Lately, I’ve been thinking about toxins in our lives. I took a class on the impact of what we consume/products we use. That includes how the products we use absorb into our skin and impact our mood/digestion/carcinogen levels/etc. One thing I really began to think about was how much exposure people in other countries who were likely producing these products are influenced by the proximity and time spent around all of these chemicals. I think that the way most of the Western world has developed to focus so much on getting cheap, in-style products is slowly killing us. The people who make these products are exposed to chemicals that do terrible things to our bodies, and our use of these products does terrible things as well. I think if I can do one thing right in my lifetime, it would be to raise my future family to make their own products out of all natural materials, and to understand that just because everyone does something doesn’t mean it is the best thing to do.
For my first post I wanted to talk about my friend that I met while studying abroad. Andy is from England and we met in Ecuador while he was there for a year as a part of his Spanish degree. We become the best of friends and then when I left we didn’t talk at all. We have recently come in contact again and it has been very refreshing. I’ve found that I liked who I was better when I was abroad, I liked my life more, my multilingual personality, my opportunities, my future. All of it. And I lost all of that, I forgot what that kind of excitement and hope felt like. But now, Andy and I have been talking again, and rehashing everything that happened, and I’ve begun to feel the ‘better’ Hannah tugging at my sleeves asking when it’s her turn. I don’t have an answer for her but I’m getting antsy. It’s true that almost everyone that has gone abroad that I’ve met says that the best part is the people. Andy was my best part, my host family was the best part, all of my friends were the best part. And I miss them and I miss myself. But I’m realizing that doesn’t have to be forever.
This semester my global engagement group was OU Cousins. My OU Cousins name is Elif and she is SO AWESOME. She is from Turkey and when I went to the match party at the beginning of the semester she and I totally connected. We are both studying Psychology and both want to be counselors so that was a point through which we could really connect. I think one of the most fascinating things I talked about with Elif was her choice to be Muslim. Her family is all cultural Muslim, but she made the choice in high school that she wanted her religion to go deeper than just cultural practice. She is the only female in her family to wear a hijab, and Allah to her is much more real than to any of her family members. We could both relate on this because of my faith in the Christian Creator. We talked about how we both believed that God/Allah are the same person and that all of the religious conflict in the world is not actually the will of Creator. I found in her a true friend and I truly hope that one day I may visit her home in Turkey and get to know her even better.
My global engagement event for the semester was Vietnamese Associations Pho Night! I went with some friends of mine and we made a valiant attempt at consuming our collective weight in Pho (although we were notably unsuccessful). One thing that I have come to truly appreciate about OU and Norman, is how they have truly adopted an appreciation of multicultural food. In my home town, we have very few restaurants of non-american food, especially Asian food. I believe that’s because Sioux Falls is smack dab in the middle of the country, it takes a long time for non-American things to make their way in from the outside and become normal. I truly hope that wherever I end up in the future fully invests in multiculturalism. Things like Pho Night and VSA and other organizations and events of the same sort are the things about OU that I will miss the most.
This year for Global Engagement Day, I went to the panel on identity and visibility while abroad. There was a panel of students who had all studied abroad and who are all minorities whether that be in race, gender, sexuality, or disability. It was honestly an extremely fascinating panel. As a woman who suffers from a mental illness disability, studying abroad had been a really hard time for me. I was subject to a ton of gender based harassment and discrimination, and I was also totally out of my element in regards to managing my mental illness. The most interesting part of the panel was a queer person from Iceland. She talked about how in her study abroad times, telling people the correct pronouns for herself. Even in writing this blog post I am having a hard time knowing what to use. She explained that she doesn’t necessarily identify as female, but that in her Icelandic language, she hates the new gender neutral pronoun that is being introduced and so she uses a female pronoun. I think that the use of gender in language is something that is hard to understand until you begin to learn a new language. It’s almost impossible to be fully aware of how your own native language is gendered, but when you start learning a new language you begin to see how things change when the gender of them change. I don’t study linguistics so I won’t ever truly understand this, but the talk at Global Engagement Day really got me thinking about it.
