Tree cathedral grows in Northern Italy

Anybody that’s ever been to Europe has surely been inside one of the continent’s many cathedrals. But even if you’ve seen all the stone and stained glass you’d ever care to see, the Northern Italian city of Bergamo is giving the cathedral a fresh look by making one of the structures entirely out of living trees.

The man behind the work is the recently deceased Giuliano Mauri, an Italian artist who was commissioned as part of a project for the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. The frame of the building will initially be made up of more than 1,800 fir tree poles, 600 chestnut branches, and 6000 meters of hazel branch, planted in-between with growths of live Beech trees. As the Beeches grow, the wood frame will decompose, allowing the living trees to take over the structure.

Mauri’s work is not only a novel work of art, it’s an interesting contrast to the more permanent stone halls of worship that have come to dominate our images of Christian Europe. A blending of the natural, the artistic and the religious, all in one. Head on up to Bergamo, about 40km Northeast of Milan, if you’re interested in paying a visit.

[Photo courtesy of]

National Geographic Glimpse program accepting applications

If you are between the ages of 18 and 34 and will be living abroad for at least ten weeks between January and July of 2010, the National Geographic Glimpse program wants to hear from you.

Glimpse correspondents will take photos and write stories about their experiences abroad, receive training and support from professional editors, get a $600 stipend, and have the possibility of being featured in National Geographic Magazine.

Candidates do not have to be US citizens, but they must have access to the internet while abroad and commit to working with the program editors on their submissions, which will include photos, stories about the place they are living, the people they meet, and the experiences they share. Applicants need to submit two references and a writing sample, plus an $18 fee for consideration.

Applications are due November 8, and finalists will be announced December 15, 2009. If your time abroad doesn’t coincide with the spring schedule, you can apply for the fall program (August to December) starting in April, 2010.

Is there hope for Dubai’s traffic problem?

Other than my occasional rant here at Gadling, we almost always talk about Dubai’s mind-blowing developments. As much as I think that Dubai’s growth, development, and all-round vision is extraordinary, I can’t help but wonder: how, in this extended planning phase, authorities forgot to include the development of public transport.

Other than a poor bus system, the 2.2 million residents of Dubai depend on their cars and taxis to get from one point to another. The result? Dreadful and excruciating traffic jams at peak hours.

Dubai has already begun constructing a fully-automated under-and-above ground metro system (which at the moment has worsened the traffic situation because of the dug-up roads), but until then, their solution to the horrendous traffic problem is the addition of automatic toll gates (called Salik) on main roads across the city, that charge $1.10 (Dhs.4) every time you drive through them. This system started last year, and this month, phase two of the Salik system has begun. The hope is that this will reduce the traffic on certain roads at certain times, but this picture shows what is happening instead.*New addition: Seems like this is actually Moscow, not Dubai, as pointed out by nzm in the comments. Oops. However, this could totally be Dubai, as also pointed out by nzm.)

Yes, yikes.

Along with the increased cost of living in Dubai, Salik will certainly be pinching many pockets, however, the long term plan makes sense. The way the system works, you can be charged up to $6.5 (Dhs.24) a day passing through these gates. This way, the Dubai RTA plans to generate about $11 billion over a 3 year period, with which 500km of roads will be constructed, and traffic will flow freely again. I really, really hope so, especially because I might be moving back there soon.

[Thanks to BuJassem at UAE Community blog for the picture]

Volunteer Vacation Reviewed

Now that I’ve given you a week of blow-by-blow insider detail and a look at how fun volunteering while on vacation can be, let’s do a quick review. First question people always ask, “How can I do something like this or volunteer with Habitat for Humanity?” Joining a GV Team with Habitat for Humanity is usually the easiest part I find. Before signing up for the first plane to Uganda to help build homes start by learning about the organization. Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Their mission is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. I was introduced long ago when I read an article in TeenPeople Magazine about Sarah Michelle Gellar doing GV builds in Dominican Republic. I was so inspired I immediately looked Habitat up and followed homeowner, volunteers and other participant stories on their website until taking off for my first build.

There are many ways to get involved with Habitat. Check out their Get Involved page to find an opportunity for you. Global Village builds often leave people wishing they had done more. AmeriCorps/VISTA has several long term programs (up to one year) with Habitat located in many different locations throughout the U.S. If travel to foreign lands to lend your hand is what you are after, head right to the Global Village Program. Search the list of available trips and then apply online or download the application to submit via post. From this point there are two roads you can take, possibly more if you are a sharp thinker. One road is to raise the money for your trip expenses by fundraising and other activities. The second road is to raise the money from your very own paycheck or savings. I’ve taken both roads and I’ll say the first is much better if you have the time and can be a great way to spread the word and get others involved with Habitat and their mission.

Once you’ve taken care of all of the above, you’re pretty much on your way to fun times and doing great things. Beyond all it’s one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time, energy and did I mention work hard!

If you missed the Volunteer Vacation installments you can catch up on them all here: