by Ambica Bassant Contributing

Nov. 8, 2007

Guyana Back To My Roots
ing their goods to be sold. The current exchange rate in Guyana is a 198 to 200 Guyana dollars for one American dollar. When I calculated the cost of things with the exchange rate I realized how cheap it was. We had to be careful though because native Guyanese people have a way of differentiating tourists from locals and don’t hesitate to over charge for things. On a different day my sister and I went fishing with our cousin. Our destination was a small river behind the village. My cousin took a cast net, which is a round net gathered in the middle with a rope. Around the end of the net are cylindrical lead pieces used as weights to guarantee shape and accuracy when throwing the net. After fishing we cooled ourselves down with some water coconuts from the “backdam.” The forest or “backdam” as its called is filled with all sorts of flora and fauna. There are sheep and goats, cows, horses, and many different types of birds. Thankfully, we saw no snakes. Meal times in Guyana amazed me because every meal is cooked from scratch. Every morning we ate hot roti, which is bread, and whatever vegetable was picked that morning or bought the past day. Our lunch and dinner included different meats like chicken, duck, sheep and seafood. The Chinese style restaurants nearby provided an alternative to home cooking. It was very sad as our time in Guyana drew to a close. Maybe in another year or so I’ll be able to see my family again. I miss my family, the food, the coconut trees, the great parties, the simplicity, and the easy pace of the countryside. Guyana proved to be an ideal vacation for me because I left life in N.Y., submersed myself in a place foreign to me, and focused on different things for awhile. But as the plane ascended from Georgetown and headed back to New York I was happy to go back home.

The Knight News

owards the end of my summer classes a family trip was planned to visit the motherland. I was excited and anxious and before I knew it the weeks flew by and it was time to head on home to Guyana. At JFK, to much annoyance, our flight was delayed. Fast forward many hours and I watched the skyline of Manhattan and the twinkling lights of Queens disappear from my view. As the


After fishing we cooled ourselves down with some water coconuts from the “backdam.”
plane began to descend into Guyana, I eagerly pressed my face to the window and watched the color of the water turn from a medium blue to a clay-like color, an opaque brown that you couldn’t see through. I saw long winding roads connecting small villages through the lush, green landscape as the plane landed into the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. It’s modestly sized and could easily fit into a single wing of JFK. Guyana possesses a beauty that is multi-faceted and reflected everywhere. This became more evident as we began our trip from Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana, to the rural Berbice. Initially, I experienced something akin to culture shock. The architecture of the buildings and houses, the trees, the flow of the land, the way the people spoke and dressed, even the smell of the air was different. In the city, the houses are usually three bedrooms and up, it is all concrete and painted in vivid shades of blue, white, pink and red. We reached the Stelling ferry station two hours later to cross the Berbice River. Surprisingly it was the same ferry I had crossed on many school trips as a child. It was probably the size of the ferry you would take to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. It was old and rusty and there was even a man performing for money on the boat. The river we crossed

TOP My cousin throwing a cast net. BOTTOM LEFT A stall in Skeldon Marketplace. BOTTOM RIGHT My sister riding a bike in the backstreets.

All Photos taken by Ambica Bassant

was a sandy brown color and it took about 20 minutes. We finally reached rural Berbice where a lot of people are farmers and fishers. There are also many businesses. People own shops and work in Georgetown or other towns like Rose Hall, Skeldon, and New Amste dam. Berbice is different than Georgetown because of the houses and the way the land is settled. In the country, there is one long road that winds its way through villages that are numerically ordered. The houses are big but not like the ostentatiously large ones we saw in the city. Surprisingly,

the drivers in Berbice aren’t angry and don’t possess the road rage I see in NYC. Honking is just a way to let the car in front of you know you are going to overtake them. Honking also scares the animals on the road so the move aside and the car can pass. Our aunt lived about five minutes from the main road. Her house is typically Berbicean. In the front of the house on the second story is a balcony or veranda and the walls are made of decorative, concrete tiles. There is a long staircase on the outside of the house that granted entry to the second floor. The kitchen

LEFT The Berbice River and its ferry. RIGHT A herd of cows in the street.

is large and on the ground floor. Her house used to be on stilts to protect it from flooding. My first night in Guyana was a scary one. It got dark around 6:30 p.m. and because there were no streetlights, the darkness seemed to be a palpable thing. The time we went was around the end of the rainy season so there were mosquitoes everywhere. It was also very warm, probably around 75 to 80 degrees at night. During the day that temperature rose above ninety degrees. One day we went to Skeldon marketplace. Skeldon is a town that’s quickly growing and becoming more technologically advanced. You will find Internet cafes and places to call internationally. There are also restaurants, clothing stores, hardware stores, and street lights. Skeldon marketplace is about the size of a Costco. It is dimly lit and filled with many rows of stalls. There is a produce section, a grocery section, pharmacies, clothes, meat, fish etc. Walking through the marketplace I could hear the loud voices of the vendors hawk-


Nov. 8, 2007

The Knight News

Geographic Illiteracy
Scary results from National Geographic survey done on the global knowledge of young Americans, ages 18 to 24. by Catherine Stolfi
Travel Editor