For my last event of the semester I went to Persian Poetry Night. Frankly, I had no idea what to expect and as someone who has never heard the Persian language before, I really hoped the poetry wasn’t just in Persian. I showed up and grabbed some amazing Persian food and tea and was quickly overwhelmed by what seemed to be the entire Middle Eastern studies department crowding into the lounge in Farzaneh. The poetry was presented by students of Persian language classes. They read the poem in Persian and then read the English translation. This was honestly my favorite international event I have been to at OU. As a language lover, hearing the feeling behind the words in Persian and then a different feeling in English demonstrated what I love about language. That the same words have different feelings in different languages. It reminded me of the translation work that I did in Ecuador and how it seemed no matter how ‘accurately’ I tried to translate, some level of meaning was always lost. I was so inspired by this poetry night that I asked my mom for a book by Rumi for Christmas. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
I’ve been learning a whole lot about energy this semester. I’m in three different classes that focus on the role of energy consumption and the changing environment. One thing that I have learned is that humanity 100% knows how to use renewable resources, but it is too expensive to convert our lifestyle NOW to a lifestyle that could use renewable resources for everything. For instance, Norway gets 95% of their electricity from hydropower electricity, which is completely clean and super cheap. BUT they are still one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and natural gas because that is what they have built their economy on. They could expand their renewable energy sector to encompass more hydropower and wind power, but it would cost too much money to stop exporting oil and to start exporting electricity. That is so sad to me. Everything in the world depends on money and that is why society persists in the damaging way that is has been for so long. I have been watching a lot of youtube videos about minimalism and living sustainably and I really want to develop a more sustainable lifestyle, but I can’t afford the kinds of food that requires on a college budget. I feel just like everybody else who takes the cheaper way out even though it is the worse kind of life to live.
So, lately I’ve been thinking about the PeaceCorps. I know that everyone in my life is telling me how smart I am and how accomplished I am and that I must go to grad school in order to start my career! But I don’t even know what I want my career to be? I feel like staying in the United States for grad school will lead to the inevitable settling down and getting married and having kids and living a mostly boring life. I don’t want that. I know that is not how things have to go, but for some reason, the PeaceCorps has been on my mind as a way to escape that life I fear. We read a book about a women who was in the peace corps in Malawi and worked with a midwife. The discomfort that she felt and that she wrote about on every page made me melancholic for my study abroad times. I miss not knowing what is happening or where I am or how to ask where the bathroom is. Those were the times that I couldn’t just sit back and let the world happen to me, I had to choose to play a role in it! Maybe the PeaceCorps isn’t exactly what I need, but I need some future that pushes me out of my comfort zone, and puts me in touch with people who are not like myself. I suppose I am just afraid of stagnancy. Maybe I will look into the PeaceCorps if Fulbright doesn’t work out.
Since I was unable to do Latin Dance Club this semester, I settled for the next best international organization and that was OU Cousins! My cousin’s name was Amaia and she was from Spain. I was very grateful to have someone from Spain because I know that there is often too many american students who want a cousin and are unable to match with someone that fits their profile. Amaia and I were able to speak Spanish together (yay!!) and even though she had a Spanish accent and I had a latina one, it was still a lot of fun to have a Spanish speaking friend again. One of the coolest things about Amaia is that she plays rugby! I was forever in awe of her powerful and strong woman abilities. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay the whole year and so even though it feels like she just got here, she has to go back to Spain. If I am ever in that part of the world, I will have to say hi!
I went to the International Bazaar held on the south oval earlier this semester! They had the typical international student organizations out (ISA, ASA, VSA, etc.). I wish that more students who aren’t from those countries/continents would get involved with the organizations. I think there is this fear that you can’t participate or learn about something that isn’t a part of your life, and that is so not true! The best way for international learning is to share in one another’s cultures! I attempted to do the chopstick challenge where you have to pick up 15 little beans in 30 seconds and move them to a different dish and I totally failed. I think I moved about 8, which was apparently impressive for a white girl. I guess that just means it’s time to eat more asian food, I can’t complain about that. Anyways, I think there would be a bigger turn out for events like the International Bazaar if more cross-cultural learning took place OUTSIDE of the international studies department.