Social Media as the ‘Sky Falling Moment’

8 Dec

Click, click, click. The sound of typewriters is long gone. Today, neither writers nor journalists use these machines. The only people interested in typewriters now are antique collectors. Taking a break and looking out of the window for a moment of inspiration is no longer a part of the writing process. One’s gaze used to focus on nature. Today’s social media world pulls our attention onto the floating screen with commercials, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates. Newspapers are converting into electronic versions, and today’s journalism and communication graduates are about to enter a very different, fast-paced media world.

To communicate, almost everyone uses email and a cell phone. Landlines and letters are uncommon. People today depend on electronic devices, especially in times of crisis, when information can be easily accessed. Social media has become the new trend for journalists. Many news organizations use Twitter to inform the public.

This major industry change reinforces the importance for new graduates to be familiar with social media when applying for jobs in journalism. Some graduates wonder: will traditional journalism slowly disappear, just as the old-fashioned typewriters? And if this is the case, what is it that students, companies and educational institutions can do to prepare candidates for the industry? Continue reading

Being Undocumented

23 Nov

In one October day, Sarah Radmer realized that her goal to represent the University of Washington’s undocumented students would be a very difficult task. Sarah is a university of Washington student who is majoring in Journalism and Public relations. Prior to becoming student at the UW Sarah admits to having been a person who didn’t pay close attention to the immigration situation in the U.S.

“I passively followed the various stories about immigration legislation and the Dream Act. But I followed it in the same way that you read a news story about a car accident. Read. Digest. And move on,” she says.

She became interested in this issue when in one of her Journalism classes Sarah was introduced to the work of Jose Antonio Vargas. His story was published in the New York Times on June 22, 2011 in which Vargas, a working journalist in the U.S., described his status as an undocumented immigrant. Since then, Vergas travels to different states to tell his story. He does it to promote global awareness and to start a human dialogue about the problems attached to immigration in the U.S.

One of his stops landed him at the UW, where he visited Sarah’s class as a guest speaker.

“I have never listened to a speaker and felt more guilty. Because not only was I so ignorant of the situation, but also because I was unaware that I had been sitting in a classroom for nearly a quarter with students who had stories very similar to Vargas. I walked out of that lecture hall feeling so much more appreciative of my own citizenship status,” Sarah says. Continue reading

Does a Master’s Degree make the cut?

15 Nov

This is what a Seattle’s resident, Hussam Almatrood, continues to wonder after months of rejection while applying for jobs. Juggling between changing diapers and sending resumes, Almatrood continues to believe that someone will give him a call. He often wonders about the reasons preventing him from landing a job. Almatrood is a needle in the pile of unemployed Americans who are also searching for one thing, a career.

Almatrood graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing & Management, after which, he was able to gain some work experience in the field. Yet, through all these years of experience he didn’t feel that he found his dream job. He wanted to be part of a company in which his skills and determination were valued and appreciated.

Hence, Hussam thought that if he pursued a Master’s Degree he would have a better chance of finding that dream job. Investing the time and  the money, he thought, will pay off. He still thinks that it will.

(Hussam Almatrood)

While he was completing his Master’s Degree, Almatrood’s son was born. He balanced both his father duties with his student assignments and he was able to graduate in 2010 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. At the same time his wife received the rare opportunity to complete her Ph.D. in Computer Science. And she took it.

“An opportunity she couldn’t miss out on,” he said.

Husband and father of two, a son and a daughter, Almatrood became the primary caregiver for their children. Pursuing his career was something very important to him, but not more important than the happiness of his family.

“This wasn’t a sacrifice, but the biggest joy of my life,” he said. Continue reading

The Controversy Between The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and The Local Cheesemakers

9 Nov

There are two types of cheese lovers: the first kind buys cheeses prepared with Raw-milk ingredients and the second kind buys cheeses that have passed the Pasteurization process. Luckily for both types, these cheeses can sell well in different markets worldwide. However, for years there has been an ongoing disagreement between government agencies and local farmers in different states of the U.S. in regards to what is best for the overall public health.

(Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

Many of the Raw-milk manufacturers argue that dairy products should be consumed naturally, without any pasteurization. Local Raw-milk farmers and supporters highlight the important benefits of consuming Raw-milk, some of which may include the reduction of existing allergies and the disappearance of eczema. Consumers and retailers also believe that Raw-milk products are naturally healing and that the pasteurization process harms the milk’s delicate structure making it completely distorted and no longer nutritional.

