How Immigration Laws Have Changed

This is the third of a three-part series on refugees and immigration by Manji Law.

The United States was built on immigration.

Generally, citizens have been proud of that history. However, anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise, from popular politicians to online rumors and TV news channels. Even the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service changed its mission statement, deleting the line that described “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.” In many ways, this reflects not merely rhetoric, but also reality.

The promise and hope embodied at the base of the Statue of Liberty – give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free – has long represented the ideal of America’s views of immigration. Changing immigration laws, however, continue to impact people now and are likely to continue doing so in the future.

Over the years, an idealized America presented itself as a welcoming, nurturing land for people from all around the world. Of course, migration to the United States has been marred by racially-prejudiced histories. These included laws that placed heavy or impossible burdens on East Asian and African immigrants whilst labelling many European immigrants as ‘white’ and, therefore, desirable. Jewish, Indian, and Southern European immigrants were excluded, even in the early 20th century.

Photograph courtesy of Luke Stackpoole for Unsplash

It is also worth noting that not all immigration was voluntary. Immigration also included the painful and brutal history of the transatlantic slave trade. Furthermore, while some people migrate for education or economic opportunity, many have been essentially forced to relocate as the changes imposed by economic globalization and climate change have severely affected their own countries. Even more have been forced to seek asylum due to war and oppression.

The Immigration Act of 1965 impacted migration to the United States in a positive way by legally stripping away many of the barriers non-Europeans had experienced when attempting to enter the United States. Now, one out of every five immigrants live in the United States, and their contributions have shaped the way Americans understand themselves, their culture, and their identity.

U.S. immigration law has long favored highly-skilled and educated workers, and many have come to the United States to advance their careers in skilled professions like technology and medicine. Despite benefits to a healthy, growing society and economy, immigration has become increasingly difficult for people around the world. In fact, an anti-immigration movement has been on the rise in Europe and the United States, even as widespread coverage of a ‘migration crises’ is on the rise.

Although the arrival of new immigrants has actually significantly decreased in Europe over the past two years, far-right political parties continue to encourage anti-immigrant sentiment. In some cases, they exploit real economic problems like a lack of well-paying jobs or a rise in housing costs. They highlight immigrants as a scapegoat for these issues, despite the limited effect of migrant populations.

Photograph courtesy of Anastasia Dulgier for Unsplash

Many of the same issues have arisen in recent U.S. anti-immigrant rhetoric, issues that raise uncomfortable similarities to the racist laws that excluded immigrants in the past. Economic anxieties about a changing economy and a loss of jobs are often redirected. Rather than questioning politicians or corporate leaders, the blame is directed at migrants.

The results of these anti-immigrant policies – including Trump’s travel ban – do not only affect those who want to migrate permanently to the United States. The travel ban (commonly referred to as the ‘Muslim ban’) excludes tourists and visitors from seven countries (five of them with Muslim majorities). This means that people from these countries are not allowed in the United States to study, work, perform, or visit their families. Thousands of Iranians have studied and worked in the U.S. before returning to their country, whilst thousands more regularly visit their families. Now, they face exclusion.

Immigrants are facing a tough political climate and changing policies that put even legal migrants and green-card holders at risk. It is more critical than ever for people migrating to the United States to avoid any potential conflict with the laws in place and work with an immigration lawyer in order to give themselves the highest level of protection.

Countries that are concerned about immigration have a responsibility to change their international policies to stop, rather than foster, war and environmental destruction. Many people do not wish to leave their homelands except to travel. The strengthening of welfare-state policies and a productive economy can reduce widespread fear about migration, as well as support for ever-tightening borders.

Author’s Bio

 

Jameel Manji is an immigration attorney in Atlanta, Georgia and founder of Manji Law, P.C. Manji Law was founded in 2016 with the goal of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. As an immigration law firm, Manji Law helps clients with family immigration, removal defense (deportation), asylum/refugee waivers, business immigration, naturalization, and more.

 

 

If you are interested in reading the first two articles of Manji Law’s three-part series on refugees and immigration, please follow the links below…

  1. The Future of Immigration to the United States: Predictions from an Immigration Lawyer
  2. What Protections Exist for Refugees Worldwide?

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What Protections Exist for Refugees Worldwide?

This is the second of a three-part series on refugees and immigration by Manji Law.

Headlines around the world have recently drawn attention to refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom seek to avoid the spotlight rather than garner press attention. However, in order to understand the roots of what has been labeled a ‘refugee crisis’, it is important to understand who refugees and asylum seekers are, and how they are protected worldwide.

Refugees are individuals who are fleeing their countries because of war, violence, or persecution. They may face persecution because of their race, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or social identity. While many refugees long to return home, they cannot or are afraid of what will happen if they do.

When refugees flee their countries and seek to find sanctuary, they must apply for asylum. Asylum seekers are those who have applied to have their status recognized by another country, and receive material assistance or legal protections. In order to receive asylum and refugee recognition, people must show that their fear of persecution at home is well-founded.

Photograph courtesy of UNHCR

While the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol lay out the framework for refugee protections, not all asylum-giving countries provide the same support. The treaty has been ratified by 145 different countries and commits those countries to its principles. One of the central principles of the Convention is non-refoulement, meaning that refugees should not be returned to a country where they face threats to their lives or liberties. The treaty was initially drafted in response to the massive numbers of European refugees caused by destruction from World War II, and was then limited to refugees created due to events in Europe prior to 1951. The 1967 amendment to the treaty universalized the rights and principles of the document, making them applicable to all refugees worldwide.

While the principle of non-refoulement is central to the treaty, there are a number of other significant rights recognized for refugees. These include the right to work, and access to housing, education, public relief, and assistance. It also includes freedom from punishment due to entering a country illegally to seek asylum.

