|Map of 2013 Magellan Project destinations. |
Welcome to the second issue of the Magellan Messenger, the e-newsletter that strives to connect the W&J community and friends of the College with the Magellan Project. Each issue features articles written by Magellan recipients as well as updates on events related to the program.
Religious Persecution in the Western World
Aaron Walayat, Class of 2016
Aaron Walayat with Ganoune Diop, the Seventh-day Adventist Church's liaison to the United Nations.
This summer was quite an experience. In the span of mere months I met a Russian pastor who sits on a government council in his homeland, visited an office of the Seventh-day Adventist Church across the street from the United Nations, and heard a speech about the experience of Syrian Christians from a British MP inside the Houses of Parliament.
Through Magellan, I had the opportunity to visit three European democracies to research religious liberty issues in Western Europe. Now, my choice of region may raise some eyebrows considering that Western Europe is not necessarily the religious persecution capital of the world. Despite these preconceptions, I can honestly say that religious liberty issues have not been completely solved in either Europe or the United States. In fact, religious liberty is a much more complicated issue than the young Western observer anticipates.
In order to study these complications, my journey brought me from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to the mountains of Switzerland. With each destination, I was able to meet fascinating individuals who deal with human rights issues and the place of religion in their respective countries. In London alone, I was able to meet with an evangelical Christian, a liberal Muslim, and a secular humanist, each giving their own interpretation of what religious liberty issues entail.
Thankfully, no group opposed religious liberty; yet their input helped me discover recurring problems for European religious liberty. Examples of such problems include issues concerning expression through dress, the relationship between a country and its national church, and discrimination amongst religious groups where religion becomes more of an identity than a belief system.
The issues regarding expression were described by my interviewees as the most apparent conflict for religious liberty in Europe. Many leaders with multicultural attitudes give more leeway to minority groups than to traditional groups. It is surprising to find that religious liberty for some is infringed because of acceptance, as government leaders treat the plurality of groups differently, encouraging some and discouraging others, to create an "accepting multicultural society."
Another major issue stems from events where religious liberties are compromised in favor of another group's rights. In many cases, laws which are not religious in nature affect religious liberty indirectly. Laws regarding homosexual marriage, public healthcare, and faith schools sometimes compromise religious liberty, yet many governments simply disregard religious communities in favor of other groups. While my project was focused on religious liberty, I was fascinated to find the recurring theme of a "hierarchy of rights" which would be an interesting subject for research and debate.
Religious liberty is a fundamental freedom and one of the basic tenets of natural law. Thanks to Magellan, I was able to find that even here in the West, we as citizens must consider the importance of one of our integral liberties. Of course, if religious freedom is fundamental to natural law, then it should be enjoyed by everyone, not just the West. All over the globe, there are issues of and for religious freedom, any of which I would not hesitate to explore, possibly in another Magellan (wink wink).
British MP Alistair Burt (center) speaks about Syrian Christians at an open forum hosted by Open Doors Advocacy UK in Westminster Palace.
Lessons Learned in India
Gadwin Stewart, Class of 2015
A visit to the Jnyanaganga Kannada, an English Medium School of Kittur.
"Why do you want to go to India out of all places?" I was constantly asked this question whenever I would share my desire to travel. But after having a few talks with Dr. Bilsky, one in which she asked me, "Why NOT India?," nothing more needed to be asked. I set my mind on coming to India to study the slums with a focus on India's culture, developing education system, and rocky economic system. I wanted to study these things in an unconventional way; walking around taking in natural scenes of such lively cities and people, conducting informal interviews, reading the newspapers, and experiencing the slums with the locals.
What I learned from the people here is more than I could learn in one semester of sitting in a traditional classroom, and there are two things I want to highlight. The number one thing I learned is that the saying "Nothing is free in life" is truly taken to great lengths in developing countries like India. Everyone here is an entrepreneur and very hardworking. There is always something you can do to make some money to feed your family. I also learned the values of the Indian people are very strong. Although many people in the countries around India have managed to transition to Western views, the Indian people have been able to tap into the modernized world and still hold true to their values.
I will never forget this experience, the people who helped me get here, the stares from the locals, being asked "are you from South Africa" several times, the great vegetarian food, and most importantly the hardworking and dedicated people of the slums.
A walk through the slums of Bangalore, India.
Don't Panic, It's Organic!
Bianca Rajan, Class of 2014
Thanks to Magellan, I've been able to spend a portion of my summer in Bali and Thailand studying ecotourism and its impact on environmental issues and solutions.
To begin my project, I was able to study at R.O.L.E. Foundation's Island Sustainability Eduction Center in Nusa Dua, where Balinese and foreigners work together to raise awareness on local environmental issues. Bali is an incredibly special place, with sacred people and a naturally beautiful environment. This combination of rich culture and hospitality ultimately led to the tourism industry explosion we see today. Swanky hotels and villas line the streets in between the traditional warungs and fancy restaurants, and in between these is trash. People point fingers at tourists and locals alike, but ultimately it's about finding solutions for a society whose economy is built on the natural beauty of the land.
