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!
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.
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?”
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!
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!
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.
Brasilia is an odd place BUT it is so cool! The engineering in this city is marvelous! I stared in awe at the marvelous road system that appeared so intricate yet so flawless at the same time. I watched cars as they would take an off ramp exit and then continue to take 2 more ramps just to get in the direction they wanted (As I explain this in writing it appears to be quite an inefficient road system BUT I can assure you it is effective). Due to this interesting road system based on merging when turning rather than waiting for stoplights stop lights are pretty much obsolete in this town. In the few cases when stoplights are necessary it is clear that they are all interconnected through an effective timing system. As one street seems to back up with too many cars the light turns green. Cars merging on that same road but a block before are halted to ensure that the road isn’t too crowded for that road’s original traffic. In summary, every one stops where they won’t negatively affect the cars around them. It is truly a genius system for all things on wheels.
While the city is a car lover’s dream it is also a pedestrian’s worst nightmare. A city without stoplights means a city without crosswalks. This makes crossing roads practically impossible as well as insanely scary. When there are crosswalks it often takes 3-5 minutes to get ‘go ahead’ to cross due to the city’s desire to maintain control over the cars flow.
Adding a few pedestrian bridges over the city’s busiest streets would be a quick and easy fix to this problem. If the bridges are too aesthetically unpleasing than underground tunnels would suffice. This city has potential to truly be a perfect city for all if just a few alterations were made.
The one thing I really wanted to do while in Brazil was experience going to church. I was so excited when the opportunity arose and also found myself a little worried about the realization that I may not have the ability to communicate with the members there. I was relieved when I walked into church and the first person I saw said, “It looks like a gringo is here. Do you need a translator?” I was ecstatic to hear that someone spoke English in the building (Come to find out the ward was made up of pretty affluent members that pretty much all knew at least a little English).
The love I felt there was phenomenal though! I felt like I had been attending the ward for a lot longer than just one weekend. When we left Rafaela told me that she felt so welcomed and that everyone was so friendly! I really enjoyed the fellowship and confirmation that I am welcome at church anywhere in the world from Cambodia to Brazil!
I love my air conditioner! While I am a person who much prefers the hot summer months to the cold winter ones I don’t think I could survive without an AC. I am sure many (if not all) my friends would share this point of view. Air condition is simply a part of life here in America!
I have spent over 2 years in a country where the average temperature rarely falls below 90 degrees and the humidity is always somewhere between 70-100 percent. Despite these horrific weather stats, Air Conditioners are not only hard to find but often times not even wanted in the country of Cambodia!
When sleeping in the same room as my Cambodian friends I have been asked multiple times to turn down the AC. I have even seen many members of the church I attend walk outside halfway through the meeting because they need to warm up! After telling my Cambodian friends that I caught a cold they always blame it on my air conditioner!
It is amazing to me the difference in perspective between cultures! The AC conundrum is a small reminder to me that interventions in other parts of the world need to be done only after careful consideration of a country’s cultural. Something that seems so great to one person can really be detrimental to another.
Aw, the lessons one can learn from an Air Conditioner.
I have one of the best jobs in the world! I absolutely love being a Tour Guide at The University of Oklahoma where I have the privilege to show off OU every single day! The job really isn’t too hard to do seeing as OU is one of the prettiest campuses in the country as well as home to some of the greatest dance, acting, entrepreneurship, meteorology, and energy management programs in the country. Honestly just by walking on OU’s campus is enough to convince prospective students to attend. While OU is great in so many ways it can be hard to take advantage of all that it has to offer. There are just so many things to do, see, learn, eat, and participate in that sometimes students just feel overwhelmed and don’t do anything at all.
This last week for example I had an innumerable amount of emails and personal invites encouraging me to attend some really cool events. The botany club was having a plant sell, the Iranian Student Association was celebrating Omar Khayyam with poetry, food, and art, numerous sororities were hosting all you can eat mac and cheese parties as a fundraising event, and the industrial engineers put on an end of the year banquet. The list goes on and on! It indeed will be a sad day when I wake up and realize that guest lectures, free food, parties, and banquets were a thing of the past. There are so many neat things to learn and do while at OU and it would be a shame to let them all pass! Now is the time to act and really get out there and experience all that OU has to offer! GO AND EXPERIENCE ALL OF OU!!!!