In the summers of 2010 and 2011 I spent several weeks in the world-famous symbol of urban modernity - Dubai. A city that some hate for its money driven mentality and others celebrate as an example of making something wondrous out of a desert of nothing. But what caught my attention then and has stayed with me since, are the wonderful people who live in the shadows of the sky scrapers and the 5-star hotels. They are, as you have no doubt heard about, migrant workers, from all across South Asia and elsewhere. They cook, they clean, they repair things, and yes- they drive. From the moment I arrived in Dubai and every day after that, I was sitting in taxi cabs enthralled in conversations about life in this city-of-the-future; families back in Pakistan and India, dreams of returning to Afghanistan, and the perils of dealing with those crazy traveling westerners. I learned about the world from the front seat of a four door sedan while stuck in traffic on my way across this middle eastern metropolis. What I wished above all in those moments, is that the world could hear and learn along with me.
That is my mission. To sit in traffic. To hear about family back in India, education in Bangladesh, and the best way to peel a pomegranate according to a Kandahari. After two weeks of riding around town I will have a rare collection of life moments and realities the likes of which have rarely been heard. Yet anyone who lives in a major city in this world will be able to recognize the beauty and the hardship that goes hand in hand with leaving loved ones behind and trying to make it in this unsympathetic global economy.
To finally do this project, I need your help. Anyone who knows of my work knows I am not about the money, but that I can not do these things without audience involvement. You are my audience. My hope is to bring you along with me as supporters, through text, images, and above all - my most favorite vehicle - sound.
- Travel to Dubai from Amsterdam (my home) for 2 weeks (December 2013 or January 2014)
- Take at least 4 (15 to 20 minute) taxi rides per day and record the conversations. (traffic jams will allow some to go longer!)
- Thanks to research and contacts via a trusted source in Dubai, I will take some 30+ minute rides with drivers who I already know are willing to talk. This will ensure some long form interviews to compare with the previously mentioned short form.
- By my second week I intend to contact drivers that were interesting and open for followup rides. This will allow for followup conversations that could have another dynamic.
- Choose the 12 best stories and publish them as podcasts between late December and February.
- Publish daily summaries of my journeys and progress.
- Write a 2 to 3 page article (place of publishing tbd) based on these stories and the experience.
I love audio and for the past 10 years I have been producing a weekly audio podcast, citizenreporter.org that has taken me to many unexpected corners of the world. I'm also the co-host, together with Tim Pritlove (Metaebene), of "Newz of the World", a weekly news review podcast.
Since the very beginning, my work has been based on the principle that learning about one another and the world around us is both good for our collective health and also a great pleasure! From New Jersey to Amsterdam, Lisbon to Kabul, New Orleans to Cairo, and Sarajevo to Beirut, I have collected stories of human life and all its pleasure, inspiration, suffering and frustration. Last year, right here on kickstarter, Christopher Lydon (Radio Open Source) and I successfully crowdsourced a multimedia journey through Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon, "Arab Artists in a Revolution": speaking with artists about their work and the revolution.
With the help of my dedicated listeners, through their financial and logistical support, I've been able share every surprise and every challenge along the way.
Risks and challenges
First of all, life is a risk, even before you are born. Anything worth doing involves some risk. I think anyone who supports this kind of work knows full well where I'm coming from.
The government does not like media attention on the topic of migrants in the country, yet I realize that this is a public kickstarter campaign. My intention is to focus on the human stories without any specific political agenda beyond letting people be heard and making the connections between those who live in Dubai and the rest of the world. Despite what some organizations and individuals might want, this is not a human rights mission. I have done podcasts from that city before and I know the discretion that is required. I am arriving as a tourist and that is what I will remain, a curious observer.
Another concern are the interviewees. Though I have always had interesting experiences, it is possible that some stories might sound the same. Or worse, some drivers may not feel like talking. This is where the amount of taxi rides (and the budgeted costs) are important, the more rides/conversations I record, the higher my chances.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)