Category Archives: Global

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Links Dump! Because today is interesting

Being Bored Makes You Brilliant!  This article is about the time people spend on smartphones and how rarely people are bored.  And yet, it is in boredom that  brilliance happens!  An iOS app (Moment) is mentioned and a challenge (less phone time) is issued.  Oh yes and a video (of people in NYC on phones) is shown.  As a new smartphone owner, I prided myself in not being connected.  But lately I’ve gotten the hang of Instagram and…

An Algorithm Teaches Math!  Okay, basically, it’s 100 kids in a gym-like classroom with partitions and 15 teachers and assistants and a computer.  I like this article because the grain of salt is in it.  It’s another approach at Blended Learning, and I can see this style definitely being issued because honestly, at a certain point “disruptive innovation” is not about getting the most quality but getting a “good enough” for the most amount of consumers.  Sadly, in this case, consumers are our students (aka, our future) and “good enough” is not good enough!  Anyway, off my platform.  This article is INTERESTING in its descriptions, caution, and qualifiers!  And again, creativity and critical thinking gets the boot.  sigh.   (ps: spoiler alert: blended learning is not cheaper)

East Palo Alto v. Silicon Valley – This article will take multiple sits as it’s super long.  Yet it’s very nuanced and covers the history of the more implicit racism at play from the 50’s and onward.  Having lived here for 5 years, I recognized a lot of buildings and areas and ideas that I took for granted.  We studied A Raisin in the Sun in high school.  I wonder why although we touted diversity, we were never pointed to the glaring pink elephant right over the bridge.

Speaking of the 50s…

Photos of Korea in 1952 – Korea.  Because the war was still going on.  These are photos from Captain John Randolph Coupland III from the US Army.  It reminds me that in order for any country to be “fully developed”, they need to go through the awkward “developing” stage.  It causes me to admire the Korean spirit in how they are always so determined and so FAST at trying to accomplish.  It also causes me to mourn because it’s so broken with totalitarian brainwashing in the north and mindless consumerism in the south.

lakay se lakay = there’s no place like home

During that space between January term and the beginning of the Spring term, I had the opportunity to go to Haiti with a few amazing people from Harvard.  Hold up.  I didn’t actually “have the opportunity”; we took the initiative to go.  Because there were travel sanctions on Haiti, Harvard couldn’t officially sponsor the trip through our HGSE for Haiti club.  However, we decided to go anyway.  We made up a separate name (Haitian Teachers’ Collective) and opened up the trip to more people.  In the end, we had a student and a preceptor from the College along with a Boston Haitian community leader join us!

I remember at first feeling nervous, because this was my first time organizing and going on a trip that wasn’t under the umbrella of another organization.  But it happened!  And I’m good!  Why am I updating you all after almost 2 months have passed?  Well, we just launched a small informative site, and you can also read a more detailed (but haphazard) reflection there.

My language exchange partners and I (M'apran Kreyole!)

My teaching partner and I in a tap-tap!

Some of the teachers in a large group discussion

Capital building (2 years post-earthquake)

More pictures and information on our website!  Check it out.

Is it Burma or Myanmar?

Last month, I tweeted the following message:

Bamboo People was pretty amazing.  I appreciate it when we have books for students that encourages them to relate to others. It frustrates me that many adolescent books now try to “relate” to students and their current circumstances  by adopting current diction, circumstances, fashion, trends, etc.  It seems overly direct, uninspiring, and “dumbed down.”  I feel that there are so many universal themes that transcend culture and time, and teens can understand that if they are given the chance to wrestle/dig into a text that may initially feel unfamiliar!

Mitali Perkins does a GREAT job with providing this “rising to the occasion” opportunity for her readers through her books.  They each draw out universal concepts through characters set in seemingly different cultures, situations, and/or countries.  Love it.  <aside>Love her!  She came to speak at a class, and she was so bubbly and engaging… I can totally see how she can appeal to middle school BOYS even. a Very difficult audience. </aside>

Anyway, the MOST important thing Bamboo People accomplished for me was including a final blurb on Burma in the end.  Until I read this book, I knew very little about Burma/Myanmar.  In fact,  I called this country Myanmar.  After all, the name was officially changed; “Myanmar” is “current”.  Even though I never knew WHY the name was changed, I just went along with it.  I’m sad to say that when all the media concerning Aung San Suu Kyi exploded, I didn’t look into ONE headline.  I didn’t even know how to pronounce her name.  From 2009-2010, I worked at a school that raised money for a Burmese orphanage, but I did little to research that country.  (Confession: sometimes, I appease my conscience by just sending money, rather than trying to understand the fundamental issues and focus behind the funds.  It’s lazy, feel-good charity.)

