Even though the UK is an English-speaking country, there are still a lot of differences between the United Kingdom and the United States. Here are some of the most obvious ones:
- No stop signs: That is right. I have not seen a single red octagonal shape with big white letters stamped across it during the almost two months I have been here. There are a lot of roundabouts and interesting 4 way intersections that I can not even begin to describe. The most alarming aspect about not having stop signs at intersections is when I’m crossing the street at 8 in the morning walking to class and I see out of my peripheral vision this car zooming towards me. In the U.S., most cars will begin to slow down several hundred feet ahead of the stop sign in order to prevent a sudden stop. But, in the UK, I have these fear of uncertainty if they will actually stop in time or if they will stop at all since there is no big red sign reminding them. The most awkward thing is playing the who is going to go first game with the car. With no certainty that the car will stop and let the pedestrian cross or continue to turn, I often find myself putting one foot into the street then often retracting until there is a sure sign from the car.
- Interesting crosswalks: At large intersections, there is a median in the middle of the road for pedestrians. But unlike most medians in the US, there are fences along the median that creates an almost Z-shaped path for the pedestrians. When crossing, pedestrians are supposed to cross one lane and then wait at the median and then cross the other lane. Pedestrians are only give the green light to cross one lane at a time while the other lane is still allowing cars to turn into.
- Computer keyboards: Who knew that there were different types of English keyboards? When I walked into the university library to go print something, I needed to access my email account to retrieve the document. The first time I tried log in, it said I typed in the wrong username and/or password. I retyped the password again and still it said I was wrong. Finally, I looked at my username and I noticed that the @ sign was wrong. Finally, I realized that the @ symbol isn’t on the usual key on the number 2 key.
- Separate hot and cold water taps: Getting warm water in the UK is near impossible. The hot water and cold water comes out of two separate taps and there is no way to adjust the temperature of the water. At least in my building, the hot water is scathing hot. In order to get warm water, I have to keep alternating between the hot and cold water tap. One of my flatmates said that she has to plug up the drain in the sink and run both taps in order to get warm water to wash her face. Whenever I need to wash my hands, I have to either pick the freezing water or the scathing water. I have never been more grateful for one faucet with adjustable water temperature in the U.S.
Living in Scotland has definitely been interesting adjusting with the small changes. I find it fascinating the similarities and differences between the United States and the UK.
One of the biggest international events of October was the disappearance and murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a Saudi dissident who wrote for the Washington Post. While in Istanbul, he visited the Saudi Arabian consulate, only he never came out. After weeks of speculation and accusations, Saudi Arabia admitted to his death, claiming a fight broke out. However, many people believed that the Saudi Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) orchestrated his death due to his opinions on the Saudi Arabian government.
This discussion with Dr. Landis and Dr. Shehata was mainly focused on the inner workings of the Saudi government and what actions (if any) the United States could take. Due to my study abroad experience in Turkey, I am fascinated with Middle Eastern events and talks, and this one was not a disappointment. I learned about how the Crown Prince is the power behind the crown and has helped make social advancements in Saudi Arabia (he pushed for women to have the right to drive). So while he is a socially progressive Saudi prince, he is also to blame for multiple diplomatic crises. While neither Dr. Landis nor Dr. Shehata agree on what the U.S. can do, they both agree that a close eye needs to be kept on the Crown Prince due to his power and involvement in numerous disturbing events.
I was really lucky to have been able to go on a hike one weekend. Puebla is located in a valley and is surrounded by mountains and volcanic activity. I really love hiking, so I’ve been looking forward to exploring the trails here. The mountain we hiked, and nearly summited, was la Malinche. It took us four hours to ascend and two to go back down. The thin air at this elevation made the going difficult, but we still managed to climb to around 14,600 feet (4,461 m). For context, the city of Puebla rests at 7,000 ft (2,135 m).
There were a surprising amount of dogs on the trail who would follow us for stretches. We also got caught in a could which you can see in the time-lapse video below. Some of my classmates have let me know about a local mountaineering group, so I’m hoping to do this more in the future!
Last Thursday, OU InterVarsity held our annual World Student Celebration. The event kicks off the IFES World Student Day of Prayer, which is the following day International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, or IFES, is the larger umbrella organization of InterVarsity and connects campus groups from all over the world. On World Student Day, we get the opportunity to connect with some of these groups, learn more about their cultures and how we can be praying for them.
The celebration began with a pot-luck dinner with cultural dishes from all over the world. Groups then shared prepared presentations on different regions of the world and spoke briefly on the culture and prayer requests of specific campuses in the region. Intermingled in this were songs in different languages, and dancing! We traditionally do the Ukrainian tunnel dance halfway through the night, which never fails to disappoint. This year, we also learned a Latino line dance. Additionally, we watched a video from a current OU alumni who is working with InterVarsity in Ukraine now. After the celebration, InterVarsity set up a prayer room in Wagner that was open during the following day for the IFES World Student Day of Prayer.
