Forum on Democracy

In response to the actions of the Trump administration in its first month in office, the College of International Studies put on a series of panel speaker sessions to address various facets of the recent attacks on democracy. The speech that had the most impact on me was Dr. Velazquez’s commentary on the way many communities have faced these kinds of attacks before. From the forced internment of Japanese Americans, to the forced sterilization of 30% (!!!) of Puerto Rican women by 1970, to the treatment of immigrants today, American democracy has not always been distributed evenly and ignore that would be to whitewash and rewrite history.
My task going into the forum on democracy was to find a link to terrorism so I wanted to post my comments on that while I talk about the forum here:

During the forum on democracy, there was a lot of talk about the suppression of truth and the resulting limitations on liberty, democracy and freedom. From demonizing the media to demonizing the “academic elites,” it is clear access to information is changing in the Trump era and the ability of citizens to advocate and hold their government accountable seems to be shifting as well. While there were many other very important points made during the forum, this point is where I saw the most direct link to terrorism.
Suppression of liberty, both by governments and institutions, has been shown to correlate highly with rates of terrorism (Krieger Meierrieks 2011). When people feel they do not have power to affect their government, they become increasingly desperate and may turn to extremism. While I don’t think anyone is arguing the U.S. is going to become a hotbed for terrorism under Trump, I do think it is very important to realize the path we are going on and the potentially dangerous and destructive consequences of that. By normalizing sexism, suppression of the media, and denial of truth, we are eroding the democracy that allows us each to maintain agency and power within our government, which may lead to increased desperation within the American public. Additionally, the destabilization of global order caused by the changes Trump and other populist leaders are making may have a similar effect.
Overall, while the forum was not in any way an uplifting or encouraging experience, it was a necessary dialogue that all Americans should be thinking carefully about.

Krieger, Tim, and Daniel Meierrieks. “What Causes Terrorism?” Public Choice147.1 (2011): n. pag. Springer. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

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OUR EARTH

On 2/23/2016, I attended a “Latin Americanist Lunch” hosted by the College of International Studies. After an entire semester of having class at 12:00pm, I was finally fortunate to find myself with the time to go to one of these miniature lectures. I sat down the with my roommate in the two seats next to the guest speaker and the sponsoring OU professor.

Besides getting Panera lunch, I had a number of noble and not so noble reasons for attending this guest lecture. In my Understanding the Global Community Class, attending these international area studies events can result in extra credit. I also am required to attend these events for the scholarship that I keep this blog for. For my sorority, you can also receive points for attending these “multicultural events.” Besides these reasons for obvious personal gain in other aspects of my life, I am extremely interesting in Latin America. I am currently in Grammar in Conversational Spanish, the fifth semester of Spanish Language offered at the University of Oklahoma, and I love the language and the multitudes of cultures that share the language. Thus, this opportunity seemed to fit all of my motivations rather closely.

I had the rare opportunity of being forced to talk to the speaker and one of my future professors for Understanding the Global Community. This opportunity came from walking in much later than the majority of attendance of other students and the only seats available at the table were those two. I was definitely not ready to talk about myself in a professional college standpoint, and actually stumbled after being asked my major. To say the least, I was rather embarrassed and I hope that I made up for it when telling him about myself. (I always feel nervous about not seeming intelligent and then coming off “too smart”) I told him about my plans to study abroad in Latin America and goals to attend medical school, and we had interesting small talk during the lunch before the talk. It was definitely nice to be able to have that kind of interaction with professors, and be able to talk about myself in a professional manner.

The speaker, Dr. David Lopez-Carr, is the head of the department of geography at the University of California–Santa Barbara. He was an extremely stimulating speaker. He was able to connect geography to bigger issues such as the urbanization and how that changes a nation and different communities. He mentioned the changes that capitalism can cause in the world. My Understanding the Global Community Class combined with these kinds of lectures that I have been attending have really opened my mind to the concepts of globalization and how my individual choices can make a statement. He was a professor I only to to get to know one day. He’s a champion for women’s education and sees education as the key to change. This idea is incredibly important and I really enjoyed this lecture. Dr. Lopez-Carr was able to connect so many different issues to geography. He spoke about women’s pregnancy and how many children a family has changes from rural locations to urban locations. And the fewer children mean that more resources are given to each child. He also spoke about how education also causes women to have fewer children. He also spoke about deforestation in the food industry. The food industry spends so much money on deforestation for crops. The energy used to farm these crops will be lost greatly in the food chain, and the championing for the meat industry is potentially dangerous.

This was an amazing choice for a lecture to begin the Latin Americanist Lunches, and I count myself grateful to the university to have provided me with this opportunity to hear from a visiting professor.

