ASEAN Night- February 8th, 2018



On February 8th, I attended the ASEAN culture night held in Meacham auditorium. ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations and is an entity created to help bring together students from Southeastern Asian nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The night consisted of a fashion show of traditional clothing worn in each of the ASEAN countries. Next, traditional dances from each of the nations were performed. My favorite dance was the Filipino dance. In it, two performers held long wooden poles on the ground that they hit on the ground and slid while two other performers hopped back and forth over the poles as they moved. It was mesmerizing to watch and impressive that the dancers did not get hit by the poles. The dance reminded me of jump rope. Another cool dance was the Cambodian dance. In it, the performers held coconut shells and tapped them against other people’s shells while dancing around. I also really liked seeing the special clothing of the fashion show. Some of the clothes had very vibrant colors and complex patterns.

I normally am not as interested by Asian culture as I am by other cultures, so I have not attended many events related to Asian culture here at OU. However, my roommate is from Cambodia and is very involved in ASEAN, so I decided to attend. I am really glad that I did! My roommate had a very big role in the night as one of the MC’s, and it was cool getting to learn more about his culture while supporting him in an activity that was important to him. I realized that even though I have many international friends here at OU, I have not taken much opportunity to talk to my roommate about Cambodia and his experiences. It is something I hope to do before the end of the year.  


The Silence of Tikal

I walked down the overgrown path in the Guatemalan jungles, feeling like some crazed adventurer from a movie. The mosquitoes were buzzing in my face despite having drenched myself in bug spray. My hands were doing all they could to keep the deadly insects from landing a bite. The sun beat down and the humidity was oppressive. I passed a sign that read: “Laguna del Cocodrilo,” accompanied by an arrow.

Great, Crocodile Lagoon, I thought. Because who doesn’t love being alone in the jungle when crocodiles are around?

I just wanted to get to the lookout tree. The map said it was just a short walk down this path. Imagine, climbing up top and getting to look out over all the forest canopy, seeing the Great Temples of Tikal in the distance.

I came to a fork in the road.

Oh no, this is nothing like the map.

I had no idea where to go. The path was longer than I had expected, I was in the middle of the jungle, and no one knew where I was. The path was getting smaller too, the sun was setting soon, and the insects were getting more aggressive. Plus, there were crocodiles around.

I did not want to end up like one of the famous adventurers from the movies: Dead.

I freaked and started running back towards the jungle inn. On the run back, memories of what the guides had told me flooded my mind, and it seemed as if anything around me could kill me: If you touch the bark of those trees, you’ll fall asleep and never wake up again; If you touch those caterpillars, they will sting and you will be in the worst pain imaginable; If you get bit by that spider, well, adiós.

Soon enough, the path began to clear up again and I made it back to the visitor’s center of Tikal and the small jungle inn where I would be sleeping for the night.

Everything was quiet: The tourists had already gone back on their buses to the small, local airport an hour’s drive away, the shop vendors had driven out of the jungle and returned to their small, rural towns, and all that was left were the few tourists that had chosen to brave the night in return for a sunrise hike, as well as the staff that made sure these gringos had a comfortable, safe night. They provided the small link to civilization so that we wouldn’t go insane.

Where was I? Earlier this morning I had been in the quaint, colonial town of Antigua. I had been driven to the sprawling capital of Guatemala City and boarded a small propellor plane that rocketed to the other side of the nation and deposited me on the minimally-inhabited island of Flores. One strip mall could be found outside the airport for whatever needs the tourists might have. From there, I boarded a van, and we headed off to the jungle.

The jungle. A place you read about in books, hear countless stories about. “The jungle holds many beauties and wonders, but beware the dangers– everything in it is designed to kill.” What would the jungle actually be like?

Well, the jungle is silent.


The road reached the beginning of the trees, and we were swallowed by the swaths of green. We drove and drove along the road that had only one destination, one one purpose: To ferry researchers and tourists to a hidden wonder of the world. To make the depths of the jungle accessible to people who can’t go outside for more than an hour without needing to retreat back into the AC.

Eventually, the van reached a giant gate, reminiscent of the entrance to Jurassic Park. Well, Tikal was called the Lost World. It fit.

