Arabic Talent Show!

The University of Oklahoma’s Arabic program always ends the semester with a talent show, where students at all levels of the language can perform, display their advancements, and enjoy (free) food and entertainment. It’s a fun way to end the stressful week before Dead Week and spend time with the language that you (hopefully) love dearly. As with every semester, I had a small role in the talent show. Although, unlike previous years, I did not perform with the Belly Dancing Club. Instead, I helped make a video that showcased the dialectal and cultural differences between Darija (Moroccan) and Masri (Egyptian) Arabic. Specifically, my portion of the video highlighted the differences in their gestures, which make almost no sense to anyone outside of the dialect, and the resulting misunderstandings.

 

However, this year’s talent show also featured poetry readings, singing, videos, and skits. As always, one of my favorite parts of the night is watching the belly dancers perform, because it’s such a fun experience to see all of their hard work and how the audience reacts to them. There were also a lot of fun skits, including a Masri (Egyptian) Arabic one that had a few light jabs at our university’s main rival, the University of Texas.

 

Despite all of the entertainment, one of the best things about the talent show is realizing how far your Arabic has progressed. I remember my very first talent show, where I had no idea what was happening and I lived or died by the quality of the video subtitles. This year, I was able to follow along and translate different sections of the show to my friends who did not know any Arabic. It just helped me realize how much of the language I know now, which is an extremely rewarding and encouraging experience.

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A is for Arab

This semester, the University of Oklahoma was lucky enough to host a powerful display called “A is for Arab.” It was erected in the Bizzell Memorial Library, on its lower level 1. The exhibit featured five main panels, boasting titles like “D is for Desert,” “H is for Harem,” and “V is for Villain.” The images aimed to expose Arab stereotypes that are common in the United States, ranging from the notion that all Arabs live in the desert and ride camels to the idea that Arab women are either covered from head-to-toe or belong to a harem. Specifically, the exhibit drew on examples from comics and old movies; however, more modern material, such as Disney’s Aladdin, was also included for furthering negative stereotypes.

Although, the display offered a glimmer of hope amongst the sea of misconceptions. The exhibit also highlights positive developments in the field of Arab representation in the above mediums. One of these is a comic called “The 99” (التسعة وتسعون), which features superheroes with powers and abilities based on the 99 attributes of Allah. Importantly, the comic depicts its characters as well-rounded, fully-realized individuals; unlike many other portrayals of Arabs in comics. The exhibit also has a panel detailing the exposure of Arab stereotypes, including short descriptions of influential books (“Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11”) and documentaries (“Reel Bad Arabs”). Overall, it was an incredibly powerful and important exhibit, and it displayed a lot of vital issues that are typically overlooked today.

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“The North Korea Challenge in US-China Relations”

On October 18, I attended a CIS Lecture given by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis on North Korea’s developing nuclear program and what it means for the US and China. 

The event opened with an introduction by an OU Professor. It was ominous– he described how triangular relationships in International Relations are never stable. However, despite this, the intro had me anticipating Dr. Lewis’s presentation and curious as to how he would forecast the “North Korea problem.”

Dr. Lewis, from the start, spoke about some potentially terrifying themes with a refreshing sense of humor and realism. And as an expert in the politics of nuclear proliferation, he possesses an accurate sense of what the U.S. has, or does not have, in store in regards to Kim Jong Un. He understands that history tends to repeat itself, and that in order to make some sense of a nuclear future, we must first look to the past.

I know little about China’s nuclear program, when it developed, and how the U.S. responded to it on its advent. However, Dr. Lewis brought us through these things, and I learned that the U.S. was equally paranoid of China’s nuclear potential in the 1960s and 70s as it is today with North Korea. The U.S. refused to believe that China was capable of or would be willing to successfully create a nuclear weapon; so, China responded not-so-subtly by flying a live warhead on a missile over their country.

In the age of smartphones and social media, security experts, TV pundits, and politicians alike have access to the multiple pieces of propaganda released by North Korea, boasting of their latest achievements both in the lab and on the testing ground. Despite these desperate cries to be believed, many in the U.S. are clinging to the hope that North Korea will fail to develop a long-rage weapon. Yes, the thought is terrifying. But what Dr. Lewis finds even more terrifying is the U.S. refusing to accept the fact, thereby preventing any efforts on our part to prevent them from using these weapons. North Korea could easily concoct some attention-grabbing feat like China did– which would only raise tensions.

Dr. Lewis argues that we, as a nation, should not gaze upon these (slightly humorous) photos of Kim Jong Un and his h-bombs with fear or reject them all together, but instead, we should learn from them. Dr Lewis possesses the super-human ability to recognize their parts and how they function– something that I realize most people do not.

However, even the slightest, seemingly insignificant details of these photos have something to tell. For example, Dr. Lewis pointed out what looked to be a Rolex watch on the wrist of one of the men facilitating a test. For a nation plagued by poverty and food shortages, a Rolex watch on anyone outside of the Royal Family would probably mean that this man did something to please his leader. I cannot remember the results of the particular test in this photo, but it is safe to say that anything less than satisfactory would mean bye-bye Rolex. Basically, for a society so shrouded in mystery, ANYTHING we can glean on its internal workings will help us in our dealings with them.

