Monday, December 31, 2012

Beauty And Brilliance Lie Under The Skin

Yelena Samofalova /
By Emma Bally
Senior Reporter
BROOKLYN, New York – I have been paying close attention to pictures of today’s women celebrities in magazines and billboards.
One reason I have been doing this is because of a huge billboard close to my school of an emaciated Victoria’s Secret model.
These female stars in American society in this day and age have gotten me thinking about the difference of what our society thought was attractive a mere 40 years ago compared to what America thinks is beautiful now.
For example, Marilyn Monroe, a glamorous movie star from the 1950s, wore about a size 10 dress, while Nicole Richie, a modern day actress, is a size zero.
I have always believed that movie stars or celebrities should be slightly more glamorous versions of everyday people. The stars today, or at least most of them, are super skinny versions of everyday people.
These commercials, ads, and photographs have led me to the conclusion that the definition of beautiful has drastically changed, bringing to the table new issues for today’s generation.
Everyday people have always aspired to act like and look like celebrities. Now that many stars are considered gorgeous if they are anorexic or extremely thin, today’s society might want to look like these women and therefore many girls could become anorexic or bulimic.
This new definition of pretty might also cause some girls to turn to plastic surgery to acquire the body that they wish they had, like Heidi Montag.
Though I am aware that not all eating disorders or plastic surgeries exist solely because of America’s version of beautiful, millions of American women suffer from eating disorders and plastic surgery is commonplace.
I do believe that it is okay to admire these skinny stars but I also think that people should admire stars based on talent, not just looks. Some of my role models include Lucille Ball, Meryl Streep, Tina Fey, and Bella Abzug – not because of what they look like, but because of their talent and their acceptance of who they are, inside and outside.
These brilliant women are not obsessed only with looks or weight.
My final message for young people around the world is to love who you are inside and don’t strive to look exactly like today’s stars. Everyone looks different, and we are all beautiful in our way.
We are all uniquely gorgeous inside and out and that is the real beauty of this world that we live in.

New Yorker Finds Life Is Tame In Nairobi

Aliya Chaudhry /

A busy road in Nairobi leads to the central part of the city, and a popular shopping mall.

By Aliya Chaudhry
Junior Reporter
NAIROBI, Kenya – It’s funny how easy it is to convince people that, living in Africa, you have a pet lion and ride an elephant to school – or if you’re lucky, you get to take the giraffe.
It’s also funny how hard it is to get people to understand that in Kenya, we have cars, malls, restaurants and houses with wireless Internet access.
It seems like people outside of Africa are ready to believe that we Kenyan residents race ostriches for fun on weekends. They also would accept that our daily activities include hunting wildebeest, playing with leopards and taming zebras. In reality, Kenya is not nearly that exciting.
I live in Nairobi, a big city, with around three million people, located right in the middle of Kenya, away from the beach, the savanna and the safari parks, bookended by the tea farms of Tigoni and Limuru on one end, and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on the other.
Though the city center is dense, packed and fairly compact, the rest of the town isn’t. Like many other expatriates residing temporarily in Kenya, I live in the suburbs, having moved here from New York City.
Compared to Manhattan, the Nairobi suburbs often feel like one of the most boring places there are to live.
Aliya Chaudhry /

A street corner in Nyari, a pretty neighborhood
in Nairobi with huge houses and gardens.
The suburbs in Nairobi are divided into different sections. Some are very pretty, like Rosslyn and Gigiri, while some are quite cozy, like Thigiri but at the same time there are humongous estates, like Runda, while there are some, like Nyari, that just contain humongous houses. These McMansion-like residences are a lot bigger than I thought they would be, or even should be. Some are really new, and you can find some really interesting houses that look like a combination of geometric shapes and there are some fancy, pretty,  old houses, too.
Aliya Chaudhry /

