Brazil’s Military Dictatorship in Cinema

This October I attended another Latin Americanist Lunch. The talk, Compulsive Memory: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema and the Military Dictatorship, was given by Dr. Paulo Moreira, a Portuguese professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. The talk centered on a genre of films within Brazilian cinema that portray events relating to the military dictatorship that ruled in Brazil from 1964 to 1985. In particular, Dr. Moriera compared the films Four Days in September and Batismo de Sangue (Baptism of Blood) which depict some of the same historical figures and events. Some of the more interesting contrasts between the two films concerned which characters were portrayed in a sympathetic light and the depiction of torture in each film. In Batismo de Sangue the military torturers are portrayed as being malicious to the core, whereas in Four Days in September they are shown as both torturers and fathers, raising the question of how people can justify extremely heinous acts of violence to themselves and their families.

For me, an additional takeaway from the lunch was on the differences between Portuguese and Spanish. As a Spanish language learner, I’ve spoken with many people about how similar Spanish is to Portuguese, and I’ve heard many different opinions on the extent of the similarities. When I was in Spain, my host parents’ daughter-in-law was Brazilian, and she told me about some of the differences between the two languages. According to her, the main differences between Spanish and Portuguese are in pronunciation, with certain letters being replaced by others. I don’t know enough of Portuguese to asses the accuracy of her statements, but there was a noticeable difference in pronunciation between the Portuguese that I saw written and pronounced at the lunch and the Spanish writing system. Though I often found myself able to understand written Portuguese, when Dr. Moreira read the phrases aloud, I was unable to interpret what he said.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dr. Moriera’s lecture. I was introduced to a topic about which I initially knew nothing, and I’ve since developed an interest in learning more about Brazilian history by watching the films discussed.

Latin Dance Fiesta

Last semester I wrote about attending the Latin Dance Club’s Salsa Ball and their subsequent four week beginner’s lessons. This semester, I joined the club on their intermediate team and attended the Latin Dance Fiesta. I knew that my dancing had really improved this semester, but the contrast between last semester’s Salsa Ball and this semester’s really demonstrated how much I’ve learned. Not only have I gained much more of the movement vocabulary used in salsa and bachata, but my ability to follow my partner in the moment has improved as well. I still have a tendency to hesitate when following, but I have been able to follow some more complicated patterns on the fly. Next semester, I’m looking forward to participating in choreography and performing with the team. Latin Dance Fiesta itself was a great way to test my developing social dancing skills, discover new music, and spend time with other OU students with an interest in latin dancing.

Study Abroad Fair

A few weeks into this past semester the College of International Studies hosted its annual event–the Study Abroad Fair! It might have also been called the International Fair…but you know what I mean!

The fair was chocked-full of the different study abroad groups trying to convince whoever was walking by that their program could offer them the world, literally!, and more. At leas two dozen booths were looped along the South Oval with all the pens, knick-knacks, and odd-ball trinkets that each different program could offer. Some even had food! However, one booth stood out among the rest because…this time around I got to help host OU in Rio’s booth! Our booth was smack dab right in front of Neilson Hall–a prime location. I got the opportunity to help host because this past semester, much like the one before, I was a Rio Ambassador.

The whole experience was actually quite satisfying and fun! It was lovely to be able to just rattle on-and-on about anything that came to mind about Rio. It was also very enjoyable to be able to whip out some of the photos I took while in Rio that were on my phone to show off how beautiful the city is. The ooo’s and ahh’s were so real–and I can’t blame them!

However, most people who came by weren’t actually interested in going to Rio (we were one of the booths that had snacks), but there were a handful that I think I might have actually made a bit of a difference with. One guy in particular, I cannot remember his name, was a physics major who was teaching himself Portuguese and was also already fluent in Spanish. It was such a pleasure to talk to him because he was thrilled, but he didn’t think he could go because he was running out of time. Sadly, he was right–the sooner you think about studying abroad the better–and I don’t think that he ended up signing up for the spring semester or another program. Unfortunately, I think there were only a few people, in total, who express genuine interest. Honestly, I don’t blame them too much. Rio was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life, but I with all of the swirling rumors about what is going on in Brazil (that actually spiked right after I returned last year), it is difficult to convince people’s parents that their children would be remarkably safe so far away from home.

