Below you will find a sample of for-the-public classes offered by Cristine/Ten Thousand Cranes through the University of Colorado, Boulder, Continuing Education Program.  After December, 2010, these classes will be offered independently by Ten Thousand Cranes in Boulder, Colorado.  They were offered as one-day immersions into an array of topics, designed to provide an overview of many of today’s global issues.


Turkey:  Cultural Bridge

Turkey bridges Europe and Asia, Occidental and Oriental, ancient and modern.  Western civilizations evolved from the Stone Age on Anatolian lands, becoming the Hittites, the Byzantines, the Ottomans.  Poised on the periphery of the European Union, toward which Turkey looks longingly, Turkey is both friend and foe to neighboring Arabs and Persians in the other direction. Its strained relations with Kurds, Cypriots, and Armenians have marred its emergence as a 21st Century power, but its vibrancy as a modern Islamic but secular, democratic Republic makes Turkey a notable force.  The cultural pulse of Turkey is as varied as the terrain, both of which evidence remnants of vast empires, magnificent Aegean/Mediterranean coastal hubs, and snow-capped mountains that may even host Noah’s Ark.  Cities boast bazaars (souqs) teeming with frenetic activity, the kingpin of which is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, most famous souq in the world.  Turkey’s landscapes dazzle in an array of caved cities and ruins, towering mosques, turquoise waters, and hardscapes sculpted by often violent but gifted geological hands.  As both the crossroads of ancient civilizations and the nation bold enough to launch a modern Muslim path, Turkey offers the pilgrim and student untold insights.  Follow the camera’s eye through this immersion into exotic Turkey of yesterday and today, a nation of proud, passionate people and a panorama of exquisite scenery.


Ethiopia:  Crossroads of Africa
Surrounded by geopolitical “hot spots” Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia, Ethiopia is comprised of plateaus and gorges created from the separating of the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia is Africa at its most diverse, lying on ancient cultural crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that culminated in magnificent Christian churches literally carved out of solid stone. These rock-hewn churches are often considered the 8th Wonder of the World. Ethiopia avoided the colonization that drove the rest of Africa to its knees, but did fall into Mussolini’s Italian hands for a short while in the late 1930’s and later to a socialist military tribunal called the DERG that crippled the country starting in 1974 during the civil war that gave Eritrea its independence. As one of the world’s largest suppliers of coffee, Ethiopia is also the birthplace of the Blue Nile River, one of two major stems of the Nile. The beauty of this country is punctuated by majestic acacia trees and thatched-roof huts amidst terraced hillsides of red soil and verdant crops, all of which give rise to exquisite surreal landscapes as late afternoon sunlight slips into dusk. While the north has its history with ancient kingdoms, such as the Axumite, the south remains the gateway for tribal cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, where ochre-dyed hair and lip plates of the South Omo Valley perpetuate tribal traditions. This class is based on the presenter’s 2010 travels through Ethiopia.

Afghanistan and Pakistan:  Thunder in Distant Mountains

Long pawns in political monopoly games, Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s destinies have been shaped by external forces as well as by the varied ethnic aspects that comprise their very character.  While joined at the hip via a disconcertingly porous border, they face their own internal challenges in constructing a 21st Century identity.  In both countries, physiography is dominant and cohesion is fragile.  Their issues not only spill across one another’s borders, but have been influenced by neighbors India, China, Iran, Central Asia, and even Russia.  We can only scratch the surface of these long and complex histories, but will examine several key defining events, while then exploring the forces of today in ways that move us beyond the stereotypical CNN sound bite.

Making Sense of the “Middle East”

We will head behind the scenes of the vibrant and fascinating world of Arabs, Turks, Persians, and Kurds, that share and shape this cultural landscape of deserts, oil, and camels.  Much was set into motion in 1979 when Iran went “fundamentalist” and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, launching a domino effect that sowed seeds of early al Qaeda and brought the public to wonder why the War on Terror was launched against Afghanistan rather than Saudi Arabia, home to most of the 9/11 hijackers.  The incorrectly named “Middle East” is much more than turbans and gowns and we will take a spin through history and events to understand the many different cultures, influences, and dynamics that articulate this world of religion, tension, and opportunity.  This class will set the stage for the entire realm of North Africa/Southwest Asia and will offer an in-depth focus on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Turkey, with an expanded look at Iran.