In the Raw-milk community, many wonder how come the import of European cheeses continues, but local farms are being shut down. Continue reading

Some Stay, Others Go

29 Oct

(Photograph by Simona Trakiyska by Daoming Li)

Daoming Li said that since the first time he step-a-foot on the ground of United States he felt welcomed. But don’t be mistaken, that did not mean that he jumped over the barriers of cultural difficulties. As an outsider, such as many immigrants and international students he faced different challenges while getting used to, to the language, to the style of communication and to the cuisine. Often “the outsiders” have to leave their families behind.

Yes, this is the cost when one tries to pursue better life, carrier or education.

Being accepted at the University of Washington is the stepping-stone for Li. His decision to pursue double major in Communications and Political Science was for one particular reason, to go back to China and promote objective news reporting. Major difference between the education in China and America, Li says, is the way that the Social Sciences subjects are thought. Students in the U.S. are constantly encouraged to think independently and to develop their own voice, whereas in China this is not the case. Continue reading

The neighbor I never met before – Turkey

26 Oct

(At the bazaar. Photograph by S. Trakiyska)

I have wanted to travel to Istanbul for many years, and I finally decided to no longer postpone my voyage.  My curiosity about this city started as a teenager in my history class as we explored the mystery of Constantinople.

But I never went to visit, even though I grew up right next-door.

During my childhood years I heard many stories about people traveling to Turkey. Some traveled there for leisure, others for business. Everyone spoke about the Turkish bazaars.

(The bazaar. Photograph by S. Trakiyska)

Istanbul was an instant surprise.

The architecture of Istanbul is very unique, a mixture of styles, reflecting on the many cultural influences over the centuries. The sophisticated designs and the colorful mosaics provide a rare glimpse of the rich Ottoman cultural heritage. Seeing the spectacular monuments and viewing the breathtaking scenery over the city instantly made me regret my way-over-due arrival to this city.

I learned that just because something is close to you it doesn’t mean that you know it.

(Turkey at night. Photograph by S. Trakiyska)

A friend of mine Hilmi Calis, a Turkish native, said to me: “Istanbul is a city from which everyone leaves enriched.”

As I headed back to the airport, I reflected on a week that just went by filled with some great memories having explored Istanbul’s ancient history, tasted it the delicious food and experienced the hospitality of its people.

Be your own witness.

Portland offers global flair in cheap weekend getaway

25 Oct

For those bitten by an international travel bug but stuck with a modest budget, a weekend trip to Portland could be the cure.

Some may call it a city with a laid-back pace, but in reality Portland pushes its guests to be open to new adventures from savory Thai dishes to the Japanese Gardens.

The first pick for my group of friends was to have dinner at a Thai restaurant called Pok Pok, rated one of the top three places to dine on Yelp. However, the wait time was two hours, so we opted for our second choice, another Thai restaurant, called Khun Pic’s Bahn.

The entrance of the family-owned restaurant looked like a fairytale house. Once you step in you find yourself under an umbrella of leaves and branches and surrounded by small, colorful tables dotted with candlelight.

The husband, who waited the tables, welcomed us. I can honestly say it took longer than we expected, but it was definitely worth the wait. The food was mesmerizingly delicious and the service was outstanding.

The Rose Garden provides a breathtaking walk through an international display of flowers. Across the street, the Japanese Garden boasts the most authentic park outside of Japan. (Photo by Jon Biehler)

We haven’t made it to Thailand yet, but this place helped us get one step closer.

It didn’t take us much time to realize that in Portland everything is easily accessible. The locals are extremely friendly and the time just flies by.

The next day we spent some time exploring the neighborhoods and the local attractions, such as the breathtaking Rose Garden and neighboring Japanese Gardens.

Created in 1907, the Japanese Garden is known as the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Nested in the west forests of Portland, these two attractions alone are enough to satisfy any tourist’s curiosity about the hidden treasures of “The City of Roses.”

Later that day, a Peruvian restaurant, Andina, grabbed our attention and dinner reservations were made. Once you enter, the first thing you see is the busy kitchen, the first thing you hear is the live band and the first thing you smell are rich aromas flowing around the exquisitely decorated room.

