Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What happened to April?

Wish I could end the blog posting drought with an onslaught of amusing and insightful posts and stunning photos. Instead, all you get is a quick recap.

On this day in the future:

June 3, 2011- I will return to Chicago!!! With a thesis to write.

May 24, 2011- I will fake 'graduate' from the University for Peace with an MA in Peace Education. Fake because my thesis won't be done yet.

May 21 & 23rd- I will have visitors! My brother John and his wife will be coming for graduation and Chicago friend Lauren Hirte will be here too.

On this day in history:

May 3, 2011- Lookingglass Theatre Company wins the Regional Tony Award!!! I'm so thrilled for the Company and really, really wish I could be in Chicago to celebrate with everyone tonight. And a sense of perspective is fine and all but today would be a good day to be surrounded by who know what a Regional Tony Award is and how exciting it is for us. It's like telling a joke, if you have to explain it too much, its just not the same.

April 30, 2011- The UPEACE women's football team wins 2nd place in the UN sponsored Central American tournament in Honduras! I was not there.

Also, the corpse of the very large dead spider (that might have been a tarantula) in our front hall is finally finished being dismantled by the ants after several days of hard work.

April 21-24- The Romans marched through Orosi. A lot. My friends Laxmi and Rich came to visit during Semana Santa (aka Holy Week, aka Easter) and we went to the lovely little town of Orosi where we got to experience traditional Semana Santa festivities. These include: all the stores and restaurants being closed on Thursday & Friday (except the supermarket run by the Chinese family); 3-5 processions per day; "fireworks" that are all big sound, no actual fire; & crosses on every lawn draped in purple. The processions basically re-enact the major events in Jesus' final days. They deserve a post all their own and will get one, someday. The short version is that 1/2 the town dresses up like Roman soldiers and escort a (statue? mannequin? giant figurine? don't know what to call it) of Jesus surrounded by men dressed as the disciples (with handy name tags- Pedro, Mateo, Simon- seriously name tags like they'd just walked out of a disciples mixer), while the other 1/2 of the town watches. The Romans and Jesus change outfits with each procession. The Romans also play drums and march very, very slowly. Until, that is, the He is Risen! procession. That one, which begins at 4:30AM Sunday morning, is very fast, full of shouting and dancing and includes a band in a truck and a LOT of fireworks. I'll post pictures as soon as Laxmi and Rich send me some.

April 23, 2011- I ride a mountain bike for the first time! On this day I also realize how very, very out of shape I am after 9 months of sitting in hammocks reading. Laxmi and Rich (tri-athlete, century riders) are very patient every time I have to give up on an incline and walk. I exhibit great wisdom in choosing not to have a heart attack.

April 11, 2011- We celebrate Juan Santamaría Day by not having class and not burning any gringos. Someday I'll explain that too.

April 13-20- I work on my thesis and my resumé. The end of days (in Costa Rica) is coming.

April 8, 2011- Peace Ed takes a field trip! We see cows and a house that gets its cooking gas from biodigesting cow manure.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This is what Peace Education looks like

This is us getting ready to have our final group photo taken before ALP students leave. Diana is missing because she's setting the timer on the camera for the REAL photo. Haru, bottom right corner is manifesting our group sadness that our time together is coming to an end soon.
Someone took this picture during class. Our heads are heavy with knowledge. That's why we're propping them up. Not because we are exhausted from 3 weeks of class, plus final project. We're watching a group present a draft version of some of their guidelines and indicators for their project.

Goodbye ALP!

This is Chisato, from Japan, one of the 3 ALP students in Peace Ed. She's flying back to Manilla tomorrow along with Haru (Canada/Japan). Myo (Burma) will join them next week. It's very strange to think of class w/o them. And it reminds us that we've got a lot more goodbyes coming up in just 2 short months. So not ready for that.

3 As hard at work

This was my group for our Cultures and Learning final project. Myo (Burma) and Rosemary (Zambia). During the final week of the course we were meeting for 3 hours/day in addition to our 3 hour class and at least 3 hours of reading & writing. We named ourselves the 3 As because we are from Asia, Africa and (North) America.

