Climate Summit in France, U.S. Snubbed

On December 14, President Macron had a meeting in France which many world leaders were in invited to attend. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss overall climate policy and the decision by the United States to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Despite the fact that President Trump has stated he is in favor of renegotiating the deal, he was not invited to attend.

When the United States chose to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement earlier this year, it joined Nigeria and Syria as countries that did not agree to the deals terms. Since that time, both of the other countries have joined, leaving the United States on its own. It would seem that in President Trump’s efforts to weaken the international deal, he is strengthened it. There are many states and cities within the U.S. that have said that they will attempt to cut as much carbon dioxide emissions as the U.S. was supposed to have done.

Trump not being invited to the talks is not surprising but it is something that should be noticed. The U.S. was not invited to a major talk with much of the world and that weakens the U.S. on the world stage when it comes to how much impact it will have on events. In my opinion this trend of being snubbed will probably continue as long as Donald Trump continues to be our president. There is a good chance he will not be invited to many things including the wedding of British Royalty in May of next year. Funnily, former President Barack Obama may receive an invitation.

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Friends of International Students

I’ve joined a new OU outreach for international students the “Friends of International Students” connects exchange students who are only at OU for one semester and families from Norman.  There were so few families we were assigned two students, Ms. Yurina Nishimura from Sapporo, Japan and Ms. Yuting Liu from Beijing, China.  We get together on the weekends mostly to get groceries or go shopping for clothes.
 
Our first shopping trip was to OKC to Super Cao Nguyen, we spent over an hour there because they were so excited to see familiar foods & everyone was stocking up.  Yuting brought two friends from her apartment suite at Traditions West.  We talked about music, movies and food, like all college students.  Yurina is studying  Yuting is in accounting, finance and international business classes at OU to transfer back to Beijing Normal University.  Yurina is taking marketing and logistics courses at OU for her home university, Hokkaido University.  Yurina loves all things American, especially pop music.  She has a roommate “K.J.” from Seoul, South Korea, who she brought with her on our next big shopping trip.
 
Since the weather changed and our exchange students did not bring coats we tackled Norman in search of warm but fashionable options.  We would up at ‘Uptown Cheapskate’ a new store that buys and sells clothes, shoes, and accessories.  After striking out at Target, Kohls, Academy, and TJMax, we finally found some good things to brave the coming cooler temps.  K.J. and Yurina were surprised to hear I’d studied abroad in South Korea just a few months ago.  I was surprised I remembered enough Korean to say a few sentences with convincing pronunciation.
 
This is a great organization to join for OU students who are from Norman.  It is fun to show exchange students the best places to shop, while we casually drive by my elementary school or favorite coffee shop.  This is a great way to get your mom to drive you around town, buy groceries, and make new friends.
 
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Russia Barred from 2018 Olympics

Recently, the IOC has announced a complete ban of Russia participating in the 2018 Pyeongchang  Winter Games. This means that Russian officials are forbidden to attend, its anthem will not be played, and its flag will not be allowed to be present at the competition. If the athletes compete, they will have to compete as individuals. They can win medals but none for Russia.

This ban is the result of a years long investigation into the extent of Russian doping.  It appears that 1/3 of the Russians who won medals in 2014 were involved in the scandal. The doping was hidden for so long as the urine samples of the athletes were doctored and replaced by members of the Russian sports ministry and medical staff operating on their behalf. This swapping out of samples was effective as genuine samples had been taken from the athletes prior to them taking drugs.  It was legitimately their urine, just from an earlier time. This was done in utmost secrecy and with the approval of the Russian state.

Russia entering the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver

I believe that this is fascinating as this is the largest penalty ever imposed on a participating country by the Olympic committee. This can be seen  by the world as a serious effort to reduce the amount of doping that is done in the events. I am confident that if the penalty were lighter, the Russians would likely continue with their abuses of the games as early as 2020, along with several other countries. If the IOC can be seen to have teeth, it may discourage others from following in Russia’s footsteps.

