Monday, March 27, 2006

Are you gullier than this man?


Nicholas Kristof has a contest going on the NY Times to win a trip with him for an all-expenses paid, cocaine-snorting, binge drinking, prostitute purchasing romp to Bangkok.

Or not. Although he actually bought a prostitute before.

Being that this is Nicholas Kristoff, he will actually be taking you to a developing country somewhere in the third, or even fourth world, but nothing insane like Sudan or Falluja. The NY Times lawyers don't want to mail your body home or have your corpse on Page A1 of the Sunday paper.

His theory is that American college students are isolated from world (even the Juicy Couture sorority girls?) and should truly immerse themselves in other cultures in order to better understand this planet we inhabit.

Maybe seeing life outside of the gated fantasy bubble that most tourists travel in would allow people to understand that things like buying terrorist insurance and finding skulls are everyday life to many.

You don't get much to travel with so the exposure and company are really your prize.

From his letter -

I’m looking for a masochist. If your dream trip doesn’t involve a five-star hotel in Rome or Bora-Bora, but a bedbug-infested mattress in a malarial jungle as hungry jackals yelp outside – or if you know of an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend whom you would like to suggest for such a trip – then read on.

Over the next month, I’ll be holding a contest to find a university student or two to accompany me on a reporting trip to the developing world. I’m not sure where yet, and that will depend partly on what’s in the news at the time. But to give you a sense of the kind of travel I’m thinking of, the possibilities include a jaunt through rural Burundi and Rwanda in central Africa, or an odyssey from the coast of Cameroon inland to the heart of the Central African Republic.

Don’t expect comfort so much as diarrhea. We’ll be on the go from dawn to late at night every day, interviewing anybody from peasants to presidents (usually the peasants are more interesting). We might visit a clinic, an AIDS program, a school, a factory.

And you won’t just be watching. I want you to report as well – probably in a weblog or video blog on the New York Times Web site, maybe in some other way. I’m open to other ideas as well, but I want you to convey reactions to what we encounter to the Times audience. You won’t be practicing tourism, but journalism.

We’ll be traveling with Naka Nathaniel, who is legendary at The Times for his multimedia presentations on the Web. He often travels with me to produce video specials from my trips, and he’ll work with you as well on your presentations and help you file them by satellite phone.

Now I should say upfront that our lawyers are pretty boring. They’ve nixed the idea of us all hiking through Afghan minefields, riding a camel through Darfur, or sneaking illegally into Zimbabwe. So no war zones. And no purchases of Cambodian sex slaves this time.

There’s no money in it for you, and this isn’t an internship. Indeed, we can’t guarantee anything at all – we may be barred from entry, our satellite phones may break down, or maybe I’ll break down and you’ll spend all your time trying to evacuate me out. But we will cover all your expenses, from airfare to visa fees, mosquito net to granola bars. And I’ll do my very best to give you a potentially life-transforming experience.

Frankly, I’m hoping that you’ll be changed when you see a boy dying of malaria because his parents couldn’t afford a $5 mosquito net, or when you talk to a smart young girl who is at the top of her class but is forced to drop out of school because she can’t afford a school uniform. I’m not saying you’ll turn into an aid worker – but I’m hoping you’ll remember how much of the world lives and carry that memory through your life and let it affect your work and priorities. I began backpacking through Africa and Asia when I was in university, and the experiences changed me as I hope this trip will change you.

What’s more, I’m gambling that your thoughts and reactions on this trip will make powerful reading to others. I’m a jaded traveler at this point, but you will bring something that I’ll never bring to my third-world reporting again: fresh eyes.

So what am I looking for? Somebody over 18 in an American university, undergraduate or graduate. (I’ll try to work out a time over the summer when you can go without scandalizing professors.) I would prefer somebody who has some experience in blogging, writing or student journalism, but that’s not a requirement. If you’re interested, complete the application and send in an essay of less than 700 words explaining why you’d like to go on this trip, and letting me know of anything in your background that you think is relevant. You can also suggest a destination if you’d like. If you have a blog or other writings or photography that you want to show off, send them along (but we can’t return anything – hey, we’re hoping for lots of applications). Send in the names and phone numbers of two references, at least one of them a faculty member, whom we can grill about you. The application deadline is April 20. The winner will be announced by June 1. You’ll need to commit about 10 days to the trip sometime in the summer. Good luck.


If I wasn't out of school, I'd give this a shot.

Or at least I'd like to think I would.

I guess I'll leave this to the white girls with dreadlocks who live for that shit. (Start Snitching loves you.)


  1. loves that white meat too. just don't have them bitches painting themselves brown and wearing a dashiki

    oops, that should be on another post

  2. that sounds pretty damn cool. makes me wish i was still in school.