International Events: Khayyam Day by ICA

On Friday, April 22 I attended what is called ‘Khayyam Day’, a little celebration hosted by the Iranian Cultural Association at the University of Oklahoma to welcome the marble statue of 11th century Iranian philosopher, mathematician, poet and astronomer.

The two hour event included modern Iranian music, a renowned Persian calligrapher, a speech giving the history of the statue, and delicious Persian food.

There was a lot to say about Khayyam, a man who until that day I hadn’t any knowledge of. He was a great poet and philosopher, one who hated violence and sought self-enlightenment. The statue itself was created by a sculptor in the Lorestan Province of Iran, with marble from Iran itself. The statue took over 3 years to complete and find the marble for, because the master sculptor wanted it to be perfect and to represent the Iranian culture as much as possible.

The historian speaking emphasized how the statue like a symbol of a hand being extended to the American people, a hand seeking partners to be friends with Americans. The makers and senders of the statue wants the United States people and the world to understand that they too are like Khayyam, and hate violence. The speaker ended with a hope that that hand be extended back.

Now for the food:

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The food was both scary and exciting! On the top left are stuffed grape leaves, a dish familiar to me as they are one of my Armenian grandmothers favorites. Another familiar dish is baklava, a sweet pastry filled with simple syrup and walnuts. The pita bread was familiar as well.

Something that I had never tried before were tried dates. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I had no idea how to eat them! So I resorted to eating around the seed… it was delicious and very gooey. The wafer cookie was familiar to me as well!

My favorite thing on the plate was the potato salad. It was a mashed potato mixture with peas, relish, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and olives. I wish I had gotten more it was so good!!!

Overall, it was exciting and intimidating to be exposed to a new culture like that. It makes me excited for my study abroad adventures in the future.

The speech and the statue made me think of what is happening on the international stage, how the globe is looking at Iran right now after the Iran nuclear deal a couple of months ago. It made me reflect how the government one lives under doesn’t represent the citizens, and of how around the world there are people who live under governments that do corrupt things, and in turn are given sanctions and restrictions that harm the people more than the rich government officials.

 

Colombian Night

Where: OU Meachum Auditorium

When: March 5th 2016, 5 pm

What: OU Colombian Night

Subject: A Journey Through Colombia

 

 

As I tried to find an internship in Colombia this summer, I was directed to Yoana Walchap. Dr. Walchap works in the Geosciences department at OU, working to bring students from Latin America to the university through exchange programmes. Once she and I met, she immediately “invited” me to Colombian Night. I say “invited” but she basically told me, “jou will volunteer at Colombian Night and meet every one in COLSAA”. And I am so glad I did. The following is a brief summary of the evening.

 

Colombian Night had people coming from Florida, Texas, and Missouri. The evening began at 5 pm, the first of three events at St. Joseph’s Catholic church. At the church, Colombian families and international students flowed in and out of a large area where traditional Colombian food was being served. Arroz con pollo, ensalada, patacones, empanadas, arequipe– aka heaven– were all served by COLSAA (Colombian Student Association) members and inhaled by yours truly. I sat with a table of Colombian parents and got the deets on the most dangerous places in Colombia along with a long list of places to visit.

 

The second part of the evening involved me wiping arequipe out of my purse because I stupidly put two fickle containers of the sugary spread in my leather bag and they exploded. Lesson learned: never put arequipe or anything like it in your bag that has a suede inside. Anyways, I became one of the ticket masters at the front of Meachum, taking peoples’ tickets and handing them booklets and handcrafted gold poporos made by a lady with a lot of time on her hands. I handed out all of said poporos and even took one for myself and eventually got inside right as the show started. The show was sold out and myself and two other volunteers watched the history of Colombia unfold in golden dance. The presentation was actually flawless, many of the COLSAA members just killing it to indigenous music and later, to traditional Colombian salsa music. An award ceremony and a band pretty much wrapped up the evening after that, and a Colombian comedian apparently performed but after the band and 2 hours of a full programme most people went home to change for the third part of the evening.

 

By 11, most people had already arrived to Main Street’s Red Room and the band that had performed at Meachum was on stage and playing contemporary Latin pop/reggaeton/salsa music. Empanadas and drinks were offered to all, and many a Colombian sweat the night away dancing to infectious Latin beats. All in all, a very good night but I definitely got home and passed out after 7 hours of straight up heritage.


