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It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Happy April 20th #2!  How cool is it that I got to celebrate 4-20 twice!  Not that I'm a pot-head.  I'm a POTSie.  There is a big difference there. But I did enjoy the brownies we had for desert because the deans have an amazing sense of humor.  :0P

They really do work with the staff to make these random days special.  Like both April 20ths we were woken up by that song from Groundhog Day.    

I just realized it isn't readily obvious why we repeated a day.  It's because we crossed the international date line with all of these hoarded time changes so we just went ahead and repeated a day.  :0)

It confused my poor computer!  haha  I got several e-mail with the time stamp being "tomorrow."

The weak leading up to this, we had Spirit Weak!  There were lots of fundraisers for SAS (it is amazing how many donations the program needs each quarter to keep the prices reasonable.  It costs over $80,000 a day to operate the ship!  If you do the math with out tuition, you'll see there is a while lot extra that donors have covered.  That is even aside from the personal scholarships.)  We have had a drive going on where we can donate from our shipboard account and donate any extra items we have but don't have room to pack.  :0)  Last night there was a silent and live auction with some seriously cool items.  Like a bubble bath in the dean's office! (He wouldn't be there at the time. haha)  or a homestay in Switzerland!   

As part of Spirit Weak, we also had dress up days.  I believe the schedule was PJ day, Sea color day, What in the world are you wearing day, and SAS gear day.  We also had an awesome crew talent show!  Some of those guys have moves!  Oh my!  I only got pictures of a few of the days due to being distracted.  

PJ Day with Breakfast for Dinner!

So we decided that Morgan is a lumberjack.  Just look at his  lumberjack meal!  haha

We also ordered some cookies.  $24 for 50 cookies!  We split it four ways and it was a beautiful thing!

Josh! Why you always have the most awesome photobombs!?!?!

Misc. Shenanigans 

Crew Talent Show

Crew Appreciation Day

The distractions came in the form of manically getting as much time with friends as possible because we have to leave each other soon, fitting in explorer seminars that are interesting, writing hundreds of pages of papers for class (one of my papers was 72 pages double spaced!), and for me, health issues.  A few days ago, I'm kind of forgetting the exact details, I started with the shakes again.  Whatever, happens all the time right,  I did my zombie walk around the boat that day but still got things done.  Then the next day it happened, and the next day, and the next day.  One shaky time isn't all that bad, just annoying, having it almost constantly for three-four days gets to be really bad because it's completely exhausting.  Imagine having to move constantly for all that time.  No bueno!   I started having a bit of memory problems (didn't remember anything from when I was shaking) and my heart was being all irregular so I decided it was to the health center with me.    

Some pictures of shaky time:
Me trying to take a picture of Andrea during shaky time^  haha

 I finally went to my favorite person, Dr. Bill and he was awesome as usual.  He didn't get bogged down by the fact that he probably couldn't diagnose me (UCLA and Mayo couldn't so....) but he would be happy to treat my symptoms.  Those of you not in the rare illness world may not know how rare this is.  I think for the doctor it feels like working in the dark which has to be scary.  Only the really brave doctors will treat us when we have these crazy strange problems.  
Anyway, he gave me a liter of saline because I was dehydrated on top of everything else and convinced me to take a muscle relaxant.  Normally I wouldn't want to take something that would make me loopy, but I was so completely exhausted that I wasn't able to get anything done anyway.  So I took the med and in thirty minutes or so something beautiful happened.   I stopped shaking.  I almost heard angels singing I think.  I slept the rest of that evening only taking a break to devour a hamburger the kitchen staff was so kind to bring me, chat with my friends who came to visit me once they found out I was at the health center,  and to have an apparently silly conversation with my roommate and her friend once I got wheeled back to my room.  They were ecstatic to point out that I managed to get high on 4-20.  I laughed, but then again, I think I was laughing at everything.  

I watched about five minutes of the action (still bummed I couldn't go to that) and then passed out for the next SIXTEEN HOURS!  I slept for SIXTEEN HOURS!  I woke up expecting that to make me feel better but within two hours I was shaking again.  So another dose of the muscle relaxants and must have slept some more because my friends woke me up for dinner and it had only been 3:00 the last time I remembered.  I was bummed that I had missed another homework day as well as some filming for a video contest I'm participating in.  But that's life.  I slept some more after (possibly during) dinner and then went to bed rather early again.  

Today I woke up after another excellent nights sleep.  Only 12 hours, but that's not too bad.  So far I only feel a little bit shaky, so hopefully it won't develop into anything.  I think I have enough rest now so that even if I do shake I will be able to not take the muscle relaxant and get some work done.  Dr. Bill wants me to go to a doctor in Hawaii if this doesn't clear up, but I'm pretty determined to go to the beach instead.  As long as I can prevent myself from getting exhausted, I don't see why the shaking should hold me back from having fun on the last week of the ship.  