Some results from the National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy, 2006, taken on 18- to 24- year-old Americans. recent Geography literacy survey taken of Americans ages 18 to 24 revealed that many young people are unaware of the world around them. The United States is a super power in the world, yet its people are out of tune with how we function within it. The survey, titled the National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy, was conducted between December 17, 2005 and January 20, 2006: the last was done in 2002. Geographic Literacy, according to National Geographic, means more than naming the capitals of the 50 states. It focuses on if America’s youth understands how people and places interact, where things come from, and where we’re going as a country. Geographic literacy is more about global connections, people and cultures, and economics and environments. How did the nation’s youth do exactly? Young Americans answered about half (54 percent) of all the questions correctly. The specific results of this survey are even more staggering. 63 percent cannot find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, despite almost-constant news coverage since the U.S. invasion of March 2003. 75 percent cannot find Indonesia on a map: this is discouraging as images of the tsunami and the damage it caused to this region of the world played on television screens and were on the covers of newspapers over many months in 2005. 75 percent also do not know that a majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world. 74 percent believe English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world, rather than Mandarin

Photo courtesy of


Chinese. And although 73 percent know the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of oil, nearly as many as 71 percent do not know the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of goods and services (50 percent think it’s China.) 88 percent cannot find Afghanistan on a map of Asia. 54 percent do not know that Sudan is in Africa, while 40 percent couldn’t place Rwanda there either. In fact, 20 percent place Sudan in Asia and 10 percent put it in Europe. 70 percent cannot find North Korea on a map, and 63 percent do not know its border with South Ko-

California and Texas. 67 percent can find Louisiana on a U.S. map and 52 percent can find Mississippi, leaving a third or more who cannot find these states in spite of months of intensive media coverage of the 2005 hurricanes and their aftermath. An explanation for these numbers could be the fact that these young adults are not experiencing different cultures outside the US through travel. 74 percent have traveled to another state in the past year, but 70 percent have not traveled abroad at all in the past three years. Also,

short of even the most basic skills for navigating the international economy or understanding the relationships among people and places that provide an important context for world events. What do they mean to you? Well, were any of the facts presented here

“75% cannot find Indonesia on a world map.”
something you did not know? If so, you are not alone. There are many way for us to improve our knowledge of the world though. National Geographic Education Foundation is trying to use these results to reach out to our young people and figure out ways to help them in their awareness of the globe and their place within it. According to the national geographic survey, “Going online to get news is correlated with more geographic know-how.” Internet usage among 18- to 24-year-olds is higher now than in the 2002 poll going up from 60 percent to 80 percent, and more than twice as many now turn to the Internet for news about current events around the world (27 percent, up from 11 percent). They also said that using online news is correlated with better performance even among better-educated people. Among people with at least some college education, 40 percent use the Internet to access news from around the world versus 14 percent of those with only a high school education. The college educated that read online news scored a better average score than those that didn’t. Some great sights for news are and for world

Photo courtesy of

rea is the most heavily fortified in the world. Perhaps, most disturbing of all, are the results for American’s knowledge of their own country: 43 percent can’t identify the state of Ohio on a map, and 50 percent can’t find New York, even though it is the third most populous state in the union, after

62 percent cannot speak a second language fluently. What do all these numbers mean? They suggest that young people in the United States, including the most recent graduates of our educational system, are unprepared for an increasingly global future. Far too many are

news. Also, according to the survey, “Young adults who own at least one map other than a street map tend to perform significantly better overall on this survey than those who do not.” Most young Americans say map reading is an important skill to have. 51 percent of 18- to 24- year-olds say the ability to read a map is absolutely necessary in today’s world, up from 43 percent in 2002. Yet, many still do poorly on this survey. Perhaps it’s because 38 percent of those surveyed have a US map while fewer than 19 percent have a world map. Great maps to own include, Unique Media Maps, which place major landmarks in their respected places, and any world map with different facts such as country’s populations. Also, try the popular Google Earth, which combines maps with satellite imagery, for a fun way to interact with your world through a virtual globe. It can be downloaded for free at National Geographic and leading education, business, and nonprofit partners have launched My Wonderful World, a campaign to increase global learning in school, at home, and in the community. Get tips and ideas for exploring the world, ways to test your Global IQ, and information on this program at For more information on this survey, you can visit National geographic also provides a way to test your own geography literacy through their site. Without proper geography skills, we are unprepared for an ever increasingly global future. Today’s youth need to know geography in order to understand

