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TBS Abroad Week 5: Drinking Fountains

By Jessica Li on February 26, 2015

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Drinking Fountains: The drinking fountain can be a powerful signifier. Though simple in purpose and function, it stands as a physical manifestation of common biological needs while staking claim to public spaces we all share: parks, streets, airports, libraries. A drinking fountain might well be “read” as an invitation to linger; but as the civil rights struggle in the United States showed, it can also be used to divide society along racial or ethnic lines: to mark social spaces where insidious ideologies oppress, demean, and segregate minorities.

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This week, find and photograph a drinking fountain. Where do you encounter them? Is there any logic to their placement? What message(s) do they communicate? Do drinking fountains bring people together or keep them apart? Take a picture of a drinking fountain you have used. If there are none, speculate as to why.

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Drinking fountains? There aren’t any. Anywhere (or at least it feels like they’re never where you need them when you need them). Not in train stations, not on University campuses, and rarely in parks or other public spaces. This posed a special challenge when walking was my main form of transportation throughout Kyoto, and I had to plan accordingly in order to make sure I didn’t run out mid excursion. Usually my best bet was to leave the house with a full bottle and refill at lunch, making sure to have an extra glass of water at each meal to keep ahead of dehydration throughout the day. Instead, there are beverage vending machines and convenience stores on even the most remote outskirts of the city, so a couple hundred yen water allowance was always a good idea.


Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Drinking fountains are found fairly commonly in Cape Town, although not nearly as commonly as in many places in the United States. I have seen drinking fountains on the campus of University of Cape Town, on hiking trails up mountains and at the organization where I work. More interesting than the occurrence of water fountains in Cape Town though, is the occurrence of what the water is put into, water bottles. On the first day of one of my lectures my professor remarked, “You know how we can always tell who is American and who isn’t? The Americans always have water bottles out in front of them. Americans are obsessed with hydration!” After my professor said this, I started consciously thinking about this and analyzing this and she was so right! The majority of individuals carrying water bottles around with them were Americans rather than South Africans. The more sparse occurrence of water fountains in Cape Town therefore, must be because hydrating doesn’t seem to be as much of a top priority here as it is in the United States.

TBS Abroad Week 4: Public Parks

By Jessica Li on February 20, 2015

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Public Parks: Access to nature is often recognized as a key quality-of-life indicator, and for many people, public parks are the easiest place to find a bit of fresh air. But nature is not always as natural as it might seem. Indeed, the very term “landscaping” implies that something has been altered or reconfigured to fit an ideal — suggesting that, despite appearances, the “wildness” of New York’s Central Park is not so terribly different from the placid beauty of the Gardens at Versailles. This week, pay attention to parks. Is there an arboretum or other “natural” public place where you live? What is it called? Is it actively manicured or left wild? Who maintains it? What do people do there: Sports? Picnics? Protests? Theatre and music? Take a picture of the park and tell us how it’s commonly used.

Ryan Hildebrant ’17, Psychology & Japanese

The main Park in Kyoto serves all the functions one would expect: picnics, public events, sports, and general relaxation in nature. This park, which lies at a central location in the city of Kyoto, also happens to be the former Imperial palace and palace complex. One of my first experiences with the palace/park was a visit to the Palace, which is usually restricted. Having seen the inside, and this isn’t to belittle the beauty of the palace, it’s quite a nice residence, I have to say the outside of the palace and the palace grounds are much more spectacular.


The main Park in Kyoto

The main palace is surrounded by walls and then an open expanse of gravel on all sides. Beyond that are various paths and miniature parks, with pine, maple, and many other trees overlooking the entirety of the grounds. During fall, the maple and other trees are famous for turning brilliant shades of crimson and bright yellow, and the result is a park cloaked in color for a few weeks or a month of the year. 

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

Parks seem to be everywhere here in Jerusalem and Israel. On my daily walk to campus, I pass a large public garden/park that many students take advantage of for studying. On days that I am not running behind on schedule, I can walk through Hebrew University’s own Botanical Gardens which leads right to my day’s classes.

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Gan Sacher Park

Since the weather has been magnificent ever since I have gotten year, each day you can see students relaxing from the stresses of their exam seasons by enjoying a smoke or a bite to eat. Jerusalem as a whole is also home to many large and beautiful public parks that get hundreds of visitors daily. Shabbat is the nation-wide day of rest, and as a result no businesses are open from sundown Friday until Saturday night. This means that on the weekends, Israeli families and visitors flock to public parks to enjoy picnics and time with family and friend. The two pictures shown are from last weekend when I enjoyed a pleasant day at the Gan Sacher park in the Nahalot village of Jerusalem with some Israeli and American friends.

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Jerod Gibson-Faber ’16, History

The first thing I think I noticed about London is probably how the roads are all wrong here. After that though, I couldn’t help but be very impressed at all of the parks and open spaces throughout the city.  I live in housing on 20 Bedford Place, very close to the British Museum.  If you exited my flat, took a left, and kept walking straight, you would end up at Bloomsbury Square Gardens.  I often times cut through here when I’m trying to get to Kingsway and go places.


It’s not the biggest park, but there is a small playground area that I would love to play in if I were about 17 years younger.  People also walk their dogs around and on the green, which the dogs seem to love – they are all so friendly. Go back to my flat, take a right instead, keep walking straight, and you’d end up at Russell Square.  This space is a bit larger and in addition to dogs and readers on park benches, runners frequent the park on their daily routes.  I’m pretty spoiled with a park on each end of the street I live on, but it seems like little green open spaces like these are not hard to find – especially in central London.  There are a number of larger parks, too, like Regents, Hyde, and St. James’s to name but a few.  As far as the authenticity of the natural environment, it’s tough to say. These places – especially Greenwich – were heavily attacked in WWII.  Some parks were even dug into for shelters from bombing.  It’s a pretty safe bet that however the land recovered after the war, it’d still in that condition – with maintenance of course.


Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Cape Town is an amazingly beautiful place. One of the best places to take advantage of the natural beauty that this city has to offer is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This absolutely beautiful area of land is full of amazing flowers, green grass and the start of many treacherous and steep hiking trails up gorgeous mountains. These gardens are a wonderful place to have a picnic or just enjoy a beautiful day, but also are home to many amazing events. My favorite to attend have been the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert series where modern and popular South African bands perform on a beautiful outdoor venue backed by the picturesque mountains and the sky line of the city of Cape Town. Besides these concerts, Kirstenbosch holds outdoor movie screenings on a large screen every week, monthly food and craft fairs, and has a wonderful tea room and art gallery. Kirstenbosch Gardens are without a doubt one of my favorite places in Cape Town and I have spent some of my favorite evenings and afternoons there.

Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Cape Town is an amazingly beautiful place. One of the best places to take advantage of the natural beauty that this city has to offer is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This absolutely beautiful area of land is full of amazing flowers, green grass and the start of many treacherous and steep hiking trails up gorgeous mountains. These gardens are a wonderful place to have a picnic or just enjoy a beautiful day, but also are home to many amazing events. My favorite to attend have been the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert series where modern and popular South African bands perform on a beautiful outdoor venue backed by the picturesque mountains and the sky line of the city of Cape Town. Besides these concerts, Kirstenbosch holds outdoor movie screenings on a large screen every week, monthly food and craft fairs, and has a wonderful tea room and art gallery. Kirstenbosch Gardens are without a doubt one of my favorite places in Cape Town and I have spent some of my favorite evenings and afternoons there.


Peter Tschirhart, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs

One of my favorite local spots is Thayer Park on the banks of Lake Skaneateles. Visit sometime on a beautiful, sunny day and you’ll find it filled with picnickers with plaid blankets, kids with frisbees, and grownups with books. It’s unquestionably one of the most picturesque places I know, and it reminds me very strongly of the more pretty spots in the Lake District (Cumbria).

A warm October’s day in Thayer Park, with (from left to right) me, my partner Brian, and my brother Steve

I don’t know much about the history of Thayer Park, though: who designed it or who maintains it. I spent some time researching these questions, but as it turns out, much more information is available about other parks in the area — Shotwell Park, for instance, memorializes local residents killed in foreign conflicts since the First World War. Thayer Park seems to lack a comparable high-minded purpose. From what I can tell, the land for it was set aside in 1874 by a local businessman named Joel Thayer, who made his mark on industries as varied as distilling and carriage works. Today, the park is actively manicured and maintained — I suppose by the Village of Skaneateles — and is used primarily for quiet leisure. Music, arts, entertainment, and, of course, boat tours are kept at Clift Park further down Genessee Street. From the ladder descending into the lake, built directly into the concrete retaining wall, one might assume swimming, too, was once common here.

TBS Abroad Week 3: Libraries

By Jessica Li on February 12, 2015

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Week 3 Prompt: Libraries

Libraries aren’t just places to store books or sit and think. They link a community to important resources, serving as a hub for information about taxes, voting, and other issues of local concern. Libraries can be big or small, publicly-funded or privately-endowed, grand or humble, focused on research or designed to attract a wide audience. There may be a children’s section, but there may also be other special collections: maps, large-print, computer terminals, or rare and valuable books, to name just a few. This week, take a photograph of your local libraryand tell us about it: Why do people go there? Are there books and computers? Is it usually busy? How is it used — for research, reading, or as a common gathering place? Do people take pride in their local library, or is it largely hidden from view?

Kevin Costello ’16, Philosophy & Political Science

I suppose it would be wrong to do a “libraries” post in DC on something other than the famous Library of Congress. To provide a quick history lesson, the original library, at least in DC location, was established in 1800, tucked away inside the Capitol building. After the British burned the Capitol down during the War of 1812, however, all was lost, and the library needed to start anew. Thomas Jefferson, an avid book collector whose expensive tastes were plunging him into crushing debt, offered to sell his personal library of nearly 6,500 books to the government for the purposes of establishing a new Library of Congress.


The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Today, the LoC houses over 150,000,000 books, periodicals, and other items and serves the unique role of being both a tourist attraction and a fully functioning public library. The aesthetic of the library’s primary building, the Thomas Jefferson building, combines classical republican architecture, renaissance flair, and other recognizable aspects of Western culture. The building was designed as such in order to make European scholars and intellectuals notice a young America’s cultural and artistic depth. The Main Reading Room, which is perhaps the library’s most recognizable space, is a great example of such design, as the circular room is lined with heroic statues of some of the West’s most valuable contributors, such as Michelangelo, Newton, and Plato. A fun, albeit strange, fact about the Main Reading Room is that all photography is expressly prohibited. Fortunately, though, my dedication to TBS-Abroad knows of no such limitations, and as such, I’m happy to contribute my own illicit photograph of the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room. If I mysteriously disappear at some point in the coming weeks, at least Colgate will know what’s happened.

Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

The main library here that I go to is Chancellor Oppenheimer Library at the University of Cape Town. The library is located at the center of the campus and is very similar to the library at Colgate. Interestingly, to get into the library there are gates where students must swipe their student cards to enter and where monitors sit to ensure that absolutely no food or drinks are brought in. Inside, the library is extremely clean and bright, with many windows! There are areas with many computers, big open tables, and many closed cubicles. In addition to sitting spaces, there are many, many books at this library and also many knowledgeable librarians. Everyone in the library is extremely respectful of everyone else and is always very quiet and working very hard. In addition, monitors walk around the library ensuring that no one has food or drink, which probably largely contributes to the fact that everyone follows the rules so closely. The library is so beautiful, modern and bright and definitely one of my favorite places to do work here in Cape Town.

TBS Abroad Week 2: Cigarettes

By Jessica Li on February 4, 2015

02 - Cigarettes

Week 2 Prompt: Cigarettes

Cigarette use is on the decline in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 24.7% of American adults identified as smokers in 1997. That number fell to 18% in 2012. But Americans account for only a small minority of smokers throughout the world — and on the whole, demand for cigarettes is booming. According to The Tobacco Atlas, people living in the Americas consume just 11% of the world’s cigarettes, with Europe at 24%, and Asia and Australia together accounting for 48%. Put another way: if the average American smokes 3 cigarettes each day, the average Russian smokes 8. This week, pay attention to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other forms tobacco. Is smoking common? Where do people smoke? Is it allowed inside cafes? Is it considered “good manners” to smoke outside and “bad manners” to smoke indoors? Do women smoke? Is smoking a guilty pleasure or a source of power and pride? Take a picture of an ashtray or a place where people commonly gather to smoke.

 Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Legally: Yes. But not really, unless you want to be that guy, which you don’t.

Smoking in Japan is, like many things, governed more by social convention than law. In Japan, there is no national ban on smoking in any location, any time, although some bans have become more popular in recent years in certain prefectures and metropolitan areas. Cigarette smoking is still allowed and not necessarily looked down upon in the vast majority of Japan, and any restrictions on smoking are much more based in consideration for those around you rather than the law. Although this might be just as much due to the presence in many train stations, public parks, and outside convenience stores of designated and often fully enclosed smoking areas or boxes. These boxes are an especially common sight on the streets of Kyoto, where smoking bans and restrictions have made more legal progress than many other municipalities in Japan. That being said, there is still a large chunk of the smoking population that lights just about anywhere in public, most often walking to and from work on the main streets of Kyoto. So people are encouraged, not so much by the government as a more general sensibility and awareness of the fact that you are one person in a city of millions, to refrain from smoking in inconvenient locations.


