My Girls

As I have started working this semester, I have also begun supporting two sponsor children through Compassion International.  This has been so rewarding to me already, and even though I have only gotten one letter from one of the two girls, I feel so much a part of their lives just through learning a little about them and through praying for them every day.  Here they are!

Nicol Cristina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both my girls live in Ecuador where I hope to study next fall.  Cristina (right) is six years old.  She lives with both parents, who are farmers.  Cristina wrote me a letter which I received two weeks ago.  She told me she loves swimming, her favorite food is chicken, and her favorite color is yellow.  She also thanked me for loving her and asked me if I was her friend.

Nicol is on the left.  She is four years old and lives with her mother, who is sometimes employed as a housewife.  We have the same birthday, December 26th.  I am hoping to hear back from Nicol soon!

I adore these girls already and can’t wait to meet them, whether that happens if/when I study abroad in Ecuador or whether I take another trip specifically to visit.

If you are looking for an organization through which to sponsor children, I highly recommend Compassion.  They are given the highest ratings by Charity Navigator in addition to being accredited by the Better Business Bureau and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.  They make communicating with your child easy through online or physical letter writing, and they automatic withdrawal options so it is easy to stay on top of the payments.  Learn more and view waiting children at www.compassion.com!

Healing

This semester, I had the incredible opportunity to see Sister Rosemary, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee from Uganda, give an interview right here at OU.  She began a movement called Sewing Hope, a nonprofit business which provides training in tailoring to victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  With the donation of pop tabs and the purchase of thread, these women are able to handcraft beautiful purses and handbags which are then sold to benefit St. Monica’s School, the Sewing Hope foundation, and Pros for Africa, all local movements working to reintegrate these women into Ugandan society after years of stigma.

Sister Rosemary made a statement at the end of her interview which will always stick with me:

“I would not use the medicine of Uganda to heal the issues of America, just like I wouldn’t use the medicine of America to heal the issues of Uganda.  But we can work together.”

We are terribly misinformed if we think that Americans can or will be the ones to solve the problems that other peoples are facing.  We as Americans can do much to support locally developed and locally run missions organizations, especially financially, but at the end of the day, the people most capable of helping Ugandans are Ugandans.  Attempting to implement American solutions to Ugandan problems only contributes to the problem of Westernization and does not allow for a sustainable or financially efficient solution to be reached.

Latin Ballroom in the Ballroom

Earlier on in the semester, I attended a cultural event in the Union Ballroom, which was restored by Mrs. Boren to recognize the importance of dance as a part of culture and art. Not surprisingly, this event was a massive Latin ballroom dance class where two members of the Latin Dance Club taught one half of the attendees, either the lead or the partner part of the dance.

They taught us some basic mambo and salsa steps very methodically while keeping the fun atmosphere alive, then eventually let us combine everything we had learned in our own way. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot besides dance steps. the whole event was centered around learning about not only the dance themselves, but the history behind them and their historical significance.

They  also provided free food, which is always a great way to encourage college students to attend anything. Along with chips, salsa, and queso, they also provided some healthy alternatives and plenty of candy. Everyone who came seemed to have a great time, and this was great publicity for the Latin Dance Club, and any other dance organization on campus.

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Dump the Trump

Donald Trump has baffled all political analysts by making it this far in the race and maintaining his lead. They have, for the most part, come to the conclusion that Trump is running a campaign driven by fear. He has latched on to the country’s rampant xenophobia and islamophobia, especially in the wake of the Paris attacks. Some might say this makes him a good businessman, he knows what will sell, and fear always will. Most will say this will make him a terrible president. If he was selling fire proof clothing, Trump would most likely not be opposed to yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. He has called for measures like registering the country’s muslims in a database, and building a giant wall. As someone who has spent an extended amount of time studying Hitler’s rise to power in a economically and nationally devastated Germany, from both external and internal perspectives, I am scared. Trump is not the powerful speaker that Hitler was, but his ideas are conveyed well enough to get him where he is today. The difference, however, is that Hitler believed that what he was promising,  while Trump only seems to care that his promises will bring him votes. I dearly hope that we never get to find out what Trump really believes in.

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Global IV, Round 2!

This semester I once again had the opportunity to be involved with Global InterVarsity.  Due to class conflicts, I unfortunately wasn’t able to participate as much as I would have liked to, but thankfully I still had some great experiences with new friends from around the world!  Two experiences in particular stuck out to me from my time with Global IV this semester.

On Halloween, I went to the Global IV/Multi-Ethnic IV Halloween party.  In classic InterVarsity fashion, I decided my costume should be a pun, so I dressed as a pig in a blanket.  I severely underestimated how many international students would be confused by this costume, and it was a wonderful bonding time laughing over the silly name Americans have given to hot dogs in crescent rolls– something I would never have thought twice about until I had to explain it to Michael from Germany.  From that moment on, I made it my goal to interact with as many of the international students, successfully sharing the magic that is a pig in a blanket with ten students from three different continents.  I fully expect pigs in blankets to sweep the world over the next three years.

