Don’t Ignore Russia

 

At the end of my last blog, I mentioned that Russia’s doping scandals have caught the world’s attention, if only for a moment (and have probably now been forgotten since the Olympics are concluded). However, as I implied earlier, Russia is not a country that should be ignored, although, given the problems that exist at home, it is easy to do. For those who keep track of the news, the Russian elections were recently held, and Vladimir Putin won by an enormous margin over his few competitors.

Although Putin and Russia might not seem to be the biggest story, especially given the headline-generating power of North Korea and Kim Jong-Un, it seems to me, as I look at sources, that overall, Russia is a much greater threat. They have significantly greater military and economic power and have already demonstrated a willingness, under Putin, to expand their power outside their borders (recall the annexation of Ukraine). But let’s briefly discuss the election and what it could mean for the future of Russia and Russia’s relations with the world.

First, there have been hundreds of accusations of voter fraud leveled against the Russian government during this election including everything from large quantities of ballots being forced into boxes by election officials to ballots being found in the boxes before voting had even begun. Will this hurt Putin’s reputation? In Russia, this is unlikely. If we neglect the accusations of voting fraud and the impact they could have had on the election, the most accurate calculations state that Putin won the election with a massive 76% of the popular vote. Despite the importance of the story of tampering with the election results, it is doubtful that it changed the outcome of the election. Putin is undeniably popular in Russia, and even without the results being effected, would most likely have won by a large margin. Having covered the basics of the election, what effects could Putin’s re-election have on Russia, both at home and in its international relations?

To begin this discussion, let’s look at Russia’s military presence. If military spending is given as a percent of GDP, Russia outspends all other nations including the United States. Additionally, Putin has been clear about his desire to make Russia a military superpower and even recently announced the development of new nuclear warheads that could avoid current missile defense technology. Although it is doubtful, at least in my opinion, that these warheads would ever be used, some of Putin’s past decisions indicate that he is not afraid to use Russia’s military power.

Although Putin has succeeded in improving the overall economic condition of Russia, he attempts to dissuade the population from focusing upon material things and to instead focus upon defending Russia from foreign threats and building up Russia’s international power. This emphasis is evidenced by his massive military spending and by the popularity boost he experiences whenever he describes Russia’s strength. He is heavily nationalistic – Russia comes first. It also does not appear as though Putin has much in the way of a moral compass – take for example that he has supported many brutal dictators in the Middle East.

So what is the overall effect of Putin’s re-election? The next six years will tell. But if there is one take away from this blog post, it is this: don’t ignore Russia.

World Literature Today

World Literature Today is a publication that is based out of Monnet Hall at the University of Oklahoma. It is one of the longest running literary periodicals in the United States, and its founder, Dr. Roy Temple House, was endorsed for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1948. World Literature Today is a periodical that discusses literature across the world. However, the organization behind the periodical does much more extensive work. Every one to two years, World Literature Today hosts a Puterbaugh festival at the University of Oklahoma for Puterbaugh Fellow of the year. The Puterbaugh Fellow is generally an international author who has gathered acclaim throughout their career. The Puterbaugh festivals are funded by a donation from J. G. Puterbaugh, a philanthropist who loved poetry, and their goal is to celebrate great international authors. This event exposes students and faculty to some of the most influential authors from around the world. The winners of the prestigious award are often current or future Nobel laureates. World Literature Today also offers a variety of other opportunities for students of all ages, including opportunities to attend Puterbaugh and Neustadt festivals, gain experience editing and marketing the periodical, and taking World Literature Today classes. World Literature Today also hosts a book club, of which I am a member. This book club meets approximately once per month. Each month a different book by an international author is read and discussed at the meeting. This provides an amazing opportunity for undergraduate like myself to be exposed to literature from around the world.

The most recent novel read by the World Literature Today book club was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, winner of the 2017 Puterbaugh prize. This is one of her more recent novels, published in 2014. The novel is a collection of four short stories, in which the protagonist dies differently in each story. The story insightfully examines the dramatic effects that can result from one small change in a person’s life. Stylistically, the novel is unique in several ways. First, between each short story, there is an intermission that investigates the changes that occurred because of the one small life change. And second, there are no names in the story. At times, it is nearly impossible to keep track of which character is which, who is the protagonist, and personality of any character. Although it’s challenging to ascertain why Ms. Erpenbeck made these choices, it seems to generalize this individual’s experience and make it more applicable to each reader. Perhaps because of these stylistic choices, I find myself contemplating the effect of one small change in my life. It has been an engaging book to read, and one that, without World Literature Today’s book club, I would not have had the opportunity to experience.

Uncategorized

Doping isn’t Dope

During the Winter Olympics of 2018, held in PyeonChang, a Russian curler was expelled from the competition because he was found to have meldonium in his system. Meldonium is a drug that increases blood flow, which is thought to improve athletic performance. Although other curlers have admitted there could be performance benefits by taking the drug, it seems remarkable that one would risk their career in a sport, and more than that, their reputation, by taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), especially in curling, a sport where athleticism is not at the fore. I don’t want to focus specifically on the athlete who is accused of doping, but upon the culture that seems to exist in Russia regarding this banned practice.

Much of the world is aware that over the past several years, it has been discovered that a large percentage of the Russian Olympic team, in some cases sponsored by the state, has been caught using PEDs. As a result of this, large numbers of Russian athletes were banned from competing in the 2016 and 2018 Olympic games. Many sports are known to have problems with doping but curling was not one of these sports. This idea appears valid because curling does not seem to be a particularly strenuous activity given its emphasis on skill rather than strength or conditioning.

To be fair to all concerned, doping occurs to varying degrees in all sports, because there will always be individuals who are willing to do anything, regardless of legality, to attain the highest level. However, at the highest levels of government within Russia, there is clearly an acceptance, and possibly encouragement, of athletes using PEDs to increase their chances of achieving international success within a sport. Now, even if this single Russian curler unintentionally used PEDs as he claims, Russia still has a problem with the practice. This is not a problem that Russia sees with itself but a problem the world sees with Russia. If I had to give one simple reason that Russia’s state-backed doping is a problem, it would be because Russia seems willing to do anything to achieve success or even domination in sports. And this desire, as will be explored in other blogs, extends outside the realm of sports. Russia wants to be a respected world power – and doping is just a manifestation of the deeper underlying problem.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler is a heartbreaking and real story of a women, wife, mother and friend who was told her life would be inconceivable cut short due to stage 4 cancer. It is a very real documentation of her journey through her diagnosis, treatment, and life that was dramatically changed from a singe phone call. Kate Bowler is a professor of Theology at Duke Divinity school, so faith-oriented questions surround this novel of tragedy. This book made me rethink everything I knew or thought I knew about struggles, hardship, life, death, how to serve and surround people in times of grieving, and challenged my beliefs. This book is a hard one to read, because within its pages are the fragile pieces of a very real life and very real story. It is not only the story of Kate Bowler, but thousands of people that deal with tragedy and hardship beyond explanation or reason. It allows the reader to gain a greater understanding of what this moment looks like for people standing literally in the valley of the shadow of death, without being there themselves. The pain we feel through her words is nowhere close to what she feels, but we can better understand how little we understand about death. This is a book that just about everyone should read to develop understanding in relation to what is it like to embrace life fully, how to embrace the thought of death, promises of life, and fullness in tragedy and pain.

Uncategorized

Dance Stand Run

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly is a spiritual book written for women to better learn how to dance in grace, stand on holy ground, and run on a mission. One of my biggest goals right now is to meet this woman. I am convinced Jess is my secret sister, best gal in another life. Or this one, I am up for that too. Anyway, Jess speaks boldly of the hope that comes to us as daughters of God and sisters on the mission for Christ. She argues in the beginning of the book that she, along with many others, have taken up grace and forgotten that we are women that stand firm on holy ground. What she means by this is we get grace: the grace that comes from a savior that washes us white as snow and sees us as we truly are. But when we take up our cross and step into grace, we also become entirely holy. There is nothing we can do to be more or less holy than we are in this moment. And that is crazy hard to grasp, and oftentimes harder to believe and live out. But we are women of God dancing fully in grace like rain, embracing our mistakes and imperfections because we are seen and known, but also standing on holy ground with Jesus, living in that holiness. And because we dance in grace and stand firmly on holy ground, we are able to run on a mission, which is the great commission. We are all called to ministry, to make disciples of all nations, to go and speak boldly and live in grace and stand in holiness fully proclaiming the name of Jesus.

