Ministry Training (ACMNP) and a Return to the Beginning

This weekend I attended the national training conference for A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) up in the Rockies of Colorado. I had the utmost pleasure of meeting my ministry team to the Grand Canyon for the first time and I already feel myself falling in love with our dysfunction. During our free time, I set out to hike on my own and was quickly engulfed by four other ministry members who refused to let me find the freedom in solidarity I thought I was chasing. We summited a peak that was supposed to take two hours, so naturally, we did it in one. The second we set out at that boisterous pace, huffing and puffing, I thought about the palaces I had been summiting just months early and realized “this is a piece of cake” even though my sensitive sinus cavity screamed with the change in altitude. Mind over matter is not just a mantra used for the weak who capture our pity. When we reached the top, someone, I don’t remember who, said, “you guys just want to read and chill?” and that’s how I knew I found my people. I threw up a hammock between some rigid pines and fell into a Spanish story of love and mystery and regret while the sky dusted it’s icy blessing onto my head.

We had hiked the first mountain that ever captured my undivided attention some 8 years ago. I remember how that peak flirted with my competitive side and how the bigger, older, stronger boys won me over to loving the dynamic landscape by daring me to sprint down the mountainside with them. They must have seen that subtle flicker in my eyes of someone who is never satisfied and whispered, “let’s go” before going full force with the pull of gravity. And me in all baby-of-the-family mindedness had the nerve to think I could keep up with them. I was right. When we reached the bottom eons before the rest of the group they all turned around to me and laughed, not at me, but in surprise. One of the boys leaned over to me and said “keep flying, kid”. At the time, I might not have known what he meant, but I think my heart kept that promise anyways. I remember how we parted ways from there and never shared a moment of depth again. I remember how one of them died a few years later and how that was my first clue into the fact that death doesn’t see in the spectrum of age but rather in the black and white of “yes or no”. I hope he thought about flying down that hillside when he laid his head back for the very last time.

My ministry team kept things slow on our way down that old familiar peak and even though I was grateful they had chosen me to go along at all, I realized I have a thing or two to teach them this summer about choosing to go fast simply for the sake of going fast. About speed for the sake of speed. About flying for the sake of flying. But, we had just met so I kept my mouth shut like I always do and hoped it would be enough just to write it down later.

My team makes a lot of sense to me and I’m not really sure why. I suppose it’s because their quirkiness seeped through their cracks just enough to not make me feel incessantly uncomfortable in my own skin like I do with most new people. I felt that I didn’t have to keep my mummy wrappings on so tight, that I could loosen them up enough to breathe even though a bit of weird and dark and sarcastic and spacey slipped out. Heaven help them the day I cut the wrappings off in full this summer.

We learned many things about how to do effective ministry in a national park and throughout it all God spoke to me and said, “this is what you’ve been looking for” and I believe Him. I believe Him in that He sent me to the place of my roots in Christianity to tell me that this season of my life isn’t an escape like nearly every other season has been. He sang Job 5:8-11 to me all weekend long saying “little thorn bush of mine, it’s high time you realize you’ve got flowers coming alongside your thorns and they will make each other beautiful. stop acting like you were meant to scare everyone away”. I realized that I am the earth He has been pouring rain on and that this period of sunshine – hot, dusty, desert sunshine – will go hand in hand with that rain and make flowers pop up on my skin previously thought to be barren.

I am still hopelessly afraid of that canyon; I keep having dreams that he reaches up and swallows me whole. I think it stems from the fact that I haven’t been able to place my hands and forehead upon this type of land yet to ask it for forgiveness and permission. I’m worried he will speak to me in a language the mountains never used. I’m worried I’ll like it more. All I know is that I fully plan on standing on that rim with my guitar singing songs yet unwritten into his open palms and hopefully, he will believe that I mean good.

I’m overly excited to get the summer started, to be back with my team, to be back surrounded by Christians who treat the earth as a sacred place and not a servant. I’m ready to be challenged and lonely and swallowed and completely whole in a place where most people aren’t. I want to get lost in it all, I think I already am.

