On Friday there was an Open Mic night at Second Wind Cafè. I’d never been there before, and I don’t drink coffee, but the Italian soda was very good.
Open Mic was an invitation to those who have studied abroad or those who are originally from the area to come and share stories about their experiences. There were many of the people I heard were international students rather than those who had studied abroad, and all the experiences were interesting.
There was one story in particular I found fascinating, about being abroad and meeting someone not from the US who was also traveling in that country. It just so happened that the storyteller spoke many of the same languages as the other person did, including the home language, and that other person was so excited! There’s a saying that when you speak with someone in their second language, it goes to their head, but their first language goes to their heart.
I’m still working on that second-language thing, but I try to imagine where this is coming from. I could see myself all alone in Italy, trying to muddle through with my limited Italian, when suddenly someone comes up to me and starts speaking English. What a relief! I mean, English is very widespread and I’m sure I’d be able to find at least one person who speaks it. I suppose this is another luxury that I was born with as an American.
Last week I stopped by the the OU in Rio and Puebla table in the Union building. In case you haven’t heard, there are two new OU centers in South America, and they sound awesome! They’re set up like the Arezzo center, where you take OU classes from OU professors, in English. Plus they are in South America, which is beautiful and on the less expensive end of study abroad destinations.
I haven’t actively had South America on my radar for study abroad, but I have always wanted to go to Brazil. My father lived in Sao Paolo as a missionary for our church for two years, and is still quite fluent in Portuguese. He wanted me and my brothers to learn it when we were children but we never had a good way to learn it. It would be fun for me to see why he loves it there so much.
I would hope that the salsa in Brazil is better than the salsa they had at the table. I have a higher spice tolerance than many Americans, but there was none at all in that salsa. At least the queso and the chips were good! I need to learn to make queso.
Last week I had my first experiences with international grocery stores. I went to both an Indian food store and an Asian market located in Oklahoma City. This was partly in search of some specific ingredients and partly because, well, why not?
My first stop was the Indian store in search of chickpea flour. I’ve never cooked with it myself, but I have a good friend who does and her pancakes are delicious (and gluten free!). Its a very interesting little store, and many ingredients are labeled by what they are called in India. I suppose its a testament to my Western approach to life to have that initially surprise me. There’s no reason for them not to do that, of course, but I still had to google what chickpea flour was called (its besan).
Next stop was the Asian market. That place was definitely confusing. It took me ages to find the coconut oil, but in the time I was searching I ended up buying several more items that I like to use or that I’ve never tried before. One of the latter was a dragonfruit. Its a fruit with a pink exterior and white flesh with black seeds. I’d seen it several times on various Food Network shows and I’d always wanted to try it. One unique part of the store is the seafood section. It has several tanks of live fish. How cool is that? You can’t buy fish any fresher than that.
I’m definitely going back to both of these places in the future. The Asian market in particular was a refreshing change from any other store I’ve been to. Also, the coconut oil is relatively cheap. Highly recommend!
One of the classes I am taking this semester is History of the Middle East since World War I. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my first choice of class; however, it counted for a few general education credits, it was online (which is nice with Kiddo around), and it did sound genuinely interesting. It also sounded useful considering all that is happening in the world today. (I have a theory that World War III is going to come out of the current state of the Middle East, but that is a post for another day.)
I’ve learned some interesting things in these first two weeks of the semester. First of all, I can’t believe how badly I was taught about the first world war. Everything I learned about it was through a program called Academic Decathlon, which is, quickly put, a nerd competition. One year all of our subjects were based around the first world war, and I thought myself well-informed. Well, apparently it wasn’t, because the Ottoman empire was barely mentioned and it was, in fact, very important.
Second of all, sometimes Europe just needs to mind its own business. The roots of much of the Middle Eastern conflict, especially the civil wars, rest in the fact that the borders were commonly placed in a fairly random manner. There are no logical divisions along ethnic or terrain boundaries. Britain and France just pulled out a map and said, “You take this part, I’ll take this.” Previous promises to Middle Eastern officials and regions about independence were for the most part ignored. Israel is a whole other mess, which I haven’t yet decided to be positive or negative, though I look forward to learning more about it.
In summary, I’ve learned a lot about that area of the world just in two weeks. This is going to be a good semester.
Hello again. I didn’t manage to post at all during the spring, but now I’m back.
I figured I needed to explain my absence. I actually had a baby in the middle of spring semester! I will be calling him Kiddo on this blog because I’m paranoid about the internet, but he is adorable and I love him.
As you can imagine, this development has thrown a few wrenches in my future with the Global Engagement Program. The current plan, though, is to continue with it as long as I can. I don’t know how it will all work out, but I’m going to try my best. Even though that currently means I take Kiddo along to my 4th semester language class. (Maybe he’ll grow up bilingual! Bonus!)
Stay tuned for lots of posts as I’ll be making up for last semester’s lack of them.
I may live in America, but the things I own say otherwise. I wake up and put on clothes made in Indonesia, then grab my backpack from Taiwan before going to class. I use pencils made in China and a laptop from Malaysia. I eat food grown in Mexico and order products online from India.
Not so many years ago, many of the things I own and use would have been made locally. Now, with the world becoming ever more connected, economies are becoming more and more intertwined. I see many benefits to this, but there are downsides as well.
When I was growing up in small-town Idaho, there was a unique pizza place and a family-owned auto repair shop. Now they have Pizza Hut and O’Reilly Auto Parts. The globalization of the world is weeding out the diversity in brands and shops; if it isn’t big enough to expand, it gets crushed.