To top this all of, my favorite person from Rio made an appearance–Caren!! She definitely deserves two exclamation points. I adore Caren with my whole heart and soul, we even have matching polka-dotted/stripped shirts. It was a real joy to be able to speak so fondly of her city with her to all of the kids who walked by. I know she’ll be back for it again the next time around (she comes back to OU once a semester), so I can’t wait for the next Study Abroad Fair!

Oklahome (Intentional Mispelling)

Waaaay back at the beginning of this past semester, I received an email about an international event that was specifically for OU students who had recently returned from a study abroad program. At first, I felt kind of silly about wanting to go to the event. It promoted an environment in which returning students could not only just share about their experiences, but also discuss the nitty gritty things that a lot of people probably don’t always want to talk about.

For example, although I will talk about my experience in Rio de Janeiro for hours, one of my very first memories from my Rio trip is NOT one that I ever share. After traveling for a full day from Mazatlán, Mexico to Mexico City, São Paulo, then finally Rio, I was more than thrilled to be there, but all the worrisome looks and concerned words from friends and family were really eating at me after being with only my thoughts for 24 hours. I after struggling to find my drive (he was waiting in the international terminal–I came in domestic from São Paulo), I rolled into the hostel, hauled my enormous suitcase up two flights of stairs, attempted to call my boyfriend via WhatsApp, and cried for about an hour. Even in hindsight, I still can’t quite put my finger on why I fell apart as soon as I arrived, but the point is that I did fall apart even though I was over the moon to be there.

So after recalling this experience, among others, I RSVPed for Oklahome!

I arrived and was shocked to see as many people there as I did. There were probably two dozen, and there were even a few with I traveled with in Italy.

First things first, we introduced ourselves and where we had been with OU. People had been everywhere. There were a lot of Italy’s, I was definitely the only Rio de Janeiro, a few Germany’s, one or two in Uganda for mission work, a few in Asia, and then the rest were scattered.

After our introductions, we listened to a woman who works in CIS as the Italy study abroad advisor. Oddly enough, what she had to say really resonated with me. The thing that hit home the most was how she talked about how the places we visit change us in ways we don’t typically understand or may not notice.

immediately thought about how much I miss sweating. Odd, right? In Rio, I grew so accustomed to having big, fat beads of sweat just rolling from everywhere. I didn’t know that the back of my knees could sweat like that! Don’t get me wrong, at first it was very uncomfortable and a little gross. However, even after only being in Rio for a little under two weeks, to this day I would give anything for the feeling like the sun is baking me like a toasty loaf of bread and losing ten pounds just from sweating so profusely.

So I shared this, and yes, I got some weird looks. Ha! But what the woman said made 100% sense. I am grateful to be home and to have had the experiences I did in Italy and Rio, but I think it will take me a looong time to not hesitate to give the “okay” hand sign without thinking I’m about to offend someone.

Adjusting to the States

Back in August, I attended You’re Oklahome, a workshop for students returning from study abroad. I didn’t think that I was having any problems adjusting to the U.S. but I figured it would be nice to chat with other students about their experiences. The students who were returning from a semester or a year had many thoughts to share but I didn’t feel like I had anything meaningful to contribute. Now that the semester is ending and it’s been several months since my return from Germany, I find myself wishing that I could talk to students who have studied abroad and see if they feel the same way I do. See how much of an impact their travels actually made on them in the long run. I didn’t think that adjusting would be any trouble, I mean, why would it? I was returning home, to the country where I grew up and where I knew how everything worked. Piece of cake.

