International Entrepreneurs: Moo Moo Farms

Identifying a problem or a need is always the first step in launching a successful new business. Whenever there is a demand, a need, or a void that needs to be met there is room for businesses to grow.

As missionaries living in Cambodia we all noticed the lack of dairy products within the country. We joked of how we would all turn lactose intolerant due to the quick change of our diets. Of course dairy products were existent among the markets of Cambodia but due to the fact that all milk was imported the prices were often more than we could all ever dream of paying. Only the really wealthy Cambodians could afford to go to “Swenson’s” the country’s high class ice cream shop where one cup of ice cream was worth as much as the average man’s daily wage.

It was a common joke for one of the missionaries to say that they would open up a dairy farm in Cambodia once they had a little money. I heard it many times and even said it myself! We all saw the huge void in the industry and thought it would be cool to bring the joys of dairy products to more Cambodians. Every time I heard this I smiled to myself and thought of how impossible it would be to get an operation like that to fruition. Laws barring Americans from establishing businesses, corrupt government practices, and local lack of knowledge of how to raise dairy cows all made it near impossible to get a business going. Furthermore the basic things such as money, land, and the fact that the climate simply wasn’t well suited for dairy cows survival all were factors that reminded us why there wasn’t a dairy farm already in Cambodia.

Clearly I didn’t have the entrepreneurial vision and spirit as two other missionaries serving in Cambodia because today there is a dairy farm in Cambodia that provides Cambodians with milk processed and distributed right within their country. Moo Moo Farms started as a dream but after hours and hours of work from Kenny Matthews and Matt Boyd it is now a reality. What most only joked and dreamed about these two went and did. Their ability to start and grow their own business is remarkable in and of itself but the fact that they were able to do it in a country half way across the world from the native land makes the story even more incredible! Moo Moo Farms stands as a monument to me and hundreds more that dreams don’t have to stay just dreams!

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Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival

My wife and I pride ourselves on being “foodies”. One of the first dates we did a “world food tour” which involved eating Ethiopian food at “The Queen of Sheba”, followed by a sampling of Asian baked goods from the Asian SuperStore, “Super Cao Nguyen”, and finally culminating with a quick trip to “Plaza Mayor” for some chili mango candy. From that day on we are always trying to find unique places to eat so we can sample food from all over the world! This last Valentine’s Day I even bought my wife a map so we could show off all the countries in which we have sampled food!

When I had about the Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival I knew I couldn’t pass it up! I was excited and eager to taste the food as well as learn a little about the culture. I was impressed by the wide selection of food items that were all homemade and was further excited when I learned there was a bake sale as well. The items in the bake sale were fascinating and I enjoyed asking questions about the contents of each dish or jar. One jar in particular seemed intriguing and I was surprised to find out that the jar contained balls of yogurt which were preserved by the oil they were surrounded by (upon furthering questioning I was told the yogurt balls didn’t even require refrigeration).

The night wasn’t over yet. After sampling the food, and yes tasting some of the desert from the bake sale, my wife and were treated to some traditional Lebanese music sung by some of the organizers of the event. As the music began there were many who began to sing and dance along. The night was a quick step into another region of the world that I had never before been. As we got home that night my wife and I went straight to our world map and were happy to pin yet another country to our list!

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Global Engagement Day: My Peace Corps Prep Course

As I was listening about the Peace Corps Prep Course I couldn’t help but think of my time in the LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC) where I spent 3 months prior to living in Cambodia for two years. The new Program at OU seems similar as it helps prepare undergraduates better acquire all the “Core Competencies” needed for their time in Peace Corps. You learn language skills, gain specific sector knowledge, gain intercultural competence, and develop leadership skills.

This is precisely what I did as I learned Cambodian (Khmer) in a full immersion program, became more aware of my purpose as a missionary, learned of cultural norms, and had opportunities to practice various leadership skills through the different assignments and responsibilities I had over the other missionaries that were in my assigned “district”.