Israel and “Palestine”:  An Elusive Peace

This small but complex part of the world has commandeered global headlines for decades and trapped generations in cycles of uncertainty.  We will delve into the histories that have shaped both violence and hope in this land of promise as nations of people claim their right to existence.  Often trapped by assassinations, untimely election results, and leaders better suited for war than peace, the varied peoples of this region have become both pawns and perpetrators in unending cycles of conflict.  Neighbor countries Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon have wielded influences in controversial ways, but may ultimately hold the cards of resolution in their hands, just as they hold the many refugees who have fled decades of conflict.  We will explore the vast array of dynamics that have stymied the long overdue peace and prosperity of this narrow and enigmatic strip of land.

Central Asian Republics:  A Challenging Adolescence

The Central Asian Republics (CARs) have long histories of diverse peoples and landscapes.  As they emerge from the shadows of the former Soviet Union, they face untold challenges and opportunities.  The CARs hold enormous promise in terms of oil, gas, and mineral reserves, but also face the influx of religious extremism bred by political-economic instability.  These culturally rich countries offer different aspects of Islam, deal with the lingering economic fingers of Russia, and struggle with legacies of corruption and dictatorships.  They continue to find themselves pawns in an ongoing game of international intrigue amongst China, Russia, the United States, and Europe.  In the “stans,” nuclear weapons have disappeared and Soviet-era irrigation schemes have left polluted landscapes, but populations desire to re-emerge with the greatness that once flourished in this area.  The focus will be on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.  We will also discuss Afghanistan and “East Turkestan” (China’s Xinjiang), but those areas will be explored in greater detail in the Af-Pak and China classes also offered.

New Zealand:  Land of the Long White Cloud

New Zealand is one of the world’s most diverse and rewarding travel destinations. The country’s two islands lie on separate tectonic plates and boast vastly different landscapes. The North Island hosts volcanoes, geothermal pools, and a more “sub-tropical” climate, while the South Island is known for its extremes from glaciers to temperate rainforest and is a jumping off place for Antarctica. Whales, dolphins, and penguins navigate the waters of both islands, while wallabies give their kangaroo character to the landscapes. New Zealand’s avian community is noteworthy, with the flightless Kiwi bird, symbol of the country, and the Kia parrot that will rip the rubber stripping off from around a car windshield in its affinity for rubber. Each turn in the road offers breathtaking landscapes, dotted by more than 32 million sheep that dominate the human population of only 4 million. The indigenous Polynesian Maori struggle to maintain traditional ways amidst not only a changing country but a changing world. In New Zealand one can swim with the dolphins, graze with the sheep, and climb the nearest mountain to view the Southern Cross constellation – all within a mile of one another. There is no limit to New Zealand’s beauty, intrigue, and hospitality. A brown-bag lunch is suggested for those interested in viewing additional material over the lunch hour.

Access to Education:  Changing the World

75 million children worldwide still have no access to education. 50 to 70% are minority or indigenous. When offered an education, some children are further marginalized, such as the gypsy Roma of Europe who are put in “special education” schools rather than allowed in pubic schools or the Dalit Untouchables of India where 50% drop out due to discrimination. Education, however, has been shown to be one of the greatest tools for development and one of the most effective ways to minimize destabilizing influences. Yet providing access to education has been an enormous stumbling block for most of the developing world, leaving millions of children un- or under-educated. For decades, many children who had access were still denied entrance because they lacked the funds for requisite uniforms, shoes, or notebooks. Girls faced discrimination, not only because of the extensive chore list that kept them tethered to their tasks but because of cultural attitudes. Because girls in developing countries generally move in with their in-laws, it has been said that sending a daughter to school is like watering a neighbor’s garden. For those children lucky enough to enter school, challenges still make the process more difficult, from seasonal work that pulls them out of the classroom to long travel distances that consume half of a child’s day. Yet, amidst these challenges, innovative governmental and NGO programs are opening the doors of education to children who never imagined being inside a classroom. Amidst the rubble of Afghanistan and in Rio’s favela slums, children are learning! This class will explore the touching stories of children worldwide who find themselves on both sides of the classroom door.

China:  The Landscape of Change

The China we see today is many Chinas, held together by a fragile glue.  With the economic rise of the east, the interior countryside becomes further marginalized and rebellion lurks in China’s shadows of success.  Tibet, long a controversial part of China, finds itself choked between its own peaceful nature and its need to survive under China’s dominion.  Xinjiang, born from the Silk Road, is more Central Asian and Muslim than it is Chinese and Inner Mongolia reflects little of the Mongol nomads and their proud horses.  Who is this China with multiple personalities and will Taiwan and Hong Kong follow the fate of their counterpart regions or hold their own?  We will explore some of the questions both China and the world contemplate as the “celestial kingdom” takes to the global stage.  Much of this presentation is based on the presenter’s 2008 travels through China.

