Vicky Collins Online

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I Support Kony2012

Joseph Kony is infamous for his atrocities and crimes against humanity in Uganda and neighboring countries and now the group Invisible Children is trying to make him famous.  Kony is one of the most sought after war criminals and the hope is by bringing attention to him the whole world will engage and finally hunt him down and let justice be served.  His Kony’s Lords Resistance Army brutalized the people of Northern Uganda for 25 years, abducting children and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.  An entire region and generation were brutalized and broken.  Now Kony has fled from Uganda and has escaped into the Congo.  He continues his senseless killing and the U.S. has even sent troops to help Uganda’s military track him down.  A couple of years ago we met some of the child soldiers who had escaped and were being prepared to return home at Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  Their stories are painful but they are also hopeful. Here is the video we produced for HDNet World Report:

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Blaine Harrington’s Photo Exhibit

My friend, Blaine Harrington, is one of the most accomplished travel photographers in the world. He will be the featured photographer in an exhibit called “Unifying the World through Color” at the Denver Photo Art Gallery (for those of you in Denver it is John Fielder’s gallery at 833 Santa Fe Drive) starting on Friday, January 7 and running through Wednesday, March 2. This is just one small sample of his beautiful work. He will display photographs from his travels through Burma, Bhutan, Fiji, India, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand and the United States. Here is a photograph from Rajasthan in India with an explanation of how he got the shot.

Blaine Harrington's Rajasthan Woman

Blaine Harrington: One of my favorite things to do while traveling around the world is to watch people moving in their environment, going about their daily routine. Even better is watching women walking in India, wearing saris that are every color of the rainbow. I loved the motif of the wall in this scene and so waited for a woman in the right color sari to walk through. The bright red of this woman’s sari complemented perfectly the colors the floral background. As she walked the woman held a huge broom in front of her face to shield herself from the sun. The broom added just the right amount of mystery and made the photo less about her face or more about the shapes and colors of the scene.

Every year he invites me and many others to help him pick his portfolio for the Society of American Travel Writers competition. The pictures are stunning. If you love to travel, take photographs or just want to see artistry with light and color I highly recommend this exhibit. Blaine is a huge inspiration as I work on my photography. He has many more images from all over the world on his website. To see more of Blaine Harrington’s travel photography visit http://blaineharrington.com.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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BBC: The Joy of Stats

What a clever way to make complicated and essential statistics user friendly. The BBC hit it out of the park with this program. For anyone interested in global poverty and the inequities between the haves and the have nots, Hans Rosling’s demonstration is must see TV.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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A Westerner Ponders Arranged Marriage

One of the most interesting things I read in the newspaper while in Delhi was the matrimonials in the Sunday Times of India.  The section consisted of page after page of personal classifieds by families unapologetically seeking the perfect made to order husband or wife for children whose time has come to make a love connection. Some of the ads were very specific.  They spelled out criteria of caste, looks, religion, region and education.  Some ads were placed by families that spent a fortune sending children to the finest colleges and universities in India and abroad.  On the market were Drs., MBAs, and Ph.Ds who studied in prestigious schools in the U.S.A. and U.K. and now were ready for a mate.  Some families who were shopping for love were less particular.  Caste no bar meant that a boy or girl would marry outside of the caste.  In several ads families were requesting “homely” girls.  “Why would anyone want a homely girl?” I asked.  “In America a homely girl is plain and unattractive.”  “No,” my friends informed me.  “A homely girl is one who wants to stay at home.  Not a career woman.”  Do people really meet their soul mates through these ads or is it just families marrying other families, putting medieval rituals ahead of the happiness of their children?  “It is a tradition,” a young man I met in Jodphur told me.  “Those are for people who are desperate,” one of my colleagues said.

Finding a mate in India is definitely a family affair and most marriages are still arranged.  It is easy to impose our western values on India and decry this practice, but India is a country where family comes first and that means who children spend their lives with seems to be everybody’s business.  So in a country with 1.2 billion people it might just be more practical to launch a marketing campaign, especially when you consider the drama involved when young people try to find Mr. or Mrs. Right or Singh or Patel themselves.  Names are not included here to protect the innocent.  Some of the people I spoke with are hiding things from their parents (and as I’ve found out people actually do find and read blogs.)

