A Percussive Afternoon

I have been to many musical performances in my life; I absolutely love the experience of live music. The majority of these performances have been in the vein of Western music, from classical concerts to rock festivals. However, this past Sunday I attended a musical event at Catlett that centered on Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and it was a very different experience from any past musical event I could recall attending. The “Souza Percussion Duo” consisted of five pieces, and each one was enchanting. A multitude of percussion instruments were played throughout the concert, ranging from marimbas 10 times my size to drums to woodblocks to cymbals.
While the Western ideal in music is usually a single, clear melody backed by one or several harmonies (whether vocal or instrumental), I learned that in traditional African society the ideal sound is “fuzzy”. Just as Westerners prefer clarity in music, Africans and those who follow in their musical traditions strive to create a network of complex and layered melodies. This was reflected in the fact that at most times, both of the musicians were holding two mallets in each hand. This gave them the amazing capability of creating several intricately intertwined melodic lines at all times.
Another interesting aspect of the structure of the songs was their melismatic quality; they often sounded floating and otherworldly. Rather than having a sharply defined structure or a single time signature at any point, as is the case in much Western music, the focus was on the patterns and rhythms, and the way that they combined to create a mosaic of sound. I had never experienced this approach to music. I enjoyed it immensely, and have certainly been inspired to attend more non-traditional concerts focused on the music of places like Africa and the Caribbean.


Language Barrier

I am not dumb. I by no means am saying I am ever the most intelligent person in the room, but I like to believe I’m a good conversationalist. I pride myself in being warm and inviting. Being in Mexico has been hard. Being in the hospital with incredibly intelligent people has been difficult. Some of them have cast me off as dumb, some talk to me, when I ask them to repeat it because it was just a little too fast they laugh and go off to talk about the “gringa”. There are a few who are patient. They allow me to stumble over my words and offer helpful suggestions when I get stuck. There are some with whom I have began a language exchange: they talk to me in their growing English and I talk back in my growing Spanish.

It has been frustrating to be left looking dumb or uninterested. I am desperately interested. I desperately want to participate in the rapid banter that happens around me. I am getting there, but I am not there yet.

This experience has also opened my eyes to the experience of those who go to America and experience the same. It has drawn my compassion for those who are in my classes struggling to keep up. I can’t wait to go home and embrace these people to let them know that I know it is hard, I know it is frustrating, but if they need practice, I am there.

I knew that learning a language would be difficult. I knew immersing myself in a language would be even more challenging. I am grateful for it. I am thankful I am here. I will continue to meet the challenge that is learning a language head on.

I would encourage the same of anyone else. Take the challenge. Be prepared to be frustrated. Some days you will wonder why you started and then others you will have a (mostly) full conversation with your Uber driver and you will know why you started. Learning a new language opens up a world of possibility. It changes your brain and makes you a better person overall.

So seriously.. do it.


Reading Notes: 1001 Nights (A)

  • I want to see this from Scheherazade’s point of view. Why has she decided to do this? What changes? Has she been planning this for a while? Is she scared?
  • I like that the man was honorable enough to actually return to face the Genii, but I wonder what happened during that year he put his affairs in order. How did his family react? What plans did they make?

So I really like this story so far, but I find that I’m more interested in the frame story than any of the individual stories. I wonder what the Sultan is thinking as Scheherazade keeps telling story after story. Has he changed his mind about her? Does he understand what she’s trying to do? What did he think about killing all the young women he married? I think this story is much more interesting than the stories the Sultana tells.

Bibliography: 1001 Nights, translated by Andrew Lang. Web Source.

Image: Scheheradzade by Édouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter. Source: Wikimedia

International Event #1: Pasta Making with Luccio

For my first international event,  I went to a pasta making class taught by Luccio, OUA’s student service coordinator. Pasta was surprisingly easy to make and I was amazed by how simple the recipe was. Even the ravioli wasn’t too difficult! This past weekend, I went home and made pasta for my mom. This time it was much more difficult than how I had remember ed it in class. Although my pasta pieces were rather misshapen, my mom made a great sauce to go with them. It was a great meal, overall. I enjoyed learning something at OU that I was able to bring back to my home. I will definitely be attending the pasta making class again next year, if I am able!


Currently I am sitting outside and in the distance I can hear cars’ horns blaring. Which is common in Mexico but today it means something else. Today there is a march going on outside the front entrance of UPAEP. Because of this march, traffic is building up and all the drivers honk their horns. Blare their horns.

I am sitting outside unable to participate in the march because it is illegal to protest in Mexico and my director advised me not to. But I want to. Because this march is protesting femicide. A young woman (who was a fellow student at UPAEP) was raped and murdered a few weeks ago. There have been 80+ cases of femicide this year in the city of Puebla alone.  A few weeks ago a couple of girls were assaulted near the UPAEP campus. This march is protesting against femicide and to change the missing persons law so that a family doesn’t have to wait 72 hours to being their search for their loved one.

