6 min read

Traveling through England.

Hello to all of the new faces here! I'm Cristina, a Spanish-American journalist writing about foreign and defense policy from my perch in the U.S. capital. This week, I'm traveling through the United Kingdom, the country where I spent the most years during my roaring 20s. Congress is out of session until September, so I'm taking you with me on my holiday.

One of the most rewarding things about traveling and seeing old friends from different parts of my life is how many new perspectives I'm exposed to in just a few weeks. It's nice to get out of the Washington D.C. bubble and hear about how people from other countries view U.S. foreign policy. The conversations I've had have already given me so many story ideas and reminded me of topics I want to explore, both for my full-time job and this newsletter. It's a reminder of how important it is for journalists and writers to talk to people from different backgrounds instead of always sticking with people who think roughly the same way we do.

That may seem obvious, but it can often get lost when you spend your days interviewing politicians, academics, government officials, and other experts. Even if you don't agree on everything, your point of departure is roughly the same. That's not always the case when you're talking to people you meet during your travels.

When writing about international affairs, you might ask a politician from Moldova or Ukraine what they think about the U.S. position on X and include their perspective in your story. But you rarely ask a citizen from Syria or Albania to comment on what they think the U.S. motivations are for policy Y. There is a certain logic to that, of course. I don't think the reader needs to know what my neighbor Bob thinks about Ukraine's new specialized anti-corruption prosecutor. He probably doesn't know anything about that (sorry, Bob!).

Still, people around the world are constantly impacted by decisions made in Washington. And there are a ton of misconceptions about how those decisions are made and why. Traveling and talking to new people reminds me that not everyone is privy to the information or perspectives I consume every day (that's part of why I write this newsletter), which is an extremely valuable reminder when I'm undertaking my work.

Traveling is frequently portrayed as a pursuit for the privileged. And the sad reality is that it's often only accessible to people with specific means and abilities. But I think everyone should get a chance to experience life outside of where they grew up. In fact, the more places you can experience, the better. I will die on this hill.

One day I'd like to find a way to help more people travel the world in a way that is informative and expansive and not exploitative or exorbitantly expensive. But that is a project for another day and perhaps another stage of life.

Now for some U.K. travel tips: If you happen to be waiting for a bus (coach) at the Bristol coach station, I recommend spending some time at the Canteen in Stokes Croft.

It's less than a 10-minute walk from the station. The food is all vegetarian and delicious (really, really good!). It's affordable. The wifi and the coffee are strong, and the chairs are comfortable. The staff is totally chill, and you can hang out there for hours and do your work without anyone bothering you (except the random man who serenaded me on his guitar and gifted me a pack of sunflower seeds).

Potatoes loaded with kimchi and alioli from the Canteen.

I spent some hours there as I waited for a bus back to London, and it was a very pleasant experience. I even did some work on this newsletter, like adding the comments section (you can comment on these posts now!).

A pack of sunflower seeds from my new friend. It's good to grow together.

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What I'm writing:

• When I traveled to Austin, Texas, last month to report on the resettlement of Afghan refugees for National Journal, I profiled a Special Immigrant Visa recipient about her escape from Afghanistan. Masooda had spent years working during the day and studying at night, becoming one of the few women in Afghanistan to earn a master’s degree in finance. On the day Kabul fell to the Taliban, she was in the hospital bringing her son for a checkup and mandatory vaccines. She looked out the waiting-room door and saw people running around the hallways in a panic. When she looked at her phone, she had an email from the U.S. embassy telling her to go immediately to Hamid Karzai International Airport.

What I'm reading:

The Washington Post has a big story about the run-up to Russia’s war against Ukraine, which outlines how the U.S. struggled to convince European allies of the threat from Vladimir Putin.

• The Washington Post also has a report on how Russian spies misled the Kremlin and misread Ukraine in the lead-up to the war.

• Throughout July, Europe’s six largest countries offered Ukraine no new bilateral military commitments, Politico Europe reports. It's the first month that happened since Russia invaded in February.

• Ukrainian artillery struck the headquarters of Russia's Wagner paramilitary group in eastern Ukraine, the BBC reports.

• The first United Nations shipment of Ukrainian grain to Africa departed this week, the New York Times reports. It was the first shipment chartered by the UN World Food Program as part of an effort to direct much-needed grain to countries affected most by food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Kyiv Independent has an important report on leadership misconduct in the foreign legion. "The Kyiv Independent’s investigation reveals endemic problems in one of the International Legion’s wings that is overseen by Ukraine’s intelligence," the report reads.

• Speaking of international people fighting for Kyiv, VICE reports that members of the Boogaloo Bois are heading to Ukraine to fight.

• When Russia invaded Ukraine, 100s of Russian journalists fled to Latvia with the government's help. But Latvian intelligence is warning they could be spies, the Financial Times reports.

• Estonia has the fastest inflation surge in the eurozone, with data showing a 22.7 percent annual spike. That could be a problem for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, whose government is facing an election in six months, Politico Europe reports.

• Estonia repelled a major Russian cyberattack this week, the New York Times reports.

• The most popular Telegram channel in Slovakia and the Czech Republic is run by an anti-vax, antisemitic, far-right extremist wanted by Slovakian police, Bellingcat reports. The man lives here in London.

• French prosecutors opened an investigation into the Czech Republic's former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on suspicion of money laundering related to his purchase of villas in the south of France, Politico Europe reports.

• The European External Action Service criticized a “recent increase of inflammatory rhetoric between officials of Kosovo and Serbia, in particular the statements about war and conflict in the Western Balkans."

• Serbia and Kosovo failed to solve recent disputes at EU-mediated talks in Brussels, but the two Balkan nations did agree to continue talking, Deutsche Welle reports.

• Twitter suspended the accounts of at least 16 political figures in Serbia, all of them either members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party or holders of senior state posts, Balkan Insight reports.

• A group of almost 40 Syrian migrants who spent a month on a piece of land between Greece and Turkey were finally taken to temporary accommodation by Greek police, the Guardian reports. But not before a 5-year-old girl reportedly died from a scorpion sting.

• Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could be a kingmaker in the upcoming September 25 election — buying him another five years of relevance, Politico Europe reports.

• Former Australian leader Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to five additional ministries while he was Prime Minister, the Guardian reports. Australia's current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused his predecessor of "undermining democracy."

• Israel raided seven Palestinian human rights organizations that it claimed have ties to terrorist groups, the New York Times reports.

• A Chinese military ship docked in Sri Lanka despite the opposition of both India and the United States, the Washington Post reports.

• William Ruto was declared the winner in Kenya’s presidential elections, but the losing candidate, Raila Odinga, rejected the result, the New York Times reports.


You can write to me for any reason at c.maza@protonmail.com.