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Vietnam: Farm School

Tu is 21 years old, and has just graduated from University studying agriculture. At Lanh's invitation, her family has moved from their village where they were growing commercial rice, onto the farm school property to start up a sort of model farm using only permaculture techniques. Back at home they grew wetland rice - the rice grown in big flat lowland paddies. Now they are in the mountains, they're struggling, because they don't know how to grow upland rice - the kind of rice they grow here - in terraced fields.

Vietnam: The Road to Cau Treo

We return from Ke village well after dark. Where we're staying is closest to the village of Nuoc Sot, really nothing more than an intersection in the road, an army barracks, and a hot springs resort, which seems a bit overbuilt, considering the size of the local population.

Crocodiles

I had been in the Gorongosa National Park for about a week when Carlos Lopes Pereira, director of conservation, told me that his rangers had found the crocodile.

"We are going to shoot it," he said. "It's near Vinho."

Vietnam: The Malieng

On this side of the Ca Tang River we're now in Ke village, home of about 70 Malieng families. The Malieng are the smallest ethnic group in Vietnam – about 1400 left in Vietnam, maybe another 1000 living in Laos. Traditionally they're forest dwellers – hunter-gatherers, and practitioners of swidden agriculture.

Vietnam: The Price of Rice

It's late morning, hot, cicadas are buzzing at full throttle already. Water buffaloes are slowly making their way down into the river. Dogs are sleeping in the shade beneath the bamboo. We're well off the highway, having made our way in low gear down a steep rutted four wheel drive path, and we're now at the river which the locals call Ca Tang. We're about ten kilometers from the Laos border, and just north of the former DMZ – the demilitarized zone, the demarcation line created between north and south Vietnam during what the Vietnamese call The American War.

Communities and Concessions

Nadia Sussman, for the Pulitzer Center
San Francisco, California

One of the strangest things about Guatemala is how close it is to the US. And how easy to leave. In our plane, we effortlessly crossed the border where Mexico tries to keep the Guatemalans out, then cleared the wall the US is building to keep the Mexicans out. Just four and a half hours out of Guatemala City's gleaming new airport we landed in LA.

A Visit to Beef National Park

Michael Stoll, for the Pulitzer Center
Laguna Del Tigre National Park, Guatemala

The sign announcing the entrance to Laguna del Tigre National Park is large and impressive. The problem is, that's about the only visible sign that you're entering a "core protected area" of a massive national wilderness preserve.

Almost back to Oakland for the Mirador Four

It's the last leg of our journey back from Guatemala and I marvel at the difference in the landscape from above — houses neatly dotted against the foothill ridges and valleys of California's sloping red terrain inching all the way from Los Angeles in random sproutings of civilization. It's the same feeling I had while staring out at the Pacific from Laguna del Rey today — kids ran from the onrush of crashing waves and boogie borders chased their boards only to bounce on them within an inch of a quick slide beneath their feet.

Over land to the capitol

I finally got to see more of Guatemala by land yesterday. I left Flores, Petén, with Kara and Nadia at 6 a.m. Hector, our friend and driver, was behind the wheel and we headed south for hours on straight roads passing more treeless land than I had seen my entire time in Guatemala. The vast rain forest that remains to the north has long ago been transformed into great open tracts of multi-use land. Houses line the roads, roofs are tiled or metal covered rather than thatched. The livestock grazing in the fields are larger and meatier, the car traffic is denser.

Guatemala City rain and welcoming

As the sun emerges from the gray brown smog that hangs over Guatemala City's wet streets, we board our plane and are inundated by the sounds of English words, and babies crying — for the most part a universal language of frustration.

Our time here is ended (for now) and I point the Blackberry in different directions while on the plane with the hopes that I'll be able to send at least one text or one blog entry while in the clouds. I am a horrible role model when it comes to connectivity politeness; make no mistake, it's a life line and it can get Hobbesian quickly.

Sustainable forest agriculture spawns its own verb

Michael Stoll, for the Pulitzer Center
Uaxactun, Guatemala

Everyone in this village down a muddy, rutted road, 23 km past the world-famous Maya archaeological site of Tikal, knows how to "xatear."

The verb, which would stump most Guatemalans, means "to cut xate," a decorative plant used in floral arrangements in the United States and elsewhere. But as obscure as the word may sound to outside ears, it's a core activity for most of this village of fewer than 1,000 people ...