A walk from Zimbabwe to Zambia

by dnrallis ~ November 17th, 2014
Border zones are fascinating places, and the area around the Zimbabwe-Zambia border at Victoria Falls is no exception. The two countries are connected by a 110 year-old bridge spanning a gorge over the Zambezi River, just downstream of the falls. Vehicle traffic lines up on either side of the border post: trucks carrying copper from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the South African port of Durban, and machinery and consumer goods northward. In September 2014, I walked across the bridge with my video camera. This film shows some of what I saw, heard, and learned along the way.

A Fathers’ Day Tribute, June 2014

by dnrallis ~ June 14th, 2014
 Fathers’ Day, June 15, 2014 A week ago I celebrated my Dad’s birthday; this Fathers’ Day weekend I am remembering him still. I don’t believe in an afterlife in any religious sense, but I do know that our ancestors live on, in us and through us, and in the lives of those we influence. Costa Rallis died nearly a decade ago, but he is very much alive today. He lives not just in Helen and me, who carry his genes, but also in our wonderful stepmother Lucy, with whom he shared many very happy years of his life and an immeasurable amount of his love. Part of Dad is in his nieces, nephews and their families, in my late mother’s friends, in my surviving aunt, and in the other members of mother’s family. He lives on also in generations of his students, and, probably unbeknownst to them, in their students too. Several veterans of Dad’s courses, especially his first year-level Engineering Analysis and Design course, remain dear friends of mine today. They are constant sources of insight into my father the teacher, a side of him I experienced daily but seldom knowingly and never formally. Dad’s intellectual curiosity was boundless; […]

A Fathers’ Day Tribute, June 2014

by dnrallis ~ June 14th, 2014

My Dad, for whom few pastimes brought greater pleasure than fixing things.

 Fathers’ Day, June 15, 2014

A week ago I celebrated my Dad’s birthday; this Fathers’ Day weekend I am remembering him again. I don’t believe in an afterlife in any religious sense, but I do know that our ancestors live on, in us and through us, and in the lives of those we influence.… Read the rest

I was also there (well, almost): A personal reflection

by dnrallis ~ June 1st, 2014
Saturday May 31, 2014 I am now in Vientiane, Laos, and from my hotel room I can look across the Mekong River and see Thailand, where a military coup last week propelled the country, briefly, onto the world’s front pages. I am not actually in the headline-grabbing country, but I am pretty close. That has been the story of much of my my life and I should, I now realize, have been clear from the start. Just ten days before I was born,  Sputnik became the first ever human-made object to enter earth orbit, and was still on the front pages when I arrived. On the same day as the satellite launch the American television show Leave it to Beaver had its debut. Four days before my birth the world’s first nuclear accident took place in the United Kingdom. Any remaining chance that the world might have noticed my arrival was extinguished by fact that, even as my mother was in labor, it was announced that the Everly Brothers’ song Wake Up, Little Suzie had reached the top of the charts. I was clearly destined to live a life in which the limelight shone tantalizingly close,  but not quite onto […]

Cultural education or human zoo? A Kayan Lahwi refugee village in Thailand

by dnrallis ~ May 23rd, 2014
Near Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is a small village which is home to a group of people who call themselves Kayan Lahwi (though tour guides call them the Padaung.) They moved here after fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar/Burma. Denied formal refugee status and therefore the right to work in Thailand, they are allowed to remain here as a tourist attraction. Visits to the village are part of the standard tour packages offered to visitors to Chiang Mai, and many tourists choose to pay a visit to the ‘Long Neck village,’ and to have their photographs taken with the the exotic ‘giraffe women’ who live here. Tour guides don’t mention the male members of the community, who weren’t in evidence when I visited but  presumably must be around here somewhere. Visits to the ‘Long Neck Village are a featured offering in tours marketed to visitors in northern Thailand; a time-pressed visitor can buy a day tour packaging a hour or so looking at the Kayan Lahwi with an elephant ride or a visit to the ‘Golden Triangle,’ an area famous for opium production in years past. A few tour companies, though, refuse point blank to have anything to do with […]

