I’m a city person. I love the pace, the noise, the endless barrage of things to look at. I love to study the skyline, the museums, the lights at night, the people. Typically, I’m not too fond of the countryside. But there’s something about Scotland, especially the Scottish Highlands..
Devil’s Island is a bulbous, volcanic island at the innermost part of the Gulf of Tadjourah, an area called the Ghoubet, in Djibouti. Everyone who drives the snaking coastal road from Djibouti’s capital city to Tadjourah passes the bay and comments on the black hill rising up out of the sea. It is tantalizingly close to shore, yet out of reasonable reach due to strong winds and waves.
The thing everyone kept saying at the school in Beirut was that people there feel like a family. And while in other circumstances that might carry a whiff of hyperbole, at this school in the Lebanese capital, I believed it. The students and teachers had already been through a lot together—war and civil war, economic chaos, the devastating Beirut port blast in 2020. They knew how to hold each other up.
In this family, I was an awkward dinner guest: welcomed warmly, but from the outside.
“Freedom of movement” wasn’t really on my mind as I trained at home in Seattle to run my first 10K in Bethlehem, a shorter race within the Palestine Marathon.
This 10K wasn’t the real goal of my fourth visit to the region. Instead, I went to help a friend with a book project, see other friends, and visit some holy sites, with a bit of excellent falafel and a 10K on the side.
The marathon organizers hope to build a running culture in Palestine, foster cultural exchange among residents and visitors, and highlight the lack of freedom of movement Palestinians experience.
“It’s a dangerous business—going out your door,” someone once said to me. But maybe that person didn’t have a ukulele like I do.
I named my uke “Strad” (diminutive of Stradivarius), thanks to a totally unscripted interaction in Vienna when I insisted upon its gentle handling while declaring that I had an appointment with the Vienna Philharmonic that evening. Strad has gotten me through doors in countries as diverse as Kenya, Tajikistan, the Republic of Georgia, and so many others.
ARTICLE BY MAGGIE WALLEM ROWE PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAGGIE WALLEM ROWE
Earlier this year, my husband and I left our home in North Carolina to spend 10 weeks volunteering in Stavanger, Norway. Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway, and its location on a peninsula on the southwestern coast with proximity to the North Sea has made it the center for Norway’s prosperous offshore oil industry.
This was our second visit to Norway—our first extended visit lasted 12 weeks in 2019. Although my paternal grandparents, Sigurd and Bertha Nygaard Wallem, grew up in southwest Norway, they immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and until that 2019 visit, I had never had an opportunity to visit the land whose culture shaped my American family. After interacting deeply with Norwegians and experiencing their culture for six months split between these two extended stays, I’ve found myself surprised and delighted by many aspects of this beautiful Scandinavian country. Here are seven characteristics I especially appreciate about my ancestral homeland.
Northwest Africa’s Mauritania often struck me as a true fly-over state, when I flew over it on my way home from greener parts of the continent. Despite my interest in people and places, from the cockpit of the private aviation planes I pilot, nothing I could see down below in Mauritania attracted me. Rather, looking below, I was all the more glad for sufficient fuel on board to continue to Western Sahara or Morocco or maybe even the Canary Islands. Every time I crossed it, the country tidily became an uncompelling memory as soon as I exited Mauritanian airspace.
But that all changed after it became one of my destinations.
Most motorcycle rallies take place in summer and fall, and I’ve been to my fair share of them, from Sturgis to the National Bikers Roundup to local events. Each one is unique, creating its own culture, reflected in the attendees, location, and associated activities. Yet there are also generally crossover points that make them feel more similar than different.
The first annual Black Wall Street Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, though, stood out from amongst all the others I’ve attended. The May 13-14 event consisted of two days of music, vendors, motorcycle competitions, historical tours, and cultural experiences within the historic Black Wall Street area of Tulsa’s Greenwood District.
When I saw Mohammad pick sprigs of an herb from among the rocks, I knew we’d be stopping for tea soon. We had been climbing the mountain behind his flock of goats for an hour and a half, with just two brief stops so far. When we reached a bald outcrop of rock overlooking the canyons and mountains of Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve, I sank down cross-legged, tucking my skirt beneath me.