Author Archives: Lisa F Zwicker

Woman on Wheels: Touring Vietnam by Bicycle

On March 23, 2016, IU South Bend archivist Alison Stankrauff gave a presentation on her summer 2016 trip traveling solo through Vietnam, a trip she described as “nothing short of amazing” and “days of wonder.”

She encouraged all her listeners, but especially women, to consider embarking on an adventure on their own and referred them to resources for solo women travelers.

She told her audience that traveling solo had empowered her, allowed her to forge a deeper connection to the places and people where she was visiting, and helped her to think about who she is and what kind of person she would like to be.

This talk was sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and International programs. Thanks to media services for filming the talk.

Alison’s guides introduced her to the people, culture, and food of Vietnam

Hanoi PeddlerShe had a chance to visit cities


as well as the beautiful countryside

Market at Hoang Su Phiand she loved exploring the public markets

Red Dao Ethnic Familybut best of all were the people that she met,

Me Cycling In Vietnam 2015

…and the chance to do it on her bike.

More resources for women traveling alone:

Solo Women Travelers – A closed group on Facebook – a*very* affirming group, offers good advice!

Woman  Travel Guide:

HostelWorld – “Solo Female Travel: Nine Myths and One Truth”:

Young Adventuress 

“…one of my big big BIG opinions that I frequently and loudly profess in real life as well as online is the following; I am a strong believer that all women should travel solo, at least once in their lives.”

Jessie on a Journey:  “How Solo Female Travel Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours, Too).”

GypsyGals:  A love letter to traveling solo and female in Hanoi!

Women’s Adventure Magazine has Vietnam in its Top 10 Places for Women to Travel Solo:

Women Traveling to Vietnam:

“I have never felt that my gender has been particularly relevant in Asia.”



Duisburg – a city in transformation by Lisa Zwicker

Here in Duisburg Germany to do research at the Gidal images archive in the Ludwig Salomon Steinheim Institute, I am met at every turn with the message that Duisburg is in transformation.

Even hair salons have gotten on the bandwagon.


“Structural Change: Your Hairdresser in Duisburg”

Trash cans spread the message:


“Duisburg, we await your contribution.”

Like the upper-midwest, Duisburg faces the challenges of moving beyond the production of industrial materials. Situated near the Rhein and Ruhr rivers, Duisburg grew in the nineteenth century to become one of the largest steel and coal producers in Europe. Because of its connections to waterways, Duisburg also became important for milling and processing grain. As the “Second Industrial Revolution” of chemicals and electricity gained momentum, Duisburg had a leading role. IMG_4045 The importance of Duisburg as an industrial center (see left for the chemical factory Matthes and Weber) meant that during World War II the Allies rained more bombs down on Duisburg than any other city in Germany. Duisburg revived in the 1950s and 1960s and returned to its global role of steel, iron, and coal production. At that time, Germany dearly needed those goods to rebuild. In the 21st century, as in the US, the growing parts of the German economy focus on high tech and services as opposed to creating or exporting raw materials. Now, Duisburg, like the US upper mid-west rust belt, faces the challenges that come with the loss of industry and loss of jobs. In Germany traditions of reform from above and solidarity have lead to large building projects. The inner harbor, subject of the photo above, has now become a cultural center with a walking path that meanders by a children’s museum, a Duisburg history museum, the city archive, parks, and new apartment buildings. In the image above, the waves in the red city archives echo the water of the inner harbor, and the cranes out front recall Duisburg’s industrial past. The beautiful Duisburg Landscape Park represents the largest of these projects. Built by architect Peter Latz, the park reuses what had been a polluted industrial wasteland. It incorporates elements from the previous chemical and coal production facilities, but has made this area into a park now safe for recreation for all. A set of interlocking climbing walls with different levels of difficulty replaced stone storage structures for coal. Here lavender grows in orderly rows and its scent wafts up to the walking path above IMG_4189 This park attracts tourists from across Europe. The other efforts — the museums, restaurants, and new developments — seem to have had less success so far, at least as far as the foot traffic on this albeit rainy and cold early summer week would suggest. Duisburger leaders and boosters argue that Duisburg has already lived through a number of transitions in the past:
* from a thriving medieval city until the path of the Rhine river was shifted, a change which led to a concentration on handicrafts
* a rapid transition to an industrial economy in the nineteenth century, which destroyed the livelihoods of many small artisans Will the immense investments in new cultural institutions and transforming city spaces pay off in economic development?

The city leaders’ campaign “Duisburg in transformation” does not suggest an endpoint, perhaps, a smart move considering how quickly economies move and change. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the fruits of these efforts, the beautiful museums, the new developments, and most of all the gorgeous parks.

Lisa Fetheringill Zwicker is Associate Professor of History and Director of International Programs at Indiana University, South Bend. She specializes in German history and spent time in Duisburg in 2015 as part of a research trip that focuses on turn-of-the-century Jewish women in German speaking Central Europe. In Duisburg she worked at the Gidal images archive at the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim institute.