Austrian Night Trains

On my train from Austria this weekend, I had three different Europeans bring up the subject of Donald Trump’s presidency to me.
One was hesitant to ask me, afraid to offend me. One outright attacked me, assuming that each American had voted the same as the electoral college. And finally, an older man asked me what my generation thought of our country’s chosen leader and his blatant intolerance (those were his exact words).
Each European, whose memory of facism is much clearer and more recent than our own, shook their heads at our country’s current situation.
I listened to a pair of German teenagers who told us that four Pakistani refugees were pulled from their train car in the night for not having appropriate papers at the Austrian border.
I observed the troops and the military border police walking in and out of various train stations and shining flashlights in our cars in the middle of the night.
I never once had my passport checked. I never once had my status questioned. When the border patrol shone their lights in our car, they didn’t even open the door. I am so, so thankful for the fact that I am an American today and every day and for the safeties it affords me.
But today, I read that the Trump administration wants to repeal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that allows children whose parents migrated from other countries to the states to apply for work permits and defer deportation for two years (I know, the time difference makes me slow to the news). My heart sank. Because I’m studying refugeeism here in Europe and I know the heartbreak it brings and I cannot imagine being pulled off a train in the middle of the night and sent back to a place that I can no longer call home. And it makes me sick to think that our country, the place of endless opportunity, is turning away those who have none. It makes the rest of the world sick, apparently, too.

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Summer in Leipzig & Spring 2018

After much deliberation and many applications, I finally have a plan for my summer. I applied for the Critical Language Scholarship to learn Turkish, but unfortunately I was not accepted. Then, I planned to go to Israel for an archaeological dig, and even had paid my deposit. But then, I heard that a spot had opened up for a trip I have been hearing about in my German classes for several semesters now.

Long story short, I’m going to be spending a month in Leipzig, Germany this summer! I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Leipzig

I’ll be traveling with about fifteen other OU students to Leipzig, where we’ll take intensive German classes each morning, make field trips around the area each afternoon, and explore the country on weekends.

I’m eager to spend a month in Leipzig and become really acquainted with the city, and I’m also eager to see many different cities in Germany such as Berlin, Dresden, and Erfurt, to name a few. In the past two years I’ve learned quite a bit of German vocabulary and grammar, and practicing speaking in the classroom and in the real world will help my fluency tremendously.

Since I have the opportunity to spend this summer in Germany, I am considering other options for my semester abroad in spring 2018 so I can experience a different country and take classes more suited to my major, Letters. I’m browsing universities that offer courses in Classics, Greek, and Latin. Aristotle University in Thessaloniki looks like a wonderful option.

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

Plans could change again, as they are prone to, but I’m ready to embrace whatever travels my future holds!

what are you running away from?

 

what are you running away from, child?

what are you running away from when you sleep with your windows open no matter the cost of temperature, no matter the ease with which bad men could make their way up those walls, no matter the wings that fly in to lose their life to the light?

what is it about that breeze that keeps your stir crazy self sane, that breeze that makes you tame your mane instead of letting it fall dirty and matted and free around your shoulders, that breeze that makes you breathe with your eyes closed?

aren’t you afraid you might fly away with it?

or perhaps you already have, and you keep those windows open in hopes you will one day return.

I know you’ve spent long days with your head hanging over the edge of the bed, eyes half open, heart fully broken, trying to believe that there are no whispers on the wind telling you to go.

what are you running away from when you sneak out of crowds when the lights go down and the voices are loud so your friends don’t notice your absence the way they notice the trees when they first start to bud?

what are you running away from when you pray to wake up invisible?

and God, how do you answer Him?

He sees you running from miles away and yet He stays, He stays where He knows you will stop when you are ready to talk and He waits with the diligence of a marble Roman statue.

and what is your excuse?

who made it so you cannot even open your mouth to scream “Why?” when He tries to reach out His arms to you, but rather you stand, brimming with boiling waterfalls, shaking your head in distrust as you turn away to start running again.

where is the start of your damage?

what made the first break in your mind?

I’ve found my freedom at the top of mountains too tall for demons to climb, but what goes up must come down, and I always came down.

it seems that now, I’ve stayed.

I was trained far more in cross country than in combat so when the mistakes I have made and the men who have made me mute and the demons who don’t dare stop their destruction finally catch up to me, I look for my open window instead of my weapon. and I run.

I am tired of walking the plank just because my vessel has the potential to turn from ship to shipwreck.

I am tired of calling it quits at the hint of connection.

