from – Yosemite National Park. I’m so excited to finally be on a road trip, and so excited to be going to Yosemite tomorrow!

G’night!

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Back to my summer job

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Finally I’m back to what I call “the farm” or “my mum’s farm” for my summer job. This will be the third summer I work here. A brilliant way for someone with my lifestyle to be close to family while earning much money after all (and before the next) traveling, besides doing something meaningful.

The farm is actually not my mum’s, nor is it just a farm, but a rehab institution that my mum happens to manage. She has now lived here for over 10 years, and it’s pretty much impossible to me (and her) to even imagine anything else. She is perfect for this place and such an inspirational person in terms of her compassion. So are many of the others working here, and the ideology of the institution. It belongs to a foundation called Stiftelsen Sollia kollektivet in Norwegian (read more here if you understand Norwegian).

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Sollia kollektivet was founded in 1970, and is partly private, partly state owned. Translated from Norwegian, the cornerstone of the foundation is Equality in work, responsibility and economy. An important principle is self- sufficiency to both provide economical empowerment and empowerment of the students that learn a whole lot of agronomy and construction work.

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As you can see its location is breathtakingly beautiful. Surrounded by huge fields and other small and medium sized farms and the best of it all: Norway’s biggest lake Mjøsa. Every time I come back here, whatever season, the smell overwhelms me the very moment I get off the bus on top of the road. Sometimes I almost start weeping, but out of joy. It’s a mix of feelings of ‘home’, the joy of being close to my mum again, the beauty and meaning of the jobs that are done here, the excitement of seeing the students (the people living here due to substance addiction) after yet another journey of mine, having them sharing from their lives with trust and openness.

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The ideology of meaningful community work and consequent enforcement of drug prohibition have been basic since the foundation’s commence. Here we work together as equals, treat each others with respect and interest – in order for the students (and others of course) to improve their lives and grow.

The farm is 100% ecological and 50% self sustained. We grow several types of vegetables and fruits and got our own animals that provide us with eggs, meet and wool. Products like milk and cheese, coffee and tea, and on occasions meet, as well as ingredients to make bread and desserts are bought in weekly.

Every day we eat three meals together, which on good summer days often looks like this:

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Part from offering substance addicts rehabilitation and therapy, the foundation requires that the “students” work from the day they arrive. Until 8 students and 7 employees work together every day from 8- 16 (part from the weekends where one student is in charge of the animals and one worker in charge of transport and general contact with everybody), and are divided in two groups; one in the kitchen and one outdoor in the garden, fields and with maintenance. Who works where rotate from month to month to make sure everybody get to practice all tasks.

My friends often ask me what I’m doing while here, and the answers are “hanging out with the students, chatting and doing everything together from:

Harvesting

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to picking berries

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and checking on our sheep herd up in the hill

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feeding our rabbits

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 eating waffles…

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coping with pranks…

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and inventing pranks..

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To me the best about the farm is its peace and location, it is a perfect place to stop and think for a while, far away from other things I give importance in life. When I’m here it’s like the world outside is put on hold. It’s easier to be present and to pay attention to other people’s best interest rather than my own. Besides, it is a gift to be let in to the students’ life histories, dreams and self-development, and I’m humbly aware of how time here means empowering self-development for me too.

Here there is plenty of time for walks in the forest…

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cuddle pets

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and do yoga on the beach.. 🙂

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playing with my family

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having visitors from abroad

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taking the boat out ‘to sea’…

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Enough said! As you understand I can’t wait to suck in another 4 weeks here.

Burning Man here we come!

So hold the press motha f’ers: FINALLY IT’S CONFIRMED: WE ARE GOING TO BURNING MAN!

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photo creds: dailymail.co.uk

Oh God, how I’ve wanted this so badly for so long!! And as I wrote about a time ago, my long time beloved, yet distant, thus missed friend, Monika from Canada is FINALLY getting married to her Tom in the US mid September, which gives us the perfect opportunity to do a much wanted West-coast journey prior to the wedding, and maybe some more traveling in the region afterwards. As Burning man happens in the transaction of August / September, we instantly started dreaming about and planning how to for once get there.