This event has to be one of my favorite events that InterVarsity does. How neat is it that we get to dedicate a day to celebrating different cultures, while learning how we can be supporting one another through prayer!
Well me and a friend were about halfway into our first semester of Japanese when we decided to see what the club was all about. Later that Tuesday we went over to the room at the specified time and no one was there. We waited around about an extra 10 minutes and were like hey maybe they went back to the original room it was held in. We went there and still couldn’t find them so we decided to just practice there. The next day we learned that they had had the club meeting it just happened to be a bit later than usual. The next time I went everyone was there and it was fun as it is any other time I’ve gone now.
What is budae jjigae?
Budae means army base and jjigae is stew. This stew was created during the Korean War when fresh food was scarce and packaged food from America was abundant. Budae jjigae consists of kimchi, onion, tofu, dangmyeon (sweet potato starch glass noodles), ramyeon noodles, baked beans, hotdogs, and Spam. Although this sounds like a weird combination, these ingredients strangely worked well together.
As mentioned in my previous post, my OU cousin and I had originally gone to Korean House for budae jjigae but were told they were out. We decided to make our own at home. On Thursday, my roommate, my OU cousin, and I went grocery shopping and were happy to find that we could get most things we needed for the stew. When we finished prepping and cooking everything, the amount we made was enough to feed at least six people; we had overestimated how much dangmyeon we needed. It was delicious and even though we tried to eat as much as we could, it was just too much.
After eating, we spend an hour watching Youtube videos, mostly throwback Kpop songs. We even tried to do karaoke but quickly realized we were being too loud. Although we couldn’t sing our hearts out, we had fun hanging out together. I will miss her when she goes back to Korea in December.
This semester I have decided to join OU cousins again. My cousin is from South Korea, and after being in America for a few months, she missed Korean food. We went to Korean House as it was the closest restaurant to Norman. After a 30 minute Kpop karaoke drive, we arrived. Although we had wanted budae jjigae (roughly translated as army base stew), we were told they were out of ingredients for it. So we settled for naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles in a spicy sauce) and dakgaejang (shredded chicken soup). We also ordered kimbap (rolls of rice, meat, and assorted vegetables). It was a delicious meal that made her and me miss Korea even more. We had fun talking about Kpop, something we both love, and things we did in Korea. After our meal, we went home full and happy. We promised to meet up again and make budae jjigae next time.
On October 3rd, I attended Slater Rhea’s talk about how he practices cultural diplomacy in China through his career as a folk singer. He is OU alum who upon graduation moved to China to become a singer. He talked about how he learned Chinese through listening to music and eventually started singing those songs in shows on campus. His story is unique because it shows that there are many career paths one can take and that life does not have to be lived traditionally. Through his singing career in China, he has been able to bring cultural awareness of certain American topics to that country. He in turn has also learned many aspects of Chinese culture and life.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Neustadt Lit Fest, an annual celebration of international literature and culture at OU. This year’s keynote speaker and the winner of the 2018 Neustadt International Prize for Literature was Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian American writer. Her works, along with certain aspects of Haitian culture, were discussed over three days of events. I went to the second-day luncheon, entitled “Edwidge Danticat’s Literary Message: A Luncheon Roundtable”, given by three well-known and talented Haitian-American scholars: Catherine John Camara, a professor of African Diaspora and Francophone Caribbean Literature at OU; Marcia Chatelain, a professor of history and African American Studies from Georgetown University; and Florine Démosthène, an artist who is a current recipient of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship (based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma).
The roundtable discussion focused on various aspects of the “Haitian diaspora”, or the dispersion of Haitians in the U.S. It was extremely interesting for me since I have little experience with Haitian culture or history. The three women presented information from their studies as well as personal anecdotes from their families and their individual time traveling in the U.S., Haiti, and Africa; they used their professional and personal experiences to explain current Haitian American culture from three similar but very distinct perspectives. I really enjoyed the talk (and the free lunch), and definitely feel as though the experience opened me up to another unique culture.
At the very end of the discussion, Ms. Démosthène treated us to some of her most recent work, a series of collages entitled “Wounds” that she did while in Ghana. The works are beautiful pieces depicting the duality of emotions and speaking to her personal experience as well as being a testament to the feelings and perceptions of many groups and individuals. Her website, florinedemosthene.com, has pictures of her work at well as her bio and more information; if you are interested, it’s definitely worth checking out. Also, I’m definitely going to seek out some of Ms. Danticat’s work as soon as I have time to read again (after finals if I’m lucky), so if you have any recommendations on what to read by her I’d love to hear them!
I like going to club because it’s a place I get to practice my speech with people who can let me know what I might be getting mixed up or where I could change things to sound more natural and that’s exactly what happens. It’s also nice because you get homework help which is so great because the book doesn’t have many references to go off of so instead of struggling alone you have not only classmates but native speakers there to help you.