I also had the opportunity to go to a couple informal Bible study nights.  Studying the passage of Jesus calming the storm with a Bangladeshi student who had witnessed a man’s death during a monsoon was a real eye opener for me.  Her recollection of the intense fear she felt in that moment brought depth to that story for me that I may never have thought twice about before.  Her faith that Christ could and does calm storms, both external like the monsoon and internal like the exams we were facing that week, was challenging and encouraging all at once and was just one of the many reasons I love being a part of InterVarsity!

As my schedule next semester opens up a bit, I am looking so forward to once more being able to attend the Tea Time portion of Global InterVarsity and spending more time with these incredible students from all over the world while learning about their faiths and sharing my own!

IAS World Fair

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          A few weeks ago, I attended a large event sponsored by the International Area Studies program, which involved twenty or so international student organizations, such as the Korean Student Association, coming together with booths selling some cultural products and talking to the many people that came by about their organizations and their countries. There was food and free trinkets, along with a number of fun activities, to encourage people passing by to experience something new. The purpose of the event was to spread awareness and raise funds for the international student organizations, while spreading knowledge about their countries and cultures. On a side note, it was also just a great time in general.

            There were booths dedicated to countries from all around the globe. Most student may never get the chance to visit any of the countries represented. This contributes to diversity on campus by exposing students to cultures that they may never get to truly see up close. This exemplifies the fundamental principles of globalization. People are meeting people and learning about their countries and cultures, and although it’s in a seemingly shallow way, even this small of a moment can be the first step to opening someone’s mind and widening their perspective. At this event, I learned a lot of useful information about International Area Studies, study abroad, and the room swap program. I also learned a lot about some of the countries that were represented, which I previously knew very little about.

            My perspective was therefore changed by this event by introducing me to new ideas and teaching me about places and people. I will actively seek out other events like this in the future to learn and experience even more, and plan for future travel plans.

           

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Paris

I was waiting for a friend to pick me up for dinner when I heard the first news of the Paris attacks on NPR. I immediately went to other news sites to try to wrap my head around what happened and find out what we knew so far. As soon as I began gathering information I knew it was going to be non-stop news for a while. It hit me pretty quickly that this would be on the same scale as 9/11 for France. When my friend arrived, before we went to dinner, we sat and discussed it for a bit. She does not have the same obsessive tendencies that I do, when it comes to following the daily news cycle, and she brushed it off as just another shooting, just another terrorist attack, it being only weeks after the Russian plane came down in Egypt. But as a explained the details to her, she, too, realized what a big deal the attacks would prove to be. They added fuel to the fire of xenophobia and islamophobia, changing political discourse worldwide. I will discuss a particular part of this discourse in my next post.

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Jordan and its Queen

Queen of Jordan

When one thinks of privilege, there is little that can top royalty. In Jordan, the royal family is still quite active. Jordan is a constitutional and parliamentary monarchy, and the king holds political power in their executive branch. The current Queen consort, Rania Al Abdullah, has become widely known for her advocacy work, and represents an image of a powerful, educated, beautiful woman who fights for what she believes in and advocates for women’s rights. She is pictured at the Queen Rania attends Women in the World Summit in October 2015.

How has this image effected Jordan as a Muslim country and has a nation lead primarily by men? This brings into question of agency and the restrictions of women’s power both politically and socially. When a person in power states women should have the veil to veil, or not, as they please it helps to kick-start equality for women, especially when the power is held by a woman. The lack of women who hold political office has been a massive hindrance to the women’s rights movement for as long as people have been fighting for women’s rights. Although the numbers have been slowly rising, especially in recent years, the vast majority is still male. Although Jordan has some legislation protecting women, there is still much progress to be made, as there is in most counties around the world.

For instance, in Nancy Gallagher’s chapter in Faith & Freedom, she points out the disturbing fact that “women only make up 11.5 per cent of the salaried labor force” (Faith & Freedom 210) in Jordan, though this has recently gone up slightly to 15 percent. However, the female literacy rate in Jordan is the highest in the Middle East at 97.3 percent. Girls have also been consistently achieving better grades than males in almost all levels of education, yet women continue to hold the role of the inferior.

Why do men and the social norms they uphold insist that women are inferior, and why are these constructs still so easy to find today? The answer to these questions that women are confronted with on an almost daily are still hard to pin down. Many feminist movements, including Jordan’s are still relatively new. Jordan lacked any form of women focused organization until after the Second World War. Given this set back, they have made significant progress compared to other Middle Eastern countries.