Some things that have happened

  • My group finished our giant final project for the class that ended Friday! A day ahead of the official due date, a day behind our self imposed due date. We wanted to have the full 4 day weekend but are settling for 3. Final page count for our complete Cultures and Learning toolkit- 105 pages.
  • We said goodbye to the students from ALP (Asian Leaders Program). They go back to Manilla for some Asia specific classes, then do an internship, then graduate in October. We're going to miss them very much! I will especially miss my roommate Por. The odds of coming home to the delicious smell of Thai food cooking are going to decrease significantly. The good news is she's in Media so she's staying 1 extra week til her current class finishes.
  • I read a lot.
  • The Peace Ed class put together a Brown Bag program for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21st). We did little scenes about discrimination and I played a racist realtor. We sang a South African protest song.
  • There was an earthquake in Japan. There are 7 or 8 (I think) students from Japan as part of ALP and we're all just heartbroken for what is happening in their country. Fortunately, all of their relatives are accounted for and alive, which seems miraculous. Midori, an amazing pianist and vocalist, is from Sendai, one of the coastal cities that basically got washed away by the tsunami. Having seen before and after pictures, I just can't imagine how devastating it must feel to think of your hometown being erased while you were away.
  • Libya is a mess and we talked about it in class.
  • I finished my re-revised thesis proposal! And it got approved!
  • I learned that outside of the US, no one knows who Glen Beck is. And I felt better.
  • I rode a bicycle! Two times! Borrowed from Michele, my landfamily's daughter. Hills. Yeah.
  • Noche Latina-a fantastic party thrown by our classmates from Latin America. So much dancing.
  • Africa Night- a fantastic party thrown by our classmates from Africa. Just so happened to fall on the day that Mubarak stepped down. Our Vice Rector, Amr, is from Egypt and was dressed head to toe in traditional garb, absolutely beaming.
Actually, thrown in a lot more "I read things" and "I wrote things" plus "I slept" and "I ate beans and rice" and that's pretty much everything that has happened.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Inter-what for who? ask the Americans. Before going to work for Zonta Foundation (dedicated to the advancing the status of women everywhere) a few years ago, I had never heard of this day either. But now I come to find out that in other countries, particularly African countries, it's an actual 'things are closed, no school today' holiday!

At UPEACE we are celebrating the day by wearing red (men and women alike), women are wearing red flowers in their hair and there's an amazing display of art by women in the Atrium. Coincidentally, it's also LGBT Week here at UPEACE (the first one ever!) so there was a fascinating Brown Bag Lunch about the 'origins' of homosexuality. It was one of the most well attended Brown Bags I've seen and I was glad to see some students that I know are challenged by homosexuality in the audience. Some of our students come from countries where homosexuality is illegal and where, in some cases, the death penalty has been suggested as a punishment. In the Q&A session afterwards one student spoke at length about his perspective and his belief that homosexuality is something one is 'indoctrinated' into and not part of God's intent. Afterward I saw this student talking with the guest lecturer, who had identified himself as gay and had made a very cogent presentation about misperceptions and misinterpretations of, for example, the Biblical texts most often offered as proof of God's condemnation of homosexuality. The thing that struck me was that the two were laughing as they spoke and shook hands as they parted. Neither one had changed the other's mind but at the very least, they had a conversation and on the surface at least, were engaging with each other as human beings. I wish I were aware of more conversations like that happening in the US.

But back to International Women's Day. After my recent service with UN Women at UPMUNC, I'm more sensitive than usual to both the accomplishments of women around the world and the far distance we still have to travel towards equity and equality. And I mean in the US as well. For one of my recent classes we watched a documentary about how the media participated in the Bush administrations push for war in Iraq after 9/11. Every single one of the reporters that was interviewed was a white man. Every politician they showed- with the exception of Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell- was a white man. Every expert in the field of intelligence, terrorism, etc.- a white man. As far as we have come, its still possible to study a major US event in relation to 2 powerful institutions (government and media) and not even mention more than 2 women (Judith Miller got some coverage but declined to be interviewed). Sigh.

Happy International Women's Day everyone! Be inclusive! Hug a feminist!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

UPMUNC Day 3: Return of Resolution!

Dearest friends and family, it is a measure of my deep affection for all of you that I'm writing this post before I surrender to the oblivion of sleep. Being a delegate is exhausting!

UN Women was a hive of productivity today, passing 3(!) resolutions and issuing an official statement regarding the tragic, real events in Côte d'Ivoire when security forces fired on a large group of protesters, primarily women, killing 6 of them. The picture you see is of us working on our statement during an unmoderated caucus. Once it was finished I was selected by my peers to read it for the media. It was like a mini-press conference. I read the statement in front of our whole group plus a flock of journalists and 2 cameras and then answered questions for a few minutes. As a new UN body, in addition to responding to the string of incidents involving violence against women we felt it was important to put ourselves and our mission forward, making our mark as the sole UN body dedicated to gender issues. Then we got back to our other work.

We passed two resolutions re: mass rapes in Congo, one addressing immediate short term needs and the other addressing long term strategies. And in the final seconds of the day we passed a resolution re: property rights for women. Our first 3 resolutions were also approved by the Security Council but there wasn't time for them to be presented our final resolution. The day ended with a closing ceremony in which we heard from the Ambassador from the Netherlands, we all got participation certificates and I even got an award for Best Delegate of UN Women. I'm honored, of course, though I thought the delegate from Chile deserved it more. She's done a number of previous MUNs and was very well versed in the rules, procedures and language. We definitely couldn't have accomplished as much as we did without her.

Drinks and dancing, the standard way to close out any UPEACE event, finished up the evening. All the bands the UPMUNC Board got to play at our opening and closing receptions were really terrific- a great sampling of music from around the world with India, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean all represented. I wonder if the real UN ends their sessions with dancing. Maybe later I'll draft a resolution recommending it to them.

Photo taken by Joann Arawayan of the delegates from India, Chile, Haiti, Guatemala and France from left to right.