By Judith Green
One day last winter, Jim West
faced a happy coincidence: a one-semester sabbatical and 140,000 frequent-flyer miles.
not that West, a professor of economics and business, had been such
a footloose fellow. “You get ’em [the miles] when you buy things,
as well as when you fly,” he explained. But upon looking into how
to use them, for he planned to spend his sabbatical working on a
book about global economic development, he found out he could cash
them in for any six stops around the world—as long as he kept going
in the same direction.
entailed a bit of planning, but he was able to devise an itinerary
that took into account research for the book, several professional
conferences and lecture opportunities, a month in India to study
economic development and visit family, and a little bit of tourism.
“I had three goals for my sabbatical,” he said.
“I wanted to get a couple of articles written. I wanted to develop
a working proposal for a book on global economic issues. And I wanted
to visit Australia.”
was in several of these places in the midst of turmoil: Israel while
it built the wall separating Palestinian territories on the West
Bank, India right before a hotly contested Parliamentary election,
Athens as it prepared frantically for the Olympics.
But in the airports, where he expected chaos, there
was none. “I took 17 flights,” he said, “and every single one was
on time.” Except for a bomb scare at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, all
the legs of his travel were uneventful—though he adds dryly: “The
levels of security checks made for some interesting comparisons.”
divided his trip into a short visit to Israel and a longer trip
covering his other destinations. In January, West and his family
flew to Israel for a combination of pilgrimage and tour. They went
first to Haifa to visit the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens, marked by
an imposing gold dome on the slope of Mount Carmel. They then took
the road to the ancient port city of Akka and drove along the West
Bank to Tel Aviv. The wall was under construction, he says. “It
was eerie, driving along in this divided land through the dusk.
The green glow from the Palestinian mosques was in contrast to the
modern bustling city of Tel Aviv, just minutes away.”
He started his longer journey in March. He decided
to begin with a short visit to Rome and then go on to Athens, the
twin centers of Western civilization. “I wanted to get a sense of
their history and magnificence,” he says, “and I wanted to look
at them from an economic perspective, especially post-Euro” [the
common currency of the European Union].
He happened to arrive in Rome just after the March
11 Spanish train bombing. “I was in the Vatican when it observed
a request from the European Union for a three-minute moment of silence,”
he says, “and the Spanish Steps as well as the nearby Spanish embassy
were filled with flowers.”