The benefits of Peace Corps Prep seem useful. As for myself I know I would not have been as successful upon arriving in Cambodia without the help of my teachers and all those that prepared me while I was in my version of a “prep course”. While I didn’t learn the language fluently in those few short weeks while in the MTC I was able to learn enough to understand how I could teach myself more once in the country. While I could never really grasp the significant culture differences until actually arriving in Cambodia, I was nonetheless ready to embrace whatever culture differences there would be.

All in all my experience preparing for my time abroad was tremendously beneficial to help me become integrated into the country quickly and efficiently upon arriving. More important than that, my time preparing was fascinating and got me more excited than ever to spend two years in Cambodia. The more you know, the more you can appreciate!

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Perception and Misperception in US-China Relations

U.S. – China relations are at the forefront of the global mind in many different respects. The two countries are viewed as the world’s superpowers and from the perspective of both Americans and Chinese each other are considered existential threats. Dr. Andrew Scobell provided the “Good News” that a sizeable number of security measures and interactions have taken place and more will take place in the future. Talking is good (and is much better than fighting). The Bad news is that despite the peace talks and agreements mutual distrust and suspicion still lingers.

China has 4 rings of security it must juggle all at the same time:

1st Ring: Homelang (Domestic Drag)- People right outside in the streets. Firewall on the internet, rebel groups within the country.

2nd Ring: Periphery (A Buffer Strategy)- 14 adjacent countries. “China lives in a much rougher neighborhood than America. Their neighbors are not quite as nice.”

3rd Ring: Regional (Spheres of Influence)- 6 distinct geopolitical regions that surround China. Central Asia and Southeast Asia. Huge influences in these smaller Asian countries

4th Ring: Global (Expanding Global Interesets)- Since 1990’s China has been making moves to capture more market and become more globally connected.

China views the U.S. as the only country in the world that has the ability to impact ALL 4 rings of influence which doesn’t help the trust issues China and the U.S. have with each other.

Qin Yaqing, from China Foreign Affairs University, said that “The United States may not have a global or overall strategy at all and may have too many strategic choices to form a grand master plan, but in the eye of the Chinese, it does have one. It may not be called grand strategy, but it is represented as a grand plan to deal with China. In this respect, whether or not the US really has such a strategy is not important. What is important is that in the eye of the beholder there is one.”

It indeed seems that all hope is lost concerning U.S. – China relations, however, interests of both countries are served when each other can stay away from war. This fact brings me hope that teamwork may be the answer at helping both countries. At least for now…

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Brother Abroad

Nothing has seemed to get me more excited to see the world then my brother’s tales from a distant land ‘across the pond’ named England. Every week he shares his experiences with my family and his close friends who are curious as ever as to why he decided to move to London just 3 months after graduating high school. Just like myself who lived two years in Cambodia following my senior year at Norman High, my brother too went to London to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While there he has had opportunities to serve, love, teach, and fellowship every one he sees every single day. I have been impressed with my brother’s willingness to talk to strangers at the bus stations, in the trains, in the main street plazas, and in people’s homes. He has told me of the influence he is having and of the many lives he has been impacting for the better as he teaches others of Jesus Christ. My brother is a good example to me of what a little love and willingness to open one’s mouth can have on the world today.

He has always been a friendly and outgoing guy but the connections he has been able to make while abroad have astounded me. Just last week my brother had lunch in the local pub and began talking to the man at the counter in front of him. The man found out it was my brother’s birthday and got the entire restaurant to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” for the boy who “came all the way from The States to celebrate his birthday in England.” Indeed if I ever travel to England you better believe I won’t be going without my younger brother. He has the ability to get in tight with all the locals and that’s how I want to travel!

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OU COUSINS: Not what I expected

When I signed up to be an OU cousin I was not expecting to be paired with someone with the likes of Hussain Ramas. Hussain is not your typical international student. Hussain already has a Petroleum Engineering degree, multiple years of professional experience, is married, and has a kid. He will soon be referred to as “Dr. Ramas” because he is now just a few years away from earning a doctoral degree! I was impressed when I met him and even more impressed now that I’ve had the chance to really get to know him. Being a “non-traditional student” myself it is nice making friends with students who are older, married, and have been all over the world! Realizing we have so much in common was pretty cool. It is clear that no matter where you are born or raised we are all pretty similar! Indeed, when I signed up to be an OU cousin I was not expecting to make such a great friend.