A street in Nyari, a Nairobi neighborhood.
Even the apartments here are bigger than they are in New York. The house may be a little too large, but the gardens are normally twice that size. No house comes without a garden, and no garden is unpleasant. Nearly every garden is filled with towering trees; avocado seems to be popular.
Poinsettia and Bougainvillea, with their vibrant and exotic flowers, have invaded almost every garden. African Lilies and Jacaranda trees, both of which have small flowers in the same shade of lilac, are fairly common.
Monkeys visit more often than on occasion, especially when there is fruit on the trees. They don’t do much except sit in the trees, but it’s quite shocking the first few times they come.
Though Nairobi lacks a lot of the benefits of living in North America or Europe, it does offer enough for us temporary residents to get by. There are enough malls or shopping centers like Westgate and Village Market, with stores, really good restaurants and movie theaters.
Aliya Chaudhry /

Westgate mall in Nairobi, one of the newest and most popular shopping centers in Kenya.
There’s even an ice rink here, but that’s all the way across town. The quality of food is really good, though, and seeing movies is a great way to pass the time. Clothes shopping isn’t a strong suit, however. The quality, variety and pricing of clothes stores here is not too good, so most of us buy our clothes over the summer, when almost everyone goes back home.
Security here is bad – enough to make even a teenager nervous. In Nairobi, teenagers don’t get nearly as much freedom as their peers in some parts of the world, like suburban Europe or America.
Most parents are wary about going out at night, and twice as cautious about letting their children out alone in the evening. As a consequence, we always need to be accompanied, either by an adult or a sufficient number of teenagers, and all events or outings with friends need to be planned in advance. You can’t just walk over to your friend’s house, though most people I know just don’t walk to places since they prefer to go by car.
The weather is probably the most interesting aspect of Kenya. As a former New Yorker, it’s actually quite unsettling for me. The amount of greenery and lack of concrete alone was a little uncomfortable at first, but the weather just seems unrealistic.
It doesn’t get too hot or too cold here – the most you need is a sweater. There’s no snow, but the rain can become quite harsh in October and March.
Living amongst all the temporary residents, diplomats and international citizens, it doesn’t feel like I’m in Africa. It almost feels like living in the suburbs of a European country, minus the sidewalks – and a lot of the other benefits of Europe.
So even though it’s not ideal, Nairobi is not nearly as bad as it might seem to the uninitiated.

No School, Only Work For 12-Year-Old Pakistani Girl Working Daily As A Maid

Arooj Khalid /
Saba Sher, 12, washes dishes as part of her work as a kitchen maid in Lahore, Pakistan.
By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Twelve-year-old Saba Sher doesn’t know the drudgery of homework, term papers or other student burdens.
She is a maid.
Saba, an orphan whose parents died when she was very young, is in the care of her grandparents, but lives and works every day in her employer’s home to earn money to help support her family.
Though she attended playgroup, an early childhood program that is the Pakistani equivalent of kindergarten, Saba’s schooling ended there. Not long afterward, she started working to help her family.
She has hardly seen the colors of life as a child.
Her hope for the future is for her younger brother to finish school.  He is in fifth grade and the family asks nothing of him except to study.
Without education, Saba said, there is nothing.
So she works day and night, doing kitchen chores for another family.
Since she was very young, Saba has spent most of her life as a maid. The requirements are slightly different for every job she has had, but generally, she works mostly in the kitchen.
Usually, she wakes at 6 a.m. to make breakfast for her employer’s family. Sometimes, she helps her mistress, but other times she makes the food on her own.
Arooj Khalid /
Saba Sher
During the day, Saba helps her mistress prepare food, washes all the dishes, cuts vegetables and does whatever other work she is asked to do. She cleans the kitchen and does some dusting around the house. She makes the chapattis, which are flat bread made of wheat flour that are a daily part of the South Asian diet.
In the afternoon, she gets a break for a few hours, and sometimes, there are other breaks if there is no work for her to do. Then, she can do whatever she wants in that time but she must come immediately when called.
Her workday ends about 10 p.m.
Saba earned about 4,000 Pakistani rupees a month, or about $41 U.S. dollars, for her work as a kitchen maid.
She said her mistress is not especially cruel, but a previous one was. While she was working as a maid at another house, the mistress there couldn’t bear it for Saba to take pride in her appearance by wearing good clothes or looking beautiful. She scolded, rebuked and terrified the girl in every way, Saba said, until she left the job.
Saba said she would love to go to school, but that even if she got the chance now, she wouldn’t because her family needs her income. She is proud that though she, her sister and brother are all working, their younger brother is getting an education, for his own good and for the good of society.

