This is not going to be a long post. But I wanted to write a post about Notre Dame. My first visit to Paris was a while ago, but I still remember how impressive Notre Dame was. The stained glass windows, while not as numerous as Sainte-Chapelle, were stunning. As were the arches and columns lined alongside the nave. Seeing the church engulfed in flames was a sad moment for me. Seeing a cherished piece of history in such a helpless state is disheartening… Notre Dame had survived so many wars and conflicts relatively unscathed. The firefighters and first responders who rushed into a highly dangerous situation deserve all of credit they have received. If this is ever read by any of you, thank you.
The response by the international community has been amazing. The donations and pledges of support give me hope that there is a great unifier in the world. I believe that Notre Dame can/will come back a magnificent as ever.
This past semester has given me a lot to think about. I am writing this, having just submitted my final assignment of junior year. Overall, I would say that this year was successful. I managed to do well in my classes, become an officer in the German Club, continue my job in the library, and work as a volunteer ESL tutor. (I was actually promoted to VP of the German Club a couple of days ago.)
I look forward to my senior year, but I know that I really have to be on top of everything. I should even start looking for potential job openings soon! However, I have a lot to do before that. I am taking two online courses through OU this summer. (I have never taken an online course, so I am interested in how they are taught.) I am also studying abroad in Israel during the month of July. I am very excited to go back to Israel. My mother’s brother and his family lives in Israel, and it has been three years since I have visited them. Also, the courses that I am taking will be extremely interesting. One course is about Arab-Israeli history. The other is about radical Islam in the Middle East. (I am also pleased that both courses are relevant to my future career plans.)
Junior year was a great one and I cannot wait to see what the summer, fall, and spring semesters of senior year bring.
“Let’s Talk About Race” (A topic at the GEF Spring Event)
Race is an increasingly important topic in the modern world. The most common instance of racism is being stared at; however, this is likely more because of curiosity rather than racism. People of colour are more likely to get stopped in an airport; a major issue that the United States’ TSA continues to be forced to address. Certain races are also treated differently if they are suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. (Specifically Latin Americans throughout the United States. Also, in cities with stop-and-frisk, non-whites are more likely to be stopped than whites.) If in a country is not familiar to your race, could be mistaken. — Russia as an example; Russian, Chechen, and Jewish as different ethnicity. In Brazil, there are numerous interpretations of race; each different race is treated better or worse depending on their “lightness/darkness.” If a mother has a child who has a different skin colour, then the two are different races.
Race is an increasingly polarised topic, with how it is dealt with and interpreted becoming an important factor internationally and domestically. The United States must understand how other countries deal with race, as misinterpreting race may offend other nations. Additionally, the United States must make progress at improving race relations within the United States, as this will set an important precedent for the international community. Lastly, if race relations lead to other groups being treated as inferior, then it is a human rights violation that needs to be addressed by the United States and other major powers.
On the April 2nd, 2019, I attended a lecture given by Dr. Lior Sternfeld. (He is currently teaching at Penn State.) The lecture discussed Jewish life in Iran. The lecture was highly interesting, and provided me with a substantial amount of new information.
Prior to 1975, the Jewish community of Iran was very diverse. German, Polish, Russian, Iraqi, and many more Jews called Iran their home. However, after the events of 1979, the Jewish area was turned into a Mahaleh. (Dr. Sternfeld argues against using the word “ghetto” because of the connotation of the word to WW2.) Jews were attacked for the Zionist culture, with many high profile Iranian politicians questioning Jewish loyalty to Iran.
This claim is not particularly true, as many Jews remained loyal to the Shah. According to Dr. Sternfeld, some Jews were sympathetic to the Islamic revolutionaries!
In modern Iran, the Jewish community largely lives in urban areas. Around ½ of the Jews live in Tehran. The Jewish community is mainly comprised of Middle – Upper middle class, but that meta is changing. There are 4 kosher restaurants in Tehran, which is three more than in Austin, and 4 more than Norman; lets try and get Norman a kosher restaurant!
The University of Oklahoma is never short of exciting opportunities. From sporting events that can rival any other university in the world, to guest lectures from some of the best scholars in the world, to interesting cultural events, there is always something to do. On March 8th, the German Club of OU hosted a tour of the National Weather Center; the tour was predominantly in German. The tour was well attended, as many of the German staff and students decided to take advantage of this opportunity.
I have been on a couple of tours before, so I came in with a good grasp of what to expect. The tour was outstanding, and I left with two major takeaways. First, the amount of German speakers in high-ranking positions within the NWC is impressive. The fact that we were able to talk with three separate workers/administrators in German shocked me; I’m happy that the NWC appears to be appealing to international, as well as domestic, scholars.
The second takeaway was that my German comprehension is still very good. I almost understood every word. (Apart from a few German words that dealt with abstract weather concepts.) I am very, very happy with this. I know studying in Heidelberg provided my language skills with a major boost, and I will not let my momentum slide.
