Paste Magazine :    Going to Bat for Rwanda

Paste Magazine: Going to Bat for Rwanda

In 1994, one of the most gruesome massacres of the Rwandan genocide resulted in more than 2,000 deaths at the École Technique Officielle. Today, on the same site, the Rwanda cricket team encourages cohesion in a country marred with conflict. When cutting the grass of this forgotten field in 1999 to start playing their “gentlemen’s game,” former refugees and founding members of the Rwanda Cricket Association uncovered the remains of genocide victims.

Eric Dusingizimana, captain of Rwanda’s national cricket team, is the first to admit that playing their “lovely game” on one of the genocide’s most infamous mass killing sites has been challenging. “It hasn’t been easy for our team to forget the past; this place can’t be just a mere cricket ground to us because there’s a story attached to it that needs to be passed on for generations to come,” he tells me. “It’s part of our lives as cricketers who use this ground every day. Using the land where many innocent lives were lost reminds us to learn from it and fight against anything that might put us through that again.”

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I recently learned I was a kopophobic traveler.

Before I explain what makes me a kopophobe, I should tell you what the term means. Kopos is Greek for “fatigue,” and kopophobia is a fear of being mentally or physically exhausted, a fear of fatigue.

This fear has affected me all my life, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I identified it—once it was making it hard for me to do my job. I’m a travel writer. I am on the road at least twice a month, sometimes back to back. I love every minute of it, but like most professions, it can be stressful and scary.

What’s so scary about seeing the world? Looks at the numbers. Aviophobia—fear of flying—affects 6.5 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A survey conducted by InsureMyTrip found that 73 percent of travelers worry about falling ill or getting injured while traveling. Twenty-six percent are afraid of natural disasters occurring during a trip and 11 percent fear terrorism.

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When it comes to dining in New York City, visitors flock to Soho, the Meatpacking District, the Lower East Side, even Williamsburg, and for good reasons: craft kitchens, chic décor and cheap eats, to name a few. But, not many people are going just a few subway stops away from Times Square to fuel up at restaurants on the Upper West Side, and they’re making a big mistake.

Nonresidents think the UWS is for families and settling down—which it is—but it also breeds a vibrant culinary scene that’s been bursting with flavor since before the first foodie set foot in Brooklyn.

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If you turn east on 44th street off Times Square, and push past the tacky pubs and overpriced delis, you’ll be rewarded with a trip to old New York. Just past the block’s halfway mark, The Chatwal lives in a building that can’t help but catch the eye, and it’s not because it towers above you or glows with flashy lights.

The structure was built in 1905 as the home of the country’s first professional theatrical club, the Lambs. The landmark and former socializing, dining and sleeping spot for people like the Barrymores, John Wayne and Fred Astaire attracts a higher-brow type of traveler for the following reasons.

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As you make your way down designer-lined Madison Avenue toward 50th street, you’ll approach a short and wide neo-Italian Renaissance-style brick building that looks odd in its surroundings, where everything else is tall, thin and shiny (not just the people). You start to picture the rich people that lived here in the past, maybe the Rockefellers, and wonder what it’s used for now. If only it could be your hotel. But all travelers know the world “palace” rarely means anything of royal standards when it comes to hotels. Alas, you get closer and see that beyond the large courtyard—odd for Manhattan—the words “The New York Palace” rest above the front entrance in gold letters. You get that giddy feeling you did as a child when playing dress up. You get to be Serena van der Woodsen for a few days! Yes, this is the hotel the blond beauty lived at in Gossip Girl.

Oh yeah, and in real life it once housed Henry Villard—one of the nation’s most prominent financiers—and the Archdiocese.

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Research on millennials leads us to believe that they are risk-taking, adventure-seeking, passionate, experience-craving, spontaneous world travelers.

Not convinced? Six out of 10 millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences, rather than material things. That’s because they travel for outdoor adventures and cultural enrichment. Of course, like any other traveler, they seek some R&R on the road as well.

Given this information, a cruise—especially a luxury one—is not the type of trip you’d think millennials would enjoy. Stereotypes place millennials in campsites with Wi-Fi or high-tech hotels, driving or biking across countries to take in everything possible. Not lounging on a deck with a fruity drink in hand listening to some corny tunes played by an old polka band. And you’re right, to some extent.