Basically all these examples are to make it very clear that I knew NOTHING.  But now that I do know SOMETHING, I want to share it with you.

  • Burma used to be a thriving land; literacy, languages, diversity, resources — you name it!
  • Today 90% of the people live at or below the poverty level
  • Burma became an independent parliamentary democracy a little over 60 years ago.
  • In 1962 (14 years later), the military led a coup and took over the country and brutally crushed resistance and demonstrations led by students and workers.
  • The government killed many opposition leaders and put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in 1989.
  • Despite natural disasters, the military government refused international aid at first.
  • There is a HUGE gap between the rich elite and the poor.
  • In 1989, the military government changed the country’s name from “the Union of Burma” to “the Union of Myanmar.”
  • The USA, UK, and Canada are among the nations that refuse to recognize the new name, even though the UN switched to Myanmar.
  • Many newspapers and magazines are split (or confused).
  • Most Burmese people use “Burma”.
You know, it’s not as if there isn’t information on Burma in the media.  There is.  It might be that we are inundated with so many other issues going on, so we ignore things that don’t really hit close to home.  That’s understandable, and all I want to do is let you know that this IS going on in the world.  A few weeks ago, I read this small newsflash on possible change in Burma (September 22, 2011).  I figured that a small voice is better than none.

Other Recent Articles:

Basically, the Burmese government appears to be reaching out, but much of the West and Aung San Suu Kyi are skeptical and cautious buuuut willing to see where these talks are leading.

FYI: Somalia

I read this article  on Thursday, “Famine Ravages Somalia in a World Less Likely to Intervene.”  Doesn’t the title itself make you want to read it?

The opening paragraph is equally mesmerizing and alarming:

“Is the world about to watch 750,000 Somalis starve to death? The United Nations’ warnings could not be clearer. A drought-induced famine is steadily creeping across Somalia and tens of thousands of people have already died. The Islamist militant group the Shabab is blocking most aid agencies from accessing the areas it controls, and in the next few months three-quarters of a million people could run out of food, United Nations officials say.”

You can read the rest here.  This isn’t the first article, there’s some other ones covered by the NY Times, here and here.  Or you can check out other coverage as well.  (BBC, ABC has pictures).

After you’re done, you can come back and educate yourself on some quick bits about Somalia.

First of all, thanks to Google Maps, we can see that Somalia is right here.

Tidbits about Somalia*:

  • About 45% of its population is under the age of 15.
  • The median age is 18.
  • Central government collapsed in 1991
  • Presently under Shabab Islamist rule who are depriving its people basically everything.
  • Drought and record-low crop production has led to sky-rocketing food prices while simultaneously lowering household purchasing power.

Currently, nothing in the news or factbooks or the like are really saying anything about Somalia.  Is it because we already have “too much” on our hands?  Does the world’s “limited interest in a major intervention” mean we’ve lost already?  Excuse me; not “we”, Somalia.


*Information gathered from the CIA World Factbook, US Department of State, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network.


Weak-End Wisdom #4: Updating your country profiling jargon

Earlier this year, or perhaps last year, I found out that the terms “first world” and “third world” for describing countries were very passé, perhaps even border-line un-PC.

Rather, the terms to use for describing a country’s economic status are “developing” and “developed” .

  • Developed countries are countries like the US or South Korea; relatively wealthy, industrialized, technologically advanced, better infrastructure.  The criteria isn’t set in stone, but the general gist of the term is pretty clear.
  • Developing country is the term that has been increasingly preferred to the term “Third-World Country” (according to the OED) to describe countries that are more impoverished and economically underdeveloped.

It was pretty interesting delving into the etymology of “First World”, “Second World”, and “Third World” since until I did so, I always assumed that a rich country = First World, a poor country = Third World, and anything in between was Second.  Yet actually, this “Three-Worlds” theory (which came from Mao Zedong? (I’m a bit skeptical about using the Chinese government website as my main source)) categorizes countries based on economic and political status.  In fact, Second World doesn’t really mean a country that’s somewhere in the middle of First and Third, but refers to countries that used to be communist-socialist.  So interesting!

Anyway, to summarize, Developed and Developing are the words to use when describing rich and poor countries, respectively.  I guess that makes logical sense, doesn’t it?