Andina serves up genuine Peruvian fare from a double rack of lamb to marinated roasted pork. (Photo by Harold Hollingsworth via Flickr)

We arrived earlier, which I think was an incredibly important aspect of our dinner experience.

Taking time to observe the surroundings allowed us to adjust to the genuine Peruvian atmosphere. Once we were seated, I will admit, we ordered more than we could handle.

There is nothing more dangerous than the combination of delicious aroma, culinary perfection and hunger.

However, from the appetizers to the dessert, every single bite was worth it. In addition, this restaurant’s amazing presentation was topped by the work of the bartender, who was swiftly splashing Peruvian cocktails.

And yes, once again we felt one step closer to another unconquered destination on our checklist.

It was time to go back home. But before we left, we drove outside downtown, observing the unique architectures of Portland. The skyline reminded me a lot of the baroque style, from the home designs to the detailed columns of the bridges.

Driving by the sign “Leaving Portland” created, only after two days, a sense of nostalgia.

Even on the ride back to Seattle, we had a nice surprise when stopping for dinner. We found a place via Yelp called La Tarasca in Centralia, Wa.

The author, Simona Trakiyska, right, poses with Mercedes Zaragoza, who heads La Tarasca. This family-run restaurant is well worth planning for on a return trip from Portland to Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Simona Trakiyska)

The streets were lonely, the stores were closed and we didn’t see anyone. Once we arrived we realized that everyone was in the restaurant.

It was packed. People were waiting to be sited and no one seemed ready to leave. The entire family helps run the restaurant headed by Mercedes Zaragoza, the daughter of the owner Margarita Ayala.

La Tarasca, definitely caught us off guard. The Mexican cuisine in this restaurant is not your typical tacos and nachos.

The focus is more on the authentic taste from the west region of Mexico, Michoacan. Moist carrots and salsa replace the traditional tortilla chips. No burritos, but rather slowly cooked meats covered with richly flavored sauces.

The restaurant’s décor is unique, including framed newspaper articles, flags, the colorful chairs and traditional plating. You can feel the Mexican culture as it revolves around you while dining. Our experience there was warm and every customer seemed to be treated as part of one big family.

I have to admit, after my trip I felt ignorant to what’s right under my nose. As someone who travels thousands of miles away to experience cultures, I have learned a lesson.

You don’t have to fly for hours to experience the world; you just have to be aware of your surroundings, including neighboring cities. As world travelers and international Seattleites, we can find a lot of what we’re hungry for right here in the Pacific Northwest.

(The article was first published at the Common Language Project)

Simona Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.

“Bearing Witness from Another Place”

23 Oct

The audience was trilled to see the brilliant work of Sedat Pakay, a photographer, who presented rare shots of the author James Baldwin and representing his life in Turkey, Istanbul. The University of Washington and the Northwest African American Museum, NAAM, invited Pakay to share his work in Seattle in relation to the upcoming exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place” opening in Seattle October 24.

(Photograph by Sedat Pakay of James Baldwin in Turkey)

The event was held in the new HUB building, at the UW Seattle campus. Despite the pouring rain and the presidential debate airing at the same time, people showed up, eager to see Pakay’s art and to learn more about Baldwin’s life. Reşat Kasaba, the Director of the Jackson School of International Studies, welcomed the audience by providing a short bio about the guest speaker. Pakay then began his presentation with a short documentary film reflecting on Baldwin’s life in Turkey.

From the film and from Pakay’s explanation, the audience understood that Baldwin was a person who faced many challenges throughout his life. He was a black homosexual man forced to leave his American identity behind, because of racial segregation, escaping to Turkey, while searching self-realization as a writer. Pakay revealed how significant Turkey has been in his life, it was a place where he could work peacefully and concentrate on his writing. But Baldwin never chose Turkey but he was rather forced to leave America escaping the pressures of racial and sexual prejudices.

During the break, attendees for to talk to each other while having refreshments and snacks including: cheeses, crackers, fruits, juices and sweets.

Pakay’s photographs instantly grabbed the audiences’ attention, precisely reflecting on Baldwin’s life: his emotions, his expressions and his fears. He portrayed the author’s image, the intellectual with all of his complexities, on a professional and personal level. Instead of letting the slide show roll by, Pakay narrated the images, highlighting on the importance of each one. Some of the photographs were provocative  – challenging many misconceptions one might have about race.

