Category: dispatches

  • We cast a message-in-a-bottle into the winter sea. This being Alaska, homesteaders with 26,000+ YouTube followers found it.

    DOUGLAS, Alaska – “My name is Ansel Resneck. I am 3½ years old. I like rockets, bulldozers, trucks, penguins & sausages.” So began a one-page missive written in marker and cast into Juneau’s Gastineau Channel on a particularly cold, miserable Saturday afternoon. The note had been scrawled in my hand, taking dictation from my toddler […]

  • Inside Russia’s exclave Kaliningrad, the Cold War honeymoon was just beginning

    KLAIPEDA, Lithuania—For the briefest of instants the Russian border guard’s placid face betrayed his surprise as we produced our blue US passports. His eyes momentarily widened as he read the gold lettering on our worn travel documents. I imagine Americans rarely cross at Mamonovo, a rural border crossing that’s a gateway to Kaliningrad, an exclave […]

  • “Line ’em up and shoot ’em.”

    COMRAT, Moldova — The Transnistrian policeman who had been interrogating us turned to his colleague. “I caught three journalists – Bulgarian, Spanish and American – without accreditation.” His fellow lawman looked us up and down with distaste. “Line ‘em up and shoot ‘em,” he said and turned away. This wasn’t the warmest of welcomes to […]

  • OMON goons, discussion culture and five days in the Arctic wilderness

    APATITY, Russia – I look to my right, a man in a black balaclava with what looks like a toy rifle is running full speed toward me and shouting something unintelligible. My first thought is it’s a friend playing a prank. Determined not to let him get a rise out of me, I turn away […]

  • Bounding through the Balkans on a bicycle bought for a beer

    NIŠ, Serbia— So this Finnish guy ‘rescues’ a broken purple bike in Innsbruck, Austria and proceeds to ride it 1,200 kilometers to Guča, Serbia where I just happened to be preparing a reportage for RFI. He was thirsty and needed a beer; I’d been hitchhiking since Kosovo and was desperate for a bicycle. In a […]

  • Sittin’ on top of the world

    “Goin’ down to the freight yard / Just to meet a freight train / I’m gonna leave this town / Work done got hard / But now she’s gone / And I don’t worry / Because I’m sittin’ on top of the  world…” — Howlin’ Wolf, traditional MURMANSK, Russia — As the train rumbled north […]

  • The big push to Tbilisi

    TBILISI, Georgia – The Greek border guard’s unibrow contracted in consternation and then annoyance as he thumbed through my well-worn blue passport. “What is this? This isn’t a passport! This is shit!” He spat out the words as he held the threadbare document with the tips of his fingers as if it had some communicable […]

  • The hitchin’ post

    GOTHENBURG, Sweden – I’d been warned that hitchhiking in Scandinavia would be no picnic. Despite expensive buses and trains, wide roads with plenty of traffic and lots of empty cars it’s simply not in the culture for people to solicit rides from strangers. In Denmark it had been relatively easy to hitchhike with a (partially […]

  • Three-day shoreleave in the Faroes

    TÓRSHAVN, Faroe Islands – Provided you’re not a schizophrenic sociopath, those little nagging voices should be heeded. For every so often there’s a nagging voice in my head goading me to head in a certain direction, usually defying common sense and logic. Often I am rewarded by following this advice, other times it’s folly and […]

  • Soaking in the great divide

    SEYDISFJORDUR, Iceland – My approach to travel is to keep minimal expectations. However with Iceland I couldn’t help myself: I wanted to idyllic natural hot springs carved out of rock populated by supple valkyries. Nothing less! So after spending too much time on a work assignment at a fish festival seeking out these natural treasures […]

  • A month goes by, still no bloody Taj Majal

    It’s been exactly a month since I arrived in India. By tourist standards, I’ve seen very little as I’ve been focused on some journalism projects. But in the last calendar page I’ve made a few observations, a few friends and continue to be holding my head above water in the loud, crowded and incredibly complex […]

  • Keep Jacob Resneck on the air: an urgent appeal

    DELHI, India– I’ve never asked for money and I’m not gonna now. Rather this is about my occasional employer, Free Speech Radio News. They’re the ones that gave me my first shot at international reporting from Georgia and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Now it seems they’re about to go belly-up. […]

  • Near misses in the Near East

    BECHARRE, Lebanon – Hurtling down the highway at 140 kilometers an hour, Khaled the friendly taxi driver had an idea. We’d been drinking countless cups of black coffee and choking down innumerable cigarettes: it was time to switch to beer. Khaled didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. But after a can of syrupy […]

  • Abkhazia on 100 rubles a day

    TBILISI, Georgia – My money was no good in this town. I was in Gagra in the northern edge of Abkhazia – that breakaway republic of Georgia that was once the jewel of the Soviet Union. Expansive beaches along the Black Sea and crumbling 19th century hostelries and sanitariums dot the coast line that still […]

  • Bridge to Abkhazia

    TBILISI, Georgia Admittedly, I’ve developed somewhat of a penchant for quasi-independent nation states. In my school years, I was an enthusiastic Northern California secessionist and have long harbored ambitions of one day starting my own country. What better way to educate myself than to see how it’s worked out breakaway republics like Transinistria near Moldova […]