I’ve said it before, but it still stands true: I am so grateful to be part of a Christian community here on campus that puts love into action and works for social justice, both locally and abroad. Being in a community that not only prays for people (which is still super valuable), but also gets their hands dirty and invests in improving their life now– that’s invaluable. This semester, we once again had the opportunity to raise money during a week we call “Loose Change to Loosen Chains.” Throughout the week, we table in the Union and outside Dale Hall, collecting change for and spreading the word about an organization working to fight human trafficking. This week culminates with a speaker from the organization coming in place of our Thursday night large group Bible study and sharing about their work. It’s always a really powerful event, and we draw people from across walks of life on campus to unite around one common philosophy: you can’t put a price tag on a person, and everyone deserves freedom.
This year we partnered with the organization She is Safe. This non-profit works in eight countries or regions around the world to prevent and stop human trafficking. They do so through a four-step approach: first, identify the vulnerable and determine what makes them vulnerable. Is it lack of employment, education, extreme poverty, or a combination? Second, partner with local women, churches, and non-profits. With the support of these groups, She is Safe is able to cross cultural boundaries and garner support from local governments and other powerful decision-makers. Additionally, these groups are empowered by the training and support they receive, which is powerful since many women were victims of trafficking themselves. Third, She is Safe equips both Country Directors and local partners with the resources to see the success of the work so far and to share it with others to build a community of support. Finally, She is Safe works to evaluate the measures taken in an innovative and effective way to ensure progress that will last for many generations.
It was an honor to get to learn firsthand about their work around the globe from a leader who was herself a victim of trafficking. Too many times, there is a disconnect between those who want to help and the victims themselves. It was powerful to hear how Michele Rickett’s personal experiences moved her to action on behalf of girls everywhere. She is working not only to “save” them, but to empower them to become leaders and change agents themselves.
If you’re jumping headfirst into Asia, Singapore is a great place to start. The country is a very unique blend of Asian and Western countries, and its population is notably diverse. The detailed planning of the workings of Singapore is practically a tourist attraction in itself. The food is incredible. And not only did I get to spend a week there, but I got to do so with my best friend.
Day 1 We started out the visit with lunch at a hawker centre – kind of like a food court, with individual vendors setting up stalls to sell a variety of mouthwatering dishes. Then we went to Avery’s favorite tea shop and got some time to just catch up.
In the afternoon, we made a visit to the Singapore City Gallery, the city-country’s urban development museum. Singapore has a fascinating, very dense history of development in the past century, and similarly interesting plans for the future. Tuscany enjoyed getting to see a city closer to his own size with the Singapore mini-replica.
We strolled through Chinatown, and I restrained myself from purchasing anything since I would soon be going to the real Chinatown (a.k.a. China). When we came across a Buddhist temple, we stepped inside to take a look around. The temple, ornately decorated, was very beautiful, although due to the number of tourists inside it felt more like an attraction than a place of worship. Temples like this one and various other places of worship can be found all around Singapore – the country’s very diverse population means that there are a lot of religions represented.
To round out our cultural experience for the day, we got dinner in Little India – delicious dosai. All in all, a pretty good introduction to the place where I’d be spending the next 5 days.
Tuscany and I spent our second day at Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay, a huge collection of gardens and architectural attractions infused with culture, history, and art. We started at the Heritage Gardens, which had gardens filled with plants native to China, India, and Malaysia (the origins of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups) that were also important to Singapore’s cultural history.
I finished off my (thunderstorm-y) evening with a show. Gardens by the Bay is perhaps most famous for its Supertrees, massive tree-shaped structures of metal and glass that act as oversized trellises. At night, they flash in time to music piped throughout the park. This, against a backdrop of thunder and lightning, made for quite a spectacle. And thus I ended my day with a bang.
Following my big day of tourism, I had a quiet morning. After Avery finished class, we go to go out on the town and spend some time together. We went to a coffee shop and tried various desserts, then walked around and stepped into a used bookstore. Their back room featured a single long, narrow aisle that was only a foot wide, and this is where we ended up spending an hour of our afternoon – just like old times. We then ventured to a second coffee shop for chai lattes. I only got one picture from today, as Avery and I were having too much fun for photography.
Zoo day! To make up for the dearth of pictures yesterday, I took way too many today. I saw a lot of animals, but my favorite was definitely the orangutans. So strangely humanlike, I couldn’t help but imagine their conflicts, emotions, daily moments of tedium…
I arrived at the elephant exhibit just in time for their pleasurable pachyderm performance (Tuscany came up with that one), which my traveling companion and I were both quite excited about. The show was gimmicky, but that’s half the fun when you’re at the zoo, right?
