Travel teaches, and while traveling I am often motivated to ask questions and look for their answers. Unexpected juxtapositions are often the sparks for curiosity, the moment for asking questions and the start of new understandings.
The Flame Over the City of wind
At this moment, I was standing in the center of Baku’s Old City, Icheri Sheher, with the medieval Maiden’s Tower behind me and one of the three 21st century Flame Towers in front. Known for its oil endowment since before Alexander the Great, contemporary hydrocarbon-derived wealth and innovative engineering were brought together to shape Baku’s modern skyline. Capital cities often showcase past and present economic choices and political priorities, framed as cultural preferences, in complex ways.
hard boiled eggs at the Coliseum
A Chinese senior couple was peacefully eating their boiled eggs, while sitting on the stairs inside Rome’s coliseum. The hard boiled eggs were a reflection of the many cultures and lives that had passed through the colosseum’s long history: today’s tourists, who came from 5,000 miles away, were consuming not only eggs in a place built more than 2000 years ago to do very much the same. Consumption, in its multiple forms, continues to close the gap between time and space, smooth the friction of distance, and create places for exchange.
These two photos were taken in the Summer of 2017, both in the center of Shanghai, China, just 3 miles and couple hours of walking from each other. On the left, the famous Pearl Tower—a symbol of China’s modern economy. On the right, a worker doing her routine task. How do individuals’—seen and hidden—incentives form the foundation of market economies is one of my research foci.
Theses two photos were taken in the city of Vladivostok, Primorie, Russia, in January 2018 on the same day. On the left, the modern campus of Far Eastern Federal University located on Russian Island, the visible result of the Moscow-based federal government’s drive to build economic collaboration with Asia. On the right, a Coca Cola truck passing the statue of the revolutionary Soviet soldier watching the city’s main downtown center square. Below the familiar “Coca-Cola,” written less familiar in Russian, the “Whole world’s partner.” While Moscow shifts its economic focus to Asia, would customers’ and businesses’ preferences align with the government’s strategy—this is one of my ongoing research interests.