Over the years, the U.S. has contributed significantly to resettling and receiving refugees. Generally, every year it has offered more refugees asylum than all other nations combined. However, policies advanced by the Trump administration are useating the U.S. from its role as a leader in refugee resettlement and protection.

The U.S. 1980 Refugee Act integrated the international definition of a refugee into domestic law. That same definition forms the basis for today’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Each year, the President in conjunction with Congress determines a ceiling for refugee admissions. In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, that ceiling was set at 85,000. The Trump administration has set a ceiling of 45,000 for 2018.

In 2017, American refugee policy went through an abrupt overhaul. The Obama administration had set a ceiling of 110,000 refugee admissions for the fiscal year prior to the change of administrations. The Trump administration promptly sliced it to 50,000 amid pledges of a security overhaul, despite the fact that there was no indication of a security problem with the U.S. refugee admission system.

Photograph courtesy of Jeff J Mitchell for the Irish Times

Family reunification has been a cornerstone of American immigration policy. However, the Trump administration has, in addition to overall pledges to reduce immigration, supported a system more heavily weighted toward highly skilled or employable workers. Some other countries – such as Canada and Australia – already have such a system; however, Canada has also increased its refugee intake in recent years.

Other policies of the Trump administration have also showcased a harsh approach to refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants. The separation of parents from children in detention centers spawned widespread criticism, especially from those who see this policy at odds with a traditional U.S. approach to migration.

In Europe, children are rarely separated from their families and migrant detention is a less frequent policy overall. On the other hand, poorer nations like Bangladesh and Thailand have imposed extremely harsh conditions on refugees (Thailand is not a signatory of the Refugee Convention). Of course, the geographic proximity to war, as well as the economic realities of these countries vary greatly from that of the U.S.

Policies like Trump’s travel ban – often colloquially called the “Muslim ban” for its disproportionate effect on people from Muslim-majority countries – and the loudly promoted border wall illustrate the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States. This comes in parallel with a similar rise of far-right parties in Europe with migration policy at the center of their advocacy. The promise of the United States for refugees and asylum seekers remains alive despite these changing laws and regulations, even as migrant justice advocates push back against further restrictions. This country has been deeply enriched by those refugees seeking freedom. With a bit of help, it can keep that vision of America relevant in today’s new era.

Author’s Bio

 

Jameel Manji is an immigration attorney in Atlanta, Georgia and founder of Manji Law, P.C. Manji Law was founded in 2016 with the goal of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. As an immigration law firm, Manji Law helps clients with family immigration, removal defense (deportation), asylum/refugee waivers, business immigration, naturalization, and more.

 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about refugees, I invite you to view Invisible Victimisation: The Gendered Politics of the Refugee Crisis and Thoughts on the Guardian’s “Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome”. I also strongly encourage that you ready the first part of Manji Law’s refugee and immigration series, the Future of Immigration to the United States: Predictions from an Immigration Lawyer. The third part will be published in the following weeks.

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The Future of Immigration to the United States: Predictions from an Immigration Lawyer

This is the first of a three-part series on refugees and immigration by Manji Law.

The United States has long been a nation of immigrants. However, recent changes to immigration policies may signal a new trend for the country.

In the 1600s, Europeans traveled to North America. Soon after, they began importing African people as slaves. During the 1800s and 1900s, the United States experienced immigration from China, Japan, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Poland. Although racial, religious, and cultural tensions accompanied these waves, the U.S. nevertheless attained its status as a melting pot where everyone could follow their dreams. In fact, in 2005, the mission statement for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) specifically recognized this heritage by including the phrase “a nation of immigrants.”

However, under the administration of President Trump, the federal government has eliminated that sentiment.

In February 2018, USCIS removed the reference to an immigrant nation. Instead, its updated mission statement focused on protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and administering immigration laws. L. Francis Cissna, the agency’s director, defended the change and emphasized the focus on serving the American people. This shift in language arose directly from the Trump Administration’s restrictive views on immigration.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign delivered a strong anti-immigrant message. Since taking office, his policies (which focused primarily on Latin America and Muslim countries) increased procedural barriers for immigrants, people seeking asylum, and international travelers. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the terms of his travel ban, which denies visas to people from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela.

Photograph by Marian Carrasqeuro for The New York Times

Trump’s next major shift, in April 2018, created the now infamous family separation policy at the Mexican border. This policy directed border agents to detain or deport all adult immigrants crossing the border, and seize any children, including infants. Within months, nearly 3,000 children had been separated from their caregivers. An intense public outcry forced the president to rescind the policy, but hundreds remain in detention.

These aggressive policies stem from Trump’s desire to build a Mexican border wall, which he claims will protect Americans from drugs and violence. Starting in 2015, Trump made this a primary focus of his presidential campaign. His ongoing verbal attacks depicting immigrants as criminals have translated to concrete changes.

Between 2016 and 2017, the drop in refugee admissions from 84,995 people to 53,716 illustrates the immediate results of his policies. In 2018, the federal government capped annual refugee admissions at 45,000, which is the lowest since the program began in 1980. As for foreign workers, a bill in the U.S. Senate would alter eligibility criteria and apply a points system to evaluate candidates for employment-based green cards. Furthermore, Trump has stated his desire to end the diversity visa program. Since 1995, it has provided a chance for over one million people to enter the country. The current administration has also placed the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program on the chopping block. TPS allowed over 320,000 people from 10 countries to live in the United States to escape wars or natural disasters occuring in their homelands. The majority came from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. These individuals can expect to lose their residency and work privileges in 2018 and 2019.

Due to the sudden changes, many lives have been thrown into turmoil, as the harsh rhetoric has stirred up political passions among Americans on both sides of the debate. Ultimately, much of the hostility lacks a basis in facts, and immigration supporters decry this open hostility. They have gone so far as to demand the disbandment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Current legal actions by the American Civil Liberties Union strive to uphold domestic and international laws for vulnerable people.