I was assigned to a project called Waste to Wonder located in Ngis Village, working at the Eco-park most days. Occasionally I traveled out to the Ngis to photo-document and blog about the project so the donors at Korea Green can know exactly how their funds are being used. Waste to Wonder is a solution to waste management. Its ultimate aim is to create and maintain a clean and sustainable environment by introducing rural Balinese communities to sustainable agri/eco-tourism and organic farming. Throughout my time there I was able to meet with Pat Gede, the gardener for Alila Hotel, one of the pioneers in organic gardening and eco-tourism. I visited a school that plans to implement the waste sorting aspect of the program, and also traveled to a neighboring village whose school won the national prize for sustainability with its own waste sorting program.
My Magellan adventure then continued in Thailand, another beautiful and culturally rich place where tourism clashes with sustainable solutions. I volunteered with the Surin Project in northeastern Thailand, a new initiative focused on finding solutions to the challenges faced by mahouts--traditional elephant owners--and their elephants. Elephants historically were used for transportation and traditional ceremonies, but again, with the tourist boom, mahouts found it more lucrative to create elephant shows, rides, and photo opportunities. I found myself on a government-sponsored site that pays mahouts to keep their elephants on the site rather than begging in the streets of Thailand. Most tourists are unaware the 20 hours a day that the elephant is not on show is spent chained, often with the front legs together, so that only hopping in a circle can give it exercise. The Surin Project shows the mahouts an alternative form of tourism, one that is more culturally grounded and sustainable.
My experience throughout my Magellan project has been eye-opening to the problems we face as the tourism industry booms and as the environment and indigenous cultures dwindle.
Bianca on top of the elephant food, Surin, Thailand.
It's Not Whom You Know but Who Knows You
Candace Woods, Class of 2014
This summer my Magellan took me to Los Angeles, California, and I decided to combine this work with my communication arts capstone project. I planned on coming out to California in order to make a documentary on the entertainment business and how it affects the community. But as I continued to finalize details of my trip and attended film school this project started to shift and change.
I came out to LA with my film equipment, luggage, and just four contacts. Within my first week here I met an Emmy Award-winning journalist who ended up becoming a close friend and a lovely man who works at Paramount and used to work for Jimmy Kimmel. It was crazy to see how much just stretching yourself and talking to people on the street could open so many doors.
Through these connections I was able to get interviews with the cast and crew at Jimmy Kimmel Live. I spent two days backstage watching all of the production work and how much goes into a late night talk show. Since I was backstage I was lucky enough to meet Oprah as well as a few other celebrities.
After Kimmel the amount of reception to my project grew in a positive way. One of the biggest interviews I was able to land was with an actor who has a guest role on the hit television show GLEE. I have been honored to interview each and every one of these people and have learned many things about this industry that I can't wait to share through the form of either a documentary or web series.
Another highlight for me was meeting up with W&J alumni who currently reside in LA. One who really inspired me is Hollis Zemany-McLachlan (class of '06) because she is currently making her way through this industry with a film that just received distribution and starting up a diversity film festival among other projects.
My Magellan has given me the tools to prepare myself for a move into the entertainment industry after I graduate. I know that no matter what happens I need to stay humble and be courteous. I have seen how movie magic works and the amount of hard work that is behind what we see on our screens at home.
The saying that has inspired me the most during this process came from Christine Torreele. She told me that in this industry it is not whom you know, but who knows you. I took this to heart and throughout my journey I made sure to leave a positive impression. I began to make a brand for myself in Los Angeles, as many locals would call it. As my Magellan comes to a close all I can think about is getting home and finishing my capstone on the journey to Hollywood. I just wanted to thank the Magellan Committee and my family and friends for supporting me to follow my dream.
Candace on the lot of Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California.
Tackling Unforeseen Problems
Emma Church, Class of 2016
After spending my summer studying Organic Chemistry, I was ecstatic and looking forward to a change of pace. I definitely found that in Scotland, studying the historical significance and cultural impact of castles. I flew into Glasgow, and just getting off the plane, the first thing that I noticed was the amount of pale people. Being pale myself, it was just completely different from America since many people go out and tan during the summer, and it's considered abnormal if you don't follow this custom.
My first test of nerves came along with reaching my lodging from the airport. I conquered that hurdle by being forced to use a taxi due to the far-off location of my first hostel. But unfortunately, the next obstacle didn't take long to arise. I realized that the adapter that I brought over for my tablet and other electrical devices did not work. My tablet was my safety net, and without it, I was really worried about getting lost since I am awful at navigation. I also was supposed to meet up with Fiona Randall, an incoming W&J sophomore who lived in Scotland. So without my tablet, I felt disconnected from the rest of the world. I was slightly worried about finding where to get the proper adapters and converters, as well as how to get to the right stores. However, Fiona, an Australian girl named Deana, and a girl from Whales named Kate, were life savers in that they showed me around the area. I learned then and there how nice people can be.