Uncategorized

Twenty Two

I have spent the last semester reading, a lot. A book I just finished reading was Twenty Two by Allison Trowbridge, and it made its way up to being one of my favorite novels of all time. Allison, a college graduate who currently works in the non profit industry, specifically in human trafficking, reminisced on her college years and recognized the importance of mentorship. She decided to write a book full of letters to a fictional girl that she mentored throughout her 4 years of college. The book spells out the truths and challenges of college, speaks about life experience, struggles, pain, beauty, joy, and most of all, growth. The book is perspective-giving and allows the individual to embrace who they are as a woman, becoming real. She offers advice and perspectives I would have not thought of on my own, both spiritual and non. After reading this book, I decided it will be the gift I give to all girls graduating and making the challenging transition between high school and college. The book ends in devastation and heart break, but remains an anthem of hope for women to live fully and wonderfully throughout their college experience, to strive to be their genuine selves, and shape their hearts during this season.

Uncategorized

Parkland

It’s taken me awhile to come up with what to say on this blog post. Like way too long. And honestly, I think its because I cannot comprehend truly what is going on in this world and especially in this country. I am not pro guns but I am also not anti-guns. I am from Texas where basically anyone has a gun– my father had hundreds of guns and now, my stepfather has just as many– but you don’t see them killing people. When my father was alive, he used them for hunting, and my stepfather does the same. They do not use their guns maliciously and most people don’t either… it is just those people who in my opinion are not right in the mind.

Parkland being one of the most recent school shootings truly shook me. Once I saw the picture of the boy who caused all of these deaths and this travesty scared the heck out of me. He looked scary, he seemed insane. Overall, he did not look right. These people who use guns in a negative way are NOT OKAY.

I believe we have the right to bear arms and we have the right to do as we please, but once it gets to the point where people are murdering others– things start to go wrong.

Do not take our guns. This is stripping us of our freedoms. Land of the free? Home of the brave? Yes, we need to stop such travesties from happening again and more than they should, but it should not be that we take everyone’s guns away.

Honestly, I do not know enough about the politics of the situation and just politics in general, but, I do stand for freedom and I do stand for equality and especially that we should not have to fear for our lives in our own towns, our own schools.

School is a place of safety, it is where you find your passions (for the most part), it should not be a place where you possibly fear for your life.

Precautions need to come into play, and honestly, I do not know how it can be done. But something must be done.

aKDPhi Junior Active Spring 2018 Semester

The photos shown above were taken when I became an active member of my Asian-interest sorority, alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi). Although we did not get a class this semester, our pictures are still really nice! While in my sorority, I have made sisterly connections with nearly every member. They inspire me to be more creative and to be more than I can be. Although I devote a lot of my time towards them, I am also finding a part of who I am. This sisterhood has provided me with friends that go out and eat Asian food with me. 🙂 We have worked hard to fundraise for our philanthropy and to promote our sisterhood to others. I am proud to be a member of alpha Kappa Delta Phi International Sorority.

Onigiri Workshop

The Japanese language department hosted a wonderful event where anyone who wished to could come in and make some delicious onigiri with provided rice and seaweed. It wasn’t as good as the one I had in Tokyo, but mine came out pretty decent.

Uncategorized

Another Trip to Mexico !!

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

Sometimes I forget that another country is just a half-day’s car ride away from where I live. During my semester in Italy, I thought it was a miracle that you could drive from one country to another, my brain not quite recognizing that essentially the same thing is possible here in Oklahoma. Sure, it’s not the most exciting car drive, but Mexico is a truly beautiful place.

This is my fourth spring break spent at Casa Hogar Getsemani, a children’s home in Morelos, Mexico, and each time I go I fall more and more in love with the people who live and work there. It’s an almost-idyllic place: pastel-painted houses, a mini-farm with ducks and chickens, children laughing and playing on the outdoor playground. It’s such a gift to be able to spend a week there each year, cooking meals for the kids and house parents and doing anything possible to lend an extra hand. It’s hard to put these kind of experiences into words, though, so I’ll include a few pictures to maybe give a little peek into the past week.