Poverty and Opportunity:  Grassroots Projects that Change the World
Many dynamics have shaped poverty for countries worldwide, including well-meaning global programs that saddled emerging countries with the overwhelming burden of debt. We will explore these influences but with a new focus on how people are changing their own lives in their rise from poverty in some of the most unlikely places in the world. Rural grassroots movements spurred by NGO’s that put just a few dollars, a few chickens, or a fishing boat directly in the hands of the world’s poorest have been the keys to unlocking the specter of poverty.  And today, while the world finds itself in the midst of the largest mass migration in human history as peasants move from rural to urban areas in quest of better lives in cities that can’t always absorb them, squatters settlements have shown remarkable creativity with innovative health programs that educate children as mini-doctors, microloans that circulate credit dollars to develop small businesses and purchasing power, and even property ownership near landfills.  We will examine a vast array of co-creative ideas that have allowed the world’s most marginalized people to reinvent themselves in today’s global economy.  This exploration not only helps us better understand the dynamics of poverty, but helps us reframe our understanding of how global dollars can be their most effective.

Latin America:  Coming of Age

Long in the shadows of Spain and the U.S., Latin America is coming of age.  After losing half of its territory to the U.S. in an 1860’s land grab and losing a fifth of its population to the financial lure of the U.S., Mexico is emerging from adolescence.  Brazil astonishes the world with its output and Venezuela struts its oil and cocky president, while Bolivia convulses with Indigenous demands from the Andes to the Amazon. Argentina renegotiates from economic earthquakes, while Colombia’s gutsy president pries loose the grip of the drug powers that held the country hostage for decades. Has the era of dictators been eclipsed by trade blocs and globalization, has the U.S. lost its influence to the carrots dangled by Russia and China, and should the door between the U.S. and Mexico be revolving or padlocked?  Our southern neighbors are coming into their own, a bit less “Latin” and “American” than the U.S. might like, and a lot more their own entity as their richly plumed quetzals and condors take flight.

Mexico:  Changes, Challenges, and the Many Faces of Immigration

As Mexico shifts gears from single-party rule to greater freedoms, many Mexicos are emerging:  the marginalized indigenous clamor for a voice; Asia’s booming trade now challenges NAFTA and empties out U.S.-owned factories in Mexico; U.S. Farm Subsidies have strained Mexican farmers; porous borders hold promise and fear for drugs, terrorists, and the desperate; and U.S. Immigration policy is awkward as ever.  No visa needed, we will take an armchair tour, exploring the many Mexicos and building an understanding of our neighbor to the south.

Footsteps through the Andes:  An Odyssey through Peru, Bolivia, and Chile

In so many ways, the people and ecosystems created by the Andes Mountains are the heart and soul of South America.  The mighty Andes create some of the wettest places on earth, found in the Amazon River Basin with its cacophony of rainforest sounds, to some of the driest, found in the stillness and silence of the Atacama Desert along the Pacific coast.  In between lies the Altiplano, one of the world’s largest high plateaus, averaging 12,000’ in elevation and hosting cosmologically important Lake Titicaca.  Lago Titicaca is studded with beautiful islands, from carless and roadless traditional Taquile to the floating reed islands of the Uros people.  The world’s largest salt flats with surreal salt pyramids dot the drylands, while the mountains themselves boast spectacular peaks and famous Machu Picchu.  These landscapes are made even more alive by the people and wildlife calling them home.  We will explore the explosion of life that takes place at all of these intersections and immerse ourselves in the Inca, Aymara, and people who bring their vibrant colors and customs to this land of extreme terrains.  Images from the presenter’s many travels to the area will anchor the presentation.

Microcredit, Legal Entitlement, and the Informal Sector:  Parallel Economies

Land and opportunity hold the future for the developing world, yet many are locked out of access to credit, land entitlement, and even legal identity.  Microcredit has long been termed the saving grace of the developing world, yet its reach is still microscopic in the vast expanse of poverty.  How to get small but life-changing loans into the hands of those neglected by the larger lending system is the challenge faced by many NGOs.  With a substantial track record that well illustrates the “change a woman, change a family, change a village” dynamic, how will microcredit redefine itself as commercial endeavors seek to hop on the bandwagon and as the global economy reveals the risks of bottomless loans.  In similar vein, many of the world’s poorest lack legal entitlement to identity, land, and business and are forced to operate outside of the law.  What are the dynamics of the informal sector and its parallel economy and what is being done to legitimize these marginalized peoples.  We will explore the findings of the Instituto Libertad y Democracia, a global action agency based in Peru that combs the streets of the world’s underground economies, seeking wholistic ways to integrate the extralegal and the legal.

