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Global Explorers Blog

New Year, New (Greener) You!

As our holiday season starts to come to an end and the New Year is swiftly approaching, our minds are crammed with a plethora of possibilities for what our New Year’s resolutions will be.  Too often, we immediately resort to the typical resolution of nixing one of our bad habits; which often lasts all of about 3 weeks, if not 3 hours, into the New Year.  This year, how about trying a resolution to do something for someone else – or better yet – everyone else, including yourself.

At GEx, we try to be as green as possible.  Our office is adorned with cork floors, recycled carpet squares and Forest Stewardship Council-certified desks. Our walls are coated with low VOC paint and every room is cleverly illuminated with energy efficient lighting.  We are active recyclers and when the weather is nice enough (or maybe even when it is snowing in the dead of winter), we walk and ride our bikes to work.

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  December 29, 2010  ·  green, holidays

A Holbaek Holiday

Three years ago, my parents surprised me with a plane ticket to go visit my best friend over in Denmark.  He was teaching Spanish in Holbaek, a very small Danish town with a population of only 27,000.  I was elated to go visit him but was a little put off that I would be away from the familiarity of Christmas at home.  Waking up obnoxiously early, with a brightly lit Christmas tree and my family listening to Christmas music in our pajamas all morning was something that I eagerly anticipated every year.  However, this year would be different.  But little did I know at the time, it would probably be one of my most memorable Christmases to date. 

My best friend and I were lucky enough to be invited to celebrate with a family he had met in town.  They took us into their home as if we were their own children.  The festivities all took place on Christmas Eve, as that is when Christmas is celebrated in Denmark.  We were greeted at the door with a traditional drink called gløgg – a warm wine seasoned with spices and swimming with finely chopped nuts.  It was delicious and much more appealing than the egg nog that I was often forced to gulp down at home.

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  December 24, 2010

Travel Music Buzz – Shakara by Fela Kuti

Miles Davis. James Brown. John Coltrane. Fela Kuti.

The last name may not enter many of our minds when listing influential jazz musicians. But Fela Kuti’s influence on jazz and funk is undeniable, and his name is one that we should all be familiar with.

His political views may have been controversial at times, but Kuti’s grooves are always hypnotic and irresistible. Shakara is typical of this dynamic between the multi-instrumentalist’s eclectic personality and musical genius. There are only two tracks on the album, and they are pure Fela Kuti.

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Posted by Jordy Oleson  ·  December 21, 2010  ·  travel music buzz

Travel Music Buzz – La Revancha del Tango by Gotan Project

Tango, just a little mixed up.

In fact, the word “Gotan” is an anagram for “Tango.” If ever there were ever such a thing as a musical anagram, Gotan Project is it. Electronic aficionados, tango lovers and world music connoisseurs alike can enjoy this album for different reasons. All the elements of traditional tango are there, but mixed up and given a unique flavor that feels at home on a ballroom in Paris, in a fashion boutique in Los Angeles, on a hipster’s turntables in Brooklyn or in a coffee shop in Buenos Aires.

The sounds of Gotan Project may mix up your mood a bit as well. Does it make you want to dance? Or does it make you want to chill out?

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Posted by Jordy Oleson  ·  December 17, 2010  ·  travel music buzz

Find Your Everest

In elementary school, Jordan Romero was inspired to summit the highest mountains on each of the seven continents when he saw a painting of them at his school.  At the age of nine he began to realize this dream when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  He went on to summit Mount Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount McKinley in Alaska, and the in Indonesia.  On May 22, 2010 Jordan made history when he, at 13-years-old, became the youngest person in history to summit Mt. Everest.  his inspirational story and find your own Everest. 

"Its not the mountain we conquer, its ourselves. Dream big, live life, do something." - Jordan Romero

Posted by Danielle Thuringer  ·  December 15, 2010  ·  everest, kilimanjaro, tanzania

Say What?!

When some of our staff traveled to Cambodia recently, I realized that while I had seen the words “Phnom Penh” many times before, I had never actually spoken the city’s name.  So, I visited Merriam-Webster online and listened as the clear, measured voice told me that the capital of Cambodia was “pa-nom pen.” (See below for a more authentic phonetic spelling.)

My travels have taught me how to pronounce “Mpumalanga” and “Český Krumlov” and “Esch-sur-Alzette” but there are plenty of places whose pronunciations still elude me.  I imagine that I am not the only one.