I spent a mere six weeks in Germany but it feels like it was so much longer. To my surprise, I spent a few months thinking that half of Europe was just a bus ride away. I would have an empty weekend and think: “Why don’t I go somewhere?” The first places to come to mind were in Stuttgart or the surrounding areas. I keep being reminded of all these little memories, things that made no real impact on me at the time. There was a little Chinese restaurant a few stops north where I would get takeout and then eat it in the plaza down the street. There was an Irish pub with an Australian bartender who was always a great person to talk to. There was this little area in the middle of downtown with narrow cobblestone streets that looked like they belonged in some Italian city. There was this little suburb down south that was pretty bland and uninteresting, except for this tall smokestack that said “DICK” in large, professionally-painted letters. There was an organic food store that reminded me of Whole Foods but smaller and much more authentic. There was a shop sporting the Union Jack that sold tea and red telephone boxes and everything you can imagine emblazoned with the London skyline. There was a French store that sold the most colorful, quirky versions of household items that I’ve ever seen and it took all my willpower not to buy one of everything. There was a fountain that looked like one of those blow-up bubble balls you use when playing human soccer and there was a plaza where breakdancers would practice in the evening and there was a tiny coffee shop that was also selling swimsuits and there was a bar built on top of a parking garage that looked like a sandy beach and there was a piano store with my last name and there was a makeup store where no one would talk to you unless you talked to them first and there was Mexican restaurant that played English pop songs and there was a staircase built for horses and there was just so, so much in such a short time. It’s weird that I can’t stop thinking about it all, right?

Jake Goes to the Networking Fair

I am always so impressed by the events that the College of International Studies is able to put on. Despite their relatively small size as compared to other academic units on campus, CIS makes an awesome use of their alumni and resources to put together great programming for students. More specifically, I really enjoyed the Networking Fair that the College put on this semester, not because I’m necessarily interested in an international career after I graduate, but more because I enjoyed seeing all the stuff that my classmates are doing through the international organizations that they’re a part of.

For example, I learned that James is working with Syrian refugees to connect them with Arabic language learners so that the refugees get paid and the Arabic student is able to speak with a native speaker and gain valuable practice. I learned about The Dragonfly Home in OKC, where OU students and alumni are working to help victims of human trafficking in the OKC area, and are planing to open a shelter in 2018. I met with students who are working for the State Department and other governmental agencies, and even though I’m not interested in working for the Trump administration in any capacity whatsoever, it was really amazing to hear about the work that they’ve gotten to do as a part of that program. I also heard from some of OU’s institutions… I had our Career Services advisor check over my resume and ask for some tips about upcoming interviews, met with the Pre-Law advisor and chatted a bit about the best time to take the LSAT, and chatted with Katie about potentially doing a dual MA/JD program wherever I end up for law school. Certainly one of the most useful international events that I attended this semester.

IAC and Parliament

This semester, I had the distinct pleasure of running a campaign for Student Body President/Vice-President along with my best friend, and it was utterly exhausting. Day in and day out, the only thing that really got us through the drudgery of the entire process were the students, and there was no better group to visit than the International Advisory Committee. Headed up by Vanessa and I’s good friend Bob, we got to give our presentation to leaders of the international students groups on campus, but then we also got to stick around to hear how governance works in nations across the globe. We heard from students that lived in countries ruled by a single political party, those that had very limited government, and those that had a parliamentary style democracy (which is far and away my favorite kind of government).

During these conversations, I started to wonder what the Untied States would look like under different forms of government. I fear that we’re going to find out far sooner than perhaps we had hoped what living under a despot is like, but imagining the United States as a parliamentary democracy, like the one found in Britain, I think would alleviate a lot of our stresses as a nation. Parliamentary democracies allow for a plural government instead of a necessarily bi-partisan ruling structure, which removes a lot of what I perceive to be the challenges preventing American government from moving forward. A lot more people will feel like they have their interests represented when the contests are not winner-take-all and loser-lose-all. Parliaments force compromise, because it is incredibly rare that you have one party so in control of Parliament that they are able to seize the majorities they need to pass legislation effectively. I also talked to a Canadian student and was shocked at the power that the Prime Minister of Canada has. As he put it, “Justin Trudeau has the power that Donald Trump wishes he could have.” Trudeau has incredibly broad authority to spend money and put policy into place without necessarily the consent of the legislative body, which I found to be fascinating.

