Meanwhile... in Detroit, a social studies teacher has completed his goal to visit all the countries in the world

And in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a nonprofit group called Urban Light is offering alternatives to get teenage male prostitutes off the street, while in Lahore, Pakistan, members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan meet for high tea to discuss the works of their favorite author.

Courtesy of Rufus McGaugh
Rufus McGaugh in North Korea

In Detroit, middle school social studies teacher Rufus McGaugh has completed his goal to visit all the countries in the world.

It took Mr. McGaugh 49 years to do it, but last May he crossed the finish line when he visited Libya, the 252nd country on his list. (McGaugh counts territories like Greenland and Puerto Rico, so his list is longer than the 193-country membership roll at the United Nations.)

Over the course of his 45-year teaching career, McGaugh has shared tens of thousands of slides of his travels with his students.

A profile of McGaugh in The Detroit Press included comments from some of his former students, many of whom credit him with awakening their interest in global affairs. “I have traveled around the world for work and pleasure,” one student told The Detroit Press, “as a direct result of Rufus’ influence.” 

McGaugh has published a book about his travels called “Longitude and Latitude, with Attitude: One Man’s Quest to See the Entire World.” 

In Chiang Mai, Thailand,a nonprofit group called Urban Light is offering alternatives to get teenage male prostitutes off the street.

Urban Light founder Alezandra Russell told Al Jazeera that while she was visiting Thailand as an American tourist she was stunned to see so many teenage boys working as prostitutes. In 2010 she set up Urban Light to offer the boys a safe refuge and train them as tut-tut (three-wheeled taxi) drivers or barbers, offering a viable alternative to the sex trade. Ms. Russell says her group has reached 5,000 boys over seven years. 

In Lahore, Pakistan, members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan dress up in Regency-style clothing and meet for high tea to discuss the works of their favorite author. 

Some society members recently told the BBC that they can fully relate to the characters in Austen’s novels because as women in Pakistan their rights are limited and their society forces them to participate in a “marriage mart.” 

“It’s a comfort to read Jane Austen,” one group member told the BBC.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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