A young army captain I met on a train told me how he found his wife escorting a friend’s sister home on a bus from the south of India.  They fell in love and wanted to wed but her parents refused to have her marry a man in the military.  Mind you this was a charming, intelligent, handsome man who wrote poetry, for goodness sakes.  He decided to send her father letters every day to prove he was worthy.  Dad finally brought the case before the entire extended family (and it was a very large one) and the council of in-laws gave their consent.

Another couple I know went through alot of drama with parents as they tried to marry.  He pursued her for many months and could not get her off his mind.  She took a great deal of convincing and played very hard to get.  At one point he told his parents it was over.  When she popped up again in his life his parents refused to even consider her.  They eventually married but I am told there was tension at the wedding and there still is a cloud over their union today, mostly because they broke tradition by moving into her families house after the marriage rather than moving into his families house.  Parents have a say in this too, it seems.

As we walked through the old city of Jaisalmer, a man I met told me about the love of his life who got away.  She was a woman from California who was there for three years doing social work.  They lived together and he wanted to marry her.  His parents refused and when he honored their wishes, she left.  That was six years ago and he has lost track of her now, but still longs for the relationship.  He is unhappy in his arranged marriage.  He says his wife is very selfish and treats his children badly.  They are now separated.  He asked me “Do you think I made a mistake, giving her up for my family, or should I have given up my family for her?”  I told him I thought he would have had regrets either way.

My Muslim rickshaw driver in Jaipur told me that he was dating a Hindu woman for a couple of years.  They were having a great time and his family didn’t mind at all.  But her family did so mom and dad forced them to break it off.  He says he doesn’t care what faith someone is.  All people are the same and as long as they treat each other well and make each other happy nothing else should matter, but obviously her parents did not agree.

A colleague of mine has been dating a young man for six years and intends to marry him but her parents don’t even know him because they will not approve.  When a family friend told her parents he noticed her with this boy at a bus stop a few years back they tightened the screws.  Another colleague’s parents seldom let her out of the house alone after about 8:30 p.m. in the evening making it nearly impossible for this 19 year old to have a relationship.

Western women would certainly never put up with all this meddling from parents, but the good news is even as fundamental traditions have stayed the same, the practice has evolved and women say arranged marriage can work.  A young mother and IT professional I met on the train back from Jaipur to Delhi was telling me her marriage was arranged.  Her parents placed an advertisement in the matrimonial section of the Times of India and that’s how she met her husband.  But instead of being passive in the process she was highly involved and could have walked away from the arrangement at any time.  Her husband could have walked away too.  They didn’t, and after a brief courtship, she is now happily married and living with her husband and first born child in the United States.  Arranged marriages are still the way most people hook up in India (even the Prince, grandson of the Maharajah of Jodphur, will have an arranged marriage when he weds.) Matrimonial websites like http://bharatmatrimony.com and http://shaadi.com are booming, but in this day and age, more young people are asserting themselves in their love life, especially those who are educated and don’t need to settle for less.

If someone hasn’t already thought of this, I think a great idea for a Bollywood musical would be an Indian adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  If you recall Reb Tevye had three daughters and as each one chose a husband they made choices that made their father progressively more uncomfortable.  Each daughter followed her heart and Tevye had to adapt.  I think that really sums up what’s going on in India today as many young people work around their parents or at the very least, alongside them to find partners.  Of course, arranged marriages can turn out badly.  If the wrong partners are found people can be miserable or abused.  That happens when we self select our partners too.  Still, choosing a spouse continues to be a family affair in India and for what it’s worth maybe having mom and dad involved can be helpful.  Maybe working backwards, marriage then love, can be possible.  Just look at the statistics.  Although divorce is starting to be a bit more prevalent among the upper classes of India, on the list of countries with the highest rates of failed marriages (America is #1) India isn’t even on the radar.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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We are the World (Cup)

Sad to see the United States go down to Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup but also glad to see Africa still in the game. The energy in the streets of Kampala was amazing while we were there. People would crowd outside of bars and stare through the windows of stores to watch the tiny televisions tuned in to the games. I’m sure they’re proud to have a team still in the hunt. This song was playing during every commercial break in Uganda’s World Cup coverage. It featured a little animated African boy drinking Coca-Cola. I like the full length celebration mix. A rousing anthem to keep me in the spirit even if the trophy is not for America (this year.) Love how the world can put aside its differences and come together for soccer. Thanks K’Naan for the rousing anthem.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Favorite Friends I’ve Never Met

Several of my friends and even my family think social networking is a waste of time.  They won’t Facebook, Twitter or read blogs and can’t really understand what I get from it.  I’ve found the most vehement opposition from my tango dancing mother and my friends who are cyclists.  These are not ladies who exercise casually, but rather women who compete on the dance floor, do 100 mile bike rides in the Rockies and think it’s fun to race up Mt. Diablo in Northern California.  Their buff bodies speak to their passion.  My flying fingers speak to mine.  They are my bricks and mortar relationships.  But because of social networking I have a new circle of virtual friends who I enjoy and respect, even though we have never met or for that matter, may never meet. 

