By Ashifa Kassam - Monday, January 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
Travellers help the homeless by signing up for tours of the rougher side of town
His thick black eyeliner smudged and long dirty-blond hair in a ponytail, Karim holds a yellow umbrella high in the air as he walks through an unlit park in downtown Prague. He points to a group of men, barely visible in the dark. Heroin addicts about to shoot up, he explains to the group of tourists following him. After turning their attention to a few prostitutes on a corner, Karim opens up about his experience of living on and off the streets for more than 20 years.
Since August, the homeless transsexual and former prostitute has been leading one of the hottest tours of Prague. Similar tours, led by homeless or once-homeless guides, have popped up in London, Amsterdam and San Francisco. Billed as alternative views of the cities, they have been praised for converting tourist dollars into employment for homeless people and criticized for turning homelessness into a tourist attraction.
The past decade saw an explosion of poverty tourism in developing nations, with visitors traipsing through the slums of Mumbai or the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Now it seems that poorism, as critics call it, has found a market in industrialized nations. Continue…
By Nicholas Köhler - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
There’s life after the disaster, amid ghost towns, radioactive worms and disaster tourists
Last October, beachcombers from Oregon to Alaska began noticing a startling number of bulbous, buoyant objects, as smooth and symmetrical as the seeds of some strange and massive fruit, washing up on their shores. They were black, orange, white, and, in rare cases, bore a foreign script scrawled onto their hard surfaces. The beachcombers knew these to be ﬁshing buoys, likely of Japanese origin. They had seen similar ﬂotsam before, though never in such numbers; in many of these new cases, the sea was tossing them up onto remote beaches in bunches—two black, three white—like clustering atoms.
The arrivals did not surprise Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a retired Seattle engineer and oceanographer; he’d been anticipating this. At 69, Ebbesmeyer’s reputation for unusual ﬂotsam savvy stems from an episode 22 years ago, when he followed 80,000 Nike sneakers spilled into the Paciﬁc during a storm, drifting 3,200 km before washing up, in colourful array, on U.S. beaches. That study had allowed him to unknot some hard mysteries about ocean currents; based on those experiences and a series of complex computer simulations, Ebbesmeyer was expecting the Japanese debris, and asked his network of beachcombers to watch for it.
Little by little, he learned of the buoys—23 in all, from 17 locations stretching from Yachats, Ore., to Kodiak, Alaska. Skepticism on the part of some scientists did not dampen Ebbesmeyer’s enthusiasm for a theory shared by his beachcombing friends—that the buoys were at the forefront of a ﬁeld of debris swept into the waters off Japan’s northeast on March 11 by a massive tsunami. Those waves, as high as 10 m, were a once-in-a-millennium event triggered by a nine-magnitude seismic upheaval so powerful it knocked Japan’s main island, Honshu, 2.4 m further east into the Paciﬁc. The raw numbers associated with the humanitarian crisis that followed are by now well-known: 20,000 dead or missing, at least 300,000 displaced by earthquake and ﬂooding, 100,000 more forced from an area almost double the size of Toronto by the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.