The recent events in France have caught my attention. The protestors are protesting against Emmanuel Macron and his government. There appear to be some misconceptions as to who the protestors are, with many people thinking that these people are radicals rightists/leftists. However, the protestors are actually from all party lines; their only real unifying factor is that everyone has some sort of hatred for Macron… what began as a localized protest against a fuel tax, exploded into an international phenomenon that has caught the world’s attention. (Interestingly, there have been yellow vest protests in Sweden, Germany, and other European nations.)
Now, Paris appears to be on fire, with widespread violence across the city… Macron’s approval rating has dropped to an embarrassing 23%, and people have even spray painted on the Arc de Triomphe. Macron’s forces have also come under fire lately for shooting into crowds; a lady even lost an eye.
There are more protests planned for this weekend, and Macron has said that people will be better prepared to combat the protestors. I am not sure how he intends to do this without use of force, but this weekend I will have my eyes watching France. Hopefully peace can soon be restored with the people getting what they want (Without violence occurring.)
Recently, I have started to follow the events that are taking place in the South China Sea. In my opinion, this situation requires more attention than we are giving it. China’s interpretation of the nine-dash line remains ambiguous, and every other player in this situation is left to guess as to what their meaning is. Strategic ambiguity is a useful tactic for China, but it is very dangerous for the United States and its allies.
In addition, United States allies, such as Taiwan, have a vested interest in the United States remaining a strong military presence in the Asian region. If the United States was to desert Taiwan, it is possible that China would invade, as Taiwan is part of China’s “One China” policy. In addition, the United States’ desertion of Taiwan could spark fear in other Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan. — it will be interesting how the US decides to define its role in the region.
Lastly, it is important to watch the Philippines’ relation with China. While they have traditionally been opposed to China’s claims, and against China’s island building policies, President Duterte’s disposition towards China is more warm than other previous leaders.
There are many other factors at play in the region, including freedom of the sea, Russia, and other Asian players, and when the outcome occurs, it will alter the entire world.
Earlier this semester, I went to the Kaffee und Kuchen event at OU. This event had a specific interest towards Austrian culture; really a specific interest towards Viennese culture. The OU German faculty contains a few Austrians, and they were happy to tell the room about Viennese culture.
The two most exciting parts of the event were Dr. Sabrina Bacher’s lecture on Viennese dialect & then Dr. Robert Lemon’s lecture on the history of coffee and cake. Dr. Bacher taught us some of the different dialectal word choices that people from Vienna use; it was really like hearing another language! I think it always super cool to hear different Germanic dialects because some are so different than traditional “High German,” that it is nearly impossible to understand them. For example, a “seidel” of beer is equivalent to “ein kleines” beer. — a small beer.
Dr. Lemon then amused us with a history of coffee and cake, asking us obscure questions such as the origin for the word “cake.” The questions were actually brutally difficult, but they were fun, nonetheless.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the event ended with me becoming a German Club officer… a very nice way to end the event.
This is an annual lecture given by the Schusterman Center here at OU. This year, Dr. Jim Diamond was brought in to lecture about the different interpretations of the Ten Commandments. (Specifically the first one; what exactly does the First Commandment mean?)
The first question that was posed was how does one view the Ten Commandments? Viewing them from a mystical perspective results in a different finding than if one was to view them from a philosophical view. (Maimonides was used as an example.)
The largest portion of the lecture discussed the initial bit of the 1st Commandment from Exodus 20: “I am the Lord your God.”
Dr. Diamond spent a substantial amount of time investigating whether this could be viewed as a commandment or a statement. Almost everyone views this as a commandment, but there is no explicit commandment stated. Hearing this was interesting, as it related to Jews and Christians. (A substantial percentage of the world’s population.) — I was not convinced about it not being a commandment, as the next pieces of Exodus 20 do offer explicit demands.
Nevertheless, this was an interesting lecture that got me thinking. The Ten Commandments are important to many people, and a new view of them will always get people’s attention.
I spent my entire sophomore year studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany; the experience in Heidelberg made me want to become more involved in German opportunities here at OU… but I didn’t know how. I began with taking German Advanced Composition in an attempt to improve my German writing skills. (This has worked, in large part to Dr, Sullivan’s willingness to help students succeed.)
As I continued with the semester, I began to focus on the German club. This organisation is tasked with the advancement and promotion of German culture and language. After I was asked to be the speak about my experiences at Heidelberg during the German opportunities forum, I contacted the leadership of German club, asking to become more involved; I was told that I could run for an officer position!
On Friday November 16th, I went to the German club’s Kaffee und Kuchen event. (Cakes and Coffee) I will cover this event in another post, but it was very fun + interesting. But, the most exciting part of the event came at the end… the elections. When the position of treasurer was called, the president of the German club mentioned me as the chosen candidate. But, as with all fair elections, others were allowed to state their intentions of running against me. Luckily, nobody decided to oppose me, and I was chosen as the new treasurer.
I look forward to this position, as well as the ability to become more involved at OU. (And promote German things around campus.) This Friday is the club’s “Christmas Bakery.” The club is offering lessons on how to bake traditional German holiday cookies. I am excited for what is to come, and I can’t wait to become increasingly involved.