A hard but happy childhood
Saba’s life wasn’t always so grim. She said she has faded memories of living in a village with her whole paternal family. All of her aunts and uncles from her father’s side used to live together, in a big house. They also worked together at a brick kiln.
Arooj Khalid /
Saba Sher poses for a portrait. She is dressed up for the Eid holiday.
Whatever they did, all of them were always together. The work was quite tiring, and it was sometimes difficult for Saba’s father to do, as he was a liver patient, and had surgery in hopes that it might help.
It was a hard life, but a happy one. As everyone lived together she had lots of cousins to play with.  Their favorite games, “pakran pakrai” and “Kikli,” are traditional in Pakistan.  Sometimes the children got a little scolded for creating mischief.
Squabbles between the cousins were a part of daily life, but they never lasted long. The cousins always teamed up the next moment to play together.
Her father and mother worked quite hard, Saba remembered, laying about 1,200 to 1,500 bricks per day. Saba and her brothers and sisters were very young then. When her father could bear no more hard work like that, the family had to come to the city to find some other work.
In Lahore, her father was kept in the Fatima Memorial Hospital for four to five months for liver malfunction and an operation. Her mother worked at a school as an assistant.
“My mother and sister used to work at that time. Their total [monthly] income was about 12,000 (Pakistani rupees, or about $123 U.S. dollars) That was just enough to pay for my father’s treatment. So we had to live on my grandfather’s money for a whole year. It was awful, but at least our father didn’t have to rely on others,” Saba said in Urdu.
Saba was too young to work at that time, and the family too poor for her to get an education. When her father was better, they went to settle in another village, Mandi Usman, about 90 km, or 55 miles, outside of Lahore.  There, through working, they paid off the loans on them, and sold her mother’s gold wedding jewelry to buy their own little house.
But then, before long, her mother, who had diabetes, died.  Her elder brother gave up studies and started working, to cover the family’s income.
After the death of Saba’s mother, the family returned to Lahore and started living in a rented home in Defence, an area of the city.
That’s when Saba also had to start work, to contribute to the family income.
Her father had suddenly become quite ill, and the doctors had given up on him. They said nothing could be done for him, that he was going to die.
After suffering the shock of their mother’s death, Saba and her siblings were depressed to hear the news. Now, their father needed someone to care for him, all the time. And he needed expensive medicine.
Saba and her brother and sister had to work, and earn money to buy the medicine for their father. Now the only children who weren’t working were her younger brother, who was getting an education, and an older sister who is disabled.
Saba said her father often asked her not to work, but she knew that she had to support her family, especially her father. After a time, her father was sent back to Mandi Usman village to be taken care of by other relatives.

 Looking toward the future
When her father died, he left five children. Fortunately, they were strong and today, they are doing their best to earn a living. All of them, especially Saba, are committed to supporting her younger brother’s education.
Arooj Khalid /
Saba Sher, age 12
“I never thought we would have to work like this,” Saba said. “But I am satisfied that my father didn’t have to rely on others for his medicine. He couldn’t work; he couldn’t even get up by himself. When someone calls their parents, I wish I had parents, too. They would never have let me work like this.”
Saba said she wished she could acquire knowledge about things, and about the Quran.  If she had got an education, and had learned the Quran, she said, the family would be living a better life today.
She is so devoted to her sisters and brothers that she said she wouldn’t mind if their sorrows and difficulties came upon her, if they remained unharmed and happy. She hopes one day to find this world a wonderful place.
At her home, she has her grandparents, an aunt and an uncle, who are quite caring, but she normally lives in the servants’ quarters at the place where she works.
Even her little brother, Saba said, often tells her he would give up his own studies so she could go to school, but she refuses.
If he gets an education, she said, all of her wishes will be fulfilled.
Saba has turned 13 since the interviews for this story.  The accompanying photos were taken in the reporter Arooj Khalid’s parents’ home, where Saba worked for a few months. Saba’s current whereabouts are unknown.
You can help support this kind of reporting from young people around the globe by making a tax-deductible donation to Youth Journalism International, an educational non-profit charity serving young writers, artists, photographers and readers worldwide.
Other pieces on child labor by Youth Journalism International students:
Zach Brokenrope’s first-person account of farm work in Aurora, Nebraska in Meet the real children of the corn.
Edrees Kakar’s story from Kabul, Afghanistan about three boys selling potato chips in the bitter cold in Children Labor through an Afghan winter.
Arooj Khalid’s perspective on child labor in Child Labor Ruins Lives And Shames Nations.

