Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dutch New Year's Eve Fireworks

Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Caroline Nelissen took video of the New Year's Eve fireworks in Ermelo, The Netherlands tonight. Have a look:
and here, too:

Happy New Year From Yerevan, Armenia

Narine Daneghyan /
A building in central Yerevan, Armenia, heralds the new year

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam

Thuy Le /
A view of Sword Lake in the center of Hanoi.

By Thuy Le
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
HANOI, Vietnam – I am a Hanoian. For those of you who are not yet aware of my hometown, Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, that little S-shaped country in Southeast Asia.
With well over 6 million people, the bustling atmosphere of the city can be definitely predicted.
Thuy Le /
The Hanoi Opera House 
When one first arrives in Hanoi, it is likely that they will be stunned by the traffic here in a country where the majority of the population own motorbikes and wear helmets.
Therefore, crossing the streets has become a crucial art that foreigners and even many local residents aspire to grasp.
Thuy Le /
Ho Tay, or West Lake, in Hanoi
Thuy Le /
A traditional Vietnamese toy made of rice
 dough and often sold on the street 
Hanoi enjoys a tropical climate, yet there are four seasons, with the most pleasant periods being late-August to late-October and early-February to late-March.
The summers are particularly hot and humid with an average temperature of 33 degrees Celsius, or about 91for those of you who use the Fahrenheit scale.
Thuy Le /

Thap But, or the Pen Tower. It is in the form of a pen and was 
constructed long ago to honor studying. 
It is not without reasons that Hanoi belongs among Frommer’s “Top Destinations” in Asia: the city basically has almost everything.
Thuy Le /
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum
Thuy Le /

  A man does calligraphy. Traditionally, Vietnamese get one
 of these works at Lunar New Year festival to hang in the home.

For those with an interest in culture and history, there are an ample number of historical sites and attractions, especially in the Old Quarter where streets have merchants and households specialized in particular trades, such as silk, jewelry and other artisan crafts.

For those who have shopping in mind, the major centers as well as small boutiques are there to serve, offering all the brand names like cK, Mango, Converse and so forth.
Thuy Le /
The historic Temple of Literature in Hanoi 
Regardless of one’s purpose of visiting Hanoi, trying the cuisine is absolutely a must. Besides the renowned Pho, Cha Ca, Banh Cuon and Com are believed to come from Hanoi.

Thuy Le /

A street view in Hanoi
 near the

home of Youth
International reporter Thuy Le
Mentioning food, I suppose it is necessary to introduce to you the street culture of Hanoi. No, I am not referring to graffiti or hip-hop, it is rather concerned with the fact that Hanoians frequently have their meals on the pavement. By this I mean on the sidewalk.

In addition, the image of peddlers is present everywhere and the traditional, intimate markets remain more attractive than the self-service supermarkets.
Thuy Le /
A drawing of the Old Quarter in Hanoi 
My life to date has always been contained in this lively city, except for a few occasional trips.
These 17 years have been long enough for me to fall in love with my hometown, yet I fear no amount of time could allow me to understand it thoroughly.
I could rant on and on about Hanoi, but to avoid producing an all-word tour guide, I would like you to take a look at the photos and if possible, visit my wonderful Hanoi.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Girl In The Blue Bra Could've Been Me