Thing is with Burning man, tickets are sold out ages ago, and left overs or second hand tickets aren’t as easy to get for this fest as for many others. However. Thanks to my man’s industry contacts we didn’t even have to suffer much to get the tickets, because yesterday we got two left overs confirmed! I am soooo happy and excited and  just spent the morning reading advices for fresh men, looking at house cars, masks and bikes, temperatures etc.

So. What is so special with Burning man? As said on their official website; “trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind”... Fair enough.

That around 30,000 people leave their homes in order to live for a week or more in the middle of the dessert, far away from cities, shops, traffic and a hectic society, where the day is as hot as the nights are cold, may be weird to some. However, community is the word. The need to escape perhaps, but if so, with a desire of creativity, alternative life style or a more meaningful way of spending time on this planet. With a will to share love and open-mindedness with others. “Burners” as they are called after having been once, will never be the exact same person again, many claim.

Hah! Well, bring it on, I’m ready.

Personally since I discovered the festival through some random Norwegian media articles, I’ve kept an eye on Burning man, dreaming of once attending, mean while getting updated on the fest yearly through blogs, pictures and stories among friends that have been there..

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What happens during Burning man is that “once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever”.

I mean, look at this:

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photo creds: festivalfling.com

One of the reasons of its success, as well as its uniqueness is that “Burning Man isn’t your usual festival, with big acts booked to play on massive stages. In fact, it’s more of a city than a festival, wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the event”.

I like! All sounds very much like Responsible Travel and Consumption to me.

Still keen to learn more?

Here are the festival’s ten principles, as seen on the official website.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Participation
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediacy
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Ha! To be continued then 😉

How to become a responsible consumer?

In our times, public awareness about responsible consumption is fortunately increasing. And whether one is looking at the travel – (that I write a lot about), textile -, or food industry, similar points become clear:

In order to combat unethical production practices, it is essential that consumers get aware of the issues and understand their potential to change things for the better by using their purchase power. In this lays the notion that it is essential that consumers don’t expect that private sectors (corporations) and governments alone to take responsibility. The latter factor relates to a common reason for why irresponsible practices continue to thrive: the lack of an all-industry-stakeholders responsible approach.

Thus if consumers understood themselves as a crucially important stakeholder group, perhaps they’d be less passive and more aware of their power to positively impact on the production circle by taking a few aware actions.

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Here are 10 good advices for responsible consumption:

1. Like I wrote about in the previous post, the first action is simply gaining awareness. Get to know a little more about why the system we live in today is like it is. If you really care and wish it would be fairer for all of us, decide to engage somehow. Don’t avoid engaging due to a belief that your small actions won’t count. This is a common misconception that too many of us have, that ironically only benefits the system to continue being unfair.The more awareness you gain, the more you engage one way or another and the more others do too. It’s a lovely good circle to discover. 

2. When you start engaging, let the world know it. Social media platforms are wonderful channels for this purpose.

3. Strongly linked to the above: Discuss and debate the purpose of your engagement. Of course you can be a total fashion slave AND engaged in how the textile producers’ worker conditions. In fact it makes more sense to show that you care about ethical production the more interested you are in a product. This way you show the world that you reflect and understand how things are interrelated.

4. Find out what further engagement you can afford to take. For instance, if you have some favorite designers or tour operators you purchase from, or food chains you love, check out their CSR schemes, and google their names + topics like location of fabrics, production place, social responsibility, transparency etc. If you cant find enough information, email them about your concerns. Trust that your voice has a real impact!

5. Yes, I know. It may be both time-consuming and overwhelming to search for ethical and responsible companies. Therefore the good news are that many organisations and individuals have done a big part of the work for you already. Find out more about civil society organisations and initiatives within the sector you are interested in approaching more responsibly. Despite of being critised as slactivism in the media, believe me on this: It is better to sign online petitions than doing nothing. There are several proofs this has increased improved corporate & government action.