Photograph by Joe Raedle for Getty Images (as seen on Vox.com)

With the American public divided on the issues, the future is uncertain. There are a few predictions that seem unavoidable, at least in the immediate future. As long as President Trump is in office, immigration from local neighbors like Mexico will continue to be more difficult and contentious. Additionally, there could be further restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority countries with an enhanced ‘travel ban.’ If the administration’s actions hold true, we can almost certainly guarantee that the reduction of asylum and political refugee grantees will continue. There are even whispers that the Trump Administration will pursue further action on legal immigrants.

These actions will likely have a negative impact on the world’s view of what was traditionally considered an inviting country, one willing to welcome the tired, poor, and huddled masses “yearning to breathe free.” In fact, as the U.S. under the Trump administration continues to isolate itself, the rest of the world may acquiesce. The U.S. may find it increasingly difficult to find other nations willing to work with.

Long-term predictions are less certain, and are dependant on future administrations. Harsh policies might become entrenched and even expanded. Perhaps, however, immigration law will revert to its former, more accepting positions. Only time will tell.

Author’s Bio

 

Jameel Manji is an immigration attorney in Atlanta, Georgia and founder of Manji Law, P.C. Manji Law was founded in 2016 with the goal of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. As an immigration law firm, Manji Law helps clients with family immigration, removal defense (deportation), asylum/refugee waivers, business immigration, naturalization, and more.

 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about refugees, I invite you to view Invisible Victimisation: The Gendered Politics of the Refugee Crisis and Thoughts on the Guardian’s “Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome”. The second and third parts of Manji Law’s refugee and immigration series will be published soon.

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Postcards from Prague

What has been dubbed the darling of Eastern Europe, Prague – or Praha – is the coruscating and cobblestoned capital of the Czech Republic.

View of Charles Bridge from Legion’s Bridge

The rightmost photograph above is one I managed to capture of Charles Bridge – perhaps Prague’s most iconic attraction – without hoards of tourists bustling about before the lens. If you ever recount your experiences to someone who has also traveled to Prague, the first thing they will likely ask you is whether you visited Charles Bridge. I’m normally quite critical about the overrating of popular tourist attractions, but I’ve gotta admit, I can kind of get what Charles Bridge is all about. Stretching over the Vltava river, the bridge was built six centuries ago and is adorned with over thirty gothic statues. Part of what makes it so irresistible to the throngs of souvenir-hungry tourists is that the bridge is packed with artists selling enchanting painted renditions of Prague, as well as caricatures for the more light-hearted holidaymakers. As far as keepsakes go, it certainly beats a plastic keyring.

Prague from the hill… in the distance, you can see Zizkov Television Tower, which is widely regarded as the second ugliest building in the world (I’d hate to see the first…)

Statues on Charles’ Bridge

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert (or St. Vitus Cathedral if you’re short on time)

Kafka’s residence at House 22 on Golden Lane, Prague Castle – Kafka used this house to write between the years of 1916 and 1917

I have recently discovered Czech literature, and thus was indescribably excited to visit the birthplace of Franz Kafka – one of the most important writers of the 20th century – and the university town of Czech-born Milan Kundera (who, it should be added, insists on identifying as a French writer rather than Czech… so out of respect, I’ll leave that here). I am currently halfway through Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and… well, words fail me in attempting to summarise just how arresting that novel is.

Just some friendly sculptures welcoming guests to Prague Castle

A musician at a sun-dappled Lennon’s Wall

Arguably one of Prague’s most popular – albeit controversial – attractions is the John Lennon Wall. Lennon Wall was erected after John Lennon’s death in 1980. During the communist regime of Gustáv Husák, young Czechs began voicing their political anxieties by inscribing Beatles lyrics and other Lennon-inspired graffiti upon the wall, despite the persistence of the secret police in painting over it. This is said to have led to a historic conflict between hundreds of students and Czech authorities on the famous Charles Bridge. Today – with the helping hand of tourists – the wall is a perennial evolution and representation of peace and love.

My favourite building in Old Town Square… just look at that detail 😍

A gorgeous painted ceiling in St. George’s Basilica, dripping with history

In the four or so days that I stayed in Prague, I only scraped the surface of the City of a Hundred Spires. Now that I’ve got a feel for the place, I can’t wait to descend upon it once (or twice… or three times…) more. There are so many beers to drink, so many art galleries to explore, so many chimney cakes to eat (seriously, check this out)… the list goes on and on. If you’re seeking a more in-depth narration of my experience, hold tight – a 24-hour itinerary guide is in the works. As always, there will also be a vlog coming (subscribe to the Ginger Passports’ YouTube Channel so that you don’t miss it). In the meantime, can I interest you to some more postcard posts? There’s Waikiki, Madrid, Ha Long Bay or Angkor Wat, and I can especially recommend Postcards from Oxford 🌍

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The Coffee Countdown: The Best Cafés in Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the biggest and most populous of the Cook Islands, which are located in the central South Pacific. If you’re seeking to escape the busy and bustling sound of the metro – or just seeking a tropical island getaway – then this little paradise is what you’ve been looking for. There is so much to see and do here, whether that be hiking the cross-island (it only takes three to four hours!), enjoying some beach therapy, shopping at the local markets, or attending the cultural night shows. And if your stomach starts to rumble or you just want to sit and sip, indulge yourself in the best cafés Rarotonga has to offer…

LBV (Le Bon Vivant) Café

Do you like pastries?

If you happen to go to Muri Village, there is a very popular café that you cannot miss – especially if you are a bread lover!

LBV – or Le Bon Vivant Café is a delightful bakery that serves wonderful French-inspired bread and cakes that everyone truly adores. LBV’s location is familiar to the local villagers because the original historic dwelling used to home the Muri Village Chief, but now it has been restored and remodeled to become one of the most well-liked destinations in the village community.