During the presentation, Pakay expressed how important it was for him to photograph Baldwin on a background very different from his personal one. He also expressed how happy he was to be able to document the truths surrounding this African-American homosexual friend.

Pakay also recalled a conversation in which Baldwin has expressed himself stating that: “The American men are just too paranoid on the subject of homosexuality.”

The audience asked many additional questions and the meeting continued the full two hours.

(Sedat Pakay left, Reşat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

(Sedat Pakay left, Resat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

On a personal note, I found the photographs to be very meaningful, reflecting the truth of Baldwin’s life. America in the 1960s was a place of prejudice and discrimination, against homosexuals, particularly against those of African American descent and his escape seemed necessary in order to protect himself. I think it is important to see that Turkey was the place where he pursued his life happily, beyond the constant racial challenges he was faced with in America.

This meeting was very beneficial because the audience asked personal questions, which only Pakay would have known the answers to, since Baldwin was a very close friend of his. Sedat Pakay was able to introduce us with the new understanding of escape, the re-establishment of yourself in a different cultural space, where society is more receptive to your sexual and professional preferences.

“The lecture/slide-show was in conjunction with the NAAM exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey,” which will be held in Seattle, Oct. 20, 2012-Sept. 29, 2013.”

SimonaS. Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.

A Seattle Photographer reaches out to represent the rest of the world

21 Oct

Bryan Kopp is a self-thought photographer who is a questioner and traveler at heart. His curiosity has helped him to develop a strong passion for the unknown, particularity speaking about the mystery “of the other.” Kopp was forced to think “outside the box,” while trying to figure out different ways through which he could represent the unique layers to one’s identity, from the ethnic to the cultural aspect. And so, he used what he knew best, his camera.


 (Photograph by Anna Goren of Bryan Kopp)

This is when his project “Survey of the world” was born. Today his project serves as a tool, through which he is able to collect different multicultural images, representing personal views and identities, while reflecting on the specific characterization of those geographical places. Kopp believes that interpreting these multicultural perspectives is incredibly important, because it broadens the outsider’s point of view about the surrounding world.

When I asked Bryan what differentiates him from other photographers, he answered: “I don’t know exactly what differentiates me from others, but what I do know is that I always try to create a space where people can simply be themselves, I listen to the unique truths of each subject and then I reveal the authentic quality of each one, which can be frequently overlooked.”

(Photograph by Bryan Kopp, Rwanda)

Kopp’s travel experiences have thought him that he is not only the messenger, but he is also the representative of American culture around the world. He understands, that many people in other parts of the world view Americans as “fat” and “ignorant,” the typical stereotype, but he challenges that singular assumption. He engages in global conversation, he spreads awareness and he builds strong multicultural relationships. Kopp represents through his work the distinctive differences between continents. The “project” has broadened his awareness and deepened his consciousness. Photography has become his primary means for connecting with people, anyone and everyone. He has found that sharing/exploring a different perspective is the best way to actively cultivate more respect and understanding of the world. Through his work, of still images, Kopp challenges a variety of viewers and their assumptions of the world. His work represents, class, race, gender and emotion, through which we connect, understanding the value of acceptance. He represents minorities. He delivers these truths to us, now it’s our time to think outside the box.

(Photograph by Bryan Kopp, Kenya)

Kopp has already traveled and photographed people from many countries, such as: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, U.K. and U.S. “Survey of the world” is an ongoing project and he hopes to be able to complete it in about 3-4 years. In the meantime, he will continue to explore the world…

His ardor for photography allowed him to represent “the other,” what is your way?

SimonaS. Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.

On the ground of “the other,” I tasted home

14 Oct

( Morocco, Marrakech)

This happened almost two years ago, when an unplanned and sudden journey filled the dates on my travel calendar. I had less than a month to prepare for a trip that was going to last over forty days. One of the countries that I was going to visit was located in the North African part of the world, Morocco. I was fairly knowledgeable about this geographical region and I knew quite a bit about the practiced religion, the architectural design patterns and the customs, but what I didn’t know was some fundamental knowledge of the Moroccan and Berber cuisine, which I was ready to explore. Continue reading