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Globalization and Development Essays (FDP Report from Vietnam)

FDP Reflection #2

Beˆn Tha`nh Market, Vietnam



From the outside, the scope and bustle of the Beˆn Tha`nh Market in Vietnam isn't readily apparent.  From far away, it simply looks like a building much like any other building lining the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.  Moving closer, one can discern that it is some kind of store as is evident by the "iPho" and "I Love Vietnam" t-shirts showing through the large open doors.  Stepping into the market on the other hand is like stepping into another world.  What appeared to be perhaps one t-shirt shop from outside is actually just the start of a huge warehouse containing rows and rows of booths selling anything from fresh squid to bootleg DVD sets.  The commotion is at first deafening as the vendors shout their advertisements over the din of excited tourists' chatter.  Women intent on their task rush through the narrow walkways, weaving in and out of groups of the slower moving shoppers.  One almost would need to grow extra eyes to fully take in their surrounding.  Even in the thick of this cacophony, there are still aspects of this market that would elude most visitors.  Perhaps it is because these threads of complexity are not visible.  They weave in and out of time, speaking of the history and complex social relations that are as much a part of the market experience as finding a good deal or making a good sale.  In Ann Marie Leshkowich's article "Making Class and Gender: Market Socialist Enframing of Traders in Ho Chi Minh City," she explores some of these ideas as they relate to class and gender relations. 

"So pretty!  So pretty!  Here, I have pretty shirt for pretty girl," a young women calls to me as I walk by her booth.  I internally roll my eyes, knowing she would say the same thing if I were a super model or completely hideous.  "Pretty shirt from New York City!" she adds.  I smile politely at the lie and continue down the row.  These techniques of flattery and harmless fibs are an inherent part of a market experience.  Historically, especially under strong socialism, merchants were seen as lower forms of human beings for the use of these techniques to acquire money.  For hundreds of years, the average vision of a petty trader was of a self-serving, deceitful, and uneducated worker. 

In many ways, this view is changing.  The origins of this shift can be attributed to another traditionally marginalized group's association with trading.  Women, who have long been considered inferior members of the population, found themselves in a unique position under socialism.  Instead of being doubly oppressed, women traders had a much easier time than their male counterparts.  In that time, male traders were often punished by the government for anti-communist actions and looked down upon as greedy.  Women traders on the other hand were not seen as a threat to the same extent due to their supposed inherent inferiority.  They were also believed to be undertaking economic endeavors to nurture their family as opposed to acquiring wealth.  These two things allowed women to continue to participate in trade with much less regulation.  This also started a shift from thinking of traders as greedy to thinking of them as successful because they were providing for their families.   

This recipe for change had a chance to stew for a few decades before I found myself visiting a very different Beˆn Tha`nh Market than the one in the past.  If I think back to that women who tried to sell me the "pretty shirt from New York City" I can imagine a bubbly young women who had set her text book aside to focus on the customer when I came near her booth.  In striking contrast to past stereotypes, this young woman was educated, at least bi-lingual, and extremely charismatic.  Perhaps that was why I doubled back after I was a few steps past her booth to purchase an "I love Vietnam" t-shirt.  After the sale was complete, I stayed for a few minutes to talk to her about her studies at the university where she would soon graduate with a degree in business.  The petty trader of today is more revered for her entrepreneurship than despised for deceptive techniques. 

These new positive connotations regarding traders, as well as a steady flow of tourists are what has protected the Beˆn Tha`nh Market from the modernization many similar market economies have experienced.  Many of the women at Beˆn Tha`nh Market would almost shudder at the thought of reorganizing the market.  The restructuring would disrupt both their business and the higher esteem they enjoy in the community.  For them, modernizing would mean a shift from market to department store environments, lower wages, and the need for a new skill set.  Other market women take the idea of modernization in stride, confident that the perseverance that created their present will carry them to a successful tomorrow.    


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Globalization and Development Essays (FDP Report from Ghana)

FDP Reflection



            Heading into the market, it is easy for an outsider to get overwhelmed by the commotion, volume, and huge diversity of goods.  Many tourists likely get caught up in taking in all the sights and getting a good deal.  They may not ponder where the goods came from or the skill that the women who work in the markets possess.  Thanks to this class, I was able to think about some of the interworking of the market.  A similar situation presented itself at the Global Mamas store.  In addition to enjoying the vibrant colors and quality of the goods, I was able to learn about how the business is run, why it was started and how its practices fit into the bigger picture.  Both Global Mamas and the women selling in the market benefit from globalization and careful thought regarding the economic atmosphere. 