One unique element of the Singapore Zoo was a domed enclosure that visitors could enter. Inside, there were no fences or glass panes – just wild animals scurrying around my feet and swinging over my head. I followed some ducks around for a while and stopped under a pair of monkeys! The exhibit also showcased exquisite butterflies and rare plants.
At this point, it was getting close to closing, so we started heading back to the gate.
I stopped at a hawker centre for dinner on the way home. Singaporean food is super tasty and super cheap, and while I didn’t know what it was that I ordered, this meal lived up to both expectations.
But the fun didn’t end there! Tonight, Avery’s ballroom group was hosting a dance. So we got all dressed up and had ourselves quite a night. I got to meet a lot of Avery’s friends, and I even learned a bit of the Viennese waltz!
Avery and I started off the day with some bingsu – Korean shaved ice cream – because when you’re with your best friend in another country you can eat whatever you want for breakfast. We then parted ways so Avery could do some work and I could go to the National Museum of Singapore. The National Museum is a history museum, art museum, and bazaar combined into one. I really enjoyed the exhibit on the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II. I got to see a cool sword/dagger in the exhibit on the origins of Singapore.
My favorite part of the museum, though, was an interactive, animated gallery of Singapore’s wildlife. A spiraling walkway took me down several stories as I watched tapirs lumber by and orchids bloom on a first-floor-to-fourth-floor-ceiling screen to my left. Peaceful music played, occasionally drowned out by the sound of rain as seasons scrolled by. At the bottom, a room filled with beanbags awaited, and I lay on the floor for half an hour looking up at computerized flowers falling towards me on the domed screen. It was incredibly tranquil – a welcome rest from the bustle of tourism.
I spent the evening on Arab Street, a center of shopping for Middle Eastern and Singaporean knickknacks, clothing, and food. This day was yet another that allowed me to experience the extreme diversity of Singaporean culture and history.
My last day on the island! Avery and I went to church together and got some boba tea on our way back. I spent the afternoon packing, and then we got pizza for dinner at Clark Quay, a middle-fancy food destination. We stopped to pick up ice cream, and spent the night watching a movie back at her apartment and talking. I left for the airport at 1 a.m. Although I was sad to leave, I’m still in awe that I got to spend a week with my best friend in Singapore, getting to see a bit of her life these days. Who gets to do that?! With Singapore under my belt, on to the next adventure!
Spring has arrived in Kyoto and with it comes a new semester. It feels like so long ago that classes ended, and yet I had so many things I’d planned to do and haven’t done. However, I have accomplished a great deal since I last wrote. I’ve been working hard over the break on my Japanese. I’ve learned over 300 kanji and become somewhat more comfortable conversing in Japanese. I actually feel ready for this semester. I was so scared to start level four after I finished in January. My teachers had warned me to study hard lest I fail, and I took them to heart. After six weeks of hard work, I finally think I’m ready.
The break hasn’t all been work though. The new SKP students moved in a few weeks ago, so I’ve had the opportunity to make a host of new friends. I’m glad. The new students are very cool and I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know them. Just yesterday, a group of us went down to Otsu on Lake Biwa for the afternoon. The weather was beautiful and the lake was incredible. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, and it really seems like a tiny ocean. I could have sat by the lake and watched the water for hours. I wish we could have stayed longer and seen more, but Otsu is only a few towns away so we can always go back.
Now it’s time to study a bit more and enjoy this last weekend of freedom before classes begin on Monday. I’m excited about my classes and the adventures this semester will bring. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. I will try to write again after the first couple weeks and tell you how my classes are going. I hope you are doing well too. I miss you.
It’s crazy to think about how half a semester has almost gone by! I got here two weeks before classes started, and it still feels like units are weird intrusions into my schedule. I have to write out my schedule for the week every Sunday night to remind myself where I have to be at what time. I have to do something similar for my classes in the United States, but it’s definitely taking longer for me to adjust into the Australian schedule. I’ve had so many essays due, and the first few weeks certainly haven’t been easy.
That’s part of the reason why I’m looking forward to mid semester break so much! My friends back home have all had their Spring Breaks, and I’ll admit, seeing their vacation photos on social media has made me a little jealous. I’ve realized that part of study abroad is accepting that life back home will go on without you. That being said, I’ll be posting my mid semester break photos while people are beginning to cram for finals, so everything is a tradeoff, I suppose.