Of course, there is always some controversy surrounding pronunciation.  The locals will say it slightly differently, or perhaps the variety of languages allows for several correct pronunciations.  But, thanks to Merriam-Webster, at least we can learn how to make important geographical references without resorting to a mumble or cough.

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Posted by Laura Portalupi  ·  December 7, 2010


As a father of three children, I’m always asking people for guiding principles for raising kids.  I’ve received a lot of input from folks, but three items always seem to rise to the top.  One of these is to keep them busy and active, with the real goal that they will discover PASSION.  Once they latch onto passion, it will spread throughout all of their other activities.

Two of my sons have participated in Global Explorers programs and their experiences had a tremendous impact on them.  They came back with passion!  They were exposed to:

•         Team building … realizing that it takes a team to reach the top of a mountain

•         Culture awareness

•         Leadership

•         Community participation

•         Science / environment education

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  December 1, 2010  ·  erik weihenmayer, kilimanjaro, leadership

Fry Me!

As the holidays approach, you may be experiencing feelings of increased stress at the thought of all the holiday preparation, sadness at the onslaught of winter and 4pm darkness and/or downright anger at the fact that you’ve already been bombarded with holiday music and advertisements since mid-August.  I’m here to ease your tension with a tried and true way to ensure all members of your respective families have a great time---vegetarians and vegans do not apply!

From my perspective, one of the most difficult aspects of the holiday season is the stress involved with hosting a large group of people at your home.  Family dynamics and tensions aside, it’s quite honestly a ton of work getting your dwelling ready for the holidays.  Decorations, cleaning and more cleaning take time and energy that many of us don’t have and the strain this causes on others in our abodes often leads to arguments and irritation.  I don’t have a cure all for this, but cleaning services do help.  Additionally, realizing that everything need not be perfect and that being together is what’s important is a good policy although it’s easier said than done.  However, I digress.  I’m talking about the other primary obstacle for enjoying these holiday gatherings and that’s……cooking a turkey.

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Posted by Ed Shurna  ·  November 24, 2010  ·  holidays, thanksgiving

Thanksgiving as a Pilgrim

In 1620, the pilgrims set sail across the ocean, leaving everything they knew and loved behind them.  Built upon hopes and dreams, they delved into an adventure of the unknown.  In 2009, I set out on my own pilgrimage into the unknown.  I crossed the ocean, leaving everything I knew behind me, and landed in a new land that I knew very little about.  

Four months had past since my maiden journey and I was settling into my new life in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I lived on a friendly street, where the local Vietnamese quickly welcomed me into their homes, as their friend, and as a part of their family.  Although the language barrier divided us, we managed to share stories, laughs and customs. 

While the heat persisted, I knew that back home in Colorado, the leaves had fallen and the cold frosts of winter had taken full effect.  Thanksgiving had arrived.  I missed my family and I yearned for a good, old–fashioned American meal.  I joined my Vietnamese friends that evening and attempted to explain to them the importance of the day and what it entailed.  Through picture books and my broken Vietnamese, the message had somehow vaguely gotten across, at least the important points.  An extravagant meal was in order, and as my new family, they insisted on taking me out for my special holiday.

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Posted by Danielle Thuringer  ·  November 23, 2010  ·  holidays, thanksgiving, vietnam, xan ran

The Power of One

A young girl walks along a beach collecting sand dollars that have washed up on shore. Still alive, they are destined to dry out and die in the heat of the sun. She picks one up and throws it back into the ocean. She continues doing this, one by one. An older man walks up to her and asks, “Why are you doing this? There are thousands of sand dollars on this beach that are going to die. What you’re doing doesn’t really matter.”

The girl picks up another sand dollar and hurls it into the sea: “It matters to this one.”

As an environmental educator, I often used this story to show kids that their efforts to improve the world, no matter how small, made a difference.

As a director of a nonprofit organization, the story takes on a different meaning. To the surprise of many, nonprofits—and the foundations, corporations and individuals that support them—focus a lot on the bottom line. And they use many metrics to gauge progress towards achieving the bottom line. Nonprofits measure profit, but that profit is reinvested into the organizational mission rather than distributed to shareholders. How metrics are used and what they actually say about the strength of a program are a matter of debate.

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Posted by David Shurna  ·  November 19, 2010  ·  inspiration, nonprofits