Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Studies in International Development’

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Sara: My last post!

January 6, 2012

So this is my last blog post! I leave from Cochabamba  tonight and I will be spending my night in the La Paz airport. Then I leave from La Paz at 7a the next morning and arrive in Minnesota late at night; it’s going to be a long day but I am definitely excited to see everyone.

Being abroad has taught me so many things! There were good times and bad times, but overall, this experience has made me such a better person. I was able to reflect on all the things most important to me and was out of my comfort zone a lot of the time, but that was the only way I learned so much about myself.

I just want to thank everyone for following my blog, checking up on me and making sure I don’t get lost in the jungles of South America. I also want to thank all my family and friends for being there for me through this entire journey.

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Lindsay: Less than 2 weeks and counting

January 4, 2012
A little less than two weeks left til I leave and counting.  I am getting sorta nervous, anxious, excited.  I don’t know if I will ever be prepared enough for something like this, but I think that is what makes it so interesting and thrilling.  I have some idea of what to expect, but who really knows exactly.  They say poverty is something you must overcome while you are there, you must not let it effect you, otherwise it may ruin your whole trip.  
Okay Lindsay-suck it up cupcake, you can do this.  Poverty will be hard at first to see and hard not to want to do something about it.  For example, hand them food or money,  but I must not do that either, for I may get followers and other people wanting food as well.  I was warned to not give things away to people, especially as an American because they know we have money.

Today, I was just assigned my housing and address for the first 6 weeks of my stay in India, and I will have a roommate from the U of M join me in the same house.  Now I only hope the house, well apartment actually, does not have a servant.  I was told many of the upper castes have servants.  Some are even children looking to help make money for their families.  These children often do not get an education.  The family may chose to pay them back by providing them with an education.  This this is very rare and usually happens when the servant is treated like a family member.  Some servants may be treated like family members and may even sleep on an actual bed.  However, they could potentially be treated like dirt and are forced to sleep on the hard ground, and that would be considered socially acceptable.  It would be incredibly rude of me to even make any gesture of sympathy for them.

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Lindsay: Why do I want to go to India?

January 2, 2012

When I was a freshman here at the University of Minnesota in 2009, I had no idea what I wanted to major in.  I enrolled in the Swahili language because I knew Spanish was full and I have always liked studying languages but I didn’t realize the University offered so many. I took Swahili for a single semester and realized that I enjoyed learning about other cultures, but Africa wasn’t the region I wanted to study. Immediately I thought about becoming a Global Studies Major with an emphasis in South Asia.  I had always been entranced by the culture and society of India, as well as the Hindi scripture.  Therefore, beginning my sophomore year, I began taking Hindi classes and have completed one full year of Hindi so far and am enrolled for the upcoming semester.

Currently, I am majoring in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and am minoring in Family Violence Prevention, and I have extreme interest in domestic abuse and international violence.  I would really love to intern in India and work closely with advocates and other townspeople on the issues of violence at hand in their region of India.  I have taken courses such as Gender Violence in Global Perspectives, Intimate Partner Violence, as well as an Indian Feminisms course which has taught me how to deal, analyze, and respond to different issues relating to violence and discrimination.  I was first interested in these issues when I was a freshman and I enrolled in a Freshman Seminar where we were able to choose our own topic of interest and create a research project about it.  A group of two other girls and me decided to research Sex Trafficking.  We realized it was a harsh and not widely known topic, but it think that was what intrigued us the most.  Researching this topic really sparked my interest in violence occurring in other countries across the globe, not just in the United States.  Since then, I have always been interested in getting into the Criminal Justice field or Law Enforcement. I would love to gain hands-on experience, especially in the Criminal Justice side of things when it comes to these issues, and especially on how India, in particular, responds to violence.

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Hilary: 6 months has come to an end

December 30, 2011

So I am back in the United States after a twelve hour plane journey from Quito to Chicago I was picked up from the airport by the lovely Kendal Ann (Cupcake) and my mom.  I found my self stuttering with English and thanking the people that got me through customs in Spanish.  It is always great to come home, but weird at the same time.  I had a really wonderful experience abroad.  I am most proud of my language improvement and my academic work,  this study abroad program has advantages and disadvantages but i know that my monograph with serve me very well for future research proposals and grants.  I will miss saying ‘buen provecho’ and ‘que te vaya bien!’  I will be practicing my Spanish every chance that I get and I will hopefully stay in contact with the wonderful friends that I made.

