About 3 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Persian Poetry being held in Farzaneh Hall with Ms. Alavi. It was held on Friday from 6-8pm in the David Boren Lounge and it was a time for the students in Persian language classes to share some poems they found interesting and then translate them for us and explain their deeper meaning. I sadly arrived a bit later than most people so I only really caught the back half of the event. One of the poems I remember (which I later found)was by the poet Gibran Kahlil. It goes “Between what is said and not meant/ And what is meant and not said/ Most of love is lost.” I remembered this poem for twp very important reasons: because it was quite short but it also packed a lot of meaning into just the few words it had. It helps demonstrate how people in the Middle East view love and it is entertaining to western audiences as well.Since we can relate to it and discuss it, we are more inclined to read it which can make us want to delve deeper into the world of Arabian poetry. Something I did not get the chance to ask the presenter of the poem was how she had come across it? Had it been recommended to her or did she go looking for something like it? I don’t suppose it really matters as it is clear that she enjoyed reciting it to us in Persian and it helps expand her love of that culture.
I have just realized that despite my book group ending some weeks ago, I have not been able to properly write a blog post about it yet. The book we read was Palestine Walks by Raja Shehadeh. I chose to be a part of this reading group as it was a book that covered an international topic that was interesting to me. Since I live in the U.S., I often hear about the conflict between Israel and Palestine from the Israeli standpoint. The U.S. (especially under the Trump administration) backs Israel over Palestine most of the time so justification for that policy is what is often debated. In his book, Shehadeh guides the reader through his time living in the West Bank and what it is like to ave so much Israeli influence over him. The biggest idea I personally got from the book is that Israel is not facing enough international push-back for its settlement policies and that it should be condemned more often for its actions than it currently is. The reasoning for this is that Israel is effectively trying to integrate the entirety of the West Bank into its territory. This is sneaky behavior and not something that should be ignored.
Part of the reason as to why the U.S. does not condemn the Israeli government is because Evangelical Christians are huge backers of the country. They believe that the Jewish people must have complete dominance over the biblical land of Israel in order for the second coming to happen. This leads them to support the expulsion or assimilation of the Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. Personally, I think this is somewhat shortsighted, perhaps because I am not an Evangelical Christian.
While I was at the WHO conference in Oklahoma City, we listened to a panel on the nature of public health in Oklahoma and across the world as a whole. This was after the initial committee meetings but before we convened for lunch so we had already had had some experience with how important it was to debate things in a public setting in order to get everyone on the same page. I had personally spent much of the past several hours being very belligerent as I attempted to properly portray Malaysia as a country with a religious bent that didn’t want anything “obscene” to show up in the resolution they would be signing on to.
The panel started out with how important health was around the world as it effects everyone and everything they do. It affects countries, people, and businesses all in ways we never seem to truly consider. From there, it spread to education and how it is important to have a well-educated population who can make correct decisions on their own. Naturally, all the panelists agreed that it was a bad idea for the state of Oklahoma to underfund education like they had as it will lead to bad things in the future. This is a point I agree with. It did get a bit political at the end as it was suggested that the rise in political polarization (stemming from certain figures in the federal government) was contributing to our unwillingness to debate health possibilities in a way that was free on falsehoods. Overall, I thought it was a fascinating panel as everyone on it was able to bring a unique take on what may be the best way forward to deal with these issues.
This past weekend, I was a delegate at the Mock WHO conference held in Oklahoma City. Beforehand, we were presented with the countries that we would represent. I ended up getting Malaysia. I was quite happy to have a chance to represent them as I did not know much about them before I was to represent them. Through my research, I was able to learn that they are a Muslim majority country with Islam as the official religion and they actually have pretty good doctors for the region but they do not have them evenly distributed throughout urban and rural areas. I knew these would be the angles I’d be coming from so I was very excited to get started.