Crítica Cinematográfica

Sinopsis:

Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados fue dirigida por David Trueba, y se estrenó por el año 2013. La historia del viaje a Almería de Juan Carrión Gañan y dos jóvenes rebeldes en 1966 todavía tiene relevancia en el siglo XXI. Aunque Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados está enfocada en la determinación fuerte de los soñadores, la película está más enfocada en el tema de la apertura española. Porque de la gran cantidad de las referencias históricas en la película, propongo que el cuento de Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados sigue ser relevante porque de la amenaza constante de gobiernos autoritarios.

Los años 60 eran un periodo formativo para España. En ese tiempo, todavía había una dictadura debajo de un hombre quien quería dedicar todo el país a sus creencias tradicionales; Este político autoritario se llamaba Francisco Franco, y, como un dictador, mantenía poder del país desde la guerra civil, que terminé en el año 1939. Porque la economía del país estaba luchando tener dinero suficiente en los años 50, la “apertura” de España comenzó de permitir la entrada de turistas occidentales (y, ulteriormente, de ideas occidentales) al país en 1953. La película Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados relata la historia verdadera de un maestro de edad media que viajaba a Almería para intentar conocer John Lennon de Los Beatles. La película examina los inicios de la apertura, el evento que representa un ligero cambio de opinión del dictador sobre las influencias del mundo afuera. También en esta época, España unió con la Unión Europea. Aunque esta relación revivida era más para adquirir asistencia militaría, las ideas y cultura pop de los EE.UU. empezó influenciar el país.

El título de la película española, Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados, fue sacado de la letra de la canción “Strawberry Fields Forever” por Los Beatles. Se inspira en la historia real de Juan Carrión Gañán: un profesor de inglés que viajó a Almería en 1966 para intentar a conocer Lennon mientras que estaba rodeando la película Cómo gané la guerra allí. David Trueba, el director, también ha dirigido seis otros films, que incluye Madrid, 1987 (2011), La silla de Fernando (2006) y Obra Maestra (2000). Él ha trabajado adicionalmente como un guionista para seis películas diferentes; a veces Trueba incluso ser actor (desde 1992-2004).

Para entender las complicaciones de su viaje en ese período, es importante para imaginar los aspectos verdaderos de las experiencias de Juan Carrión Gañán (cuyo nombre era cambiado ser Antonio en la película). Antonio usó las canciones de Los Beatles en su aula para enseñar inglés. Decidió, después de saber que John Lennon estaba en Almería rodeando una película, que vaya a intentar a conocerle. En camino, Antonio encontró Belén, quién no quería a mantenerse escondida – una situación creada por su familia porque tenían vergüenza de la chica embarazada, muy joven, y sin marido. Belén y Antonio continuaban en la ruta, y encontraron un chaval de 16 años, Juanjo, que se ha fugado porque de un argumento con su padre (quién quería que él corta su pelo). Él quería seguir creciendo su pelo para aparecer como uno de Los Beatles o los Rolling Stones, pero su padre lo desaprobaba. Cuando llegaron a Almería, intentaron ir al sitio donde estaban rodeando. Porque de la ayuda de unos nuevos amigos, unos días después, Antonio conoció a John Lennon. Más tarde en el film, se reveló que él grabó una parte de una nueva canción para Antonio: “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

 

 

Publicado por Neal Moses Rosendorf, el artículo describe los esfuerzos de Francisco Franco para revitalizar la economía española por el turísmo occidental. Rosendorf también hace el argumento que el rodaje de películas americanas ayudaba para promover el turismo en España. Este punto de vista destaca el contento de la reflección de la película en problemas políticas, económicas, y culturales del tiempo. Adicionalmente, Justin Hart depicta en su artículo los detalles finos de los cambios despacios en España – el comenzó de que era la apertura.