I’ve made plans to travel along the East Coast with some other exchange students, but I’m not sure which exact cities I’m visiting. It’s a bit unnerving, but I’m not in charge of the trip, so I’m more comfortable taking a backseat. We’ll be staying in hostels during our trip, and will be spending most of our days at beaches along the coast. I haven’t stayed in a hostel since my time in Europe a few years ago, so this may be a bit of an adjustment, but I’ll be staying in these hostels with my friends, so it won’t be as like I’m sharing a room with five other strangers again.
I’m looking forward to warmer weather, getting tan on the beach, taking time to relax, and getting to know the people I’m traveling with and the country I’m living in a little better. Cheers to an exciting and relaxing mid-semester!
Over the past month I have been lucky enough to travel among the Baltic States and to see parts of Latvia and Lithuania, including their respective capitals, Riga and Vilnius. Previously I spent a weekend in Helsinki, Finland. In general, I think we in the US tend to think of the Nordic states (Norway, Sweden, […]
I’ve always known that speaking English as a first language was a considerable advantage in the increasingly globalizing world. English, for a variety of reasons, is quickly becoming the default language of business, academics, and cross-cultural communication. Without delving into the problems with this trend, I will say that my experience with being a native […]
Aunque todos los adultos eran jóvenes en un tiempo del pasado, las diferencias entre las generaciones de jóvenes son increíbles. Creo que las diferencias para ser jóvenes entre mi generación y la generación de mis padres originan con las políticas y la tecnología. Aunque solo hay treinta años entre mi madre y yo, hemos vivido vidas casi completamente separados por todas las razones que mencioné anteriormente.
Primero, cuando mis padres tenían mi edad, tenían un ambiente político muy diferente. En ese periodo de los Estados Unidos, existía la “guerra contra las drogas”. En resumen, el ambiente político en América parecía menos fluido al público y al resto del mundo. Ahora, no hay seguridad en relación a la diplomacia de los Estados Unidos, ni con el funcionamiento de los precedentes que habían. Más recientemente ha pasado la “guerra contra el terrorismo”, en comparación. Sin embargo, los ambos de los periodos han pasado con conflictos que involucraban y sigue involucrando los Estados Unidos.
Luego, un tema adicional sobre que hay muchas diferencias evidentes son las diferencias entre estas generaciones relacionadas a la tecnología. Durante los años mientras que mis padres eran mi edad, tenían tocadiscos, el radio, la tele, computadoras tempranas, y móviles eran objetos demasiado nuevos y caros para obtener. Después de todo, durante el tiempo de mi generación, tenemos muchísimas más opciones de tecnología – Netflix para mirar, móviles en que podemos hacer lo que podrían hacer con una computadora, portátiles ligeros, relojes con pantalla táctil, aparatos para supervisar nuestra salud… La lista podría seguir. Esto puede relacionar métodos de guerra, también; es decir, cuando había bombas mientras que mis padres tenían mi edad, ahora tenemos ciberataques. No obstante, los ambos de estos periodos están y estaban formados por la evolución y progreso de la tecnología.
En conclusión, aunque mis padres y yo estamos viviendo en el mismo tiempo ahora, hemos crecidos durante periodos increíblemente diferentes. Por ejemplo, las diferencias entre la política y la tecnología son evidentes. Aunque hay muchas diferencias, también hay similaridades. Para empezar, los ambos de los periodos han pasado con conflictos que involucraban y sigue involucrando los Estados Unidos. También, los ambos de estos periodos están y estaban formados por la evolución y progreso de la tecnología. Pienso que podría disfrutar vivir como mis padres vivían cuando tenían mi edad; En todo caso, a mí me gusta mi vida como está ahora.
This event was so beautiful. Students of every background came to together under one common ground: appreciating and recognizing the Latino culture at the University of Oklahoma. I ate ceviche and it reminded me of Cristina, my OU cousin from Peru. Ceviche was the meal she missed the most and what she planned on eating the first time she got home.
I miss her. I should go see her. Maybe I will someday.
Long time no post! Hey there again. I would like to apologize in advance for the formatting of this post, but there was little that I could do to make all of the pictures look very presentable. I’ll use this post as a learning opportunity to get some pointers on how to format nicely since I’ll have a lot when I study abroad this summer.
Latin Dance Club outdid themselves again this semester! I’m so glad to be a part of this group because the dancers are just so talented. Usually I would be intimidated by how good they are at dancing Salsa and Bachata, but they are just so amazing that I can’t help but admire their performance which is entirely improvised.