Child Labor Ruins Lives And Shames Nations

Arooj Khalid /

A girl collects garbage in the Shadman section of Lahore.

By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – A nation’s children are its most important part. They are the flowers of heaven, with innocent smiles and blessed faces.
Those who play with toy cars and dolls today are tomorrow’s politicians, engineers, journalists, doctors, artists and businessmen.
With a good education, they can do great things, benefiting not only themselves but also their country.
Too many, though, are put to work at an early age – as young as seven – to earn money for their families. They have no chance to get an education.
A large number of precious youngsters, who could have changed the world, are lost.
These pitiful angels never receive the care they need so their health becomes worse. They have no social life. Nobody in this society respects them because they are not well off or schooled, even though it’s not their fault.
Their childhood days, which should be so beautiful, are also completely ruined.
They don’t even receive pay worthy of the work they do. And whatever they do make is taken by their parents or guardians and spent on the whole family.
Often, around our house, I see objects lying around that give me the creeps. I can’t help thinking they may have been made by children or teenagers like me, only poorer and more helpless.
It’s not easy thinking of youngsters who have never eaten twice in a day, never seen comforts such as their own room, never had an iPod or a computer or a Play Station, never had lots of clothes or jewelry, never even had any friends. They never really even had a childhood.
They never get their rights, not even ones for the basic labor, because they are so young. They have no job safety either. If they get harmed, nobody takes responsibility.
How can someone expect a 9-year-old not to get injured while working with dangerous chemicals or lifting heavy loads? They do tasks that could take their lives, from working by the hot ovens of brick kilns to the use of sharp tools.
While going through such hazardous work, children also have to face employers who often exploit them. Employers take advantage of children, forcing them to do more work than they can bear and then abuse them besides.
The main reason all of this happens, in many nations today, is poverty.
Parents are forced to send their kids out into the hazardous world to earn money so that basic essentials can be fulfilled. Sometimes a family member suffers a disease whose treatment requires more money, forcing children into labor to earn it.
Another possible cause may be the parents’ own lack of education. In tribal areas, the superstitious still believe that education might spoil children, especially girls, and they shouldn’t get it.
Arooj Khalid /

An 11-year-old boy sells fruit in the Shadman market in Lahore, Pakistan to help support his family.
So the labor then goes on for generations. As one parent sends children to work, the children, when grown up, send their children to work, and so on.
According to the International Labor Organization, about 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are employed, all over the world. Asia employs most of them, too many of them in Pakistan itself.
Their labor is not what’s needed today.
Countries, especially those which are still developing, are in need of literacy, not laborers. If the youth of today are well educated, they can carve out a better tomorrow.
Child labor kills most chances for a nation to excel in all walks of life. It undermines the economy and helped cause the world recession. Governments should take steps to eradicate it entirely.
Some will say that child labor is labor like any other. But actually, it is the ruin of lives, the destruction of future generations, and the shame of the whole world.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kwanzaa's Principles Celebrate Tradition