Porque de la gran cantidad de las referencias históricas en la película, el cuento de Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados sigue ser relevante porque de la amenaza constante de gobiernos autoritarios. El film era muy popular en España en 2013, posiblemente porque la memoria de la dictadura es tan fresca en la memoria. Está mostrado cuando Antonio encuentra Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), el joven de dieciséis años que se escapa de su casa para evitar la opresión de su padre muy tradicional. Una otra reflección de la imposición de los ideales de Franco es la historia de la personaje Belén (Natalia de Molina). Una joven de veintiún años, estaba embarazada cuando quería escapar la opresión de valores tradicionales, también. En general, las referencias históricas de Vivir es fácil con ojos cerrados muestran la relevancia de la influencia de políticos en el pasado y hoy en día.

 

 

 

Lista de referencias

Hart, Justin. “Franco Sells Spain to America: Hollywood, Tourism, and Public Relations as

Postwar Spanish Soft Power.” Journal of American History, vol. 101, no. 4, Mar.2015,

  1. 1313-1314. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/ja hist/jav064.

Rosendorf, Neal Moses. “Be El Caudillo’s Guest: The Franco Regime’s Quest for

Rehabilitation and Dollars After World War II via the Promotion of U.S. Tourism

to Spain.” Diplomatic History, vol. 30, no. 3, June 2006, pp. 367-407.

EBSCOhost, doj:10.1111/j.1467-7709.2006.00560.x.

Wanderlust and Nostalgia

Almost exactly one year ago today, I left my beloved Alcalá de Henares and headed home. It was the end of a magnificent and life-altering four month stay, and though I was excited to reunite with family and friends, I was devastated to leave. These seem like very dramatic words, and they are, but it’s difficult for me to avoid bold terms when describing this particular adventure of mine. I had been dreaming of studying abroad in Spain and living with a host family for YEARS before I did it, and when the time finally came to actually get on a plane and go live the dream, I was terrified. It seemed like an insane leap of faith, and I was not at all confident that it would be as awesome as I’d been dreaming it would.

However, faithful readers of the blog (if any exist!) will know that I faced my fears, got on the plane, and lived the dream. And it really was like living a dream – during that semester, I saw incredible places, met incredible people, and created memories that I will forever cherish. It is one of my accomplishments that I’m most proud of. I realize that seems odd – getting to live in Europe and travel the continent for four months in a country that values siestas doesn’t sound particularly difficult. However, in going, I overcame a great deal of personal trepidation and reached way outside of my comfort zone. I crossed the ocean, made friends, took challenging classes during which I debated interesting current events and learned a great deal, all in Spanish, built a relationship with my host family, also in Spanish, made great friends, became a more capable traveler, and got a great deal bolder and more confident.

My time in Spain was a time filled with learning. The joy of the trip was interspersed with mistakes and stress. To say that every moment was enjoyable would be a lie, but to say that every moment was valuable is the complete truth. Studying abroad taught me so much, about the world around me and about myself. I fell in love with the city of Alcalá and the country of Spain, and it all still feels as though it happened yesterday.

Ever since I returned, I’ve felt periodic pangs of missing Alcalá, but this semester has been particularly hard. Many times, I look at the calendar and think, “This time last year, I was roaming the medina in Rabat (Morocco).” “This time last year I was watching the sun set over La Alhambra while I listened to beautiful music and was engulfed in dancing and merriment.” “This time last year I was exploring the Sunday market in Madrid.” I absolutely love my life in Norman, but it’s impossible for me not to miss the grand and glittering adventure that was my semester in Spain.

What all this boils down to is that I’m itching to go back. A large part of me wants to continue to branch out and see more of the world that I haven’t yet, but another large part aches to return to my second home in Spain. I would love to get to hug my host mom, eat tortilla and drink some tinto in Indalo, to paddle across the lake in el Parque Retiro, and to get to revisit all the places that are so close to my heart.

Sadly, my days studying abroad may be over, but there is a silver lining – graduation is coming soon, and once I get a job and start saving, I can begin to save and scheme my way back to Alcalá. If anyone is reading this who hasn’t studied abroad yet, please do me a favor and seriously consider it. Everyone who has studied abroad sings its praises, and they are absolutely telling the truth. Go, explore, learn, and don’t be surprised when you come home and immediately want to go back.