6. Buy ethical. Many (e.g. travel, clothing, food and technology) companies now a days have a well designed CSR scheme or show ethical credentials regarding the environment and local communities they affect. However, when you are now entering the ‘awareness world’ don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Take some time to browse various sources; jointly look at websites, NGO sites and media articles (or blogs) about products/ companies you’re interested in in order to avoid trusting the many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there.

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7. Support companies that are ‘ethical’ based on more than a few environmental credentials. Whatever industry you are purchasing products from, they are produced by human beings, and the sad truth is that most of these workers have few or none worker rights compared to our own. So, think about the environment yes, but look for companies that support workers rights and actively tell you what they assure of goods for their most vulnerable workers.

8. Whenever tragedies like the recent one in Bangladesh happens, get informed by, engage with and support organisations that work hard to teach us about this. Due to some of them and a long time pressure from the media and consumers, H&M, Tesco, Helly Hansen +++ actually just signed new agreements to OPENLY tell where all their production takes place. This means a tremendously lot for many poor workers in the ‘Global South’ and wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for social media and consumers’ engagement on top of civil society’s work. You can learn more about a very active and good organisation called Clean Clothes here

9. Get familiar with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and opinions about fair labour standards, which is the very core of the question of this blog post: Why become a responsible consumer? You can read about ILO here.

10. Lastly. Beware of the manipulative consumption industry and try to purchase less crap in general! 🙂

consumption

 

Neverending summer

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It hasn’t actually been the plan to escape winter like this for two years in a row, but now that I am, I’m not complaining. Though I did wish – a couple of weeks before heading home from South Africa– to get a few Norwegian winter days for skiing and to wear huge winter coats.

Then it took me 20 minutes of Toten (where my mum lives on a farm) with its crispy aired early morning and late nights to get reminded how nice it is when spring is around the corner. It really makes people happier too (even more so in Nordic countries), and who doesn’t prefer times in which people smile more.

So. After a very nice, long South African summer, I’m now already preparing for an European summer.  And to me that always means FESTIVALS.

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credentials: blog.witlr.com

This year I think Ill top my personal record with the number of festivals Ill attend. Part from the three Ive already attended in Cape Town (read here), these are the festivals Ill go to:

Sonar

Glastonbury

Tomorrowland

Oya festivalen

Burning man

Yeah I know, brag brag, but WOOP WOOP

Read more here about why I love festivals.

Fireworks

Our Congolese doormen – meet Lefills.

Like I told about some months ago, I started chatting with the doormen of our building soon after moving in to our flat in Green point. To my surprise all of them are from Congo. Over the last months Ive become found of this guy, and today I took his pictures and asked him if I could share his story on my blog.

Meet Lefills (33).

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One morning in January, the door bell rang and it was Lefills from the doorway. He asked if he could come up to talk to me. At the time I hardly knew his name, so I got a little worried. His voice sounded disturbed, and I asked what it was. He said that he was hungry, and asked if I had some food for him. He hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday, and still had many hours to work.

My heart fell to my stomach.

Of course, I said. But don’t you have to stand there in the doorway?

He confirmed. If you would be so kind to bring me something? I’m so sorry to ask about this.

Its not a problem at all. Hold on, Ill make you something right now.

I ran down with a glass of juice, two sandwiches with avocado, tomatoes and an apple. He received it very timidly, and I understood he felt embarrassed over the situation. I convinced him it’s not a problem at all, and since that day we’ve become friends.

Interestingly he told me that he had waited to see my boyfriend leave the building in the morning before he dared to ring the doorbell. I told him that V is not dangerous and that he could ask us anytime he’d like to for food. Later V and I spoke about it, the fact that these men probably see more women being nice to them, than men.. We agreed that women probably come across as more caring in general.. Perhaps it is a simple and global fact that most people (girls and boys) have grown up with more caring mums than dads?