The Knight News

Nov. 8, 2007

by Catherine Stolfi Travel Editor

NASA Won’t Divulge Air Safety Survey Results
The AP had attempted to obtain the data from the survey through the U.S. Freedom of Information Acxt over a 14-month period. The official name of the survey is the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service and NASA had taken the survey telephone interviews of about 24,000 general and commercial pilots. The survey, according to a senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, keeps all airlines and pilot names anonymous, but that the, “Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safetyonly are our tax dollars paying for this governmentally backed project, but the public has to wonder what the exact results of the survey are that NASA feels it better to not release the information at all. NASA said nothing it discovered in the survey warranted notifying the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) immediately. According to the person familiar with the survey, its data even showed improvements in some areas. However, according to the anonymous that spoke to AP, there are at least twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government systems show. Also, there was a higher-than-expected number of pilots who experienced potentially dangerous, last-minute altering of landing plans. According to documents obtained by the AP, Pilot interviews lasted about 30 minutes, with questions about how frequently they encountered equipment problems, smoke or fire, engine failure, passenger disturbances, severe turbulence, collisions with birds or poor tower communication. Pilots were also asked about last-minute changes in landing instructions, flying too close to other planes, near collisions with ground vehicles or buildings, overweight takeoffs or how many times pilots left the cockpit. The FAA was briefed from time to time during the government survey. At a briefing in April 2003, FAA officials expressed concerns about the high numbers of incidents being described by pilots because the NASA results were different from what the FAA was getting from its own systems. Officials involved in the NASA survey said they received an unusually high response rate of 80 percent among pilots because the normal reporting systems rely on pilots to only voluntarily report incidents. How safe is all this supposed to make the general flying public feel? Now, on top of the information released by AP and statements made by NASA and the FAA, NASA has directed its contractor, Battelle Memorial Institute, along with subcontractors, to return any project information and then remove it from their computers before Oct. 30th of this year, making their information even more restricted. For students that fly, this isn’t the best of news, yet in the U.S. crashes have dropped 65 percent, with a rate of about 1 fatality in about 4.5 million departures. We all know that flying always comes with a slight risk but NASA should be informed that, to the public, no news isn’t always good news.

ASA is withholding the results of a recent national scientific survey on airline pilots from the public about air safety issues such as the frequency of in air near collisions and tower communication problems. The AP Alternative Press had obtained


Photo courtesy of

this information from a person close to the survey that chose to remain anonymous, and the governmentally owned NASA has responded promptly claiming that there is no real danger just that the results may defer the publics confidence in their airlines and future flights.

over a 4-year period, ending in 2005. The survey’s purpose was to develop a new way of tracking safety problems the airline industry could address. The project was stopped when NASA cut its budget as interest shifted to space exploration projects. It was an $8.5 million project with

related, could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey.” This, “You can’t handle the truth” attempt by NASA seems to do more damage than good. Not

Ikaria, Greece An island off the Aegean Sea home to
ancient landmarks, cultural festivals, sandy beaches and dark red wine.

by Markos Papadatos P.R. Manager
karia is one of the largest Greek islands located on the southern tip of the Aegean Sea, southwest of another famous Greek island, Samos. It is home to approximately seven thousand locals. The name of the island was derived from a figure in Greek mythology, “Icarus,” a character who was the son of Daedalus and was given wings from his father to fly, but was advised not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus, however, felt invincible with flying and did not listen to his father’s advice. He fell into a sea nearby since the sun’s rays burned his wings. The sea where he fell is known as the “Ikario Pelagos.” In addition to the legend of Icarus and its relatively large size, the island is also known for its dark red wine due to the fact that Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, was tied with the island and especially its thermal springs. The hot mineral springs of Ikaria, located in the spa town of Therma, have been very valuable


since the 13th century BC since they were known to heal illnesses such as arthritis, female infertility, gout, dermatological ailments, breathing irregularities as well as chronic rheumatism. Presently, these springs are surrounded by modern facilities ideal for healing and family vacations. To this day, the springs of Ikaria are the most radioactive in Europe. According to John Kalambogias, a Queens College student whose family comes from Ikaria, “the island [throughout time] has been used as a place for exile, especially under the military Junta, where thousands of communists were exiled there.” Additionally, he says that although the island is very large, everybody knows each other in the island either from acquaintances or from distant family relationships. Landmarks of the island include the ancient temple of Artemis at Nas, which was built during the 6th Century BC in honor of Artemis the goddess of hunting, the statue of Icarus at Agios Kyrikos, and multifarious beautifully constructed ancient

churches. Ikaria is famous for its many feasts and festivals, which take place twenty to twenty-five times a year, where guests are invited to participate in their culture. The locals pay respect to their timeless tradition, while simultaneously maintaining their customs. In return, the townspeople reward the guests for their kindPhoto courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

ness and decorum. Although the landscape of the island is rugged, the villages maintain their traditional values and a plethora of sandy beaches are found in Ikaria. Ikaria is an

ideal destination for any summer vacation. It gives the visitor an authentic taste of “old world” Greece. Recently, it has been much easier to arrive to Ikaria thanks to the development of a

new harbor at Agios Kirikos, the capital of the island, as well as an airport link to Athens, which have opened up the island to visitors and tourists over the past few years. Queens College junior John Kalambogias states, “Ikaria is a very mellow place, where the people live a very relaxed life, unlike the fast-paced life of New York.” He further states that “life in Ikaria is very slow-paced and it would take twenty minutes to get a cup of coffee at a local cafe, but the townspeople’s hospitality and the solace of the island more than make up for one’s waiting time.”