Latin Americanist Lunch: “Twenty-Five Years of Favela Tourism: Continuities, Changes, and Challenges”

 

After attending Professor Jamie Alves’ talk on racial discrimination and the ‘Zone of Nonbeing’, I was very intrigued to learn more about Brazil. Favela’s have garnered a lot of media attention from features in movies and television shows, to photos of children gazing from the Favela’s at the fireworks illuminating the sky during the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. I find the fascination with Favelas, which is simply a Portuguese term for slum, to be intriguing and I wanted to understand how tourism was affecting this community.

Professor Bianca Freire-Medeiros is a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and although she did not grow up in the Favela’s she has witnessed their evolution into a tourist attraction and what that means for those living in these slums. Typically, Favelas are inhabited by poorer Afro-Brazilians and drugs and crime tend to run rampant. However, there is an extreme juxtaposition of how Favela’s are, and how they are portrayed in the media. For example, there are ‘Favela Chic’ clubs in Europe which romanticizes this slums into blissful environments filled with smiles, laughter, and of course Carnival. To make matters worse, Favela inspired chairs can be sold for £6,000, highlighting the disparity between those who actually live in the Favelas’ and others who are glorifying it as a new travel ‘experience’.

During the end of the presentation Professor Freire-Medeiros took several questions and there was one that allowed Professor Freire-Medeiros to solidify her point. One of the students mentioned that he was from Peru and when he went to visit Brazil he went and took a Favela tour because he wanted to understand why they were so special, and what made them different from the slums of his country. He revealed to us that the Favelas of Brazil, where no different from the slums of Peru, increasing his confusion in their growing popularity. To this Professor Freire-Medeiros respectively questioned him on why he even needed to see the Favela’s in the first place, they are just people like you and I, sure some of them are poor but they still live, they still engage in activities. She challenged us to break this stigma of enhancing the Favelas to be seen as ‘other’ or ‘superior’ let people live, and stop treating ordinary situations, as chances for us to investigate or explore ‘the unknown lives of the poor’.

This presentation was unique and informative, detailing the exploitative nature of Favela tourism and why it needs to end. My only questions for Professor Freire-Medeiros are: 1.) how can we dispel the curiosity surrounding the Favelas without leaving a negative impact on the market created by Brazilian citizens? And 2.) What are signs that indicate a new community, or group is about to be used as a display prop, and how can we counteract this measure once we recognize it is happening?

 

Islamaphobia and the West

Throughout the past several months, I have been disheartened to see that the fear of Islam, and of its practitioners, seems to be getting stronger and stronger in the United States. We like to think of our country as a cultural melting pot, accepting of people from all races and religions. Anyone willing to work hard who dreams of a better start will be embraced. Except that they definitely won’t, especially not if they’re wearing a hijab, it seems.

In reality, Islam is quite similar to Christianity. In my eyes, the moral basis of both religions appears to be very similar, and the Qur’an contains much of the Bible within it. Much as Christianity considers itself to be a continuation of Judaism, Islam considers itself to be an extension and perfection of Christianity. All three of these religions are Abrahamic, and I believe that if you look their past practices and into their specific beliefs, you will find many similarities – I certainly have.

None of this is to say that two groups need to be similar in order to get along. Mutual respect should not hinge upon similarity. However, it does make it look to me as though Christians and Muslims have much more to commune about than to fight about. It feels as though it should be easy for the two groups to get along, considering how much they have in common.

And yet. So many Americans, many of them Christians, fear and are threatened by Islam. More and more lately, I’ve been pondering this and questioning why. Part of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that people feel comfortable pitting another group against their own – you feel closer to your ingroup when you belittle an outgroup. However, I think that a lot of it comes from politicians and public figures playing up the fear of Islam in order to make themselves seem more powerful and to get themselves elected.