            First I will discuss the markets we visited near the Global Mamas shop.  As I was looking around the market a few things surprised me that shouldn't have.  The first was when I found a bracelet I had recently bought at my local Forever 21 store being sold at the market.  I smiled at the strangeness that I had found it half a world away until I remembered the reading about Si Si and how she imported products from New York.  Most, if not all of the women at the market followed similar business models.  I looked closer and recognized much of the products as being from U.S. stores.  Due to the fluctuating value of the ceti and the unfavorable exchange rate, I knew that structural adjustment programs that reduced tariffs and other import barriers were what was making the women selling this bracelet able to make a profit.   The other thing that surprised me was that one of the women I was trying to buy a vuvuzela from didn't appreciate my efforts at bargaining.  I was caught up in the excitement of the market and forgot that purchasing interactions are different here.  Because the women have to account for the Ghanaian and world economies as well as the present and future outlook of those economies, they have to stick to a list price system.  This system allows them to sell their goods at a high enough price without upsetting the customer.  They would let the customer know that the gloomy economy was what was setting the price as opposed to any greed on their part.  Thus, relations between customer and vendor would remain strong. 

            While the commerce going on at the markets showed the benefits of globalization for those of higher socioeconomic standing, my experience at Global Mamas highlighted some different strategies for improving economic prospects for the poor of Ghana.  Global Mamas was started by two Peace Core vets who saw that there were many skilled women in Ghana who didn't have access to large markets.  A woman may have been able to only sell two shirts per week, but had the capacity to produce many more than that.  Global Mamas hires these skilled women, provides them with material for their craft and pays them for the finished product.  The organization then sells the goods in their local store, online, or as part of a brand sold at boutiques in the United States.  Now, the same women mentioned before can sell closer to eighty shirts per week.  The system Global Mamas uses is a unique type of micro-lending program.  Micro-lending has been exalted as a favored strategy to help the world's poorest out of poverty.  It allows skilled workers and entrepreneurs the ability to tap into better opportunities while still preserving their culture.  However, as the reading by Kabeer suggests, micro-lending has its pitfalls.  It often disrupts the roles of members in a household, which could lead to men taking over the money that was lent to the women in the household.  Global Mamas largely avoids this issue by lending supplies as opposed to money.  By providing items like zippers that are difficult to come by in Ghana, this model also allows for more diversity of products.  

            One aspect I liked about Global Mamas was the intimacy of the organization.  We met with one of the founders who knew who made each product she picked up.  To me, this intimacy would lead to a better chance of fair trade principles being upheld as well as quality work being done.  When employers and employees work so closely together, it is easier to have respect for one another.  The fact that the products were all connected with a particular person made the product more meaningful to both the maker and the buyer of the item.  I saw evidence of this in the incredible quality of the items offered.  Back home, it is increasingly difficult to buy a purse that has a zipper that will last for more than a few months, or a shirt that doesn't start unraveling at the seams within a dozen washes.  The items I saw at Global Mamas were beautifully and lovingly made.  To me, this showed the importance of these small-scale economic relations.  The owner proudly talked about expansion, but the idea left me with more reservations.  Though it would be wonderful to be able to employ more women from Global Mama's long waiting list, I worry that the value of the goods would decrease as there are more products of the sort in the market.  I also worry that the growing business will have to abandon some of the practices that make it such a great organization in the present.

            The fundamental thing that I have taken away from the readings, discussions, and experiences in Ghana is that there is good and bad to joining the global market.  Globalization provides new opportunities and markets, but also the drawbacks of having more competition and losing some value during growth.  From what I have witnessed, the good is the driving force and the drawbacks more of a minor hindrance than a devastation to the Ghanaian women working for a better life for themselves and their families.     


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Globalization and Development Essays (Tibet Field Journal)

Globalization and Development

Tibet Field Journal


Though Tibet is no longer its own country, I chose to focus on it for a field journal entry because it has some unique features from the rest of China.  The fact that Tibet is somewhat isolated by mountains and politics has created an interesting atmosphere in which to observe global flows.  Some of the sharing of culture and products I recognized as dating back centuries.  Other flows seemed to be a much more modern development. 

From an early age, Tibet and Buddhism seemed one and the same to me.  When I thought about Buddhist monks, they were always from Tibet.  When I imagined Tibet, it was more a feeling of spirituality than any particular visual.  As I learned more about the world in middle school, I found it surprising that Buddhism actually originated in India.  Since the philosophy's migration to Tibet, the beliefs, art, and practices have morphed to reflect the different populations.  For example depictions of Buddha, the central figure in Buddhism, are different in India, China, and Tibet.   In a way, Tibet is an ancient importer and modern day exporter when it comes to Buddhism.