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Bed-and-breakfast virgins, like myself, often avoid this type of accommodation for fear of antique overload, mildew and awkward moments. I can’t say this trip proved I was wrong about bed and breakfasts completely, but the inn that swiped my B&B card proved I was wrong about some.

While it had the homey feel, warm hosts (Peter and Susan MacLaren) and quirky tchotchkes that are the very reasons people visit inns, the West Hill House Bed & Breakfast balanced its traditionalism with modern touches and plenty of privacy.

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When the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach opened in November 2014, everyone who’s anyone was there, from sheikhs to diplomats to the most glamorous Emirati socialites. Servers wearing diamond-encrusted headpieces flanked each side of the main entrance, where circus performers—including men on stilts—welcomed Dubai’s best. The property was covered with Cirque du Soleil-type acrobats and fireworks shot into the sky at the end of the night.

The decadence shouldn’t surprise you. Dubai is one of the most extravagant destinations in the world, where the average driver can be found in a Ferrari and diamonds are everyone’s best friends. Four Seasons, one of the most luxurious hotel brands, fits in perfectly, but surprisingly the resort at Jumeirah Beach is their first in the UAE city. The 237-room hotel on 885 feet of natural beach didn’t disappoint on opening night, but what’s it like on a regular day? Not much different—minus the circus acts.

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As a born and bred city girl, I am the first to admit that I could be staying in a tin hut in the bush and I’d still be blown away (figuratively, but literally as well depending on where the bush is located). However, there is no denying the fact that a stellar hotel can enhance the safari experience. I learned that when the wheels of the small plane I was on touched down in the Madikwe Game Reserve, the fifth largest in South Africa.

I have always loved animals, am anti-zoo and pet store, cry in shelters and want to cuddle anything that doesn’t speak. Seriously, I can see the cuteness in a spider. And I did on this trip. As soon as I learned it was possible to wander amongst wild animals as they roamed freely, I made it my goal to do so.

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As a guest of Claudia Bosch, owner of Casa Palopo and its sister villa in Antigua, I was treated to a glamorous stay at this Guatemala hotel with a large bright room and lots of wine. While not everyone is personally invited to a hotel by its owner, a regular stay at Casa Palopo isn’t much different. There is someone to serve you around every corner due to the property’s small size and copious staff, no one to disturb you due to the abundance of hiding-spot worthy nooks and crannies and always a jaw-dropping view due to its location perched high above Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes.

So, really, I got the average treatment, it just so happens average treatment it pretty spectacular here.

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If you’ve just suffered a messy breakup, or you’re swearing off dating because the last person you stepped out with felt the need to reveal that he lived in his aunt’s closet (true story), travel might be a good way to escape the dreaded, lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day.

But, be careful where you escape to or you could land in a sea of happy couples proposing in front of national monuments. Not at all what you wanted.

If you are looking to trade in flowers and chocolates for alcohol and gambling this Valentine’s Day, here are the 11 least romantic cities in the world—or, at the very least, cities that won’t throw your solo-osity back in your face.

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Vusumzi Mcongo is a former political prisoner, who served 12 years on Robben Island, which is 5.5 miles offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. He was arrested at the age of 26 and released in 1990. He is a small, gentle man, who speaks so softly you have to lean in to hear him. He is also a tour guide at the Robben Island Museum, which was once a maximum-security prison, where he, Nelson Mandela and 3,000 other prisoners served time for everything from petty theft to political protest during Apartheid.

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I love when I travel. No, I’m not saying I just love to be on the road. I actually find someone to love whenever I travel. It’s my thing. I can’t help it. If you ask anyone who knows me about my foreign lover, they will say, “which one?”

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The luxury sedan seemed out of place amid the tiny tin houses that make up Motswaledi, Soweto’s most impoverished area. However, the driver, Joe Motsogi, assured our tour group we wouldn’t offend the residents. He would know. A resident of Soweto for over 60 years and the owner of JMT Tours, Joe is a Soweto expert. I know what you’re thinking. Can’t a successful business owner like Joe now get out of Soweto, the famously poverty-stricken settlement in Johannesburg, South Africa? Yes, he can. But he hasn’t, just like many of the neighborhood’s loyal residents.

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