I’ve had several conversations with a professor of mine, and we both agree that there’s more here than even meets the eye. I do not believe by any means that these politicians are creating this fear of Islam in many Americans. I think that this fear has existed all along, and they are simply stirring it up. Mistrust of Islam runs very deep, and I would like to investigate how exactly it all began. Because of this, I have decided to conduct my honors research project next semester on the roots and contemporary manifestations of Islamaphobia in the west. I would love to educate others, and myself, on the fact that Islam should be respected, and not feared, and that Muslims are just as valuable a part of this American melting pot as everyone else.

With many good books and articles by talented, engaged people, I hope to get at the roots of this problem. Hopefully, armed with this new knowledge, I can put a good foot forward and start combating Islamaphobia in any way that I can.

Latin Americanist Lunch: “ZONE OF NONBEING: White Civil Life and Anti-Black Racial Terror in the Brazilian Polity”

As someone who is minoring in Spanish, and intending to study in Latin America, I was very intrigued when I realized Professor Jamie Alves would be speaking on racial inequality in Brazil. Although, Brazilians speak Portuguese, the problems encountered and demonstrated in this multicultural nation resonate a sense of familiarity with other Latin/Central American nations; I might add as an African-American female I wanted a deeper insight into Brazil’s social construct. It appears this particular topic came at a perfect time, as it mirrors our very own discussion of ‘race’ in both, America and Brazil in class.

When looking at Brazil it does not take long for one to realize the structural violence being perpetrated on their black citizens. Segregated into Favelas, or urban slums, where one can expect to encounter many Afro-Brazilians. The Favelas are looked down upon, because similarly, to a ghetto they attract drugs, rape, crime, and other forms of violence. Therefore, the Brazilian government, especially the police, put a label on the people living there, explicitly the Black people.

Mr. Alves relayed a story, which occurred in 2015, where five black teenagers were shot one-hundred and eleven times by the Brazilian police while they were in their vehicle, driving by the police checkpoint. Originally, the police denied they were at fault, and even planted a gun in the car to make the victims appear guilty, it was eventually deemed a homicide, but while the judge ‘figured’ out the case, they allowed the suspected officers to be released. This is why the Blacks of Brazil are so enraged, when they are unwarrantedly murdered no one cares except for them, to augment the disparity the know killers are given special treatment. On the contrary, when white Brazilians are killed, or injustices are perpetrated against them, the nation speaks out in an uproar.

During one of the slides the quote “the bullets that attack black bodies are not rubber bullets” reinforces the sentiment and feeling of forgottenness and anger which engulfs the blacks of Brazil. Alves stated that in Brazil blacks are not considered criminal or lawless, no they are deemed something much more aggressive, they are regarded as ‘enemies’ of Brazil. Could you imagine being an enemy of your own nation, because it refuses to recognize your humanity? I ponder about the situation in Brazil and wonder: how much violence is it going to take for Brazil to recognize the need for reconciliation, how many demonstrations must be made to enact change? Mr. Alves left us a with a deep and haunting sentiment, most people want change, but no one wants to endure the violence and aggression of the complete social reconstruction which is required to enact this change, but if no want wants to bear this responsibility will the nation ever fully propitiate?

Latin Americanist Lunch over: “Population, Health, and Environment: Transitions in Latin America”

Attending Dr. Lopez-Carr’s presentation on Latin America, with several references to Africa, was quite insightful, as he had been awarded a grant to engage in socio-economic research within the Latin American region. In terms of urbanization, Latin America was one of the slower regions to pick up this new global phenomenon. However, per Dr. Lopez-Carr’s research 80% of Latin America is now urban, which has resulted in lower fertility. Families that would have originally had seven children, are now having roughly 3.5 children; this further changed the agriculture landscape. Instead of families having large acres of land, which would eventually be evenly distributed among the children, more families have acquired smaller acres of land to farm.

Keeping these new changes in mind, it should come as no surprise that Dr. Lopez-Carr has found the conversion of forest to agriculture has been the biggest impact on the environment by humans. Even, more troubling is that these urban population booms are taking place in the world’s poorest areas, where they cannot financially, and socially, support the growing populations. So, while your average rural family is having less kids to work the land, the families in the urban areas are reproducing at unprecedented rates.