David Bacon, Award Winning Photographer at IU South Bend on Tuesday

David Bacon at IU South Bend this Tuesday!
Bacon, an award winning photographer has written and photographed immigrant workers, workers on both sides of the Mexican border, and has discussed how US policy has exacerbated the problems low-wage workers experience both in the United States and Mexico. He will be speaking at Wiekamp 1001 at 11:30 am and then at 4:00 in SAC 220 (co-sponsored by the Latino Students Association). Both events are open to the public.

The Sonneberg Emergency Room

From across the swimming pool where I was playing with one-year old Lexie, I heard my six-year old son Lucas scream and then sob. It was not the I’m so sad cry, or the you took my place on the slide cry, but the help me I’m in pain cry.

We were in Germany for my research and to visit grandparents and a dear Uncle. Our sons Lucas and Max (four-years old) had convinced us to travel to Sonneberg for the biannual model trainshow there. The sunlit Sonneberg indoor swimming pool with its spiral slide was an added benefit.IMG_2003
“Uh oh,” I thought. With my one-year old under my arm, I walked quickly to Lucas and saw the Sonneberg Bademeisterin – swimming pool master- had gotten there first.
She asked Lucas his name and where he was from and what he was doing in Germany; in this way she expertly distracted him at the same time she applied steristrips to the deep cut on his chin.
“You really should go to the emergency room.”
My husband Marcus and I looked at each other and with our eyes asked each other
Is it really that bad?
What will we do with Max and Lexie while we wait?
Should we just go home and see how Lucas looks tomorrow?
“Really,” the Bademeisterin told us. “You need to go to the emergency room.”
Marcus and I thought back to our experience in the US in July the previous year. At 8pm in the evening I had called the 24-hour nurses line in South Bend Indiana because of Lexie’s high fever. “Go to the emergency room,” the nurse had told us.
By the time Lexie and I arrived at Memorial Hospital, the Tylenol had kicked in and he slept on my lap. That Friday evening a series of gunshot victims came into the hospital that needed more urgent attention than my peacefully sleeping baby. Lexie and I checked in at 9pm; we saw a doctor a 5:30am.
Back in Germany, Marcus and I decided to follow the advice of the Swimming Pool Master. We got into our car, drove a few miles to the local hospital, and steeled ourselves for the long wait.
But instead, a doctor almost immediately invited Lucas into an examining room, checked the cut on his chin, pronounced that the Swimming Pool Master had done an excellent job, and told us that a doctor should have another look at Lucas’ deep cut in a few days.  Two weeks later we got the bill: 30 Euros or about $40.
Generalizing from a few experiences is unwise. Nevertheless our family’s adventure with the emergency room illustrates some differences in the US and German systems.
The financial pressures on US hospitals mean doctors are almost never as available as they were to us in Sonneberg. The large number of uninsured in the US means that expensive emergency rooms become a place where too many people receive primary care or come to the hospital after not receiving proper primary care. The robust social safety net in Germany means that health care is subsidized – the only way to explain our $40 bill. American healthcare economists might counter that having a doctor waiting around ready to see us might not be the best use of health care resources.
In any case, Lucas turned out fine – only a small scar on his chin is still visible. The rest of  us were happy that we could go home, get a good night’s rest, and start the next morning with another day of trains – for the boys – and reading and writing for me.

Memories of teatime

I arrived at a snug cottage in a London suburb, and my host mother greeted me across her white picket fence, “A cup of tea after your journey, Luv?” I was eighteen years old and in Britain for a photography tour organized by Ventura Community College. We learned about photography back home in California, took photos in Europe, and then developed our pictures in the darkroom at the college.


… and we drank a lot of tea – tea in the morning when we woke up, tea before we headed off to take pictures, tea with lunch, tea when we got home for the day, and tea in the evening before we turned in for the night.

As I learned quickly, my host mother’s question “some tea, Luv?” also meant, “would you like to sit and chat for a bit?”

Talking through my impression with my host mother over a cup of tea helped me to assimilate what I had learned. She explained what I had found to be new or strange in London. The ritual itself, the day punctuated by moments of pause and connection, was different than American hustle bustle. Sometimes I was impatient with the sitting and chatting, but I grew to appreciate it, and especially the way that she welcomed me into her home and wanted me to have a good experience in London.

Although I did not bring the teatime custom with me back to the US, I still think about my host mother Maggie when I read books and snuggle with my sons, when my husband makes one of his delicious café lattes and we talk over our day, or when I sit on our lawn with neighbors and watch neighborhood kids ride bikes. I remember that moments of connection with other people make up the stuff of life, and I think back to my experiences in London — the teatime and cozy conversation.

Everyone wants to go to Berlin!

The New York Times writes about “36 hours in Berlin” this week in their travel section.

IU South Bend Students who would like to see Berlin for themselves can join me and Professor Kelcey Parker this summer in a study abroad program to Germany and the Czech Republic. Click here for more information