My boyfriend Peter and I learned the basic steps (Peter is a modern dancer so the style is different, but the new moves came naturally to him) at the beginning which were really simple. However, they were deceptively easy, because when it came to show time we had trouble switching between forward-backward and side-to-side motion.
Stress has been hitting hard this semester, so I had to withdraw from another course. Thankfully it won’t affect my future because the course that I withdrew from will not be required for the major that I am planning to switch to! I’ve been considering a career in mathematics because the research aspect of astrophysics was honestly killing me.
There is a funny consequence of changing majors right now which leaves just two classes until I complete a minor in physics and astronomy. Surprise, surprise, I will have three minors (including Spanish which I hope to finish over the summer). Kind of silly, I know.
¡Todavía no me he olvidado el idioma! Ha sido una prueba porque no tengo tantas personas con que puedo hablar, pero visitamos a la Gran Ciudad de Nueva York donde conocí a mucha gente hispanohablante! Cuando fuimos al pico de la Plaza de 30 Rock, hablé con unas familias de España y Panamá. Pensaba que hubiera mucha gente de la República Dominicana y Puerto Rico, pero ¡había mucha gente de todos partes! A mi me encantó la ciudad porque las personas no les importa nada lo que se hace en público por los desconocidos. Sin embargo, ellos eran los más enterados y amables a quien he conocido. Aquí están algunas más fotos para aburrirte:
Déjame decirte que me hizo BIEN deslumbrado cuando vi la obra de Van Gogh porque es muy famosa y la a mí me ENCANTA.
Now that we are approaching the elections for the new South Korea president, this post may be a little late coming. Still, I thought it would be worth it to write a bit about the protests that went on in Korea before Park Geun Hye was impeached.
As you may know, the most recent South Korean president was impeached due to a corruption scandal involving her relationship with Choi Soon Sil, the daughter of a shamanistic cult leader. Park is essentially considered to have been acting as the puppet of Choi Soon Sil. When this controversy came out, millions of Koreans took to the streets to protest and to demand Park’s impeachment. These protests received international attention for not only their size, but also for the peaceful nature in which they were conducted. The Korean population showed an incredibly united front across the nation with huge masses of people marching through cities, yet no violence broke out.
Protests for Park Geun Hye’s Impeachment in Seoul
I saw a protest in Gwanghamun Square in Seoul, and although this was a little bit after some of the largest protests that went on, it was still fascinating and full of people. The protest was completely peaceful, but what was even more surprising was that the atmosphere was quite positive. Yes, there were some people with serious faces, chanting and carrying around signs that said “Impeach Park Geun Hye,” but there were also people smiling while chanting, there were children running around happily, and there were even many people taking advantage of the crowds and setting up various food carts and selling snacks. I almost felt as if I was at a fair instead of a protest. I also witnessed a small protest in Daegu that was actually in support of President Park (before the Constitutional Court had upheld her impeachment.) All of the people there were older, the only young people I saw were just casual on-lookers. This protest, too, was made up of smiling people cheering and singing and looking quite positive overall. The overall feeling was quite the opposite of what I might expect from a protest in the U.S., where protests seem to be more solemn, serious, and at times, aggressive and violent.
Protest in support of Park Geun Hye in Daegu
I admire the Korean people for their admirable approach to protest. Peaceful protest is an important political tool. It allows the demonstrators to maintain their dignity, and more importantly, they avoid serious violence that can bring harm to the demonstrators and others. Furthermore, the unity of these protests and the percentage of the Korean population that participated in them was impressive. Of course, I would love it if I could see more protests like that in the United States, but I question whether that is truly possible any time soon. In general, the U.S. is much more divided in terms of political opinion, and great tension exists between differing parties. It is difficult to find an issues that most Americans agree on, and it is often difficult to keep people from lashing out at one another violently when their opinions greatly differ. Police violence has also played a role in worsening the violent nature of many U.S. protests. On top of that, the U.S. is physically much larger. Having that large a percentage of the U.S. population in one place, rooting for the same cause is no easy feat.
Protests for Park Geun Hye’s Impeachment in Seoul
Although it may be difficult, the U.S. needs to work towards holding protests that are as peaceful as the Korean protests have been. Peaceful protest can help U.S. citizens make their voices heard in politics while retaining their dignity and avoiding harm. They may also be able to garner support and admiration from other countries, as the Koreans have been able to do, by showing such an incredible act of unity. During this important time when the United States political realm has become so strongly divided, we must remember this is not an excuse to turn to violence or blind hatred.