During the duration of the talk my eyes were opened to new statistics, as the big picture was clearly depicted from these seemingly innocent facts. However, the most interesting/troubling piece of information I acquired was perhaps the biggest advocate for vegetarianism. Less than 1% of the earth’s surface is used for humans, for example soybeans, which were a crop driver at the start of the 2000s, of all the soybeans produced less than 1% were eaten by people, the rest were feed to livestock. This means three-fourths of the world’s used surface would be released into nature if people stopped eating animal protein. Therefore, I propose two questions for Dr. Lopez-Carr: 1.) Knowing what we do about deforestation and climate change, why have more Western governments not regulated the amount of meat households can buy, and 2.) In a world where the global north is so privileged, how are we going to sustain ourselves, when we are clearly destroying the land that feeds us? This was a very engaging talk, and I only touched on a small subsection of Dr. Lopez-Carr’s discussion.

 

International Event #3: Mr and Miss Hispanic OU

I attended the Mr and Miss Hispanic OU Pageant on Saturday, April 22nd. At the parent, participants competed in several categories including talent, cultural presentation, formal wear, and an interview. The presentation was very interesting and culturally relevant. Much of the presentation, in fact, was in Spanish. The cultural presentations varied in composition. One competitor read a monologue about the struggles of not being a citizen of the United States. Other participants recited slam poetry, did a cultural dance, and presented photography from their home country. In the interview portion, the contestants were asked a single question. Most of the questions asked pertained to the struggle of the Hispanic population in America today. These questions addressed a variety of topics ranging from sexual assault in the Hispanic population, to the use of technology in today’s population.

All of the competitors were fantastic, however, the winners of the pageant were very deserving. They had clearly prepared and worked very hard to perfect their performances.

Understanding Cultural Differences: Lessons Learned From an Air Conditioner

I love my air conditioner! While I am a person who much prefers the hot summer months to the cold winter ones I don’t think I could survive without an AC. I am sure many (if not all) my friends would share this point of view. Air condition is simply a part of life here in America!

I have spent over 2 years in a country where the average temperature rarely falls below 90 degrees and the humidity is always somewhere between 70-100 percent. Despite these horrific weather stats, Air Conditioners are not only hard to find but often times not even wanted in the country of Cambodia!

When sleeping in the same room as my Cambodian friends I have been asked multiple times to turn down the AC. I have even seen many members of the church I attend walk outside halfway through the meeting because they need to warm up! After telling my Cambodian friends that I caught a cold they always blame it on my air conditioner!

It is amazing to me the difference in perspective between cultures! The AC conundrum is a small reminder to me that interventions in other parts of the world need to be done only after careful consideration of a country’s cultural. Something that seems so great to one person can really be detrimental to another.

Aw, the lessons one can learn from an Air Conditioner.

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Go, Experience ALL of OU!!!

I have one of the best jobs in the world! I absolutely love being a Tour Guide at The University of Oklahoma where I have the privilege to show off OU every single day! The job really isn’t too hard to do seeing as OU is one of the prettiest campuses in the country as well as home to some of the greatest dance, acting, entrepreneurship, meteorology, and energy management programs in the country. Honestly just by walking on OU’s campus is enough to convince prospective students to attend. While OU is great in so many ways it can be hard to take advantage of all that it has to offer. There are just so many things to do, see, learn, eat, and participate in that sometimes students just feel overwhelmed and don’t do anything at all.

This last week for example I had an innumerable amount of emails and personal invites encouraging me to attend some really cool events. The botany club was having a plant sell, the Iranian Student Association was celebrating Omar Khayyam with poetry, food, and art, numerous sororities were hosting all you can eat mac and cheese parties as a fundraising event, and the industrial engineers put on an end of the year banquet. The list goes on and on! It indeed will be a sad day when I wake up and realize that guest lectures, free food, parties, and banquets were a thing of the past. There are so many neat things to learn and do while at OU and it would be a shame to let them all pass! Now is the time to act and really get out there and experience all that OU has to offer! GO AND EXPERIENCE ALL OF OU!!!!

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