Young Algerians, Tell Us Your Stories! A Video from WikiStage Algiers

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Video of my presentation on the importance of storytelling at WikiStage Algiers 2016. Translated subtitle translation available for those who don't speak French. (Click here to watch on YouTube.)
Say what you will about Algerians, but they sure aren't boring. All over the world, everyone has a story to tell, but that seems especially true of Algerians—and all the more so given how isolated the country is, and how few chances Algerians have to share their stories with the wider world.

Back in December I delivered a talk at a TEDx-style event here called WikiStage Algiers, organized by a prominent local university club and attended by several thousand local students and youth. (If you missed it, be sure to read my previous article on that experience: "WikiStage Algiers: Young Algerians Tell Their Stories")

This week the organizers published the above video of my talk. (I spoke in French, guessing that would be the best way to connect with my audience, but for non-French-speakers YouTube offers translated subtitles in the video settings menu.)

In my talk, I discussed the importance of storytelling and urged Algerian youth to share more stories in whatever form they prefer. I closed by inviting young people in the audience (or even their friends or others) to send me short stories, promising to select a series for publication here on my blog. I published those earlier this year, but want to let everyone know: My offer remains open. I'm collecting a new round of stories and will publish a second series as soon as I receive enough submissions. Similarly, I encourage any aspiring young Algerian filmmakers to enter the "Algeria's Best Kept Secret" film contest throughout the month of September 2017. 

Thank you again to the talented organizers of WikiStage Algiers for giving me the opportunity to share this message with young Algerians. Keep telling your stories!

This is Paris: City of Two Faces

Monday, August 28, 2017 | Paris, France (map)

Paris's Museum of Natural History, which few tourists find time to visit, contains several imposing galleries of skeletons, all arranged by Victorian-era curators and seemingly untouched ever since.
Understandably, most visitors to Paris can only stay long enough to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and similar must-see attractions. With few exceptions, those classic destinations are classic for a reason, and well worth seeing, but spend more time in the city and you'll have the chance to explore the up-and-coming and edgy, the multicultural and worldly, the odd and the downright macabre.

Having returned many times over the past years (it's just a quick 2.5-hour hop from Algiers—short enough to make a weekend of it), I've managed to work my way down the list and see several of the oddities that—unbeknownst to many visitors—are among the city's most intriguing sites.

From Tuscany to Cinque Terre, Sampling the Lavish and Relishing the Simple

Monday, August 7, 2017 | Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, Italy (map)

Vernazza, a picturesque paradise in Cinque Terre.
Still buzzing from the excitement of the sumptuous Roman wedding, Nina and I wrestled our bags into a rented Fiat and headed for Tuscany. It was still early May, so the days were long, the air was sun-baked and warm, and the Italian countryside was in bloom.

We drove to Orvieto, a medieval town whose defensive walls melded seamlessly into the rocky outcropping on which it sat, dominating the fields of grapes and orchards all around. In Orvieto we climbed the ancient bell tower, savored prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches in a tiny shaded piazza, and strolled along stone streets flanked by gelaterias and artisan shops selling everything imaginable in gnarly hand-carved olive wood.

By the end of the day we had traversed Lazio, skirted Umbria, and entered Tuscany, where we settled for the night in a b&b outside Siena. It was a 15-minute walk to the central Piazza del Campo, the vast, seashell-shaped central plaza dominated by the city's famed tower. For two days each summer since the 1500s,