First, we had our resolutions in which we discussed the impact education had on health in our individual regions. I was a real stick in the mud as I insisted that there be no reference to contraceptives or sexual activity as I considered such dialogue “immoral”. Unfortunately for the delegate of Malaysia, the resolution passed the small committee talks with the language still in there. We then went to the final delegation with all the committee members present to vote and make amendments to each other’s resolutions. I formed a powerful voting bloc with members of the AFRO region and we managed to get several phrases struck out of the resolutions. Something I particularly enjoyed was there were a few times when an amendment would only be supported by the country asking for it, myself, and the Philippines (who I was sitting next to). At the end I won best delegate for my region! Overall, it was a great experience and one I wish to repeat in the future.
Having spent a full semester abroad in South Korea and having studied Spanish for many years I felt very well prepared for my five week stay in Costa Rica this summer. However, there were several differences that became very apparent about two weeks into the trip. Although I’ve lived in dorms before, I’ve been living alone for over a year now, and the adjustment back to the cramped but cozy home-stay with eight other college girls from all over the country definitely took some getting used to. I found it difficult to bind with people that I knew I’d only be around for a month, which was starkly different to some of the friendships I forged during my semester trip. However, I adapted and tried to spend this trip in the moment, leaving behind some of my regular anxieties and habits.
Aside from adapting to my new living situation, I had to adapt to a change in plans for my trip in general. There was an unfortunate mix-up with my plane tickets to San Jose, which resulted in a much tighter budget than I was initially planning for. I was still able to go on all the excursions provided by the program and my Environmental Sustainability class, but it did mean I had to limit my travel and spending as much as possible. I found the cheapest places to have lunch around campus (which wasn’t difficult, nor was the quality wanting) and I opted out of several weekend trips that would have been hundreds of dollars more. However, I found many affordable alternatives. I got to explore downtown San Jose and all of the bustling museums, markets, and restaurants. One of my favorite days of my trip was spent simply challenging myself to find as many new things as I (safely) could.
Recently, I was sitting waiting for my International Business class to start and chatting with some of the other students in the class. I really enjoy this class, because over half of the students are international students, and so I get to make new friends from around the world and learn a lot. I am never disappointed by the things that I learn, but rather, intensely intrigued. This day was no different.
A new friend of mine, Pierre, and I were having a conversation about his experiences thus far in the States. I always like to ask my new international friends questions about their time here, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I really do learn a lot from simple questions. During one of these revealing question-and-answers, Pierre revealed to me that he had recently gone to the gun range.
“Really?” I asked, a bit astonished, and confused, and maybe even with a hint of distaste. Guns are a hot-button topic in the US all the time, especially considering the sheer number of children that are murdered every year in their own classrooms by their own classmates. Can you tell how I feel about guns?
My relationship with guns is tenuous. My family owns several guns. I’ve shot several guns. I understand why people want them and why people think they need them…. but I also believe that in the big picture, guns are completely unnecessary deadly weapons. The most rational argument for guns is that people want them for hunting. Personally, I find hunting distasteful as well, but I see the worth in it to control animal populations, as well as for those people who must hunt for food. Trophy and pure sport hunters, however, disgust me. However, even though I understand why humans hunt (when it is with pure intentions, anyway) and how it can be good for the whole, I disagree with the use of guns for hunting. If you want to hunt something, unleash your wild, instinctual side and use a bow and arrow. Guns make it far too easy. The world would be a better place without guns, yet, I know that such a thing will never happen.
Please excuse my rant, but also notice that I kept it within this blog post for your reading pleasure. If you want to have a chat sometime and hear my entire opinion (who wouldn’t want that?), hit me up sometime.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming: International students like going to gun ranges to shoot guns. It’s something that is on several of their lists to do in America…. Because guns are hard to come by in most other places. They are either heavily regulated or completely illegal. In fact, I can confidently guess that most international students who attend OU never shot a gun before they arrived in the states. Many of them probably remain that way, but several of them head to the gun range, pay a couple of bucks, and sink some shots into a flimsy piece of paper a couple of yards away.