As for how these issues affect US-China relations, Dr. Lewis was unsure. He emphasized, though, how we cannot understand China’s relationship with North Korea to be supportive or rosy. It may be the opposite, in fact. China had nothing to do with North Korea’s nuclear developments, nor does it encourage them. Just because China has preserved business relations with North Korea and refused to sanction them, does not mean they approve. It is simply an alternate model of working with the country, in which less is in the dark and communication is possible. I do not disagree with this model, but I think that the U.S. would have a long way to go before such a method is taken.

Arabic-Persian Cultural Summit

Even though many might mistake the Persian language (spoken in Iran) for Arabic due to its similar script and their geographic proximity, they are two distinct languages. However, they share a related history, full of contact, loan words, and culture. In order to fully explore the two languages’ complex relationship, the University of Oklahoma’s Arabic Flagship Program and the College of International Studies Farzaneh Family Center hosted an “Arabic-Persian Cultural Summit.”

Specifically, the discussion featured talks from current OU professors who specialize in their respective languages. They reviewed their languages’ history and detailed Arabic and Persian’s relationship from the point of view of their language. The talks touched on important topics, such as the Arab conquest and the work of renown Persian poets. Although, the final lecture on the commonalities between the two cultures held my interest most. Despite their differences, the cultures hold similar customs relating to food and eating, as a Persian professor recounted.

 

Overall, the summit succeeded in its goal of introducing the myriad of complexities present in the Arabic-Persian relationship, and it helped students of both languages gain a better understanding of the other.

Ugandan Elephants

When I walked into Gould Hall, I did not know what I was expecting. I certainly did not foresee a relatively empty room, with colorful animals and cloths right outside. At first, I was unsure if I was in the location, as the engineering hall seemed an odd choice for a talk on Ugandan peace building. However, once I walked through the double doors to the lecture room, I knew immediately that I was in the right place. Pictures and typed paragraphs surrounded the room on all sides, detailing the lives of women I would never know, who were already so much braver than myself. From their biographical snippets, I learned a small portion of their stories: how they were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and made into child brides, forced to bear and care for children when they were not even full adults.

However, one of the most striking aspects of their stories were their (generally) hopefully outlooks, primarily due to Sister Rosemary and the opportunities that she provides. Crucially, Sister Rosemary creates jobs for the young women, including making stuffed animals and purses. In fact, these vary products were the colorful animals and cloths that I witnessed just outside the room.

It was impossible to read their stories and not visit the little table off to the side that carried the fruits of their labor, their hopes for the future. On the table itself were little giraffes and elephants, with beautiful bracelets and necklaces surrounding them. Ultimately, I bought two stuffed elephants: one for me, and one for my mother. In the women’s stories, their mothers, and the larger theme of motherhood, was a constant, as many lost theirs or were otherwise unable to be with them. It gave me perspective on my mother’s role in my own life, and it reinforced how lucky I am to have a mother figure who is so present and active in my life. It seemed like the right thing to do to give her one of the elephants as a thank you for her continued support and presence.

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(Photo from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/320670435949168125/)

AASA Asian Food Fair

The Asian American Student Association of the University of Oklahoma hosted its annual Asian Food Fair that featured different types of food from Asian cultures. From thai curry to lo mein, the Asian Food Fair offered a variety of different tastes to accommodate to those with food allergies or varying diets. When I was at the Asian Food Fair, I was also volunteering by serving the food and cleaning up. While the food fair was a great success to raise awareness about the types of Asian foods and the culture of those Asian countries, the students running the operation diligently showed their passion for raising awareness about the different types of ethnicity under the category of Asians. Although none of the food was homemade, they were donations from neighboring restaurants that supported the cause of the Asian American Student Association. In the picture shown, I am serving a noodle salad dish from China. Despite the small percentage of Asians on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. We all banded together to raise awareness for our own cultures.

International Summer Internships – Information Session

On the 30th of November, I attended a come-and-go information session over the internships offered abroad. Specifically, when I first arrived I learned a lot about the CEA  Internships Abroad. I was told many things:

  • Depending on where I want to go, I need to look at what type of internship I would want to do. I spoke with him over legal internships and he pointed me in the direction of Prague.
  • I am able to tell CEA what type of internship I would want when abroad, and they go out and find the internship for me.
  • and, CEA provides a $500 waiver to all abroad internship opportunities.

After speaking with him, I decided to look at some options to be able to fulfill my traveling abroad requirements. In the room that the information session was in, my advisor for international business was also there. When I saw her, I was delighted and began speaking to her about what I should be doing and the course of action I need to be taking. I learned about a study abroad opportunity that would fit my schedule in South Korea as well as how she would love to send me to the University of Madrid for a semester to study. There are so many amazing opportunities that the University of Oklahoma offers, and I am excited to pick where I should go. I will be in contact with my advisor, as well as look at the options I have regarding my travel abroad opportunities.

University of Madrid Opportunity: https://oklahoma.studioabroad.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=10018

  • You have to be a fluent Spanish speaker to be able to be in this program.
  • It is a University Exchange program (pay OU tuition and fees).
  • Courses are in Spanish.

South Korea Opportunity: https://oklahoma.studioabroad.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=10108

  • Housing and tuition waivers are allowed for up to 5 students.
  • All of the classes are in English.
  • There are courses in Business and International Studies.
  • You will live in on-campus dormitories.