 

Works Cited

Afkhami, Mahnaz. Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World. Syracuse,

NY: Syracuse UP, 1995. Print.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/ng-interactive/2014/feb/04/womens-rights-country-by-country-interactive

Photo taken from the Queen’s web page.  Images are approved for use. http://www.queenrania.jo/

 

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Feminism in Egypt

2015 has been a very eventful year. Politically, there have been disasters, victories, regressions and great strides made for equality. Despite the positive changes in our ever changing world, society still has a long way to go if we want to establish true and lasting equality for all genders. The oppression of women is worldwide, however it varies in degrees and comes in many different forms. In this blog I will discuss the specific living situations involving biased legislation and societal norms of Muslim women in Egypt, along with their roles in their society and how they compares to the roles of men. I will address how Islam effects their roles and how religion has become intertwined with patriarchal institutions and rhetoric that inhibits their agency and oppresses their freedom. My main focus is how the patriarchy and the various dominant political discourses use religion to justify the oppression and abuse of women and shield themselves from judgment by armoring themselves with the word of God.

How are Egyptian women, along with women in many other Muslim countries, under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) still oppressed and made unequal to the men of their country, even though the treaty is clearly intended to set them equal to men? There is a fatal flaw in the treaty that allows reservations to be allowed into CEDAW by the state. In theory this would be a positive addendum to most treaties to account for change in time or culture. However, the rule is being misused. As Ann Elizabeth Mayer described in her paper in Faith & Freedom; Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World, “vague ‘Islamic’ reservations have been entered to CEDAW that … the governments involved seek to convince the world that their reservations are not incompatible with the goal of achieving equality for women.” (Faith & Freedom 106) Egypt did exactly this, and using Islam and their rooted traditions as a legal loop-hole, they restricted women’s right to freely divorce their husband without a judge’s ruling and made women completely financially dependent on their husband during marriage. This completely negates Article 16 of CEDAW which establishes that women and men should be equal in every aspect of marriage and familial duties and responsibilities. It is Egypt’s basis in shari’a law that entrenches their laws in patriarchal constructs. As it is with most cases, religion it’s self is not to blame. Historically, faith alone has given little to no basis to deny freedom.

The unfortunate societal norm of the dominant husband who is master over is demure servant wife and all that they own, I would argue, has caused an innumerable amount of pain throughout history. This construct supports domestic abuse, rape, and denies women some of the most basic human rights. Egypt has made several of these reservations that support the idea that women are not biologically or spiritually equal to men, so therefore they should not be legally equal to men (Mayer 106-111). In her book, Opening the Gates, Egyptian woman Nambawiya Musa illustrates how the physical differences between males and females has no effect on intelligence by using animals for comparison. “Nobody said that because the male dog is stronger than the female dog that he is more intelligent. Likewise, it is not true that the man is more intelligent than the woman” (Musa 264). I would hope that it would be obvious to most modern audiences that it is fundamentally wrong and a violation of human rights, to gloss over the fact that women are people, and just as capable as men, yet I know how alive these ideas still are today.  Even with the plethora of feminist campaigns and movements, ignorance is still blissful when you’re in the privileged percent.

Tradition, I believe, is one of the main culprits when it comes to many conflicts, including the issue of Women’s rights. Humanity has a bad habit of wanting to do things as they’ve always been done, and persecute any who divert from the standard path that has been worn down by the thousands who have already walked it. Men have predominantly been the ones ruling the land, running the governments, and making the laws until the 18th century, excepting a Queen here or there. This allowed for centuries of traditions and norms to engrain themselves into society, and centuries of religious texts being translated picked apart. Both play a crucial role in how the world has come to be the way it is today.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Afkhami, Mahnaz. Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World. Syracuse,

NY: Syracuse UP, 1995. Print.

Badran, Margot, and Miriam Cooke. Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing.

Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. Print.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/ng-interactive/2014/feb/04/womens-rights-country-by-country-interactive

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A Introduction to German Dialects

Earlier in the semester, I attended a discussion of German dialects led by a member of OSU’s German staff, encouraged by both the German and Linguistics clubs. He discussed several dialects, including Yiddish and Swabisch. I found the talk very interesting, as I am both a German and Linguistics major, and I have a particular interest in German dialects. My own experience with dialects comes from my time in Passau, Bavaria, where I stayed for the summer before my Senior year. My host family spoke Bairisch, and though I was very confused at first, I managed to learn a view words and phrases by the end of my stay. My personal hope is that, after graduation, I can apply for a Fulbright scholarship in German, and work on German Linguistics, specifically with German dialects. I hope to make the many varied dialects of German more accessible to Linguistic researchers worldwide, as I recently discovered that there is very little research available in languages that are not German. As the dialects of German have older roots than standard German, which came from the dialects, closer study of them may lend inset to proto-indo-european languages, but only if they are available to a wider range of researchers. I am glad that I got this first insight into the world of Dialectology, and the talk only affirmed me of my wish to study dialects further.  

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