First there is Susan MacCaulay.  She is a Canadian living in Dubai.  I stumbled across her website Amazing Women Rock (http://amazingwomenrock.com) when it was quite new.  What seems to have started out as a place to go for moderate Muslim women has morphed into something much larger and universal.  She is a champion of women around the world and has a large following now.  The first thing you notice about her is her passion for pink, her platinum blonde hair and her trendy get ups.  On one occasion she turned the camera on herself in a Riyadh hotel room and talked about how strange it was being a woman on a road trip to Saudi Arabia.  Then she posted it on YouTube and endured the threats from those who felt they were disrespected.  She has an elderly and opinionated mother who she adores somewhere back in Canada who reminds me of David Lettermen’s mom.  I am such a fan of hers I even contemplated a trip to Africa through Dubai just so I could meet her.  She hollers about injustice towards women and celebrates their achievements.  Susan rocks! 

Second is Dr. Qanta Ahmed.  She is a striking British national whose family came from Pakistan.  What’s interesting about virtual friendships is you often forget what brought you into someone’s universe.  I think I crossed her path doing research on a story for HDNet’s World Report but I’m not sure.  She had written an article about her transformative relationship with a rabbi who made her fall in love with Judaism while she lived in Charleston, South Carolina.  The irony came at the end when you found out she was a Muslim.  She is one of the most articulate voices for connection between people of all faiths.  She told me about her book “In The Land of Invisible Women.”  I ran out to buy it.  She wrote about the time when she couldn’t renew her visa in the United States and had to leave the country even though she was a doctor practicing medicine.  She moved for two years to Saudi Arabia and tells the story of the culture shock for a professional woman under the kingdom’s repressive laws.  Even so, she had a remarkable journey, had great stories about Riyadh and the Hajj, and got in touch with her Muslim faith.  I was stunned by her writing ability.  She has an amazing eye for detail and there was an extraordinary richness in her voice.  I still don’t know how she finds time to practice medicine with so much social networking.       

Third is my filmmaking friend, Zippy (is that the greatest name or what?) Nyaruri.  I met her via email when I needed a fixer for a story on the monetization of food aid in Kenya.  A fixer is a producer on the ground in a foreign country who helps set up a story and takes care of arrangements.  Without a fixer it is next to impossible to handle all the logistics and relationships.  Our story fell through but we have kept in touch through Facebook.  Through Zippy I see Africa.  When I first was introduced to her she was bouncing back and forth between Kampala and Nairobi.  Now she lives in Capetown, South Africa and recently she posted pictures of herself in Namibia.  She is developing a documentary about one of the few women truck drivers in Africa.  She introduced us to a fellow filmmaker named Godwin Opuly who runs sound and second camera for us when we are doing video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  Even though I have never met Zippy, when I considered visiting Capetown for the FIFA World Cup, she invited me to stay in her home.

Fourth is Caroline Jones.  She actually found me when she saw a story I produced about an acid attack victim called Juliette.  She was so moved she asked if she could use a photograph of her as the foundation for a painting.  Caroline’s ambition is to help others through art.  Her inspirations are women facing obstacles and the book “Half the Sky” by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  Caroline has created a body of work she calls Nguvu http://nguvu.artworkfolio.com.  Nguvu means strength in Swahili and her exhibit is this August in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She will donate 50% of the sale from each work to the organization selected by the photographer.  She also builds boats, has a daughter and is a vegan who blogs about tasty recipes for other vegans.  That’s all I know about her.

Finally there is Karen Daniel.  She is a freelance television producer just like me who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She’s loves NASCAR and drives a truck.  She idolizes Dolly Parton and Linda Ellerbee.  She is the kind of person that you recommend even if you don’t know them because you know she gets it.  She’s been described as fearless and like me she wished she moved to New York City right out of college.  She has grey hair and the last time we chatted I told her that models dye their hair grey now.  It’s the new hip thing.  We also have a mutual acquaintance.  I met Ashton Ramsey trying to book Neil Wanless for the Today Show.  He’s the impoverished young cowboy who won a 200+ million dollar lottery in Winner, South Dakota.  Talk about a small world.  Both Ashton and I know Karen Daniel.  Once again, I can’t recall how it came up but imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a small town bar and we both know my virtual friend.