The spirit of Tibet, as it is seen in the western world, goes beyond the country's ties to Buddhism.  It is a difficult thing to articulate, lying more in connotation.  It is the feeling of peace, of beauty, or old world wisdom that one may get when talking about far away places.     A sense that they, the rural people, do things better and have the right priorities.  In a rapidly developing world, people are inclined to hold onto what they perceive as pockets of undisturbed culture.  In some ways, one of Tibet's main exports is its ability to captivate the imagination.

I found evidence of this fascination with Tibet's spirit long before I journeyed there myself.  The evidence is in the popularity of imported styles and handicrafts from Tibet.  I have seen Tibetan styles in all ranges of clothing stores from offbeat to high fashion.  My friend who loves this style of clothing cites a connection to spirituality and peace as her reason.  I had found it amazing how she saw so much sentiment in an embroidered shirt she bought from TJ Max.  Now, since learning about how inside meanings greatly effect people's perception of products, I understand.  Then there are the handicrafts imported from Tibet such as singing bowls, silver jewelry and prayer flags.  People who have no need for a quartz crystal may suddenly be glad to exchange five dollars for one if it is advertized as coming from Tibet.  I even had someone give me one such crystal in hope of healing me when I was sick.  It is the inside meaning of the crystal coming from a spiritual Tibet that made it worth so much more than a rock from the person's garden.  

Other than handicrafts, Tibet is not a large exporter of goods.  (This may change due to future mining developments).  There is little industry in Tibet with cars, toys, electronics and other items being produced elsewhere.  The exception to this is in the fabric industry.  Lhasa did have a very productive weaving factory and the products that were made there were largely exported to China, India, and other nearby countries.  

Imports in Tibet are another matter.  Developing infrastructure like airports, roads, and railways have opened up Tibet as a larger source of consumers.  They now import many kinds of vegetables, barley, wheat, beans, and rice to supplement what was previously a largely meat based diet.  Those goods are usually from the other side of the mountains in China or India. 

With the continued development of infrastructure that China brought along with its rule, movement of people is also increasing.  The direction is mostly in favor of immigration.  Many people are moving from China to Tibet to pursue economic or political opportunities.  This was a main point of contention that led to the massive 2008 protests in Tibet.  Tibetans saw this influx of Chinese immigrants as oppressive and a dilution of their culture.  The increase in tourism to Tibet was better received for its positive impact on local economies.  My tour guide said that Chinese, Americans, and Germans are especially likely to travel to Tibet. 

In my experience as part of that tourist group, I found myself looking at things from a different frame than I was used to.  In many other places I have visited on this voyage, thinking critically meant trying to discern if what I experienced was a show for tourists, or a true representation of culture (or a combination).  In Tibet, I found myself contemplating my experiences in terms of true representations versus government censorship.  I got so little of a feel for the people of Tibet.  My tour was focused on the temples and scenery.  In other words things that were obviously beautiful, things that I would go home and talk favorably about.    In the brief instances where we had a peek into people's lives, the experience was highly regulated and we were not allowed to ask questions.  For example, we were given a tour of an old woman's house but we were not allowed to talk to her or ask her questions.  Our guides told us that she has a better life now than she used to, but I have no way of knowing if that is true.  This lack of information made my efforts to look at global flows in Tibet more interesting and more challenging.  I hope that in the future, the heavy censorship will be lifted so I can know more about this beautiful country.  


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Globalization and Development Essays (South Africa Field Journal)

Globalization and Development


South Africa

            South Africa seemed to be a nation coming into it's own.  With a dark recent history and a promising economic future, many aspects of South Africa are in transition.  This was most evident to me in the social atmosphere, the movement of people, and the flow of imports and exports.  All these areas highlight a troubled past but with hope and determination for the future. 

            The social climate in South Africa is very fascinating.  With Apartheid having ended in most of the population's lifetime, people are still trying to understand where they stand.  There is a divide in the black and colored community as to whether their country should embrace globalization and "western thinking" or if they should strive for a more isolationist approach that celebrates their traditions.  Already, so much of the culture, even in the townships, is permeated by western influence.  Schools are taught in English, Christianity is a major religion, and there is the connotation that the west means progress.  The white population of Cape Town is also struggling with handed down racism and integration of jobs, education, and cultures.  I was fascinated by this struggle and how open people were about it.  In the U.S. many social problems, especially ones where race is involved, are almost taboo subjects.  The fact that South Africans appear to have such an open dialogue about this mix of ideas and cultures makes me optimistic about their future. 

