Recent Articles

Islam and capitalism in Turkey

Anyone who likes to argue that Islam cannot exist in conjunction with either capitalism or democracy needs to take a closer look at Turkey.  Not only does the country have a functioning democracy, but the region of central Turkey is fast developing into much more than an agricultural economy, as noted by this recent article in the […]

More benefits of travel

What does one gain from travel?  Numerous writers over the years have tried their hand at answering that question, and Sophia Dembling adds her name to the list with her recent “Wandering Mind” column in the Chicago Tribune.  Here is an excerpt from her piece: Travel is enlightening in so many ways. … I think having traveled informs everything […]

Using music as a window into Africa

The Boston Globe yesterday ran an article about a man named Solomon Murungu, who teaches Americans about Zimbabwean and African culture partly by utilizing the mbira, “a musical instrument of the Shona people in his home country.”  His presentations have been so popular that he formed an organization called Zambuko Projects Unlimited to serve as an umbrella for his educational […]

Western values causing Japanese anxiety

Interesting story in the London Times about how Western business practices seem to be a cause of rising anxiety and depression in Japan.  The more individualistic practices common to Western business go against the grain of a Japanese society that is traditionally more group-oriented.  Other anecdotal stories in recent years seem to indicate that younger workers […]

Is there hope in educational exchange?

Sometimes, it does seem as if the world has gone mad.  Terrorists plot to blow up airliners, no one seems to have a solution for the ongoing conflict and killing in the Middle East, nor to the genocide in Sudan. One does wonder at times if there really is any hope of people finally understanding one another […]

Exploring silence and the past at a Greek monastery

Need a break from the relentless drumbeat of war stories filling the news these days?  There aren’t many places where one can totally disconnect from the world, but Mt. Athos is one of them.  This isolated Eastern Orthodox monastic community in Greece has no television, radio or newspapers.  It is also in an autonomous region of […]

Americans are pragmatists, Iranians are poets

If you want an example of how challenging it can sometimes be to communicate across cultures, I came across an excellent article that details some of the differences between the U.S. and Iranian styles of speaking. For example, do ‘yes’ and ‘no’ always mean what we think? “Speech has a different function than it does […]

Sunnis and Shiites – differences within Islam

Any attempt to decipher the labyrinth of interests and alliances in the Middle East can be exhausting.  There are interests that revolve around oil, interests that center on relations with the United States or Israel, and interests that are linked to religious differences.  One of the most confusing battles might be the one between Sunni and Shiite Islam.  Al Qaeda […]

Working to live, living to work

Reynaldo Ulloa, 19, said his father wanted to return to Cuba, and had spoke of its advantages.  “He says the lifestyle is better,” said Mr. Ulloa, a criminal justice major at Miami-Dade College. “Here you live to work, but there you work to live.” But Mr. Ulloa said he had little interest in moving to […]

Baseball in Japan

Ever wondered what baseball games are like in Japan?  Bob Woods has the story in an account he wrote for Continental Magazine. He writes about both the cultural features of the sport… Although the first pitch was scheduled for 1 p.m., the Fighters and the visiting Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles had been warming up since […]

Honor and tribalism in the Middle East

Anyone who is interested in knowing how culture influences the conflicts in the Middle East would enjoy an op-ed piece by John Tierney in yesterday’s New York Times .  Tierney describes the importance of honor in that region of the world and how it can affect everything from tribal and family loyalties to communication styles. In the […]

Mysticism and politics in Indonesia

When I was in Bali a few years ago, I had an opportunity to see firsthand the role that spirituality plays in the everyday life of Indonesians.  For many people, this spirituality goes beyond mere organized religion and extends to a strong belief in the powers of the non-physical world. Now those beliefs have become a political issue, […]

    Meet Bob Riel

    Bob Riel is a writer and a traveler. Go here to read more about Bob, his work and the Travels in the Riel World blog.

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