All posts by Jessica Voigts

Jessica Voigts

About Jessica Voigts

Jessica Voigts is a regular contributor to A Traveler’s Library, bringing us cultural inspirations for travel. Check out her bio on the contributor’s page to learn about her newest activities and see her website at Wandering Educators for travel info helpful to everyone.

Supporting Education, Literacy, and Empowerment in Mali

Cultural Travel

By Jessica Voigts

Book Cover: How to Make an African Quilt
Destination: Mali

Book: How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali  by Bonnie Lee Black

Mali is the 5th poorest country in the world (UN Human Development Index), and has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates.

This year’s Passports with Purpose project is to raise $115,00 for buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in southern Mali. Steadfast in their commitment to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in Mali, buildOn has sustained their school construction program in the country amidst the current civil unrest north of the capital.

Passports with Purpose is an annual event; a fundraiser by travel bloggers to help communities in need. Created in 2008, it has changed lives around the world, by building wells in Haiti with water.org, libraries in Zambia with Room to Read, houses for families in India with Land for Tillers Freedom, a school in rural Cambodia with American Assistance for Cambodia, and donations to Heifer International.

Bonnie Lee Black in Mali

Bonnie Lee Black, picture used with permission of Bonnie Lee black and Wandering Educators.

But Mali is so far away, one might note. How can we get involved? Here’s a personal story, of living in Mali and helping others. It’s an inspiration to get involved, to support Passports with Purpose and other philanthropic organizations working in Mali…

It’s one of THOSE books. You tear through it, unable to put it down. Read while cooking, eating, even postponing sleep until you just can’t keep your eyes open any more. I’m very happy to share my latest read, one of THOSE books. Yes, it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. Written by Bonnie Lee Black, How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali is an incredible read.

A former Peace Corps volunteer, Bonnie headed to Mali and changed lives (her own, included). If you’ve ever wondered if your NGO or Peace Corps or volunteer work has made a difference, this is a book to dive into and savor. For you will recognize many common truths about working overseas – the joys and challenges, the amazing people, the interest and hard work of some to better their lives, and the powerful role that educators play in this transformation.

Women in Mali quilting

Women in Mali quilting, Photo used with permission of Bonnie Lee Black and Wandering Educators

In this book, Bonnie shares the inspiration and tracks the progress of an unusual project to help people help themselves. After working with the Peace Corps in Gabon, she headed to Mali to build a welcoming home, peaceful garden, wondrous community. She worked with young girls to teach them how to crochet plastic bags into something useful, in a class that taught hard work, crafting, and ways to make money from their work.

Teaching Mali girls to crochet

Teaching Mali girls to crochet. Photo used with permission of Bonnie Lee Black and Wandering Educators.

These Malian women’s new skills can – and will – make a difference in their lives. It’s the power of education to better lives; it’s the vision, strength, and hard work of one woman to implement change and empowerment. I can honestly say that Bonnie Lee Black is a hero – in more than one sense of the word. She knows her SELF. She works tirelessly to educate and assist others, all with a sense of humor and grace. And yes, she changes lives. As you can surmise, I highly recommend this book – it’s a treasure.

Read more about Bonnie Lee Black and her Mali project at Wandering Educators.

How to Cook a Crocodile
And see A Traveler’s Library review of her first book, How to Cook a Crocodile, here.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to check out the page where you can contribute $10 to build schools in Mali and get a chance on a fabulous prize at Passports With Purpose.

 

Note: The book covers are linked to Amazon.com.  A Traveler’s Library is an affiliate of Amazon, and during the holidays, when you are shopping on line, we appreciate your going to Amazon through our links. It costs you no more, but it helps us pay the rent on this space.

A Halloween Tale: Living the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

CULTURAL TRAVEL

By Jessica Voigts

Destination: Tarrytown New York

Book: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1858 painting

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, Painting by John Quidor, 1858, Smithsonian Museum of American Art. From Google Art Project.

A headless horseman, riding through the night; the disappearance of the schoolteacher; the tale of unrequited love – all these come together in the classic and much-beloved story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Beautifully written by Washington Irving, this short story is a creepy tale, one that sneaks up on the reader and lodges in the memory, several turns of phrase coming back at you at odd times throughout your life.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow, 1907 edition

The Book, 1907 edition, from Wiki Media, used with Creative Commons license.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was published in 1820, and is set in Sleepy Hollow, which is located near Tarrytown, New York. You may have read Washington Irving’s many other tales, including Rip Van Winkle. The treasures of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow lie in the compelling descriptions, which make you feel as if you are there in the story with Ichabod Crane…

“Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley among high hills which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook murmurs through it and, with the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks the uniform tranquillity.
From the listless repose of the place, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow.”

“Just ahead, where a small brook crossed the road, a few rough logs lying side by side served for a bridge. A group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grapevines, threw a cavernous gloom over it.”

In the story, Ichabod Crane is a schoolteacher – quite a learned man, having “read several books quite through.” He (rather unsuccessfully) courts the beauty Katrina van Tassel, who is also being courted (successfully, we might add) by the strong Abraham “Bram Bones” van Brunt. One night after a harvest party at the van Tassels’, Crane rides home. He meets and is chased by a headless creature, riding hellbent alongside him with a specific purpose in mind. And what comes next will send shivers down your spine…

“Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash – he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider passed by like a whirlwind.”

Sleepy Hollow Legend in etching

“Ichabod pursued by the Headless Horseman”, an etching from Le Magasin Pittoresque, 1848, from Wikimedia in public domain.

Ichabod Crane was never seen again.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (get it free here on Guttenberg) is one of those classics I read again each year – along with Robert Burns’ poem Halloween , Robert Burns’ tale Tam O’Shanter (1790), and tales of the Wild Hunt (epitomized by Bürger’s Der Wilde Jäger [the Wild Huntsman], 1796).

If you, too, are a fan of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, you can visit the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, where the main spooky action of the tale was set (you can also visit another legend of Sleepy Hollow, this one in the cemetery of the church.

“An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. He saw the whitewashed walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. ‘If I can but reach that bridge,”‘thought Ichabod, ‘I am safe.’ Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath.”

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Story Teller

Jonathan Kruk performing at Old Dutch Church
Photo © Tom Nycz

And if you’re lucky to visit the Hudson Valley around Halloween, book a ticket to see Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk, accompanied by Jim Keyes on the organ, bring The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to life  at the Old Dutch Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Dutch Church then 

Legend of Sleepy Hollow church then

Etching of Sleepy Hollow’s old church from 1864 edition of Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In public domain, from WikiMedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And The old Church now:

Sleepy Hollow Old Church Now

Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, NY, USA. Oldest church building in New York and featured in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare and Tarts in Stratford Canada

CULTURE TRAVEL

 

Destination: Stratford Canada

 

Festival Theater, Stratford Canada.

Festival Theater, Stratford Canada. Photo by Robert Taylor

 

By Jessica Voigts

River Avon in Stratford Canada

River Avon in Stratford Canada, Photo by Spicules

Stratford is home to Shakespeare – Canadian style, that is.

Located along the Avon River, Stratford, Canada is home to the Stratford Festival. The Stratford festival (in its 61st year in 2013!) runs from June through October, and brings both classical (including a plethora of Shakespeare) and contemporary plays to theatre-lovers from around the world. People make annual (or monthly) treks to see the plays, iconic theatre buildings, and extraordinary actors – and experience the jolliness and beauty of Stratford.

But the town is more than its famous theatre festival… Ah, Stratford, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Continue reading