            South Africa's emergence onto the world stage, in a positive light with the World Cup a few years ago, has led to an export of some aspects of their culture.  Now, when I think of soccer, I think of South Africa.  The anthem for the World Cup, Waka Waka, is a top played song on my iPod and no professional soccer game is complete without a vuvuzela.  I am excited to learn new things from South African culture in the years to come.

            The movement of people contributes to this exchange and melding of culture.  When my tour guide talked of the thousands of immigrants who come to South Africa every week, it was with a mix of frustration and pride.  The pride was because South Africa is looked at as a safe haven, a beacon of hope for people in some of the less stable countries in Africa.  The frustration I noticed in my guide's tone was due to the struggle to provide for South Africans as well as immigrants.  Those who came to South Africa had very strongly cultivated work ethics as well as training in industries like tourism.  Often immigrants are hired over South African residents, which is a large source of tension.            People also come to South Africa to work with some of their most exciting natural resources, animals.  In the wildlife reserves and rehabilitation centers, most of the workers were from the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. 

            There was not much talk of people leaving South Africa.  This came as no surprise to me as it is a beautiful place with a strong and growing economy.  Even in areas of poverty, I saw hope and opportunity.  Much of the talk of emigration from South Africa was historical in nature.  In the 1970's and 80's middle class whites would leave to avoid the mandatory military involvement and mixed race couples would flee to the safety of Swaziland.

              Part of the reason for many of the positive things I witnessed in South Africa was the strong industry in exporting products and providing tourism services.  Africa in general has very rare and important resources in its flora and fauna.  Safaris, refuges, and national parks all brought a steady flow of tourism to the country.  Unfortunately, these resources were sometimes illegally exported in black markets.  I was shocked to find that the trade in birds of prey was second only to trade in drugs worldwide.  Trade in things like rhino horns and elephant tusks are also detrimental practices that occur and contribute little to the South African economy.

            Tourism is only a small part of South Africa's industry.  Professor Zimmer described South Africa as, "the China of Africa" meaning that most products are made here.  Sure enough, I checked the label on some cookies I bought in Ghana, and they were made in South Africa.  Wine is an emerging and important export as well.  Cape Town's Mediterranean climate is perfectly suited to produce wine grapes.  Since the deregulation of the industry, the wine has improved in quality and is enjoyed all over the world.  In fact, about half of all of the wine produced in South Africa is exported. 

            To me, South Africa seems like a nation that has come a long way in recent history but still has a long way to go in addressing it's social problems.   I was captivated by South Africa's natural resources and impressed at conservation and protection efforts.  I fell in love with the community of the township that promoted entrepreneurship in the face of unemployment, support in the face of poverty, and hope in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  I hope that as this country continues to share European and African backgrounds, the integrity of the culture in the townships remains and is not replaced by strictly western ideas and customs.  I hope that the poverty that I saw when I volunteered with Operation Hunger will be reduced by South African's growing economy and that economic opportunities are less dictated by race.  I can connect a lot of the social problems I saw to certain globalization practices, but at the same time, I see opportunities for more positive future in other aspects of globalization.  I cannot wait to come back to South Africa in a few years and see how things have changed.  


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Globalization and Development Essays (Brazil Field Journal)

Globalization and Development

Brazil Field Journal


Manaus and the surrounding areas were fantastic places to explore and view global flows of people, ideas, and products.  During my four days in Brazil, I think it best to organize my experiences as ones where I explored the Amazon, participated in service trips, or visited the city of Manaus.  

I explored the Amazon via three field programs over two days.  The first day I went on a guided hike through the rainforest, ate lunch at a village on the bank of the river, and swam with the pink river dolphins.  Later that day, I went on the caiman spotting field program and saw the Amazon and it's wildlife by night.  I had a great time getting to know the guides as well as experiencing intimate interactions with the wildlife.  (Although I did worry if the interactions were harmful to the animals.)  The second day I went on the Amazon explorer field program where I toured some of the offshoots of the Amazon River as well as visited a few interesting natural sites.  I was worried about how I would handle the ruggedness of the rainforest, especially the bugs and heat, but I was pleasantly surprised that both were not as bad as I anticipated.  The natural vistas surpassed any expectation I could have had.  I was amazed how much green there was in the forest!  I would see a vine growing on a tree and fungus growing on the vine.   I was surprised at the lack of wildlife I saw.  A tour guide would later explain to me that this is because the forest is so dense, the animals are easily hidden from view.  Still, I did see some interesting birds, a few monkeys, and even held a small caiman. 

