Eastern Europe: Traveling Tips

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Last year, my husband and I decided to travel to Kiev. Yes, we went to the Ukraine. If you’ve never been to Eastern Europe, I’ll share some basic tips, but I’ll save the shopping, dining, and site-seeing details for the next installment of this series.

Timing
We decided to travel to Eastern Europe in early summer because we knew the weather there would be similar to our Chicago spring temperatures, and that’s about as good as it gets, unless you’re craving a tropical island. Just like Chicago, we did get a day or two of spring showers, but overall, it was gorgeous. TIP: Make sure you know the climate of your destination, and pack accordingly.

The Language
Because we were traveling to a country with a different language, we did a little research online regarding our ability to communicate in Eastern Europe, because we didn’t want a translator. Since both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken (and written) in Kiev, we had to be prepared for both. And in case you’ve never seen the Cyrillic alphabet, let me just say that it was Greek to me. What worked? I printed a few common phrases and the alphabets (for both languages) from the Internet. The good news: many businesses also had English signage, menus, etc. TIP: Understand the language barrier and make a plan: hire a translator or take reference material, such as a translation device or a translation book.

Telephones
Of course our cell phone wouldn't work in Eastern Europe. If you’re planning a trip similar to this, I would also suggest contacting your telephone carrier, to get the best rates for making calls internationally, or you may want to rent an international cell phone. We didn’t opt for the cell phone on this trip, but we did during our trip to the Mediterranean. We decided to sign up with our telephone carrier for one month of international calls for one low rate--what a great decision. TIP: get an international calling card, sign up for a temporary international calling plan, or rent an international cell phone.

Accommodations
Finally, instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to rent a short-stay apartment while in Eastern Europe. The rate was far less than a hotel, and our apartment was furnished with everything you’d need. The one suggestion I would make when finding an apartment: ask about cable television, specifically, is it available in English, and whether or not DVD players are available. TIP: Research the different accommodations according to your budget; amenities matter!

Electricity: Converters and Adapters
When traveling to any European destination, research their electrical outlets: you'll see a lot about converters and adapters. First, adapters and converters are not the same. An adapter allows you to “retrofit” an electric cord plug into various styles of wall outlets. A voltage converter downgrades 220 (or 225) voltages to 110, to keep from frying our appliances. We had to use both them with the hair dryer and electric razor. Don’t overlook the laptop while in Eastern Europe. Ours came from the factory with a converter/adapter on the cord, but yours may not! TIP: if you’re staying in a hotel, don’t assume they have converters and adapters, although most do; ask them prior to making reservations.

Currency
Find out what currency is used. Most European counties use both the Euro and their own currency, so you’ll have a choice. The currency exchange rate will affect you, no matter what, and it could mean the difference between eating and shopping like a prince or a pauper. TIP: Don’t exchange a large amount of cash since the rates change hourly; you can lose money this way. Exchange as needed!

Your trip to Eastern Europe can be an absolute thrill; ours was! Just make sure you plan ahead, and with these tips, you’re sure to have a great time.

Easing Joint Pain

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One in every three adults in the US suffers from joint pain (1). It’s common for adults over 45, but people as young as 25 may also suffer from joint pain. If you’ve spent time running, playing tennis, or golfing, you probably know that ache.

Causes
If you have persistent joint pain, the first step is to see your healthcare provider. You may be suffering from arthritis; it can affect anyone at any age. The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA), afflicting nearly 21-million people (1).

OA occurs when the joint cartilage begins to deteriorate—from wear and tear, which causes stiffness and join pain, primarily upon waking (2).

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is another common condition that causes joint pain, and it affects just over 2-million Americans. RA symptoms include burning, inflammation, stiffness, and swelling around the affected joints. The difference between RA and OA is that RA is not the result of wear and tear, but an attack from the body’s immune system, which confuses healthy tissue with foreign matter (2).

While the joint pain from Osteoarthritis is attributed to wear and tear on the body, researchers believe that Rheumatoid Arthritis may be attributed to genetics, environmental factors, or even vitamin D deficiency (2).

A once common cause of joint pain is gout. Sufferers have a metabolic defect in which the body produces excess levels of uric acid-—or the kidneys are unable to process normal levels. The uric acid deposits in joints, primarily in the toes, and causes swelling, redness, and pain (3).

You may also have joint pain caused by an injury, such as a sprain or even a fracture. It’s important to see your healthcare provider if you experience persistent joint pain.

Treatment Options
Most physicians' treatment plans for arthritis include steroids, and research has shown long-term steroid use may prevent the liver from functioning properly (4). If you’ve ruled out an injury, you may be searching for relief over-the-counter. Recently, the market has been flooded with supplements for joint pain: Glucosamine, MSM (MethylSulfonylMethane), and Condroitin, to name a few. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are produced naturally in the body and have been well documented for easing pain, but there’s no proof that these therapies will repair damaged cartilage (5). MethylSulfonylMethane is a substance found readily in fresh produce, dairy, grains, and fish; like Glucosamine and Chondroitin, MSM is well documented for reducing pain, but researchers are still wary of its ability to produce any cures (6).

Arthritis is a serious condition, and as such, healthcare providers should monitor joint pain sufferers regularly. If you choose to take a supplement to ease your joint pain, remember to tell to your healthcare provider.

1.http://celebrex.com/understanding/arthritis.asp
2.http://www.ra.com/ra/rastore/cgi-bin/ProdSubEV_Cat_200635_SubCat_200635_NavRoot_303.htm
3.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000422.htm
4.http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2005/jun/06wimmer.html
5.http://www.arthritis.org/conditions/alttherapies/Glucosamine.asp
6.http://www.arthritis.org/resources/arthritistoday/1999_archives/1999_11_12explorations.asp

The Smaller Side of Agriculture and Its Importance

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Sample Excerpt: Audience: Political, Length: 2000 words.
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[Synopsis: This article looks at the influence and power of small farmers and the role they play in globalization. It is the goal of this article to prove the need and importance of keeping smaller agricultural operations alive around the world.]


When looking at the relationship between small farmers in the developing world and international agricultural trade, two main questions arise. First, how can small-scale agriculture compete more effectively with imported products, and what degree of trade protection is appropriate? Second, can small-scale farmers take greater advantage of export opportunities, and what are the supply-side and market-access constraints that need to be lifted? This paper attempts to provide some answers, focusing initially on the role of developing-country governments in making small-scale agriculture and related rural industries more productive, sustainable and able to compete in open markets, and then considering the ways in which Northern governments can provide a fairer international marketplace. (Butcher, 2000)

The livelihoods of 2.6 billion people depend on agriculture. Most of them are poor farming families in the developing world. The absolute number is increasing, though they comprise a declining share of the total population. In the least-developed countries in 1996, 73% of the workforce was engaged in agricultural activities, the great majority of them poor smallholders and laborers. For developing countries as a whole, the figure was 59%. Small-scale agriculture is not small in aggregate terms, accounting for much more employment and staple food production than larger commercial concerns, though the latter are dominant in food and other commodity trade. It is inconceivable, for the foreseeable future, that the cities, or commercial agriculture, could offer employment to the vast numbers of poor people in the countryside. For this reason alone, due attention to small-scale agriculture is essential for progress towards the OECD development targets for poverty reduction and sustainability. (Butcher, 2000)