Reflecting on my experiences I am bringing back a better sense of what sharing is, the knowledge that money really doesn’t matter (this one is hard to find in the states and in my perspective needs a lot of reflection), and i recognize that time moves quickly wherever you are so go with your gut and enjoy yourself.

I am still standing on both feet trying to find my balance in life; balancing the spiritual with the physical and mental, the spiced with the bland, peace with chaos, and work with play.

I missed all of my friends and family dearly, I can’t wait to truly reconnect and put my changing link back into my growing circle.

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Sara: Christmas in Bolivia

December 28, 2011

I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year! I spent my Christmas in Santa Cruz with my host family and extended host family. Here they open presents and do Christmas at midnight, 12a on the 25th. It was pretty cool to be part of another culture’s Christmas, but I definitely missed home a ton! 

I am finally back in Cochabamba now though finishing my last 2 weeks abroad. The trip back here was awful, 11 hour bus ride in the sweltering heat, although I can’t believe how fast this has all gone by!

I am super happy to be back in Cochabamba though, I really love my volunteer position here, I am working with the elderly and mostly I just hang out and hold their hands while they talk to me. Today I learned that Bolivianos (the currency) are used ALL OVER the world, including on the moon!  I hear some of the wildest things, usually we talk about where I am from and how long my hair is and that I should never cut it (at the center they specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia) so we talk about the same thing every day. I love the old people though and the staff are great too!

I also am having a great time teaching English to the 13-year-old girl here named Sophie.  I am also thinking about visiting an orphanage here for a day too where I would just hang out and play games, helping the staff there.  I still have to talk to my supervisor here and get that set up for next week sometime.

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Doug: 142…

December 22, 2011

Days in Kenya. I have not been in the United States since July—even just writing that sentence is strange. Tonight at midnight I will board a plane back to my country after living for 142 days in a country so different from my own, with people who don’t look like me or talk like me. After 142 days of being in the minority, of being the mzungu, of walking through parts of Nairobi and Mombasa and feeling like ALL eyes are on me, just waiting for someone to yell at me, or come shake my hand, or start a conversation solely because I’m white, I am about to return to suburban Ohio, with its two story brick houses, with unnecessary Living Rooms and Dining Rooms, where the electricity only goes out during a storm, and clean running water is always available at the turn of a tap.

I am returning to a place where I grew up a different person—where Africa, in my mind, was a country, not a vast continent of 47 different countries and thousands of different ethnicities and languages; where my biggest worry growing up was what to do on a Friday night.

Perhaps these are many of the same thoughts that have crossed the minds of countless other Western-raised students, after having lived for the first time in a developing country; after having to grapple with the fact that I’ve never known what it’s like to live in a tin roofed “house” the size of my own bedroom in America, where water leaks through the ceiling when it rains, as is the case for families in Kibera.  Or that I’ve never been abandoned by my parents on the streets, only to be found by the police and brought to an home for street girls, as is the case for some of my students I taught at Wema.  Or had to move away from a rural home, away from family, and work 12 hours per night every night for minimal pay, guarding a rich family’s home, in order to pay for school fees—like my friend Josphat who was the guard at my Nairobi homestay.

Looking back it is difficult to process the past 142 days. I have found myself wondering recently Well, self, how was Kenya? Words like good, and awesome don’t seem to scratch the surface. While eye-opening perhaps, is a little closer, it does not come close to conveying what I’ve learned and who I’ve met. Over the past 142 days, I have met some of the most resilient people of my life; Kenyans who are busting their butts to get themselves or their kids an education; who are living in a country where the government can’t be trusted to provide social services; who are so alive and passionate in their faith in Christ, despite difficult circumstances, that they are an inspiration to others.

It is the faces of these people, and the memories of their places, their places which, for a time, were my places, which flash in my mind when I think of Kenya.

And, so, who am I now? The Doug who stepped off that plane at Nairobi International Airport 142 days ago certainly has changed; he has grown greatly in his faith; he is a little less naïve, and a little more aware of his potential role in this world; a little more aware of the culture he grew up with; and a lot more comfortable in speaking in Swahili.

And, yet, fear not, in many ways I am still the same person. Kenya may have changed me in perspective, but it only reaffirmed my notion that sometimes the best way to handle ridiculous situations is just to laugh it off.

Kenya, it has been real, and I know, Mungu akipenda, siku moja, tutaonana tena.

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Doug: Goodbye study abroad… hello Zanzibar

December 20, 2011

Mambo vipi wote!