I also took the opportunity to look at what I saw in terms of globalization.  I expected there to be a lot of edible vegetation from the rainforest, but the meals we had actually were not made up of endemic fruit or vegetables.  Some of the fruit and vegetables were imported from other areas of Brazil or, more rarely, grown on local farms from seeds brought from other areas.  The guides explained that it was very difficult to survive on vegetation in the rainforest and that meat, particularly fish, was the main staple of the diet.  The Amazon River offered hundreds of species of fish that were caught and consumed or sold.  Some of the fish were shipped to other areas, but much of the fisherman's catches were sold at the local fish market.  I thought it was interesting that during the dry season when the fish are concentrated in the lower water levels, fish become an extremely cheap product.  It made me wonder how much of the fish caught on the Amazon made it to the U.S.  Have I eaten Amazon fish and not even known it?  I also noted that people moved to and from the more remote areas of the Amazon.  Many of the guides I talked to grew up in more remote places and moved closer to the city in their adult life.  I also learned that people who live in the city often travel into the rainforest for vacations and to take a break from city life. 

Part of the last half of my stay in Brazil was spent doing service field programs.  On the third day I visited an orphanage for kids with disabilities and went with then to the zoo.  On the fourth day, I visited an orphanage.  These trips were rushed and it was difficult to make quality observations.  I did note that many of the school supplies and toys had themes that were American in origin, particularly characters and actors from Disney.  I was happy that one of the orphanages has their own facebook page so I will be able to keep in touch once I get home.  (I learned from one of the guides that facebook is gaining popularity over another social network site that was primarily for Brazilians and run by Google.)

I spent some time learning about the city as we drove though it on the way to the service visits and as I explored the city with some friends.  I probably learned the most by talking with the guides and asking questions about what I saw out of the bus window.  It was in that way that I learned more about the job market in Manaus.  My guide said that logging used to be the biggest source of employment and that with more government restrictions, most logging companies went out of business.  I asked if this had a negative effect for workers and he said it actually had a positive effect.  The people who worked as loggers moved to the tourism industry as guides and drivers.   The tourism industry actually employed more people at much higher salaries and more of the money stayed in the local economy.   For Brazilians lucky enough to attend private schools and move on to Universities, the main jobs were lawyers or doctors.  I found this interesting since at home, a college degree can lead to a much more diverse range of careers.  

From exploring on my own, I was able to observe a whole separate set of globalization.  My friends and I toured the opera house, visited some small museums, and shopped at the market and grocery store.  The opera house was a very interesting building.  While I was on the tour, I felt like I was back in Paris.  (I went there last summer.)  The architecture and decorations were originally supposed to be French Neoclassical and though some things have changed throughout the years, the French influence was still very strong.  There was some of Italy in the decorations as well.  Many of the paintings and murals that decorated the walls and ceilings were done by Italian artists.  Even in a place that has so much foreign influence, there was still homage to Brazil in the building.  For example the floor of one of the rooms had a two toned wood pattern to represent the meeting of the two rivers that happens in Manaus.   The paintings also primarily depicted Brazilian wildlife or folk tales.   I spent some time chatting with the tour leader after we walked through the opera house and talked to one of the workers at the museums we visited next.  I learned that the middle and upper classes of Brazil are traveling more and more.  Both guides, who were also students, had friends from various parts of the world that they were planning to visit in the near future.  Many of their friends they met through school when the foreign students came to study in Brazil.  

From my own observations, I saw a lot of movement of manufactured goods.  As I already mentioned, school supplies and toys were mostly Disney themed.  Much of the clothing I saw also depicted brands that we have at home or (roughly translated) English phrases.   In the shops, these clothes were imported from the same places as home, but the street vendors were selling counterfeit clothes that may have come from any number of sources.   I don't know much about electronic brands, but I would imagine that the cell phones, speakers, and other electronic devices were imported from various other countries.  One good that was a profitable export was Brazilian gems.  The guide who mentioned this never elaborated on what exactly these gems were, but he told me that there was a very strong market for them, especially in Asian countries.  Manus is a port city so there was lots of clear evidence of goods being shipped to and from the area.  Near where out boat was docked, there were huge storage bins shipping many different kinds of goods.  A professor's husband recognized a few tire companies that he had worked for in the U.S.  

I very much enjoyed my time in Brazil and will continue to reflect on the experience for a long time to come.  


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Globalization and Development Essays (Dominica Field Journal)

Since I don't have a whole lot of exciting ports to write about at the moment, I was going to share some of the essays I've written over the course of this voyage.  The first set is from my globalization and development class.  Despite getting seasick in almost every class (it is in a stuffy room at the front of the ship) I have really enjoyed it!  The content has challenged me to think about things in a different way and we have had some great discussions in that class.  