Also makes me wonder who the most powerful people in the world really are. Trump certainly has an incredible amount of hard power, but is someone with less hard power but more access to that hard power better than someone with more power but less access? I’m sure IR theorists have contemplated this, but as someone who hasn’t studied theory too much, I can’t really come to a conclusion. Either way, the point of the story is that, be it government on a school-wide or nation-wide level, I find public institutions to be utterly fascinating, and I really enjoyed getting to spend time with the IAC.

Muslims In The Iraq War: A Cinematic Perspective

On Wednesday, November 1 I attended the lecture with Dr. Kristian Peterson entitled “Muslims In The Iraq War: A Cinematic Perspective”. I’m taking a class in Arabic called “Media and Politics” and the professor decided to replace our usual class with this lecture. I’m not sure what I expected from the talk; however, i have to admit that I was a little let down. I am not interested in film at all and I the only movies that I watch are the occasional documentary. Dr. Peterson talked about a set of war films that I had obviously never seen. I think that the talk might have been more interesting if I had seen the films that he based his lecture on.

Dr. Peterson’s position was that Muslims in the Iraq war were portrayed unfairly in film, thus making the intended audience of these films more likely to view Arab Muslims unfavorably. While I agree with his point, I think that his lecture was a little one-sided. I think that he did a good job of proving how these movies portrayed Arab Muslims in a negative light; although, I think he failed to provide enough evidence to show a link between these films and public perception of Arab Muslims. I would have liked to see Dr. Peterson spend more time developing the second part of his position.

Overall I think that talk was mediocre. I think that for someone who is interested in film this lecture might have been more interesting.

Arabic Flagship Talent Show

On Friday, December 1st I attended the Arabic Flagship Talent Show. Each club and Arabic class (except for the 4000 level courses) is expected to produce a video, sing a song, or display a talent for the talent show at the end of the semester. Since I coordinate Egyptian club, i was involved in creating a video for the talent show. We coordinated with Darija Club (Darija is the dialect of Arabic spoken in Morocco) and produced a video together. Our video was composed of skits poking fun at the difference between Morocco and Egypt in terms of language and culture. Every year the talent show is catered by a Moroccan family from Edmond and the food is always amazing! There was chicken, kebab, bread, rice, tabbouleh, hummus, and salad. The show began with a performance by the belly dancing club. I enjoyed their performance because they danced to one of my favorite songs in Arabic. I was really happy to see the video produced by the class that I TA. Most of the students in Beginning Arabic really pushed themselves to demonstrate their language skills. I like to go to the talent show because it is an opportunity for students to show off their abilities in Arabic. The talent show is an opportunity for people to come together and appreciate Arab culture and the Arabic language.

SHIZA SHAHID

I am a Letters major because I believe that literature, history, and philosophy are what drive and sustain humanity. I believe highly in empathy and in people. Something important that I have come to learn this semester is the importance of these values and the ability to incorporate these ideals into a career.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hearing Shiza Shahid tell her incredible story about her experiences in philanthropy, business, non-profits, etc. She was kind, well-spoken, beautiful, and thoughtful. She is the kind of person I would love to be when I am older. She told us about her life growing up, and the drive to help others that pushed her to do the things that she did and make the choices that she made.

I am still in awe that I got the opportunity to meet such an incredible woman and hear her speak on advocating for woman’s education, and empowering other leaders and women, and her work as the co-founder of the Malala Fund. Shiza Shahid has done so much good in this world, and she is definitely nowhere near finished. Her story is truly inspiring, and I only wish I could have heard more.

Shiza, Thank you for showing us our own inexhaustible ability to do good in the world.