Fortunately that is not always the case, nor are there only downsides to this trend. The interconnectedness of the world is bringing new products, new flavors, and new music to different parts of the world. I can go online right now and order spices from Ethiopia or chocolate from Indonesia. I can buy clothes from European designers or towels from Turkey. I enjoy having the world at my fingertips, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And yet I’m still nostalgic for the little family shops of the older days.
Earlier this semester the International Advisory Committee hosted an International Bazaar in the South Oval. This was one of the first events that they hosted since I became a member of the Task Force. As a Task Force member, my involvement was mostly just listening to the planning session, but it was very interesting.
The bazaar itself was pretty successful, in my opinion. It was a super cold morning, but a lot of the tables had tea (which I found quite fortuitous.) I enjoyed walking around and looking at all the different items on the tables for each country. I didn’t have any money with me or I might have bought a scarf.
I had to run to my next class before any of the performances got started, but I did get to glimpse short sections of a few in between some of my classes. I love how talented our student body is! I hope we get the chance next semester to see some more of those talents.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend an event where a recent OU Fulbright Scholar shared his experiences. Taylor McKenzie spoke of his research in Germany, where he set out intending to study squatters and ended up talking about refugees.
Most of his little speech was describing the history of the refugee crisis in Germany. He also explained some of the laws put in place by the EU and by Germany itself in dealing with this crisis. Some of these descriptions were very interesting to me, especially the public square Oranienplatz which has become Germany’s symbol of protest marches for this cause.
What most intrigued me, however, was a short quote. “The idea that everyone wants to be in Europe is a Western fallacy. Most people just want to go back home. They just can’t.”
I’m Facebook friends with many people of varying opinions, and I follow political pages from very different viewpoints. And yet most everything I see about the Syrian refugee crisis is negative. “Send those ***** back where they came from!” “We don’t want them!” “They’re too dangerous!” This saddens me.
Imagine: Growing up in a small town, or maybe a bigger town, life was fairly normal as a child. You had friends. You had people you didn’t like, as well. Things were pretty good. You were safe. Then suddenly, as you get older, things become more heated. People begin hating you for things that don’t matter, such as which church you go to or what color of shirt you wore that day. And then it moves beyond hatred. It becomes irrational fury, such that you begin to fear for your life. So you leave. You don’t want to leave your little home town. But if you want to survive, if you want to protect your family, you do so; by any means necessary.
This is not the first time in American history that we have had the chance to take in refugees. We could have taken in hundreds of thousands of Jewish children in World War II. And yet everyone thought it was too dangerous.
Maybe this can be the first time we get it right.
One of the many positive differences between sophomore and freshman years in college is knowing people in your classes. I previously knew at least one person in four out of my five classes. (The fifth one is such a large lecture session that even if I know someone in there, I might never find out.) It was quite surprising, however, to walk into my English class that first Monday and see my Palestinian friend from last year.
In case you don’t remember (or didn’t read) my previous post about Emad, we met on the international floor in Couch last year when he was playing some of my favorite music. He remembered me as well, and we did the good old catch-up routine of asking how the summer went. It has been very fun to have a friend in the class, especially in a small setting where we get to interact fairly regularly.
As this semester has gone on, his views on issues we cover in class and his perspective on life have been very enlightening. Most of the rest of our English class is made of freshmen, and it has been particularly interesting to see their interactions with him. Most of the freshmen are Oklahoma or Texas born and bred, with the exception of another international student in the class. Many of them were originally somewhat dismissive of him. I assume that this is partly due to his obvious accent. Many of them inadvertently treated him as if he were less intelligent, and this bothered me. It truly is a typical stereotype that if someone struggles with the language they must be less intelligent, which is not the case in many instances.
I’ve enjoyed seeing the freshmen learn that lesson as the semester has gone on. Between comments in class and the occasional head-to-head debate, Emad has earned a reputation as one of the smartest people in the class. I’ve overheard multiple comments while walking out the door about how awesome he is, and how interesting to listen to. I really hope that they remember this later in their lives, as they get more chances to interact with people from all backgrounds and cultures. I know I was blessed beyond measure to be raised in the family I have, which values experiences and perspectives (and foods) from all nations and walks of life. I hope that as I continue in this program, I will be able to have a similar impact on the people around me.
Well, its been a busy start to this sophomore year. We’re already coming up on Thanksgiving when I feel like it should still be the end of September. If life continues to go at this speed, college will be over in no time.
With a new year comes new opportunities, and responsibilities. As my international group this year, I applied to be a member of the Task Force for the International Advisory Committee. IAC’s purpose as an organization is to represent the international students and coordinate all the international organizations on campus. They also have events every month or so, helping introduce the international students to American culture and, vice versa, holding campus-wide culture based events to introduce American students to the outside world.
As a Task Force member, my main function is as a Liaison between IAC and an international student organization. My group is the Columbian Student organization. As a liaison, I keep track of the events they host / plan to host and am there to answer any questions they might have. So far they haven’t had any, but I’ve enjoyed the members of the group that I have met so far!
Another duty of mine is to help with fundraising activities. In our meeting at the beginning of the semester, the Task Force brainstormed various methods of fundraising for the international student Emergency Fund. Unfortunately, we were not able to come up with a solid plan. Instead, different members of the Task Force have been going with Executive members to ask local businesses for sponsorships. I unfortunately missed my turn to do so, as I was sick on my assigned day. Beyond that, however, I have had a lot of fun and hope that I may continue to do good with this organization.