Field Journal


January 23-24, 2012


            The tour guide described Dominicans as, "simple people with simple lives," however I am learning that there really is no such thing as a "simple life" in today's world.  The products we use have sometimes traveled through several countries before we use them.  Our neighbors or the people we meet in society hail from many different regions.  Though Dominica is more isolated than where I am from, there is still a large amount of flow in people, products, and practices.

            This first became evident to me as my guide was describing the various plants on the island.  After nearly every description, she added that the plant was not endemic to the island.  Many of the plants were brought here when Dominica was seen as Europe's extended plantation.  Some of these same plants, along with some native species are now grown to be sold on the island, exported to nearby islands, or in rare cases exported to more distant countries such as the U.S.  

            Many manufactured products also showed evidence of a global economy.  Near town, advertisements for Coca-Cola or a University in Puerto Rico could be seen beside the road.  Some of these brands I recognized from home, but some were new to me.  By conversing with my guides and other Dominicans, I gathered that there was substantial trade between the nearby islands.  Many soaps, food products, and hand-made crafts were either from other Caribbean islands, or were partially manufactured at facilities in nearby islands.  Likewise, Dominica had it's own specialties, such as processing coconut oil, that it would export to other islands. 

            Though it may appear that there is not substantial movement of people in Dominica, there is a history as well as present evidence of such a thing.  Long ago, the Carib Indians came to the island and more would settle there as the other Caribbean islands became threatened with the harsh effects of imperialism.  People of the island can find and ancestry that came from many different regions in Europe and Africa.  There is also a small subset of people who venture to Dominica as tourists.  Most of these people are brought by cruises and are largely day-trippers.   Still, they bring with them money in exchange for food, souvenirs, and tours.  Just as when any two or more groups of people come together, there is a sharing in culture that goes on as the tourists and Dominica. 



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Service Learning Field Program Report #3

Service Report #3

SOS Children's Center, India


            I focused on the ceiling beams as my world shifted in and out of focus.  I was sprawled on the floor of the SOS Children Center's greeting room trying to collect the scattered edges of my oxygen-deprived mind into a coherent thought.  It finally came: this was not at all how I had pictured my role in this service visit.  We have debated a lot in class whether various experiences were service or not and I was fairly confident that lying on the ground would unanimously be considered outside the realm of service.  I was inclined to think that I had failed.  I thought back to our course readings and chuckled to myself that dealing with a dysautonomia flare up had definitely not been covered.  With more thought on this subject, and further reading once I got back to the ship, I realized that while my exact situation wasn't covered, the readings did give me some strategies and framing to think about my "failure."  Perhaps, the service visit wasn't even a failure at all.

            The first step in reflecting on the SOS Children's Center service visit is putting together the scattered pieces I remember of the day.  I remember the long bus ride when our air conditioning broke and that the ceiling of the building was made of wood and painted a deep maroon.  I remember a girl helping me up the stairs and the little boy who stayed behind as his peers left to give tours to the visitors.  Yes, I think that little boy is what I remember most.  He hung back and watched this strange girl lying on the ground.  He had an armful of water bottles that he had collected instead of the toys the visitors were handing out.  His eccentricity marked him as "different" as my reclined status had marked me.  When I finally sat up, we explored our uniqueness with me crawling after him and helping him take pictures of his water bottles in different arrangements.  We didn't talk and even eye contact was a rare occurrence from him.  I'm sure he could have a diagnosis, as I had mine, but it didn't matter because both of us were having fun doing things our own way.  During that time, the world that may think this or that of us was far away.  We had water bottles to play with.    Here my memory skips around.  I again only can recall fragments:  Jackie leading the kids in a beatboxing performance, a game of tag – boys vs. girls, and a beautiful girl holding up her little sister to wave goodbye as our bus pulled away.  I remember how beautiful the center was and how I wish I felt better so I could explore and ask questions.  I remember somehow feeling happy on the long, unairconditioned bus ride back. 

            Once I had these bits and pieces better organized in my mind, I could start working on what it meant.  Early on in this reflection process, I came to realize that the trip had not been a failure at all.  Just because I had trouble fully interacting, that did not mean that the whole thing, or even my part in the experience, wasn't worthwhile.   Our goal as a group had been to make a donation to the center, learn about the alternative set-up of the orphanage, and play with the kids.  As a group I believe we achieved this.  The service project was not how I had envisioned it, but it was a success all the same.  This shift in thought reflects a strategy that our text calls "redefining success." 