If you are searching for the best coffee on the island, you will find it here! Aside from bread and coffee, your taste buds will also be satisfied with their succulent salads, gourmet sandwiches, donuts, piquant pizzas, pies, and quiches (just to name a few).

The café is open daily, but if you’re wanting to dine in the evenings, make sure you pay a visit from Tuesday to Friday only. The dinner menu is always being updated, making use of the seasonal produce and delectable harvest. Booking in advance is recommended.

Find Le Bon Vivant here!

Photograph courtesy of LBV’s Facebook page

Café Salsa

If your kinda thing is pizzas with a twist and Pacific Rim cuisine, Café Salsa is the ultimate hang-out place.

This stylish storefront cafe in downtown Avarua serves all-day breakfast and lunch. They are open from 7:30 am until 3 pm on Monday through to Friday, and 7:30 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. Café Salsa offers bistro-style dining that is ideal for catching up with friends and family.

Café Salsa boasts a diverse menu combining Mediterranean and Asian flavors. In my opinion, the stand-out dishes are the wood-roasted mahi-mahi fillet with slow-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts and feta, and their Thai-style octopus curry. Café Salsa is also the home of Rarotonga’s only wood-fired pizza oven, baking gourmet pizzas made from fresh and healthy local ingredients. Their coconut pancake is particularly divine, and I could not resist consuming it in under a minute!

The friendly and efficient baristas can whip up an affogato, iced coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or double shot of espresso with some frothy hot milk on the side in an instant. If you’re after a pleasant dining experience in relaxing surroundings, look no further.

Find Café Salsa here!

Photographs courtesy of Café Salsa’s Facebook page

Coco Latte

Have you ever had a BLT with an iced mocha for breakfast?

At Coco Latte, this is the most in-demand food combination and is the reason why visitors keep coming back. This extremely beloved cafe has a distinguished menu for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. You can eat an eggs benedict with salmon together with their famous coconut milkshake, or if you prefer refreshing and dairy-free homemade juices, Coco Latte’s got your back. I thoroughly enjoyed the portion sizes and presentable, scrumptious meals.

You’ll find this favourite breakfast spot in Vaimaanga with outdoor seating and picnic tables with umbrellas for shade. The café is open six days a week from 8am, Sunday to Friday. Coco Latte has hands-on owners that personally welcomed us, and the remarkable friendliness of their staff is part of what made our visit unforgettable.

Find Coco Latte here!

Photograph courtesy of Coco Latte’s TripAdvisor page

Charlie’s Café & Bar

Water sports, entertainment, and tasty meals can all be found at Charlie’s Café and Bar at Akapuao Beach in Titikaveka.

Charlie’s gives visitors a great workout with kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and snorkel equipment for hire. Going by water is simply the best way to explore and travel around the lagoon. When you grow tired, it’s time to reward yourself with fish burgers, cheese-melt paninis, pan-fried chicken and fresh salads. The fish sandwich especially will not disappoint.

Sip their perfect blend of espresso coffee or try their island-infused smoothies to quench your thirst. If you’re still craving sweets, whet your appetite with some cakes, scones, and muffins for dessert 😋

Charlie’s Café and Bar is open on weekdays from 11 am to 8 pm – and don’t miss their live music every night from 6:30 pm! Last but not least, if you plan to visit over the weekend, bear in mind that they are only open on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.

Find Charlie’s Café and Bar here!

Photograph courtesy of Charlie’s Café and Bar Tripadvisor page

Deli-Licious Café Ltd.

Wi-Fi on an island? Impossible!

Nope… not anymore.

Enjoy an awesome meal whilst checking your email with another excellent cafe on Muri Beach. Though Deli-Licious Café Ltd. is right across the road from the Le Bon Vivant Café, this inexpensive coffee shop and internet café is slowly establishing itself as an island staple. Their home-style cooking is sating their customers, and I highly recommend devouring their Denheath custard square, passion fruit cheesecake, or cream leamington!

Deli-Licious has an all-day breakfast menu and is open six days a week, Sunday to Friday from 7 am to 3 pm. Their customer service is superb, their prices are very reasonable, and their coffee will have you visiting again and again and again.

Find Deli-Licious Café Ltd. here!

Photograph courtesy of Deli-Licious Café Ltd.’s Tripadvisor page

✈   ✈   ✈

I had a wonderful experience traveling to Raratonga, and I will definitely be returning to experience what other pursuits this island has to offer. I find it fascinating to visit places I’ve previously never heard of – that’s the true essence of adventure, right?

Author Bio

Samantha Rosario is a blogger at Pound Coffee, a mother, and a resident of the greatest city in the world: New York City. When not working at a Manhattan publishing house, she’s spending time with her family or putting pen to paper for her own personal pursuits. She is also an avid runner and swimmer, and aims to complete an Ironman in 2018 💪

A note from the Ginge…

Kia orana! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed Samantha’s delightful little piece about the five best cafés to visit in Raro. It certainly made me nostalgic for my trip there way back in 2015. While you’re here, be sure to watch 30 Seconds to Convince You to Travel to Rarotonga, a (literally 30 second) clip of personal footage that I threw together of some of the island’s unbelievable beauty…

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#StopTrump Protest London 2018: A Photo Series

I had never attended a protest before.

Marching in a protest is such a fundamental thing when it comes to political activism. For all my writings about refugees (see here and here) and social inequality, I felt like a bit of an imposter having not stepped away from behind my laptop screen to actually demonstrate my beliefs. So when I discovered that an anti-Trump rally was to be held in London on the 13th of July, there was no way I was not going to be one of the protesters marching down Regent Street.

