The World’s Listserve

Today my friend Wes directed me to a new project/website: The Listserve. The video on its website further explains what the header states pretty simply:

This is an e-mail lottery.
One person a day wins a chance to write to
the growing list of subscribers. It could be you.

The introductory video interviews several people, posing the question, “If you had the chance to speak to one million people, what would you say?” This is obviously a loaded question, and after some thought, responses include everything from “The Rangers are going to win the Stanley cup this year!” to “Take a nap.” The project will launch when there are ten thousand subscribers, but considering it has 4479 at the time of this writing and it launched in the last 24 hours, it shouldn’t take too long.

It is an intriguing idea, and it will hopefully be an opportunity to gain insight from other people from around the world. Although authors will have the chance to convey whatever sort of message they want, I hope that it will ultimately be used to express positive (or at least constructive) ideas and give people a sense of connectedness. I see it as an opportunity to bring out similarities among many people, rather than differences, and I hope subscribers are ready to open their eyes and see what other people have to offer.

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Takeaways From a Week in Naples

Entrance to Underground Naples

Entrance to Underground Naples

I had a great time in Naples and enjoyed everything about it – eating copious amounts of pizza, exploring the city with my friends, seeing the landmarks, learning about volcanic activity and the history of the surrounding areas, and  experiencing the culture at every turn. What I enjoyed most, however, was the same aspect of the trip that I most appreciate about every other trip I have gone on: the fact that yet another part of the world has been made more “real” to me.

What little I had already known about Pompeii and Vesuvius was taught to me through a textbook about ten years ago, and before this semester I would not have been able to tell you where in Italy they were located. I knew they existed, but to me they were only a history lesson and a tourist destination – much like Rome, the Vatican, and many other places that most Americans have heard of but never get to see firsthand.

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Actively Caring for People: A bracelet to live by


About a year ago, I heard Justin Graves (a fellow student at Virginia Tech) explaining Actively Caring for People, a movement with a pay-it-forward philosophy urging people to show and appreciate kindness every day. As I understand it, it works by encouraging people to give green wristbands to people who are kind in ways that are not necessarily expected, accompanied with a verbal explanation of the wristband and a genuine expression of thanks. There is more to it, and you can read more on its website, but I had to explain that to get to the real subject of this blog post.

Justin recently posted the following Facebook status, which got me thinking (and blogging):

“If you did not already know, I have a personal rule of meeting one new person every day and helping one person every day. Today, I went to the grocery store, and the cashier and her bagger were extremely helpful by unloading my cart onto the belt and even helped me take my groceries out to my car despite the fact that it was raining. After giving them green bracelets, I decided to call the store and tell their manager how helpful they were. She then proceeded to tell me that she was going to comp my entire bill of groceries today…which was $150. A little bit of random kindness and caring for others goes a long way, people.”

Justin is an amazing guy for a variety of reasons, and although he is incredibly involved at Virginia Tech, it is his character that I find most inspiring. He consistently goes out of his way to kindness, and despite this particular story having monetary benefits, it is clear that his behaviors are a result of wanting to spread joy to others – not for his own benefit.

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Spring Break in Morocco!


… this study abroad program is full of surprises, and that tweet pretty much says it all. Never in my life would I have suspected I would be spending spring break of my sophomore year in Morocco. Perhaps with some luck, I would have spent it working a decent paying job or on a road trip to New York – but Morocco? I never saw that one coming.

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Lugano: First Impressions

Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo

Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo

Yesterday morning we all crowded onto the train in Riva San Vitale to visit  Lugano, and upon stepping off just 20 minutes later we found ourselves facing yet another incredible view of Lake Lugano overshadowed by the majestic Swiss Alps. Soon after leaving the train station we found ourselves in front of the Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo – the first evidence of the rich history of the city.

After taking a group picture with the backdrop of the city and the lake, we descended into a small, open square where Dr. Knox gave us a brief description of our surroundings. He then sent us off, and my group of four headed through the markets toward the water. The first thing I noticed was the number of small markets and corner shops. In the United States, almost any city is busting at the seams with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. Here that was not the case. Later I would find a McDonald’s and a Burger King, but the authenticity and originality of this part of the city seemed preserved.

Although Lugano has a big tourism industry, our group was more interested in watching the city come alive than spending our time wandering around museums or historical buildings. We wanted to observe and interact with our surroundings in a less touristy way, and to get a better feeling for the culture and atmosphere of the city. After strolling around for around an hour, my group found a small bakery/café near the Università della Svizzera italiana (University of Italian-speaking Switzerland) with a good view of the street and decided to get in from the cold.

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