By Charles Perosino
Junior Reporter

TOLLAND, Connecticut, U.S.A. -- Do you celebrate Kwanzaa?  If you don’t, there is no need to worry since I don’t celebrate it either.
Even if you, like me, are not of African-American heritage, we can all learn something from the holiday of seven days that celebrates African-American heritage and history.
For each day of Kwanzaa there is a principle, and although mainly directed at those of African heritage in America, each principle is something that everyone can learn from, every day of our lives.
This time of the year is a great time to learn from the past and look toward the future during the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa that began on December 26.
The first principle of Kwanzaa, dedicated to the first day is Umoja, or unity.  Every family, every nation, every religion, and every race live life together on this planet and should strive to come and stay together during times of glory and hardship.
Kujichagulia, or self-determination is the second principle of Kwanzaa.  You are the only person that truly knows how you feel, and need to speak up and define yourself in order to spread the word to others.
Ujima, or collective work and responsibility, is dedicated to the third day of Kwanzaa.  As a world community, we need to solve our problems together and not create more strife for the human race.
The fourth principle of Kwanzaa, Ujamaa, celebrated on the fourth day, is dedicated to cooperative economics.  When you are a business owner, you can profit in many ways from cooperation with the community.
Nia, or purpose, is the fifth principle of Kwanzaa.  In our daily lives, we must ask ourselves what our purpose is, and what it is to be successful and remembered for being a wonderful human being.
Kuumba, or creativity, is what the sixth and second to last day of Kwanzaa is about.  Every day, we must think and act creatively, and make sure that we leave the world a better place than when we got here.
Imani is the final day of the celebration of principles.  Faith is the focus. Even if you are not religious, you can apply believing in others to help you through your struggles, as well as their faith in you for when they need help.
Kwanzaa ends on New Year’s Day, when empty resolutions are made all across the world.
Be realistic, and stick to your commitment to the world and everyone around you when you make real resolutions, and be sure to always remember the seven principles of Kwanzaa.    

The Best Hipster Music Of 2012. Really.

By Eli Winter

HOUSTON, Texas – Here’s an overview of my favorite hipster music for 2012.

Best Albums

“Four”—Bloc Party 
This album’s title comes from a pretty obvious fact: that it’s the fourth album made by Bloc Party.
While its name isn’t terribly original, the music is, and it’s naturally – at least for the most part – extremely well done.
Its songs feature a variety of opposites: urgent-sounding and relaxed guitars, begging and yelping vocals, calm and driving bass parts and the same ol’ same ol’ of good old Matt Tong’s unbelievably precise drumming.
As a result, many of its songs seem opposite as well (“Real Talk” followed by “Kettling” serves as a great example of that), but Bloc Party manages to pull it all together in such a way that gets me to call this one of the best albums of the year.
And we all know that’s what they always wanted.
Try out “Real Talk”, “Day Four”, “V.A.L.I.S.”; Stream “Four” here.

“Thoughtless Sounds” – Max Jared
Though I liked this album from the start, I had a few complaints about it.
Now, though, it has grown on me --- not very much, you understand, but it didn’t really need to. It’s that good.
Jared’s great at making catchy, sincere music with encouraging, thoughtful lyrics, though a little help from Chuck Rainey on bass doesn’t hurt either.
Jared’s influences include everyone from Jason Mraz to John Cage, who inspired the 10th song on the album, “3:33” (3 minutes and 33 seconds of silence).
Forgive me, but you’d be thoughtless not to hear these sounds.
Try out “Talk”, “Coming Home”, “The Effect”; Stream “Thoughtless Sounds” here,

“Silver Age”—Bob Mould
Best album of the year. Bar none.
Bob Mould played in alt-rock bands Husker Du and Sugar before going solo, and while his previous albums have involved everything from folk to electronica, his latest sticks to the tried-and-true guitar rock that made his bands household names in the first place.
Mould still manages to branch out within that sound, though, from the grinding, poppy, noise-rock of “Briefest Moment” to the slow-and-steady sludge of “Steam of Hercules’”
Most of these songs segue into each other, yet each can hold its own, making this an album you can listen to all at once or in bite-size pieces.
Whichever path you choose, the one everyone goes along or the one less traveled by, you won’t regret listening to this album at all. Trust me. You won’t.
Try out “The Descent”, “Briefest Moment”, “Keep Believing”...who am I kidding? Just hear all of it, and hear it here.

Best Songs

“The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids
Noisy, poppy, and (annoyingly) catchy, once you hear this song you won’t be able to get it out of your head for a few days. Well, more like a few weeks. Of course, here that’s a good thing.
Watch the music video of “The House That Heaven Built” here.

“Montauk” – Rufus Wainwright
Wainwright played this song during his performance behind Bob Boilen’s desk (for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts) and at the end of it there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Enough said.
Watch his performance of “Montauk” here. (Start at the 11:00 mark.)