Ayutthaya, Thailand: a UNESCO World Heritage site

by dnrallis ~ May 23rd, 2014
Founded in about 1350, Ayutthaya – just north of Bangkok – was one of the cities that served as capital of the Kingdom of Siam (Sukothai, in central Thailand, was another.) It remained the capital until it was destroyed by invading Burmese forces in the 18th century. I visited Ayutthaya in May 2014, on a holiday commemorating the birth, enlightment, and death of the Buddha, a good time to see some of the temples at their best. Below are two of the short films I made during my visit.      

Remembering Nelson Mandela

by dnrallis ~ December 26th, 2013
Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and former South African president, died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. I was fortunate to be in South Africa at the time, and to be a part of the combination of mourning for Mandela’s death and celebration of his life that took place in the weeks following. On five occasions during this period, I joined the crowd of South Africans (and foreigners) gathered outside the Mandela home in Houghton to pay their respects to a man revered, it is fair to say, by almost all South Africans. In these short videos, I pay tribute as a South African to Madiba, and I try to capture some of the remarkable sights and sounds of sadness and joy I witnessed.

Donald Rallis Retires from Mary Washington

by Stephen Hanna ~ December 9th, 2013

A portrait of Nelson Mandela hung on the wall of Donald Rallis’s office for most of his 23 years at Mary Washington.  In and of itself, this fact does not distinguish Donald from academics across the world.  Mandela’s name and face were symbols the anti-apartheid movement that galvanized college campuses in the late 1970s and 1980s and many faculty and students have embraced his face and name as a symbols of freedom and justice.  Yet, Donald’s choice of office decoration represents aspects of his character and accomplishments that deserve notice as we mark his retirement after 23 years as a teacher, mentor, and colleague. Continue reading »

Thoughts on Donald Rallis’s Retirement

by Richard Russo ~ December 9th, 2013

As educators, we can live for months off a few words of thanks from an appreciative student.  In the long, dry spells in between, it’s all grit, caffeine, and red wine (depending on the circumstances).  When UMW asked me to write a few words in honor of Donald at his retirement, I realized that I may have been remiss in formally thanking him, until now, for his profound influence on me – first as a former student at Mary Washington and now as a friend and fellow geographer.  It is not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be who I am today without Donald’s qualities as a teacher, mentor, and friend. Continue reading »

Travel and Research Grants for Geography Majors

by Jackie ~ November 21st, 2013

The Geography Department is pleased to invite geography majors to apply for research and travel grants funded by the Rountree Endowment for Geography.*  This Endowment was created specifically to support geography majors engaged in independent research projects and/or study abroad programs.

During the 2013-2014 Academic Year, the department may fund as many as 3 grants totaling $1800.  The maximum grant award will be $1000.  Funds will not be available before February 2014 and will only be granted as reimbursements for project-related expenses.

Eligibility for 50th Anniversary Endowment grants is limited to geography majors who are enrolled in UMW courses during the 2013-2014 academic year or who are enrolled in a study abroad program approved through UMW’s Center for International Education.

To apply for a grant please work with your academic advisor or another member of the geography faculty to fill out the Rountree_Grant_application_form.  You will also need at least one letter of recommendation from a faculty member (Recommendation Form).  Applications will be evaluated by the Geography faculty and decisions will be based on the quality of the proposal and the applicant’s record of achievement. The department maintains the right not to award any funds and re-issue a call for proposals at a later date.

All applications are due by Wednesday, December 11th at 5:00pm.  Please submit applications by e-mail to Dr. Stephen Hanna (shanna@umw.edu).


* Jeff W. Rountree (UMW 1991), CEO of the UMW Foundation and president of Eagle Property Holdings LLC, and his wife, Lisa, gave the initial gift that established the endowment in 2009.  Since then dozens of other geography alumni have made generous contributions.