It is likely that I will watch the competition when I am abroad in Italy. With Russia out of the picture, countries like the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Japan,

and those around the Baltic Sea will likely pick up quite a few more medals.

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OU Cousins Feel the Thunder

OU Cousins recently took its semi-annual trip up to Oklahoma City to watch our favorite NBA team, the OKC Thunder. Although some people may loathe a 30-minute bus ride through the not-so-scenic route, I enjoy that individual OU Cousins know how to make the most of it by having eye-opening conversations with one another. Those bus rides are always excellent avenues in which to make connections with fellow OU Cousins, especially concerning topics of culture and difference.

My go-to questions when it comes to speaking with OU Cousins have never changed, but I learn very new things each time I ask, “So, what’s your favorite/least favorite thing about Oklahoma/The US?” and “What’s the most striking difference between your (home) culture and Oklahoman/American culture?”

The answers never fail to engage my curiosity, and lead to thoughtful and meaningful conversations. If anyone has any tips on more questions that lead to such good discussions with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, I sure would like to know them.

Sport is something that connects people across the world. For example, I truly believe that the Olympics is one of the most unifying and important things that the world does, because we all (with the exemption of a small few) come together to participate. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but for many reasons, sport and competition are an integral part of human society. Although the sports themselves may be different in some countries, the motivation behind them is the same, and I believe that is what brings people across the world together.

Professional sports, although I am not very interested in them, are very important to the United States. They are enormous industries wherein Americans spend millions of dollars per year, a driving force in the economy and culture.

For the reasons above, I think it is AWESOME that we get to take OU Cousins to Thunder Games!! It’s likely the only time our international students will be able to attend such an event (besides OU football games, but those aren’t “professional”), and they get to do so with a huge group of their fellow OU students!

Those who enjoy basketball are able to watch the game and cheer on the home team, while those who are less interested in watching the game are able to continue chatting and making connections with other OU Cousins, all while being surrounded by a massive amount of American culture. It’s a win-win.

A win-win-win, if you include that OKC solidly defeated the New York Knicks, 105-84.

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Latinist Lunch with Dr. Paulo Moreira

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to attend one of the Latinist lunches that are held often in Farzaneh Hall.  This one ran from 12:00pm – 1:15pm and it was entitled “Compulsive Memory: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema and the Military Dictatorship” and the talk was given by OU’s first full-time Portuguese instructor, Dr. Paulo Moreira.

This was taken during the lunch. Dr. Moreira can be seen in blue, leaning over to have a conversation with the lady to his left.

The talk centered around the genre of the Brazilian Dictatorship films (of which there are over 40 such movies) but it especially highlighted “4 Days in September” which is loosely based  off of a novel that describes the kidnapping of the American ambassador to Brazil. The ambassador is kidnapped by student revolutionaries who are protesting the recent government takeover by the military. Their plan was to exchange the ambassador with leftist political prisoners.

The movie has encountered some criticism as it is not as historically accurate as one would hope. There were some cases with the characters being the combination of several real people and another where a real women was split into two separate characters. One can imagine why this would cause outcry. The film also tried to humanize both sides of the conflict including the state torturers which really made some people who lost family under the regime quite upset.

However, it has been accepted that this is an important film genre for Brazil to have as it forces them to talk about horrible events that some had hoped would be forgotten. This phase in entertainment has been a catharsis for the people of Brazil who were around during that time and it has gotten young people more involved in Brazilian history.

Overall, I enjoyed the talk and the sandwiches were delightful as well!

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Latinist Lunch with Dr. Paulo Moreira

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to attend one of the Latinist lunches that are held often in Farzaneh Hall.  This one ran from 12:00pm – 1:15pm and it was entitled “Compulsive Memory: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema and the Military Dictatorship” and the talk was given by OU’s first full-time Portuguese instructor, Dr. Paulo Moreira.