Yet honestly, in my opinion, people should stop pouncing on words and jargon (and of course, they should stop feeling offended for others’ sakes when the wrong terms are used), and just get to work  on practical means of assisting in development.

Lastly, to put things in perspective for us, developed-country citizens, check out the Global Rich List to see how you compare.

Even with my meager part-time income, I still show up in the whopping top 14% richest person in the world category!

Rape: An Ugly Reality

As I snuggle down with my Google Reader to get started on scanning blogs and news headlines, I happened to come across two NY Times articles on the topic of rape.  I can’t gather my thoughts.  If anything, I’m reminded of my pastor’s sermon on Judges 19 (will be uploaded soon)…  Anyway, I still wanted to post this dose of reality; perhaps it will jerk you out of a media-induced reverie.

In Tripoli, Libya,* a Libyan woman, Eman al-Obeidy, struggles to get the story out about how she was raped by 15 of Qaddafi’s men.  It is absolutely heartbreaking to read of the frenzy where security officials struggled to contain Obeidy and prevent the journalists from recording the details of her reported abuse.

“They say that we are all Libyans and we are one people…But look at what the Qaddafi men did to me.” She displayed a broad bruise on her face, a large scar on her upper thigh, several narrow and deep scratch marks lower on her leg, and marks from binding around her hands and feet.

She said she had been raped by 15 men. “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me,” she said. “They violated my honor.”

She pleaded for friends she said were still in custody. “They are still there, they are still there,” she said. “As soon as I leave here, they are going to take me to jail.”

Yet at least she has the courage to speak out (a course that even women in America hesitate to take).

Heading almost directly east to New Delhi, India,** the article covers more of the general range of rape and abuse cases that occur in response to the rapidly changing culture.

The victims are almost invariably young, educated working women who are enjoying freedom unknown even a decade ago. The accused are almost always young high school dropouts from surrounding villages, where women who work outside the home are often seen as lacking in virtue and therefore deserving of harassment and even rape.

The article opens with a recent case, proceeds to give some statistics and other analyses concerning the rising rate of violent crime.  I initially skimmed all this until I came across a more detailed description of the opening story.  Basically, a senior police official, Vijay Kumar Singh, suspecting funny business when a man walked in to report a theft in an isolated area, pressed the man for more details.

[E]ventually the young man admitted taking his girlfriend to the secluded area so they could be alone, and that five men had beaten him and raped her.

Based on the description, the police quickly identified one attacker as a village tough named Tony from Raispur with whom the police had tangled before. When they picked [him] up… he was still drunk…“He was so shameless he narrated the whole thing without any sense of remorse,” he said. Tony later denied that he had raped the woman, according to the police report.

Tony had apparently assumed that the rape victim would not come forward because the shame would be too great.

Mr. Singh feared that he was right. “I realized from the beginning that the girl would not help us,” he said.

The police arrested the five young men and charged them with rape and robbery. They tried repeatedly to get the young woman to come forward. The city’s police chief sent her an e-mail asking her to cooperate and offering to protect her identity.

She sent a curt e-mail reply, the police said: “The police will not be able to restore my honor.”

The police approached her father, and he urged her to cooperate…But the next morning her brother found her trying to hang herself, Mr. Lal said. The police decided to stop pressing her to cooperate.

So, what do you do in cases like these?  It was only three weeks ago when a brutal gang rape of an 11-year old took place in the States. And how many unreported cases are passing under our noses right now?

I remember in high school, whispering about so-and-so’s recent sexual exploits, feeling that hushed mixture of awe, disapproval and curiosity.   Some of my friends had begun experimenting sexually as early as 7th or 8th grade.  They appeared more confident and mentally superior back then; after all, they “knew” and “experienced” more than I had.  Then, I remember 11th and 12th grade, different run-ins with those selfsame girls.  I remember during a sleepover, one friend crying; her first boyfriend basically raped her.  But she didn’t know it.  We didn’t know it.  I didn’t know it.  By the grace of God, He kept me safe as I clumsily navigated my way through that blind maze of dark adolescence and blatant sin into His light, where He fulfills His promises to make me new, to cleanse and to cover.

For me, rape is an overwhelming topic.  In the face of such sin, in this world where everyone does what is right in his own eyes, how can there be hope but in God alone?  By myself, a 5’2″ girl, I can’t possibly do anything of eternal repute. Honestly, I can’t figure out how to end this post in a concise way.  It’s just, I had to share these articles and my thoughts.

*Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Media of Her Rape

**Rapes of Women Show Clash of Old and New India