By Jessica Elsayed
Senior Reporter
COLUMBUS, Ohio, U.S.A. – In recent weeks, Egyptian soldiers beat, dragged, humiliated and tortured women protesters on the streets of Cairo. One of them, now known as the girl with the blue bra, could have been me.
She was viciously attacked by soldiers who stripped her clothing away, stomped on her chest, beat and kicked her. 
This would have been treated by the media as another case of violence against demonstrators and a new demonstration against the military would have followed, but someone captured the scene with a video camera, making the appalling truth clear for all to see.
Sometimes I imagine that the woman being beaten with what looks like a million clubs from a million police officers is someone I know. It is hard not to get personal. She looks like someone I know. She looks like me.
Woman beaten in Egypt.
 Taken from Youtube video uploaded by elfaresboda 
This woman, dressed in a full veil, was called a slut by power hungry politicians who favor the Supreme Council for Armed Forces, Egypt’s military rulers.
The video of her attack infuriated women and men of Egypt and the world. For a woman to be undressed this way is not accepted in Egypt or anywhere, with soldiers of her own people stepping on her and scarring her dignity.
But the only one left truly undignified and undressed was SCAF.
This woman, known on Twitter as the girl with the blue bra, is Egypt’s symbol of nobility and honor. In fact, she is the most honored of Egyptian women.
The unforgettable video of the assault on that woman prompted many more women to take to the streets in protest and now the women of Egypt have subtly started a movement with their marches.
On December 20, 10,000 women marched in Cairo. They protested against the SCAF and to defend the honor of that woman, an honor that was only intensified by her feat. A great many of these women had never protested before this day and took to the streets in order to show support and solidarity and show the world they are not a silenced, home-staying element of society.
What isn’t apparent on the surface is how these women changed views and shocked people everywhere.  Another video on YouTube showed the world the strength and determination of the women of Egypt. In it, a multitude of women of all ages and from all sectors of Egyptian life, are seen marching an chanting in the streets. Their angry response shows an attack on one woman was seen as an attack on all of them.
The feminist in everyone came to the surface and finally spoke. The conversation about women, their vital role and their equal role to men in the revolution means a great deal for Egypt.
Only yesterday, Egypt made forced virginity tests for women illegal. Even with this glimpse of hope, there is much struggle. As more and more people see the youth of Egypt being killed daily and no progress, lack of security and a dictatorship style military, a large number of Egyptians have lost hope.
What was done to women in Cairo's Tahrir Square is by no means acceptable. It was horrific, barbaric and inhumane. It is the kind of thing the martyrs of January died in order for it to never happen again.
As the world’s media filled up with images of the woman in the blue bra, I think about the many others that were beaten in Tahrir without a camera to capture them. SCAF has proven by their actions that they are not suited to be in control of Egypt, even if temporarily.
The women of Egypt are louder today than ever. They organize, they speak and they do. Empowerment comes through the belief that you are free, not in the laws that govern your freedom.
The women of Egypt, young and old, prove this and the struggle continues.
Jessica Elsayed, from Alexandria, Egypt, is a freshman at Denison University.

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Can Help Youth Journalism International

Make a gift to Youth Journalism International before the year ends! 

This has been a tremendously exciting year for Youth Journalism International and its more than 200 students on six continents. Our students this year have covered everything from the Egyptian revolution to Australian floods. They have interviewed the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and a whole lot of young people across the globe. They've reviewed movies and plays, drawn cartoons, taken pictures and weighed in many of the big issues of the day. Through it all, these talented, wonderful young people have to come to know each other, to appreciate each other's cultures and beliefs, and to care for one another. Through them, YJI is building the cross-cultural understanding that is the key to a better tomorrow, for them and for all of us. We are, day in and day out, making a real difference. (See our reviews at, where YJI is a Top-Rated Educational Charity.)
Looking to expand our services to reach a rapidly growing list of young people who want to participate, we are asking our friends to consider making a tax-deductible donation to Youth Journalism International. Your gift to the Annual Fund will provide the resources that go directly to where the need is greatest to keep our programs strong and flourishing.
If you have recently given a gift, please accept our sincere thanks.  If you can give, we are grateful. And if you cannot afford to give now, perhaps you can send this on to friends and family who may be able to make a financial contribution. We wish you a wonderful holiday season.
To give online, follow this linkYou can also send a check to Youth Journalism International/ 33 Griswold Drive/ West Hartford, CT 06119-1147. For more information, feel free to call us at (860) 523-9632.
Steve Collins
President, YJI Board of Directors
Reminder: Year-end IRA gifts are still possible. If you are eligible and must take a distribution from your IRA before the end of the tax year, please consider a tax-free gift to Youth Journalism International's Annual Appeal by clicking here. Originally scheduled to expire in 2009 the “Charitable IRA Rollover” provision has been extended through December 31, 2011. For more information, please click this link or check with your financial advisor.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Egyptian Protests Continue

Yasser Alaa /
Youth Journalism International Senior Photographer Yasser Alaa took this photo at a big protest Friday in Alexandria, Egypt. The man on the left is holding a photo of a martyr. The protests denounced the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and their recent violent actions against protesters, including women.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Is Here, So Bring On The Cookies!

Clare Hern /
Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Clare Hern
of West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A., shared this photo 
some Christmas cookies she decorated. YUM!

Christmas Comes To Yerevan, Armenia

  Narine Daneghyan /
A holiday scene on a central Yerevan, Armenia street
YJI Senior Reporter Narine Daneghyan in Yerevan, Armenia

Narine Daneghyan /
A Christmas tree in the center of Yerevan, Aremnia

Narine Daneghyan /
Even the lights in Yerevan have the Christmas spirit!