So once again I slacked big time in updating my blog over the past month. But here’s to giving you a snap shot of the last month:

My time living on the Kenyan coast wrapped up really well. My internship at the Wema Centre slowed down in the final week—since my students went home for holiday break. Saturday, November 26 was a highlight because this was the day that dozens of students, parents and teachers gathered for Wema’s graduation ceremony on the front lawn. My Kindergarten 3 (KG3) class was graduating, as well as a number of older students on the vocational training classes. Now imagine your typical boring graduation ceremony—and now think of the complete opposite, and that was Wema’s graduation. Instead of boring speeches, there were student performances, an acrobat performance, dance groups and skits. It was quite the event.

American ‘cooked’ dinner for my host fam

My time with my host family on the coast also came to a nice close. Some of the great highlights were cooking an ‘American’ meal for my family with my friend Amber (which consisted of chicken parm out of a box, apples with peanut butter, Caesar salad, and ice cream with candy—as American as you can get since the grocery store didn’t have mac n cheese), and then also taking my host mom and my two sisters out to eat at a restaurant in Mombasa. I really clicked with this family and it was pretty hard to say good-bye; but, nevertheless, on Sunday morning December 4, I hopped on the back of a pikipiki (motorbike) with my two bags, and set off for the bus station. From there it was another 8 hour bus ride back to Nairobi.

The following few days were kinda a blur. All 26 students from my program came back from their respective internships at NGO’s, hospitals, and schools in towns and cities all over Kenya. During this time we stayed at a guesthouse outside Nairobi. It was the same exact one that I had stayed in upon my initial arrival in Kenya; but this time it was like culture shock: running water? Toilets and showers? Consistent electricity? And WIFI?? It was a strange feeling to feel too comfortable after my 6 weeks on the brutally hot coast. We had our final exams (no one really studied for these too much) and had final wrap up discussions.

But the most unforgettable one was when all of us were required to present in groups on our respective internships at development NGO’s, and particularly what was shocking and surprising. What started as initially a slightly boring forum, turned very emotional quite quickly as the brutal realities and injustices we had experienced became clear: a street boy who returned to the streets only to fall back into glue-sniffing addiction, under-stocked and under-staffed hospitals which couldn’t properly do surgeries because they didn’t have rubber gloves, a teenager at a school reading at a kindergarten level, women treated like crap and abused by men, or forced to go into prostitution to feed their kids—the list goes on and on. But as we moved past the tears and the gravity of the situation, it suddenly became clear that each of us had changed since we first came to Kenya. Our eyes had been opened, even in the slightest way, to some of the cruelest effects that poverty has on the lives of individuals—individuals not unlike you and me—who are simply trying to live their lives. People talked about fears over transitioning back to the US and how to even begin to explain these experiences to friends and family back at home.

6 days after our program ended I boarded a 14 hour bus ride for one final trip in East Africa with some friends before going home. The trip was supposed to be just Sunday through Friday, with one night in Dar es Salaam and several on the island of Zanzibar just off the Tanzanian coast. Our bus, complete with cardboard pasted over the missing back windows, barreled down the highway bound for Dar at disconcerting speeds, the engine sounding like it was about to burst at any moment. But, alas, we made it safely to Dar. I even was able to find a street called Ohio Street in downtown Dar! Dar is so unbelievably different than Nairobi—so much less overpopulation, pollution and traffic; not to mention it’s directly on the Indian Ocean.

We took a ferry (after bargaining for the real ticket price of course)  over to the main port of Stone Town on Zanzibar. We spent our first 24 hours on Zanzibar exploring the city’s back alley ways and mosque architecture, night time water-front market, and embarking upon an incredibly touristy spice tour of Zanzibar (no shame—they actually took us through the woods and cut down cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices from trees, it was kinda awesome).

Beach at Jambiani–East Coast of Zanzibar

We then spent 2 nights on the east coast at a $15/night hostel called Teddy’s—one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. And then it was up to the north coast for a night.

Sunset at Kendwa–on the North coast

All in all the trip to Zanzibar was absolutely amazing. From the crystal white beaches to swimming in bright blue oceans, combined with its old history and culture, this island was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been—and I’ve got a pretty bad sunburn on my back to show for it.

Awesome nighttime market in Stone Town

My time here in Kenya is finally coming to a close, and I shall soon do one final Kenya post. Over and out my friends.

Zanzibar livin’

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