In what was dubbed ‘the Carnival of Resistance‘, a grand total of 250,000 people protested Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom. It was Britain’s biggest demonstration in over a decade, and the atmosphere was infectious. I’d heard lots about protests – the Egyptian Revolution in particular comes to mind – but fortunately, this demonstration was not violent. From Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, our fists punched the sky and we chanted in powerful solidarity against everything Donald Trump stands for.

“We are asserting our right to demonstrate, our right to free speech… human rights belong to all of us.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s address at Trafalgar Square

Of course, a recap of the event is incomplete without a nod to the ‘baby blimp‘ that took centre stage that day. For those of you who somehow escaped the media hype, the baby blimp was/is a crowdfunded, 20-foot balloon in the shape of an infantile, nappy-clad Donald Trump clasping his beloved phone in a chubby hand. Whilst I unfortunately did not capture any snaps of this inflated delight, you can rest assured that we have not seen the last of baby blimp.

Some of my highlights from the march included a swollen papier-mâché Trump head and a particularly graphic depiction of Donald Trump and Mike Pence engaged in some friendly activities (*ahem*) – but I’ll let you enjoy that for yourself.

I’ll keep this short; after all, a picture tells a thousand words. As always, a vlog is in the works… ✊

To learn more about the Stop Trump Coalition, visit the website.

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The Minimalist Traveler: How to Make Temporary Accommodation Feel Like Home

Maybe you’re renting out an Airbnb for a few weeks. Maybe you’re a student studying abroad for six months. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new country and haven’t the expenses to jazz up your new dwellings.

Sometimes the easiest way to make temporary accommodation feel like home is to break out the credit card, but retail therapy and a minimalist lifestyle make for uncomfortable bedfellows. It was only recently that I really started to appreciate the importance of feeling at home in unfamiliar surroundings, and so lately I have been enjoying exploring what I can do to achieve this without blowing the bank and sacrificing the minimalist habits I have been developing over the past eighteen months.

If you’re been following my movements over the past six months or so, you might know that I have recently up and left to Oxford in the United Kingdom. But one thing you might not know is that I struggled a little to make our apartment from a house, into a home. I know, I know, that sounds incredibly cheesy. But it’s the truth. I pride myself on owning few material items – if I own more than can fit in a suitcase, I start to grow antsy – but there’s no reason why those few material items can’t be special. If you disagree, tell that to the kitsch Darth Vader ornament I’ve been lugging across four continents.

Whatever your situation, here are six ways that you – the minimalist traveller – can make temporary accommodation feel like home…

Stock up on your favourite brew

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote that, “… a cup of tea would restore my normality”. I am not here to argue with such words of wisdom.

A good cup of tea can go a long way. If you have a specific type of tea that you always drink, stocking up so that you can make regular brews can be a nostalgic and joyous way to bring the flavours of home with you. I personally like a strong Melbourne Breakfast first thing in the mornings, and this brew has certainly helped to establish a semblance of familiarity. The homeliness of tea doesn’t just have to be acquired through taste either; the therapeutic effect of brewing it up cannot be understated.

Photograph courtesy of Kira auf der Heide for Unsplash

Bloom

Something that I have noticed contributes heavily to the alienness of moving into a new place is the atmosphere of lifelessness. Have you ever noticed how, well, dead somewhere feels when you first arrive? It doesn’t exactly lend a helping hand when you’re trying to make somewhere feel vibrant and lived in. To boost both ambience and morale, I like to spruce up the place with some fresh flowers.

If you’re staying at an Airbnb – particularly one on the more extravagant side – some hosts will go out of their way to welcome you. You might unlock the door to your new dwelling and find a gorgeous bouquet of flowers waiting for you. However, for those of us that don’t have the luxury of such opulent greetings, we have to make our own joy.

I am by no means suggesting you go to your local florist and spend an arm and a leg purchasing a bouquet of roses. In my case, I like to wander out to the garden and just stick a handful of daisies and daffodils in an unused glass with water. I wake up every morning to this splash of colour on my bedside table, and they make me smile. Nothing more, nothing less.

Depending on where you are – I’m thinking alone the lines of Spain or Thailand – it is also relatively inexpensive to buy a small bunch of flowers at a nearby farmer’s market. Not only does having fresh flowers enhance your home aesthetic, but it is also an opportunity for you to nurture and cultivate something. This personal accountability can do wonders for your mental health in a new and foreign place. Furthermore, as they are living things, flowers do not last forever; ideal for the minimalist traveller.

Photograph courtesy of Nordwood for Unsplash

Bring the familiar to the unfamiliar

I mentioned above that I lugged a kitsch Darth Vader ornament across four continents, and I wasn’t kidding. My mother didn’t hesitate to raise her eyebrows as I struggled to close the zip on my suitcase.

Amongst my darling Darth Vader included a vintage world map, a Vietnamese fan, and a ceramic bowl in the shape of a cat. Throughout my travels, I also accumulated a small collection of postcards and art from across the Mediterranean, as well as a plush camel from the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Because, why not.

I tend to prioritise little things like these over clothing in my suitcase, so I can afford to be a little superfluous in my packing. But even if you haven’t the space to do so, there are still pieces of nostalgia that anyone can fit. Just as an example, if you are often troubled by homesickness, try slipping a birthday card from a parent into your laptop case. It will take up no extra room, and it’s something special to keep close.

It’s incredible just how familiar an unfamiliar space can become if you decorate it with just one or two personal items. I don’t usually encourage materialism (says the girl with the plush camel 🙄) but a little sentimentality never hurt anybody. This method also encourages appreciating what you already have, which is something sorely neglected nowadays.