            Days and even weeks after the service trip, this shift in how I framed the experience has led me to have a better and better view of what I had personally achieved.  Perhaps playing with that boy, having the opportunity to connect because of, not in spite of, our uniqueness was more meaningful than if I had toured the facility and played with dozens of the other kids.   I felt like we both were thinking, "yes, you are different, but so am I."  It was a confirmation that we were not alone despite our peers having left us to go be "normal."  Maybe someday when our friends wander off again, we will remember how we played, an adult girl crawling on the ground and a young boy passionate about water bottles.  I know in my case, when I think of this I will remember that the things that make me different also give me unique opportunities.  If I feel like I am missing out or failing, perhaps that means I am not looking hard enough in the right direction.  




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Posted by Emily Block | 0 comments

Service Learning Field Program Report #2

Service Report #2

Operation Hunger, South Africa

            Gazing out the bus window as I passed lush vineyards and sprawling suburbs, it was hard to believe that hunger or malnutrition were a big problem in Cape Town.  Even in my reflection of my visit to a township a few days prior I couldn't remember any obvious signs of hunger.  On that bus trip to my service visit, I didn't yet know that I had a big day ahead of me where I would learn more about the community and myself as well as come to understand that hunger isn't something that is necessarily advertised or recognizable.  Now I know that hunger is easy to overlook and a complex issue to address.  Reflecting on my experience volunteering with Operation Hunger, I am glad that I started my education in the issue of hunger in South Africa and that I helped implement sustainable solutions in the community I visited.

            After the bus ride through the countryside and suburbs, we arrived at the township where we would volunteer with Operation Hunger.  The regional manager of the Western Cape met with us in a high school auditorium to explain about the organization and what we would be doing that day.   I was excited to hear that much of the organizations framework had sustainability built in.  In the past, Operation Hunger had simply handed out food, but now, they focused on staring community gardens, monitoring health, and income generation.  That day we had a choice of cooking in the community soup kitchen, starting a community garden, or assisting the Semester at Sea media team document the experience.  I chose to work in the gardens because I felt that I would be most useful there.  I have a lot of past gardening experience and I already knew that I could do it from a wheelchair.  After lunch, the Semester at Sea and Operation Hunger team came back together to carry out a bi-annual data collection of key health markers in the childhood population.  Again we had a choice of what our jobs would be and I chose to work at the station where the kids would be weighted.  My friend Josh or I would help the child onto the scale, he would read out the weight, and I would write that value on the child's lower arm.  With all of us working at our stations, we were finished far quicker than I would have believed possible.  I had some extra time to watch the kids receive a special meal from the soup kitchen and play with some of the younger ones.   

            During the monotonous, yet satisfying gardening work, I had time to begin my reflection of how this experience would fit into my larger experience in the International Service Learning class.  The reading that stood out most as pertaining to the Operation Hunger service visit was the section on levels of leadership and the seven Cs.  This model divided experiences into the individual level, the group level, and the community level.  I felt that components of all of these contributed to making this service visit a rewarding and useful trip. 

            In the category where I was looking at myself, the individual, the sub-category "consciousness of self" stood out to me as being particularly relevant.  Consciousness of self means to be aware of my frame of mind and my motivations.  It is something this class has challenged me to think about in depth.  Previously I would answer the question, "why do you participate in service?" with a simple, "because I like to."  Now I see how plain and uninteresting that response is.  Probing deeper into my motivations, I start to be able to better articulate the "why" of what I do.  In the context of this trip, I find service visits to be highly education and an opportunity for cultural immersion I may not otherwise be offered.  I sometimes have trouble initiating conversations with people and a service visit would do that difficult task for me.  I also gain a strong sense of satisfaction when I work on a service project.  For example, it was very satisfying to see a ratty patch of earth turn into the beginnings of a community garden during the morning of the Operation Hunger.  I think it may be part of my culture that I enjoy working on and completing projects.  What I see as my primary motivation for participating in service was beautifully illustrated in the community I was working with as ubuntu; "I am who I am because of who we all are."  I want to be a part of setting the tone for a global community where we all give and need help.

            I was also a member of a group made up of Semester at Sea and Operation Hunger affiliates.  In this group level of leadership, collaboration and having a common purpose were very important.  The Semester at Sea field office and Operation Hunger had years of collaborating to best suit each organizations needs.  On the day of the service trip, we collaborated within our group on how to best go about doing our tasks whether it was how to turn soil or how to organize dozens of energetic kids.  We all were brought together and encouraged by the common pursuit of addressing the problem of malnutrition in this community. 

            The final category of community always seems to be the most difficult area of service.  This is the area where everything comes together, where I, as an individual am working in a cohesive group and together we join with the community that we serve.  This highlights the idea of citizenship, particularly world citizenship in this case.  As we sowed seeds with a new parent or mingled with the kids after their meal, the definition of "we" included all of us.  We were all confronted with the issue of malnutrition and we all wanted it addressed.   


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