Narine Daneghyan /

Christmas In Karachi

Waleed Tariq /
             Pakistan is a Muslim dominated country in South Asia. Christmas is still celebrated here with a lot of tradition. Preparations for the festival are witnessed in full swing with the onset of December at various markets, sweet shops, restaurants and florists. The tree above is in Nandos Karachi. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Egypt Today: Violence, Confusion, Rumors

By Lama Tawakkol
Senior Reporter
CAIRO, Egypt - A month ago, Egypt witnessed what many termed “Revolution 2.0.” Violence had ensued near Tahrir Square between police officers and the protesters, as people returned to a sit-in calling on the Supreme Council for Armed Forces to transfer power to a civilian council until presidential elections are held.
The violence stopped eventually and SCAF remained in place, only changing the cabinet to be headed by Kamal El Ganzoury as prime minister.
This move ignited different reactions. As a former prime minister from ousted President Hosni Mubarak's reign, several were against Ganzoury’s appointment. They stated that despite what he might’ve achieved, he was still a man of the regime.
These were the people set against SCAF and persistently calling for the immediate return of the military to their barracks. They decided they would hold the sit-in in front of the cabinet building until SCAF responded to their demands.
Others were satisfied with Ganzoury’s appointment and believed that he should be given a chance. They especially believed that the country should calm down a bit in light of the ongoing parliamentary elections.
After a few weeks of relative calm and stability, with only a handful at the demonstrations, the entire country woke up last Friday to a confusing spectacle. Army officers were standing at the roof of the cabinet’s building, throwing stuff at the protesters, from ornaments and furniture items to whole sheets of glass and granite.
No one could really understand what was going on. As the day progressed, videos of soldiers making obscene hand gestures and others brutally beating up women and pulling them across the streets circulated.
Once again, the entire country was outraged – and confused. No one could really tell what had started it. Some people say the protesters had been playing soccer on the street and the ball had gotten into the building. When one of them went to retrieve it, he returned black and blue two hours later.
Another story goes that the protesters had been asking for IDs from cars, and an officer in a car had refused. They claim he acknowledged himself as the one who’d been kidnapping protesters the week before and aggressively beat up the person asking him.
No story is 100 percent confirmed. Regardless, however, the military’s reaction is clear enough on videos across the internet and in the deaths of a Sheikh and several others.
Their actions have provoked widespread anger as they continue to proclaim that the protesters were thugs and that there are “hidden hands” at play, trying to spread chaos. The people want to see these mysterious third parties and have them brought to justice.
The crowds are returning to Tahrir and what is now being called #OccupyCabinet on Twitter. A group of recently elected parliament members have publicly denounced the military’s actions and proposed methods for the immediate transition of power.
They want parliament to elect a president who would assume presidential powers until January, which is when they want to hold presidential elections.
On Tuesday, there was a women’s march and several student demonstrations from universities all over Cairo and Alexandria.
One can only ponder what grand finale this year will leave Egypt as 2011 comes to a close.
And with the first anniversary of January 25th coming up in a month and people already going crazy on Twitter with hashtags like #Jan25TWO and #Jan252012, it is impossible to predict what can happen and if a second revolution is indeed in the making.
There are already protests scheduled for today. Whether there is a turnout remains to be seen.
As Steve Jobs said, sometimes you can’t connect the dots looking backward, you can only connect them looking forward.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Around The World: Pakistan

Youth Journalism International reporter Arooj Khalid of Lahore, Pakistan, took these photos of Christmas decorations at local shops.
She says the white part of the national flag represents non-Muslims in Pakistan, mostly Christians.
Christmas, she said, is celebrated in Pakistan on a "large scale."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Egypt's Door To Unknown

Yasser Alaa /
Door To Unknown
Youth Journalism International Senior Photographer Yasser Alaa took this mysterious shot in Egypt, but he won't say where. Yasser, who is 18, is the photographer who was teargassed, hurt and robbed of his camera while trying to document the pro-democracy protests in his hometown of Alexandria.
You can read about what happened to him, see his work here and also, if you'd like to help him keep these wonderful images coming, you can make a donation to replace his photography equipment through this special fundraiser on Global Giving.

