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The State We're In - The kindness of strangers

On air: 27 November 2010 2:00 (Photo: Ian Woolf)

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The State We're In, 27 November 2010. Australian Don Ritchie (pictured above) recounts how he’s saved 160 people from committing suicide by offering them a cup of tea. An Egyptian-American woman moved to Cairo to be closer to her cultural roots, but constant sexual harassment forces her to leave; a Canadian woman turns in a lost wallet, but then enters a comedy of errors, leaving her suspected of being the thief. And a listener tries to make the case that bullfighting can be ethically ok.

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Australian angel
For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, known locally as 'The Gap', near Sydney. From his bedroom window, Don can see people as they’re considering jumping. So he walks over to them and gently asks them if they’d like a cup of tea back at his home. To date, Don has saved at least 160 lives.
The unkindness of strangers
Sarah Wali has divided her life between the US and Egypt. When she moved there permanently, her family back in the US warned her: the harassment of women is unbearable. But Sarah made it her mission to live in Cairo.
Harass map
Rebecca Chiao helps harassed women fight back - in a high-tech way.  Here's how it works: a woman gets harassed on the streets of Cairo. She then sends a text message to Rebecca’s site - - describing where and how she was harassed. Her report then becomes a dot on the virtual map, allowing other women to avoid the troubled spots of the city. 
Found and lost
RNW producer Anik See once found a wallet lying in a snowbank in Calgary, Canada. She thought she’d do the right thing and return it to the nearest police station. But the police thought she’d stolen the wallet. Then they thought it was hers. It took her two days to sort the mess out.
No bull
Host Jonathan Groubert recently interviewed an ex-bullfighter, Alvaro Munera who now fights for animal rights. Listener Alexander Fiske-Harrison contacted us to make the case that bullfighting can be acceptable. He tells Jonathan what it was like getting into the ring with a bull and delivering the tiro de gracia himself. You can listen to an extended version of the interview here.

Watch YouTube footage of Alexander in an early training session.
Link - Alexander Fiske-Harrison's blog - The Last Arena.
Click on image for slideshow

  • Don Ritchie has prevented at least 160 suicides at &#039;The Gap&#039; near Sydney, Australia<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • Don Ritchie and his wife Moya<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, known locally as &#039;The Gap&#039;, near Sydney<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • Sign at The Gap<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • View from the top of The Gap<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • An anonymous artistic expression of gratitude for Don Ritchie<br>&copy; Photo: Ian Woolf -
  • Sarah Wali lives in Cairo, despite the unbearable harrassment women face<br>&copy; Photo: RNW -
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison preparing with matador Rafael Rubio (or &#039;Rafaelillo&#039;)<br>&copy; Photo: Nicolás Haro -
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison with bull breeder Enrique Moreno de la Cova<br>&copy; Photo: Nicolás Haro -
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison fighting a historic breed of bull called the Saltillo<br>&copy; Photo: Nicolás Haro -
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison dedicates the bull to his parents<br>&copy; Photo: Nicolás Haro -
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison leaving the bullfighting ring<br>&copy; Photo: Nicolás Haro -

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Adam C. Sieracki 29 November 2010 - 11:04am / Canada

Great show. However, I didn't catch the name of the artist whose music was at the end of today's show--who are they?

user avatar
The State Were In 1 December 2010 - 4:31pm

Hi Adam, sorry for the delay while we checked this. If you are referring to the music which starts at 50.35 on the player above - then the piece of music is called "Heart of Grace"and it was composed by Gary Shepherd. For more information, you can visit his website:

kca 29 November 2010 - 6:12am / United States

Just heard the great 11/27 show. I hardly have anything to add to this wonderful broadcast except to say that the only time I ever found a wallet, it took three weeks before the police would take it! However, they had good reason. The wallet belonged to a man we both knew, I from his visits to our food pantry and they because he was homeless and they kept an eye on him. The officer told me that the man would have a much harder time getting to where they keep lost wallets, even if he knew of its whereabouts, and that we ought to keep it and see if he came to the next food pantry. I did, and when the man didn't come, I called the police and they picked it up. Sadly, I haven't seen him since. I only hope he decided to move out of town.

Oscar Vallazza 28 November 2010 - 5:46am / USA

I also heard the interview in Seattle. It immediately stood up against the usual monotony of our local Public radio programming. And when I heard the interview with Ms Ritchie, I just froze: I sat down and didn't move till it was over. I lived in Sydney, not too far from the Gap. I loved to go there as often as I could; for me, it was a place full of inspiration, quite a striking difference from the gloomy feeling of a place where people go and kill themselves. The view of the South Pacific has been with me since then, and even now, whenever I think of Australia the first image to pop up in my mind in the Gap. I was so impressed by the broadcast, that I have included a link to this page in my web page
Thank you Mr. Ritchie for being who you are. Whoever has the opportunity, it'll be a great pleasure to grab a beer at your place and gaze over the ocean!
Best from the other Pacific.

user avatar
Greg Kelly 28 November 2010 - 11:14am / netherlands

Thank you, Oscar, for your kind toughts and the link -- very generous of you.  All the best, TSWI.  PS: feel free to ask your local NPR affiliate to keep showcasing us!  

airdrummer 27 November 2010 - 11:36pm / usa

re: egyptian men's treatment of women...

u can take the egyptian out of egypt, but u can't take the egypt out of the egyptian:-( a friend's son-in-law is the shiny prototype of that stereotype:-\

Koalalou 27 November 2010 - 11:34pm / USA

Listening to your "Australian Angel" story made me a little homesick. I never lived near the Gap but have been there numerous times. Mr Ritchie I think is a very typical "Aussie" no worries, she'll be right mate, type of guy. I totally understand why he does it and why he won't move. If you saw the view from there, it's heaven on earth. Thank you for the story and thank you Mr Ritchie - onya mate!

Anonymous 27 November 2010 - 10:22pm / Lalaland

So many gods,so many creeds,so many paths that wind and wind, while just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.

DENNIS 27 November 2010 - 6:40am / Australia

I lived at Watson's Bay from 1947 to 1961. In that period many people took their own lilife at the Gap; so much so that the expression ''go jump over the Gap'' came into vogue. I saw the aftermath of several suicides. On the way home from school, the tram would stop at the Gap (second last stop). Whenever there were a lot of people up there looking over the railing you could bet on it that someone had jumped over. One poor woman had jumped from the high part of the Gap and had hit the water. She was still alive and waving her arm but no one could help her from a few hundred feet above. A very prominent figure was Sergeant Harry Ware of the New South Wales Police Rescue Squad. It was he and his team who were invariably called on to recover a victim's body.

user avatar
Greg Kelly 27 November 2010 - 9:04am / Netherlands

Thank you all for your comments.  We'll pass them along, including the tea/beer invitation, to Mr. Ritchie.  Good to hear from Dennis for his memories of Watson's Bay.  Greg Kelly, Editor TSWI

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