This was taken during the lunch. Dr. Moreira can be seen in blue, leaning over to have a conversation with the lady to his left.

The talk centered around the genre of the Brazilian Dictatorship films (of which there are over 40 such movies) but it especially highlighted “4 Days in September” which is loosely based  off of a novel that describes the kidnapping of the American ambassador to Brazil. The ambassador is kidnapped by student revolutionaries who are protesting the recent government takeover by the military. Their plan was to exchange the ambassador with leftist political prisoners.

The movie has encountered some criticism as it is not as historically accurate as one would hope. There were some cases with the characters being the combination of several real people and another where a real women was split into two separate characters. One can imagine why this would cause outcry. The film also tried to humanize both sides of the conflict including the state torturers which really made some people who lost family under the regime quite upset.

However, it has been accepted that this is an important film genre for Brazil to have as it forces them to talk about horrible events that some had hoped would be forgotten. This phase in entertainment has been a catharsis for the people of Brazil who were around during that time and it has gotten young people more involved in Brazilian history.

Overall, I enjoyed the talk and the sandwiches were delightful as well!

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Lunar Moon Festival 2017

I recently attended the enchanting Lunar Moon Festival!

The festival, hosted by the Vietnamese-American Community of OKC, was at Military Park in the Asian district on October 7th. I had never been to the event before, or even really that part of OKC before, and I had an amazing time. Here is some background on the history of the festival itself:

The Lunar Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival (called tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese), is a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese people. In Vietnam, Rice is harvested before the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (mid-autumn). Each household then offers sacrifices to the God of Earth. While occupied with harvesting, parents do not have much time to take care of their children; therefore, they make full use of the festival holiday (which is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar) to play with their children. This date corresponds to late September/early October. The festival is mainly for children, and parents buy their kids paper lanterns (which are often carp-shaped), snacks, masks, and toys. People celebrate by setting up a worshipping platform, on which they lay traditional mid-autumn food and treats. Later, family members sit together to eat the food while appreciating the full moon. The platform is not taken down until midnight, when the food has been completely eaten.

I think this is the sweetest festival ever, because it is all about parents spending time with their children. The celebration in OKC involved dragon dances, traditional dance performances, a talent show where kids showed off their impressive skills, games, and food trucks that served traditional Vietnamese foods.

I personally enjoyed the dances and the talent show (some of those kids blew me away!), as well as the tasty Vietnamese food.

I tried Sugar Cane juice, which I also had in Zanzibar, and it was as delicious as I remembered. It is not as sweet as people would think (being the juice straight from a stalk of sugar cane), but rather, it is just incredibly refreshing. I also enjoyed a sticky rice cake filled with pork and mung bean, which was delicious and filling.

I so love learning new things about different cultures from around the world, and I especially love getting to experience traditional cultural celebrations and practices. It makes me feel more connected to the world and it’s people, and I will certainly be attending this festival in the future, as well as looking for other cultural festivals in my area that I can attend.


To learn more about the Lunar Moon festival, check out these links!

http://www.adoptvietnam.org/vietnamese/tet-trung-thu.htm

http://www.accent.ac.nz/elto/articles/mid-autumn-festival-vietnam

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Autumn_Festival

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Finished Reading “Revolution For Dummies”

This is a somber day as I have officially finished reading the book “Revolution for Dummies” by Bassem Youssef for my international reading group. The story is the true tale of how Bassem Youssef went from a heart surgeon to Egypt’s first satirist at the start of the Arab Spring and his eventual exile from the country. The show he created simply known as “The Show”, was heavily inspired by “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart as it also told the truth about current events through jokes. Jon Stewart would later be a guest on what came to be the most highly watched show in the history of Arabic television.