“Did Your Broken Heart Make You Who You Are?” – Franz Nicolay
Along with being one of my favorite songs of the year, this also has my favorite song title of the year. Nicolay may have shaved his incredible mustache (in an interview with Bulls Radio, he said that “it kind of overstayed its welcome”), but his songwriting skills have lived on, and let’s hope they continue to do so.
Watch the video of “Did Your Broken Heart Make You Who You Are?” here

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Hometown: East Brunswick, New Jersey Has Earned Its Rightful Place On The Map

Jasmine Wang /
Driving into the high school, visitors are often surprised by the vast size of the high school and surrounding sports fields.

By Jasmine Wang
Junior Reporter
EAST BRUNSWICK, New Jersey, U.S.A. – Some of my friends complain about East Brunswick, because they think it’s boring and empty. But they don’t know how good they have it. In New Jersey, a state with the highest property taxes in the country, most parents move there for the great education, which definitely can be found in East Brunswick. Although its public high school is filled with about 2,400 kids from grades 10 to 12, it is as competitive as a rigorous private school.
My best friend, Kevin Ma, recently earned a gold medal at the International Biology Olympiad in Singapore. Although I refuse to credit his accomplishment to the science department, I take his achievement as a demonstration of the thriving talent and ambition that is so often found in the hearts and minds of students here in “boring” East Brunswick.
Jasmine Wang /
The main entrance of the East Brunswick High School is often flooded with students in the morning and afternoon, rushing to and fro.
Here, we have music prodigies, break-dancers who performed at the U.S. Open, and scientific geniuses. Unfortunately, as a writer myself, I often am disappointed by the lack of encouragement fostered by teachers for writing and journalism, who often instead focus on science.
However, East Brunswick does not lack in other areas, like the arts. While we have basic performing arts classes, we also have advanced choir, wind ensemble and chamber orchestra – programs that are continuously invigorated by the sheer enthusiasm and energy of the teachers here. Last year, under the guidance of new choir teacher Jennifer Sengin, I was able to sing on stage at the state theater with Kenny Rogers at one of his Christmas shows and participated in various competitions.
More importantly, growing up in East Brunswick, I have been blessed with the opportunity to make friends with great people from all over the world.
Photo provided
Jing "Raymond" Liu, Lei "Jerry" Ding, Nikhil Buduma, Kevin C. Ma smile with their gold medals at the International Biology Olympiad in Singapore this past summer. East Brunswick is proud to have contributed a student, Ma, to this brilliant group.
While my best friends hail from India and China, my boyfriend is a Polish Jew. In the hallways, I smile at my friends from Israel, Spain, Hungary, Africa, Mexico and the Philippines.
There is something irreplaceable about living in East Brunswick. It’s not just any average suburb, it’s a microcosm of the world.
East Brunswick high school senior Sourabh Bhat said, “East Brunswick isn’t really just another small town, it's a melting pot of different ideas and cultures which allows everyone to emerge more open-minded and worldly.”
I will admit – there aren’t a million stores in a three-level mall. In fact, up until a couple months ago, most of us were still pretty bored with our little Brunswick Square mall and the lack of great restaurants (particularly for teenagers) around.
But in May, Chipotle came to town, next to Route 18, along with a Cups and Japanese Sarku franchise – hiring some of my friends and feeding thousands more.
Jasmine Wang /
Sarku, Cups, and Chipotle are three very popular franchises for East Brunswick teenagers.
Here in East Brunswick, hundreds of students crave Chipotle. I know personally – I bought a steak burrito at least 10 times in the first few months. It has definitely raised students and kids’ levels of happiness and satisfaction with their town. Panera Bread also moved in right next to the mall in August. It’s become yet another hotspot for kids to eat and study.
Although I am scheduled to leave East Brunswick for college next year, I know that one day, I just might return, as former East Brunswick High School students often do, whether it is to work within the school district itself or to raise their own children or to simply visit their childhood.
In the end, East Brunswick is just a dot on the map for many who have not experienced its truly intelligent, diverse and ambitious resident body. But for those who have grown to appreciate this safe and beautiful area, it’s home.