Photograph Courtesy of Elsa Noblet for Unsplash

Reinstate habits from home

These past few months I have invested heavily in meditation, which has turned out to be an ideal exercise because it doesn’t require any equipment nor space. Throughout my travels and exchange experience, I would always set aside at least a couple of minutes every day to perch cross-legged on my bed, close my eyes, and practice mindfulness. Not only has it dramatically improved my mental health, but because it is something I only do wherever I am staying , it makes me feel at home regardless of where on the planet I am.

If meditation isn’t your kind ‘o thing, then other activities that spring to mind include yoga, watching stand-up comedy, or gardening. Anything would work really, as long as it is an activity that you would perform exclusively at home. Creating a strong mental association with that activity and your living space will help to foster positive associations with your new environment.

Photograph courtesy of Nik MacMillan for Unsplash

Embrace aroma

Not unlike reinstating habits from home, you might choose to reinstate smells from home. This is also not unlike brewing your favourite pot of tea, but instead of engaging your gustation senses, you are engaging your olfaction senses.

There is something so utterly healing about candles, I just can’t put it into words. I don’t know whether it is the dancing flame on the wick, or the soft scent that emanates from the wax, but what I do know is that as soon as I light a match, I calm right the f*ck down. Although this tip might involve some spending, candles are nevertheless an item that can be used. They will not last forever, and I think that part of their appeal is their finiteness.

A lot of places do not allow residents to burn candles indoors, but for those that do, I can strongly recommend finding a candle of your choosing and lighting it when you start to feel displaced. Objectively soothing scents include lavender and chamomile, but even better is if you have a scented candle you would normally burn at home that you can burn in your new lodging to restore the familiarity.

Photograph courtesy of Nathan Dumlao for Unsplash

Get cookin’

Last but not least, make an effort to cook your favourite homemade dishes. When you are in a new country, the newness of the available food can be especially overwhelming; I remember returning home from Southeast Asia and craving nothing more than meat and three veg (this was before the vegetarian phase). As much as I had enjoyed the Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, I swore I could not eat anymore rice for at least a month.

If you are in a similar situation and the local restaurants are not tickling your fancy, try and stock your pantry with ingredients from home, and relish cooking (and of course, eating) food from your own culture. Cooking can really become something special and almost intimate if you see it as more than a means to the end of quelling your appetite.

Photograph courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo for Unsplash

One last note I wanted to make is about attitude. Even if you commit to all of the above, your new place is never going to feel like home if you don’t at least approach it with an adaptable and constructive attitude. People can find themselves in new environments both willingly and unwillingly, but if your priority is to make the most of the situation, a positive attitude is essential. Now, sometimes a negative attitude is necessary to get out of a bad situation, but if you are reading this piece, then I imagine that doesn’t describe you.

Making temporary accommodation feel like home doesn’t have to mean blowing your budget or surrounding yourself with meaningless objects just to make the space feel less empty. Home means something different to everybody, and once you figure out what your home is, well…  that’s when you won’t need to read articles like this anymore.

In February of 2017 (lordy that feels like a long time ago…) I published a guest post on the Travelettes called How to Get Comfortable with Traveling. As I wrote, “I’m not talking about homesickness… at least, not entirely”, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably identify strongly with that unnerving feeling whenever you’re out of your geographic comfort zone. This article addresses that, and I am linking it here because I think that it’s very relevant to what I’ve discussed in the present article.

Let me know your thoughts.

Photographs courtesy of Unsplash.

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Thoughts on the Guardian’s “Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome”

I woke up this morning to an article in the Guardian by Stephen Burgen called Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome: Why Barcelona Chose Migrants Over Visitors. The refugee crisis is an issue I am fiercely concerned about; you may even remember an article I published earlier this year called Invisible Victimisation: The Gender Politics of the Refugee Crisis. Reading the Guardian, some spark of motivation gripped me – something that happens all too rarely of late – and I seized my laptop and began to jot down my own thoughts.

I warn you that this is not a polished, introspective response to Burgen’s piece. Rather, this is a somewhat fragmented collection of my thoughts at 9am on a Monday morning before my first cuppa. I haven’t even finished the piece prior to writing this introduction. But that’s what I wanted: something sincere and barefaced. A conversation with you, the reader – and conversations don’t have the luxury of review.

But without further ado!

If you haven’t read the article of which I am writing about, I strongly recommend you do. Nevertheless, I’ll give you some context. Burgen begins by remembering a protest that took place in Barcelona last year targeting Spain’s refugee quota. Around the same time, graffiti began cropping up around the city that read ‘tourists go home, refugees welcome’. The Spanish media quickly termed the phenomenon turismofobia.

What was driving this outcry? As Burgen writes, “… it is tourism, not immigration, that people see as a threat to (Barcelona’s) very identity”.

I harbour many thoughts about identity politics. A lot of those thoughts are still scattered and only half-formed, and for that reason, I will not offer my full opinion until I am confident that I can articulate it well. But what I will say is that I do not believe identity to be productive – at least not in the sense Burgen is appealing to. This is a position that I expressed in my post In Defence of Cultural Appropriation. To paraphrase and truncate this article, cultural identity is destructive because it divides communities and encourages hostility through an us-them mentality. If we are ever going to enjoy a society where people of all backgrounds are treated equal, then I believe that identity is a construct we need to challenge.

However, the plot thickens when we apply this line of reasoning to Burgen’s article. If we analyse the above quote, we understand Burgen to be arguing that refugees in fact form part of Barcelona’s identity, whereas tourists jeopardise it. Here, we observe that the traditional paradigm – whereby refugees are framed as the problem – is reversed. Barcelona’s identity politics are working towards helping an impoverished group who have consistently been demonised for their own suffering and plights. Barcelona sees embracing ‘outsiders’ as integral to its sense of self.

Thus, can I still argue that identity is a bad thing?

The answer is yes.