I asked Lefills about it too when he felt more confident with me, and he laughed and said “women just tend to be nicer”. Especially in your country, I thought to my self, well aware of the tragic situation of physical and sexual abuse on women and children in war zones in Congo.

Throughout the coming weeks we had many quite long conversations. As his shifts are from 6 am to 6 pm, Lefills is more awake while working than Costa – the other doorman I told about – thus we’ve been able to talk more. Like Costa, Lefills also says he doesn’t think doormen are treated overly fairly in the area. And like Costa, he’d never complain about the salary or working hours because he knows people can get fired over it.

Besides, Lefills told me that the salary he gets is better than many others’, and that he is proud of having worked hard over the least 3 years to achieve a reputation as an honest man among employers. An honesty that made him admit through our conversations that it’s very tiring to just stand like this for 12 hours and watch people passing by…

Lefills says that he sketches when he feels inspired to make the days shorter and keep his mind focused. It is clear to me that he deliberately chooses to see the positive in things and believes that this period too will pass. As the situation is very bad in Congo at the moment, he feels he just have to wait and see.

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Moreover we’ve spoken a little about Norway VS South Africa. As he didn’t know anything about the country part from it being modern and cold, he asked me about many things. And I admit that I’ve had to bite my lip more than once. How do you explain a poor guy from Congo about Norway, if he hasn’t heard anything about it?

Once I asked him how life was for him in Congo, if he had had to go to war etc. He smiled and said:

No, no, no. I’ve been lucky, Ive studied and have a healthy family. My life in Congo is okay, but there is no job. And the conflicts are stressful. I can’t plan a future there. But I know I’m fortunate as my family is safe and not starving or anything.

With little knowledge about Congo, part from it being a mess, I’m curious about the place and have asked many questions. Lefills told me that he preferred the food and the women of Congo. But he thought that it had to better for a country to be an English colony as opposed to French.

How so, I asked.

Because the French heritage we have is so chaotic. People love discussing, debating and making a mess of politics. Nobody ever agree on anything, and partly the conflicts today are to blame for that, he said.

I would of course like to stay with my family in Congo, but the situation is very gloomy. And no African cities can compare to Cape Town. It’s safe and modern here, he says.

Interestingly Lefills isn’t obsessed with the imagination of moving to Europe the way so many seem to be. He says he loves it in Cape Town, that he particularly loves the liberality and possibilities.

Cape Town is Africa’s New York and Id love to create a good life for myself here, he said. Though it’s also very difficult to find a proper job for us here.

Not at difficult as in Congo apparently, because Lefills – like so many others – bussed a long way to get to the more prosper country South Africa. He quickly got a job as security personnel, with the position as a doorman in our building being the last. Although he still hasn’t got a proper residency, he has a temporary working permit.

Which in practice means that while he is waiting for a residency and the right to have the same labour rights as South Africans, he is being exploited as cheap labour, just like other Congolese doormen I’ve got to know. And like Costa, Lefills is aware of this status too.

Another thing the two gentlemen have in common is being proud of their education. Lefills holds a Bachelor degree in Marketing from the university of Kinshasa and means that the French based education system in Congo is much better than the currently offered in South Africa. Although he laughed at the irony that the good education system in Congo is useless as nobody gets a job. And here in South Africa they don’t have the language nor enough permits to actually get a job that is relevant to their education.

When we’ve talked about these topics, I’ve tried my best to inspire him to hold on to his dreams, motivations and to believe in himself and feel confident that hard work will pay off. We have for instance agreed that the most important thing he can do is to study English and continue applying for a residency and better jobs from here.

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Overall Lefills is more interested in talking about other things than the challenges he meets in life. He loves to speak about topics like movies, music, Europe vs Africa, racism, my impression of him after he got that sandwich, how we meet a partner or marry each other in Europe..

Not that this was meant to be a Man-seking-woman-add, but you never know what it can serve to. Hah!

(Lefills has agreed to have this text posted about him).