Honestly, I have never been the type to ask for help when I need it. I like to believe that I can do it and figure it out by myself. However, when traveling by myself, I learned that I needed to ask questions, despite that I might look like a tourist. Plus, by asking questions, I was able to meet many different types of people, learn about their lives, and question their cultures. When visiting the castles, I would ask tons of questions regarding the history and the towns surrounding the castles. I did not know much about Scottish history before arriving, but my Magellan in Scotland allowed me to learn much more about Scotland's rich background. By talking with the Scottish locals and other travelers, I was able to gain insight into how America is perceived as well as other places around the world. By the end of my project, I gained confidence in myself because I now know that it is okay to go up and ask questions and chat with complete strangers. I learned that there is so much more out there in the world besides the vast country of America. Lastly, despite the myriad of little problems, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I made friendships and had experiences that I will treasure forever.
Emma at one of many castles she studied in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Heart of Latin America
Chelsea Wise, Class of 2015
Chelsea Wise in Paraguay.
I started my Magellan adventure in a country called Paraguay. Yes, Paraguay, not Uruguay. Most Americans have never even heard of the country that is known as the heart of Latin America. My project was broken up into two different parts: teaching English and studying culture through the distribution of a personality test. I initially thought that I would be mainly a tourist in this forgotten country, but I found myself immersed in the culture.
I distributed my project surveys to a few different groups of people that I met while in the main city. People who grew up in the Paraguayan culture and who knew the main traditions. Speed bump: Not all Spanish speaking countries speak the same type of Spanish! For almost every survey I gave out, I had to mark down explanations for some of the words. Definitely something I didn't consider when planning out my project. But, for the majority of my stay, I got to teach English for a private school just outside the main city. During this time, I realized how much I had learned about life in a different country. I started my days with a very rocky bus ride, taught a few classes at the high school, and then ended my days with a few cups of terer้ (the local tea). For being in a third world country, I was loving the lifestyle that I had become immersed in.
That being said, I also got to see the other side of what it is like to live in a poor community. The last few days of my trip, I had an amazing opportunity to work with kids who live in the slums. I helped out and spent time with the kids at a morning school that my friend had created (and when I say spent time with, I actually mean just giving out a million kisses and hugs to the kids). Out of my entire trip, what I miss the most is sharing my love with those amazing but love-deprived kids. Although they grew up in the worst part of the city and have to fend for themselves on the streets, those kids have more personality and potential than words can describe. Not only has this opportunity opened my eyes to so many things, it also has made me realize that I might have found something that I am truly passionate about....
Current location: Ecuador, for a semester of study abroad. And all I can say is I want to go back to Paraguay! The Magellan Project has honestly been one of the most important things I have ever done in my life so far. This life-changing experience has allowed me to not only meet and work with some of the most amazing people, but it also has allowed me to realize how I can impact the lives of others.
Unexpected Discoveries in Eastern Europe
Thea Prince, Class of 2015
This summer I traveled to Eastern Europe to study the Holocaust but more specifically the recovery process after World War II. My travels took me to Belarus, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, and I chose these countries because of the differences they presented in their post WWII history, government and social reaction to events. In doing this study I had expected to gain knowledge in the historical and political events surrounding World War II, but to my surprise, I ended up learning more about humanity around the world and my personal strengths.
In Poland I had the chance to meet a survivor of the German Nazi Camps. Even though we did not have a common first language we found a way to communicate with gestures and the few words she knew in English and I knew in German. She was then able to share with me her unbelievable experiences, and the power that she found within herself to survive.
While in the Czech Republic, I visited an archive of Holocaust victims. After some time I started a conversation with one of the workers and explained to her that I was looking for my ancestors who had disappeared during the Holocaust in what was then Czechoslovakia. She directed me to a separate room with archives from the city of Tepliz. To my amazement I found all my deceased ancestors, including my great-great grandparents. The archives worker permitted me to take pictures of the records and allowed me to use them as proof of my ancestral background for my grandmother. It was incredibly moving to be able to provide that closure for her.
All of these little discoveries and adventures that I had during my Magellan led me to discover something much bigger about myself. During my first week of traveling I encountered some issues with the Byelorussian Government. Due to some unforeseen circumstances my traveling was postponed by twenty-four hours. This led to my visa expiring earlier than expected. I was detained and then spent a day trying to get all the administrative paperwork necessary to leave the country completed. Those twenty-four hours were both the most terrifying and lonely moments of my life. But they also were the moments that taught me the most about what I was able to accomplish and go through. This Magellan has showed me that whatever misadventure happens to me, even if I am completely on my own and isolated, I will be able to persevere. Most importantly, I'll have a great story to tell!