I am sitting outside because my class was cancelled because my professor felt obligated to participate in this march.

I am sitting outside thinking about the fact that I didn’t even recognize or know the word femicide until today. Until today I lived in a world where femicide wasn’t a word. And now I don’t. I know that to be a women is to be unsafe. It means to be cautious. It means I can’t walk home alone at night and sometimes even during the day.

I’m sitting outside in Puebla, Mexico- the safest city in Mexico- and I don’t feel safe enough to walk home alone during the day.

I’m sitting outside and for once it’s quiet. Everyone has left to join in on the march.


The Judgement of Malchus

Image result for the beheading of saint margaret

The Beheading of Saint Margaret. Web Source: The National Gallery.

Reposted from my blog for my Mythology and Folklore class. 

“Malchus of Antioch, do you know why you have been called before this court today?”

“Yes your lordship. I am guilty of the death of one Margaret of Antioch, a brave and noble woman of Christ.”

The provost frowned. “Far from it, for her death was upon my order.”

“Then you are guilty as well, your lordship.”

“And that is why I have summoned you all here today,” said a loud voice from the back of the room.

Looking around, Malchus noticed that he and Olybrius, the provost, had been joined not by Olybrius’ soldiers but by a dragon, an unsettling young man, and two other figures, both very bright. He thought it was one of the latter two that had spoken, but he was not sure which one.

“Tell us what you have done to the woman who was called Margaret,” said one of the bright ones.

The dragon growled at the mention of her name. “I fully intended to eat her, but she made the sign of the cross and I was forced to back down.”

“And you, Veltis?”

The strange young man shifted uncomfortably. “I am ashamed to admit that she bested me as well.” He rubbed his neck. “I couldn’t stop myself – every question she asked I answered. In the end, she made the ground open up and swallow me.

“Olybrius, son of Adam, what was your relationship with this woman?”

The provost looked annoyed. “She was the most beautiful girl I had seen in a long time. I intended to marry her, but she had betrayed our gods for a crucified one, which was most unseemly. I had her tortured multiple times, but she refused to return to our beliefs. At last I commanded my hangman to kill her, and this time there was no miraculous rescue.”

“And you Malchus, son of Adam – are you the hangman of whom Olybrius spoke?”

“To my everlasting shame, sir.” Malchus looked at his hands. “She asked for a bit of time to pray, and I gave it to her. But really it was for myself sir – I needed the time to gather up my courage. How could I kill this woman who had bested a dragon and come out alive from boiling water? But then, I’d seen the provost kill the 5000 men who converted because of her. So I wasn’t sure. But after hearing her pray, pray for forgiveness for all of us – for me – who had tortured her and were going to kill her – I couldn’t do it. And that voice – the voice from heaven – it said it granted her prayers, sir.” His voice was trembling.

“And yet the woman is dead,” said the other bright one.

“Yes sir. She told me that I might have no share with her if I did not cut off her head. So I did.” Malchus covered his face, and his shoulders shook.

“I see.”

The first bright one seemed to have made his judgement. “You all have done well in persecuting this woman. Not as well as I might have hoped, since she bested you, but that is to be expected when dealing the Enemy. You will certainly be rewarded by Our Father Below.”

“Wait just a moment,” said the second. “I believe Malchus belongs to me.”

Malchus began to be rather terrified, as the second seemed far more likely to judge him.

“Not at all. Did he not kill one of your people’s so-called saints? What more does it take to come Below?”

“He killed her, yes, but she requested that he be forgiven before her death. He has repented and believes, and that is all it takes to come Above. You have the other three, let me take this one.”

“Oh alright, have it your way. I’ve got three times as many as you.” He led the dragon, Veltis, and Olybrius away, leaving Malchus alone with the second.

“Malchus, you shall experience all the torture on earth that you have dealt this woman. But you shall one day see her again in paradise.”

Malchus knelt in gratitude.

“Do not kneel to me, but look ever heavenwards.”

When Malchus looked up, the figure had disappeared.


Author’s note: This story is based on the story of St. Margaret, from The Golden Legends. She was raised by her nursemaid, who converted her to Christianity. The provost wanted to marry her, but wanted her to renounce Christianity first. When she refused, he had her imprisoned, tortured, and eventually killed. During her imprisonment, she defeated the demon Veltis. I wanted to explore the story from the perspective of the other characters, particularly the hangman who beheaded her against his own wishes. In this story, the characters responsible for her death are judged by a demon and an angel. The demon’s language is partially based on that of The Screwtape Letters.

Bibliography: “Saint Margaret,” Voragine’s The Golden Legend, link to the reading online.

The Jackal’s Test

Reposted from my blog for my Mythology and Folklore class. 

Hello reader.

I’m three thousand years in your future. You won’t live that long of course, so here’s a glimpse of what your people have done to my world. You’ve burned it and hunted it and poisoned it. But you and your experiments also gave us minds.