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Reform Contradictions Facing China’s New Leadership

If you’re like me, or really if you’re like the majority of Americans, China appears to have an economy which is leaps and bounds better than the economy of America. You may also believe that America is weaker in other areas as well such as military strength or worldwide influence. Seeing that you may not be alone in thinking this way would you believe it if someone told you that the Chinese think exactly the opposite? Indeed Chinese view America as the world’s economic powerhouse and they view America as the most influential country in the world. Dr. Yukon Huang spent over an hour describing to all of us listening “Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong” (This is also part of the title of his latest book). It was fascinating to see why the most common answers to the world’s most basic questions prove to be wrong time and time again. Indeed what seems so obvious is not always true! I was highly entertained (and educated) as I listened to Dr. Huang encourage us all to dig a bit deeper and stop accepting common wisdom and instead begin asking “why are things the way they are?”

 

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Pangea Project: A Worldwide Concert Experience

Once again I found myself surprised to find myself in Sharp Hall on a Friday night with my parents. And yes, once again I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the performance I was witnessing. Most of the musicians were playing more than one instrument and it was clear they weren’t just “jacks of all trades but masters of none,” these guys really knew how to play. I guess that was the reason that the entire place was packed full of eager and ready listeners. The crowd was lively, excited, and the musicians fed off the energy. The music was unlike anything I had ever heard before as they mixed music from different regions of the world. I was impressed by the ingenuity of the performers and their willingness to venture off the beaten path to create sounds I had never even come close to hearing before. Once again, a phenomenal international concert brought to The University of Oklahoma!

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Acai, The Super Fruit

Awwww the magic of Acai! I had heard about it for years as the magical health benefits of the fruit seemed to make its way onto every newspaper ad and into every health food store across America!! When I finally has the chance to try it I committed in a BIG way. Indeed, I asked for the super bowl which equated to 4-5 normal servings! Luckily for me I was hungry and luckily for me I loved the stuff! When I found out that the college of International and Area Studies was promoting Brazil study abroad by handing out Acai I was intrigued! I loved the various events all across campus and was sure to show up everytime they announces there would be Acai! While it didn’t take Acai to convince me to study abroad in Brazil in the first place I hope that it was enough to convince others to do it! Brazil week was a great event and the Acai made it even better! If you’re thinking of traveling or studying abroad be sure to consider Brazil!

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Buddies in Brazil

I will be honest in my feelings of the people of Brazil.

At first I didn’t find the Brazilian people very helpful or friendly. I had several encounters with Brazilians which made me wonder why they were so rude. At grocery stores I would be given an intentionally large amount of coins for change that could have been given in just one coin (I literally was handed ten 5cent coins instead of just one 50 cent coin).

As other students in the group told me of similar experiences I was getting pretty upset with the culture and people here.

The next day I lost my phone and I was sure that due to my previous encounters with people that there was no way I was going to get my phone back. I was out walking that night with Sam as he was trying to find new clothes to buy and was impressed with a store that stayed opened past their usual 10:00 closing time to let us try things on and buy things (We didn’t arrive until 10:10 and we stayed until about 10:25). They were happy to do it and didn’t seem like they were in a rush to kick us out. As a guy that works retail I know that the second it is closing time, the front doors are locked and I am out of there.

As we continued to walk around the city Sam stopped to buy a churro. The sign clearly said 3 Reas for a churro and when Sam handed the man two 2 Reas bills the man simply gave one bill back to Sam making Sam only pay 2 reas for the churro. The churro seller seemed genuinely happy that he just made us happy! It was awesome! My love for the Brazilian people was growing.

The next morning I woke up to the news that my phone had been found! I was shocked!!! I could not believe the friendliness of the people to help me out! I was shocked and impressed and full of gratitude and love towards the people of Brazil! While I have had some tough experiences I am overall very impressed with the people here.

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