Carlene Hempel's Travel Blog

Reflections from a journalist and teacher abroad…

Happy Birthday Lila!

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Lila, who has celebrated seven of her last 10 birthdays in another country, turns 15 today. Happy Birthday, sweets. I can’t wait to see you in Athens in a few short days to celebrate this one too.

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May 26, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Adaptability

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It’s not easy to drop into another country, without language or any other point of reference, and report fully realized journalistic pieces. Think about it: The students here with me had to pitch story ideas within 48 hours of arriving. Immediately after that and over the following days, they had to solicit in-person or over-the-phone interviews (I don’t allow email interviews) with experts and anecdotes. They had to find numbers and stats from primary sources. They had to shoot photos and/or video for each piece. They had to deal with demanding edits, and requests to go back and get more – more interviews, more data, more photos, more context.

In the midst of all of that, not a week after we set down, they had to endure a bus strike – which translated to their paying, out of their own pockets, not 1 euro for a bus ticket but 5 to 10 euro for taxi rides, each way. They have to deal with no wifi except at their residences and school. And today, they woke up to no running water – not just in their building, but in the whole district.

This is not the sort of work for the uneasy, or the weary, or the resentful. This takes grit and resolve and the sort of intelligence that allows one to hunker down and figure it out, despite the setbacks and challenges. To the person, these students are succeeding in this endeavor. They are creative and resilient. They are respectful and hard-working. They are adaptable – which is the key to working abroad as international journalists. And they are thriving.

It has been my great pleasure to witness this. It is what I wanted of them and for them. We are almost exactly halfway through our time together. Soon, they will begin to feel the crush of that reality. Fleeting time can be so painful. But for now, we can push that aside and concentrate on the work still to be done. Though it will be hard on all of them, I know now what to expect. And I am very much looking forward to what they produce.

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May 24, 2017 at 4:31 am

We’ve hit that point in the trip…

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… am I working them too hard, or are they up too late? I’ll never know…

Tired

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May 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

The beautiful port of Thessaloniki at sunset last night. What a gift…

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port2

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May 20, 2017 at 9:46 am

Lila – a politician? (I’m with her…)

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Out of nowhere, Lila seems to be interested in politics. Apparently, she’s running for Senate, and gave a short speech in school today. (She sent a pic of it, with a little cartoon her, below). She said most of the other kids running promised to work on organizing more dances and less homework.  She went a bit of a different route. We’ll see how it works out. But – GO LILA!

LIla Hempel-Edgers for Senate.

 

 

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May 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Family

Perfect weekend, before a storm of work

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I’m a little behind on blogging, which always happens once stories start to come in. But I didn’t want to let too many days go by without mentioning how grateful I am for the weekend we had. On Saturday, some of the students and I went to the “Old City,” which winds up ancient streets away from the water and into the hills. It’s a steep walk to get up there, but the vistas are stunning, and worth the trek. We found an open-air café at the very top to rest, with breathtaking views of Thessaloniki and the sea beyond it. Then on Sunday, we had two events – one to a beautiful vineyard for a tour and a tasting, and the other to a beach, for which our handlers made a reservation. That means we had a section on the grass, in the shade of trees and umbrellas, at the edge of the beach. It was a stunning, clear and breezy day, so snow-capped Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Greece, was in full view right in front of us. I spent that part of the day (after a glorious swim) sipping a coffee and working on a paper for my class (the one I’m taking, not the one I’m teaching.) It was perfect and peaceful, in every way. This week is turning out to be a hectic, even chaotic one – with protests to cover all day and night today, and then our first visit to a refugee camp on Friday. Plus, other stories are starting to roll in. But all of that is welcome after the restorative couple of days we had, all together, happy and healthy and sun-kissed in beautiful northern Greece. (Click on an image for a full-sized, captioned slideshow.)

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May 17, 2017 at 6:38 am

Every once in a while, I’m not around to celebrate Mother’s Day…

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The holiday is tomorrow. But I’ve been thinking about not being around to say Happy Mother’s Day to my own beloved mother, who, happily, will be with my family to celebrate. Here she is, with Lila and me during a visit this winter to her and my father’s beach on Cape Cod. I also just received my own first Mother’s Day wish, from my only grandmother remaining, Miriam. Happy Mother’s Day to you, too. With all my love, Carlene

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May 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm