AASA Food Fair

The Asian American Student Association annually posts an Asian Food Fair to raise money for their fundraiser Holiday Head Start. Fortunately for me, my big from my sorority was the chair for Holiday Head Start and allowed me the great opportunity to try foods from countries outside of China, my homeland. This year the types of food given out were from countries that most people do not first think about when they need to go. For instance, AASA obtained food from Nepal and India. I often choose to eat food from China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. Going to this event opened my eyes to other types of Asian foods that I was missing out on.

 

In the future, I hope to expand my diet and eat foods from other countries in Asia and other countries in general! I had no idea what I was missing out on until I went!

International Event: Ilham Fair

TIlham Fairhe Arabic Flagship Program hosted a new event this semester called the Ilham Fair. Ilham in Arabic means ‘inspiration.’ This fair was a large social event designed to share Arab culture with the OU community. There was live music, calligraphy, henna, games, and home-cooked dinner. The food was delicious. International students from around the Middle East cooked a massive feast for all of the participants, which was no small feat. I had delicious samosas, ate a lot of stuffed grape leaves, and I sampled koshari, a traditional Egyptian dish.

In addition to the yummy food, the live music was a real treat. One student provided the live music, and he seemed to be playing several instruments at once. I had never heard anything like it, but it really enhanced the atmosphere of the event.

I hope that the Ilham Fair becomes an annual tradition of the Arabic Flagship Program because I feel that it has a real possibility of growing each year and becoming a tradition that the Flagship can be proud of. I highly recommend that any student attend the Ilham Fair if it returns next year because it is a great introduction into Arab culture. Plus, what’s better than some free food and live music with friends?

International Event: Arabic Talent Show

As always, I attended the semesterly Arabic Talent Show hosted by the Arabic Flagship on November 30. It’s hard to believe, but this was the fifth talent show that I have attended. This year featured a number of videos from the beginning and intermediate classes as well as several live musical renditions, including one by the colloquial class. I always love attending the talent show because it is truly a great way to showcase all of the hard work that the classes and clubs have done over the summer.

I was especially proud of the fact that the Arabic Film Club submitted an entry this year. Our members wrote reviews of the films we watched over the semester, and these reviews were projected on the screen while everyone ate dinner. My favorite entry was by the Calligraphy Club, which only began this semester. Students submitted some of their best designs, and I was so impressed by the talent of the calligraphers who grew so much in such a short amount of time.

I love this semesterly tradition, and I feel that the quality of submissions continues to improve each semester.

Arabic Talent Show (Again!)

Of course I had to attend OU’s Arabic Talent Show this semester, the Arabic program’s semesterly event to display how far its students have come. While I was unable to perform this year (as I usually do), it gave me a different perspective to watch the whole event play out. As I finished my Arabic minor last semester, I am not currently in an Arabic class. Consequently, I was able to watch the performances from an outside perspective. In the past, it was me showing off my Arabic, practicing waaaay too much, and being proud that I could understand some of the program. However, this year, I was able to see that experience for other people. It made me so happy to see the new Arabic students perform their songs, happily singing and dancing even though they did not understand all the words. While I could still laugh at the jokes about Maha (a fictional student in Al-Kitaab, the Arabic textbook we all use), I felt more detached, as I was no longer actively involved. In a way, it felt like me moving on–a feeling I suppose I’ll have to get used to for my Senior year.

Despite these somewhat melancholy feelings, the talent show is always a lot of fun! I was able to reconnect with my old classmates, practice my Arabic, and learn about new songs and words. And the food was amazing, ًطبعا. Now that the semester is winding down, I just want to say this to the talent show and Arabic program:

!شكراً لكل مساعدتكم وكل الذكريات

Rohingya Crisis

Earlier this semester, I was able to attend a screening of Frontline’s documentary on the Rohingya crisis (“Myanmar’s Killing Fields). I wanted to attend this event in particular, as I know some about the situation in Myanmar, but I was hoping to learn more. The documentary certainly helped with that. However, as a warning, it does have some graphic depictions and the survivors explain in detail the horrors they endured. If you would like to watch it, the link is here.

The documentary did a good job of explaining the background of the situation, including its political, ethnic, and religious roots. The film largely focuses on the survivors and the experiences of the Rohingya–which I greatly appreciated. I feel that the news we hear about the Rohingya crisis is often very sterile and devoid of actual experiences and stories. While this could be because of Myanmar’s current stance towards journalists and the media, I appreciated that Frontline was able to take such a focus.

The event also included a discussion at the end of the screening, where we could all give our reactions to the film and debate the issues surrounding the crisis and our thoughts on why they persist. This part was particularly rewarding, as I got to learn from others and share my own thoughts on the matter. The conflict is so complex, it was incredibly useful to break it down with other people and try to better make sense of this horror. After watching the documentary, I feel that I came away with a better understanding of the situation and the current crisis of the Rohingya population.

Middle East and Democracy

The “Future of the Middle East and Democracy Promotion” discussion focused on democracy and its future in the Middle East, particularly following the events of the Arab Spring in Syria and Palestine, as the two speakers had experience in those regions. The talk began with Rami Khouri detailing several issues that he believed plagued the Middle East and made democracy promotion difficult: the Arab-Israeli conflict, virtually continuous military intervention by western powers, incompetent and oppressive governments, widespread poverty, and colonial/imperialist intervention. I thought this discussion was especially poignant, as it touched on many issues that we focused on in class, from the conception of poverty to western intervention. I appreciated that he mentioned not only outside forces (such as western intervention) that posed a barrier to democracy, but also internal forces (such as authoritarian governments). However, there was never a discussion about whether democracy was really the best option for the Middle East or if there are any other forms of governance that might fit better with the population. The panel assumed that democracy was the best and most desirable option. While that may be true for the individuals present, I would have appreciated a comment addressing this belief.

Although, when discussing democracy promotion, I thought it was significant that Qutaiba Idlbi emphasized the importance of any sort of political change coming from the people, perhaps with the support of the international community. Grassroots movements and popular mobilization are incredibly important for sustainable change, so I thought his inclusion of this point was critical to the larger topic of political change in the Middle East.