Through the gates we went and officially into the Lost World of Tikal.

We arrived at the hotel and were told to quickly get ready for our tour. The Guatemalan man took us around the park, down wide roads that had been cleared to keep the jungle back so that tourists could walk with ease to each of the ancient sites. The guide explained the history of the Mayan empire, about their reasons for building the giant pyramid temples that we got to climb. Although it is unknown why the Maya mysteriously abandoned the site and vanished, he explained some of his theories as to why. It was interesting, all of this information, and the temples were impressive. Tikal is massive, and every corner you turn there are larger and larger temples reaching up to the sky.

But what was this place? How did it exist in the middle of the jungle? And why was it abandoned?

It was like I was in a dream. This place did not feel real.

So that was how I got there. By car and plane and van. Those were the facts. This was real. I was in this place that somehow existed in the middle of the Guatemalan Jungle, that somehow used to be a bustling city. The tourists kept me grounded, kept me connected to the world. They had traveled here too, they were proof that this was not some strange dream.

But the tourists left in their buses after their morning tours. As the afternoon wore on, Tikal became abandoned once more.

I had lunch in the jungle inn and talked with the other people who had been in my tour group. They too were staying the night. A New Yorker, a Brit, a Frenchman, and me. We discussed politics and the world, but then they all decided to return to their rooms to get out of the heat and rest for a bit.

I was alone.


I stayed in the lobby, sitting in one of the chairs and trying to utilize the hotel’s Wi-Fi that came via a large satellite on the top of the building. This was my last link to the world, to my life and friends that existed outside this never-ending swathe of green. But the WIFI was spotty. I gave up my attempts and also went to my room.

I was alone.


In fact, this was probably the most alone I had ever been. There was nothing here, only a few buildings and a handful of human. I had no one to talk to and no connection to the world.

Unable to handle being in my hotel room, I got up and went to explore the little plaza of shops where Guatemalans from nearby villages came to sell touristy souvenirs. I was the only shopper, and each merchant paid full attention to me, offering special prices on t-shirts, hats, bracelets that each of the other merchants also had.

Tikal was abandoned.

Wanting to explore more, I went on my little jungle trek to find the lookout tree.

Again, I was alone, and now trekking through the jungle. I realized if I died, no one would find me, and no one would know what happened.

Luckily, I made it back safely to the inn and went to sleep. This day had been enough for me, and I had to get up early for the sunrise hike in the morning.

With our tour group, we all rose early and with flashlights, made our way through the serenity of the early morning jungle so that we could ascend the tallest temple of Tikal. From the top steps of the ancient structure, we all sat in silence and watched the forest wake up. We were visited by birds and monkeys and heard the calls of the howlers in the distance. Then, once the sun had risen, we returned to the inn.

I decided to go back into the park again to do a little exploring of my own and climb some different temples. The tourists had once more mostly returned in their buses, and so Tikal was getting quiet once again.

At one point, as I was walking down one of the wide, cleared roads with no one else in sight, I just stopped. I listened. Cicadas droned all around, making a cacophony of noise, but strangely, it all felt so silent.

In fact, the silence was deafening. Yes, my ears were constantly being assaulted by the drone of the insects, but this only contributed to the silence. It drowned out all other noises I could possibly hear, noises of people talking in the distance or animals moving.

I was alone in the silence of the jungle. I was the most alone I had ever been, in maybe one of the loneliest places in the world. Here I stood, among ancient abandoned ruins. They too had fallen victim to the silence.

I could hardly comprehend that this had once been a major city, that hundreds of thousands of people had inhabited it: Workers and merchants and children.

But for some reason, the jungle had driven them out. All 200,000 of them had been scared away. By what, we still don’t know.

All I know is that the jungle had reclaimed its silence. It had grown over the ancient city and tried to hide all signs of civilization.


In this moment, I discovered the Silence of Tikal. I discovered the loneliness of this place hidden deep in the jungle. In this moment, I was the loneliest I had ever been. The jungle was trying to silence me too.


Luckily, the comforts of civilization saved me. That afternoon, a van took me back to the airport, a plane took me back to the sprawling urban masses of Guatemala City, and a car took me back to the quaint colonialism of Antigua.