World Must Support Change In North Korea

By Tae Hyun Yoon
Junior Reporter
SEOUL, South Korea – As the North Korean state media reported infamous leader Kim Jong Il’s death, Asian stocks plummeted and panicked South Korean officials hurriedly organized an emergency meeting to discuss what to do in case of a sudden attack.
The unprecedented event struck fear into the minds of many people, and the possible repercussions range from a civil war to a stable transition for Kim Jong Un, the dictator’s son.
For many of us, the most pressing question is: how would we continue to maintain international security after this incident?
Right now, Kim Jong Un is quickly preparing for his transition from ‘Great Successor’ to ‘Great Leader’ of North Korea.  He must focus on first achieving stability in order to ensure a safe hand-down of authority from his deceased father.   
The state media in North Korea is trying to make the transition of power look smooth and stable, but in reality, things might not go so smoothly for Kim Jong Un. Compared to Kim Jong Il, who had a full 23 years under his father’s leadership learning how to manage political affairs, the 29-year-old Kim Jong Un has had barely more than a single year to hastily prepare himself for the role of dictator.
While his father had enough time to gain the respect of party members and military officials, Kim Jong Un will inevitably suffer lack of faith from his subjects, who are mainly older than him.  Furthermore, Kim Jong Un has not had the time to prove his entitlement to the position of Great Leader, and has gained influence solely through his father, who is now deceased. 
Considering these setbacks, North Korea has some serious problems ahead.  A rare party struggle may actually occur in this otherwise one-minded state, in which older Workers’ Party members fight against the young Kim Jong Un for power.
These elder members have a good chance of overthrowing Kim’s Regime, because they have the respect of military officials with whom they have worked for many decades. Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law, Chang Sung Taek, is a perfect example of one such individual; at age 65, he has experience on his side and has served 29 years as a senior party member. He also has the respect of others who may be able to renounce the current regime. 
Furthermore, Kim Jong Il’s fourth wife, Kim Ok, is also expected to play an important role in her stepson’s transition, and her taste for power may result in her using the younger Kim as a puppet, controlling North Korea by herself in reality.  If this occurs, the military may be divided between loyalists to Kim Jong Un’s regime and dissidents that hold allegiance to other party members, leading to a huge civil conflict that may spread tensions across the world.
If some countries try to support the contemporary government, and others attempt to help the insurgents gain power, the world may erupt into violent conflicts, and even war.
We must prepare for what is ahead to ensure international stability.  In order to assume control over the whole of North Korea, the new regime will need support from other nations. 
Provided that we help the young successor gain power, we can slowly convince him to introduce a free market to his nation and disable his nuclear program step-by-step in Six-Party talks.  Taking things slowly from there would be the best way to avoid international trouble.
While it may seem convenient, mere observation may cause us to head towards some serious unrest. 
If we sit back and watch as bystanders, the instability in the Korean peninsula could kill us all in a global war.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Virginia Christmas Tree

Tamar Gorgadze /
       Reporter Tamar Gorgadze shares
       her family Christmas tree in Loron, Virginia, U.S.A. 

In Venezuela, Christmas Pies Are Hallacas

Mary Granella /

Flowers adorn a family Christmas tree in Venezuela

By Mary Granella
Junior Reporter

VALENCIA, Venezuela – Christmas celebrations in Venezuela aren’t much different from other countries around the world.
Most people set up their own Christmas trees in their homes – some like getting a natural Canadian pine tree while others, like my family, own plastic trees.
People here use flowers, ribbons, bows, glitter, Christmas balls and stars to decorate their trees. Some of these are hand-made, especially since a majority of schools around the country make it mandatory for kindergarten classes to create their own décor to hang up on each kid’s family tree.
Huge trees are also set up and decorated all over town. They’re in shopping malls, bakeries, clothing shops and other places. The mall closest to my house set up a gigantic 85-feet tall Christmas tree right next to the escalators.
But the way we make Christmas our own is by cooking typical Venezuelan Christmas food.

Reporter Mary Granella with her family's nacimiento
One specialty is a stuffed type of pie known as “hallaca” that is filled with green olives, raisins, pork, chicken and beef. In some places, people even add beans.
There’s also the traditional chicken and potato salad, ham bread and ponche crema, a creamy liquor.
This year my family and I met to prepare hallacas, set up the Christmas tree and a “nacimiento,”which is a sort of statue representation of baby Jesus’ birth in the Bethlehem manger.
On the 24th, Christmas Eve, we’ll meet at my grandmother’s house for dinner and exchange presents at midnight. 