I learned a lot about Egyptian culture during my time reading and I was most surprised to learn about the absolute reverence the citizens of Egypt have for the military as a result from decades of military dictatorship. When the Muslim Brotherhood lost power and General Sisi  took control, Youssef started to tel jokes about him. This was incredibly unpopular by the populace as he was seen as an extension of the military and the military is always right. This drop in popularity gave the government a chance to threaten him more openly, prompting his departure to the United States.

My final group reading discussion is tomorrow. I am sure I’ll have more to say then.

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OU Cousins Bingo & The Importance of Cultural Understanding

There’s something magical about playing a good ol’ game of bingo.

There’s something even more magical about playing the same ol’ game of bingo in a room filled to the brim with joyful international students.

Throw in some pizza and a myriad of cool prizes, and you’ve got a full-blown party.

Thus began the ever-wholesome OU Cousins Bingo Night.

You know, this was my fourth experience with OU Cousins Bingo, but it may have been the first year I realized that many international students aren’t familiar at all with the game. It’s quite embarrassing if I’m only just realizing this after four years, but it could be untrue; my memory often fails me. It would be as simple as looking at my previous OU Cousins Bingo night posts to find out… yet, here we are. Also, it brings me to my next topic.

As a global engagement fellow, I have found I am often very aware and accepting of the existence of cultural differences. However, seeing as I am the type of person to be aware of the existence of such divergences, this leads to the problem of me believing that my thoughts and feelings are shared with the rest of society, which is untrue. Unfortunately, this is not true, and makes for some bigger overarching problems in society, especially in a society whose (incompetent) President encourages (shameful) ethnocentric ideals.

For example, recently at a family gathering, a cousin of mine mentioned working with a group of Native Americans who considered eye contact to be disrespectful. My cousin had to adapt to their cultural norm by making sure not to make direct eye contact while she was interacting with the group, which was fairly simple to do. Having heard of several such slight cultural differences before, I simply accepted the fact and continued with the conversation. However, another family member was completely taken aback, and felt that the idea of not making eye contact while speaking with someone was extremely disrespectful.

This family member is one with whom I often clash, for various personal and political beliefs. Unfortunately, he is very ethnocentric, and has a very difficult time grasping the idea that people can be different from him and his steadfast beliefs and still be considered, well, people.

How can you explain the idea of culture to someone like that? Culture is something that we learn from interacting with our society from birth. It’s not innate; and therefore, not one culture in the world is better than all others. Culture is amazing and unique and beautiful, and I love learning about new cultures, because I get to learn more about humanity.

It makes me really frustrated, but mostly sad, that some people will never understand that.

Sometimes you just have to decide that some people will never change, and move on. Besides, those people are missing out on some excellent multicultural bingo.

May there always be more bingo prizes for those of us who appreciate the cultures of others.

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OU Study Abroad Fair

I am sorry to say that I am uploading information about this international event quite late. It took place on the 7th of September in the South Oval from 10am – 2pm and I am happy to say that I was available to go around that time. When I first arrived, I saw the booths I knew would be there which included the more traditional OU ones for Arezzo, Rio de Janeiro, and Puebla. I will be going to Arezzo so I made sure to check out the booth and make sure it met my approval. After all, I can objectively say that Arezzo is the best out of the three destinations and you can take that unbiased statement as fact. 

The handout on the left in the image below is something I got from the lovely people of Arcadia. I saw that it was discussing STEM opportunities and I got all excited about all the exotic places I could go. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed when I saw that the main places to visit were in the British Isles. I mean, they are lovely, but what fun is a study abroad experience if you don’t get hopelessly lost and don’t know the language?

The one on the right is a country I would very much like to visit someday. I am honestly not sure why I would rather visit this country over that of Japan. Perhaps it is because I am drawn to a country with a chance of being involved in a devastating land invasion from a hostile foreign power, as that generally spices things up.  Is that just me or … ?

Overall, I enjoyed this event and I did learn about other possible study abroad possibilities.

 

This is what I took from the event.

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