A izakaya bar in Japan, a local spot for food and drinks.

The biggest exception to this rule comes when the sun sinks and the lights of restaurants and bars step out for a night of good business. Kyoto in particular, has a good number of Izakaya (half bar, half restaurant, all delicious and fattening), where businessmen, college students, and all those who find themselves hungry can and do gather for some bonding over food and beer. In many izakaya, smoking is quite common. Many izakaya and bars don’t regulate smoking, and it is much more acceptable to smoke in a bar or izakaya because of the casual and laid back atmosphere that often defines these establishments. So if the table next to yours in the izakaya is smoking, it’s probably best to ignore it (they’re usually pretty well ventilated anyway) and enjoy your pub-grub a la Japan.

Jerod Gibson-Faber ’17, History

Cigarettes are an interesting topic to think about.  My generation grew up learning about tobacco differently than my parents generation – and things are still changing.  As a result of increased knowledge over the years that tobacco usage can be a serious health risk, the ways I’ve interacted with cigarettes have been pretty negative.  I participated in programs in school that were heavily anti-smoking (and drugs) and I continually see ads not only on the television but in magazines and through other mediums that warn of the dangers of smoking.  Something else about cigarettes that I’ve known about is their addictive nature.  Again, through commercials and things in media, I know there are people who are addicted and need medicinal or other help to stop smoking. 


A e-cigarette shop in Cardiff, a new popular alternative to cigarettes.

Now I haven’t watched too much television here in London, but I have yet to see any sort of advertisement anywhere that deals with the harm of smoking.  I have, however, seen plenty of people outside (such as the one of the guys who works at Subway near the flats) on a smoke-break.  I grew up learning that people smoke because they are addicted and I should never do it – for fear of becoming addicted too! I never really heard about the people who smoke out of habit, but I think there are plenty of the latter.  I think this is evident with the introduction and creation of e-cigarettes.  Now I don’t know too much about them, but I have heard they are quite safer.  People had a habit and wanted it to be safer.

 Katrina Bennett ’16, Neuroscience

Smoking in South Africa is probably less prevalent than it is in the United States. I really have been on the lookout for tobacco products and tobacco smokers during this past week and have been able to spot very few. On an evening out I came across a hookah bar, the bus driver that transported me throughout my tour would grab a cigarette on rest stops and I spotted a student ducking out of a restaurant to smoke a cigarette. These, in all honesty, are the only instances that I have noticed tobacco in South Africa.


A beautiful view from a patio used for smoking

I expected to notice more smoking when I was out in the evenings as people walk out of clubs, or during the days as people walk down the streets but I definitely have not. Here, smoking seems like a fairly rare action that is not done by any one group and is also not done inside anywhere. Smoking cigarettes seems to be done in normal open spaces and not in large groups, making it not stand out in the slightest. The student I noticed ducking out to smoke at a restaurant went to this beautiful balcony attached to the restaurant where I was dining and got a great view of Cape Town while smoking. Maybe more people here should pick up smoking so that they have an excuse to step outside more often and admire the beautiful sights. 

Peter Tschirhart, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs

Smoking is not nearly as common in the United States as it used to be. While I’m old enough (!!!) to remember seeing ash trays in airplane armrests — some of which had burned residue inside — it’s comparatively marginal today, kept not just off airplanes, but outside most public buildings. That doesn’t mean smokers are themselves marginalized or powerless, though. Even as the Marlboro Man has ridden-off into the sunset of popular culture, the smoking of fine cigars still carries a certain social caché. For instance, there’s a well-known “Cigar Lounge” in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt Airport. I’ve never visited (obviously), but I can imagine the rich and powerful puffing-away on rare havanas… From what I’ve observed, smoking itself isn’t bad manners — it’s all about how and where it’s done. Having good manners usually means doing it around other (consenting) smokers. Bad manners usually involves subjecting other people to second-hand smoke, fresh from the lungs or not, near hospitals, restaurants, an office, or public park.

A smoking spot behind McGregory, on campus

While I’m not a smoker — the thought of sucking heated particulate matter into my lungs always lacked appeal — I do envy the social dimensions of it: taking a few drags while discussing the day’s news. My picture this week is of a common smoking spot here at Colgate, just outside McGregory Hall. I often see people chatting there, having a smoke.