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Fellow Travelers
   

WHEN I'm away from home, I generally don't sleep well. Contemplating plane and train connections fills me with anxiety, and I'm always certain I've gotten on the wrong bus. If I could go back to a place without having to visit it for the first time, I'd be a much happier traveler.
   In short, I'm nothing like the four Penn alumni whose writings make up our cover story, "Other Places." Each of these essays is very different, but the writers share an openness to discovery, an eagerness to learn the lessons a new place -- and the people who live in it -- have to teach.
   Of the four, the only one I've met in person is Lisa Hayden, C'85, G'89, who stopped by the Gazette offices here in Sweeten Alumni House last spring. She was home for a short visit before relocating to the U.S. after having spent several years living in Russia, and wanted to know if we'd be interested in a story about her experiences. I said we'd be happy to look, and we chatted a bit about Boris Yeltsin's health (bad, then as now), the Russian economy (same story), and some wild reports in the U.S. media about the Russian mafia (see her essay). She sent us an article in September, which, with a little updating, appears here.
   Though Hayden has been back in the U.S. since last summer, she's hardly stayed put. We corresponded on her article intermittently through the fall, as she found opportunities to check her e-mail over the course of a two-month trip to Alaska: "The trip was quite nice," reads one message. "We drove 828 miles on a dirt road to the Arctic Ocean and back to Fairbanks without incident, saw no bears at close range, and exited Alaska on a ferry under gale force winds."
   At about the same time as Hayden's piece came in, we received several submissions from other alumni who had visited some pretty interesting places and had good stories to tell: Suzanne Maloney, C'90, describing her summer in Iran as part of one of the first U.S. groups there since the revolution; Craig Simons, C'95, on his year with the Peace Corps in China; and (perhaps the most surprising) a piece by Susan T. deLone, CW'65, on a mission to teach t'ai chi, yoga, and massage therapy to poor Mayan women in Guatemala. We decided to combine them in one "travel package."
   Our other feature articles also take up the theme in various ways. Samuel Hughes's interview on China with Dr. Avery Goldstein, C'75, GEd'76, associate professor of political science, covers a broad range of issues, from the role of the Internet in opening Chinese society to whether anyone in the last great communist power still believes in communism. Barbara Sofer, CW'71, a writer based in Israel, tells the story of Carole Solomon, CW'60, the first woman to chair the United Jewish Appeal, following her on a UJA-sponsored trip to Jerusalem. Even the journeys described in Susan Lonkevich's piece on Penn's wildly popular non-credit "preceptorials," while they may not be geographical, are nevertheless eye-opening for students, leading them to explore beyond their accustomed intellectual paths.
   It's become commonplace to speak of increasing globalization. Often, this "One World" vision is represented as a kind of wired capitalist paradise, in which people of all races and cultures join together in gabbing on cellular phones, dressing up in Chicago Bulls jerseys, eating McDonald's, and trading Internet stocks from their laptops. There's plenty of this in "Other Places," from the Chinese student who asks Craig Simons his opinion of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the young Iranian in Suzanne Maloney's piece who dreams of opening the first NikeTown in Tehran. But more than that, these stories remind us of the powerful singularity of these places, the variety the world still offers -- to those with the will to seek it out and the wit to share it with the rest of us.
    -- John Prendergast, C'80
   
   

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