Explore The Black Azar's photos on Flickr. The Black Azar has uploaded 12247 photos to Flickr.

Dystopia. Web Source: Flickr.

Yes, every one of us. From myself – Jackal, at your service – and the other animals to the surviving trees, all of us can think and feel and speak. Even the road beneath your feet. Well, my feet. You’re probably sitting in a chair in comfort.

Image result for caged tiger

Caged Tiger. Web Source: Pixabay.

Despite all these changes, your people are still in charge. Somehow. I’m hoping to change that. Afterall, are you really fit to lead? Take this fellow Brahman. We – Tiger and I – were trying to see how people responded to Tiger’s plea for freedom. This guy actually let him out of the cage, which was a start. But we wanted to give him more of a feel for our plight than that of one noble beast in a cage. It’s easy to have pity on a magnificent tiger. But what about the rest of creation that suffers on his behalf? So Tiger made him go talk to three of us. He thought he had to convince them that he should live. But really we wanted to see if he could convince himself.

He heard from the trees that died for his books and newspapers. He spoke to the cow that was force fed only to be slaughtered for his meat. He spoke to the road that choked under the pollution from his car.

Yet after all these conversations, his only thought was for how he might survive. So I pretended to help him by leading Tiger back into his cage. It would not do for him to suspect our fomenting revolution.

You see, now we need another plan. You humans cannot be convinced to sympathize with us, so we must find another route to liberty. Tiger is still in his cage, and next time I will be the one to let him out. Cleverness and violence will win our earth back. As you might suspect from this glimpse into the future, I will take the reins as we rise.

File:Indian Golden Jackal.jpg

Jackal. Web Source: WikiMedia.

Author’s note:

This story is based on “The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal.” In the original story, the tiger tricks the Brahman into letting him out, then threatens to eat him unless one of the first three people that the Brahman comes across can provide a convincing reason as to why he should not be eaten. The papal-tree, the buffalo, and the road see this trickery as the natural course of life, but the jackal pretends to be confused and forces a retelling of the story, until the tiger is back into his cage. In my retelling, I wanted to examine the jackal’s motivation for helping the Brahman and apparently opposing the tiger. I set the story in the future so that the personification of the animals, the tree, and the road would be more plausible.

Bibliography: “The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal” from Indian Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs with illustrations by John D. Batten (1912). Web Source.


Although I am an immigrant myself, I realize that I am someone that came to America with privileges. I had paperwork and a green card, and after being in the US for a few years, my dad became naturalized and so did I. So I lived all my life in America without a single worry other than getting good grades and a good job.

However, there are many people in America that are not as privileged as I am. In particular, my friends at work are undocumented immigrants. They talk about not being able to get a driver’s license and financial aid for college. And, even the little things like always fearing that they could be turned into the authorities and be deported. They finally got a sense of relief when DACA was announced. Now, they could finally get a license and, although they do not qualify for the Pell Grant, they don’t have to worry about being forced to go home.

When I heard that DACA was being rescinded, I thought about my friends and what this meant for them. As people who have been in my life for a while, I was worried for their future. I did not want any of them to have to leave their life in America. One of them is in nursing school and is getting ready to graduate. And the other is pregnant and starting her little family here. It breaks my heart to think that they could both have to leave their lives here and go to a place that has been unknown to them for decades. All of their hard work and social ties would have gone to waste all because they don’t have papers. Their parents saw no future in Mexico and wanted a better life for their children when deciding to move to the US. DACA, to them, was a light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than kicking them out, I think there needs to be a way to deal with them ethnically. Also, rather than building a wall and trying to keep Latin Americans out of the US, we need to look at why they are risking everything by trying to come to America. By understanding their situation, the US could see a decrease in illegal immigration.


NISO Peer Mentor

As you may know from reading my other blog posts, I was in South Korea for study aboard for an academic year. While I was there, I learned a great amount about South Korea, the world, and even more about myself. However, I often felt alone and lost as I did not know anyone in the country. My school was also not very helpful because the international student club cost money and was very centered around partying and drinking. Luckily, I made some friends after a few weeks of class and they were able to answer questions I had. I was very appreciative of these friends as they helped me through a lot
And so, I decided that I also want to be that friend. In the summer, I applied to be a NISO peer mentor, in which I have a group of international students that can connect me for help or just to hang out. I was very excited to apply and become a peer mentor because it felt like it was my way of repaying back the kindness I received in Korea. I was accepted and I attended the Crimson Connection day with much excitement. There, I met my group of students. They were from all over the world. There was a girl from England, a boy from Germany, a few from Africa, and a graduate student from South Korea. I was very happy to have a diverse group of students and potentially friends that I could hang out. One thing really enjoyed about being in Korea was the amount of international people I met, and so joining NISO allowed me to feel that way again. I will try my best this semester to become good friends with them as I really want to make connections that are worldwide.