For some reason, this news startled me, and I’m still thinking about it. I can’t believe that something us red-blooded Americans hear about and have access to every day, and something we can use however we please, is like an exciting toy to foreign people. They want to try it out and see what it is like to hold deadly force in their own hands. I understand that guns can be fun to handle, and it can be exciting to hit your target perfectly, but otherwise, I really don’t see the appeal. Disclaimer: I’m 100% not judging international students for wanting to shoot guns. It’s a novel activity that they’ve never done in their lives and may never do again, by all means, we should allow them to do so in a safe and controlled environment. I’m still simply perplexed by the idea that international students want to go to shooting ranges. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Other than more rants in my head, I think I’ll end this blog post here, for the sake of brevity and intrigue.
This semester has been a semester of lasts. It was my last Spring as an undergraduate student, and therefore, I will never get to experience all the springtime activities that I know and love here at OU. It’s a bittersweet feeling, and I also missed one spring at OU while I was away studying abroad, and missed all my favorite events that semester as well. I would never trade my semester in Graz for anything, but I would do quite a lot to go back and be able to relive my days OU’s annual day of philanthropy, the Big Event. Luckily, I can cherish the memories of my last one, where OU Cousins volunteered at Cross Bridge Community Church in OKC.
The day of Big Event starts bright and early on the North Oval on campus, where thousands of students gather in their respective huddles to go out and serve the community. Speakers blast popular music to get the crowd pumped up, a few speakers give some encouraging words, and within a few minutes, the crowd disperses to make an impact at hundreds of different locations.
In my tenure with OU Cousins, I was used to going to the Whinery Family Farm, but I love a change of scenery, and it doesn’t really matter when you get to help those in need, and help we did.
When we arrived at our volunteer location, Cross Bridge Church was in dire need of tuning up, and OU Cousins took on the challenge valiantly. We cleaned the basement of dust and trash, hauling off unwanted everything from cardboard to an old furnace. Next, we headed outside into the bitter cold to paint the outside of the church, the ramp and the stairs leading up to it. The leaders at the church were so kind—they knew with the combination of cold and wind, we were freezing out fingers off, and they gifted us with gloves to help get the job done. By the end of the morning, the church was in tip-top shape, and all it took was a couple of gallons of paint and about 20 OU Cousins.
Some people might question whether or not The Big Event is an international activity. Besides the fact that it is something I do with OU Cousins, it is also something that crosses international lines and builds bridges between diverse cultures. Even with all the variances in the human condition, there are many things that bring us all together. Volunteering and helping out our communities is perhaps one of the most important of those many things. Compassion for others is something that has no national language, and no agenda (although, unfortunately, some volunteering does have ulterior motives, but that’s a blog post for another time). This event may be a very small action compared to problems and goings-on in the rest of the world, but its impact is vast. I guess that’s why we call it The Big Event.
It can be both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about LGBTQ+ equality around the world, especially in our current global climate. News stories jump between the legalization of gay marriage in Australia and the almost doubling of LGBTQ homicides in the U.S. I’ve been reading reports from Amnesty International and the [U.S.] National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Digesting the data is difficult due to fear and associated violence.
“The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today [February 22, 2018] as it launched its annual global assessment of human rights.” Amnesty International
Over 50 LGBTQ individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2017, a rise of about 86% from 2016, according to a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. https://avp.org/ncavp/
I’ve marched in the OKC Pride Parade for years and can share the event is usually a glittery weekend of peaceful demonstrations. Oklahomans who are LGBTQ+ or allies and supporters might want to attend the OKC Pride Parade in late June. https://okcpride.org/index.html#home
If readers are of Jewish decent and want to travel to experience a Pride parade, the LGBTQ Tel Aviv Pride events are also in June each year and are very affordable, nearly free, due to donations and sponsors. Although many countries in the Middle East have long standing anti-gay laws and customs, Israel is the most advanced country in the region in terms of LGBTQ rights & community activism. They visit Masada, the Dead Sea & the Western Wall. https://www.birthrightisrael.com/
Although in the U.S. LGBTQ+ is commonly used, in the Amnesty International uses LGBTI+.