See more wonderful pieces in the Youth Journalism International ongoing series, Christmas Around The World. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hope For Better In North Korea

By Soo Ji Lee
Junior reporter
CRESSKILL, New Jersey, U.S.A. – While spending another Sunday night with my parents in the living room, I was on my laptop, logged onto Facebook, and refreshed my news feed. At 10:13 PM, the first story that popped up was a CNN breaking news alert saying that Kim Jong Il was dead.
My dad was in disbelief and wouldn’t trust it until he checked for himself on the Korean news outlet Yonhap. My mother then exclaimed, “He deserved this for the bad rap he gave Korea.”
I suddenly had flashbacks to all the jokes my friends had made about North Korea.  Comments had ranged from, “Are you from the good or bad Korea?” to “Hey Kim Jong Il’s daughter.”
At first I was annoyed that no one knew the difference between the democratic South Korea and the dictatorship of North Korea. How could they confuse my identity for a North Korean one? How would I even be in the United States if I came from North Korea? But then I gradually gave in and would joke along with them.
Kim Jong Il
Back on my news feed, friends posted witty status updates such as “Osama is gone. KJI is gone. 2011 has been pretty interesting.”
Initially, I felt like joining my Facebook friends in celebrating a dictator’s death. However, I am no longer joking; I now realize the global implications.
Indeed, 2011 has been eventful when it comes to the deaths of the two most corrupt world leaders.
The media coverage of both has been similar: minute-by-minute coverage that then exploded into ongoing 24-hour coverage for days.
Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong Il both preached anti-American ideologies; Bin Laden taught jihad while Kim Jong Il advocated juche. Both were committed to the demise of America; both detested modern day democracy. When it came to valuing human life, both committed far too many violations to count.
That’s why students should not be naive in assuming that communism in North Korea will now come to an end. We know nothing about what will happen.
It’s uncertain how communism in North Korea will continue to exist. It’s uncertain if North Korea will take part in Six Party talks. It’s uncertain how Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son and successor, will lead North Korea.
As uncertain we are, maybe we can be hopeful that we won’t have to say, “Like father, like son.” 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

South Korea Through Fresh Eyes

The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, who has ruled since 1994, again focuses attention on Korea, both north and south.
A few years ago, Minha Lee wrote a package of stories about South Korea, including many wonderful photographs. She shared her observations and thoughts with YJI's readers in a package of stories that touched on the nation's language, its love of soju, the busy commercial side of the country and her own family's history.
This is a good time to check it out.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big Book Fair Attracts Karachi Crowds

Photos and Story By Waleed Tariq
Senior Reporter
KARACHI, Pakistan – One of the most eagerly awaited events of the year, the 7th annual Karachi Book Fair, took off at the Expo Centre on Friday.
Formally inaugurated Saturday by Sindh education minister Pir Mazhar ul Haq, the festival is attracting massive crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of their favorite titles.
Organized by The Pakistan Publishers and Book Sellers Association, the fair is bringing in more than 200 publishers from all over, including America, England, India and other South Asian countries.
There are approximately 290 stalls with a wide variety of books, including volumes of poetry and prose in both the English and Urdu languages.
Many books on religion, law and medicine could be seen as well. The festival will run until December 20.

Christmas Is Coming

Katie Grosser /

          Youth Journalism International reporters from many
          nations share how the holiday is observed

          in their home countries and homes in the ongoing series
          Christmas Around The World. Katie Grosser, a senior
          reporter for Youth Journalism International in
          Germany, sent this photo today of her first Christmas tree
          on her own, complete with presents she'd already wrapped. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artful Henna Designs Add Beauty To Hands

Photos taken by Arooj Khalid of her hands after
she applied mehndi, or henna, designs.
The brownish color is the applied paste and the red
design is the result after the paste dries and is scraped away. 

By Arooj Khalid

LAHORE, Pakistan – Mehndi, also known as henna, is a really cool way to get funky, beautiful hands.
Its origins are from the subcontinent of South Asia, in the three countries of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
Better known as henna in the outer world, it is a sort of mixture that now comes in paste, as well as powdered form.
A plant material, henna is applied in beautiful designs to the palm of the hand, sometimes the feet, and is also used to give hair a brownish orange color. 

Now-a-days, mehndi comes in cones; you just open and start making designs on your hands.

When it dries, you scrape it off, and feel amazed to see a beautiful dark red or brown color on the hands. It then gradually fades away, taking days or weeks to disappear.
Over the years, the trend of “henna tattoos” has developed, making tattoos with henna on the body in exactly the same way.

Not only the designs, but the color and the aroma play essential roles in the world of henna.
Applying henna is quite an old custom, most often used on important occasions such as weddings, religious feasts like Eid and other important events.
No one can imagine the sight of a bride, without her hands, arms and feet covered with henna. Besides the bride, each girl attending the wedding also tries her best to apply henna before the function.
Henna is also applied with glee at the anticipated event of Eid.
“Chand rat,” or the night before Eid day, typically finds girls going to the market to get henna applied on their hands by professionals.
Henna is loved by women of all ages and is now gaining popularity in the whole world.

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