But I would never forget that feeling that I had been given. That feeling that can only be evoked by a place that was once a bustling city but is now abandoned in the middle of the jungle. I would never forget the Silence of Tikal.


The Temples of Tikal Rising Above the Jungle Canopy

A Road in the Jungles of Tikal

Ruins of Tikal

Road to the Jungle Inn

Temple I Tikal

Temples of Tikal in the Morning Mist


International Group Fall 2017- OU Cousins

This semester I have been involved in OU Cousins which is a club that pairs international students with American students to exchange culture and participate in a lot of fun activities! A few of the events I went to were the Matching Party, Bingo Night, and yesterday I went to the Chickasha Festival of Lights! My cousin’s name is Raul and he is from Valencia, Spain. Here, he is studying pharmacy and also playing on the OU Club soccer team. Throughout the semester it has been great talking to him and sharing our experiences. Both our schedules are busy, so it has been hard to meet up or go to Cousins activities together, but we still keep in touch. He was unable to go to the Festival of Lights last night, but it was still really fun! The lights were beautiful and we got to walk around and have hot chocolate. I had only ever been to drive through light shows before, so it was really cool getting to walk through the lights! There was a beautiful bridge covered in yellow lights that crossed a lake, so that was really fun to walk across, and there were ducks in the water by the bridge! I met someone who is originally from Laos, but moved here when he was 8 and is now in graduate school for electrical engineering. Meeting new people and hearing their stories has definitely been one of my favorite parts of OU Cousins. Everyone, both international and American students, has interesting stories to tell and unique perspectives on life. In order to be a true global citizen, it is important to hear as many of these perspectives as possible. I’m very excited to continue to participate in OU Cousins next semester, continue to meet new people, and become more involved in the international community here at OU!



First Semester Freshman Year Experiences in the International Community at OU- October 23rd, 2017

     So far, one of my favorite parts about OU has been the international community that exists on campus. I was lucky enough to be paired with an international roommate from Cambodia. He attended a United World College in Germany, and there are international students in my dorm from UWC schools all around the world. This immediately connected me with the international community on campus. I’ve loved getting to meet people from all over the world and sharing our unique experiences. I really appreciate the effort that OU puts into bringing in students from all around the world and connecting us. On top of this, I have really appreciated all of the international events and opportunities that take place on campus. Specifically, I have fallen in love with the College of International Studies and all the events they put on. Even though I have no classes in the college, I feel like I am in Farzaneh Hall very often. I loved the special country-focused weeks they had to encourage studying abroad in Brazil, Italy, and Mexico. I attended many events each week and loved learning more about each culture from salsa dancing to trying açai (hopefully I’ll make a more specific post about these later). Also, I attended an International Student Welcome Game Night with some of my friends. I met a lot of people there and made new friends that I still hang out with now in the semester! Finally, I’ve enjoyed being a part of OU Cousins and participating in events that bring a diverse group of people together (again, more specifics later). The international community is just so great here at OU and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it!


Tierra Tinta Conference- October 20th, 2017

El 20 de Octubre yo fui a la conferencia Tierra Tinta que trataba de muchas temas de literatura hispánica. Me gustó mucho escuchar sobre la cultura de la literatura. La primera sesión que asistí era sobre el periodismo en la literatura. Específicamente era en relación al estilo de escribir del “Keynote Speaker” de la conferencia, Alberto Salcedo Ramos. Ramos escribe en un género específico se llama crónicas. Este género trata de los eventos históricos pero en una manera con más imaginación que el periodismo normal. A veces usa la persona primera para dar una experiencia más personal de los acontecimientos. Ramos en particular escribe de muchos temas y en una colección de cuentos cortos. Escribe sobre el béisbol, la cultura del Caribe, y más. Por esta razones el género de la crónica es uno muy especial.