Forced to Flee: The Involuntary World of Refugees, Asylees, and IDPs

Involuntary migration often begins in the dark, forcing individuals and families to steal themselves away from the only land and livelihood they have known to seek safety elsewhere.  They end up as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in unknown parts of their own countries, in UN-donated tents across borders, on foreign shores seeking asylum, or as invisibles in the shadows of new cities and countries.  Refugee camps dot our planet, yet we know little of the lives of those living in makeshift housing on scratch-dirt land, some having seen several generations born into this unyielding “temporary” uncertainty.  We know less of those who have braved oceans to seek the hope of safety or those who have come knocking on the doors of a complex and inherently convoluted asylum system.  Few of us can imagine the lives of those fleeing persecution or of those charged with ascertaining truth from fiction in their granting or denying of asylum to those desperate to design new lives.  We will look into the dynamics of “sending” countries, the challenges of the intricate international refugee system (with a behind-the-scenes focus on the US asylum process), and the stories of those who have reinvented themselves in poignant and compelling ways.

Russia: Magnificence, Power, Smoke and Mirrors Democracy

From Czars to the Russian Revolution, Russia’s history has been anything but lackluster.  As the world’s largest country that spans eleven time zones, Russia holds both enormous potential and crippling darkness.  Is this land of beauty and Siberia still following Gorbachev’s glasnost or has it succumbed to its own clandestine energies.  We will explore this remarkable country, from its historical achievements to its losses upon the collapse of the USSR.  Left with little of its former breadbasket, Russia struggles to keeps its hands off Ukraine and Central Asia.  Plagued with the challenges of Chechnya and the loss of its former republics in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, Russia tussles with redefining itself.  Vast raw material riches in the east hold immeasurable wealth, as do the oil and gas fields dotting much of the country.  Beset by a Red Mafia and its communist legacy, is Russia in the hands of the people or in the hands of a new corporate government, one seeded by the KGB and one that is pointing Russia down unimaginable roads.

China, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Mongolia:  Changing Landscapes

Mongolia, wedged between giants China and Russia, has escaped the hands of communism and now struggles in its independence not to fall under the shadow of either giant.  Land of the mighty Chingis “Genghis” Khan, Mongolia’s landscapes tease the soul with their rich mountains, steppes, grasslands, and Gobi desert sands.  From reindeer people to nomadic herders and from eagle hunters to Naadam Festival sumo wrestlers, Mongolia’s magnificent culture and landscape is one to be reckoned with.  China, emerging onto the global scene, dances with both its “celestial kingdom” past and its disintegrating communist present.  China’s beauty and cultural traditions paint unforgettable memories in the vastness of varied landscapes, from rice fields to precariously perched mountaintop monasteries and from bustling cities to quaint but impoverished countryside villages.  Buddhist Tibet and Muslim Xinjiang (East Turkestan) find themselves under China’s grip, each region sporting a rich legacy of its own.  Tibetan and Xinjiangian inheritances are deeply rooted in ethnic and religious influences that were also shaped by the landscapes on which the traditions evolved.  This greatly revised exploration of Asia is grounded in photographic presentations of colorful vistas and vibrant people, supported by an overview of the politico-economic issues that keep each region on center stage.

Food Crisis:  Myth and Reality of the Global Buffet
With a coffee shop on every corner, how can there be a global Coffee Crisis?  And what about corn, a long-time staple…is it being grown for food or gas tanks?  Are our global food supplies really at risk, especially in the face of rising consumption in India and China?   Agriculture is now as much a part of the global commodity chain as blue jeans are, and with that come both crisis and opportunity.  As fuel and food costs soar, people worldwide feel the pinch.  What is myth, what is reality, and what is creative thinking?   We’ll walk the buffet line, studying what is in front of us and what is missing, looking more deeply into today’s issues, from farm subsidies to cyborg chickens with contact lenses and from “super plants” to mass suicides of Indian farmers.

The Silk Road:  Yesteryear’s

Powered by camel caravan, The Silk Road spurred one of the greatest trade and cultural exchanges in human history.  Spanning 5,000 miles through desert and mountains, the Silk Road connected and shaped living histories from the Mediterranean to eastern China, carrying Islam far into the heartland of Buddhist Asia and creating a rich mosaic of cultural interplay.  Given China’s headlines today about wrestling with Tibet, what beyond oil is pulsing in China’s northwestern deserts and mountains as China faces a Silk Road legacy in its largest province, one that is predominantly Muslim and culturally more akin to Central Asia than China?  And what stirs in Central Asia itself, recently freed from the Soviet grip?  Today’s new Silk Road is alive and thriving as culture, religion, and economics dance in exciting and precarious ways.  Much of this presentation will be based on the presenter’s recent journey along the eastern half of the Silk Road.