A while ago, I got an OU mass mail from the professor I studied in Uganda with, inviting people to attend OU’s annual water symposium. I’ve been doing some research on water filtration technologies for developing countries, so naturally I saw this as a good opportunity to reconnect with the more social science side of the issue. The event was free and completely open to the public, and included a discussion on global water issues with a panel, as well as the announcement of the OU Water Prize.
The panel included leaders from non-profits, businesses, and academia who work in water, health, and sanitation. Each member gave a short talk on what they’re working on. One of the talks that caught my attention the most talked about what a successful technology for application in developing areas actually entails, and the basic premise was that simple technology is the best technology. While that may seem a little bit obvious, there are so many well-meaning people and organizations that install electric pumps, or other technology that is difficult for locals to repair if it breaks. The technology that the panelist talked about specifically was essentially a sand filter, but arranged in such a way that makes it easy for people to replace the sand. Rather than packing the sand in a vertical column, like we do in the lab, they simply put the sand in a horizontal box, which is much easier to open and re-pack when necessary.
Another interesting point from the panel was the social issues surrounding water technology in the developing world. One of the speakers mentioned an example where teenagers had been destroying the freshly-installed water filter, because it eliminated the time they had spent together away from their families while they were getting water. This isn’t something that happens often, but is an interesting example of the types of social considerations that we most likely would never predict. The same speaker also mentioned that a water filter is much more likely to be maintained well if it is “owned” by one person or family in a village than if it is owned by the community as a whole. I never would have guessed that, but it’s a really important thing to know in order to actually apply any water filtration technology.
Finally, the recipient of the OU Water prize was announced. This year, the winner was Martha Gebeyehu, for her work in improving clean water access in Ethiopia. She’s the training center manager at Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, and works to train people in clean water and sanitation technologies. Overall, the water symposium was a really great experience. It was exciting to hear some other work that can be connected to the work I’m currently doing in the lab, and inspiring to hear about the work that Martha Gebeyehu is doing.
As I have every year of college, this year I attended the Chinese Language Club Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. This year I did not have to organize any part of it, which makes these things a lot more fun. Another difference between this year and previous years is that apparently, I am getting old. In the past, when I’ve gone to CLC events, I could always find old friends and reconnect with people I’ve had Chinese classes with. This year, I got to meet a completely new set of people. Most of the people that I started this journey with have graduated and moved on to new things.
So this year, I ended up just picking a completely random table to sit at, and met some really cool people. Early on, I realized that a large group of people at the table were Global Engagement Fellows as well, so it was exciting to connect over that and hear where they wanted to study abroad. Later, I had a really good conversation with a new student who was learning Chinese, and looking into studying abroad in China. It was cool to connect with some people who are where I was a few years ago, and to have answers to at least a few questions. Certainly not all of the questions, but a few. It was a much different experience than these CLC events have been for the last several years, when I knew that some of my best friends would be there, and ended up just talking to them. It was actually a little bit like being a freshman again, having to step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people. Ultimately, it was probably good for me.
September 16 is Mexican independence day. I spent most of that day on a hike (which I’ll post about later), so the bulk of my celebration was actually a few days prior. UPAEP held an event called Noche Mexicana. There was music, dancing, and a plethora of booths where campus organizations sold typical Mexican food. While most of the night was devoted to the live music, there were also several dance performances by the university’s folkloric dance group. Also, near the end of the evening was a presentation of the Mexican flag and some words by the rector. He finished the short ceremony with the “grita de independencia” which is a loud shout of “viva Mexico” in celebration of the country’s independence.
Mexico has a rich history of distinctive art forms and handicrafts. One practice which is distinctive to Puebla is the making of talavera. This is a specific method of making beautiful ceramics which dates to the colonial period, though it also has much earlier roots. We were able to take a tour of a workshop called Uniarte Talavera, where these ceramics are produced by hand following old traditions. The work looks tedious, but the workers were very kind in allowing us to observe them at their craft. The resulting talavera beautiful and masterfully made.
I may have mentioned in posts from this spring that prior to traveling to Cuba, my class stayed in Puebla, Mexico for two days. I’m now back in Puebla and will be spending the semester here! I’ll be studying at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, better known as UPAEP. OU actually has a study center here, meaning I’ll be taking two classes with OU faculty in residence and two local classes: Ecología Evolutiva and Historia Política de Mexico.
So far I’ve been settling into my classes and exploring the city. Mexico has a long and rich history of murals stretching back to pre-hispanic times, so I’ve included some photos of that tradition being carried on today. Beyond just appreciating the color and beauty of the city, I’ve also had the opportunity to start exploring the history of the city. There are a ton of museums here as well old fortresses (including those from the battle of Cinco de Mayo) and nearby archeological sites.
A US/Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. There had been some mystery around his disappearance until Saudi Arabia admitted that he was killed and dismembered by “rogue agents” while there. He was a journalist who on many occasions was a critical of the Saudi crown prince.
Globally people are looking at how America is going to respond to that situation seeing as we are largely dependant on them and other countries in that region for their oil.
Within the last year many things have happened that have had an impact on the global political climate. One of the most outstanding of these events was the meeting between the South Korea president and the dictator of North Korea. This meeting was long awaited and was the first step in repairing relations between the two countries and showed Korean solidarity and peace on the peninsula.
This afternoon, I attended a talk called “Brexit: What It Means and Why It Matters” by Stephen Castle. Mr. Castle is the London correspondent for the New York Times. In the talk, Mr. Castle explained four main points: 1) “how we got here,” which included a brief history of British involvement in the European Union, 2) “why is it a big deal?”, 3) “where are we now?”, and 4) “why it matters,” specifically for Europe, the United States, and Britain. In brief, he explained that the British government is strongly divided over the issue of Brexit and how to implement it. In addition, he explained how Brexit will affect the complicated economic and social structure of Britain and Europe.
In my current International Studies class, we have been discussing Orientalism. Although a discussion of European and specifically British internal policy does not relate directly to Orientalism, some links are evident between the talk and our class discussions. Specifically, the theme of nationalism is evident in both discussions. The impetus for Brexit stems from growing nationalist sentiment in Britain. The British people, discontent with the governance of the European Union, want to be free from the economic, political, and social control of the EU. Mr. Castle explained how Britain has always viewed itself as distinct from mainland Europe and never adopted the idealistic vision for a common European future that characterizes the European Union. Thus, in voting to leave the European Union, Britain is acting largely on nationalist ideals and sentiment. In class, we have been reading about nationalism and independence movements among former British colonies and Western-controlled territories, which sought to establish their own identities and free themselves from the economic, political, and social control of the West. The issue of Brexit is an interesting example of the tables being turned. Rather than former colonies trying to free themselves from British (or Western) control, Britain itself is trying to free itself from being controlled. Although many differences exist between Brexit and independence movements in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the same theme of nationalism unites them all.
If I could ask Mr. Castle a question, I would ask him to explain in more detail the growing nationalist sentiment on the part of the British people, including its history, causes, recent growth, and expression in both the political and social realms.