Ask Expert Zulfiqar Rashid Exactly How Organized Child Beggary Works And What Travelers Can Do To Prevent It

June 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture, Discussion, Money, Security

zulfiqar rashidDuring our travels many of us have been confronted by young children begging for money, knowing on some basic level the cash they receive doesn’t stay in their pockets. Most travelers don’t contribute for this reason, despite wanting to help kids who are clearly living in extreme poverty. Unfortunately this system of child abuse goes deeper than many of us could imagine. My live chat guest today will answer your questions on the economy of forced begging, the process of child binding, and what you should do the next time a small palm asking for change is extended in your direction.

Zulfiqar Rashid was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and spent the first eighteen years of his life in Pakistan and France. He is the author of The Rat-Boys of Karalabad, a book based on the system of organized beggary, which is a deep-rooted part of society in Southeast Asia.

Leave your questions for Zulfiqar in the comments below. He’ll be by later today, Tuesday June 3rd from 10:30pm-1:30am US EST to answer them live.

Zulfiqar will be here for a few hours this evening to answer any questions you have about organized begging. Don’t be shy to ask things you think you should already know as we all benefit from learning where our assumptions meet reality.

4 Things One Traveler Learned From 15 Months In West Africa

May 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Guest Post, Security

This is a guest post by Francis Tapon, author of Hike Your Own Hike and The Hidden Europe, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I reviewed it in 2011. Francis is creating a TV series and book called The Unseen Africa, based on his four-year journey across all 54 African countries you can help support on Kickstarter.

Before March 2013, I had never been to Africa. And yet, when I landed in Morocco, I was embarking on a 4-year trip across all 54 African countries. The first 15 months would be in West Africa. I knew little about the area. Here’s five things I learned.

1. West Africa Is Safe

During my time in West Africa, I picked up over 1,000 hitchhikers. West Africans were often walking on their lonely muddy roads with heavy things on their head. I almost always stopped to offer them a ride. They usually were happy to enter.

Most didn’t know how to open a car door. One guy even tried to enter through my window! They also didn’t know how to get out of the car, so I would have to get out and open the door for them. Clearly, they weren’t used to cars. On the other hand, I picked up plenty of hitchhikers near cities who knew cars well.

The point is that nobody robbed me, car jacked me, or gave me any trouble. A few even left me food as gifts or even insisted on paying me a little money for gas. West Africa is safe.

hitchhiking in west africa

2. West Africans Are Trustworthy

West Africa is not only safe to walk around in the streets, but also to stay in people’s homes. For example, I stayed with Secks (the family pictured below). All my camera and computer gear was in my room and dozens of people were coming in and out of the house. Anyone could have taken something. (The guy on the far left is holding my camera because we were filming something, he wasn’t about to run away with it!)

west african family

I’ve constantly been vulnerable to West Africans, throwing myself at them – trusting them. They don’t let me down. Yes, I’ve been scammed a few times, but that’s standard people preying on tourists. I don’t feel any more scammed than I have been in Europe or the Americas. I’ve even loaned one Senegalese $10,000 and a Ghanian $6,000. Months after I loaned them and when I was no longer in West Africa, they paid me back.

west african food3. West African Food Is Low On Presentation Value But High On Taste

West African food won’t win any culinary awards for presentation value, but it’s delicious to taste! The photo above features a Nigerian dish with plantains, beans, spicy sauce, eggs, and rice. Somehow it all works! And all that for less than $2.

The only place in West Africa where they went overboard with the spices is Liberia. Hotter than a Mexican tamale! Speaking of tamales, I didn’t find any in Tamale, Ghana.

4. Tourists Ignore West Africa

west african travel

I’m alone watching the eclipse of the sun in Bobo, Burkina Faso in October 2013. Tourists rarely visit West Africa. It’s funny when I was climbing the tallest mountain in Ghana, a guide told me that “many, many foreigners come here.”

I said, “Really? How many per month?”

“At least 20!”

Given that most come in tour groups, it means that you’ll have most of West Africa for yourself. The good news is that people are friendly and outgoing, unlike Parisians who are constantly overwhelmed with tourists and sick of them. So visit West Africa, it’s one of the continents unseen sides. If you want to see much more of Africa’s unseen sides, then please support my Kickstarter project which launched on Africa Day (May 25)! The project is about making the pilot TV episode that explores the sides of Africa that the media rarely shows. Check out the trailer for the show and spread the word!

Thank you Francis for sharing your west African experiences and encouraging more to visit this lesser traveled part of the world. You can follow Francis on FacebookTwitter, and G+ and contribute to showing more of The Unseen Africa on its Kickstarter page.