I am tired of feeling guilt at the thought of resurrection.

but this life seems to spin too fast for my liking sometimes so I run to keep up, or to out last, or to not be left behind.

running away is what I do best

it’s what I do instead of being the lady that doth protest

but I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut and my lungs over capacity, I want to turn my forward motion into forward tenacity

I want to see the roses bloom where I plant them

 

you can stop running anytime, love, anytime.

the wind still blows even when your window is not open to feel it.

don’t believe what they say about once a goner, always a goner; the Lord will you meet you where your legs stop working and He will carry you to the finish line, stroking your hair all the while.

there is kindness the color of glaciers and hope as important as bees, they will rest upon you once you start growing, so start growing and stop running and know that your feet deserve a rest just as much as your mind does.

stop running and start growing:

you’ll find that your soles know how to take root, and how to take root quickly, you’ll find that your shoulders are mountains in themselves and your waist is small enough to slip through the cracks in their armor.

your hair is South Dakota wheat waving in the wind and your voice is the wind in itself.

your spine cracks like the trees and grows even taller and your ribs have the stars trapped between them.

just stop, take a break, take a rest, take a breather, take enough time to photosynthesize into a reminder that you are more terrifying that the things that chase you.

you’ll find that they might stop dead in their tracks once you do too.

Arabic Calligraphy

For my first international event of the semester I was lucky enough to get a spot at an Arabic calligraphy class hosted by the university’s Arabic flagship group. I was one of a handful of people there who did not actually speak Arabic, but the class was interesting and informative nonetheless.

Did you know that there are 12 current types of Arabic calligraphy?
Did you know professional calligraphers can spend hours drawing just one character?
Did you know some calligraphers use real reeds as writing utensils?

well, now you do

My favorite aspect of the event was that we got to follow along with our own calligraphy pen and paper. I learned to write a few words in Arabic in a few different calligraphic styles. My favorite styles were the ones that have extra decoration and include all the short vowels. I really like the idea of making writing into a visual art form. I think it’s also a really interesting religious phenomenon that mosques are not allowed to include images of animals and such so they decorate with script instead. I’ve always tied that idea to the reform of the Catholic church and how simple Protestant churches are compared to cathedrals, but it was interesting to get some more insight into the history and techniques of the lettering and script used throughout the Arabic speaking world.

It was a really cool, unique opportunity that I am happy to have had.

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Back to “Normal”

So I’m back in the U.S. wading in biochemistry, medical school preparation, and general school work. I’ve been back for about 2 months now so it feels safe to say my transition back to school and to life in the U.S. is complete ? I guess ?

Spain was a learning experience and I loved a lot of my experiences there, but I never viewed it as my new home. I had a lot of conversations with people while I was abroad about this whole idea of people saying they’re never going to go back home because they love their new home so much. While that gets thrown around a lot, I think it misses a lot of really important things. I think it’s great when people really dive head first into their time abroad. I absolutely think that’s what you have to do. Commit to the language, the culture, and the people to the greatest extent you can with the understanding that you are always learning and will likely never truly master or fully understand a culture that is not yours. However, I think the beauty of study abroad is that it allows you to build a more nuanced understanding of the world by combining perspectives, cultures, and understandings. Throwing off your home culture, bashing it across the board isn’t necessarily productive.

Do I miss Spain or at least aspects of it? Absolutely (shoutout to Spanish tortillas). Are there also aspects of home I’m grateful to have back? For sure. Every country has foundational similarities we can appreciate by spending time abroad and also some differences to observe, learn about, and investigate. No one culture has all the answers, it would seem, but by learning about and experiencing as many cultures as possible, we can improve our understanding of the world, its people, and the best policies and action moving forward on both a macro and micro scale.

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Arabic Calligraphy lesson, aka Handwriting Inadequacy Hour

Just last week ago, the Arabic Flagship program hosted an Arabic calligraphy lesson with a master who teaches in California. Our whole Arabic class went together to take a look at the different styles of writing, and I can tell you, there were WAY more than expected. Calligraphy isn’t something practiced in the Western world with Latin script, so just in case you didn’t know, it’s an art form more about how the letters look than what they mean. It was initially practiced because it’s forbidden to paint or create any religious imagery of the Prophet or other figures whatsoever, so instead, script praising Allah was used as art to decorate buildings and writings. I’ve included a few examples of calligraphy below if you want a better idea of what I’m talking about. Classically, there were 65 distinct styles of calligraphy, but now there are just 12 styles in use, which is still way more than I expected. Of those, I could only read about 5, because the rest are so filled with decoration and twisting of the script that it was unrecognizable to someone who wasn’t too used to Arabic script. In the end, the lesson was far more intriguing than I could’ve guessed.