Of course my virtual friendships aren’t anything like the ones I have with those who I grew up with, break bread with, go to book club with, and take Sunday walks with.  Those are the lasting friendships of my life.  But my virtual friendships are enriching my life and broadening my circle and I’m learning and pondering things that I never would have considered if I weren’t running across these amazing women around the world.  My college friend, Margaret Hoeveler’s mother, Griff, used to say at the end of the day you can count your true friends on one hand.  I think that’s wise but I also have a circle of special social networking friends I can count on one hand and they assure me the energy I spend doing this is not a waste of time.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Oh Canada

Walking down Granville Street in Vancouver tonight I saw something you hardly ever see  in the United States.  Twenty something girls playfully singing and strutting to their national anthem.  They were on the crosswalk and at the top of their lungs they were singing “Oh, Canada, our home and native land…”  Of course patriotism and spirit are running high at the Olympics but the Canadians also have a very singable anthem with an extremely catchy melody.  So catchy in fact, that John Furlong, the head of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, chose the English lyrics “With Glowing Hearts” and “Des plus brillants exploits” from the French version as trademarked slogans for the 2010 Olympics.  On the other hand, our Star Spangled Banner, composed when Francis Scott Key was watching the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, is set to the tune of a British drinking song and at one and a half octaves is more difficult to get right.  We sing it with all due respect at sporting events but always wonder if the vocalist will get through it without becoming pitchy or butchering it with some bizarre rendition.  The Canadian anthem, on the other hand, rolls off the tongue especially if you’re 20 something and maybe have had a couple drinks.  Purists thought young Nicky Yanofsky, who sang it at the Opening Ceremony, took too many liberties with the melody but I think it’s pretty no matter how you sing it.  So when Americans aren’t on the podium and Canadians are, you might be tempted to sing along.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Africans on Obama

NOTE: THIS IS A REPRINT OF A BLOG FROM 11/27/2008 FOLLOWING BARACK OBAMA’S ELECTION.  IT STILL RINGS TRUE AS HE PAYS HIS FIRST POST-PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO ACCRA, GHANA IN WEST AFRICA WITH FIRST LADY MICHELLE AND DAUGHTERS SASHA AND MALIA OBAMA.

Our Ugandan driver picked us up from the airport in Entebbe on November 9.  We were barely down the road before he asked us who we voted for in the election.  He wanted to talk about Barack Obama.  He wanted to tell us about the parties all over Kampala on the night Obama was elected.  They were still going on days after the election to celebrate the achievement of this native son and brother.

As soon as people in Kampala learned we were Americans they wanted to engage in a discussion about our President-Elect.  In the slums a man we met pumped the air with his fist and called out “Obama.”  We asked him what his thoughts were about him.  “He is African.  He is my brother.”  In mom’s arms nearby was a baby named Obama, a very popular name for African children right now.  People wore Obama buttons, Obama t-shirts, Obama on their sleeves. 

A video called “The Biography of Barack Obama” was on the market and news headlines screamed of his victory and how he would end poverty in Uganda and make this African nation the number one priority of his administration.  There was even a newspaper column with 50 fun facts about Obama including the food he likes to eat, the television shows he enjoys and the fact that he failed to fulfill his promise to Michelle and give up smoking.  People were so giddy that one worried they would be disappointed by the crush of expectations on this man who many viewed as a savior.

Others were a little more thoughtful in their assessments.  Mr. Kayondo looked forward to a man who hopefully would dialogue and help end wars.  Damien, a Nigerian professor who now teaches at a university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said his triumph meant that Africans and African Americans for that matter could no longer make excuses and act as though they are limited by white society.  Joseph and a young woman we met at an African market just said “let’s wait and see.”

For all the excitement this Presidency has brought to America, there is an equal amount of enthusiasm in east African nations like Uganda and Kenya.  In those countries, they slog along with leaders who are corrupt and siphon off money for themselves instead of fixing roads and fighting poverty.  But for now attention has turned to Barack Obama.  He may be the next President of the United States but he is their President too.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com