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UN 70th Anniversary Symposium Dinner

 

When: April 21st 2016

Where: Regents Room,

Topic: UN Past, Present, & Future

 

After a full day of UN festivities my fellow LEAFers and I met at 6pm on Thursday April 21st to celebrate the 70th year of the UN’s anniversary/survival. Over melting cherry cheesecake and a distinctly orange pork roast, we were addressed by CUNY’s own Dr. Thomas Weiss, a Carnegie Fellow and 2016 Distinguished IO Scholar. Dr. Weiss remarks ranged from the infancy of the United Nations to what he refers to as the “third UN,” the modern-day, evolved United Nations. Though a proponent of the UN, Weiss did not hesitate from criticizing the flaws of the organization and emphasized the present necessity of actively inclusive changes within the UN’s structure.

 

Throughout his speech Weiss focused on instances of UN humanitarian intervention, reflecting on the NATO Bosnia-Herzegovina intervention and the lack of UN intervention in Rwanda. Weiss remarked on the pros and cons of UN intervention out for a solid hour and alluded to his 1999 project, both explained by Weiss as points of reference that demonstrate an evolving United Nations. Weiss concluded his speech with the belief that the UN is at a critical point in its existence; UN adaptation and inclusivity are necessary to keep the organization active and capable in the near future.

 

Weiss made very good points in his speech. Having taken the Model UN class here at OU, I studied the UN (not to the same depth obviously) but was very confused when I learned the makeup of the UN Security Council. In my class we debated the same points that Weiss made: adding more members to the UNSC would allow for more diversity but would they get the veto power as well– or would the original 5 have to give up said veto power, which would never happen? Does the UNSC even have any authentic power and/or ability to arm UN countries? Is that even something that should be allowed? The bureaucratic model of the UN also lessens the organizations’ efficacy, but also allows for clear processes and more inclusion. So, in fewer words, we found that the UN is a globally bureaucratic mess. Weiss’ presentation said so but also had more than a dash of optimism for the future of the organization.


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UN Symposium

On Thursday, April 22nd, in celebration of the United Nation’s 70th Anniversary, the UN symposium was held in Zarrow Hall featuring an eye-opening lecture from Jennifer Foray, an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University. In her lecture, Dr. Foray discussed the many behind-the-scenes interactions between different people and organizations that directly affect our history. She specifically mentioned September 28, 1950 – the day on which Indonesia was accepted into the United Nations as an independent state. She explained that the Indonesian Flag raising ceremony outside of the UN headquarters in New York City was simply the finite result of years of Indonesian struggle against Dutch imperialism and the extremely complex process of decolonization in the East Indies.

Until December 27th of 1949, what we now know as Indonesia was recognized as the Dutch East Indies – “the crown of the Dutch empire.” It is a commonly-known fact that Indonesia is now a free and autonomous state; however, the long and violent process that lead to Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, and the United Nations’ (and a few especially influential delegates’) instrumental role in the process of decolonization are less well known. The process began during World War II; while Dutch officials (who were typically stationed in the Dutch East Indies) were away in London, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence to the world. Unsurprisingly, their declaration of sovereignty was not recognized by the Netherlands or, initially, the United Nations. This lack of recognition speaks to the massive inequality between states in that it displays the ubiquitous hierarchy between the Netherlands and the East Indies which allowed the Dutch to determine the status of the East Indies, thereby denying Indonesians the right to self-sovereignty.

Both Jeanne Mintz and Ambassador Sutan Sjahrir played instrumental roles in Indonesia’s journey to independence. Due to Dr. Mintz’s extensive knowledge of both the Netherlands and Indonesia, she was able to provide incredibly valuable insight that ultimately resulted in the UN decision to allow Indonesians to fight to obtain their independence. Despite its status as an “observer,” granted by the United Nations in 1947, Indonesia still had no voting power and was thus unable to determine its own fate when the larger UN powers determined that the situation in the East Indies was not threatening and closed the case. Again demonstrating the inequality of power between states on the global stage. Imperialist powers like the United States and the United Kingdom have relatively absolute power over smaller states and especially nations who are not recognized as sovereign. Since these Imperialist powers have such a huge amount of power, smaller states often have no say in international dealings.