Even if in some cases identity encourages group altruism, I do not believe it to be constructive if it still comes at somebody else’s expense. Now, that ‘somebody else’ may be privileged tourists who might have spent more time contemplating what colour bikini they are going to wear on Playa Mar Bella than the refugee crisis, but that expense is still an expense.

I am neither arguing that tourism is always a good thing: as a travel blogger, I may be the pot calling the kettle black, but I am not ignorant to the negative impacts tourism can – and does – hold. In the context of Barcelona alone, the city receives roughly twenty times as many tourists as residents. To quote Burgen, this number is “… driving up rent, pushing residents out of neighbourhoods, and overwhelming the public space”. I do not disagree that these consequences are undesirable and should be addressed.

Is the answer to ban tourism? In my eyes, no. One of the major positive impacts of tourism is that it can expose people to the lives of others and teach them that different doesn’t automatically mean bad. It can teach people that their own experience does not reflect the human experience, and that they can learn so much from those they interact with.

“… immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilising it”.

Stephen Burgen

One of Barcelona’s district councillors, Santi Ibarra, further argues that “… tourism takes something out of neighbourhoods… it makes them more banal – the same as everywhere else”. I sympathise with Ibarra, although perhaps for different reasons. I also sympathise to an extent with Burgen, although I take issue with some of his claims. For example, he claims that diversity is to be celebrated rather than condemned, and yet he seems to imply that tourism cannot offer that. Part of me instinctively wants to cheer him on. When I think of the word ‘tourist’, my mind conjures images of homogenous white people wearing sandals and brandishing selfie sticks. I mean, I just googled ‘tourist’, and had to actually scroll before I saw any colour representation. Try it. But the reality is that tourists are no less diverse than refugees, and to insist otherwise will help no one.

Barcelona prides itself on maintaining a large immigrant population without interpersonal conflict, but I fail to understand how, in the same breath, it can also pride itself on breeding conflict between residents and tourists. Travellers need to hold themselves accountable for being educating about responsible tourism, and they need to treat the cities they visit with respect. Those that do not should be penalised in some just way. But they should not be banned from certain cities simply for wanting to experience more of the world.

So… what is the answer?

I don’t know. I’m not writing this to offer a solution to Barcelona’s tourism problem. I’m writing this to share my messy, 9am on a Monday, tea-less thoughts. I am feeling optimistic about the council’s 2015 approach to “… impose a moratorium on new hotels… contain the spread of tourist apartments and devise an urban plan… that prioritises local commerce over businesses aimed at tourists”. I can imagine a similarly optimistic outcome for extending these changes to public transport so that residents can actually move within their own city. What I am not feeling optimistic about is an outright ban on tourism in Barcelona – or anywhere else, for that matter.
In his Guardian article, Stephen Burgen reflects upon the palpable tension between Barcelona residents and tourists. I think it is fantastic that Barcelona is challenging the close-mindedness many communities experience regarding the refugee crisis, but what I don’t think is so fantastic is their use of identity politics to ostracise the tourist population. I sympathise deeply with much Burgen has said, and as someone coming from a country that harbours its own resentment towards tourists, I agree that it is an issue that demands urgent address. But Barcelona’s reasons for ostracising tourists is unjustified. Identity should never have come into the equation, and if the city wants to rationalise its animosity, it would do better to look to concrete logistics such as housing shortages and transport issues that simply cannot accommodate the hordes.
If this opinion piece has whet your appetite, make sure to peruse Airline Inequality: A Social Microcosm of Class. I would also love to hear your feedback on the articles I linked above in this post about the refugee crisis and cultural appropriation. Drop a line to my email below.
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40 Things to Do in Dunedin, New Zealand

Forget Tripadvisor.

I couldn’t return to my home town for a quick visit (or as quick as a visit can be when you’re traveling 12,000 miles) and not pay at least some blog-worthy tribute to this sentimental city. Returning felt a bit like being embraced by a warm hug, and it was certainly nostalgic to revisit some of my old haunts.

Although you’ll find some token touristic attractions here, you will also find a few hidden gems that only Dunedin locals know about. It took a lot for me not to comprise this list solely of food ideas, so know that the ones I have included are – in my humble opinion – on a level above the rest.

So, in no particular order, here are 40 things to do in this little Scottish settlement by the name of Dunedin…

  1. Follow the Dunedin street art trail
  2. Catch a wave in the St. Clair surf
  3. Take a step back in time at Olveston Historic Home
  4. Sip on a Pic’s Poles at Starfish Café
  5. Play disc golf at Chingford Park
  6. Eat fish and chips at the Signal Hill Lookout
  7. Dine on authentic Italian cuisine at the Esplanade
  8. Embrace Dunedin’s multi-cultural heritage at the Chinese Gardens
  9. Take a dip at St. Kilda Beach
  10. Start your weekend off the right way with an order from the Friday Shop
  11. Catch some rays at the St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool
  12. Enjoy a cheese platter from Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel
  13. Burn some calories by walking up Jacob’s Ladder
  14. Attend a public lecture at the University of Otago
  15. Order an iced coffee at Kiki Beware
  16. Take in some New Zealand landscape at Lover’s Leap
  17. Feed the ducks at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens
  18. Eat an ice cream from Rob Roy Dairy on the museum lawn
  19. Catch a butterfly at the Tropical Forest
  20. Enjoy a lazy Sunday brunch at Nectar Espresso Bar and Café
  21. Enter the pub quiz at the Dog with Two Tails
  22. Stock up on some fresh seasonal produce at the Otago Farmer’s Market
  23. Take a selfie at the Railway Station
  24. Jump from the rocks at Outram Glen
  25. Channel your healthier side at the Good Earth organic café
  26. Cheer for your favourite team at Forsyth Barr Stadium
  27. Visit the Albatross Colony on the Otago Peninsula
  28. Melt at the sight of the puppies at the Nichol’s Pet Warehouse
  29. Scale the sand dunes of Tomahawk Beach (and mind the sea lions!)
  30. See a real Egyptian mummy at the Otago Museum
  31. Admire the interior architecture at Rialto Cinema
  32. Order the pancake of the month at Capers
  33. Brew a pint at Speight’s Brewery
  34. Expand your literary boundaries at the University Book Shop
  35. Inject a doughnut at Nova
  36. Challenge yourself to climbing the steepest street in the world
  37. Start the day with Eggs Benedict at Ironic Café and Bar
  38. Take in the secret ocean views at Second Beach
  39. Play aristocrats at Larnach Castle
  40. Explore the industrial area with a pit stop at Vogel St. Kitchen

Are you a local who wants to to add something to the list? Let’s connect – email me at thegingerpassports@gmail.com or message me over Facebook or Twitter and I’ll hop to it.