The professor had studied for years and years to learn how to write the scripts and it showed in his presentation. There were some technology issues and he had to use a chalkboard, and even without his proper tools, the scripts were still absolutely incredible. Each letter has a particular measurement using the dots you see in Arabic scripts, and each letter had to be a certain number of dots tall and wide to be considered actual script. Combine this with decorations and short vowels and you have a complex art. I didn’t realize that so much went into calligraphy, but after attempting to write some simple calligraphy with a pen, I quickly discovered that I would need SO many years to figure it out. Either way, it was an illuminating lesson, even if the illumination was mostly that my handwriting was WAY worse than I liked to think!

 

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La Degustación de Salsas en Puebla Tacos y Tequilería

A las 9:00 de la mañana, nos reunimos para nuestra clase en una Tequilería. No estábamos allí para probar unas tequilas; en actualidad, estábamos en el restaurante, Puebla Tacos y Tequilería, para una degustación de sus salsas tradicionales. El cuarto amarillo y brillo dentro de la restaurante fue un cambio bienvenido desde el frío intenso que hacía afuera.

La degustación de salsas.

Entre las salsas principales de Puebla, probábamos cinco tipos diferentes: avocar, habanero, tomatillo, dos chiles y chipotle. Nos servían las salsas con totopos hecho de maíz, que son cocinados en una plancha caliente y que se enfrían en 650 grados.

La salsa de avocar fue lo más picante en mi opinión. Esta salsa incluyó aceite de oliva, jalapeños, aguacate y sal. Para hacerla, se mezclaban mucho así que es muy suave. La salsa avocar en particular tenía un color verde muy brillo y puro. La sensación de esta salsa fue como un petardo – que prendó fuego a mi lengua repentinamente y con mucha fuerza. Me gustó la combinación del aguacate tranquilo con el jalapeño agudo. Esto fue mi favorita.

También había una salsa de habanero. Se hacían en una olla llena de agua hirviendo con cebolla rojo, habanero, chile seco, tomate, ajo y sal. Esta salsa tenía un color como una mezcla de naranja y rojo. La salsa habanero también fue chocante a la lengua con las especies picantes. También tenía una textura más líquido de las otras.

En la salsa tomatillo, incluyó tomatillo, cebolla, cilantro, agua y chile jalapeño. Esta salsa fue muy picante, con un sabor potente y fresca. También tenía una textura muy líquida. En comparación, la salsa “los pepes” (dos chiles) tenía el opuesto del sabor del tomatillo. Esa salsa se hacían con tomate, chile guajillo (que no es picante), ajo, sal y cilantro. Entonces, se ponían en una licuadora. Esto fue mi menos favorita.

La última salsa, salsa “chips” (salsa chipotle), parecía tener el color de una rosa – pero definitivamente faltaba el olor de una rosa. Para hacer salsa “chips”, se necesitaría chile chipotle, tomate rojo, ajo, cebolla y sal. Se hacían en una olla en agua hirviendo y entonces se ponían en una mezcladora. Tenía una consistencia muy espesa. Esta salsa era lo menos ofensiva en relación al nivel del picante, por lo tanto los clientes de Puebla les gustan salsa “chips” el mejor. Me gustaba todas las salsas de Puebla que probé. Volveré a ese restaurante para disfrutar la comida rica y la buena compañía.

Puebla Tacos y Tequilería.
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Adventures in Israel

This past December I had the incredible opportunity of traveling around Israel for 10 days. The trip was through an organization called Birthright, which takes young Jewish adults to explore the land of their heritage. Our journey began in the North, Tiberius, where we took a jeep ride through the Golan Heights and explored ancient ruins at the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. We got to ride up to the top of Mount Bental, witnessing the intersection of Israel, Jordan, and Syria, and then visited an Arab village in a set of neighboring mountains. A restaurant there served the best falafel sandwich I have ever had! The food in Israel was definitely a major highlight; hummus, tahini, and a plethora of different salads composed most of my diet while there.
Standing before the Western Wall was a monumental moment for me on the trip. It is a place that I have long learned about but never imagined I would see in person. As per tradition, I left a note in a crack in the wall. Walking around the rest of Jerusalem, and witnessing places of historical significance for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, was incredibly eye-opening as to the importance of a single city to so many religious groups.

I was lucky enough to also have adventures floating in the Dead Sea, spending a night under the stars in a Bedouin Camp, and exploring Tel-Aviv night life. In 10 days I fell in love with Israel and its natural beauty, rich culture, and unique history. I sincerely hope I am able to go back to Israel for study abroad; I cannot wait to further explore and get to know the country and its people.

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