Fortunately, in 1949, the United Nations realized that the Netherlands had repeatedly violated its cease-fire agreement with the East Indies which prompted the UN to reevaluate the situation in the East Indies and reconsider Indonesia’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands. After Indonesian delegates, specifically Ambassador Sutan Siaharir, presented their argument at UN Headquarters in New York City they were finally granted their independence. The fact that Indonesia was not able to declare its sovereignty from the Netherlands, despite the violent Dutch treatment of Indonesians and having created a stable government is further testament to the inequality of states; there are a few large and powerful states who hold the majority of global control. They are responsible for making many decisions of international importance, and play crucial roles behind-the-scenes of most global interactions even when their influence can’t be directly observed.

Indonesia was the first state to transition from colonial control into the United Nations. Since 1949 many other states have followed in the steps of Indonesia, and have gained active positions in the United Nations. However, even states who are active members of the United Nations do not have the same weight and influence as the larger, more powerful countries. I found Dr. Foray’s lecture to be extremely insightful into global politics as a whole, the United Nations and inequality between states. As Dr. Foray began to explain how the United Nations was involved in Indonesia’s journey to Independence I began to realize how much power the elite powers wield in comparison to smaller states who have a limited influence. I was also surprised by the “observer” status of states that aren’t recognized as sovereign by the United Nations. I feel that this system gives large nations a significant advantage over smaller, poorer states that could (and most likely already has) result in corruption. I certainly agree with Dr. Foray that the UN played a significant role in Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands, especially after hearing the extensiveness of UN involvement.

a very wine-y wednesday

Yesterday, our class took a trip to a local winery. We learned about the process of growing grapes organically and about the different varieties of grapes that can be found in Tuscany. Then we toured the inside of the winery, learning about the actual process of fermentation and aging. At the end, we got to sample three different varieties of the vineyard’s wine using our newly-learned wine-tasting skills. I’m so glad that I was able to experience such an important part of Italian culture before I head home! I’m sad to be leaving such a beautiful place with such a rich history and culture, but I’m going to make an effort to soak up as much as I can during these last two weeks!

Here are some pictures (silly + serious) that we took on the winery tour!

Ciao!

me and some wine in Italy the barrels that the wine is aged in I'm going to miss this criss cross apple sauce the vineyard had a lot of really interesting little details me on a staircase :) I could stay here forever friends = happiness the view

International Event: Russian Relations Lunch

(Author’s Note: I wrote this a week after the event and completely forgot to post it then. My bad.)

On March 3rd I attended a lunch with Dr. Jeffery Mankoff who is a policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an OU alumnus.  He spoke at length about the ways that American and Russian relations have changed over the years and the ways that Russia’s movement away from the soviet block has created an entirely new era for Russia’s role in international politics.  He talked briefly about Russia’s role in the greater international community, but the most interesting part of his talk to me was his discussion of the regional politics of Russia and Croatia.  The politics of the two nations has evidently been rife with corruption and especially in recent years (up to and including the migrant crisis) there has been a huge controversy involving the ways that the countries relate to one another and the motivations of the politicians/who pays their bills.

This analysis simply served as a reminder to me of the ways in which politics across countries and continents stays the same as much as it changes.  The discussions that have surfaced during this year’s presidential election about where funding for the campaigns comes from and what that says about the loyalty of the politicians to their constituency are discussions (or mutterings) that have been had all over the world about the reliability of politicians for centuries.  The questions being asked in one election about one brand of economic skew are not inherently separate from those being asked on the opposite side of the world.  What may be most critical in the face of this cyclicality is that we remain aware and critical of political systems near and far.

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Watching Movies with the Chinese Language Club

This semester, OU’s Chinese Language Club hosted a screening of Wong Kar-Wai’s film Chungking Express. It was pretty convenient, given that I had to watch the same movie for my Chinese Cinema class, so I went to the screening (I also got to help pick the time, so at that point I really ought to go). There weren’t a lot of people there, in fact, it was just me, OU CLC’s president, one other person who just wanted to watch a movie, and a gigantic box of microwave popcorn. The perfect recipe for a good movie, if you ask me.

Wong Kar-wai is from Hong Kong, so the movie is was actually produced in Hong Kong, not China. (This means that I couldn’t understand any of the lines. It was still a great movie). The film follows two Hong Kong police officers who have recently broken up with their girlfriends as they struggle with loneliness, and eventually find new love. Both characters are extremely lonely and depressed, despite living and working in such a busy and energetic city.

