A Balloon transcends language: in a village that sees in colour, look at what I’ve learned about race and racism.

Globe & Mail, Oct 20, 2000

When I signed up to spend three and a half months in the West African nation of Benin with Canada World Youth, it goes without saying that I was looking for something different. It was this sentiment, along with the desire to avoid university for a year, which united the nine young Canadians with whom I lived in the rural village of Sakete. And yet, as the plane lifted off from Montreal, I think we were all expecting to have enough in common with our new neighbours that the inevitable differences wouldn’t prevent us from integrating relatively quickly into the daily life of the village. After all, you can’t spend three and a half months with the mindset of a tourist. Continue reading

Brave new world of teen autonomy: Teen-agers today are influenced by other teen-agers, television, celebrity endorsements, music, gang standards. Not by adults

Globe and Mail, July 13, 1998

It has been said that one can construct the history of a civilization merely by studying its garbage, but I prefer the rummage sale. The one at our local church always provides grist aplenty for the amateur social historian’s mill. Little bits and pieces of dated pop culture line the tables in a sometimes humorous, often instructive array. The Darth Vader shampoo dispensers, Elvis busts and Saturday Night Fever soundtracks seem to say more than even the most historically relevant coffee grounds and banana peels ever could. Continue reading