Amnesty International’s annual report:
Australia legalized gay marriage in December 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/world/australia/gay-marriage-same-sex.html
Anti-LGBTQ homicides almost doubled in 2017. https://avp.org/ncavp/
A few weeks ago was the Dalgubul Lantern Festival hosted by the Daegu Buddhism Association and Colorful Dalgubul Lantern Festival Committee. The night sky is filled with golden lanterns. Families and friends celebrate the Buddha’s birthday in a peaceful and lovely tradition. I miss many things about South Korea, the friends I made while studying there, and my freedom to explore and travel. There are many articles about cultural adaption and post-study abroad depression. Education Abroad offers an event in the fall semester called “You’re Oklahome” and helps students with the transition back to Norman. The fall semester was okay, but the winter was bit rougher.
Upon return to the U.S. I once again could read the headlines of political drama, university classes began again, and I rejoined many campus clubs. I’ve experienced many highs and lows of cultural transition and adaptation. It was great to be home again. I’d missed my parents, brother, and grandparents very much. After a great semester of being back, things lost that luster of newness again. I lost a lot of sleep this semester and felt very differently about my life in general. Below are some great tips from an article written by Alisa Tank in January 2018 for GoAbroad dot com.
“10 Tips for When You’re Feeling Depressed After Studying Abroad” are:
- Go for a walk. [While abroad we walked a lot, exploring and experiencing new things. Walking around Campus Corner or Norman Art Walk/2nd Fridays can capture the same spirit.]
- Go out with friends. [One favorite is to go out for Korean food with other students who studied abroad in South Korea.]
- Read the news. [I can argue against this, since the news can be so depressing sometimes.]
- Look for support. [Goddard offers counseling for students at affordable rates if needed. 325-4441]
- Find a new hobby. [I think taking new university classes meets this task.]
- Keep your skills up. [I’ve continued to sing with the Crimson Chords a Capella group.]
- Take up a cause. [I joined an environmental group.]
- Reflect on what you’ve learned. [GEF blogs are great for this.]
- Plan your next trip. [I’m heading to Costa Rica in July!]
- When all else fails – watch cute animal videos. [It really says this, check the article out!]
Most adorable kittens ever!
In March, President Trump agreed to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un to discuss nuclear disarmament and economic sanctions; he believed the invitation is due to his media pressure and stronger sanctions. This event is big news, because no other U.S. presidents accepted similar invitations. News agencies are spending a lot of time analyzing the intentions and all the possible outcomes, to no purpose. The spin and speculation are kindling for endless political discourse.
More interesting is the important role South Korea played and will continue to play. One of the better articles is from The New Yorker’s Robin Wright. She clearly states the invitation came through South Korean channels. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-accepts-north-koreas-audacious-invitation-but-then-what “The invitation was relayed by a South Korean delegation that met with Kim earlier this week and then travelled to Washington.” Wright acknowledged Chung Eui-yong, the national-security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered the message and is trying to coordinate what might be an historic meeting. She wrote the talks might even be hosted in South Korea. Wright offers a brief but brilliant summary of the nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S. over the last 30 years.
I feel the victory belongs to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been in office less than one year; it was an especially busy year since his country hosted the Winter Olympics in February. President Moon Jae-in talked with North Korea and allowed them to participate in the athletic competitions and send hundreds of cheerleaders. This opening led to more dialog, which resulted Kim Jong Un’s invitation to President Trump.
I studied abroad in South Korea last spring semester during the presidential election, so I was able to learn a bit about President Moon Jae-in first hand. He was a human rights lawyer, then later was the Chief of Staff for former South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun. He campaigned to end political corruption and to focus on making South Korea a proud country again. He has a reputation for being open to talks with North Korea. “Moon’s Democratic Party prefers the “Sunshine Policy,” a catch-more-flies-with-honey strategy that promotes dialogue as well as cultural and economic exchange to improve relations.” https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/05/south-korea-presidential-election/525942/ “Rather than meet threat with threat, Moon said during his presidential campaign he hopes to “embrace the North Korean people to achieve peaceful reunification one day.” President Moon’s new administration oversaw a peaceful Winter Olympic celebration and opened the door for two complex countries to discuss limits on their nuclear weapons and normalizations of trade. Hopefully the momentum and optimism will last for longer than a few months.
In closing, here’s a humorous spin on South Korea inviting North Korea to the Olympics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QokyEHOxfPU