The plot of the movie is a little bit difficult to follow, especially because it transitions abruptly to the second story. Honestly, the appeal of the movie isn’t really in the plot, but in the ways that Wong Kar-wai communicates the plot, and messes with the viewers head a little bit. There are a lot of blurred motion shots, where every sixth frame is extended to cover the next six frames, which makes it feel a bit frantic and crowded. The scenes are mostly at night, with bright signs flashing by against a dark background, which makes for some interesting visuals. There are also a few humorous pieces, but for the most part it’s a serious film.

Overall, it was a fairly good film — I would recommend it if you don’t mind a movie that’s a bit less traditional. Of course, it was also nice to watch with at least one CLC friend!

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OU’s very first Global Engagement Day

One of the requirements of the Global Engagement program is that we attend and participate in OU’s Global Engagement Day. Sine it’s a new program, this year was the very first Global Egnagement day! There were panels to discuss various aspects of studying abroad, as well as an informal “panel”/discussion about meaningful study abroad experiences. I participated in the informal discussion. It was a nice break from endless homework to just sit around with some other GEF’s and talk about study abroad. Of course, we talked about the peculiarities of the countries we studied and lived in, as well as the most crazy things that we did or had happen while we were gone. There were a lot of different experiences, but we definitely had a few things in common:

1. Everyone has trouble with the actual travel part of studying abroad. It seemed like everyone had a story about almost losing their bag, or having trouble at the airport. I guess it’s just statistically unlikely for someone to spend such a long time travelling and have nothing go wrong.

2. Everyone has done at least one really crazy thing. It probably didn’t even seem that crazy when they were doing it. I didn’t think my 50K was that crazy, but everyone else had a different opinion! On the other hand, some of the things that the other GEF’s did seemed impossibly crazy, like live with a stranger for a few weeks. (Then again, I did stay with a complete stranger I met at the airport my first night, so I guess I get it)

I’m disappointed that I had class during the rest of Global Engagement Day, because I would have liked to hear from some of the other panels, but I’m glad I was at least able to participate in something. And I guess the overall takeaway from this is if you go abroad, don’t freak out when travelling goes wrong, and make sure to do at least one thing that’s a little bit crazy.

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No Anglophones, Please.

I have a confession to make. There was an oft-repeated phrase that I’d heard countless times before I came to France for my year abroad. My confession is that I too was guilty of thinking this way and I’d uttered the phrase countless times. “I’m going to avoid Americans. I only want to make French friends.” Wow. These words evoke a much different feeling in me now than they did before September 1st. The idea behind this phrase is awesome. I wholeheartedly believe that in order to be successful while studying abroad one must integrate into the host culture. Having friends who are native to your host country is super helpful and can be an enriching experience. The reality is unfortunately rather harsh. You can’t be choosey. Sorry. Here’s how things really go down when you arrive in a new city in a foreign country: Everything is a whirlwind. It’s normal to initially regret leaving home. Feeling like “Oh my gosh, why did I come here” is actually really common. Then you meet people. Lots of international students arrive within the same week and it’s not uncommon for a large number of international students to live in the same residence. Basically, the first friends you make might be Spanish, German, Finnish, Mexican, or even American. These students are looking for friends just like you and they’re just as lost. My advice is to help people out. Show some people where the grocery store is, help them get their documents together if you have good language skills, or invite everyone for pizza so they have a reason to leave their room. Then after a few weeks the friend groups are really solidified. If you’re in a foreign country to learn the language then, surprise, you won’t have classes with natives. You will meet natives on the street, in restaurants, in nightclubs, and sometimes at school. Depending on the country in which you study you’ll have varying degrees of success in maintaining these friendships. Don’t get discouraged- just keep making an effort in your target language and you’ll see results in no time! Having friends from all over the world is one of the best things that results from studying abroad. I’m so glad that I ditched the “no Americans” attitude and let friendships happen. I have American friends from Georgia, Kansas, and New Jersey who’ve helped me to feel at home here in Clermont-Ferrand. I also have made friendships with English-speaking students from Turkey, Ireland, Wales, Greece, The Czech Republic, China, and so many other countries. The perspective that comes along with diverse friendships has further broadened my worldview and added immensely to my study abroad experience.   Basically, don’t sweat about making certain types of friends while abroad. Things will happen organically as long as you keep an open mind.