A Picture Of Black And White Uncertainty In The Heart Of Ukraine’s Revolution

We’ll wait until the May 25th elections, then decide what to do next: is what I heard over and over from behind grizzled faces in Kiev’s Maidan. These aren’t the thousands of people leaving flowers or strolling through Kiev’s downtown city center, but rather the hardline minority camped out in green tents that form the new spine of Independence Square.

For them, Ukraine’s presidential elections were a pivotal decision point a few weeks ago when we spoke under dim light filtering through heavy plastic. At the time a certain instability loomed but there remained a lining of optimism – a rarity for eastern European pragmatism.

Although Kiev remains safe it seems as one of the worst scenarios is shaping up elsewhere in the east. Newly elected mayor Vitali Klitschko plans to dismantle the barricades in Maidan Nezalezhnosti since the “main mission has been accomplished.” Many of the protestors living here, drinking cups of soup served freely to everyone in Maidan, have nowhere else to go. Even if they left, none of them would be returning to anything resembling the Ukraine they helped transform. Maidan’s permanent protestors don’t want to go back but aren’t sure where to go forward, which is why they’ll continue to stay in between.

How To Unlock Unlimited WiFi In Airports With Time Restrictions

May 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Money, Security, Tech

estonia tallinn Lennart Meri airport

Although there are plenty of airports offering straightforward complimentary wireless, there’s a growing minority that tease your bits with an introductory period of minutes, only to cut the connection for an alternate paid option. (I’m looking at you Germany.) Many times this paid wifi requires you to have a local mobile number or is simply too expensive to justify watching another video of a pug dancing in a tutu.

Whatever the case may be, turning most time-based Internet restrictions in airports, hotels, or elsewhere into unlimited access generally requires nothing more than a few clicks with the right software.

How Time Restricted Wireless Connections Work

Condensing down the technical details into a small byte, when you log on to a given network, it makes note of your device’s MAC address, a set of letters and numbers that uniquely identify your network card. The MAC address from your phone, tablet, or laptop can then be used for authentication and how the airport network tracks your time online.

romanian clock

Think of the MAC address as your face and the restricted wireless connection like a limited all-you-can-eat buffet. You can consume all the calories you want for 30 minutes a day. But if you try to leave lunch and come back for dinner without paying, the hipster hostess recalling your face reminds you there’s no such thing as a free lunch (and dinner).

In the digital world however appearances are easily morphed, without going to the extremes of John Travola, Nicholas Cage, or Joan Rivers.

Will Spoof For Internetz

MAC addresses are hard-coded into network interfaces but the free programs Mac Makeup (Windows) and LinkLiar (Mac OS X) use software magic to make them variable. This is akin to putting on a convincing rubber face mask for the buffet example above.

While you can’t change your face, it’s possible to alter your appearance just well enough to fool the host or hostess.

Step-By-Step MAC Spoofing Using LinkLiar

To demonstrate how straightforward spoofing your MAC address is, here’s exactly how to do it using LinkLiar for OS X. (Windows users, the process is basically the same using Mac Makeup.)

1. Download LinkLiar – Click over to either CNET’s LinkLiar page or GitHub’s download page to grab the half megabyte application file.

2. Install LinkLiar – As you would any standard Mac app but keep in mind once done, it will be hanging out in your System Preferences, not Applications folder.

linkliar mac os x

3. Open System Preferences – Click the purple LinkLiar icon. You’ll be prompted that System Preferences must be closed, then reopened. Click OK. Once System Preferences comes back up, click the LinkLiar icon again.

4. Spoof Your Wireless Connection – When LinkLiar fires up, it shows your network interfaces with their current MAC addresses shaded in gray. Click your wifi adapter (this would work for Ethernet connections as well), then toggle the fake MAC address by clicking the little wheel. Hit Apply at which point you’ll be prompted to type in your administrator password.

linkliar osx

5. Stay In System Preferences For A Moment – Otherwise you may have to restart this process. In the main System Preferences pane, click Network, which will open up the Networking Preferences window. In this new window, in the left sidebar click in this order: Wi-Fi > Assist Me > Diagnostics > Continue > Continue > Allow > Quit

6. Clear Your Browser Cache – Here’s how in Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari. (Alternatively open up a new private browsing window.)

This entire process will take you less than a minute after you get the hang of it and once completed, will give your laptop a new lease on wifi life. You can repeat the steps above as needed pretty much without limit – just be sure to make your next connection – but if you don’t here’s how to miss flights for free.

Expand The Airwaves

In case you’re wondering if there are any negative side effects to MAC address spoofing, in travel situations there aren’t any notable ones. You should however remember to make note of your true MAC address on OS X and Windows if your home or office network implements any kind of MAC filtering. For places that don’t offer even limited free wireless you can try these airport wireless passwords from around the world, get passwords at airports that don’t offer free wifi, or uncover hidden networks using NetStumbler.

« Previous PageNext Page »