Alternatively, if you’re about to touch down in Dunedin, be sure to watch my vlog (and laugh at slow motion footage of me failing to blow a dandelion).

Here are also some of my Dunedin highlights fresh from the blog:

📚 The Local’s Guide to Dunedin

🌊 The Beach Review #1: St. Kilda

⛰ Postcards from Lover’s Leap

🐝 Flight of the Butterflies: Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest

and last but not least, my own personal favourite…

☕ Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

The surfing and farmer’s market photographs are courtesy of Unsplash. The photograph of Kiki Beware was taken by Naomi Haussmann for Neat Places, and the photograph of Larnach Castle was sourced from Tripadvisor.

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The Green Traveler: 5 Eco-Friendly Destinations to Visit This Year

The principles of eco-tourism are continually rising in popularity as the world becomes more environmentally conscious. Many tourists now seek eco-friendly activities and accommodation during their travels as a way of protecting the communities they visit. You can enjoy a much richer travel experience knowing that your presence isn’t harming the environment nor the wellbeing of the locals.

Certain countries are leading the way regarding eco-tourism, making it a top priority to unite conservation, local communities, and responsible travel. Here are some of the best eco-friendly destinations to visit this year…

New Zealand

Over the years, New Zealand has worked hard to protect its spectacular natural beauty and wildlife by practising sustainable travel. New Zealand offers an abundance of eco-friendly tours and activities, including bird-watching, dolphin and whale-watching, and nature cruises.

One of my favourite places to see wildlife up close is the Otago Peninsula. Located in Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula is rightfully recognised as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, and offers a unique opportunity to see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross.

I’d also recommend a visit to the Glowworm Caves. Set in the Waikato Region, this tour showcases an incredible light display of thousands of glowworms inside the Waitomo Caves. The experience of watching this light show is truly magical, and one you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Photography courtesy of Alex Siale for Unsplash

Samoa

Samoa is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations in the South Pacific. The islands of Samoa are comprised of gorgeous reefs, beaches, and lush rainforests occupied by crystal waterfalls and breathtaking gorges. Eco-tourism is widely embraced in Samoa, where responsible tour operators are regulated and are proud to protect Samoa’s delicate environment, economy, and marine life. These tours are also supported by many of Samoa’s eco-friendly hotels. The eco-friendly accommodation options in Samoa ensure that tourists have a unique travel experience without compromising the welfare of the environment.

Photograph courtesy of Moon for Unsplash

Iceland

Iceland’s breathtaking scenic beauty has made it a bucket-list destination for many travellers who are enthusiastic about ‘nature tourism’ (look it up!). The dramatic landscape has a form unlike anywhere else on earth, made up of volcanoes, lava fields, hot springs, and geysers.  

Iceland boasts a well-deserved reputation as one of the most environmentally-conscious countries in the world. Over the years, the country’s government has continued to fight against ocean pollution, and actively promotes the use of hydroelectrical and geothermal resources for heat and electricity production, particularly in the nation’s capital city, Reykjavik.

You can find one of Iceland’s most amazing eco-friendly activities in the town of Húsavík, where you can go whale-watching in an electric-powered ship named Opal. Opal was designed and built over half a century ago as a trawler, and has now been converted to operate carbon free and cause the least amount of noise disturbance to the whales. Even though Opal runs on electricity, it is rigged like a beautiful, traditional sailing ship, and can even recharge its batteries at sea when the ship is under sail.

Photograph courtesy of Giuseppe Mondì for Unsplash

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been yet another primary leader of the eco-tourism movement. This small yet captivating corner of Central America currently produces 95% of its electricity from renewable resources, with a goal to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2020. Costa Rica has over 12 main ecosystems, which is said to take up 5% of the world’s biodiversity. With a growing selection of eco-lodges situated in mountains, volcanic regions, and alongside national parks, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for the green traveller.

Photograph courtesy of Max Boettinger for Unsplash

Norway

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Norway is often voted as one of the best places in the world to live. The essence of its appeal lies largely in its natural beauty and outdoor adventures like cliff-climbing, hiking, and kayaking. This Scandinavian country is indeed powered by nature, as its official slogan claims. There is so much to see and explore here, from mountains and glaciers to deep coastal fjords and waterfalls. Norway is dedicated to preserving its amazing landscape, with many green initiatives working towards responsible tourism.

Photograph courtesy of Mikita Karasiou for Unsplash

If you are looking for inspiring, eco-friendly destinations to explore and gain a greater appreciation for the world’s precious environment, New Zealand, Samoa, Iceland, Costa Rica, and Norway are just a handful of choices. Sustainable tourism by visitors who respect the environment is especially important, as the revenue generated through tourism will help to fund more eco-friendly initiatives in these countries for the future.

Author Bio

Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand ,who is passionate about travel and adventure. She enjoys taking impromptu hikes with friends or driving along New Zealand’s most scenic routes. However, most days you’ll find Harper planning her next travel adventure – with Norway next on her list. See more of her work here.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

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