La segunda sesión que yo asistí era sobre la representación de la mujer en el arte religioso. Trató de la diferencia entre Eva y Maria. Eva es la pecadora y es visto como una persona mala. Maria es el opuesto. Ella es la mujer más pura de todo el mundo. Ella es el modelo para todas las mujeres del mundo y tiene muchas imágenes en la iglesia. Pero también es importante que nos recordemos que el arte solo es una representación. Refleja los pensamientos y creencias del artista y de la cultura de la época. Por eso también las representaciones pueden cambiar a través de los años y no aplican a las creencias de todas las personas de una época. Esta sesión también trató de los narcocorridos. Este es un nuevo género de música creciendo especialmente en México. Habla sobre los narcotraficantes como reyes y de todas las cosas buenas que tienen: la fama, las mujeres, el dinero. Por eso es malo porque los niños escuchan a este tipo de música y quieren ser narcotraficantes para recibir todo también. Pero son puras mentiras. Por eso los narcocorridos son una amenaza a la cultura mexicana.

Finalmente yo asistí a la entrevista del autor Alberto Salcedo Ramos. Ésta fue mi sesión más favorita. Me encantó oír sobre los pensamientos de un autor real. Él habló más de las crónicas y como derivan los temas de las noticias. También habló de la punta de vista especial que es la primera persona y como puede dar una experiencia más personal a la historia. Finalmente mi parte primero fue cuando habló sobre la importancia de la imaginación en el escrito, Él dijo que la imaginación da muchas maneras diferentes y especiales de contar una historia. También el hablo de Ernest Hemingway, un autor que me gusta mucho. Me gustó mucho asistir a Tierra Tinta y aprender más de la literatura.



Latin Americanist Lunch- October 6th, 2017

     On Friday, October 6th I attended the Latin Americanist Lunch on “Life and Death in Guatemala: The Witness of Stanley Francis Rother.” The talk was given by Dr. Charles Kenney, a professor of political science. I am fascinated by Latin American culture and history, particularly that of Guatemala, so the talk seemed very interesting to me.

     This past summer, I spent a few weeks in Guatemala learning Spanish, and my teacher there talked to me about the Guatemalan Civil War. She had been alive for some of the the 30-year-long war, and so she remembers the tension in the country at the time. She remembers men being stolen from her town, Ciudad Vieja, because they were deemed as subversive by the government. She also told me about the cause of the war. After World War II, there was a revolution in Guatemala and a democratic government was installed in the country. The government made it a goal to put the economy of Guatemala back in the hands of Guatemalans, specifically by limiting the power of The United Fruit Company in the banana industry there. Unfortunately, this was against the interests of the United States, so the CIA led a coup to overthrow this government and install a dictator. This sparked the Civil War, which Guatemala is still recovering from today. The fact that the US overthrew a democracy and destroyed a country only for economic interests sickens me, and so it is a topic I have felt very strongly about ever since my trip there.

     In this talk, Dr. Kenney spoke about a priest who was killed during the Civil War in the town of Santiago on the shores of Lake Atitlan. During my trip, I actually went to that town and toured the church that the priest worked in. Seeing pictures during the presentation of places I had stepped foot in without knowing the history was a surreal experience. Dr. Kenney described who Father Rother was (interestingly enough, he was from Oklahoma). He was one of the first priests in Guatemala to devote himself to learning one of the indigenous Maya languages. Before traveling to Guatemala, I had had no idea just how large the indigenous population was there and just how important they are. I also did not know that there are many different indigenous Maya languages. It was cool because the school I attended also taught some of the indigenous languages, and so I was able to hear them being taught. This goal of Rother to learn a Mayan language was extremely important, as it allowed him to better connect with the people and to better help them.

     In his presentation, Dr. Kenney used a lot of primary sources of letters written by Father Rother to friends and family (especially his sister). These letters were interesting to read because I was able to get a clear picture of how people felt during the Civil War and to see the tension build as time went on from letter to letter. Unfortunately, I feel that Dr. Kenney focused too heavily on these letters and did not elaborate as much as I would have liked on the overall situation of Guatemala throughout these years. Other than that, the presentation was still extremely interesting and gave me a new unique perspective on a topic that interests me greatly.

Attached I have pictures that I took while in Guatemala of the town of Santiago Atitlan and the church there.

Walk leading up to the church- The church is at the top of a big hill from the the lake to the center of town. It is surrounded by a market and carnival rides.


Sign near the entrance to the church- notice the date

The inside of the church. While the decorations are vibrant, it is actually a very somber place. On one of the walls near the entrance a sign talks about the violence that occurred here.